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Tag: Jane Yolen

True Crime: Books, Podcasts, and Documentaries

With Season 2 of the popular podcast Serial nearing the end of this current season, the FX original limited series, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, and the runaway Netflix hit Making a Murderer, our fascination with crime stories doesn’t seem to wane. Maybe the draw is that we want to see justice served, or we want to know if we could spot the true crime in a situation, or maybe it has something to do with the fact that, as one of the lawyers in Making a Murderer says, “We could all say that we’re never going to commit a crime. But we can never guarantee that someone else won’t accuse us of a crime.” Whatever the reason, one thing it does is challenge our worldview.

true crime stories for young adults
CC image via Flickr user Tony Webster


For readers that enjoy a suspenseful or thriller type mystery, true crime can be a great nonfiction option. True crime can also be a great gateway to other narrative nonfiction for readers that don’t see themselves as nonfiction readers; through it they might find themselves spellbound. Here is a list of heart-pounding true crime books and other media.

Borden Murders Cover                  Chasing Lincoln's Killer              hole-in-my-life-cover

The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden & the Trial of the Century by Sarah Elizabeth Miller

One of the most followed crime cases of the late 1800s, Miller reexamines the brutal crime that left Lizzie Borden’s father and step-mother hacked to death with an ax, and why so many thought it was Lizzie’s doing.

Chasing Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson (2010 Best Books for Young Adults)

Relive the heart-racing account of the twelve-day chase and capture of John Wilkes Booth and his accomplices in this historical thriller.

Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos (2003 Printz Honor Book, Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults 2006, 2003 Best Books for Young Adults, 2004 Selected Audiobooks for Young Adults)

Shortly after graduating from high school, Gantos accepted an offer of $10,000 to help sail a boat full of hash from St. Croix to New York, eventually landing him in prison.

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Booklist: If You Like The Young Elites by Marie Lu

The Rose Society, the sequel to Marie Lu’s The Young Elites hit the shelves on October 13th and has spent four weeks on the New York Times Young Adult Bestseller List. In The Rose Society readers revisit Adelina Amouteru, one of the survivors of the blood plague that made her and many others into “young elites” gifted with strange powers. The book opens with Teren Santoro, lead inquisitor set on ridding the kingdom of Adelina’s kind. Fans of the courtly intrigue, fast paced plot, and atmospheric setting in the first book will not be disappointed by the second. If your library’s copy is checked out consider recommending some of these backlist titles to tide over your eager patrons while they wait.

If You Like The Young Elites


Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults)

Fans of the unique and complex world building in The Young Elites will appreciate Bardugo’s “czar punk” setting. Likewise, readers  will see many of Adelina’s strong points in Bardugo’s Alina.

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner (2003 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults)

Turner’s Queen’s Thief series is an older one, making it more likely to be on the shelf, and more likely to be one that your patrons have not yet read. Readers who loved the element of spying and espionage in The Young Elites will be hooked by Turner’s plot twists.

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Find a New Favorite Female Comic Artist or Graphic Novelist

graphic_novels2As a big fan of graphic novels and comics, I read across many genres from superhero comics to nonfiction to humor and beyond. While I love the work of many different authors, today I want to highlight some of the best work from female artists who create comics and graphic novels. The list below includes some books I have read and some I can’t wait to read, but they are all written or drawn (or both!) by women who are among the best in the field.

JapanAiJapan Ai by Aimee Major Steinberger (2009 Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens, 2009 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, 2009 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers – This book, drawn in Manga style, chronicles Aimee’s trip to Japan, where she immerses herself in Japan’s particular cuteness. More of a journal than a traditional comic, this is fun book that will leave you dreaming of a trip to Japan.


International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Auschwitz in 1945. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany.
Auschwitz in 1945. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany.

Since 2005, January 27th has been designated International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On this day, the world takes time to acknowledge the millions of victims of genocide at the hands of the Nazis during World War II. Below are some books that address this difficult and important period in history.

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein – This companion to 2013 Printz Honor book Code Name Verity offers a horrific and visceral story of the Ravensbrück concentration camp. The book follows Rose, a young American pilot, who finds herself in Ravensbrück after her plane is captured by the Germans. There she meets others women who have been captured and subjected to medical experimentation. With vivid descriptions and a clear attention to historical detail, this book is a powerful read for those who want to more fully understand the Holocaust. [Edit: Earlier today, this book was awarded the 2014 Schneider Family Book Award in the teen division.]

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Reading Horoscope: Taurus

Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Taurus, the Bull, second sign of the Zodiac, what a month you have ahead of you! Patient, reliable and practical, Taurus also possess a generous, loving and warm heart. Taurus are the harmonious ones in any group, ready to pitch in, get down to work, and get the job done. And when you work hard, what’s wrong with a little reward at then end of the day? Taurus love their creature comforts, good food, good drink, and good friends. This month may seem like more of the same as last month, but I promise you, Taurus, there will be much excitement to look forward to. Perfect opportunity to catch up with these great reads perfect for steady, persistent Taurus.

Curses Foiled AgainFoiled (2011 Great Graphic Novels for Teens) and Curses! Foiled Again, written by Jane Yolen with illustrations by Mike Cavallaro

Aliera Carstairs has one goal: to get to the national fencing competition. The only problem is, she needs a new practice foil (not a sword, thank you very much). Her mother finds her one at a tag sale, and Aliera is sure she is on her way. But her foil is not just any weapon — it is the weapon of the Defender of the Faeries and she has just been selected to the job. Through the first two books in this new graphic novel series, Aliera has to fight off trolls, ogres, goblins, fencing instructors, and even the cutest boy in school who is not what he seems. Luckily Aliera has help along the way, including her cousin and the great Baba Yaga. Full of action, adventure and terrifying (if not terribly bright) monsters, Aliera has more than enough excitement for one girl.

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…And Taking Names: Graphic Novel Heroines

There’s nothing I love more than a strong, butt-kicking female heroine in graphic novels. You know who I’m talking about: a girl that is tough, smart and knows her way around a weapon. Sometimes they can be hard to find, but luckily YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens are full of them. Here’s a list of my favorite female graphic heroines.

Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch (2011 Great Graphic Novel for Teens)

Mirka doesn’t buy the whole “only boys can have swords and fights dragons” business her brother feeds her. She knows she’d be the best dragon slayer in Hereville if she only had a dragon-slaying sword and some dragons to slay. When she gets her wish, a dragon-slaying sword of her own, she finds out just how tough being a hero is.

Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon Hale, Dale Hale and Nathan Hale (2009 Great Graphic Novel for Teens)

Rapunzel’s the girl on want on my side in a fight. Not content to stay locked in the tower, Rapunzel busts herself out and then sets out to find the people who separated her family and to save her mother. Along the way she collects something of a merry band of riff-raff and gets into a scrap or two that requires her to whip out her secret weapon: her long, deadly braid.


Censorship in Tucson, Arizona: Exercise Your Rights

We all had the chance to celebrate the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week from September 24th to October 1st, 2011. During this time, readers of all ages were encouraged to read materials that were challenged for a variety reasons. Now, only a few months later, a new challenge to intellectual freedom has arisen in Arizona:

Tucson, Arizona, public schools suspended their Mexican-American studies program after an administrative law judge ruled it violated a new state law and the state said the local district was going to lose $15 million in annual aid, officials said. (CNN)

Basically the law prevents “ethnic studies classes that promote the overthrow of the U.S. government.” On January 31, 2012, the ALA announced that they were totally opposed to restricting books based on their cultural or ethnic content. Encouraged by ALA’s Freedom to Read Statement, which says, “No society of free people can flourish that draws up lists of writers to whom it will not listen, whatever they may have to say,” here is a list of books students in Arizona can no longer read.

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Revenge of the Nerds

Funny Shirt by Marco Gomes
If you think this is hilarious, you may be a nerd.
We are witnessing a revolution in the pop culture hierarchy. Things that were formerly viewed as “nerdy” and causes for ridicule–video-games and RPGs, comic book obsessions, l33t computer skillz, being in your high school band– are becoming popular, mainstream, and maybe even cool. Gasp! How did this happen?

Maybe it was shows like “High School Musical” and “Glee”, turning music geeks rather than cheerleaders into the idols of a generation. Maybe it was the amazing quality and box-office success of modern comic book movies like Batman: The Dark Knight, Iron Man and Spider-Man. Maybe it was Steve Jobs’ black turtleneck. Maybe it was even hipsters, whose goal in life is to make the uncool cool again. But in any case, nerds are hot stuff! So prepare for the nerd revolution by reading some books featuring nerdy, geeky and dweeby heroes.

Start by checking out the nominations for the 2012 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults list Get Your Geek On. This list covers the classics of geek lit, like Into the Wild Nerd Yonder, Geektastic and The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy & Goth Girl. There are really some must-reads in there for nerd aficionados.

In most of the books on this list, and most books that feature teen geeks in general, the main character’s geekiness itself drives the plot and provides the conflict. But what about books where the characters are incidental nerds, people who happen to be nerdy, but have to deal with other things like alien invasions, cursed artifacts and wars? Here is a list of geek-power books for people who like nerdy characters, but want a story about more than just geekiness.

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