What Would They Read?: New Girl

new girl
If anyone could appreciate creating lists of books for their favorite TV and movie characters, it’s Jessica Day.  She would probably assign book suggestions to her stuffed animals and then present them in the form of a jaunty song.  While we patiently wait for the next season to start up, I thought I would compile a list of books that the characters of New Girl would enjoy.

New Girl provides a large cast of characters that are so over-the-top that it feels authentic.  I mean, who wouldn’t want to play a round of “True American” and climb atop furniture while spouting random historical facts?  For those who are not familiar with the premise for the show, it’s fairly simple.  Jess answers an ad in Craigslist and moves in with three guys, Nick, Schmidt, and Winston.  The guys are not used to living with a girl, and Jess turns out to be much more than they expected.  Jess has several quirks that set her apart from the other girls they know, but it soon comes out that they have their own bizarre traits as well.

If you haven’t seen the show, I suggest watching it immediately.  After watching an episode or twelve, come on back and see what books each character would read.

Jess – While this title is a bit on the older side of YA lit, I would not be surprised if Stargirl bystargirl Jerry Spinelli was sitting on Jess’s shelf.  Stargirl wears granny dresses and plays the ukelele, which are two things I would most definitely see Jess doing as well.  Jess has a celebratory air about her and she would relate immensely to a girl who wants to do her own thing, despite how many people around her wish she would just conform to the rest of the crowd.  In a similar vein, I would also give Jess Sorta Like a Rock Star by Matthew Quick.  Amber Appleton would most assuredly be buds with Jess and Stargirl, but this book skews slightly into drama when Amber’s story is revealed.   Continue reading What Would They Read?: New Girl

Chill Out on National Stress Awareness Day

In honor of National Stress Awareness Day in the U.S., let’s all take a deep breath…and let it out slowly. For many of us, reading is our go-to method of relaxing. Add a blanket and some tea and the trifecta is complete. But for super-sensitive, empathetic readers, reading a story about a character in peril can actually be very stressful. Sometimes it’s good stress: adrenaline, adventure, and new experiences we crave. Other times we are truly worried and fearful, even if we know certain stories need witnesses.

But are there teen reads that don’t cause too much stress — just fun, chill-out books? Every person’s own comfort reads fall into that category, of course, and “beach reads” tend to skew toward chick lit. Here, I offer a few titles I consider to be low-stress without being too personal or chick-lit-esque:

Low-stress reads


Hope Was Here, by Joan Bauer (2001 Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults). Hope moves with her aunt to Mulhoney, Wisconsin to take over a small diner, but finds the owner’s not quite ready to go — in fact, he’s about to run for mayor.

Seedfolks, by Paul Fleischman (1998 Best Books for Young Adults). Thirteen voices tell the story of a vacant lot transformed by an urban garden.

Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli (2001 Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults). A new girl at Mica High challenges everyone’s definition of “normal,” especially that of the guy who falls for her. Continue reading Chill Out on National Stress Awareness Day

Reading Horoscope – Aquarius

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Aquarius is used to carrying the world on her shoulders, and this month is no different. The ultimate humanitarian, visionary, and all around do-gooder, people born between January 20th and February 18th are beyond passionate about making their world better, close to home and worldwide. Sometimes eccentric, sometimes temperamental, Aquarius never runs out of ideas for improving the world around them. Luckily there are some great books that have characters very familiar to Aquarius.

There is no dogThere Is No Dog by Meg Rosoff (2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults nominee)

Lucy leads a fairly uneventful life, going to her job at the zoo, being extremely kind to everyone she meets, and looking for someone special to share her life with. She thinks she finds that perfect person in Bob, who, unbeknownst to her, is actually God, capital G. But Bob comes with baggage of his own, spoiled by him mom, lazy, temperamental, and constantly on the verge of destroying the Earth and humankind every time he falls in love. This book is full of quirky side characters like Mr B, Bob’s long suffering assistant; Eck, an alien creature that desperately does not want to become another god’s dinner; and Bob’s poker playing mother, Mona. Aquarius will probably recognize themselves in the eternally sweet Lucy and maybe a little in the mercurial Bob.

stargirlStargirl by Jerry Spinelli (2001 Top Teen Best Books for Young Adults)

Stargirl is like no one Leo has ever met. A true free spirit, she believes is random acts of kindness, helping those who most need it, and that compassion is more important than possessions. She dresses in unusual outfits and has eccentric talents like playing the ukelele and being true to herself. He is drawn to her unique outlook on life and he longs himself to break from the conformity of high school. But when their peers start turning hostile towards Stargirl, Leo convinces her to become more normal. But both he and Stargirl learn making others happy at your own expense does not always work.

Good luck this month, Aquarius, in furthering your causes, making your mark, and leading the world bravely into a new day.

— Amanda Margis, currently reading Timeless by Gail Carriger and listening to Ghost Knight by Cornelia Funke

Why YA in the Classroom

Recently a report on high school students and reading levels came out with an alarming headline: “High Schoolers Reading at 5th Grade-Level.” Covered previously here at The Hub, the report gathered data suggesting that a majority of high school students are reading below grade level. It also asked an important question: what should kids be reading? One answer to this question is using more young adult literature in high school classes to increase interest and reading levels. YA is more popular than ever thanks to a certain dystopian series being turned into an insanely popular movie. But this strategy is not without its drawbacks.

Last month a teacher in South Carolina was suspended for reading aloud a passage from Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, a YA science fiction book considered by many a classic and often taught in schools in units dealing with identity and morality. The Arizona State Legislature passed legislation last year effectively banning YA titles that had previously been used in successful multicultural studies curriculum. John Green recently defended his book Looking For Alaska (the 2006 Printz Award winner) on Twitter after it was removed from a school reading list on the basis it is “pornographic.”

YA books are far from being universally accepted in school classrooms. Their inclusion presents unique challenges (sometimes literally) but also amazing opportunities. A compelling reason to include YA literature in classrooms is content. Teens, like most readers, appreciate characters and situation that are familiar to them and their lives. Readers have a stronger connection to the text when they can see themselves and their struggles in the story. YA literature also offers readers diverse characters, compelling stories, and high quality writing. When incorporated into literature curricula, YA titles can offer a wide spectrum of views on popular themes like identity, conflict, society and survival. YA literature can be easily incorporated into classroom through literature circles, supplemental reading lists, multimedia projects, and of course being paired with canonical texts typically used in classrooms.

Here’s a list of YA titles that would fit into the classroom, organized by theme.

Continue reading Why YA in the Classroom

With A Little Help From My Friends: Altruism in YA Lit

I’m a sucker for the holidays. I love the idea of getting together with family and friends and spending time with them. It’s the time of year when people are supposed to be more kind and charitable towards each other.  The tradition of everyone sharing something they are grateful for on Thanksgiving made me think of some quirky YA books that have featured altruistic characters who engage in random acts of kindness or those with great feel-good endings–the kind of story where everyone pulls together at the end, reminiscent of those old 1930s Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney films where they all put on a show (no, I’m not that old but I am a huge movie fan). Several of my favorite YA books like this came out last year, and two in particular were on the 2011 Best Fiction for Young Adults list.

Sorta Like a Rock Star by Matthew Quick features Amber Appleton, a very quirky 17-year-old with an outsize personality, unrelenting optimism, and vocal faith both in people and in Jesus (whom she calls “JC” in her chatty prayers) that masks a life that’s not as optimistic as it seems.

She and her mom are homeless and secretly living on an old school bus until her alcoholic mom can find a new boyfriend with an apartment, or they can save up enough money to move. Despite this, Amber’s always thinking of others. She visits the elderly; tutors English-language learners at the Korean Catholic Church; protects her best friend Ricky Roberts when schoolmates try to manipulate him because he’s autistic; and befriends Private Jackson, a lonely haiku poet and Vietnam vet. Amber’s voice is very distinct because she talks with a kind of Sixties slang (says Word! and True! often).

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdhw5YJ83Og&w=560&h=315]

Then something catastrophic occurs, her world is shattered, and she’s thrown for a loop and loses her belief in God and will to go on. Those whom she’s touched are spurred to try to give back some of the support she’s given them in an very inspiring bring-down-the house ending that really shows humanity at its best. This book could have come across as overly sentimental, sickly sweet, or preachy but it avoids this because of how real and authentic Amber’s voice is. This very enjoyable book is even more fun to listen to than it is to read.

Continue reading With A Little Help From My Friends: Altruism in YA Lit

Teen Video Book Review

The Schaumburg Township District Library added a new option for book reviews as part of their 2010 summer reading program. Teens could send in video book reviews for more credit towards a gift card drawing by sending a link to a video book review.  Niraj  is the teen in this book review and he was thrilled with his surprise gift card for being the first to send a video book review. What the library liked about the review is how Niraj spoke slowly enough and had a script to help him. For future reading programs, the library plans to offer recording sessions for book reviews at the library to make it easier for everyone to submit reviews.