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Tag: l.a. meyer

Sail the Seven Seas: Books for International Talk Like a Pirate Day

September 19th marks International Talk Like a Pirate Day. In addition to talking and dressing like pirates, if you would like to read like a pirate, here are some great swashbuckling young adult titles!

Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman

This is an origin story for Blackbeard the pirate. Edward “Teach” Drummond loves the ocean and can’t wait to return to it. Anne has been recently orphaned and, without any money to her name, is forced to find work in the Drummond home. Teach and Anne both must decide whether they will play the roles society has given them or set off to follow their dreams.

Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary “Jacky” Faber, Ship’s Boy by L.A. Meyer

This first book in a series of twelve follows the story of Jacky Faber who, as the title suggests, disguises herself as a boy and serves aboard a pirate ship.

Boston Jane by Jennifer Holm

Jane Peck has been trained to be a lady, but when she sails to the western United States to wed her betrothed, she finds that her training did not prepare her for a life at sea or the adventures of the wild west.

The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King

Emer was a teenage pirate in the 17th century and was cursed to live one hundred lives as a dog before returning to a human body. Now she’s an American teenager and she wants to find the treasure she buried long ago.

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Read This, Play That!: Perfect Tabletop Game Pairings for Your Favorite YA Series

When people ask me to describe myself, I inevitably reply that I am a reader and a gamer, among other things. Rarely do those two hobbies converge, however. I mean, occasionally I talk about books with my gamer friends. And I realize that some libraries have board game nights. But for the most part, those two parts of my life are compartmentalized, set within specific contexts and situations.

One could argue that this separation exists because the two are so different. And in some ways, I get that. Tabletop games bring people together to cooperate for victory over the game or to war among themselves for individual glory. Either way, there’s going to be a lot of emotion…and noise! Reading is more of a solitary activity by nature. Even if you join a book club or find a community of readers, the actual reading of the book is between you and the book.Board Games

But I beg to disagree with this assessment. I think that reading and gaming are more similar than people realize. Let me start to explain by saying that board games have changed a lot over the years. The games of yesteryear (Clue, Monopoly, The Game of Life) have evolved into more complex, dynamic games. Games where strategy is key, risks are rewarded or punished in due measure, and reliance on other players is a routine occurrence. In particular, storytelling has become a huge component of tabletop games. Think about Dungeons and Dragons for instance, where the crux of the game involves players completing a story woven in real time by a game master.


Audiobooks for Reluctant Listeners

By RCA Records (Billboard, page 29, 18 November 1972) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By RCA Records (Billboard, page 29, 18 November 1972) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
June is Audiobook Month!  Many of us have fond memories of being read to as a child, but did you know that you can still be read to?  That is the value of audiobooks! The story comes alive and, with the right narrator, you can hear a story much more differently than you would reading it.  Accents are perfected, exclamations are understood, and even words or names you may not know or have never heard before make sense to you.  This is my second year evaluating audiobooks for YALSA’s Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults committee.  As chair of this year’s committee, I am so excited for all the great audiobook-related things happening this month.  Articles are being written about the importance and resurgence of audiobooks, you can get in “Sync” this summer and download free audios, and the audiobook circulation at my Library sees a nice increase starting in June with many people going on road trips and vacations.

To give you an idea of what makes an audiobook a good listen, here are some of the criteria that gets an audiobook on the Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults selection list:

  • The narration has to expand or compliment the original text.  In other words, when you listen to a narrator tell the story, it comes alive and allows the you to experience the text in a different way.
  • Character voice variation is key!  We must have a sense of who the character is by the different qualities in the voices that the narrator uses.  For example, it is a lot more enjoyable when you are listening to a narrated conversation and can tell which character is talking without the text cues letting you know.  Accents, exclamations, and sound effects also are considered.  If done well, they really make an audiobook amazing!
  • There is also the importance of a match between the text and the narrator.  You know when it is right; your ear picks it up.  The narrator embodies the main character and sometimes even all the characters in the books.
  • The technical production on an audiobook is also a criteria for the Amazing Audiobooks list.  We want to make sure the editing is done well, the sound quality is even, and that there are no issues with extra sounds or mike pickups. Additionally, we do consider the music that you hear at the beginning, end, or in between the tracks–does it match the story?  Is it effective in heightening the story? If it is, then it just adds more quality to the production.

So, where should you start if you have never listened to an audiobook before?  Well, some great awards and lists are put out every year: the Odyssey Award, the Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults annual list, and the Audies are a few places to start.  Below I have compiled some of my favorites, that I think will be a great first listen for all of you who are new to audiobooks and want to give them a try.

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green, read by Jeff Woodman.  Brilliance Audio: 7 hours. (2008 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)


Books for International Talk Like a Pirate Day


Avast there, ya scallywags! It be Talk Like a Pirate Day, dontcha know? Are ye speaking all piratical this day?

Pirates certainly capture our imaginations. Real pirates were, and are, terrible people, wreaking havoc and killing innocents. But from what may have been the first “pop culture pirate” Long John Silver, to Bluebeard (A terrible human being– but wearing lit candles in your beard? C’mon, that’s cool!), to the dread pirate Roberts (who never did kill Westley in the morning), to everyone’s current favorite Halloween costume, Captain Jack Sparrow, pirates in popular culture are generally thought of as dashing, daring rogues.

Talk Like a Pirate Day is a holiday started casually by two friends in 1995. It got a major publicity boost in 2002 when humorist Dave Barry wrote a column about it, and it has been growing strong ever since. The holiday is silly and cheerful (and probably inspired by Captain Morgan more than any other pirate) and to take part, simply do what it is called: talk like a pirate. If you need help, the Talk Like a Pirate Day website has some lessons; also Mango Language Learning software has a “pirate” option; and if you want to take a more casual approach, just translate your Facebook page or Google search results into “pirate.” To get deeper into a proper piratical mood, here are several great pirate reads.

Now get yerself reading, matey, or it’ll be the plank for ye!

Treasure_Island-Scribner's-1911Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
The granddaddy of all piratical reads. Young Jim Hawkins owns a treasure map, but the band of men who travel with him to “help” find the treasure are not trustworthy at all. The one-legged ship’s cook turns out to be pirate leader Long John Silver, and his relationship with Jim is complex and fascinating: parental one moment, violently dangerous the next. There’s a reason this book is a classic.


Cross-Unders: Great Teen Books for Tween Readers

by flickr user erin_everlasting
by flickr user erin_everlasting

Tween readers — those ages 9 to 12 — come to the teen section for a variety of reasons.

In some cases, tweens are drawn to teen books because of popularity and media exposure. For example, many tweens request titles such as The Hunger Games and Twilight. Some tweens are avid readers of a particular genre and have exhausted the titles available to them in the children’s fiction section.

The tweens at the library where I work are a good example. One girl (I’ll call her Alicia) is 11 going on 12. Alicia loves horror and ghost stories and is a huge fan of Mary Downing Hahn. However, she’s read all of the titles that we have, and now she goes downstairs to the teen section in search of new, more intense scares. She’s currently reading The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff.

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Impersonation in YA books

I’ve noticed quite a few new YA books lately featuring characters impersonating one another. Twins, usually identical, where one’s good and the other’s bad, have long been a staple in literature, movies, and TV. Last year’s cancelled TV series Ringer, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, is just one recent example. The types of stories I’ve always loved are those where the characters are look-alikes, but not necessarily related to each other like those in the classics: Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper, The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexander Dumas, The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope, or A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. I have to admit I’m a huge movie fan, and, with the exception of Dickens and Twain, I saw the movies of these classics instead of reading the books, but I know the plots are very similar.

I guess I’m not the only person who likes these types of stories. Jennifer A. Nielsen’s The False Prince, a 2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults nominee, has a similar plot. Four orphans are forced by one of the King’s regents to compete against each other to successfully impersonate the King’s long-missing son to prevent a civil war with the neighboring lands. Only one will be selected and the others know they’ll be killed if they don’t succeed. None of the four teens look exactly like the missing prince, but they all have enough of a resemblance to pass for him. What they don’t know is that they weren’t told everything and the truth is more dangerous than they could have imagined. The second book in the Ascendance trilogy, The Runaway King, is due out in March 2013.

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Road Trip! Audiobooks for the Whole Family

Most of us spend the majority of our waking hours with people of our own ages and interests, with one big exception: the time we spend with our families. If you’ll be hitting the road with yours this summer, here are suggestions for audiobooks to entertain a carload of various ages:

Ages 12 and up

Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary “Jacky” Faber, Ship’s Boy by L.A. Meyer (2008 Selected Audiobooks for Young Adults)
Reduced to begging and thievery in the streets of 18th Century London, 13-year-old orphan Mary Faber disguises herself as a boy and connives her way onto a British warship. Read by award-winning narrator Katherine Kellgren, this first book in the Bloody Jack adventure series features rip-roaring action, romance, and cheeky humor.

The Book of Dead Days by Marcus Sedgwick
In late 18th Century Europe, the days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve were said to be “dead days,” when the line between the spirit and corporeal worlds blurred. In those few days, the magician and alchemist Valerian must search graveyards, churches, and underground waterways for a book he hopes will save him from a pact he made with evil. His unwilling accomplices are Boy (a child with no past) and the orphan girl Willow. Tony Award winner Roger Rees narrates this eerie Gothic tale.


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.


What’s So Amazing About Those Audiobooks, Anyway?

In addition to identifying outstanding young adult literature and great graphic novels (plus lots of other lists of superior titles of various sorts), YALSA also publishes a yearly list of amazing audiobooks. But what makes an audiobook amazing? I was one of the librarians who helped create the most recent list, and I’d like to highlight a few of our top ten titles and explain what it was for me that made them stand out from the crowd.

Are These My Basoomas I See Before Me? (written by Louise Rennison and read by Stina Nielson) and The Wake of the Lorelei Lee (written by L.A. Meyer and read by Katherine Kellgren): Both of these were a lot of fun to listen to and while they’re very different stories (in the first, Georgia deals in her own distinctive way with the day-to-day life of a British teen, and in the second, Jacky continues her piratical adventures on the high seas), the thing that made them amazing for me was similar: the narrator becomes the protagonist. Both Nielson and Kellgren have an incredible command of spoken language, matching their pitch and pacing and accents perfectly to the situation in which their characters find themselves. While I was listening to both of these, I felt so swept up in what was happening, so immersed in the story, that I almost forgot I was listening to an audiobook. With such a natural (although very enthusiastic!) performance, it’s really storytelling rather than reading.