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Tag: Nikki Grimes

Riverdale Reads

Oh Riverdale – I have a special place in my heart for you, but I think your teenaged residents could use some time away from town quarantines and drug induced hallucinations and really horrible parenting. Luckily, YALSA’s 2019 award winners and nominees have books to help your beleaguered high school students cope with all the drama. (Warning: Season 3 Spoilers)

#ALAAC18 Recap: #BFYA2019 Teen Feedback Session

The Best Fiction for Young Adults feedback session is one of the best parts of every ALA conference. Local teens get the opportunity to read books that have been nominated for #BFYA and give their feedback about the titles. It’s always interesting to hear the perspective of real teens, and the group in New Orleans were particularly amazing. They all sounded like professional book reviewers, and I wish there had been time to talk with them at length about the books they enjoyed.

Here are some of the titles the teens particularly liked from this year’s #BFYA nominees list along with a little of their feedback and a link to each title’s nomination post (when available.)

#BFYA2019 Nominees Round Up, March 30 Edition

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
Freeform Books
Publication Date: February 6, 2018
ISBN: 978-1484728499 

Camille is a Belle, one of a select few blessed by the Goddess of Beauty with the ability to restore beauty to the cursed people of Orleans. On their sixteenth birthday, she and her sisters must compete for the privilege of being chosen the Queen’s favorite, to live in the the royal palace and serve the royal family and their court. Camille’s journey to attain this coveted position is a riveting one, bursting with twists and intrigues at every turn. However, once she finally achieves what she’s worked her whole life for, she begins to discover that not everything is as it seems on the surface. Beneath the glimmering facade of Orleans’ stunning opulence and obsession with beauty lie dark secrets and ominous forces that threaten to topple to kingdom and unbalance Camille’s world.

#QP2019 Nominees Round Up, March 27 Edition

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
Publication Date: March 6th, 2018
ISBN: 9780062662804 

Xiomara can’t be the perfect Dominican daughter that her parents expect her to be, so she pours out her frustrations in a secret poetry journal. Her mother expects her to be confirmed and marry a good Dominican boy. Instead, she questions the teachings of her church and falls in love with her chemistry lab partner, Aman, who is definitely not parent-approved. But she can’t hide her secrets from her parents forever.

Black History Month: Experiencing the Harlem Renaissance Today

Photo by Flickr user The Microscopic Giant
Photo by Flickr user The Microscopic Giant

As we celebrate Black History Month, let’s reflect on one of the most culturally significant time periods of African American history: the Harlem Renaissance.

I have always been interested in the Harlem Renaissance, stemming from reading Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston when I was in high school.  I followed that up with reading the beautiful biography by Valerie Boyd, Wrapped Up in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston.  I was so impressed by the life and writing of Hurston, and what it meant for her to be such a prominent figure in the Harlem Renaissance.  Before I knew it, I was exploring more.  Having already been introduced to jazz music in middle school, I knew the genius of Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Billie Holiday.  What I didn’t know, however, was the extent of their contribution to the Harlem Renaissance movement and all the other art, music, and writing that was being created during the 1920s and 30s in the cultural epicenter that was Harlem.

If you are looking for some authors, artists, musicians, and other prolific people of the Harlem Renaissance to get you started on your search for learning more about this historic time of rebirth for the African American culture, check out some of my suggestions below.  It’s my humble attempt at a beginner’s guide, so please add your own contributions in the comments!

The Big Five (+1) in YA: Christianity

Last month, I discussed my quest for YA literature involving Buddhism and the two novels I found that met my criteria. Thanks to a commenter on that post (mclicious), I found a few more using the NoveList Plus service, including Zen and the Art of Faking It and Roots and Wings. However, even the NoveList database found only 31 results in Teen fiction for the search term “Buddhist,” many of which were not modern, or only peripherally involved the religion. In comparison, when using the same search parameters, there were 944 results for the search term “Christian.” (“Jewish” had 365 results, “Muslim” had 75, and “Hindu” had 31.) There is zero scientific method involved in this brief comparison, but it serves as an illustration of the obvious: Christianity in YA literature, at least in the US, is much more prevalent than any of the other Big Five world religions.

That being said, preparing for this post was quite different from last month, when I had a grand total of two books to enjoy. For the past five weeks, I have read as much modern, non-serialized YA fiction involving Christianity as possible, and in the process, have noticed some trends in the characterizations of Christians. On the one hand, some Christians are portrayed as being fundamentalist and intolerant (to varying degrees), particularly of homosexuality and/or science. However, all but one of the novels I read also had positive portrayals of Christians as being people who live out the positive aspects of the religion and rely on their faith in times of strife. Seems valid to me. Since the pool of novels is so much larger, I have chosen what I think are some of the best of the novels that I read, in no particular order.

Evolution, Me, and Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande
This novel does a fine job of balancing the tension between science and religion, as well as showing the darker side of religion (intolerance and manipulation), side by side with the benefits of faith. I particularly adore the science teacher, Ms. Shepherd.

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.


In early October, Nikki Grimes wrote about the current state of YA literature on her blog, Nikki Sounds Off. In her post, she lamented the lack of originality in books being published for the young adult audience today. What she sees as a lack of originality, I see as the opportunity to ca$h in. So, for those of you that have it in mind to write the “it” novel, here is a DIY guide to getting it published. Think of it as a paint by numbers for writers. Good luck!


The plucky heroine (insert full name of protagonist, preferably a name that isn’t really a name but is more descriptive or just plain obscure) leaves the only home she’s ever known. Her parents were (killed in an accident or on an archaeological expedition), leaving her on her own, which has toughened her but left her vulnerable at the same time. (first name of protagonist) begins attending St. (name of a person who may or may not be an actual saint), a school with dark and Gothic architecture whose pedagogy and curriculum is (a synonym for mysterious that suggests that the true purpose of the school is perhaps sinister or fighting against things that are sinister or affiliated with people who are sometime impolite when they’ve had a hard day, or…).

Teens write their OWN poetry

April is coming to an end and that means the end of National Poetry Month. Instead of focusing on books on writing poetry for teens, here are a few books about teens who write their own poetry.  This includes books where teens write song lyrics because there are so many similarities between song lyrics and prose poetry.  Good poetry contains effective imagery, compelling themes, originality and emotional evocativeness – also found in good song lyrics.

Adios, Nirvana (2011) by Conrad Wesselhoeft, selected as one of the winners of YALSA’s 2011 Best Fiction for Young Adults, is a new book that does that so well.  Jonathan, 17, is a former star student; talented poet and musician who is just careening through life, fueled by Red Bull and No-Doze, still reeling from his twin brother’s death. He’s also facing the possibility of repeating his junior year.  The only things standing between him and failure are his devoted best friends or “Thicks,” an understanding principal and his English teacher.  What will ensure that he makes it to senior year? He must attend class every day, help an 88-year-old WWII veteran write his memoir, and perform his principal’s  favorite song, “Crossing the River Styx,” at graduation on a legendary guitar donated to the school by rocker hero Eddie Vedder in honor of his talented musician brother.  Jonathan’s poetry is scattered throughout the novel “Chaos XIII – O sleeping bum of a building, you cradle the litter of our streets under your fake Doric columns…”   and shows his talent as a poet and prose writer.

Open-mic poetry nights are used to highlight a number of poetry-writing teens in a lot of older teen books: