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Tag: Sherman Alexie

Cross-Unders Revisited: Great Teen Books for Tween Readers

Today’s post is co-written by myself and Kenzie Moore. Kenzie is a student in her final semester of Syracuse University iSchool’s MLIS program, where she’s been focusing on teen services in between watching episodes of Teen Wolf and going to One Direction concerts. You can connect with her on Twitter.

It feels like every day we meet new tweens who are reading above their grade level and seeking recommendations. Cross-unders, or teen books with tween appeal, were well-covered in this 2013 Hub post from Erin Bush and Diane Colson. The YALSA Blog chimed in with reasons why these books are an important part of a teen collection serving reluctant and ELL teen readers as well as advanced tweens and younger teens. Knowing how frequently we search for titles to fit these diverse needs, Kenzie and I offer some additional cross-under suggestions. Feel free to add your own in the comments!

Cross-Unders Collage for the Hub

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie — 14-year-old Junior is going to do something he thought was impossible: he’s going to leave the Spokane Indian reservation where he lives. Not permanently or anything, but he deserves better than decades-old math books, and he’s mad about it. Mad enough to do something. Sherman Alexie’s highly-buzzed book deals with some complicated topics: bullying, racism, alcoholism, but it also deals with what it is like to find your own path to walk as a young person. That, combined with the humor in Junior’s voice and his drawings that pepper the pages, is going to make this a high-appeal book for readers just starting to dip their toes into the teen waters.

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What Would They Read?: Eddie from Fresh Off the Boat

freshofftheboatOne of the newer comedies this year is Fresh Off the Boat, a show that follows the Huang family as they move from Washington, D.C., to Florida. The oldest son, Eddie, is a typical middle school student.  He likes hip-hop and basketball and is not that interested in school, much to the chagrin of his parents. This show is set in the 1990s, but if Eddie were a middle school student in 2015, these are the books he might enjoy:

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

This book is written in free verse, so it might take some convincing to get Eddie to read it, but I believe he would enjoy both the basketball theme and the rhythm and beat of the words in this story. Eddie would also identify with Josh and his struggle to live up to his family’s expectations.

shadow heroThe Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang

I haven’t seen many episodes where Eddie reads, but I’m convinced he’s a comic book fan, or would be if he tried them. The Shadow Hero is a great match for Eddie since the main character also struggles with his Asian identity. Even though Eddie sounds like an average American tween, people often make judgments about him based on his race, so an Asian superhero may get him interested in reading.

The Slam Dunk series by Takehiko Inoue

Manga series are very popular with tweens and teens, and I enjoy recommending a series that already has a great lineup of books so that readers don’t have to wait for the next book to be published. The basketball theme of this series would resonate with Eddie. 

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YA Lit Symposium: Using Multicultural YA Literature to Examine Racism in the Lives of Teens of Color

YALSA_LitSymposium2014For my last session on Saturday afternoon of YALSA’s 2014 Young Adult Literature Symposium, I had the luck to attend an excellent workshop focused on utilizing young adult literature to examine and discuss effects of racism on the lives of teens of color.  Sandra Hughes-Hassell and Julie Stivers, both from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Information and Library Science, shared recent research, exemplary young adult literature, and several practical teaching strategies.

The session began by exploring the question: “how do youth of color experience stereotypes?” Using images from recent viral social media campaigns such the #itooamberkeley campaign as well as passages from young adult novels discussing stereotypes, the presenters reminded the audience of the urgent need for these conversations.  Dr. Hughes-Hassell and Ms. Stivers then began modeling best practices in having conversations about race and privilege by setting conversational norms and encouraged us to put these norms into practice during a ‘pair & share’ reflection on the images & passages.

The presenters continued to model best practices in conducting these conversations by setting out working definition for key terms, including racism, white privilege, microaggressions, the achievement gap, and the opportunity gap.  Drawing on a great variety of recent research, they then shared a range of relevant statistics and data concerning intersections between racial identity and poverty, health, and education in America. The excellent infographics and strong examples created a great starting place for the workshop–after all what group of librarians and educators could resist a pool of well-documented and clearly relevant data?  Afterwards, Dr. Hughes-Hassell and Ms. Stivers pulled together several overarching statements to contextualize this data again:

  • All youth are aware of race.
  • White privilege appears in curriculum, in school structures, in libraries, and countless other aspects of teens’ everyday lives.
  • Research has shown that positive racial identity leads to academic success.

This final statement specifically refers to a 2009 report by Drs. M. Hanley and G.W. Noblit titled “Cultural responsiveness, racial identity and academic success: a review of literature,” which can be found on this page of the Heinz Endowments website.

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Diversify Your YA Contemporary Reads: A Flowchart

teen_blogging_contest_winner

October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Here’s Summer Khaleq from California.

Most of us can attest to the fact that the ever-growing Young Adult genre is one of the most boundless and honest genres in modern-day literature. In terms of innovation, YA wins the gold.

Yet despite the ever-expanding horizons of YA, diversity in general seems to be a taboo topic. There aren’t nearly as many books featuring POC, LGBTQ, and/or disabled characters as there should be, with authors taking the safe route and opting for white heterosexual leads.

I’m certainly not the first to notice this, though. Campaigns supporting and advocating for diversity have been popping up all over the internet (such as the popular #WeNeedDiverseBooks Campaign), and if you aren’t familiar with any then you’ve either been a) living under a rock or b) hiding under a rock while reading a book. (Really, isn’t it sad the amount of campaigning that must be done in order to implement something that should be expected in this day in age?)

For those who are new to the movement, I’ve created a nifty little flowchart, since it can be cumbersome to look for potential diverse reads (insert expression of disappointment and irritation here). Even for those who have been following the campaigns for years, there are quite a few lesser-known books here that you should definitely give a try.

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Banned Books Week: Why Do People Try to Ban Books Again?

Part of a previous year's Banned Book Week display . . . made with an old copy of Fanrenhiet 451. For irony. Photo by Anna Tschetter
Part of a previous year’s Banned Book Week display . . . made with an old copy of Fahrenheit 451. For irony. Photo by Anna Tschetter

I love Banned Books Week. I find that every year it comes around, there is always a new population of people who have no idea what it is. They look at our displays in our libraries and bookstores and wonder what it is all about. I’ve even had some teens look at my display one year  and then ask if they could actually check them out.

I think that is the best part of Banned Book Week: it gives you a way to have a conversation with patrons and readers about censorship, the freedom to read, and the nature of ideas.

Every year the American Library Association releases their list of the most frequently banned or challenged books in the United States. For 2013 to 2014 there are a lot of great YA novels on the list. Looking for Alaska (2006 Printz winner), I Hunt Killers, The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2002 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults), The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian (2008 Best Books for Young Adults), and Eleanor & Park (2014 Printz honor book) all grace the list.

It’s always fascinating to see the reasons why a book has been challenged or removed from a school or library. Personally, some of the reasons the books are challenged are the same reasons I think those books are great. Take the challenge in 2013 for Alexie’s Part-Time Indian: it was challenged because it presented the “crude, obscene, and unfiltered viewpoint of a ninth-grader growing up on the reservation.” That’s what makes the book so funny, accessible, and important to other teenagers! 

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Portrait of The Artist As a Young Adult: Celebrating Youth Art Month in YA Lit

youth art month post .jpgA variety of scientific studies have proposed that scent is a powerful trigger for memory, and for me, that has certainly been true.  Cinnamon and ginger will always kindle the warm anticipation associated with my family’s Christmas cookie baking. Similarly, there’s a particular combination of musky hairspray, sweat, & dust that immediately brings back the nerves and adrenaline of theatrical performances.  And finally, the smell of fresh drawing paper, pencil shavings, and paint fumes will always be thrilling and soothing for me.  Why?  Because those scents symbolize a key aspect of my adolescent identity: being an artist.

By high school, art was embedded into my daily life.  I took classes at school and at a local art studio, where I also worked as a teaching assistant for a couple hours every Saturday.  I doodled during play practices and spent hours agonizing over pieces for local shows.  When I drew, my intense focus could be alternatively relaxing, exciting, or frustrating–especially if the piece wasn’t working out.  However, it was always a transporting experience–a time to escape my life and be more present in myself.

Accordingly, I’m always keen to find stories that explore and celebrate the varied roles of visual art in the lives of young adults.   And as March is Youth Art Month, it seems like the perfect time to share some novels featuring young artists.

page by paigePage by Paige – Laura Lee Gulledge (2012 Great Graphic Novels for Teens)  When her family moves from Virginia to Brooklyn, Paige’s only friend and solace is her trusty sketchbook.  Through her drawings, Paige can be her adventurous, clever artist self– but taking that identity into the big, overwhelming world is a whole different story.  Spanning her first eight months in New York, Paige’s journey of new friendships, tentative romance, and growing artistic confidence unfurls through imaginative & organic images. 

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The Hub Celebrates Thesaurus Day

Portrait from Medical Portrait Gallery by Thomas Pettigrew
Portrait from Medical Portrait Gallery by Thomas Pettigrew

Happy Thesaurus Day!

While not necessarily a well-known holiday, Thesaurus Day is celebrated on January 18, the birthday of Peter Mark Roget, creator of Roget’s Thesaurus.

The original version of Roget’s thesaurus, created in 1805 and released in 1852, contained 15,000 words. Over the years, the thesaurus has grown, adding thousands of additional words and synonyms. These days, in addition to print versions of the thesaurus, wordsmiths are able to access the Roget’s thesaurus online through Thesaurus.com. If you are interested in a historical perspective, a 1911 version has been cataloged as part of the ARTFL Project through the University of Chicago.

We’re celebrating a day early here on The Hub by using the thesaurus to swap words in some popular YA titles. See if you can figure out the original titles and then scroll down to check!

  1. The Tome Bandit
  2. The Bonus of Being a Loner
  3. Papyrus Municipalities
  4. An Excellent and Dreadful Virtue
  5. The Insanity Below
  6. Swivel Spot
  7. The Examining
  8. Faithful
  9. Break Me
  10. The Choice
  11. Vocalize
  12. A Chain of Ill-fated Happenings.
  13. Gorgeous Critters
  14. Audrey, Halt!
  15. The Commander of the Loops
  16. Thirteen Rationales of Cause
  17. The Categorically Bona Fide Journal of a Part-Time Native American
  18. The Sorority of the Roving Trousers
  19. Always…
  20. 13 Slight Azure Pockets
  21. The Starvation Sports
  22. The Accuracy Referring to Always
  23. The Labyrinth Sprinter
  24. Granted That I Stick Around
  25. Paired
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Why Do We Ban Books, Anyway?

BBW13_160x200
Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association

The end of Banned Books Week is almost upon us. Banned Books Week celebrates readers everywhere and encourages us to pick up a book whose content has, at some point, been questioned. Chances are, you love a book that has ended up on a banned books list, although you might not realize it yet. Everything from the Harry Potter series to Toni Morrison’s Beloved, to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, has been challenged in a public or school setting.

Common reasons for materials being challenged include “violence,” “racism,” “offensive language,” “sexually explicit” content, and of course, being “unsuited for age group.” With reasons like these, you can imagine how wide the range of challenged materials is. It also might not come as a surprise that E L James’ buzzworthy 50 Shades of Grey trilogy made the top ten list of 2012’s most challenged titles.

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Books Outside The Box: Native Americans

I watched The Lone Ranger when I was a kid, and for me it was always about Tonto. Ditto for the Lone Ranger movie. (Not the world’s greatest movie, but it helped that Tonto was played by Johnny Depp.) Native Americans have been everything from sidekicks to villains in American literature. This month I am going to highlight some Native American heroes and heroines in YA paranormal, dystopian, paranormal, science fiction, and contemporary fiction.

wolfWolf Mark, by Joseph Bruchac, was published by Tu books in 2011. The author draws from his Abenaki ancestry in creating Luke, a seventeen-year-old Abenaki boy who discovers he is also a Skinwalker. He was born with a second. When he puts it on, he becomes a wolf. Luke comes from a long line of skinwalkerswho have served their leaders with honor. His father recently retired from the special services, only to become the town drunk. Luke finds that was all deep cover after his father is kidnapped. Luke has to pull on his wolf skin before his training is complete. That leaves him struggling to retain his humanity while he fights to save his family from industrialists ready to kill them for their secret abilities.

killerBruchac’s newest YA is a dystopian called  Killer of Enemies coming from Tu Books in September 2013. Lozen, the Apache teen heroine named after her ancestor, a 19th century warrior woman who battled alongside Geronimo, is skilled at hand-to-hand combat, marksmanship, and wilderness survival, and blessed with superior strength. In a future Earth stripped of electricity and technology, her growing psychic abilities open her mind to strange thoughts, including an unknown who stalks her and considers her “Little Food.” A group of four less-than-sane warlords kill her father and take her mother and younger siblings hostage. To keep her family safe, Lozen is forced to hunt and destroy monsters for them. These include creatures straight out of some of mankind’s oldest legends, genetically engineered creatures released to hunt their former masters when technology was lost, and vampire-like beings with hypnotic powers and a desire for her blood.

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