As we gear up for ALA Midwinter and the 2021 Youth Media Awards (YMA), we thought it could be fun to highlight a few YMA-related stories. In the coming weeks, we’ll focus on those titles from the past and present award cycles that might inspire you and your readers!
But first, a reminder: you can follow along with the Youth Media Awards announcements starting at 8 am CT on Monday, January 25. You can watch with ALA’s streaming platform or through the various social media platforms using the hashtag #alayma.
To begin our dive into these special awards, let’s look at the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature. Established in 2000, this award is granted each year to the “best book written for teens, based entirely on literary merit.” Mike Printz was a high school librarian for years, and he believed wholeheartedly in finding the right book for the right reader at the right time. In honor of 20 years of service to young adult readers, here are a few then and now connections:
Click here to see all of the current Amazing Audiobooks nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.
145th Street: Short Stories Anniversary Edition by Walter Dean Myers; Narrated by Brandon Gill, Almarie Guerra, Johnny Heller, Dominic Hoffman, Sullivan Jones, JaQwan J. Kelly, Adenrele Ojo, Paula Parker, Heather Alicia Simms, Bahni Turpin Listening Library Publication Date: January 14, 2020 ISBN: 9780593119662
This book of short stories follows the residents of 145th Street in Harlem as they live their daily lives and face a variety of conflicts. While they could be read and enjoyed as individual stories, they are interconnected to be read as fluidly as a novel. The characters learn about family, love, and community. Some face situations that could be pulled out of modern headlines, like gang threats and police brutality.
First published in 2000, the audiobook of this twentieth anniversary edition includes many great narrators, perfectly paired with their respective stories. The audiobook includes additional content after the stories, including a Q&A with the author about his writing, information about Harlem, and tributes to Walter Dean Myers and his legacy, written by popular children’s and young adult authors. Fans of Jason Reynolds and Angie Thomas will enjoy these short stories, and there are echoes of Myers work in Reynolds Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks. For readers who enjoy their fiction in short, quick bursts, this audiobook will be just right, and those who want more of the community feeling might want to pick up Jacqueline Woodson’s Harbor Me next.
With all the ways to watch TV today including; on demand, DVR, and instant streaming it is possible to watch an entire series’ episodes back to back rather than in a serialized week to week format. This kind of watching has been dubbed “binge-watching.” Maybe when you hear this term, an image comes to mind of someone mindlessly watching hour after hour of TV whilst eating chips. As fun as that sounds, “binge-watching” can also mean focusing on just one show over the course of many days or weeks. As a reader the way I become immersed in the characters and world of a good book are a familiar, comforting feeling, and binge-watching a quality show can offer a similar (on-screen) experience. Here are some great YA read-alikes inspired by some of my binge-worthy favorites.
Orange is the New Black – One of Netflix’s original binge-worthy series. This is the story of a Piper, a privileged woman who has to serve prison time for a crime committed in her 20s.
* Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman. The book that inspired the show; Kerman tells the tale of how she spent a year in prison the humiliations she endured, and the relationships she forged.
Happy day-before-Pi-Day! You may be familiar with Pi Day (March 14 or 3.14) from the internet or from Carli Spina’s 2013 post. But did you know that tomorrow is an extra-special version? Math fans, it is our once-in-a-lifetime chance to revel in Ultimate Pi Day — that is, the day, the year, and even the second can align to the first few numbers of our favorite constant. Be alert at 9:26 a.m. and 53 seconds for the collective squee.
Book lovers can celebrate Pi Day in a couple of different ways. The most obvious, of course, is via math-related books. I’ve written a coupleposts on some favorite titles, and the good news is, there are even more to check out! The latest ones I’ve found have an interesting theme: the math prodigy.
In Nearly Gone, by Elle Cosimano, it’s Nearly Boswell trying to stay one step ahead of a serial killer by solving cryptic math- and science-themed clues.
In On A Clear Day, by Walter Dean Myers, it’s Dahlia Grillo joining a group to resist multinational corporations in the year 2035.
In In Real Life, by Lawrence Tabak, it’s Seth Gordon, who is so good at videogaming that he’s invited to play professionally — which means a move to Korea for training.
In Running Scared, by Beverley Terrell-Deutsch, it’s Gregory using numbers and equations to avoid thinking about the car accident that killed his father.
In The Cipher, by John C. Ford, it’s Ben as the geeky best friend of the charismatic protagonist, Smiles — but Ben has the genius code-cracking ability that sets the plot in motion.
The other way to celebrate Pi Day? Pie, of course! My search for teen books about pie came up with precious few, other than the peach pies in Chasing Jupiter and the “dangerous pie” in Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie (although I’ll leave it up to the jury if we really want to count a pie made from a “zesty blend of coffee grounds, raw eggs and their smashed shells, Coke, uncooked bacon, and three Matchbox racing cars”). Previous Hub posts have covered the plethora of baking fiction in terms of sweet treats and delicious desserts, and no one can argue with the trending cupcake.
Since baking really is a form of math, and math-related books seem to be on the upswing, perhaps more teen fiction about pies is a trend that’s just around the corner. Happy Ultimate Pi(e) Day to one and all!
–Becky O’Neil, currently reading Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
Unreliable, whiney, un-likable, liars—we’ve all read characters like this! I love to read a good book with a “bad” (and/or unreliable) narrator. This kind of flawed storyteller reaches to the reader and asks us to question, look deeper, and ponder truth and lies. It is a sign of an excellent author who can manipulate you to love the book and hate the character. Skilled writers make the reader believe the lies and then accept the truth.
Here are some favorite examples of protagonists I love to hate.
In this year’s Printz Award recipient I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson twins Noah and Jude lie to each other, lie to their parents, and lie to themselves (and by extension to us: the reader). With all the lies it’s no wonder there was so much to reveal in this tale. The sneakiness and bad treatment of each other made me distinctly dislike them. But Nelson also juxtaposed the twins’ nastiness with descriptions of how deeply they love each other.
Cadence from We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (2015 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults). Here is what I consider to be a likeable character and one whom I really felt for. But what if I knew the truth of what really happened that summer at the beginning of this book? Would I still have felt so sympathetic towards Cady?
Froi and Quintana from Melina Marchetta’s Lumatere Chronicles. Only Melina Marchetta (Printz Award winner) could take a predatory lowlife like Froi was when we first met him in Finnikin of the Rock (2011 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults) and turn him around so distinctly then lead him to star in his own story. Froi is redeemed in Finnikin of the Rock; grows in Froi of the Exiles, and become a hero in Quintana of Charyn. In the second installment of the Lumatere Chronicles Marchetta also introduces Quintana: one of the grossest characters I have ever imagined in a book and quickly made me love her. Quintana is prickly, deranged, damaged, paranoid, abused, and abusive. But she becomes a hero too—fiercely protective and thoroughly decent.
Yesterday, I wrote about the duty all librarians and educators share to instill empathy and compassion in our young readers by actively promoting books that engage and educate them in the experiences of others. You can read my first post on this topic here and see the books I recommend from Slavery through Jim Crow. I’m continuing that post today with books that address various aspects of the Civil Rights Movement as well as novels that look at contemporary teenage Black lives.
John Lewis is a civil rights legend and his graphic novel memoir March: Book One (2014 Outstanding Books for the College Bound, 2014 Top 10 Great Graphic Novels for Teens) should be required reading in classrooms across America. The book details his childhood in rural Alabama, his introduction to non-violence, the founding of the SNCC, and ends with the historic lunch counter sit-ins in the late 1950s. With the sequel coming out today, it’s the perfect time to showcase both works!
Robin Talley’s Lies We Tell Ourselves is a fictionalized account of the desegregation of schools in the late 1950s. Set in 1959, the story is told in two voices: Sarah, one of ten Black students attending the all-white high school in Davisburg, Virginia, and Linda, the white daughter of a prominent newspaperman intent on keeping segregation alive. The visceral accounts of Sarah’s first days at school alone make the book worth reading but it is the examination of how internal change can and does happen that truly makes the novel a compelling read.
Another book told in two voices is Revolution by Deborah Wiles which follows Sunny, a young white girl, as she grapples with the tumultuous changes happening around her during 1964’s Freedom Summer and Raymond, a young Black boy, who is coming to terms with the vast disparities between his community and the white community that surrounds him. Despite focusing more heavily on Sunny’s story, the book provides extraordinary insight into an era by incorporating numerous primary sources ranging from photographs, SNCC recruiting brochures, song lyrics, and even KKK pamphlets….fascinating stuff!
Kekla Magoon’s debut novel The Rock and the River won the 2010 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent when it came out and with good reason. A complex and layered look at the struggle for civil rights, the book tells the story of 13-year-old Sam, son of a well-known Civil Rights activist. As the story begins, Sam follows his father’s belief in non-violence unquestioningly until tragedy strikes and he finds himself siding more and more with his older brother who is a follower of the Black Panthers. The books offers no easy answers and is eloquent in its portrayal of a time fraught with tension and change. Continue reading Black Lives Matter: Building Empathy Through Reading (Part II)
In the year 2035, the division between rich and poor has grown so severe that a group of gifted young people decide it’s worth their lives to try and bridge the gap. But will courage and intelligence be enough to combat mega-corporations and drug lords? In his final novel, Myers nudges readers to think about what is worth living – and dying – for.
The song that share its name with this book comes from a Broadway musical, On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, (music by Burton Lane/lyrics by Alan Jay), which was adapted into a movie in 1970. The movie’s plot is far from the inspirational, change-the-world story line of Myer’s novel. Barbra Streisand plays Daisy, who goes to a hypnotist, Marc Chabot, to help her quit smoking. Turns out, a different personality emerges during hypnosis, the seductive Melinda. As Daisy falls in love with Marc, Marc falls in love with Melinda. The resolution to all this is just bizarre. Daisy, who is clairvoyant, informs Marc that they will be together in 2038, which is just three years after Myers’ book begins.
Speaking of bizarre, take a look at the movie poster on left. Very psychedelic!
But the song, On a Clear Day (You Can See Forever) is beautiful, and Streisand knocks it out of the park.
-Diane Colson, currently reading an advance readers copy of I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios
For 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.
According to a US Department of Justice report, 79,165 young people were incarcerated in the United States in 2010. Although these numbers show an overall decline, there are overwhelming more minority offenders in custody. Incarceration, whether in juvenile detention centers or adult correction facilities, is a major issue facing today’s teens. The 2015 YALSA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults committee is looking for titles that reflect the experiences faced by many of the teens we serve.
Current nominations include titles from the legendary Walter Dean Myers, nonfiction memoirs and even a graphic novel adaptation of a landmark text on race and incarceration. But the committee is looking for even more nominations from teen, teachers, librarians and readers. To be nominated, titles need to be available in paperback, not on a previous list in the last five years and be of interest to teens. Adult and young adult titles are considered, along with all genres.
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. Continue reading Diversify Your YA Contemporary Reads: A Flowchart