How to Help Teens Discover Poetry

Halfway through college, I still hated poetry.

I kept it hidden pretty well. You’re not supposed to hate poetry if you’re an English Education major. You’re supposed to love anything to do with writing and uphold all of these classic poets and authors who have been upheld since (what feels like) the beginning of time.

But mostly, I got bored reading poetry. Sure, it was something I was capable of doing, but it definitely wasn’t something I enjoyed. Like most students, I looked at poems as a short piece a writer double-dipped in things like “metaphors” and “conceits” before giving them to teachers to use as a way to make their students’ heads hurt as they tried to figure out the “deeper meaning” of each poem. Poetry just seemed like a lot of work.

Then Ted Kooser came to do a reading at my college.

 

I only went because my English professors were providing extra credit for those who attended. Then I promptly squeezed the arms of my chair as hard as possible for the next hour or so as Ted Kooser read a variety of his works.

I did not realize poetry could be like this, I thought to myself. See, Ted didn’t really seem to worry about rhyme or meter or that type of thing. His sole concern seemed to be finding ways to relate everyday moments in ways that made you stop and think. To recognize something and describe it in a way that you didn’t expect but made you blurt out “Exactly! That’s exactly right!” once you heard or read it.

And that’s when I realized that I didn’t hate poetry. I just hadn’t found the right poet until that moment. I proceeded to buy and eat up all of Ted’s books. I talked with professors and researched online and found other poets who wrote in a similar vein that I liked. Poets like Billy Collins, Donald Hall, Naomi Shihab Nye, Taylor Mali, and Tania Runyan.

Many young adults don’t enjoy poetry, but you can help them find find “their” poet and discover the joys of poetry.

how to help teens discover poetry

I started writing poems and sending them out in the hopes of getting published. I sang the praises of poetry wherever I went. Here are some ways I’ve tried to promote poetry in my classroom and library: Continue reading How to Help Teens Discover Poetry

Diversify YA Life: Islamic Mythology & Middle Eastern Folktales

Jinns have made a remarkable appearance in YA fiction in the last couple of years and with it comes diverse characters.

A Jinn is any of a class of spirits, lower than the angels, capable of appearingin human and animal forms and influencing humankind for either good or evil.

Below, you’ll find a list of YA fiction about Jinns.

When Zahara is released from her lamp she finds herself in a world where her magic is forbidden but when the King offers her permanent release, she must decide between freedom from the lamp or love.

This twisted tale changes one plot detail from popular Disney stories.  Whole New World asks what would happen if Jafar was the first one to summon the genie.

Azra, a Jinn, is evading her Jinn duties and masquerades as a human but when she discovers her powers are different from her Jinn friends, she must find out if her new powers will save or endanger her friends. Continue reading Diversify YA Life: Islamic Mythology & Middle Eastern Folktales

Is This Just Fantasy?: Adult Fantasy Fiction with Teen Appeal

As a librarian, I love providing reader’s advisory help to teens with all different interests and preferences. However, I must admit that I especially love helping a fellow fantasy fan discover a new title or author.  And as many of our library’s most devoted high school readers remain especially loyal to this genre, I have the opportunity to do this on a regular basis.  These voracious readers are constantly looking for new books and they’ve often exhausted the young adult offerings of the moment.  And that’s where having a healthy collection of fantasy published for adult fiction market comes in!
fantasy series adult with teen appeal
Last spring, I shared several adult fantasy authors and titles popular with my students but it seemed about time to provide an update! Here are some adult fiction titles likely to please a variety of eager fantasy readers.
The trend of historical fantasy continues to grow in both young adult and adult fiction.  These first two titles would be excellent recommendations for teens who favor fantasy and historical fiction or Jane Austen novels.

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho 
(2016 Alex Award nominee)
As the Napoleonic Wars rage abroad, Britain struggles at home as the Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers grows increasingly dissatisfied with the newly elected Sorcerer Royal, Zacharias Wythe.  Although he was raised and trained by his predecessor Sir Stephen, Zacharias’ dark skin and past as a slave have always barred him from gaining true acceptance in society and the continued magical draught provides the perfect excuse for the Society to oust him.  But when Zacharias journeys north to inspect the border with Fairyland, he meets Prunella Gentleman, an orphan whose remarkable magical ability might be wasted in a world where women are not permitted to practice magic.  Together, Zacharias and Prunella set out on a quest that will alter the state of sorcery in Britain irrevocably.

Shades of Milk & Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal
In another magical alternative version of Regency England, gentlewoman Jane Ellsworth and her sister Melody practice delicate glamour magic and circulate through polite society, all for the purpose of making a good marriage.  But while Melody’s beauty attracts suitors easily, Jane is 28 years old, unmarried, and possibly more talented at glamour than a lady should be.  The arrivals of the wealthy young Mr. Dunkirk and the gruff glamourist Mr. Vincent to the neighborhood set into a series of unforeseen events that will push Jane’s talents and strength to new limits.   The Glamourist Histories series continues in several more novels.
If your readers would prefer a gritty steampunk setting to a Regency drawing room, this next title might be the perfect pick–especially if they like a good murder mystery!
Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear (2016 Alex Award nominee)
In Rapid City, airships buzz through the air as hopeful miners travel through on their way to Alaskan gold fields and steam-powered robots work the waterfront. And at Madame Damnable’s high quality bordello, a young prostitute named Karen Memery is just trying to make her way through this unforgiving world.  Then one night, a pair of injured and abused young women end up on their doorstep, on the run from brutal gangster and brothel owner Peter Bantle.  In the days that follow, Karen and the other girls at Madame Damnable’s become involved in horrific murder mystery, tracking down a serial killer slaughtering prostitutes around the city.

Continue reading Is This Just Fantasy?: Adult Fantasy Fiction with Teen Appeal

Magical Realism as Metaphor

Magical realism is a genre that is permeating contemporary YA novels. Its subtlety, however, makes it difficult to pinpoint. The setting and characters are generally realistic, but there is a layer of surrealism that makes the genre separate from realistic fiction. The concept of “magical realism” may conjure twee images and descriptions. If anything, the “magical” parts of magical realism serve as powerful metaphors on reality that set apart the concept from dystopian or supernatural genres. Some of these metaphors illuminate aspects of the human condition. Other metaphors are twists on day-to-day life, when others are genuinely terrifying.

magical realism as metaphor

Below is a look at some recent YA novels that incorporate magical realism. Continue reading Magical Realism as Metaphor

True Crime: Books, Podcasts, and Documentaries

With Season 2 of the popular podcast Serial nearing the end of this current season, the FX original limited series, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, and the runaway Netflix hit Making a Murderer, our fascination with crime stories doesn’t seem to wane. Maybe the draw is that we want to see justice served, or we want to know if we could spot the true crime in a situation, or maybe it has something to do with the fact that, as one of the lawyers in Making a Murderer says, “We could all say that we’re never going to commit a crime. But we can never guarantee that someone else won’t accuse us of a crime.” Whatever the reason, one thing it does is challenge our worldview.

true crime stories for young adults
CC image via Flickr user Tony Webster

 

For readers that enjoy a suspenseful or thriller type mystery, true crime can be a great nonfiction option. True crime can also be a great gateway to other narrative nonfiction for readers that don’t see themselves as nonfiction readers; through it they might find themselves spellbound. Here is a list of heart-pounding true crime books and other media.

Borden Murders Cover                  Chasing Lincoln's Killer              hole-in-my-life-cover

The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden & the Trial of the Century by Sarah Elizabeth Miller

One of the most followed crime cases of the late 1800s, Miller reexamines the brutal crime that left Lizzie Borden’s father and step-mother hacked to death with an ax, and why so many thought it was Lizzie’s doing.

Chasing Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson (2010 Best Books for Young Adults)

Relive the heart-racing account of the twelve-day chase and capture of John Wilkes Booth and his accomplices in this historical thriller.

Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos (2003 Printz Honor Book, Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults 2006, 2003 Best Books for Young Adults, 2004 Selected Audiobooks for Young Adults)

Shortly after graduating from high school, Gantos accepted an offer of $10,000 to help sail a boat full of hash from St. Croix to New York, eventually landing him in prison. Continue reading True Crime: Books, Podcasts, and Documentaries

Women in Comics: Even More Superheroes

Image of Wonder Woman by ErikaWittlieb. Licensed with a CC0 license.
Image by ErikaWittlieb. CC0.

Shortly after I first started writing this series of posts on female-created comics, I wrote a post that highlighted some of the best superhero comics created by women, but since that time some great new comics have debuted featuring female superheroes written and/or drawn by female creators. This post will help you find a brand new superhero for all your reading (and maybe even cosplaying!) needs. Continue reading Women in Comics: Even More Superheroes

Women in Comics: Love Is In The Air

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, it seems like a perfect time to highlight some great examples of love stories and romances in comics. Though romance comics were very popular in comics historically, this genre is sometimes overlooked in the current comics marketplace, receiving less focus than superhero stories and tales of adventure. But, this is not because of a lack of romantic tales being written. Though they may not always garner as many headlines, these stories exist and have great crossover appeal for readers who don’t generally read comics.

Lucy from the Peanuts with hearts around her head
gif via

Continue reading Women in Comics: Love Is In The Air

Women in Comics: Read Some Nonfiction In November

For November, I am focusing on nonfiction graphic novels written or illustrated by women. Often an overlooked subsection of the graphic novel market, nonfiction graphic novels can be a great way to learn more about new topics, particularly if you prefer your information illustrated by amazing artists. This list includes just a few of the many nonfiction graphic novels that women have created over the years, but hopefully it will help you find a perfect new read that will teach you about a completely new subject.

Office GIF saying "You guys, I'm like really smart. You don't even know."
source

 

Pain Is Really Strange by Steve Haines with art by Sophie Standing – Written by Steve Haines, a healthcare worker who specializes in pain management, this nonfiction book brings together research on how people experience pain to create a book that not only explains how pain is felt, but also cites research on the topic. Sophie Standing’s artwork is instrumental to the success of this volume. She has a distinctive and engaging style that brings to life text that could be dull or overly technical without this visual element. This is a fascinating read for anyone with an interest in biology or medicine and it works extremely well in the graphic novel format. Continue reading Women in Comics: Read Some Nonfiction In November

Genre Guide: Paranormal Romances for Teens

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Definition

Paranormal Romance is a sub-genre of Romance. For a novel to be a Paranormal Romance, a simple thing must occur: love must begin between a human and a supernatural being (whether wholly supernatural or partially, just as long as there are supernatural elements present). However, this can be a broad interpretation. Usually, the protagonist (often the human) in these novels is put in some kind of danger, where they come to realize they can overcome this danger either on their own or with the help of the supernatural love interest.

Authors to Know

Characteristics
Main characters include both humans and supernatural beings. The supernatural being can be wholly supernatural or partly, and include but are not limited by the following “types”: vampire, werewolf, fairy, magician, mermaid, zombie, psychic, ghost, demon hunter, demon, angel, shapeshifter, dragon, and gods or goddesses.  Additionally, the human in Paranormal Romances can have a touch of the paranormal as well.  An example is the teen psychic that can see the ghost. Quite often, when it comes to paranormal romances written for teens, a love triangle is involved.  There could be more than one human, or more than one supernatural being in the triangle. Continue reading Genre Guide: Paranormal Romances for Teens

Women in Comics: Some Horror For Halloween

Spooky Lego by d.loop. CC By 2.0
Spooky Lego by d.loop. CC By 2.0

With Halloween just around the corner, this month is the perfect time to explore another exciting genre of graphic novels – horror. While I am the first to admit that this is not a genre I frequently focus on in my reading, my research for this month’s post introduced me to some great stories that I wouldn’t normally read and some authors and artists whose works I had not previously encountered. If you are a fan of scary stories or are simply looking for something to read on Halloween, this list will help you find the perfect horror story!

Through the Woods by Emily CarrollThrough the Woods by Emily Carroll – This collection of creepy and twisted fairy tales will leave you thinking (and possibly sleeping with the lights on) long after you finish the final page of the book. For many of the stories Carroll takes traditional themes and creates stories that look at these themes from a different point of view. The stories are complemented by gorgeous artwork with rich colors and a general creepiness that fits perfectly with the stories themselves. This is a great book for both art fans and comic fans. If you want to check out her style, try her Eisner-award-winning short story, When the Darkness Presses, which is available for free online. Continue reading Women in Comics: Some Horror For Halloween