Reading List for International Women’s Day

The UN's theme for International Women's Day this year is Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it!
The UN’s theme for International Women’s Day this year is Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it!

Yesterday, March 8, was International Women’s Day, a holiday born out of women protesting their work in garment factories, trying to get the right to vote, and later just celebrating and trying to better the roles of women in the world. In fact in the United States, the U.K. and Australia, the entire month of March is identified as a celebration of Women’s History.

For many people, celebrating women’s history and women in general goes hand in hand with being a feminist. In 2014, feminist – being a person who believes in gender equality – became a cultural concept very much in the spotlight. Reporters and bloggers asked celebrities if they identified as feminists; Beyonce performed at the MTV music awards in front of a giant “FEMINIST” sign; and Time magazine controversially added the word to a poll of words to be banned. Other serious issues such as campus rape and Gamergate harassment made the lives of women and their treatment take center stage.

I didn’t self-identify as a feminist until middle or high school because I didn’t know that there was a word for what I had felt my whole life: that women and girls were unquestioningly the equal to men and boys and that we had the right to exciting, meaningful, and amazing books. I feel so happy and privileged to go up in a house where my 8 year old intention to be a brain surgeon during the day and a concert pianist at night was met with a supportive, “Ok.” I didn’t quite reach those heights but my family never made me feel like I couldn’t do that because I was a girl. Sadly, this is not the norm throughout the whole world, and not even in the United States.

Tangibly, materially, and in terms of rights and freedoms, there is a lot to be done for women and girls throughout the world and our country. But one of the things libraries and bookstores and readers can do is to read about lives of women and girls. By reading and sharing stories of women and girls we can show others the amazing things women can do. We can also share the struggles of women and girls and help inspire change.

Here are just a handful of books I’ve read recently that have a strong, pro-women message. They present women and girls who are strong without being caricatures; emotional without being a harmful stereotype; and most of all, full realized characters with hopes, dreams, and struggles.


gabiGabi, a Girl in Pieces
by Isabel Quintero (2015 Morris winner and Amelia Bloomer Project list): Gabi is a girl that I simultaneously wish I knew in high school or had been in high school. She doesn’t have all the answers but is still so confident in herself even when dealing with sexuality, her weight, family tragedies, her friends’ pregnancy and coming out, and more. She has a wonderful message of power and sense of self that speaks well to girls both struggling and not. This is also one of the few YA books I’ve read with abortion as a plot point.

Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman (2013 Alex Award): Rory Dawn has a hard life growing up in her Nevada trailer park and desperately wants to be a Girl Scout. This is a great meditation on the expectations of girlhood and poverty.  Continue reading Reading List for International Women’s Day

If Teen Books Could Tweet

As I was checking Twitter – for work! – last week I stumbled upon a woman tweeting a generic dystopian YA novel. Her “novel” has the stereotypical hallmarks of the genre: an oppressive, stratified soceity, some sort of testing, a love triangle, the trope of the “Chosen One.” It’s great. I love dystopian YA novels, so at first I was a little annoyed, but it’s actually really wonderful. Take a look: 

So funny! And it got me thinking, “If other teen books could tweet or characters in those books, what would they tweet about?” I came up with a few for fun:

The Maze Runner
The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Divergent
Divergent by Veronica Roth

Continue reading If Teen Books Could Tweet

ALA Midwinter 2015: Best Fiction for Young Adults Feedback Session Recap

BFYA sessionOn Saturday, January 31, I had the privilege to not only attend the “Best Fiction for Young Adults (BFYA)” feedback session, I also was able to bring four of my local library teens to participate in the session.  Here is a picture of the five of us after the session posing with all of our swag bags.  My four teens joined up with other teen readers to comprise a group of 60, all ready to do what teens do best: share their opinions.

Just a little background, if you are unfamiliar with the BFYA list: throughout the year, librarians add books published that year to a nomination list.  From this nomination list, a committee reads the titles and ultimately whittles the list down to a BFYA Top Ten list.  In order to ensure that the best books make the Top Ten list, the committee holds a feedback session in which teens can share why they think a book should or should not be on the list.  The teens lined up at microphones that faced the committee members rather than the large crowd of librarians and teachers who stopped in to get the firsthand knowledge presented by the teens.  Each teen had no more than 90 seconds to prove their point and were allowed to write up their reviews ahead of time.  Unfortunately, due to the length of the nomination list, not every title was reviewed by the teens during the session.

Before I begin to share the details of the session, here is the BFYA Top Ten list:

The Carnival at Bray by Jessie Ann Foley

The Crossover by Kwame AlexanderNogginCarnival at Braygospel of winteryoung elitesthe story of owen

The Gospel of Winter by Brendan Kiely

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Jackaby by William Ritterwe_were_liarsJackabyvangocrossoveri'll give you the sun

Noggin by John Corey Whaley

The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim by E. K. Johnston

Vango by Timothee de Fombelle

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

The Young Elites by Marie Lu

There was one phrase that was constantly heard throughout the BFYA session.  That phrase was, “I completely disagree.”  Continue reading ALA Midwinter 2015: Best Fiction for Young Adults Feedback Session Recap

What Would They Read?: Monster Edition!

Little_Monsters_by_Merlin2525I know some of you are patiently waiting for the conclusion of my Firefly post in September.  Unfortunately you will have to wait a little bit more as I am interrupting my own series of posts to bring you this Halloween Monster Edition of “What Would They Read.”  I promise I will finish Firefly next month.  As I see it, we Firefly fans are used to things we love and look forward to being abruptly ended.  It’s sad, but true.

OK, back to monsters…

There were two ways I considered approaching this blog post.  I could go the easy way and match various monsters with books that include characters from the same species.  For example, Dracula would just love to read The Twilight Saga because of all the vampires.  Sure, I’ll throw in a few of those.  The real challenge lies in finding books for these monster archetypes that more reflect their personality types.  It’s a bit more difficult, but I’m up for the challenge.  Go big or go home, right?

Dracula – Before vampires became a standard villainous character is several movies, shows, and books, Bram Stoker brought us the original vampire story.  Some may say that there’s a historical connection to the evil ruler, Vlad Vampirethe Impaler.  I’m not going to debate for or against that idea, but I will say that guy was fairly creepy.

Those who have read the original novel,  Dracula, know that while the vampire was super spooky, he was also very lonely.  He used his vampire ways to try to get friends and girlfriend.  True, he didn’t go about this search in the conventional way by simply introducing himself to new people.  Instead, he charmed the mentally unstable Renfield and made him his somewhat friend, although I think the term is closer to minion than friend.  Once he decided he wanted a woman in his life, he did not go about courting her in a traditional manner.  After a few midnight visits full of blood drinking, Dracula had Lucy right where he wanted her; in a coffin. Continue reading What Would They Read?: Monster Edition!

Get to Know Some YA Authors From Across the Pond

Photo Sep 28, 6 06 08 PMI spent a few weeks in London, then Edinburgh in August on vacation, and, being the librarian and book lover that I am, found myself frequently stopping in bookstores. I wondered whether the same books that teens are reading in the U.S. would be available to British & Scottish teens.

As I wandered the teen sections in Waterstones and WHSmith in London and Blackwell’s in Edinburgh, I found that many of the same YA books that are published here are also popular across the pond in London and Scotland. In Waterstones there was a special display with a sign saying “Everything’s turning green!” promoting John Green’s books. Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl and E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars were also included in another book display.

Photo Sep 28, 4 06 04 PM Photo Sep 28, 4 11 48 PMAs I scanned the shelves in the bookstores, I also saw a few authors that I wasn’t as familiar with, or that I hadn’t heard of at all. One, author, Malorie Blackman, current Children’s Laureate for Great Britain for 2013 – 2015, is a British author I had read years ago. Her book Naughts & Crosses (Noughts & Crosses in the UK) was nominated, but didn’t make the 2006 Best Books for Young Adults list.

It’s a sort of Romeo and Juliet story of teens Sephy and Callum who’ve been in love their whole lives, but their romance is forbidden because they have different skin colors. Sephy is a Cross: black-skinned, wealthy and daughter of an important politician. White-skinned Callum is a Naught, devastatingly poor and powerless. The law now allows Naughts to enter Cross schools, and Sephy is thrilled that Callum will attend her school. But the seemingly positive desegregation degenerates into a nightmarish tangle of events ranging from expulsions, to bombings by the Naught Liberation Militia, to hangings. Callum’s older brother, denied schooling, has joined the Naught Liberation Militia. Caught up in escalating violence, Callum’s family disintegrates, and there seems little for him to do but join the terrorists as well. The teens’ romance against overwhelming odds is very powerful and moving.

Naughts & Crosses was published in the UK in 2001. In a Wikipedia article on Blackman, The Times interviewer Amanda Craig speculated about why the Noughts & Crosses series was not published in the United States the same year, “though there was considerable interest, 9/11 killed off the possibility of publishing any book describing what might drive someone to become a terrorist.” Naughts and Crosses was published in the U.S. in 2005, and the paperback published in 2007 under the title Black & White.

Continue reading Get to Know Some YA Authors From Across the Pond

Back to (Realistic, but Fictional) School

School Room by Rob Shenk
School Room by Rob Shenk

It’s getting to be that time of year; the temperatures are falling, the edges of the leaves are crisping, football is revving up, baseball is winding down, and many of us are getting used to new teachers and new classes.

To help take the sting out of the end of summer (goodbye till next year, reading on the beach with an iced tea…), I like to throw myself into celebrating the beginning of fall (hello again, curling up in an armchair with a hot chocolate while the rain falls outside!). For me, this means: new notebooks, adding apples to pretty much every meal, and diving into books that highlight all the little rituals of the school year. The following are some of my favorite titles with strong school settings, to help us all get excited for the new semester (even if we can’t actually enroll at Hogwarts, which would, let’s be honest, be the ultimate in back-to-school excitement).

Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

Frankie is really smart (and unaccustomed to hiding her smarts in front of guys, even though sometimes they seem more comfortable if she does), dislikes accepting the status quo, is impatient with her dad’s secretive pride about his own halcyon days at her boarding school, and is (maybe) on the path to becoming a criminal mastermind- an idea she finds morally…ambiguous. A 2009 Printz Honor Book, Teens Top Ten pick, and National Book Award finalist, plus a 2013 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults title, this is one of those books I’m always bothering everyone I know to read.

Never Let Me Go
Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Speculative fiction disguised as a coming-of-age story, Never Let Me Go was an Alex Award winner in 2006, and has quickly become a modern classic. Following a trio of students through their years at a seemingly traditional boarding school, Never Let Me Go is about the complex hierarchies and subtle competitions between friends, but it’s also about how to get the truth from adults, and how to live with truths that are shockingly, fundamentally painful to process. Continue reading Back to (Realistic, but Fictional) School

No Tense Like the Present

I don’t know if it’s my penchant for once-upon-a-time fairy tale retellings, but when I pick up a book, I expect it to be narrated in past tense. Recently, though, it seems like more and more YA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAbooks are being told in present tense. I’m not quite sure why this is a trend, but I find the more frequent use of present tense interesting and occasionally annoying (I write this completely aware of the irony that I am writing this post in the present tense).

I remember clearly the first time I noticed a story was being narrated in present tense–I honestly don’t remember the book or even quite when in my life this was, but I found the narration clunky and distracting, and I put the book down after a chapter or less. Looking back, I’m not sure if the writing was bad or clunky at all, or if I was just completely put off by the present tense. Now that I have encountered many more books that use present tense, I usually find it easier to ignore the tense and fall into the story, but not always. After all, past tense is something of a common language in English narrative writing, and it’s not like an author can’t convey that something is happening now even while using past tense. september_girlsFor example, Sam in Bennett Madison’s September Girls (2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults) describes his current whereabouts using past tense: “I had decided to take a walk, and now I was alone at the edge of the water as it came and went” (p. 22).

When I thought about writing a Hub post on this topic, I decided to speculate about reasons why an author might choose to use the present tense instead of the past. This seemed like a good way to try to appreciate this writing technique better. Here are some possibilities I’ve come up with: Continue reading No Tense Like the Present

“Grown-Up” Books (For the Kid in You)

Girl_Reading

When did you start to love reading? Can you remember the first book that did it for you?

Why, yes I do remember–so glad you asked! I was in third grade at my local public library with my friend Margaret (a bookworm and savvy reader a few years older than me). She thrust Lois Lowry’s Anastasia, Again at me so I shrugged and checked it out. I spent the rest of that afternoon on my front porch for hours happily lost in the book. I was a reader. And I haven’t looked back since.

Over the years, I have found that the phase of life in which you read a book affects your outlook on it. Have you ever re-read a beloved book only to find you now despise it? Have you discovered that you still love that same book but notice a lot of different stuff now? If you’ve grown up reading chances are you have many fond memories of the greats you read as a kid. In this line of thinking my colleague Meaghan Darling and I put together some recommendations of titles to try now based on what you liked when you were younger.

Witches_HUB

* The Witches by Roald Dahl –Beautiful Creatures (2010 Morris Finalist) by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Some witches are good, some are bad—but all are powerful!

Continue reading “Grown-Up” Books (For the Kid in You)

What Would They Read?: Parks and Recreation Part 2

parks-and-recreationThe time has come to recommend more books to our friends in Pawnee.  I feel like I might have left the more difficult characters for this entry.  Last month, I chose books for Leslie, Ben, April, and Andy.  So let’s get started and see what we have this time around.

Tom Haverford – It is not difficult to select books for Tom. Basically, all you have to do is tell him that a celebrity endorsed the book and he would be all over it.  However, I do think that is a bit like cheating.  There has to be a bookSo Yesterday that fits Tom’s personality and passion for the jet-setter life.  There is a book– and it’s called So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld (a 2005 Best Books for Young Adults selection).  Before the name Westerfeld became synonymous with the Uglies series, he wrote So Yesterday.  In this standalone novel, Hunter has the responsibility to find the Innovators, people who start trends, and present them to the retail market.  Tom, with his big ideas like Entertainment 720 and Rent-a-Swag, will love the adventure Hunter embarks on in a city full of unknown pockets of cool.  Unfortunately Pawnee is not a hub of trendsetting activity.  Tom can live vicariously through Hunter’s story.  Another title that Tom may enjoy is Feed by M.T. Anderson.  In Feed, it is commonplace for everyone to have a feed similar to the Internet directly inputted into your brain.  The program learns your likes and dislikes and sends you advertisements customized to you.  Tom would love having all of that knowledge at his fingertips.  Continue reading What Would They Read?: Parks and Recreation Part 2

Celebrate Cousins Day in YA Lit

imagesDid you know that today is unofficially Cousins Day? Neither did I until I discovered that several different websites devoted to strange and unique holidays both designate today as the day to celebrate the bond between cousins.

I didn’t see my cousins much growing up but I do have fond memories of the few times we did get together on vacation. I thought it might be fun to see how many YA books I could find involving cousins.

we_were_liarsThe obvious book that immediately comes to mind is We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. Not only have I read it recently, but it’s also been featured here by Carly Pansulla in her July 15th post, “Summer Reading: Vacation Destination Books.” Carly’s description of the book is great so if you want to know more about it, check out her post. I will only say that the main narrator, Cady Sinclair, has great memories of spending summers with her parents and aunts and her first cousins, Mirren and Johnny, at their family’s private island off the coast of Cape Cod… until one fateful summer when everything changes.

Another notable book featuring first cousins is meg rosoff’s 2005 Michael L. Printz Award winning how i Photo Jul 11, 5 16 37 PMlive now. This riveting novel is narrated from 15-year-old Daisy’s point of view. She leaves Manhattan to stay with her cousins Osbert, Edmond and Isaac (twins), and Piper, the youngest, on a remote farm in England. Soon after Daisy settles into their farmhouse, her Aunt Penn becomes stranded in Oslo and terrorists invade and occupy England. Daisy and her cousin Edmond fall in love, but when soldiers take over the farm, the boys and girls are separated and sent away to different places. Daisy and Piper struggle to stay alive in the midst of this devastating invasion. The book was made into a film that was released in November 2013.

Continue reading Celebrate Cousins Day in YA Lit