As library workers, especially those of us who work with teens, our role can shift to “social worker” in an instant. Our teen patrons visit the library everyday and they begin to trust and confide in us. Because most of us don’t have the training to work with at-risk youth, we can feel a little helpless but we don’t have to because we have the power of a good book.
About a year ago, a member of my book discussion group seemed to be questioning his sexuality and he never talked about it. I gave him Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith to read because I thought the ending was perfect for his situation. He loved the book and now he’s very open with his sexuality and he accepts who he is. Did my recommendation help him? I don’t really know but I like to think it gave him some perspective. When I see a teen who I think or know is struggling with a personal problem, I’ll strike up a book conversation on their next library visit asking them what they like to read. If they are a reader, I’ll find a book from their favorite genre that deals with the subject they are struggling with.
In my library, I see homeless teens, teens with alcoholic parents, teens living with a dying parent, and teens dealing with gender identity and body image. I used to feel powerless but after I recommended Grasshopper Jungle, I realized that I could be an effective adult in the lives of teens. Below are a list of good books that blend popular genres with social issues. Gone are the days of feeling helpless. Say goodbye to sifting through numerous Google results. You now possess the power of reader’s advisory in a flash. You are the newest member of the Social Justice League!
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