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 Jacqueline Cano from Virginia.
When I am asked what my favorite book is, I am met with a challenge. How can I choose just one? There are thousands of books that have been written; there are thousands more to be written yet. How can I be expected to pick one? I’ve read hundreds of books. I couldn’t name them all if you paid me. But certain stories stick. And the series that sticks out most to me is Harry Potter.
And it isn’t just me. Mention Harry Potter and nearly everyone knows what you’re talking about. Some people will be enthused. Others will recognize it with apathy. There are also the ones who are fervently against it, but we mustn’t let those Muggles get us down. That’s one of the things I love about Harry Potter– the recognizable quality it holds. Harry Potter, which has been translated into 77 different languages, brings people of different ages and cultures together. It’s not some cool underground thing. It’s a unifying literary power.
Why do so many people care so much about a boy who grew up in the cupboard under the stairs? Why do so many people appreciate this made up story? What magic could it possibly hold? I can’t speak for everyone, but I can tell you what I think. Continue reading Why I Love Harry Potter
I’m a pretty big (although admittedly fairly recent) Doctor Who fan. My TARDIS â€œBigger on the Insideâ€ poster has pride of place by my desk at work and my Christmas tree will boast a Dalek and a sonic screwdriver. But some of the dialogue flies past me on the first viewing of each episode (perhaps the phrase â€œfirst viewingâ€ gives a fuller sense of my devotion to the show).
I love that the writing is so fast and furious that I have to work to keep up, and I love being able to uncover new jokes and references when I watch again. And one of my very favorite things is when the Doctor makes a literary joke (or, better still, has an entire episode crafted around a literary reference). I mean, come on, how disappointing would it be to have a Timelord with all of time and space at his disposal who wasn’t really, really well read?!
So: what to read to get the Doctor’s best literary jokes so far? Here’s a list to start with:
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens – Doctor Who is a British icon and so is Dickens. Doctor Who Christmas specials have become a bit of a recent holiday tradition (at least in my house), and Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is arguably the best-known British holiday story ever; Dickens and the Doctor are a great match, and the show has done both a straight-up Whovian adaptation (titled, helpfully, “A Christmas Carol”), and an episode featuring Charles Dickens, “The Unquiet Dead.” Of the two, I prefer the latter, because the writing is rife with moments where we get to witness the Doctor and Rose influencing future classic literature while also imagining what Dickens might have been like in person. Plus, I like the 9th Doctor a lot.
Shakespeare (all of it) – The episode written to make lit geeks giggle, “The Shakespeare Code” is so chock-full of great quips and allusions to the Bard’s work I’m still finding new jokes a few years later. Start with the sonnets, then work through the comedies (but make sure to hit Hamlet as well). Extra fun = watching the Doctor coin some of Shakespeare’s most famous lines. Continue reading Your Guide to the Literary References of Doctor Who
Books and reading have been integral to my identity essentially my entire life. My parents read to me since infancy and my status as a bibliophile has been established nearly as long. We have a fairly infamous home video featuring my toddler self pulling all the books off the shelves in my room and then fiercely babbling at them the way another child might instruct toys. Even now I will occasionally refer to favorite books by their main characters’ first names and I have been known to reprimand characters out loud while reading a particularly tense scene. I have always viewed the world through a sort of double visionâ€”there’s my â€˜real’ life and then there’s my life in fiction. The fictional characters and stories surrounding me have been just as influential â€˜real life’ people and experiences. Unsurprisingly, many of the reading experiences with the strongest memories attached to them are connected to fantasy fiction. Here are a few of the fantasy novels that have now become part of my story.
Like so many people of my generation, Harry Potter was and always will be a huge part of my reading history. I read the first book in middle school, just a few years after it was first published in the U.S. and preceded to read all the subsequent novels, growing up alongside the characters. I’ve spent an incalculable number of hours reading & rereading the novels, engaging in passionate conversations (and arguments) with fellow fans, or reading fanfiction featuring favorite characters. I’ve found that in times of stress or anxiety, I turn to my trusty Harry Potter audiobooks and inevitably find both comfort and inspiration in joining Harry, Hermione, & Ron on their journeys.
I cannot actually recall exactly when I first read these complex and incredibly rich fantasy novels, especially since I’ve re-read them several times since. However sometime in late middle or early high school I was first introduced to Lyra Belacqua and her alternative world–and I’ve been a little bit in love ever since. These novels are multifaceted and intricate; every time I revisit them, I discover new details and layers. During my senior year of college, I wrote a paper exploring the connection between John Milton’s portrayal of Eve in his epic poem Paradise Lost and Lyra’s role as a ‘new Eve’ in The Amber Spyglass. While I enjoyed writing many papers during college, there were few I found as satisfying as that one.
I read my first Tamora Pierce novel in middle school, sometime in 7th or 8th grade. I have a distinct memory of completing Alanna: The First Adventure during the late hours of a sleepover; the evening had only emphasized the fact that while I wasn’t a complete outcast yet, I didn’t have any real friends. At that point in my life, my sense of self felt as tenuous and confused as my social life. But when I read about Alanna (and later Daine & Keladry), I was not only transported–I was transformed. Alanna and Pierce’s other brave, complex heroines refuse to be anyone but themselves; they embrace their strengths and pursue their dreams despite sometimes overwhelming obstacles. And when I disappeared into their world, I felt reassured that I could do the same.
My love for Tamora Pierce’s works also persisted beyond middle and high school. I made connections with friends during orientation week in college when we discovered our mutual love of these books. While working as a counselor and library assistant at my former high school’s summer ESL program, I introduced a student to the Alanna books on a hunch and was overjoyed when she devoured them. At the time I was already seriously considering going to graduate school to become a teen services librarian but that experience confirmed my decision definitively. When Tamora Pierce did an author visit to the school I now work at, it was difficult to tell who has more overwrought with excitement–me or the fans among my students!
While Tamora Pierce’s books provided lots of high fantasy action and complex female protagonists, I was always looking for more and Robin McKinley’s many novels fit the bill perfectly. The Blue Sword & The Hero and The Crown are classic high fantasy adventures and coming of age tales full of action and romance while her many fairytale re-imaginings (including Spindle’s End, Beauty, Rose Daughter, and Deerskin) are by turns whimsical, dark, and fascinating. Also, like the others on this list, they feature compelling and multifaceted heroines. They remain some of my favorite novels to this day and within the last few years I’ve happily recommended to both students and friends; just this past summer, I gave a copy of The Blue Sword to a friend as a wedding/honeymoon present.
During the winter and early spring of senior year of college, I was working on my senior thesis while also nervously awaiting news about graduate school. Amidst this perfect storm of anxiety, I picked up Graceling and Fire by Kristin Cashore. Both novels focus on highly powerful young women who are seeking not only to protect their countries but to discover truths about themselves and their destinies. I not only fell in love with Cashore’s rich character development and compelling stories, I also felt a strong personal connection with the novels. I might not possess supernatural powers or be able to save a nation but I too was struggling to discern my future and understand my own potential.
Which books have become part of your story?
-Kelly Dickinson, currently reading Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac
Young adult and adult novels make it to the big (and little) screen fairly often these days. So, just how smug should you feel when you have already read the book? There is no easy answer â€“ so to tackle this issue I have broken down the movie/show tie-ins into categories.
The Book Series Made into a Show
You can feel superior, but do tread lightly as you enter this murky zone. When translating a series of novels into a series of shows major plot elements are likely to be changed to allow for the continuity of the show. Examples of the book series made into a show include Pretty Little Liars (based on the series by Sara Shepard), Gossip Girl (based on the series by Cecily Von Ziegesar; a 2003 Quick Pick & 2009 Popular Paperback for Young Adults), The Walking Dead (based on the graphic novel series by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Cliff Rathburn and Tony Moore), and Game of Thrones (Based on the â€œSong of Fire and Iceâ€ books by George R.R. Martin.)
Pros of pre-reading the book series made into a show:
1) You read the books, you loved themâ€¦you watch the show and get more! You can translate your book reading experience into an on-going show and keep the story alive after the series is over and/or whilst you await (impatiently) for the next book.
2) Deviations from the book make for some fun and unexpected surprises. You thought you knew all there was to know about white walkers in George RR Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice seriesâ€¦ but after watching the HBO show– what?!
Cons of pre-reading the book series made into a show:
1) Deviations from the book make for some shocking unexpected surprises. Yes, this is both a pro and a con. These changes may call into question your precognitive skills. For example AMC’s Walking Dead’s many plot changes as compared to the graphic novel series.
Bragging rights earned from pre-reading the book series made into a show:
If you are hanging around The Hub, chances are you’re a reader. And if you love to read, statistically speaking, you probably had a mom, or some other motherly figure, who read to you when you were small. (I know, I know, lots of you are screaming that it was your dad. This is Mother’s Day. Wait your turn.) So if you are still looking for a last-minute Mother’s Day gift, why not show your appreciation by introducing her to a YA mom as fabulous as she is? Just match Mom’s style to one of the titles below, each with one of the best mothers in YA and plenty of adult appeal. You may need to include a box of tissues!
For the Mess-with-My-Kid-and-I’ll-Take-You-Down momâ€”Divergent by Veronica Roth (2012 Teens’ Top Ten winner). It’s no secret that adults everywhere are devouring this series, especially since the movie came out, but fierce mothers will have a particular appreciation for Natalie Prior. Butâ€¦butâ€¦Tris’s mom is Abnegation, isn’t she? The picture of selflessness, she supports her children’s choices and wants what is best for them, even if it means watching them walk out of her life. But threaten one of her kids, andâ€¦let’s just say a whole other side of her comes out.
Do you know the feeling that comes sometimes when you finish reading a really great book, the one in which you don’t want the story to end? You can always hope for a sequel or a companion novel. If there is a film adaptation, you can experience the world, again, there. Or you can keep the world alive by creating something yourself.
I recently attended the DML2014 conference in Boston and found myself surrounded by people passionately talking about ways to interact with digital media. As a blogger for The Hub, I immediately focused on the ways that people were using these programs and communities to create content based on YA books. This also tied in well with last week’s Teen Tech Week theme of DIY @ your library. Below, I have listed a handful of ways that youth and adults are taking their favorite stories and making something new.
Create a Program
One of the tools that was frequently mentioned at DML2014 is Scratch, a web-based programming tool that allows users to create and share games, videos, and stories. I searched Scratch for projects related to popular YA titles and found a wide variety of program types including interactive quizzes and games, slideshows, and still image fanart. A few examples include a Divergent Aptitude Test Simulation, Snape’s Potion Game (Harry Potter), and The Mortal Instruments: Downworld Attack game. These users have found a way to continue interacting with books that they enjoyed while also learning how to code computer programs. Scratch is only one of a number of options available in this area, too. Continue reading Get Creative with YA Lit
I love to knit–I’m very slow at it, and not very advanced, but ever since my husband’s grandmother taught me almost ten years ago, I’ve enjoyed it. The cold temperatures this time of year (especially over the last week!) put me even more in a knitting mood, and the only problem then is deciding whether to spend free time reading or knitting. Audiobooks occasionally help with that dilemma, but so do books that feature knitters!
There seems to have been a resurgent interest in knitting over the past few years, but while there are a ton of great nonfiction knitting books out there, I wanted to stick with a list of fictional knitters. It was hard to find very many, so I’ve cheated a bit by branching beyond YA books. Hopefully, one of these knitters will strike your reading mood this winter:
Mme Defarge from A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. To start off with perhaps the most famous literary knitter, I may be veering away from YA lit, but not from a memorable story and character. A Tale of Two Cities presents Dickens’ take on the French Revolution and a British family that gets caught up in the chaos. It’s one of his shorter works and includes enough romance and heroics to make it easy to stay connected with the story–not always so with a Dickens work. Mme Defarge is something of a side character, but her knitting takes center stage when the reader learns that she uses it to keep her register…a register of those she, her husband, and their co-revolutionaries have marked for a date with Mme la Guillotine. Continue reading Literary Knitters