Booklist: YA Alternate History

June is history month, and while there’s a ton of great historical fiction for teens out there, it’s also a perfect time to start asking “What if?”

What if the American Revolution never happened?

What if the Axis Powers won World War II?

Alternate history books are a great way to explore these questions, and alternate history for teens is becoming increasingly popular. Here are a few books to get you started.


These stories can blend speculative elements with historical facts, which is perfect for prompting discussion about what is truth and what is fiction in the novels discussed. They can also prompt readers to explore more nonfiction about the time period.  Continue reading Booklist: YA Alternate History

The Glorious 25th of May & Terry Pratchett

Photo by Flickr user Glenn Kraeck

It is the “Glorious 25th of May” and if you are a fan of the late Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, you no doubt understand what that means. If you have yet to discover the joys of the Disc, please let me explain. Sir Terry wrote 40 books set on the Discworld, a flat disc that is set on the backs of four elephants who stand on the back of a great turtle who is traveling through space. Ostensibly fantasy novels, they actually skewer both common genre tropes and human foibles. In Night Watch, a Discworld book featuring the city watch (think policemen), citizens rise up in a revolution and later, survivors of the People’s Revolution gather each year on May 25th to remember their fallen brethren while wearing lilac blooms on their lapels. After it was announced in 2007 that Sir Terry had Alzheimer’s, his fans started to honor him each May 25th by wearing lilacs. With his death on March 12 of this year, this Glorious 25th of May is an enormously bittersweet day.  Continue reading The Glorious 25th of May & Terry Pratchett

Chill Out on National Stress Awareness Day

In honor of National Stress Awareness Day in the U.S., let’s all take a deep breath…and let it out slowly. For many of us, reading is our go-to method of relaxing. Add a blanket and some tea and the trifecta is complete. But for super-sensitive, empathetic readers, reading a story about a character in peril can actually be very stressful. Sometimes it’s good stress: adrenaline, adventure, and new experiences we crave. Other times we are truly worried and fearful, even if we know certain stories need witnesses.

But are there teen reads that don’t cause too much stress — just fun, chill-out books? Every person’s own comfort reads fall into that category, of course, and “beach reads” tend to skew toward chick lit. Here, I offer a few titles I consider to be low-stress without being too personal or chick-lit-esque:

Low-stress reads


Hope Was Here, by Joan Bauer (2001 Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults). Hope moves with her aunt to Mulhoney, Wisconsin to take over a small diner, but finds the owner’s not quite ready to go — in fact, he’s about to run for mayor.

Seedfolks, by Paul Fleischman (1998 Best Books for Young Adults). Thirteen voices tell the story of a vacant lot transformed by an urban garden.

Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli (2001 Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults). A new girl at Mica High challenges everyone’s definition of “normal,” especially that of the guy who falls for her. Continue reading Chill Out on National Stress Awareness Day