Jun 29, 2012

Friday Five: How I Feel About Being a Librarian

Today's Friday Five is on the goofy side because I've been weighed down with reading a bunch of depressing books.  Even my random number sequence for "TheList" is bringing up a whole mess of depressing books in a row.  

So here are five gifs that sum up how I feel about being a [future] librarian:


Review: The Lying Game

The Lying Game is the first in the new series of the same name from Sara Shepard, the author of the Pretty Little Liars series.  It's just as bad addictive to read.   It's apparently a show on ABC Family as well. 

The plot borders on ridiculous, as a lot of murder series do.  A foster child, Emma, discovers that she has an identical twin sister, Sutton, who was adopted by a wealthy family.  They plan to meet, but when Emma arrives, she finds out Sutton has been murdered, and she's forced to assume Sutton's life as some sort of cover-up. 

Ridiculous, yes.  What I did enjoy was the fact that Emma goes to the police about this almost immediately, to knock a little bit of credibility into the story and not be the girl in the slasher film who runs up the stairs and not out the open door.  The author also works in a good backstory for why the police don't believe Emma.  So that was refreshing.

The narration is funky, but I liked it once I got used to it.  Non-spoiler alert, we actually know that Sutton is dead from the prologue, and also because she's the first person narrator.  She's reporting everything that Emma does, so it seems like it's in third person then it abruptly switches back to first person pronouns and your whole world is shaken up. 

The main problem with the books is that, similar to most YA series about rich teens, there are numerous references to brands, styles, fads, and things that won't be cool in a year or two.  Sure, people are familiar with most of them now, but when they're replaced, this book will feel dated because it relies so heavily on these references. 

I'm a sucker for series, so I already need to read the second book.  But not gonna lie, it's more because I want to laugh at the ridiculous figurative language.  At one point she compares destroying a friendship with a disposable lipstick tissue from Sephora.  #literary. 

All in all, it's a quick read that definitely reads like the Pretty Little Liar series.  If you're a fan of those books (or the TV show), you'll probably enjoy this series as well.

Jun 27, 2012

Nostalgia: Computer Games

Yesterday I was struck by a huge urge to play Sim City 3000.  Cursing myself for leaving it at home, tucked into a box stored in the basement, I started to reflect on a time when playing this and other games was one of the highlights of going to school. 

Charging people fair taxes in Sim City, tracking down clues in Where in the World/Time is Carmen San Diego?, and fording the freaking river in Oregon Trail was the best.  BEST.  Why? Because back in my day, the majority of us didn't have computers at home, or if we did, we didn't have time to use them/weren't allowed to play games.  That meant that school was our one shot at playing on computers. 

And where were these sacred computers kept that allowed us to experience such joy?  The library.  Back in the day when we were graded in "Library," we all got A's for being able to effectively remember what time period in which the Vikings lived.  Sure we also looked at books and did research, but only if you lost the race to the computers at the start of class. 

But now kids have iPads and laptops and any other technological device that schools for some reason are insisting they "need" to learn.  Yeah, sure it's impressive when a two year old can play on an iPad, but does she really need to?  You know who else can play on an iPad?  A cat. 

Anyway, I can get on board with how typing and learning Powerpoint (although people STILL can't figure out how to put together a good Powerpoint - black on a dark background DOESN'T WORK PEOPLE!) and intellectual programs are important for kids, but now they have access to all the computer games they want and it's just not that exciting to use a computer in school anymore.  Computers in school are all work work work.  I've encountered numerous kids and teens who don't even know what these games are; the only games they know are Angry Birds and the like.  It's so sad. 

I know, I know, I'm being all nostalgic and I know things need to die out, but the fact that kids are born with the knowledge of how to jailbreak iPods makes me sad that the fun/semi-educational computer games that were a big part of library fun (all library was fun, but this was super fun) are dying out. 

Jun 26, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Characters Who Remind Me Of Myself Or Someone I Know In Real Life

I don't know about you, but I always imagine characters in books/plays to be me or someone I know, both good and bad.  I could cast the entirety of the Gossip Girl series with people I knew from high school.  Regardless, this is kind of difficult because I don't want to call anyone out and I'm probably going to make myself sound crazier/nerdier than I already am.  I also think this might even be easier with TV characters, because I am clearly a mixture of 30 Rock's Grizz and Dot Com.  But here are my

Top Ten Characters Who Remind Me Of Myself Or Someone I Know In Real Life

1) Hermione - Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Hermione = Me.  Frizzy hair, big teeth, know-it-all.  Check, check, and check.

2) Tina Fey - Bossypants, by Tina Fey

This counts.  Everything she says/does/looks like is the equivalent of one of my best friends.  Be jealous.

3) Anastasia Krupnik - Anastasia series, by Lois Lowry

She would do ridiculous things because of her curiousity and was pretty sarcastic for a child.  It was like reading my life.

4) Alice McKinley- Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

An awkward teenager, I'm pretty sure she reminds me of everyone I know. 

5) Turtle - The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin

She likes to kick people, I would like to kick people.  I think that's pretty close. 

6) Katniss - The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

She is my other (male) best friend.  Mainly because she was his profile picture for about five years (I exaggerate), but also because he doesn't take crap from anyone and he could probably do some damage with a bow and arrow.  I even suspect his hair would look decent in a braid. Okay, not really.

7) Every character- Twilight, by Stephanie Meyers

They remind me of everyone I hate. 

8) Stephanie Plum -  Stephanie Plum series, by Janet Evonovich

I can be just as ridiculous in my arguing techniques.  Also, I love doughnuts.

9) Grandma Dowdel - A Long Way From Chicago, by Richard Peck

She is my grandmother.  It's crazy.

10) Bean - Ender's Shadow, by Orson Scott Card

This would be the boyfriend, although he's human, as far as I know.  But he's got that unwavering confidence thing going on, I'm fairly certain he enjoys saving the day, and Bean is his favorite character. 

Read more at the Broke and the Bookish!!

Jun 23, 2012

Throwback: Best Friends Wear Pink Tutus

My Mom is a kindergarten teacher, so every now and then I find myself next to a pile of books for kids.  It's similar to every other day of my life.  Well yesterday I found myself flipping through Best Friends Wear Pink Tutus, by Sherri Brownrigg, a Scholastic Reader Level 2 book that I used to love as a child.

My immediate reaction: this book predicted the future of Sophia Grace and Rosie.

Level 2 books, according to Scholastic, features "longer sentences and stories with words kids need to know and new 'big' words that they will want to know."

Best Friends Wear Pink Tutus definitely does that.  While the story feels like it could have been a Full House episode (two best friends who wear pink tutus both want the lead in the Nutrcracker, but flub their auditions so the other won't feel left out), it's a story that will captivate a young reader as they attempt to navigate through unfamiliar words and longer sentences.  Mission accomplished.  

Prior to the meat of the story, the new, young readers are greeted with repetitive sentences that all include "we wear pink tutus."  Once the reader can master those words, they can focus on learning the other words in the story. 

All in all, it's simple and cute and fulfills its purpose of presenting new readers with slightly more complex structures.   Even though it's about ballet, and I hate ballet and always have, there's something endearing that makes me still love this nostalgic find.  It has to be my love for Sophia Grace and Rosie.  Really, I would like to be their best friend.  Do they live in the Ellen studio yet?

Jun 22, 2012

Friday Five: Famous Librarians

People like to start singing "Marian the Librarian" when I announce my future career.  Let me rephrase that.  Musical nerds like to start singing "Marian the Librarian" when I announce my future career.  That got me thinking: is this fake librarian the only one people think of? No, some of them also think of Giles from Buffy, but those people are usually in library school because as I said before, librarians are freaking nuts about that slayer. 

So I did a little investigating to find some other librarians people either should know about or are already familiar with and just don't know it yet. 

Five Famous Librarians

1) Benjamin Franklin
Yes, the man you once depicted in a play, probably while holding a kite and a key, was once a librarian.  Yes, that same man who said the turkey should be America's representative and not an eagle.  He founded the first American public library in Philadelphia called the Library Company of Philadelphia.  He acted as a librarian for a few months in its beginnings.  I once fought someone over this.  He claimed it was Thomas Jefferson.  I won.  Other fun little trivia facts: Franklin was on the first national U.S. five cent postage stamp, was the first Postmaster General, started the first fire department, and invented a whole mess of stuff.

2) Nancy Pearl
You may have seen her before.  She has an action figure modeled after her.  Seriously.  Granted, her action figure perpetuates all the stereotypes that come with being a librarian, but still she is living the dream.  She is a retired Seattle librarian and used to make radio appearances to recommend books.  She is basically a real-life, cool version of Frasier.  She has a ton of recognition and awards for her love of literature and work, including the 2011 Library Journal's Librarian of the Year Award. 

3) J. Edgar Hoover
Before cracking down on suspected communists, Hoover was a cataloguer for the Library of Congress.  Apparently people who worked alongside him believed he would one day end up being chief librarian had he not chosen to pursue gangsters. 

4) Joanna Cole
The author of the Magic School Bus series was also an elementary school librarian for some time.  No wonder the creator of Miss Frizzle knows so much about how to engage a child in science.  Librarians know how to do everything. 

That's why her hair's so big.  It's full of secrets!
5) Mao Zedong (Chairman Mao)
Yup. That guy.  He worked as an assistant librarian at the Peking University Library under Li Dazhao, a Marxist who taught Mao all about the wonders of communism and succeeded in converting him.  Congrats?

Jun 21, 2012

#TheList, No. 913: The Devil’s Arithmetic

The first thing I noticed when I set out to write this entry was how "The List" and the book's publisher (my copy is a Puffin Modern Classic) recommend this book for completely different age groups.  If you haven't read Jane Yolen's The Devil's Arithmetic (I hadn't) or don't know what it's about (I didn't), the book is about the Holocaust and the age group determination mainly has to do with this subject matter rather than any potential reading difficulties.  Alright, maybe some of the Yiddish would trip up a young reader, but that's what dictionaries or Jewish bosses are for!  My Jewish boss is conspicuously absent on this sunny day of work though...

"The List" recommends this title for children/young adults 12 and up, but the publisher stamps it with an 8 and up.  Deciding when this book is appropriate depends on the child's ability to handle some pretty traumatizing history. 

Quick plot summary: Hannah is a 12 year old girl who doesn't understand why remembering the past is such a big deal.  She's bored with her family's Passover celebrations and is jealous that her friends get to eat jellybeans on Easter (apparently this book was written before Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs were the big Easter hit) and basically have fun.  But while Hannah is going through one of her family's rituals, she's suddenly transported straight into the 1940s, where she is called Chaya and witnesses firsthand the horrors of the Holocaust.  At first, she is able to hold onto her memories, but soon her new present overwhelms her and she needs to live [survive] in the [horrible] moment until she learns why it is so important to remember her family's past. 

I wasn't a huge fan of Yolen's Briar Rose, which has a similar topic, but I loved The Devil's Arithmetic.  Having Hannah, a girl from the present, directly thrown into the action makes a great impact.  The immediacy of the action makes the material easier to digest, as opposed to Briar Rose when the main character just listens to a story.  Even the idea of a present day girl going back in time adds a lot to this book.  Books that simply take place during this time period can hinder a reader if they don't already possess background knowledge.  This setup helps a reader new to this topic understand the history before diving in. 

So who's right with the age recommendation?  No one is right.  Everyone is different. But if I had to place this book somewhere, I'd say it'd fit nicely in a 5th-6th grade history curriculum.  There are so many books with similar topics for this age range - - Number the Stars, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Milkweed, etc. - - that it'd be easy to assign one book to a group of students and have them present it to the class along with a history lesson that ties into their book's theme(s).   The book would also be a great gateway into this topic, especially because a lot of children either don't know the history or don't understand why something that happened years ago could still be so painful.   

Jun 20, 2012

#TheList, No. 982: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

This is a book that I am constantly seeing referenced in "top recommended books" lists, top "to read" lists, and school reading lists.  I've gather that people either really love this book or love saying that they love this book.

Okay, so what is this book about? Christopher a boy with an unnamed cognitive disorder, is writing a book that details his adventures and includes how he stumbled onto a mystery: who killed his neighbor's dog?  Sidenote, we find out this dog was murdered on page one, so I'm not spoiling anything when I say that this is another piece of evidence to my theory that if there's a dog on the cover, it's going to die.  Anyway, Christopher decides he's going to solve this mystery, but in the process, ends up uncovering unflattering truths about his own family.  The remainder of "his" book shows how he handled this information, along with how he lives each day and approaches various tasks that we readers probably don't think about. 

Now that I've finally read The Curious Incident, I can see its appeal.  In a time when research is focusing more and more on behavioral disorders and understanding people who have them, I think it's incredibly important to see these characters in children's and young adult media.  However, it's often difficult to fully capture them without giving them that Hollywood spin.  In  Francisco Stork's novel Marcelo in the Real World, the main character also has an unnamed cognitive disorder who dislikes when things are wrong and/or unethical, and by the book's end, realizes that he has the strength to make it in the real world.  I really loved that novel, but it irked me how Marcelo seemed to be characterized as almost Christlike in his ways.  But it's been awhile since I read it, so maybe I'm remembering it wrong.  Regardless, in The Curious Incident, Christopher exhibits similar truth telling and hatred of untrustworthy people, however, he's also written with consistent flaws, which makes me like it all the more.

The thing I liked best about this book is the fact that Christopher's disorder is never named.  A lot of readers assume that it is Asperger's, but it doesn't matter what disorder he has; it's the story he's telling us. If you knew the disorder, would you read the story differently?  Perhaps.  That's why it's best to just read his story and accept that he's being honest about his behavior, rather than second guessing his explanations and attributing his behavior to specific symptoms.   

Who would I recommend this to?  A young adult looking for contemporary, realistic fiction or an unconventional narrator.  Even though the novel has some dark humor in there, I wouldn't give this to someone who's looking for a comedy, unless they were a fan of dramedies.  But it's definitely the type of book that makes you think, so if you're looking for light reading, maybe pick this one up at a later date. 

Jun 19, 2012

Review: Tangerine

I hate when people designate books as "girl books" or "boy books" because a person's gender shouldn't determine what books they're allowed to read.  However, it's impossible to get everyone in the world to understand this and it's impossible or near impossible to pass off The Princess Diaries to a 10 year old boy.  With that in mind, I've tried to read more of what people consider "boy books."  I should note that so far, girls would most likely enjoy each one I've read. 
Tangerine, by Edward Bloor was a recent read of mine.  I didn't realize that the book itself, published first in 1997, was not as recent.  Moment of silence right now for the fact that the 90s are no longer recent.  Okay, moment passed.  

Stereotypical reason boys would like this book: Sports, both soccer and football, and fighting.

Let's move to dissecting that cover.  It is atrocious.  It looks like a generic sports book unless you've already read the book and can understand/appreciate the background.  Soooo....yikes.  But that's why they tell you not to judge a book by its cover.  

Because this book is so much more beyond this atrocity.  Paul Fisher, our protagonist, is legally blind, but can still see well enough to play amazingly at soccer.  Doesn't matter though, because his brother, Eric, is a football hero whom everyone seems to worship despite the fact that he's a complete bully.  Paul's family moves to Tangerine, Florida for his father's new job and the novel details Paul's struggles to be taken seriously in new schools, on soccer fields, and in his own home.  This book uses race and class struggles, family strife, and disability to demonstrate Paul's journey to uncover the secrets of his family's past and establish himself as someone more than "Eclipse Boy."

I liked this book a lot.  At about 300 pages, there's a good balance of all the drama.  The only thing that felt like it was lacking closure was Joey's race issues, but I guess it speaks more to how some bad things just can't resolved.  The characterization of the Fisher family is great though, especially the neurotic mother.  She's just written so perfectly. 

I would definitely recommend it to boys (and girls) fifth grade and up, especially if they were looking for realistic fiction and/or drama. 

Top Ten Tuesday: Books on my Summer TBR List

Aggh too many books to read.  I can't handle it.  I didn't even come close to finishing my Spring list, because other books floated, yes floated, across my line of vision and I just had to have them.  So here we are:

Top Ten Books on My Summer To Be Read List:

1) City of Bones, by Cassandra Clare
The students in the school library where I work are always upset with me that I've never read The Mortal Instruments series, so I promised that I would look into it over the summer.

2) Uglies, by Scott Westerfield
Last semester, this book came up about 20 times during class presentations, so I think that's a sign that I need to read it. 

3) Mr. Popper's Penguins, by Richard and Florence Atwater
I have never read this book.

4) Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, by Rhoda Janzen
It's one of those memoirs I used to see on display all the time in Borders (*tear*) and I would always think to myself, I'll read that one day.

5) Stardust, by Neil Gaiman
I've still only ever read one Gaiman book and that is just unacceptable in my field.  Or so I'm told. 

6) A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith
I've never read this book and because it's referenced all of the time, I think it's necessary.  And speaking of trees...

7) The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein
I've also never actually read this one either.  Go ahead. Judge me.

8) Bunheads, by Sophie Flack
I might find myself getting sucked into the new ABC Family show because I love the Sutton Foster, so I want to read the book before any marathons pull at my willpower. 

9) Shadow Puppets, by Orson Scott Card
Someone might get upset if I don't read this fast enough, but it's definitely on my list of things to read super soon.  =)

10) Unwind, by Neal Shusterman
It just looks so good. 

Go look at other people's choices at The Broke and the Bookish and drown yourself in more books like I doooooooo!

Jun 15, 2012

Friday Five: More Challenged/Controversial Picture Books

Picture Books should just come with a light up display that reads: "JUDGE ME!!" They never seem to catch a break.  There's always something that a parent or "concerned" (read: crazy) adult thinks children should never see.  It's a reasonable concern, but there are millions of other books available...just pick one of those.  The more you challenge a book, the more popular it will become.  So for that, I guess I should thank the crazies. 

Five More Controversial Picture Books:

1) In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak.
Okay, so the little boy is naked.  Kids shouldn't have to see that, right?  Well, half of the kids reading it have the parts themselves.  They can see it anytime they want.  And if you've seen Jersey Girl, you know that kids will eventually start showing their stuff to each other when they please.

But really, this book can be interpreted more about how there are no barriers between a person and his dream and how he becomes part of his dream, along with a small dash of Holocaust references.  So lighten up about his nudity, or do what Stephen Colbert did and just cut out all the penises. 

2) Where's Waldo
I was surprised when I saw that this was challenged material and kind of secretly wished it held some message hidden along with with our striped shirt friend about how gay people are awesome or something like that so I could love Waldo even more.  Alas, it's only because there's a teeny tiny drawing of a topless woman on a beach.  She was drawn with a bikini top on in the 10th anniversary edition.  What a bummer.  But still, the fact that someone found and complained about that drawing rather than laugh about it, is a little sad. 

3) The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss
Essentially, people have a problem with being told that they are causing problems. Clearly they just need to make a profit off of this environmental "trend" like in 30 Rock:

4) Nappy Hair, by Carolivia Herron
What was supposed to be a funny picture book for children ended up costing a woman her teaching job.  A white teacher read this story aloud to her class of black and Hispanic students.  They loved the book.  LOVED it.  The parents, however, thought it was offensive and that the teacher was being racist by reading it to the class, even though the author herself says that that was the intended audience for her book.  The teacher ended up receiving many threats from the parents and had to transfer schools because she feared for her safety.  It's sad that these kids received this type of response to a book that they loved.  What's even more sad was that the reaction was mainly from parents of other children in the school, not of the teacher's actual students.  The book's purpose was to celebrate cultural differences, but like Will Smith said, parents just don't understand.

5) Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, by Bill Martin
This story is hilariously sad.  The author of Brown Bear has the same name as the author of Ethical Marxism: The Categorical Imperative of Liberation.  Obviously "Bill Martin" is such an unusual combination of names that it immediately raises flags.  *Sarcasm hand*  Well, in Texas, that's what they think.  In 2010, the State Board of Education removed Bill Martin's picture book from the Social Studies curriculum where it would have been studied for its cultural contributions.  Texans don't like it when you criticize capitalism and the good ol' American way.  Well, obviously the picture book author WAS NOT the Marxist.  Didn't matter.  Oh, and the people who made the motion to strike it from the curriculum? They never read the Marxism book or did further research to figure out if it was the same author.  Tsk tsk. 

Jun 12, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I'd Recommend As Good Beach Reads

I hate the beach.  I'm the type of person who can get sunburned while still indoors, so the beach and I aren't exactly friendly.  Also, whenever you read at the beach, sand gets in the book and it will forever be crunchy as you turn the pages.  And don't get me started on why people think bringing an expensive e-reader to a place that specializes in sand, water and kids throwing both sand and water is a good idea.  But hey, some people associate the beach with reading, so I guess I'll take what I can get. 

Top Ten Books I'd Recommend As Good Beach Reads

1) Stephanie Plum series, by Janet Evanovich

2) The Other Boleyn Girl, by Phillipa Gregory

3) Pretty Little Liars series, by Sara Sheppard

4) Insatiable, by Meg Cabot (Don't judge by the cover, it's a book that tears Twilight apart - hilarious)

5) The Eight, by Katherine Neville

6) My Name is Memory, by Ann Brashares

7) I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, by Tucker Max (I'm personally not a fan, but I hear that his books are good beach reads so...blah)

8) Playground: A Childhood Lost Inside the Playboy Mansion, by Jennifer Saginor (Because really, where else is reading this going to be acceptable?)

9) I am Number Four, by "Pittacus Lore"

10) Digital Fortress, by Dan Brown

Jun 8, 2012

Friday Five: Songs About Librarians/Libraries

1) Marian the Librarian from The Music Man

This one’s my go-to librarian song, despite my horrible adolescent experience with said song.  Just the other night, my old theater director started singing it when I told her I was in grad school to become a librarian.

2) Fun, Fun, Fun – The Beach Boys

Alright, it's technically not about a library, but the girl says she’s going to the library so she can drive the T-bird around (and have fun fun fun til her daddy takes the T-bird away).

3) Library Rap – MC Poindexter

This one is hilarious:

"I know I'm bad,
'Cuz of the knowledge that I'm holdin'!"

4) Shouting in the Library – Popple 

This one is weirdly funny because it's full of stereotypes.

5) Librarian – Haunted Love

Again with the stereotypes.  #Hilarious

Jun 6, 2012

Young Adult Beginnings

What was the first young adult novel? Well, not everyone agrees.    

In the beginning, books were written for either children or adults, no in-betweens.  No one took into consideration the fact the young adults have different wants, needs, ideas, and/or capabilities than these two prominent audiences.  So, teenagers had to settle for reading one or the other.  There were books that obviously appealed to them, but teens still weren’t being addressed as a separate entity.  

But these were books about teens, so at least they had that, right? Yes and no.  The majority of adult books about teens are stories told by adult narrators reflecting on their past, which leaves you with an adult tone to the work. While reading, you wonder if you can trust the narrator to tell the entire story without censoring  his history and you lose that sense of immediacy that is so important to young adult fiction as we know it today.  These books are also missing the opinions of teenagers because the books reflect the adult morals and viewpoints of their narrators.  Yes, young adult fiction today can still technically espouse adult viewpoints, after all they’re written by adults, but coming from a teenaged narrator gives a teen reader more of a connection to the material.  

So when did that change?

The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger was published in 1951 and the teenagers ate it up.  Yes, there was actually a time when teens would clamor to read about the phony-hating Holden, rather than pretend to read it and write book reports about how people play baseball in a field (if you build it, they will come, much?).  Not expecting this type of response from the teenage population, this book was published as “adult” fiction.  Granted, there was really no such thing as “young adult” fiction, so there wasn’t much of a choice on where to place it on the bookshelf.  

It wasn’t until the wonderful 60s that “young adult” fiction became a thing when, in 1967, the then-teen herself S.E. Hinton wrote The Outsiders.  There was no adult narrator telling the story of his teenage years in The Outsiders.  Instead, you had the story of teenagers as it was happening from the perspective of the youngest.  Fun fact: Like J.K. Rowling, Hinton was urged to publish under her initials because her story features a male protagonist and sexist readers won’t trust a woman to write a book they’ll enjoy.  

Still, others credit Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War with being the first young adult novel.  It was 1974 when this violent novel was first published, sparking a trend in books for young adults that involved realistic problems they endured.  Reading these books was affirmation that someone out there understood what they were going through.  We all know teen years were tough (except for you lucky few I won’t mention).  Fun fact: In another of Cormier’s YA novels, I am the Cheese, there’s a phone number in the book that was actually Cormier’s home phone number.  Readers with nothing better to do who tried that number were often amazed when the actual author answered.

So these books were incredibly groundbreaking in the YA world.  Not only did they address problems teenagers faced and presented teenage perspectives, but they also set the precedent for how long YA novels should be.  If you look at YA novels from this time period, they’re all about 150-180 pages long.  Publishers didn’t think you could hold the attention of children/teens for so many pages and wanted books that were short and (maybe) sweet.  Then BOOM! Harry Potter.  What?! Kids will lug around 700+ page books and READ THEM?! Game-changer.

Back to YA.  A small few will contest that these books were the first of their kind and will name another title: Maureen Daly’s snooze fest Seventeenth Summer.  It’s this atrocious book that’s still being published today with cutesy modern covers to disguise the fact that it was first published in 1942.  It’s about teens, it’s about teenage romance, and it’s about doing nothing. Plus, there’s maybe the tiniest hint of an illegal abortion.  That last part is actually pretty remarkable, especially for the time (which is why it’s only slightly implied in the text), but man is this book BORING.  It’s sappy and all about young love though, so it still sells (alright, I hate sappy crap.  But try it, I dare you).  However, in 1942, Seventeenth Summer wasn’t marketed as a YA book, because that still wasn’t happening in stores or libraries.  Instead, like Catcher in the Rye, it was shelved with the adult fiction.  But because it reads just like a YA novel and is published as such today, some consider it the “first.”

Whatever book you believe to be the first YA novel, just be grateful that it happened and that we got Judy Blume out of the deal.  

Jun 5, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I wish I Read as a Kid/Teen

For this week's Top Ten Tuesday Rewind, I'm choosing Books I wish I read as a kid and/or teen.  Throughout the past two years of library school, I've come across so many books that I know I would have loved when I was younger.  

Top Ten Books I wish I Read as a Kid/Teen

1) The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
The antisocial/wallflower high schooler that I was would have adored this novel.  The ending twist still surprises me when I reread the novel; if you haven't read it yet, definitely check it out before you see the movie. I actually can't wait for it to come out later this year.  Emma Watson looks amazing. 

2) Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card
I would have been obsessed with this series if I had heard about it as a child.  I can't believe I didn't hear about it until I started library school.  I say it all the time, but librarians know what they're talking about when they recommend books.

3) Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine
I didn't know the movie was based on a book until library school.  I don't know how this happened.  Maybe my brain locked that information out like it did with the fact that Carolyn Keene isn't a real person (also learned in library school and my world came crashing down).

4) The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel), by Ellen Raskin
I adore The Westing Game, Raskin's best work, and consider it one of my all-time favorites.  I don't like this book as much, but I was still captivated by all the word play and puzzles and I know that I would have found it hilarious had I read it around the same time as The Westing Game.  

5) Weetzie Bat, by Francesca Lia Block
I'm not a huge fan of this series now, but had I read it as a pre-teen/teen I would have eaten it up.  

6) Boy Meets Boy, by David Levithan
I've always been pro-gay rights, but I never really read anything that featured any prominent gay characters pr gay storylines, and I would have loved this book.

7) Boy, by Roald Dahl
I loved (and still love) Dahl's books and it would have been just as fun as a child to see the parallels between his life and his stories.

8) The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan
I realize this didn't come out until after I was a kid, but I do wish I had read the series earlier rather than just starting it last week.  I've always loved Greek mythology and I think it's clever how it's injected into a modern setting.

9) The Series of Unfortunate Events, by Lemony Snickett
I've only recently started to read past book one of the series.  I loved the first installment, which I read numerous times when I was younger.  I don't really know why I never continued; maybe I was too caught up in waiting for Harry Potter books to come out.  

10) Emma, by Jane Austen
Only so I could have freaked out about the Clueless genius so much earlier.  

Jun 4, 2012

#TheList, No. 287: The Loon's Necklace

The Loon's Necklace is an origin story akin to Kipling's Just So Stories (how the elephant got it's trunk, etc.).  In this case, if you couldn't tell, it's about how the Loon got its pattern (speckled with a white collar - -the "necklace").  

The text is by William Toye, who retells this Tsimshian legend.  The text is rather straightforward.  I mean, you can't really confuse this exchange:
"The old woman beat me.  She found the meat I brought you."
"Forget about your beating.  I can see again, my son." 
I know the Father is referencing the fact that he can now provide for his family, but man, what a horribly comforting choice of dialogue.  Kids will love it! 

Anyway, the standout of this book is Elizabeth Cleaver's illustrations.  

First off, she's Canadian.  

Alright, now that's out of the way (I kid, I love Canadians).  Cleaver was a well-renowned illustrator and known for her mixture of American and Indian art and expressing nature amazingly well in her style.  I'm not super confidant describing art, but Children's Literature Review confirms that the illustrations in this book are watercolor with a woodcut effect, especially for the characters' faces (p. 58).  It's hard to explain and the book's cover doesn't give the inside illustrations any justice, but the illustrations make the book.  

Kids who like origin stories and/or kids who gravitate toward darker colors and imagery will enjoy this book.  The story is a little bleh, to use a technical term, but the illustrations could keep them captivated for some time.  

Yeah I did research for this:
"Elizabeth (Ann Mrazik) Cleaver (1939-1985)." Children’s Literature Review. Ed. Gerard J. Senick. Vol. 13. Detroit: Gale Research, 1987. 54-73. Literature Criticism Online. Gale.