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Top Teen Title #9

  • Posted on July 31, 2011 at 9:20 AM

#9 Looking for Alaska by John Green – 2005. Puffin, 2005. ISBN: 9780142402511 ,221  pp.

Publisher’s Description: Miles “Pudge” Halter is abandoning his safe, boring life. Fascinated by the last words of famous people, Pudge leaves for boarding school to seek what a dying Rabelais called the “Great Perhaps.” Pudge becomes encircled by friends whose lives are everything but safe and boring. Their nucleus is razor-sharp, sexy, and self-destructive Alaska, who has perfected the arts of pranking and evading school rules. Pudge falls in love with her. When tragedy strikes the close-knit group, though, it is only in coming face-to-face with his problems that Pudge discovers the value of living and loving unconditionally. John Green’s stunning debut marks the arrival of a stand-out new voice in young adult fiction.

Quotes from Readers: Has it all, angst, romance, religion, mystery, it’s a life-changing read!

Great for fans of Holden Caulfield :)

I love all of John Green’s books and recommend them regularly. I usually have to hand sell this book, but many teens enjoyed it once they gave it a chance.

Online reviews: Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari, TeenReads, TeensReadToo.

Awards: ALA Printz Award (2006), ALA Teens’ Top Ten (2005), A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year (2005), Booklist Editors’ Choice (2005), NYPL Best Book for the Teen Age, An ALA/YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers (2006),British Fantasy Award for Top Ten (2006), Los Angeles Times Book Prize (2005), Michigan Library Association Thumbs Up! Award Nominee (2006), ALA’s Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults (2006), The Inky Awards for Silver Inky (2007)

Diane’s note: Love this title for older YA readers. I’m such a fan of John Green that I nearly climbed off my down escalator to jump on his up escalator to chat.

Top Teen Title #10

  • Posted on July 31, 2011 at 6:44 AM

#10 Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler’s Shadow by Susan Campbell Bartoletti. Scholastic nonfiction, 2005. ISBN:  9780439353793, 176 pp.

Publisher’s Description: “I begin with the young. We older ones are used up . . . But my magnificent youngsters! Look at these men and boys! What material! With them, I can create a new world.” –Adolf Hitler, Nuremberg 1933 By the time Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in 1933, 3.5 million children belonged to the Hitler Youth. It would become the largest youth group in history. Susan Campbell Bartoletti explores how Hitler gained the loyalty, trust, and passion of so many of Germany’s young people. Her research includes telling interviews with surviving Hitler Youth members.

Online reviews: Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari.

Awards: Newbery Honor (2006), Sibert Honor (2006), ALA’s Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults (2006),  ALA Notable Children’s Book (2006), A Horn Book Fanfare Best Book (2005) BCCB Blue Ribbon Book (2005) School Library Journal Best Book of the Year (2005), Orbis Pictus Honor, Parent’s Gold Choice Award, Sydney Taylor Notable, Pennsylvania Carolyn Field Award, Junior Library Guild selection, IRA Notable Book for a Global Society, NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book, Publisher’s Weekly Best Children’s Book of the Year, Kirkus Editors’ Choice, Book List Editor’s Choice, Horn Book Fanfare, VOYA Nonfiction Honor.

Diane’s note: SURPRISE, SURPRISE! A nonfiction title snuck into the top ten titles for teens. A history book no less! Are you surprised? I think the youth vote on this title surpassed the librarians vote. I won’t be surprised if suddenly you run out and purchase all of Susan Campbell Bartoletti’s historical titles.

Why do I think Hitler Youth appeared on this list? Because it makes history relevant to teenagers. Through Bartoletti’s following twelve teenagers into the Hitler Youth, or into the opposition, we learn more about teen feelings and reactions to Hitler. It doesn’t focus on Hitler as much as it does the teen’s and their choices. While a few students knew of the Holocaust, none of them knew about Hitler’s solution to disabled people’s consumption of resources. Without preaching, Bartoletti enables readers to form opinions and consider what they would do when faced with similar choices.

Quotes from Readers: Why did this title appeal to teens? I asked my students when votes started to come in last year and these are the comments they made:

“The title of this book shocked my parents and they were afraid I was becoming a neo-Nazi. If you really read it, you might not join some of the other gangs around here, either.”

“I wanted to choose the football series, but since I could only pick one title as #1, I took this one. It makes kids think and their folks should read it too.”

“I watched this on the display shelf and I was afraid to read it, but then my teacher said I’d get extra credit for the Holocaust unit, and then it was really okay after all so everyone should have the chance to read it. (And tell their teachers to give them more credit, too.)”

“The library has three copies, but they were never in so I had to read it at the public library. I think every school and public library should have this and they should display it because we like to read true stuff, not just textbooks and those fat books.”

“People are always saying if you don’t learn from history, you repeat the mistakes from the past, but nobody ever took it down to me so I could see how hard it is to do something else instead of what everyone is doing. I wouldn’t tell <my teacher> but reading this book was probably the best thing in eighth grade.”

” I picked this because it was good. Why not?”

Top Teen Titles #11-14

  • Posted on July 31, 2011 at 4:43 AM

#14 Unwind by Neal Shusterman. Simon & Schuster, 2007. ISBN:  9781416912040, 335 pp.

Publisher’s Description: In America after the Second Civil War, the Pro-Choice and Pro-Life armies came to an agreement: The Bill of Life states that human life may not be touched from the moment of conception until a child reaches the age of thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, a parent may choose to retroactively get rid of a child through a process called “unwinding.” Unwinding ensures that the child’s life doesn’t “technically” end by transplanting all the organs in the child’s body to various recipients. Now a common and accepted practice in society, troublesome or unwanted teens are able to easily be unwound.

With breath-taking suspense, this book follows three teens who all become runaway Unwinds: Connor, a rebel whose parents have ordered his unwinding; Risa, a ward of the state who is to be unwound due to cost-cutting; and Lev, his parents’ tenth child whose unwinding has been planned since birth as a religious tithing. As their paths intersect and lives hang in the balance, Shusterman examines serious moral issues in a way that will keep readers turning the pages to see if Connor, Risa, and Lev avoid meeting their untimely ends.

Quotes from Readers: The “unwinding” scene is haunting!

Online reviews: Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari, TeenReads, TeensReadToo, New York Times Book Review.

Awards: 2008 ALA Top Ten Picks for Reluctant Readers; 2008 ALA Best Young Adult Book list; 2010 Japanese Sakura Medal; 2008 Bank Street Best Books of the Year; Nevada Young Reader Award WINNER; 2010 Washington Evergreen YA Book award List WINNER; WINNER OF 2010 Oklahoma Intermediate Sequoyah Award List; Nominee for 2010 Oklahoma High School Sequoyah Award List; 2009/2010 Texas Lonestar Award List; 2009 Texas Tayshas Award List; 2009/2010 Virginia Readers Choice Award WINNER; 2009/2010 Indiana Rosewater High School Book Award WINNER; 2010 Utah Beehive Award Nominee; 2009/2010 Missouri Gateway Readers Award WINNER; 2010 Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Award List; 2009/2010 Vermont Green Mountain Book Award; 2010 Rhode Island Teen Book Award List; 2010 Arizona Grand Canyon Reader Award List; 2009/2010 Georgia Peach Award List; 2009/2010 Florida Teens Read Award List; 009/2010 Maryland Black-Eyed Susan Book Award List WINNER; 2010-2011 One Book for Nebraska Teens WINNER; 2010-2011 California Young Reader Medal Nomination; The United Kingdom Coventry Inspiration “Simply the Book” Award WINNER; 2009/2010 Kentucky Bluegrass Award List; 2010 South Dakota YARP Award List; 011 Abraham Lincoln Illinois High School Book Award WINNER; 2010-2011 New Hampshire Isinglass Teen Reads Award List; NY Public Library “Books for the Teen Age”; 2010 New Jersey Garden State Children’s Book Award Nominee; 2010 Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Award List; 2011 Nutmeg Book Award Nominee WINNER; Vermont’s Green Mountain Book Award;

Diane’s note: Explain the premise of Unwind to a parent of teenagers and they gleefully rub their hands and laugh at the absurdness of reconsidering birth and the life of their troubled teens. Delve further into taking their teens life to a “divided state” and harvesting all their parts for organ transplants due to the child’s willfulness, inconvenience, or religious sacrifice, and these same parents become horrified at how easy it is to slip over the line with technology.

Anyone who reads the harvesting scene of this title changes. It is horrifying not due to blood and gore, but to the dispassionate scientific destruction of a teen’s life piece by piece. That scene makes this title one of the most horrific books I’ve read.

I’ve been following the Unwind Producers’ Blog as they work to develop a screenplay (written with Neal Shusterman), cast the characters, and obtain financing. Neal’s screenplay is delayed while he writes the sequel Unholy. I’m torn between wanting the general public to understand the concept of Unwinding in relationship to abortion, life, death, and “being” with my need to find a future in the sequel. Which are you most excited about?

Backyard Safari series

  • Posted on July 25, 2011 at 2:43 AM

I think I neglected my elementary collection before by not purchasing enough Marshall Cavendish Benchmark titles like the Backyard Safari series. I had the most fun with the titles Birds and Squirrels, but the series also includes Spiders; Frogs and Toads; and Caterpillars and Butterflies.

Since moving to my five acres in the country, I spend even more time just sitting outside and watching the wildlife. Trudi Strain Trueit is the author of this series and leads the reader into wanting to get up off the couch and get outside to see for oneself these animals.

Personally, I love squirrels so I couldn’t wait to open this title. I learned so much that I drove everyone around me crazy with my “Did you know…” comments. For example, I read “tree squirrels…swivel their ankle joints so their feet face backward. This is how a squirrel races down a tree face-first without falling.” Isn’t that cool? I’ve watched squirrels run for years but never noticed that. Now I’ll have to force myself to sit quietly outside watching them. Oh… the sacrifices we librarians make to verify research.

The series is laid out with four chapters and lots of facts. These are not leveled-down titles with only two sentences on a page. Instead these are factually-packed with one chapter devoted to an overview of the animal, one chapter preparing the reader for the safari, one chapter that follows up on the safari and the notes taken during it, and one chapter with three projects for the reader to safely and ecologically help the animal.

The squirrel title had directions for creating a feeding station, a peanut string obstacle course, and a nesting bag. The text boxes throughout  contained fascinating facts like why squirrels lick and touch their food before burying it.

Chapter two in each title was called “You Are the Explorer.”  The chapter contains information about bird-watching or safariing, hints for the best type of weather and best time of day to safari, lists like What Do I Wear?, What Do I Take?, Where Do I Go?, and What Do I Do?

Chapter three in each provides a logical way to organize information and notes taken during the safari. A sample note-taking page is included along with several pages of full-color photographs of a various types of the featured animal to aid in identification.

I realize this series is being released this fall on September 1st, still I wanted to find out more on the Marshall Cavendish Benchmark site but I couldn’t. Instead I was able to view the series on the Marshall Cavendish ebook site. At first I was frustrated, then I was inspired.

When I first picked up this series, I wondered how teachers could use these titles to demonstrate scientific wonder and curiosity. How can younger students learn quickly enough to read, digest, and use this series? E-Books are a perfect tool – especially if the teacher or librarian utilizes the iPads, Nooks, and digital projectors to demonstrate how to read these nonfiction titles.

Reading information texts is a MAJOR part of every curriculum. Recently I attended my districts introduction to the new Common Core State Standards being implemented immediately in grades K-2 across the state of Tennessee. One of the guides suggested that by the time a student was a senior, 70% of their reading would be informational texts. WOW! You cannot ignore them in grades K-2, these core state standards focus on spiraling skills and adding more to them each year.

Teachers need creative ideas for incorporating more nonfiction and information texts in younger grades. Suggest they plan a Backyard Safari with their students and use this series early in the year.

The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross

  • Posted on July 22, 2011 at 8:10 AM

During ALA Annual in New Orleans I visited the HarlequinTeen booth to seek new romances for my mature eighth grade girls. When I was in middle school, I was reading my mother’s Harlequin Romances and  I wondered what the trend had veered toward.

Imagine my surprise when they asked me if I preferred my romances as steampunk, paranormal, historical, etc. Steampunk? I didn’t even know that word existed.

Harlequin had certainly diversified over the years. Contemporary, paranormal, fantasy, sci-fi, historical and romance stories for teens were all available on the site I took one of their steampunk titles (The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross) and dived in.

Yesterday I wrote about what steampunk is. Today, I want to tell you about this particular title.

Have you heard of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? How about X-men? Well, author Kady Cross set out to write this novel without knowing that was the style she had chosen. She simply wanted to write “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen meets teen X-men”. Her editor Krista Stroever is the one who labeled it steampunk for her. Personally I wonder if Kady Cross knew the term herself.

Set in 1897 England, The Girl in the Steel Corset refers to main character Finley Jayne – a sweet girl who seems to have a dark “thing” inside her. When she is attacked by her employer’s son (a lord), this thing enables her to survive and fight back.

Terrified Finley escapes into the streets and is rescued by Griffin King and his friends – all of whom share some unusual abilities. While Finley struggles with her light and dark sides, her new friends need her abilities in their fight against the diabolical Machinist.

The Girl in the Steel Corset will appeal particularly to those loving a good royal cameo and tangled love lives. I liked the taste of darkness we dance with throughout this novel. The ending definitely prepares us for the next adventure. I’m excited. In fact, I think I’ll make my own notes on what I predict to happen in the sequel and I’ll open them again after the next title comes out. I wonder how fast Kady Cross (aka Kathryn Smith) can write?

If you are looking for a wonderfully fun romp through an alternate history set in England with technology and romance strewn throughout, try The Girl in the Steel Corset.

Do you ever forget the basics?

  • Posted on July 22, 2011 at 3:53 AM

Ever have a moment with you writing happily away when suddenly a term or phrase totally slips out of your mind?

I experienced that when I couldn’t pull the phrase “text box” out to describe why I liked certain features by Marshall Cavendish. I sat there moving my hands around as if they could pull the words out of air. I tried quickly opening the book to a page and saying, “Why there’s a …?” but my brain wasn’t playing along.

Fortunately, I was able to pull out this pdf file on Nonfiction text features from the website. I particulary liked how this pdf used one of Gareth Stevens publishing’s titles in the Cool Careers series to demonstrate these features.

After bridging my word gap, I took time to look at the pdf in a new light. My teachers in elementary and middle school NEED this information. It is very nicely designed and could be easily displayed for the entire class to see. The skills of reading informational texts and being able to use text features to increase comprehension are essential in education. In fact here is a key point in the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts:

Through reading a diverse array of classic and contemporary literature as well as challenging informational texts in a range of subjects, students are expected to build knowledge, gain insights, explore possibilities, and broaden their perspective.

Thank you to the Washington Library Media Association for including this in their handouts for their conference, but I do have one big concern. I cannot find the creator’s name of this pdf. I keep trying to click through screen after screen trying to see which page will link to this, but so far I haven’t found it.

Readers, do you have any clues for me to track this down? I do want to give credit where credit is due. I would like to receive permission to use this resource and I do wish the creator had put their name in the presentation. (Note to self, do this everytime!)

Steampunk? Huh? I confess I didn't know

  • Posted on July 21, 2011 at 7:08 PM

What is steampunk? Steampunk is an interesting mixture of technology, alternate history and 19th Century England. If you are like me, you may have read several steampunk novels without realizing it like Leviathan or the Harlequin Teen Romance novels by Kady Cross. I recently read The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross which is one of her Steampunk Chronicles titles which I recommend for grades 8-12. Which titles have you read from the list below and which are the best for high school vs middle school collections?

According to TEL’s Gale database Books & Authors “Steampunk is one of the most popular emerging genres in sci-fi and fantasy literature. It’s an amalgamation of several different elements – steampunk texts imagine an alternate history – often largely centered around Victorian London – where the occult, vast conspiracies, advanced scientific discoveries, and steam-powered machines right out of a H.G. Wells novel all collide to create an exciting, undeniably “alternate” perspective on the 19th Century. (Though some steampunk novels even stretch into the early 20th Century as well.)”

Books & Authors has a short list of Steampunk titles listed below:

  • Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – Seth Grahame-Smith
  • Android Karenina – Leo Tolstoy; Ben H. Winter
  • Boilerplate: History’s Mechanical Marvel – Paul Guinan; Anina Bennett
  • Clockwork Angel – Cassandra Clare
  • The Difference Engine – William Gibson; Bruce Sterling
  • The Extra – Michael Shea
  • The Kingdom of Ohio – Matthew Flaming
  • Leviathan – Scott Westerfeld; Keith Thompson
  • The Native Star – M.K. Hobson
  • Perdido Street Station – China Mieville
  • A Place So Foreign and Eight More Stories – Cory Doctorow
  • The Prestige – Christopher Priest
  • The Silent Army – James Knapp
  • State of Decay – James Knapp
  • The Windup Girl – Paolo Bacigalupi

I love using the Books And Authors database. Here’s another review I will share with my students:

In Boneshaker, author Cherie Priest crafts an inventive steampunk story set in Seattle during the years following the Civil War. Leviticus Blue invents a radical gold-mining machine that he hopes will revolutionize the industry. But after the machine backfires, a huge portion of Seattle is decimated. Sixteen years later, Blue has died and the city has become a walled fortress, fencing in the breed of zombies that resulted from the catastrophic accident. Blue’s son, Zeke, ventures into Seattle in hopes of rebuilding his father’s reputation. Zeke’s mother, Briar Wilkes, is fast on his trail, hoping to save her son from the crazed zombies. But there’s another inventor quickly gaining infamy in Seattle–and he bears a striking likeness to Leviticus Blue.

Source: “Boneshaker.” 2011.   Books & Authors Gale. Gale Internal User. 20 Jul 2011

I was intrigued so during a recent librarian training on Blackboard in my district, I posted some of this information in a discussion thread of best books. I found many other librarians like me who didn’t know the term “steampunk”, but many of us had read selections.  We spent some time rapidly researching all things steampunk and found amazing information.

Some of the librarians wondered if the new movie Cowboys and Aliens was steampunk. Everywhere we looked Boneshaker was being touted as one of the best titles published combining steampunk with zombies. I immediately thought of my friend Susan and wondered how many steampunk titles were in her classroom collection. Yet the Goodreads reviews weren’t as positive. I guess I’ll just have to go read Boneshaker myself.

Did you know about steampunk? Thank goodness the wonderful people at the booth at ALA introduced me to steampunk.

Google Squared and Ashfall

  • Posted on July 18, 2011 at 4:10 PM

Okay, I confess that I am still contemplating the possibilities of Ashfall occurring in real life and people writing off Iowa and states westernly as a dead zone. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’ll have to read my post and definitely get your hands on the book Ashfall when it releases.

I think I’m getting a little addicted because I keep visiting Mike Mullin’s author site, his blog, and his facebook page for any word. Ahem, Mike, get to work on writing the sequel please! I understand there is an extremely unlikely chance this disaster will occur in our lifetime. But look at all the weird things that happen unexpectedly and it makes you ponder.

My addiction strayed into my Google Docs workshop that I attended this morning. While others were playing with boring presidents for Google Squared, I was creating dystopian fiction and disasters squares. Go try out Google Squared and search for the word Volcanoes, then try adding your own columns like easiest route, age, volcanic arc/belt, etc. I added fiction and then realized that I’d be doing the locating of titles myself. What a fun project!

My obsession with volcanoes erupting has caused me to overcome my summer laziness and to seek out more information using Google Squared.

It has also validated my feelings about those fill in the blank charts teachers give students and call research. Excuse me, teachers, the students can input the same headings you ask for: Date of birth, Home state, vice president, death date, political party. In less than twenty seconds, Google Squared did all the searching for me. Now, what are you going to do with the students for the rest of the hour or block? Oh, it might take me ten minutes to COPY the information into your chart, but did I really read it or learn anything?

How about changing your research questions and making them fun,  meaningful or ESSENTIAL? Have students posit theories, look at historical examples, and write plots for their own presidential mysteries involving events that were occurring during their presidency. What kind of coverup could the president been involved with? Let’s go beyond Area 51, folks.

I’m going back to my steampunk book and learning about that style of writing and trying to resist the lure of a good disaster. Any suggestions of good steampunk series for a GoogleSquared document?

Blood Wounds by Susan Beth Pfeffer

  • Posted on July 17, 2011 at 3:19 PM

Ever read a title expecting it to be a simplistic tale out of newsmedia headlines? You basically know the plot and expect to have all of the answers? Well, I’m afraid to disappoint you, but you aren’t going to find typical cliches, easy answers, and predictable plots in Blood Wounds by Susan Beth Pfeffer.

Instead you will find far more complex characters and a rich yet more realistically disturbing plot than her earlier works. I am still a big fan of the plot of Life As We Knew It and the “moon” books, but I am more impressed in Blood Wounds with the delicate handling Susan Beth Pfeffer does with her characters, their motivations, and their actions. It is impossible to separate people into categories of good and bad. People are complex and decisions are not always easy. What may seem to be perfect often shatters most easily.

Blood Wounds is Willa’s story of discovering how the illusion of a family cannot solve all wounds. Willa lives with her mother, her stepfather and his daughters. Suddenly she learns her biological father has committed a horrific crime murdering his new wife and children and is now headed east toward Willa and her mother.

While Willa deals with the truth of her blood relatives and her feelings of shame, she explores the difference between a healthy family relationship and one where members are forced to suppress their needs and wants to keep the peace.

Teens and tweens dealing with domestic violence, stepfamilies, and cutting will cling to this title seeking their own healing. The domestic violence is not easy to read about, but as a victim myself, I know it is important for titles of survivors to exist.

Blood Wounds will be released September 12, 2011, and later that month Susan Beth Pfeffer will be a featured author at the Tennessee Association of School Librarians conference. I cannot wait to capture a few moments of her time. Maybe some of the Tennessee authors and teachers will attend, too. You’re all welcome. Just go to the TASL website and register.

I hope that Cheryl Rainfield (author of Scars) has the opportunity to read Blood Wounds soon so we can have a well-rounded discussion of how cutting is used by teens for emotional survival and ways for teens to seek counseling help.

Now, if I can just get Susan Beth Pfeffer back to writing The Shade of the Moon and sending me an early ARC, I might be able to move on from the impact Blood Wounds has had on me.

Diane’s Note: I do apologize for constantly misspelling Susan Beth Pfeffer’s name. I don’t know why I insist on adding an ” i”  making it Pfeiffer, but I do appreciate each of you who pointed out my error. Thanks.

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

  • Posted on July 17, 2011 at 8:38 AM

Oh, how fortunate I feel to have nabbed an advance reading copy of Laini Taylor’s newest title Daughter of Smoke & Bone. I found the writing so compelling it was difficult to break away from the world of seraphims and  chimaera.

The cover I read looked like the image on the right. The image below and to the left may be out there. Both are fascinating and you can read the author’s blog for more about the covers.

I found myself trimming weeds in the five acres of my new home wondering about layers of worlds overlapping. This novel’s main character Karou (meaning hope) dreamed of flying and realized her wish in a contemporary setting. What if all our childhood fantasies could come true and we could pull aside the veil to other worlds – or enter them through dark  portals?

Daughter of Smoke & Bone is a love story and fantasy novel.  It challenges our prejudices on determining who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. Why do we cheer for the angels and not the devils. This title was absorbing and surprising. I cannot wait for a follow-up title to come out to continue this story because I care about the characters. I also loved that feeling reading this book that my senses seemed heightened as if there were more possibilities in the world.

Consider these sentences: “She understood now why pain was the tithe for magic. It was more powerful than joy. Than anything. Than hope?”

Contemplate those words from the point of view of a hurting eighth grader or high school student who is discovering life’s good and bad moments. Give your teens the opportunity to connect with Daughter of Smoke & Bone.