Monday, May 11, 2015

Poisoned Apples

Poisoned Apples : poems for you, my pretty  by Christine Heppermann

After the kiss and the trip to the castle, Sleeping Beauty's day consists of showering, shaving, shampooing, conditioning....and so much more.  Little Miss Muffet signs up for a drastic diet to try to assuage decades of dairy-fed weight.  A "house of bricks" girl gradually starves herself down to mere straw.

In this poetry collection, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, the Miller's Daughter, and many other folkloric ladies are besieged by modern body image issues including eating disorders, social pressure, verbal and physical abuse, and sexual situations.  

This collection is uneven and repetitive.  Some poems are deftly created, merging a traditional tale with modern sensibilities, offering insight to both.

Other pieces clunk when they roll, with messages about fat girls, mean boys, and relentless striving to conquer societal expectations, delivered via a merciless hammer fist and no reference to any external story.

Teachers and lovers of poetry will find useful bits of brilliance here, but the verses may be best enjoyed in small tastes, rather than large gulps.

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Night Thief

The Night Thief  by Barbara Fradkin
Local oddball Cedric "Ricky" O'Toole wants to know who is stealing vegetables from his garden.  A raccoon?  A bear?
Then the thief steals some horse blankets from the barn.
Not a bear, then.  A kid.
A little kid, 10 years old, who is living nearly feral in a cave in the backwoods of Ricky's farm.  Ricky does what most folks would do:  takes the kid home, feeds him, gives him a bed and some clean clothes.
But because Ricky has some baggage with Children's Services, he doesn't call the authorities. 
Then, Ricky finds the girl:  older than the boy, and with a bullet hole in her shoulder.
Now what?
A quick-moving narrative with a fast resolution, and better-than-usual quality writing for a 550-lexile book, but the author has Several. Points. To. Make. and isn't Subtle. About. Making. Them. 
An adult protagonist is not a natural main character for the intended audience, but Ricky may be enough of an outsider to adult society that teen readers will accept him.
No cussing, no kissing. The blood is old, and the dead body (when they find it) is mostly taken apart by carrion feeders. Referrals to incest and child abuse, but nothing on the page. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Eleanor and Park

Eleanor and Park  by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor is "that kid" -- the girl with the weird clothes, the weird hair, the weird family.  She will never, ever fit it to the crowd at her 1986 Nebraska high school.

The first day on the bus, the only seat available is next to Park--the only "Asian kid" she's ever known.  And he won't talk to her.

Inevitably, perhaps, the two fall in love.  Deeply, beautifully, and star-crossedly in love.

John Green, author of Fault in Our Stars​ gave the book a dazzling review.  A few parents in the Anoka-Hennepin district (Minnesota) called it dangerously obscene.  

Read it for yourself.  It's not a fast-moving, explosive, car chasing love story.  

It's the other kind.

I hope you like it as much as I did.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Washington Library Association conference 2015: here's your booklist!

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Mary Jo Heller
Aarene Storms 

Alexander, Shannon
Love and Other Unknown Variables

Alexie, Sherman
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian

Anderson, Laurie Halse

Armentrout, Jennifer
Don’t Look Back 

Beam, Cris
I am J

Berry, Julie
All The Truth That’s In Me 

Black, Holly
Coldest Girl in Coldtown

Blume, Judy

Bray, Libba
Beauty Queens

Burgess, Melvin
Doing It

Calame, Don
Swim the Fly (series)

Chbosky, Stephen
The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Coley, Liz
Pretty Girl 13

Connor, Leslie
The Things You Kiss Goodbye

Cross, Julie
Whatever Life Throws at You

Federle, Tim
Better Nate Than Ever

Fitzpatrick, Huntley
My Life Next Door

Gaiman, Neil
Ocean at the End of the Lane

Green, John & 
Levithan, David
Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Green, John
The Fault in Our Stars

Halpern, Julie
The F* It List

Han, Jenny
To All the Boys I've Loved Before

Harkness, Deborah
All Souls (series)

Higgins, Wendy
Sweet Evil (series)

Hodge, Rosamund
Cruel Beauty

Johnston, E.K.
The Story of Owen, Dragon Slayer of Trondheim    (series)

Keanneally, Miranda
Breathe, Annie, Breathe   

Lewis, R.C.
Stitching Snow

McBride, Lish
Hold Me Closer, Necromancer

McCormick, Patricia

McGovern, Cammie
Say What You Will

Mathiew, Jennifer
The Truth about Alice
Mesrobian, Carrie
Sex & Violence

Meyer, L.A.
Bloody Jack (series)

Meyer, Marissa
Cinder (series)

Myracle, Lauren
The Infinite Moment of Us

Neal, Bethany
My Last Kiss

Nelson, Jandy
I’ll Give You the Sun

Niven, Jennifer
All the Bright Places

Novgorodoff, Danica
The Undertaking of Lily Chen

Nix, Garth
A Confusion of Princes

Oliver, Lauren
Before I Fall

Preston, Natasha
The Cellar (series)

Quinn, Kate Karyus
Another Little Piece

Racculia, Kate
Bellweather Rhapsody

Rosoff, Meg
How I Live Now

Roth, Veronica

Rowell, Rainbow

Seamon, Hollis
Somebody Up There Hates You

Shusterman, Neal
Unwind (series)

Sandler, Karen
Tankborn (series)

St. John Mandel, Emily
Station Eleven

Sones, Sonja
To Be Perfectly Honest

Steifvater, Maggie
Raven Boys (series)

Taylor, Laini
Daughter of Smoke and Bone (series)

Tintera, Amy

Trumble, J.H.
Just Between Us

Valentine, Genevieve
The Girls at the Kingfisher Club
Wein, Elizabeth
Code Name Verity

Westerfeld, Scott

Westerfeld, Scott

Bell, Ruth
Changing Bodies, Changing Lives

Corinna, Heather
S.E.X. : the All-You-Need-to-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College

Drill, Esther
Deal With It

Kuklin, Susan
Beyond Majenta: transgender teens speak out

Rodriguez, Gabby
The Pregnancy Project

Savage, Dan
It Gets Better

Sex in the Library: a guide to sexual content in Teen Literature  by Mary Jo Heller  and Aarene Storms ISBN: 978-1617510281

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Prairie Fire

Prairie Fire  by E.K. Johnston

​Listen!  For the Song of Owen has a second--and final--verse.

Owen Thorskard ​, Dragonslayer of Trondheim and his bard Siobhen barely survived the extermination of the dragon hatchery, and Siobhen's hands were severely damaged in the fire.  She still hears music in the world around her, but she can no longer play most of her instruments, and she can't even write the music down anymore.

And yet, she and Owen have officially joined the Oil Watch. 

Instead of being posted in a new and exotic locale, the team falls victim to political corruption and in-fighting, and are stationed in Alberta.  However, it turns out that in Alberta there are dragons everywhere.  Really nasty dragons.

A solid companion to The Story of Owen, this book does not stand alone easily.  Romances are kindled, and some go a bit further than that, but all intimacy beyond flirtation is taken tactfully off-page.  However, the dragon-killing action (and evisceration for disposal after) sweats, slashes, oozes, stinks and explodes right on the page.  Especially in the final chapters...

Recommended for readers ages 14 and up.  
I really wish somebody would produce an audiobook edition of this, it would be fabulous.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Bellweather Rhapsody

Bellweather Rhapsody, by Kate Racculia,  Kate

Fifteen years ago, a bride walked into her honeymoon room (#712) at the Bellweather Hotel, shot her husband and hung herself.  The only witness was a junior bridesmaid, Minnie Graves.  

Enter the Now.  

The Bellweather is rather rundown and now hosts the annual high school music festival.  Bassoonist “Rabbit” Hatmaker is in the orchestra section while his sister Alice is in the drama division of the festival.  New this year is director Viola Fabian, who seems to have (negative) history with everyone at the festival except the twins.  That changes when Alice finds her daughter, violinist ­­­­Jill, hanging from the lights in room 712.

Add to that a Concierge trying to hold it all together, the return of an adult Minnie Graves, a star egotistical conductor, and of course, a snowstorm.  But wait!  There’s more!  Every character is well detailed.  And everyone at the Bellweather has a secret. There are murders.  There are mysteries.  There are romances. There are even sweet moments.  There is definitely great writing.  .

This page-turner was marketed as an adult novel, but teens will love it.

For ages 14 and up.

Anything but Typical

Anything But Typical  by Nora Raleigh Baskin

12-year-old Jason Black isn't dumb.  Since his diagnosis with autism when he was four years old, Jason has been coached by counselors, teachers, doctors, assistants, and members of his family, all in an effort to help Jason seem more normal to neurotypical people.  

But most days, it's just a matter of time before something goes wrong.  

Maybe somebody is already logged into the computer he prefers at the school library.  Maybe a teacher touches his shoulder when she talks to him.  Maybe he gets so lost in his own thoughts that he tears the first page of his math book into many tiny pieces.  No matter what, Jason does not fit in. His hands flap, he makes strange noises, he makes even stranger choices.  He does not understand why neurotypical people behave the way they do, and nobody understands why he acts as he does.

The only place Jason is really comfortable is on the Storyboard writing website.  He posts his original fiction there, and interacts with other writers, especially PhoenixBird, whom he considers kind of a girlfriend although they've never met in person.

Jason explains to readers that trying to explain his actions is like trying to speak in a non-native language:  the story often conveys the sense that Jason's thoughts have lost something in translation.
Thought-provoking and intriguing, this book would be a good discussion-starter in classrooms and reading circles. A reading group guide is included at the end. 

Recommended for readers ages 10-15.