Caroline the Future Librarian

Caroline Davis | LIBR 265-10 | SJSU | Wrenn-Estes

Chew on This by Eric Schlosser

Title: Chew on This: Everything You Don’t Want to Know about Fast Food
Author: Eric Schlosser and Charles Wilson
Publisher: Sandpiper
Date: April 2007
ISBN-13: 978-0618593941

Plot Summary: An adaptation of the bestselling book Fast Food Nation for a young adult audience, Chew on This takes a critical look at the fast food industry and food production, seeking to inform the readers about what goes on behind the scenes.  It also explains the history of fast food and the impact that eating so much processed food can have.  The book starts off with the history, from the invention of the hamburger in 1885 to the creation of the first fast food chains, including McDonald’s and KFC.  The next section deals with the business side of the industry, particularly how the restaurants are marketed to kids in order to ensure brand loyalty, and even describes the poor working conditions for the laborers who produce Happy Meal toys in China.  This transitions into what it looks like to work at a fast food chain as a low-income worker, including a story about a teenage worker who once worked a nightmarish nineteen and a half hour shift, with only a half hour break.  Next, it covers food production, from how fries are made to what artificial colorings really are, to the practices of the meat industry.  There is a chapter on obesity, then the book wraps up with some promising information about reform in the food industry, from fast food chains offering some healthier options on their menus to the work of Alice Waters, who is reforming school cafeterias.

Critical Evaluation: Chew on This is full of great information about the real workings of the fast food industry, a business that we just take for granted and often don’t think twice about eating.  Like the original book, Fast Food Nation, it starts a discussion about the choices we make – both what we choose to eat and where we spend our money.  Many teens have never received good information about nutrition, so Chew on This has the potential to make a great impact in their lives.  It could definitely be used in a classroom to prompt discussions about these issues.  I would have liked to see a bit more information on the environmental impact that the fast food industry has, including clear-cutting rainforest in order to graze cheap beef for burgers.  The information is presented in a very accessible way, and might appeal more to teens on the younger end of the 14-19 spectrum.  Older teens and those seeking more in depth information could pick up a copy of Fast Food Nation.

Reader’s Annotation: An adaptation of the bestselling book Fast Food Nation for a young adult audience, Chew on This takes a critical look at the fast food industry and food production, seeking to inform the readers about what goes on behind the scenes.

Author Information: Born in Manhattan in 1959, Eric Schlosser is an investigative journalist best known for his books Fast Food Nation and Reefer Madness.  Schlosser studied American History at Princeton and received a graduate degree from Oxford University in British Imperial History.  He is also an aspiring playwright – in 2007, he wrote the play We the People about the writing of the US Constitution.

Schlosser lives in California.  He is married to Robert Redford’s daughter, Shauna, and has two children.

Genre: Non-Fiction, Food Industry

Curriculum Ties: Health, Nutrition

Booktalking Ideas:
1) Did this book cause you to reexamine your eating habits?
2) Was there anything you learned that surprised you?
3) What kind of change can you make to impact the way you (and those around you) eat?  What do you think of the work that Alice Waters does?

Interest Age: 12 and older.

Challenge Issues: None.

Challenge Defense Ideas: This book has no apparent challenge issues, but if a challenge comes up:

• Become familiar with the book and its content.

• Refer to the collection development policy of the library, if none, see here to develop one right away.

• Refer to reviews available for viewing on Amazon.com.

• Try to get reviews of the book from teens who have read it.

Selection: I thought this was an great contribution to my collection because it is such an important topic, and it provides information for teens in a clear and interesting way.

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May 16, 2010 Posted by | Books | , | Leave a comment

Something Like Fate by Susane Colasanti

Title: Something Like Fate
Author: Susane Colasanti
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Date: May 2010
ISBN-13: 9780670011469
Reviewed from Advanced Reader’s Copy from publisher

Plot Summary: Lani and Erin are best friends, but total opposites.  While Lani is completely content doing her own thing, Erin is totally outgoing and loves being the center of attention.  Even their zodiac signs are complete opposites, as Lani, a Taurus, notes (Erin happens to be a passionate Leo).  The friends complement each other well and have wildly different taste in everything.  At least, they used to…before Erin started to date Jason.

Lani can’t deny that she is totally attracted to her best friend’s guy, but she could never betray Erin’s trust by trying to be with him, so she’s doing her best to get over her feelings.  But she can’t stop feeling a strong connection when they’re hanging out, and when Erin leaves for the summer, Lani starts seeing a lot more of Jason.  Of course it’s not okay to steal your best friend’s boyfriend.  But what if it turns out that he’s your soulmate?

Critical Evaluation: Something Like Fate sets up a premise that many teens have experienced – the complications of a love triangle, particularly the difficulty that arises when one of your best friends is involved.  The story is told in the first person from Lani’s point of view, a character who places lots of faith in her horoscope readings – an indication that the turn of events may have indeed been fated to happen.  Lani, who has never had a boyfriend before, is facing one of the toughest decisions of her young life – choosing between her long time best friend, and the boy who might be the love of her life.  The guilt and confused feelings she experiences are well captured by Colasanti, as is the development of her friendship with Jason while Erin is out of town. The characters weren’t particularly well developed – their circumstances may change, but they don’t undergo much transformation – but they still provided a light and enjoyable story of love and friendship.

Reader’s Annotation: Lani and Erin are best friends, but have completely different personalities and interests, until Erin starts dating Jason and Lani can’t help but feel totally attracted to her best friend’s guy.  What happens when your soulmate is with someone else?

Author Information: Raised in northern New Jersey, Susane Colasanti studied at the University of Pennsylvania in Pittsburg, and received her master’s degree from New York University.  Colasanti began teaching at a wealthy school on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, then switched to a position as a high school physics and earth science teacher in the South Bronx, where she taught from 2000 to 2007.

She wrote her first two young adult novels, When It Happens and Take Me There while she was still teaching, before deciding to become a full-time writer.  Colasanti says it was a difficult decision to make, but that she “could reach more teens as an author than [she] ever could as a teacher” (Source).

Genre: Romance

Curriculum Ties: N/A

Booktalking Ideas:
1) Was Lani wrong for feeling attracted to Jason?  Would it be better for her to be faithful to her friend, or true to herself?
2) Why do you think Jason dated Erin if he had such a great connection with Lani?
3) What did you think about the ending?  Who do you think Jason should have ended up with?

Interest Age: 12 and older

Challenge Issues: a reference to partying

Challenge Defense Ideas:

• Become familiar with the book and its content.

• Refer to the collection development policy of the library, if none, see here to develop one right away.

• Refer to reviews available for viewing on Amazon.com.

• Try to get reviews of the book from teens who have read it.

Selection: There were a few reasons I wanted to include Something Like Fate in my collection – it is a very new book (I received the advanced copy a few months ago, and it has just recently been released in hardcover), I needed more romance titles in my collection, and Colasanti is a rising star in the young adult literature world – I have heard her described as the “next Sarah Dessen.”

Extras:

Susane Colasanti’s website and blog.

May 16, 2010 Posted by | Books | | Leave a comment

The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley

Title: The Blue Sword
Author: Robin McKinley
Publisher: Ace Trade
Date: December 2007
ISBN-13: 9780441012008

Plot Summary: After her father dies, Angharad “Harry” Crewe must move to the isolated military outpost in Istan to be near her brother who is stationed there.  The colonial settlement in a foreign country feels strangely like home for Harry, even though the desert setting is far removed from the forests where she grew up.  She is fascinated by Corlath, the native king of the Damar, who has come to the settlement to warn about invading tribes from the north.  That night, Corlath’s kelar, or psychic ability, instructs him to kidnap Harry, believing her to be necessary in order to defeat the impending invasion.  Harry adapts quickly to the Damarian culture, even training how to fight.  She is gifted with kelar and begins having visions of Lady Aerin, a legendary figure from Damarian lore – and Harry is even given Lady Aerin’s weapon, a blue sword.  Corlath instructs her on his plan for defending themselves, but Harry believes she knows a better strategy and follows her instincts, even if it means disobeying Corlath – whom she is falling in love with.

Critical Evaluation: The Blue Sword is a notable fantasy book because it is the first of the Damarian Chronicles, which are based on Robin McKinley’s imaginary land of Damar.  Harry is a great protagonist – she’s clever and resourceful, sensitive to other cultures, and not afraid to do typically male activities, like wield a sword and lead an army.  The plot is not unusual, in having a foreigner adapt to a native culture and become a hero – this same theme is seen in other books, and films like Avatar and Dances with Wolves – but McKinley’s treatment of this common plot is unique because of Harry’s unusual character.  The Blue Sword blends several genres – fantasy, adventure, legend, and even romance – and would have a wide appeal for readers.  And if you enjoy The Blue Sword, you can plan to read The Hero and the Crown next – the prequel that tells the story of Lady Aerin before she was a heroine.

Reader’s Annotation: Soon after Harry moves to the isolated colonial outpost of Istan in a desert country, she is kidnapped by the native king, Corlath, who believes she is integral for defending his tribe from invading northerners.

Author Information: Born on November 16, 1952, in Warren, Ohio, Jennifer Carolyn Robin McKinley was the only child of school teacher Jeanne Turrell McKinley and United States Naval officer William McKinley.  As a child, McKinley was envious of boys because “they were the ones who got to have adventures, while we got to – well, not have adventures.”  She started telling herself stories about girls who “did things and had adventures.”  Her later writing career was heavily influenced by these early narratives about heroic women.

These early tales evolved into several stories set in a fictional world she called Damar, and as she wrote about it, McKinley realized “there was more than one story to tell about Damar, that in fact it seemed to be a whole history, volumes and volumes of the stuff, and this terrified me” (“Robin McKinley,” 2009).  She set aside this project and began working on what became her first published book, Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast. McKinley’s works are primarily fairy tale adaptations and tales of Damar.

In 1991, McKinley moved to Hampshire, England, to marry the author Peter Dickinson.  In addition to writing, McKinley is an avid reader and enjoys “nineteenth-century novels, murder mysteries (‘not too gore-spattered’), old-fashioned adventure, and British history.”  Her musical taste ranges from “grand opera to heavy metal rock,” and she loves spending time gardening.  She enjoys horseback riding, has taken up musical pursuits like bell-ringing and voice lessons, and has kept a blog since 2007.

Genre: Fantasy

Curriculum Ties: N/A

Booktalking Ideas:
1) Is Harry more closely connected to her own culture or the Damarian culture to which she adapts?
2) How does kelar work?  Can it be acquired?
3) McKinley wrote Harry because she wanted to write about a female character in an typically male role – does she achieve her goal?  Does gender really matter in a story like this?

Interest Age: 12 and older

Challenge Issues: None

Challenge Defense Ideas: This book has no apparent challenge issues, but if a challenge comes up:

• Become familiar with the book and its content.

• Refer to the collection development policy of the library, if none, see here to develop one right away.

• Refer to reviews available for viewing on Amazon.com.

• Try to get reviews of the book from teens who have read it.

Selection: I did a report on Robin McKinley for this class and enjoyed The Blue Sword as an imaginative fantasy novel that I thought teens would enjoy.

Extras:

Robin McKinley’s website and blog.

Robin McKinley on Facebook and Twitter.

May 15, 2010 Posted by | Books | | Leave a comment

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

Title: A Northern Light
Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Publisher: Graphia
Date: September 2004
ISBN-13: 9780152053109

Plot Summary: Mathilda “Mattie” Gokey (called Matt by her closest friends) has had to take care of her large family ever since her mother died.  She loves writing fiction, and, encouraged by her teacher, Miss Wilcox, she has harbored the dream of attending Barnard College in New York City.  Even though she has been accepted to the school and offered a full scholarship, she knows that her family can’t afford to lose her – and she can’t even afford a train ticket to the city, and she might not even finish high school if her father keeps making her stay home and work.  Over the summer, she is employed at the Glenmore, a hotel on Big Moose Lake.  A guest named Grace Brown asks her to burn a packet of letters, but after Grace’s body is found in the lake after she went out boating with the man she was traveling with, Carl Grahm, Mattie can’t bring herself to destroy them.  Why are the letters addressed to Chester Gillette, not Carl Grahm, and what if Grace’s death was murder?

Critical Evaluation: A Northern Light manages to weave together multiple genres: mystery, historical fiction, and even true crime – the murder case that Mattie gets caught up in is based on an actual event that took place in 1906, and unlike Theodore Dreiser, who wrote about the case in his classic novel An American Tragedy, Donnelly chooses to keep the correct names and locations, even using some of the actual letters that were used in evidence during the trial.  The novel shifts back and forth in time, between Mattie’s summer on the lake, where the crime is unfolding, and the year before, when she had to help her father run the household and was accepted to Barnard.  Mattie, a writer, is a lover of language and has a practice of looking up a word in the family dictionary each day and teaching her siblings what it means, which Donnelly has a clever way of connecting back to the plot.

Reader’s Annotation: Mathilda “Mattie” Gokey is working at the Glenmore Hotel on Big Moose Lake for the summer, hoping to earn enough money to attend Barnard College in New York City.  When the body of one of the hotel guests is found in the lake, Mattie may hold the key to the mystery.

Author Information: “Jennifer Donnelly is the author of three novels: A Northern Light, The Tea Rose, The Winter Rose, and Humble Pie, a picture book for children. She grew up in New York State, in Lewis and Westchester counties, and attended the University of Rochester.

Jennifer lives in Tivoli, NY with her husband, daughter and two fat rats, who were bought as dog substitutes when the family’s last greyhound went over the rainbow bridge, but have since become beloved pets in their own right…but still, it all feels a bit Addams family. As a child, Jennifer loved to write and often inflicted really dreadful poems and stories on her family and friends. She loved to read, too, and the high point of her grade-school week was a Saturday trip to the library.” (Source)

Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction

Curriculum Ties: N/A

Booktalking Ideas:
1) Do you think there is a similarity between Mattie’s relationship with Royal and Grace’s relationship with Chester?
2) Talk about how Mattie’s vocabulary exercise connected with the plot.
3) Compare A Northern Light to the book An American Tragedy or the film A Place in the Sun, also based on the 1906 Big Moose Lake murder.
4) Think of other fiction titles that incorporate real historical events.

Interest Age: 12 and older

Challenge Issues: mild profanity

Challenge Defense Ideas:

• Become familiar with the book and its content.

• Refer to the collection development policy of the library, if none, see here to develop one right away.

• Refer to reviews from School Library Journal and Booklist available for viewing on Amazon.com.

• Try to get reviews of the book from teens who have read it.

Selection: I wanted to add more mysteries to my collection, and chose this one because of the historical setting, and because it is based on a real murder.

Extras:

Jennifer Donnelly’s website.

May 14, 2010 Posted by | Books | , | Leave a comment

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Title: Wintergirls
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Publisher: Speak
Date: February 2010
ISBN-13: 978-0142415573

Plot Summary: In eighth grade, Lia and her best friend Cassie made the same New Year’s resolution – to be the skinniest girl at their school.  Four years later, Cassie, who had developed severe bulimia, has died, alone in a motel, and Lia, who hadn’t even talked to her old friend in months, is battling her own demons and trying to hide her anorexia from her concerned family.  Lia, who has already been hospitalized twice because of her eating disorder, is a pro at hiding her condition – even wearing a robe with weights in the pockets when her stepmother records her weight each day.  She plans ahead to limit her caloric intake (if she eats a light dinner with her family, they might not suspect – and she can cut down breakfast and lunch the next day), and she works to achieve her ideal weight…a number that keeps shifting lower.  Now Cassie’s ghost keeps visiting her – is Lia on a path to the same fate?

Critical Evaluation: Anderson’s book really puts the reader into the mind of a girl suffering from anorexia.  When Lia thinks about the food she is offered (or that she witnesses her friends and family eating), she automatically calculates the number of calories in her head, so she can choose carefully which items she is willing to eat.  Anderson has a clever technique for helping us witness the level of control Lia exercises over her thoughts: When she thinks about certain characters, we see her immediate response, which is crossed out, and what she chooses to call them (for example, she talks about “my stepmother Jennifer” and “my mother Dr. Marrigan” – very revealing of how she is trying to distance herself from her mother and accept her stepmother).  This also reveals how she thinks about food, when her body and mind disagree (of cereal, she thinks “I could eat the entire box I probably won’t even fill the bowl”).  The novel is a fascinating peek into her distorted perspective – I just fear that teens in the same condition may read it and feel validated.

Reader’s Annotation: Even after her friend Cassie dies from bulimia, Lia doesn’t seek help for her anorexia, and continues trying to reach an ever decreasing ideal weight.  Will she experience the same fate as Cassie?

Author Information: Born in Potsam, New York, in 1961, Laurie Halse Anderson writes novels both for children and young adults.  She is best known for her 1999 novel Speak, about a teen who was raped at a party and doesn’t feel like she can talk about the experience with anyone, which was adapted into a 2004 film of the same title.

“Laurie lives in Northern New York, with her childhood sweetheart, now husband, Scot.  She has four wonderful children and a neurotic dog, all of whom she dearly loves.  When not enjoying her family and her large garden, she spends countless hours writing in a woodland cottage designed and built just for that purpose by her Beloved Husband.  She also likes to train for marathons, hike in the mountains, and try to coax tomatoes out of the rocky soil in her backyard.” (Source)

Genre: Realistic Fiction, Issues

Curriculum Ties: Health, Nutrition, Psychology

Booktalking Ideas:
1) Do you think Lia was really being haunted by Cassie or was it a hallucination?
2) Was Lia really in control of herself or was her disorder controlling her?
3) Discuss whether this book could be triggering for some readers – for example, when Lia talks about her unhealthy weight goals, could some readers aspire for that?

Interest Age: 14 and older

Challenge Issues: May be triggering

Challenge Defense Ideas:

• Become familiar with the book and its content.

• Refer to the collection development policy of the library, if none, see here to develop one right away.

• Refer to reviews from School Library Journal and Booklist available for viewing on Amazon.com.

• Try to get reviews of the book from teens who have read it.

Selection: This book was recommended to me and I wanted to include it because I think it addresses a very important issue, particularly for teens.

Extras:

Laurie Halse Anderson’s website.

Book Trailer for Wintergirls:

May 13, 2010 Posted by | Books | , | Leave a comment

For the Win by Cory Doctorow

Title: For the Win
Author: Cory Doctorow
Publisher: Tor Teen
Date: May 2010
ISBN-13: 978-0765322166
Reviewed from Advanced Reader’s Copy from publisher

Plot Summary: In the future, the game industry is big business, with virtual gold and specialty items being sold for real money – and impoverished workers in third world countries are hired as “gold farmers” to collect virtual gold for their bosses.  Matthew, in Shenzhen, China, plans to lead his own gold-farming business, in spite of intimidation and violence from his former bosses.  A gamer in southern California, named Leonard – but you better call him Wei-Dong, secretly plays in the middle of the night when it is daylight in China, where the rest of his team is based.  He makes real money on these missions, but his parents threaten to send him to military school if they catch him playing after hours again.  And in Mumbai, India, a talented strategist and born leader named Mala is paid to destroy players in the game, until she receives a message from a mysterious person named Big Sister Nor, who challenges the way she understands her existence and asks her if she thought she deserved better.

Critical Evaluation: After reading Little Brother for this course, I had high expectations for Cory Doctorow’s latest work, and I was not disappointed.  In the same way that Little Brother explained tough concepts like cryptography and Bayesian physics, For the Win made gaming terms and economic phenomena accessible, while maintaining an exciting story that kept me turning pages (and For the Win is not a short read!).  The theme of forming unions for workers and developing fair business practices can be set in any time period or location, so Doctorow’s decision to place it in a game-based futuristic society may have been intentional in order to remove the issues from history and preconceived understandings of the subject, in order for us to view it more objectively.  It also helped me to better understand the economies of their imagined societies – virtual and otherwise – and economics is not my strong suit!  I would definitely recommend this book for teens.

Reader’s Annotation: In the virtual future, video games are big business, and virtual gold – farmed by poor workers in third world countries – can be sold for real money.  A mysterious person called Big Sister Nor draws together three players from across the globe – Matthew in China, Wei-Dong in California, and Mala in India – in order to improve the conditions for gamers everywhere.

Author Information: Cory Doctorow is a blogger, journalist, and author of several books and short stories about science fiction and blogging.  Doctorow is also the co-editor of Boing Boing, a blog that contains articles on tech, gadgets, science as well as business, entertainment, and art and design.  An activist for the Creative Commons organization, Doctorow has made his novel Little Brother available as a free download under their license.

Born and raised in Canada, Doctorow has also spent time living in London.  He married Alice Taylor in 2008 and has one daughter.

Genre: Science Fiction

Curriculum Ties: Economics

Booktalking Ideas:
1) Contrast Matthew, Wei-Dong and Mala.  What are their backgrounds?  Why do they play?
2) Why is it so important to form unions for the gold-farmers?
3) Do you think it is possible for games to have as much influence on society as they do in For the Win?

Interest Age: 14 and older

Challenge Issues: sexual content, violence

Challenge Defense Ideas:

• Become familiar with the book and its content.

• Refer to the collection development policy of the library, if none, see here to develop one right away.

• Refer to reviews available for viewing on Amazon.com.

• Try to get reviews of the book from teens who have read it.

Selection: I became a fan of Doctorow’s work after reading Little Brother for this course, so when an advanced copy of his next young adult novel became available I was excited for the opportunity to review it.

Extras:

Cory Doctorow’s personal blog.

May 10, 2010 Posted by | Books | | Leave a comment

The Ultimate Teen Book Guide

Title: The Ultimate Teen Book Guide
Editors: Daniel Hahn, Leonie Flynn, and Susan Reuben
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers
Date: December 2007
ISBN-13: 978-0802797315

Summary: Are you looking for something to read but need help finding it?  The Ultimate Teen Book Guide is here to help!  Dozens of contributors, from avid teen readers to well known authors, have contributed over 700 reviews of great books for young adults to read.  The reviews are arranged in alphabetical order by title, so it’s easy to look up specific books.  Each book has a suggested reader age (from 12+ to 16+), a short synopsis of the book, and every single review has similar titles to recommend, so if you enjoyed the reviewed book you have an idea of what to read next.  In addition to being a great source for finding books to read, there is also lots of information on popular genres, written by the experts – young adult authors.  There are even top ten lists of recommended books within each genre.  With this guide next to you, you’ll never again have trouble finding something to read!

Critical Evaluation: I wish I found this book earlier in the semester – it really has great suggestions in a variety of genres, and the age guidelines are helpful for knowing whether a book is appropriate for an older teen audience.  The read alikes suggestions that accompany each review would be really helpful if there was a book I loved and wanted to read more like it.  I think having this guide in a library collection would be great both for kids to check out, but also for librarians to use as a resource for helping teens pick books.  I did notice that many of the books were adult crossovers – in other words, they are novels originally written for adults that had become popular with young adult readers – such as The Lovely Bones and Black Hawk Down, so the guide doesn’t exclusively include books written for a young adult audience.  My worry about this book is that it will become dated – at this point it has some recent titles, but since it was written three years ago it has already missed some great new books.  It would be great if a resource like this could be available online and frequently updated.

Reader’s Annotation: With over 700 reviews of great reads, The Ultimate Teen Book Guide will make sure that you never again have trouble finding a book to read!

Editor Information: “Daniel Hahn is a writer, editor, and translator.  His writing includes a history book about a zoo, called The Tower Menagerie, which is a slightly odd kind of book.  As an editor he has worked with Leonie and Susan on this award-winning series of Ultimate Book Guides (a set of three that began in the UK) about reading for young people, and with several other people on lots of other reference books about many other things.”

“His recent translations include two Angolan novels and the autobiography of Brazilian soccer player Pelé.  He also works regularly with Shakespeare’s Globe and Human Rights Watch.  Daniel lives in Brighton, on the south coast of England.” (Biographical Information from The Ultimate Teen Book Guide)

Genre: Non-Fiction

Curriculum Ties: English, Reading

Booktalking Ideas:
1) Is it helpful to have a guide like this to choose books to read?
2) Do you prefer to read within certain genres or do you like to try all kinds of books?
3) When you read a good book, do you like knowing what titles will be similar?

Interest Age: 12 and older

Challenge Issues: None

Challenge Defense Ideas: This book has no apparent challenge issues, but if a challenge comes up:

• Become familiar with the book and its content.

• Refer to the collection development policy of the library, if none, see here to develop one right away.

• Refer to reviews available for viewing on Amazon.com.

• Try to get reviews of the book from teens who have read it.

Selection: I chose to include this guide because it is a resource geared specifically for teens (well, or anyone who loves reading YA lit) and would fit in with a young adult collection.

May 10, 2010 Posted by | Books | | Leave a comment

Go Ask Alice by Anonymous

Title: Go Ask Alice
Author: Anonymous
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Date: December 2005
ISBN-13: 9781416914631

Plot Summary: Originally published in 1971, Go Ask Alice claims to be the real diary of an unknown teenage girl that died of a drug overdose when she was 16-years-old.  In entries that span about one and a half years, the unnamed narrator (not named Alice – there is only one mention of the name Alice as a minor acquaintance of the author) chronicles her descent from a happy and normal adolescence into a crippling addiction to drugs, and the dangerous behavior she displays while on them.  Her first drug use was at a party, when she was unknowingly given a soda laced with LSD, and the beautiful trip she experienced hooked her and piqued her interest in trying other drugs.  She becomes addicted and is forced to start dealing drugs in order to maintain her lifestyle.  Throughout the book she claims that she wants to quit, but is irresistibly drawn back into it.  She runs away to San Francisco with a fellow addict before returning home a few months later, and at another point she hitchhikes into Denver, Colorado, while high.  After a bad trip following the death of her grandparents, she is finally determined to quit drugs and seems to be doing better, when she dies of an overdose.

Critical Evaluation: I can see why this book has been a popular choice for teen readers over the last few decades (it has almost been 40 years since the first printing!).  In the same way that A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer remains a popular title for young adults who are interesting in reading about a (supposedly) true story of child abuse, Go Ask Alice allows teens to vicariously experience the highs and lows of taking drugs, including detailed descriptions of how wonderful acid trips are supposed to be.  As a teen, I probably would have been fascinated by this book, on a subject completely foreign to me (although many teen readers may have had more experience in this department and responded to the book for different reasons).  As an adult reading it, I couldn’t help but be distracted by the feeling that I can’t quite believe this is a real diary (not that young adults wouldn’t be perceptive enough to pick up on this, but speaking from my own experience I was better at ignoring my critical thinking as a teen than I am now).  I would probably include this in a library collection for young adults if for no other reason that I’m sure there will be requests for it.  I’m not sure I would ever recommend it for a teen – it’s just not that good of a book.

Reader’s Annotation: This supposedly real diary of a teenage girl chronicles her descent into drug addiction.

Author Information: If, as we are meant to believe, this book is non-fiction, then the author is an unknown teenager that died of an overdose.

More likely, the “editor” of the book, Beatrice Sparks, either partially or completely wrote the diary.  Born in Goldburg, Idaho, in 1918, Sparks studied at UCLA and Brigham Young University before working as a youth counselor and therapist, starting in 1955.  A devout Mormon, Sparks has written a series of supposedly “real” diaries about troubled adolescents to serve as cautionary tales.

Genre: Non-Fiction, Autobiography, Fiction

Curriculum Ties: Drug education

Booktalking Ideas:
1) Why does it seem so hard for her to quit taking drugs?
2) Does it matter if the diary is real or not?  Why?

Interest Age: 14 and older

Challenge Issues: drug use, sexual content, rape

Challenge Defense Ideas:

• Become familiar with the book and its content.

• Refer to the collection development policy of the library, if none, see here to develop one right away.

• Refer to reviews available for viewing on Amazon.com.

• Try to get reviews of the book from teens who have read it.

Selection: I selected this book because I knew it was a popular title for young adults over the last few decades.  I wanted to include a biography or memoir in the collection, but I find it hard to believe that this book is actually non-fiction.

May 10, 2010 Posted by | Books | , , | 1 Comment

Writing Magic by Gail Carson Levine

Title: Writing Magic: Creating Stories that Fly
Author: Gail Carson Levine
Publisher: Collins
Date: September 2006
ISBN-13: 9780060519605

Summary: In this book, bestselling young adult author Gail Carson Levine gives her tips about the craft of writing.  It’s like participating in a writer’s workshop in a book!  Levine offers advice about every stage of the writing process, from coming up with ideas to creating characters, writing dialogue, making revisions, and even how to get your work published!  She is very clear with the message that we should never discard any of our writing, even if we don’t like it, because we never know when we might want to revisit it – she advises waiting 15 years before tossing anything out!  Her advice to write often, whether or not it is any good, will hopefully allow teens to be less self-conscious about their work.  Each chapter ends with a handful of writing exercises and prompts which are meant to be worked on and built up as you progress through the book (for instance, a practice dialogue that you write for one chapter is revisited later when you add information like body language to the scene).

Critical Evaluation: When you want to improve a certain skill, you want to make sure that you’re taking advice from someone who knows that subject well.  That’s why it’s so great that Gail Carson Levine has written this writing guide – teens will know her from her books like Ella Enchanted and Fairest and will trust her tips about writing.  In addition to offering sound advice and providing creative prompts to practice on, Levine also shared examples from her life and writing career, making the information more personal and keeping this book from feeling too much like an English lesson.  You can tell that she really wants to nurture young writers – she is adamant that we shouldn’t discourage ourselves or be overly critical of our writing, and even asks us to let her know if we are writing so that she can root for us.  Overall, a great and informative read with practical advice for writers of all ages (but particularly young adults) that would be a strong addition to any library collection.

Reader’s Annotation: Bestselling young adult author Gail Carson Levine shares some of her tricks of the trade for aspiring young writers.

Author Information: “Gail Carson Levine grew up in New York City and has been writing all her life.  For many years, she has taught creative writing to children in a workshop that inspired this book.  Gail’s first book for children, Ella Enchanted, was a 1998 Newbery Honor Book.  Her other books include Fairest; Dave at Night, and ALA Notable Book and Best Book for Young Adults; The Wish; The Two Princesses of Bamarre; and her Princess Tales books.  She is also the author of the picture book Betsy Who Cried Wolf, illustrated by Scott Nash.

Gail, her husband, David, and their Airedale, Baxter, live in a two-hundred-year-old farmhouse in the Hudson River Valley of New York State.” (Biographical Information from the jacket of Writing Magic)

Genre: Non-Fiction, Writing

Curriculum Ties: Creative Writing

Booktalking Ideas:
1) Did you practice writing with the prompts throughout the book?  Which exercises did you find difficult?  Which came naturally?
2) Do you have a friend that you trust to give you constructive feedback on your writing?
3) Would you be interested in starting or joining a writer’s group?

Interest Age: 12 and older

Challenge Issues: None.

Challenge Defense Ideas: This book has no apparent challenge issues, but if a challenge comes up:

• Become familiar with the book and its content.

• Refer to the collection development policy of the library, if none, see here to develop one right away.

• Refer to reviews from School Library Journal and Booklist available for viewing on Amazon.com.

• Try to get reviews of the book from teens who have read it.

Selection: I chose this book because I love Gail Carson Levine’s work and I thought her advice on writing would be invaluable to aspiring young adult writers.

Extras:

Gail Carson Levine’s website and blog.

May 10, 2010 Posted by | Books | , | Leave a comment

Wish You Were Here by Leslie Simon

Title: Wish You Were Here: An Essential Guide to Your Favorite Music Scenes – From Punk to Indie and Everything In Between
Author: Leslie Simon
Publisher: It Books
Date: April 2009
ISBN-10: 006157371X

Summary: After reading this book, you’ll feel as though you took a whirlwind musical tour through eleven spots spread throughout the US.  From Seattle to New York, and even Lawrence, Kansas, author Leslie Simon goes into depth for each music scene and informs us why we should be interested.  For each location, Simon starts with the history of the local music scene, focusing on the bands that contributed to the punk-rock or emo genres.  This is followed by a suggested album list of bands from that location, giving detailed explanations for why each album is essential.  A travel guide portion lists some hot local spots to check out, mostly (but not exclusively) related to the music scene.  And for each location, there is a “Moment of Silence” to pay tribute to a local venue that has fallen on hard times – or even been converted into a Starbucks, like the D.C. Space in Washington D.C.  You’ll feel informed about the history of the underground music scene, plus you’ll know the cool hangouts in each city.  A must-read for any music lover.

Critical Evaluation:  Far from being a dry history and travel guide, Simon’s treatment of the subject is infused with interesting pop-culture tidbits and humorous side articles (“Which Seattle Scenester Are You?” asks you to pick between five types of scenesters, from the Intellectual Indie Scenester to the Prematurely Balding Hard-Core Scenester).  Her knowledge of the underground music scene is vast, and I learned a ton that I didn’t know about the local music from the Bay Area (I thought it was fun to check out the suggested local spots she recommended visiting – she even mentioned one of my favorite pizza places in Berkeley!).  The book is illustrated by Rob Dobi, and his “could have been printed in a graphic novel” style drawings really brought the music scene to life on the pages.  My only complaint is that it was too short – after reading her evaluations of eleven locations throughout the country, I wanted to keep reading her take on the American music scene!

Reader’s Annotation: With this guide to the underground music scene, you’ll learn the history and top bands to listen to from eleven locations throughout the US, from Washington D.C. to Seattle, Washington, and even Lawrence, Kansas.

Author Information: Leslie Simon is author of Wish You Were Here: An Essential Guide To Your Favorite Music Scenes—From Punk To Indie And Everything In Between. She is also the co-author of Everybody Hurts: An Essential Guide to Emo Culture. Her work has appeared in Kerrang! and Alternative Press, in addition to the online pages of Metromix and MTV Buzzworthy.

She lives in Los Angeles, California, where she is determined to stalk Zach Galifianakis until he marries her—or he gets a restraining order. Whichever happens first. (Source)

Genre: Non-Fiction, Music

Curriculum Ties: Music

Booktalking Ideas:
1) Is your local music scene described in this book?  If so, did you learn anything new about it?  If not, what do you know about the history of the music scene in your area?
2) Why do certain areas seem to inspire thriving musical scenes?  Does location really matter?
3) If you could pick one location out of the book to visit, which would it be and why?

Interest Age: 14 and older

Challenge Issues: None.

Challenge Defense Ideas:

• Become familiar with the book and its content.

• Refer to the collection development policy of the library, if none, see here to develop one right away.

• Refer to reviews available for viewing on Amazon.com.

• Try to get reviews of the book from teens who have read it.

Selection: I was looking for more non-fiction titles to include in my collection and I chose this one because I think young adults are very interested in music and would want to learn more about the history of movements like punk and emo.

Extras:

Leslie Simon’s blog

May 10, 2010 Posted by | Books | , | Leave a comment