Caroline the Future Librarian

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

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

Skate 2

Name: Skate 2
Developer: Electronic Arts
Platform: Playstation 3
Date: January 2009
ESRB Rating: Teen
UPC: 014633154528

Summary: Welcome to New San Vanelona, or New San Van for short.  It’s a skater’s paradise, or at least it would be if there weren’t security guards chasing you in all the best areas to skate.  Pull out your board and start practicing if you ever want to get sponsored and go pro!  Enter skate contents and complete missions in order to earn money at the skate shops, to adorn your player with gear from real skate companies.  Even if you’re not that skillful yet, you can still earn money – by managing to get injured in epic ways, like falling from a tall building.  When you’re getting better at advanced moves, head to any of the several local skate parks to really challenge yourself on the obstacles.  And make sure to play on story mode in order to unlock more gear and locations.  And remember, don’t let those security guards catch you!

Critical Evaluation: This skateboarding video game is a little challenging for the novice gamer – rather than just a combination of buttons, you really have to know how to use the joystick to execute more complicated moves.  Your technique as a player mimics how you would learn the skill on a real board – you can start by skating around on the streets, with fewer obstacles, and learning basic tricks, then progressing up to the challenging skate parks and more advanced moves.  There are even skating contests based on real competitions, like the Maloof Money Cup and Goofy vs. Regular.  Certain elements of game play seem realistic, too, like when you repeatedly fall off your board, your pants start getting dirty and your elbow gets scraped up.  If you do something crazy like skate off a skyscraper, you will not land on your board (like in the Tony Hawk games) – you are going to crash.  But at least you’ll earn money from the “Hall of Meat,” which rewards you for getting injured.  Now that’s not a lesson you’d want to transfer back into real life…

Annotation: Welcome to New San Vanelona, a skater’s paradise – except for the security guards.  Grab your board and start practicing if you ever expect to go pro!

Company Information: Founded in 1982, Electronic Arts, Inc. develops and distributes video games.  The most successful products are the sports related games under the EA Sports label, but they are also the publishers of popular franchises like The Sims.  They are distributors of the game Rock Band.

The CEO of Electronic Arts, Inc. is John Riccitiello, and the company is headquartered in Redwood City, California.

Genre: Sports

Curriculum Ties: N/A

Discussion Ideas:
1) Are there certain times when you’d rather virtually skateboard than actually skateboard?
2) What parts of this game are realistic?  What is unrealistic?

Interest Age: 12 and older

Challenge Issues: alcohol reference, language, mild violence, suggestive themes

Challenge Defense Ideas:

• Become familiar with the game 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 game from teens who have played it.

Selection: This game was recommended to me by my teen cousin as one of his favorite games.

Extras:

Official Skate website.

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

Street Fighter IV

Name: Street Fighter IV
Developer: Capcom
Platform: Playstation 3
Date: February 2009
ESRB Rating: Teen
UPC: 013388340095

Summary: Let’s get ready to rumble!  Street Fighter IV is the ultimate street fighting game – it allows you to pick your character (with customizable options that let you change their outfit colors and set a handicap level), and pick an arena for your street fighting match.  Street Fighter IV features familiar characters from earlier versions in the Street Fighter series, such as Ryu, Ken, and Chun-Li, as well as introduces new fighters, like super spy Crimson Viper and mixed martial artist Abel.  Each character has different strengths, weaknesses, and attack moves, so there are countless combinations of match-ups between the characters, allowing for hours of fun playing time.  There is a wide selection of match locations, from a crowded parking lot outside a diner at night to a secluded tropical bay, and new special moves to keep the matches interesting.  Street Fighter IV will appeal to any gamer who enjoys the Street Fighter canon, and it will interest new fans of the game as well.

Critical Evaluation: Street Fighter IV is a worthy addition to the Street Fighter line of games, and it combines nostalgic elements from earlier editions with enough new material to appeal to both old and new fans of the franchise.  One of my favorite features was the use of 3D effects – although the game primarily operates in a 2D field, like past Street Fighter games, it also incorporated 3D animation when introducing the characters and environments, although the style in general was a little too cartoony for my personal taste and the movements of the 3D characters seemed a little too unnatural.  I thought the outfits for the female fighters were unnecessarily suggestive – why aren’t they wearing pants? – but I realize this is somewhat standard for this genre of game.  In general, this is one of my favorite types of video games, because even if you are just pressing buttons at random you can hold your own!

Annotation: It’s time for the ultimate street fighting match!  In Street Fighter IV, pick your character, arena, and start fighting!

Company Information: Capcom Co., Ltd. is a Japanese developer and publisher of video games.  Founded in 1979 as Japan Capsule Computers, Capcom has created game franchises such as the Street Fighter, Resident Evil and Dead Rising series.

The CEO of Capcom Co., Ltd. is Kenzo Tsujimoto, and the company is headquartered in Osaka, Japan.

Genre: Action, Fighting

Curriculum Ties: N/A

Discussion Ideas:
1) Do violent video games actually have any negative effects on gamers?
2) How does Street Fighter IV compare with earlier Street Fighter games?

Interest Age: 12 and older

Challenge Issues: violence, suggestive themes

Challenge Defense Ideas:

• Become familiar with the game 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 game from teens who have played it.

Selection: I asked my closest teen gamer (my cousin) for some game suggestions to review, and this was one of his recommendations.

Extras:

Street Fighter IV official website

Capcom US official website

Trailer for Street Fighter IV:

May 14, 2010 Posted by | Games | , | 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

Emma (Volume 1) by Kaoru Mori

Title: Emma (Volume 1)
Author: Kaoru Mori
Publisher: CMX
Date: September 2006
ISBN-13: 978-1401211325

Plot Summary: Set in Victorian England, a young girl named Emma was rescued from destitution by a retired governess named Kelly, who trains her how to become a proper British maid.  When Emma meets William Jones, a wealthy member of the gentry who once had Kelly as his governess, the two are instantly attracted to each other, but they are unable to express their feelings to each other because of the class differences that keep them apart.  To further complicate things, a visiting prince from India, William’s friend Hakim, is also attracted to Emma and wants to court.  Also, William’s father expects him to marry Eleanor, a girl from a higher class.  In the midst of societal pressures and expectations, can true love conquer?

Critical Evaluation: The first volume of the manga series Emma is the introduction to a forbidden romance between individuals from very different worlds and social standings.  The story was quiet and slowly paced – although the latter point may have been a result of the difficulty I had in reading the panels from right to left, as I am not a frequent manga reader.  Emma was more than just a love story – the level of historical detail enriched the backgrounds of the illustrations and meant that the setting was an integral part of the narrative.  It is obvious that Kaoru Mori has done her research in creating this series, which has experienced enough popularity to be spun off into an anime series, called Emma: A Victorian Romance.  I wasn’t convinced enough that Emma was actually worth having two wealthy men falling in love with her – she was a sweet character but not a very interesting personality.  Still, sometimes it’s best to read romances where the protagonist isn’t too developed and the reader can project themselves onto the character – isn’t that why Twilight is popular?

Reader’s Annotation: During Victorian England, a maid named Emma and a wealthy member of the gentry named William Jones meet and fall in love, but are unable to express their feelings because of the class differences that keep them apart.

Author Information: Kaoru Mori is a manga artist from Tokyo.  Her manga series, including Emma and Shirley are primarily set in Britain and about maids.

Shy of making public appearances, Mori doesn’t like to be photographed and prefers to publish drawn self portraits.

Genre: Romance, Historical Fiction

Curriculum Ties: N/A

Booktalking Ideas:
1) Does social class still affect our culture?
2) Are there any boundaries that prevent people in love from being together in our modern society?

Interest Age: 14 and older

Challenge Issues: None, although the series is rated at Teen Plus, defined by CMX Manga as “appropriate for an audience of 16 and older. They may contain partial nudity, mild profanity and more intense violence.” Later volumes in the series display some nudity in a non-sexual context, which may explain the rating.

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 wanted to include some manga in the collection and was drawn to this one because the historical setting sounded interesting.

Extras:

Official Emma website

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

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

Title: American Born Chinese
Author: Gene Luen Yang
Publisher: Square Fish
Date: December 2008
ISBN-13: 978-0312384487

Plot Summary: In American Born Chinese, three seemingly separate stories come together in a surprising way.  The first story is of the Monkey King, an ancient Chinese deity who becomes as powerful as he can, but must humble himself and serve as a disciple to a holy man.  The second is of a handsome blonde teen named Danny, who is visited every year by his cousin Chin-Kee, an offensive and racist caricature of a Chinese person, who embarrasses Danny by his behavior, including making sexist comments about women and loudly performing the song “She Bangs” on a table in the library.  The last story is of Jin Wang, a Chinese-American student at a predominantly white school, who just wants to be treated like everyone else.  He befriends a student from Taiwan, and tries to attract the attention of his crush, a girl in his class named Amelia.  In the end, it is revealed how the three stories are interconnected.

Critical Evaluation: Anyone who thinks that graphic novels can’t be a serious form of storytelling has never read American Born Chinese.  Even with the highly stylized and cartoon-like drawings, the story it tells of coming of age and reconciling your ethnic identity with the dominant culture is extremely well told and thought provoking (no wonder it won the Michael L. Printz Award in 2007, which recognizes literary excellence in young adult literature).  Jin’s experience of high school, including figuring out how to act around the opposite sex, and just trying to fit in at school, will relate to teens – and those who remember what those days were like.  The technique of telling three apparently unrelated stories, then revealing an astonishing connection at the climax of the plot was very effective and forces the reader to give the story more thought, thinking back over the three storylines and seeing how they fit together in retrospect.

Reader’s Annotation: This graphic novel tells three stories – of Jin Wang, a Chinese-American high school student; the Monkey King, an ancient Chinese deity; and of blonde Danny and his cousin Chin-Kee, who is a caricature of a racist stereotype of a Chinese person – that are connected in a surprising way.

Author Information: Gene Yang began drawing comic books in the fifth grade.  In 1997, he received the Xeric Grant, a prestigious comics industry grant, for Gordon Yamamoto and the King of the Geeks, his first comics work as an adult.  He has since written and drawn a number of titles, including Duncan’s Kingdom (with art by Derek Kirk Kim) and The Rosary Comic Book.

He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his lovely wife, Theresa, and son, Kolbe, and teaches computer science at a Roman Catholic high school. (Biographical Information from the jacket of American Born Chinese)

Genre: Multicultural Fiction

Curriculum Ties: Multiculturalism, Sociology

Booktalking Ideas:
1) Discuss how the three plotlines are connected.
2) Gene Yang says that he took the Buddhist legend of the Monkey King and adapted it with his own Christian faith to use in the story.  Do you he should have done this?
3) Most Americans are descended from immigrants – do you feel connected to the culture of your origin?

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 hoping to add more multicultural literature to my collection, and also wanted to include some graphic novels.  This fit the bill on both counts, and additionally was a fantastic read!  Highly recommended.

Extras:

Gene Luen Yang talks about American Born Chinese.

May 13, 2010 Posted by | Graphic Novels | | 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