Thursday, October 22, 2015

Get Away @ Your Library!

The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) was created in an effort to help libraries build capacity by serving, engaging and empowering teen readers. Libraries are important to any child passionate about reading, and  YALSA helps to expand and nurture that passion. Teen Read Week was started as a national adolescent initiative in 1998. It focuses on keeping teens active readers and library users. This year's Teen Read Week theme is Get Away @ Your Library. The theme encourages teens to explore new genres such as fantasy, travelogues, science fiction, and many more. There are so many great books out there filled with adventure. Cold weather is just around the corner, which makes it the perfect time of year to go on a staycation with a book. Here are some books worth checking out to celebrate!

Take a road trip with

Paper Towns by John GreenOne month before graduating from Central Florida high school, Quentin "Q" Jacobsen basks in the predictable boringness of his life. Until the beautiful and exciting Margo Roth Spiegelman, Q's neighbor and classmate, takes him on a midnight adventure. The next day she disappears. Q and his friends pile in his car in search of Margot and where she has gone.

Going Bovine by Libba Bray- In an attempt to find a cure after being diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob's (aka mad cow) disease, Cameron Smith, a disaffected sixteen-year-old boy, sets off on a  road trip with a death-obsessed video-gaming dwarf he meets in the hospital.

Get lost in the past with

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta SepetysOne night 15-year-old Lina, her mother and young brother are hauled from their home by Soviet guards, thrown into cattle cars, and sent away. They are being deported to Siberia. An unimaginable and harrowing journey has begun. Lina doesn't know if she'll ever see her father or her friends again. But she refuses to give up hope.

The Book Thief by Markus ZusakTrying to make sense of the horrors of World War II, Death relates the story of Liesel--a young German girl whose book-stealing and story-telling talents help sustain her family and the Jewish man they are hiding, as well as their neighbors.

Take a voyage with

Graceling by Kristin Cashore - In a world where some people are born with extreme and often-feared skills called Graces, Katsa struggles for redemption from her own horrifying Grace, the Grace of killing. She then teams up with another young fighter to save their land from a corrupt king.

The Boy Who Could See Demons by Carolyn Jess-CookeDr. Anya Molokova is called in to work at MacNeice House, an adolescent mental health treatment center. There she is told to observe and assess Alex Connolly, a keenly intelligent sensitive ten-year-old coping with his mother's latest suicide attempt. Alex is in need of serious counseling: he has been harming himself and others, often during blackouts. At the root of his destructive behavior, Alex claims, is his imaginary "friend" Ruen, a cunning demon who urges Alex to bend to his often violent will. But Anya has seen this kind of behavior before--with her own daughter, Poppy, who suffered from early-onset schizophrenia. Determined to help Alex out of his darkness, Anya begins to treat the child. But soon strange and alarming coincidences compel Anya to wonder: is Alex's condition a cruel trick of the mind? Or is Ruen not so make-believe after all? The reality, it turns out, is more terrifying than anything she has ever encountered.

Fall in love with

Just One Day by Gayle FormanWhen sheltered American good girl Allyson first encounters laid-back Dutch actor Willem at an underground performance of Twelfth Night, there's an undeniable spark. So when fate brings them together a second time, Allyson takes an uncharacteristic leap, changes course, and follows Willem to Paris. After just one day together, the spark bursts into a flame. However, Allyson wakes up shocked to discover that Willem is gone.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell - A ghost story, a love story, a mystery, and a melodrama. Simon Snow just wants to relax and savor his last year at the Watford School of Magicks, but no one will let him. His girlfriend broke up with him, his best friend is a pest, and his mentor keeps trying to hide him away in the mountains where maybe he’ll be safe. Simon can’t even enjoy the fact that his roommate and longtime nemesis is missing, because he can’t stop worrying about the evil git. Plus there are ghosts. And vampires. And actual evil things trying to shut Simon down. When you’re the most powerful magician the world has ever known, you never get to relax and savor anything.

Go out of this world with

The House of Scorpion by Nancy Farmer - Matteo Alacran was not born; he was harvested with the DNA from El Patron, lord of a country called Opium. Can a boy who was bred to guarantee another’s survival find his own purpose in life? And can he ever be free?

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick NessPrentisstown isn't like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else's thoughts in an overwhelming, never-ending stream of Noise. Just a month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd and his dog, Manchee, stumble upon an area of complete silence. They find that in a town where privacy is impossible, secrets have been hidden and that's only the beginning.

Travel internationally with

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi - Originally published to wide critical acclaim in France, where it elicited comparisons to Art Spiegelman's Maus, Persepolis is Marjane Satrapi's wise, funny, and heartbreaking memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. In powerful black-and-white comic strip images, Satrapi tells the story of her life in Tehran from ages six to fourteen, years that saw the overthrow of the Shah's regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, and the devastating effects of war with Iraq. The intelligent and outspoken only child of committed Marxists and the great-granddaughter of one of Iran's last emperors, Marjane bears witness to a childhood uniquely entwined with the history of her country.

Inkheart by Corneila FunkeTwelve-year-old Meggie learns that her father, who repairs and binds books for a living, can "read" fictional characters to life when one of those characters abducts them and tries to force him into service.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Star Wars Reads Day Book Review: Lost Stars by Claudia Gray

Lost Stars by Claudia Gray is part of the Journey to the Force Awakens series, which is peppered with events and clues that allude to the new Star Wars movie this December.  Gray is a fresh voice to Star Wars lore and gives a refreshing perspective of the original movies.   

From the time they were children, Ciena and Thane aspired to be pilots and attend the Imperial Academy.  When they are finally given the opportunity to achieve their dreams, their tight friendship is tested.  Their journey starts before the events of A New Hope and ends a year after Return of the Jedi, and it gives an interesting look at the mentality that comes with serving the Empire. 

Ciena and Thane, who graduate at the top of their class at the Imperial Academy, often find themselves at the forefront of conflicts featured in the films as they are both depicted as talented pilots and individuals.  These characters, while being dear friends, come from two different backgrounds, and they each have their own reasons for serving the Empire.  Ciena is an honor-bound individual of humble origins while Thane comes from a well-off family and is a bit of a cynic.  The personal nature of how these new characters respond (and at times justify) the actions of the Empire is one of the strong points of this book.  It is easy to wonder what would cause an individual to serve them.  I would say early on Ciena and Thane are a bit more idealistic in their hopes of serving the Empire, but as the events of the movies unfold, their reasons and rationalizations change.

Ultimately, the close relationship between these two gives way to romance, but then they find themselves on opposite sides of the Galactic Civil War.  Imperial atrocities also become harder to justify to both Ciena and Thane.  One joins the Rebellion in spite of personal reservations, while the other hasn’t completely lost faith in the Empire.  They interact on a (very) limited basis after that point, but their relationship is still poignant and affects decisions they make.

When the book proceeded to depict what happens post-Endor, I was excited to see events that would set up The Force Awakens.  The Empire definitely has a large transition to deal with because of the power vacuum that was created post-Endor, and Gray’s depiction proved quite realistic.  Hopefully, we will see more Star Wars books from Claudia Gray, and the characters she has introduced to the Star Wars galaxy.         

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Is the Testing Safe?

To start off...If you liked the Hunger Games trilogy, THIS is a must-read for you! Yes, YOU!

Each year the United Commonwealth reviews candidates and their achievements for acceptance into the University. There are 18 colonies and only the top students from each colony are considered. Then they are brought to Tosu City, the capital, for testing to attend the University and become future leaders of the Commonwealth.

Do you think you posses the skills and intelligence to pass the testing? Ask yourself these 5 questions and tread lightly. 

"Question One: What makes an ideal testing candidate?

Question Two: How does the Commonwealth decide who passes?

Question Three: Can candidates refuse their nomination? (It should be noted that the answer here is no. No you can't. It results in elimination.)

Question Four: Is the testing safe?

Question Five: Has anyone ever died while participating in the testing?"

The book begins with Cia Vale, who is an ideal candidate for the testing. She is young and purpose-driven, values humanity, and possesses knowledge of all things mechanical and natural.

The testing rewards two parties: warriors and peacemakers, as both are needed in certain leadership roles for a community. It is mandatory that all selected candidates participate in the testing. Refusal of such will result in elimination. The United Commonwealth is not permitted to discuss the details, results, or anything pertaining to the test or its components. Progress of the our great society comes at a price, as we are preparing for our future. The Commonwealth cannot confirm or deny test results of future or past candidates. Thank you for your support and dedication to the greater good.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

High Schools We Wish We Could Attend

 As school starts back, I am reminded of the fictional schools I wish existed. Ones that only existed on the television screen or bound inside of a good book. Sometimes the characters are what made the school appealing, as if you were kindred spirits that understood each other. Other times it was because the school itself was far more interesting than the small town school you were attending in real life. This blog is an ode to those schools. Here is a collection of some great television shows (and books) who define the term "cool school!" And if you aren't familiar with these selections, then it's time to try them out!

Gilmore Girls -  Watch as Rory Gilmore transfers from Starts Hollow High School to the distinguished Chilton Prep. She must adjust to the fast paced education and high standards while dealing with the typical "mean girls". Since birth Rory has had her heart set on going to Harvard University, but will that be where she ends up?

My So-Called Life - If you were a '90s child like me, then you know how pivotal this show was for anyone in high school. At a time when after-school specials were the most popular, the show pushed boundaries in an effort to make a show that was relatable to teens. There was never a moral to the story or a group family hug at the end. Instead the episodes left one feeling validated for having emotions. Enjoy all the music from the this wonderful decade while drooling over the early years of Jared Leto's physique.

Harry Potter - This is probably the number one school I would want to attend. And while I would be happy with visiting Hogwarts, I would also want to experience the entire wizarding world. Diagon Alley, Hogwarts, The Forbidden Forest, Hogsmeade; I think it's safe to say I could spend an entire month there. Rowling created a world and characters I will treasure in my heart forever. A world that not only children wish existed but adults as well and that is something truly magical. A story of friendship and loyalty that will last a lifetime for anyone who reads it. I will always love the books over the movies because I am a bookworm to my core, but the movies are pretty fantastic. Watching a beloved world come to life on screen is marvelous.
Smallville - I should just be able to say, "It's Superman! Who wouldn't want to go to that high school?!" But going to this particular school could be dangerous. Villains and superheroes fighting one another with teen angst could escalate pretty quickly. But with danger comes adventure and excitement, which is typically what we all wish had been more present in our schools. The show follows Clark Kent as he begins to accept and learn who/what he is.

Ender's Game Book and Movie - Battle School. Can you imagine coming home and telling your parents you had been accepted to Battle School? Or better yet putting something like that on a resume. Battle school is the place the government sends genetically modified child geniuses for training. They must learn to fight, protect, and lead in an effort to protect the world from invading an invading alien race. Then we meet Ender, who encompasses the importance of humanity in the face of war. Point of interest: the U.S. Marine Corps includes this book on their professional reading list  not just at entry level ranks but Office Candidate as well.

The Magicians - Brakebills is a college where magicians go  after high school. In order to join the school you have to pass a test of intelligence and skill. It is quite possibly my dream school. This is a trilogy that will satisfy any adult Harry Potter fan. The story follows Quinton as he learns to strengthen and prefect his craft, magic. As he grows and matures he learns what it means to be a hero and being a hero isn't always easy.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer - Go, go, go Sunnydale High School Razorbacks! Home to my favorite cheerleader and trendsetter (of the '90s), Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I must admit this is the high school I dreamed about. A librarian who researches and specializes in vampire hunting. A cheerleader with a mean sidekick. A team of friends bound together by their commitment to protect Buffy and their town. That is what I call an adventure! The graphic novels are available for checkout at our library, as well as the hit  TV series.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Teen Reads About Mental Health

Mental disorders can be difficult to discuss, but it is important to be aware of them nonetheless. The following books are great jumping off points for teens to learn about the effect of mental illness on an individual, a family, or a community. These works of fiction provide young adults with a variety of perspectives on the importance of mental health, and can kickstart a discussion on how to handle issues like depression, anxiety, and other barriers to one's well-being.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Jay Asher’s debut novel follows Clay Jensen, a high school student who comes home to find a box of tapes on his doorstep. These tapes come from Hannah Baker, one of Clay’s classmates who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Through these tapes Hannah describes the thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. In this thought-provoking novel, Asher encourages young readers to analyze their interactions with others and keep in mind that everyone is fighting their own private battles.

Charlie is a shy high school freshman just trying to find his place in a new school. Struggling with the suicide of his friend and the death of his beloved aunt, he is afraid to reach out to his fellow students. That is, until he befriends seniors Patrick and Samantha. Together they help him confront his past and learn that life is what you make of it. Structured as a series of letters to the reader, Chbosky’s debut novel deals with topics such as anxiety, sexual abuse, and suicide, and encourages young adults not to let their past prevent them from enjoying the present.

Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
Annabel used to be the girl who had it all, but after being sexaully assaulted at a party, she enters her junior year ostracized and traumatized. It doesn’t help that her picture book family refuses to address the problems that haunt their home, including her sister’s anorexia. Despite her trouble, she finds a friend in Owen, the notorious outcast of the school. Together they learn how to confront their problems honestly and deal with their pain and anger. In this book, Dessen passes these lessons on to her readers, that they might use them to combat the struggles they may face.

Green’s debut novel follows Miles Halter, a teenager who convinces his parents to enroll him in Culver Creek Preparatory High School. There he meets his roommate, Chip Martin, who introduces him to his eclectic group of friends. This includes the wild and unstable Alaska Young, who immediately captures Miles’ affection. They introduce Miles to the underworld of Culver Creek, and spend their time causing trouble for their rivals, a group of students called the Weekday Warriors. Over the course of the novel, readers gain further insight into Alaska’s mental instability and the effect it has on those around her. Together these students suffer through grief, guilt, suicide, and growing up.
Ordinary People by Judith Guest
The Jarretts are your typical American family: Beth is the perfect, efficient housewife; Calvin is a determined, hardworking father; Conrad and Buck are ideal sons. But after Buck’s death, this perfect image of the Jarrett family shatters. Unable to cope with his brother’s death, Conrad attempts suicide. His mother retreats inward, trying even harder to portray the facade of perfection, and Conrad seems to be the only one interested trying to face what has happened to his family. Guest writes this classic tale of forgiveness and recovery in a stream-of-consciousness style that invites her audience into the minds of these characters and explore their grief from within.

Identical by Ellen Hopkins
Kaeleigh and Raeanne are identical twins dealing with very dissimilar problems. Still coping with a car crash nearly ten years before, their mother has all but abandoned her family for the campaign trail, and their father has turned to Kaeleigh to fill the void of his wife’s absence. As a result she develops an eating disorder and turns to self-harm, while Raeanne seeks the comfort of drugs and alcohol to deal with her parent’s neglect. In this brutal narrative, told through a series of poems, Hopkins explores the fragility of identity and the impact trauma can have on one’s mental health.

Impulse by Ellen Hopkins
Like Hopkins’ other novels, Impulse is written in verse and follows multiple perspectives. At Aspen Springs, a recovery center for those who have attempted suicide, readers meet Vanessa, Tony, and Connor. These three teenagers each tried to end their life, and must now face their demons in order to recover. This novel not only demonstrates three young adults exploring their identities, but also reveals the harsh reality of addiction, self-harm, suicide, and mental illness.

A Corner of the Universe by Ann M. Martin
Martin’s young adult classic is about eleven-year-old Hattie who helps her parents run the boarding house where they live. She spends most of her time reading, painting and enjoying the company of their eccentric guests passing through the small town. But this summer, Hattie’s uncle Adam has come to stay with her grandparents after his “school,” an institution for the mentally handicapped, closes temporarily. Hattie has never met Adam, but she takes to her uncle immediately, despite the fact that the rest of her family has trouble understanding him.
One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies by Sonya Sones
This novel is about a girl named Ruby. After her mother loses her battle with cancer, she moves from Boston to Beverly Hills to live with her father, famous movie star Whip Logan. Frustrated by this turn of events and unable to cope with her mother’s death, Ruby spends most of her time desperately trying to keep in touch with old friends and avoiding her father, who becomes the target of her anger and grief. Sones invites her readers to explore the boundaries of grief and the ways it manifests itself in this verse novel about coping with loss and personal change.
Craig Gilner is an ambitious teenager living in New York City. After months of nonstop work on his exams and application to the Manhattan Executive Pre-Professional High School, he is delighted when he receives his acceptance. However, he is unable to handle the high-pressure environment. He stops sleeping and eating, and nearly ends his own life. After his suicide attempt he is briefly institutionalized. Here, with the help of a few unlikely friends, he learns how to handle his anxiety and depression.

For additional resources, please visit If you or someone you know is at immediate risk, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-8255.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Teacher Appreciation: YA Author Edition


Teachers play a big role in our lives. They are the ones who help shape and mold us when we are away from home. They encourage us to be more than we believed we could. They open doors in our imagination by simply reading a book to us. The authors listed below are not only writers, but they have also shared their inspiration through teaching. The characters they created have been a part of our families for decades and their words have filled our hearts with a passion for reading. Let's celebrate their works and teaching!

Eoin was born in Wexford on the SE coast of Ireland. He developed a love for writing during his time in primary (elementary) school. He got his first degree from Dublin University. He returned to Wexford, upon completion of his college schooling, as a primary school teacher. In 2001 the first of the Artemis Fowl series was published. It received great reception and became an international success. To date, over half of his works have held a spot on the New York Times' Bestseller's list.

Rowling's life begins in Yate, Gloucestershire. She developed a passion for writing early in life. Her sister was her audience, as she would write and read her fantasy stories. Rowling attended St. Michael's Primary school. She was encouraged to study French at the University of Exeter, by her parents. After graduating, she began working for Amnesty International, which campaigns against human rights abuse on a global spread. In 1991 Rowling began teaching English to students in Portugal, where she met her first husband. A few years later the couple divorced and Rowling was left to raise her daughter on her own. She started working on her first book in the Harry Potter series, The Sorcerer's Stone. After being rejected by 12 publishing companies, Bloomsbury Publishing made an offer. In 1996 it was published and the world was introduced to Harry Potter. Five months later the book won the Nestle Smarties Books Prize followed by the British Book Award for Children's Book of the year. In 1998 an auction was held in the US to gain publishing rights for the novel. Scolastic
  won with $150,000. Today, the series is considered to be
the bestselling series of all time worldwide.

Philip Pullman started out in Norwich England. Pullman received his third class BA from Exeter College. He taught middle school children at Bishop Kurk Middle School in Summertown, North Oxford while taking time to pursue his passion for writing. Count Karlstein, his first children's book was published in 1982 followed by the publication of The Ruby in the Smoke in 1986. His teaching career continued at Westminster College, Oxford. His work on His Dark Materials began in 1993. He still enjoys taking time to write today. He has also been known to lecture at Oxford for various events and classes.


Laura Ingles Wilder was born in Pepin WI with 4 siblings. Most of her childhood was spent in Kansas, which would become the setting for Little House on the Prairie. Due to her family, constantly, being on the move, she and her siblings taught themselves and each other. She decided to become a teacher later on to help with her family's income. She stopped teaching when she was married and began raising a family of her own. In the 1920's, Wilder began writing about her childhood experiences and 1932 marks the publishing date of Little House in the Big Woods, the first of the autobiographical series, Little House. The books would go on to become a TV series viewed in homes across the US and still are today.

C.S.Lewis's life started in Belfast, Ireland in 1898. He received his pre-college education from boarding schools and tutors. His college education came from Oxford with a focus in literature and classic philosophy. In 1925 he was awarded a fellowship teaching position at Magdalen College. Here, he joined a group called the Inklings, whose members included J.R.R.Tolkien and his brother, Warren Lewis. Through conversations he had with his peers, he found himself re-embracing spirituality and Christianity. He would become a renowned writer for his apologists-texts and philosophy on spirituality. During WWII Lewis began a series of radio broadcasts on Christianity and (later) were collected in the work Mere Christianity. In the 50's Lewis began working on the 7 books that would become The Chronicles of Narnia beginning with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Although it received negative reviews, after first being published, it has become and international classic families have shared for decades.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Welcome to Prentisstown: Where everyone knows your secrets

The Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness. 


The story begins in Prentisstown where we meet Todd Hewitt and his dog, Manchee. Todd is on the brink of his 13th birthday which means he will become a man. Prentisstown is not your typical small town. There are no women. The town is full of Noise. What is Noise? Well, in this town, the men can hear each other's thoughts. There is no privacy, just Noise. Todd's world is turned upside down when he makes a discovery in the woods. A discovery that will send him and Manchee running for their lives. 
The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer, Monsters of Men

There are so many trilogies and series out in the YA genre right now but Chaos Walking is worth every word read. It's a story about flawed people, forgiveness, redemption, responsibility, revenge, and what it means to become a man/woman/enter adulthood. Every action has a reaction that leads to another reaction which leads to consequences. It is a vicious cycle that can create chaos, violence, and even war. These are real moral dilemmas and Ness tackles them with graceful writing. He takes the reader by the hand and begs them to ask, What if...? He shows us that change can be made no matter what our age, race, or sex is. We all have a voice and that voice speaks much louder than acts of violence. 

As each story progresses, the characters seek change in the world they live in. But everyone is different and so are their definitions of change. However, coming to a conclusion or compromise proves to be a more difficult task.

A warning to readers. This is a series that isn't easy to put down or forget. It sticks with you long after the last chapter has ended. The story, the characters...They become a part of you. And that, to me, is what a good story should be. Because if it's that good, you will not want to forget it.