Monday, January 31, 2011

YA ghostwriters

I guess I should find it refreshing that Hilary Duff admits she can't spell.  Lauren Conrad expects us to believe that she writes her books all by herself. 

Actually, maybe she does. I give you the first sentence of Sweet Little Lies:
Jane Roberts sat up on her white chaise longue and gazed at the horizon between the vast blue ocean and the vast blue sky.
Inspiring, yes?  I would kind of love to be a celebrity ghostwriter.  Hook me up, Hilary.

100 Young Adult Books for the Feminist Reader

What a fantastic idea for a book list.  Thank you, Bitch Magazine.  I'm especially impressed by how many current titles are included.  There are lots that I haven't read, so I better get cracking.

A couple of their choices surprise me, such as For the Win, by Cory Doctorow.  I haven't read it yet, but I must admit that although I found Little Brother to be many things, feminist was not amongst them.  Maybe Cory is stepping up his lady game.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty, by Greg Neri and Randy DuBurke

Based on the true story of an 11-year-old Chicago kid who accidentally killed a young girl in the 1994.  He was trying to impress the older members of his gang.

Pros:  Does a really good job of reminding you that Yummy was only 11 (he got beaten up all the time in juvie because he had a teddy bear) without completely letting him off the hook.  Neri did a lot of research, and it shows.

Cons: The fact that the (fictional) narrator is a boy Yummy's age who is outside the gang life might make this a little less appealing for some older teens.

Recommended for: This is definitely intended for teens--middle school students, really. It's tragic, but not graphic. I would try it on kids who ask for hard knock stories, urban lit, etc. Not a bad read for grown-ups either.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Comics for English majors

You're already reading Hark! A Vagrant, right?  If not, please begin right away.  Not surprisingly, the nerdier English major ones  are my favorites, although I am also a big fan of the adventures of the mystery-solving teenagers.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Found on the teen bookshelves

by our teen volunteers:  one whole egg.  I'm pretty sure it was hardboiled, but I didn't test it to make sure.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ninth Ward, by Jewell Parker Rhodes

What a lovely, heart-breaking little poem of a book.  Lanesha lives in New Orleans with Mama Ya-Ya, the elderly midwife who took her in when her own teen mother died in childbirth.  Lanesha loves math, wants to be an engineer, and is happy with her life and her neighborhood.  This, despite being ostracized at school and abandoned by her mother's compartively wealthy relatives, who live Uptown. 

Also, she sees ghosts.  But that's not really what the book is about, so please do not be distracted by the seeing of dead people.

Before Hurricane Katrina hits, Mama Ya-Ya sees signs that it is going to be bad.  But she and Lanesha have no car and no money to leave the city.  So they prepare as best they can, and wait.  Lanesha has to be braver than she ever thought she could be in order to survive.

I admit, I have not read any of the Newberry nominees this year.  Still, I can only assume that Ninth Ward was not nominated for a Newberry because it takes place after the Great Depression.  (Seriously, can a contemporary children's novel catch a break these days?  I think the kids get it about the Depression.  Times were tough!)  I'd recommend this book to just about any 4th-7th grader, but especially to bookish girls.  It's a beaut.

The Spy

The serious library thieves rip the RFID tags out of books.  That way, the books don't beep as they're being smuggled out the door.  When I find the tags lying around, I scan them in as lost. They usually turn out to be comic books or maybe erotica.  Today? 

A Clive Cussler book in Large Print.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

This guy's heart seems to be in the right place

but what year is it where he lives?
Our young adults are devouring this stuff. YA Lit is the only growth sector of the publishing industry these days. To parents, it can be disturbing that this ghoulish subject matter is what our eighth or ninth graders consider "reading for pleasure." It may even make you long for the days of Saturday morning cartoons.
Really?  You long for the days when our 14-year-olds avoided those scary, scary books and watched Bugs Bunny instead?  Ooookay.

There is a certain amount of overlap

between library regulars and patrons of comic book stores.

What I should be blogging about

If I were a good book blogger, I would blog heavily on topics such as the ALA book awards.  Also, I would have blogged about them a couple of weeks ago, when they were topical. 

Here is my question:  Does anyone besides librarians (and possibly booksellers) care about these awards?  Maybe just the Newberry and the Caldecott?  I feel like if anything, a Printz seal on the cover of a book (awarded for fanciness in writing for teens) is the kiss of death for getting a teenager interested in a book.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Ellen Potter, please be my friend

I am doing a pretty amazing job with this book blog so far, yes?  You are amazed?  I thought so.

One thing about me and blogs is that I suck at staying on topic.  I intended for this blog to follow my thrilling adventures in teen literature, but lately even teen literature has been too much for my overtaxed brain.  So I'm reading middle grade fiction.  When I get down to easy readers I'll start to worry.

My latest and most fervent author crush is on Ellen Potter.  Even her website is fun.  I have long loved her (underappreciated) Olivia Kidney books, and I just finished The Kneebone Boy.  It's got everything a kid could want:  mystery, adventure, a mysterious castle with a kid-sized castle right next door (!), secret passages, royal children locked in tower rooms, exiled sultans--seriously, I  love this book and want to marry it. Look at the cover!  Judge it by that, and ye shall judge wisely.

(Not for nothing, but Ellen Potter is only three years older than I am, which makes me feel terrible about myself.  It is only when I read bad books that I think I could write one.  It's probably not good to feel more inspired by garbage.) 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Cover story

There are so many young adult novels that might be great, but will never be read by a teenager due to their terrible covers. Case in point, Allison Whittenberg's new book:

I've read a couple of Whittenberg's previous books, and they were good-if-not-amazing African American tween fiction.  This one is a romance. I personally like the cover, but the intended audience is just not going to go for it.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Boy Books

Since my other blog is mostly just complaints and random information about my child that is interesting to almost no one, I decided to start an actual book-and-library-related blog. We'll see how it goes.

Nothing drives me battier than teen and children's librarians wringing their hands and begging for somebody to please think of the boys.  Plenty of people are thinking about the boys.  The boys are fine.  But I'm willing to concede that there are probably more good girl books out there, especially for teens.  This is mostly because publishers feel more confident marketing to girls, I think.

So I've been trying to read more boy books the past few weeks with, I must admit, not a ton of success.  Here are some recent failures.

Finnikin of the Rock, by Melina Marchetta
This must be a good book--all the reviews are glowing.  But I can't seem to get past chapter two.  Soooo booooring.  Maybe I'm just not a good fantasy reader, because any fantasy book that opens with "And then this people slayeth that people, and lo, there was despair across the land, and then many eons passed" leaves me cold.  Actually, Saving Francesca is the only Marchetta book I've been interested in enough to finish, so maybe I just don't get this author.

I Am Number Four, by "Pittacus Lore"
As you have probably heard, James Frey of A Million Little Pieces fame is now spending his time preying on desperate, impoverished MFA students.  In a nutshell, he has them sign away all their rights to their work, then he throws a giant marketing push behind their work.  I felt like I should read this, because the premise--alien teen on earth is our only hope for survival--was interesting, and the teens are reading it.  But I thought it was pretty bad.  Repetitive and bad.  Bad, while at the same time being repetitive.  If you know what I mean.

Borderline, by Allan Stratton
I wanted to like this book, about a Muslim Canadian--I mean, American*--teen whose father is taken away by the FBI under suspicion of planning a terrorist attack.  But the resolution was a little far fetched, and the subplot about bullying kind of dumb.  Still, it wasn't bad, and I'll probably recommend it now and again.

Clearly, I need help.  Have you read a great boy book lately?

*Stratton is Canadian, and he set the book just over the border in New York, I guess to entice the larger American readership.  But these kids are so Canadian.