Monday, February 28, 2011

Slob, by Ellen Potter

Owen is really smart--just one IQ point away from "genius."  He's also the fattest kid in school.  He mostly tries to stick to a diet, but every day his mom puts two Oreos in his lunch. Those Oreos represent his one daily moment of joy, and when a bully begins stealing them, Owen begins plotting his revenge.

That's the kind of book you THINK this is going to be.  But it ends up being so, so much more.  Without being preachy, Slob is all about how truly mysterious people are, and how deceiving appearances can be.  Even your trusty, brainy narrator may be hiding a secret or two.

Pros:  Too many to list, but here is an example.  Owen's little sister, Jeremy, is a member of a club called GWAB.  You eventually learn that GWAB stands for Girls Who Are Boys, and that Jeremy's actual name is Caitlin.  But Owen doesn't explain all of this to you right away, because that's not how kids do.

Cons: I've got nothin'.  My love affair with Ellen Potter rages on.

Recommended for:  Fans of When You Reach Me and other great funny/sad J literature.  I would put this in the hands of just about any 5th or 6th grade boy.  Girls too, but especially boys.

Teens rule, babies drool, etc.

"While the total number of fiction books for children rose by 26 per cent between 2000 and 2010, this growth is down to the explosion in "young adult" (YA) fiction. The market for pre-teens has contracted, making up only 63 per cent of the total revenues for children's fiction in 2010, as against 85 per cent in 2005."
Also some discussion of how Stephenie Meyer ruins everything.


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Banished, by Sophie Littlefield

Wheeee, look at me!  I read a contemporary fantasy! 

This is not my best genre.  I know the kids love it but I am so, so sick of the forbidden human/creature romance. The next vampire I meet is getting kicked in the teeth (fangs).

But anyway, I quite liked this.  Hailey lives with her evil, nasty, abusive grandmother, who deals drugs for a living and has no noticeable redeeming qualities.  She loves and takes care of Chub, a developmentally delayed 4-year-old boy that her grandmother adopted, took a brief interest in, and promptly discarded. 

Hailey discovers she has healing powers.  An unknown aunt shows up out of nowhere.  Can she trust the aunt?  Her powers?  What the heck is going on?

  • Contains no vampires, werewolves, fairies, demons, zombies, etc.  Romance is suggested at the end, but is not a major theme.  Also, romantic interest is a real live human boy! 
  • Suspenseful.
  • First in a series.  I know, I know, I just have to learn to accept it.
  • The villains are very, very villain-y.  No gray areas here.
Recommended for: If there is overlap between fans of A Child Called It (and other stories of abuse) and fans of contemporary/urban fantasy--and I think there is--this is the perfect book for them.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

PCL takes the GRC*

I know most of you probably already read The Pop Culture Librarian, right?  You're no fools. 

Now she is taking the Global Reading Challenge, so be sure not to miss that.

*Librarians love acronyms.  Or maybe that's library administrators?  Somebody loves them, anyway, because we are swimming in them.

Cold outside

So many of the teens who hang out at my work are homeless.  I'll think I know most of our current homeless population, and then one baby-faced kid that I never suspected will yell to another, "Hey, is Orion open tonight?"  "Nope, just the shelter."  "Sucks, man.  It's cold outside."  "Yeah."

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

And today in teen movie news

Selena Gomez is going to be in the Thirteen Reasons Why movie.  I am only vaguely aware of who she is, although that link makes it pretty plain that she is Disney Affiliated ™.

I never got around to reading that book, but the kids love it.  It's about a teen who commits suicide and then leaves behind a bunch of cassette tapes explaining, well, you know. 

Does any teenager still have access to cassette tapes?  That's where my willing suspension of disbelief fails me.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is being made into a movie

and Hermione is going to be in it!  Poutily so.

Recent rejects

Happy Valentimes Day!  On this day of love I give you a post of hate.  Or, more accurately, a post of rejection.

Nancy Pearl says you should give every book you read fifty pages to make sure it doesn't suddenly become wonderful.  (She also has an algorithm based on how old you are, so that if you're old you can put books down faster.  I approve.)  I'm a great admirer of Nancy Pearl, and I'm sure I would be a wiser, more well-rounded person if I always read at least fifty pages of each book I picked up.  But I don't. 

Here is the first installment in what will be an ongoing series of rejects.

Stork, by Wendy Delsol

The deal:  So I guess this girl moves from L.A. to Minnesota and discovers that she is part of an ancient order of mystical ladies.  But I don't really know, because . . .

How far I got: pg. 2.

Why rejected:  "Clutching my Juicy Couture velour jacket to my throat, I hurried across the road." --pg. 2

Okay.  It's not just the Juicy Couture name dropping that bugs me.  Does anyone's internal monologue actually note the brand and material of your coat each time you "clutch it to [your] throat"?  (Which, p.s., get a scarf.)  We're probably supposed to realize that this character* is still a superficial L.A. gal right now, but will soon become a mystical Minnesotan who cares little for such frippery.  I just don't care to take that journey.

Found, by Margaret Peterson Haddix

The deal: Thirteen years ago, a plane showed up on a runway, filled with babies!  And no adults!  Weird.  Now, a couple of middle school kids--both adopted--have gotten notes saying "You are one of the missing."  And their parents don't seem to want to answer their questions.

How far I got:  pg. 53!  Yay me.

Why rejected:  This book isn't bad.  I like Margaret Peterson Haddix in general.  The writing seemed a little more stilted than her usual stuff (I wonder how old she is now?), and I didn't find myself desperate to find out the deal with the babies on the plane.  I've already booktalked it to middle schoolers using the few sentences above, and that's enough to get them interested.  Also, I'm balking at getting involved in series these days.

Do you read at least fifty pages of every book?  Or even--gasp--finish every book you start?  How do you decide when you've given a book a fair shake?

*Her name is Katla. Is it me, or is there a rule right now that every fantasy/sci fi protagonist girl has to have a name beginning with "Kat"?  Katsa, Katniss, etc.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

I like your dress

First interaction of the day.

Library Patron: This is New Moon, but I think I need Breaking Dawn.  That's the last one in the series, right?  I've read the other three.

Me:  Right!  Let's go get that for you.

LP: They wanted us to read a lot of books in prison, so I read those books.  I thought they were pretty interesting.

Me:  Yup, they're really popular.

LP:  I also read a book in prison called Women Who Love Men Who Kill.  They had a little quiz in there?  And I scored really high on it. 

I like your dress.

Revolver, by Marcus Sedgwick

I'm on a hot streak of good books right now.  Revolver was a Printz Honor Book, and I can see why.  Actually, I think it's a better book than Ship Breaker, though I liked that one too.

It's 1910, and teenaged Sig is alone in a small cabin in the frozen far north.  Well, not quite alone--his father's frozen body is slumped in a corner.  His sister and stepmother have gone to get help.  There is an ominous knock on the door.

I don't want to tell you much more about the plot because it'll give too much away.  It zigzags back and forth in time between Sig's drama in the cabin and his father's past.

Pros:  I'm all pro on this one, baby.  It's super suspenseful, an easy read (but with lovely, spare language), and nice and short--200 pages.  It grapples with God and the nature of faith, the question of when violence is justified, and has a lot of the elements that fans of survival stories look for. 

Cons: Just one:  the cover.  I've never read Sedgwick before, mostly I think because his covers are always boring.  This one is no exception. 

Recommended for: Just about everyone.  Maybe even my dad.  Horn Book says, "will appeal to fans of Gary Paulsen, Jack London, and even Cormac McCarthy," and that seems right to me.  There are a couple of violent scenes that some might say are too much for middle school students, but they are certainly more tame than your average episode of Crime Scene: The Scene of the Crime.  I'm going to try to make all the boys in my teen advisory group read it.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

It's kind of amazing

how many adults request Choose Your Own Adventure books--and then get all kinds of put out when I direct them to the children's department. 

Where are the Choose Your Own Adventure books for adults?, they want to know.

Hush, by Eishes Chayil

The Hassidic communities of Brooklyn (and elsewhere) are so fascinating to me.  More fascinating than the crazy polygamists in the desert, more fascinating than the Amish.  Because they live right in the heart of 21st century industrialized urban culture, but they are completely separate from it.  They never speak to the goyim.  (That's us.)  They have never heard of Oprah.  They don't know how babies are made until the day before they get married. 

The protagonist of this book is Gittel, whose best friend Devory died when they were both nine years old.  Eventually you realize what had been happening to Devory--she was being raped by her older brother, whose Torah learning was praised by everyone.  Therefore, Devory must have been lying.  She ends up hanging herself in Gittel's bathroom.

You find that out about 1/3 of the way through the book, and the rest of the book is Gittel trying to make sense of what happened while the entire Hassidic community does everything possible to keep it quiet.

Pros:  This is a book about child abuse, but more than that, it's a peek into a culture that most teens know nothing about.  And unlike most teen books about ultra-religious sects, it's not the story of one teen's escape from that culture, which I liked.  The author is still a Hassidic Jew, writing under a pseudonym that means "Woman of Valor" in Yiddish.  It's not quite clear from her author's note if this story of abuse is hers, or of other children she knew.  But she makes it plain that many of the details are real.

Cons: Since the actual abuse isn't dwelt on, this probably won't be a hit with most of the teens who ask for A Child Called 'It' read-alikes.  (Not really a con for me personally.) 

The sexy pout "shut up so I can kiss you" cover is stupid.

Recommended for: High school students (probably girls, let's face it, although it wouldn't kill a boy to read a book like this)--maybe those who are fans of fantasy and historical fiction, and so have the patience for fairly elaborate world-building.

Monday, February 7, 2011

How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less, by Sarah Glidden

In this graphic memoir, Sarah Glidden tells the story of her birthright trip to Israel.  I was vaguely aware of the existence of birthright trips, but didn't know much about them.  Basically, if you can prove that you are a young Jewish adult living on the planet Earth, you can get a free trip to Israel.  While there, you will be taken to various locations and given background on the history of the land, both ancient and recent--from the Israeli perspective, of course.
Glidden embarks on the trip with very strong sympathy for the Palestinians.  She leaves with more questions than answers.

Pros: Strong storytelling.  Glidden is really good at drawing stuff that shouldn't really be drawable, like her internal struggle over whether or not the tour she is on is trying to brainwash her.  Also I love the watercolor illustrations.  If you are a lame-o like me who is interested in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but too lazy or lacking in attention span to read a Very Serious Book on the subject, give this one a whirl.
Cons: None really. 

Recommended for:  Grown-ups.  Maybe grown-ups who've read Maus and/or Persepolis.  There might be one or two older teens who would like it, especially those with a particular interest in the subject matter.  It would also make a good curriculum tie-in for high schools studying recent Middle East history.

Last blabbing about Bitch's booklist honestly I swear

The controversy over Bitch's "100 Books for the Feminist Reader" list rages on and on.  I've blabbed about it here and on Facebook and elsewhere, but since (let's face it) mine is the definitive opinion that everyone has been waiting for to decide this issue once and for all, I'll blab about it a little bit more here as well.

Basically, I agree with Brandy's assessment.  Librarians and YA authors love to get their knickers twisted up about censorship--me as much as anyone--but I just don't see the censorship issue here.  Bitch isn't banning or even challenging any books.  These books are still available everywhere!  Just like before!  So I think we should all take a deep breath on the censorship thing and let. it. go.

Bitch has the free speech right to make whatever kind of list they want, and to add and remove books from it willy-nilly if that is what they are into.  Unfortunately, they are total crap at making lists.  Good book lists, as nerdy librarians everywhere are aware, are made according to clear criteria and stick to them.  Obviously, Bitch isn't doing that. Thank you, Bitch, for demonstrating that librarianism is not as easy as it looks!  I have a soft spot for you and your righteous feminist raging, but maybe you should stick to what you're good at.  (The raging.  In case that wasn't clear.)

All of the garbage about "triggering" makes me want to barf.  It's patronizing and idiotic.  Don't let girls who've had [x problem] read about it, or oh my heavens, they will immediately be plunged into the depths of that very problem, never to return!  That is just the dumbest.  I think a lot of readers gain mightily from reading about experiences similar to their own.  Of course, a lot of the "triggering" talk came from commenters on Bitch's website.  If I stopped reading all of the websites with obnoxious, malicious, and feeble-minded comments, I would just have to turn off the intertubes and go home.  So I can't fault Bitch for that.

BUT still they handled it terribly.  And it's not a good list.*  And they didn't read any of the books on it.  You have my permission to ignore it.

Case closed!  You're welcome.

*I didn't notice at first that Rampant by Diana Peterfreund is on that list, and I'm here to tell you, that book is about as unfeminist as they come.  In it, there is a rape which everyone--the victim, her friends, her teachers, her friend's mom--blames on the victim.  That's what you get for being out alone with a guy in Europe, ladies!  What did you expect?!  It's EUROPE.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


I was just chatting with a teen who was deeply bummed because she failed to do her algebra homework and got grounded . . . from church.  It started out sounding so much like my teen years, and ended up sounding so very, very different.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A patron just tried

to take her "service cat" on the escalator.  Judging by the cat's reaction, I'm guessing escalator training is not a big part of the official service cat curriculum.

Whoa dude

Somebody deleted my personal (not professional) library card from the system.  Gone without a trace. 
Somehow this makes me feel vaguely paranoid.


My card is back in the system . . . but with some older settings.  It was definitely gone before, though.  A glitch in the system?  A wishy-washy nemesis?  Hmm . . .

Feminist YA list update

This is fascinating.  Apparently some commenters argued that some of the books weren't feminist, so Bitch removed them from the list.  Then authors like Scott Westerfeld got pissed off and asked for their books to be removed from the list in protest.

I happen to be a Scott Westerfeld fan, and I'm as anti-censorship as they come.  But I kind of think Scott is being a big baby here.  I mean, Bitch isn't banning or censoring or in any way telling people not to read those books--they just decided to take them off the list.  And to my mind, they can put whatever books they want on their list, whether the authors like it or not.  They could make a list of the 100 Worst YA Books of All Time if they wanted to. 

I say suck it up, YA authors, and save your vitriol for actual book challenges.  They are plentiful enough.

Thanks for the link, Brandy.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A teen in my neighborhood

is a famous authoress.*

*The word "authoress":  sexist or not sexist?  Discuss.