Friday, November 21, 2008

PiLibrarian's Best YA Novels for Adult Readers (Part 1)

During a conversation with author Alex Sanchez in September, he mentioned several authors I hadn't heard of. I was beginning to feel quite out of things until I asked, "Are these authors for grownups?" Ahh, no wonder . . . it's all I can do to keep up with reading for my teenage audience.

Adult readers, do not dispair. I do have recommendations for you too! Every year, dozens of books are published and marketed to teen readers that many adults would enjoy, if they ever found them. Everyone knows about Harry Potter and Twilight: here's my list of Young Adult Novels for Adult Adults. Give one to yourself, or to any book-loving adult (or even a young adult reader). You may find yourself wondering why you never tried YA before.

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation:
Volume 1: The Pox Party
Volume 2: The Kingdom on the Waves
by M. T. Anderson

This 2-volume tale of a boy raised in pre-Revolutionary Boston as an experiment (only slowly to realize that he and his African-born mother are, in fact, slaves) is dark and complex, told by multiple characters and writing styles in 18th century English. From a boyhood of violin and Greek lessons, to
betrayal, escape and counter-revolution, Octavian's life is stunning and disturbing history and fiction.
For more, read this Washington Post interview with the author, or the New York Times reviews: Vol.1 & Vol. 2.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

High school junior Hannah Baker gives a narrated city tour on 13 cassette tapes. On this tour are locations of events, both small and large, that led Hannah to her decision to kill herself a few weeks before the story opens. Fellow junior Clay Jenson is listening to the tapes and wondering why he is among the 13 people on Hannah's list to receive them. For anyone who works with or parents teenagers, 13 Reasons Why shows how the accumulation of hurts, bullying, petty behaviour and thoughtlessness can push a seemingly ok teen over the suicide brink.

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

A fast-paced, snarky, funny, educational, subversive diatribe against Homeland Security, the Patriot Act, Internet censorship and lots of other things. In the wrong place at the wrong time (and skipping school, no less), 17-year-old Marcus is arrested and interrogated for days as a suspected terrorist. When he's abruptly released into the police state that had been San Francisco, Marcus uses his hacking talents and an old Xbox to create an alternate Internet, rallying teens across the city to action, and ultimately bringing down Homeland Security. When Big Brother starts watching, Little Brother stares right back.

Doctorow is a novelist, Creative Commons proponent, and co-editor of the popular BoingBoing weblog.
Little Brother has been used as the base for at least one secondary school course on civil liberties and tech literacy. Here's the New York Times review of Little Brother.

Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Worldwide tsunamis, earthquakes and almost immediate climate change occur when an asteriod collision permanently alters the orbit of the moon. Miranda's journal captures her Pennsylvania family's first year of transition to a new world -- a year of no electricity, sporadic communication, dwindling medical care and rising famine. A companion book, The Dead and the Gone (review), is equally powerful.

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Miles goes off to boarding school looking for Rabelais' "Great Perhaps." His quest shifts to "Why" after his close friend, the magnetic, enigmatic, elusive Alaska, is killed (or kills herself) in a drunken car crash. A coming-of-age novel that I won't compare to (but which is possibly as good as) any.

John Green is an author to watch, not to mention smart, funny and tech-savvy. He also has a blog (start with this speech he gave to ALAN), a one-year-videoblog
with his brother Hank (Brotherhood 2.0), where they pioneered the word "nerdfighter."

More fiction and non-fiction titles to come . . . stay tuned.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Recently Read:
A Bunch of Boy Books

I know, it's not so cool to tag a novel a "girl book" or a "boy book," but go ahead and see who checks out the Princess Diaries or Twilight series, and who checks out Alex Rider books, and draw your own conclusions :-)

So I just read three new YA novels in a row with smart teenage guy characters working with universal teenage guy stuff -- friends, girls and parents. Each one has its own spin, and I recommend them all.

How Ya Like Me Now? is the latest novel from Brendan Halpin, author of Donorboy (a JH Reading Bowl book). It's about two cousins, Eddie and Alex, who end up sharing a room, school and a family, and become friends. Since his dad died, Eddie's been raising himself in the middle class suburbs while his mom kills her sorrow with OxyContin. DFCS enters the picture, Eddie moves in with Aunt Lily, Uncle Brian and smart, smooth, slacker Alex, and starts school at the decidedly different Francis Abernathy Center for Urban Education. On the wierd side, FA-CUE is an experimental school based on a business model (they have a CEO instead of a principle). On the difficult side, Eddie is going from an all-white school to being one of a tiny minority, and Alex isn't helping the transition much. On the plus side, at CUE, kids want to look at your A+ test, not beat you up for it. It's cool to be smart. Girls like it, too.

Sure, Eddie learns to fit in and be a regular kid. Alex starts to see that "reaching your full potential" (aka, "making As") feels pretty good. And you'll like how Eddie gets comfortable in his cool white dork skin, with lines like "Yes, I will now discontinue my fronting . . . you may or may not be aware, I am the mack. Kelvin pronounced it so."

Jennifer Bradbury's Shift is also about high school buddies changing their lives. Chris and Win, also known as chrisandwin, have been like twins since 4th grade, except blue-collar Chris has loving, almost over-attentive parents, while wealthy Win's parents are either controlling, disappointed or have forgotten him altogether.

They put together a plan to ride cross-country, from West Virginia to Seattle, after graduation. As usual, Chris does most of the work while Win does most of the talking, flirting and whining. Over a couple of thousand miles, Chris gets totally irritated with his buddy, so when Win rides off and leaves him on the side of the road in Montana, Chris finishes the trip on his own, goes home to start Georgia Tech, and figures "good riddance." At least until the FBI shows up.

When did the shift in their friendship happen? Did their lives shift for the better, or out of control? What happened to Win?

The final novel of the bunch is Unwind, by sci-fi/fantasy writer Neal Shusterman (Everlost, Full Tilt, Dread Locks). In this America, the pro-life/pro-choice factions have finally settled their differences and come to a workable compromise for both sides. Abortion is forbidden, and every conceived child is protected by law. However, if by the age of 13 a child isn't working out for the parents, they can choose to retroactively abort, or Unwind, the kid. Unwound kids don't die, really, it's just that 100% of their parts are "harvested" and sent off as transplants. They live on, sort of, in lots of other people.

Connor is sixteen when his parents sign the Unwind order. Anger and impulsivity work in his favor when he runs away, causes a huge traffic accident, becomes a legend and finds fellow Unwinds Risa and Lev, each being sent to "Harvest Camp" for different reasons. What happens to Connor and his fellow Unwinds as they desperately try to save their lives, will make you think about parents and teens, growing up and making mistakes, and where progress in medicine might take us. If you liked House of the Scorpion, Unwind is a great book for you.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

2 Things I Bet You Didn't Know You Could Do . . .

on Surpass Web Safari, the Paideia Library's online catalog.

1) Post your own Book Reviews

Love your summer reading choices? Want to recommend Reading Bowl books to others?? The page for every item in the catalog has a place for you to write and post a review.

Search for an item

• Scroll down on the page until you see Patron Reviews.
Posted reviews (if there are any yet) will display, along with a link for you to post your own.

• Complete the review form and submit it.
After one of the librarians approves the review, it'll appear on the item's page for everyone to see.

2) Check Your Account Online

Just like the big libraries!

• First you'll need to contact one of the librarians to get your initial login password (you'll be able to change it later)

• Go to Surpass Web Safari and click on the Login link at the bottom of the left sidebar. Enter your name (or your library card number if you know it) and password.

• When you're successfully logged in, you will see your name next to the Log Out Link in the horizontal purple bar across the top of the screen.

• You can now change your password, check what items you have checked out, and renew any overdue items. Most items have a renewal limit of 2 times.

Like these features? Let us know! Have any trouble with them, or have any suggestions for more cool stuff? Let us know that too!

I hope to hear from you soon.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Recently Read:
13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Maybe you've heard the story about the young man who stopped to help an unpopular, geeky classmate pick up a bunch of books he'd dropped on a Friday afternoon? Turns out, the lonely high schooler had just cleared out his locker and was on his way home to kill himself. That single act of kindness changed the teen's mind, he lived to grow and prosper, and become one of the nation's most highly respected minds.

Thirteen Reasons Why is the story of the other choice -- what happens when seemingly unconnected actions build into a series, and no single act of kindness appears to alter a lonely teen's chosen way out? Hannah Baker, in a voice clear and strong, takes classmate Clay Jensen on an audiotape tour of their hometown, and tells us exactly why she committed suicide a few weeks before the novel begins.

Clay has had a crush on Hannah for a long time. He wanted to ask her out, he got a job just so he could be near her, they even made out at a party once -- he was a perfect gentleman and still doesn't understand what happened that night. So when a box of cassette tapes arrives at his door, he can't figure out why he's on Hannah's list. What did he do to her?? Thirteen tapes, thirteen people, thirteen reasons why Hannah gave up on herself and life.

What have you done, or not done, that's a part of somebody else's pain? Can you fix it? Will you get another chance? Will Clay?

You might also want to read:

Nelson, Richard E.
The power to prevent suicide : a guide for teens helping teens / Richard E. Nelson and Judith C. Galas ;

Cobain, Bev, 1940-
When nothing matters anymore : a survival guide for depressed teens / by Bev Cobain ; edited by Eliz

A guide to understanding and coping with depression, discussing the different types, how and why the condition begins, how it may be linked to substance abuse or suicide, and how to get help.

Mayfield, Sue.
Drowning Anna / Sue Mayfield.

After being befriended by the most popular girl in her new school, the brainy and shy Anna is puzzled when their warm friendship descends into cruelty and violence.

Glenn, Mel.
Split image : a portrait in poems / Mel Glenn.

A series of poems reflect the thoughts and feelings of various people--students, the librarian, parents, the principal, and others--about the seemingly perfect Laura Li and her life inside and out of Tower High School.

Freymann-Weyr, Garret, 1965-
Stay with me / by Garret Freymann-Weyr.

When her sister kills herself, sixteen-year-old Leila goes looking for a reason and, instead, discovers great love, her family's true history, and what her own place in it is.

Fields, Terri, 1948-
After the death of Anna Gonzales / Terri Fields.

Poems written in the voices of forty-seven people, including students, teachers, and other school staff, record the aftermath of a high school student's suicide and the preoccupations of teen life.

Corrigan, Eireann, 1977-
You remind me of you : a poetry memoir / by Eireann Corrigan.

Autobiographical poems recount events in a teenager's life, including her battles with eating disorders, her time in treatment facilities, and the suicide of her boyfriend.

Now Showing:
Face Jugs by JH Artists

From art teacher Joe Cillo:

"The face jugs were created by my 8th Grade Art Foundations class. We talked about local families who have continued this clay tradition in North Georgia and referred to the book Brothers in Clay from our library.

Some History

Between 1810 and 1865, an abundance of functional pottery was produced in the remote Edgefield Potteries in South Carolina and sold to neighboring counties and states. Edgefield Potteries was worked in part by artisan slaves who turned the pots, pushed the wheels, carried the pottery and loaded the kilns. In their free time, some of the artisans made pottery of their own choice. Many of them chose to make jugs and pots now known as Face Vessels. These were often stoneware jugs modeled in the shape of human faces. They were most often alkaline glazed stoneware in simple, earthy tones. Though there are many gaps in historical data regarding the making, use and meaning of the face vessel pottery, there is no doubt that the vessels were original, functional artistic expressions of the African slave culture of the time. This all adds to the mystery of possible deeper meaning of the Face Vessels in the slave culture.

Few of the skilled potters who made Face Vessels have been identified by name and their inspiration for making face vessels is really unknown. Researchers speculate that the vessels may have had religious or burial significance, or that they reflect the complex responses of people attempting to live and maintain their personal identities under cruel and often difficult conditions.
Face vessels have been found along the routes of the Underground Railroad and on gravesites, both indicating how highly they were valued and how closely connected they were with the enslaved African American’s own culture.

Come see all 26 of these amazing works of art -- on display now in the Paideia Junior High and High School Library!

A few of the other books on African American art and artists in the Paidiea Library:


Bearing witness :contemporary works by African American women artists


Patton, Sharon F.
African-American art /


Freeman, Roland L., 1936-
A communion of the spirits :
African-American quilters, preservers, and their stories /


Ittmann, John W.
Dox Thrash : an African American master printmaker rediscovered /


The quilts of Gee's Bend /