Monday, March 30, 2009

Contest: Win a Book!

Thanks to the incredible generosity of Simon & Schuster, I have FOUR hardcover copies of Far From You, the latest novel in verse from Lisa Schroeder. So, I'm doing another contest!

Please comment on this post with your name and an email address. I'll randomly select four people to win copies of this book. The drawing will be held on Monday, April 13, at 12pm EST. You must comment by Monday, April 13 at 9am EST to be eligible for this drawing. Feel free to advertise this on your blog, via Twitter, or any other method you like.

Curious about the book? Here's a summary:

By Lisa Schroeder

Lost and alone...down the rabbit hole.

Years have passed since Alice lost her mother to cancer, but time hasn't quite healed the wound. Alice copes the best she can by writing her music, losing herself in her love for her boyfriend, and distancing herself from her father and his new wife.

But when a deadly snowstorm traps Alice with her stepmother and newborn half sister, she'll face issues she's been avoiding for too long. As Alice looks to the heavens for guidance, she discovers something wonderful.

Perhaps she's not so alone after all....

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Review: Wintergirls

Laurie Halse Anderson
Viking; 2009; 978-0-670-01110-0 (hardcover)

Summary: Lia is skinny-skinnier-skinniest. That's because she's starving herself, drowning out the voices that say stupid/ugly/stupid/bitch/stupid/fat. But the voices are still there, no matter how little she eats or how much she cuts herself. And now she's seeing the ghost of her dead ex-best friend. Cassie called Lia thirty-three times the night she died. What did she want to say? Will Lia find out what Cassie's message was by starving herself to death?

Three Things to Know About Wintergirls

#1: Form meets function.

Wintergirls represents how a story's form helps tell it. Lia's voice is full of tangents and cross-outs, strange imagery and poetic language. Laurie Halse Anderson choose to use typography and layout as one aspect of Lia's descent to rock bottom. Yet it doesn't feel gimmicky or a ploy for attention. The reader comes away from the novel feeling like Lia's story could only be told in this fashion.

#2: The shared world of girls.

An intriguing aspect of this novel is the central friendship between Lia and Cassie. It doesn't seem like an equal friendship, and the two girls couldn't be more dissimilar. Cassie is loud and brash and bulimic, Lia is quiet and unnoticed and anorexic. These two girls, however, are bound by their shared oath: to be the skinniest. Lia's mother says that she was happy when Lia moved in with her father and step-mother; it got Lia away from Cassie's influence. Lia doesn't agree with her mother, and for good reason. For even though they hadn't been friends for a year, there is still a connectiong between these two wintergirls. It was forged through fantasy novels and escapades and binges and purges. Does a lack of contact or even death break such a friendship?

#3: Discovering the iceberg underneath.

Throughout most of the novel, Lia's manner of expression and the ghosts she sees can be written off to her physical condition: it's natural that a girl on the verge of starving to death would be hallucinating. However, it slowly becomes clear that her eating disorder is only masking a greater problem. No one thought to question any deeper, though, because Lia never told anyone about her ghosts. Her parents are frustrated because Lia cannot see what they see; she cannot see that she is wasting away. But since her parents don't see as Lia sees, they lack the ability to reach out to her. It's only when Lia starts to talk, to share her innermost thoughts, that she begins to receive the help she needs--and not just for her anorexia.

Any review of this novel will not be able to capture the true richness of Wintergirls. It's a book that begs to be read by anyone who appreciates thoughtful writing. With imagery that is reminiscent of Francesca Lia Block and a story that could happen to any teenage girl, Wintergirls is a jewel from Laurie Halse Anderson.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Vote for me for the 2011 Printz!

So I'm standing for election to the 2011 Printz. Since you're here at my blog, feel free to look around and see how I review books and what I think about teen literature.

You can see me in action in video from the Candidates Forum; I'm in the second video, at around the 22:00 mark. Liz from A Chair, a Fireplace and a Tea Cozy interviewed me, too!

Thanks for considering me. And if you're curious about who else is running for YALSA offices, check out the official YALSA slate.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Review: Response

Paul Volponi
Penguin; 2009; 978-0-670-06283-6 (hardcover)

Summary: Noah and his friends have a simple plan: go into Hillsboro, steal a car, sell it to a chop shop, and pocket some cash. But even a simple plan doesn't always work. And while they're trying to figure out what to do, some white guys aren't too happy to see three black guys in their neighborhood. So they chase Noah and his friends. And one of the white guys has a baseball bat . . .

This slim novel has a lot to say. There's been so much discussion about race in the last year, in large part due to the presidential election, that it's easy to forget that racism is a serious problem in the United States. However, Response shows that even big problems still come down to people. At first after his beating, Noah is scared of white people, prone to believing the worst. Yet he slowly realizes that how he chooses to respond matters more than other people's actions.

Along the way, the reader gets a chance to see other perspectives, with dialogue from Noah's attacker and newspaper articles. These moments, reminiscent of Walter Dean Myers' Monster, help us see just how much Noah changes for the better as the result of the attack--and how much his attacker remains the same.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The World Beyond the Library's Walls

Share a Story - Shape a Future: The World Beyond the Library's Walls

Visiting your local library is one of the best first steps to improve the literacy of yourself or your children. The wealth of materials--books, music, movies, kits, and more--available for free or at very low cost presents an ideal opportunity during tough economic times to enhance your education.

Yet visiting the library is just a first step. What if your child is a reluctant reader? How can you fit in reading when you're so busy? You may not know it, but your local library probably offers a wealth of services you can enjoy from home, as long as you have a computer and an Internet connection. Or, if you're economizing by downsizing your online access, you can stop by the library and use their computers to explore the variety of online worlds.

Let's take a look at something for every age.

Toddlers, Preschoolers, and the Whole Family: Interactive Books
Here's a win-win situation: inspire your little ones with a love of reading while helping them gain valuable computer skills. There are a variety of websites, some of which may be provided by your library, that feature picture books that have been brought to life. TumbleBooks, for example, has digitized a wide range of picture books. BookFlix from Scholastic pairs picture book videos produced by Weston Woods with nonfiction tie-ins. And don't overlook the possibility that your library has electronic books for children.

Elementary Age: Interactive Websites
Publishers are now applying a wide range of tactics to improve literacy and promote reading. Perhaps the best-known example is The 39 Clues, a ten-book series that is packaged with trading cards and a website. The idea is to encourage children and young teens to go on a scavenger hunt for information within the books and then compete to solve the mystery. While there has been some criticism of this concept, for reluctant readers who need a hook to get into literature, this approach might be just what you need.

Middle School: Virtual Worlds
More than any other age group, tweens are being targed for a variety of online virtual worlds. Sites such as MySpace and LiveJournal have age limits that are designed to prevent sign-ups by children under the age of thirteen. Therefore, every day it seems like there's a new site for children ages nine through fourteen. Many of these are from corporate organizations and warrant scrutiny from parents. Happily, there are options, such as the Girl Scouts: now scouts are able to visit websites, videoconference with troops in other countries, and write their own blogs. These sites work to encourage self-expression and improve analytical and writing skills.

High School: Authors Online
For many authors now, writing their books is just the start. Their online presence is a way to connect with fans, solicit feedback, and promote their works. Sarah Dessen readers can become a fan of the author on Facebook; you can follow Coe Booth or Neil Gaiman on Twitter, the micro-blogging site; Ned Vizzini and David Levithan are just a few of the authors on MySpace. This is on top of websites and/or blogs that most authors now have. And for some authors, their online projects have become just as popular as their books. John Green started a project with his brother Hank to communicate through short videos, one posted each weekday, for a year. After the conclusion of the year, they've continued posting videos, gaining a large online following as the VLog Brothers.

Adults: Chapter-a-Day Emails and E-Audiobooks
With your busy day, you might have overlooked your own literacy needs. Yet there are ways to squeeze in some time for reading--which is important not just for yourself, but to model literacy behaviors for your children. For example, there's several chapter-a-day programs such as Dear Reader, where each week, you're sent an email a day with a chapter or excerpt from a book. At the end of the week, you can either get the book from your library or wait for next week's selection. Your library might also provide access to electronic audiobooks: you can download an audio version of a book and listen to it on your MP3 player or even burn a CD of the audiobook.

The next time you visit the library, talk with a librarian about what services are available from home. They can provide you with customized information about what products and databases are provided to library users. In addition, they can tell you about other websites and resources to improve your family's literacy.

Share a Story - Shape a Future

Monday, March 09, 2009

Review: The Musician's Daughter

The Musician's Daughter
Susanne Dunlap
December 2008; Bloomsbury Children's Books; 978-1-599990-332-3 (hardcover)
Book provided by the author

Summary: Theresa lives in Vienna, a glittering city of music. As the daughter of a violinist in service to Prince Nicholas Esterhazy, Theresa is focused on learning music and trying to avoid her mother's disapproval of her viola playing. But then her father is murdered, and Theresa is thrust into a tangled mystery. What kind of man was her father and what was he involved in that lead to his death? What is the strange medallion found on his body and what happened to his violin? Theresa is out to find the answers . . . at any cost.

This action-packed historical mystery belies the chick-lit cover and pulls in the reader. This is due mostly to the character of Theresa. She is a headstrong, impulsive, clever fifteen-year-old, able to play a large role in the world she discovers yet still acting like the teenager she is. As she seeks to find the reason for her father's murder, the world of Vienna in the late eighteenth century is brought to life. The issues of the day--tense relations between Austria and Hungary, discrimination against ethnic groups like the Gypsies, and the ill health of Empress Maria Theresa--rub against everyday problems like surviving after the death of the family breadwinner and a girl's desire for more than a husband and babies. And through it all, there's music. The subplot of Franz Joseph Haydn and his declining eyesight weaves through the story, showing the power of music to lift spirits, even amidst tragedy and adversity.

For teens who like historical fiction that features a strong-willed girl and a sprawling plot, The Musician's Daughter would fit the bill. Recommend this to readers of The Luxe series and Bewitching Season.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Crosspost: New to Me: Forever . . .

I'm very excited about becoming a YALSA blogger, since the YALSA blog is full of great information for teen librarians or anyone interested in working with teens. Why not amble over to the YALSA blog and check out my first post?

New to Me: Forever . . .

Hope you enjoy it!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Thoughts: 100 YA Books

There's been a YA book meme (what's a meme?) going around on Facebook and on other blogs like Libarilly Blonde, and I thought I might do it here, both to see how I stack up and also to ask the question of what you think should be on this list--or shouldn't.

It's totally unscientific, but still a fun exercise!

The following list of books teens love, books teens should read, and
books adults who serve teens should know about was compiled IN
ABSOLUTELY NO SCIENTIFIC MANNER and should be taken with a very large
grain of salt.

Put an "X" next to the books you've read
Put a "+" next to the books you LOVE
Put a "#" next to the books you plan on reading
Tally your "X"s at the bottom
Share with your friends!

1. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy / Douglas Adams X
2. Kit's Wilderness / David Almond
3. Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian / Sherman Alexie
4. Speak / Laurie Halse Anderson X+
5. Feed / M.T. Anderson X
6. Flowers in the Attic / V.C. Andrews
7. 13 Reasons Why / Jay Asher #
8. Am I Blue? / Marion Dane Bauer (editor)
9. Audrey Wait! / Robin Benway X
10. Weetzie Bat / Francesca Lia Block X
11. Tangerine / Edward Bloor X
12. Forever / Judy Blume #
13. What I Saw and How I Lied / Judy Blundell #
14. Tyrell / Coe Booth X
15. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants / Ann Brashares X
16. A Great and Terrible Beauty / Libba Bray X
17. The Princess Diaries / Meg Cabot X
18. The Stranger / Albert Camus
19. Ender's Game / Orson Scott Card X
20. Postcards from No Man's Land / Aidan Chambers
21. Perks of Being a Wallflower / Stephen Chbosky
22. And Then There Were None / Agatha Christie
23. Gingerbread / Rachel Cohn
24. Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist / Rachel Cohn and David Levithan X
25. Artemis Fowl (series) / Eoin Colfer X
26. The Hunger Games / Suzanne Collins X
27. The Midwife's Apprentice / Karen Cushman X
28. The Truth About Forever / Sarah Dessen X
29. Little Brother / Cory Doctorow X
30. A Northern Light / Jennifer Donnelly X
31. Tears of a Tiger / Sharon Draper X
32. The House of the Scorpion / Nancy Farmer #
33. Breathing Underwater / Alex Flinn X
34. Stardust / Neil Gaiman
35. Annie on My Mind / Nancy Garden #
36. What Happened to Cass McBride / Gail Giles
37. Fat Kid Rules the World / K.L. Going X
38. Lord of the Flies / William Golding
39. Looking for Alaska / John Green X
40. Bronx Masquerade / Nikki Grimes X
41. Out of the Dust / Karen Hesse X
42. Hoot / Carl Hiaasen X
43. The Outsiders / S.E. Hinton #
44. Crank / Ellen Hopkins X
45 The First Part Last / Angela Johnson X
46. Blood and Chocolate / Annette Curtis Klause
47. Arrow's Flight / Mercedes Lackey
48. Hattie Big Sky / Kirby Larson X
49. To Kill a Mockingbird / Harper Lee X
50. Boy Meets Boy / David Levithan X
51. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks / E. Lockhart X+
52. The Giver / Lois Lowry X
53. Number the Stars / Lois Lowry X
54. Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie / David Lubar X
55. Inexcusable / Chris Lynch X
56. The Earth, My Butt and Other Big, Round Things / Carolyn Mackler X
57. Dragonsong / Anne McCaffrey
58. White Darkness / Geraldine McCaughrean
59. Sold / Patricia McCormick
60. Jellicoe Road / Melina Marchetta #
61. Wicked Lovely / Melissa Marr
62. Twilight / Stephenie Meyer
63. Dairy Queen / Catherine Murdock X
64. Fallen Angels / Walter Dean Myers
65. Monster / Walter Dean Myers
66. Step From Heaven / An Na X
67. Mama Day / Gloria Naylor
68. The Keys to the Kingdom (series) / Garth Nix
69. Sabriel / Garth Nix
70. Airborn / Kenneth Oppel X
71. Eragon / Christopher Paolini X
72. Hatchet / Gary Paulsen X
73. Life As We Knew It / Susan Beth Pfeffer X+
74. The Golden Compass / Phillip Pullman X
75. Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging / Louise Rennison X
76. The Lightning Thief / Rick Riordan X+
77. Always Running: La Vida Loca / Luis Rodriguez
78. how i live now / Meg Rosoff X
79. Harry Potter (series) / J.K. Rowling X+
80. Holes / Louis Sachar X
81. Catcher in the Rye / J. D. Salinger X
82. Push / Sapphire
83. Persepolis / Marjane Satrapi X
84. Unwind / Neil Shusterman X
85. Coldest Winter Ever / Sister Souljah
86. Stargirl / Jerry Spinelli X
87. Chanda's Secrets / Allan Stratton
88. Tale of One Bad Rat / Brian Talbot X
89. Rats Saw God / Rob Thomas X
90. Lord of the Rings / J.R.R. Tolkien X
91. Stuck in Neutral / Terry Trueman X
92. Gossip Girl / Cecily Von Ziegesar X
93. Uglies / Scott Westerfeld X+
94. Every Time a Rainbow Dies / Rita Williams-Garcia
95. Pedro and Me / Judd Winick X
96. Hard Love / Ellen Wittlinger X
97. American Born Chinese / Gene Luen Yang
98. Elsewhere / Gabrielle Zevin X+
99. I am the Messenger / Markus Zusak X+
100. The Book Thief / Markus Zusak X+

Total: 63, which isn't bad. There's a few books that I'm a bit embarrassed I haven't read, but that I'm reading now (The Outsiders). How about you? Anything you're embarrassed to admit that you haven't read?