Monday, April 30, 2018

LBS Week 14- Nutritious Books

I feel like this week is cresting the wave of the magical library knowledge I one day hope to embody. While I feel comfortable talking books for pleasure, I'm very interested in finding ways to connect titles to curriculum to support teachers and their students. This is where I can't rely on my personal reading, so I've really appreciated several articles where teachers share their best picks for curriculum-connected reading. This article from Cult of Pedagogy is a roundtable where teachers share their best practices and titles for using graphic novels in the classroom- from this conversation, I found this master list of graphic novels, including the subjects they support and a rough grade level suggestion. I also enjoyed this interview with a special education teacher who built a graphic novel lending library in his office that has changed the reading lives of many of his students.

These suggestions below are *nutritious* with the curricular connections they can support, but I definitely feel this is an area where I have a lot more exploration to do.

I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up For Education and Changed the World by Malala Yousafzai and Patrick McCormick

Malala Yousafzai is becoming a household name, and that is absolutely magical. This Young Reader's Edition of her autobiography only covers the short part of her life that had already been lived, but in doing so covers activism, terrorism, Pakistani culture, and the inspiring power of a single girl who is making a real change in real time. This could be used as part of a study of biographies, or as a compliment to lessons about geography or the effects of modern-day terrorism.

Americus by M.K. Reed and Jonathan Hill

"Neal Barton just wants to read in peace." This graphic novel about a young man and a youth services librarian facing off against a conservative Christian group trying to remove a fantasy series from the public library seems important not only in the high school civics classroom but as a compliment to our librarian training. Covering issues of censorship and activism, this novel has rocketed to the top of my TBR.

The Arrival by Shaun Tan

Shaun Tan is known for his other-worldly illustrations and quirky, charming subjects- The Arrival embodies all of this. This wordless graphic novel follows an immigrant as he tries to make a better life for his family. This wordless book is a perfect entrypoint for students who struggle with reading or who are learning English- their spoken interpretations will allow them to join class discussions in a meaningful way. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

LBS Week 13- Scary Books

I don't like scary things- not one bit. That being said, I do have quite a few YA favorites that could toe the line. I've already mentioned Evil Librarian and The Diviners, two books that can be adored while also dishing out serious willies (the latter more than the former, but chills and gore in both). For these latest picks on the blog, I stayed with a traditional definition of scary books, which is by the far the most common request I get from students in 3rd-5th grade. When Mary Downing Hahn becomes too tame (actually never if you're me- Wait Til Helen Comes is still on my shelf and still scaring the piss out of me), these YA horror picks just might fit the bill.

The Awesome by Eva Darrows
Did I buy this book based solely on the badass cover? Well...maybe. This edition is gorgeous, and the premise is divine- Maggie Cunningham helps her mother with the family business. Hunting vampires. She's not like other girls (my least favorite phrase about females but it works here) and she's totally fine with it. Except there is a certain rite of passage that must be fulfilled if she wants to get her professional vampire hunting license, a certificate cannot be obtained while one is in possession of virgin blood. That's right- Maggie has to lose her V card, and she has to do it quickly. Read this book for awesome creepy monster fights and a protagonist that you'll love as much for her toughness as for her vulnerability. I will cop that there are some serious plot holes (enough that I assumed a second book would fill some things in but there don't seem to be plans for another...) but the book is definitely fun enough to enjoy on it's own!

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
Despite some extremely chilling descriptions and tense ghostly scenes, this is one of my perennial favorites, a book I take out every Halloween no matter what is going on in my reading life. Cas is a ghost hunter who moves from town to town with his mother, finishing the interrupted work of his father- sending disruptive ghosts to their final resting place. Cas doesn't expect anything unusual when he hears the legend of Anna Karlov, the ghostly girl haunting a house in his latest stop, but as he gets closer to completing his goal of ending Anna, he finds it more and more difficult to follow through...

YEAH HE ACTUALLY FALLS IN LOVE WITH THE GHOST! And it's somehow not corny! And there is a second one (Girl of Nightmares) that I love just as much. It's incredibly fast-paced and leaves you wanting a third. I know Kendare Blake is getting a lot of popularity for her current trilogy but I always hope she'll return to Cas and Anna.

The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco
This is the only book I'm recommending that I haven't read. Goodreads is completely split on how scary this is, which makes me assume that it probably toes the line. I'll sometimes scan the Goodreads comments, but they never really match with how I feel about books I've read, so I take it all with a grain of salt. The Girl from the Well is based on the same Japanese legend as the movie The Ring, but this plot has the ghost of the murdered girl spending her time hunting people who hurt children. When she comes across a boy who she cannot save, she uncovers a depth of spirits and doll magic unlike anything she's seen in her three hundred plus years.

Monday, April 16, 2018

LBS 803 Week Twelve- Geeky Books

This is kind of my happy place. I reside comfortably in the YA/Chosen One/Girl of the Future/Savior of Her People/Minimum-Three-Book in the Series/Sci-Fi/Fantasy world, and a lot of my favorite reading experiences are from this grand tradition. I'm glad I chose Warcross by Marie Lu as my novel for the week, as it's definitely something I'm enjoying and comparing to a lot of my favorite reads. My blog post this week is unusual in that I've read all of these suggestions, and have rabidly loved them for various different reasons.

An Ember in the Ashes (a quartet) by Sabaa Taahir
I've listened to this series exclusively on audio, and Steve West's voice in particular stops me in my tracks. The narration on the first switches between the main characters Laia and Elias, and the second in the series brings in a third, Helene. The world building is delicious, but the violence (both physical and sexual) can be a little much, although I am pretty sensitive to these things, and can still really enjoy. Laia ends up taking on an undercover role as a slave in order to convince a resistance group to help her brother. Elias is one of the top students at a school supported by a world he completely hates. They're drawn together repeatedly while dealing with the enormous stress of their responsibilities  Two are already out with a third coming this summer!

The Raven Cycle (a quartet) by Maggie Stiefvater
This is another four-book series, this one completed, dabbling in ancient Welsh myths, mystical ley lines, tarot readings and scrying, a dead king, a dreamer who brings things back when he wakes, and a girl fated to kill the boy she loves when she kisses him. This fantasy series is heavily lined with romance- I tried harder than Blue not to fall in love with Gansey, but it's the romantic developments in the fourth book that I most appreciated. Very dark and no nonsense, this series is often reread by yours truly.

The Diviners (a quartet) by Libba Bray
I'm sensing a pattern here...I guess good fantasy is easily tied up in fours. The Diviners series is another that dabbles in the mystical and fortune, similar to The Raven Cycle in that it brings its fantasy elements into a the already-existing world, but the similarities truly end there. The Diviners books are relentlessly researched historical fiction, bringing the 1910s to life in vivid color. A hearty cast of characters with together to understand themselves and various mysteries taking place against the backdrop of prohibition New York City. They take forever to come out because they are SO detailed and well-researched, but they are worth the wait.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns (a trilogy) by Rae Carson
Full disclosure, I have not finished this trilogy. I didn't even finish the second book. But I really loved the first, and I have to include it, because INCREDIBLE FAT REP ON THE PAGE! Elisa is a fat heroine who does not suddenly acquire flashy fighting skills but uses her knowledge of strategy to save the day. Also, the gem-growing-in-your-belly-button is the coolest way to mark a Chosen One ever.

The Darkest Part of the Forest (stand alone) by Holly Black
This should not have been stand alone. Holly Black paints these really amazing worlds where the supernatural creatures exist in an uneasy truce with contemporary humans (see: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown) and this novel is no different. Hazel and her twin brother, Ben, have always made up stories about the sleeping prince in the unbreakable glass box, and while the seeming whimsy of the situation draws tourists, Hazel knows how dangerous the fae in the forest can actually be. My only complaint about this book is that TOO MUCH happens- there are storylines about romance and bad family situations and parental pressure and stolen identity and faerie courts and changlings- it's too much for one relatively slim novel. There's a new series that just began by Black- The Cruel Prince is patiently waiting for me when this class is over- and I'm hoping that with more space, we'll get more of these themes with more space to breathe!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

LBS 803 Week Eleven- Sexxxy Books!

This week in class we talked about Sexy Books, and the title of this unit is actually a super-clever
branding move on the part of our super-clever professor. Want to talk about romance but want to grab the attention of your teen (or adult) audience? Call it Sexy Books and suddenly everyone is all ears. I'm loving the aspect of this assignment that calls for physical touching of books- I've been making a point to browse in the actual bookstore, and it makes such a difference in the things that cross my path! As usual, the below are a mix of personal favorites and new releases that caught my eye.

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
This book, the second in it's series, made the list for it's eye-popping sexual content. A multi-layered high fantasy YA series, this particular storyline from Maas includes sex as a plot point, a ruse to hide true intentions, and the pinnacle of deeply romantic relationships. While the first book in the this series made me roll my eyes quite a bit (some my the tropes were too tropey, even for my trope-loving heart), I got drawn into the interesting politics as the series progressed, and the second is where the shipping (the act of hoping two characters will get together) and the fiery content really upped the game! A note when recommending- I would stick with the upper end of YA and people who won't be offended by gratuitous love scenes- Maas does NOT cut away!

A Totally Awkward Love Story by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison
This cover JUMPED out at me in the bookstore. I love the font and sweet colors and the blurb that promises me "raunchy hilarity." Reviews from some of my favorite Goodreads friends spoke of "sexual frankness" and "seriously awkward" situations and this really sells me. Starting the summer before college, Sam and Hannah spend a PERFECT five minutes together at a house party- then get separated without even getting each other's names. A cycle of will they/won't they missed connections makes up the rest of the plot. Definitely looking forward to checking this one out.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
I have a huge blind spot when it comes to Rainbow Rowell- she's my...favorite. So when she was releasing a romantic ode to Harry Potter and fanfiction that was coming out on my actual 30th birthday, I was foaming to read it, and have read it a few times every year since. This book is FULL of forbidden romance, badass girls, stubble-chinned kisses, and obsession that seamlessly transforms from passionate hatred to breathless snogging in mere moments. The wizarding school/lead up to the final battle/destiny trope is flipped on its head when the protagonist falls in love with his number one enemy.

A Taxonomy of Love by Rachael Allen
Another book that called to me because of it's sweet cover. Goodreads and the blurb for this one promise a romance with the girl next door, a science-obsessed protagonist, and lots of really cool diagrams. Interesting points about this one include a time period that goes from age 13 to age 19 and the quest to prove whether love can be scientifically explained. Good luck, kids. This one is going on my TBR for at least a good flip through- the scientific drawings intrigue me!

Monday, April 2, 2018

LBS 803 Week Ten- Funny Books

*Note to regular readers- it's been awhile since I've "regularly posted," and things are going really well. An aspect of one of my current library classes is posting weekly blogs with book recommendations, so you'll see these posts popping up!

One of the most difficult recommendations to make concerns humor- how is it possible to help someone else pick out a funny book? What makes someone laugh varies so deeply person to person that you almost always need to layer additional knowledge before definitively making a call. Still, as our professor so aptly explained, broaden your definition to "amusing," and you can pad your list. This week our class took a look at funny books with Dumplin' by Julie Murphy, Simon Vs. The Homosapien Agenda by Becky Albertalli, Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle, and The Disenchantments by Nina Lacour.  Using what I know about these books and some sleuthing in the (often disorientingly-shelved) YA section of my local Barnes and Noble, I've come up with a few more "funny books" that should make a good chunk of your students chuckle.

Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen

It's no surprise that Evil Librarian makes this list- this is one of my Swiss-Army-recs that fits so many different bills. Cynthia is a typical high schooler, drooling over her crush (who happens to be the lead in the high school musical), designing her dream set (for the high school musical), and hanging out with her best friend (in between- you guessed it- rehearsals for the high school musical). Things are tripping along nicely until the new librarian shows up and WHOOPS, he's a demon who has decided to take Annie, Cynthia's bestie, as his demon bride. Cynthia's voice as a "roach," the common term for a human who doesn't fall under the thrall of a demon, is quite hilarious, as is the world that Knudsen builds around the events of the novel. (My favorite tidbit? The demons are obsessed with musical theater, and when they find out the school is performing Sweeney Todd, they hold off all plans for an evil takeover until after opening night.). This book is not the deepest of all plots, but you will definitely giggle.

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows

European royalty has been the subject of SO MUCH fiction, and not much of it has been anything to laugh at- using marriages as contracts between countries, killing off wives when you're done with's a grim time period. However, My Lady Jane takes the serious subject of familial obligation and mixes it playfully with fantastical shape shifting, elaborate double lives, and accidental romance. Light and very, very silly, My Lady Jane is a refreshing twist on Tudor England sure to make students crack a smile.

Not Now Not Ever by Lily Anderson

Anderson's books fall into the perfect Venn Diagram of funny and pop culture nerdy. A retelling of The Importance of Being Earnest, Anderson's novel follows Elliot as she embarks on a summer mission to win a scholarship to the Science Fiction Literature program at her dream college. The blurb alone references Ender's Game, Alien, Star Wars, and Octavia Butler. This is a companion to the much-lauded The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You, a similarly culture-laden retelling of The Taming of the Shrew, and Anderson fans gush about her niche as a geeky/cute reteller of classics. I haven't read either of these books yet, but they've moved to the top of my TBR.