School Library Journal The world's largest reviewer of books, multimedia, and technology for children and teens Sat, 20 Dec 2014 03:01:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Far-Out Science Fiction | SLJ Spotlight Fri, 19 Dec 2014 14:00:28 +0000 Whether it’s fighting for interstellar peace, falling in love with a time traveler, or trying to rescue your family (and spacecraft) from the clutches of outerspace baddies, the protagonists in these sci-fi titles are down-to-earth teens who readers will root for whole-heartedly. Check out these out-of-this-world YA novels.

polaris 199x300 Far Out Science Fiction | SLJ SpotlightRedReviewStar Far Out Science Fiction | SLJ SpotlightArnett, Mindee. Polaris. 432p. HarperCollins/Balzer & Bray. Jan. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062235626; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780062235640.

Gr 9 Up –Picking up where Avalon (HarperCollins, 2014) left off, this novel has Jeth Seagrave, along with his newly discovered sister and his crew, the Malleus Shades—a bunch of teen outlaws working jobs for an intergalactic crime lord—on the run from the ITA, who are still holding his scientist mother captive. Long-thought dead, she had been imprisoned for years by the galactic organization because she and her unborn child were radically changed by their time in deep space, gaining the ability to manipulate time and space mentally. Jeth’s otherworldly sister Cora holds the key to restoring the failed Metadrives that hold the Confederation together. In order to reunite his family, and ensure their continued freedom, Jeth must rely on his crew and enter into an extremely dangerous partnership with the galaxy’s newest crime lord, as he takes the fight to the heart of the ITA itself. While Arnett’s previous volume in the series bore some similarity to Joss Whedon’s TV show, Firefly, her extremely exciting follow-up finds its own voice and spirit. With its high-octane plot, multidimensional characters, witty banter, and lots of heart, Polaris will appeal to fans of science fiction and action/adventure alike.–Ryan F. Paulsen, New Rochelle High School, NY

rememberyou 196x300 Far Out Science Fiction | SLJ SpotlightBell, Cathleen Davitt. I Remember You. 320p. Knopf. Feb. 2015. lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9780385754569; Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780385754552; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780385754576. LC 2014004789.

Gr 10 Up –It’s 1994 in an East Coast suburban town. Juliet is a junior in high school, focusing on her future goals (law school). Lucas is a hockey player, who is from a less-affluent part of town, and has his future planned out: he’s joining the Marines. When Lucas walks into Physics class and sees Juliet, he knows they are going to date. He claims to have visions and memories that seem to be coming from his future. As these become more frequent, Juliet finds herself lost in his pain, unfocused on her goals, as she tries to hang on to their relationship in the present. Bell weaves an intensely passionate love story with a creative structure in which the present-day and future time lines eventually meet by its end. Juliet is grounded, honest, and wants to be known for her intelligence and independence. She compromises these qualities while dealing with Lucas’s visions, and her mom and best friend take note. Well-developed and multidimensional supporting characters contribute to the book’s even pace. Strong imagery and realistic dialogue work seamlessly to create the ambiance of 1994, where pay phones were only a quarter and houses still had corded landlines. This romance novel has elements of science fiction, yet remains true and authentic to the intensity of feelings adolescents experience with their first loves. Some tasteful sex scenes make this work more appropriate for older teens. Recommended for fans of Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler’s The Future of Us (Penguin, 2011).–Stephanie DeVincentis, Downers Grove North High School, IL

invaded 200x300 Far Out Science Fiction | SLJ SpotlightLanders,alienated 199x300 Far Out Science Fiction | SLJ Spotlight Melissa. Alienated. 352p. Bk. 1. 2014. Tr. $16.99. ISBN 9781423170280. LC 2013032977.

––––. Invaded. 368p. Bk. 2. Tr. $17.99. ISBN 9781423169499.

ea vol: (Alienated). ebook available. Disney-Hyperion. Feb. 2015.

Gr 9 Up –In Alienated, Cara Sweeney, high school overachiever and class valedictorian, has been selected to host the first L’eihr exchange student. Initial excitement and pride are quickly overshadowed by doubt and unease upon meeting the alien Aelyx. Although almost genetically identical, the two cultures are as different as night and day and the level of discomfort is evident. Further complicating matters is anti-alien paranoia and violence directed not only at Aelyx and the other exchange students, but also at Cara and her family. Drawn together due to circumstance, the teens start falling for each other. In Invaded, the couple continues to try to forge an alliance between the two planets, as mutual survival of both populations are depending on it. Amid hate and an unknown future, Cara must decide between love, the unknown, and the future she always dreamed of having. Excellent character development and a nice integration between modern reality and science fiction drive the plot in a satisfying story arc. Continuation of the story line is seamless between series installments, giving readers a continued interest in and connection to the protagonists. Themes of racism and environmentalism are integral to understanding and developing the emotional level of the story as well as the momentum of the plot. Teens will be rooting for the galactic couple while enjoying the action and suspense that runs through the two volumes. A fun pick for fans of sci-fi with a bit of romance.–Elizabeth Speer, Cisco College, TX

memorykey 198x300 Far Out Science Fiction | SLJ SpotlightLiu, Liana. The Memory Key. 368p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062306647; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780062306661.

Gr 7 Up –Lora Mint’s mother died in a car accident five years ago, and the pain of losing her hasn’t diminished. Worse, Lora’s memories of her are fading, even though she has a Memory Key, because the Keys aren’t meant to preserve memories perfectly, just mimic the brain’s ability to remember. Her mom was a top scientist at Keep Corp, the morally questionable company that developed Memory Keys to combat the widespread Alzheimer’s-like Vergets Disease. After Lora’s key begins malfunctioning, she suddenly has crystal-clear memories of her mother—memories that make the teen wonder whether the accident actually ended her mom’s life. Now she must sort through her past to discover her mother’s true fate, before Keep Corp fixes her Memory Key and takes away her perfect recall forever. Liu has crafted a relatively mild story with elements of mystery, corporate and government conspiracy, romance, and friendship. The narrative moves along at a quick enough pace that even reluctant readers will stay engaged. Lora is a mostly likable protagonist, though her emotional reactions sometimes feel out of step, and her BFF Wendy adds comic relief and a voice of reason. While plot points tend to work out a little too conveniently and the message about the importance of privacy borders on preachy, readers will be itching to reach the conclusion. Give this one to teens looking for suspense sprinkled with a little dystopia, lacking violence or mature content.–Kelsey Johnson-Kaiser, La Crosse Public Library, WI

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E-Rate Win for Schools and Libraries: Modernization Order Brings Another $1.5B Thu, 18 Dec 2014 19:04:15 +0000 Wifi Erate win E Rate Win for Schools and Libraries: Modernization Order Brings Another $1.5BDecember 11 marked a triumphant day for both champions and beneficiaries of high-speed Internet access in all schools and libraries across the United States when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted (3-2) to pass the latest E-Rate Modernization Order. The long-awaited update includes a provision to inject an additional $1.5 billion to the E-Rate funding cap, raising the yearly budget to $3.9 billion.

“ALA has long advocated for a permanent increase to the program and to get $1.5 billion is truly historical,” says Marijke Visser, associate director at the Office of Information Technology Policy at the American Library Association (ALA) in an email. “The program is currently capped at about $2.4 [billion] so adding an additional $1.5 [billion] is a pretty good deal.”

(Read ALA’s press release.)

The vote for the budget increase builds on the momentum of an ongoing updating process begun in 2010 to the 18-year-old E-Rate program, the nation’s largest subsidy program for education technology. As SLJ reported this past July, the FCC recently passed an order to redirect $1 billion annually from funds earmarked for antiquated, nonbroadband services to “category 2” services, which deal with internal connectivity—or Wi-Fi. Another part of the E-Rate program is services that are needed to support connectivity to schools and libraries (and not within the infrastructure), or “category 1″ services.

Category 2 (Wi-Fi) funding distribution was heavily debated in the weeks leading up to the FCC’s July vote on the modernization order, as SLJ had covered. The FCC landed on the distribution formula of $2.30 per square foot for libraries, however following protest from urban library leaders and advocates who said the amount was insufficient to meet the needs of the limited and highly trafficked space of urban libraries, the amount that was changed to $5 per square foot for urban libraries in “cities of 250,000 or more,” says Visser. “Libraries in populations less than that are at the $2.30 level. It is based on the Institute of Museum and Library Services locale codes that describe library service areas.”

MattPolandletter1 E Rate Win for Schools and Libraries: Modernization Order Brings Another $1.5B

Click here to read Matt Poland’s letter to the FCC in July where he argued for more funds per square foot.

“Public libraries have become the most important free source of Internet connectivity in the nation,” says Matthew Poland, CEO of Hartford (CT) Public Library in an email to SLJ. ”Our customers are increasingly bringing their own devices to do their homework, use online career resources, stay in touch with friends and family, and connect with e-government programs. All of these activities require robust Wi-Fi networks and the E-Rate program will now ensure that libraries have the funds to provide this service.”

The passage of the modernization order and funding cap hike represents a win for advocates from many organizations, including the Association for Rural & Small Libraries (ARSL), the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies, the Public Library Association, and the Urban Libraries Council, with the ALA at the forefront, pushing for the FCC to offer more affordable high capacity broadband for the majority of libraries and long-term funding for the E-Rate program, says ALA’s December 11 press release.

“The primary issues for libraries really had to do with getting higher speeds to the building rather than within it,” Visser. “This [December 11] order deals with all of that so…we’re thrilled.”

Today, 63 percent of American students in public schools do not have broadband access in the classroom, says an FCC press release. That’s over 40 million students, still a far cry from President Obama’s goal to connect “99 percent of American students to high-speed broadband Internet in their schools and libraries within five years,” a goal he declared in June 2013 with his ConnectED initiative.

Libraries are also behind on the high speed broadband bandwagon. According to the ALA, only two percent of libraries are at the FCC’s 1 gigabit goal, which enables high-speed Internet connections, and two-thirds of all libraries report they want to increase their broadband capacity.

Rural and small libraries must address different hurdles than their urban library counterparts.

“In the town where I live, there isn’t a Starbucks or a bookstore with free Wi-Fi. We have three streetlights and only one place to go to get free Wi-Fi, and that is the public library,” says Kieran Hixon, a board member of ARSL, and technology consultant at Colorado State Library, in an email. “Rural areas, like my hometown, with sparse populations, frequently make it a bad investment for providers of broadband to install the needed infrastructure,” adds Hixon. “In other words, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) often do not see a strong enough customer base in rural areas to bother selling us their service, and if they do, they often charge more than in urban areas.”

Libraries in rural areas reported a significantly slower download speed, one-fifth of the average download speed of libraries located in cities, says the University of Maryland’s Digital Inclusion Survey.

“This latest increase will give all rural and small libraries the opportunity to either create, add, or update broadband to their library buildings,” says Hixon. “We can keep up with the demand for high speed broadband in our communities.”

Looking ahead, Hixon expresses a measured joy. “There are hurdles to overcome regarding connectivity and digital inclusion by librarians in tiny and isolated area,” he says. “Providing the proper funding and needed infrastructure is a step in the right direction.”

marijke web revised feature E Rate Win for Schools and Libraries: Modernization Order Brings Another $1.5B

“We’re thrilled,” says Marijke Visser, associate director at the Office of Information Technology Policy at ALA. Image courtesy of the ALA

Visser acknowledges that while the FCC made some pretty important changes around increasing broadband capacity for libraries, the reality is that the libraries are far behind where they should be. In particular, rural libraries, though overall about two-thirds of libraries say they want to increase broadband speeds, she says.

However, the library in Hixon’s town won’t have to face it alone. ALA is looking ahead at helping in the how-to process of libraries wanting to access the funds to high-speed broadband.

“Libraries and schools have to apply to get the money,” says Visser, “So our work now is doing lots of education and outreach to libraries so that they are aware of the opportunities on the table. We are working with PLA, COSLA, and ARSL. We also have state E-Rate coordinators who are in charge of education and training in their states and we have an E-Rate task force whose primary job now is going to be to design the best methods to support actual libraries.”

Visser notes there will be a PLA co-hosted webinar in January and a “discussion forum with library leaders and others interested in E-rate” at the ALA Midwinter Meeting. “We know this coming year will be a tough one with so many changes to navigate but the FCC and Universal Service Administrative Company (who administers the program) are both committed to helping as much as they can and of course we will be working with our library partners.

“Providing the proper funding and needed infrastructure is a step in the right direction,” says Hixon. “We strongly encourage all libraries, including those that have never before applied for E-Rate, to do so now.”

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Timing Is Everything | Consider the Source Thu, 18 Dec 2014 16:02:55 +0000 ConsiderSource StopwatchTimedTest Timing Is Everything | Consider the Source

Marc Aronson with Susan Bartle

Timing Is Everything

Anyone who has followed this column, or has heard me speak, knows that I’m in the cheering section for the Common Core English Language Arts State Standards. But speaking as an advocate for the standards, I have a serious concern. I’m hearing mixed messages about the assessments that raise a question on which librarians must take a stand.


Many states have moved from the implementation phase of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) to assessment. In general, states are using tests crafted by one of two groups: the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) or Smarter Balanced. No matter which test states choose, the crucial question is whether the tests will be timed.

For several years we have emphasized that students need to engage in close reading; the message is that we are going deep, not broad. We have taught them how to use context clues and inference to make sense of terms, concepts, and ideas that may be unfamiliar. We have insisted that reading for evidence, for argument, and for point of view is the key to college and career readiness. We have told our students that if they practiced these skills and were able to derive meaning through careful reading, they would do well on the assessments.

But if the assessments are timed, we have lied. We have taught one set of skills while assessing another. Timing our tests means that we favor privilege, not learning; that those who do well on the tests will have additional background knowledge and vocabulary, pick up key facts quickly, or are skilled at test taking. If those are the skills that we care about, they should be the skills we are teaching. By timing CCSS assessments we have done a disservice to our students—either by teaching them the wrong skills, or administering the wrong test.

Tests without time limits are a different story. Students who come upon an unfamiliar term can pause and use the strategies they have learned, without worrying about a ticking clock. They can take as long as they need to determine where a passage says X, and which details support that conclusion. Untimed tests, no matter how difficult or imperfect, tell students that what matters is careful reading utilizing the approaches and strategies they have learned and practiced.

I have seen and heard contradictory statements from PARCC. On its website there’s a table of the “estimated time it will take students to complete” the tests, and the statement:

“These times refer to on-task time, or the time it will take most students to complete the PARCC summative tests. While it is anticipated that most students will complete the test sessions in the estimated times, states will make a limited amount of additional time available to learners who work at slower rates.”

Note “a limited amount of additional time” is not the same as untimed. Yet in an email to parents in the School District of South Orange & Maplewood in New Jersey where I live, a PARCC FAQ states, “schools must schedule according to ‘Total Administration Time,’ so that students who need the additional time are able to use it.”

When I asked someone at PARCC, she insisted the tests are untimed. The indefatigable Sue Bartle–library system director for a Western New York BOCES—reports that the ambiguity increases as you examine the rules in each state. Colorado, for example, echoes the “limited time” language and New Mexico specifies that “While students will have access to scratch paper on the PARCC assessments, they will not have time to write answers by hand and copy them on to the computer.”

So what is it? Timed, limited extra time, as much additional time as needed, or untimed assessments? I understand that administrators must plan for how long rooms and computers will be in use and that guidelines of typical performance are useful. But that administrative need cannot and must not change the nature of the test—from an assessment of close reading to an assessment of prior knowledge. It is quite possible to deliver untimed CCSS assessments. Smarter Balanced is doing just that. Admittedly, it may be more difficult with limited computers, but this should not be the tail that wags the dog.

So friends, we need some straight answers from PARCC, and we need to speak up for students’ right to be examined on the skills the CCSS are designed to impart. It is absurd to think that we take the time needed in the classroom with students to absorb rich, complex text, then place these same students under time constraints on testing days.

I urge the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) to speak for all school librarians and demand that the testing consortia make a clear, unequivocal statement that CCSS assessments be untimed. Additionally, AASL should consider creating partnerships with other educational organizations (PTA, PTO, NCLE, NEA) to build deeper support on this issue across the country.

*This just in: In the first PARCC tests, students were given half again as much time as the tester’s expected them to need, and students worked up to the very last minute; see this Education Week article by Catherine Gewertz.

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Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site | Touch and Go Thu, 18 Dec 2014 15:40:45 +0000  

TouchGo Dec18 Goodnight 600x288 Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site | Touch and Go

Screen from ‘Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site’ (Oceanhouse Media) Lichtenheld

You don’t have to go far to find a truck or construction site enthusiast in the under-five crowd. Since it was published in 2011, Sherri Duskey Rinker’s picture book Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site has been a favorite with this group. Now it’s an app.

The app version of Sherri Duskey Rinker’s popular picture book/bedtime story Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site  (Chronicle, 2011; PreS-K) has been faithfully reproduced in Oceanhouse Media, Inc.’s app. (iOS $1.99; iBooks, $9.99). It’s a rhythmic tale of a site full of anthropomorphized vehicles from dawn (“Down in the big construction site,/The tough trucks work with all their might.”) to dusk and into the night (So one by one they’ll go to bed/To yawn and rest their sleepy heads.”) Tom Lichtenheld’s artwork featuring a retro look and luminous golds and oranges, and midnight blues, shines on the iPad.

The story opens to musical accompaniment and most pages have at least one interactive element. Many of the animations are nothing more than one or another of the trucks jumping and shaking the ground, while others produce a very simple animated version of their function; none fulfill their true potential. The muted background sounds include running engines and creaking trucks, and as the trucks settle into sleep, soft sighs and snores.

Readers can choose to have the story read to them or read it themselves. The narrator speaks with a pleasant lilt (reminiscent of the Seuss apps, also produced by Oceanhouse Media) and words are highlighted as they are read. Tapping on any of the vehicles or the scenery elicits corresponding labels which are also voiced.

The book is beloved by many children for its endearing characterizations, colorful art, and outstanding lyrical verse, but those who own it may not be overexcited by this version. Other sleepy truck lovers may want to give it a try.—Cindy Wall, Southington Public Library, CT.

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SLJ’s Top 10 DVDs 2014 Wed, 17 Dec 2014 22:53:27 +0000 School Library Journal DVD reviews editor Kent Turner selects the top picks out of the more than 250 DVDs reviewed in SLJ this year. The following are memorable works that will enhance curricula with their strong educational and entertainment appeal. ]]> SLJ1412w Top10 DVDs icon1 SLJ’s Top 10 DVDs 2014Of the more than 250 DVDs reviewed last year, the following are memorable works that will enhance curricula with their strong educational and entertainment appeal. Diverse in every sense of the word—both in format and in subjects addressed—these are can’t-miss DVDs that have a place in every collection, but, most importantly, they’re all exceptional productions. Given that cost is a constant consideration in collection building, two epic-length selections below are a librarian’s bargain: top quality at a reasonable price.

There were plenty of rich programs about the environment to choose from, many of which would satisfy Common Core State Standards. An issue raised in one program would be thoroughly examined in another, such as overfishing in Antarctica, deforestation throughout the world, or rising sea levels.

2014 TOP10 DVD Year of Living Dan SLJ’s Top 10 DVDs 2014Each episode of the nine-part, globe-trotting examination of climate change, Years of Living Dangerously (FilmRise; Gr 9 Up), stands alone. Yet, taken together, the series offers an up-to-date compendium of interconnected environmental crises. It’s a credit to the series that the star power (correspondents Harrison Ford, Matt Damon, and America Ferrera, among others) never upstages the issues, such as the correlation between two devastating droughts, one deep in the heart of Texas, the other in prerevolution Syria. Science is made thought-provoking.

2014 TOP10 DVD Nature 244x300 SLJ’s Top 10 DVDs 2014This year, PBS’s Nature series offered a treasure trove of animal-related documentaries with stunning, state-of-the-art cinematography. Filmed up-close, these creatures seem practically tangible. It’s a tough call to choose which episode stood out, but the following picks are high on the “ah” factor and packed with solid information.

2014 TOP10 DVD funkiest monkeys 205x300 SLJ’s Top 10 DVDs 2014The Funkiest Monkeys (PBS; Gr 6 Up) is an advocacy piece at its most charming and effective. Filmmaker Colin Stafford-Johnson ventures to Indonesia to bond with and film endangered black crested macaques, whose numbers are diminishing because of the local bushmeat market. In the process, he details their social structure and behavior (including a particularly amorous interaction). By the end, Stafford-Johnson becomes part of the troop, with one monkey even gingerly grooming his hair as he’s filming.

2014 TOP10 DVD honey badgers 186x300 SLJ’s Top 10 DVDs 2014The antics of the wily and ferocious Honey Badgers (PBS; Gr 5 Up) will captivate viewers. Very little intimidates this carnivorous species, who even devour poisonous snakes. (Did you know that they are actually weasels?) The film sets up shop in South Africa, with a conservationist and a naturalist studying them in the wild. As a certain R-rated YouTube video sensation would agree, honey badgers really don’t care what others think—they do as they please.

2014 TOP10 DVD African Americans 187x300 SLJ’s Top 10 DVDs 2014Rich in detail and a strong supplement for American history classes (and great for reports), The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross (PBS; Gr 9 Up) offers a sweeping view of five centuries. Written and presented by Henry Louis Gates Jr., the six-hour series begins with Esteban the Moor, reportedly the first African in the New World, and continues all the way to the present day. It gives audiences an idea of the big picture (slavery dominates the frank discussion in the first two episodes) while bringing into focus specific figures, such as Elizabeth Freeman, Richard Allen, and Margaret Garner. The series can be tied to studies on many historical periods, such as Reconstruction, the black literary flowering in the early 20th century, and the civil rights movement.

2014 TOP10 DVD freedom summer 206x300 SLJ’s Top 10 DVDs 2014Where The African Americans takes a broad view of history, Freedom Summer (PBS; Gr 7 Up) zeroes in on a few months in 1964, when college students, mostly from the North, trekked to one state in particular to register black voters, among other endeavors. (“You crack Mississippi, you crack the whole South.”) The wide breadth of interviews brings immediacy to this period of the civil rights struggle. Succinct and well rounded, this documentary is a must-have for public libraries.

2014 TOP10 DVD locomotive 268x300 SLJ’s Top 10 DVDs 2014Among the picture book–to–DVD adaptations, Brian Floca’s Locomotive (Dreamscape Media; Gr 2-4) speeds ahead of the rest. It faithfully remains as chock-full of material as the print edition (S. & S., 2013) regarding the building of the transcontinental railroad and how it transformed the country. Importantly, the disc includes two featurettes, including one that focuses on the science of steam power. A stellar example for language arts-building programs.

2014 TOP10 DVD fixed SLJ’s Top 10 DVDs 2014The thoughtful and probing Fixed: The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement (New Day Films; Gr 9 Up) challenges viewers’ ideas of what it means to be physically fit, as well as what it means to be human, by tackling head-on the assumptions of ableism. The documentary deals with the history of disability rights up to the 21st century, with bionic arms and other enhancements becoming more common. An excellent means to provoke discussion in biology and ethics classes.

2014 TOP10 DVD HavanaCurveball SLJ’s Top 10 DVDs 2014Though Havana Curveball (PatchWorks Films; Gr 5 Up) has a seemingly straightforward premise, it’s an inspiring documentary that leaves an impact. As part of a community project, teen Mica Jarmel-Schneider sends care packages stuffed with baseball equipment to Cuba, a country that holds significance for his family (a former child refugee, Mica’s grandfather fled Nazi Germany for the island nation). Uncertain whether the donations have even arrived, Mica and his father travel to Havana to deliver more goods. There, he—and the audience—learn a valuable lesson about giving, as the reactions of the adolescent’s Cuban peers are not what he expects. A quietly moving film, it’s equally at home in public library and religious school collections as well as social studies classes.

2014 TOP10 DVD ValentineRoad 209x300 SLJ’s Top 10 DVDs 2014The hard-hitting documentary Valentine Road (Bullfrog Films; Gr 7 Up) captures the tenor of our times, centering on the 2008 shooting death of eighth grader Larry King in his Oxnard, CA, middle school by classmate Brandon McInerney. Two days earlier, King had publicly said he had a crush on McInerney. The film builds to an exploration of gender, homophobia, race, bullying, gun control, and the juvenile justice system, becoming engrossing and jaw dropping.

2014 TOP10 DVD Wadjda 239x300 SLJ’s Top 10 DVDs 2014In a completely different vein, the effortlessly informative and beautifully made feature film Wadjda (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment; Gr 6 Up) is a sensitive and observant coming-of-age story. It’s also a bit rebellious, as its eponymous protagonist, a strong-willed 10-year-old Saudi Arabian tomboy, tests her culture’s restrictive social codes. All she wants is to purchase a bicycle and freely ride the streets. Her teachers and family, though, urge her to be pious and obedient. Adolescents will easily identify with the nonconformist Wadjda and will embrace the complex and loving mother-daughter relationship that director Haifaa al-Mansour has lovingly crafted. n

Kent Turner is SLJ’s DVD reviews editor.

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SLJ’s Top 10 Graphic Novels 2014 Wed, 17 Dec 2014 22:53:24 +0000 SLJ1412w Top10 GraphicNovels icon1 SLJ’s Top 10 Graphic Novels 2014 Often, the “Good Comics for Kids” bloggers have lively debates about the best graphic novels of the year. The choices were easy for 2014, and our picks were nearly unanimous. We chose four superhero stories, each with its own twist: Ms. Marvel features Kamala Khan, a Muslim teenager with plenty of real-life issues; the Green Turtle in Gene Luen Yang’s The Shadow Hero is the son of Chinese immigrants battling cultural rifts and organized crime; Aw Yeah Comics! stars the super-cute creations of “Tiny Titans” team Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani; and Cleopatra in Space equips the teenage Egyptian queen with a ray gun and a sphinx-shaped space bike.

Coming back to Earth, we have Raina Telgemeier’s Sisters, the follow-up to her 2010 memoir Smile, and Cece Bell’s debut, El Deafo, her memoir of growing up as a deaf child in a (mostly) hearing world. Just one historical graphic novel made the list: Nick Bertozzi’s Shackleton, the story of the trouble-plagued Antarctic expedition.

Finally, three of this year’s picks are whimsical stories with a touch of fantasy: Lilli Carre’s Tippy and the Night Parade; Luke Pearson’s Hilda and the Black Hound; and The Musical Monsters of Turkey Hollow, based on a never-produced Jim Henson/Jerry Juhl television script and brought to life by Roger Langridge, writer of the “Muppet Show” comics and creator of the series “Snarked!.”

Here are our picks for 2014.

2014 TOP10 GN Sisters SLJ’s Top 10 Graphic Novels 2014Sisters, by Raina Telgemeier. Scholastic/Graphix. Gr 3-7. Telgemeier takes the bitter with the sweet in this memoir of her childhood relationship with her younger sister, Amara. As a child, Raina had always wanted a sister, but Amara was not the one she expected. Amara has a strong personality all her own, and the two don’t always get along. The story is structured around a family car trip, with flashbacks filling in the gaps and providing texture. There is plenty of humor (for instance, when Amara’s pet snake disappears and then pops up again most unexpectedly) and serious moments, as Telgemeier portrays the strains her family goes through both at home and on what turns out to be an unusually eventful road trip.

2014 TOP10 GN HildaBlackHound SLJ’s Top 10 Graphic Novels 2014Hilda and the Black Hound, by Luke Pearson. Nobrow. Gr 1 Up. Hilda lives in the semi-magical town of Trollberg, where house spirits (“nisses”) dwell in the unused spaces of every home, and a mysterious black hound is unnerving the townfolk. Hilda’s friendship with a homeless nisse leads her through an unexpected series of adventures, eventually coming face to face with the giant hound himself. This modern twist on Mary Norton’s “Borrowers” stories is full of fanciful details, and Pearson’s imaginative depiction of space turns ordinary surroundings inside out.

2014 TOP10 GN ElDeafo 199x300 SLJ’s Top 10 Graphic Novels 2014El Deafo, by Cece Bell. Abrams. Gr 3-7. Bell became deaf at the age of four, but with a hearing aid, the Phonic Ear, she is able to attend a hearing school. The protagonist has a remarkable superpower—with her Phonic Ear, she can hear what her teacher is saying and doing anywhere in the building. But sometimes she misses out on what’s going on around her, and some people treat her strangely because she is deaf. Much like Telgemeier’s Smile, El Deafo mingles the writer’s unique situation with the universal story of growing up and building (and sometimes breaking) friendships.

2014 TOP10 GN MSMARVEL 194x300 SLJ’s Top 10 Graphic Novels 2014Ms. Marvel, by G. Willow Wilson. illus. by Adrian Alphona. Marvel. Gr 7 Up. You don’t have to be a superhero fan to enjoy this tale of a 16-year-old girl who suddenly finds herself transformed into Ms. Marvel (a character who has existed for decades with different alter egos). The twist in this story is that Kamala Khan, the heroine, is Muslim and the daughter of Pakistani immigrants, so in addition to the trials of adolescence and her clumsy shape-shifting powers, she also has to contend with cultural differences. Witty, perceptive, and filled with sly pop-culture references, this book is a nice blend of everyday teen drama and super-powered adventures.

2014 TOP10 GN CleopatraInSpace 200x300 SLJ’s Top 10 Graphic Novels 2014“Cleopatra in Space,” vol. 1: Target Practice, by Mike Maihack. Scholastic/Graphix. Gr 3-7. The historical Cleopatra, presented here as a mischievous 15-year-old girl, is whisked away to the future and lands on a planet filled with humans, but run by talking cats. Facing an enemy who has stolen all their information, the cats look to Cleopatra to be their savior. In this lively first volume, Cleopatra attends a special training academy where she makes new friends, dodges her classes (except combat and target shooting), and tackles her first mission: flying through space on a bike shaped like a sphinx to retrieve a lost data key.

2014 TOP10 GN TippyNightParade 300x200 SLJ’s Top 10 Graphic Novels 2014Tippy and the Night Parade, by Lilli Carré. TOON Books. K-Gr 1. Why is there a pig in Tippy’s bed, a bird on her head, and a horse peeking in her window? She can’t figure it out, but when the lights go out, she sleepwalks across a dreamy landscape, accumulating a fanciful menagerie of followers as she goes. With its simple narrative and detailed drawings, this book has plenty of read-aloud potential.

2014 TOP10 GN MusicalMonsters 214x300 SLJ’s Top 10 Graphic Novels 2014The Musical Monsters of Turkey Hollow, created by Jim Henson and Jerry Juhl. adapted and illus. by Roger Langridge. BOOM! Studios. Gr 4 Up. Timmy likes to go off and play his guitar in a quiet spot, but one day he is joined by a septet of furry, music-making aliens who soon turn the whole town of Turkey Hollow topsy-turvy. Could they really have eaten all the turkeys in Turkey Hollow—or are they being framed by Timmy’s evil neighbor? This whimsical story was originally written by Henson and Juhl as a TV holiday special, and the book includes some extra treats for Henson fans, such as photos of his daughters with the puppets he made for the never-produced show.

2014 TOP10 GN Shackleton 211x300 SLJ’s Top 10 Graphic Novels 2014Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey, by Nick Bertozzi. First Second. Gr 7 Up. Whether you regard Ernest Shackleton’s attempt to trek across Antarctica as hubris or heroism, the fact that every member of the expedition survived even after their plans went horribly awry is a testament to his leadership and the human spirit. Bertozzi uses the graphic medium to good effect here, incorporating maps and diagrams into his story to help explain what’s going on and often focusing on the smaller, more human moments recorded in the explorers’ diaries.

2014 TOP10 GN AwYeahComics 195x300 SLJ’s Top 10 Graphic Novels 2014Aw Yeah Comics! And… Action, by Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani. Dark Horse. Gr 3 Up. Action Cat and Adventure Bug, along with their pink-clad counterparts, AC and Shelly, keep Skokie and the rest of the world safe from the villainous Evil Cat in this light-hearted take on superhero stories. Baltazar and Aureliani are the artists behind DC Comics’s “Tiny Titans” series. This comic features their original characters and drops the in-jokes in favor of goofy humor, as when Evil Cat tries to smother Skokie with a giant pancake. This collection of the first four issues of “Aw Yeah Comics!” also includes short stories by a variety of other creators.

2014 TOP10 GN ShadowHero 194x300 SLJ’s Top 10 Graphic Novels 2014The Shadow Hero, by Gene Luen Yang. illus. by Sonny Liew. First Second. Gr 7 Up. In this superhero story with a twist, Hank, the son of Chinese immigrants, is pressured into donning the cape by his mom, but things get serious when his father becomes a casualty of Chinatown’s gangs. Prodded along by an ancient spirit, Hank must choose between traditional ways and modern mores. Yang has a light touch, but he doesn’t shy away from violence and the everyday racism that was pervasive in the 1930s, when the story was set. The character is very loosely based on the Green Turtle, which was created in the 1940s by Chu Hing and is the first superhero from an Asian-American creator. n

By “Good Comics for Kids” editor Brigid Alverson and contributors Robin Brenner, Lori Henderson, Esther Keller, Mike Pawuk, Scott Robins, and Eva Volin.

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Coretta Scott King Book Grant; ALSC’s Graphic Novel Reading Lists | News Bites Wed, 17 Dec 2014 18:55:58 +0000 GRANTS, SCHOLARSHIPS, AND COMPETITIONS

Applications are now open for the 2015 Coretta Scott King Book Donation Grants sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA). Underfunded libraries, schools and non-traditional organizations that provide educational services to children are invited to apply. Three selected libraries will receive copies of more than 60 titles submitted for consideration for the 2015 Coretta Scott King awards, including a full set of the winning titles. Applications will be accepted through Jan. 31, 2015, and winners will be announced by early March. Check out SLJ’s post fcoretta king seal 300x291 Coretta Scott King Book Grant; ALSCs Graphic Novel Reading Lists | News Bitesor more information about the grant.

In early December, myON, creator of personalized literacy environments for pre-K–grade 12, announced that nominations are now open for the Second Annual Legends in Literacy Awards. The awards will recognize one individual and one team for their work and commitment to literacy, demonstrating leadership in reading improvement and best practices involving the community, and encouraging widespread reading within their school and community. Nominations are due February 1, 2015 with winners announced March 31. Awards will be presented during the International Reading Association’s 60th Annual Conference in St. Louis, MO, from July 17–20, 2015. More information is provided here.

Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) is now accepting online applications for the 2015 Bookapalooza Program. This program offers select libraries a collection of materials to be used in a way that creatively enhances their library service to children and families. The materials are primarily for children ages 0–14 and include newly published books, videos, audiobooks, and recordings from children’s trade publishers. Deadline for submissions is February 1, 2015. For more information about the award requirements and submitting the online application, please visit the website.


Finalists have been announced for the Morris Award. The William C. Morris YA Debut Award, first awarded in 2009, honors a debut book published by a first time author writing for teens and celebrating impressive new voices in young adult literature. The awards will be presented on February 2, from 10:30 am to 12 pm CT at the McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago. Click here to see the full list of finalists.

The American Folklore Society has announced its winners of the Aesop Prize and Accolades for folk literature for children and young adults. See the full list of recipients.

Ebooks cat in the hat Coretta Scott King Book Grant; ALSCs Graphic Novel Reading Lists | News Bitesand E-Libraries

On December 12, digital media platform OverDrive announced that the best selling children’s book series by Dr. Seuss is now available for libraries and schools in the U.S. and Canada. Here’s some sample text and the full list of books.

Upgrades, Launches, and partnerships

In late November, Pearson announced its new initiative KidsTeam, the result of the company’s long-term collaboration with the University of Maryland’s Human Computer Interaction Lab. Children and product team members work collaboratively to create solutions with real world applications, while building skills in subjects such as Technology and Math through hands-on learning. During the upcoming school year, the team will work on an early literacy mobile application, geometry game design, and enhancements to a library of reusable, interactive instructional components used across multiple solutions. Further program details provided on their website.

New York’s Buffalo Public Schools announced a partnership with the Buffalo & Erie County (NY) Public Library earlier this month. All students will now be able to gain access to the exact same online resources they have at school at any county library. Students would also have the same access to that information at home through their computer, tablet or phone, if they have Internet service, and will have free access to software-based programs that would otherwise cost hundreds of dollars to buy off the shelf. Read more about the partnership here.


EH140605 Yalsa Coretta Scott King Book Grant; ALSCs Graphic Novel Reading Lists | News BitesThe official Teen Tech Week (TTW) website of the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) is live with updated materials for the TTW 2015 celebration. This year features the theme “Libraries are for Making…” and takes place March 8–14, 2015. The making theme encourages libraries to promote itself as a place where teens can pursue their interests via hands-on activities and extend learning beyond the classroom. For more information, read the program’s press release.

ALSC, in collaboration with the Children’s Book Council (CBC), will be hosting a Day of Diversity (DOD): Dialogue and Action in Children’s Literature and Library Program on January 30, 2015 in Chicago, IL. Check out the event’s full press release to learn more.

112013alsc Coretta Scott King Book Grant; ALSCs Graphic Novel Reading Lists | News BitesRegistration is now open for the Winter 2015 ALSC Online Course season. Classes start January 5, 2015. Three of the courses being offered this semester are eligible for continuing education units (CEUs). Here is a list of upcoming courses:

Children with Disabilities in the Library
6 weeks, January 5–February 13, 2015
CEU Certified Course, 3 CEUs
Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Programs Made Easy
4 weeks, January 5–January 30, 2015
CEU Certified Course, 1.2 CEUs
Storytelling with Puppets
4 weeks, January 5–January 30, 2015
Storytime Tools
4 weeks, January 5–January 30, 2015
CEU Certified Course, 2 CEUs

Detailed descriptions and registration information is available on the ALSC Online Learning site.

More Bites

This month, Scholastic released the infographic What Kids Want in Books, a “sneak preview” from the fifth edition of the bi-annual Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report. The report is a national survey of children ages 6–17 and their parents that explores attitudes and behaviors around reading books for fun. According to 70 percent of kids ages 6–17, books that “make me laugh” rank highest on the list across all ages. For more information, see the full press release.

El Dia image Coretta Scott King Book Grant; ALSCs Graphic Novel Reading Lists | News BitesDía is a nationally recognized ALA-supported initiative that emphasizes the importance of literacy for all children from all backgrounds. It is a daily commitment to linking children and their families to diverse books, languages and cultures. You can learn more about Día’s free resources, including booklists, coloring sheets, toolkits, book club curricula, and more, by visiting its Facebook page and website.

ALSC has released three new Graphic Novel Reading Lists intended for children from K–8. PDFs of the booklists are available online and are free to download, copy, and distribute. The titles were selected, compiled, and annotated by members of the ALSC Quicklists Consulting Committee.

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“Clifford the Big Red Dog” Creator Norman Bridwell Dies at 86 Wed, 17 Dec 2014 16:43:42 +0000 Norman Bridwell 2012 credit Rich White1 Clifford the Big Red Dog Creator Norman Bridwell Dies at 86

Credit Rich White

“Clifford the Big Red Dog” creator Norman Bridwell died on December 12 in Martha’s Vineyard. The author-illustrator was 86.

Bridwell’s picture books about Clifford, a cheery red canine who starts off as a tiny puppy but grows to the size of a house due to the love of his owner, Emily Elizabeth, have been charming readers since 1962, with the publication of Clifford the Big Red Dog (Scholastic, 1962). Tons of subsequent books followed: Clifford’s Tricks (1969), Clifford the Small Red Puppy (1972), and Clifford’s Good Deeds (1975, all Scholastic), among others. An additional board book series, “Clifford the Small Red Puppy,” depict Clifford as a young puppy, and Bridwell also penned easy reader stories about the dog.

Clifford’s presence has long been felt off the page, too: the 1989 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade featured a balloon based upon the dog, and in 2000, PBS launched an animated TV series about Clifford and his friends. The franchise has also spawned countless toys, games, and other products.

However, Bridwell’s success came almost by accident. He initially set out not to become an author but rather an illustrator, but an editor at Harper & Row advised him to write and illustrate his own stories, telling him that one of his paintings—that of a little girl and a gigantic red bloodhound—might be a good starting point. Bridwell kept the color of the dog—which he had chosen because he had an open jar of red paint at his drawing board—but made him even bigger. He had planned to name the dog Tiny, but his wife suggested Clifford, after her childhood imaginary friend.

Though today Clifford is larger-than-life in every sense of the word, with the books selling more than 129 million copies in 13 languages and Scholastic devoting 2012 to celebrating the crimson character’s 50th anniversary, Bridwell’s achievements were hard won. Nine publishing houses turned down his manuscript for Clifford the Big Red Dog (Scholastic, 1962). The first book and its sequel, Clifford Gets a Job (Scholastic, 1965), enjoyed mild success, but it wasn’t until the books were reissued through Scholastic’s book club that they took off, delighting children and adults alike.

Simple yet heartwarming, most of the stories involve the well-meaning Clifford getting into trouble due to his size despite his best efforts but end happily, emphasizing the loving bond between the dog and his owner.

“The magic of the character and stories Norman created with Clifford is that children can see themselves in this big dog who tries very hard to be good, but is somewhat clumsy and always bumping into things and making mistakes,” said Dick Robinson, chairman, president, and CEO of Scholastic in a press release.

“He’s the kind of dog I think most people would want,” Bridwell said in a Scholastic-produced video commemorating Clifford’s 50th anniversary. “He’s always cheerful, he’s always a good-natured guy.”

Born in Kokomo, IN, Bridwell enjoyed telling stories and drawing from childhood, interests he continued to pursue in high school and long after. He attended the John Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis for two years and Cooper Union Art School in New York City for a year. He then went on to work as a commercial artist for several years. In 1958, he married Norma Howard, a fine artist, and the pair had two children, Emily Elizabeth (after whom he named Clifford’s owner) and Tim.

In addition to the beloved “Clifford” books, Bridwell was responsible for two other picture book series: “The Witch Next Door,” about a friendly witch and her neighbors, and the “Monster” (both Scholastic) series, containing riddles and jokes based on creatures such as vampires and werewolves. Bridwell wrote other, stand-alone picture books and illustrated for authors such as Mac Freeman and Jean Bethell.

Bridwell is survived by his wife, Norma, daughter, Emily Elizabeth, and son, Tim. Two “Clifford” books will be released in 2015: Clifford Goes to Kindergarten and Clifford Celebrates Hanukkah (both Scholastic).

“Bridwell’s books about Clifford, childhood’s most lovable dog, could only have been written by a gentle man with a great sense of humor,” said Robinson. “Norman personified the values that we as parents and educators hope to communicate to our children—kindness, compassion, helpfulness, gratitude—through the Clifford stories which have been loved for more than 50 years.”

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Authors and Illustrators Share Warm Holiday Memories with SLJ Wed, 17 Dec 2014 15:57:47 +0000 Since 2006, School Library Journal has solicited holiday memories from authors and illustrators. In our ninth edition, we feature contributions from Kathryn Erskine, Tim Federle, Andrea Davis Pinkney, and Huck Scarry, who join the ranks of beloved authors Judy Blume, Richard Peck, and Loren Long in our holiday memory annals.

Kathryn Erskine

Kathryn Erskine is the acclaimed author of many distinguished novels for young readers, including Mockingbird (Penguin, 2010), winner of the National Book Award; The Absolute Value of Mike (Philomel, 2010), an Amazon Best Book and ALA Notable Book; and Quaking, an ALA Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers.  Her most recent books are Seeing Red (Scholastic, 2013) and The Badger Knight (Scholastic, 2014).

ErskineXmas Authors and Illustrators Share Warm Holiday Memories with SLJ

Kathryn Erskine, age 5. Photo courtesy of Kathryn Erskine

Christmas as a kid was a magical. Some grown up you didn’t know squeezed himself down your chimney and left really great presents. All you had to do was write a note and put out some milk and cookies, even slightly nibbled ones. Santa wouldn’t mind, I was sure, because he was such a sweet, jolly guy.

As exciting as the season was, it was also difficult. I’ve never been a patient person, and as far as being curious…well, let’s just say I completely identified with Curious George. Opening that first door of my advent calendar and knowing I had 24 more days to wait was excruciating. But it did mean the treasure hunt for where Christmas gifts might be hidden could begin! There was the attic, the way back of the kitchen cabinets, the high shelf in my parents’ closet, where we weren’t supposed to go, and even the trunk of my father’s car, that last one being well nigh impossible to get into. Even if I managed to find a stash, it was limited to the expected (toffee, foil-wrapped Dutch chocolates) or the boring (Days of the Week underwear).

At least there was Santa. The year I was five, I decided I would stay up all night and see the Big Guy for myself. I wanted to meet him, talk to him, and share his cookies, but that might run the risk of being classified as “naughty,” and even though I was sure he was as kind as a teddy bear, what if he whisked my gifts back up the chimney? That’s exactly the type of injustice poor Curious George would’ve suffered. I would have to hide.

On Christmas Eve, as soon as I heard noises downstairs, I crept down the hall, crouched on the landing, and peered between the railings into the partially obscured and mostly dark living room. Santa was definitely there! I heard the rustle of gifts and the muffled tones of a man’s voice. Then I heard my mother’s talking to Santa, which was more than a little disturbing. What is Mummy doing whispering to Santa, I wondered, and where is Daddy?

“The bike,” my mother said.

Santa grunted in reply.

“You didn’t put it together yet?” she asked.

(Silly Mummy! That’s what elves are for!)

And then the swearing started─ not my mother─Santa.


I’d never pegged Jolly Old St. Nick as a swearer.

“Shh!” my mother cautioned, “they’ll hear.”

More swearing. The voice was sounding increasingly familiar.


Wait…that could only mean…there is no Santa.

Crap, I thought─one of the milder words from my father’s lexicon.

I loved the bike, though, which my father finished putting together on Christmas Day—because “Santa didn’t do his [bleep-bleep] job”—while my mother glared at him.

I still liked the myth of Santa. Or, more accurately, I clung to the myth that believing in Santa would get me more presents. When my sister blew my cover, I was outraged (and embarrassed) but soon realized she was right: we got the same number of presents whether they were from “Santa” or our parents. There were always the Santa-type gifts—the aquarium, LEGO kit, entire sets of my favorite books—and somehow, even packages of school supplies, socks, and Days of the Week underwear, cheerily wrapped and peeking out from under a lit tree on Christmas morning, with carols playing and chocolate for breakfast. It felt magical.

Tim Federle

Tim Federle grew up in San Francisco and Pittsburgh before moving to New York to dance on Broadway. His debut novel for kids, Better Nate Than Ever (2013), described as “Judy Blume as seen through a Stephen Sondheim lens” by The Huffington Post, was named a New York Times Notable Children’s Book of 2013 and a Best Book of 2013 by Amazon and Publishers Weekly. Five, Six, Seven, Nate! (both S. & S., 2014), the sequel to Better Nate  Than Ever, was named a Best Book of 2014 by the American Booksellers Association.

FederleSantas Authors and Illustrators Share Warm Holiday Memories with SLJ

A 20-year-old Tiim Federle as a Santa at Radio City Music Hall in NYC. Photo courtesy of Tim Federle

One of the reasons the We Need Diverse Books campaign feels like such a big duh to me is because I come from a theater background, where so-called color blind casting has long been the norm.

Case in holiday point: here I am as one of many multi-cultured/gendered Santas, all cast members of the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular. This was my first gig in New York, as a freshly scrubbed 20-year-old who never dreamed he’d someday be published by the great people across the street from Radio City, at Simon & Schuster. The Christmas show was amazing: you’d do up to five performances a day, for audiences who’d come from all over the world to experience 90 minutes of holiday magic. One of the reasons I love book events and big crowds, now—and why I never resent those “slow tourists” on our NYC sidewalks—is because I know they’re paying the bills. Without ticket buyers and book readers, I’d never have a job. And a job you love is, of course, the ultimate gift, Christmas or not.

Andrea Davis Pinkney

Andrea Davis Pinkney is the New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of many books, including her latest novel, The Red Pencil (Little, Brown, 2014), which was named an SLJ Best Book of 2014 and a New York Times Notable Book, and is also an NAACP Image Award nominee.  

When I was growing up, we prayed hard for white Christmases with lots of snow. That’s because my parents, sister, brother, and I spent every Christmas holiday skiing. This was a Davis family tradition that started when I was a kid and lasted well into my adult years.

One of the most memorable Christmas ski excursions happened about 25 years ago, right after I met Brian Pinkney, the guy who would become my husband. We were still dating then, and my family invited Brian to join us for the annual Davis Christmas Ski Summit. As my new boyfriend, Brian was very eager to make a good impression on my family. So he graciously agreed to come along for the skiing, even though he didn’t really know how to ski.

I remember my father making a tongue-in-cheek remark about this ski trip being a test of Brian’s devotion to me and an indicator of whether he’d make a suitable husband. Dad meant it as a joke, but I didn’t think it was funny. Poor Brian.

I was so afraid the whole thing would be a downhill disaster and would go down in Davis family history as the Christmas ski trip that plunged my boyfriend into a snow drift, never to be heard from again.

PinkneyXmasKnow what Authors and Illustrators Share Warm Holiday Memories with SLJ

Davis family ski trip Photo courtesy of Andreas David Pinkney

In this photo, I’m pictured with Brian and my parents (Mom and Dad on the left, me and Brian on the right) at the start of the holiday. Brian looks very confident and ready, but he’s since admitted that he was shaking in his ski boots. Thankfully, Mom and Dad took pity on my future husband and spent the entire trip patiently teaching him to ski.

My father led the way, inviting Brian to “follow this old man,” while my mom kept close behind Brian, coaching him by yelling,  “Cut your skis! Bend your knees! And for goodness’ sake, stop looking down!”

On the wintry trail, I was the last Davis in the ski line, following from a safe distance, counting the moments for this holiday to be over. Much to my relief, Brian’s a quick study. By the end of the trip, he was holding his own on the slopes. This photo has special meaning, because shortly after it was taken, Brian proposed. My parents had no qualms about welcoming him into the family. He’d proven himself on a mountaintop-to-bottom. Now, whenever I hear the song “White Christmas,” I can’t help but think of the lengths―and heights―my husband went to, to impress his future wife and in-laws.

Huck Scarry

HuckScarry Authors and Illustrators Share Warm Holiday Memories with SLJ

Huck Scarry (l) with his father Richard Scarry. Photo courtesy of Huck Scarry

Huck Scarry is carrying on the tradition of his father, the late popular children’s author Richard Scarry, with the newly found and published Richard Scarry’s Best Lowly Worm Book Ever! (all titles Random House, 2014). He also an author/illustrator in his own right, continuing to publish titles in the Scarry style, such as Richard Scarry’s a Day at the Airport (2001) and Richard Scarry’s a Day at the Fire Station (2003).

When I was a child, Christmastime always began with the smell of apples and cloves.

Around Thanksgiving, I would already start making a pomander: an apple into which I would press cloves, one snuggly against the other, until the apple was a brown, spiky, but heavenly smelling ball. It was a long work of patience, but once finished, tied to a velvet ribbon and hung-up in a doorframe, it was a wonderful feeling to smell Christmas coming !

On Christmas Eve, my mother would bake cranberry muffins. Before I would be sent off to bed, we would place a freshly baked muffin on a plate, along with a hot mug of cocoa beside the fireplace. I always imagined that Santa must get pretty hungry and thirsty doing his rounds with his big sack of toys.

The next morning, the first thing I would look for in the still darkened living room, even before checking the length of my stocking hanging from the fireplace mantle, was to see if Santa had indeed had his cocoa and muffin… and he always did!

RichardScarry Authors and Illustrators Share Warm Holiday Memories with SLJ

An original illustration by Richard Scarry. Courtesy of Huck Scarry

Read more SLJ Holiday Memories: 

2013 Holiday Memories  

2012 Holiday Memories Part 2

2012 Holiday Memories Part 1

2011 Holiday Memories

2010 Holiday Memories

2009 Holiday Memories

2008 Holiday Memories

2007 Holiday Memories

2006 Holiday Memories Part 2

2006 Holiday Memories Part 1

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SLJ’s Top 10 Audiobooks 2014 Wed, 17 Dec 2014 15:00:46 +0000 SLJ1412w Top10 Audio icon1 SLJ’s Top 10 Audiobooks 2014It’s a terrific time for those who love audiobooks. The Audio Publishers Association’s annual survey revealed that the 35,713 titles published in audiobook format in 2013 more than doubled from the 16,309 audiobooks that came out in 2012. This is the second year in a row that the number of titles published has doubled over the previous year, and marks a huge increase since 2010, when only 6,200 titles were released in audio.

Luckily for listeners, audiobooks’ quality is more than keeping pace with the increased quantities of titles on the market. These 10 titles represent the best of the best of 2014’s releases, with titles for all age groups and interests. They all tell fascinating stories—both fiction and nonfiction—that are enhanced by exceptional narration and production values.

2014 TOP10 AUDIOImpossibleKnifeOfMe141B4DE SLJ’s Top 10 Audiobooks 2014The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson. Brilliance. Gr 9 Up. Read by Julia Whelan and Luke Daniels.

Hayley Kincain’s father, Andy, served multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan before being hurt in battle and suffering from PTSD. Hayley has assumed the role of caretaker, trying to keep Andy’s depression and drug and alcohol use a secret. When she meets Finn, who has a secret as big as her own, their relationship helps her to realize that she may have more options and possibilities than she realizes. This story is as much Andy’s as it is Hayley’s, and narrators Julia Whelan and Luke Daniels bring the characters to life.

2014 TOP10 AUDIO Family Romanov SLJ’s Top 10 Audiobooks 2014The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming. Listening Library. Gr 7 Up. Read by Kimberly Farr and additional voice actors.

Differing from most Russian history targeted for this age group (which often feature the Grand Duchess Anastasia as the key or only player), Fleming makes a great effort to go deeper. With topics ranging from the relationship between Alexandra and Rasputin to vivid descriptions of the Romanov children’s sheltered lives, Fleming’s expertly researched account is engaging. Farr’s narration combined with Fleming’s writing will surely provide sustenance for those seeking meaty, narrative nonfiction.

2014 TOP10 AUDIOLocomotiveAB SLJ’s Top 10 Audiobooks 2014Locomotive by Brian Floca. Dreamscape. K-Gr 5. Read by Eric G. Dove.

Narrator Eric G. Dove spins Floca’s 2014 Caldecott Medal–winning visual masterpiece into a rich auditory experience. Dove’s resonant, lyrical voice captivates listeners and keeps them enthralled from beginning to end. Locomotive has something for all readers, from young engineers (who’ll love learning the details and vocabulary of piston-driven, push-and-pull steam locomotion), to poets (who will appreciate such lines as “wheels spinning, rods swinging, motion within motion running down the track”), history buffs, train enthusiasts, and those who simply love a well-told story.

2014 TOP10 AUDIORB Ice Whale SLJ’s Top 10 Audiobooks 2014Ice Whale by Jean Craighead George. Recorded Bks. Gr 5-8. Read by Christina Moore.

When Toozak, a Yup’ik Eskimo boy in Alaska, unknowingly leads whaling ships to the whales’ feeding grounds, the animals are slaughtered. The village shaman declares Toozak’s family cursed until one of them can save the life of Siku, a young ice whale—or the whale saves them. Narrator Christina Moore captures the emotional story in a strong, lyrical, and imaginative way—told in two voices, whale and human. Expressive, thrilling, and, at times, sad, this is an exhilarating audiobook highlighting the interconnectedness of the Alaskan Native culture and the inhabitants of the Beaufort Sea. Real recordings of bowhead whales are used to render the whale speech, and it is delightful to hear actual whale clicks, whistles, and calls throughout the book.

2014 TOP10 AUDIO FatBoyVsTheCheerlea141B50A SLJ’s Top 10 Audiobooks 2014Fat Boy vs. the Cheerleaders by Geoff Herbach. Brilliance. Gr 7 Up. Read by Nick Podehl.

Gabe is caught taking money out of the school vending machine in retaliation for the school band’s funds being reallocated to a new dance team. He is now in custody and is telling his story. How did a fat boy with no leadership skills corral the pep band to take on the cheerleaders? Herbach takes the everyday issues of clique rivalry and stereotypes and creates a story where the underdog fights back. Listeners will discover depth within the main character that doesn’t seem present at the beginning. Nick Podehl’s narration is fun and spot-on. He creates unique voices for the many varied characters and brings each person’s personality to life.

2014 TOP10 AUDIO the bambino and me SLJ’s Top 10 Audiobooks 2014The Bambino and Me by Zachary Hyman. Tundra Books. Gr 1-4. Read by Jason Alexander.

It’s 1927 in the Bronx, and George Henry Alexander loves baseball, the Yankees, and, most of all, The Bambino aka Babe Ruth. For his birthday, he will be going to see a Yankees/Red Sox game with his father, but to his horror, his mother insists that he wear a Red Sox jersey that was a birthday gift. How will George survive wearing the jersey of the enemy? What if The Babe sees him? This story is beautifully written and full of nostalgia. Jason Alexander’s narration is the icing on the cake, adding fun character voices and New York accents to this tale of Americana.

2014 TOP10 AUDIO BeyondMagenta SLJ’s Top 10 Audiobooks 2014Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kulkin. Brilliance. Gr 9 Up. Read by Nick Podehl, Roxanne Hernandez, Nancy Wu, Marisol Ramirez, and more.

The strength and honesty of six transgender teens stand out as their stories are told by a large cast of outstanding performers. Each tells a complex personal tale of realization, coming out, communication with family and friends, struggles, and triumph through adversity. Each performer speaks in the gender of the person’s current self-identity, which is occasionally confusing, although a main narrator, reading Kuklin’s words as she conducted these interviews, provides context for each story. The teens are voiced in a totally believable way with various regional accents. They tell the stories as flawed but full human beings, and as they talk about bullying, mental health, clinical history, and problems with family and friends, listeners will be inspired by their lives.

2014 TOP10 AUDIO GhostingBAUmu SLJ’s Top 10 Audiobooks 2014Ghosting by Edith Pattou. Brilliance. Gr 7 Up. Read by Kate Rudd, Kate Reinders, Amy McFadden, Nick Podehl, and more.

After a failed family move to Colorado, Maxie has returned to the Midwestern town where she grew up. When Emma, her former best friend, reluctantly invites her to a party, it sets in motion an evening full of self-discovery and mistakes in judgment that puts them on a collision course with tragedy. The story is told in alternating voices and viewpoints, and the tension ramps steadily upward. This terrific audiobook will resonate with teens, especially those who have had similar experiences. The large cast is excellent.

2014 TOP10 AUDIORB Josephine SLJ’s Top 10 Audiobooks 2014Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell. Recorded Bks. Gr 2-5. Read by Lizan Mitchell.

Through her bold performances and natural fearlessness, Josephine Baker became an international performing star. The unadorned narration of the blank verse text is lovely and vibrant as performed by veteran actress Lizan Mitchell. Her voice is full of the same energy and verve Josephine embodied, though the text is mostly narrative with no dialogue. It is sprinkled with occasional quotes from Josephine herself. Mitchell fluidly reads the verse, “knees squeeze, now fly/arms scissor and splay,” that captures Josephine’s uninhibited nature so well.

2014 TOP10 AUDIO Brown Girl Dreaming SLJ’s Top 10 Audiobooks 2014Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. Listening Library. Gr 4-7. Read by the author.

Woodson’s story, told in free verse, is particularly compelling when detailing the small moments of life, such as the “Saturday night smells of biscuits and burning hair” or bemoaning the “hair ribbons that anchor (her) to childhood.” And while poetry is sometimes difficult to follow on audio, this author is a masterful narrator. The sounds of the words and the rhythm expressed by her thoughtful intonation, careful pacing, and deliberate emphasis make clear the poetic form: “a country caught” (sharp C’s and T, pause) “between black and white.” Both a personal memoir and a child’s eye view of the nascent civil rights movement, this work confirms Woodson’s brilliance as a writer for children and for adults, too.

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A complex father-son relationship is found “Somewhere in the Darkness” | Audio Pick Wed, 17 Dec 2014 14:00:37 +0000 MYERS, Walter Dean. Somewhere in the Darkness. 5 CDs. 5:15 hrs. Recorded Bks. 2014. $51.75. ISBN 9781470393922. Playaway, digital download. Gr 7 Up–Jimmy is 14 years old. His biological mother is dead and his father has been incarcerated for the past nine years. As the story opens, Jimmy is living with Mama Jean in a rundown New York neighborhood. One day he returns home to find a stranger claiming to be his father. Crab, as Jimmy’s father is called, has been [...]]]> somewheredarkness A complex father son relationship is found Somewhere in the Darkness | Audio Pickstar A complex father son relationship is found Somewhere in the Darkness | Audio PickMYERS, Walter Dean. Somewhere in the Darkness. 5 CDs. 5:15 hrs. Recorded Bks. 2014. $51.75. ISBN 9781470393922. Playaway, digital download.
Gr 7 Up–Jimmy is 14 years old. His biological mother is dead and his father has been incarcerated for the past nine years. As the story opens, Jimmy is living with Mama Jean in a rundown New York neighborhood. One day he returns home to find a stranger claiming to be his father. Crab, as Jimmy’s father is called, has been released from prison, and a condition of his release is that he has to get a job. He claims that one is waiting for him in Chicago, and he wants to take his son with him. Mama Jean reluctantly agrees, and an equally reluctant Jimmy begins his journey with Crab. It becomes evident to Jimmy that Crab’s story about the job is a lie. Meanwhile, Crab is determined to prove to Jimmy that he did not kill the person he was convicted of murdering. This is a bittersweet story of a father trying to make up for lost time with the son he barely knows. The story does not have a feel-good, happy resolution, but it ends on a hopeful note for Jimmy’s future. The degree to which J.D. Jackson is able to capture the essence of the story is wonderful. His narration is even toned yet full of expression and feeling. This is a remarkable yet sad story made even better by a stellar audio performance.–Mary Oluonye, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH

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Sponsored: ALA Midwinter Book Buzz Smack Down Wed, 17 Dec 2014 12:59:39 +0000 Coming soon to an ALA Midwinter near you…

<NOTE: This content was sponsored and contributed by Macmillan.>

Talia ali pic for book buzz 300x150 Sponsored: ALA Midwinter Book Buzz Smack DownIn an exclusive interview with School Library Journal Talia “The Terror” Sherer (St. Martin’s Griffin, booth #4613) and Ali “The Alien” Fisher (Tor Teen & Starscape, booth #4515) have confirmed that the rumors are true—they’re back in action for a one-time-only no-holds-barred reunion book buzz, “The Future According to Tor & Griffin: New Titles for Teens & Young Readers”

Talia and Ali’s faithful fans have tirelessly campaigned for over a year to see the once legendary duo team up and talk books. Join them at this once-again-in-a-lifetime event on Saturday, January 31st, at 11:30 am at the Book Buzz Stage on the Exhibit Hall Floor.

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IMLS Innovation Funding; Bewitching Giveaway; A Wicked Deal for “The Devil’s Intern” | SLJTeen News Wed, 17 Dec 2014 01:53:38 +0000 Appy Now for IMLS 2015 Sparks! Ignition Grants

TIMLSlogo IMLS Innovation Funding; Bewitching Giveaway; A Wicked Deal for The Devil’s Intern | SLJTeen Newshe Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) is accepting applications for Sparks! Ignition Grants for Libraries. The application deadline is February 2, 2015.

Sparks! Ignition Grants for Libraries are small grants that encourage libraries and archives to prototype and evaluate innovations that result in new tools, products, services, or organizational practices. These enable recipients to undertake activities that involve risk and require them to share project results—whether they succeed or fail—to provide valuable information to the library field and help improve the ways libraries serve their communities.

The funding range is from $10,000 to $25,000, and there are no matching requirements. Projects must begin on October 1, November 1, or December 1, 2015. Click here for program guidelines and more information about the funding opportunity.

Bewitching Reads for the New Year

Tween readers and reviewers loved Stacy DeKeyser’s The Brixen Witch (2013). Get a jumpstart on her February 2015 companion novel, One Witch at a Time (both S. & S.), by entering this fun giveaway.

one witch at a time IMLS Innovation Funding; Bewitching Giveaway; A Wicked Deal for The Devil’s Intern | SLJTeen NewsWhen Rudi goes to market without his father for the first time, he has an important task: to sell his family’s cheese and butter. He never dreams that his pesky neighbor would sell the family’s cow for a handful of magic beans!  It’s a magic that doesn’t belong in Brixen, and Rudi needs to get rid of those beans now. Will this beanstalk shortcut be a blessing or a curse? DeKeyser’s imaginative twists on classic fairy tales will bewitch young patrons.

Three winners will receive One Witch at a Time in hardcover and The Brixen Witch in paperback for their collections. To enter, send an email with your name, shipping address, and email address. Entries must be received by midnight (PDT) on January 15, 2015. Winners will be selected in a random drawing and notified via email. One entry per person, please; prizes will only be shipped to U.S. addresses. Download free discussion guides for the novels at the author’s website.

The Devil’s Intern Free Ebook Offer

devils intern IMLS Innovation Funding; Bewitching Giveaway; A Wicked Deal for The Devil’s Intern | SLJTeen News

For a limited time only, readers can download an ebook of Holiday House’s The Devil’s Intern by Donna Hosie for free from B&,, and Amazon. Get your copy now; offer ends December 22.

In The Devil’s Intern, 17-year-old Mitchell Johnson swipes a time-travel device so he can escape his internship in Hell’s accounting office, but his plans to return to Earth and alter his own death take an unexpected turn when his three closest friends insist on accompanying him back to the land of the living.

Join #TeamDevil for “non-stop adventure” (starred review, School Library Journal) and “outstanding fun” (starred review, Kirkus Reviews).

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Upcoming Diverse Titles, Light Romance, and Magical Realism | What’s Hot in YA Tue, 16 Dec 2014 23:32:21 +0000 Razorhurst and Jennifer Niven’sAll the Bright Places to Stacy Lee’s Under the Painted Sky and Cindy Rodriguez’s , young adult fans will have lots to look forward to in 2015.]]> As we close 2014, it’s heartening to see that the new year will be filled with novels featuring diverse teens, including Cindy Rodriguez’s When Reason Breaks, Hannah Moskowitz’s Not Otherwise Specified, and Stacy Lee’s Under a Painted Sky. Magical realism also continues to make its stamp with Elana Arnold’s Infandous and Laura Ruby’s Bone Gap. And for those teens searching for swoon-inducing reads, check out Emery Lord’s The Start of Me and You and Andrea Siegel’s & Brent Bradshaw Everybody Knows Your Name. For readers of meatier fare, nonfiction and Adult Books for Teens might strike their fancy, instead.

The original reviews of the following works appeared in SLJ’s December print magazine.


Abrams, Amir. Caught Up. 336p. ebook available. Dafina/Kensington. Dec. 2014. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9780758294784.

Gr 10 Up –Teens looking to read about romance, sex, drug use, and urban drama will find it in the story of 16-year-old Kennedy Simms, a suburban girl who longs for the excitement of life in the ‘hood. She’s attracted to boys who wear sagging jeans and smell of marijuana smoke—boys her more conservative friends disapprovingly call “thugs” and “hoodlums.” But Kennedy’s bored with dating the nerds her parents and friends like; she’s determined to break out of her safe world in a gated community and experience life. Soon, she is defying her mother, staying out all night, drinking, partying, and generally making poor decisions. Kennedy falls for Malik, who thrills and romances her. She ignores all of the warning signs, choosing Malik over her friends when they try to warn her against him. It takes a catastrophic event and serious consequences to help Kennedy see the error of her ways, though by then it may be too late. Fans of YA street lit authors, such as Ni-Ni Simone and L. Divine will enjoy this, and despite the mature content, it’s more suitable for the majority of high school libraries than adult titles in this genre.–Miranda Doyle, Lake Oswego School District, OR

polaris 199x300 Upcoming Diverse Titles, Light Romance, and Magical Realism | What’s Hot in YAArnett, Mindee. Polaris. 432p. HarperCollins/Balzer & Bray. Jan. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062235626; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780062235640.

Gr 9 Up –Picking up where Avalon (HarperCollins, 2014) left off, this novel has Jeth Seagrave, along with his newly discovered sister and his crew, the Malleus Shades—a bunch of teen outlaws working jobs for an intergalactic crime lord—on the run from the ITA, who are still holding his scientist mother captive. Long-thought dead, she had been imprisoned for years by the galactic organization because she and her unborn child were radically changed by their time in deep space, gaining the ability to manipulate time and space mentally. Jeth’s otherworldly sister Cora holds the key to restoring the failed Metadrives that hold the Confederation together. In order to reunite his family, and ensure their continued freedom, Jeth must rely on his crew and enter into an extremely dangerous partnership with the galaxy’s newest crime lord, as he takes the fight to the heart of the ITA itself. With its high-octane plot, multidimensional characters, witty banter, and lots of heart, Polaris will appeal to fans of science fiction and action/adventure alike.–Ryan F. Paulsen, New Rochelle High School, NY

Arnold, Elana. Infandous. 200p. ebook available. Carolrhoda Lab. Feb. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781467738491. LC 2014008998.

Gr 10 Up –Sixteen-year-old Sephora Golding is the daughter of the incomparable former model Rebecca Golding. Seph lives a less-than-admirable life on the shadier side of Venice Beach, California. Her artwork keeps her grounded, but her meager lifestyle can’t compare to the lap of luxury that she could have living with her mother’s family across the country. Even with all of the negative aspects, the truly special connection that she has with her mother, one that stretches far beyond the typical mother-daughter relationship, keeps her tied to the place and the life that she has always known. Interspersed with Seph’s coming-of-age narrative are snippets of a fantastical fairy tale about a mermaid and a wolf that bear a striking resemblance to the teen’s own family drama. Arnold’s fresh and exciting plot twist is unexpected, elevated by the lyrical writing style. A well-written and evenly paced dramatic tale about finding peace in ones own situation.–Chad Lane, Easton Elementary, Wye Mills, MD

rememberyou 196x300 Upcoming Diverse Titles, Light Romance, and Magical Realism | What’s Hot in YABell, Cathleen Davitt. I Remember You. 320p. Knopf. Feb. 2015. lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9780385754569; Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780385754552; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780385754576. LC 2014004789.

Gr 10 Up –It’s 1994 in an East Coast suburban town. Juliet is a junior in high school, focusing on her future goals (law school). Lucas is a hockey player, who is from a less-affluent part of town, and has his future planned out: he’s joining the Marines. When Lucas walks into Physics class and sees Juliet, he knows they are going to date. He claims to have visions and memories that seem to be coming from his future. As these become more frequent, Juliet finds herself lost in his pain, unfocused on her goals, as she tries to hang on to their relationship in the present. Bell weaves an intensely passionate love story with a creative structure in which the present-day and future time lines eventually meet by its end. Well-developed and multidimensional supporting characters contribute to the book’s even pace. Strong imagery and realistic dialogue work seamlessly to create the ambiance of 1994, where pay phones were only a quarter and houses still had corded landlines. This romance novel has elements of science fiction, yet remains true and authentic to the intensity of feelings adolescents experience with their first loves. Recommended for fans of Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler’s The Future of Us (Penguin, 2011).–Stephanie DeVincentis, Downers Grove North High School, IL

SLJ1412 BK Fic9up Bredes Upcoming Diverse Titles, Light Romance, and Magical Realism | What’s Hot in YABredes, Don. Polly and the One and Only World. 336p. Green Writers. 2014. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9780989983891; ebk. ISBN 9780996087247.

Gr 9 Up –The “one and only world” referenced in the title is that of a near-future United States—magical, post-catastrophe, almost familiar, yet chillingly changed. Polly has been sent to the relative safety of her aunt and uncle in Florida to escape the Christian Protectorate government’s purge of her village in Vermont. But safety is not possible for a hereditary witch in the fundamentalist police state that America has become. The teen manages to escape capture by the guard with the aid of her familiar, Balthazar the crow. She sets off to find her family, but discovers travel through the wilds of climate cataclysm and institutionalized zealotry is not an easy course. With the help of friends she meets along the way, particularly the freethinking Leon, Polly struggles through betrayal, loss, and capture. With captivating language that draws readers in, Bredes’s writing will inspire teens to revere current freedoms. A thrilling journey, full of peril, exploit, friendship, and sorrow, this book is sure to find readers.–Genevieve Feldman, San Francisco Public Library

SLJ1412 BK Fic9up Brooks Upcoming Diverse Titles, Light Romance, and Magical Realism | What’s Hot in YABrooks, Kevin. The Bunker Diary. 264p. ebook available. Carolrhoda Lab. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781467754200.

Gr 10 Up –Linus is a 16-year-old runaway living on the harsh English streets who wakes up one day in an unfamiliar underground bunker with no water or food while under constant surveillance by an unknown kidnapper. As each day passes, more people are kidnapped and are subjected to the same brutal conditions. When Linus and the rest try to escape and find out more about their situation and their kidnapper, they realize that, with their options dwindling, they may have to resort to the ultimate horror to survive. Brooks’s controversial Carnegie Medal-winner is truly a psychologically disturbing book that will leave readers with a deep sense of unease. It’s not a title for everyone: some may be unsettled by the harsh realities the protagonist faces, while others will be fascinated by the simple complexity of Brooks’s prose and truly effective storytelling. A unique choice that will get teens talking.–Christopher Lassen, Brooklyn Public Library

Cousins, Dave. Waiting for Gonzo. 288p. Flux. Jan. 2015. Tr $9.99. ISBN 9780738741994.

Gr 7 Up –Oz has just moved from his home in London to a small, sleepy village hours away from the big city. He misses his friends, does not like his family’s fixer-upper farmhouse, and is not doing a great job making friends. On the first day of school he realizes that instead of bringing his school bag, he has brought his sister’s dirty laundry, and, to make matters worse, he has decided that drawing a mustache and glasses on a girl’s photo in the school display case is a good idea. Sadly, Oz is unaware that the girl is the school bully who terrifies everyone, even the other bullies. Oz never thinks his plans through and Waiting for Gonzo is like watching one botched attempt after another to fix what has gone wrong: trying to make friends with the school bully by feeding her dog (good) chicken bones (bad); or helpfully telling his sister’s boyfriend all of her “flaws,” causing him to leave her. But Oz remains hopeful and fairly optimistic that eventually he will get something right, so he keeps trying. The protagonist is well rounded and true to the awkwardness of a teenage boy trying to find his way. –Lisa Nabel, Dayton Metro Library, OH

Doyle, Catherine. Vendetta. 352p. Scholastic/Chicken House. Feb. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780545699822; ebk. ISBN 9780545699839. LC 2014020255.

Gr 9 Up –Since her father’s murder trial, Sophie Gracewell has become a social pariah. Instead of attending parties and spending time with friends, she works at her father’s diner with her only remaining friend, Millie. Currently managed by her mysterious uncle, the diner will pass to Sophie when she turns 18. Reluctantly resigned to her fate, Sophie’s world suddenly gets shaken up by the mysterious arrival of a jar of honey left at the diner by gangster known as “The Sting.” Also, an immediate attraction develops between Sophie and Nicoli Falcone, one of the five brothers in a new family that moved in to a long abandoned neighborhood mansion. However, their relationship is initially complicated by his overbearing brothers and then later prohibited once the link between the Falcones and Gracewells is discovered. The protagonist must reconcile her affection for Nic with the violent role he plays in his family’s business, while also accepting the truth of her father’s incarceration and the reasons for her uncle’s sudden disappearance. Readers will be drawn in by the star-crossed romance and the compelling plot. For collections that can’t keep enough teen romances on the shelf.–Lynn Rashid, Marriotts Ridge High School, Marriottsville, MD

Eagland, Jane. The World Within: A Novel of Emily Brontë. 336p. ebook available. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545492959. LC 2014004667.

Gr 6-9 –Eagland uses a line from an Emily Brontë poem as inspiration for the title of this novel to capture Emily’s introverted nature and to reference the fantastical worlds that she and her siblings created. Emily’s close-knit family—her father; siblings Branwell, Charlotte, and Anne; an aunt; and their housemaid—become real to readers. A scene where Emily’s pious aunt dips into her snuff jar while Charlotte’s friend is visiting is one example of Eagland’s skill in adding depth to the characters. The protagonist’s interactions with elders, siblings and their friends, and classmates at Roe Head reflect Emily’s complexity, and the emotions she experiences as she navigates these relationships are genuine. Emily and Anne struggle with their personal faith in God, and the author conveys this timeless issue with acuity. The themes of family, being true to oneself, rural vs. urban living, and coming of age are interwoven throughout without weighing down the story.–Hilary Writt, Sullivan University, Lexington, KY

SLJ1412 BK Fic9up Furniss Upcoming Diverse Titles, Light Romance, and Magical Realism | What’s Hot in YAFurniss, Clare. The Year of the Rat. 304p. S. & S./Margaret K. McElderry Bks. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481420990; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781481421010. LC 2014025392.

Gr 7 Up –Fifteen-year-old Pearl is left with a broken stepfather, a newborn sister, and grief that is nearly too much to bear after her mother dies during childbirth. Shocked into numbness, she finds herself lashing out at her family and friends. Worst of all, she can’t stand her sister, (whom she disdainfully labels The Rat), a constant reminder that her mother is gone. Except her mother isn’t gone—feisty, fabulous Stella crops up unexpectedly, equally ready with advice and admonishment from beyond the grave. The premise of the novel is intriguing; though bleak, Furniss buoys heavy emotional scenes with elements of wit and humor. Pearl is surrounded by a strong cast of supporting characters, including elderly neighbor Dulcie, loyal best friend Molly, and snooty yet loving Nan. This novel glosses over some grittier elements of its plot, but is overall a touching, well-written depiction of adolescence and the pervasive, perplexing nature of loss.–Ashleigh Williams, School Library Journal

Gardner, Scot. The Dead I Know. 208p. ebook available. Houghton Harcourt. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544232747. LC 2013050162.

Gr 9 Up– Aaron has trouble connecting with people. He suffers from recurring nightmares—horrific memories of a dead woman—that have been locked away, and most nights he sleepwalks away from his home and into a caravan park where the majority of residents are drug addicts. When the teen gets a funeral director apprenticeship with Mr. Barton, it is not the dead bodies that make him nervous, but Mr. Barton’s family and the grieving mourners instead. As his dreams become more intense and his Mam’s undiagnosed dementia becomes increasingly dangerous, Aaron must learn how to rely on the living if he wants to save his grandmother and himself. First published in Australia, this is a dark, psychological coming-of-age drama with memorable characters and believable dialogue. Gardner continuously keeps readers emotionally invested in the protagonist. Despite the heavy topics explored in the novel, including Aaron’s realization that his recurring dreams are actually repressed memories of a horrible event, and Aaron being the sole caretaker of his sick grandmother, Gardner writes with sensitivity and in a way that is accessible to teens. A darkly funny book.–Marissa Lieberman, East Orange Public Library, NJ

Hall, Maggie. The Conspiracy of Us. 336p. ebook available. Putnam. Jan. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399166501. LC 2014015540.

Gr 7 Up –Avery West has been very careful not to form strong friendships and bonds, knowing that they will be lost every time she has to move because of her mother’s job. When she meets Jack Bishop, a fellow new student at her school, everything changes. After a last-minute decision to attend prom with Jack, they are approached out of the blue by Stellan, who demands that Avery go with him and whom, strangely, Jack appears to know well. Soon Avery finds herself in a world of Keepers, the mandate, and The Circle of Twelve. Not only is her father alive and part of one of the secret families of The Circle, but he could possibly even be the head of one. There are secret societies Avery knows nothing about, and some of them want her out of the picture. Hall sweeps readers into a world of conspiracies, puzzles, and mystery from the first page, and provides a likable and intelligent narrator in Avery. –Selenia Paz, Helen Hall Library, League City, TX

Harris, Rachel. The Fine Art of Pretending. 256p. Spencer Hill. 2014. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9781939392282; ebk. ISBN 9781939392275.

Gr 9 Up –Aly wants to lighten up and have more fun her senior year. To do this, she decides to shed her image as a serious girl and become a “casual.” She starts with skimpy clothes, makeup, and wearing her hair loose instead of in a ponytail. She makes more effort to get involved in social events. She jumps into the lake for a game of chicken and takes the stage for karaoke. And she asks her best friend, cute-boy Brandon, to be her pretend boyfriend so other boys will see her as datable. The friends soon begin to fall for each other, not realizing that the other feels the same way. Chapters alternate between the two teens. The voices are clearly distinct. There are mild references to sex, virginity, and drinking beer at a house party, but no serious or explicit exploration of these themes. There are also references to attending church, but only as a social, not religious, space. Fans of light teen romance will find just what they’re looking for in this confection.–Amelia Jenkins, Juneau Public Library, AK

Hensley, Joy N. Rites of Passage. 416p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062295194.

Gr 9 Up –Sam McKenna can never turn down a dare, and before one of her older brothers committed suicide, he proposed the ultimate challenge—be one of the first females to matriculate and graduate from prestigious Denmark Military School. Her military family can do little to help her as Sam faces harassment, sexism, and outright abuse from members of an all-male secret society on campus. This group is determined that no females will remain at the academy, but they have vastly underestimated the protagonist’s fortitude. Hensley’s contemporary novel is not an easy read because of the graphic depictions of hazing, but this worthwhile addition to the YA realm is notable for its portrayal of a strong female in the face of adversity. –Amanda C. Buschmann, Atascocita Middle School, Humble, TX

Floating boy Upcoming Diverse Titles, Light Romance, and Magical Realism | What’s Hot in YAJones, P.T. Floating Boy and the Girl Who Couldn’t Fly. 272p. ChiTeen. 2014. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781771481731.

Gr 7-10 –Mary, about to enter high school, was not expecting a cute boy to drift into her life at her little cousin’s birthday party. Or to float right out of it again. But, right before her eyes, the boy floats off into the sky. While other partygoers conjure excuses for what they witnessed, Mary believes in the phenomenon. Then her little brother, Terry, starts floating too. Desperate to save Terry, Mary searches for Floating Boy to learn about what is causing the strange occurrence. Soon, her friends, and other children in town, are floating as well, but Mary remains grounded. When Terry is kidnapped by Mr. Barron, the sinister guardian of Floating Boy, the protagonist embarks on a mission to rescue her little brother, and everyone else in town, from this mad scientist. This captivating, multilayered story immediately engages readers with Mary’s snarky, spunky narration. But hovering beneath the mystery of Floating Boy is the specter of Mary’s mental issues: anxiety attacks caused her to miss the end of the school year. An unusual book that will enthrall young teens.–Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor School District, Lancaster, PA

Lake, Nick. There Will Be Lies. 400p. ebook available. Bloomsbury. Jan. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781619634404.

Gr 9 Up –“I have no words to describe how I am feeling—it’s like grief, maybe, but grief for myself. I was living my life, and then something came along and killed me, erased me.” Seventeen-year-old Shelby Jane Cooper’s world begins to come apart after she is hit by a car in Scottsdale, AZ. Her overprotective mother takes them on the run, and a coyote (who used to be a boy) begins to bring her into the Dreaming, a magical place where Shelby is no longer deaf and the animal inhabitants believe she can save them from an evil witch. What’s real, this world or the Dreaming? What are the “two lies” that Coyote warns Shelby about? What is the one truth? Lake’s new novel is perplexing and disorienting, full of the rich language and heady epiphanies. The plot draws on Native American mythology and the haunting vastness of the Southwest landscape. The battles between elks and wolves, narrow escapes from authorities, and the looming mystery (Who is Shelby?) will make teens want to tear through the pages.–Chelsey Philpot, Boston University

alienated 199x300 Upcoming Diverse Titles, Light Romance, and Magical Realism | What’s Hot in YALanders, Melissa. Alienated. 352p. Bk. 1. 2014. Tr. $16.99. ISBN 9781423170280. LC 2013032977.

––––. Invaded. 368p. Bk. 2. Tr. $17.99. ISBN 9781423169499.

ea vol: (Alienated). ebook available. Disney-Hyperion. Feb. 2015.

Gr 9 Up –In Alienated, Cara Sweeney, high school overachiever and class valedictorian, has been selected to host the first L’eihr exchange student. Initial excitement and pride are quickly overshadowed by doubt and unease upon meeting the alien Aelyx. Although almost genetically identical, the two cultures are as different as night and day and the level of discomfort is evident. Further complicating matters is anti-alien paranoia and violence directed not only at Aelyx and the other exchange students, but also at Cara and her family. Drawn together due to circumstance, the teens start falling for each other. In Invaded, the couple continues to try to forge an alliance between the two planets, as mutual survival of both populations are depending on it. Excellent character development and a nice integration between modern reality and science fiction drive the plot in a satisfying story arc. Continuation of the story line is seamless between series installments, giving readers a continued interest in and connection to the protagonists. Teens will be rooting for the galactic couple while enjoying the action and suspense that runs through the two volumes. A fun pick for fans of sci-fi with a bit of romance.–Elizabeth Speer, Cisco College, TX

SLJ1412 BK Fic9up Larbalestier Upcoming Diverse Titles, Light Romance, and Magical Realism | What’s Hot in YALarbalestier, Justine. Razorhurst. 280p. Soho Teen. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781616955441; ebk. $17.99. ISBN 9781616955458.

Gr 9 Up –Larbalestier’s latest features gritty historical fiction with a paranormal twist. The grim tale takes place in 1932 in a fictionalized version of Surry Hills neighborhood of Sydney, Australia. The neighborhood is dominated by two rival gangs, but because guns are illegal, violence is done using razor blades and gruesome scars are a common sight. The novel takes place over the course of one day and tells the story of two very different young women: Kelpie, a feral child raised by ghosts, and Dympha, a prostitute with a violent past who seems older than her years. Razorhurst introduces a historical period with which many North American readers may not be familiar. Though some of the events and character backstories border on improbable, the short chapters and multiple viewpoints keep things interesting. The ghosts emphasize the bloody nature of the time period and provides occasional humor.–Eliza Langhans, Hatfield Public Library, MA

Lee Under a Painted Sky Upcoming Diverse Titles, Light Romance, and Magical Realism | What’s Hot in YALee, Stacey. Under a Painted Sky. 384p. ebook available. Putnam. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780399168031. LC 2014015976.

Gr 7 Up–Although Samantha and her father have a successful dry goods store in Saint Joseph, Missouri, they long to escape: Samantha yearns to return to New York in hopes of a music career, while her father dreams of moving west to California. After her father dies in a fire, the teen is left grief-stricken and vulnerable. Their landlord, Ty Yorkshire, offers her accommodation at the town hotel, where she befriends Annamae, a slave housekeeper. After Samantha kills Ty during a rape attempt, she and Annamae create disguises and join a caravan traveling to California in search of gold. The ever-present fear of being caught, whether by police or fellow travelers becoming wise to their disguises, is effectively created, as is the primitive life on the trail. As the girls learn cowboy techniques such as using dried buffalo scat to make a campfire and roping horses, readers are introduced to authentic cowboy life. Complications arise for Samantha when she develops a crush on a fellow cowboy; while Annamae falls for a vaquero (Mexican cowboy). High drama, tension, romantic longings, and touches of humor will entice historical fiction fans, and will be a perfect tie-in to social studies curriculum.–Jennifer Schultz, Fauquier County Public Library, Warrenton, VA

Littman, Sarah Darer. Backlash. 336p. Scholastic. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545651264; ebk. ISBN 9780545651271.

Gr 7 Up –For sophomore Lara Kelly, things are finally looking up—she’s feeling more confident after losing weight and she made the varsity cheerleading team, which she never would have imagined two years earlier when she was overweight and severely depressed. Best of all, Lara has caught the attention of a cute guy on Facebook, and he has been hinting at asking her to the homecoming dance. But when she sees horrible comments from her crush on social media, she spirals into a dangerous mental state and suicide seems like the only escape. Bree is Lara’s former best friend from middle school, but they drifted apart when Bree couldn’t take Lara’s depression and self-involvement. The new Lara is suddenly getting everything that Bree is supposed to have—the popularity, and even the spot on the cheer team. Sydney and Liam are the younger siblings, who are caught up in the horror of a tragic event, and trying to figure out how to cope with their siblings’ issues while living their own lives. This novel thoughtfully balances the four alternating perspectives, giving an element of humanity even to the perpetrators of severe bullying while maintaining a strong moral judgment. Share with fans of Lane Davis’s I Swear (S. & S. 2012).–Tara Kron, School Library Journal

SLJ1412 BK Fic9up SB Liu Upcoming Diverse Titles, Light Romance, and Magical Realism | What’s Hot in YALiu, Liana. The Memory Key. 368p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062306647; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780062306661.

Gr 7 Up –Lora Mint’s mother died in a car accident five years ago, and the pain of losing her hasn’t diminished. Worse, Lora’s memories of her are fading, even though she has a Memory Key, because the Keys aren’t meant to preserve memories perfectly, just mimic the brain’s ability to remember. Her mom was a top scientist at Keep Corp, the morally questionable company that developed Memory Keys to combat the widespread Alzheimer’s-like Vergets Disease. After Lora’s key begins malfunctioning, she suddenly has crystal-clear memories of her mother—memories that make the teen wonder whether the accident actually ended her mom’s life. Now she must sort through her past to discover her mother’s true fate, before Keep Corp fixes her Memory Key and takes away her perfect recall forever. Liu has crafted a story with elements of mystery, corporate and government conspiracy, romance, and friendship. The narrative moves along at a quick enough pace that even reluctant readers will stay engaged. Lora is a mostly likable protagonist and her BFF Wendy adds comic relief and a voice of reason. Give this one to teens looking for suspense sprinkled with a little dystopia, lacking violence or mature content.–Kelsey Johnson-Kaiser, La Crosse Public Library, WI

Lord, Emery. The Start of Me and You. 336p. ebook available. Bloomsbury. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781619633599. LC 2014014376.

Gr 7 Up –Aspiring screenwriter Paige Hancock is determined to redefine herself one year after her boyfriend, Aaron, drowned. Paige creates a checklist of tasks that she intends to accomplish during her junior year to finally shake off the label of “the girl whose boyfriend drowned” in small-town Oakhurst, IN. With the support of a solid core of best friends, Paige succeeds in her “plan to become normal again.” The crew also helps her recover from the devastating loss of her beloved and supportive grandmother and to cope with her divorced parents dating each other. She also finds a budding romance in an unexpected place—with Max Watson, nerdy cousin of heartthrob Ryan Chase. In sharp contrast to darker, more issue-driven YA books, this title keeps truer to the problems that most teens face. The protagonist’s upbeat attitude will inspire readers to persevere even during the low points in life.–Nicole Knott, Watertown High School, CT

McGann, Oisin. Rat Runners. 319p. Open Road. Jan. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781497665804; ebk. ISBN 9781497665729.

Gr 6-9 –An engrossing dystopian thriller, perfect for fans of the genre. McGann draws readers in from the start with an exciting chase scene, and the excitement just keeps building. Nimmo, Scope, Manikin, and FX are four young thieves living in a version of London that is controlled by a corporation called WatchWorld. London’s streets are littered with cameras and patrolled by Safe-Guards, half-human, half-robot patrols that keep the citizens in check. But the criminal underworld still exists. Move-Easy is one of many gang members who has gone underground, away from all and any cameras in order to avoid detection. After Brundle’s murder, Nimmo must go into hiding and prevent whatever is in the case from falling into the wrong hands. Rat Runners has all the elements that dystopian readers are looking for, while still remaining a unique contribution to the genre, combining action, mystery, and suspense.–Patrick Tierney, Dr. Martin Luther King Elementary School RI

McStay, Moriah. Everything That Makes You. 352p. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062295484.

Gr 9 Up –As a child, Fiona Doyle was in a horrible accident that left part of her face permanently scarred. Now in high school, she is an excellent student, has a family who loves her, enjoys talking to her best friend, Lucy, and has a crush on Trent McKinnon. In alternating chapters, readers meet Fi Doyle, the imaginary girl who escaped that horrible childhood accident. Now in high school, Fi is the best lacrosse player, has a family who loves her, and enjoys talking to her best friend, Trent McKinnon. In both versions of this story, Fiona and Fi successfully navigate through school, fall in love, go to college, and struggle with the conflict. As expected, Fi’s life goes down a different path than Fiona’s, but readers will see that they have much in common after all. McStay weaves similar characters and circumstances throughout their worlds. It is interesting to see how each girl interacts with these people and reacts to her environment. The author consistently builds the plot without breaking the pace of the narrative. McStay’s debut explores the theme of choices and how those choices become the framework for the person who makes them.–Jeni Tahaney, Duncanville High School Library, TX

Meadows, Jodi. The Orphan Queen. 400p. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062317384; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780062317407.

Gr 7 Up –Wilhelmina—more frequently known as Wil—is a princess. However, she’s a royal who’s more used to stealing food than curtsying in a palace. Wil’s homeland of Aecor was conquered 10 years earlier by the Indigo Kingdom and Wil and a band of other orphaned children of Aecor nobility have been living secretly as refugees in Skyvale, the capital of the Indigo Kingdom. The teen and the other refugees have plans to take back their home by infiltrating the palace. As Wilhelmina’s mission inside the palace proceeds, it is complicated not just by her secret ability to practice magic—which has been forbidden for almost a century—but also by her connection to the vigilante Black Knife, a masked figure who helps the poor and the weak in the streets of Skyvale. Fans of Katniss and the Sisters of St. Mortain from Robin LaFevers’s “His Fair Assassin” series (Houghton Harcourt) and other strong, vengeful female heroines will root for Wil, as she plots revolution, struggles with her conflicted feelings for Black Knife, and discovers more about wraith, the toxic by-product of magic.–Evelyn Khoo Schwartz, Georgetown Day School, Washington, DC

Mills, Wendy. Positively Beautiful. 368p. ebook available. Bloomsbury. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781619633414.

Gr 8 Up –Hit with the news of her beloved mother’s cancer diagnosis, Erin is further rocked by the discovery that she may be at risk for a similar struggle. As she comes to terms with her new normal, the decisions she makes have great implications in her formerly quiet life. The teen’s behavior occasionally skirts the line of plausibility, but readers will be sympathetic to her extreme emotional conflict. The subject matter transcends the typical “cancer novel” material by including conflict over testing for the BRCA gene but still goes for the emotional jugular throughout. The novel will be highly appealing to teens who would be interested in a more modern take on a well-trod genre.–Erinn Black Salge, Saint Peter’s Prep, Jersey City, NJ

SLJ1412 BK Fic9up Moskowitz Upcoming Diverse Titles, Light Romance, and Magical Realism | What’s Hot in YAMoskowitz, Hannah. Not Otherwise Specified. 304p. ebook available. S. & S./Simon Pulse. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481405966; pap. $11.99. ISBN 9781481405959.

Gr 9 Up –High school junior Etta juggles many identities, none of which seem to fit quite right. She’s bisexual, but shunned by her group of friends, the self-named Disco Dykes, who can’t forgive her for dating a boy. She has an eating disorder, but never weighs little enough to qualify as officially anorexic. She’s a dancer, but just tap these days, not ballet, because as a short, curvy, African American teen, she doesn’t seem to have the right look for ballet. She feels like she’s never enough—not gay enough, straight enough, sick enough, or healthy enough. More than anything, she just wants to get out of Nebraska and hopes auditioning for the prestigious Brentwood arts high school will be her ticket to New York. A rehearsal group introduces her to Bianca, a quiet (and extremely sick) 14-year-old from her eating disorder support group. Together, they prepare for the auditions and form a surprising friendship, one that embraces flaws, transcends identities, and is rooted in genuine caring. Moskowitz masterfully negotiates all of the issues, never letting them overwhelm the story, and shows the intersectionality of the many aspects of Etta’s identity. The characters here are imperfect and complicated, but ultimately hopeful. Etta’s candid and vulnerable narrative voice will immediately draw in readers, making them root for her as she strives to embrace her identity free from labels and expectations.–Amanda MacGregor, formerly at Apollo High School Library, St. Cloud, MN

Nielsen, Jennifer A. Mark of the Thief. 352p. ebook available. Scholastic. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545561549.

Gr 6-9 –A fantastical alternate history set in ancient Rome. Nicolas Calva and his sister are slaves in the mines outside of Rome. When Nic is forced to retrieve treasure from Julius Caesar’s cave, he assumes he is going to his death. But inside the cave he finds a bulla, a magical amulet thought to have given Caesar great power, and takes it for himself. Suddenly, Nic is the most wanted fugitive in Rome. The emperor and a powerful general are after the amulet and they will kill Nic to get it. His only help is Aurelia, a plebian girl who is searching for her own family. With no one to trust and nowhere to hide, the protagonist must decide how he is going to save his sister and get out with his life. He doesn’t want the bulla or the responsibility of the magic it contains, but if the magical object gets into the wrong hands, Rome will be at war and Nic will be at the center of it all. Fans of Nielsen’s “Ascendance” trilogy (Scholastic) will be clamoring for this new series. This genre mash-up of history, fantasy, and action/adventure is fast-paced and explores themes such as class struggles, familial ties, and the immorality of slavery.–Kimberly Garnick Giarratano, Rockaway Township Public Library, NJ

Niven All the bright Upcoming Diverse Titles, Light Romance, and Magical Realism | What’s Hot in YANiven, Jennifer. All the Bright Places. 400p. Knopf. Jan. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780385755887; lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9780385755894; ebk. ISBN 9780385755900. LC 2014002238.

Gr 10 Up –Violet Markey is on the ledge of her school’s bell tower, six stories up, and frozen in terror. Theodore Finch, the Freak, stands on the ledge nearby. Before she can panic, he calms her down and gets her back on solid ground. He even lets everyone think she’s the one who talked him out of jumping. Violet, until recently, was a popular cheerleader and Finch has a well-earned reputation for being manic, violent, and unpredictable. But Finch won’t let their encounter rest. He’s suddenly everywhere Violet goes and even signs her up as his partner on a “Wander the State” school project. He pushes and challenges the protagonist, and seems to understand the effect her sister’s death made on her. But though Violet begins to recover from the devastating grief that has cocooned her for almost a year, Finch’s demons refuse to let go. The writing in this heartrending novel is fluid, despite the difficult topics, as Niven relays the complex thought processes of the two teens. Finch and Violet, with their emotional turmoil and insecurities, will ring true to teens. Finch in particular will linger in readers’ minds long after the last page is turned.–Heather Miller Cover, Homewood Public Library, AL

Oseman, Alice. Solitaire. 368p. HarperCollins/ HarperTeen. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062335685; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780062335708.

Gr 9 Up –Sixteen-year-old Victoria “Tori” Spring is the personification of angst, slowly slipping, day by day, into the depths of despair. On a good day, she can convince herself she feels nothing. Her best friend has become preoccupied with boys; her brother, Charlie, is recovering from an episode of mental illness and attempted suicide; a former childhood friend has suddenly resurfaced with expectations that she can’t fulfill; and her mother cannot tear herself away from the computer long enough to notice Tori’s decline. Then, there’s Michael Holden, the crazy new student who refuses to let Tori alienate herself from him the way she is doing with everyone else. He forces himself into her life at the same time as a bizarre prank is unleashed to instigate rebellion among the students at Higgs. delivers messages via blog posts and by commandeering the schools’ computers and PA system, touting a rallying cry of “Patience Kills.” Strangely, all of its enigmatic messages seem to bear some resemblance to episodes in Tori’s past. When the pranks begin to turn dangerous, Tori convinces herself that she’s the only one who can put a stop to it. Told in the first person, Tori’s wry voice and dark humor provide a counterpoint to her descent into depression. A fascinating debut from an author to watch.–Cary Frostick, formerly at Mary Riley Styles Public Library, Falls Church, VA

SLJ1412 BK Fic9up Rodriguez Upcoming Diverse Titles, Light Romance, and Magical Realism | What’s Hot in YARodriguez, Cindy L. When Reason Breaks. 304p. Bloomsbury. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781619634121. LC 2014009109.

Gr 9 Up –This realistic novel invites readers into the lives of two high schoolers, Elizabeth Davis and Emily Delgado, as they struggle with unrelated painful events, reacting in ways as different as their personalities. Artistic Elizabeth changes her appearance to look goth, skips class, fights with her mother, and sometimes experiences uncontrollable rage. Emily tends toward a preppy, academic style, but bouts of anxiety impact her studies and relationships. The two young women are brought together in their English class, where teacher Mrs. Diaz engages students with authentic care and a curricular focus on Emily Dickinson. Deep analysis of the poet’s life and writings results in personal insights for the protagonists. The use of foreshadowing at the beginning of the book alerts to future trauma without spoiling the plot, and a reference to the board game Clue provides a subtle tool for making meaning of the quick shifts in narrative perspective and form. Latino culture, and bicultural and gay family relationships are woven easily into the story. Overall, this text provides important insights into the various stressors that can lead to depression and suicide, as well as the type of support required to move toward potential healing.–Ruth Quiroa, National Louis University, IL

Ruby, Laura. Bone Gap. 368p. HarperCollins/ Balzer & Bray. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062317605; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780062317636.

Gr 10 Up –It is a rare book that sits comfortably on the shelf with the works of Twain, McCullers, Conroy, Stephen King, and D’Aulaires’ Greek Myths–rarer still that a novel combines elements of these authors together. Bone Gap does just this, to superb effect. We start with a boy named Finn and his brother, Sean. Sean is the classic hero: strong, silent, great at everything he does. Finn is a pretty boy whose otherworldly goofiness has earned him the nicknames Spaceman, Sidetrack, and Moonface. Along comes Rosza, a beautiful and damaged young woman, fleeing from some unknown evil. When she disappears, only Finn witnesses her abduction and he is unable to describe her captor. He is also unsure whether she left by force or choice. The author defies readers’ expectations at every turn. In this world, the evidence of one’s senses counts for little; appearances, even less. Evil happens, embodied in a timeless, nameless horror that survives on the mere idea of beauty. A powerful novel.–Nina Sachs, Walker Memorial Library, Westbrook, ME

Saeed, Aisha. Written in the Stars. 304p. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Bks. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399171703.

Gr 9 Up –Naila is a Pakistani American high school senior. As the story opens, her greatest trouble is the risk of going to the prom with her high school sweetheart against the wishes of her protective and conservative parents. She does anyway, her parents find out, and their reaction is swift and extreme: the family departs immediately for Pakistan and negotiates an arranged marriage for Naila. Her impassioned struggle against the constraints of an arranged marriage is a compelling story. This is a cross-cultural eye opener; since Naila had never left the US until she was 18, her first-person account resonates in its explanations of the rituals, especially how they would look and feel from an American point of view. Yet the setting is pure Pakistani, with culturally rich descriptions of Naila’s extended family, their cuisine, and strongly held beliefs. The prose is simple and straightforward. The spare prose is evocative: Saeed shows rather than tells, allowing readers to imagine how Naila must feel. A good choice for libraries looking to diversify their shelves.–Amy Thurow, New Glarus School District, WI

SLJ1412 BK Fic9up Sedgwick Upcoming Diverse Titles, Light Romance, and Magical Realism | What’s Hot in YASedgwick, Marcus. The Ghosts of Heaven. 256p. Roaring Brook. Jan. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781626721258; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781626721265.

Gr 7 Up –Sedgwick’s latest work consists of individual tales spanning centuries of time connected only by a single thread—in this case a shape; the spiral. From a mark scribbled in the dust by a girl of prehistoric times to the strands of the rope used to hang a medieval girl accused of witchcraft; from a poet plagued by madness who finds the spiral with its never-ending pattern horrifying to the one person left awake to watch over a ship full of sleepers in a state of suspended animation as they spiral through the universe looking for a new earth, each story carries a message of loss and discovery. Tying all four stories together is this one mysterious symbol, which can be found throughout nature in the shells of snails, the patterns of birds in flight, the seeds in a sunflower, and the strands of the double helix of DNA and comes to signify in these tales, a dance of death (and life). At once prosaic and wondrously metaphysical, Sedgwick’s novel will draw teens in and invite them to share in the awe-inspiring (and sometimes terrifying) order and mystery that surround us all.–Jane Henriksen Baird, Anchorage Public Library, AK

Seigel, Andrea & Brent Bradshaw. Everybody Knows Your Name. 352p. Viking. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780670015627; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781101631621.

Gr 7 Up –When 10 assorted and unlikely teens are chosen to appear on a Big Brother-meets-American Idol reality TV show called Spotlight, personalities are bound to spark. These participants will live together in a fabulous mansion in the Hollywood Hills, and after each performance one will be eliminated by the panel of celebrity judges and the voting American public. In alternating chapters, Seigel and Bradshaw flesh out a distinct and often quirky personality for each of the performers, family members, and program employees through their interaction with the main characters, Magnolia and Ford. She is a pretty young Californian whose father died after leaving her and her fame-obsessed mother, and whose surfer boyfriend pops in and out of her life. Magnolia wants to change—and this show might be a terrific way to reinvent herself. Ford’s family in Arkansas spends more time in jail than in their broken-down home, and needs to win Spotlight in order to pull himself out of the family’s cycle of self-destruction. The teens make an unlikely couple, but their relationship makes great publicity for the show. They soon learn the price of fame, and the consequences of their actions. A must-read for fans of light romance and reality TV.–MaryAnn Karre, West Middle School, Binghamton, NY

X A Novel Upcoming Diverse Titles, Light Romance, and Magical Realism | What’s Hot in YAShabazz, Ilyasah with Kekla Magoon. X: A Novel. 384p. bibliog. chart. chron. ebook available. Candlewick. Jan. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763669676.

Gr 8 Up –Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little. The story opens with his departure from Michigan as a teen, though there are flashbacks to his younger years. It follows Malcolm through his time in Boston and Harlem, culminating with his conversion to Islam and his decision to change his name while in prison in 1948. The story does contain some gritty situations, most notably the use of the “n” word, non-graphic sex, drug and alcohol abuse, and criminal behavior. This was the reality of Malcolm X’s early life, and make the later scenes that more authentic. This is an eye-opening look at an important historical figure. The author’s honesty about his early troubles serves to convey that it is possible to rise through adversity to make a positive difference in this world. A worthwhile addition to any collection.–Kristin Anderson, Columbus Metropolitan Library System, OH

Simmons, Kristen. The Glass Arrow. 336p. Tor Teen. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780765336613; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781466828780.

Gr 9 Up –In a not-too-distant future, void of the belief in prayer and God, prayer is outlawed. Each public auction of available young girls raised for breeding purposes begins with a moment of silence to give thanks to the rich men who seek out subjects to purchase. Not only are women denied basic human rights in this caste society, but no one is given the opportunity to rise out of their assigned station. Lower caste men are neurologically altered to serve as either mindless, fashion-conscious baby-sitters for the chatteled young girls or emotionless security guards to keep the girls in line. Sixteen-year-old Aya, an educated renegade raised to think independently, is captured for sport by a rich young magnate and turned over to the capital city of Glasscaster for auction to the highest bidder. Aya is valuable because she has lived her life free, with natural foods, unlike the chemical substitutes given to the young girls raised within the city walls. This means that Aya has a higher chance of giving birth to a male child. Despite her attempts to sabotage her auctions, Aya finds herself not only sold, but also transferred to the highest household in town, Mayor Rykor’s home. There’s a much of Katniss Everdeen in Aya—a familiar strength and determination. Aya is an independent thinker, strong and self-reliant. Despite some slow pacing in the middle, fans of dystopian and postapocalyptic YA fiction will thoroughly enjoy this read.–Sabrina Carnesi, Crittenden Middle School, Newport News, VA

Smale, Holly. Geek Girl. 384p. ebook available. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062333575; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780062333599.

Gr 7-10 –Harriet Manners, star of this British import, is a geek through and through. She has no idea how to dress, is awkward and clumsy, spouts off facts at every opportunity, is bullied mercilessly at school, and has one friend, Nat, and one stalker, Toby. Nat dreams of becoming a fashion model and drags a completely uninterested Harriet along to Clothes Week, hoping to get discovered. As soon as they arrive, Nat runs off to find an agent leaving Harriet to her own devices. While looking at hats, Harriet manages to knock over several stalls, which creates quite a commotion and leads to her unwanted discovery by a modeling agent. Insert hilarity, deception, misunderstanding, fashion, makeup, and hairstyles. Quirky, likable, and geeky, Harriet is an outsider to the modeling world but possesses a natural charm that is everything the fashion world needs. Pure fun.–Heather Acerro, Rochester Public Library, MN

Thomas, Rhiannon. A Wicked Thing. 352p. ebook available. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062303530.

Gr 7 Up –Feminist blogger Thomas’s debut novel takes the happily-ever-after out of the “Sleeping Beauty” fairy tale, and explores the fallout that takes place after Aurora is brought out of her deep sleep. Awakened after her 100-year nap, her friends and family long-dead, Aurora is thrust into an engagement with the stranger whose kiss roused her, Prince Rodric, the only son in the royal family currently governing the kingdom of Alysse. Her home is by no means the peaceful place it was: angry factions combat against the cruel and totalitarian King John, and the country seems to be teetering on the brink of a civil war. Aurora’s tale has been a symbol of hope for many, and the pressure to live up to the expectations that her awakening, and in turn, her intended marriage will bring about a change for the better, are immense. Uncomfortable with her new role, Aurora secretly makes nightly escapes to the city, where she meets Tristan, one of the rebels, to whom she forms an intense attraction, until the violence of his convictions drives her away. On the day her wedding is to take place, she makes a break for it, unsure of where she is headed, but content to be “nothing but herself.” The book is welcome twist on the classic helpless-princess-saved-by-dashing-prince. Aurora is a relatable character and fairy tale and fantasy fans alike will breeze through this retelling.–Joanna Sondheim, Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School, New York City

Hold tight Upcoming Diverse Titles, Light Romance, and Magical Realism | What’s Hot in YAWagner, Laura Rose. Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go. 272p. Abrams/Amulet. Jan. 2015. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781419712043.

Gr 9 Up –When a natural disaster strikes, what happens after the telethons, after the donations, and after the media attention has disappeared? This powerful debut novel follows Magdalie in the two years following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti as she grieves for her manman, adapts to life in the tent camps, and tries to find a place and a community that feels like home. Magdalie seeks to live a normal life in an impermanent society where “my memories are out to get me.” People she loves appear and disappear, her home is made of plywood and plastic tarps, she ducks for cover at the slightest sound, and she has no hope of returning to school. She faces the tenuous circumstances with her beloved cousin Nadine, but then must brave them alone after Nadine is granted a U.S. visa. Wagner creates a portrait of post-earthquake Haiti that is a study of contrasts—hopeful and bleak, warm and lonely. Magdalie searches for connections and solutions, but is also afraid of loving anybody when they might disappear at any moment. Wagner effectively highlights the nuances of urban poverty and rural poverty. Wagner provides a helpful glossary and brief history of Haiti.–Susannah Goldstein, Convent of the Sacred Heart, New York City

Watson, Renée. This Side of Home. 304p. ebook available. Bloomsbury. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781599906683.

Gr 9 Up –Maya is heading into her senior year at Richmond High, but it’s nothing like she’d thought it would be. Her Portland neighborhood is changing—along with her twin sister Nikki, her relationship with her boyfriend Tevin, and Maya’s plans with Nikki and their BFF Essence to attend the same historically black college. Rent goes up, forcing Essence and her family to move further away from the twins. Tony and his family move in. Maya and Nikki deal with their changing “up-and-coming neighborhood” in different ways as they’re forced to blend their ethnic and cultural identities and traditions with a changing community. Maya has a fantastic voice—honest, passionate, and multidimensional. On top of all the “normal” teenage issues dealing with friends, romance, and the future, Maya has to deal with the changes her neighborhood is going through. She’s compelled to act to make sure the original people, stores, and history don’t disappear so quickly. Gentrification can be extremely difficult to discuss, but Watson delivers a well-rounded, delicate, and important story without sacrificing any heart. An engrossing and timely coming-of-age story.–Emily Moore, Camden County Library System, NJ

Graphic Novels

Jamieson, Victoria. Roller Girl. illus. by Victoria Jamieson. 240p. Dial. Mar. 2015. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9780803740167; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780698190610.

Gr 4-8 –Twelve-year-old Astrid realizes that her interests are distinctly different from those of her best friend. Mesmerized while viewing a roller derby, she dreams of becoming a “Roller Girl” but discovers that the sport is considerably more daunting than she imagined and is not without physical, social, and emotional pain. Nevertheless, Astrid is determined to succeed. While this graphic novel provides interesting information about the sport, at its heart it is a story of friendship, exploring the tensions which test the girls’ relationship as they move from childhood to adolescence. Astrid learns to be honest with herself, her mother, and her friends through a series of stressful events. Jamieson’s clever use of imagery is noteworthy. A prologue effectively frames the story and the realistic style with full-color art is reminiscent of the work of Raina Telgemeier. The story will engage readers who will identify with Astrid as she deals with frustrations and disappointments. It will especially appeal to those whose aspirations fly in the face of convention. Offer this comic to fans of Telgemeier’s Smile (Scholastic, 2010) and Laura Lee Gulledge’s Page by Paige (Abrams, 2011).–Barbara M. Moon, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY

SLJ1412 BK Fic9upGN Peeters Upcoming Diverse Titles, Light Romance, and Magical Realism | What’s Hot in YAPEETERS, Benoît. The Leaning Girl. tr. from French by Stephen D. Smith. illus. by François Schuiten. photos. by Marie-Françoise Plissart. 176p. ebook available. Alaxis Pr. 2014. pap. $29.99. ISBN 9781628472271.

Gr 10 Up– After an eclipselike phenomenon and a thrilling ride on The Star Express, “the most spectacular attraction” in the city of Alaxis, young Mary von Rathen has inexplicably started to lean. Having studied the mysterious phenomenon from his observatory on Mont Michelson, Dr. Axel Wappendorf theorizes that the Sun was blacked out by an “anti-planet” and proposes building a rocket ship to get closer to this strange planet. Driven from Paris by the harsh words of his critics, Augustin Desombres finds himself compelled to purchase an abandoned estate and to paint mural after mural and a young figure he cannot seem to put a face to. The narratives are set among The Obscure Cities, a group of separate cities located in an invisible world positioned directly on the other side of the Sun. Mostly black and white, with some color and even photography, Schuiten’s artwork is wonderfully appropriate to the sci-fi genre and beautifully evocative. The images, some of which include full frontal nudity, support the text, especially in the sometimes clunky translation. The well-written story is propelled forward by the three main characters as they each try to make sense of the unexplainable and affect each other along the way. The science is incorporated in a comprehensible and fascinating way that will engage teens.–Erik Knapp, Davis Library, Plano, TX


For those interested in nonfiction, take a look at these stellar offerings with subjects as diverse as a biography on Arthur Miller, a comprehensive history on sneakers, and a graphic novel on a little-known African American historical figure.

Carstairs, Sue. Saving Turtles: A Kid’s Guide to Helping Endangered Creatures. 64p. glossary. index. photos. websites. Firefly. 2014. lib. ed. $19.95. ISBN 9781770854345; pap. $9.95. ISBN 9781770852907.

Gr 5 Up –Written by a veterinarian working directly in the field of turtle rescue, this title focuses on the efforts made to save and, eventually, release wild turtles that have been injured, primarily as a result of human interactions. A basic introduction to turtles and tortoises, including anatomy, habitat, and diet, provide enough background for readers to understand how fragile and susceptible these creatures are to changes in their environment. Carstairs takes children through the process of treating turtles, describing the most common types of injuries and the various medical techniques used. A lengthy explanation of the importance of releasing turtles back into their original habitat makes it clear that some turtles can never be returned to the wild if their original location is unknown. The straightforward, accessible text is accompanied by many photographs, some depicting fairly graphic injuries that are not for the faint of heart, with the occasional sidebar highlighting specific turtle-rescue practices. The book ends with information about field research being done on turtles, their living conditions, and worldwide efforts to save them, especially the protection of nesting areas, and how readers can help.–Jody Kopple, Shady Hill School, Cambridge, MA

Concepión, Patrick & Traci Concepión. Alphabetics: An Aesthetically Awesome Alliterated Alphabet Anthology. illus. by Dawid Ryski. 64p. glossary. Die Gestalten Verlag/Little Gestalten. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9783899557282.

Gr 4-8 –Not your typical ABC book, this artsy work is printed on high-quality paper and each letter is accompanied by alliterative text and retro-modern illustrations that demonstrate, for the most part, what the text is describing (though more literal readers may take umbrage that the “yuppie Yeti” is actually eating a cup of “fro yo” in the Yukon rather than the stated yard). The style of the font is simple and attractive, but very small. The descriptors for each letter use advanced, creative vocabulary that younger children will enjoy hearing read aloud. Older students can expand their vocabularies using the glossary to help them with unfamiliar words: “colossal Cornelius/captures curious carnie companions/on his classic Contaflex camera.” “Paris the pretentious peacock/puffs on a Peterson pipe/while perched upon a penny-farthing.” The illustrations are unique; the heads of subjects are disproportionately small for their bodies. Ryski uses a limited palette for each illustration, which is then set against a solid white background. An unusual offering.–Sherry J. Mills, Hazelwood East High School, St. Louis, MO

Conkling Pearl jkt rgb HR 2MB Upcoming Diverse Titles, Light Romance, and Magical Realism | What’s Hot in YAConkling, Winifred. Passenger on the Pearl: The True Story of Emily Edmonson’s Flight from Slavery. 176p. bibliog. chart. chron. index. maps. notes. reprods. Algonquin. Jan. 2015. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781616201968.

Gr 7-10 –This title is an in-depth historical narrative concerning several people involved in an attempted slave escape in 1848. The Pearl was to ferry 13-year-old Emily Edmonson and scores of other runaway slaves from Washington DC down the Potomac River and up the Chesapeake Bay. However, the ship was captured before reaching free soil. Conkling narrates the tumultuous stories of Edmonson, her family, and the others involved, tracing their lives from their ill-fated jail escape to the slave auctions, the Deep South, and finally to freedom. Readers will discover how Edmonson came into contact with important figures in the antislavery movement, including Frederick Douglass, Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. Primary documents give an authentic voice to the text, including excerpts from Frederick Douglass’s autobiography. Historical photographs of slaves and slave pens are particularly moving. Maps clearly outline the geography relevant to the narratives, and frequent text blocks separate contextual information from the primary narrative. This work covers information about slavery that is often not found in other volumes, such as the Second Middle Passage—the transportation of slaves from the Upper South to the Lower South—and the uncomfortable reality of slaves as “second wives” to white men. Conkling’s work is intricate and detailed, and is a strong and well-sourced resource.–Jeffrey Meyer, Mount Pleasant Public Library, IA

Gray, Nick with Laura Scandiffio. Escape from Tibet: A True Story. 154p. chron. glossary. maps. photos. Annick. 2014. Tr $21.95. ISBN 9781554516636; pap. $12.95. ISBN 9781554516629.

Gr 5-8 –Documentary filmmaker Gray and writer Scandiffio have collaborated on this account of two brothers who fled from their native Tibet to India. The story begins in the middle of the night, when 10-year-old Tenzin’s older brother Pasang returned to his impoverished family home in occupied Tibet, years after escaping his monastery for greater freedom in India. Pasang convinced their mother to allow him to sneak the younger boy into India, a country with better prospects for Tibetans. But their journey was far from easy. The authors describe the dangerous voyage as the brothers begged for money in unfriendly towns, evaded border police, and crossed the Himalayas on foot with only blankets to keep warm. The book emphasizes Tenzin’s perspective on the events, effectively highlighting his bewilderment and distress at every stage of their journey, from the bustling city of Lhasa to the terrifying heights of the icy Death Pass and finally to the vagaries of refugee bureaucracy. The brothers’ triumph makes for a heartwarming tale, and their story offers a glimpse at a corner of the world too little explored in works for this audience.–Robbin E. Friedman, Chappaqua Library, NY

Johnson, Rebecca L. Chernobyl’s Wild Kingdom: Life in the Dead Zone. 64p. bibliog. further reading. glossary. index. maps. notes. photos. websites. Twenty-First Century. 2014. RTE $34.60. ISBN 9781467711548. LC 2013039471.

Gr 5-8 –In April 1986, Reactor Number 4 in the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded, emitting a flood of radioactive material that devastated the surrounding countryside. The residual radioactivity permeating soil, water, plants and animals led to the creation of a miles-wide Exclusion Zone closed to human residents and dubbed the Dead Zone by the press, the general public, and scientists alike. Scientists have continued to study the ecology of this site during the intervening years, and Johnson’s lucid text describes their methods and findings in this chunk of land on the border between the Ukraine and Belarus. The readable text is interspersed with dark red sidebars on such topics as how the researchers maintain safety in hot zones, the resistance of some plants to effects of long-term radiation, and reports of the damage suffered by human evacuees from the contaminated zone. Small color photos and maps provide visual evidence and geographical information. A final chapter reports on the tsunami-driven nuclear failure in the 2011 Fukushima disaster and ponders the future for similar “accidents.” Thought-provoking.–Patricia Manning, formerly at Eastchester Public Library, NY

SLJ1412 BK NF SneakerCentury Upcoming Diverse Titles, Light Romance, and Magical Realism | What’s Hot in YAKeyser, Amber J. Sneaker Century: A History of Athletic Shoes. 64p. bibliog. ebook available. further reading. index. notes. photos. reprods. websites. Twenty-First Century. Jan. 2015. lib. ed. $34.65. ISBN 9781467726405. LC 2014003214.

Gr 5 Up –Trainers. Tennies. Kicks. No matter what they’re called, athletic shoes have played an important role in American culture and the global economy during the past century, and this insightful look at the history of sneakers traces the shoes, from their humble origins in the Industrial Revolution to their current status as part of a multibillion dollar industry. Keyser peppers the narrative with lesser-known human interest stories, such as the sibling rivalry between shoe manufacturers Adi and Rudolf Dassler that spawned Adidas and Puma. Equally fascinating is Keyser’s examination of the role youth culture has played in the athletic shoe industry (and vice versa) as well as her look at the seamier side of shoe manufacturing, including the extreme disparity between foreign labor costs and the price of the final product. The text provides readers with a solid understanding of sneaker culture. The graphics complement the text without overshadowing it, though there’s a lot of white space on some pages. Readers of all stripes will appreciate the role sneakers play in our lives. A fun and informative addition.–Audrey Sumser, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Mayfield, OH

Kurlansky, Mark. Frozen in Time: Clarence Birdseye’s Outrageous Idea About Frozen Food. 165p. bibliog. ebook available. index. photos. reprods. websites. Delacorte. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780385743884; lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9780375991356; pap. $8.99. ISBN 9780385372442.

Gr 6-10 –Based on Kurlansky’s book for adults Birdseye: Adventures of a Curious Man (Random, 2012), this biography examines Birdseye founder Clarence Birdseye, who patented the process of freezing foods. Kurlansky describes how Birdseye dropped out of college for financial reasons, later working as a government field researcher. Between 1912 and 1915, he spent time on Canada’s remote Labrador coast, where he found an opportunity in the fur business. There, he noticed that the native Inuit people could freeze food almost instantly in the frigid temperatures and that the food tasted fresh when thawed out. His curiosity about frozen foods never waned, and in the 1920s, he patented a machine that used salt water to freeze food rapidly. Birdseye caught the break of a lifetime when cereal magnate Marjorie Merriweather Post took an interest in his invention. When Post bought him out with her creation of the new company General Foods, Birdseye made a fortune, sealing the deal only three months before the stock market crash of 1929. Kurlansky provides ample context, detailing relevant social and economic conditions and crediting a wide selection of contemporary and competing inventors. This is a compellingly told story with obvious curriculum connections.–Bob Hassett, Luther Jackson Middle School, Falls Church, VA

McCarney, Rosemary & others. Because I Am a Girl I Can Change the World. 96p. ebook available. photos. Second Story. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781927583449.

Gr 6-10 –Most young people are familiar with Malala Yousafzai, advocate for girls’ education and Nobel Peace Prize winner. McCarney, founder of Plan International’s Because I Am a Girl movement, introduces other girls in developing nations who are striving to overcome the many barriers that prevent them from reaching their full potential, such as poverty, hunger, gender discrimination, slavery, forced marriage, unsafe communities, and violence. The book’s framework is based around the organization’s empowering eight-point manifesto (which includes statements such as “Because I am a girl…I will share what I know”). The book lets the girls describe their often heartbreaking stories in their own words but emphasizes how, with education and training, young people have become advocates for girls’ rights within their communities, speaking to the United Nations and similar organizations to continue raising awareness. The authors underscore that educating girls also benefits their families, communities, and countries, leading to decreased levels of poverty, better health, and stronger communities. The interviews, personal stories, and photographs lend immediacy to the text. An uplifting book that’s as inspiring as it is informative.–Lisa Crandall, formerly at the Capital Area District Library, Holt, MI

SLJ1412 BK NF Mills Upcoming Diverse Titles, Light Romance, and Magical Realism | What’s Hot in YAMills, James Edward. The Adventure Gap: Changing the Face of the Outdoors. 208p. index. maps. Mountaineers Bks./Mountaineers. 2014. pap. $19.95. ISBN 9781594858680.

Gr 5 Up –In his experiences camping, hiking, and mountain climbing, Mills noticed that he was often the only African American participating in these activities. As he explains here, the outdoors community never made him feel unwelcome, but he became concerned that so few people of color were involved. He emphasizes the importance of encouraging youths from a variety of backgrounds to take part, not only to broaden their horizons but also to help protect the environment by raising a new generation of outdoor enthusiasts who will work to save it. The author’s description of [an] expedition is gripping, and these exciting segments are nicely balanced with the profiles, which give historical and cultural context to the goals of Expedition Denali. With journalistic clarity, Mills sheds light on a previously overlooked segment of history and culture.–Geri Diorio, Ridgefield Library, CT

Reef, Catherine. Arthur Miller. 128p. (World Writers). bibliog. chron. index. notes. photos. reprods. websites. Morgan Reynolds. 2014. lib. ed. $28.95. ISBN 9781599354002. LC 2013009857.

Gr 9 Up –This well-written book paints a portrait of playwright Miller that high school students will appreciate and even enjoy. Reef describes the man not simply as a respected literary figure but also as a rebel. She discusses how, as a student at the University of Michigan, Miller was outspoken about his views, publishing pieces in the Michigan Daily on topics such as labor laws and whether college professors should bring up controversial subjects in their classrooms. A survivor of the Great Depression, Miller gravitated toward radical politics, which inspired some of his greatest plays. Always a scholar, Miller also found ideas for his works in his travels abroad and his studies of history. This slim, compelling biography reads like a novel, and though informative, the content is condensed enough that it won’t overwhelm. An appealing look at one of America’s most celebrated playwrights.–Jessica Lorentz Smith, Bend Senior High School, OR

Rivera, Mariano & Wayne Coffey. The Closer: Young Readers Edition. adapted by Sue Corbett. 336p. ebook available. glossary. photos. Little, Brown. 2014. Tr $17. ISBN 9780316404808. LC 2014015176.

Gr 5-8 –In this autobiography, Rivera describes how he went from a poor boy in a humble fishing village in Panama to one of the greatest New York Yankee baseball heroes. A ninth-grade high school dropout who worked on his father’s fishing boat, Rivera played pickup baseball with improvised bats, balls, and gloves because there was no money for sports equipment. When he joined a local team, his outstanding pitching skill was discovered by professional baseball scouts, and eventually he was hired by the Yankees as a closing pitcher—a career that spanned 18 years. Baseball fans will appreciate and enjoy relevant play-by-play details of significant games and championship competitions. A must for young baseball fans, especially those who follow the Yankees.–Diane P. Tuccillo, Poudre River Public Library District, CO

Ross, Michael Elsohn. A World of Her Own: 24 Amazing Women Explorers and Adventurers. 272p. (Women of Action). bibliog. index. notes. photos. reprods. websites. Chicago Review. 2014. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781613744383. LC 2013024947.

Gr 7-10 –This addition certainly lives up to its series name. Naturalist and author Ross tells the stories of different women who stepped outside their comfort zones, overcame hardships, and earned advanced degrees all in order to explore nature, seek adventure, and find personal fulfillment. Divided into four parts, the book profiles women such as Sophia Danenberg, who summited Everest in 2006; Constanza Ceruti, who climbs mountains to visit high-elevation archaeological sites; Ynes Mexia, who traversed South America in the 1930s; and homemaker and mother Helga Estby, who with her daughter Clara walked across America in 1896. These are fascinating, well-told stories, sure to intrigue readers. Photographs are scattered throughout the text. A solid collection of inspiring individuals.–Patricia Ann Owens, formerly with Illinois Eastern Community Colls., Mt. Carmel

SLJ1412 BK NF SpeakingOut Upcoming Diverse Titles, Light Romance, and Magical Realism | What’s Hot in YASmith, Rachelle Lee. Speaking Out: Queer Youth in Focus. photos by Rachelle Lee Smith. 128p. PM Pr. Feb. 2015. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781629630410. LC 2014908062.

Gr 10 Up –This gorgeously produced photo-essay book takes a unique spin on showcasing LGBTQ youth. The young people in the photographs speak for themselves, some in longer form essays, others by writing, scrawling, or drawing directly onto the images themselves. Their words seem truly their own, not edited or filtered through an adult editorial lens, which allows them to be messy, contradictory, inspiring, well spoken, frustrating, occasionally graphic, and interesting, sometimes all at the same time. The photographs are beautifully presented, and the technique of including the subject’s writing upon them is compelling. Smith includes an impressive array of youth, diverse in age, race, sexual orientation, and gender identity. One noticeable lack is that none of the subjects clearly identify as trans women, though trans men were well represented. Overall, this is a stunning and unique addition to the existing literature, with an immediately relevant approach.–Kyle Lukoff, Corlears School, New York City

Terry, Paul. Top 10 of Everything 2015. 320p. (Top 10 of Everything). chart. index. photos. reprods. Firefly. 2014. Tr $24.95. ISBN 9781770854697.

Gr 5 Up –This busy effort will appeal to list lovers. The glittery cover hints at the excitement to come within. There’s no resting the eyes here: lists, fact boxes, and photographs abound, with no absolutely no empty spaces. The volume is broken up into 10 sections, including mechanical marvels, the animal kingdom, and epic structures. Each section concludes with a word search, multiple-choice quiz, invitation to readers to come up with their own list, and other puzzles. Answers to the puzzles and two indexes (categorical and alphabetical) complete the text. It’s lots of fun.–Anne Chapman Callaghan, Racine Public Library, WI

SLJ1412 BK NF ChildHolocaust Upcoming Diverse Titles, Light Romance, and Magical Realism | What’s Hot in YAWoolf, Alex. Children of the Holocaust. 64p. chron. further reading. glossary. index. photos. reprods. websites. Barron’s. 2014. lib. ed. $12.99. ISBN 9780764167584. LC 2014940649.

Gr 5-8 –Using simple vocabulary, Woolf presents a complicated and multidimensional issue through an accessible narrative supplemented with documentary material. Students will gain a better understanding of how the Holocaust unfolded through historical photos and quotes from young people, which are descriptive, though never graphic. The author defines the Holocaust, describes the effects that the Nazi rise to power had upon the Jews, discusses life in the concentration camps and ghettoes, and covers the struggles of those who went into hiding to avoid being sent to the camps. The book ends with “Memories and Consequences,” which looks at the creation of Israel, the Nuremberg trials, and the importance of Holocaust remembrance. As Holocaust survivors and World War II veterans are dwindling in number, it is imperative that young people receive an accurate, human depiction of this period, making this well-written title all the more relevant. A valuable addition.–Donna Rosenblum, Floral Park Memorial High School, NY

Graphic Novels

SLJ1412 BK NF GN Gill Upcoming Diverse Titles, Light Romance, and Magical Realism | What’s Hot in YAGill, Joel Christian. Bass Reeves: Tales of the Talented Tenth. Vol. 1. illus. by Joel Christian Gill. 158p. Fulcrum. 2014. pap. $25.95. ISBN 9781938486630.

Gr 7 Up –Expanding upon the short entry that appeared in his Strange Fruit: Uncelebrated Narratives from Black History (Fulcrum, 2014), Gill opens his new graphic novels series on African American heroes with a volume about Bass Reeves, a former slave and the first black U.S. Marshall. With alternating full-page spreads and varied panels, the tale switches between 1902 (during his time as a lawman) and the 1840s (when Reeves first learned how to shoot as an enslaved child). The narrative details Reeves’s adventures as his master’s prized possession, eventual escape, experiences living with Native Americans, fighting for the North in the Civil War, and then as a rough and tough officer of the law (rumored to be the inspiration for The Lone Ranger). The folkloric, tall tale tone of the text is enhanced by the earthy illustrations and the pictographs that serve as substitutes for racial slurs—a blackface-type head for the n-word and an American Indian in headdress for “redskins.” Even more striking is a man-size crow character who symbolizes Jim Crow racism and practices of the time and plagues the subject throughout his life. A much-needed offering and perspective.–Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal

SLJ1412 BK NF GN Wilson Upcoming Diverse Titles, Light Romance, and Magical Realism | What’s Hot in YAWilson, Sean Michael. Musashi. illus. by Michiru Morikawa. 176p. ebook available. Shambhala. 2014. pap. $16.95. ISBN 9781611801354. LC 2014000958.

Gr 10 Up –A graphic novel biography about the iconic samurai Musashi Miyamoto (c. 1584–1645). Renowned for his two-sword technique, Musashi was a legendary swordsman, artist, and author. Iori Miyamoto, his adopted son, recounts his late father’s life, from his humble beginnings raised and educated by a Buddhist monk, to his formative years, which focused on duels and his skills and reputation with the sword. Later years show his appreciation in arts. Near the end of his life, Musashi wrote The Book of Five Rings, a classic text on martial arts and military strategy that examined his life and philosophical teachings. The detailed black-and-white artwork provides a strong sense of the era. Well-drawn facial expressions and body language convey emotions in the often wordless art panels. Duels are very brief, often happening off-panel and there’s no gory violence. The author aims for “accuracy and subtlety.” Pacing is deliberate, examining milestones in Musashi’s life. Readers expecting only duels and bloodshed will be surprised by Musashi Miyamoto’s disciplined, meditative qualities. Recommended for graphic novel collections where more literary volumes circulate.–June Shimonishi, Torrance Public Library, CA

From the Adult Books 4 Teens

And from SLJ’s “Adult Books 4 Teens” blog, the following titles are perfect for teens looking to cross over to adult books.

dr mutters marvels Upcoming Diverse Titles, Light Romance, and Magical Realism | What’s Hot in YAAPTOWICZ, Cristin O’Keefe. Dr. Mütter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine. 371p. illus. index. notes. photos. Penguin/Gotham. 2014. Tr $27.50. ISBN 9781592408702. LC 2014014747.

You wouldn’t want to be a patient undergoing surgery in Philadelphia in the 1830s. Anesthesia hadn’t yet been invented, so a cup of wine would be used to dull your senses prior to the procedure. A crowd would watch in the operating theater, and the best you could hope for was a surgeon who was quick enough to lessen your stress and pain, but slow enough to do the job correctly. If you were really lucky, he might wash his hands. After the operation, you’d be promptly sent home in a carriage, bouncing on cobblestone streets. When Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter burst onto the scene, medicine was ripe for change. Aptowicz introduces readers to the pioneering young surgeon responsible for helping to lead a revolution. Mütter stood out in his field as much for his handsome good looks and colorful silk suits as his engaging, outsize personality. Known for his compassionate way with patients, he saw possibilities in the new field of plastic surgery for helping those with debilitating physical deformities. Informed by an abundance of research, Aptowicz’s crackling prose brings the surgeon to life, immersing readers in the shocking world of primitive medicine in the pre-Civil War era. She gives ample page time to his contemporaries, including those who held vastly opposing views on the best way to treat patients. Chock-full of fascinating facts and anecdotes, this page-turning biography will engage those teens who enjoy narrative nonfiction.—Paula J. Gallagher, Baltimore County Public Library, MD

displaced persons Upcoming Diverse Titles, Light Romance, and Magical Realism | What’s Hot in YAMCCULLOCH, Derek. Displaced Persons. illus. by Anthony Peruzzo. 168p. Image Comics. 2014. pap. $17.99. ISBN 9781632151216.

This graphic novel time travels through three generations of one family, whose connections are symbolized, and realized, by a house in the hills of San Francisco. The themes of politics, family, and crime are showcased in the intertwined narratives, changing through the years only in the details. During the Great Depression, a loving father, pressed by economic forces he’s unable to control, makes a shady deal to keep his loved ones together. Grandiose or ambitious, there’s a lot here to consume, and digest; readers may have to check the proffered time lines more than once to keep their bearings. The sins of the past destroy some characters and cast off others, leaving a faithful few to find their way home. Drug use and dealing cast a pall in the 1960s chapters, and César Chávez gets a mention through a well-meaning in-law as things fall apart in the 1990s. It seems a bit random, but in an interesting play-within-a-play conclusion, a friend writing a book and a time traveling relative find each other and some answers to the family saga. The work’s narrative held together by the art: Shaded in multiple sepia tones to signal different time periods, the drawings are roughly chiseled and remarkably detailed; whole rooms, complete with clues, appear in single frames. This part mystery, part sci-fi graphic novel was crafted over ten years.—Georgia Christgau, Middle College High School, Long Island City, NY

lockstep goodhouse Upcoming Diverse Titles, Light Romance, and Magical Realism | What’s Hot in YASCHROEDER, Karl. Lockstep. 352p. 2014. Tor. Tr $26.99. ISBN 9780765337269.

For the last few years, young Toby McGonigal and his family have been homesteading on a small, icy exo-planet just outside of the Solar System. In order to maintain a monopoly, the family must claim stake to any orbiting moon they find. On his way to claim one such moon, Toby’s ship’s hull is breached, placing him into emergency deep hibernation. And there he sleeps, lost in space until his ship is pulled into orbit around a planet that appears dead. Luckily for Toby, the world below is not dead, frozen yes, but thriving nonetheless because it is part of the greatest and largest human civilization to ever exist, the Lockstep. The Lockstep has endured and thrived by institutionalizing a rigorous cycle of hibernation in which every member of the civilization lives together in 360 months of hibernation for every one month awake. Toby is shocked to discover that while he has been asleep for over 14,000 years, the Lockstep has been ruled by a single family since its creation: his own. Lockstep is one of the year’s best works of hard science fiction, based around an intergalactic civilization bound by the Speed of Light. Against the backdrop of Toby’s fight to rectify the sins of his family, Schroeder explores complicated topics such as the administration and economics of great empires, the effects of cultural diffusion, the relationship between governance and institutionalized religion, relativistic time, and the complications caused by functional immortality. This title will be especially appealing to advanced readers of science fiction, who will appreciate the opportunity to move out of the worlds of the “Force” and Warp Drives, and into a thriving empire that is well within the theoretical possibilities of human achievement.—Ryan Paulsen, New Rochelle High School, New Rochelle, NY

The original reviews of the following works appeared in SLJ’s December print magazine.

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Outlining and Note-taking with Diigo | Tech Tidbits from the Guybrarian Tue, 16 Dec 2014 22:05:52 +0000 Ediigo logo Outlining and Note taking with Diigo | Tech Tidbits from the Guybrarianach year, as I work with our teachers and students on research projects, I’m surprised at how few of our students incorporate solid outlining skills. It isn’t like they haven’t been taught the skills; they just don’t use them. I can’t tell you how many times students have come to ask me for help on a project and I’ve found that their initial outlining and research was weak. No wonder they’re struggling to weave all their research together! Many of my students desperately need the organization and structure that an outline would provide; it would stimulate their thinking and help to organize their thoughts.

Due to the fact that our English classes use an online textbook, our students all have access to Chromebooks which makes online reading, research, and studying more interesting. But we are not a 1-to-1 device school (yet!), so I’m always on the lookout for web-based tools they can use. I have used Diigo for some time and often recommend it to my students, and now the tool offers outlining functions to complement its existing features. And best of all, it’s free.

tour research annotate 300x185 Outlining and Note taking with Diigo | Tech Tidbits from the GuybrarianDiigo has traditionally been used as an online bookmarking service, with some really cool functions. Users can download the application and install it, attaching the icon to a browser. From this icon, users can bookmark and save any webpage, online PDF, or image to a set of bookmarks that follow their accounts from machine to machine. There are also highlighting and sticky notes tools which can be stored in as part of the bookmarks. The highlighted text and sticky notes stay with the webpage and can be viewed any time users log into Diigo. Finally, students can take a screenshot of a webpage and then use the application’s drawing and text functions to make annotations and save them in a Diigo library of stored bookmarks. Diigo also has long users to tag and organize links in this library and even organize them via folders.

tour share send 300x185 Outlining and Note taking with Diigo | Tech Tidbits from the GuybrarianThe web-based application recently premiered its Outliner tool and this functionality provides even more support to student researchers. Kids can now log into Diigo, create an outline for their research, and save bookmarked URL/web pages to the outline. After they create and name the outline, they can add URL/web addresses as a header for a topic, and then make a bulleted list for main ideas. If they have already made annotations on a bookmarked web page (with highlights or sticky notes), those travel with the link. Students can convert these previously created notes from the web page and save them right to the outline. When the outline is finished, they can copy and paste their work or even share the URL link of their outline with a teacher or research partner. This visual structure helps students make the leap from finding relevant information to where it fits within their content.

Teaching students solid outlining, writing, and research skills is a difficult task at best. Diigo and the tools it provides can be used to scaffold these skills and help students learn the building blocks of research-based writing. Take a little extra time to explore Diigo; learning to use its many features merits the effort— it might just help you build better writers.

Phil Goerner is a teacher librarian at Silver Creek High School, Longmont, CO.

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School and Public Libraries Collaborate to Help Teen Community: Reports from the Field Tue, 16 Dec 2014 19:59:41 +0000 In big and small ways, collaboration is a way of life for many school and public libraries. From teen book festivals to maker space initiatives, school and public libraries are teaming up to bring new services and programs to their young adults. Below are stellar examples of librarians working together to meet the needs of their communities.

Are you collaborating with your school/public library counterpart? Tells us how in the comments section.

LitWorks: A teen book festival

litworks 2014 logo 300x300 School and Public Libraries Collaborate to Help Teen Community: Reports from the FieldNow in its sixth year, Litworks is a cooperative project between Eisenhower Public Library District (EPLD) and Ridgewood (IL) High School. The library brings in six authors (past years have included Jack Gantos, Jennifer E. Smith, Ann Angel, Marie Lu, Todd Strasser, Brent Crawford, Ron Koertge and a host of others) for an all-day celebration of books. The event is free for teens, five dollars for adults, and includes snacks and pizza. Attendees meet the authors in an open panel and then join one of three small 45-minute breakout sessions. The day concludes with a giant autograph party. The event is supported by the public and school library, the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, local banks and businesses, the Parents’ Club of Ridgewood, the Friends of the Library of Eisenhower, and area schools. EPLD also supports the school library by keeping the high school summer reading books as well as the Illinois High School Choice Award books.—Penny Blubaugh, Eisenhower Public Library, IL

Sharing collections and expanding services

ida rupp School and Public Libraries Collaborate to Help Teen Community: Reports from the FieldThe Ida Rupp Public Library in Port Clinton, OH works with the two school districts in its area: Port Clinton City and Danbury Local School Districts. The public library allows the schools to have a school library card to order interlibrary loan books for students and teachers and then delivers the orders.  They send their children’s and young adult librarians to the districts each week to read stories to students, teach library skills, and work with the faculty by bringing reading and audio/video materials to supplement the curriculum. Lastly, and most amazingly, the Ida Rupp Library recognized the needs of its community and has plans to create a new branch library in the Danbury School District area to serve the population of this peninsula and a connected island on Lake Erie.—Lorrie Halblaub, Danbury School District

Supporting curriculum and enriching the student experience

From March 2014 through October 2014, Team FATE, three librarians from Evanston/Skokie (IL) School District 65 (Tracy Hubbard, Patricia Connolly, Kefira Philippe) and two librarians from the Evanston Public Library (Laura Antolin and Renee Neumeier) participated in ILEADUSA through the Illinois State Library. The project was designed to establish formal collaboration and communication between the two library communities, which share the same goals—to provide enriching experiences to students. Team FATE hoped to reach and engage more students and develop strategies that would involve students who are not typical library users.

EPL logo School and Public Libraries Collaborate to Help Teen Community: Reports from the FieldAs a result of this project, the Evanston Public Library has launched teacher checkout for over 300 staff members in Evanston/Skokie School District 65. Evanston Public Library staff has also provided professional development to the 15 librarians in Evanston/Skokie School District 65, and these librarians have begun incorporating maker spaces and projects into their curriculum. The team will continue to offer joint professional development, collaborate on projects and programming, and further investigate shared resources.—Kefira Phillipe, Nichols Middle School, Evanston, IL

Are you collaborating with your school/public library counterpart? Tells us how in the comments section.

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ALA Announces Winners of the 2014 American Dream Libraries Grant Tue, 16 Dec 2014 17:52:23 +0000 The American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Literacy and Outreach Services has released the list of 22 libraries in 15 states to receive funding through the American Dream Starts @ your library grant initiative, supported by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation.

Each of the 22 libraries will receive a one-time grant of up to $15,000 to add or expand literacy services for the adult English language learners in their communities. This funding will help libraries build their print and digital English as a Second Language (ESL) collections, increase computer access, and provide GED and literacy instruction courses for English language learners.

Books DG Litfinal ALA Announces Winners of the 2014 American Dream Libraries Grant The Dollar General Literacy Foundation was established in 1993 in honor of Dollar General’s cofounder, J.L. Turner, who was functionally illiterate with only a third grade education. Over the last 21 years, the foundation has awarded more than $97 million in grants to nonprofit organizations and schools that have helped more than 5.8 million individuals learn to read, prepare for the high school equivalency test, or learn the English language.

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Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Characters with Tough Choices │ JLG’s Booktalks to Go Tue, 16 Dec 2014 16:50:08 +0000 We all make difficult choices. Some are harder than others. In the following selections by the editors at Junior Library Guild, kids fight with their siblings, adjust to parents with chronic illnesses, and fight racial prejudice. Sharing these titles with your readers will give them a chance to see that they are not alone. These resources are posted in the middle school tab in the accompanying LiveBinder.

Madman of Piney Woods Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Characters with Tough Choices │ JLG’s Booktalks to GoCURTIS, Christopher Paul. The Madman of Piney Woods. 384p. Scholastic. ISBN 9780545156646. JLG Level: B+ : Upper Elementary & Junior High (Grades 5–7).

Forty years after Elijah of Buxton (Scholastic, 2007), African Canadian Benji Alston wants to be a newspaper man. In a nearby town, Red copes with his Irish grandmother, who recounts tales of the horrors of coming to America. Prejudice exists on both sides of the tracks. When the boys meet by chance, the two new friends never dream that the watcher in the woods will change their lives more than any ancient history could.

Fans of Curtis and the original novel may want to learn more on the author’s website. He includes resources such as video interviews, as well as information about his other works. Educators will find his teaching materials useful. Scholastic has published a novel discussion guide that connects both books.

Current awards include: Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2014, Middle-Grade Books; Best Books of the Year 2014, Ages 9–12

Skink Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Characters with Tough Choices │ JLG’s Booktalks to GoHIAASEN, Carl. Skink—No Surrender. 288p. Knopf. ISBN 9780375970511. JLG Level: C : Advanced Readers (Grades 6–9).

When Richard’s wild cousin Malley runs off with a guy she meets online, he is determined to rescue her—even if he has to lie to do it. His accomplice in the task is Skink, the former governor of Florida who ran away after faking his own death. The daring duo embark on a road trip filled with roadkill cuisine and alligator wrestling. One wild event leads to the next, and readers are along for the ride.

As Hiaasen is also an adult author, kids can click on his Books for Young Readers page to learn more about his titles, which often feature an environmental issue. They can also read the first three chapters and watch a video about this laugh-out-loud hilarious story.

Current awards include: 2014 National Book Awards Longlist for Young People’s Literature; Top 20 Editors’ picks 2014, Teen & Young Adult

Egg and Spoon Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Characters with Tough Choices │ JLG’s Booktalks to GoMAGUIRE, Gregory. Egg and Spoon. 496p. Candlewick. ISBN 9780763672201. JLG Level: FM : Fantasy/Science Fiction Middle (Grades 5–8).

Elena never has enough food to eat. Ekaterina can’t begin to imagine life without all of life’s comforts. When the two girls accidentally swap places, Elena gets caught up in the masquerade in order to meet the prince. At the same time, Ekaterina stumbles upon an old folktale which appears to be terribly true. Baba Yaga is alive and well. When the two girls reunite at the palace in St. Petersburg, they must work with the witch to save the world, but can they really trust her?

Macguire is well known for his witch tales, and his kids’ tales have their own page on his website. The discussion guide, found on Candlewick’s website, offers Common Core connections and provides questions to encourage dialogue among your readers. Kids who are unfamiliar with the tales of Baba Yaga may want to visit The Annotated Baba Yaga. Be sure to see the Fabergé website for a look at the famous eggs, which were made for the Russian Imperial family from 1885 to 1916.

Current awards include: SLJ Best Books 2014, Young Adult; Top 20 Editors’ picks 2014, Teen & Young Adult; Kirkus Reviews Best Teen Books of 2014

Boundless Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Characters with Tough Choices │ JLG’s Booktalks to GoOPPEL, Kenneth. The Boundless. 336p. S. & S. ISBN 9781442472884. JLG Level: C : Advanced Readers (Grades 6–9).

It’s 1888, and Will is crossing Canada with his father on the maiden voyage of The Boundless. Excitement turns to apprehension when the boy stumbles upon a murder and a robbery attempt. With the aid of the traveling circus, Will must get to the first of the 987 cars to warn his father before someone kills him for what he knows.

Oppel’s fast-paced novel has a terrific book trailer, which kids will want to see. Visit the author’s website for the photographic backstory on the writing of the adventure. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter. And remember to visit to listen to the correct pronunciation of the author’s name. A curriculum guide is also available. You can read an excerpt on Simon & Schuster’s book detail page.

Current awards include: SLJ Best Books 2014, Middle Grade; Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2014, Middle-Grade Books; Best Books of the Year 2014, Ages 9–12

Meaning of Maggie Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Characters with Tough Choices │ JLG’s Booktalks to GoSOVERN, Megan Jean. The Meaning of Maggie. 224p. Chronicle. 2014. ISBN 9781452110219. JLG Level: B+ : Upper Elementary & Junior High (Grades 5–7).

This is the year that “changed EVERYTHING.” Maggie’s dad’s multiple sclerosis (MS) causes him to stay home, sending her mother to work every day. Rules are her guidelines, but they keep changing, causing the fifth grader confusion and angst. Surely she can find a way to help her father who can no longer feed himself and falls from his chair. But if no one will tell her the whole truth, how can she possibly make a difference?

Sovern’s debut novel comes from her own experiences, as her dad also had MS. You can follow the author on Twitter. Kids will want to read her letter on Dear Teen Me. A book trailer and discussion guide are available. A portion of the proceeds of the sale of this book will be donated to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Current awards include: Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2014, Middle-Grade Books; Best Books of the Year 2014, Ages 9–12

Sisters Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Characters with Tough Choices │ JLG’s Booktalks to GoTELGEMEIER, Raina. Sisters. illus. by author. 208p. Scholastic/Graphix. 2014. ISBN 9780545540599. JLG Level: GM : Graphic Novels Middle (Grades 5–8).

What could be worse than driving across country with a sister who makes you crazy? How about being stuck on the side of the road? Just the two of you? And then what if you learn there’s a snake in the car and you can’t stand snakes? Raina and her younger sister, Amara, are going to have to find a way to get along while they wait to be rescued.

Fans of Telgemeier may have already been to her website, but be sure they read her FAQ, which includes a link to pronunciation of her name. You’ll find her on Twitter. Scholastic provides a story starter so reading can draw—just like Raina. For other resources on her books and other graphic novels, check out the Graphix site for teachers, which includes a video of the hottest graphic novelists. Watch Raina teach viewers how to draw emotion.

Current awards include: SLJ Best Books 2014, Middle Grade; Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2014, Middle-Grade Books

Additional Resources

The resources for the above titles have been organized in a new JLG Booktalks to Go: Fall 2014 LiveBinder. Titles are sorted by interest level, PreK-3, 3-6, 5-8, and YA. Check out our award-winning Spring 2014 LiveBinder, which organizes resources for spring releases. All websites are posted within each LiveBinder, along with the accompanying booktalk. As I write more columns, more books and their resources are added. Everything you need to teach or share brand new, hot-off-the-press books is now all in one place. Booktalks and resources are also included on JLG’s BTG Pinterest board.

For library resources, tips, and ideas, please visit JLG’s Shelf Life Blog.

Junior Library Guild (JLG) is a collection development service that helps school and public libraries acquire the best new children’s and young adult books. Season after season, year after year, Junior Library Guild book selections go on to win awards, collect starred or favorable reviews, and earn industry honors. Visit us at (NOTE: JLG is owned by Media Source, Inc., SLJ’s parent company.)


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Betrayals, Battles, and Bilbo Baggins | “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” Review Tue, 16 Dec 2014 15:29:40 +0000 The Hobbit begins immediately right where The Desolation of Smaug left off, leaving those coming in cold to fumble in the dark.]]> hobbit five armies Martin Freeman Betrayals, Battles, and Bilbo Baggins | “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” Review

Martin Freeman plays Bilbo Baggins / Photo courtesy of Warner Brothers Pictures

The third and final installment of Peter Jackson’s expansive (some might say bloated) adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit begins right where the previous movie (The Desolation of Smaug) left off, with the flying, gargantuan dragon, Smaug, attacking Laketown, incinerating the quaint village with blasts of fire. Afterward, the wrangling begins for the rich, golden booty left behind within Smaug’s cavernous lair. The contenders: Dwarves, who claim the treasure as their birthright; Men, left homeless from the devastation, with their allies, the Elves; and the monstrous Orcs (considered an enemy by all). The latter take on a more prominent role here than in the book. Meanwhile, the nimble hobbit hero, Bilbo Baggins, continues to safeguard a secret: in his pocket, he carries the magic ring, which turns its wearer invisible.

Why is the dragon attacking the peaceful, defenseless villagers of Laketown? The answer lies in Jackson’s last installment. The miserly creature suspects humans of trespassing upon his mountain, when the culprit was, in fact, the sneaky hobbit, Bilbo (played by Martin Freeman, in a constant state of bewilderment), under the service of the Dwarves. Those coming in cold to the multiplex will be left fumbling in the dark. The trilogy topper doesn’t stand alone, so having read the book or seen the previous movies is a must. Otherwise, it would be too easy to lose track of all of the late arrivals to the climactic battle scene, and some sequences would be downright confusing.

In tone and look, the conclusion seamlessly blends in with Jackson’s first two entries: the wide-eyed, declamatory acting; the clunky dialogue (“If this is love, I don’t want it. Why does it hurt so much?”); the stentorian score by composer Howard Shore; and the whirl-and-twirl swordfights among the tireless combatants. The nonstop 3-D special effects are rendered redundant, with falling debris, incoming spears, or Smaug’s tail repeatedly descending upon movier goers—talk about overkill. Seeing Battle in either 3-D or 3-D IMAX won’t necessarily enhance the viewing experience, either, considering that the latter, overly bright format washes out and flattens the color palette.

As in the previous two films, the new movie has a tone separate from Tolkien’s. Where the author’s is wry and genial (“It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him”), Jackson’s stretched-out adaptation gives off a militaristic bombast. Additionally, what was cuddly on the page is creepy and menacing onscreen, best exemplified by the Orcs, ashen giants wearing skulls as codpieces. Whereas Tolkien resolves a confrontation within a few pages or even a single sentence, Jackson draws out the killings and mayhem, though the script covers only the last 65 pages of the book. The titular confrontation lasts about an hour long. In contrast, Tolkien wraps up the final combat in one succinct chapter.

After 30 months on his action-packed journey with the Dwarves, the wary Bilbo just wants to go back home and retire to his armchair with his books and tea at four o’clock. Likewise, the viewer might prefer cozying up with Tolkien’s original instead.

Directed by Peter Jackson

144 min.

Rated PG-13 (heads roll)

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SLJ’s Top 10 Tech Trends 2014 Tue, 16 Dec 2014 15:01:03 +0000  

SLJ1412w Top10 TechTrends icon1 SLJ’s Top 10 Tech Trends 2014Announced in July, the American Association of School Libraries (AASL)’s new mission statement said it clearly: AASL empowers leaders to transform teaching and learning. The trends we see this year emphasize significant opportunities and the critical importance of transformative library leadership as we rethink our platforms, collection, space, and new opportunities for instruction. Leadership from the center is not new—but perhaps it is a new essential in a transitional time.

At her Connected Librarian session on October 7, Judy O’Connell (@heyjudeonline), course director for the School of Information Studies at Australia’s Charles Sturt University, reminded us that 2015 is the 25th anniversary of the Web. “The book did not take its own form until 50 years after it was invented,” O’Connell said, evoking a Gutenberg parenthesis. We, too, are smack in the middle of a paradigm shift. Leadership during this particular parenthesis, or transitional digital stage, is essential.

I asked a number of friends to help describe what the parenthesis, and its opportunities, look like on the ground.

2014 TOP10 TECHTRNDS SocialMedia SLJ’s Top 10 Tech Trends 2014Social media is the new media. Social tools enable learning, connecting, creating, and relationships. It is our landscape, and it’s thorny, but it’s here—and we need to leverage it and teach in it. Our students deserve agency and the ability to engage and share their voices. If social media is blocked in your district or school, get it unblocked. This is an urgent equity and intellectual freedom issue. Lead the teaching in leveraging social media to model authentic ways to communicate, collaborate, and build community, and let our children participate.

Transparency is the new platform for student work and reading. Platforms like Google Classroom and Subtext (which facilitates ebook discussions) allow us to enter students’ work formatively, to intervene in the writing and research processes, to observe products and growth. We should take advantage of opportunities to guide, comment, analyze, and reflect on student work. Michelle Luhtala, library department chair at New Canaan (CT) High School, believes that Google Hangouts and Google Classroom increase co-teaching opportunities. “We model the use of new tools and increase our time with students without taking away from their teachers’ instructional time.”

Global is the new literacy (the new author visit, field trip, and text). Educational leader Heidi Hayes Jacobs describes global literacy as the ability to be a fluent investigator of the world, examine different perspectives, report on and share ideas, and act on those ideas.

Connection/conferencing platforms like Google Hangouts and Skype make it easier than ever to engage and contribute, well beyond our ZIP codes, with little or no cost. We’ve already recognized our capability to spend time with authors, experts, and other classrooms and libraries. Activities like Mystery Skypes and International Dot Day are just the beginning. This year, a group of teacher librarians launched the GlobalTL: Librarians Without Borders Google+ Community, as well as #globaltl, to demonstrate the role librarians might play in making meaningful curricular connections.

2014 TOP10 TECHTRNDS PrincipalsVideo SLJ’s Top 10 Tech Trends 2014

Viral video: “What Principals Know”

Crowdsourcing/crowdfunding is the new bake/book sale for advocacy and making stuff happen. Judi Moreillon, assistant professor at Texas Woman’s University, notes that “school librarians can benefit from pooling testimonials from their advocates to increase their influence on larger, and perhaps untapped audiences.” A powerful example was this year’s viral video “What Principals Know: School Librarians Are the Heart of the School.” Our community also rose up and worked with developer Mike Lee on his Kickstarter campaign to ensure that the worthy curation platform edshelf did not vaporize. In addition to, librarians have embraced CrowdfundEDU, AdoptAClassroom, and IncitED.

2014 TOP10 TECHTRNDS glogster SLJ’s Top 10 Tech Trends 20141:1/mobile is the new computer lab. Carolyn Foote, SLJ Project Advocacy columnist and librarian at Westlake High School in Austin, TX, believes that 1:1 will evolve librarians’ roles. More embedded librarianship may lead to new staffing needs when librarians are out in classrooms. Carolyn’s own 1:1 campus will gradually morph one of her library computer labs into a multifunctional planning/creating lab. We may all rethink library spaces previously allotted as labs.

Demonstrating the movement toward a device-agnostic ecosystem is an exciting new array of Web tools redesigned as robust apps, including Glogster, Wordle, and InstaGrok.

App smashing/app curation is the new collection building. Our preservice training didn’t anticipate the urgent need to help teachers and students gather collections of high-quality, useful apps into learning dashboards. Librarians must curate for mobile, as well as desktop devices, and scout out the best emerging tools. These new collections will allow students and teachers to easily find needed apps and sites and creatively blend or smash them.

2014 TOP10 TECHTRNDS telescope SLJ’s Top 10 Tech Trends 2014Online communities of practice are the new faculty rooms/professional development. You really have to try hard to feel alone. Our TLChat community (#tlchat) continues to thrive. Connected Librarian Day was but one example of the power and availability of free and freely available professional learning. Each year, exciting new voices join the ranks of our colleagues who graciously reflect and share their discoveries and their practice through their slide decks, videos, blogs, and tweets—all high-quality, informal learning opportunities.

Making is the new learning. Learning by doing, and challenge-based, project-based, and self-directed learning, define the maker movement. This year, many libraries made room for making. “My fifth grade meets in the Media Center before school, like mad scientists, to dissect the cast-off technologies others would label as trash,” says Lynn Gagnon, district librarian at the Keystone (OH) Local School District. ”They want to know how a computer works, and what they can make from the pieces.” Foote says, “[Even] if we can’t make room for makerspaces, we’ll create makerspace events to allow students the time/place to tinker, create, and play.”

“Makerspaces in schools should connect to student’s authentic interests,” adds MIT Media Lab project manager Amos Blanton.

2014 TOP10 TECHTRNDS Enchantium SLJ’s Top 10 Tech Trends 2014Augmented reality (AR) is the new reality. AR is a technology that enhances the user’s real-time view with a computer-generated perspective. “We are starting to see AR take hold in the education field, with examples like the DAQRI Anatomy 4D app, and the Zooburst and Chromeville apps,” says Elissa Malespina, coordinating supervisor of educational technology at the Parsippany-Troy Hills (NJ) School District. A growing number of publishers embed AR into books. Malespina believes that new programs for the education community, like Blippar, may be game changers, because they allow teachers and students to build free AR elements that last indefinitely.

Lifewide is the new lifelong learning (well, we like them both). In her Connected Librarian talk, O’Connell mentioned the term “lifewide” as a central paradigm for future learning. Wikipedia describes this approach as “a teaching strategy that involves real contexts and authentic settings. The goal is to address different kinds of learning not covered in a traditional classroom” and to better equip students “to attain whole personal development and…lifelong learning skills.”

Though we should care deeply about what we traditionally call “achievement,” learning in our spaces should not be restricted to the outcomes of high stakes assessment. Self-directed “genius” time can be the new study hall. We are the very spaces where it is safe for learners to connect with their unmeasured, and perhaps unmeasurable, interests and talents—and where it is safe to celebrate the freedom to geek out.

Joyce Valenza is director of the masters’ program in information and library science at Rutgers University. She blogs at “NeverEnding Search.”

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