School Library Journal The world's largest reviewer of books, multimedia, and technology for children and teens Sun, 26 Jun 2016 12:04:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Trend Alert: More School Libraries Staying Open all Summer Fri, 24 Jun 2016 17:45:39 +0000 Traditionally, the end of the school year is a frenzy of closing up shop—turning in projects, figuring final grades, and gathering library materials to be inventoried and locked away until fall.

But a growing number of school districts are experimenting with the opposite: keeping school libraries open and available all summer, and even giving books away. Funding, staffing, and operation vary from district to district, as School Library Journal reported in May, but these fledgling programs share a universal goal: to keep kids reading all year long.

Increasing Access in North Carolina

The Summer Reading program in New Hanover (NC) County just kicked off with reading celebrations at each of the 11 school libraries that will host summer programs. Instead of a reminder about items to return, students at all 38 district schools received an invitation to check out books for the summer, with no overdue fines.


summer library kickoff PVES

Students in New Hanover County, NC kick off summer with a reading celebration. Photo courtesy of New Hanover County Schools.

District leaders, concerned about the “summer slide” in reading skills, have prioritized the US Department of Education’s recommendation to keep students reading when school is not in session. The idea of summer media centers originated at a library conference last year, and school leaders were able to secure enough funding to keep four sites open as an experiment. This year’s expansion builds on what they learned, and leaders hope the program will continue to grow. Jennifer LaGarde, lead school library media coordinator, explains, “We really want to keep resources available to our students who don’t have access. We have a strong relationship with the public library, but many students don’t have transportation. Our program complements what is happening at the public library.” The 11 school sites are in residential neighborhoods so that students can walk to programs.

The sites will be open on a staggered schedule, with specialized programs at each location. Students can attend any programs they find interesting, and there’s something for everyone, from traditional storytimes and career/college readiness days to robotics and coding. The sites are staffed by certified school librarians, with support from the Department of Digital Teaching and Learning as well as a technology assistant. LaGarde emphasizes, “We really want this program to be sustainable without grants. This is part of how our district invests in the literacy needs of our students. We want to ensure that this is a meaningful, robust program for kids. That requires trained people to select appropriate materials, develop, and lead programs. It’s much more than just opening the doors.”

New Hanover County educators will be carefully gathering data this year to inform next year’s planning. They will record attendance, promotional efforts, circulation, and measure participating students’ performance on fall assessment tests compared with peers. Last year’s trends suggest that kids who participate in summer reading have an easier transition back to school in the fall, and leaders hope that efforts like this will help the summer slide slip away.

Building on Success in Florida

Keeping school-based literacy programs running throughout the summer isn’t new to the schools of Palm Beach County, Florida. For the past six years, a grant from the Pew Foundation has funded book distribution programs at nearly two dozen schools. Additionally, the district has always had generous library media specialists who have volunteered to open their libraries for limited hours while the district’s 187 schools host camp or summer school programs.

But this summer, library hours won’t rely on grants or volunteers. Leaders have selected 15 schools with very low performance on reading achievement scores, and will open media centers in those locations with regular hours as a pilot program. The district has hired media specialists and teachers to deliver library services and programs weekly at each site. The programs are timed to accommodate participation from students enrolled in other campus programs, and entirely funded by the district.


The assortment of media center summer programming in Palm Beach County. Photo courtesy of School District of Palm Beach County.

At each location, the full library collection is available, and interactive activities are offered from maker space and technology programs to book clubs. They’ll be carefully tracking circulation and attendance numbers, and plan to build on success as the district strategically expands the program each year. So far, the biggest challenge has been getting the word out. As Hollyanne Ruffner, library media services specialist for the district, explains, “This is a program that needs marketing, as opposed to a class during the school year, when attendance is a given. Two of our locations leverage social media very well, and those have had the best launch. We have to build awareness that these programs are here.” To that end, the district manages a website designed to excite students about reading in any form, including use of the district’s ebook subscriptions, or through games and challenges that can be enhanced using resources available at school libraries.

So far, the program is a hit with parents and students. One school circulated 355 items in the first five-hour day. “My girls love the summer library program and look forward to each session,” exudes a parent of two middle school students who are keeping those books they get open all summer—just like the libraries.




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Helping Girls Thrive in STEM Fields and Working “Storytime Magic” | Professional Reading Fri, 24 Jun 2016 16:59:13 +0000 SLJ1606-ProfessionalLemov, Doug, Erica Woolway, & Colleen Driggs. Reading Reconsidered: A Practical Guide to Rigorous Literacy Instruction. 456p. ebook available. glossary. index. websites. Jossey-Bass. Mar. 2016. pap. $32.95. ISBN 9781119104247.

Lemov, Woolway, and Driggs believe that reading instruction needs a serious makeover. They argue that current literacy instruction delegates too much choice to students amid “benignly appealing youth fiction written after 1980” while nonfiction and older fiction texts (the stuff of college) are a mere afterthought. The authors call on educators to focus on “the core of the core”: harder texts, close reading, more nonfiction, and frequent writing in response to reading as the main approach to ameliorate declining SAT scores. Part 1 details this instructional core, while part 2 gets into the nitty-gritty of teaching strategies: vocabulary instruction, approaches to “independent” reading, text annotation, and more. Each chapter is broken into discrete modules for study and implementation, accompanied by a collection of videos from the classrooms of UnCommon School teachers. The authors clearly demonstrate a respect for teachers and students. With many references to E.D. Hirsch, readers may be concerned that a revival of the traditional canon is on the horizon. However, the authors advocate for an “internal canon” selected purposefully by teachers. While many of the strategies are supported by relevant research in the field, there is scant reference made to research on the importance of student choice in reading. VERDICT Though the context for change might be debatable, many of the instructional strategies may offer ideas for teaching.–Ernie Cox, Prairie Creek Intermediate School, Cedar Rapids, IA

MacMillan, Kathy & Christine Kirker. More Storytime Magic. illus. by Melanie Fitz. 200p. further reading. illus. index. ALA Editions. Dec. 2015. pap. $52. ISBN 9780838913680.

Another excellent resource from this author pair, this title presents songs, stories, and activities arranged by themes, such as fairy tales, animals, friends, and food. The stories and songs include originals and adaptations alike, and many of the tunes are sung to well-known traditional songs. Each chapter features patterns for making flannel board figures or craft patterns, and worksheets that may be easily found online. Many of the activities are depicted in American Sign Language. Each chapter concludes with a list of recommended titles, which are also referenced in an excellent general index and in a resource appendix. For those who wish to specify the elements of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) demonstrated in storytime, the coding found with each activity is helpful. The key to the coded symbols is referenced in an index. Another helpful appendix lists the CCSS for kindergarten. The lists of strategies for engaging children, including those with disabilities, will be especially useful to first-time storytellers. VERDICT With fun activities and timely information on the CCSS, this is an ideal choice for administrators, librarians, and parents eager to promote current literacy standards.–Jackie Gropman, formerly at Chantilly Regional Library, VA

Mosatche, Harriet S., Elizabeth Lawner, & Susan Matloff-Nieves. Breaking Through!: Helping Girls Succeed in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. 296p. bibliog. Prufrock. Feb. 2016. pap. $16.95. ISBN 9781618215215.

While the knowledge that women are underrepresented in STEM careers is not earth-shattering, the research rounded up in this book might shock readers not already familiar with the depth of the gender gap. Delving into past and current research about girls and STEM, the authors break down societal stereotypes about innate vs. learned abilities and the lack of female interest in STEM activities, demonstrating how girls can be pushed away from typically male-heavy fields. Additional research about role models and mentoring programs elucidates ways in which adults can effectively support young women interested in these pursuits. Advocacy advice provides parents and caring adults with various methods for guiding girls toward STEM and creating receptive environments so that they aren’t shunned, overlooked, or ignored by peers or adults. Perhaps the most valuable aspect of this title is the quick-start guide for incorporating STEM into everyday life. The suggested activities and recommended discussions of scientific method and creative problem-solving appropriately coach adults to feel comfortable talking with and advising girls to become involved in STEM paths for many years to come. Parents, educators, and librarians will all find ideas to implement in this thorough resource. VERDICT A recommended purchase for most parenting, professional reading, or reference collections.–Abby Bussen, Muskego Public Library, WI

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New Kid Blues | SLJ Spotlight Fri, 24 Jun 2016 15:31:07 +0000 Moving to a new town or school is a common, and difficult, life experience for many kids. That first day in a strange classroom, learning how to make friends, and the sheer terror of figuring out who you’ll sit with in the lunchroom can all be anxiety-inducing prospects. Several new titles feature characters who experience—and overcome—the new kid blues.

Plourde, Lynn. Maxi’s Secret: (Or What You Can Learn from a Dog). 272p. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Bks. Aug. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780399545672. MG-SP-Plourde-Maxi's Secret

Gr 4-6 –Extra short fifth grader Timminy doesn’t beat around the bush when he notifies readers upfront that the canine heroine of the story will meet a similar fate as beloved dogs like Old Yeller and Sounder. Maxi, a Great Pyrenees puppy, is the bribe Timminy’s parents dangled when they moved the family from Portland, ME, to middle of nowhere, Skenago. Timminy is terrified of starting middle school, fearing he will be the target of bullies, and having his dad as the vice principal surely can’t help matters any. Timminy’s fears are validated, as he soon faces relentless bullying and is frequently trapped in the lockers. He looks forward each day to returning home to Maxi, who the family soon discovers is deaf. Timminy’s neighbor, fellow middle schooler Abby, is blind, and the two quickly form a friendship. Timminy is amazed that Abby doesn’t let her blindness slow her down, and he eventually develops a shift in his own thinking about his shortcomings. Each chapter ends with one of Maxi’s “secrets,” such as “A new friend is like a present—you’re not sure what’s inside, but you can’t wait to find out.” The secrets are little gems, providing food for thought. Timminy’s ability to make fun of himself backfires when he and Abby have a misunderstanding, which leads to a falling-out. When Abby gets lost in the woods during a horrible snowstorm, it’s up to the small boy and his dog to find her. The characters are fully developed, and the delicate subjects of bullying and disabilities are dealt with deftly and with humor. The story would make a great read-aloud, as Plourde has created humorous and believable characters that readers will be cheering for. Knowing Maxi’s fate from the outset makes for a heartbreaking, yet satisfying, ending. VERDICT A novel that will have wide appeal to dog lovers and those looking for a feel-good tale of overcoming adversity.–Michele Shaw, Quail Run Elementary School, San Ramon, CA

Sheinmel, Courtney. Chloe on the Bright Side. 224p. (The Kindness Club). Bloomsbury. Nov. 2016. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781681190914.MG-SP-Sheinmel-Chloe on the Bright Side

Gr 3-6 –Sheinmel (Stella Batts) introduces a new series for middle grade readers with a warm and charming first installment. Fifth grader Chloe Silver is probably the most caring person you’ll ever meet, but even Chloe finds it difficult to be kind sometimes. Chloe’s parents have recently divorced, forcing Chloe away from her best friend and into a new school. Chloe’s new circumstances have her torn between two groups of friends—“The It Girls” with sassy Monroe and “The Kindness Club” with her science partners Lucy and Theo—as well as between her two very different families. While this is ultimately a book about altruism and understanding, Sheinmel deftly recalls the difficult days of fifth grade. Chloe has many tough decisions to make and has to live with the positive and negative consequences. The dialogue is candied but avoids becoming altogether cloying. The characters are well-developed and relatable. The true strength of the tale is in Sheinmel’s presentation of tween politics and Chloe’s inner struggles. Readers will be rewarded with a satisfying read and, hopefully, a little inspiration to be considerate in their own lives. A publisher’s note reveals the new series was inspired by various kindness and antibullying projects across the United States. Libraries will benefit from having this title in their arsenal against cliques and bullies. VERDICT Ideal for elementary and middle school shelves, this is a light and easy read for tweens. Recommended as a general purchase.–Taylor Worley, Springfield Public Library, OR

Vickers, Elaine. Like Magic. illus. by Sara Not. 272p. HarperCollins. Oct. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062414311.MG-SP-Vickers-Like Magic

Gr 4-6 –A treasure box—and a dash of whimsy—unite three 10-year-old girls, each struggling to cope with changes in her family life. Homeschooled Malia frets over the impending birth of her first sibling. Shy Grace is anxious about speaking, especially since her best friend moved away. Jada longs for her mother, who abandoned the family to pursue an acting career. Without ever meeting one another, the girls develop a rapport by taking turns borrowing an ornate box from the public library, removing a personal “treasure” left by the previous user, and adding a new memento. Keeping the box circulating among the trio is an intuitive, possibly enchanted, elderly librarian who understands that what the girls need most is friendship. Debut novelist Vickers has created three appealing, diverse characters with distinct talents and voices; librarian Hazel is an affectionate spin on fairy-tale crones. The point of view changes with each chapter, providing insights into the girls’ private aspirations and relationships with family members. Readers will be engaged by the near misses in which Malia, Grace, and Jada encounter one another but hesitate to introduce themselves, leading to an emotionally satisfying first meeting at the novel’s climax. VERDICT Just right for sensitive tweens, this is a sweet story of friendship and learning to cope with common fears and life changes.–Marybeth Kozikowski, Sachem Public Library, Holbrook, NY

These reviews were published in School Library Journal’s June 2016 issue.

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Small Steps | SLJ Spotlight Fri, 24 Jun 2016 14:51:24 +0000 Forget the electoral process; students may need a refresher on what Washington, DC, even looks like! From Jakobsen’s colorful and detailed drawings of famous monuments and sights to Panchyk’s rich and complex portrait of the city’s history, these titles will have readers ready to set off on the right foot toward greater political knowledge. Plus, don’t miss DC’s star attraction, the White House, in Robbin’s Miss Paul and the President, a bright introduction to Alice Paul, who staged demonstrations in our nation’s capital for women’s rights to vote.

Jakobsen, Kathy. My Washington, DC. illus. by Kathy Jakobsen. 40p. maps. websites. Little, Brown. Sept. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780316126120. NF-SP-Jakoben-My Washington DC

Gr 1-3 –Jakobsen takes readers on a whimsical, whirlwind tour of our nation’s capital in this nonfiction picture book. Beginning at Union Station, characters Becky and her friend Martin make their way around many of the sights of Washington, DC. Most locations are treated to highly detailed spreads, while some, such as the Supreme Court, merit a single page, and others, like the White House, receive multiple spreads. The Washington Monument gets a fold-out treatment as befits its height. Each illustration is accompanied by a brief paragraph of description, which necessarily limits the amount of information that Jakobsen is able to impart; what she includes is as much fun trivia as it is vital facts. A few commonly repeated inaccuracies appear here, such as the idea that “Lincoln freed the slaves,” but these are more oversimplifications than errors. Martin Luther King Jr.’s monument is the only edifice to commemorate a non-president that is featured, but Jakobsen fails to mention King’s African American heritage, which is an omission that some will find odd. As readers pore over these illustrations of monuments, seats of government, and museums, they are also encouraged to search for eagles, stars, and a cat hidden in each picture, adding to the book’s interactive nature. An illustrated map highlighting each site visited as well as other prominent locations graces the endpapers, allowing readers to revisit their journey. VERDICT This merry work is a good choice for young readers who are curious about our capital as well as educators who want to introduce Washington, DC, before a trip or lesson.–Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Library, Wisconsin Rapids, WI

Panchyk, Richard. Washington, DC, History for Kids: The Making of a Capital City, with 21 Activities. 144p. (For Kids). chron. further reading. index. photos. websites. Chicago Review. Jul. 2016. pap. $16.99. ISBN 9781613730065. NF-SP-Panchyk-DC-History for Kids

Gr 5-8 –Panchyk has produced a multifaceted history of Washington, DC. The book is a chronological account of the capital’s history, beginning with the first European settlements in the 17th century and ending with the August 2011 earthquake felt within the city. Chapters are broken into small sections of text, which range in length from a few to several paragraphs. The narrative discusses important events, such as the British attack on the city in 1814 and the Lincoln assassination. It also includes lesser-known events, such as the attempt to free slaves on the ship Pearl and Japan’s gift of cherry trees to the city. Students will become acquainted with famous landmarks: the Smithsonian, the Capital, the United States Botanic Garden, and many other prominent sites. Primary documentation consists of drawings, photographs, and scans of letters and newspapers, including a letter by George Washington, an engraving of the city plan by Andrew Ellicott, and a photograph of Union Station in 1907. Some images, like a photograph of the Lincoln Memorial, occupy the whole page, while other images are half a page or smaller. This book is loaded with activities, some of which require adult supervision. These activities include taking part in backyard archaeology, and photographing current landmarks and comparing those images to older pictures. Some activities can be done in the home, such as drawing political cartoons or designing a city flag. These projects may be adapted for classroom use. A handy time line of the city can be found before the introduction. VERDICT An informational and activity-filled book that will be very useful for late-elementary and middle school history projects.–Jeffrey Meyer, Mt. Pleasant Public Library, IA

Robbins, Dean. Miss Paul and the President: The Creative Campaign for Women’s Right To Vote. illus. by Nancy Zhang. 40p. bibliog. ebook available. Knopf. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781101937204; lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9781101937211. Miss Paul_cover comp.indd

K-Gr 3 –This picture book biography introduces young readers to Alice Paul, the suffragist and women’s rights activist. Readers will learn of Paul’s fierce efforts to win the right to vote for women, including putting together a parade in Washington, DC, that upstaged the incoming president, Woodrow Wilson; organizing protesters outside the White House; and directly confronting President Wilson on the matter of women’s suffrage. The author connects these efforts (“making mischief”) to Paul’s wild youth, a time when she sneaked candy, chased chickens, and threw mud balls. Watercolor and color pencil illustrations support this spirited view with lively movement and color as she is shown leading a parade of 8,000 women, sitting in President Wilson’s office and looking him right in the eye, protesting outside the White House gate, and even being hauled off to jail by the police for refusing to leave the grounds. All of these efforts pay off when Wilson finally decides to support women’s right to vote. A final illustration shows the triumphant Paul on her way to vote in the 1920 election. VERDICT This is an engaging introduction to an important and often neglected historical figure. Older readers can find additional information in Ann Bausum’s With Courage and Cloth.–Myra Zarnowski, City University of New York

These reviews were published in School Library Journal’s June 2016 issue. 

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The Not So Quiet Library by Zachariah OHora | SLJ Review Fri, 24 Jun 2016 13:30:47 +0000 OHora, Zachariah. The Not So Quiet Library. illus. by Zachariah OHora.40p. Dial. Jul. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780803741409. 

PreS-Gr 1 –Oskar, a boy, and Theodore, a bear, are companionable reading buddies. They love waking up early Saturday mornings to visit the library—after a “proper breakfast” of delectable doughnuts. They are just settling into a typically quiet library day when the “Boom! Crash! Growl!” of a loud, angry, and disruptive monster disturbs their solitude. It appears that [...]]]> redstarOHora, Zachariah. The Not So Quiet Library. illus. by Zachariah OHora.40p. Dial. Jul. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780803741409. The Not So Quiet Library

PreS-Gr 1 –Oskar, a boy, and Theodore, a bear, are companionable reading buddies. They love waking up early Saturday mornings to visit the library—after a “proper breakfast” of delectable doughnuts. They are just settling into a typically quiet library day when the “Boom! Crash! Growl!” of a loud, angry, and disruptive monster disturbs their solitude. It appears that the five-headed creature hates books, even ones covered in whipped cream, mustard, hot sauce, or sprinkles. When Oskar tactfully explains that books are for reading rather than eating, Theodore saves them from being the monster’s next snack by feeding it doughnuts instead…which is predictably followed by an equally enjoyable storytime session. OHora’s bold, colorful, quirky cartoon illustrations are eye-catching, and the multiheaded green monster far outshines both boy and bear as frightfully delightful favorite characters. The part where the green ghouls dip their books into assorted condiments and dessert toppings will surely elicit more than a few laughs. Along with these silly moments, children should appreciate the final message: “Luckily, monsters like story time as much as they like donuts.” VERDICT A delectable read-aloud well worth sharing, especially for a beginning library storytime session.–Etta Anton, Yeshiva of Central Queens, NY

This review was published in the School Library Journal June 2016 issue.

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Your Worst Nightmare | SLJ Spotlight Thu, 23 Jun 2016 20:23:49 +0000 Looking for a good scare? Check out the latest spine-tingling YA offerings sure to keep teens up at night. From ghost stories to titles about demonic possessions, these works will have readers checking under the beds and peeking around corners.

redstarKurtagich, Dawn.  352p. ebook available. Little, Brown. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBNYA-SP-Kurtagich-And The Trees Crept In 9780316298704.

Gr 9 Up –When Silla and her younger sister Nori arrive on the doorstep of their estranged aunt’s crumbling manor, they are cold, injured, and on the run from someone awful. Things start sliding into macabre territory right away, and within a few years Aunt Cath has gone mad and locked herself in the attic permanently. The two sisters and their mysterious friend (who has appeared from the forest) are trapped on the property with little food and a giant fear of both the Slender Man–type figure who may live in the woods, and the trees themselves, which appear to be closing in on them. Silla’s dreamlike and unreliable narration works hand in hand with a host of unanswered (and unasked) questions to prime readers for a twist ending, which savvy consumers of horror will figure out. There’s a bit of a romance, and the novel ends on an emotional exploration of the traumas that led to this nightmare. Kurtagich’s horror imagery is satisfying and affecting—her descriptions of the day-to-day decay the girls face are as rich and scary as the monstrous man who scuttles around on all fours and the teeming mud pits that are waiting in the woods. VERDICT A great next read for teens who enjoy being scared; purchase where horror is popular.–Beth McIntyre, Madison Public Library, WI

Olson, Norah. What the Dead Want. 320p. ebook available. illus. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. Jul. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062410115. OLSON, Norah. What the Dead Want

Gr 8 Up –Gretchen is a high school student looking forward to a summer in New York City when she receives a letter from her estranged great-aunt Esther. She discovers that she has inherited her family’s mansion. Gretchen’s mother mysteriously disappeared a few years earlier, and the teen hopes to find some answers by traveling to the Axton mansion. Gretchen is unexpectedly left alone in the house and begins to encounter ghostly visions. This tale is mostly a ghost story but also has aspects of historical fiction, as Gretchen uncovers the truth about her ancestors. She finds stacks of pictures and letters that help her piece together that her family were abolitionists who aided slaves escaping their masters. The narrative becomes a bit of a mystery as Gretchen and her new neighbors, Hawk and Hope, try to get to the bottom of what happened on the site of the mansion and why there are sinister, creepy characters in the house. The haunting truth is exposed after two hectic days, which strains credulity. Readers will be wondering why Gretchen’s mother and aunt couldn’t figure it out in 40 years. Fans of Ransom Riggs’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will enjoy this horror tale. Interior art often opens each chapter and is peppered throughout, adding to the haunting effect. VERDICT A title recommended for any collection in need of a unique horror story that has more than just ghosts.–Morgan O’Reilly, Riverdale Country School, NY

Sirowy, Alexandra. The Telling. 400p. ebook available. S. & S. Aug. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481418898.SIROWY, Alexandra. The Telling

Gr 8 Up –Lana has been living in the after—after her stepbrother and best friend Ben was murdered in front of her and his girlfriend, Maggie. Before, she spent her time working to graduate from high school and get accepted to college and hanging out with her best friend. Now, she needs to distract herself from Ben’s death, so she becomes friends with The Core, a group of popular teens who drink and carry out dares. While cliff-diving at Swisher Spring, Lana finds Maggie’s body buried underwater. The protagonist becomes the prime suspect, as she knows the cliffs well. Lana and her friends don’t know what to think. One of Lana’s classmates turns up missing. Someone’s dogs are killed. Lana wonders if Ben’s ghost isn’t still around, taking justice for how she’s been treated. This story is realistic, descriptive, and hard to put down. Lana is a likable character who is dealing with tragic loss in the best way she knows how. Told in first person, the narrative slowly reveals details to readers as Lana becomes aware of them. Teens are left wondering who could be the culprit and if Lana will discover the identity before it’s too late. The secondary characters are distinctive enough to stand alone, but Lana and Ben are the real focus. Readers may anticipate the ending, but there are plenty of plot twists along the way. References to drinking and sex throughout make this appropriate for high schoolers. VERDICT Recommend for fans of realistic murder mysteries with twists and where nothing quite fits together.–Natalie Struecker, Atlantic Public Library, IA

Vega, Danielle. The Merciless II: The Exorcism of Sofia Flores. 320p. ebook available. Penguin/Razorbill. Jul. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781595147264. VEGA, Danielle. The Merciless II The Exorcism of Sofia Flores

Gr 9 Up –Sofia Flores has lost everything. After months of therapy following Riley’s murder, she has finally convinced herself that Brooklyn’s demonic possession was all in her head. When her mom gets into a fatal car accident, Sofia has to relocate to a Catholic boarding school. It is old, with a strict morality code. Sofia meets her new roommates, sweet Leena and bad girl Sutton. The protagonist manages to catch the eye of a hot altar boy during mass. He happens to be the same boy whom Leena fancies. As temptation clouds Sofia’s judgment, she starts to believe Brooklyn’s distant claim that she is indeed evil. Can she resist sinning? This pulse-pounding follow-up to Vega’s Merciless focuses on Sofia as she attempts to put the horrible events of the first novel behind her. As Sofia deals with unfamiliar religious surroundings, she begins to think that she’s beyond redemption. She tries to find support in friendly Sister Lauren and creepy Father Marcus but can’t shake a dark sense of foreboding. With strong, well-developed supporting characters, this novel is a terrifying delight of a read. Sometimes Sofia can’t help but give in to her dark side, but readers will be hard-pressed to root against her. This sequel could potentially work as a stand-alone but will be especially enjoyed by fans of the previous volume. With an intensely violent climax, this story will work well for horror readers who don’t shy away from prose that may make some readers squeamish. VERDICT Hard to put down, this scary novel is a must-read for teenage fans of fright.–Ryan P. Donovan, Southborough Public Library, MA

These reviews were published in School Library Journal’s June 2016 issue. 

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Mackin Seals Trio of Partnerships Thu, 23 Jun 2016 19:42:18 +0000 MackinVIA_CMYKMackin, a provider of library and classroom materials for PK–12 for 34 years, made three announcements of new partnerships in as many days this week.

TenMarks selects Mackin aS reseller of their online math programs to schools nationwide

TenMarks, an Amazon company, has named Mackin as a key reseller of the company’s award-winning math program. TenMarks works with teachers, schools, and districts to drive an integrated model of curriculum and instruction, supported by technology and 1:1 personalization. It provides scaffolded lessons, guided practice, assignments, assessments, and interventions, all designed for state and common core standards.

Mackin’s national library transformation movement names Shannon McClintock Miller as national spokesperson

Movers2014webBigMillerbThe new Mackin-sponsored movement known as Transform Your School Library has appointed their first National Spokesperson, Shannon McClintock Miller. Miller, formerly K-12 district teacher librarian at Van Meter (IA) Community School District and an internationally recognized keynote speaker, consultant, and author, brings dedication, passion and vision to the position.

“In order to remain relevant and support the diverse learning needs of our students, libraries must continue to grow and evolve,” says Miller, who was named a 2014 Library Journal Mover and Shaker. “The exciting task of being at the forefront of this movement with Mackin and the TYSL Advocates is a revolutionary undertaking that I am beyond thrilled to be a part of.”

Students and teachers to have single sign-on to MackinVIA

A partnership with ClassLink, a new single sign-on connection platform, will provide users with secure, OneClick access to MackinVIA, a free digital content management system that provides access to eBooks, audiobooks, educational databases, and video.

ClassLink OneClick delivers single sign-on to web resources, like MackinVIA, and to files, whether they
are stored in the cloud, on a device, or on the school network. “The relationship with Mackin is emblematic of a partnership model that benefits everyone—schools, publishers, and technology providers. This model is made possible by ClassLink’s ability to leverage open tech standards, avoid unnecessary fees to partners, and focus on doing what’s in the best interest of educators,” says Berju Akian, ClassLink CEO.

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Library Transformation Hallmark of 2016 Knight News Challenge Winners Thu, 23 Jun 2016 15:54:37 +0000 The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has announced funding of $1.6 million for 14 digital and data projects aimed at reimagining libraries for the 21st century.

Winning projects in the Knight News Challenge on Libraries ran the innovation gamut, from preserving rural American history via small-town libraries to training library staff on how to bring more diverse perspectives to Wikipedia. “The winners show the potential of libraries to innovate and reinvent themselves in response to ever-evolving information needs. We hope they will inspire more innovation in the space and help highlight the many ways libraries can connect communities in the digital age,” says John Bracken, Knight Foundation vice president of media innovation.

A special kind of storytime

A family visit. Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Public Library

A family visit. Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Public Library

Among the lauded projects was “TeleStory: Library-Based Video Visitation for Children of Incarcerated Parents.” Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) in New York will use the $393,249 investment (the top prize amount) to offer free services in 12 branches to help families stay connected. Studies show that the combination of trauma, shame, and stigma unique to parental incarceration can have a particularly detrimental effect on a child’s development.

“Libraries are essential in building more informed communities and closing the literacy gap. This unique project taps into this opportunity, positioning public libraries as places to connect and learn,” says Bracken.

BPL staffers who provide services in New York’s correctional facilities share information about the program and then contact the families of interested inmates. Project lead Nicholas Higgins explains the logistics. “For the first visit, library staff select age-appropriate books that we think the Telestory family will enjoy. After a few visits, when we have gotten to know them a bit better, we can choose books and materials to reflect the child’s preferences and personalities.” For instance, if they notice a child seems to love drawing or writing, they’ll make sure to have crayons on hand. As to whether the parents receive any type of “training” for the sessions, Higgins says, “We do work closely with the parents to help them make the most of their reading time. Many of our incarcerated parents have participated in the Daddy & Me or Mommy & Me programs, which teach early literacy skills and prepare them to help their children learn.”

Rosario D. reads to his child. Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Public Library.

Inmate Rosario reads to his child. Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Public Library

Each video visit is scheduled for one hour, and while BPL sees a preponderance of toddlers and preschoolers, the program is open to all ages. Reading is encouraged, but families can draw together, sing songs, or just sit and talk.

“The program addresses what we have identified as one of our patrons’ chief needs, staying connected even when it is difficult to be together in person,” says Higgins. “Our hope is that Telestory will be adopted by libraries throughout the nation. This really should be a core library service.”

A beat all their own

Student Paulina P.,  left, interviews Bessie Rodriguez, mother of 12-year-old Santos Rodriguez, killed 42 years ago. Photo:  David Woo, courtesy of The Dallas Morning News)

Student Paulina interviews Bessie Rodriguez, mother of 12-year-old Santos Rodriguez, killed 42 years ago. Photo: David Woo, courtesy of the Dallas Morning News

A $150,000 award went to “Storytellers Without Borders: Activating the Next Generation of Community Journalists Through Library Engagement.” The Dallas Public Library (DPL) will host an intensive community journalism course for area high school students.

Branch locations in diverse neighborhoods will act as research centers, technology hubs, and venues for interviews with community members. Librarians will teach the teens how to use the library’s digital resources and databases to better understand their neighborhood, while the Dallas Morning News journalists will show them the ropes of interviewing, taking notes, and writing stories, as well as shooting videos and recording audio.

The idea was sparked by Alma Guillermoprieto, a renowned Latin American journalist and New Yorker correspondent, who proposed the concept at the Dallas Festival of Ideas last February. She suggested that Dallas’s literary life could be transformed by professional writers mentoring young storytellers across diverse neighborhoods—with the training conducted at public libraries, in order to strengthen those.

Student Naomi interviews a local business owner. Photo Courtesy of Dallas Public Library.

Student Naomi interviews a local business owner. Photo courtesy of Dallas Public Library

Details of the recruitment process are still being worked out, but the intention is to hold an open application process, based on an essay and letter of recommendation. High school journalism advisers will also be enlisted to identify potential participants. “Getting racial, cultural, and socioeconomic diversity will be key for the program,” says the Dallas Morning News project lead Tom Huang.

While use of the skills acquired to pursue a career is certainly a desired end result, “The goal of the project is really to get our teens to look up from the electronic devices and become more aware of what is happening in their neighborhoods and their city. The second goal is to remind them that the library is a valuable resource and a safe place for them to gather as a group or just to do research,” notes DPL project lead Maryjo Giudice.

“Storytellers Without Borders” is personal to Huang. “When I was growing up, even though I loved to write, I never had any journalists as role models, so I wasn’t sure how to make my way into the news business,” he shares. While he eventually figured it out on his own, he wants to give students the opportunity to find those mentors who can inspire and guide them.

“I’ve always thought that we can use the power of storytelling to bring diverse communities together. Dallas can be a divided city at times, and we’re going to depend on our young people to build bridges,” adds Huang.


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Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” |Touch and Go Thu, 23 Jun 2016 13:56:25 +0000 Just when we thought we had seen nearly everything the app world has to offer on Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets, along comes Heuristic Media’s The Tempest. Behind the app is the famed actor Ian McKellen, who along with professor Jonathan Bate, and business partner Richard Loncraine, has plans to release an app for each of Shakespeare’s 37 plays. For more on the project, which begins with Shakespeare’s last play, hear what McKellen has to say about it in a trailer produced by Heuristic Media or in this Empire Podcast (skip to minute 17:00). Chris Gustafson reviews the production for School Library Journal below.


Shakespeare_icon_bigOn opening The Tempest (Heuristic Media, iOS, $5.99; Gr 7 Up), viewers will be able to choose which of three levels they would like to approach the text (level l recommended to those new to Shakespeare). From there, it’s straight into the play. Those comfortable with the work of the Bard, are likely to begin reading, stopping occasionally to tap the underlined text to access the pop-up definitions of words and phrases. They’ll also see line number notations and thumbnail picture links to images or sets of images from art or theater productions of the play. In portrait mode, viewers can watch as actors (Ian McKellen, Derek Jacobi, Frances Barber, etc.) recite lines while the text scrolls below.

To go deeper, students can tap the menu icon on the bottom of the screen, which pulls up the “Table of Contents,” offering several enticing options. There’s “Play at a Glance,” a summarizing feature. The “Character Map” organizes characters by scene, presents their individual lines in chronological order, and connects to images or videos. Another feature allows students to take notes as they read. Links to “Shakespeare’s World and Times” and “Essays and Videos.” With access to a First Folio, viewers can zoom in and look closely at the earliest version of the play. In addition to the reproductions, videos, and photos, the app is illustrated with distinctive, stylized pen-and-ink drawings washed in earth tones.

Readers may never get around to clicking on the question mark icon on the bottom of the screen when reading the play, which would be a shame, because it will take them to the most useful section of the app, “Navigating the Play.” This video tutorial is guaranteed to save students time as it explains and demonstrates how to get the most out of the production’s features and views. “Content Levels” can also be accessed here (support material changes with the level chosen). Just as valuable is the unassuming “Settings” link, which allows readers to customize many reading experience features.

Novice and experienced readers of Shakespeare can choose to skim the surface or to dig for a deeper understanding of the play, the playwright, and the historical context. App fans will be laying hopeful wagers on which play will be next. Chris Gustafson, Whitman Middle School, Seattle Public Schools

"Nymphs, Reapers, Spirits" Photo of a production of "The Tempest." Scene from Heuristic Shakespeare: The Tempest

“Nymphs, Reapers, Spirits” Photo of a production of “The Tempest.” Scene from Heuristic Shakespeare: The Tempest

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And the Trees Crept In by Dawn Kurtagich | SLJ Review Thu, 23 Jun 2016 13:30:56 +0000 Kurtagich, Dawn. And the Trees Crept In. 352p. ebook available. Little, Brown. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316298704. 

Gr 9 Up –When Silla and her younger sister Nori arrive on the doorstep of their estranged aunt’s crumbling manor, they are cold, injured, and on the run from someone awful. Things start sliding into macabre territory right away, and within a few years Aunt Cath has gone mad and locked herself in the attic permanently. The two [...]]]> redstarKurtagich, Dawn. And the Trees Crept In. 352p. ebook available. Little, Brown. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316298704. YA-SP-Kurtagich-And The Trees Crept In

Gr 9 Up –When Silla and her younger sister Nori arrive on the doorstep of their estranged aunt’s crumbling manor, they are cold, injured, and on the run from someone awful. Things start sliding into macabre territory right away, and within a few years Aunt Cath has gone mad and locked herself in the attic permanently. The two sisters and their mysterious friend (who has appeared from the forest) are trapped on the property with little food and a giant fear of both the Slender Man–type figure who may live in the woods, and the trees themselves, which appear to be closing in on them. Silla’s dreamlike and unreliable narration works hand in hand with a host of unanswered (and unasked) questions to prime readers for a twist ending, which savvy consumers of horror will figure out. There’s a bit of a romance, and the novel ends on an emotional exploration of the traumas that led to this nightmare. Kurtagich’s horror imagery is satisfying and affecting—her descriptions of the day-to-day decay the girls face are as rich and scary as the monstrous man who scuttles around on all fours and the teeming mud pits that are waiting in the woods. VERDICT A great next read for teens who enjoy being scared; purchase where horror is popular.–Beth McIntyre, Madison Public Library, WI

This review was published in the School Library Journal June 2016 issue.

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Download SLJ’s Sneak Peek: Your Guide to the Hottest Summer/Fall 2016 Titles Wed, 22 Jun 2016 21:04:52 +0000 SLJ’s Sneak Peek is a guide to the most hotly anticipated children’s and YA titles publishing in SneakPeekFansummer and fall 2016—handpicked by the review editors. Whether you’re working on collection development, considering what titles to booktalk in the coming months, or curious about which titles will be given away as free galleys at ALA Annual, we’ve got you covered. Download the free PDF.

  • Peruse the list of must-have titles organized by format/age group: Picture Books and Beginning Readers, Chapter Books, Middle Grade, YA, Elementary Nonfiction, Middle to High School Nonfiction, and Graphic Novels
  • Look for the “ALA” notation to see which galleys publishers are giving away at ALA Annual and which authors are signing
  • Enjoy author Q&As with Juana Medina, Adam Gidwitz, Traci Chee, and Dav Pilkey
  • Let us know what you think of the guide and how you plan to use it by tweeting @sljournal using the hashtag #SLJSneakPeek
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Amazing Artist! Bevy of Books! Cool New Space! The ABCs of the HarperCollins Fall Preview Tue, 21 Jun 2016 20:59:31 +0000 On a warm late spring day, a group of librarians and educators descended upon the newly renovated offices of the HarperCollins Children’s Books team.

First up, we were treated to words from two-time Caldecott medalist Chris Raschka. He shared what it was like to work with the late Vera B. Williams on Home at Last (Greenwillow, September, 2016), the story of an adopted boy and his two dads.

When it was determined that Vera B. Williams would not be able to do the illustrations for Home at Last, both she and her editor knew that Chris Raschka was the right illustrator to work on the project. A series of slides showed the process of their collaboration.

Chris Raschaka's color renderings were on display.

Chris Raschka’s color renderings were on display.

Raschka’s early steps included creating a dummy copy with sketches on Post-Its. After talks with Williams at her home in Narrowsburg, NY, he revised those sketches, condensing them down and developing them further. Raschka also worked with Williams’ own sketches. The process had both of them working, both of them drawing.

Raschka spoke of the sense of urgency to the work because no one knew just how much longer Williams would be with them. In the end, he spent two days with Williams during what turned out to be her final week. He talked of how she spoke of making books as something that kept a person alive—but, of course, not forever.

Home At Last FINALRaschka’s visit was followed by the main event: A five table round-robin, when we got to hear about all of the exciting new books that will beg to be added to their to-read piles this fall.

Engineering picture books are trending and Susan Hood’s The Fix-It Man fits the bill; inspired by Rube Goldberg contraptions, the hero constructs a device for removing diapers from the house pronto. In Fox and the Jumping Contest, Corey R. Tabor’s trickster either defeats or cheats the competition by building a jet pack, leaving the reader to ponder the ethics of technology in sporting contests. Biology gets a shout-out in I Used to Be a Fish by Tom Sullivan–possibly the story of an imaginative child, possibly a primer on evolution. Speaking of primers, Christoph Niemann jumps off from the Fry Word List for simple, thought-provoking illustrations conveying meaning for more than 300 words both concrete and abstract.

Goofier fun abounds as well. In The Cranky Ballerina, Elise Gravel brings hilarious grumpiness to a girl who Does. Not. Enjoy. Dancing. Veronica Bartles’ The Princess and the Frogs follows the travails of a girl who seeks a frog for friendship purposes and resents how they keep turning into princes. Colleen AF Venable and Ruth Chan team up for Mervin the Sloth Is About to Do the Best Thing in the World, chronicling Mervin’s protracted efforts to raise his arms for a hug.

Middle grade debut fiction sparked the most buzz at our table. Booki Vivat’s heavily illustrated Frazzled: Everyday Disasters and Impending Doom integrates drawings, diagrams, and doodles into the fabric of the text in a high-energy delight. In One Half From the East, Nadia Hashimi explores the phenomenon of Afghan girls presenting as boys until puberty for economic and personal opportunities. Julie Leung’s Mice of the Round Table series kicks off with A Tail of Camelot, in which the mice of Camelot fend off a weasel attack while their human counterparts face their own Arthurian trials. Joining a minute but blossoming shelf including George and Gracefully Grayson, M.G. Hennessey’s The Other Boy follows a transgender kid who gets outed at school.

Some veterans hit the list as well. Jacqueline Davies returns with a sharp, science-minded prankster in Nothing But Trouble. Sharon Creech’s twentieth book with HarperCollins, inspired by her own granddaughter, features a girl and a cow and both Creech’s beloved prose and poetry. Patricia MacLachlan tugs the heartstrings (again) with The Poet’s Dog, told from the perspective of an Irish wolfhound named Teddy. Patricia McCormick turns her considerable powers of research to prose nonfiction in The Plot to Kill Hitler: Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Spy, Unlikely Hero, which examines how a pacifist turned assassin.

YA readers interested in science or crime will want to check out Blood, Bullets, Bones: The Story of Forensic Science from Sherlock Holmes to DNA by Bridget Heos, a photo- and diagram-packed examination of the world’s most televised science. How about biomechanics, the YA mini-trend? In Spare and Found Parts by Sarah Maria Griffin (working title: “Sexy Frankenstein Project”), survivors in a plague-ravaged city have biomechanical limbs or, in one case, an audibly-ticking heart. In Emma Trevayne’s Gamescape: Overworld, gamers compete for bioenhancements, an upgrade Miguel needs to survive. Lauren Oliver offers Replica—which can be read four different ways—featuring clones used for testing biological weapons.

The recent uptick in LGBTQ books continues and expands. M-E Girard celebrates butch girls and healthy lesbian relationships in Girl Mans Up. As I Descended by Robin Talley combines horror and lesbian romance for a Macbeth retelling set in an elite boarding school. For a lighter southern twist, Jaye Robin Brown’s Georgia and Other Forbidden Fruit tackles the intersection of faith and sexual identity.

The road trip turned hetero romance never goes out of style, as evidenced by Katrina Leno’s The Lost and Found featuring pen pals with a propensity for losing things—even people. Garnering comparisons to John Corey Whaley and Matthew Quick, Tom Crosshill’s The Cat King of Havana follows Rick Gutiérrez on his trip to Cuba, ostensibly to learn salsa but actually to win fellow traveler Ana’s heart. In Sing by Vivi Greene, a superstar singer escapes to Maine to avoid press and starts a fling with a local boy.

This preview highlighted the fall list, though, so let’s abandon summer romance for darker deeds. Katharine McGee takes on five different perspectives for The Thousandth Floor, a futuristic thriller about a death in a 1000-story skyscraper. Mindy McGinnis’s The Female of the Species employs alternating points of view for a flinty morality tale tackling rape culture and violence. Following in the footsteps of Uglies and Feed, Donna Freitas’s kicks off a trilogy with Unplugged, which explores a divided society in which the wealthy inhabit a digital world and the poor are relegated to physical reality. In Kendare Blake’s Three Dark Crowns, magical triplets separated after birth meet at age sixteen and fight to the death to become queen. The fantastical-historical hybrid My Lady Jane brings together authors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows to reimagine the story of Henry VIII’s ill-fated wife Jane Grey, with more shapeshifting and less beheading.

As if hearing about all of these exciting new books wasn’t enough, the day ended with a fabulous tour of the offices. Earlier that morning, Suzanne Murphy, the president and publisher of HarperCollins Children’s Books, alerted those who may or may not have been keeping track that the company turns 199 years old this year.

Their new office space is a cool mix of that long history and modern design. In the lobby one can see an old printing press and moveable type on display. A trip down the staircase

reveals a modern office layout with enviable views, inspiring book-related art and, even, in the lobby, beloved classic titles. We even gawked at legendary editor Ursula Nordstrom’s desk.

Ursula Nordstrom's desk covered in books she edited. She actually sat here, folks!

Ursula Nordstrom’s desk covered in books she edited. She actually sat here, folks!





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Short and Sweet | Adult Books 4 Teens Tue, 21 Jun 2016 18:14:31 +0000 Eagle-eyed readers of this column and its predecessor blog may have noticed that I have a penchant for short stories. Even when I reviewed my favorite novel of the year, I found a way to connect it with short stories. So it should be no surprise that I’m returning to the well this week to present you with four wonderful collections of short stories, two of which are written by old friends of this column.

Patricia A. McKillip has carved out an excellent niche for herself as a purveyor of teen-friendly fantasy and mythic stories filled with haunting, beautiful imagery. When last we saw McKillip, we praised her previous story collection Wonders of the Invisible World  and McKillip herself as “a master of highly descriptive and detailed lyricism.” Our reviewer found it impossible not to use similar words of praise for her similarly titled new collection Dreams of Distant Shores, homing in on McKillip’s “lyrical text.” Like Wonders of the Invisible World, Dreams of Distant Shores plays with preexisting myths and legends (Medusa, ancient sea monsters) and places them in brand-new worlds with nuanced characters, especially female ones. Fantasy, gorgeous prose, mythic overtones, strong female protagonists: with these elements in place, this collection should be a can’t-miss for a huge swath of teen readers.

Our other old friend in this column is Joyce Carol Oates, who has managed to publish only (!) four novels and two story collections in the three years since we last reviewed one of her collections (we did review her fantastic novel The Sacrifice in the meantime). When I reviewed that 2013 collection, Evil Eye, I contended that Oates is at her most teen-friendly in the short format, and her new collection, The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror, only solidifies that argument for me. Once again, she combines the short story form with the trappings of the horror genre and comes away with something at once familiar and entirely new. The six pieces in this volume have all the appropriate suspenseful prose and feelings of dread horror but ground that horror entirely in the real world. Indeed, in the case of “Soldier,” Oates returns again (after the glancing blow of The Sacrifice) to the all too real world of the Black Lives Matter movement, recounting a tale that deals with a death that’s very much like Trayvon Martin’s but from the perspective of the George Zimmerman–like killer. This not necessarily new but still highly welcome emphasis on engaging in contemporary events has reinvigorated Oates’s prose of late and should help to make her work all the more relevant to teens.

Moving on to our new (to us) authors, first up we have Helen Oyeyemi’s What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours. Oyeyemi has been a bit of a white whale for me in the last few years: she’s incredibly young (her first novel was published when she was 21, and she’s still only 32); has roots in genre fiction, fairy tales, and black literature; and has a compellingly literary prose style. Alas, her previous (highly praised) novel, Boy, Snow, Bird, did not have quite enough teen appeal to be reviewed here. So I’m very excited to be able to introduce her new collection. As our reviewer notes, Oyeyemi’s skills, particularly her rich prose and compelling characters, are on full display in these stories, with the added benefit (for our readers) of skewing those characters younger for maximum teen appeal. Throw in her fascinating through-line surrounding mystery boxes and keys, and you have a wonderful option for literate teens everywhere.

Finally, we have David Schow’s DJSturbia, perhaps the most unique of these four works. Like Oates’s and McKillip’s works, Schow’s collection is heavily influenced by genre fiction, in this case horror, but unlike those other writers, Schow intertwines his fictional stories with nonfiction essays about the state of the world. The essays and stories are connected by Schow’s fixation on monsters—real and fictional alike—but some of the essays may turn off teen readers because of their cranky “kids these days” tone. Nevertheless, the pieces remain powerful on their own, and, to be perfectly honest, some teens are more than happy to participate in the general cultural assault on millennials. So there should be plenty of interest in this intriguing, if uneven collection.

So there you have it—four more short story collections for teens. Publishers, keep them coming, because I’ll keep recommending them.

dreamMCKILLIP, Patricia. Dreams of Distant Shores. 288p. Tachyon. Jun. 2016. pap. $15.95. ISBN 9781616962180.

Unified by the theme of supernatural events, these short stories (three previously unpublished) exude mystery and magic in their lyrical texts. The tales range in subject from a boy who was once a horse to a grandmother who hangs out with aliens (much to her family’s disbelief) to a frustrated artist who accepts Medusa’s help in pursuing art and his model. Previously published as a novella, “Something Rich and Strange” focuses on a couple seduced by ancient sea creatures; they must decide if their relationship is worth fighting for. The selections allude to sex but do not go into great detail. The book is reminiscent of Kelly Link’s Pretty Monsters, which also provides a fascinating assortment of paranormal offerings. Young adults who like fantasy tales with strong female characters willing to save themselves and others will enjoy this volume. VERDICT This collection of fascinating and haunting tales that will linger with readers is a strong addition to short story and fantasy collections; hand to fans of Holly Black, Robin McKinley, and Donna Jo Napoli.–Tamara Saarinen, Pierce County Library System, Tacoma, WA

dollOATES, Joyce Carol. The Doll-Master: And Other Tales of Terror. 317p.  Grove Atlantic/Mysterious. May 2016. Tr $24. ISBN 9780802124883.

The wonderfully old-fashioned subtitle of this collection brings to mind Edgar Allan Poe and other masters of supernatural horror, and indeed the title story was originally published in a collection by fantasy and horror editor Ellen Datlow. However, these six entries are terrifying in their utter mundanity. “The Doll-Master” contains a twist that this review won’t reveal, while other pieces include a deep dive into the psychology of a George Zimmerman–like character (recalling the similarly timely themes of Oates’s recent novel The Sacrifice); a gut-wrenching account by a young girl tasked to house-sit for her favorite teacher, only to be terrorized by her cousin; and a deadly accurate portrayal of a very lonely girl who simply befriends the wrong family. The terrors all end in death, nearly all of which take place just after the end of the story, allowing Oates to focus on the psychology of killers, victims, and bystanders in the moments when a different outcome is still possible, if not probable. Few readers will find these offerings scary in the traditional sense, but they invoke a kind of primal dread that can be even more terrifying. VERDICT Another fantastic anthology from Oates—terrifying and realistic at the same time and featuring some of her most teen-centric characters in years. Those who need encouragement to read this collection can be directed to the three selections with youthful protagonists, but all six should grip the imagination of any fan of crime and murder.–Mark Flowers, Rio Vista Library, CA

whaisOYEYEMI, Helen. What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours. 304p. ebook available. Riverhead. Mar. 2016. Tr $26.95. ISBN 9781594634635.

Keys are central to the short stories in this collection; they can either open or lock away something of significance for the characters. All of the tales are intertwined with themes of search and possible retrieval, which will draw young adult readers into worlds that are sometimes secretive and sometimes elusive; they will be able to easily identify with that search of self that so often comes with adolescence. The characters are relatable to YA readers, from the young woman looking for her long-lost mother and heritage to the hopeful music fan wanting to find the best in a broken artist. These worlds and characters  are complex and passionate, and readers will find themselves longing for more once the stories end. Even though the settings are quite strange (a locked library, a city of stopped clocks, a marshland of the drowned), there’s a complexity here and the brilliant prose gently pulls readers in, encouraging them to identify with the characters. VERDICT A must-add to libraries, this work will appeal to fans of literary fiction.–April Sanders, Spring Hill College, Mobile, AL

DJSturbiaSCHOW, David. DJSturbia. 314p. Subterranean. Apr. 2016. Tr $40. ISBN 9781596067721.

Schow, winner of the Bram Stoker and World Fantasy Awards, pairs 13 short stories with 13 essays in his newest collection, which circles around the idea of monsters, both real and fictional. The essays range in topic from the dangers of censorship after 9/11 to the history of science fiction conventions. Fans of the cult movie The Crow will relish reading about some of the extra features from the movie that are still unavailable. However, there is considerable time devoted to what Schow sees as a dumbing down of society and even a mention of “digital natives” not being interested in erudite literary pursuits, so any teens who are insulted by this argument will be turned off by the general attitude behind some of the essays. Teens will be more drawn to the content of the short stories, which are mostly modern horror with a classic feel: a revenge-seeking entity goes on a murdering spree in “The Finger”; “Blue Amber,” a tale about killer bugs, would be a good read-alike for Andrew Smith’s Grasshopper Jungle; and “The Chili Hunters” details the dangers of losing one’s virginity under the stars.  VERDICT A quirky selection of short stories and essays that will appeal to fans of imaginative horror tales, especially those with an interest in classic films such as Godzilla and The Thing.–Carrie Shaurette, Dwight-Englewood School, Englewood, NJ

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Fifteen and Ready To Rule: Jazz Jennings on Her New Memoir “Being Jazz” Tue, 21 Jun 2016 17:15:48 +0000 Jazz Jennings, who previously coauthored the picture book I am Jazz with Jessica Herthel, ventures into the world of memoir with her new title, Being Jazz. Jennings reflects on her life from early childhood to the present as an LGBTQ activist, reality TV personality, and high school student, with clarity and honesty. Students of all gender identities will enjoy and relate to the many themes she explores: family, friendship, bullying, puberty, and the age-old lesson of remaining true to oneself. Also, don’t forget to check out SLJ‘s inaugural interview with Jennings back in 2014.

From the very beginning your mother was behind the scenes getting involved with and creating organizations, support networks, and foundations for transgender youth and their families. At the time, as you mention, there weren’t a whole lot of resources out there. Do you see your book as an extension of that mission—to not only provide a moment of trans visibility but also to offer quality information?
My mom often used to say that she wished there was a book, “How To Raise Your Transgender Preschooler.” Since then, things have changed tremendously. I feel that my book will add to the mission of creating visibility from the perspective of a kid—a rare viewpoint in our culture. I’m honored to be able to contribute by sharing my experiences.

Photo by Jazz's Family LLC

Photo by Jazz’s Family LLC

Throughout the text there are excerpts of your creative writing from journals, speeches, song lyrics, and more. Do you write often? What inspires you?
I’m not sure what inspires me. I’m a pretty creative person and there’s no rhyme or reason for the motivational moments that consume me at random times. I don’t write a lot, but when I do it comes from the heart. As for speeches, they are always planned ahead for special occasions.

In the book, as you enter your teenage years, you discuss your battle with depression. Considering the alarming rates of depression and suicide among LGBTQ teens, how might librarians and educators better approach and support their LGBTQ students?
I strongly feel that it’s important for adults to offer students the opportunity to feel comfortable
confiding in them, to be able to share their thoughts and feelings freely. In order to do this, they [adults] should have an open door policy and provide a welcoming and safe atmosphere.

In chapter 14, when discussing the process of writing your picture book, you wrote “There’s so much to write about being transgender.” I thought that crystallized a running thread of Being Jazz; being transgender is not a fixed point, it is an ever-changing and evolving experience.  Is there anything you didn’t get to cover in this work that you would have liked to?
I think that there’s aCover_Being_Jazzlways more that can be shared. I needed to pick and choose what was included because the book can’t be 1,000 pages long. There are some anecdotes, experiences, and feelings that weren’t included. There is also a line that I draw to keep [my privacy and] certain situations to myself.

Any plans for the future? College? World domination? Your own Weeki Wachee-style mermaid park?
There are so many things I want to accomplish. I have a lot of interests and hobbies. I see college in my future, but you never know, I change my mind a lot. A couple of years ago I wanted to be a mermaid tail maker, a few months ago I wanted to code, and these days I’m focusing on filming with my new high-tech camera. My parents say that I’m predictably unpredictable.

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Catching a Storyfish by Janice N. Harrington | SLJ Review Tue, 21 Jun 2016 13:30:52 +0000 Harrington, Janice N. Catching a Storyfish. 224p. Wordsong. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781629794297. 

Gr 4-7 –Keet, a girl from Alabama, loves language and storytelling, but her family’s move to Illinois makes her feel silenced. Comfort comes through a budding friendship with Allegra, her Latina classmate and neighbor, and through fishing with her beloved grandfather. “To catch a fish,” he tells her, “You’ve got to sit quiet and hold still/You’ve got to listen, really listen/with your [...]]]> redstarHarrington, Janice N. Catching a Storyfish. 224p. Wordsong. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781629794297. Catching a Storyfish

Gr 4-7 –Keet, a girl from Alabama, loves language and storytelling, but her family’s move to Illinois makes her feel silenced. Comfort comes through a budding friendship with Allegra, her Latina classmate and neighbor, and through fishing with her beloved grandfather. “To catch a fish,” he tells her, “You’ve got to sit quiet and hold still/You’ve got to listen, really listen/with your inside ears.” Like Nikki Grimes does in Words with Wings, Harrington perfectly captures her character’s growth by using all the tools poetry provides: artfully chosen words, thought-provoking metaphors, appropriate rhythm and pacing, and changing points of view. Some poems give voice to other characters. Harrington also includes various poetic forms and a postscript offering additional information about each of them: an unusual addition for a title of this format. There is very little to identify the social or racial context of Keet’s family, but close reading reveals Keet as brown skinned with “flippy-floppy braids.” VERDICT Keet’s is a simple and familiar-feeling story, but one that is understated, fully realized, deftly written, and utterly absorbing.–Rhona Campbell, Georgetown Day School, Washington, DC

This review was published in the School Library Journal June 2016 issue.

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Trailblazing Author Lois Duncan Dies at 82 Mon, 20 Jun 2016 20:38:10 +0000 duncan1992003_flat

Lois Duncan, author of more than 40 books, died suddenly on June 15 in Bradenton, FL, at the age of 82. Her books, including I Know What You Did Last Summer (1973), Killing Mr. Griffin (1978), and Stranger with My Face (1981, all Little, Brown), helped to create the niche of teen-oriented publishing. 

Her suspense thrillers, several with a paranormal twist, earned her the Margaret A. Edwards Award for a Distinguished Body of Work for Young Adults in 1992. The award is given by the American Library Association’s Youth Adult Library Services Association and sponsored by School Library Journal. “Lois Duncan provides readers a window to a world that houses many different individuals: the strong, the weak, the kind, the evil, the fortunate, the underprivileged, the arrogant, the submissive, the caring, and the indifferent,” read the award citation. The award committee found that “Duncan’s characters face a universal truth—your actions are important and you are responsible for them.”

Her 1966 novel Ransom (Dell) firmly established Duncan as a noted author of teen suspense novels. A story of five teenagers kidnapped by a school bus driver, the book was originally published as Five Were Missing and was a finalist for the 1967 Edgar Award given by the Mystery Writers of America. In 2015, on her 81st, birthday, the organization again honored Duncan with their Grand Master Award. Previous recipients have included Ellery Queen, Daphne du Maurier, Alfred Hitchcock, Graham Greene, and Agatha Christie.

Over the years, Duncan’s books have been the target of censors. Her first book, Debutante Hill (Dodd, Mead, 1958), was initially rejected by the publisher because a 19-year-old character was drinking a beer. It was later published when the beverage was changed to a Coke. Daughters of Eve (Little, Brown, 1979), a story about a group of girls who take on sexism, was banned from Fairfax County (VA) middle school libraries because it “promotes risky behavior and violence and seeks to prejudice young vulnerable minds on several issues.” Two of her titles appeared on ALA’s 100 Banned and Challenged Books between 2000 and 2009Killing Mr. Griffin was number 25 and Daughters of Eve, 51.

Nevertheless, Duncan’s books continue to be staples in libraries. “I could count on Lois Duncan’s books to appeal to so many readers, including reluctant ones,” says Patricia Powell, a retired junior high school librarian from the Columbia (MO) Public Schools. Teri Lesesne, professor of YA lit in the Department of Library Science at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas tweeted, “Her books were devoured by my middle school students and by me.”

In 1989, Duncan’s youngest daughter, Kaitlyn (Kait) Arquette, 18, was murdered in Albuquerque, NM in a drive-by shooting. The murder had similarities to Don’t Look Behind You (Delacorte, 1989), a book Duncan had recently written. Following the tragedy, she wrote two books about the crime, Who Killed My Daughter?: The True Story of a Mother’s Search for Her Daughter’s Murderer (Delacorte, 1992) and One to the Wolves: On a Trail of a Killer (Planet Ann Rule, 2013).

Several of her books have been adapted for the screen. In 2009, her 1971 book Hotel for Dogs was made into a film starring Emma Roberts. Stephenie Meyer, author of the “Twilight” series who read Duncan’s books in her youth, acquired Down a Dark Hall (Little, Brown, 1974) for her production company Fickle Fish. “I grew up reading and loving Lois Duncan novels,” said Meyer on her website in 2012. “Down a Dark Hall was my favorite of her novels (though it’s a very close race with Summer of Fear and Stranger with My Face), and it gave me some serious nightmares when I was nine.”

Lois Duncan was born on April 28, 1934, in Philadelphia, PA, to Joseph and Lois Steinmetz. She was raised in Sarasota, FL, and sold her first story to a magazine at the age of 13. She was married to Don Arquette for more than 50 years with whom she raised five children. Those wishing to send condolences to the family can address them to:

Donald Arquette
6404 21st Ave. W., ‪#‎M114
Bradenton, FL 43209

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Stephanie Kuehn on the Unreliable Narrator, Mental Health, and “The Smaller Evil” Mon, 20 Jun 2016 19:41:51 +0000 The YALSA/Morris Award winner and SLJTeen Live speaker continues to spin unnerving tales; SLJ chats with her about her latest YA thriller The Smaller Evil (Dutton; Sept., 2016).

What inspired you to write The Smaller Evil?

kuehnbw_smallAs with most stories, there were many pieces of the real world that inspired this book: a strange trip to the Esalen Institute when I was a young teen, friends in my early adulthood who dabbled with similar self-actualization groups, my enduring love for both Santa Cruz, CA, and Big Sur, my fear of heights, and my passion for narratives where nothing is ever as it seems, like in John Fowles’s The Magus.

The greatest inspiration, however, was my desire to explore our culture’s dependence on independence. From birth, practically, we’re told that we should be able to self-soothe, to sleep alone and cry it out. We’re supposed to find our truest selves and then be unfailingly true to those selves—self-actualized—as if who we are isn’t meant to be influenced by those around us, as if we aren’t all products of our environments. On the flip side, we devalue dependence, having needs, and needing others. In doing so, we’ve set up this strange paradox where we’re dependent on other people to validate our sense of independence.

Your books often center on an unreliable male narrator with mental health issues. What is it about that type of protagonist that influences you to write about it again and again?

My background is in psychology, and some of my earliest clinical training (which was when I started writing) involved working in a range of settings with children and adolescents, primarily boys. As a woman who grew up with two sisters, I had to consciously deconstruct my own worldview around gender (as well as race and class and age and more) to try to understand a myriad of very different socially constructed ideas, values, and attitudes, as well as the context and systems that support it all. When I write, I’m asking questions, not answering them, and I enjoy exploring a gender and identity that is different from mine. It helps me understand my world and feel connected to the work I do.

With regard to mental health, it’s the lens I view everything through. I’m drawn to stories about people who are disconnected from their emotions in some way. Where their fear is expressed as anger. Or anger becomes self-loathing. Or desire becomes shame. Maybe that’s the unreliability of all these characters: this mismatching of their emotions and the consequences stemming from it. In therapy, people can learn to correctly identify their emotions and how to regulate them in healthy ways. However, the boys (and girls) I write about may or may not be learning these things. They may or may not be able to.

What kind of research did you do on the kind of retreat center that Arman and the other characters attend?

I was already pretty familiar with these types of groups when I started writing the story. Growing up in the Bay Area in the Seventies and Eighties, I was familiar with movements like Est [Erhard Seminars Training]. I’d also done previous research on cults and the ways in which groups can foster dependence by isolating vulnerable people. However, I also interviewed people who had participated in some [cultish] retreats and had really positive, empowering experiences.

Every time I read one of your books, no matter how often I tell myself, “There must be a twist coming,” I can never anticipate exactly what twist it might be. How do you plot your novels? Do you always know the outcome once you start writing?

I never know how the story will end, but I do know who the characters are, and I have some idea of what the outcome (emotionally speaking) will be for them. I also try not to think about plot twists as anything other than the natural progression of the plot. So in Charm & Strange and Complicit, those books were told in first person by characters with secrets they were hiding from themselves.

With Delicate Monsters, I wrote that book in third person in order to pull back from the intimacy of the first-person narrator. I actually tried to plot that story in relation to a David Fincher film. If my first two books were Fincher’s take on Fight Club—internal stories with a twist—I wanted this one to be more Seven, which doesn’t rely on a twist but instead on the inevitable collision of characters set out from the start to hurtle toward tragedy.

There are intermittent chapters written by a mysterious first-person narrator whose identity readers won’t be sure of until the last page. Was that voice always part of the narrative?

Those chapters were not there from the start. I really had to plumb deep for what I was trying to say with the story before I found that second voice. Because there’s the primary story line of Arman running away to become what he perceives to be a better person while also seeking a place of belonging. But that’s not all I was trying to get at. So the second narrative is meant to probe at: What if you do find where you belong but it just happens to not be a very good place?

Which character do you identify with most? Which was the most difficult to write?

While I would never make the choices he does, the character I identify with most is Beau, the leader of the self-actualization group. As an adult, and in the field that I’m in and also in writing for teens, [I find that] there’s a lot to think about in terms of power dynamics, ethics, empowerment, and manipulation. I’m always thinking about these things.

The most difficult character to write was the cook, because you’re only able to see her from Arman’s perspective and his experience of her. But she has what he’s looking for: both positive self-regard and a place of belonging in a system she finds meaningful.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a new young adult novel. I’m sure it’s similar in some ways to my other books, but it also feels different. It’s not a mystery. The narrator isn’t particularly unreliable. The structure is linear and straightforward. It’s about love and loathing, spite and beneficence, and more than anything, it is a confession. It’s also the longest thing I’ve ever written, although that’s not saying much, since my books tend to be quite short.

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Librarians as Instructional Leaders | Take the Lead Mon, 20 Jun 2016 16:03:00 +0000 Take the Lead is a new series of monthly articles on leadership written by participants in the Lilead Fellows Program, which empowers school district library supervisors to be change agents in the education system beyond. The fellowship program is part of the Lilead Project, based at the University of Maryland’s iSchool and focused on building community among school library supervisors.

In their articles for SLJ, the Fellows will share their wisdom and provide strategy tips on a variety of topics relating to leadership. In this first post, Lilead Fellow Priscille Dando, coordinator of Library Information Services at Fairfax County (VA) Public Schools, underscores the importance of understanding district-level priorities in the work as instructional leaders.


Priscille Dando

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the missed connections between principals and librarians when it comes to instructional leadership.

It strikes me that administrators who embrace instructional challenges don’t always recognize their librarians as leaders in this work. I’ve observed that those who empower their librarians as leaders not only share a positive relationship, but also engage in ongoing, targeted communication. Mark Ray’s terrific article “Making the Principal Connection” outlines how school librarians can proactively develop a strong relationship with principals. I recommend two simple strategies to build on that foundation to promote recognition of librarians as instructional leaders.

Be an expert in school and district priorities

School librarians are pros at promoting collaboration with classroom teachers by aligning resources and information skills to curriculum. A similar approach with administration would align library learning outcomes with the goals of the school improvement and district strategic plans. Look specifically at the student data and accountability pieces for clues to the critical areas.

Most importantly, observe administrators’ actions. Identify their priorities by focusing on what they emphasize when addressing faculty and parents, where they allocate resources, and what PD they provide. Kristen Deuschle, media specialist at Piney Grove Middle School in Forsyth County (GA) Schools, understands the value in being proactive. “When a school librarian says, ‘Yes, I can help you with that!’ great things happen. A can-do attitude builds a relationship of trust which is necessary for a school librarian to be seen as an instructional leader.”

Be fluent in current pedagogies

It’s important to study and apply best practices in teaching and learning, because mastery of current pedagogy directly relates to your credibility as an instructional leader. Twitter is one of my favorite resources for effective practice ideas in lesson design, assessment, and educational leadership. To start, I recommend #edchat discussions and following @ASCD, @Edutopia, and @MindShiftKQED. I’ve seen several hot topics in these feeds that librarians can embrace, including:

• Closing the achievement gap

Student achievement is a priority for all schools, yet administrators frequently don’t know how librarians can be instrumental in improving it. Literacy skill development is critical to shrinking achievement gaps, and librarians support literacy in numerous ways. Make the connection for them by starting a conversation about differentiation and scaffolding strategies. Demonstrate ways to use multimedia library resources and leveled texts to meet the needs of all learners. Offer staff PD that focuses on strategies, not just resources.

• Student-centered learning

Many schools are adopting project and problem-based learning, design thinking, and STEM approaches to instruction. These frameworks engage students in the critical thinking and soft skills they require for future success. This is an opportunity to show your expertise in inquiry learning and its connection to success in these frameworks. Often, classroom teachers and administrators see the need for an inquiry approach to learning, but don’t know how to get there. Librarians should take a school’s commitment to student-centered learning as an invitation to lead the way.

• Digital transformation

Goals in mobile and online learning, 1:1 device initiatives, digital citizenship, coding, and the integration of Google Apps for Education are present in many strategic plans. Librarians are best positioned to know what students need as they become successful creators and consumers of information using technology. Our role goes beyond curating digital content—to teaching students to use technology safely and ethically in ways that enhance learning, collaboration, and communication.

School librarians who approach instructional conversations with administration in terms of school priorities and best practices embrace the statement, “I understand what is needed and have a plan to succeed.” The result? In addition to understanding the value of librarians, principals recognize partners whom they can consult, invest in, support, and depend upon to lead.

Priscille Dando is coordinator, library information services, at Fairfax County (VA) Public Schools and a Lilead Fellow.



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SPONSORED: Macmillan Library @ ALA Annual 2016 (Booth #2115) Mon, 20 Jun 2016 15:10:06 +0000 We can’t wait to see you later this week in Orlando! Stop by the Macmillan Adult (Griffin Teen & Flatiron Books YA) booth #2115 and RSVP to all of our events!

Talia + Anne - cats pajamas edit

Saturday, June 25

The Horror! The Horror! Authors Who Write to Scare panel with Christopher Golden
Orange County Convention Center | Room W304 G-H
Add to your schedule

Sponsored by United for Libraries and moderated by Library Journal‘s Barbara Hoffert, this horror panel includes Christopher Golden (DEAD RINGERS) and five other authors. A book signing will follow the program.

In-booth signing with Suzanne Feldman
11:00am-12:00 noon
Orange County Convention Center | Booth #2115

Suzanne Feldman will sign complimentary copies of her debut novel, ABSALOM’S DAUGHTERS.

In-booth signing with Stephanie Garber
Orange County Convention Center | Booth #2115

Stephanie Garber will sign complimentary copies of her debut YA fantasy, CARAVAL.

Sunday, June 26

YA Author Coffee Klatch
Orange County Convention Center | Room W110
Ticketed event, space is limited

Enjoy coffee and meet with YALSA’s award winning authors, including Stephanie Garber (CARAVAL) and Meredith Russo (IF I WAS YOUR GIRL)! This informal coffee klatch provides an opportunity to meet authors who have appeared on one of YALSA’s six annual selected lists or have received one of YALSA’s five literary awards. Librarians will stay seated while authors rotate to different tables to talk about their books.

Tickets are $25. Details and purchasing information available here.

Reflecting Realities: Transgender Fiction for Today’s Tweens and Teens panel with Meredith Russo
Orange County Convention Center | Room W102A
Add to your schedule

Transgender youth are identifying themselves earlier and earlier, and yet they are some of the least represented within youth literature. Join Meredith Russo (IF I WAS YOUR GIRL) and three other authors to learn about their newest works and ways to help transgender youth in your library.

We Publish Diverse Children’s Books: Publishers Share Their 2016 Titles
Orange County Convention Center | Room W300
Add to your schedule

Join our very own Talia Sherer as she highlights her favorite new diverse titles published in 2016.

2016 President’s Program featuring Diane Guerrero
Orange County Convention Center | Chapin Theater, Room W320
Add to your schedule

Join ALA President Sari Feldman for the ALA Awards followed by the president’s selected guest speaker, Diane Guerrero (IN THE COUNTRY WE LOVE). “America’s libraries have advanced the American Dream by providing services and resources that welcome and support all immigrants,” says Feldman. “Diane Guerrero’s personal story is a powerful reminder of the library’s essential role in creating individual opportunity and community progress.” Well known as an actress on the hit shows Orange is the New Black and Jane the Virgin, Guerrero also volunteers with the nonprofit Immigrant Legal Resource Center and in 2015 was named a White House Ambassador for Citizenship and Naturalization. A book sale and signing will follow the program.

Can’t be there in person? Follow the action on Twitter at @alaannual and #alaac16.

Not going to ALA Annual?  Please email with your full name and mailing address for a complimentary copy of our 2016 Books for Teens poster.

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The Smaller Evil by Stephanie Kuehn | SLJ Review Mon, 20 Jun 2016 13:30:43 +0000 Kuehn, Stephanie. The Smaller Evil. 256p. ebook available. Dutton. Aug. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781101994702. 

Gr 9 Up –High school senior Arman Dukoff is in serious need of help. He hates his awkwardness, his social timidity, and how he feels trapped in his own head. When he meets Beau, who seems to see so much more potential within Arman, the protagonist jumps at the chance to follow him and his group. Once at the Compound, though, [...]]]> redstarKuehn, Stephanie. The Smaller Evil. 256p. ebook available. Dutton. Aug. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781101994702. The Smaller Evil

Gr 9 Up –High school senior Arman Dukoff is in serious need of help. He hates his awkwardness, his social timidity, and how he feels trapped in his own head. When he meets Beau, who seems to see so much more potential within Arman, the protagonist jumps at the chance to follow him and his group. Once at the Compound, though, Arman is confronted by a confusing whirlwind of incomprehensible rituals and strangely technical jargon—but most confusing of all is Beau’s sudden disappearance during the program. Arman is devastated not just because of Beau’s insistent, optimistic belief in his potential but also due to a mysterious encounter they had right before he went missing. The teen is determined to find his friend and get answers—about Beau and himself. Young fans of the hairpin plot twists and turns of psychological thrillers will be drawn to Kuehn’s latest offering. In particular, readers familiar with her previous titles will find echoes of similar themes at work here—a teenage male protagonist who is also an unreliable narrator. Kuehn’s specialty in depicting mental illness and her sharp, quick writing are on display in her latest novel, but it is her satirical integration of New Age hippie rituals with the pseudoscientific jargon of the self-help retreat world that is the most compelling addition. VERDICT Fans of the author’s work will find familiar material in this book. Readers interested in a Gillian Flynn–style take on cults and self-help retreats will also be intrigued.–Evelyn Khoo Schwartz, Georgetown Day School, Washington, DC

This review was published in the School Library Journal June 2016 issue.

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