School Library Journal The world's largest reviewer of books, multimedia, and technology for children and teens Fri, 01 Aug 2014 19:00:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 E-Rate’s New Era: A Triple Win in the Effort To Close the Connectivity Gap |Editorial Fri, 01 Aug 2014 14:00:42 +0000 The decision last month to update the E-Rate program came not a moment too soon and it is a win-win-win for schools and libraries—and families. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) vote to maintain the current E-Rate budget of $2.4 billion for the next two years and, notably, provide an additional $1 billion a year for the next two years for WiFi, brings E-Rate up to speed with the times. Schools and libraries need this critical funding to meet the most basic goals in their service arenas.

Doug Levin, the executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association, speaking to Education Week, framed the vote’s impact in the clearest of terms: “If we had not done this, it would, frankly, have been devastating for schools and libraries.”

Beyond schools, which ultimately receive the bulk of the funding, this decision is also a victory for public libraries, as it indicates that the FCC recognizes the role of these institutions in providing free access to the Internet and, in turn, supporting digital educational initiatives, the acceleration of e-government, and the increasing reliance on the Web for daily communication—personal and commercial. Ultimately, however, this is a win for the families that these entities serve, many of whom do not have any─or adequate─access to the technology that is transforming our society.

The American Library Association (ALA) applied itself to the E-Rate update process, driving a collaborative effort among ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) and the Association for Rural & Small Libraries, the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies, the Public Library Association, and the Urban Libraries Council evidenced in a letter to the FCC preceding the vote. It stated: “The services today’s libraries provide are not ‘nice to have.’ They are critical for communities across the country.”

For some time, ALA has been working closely with the FCC on E-Rate reform, and Marijke Visser, assistant director of OITP, describes the effort on OITP’s blog. One of the sticking points prior to the vote was the controversial square-foot formula for funding distribution, and in the weeks leading up to the vote, a hard and fast push by librarians and advocates nationwide, as reported by SLJ’s Carolyn Sun, helped inform the ultimate design.

“Generally we have come to view the per-square-foot formula as a manageable solution to the very difficult problem of how to ensure that a wider range of libraries (and schools) receive Category 2 [WiFi] funds. We certainly feel that using a square-foot formula over other options is the most robust method, the easiest for libraries to use, also the easiest for the Commission to implement and monitor,” Visser wrote in an email to SLJ after the vote.

It’s undeniable that progress has been made. “Last year there was no funding at all for either libraries or schools, so the fact that the Commission has identified the $2 billion and is dedicating it to their [WiFi] bucket, we anticipate that many more libraries will receive this critical funding,” noted Visser.

Diverse and passionate feedback helped shape the new scope of E-Rate—warts and all. Nonetheless, important work lies ahead. More will be required to ensure that the process and formula works, that money follows the promise of funding, and that these resources are fully and well utilized. ALA can play an important role in driving that engagement for libraries of all types. Libraries need the organization to support them in the understanding of E-Rate and its changing policies, and help them master the application process. And, critically, the community needs ALA to continue to foster effective alliances to inform policy makers.

Rebecca sig600x WebEditorial E Rate’s New Era: A Triple Win in the Effort To Close the Connectivity Gap |Editorial

Rebecca T. Miller

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Fan Fiction Takes Flight Among Teens Fri, 01 Aug 2014 14:00:19 +0000 SLJ1408w FT FanFic rev Fan Fiction Takes Flight Among Teens

Illustration by Michael Byers

Many years before Harry Potter was born, his parents, Lily and James, met and fell in love at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. At first, Lily thought James was nothing more than an annoying show-off, but then she got to know the boy behind the bravado. Their romance was shaped by tribulations, triumphs, and the understanding that they were destined for something tremendous.

About that last part…really? Yes, according to Those Green Eyes, a work of online fan fiction by Summer Sellers, a Massachusetts teenager.

Sellers penned her tale about James and Lily as a way of working through a tough time in eighth and ninth grade. She posted Those Green Eyes on Figment, an online writing community for young adults, at her mother’s urging. She could not have anticipated that it would become the “Most Hearted” fan fiction post on Figment, but it did.

Now a senior, Sellers is still writing—and deeply immersed in the fan fiction, or “fanfic,” universe, where fans craft stories that borrow characters, settings, and/or elements from books, movies, TV shows, cartoons, comics, manga, games, and even the lives of celebrities. The vast majority of fan fiction writers don’t make money or become famous. For Sellers and other teens, the reward is being in the company of fellow writers they admire and respect. “The fan fiction community is so diverse…you can really see the fans giving back to the authors,” she said. “The people who write fan fiction commit to it and finish their fan fiction—they’re authors to me.”

Fan fiction sites—including Fiction Alley, a huge online Harry Potter fan fiction archive, and Twilighted, hosting all-“Twilight” fanfic—have been around for years. But it took a publishing phenomenon for fanfic to hit the mainstream radar. In 2012, the extraordinary success of E. L. James’s “Fifty Shades” trilogy (Viking), erotic fan fiction inspired by Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” series, brought fanfic to the world’s attention. Since then, Amazon has launched a fan fiction publishing program, Kindle Worlds; authors have confessed to fanfic writing pasts; and fanfic-centered novels have become bestsellers.

The generation of teens who grew up reading “Harry Potter” is embracing fandom and fueling events such as LeakyCon, an annual convention for fans of many stripes that convened in Orlando, Florida, from July 30–August 3. These young people don’t see fan fiction as something residing in a murky corner of the Internet but as a creative outlet: a way to express love for an author’s work, a venue for exploring sexuality and emotions, and a liberating space to share and receive feedback on writing. As Robin Brenner, a teen librarian at the Brookline Public Library in Massachusetts, said, “My teens all know about [fan fiction], talk about it, and don’t particularly judge each other for being involved (or not involved) in fan culture. It’s ordinary, even expected, now, if you love a thing.”

SLJ1408w FT FanFic PQ1 Fan Fiction Takes Flight Among Teens

A place to explore

Once upon a time, fans shared their stories at conventions and in zines. Today, they post on Tumblr and sites such as, Livejournal, and Wattpad, which boast millions of users. The fan-run nonprofit site Archive of Our Own has nearly 350,000 registered fans, and Figment includes roughly 100,000 teen contributors.

“In various ways, fan fiction resembles all storytelling,” says Anne Jamison, an academic who both studies and writes fanfic, in the introduction to her book Fic: Why Fanfiction Is Taking over the World (BenBella/Smart Pop, 2014). “People like to swap stories, period, and the Internet is like a big electronic campfire.”

Fan fiction has its own ethos and language. “Worlds” are the many different fandoms to which one could belong (e.g., “Lord of the Rings” or “Vampire Diaries”), while “The Powers That Be” are copyright holders (more on that later). People who act as editors—correcting grammar, refining dialogue and plot—are called “betas.” There’s the “canon”—the official, original story of the work being written about—and “head canon”—the plotlines, backgrounds, character pairings, etc., that a fan makes up in her imagination. For many, fanfic’s allure is being part of this community of shared enthusiasms. It’s about reading, analyzing, and asking, “What if?”

There are no taboos or rules in fan fiction, and much of it can be sexually explicit, shocking, and/or avant-garde. While this raises issues for the under-18 set, the lack of regulation also makes fan fiction welcoming for the LGBTQ community and teens examining their sexuality. “I can write a story in which I can imagine other kinds of relationships, and no one says, ‘Oh, that’s your sexuality,’” said Henry Jenkins, Provost’s Professor of Communication, Journalism, Cinematic Arts, and Education at USC Annenberg. “Instead it’s a story I wrote.”

“Slash” fanfic, focusing on same-sex relationships, is one way that young adults can explore. Jamison notes in Fic that “‘Harry Potter’ slash helped shape and challenge attitudes toward sexual diversity among the generation that grew up reading it and arguing about it (a lot) online.”

At the same time, Jamison said, “the sexual life some fan fiction imagines for ‘Harry Potter’’s underage characters has long been a source of discomfort for their creator.” On most fanfic sites, young people can sign up for accounts at age 13. Consequently, “you have space that exposes underage kids to sexually explicit material without a lot of adult supervision. It’s such a loaded category.”

The genre is also a venue for teens to probe their emotional lives, as Sellers did with Those Green Eyes. “Writing was a great outlet for me. I just portrayed my characters and the love that Lily and James felt for each other as the epitome of what I want for my life,” she said. “I made them go through difficult things and always come out scarred, but alive, because that’s how I felt a lot of the time.”

A place to grow

Seventeen-year-old Alaskan teen Maggie Clark devotes up to 10 hours a week to her fan fiction. “I spent a lot more time reading fan fiction than books,” she said. However, Clark, who has been writing fanfic since she was 15, said that she “wanted to get involved in fandom partially to become a better writer.” She believes her hours crafting stories, interacting with fans, and reading fanfic have helped her do just that.

Fan communities also offer young writers a place to share work without fear of judgment. “It creates a space where young people get real, enthusiastic, critical responses to what they write,” said Jenkins, “as opposed to getting a paper back with an ‘A’ written in red on the top and ‘good job’ next to it.”

Seventeen-year-old Daphney Diaz, a high school student in Queens, New York, also felt that her time on made her a stronger writer. “The fandom community was really friendly. Most of the other writers and readers would comment on my stories with encouraging words or tips on how to make the story and my writing better,” she said. “Of course, there was the occasional hater, but they would be ignored.”

“What I love about fan fiction is that there are no rules. There are no storytelling rules,” said Printz Honor-winning Rainbow Rowell, author of Fangirl (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2013), a young adult novel about a college freshman immersed in fandom. In fact, Rowell said, reading fan fiction inspires her to be more daring in her own work. “It’s incredibly experimental, and it’s very exciting for me as a writer to read a story that maybe I would never write or it would never occur to me to write…it’s very invigorating.” Rowell was scheduled to read from a “Harry Potter”- inspired novella she wrote at LeakyCon last month.

SLJ1408w FT FanFic PQ2 Fan Fiction Takes Flight Among Teens

Fielding copyright issues

Legal matters are an issue for fanfic writers of any age. Complicated copyright and trademark laws are made even more so once companies have a stake in an author’s work. The website Chilling Effects provides information about what’s legal in fanfic and how to face challenges.

However, “I can’t think of very many cases where individual authors have sought legal recourse against fans,” said Jenkins. “I can think of many where legal regimes become much tougher once corporations take over.”

A campaign by Warner Bros. to protect the Harry Potter franchise exemplifies Jenkins’s point. Although Rowling released a statement in 2004 that she was “flattered” by the writing her books inspired, the studio behind the Harry Potter films sent cease-and-desist (C&D) letters to hundreds of “Harry Potter” fanfic sites in the early 2000s, requesting that they remove content and/or shut down. The letters resulted in domain names being confiscated, but they also caused a public relations disaster and uproar from fans threatening to boycott the films.

Some writers just don’t want fans playing with their characters, as Game of Thrones (Bantam, 1996) author George R. R. Martin made very clear during a November 2013 press conference. “I would rather they made up their own characters and their own stories,” he said.

Going from fanfic to professional writer can be tumultuous. Sarah Rees Brennan, the author of “The Demon’s Lexicon” trilogy (S. & S.), has been accused of everything from plagiarism to selling out. “I wrote a ton of free stories for fun and if people enjoyed it they don’t owe me anything—except that I would truly appreciate it if they would just quit torturing me,” Brennan wrote in a heartfelt February 2014 Tumblr post, explaining how her teen fanfic past has hurt her professionally. “It was years ago. I’m sorry I did it.”

No longer underground

Other authors’ openness about their fanfic affiliations has helped to erode the stigma. Neil Gaiman, author of the 2009 Newberry Medal winner, The Graveyard Book (HarperCollins, 2008), has written H. P. Lovecraft and “Chronicles of Narnia” fanfic ( “Princess Diaries” series (HarperTeen) author Meg Cabot confessed to writing “Star Wars” fan fiction ( when she was a tween. Cassandra Claire, author of the bestselling “Mortal Instruments” series (S. & S./McElderry), was once a hugely popular fanfic writer. Her “Harry Potter”based “Draco Trilogy” and “Lord of the Rings” parody, “The Very Secret Diaries,” are now legendary. S. E. Hinton, author of The Outsiders (Viking, 1967), has written fanfic about the paranormal TV show Supernatural, visited the set, and even made a cameo in a season seven episode.

Rowell’s critically acclaimed Fangirl, which has sold 250,000 copies worldwide, has inspired its own fanworks—something that Rowell embraces. “It leaves me awed to think that people are invested in my stories and my characters so much that they want to make their own art and their own stories about them,” she said.

The Magicians (Viking, 2009), the first novel in Lev Grossman’s best-selling “Magicians” trilogy, involves a boy who is admitted to a secret college of magic in upstate New York and has been compared to “Harry Potter” in many laudatory reviews. While Grossman was worried about “people dismissing [my books] as knock-offs or works of plagiarism,” he said, “There’s been very little. People have been very receptive.”

The trilogy’s homage to Rowling’s series, C. S. Lewis’s “Chronicles of Narnia,” and other works of fiction, from T. H. White’s The Once and Future King to Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, is deliberate, Grossman explained. “The line between the ‘Magicians’ and ‘Harry Potter’ fan fiction? There’s no line. It’s part of that continuum,” he said. “I’m certainly comfortable thinking of it as fan fiction.” The Magician’s Land (Viking), the trilogy’s final title, is out this month.

Profiting from fanfic

Meanwhile, some organizations are still striving to make a profit without alienating the fanfic community. In April, Wattpad announced that it had raised $46 million, bringing the company’s total funding to more than $60 million. Investors believe the site, which is free for contributors, will one day make a lot of money. How this will impact Wattpad’s more than 25 million users is uncertain.

It also remains to be seen how Kindle Worlds, Amazon’s fanfic publishing platform, will affect fandom. The venture is unique in that fanfic writers can earn royalties, and the “worlds” are sanctioned by rights holders. Since its June 2013 launch, Kindle Worlds has published more than 500 stories. Its current focus is on expansion and providing opportunities for newbie writers, general manager Nick Loeffler said in an email exchange. “Every rock [and] roll superstar guitarist started as an air guitarist, idealizing and mimicking their favorite musician and in many cases wishing they could learn and collaborate directly with their idols,” said Loeffler. “Storytelling and prose are similar. We want to take this engagement to a new level.”

What’s next?

In March 2014, the Organization for Transformative Works, a nonprofit run by and for fans, hosted a series of online chats about “The Future of Fanworks.” Fan studies scholar Dr. Paul Booth expressed restrained optimism about fandom’s path toward legitimization. “I’m not sure if the geeks shall inherent the Earth yet—but it’s getting close.”

“I think there’s going to be a real shift, where fan fiction is not this niche thing,” Rowling noted. “It’s where these young writers are first trying it out.”

Kaila Hale-Stern, a trust and safety ambassador at Tumblr as well as a novelist and journalist, believes her nearly 20 years of “trying it out” by writing fan fiction led to her professional writing career. “I give more credit to having written this stuff and read it as a kid; I think that’s what made me a writer,” she said. “More than writing classes or being an English major, it was engaging with the incredible writers I was reading at 14 and 15, learning from them, writing in these communities, and reading comments and feedback and support. It’s invaluable.”

Philpot Chelsey Contrib Web Fan Fiction Takes Flight Among TeensChelsey Philpot teaches writing at Boston University. Her novel, Even in Paradise (HarperCollins), publishes this October.

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Fall 2014 Graphic Novels Are Out of This World Fri, 01 Aug 2014 00:13:02 +0000 Aliens visit from outer space, the real world intrudes in an online game, a city boy goes to the country—many of this season’s teen graphic novels feature strangers in strange lands. On the other hand, the graphic adaptation of the Warren Commission report walks readers through the mundane details of a fateful day and should provide plenty of fodder for conspiracy theories, just like the original. Whether you prefer fact or fantasy, there’s plenty of good reading here to curl up with as the days grow shorter.

singnoevil Fall 2014 Graphic Novels Are Out of This WorldAHONEN. J. P. Sing No Evil. illus. by K. P. Alare. Abrams. Sept. 2014. Tr $24.95. ISBN 9781419713590. pap. $15.95. ISBN 9781419713590

Gr 11 Up—Music takes on supernatural power in this story of a struggling metal band that is truly a motley crew—the lead singer stutters, the bassist is 632 years old, and the drummer is a bear. The lead singer, Aksel, is a college student who struggles with his limitations, musical and otherwise, but rises to the occasion when a rival band turns out to be not just Goth guys but actual evil demons. Violence, mild sexual situations, and language put this story into the older reader category, but it’s beautifully illustrated and infused throughout with quirky humor.

orphanblade 200x300 Fall 2014 Graphic Novels Are Out of This WorldALMAND. M. Nicholas. Orphan Blade. illus. by Jake Myler. Oni Pr. Dec. 2014. pap. $19.99. ISBN 9781620101209.

Gr 7 UpOrphan Blade tells the story of a slackerish kid, Hadashi, who gets hold of a powerful weapon, drawing the attention of the bad guys. The story is set in a vaguely preindustrial Japan where large swaths of the country have been blighted by fallout from battles with giant monsters (kaiju), causing the animals to mutate in weird ways. This graphic novel has a real shonon manga feel. There is a gory bit of violence at the beginning when a mutant frog bites off Hadashi’s fingers.

inreallife Fall 2014 Graphic Novels Are Out of This WorldDOCTOROW. Cory. In Real Life. illus. by Jen Wang. First Second. Oct. 2014. pap. $17.99. ISBN 9781596436589.

Gr 7 Up—Real life and the world of gaming intertwine in this story of a teenage girl who is hired to wipe out the “gold farmers” who collect bonus points in an online game. What seems like a fun way to pick up a couple of bucks turns serious when she meets the person behind the avatar and finds that gold farming is a real job for him—and not a very good one. When she tries to help, her teenage idealism clashes hard with real life. Wang’s curvy, colorful art really enhances this story, which is set in the real world and the world of the game.

adrian Fall 2014 Graphic Novels Are Out of This WorldHUBERT. Adrian and the Tree of Secrets. illus. by Marie Caillou. Arsenal Pulp. Oct. 2014. pap. $18.95. ISBN 9781551525563.

Gr 9 Up—This is a beautifully illustrated story of first love. Adrian is the class nerd, and Jeremy is the coolest kid in their Catholic high school, but it is Jeremy that initiates their relationship. Just as things are looking good, Jeremy’s girlfriend finds out, and the fallout is painful for everyone concerned. This book is translated from the French.

warrencommission Fall 2014 Graphic Novels Are Out of This WorldMISHKIN. Dan. The Warren Commission Report: A Graphic Investigation. illus. by Ernie Colon and Jerzy Drozd. Abrams. Sept. 2014. Tr $29.99. ISBN 9781419712302.

Gr 9 Up—This book is not simply an illustrated version of the Warren Commission report on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy; it’s also an investigation of the report itself, using the graphic novel format to create a visual presentation of the differing accounts of the event, as well as timeline and maps. Colon was the artist for The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation.

meteormen Fall 2014 Graphic Novels Are Out of This WorldPARKER. Jeff. Meteor Men. illus. by Sandy Jarrell. Oni Pr. Oct. 2014. pap. $19.99. ISBN 9781620101513.

Gr 7 Up—A meteor shower brings an invasion of aliens from outer space, and only teenager Alden Baylor can communicate with them. But what looks like aliens turn out to be parasites who swallow up Earth people and incorporate them into a larger being—and part of that being is Alden’s closest friend. A nice science fiction story that gives readers some food for thought.

battlingboy Fall 2014 Graphic Novels Are Out of This WorldPOPE. Paul and J. T. Petty. The Rise of Aurora West. illus. by David Rubin. First Second. Sept. 2014. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781626720091.

Gr 5 Up—Paul Pope’s Battling Boy won this year’s Will Eisner Award for best young adult graphic novel. This follow-up story is set in the same universe but features a different lead character, Aurora West, who is fighting monsters and corruption as she seeks an explanation for her mother’s death. First Second is going with a new, manga-style format for this book—it will be smaller than Battling Boy, black-and-white throughout, and is the first of two volumes.

kissoftherose 210x300 Fall 2014 Graphic Novels Are Out of This WorldSHOUOTO. Aya. Kiss of the Rose Princess. Vol. 1. illus. by Aya Shouoto. Viz. Nov. 2014. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781421573663.

Gr 8 Up—Anise Yamamoto has been warned: Never remove the choker she wears around her neck, or something terrible will happen. So when the choker comes off in an accident, she doesn’t know what to do until a quartet of knights, who also happen to be the hottest guys in her school, arrive to protect her. Arina Tanemura and Sailor Moon fans will enjoy Shouoto’s busy shoujo–style artwork and appealing, clumsy-but-goodhearted lead character. The full series is nine volumes-long.

barakamon 216x300 Fall 2014 Graphic Novels Are Out of This WorldYOSHINO, Satsuki. Barakamon. Vol. 1. illus. by Satsuki Yoshino. Yen Pr. Oct. 2014. pap. $15.00. ISBN 9780316336086.

Gr 8 Up—In this city-boy-goes-to-the-country comedy, an aspiring calligrapher exiles himself to a rural island after punching a prominent calligrapher—who told him his work was soulless—in the face. He has to learn how to drive a tractor and put up with the local kids turning his house into their hangout, but as the story goes on, he starts to warm up to his neighbors and his new way of life.



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Q & A: ‘Positive’ Author Paige Rawl Talks About Her Story as an HIV Positive Teen Thu, 31 Jul 2014 18:40:53 +0000 Positive to not only cope with her past, but to offer solace and courage to those going through a similar experience. ]]> Positivecover resize 397x600 Q & A: Positive Author Paige Rawl Talks About Her Story as an HIV Positive TeenCollege student Paige Rawl was born with HIV and discovered her status when she was in middle school. Though she took the realization in stride, her fellow students didn’t: when she told another classmate, bullying and ostracism ensued. The experience was incredibly painful—resulting in deep depression and even a suicide attempt—but Rawl was able to turn tragedy to triumph, as she relates in her aptly named memoir, Positive (HarperCollins, 2014), which releases in August, a work that she believes will bring hope and inspiration to other young people facing the same struggles she had. She also serves as an HIV/AIDS educator and an advocate against bullying.

Rawl recently spoke to SLJ, discussing how her HIV status made her a target, her advice for young people, and what she hopes teachers and educators working with bullied kids can learn from her story.

What was it like when you first realized you had HIV?

It wasn’t a big deal to me. I thought that HIV was like any other disease. I thought it was just like asthma, which I also have. When I was growing up, all of the doctor’s appointments and medication seemed just like a normal thing. I was so used to it all that I didn’t see anything wrong with it.

Do you find that decades later there’s still misinformation about HIV/AIDS?

I do believe there’s a lot of misinformation still out there about the disease. I think that schools need to have more education. Lack of education leads to ignorance, which leads to stigma aimed at those with HIV/AIDS. People still believe that you can contract HIV through casual contact or a toilet seat, when both of those beliefs are completely false. If there was more education, our society would begin to view people with HIV as just like everyone else. Which we are.

Was it challenging to reveal so much of yourself in this memoir?

I did find some parts difficult to discuss—and to just lay out there for other people to see. There were points in writing the book where I wanted to cry (and even did cry), but that just made me realize how important it was that I share my story, educate others, and advocate against bullying. It made me see even more that things need to be done so no one has to go through what I went through!

You spoke of looking at photos of your middle school self and observing how happy you appeared. Was it cathartic to be able to tell the truth about what you were going through by writing this memoir?

At first, for me, sharing my story and what I had been through was a way to cope with everything that happened. The first time I spoke about it, I felt like a giant weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. So, in that sense, you could say that it was appealing. But mainly sharing my story and telling the truth of it all will help others in the future, and that is the most appealing part.

You’ve faced a number of challenges at such a young age. What has been the most difficult obstacle you’ve had to deal with?

The most difficult obstacle that I have personally dealt with is the effect of being bullied. Being bullied can leave a painful, open wound that no one can see but that the victim can definitely feel. When I was a freshman in high school, I was at a new and great school, I had left my bullies behind, but I was still struggling with what I had been through. Learning to cope with the bullying, learning to manage with the fear of being bullied again, and learning how to take the bullying and help make a difference for other victims—that was the biggest thing I’ve had to overcome, not HIV.

Telling a friend led to the bullying but also to your finding the strength to fight against ostracism and the stigmatization of HIV. Did you ever regret being open about it?

I have never regretted telling my best friend in sixth grade. I personally believe that everything happens for a reason. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t gone through what I did. I decided to take a bad situation and turn it into something good. Surviving the bullying because of my HIV status gave me the strength to speak out and share my story to help others.

A big part of your struggles involved the school administration, who did so little to protect you from the cruelty of your classmates. Have you found this is a common experience for other kids with HIV who are open about their status?

Most of the other kids that I know that have HIV are actually not open about their status. They keep it from their friends and teachers at school. They seem to be too afraid of what other people may think and how the way that other people treat them might change. The few that I do know that have tried to be open about it have dealt with some similar issues that I [had experienced], of not being accepted or being bullied because of it.

What advice would you give to adults working with kids facing bullying?

Teachers, principals, and parents should provide a place of trust, safety, and acceptance when kids or teens go to them with things like bullying. And adults should really listen to what they are being told. They should know that it took a lot of courage for the victim to come to them. And, finally, I believe that the adults should not tell students to hide something about themselves to avoid bullying. They should not be counseled to pretend to be what they’re not. Adults should show victims that it’s okay to embrace something that makes them different from their friends or peers. Bullies should be counseled that differences are not weaknesses to be exploited.

What’s next for you?

I’ll be getting my degree in molecular biology to become an HIV/AIDS medical researcher. I want to be in a lab and work towards new treatments and possibly a cure for this disease. I plan to continue to dedicate my life to educating about HIV/AIDS, sharing my story, and advocating against bullying!

What words of advice do you have for teens facing a similar situation as you?

Don’t let what you have or what you may be going through define who you are. I would like them to know that it’s okay to ask for help. It takes a lot of courage to ask an adult to help you, especially if it has something to do with a thing like bullying. If the adult you first go to doesn’t seem to want to help, then go to another adult. Don’t give up until you find someone who will listen.

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Seamus Heaney and a Tale of Five Fables | Touch and Go Thu, 31 Jul 2014 13:57:51 +0000 If you’re wondering why the Irish poet and playwright Seamus Heaney chose to translate Robert Henryson’s 15th-century versions of Aesop’s fables, you’ll find out in this iPad app.  Begin with Heaney’s introduction to the collection, where he observes that the stories include “some of the fiercest allegories of human existence” and the “gentlest presentations of decency in civic and domestic life” along with “satire and social realism—even if the society involved is that of wild animals.” But perhaps even more importantly Heaney notes, “that unless this poetry is brought out ‘a great prince in prison lies.’” If your students aren’t familiar with Heaney and Henryson, it’s time to introduce them.

photo7 300x225 Seamus Heaney and a Tale of Five Fables | Touch and Go

Partial screen shot from “Seamus Heaney: Five Fables” (Touch Press)

Seamus Heaney: Five Fables (Touch Press/Flickerpix/Faber and Faber $11.99; Gr 4 Up). For selection purposes, the most important words in this title are “Seamus Heaney.”  Yes, that Seamus Heaney—winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, acclaimed translator of Beowulf. The plots of the five featured fables (“The Two Mice,” “The Lion and the Mouse,” “The Preaching of the Swallow,” “The Fox, the Wolf and the Carter,” and “The Fox, the Wolf and the Farmer”) will be familiar to any reader of Aesop, but Heaney’s brilliant and accessible translations of these fables, originally written in verse by Scottish author Robert Henryson in the 1400s, is vastly more complex than the picture book versions readers may be imagining.

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Screen shot from “Seamus Heaney: Five Fables” (Touch Press) xx

There are three access points to the fables. There’s Heaney’s translation, which can be read with or without the actor Billy Connolly’s rich narration. Dr. Ian Johnson guides listeners as he reads and smooths out the puzzling vocabulary of Middle Scots, while the sly and charming animated versions emphasize the setting, characterization, and humor of the stories (with musical accompaniment), and offer a choice of either narration.

All the elegant elements that characterize Touch Press apps are present. An illuminating introduction opens the production and more complex information is presented as users go deeper into the app. The stories are annotated; a tap to the “commentary” icon brings up notes which are displayed side-by-side with the corresponding text. Fables also includes a number of valuable video clips featuring commentary by Connolly, and Heaney and other scholars providing background and opinion on the vocabulary, context, the translation, the morals, and Henryson. Navigating between these features is easy.

Those looking for connections to state standards will find them straightforward; for example, ample opportunities to apply the Common Core English Language Arts Reading Literature standard (4) which focuses on the analysis of a writer’s craft and word choice, or the Reading Literature standard (10) that asks students to analyze how an author draws on and transforms source material are both present. Upper elementary and middle school students can contrast the animated versions to simpler retellings. High school students will marvel at Heaney’s thoughtful translation as they compare it to the original text and will benefit from the different readings, the commentary on the translation, and the scholarly insights. A stellar production offering plenty to delight and amaze.—Chris Gustafson, Whitman Middle School Teacher Librarian, Seattle Public Schools

For additional app reviews visit our Touch and Go webpage.

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Everyone’s Talking About ‘Let’s Get Lost’ and Debut Author Adi Alsaid Thu, 31 Jul 2014 11:28:33 +0000 Let’s Get Lost is a beautifully written story about five strangers and their different experiences with love, loss, and finding themselves along the way. SLJ reviewer Donna Rosenblum chats with the author about his inspirations, his travels, and what's in store for him next.]]> letsGetLost 200x300 Everyones Talking About Lets Get Lost and Debut Author Adi AlsaidAdi Alsaid’s debut novel Let’s Get Lost is a beautifully written story about five strangers and their different experiences with love, loss, and finding themselves along the way. It brings to mind the famous quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” School Library Journal’s review of the novel describes it as “an achingly beautiful story about the profound impacts of opening oneself to a stranger” and goes on to say, “Reminiscent of John Green’s Paper Towns (Dutton, 2008) and road trip novels that feature a teen paving the way to adulthood, Alsaid’s debut is a gem among contemporary YA novels.”

SLJTeen columnist and SLJ reviewer Donna Rosenblum recently caught up with Adi Alsaid by telephone, and here is what he had to say.

What was your inspiration for Let’s Get Lost and its many themes?

The idea for a road map/traveling story was inspired by my own road trips and desire to see many destinations and places around the country. I have taken two cross-country trips west to east, and will be doing another trip this summer.

The road trip helps the reader see the bigger picture and to get to know the main protagonist, Leila, through the multiple perspectives of the different characters she meets along the way. I like getting into strangers’ heads and then think about how they would perceive a person or an event so that is exactly what I did.

Adi Alsaid fullbio 314wide 286x300 Everyones Talking About Lets Get Lost and Debut Author Adi AlsaidMany authors say they write about what and who they know. Are your characters in Let’s Get Lost based on family or friends?

The characters in my novel are all imagined, but some of their mannerisms or things that they do are based on myself or people in my life. For example, in one scene from the book, Leila puts her toes on the windshield. That was something my ex-girlfriend used to do. And Elliott’s unrequited love is sort of me in my high school days.

Have you been to places mentioned in the novel?

No, I have not been to the exact places in the novel. I did reference Google Maps but wanted the flexibility to make my own story and not be confined by specific details.

Actually, in between drafts of the book, I visited a friend in the Twin Cities and there is a scene where Leila and Elliot are pushing the car along the road and the Minneapolis skyline is in the background. I got this image by Googling Burnsville, Minnesota, so we drove all around until we found the exact spot where this image was taken.

Wow that is pretty cool. Do you think you would like to visit the places in the book someday?

I definitely want to see the Northern Lights as well as Alaska and Kansas City.

All the characters in your novel are unique and memorable—do you have a favorite or is there one or two in particular that you identify with most?

I certainly can’t pick a favorite, but there are little pieces of me in all of the characters in the novel. I probably relate most to Elliot from my teenage days, but I also share Bree’s desire to get up and go out on her own with no plan in mind. Sonia tells how her dead boyfriend used to clean the soles of his basketball shoes and I do that, and how she listens for words in murmuring crowds, and I do that too.

There are many themes that run through Let’s Get Lost, most notably loss, love, and finding one’s way back. Why do you think teens relate to these themes and your novel?

I think teens relate not only to the general coming-of-age aspect throughout the novel, but also the different variations on this theme in each individual story. There is a certain appeal to these type of stories, especially for me personally, and it is something everyone can all relate to in one way or another. It is a time in your life when you are trying to figure out who you are, where you are going, what the future will bring, and what your life will ultimately be like.

Let’s Get Lost is you first novel and yet you have been compared to some well-known writers, including John Green. How do you feel about that?

I am completely flattered by this, especially when I hear my name and his in the same sentence—it is just overwhelming. We have similarities in our writing, most notably the mixing of humor and emotional issues throughout the storyline.

Will there be a companion novel or a sequel to Let’s Get Lost? If not, what else is in the works?

I don’t see it happening right now, but you never know. I did just turn in my first draft of my next work, which is a standalone contemporary young adult story with multiple perspectives set in a high school, but that is all I am going to say about it. I am a bit secretive of the story for now.

Last question: Did you always want to be a writer?

DonnaLetsGetLost 300x225 Everyones Talking About Lets Get Lost and Debut Author Adi Alsaid

Interviewer Donna Rosenblum hard at work.

I have been writing little short stories, most that I never finished, since the age of 11 or 12. It was always something I loved so it was continually a thought was in the back of my mind. But I decided to attend business school, figuring that I would need to earn a living in order to pursue my dream of writing. But things just happened more quickly than I ever planned and I am so lucky that Harlequin believed in me and has done so much to market Let’s Get Lost. I certainly never expected to be a successful writer at this stage of my life. I am just so grateful.

Click here for a bonus interview of Adi and Roger Sutton of The Horn Book!

Donna Rosenblum is a longtime SLJ reviewer and a librarian at Floral Park (NY) Memorial High School.

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Missouri Extends Protection of Library Records Data to Digital Materials Wed, 30 Jul 2014 19:28:43 +0000

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon.

Missouri library patrons can now rest assured that their library records for checkout of digital materials will remain private.

The Missouri State Legislature introduced two related bills aimed to update its existing privacy laws to include records for materials including ebooks, electronic documents, streaming video, music, and downloadable audiobooks, as well as the use of using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon approved one of the bills, which will go into effect on August 28, while rejecting the other.

Though the privacy of patrons’ library records has traditionally been sacrosanct, digital technology has transformed library services, and many states’ privacy laws have been slow to address records for digital media.

Thanks in part to the lobbying efforts of librarians across the state, Governor Nixon signed HB 1085, the Missouri House of Representatives bill expanding the purview of privacy laws concerning library records to include digital items from third-party vendors.

The existing privacy laws cover patrons’ personal information when they check out paper books. But electronic media, though accessed from the library’s gateway, is often administered by a third party.

Missouri “already had very strong protection of library records, but our main concern was that the digital age be taken into account, that digital records be included in [data privacy legislation],” said Jim Schmidt, legislative committee chair of the Missouri Library Association (MLA). Consumer protection was MLA’s main talking point when taking the issue to their State Representatives, Schmidt added.

“In order for users to access these services, vendors must authenticate them as [our library] cardholders; this gives the vendors access to our user database,” said Pam Klipsch, director of Missouri’s Jefferson County Library.

At Klipsch’s request, Missouri Rep. John McCaherty of Jefferson and St. Louis counties sponsored the bill to “to insure that any personally identifiable information about [users] and any information about the resources they accessed remained equally protected and confidential on the vendor side as on the library side of that transaction,” she said.

The bill requires third-party vendors to tell libraries and individual patrons if the vendor’s data servers experience a security breach, Klipsch explained. It also empowers patrons to take their library record privacy matters into their own hands, allowing them to request thaat the third-party vendors be investigated if the patron feels their data has been compromised. Librarians across the state will meet with third-party vendors to discuss the law’s implementation before it goes into effect in late August.

The second, rejected bill, Missouri Senate bill 523 (SB 523), concerned libraries in an indirect way. The bill would have allowed students to opt out of using RFID technology in their school identification cards, which often double as library cards.

RFID is used in items such as toll booth passes, credit cards, and animal collars, and RFID “locator chips” store all manner of data. When placed in student ID/library cards, RFID chips can also store library record information. The bill was intended to protect students’ geographical locations from being pinpointed by anyone with an RFID reader, and to prevent access to private data tied to their school IDs.

Governor Nixon vetoed SB 523 on the grounds that though the technology is not currently employed by any Missouri public schools, it has the potential to be used as a safety measure by schools. For instance, students could be located via their IDs during times of emergency or natural disaster. This also means that for now, any possible associated library records are also accessible via the chip.

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School Librarian Fights Summer Slide with School Bus-Turned-Bookmobile Wed, 30 Jul 2014 19:13:57 +0000 Bus1 School Librarian Fights Summer Slide with School Bus Turned Bookmobile

The bookmobile. Photo credit: Snohomish Book Café

The dreaded summer slide—when kids lose valuable reading skills over the three months they’re away from school—is feared by librarians and teachers alike. Jenny Granger, a school librarian at Emerson Elementary School in Snohomish, Washington, decided that if her kids weren’t going to come to the books this summer, she would take her books to the kids—with a bookmobile.

Using grant funding from the Snohomish Education Foundation, Granger converted a school bus into a bookmobile and took to the road, driving it to trailer parks and other low-income areas where the books she provides are crucial. She caught up with SLJ to talk about the things she’s accomplished, what the future holds in store, and just how her bookmobile, called the Snohomish Book Café, obtained its signature pink eyelashes.

How does the bookmobile work?

The books are for the students to keep or return. If they love the book, they can keep it. If it was just a one-time read, they can then return it for someone else to read. The goal is to get books into the homes, [because] research is telling us that the reason some kids from poverty don’t read is because they don’t own books.

Some people have commented, “Isn’t that what the public library is for?” But our reality is that these students simply do not go to the public library. Whether it’s because of transportation or because of having to fill out paperwork (which then leaves a paper trail) or because the family does not see the value of the public library, I don’t know. But I do know that most of our kids do not have a public library card.

Buslashes School Librarian Fights Summer Slide with School Bus Turned Bookmobile

Jenny Granger and her assistant secretary, Penny Kendrick, outfitted their bookmobile with pink eyelashes. Photo credit: Snohomish Book Café.

Did you design the bookmobile?

This bookmobile has been a collaborative effort. My special education teacher, Dave Martinson, and his assistants, Bibi Penland and Michelle Somerville, somehow snuck out and painted the tire rims and running boards on the bus when I was busy with students. It was a total surprise! They looked amazing!  And my assistant secretary, Penny Kendrick, secretly ordered pink eyelashes for the bus. They are darling!

In terms of [the original] “design,” yes, I guess I did design it. I kept everything in a fairly neutral color scheme with book pages, burlap, and chalkboards. I knew I didn’t want it to be too cutesy in terms of primary colors or book characters, because I did not want to scare away my older students. If this was a “little kid’’ thing, they wouldn’t come near it. That hasn’t been an issue. I cannot seem to keep enough copies of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars (Dutton, 2012) stocked for our YA readers.

How do you decide what books to stock?

My goal is to stock it with what kids will read. I do not push anything other than simply reading for reading’s sake. Do you want to read creepy vampire stories? Go for it! Teen romance novels? They are yours! Dirt bike magazines? Go for it!

We have everything from board books to picture books to chapter books to graphic novels, young adult books, and magazines. A lot depends on what is donated, and I spent the grant money on high-interest things that kids want like the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” (Abrams) books and the “I Survived” (Scholastic) series. If they will read it, I will try to get it for them. With the recent World Cup, we went through soccer books like they were water.

Bins School Librarian Fights Summer Slide with School Bus Turned Bookmobile

Inside the bookmobile. Photo credit: Snohomish Book Café.

How do you decide what routes to take?

I knew some of the places I wanted to hit because I knew the families in our community that were in need. And I knew that the mobile meal program was hitting the areas of high need. When I originally wrote the grant two years ago, I had only students from my school and our feeder schools (both primary school and middle school) in mind. But at the last minute, one of the teachers in our district approached me and asked if I would consider going to another trailer park on the other end of town. This trailer park was very isolated and very in need of books. How could I say no? So each week, I drive the bus to two trailer parks, our local aquatics center, which is in the middle of town, and the Boys & Girls Club. All of these locations receive lunches as well from the summer meals program.

Helpingreader School Librarian Fights Summer Slide with School Bus Turned Bookmobile

Librarian Jenny Granger helps a student find a book. Photo credit: Ian Terry.

Do you do readers advisory with the kids?

Absolutely! And I think that is part of the key to the success. As I come across books in all of the donation piles, I add sticky notes with [children’s] names on it and give [the books] to them the next week. It helps that three of my four stops are neighborhoods of my own students, so I know them by name and what they are interested in reading. This is my second year getting to know the students at a trailer park that go to a different elementary school, and I am becoming familiar with their needs and wants as well.

Is there anything you want to change about the project in the future?

In a perfect world, I would love this to become a Title program. [Reading and literacy expert] Richard Allington’s work examines the impact of summer reading on student achievement, and one of the points he makes is the fact that Title programs have shown an impact on achievement nine months of the school year. But what about the other three months? Spending the funding to help support a child’s language development year round could lead to a significant increase in academic achievement. The funding during the summer months would not be pushing an academic agenda…it would be creating an environment that fosters reading and language development. That, to me, is an important distinction.

How is the bus running?

Hmmm, air conditioning on the bus would be lovely.

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Amazon Reveals Sticking Points with Hachette Wed, 30 Jul 2014 14:42:57 +0000 Amazon Amazon Reveals Sticking Points with HachetteOn Amazon’s Kindle forum dated July 29, the online retail behemoth revealed details of the sticking points with the Hachette Book Group that are contributing to the two companies’ very public battle over profit share and ebook pricing. According to the Kindle forum post, Amazon is fighting for lower ebook prices and a 30 percent profit share.

In the argument for why lower ebook prices are better for everyone, overall, Amazon states that most ebooks prices are unreasonably priced at $14.99 and $19.99, and that the market price of $9.99 actually benefits not only the customer at the short-term, but—

“For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000.”

In other words, Amazon is maintaining that lower ebook pricing means they will ultimately sell more books, which shakes out to more money for everyone—including the publisher and the author—in the end.

That is, if the publishing company, Hachette, chooses to give what Amazon claims is a fair and reasonable profit-share to the author. (However, in this proposed scenario, authors will receive more in royalties from sales.)

The online retailer went on to say in the forum post:

“Amazon also believes that 35% of revenues should go to authors, 35% to publishers, and 30% to Amazon.”

Historically, “royalties for ebooks are generally 25 percent at traditional publishing houses,” according to the Amazon Books Team, who referenced the fact that Hachette (along with other major publishers) was involved in an ebook price-fixing suit with Apple that was recently settled.

Following the July 29 post, books publisher and journalist Michael Cader posted on his site, Publisher’s Lunch, a subscription-based publishing industry news publication run by Cader, a response titled “Update re: Awkward Amazon Communications On Amazon/Hachette Business Interruption” where he addressed the selective channeling of Amazon’s anonymous posting in its Kindle Forum (under the “Amazon Books Team”) which emphasized the sticking points of lower ebook pricing and profit share as what is holding up the negotiations, but—he pointed out—did not acknowledge its other motivations.

“What are the other key objectives, Amazon?” read Cader’s post, “Why do your conversations with people in the trade talk about looking for your fare share of the ‘business efficiencies’ produced by a rising ebook market and your investments, while your public words are only about pricing objectives?”

Cader’s post went on to talk about how the data regarding lowering ebook pricing and its relation to higher sales was not backed up by sharing this data to the publishers and the publicly-shared data from the post lacked a variety of price points to compare, such as the sales of ebooks at $11.99 and $12.99. (The Kindle forum post offers data for ebooks $9.99 and $14.99.) The post also brings up the point that given that ebook sales is “only part of the revenue for a new release book,” lowering the cost of ebooks is only part of the total sales pie. Amazon, which corners the market on ebooks sales, has motivation to lower ebook prices for more sales, writes Cader, but what about the rest of the picture?

The response raises other points, such as how Amazon brought up that authors who wanted to get on the bestseller list should insist their publishers price their ebooks at $9.99—but didn’t address the fact that Amazon gives “40 percent to 50 percent of its [bsetseller] slots to books Kindle Unlimited free trial members have clicked to download.”

Hachette has yet to release a press statement and has remained mum during this battle, with some of its star authors, like Malcolm Gladwell and James Patterson, going to bat for the publisher. And in spite of reports of flagging ebook sales for some Hachette authors on Amazon, Forbes reported on July 25 that Amazon online sales jumped 23 percent compared to Q2 from 2013 (although its overall shares dropped 11 percent).


You May Also Want to Read on SLJ:

Authors John Green and James Patterson Stuck in Midst of Ongoing Battle of Amazon vs. Hachette

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We Need Diverse Books Incorporates Wed, 30 Jul 2014 13:53:42 +0000 weneeddiversebooks We Need Diverse Books Incorporates On July 29, the We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) Tumblr blog reported that the viral campaign and hashtag has also filed “for incorporation as a non-profit organization in the state of Pennsylvania.” The same blog post also announced the newly incorporated non-profit’s advisory board members in the form of familiar YA and children’s authors Grace Lin, Jacqueline Woodson, Matt de la Peña, Cynthia Leitich Smith, and Cindy Pon.

“Each of these members has a history of advocating for diverse books, and is a pioneer in the field of children’s literature,” said Ellen Oh, president of WeNeedDiverseBooks. “They will not only increase our visibility as an organization, but light the way going forward.”

“The WeNeedDiverseBooks movement is so necessary and relevant, especially as the demographic shifts in this country,” says board member de la Peña. “But it’s important that people know this isn’t an ‘instead of’ campaign, it’s ‘also.’ Books featuring diverse characters, written by diverse authors, are worthy, too, and it’s time we had a seat at the table.”

With many exciting projects in the works, including a Diversity Festival planned for 2016, a grant program to support diverse authors, bring diversity into the classroom with collaborations with First Book and the National Education Association, and develop a “diversity toolkit” for librarians and booksellers, the momentum for We Need Diverse Books is not slowing down, but in fact, gaining real traction, and, it seems, potential for long-term change in the publishing industry.

One of the reasons for incorporating, says Lamar Giles, the vice-president of communications, is to “give us the legitimacy and standing we need to move forward with our mission.”

You May Also Want to Read on SLJ:

WeNeedDiverseBooks: Not a Trend, But Here to Stay

WeNeedDiverseBooks: A Roundup and a Reflection

Sure #WeNeedDiverseBooks, but don’t forget WeNeedMoreWalterDeanMyers

First Book Pledges to Buy Diverse Books

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Tragic consequences of intolerance and gun violence explored in “Valentine Road”| DVD Pick Wed, 30 Jul 2014 13:00:44 +0000 Valentine Road belongs in all school and public libraries as a cautionary tale about homophobia, intolerance, and the easy availability of guns.]]> valentineroad 209x300 Tragic consequences of intolerance and gun violence explored in Valentine Road| DVD Pickstar Tragic consequences of intolerance and gun violence explored in Valentine Road| DVD PickValentine Road. 88 min and 52 min. versions. Dist. by Bullfrog Films. 2013. $295. ISBN 1560290870.
Gr 7 Up–In early 2008, a black eighth grader named Larry King was shot and killed in school in Oxnard, CA. King had been exhibiting gender non-conforming behavior in class and in his community, and had proclaimed his affection for a male classmate. That student, Brandon McInerney, who is presented as possibly a white supremacist sympathizer, did not return King’s sentiments, and shot King in the back of the head, ironically during a unit on tolerance. McInerney stood trial, but the jury became deadlocked and could not convict him. He later confessed to the crime and was sentenced to 21 years in prison without parole. The documentary interviews many of King’s surviving family, friends, and classmates, most of whom still grieve and miss him, and delves into the McInerney’s tragic family background. King receives less sympathy from three jurors, filmed chatting over wine and cheese. They seem to believe that the real victim was McInerney, who had to endure unwelcome advances from a classmate of the same sex. These jurors and King’s seventh grade teacher represent the most shocking and sad part of the film—the notion that a young man who failed to act like most other boys simply got what was coming to him. The title comes from the address of the cemetery where Larry now rests. Valentine Road belongs in all school and public libraries as a cautionary tale about homophobia, intolerance, and the easy availability of guns.–Bernie ­Morrissey, The Harker School, San Jose, CA

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Pennridge School District Loses Elementary School Librarian Tue, 29 Jul 2014 19:59:29 +0000 Pennridgecuts Pennridge School District Loses Elementary School LibrarianPennsylvania school districts have seen librarian cuts, and it’s not only the  Allentown School District (as previously reported in May 2014 by SLJ) where librarians are on the chopping block. On June 10, after much deliberation, Pennsylvania’s Pennridge School District announced their decision to finalize a budget plan—proposed by the schools’ superintendent—to reduce school librarian positions from 10 to nine for the 11 schools in the district that serve approximately 7,000 students.

Back in late April, elementary librarians in the district were informed the proposed 2015 budget would eliminate a librarian position.Because a third grade teacher would be retiring from Bedminster Elementary School, the school’s librarian would be transferred to fill the position. The proposed budget did not replace this empty library position.

A dwindling number of school librarians has been the trend in Pennridge. Five years ago, when the school district lost an elementary school librarian, the board decided not to fill the position. As a result, for four years Maria Sweet, librarian at West Rockhill Elementary in Sellersville, spent one day a week at another school library in rotation with other librarians in the district for the past four years. In the last school year (2013-14), Sweet spent three days at her home school and shares another elementary school with another librarian.

“It dilutes our availability to our students and our staff. At West Rockhill, where I’ve been for ten years, I know every student by name. And I make our purchases based on our curriculum needs as well as our students’ interests. But if I am pulled out of the building even more now, there will be students I don’t know,” says Sweet about the shuffling. “The more shuffling that takes places, the more changes that take place, and the bigger the disconnect.”

Part of the problem regarding district funding arises from ongoing increases in pension and healthcare benefits over the years combined with a lack of proper tax increase to mitigate the rising costs in the district. The school board has petitioned the State Department of Education for an exception and is currently allowed to increase the district’s taxes 3.6 percent from last year.

“There is going to have to be some change in our budget structure, largely being done through attrition ,” explains Dr. Peter Yarnell, president of the Pennridge School Board for the past eight years, regarding why the district is not replacing library positions due to retirement. “I certainly do not think this is a good decision. I have been discussing this with my fellow board members and the superintendent. I think it won’t serve our students well to decrease their access to literacy issues and content.”

Others are of like mind. Having served on the Pennridge District Board of Education from 1995 to 2005, Karen Sterling, the librarian at Pennridge North Middle School opposes the cut. She believes this decision is a result of the administration’s lack of understanding of the role of librarians. In a letter to the School Board Finance Committee, she listed the full responsibilities of a modern school librarian:

“It is easy to envision librarians as the staff member who reads to children and checks books in and out. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Today’s librarians are information media specialists who are helping the students of tomorrow access the media and information literacy skills they will need to successfully navigate the explosion of available information. Moreover, assuming a librarian functions much like a teacher is a mistake. While school librarians all teach, our responsibilities encompass far more, including:

  • The acquisition and maintenance of collections,
  • The instructional partnership with building teachers,
  • The leadership role we play as the one faculty member who knows the entire scope of the building’s curriculum
  • The program director role we play in instilling the love of reading
  • The information specialist role we take as we model effective strategies for developing multiple literacies
  • The administrative role we play as we spend down and account for our budgets in $10-20 increments”

Sterling says she also met privately with the superintendent, Dr. Jacqueline Rattigan, before the June 10 vote. Along with the elementary school library position being cut from the June 10 budget, administrative positions have been redistributed, leaving the school librarians without department supervision. Although the challenges ahead are massive, Sterling says the librarians are “hoping for the best, that this will be a temporary situation alleviated in the next budget cycle as people realize the value added by fully-staffed school libraries.” Time will tell.

Yin Mei is a freelancer and Minnesotan who has lived in the Bay Area, New York, France, and China. She enjoys covering topics from China’s social media trends to education in the United States. Follow her @MeiThoughts.

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‘Druthers’ Meets ‘Leroy Ninker’ at Candlewick| Fall 2014 Preview Tue, 29 Jul 2014 17:53:24 +0000 SLJ visits the Candlewick Fall Preview where Kate DiCamillo talks about spinoff character from her “Mercy Watson” series for her upcoming August title Leroy Ninker Saddles Up—and books about bears and dads get some love. ]]> Candlewick resize Druthers Meets Leroy Ninker at Candlewick| Fall 2014 Preview

At the Candlewick Fall Preview. Photo by Rocco Staino.

Librarians have to wonder what’s in store for them when they arrive at a publisher’s preview and encounter editors wearing devil’s horns. That’s what happened at the Candlewick Fall 2014 preview in June, where the publisher promoted their feature book, Michelle Knudsen’s attention-grabbing Evil Librarian (Sept.). Described as Buffy the Vampire Slayer-meets-Glee, with a super hot male librarian who is a demon in disguise, this paranormal romance will attract both librarians and teens. Libraries also made an appearance at the preview in Bonny Becker’s latest Mouse & Bear book, A Library Book for Bear (July). Illustrated by Kady McDonald Denton, the story finds Mouse persuading his reluctant friend Bear, who already owns seven books and thinks that that’s quite enough, that the library has plenty of other titles he will enjoy. It will surely find a place at preschool storytime.

druthers Druthers Meets Leroy Ninker at Candlewick| Fall 2014 Preview Dads were featured among the upcoming books, such as Druthers (Sept.) and The Brilliant World of Tom Gates (Aug.). The first picture book from noteworthy graphic novelist Matt Phelan, Druthers is the touching story of a father and young daughter who spend a day in imaginary play. Liz Pichon’s “Diary of a Wimpy Kid”-esque, middle-grade The Brilliant World of Tom Gates features a boy who is ashamed of his dad written in the style of the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series. The book is a smash in the United Kingdom, and the U.S. edition contains a glossary so that kids will understand the British terms.

review leroy ninker saddles up by kate dicamillo Druthers Meets Leroy Ninker at Candlewick| Fall 2014 Preview National Ambassador for Children’s Literature Kate DiCamillo has spun off Leroy Ninker, a favorite character from her “Mercy Watson” series, for Leroy Ninker Saddles Up (Aug). Illustrated by Chris Van Dusen, the book answers the question “What’s a cowboy without a horse?” Speaking of big names, Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen have teamed up for a new picture book, Sam and Dave Dig a Hole (Oct.). The two boys dig and —just read the book to discover what they find

Want to feel old? Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: The Magical Car is turning 50. For the occasion, Candlewick will be issuing a special anniversary edition of the Ian Fleming classic this August.

The event culminated with a visit from Françoise Mouly, cartoon editor for The New Yorker and founder of TOON Books. The company publishes comic books for the young reader and has now introduced titles for readers up to age 10.

Watch the video of Mouly now:

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A Signature Style: Picture book author Byron Barton on developing his craft | Up Close Tue, 29 Jul 2014 16:00:36 +0000 slj1407w UpClose Barton A Signature Style: Picture book author Byron Barton on developing his craft | Up CloseThe iconic colors and shapes of Byron Barton’s picture books and board books are staples in libraries and early learning environments. From trucks and buses to dinosaurs and astronauts—and now several interactive apps—Barton has been creating engaging stories for the youngest learners for 45 years. His latest picture book, My Bus (HarperCollins, 2014), which recently earned an SLJ Star, features his signature bright, bold illustrations with a bevy of simple concepts perfect for the growing minds of toddlers and preschoolers. SLJ caught up with the prolific author to chat about his art, his influences, and his unique ability to create books that inspire pre-readers and readers alike.

Have you always been an artist? What are your first memories of creating art?

My very first memory of creating art was in kindergarten. I was criticized for not keeping the crayon colors inside the black line. I was a little hurt. But it was the encouragement from my art teacher Mrs. Reeves, at John Marshall High School, that made me want to go on with art.

How did you come to be a picture book artist?

I was leaning in that direction when I met my now-former wife, Harriett. She was a student studying book illustration, and I was at CBS. It was her love for and knowledge of picture books that I learned from and that moved me all the way to doing picture books.

slj1407w UpClose MyBus Barton A Signature Style: Picture book author Byron Barton on developing his craft | Up CloseHow did you develop your style?

I like the way children draw. I have always wanted to make a book with that kind of freedom and expression. But I also want my books to communicate. So the subject matter has a big influence on how I draw. It is a struggle between making a free, expressive kind of drawing and a drawing made to communicate. And then the computer came along, and I am adapting to that. So I am still working at putting it all together.

Many of your picture books have been described as nonfiction for the very young. How do you decide what information to include and what to leave out?

I go for what is most basic and can be made interesting and useful to a kid. I want the book to be not just informational but also to move like a story with a beginning and an end. So I put in those things I need to move the story along, and I leave out what gets in the way.

Creators of books for older children and teens often get feedback from their readers. But many of your biggest fans can’t talk yet. How do you know what they like?

Well, when I work, I try to excite that part of me that is still a kid. I look at a subject, and become fascinated, and see it for the first time as a kid might. I become both an adult and a kid—some analyzing, some discipline, and lots and lots of enthusiasm. Needs and tastes change. Kids are all different. You have just got to feel it.

There are now several Byron Barton apps. Have you been involved in the creation/transition to digital?

It’s exciting to think of the possibilities of what can be done in picture books with the help of digital technology. I did once illustrate and make an interactive CD-ROM to go with Sarah Weeks’s book Little Factory (HarperCollins, 1998). Maybe as the technology develops, it will become easier for artists and publishers to make and publish books that way. Of course, it’s probably happening, and I just don’t know about it. It all moves so fast.

Who has most influenced your work?

There are so many great artists and books that I admire. I like all styles. I see someone I like and say, “I wish I could do that.” I don’t know if I can say that there are some I have studied and been more influenced by. Probably I pick up on things here and there, and use them unaware. Harriett has been a very, very big influence on me. I learned all I know about children’s books through her.

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East Hampton Library Addition Opens After Long Struggle and Lawsuit Mon, 28 Jul 2014 22:03:54 +0000 EH Library c. Richard Lewin East Hampton Library Addition Opens After Long Struggle and Lawsuit

At the June 21 ribbon cutting of the East Hampton Library;
Board Members (l to r): Maureen Egen, Gail Parker, Brooke Kroeger Goren, Charlie Soriano, Robert A.M. Stern (architect), Bruce Collins, Dennis Fabiszak (library director), Tom Twomey, Alec Baldwin, Don Hunting, Sheila Rogers, and Debbie Walter. All photos courtesy of Richard Lewin.

The new children’s addition of New York’s East Hampton Library had its official opening on June 21 after several contentious years fraught with zoning deputes, heated exchanges between village officials, and a lawsuit that went to the New York State Supreme Court. The addition adds 6,800 square feet to the existing library of which 4,000 square feet is dedicated for youth services. The children’s new interior space, designed by Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership (as featured in the following photos), has a whimsical design that draws upon the nautical heritage of the surrounding seaside community which includes tall, blinking lighthouses, a large windmill with shelves and seating, and a boat-shaped librarian’s reference desk. Designed by the famed architect Robert A.M. Stern Architects (RAMSA), it features space for an additional 10,000 children’s books, new computers and technology, ample seating, and dedicated areas for toddlers and teens.

EH Library c. Richard Lewin resize1 East Hampton Library Addition Opens After Long Struggle and LawsuitAlmost the entire $6.5 million cost of the addition was funded with private funds including a $1 million donation from actor Alec Baldwin for the creation of the state-of-the-art Baldwin Family Lecture Room on the lower level of the library that provides space for community programs, meetings, film screenings, readings, lectures, and book events. This donation was on top of a $375,000 that Baldwin’s foundation provided at the outset of the project. In addition to the $5.8 million in private donations, the library also received $417,000 in New York State grants. $250,000 remains to be raised.

EH Library c. Richard Lewin use 600x398 East Hampton Library Addition Opens After Long Struggle and Lawsuit“We fought for many years to build this amazing educational space for the children of our historic East Hampton Community,” library executive director, Dennis Fabiszak to School Library Journal.  “We have been overwhelmed by the heartfelt emotional reaction each of the members of our community have expressed when they see their new library for the first time.”

Conceived in 2001, the official plans for the addition were presented to the zoning board in 2003. Through the years, the zoning board thwarted plans for the building to go forward, arguing that the addition would increase traffic at a busy intersection and take away from the town’s greenery. Instead, the board suggested building a satellite library in the heavily Hispanic hamlet of Springs. In 2009, the zoning board requested an EH Library c. Richard Lewin resize2 East Hampton Library Addition Opens After Long Struggle and Lawsuitenvironmental impact statement, which the library claimed they were exempt from as an educational institution. This led to a lawsuit brought upon by the zoning board that was settled by the New York State Supreme Court in May 2011. The court found in favor of the library and stated that the zoning board’s position was “arbitrary, capricious, and irrational as it is unsupported by the record” and directed the village to issue necessary construction permits.  The lawsuit cost the library a total of almost $500,000.

The past difficulties were not evident at the June 21 ribbon cutting that was attended by 1,000 members the community, state and local officials, and benefactor, Alec Baldwin.

To see a video about the opening of the addition of the East Hampton Library, click below:


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Eight Apps to Support Early Reading and Writing | Cool Tools Mon, 28 Jul 2014 21:35:40 +0000 As we all know, it’s never too early to encourage reading. I regularly Skype with my two young nieces, who live 1,200 miles away. The four-year-old shares her current bedtime book with me, and shows me the words she can recognize in it. While reading in person with a child is best, these apps and sites also help very young students get excited about learning to read and write.

slj1407w-TK_CT_LeolovetoSpellBuilding Language for Literacy (Scholastic) offers three nice little language activities, designed for preK and kindergarten students. Leo Loves to Spell! asks students to help a lobster named Leo identify the first letter of a series of spelling words arranged in 12 categories. Reggie Loves to Rhyme!  features a rhinoceros that needs help identifying the words that rhyme with objects, from places including a construction site, garden, and supermarket. Nina Loves to Name Things! presents a newt that needs a hand naming objects in places such as a farm, aquarium, and firehouse. All of these activities are suited to use on an individual basis or for projection onto an interactive whiteboard to use in group lessons.

Writing is more fun when you have an eager, friendly audience, and a nice way for young students to develop their writing skills these days is for them to send emails to grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Maily is a free iPad app that provides a safe, fun way to do so. After setting up the Maily account, parents select and add contacts, and children may send and receive emails only from those people. The user interface is kid-friendly, and children can choose to draw pictures, use templates to create emails, and/or upload pictures. To send their emails, users click the “send” button and select the image of the person they want to receive it.

The Collins Big Cat iPad apps (HarperCollins) are part short story and part story-creation tools. Each of these eight free tools contains a tale that kids can read or have someone narrate. Kids can manipulate interactive elements on each page. Then, after reading and or listening to a story, they can create their own tale by choosing settings and characters matching the theme of what they’ve just read.

Using the story creation aspect of these apps, students can select a background, drag design features into the background, drag characters into the story, add text, and record their own narrations. To get a sense of how the apps work, check out the It Was a Cold, Dark Night story creator, in which you’ll follow along with a hedgehog as he tries to find a warm place to sleep. There’s also a quiz designed to check for understanding.

Reading Bear is a free service with narrated lessons about recognizing and pronouncing letters and words, along with lessons on prefixes and suffixes. Students can control the pace of each lesson, and also take quizzes in which they match the correct word with a picture. Through a narrator, they receive instant feedback on each question. Reading Bear presents good independent activities as well as ones involving a parent or tutor.

None of these sites and apps are replacements for in-person reading and writing lessons. But they can make practicing these skills a lot more fun.



Maily for iPad from School Library Journal on Vimeo.

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Star YA Authors Reveal Inspirations and Challenges | SLJ SummerTeen 2014 Mon, 28 Jul 2014 17:10:15 +0000 SLJ's SummerTeen virtual event, attended by nearly 800 conference goers, was chock full of popular and thought-provoking YA authors, such as keynoters Gayle Forman (If I Stay) and Matthew Quick (Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock), who reveal some of the more personal asides, challenges, and stories behind novel writing. It was Quick who said, "Good literature, he said, “[comforts] the disturbed and [disturbs] the comforted."]]> SLJ Summerteen 2014 600pix 300x76 Star YA Authors Reveal Inspirations and Challenges | SLJ SummerTeen 2014On July 24, School Library Journal held its third annual virtual SummerTeen all day conference where nearly 800 virtual conference goers attended the event during which popular YA authors talked about their writing experiences and current and forthcoming titles in an engaging, conversational format, including live Q&As with the audience.

EH072214 Matthew Quick Star YA Authors Reveal Inspirations and Challenges | SLJ SummerTeen 2014

Matthew Quick

Co-keynoters Matthew Quick, author of Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock (FSG, 2013) and Gayle Forman, author of If I Stay (Dutton, 2009), led the conference with their opening address where each author spoke of the tricky-yet-richly-rewarding process of taking a story from page to screen. The two weighed in on their film adaptations—Forman’s If I Stay releases next month, while Quick’s Silver Lining Playbook (FSG, 2008) was released in 2012, and his Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock has “been optioned for a film”—the writing process, and the importance of authenticity. Though both authors had to deal with changes and alterations to their works, overall, they felt that the modifications were for the best. David O. Russell, director of Matthew Quick’s Silver Linings Playbook, for example, made a number of musical choices that Quick was surprised by. “They were never the songs I would have picked, [but] I think the way he used the music is brilliant.” Similarly, Forman said that though not every scene she wrote made it into the film version of If I Stay that the filmmakers captured the tone and feeling of her work. “Readers may think they are looking for a line by line representation,” she said, “but they want the essence, the overall feel.” For Forman, being true to her readers was crucial, and as she told the filmmakers, “We [already] have a focus group,” explaining that reader reactions to the film would be useful in shaping the movie.

EH 140715 GayleForman Star YA Authors Reveal Inspirations and Challenges | SLJ SummerTeen 2014

Gayle Forman

A pivotal scene from the book, in which the protagonist Mia plays checkers with her father and tells her, “Sometimes you make choices in life, and sometimes they make you,” wasn’t included in the film, but Forman knew that this particular line had resonated with readers (some of them even tattooing it on themselves), and so the sentence, though not the scene, was incorporated. Both authors have had to field concerns from parents unsure of how appropriate their works are, but they strongly believe in ensuring that their books are as genuine and real as possible. For Quick, making readers uncomfortable is even part of his job. Good literature, he said, “[comforts] the disturbed and [disturbs] the comforted. We need to give kids as many books as possible. That’s how you promote tolerance.”

strangeandbeautiful Star YA Authors Reveal Inspirations and Challenges | SLJ SummerTeen 2014Following the keynote, was the Romance panel. (A conference discussing young adult literature wouldn’t be complete without conversation about romance.) Whether first love or first heartbreak, panelists Una LaMarche, Gena Showalter, and Leslye Walton shared with readers what inspired them to write their recent teen titles. In Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender (Candlewick, 2014), Walton felt it was important to not only feature romantic love, but all kinds of affection, and “Ava Lavender is a story about tolerance, acceptance, and not just romantic love, but love that we have for our children, siblings, friends, [and] dogs. Maybe if we put emphasis on all of these other loves , there wouldn’t be so many lonely people out there.“

 Star YA Authors Reveal Inspirations and Challenges | SLJ SummerTeen 2014LaMarche was motivated to write Like No Other (Penguin, 2014) by the ultimate young romance tale of Romeo and Juliet. “I wanted to do a more of a traditional dramatic romance with the intensity of Romeo and Juliet, Say Anything, and West Side Story.  A place so insular and where the stakes are so high that they practically put up a wall in between people.“ For this reason she chose the culturally different and historically divided Crown Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn as the setting to her star-crossed lovers’ tale. Her protagonists are a Hassidic Jewish girl and a West Indian boy who live on opposite sides of the Eastern Parkway.

TheQueenofZombieHearts cover Star YA Authors Reveal Inspirations and Challenges | SLJ SummerTeen 2014YA lit can range in steaminess and sexual content. Showalter, whose Queen of Zombie Hearts (Harlequin Teen, Sept. 2014) re-imagines Lewis Carroll’s Alice and Wonderland, lets her characters decide the “age-appropriateness” of the book she’s writing. She enjoys writing teen romances because she’s always been a true romantic at heart. “I put the beliefs in my books that there is someone out there for everyone and that love conquers all.”

During the Sports panel, we learned that Kwame Alexander’s novel in verse about two basketball-playing brothers, Crossover (HMH, 2014), seemingly came out of nowhere. The author was approached by an editor at an event, who asked if he’d ever considered writing a novel in verse for reluctant readers.

crossoverkwame e1399644982353 Star YA Authors Reveal Inspirations and Challenges | SLJ SummerTeen 2014Though Alexander had never thought about it, his response was an exuberant: “Yes!” During the panel, Alexander discussed how he came to write his book, as well as the response he’s gotten from fans. As SLJ reviews editor and panel moderator Kiera Parrott observed, Alexander’s novel resonates with those who enjoy sports and those who aren’t athletically inclined. Alexander says that’s because he draws upon some his very real feelings and emotions when writing Crossover. He, himself, wasn’t a basketball player as a teen—his sport of choice was tennis—but he experienced the same feelings of competitiveness, which he brought to the book. “I wasn’t crisp like [tennis players were],” he said. “I’m this six-foot-four dude in corduroy shorts… playing tennis and trash talking… I tried to bring that to the characters in Crossover, which may not necessarily be how seventh and eighth grade boys play basketball, but it’s how I played [tennis] when I was in ninth grade.”

Though athletics are a big part of the book, there was also far more that the author wanted to explore in order to reach reluctant male readers. Family played a huge role in particular, with Alexander revisiting his own complicated relationship with his father. “I knew I wanted the book to [have] a relationship about a boy and his father primarily, because it was something I had never dealt with,” he said. “My father was an academic [and wasn’t] emotive. I didn’t hear him say, ‘I love you.’ How did I know this man loved me?” Exploring that complex father-son bond became the jumping-off point for Crossover. He cited a phrase his mentor, poet Nikki Giovanni, uses—”dancing naked on the floor”—to explain his philosophy toward his work. “You can like it,” he said, “you can check it out and laugh… but we’re putting it all out there.”

Alexander’s authenticity is working–kids who ordinarily would never read are glued to his books, and he couldn’t be happier, he told viewers, describing a moment when a self-described nonreader told him he couldn’t put the book down. “That was the moment there,” Alexander said. “That was it for me.”

bluegold Star YA Authors Reveal Inspirations and Challenges | SLJ SummerTeen 2014Dr. Susan Stan, professor of children’s and young adult literature at Central Michigan University moderated the panel on International Authors/International Stories. The authors, who included Elizabeth Stewart (Blue Gold; Annick Press, 2014); Kat Beyer (The Demon Catchers of Milan; Egmont, 2012), Tanuja Desai Hidier (Born Confused; Scholastic, 2002); and Michael Williams (Now is the Time for Running; Little, Brown, 2011); were beaming into SummerTeen from around the globe—London, South Africa, Vancouver, and Michigan. There books represented a diversity of countries, cultures, and genres—from contemporary realism set in modern day Africa, China, and Canada to dark, magical fantasy set in Milan to a coming-of-age journey set in the New York City Club scene and in the streets of Bombay to a harrowing portrait of a family working in the diamond minds of Zimbabwe. Questions from the virtual audience touched upon issues of activism in the Third World, using the lens of food to explore culture, and how the derivation and history of words and phrases can inform language and word choice. The issue of cultural appropriation and authenticity also came up. Beyer commented, “Write what you want to write… We need writers of every color to write about what they love.” Desai Hidier added, “Never underestimate the value of your own story.”

seventhLondon Star YA Authors Reveal Inspirations and Challenges | SLJ SummerTeen 2014And during the Graphic Novels panel, authors of recent graphic novels explored the history, problems, and potential of this all-encompassing format. Beau Schemery, author of The 7th of London, discussed some of the challenges that graphic novels have faced, bringing up how they are are still marred both by the stigma that they’re inherently childish and that they’re bad for children. However, he believes that graphic novels are essential for children, calling them “gateway books” because of their ability to reach reluctant readers. “It’s easier to hook people because they’ve got a visual [element]. It’s less of a burden on the reader for them to just start reading. It’s a great way to get kids interested in reading.” Daniel Lafrance, author of War Brothers, said he finds that many parents do assume that graphic novels are child appropriate: a mistaken judgment, as his own book deals with child soldiers in Uganda. He doesn’t believe that books should be banned or restricted. “It’s just a matter of making sure people know who the book is for,” he said. Barbarian Lord author Matt Smith added, “A lot of times, people assume [these books are] for younger readers, even though the ideas and scenarios are best understood by an older audience.”
Chasing Shadows 197x300 Star YA Authors Reveal Inspirations and Challenges | SLJ SummerTeen 2014Swati Avasthi, author of Chasing Shadows, spoke of the problematic nature of comics and how she addresses that in her own work. She grew up reading comics but was uncomfortable with some of the sexualized, objectifying images of superheroines such as Wonder Woman and the Black Canary. With Chasing Shadows, a work that’s part graphic novel, part prose, she chose to use her book to challenge the assumption of what a comic book heroine has to look like. Drawing inspiration instead from seminal Hindu texts and a comic book based on the Hindu story of Savitri, a brave and wise woman who uses cunning to save her husband from death, Avasthi was gratified to be able to expose readers to a protagonist of color. She emphasized the importance of having access to mirror and window books–books that reflect a reader’s experience as well as those that provide a look at the experiences of others. Lafrance agreed, stressing that with War Brothers, he wants to give kids information on things happening in other parts of the world. “Our teenagers get a sense that the world’s a big place, [that] there’s issues out there.”

While novel-writing is often a solo gig, the presenters on the Tag Team panel spoke about how their recent works were products of collaborative efforts. Prolific paranormal romance author Julie Kagawa shared that she had lots of fun writing a short story for the Grimm collection (Harlequin Teen, 2014), inspired by the original fairy tales and edited by Christine Johnson. She also shared that every book has more than one person involved in the behind-the-scenes creativity. “All writers have to collaborate with their agents and their editors. If you want to write, you have to be willing to listen. A collaborator can bring a new perspective to the story—can see things that you wouldn’t have thought about. As a writer, you have to be open to suggestions.”

Quarantine feature Star YA Authors Reveal Inspirations and Challenges | SLJ SummerTeen 2014

Lex Hrabe and Thomas Voorhies, who together wrote the “Quarantine” series (Egmont USA) under the name “Lex Thomas,” agreed. After a career as screenplay writing partners, the pair decided to try their hand at writing YA novels. “I think even if you write alone you need someone to bounce ideas off of. Those ideas don’t become real until you voice them and see them from a different perspective,” Hrabe shared. The duo wrote the first post-apocalyptic book about a highschool that becomes quarantined in a space of two months, with Voorhies writing the first draft and Hrabe expanding upon it, each partner trusting the other’s creative decisions.

Kiersten White and Jim DiBartolo took a slightly different approach for In the Shadows (Scholastic, 2014), their hybrid illustrated novel. White was responsible for the text of their book, while DiBartolo told his part of the story through illustrations. Seemingly unrelated, the alternating text and visual narratives give hidden clues to the secrets each storyteller planted in their specific chapters. The partners would send a completed chapter to the other and would be influenced in their own work so that the text-heavy and wordless sections inform upon the other. White shared “I found myself incorporating more visual elements in my writing than I have in the past because it gelled better with Jim’s art.” It took a lot of communication and coordination to make the project work, Bartolo added, but they strived to keep their sections true to their own vision. “We were each our own storytellers.”

Monstrous affections 214x300 Star YA Authors Reveal Inspirations and Challenges | SLJ SummerTeen 2014Husband-and-wife team Kelly Link and Gavin Grant, co-editors of Monstrous Affections (Candlewick, 2014), are used to collaborating with each other. Longtime editors and publishers of their own small press and zine, the pair works on projects so often, they have to force themselves to pause until the next day. They were inspired to reach out to authors for tales about monsters on a road trip with Holly Black. “We were discussing why vampires usually date people in high school. If we were vampires, we would spend time in a retirement community, chatting with someone who had the same childhood and adolescent experience as you. Those comments just got the ball rolling about all the different kinds of interactions that monsters have with human beings,” Link said to the audience.

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We Ask SLJ Columnists & Bloggers: What Are You Reading This Summer? Fri, 25 Jul 2014 20:22:32 +0000 SLJ asked some of its columnists and bloggers the big question: what are you reading this summer? ]]> What are you reading this summer? Ah, the question that is on the lips of so many of us. Summer reading lists pop up everywhere, from sites from the American Library Association and the TED blog to NYC Summer Reading and Barnes and Noble.

Curious about what columnists and bloggers at SLJ are reading? Here’s what some of them are delving into.

 We Ask SLJ Columnists & Bloggers: What Are You Reading This Summer?Travis Jonker, SLJ “100 Scope Notes” blogger

“I recently read Artists, Writers, Thinkers, Dreamers: Portraits of 50 Famous Folks & All Their Weird Stuff (Chronicle, 2014) by James Gulliver Hancock—entertaining summer fare. The road trip graphic novel Sisters (Graphix, Aug. 2014), by Raina Telgemeier is a perfect summer read for kids and grown ups. I loved Countdown (Scholastic, 2010), so I can’t wait to get started on Revolution by Deborah Wiles, which takes place in the summer of 1964. For humor, I’ll be reading the new “Macanudo” anthology by Argentine cartoonist Liniers. And arriving in August is Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature by Betsy Bird, Jules Danielson, and Peter Sierut—a must for grownups who wants the dirt on kids books.”

Joyce Valenza We Ask SLJ Columnists & Bloggers: What Are You Reading This Summer?Joyce Valenza, SLJ “NeverEnding Search” blogger

“I am catching up with some YA titles I missed. Just finished Eleanor and Park (St. Martin’s, 2013) and fell in love with this honest love story, those characters, the shifting narrative, Park’s parents, and so identified with the wild, curly hair thing. I am in the middle of We are All Completely Beside Ourselves (Putnam, 2013) by Karen Joy Fowler and am loving Rosemary’s voice, its interesting structure, and the gradual revelations about this unusual family. Loaded on my reader and ready to go are: It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens (Yale University Press, 2013) by danah boyd; One Plus One by Jojo Moyes. And I am currently right in the middle of Donna Tartt’s artful, elegant, and engrossing The Goldfinch.

Betsy Bird, SLJ “A Fuse #8 Production” blogger

BetsyTweet frame2 We Ask SLJ Columnists & Bloggers: What Are You Reading This Summer?

Richard Byrne avatar 1404160346 70x70 We Ask SLJ Columnists & Bloggers: What Are You Reading This Summer?Richard Byrne, SLJ “Cool Tools” columnist:

“Two things that I have read this summer: Unleashing Student Superpowers (Corwin, 2014) by Kristen Swanson and Hadley Ferguson; Orkneyinga Saga: This History of the Earls of Orkney (Penguin, 1981), a book of Icelandic folklore translated by Hermann Palsson and Paul Edwards.”

Christopher Harris avatar 1399477600 70x70 We Ask SLJ Columnists & Bloggers: What Are You Reading This Summer?Chris Harris, SLJ “Next Big Thing” columnist:

“Just starting Bill Bryson’s latest book, One Summer: America, 1927 (Doubleday, 2013). In his usual witty style, Bryson is sharing the amazing series of events that all took place in 1927.”

LisaKropp We Ask SLJ Columnists & Bloggers: What Are You Reading This Summer?Lisa G. Kropp, SLJ “First Steps” columnist:

“The Crossover (Houghton, 2014) by Kwame Alexander.  After listening to Kwame speak at SLJ Day of Dialog, I knew that I needed to read his new book. Plus, my 12- and 14-year-old sons have tried to steal it off of my nightstand already!

The Thickety: A Path Begins (HarperCollins, 2014) by J.A. White. I totally judged this book by its cover at the preview this winter. I have been looking forward to reading it ever since.

We Were Liars (Delacorte, 2014) by E. Lockhart. Because who doesn’t want to read a story with an unreliable narrator?

Unbroken: An Olympian’s Journey from Airman to Castaway to Captive (Delacorte, 2014) by Laura Hillenbrand. Coming out in November, this is an adaptation of her 2010 book Unbroken (Random House) for young adults. I’m always looking for intriguing narrative nonfiction, and this seems perfectly fitted to that bill!

Sisters (Graphix, 2014) by Raina Telgemeier. I don’t read graphic novels all that often. I love how honest the voices and illustrations are in Raina’s novels.”

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Librarians, Media React to Launch of Kindle Unlimited Fri, 25 Jul 2014 15:15:35 +0000 Kindle Unlimited In a long-expected move, Amazon on July 18 announced the launch of Kindle Unlimited, a new subscription service that will give users unlimited access to a selection of 600,000 ebooks and more than 2,000 audiobooks on Amazon Kindle devices and any device with a Kindle app for $9.99 per month. Amazon is not first to market with an “all you can read” commercial ebook subscription platform—it follows last year’s launch of Scribd and Oyster. But the online retailer’s financial resources, marketing clout, and massive base of Kindle users will doubtless raise consumer awareness of ebook subscription services while altering the competitive landscape for all providers of ebooks, including libraries.

“I’m enough of a realist to assume that consumers will gravitate to the cheapest, most convenient source of content, whether that’s Amazon or the public library,” said Jimmy Thomas, executive director of Colorado’s Marmot Library Network. “Amazon continues to set a high standard of convenience libraries should attend to. And every time this huge corporation does something on a massive scale, libraries should be reminded to approach services differently. Competing with Amazon on its own terms is not a good direction for libraries. But thinking about how to complement Amazon is worthwhile.”

Describing the service as a potentially “disruptive challenge to libraries,” Jamie LaRue, principal of LaRue and Associates Consulting, told LJ that “even in rural areas now, a lot of folks have ereaders, and find that they prefer ebooks. This kind of service, at that price point, will probably result in another market shift. $9.99 is a pretty good deal. And let’s remember that the average monthly payment per household for libraries is only $2.68.”

Amazon’s appetite for market share remains voracious as ever, noted Eric Hellman, president of Gluejar and its site, which helps make specific ebook titles free under a Creative Commons license. “It’s clear that Amazon sees ‘free’ as its competition in the ebook space. And yes, libraries occupy space in the ebook market that Amazon wants for itself.”

The reviews are in

At launch, there are chinks in the armor of this new 600,000 title behemoth. While Amazon has publicized the availability of popular series including “Harry Potter,” “The Lord of the Rings,” and “The Hunger Games,” as many as 500,000 of the titles currently available on Kindle Unlimited were self-published through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select program, according to publishing industry newsletter Publisher’s Lunch. At least for now, the “big five” publishers—Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Macmillan, and Hachette Book Group—are not part of the Kindle Unlimited offering. So, despite the size of this initial collection, many libraries still have access to plenty of popular ebooks that are unavailable through the service.

“From a library perspective, Kindle Unlimited seems unlikely to affect demand for library materials at all,” said Sarah Houghton, director of California’s San Rafael Public Library (SRPL) and blogger at “Six hundred thousand titles is not a lot.  Our library participates in Link+, a cooperative lending project that makes tens of millions of titles from libraries across California and Nevada available in print to our communities—at no charge to them.”

SRPL’s ebook catalog also offers about 50,000 ebook titles, Houghton added. In terms of raw numbers, that might seem insignificant by comparison, but Houghton contends that “our selection is also much better than what you’d find in Kindle Unlimited, including most bestselling titles from the Big Five publishers.”

Amazon’s announcement was initially greeted with mostly unvarnished praise on Twitter and other social media channels, but several major media outlets gave Kindle Unlimited somewhat tepid reviews once they had the opportunity to explore the service.

Washington Post consumer tech reporter Heather Tsukayama wrote, “if you want any of the top five current New York Times fiction bestsellers, for example, you’re not going to find them in the Unlimited catalog…. I recently did a rundown of other companies that are trying to be the ‘Netflix for books,’ before this announcement. What I found is that no book subscription service has everything you want to read.”

An Associated Press review also highlighted the lack of bestsellers, with technology editor Anick Jesdanun writing that “it turns out the library of 600,000 is bit like a small bookstore with a few current titles such as ‘The Hunger Games’ [series], attached to a block-sized bargain bin of obscure stuff mixed with Robinson Crusoe and other classics that are in the public domain and available for free online anyway.”

Jesdanun did go on to praise an audiobook feature that synchronizes ebooks with their corresponding audiobooks, so that users can stop reading an ebook, and then have the audiobook version pick up where they left off. However, the ultimate verdict was that users would need to read three or more books per month to get any value from the subscription, and “the limited selection makes it tougher to find those three books a month, especially for those who already get a book a month for free through [Amazon] Prime.”

Similarly, Victor Luckerson at Time magazine’s Techland blog estimated that users “would need to read more than 16 books per year to derive a greater value from Kindle Unlimited than buying the books individually.”

Publisher problems

On The Economist’s Babbage blog, columnist Glenn Fleishman expressed skepticism about the possibility of Amazon negotiating subscription deals with any of the Big Five publishers in the near term, writing, “what people want to read should provide a strong market force. Publishers already wary of Amazon during its brutal Hachette negotiations may be disinclined to grant more power to the firm by allowing their catalogues to increase the volume of volumes on offer.”

Heather Teysko, director of innovation and development for the Califa Library Group, also noted the lack of goodwill that Amazon has with these publishers.

“I can’t see the Big Five going to [Kindle Unlimited] any time soon because of the contract disputes, like with Hachette,” she said. Teysko noted that that Califa’s enki ebook platform doesn’t offer Big Five titles, either, but questioned how a commercial subscription service could work without them.

“I’m not the biggest fan of the Big Five, and we’ve taken the strategic decision not to ‘go after’ them for enki, but I’d imagine that if a patron is paying $9.99/month for something, they’d want at least some of them. I would.”

Meanwhile, several independent publishing advocates expressed their own doubts about the new service.

Mark Coker, founder and CEO of indie ebook publisher and distributor Smashwords, wrote on his company’s official blog that while he was “pleased to report” that Scribd and Oyster were the fastest growing retail channels at Smashwords, “Indies would do well to avoid Kindle Unlimited for one simple reason: it requires KDP Select exclusivity.”

Authors enrolled in KDP Select give Amazon the exclusive rights to publish their ebooks in exchange for free marketing via Amazon’s Kindle Countdown Deals and free book promotions. So, an independent author could not make their work available via Smashwords or any other ebook distributor.

While stating that Amazon deserves “massive kudos for catalyzing the rise of ebooks,” Coker argued that “exclusivity starves competing retailers of books readers want to read, which motivates readers to move their reading to the Kindle platform. This is why Amazon has made exclusivity central to their ebook strategy. They’re playing a long-term game of attrition.”

On his blog, Hugh Howey, author of the sci-fi hit Wool—which was originally published via Amazon KDP—noted that the Kindle Unlimited service relies on a two-tiered payment system. “Traditionally published authors get the full price, because their publisher gets the full sales commission,” Howey explains. “Self-published authors get a flat fee, probably something around $2 per read. There have been howls over this bifurcation, with people claiming that Amazon, for the first time, is treating indies worse than traditionally published authors. But that’s not true. Amazon has often treated indies worse than traditionally published authors.”

Don’t mention it

Regardless of how the service and its available selection are ultimately viewed, Amazon’s sheer size and influence over retail and publishing ensured significant media coverage during the past week. And while Slate did syndicate an Inside Higher Ed reaction column written by Gustavus Aldolphus College librarian Barbara Fister, some librarians found it vexing that the vast majority of reviewers and reporters failed to mention libraries as part of the modern ebook lending landscape when comparing Kindle Unlimited to competitors such as Oyster and Scribd. Or, less frequently, writers used the announcement as an opportunity to pen op-eds about the death of libraries.

“This massive amount of press attention is not only discussing a new service—and who knows how it will turn out—but more importantly, they rarely mention libraries and what they offer,” said Gary Price, editor of LJ infoDOCKET. “So, it’s as much [a point of concern] about mindshare and relevance as it is about a new Amazon service.”

This low level of awareness regarding ebooks and other online resources available for free through public libraries remains troubling, Price added. Even in a best-case scenario—in which these subscription services have no direct impact on library circulation or library ebook book borrowing—their marketing efforts, combined with media coverage that regularly ignores libraries, does shape public perception regarding the relevance of libraries.

“I found that the mainstream media made a big deal immediately about comparing it to the other subscription programs out there, like Oyster and Scribd, but only recently through pop culture media, such as The Awl and Jimmy Kimmel) to get out there and say ‘Hey, libraries already do this too?’” said Kristi Chadwick, advisor, small libraries, for the Massachusetts Library System (MLS), emphasizing that she was expressing a personal opinion and not speaking on behalf of MLS.

It’s not that librarians aren’t trying to get this message out, she added, “but where Amazon is concerned, I feel we are shouting into the void at times.”

Linda Braun, youth services manager at the Seattle Public Library, noted that “what’s problematic is that it shows that other media don’t understand what the role of the library is—that we do have these resources and we do play an important role in the community.”

Noting that Netflix had grown from startup to 36 million subscribers—30 million now streaming—in 15 years, Price added that libraries ignore the growth of these services at their peril. Amazon, he reminded infoDOCKET readers, already has three years’ worth of data on library titles that were borrowed via OverDrive using a Kindle device or app, giving them an edge should they choose to target library users with this service. And arguments that libraries will always be unique in their offer of free content may no longer be accurate if one of these services decides to pursue an optional ad-supported model, akin to Spotify. The entrance of a major new competitor into a market often drives such innovations.

“The apparent entrance of Amazon into subscription market is exciting for the industry as a whole,” Scribd co-founder and CEO, Trip Adler, said in a statement to the press. “It’s validation that we’ve built something great here at Scribd. Publishers, authors and readers alike have all seen the benefit, so it’s no surprise they’d want to test the waters. Successful companies don’t fear competition, but rather embrace it, learn from it and use it to continue to fuel their own innovation which is exactly what we intend to continue doing.”

Room for everyone

More competitors may soon follow. On July 22, the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) released the results of an extensive survey of 4,000 industry professionals including publishers, libraries, book sellers, and aggregators, and 80 percent of respondents said they believe that ebook publishing was inevitably moving toward subscription-based models. Libraries may want to start considering the possibility of a world in which a retailer—such as Amazon—has managed to get all of the Big Five on board with an affordable subscription service, and how they might respond.

“It seems like everyone is seeing these subscriptions as an inevitable way that the business is going, and I think that, for libraries, it just means that differentiating your collection and focusing on what makes the library collection unique is even more important,” said Teysko. “Offering the bestsellers through vendors won’t necessarily be as appealing if the Big 5 come on board, and patrons can borrow them for $10/month, but at the same time, highlighting local authors, encouraging local authors, showcasing local history; these are all things that the library can do to differentiate themselves.”

As surveys by LJ and others has shown, regular library users tend to read many more books each year than the average U.S. consumer. They borrow more, buy more, and use e-readers more frequently. For now, Chadwick said she thinks that these new subscription services will likely fold into many users’ reading habits without an adverse effect on libraries.

“Honestly, I think that it has its place in the whole ecosystem of ebooks and readers, from a holistic viewpoint,” she said. “It gives access—as do we—and people are going to choose what they want to have access to based on their needs. We just need to ensure that libraries stay part of that need as new programs and models appear.”

Braun pointed out that as these subscription services emerge and become more popular, libraries will need to be prepared to provide access to content to users who cannot afford subscriptions, and to help other patrons learn how to use these services, much as libraries continue to do with e-readers, tablets, and more recently, streaming devices.

“The public library is part of the local community, which is something Amazon—and Google, for that matter—can never be,” Thomas noted. “Working on services in and with the community seems like an advantage public libraries will long have.”

LaRue agreed, noting that “even if it’s multiplatform, and authors approve, and they have all the best sellers, there will still be a place for the libraries—children’s services, sanctuary, meeting space, study space, maker space. But for most public libraries, circulation is the driver—and this is clearly a shot across the bow.”

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Sketching Celebrities | SLJ Spotlight Fri, 25 Jul 2014 13:00:34 +0000 ArtistsWritersThinkersDreamers 236x300 Sketching Celebrities | SLJ SpotlightJames Gulliver Hancock’s Artists, Writers, Thinkers, Dreamers: Portraits of 50 Famous Folks & All Their Weird Stuff offers a charming and whimsical look at well-known figures, through quirky drawings of items linked to them, such as John Lennon’s signature glasses or the flowers Billie Holiday wore in her hair. Inspire your teen patrons to create detailed portraits of celebrities or friends or even themselves.

What You’ll Need:
Sketch paper


1. Choose a subject. Have your teens pick someone—themselves, a friend, a family member, a favorite celebrity, even a pet.
2. Brainstorm. Instruct your patrons to come up with a list of objects they associate with their subject.
3. Get drawing! (Collages make a great alternative as well—have magazines on hand for clipping photos.)

Age range: Middle to High School

HANCOCK , James Gulliver. Artists, Writers, Thinkers, Dreamers: Portraits of 50 Famous Folks & All Their Weird Stuff. illus. by James Gulliver Hancock. 112p. Chronicle. 2014. pap.$19.95. ISBN 9781452114569.

Gr 8 Up –This quirky visual take on famous figures goes heavy on graphics to present brief profiles of people based around objects associated with them. Hancock explains in his introduction that people’s relationships to their possessions have always interested him, discussing how Che Guevara is associated with his beret or Grace Kelly with her scarf: “Like possessions, small quirks reflect a person’s identity—their clothes, their favorite food, the house they grew up in, the people they know.” Hancock has chosen an array of well-known individuals, from royalty (Queen Elizabeth, Princess Diana) to musicians (Elvis Presley, John Lennon) to artists (Frida Kahlo, Andy Warhol) to politicians (Margaret Thatcher, Barack Obama) to scientists (Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci). Crammed to the brim with whimsical line drawings depicting the subjects’ hobbies, romantic partners, favorite articles of clothing, vices, and more, each page explodes with creative and intriuging details. An irreverent tone runs through the work; for instance, Billie Holiday’s page features an image of heroin with the words “abused this.” Admittedly, with so little text and no back matter, the book will have no use to those seeking resources for reports or essays, but Hancock has captured the essence of his subjects with these snarky and humorous mini-biographies. Browsers will be in for a treat, and more artistic readers may even be inspired to create their own portraits of celebrities or friends.–Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal

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