School Library Journal The world's largest reviewer of books, multimedia, and technology for children and teens Tue, 31 Mar 2015 20:21:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 One-to-One: Let’s Have One Librarian for Every 1:1 School | Pivot Points Tue, 31 Mar 2015 20:00:36 +0000 Spring has arrived. Despite seasons of budget cutbacks, education leaders are spending again. In the last several months, two separate districts in the Portland (OR) area have visited our district looking for guidance as they seek to invest in technology. One-to-one devices are a favorite. According to, worldwide spending on K–12 classroom technology exceeded $13 billion in 2013. The report, “Technology in Education: Global Trends, Universe Spend and Market Outlook,” found that technology investments “should continue to grow at a compound annual rate of eight percent through 2018. That’s being driven in large part by the rise of mobile devices, which accounted for a full 62 percent of all instructional technology spending in K–12.” How might teacher librarians support this strategic work?

“Building and Sustaining 1:1 Programs” was one of five strategic categories identified by education leaders at the Fall Meeting of the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools. This column has looked at strategic partnerships and digital content and curriculum. As more districts seek to implement 1:1 programs with mobile devices, there are opportunities for teacher librarians to help move their schools ahead.

In a 2014 SLJ Leadership Summit keynote event, Dr. Mark Edwards and district librarians shared how librarians in award-winning Mooresville (NC) Graded School District are supporting an established district-wide 1:1 program. Similar success can be seen in Vancouver (WA) Public Schools where a Digital Promise case study has showcased how teacher librarians are supporting similar digital initiatives.

A different kind of library program

With mobile devices, students are no longer limited by a textbook or access to the library. When the researchable moment occurs, students have just-in-time access to ideas, information, and resources. This means thinking differently about the library. With 1:1, the reason for students to visit a library may be less about tapping resources than gaining access to space and other students.

During a recent visit to Jesuit High School in Portland, OR, I talked to Library Director Gregory Lum. This is the first year in which students have iPads at Jesuit. Lum’s library is large enough to easily accommodate four classes at a time. With 20-foot high ceilings, large windows, a skylight, and copious seating, the facility immediately invokes library envy. Despite this, Lum said that plans are already underway for renovations to better meet the needs of iPad-enabled patrons. The library already offers computers, comfortable furnishings, and a rich array of digital content. Students continue to fill the library for regularly scheduled classes for library instruction or research, and on their own time. Lum hopes to add enclosed spaces so that whole group instruction can occur without bothering other patrons and small conference rooms to facilitate group collaborations. Fixed shelving may give way to more movable and flexible fixtures. “We want to provide a warm environment for students and faculty,” Lum said. “From meeting/team rooms to a balcony or loft to an enclosed instructional space, the new library space will have multiple uses.”

Digital library resources also gain importance. With devices in hand, students are increasingly likely to enter the library not through a door, but through an app or a website. The ability to download textbooks and library books and retrieve information from databases means that the 1:1 device serves as an important access point to library materials. If libraries do not provide suitable alternatives, students will turn elsewhere.

Digital literacy should come hand in hand with this increasingly digital environment. Teacher librarians need to work aggressively to make information literacy and problem-solving not merely library lessons, but also part of the instructional fabric of the school. Librarians need to shift their teaching from locating and accessing resources to evaluating, curating, and effectively using information—especially if it doesn’t come from the library’s walled garden.

Whether at school or at home, students are already taking research into their own hands.

Recently, I listened to a friend’s middle school daughter talk about how she and a friend were up in arms about a planned development that would threaten a dog park near their home. Her source? Facebook.

Ray-Mark_Contrib_WebMark Ray ( is the director of instructional technology and library services at the Vancouver (WA) Public Schools.

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Q&A: YA Author with Autism Talks to SLJ About “Autism on the Page” Event Tue, 31 Mar 2015 15:31:10 +0000 corinneduyvis3-crop-web (2)

Photo credit: Maija Haavisto

Corinne Duyvis writes about diverse characters in her young adult fiction, and in her first book, Otherbound (Amulet, 2014) a YA fantasy, both of the book’s protagonists are disabled people of color, and one of them is bisexual. The heroine of her next title, On the Edge of Gone (Amulet Books), due in Spring 2016, is an autistic girl who must survive a disastrous comet impact set in near-future Amsterdam.

For Duyvis, diversity is a reflection of who she is, not your typical author of young adult books—nor typical anything. As a Dutch citizen who has lived in Amsterdam her entire life—English is her second language—she dropped out of high school at the age of 14, was later diagnosed with autism, then Asperger’s, and at 23 was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Hers is a challenge and journey she’s written about in The Guardian.

She and YA author Kody Keplinger cofounded Disability in Kidlit, a website dedicated to discussing the portrayal of disability in middle grade and young adult literature through “articles, reviews, interviews, and discussions, examining this topic from various angles,” according to the website. All of the content is written by disabled contributors.

This July will be Disability in Kidlit’s second anniversary, and Duyvis’s latest personal project is a month-long event called Autism on the Page, which will kick off April 1 in recognition of National Autism Awareness Month.

Duyvis talks to SLJ about Autism on the Page, Disability in Kidlit, and some of the common pitfalls related to writing about (and reviewing) disabled characters in books.


Disability in Kidlit website

Tell me more about Disability in Kidlit. Why did you and Kody start it?

The discussion of diversity in children’s books is probably at an all-time high, which is a wonderful development. Unfortunately, disability is often neglected in these discussions. Although there are many wonderful allies who include and champion disability, we were missing two core elements: one, self-advocacy/expertise—people who knew the tropes and realities inside and out—and two, focus—a single place where disability is not a side note in the broader diversity discussion but is front and center. Thus, in 2013, author Kody Keplinger and I started Disability in Kidlit. We wanted to focus on three main topics:

  • Reviews of books featuring disabled characters, done by someone who shares that disability. This allows reviews to focus on both framing (“How is the disabled character handled in the text? What kind of tropes and stereotypes were invoked?”) and technical accuracy (“Actually, hearing aids don’t work that way…”).
  • Articles about people’s personal experiences, to showcase the realities of disability, which are often very different from popular portrayals.
  • Articles about tropes and stereotypes: giving examples in fiction and dissecting why they may be problematic or incorrect.

We also occasionally do roundtable discussions and interview authors who have written disabled characters. Aside from some of those interviews, every word on our website is by someone who identifies as disabled.

Tell us more about the Autism on the Page event that your website is hosting for Autism Awareness month.

Even before Disability in Kidlit was started, I wanted to do an event focusing on autism portrayals, which are often either lacking or badly misrepresented. Between my being autistic, Disability in Kidlit having numerous autistic contributors, and autism being one of the more commonly represented disabilities out there, autism seemed the logical choice to focus on for our first “special event.” [Kody’s and my blog] was the perfect platform to host this event.

For Autism on the Page—and all of April—we’re posting daily reviews, articles, and interviews, ranging from reviews of kidlit classics like Rules (Scholastic, 2007) to in-depth articles dissecting the way an autistic character’s “happy ending” is often handled in books.

Autism representation is intriguing, because it receives a fair amount of attention in popular media. There are still not enough portrayals, but proportionally speaking, more so than many other disabilities. Yet, much of this attention is misguided or skewed. It will take the form of inaccurate scaremongering, such as in many supposedly helpful “autism awareness” ads, and is often portrayed as a complete tragedy. In fiction, autistic characters are often either props or objects or fascination. With very few exceptions—I can think of only three mainstream middle grade/young adult novels with autistic protagonists written by openly autistic authors, and the third one is mine—those characters are written by non-autistic authors, who may get much of their information from the same misguided mainstream media portrayals. No wonder stereotypes and inaccuracies are so common!

Self-advocacy is key with any diverse movement, and in the disability community, where many disabled people are presumed to be incapable of speaking for themselves, it’s particularly essential. So an event like this, 30 days of people speaking for themselves, about themselves, about portrayals that affect them daily—it’s incredibly important. I sincerely hope people will listen.

Is Autism on the Page targeted toward specific ages, countries, or particular demographics?

Is it corny to say [it’s for] “everyone”? Honestly, anyone with an interest in representation and diversity would do well to keep an eye on the website/event. You might be surprised by what you learn.

Within the publishing industry, we’re particularly keen on reaching those in creative positions—authors, editors—to encourage them to include disabled characters and to write them accurately and respectfully. We’ve already heard from authors who have changed their approach to disability representation as a direct result of our website, which makes us overjoyed.

Librarians, teachers, and booksellers are also vital parts of our audience. Our reviews can double as recommendations or warnings regarding the portrayals within. For example, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Vintage, 2004) by Mark Haddon is a much-loathed book within the autism community, but many people outside of that community aren’t aware of this or don’t understand the reasons why. It’s one of the many books we’re covering in April, which will hopefully explain why it might not be the best book to hand to patrons interested in the condition. Conversely, a book like Anne Ursu’s The Real Boy (Walden, 2013) is one I wish all librarians would keep on their shelves, because it’s one of the very few representations of autism I can fully get behind. I hope my review will convince people in these positions to stock the book and feel comfortable recommending it.

Since we can’t review every book out there, our articles also form an important element. We hope they’ll give people the tools to determine the quality of disability portrayals for themselves. That said, we always remain open to questions (for example on our Tumblr or on Twitter) about specific books.

As far as countries, we generally focus on North America, as that’s where most of the team is located, minus myself. (I’m in the Netherlands.) However, our contributors are from all over the world, and we’re just as happy to cover English-language books published elsewhere. We’re also working on a list of “recommended books” specifically aimed at librarians and teachers, and we want to make sure it’s equally accessible within the United Kingdom, as well as in the United States, in terms of ISBNs, covers, availability, etc.

And who are the Disability in Kidlit experts pulling the information together?

The editors are Kody Keplinger, Kayla Whaley, and myself. All three of us are authors and deeply entrenched in the YA community, so we know the books, the trends, and the author’s side of publishing intimately. This helps us approach the concept of writing a disabled character from both a reader’s and writer’s perspective, which hopefully helps make our content more relevant to those audiences.

Also, all three of us are disabled: Kody is blind from birth and uses a guide dog, Kayla has Spinal Muscular Atrophy and uses a power wheelchair, and I have autism and ADD. This means we run into assumptions and stereotypes again and again—in real life, in the fiction we consume, and in the online YA community. We know what we’re talking about, and how fictional portrayals can perpetuate real-life stereotypes that affect us directly.

What makes this resource special? 

I know I keep harping on it, but: it’s the fact that every post discussing a particular disability is written by someone who shares the same (or a very similar) disability. For many books featuring disabled characters, along every step of the process—writer, agent, editor, publisher, marketer, reviewer—the odds are slim that someone has that condition or knows about it from something other than research or talking to people with second-hand information, yet readers take their word for it that this condition is portrayed respectfully. Sometimes books come on the market that are laughably unrealistic. We’re not even talking stereotypes, tropes, or framing here, which can be very subjective. We’re talking, for example, [about] details of assistive tools, or types of treatment, that could have been corrected if the author had talked to someone with that actual condition for five minutes.

People often don’t think about those things. And that’s why it’s important that we shine a light on the matter.

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“Port Chicago 50″ Wins Seventh Annual Battle of the Kids’ Books Tue, 31 Mar 2015 15:27:58 +0000 Port Chicago 50 as the victor of the yearly virtual tournament of books for children and teens. ]]>  


In BOB’s final round, The Closer, Newbery Medalist Clare Vanderpool, selects Steve Sheinkin’s Port Chicago 50 (Roaring Brook) as the victor of the yearly virtual tournament of books for children and teens. This nonfiction title about a group of African American men who endured discrimination, disaster, and charges of mutiny for standing up to the U. S. Navy during World War II beat out crowd favorite Cece Bell’s graphic novel memoir El Deafo (Abrams) and E. Lockhart’s much buzzed about YA novel, We Were Liars (Delacorte, all 2014).

After the first match of Round 3 in the March Madness–like elimination competition, in which author judge Kekla Magoon had the difficult task of choosing between El Deafo and Jacqueline Woodson’s lauded Brown Girl Dreaming (Penguin), many BOB fans lamented the fate of Woodson’s free-verse memoir.

Printz winner Marcus Sedgwick deliberated between Port Chicago 50 and the middle grade Scandinavian myth–rich West of the Moon by Margie Preus (Abrams) in the second match of Round 3. In his explanation for advancing the informational book, he shared, “I value that it demonstrated something that we need reminding of constantly—that whenever there is positive progress in the world it comes about through the actions of men and women deemed, at the time, to be awkward, unreasonable, or in this case, mutinous.”

The crowd-sourced Undead Poll is a BOB tradition in which the contest’s followers can vote for their favorite contenders. The voting took place in the weeks before the first Battle and fans had the opportunity to “resurrect” their darlings: whichever book had the most votes would come back in the game to compete in the final round. In a surprising turn of events, We Were Liars was the lucky winner of the Undead Poll.

The final match saw a nonfiction title, a middle grade graphic novel memoir, and a plot-twisting YA book go head to head to head. “Twists and turns.  Crossroads.  Switchbacks.  Forks in the road.  Roadtrips and reading are full of choices and peril.  It seems safer to sit idling in the middle of the road.  But it’s time to crank up the engine, fold up the map and choose a course.  For a  wonderful story of history, honor, and courage, I choose Port Chicago 50,” says Closer Vanderpool in her final, decision, a shock to many.

Even the author of the victorious title was slightly surprised at the win. “I’m incredibly honored, and always thrilled with any chance to get the Port Chicago story out there. I don’t for a second think my book is ‘better’ than any other in this battle—there were a lot of personal favorites in there, and I’m pretty sure my own daughter was rooting for El Deafo. Still, very exciting!” Sheinkin shared with School Library Journal in an email.

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The Lowdown on Bird’s “Fuse #8 TV” Tue, 31 Mar 2015 14:10:16 +0000 BetsyBird_SonyaSones

Photo of Betsy Bird by Sonya Sones.

Are you up on your Fuse #8 TV? If not, no better time to binge-watch than the present. Whether the show’s host, Betsy Bird, is interviewing authors or touring museum exhibitions, she laces her web TV series with the same humor, insight, and snark that her followers expect from her blog, A Fuse #8 Production. With trademark whimsy, Bird continues to keep librarians informed, aware, and, of course, entertained, about the latest in the world of kid lit and librarianship.

A popular feature includes the segment “Reading (Too Much into) Picture Bools,” in which Bird dreams up conspiracy theory interpretations of well-known titles. It’s a nod to the ways that classic works of children’s lit have been interpreted (and misinterpreted) over the years.

Each episode is published on the third Thursday of the month on, and they can also be accessed on YouTube. In her latest episode (there are six, so far), Bird riffs on a running exchange in P.D. Eastman’s classic Go Dog Go, in which a female dog, after many unsuccessful attempts, finally impresses another canine with a lavish hat at a big party. Bird quips to the camera, “Now, little girls, if you ask a boy to pay attention to you and he’s a total jerk to you over and over again, and then [later], there’s this crazy nice party, and he’s nice to you and says to get in his car with you…don’t go. Don’t go!”

Bird has also spent screen time touring the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art and chatting with authors and illustrators including Jennifer NivenVictoria Jamieson, and Henry Clark.

With books front and center, Bird packs each episode with the same tongue-in-cheek references and asides that pepper her blog posts. In the picture book conspiracy-themed episode, she uses Ed Emberley’s Go Away, Big Green Monster! (Little, Brown, 1992) as a farcical example. Bird brings up various political events for which the book could be a metaphor, before finally “deciding” that the monster on the cover represented former presidential candidate Ross Perot, due to its large ears.

Recorded live and sponsored by different publishers, NPR-style, the Fuse #8 TV episodes took some inspiration from Bird and Lori Prince’s Oscars-style pregame and postgame shows about the Youth Media Awards (YMA), launched in 2014. Recorded at SLJ’s offices and aired live on the morning of the awards ceremony at the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting, the shows feature Bird and Prince bantering about books they think will be slam-dunk winners—and their astonished, delighted, and befuddled reactions to the YMA outcome.

Bird’s arch sensibility is bringing out the fans on social media. A Twitter follower recently quipped, “Go Dog Go was my son’s favorite book. Now I find I was teaching him to prey on women all that time! The horror! ;)”

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Teens Review Beach Reads, Tearjerkers, and Humorous YA Tue, 31 Mar 2015 14:00:38 +0000 Kissing Ted Callahan (and Other Guys) and Sarah Benwell’s The Last Leaves Falling.]]> With spring break and summer around the corner, YA readers can start gathering fun titles to read by the pool side, such as Heather Burch’s Summer by Summer or Amy Spalding’s hilarious Kissing Ted Callahan (and Other Guys). But if you’re looking for a good cry, Sarah Benwell’s The Last Leaves Falling fits the bill. Check out the latest assessments from SLJ’s resident teen reviewers.

benwell last leavesBENWELL, Sarah. The Last Leaves Falling. S. & S. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481430654.
Gr 8 Up–Seventeen-year-old Sora doesn’t want to die, but he doesn’t want to linger on in the grip of ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). With his newfound friends from an internet chatroom and his family, he comes to terms with both the difficult decisions he must make about his final days, and saying goodbye to the people he cares about most.

Where to begin? I loved almost everything about this novel, and so far has been the best book I’ve read all year. The writing is absolutely gorgeous. It’s contemplative, elegant, personal, and glorious. It doesn’t leave you breathless from nonstop action, but meanders along at the pace of deep thought, and it’s perfect. Sora may be one of the most interesting main characters I’ve read about in a long time as well. He is simply a normal boy who wants to become a professor, live to an old age where he can be a fantastic grandfather and spoil his grandkids rotten, hang out with friends, and enjoy life. However, because of ALS, he has limited time and can only dream about doing all of that. His development from bitter and silent to someone with genuine friends who wants to make the most of the time he has left while still being agonized about dying at 17 is one of the best things about the novel. Sora has such an authentic voice, and his relationships with his family and friends are so well-developed that by the ending your heart aches not just for him, but for all of them as well. Mai and Kaito are some of the best friends I’ve ever read about in a YA novel, which makes the final scenes of the novel all the more devastating. In addition, Sora’s family is beautifully developed and I actually laughed out loud during some of his exchanges with his grandfather, even as I was recovering from fits of tears. This character development and emotional depth makes The Last Leaves Falling a resonant, powerful read.

I was disappointed by only a few nitpicky things, because the book was absolutely stunning. The format of the chatroom snippets was a bit hard to follow at times, mainly because Kaito and Mai had the same font assigned to their messages. It made remembering who was typing quite difficult at times. Also, the positioning of internet searches in the middle of interior monologues was often distracting, and I would have to reread the same paragraph several times to make sense of why the search bar was there. Otherwise, The Last Leaves Falling was outstanding.

The cover is beautiful. I would have added The Last Leaves Falling to my Goodreads shelves much earlier if I had seen this absolutely gorgeous cover instead of the generic ClipArt Cover they have featured. It’s got a very ukiyo-e vibe to it, making it feel classic yet somehow very modern. Also, points for being a story set in Japan that doesn’t have sakura blossoms on the cover, yet still has a cover that implies “this is set in Japan.” The cranes tie in beautifully to the recurring metaphors of the novel, and once you’ve stared at the beauty of the art for a while, you notice the boy in a wheelchair at the very bottom. This is just so perfect , because once you notice that detail, you cannot forget it, just like the way the plot of The Last Leaves Falling never allows you to forget that Sora has ALS.

I first picked up this book because it was set in Japan and wasn’t, you know, manga or nonfiction about ukiyo-e. I had no idea how powerful or beautiful it would be. That being said, The Last Leaves Falling is NOT a book for everyone. The ending involves suicide, and much of the plot talks about the ethics of deciding to end one’s life. If you’re triggered by depictions of suicide or discussions of it, don’t read this book.—Ella W., 15

burch summerBURCH, Heather. Summer by Summer. Zondervan. Apr. 2015. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9780310729631.
Gr 7
Up–On a gone-wrong dive trip, Summer and Bray are stranded on an island in Belize. They fight to survive and find the essentials of life on this tiny island. This book captured my attention with the survival aspect and I couldn’t put this book down until I was done. This book is beautifully written. I loved the survival aspect with a person who hates her. I felt like the book was going to be a thriller and it was. I also like how the romance got woven into the story. I was disappointed because the book was more about romance and I thought it would be more towards the survival side. As soon as Summer and Bray got on the island, the romance just started with no reason why. I would’ve liked a reason why, not just Bray suddenly kissing Summer.—Elisabeth L., 12

grey feralsGREY, Jacob. Ferals. HarperCollins. Apr. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062321039.
Gr 5–8–This story is about an orphan who lost his parents at a very young age. As he witnesses a surprising attack his world changes forever when he finds out who his parents are and why they died. I really liked how the plot developed over the course of the book, not just having everything thrown at readers at the beginning of the book. The book kind of reminded me of the “Percy Jackson” (Disney-Hyperion) or maybe “The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel” (Delacorte) series, because the character related to the main character and it developed over time. I was most disappointed in the ending of the story because it leaves you hanging: “But it wasn’t nothing. It was a spider. A spider white as bone.” Even though you know the spinning man is going to come back, you just do not know how.—Sam C., 14

st jean blankST. JEAN, Trina. Blank. Orca. Apr. 2015. pap. $12.95. ISBN 9781459808072.
8 Up—Jessica wakes up in a hospital and doesn’t remember a thing about her past life, or anything until the moment the buffalo, Ramses, put her in a coma. It doesn’t make sense, why can’t she remember? Why is she forgetting? Will Jessica fight her present-self to be the past-self everyone wants her to be, or will she take the fresh slate and start a new life somewhere else, where people don’t expect her to remember the things she can’t recall. In this thrilling page-turner, journey along with the amnesia patient who will make you feel so much more grateful for your memories, good and bad.

The cover made sense throughout the book. As much as I like it, and how it refers to Jessica’s inner conflict of tug of war with her past-self all throughout the book, isn’t that the same model on the cover of Judy Blume’s, Tiger Eyes? I looked it up, and I’m sure that this is the same girl modeling for both covers, and both covers are taken with the same shot! No offense, but it needs a little more work to be considered “fresh and original” but maybe you already knew that, because on the first three pages, it says cover art is: TO COME. Thank goodness.

I really loved how the author compares the past self of Jessica with her new, amnesia self. This type of book normally isn’t in my reading range, but I really loved seeing this character persevere, fail at persevering, and affect the lives around others including, the people she knew and now knows. It’s just really enjoyable to read the book, and I found it refreshing and comprehensible.

I wouldn’t change a single thing in the book, except where there were the few times the main character or another character used the term “God” in a derogatory and offensive way. I tell every author this when I read their books, so please replace the offensive slang with something more appropriate like “Gosh.” Be aware of religious readers! —Sam G., 13

spalding kissing tedSPALDING, Amy. Kissing Ted Callahan (and Other Guys). Little, Brown/Poppy. Apr. 2015. Tr $18. ISBN 9780316371520.
Gr 8 Up—Riley and Reid are hilariously stupid when it comes to interacting with the opposite sex, and what they write in the Passenger Manifest—I was cracking up the whole time! You’ll be swooning right along with Riley through Amy Spalding’s descriptions of Riley’s crushes. Then you’ll be laughing at her awkwardness that we can all relate to—in some way or another. And, of course, you can’t even compare anyone to Reid. He’s trying so hard and failing at equal measures, if you aren’t laughing at one character, it’s the other. I’m doubling over laughing just thinking about some of the lists. I was a little disappointed that the humor factor was turned down towards the end, but that’s okay because it made sense for the plot and the rest of the book was good too.—Charlotte L., 13



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Proposals Wanted for “Libraries Connecting Communities” Tue, 31 Mar 2015 13:46:51 +0000 TDS_INIT_GRAPHIC2Library Journal and School Library Journal are seeking a few good presentations for the annual virtual program “The Digital Shift” on October 14, 2015. This year’s theme: “Libraries Connecting Communities.” If you have a compelling story to share about how libraries of all types are innovating toward facilitating connection and supporting strong communities—we’d like to hear from you.

We are accepting proposals for 25-minute panels and 10-minute “Fast Learning” presentations within two tracks:

  • Creation, Curation, and Connection

How school, public, and academic libraries connect people to content and harness digital tools to create, curate, and deliver information. This could include hosting music by local musicians and self-published ebooks by local authors, engaging maker programs for the entire family, and much more.

  • Outreach and Engagement

How libraries convene and connect: people to one another and to vital resources, from health and wellness to early literacy programming, and libraries as a whole to other stakeholders in the civic enterprise, for example.

For full specs on submitting a successful proposal, visit the application page.

Last year’s event, “Libraries @ The Center” drew 6,500+ registrants and 3,500+ live attendees. Crowd-sourced presentations that day included popular sessions on “Digital Literacy, Corporate Data-Mining, and Government Surveillance” and “Hacking Your Notebook.”

LJ and SLJ are committed to diversity at our events. Please read our related policy.

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The Importance of Girls’ Stories: SLJ Chats with Nova Ren Suma About “The Walls Around Us” Tue, 31 Mar 2015 10:00:30 +0000 Photo by Erik Ryerson

Photo by Erik Ryerson

In her latest genre-bending YA novel, Nova Ren Suma explores the power of girls’ friendships, feminism, and unlikable narrators. Alternating between the points of view of two very different narrators—Violet, the up-and-coming ballet dancer with a dark secret and Amber, a teen who has been incarcerated since she was 13—the book has been much buzzed about and mentioned as one of the YA feminist reads of 2015. SLJ caught up with the author, who she shared what inspired her to write the ghostly The Walls Around Us (Algonquin, 2015).

The two narrators in this novel aren’t very likable or even relatable, but readers will still want to stick with them for the compelling stories that they share. What are your thoughts on whether protagonists in YA lit should be likable?

I don’t understand wanting to read a book to like the characters. I’m not reading for someone I want to be friends with. I’m reading for someone who’s interesting and fascinating, and that’s often a difficult character—a “bad character.” That’s not something I look for as a reader, so I certainly don’t think we should have to worry so much about creating palatable characters in YA lit. I don’t think there should be anything that “you should have to do” in YA lit. It’s an open plane..

I feel like this topic is problematic because it’s always the girl characters that are called out as being unlikable. Why doesn’t it come up with male narrators? Amy Reed recently wrote a piece on “Stacked” on just this issue.

It’s so much more fascinating to me to unpack someone who is not necessarily easy but someone who has many layers and is complex—that feels more authentic to me.

Which protagonist do you connect with the most?

You would imagine that I connect more with Violet because I studied ballet, jazz, and modern dance for years. I understand her ambition—not as a dancer but as a writer—to a frightening level. But actually, she is not the character that I most connect with. I’ve never been to jail or juvie, but I feel a much more personal connection with Amber. She’s telling the story from the [periphery], almost from the shadows. She’s telling everyone else’s story as if their stories are more important than hers.

I was such a shy kid growing up, and I completely understand putting yourself behind everyone else and being the observer. I love that she’s the storyteller. I have never been locked up when I was so young like she was, at 13, but if I was, I would have absolutely been drawn to the book cart. I would’ve devoured all of those books. I found my connection to her through her love of books.

We’ve heard the tagline for this book described as “Orange Is the New Black Swan.” Were either of those productions inspirations for any parts of Walls? I didn’t see the connection before I wrote the book, but I see it now, and I think it’s a wonderful way to bring readers to the book. I’m very flattered by it. I do remember seeing Black Swan, and I loved how dark and mind-bending it was. The book was sold on proposal to Algonquin in 2013. I kept seeing the posters for Orange Is the New Black on the subway, and I was curious. I worried, “What if this is too similar to what I’m writing about? Should I watch it?” There are certainly many overlapping themes, but it’s different enough, so I wasn’t too worried. And now I’m a huge fan of the show.

The book’s surrealist quality was inspired by David Lynch films and Twin Peaks. His work influences pretty much all of my books. And We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson was a definite reference and inspiration. The movie The Others with Nicole Kidman was also an influence.

This novel and your previous works often toe the line between reality and fantasy. Would you consider your books as part of the “magical realism” genre?

When I wrote my first YA, Imaginary Girls (Dutton, 2011), I absolutely thought of it as magical realism. The book was marketed as paranormal. The magical realism aspect wasn’t brought up until later. I noticed that recently magical realism in YA has been really starting to take off. And I’ve been really happy that my work has been included in this conversation. I have read, of course, Gabriel García Márquez, but also [Juan Rulfo’s] Pedro Páramo, a beautiful magical realism story set in a town in Mexico. These are works that I carry with me.

SLJ1503-Fic9up-The-Walls-around-Us-Nova-Ren-SumaDo you believe in karma? Many of the protagonists in this novel ultimately get their “just desserts.”

I was raised by hippies, and I grew up believing all sorts of things, including karma and that if you do good, good will come back to you. There will be justice. But as I grew older, I didn’t really see that happen. Maybe in writing this story about teenage girls and thinking about my own naïve teenage myself, I wanted there to be justice—even if it is a fantasy.

Your books often get at the heart of relationships between young women and how hurtful and uplifting they can be. Why do you think you come back to that theme again and again?

For me it’s so important to tell stories about young women and to write books told from their perspectives—all kinds of girls. I think again to my own experiences as a teenager. It wasn’t about finding true love. When I was in high school, my focus was on my really close relationships with friends. There was terrible drama, breakups, and the loss of friendships and how devastating that was. It was intense. In my writing about young women, so much of it is about our disconnection and connection to one another. Because if I’m writing about authentic lives and teenage girls, so much of their lives is about relationships between sisters, friendships, and frenemies. In that time [teen years], those were the closest relationships I had with other women. It’s hard to have that kind of friendship when you’re older. It’s such a beautiful intensity.

Kelly Jensen on Book Riot named The Walls Around Us one of the feminist YA reads of 2015. Why is it so important that readers understand how issues of power, identity, and girlhood are relevant to YA Lit and society today?

I absolutely identify as a feminist and I have for years. I remember when I was 12 years old and my mom got me a copy of Our Bodies Our Selves. It also taught me about feminism, that I was [a feminist]. The idea of feminism has gotten muddied, and a lot of people and young woman were afraid of the word and don’t understand what it means. I think it’s important to be talking and writing about it. And to be putting ourselves out there in our books and in our stories with powerful girls and strong characters who have agency in their lives and make choices for themselves. Obviously, the characters in Walls are incarcerated and their choices are taken away, but so much of this book is about what is still in their control and what they do with that agency. We’re speaking to the next generation with these books. I don’t want to give lessons; I just want to tell authentic stories that girls can connect to and that deal with girls having power in their lives. This is a very exciting time in YA lit and girls’ stories.

In Libba Bray’s keynote at the NYC Teen Author Festival, she asked, “Does sexism exist in YA?” and responded, “Abso-fucking-lutely.” Do you agree?

I was in audience when she gave that keynote. Libba is someone who inspires me on a personal and a literary level. She showed such bravery in going up there and saying those words, especially with what’s been happening lately: there’s been so much discussion and drama going on. She’s right: sexism in YA lit exists.

I think the reason that it’s such a difficult thing to hear is that this is an industry made up of women. Librarians, authors, bloggers, editors, we’re all women. How could it exist if we’re all women? We have to take a hard look at ourselves and ask difficult questions. Why do we elevate male authors in YA publishing? Why can a male author write from a female perspective and it can be taken more seriously and not the other way around? Why are there more men winning more awards in such a female-dominated format? Why are there more men on panels?

This is a conversation that has been going on behind closed doors for a long time, and it’s finally coming out. I think it’s so important that we’re having it right now. There are so many smart people being brave and putting themselves out there, but there are people who just don’t want to hear it. Our core audience is teens. What are we saying to young girls about their importance and significance? What are we leaving behind for the next generation?

The title is so evocative and brings to mind the physical walls of the prison and also points to the walls that keep women apart. What do you hope teens will take away from this theme?

Walls is so much about the idea of who do we see as innocent and who do we see as guilty. What are our limits on what we’re seeing outside of ourselves and what are we seeing honestly in other people? What are the assumptions that we make? So much is true in the real world outside the walls of this book. It felt so personal, too. It’s about how those walls are broken down and how they are able to come to justice or the truth about themselves and what’s real and what they’ve done.

Last week, #WomeninFiction began trending on Twitter and participants mentioned female characters they wanted to celebrate. What are some of yours?

I connected with Jane Eyre when I was really young. I even did a monologue from the scene of the red room in that book in Acting Club when I was 13. I also fell in love with Antoinette Cosway aka Bertha Mason from Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea and Offred from The Handmaid’s Tale. When I think about YA, I think about Romy in All the Rage. And one of my favorites, Deanna from Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr (Little, Brown, 2007). These are real, complicated, authentic characters.

Which authors would make you run to the bookstore in your pajamas to pick up their latest work?

Laura Kasischke’s Boy Heaven (2006) and Feathered (2008, HarperCollins) were the two novels that first made me want to be a YA writer. I admire Kasichke’s writing because it opened up that world for me. Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye (Doubleday, 1989) made me a reader; it changed my life. I didn’t understand much of what I was reading, but it was the first time I realized that girls’ stories were worthy of being told and important enough to be on an adult’s bookshelf.

Sara Zarr and Courtney Summers. Laura Ruby, Ellen Oh, and Rita Williams Garcia. Libba Bray and Gayle Forman. Jacqueline Woodson. Megan Abbot. Women writers who I admire not only for their writing, but also because of how they carry themselves in the industry.

Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on next?

I’m deep in a draft of my next novel for Algonquin. It’s very murky at this point. It’s been such an exciting time for Walls. I put so much of myself into that book. And it’s hard to switch into another book. I’m still in the discovery period of this new novel. I’m going to see what comes.



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Top-Notch YA Novels with Male Protagonists │ JLG’s Booktalks to Go Mon, 30 Mar 2015 18:30:35 +0000 Teen readers are in for a treat with the latest books from these A-List male authors. Whether it’s a new book in the series or a standalone title, the following selections from the editors at Junior Library Guild live up to the promise that we’ve come to expect from these award-winning writers.

Avi Catch You Later_AVI. Catch You Later, Traitor. 304p. Algonquin. 2015. ISBN 9781616203597. JLG Category: C+ : Advanced Readers (Grades 6-9).

During the height of the Red Scare, Pete’s father is accused of being a Communist: one rumor and his whole life changes. His best friend isn’t allowed to talk to him. He’s ostracized at school. When the FBI tries to corner the boy into informing on his dad, he decides to do some investigation of his own. What he learns is not what he expected.

He writes. He Skypes. He blogs. Fan-favorite Avi reflects on his website, provides teaching materials, and inspires kids to read and write to become better writers. A reader’s guide is available on the publisher’s page. A video of the Giants winning the pennant is available, “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World.” For more on the Red Scare, visit

MastermindsKORMAN, Gordon. Masterminds. 336p. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. 2015. ISBN 9780062299963. JLG Category: HIM : High Interest Middle School (Grades 5–8).

Growing up with the same set of friends seems normal in a small town. Then Eli learns that something secretive is happening in the place where everyone thought there were no secrets. What’s really going on? Who can he trust?

Check out the prolific author’s website for a reader’s forum, blog, and more resources. Fans can follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Go to the publisher’s website and read a sample of the first chapter to kids—the book will sell itself. What’s a visit with the author like? Read an account from a recent library visit. Indy Week posts an interview on their website.

hitcountLYNCH, Chris. Hit Count. 368p. Algonquin. 2015. ISBN 9781616202507. JLG Category: SH : Sports High (Grades 9 & Up).

“I hit him so hard, the clash of helmets and pads sounded like a gunshot across the field. I crushed him with the hit, held on to him, and crushed him again when I slammed him into the ground . . . I had arrived.” Arlo doesn’t care about the hit count, no matter what his mom says. Football is what he does; the pain and the dizziness is all just part of the game.

On Algonquin’s website, readers can meet the cast of this YA novel, and read an interview with the author. Do your patrons or students want to know the story behind the story? Share the author insights essay. What do professional football players think about the dangers of the sport? Read what Mike Ditka had to say in the Bloomberg View.

Book Review: The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason ReynoldsREYNOLDS, Jason. The Boy in the Black Suit. 272p. S. & S./Atheneum. 2015. ISBN 9781442459502. JLG Category: CH : City High School (Grades 10 & Up).

Matt never thought that he would get a part-time job in Mr. Ray’s funeral home, especially so soon after his mother’s death. The job suits him, however, and he is drawn to watching the mourners, if only to feel he isn’t alone in his grief. Between Mr. Ray and his new girl Lovey, Matt discovers how to live.

Recipient of The Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe award for New Talent, Reynolds posts fan mail and other thoughts on his website. Fans can follow him on Twitter. An excerpt of his latest hit is available on the publisher’s website. NPR and @GuysLitWire published great reviews.

ghosts of heavenSEDGWICK, Marcus. The Ghosts of Heaven. 336p. Roaring Brook. 2015. ISBN 9781626721258. JLG Category: Y : Young Adults (Grades 9 & Up).

Four stories join together, linked by their connection to the spiral shape. Read them front to back or mix it up. According to Sedgwick, they work in any direction. From the insane asylum to a witch hunt and prehistoric times to a future life away from earth, these vignettes celebrate the endless pattern nature creates again and again.

Click the red button on the author’s website for menu items such as novels, biography, and contact information. Teens will want to check out the book’s Tumblr for an amazing number of spiral photos, which also appear in the book trailer. Follow Sedgwick on most social media, including Twitter.

Additional Resources

The resources for the above titles have been organized in JLG Booktalks to Go: Spring 2015 LiveBinder. Titles are sorted by interest level, PreK-3, 3-6, 5-8, and YA. All websites are posted within each LiveBinder, along with the accompanying booktalk. As I write more columns, more books and their resources are added. Everything you need to teach or share brand new, hot-off-the-press books is now all in one place. Booktalks and resources are also included on JLG’s BTG Pinterest board.

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

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

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Bedtime Bunnies, Western Railroad Waitresses, and Typhoid Mary Populate Boyds Mills | 2015 Spring Preview Mon, 30 Mar 2015 15:17:24 +0000 Bedtime at Bessie and Lil’s, a young boy who is a space explorer in Space Boy and His Dog, and an exploration of Typhoid Mary who spread the disease to many in Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary. ]]> BedtimeatJesseandLils

During the 2015 American Library Association Midwinter Meeting in Chicago, Boyds Mills Press took the opportunity to share its Spring 2015 list with librarians.

Every parent is familiar with the hassle of getting a reluctant child to go to bed. While Boyds Mills may not have anything as edgy as Adam Mansbach’s Go the F**k to Sleep (Akashic, 2011), readers will enjoy Julie Sternberg’s Bedtime at Bessie and Lil’s (2015), illustrated by Adam Gudeon, the story of two excited young bunnies whose mother attempts to soothe them to sleep with a bedtime story. For those who want to use bedtime as an opportunity for learning, Jane Yolen and her daughter Heidi Stemple have teamed up with illustrator Melissa Sweet for You Nest Here With Me (2015), a fascinating and enlightening work about the nesting habits of different species of birds. The lyrical text and gentle refrain “You nest here with me” will settle restless young folks.

SpaceboyandhisdogThere were plenty of other informational picture books, including Leaflets Three, Let It Be!: The Story of Poison Ivy (April). Poison Ivy may be the bane of many an outdoorsman, but this new title by Anita Sanchez and illustrated by Robin Brickman demonstrates the important role this itch-inducing plant plays in nature. Those curious about marine life will enjoy exploring the world of cephalopoda (members of the molluscan class) with Laurence Pringle’s Octopuses!: Strange and Wonderful (April), illustrated by Meryl Henderson. Children will learn about the creature’s life cycle, anatomical details, and behavioral quirks.

City and country readers who are interested in machines will find Nathan Clement’s Big Tractor (2015) a strong addition for its use of cinematic perspective to explain the role and working of this farm vehicle.

Kathy Cannon Wiechman Photo courtesy of Rocco Staino

Author Kathy Cannon Wiechman holding her book ‘Like a River.’ Photo courtesy of Rocco Staino

Is there anything worse than an annoying younger sibling? In Dian Curtis Regan’s Space Boy and His Dog (April), illustrated by Robert Neubecker, a young boy named Niko copes with his troublesome little sister, who’s intent on joining his imaginary space exploration.

Guest speakers Gail Jarrow and Kathy Cannon Wiechman also attended the event to speak about their latest books. In her debut, Wiechman uses the tragedy of the Sultana, a steamboat that exploded the day before Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, as the backdrop for Like a River (April), her story about two Civil War Union soldiers. Jarrow combines science and history in Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary (March). She told audiences how she became interested in Mary Mallon (aka “Typhoid Mary,” who unknowingly transmitted the disease to many), when she discovered that in 1903, 29 Cornell students in her hometown of Ithaca, NY, died of typhoid. Her research led to the discovery that the epidemiologist who tracked down Typhoid Mary began his search in her hometown.

Finally, readers hungry for more nonfiction will enjoy Carolyn Meyer’s Diary of a Waitress: The Not-So-Glamorous Life of a Harvey Girl (April), the story of a girl working in one of Fred Harvey’s restaurants, which ran along the Western rail links in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

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Ann Burlingame Wins 2015 Sullivan Award; National Poetry Month Contest; Giveaways | SLJTeen News Mon, 30 Mar 2015 11:00:15 +0000 Just in Time for National Poetry Month: Words Unlocked Contest

Words Unlocked 2015 is a month-long initiative that includes a seven-day structured poetry curriculum, sponsored and created by the Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings (CEEAS).The practitioner-ready curricular materials, which include lessons á la carte, culminate with a nationwide competition and publishing venues for poetic works.

WordsUnlockedThe Words Unlocked 2015 theme is “Transformation! Through Words Unlocked.” CEEAS hopes to encourage young people who are held in juvenile justice facilities to explore this theme and not let the transformation they have experienced, hope to experience, or even fear they may experience, go unnoticed. Poems must be 50 lines or fewer, unpublished (electronically or in print), and the sole work of the entrant. Only poems written in the English language can be judged. The contest submission period runs from Friday, April 10 through Friday, April 24. Visit the Words Unlocked website for complete submission guidelines.

Love Poetry and Bad Boys? Win a Copy of Dating Down

datingdownAt Café Hex, Samantha Henderson can imagine being the person she really wants to be. It’s her place to daydream about going to art school and getting away from her politician father. It’s her place to imagine opening herself up to a new kind of connection, away from her family and the drama of high school.

Enter X—the boy she refuses to name. He’s older, edgy, bohemian … in short, everything she thinks she needs. Her family and friends try to warn her that there may be more to him than she sees, but still she stays with X, even as his chaos threatens to consume them both. Told in waves of poetry—whispering, crashing—Dating Down is a portrait of exhilaration and pain and the kind of desire that drives a girl to risk everything.

Five lucky winners will receive a copy of Dating Down for their collections. To enter, send an email to FluxNow with your name, library, shipping address, and email address. Entries must be received by midnight (CST) on April 30, 2015. Winners will be selected in a random drawing and notified via email. One entry per person, please; prizes will only be shipped to U.S. addresses.

Share Your YA Innovations at ALA Annual 2016

The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) is accepting proposals for continuing education sessions to be presented at the 2016 ALA Annual Conference in Orlando, June 23–28, 2016. Proposals may be submitted through June 1 via this form. Proposals should feature creative, innovative programs that address topics of focus in the Future of Library Services for & with Teens: A Call to Action report.  Interested parties who are not ALA members will need to create an account in order to submit a proposal.

The YALSA membership will vote on all of the programs that were submitted to determine which programs will move forward. Those who submitted proposals will be notified of their status the week of September 1, 2015. See the official press release for more details.

Inside A Work of Art Book Party

MaysonetwYAfansYou may remember A Work of Art (Merit Press, 2015) from a giveaway in SLJTeen a few weeks ago. Author Melody Maysonet threw a book launch party for her debut.

MelodyMassonetwFamily“Book party, or no book party? That was the question three months ago, mostly because it felt a bit egocentric to throw a party for myself. Then my publicist told me to think of it as throwing a party for my book. That made sense to me, especially after all I put Tera through in A Work of Art. The least I could do is throw her a party, right?”

Finding Mr. Brightside Giveaway

findingMrBrightsideCelebrate the publication of Finding Mr. Brightside by Jay Clark (Holt, 2015). Clark’s new novel tells the story of Abram and Juliette. They know each other. They’ve lived down the street from each other their whole lives. But they don’t really know each other—at least, not until Juliette’s mom and Abram’s dad have a torrid affair that culminates in a deadly car crash. Sharing the same subdivision is uncomfortable, to say the least. They don’t speak.

Fast-forward to the neighborhood pharmacy, a year later. Abram decides to say hello. Then he decides to invite Juliette to Taco Bell. To her surprise as well as his, she agrees. And the real love story begins.

Three lucky winners will receive a copy of Finding Mr. Brightside for their collections. To enter, send an email with your name, shipping address, and email address. Entries must be received by midnight (PDT) on April 30, 2015. Winners will be selected in a random drawing and notified via email. One entry per person, please; prizes will only be shipped to U.S. addresses.

The NEH Awards “The Great Stories Club Grant” for At-Risk Youth to ALA

NEH Logo MASTER_082010The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has awarded a $350,000 grant to the American Library Association for a project called The Great Stories Club—a thematic reading and discussion program developed to reach at-risk youth through literature based library outreach programs. “The Great Stories Club” will introduce teens and others facing difficult circumstances to accessible and appealing books selected by scholars with a special interest in reaching the underserved, and will be held at over 200 national libraries working in partnership with community organizations serving at-risk and incarcerated youth. It is based on an ALA pilot program, launched in 2006. This NEH-supported national expansion of the program is expected to reach more than 8,000 young adults. This grant is just one of 232 announced on March 23, amounting $22.8 million in awards.

Wake County Public Libraries’s Ann Burlingame Receives 2015 Sullivan Award

Sullivan-Ann Burlingame headshot1The American Library Association (ALA) is pleased to announce the 2015 Peggy Sullivan Award for Public Library Administrators Supporting Services to Children has been awarded to Ann Burlingame, deputy director of Wake County Public Libraries of Raleigh, NC. The Sullivan Award is presented annually to an individual in a library administrator role who has shown exceptional understanding and support of public library service to children. The award will be presented at the ALA President’s Program, Sunday, June 28, 2015 at the ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco.

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Lulzbot 3-D Printer Giveaway Sun, 29 Mar 2015 20:05:00 +0000 Lulzbot TAZ 5Some lucky classrooms and libraries will receive 3-D printers in a giveaway sponsored by Aleph Objects, Inc. Launched during the White House Science Fair, the first annual Lulzbot Education Giveaway will donate 20 Lulzbot desktop printers. But hurry—online applications are due by Sunday, April 5.

The contest is open to any accredited school, community college, college, university, or library. Applicants must describe their plan to integrate a Lulzbot printer into curricula, classes, or projects and encourage the use of free software and open source hardware. Visit the giveaway page for more information.

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StoryCorps Launches Global Platform, iOS and Android Apps Available Sun, 29 Mar 2015 16:12:47 +0000 From a Library of Congress Blog Post by Nicole Saylor:

[On Wednesday] we celebrate[d] the official release of, a global platform where anyone in the world can record and upload an oral history interview.

This effort is a wish come true for StoryCorps founder Dave Isay, the 2015 recipient of the TED Prize. The prize comes with $1 million to invest in a powerful idea. Dave’s was to create an app, with a companion website at, that guides users through the StoryCorps interview experience from recording to sharing the story online. Hear him talk about his vision in Vancouver last week. The website will serve as a home for these recordings, and also provide interviewing and editing tools.

All stories shared to during the first year after launch will be archived at the American Folklife Center (AFC) at the Library of Congress.


The new app “has a microphone. It can give you instructions. It can send audio files. Those are the key ingredients,” says Isay. “It helps you pick questions, and gives you all the tips you need to record a meaningful StoryCorps interview, and then with one tap upload it.”

The Library will regularly gather copies of these uploaded interviews from the site for long-term preservation. While traditional StoryCorps interviews can be accessed onsite at the Library, for the life of, all access to the new DIY collection will be through the website.

View StoryCorps App Video Interview

Read the Complete Blog Post

Direct to Website and FAQ

Download the App: iOS via iTunes App Store

Download the App: Android via Google Play

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Five Top Collaborative Research Tools | Cool Tools Fri, 27 Mar 2015 14:00:13 +0000 The Internet is built for sharing knowledge, but students often research and write in isolation—and turn out papers that cite the same handful of resources over and over. Collaborative research prompts students to share their discoveries, exposing them to more material than if they go it alone. It can also teach them to work together, defend choices, and think critically about the content they find on the Internet. These tools can jumpstart the process.

SLJ1503-TK-CT-DiigoI first started having students collaborate in this way when I introduced them to Diigo back in 2008. This tool allows you to create public and private groups for sharing links and notes about the linked items. I set up groups for my students and had them pool material related to topics we were discussing in my social studies classroom. My rule: no more than two students could add the same link, and they had to include a note justifying each one’s inclusion. Diigo has evolved over the years—you can now use its browser extensions to highlight portions of web pages and clip specific web page sections. It also offers iOS and Android apps for bookmarking websites on your phone or tablet.

SLJ1503-TK-CT-annotaryAnnotary is a social bookmarking service similar to Diigo. You can use it to mark sites, highlight portions of pages, and annotate pages with sticky notes. Like any good online bookmarking service, Annotary lets you share bookmarks and search for public lists. Creating private collections that are accessible by invitation is also an option—and a good setup for classroom use, enabling students to share material with each other, but not the whole world. One downside to Annotary: currently, there’s no mobile app.

SLJ1503-TK-CT-PearltreesIf your students want to file share, as well as pool online resources, Pearltrees is a good choice. It enables you to build collections of links, documents, videos, pictures, and other files, and the browser extension lets you add web page content. Uploading files from your computer to a Pearltrees group is a simple matter of dragging it from your desktop and dropping it into your browser when the Pearltrees site is open. Sharing resources is easy, too: In addition to Tweeting, Facebooking, and emailing collections, you can embed them into a web page. The only drawback is that your collections are all public unless you pay for a premium account ($35/year).

SLJ1503-TK-CT-padletTeachers who want the best of Pearltrees and the kind of privacy options offered by Diigo should check out Padlet. This free service allows you to make online pages of shared notes, videos, and documents, and invite others to add content. You can password-protect your pages, hide page URLs, or leave them completely public. Teachers who set up Padlet pages can moderate all contributions—and catch things that shouldn’t appear there—before they go up. A browser extension, Padlet Mini, lets you send links directly to a Padlet page.

SLJ1503-TK-CT-WeLearnedItIn classrooms where every student has access to an iPad, the WeLearnedIt app can be a good tool for collaborative research. You and your students can assemble portfolios of files from Google Drive, Dropbox, links from the web, images and videos captured with your iPad, and whiteboard videos created within the WeLearnedIt app.

Using these tools, students will turn up more materials—and perhaps think more deeply, too. When it comes to research, many heads can be better than one.

Richard Byrne ( writes the award-winning blog “Free Technology for Teachers.”


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Hello Texas! Visit Macmillan/Griffin Teen at TLA Annual in Austin, April 14–17 Fri, 27 Mar 2015 13:49:30 +0000 We can’t wait to see you in Austin at the Texas Library Association Annual Conference in just a few short weeks! Peruse the program early, then join us in the exhibit hall in the Macmillan Adult booth #1359 for galley giveaways, and at many of the events below (all are free unless otherwise noted):

*** NOTE: This content was sponsored and contributed by Macmillan.

In-Booth Signing with Katherine Center

Tuesday, April 14, 5:30–7:00pm
Austin Convention Center | Macmillan Adult Booth #1359

Katherine Center will be signing complimentary copies of HAPPINESS FOR BEGINNERS.

Opening Author Session

Wednesday, April 15, 12:00 noon–1:50pm
Hilton Hotel, 500 East 4th Street | Austin Grand Ballroom JK

Tickets required*

New York Times bestselling author Linda Castillo (AFTER THE STORM) and other authors provide literary flair and flavor as they share some of their writing experiences and read from their books.

*Luncheon tickets are $43 and must be purchased by Friday, April 3, through pre-registration.

TLA 2015 logoState Treasures: Texan Authors

Wednesday, April 15, 2:00–3:50pm
Austin Convention Center | Room 6 AB, level 3

Join this lively panel discussion on all matters Texan! Chris Tomlinson (TOMLINSON HILL: The Remarkable Story of Two Families Who Share the Tomlinson Name – One White, One Black) and other Texas authors regale with the two-stepping, tale-wrangling narratives that capture the Lone Star spirit.

Texas Tea: Meet and Greet Over 50 YA Authors

Wednesday, April 15, 4:00-5:20pm
Hilton Hotel, 500 East 4th Street | Austin Grand Ballroom F-H, 6th floor

Tickets required*

Join us for the fourth annual Texas Tea, the premier event for YA literature enthusiasts, featuring several authors including C.C. Hunter (“Shadow Falls” series and UNSPOKEN: Shadow Falls After Dark). Librarians stay put as authors move from table to table sharing stories over tea and pastries.

*Tickets are $30 and must be purchased by Friday, April 3, through pre-registration.

Steampunk and Fantasy: The Lure of Distant Worlds

Thursday, April 16, 10:00-11:50am
Austin Convention Center | Room 16 AB, level 4

From alternative histories to alternate realities, steampunk and fantasy authors, including New York Times bestselling author C.C. Hunter (“Shadow Falls” series and UNSPOKEN: Shadow Falls After Dark), reveal the creative aspect of rendering foreign worlds and the emotional spark of finding universal lessons that draw in readers.

“Evening with the Authors” Dinner

Thursday, April 16, 6:30-8:30pm
Hyatt Regency Austin, 208 Barton Springs Rd | Foothills II

Tickets required*

Delicious prose and artful writing are served up! Join five writers, including Steve Berry (THE PATRIOT THREAT) for an intriguing evening of literary and culinary delights.

*Dinner tickets for this four course dinner are $85 and must be purchased by Friday, April 3, through pre-registration.

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Spokes People | SLJ Spotlight Fri, 27 Mar 2015 13:00:39 +0000 Few elements of childhood evoke as many nostalgia-tinged memories as the bicycle. These two recent picture books present an entirely new and unexpected spin on this beloved childhood possession. Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah tells the story of a Ghanaian boy who learns to cycle despite a disability, growing up to cycle 400 miles across his country to raise awareness for disabilities, while The Red Bicycle: The Extraordinary Story of One Ordinary Bicycle demonstrates the global impact of donating bicycles.

theredbicycleIsabella, Jude. The Red Bicycle: The Extraordinary Story of One Ordinary Bicycle. illus. by Simone Shin. 32p. (CitizenKid). Kids Can. Mar. 2015. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781771380232.

Gr 3-6 –Part of Kids Can’s globally themed series, this tale of the journey of one bicycle imparts important lessons on recycling and social responsibility. After Leo outgrows his beloved childhood bike, Big Red, he donates it to an organization that ships bikes overseas to those who can’t afford them. Though he’s initially reluctant to part with his cherished possession, he soon realizes that it will benefit a new owner. Big Red is given to Alisetta, a young girl in Burkina Faso who uses it to transport sorghum to market. When Alisetta in turn outgrows Big Red, it’s given to a medical clinic, where it becomes an ambulance. Children will get a strong sense of global citizenship and unity from the simple yet effective narrative. Shin’s digitally composed illustrations are folksy and vibrant, perfect for this cross-cultural tale, and expressively convey the faces of those who interact with Big Red. Back matter includes some useful information on real-life organizations that arrange for bike donations, a brief note on Burkina Faso, and challenges and activities for educators to do with children. VERDICT A strong option for social studies curricula, this noteworthy title will encourage kids to think globally.–Kathryn Diman, Bass Harbor Memorial Library, Bernard, ME

emmanueldreamredstarThompson, Laurie Ann. Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah. illus. by Sean Qualls. 40p. ebook available. Random/Schwartz & Wade Bks. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780449817445. LC 2014005767.

K-Gr 2 –This powerful and winning picture book tells the story of a young man overcoming the odds. Born in Ghana with a deformed left leg, Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah experienced stigma as a result of his disability: his father abandoned the family, and many assumed that the boy would be little more than a burden. However, with the encouragement of his mother, Yeboah refused to give up, hopping to school (instead of walking) and even learning to play soccer and cycle, despite receiving no extra help or accommodations. Thompson’s lucidly written text explains how Yeboah cycled 400 miles in 2001 to raise awareness, forever changing how Ghanaians perceived those with disabilities. The narrative is simply and clearly written, and the illustrations are skillfully rendered in charmingly emotive ink and watercolor collages. A brief author’s note explains how Yeboah inspired legislation upholding equal rights for the disabled and how he continues to make strides, working with organizations that provide wheelchairs to those who need them and setting up a scholarship fund for children with disabilities. VERDICT This uplifting account will resonate with readers and supplement global and cultural studies. A triumph.–Kathryn Diman, Bass Harbor Memorial Library, Bernard, ME

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Sexy Retellings, Alternative History, and Road Trip Novels | What’s Hot in YA Fri, 27 Mar 2015 12:00:41 +0000 SLJ1503--Stars-YA

From Rosamunde Hodge’s latest fairy tale reimagining to Bill Konigsberg’s road trip YA, the following books for teens are among this year’s must-have titles. Nova Ren Suma’s The Walls Around Us, Elizabeth Wein’s Black Dove White Raven, and David Levithan’s Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story are just a few of the works that YA fans should have on their radar. And for readers looking for a good cry, look no further than Sarah Benwell’s The Last Leaves Falling. If humor is more your speed, Rhoda Helms’s Promposal will fill that need.

The original, full reviews of the following works appeared in SLJ’s March print magazine.

Adrian Like It neverAdrian, Emily. Like It Never Happened. 368p. Dial. Jun. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780525428237; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780698185494. LC 2014019390.

Gr 9 Up –Beautiful and talented Rebecca Rivers is the star of her high school’s theater department. She, along with four other thespians, who call themselves The Essential Five), take the stage and their roles very seriously. But being the star has a dark side. Many of her classmates think Rebecca is untouchable, a golden child who is somehow immune to critique from the demanding director. Then the protagonist and her leading man, the handsome and charismatic Charlie, begin dating. From the outside, her life seems to be something out of a fairy tale. But as Rebecca grows as an artist, she also matures in her relationships in the real world, and she realizes that performance isn’t just actors on a stage. Rebecca’s story is about complex interpersonal relations for which there are no easy answers. VERDICT This title will satisfy thinking readers, namely fans of E. Lockhart and of realistic teen fiction that invokes drama without melodrama.–Jennifer Miskec, Longwood University, Farmville, VA

Alcott, Jessica. Even When You Lie to Me. 352p. ebook available. Crown. Jun. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780385391160.

Gr 10 Up –Charlie is dreading her senior year. Introverted, not traditionally pretty, and a bit of a bookworm, she has her sights set on life after high school. In fact, Charlie has applied early decision to Oberlin College. Her ever-loyal best friend, Lila, has become popular overnight, throwing Charlie’s social inadequacies into sharper contrast. Mr. Drummond, her new English teacher, is the only bright spot in her life. He’s young, super-friendly, and seems to get her. When Charlie’s Type-A mother insists that she participate in an extracurricular activity, the girl joins the school newspaper, newly revived by Mr. Drummond. Charlie develops an intense and all-consuming crush on him, fueled by their time working on the newspaper together and discussing books in and out of class. Mr. Drummond is friendly to everyone, but Charlie senses that there is something different about his feelings for her. Alcott pushes the boundaries in this exploration of a taboo student-teacher relationship. Charlie’s sexual thoughts and desires are candidly and honestly depicted. Complex emotional content is handled tactfully and sensitively. The witty repartee among characters is reminiscent of the dialogue in John Green’s novels or a Gilmore Girls episode. VERDICT A cutting-edge exploration of a thorny topic, this is a wonderful debut novel.–Ragan O’Malley, Saint Ann’s School, Brooklyn, NY

Baldwin A School for UnusualBaldwin, Kathleen. A School for Unusual Girls. 272p. (Stranje House: Bk. 1). Tor Teen. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780765376008; ebk. ISBN 9781466849273.

Gr 8 Up –This intriguing series opener is a tale of daring, conspiracy, adventure, and romance set against the tumultuous, backdrop of war-torn Europe in 1814. Napoleon is in exile on Elba, dignitaries from across Europe are gathering at the Congress of Vienna, and assassination plots are rumored. At the cavernous Stranje House in England, a select group of spirited, inventive, and nonconformist girls are secretly learning espionage tactics. Georgiana Fitzwilliam has an unconventional aptitude and enthusiasm for math and science. When one of her experiments accidentally leads to a fire in her father’s stables, Georgie is banished by her exasperated parents to the supposedly harsh, reforming tutelage of Headmistress Emily Stranje. Her classmates have special talents; her headmistress is a clever, well-connected, resourceful teacher; and visiting Lord Sebastian Wyatt is on a covert mission. VERDICT The spunky, naive, and passsionate protagonist will resonate with readers, who will appreciate the lively, fast-paced narrative of personal discovery, maturing realizations, and understanding.–Gerry Larson, formerly at Durham School of the Arts, NC

Banks, Anna. Joyride. 288p. ebook available. Feiwel & Friends. Jun. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250039613.

Gr 9 Up –Good girl Carly and popular Arden combine forces in order to live more authentic lives in this angsty contemporary novel. Carly’s parents have been deported to Mexico and she works nights to support her family. Arden uses his bad-boy reputation to pull off grand, sometimes disastrous pranks to salve the pain of his sister’s death. Carly is not Arden’s type, at first—and Carly knows she is too busy to bother with him. Eager to escape the iron fist of his sheriff father, Arden grows closer to Carly after an unexpected encounter. Together they realize Arden’s father’s true intentions and work in concert to bring him to justice. With a dash of romance, Banks’s book tackles the issues of human smuggling, immigration, and a rogue police officer. Fans of Sarah Dessen and Deb Caletti will flock to the author’s fan pool. VERDICT Relevant, risky, and romantic, this work is a clear standout in today’s contemporary YA niche.–Amanda C. Buschmann, Atascocita Middle School, Humble, TX

Benway, Robin. Emmy & Oliver. 352p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Jun. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062330598; ebk. ISBN 9780062330611.

Gr 9 Up –Emmy and Oliver were the best of friends up until the third grade, when Oliver disappeared, leaving their community forever changed. Years later, high school senior Emmy still lives next door to the house where Oliver lived with his mother and she has never been able to forget him. Emmy lives with the consequences of Oliver’s kidnapping, as her parents smother her with rules and restrictions meant to keep her safe. But then one day, Oliver is back. He is grown up, guarded, and confused. Oliver thought that his mother had abandoned him, when in fact his father kidnapped him, and he was discovered by chance when he gives fingerprints on a school field trip. Although Emmy is a vaguely familiar face, he doesn’t know how to bridge the time gap and find a place to belong in this community again. Oliver and Emmy try to do just that, amid the chaos surrounding Oliver’s past and Emmy’s uncertain future. VERDICT Plot driven as well as introspective, it is a good choice for fans of Stephanie Perkins’s Anna and the French Kiss (Dutton, 2010) or any of Sarah Dessen’s novels.–Tara Kron, formerly at School Library Journal

benwell last leavesBenwell, Sarah. The Last Leaves Falling. 368p. ebook available. S. & S. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481430654. LC 2014022950.

Gr 8 Up –Abe Sora loves baseball, wants to be a professor, spends much of his time reading history and literature—and is dying of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). No longer able to attend school, as he is now wheelchair bound—and the school is not equipped to handle his physical needs—Abe spends his days either alone or with his mother and doctors. He joins a chatroom anonymously, never telling anyone of his illness. When his mother, worried about her son’s isolation, insists that he invite his two online friends over for dinner, he agrees but does not inform them his health situation. Despite the initial shock, the three become good friends, giving Abe a chance to have normal teen experiences. As his condition grows worse, he thinks more and more about death. His counselor gives him a book on samurai death poetry, which helps him realize that he wants to die with dignity. VERDICT Not just another “dying teen novel,” this thought-provoking read offers teens a different perspective on living and loving life.–Janet Hilbun, University of North Texas

Brockenbrough, Martha. The Game of Love and Death. 336p. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545668347; ebk. ISBN 9780545668354.

Gr 9 Up– Set in 1930s Seattle, this work tells the story of two teenagers whose destinies are being manipulated by powers far beyond their control. An orphan from a poor African American family who works as an airplane mechanic by day and a jazz singer at night, Flora dreams of being the next Amelia Earhart. Henry lives just a few blocks away, but he is white, and his adoptive family is wealthy. A bright future of college and a career lies ahead of him, but he is distracted by his love of music and, from the moment he first lays eyes on her, by Flora. What Flora and Henry don’t know is that they have been chosen as pawns in a game between the immortal entities Love and Death. If they choose each other, then Love wins and they both survive, but if they don’t, then Death wins and Flora’s life is forfeit. Love and Death take on various guises and wreak havoc on the lives of their players at a deadly cost to both of their families. Romance lovers will find themselves rooting for the ill-fated couple. VERDICT An interracial YA romance with weighty themes.–Eliza Langhans, Hatfield Public Library, MA

cameron rookCameron, Sharon. Rook. 464p. Scholastic. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545675994; ebk. $17.99. ISBN 9780545676007.
Gr 9 Up –“It was a fine night for an execution…” but the Red Rook has other plans. Eighteen-year-old Sophia Bellamy, with the help of her older brother Tom and their trusted friend Spear, has freed the prisoners before the Razor could sever their heads. This retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel is set in a far-future England and France, when magnetic pole shifts have rendered technology a distant memory. Candlelight, penned letters, and escapes on horseback are the order of the day, and shards of plastic can fetch a pretty price. A political atmosphere similar to the French Revolution has taken hold, and the Rook is determined that innocent lives will not be lost. When not wielding her sword (and a red-tipped feather as a calling card), Sophia is juggling her betrothal of convenience to handsome Frenchman René Hasard, meant to save the Bellamy estate from forfeiture. VERDICT This dashing story line combines a technology-free dystopia with swashbuckling romance.–Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TX

Cross, Kady. Sisters of Blood and Spirit. 288p. (Sisters of Blood and Spirit: Bk. 1). ebook available. Harlequin Teen. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780373211487.

Gr 8 Up –Lark and Wren Noble are twins; one living and the other a ghost existing through her sister after she died at birth. Entering high school in small town New Devon hasn’t been easy for Lark with her dead sister tagging along and sometimes taking over her body. Conversations always appear to be one-sided to others, making her look a little unbalanced. With her sister occasionally inhabiting her body, Lark never knows what she will wake up to and often wonders if it would be easier to join her sister in the Shadow Lands, where she lurks with other ghostly characters. When a teenager and his friends are challenged by the restless spirit of a serial killer, they seek the help of Lark and Wren to fight the disturbance. Librarians won’t keep this one on the shelves for long. VERDICT Readers will impatiently wait for the second book in this series, as the first will intrigue fans of romance mixed with paranormal phenomenon.–Karen Alexander, Lake Fenton High School, Linden, MI

Emerson Breakout_Emerson, Kevin. Breakout. 304p. Crown. 2015. lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9780385391139; Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780385391122; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780385391146.

Gr 6 Up –Eighth grader Anthony Castillo is fed up with his friends, his teachers, and even his parents. He lets it all out in a song that expresses all of his hate and anger, no-holds-barred. He didn’t count on the song accidentally getting out and going viral. With his song quickly spreading around his school and the world, Anthony starts receiving positive attention, including from his crush. With his new reputation as a rebel and an upcoming band showcase, pressure mounts for Anthony to perform his song live, a song full of feelings and language that could get him back in hot water again. Emerson paints the angsty ups and downs of a middleschooler feeling misunderstood with lots of drama. The story’s strength and momentum revolves around a cast of colorful secondary characters and the musical story line. VERDICT A work that stays away from anything too edgy or deep, it’s still a solid coming-of-age tale that younger readers will pick up for its emotion and shades of rock and roll.–Sarah Townsend, Norfolk Public Library, VA

Frank, E.R. Dime. 336p. S. & S./Atheneum. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481431606; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781481431620.

Gr 9 Up –Thirteen-year-old Dime is a product of the foster system. She finds an escape in the books she reads, but she struggles academically because she is called on to help out with the younger foster children at home. One day she meets a girl who takes her in. Dime finds acceptance here, but is slowly groomed into becoming a prostitute. The book takes the form of a note that Dime is trying to write, whose purpose is unclear until the last chapters. The multiple nested flashbacks and the attempts to have other concepts contribute to the note (such as Money or Truth) much as Death narrated Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief (Knopf, 2006) (Dime herself credits Zusak for this idea) would have failed at the hands of a lesser writer, but they are effective here. The simple, one-line note that the protagonist ultimately writes is heartbreaking. This title will appeal to fans of grittier problem novels, like those written by Ellen Hopkins, and will provoke discussion. VERDICT An important work that should be an essential part of library collections.–Kristin Anderson, Columbus Metropolitan Library System, OH

Fuller, Claire. Our Endless Numbered Days. 388p. Tin House. Mar. 2015. pap. $15.95. ISBN 9781941040010.

Gr 9 Up –In 1970s London, eight-year-old Peggy Hillcoat lives somewhat contentedly with her survivalist father and her concert pianist mother. When her mother goes on tour, her father abruptly kidnaps Peggy, taking her to a German forest. He claims that the world has ended and that her mother, along with every other human on Earth, has died. She resigns herself to a life in the cold, remote woods with her mentally unstable father, little food, and no medical care, not resurfacing until 1985. This is a dark but poignant coming-of-age story reminiscent of Geraldine McCaughrean’s The White Darkness (HarperCollins, 2007). Told from the perspective of now 17-year-old Peggy, the narrative is lyrical and, aside from a slow start, well paced. VERDICT This gripping tale will be well received by fans of survivalist fiction and psychological thrillers.–Pilar Okeson, Allen-Stevenson School Library, New York City

Grey, Melissa. The Girl at Midnight. 368p. Delacorte. Apr. 2015. lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9780375991790; Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780385744652; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780385390996.

Gr 9 Up –For the past decade, 17-year-old Echo has been raised among the Avicen, a race of magical people with birdlike feathers. Despite her status as the ward of a powerful Avicen council member, Echo is still seen by some as an unwelcome human in their midst. When Echo stumbles upon a clue to the whereabouts of the firebird, a magical, legendary creature, she can’t resist the chance to follow the lead. Prophecy says that the firebird will be the key to ending the Avicen’s long-standing war with the dragonlike Drakharin people. If she can be the one to find it, she’s sure that the Avicen will finally accept her as one of their own. She teams up with an unlikely crew that includes a pair of Drakharin soldiers. Suddenly, everything she has ever known about good and evil is turned on its head. VERDICT Purchase where epic fantasies with strong female protagonists are popular.–Liz Overberg, Darlington School, Rome, GA

helms promposal-Helms, Rhonda. Promposal. 224p. S. & S./Simon Pulse. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481422321; pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781481422314; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781481422338.

Gr 7 Up –Camilla’s Ohio high school has a tradition in which boys ask girls to the annual prom via elaborate scenarios. She is mortified when Zach approaches her wearing a tux and accompanied by a film crew documenting his “promposal.” Camilla agrees, even though she’s not especially fond of Zach and really wishes that Zach’s handsome cousin Benjamin had asked her first. To complicate matters further, Camilla is assigned to work with Benjamin on a psychology project, and sparks fly, inflaming their attraction for each other. But Benjamin takes the high road and will not risk hurting his cousin. Meanwhile, Camilla’s gay best friend, Joshua, would love to ask Ethan to the prom, but Ethan asks Joshua for help in planning an epic promposal to another young man. VERDICT This enjoyable story won’t sit on the shelves for long, especially during prom season.–Susan Riley, Mamaroneck Public Library, NY

Hillyer, Lexa. Proof of Forever. 352p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Jun. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062330376; ebk. ISBN 9780062330390.

Gr 9 Up –Luce, Tali, Zoe, and Joy were best friends, but after a falling out at the end of their last summer at Camp Okahatchee, they barely speak. At a summer camp reunion, the four friends step into a photobooth for old time’s sake and are sent back in time two summers earlier to when they were 15. This event will hopefully give them a second chance at romance, finding themselves, and, most importantly, mending their friendship before they leave for college. A quintessential summer novel, this contemporary work mixes in a bit of sci-fi with the time-traveling photobooth. All four characters deal with realistic emotions and a variety of experiences, including a father’s dubious business practices, budding sexuality, and the desire for independence. VERDICT Hillyer has penned a tale ideal for readers seeking something sweet tinged with a hint of sadness.–Paige Garrison, Aurora Central Public Library, CO

Hodge Crimson BoundHodge, Rosamund. Crimson Bound. 448p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062224767.

Gr 8 Up –With this romantic mash-up of classic fairy tales that touch on elements from the familiar “Little Red Riding Hood” and the lesser-known “Girl with No Hands,” Hodge has created a chilled cocktail of creep and gore shaken, stirred lightly, and poured over villains who fall in love and heroines who commit murder. Featured in this delicate and skillfully written romantic horror is Rachelle Brinon, who has been trained by her aunt to serve as a woodwife. It’s her responsibility to protect the village from the dark magic of the forest. While venturing into the forest, Rachelle is eventually tricked by a humanlike wolf creature, to whom she becomes bound to it by a thin crimson thread that only she can see. The connection is filled with passion and also gives her superhuman skills with the possibility of immortality. Now one of the king’s assassins, Rachelle [is] assigned the job of protecting Prince Armand, and a romantic triangle develops among Rachelle, the prince, and the captain of the bloodbounds. VERDICT With a thoroughly developed setting and so many shadowed nods to the Brothers Grimm, this novel will captivate readers. Outstanding.–Sabrina Carnesi, Crittenden Middle School, Newport News, VA

Horowitz, Lena. Dancing with Molly. 208p. ebook available. S. & S./Simon Pulse. Jun. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481415521.

Gr 10 Up –The narrator of this story is a self-professed “band geek” who is tired of being overshadowed by her popular and beautiful younger sister. At the beginning of this narrative, she is excited to go home and tell her family that her school band will be marching in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, but all of that is overshadowed by her mother’s enthusiasm over the younger sister’s prom invitation. When she goes over to her best friend’s to commiserate, she is given her first taste of MDMA, or Ecstasy. Written in journal format, this story is about a teen’s gradual slide into heavy drug use. VERDICT A quick read for mature high school students who liked Ellen Hopkins’s “Crank” trilogy (S. & S.).–Deanna McDaniel, Genoa Middle School, OH

johnston prairie fireJohnston, E.K. Prairie Fire. 304p. ebook available. Carolrhoda Lab. Mar. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781467739092. LC 2014008995.

Gr 8 Up –There is a little something for everyone in this sequel to the acclaimed The Story of Owen (Carolrhoda Lab, 2014). Fantasy fans will love returning to an alternate world in which the armed forces slay dragons. History fans will get a kick out of the way Johnston intermixes actual U.S. and Canadian history with a dragon-friendly story line. Eco-aware fans are unlikely to miss the underlying sentiment that oil brings nothing but trouble in both titles. This time around Owen, Sadie, and Siobhan have enlisted in the Oil Watch (think the U.S. Army, but with more fire drills). While Sadie and Owen excel with ease, troubadour Siobhan struggles to prove her worth. When the three are stationed in separate locations, Siobhan must learn to find her role without the reassurance of her two best friends. VERDICT A fantasy YA novel that steers clear of love triangles, teen angst, and a tidy ending is hard to come by; Prairie Fire and its prequel are must-haves.–Jennifer Furuyama, Pendleton Public Library, OR

Kephart, Beth. One Thing Stolen. 280p. ebook available. Chronicle. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781452128313.

Gr 9 Up –This is an intense and ultimately hopeful look at a debilitating mental disorder and a family in crisis. The setting is Florence, where the Caras, Americans from Philadelphia are residing while the professor researches the 1966 flood that nearly destroyed the storied city. His precocious children should be thriving there, especially his daughter and biggest fan, but 17-year-old Nadia is in deep trouble. She has been isolating herself, slipping out on her own, and stealing random items that she compulsively weaves into elaborate nests. She cannot explain her behavior and seems to be losing her ability to speak altogether. Kephart deftly switches between the girl’s past and familiar life at home and the scary, precarious existence she is experiencing in Italy. Nadia’s parents arrange for her best friend from home to join them aboard, and she picks up the narrative at the two two-thirds mark and searches for the elusive boy with whom Nadia is obsessed. The boy, Benedetto, narrates the last section, which leaves readers with a measure of hope for the future. VERDICT Kephart’s artful novel attests to the power of love and beauty to thrive even in the most devastating of circumstances.–Luann Toth, School Library Journal

konigsberg porcupineKonigsberg, Bill. The Porcupine of Truth. 336p. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Bks. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545648936; ebk. ISBN 9780545648943.

Gr 9 Up –Carson’s mother thwarts his summer plans when she drags him from New York City to Montana. He wasn’t especially looking forward to working at a frozen yogurt shop, but it couldn’t be worse than staying with his ailing (and alcoholic) father, a man he hasn’t seen in 14 years. Aisha Stinson has been sleeping at the Billings Zoo since coming out to her ultra-conservative father. After a chance meeting, Carson and Aisha recognize each other as kindred spirits. Aisha comes to stay with Carson’s family, and the pair soon unearth family secrets in the basement. They set off on a roadtrip to uncover the root cause of three generations of estrangement. As they pursue a reconciliation with Carson’s missing grandfather, both teens wrestle with their own strained family relationships. VERDICT Konigsberg weaves together a masterful tale of uncovering the past, finding wisdom, and accepting others as well as oneself.–Tony Hirt, Hennepin County Library, MN

Laybourne, Emmy. Sweet. 288p. ebook available. Feiwel & Friends. Jun. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250055194.

Gr 9 Up –A posh, seven-day celebrity cruise begins as a pre-launch publicity party for Solu, a groundbreaking new artificial sweetener. Passengers are promised they will lose five to 10 percent of their body fat in a matter of days. Over the course of the week, they lose a lot more than fat. Celebrity TV host and emcee of the festivities, Tom, is 19 and handsome. When he shows interest in Laurel, 17, she is excited but cautious. As a tender romance between the two develops, a strict diet and a case of sea sickness keep them from Solu. Most passengers, however, eat Solu with every meal. The weight loss is dramatic, but so, too is the unexpected side effect of rage. The ensuing addiction to the substance (sucking spilled Solu out of the carpet, anyone?) yields homicidal actions—and worse. As dead bodies pile up, Tom and Laurel realize it is up to them to get off the ship and warn the world about Solu before its widespread public release in a few days. VERDICT A finely knit narrative in which romance pairs perfectly (somehow) with societal horror.–Jennifer Prince, Buncombe County Public Libraries, NC

zeroboxerLee, Fonda. Zeroboxer. 360p. ebook available. Flux. Apr. 2015. pap. $11.99. ISBN 9780738743387.

Gr 8 Up –Carr Luka is the king of the Cube, a zero gravity cage fight arena. In his upcoming championship fight, Luka will represent Terrans against a Martian colony and his supporters will cheer, “Make him float!” highlighting the grisly implications of a knockout. Luka’s confidence is shaken, however, when a visit to his mother reveals that his physical prowess is a result of illegal genetic enhancements, making his participation in the sport potentially criminal. Zeroboxer is a delicious mix of two genres: sports and science fiction. The colony rivalry and futuristic details are riveting, and martial arts followers hungering for fight action will not be disappointed. This work adeptly combines elements of futuristic TV shows, such as Gattaca (genetics) and Battlestar Gallactica (Terran colonies), and sports program such as Tap Out. VERDICT This gripping sci-fi novel will have teens screaming for a sequel.–Leah Krippner, Harlem High School, Machesney Park, IL

Levithan, David. Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story. 208p. ebook available. Dutton. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780525428848.

Gr 10 Up –Written as a two-act musical complete with stage directions and 25 provocatively titled songs, such as “The Ballad of the Lesbian Babysitter” and “Summer of Gay,” this companion to John Green and Levithan’s award-winning Will Grayson, Will Grayson (Dutton, 2010) shines a spotlight on the larger-than-life Tiny Cooper, who was born “big-boned and happily gay.” Accepted by his supportive parents, Tiny suffers no angst over his sexual orientation, despite having to contend with schoolmate bullies and a homophobic coach. Phil, his straight BFF, offers advice through Tiny’s unsuccessful relationships with 18 different boyfriends, helping him eventually to realize that love is painful but worth it. Replete with laugh-out-loud one-liners, in-your-face language, and showcasing Will and Tiny’s “onstage” kiss, this edgy, au courant novel tackles a potentially difficult subject head-on, while giving sound, if liberal, counsel on sexual issues for gays and straights alike. VERDICT A welcome addition to progressive library collections, this unapologetic gem will encourage teens’ discussion of a sensitive topic and potentially broaden their understanding of the meaning of “tolerance.”–Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, formerly at LaSalle Academy, Providence, RI

Mckenzie, Paige with Alyssa Sheinmel. The Haunting of Sunshine Girl. 320p. Perseus/Weinstein. Mar. 2015. Tr $16. ISBN 9781602862722; ebk. ISBN 9781602862739.

Gr 9 Up –In this combination of ghost and coming-of-age story, readers follow Sunshine Griffith as she navigates the obstacles of a new school, boys, family, and, of course, her new and very haunted home. Sunshine and her mom move to Washington state from Texas for her mom’s job. Their once strong and open relationship is soon sorely tested, not by the move but by something more supernatural. Sunshine starts to hear a little girl laughing and skipping around upstairs—a sound that only she can hear. She is soon fighting for her mother’s life in this suspenseful tale. The chapters alternate between Sunshine’s and the ghost’s points of view, offering different perspectives on events. This sometimes frightening tale and series opener is based on a YouTube channel of the same name, so transmedia fans can enjoy both formats. VERDICT A good choice for readers who enjoy Holly Black–Julie Zimmerman, School Library Journal

matharu Summoner-covMatharu, Taran. The Novice. 368p. (The Summoner Trilogy: Bk. 1). Feiwel & Friends. May 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250067128; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781250067135.

Gr 7 Up –Fletcher, 15, an orphan raised by a blacksmith in the Hominum Empire’s northern village of Pelt discovers he has the ability to summon demonic creatures in this exciting fantasy trilogy opener. After Fletcher and Ignatius, his ferretlike demon, attack the local bully, Fletcher is forced to flee his village. Through a chance encounter with a mage, Fletcher finds himself attending an academy for battle mages. Trained mages are needed in Hominum’s ongoing war with the orcs and in the armed truce against the elves. At the Academy, Fletcher, a commoner, endures scorn from the more skilled second-year students of noble birth, especially a pair of snobbish twin siblings, who are particularly cruel to Sylva, the elf chieftain’s daughter, and the dwarf Othello. VERDICT The appealing characters, fast-paced plot, focus on racial politics, and interesting demon varieties (demonology addendum included) make this an enjoyable read.–Sharon Rawlins, New Jersey State Library, Trenton

McVoy, Terra Elan. Drive Me Crazy. 288p. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. Apr. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062322432.

Gr 6-8 –Two months ago, Lana’s Grandpa Howie married Cassie’s Grandma Tess (Nono). The girls didn’t quite hit it off, but as they’re accompanying their grandparents on their California road trip honeymoon, Lana hopes that they’ll soon be great friends. Cassie, on the other hand, just wants to get through the trip as best as possible. She quickly realizes that maybe Lana isn’t so bad, and they begin a tentative friendship. Both girls are struggling emotionally: Lana is pretending that her mother’s recent health issues are not bothering her, and Cassie is obsessed with keeping the popular kids as her friends. A spur of the moment trip to Maine to catch a Magic Moment finally allows the protagonists to understand what each is dealing with and solidify their friendship. VERDICT Despite some heavy topics, this is a lighthearted road trip story with a lot of middle school appeal.–Kefira Phillipe, Nichols Middle School, Evanston, IL

surviving-santiago-miller-lachmannMiller-Lachmann, Lyn. Surviving Santiago. 320p. ebook available. Running Pr. Teen. Jun. 2015. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780762456338. LC 2014954486.

Gr 9 Up –This companion to Miller-Lachmann’s Gringolandia (Curbstone, 2009) focuses on Daniel’s 16-year-old younger sister, Tina. In 1989, Tina is sent to Chile for the summer to be with her father and aunt. Her father is a known anti-government activist, and though he is able to work as a reporter for a radio station, his home life is difficult due to the large amount of alcohol that he consumes and his physical handicaps, which were caused by the beatings he endured when he was locked up as a political prisoner. His sister feels an obligation to help care for him, even though they have a rocky relationship. Tina finds herself in an uncomfortable situation. She is lonely and spends much of her time at her father’s house trying to keep busy while her father and aunt are at work. When she meets a delivery boy named Frankie, she believes that he will save her from the agonizing summer ahead. VERDICT Purchase for collections in need of literature with Hispanic protagonists and historical time periods not often covered in schools.–Elizabeth Kahn, Patrick F. Taylor Science & Technology Academy, Jefferson, LA

Noble, Carrie Anne. The Mermaid’s Sister. 252p. ebook available. Amazon/Skyscape. Mar. 2015. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781477820889.

Gr 8 Up –This lovely, lyrical fantasy takes place in a mythical Pennsylvania mountain setting and tells the story of three foundlings—Clara, Maren, and O’Neill. Clara was delivered to Auntie by a stork, Maren was found in a seashell, and O’Neill was placed beneath an apple tree. Clara and Maren have grown up as sisters with wise woman Auntie as their guardian, while the young man O’Neill is raised by Scarff the traveling peddler. When Clara notices that Maren is developing scales and needs to spend more and more time in water, she realizes that her friend is turning into a mermaid and that no potion or magic will halt the change. Because the only way to save Maren is to return her to her father, the Sea King, Clara and O’Neill place Maren in a tub of salt water in the peddler’s wagon and journey toward the ocean. However, they are waylaid by members of a traveling show who enslave them and put Maren on display in a freak show. Clara must overcome her inner doubts about who she really is in order to save Maren, O’Neill, and herself from the wicked traveling players. VERDICT Noble’s treatment of the mermaid theme is fresh and original, and even her minor characters are beautifully depicted.–Kathleen E. Gruver, Burlington County Library, Westampton, NJ

rabb kissing in americaRabb, Margo. Kissing in America. 400p. HarperCollins. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062322371; ebk. ISBN 9780062322395.

Gr 9 Up –Two years ago, Eva Roth’s father was killed in a plane crash, which is still being investigated. Eva’s grief is as fresh as it was the day he died, but her mother seems determined to move on and expects Eva to do the same. As her mother becomes increasingly uncommunicative and obsessed with work, Eva tries to escape her pain by focusing on preparing for college; studying with her best friend, Annie; and losing herself in the pages of romance novels. When the teen is paired with high school heartthrob, Will, in an after-school tutoring session, she discovers that he, too, has lost a family member. Their shared understanding of loss and pain draws them into a relationship that is abruptly halted when Will has to move from New York to Los Angeles. She convinces the brilliant Annie to enter the two of them in an academic teen game show that promises a trip to Los Angeles and a $20,000 scholarship to the winner. Together they embark on a cross-country adventure that will test their friendship, and ultimately bring Eva to a deeper understanding of herself and her family. VERDICT A first purchase for most YA collections.–Cary Frostick, formerly at Mary Riley Styles Public Library, Falls Church, VA

Reyes, M.G. Emancipated. 400p. Harper Collins/Katherine Tegen Bks. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062288950.

Gr 10 Up –The situation is any adolescent’s fantasy: six beautiful teenagers living together in a house on Venice Beach without parents. For different reasons, each of the young people—two boys and four girls—have been emancipated from their parents. Though they promise to finish school and pay their rent, trouble finds them. As Lucy’s music career takes off, Candace finds success as an actress, and Paulo works on his tennis game (he’s a very in-demand tennis pro for reasons not just related to his athletic prowess), each of the characters’ pasts catches up to them. In the tradition of other popular teen dramas—like Lauren Conrad’s “L.A. Candy” and Sara Shepard’s “Pretty Little Liars” (both HarperCollins) —the six housemates are all hiding something: a past mistake, their true identity, or their real intentions, and things get messy when their worlds converge. VERDICT Older teens who love drama will be hooked and asking for the next book immediately.–Jennifer Miskec, Longwood University, Farmville, VA

Ropal, Monica. When You Leave. 336p. ebook available. Running Pr. Teen. Apr. 2015. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9780762454556.

Gr 9 Up –Romance and a murder mystery intermingle in this gritty and engaging novel. Cass is a high school student, struggling to fit in at a fancy private school. Before her father’s desertion and her mother’s remarriage, Cass lived in a low-income neighborhood and hung out at the skate park. Her best friends are a group of boys who include Mattie, Gav, and Franklin. She’s especially fond of Mattie—he lost his voice to cancer nine years ago, but they’re so close that she can tell exactly what he’s thinking. Now Cass is a preppy St. Bernadette’s student by day, trying to blend in and remain unnoticed. When she falls for Cooper, a rich, charming boy, though, her old friends clash with her new love interest. Cooper is brutally murdered, and Gav is arrested for the crime. Cass is positive that he is innocent. She decides to play detective at St. Bernadette’s, uncovering a complicated mix of friendships, love triangles, and dark secrets. There are plenty of twists and turns on the way to an enjoyable conclusion. VERDICT Readers will find much to like in this fast-paced and well-written story.–Miranda Doyle, Lake Oswego School District, OR

Schneider, Robyn. Extraordinary Means. 336p. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062217165; ebk. ISBN 9780062217189.

Gr 8 Up –After being diagnosed with a drug-resistant form of tuberculosis, the cute but nerdy Lane is sent to Latham House, an isolated boarding school where there is plenty of fresh air, no homework or tests, and long rest periods between classes. Lane, who has been more focused on getting into his dream college than making meaningful friendships and high school memories, connects once again with the eccentric Sadie, a former summer camp intrigue who has already been quarantined at the school for over a year. With only a narrow chance at recovery, as romance unfurls, neither teen has fully come to terms with what it means to be terminally ill. VERDICT Schneider’s subtlety, combined with themes about learning to live life fully, makes this an easy recommendation for those seeking titles similar in premise to John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars (Dutton, 2012).–Danielle Jones, Multnomah County Library, OR

SLJ1503-Fic9up-The-Walls-around-Us-Nova-Ren-SumaSuma, Nova Ren. The Walls Around Us. 336p. ebook available. Algonquin. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781616203726.

Gr 9 Up –This haunting and evocative tale of magical realism immerses readers in two settings that seem worlds apart. The book is told in alternating first-person voices from the perspective of two teenagers: lonely Amber, who at age 13 was convicted of murdering her abusive stepfather and sent to Aurora Hills, a juvenile detention facility, and Vee, an insecure yet ruthlessly ambitious Julliard-bound ballerina. Through Vee’s and Amber’s recollections, readers learn about talented, kind-hearted Ori, Vee’s former best friend and a dancer herself, who after being convicted of a heinous crime is sent to Aurora Hills, where she becomes Amber’s roommate—and where soon after a strange tragedy occurs. The prose is mesmerizing, laced with visceral, gorgeous figurative language, and draws subtle parallels between the disciplined, constricting world of ballet and the literal prison in which Amber and Ori find themselves. VERDICT A powerful story that will linger with readers.–Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal

Vaughn, J.D. The Second Guard. 432p. Disney-Hyperion. Apr. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781423169093.

Gr 7 Up –Talimendra has turned 15, which means it’s time for her to leave her family to train for the queen’s guard or, failing to qualify after the training, to work as an indentured servant until turning 21. This is a requirement for all second-born children in Tequende, a peaceful land surrounded by those who would seek to conquer it. Tali’s mother, now deceased, served on the guard, and Tali wishes to do the same. She makes new friends at Alcazar, the training location: first with Zarif, of the Moon Guild, and then his roommate Chey, of the Earth Guild. Tequende society is divided into three guilds, each a reflection of one of the deities that the people worship, each encompassing certain trades and occupations; to make friends across the guilds is rare. Tali is of the Sun Guild, and her father was a trader. Vaughn captures the discomfort of the teens’ hard training along with the bonds that form among those who are suffering together. There is also intrigue—the three friends realize that there is a mutinous plot involving some of the highest ranking officials in the land. VERDICT Teens will cheer for Tali and her friends and appreciate the rich setting in this well-written and engaging fantasy.–Kathy Kirchoefer, Henderson County Public Library, NC

SLJ1503-Fic9up-Wein_Black Dove White RavenWein, Elizabeth. Black Dove, White Raven. 368p. Disney-Hyperion. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781423183105; ebk. ISBN 9781484707807.

Gr 8 Up –In her latest World War II–era novel, Wein returns to themes of aviation and the enduring bonds of platonic love and friendship. Best friends Rhoda, a white Quaker, and African American Delia were “barnstorming” pilots, a team who performed in air shows across the United States as White Raven and Black Dove, their children, Emilia and Teo, in tow. When Delia is killed in a plane crash, Rhoda commits to fulfilling Delia’s dream for Teo—to live in a land where he wouldn’t be judged by the color of his skin—and moves them all to Ethiopia, where Teo’s father was born. Life on the coffee farm at Tazma Meda is wonderful, especially since Rhoda is teaching the children to fly, but rumors of invasion by Italy become reality, and bureaucratic snafus mean that the family can’t leave the country. Then the war becomes even more personal when all young men of Ethiopian heritage are conscripted. VERDICT Highly recommended for all libraries, especially where her previous titles have flown off the shelves.–Stephanie Klose, School Library Journal

withers andreo's raceWithers, Pam. Andreo’s Race. 224p. ebook available. Tundra. Apr. 2015. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781770497665.

Gr 8 Up –This action-packed book revolves around the topics of adventure races and illegal adoptions, managing to make both interesting and highly readable. Sixteen-year-old Andreo was adopted as a baby, and his family’s upcoming team adventure race in Bolivia is a chance for him to learn more about his origins. When his friend and fellow adoptee Raul discovers that they may have been stolen as babies from their rightful parents, the pair resolve to investigate during the race. Andreo navigates through nighttime cycling, awkward family dynamics, and wanted criminals in his search for his birth mother. The experience of adventure racing is brought to life in the story, with readers experiencing the intensity of training and competition through Andreo. VERDICT The simple, straightforward language, surprise twist, and nonstop action will appeal to reluctant readers looking for a thrilling novel.–Marian McLeod, Convent of the Sacred Heart, Greenwich, CT

Zappia, Francesca. Made You Up. 448p. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062290106.

Gr 9 Up –Alex is starting her senior year at a new high school, making a clean start after an incident at her previous school. She just wants to keep her grades up and perform her mandatory community service so she can get into college. But Alex knows she’ll have a hard time achieving these goals, since she has paranoid schizophrenia. She keeps her illness to herself, hoping that between her doctor, her medication, and her own homegrown coping strategies, no one else need ever know. But on her first day at her new school, she meets a boy who looks exactly like someone she hallucinated on the day her illness first manifested 10 years earlier. And although Miles is not entirely friendly, he may be the only person who understands her. Zappia sets a fast pace that she maintains throughout. While Alex may be unreliable, she is sympathetic from the start. VERDICT Zappia tackles some big issues in her debut, creating a messy, hopeful, even joyful book.–Geri Diorio, Ridgefield Library, CT

Graphic Novels

Christin, Pierre. Robert Moses: The Master Builder of New York City. illus. by Olivier Balez. 112p. maps. Flying Eye Books/Nobrow. 2014. Tr $24.95. ISBN 9781907704963.

Gr 6 Up –This biography of urban planner Robert Moses effectively demonstrates why he was one of the most polarizing figures in New York’s history. Moses stayed in power for decades, outlasting mayors, governors, and presidents. Activist and journalist Jane Jacobs is presented as the man’s main opponent; cycling around the city, the unpretentious Jacobs is an ideal foil for the larger-than-life Moses. Christin relies heavily on dialogue to tell the story, which keeps the narrative from becoming dry. Balez’s artwork is visually striking, capturing with just a few colors the lives of rich and poor, from scenic panoramas to tenement slums. VERDICT This work provides an excellent overview of one of New York’s most powerful public figures and the legacy he left behind for generations to come.–Andrea Lipinski, New York Public Library

cool japan guideDenson, Abby. Cool Japan Guide: Fun in the Land of Manga, Lucky Cats and Ramen. illus. by Abby Denson. 128p. maps. websites. Tuttle. Mar. 2015. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9784805312797.

Gr 5 Up –What could be a more fitting format for a travel guide on modern Japan than a comic book? Relying on delightful cartoon illustrations, this creative, nicely designed title details travel preparations, the homestay experience, food, shopping, and festivals. Readers will get a strong sense of all that the country has to offer: manga, anime, onsens (or hot springs), karaoke bars, and much more. Some images are accompanied by lengthy, enlightening captions. Kitty Sweet Tooth, a cheery feline who sports a lime green dress festooned with a red heart, introduces a pronunciation guide for common words. VERDICT Those fascinated by Japan will enjoy this amusing and educational romp.–Robyn Gioia, Antilles Middle School, Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico

diorcover.inddGoetzinger, Annie. Girl in Dior. tr. from French by Joe Johnson. illus. by Annie Goetzinger. 128p. bibliog. chron. further reading. glossary. NBM. Mar. 2015. Tr $27.99. ISBN 9781561639144. LC 2014956278.

Gr 9 Up –This is a appealing graphic novel, gorgeously illustrated by French costume designer and illustrator Goetzinger. The story covers the 1947 groundbreaking first fashion show put on by designer Christian Dior, when he introduced weary post–World War II patrons to the “New Look”—yards and yards of fabric and fantasy after years of shortages and short skirts. We watch the magic happen through the eyes of Clara Nohant, a young “fashion chronicler,” a fictional character injected into the story amid real-life modistes, drapers, pattern makers, muses, magazine editors, and movie stars who surrounded the designer. Goetzinger’s renderings of each character, from Dior’s beloved dog “Bobby” to French grandmères to Hollywood icons is distinct and memorable in every respect. And the clothes! The sweep and drape of the gowns and the exquisite cut of the suits and hats will make would-be designers and future fashion chroniclers shiver. VERDICT This title is like a perfect Dior creation: stunningly designed, lavishly beautiful, effortlessly elegant. Fashionistas and fashionistos of all ages will devour this book hungrily.–Liz French, Library Journal

whispered wordsIkeda, Takashi. Whispered Words, Vol. 1. 472p. ISBN 9781935548454.

––––. Whispered Words, Vol. 2. 456p. ISBN 9781935548577.

ea vol: tr. from by Julianne Neville. illus. by Takashi Ikeda. ebook available. One Peace. 2014. pap. $16.95.

Gr 9 Up –Best friends Sumika and Ushio have hidden feelings for each other, and because neither wishes to risk their bond, a rift forms between them. At first, Ushio is oblivious to her heart’s desire, and Sumika is unwilling to reveal her own feelings, but with new friends complicating their daily lives, they are forced to reevaluate themselves. Gradually, their revelations, coupled with genuine bonding moments, bring them much closer. Character forms morph frequently to visually match the tone of the situation; poignant moments are shaded and highlighted in comparison to the normal gently cute mode, while comedic scenes are simplified and exaggerated. This shoujo-ai (light girls love) is a pure-hearted romance with minimal fanservice that establishes itself as a female friendly environment. VERDICT A sweet romance between two female teens told in the manga format.–Rachel Forbes, Oakville Public Library, Ontario, Canada

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

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Little, Brown Partners with LEGO; Lambda Literary Award Finalists | News Bites Thu, 26 Mar 2015 16:59:10 +0000 Competitions

ChildrenCHoiceBAVoting is now open for the Children’s Choice Book Award and will close May 3. Winners will be announced during the 96th annual Children’s Book Week, at the Children’s Choice Book Award ceremony on May 4. For more information about the awards, visit the official website.

Honors, Prizes

LambdaThis March, finalists were announced for the 27th Annual Lambda Literary Award for achievement in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) writing for books published in 2014. Finalists in the Children’s and Young Adult category include Susan Kuklin’s Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out (Candlewick), Robin Talley’s Lies We Tell Ourselves (Harlequinn Teen), and Five, Six, Seven, Nate! (S. & S.) by Tim Federle. The winners will be announced at a gala ceremony on June 1, 2015 in New York City.

The 10 finalists for the second annual NYC Neighborhood Library Awards, founded by The Stavros Niarchos Foundation and the Charles H. Revson Foundation, were announced in March. The awards celebrate the crucial role of local libraries in serving New York City’s diverse communities and generated more than 13,000 nominations from library users. After being reviewed by a judges’ panel, five recipients will be selected for the grand prize of $20,000 each. The winning libraries will be announced in May. Read the full press release.


On March 17, myON announced the introduction of digital content from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to the myON literacy environment, including Picture Books, Award Winners, Middle School, and High School packages.

EH_140828_OverdriveOverDrive announced that a record number of schools and districts have made the digital shift successfully in the 2014−15 school year. More than 12,000 schools and districts worldwide now offer digital content via OverDrive, including ebooks, digital audiobooks, and other digital media, an increase of more than 85 percent over 2013−14. Find out more.

Digital reading platform Curriculet announced agreements with Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster to offer thousands of books to schools nationwide. Schools will now have access to nearly 30,000 titles through the reading platform, enhanced with Common Core-aligned layers of questions, annotations, and multimedia. For more information about offered titles, visit Curriculet’s website.

Upgrades, Launches, and Partnerships

The Library Corporation’s (TLC) Library Solution and Library Solution for Schools automation systems now feature Reading Level Integration enhancements. TLC’s Reading Level Integration is a service that pulls data directly from Lexile and Accelerated Reader vendors and associates by ISBN for display in LS2 Staff, LS2 PAC, and LS2 Kids—modules included with every Library Solution and Library Solution for Schools ILS. The system also includes searching capabilities so users can search by an individual reading level or a specified range and see the information directly in their search results. Click here for more information.

PenguinRandomHousePenguin Random House announced the official launch of Brightly, a new online resource that encourages and supports parents’ efforts to raise lifelong readers by providing recommendations from publishers industry-wide and guidance about books and literacy for children at every stage of their life. Parents are further supported by an email newsletter and a robust social media program across Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram that encourages active conversation from its community. Visit the Brightly website.

Recently, it was announced that Little, Brown Books for Young Readers will launch a new publishing program based on internationally popular LEGO brands as part of a multiple book, multiyear agreement with the LEGO Group. The line will kick off with three graphic novels, based on the bestselling LEGO properties LEGO NinjagoTM, LEGO Friends, and LEGO BIONICLE. The first book will be released in September 2015. Find out more.


logo_mackin, a professional learning and social network for the education community, and Mackin Educational Resources, a leading provider of print and digital media to preK−12 schools and libraries, are partnering to present a series of free webinars in the online community “Exploring Ebooks for K−12.” provides CE certificates to educators who attend live events or watch the archives. For more information about future webinars, read the full press release.

More Bites

Nonprofit leader and advocate Jon Colman will join the Children’s Book Council and Every Child a Reader as executive director. Colman most recently served as president of the National Down Syndrome Society, which he joined in 2001, leading the premier advocacy nonprofit in its mission to promote the acceptance and inclusion of people with Down Syndrome. He brings to the CBC and ECAR his expertise in strategic planning, advocacy, and fundraising. Read more.

Safe-Place-logoTo kick off National Safe Place Week, The Seattle Public Library system became a part of the Safe Place network in King County. As of March 16, all 27 of Seattle’s public libraries are a Safe Place where youth ages 12−17 can ask for help when in crisis. Youth can approach any established Safe Place site, recognizable by a yellow diamond logo, or call 1-800-422-TEEN to receive immediate help. For more information about SPL and King’s County Safe Place program, consult the press release.

As part of its regular member Spotlight series, NetGalley interviewed Mandy Peterson, a media specialist at Schuyer Community Schools. In her interview, Mandy discusses technology in the library and the usefulness of previewing titles. Read the full interview here.

This month, the Reach Out and Read Board of Directors welcomed two new members, Dipesh Navsaria and Susan Hildreth. Dipesh Navsaria is a pediatrician, with degrees in public health and children’s librarianship, while Susan Hildreth has had a more than 30-year-long distinguished career in the leadership of public libraries. Learn more here.

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Critics Sound off on “Clean Reader” App | Storify Thu, 26 Mar 2015 14:43:18 +0000 Updated March 27, 2015: “We have taken immediate action to remove all books from our catalogue,” reads Clean Reader’s Facebook account.
A survey, thus far, of some responses to “Clean Reader.” The application, for IOS and Android, is an ereading platform that removes profanity, references to anatomical features, and language deemed offensive from titles available in an online bookstore.
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Westward Bound | Touch and Go Thu, 26 Mar 2015 13:44:40 +0000 photo

“‘With a sinking feeling, I realized that I was entering a new kind of life, as rough and full of ups and downs as the road over which we traveled. Would I have the courage and fortitude to stick it out?”—Katherine Kirk, Bound for South Dakota.’”


Pioneers (iOS; $2.99; Gr 4-6), Volume 24 of the award-winning Kids Discover series, written by Linda Scher, offers a detail-rich, fascinating introduction to the peak years of the Westward Expansion.

The app is well organized with clear and simple navigation. Chapters topics advance logically, beginning with a broad definition of pioneer, followed by information on the various waves of people that headed West, their reasons for leaving home, the enormous hardships they faced on the trail, and the challenges of surviving in the often inhospitable environment they found themselves in. Community and leisure activities from cornhusking contests to hoedowns, and some commonly held misconceptions about the period and the people are also discussed. Briefly noted is the movement’s disruption to the Native American way of life.


Interior image from Kids Discover’s “Pioneers” (Scher) Art Resource

Throughout, drop-down quotes provide firsthand commentary by the travelers (not sourced). Adventurous individuals mentioned include frontiersman Daniel Boone, and Benjamin Singleton, who was born into slavery in Tennessee, and after the Civil War started an all-black community in Kansas.

Interactive 3-D models; high definition video and audio; photographs, including many archival sepia prints; spot art cartoons; and animations add to the information and invite continued reading and browsing. The final chapters of Pioneers offer a few interactive games of limited interest, a simple quiz, and a bibliography with live links to excellent resources for further research.


Image from a video clip in Kids Discover’s “Pioneers” (Scher) Peter Draper

The audio files combine music, speech, and sound effects to create an immersive experience. The full-screen 3-D animated models optimized for the iPad are particularly well executed. They include views of a log cabin and the inside of a covered wagon, and a twirl around a buffalo. One vivid video sequence titled “The Perils of the Plains” provides five short clips of the types of environmental challenges experienced by those living in that area, today and in the past: snowstorms, dust storms, prairie fires, tornadoes, and swarms of locusts. Also included are a few realistic-looking, distressed sepia video clips of moving wagon trains and figures walking. While it will be clear to adults that these are contemporary reenactments, students with no background knowledge of the period or the invention of film, may think they are seeing actual footage from the era.

This informative app is could serve as an introduction to a unit of study on the Westward Expansion.Teachers may want to consider connecting their iPads to an interactive whiteboard and invite students to explore the app as a discussion starter or as a Know/Wants to Know/Learned (K-W-L) graphic organizer and opener to the period. It would also be suitable for students in a 1:1 environment, and interested children in a home or public library setting. Overall, it’s an engaging introduction and an excellent addition to the series.—Elisabeth LeBris, Sears School LTC, Kenilworth, IL

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Celebrated YA Author Ellen Conford Dies at 73 Thu, 26 Mar 2015 13:39:18 +0000 EllenC_altpic_smCelebrated YA author Ellen Conford died March 20 on her 73rd birthday, following a long illness.

Conford wrote more than 30 books, including the “Annabel the Actress” (S. & S.) and “Jenny Archer” (Little, Brown) series. Her novels effectively conveyed the uncertainty and turmoil of the adolescent experience. And I Am Laura (1977) centers on a girl who feels frustrated that the rest of her family outshines her but who discovers that she has supernatural powers, while To All My Fans, with Love, from Sylvie (1982, both Little, Brown) follows a 1950s teenager attempting to flee her life in foster care for glamorous Hollywood.

Though her books were out of print for many years, they still resonate with fans, many of whom still treasure the impact that Conford had on them as readers. Publisher Lizzie Skurnick has begun republishing Conford’s work through her eponymous imprint at Ig Publishing, which is committed to reiussing classic YA literature by authors such as M.E. Kerr, Lois Duncan, and Norma Klein.

“Ellen was a fundamental, essential part of 80s YA, which was both humorous but very reality based,” Skurnick told SLJ. When she announced the author’s death on Twitter, “people immediately started posting their memories and favorite lines from her books.”

“She’s just a fundamental, essential part of how many of us women learned about the world and about ourselves,” Skurnick added. “She really understood that teenagers have their own, rich complicated world.”

Conford reached young people beyond print. Several of her novels were adapted for TV afterschool specials, such as The Alfred G. Graebner Memorial High School Handbook of Rules and Regulations (1976) and Dear Lovey Hart, I Am Desperate (1975, Little, Brown), many by Conford herself.

The author was born in 1942 in New York City. Her appreciation for the written word was apparently early on: she was an avid reader and later edited her high school’s humor magazine.

After attending Hofstra University, she launched her career writing short stories for teen magazines. Her decision to start writing full-length books originated out of her frustration at her inability to find a good book at the library for her son. She told her husband that she thought she could write a better one. The result was her debut work, Impossible Possum (Little, Brown, 1971), a picture book about a possum who doesn’t fit in with the rest of his family because he can’t hang by his tail, illustrated by Rosemary Wells.

Little, Brown editor John Keller recalls coming across the manuscript for Impossible Possum at the beginning of his editorial career: “Its fresh and funny tone was just right…. To make matters even better, when I contacted the author, she turned out to be just as fresh and funny as her characters. It was a triumph for all of us and the start of a wonderful editor-author relationship.”

Conford went on to publish more than 30 novels, garnering both popular and critical success. The Alfred G. Graebner Memorial High School of Rules and Regulations was selected by the American Library Association as a Notable Young Adult Book in 1976, while Lenny Kandell, Smart Aleck (Little, Brown) was named an SLJ Best Book in 1983.

Those who knew Conford praised her not only for her talent but for her warm, winning personality. Keller described going out to lunch with the author in New York City. “As we were picking up our coats to leave, Barbara Walters was escorted past us. Ellen turned to me and, laughed, and said, ‘Gee, I’m among celebrities, I guess I really have arrived.’ ‘Honey,’ I replied, ‘in our small world, you arrived right from the start. And I bet you’re going to keep on going—just like Ms. Walters over there.’ And she did.”

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