February 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

YA Books with Diverse Male Protagonists | JLG’s Booktalks to Go Teen

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Fans of Jeff Strand’s A Bad Day for Voodoo rejoice! He’s back with another who-writes-this?! kind of tale with action, surprises, and humor that rises and falls with each page turn. Joining him in spring releases with boy protagonists are three debut authors. Lamar Giles writes of an African American teen hiding in the witness protection program with a plot that continues to twist and turn. Christopher E. Long’s sci-fi novel alters what we believe about superheroes. Jason Reynolds’s realistic tale of urban life among drugs and guns gives readers hope. In addition to being great stories, In addition to being great stories, each title features diverse characters, and boys of color getting a long overdue shot in the spotlight.

FAKE IDGILES, Lamar. Fake ID. HarperCollins/Amistad. 2014. ISBN 9780062121844. JLG Level: HI : High-Interest High School (Grades 10 & Up).

Nick Pearson has gotten good at staying low key. After all, this is his fourth identity in the witness protection program. It’s his dad who keeps blowing their cover. After discovering his new friend Eli dead in a pool of blood, however, it’s pretty hard to stay out of everyone’s notice. He never planned on getting involved with anyone, until Eli’s hot sister is desperate to prove it was murder and not a suicide. The conspiracy they uncover may be far more dangerous than letting his true identity be known.

Read more about debut YA author Lamar Giles on his website. Be sure to visit his blog and learn how you can participate in the efforts for diversity in YA literature. You can follow him on Twitter.

LONG, Christopher E. Hero Worship. Flux. 2014. ISBN 9780738739090. JLG Level: PBH : Paperbacks High School (Grades 10 & Up).

Hero Worship“Sometimes obeying the law isn’t the right choice.” Marvin couldn’t have agreed less. Right is right and wrong is wrong―until the day his world is turned upside down. The Core (an elite group of Superheroes) discovers his superpower of speed. They want Marvin to join the team. It seems like a dream too good to be true. And it is.

The Marvel Comics writer/debut novelist plots his story like a graphic novel-turned-movie. Larger-than-life characters, villains, and intense action will keep readers on the edge of their seats. Check out Long’s blog and follow him on Twitter.

REYNOLDS, Jason. When I Was the Greatest. S. & S./Atheneum. 2014. ISBN 9781442459472. JLG Level: CH : City High School (Grades 10 & Up).

When I Was the GreatestAli has his hands full as man of the house while his mom works two jobs just to pay the rent. He doesn’t have the time or patience for guns, drugs, or trouble. Staying away from all of that seems impossible when his best friend Noodle seems to attract it. Even for Ali, getting invited to an adults-only party is too much to resist. Bringing Noodles’s brother Needles, knitting needles in tow, is only natural. The three go everywhere together. One bad decision leads to another, following them all the way home. Someone is going to pay the price.

Featuring a young man who never had a chance to be a child, Reynolds’s tale of urban life features strong adult and juvenile characters. It’s the kind of story you lean forward to listen to. If you should get a chance to hear the debut author speak, make every effort to attend. His in-person storytelling is just as good. In the meantime, read his blog and follow him on Twitter. Check out the interview on The Brown Bookshelf, a website designed to raise awareness of African American authors and illustrators. As readers may have questions about Needles’s Tourette Syndrome, you’ll find a plethora of resources and information at the National Tourette Syndrome Association

STRAND, Jeff. I Have a Bad Feeling About This. Sourcebooks. 2014. ISBN 9781402284557. JLG Level: PBH : Paperbacks High School (Grades 10 & Up).

I have a bad feeling about thisFans of Bad Day for Voodoo rejoice! The author of the hilariously ludicrous comedy is back with another can’t-put-this-down novel. What could be worse if you are a geek than being sent to a summer survival camp run by a militarylike counselor Max? And then having your technology taken away? Henry Lambert has to learn how to build a shelter, shoot a bow and arrow, and trap a wild animal. It’s more than he and his five cabin mates think they can handle. Eliminate Max, add ruthless thugs, real weapons, and the boys have real trouble.

Sprinkled with ridiculous wilderness survival tips, Strand’s newest YA novel is punctuated with non-stop humor . Readers can see what he’s up to by reading his blog or following him on Facebook and Twitter.

Additional Resources

In an effort to organize these links, I have created a LiveBinder. All websites will be posted within the LiveBinder, along with the accompanying booktalk. As I write more columns, more books and their resources will be added. Simply go to JLG Booktalks to Go where you will see LiveBinder tabs. Each color-coded main tab is a book title. Under each main tab are gray subtabs with links to media, websites, and other related documents. Everything you need to teach or share brand new, hot-off-the-press books is now all in one place. Please visit JLG’s new LiveBinder, JLG Booktalks to Go. For additional library resources, 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 www.JuniorLibraryGuild.com. (NOTE: JLG is owned by Media Source, Inc., SLJ’s parent company.)

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Deborah B. Ford About Deborah B. Ford

Deborah is the Director of Library Outreach for Junior Library Guild. She is an award-winning teacher librarian with almost 30 years of experience as a classroom teacher and librarian in K–12 schools.

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  1. Jason Reynolds nails the authentic voice in When I Was the Greatest.