Wednesday, March 30, 2011


A friend of mine was commenting recently about the way libraries have evolved since we were teenagers; she isn't a frequent library patron, so was a little surprised at some of the changes!  For fun, here's our list of top five modifications that, if you haven't visited a library in a while, might shock you.  To follow, as always, a booklist . . .

5.  Teens can eat in the library.  We actually have a vending machine in the teen room, serve snacks at events and meetings, and allow our teen patrons to order in pizza . . . as long as they share!

4. Comic books -- in the forms of graphic novels and manga -- are considered literature, and are allotted part of our purchasing budget.

3. Teens come to the library not only to study and find books to read, but also to game, facebook, email, watch TV,  and hang out.

2. Teens don't know what the Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature is; but they are learning, we hope, what electronic databases are.

1.  "Hush" is no longer something a librarian says to a patron.  It is, however, the title of several interesting teen novels.  (Nice segue, don't you think?)

Hush by Jacqueline Woodson (2002, G. H. Putnam's Sons) 

Coretta Scott King award-winner Woodson tells the story of a young African-American girl whose family enters a witness-protection program after her father testifies in a police brutality case. Once Toswiah Green, Evie Thomas now has to adjust to a new name, a new town, and in many ways, a new family.  Her father slumps into depression; her mother embraces a newfound religious fervor; and her older sister hides secrets from Evie and her parents.  And Evie, who is not allowed to discuss her past or the people she left behind, now wonders who she is.

Batman: Hush (Vols. I & II) by Jeph Loeb (DC Comics, 2003)

In this saga of murder, mystery, and manipulation, Batman sets out on a simple mission to discover the identity of the mysterious character wreaking havoc in his life. Using the Dark Knight's deadliest foes as his own private pawns, the enigmatic man known only as Hush makes Batman and his allies endure a series of torturous mental and physical attacks. But it is not until Batman learns his mysterious assailant's true identity that he suffers his greatest defeat and betrayal.

Hush: An Irish Princess' Tale by Donna Jo Napoli (2008, Simon Pulse)

In this haunting work, Napoli invents a backstory for Melkorka, a character in an ancient Icelandic saga.  Melkorka and her sister, Brigid, daughters of a king in 10th-century Ireland, go into hiding while their father plans to avenge a brutal Viking attack on his lands. Instead of reaching sanctuary, the girls are captured by Russian river pirates, who take women and children to sell as slaves. Melkorka, who once disdained the slaves on her father's property, now becomes one herself, and is faced with the brutal, animalistic society of slave-traders.  She descends into silence, both out of horror at her situation, and in an effort to conceal her true identity.  Even mute, however, Melkorka has a voice: her actions of compassion and integrity towards her fellow slaves mark her as unique in a cruel world, and eventually save her life. 

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick (2010, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)

Note:  I reviewed this novel in my February 26 post in this blog, as part of a list of nominees for the 2011 Soaring Eagle Book Award.  Since then, vote tallies show that Hush, Hush tied for 2nd runner-up in the Wyoming competition.  The following is the blog review from February:

In this debut novel, we meet Nora Grey, a star student who is focused on getting good grades and staying out of trouble, so that she can earn enough scholarships to take her to a good school.  She and her friend, Vee, have always shared the same goals and priorities. . . until the day Nora is assigned a new lab partner.  Patch is a bad boy, and he says things that really get under Nora's skin.  Is she attracted to him?  What is it about Patch that seems so other-worldly, anyway?  And why is Vee spending so much time with Elliott, Patch's stoic, silent friend?  The sequel, Crescendo,  was released last fall; both books have been immensely popular.

Hush by Eishes Chayil (2010, Walker)

Inside the closed community of Borough Park, where most of Brooklyn's Chassidim live, the rules of life are very clear, determined by an ancient script written thousands of years before down to the last detail—and abuse has never been a part of it. But when thirteen-year-old Gittel learns of the abuse her best friend has suffered at the hands of her own family member, the adults in her community try to persuade Gittel, and themselves, that nothing happened. Forced to remain silent, Gittel begins to question everything she was raised to believe. A non-judgemental, detailed book that reveals a complex, yet deeply misunderstood society. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Strong Girls, Strong Women

March marks Women's History Month -- a time to celebrate women who have struggled to overcome various social inequalities.  Young Adult literature features a variety of strong female characters, in every genre: share some of these with a girl or teen in your own life to inspire her to grow into a strong woman.

Trickster's Girl by Hilari Bell. Kelsa, dealing with the death of her father, does not seek out the mysterious stranger who shows up at her private burial ceremony; he seeks her. And he then tells her one of the most far-fetched stories she's ever heard: that the plague that is killing trees across the earth is connected to her father's cancer, and that she is the only human who can heal the planet.   Despite her skepticism, Kelsa senses something real about this stranger and his story. She was looking for a reason not to spend the summer with her mother, anyway. Demonstrating savvy and bravery, Kelsa devises a way to disappear from her high-tech, high security world, and to begin the work of healing earth at its most crucial points: the ley lines that transverse sacred locations, such as Arches National Park and Flathead Lake. Regional readers will enjoy following Kelsa's adventures through territory that is familiar to them; all will be surprised by Kelsa's final choice at the end of the novel.

What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell.  In this historical fiction novel set in the period of affluence just after World War II, we learn that everything is not as it seems. Evie Spooner lives with her mom, stepdad, and grandmother in Brooklyn, trusting in Joe's business sense, her mother's love, and her best friend's guidance to make her life run smoothly. A sudden vacation to Palm Springs, a budding romance with an older man, and a murder mystery throw Evie's carefully constructed life off its foundations. Suddenly, she doesn't know who she can trust, other than herself. An interesting novel in which the heroine doesn't realize she is the star of her own story until the very end.

 Brooklyn Rose by Ann Rinaldi.  Another historical fiction piece set in Brooklyn, this novel by storyteller Ann Rinaldi introduces us to Rose Hampton, a 15-year-old girl living on her parent's South Carolina plantation at the turn of the 20th century.  Rose thinks she will never leave St. Helena's Island, or her beloved horses; but a marriage proposal that promises financial security for her family changes her mind. Within a month of her older sister's wedding, Rose is choosing to marry a man she barely knows, move with him to Brooklyn, and assume a new life there as a woman, not a teenage girl.

Stolen by Lucy Christopher.  A parent's nightmare: 15-year-old Gemma is drugged and kidnapped in an international airport, the crime crafted so carefully that her kidnapper is able to pass her off as his girlfriend. It takes Gemma days to realize that she has been taken to the middle of the Australian outback, to a place so remote and oppressive that she will not be found. This is a story of a victim becoming a hero: Gemma fights, with whatever limited means she has, to resist her captor's elaborate, twisted plan, and to take back the life he has stolen from her.

A Curse Dark as Gold  by Elizabeth C. Bunce.  When her father dies, there is no son in the Miller family to inherit his wool mill; instead, 18-year-old Charlotte and her sister Rosie assume leadership. Not only are they responsible for the operation of the mill, but also for the employment and security of all their employees and employees' families.  It's a lot for a young girl, but Charlotte is up to it: at least she is until the mill is threatened by financial strain, inexplicable accidents, and rumors of a powerful curse. A long-lost uncle shows up to care for Charlotte and Rosie, but offers no help with the mill. Instead, Charlotte finds herself turning to a strange man, Jack Spinner, who offers her a miracle . . . but at what price?  A masterful re-telling of the Rumplestiltskin legend, this novel offers us a glimpse at a society that still believed in curses, fairies, and family, and at young woman who only believes in herself.