Thursday, July 28, 2011

End of Summer Reading Suggestions

We are nearing the end of the Campbell County Teen summer reading program; teens will finish their reading pages by Saturday, and we will be drawaing for grand prizes on August 10.  Last week we featured activities from Western Europe -- a Celtic knot stationery craft, Scottish language trivia, time zone travels.  This week, our afternoon activities center around Japan; teens are decorating flip-flops (slippers) and sampling wasabi peas, pocky, and green tea. 

As I have been away from the computer much of the last two weeks, I haven't blogged about any literature selections.  What follows is a list of a variety of teen books, chosen for locations that fit with our most recent themes. Any of these would be great reading selections for the month between the end of summer reading and the start of the school year.

Books set in Europe (in general):
A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper

Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes and The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson

The Prince of Mist  by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Books set in England:
In the Shadow of the Lamp by Susanne Dunlap

A Spy in the House and The Body at the Tower by Ying S. Lee (The Agency series)

The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith

Montmorency: Thief, Liar or Gentleman? and sequels by Eleanor Updale

Books set in Ireland:
Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd

Betraying Season by Marissa Doyle

The Fire Opal by Regina McBride

The New Policeman trilogy by Kate Thompson

Books set in Scotland:
Islands of the Blessed by Nancy Farmer

Prophecy of Days by Christy Raedeke

Books set in France:
Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Troubadour by Mary Hoffman

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Sovay by Celia Rees

Books set in Germany:
Ashes by Kathryn Lasky

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Books set in Japan:
Young Samurai trilogy by Chris Bradford

The Five Ancestors series by Jeff Stone

Also, if you are interested in Japanese culture, you should investigate our growing collection of manga series.  "Manga" is a Japanese form of the graphic novel, and is unique to that culture.  We have over twenty series, and continue to develop this collection, to come in for a sample of something new.

Research more about any of these titles on our web page,  Hope to see you for the rest of the summer vacation at your library!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Hogwarts Week

Shortly after Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone first came out, I began reading it to my three older daughters during their summer storytime each day.  Slowly we made our way through the series, although I quit reading the books aloud after number four, as they were old enough to pursue them on their own. When Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (book 7) came out, I bought one copy of the book while we were on vacation: my two older daughters and I took turns with it in the car, each promising to read only one chapter before passing it to another.  There were numerous loud discussions about who was being honest with their turn, and who was reading ahead. (Never Mom, though!)

This week, in anticipation of the release of the last half of the seventh Harry Potter movie, we are "visiting" Hogwarts in the Teen Room. Our activities have allowed us teen librarians to recycle some of our better ideas from past Harry Potter-themed programs:  searching for snitches, eating cockroach clusters and drinking butterbeer, and completing several trivia contests. (Harry Potter fans are trivia nuts, in case you didn't know.)

Of course, if you haven't yet read the Harry Potter series, you should, if for no other reason than to be culturally literate.  In other words, if you read the title of this blog and didn't know where Hogwarts even was, you might want to add  a few Harry-Potter references to your lexicon. There are seven books in the series, beginning with Harry's first year at Hogwarts Academy, and ending with the year that he leaves the school in pursuit of other, darker, goals.

If you've read the series and are ready to branch out to other wonderful Young Adult fantasy, come visit us at the library.  Since J. K. Rowling first began writing the Harry Potter series, there has been a resurgence of interest in classic high fantasy, as well as an abundance of new fantasy writing published.  We are sure to find a series that works as a next step.

However, if you just can't get enough Harry Potter, you might enjoy these books from the CCPL Young Adult nonfiction collection:

Ultimate Unofficial Guide to the Mysteries of Harry Potter by Galadriel Waters.  There are three of these guides in our collection: one analyzing Books 1 through 4, one for Book 5, and one for Book 6.  While the series is typically classified as fantasy, what keeps readers reading are the intricate mysteries throughout. This nonfiction collection dissects the books, chapter by chapter, establishing both the mysteries, and the hidden clues that  J. K. Rowling uses so well. These guides are not books to be read in one sitting, but would be interesting companion reads while going through the series, whether for the first or the fifth time.

The Sorcerer's Companion: A Guide to the Magical World of Harry Potter, by Allan Zola Kronzek & Elizabeth Kronzek.  While J. K. Rowling is a highly-imaginative writer, she did not invent all the creatures, objects, and characters in the Harry Potter series. Indeed, many entities used by Rowling have long histories in folklore, legend, and occasionally real-life.  This compendium alphabetizes over 50 magical creatures, characters, and practices from the books, and provides research into the background of each.

Once you've finished The Sorcerer's Companion, pick up The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter: Treasury of Myths, Legends, and Fascinating Facts by David Colbert as well as Fact, Fiction and Folklore in Harry Potter's World: An Unofficial Guide by George Beahm, for more of the same.  Colbert and Beahm have researched even more of the magical practices and histories, so the two books together provide interesting background for the fiction series.

Finally, if you have aspirations of becoming a wizard yourself (and who doesn't?), you might enjoy The Whimsic Alley Book of Spells: Mythical Incantations for Wizards of All Ages, edited by George Beahm and Stan Goldin. Written entirely tongue-in-cheek, this humorous guide proposes spells for all life's tricky situations.  I plan to teach my children the "Cleaning Spell" as soon as I get home tonight, and to perfect the "Meal-Preparation Spell" myself. Students might want to master the "Learn While You Sleep Spell" or the "Easy Writing Spell."  In my opinion, however, the most important spell in the book -- particularly in the Teen Room on these hot summer days -- is the  "Air-Freshener Spell."  Enough said.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

G'Day, Mate!

It's been a short week in the Teen Room with the Fourth of July holiday on Monday, but we have had some good participation in our You Are Here -- Australia activities.  Probably the most popular item has been our Australian slang quiz; the teens have enjoyed matching the Australian terms to their American counterparts.

A teen reader can find plenty of Australian lingo in some of the following novels: all are set there, or in nearby New Zealand.  Try one of the following for a taste of the land down under:

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta:  This book was a Printz award winner; the Michael Printz award, you may remember, honors high-quality Young Adult literature.  In this story, a young woman who attends an Australian boarding school on Jellicoe Road finds herself trying to piece together her story. Taylor Markam is tough, and doesn't let anyone get too close; but she discovers that the people who she values most may know more about her past than she does. Marchetta is a masterful storyteller, weaving together seemingly unrelated events until reaching a satisfying, yet surprising, conclusion. This is a rather advanced book for teens, so will require a patient, thoughtful reader.

Stolen by Lucy Christopher: This is the tale of a parent's nightmare. 16-year-old Gemma is drugged and kidnapped from the Bangkok airport, smuggled through security, and taken away to the outback of Australia. Coming back to consciousness in a rustic cabin miles from civilization, Gemma gradually realizes that escape is impossible.  There is no form of communication, no way of tracking where she is. Even more disturbing is the fact that her captor, Ty, has been watching her and planning to steal her for years.  The story, written as a letter from Gemma to Ty, depicts the psychological effects of kidnapping, extreme isolation, even dependence on a captor. Though the ending is somewhat disconnected from the events of the story, the sense of place and suspense of the novel make it a worthwhile read.

The Winds of Heaven by Judith Clarke:  Set in 1950's Australia, this story of two cousins who meet one memorable summer. Clementine thinks her cousin Fan is everything that she could never be: beautiful, imaginative, wild. The girls promise to be best friends and sisters after the summer is over, but Clementine’s life in the city is different from Fan’s life in dusty Lake Conapaira. And Fan is looking for something, though neither she nor Clementine understands what it is. Printz Honor Winner Judith Clarke delivers a compassionate, compelling novel with the story of a friendship between two young women, and of the small tragedies that tear them apart from each other, and from themselves.

Jasper Jones: A Novel by Craig Silvey:   Charlie Bucktin is startled one summer night by an urgent knock on his bedroom window. His visitor is Jasper Jones, an outcast in their small mining town, and he has come to ask for Charlie's help. Terribly afraid but desperate to impress, Charlie follows him into the night. Jasper takes him to his secret glade, where Charlie witnesses Jasper's horrible discovery. With his secret like a brick in his belly, Charlie is pushed and pulled by a town closing in on itself in fear and suspicion. In the simmering summer where everything changes, Charlie learns why the truth of things is so hard to know, and even harder to hold in his heart.

In addition to these titles, all set in Australia, there are many award-winning authors from that continent.  Two of the most prominent in Young Adult fiction are John Flanagan, author of the wildly popular Ranger's Apprentice series, and Allison Croggon, who writes the well-respected Pellinor fantasy series. Visit the library for any of these novels; or, we would be happy to suggest several more!


Monday, July 4, 2011

Out of Africa

I am late in posting this entry; our Africa week in the Teen Room actually happened last week, but I was too busy with end-of-month activities to write this.  We enjoyed our summer reading activities, however: the teens made interesting African masks, participated in an African geography game and "weird foods" trivia find, played several rounds of mancala, and tasted harissa, mangoes, peanuts and black-eyed peas.  Choosing the activities -- particularly the foods -- really challenged us, as Africa is such a vast and diverse continent!

Likewise, choosing books from the Young Adult collection to feature presented another challenge. We discovered that not much contemporary Young Adult fiction is actually set in Africa, but that there is much that deals with African-American issues.  So, this is the direction we took; we looked at award-winning African American authors, whose work primarily looks at the problems and perspectives of Negro teens living in America.  For this blog, I am only focusing on two: Walter Dean Myers and Sharon Draper.

No discussion of important African-American authors writing for teens would be complete without mention of Walter Dean Myers.  Award-winning author Myers writes about African American life - particularly adolescence - in multiple, varied voices.  Some of his best work includes the following novels:

The Beast:  This short, dramatic novel recounts the experiences of high school senior Anthony "Spoon" Witherspoon, who comes home from prep school to discover that his girlfriend, Gabi, has changed in ways so extreme he no longer recognizes her. He discovers that Gabi has fallen into drug addiction, and what follows is the story of his attempt to understand, to find hope, and to help the girl he loves. Through it all, Spoon discovers a disturbing truth: drugs touch everybody, and sometimes the people you think will never fall, actually do.

Kick:  In Myers' most recent novel, he ventures into new territory, even for a veteran writer like him: he co-authors this novel with a teenage boy he met through a fan e-mail.  Together with Ross Workman, Myers writes a novel about a soccer player who runs into trouble helping a friend. Veteran police sergeant Jerry Brown is asked to look into the case of a 13-year-old boy who crashed a car belonging to his friend's father. Brown takes a special interest in the case when he is informed that the boy, Kevin Johnson, is the son of an officer who was killed in the line of duty. As Brown delves more deeply, he begins to suspect that the friend's family has something to hide. He also develops a bond with Kevin, who, although angry and troubled, is basically kindhearted and well-intentioned.

Fallen Angels and Sunrise over Fallujah:   These books can be read separately, but enrich each other when read together.  Fallen Angels is the story of  seventeen-year-old Richie Perry. Just out of his Harlem high school, Perry enlists in the Army in the summer of 1967 and spends a devastating year on active duty in Vietnam. Myers portrayal of Perry, as well as his comrades in this poignant novel, earned him a Coretta Scott King award for African American literature in 1989.  The second novel, Sunrise over Fallujah, goes back to the Perry family: this time, Richie's nephew, Robin, leaves Harlem and joins the army to stand up for his country after 9/11. While stationed in Iraq with a war looming that he hopes will be averted, he begins writing letters home to his parents and to his Uncle Richie). Robin finds himself in a diverse Civil Affairs unit of both men and women, with a mission to serve as a buffer between winning over the Iraqi people and concurrent military operations. As the war unfolds, the military angle of Robin's job escalates, and he experiences increasing horrors of violence, death, destruction, insecurity, sorrow, and extreme fear. Ultimately, he comprehends the reasons Uncle Richie never wanted to talk to their family about what happened in Vietnam.

Another perennial contributor to the body of Young Adult African American literature is Sharon Draper. Her works explore both the male and female points of view; a good counter-balance, as Myers' main characters tend to be male.  Consider these works by Draper:

Double Dutch: This novel  follows a brief time in the lives of middle school students who are training for a major double dutch competition. With this backdrop, the complex personal lives of several major characters are explored, such as Delia, who can't read; Randy, who's father is missing; Yolanda, who embellishes and outright lies to impress others; and the Tolliver twins, the enigmatic tough guys. Their lives intermingle and overlap daily in and out of school as they each try to discover themselves and reconcile their multitude of problems.

The Battle for Jericho and November Blues:  Sixteen-year-old Jericho is psyched when he and his cousin and best friend, Josh, are invited to pledge for the Warriors of Distinction, the oldest and most exclusive club in school. Just being a pledge wins him the attention of Arielle, one of the hottest girls in his class, whom he's been too shy even to talk to before now. But as the secret initiation rites grow increasingly humiliating and force Jericho to make painful choices, he starts to question whether membership in the Warriors of Distinction is worth it. The hazing ritual finally becomes devastating beyond Jericho's imagination.  In a follow-up novel, Draper picks up the story with November, the girlfriend of Jericho's cousin Josh.  November and Josh have sex the night before he dies in a freak accident -- the result of the hazing rituals -- and now November must face an unplanned pregnancy and the destruction of her dreams of a college scholarship.

Copper Sun: One of few YA novels actually set in Africa, this story follows the journey of 15-year-old Amari from her African village to the Americas.  Amari's life was once perfect. Engaged to the handsomest man in her tribe, adored by her family, and living in a beautiful village, she could not have imagined everything could be taken away from her in an instant. But when slave traders invade her village and brutally murder her entire family, Amari finds herself dragged away to a slave ship headed to the Carolinas.  Readers of this novel may also appreciate Sold by Patricia McCormick. 

As mentioned, there are many other good authors who do an excellent job of portraying both historic and modern problems and perspectives of African American teens. A visit to the library will introduce you to the works of both Myers and Draper, as well as several others.