Thursday, June 28, 2012

Own the Night: Night Sky & Astronomy

We are into our third week of drop-in summer reading activities for teens at the Campbell County Public Library:  this week our theme is "Night Sky & Astronomy." We have two crafts to offer the teens, as well as three quizzes about constellations and zodiac signs.  

Our Young Adult nonfiction collection holds several titles to interest teens who enjoy reading about the sciences. We recently moved our nonfiction collection to the basement where the Teen Room is located, in order to increase its visibility to our teen audience. Since that move, the circulation of those books has increased markedly.

In our fiction collections, we have seen a significant increase in Young Adult titles that center on mythology in recent years. Since many of the names of constellations are based in Greek and Roman mythology, there is a definite connection between the two subject areas. If you (or your teen) are one of those who enjoy reading fiction based on mythology, try some of these recent titles:

Abandon, Meg Cabot. The first two selections this week share a common bond: both are loosely based on ancient Greek myths. In the case of Meg Cabot's Abandon, we meet a heroine, Pierce, who comes back to life after being romanced by a death diety.  Students of Greek mythology will recognize shades of the story of Persephone and Hades in this novel.  This is a bit dark for Meg Cabot, who gave us The Princess Diaries, among other Young Adult titles. However, fans of paranormal romances, such as Twilight (Stephenie Meyer) and Fallen (Lauren Kate) will not mind. Abandon is the first title in a proposed trilogy, followed by Underworld. The final title, Awaken, will be published in 2013. 

Sweet Venom, Tera Lynn Childs. This novel centers on three teenage girls who are descendants of the Greek Gorgon Medusa, and are charged with protecting humankind from the mythological monsters who threaten them.  As they tell their stories in alternating chapters, we get a sense of the diverse personalities of each of them. The girls - all 16 -- soon realize that they are triplets, separated at birth for their own safety. Despite their differences, they must come together as a fighting force, because the monster attacks are on the rise, and their success depends on being able to work together. No word on whether there will be a sequel, but the story is set up for one.

Eon: Dragoneye Reborn, Allison Goodman.  In a refreshing change from Greek mythology, this novel introduces us to a force of magical dragons based on the symbols of the Chinese zodiac. We also meet our main character, Eon, whose dream is to be selected as a Dragoneye --  an apprentice to one of these magical dragons. Eon and his master have been training in sword work and magic, all in the hopes of being selected. They have a secret, however: Eon is actually Eona, a 16-year-old girl who has been masquerading as a boy.  Girls are not permitted to practice magical powers; Eon is taking a huge risk. If Eon's secret is discovered, it means certain death for her and her master. 

Guardian of the Dead, Karen Healey. 17-year-old Ellie has trouble fitting in at the New Zealand boarding school she attends, until she uses her martial arts skills to help choreograph fight scenes for a school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. As the story develops, the school population begins to worry about a string of murders that has happened not far from there. As the action of the novel increases, Healey introduces not only the Greek myths on which Shakespeare's play are based, but many elements of teh ancient Maori mythologoy  of New Zealand.

Have a Hot Time, Hades!, Kate McMullan. The first installment in McMullan's Myth-o-Mania series, this story is a tongue-in-cheek retelling of Greek god Hades' "fall" to glory as the god of the underworld.  McMullan draws on the original myths in her parodies, so some familiarity with them will increase the reader's enjoyment. Other titles in this series include Phone Home, Persephone! and Say Cheese, Medusa!  This would be a fun supplement to other mythology-based fiction, or to a nonfiction retelling of the ancient myths. Best for a younger teen.

Lost Hero, Rick Riordan. One cannot compile a list of mythology-based teen literature without including Rick Riordan, of course.  He is much responsible for reviving teen interest in this sub-genre of fantasy/sci fi:  his Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief series has been immensely popular since its initial publication in 2005.  In this spin-off series, Riordan draws on some of the lesser characters of the initial series, and introduces several new ones. Jason, Piper, and Leo are three students at a wilderness school in the Grand Canyon; after a strange encounter with storm spirits who steal their coach, they are rescued by Annabeth (from the first series) and taken to Camp Half-Blood. There, they discover that they are also demigods: the only difference is that they were sired by the Greek gods in their Roman personae.  Like Percy, the three are charged by the gods with a seemingly impossible task, and of course, failure will mean doom for humanity. The Lost Hero is followed by The Son of Neptune; book three in the Heroes of Olympus series will be released in 2013.

Red Pyramid, Rick Riordan.  A reminder that mythology fans will also want to try Riordan's Kane Chronicles series, beginning with Red Pyramid. Riordan focuses on Egyptian mythology is this trilogy: the second and third books are The Throne of Fire and Serpent's Shadow. This series was reviewed in the May 2 entry of this blog; look there for more information.

Enjoy some stargazing this week! Even better, grab a sleeping bag, a great book, and a flashlight, and combine your stargazing with some interesting reading.  The weather tells us that it's truly summer around here: be sure to "Own the Night" while it lasts!

(Due to the Fourth of July holiday, the CCPL Teen Room will take a break from our drop-in activities next week; join us again the week of July 9, when we will explore "The Night of the Living Dead.")

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