Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: Antigoddess by Kendare Blake

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine to spotlight an upcoming release that we're excited about. This week I'm waiting on Antigoddess by Kendare Blake.

The Goddess War begins in Antigoddess, the first installment of the new series by acclaimed author of Anna Dressed in Blood, Kendare Blake.

Old Gods never die…

Or so Athena thought. But then the feathers started sprouting beneath her skin, invading her lungs like a strange cancer, and Hermes showed up with a fever eating away his flesh. So much for living a quiet eternity in perpetual health.

Desperately seeking the cause of their slow, miserable deaths, Athena and Hermes travel the world, gathering allies and discovering enemies both new and old. Their search leads them to Cassandra—an ordinary girl who was once an extraordinary prophetess, protected and loved by a god.

These days, Cassandra doesn’t involve herself in the business of gods—in fact, she doesn’t even know they exist. But she could be the key in a war that is only just beginning.

Because Hera, the queen of the gods, has aligned herself with other of the ancient Olympians, who are killing off rivals in an attempt to prolong their own lives. But these anti-gods have become corrupted in their desperation to survive, horrific caricatures of their former glory. Athena will need every advantage she can get, because immortals don’t just flicker out.

Every one of them dies in their own way. Some choke on feathers. Others become monsters. All of them rage against their last breath.

The Goddess War is about to begin.

Antigoddess comes out September 10, 2013.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Confessions of a Hater by Caprice Crane

As Hailey Harper is packing for move from New York to California, she comes across her older, popular sister's diary entitled, "How to Be a Hater."  Hailey uses her sister's tips to give herself a makeover as she enters her new high school, only to discover she has no interest in being friends with the popular kids.  As she forms real friendships with other girls who are usually invisible, Hailey decides to use her sister's diary to beat the popular girls at their own game.

It was a way less good version of Mean Girls.  Instead of mean girls we call them "haters."  To teens actually use the term "haters?"  I felt the "teen" language was very forced in this book.  Maybe it's actually spot on, but from what I've overheard of girls talking to each other in class, I would say this book sounded, well, like an adult trying to make her characters sound like cool teenagers.  And it was a little painful.

So yes, Hailey loses weight and gets a new wardrobe and decides to be confident and is immediately taken under the wing of the most popular clique in school, lead by queen bee Skyler.  Hailey then realizes these girls are total bitches and doesn't want to hang out with them, so she goes and finds her own friends.  But now she's a target for the mean girls.  I mean, the haters.  She makes some friends and then they decided they will fight back against the haters, using Hailey's sister, Noel's diary as a guidebook.

It was too much of everything.  Every possible teenage cliche was thrown in here, and it was just too much.  We have Hailey's new best friend Anya who got pregnant last year.  We have another girl who shoplifts.  We have teen Adderall snorting.  We have parent's having an affair.  We have dating the boy who use to date the popular girl.  We have awkward first blow-job moments.  We have friends cheating with another friend's boyfriend.  Are we missing anything?  And out of all the drama that was happening, the only one that kind of related to the plot was Anya having been pregnant.  Emily being a shoplifter?  Totally irrelevant.  Kura snorting Adderall, ODing and ending up in the hospital?  Random.  There's a couple mentions of Hailey being worried about her, and then at the very end like two sentences about how Kura OD, was hospitalized but don't worry she's going to be fine.  What?  What was the point?  The blow job scene?  Completely gratuitous.  And Hailey decides she's going to make it extra special and sucks on Altoids to make it tingly and ends up causing her boyfriend considerable pain.  Just weird.

There were too many plot points that went nowhere.  Too much popular brand name dropping.  Too many characters who just seemed to be there to be "the shoplifting one."  "The fat one."  "The drug snorting one."

Watch Mean Girls again instead.  Lots more fun.

Confessions of a Hater comes out August 27, 2013.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Giveaway: Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block

 A fabulous giveaway for you!  An ARC of Francesca Lia Block's Love in the Time of Global Warming!
Seventeen-year-old Penelope (Pen) has lost everything—her home, her parents, and her ten-year-old brother. Like a female Odysseus in search of home, she navigates a dark world full of strange creatures, gathers companions and loses them, finds love and loses it, and faces her mortal enemy.

In her signature style, Francesca Lia Block has created a world that is beautiful in its destruction and as frightening as it is lovely. At the helm is Pen, a strong heroine who holds hope and love in her hands and refuses to be defeated.

This is a short one! Giveaway runs until Friday, August 2, 2013.

This giveaway is now closed.

Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst

Eve has no memory.  She doesn't remember where she lived before, what she looked like before or what her name was.  If she tries to use her magic abilities, she has terrible visions and loses consciousness.  She has been told she's in a witness protection program, protected from a powerful magic-welding serial killer.  Eve remembers nothing of this, and everyone seems to be waiting.  Waiting for her to remember...something.

I had a hard time getting into this at first.  I found the beginning dragged, and you have so little information about what's going on and I found this annoying rather than intriguing.  But I stuck with it and it got much more interesting.  And pretty dark.

Eve not only has no memories of her life before now, but she suffers random memory erases.  She might find herself suddenly sitting at a table, and the last thing she remembers is from three weeks ago.  She keeps losing days, and she doesn't know why.  And no one will explain anything to her.  Eve wants to feel safe, but she doesn't know who to trust because her memory is so spotty.  The only person she really feels comfortable with is with Zach, who Eve meets while working at the library.  Zach is completely non magical, but when he kisses Eve, he can use her magic.  And if doesn't make Eve pass out.


Saturday, July 27, 2013


Amazon adds a comics and graphic novel imprint.  From PW.

Author Curtis Sittenfeld lists ten books she never gets tired of reading to her kids.  From PW.

Book trilogies and series - what's the point?  From The Guardian

Apparently teens still love print media and "traditional" library services.  From SLJ.

Diamond releases a list of Common Core graphic novels.  From PW.

Joyce Valenza's top 25 websites for teaching and learning.  From TheDigitalShift.

Librarians winning Eisners.  From PW.

Alex London talks to Marie Lu.  From SLJ.

Things aren't so great for librarians in Florida.  From SLJ.

Amy Elizabeth Smith, author of All Roads Lead to Austen: A Yearlong Journey with Jane, ranks all of Austen's novels.  From PW.

Tamora Pierce wows YALSA at Edwards celebration.  From SLJ.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Gated by Amy Christine Parker

Lyla has grown up in the Community.  It's safe there.  Nothing bad happens.  Everyone works together, and their leader, Pioneer, takes care of them all.  But Pioneer has predicted the end of the world, and only they, in the Community, will be saved.  Although she's been raised for this, as the time approaches, Lyla is having trouble saying goodbye to the world she knows.  It's even harder when some outsiders cause her to question all that Pioneer has told them.

When I read the description on the back, I wasn't totally sure what it was going to be about.  Was this a dystopia? It kind of sounded like a dystopia.  It was NOT a dystopia, which was kind of a relief.  I think, much like I experienced with vampires, I am reaching my dystopia threshold.  But this was not a dystopia, it was our world, and a kid in a cult.

The book did a very nice job of showing how perfectly intelligent people could be pulled into something like this.  Cults pray on people who are vulnerable, and Pioneer went looking for people after the terrorist attacks on 9/11.  People were scared, and the idea of living in a closed off community where things were safe was appealing.  Lyla's family had recently suffered the kidnapping of Lyla's younger sister, which completely broke her mother.  Her family jumped at the chance to leave a place that held so much pain.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Black Spring by Alison Croggon

Lina is the daughter of a village lord.  She has grown up with her companion, Damek, and they are inseparable, devoted to each other in a way no one understands.  Lina is a witch, and although wizards are revered and respected, withes are put to death.  Only Lina's status as a lord's daughter protects her.  But Lina's life is filled with tragedy, and long after he death, a stranger to the village uncovers the whole sad story.

It was Wuthering Heights.  And there really isn't much more to say.  In Alison Croggon's author blurb it says, "This book is my love letter to Emily Bronte, whom I've adored since I was a child."  So her love letter was rewriting Emily Bronte's book.  Plus wizards.

I did not like the original Wuthering Heights.  I am not a fan of Gothic romances, and had no patience for a book full of unpleasant people making their lives, and everyone else's, unpleasant.  They all came to a tragic end, and it's your own damn fault!  Ugh.  Couldn't stand it.  So knowing this was a retelling of Wuthering Heights, I was skeptical going in, but it might be good, you know, if the author decides to do something with it.

But Croggon did not do anything with it.  She just rewrote it.  Exactly as it was.  Only with a slight magic aspect.  A magic aspect, I might add, that added absolutely nothing.  What was the point of Lina being a witch, or there being wizards that wanted to kill her?  Nothing came of it.  It was just the Wuthering Heights story retold, with nothing original added.

So that was disappointing, and also made me wonder, could I do this?  Can I take a book in the public domain, essentially rewrite it, as it is, maybe throw a slight fantastical element in, and get it published?  Why aren't I doing that?

Black Spring comes out August 27, 2013.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: Leap of Faith by Jamie Blair

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine to spotlight an upcoming release that we're excited about. This week I'm waiting on Leap of Faith by Jamie Blair.

 Leah Kurtz has finally found a place to call home, a town where she and baby Addy can live in peace, far from the drug-infested place she grew up. Chris is one of the best parts of her new life, the only person who’s ever made her feel safe. And now that she’s found him, there’s no way she can tell the truth:

Her real name is Faith, not Leah. She’s seventeen, not nineteen. And the baby isn’t hers—Faith kidnapped her.

Faith’s history catches up with her when a cop starts asking questions and Chris’s aunt spots her picture in the newspaper. She knows it’s time to run again, but if Faith leaves, she’ll lose Chris. If Chris is in love with a lie, though, did Faith ever really have him in the first place?

Leap of Faith comes out September 3, 2013.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Hostage Three by Nick Lake

Since the death of her mother, Amy has coped by acting out, secretly hoping for her father's attention, to no avail.  But suddenly her father decides he, Amy, and her stepmother will all go on a summer-long trip on their newly purchased yacht.  Amy is actually enjoying herself, but then the boat is seized by a group of Somali pirates.  Now Amy and her family are hostages in a complex negotiation, made even more confusing and she begins to grow close to one of the pirates.

Nick Lake is the author of this year's Printz winner In Darkness.  Like In Darkness, he uses dashes rather than quotations to denote people speaking, which I find annoying and sometimes confusing. 

Amy isn't a particularly likable of sympathetic character, especially at the beginning.  Even though she's in a crappy situation, she doesn't help us to feel for her.  As we get to know her and what really happened with her and her mother she becomes more of a person we can relate to, but, for me, I never truly connected with her character.

The book did a great job, in a completely non-preachy and non-judgmental way, of showing why someone might take on a life of piracy.  The complexities of the situation were very well explained in conversations between Amy and Farouz, the young pirate she develops a relationship with.  We hear about how Somalia is a place of drought and constant war.  How Farouz's parents were killed in one war or another and how his brother, who had always taken care of him, has been imprisoned and in order to provide bail, Farouz has turned to piracy.  There is little other choice if you need money.

Piracy was not excused, but by the end of the book you could certainly sympathize with the people who were doing it.  Some of the pirates seemed like good people, and some did not, as people are.  Not all of them were there for noble reasons like trying to free your brother from jail.

Amy and Farouz develop a romantic relationship.  This is of course very confusing for Amy, who isn't sure she can trust Farouz.  Would he shoot her if he were told to?  Does he care about her enough to disobey orders?  Despite these rather large issues, she goes forward.  It seemed like Amy just wanted someone to care about her.  She had felt alone and isolated for so long, and now here was someone to care about her and talk to.  It didn't mater that the situation was crazy and their relationship was impossible.

Like In Darkness, I didn't find myself engaged in the book.  It was good, I liked it, but it also dragged for me.  Still recommend it for it's thoughtful and seldom heard prospective.

Hostage Three comes out October 15, 2013.

Monday, July 22, 2013


How does an author say goodbye to a series?  From PW.

Fanfiction: what educators really need to know.  From SLJ.

What are grown-ups afraid of in YA books?  From Book Riot.

The Atlantic Wire makes a fairly safe guess that Divergent will the next big YA franchise

Marc Simmont, 1957 Caldecott winning illustrator of A Tree is Nice has died at 97.  From PW.

In other sad news, Barbara Robinson, author of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever dies at 85.  From SLJ.

Adult authors of YA.  From the Los Angeles Review of Books.

The mom from The Cat in the Hat finally speaks.  From The New York Times.

Inside Maureen Johnson's "coverflip" challenge.  From SLJ.

Graphic art inspired by Harry Potter.  From Book Patrol.

Princess Beatrice says Harry Potter got her reading despite her dyslexia.  From London Evening Standard.

Jonathan Stroud talks about his new book about young psychic detective.  From PW.

15 must-read board books.  Yes, board books.  From babble.

"A new survey of children’s picture books finds gender stereotypes—nurturing mothers, breadwinning fathers—remain stubbornly persistent."  From Pacific Standard.

Community angered by tossed Black history collection.  From SLJ.

10 books based on other books.  From PW.

Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block

Penelope's home and everything she knows has been destroyed in a devastating earthquake and tsunami.  She is alone.  Pen sets out on a journey to find her family and discover her own strengths.

This being Francesca Lia Block, I was expecting the airy, dreamy worlds from Weetzie Bat.  While the world in Love in the Time of Global Warming was certain not realism, it was a lot less dream-like then her others.  I remember her saying that she wrote this book while dealing with her own loss, and perhaps that is part of that.

Love in the Time of Global Warming is The Odyssey.  We have our heroine, Penelope, and her journey exactly mirrors Odysseus', down to the sirens and cyclopses.   When the book first begins, it seems we're going to have a dystopia.  Los Angeles has been destroyed by earthquake and tsunami, and now Pen must figure out how to survive.  But it's not just that.  The fantastical element comes in quickly, which is that there are human-eating giants set lose on the country, escaped from a laboratory experimenting in genetics modification.

A Pen journey's, she finds that some people seem to have gained otherworldly powers in the destruction.  And she might have gained some too.  As she travels, she finds others who she befriends and joins her as they struggle through all the trials of The Odyssey, finally coming face-to-face with the man who created the giants.


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Heaven is Paved with Oreos by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Sara and her best friend Curtis got tired of everyone in middle school teasing them about whether or not they were dating.  So they decided to just to say they were.  Now it's the summer before high school, and things are changing.  Curtis "breaks up" with Sara, saying he doesn't want a fake girlfriend.  He wants a real one.  Sara isn't sure of her feelings, and jumps at the chance when her quirky grandmother, Z, invites her on a trip to Rome.  But the trip is more than Sara bargained for as she discovers things about her family her never knew.

Very sweet.  Much like Dairy Queen, it was heartfelt and thoughtful and middle grade girls, especially the ones who loved Dairy Queen, are going to love this.  The Curtis that Sara is "dating" is, of course, the Curtis from Dairy Queen, DJ's little brother.  DJ shows up in Heaven is Paved with Oreos as well, playing an important but small role.

Sara is very smart and doesn't have a lot of close friends.  This doesn't matter because she has Curtis, but then she doesn't.  We, of course, know she like likes him the whole time, but it takes Sara a while to realize that.  When Curtis "breaks up" with her, she's hurt and upset and confused about why.  But lucky she gets to distract herself with an international trip.

So the relationship aspect is one part of the story and then the family issues are the other part.  Sara has a mom and dad and little brother, and a grandmother, her father's mother, who they call Z.  Z is not like most grandmothers.  She didn't raise Sara's father, having gotten pregnant young and left the baby for her parent's to raise while she went off to the big city.  Z is arty and free and adventurous and Sara loves her.  It isn't until the trip that she starts thinking about how all the cool stories that Z tells her about her life meant that she wasn't there for her dad when he was growing up.

Sara learns that Z had a much bigger reason for going to Italy then just as a trip for the two of them, and it shakes Sara up quite a bit.  She starts to think about how people are not always what they appear to be, on the outside.  They are upsetting discoveries, and it takes talking to her family to figure things out.  And then she decides what she needs to do is also talk to Curtis.

So there's just the right amount of relationship/romance and just the right amount of family angst and secret discoveries.  It was a lovely book and if you have middle grade girls it is a must buy.

Heaven is Paved with Oreos comes out September 23, 2013.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Everyone belongs to a faction - Abnegation (selflessness), Candor (honesty), Erudite (knowledge), Amity (peace), or Dauntless (courage).  Tris has grown up in Abnegation, the faction dedicated to selfless actions, and the faction that is in charge of the government.  But the Choosing Ceremony is approaching, and Tris has a chance to leave her faction, and family, for another.  Tris knows that if she chooses Dauntless, her life will be forever changed.  Not only will she never really be a part of her family again, but she will have to learn all the skills needed to make it through the physically and mentally challenging Dauntless initiation process.

Summaries of all YA dystopian books will from henceforth begin with "It was the future, and everything sucked."  I finally got around to reading Divergent.  It's been on my list forever, and the movie is coming out, and even though it's not like it's one I need to read in order to sell it to the children (it doesn't need my selling it) I wanted to read one of them.  It was enjoyable.  Nothing especially new under the sun, but enjoyable.

I was reading this on my way to Chicago, and since Divergent takes place in a future Chicago, that was kind of fun.  I would read something and go, "I just went there!"  And it was exciting.  Also, I went to the dystopia panel where Veronica Roth spoke, and hearing her talk about what she was thinking when she wrote the book made reading it all the more interesting.

The book was engaging.  Especially after hearing Veronica Roth speak, I really liked the idea of this community of people deciding to focus on the attributes that they felt were causing suffering in the world.  Some people thought it was ignorance so they dedicated themselves to study.  Some people thought it was violence, so they dedicated themselves to peace.  It's all suppose to work together seamlessly, with each faction contributing what they excel in.  But like so many good ideas, after a while things started to not quite work the way they were suppose to.  And each faction essentially became what they had hated most.  Those dedicated to selflessness become so focused on the needs of others they ignore the needs of their loved ones.  Those dedicated to courage become so focused on showing others how brave they are they turn into bullies, which is form of cowardice.

Spoilers coming up if you haven't read it.  You have, of course.

I liked the story.  Tris was interesting, as was Four, the stoic love interest, and things were swinging all just great until we got to the great mind take over section.  That was a little...weak.  I don't know.  There was a lot of build up.  Why did they want to kill the people that were Divergent?  What where the Erudites planning?  How would they ever get all the Dauntless to fight for them?  Oh.  Mind control.  Well, OK.  I don't know.  I was disappointed.   I was expecting a big reveal and felt a little let down.

Also, kind of disappointed the main point of evil is coming from Erudite, the faction I totally would have chosen.  Much like in Harry Potter, when most people wanted to be in Gryffindor and I wanted to be in Ravenclaw.  I just want to go where the books are!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

We are Published!

Super exciting news!  Remember how almost a year ago now Anna and I were working on an article about women and graphic novels and collection development?  Well it's finally be published!  Yay!  We are published authors!  In a professional periodical!  It is all very exciting.  Our article, Not Your Mom's Graphic Novels: Giving Girls a Choice Beyond Wonder Woman will be published in the 2013 volume 30, issue 3 of Technical Services QuarterlyIt can be read online, but alas, it is not free.  Sorry about that.  I hope that if you have any interest in the history of women in comics and graphic novels or are creating a graphic novel collection for your library you will take the time to give it a read.  We wrote it for our fellow librarians!  Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Closing Session: Octavia Spencer

At last, we reach the closing session of ALA 2013.  We were introduced to all the new presidents of all the various divisions of ALA (there are a lot of them) as well as the members of the board.  Then out-going president Maureen Sullivan introduced the new ALA president Barbara Stripling.  We school librarians have high hopes for Barbara Stripling, who was a school librarian herself.  We hope that advocating for school libraries will become more of a focus for ALA.

Barbara introduced the closing speaker, Octavia Spencer, who has written a middle grade book called Randi Rhodes Ninja Detective: The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit.   Octavia grew up reading Nancy Drew and Encyclopedia Brown and loved Scooby-Doo and wanted to write a mystery book that was similar to those.  The book was talked about briefly, but it was mostly about her acting career.

Octavia was friendly and personable and a lot of fun to listen to.  Something she wanted to clear up was that her mother's primary job was not a maid.  Her mother worked a lot of different jobs, and she did clean houses at one point.  The book is dedicated to her mother.  Octavia's mother said she could do anything.  When Octavia said she maybe wanted to be an actor, her mother said, "maybe not that."  Her mother wanted her to go to college, but Octavia had started getting some acting jobs and didn't know if she wanted to leave to go to school.  When she was working on The Long Walk Home, Whoopie Goldberg took her under her wing.  She told Octavia to go to college.  Acting would be there when she was done.

Speaker Series: Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick

 On the last full day of ALA I heard Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick speak.  They had a new documentary, The Untold History of the United States which they also made into a book.  As they worked on the documentary they realized that it was going to be so controversial that they needed a book to back it up.

Peter Kuznick talked about their research process.  He used many libraries, but mostly America University's library.  In the book he acknowledges several librarian because they were so crucial during the research process.  Kuznick said he probably checked out between 700-800 books.  And he hasn't returned them all yet.  The book goes from the 1890s to the present, so there was a lot to cover.  He had nine graduate students as researches.

Oliver Stone was asked what he thought of how history is taught and represented in schools and libraries.  Stone said it was depressing.  In textbooks that talk about the atomic bomb, there is not discussion or look from the Japanese perspective.  The Soviet Union is rarely mentioned in the context or WWII.  Stone said it was the Soviet invasion, not the atomic bombs that ended the war.  Americans need to learn their own history.  Science and math is not actually our weakest subjects, history is.  Stone claimed that children are bored by history because it's so sanitized.  "Kids like horror movies, they like fear.  Let's put some fear back into history."  Student have no idea how many Vietnamese were killed during the Vietnam War.  We'd be horrified if German students didn't know how many Jews were killed during the Holocaust, but Americans don't know how many Vietnamese died.  The focus is just on the Americans who died.  It's bigger than that.

The moderator asked Stone and Kuznick what they thought the biggest threat to democracy and free speech were.  This is the point where if you weren't aware just how far to the left they both were, you found out.  A major problem they brought up was secretiveness and information being classified.  There were problems with this under Bush, but it really hasn't been much better under Obama.  They felt the America love of money is a serious threat.  Everything is done for money - sports, news, etc.  Money has taken politics victim, and it is ruining the democracy.  "Greed does drive certain people," Kuznick said.  "I don't think it drives most people who become librarians."  Kuznick expressed frustration that America's values are upside down.  People who do good don't get rewarded.

Their final thoughts were that people should keep speaking up.  There will be people who change things and make a difference.  "...can count on librarian to continue to stand up for the truth."  Librarians are one of the front lines in the fight against censorship.  Right at the end they mentioned that they were in talks with Simon & Schuster about doing a YA version of The Untold History and possibly a graphic novel adaptation as well.  That would be very cool.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Newbery Caldecott Wilder Awards Banquet

 Sunday evening we got ourselves all fancied up (I mean, comparatively speaking) and off we went to the Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder banquet.  Before they let us into the ballroom where the banquet was held, they entertained us with cocktails and Caldecott bingo.  The bingo sheet was full of questions about the history and past winners of the awards.  It was a special year, because it was the 75 anniversary of the awards.  We got special cookies for the occasion.
Anna, Alana and I were able to answer far less questions than we'd like to admit.  We had to resort to looking things up.  Hey, we're librarians.  We may not know everything, but we can find anything out!

The banquet was delightful, although due to dietary restrictions I was getting a special meal, and the server seemed uninformed that there were special meals.  And he was kind of rude about it.  But other than that, delightful.  They were showing some interviews with the illustrators and authors of the honor books, and there was a fabulous short film from Jon Klassen called "This is Not my Caldecott" which showed the little fish from the book swimming off with an award around his neck.

Bursting the Comics Code: Comics, Censorship & Librarians

I attended a very interesting panel on comics and censorship my third day at ALA.  Moderator Robin Brenner, YA librarian at the Brookline Public library in Boston and comic/manga knowledge extraordinaire talked with Brian Azzarello, Carol Tilley, Charles Brownstein, Gene Yang and Raina Telgemeier.  I was in particular excited to hear from Carol Tilley, who if you don't recall, recently caused quite a stir by doing extensive research on Fredric Wertham, author of Seduction of the Innocent, a book with a huge impact on the comic book industry, and found that he had falsified his research.

Carol Tilley started out by reading a letter from an 11 year old on why comics aren't making people do bad thing.  It was a letter that had been sent to Fredric Wertham. Part of Carol's research involved finding the children who sent letters to Wertham.  Carol gave some history of comics.  She talked about how in the 1950s, most comics were not designed with children in mind, but rather adult males returning from war.  Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent linked comic book reading and juvenile delinquency.  The book had a huge impact and crippled the comics industry.  Supernatural beings, misbehaving children, bad language and more were no longer allowed.  Many publishing companies folded completely, and there were much less comics and readers.  And then it turned out that much of Wertham's research was either made up or taken from studies he had not done himself.

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Exhibits: Day Three

Another delightful day at the exhibits. 

Nick Lake, author of In Darkness, which won the Printz Award this year.  His new book is Hostage Three, which I have an ARC of!

 Alana chatting with Katerine Paterson.

 Jon Klassen, Caldecott Award winning illustrator of This is Not My Hat.  Interestingly, Jon Klassen always wears a hat.

Patricia Polacco!  I so much wanted to chance to meet Patricia Polacco and tell her how much her books meant to me.  But as it often happens with amazing authors and illustrators, the lines at ALA are so long.  I would have had to have been there hours early to get a good place in line.  I do not exagerate.  The lines get crazy.

I would have loved to get a copy of David Levithan's new book, Two Boys Kissing, but they were only giving out the ARCs during his signing, which was only for half an hour.  The line, as you could expect, was out of control.  And of course all the ARCs went.  Ah well.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Most Amazing YALSA YA Author Coffee Klatch Ever

 Anna and I and our fellow Simmons Graduate School of Library and Information Science Boston Chapter (which this year consisted of Anna, Alana, Steph and me) always go to YALSA's YA Author Coffee Klatch.  Essentially, it's like speed dating, only with YA authors.  You sit at a table, and every five minutes a new YA author sits down to chat with you.  They might tell you about what they're working on or what's coming out soon or have you ask questions.  Whatever.  It's always lots of fun, but of course more fun if you get to talk with an author you love.  It's always been good in the past, but this year it was just mind blowingly amazing. Seriously.

So it started out innocently enough.  Our first author was Pete Hautman, author of the Klaatu Diskos series, which I had not heard of before, but who was very nice and his book sounded interesting.  We talked to Juliana Baggot, author of Pure, whose book won an Alex Award this year.

Then things started to get exciting.  We next had Steve Sheinkin, author of Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World's Most Dangerous Weapon, which won a Newbery Honor this year.  He was delightful!  He told us about his new book, The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights, which will be coming out in January.  You could tell it was a topic he was passionate about and felt it was important for people to be aware of.  It sounds like it's going to be excellent.

And then!  Francesca Lia Block sat down.  Yes, that Francesca Lia Block.  Author of Weetzie Bat.  We were beside ourselves.  Francesca Lia Block is exactly what you'd think.  Very sweet and a little spacey.  She told us we were all adorable.  We held back telling that she was adorable.  She told us about her new book, Love in the Time of Global Warming, which will be out in August.  She said that she had undergone loss in the past several years, and that was a big part of the book.  While sexuality was always part of her books, she said it was a larger aspect in this one.

School Library's Impact on Student Learning

In past years, I've pretty much just stuck to the Auditorium Speaker Series, the President's Program and exhibit hall when I go to ALA.  I thought that was all my modestly priced registration option gave me.  But this year I realized that there's tons more stuff I could go to, and so I did.  One of them was a talk on school library's impact on student learning.

It was done by the University of South Carolina School of Library Science lead by Gerry Solomon, Donna Shannon and Karen Gavigan.  They gave a very comprehensive presentation and provided resources on tracking your school library's program and how it impacts student learning.  They created a wiki with resources which I highly recommend you take a look at. 

They began by talking about why it's essential to document the school library's impact.  The first is to inform.  You need to be able to demonstrate the program's contribution to student learning and effectiveness with evidence.  Having this evidence allows you to advocate for you school library program.  A key is to shift from what the librarians do to what the students achieve.  The emphasis should be on outcomes (evidence based practice).

A variety of factors informs school library instruction.  The Common Core Standards, the AASL information library standards, your state's benchmarks.  And, of course, whatever it is the your school wants to emphasis and make sure students have.

It was stressed that you don't need to keep track of and evaluate every single thing you do.  You just need to do enough sampling over the course of a given year.  Make sure you hit all grade levels.  It doesn't have to be time intensive, but what you gather does have to be meaningful.  Keep samples of lesson plans, keep track of notes and monitor progress as you go along. Take a look at the Tools section on the wiki for different ways to gather evidence of student learning.

Assessment should be a part of each lesson.  This allows you to see what the students have gotten out the lesson.  Assessment  should be a mix of for the learning and of the learning.  Of the learning involves testing, rubrics and checklists.  For the learning is more reflective and might us something like a learning log.

Most importantly, start where you are.  Track your resources and services, build partnerships with faculty, increase collaborations and develop a long-rang plan for assessing and documenting.  And link the library mission with the school mission!

I found the talk very helpful and will definitely start using some of the tools that were about.

You can take a look at the outline of the presentation on the wiki.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Graphic Novels Your Kids Love by Names You Can't Pronounce

This panel was awesome!  Moderated by Jon Scieszka, three awesome graphic novel creators with difficult to pronounce last names regaled us with their creation process.  What made this panel such fun, is that you could tell all four of them were friends and were having a grand old time hanging out together and talking.  On the panel were Jarrett Krosoczka, Raina Telgemeier, and Doug TenNaple.  John Scieszka informed us all that the Twitter hashtag for the panel was #ScieszkaKrosoczkaTelegmeierTenNapletalkcomics.  Go look for it.

Jarrett was up first.  He taught us all how to pronounce his last name.  Growing up Jarrett loved The Mouse and the Motorcycle, James and the Giant Peach and superhero comics.  He was a picture book illustrator and author when he went back to visit his old school and ran into Jeanie, the lunch lady, who still remembered him.  Jarrett began to think about the secret world of lunch ladies.  At first, he thought it was a picture book, but he soon realized it needed to be a graphic novel.  He is now an active advocate fro lunch ladies.  The tenth and final book in the Lunch Lady series will be coming out in January.

Raina Telgemeier also taught us to pronounce her name and told us about writing Smile and DramaSmile, of course is based on her true middle school experiences.  Rania lots her first tooth on a bounce house net.  She was jumping around, bounced into the side net, and when she came away her tooth was gone!  Raina had a hard time with friends in middle school, and aside from the harrowing tale of losing one's front teeth, it's also very much about negotiating friendships.  And it's also a love letter to early 90s fashion. 

Drama is not a true story, but it's based on middle school experiences.  Drama was originally set in high school, but her publisher wanted to make it a middle grade book.  Rain fought it at first, but liked the second draft a lot.  It's not like kids in middle school aren't having crushes or have gay friends or like boys that don't like them back.

Speaker Series: Khaled Hosseini

On the second day of the conference I went to hear Khaled Hosseini speak.  Khaled Hosseini, of course, is the author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns.  His new book is And the Mountains Echoed.

Hosseini said that books were always a big part of his life.  There weren't any libraries in Afghanistan so he had to save money to buy them.  As a child the kids told stories to entertain each other, so Hosseini has been telling stories his whole life.  His family moved to Paris just before the upheaval and if they hadn't, his life would have been completely different.

Hosseini arrived in California when he was 15, speaking little English.  "By the time I figured everything out it was time to graduate."  He went to college and studied biology and went on to medical school.  I had no idea he had a science background!

And the Mountains Echoed is about injury, wounds, healing, and how we help each other.

The moderator asked Hosseini about the creation of his female characters.  Hosseini says he doesn't approach them any differently then any other character.  He tries to have empathy for all his characters.  It's when he tries to approach them differently that he gets into trouble.  Hosseini spends a lot of time with his characters in his head.  The more time spent with them the more real they become.  "When you know the heart of a character they can then become the point of the center of the circle everything radiates."  He tires to write his characters truthfully.  Hosseini said he worked harder on this book, and was harder on himself, then ever before.  He feels And the Mountains Echoed has more nuanced characters.  I have no doubt it will be excellent.

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Exhibits: Day Two

The first full day of ALA started out with a systematic perusing of the exhibit hall.  Even though I was doing what I usually do, stopping at each publisher, telling them the type of school I work in, asking what's new and exciting I should know about, I somehow ended up with WAY more books than I have in the past.  I don't know what happened!  Can I help it that people keep giving me books?  Books that look good?  No.  I cannot.  It is out of my control.  Author sightings!

The ever fabulous Mo Willems.

Kate DiCamillo and K.G. Campbell.   Their new books is Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures.

Marie Lu, author of the Legend series.  I overheard someone asking if there were ARCS of the third book in the trilogy.  The publisher representative laughed.

Holly Black.  Her new book is Doll Bones, which I was unfortunately unable to get a copy of.

Tamora Pierce!  Who hardly ever makes public appearances. Her new book is Battle Magic, which I do have the ARC of!

This is Anna fangirling all over Jennifer Armentrout, author of the Lux series.  By this point Jennifer was aware of what a huge fan Anna was and addressed her by name.

Lois Lowry.  Being awesome.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Bleak New World: YA Authors Decode Dystopia

The dystopia panel was excellent.  It had a wonderful array of authors with Lois Lowry, Patrick Ness, Veronica Roth and Cory Doctorow.  They each spoke about the dystopia books they had written and why they had chosen to write in this genre.

Lois Lowry spoke first.  The Giver has often been called the first YA dystopia, but it's never been a genre she was drawn to.  She didn't set out intentionally to write a dystopia.  She just knew that the book she was writing needed to be set in the future.

Lowry said she got some unusual mail from readers after the book had been published, and not just from children.  A man who had been part of a cult was told by his psychiatrist to read it.  He saw his own world in the book.  The teacher of a young Amish girl wrote to Lowry.  The girl had been sexually abused, and when she tried to get help the mother moved the family away, and, horrifyingly, had all the girl's teeth removed so she wouldn't want to talk to people.  She sought help again and was removed from the family.  She also saw her world in the book.  The Giver is set in a world that is designed to be utopian, but something else has come in.  The world was intended to be good, but turned corrupt somehow.

Opening Session

 The opening speaker for ALA Chicago 2013 was Steven Levitt, author of Freakanomics. Unfortunately, the opening was being held in a huge open hall directly behind both registration and the entrance to the exhibit hall where people were already beginning to line up even though it wasn't open yet.  All this combined to make it very hard to understand a word of what Steven Levitt was saying, despite the fact he was well miced.

The gist of what he was saying, I think, was the people need to think more and believe the data.  Two things that are near and dear to librarians, certainly.  Levitt used tax forms as an example.  Someone noticed that people were claiming suspicious "children" on their tax forms.  Children who had names like Fluffy.  This all sounded familiar.  I'm pretty sure this was in his book.  But no one wanted to go through the trouble of rewriting the tax forms.  Years later, when they finally got around to it, seven million "children" vanished without a trace saving the government millions of dollars.  You have to believe the data!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Back in Boston

We've made it back from ALA.  We are completely exhausted.  Travel there and back involved cancellations, gates changes, and multiple delays.  I am glad to be home!  The conference was great.  Hopefully you were following us on Twitter for live updates, and now that we're back, we'll start posting our full recaps.  I brought 49 books home with me.  I was slightly less controlled than usual.  I don't know how it happened, really I don't.  Actually, I only made it back with 48 books.  I had started reading the books I was most excited about Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carlson, the third book in the Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy, and I LEFT IT IN THE HOTEL LOBBY when my shuttle came to pick me up for the airport!  I was devastated.  I called the hotel and they said they would mail to me.  I hope it makes it.  I can't possible wait for it to actually come out now that I've started reading it.  I must know what happens!  I read Catherine Gilbert Murdock's new book, Heaven is Paved with Oreos on the plane.  I liked it, but I wanted Bitter Kingdom.  Anyway, after lots of organization and a very long nap, I am ready to begin recapping.  Stay tuned!
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