Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Booklist: Real Life Reads for Young Adults

Instead of the traditional booklist, I'm sharing a pictorial list...they appeal more to the senses and you got to hand it to book covers - these ROCK!

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

2016, Random House

Dillard Early....named after his father, who was named after his father.  The family has been a legend in the small town of Forrestville, Tennessee.  Dill's grandfather was the legendary Serpent King.  His father was a reverend who handled snakes and drank poison but never died.  He's in jail now because of the illegal images the FBI found downloaded on the good reverend's computer.  Dill lives under a cloud of a bad reputation and constant small town suspicion and all he can hope for is that the madness doesn't exist in him...

Travis loves fantasy novels and lives in them whenever the chance presents itself.  He doesn't care what people think about him and the dragon necklace he wears or the staff he takes everywhere with him.  What truly matters to him is the newest book in the Bloodfall series, and the online forum where he can share his passion for the House of Northbrook.  Now, the forum takes on a special meaning when he meets Amelia, who shares the same passion for the series he does.  He's never had a girlfriend...will she be the first?

Lydia could care less about the small town she has to live in.  She has bigger aspirations, which include hopefully getting into NYU and interning for a fashion magazine.  She's an internet star and her blog, Dollywould has hundreds of thousands of followers.  She takes her fans with her into funky consignment stores and shows them what living outside the coloring lines can be like.  She is her own person, and is grateful that her parents allow her to be, even if her classmates make fun of her.  She doesn't's all about the future.

What these three have in common in a unique friendship they have among themselves.  Dill's family is drowning in debt and he's helping by working all the time.  There is no way out for him. Travis's family owns the local lumber yard in town, but the danger he faces is at home with his dad. Lydia's father is the local dentist and things come easily for her but she creates a facade to keep her readers happy, never revealing who she truly is.

It's their backgrounds which make this trio's friendship so special.  They each want to leave the world behind better than when they lived in it....a special mark to be remembered.  During their senior year, they find themselves swimming in hope, destiny, and desperate times and the only life saver they have in these turbulent waters are each other.  But sometimes, dreams are realized....and sometimes they aren't...

Jeff Zentner brings small town life to light in this book where everyone knows everything that happens and where reputations are hard long-lasting. The readers gets to see not only the individual lives of the three main characters, but also the nuances that happen when Lydia, Dill and Travis get together.  They are three teens who don't belong in a small town, and struggle to find their way through and in one.  But more than that, Zentner writes to the reader's heart, where emotions will ride along with the pages.  The more involved you become in the friendship, the more you'll fill for what happens to all three.  HIGHLY recommended.  

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

One by Sarah Crossan

2015, HarperCollins

Tippi and Grace are nervous.  Most of their lives, they've been safely tucked away in their home, out of the prying and hurtful eyes of the public.  But homeschool is no longer an option.  Their dad hasn't found another job and their mother is working as hard as she can.  Dragon, their sister, is glad they don't have to go to a public high school like her, but is just as worried about them as the rest of the family.  Today is the first day at Hornbeacon High...

Being conjoined twins is their normal.  While most people look at them and react to their conjointedness, they see it so much differently.  When they hear people whisper about how they wouldn't want to live like that, Tippi and Grace can think of so many other ways to live which could be worse.  They've always had each other.  Sometimes it's a good thing, sometimes it's frustrating, but the love is always there, even if the two girls personalities are so different.

But now, they have to walk through the halls of a new high school.  Dread churns until they meet an unlikely girl named Yasmeen.  Loud, colorful, and not intimidated by anyone, Yasmeen makes their circle a threesome and the girls become fast friends because of their uniqueness.  Then along comes Jon. Another outcast at Hornbeacon High, he rounds out the circle of friendship and slowly slips into Grace's heart.

But one day, Grace faints.  She lies to her parents, saying it was nothing, but Tippi knows better.  She knows something isn't right.  And the accidents go from mild to more severe.  The sisters now have to make a decision that will forever change their lives.  Although both of them have dreamed about it, being separated, in reality, is the scariest thought they've ever faced.  And it's their choice, a matter of life or death...

Sarah Crossan's novel in verse is a beautiful story about life, love, and happiness; struggle, hardship, and choices.  She combines all of these feelings into a story which ultimately makes readers' understand someone else's normal, although not your own, is what makes them who they are - unique, different, valuable.  The twins' family weave in and out of their lives, and while at first being most important to them, now become second-most important as they step out of their bounds and create new lives based on friendships, breaking some rules to show independence, and living like they never thought would happen - a normal life.  Excellent addition to junior high and high school collections.  Highly Recommended.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Infinite in Between by Carolyn Mackler

2015, HarperTeen

They are all beginning to converge on one of the most important days of their lives.  The month: September.  The place: high school in the small town of Hankinson.  The event: freshmen orientation...

Gregor is the quiet one.  He has a close-knit family and an older sister in high school who dispenses advice which may or may not be the best (you know how siblings are).  His best friend Dinky, whose nickname suits him, carries the excitement for both of them.  And although Gregor isn't enthused, he knows this is the day which will usher in the next four crucial years.

Zoe left beautiful Los Angeles to live with her aunt in Hankinson, New York.  Totally out of her realm, Zoe must make the best of it while her famous actress mother goes through yet another stint in rehab.  She knows nothing about her aunt, except the sisters don't get along, and she isn't told why. She's not looking forward to going to freshmen orientation, especially since everyone's seen the infamous video of her and her mother....

Jake has mixed feelings as well about becoming a high-schooler, especially after what happened last year.  His best friend Ted has moved on from him and is the guy all girls want to date - handsome, athletic, popular.  The problem is, Jake let him know how he felt about him and it changed not only their friendship, but his status in school.  Now, the game is to avoid his ex-best friend as much as possible during the next four years.

Whitney bounces and glows wherever she is.  Beautiful and popular, she makes friends easily, is involved in all kinds of clubs, and dates guys beyond their freshmen year.  The thing is, Whitney doesn't condone bad behavior, especially when her friends are being horrendously rude and because of her morals, she begins to be excluded from things.  Four years of icy shoulders is a long time, but can her sunny disposition melt the ice?

Mia dresses in black, wears her hair and make-up dark, and doesn't say much.  She is the anti-establishment of her parents and their country club tennis looks and isn't going to change.  Four years ahead of her is going to be a long journey, but she's ready for it because she has her endgame in mind- to leave this town as fast as possible.

All five of these teens are thrown together during orientation and are tasked with coming up with a "bonding" project to get to know each other more.  They don't run in the same circles, so they come up with the only solution they agree on.  Write a letter to their future selves and meet up on graduation day to read them.

And the next four years of their lives begin...

And this is where the reader gets to be the fly on the wall as we watch all five teens change and evolve physically, morally and emotionally.  There are turns in the roads for all of them in their personal and school lives. Their lives even weave and intersect at times in very interesting ways. What makes this novel so appealing is the reader will be able to see themselves or those they know in any of the characters and which makes this book become personal...the ultimate nod of an excellent YA novel.  As I posted on Twitter, this novel is  part Breakfast Club, part St. Elmo's fire, part New Year's Eve.  LOVED it!!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Taking the Coloring Book Trend to a Whole New Level!

Going back to your past and reliving your childhood can be a great way to spend time, and I suspect that's why adult coloring books are trending right now.  Recently, I purchased coloring books for the students here, and several have been used (I can tell from the ripped pages) but one idea I had that REALLY turned out great was taking pages and cutting them to bookmark size.  No need to buy more bookmarks and kids were asking for 3 or more.  It was a win all the way around!!

Then I started thinking about the pages of a coloring book and begin looking at coloring pages online.  There are several free sites where you can print pages out:

Beautiful Mandalas to color:
Zen and Anti-Stress Coloring Pages for Adults:
Art is Fun!  Free Adult Coloring Pages:

Afterward, I began to think about the what ifs....what if I want to color while waiting in the airport?  How about while waiting on someone to meet me?  How about at night when I'm in bed and need a little de-stresser?  I think there's nothing more stressful than putting not only pages in a folder but having to keep up with all of the markers (or pencils, or colors or whatever!).  It's enough to send me over the edge of Happy Land into the depths of I'm-Going-Nutso Land!  And that brought me to my most used personal device, my iPad!

Bingo!  I hit the motherlode  of coloring pages!  Not only were they online, but they were also amazingly easy to color.  I do love me some technology, and these pages were editable and shareable.  But most of all?  They were relaxing for me!  So here are my top fav apps for adult coloring books, along with the lowdown on them and examples of artwork I colored. There are a TON out there, but I think five is more than enough to satisfy my craving to put color to screen :)

Magic Garden-
Five different books 
Colors: HUGE palette available to use
Menu options: delete, undo, draw any color, auto color fill
Settings: home button, favorites, share via message, email, or social media, save to "my works"
Review: This is by far the most colorful with tons of options!  There are options to purchase extra pages/designs but includes 40 free designs

Color Therapy:
Thirteen different books
Colors: SEVERAL different palettes to choose from.  Basic is free, others you need to unlock via use of social media.  Still others down the line are free to use (like the Fruity palette)
Menu Options: pinch to zoom in or out, undo, return button and share via email and social media.  Save to your photos
Review: Highly intricate, these designs will take a little longer to color.  I recently got a message to download new volumes, but haven't yet.  Saves your completed artwork into a folder on the app.  Another neat thing is that once you share your pic, you also have the option to add effects.  Nice touch! 

Adult Coloring Book:
Eleven different books
Colors: has one major palettes in primary colors, but others can be downloaded for free if you do certain things (like share four pieces of art etc).  There are also paid palettes as well.
Menu Options: A back button taking you to the front of the book, an undo button, ambience button will play certain ambient sounds while you color, a texture button with six options, a more button where you can animate your drawing to saving it on your camera roll to clearing the picture out, and lastly a share button for email and social media
Review: These are great genres and inside each book is chapters, where the first is free and the others you can purchase.  This app had the most unusual option with the ambient noises, but I can see how this would be great in busy places where ear phones are a must have.  The depth of coloring goes from simple to intricate for it will satisfy all types of online colorers.

Coloring Book for Adults:
Has 10 designs
Colors: this has sliding bar of colors
Menu Options: a trashcan to delete, an undo button and a share button for email, social media and to save on your camera roll
Review: This is by far the easiest of the apps and great for quick color.  Doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles but very much satisfies your inner coloring obsession.  Seems like the easier options have more colors and this won't disappoint, although I did get a little aggravated having to slide through colors to get to the ones I used/needed

Has 12 books with multiple volumes inside each
Colors: has a multitude of colors represented by pencils
Menu Options: three pentagons that hold your last three color chosen, an undo button, a share button to email and social media and a home button
Review: I really enjoyed this one.  Of course, its' a freemium, so some volumes will need to be purchased.  The only caution I would give is that each time you open a design, it asks if you'd like a free trial with a purchase, so be careful with your trigger finger!


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

My List of Top Ten YA Books of 2015

It's been a great year for YA books!  This year, I accomplished my goal of reading 50 books in different formats (I'm really enjoying the wonder of e-books) and among that list is the cream of the crop titles I absolutely got lost in.  These titles are a mix of fiction and non-fiction, graphic novel and short stories and everything in between.  These aren't in any particular rank or order (other than alphabetical), as all of these books were absolutely amazing!  There are more than ten I could absolutely put on this list, but I took my time and really thought about the titles I chose and why.  So walk with me through my top 10 best of the best book for teens....

1. All The Rage by Courtney Summers
What struck me about this book is the powerful theme it contains.  Romy, the main character, faces the most intense hardships of high school - bullying, isolation, and being taken advantage of against her will.  These take Romy to the brink of a breakdown but her strength, family and the few she can trust help her not only deal with what she went through, but also makes her realize her own self-worth.

2. All We Have is Now by Lisa Schroeder
When I can read in a book in one setting, I know it's a book that should be on this list.  Emerson knows she has less than 48 hours to live - not due to illness, but to a meteor bearing down on the U.S. This novel shows how not only what happens to her, but others who decide to live the rest of their lives by fulfilling lifelong dreams, falling in love, and granting forgiveness.  What grabbed me are the different threads of lives Schroeder writes about that begin to interweave in unusual ways leading to a beautiful ending.

3. The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks
This is one of those books that people either loved or not and that's why it made my list.  Brooks' novel evokes powerful emotions from readers and what ultimately happens to the group of people who are victims of circumstance in this superbly suspenseful book.  Another reason why I put this book on the list is that the ending is so climactic and unexpected, most of the teens I know who've read it can't wrap their minds around the ending of it all.

4. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Fantasy fiction has become (or still is) a popular genre, and while so many I've read recently take place in another time and world, this book doesn't. Rowell writes an urban fantasy with quirky characters and villains in today's world where wizards co-exists with Normals.  VERY reminiscent of the Harry Potter series, Rowell brings back the magical fun the characters and the school creates that makes it such a refreshing read.  It's all about relationships first, conflict second and the ability to combine lighthearted reading with some dark places the readers get to explore.

5. Drowned City by Don Brown
Brown brings back into the spotlight the horrors, mistakes and redemptive circumstances that created the disaster of New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina.  This book tells the story not only through words but the powerful images depicted on the pages, allowing those to not only read it, but truly look at what happened and allow it to resonate in them.  This is one of the best graphic novels I've read not only because it brings an important event up in teens lives, but also because although it's a quick read, it stays there long after the last page is turned.

6. Hitler's Last Days by Bill O'Reilly
There are a few titles from O'Reilly's Killing series that have been adapted for young adults, and when there is, they become an important part of a YA collection because of the hidden history behind the event and person.  This is about Hitler, but also about World War II and how his decisions led to the ultimate downfall of one of the most evil people in history.  O'Reilly writes without any political motive, which makes this a book for all readers.  You may not like the author, but try not to transfer bias to a great YA non-fiction book.

7. Infinite in Between by Carolyn Mackler
Follow five teens as they enter high school and begin their four year tour. Any teen will be able to find a character to identify with, whether it be the most popular girl in school or the geekiest kid to enter high school.  Not only do you get to see how they change physically (case in point: freshmen year class picture to senior year) but also the relationships and conflicts that begin to create the person they are.  Its' definitely a St. Elmo's Fire meets The Breakfast Club kind of book you'll fall into.

8. Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
It's not the flashy Marvel or DC graphic novel, but it's definitely a contender in attracting readers' attention through the clever use of dialogue and character.  Stevenson creates a meld of genres in this book.  She mixes a little fantasy with a bit of science fiction and adds a touch of historical fiction to create a fabulous graphic novel about friendships and enemies that holds a deeper meaning in what it means to be a true confidante and mentor.  I chuckled all the way through this book through Stevenson's dry and witty humor between the characters, especially Nimona and her unique talents.

9. Orbiting Jupiter by Gary Schmidt
There have been books that have made me shed a tear or two because of it's emotional impact, but this one jerked them right out of me because of its plot of love and loss.  Blending difficult days spent behind bars with a love story with the beauty of  adoption and foster care, Schmidt creates a character that has the weight of the world on his shoulders as well as the promise of new beginnings.  This isn't a book with lots of pages (in fact, it won't take hardly any time to read) but it makes up for it through the large emotional reach it'll have once the last page is turned.

10. Slasher Girls and Monster Boys edited by April G. Tucholke
This short story collection has the best YA authors that have written stories that are truly from the dark side.  This is horror at its best because it comes in small or large doses, depending on how much the reader can handle.  This isn't for those who get nightmares from reading YA horror and supernatural, but will definitely delight those who enjoy walking on the side tainted by dark evil and revenge.

And one to grow on....

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
This is a slice of science fiction that takes place completely in outer space. There aren't a hundred characters, planets and ships to keep track of.  One plot, one (or two) huge conflicts, and two main characters makes this book readable and enjoyable for those  who can't manage to keep track of too much.  The authors write the story through transcripts, text messages, secret documents and  file and this is what makes it a standout.  While reading this, I saw it as a movie in my mind...excellent sign of a great YA read!!

Now, bring on 2016!!!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Ten Ways Teacher Librarians Are Being Watched...and what you should do about it!

Ten Ways Teacher Librarians Are Being Watched

The big question school librarians need to ask themselves is, "What am I doing to drive students and teachers toward the library?"   

If your campus sees you reading, what are you doing with it? 

Tell them how you plan to share books with students. Create interactions between students and authors (in person, Skype, book festivals, comic cons).  Send out weekly book reviews via email, or get on your school television to play book trailers.  We always put out signs that say "Get Caught Reading."  We should also get caught.  Being a role model and getting excited about reading can only lead to more readers.

If your campus sees you on your computer, what are you creating or learning?

How do you share what you've learned with everyone? Email, infographics, word of mouth, posters…be creative!  Send out links to new tools you've used and let your campus know you're there to help them integrate it.  Use your technology in the library and halls by creating posters or anchor charts to help students as well as show off your mad skills

If your campus sees you behind the circ desk what services are you providing? 

Show them how you connect with people to create a user-friendly library. We are a customer-based service and they should always come first.  Make sure you always have a smile on your face no matter what.  Look at your signage and get rid of negative aspects and re-word them.  Give great eye contact instead of looking at your screen while they tell you what they need.  Patrons should ALWAYS come first.

If your campus sees you in the library, what are you doing with the space? 

Space is visual and shows people who the library reaches beyond just books and reading.  Makerspaces, learning commons, communal spaces, study areas are just a few.  Dress up the walls and shelves not only with books, but also with students projects.  And never let your displays go stale.  Change them up at least every month.  Students will notice...

If your campus doesn’t see you, where are you going? 

What types of professional development are you going to and how have you implemented it into the library?  Bring back ideas and implement them rather that tell everyone what a great conference it was.  Create an online resume to not only show what you've attended but what you've taught as well.  Professional development is two-sided, so make sure people know you're a teacher who CAN teach as well as a students who wants to learn.

If your campus sees you with a class what are you teaching? 

Work with teachers to create a collaboration of teaching, not a substitution for the teacher.  Together, create lessons on project based learning using technology, research, imagination.  Show off your skills by teaching new tools, talking about research in the 21st century...but most of all, be adaptable to ANY class, whether it's English lit or physics.  

If your campus sees you in the halls, why are you out of the library? 

Interacting with students and teachers outside of the library creates deeper relationships (and it makes them wonder why you’re “out of bounds”.) Be a mystery with a purpose.  Go talk to those teachers that never use the library and invite them in.  Ask questions about them both personally and professionally.  And don't be afraid to tell them about yourself both ways as well.  Bring handouts or bookmarks to give out during your walks to share library information and love.

If you campus sees you in a meeting, how are you involved? 

Being part of a team is the builder of great libraries and programs.  From leadership to PLC to virtual PLNs, get involved!  You are the voice of the library, one of those nebulous parts of the campus that doesn't have a department and only usually has one professional.  Make your voice count by showing how libraries can impact academics.

If your campus sees you online, what sites are they looking at? 

Make your online presence strong through the information you provide and accessibility to the sites you create or are a part of. Create a dynamic library website or use social media to show how the library can make a difference in students’ and teachers’ lives.  Take it from vitual to physical by creating bulletin boards centered around your social media.  Print out those tweets, posts and images and share them.

If your campus sees you between the stacks, what are you working on?

Reading is just part of what we do.  Displays, pulling books for resources, shelf talking are things that only happen between the stacks, and it’s an important space to invade regularly. Oftentimes students "hide out" in the stacks, perhaps to find a book, perhaps to hide.  Bring in your device and show them how they can find a book, download an e-book or follow your virtual bookshelf.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Bookface NHS Style

I did this project a couple of years ago and decided it's once again time to do bookfaces with newer titles.  So here they are (most of the are new..some are just classics)!

Slasher Girls and Monster Boys: A Bloody Good Read!

Penguin, 2015

Let me begin by saying if you LOVE horror fiction, you MUST pick up this amazing story collection!  Written by some well-known YA authors (think Carrie Ryan and Jonathan Maberry to name a few), the stories compiled with make you cringe while you keep reading story after story to see what terror the next tale holds.

April Genevieve Tucholke put together an amazing compilation with the idea of writing a new story from classic ones not only from books, but also from movies and television as well.  Each author, at the end of their dark tale, lets the readers know what inspired them to create their short story.

But it's the short stories which are downright horror(ibly) amazing.  There are fourteen short stories altogether, but here's a quick rundown of my favorites:

The Birds of Azalea Street by Nova Ren Suma: Three girls, all friends, think they know about the creepy guy who lives next door. Leonard may have the neighborhood fooled with his kindness and baked goods, but the girls get creeped out every time he looks at them.  And one night, Leonard brings a beautiful girl home and Tasha, Katie-Marie and Paisley see him sneak her in but they never see her again, except a few times through windows.  Something's not right, and they're about to find out how not right the situation becomes...

In the Forest Dark and Deep by Carrie Ryan: Cassidy has seen him in the forest since she was seven years old.  It all began when she discovered a most beautiful spot in the woods with a table in the clearing.  Perfect for tea parties!  But she felt someone watching her and out stepped the March Hare, the size of a man, dressed like a man, but not a man at all.  She knew he was watching her, but was it for good or evil?  Now at seventeen, she goes back to the woods but it's not longer tea she brings with her.  Cassidy thought the horrible tea party she became a part of was in the past, but then she sees the shadow of the March Hare again...

Sleepless by Jay Kristoff: Justin is in love, even though he's never met her.  He doesn't even know her real name, just her online one: 2muchcoff33_girl.  Neither of them sleep very well and their online conversations go from cameraderie to flirting to beginning to actually want to meet each other.  Of course, there are barriers Justin will have to overcome, like his overprotective mother, who constantly reminds him of how evil girls are.  But it doesn't matter.  He knows she was fated for him.  He's taken his time wooing his last three girl friends, even if the relationships didn't work out, and he's willing to try again  with 2muchcoff33_girl because he knows she's different and they'll work things out....

Stitches by A.G. Howard: Sage, Clover and Oakley lost their Ma, the gentle one.  Now all they're left with is Pa, who drinks to much, disappears too long, and hits too hard.  They live in the middle of nowhere with very little but themselves until they meet The Collector and he changes their world.  Pa got in trouble in town and The Collector came to help.  He wants to make Pa a better person, and for each visit he makes to the house, the children begin to see a definite difference in Pa.  He's kinder, gentler, not prone to drink.  But when Clover finally finds out the horrible truth about why, she's intent on revenge and goes to seek The Collector to exact it...

A summary of this story collection is best summed up by April Genevieve Tucholke's dedication,

                                        "For everyone who read Stephen King
                                         when they were way too young."

Recommended upper HS and beyond

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Top 10 (plus one) Non-Fiction Titles Teens Will Scoop Up

Non-fiction titles can be a scary place for teens to venture into.  They think most non-fiction titles are boring compared to fiction titles, where they can live vicariously through the characters and plot.  

But who’s to say you can’t do that with a great non-fiction title?  

One thing all of these titles share (besides the fact they are non-fiction) is that they are also pieces of history or social issues textbooks don’t write about. 

Some have lots of texts, others have very few.  Some are graphic novels, others are narrative non-fiction.  Whatever they choose, all of these are full of illustrations and photographs, which is the draw that pulls teens to non-fiction.