Sunday, February 25, 2007

Reading for Teens

No review or booktalk this week, just my toughts on reading teen books. I read books for teens for professional development. Reading these books helps me understand what is popular in YA literature and to evaluate new titles that I may like to order for my branch or for my entire library system.

With each book I read, I write a booktalk and fill out a form that goes into my "YA Literature Database" (otherwise known as a giant MS Word file that lives on my laptop and a packed full binder that lives in my closet). If I'm reading the book for my teen book club, I also print out any activity ideas or questions I write or find online.

So, picking out the book is the easy party. Finding the time to read it is almost as easy - I can legitimize reading a teen book during my off-desk hours at work, because my job title is YA Librarian.

I had fallen into the habit of evaluating the books, writing a booktalk and doing each of my other "post-read" tasks, only after I had a pile of books to process. Now, I work on each book one by one, and I find my life much saner as a result.

I've just finished reading three books for School Library Journal and am currently reading a book meant for adults (it's fun, from time to time, to remember that I am not actually a teenager anymore). But soon I'll dive into yet another YA book...and I'm sure I'll have no trouble deciding which one.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Ender's Game

This amazing book (which I just finished reading for the first time) will celebrate its 30th anniversary this year.

The questions and issued raised still matter. Do we ask too much of our teens, of children? Do we put too much weight on their potential as world leaders? As contributing members of society?

Not that I am anything like Ender Wiggin, not that adults put a monitor on the back of my neck and watched my every move and heard my every thought for three years, but my friends and I were labeled the "cream of the crop," and teachers had bigger, badder expectations for us and refused to step into make our lives any easier.

"And that some members of this conspiracy, notably the boy named Bonito de Madrid, commonly called Bonzo, are quite likely to exhibit no self-restraint when this punishment takes place...And you, fully warned of this danger, propose to do exactly --"


The teachers watching Ender in Battle School believe they know best what he can accomplish, what will be too much for him and when they should or should not step in and assist. They generally do notstep in and assist.

Ender Wiggin is seen as "the one" or "The Wiggin," the one child who will save the world from evil and destruction. Origins in Christ? Of course. But it's also more. It's about the burden we place on the shoulders of the generation that will follow us.

I'm still young enough to be one of the ones who will save the world, but I can already see myself waiting to find out what those who come after me will do differently in the quest to do this thing called life...better.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

I am the Messenger

So, Markus Zusak's The Book Thief got tapped as a Printz Honor Book, and one of his earlier books was an honor book last year. It's one of the first books I read as an "official" YA Librarian way back in August. I also wrote up a mock-review of the book as something to submit to SLJ.

Here you go:
I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

As in John Greene’s Looking for Alaska, lead character, Ed Kennedy, is in love with a young woman who seems incapable of loving him in return, but that’s the least of Ed’s worries. 19-year-old Ed’s life is changed completely after he thwarts a poorly planned bank robbery. The underage cabdriver thought his life would return to frequent walks with his 16-year-old, smelly dog, The Doorman, and poker games with his pals Ritchie, Marv and the lovely Audrey, but just a few days later, Ed receives the first of four aces in the mail. Each ace has three clues that need deciphering, three messages that need delivering. The first, the ace of diamonds requires Ed to inspire a beautiful 15-year-old girl to run as well on the track as she does during her barefoot, morning runs, to pretend to be the long-dead soldier still loved by a World War II widow and, quite possibly, to kill a man who abuses his family. Still, each ace demands more of Ed than the last. Messenger offers subtle but important lessons, delivered in a unique way. Some strong language and mature concepts make this a fine read for older teens.