Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Love Letter to Orca Soundings (Teen Fiction for Reluctant Readers)

Dear Orca Soundings,
I’ve loved you for awhile now but can no longer resist publicly professing my love by blog.
Y’see, I didn’t always feel this way. When I first found out I’d be opening a new high school library, I wanted books that screamed ‘quality,’ ‘award-winning,’ ‘best-selling,’ ‘classic,’ or ‘modern classic.’ Y’know, like the books you see proudly displayed front and center as you enter Barnes & Noble or the book section of Target - not the thin, little dime-a-dozens you see down on the bottom shelves or stuck back in a dark corner.  The first time you caught my eye was when I flipped through BookBop magazine, and your blurry covers and sinister titles like Bang, Grind and Rat sneered attitude at me. Exactly what kind of student were you trying to hook up with? And then there was the whole high interest/low level thing. I saw that ‘low’ and sucked my teeth. I saw grade level 2.0-4.5 and shuddered. Shouldn’t I be challenging all my students with books targeted above a *cough* elementary level? Because ALL students can and love to read to read, right? Right?!?!!
Fist pound, O-Sound, because YOU know better. You know that not every 15-year-old can read above a third grade level, and even a lot of those who can, think reading an actual book is equal to pulling out all of your teeth…with pliers…while strapped to a bed of nails…that are hot from a fire burning down below...in the bowels of book hell. So you’re smart and cunning. You find topics any and all kids can relate to – bullying, abusive relationships, beating the odds, surviving heartbreak, death and loss – and keep the action popping and the dialogue flowing and authentic. Before the reader even knows what hit him, he’s turning the last page – usually page 100 or 101, because you also get that whole ‘choose a book at least 100 pages long for your book report’ teacher rule – and guess what? After he’s done with that first one, he decides to read another…and then another…and then, it’s a full-on love affair with O-Sound. The librarian takes note of this, so she encourages the student to keep reading and, with time, even guides him toward more challenging reads on similar topics, which really makes that librarian love you so hard.
So, thank you, O-Sound. Thank you for understanding and providing a market for those kids who HATE or STRUGGLE to read. You are the John Green/Sarah Dessen of some of my kids’ worlds.
P.S. I just peaked at new titles you’ve got coming out this fall and can’t wait to see them held in my students' arms…

If you’re not familiar with Orca Soundings and work with kids who struggle to read, seriously consider trying some titles. They’ve truly been a godsend to the reluctant readers at my school, and one of the most rewarding parts of my job is having a conversation with a student that begins, “This is the first book I’ve ever really read…” *heart swells* You can preview all of Orca Books available titles and divisions (such as Orca Sports and Orca Spanish) at http://www.orcabook.com/ .

Sunday, August 26, 2012

In Honor – Jessi Kirby
Honor didn’t think anything worse than her parents’ death in a car crash could happen to her – but then her only brother, Finn, went and enlisted with the Army and got himself blown up in Iraq.

After the death of their parents at a young age, Honor and Finn grew up close in Texas under the care of an aunt. Just a couple of years older than Honor, Finn immediately took on the role not only of big brother but of protector and did all he could to help care for Honor as they grew up. When Finn dropped plans to attend college and enlisted for the Army upon high school graduation instead, no one saw it coming – not Honor, not their Aunt Gina, not even Finn’s best friend, Rusty. Each are furious with him in their own ways for leaving them to go join up and fight in a foreign land, but that anger turns to devastation when they receive word he’s been blown up by an enemy device.
As the book opens, Honor and her Aunt Gina’s pain and loss is palpable. At times, Honor feels like she can’t breathe just thinking about happy-go-lucky, smiling Finn boxed up in a coffin draped with an American flag. The funeral offers no comfort or catharsis as she watches all these military types going through their militaristic funeral motions – they knew him only as a fallen comrade, not the boy she considered both a brother and best friend. When she gets home from the funeral, Honor is stunned and sickened to see a letter waiting for her on the kitchen table with her address written in an all-too-familiar handwriting – that of her brother, Finn.  When Honor finally has the strength to open it, she finds two tickets inside to a Kyra Kelly concert and a note from her brother teasing her to tell Kyra Kelly she’s sorry her brother can’t make it to her show but he’s really good-looking and she’d like him. Finn knew Kyra was Honor’s favorite singer and the tickets are for a show in California the week before Honor is set to begin college – his gift to her before she starts the next stage of her life.
Honor quickly decides she’s going to honor her brother with a final gift – she’s going to take his beloved Chevy Impala sitting in the garage and road trip to California so she can tell Kyra Kelly to her face what a wonderful brother she had. She leads her Aunt Gina to believe she’s going up to her college early for orientation and loads up the car ready to head out when she’s stopped by the last person she wants to deal with in all this – Rusty. Rusty was Finn’s best friend up until the time Finn announced he would be leaving to serve his country, then the two had a big falling out that they never mended. All Honor has heard of Rusty since were rumors that he was drinking his way through college. When Honor admits where and why she’s taking Finn’s treasured Impala, Rusty insists on joining her. Honor resists at first but then agrees an extra driver for the trip – one who could help fix the old car should it have issues – would help, and the two set off.
Like any good road trip novel, Honor and Rusty meet interesting characters along their ride from Texas through Arizona and New Mexico to California, including a psychic who informs Honor she will indeed meet Kyra Kelly and fulfill a special destiny for her brother. Things are tense between Honor and Rusty during the first part of their journey, but as you can probably guess, as the two start to talk and share mutual stories of their shared love for Finn, the ice begins to melt and they learn a lot about each other and what drove Finn to do a 360 and leave home to go and fight. When their romance starts to blossom, it’s both sweet and natural.
Teens gravitate towards books about love and loss, and this one does a nice job of capturing both the pain that comes with losing someone you love but then finding the good in life to eventually pick yourself up and keep going. Put this in the hands of Sara Dessen fans. You can learn more about Jessi Kirby and her books at http://www.jessikirby.com/ .

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Never Fall Down – Patricia McCormick
Dealing with jammed laminators, adding apps and syncing  iPad carts, ordering books, conducting library orientation sessions, collaborating with teachers on new projects for the year, collaborating with NEW teachers on new projects for the year – let’s face it…the start of the school year is EXHAUSTING. It is so easy to feel overwhelmed and stressed out and zombie-fied from the back-to-school craziness that nothing brings some perspective crashing down quite like a book on the Cambodian Killing Fields – Patricia McCormick’s Never Fall Down. As much as I’d like to feel sorry for my overworked self, my woes ain’t nothing…

Arn is the eleven-year-old narrator of McCormick’s chilling book based on the true story of Killing Fields’ survivor, Arn Chorn Pond, who watched as the Khmer Rouge brutally murdered his entire family before sending him to work long hours in appalling conditions in a Cambodian rice paddy. When the book opens, Arn is a carefree boy living with his parents, older sisters and little brother in a village in 1970s Cambodia. One day, soldiers start coming through his village inquiring as to who is educated and who has money – and Arn notices that the people  who are more educated and have the better jobs leave with these soldiers never to return. Within a few weeks, the soldiers announce everyone will leave the village for three days to avoid some American soldiers coming through – only those three days turn into a years-long nightmare for Arn and his people.
Forced to walk for miles to a rice field where they’ll work 21 hour-long days, Arn recounts how older people and small children make the mistake of asking for water or saying they’re tired, only to be smashed in the head with the butt of a gun or stabbed with bayonets by the Khmer Rouge. Age and ability mean nothing. Four-year-olds work alongside thirty-year-olds work alongside seventy year-olds as they gather rice in the rain, many days working these long hours without anything but one bowl of soup for nourishment. Arn watches as his people drop dead from exhaustion, malaria, dysentery, and starvation as the dirt mounds nearby filled with dead bodies and reeking of rotting flesh continually grow larger. So how does Arn survive? By volunteering to play an instrument and entertain the Khmer Rouge soldiers with music. He also keeps his mouth shut, doing exactly as they order him to do, including dumping and burying the dead bodies of his family and friends.
Needless to say, this is a gut-wrenching read. Gut-wrenching as in some scenes you can literally feel your insides twisting and churning as the bile rises in your throat to know horrors like this went on - human beings actually did this to other human beings! – and that similar genocides are a part of our world today. Other than knowing the names/terms Pol Pot, Khmer Rouge and killing fields, I knew very little about this sad history of the Cambodian people. Just as Ruta Sepetys’ recent book, Between Shades of Gray, enlightened readers as to the atrocities that went on in Soviet labor camps during World War II, this book sheds light on a country that persecuted and killed many of its minority people while the rest of the world turned a blind eye. Like Between Shades of Gray's Lina, Arn fights to survive and refuses to let others forget what happened to his family and people - his voice keeps their memory alive. While these subjects may not be taught in U.S. classrooms, that doesn’t mean our students shouldn’t be made aware of the genocides that exist outside of the Jewish Holocaust.  A chapter or excerpts could be read from either Between Shades of Gray or Never Fall Down in class as a tie-in to other incidences of genocide throughout history and in modern times – the Old Testament through Darfur - with much discussion as to should other countries get involved...and to what extent. We may not want to know events like this happened, but we need to know they happened…and, worst of all, are still happening. To learn more about Patricia McCormick and her other books, you can visit her website at http://patriciamccormick.com/ .

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Now That’s What I Call Books! 12

This week I will be presenting a session on the ‘latest and greatest Y.A. lit’ to my district’s high school ELA teachers. Titled “Now That’s What I Call Books! 12,” I thought it would be a cool idea to do a take-off on the long-running, popular music CD series, “Now That’s What I Call Music! Vol. #” by making a so-called ‘best-of’ books comp from 2012. Okay, so a few book copyrights may pre-date 2012, but sometimes popular songs are slow to build too (like Cassandra Clare's City of Bones from her Immortal Instruments series, which only rises in popularity and should be read from the beginning).

First, I want teachers to reflect on the young adult books they would put on a ‘best-of’ if asked – this might include books they read when they themselves were young, books they currently teach, or books they don’t necessarily teach but read and really enjoyed.

Next, I plan to share with them the recent list put out by NPR featuring the Top 100 Best-Ever Teen Novels as voted on via a poll by their readers (I cast my vote…did you?). Copies of the list will be at their tables/desks for them to highlight the books they’ve read. We’ll then discuss what they notice about the titles they highlighted – in their reading, do they veer more towards the classics or current titles or a nice mix of both? I’m especially interested to hear their thoughts on the number of current books on there – ie. Divergent, Mortal Instruments, Anna and the French Kiss, etc. – and if they’re bothered by that. In other words, how rigid are their personal feelings on what qualifies as classic or good enough to be alongside the classics? It’s an interesting debate, especially since many of our high school-ers might consider The Hunger Games to be a “classic" (hey, we live in a world where MTV considers "Laguna Beach" and "The Hills" to be #retrotv).

The balance of classics vs. currents on their lists may depend on what kind of readers they are –how much does the person read outside of what it actually taught in the classroom? School librarians and teachers should make a point to read new books outside of what’s taught in the curriculum – not necessarily new in copyright, but new to them. We ask our students to do assignments and read books outside of class – shouldn’t we be positive role models and do the same?

But what should I read first? If you’re a teacher who doesn’t have much time to read outside of class, how do you know what to pick and choose? What books are worth the effort and might even worm their way into classroom instruction? Here’s where I plan to introduce my teachers to several posters I created that feature: 1) the relationship between classic lit and current lit, 2) the most popular books and trends at my particular high school, and 3) a quick look at books that came out this past summer that their students might be discussing when school starts back.

Okay, so it’s understood there’s NO WAY anyone can read all of these books – um, I’m a school librarian who reads A LOT, and I haven’t read all of these books. The point I want to stress to teachers is to be aware of what themes and titles are big with their students, and if they want to branch out and read a book or two or three, then maybe they can start with some titles from “NOW That’s What I Call Books! 12”. While some books are across the board hits no matter what part of the country or school you're in, of course there are books that are more popular with my students than yours and vice versa. If you had to produce a hits collection, what would make it onto your tracklisting?

Lastly, if my district’s teachers are open to it, I am more than happy to lead a Y.A. book club for interested teachers, administrators and school librarians. We can push to read a book every six weeks, or baby-step it by sticking to one book a nine weeks. A great way to maintain some accountability will be through an Edmodo discussion group – NOT that there’s going to be quizzes on the book club selection, but maybe a pacing guide or feedback upon finishing certain scenes or the entire books might help. My recommendation for our first book will be to read John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars.
Best of luck to all of you school librarians starting back to a new year. Let’s do our best to inspire a love of reading in our students AND teachers alike!
Many thanks to the lovely and talented Kristen Hearne (http://thelibrarianinthemiddle.blogspot.com/) for creating the Now CD cover artwork. Kristen joined me and two other of our district librarian cohorts, Tamara Cox (http://e-literatelibrarian.blogspot.com) and Monique German (http://thisshelfreserved.blogspot.com/), in putting all our brains in a Petri dish and coming up with a post based on this concept for an upcoming Nerdy Book Club. Known as the “Librarians in the Middle,” Kristen, Tamara and Monique have prepared a similar presentation for middle school ELA teachers.

Now That's What I Call Books! 12 Y.A. edition (slideshare)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

My Life in Black and White – Natasha Friend
Natasha Friend is a librarian’s dream author. She writes Y.A. lit with an authentic teen voice addressing authentic teen issues, and readers and non-readers alike gobble up her books. Her first novel, Perfect, tackles eating disorders; follow-up Lush, as you can perhaps guess from the title, addresses alcoholism; Bounce is about a girl forced to contend with her newly blended stepfamily and move to a new place; and For Keeps takes on a girl meeting the father she never knew and a boy who might become her first serious boyfriend.

In My Life in Black and White, Lexi has it all – beauty, good grades, a position as co-captain of the girls’ field hockey team, control of the center (aka popular kids) table in the cafeteria, a cute football player boyfriend who loves her, and by her side through it all, her bff Taylor. Lexi may have the looks, but Taylor has the money and together they have big plans to dominate high school in 10th grade just as they did their junior high school in 9th. With Taylor’s parents out of town, Taylor and her football player brother Jarrod throw a back-to-school party – kegger, red Solo cups, and all. Lexi closely monitors how much she drinks, but eager-to-impress Taylor keeps knocking ‘em back…until she goes missing. Concerned Taylor might be yakking her guts out, Lexi goes searching through the house for her only to discover Taylor in her parents’ bedroom giving a Lewinski to Lexi’s boyfriend, Ryan. Awwwkward. Stunned, heartbroken and furious, Lexi lets them both have it before storming out of the house and getting Jarrod to give her a ride home. Unfortunately, something happens to cause Jarrod to lose control of the car, crashing it into a tree where Lexi is thrown through the windshield, one side of her face ripped apart.
In true teenage fashion, Lexi spends her first few days in the hospital more preoccupied with the betrayal of her best friend and boyfriend. It isn’t until the doctors remove her bandages and she sees herself in the mirror for the first time that Lexi realizes the true horror of what’s happened to her. Because she had a hole in her cheek, the doctors had to graft skin from her butt onto her face, literally making her - as Lexi deems herself - a buttface. The right side of her face now looks like a patchwork quilt. Gutted and bitter, Lexi returns home with her parents and older sister angry that life could treat her so cruelly.
As Friend does so well, her main characters are in no way saints – Lexi veers to the bratty, was self-absorbed before the accident and is even more-so now, and wallows for several weeks in her pity party of one – but the reader still likes her and can identify with the pain she is going through both physically and emotionally. At first, she refuses to attend school, begging her parents to homeschool her, but when she does decide to brave it and go, she quickly learns who her real friends are...and there aren't many. Lexi responds by becoming the opposite of the girl she was pre-accident - whacking off her shiny, long blonde hair, trading her mini-skirts and midriff shirts for hoodies, and keeping completely to herself. Friend also does a nice job of fleshing out the peripheral characters, particularly Lexi’s sister Ruthie who, though very different from her sister – Ruthie’s a nerdy, pimply band geek – proves to be a good listener and provides advice Lexi needs to hear rather than what she wants to hear. As it turns out, there’s a big secret as to what exactly caused Jarrod to wreck his car, just as the circumstances behind Taylor and Ryan’s hook-up isn’t all that it seems –as the title indicates, life isn’t always so black and white as we’d like it to be.
Readers who liked Friend’s previous offerings will not be disappointed, while readers who haven’t yet been introduced to her books might read this and then go back and read the others. While Friend’s earlier books were suitable for middle school, the sexual content in My Life in Black and White is a bit more explicit so while it’s reviewed ages 12 and up, consider your individual school climate. To learn more about Friend and her books, visit her official website at http://www.natashafriend.com .

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Send Me An Angel - Books and a Poster feat. those (always not-so) Heavenly Creatures
I am seriously behind on my reading and blame two things – 1) the impending start of school with its back-to-school library displays and teacher in-services I’m responsible for, and 2) the Olympics. I have been a mayjuh Summer Olympics junkie, as much for the sports as the host city of London (love me some Royals!), and it’s oh-so-much easier to multi-task by creating poster displays whilst cheering on the Fab Five or drooling over Ryan Lochte than it is to try and follow the plot of a book with those diversions. Olympics, I really need for you to be over soon, so I can get my life back long enough to hand it over to my school for the next nine months.

Vampires, werewolves, mermaids, fairies, demons, zombies, draki…the paranormal market is flooded with supernatural beings of all kinds, but none are as big at the moment as angels. Three of the most popular angel series also have books coming out in the next couple of months – Alexandra Adornetto’s Heaven (Halo Series), Jessica Shirvington’s Entice (Embrace series), and the one my students are most excited for, Becca Fitzpatrick’s Finale (Hush, Hush series).  I’ve found students who are into one of the following series typically go on to read the other series once I direct them to the books, so what better way to make my job and their search easier than to create a poster featuring a few of the angelic selections out there?
Hush, Hush Saga – Becca Fitzpatrick
Hush, Hush
(October 23, 2012)
Christian Grey may be all-the-rage with the twenty-something and up crowd, but ask my girls who the hottest  guy is in fiction, and they’ll tell you it’s fallen angel turned guardian angel, Patch Cipriano. I witnessed a Patch vs. Peeta fangirls smackdown in my library before summer break – the fandom is that serious. They cannot get enough! Unfortunately, Finale is set to be the, well, finale to the series when it’s released this October.
Unearthly series – Cynthia Hand
(January 2013)
Clara discovers she is part angel, and as such, is meant to spend her time here on earth helping others – such as the mysterious boy in danger who keeps haunting her dreams…
Fallen series – Lauren Kate
Fallen in Love
(a novella)

After a tragic accident costs her the life of a good friend, Luce is sent away to a boarding school in Georgia where she meets hot but enigmatic Daniel. Only Daniel’s got a secret, and guess what it is? This series has attracted a few of my guy readers too…
Halo trilogy – Alexandra Adornetto
(August 21,  2012)
Three angels are sent to earth to battle forces of evil – then one of them up and falls in love with a human. Enter trouble…My library also has the Halo series based on the video game, so it’s always fun when a student picks up the Halo from the wrong series and wonders why the cover looks so not what he/she expected  ;-)
Immortal City series – Scott Speer
Immortal City
Natural Born Angel
(April 23, 2013)
Los Angeles, the city of angels…no, literally. Angels are the newest celebs, and Jackson Godspeed is the Channing Tatum of them all. He could have anyone he wants but falls hard for regular girl Maddie…and that’s when things get really interesting. Funny and romantic.
Embrace series – Jessica Shirvington
(September 4, 2012)
It’s fallen angels versus humans in Shirvington’s series, already a hit in Australia. Violet prepares to fight on the side of the protectors of the humans, but when her trainer betrays her and a fallen angel saves her, she can’t decide who to trust…and love.
The Infernal Devices series – Cassandra Clare
Clockwork Angel
Clockwork Prince
Clockwork Princess
(March 19, 2013)
A prequel to her Mortal Instruments series, we see how the Shadowhunters got their start. Not angels, per se, but they do fight demons and Clare packs her books with lots of action and supernatural characters from all walks of life (demons, vampires, faeries..). Guys are as into these two series as the girls – or at least they are at my school.
Sweet Evil – Wendy Higgins
Anna is the child of an angel AND a demon – so which part of her will win when she crosses paths with bad boy Kaidan?
Dark Kiss (Nightwatchers series #1) – Michelle Rowen
Bishop is sent from Heaven to earth to complete a very important task…and then he meets Samantha, who’s just experienced her first kiss, a kiss that forever changes her and sidetracks Bishop from his work.
Forbidden – Syrie James and Ryan James
Half-angel girl falls for boy who’s supposed to eliminate all angels, aaaaaand you can guess the rest. ;-)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Book Trailers + QR Codes + Carly Rae Jepsen = "Read Me Maybe" Book Display

2,364,764,385,931 listens later, I'm still not sick of Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" - it has been my summer jam - so when I saw Comsewogue Public Library's take-off on the song used for a book display featuring QR codes for book trailers (via Pinterest), I totes nicked the idea to make my own display.

This should make for a fun back-to-school activity for students who can practice reading QR codes with our iPads - better still, they might be inspired to check out some of these titles after watching the book trailers. Since cell phones aren't allowed during school hours, I conveniently placed the display in the hall outside the library - hey, what I don't see, I can't stop.

If you've been living under a rock and don't know what song I'm referring to, for your listening pleasure I give you...

Sunday, August 5, 2012

What the Kids are Reading - PVHS Edition (Book Poster)

For my upcoming high school ELA in-service on the latest and greatest in Y.A. lit, I plan to share with teachers across the district the trends/series/books big at my school. For example, the dystopian trend shows no signs of slowing down, helped in part by the fact quality books and series in the genre continue to be released. Paranormal romances also continue to saturate the market, and while vampires, werewolves, faeries, and mermaids are still with us, zombies and angels are the biggest rage at the moment. Many girls continue to gravitate towards books with edgy, realistic angst, while boys - andrenaline-junkies at heart - like their superheroes and battles against evil. A decade ago, many thought manga would come and go, but guess what? Manga is not going anywhere but off the shelves and into kids' hands - I have so many Manga-obsessives, we have a Manga club just for them to fangirl/fanboy about their faves!

Perhaps more unique to my student population are war books and hi/lo series books such as those titles released by Orca Soundings and Urban Underground (the Bluford series' older sibling). I just happen to have a lot of boys who will read any and all nonfiction war books - Unbroken, Flyboyz, The Things They Carried, Seal Team insert-any-number, etc. -  which works perfectly with Common Core's emphasis on nonfiction, so...yay! Even my students who HATE to read can find Orca Soundings or Urban Underground titles they like. The high action and shorter length is obvs part of the appeal, but I've been especially pleased to see these same non-readers coming in on their own to check out other books in those series. I've even been able to leap-frog a few onto books outside of those publishers but with similar themes, such as Geoff Herbach's Stupid Fast, Lisa McMann's Dead to You, and Kody Keplinger's The DUFF. The Drama High, Denim Diaries, and Kimani Tru series work similar street lit magic with my african-american reluctant readers.

Lastly, I definitely want to bring to every teacher's attention R.J. Palacio's Wonder and John Green's The Fault in Our Stars. Those two novels have made the biggest impact in childrens and Y.A. literature this year...and justifiably so! They're each well-written, well-reviewed, and most importantly of all, well-received into readers' hearts. You read a book like Wonder or The Fault in Our Stars, and you're changed. Those will be my first book club selections for a secondary book club I plan to start in the district when we go back next week. Heck, Wonder should be required reading for every educator regardless of level!

The titles I have here may not necessarily reflect what all is being read in your individual schools, so why not consider making your own poster/flyer as an FYI for teachers about your students' tastes? If you've got access to PowerPoint and Google Images, you can do it! ;-) 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

That was Then, This is Now (Book Poster)

In a couple of weeks, I will be doing an in-service for secondary ELA teachers about current Y.A. literature. Many of my teachers will tell me they don't have time to read 'new' books, because they're so busy reading and teaching the classics. The librarian/eternal teenager in me argues we're doing our students a disservice by not keeping abreast of what they're reading NOW - not saying you've got to read it all, just be aware of trends and the bigger titles. We do an even greater disservice to students when current literature is treated as somehow 'less' than the classics. Yeah, yeah, yeah we don't call the classics CLAHHHSSICS for nothing, but the themes that pervade in classics such as 1984 and To Kill a Mockingbird can be found in quality Y.A. lit today - Hunger Games and Shine, anyone? And who out there can argue we won't be talking about The Fault In Our Stars a decade or two or three from now? Quite frankly, I don't want to live in a world where my grandchildren aren't as swept up in the tragic love story of Hazel and Augustus as much as I was!

Obviously, this poster touches on just a few of the themes and titles that apply. I hope to do more in the near future with correlating traditional classics with current classics (great oxymoron, that!) for teachers and students to make connections and read. Feel free to use.  
The Raven Boys (Raven Cycle One)  – Maggie Stiefvater

Can you imagine anything suckier than being told if you kiss your true love, he will die? Such is the supposed fate of sixteen-year-old Blue Sargant. Blue is born into a clairvoyant family, and for nearly as long as she can remember in reading after reading, this is her destiny – to kill her true love. Obviously, with this heavy anvil hanging over her head, Blue doesn’t date much...like at all. Since she’s not busy dating, Blue has lots of time to assist with the family business. Blue herself doesn’t have the ability to see into the future, but she does have a special energy that helps heighten future visions seen by her mom and extended family of aunts and cousins, who all do readings out of their shared home on 300 Fox Way in Henrietta, Virginia.

On St. Mark’s Eve, Blue’s asked to join her mother’s half-sister, Neeve, in the naming of the dead, an annual occasion in April where psychics witness a ghostly parade of local people who will be dying over the course of the next year. Cheery! Feeding off Blue’s energy, Neeve plans to ask the names of the ghosts as they’re passing by while Blue jots their names down. Blue’s done this depressing job before, so no biggie, except this year goes a little differently than ever before – for the first time, Blue actually sees one of the ghosts…a boy her age who identifies himself only as ‘Gansey.’ Blue can’t resist following him to see if she can communicate further with him, but all she gets is, “Gansey. That’s all there is.” Ugh, don’t you hate when you’re trying to pump a guy for info…and you get NOTHING! His clothes alert her to one other thing, though – he’s an Aglionby boy. Aglionby boys are the moneyed boys who attend Aglionby Academy, a ritzy prep school in town. With the raven as its mascot, the locals refer to them as Raven Boys. Since the Raven Boys are known for bratty, entitled behavior, Blue and the other townspeople aren’t their biggest fans.
After her ghostly close encounter, though, Blue becomes slightly obsessed with finding this Raven Boy named Gansey; meanwhile, the reader learns Gansey has an obsession of his own. Richard “Dick” Gansey isn’t just an Aglionby boy – he’s one of the richest of the Aglionby boys. He lives with two of his close friends off-campus in a loft located in an old manufacturing building; there, he’s crafted a miniature model of the entire town of Henrietta and amassed books and notes detailing his life’s obsession – following the ley line (an energy field) that runs through the town of Henrietta to locate a long-buried but still very powerful Welsh king, Glendower. Legend has it the person who discovers the burial site of Glendower and helps wake him from death will be granted a wish of his/her choosing. Gansey recruits his two roommates and another Aglionby friend to assist in his quest: Ronan, the hulking, short-tempered and menacing roommate; Noah, the quiet, weird roommate; and Adam, a poor boy from a trailer park attending Aglionby on scholarship and too prideful to accept any monetary assistance from his wealthy classmates. As different as these Raven boys are, they share a loyalty to Gansey and determination to find Glendower.
After a chance meeting between the boys and Blue at a cafĂ©, Adam takes a liking to Blue who in turn ignores her mother’s warnings and becomes friends with all the boys. She can’t help herself! It’s not so much that she likes Adam – which she definitely does, only there’s that whole kiss-of-death thing - but it’s their quest to find Glendower, and Gansey’s involvement in particular, that draws her to the Raven Boys. Her ability to affect supernatural energies might help them, and in finding Glendower, she might help Gansey avoid his fate.
After I finished reading The Raven Boys, my one criticism was going to be that while Stiefvater took such great pains to set up the story (Blue’s interactions with her clairvoyant family, how the Raven boys came to be friends, the mystery behind Glendower, the great search for the burial site), the ending seemed too abrupt, and I was left with lots of unanswered questions. Since I read a galley, I missed the whole Raven Cycle One part, so when I saw on Stiefvater’s website that this is book one of a four-part series, I did a Homer Simpson “D’oh!” Okay, I’m cool with the ending now. ;-) Like her recent book, The Scorpio Races, The Raven Boys is an ambitious Y.A. novel. It’s got everything - fantasy, romance, bromance, supernatural beings, a murder mystery, humor – but also like The Scorpio Races, it takes some time to get into the story. Readers who stick with it, though, will be rewarded with some powerful storytelling.
The Raven Boys (Raven Cycle One) is set for release on September 18. To learn more about Stiefvater, The Raven Boys, and her other fab-o works, visit her website at http://maggiestiefvater.com/ .

Friday, August 3, 2012

I Know What You Read Last Summer... (Book Poster)

Had to happen...I'm in back-to-school mode. Though I don't offically start back until August 14, I've been busy preparing some back-to-school and library orientation activities for students, some project collabs with teachers, and a few literacy/Web 2.0 tool in-services for teachers. I'm a truly sick puppy, because this is actually FUN for me.

I've designed several book posters/flyers - a few intended for some teacher in-services, which I'll share soon - but this one is specifically for my students. I know them and their interests well, and these should be the books they'll be buzzing about upon their return - can't wait to fangirl with them over these newer releases!

Please feel free to use.

Btw, the "I Know What You Read Last Summer" theme arose from the realization that, as I was saving book cover pictures, there sure were a lot of really dark books released this summer. Serial killers, plagues, flesh-eating creatues, back-stabbing girls...if this keeps up, this year's Teen Read Week horror-themed "It Came From the Library..." will promote itself! 

And, yes, that background is a skeleton mermaid. How awesome is she?