ALA Midwinter

So happy to be leaving the snow for ALA Midwinter in San Diego!

Please say “hi”. I look pretty much like my picture, except with glasses, longer hair, and smiling.

Here’s my schedule. Will you be at Midwinter? What will you be doing?


YALSA Happy Hour

YA Book Blogger Meet-up



Committee Meeting for YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults (2012)



Coffee with the Candidates (YALSA) (I’m not running for anything but I love hearing from the people who are running)

Best Fiction for Young Adults — Teen Session


Youth Media Awards Press Conference

Joint Youth Division Reception (ALSC/YASLA/AASL)

Morris & Nonfiction Award Reception


Review: Hold Me Closer, Necromancer

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer. Lish McBride. Henry Holt & Co. 2010. Copy borrowed from friend.

The Plot: Sam is your typical slacker — college drop out, working at a fast food restaurant to pay the bills for his tiny apartment, hanging out with his friends. Until the day he accidentally breaks the headlight on a Mercedes while playing potato hockey with his best friends, Ramon and Brooke. The car owner goes from angry at the damage to downright scary as he asks Sam who gave him permission to live in Seattle and why he hasn’t consulted the Council.

With that chance encounter, Sam starts finding out secrets — secrets he didn’t know about, secrets he didn’t want to know about. Sam thought Seattle and his world was normal. Turns out, it’s full of supernatural beings including necromancers. Turns out, Sam is one of those beings — he’s a necromancer. As in talking to and raising the dead.

The Good: As I explained in The Freak Observer, the Morris Shortlist books should be on your must-read list just because. If you need more than the equivalent of my saying “because I told you so,” for Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, know this: as the title indicates, it’s funny! Sam and his friends may be slackers, but they know how to quip. This book gives you supernatural, horror, humor, and even a touch of romance. It’s also done with wonderful style: Sam tells his story in first person, and other parts of the story are told in third person subjective, so you get inside their heads, their thoughts, their memories and background but without the same type of immediacy and closeness that Sam’s story gives you. The structure is also fabulous, with McBride quickly creating Sam’s “normal” world and then just as quickly introducing the supernatural, and just as the reader is processing the “new” of it all it switches to a  more knowledgeable point of view. This provides the reader with more context and background than Sam has, and offers great world-building.

What else? This book has crossover appeal for your adult readers of supernatural and horror.

Alright, so for all of you who don’t like spoilers, that should be enough to get you going. Go, read, and then return, because there will be spoilers. Oh, and there is an excerpt at the publisher’s website.

As explained above, Sam finds out there is more to his world — witches, necromancers, werewolves, fey, vampires, well, you get the picture.

What fascinates me (and makes me angrier than Sam, but that’s OK) is it turns out that his mother has known this, known many things all along, and kept it from Sam. It’s actually a classic parent move — withhold information to protect a child from being hurt, yet by never telling the child more damage happens. Here, long story short, Sam’s mother was aware of his otherness. I KNOW. And, honestly, I’m happy that Sam is shown as so close to his mother to forgive her but his not knowing means that when the big bad showed up? Sam was unprepared. I could deal with that. But then the big bad killed one of Sam’s good friends, and while Sam doesn’t blame his mother for that, I DO. Because I’m that type of reader. What this means from the book point of view is that McBride has created such engaging, flawed characters that I am getting mad at people who aren’t real. And getting mad for the best possible reason — because the characters are real and I have invested in all of them, including Sam, his mother, and his dead friend.

The secret leads to another strength of Necromancer. It’s all tied together. Sam’s floating, feeling disconnected, being, well, a slacker isn’t just because, well, he’s a slacker. As he realizes late in the book, if such an important part of himself was hidden, denied, unknown, no wonder he always felt as if he didn’t belong! So note that while this book is a funny as hell horror story, it is also classic coming of age — discovering oneself and accepting responsibility, with an emphasis on needing to understand and accept oneself fully in order to have a whole, integrated life. That the story comes with a talking head and a hot naked half-fey half-were hound girl in a cage is just extra goodness.

Finally, I love that Necromancer stands alone. Much as I love series, I also love not having to wait for a second (third, fourth, fifth…) book to find out what happens and to wrap up the story. That said, McBride has created such an interesting world that there could easily be other stories set in it, including stories about Sam as he learns more about his abilities. And, as Sam himself says near the end, “I froze. No corpse? Not good. No corpse meant he could still be around. Anyone who has ever watched a soap opera or a slasher flick knows that.” Thank you, Lish McBride, for that, because I am so tired of people in books and films and TV who don’t know that!

A Favorite Book Read in 2010 because: humor, supernatural,and  horror, all while balancing humor and a dead-serious plot.

Heroes in International Literature

And another report from the YA Lit Symposium!

Today’s YALSA YA Lit Symposium program being highlighted is Heroes In International Literature, November 6, presented by Rosemary Chance and Teri Lesesne.

What attracted me to attending this panel was the focus — not books published in the US about other countries, but rather books from other countries published in the US.

Chance and Lesesne (whose presentation and book list appear at the bottom of this post) began with resources for finding these books: the IBBY (The International Board on Books for Young People) (whose website has a ton of resources about international publishing, including awards and booklists) and ALSC’s Batchelder Award, which is awarded to a publisher for the best children’s book published in another language in another country and translated into English and published in the United States. From the Batchelder website: Mildred L. Batchelder’s “life’s work was “to eliminate barriers to understanding between people of different cultures, races, nations, and languages.”

I really appreciated the explanation of how the Batchelder works and why. It values that translated stories are important for children to read. Why is the American publisher is honored? Because this honors and rewards publishers who acquire these titles. Chance and Lesesne pointed out the additional steps (so additional costs and time) a publisher has to take: yes, the book is acquired, but then there is the process for getting a translator and then also editing the translated work.

A question was asked: should YALSA expand the Batchelder to include teen books? (As an ALSC Award, it’s for books up to age 14.)

Another resource mentioned was USBBY, the United States Board on Books for Young People, which is the US section of IBBY. (Yes, by the end of the presentation I wanted to join and go to all their conferences and meetings!) USBBY supports international literacy (and as a note from me, wow, it’s got some great resources!)

The presentation then highlighted some translated books. I love when presentations highlights books — I like the affirmation of books I like being included, I like learning about new books, I like hearing how others present the books I’ve enjoyed. A series of booktalks in person is terrific, especially when (as in this presentation) it’s balanced with information and resources.

The books mentioned are in the link below. Titles ranged from Cornelia Funke’s Reckless to Nothing by Janne Teller (which is in my to be read pile).

Finally, editors of some of the books mentioned spoke and answered questions (Kaylan Adair, editor of Winter’s End (Candlewick), Francoise Bui , editor of A Faraway Island (Delacorte), Diane Landolf, editor of The Century:  Ring of Fire (Random House);  and Susan Van Metre, editor of Fell and Tiger Moon (Abrams)).

It was a fascinating discussion, about the translation and acquisition process. One person noted that one of their authors said they felt that American editing is more thorough and hands on than their European counterparts. They also spoke about the reluctance of chains to buy translated works. Since the author usually isn’t available to tour, because of expense and language barriers, it impacts the types of promotion that a publisher can do. Because of this, recognition of the book is review driven and the Batchelder is very important.

Translators aren’t included on the cover of the book, because it’s believed to be a turn off for readers.

Someone said that the marketing dollars aren’t put behind these books, but also, marketing money isn’t put behind literary books.

In response to some questions, the editors also pointed out that the US publisher are buying English language rights for the United States, so they aren’t also selling the book in the original language.

Final comments: included pointing out the USBBY/IBBY publication, Bookbird. And save the date — the 9th IBBY Regional Conference will be October 21 – 23, 2011 in Chicago! CORRECTION: From Jenny Schwartzberg, in the comments:  “One correction. This past year’s regional USBBY conference was outside Chicago, in St. Charles. The 2011 USBBY conference is in Fresno, CA on the campus of California State University.”


Presentation at SlideShare

Booktalk List

Interview with presenters at YALSA Ning

Thanks again to RIF!

Review: Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing

Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing by Ann Angel. Amulet Books, 2010. Copy borrowed from a friend.

About: Janis Joplin, rock ‘n’ roll singer, perhaps best known for Me and Bobby McGee. This details Joplin’s life, from her teen years in Port Arthur, Texas up to her 1970 death at age 27 from a heroin overdose.

The Good: One of the five shortlist titles for the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults.

If you were me, “biography of Janis Joplin” would be all you need to know to pick up this book. Angel tells about Joplin’s life, from her childhood and teenage years in the 1950s in Port Arthur, Texas, to the early 1960s as she began singing, leaving Texas for California and New York, becoming the singer for Big Brother & the Holding Company in 1967. Three short years later, Joplin was dead from an overdose, leaving behind such a huge body of songs that I was surprised at just how short her professional singing career was.

In this biography aimed at high schoolers, Angel provides a matter of fact look at Joplin’s life, balancing both aspects of Joplin’s personality: the “wild, uninhibited performer and the sweet, solicitous daughter and sister.” Dick Cavett, television host who interviewed Joplin on more than one occasion, said “I think there were two Janises. There was the high school girl who desperately wanted acceptance and that character she created which was the tough-talking, tough-drugging, drinking rock and roll star.” Along the way, Angel shows both sides of Joplin’s character as well as her world and times, putting her life and music into historical perspective. Angel never condemns Joplin nor does she make excuses for her.

Angel manages to convey in print (with some amazing photographs) the sound of Joplin’s voice, the depth of her live performances. Angel’s webpage links to Janis Joplin. Net, which contains videos of Joplin’s performances.

I was overwhelmed with just how much Joplin accomplished professionally in three years, and left thinking how unfair her death was, and impressed with just how much Angel told in only 106 pages. It’s the perfect amount of pages, but in case anyone wants more, Angel provides a bibliography.

The design of this book is stunning. There are the photographs and the album art, and then there are the colorful borders inspired by the 1960s art shown in those albums. What I also liked – – since I work in a library that has Braille and audiobooks — is that this book, while full of terrific images, has text that stands alone for those non-visual readers.

Oh, I just have to say it one more time. What a shame that Joplin died so young; how unfair, because many others who did what she did were lucky enough to survive the rock and roll lifestyle.

Bill Morris Luncheon: Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

The Bill Morris Author Luncheon, YALSA YA Lit Symposium, November 6.

The Bill Morris Author Luncheon is named for William C. Morris, yes, the same Morris of the Book Award for a YA Debut Award. It’s all part of the Morris Endowment.

The featured speaker was Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, author of Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, U.S. Marshal (Lerner, 2009). Bad News for Outlaws is the 2010 Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award Winner.

The luncheon began outside; it was chilly, but in a tent, and (as readers know) I am the Queen of Cardigans and Scarves, so I was quite prepared. After the luncheon part, we moved inside where I could remove one of the cardigans. 

Nelson spoke about her books; both about picture books for older readers as well as making decisions on whether to write a story as non-fiction or fiction.

On picture books for older readers: “you are never too old for a picture book.” Picture books can be an effective way to introduce topics to teens, such as history, language, social activism, civics and writing. She described teens as “one big organic heart filled with emotion.”

Who Will I Be, Lord (Random House, 2009) is another one of Nelson’s books, a work she described as “faction,” with created material plus real people. Nelson explained how it began as a straight biography but realized that biography didn’t give her her the freedom in writing. Plus, using a “documentary fiction” allowed her to address gaps in stories as well as flat-out contradictions.

Thanks, again, to RIF.

Retro Review: Ishmael

Here is my holiday gift to you — or, at least those of you who like books that are a bit different.

I give you Ishmael (Star Trek N0. 23) by Barbara Hambly (Pocket Books 1985). Available as an ebook from the publisher.

I originally reviewed this book in December 2006. The description from the publisher website: “The U.S.S. Enterprise™ is on a peaceful mission at Starbase 12 when a bizarre cosmic phenomenon causes a Klingon ship to suddenly vanish — with Spock aboard for the ride. Spock’s last message from the Klingon ship is cryptic and frightening. The Klingons are traveling into the past, searching for the one man who holds the key to the future. If they can kill that man, the course of history will be changed — and the Federation will be destroyed!”

Why is this my gift to you? A 1985 book that was a tie in to a Star Trek: The Original Series that ran in 1966 to 1969?

Read my full review, above.

Those who don’t want to click through…. Spock goes back in time. To Seattle.In the late nineteenth century. And meets three brothers, Jason, Jeremy, and Joshua Bolt.*

Some of you are now sitting up a little straighter. Thinking you know those names.

Here’s the next clue:

YES. David Soul! Bobby Sherman! Here Come The Brides, a TV show that ran from 1968 to 1970. And yes, some of you may have noticed that Spock’s father is there also.

It is an actually published honest to goodness real book that is a crossover between a science fiction show and a historical show, both short lived and both from fifteen years before this book was published! Though, based on my own childhood TV viewing, in the early 1980s Here Come The Brides was being shown on afternoon TV.

How crazy is that? Oh, and the name “Here Come The Brides” is never mentioned!


There are cameo appearances of other people! From other shows! Original Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who, Bonanza, just to name a few.

I am not making this up.

So, go, find it, read it, enjoy it, and mourn that they just don’t publish books like this anymore. Instead, we have to go find crossover fanfiction to enjoy the possibilities of the Winchester brothers going to Walnut Grove …. Or better yet, Hogan’s Heroes….

Review: Every Bone Tells a Story

Every Bone Tells a Story: Hominin Discoveries, Deductions, and Debates by Jill Rubalcaba and Peter Robertshaw, published by Charlesbridge (2010). Review copy from publishers.

About: The discoveries of Turkana Boy (Kenya, 1984), Lapedo Child (Portugal, 1998), Kennewick Man (Washington State, 1996) and the Iceman (Italy, 1991) are examined, from discovery to scientific analysis and debate.

The Good: One of the shortlisted books for the 2011 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults.  

As the book explains, this isn’t the Indiana Jones version of archaeology; it is the scientific version, of analysis, of tests, of careful study. It does so by examining four different hominin discoveries, organizing it on a timeline of the oldest (Turkana Boy, 1.6 million years) to the Iceman (5,300 years). The discoveries themselves took place at different times, in different locations, and each was significant or unique.

Disclaimer: I find the subject matter of this book fascinating. Learning about the past, discovering what people ate, burial practices, all from bones? How amazing is that? The problem is, I have to be careful when I review or analyze because when I say “great book” is it a great book because of the topic matter or because of the writing?

Every Bone Tells a Story does a great job of using and explaining scientific terms without being confusing, over technical, or entering the technobabble area. Putting it in chronological order also assists the reader in seeing the development and evolution of hominins and scientific theory and what we know about the past.

The Kennewick Man was discovered in the United States on federal land. The 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act which prevents grave robbing and protects Native American people’s rights provides a process. When the remains of the Kennewick Man were dated at 9,000 years NAGPRA was invoked to stop additional testing and to bury his remains. Scientists argued against this for many reasons. As summed up by the authors, “many (but not all) archaeologists fought against reburial because they were alarmed by the number of pricelss bones reburied and destroyed by the earth — knowledge lost. Many (but not all) Native Americans fought for reburial because they were alarmed by the number of sacred bones unearthed and violated — loved ones lost.” Both arguments are compelling and, within the context of the Kennewick Man, additional issues were raised by the age of the remains, claims being made by several tribes, and the initial description of the bones as “Caucasian-like.”

Both Turkana Boy’s and Lapedo Child’s discovery and scientific analysis are shown to be done with respect to scientific principles. While separated in time for when they were discovered, both were discovered and so excavated by scientists who, even if they did not look at the bones as “loved ones,” did look at them with respect and followed scientific procedures that included proper handling of the bones and remains.

The Kennewick Man and the Iceman were both initially discovered by, well, regular people. Ironically for the Kennewick Man, the treatment of his remains that caused me the most unease in terms of mishandling occurred after NAGPRA was invoked. In the case of the Iceman, the treatment of the body (especially when it was initially thought to be “just” another dead body) made me cringe. I appreciated that the authors made their point about treatment of the various bones and remains by showing the readers how these bones were excavated, treated, and used.

Every Bone Tells a Story has plenty of photographs and illustrations, as well as plenty of notes and resources for more reading. This book has plenty of great content and invites the reader to think about scientific and political debates. It’s chock-full of science and is a great example of the types of books so-called “non readers” love to read.

Connecting Religious Teens With Literature

Connecting Religious Teens with Literature, YALSA YA Lit Symposium, November 6

Presenters: Sarah Holtkamp, Jennifer Lowe

Holtkamp and Lowe, librarians from Tinley Park Public Library, Illinois, explained their library, and their community, and how that led them to this topic. The books that were discussed were varied. In the links below is Holtkamp’s and Lowe’s blog for this presentation, including all books mentioned (plus some other titles!). So, instead of noting all the books they mentioned, I’ll give a brief overview of just how varied the books are that can meet the community need.

Religion is something personal and can mean different things to different people. So, too, can “clean books.” Religion (and the request for books that include religion) can make people anxious and nervous, especially because it can mean so many things.

Holtkamp and Lowe concentrated Evangelical Christianity and Muslims, because those are the two groups in their library.  

What is Christian Fiction? Here, the focus was Evangelical Christians and Holtkamp and Lowe defined that for the audience (conversionism, activism, Biblicism, etc.) and then noted that the books in this area expound and illustrate that particular worldview.

Some of the books are by secular publishers, for example, EVOLUTION, ME & OTHER FREAKS OF NATURE by Robin Brande: “this isn’t negative towards religion; it is a beautiful portrayal of and exploration of faith.” Others were familiar Christian fiction authors, such as Melody Carlson “the superstar of Christian fiction. Fantasy books were included, such as HEALER’S APPRENTICE by Dickerson, which is “magical” but it is all done in the name of Jesus Christ, with the characters praying to God.

Next, Holtkamp and Lowe discussed the difficulty in finding titles for their Muslim booklists. They addressed common misconceptions (that Muslims and Arabs are interchangeable, for example) and that it was difficult finding books featuring American Muslim teens. One terrific nonfiction book they highlighted was THE AMERICAN MUSLIM TEENAGERS HANDBOOK, written by two teens and their parents, which was full of both information and humor. Most of the fiction titles ended up being about Muslim teens in countries other than the United States.

Finally, Holtkamp and Lowe presented a “clean reads” booklist. They noted that “clean” means something different to everyone and emphasized the need for a good readers advisory interview to know what the patron means by “clean.” As with the other titles, Holtkamp and Lowe went beyond the “obvious” clean titles. For example, they included YOU by Charles Benoit. Yes, there are serious questions and themes, but it illustrates the consequences of choice and does so without using four letter words. Some people who want “clean” want books like YOU, they just don’t want the language.


YALSA Interview with Sarah Holtkamp & Jennifer Lowe

Handouts from the presentation at the YALSA Lit Symposium NING

Connecting Religious Teens With Literature website with resources related to this presentation, including Holtkamp’s and Lowe’s booklists and links to other applicable booklists

Thanks to RIF for making it possible to attend the Symposium.

Review: The Freak Observer

The Freak Observer by Blythe Woolston. Carolrhoda Lab. 2010. Reviewed from uncorrected proof from publisher.

The Plot: Loa Lindgren has had a year of heartbreak and loss. Her younger sister died; one friend left town, another was killed in an accident. Her family is shattered first by the loss of a beloved child and next by the economic stress of job loss.

The Good: The Freak Observer is on the shortlist for the Morris Award. Which means, in a nutshell, that The Freak Observer has been recognized as one of the five best debut novels for YA, which means that yes, your library should have it. So if you weren’t sure about purchasing — do.

This also means that if you love YA literature, you should read this (and the other nominees) because, well, it’s one of the five best debut novels. Read it to both get a better understanding of what that means and also then to be able to weigh on the discussion of the Morris Award and what novels did or didn’t make it to the shortlist.

And the reason for all this talking about a book without talking about a book is, well, I’m going to be talking about the book and may include spoilers because for me, for The Freak Observer, the beauty and strength cannot be discussed without revealing either plot points or character growth that some people would prefer to discover on their own.

On with the book.

 At first, Loa Lindgren’s life seems harsh and brutal. “I have a little yellow green blush of bruise under my jaw. . . . I could raise my hand and tell the whole class what I learned about pressure and force when my dad clobbered me.” Ah, the reader thinks as the pages turn, this will be a book about an abusive family.

The reader would be wrong. Loa’s younger sister Asta died the year before from Rett Syndrome, a disorder where for the first eighteen months of a child’s life everything seems fine and then the child stagnates and regresses. For years, her parents took care of their daughter. Woolston paints a picture of a loving family despite the stress, a working class family where the father works hard and comes home at night and reads aloud to his family and his dying daughter. He names his daughter after the names in books he reads: Asta Sollilja. (Yes, I am the nerd who researched what book her father was reading….)

Loa’s father is not a violent man, he is a man moved to violence because he watched a beloved child die, he lost his job and sees his wife and daughter working to put food on the table, and he is moved to the violent act against Loa because she has come home in a police car after having witnessed a friend die in a truck accident which may be suicide. Loa thinks, “What’s the difference? Why am I not a dead girl? I don’t for a minute know. I look at my dad. He can’t let himself be sad. He can’t let himself be frightened. But I’ve forced this moment. The fear jumps out of his eyes and into me like a hot spark. ‘You could’a been the dead one.’ That’s when he hits me with the plunger, because I could have been the dead one. He hits me because it is easier to be angry than to be afraid. I could have been the dead one, but I’m not.” This is a story not of the toll that caring for an child takes on a family, it is the story of what happens to the family after that child who has been the center of the family dies.

Loa is studying science and physics, and “freak observer” is something she researches as a special extra credit project. Loa explains, “a Freak Observer pops into existence as a self-aware entity that makes its universe orderly.” Loa’s universe is far from orderly, hasn’t been orderly since her sister died. Loa struck up a “friends with benefits” relationship with a boy from the debate team but then he left for a better school. She then began hanging out with Esther and others from school, until Esther was hit by a truck. Loa is not fixed, going from here to there, not quite sure what to do. The Freak Observer begins the day after Esther’s death, with flashbacks to the previous year — perhaps, then, the Freak Observer who gives Loa order is the reader, the book, the telling of the story.

After her sister’s death, Loa cannot sleep, has nightmares. Loa’s family did their best. “So I started going to grief counseling at the clinic. It was useful. The first day I went in, my mom made sure everyone was clear on the project. The insurance would pay for six visits. The plan was to get me fixed up in six hours or, if that wasn’t quite possible, to make me stop screaming in the night.” In this one sentence, Loa and her family are captured: they care, they do what they can, they don’t have much, and there is humor.

Loa’s family is proudly working class. They live in the house her father was raised in, indoor plumbing only came the generation before, they don’t take hand-outs. Sometimes it seems there are only two socio-economic realities in young adult books: urban poor or upper middle class suburbia, with the occasional rich city kids thrown in for good measure. Loa’s family doesn’t have a lot, and I’m sure others would see them as the poor country folk, but they get by. One of the interesting things that Woolston does is to provide two parents who have incredible depth of character yet limit what we see about them to what Loa sees and wants to see. She is at times dismissive of them, of their relationship, but what she tells us reveals to the reader a couple who have had a rough time, have three children they love, lost one, and then got knocked down again when the local lumber mill let her father go. He doesn’t find steady work, but her mother works a shift in a nursing home that doesn’t pay benefits.

Now comes the part that fascinates me — and the reason for those spoiler warnings — by the end of the book, the mother (who is probably late 30s) goes back to school, moving with her children into university housing while the father stays at the house because someone has to make sure that the pipes don’t freeze. Before you think this is a divorce — “he kisses my mom on her eyelids and goes. Like I said, some great romance.” Oh, Loa, I want to say — that is a great romance. And it also is an interesting reveal about her parents. They may have been frozen by the death and dying of a child but they are finding their own way to go forward. Their way forward would not be significant to some, as Loa now sleeps on a sofa in the living room. But, to her little brother’s great excitement, they now live someplace that gets pizza delivery. They now live somewhere that allows Loa an opportunity, a new school, a new place, without the physical isolation of their country home. Before, she was physically and emotionally isolated; now, the physical is removed and that allows the emotional walls to slowly dissolve.

So, yes, in a way the plot of this book can be summed up: “and then the family moved to town.” Seriously, though, the real strength of the book is the fascinating character of Loa and the glimpses into the people around her. Any one of them is strong enough to support their own book, because each has their own story or motivation or damage and we only see glimpses, the glimpses that Loa knows, and part of Loa’s growth is when she realizes that people do things for reasons that are not all about her.

Is this a Favorite Book Read in 2010? Absolutely. The Freak Observer and Loa got under my skin in a way few books do. Even better, the more I thought about it while writing this review, the more I liked it. To me, that is a real strength of a book — how it sticks with you. How it continues to make you think after you finish reading.

So, for your teen readers, how to booktalk it? Give it to the ones who prefer literary works, your readers of Sonya Hartnett. The ones who read for character. When putting together lists and recommendations about economic diversity and people struggling in today’s economy — include this. And, needless to say, those readers who are looking for a book that will make them cry? Look no further.

Celebramos Libros

And another report from the YA Lit Symposium!

Celebramos Libros: Celebrating Latino Literature, YALSA YA Lit Symposium, November 6

Presenters: Janie Flores, Rosemary Chance, Margarita Engle, Benjamin Alire Saenz, Teri Lesesne

Janie Flores, a librarian from the Rio Grande Valley, began by speaking about how, growing up, she didn’t have books to read that featured Latina characters. Yes, she read and could relate to Judy Blume, Ramona Quimby, Nancy Drew, but she was also aware that they didn’t have things like Quinceaneras.  Flores spoke for the need for books to be relatable – that celebrates customs and traditions and so celebrates Hispanic readers, and the need to do so while avoiding labels.

Teri Lesesne and Rosemary Chance spoke about their own passion for books and then introduced the authors, Benjamin Alire Saenz and Margarita Engle.

Benjamin Alire Saenz spoke, and my notebook is full of wonderful quotes from him. “It is an accident that I’m a young adult writer. I wanted to be a poet.” “I come from a working class Mexican family. Writing is work.” On the initial suggestion that he write for young adults: “I hated High School. You want me to revisit it?”

Saenz observed that young people turn to each other to make themselves visible, because adults make them invisible. He writes books to make teens visible: “I see you. I know you. I am you. When was the last time someone told you you were beautiful.”

In introducing Margarita Engle, Rosemary Chance asked: “Is it time for YALSA to offer a Latino award for Young Adult literature?”

Engle – who writes about historical events in verse format – spoke about finding the poetry in history. Writing a novel in verse form, Engle explained, “forces me to decide what is important.” Engle spoke about her research process —  gathering books, first person accounts, immersing herself into the history and then deciding “what fits.” Another reason for writing in verse – it allows her to write about the emotional lives of people. Verse novels also provide reluctant readers with a full length book with mature topics.

Engle also spoke about her personal connection with Cuba, with her mother’s family.  She spoke not just about the traditional and familial connections and summers spent in Cuba, but also the impact of losing that connection after the Cuban Missile Crisis.


Rosemary Chance Website

Teri Lesesne Website

Margarita Engle Website. Young Adult books by Engle include: Summer Birds, The Surrender Tree, The Firefly Letters, Tropical Secrets, The Poet Slave of Cuba 

Benjamin Alire Saenz Website. Young Adult books by Saenz include: Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood, Last Night I Sang to the Monster, He Forgot to Say Goodbye.

YALSA Blog Recap of Celebramos Libros

YALSA Interview with Teri Lesesne 

Booklist from Teri Lesesne and Rosemary Chance   

Thank you to RIF, who made attending this Symposium possible.