You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘teens’ category.

IMG_20160104_105740_2

Book: Carry on by Rainbow Rowell
Genre(s): Fantasy, Alternative Reality
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication date: 2015
Hardcover: 528 pages

 

I hardly needed inspiration from the title. This book was one that I could not Stop carrying on reading, till I breathlessly reached the end, and looked up, blurry and bemused, wondering what all might have transpired around me for the 3 days it had me in its magical thrall. Did Rainbow Rowell cast a spell on me via the written word, as Baz or Penny might have through speech?

 
Lest I get too cloying with my enthusiasm, let me proceed in a different vein. This book, to me, was everything I wanted the later Harry Potter books (and Lev Grossman’s The Magician) to be but weren’t– a YA book that allowed the reader to fall into a magical yet real world with real complexities and problems, with shades of grey that were real but neither debilitatingly nihilistic (Lev Grossman) nor facilely annoying with its “chosen one” ideology (JK Rowling’s later Harry Potters). I am talking in generalities here because I don’t wish to write down spoilers, although this is a book wherein, if you have already read Fangirl by Rowell, there are inherent spoilers that are already in the back of your head. Don’t get me wrong; there are plenty of faults with this book too — the main one being the overly hit-you-on-your-head descriptive romantic and physical tension between the main characters. Another one being, why oh why does it seem to be fashionable for well-known white authors to write in an Indian (east) character into their book and call it a day in terms of diversity? Are we the flavor of the year? Did Aziz and Mindy make us cool and likeable? Does inserting Indians (who I would argue have much more inherent privilege than many other ethnic groups) satisfy that itch for color? I would really like to sit down with Rainbow Rowell, Rebecca Stead, and E. Lockhart, all authors whose books I love, and yet make me want to tear out hairs from my head in frustration at times, to figure this out, and to give them some guidance: If they insist on writing Indian characters, please Do. The. Research. Like for example, Rebecca, don’t give an Indian family the uber-Gujarati (એકદમ સખડ Gujarati?) last name Patel, and then insist on having the parents follow the custom of Karva Chauth, which is Not a Gujarati Custom. And also, if you are going to gratuitously give a Hindu-observant family’s children French names, PLEASE explain why so your Gujarati Hindu readers don’t drive themselves cross-eyed wondering what was going through your mind. But I digress. And anyway, Rainbow was too smart for me, heading off my would-be criticism, by having Penelope (the Indian-British character in Carry on) herself dare Simon to challenge her on why she shouldn’t have an Indian name. BUT. I digress!

 
Regardless of my rant above, all in all, this is one book that I simply could not, for the life of me, put down. And lately, that’s saying a lot, as even with my favorite books, I seem to (of late) belie my own self-given nickname by being reluctant to pick them up and only too ready to lay them down for any and every distraction. All this blustering is to say, I think many people will enjoy this book. Who, you ask? Who exactly do I think will enjoy it? Well, I will lay it out for you in the next section of this post which is not so much a review as it is a stream of thoughts about this book, in (perhaps) an effort to exorcise its effects from my clouded brain, so that I can get on with my day and with my week. Here goes.

 

To whom will this appeal?~ 
Carry on will appeal to fans of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, Robin McKinley’s Shadows, and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. It will also appeal to those looking for books with boy on boy sexual tension, for books written about magic and good and evil in a nondidactic white and black kind of way, for books about love between friends, between family, for books which have amazing vampire characters that don’t make you want to throw up. It will appeal to readers of the usual famously successful white authors of smart books for teens (John Green, Scott Westerfeld, E. Lockhart, David Levithan, etc). (Yeah, I wish it was not just white authors who got this kind of attention, but I’m just calling a spade a spade at the moment.)

 
Mostly, it is funny and insightful in a way that adults will enjoy, but it is definitely a YA book, with teen characters whom (I believe) teens will be able to identify with, and through whom teens will be able to enjoy vicarious magic and love.

 

Book: Shadows by Robin McKinley
Genre(s): Fantasy, Alternative Reality
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books
Publication date: 2013
Hardcover: 368 pages
Other: Chosen as one of Brooklyn Public Library’s Summer Reading 2014 books for Teens
 

 

Shadows by Robin McKinley

Booktalk: Maggie’s story starts off, as she says, “like something out of a fairy tale.” She is a regular 16 year old teen who loves dogs, origami, and her friends and family. Well, except for her weird stepfather. She lives in present day Newworld, a world much like ours, but with these differences:

Magic is real. Magic is dangerous. It is so dangerous, in fact, that it was outlawed a couple of generations ago – in fact, the “magic genes” were removed from any and all families that were known carriers, including Maggie’s own grandmother and her descendants.

In Newworld, where Maggie lives, magic is thought to cause cobeys, slang for “cohesion breaks,” which are huge rips in the universe which threaten the existence of the whole planet, from Newworld to Farworld and everything in between.

Maggie’s stepfather bugs her. Something is way off about him, not just because he is from Oldworld, where magic is actually not only allowed – it is used as a tool to fight cobeys. And it’s not just his odd looks, or accent, nor is it his distinctly weird clothing. It’s the SHADOWS that accompany him everywhere, shadows which it seems only Maggie can see.  From the very first time she meets him, she sees “…something freaky about the shadow of his arm against the wall—a sudden sharp ragged line along the line of his forearm…” Soon these shadows seem to be trying to follow and communicate with her, and she is totally freaked out.

Maggie tries to find solace in the company of her dog Mongo and her part time job at the local animal shelter, and also in her friends Jill and Taks. And there is her origami – a long time ago, Taks taught Maggie how to make kami—origami creatures which are kind of a good luck charm to ward off evil. Although Maggie resolutely doesn’t believe in magic, making kami to ward off Val’s dark creepy shadows can’t hurt, can it?

Lately, though, it seems that things are getting worse and worse. Maggie has a bad feeling that is only heightened when the first cobey in years opens up in a nearby town.  Somehow, she thinks Val may have something to do with all this bad mojo. Maybe he’s brought illegal magic with him. And now there are all these anti-Cobey army units, which also bring bad vibes.

Mixed in with all this bad stuff there’s the welcome distraction of the super-handsome college student Casimir… but he too comes from old world, and seems to think that only magic can help with cobeys. What is right? Who is right? What are those strange sentient shadows that wriggle and wave to Maggie from over Val’s shoulder? What are they trying to tell her? What will happen to her world if cobeys rip it apart? Could it be possible that the anti-cobey patrol units end up causing more harm than good?

Read Robin McKinley’s Shadows to learn all this and more.

To whom will this appeal?~
The ideal reader of this book would love:
  • Animals, especially dogs
  • Magic
  • Origami
  • Fantasy set in a modern setting, replete with pizza, cars, and high school
  • Adventure wherein a female character and her friends come into their own just in time to help save their world

I would give this book to people who like to read about the juxtaposition of Magic and Science in a modern day setting, books like Harry Potter, A Wrinkle in Time, the Rithmatist or even White Cat by Holly Black…  The reason that I chose Harry Potter and A Wrinkle in Time as two of the readalikes for this book is that, like these books, Shadows reads a little on the younger YA side…

Except for the romantic bits closer to the end, of course. Ahem.

 

Yesterday, on the President Obama declared National Day of Making, another Youth Services colleague – none other than the fabulous Emma Carbone of Miss Print — and I worked with teens to create marbled paper, in our weekly Makerspace program! The teens got a real kick out of it, as did we, as well as some of our colleagues! No one wanted to stop~ :-)

Two lessons we learned:
  1. We Must do this program Again!
  2. Next time, we will most definitely use cardstock, as that had the best results, although the thinner paper did yield some lovely floaty tie-dye results.
Enjoy the pics!
(oh and if you’re wondering what we used to get these effects, the kit we used is called the Aitoh Boku-Undo Suminagashi Marbling Kit. It’s fairly simple: You just need to also have water and a large(preferably shallow) container containing water. And a willing clean-up crew. :-)
20140618_160204 20140618_160110 20140618_155318 20140618_155228
Setting:
A busy Wednesday evening at the super-busiest (yet physically tiny) branch of a large urban library system. The year: 2011. The date: July 13th Circa: 7:40 p.m. The patrons are (almost) bouncing off the walls, the building is that packed. Children play (or do summer school homework) on the computers. Teens skulk in corners, reading The Odyssey. Or a Justin Bieber biography. Or both. Adults browse the DVDs, the Chinese books, the EZ readers, the fiction, the Large Print, the new books…. Babies laugh and coo and scream and sleep. Toddlers run in circles. Or play with the wooden bead games. Or read board books with their big brothers and sisters. People of all ages borrow the bathroom key.
In addition to the general Wednesday evening roar of activity, a long line of patient and hopeful ESL patrons meanders through the branch – New Americans waiting to register for free ESOL classes. 
In the midst of the general hustle bustle, a YA librarian hears her name hollered by a deep-voiced tall fourteen year old, from all the way across the library…
Well, here it is, in skit form:
Yugi-oh Boy — Yesha!!!!!!…………..Yesha! YESHAAAAA!!!!
Yesha: What? How can I help you?
Yu-Gi-Oh! Boy — Ummm… Is it raining outside?
Yesha: (Astounded look.)
Yesha: (…)
Yesha: (deep breath)
Yesha: Um…. why don’t you go and _check_ !
(Mind you, our library branch does have windows. And a door. A door that is unlocked.) And these kids were/are playing Yu-Gi-Oh! (while I am helping patron after patron after patron!)
But, on the other hand, I am touched at their utter trust that I will take care of their every information need, no matter how small. Match that, Google!

So, I decided to follow in my friend Joy’s footsteps and join this weekly meme, begun by Sheila, of the Bookjourney blog. 

Here’s what I’m reading, currently:

Book: Tell Us We’re Home by Marina Budhos

Genre: Contemporary Realistic Young Adult fiction
Publisher: Atheneum
Publication date: May 2010
Paperback: 297 pages

Right now I’m on page 94…. and am loving it so far. The following is just a short something about the book, and not meant to be a review or even a complete musing. The setting is a richy-rich suburban town in NJ, and the main characters are not, like in most YA fiction set in such towns, bitchy rich girls, but rather, they are the three daughters of women who work as nannies and housekeepers for the families of the rich girls. While such a book might strike fear into the hearts of those who disdain didactic fiction, be not afraid! This book (so far) does no such thing. There are such nuances! Such perspicacity! Such heart!

Today was just oh such a satisfying creative writing day at the library — every week I host a creative writing workshop for teens and tweens. While last year I had a crop of older teens who were just drop dead gorgeous writers, this year I’ve had a bunch of sweet and yet slightly recalcitrant tweens, who really want to come to the program but often have second thoughts about actually writing… So we do a lot of (a LOT of) ice breaking and chatting about what’s up in middle school, to coax them into something resembling a writing mood. Dude, middle school’s tough stuff, you know? Plus, writer’s block at any age is a doozy. (I should know, I’m mired deep in a writing project that’s going at the pace of… frozen ghee.)

At any rate, I don’t know what to attribute it to, but both this week and last, the girls (yes, mostly it’s girls that are drawn to this program, at least at my library) produced some beautiful work. And better even, they seemed to get into it! They were sweetly proud of what they had written and wanted to share, and truly, some of the images they came up with were just marvelous. (I don’t have examples in front of me, but, some real good showing vs. telling, which by the way, I’m breaking the rule right now, as I write this, and yes, I know it!) Yay, them!

… maybe it’s the fact that both last week and this week we did activities that somehow hit the sweet spot for them and hooked their interest. I noticed that it’s always better if I give plenty of opportunity for them to talk about stuff that’s on their minds, especially small (to us adults) irksome things that happened at school, but which for them, are major… It’s like talking them out for a bit lets them relax into writing.

The activities? Last week we did “found poems,” where we cut out a whole slew of interesting words and phrases from newspapers and magazines, pushed them all together into a big shared pile, and then people grabbed whichever ones caught their fancy, arranged and rearranged them on a piece of construction paper until they had “found” their poem, and then there was the über-satisfying act of glue-sticking them down. And then the grand finale of sharing creations with the group. (Or not, in the case of certain shyer individuals).

Today’s activity was to create a “list” or “catalogue” poem – one which lists a bunch of ways to think about just one idea. My tweens tend to be concrete thinkers, so for this first foray into list poetry, I gave them a template, and everyone wrote on the same topic – “Happiness is…” Now one would think that this would lead to rather sticky-sweet treacly goo-messes of poetry, but the results were deeply touching, especially in illustrating the importance of family in their lives.

It’s times like this that make me smile.

Oh and one more unrelated thing. I also do a weekly arts and crafts program for kids of all ages. Yesterday a little boy came running up to me an hour after the program and asked, Are you really my sister’s art teacher? Looking backward, he directed me to his sister who was sitting at a table some distance away, smiling and waving at me. I waved back and smiled too. “Yes, I surely am,” I declared, so pleased to be termed “an art teacher” that I was probably beaming. “Will you be my art teacher too?” he asked. “Sure, Sure, definitely!” Gosh. I had a smile on my face for at least an hour after that… love the kids. Got to love the kids.