Saturday, July 25, 2015

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Viking, 2015

Peyton and Syndey, brother and sister, couldn't be more different from each other.  They're separated by not only personality, but today,by tables of lawyers in a courtroom.  Peyton, the gregarious, daredevil, is being tried for a felony crime.  Sydney is quietly sitting beside her parents, hiding her feelings, being a good girl.

It's been that way for as long as Sydney can remember.  Even as children, Peyton stole the energy and light from the room.  Now, as a teen, Sydney is hidden even farther away from the family dynamic.  After Peyton's conviction, her mother is personally entrenched in Peyton's situation and being the supportive parent her son needs.  Sydney's father doesn't help; he's allowed her mom to make all major decisions and never speaks up.

But she isn't quite invisible.  Peyton's friend Ames, is willing to help out the family whenever they need him.  Again, Sydney hides the trepidation she feels around him because her mother trusts him implicitly. Whatever is best for Peyton.

And then there are the whispers and rumors starting at school.  With her life inundated with Peyton's problems, Peyton's reputation, and how to help Peyton, Sydney cut ties and enrolls in a public high school, where she hopes no one knows who her brother is.  And it's on that first week that a pizza joint will change her life....

Layla and Mac, brother and sister, couldn't be more different from each other.  Layla is the one with the effervescent personality and goes through life headfirst and headstrong.  Mac is the one who is the rock, balancing his sister and his family's business while studying as hard as he can with that glimmer of hope he'll be able to leave this town and pursue his dream.  Their mother is involved in their lives but with love and wisdom while their father runs their pizza place successfully. Layla and Mac enjoy spending time together.  Layla may not play in the band Mac is in, but she does show up to every show, creating that energy only she can create.

And one day at their family's pizza joint, their lives will change course with a chance meeting with one girl...

Two different families, two people who want to find themselves, and emotional ties with both friends and family will come together, a pressure cooker ready to explode...

Sarah Dessen, delivers with her newest young adult novel.  What makes this novel work so well is the depth she writes about concerning relationships on all levels, emotional and internal conflict, growing up, and personal dreams and goals.  This isn't a sugary sweet book for girls - this is real life, which can be ugly, dangerous, and poignant.  Dessen balances these traits of real life with honesty, trust, and convictions.  The reader gets to live in both households and see how the other half lives, which is the strength of this novel.  Full of opposites, it creates balance.  Oh, I have no qualms this book will blow off the shelves, never to return.  Better buy two copies!
HIGHLY recommended upper junior high/high school.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Social Media and the Library

City of Savages by Kelly Lee

Saga Press, 2015

Skyler and Phee are two sisters with very different personalities. Skyler is the quiet one, thinking things through while Phee jumps into a situation not thinking about the consequences of her actions. Right now, they, along with their mother, are on the move to what was once Central Park in order to stay safe through the winter.  It's not what any of them want, it's what they need in order to survive.

New York City, including the island of Manhattan where the girls and their mother live, have undergone changes because of World War III and the Red Army that took over.  While their mother may remember the time before WWIII, Sklyer and Phee only know the broken down streets, the savages lurking in dark corners, and Rolladin and her lords, who rule the decimated population at the POW camp once known as Central Park.

Rolladin rules with an iron fist, and those rules must be obeyed. When Phee, Skyler and their mother arrive late for the head count, they know they're in trouble. Those who don't make it are forced to try and survive outside the POW camp, where many have tried and failed.  But for some reason, Rolladin has a soft spot for the girls and instead of kicking them out, she allows them in with one condition...Phee must be part of the annual street fights in order to win their family a spot inside.  While Phee sees this as an opportunity, quiet Skyler sees the danger in it, understanding how manipulative Rolladin can be.

After playing her part, Phee, Skyler and their mother are able to move back into camp, but one fateful night will change their situation.  One chance meeting with outsiders and a conversation overheard will change the girls' world and future as they know it.  Instead of seeing themselves as safe, they now understand they are actually prisoners and are willing to risk the outside in order to flee, along with their mother and the two strangers, from the madness.

What they don't realize is that madness can be found anywhere, especially in a world that is trying to right itself and the struggle for power over what's left becomes the new battlefront.

Kelly Lee writes an amazing dystopian YA novel with a larger than life backdrop of a bombed out NYC and the different survivors dwelling there.  They say opposites attract, and Lee uses this through point of view alternating narratives between the sisters and how they see the same situation in completely different ways.  This is what creates the solidity of this novel.  The characters are real, the history is real, and those in the background create a stark reality.  This is what I've been waiting for....a great, believable dystopian novel with a fast pace and abrupt surprises.  Another strong  point of this book, are the adult characters in it. While the two main characters are teenagers, Lee uses the adults to juxtapose the newer and older generations involved in the ultimate fight for power. While the two sisters are strong together, it's the adults helping them create and hone their strenghts while trying to survive the  fierce competition  for power. While the two sisters are strong together the adults help create and hone their streaks while trying to survive Recommended.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

2015, Balzer + Bray

Bone Gap is a small town where everyone knows each other on a first name basis.  It's also a small enough town where your personal life can become community property.  No one knows this better than Sean and Finn.  Living alone without any parents to help (and everyone knows how that happened), Sean works full time and looks after his younger brother who is still in high school.  Dreams were given up as well as the cameraderie brothers had.  Finn knows this only too well, but can do nothing about it.  He misses his older brother even though they're in the same room and when Roza left, the gap became larger in the brothers' relationship.

Roza came to Bone Gap quite unexpectedly.  Born and raised in Poland, she left her home country for the opportunity to be in America, but what she saw and experienced were darker and bleaker than she imagined.  Sean found Roza and gave her time to find herself again.  While others were struck by her beauty, Sean gazed at her beyond the beauty and began to fall in love with the woman.  No one had ever done that before.  In turn, Roza helps Sean and Finn find the bindings that loosened between them and she also became part of the family...until the day she disappeared.  Finn saw it happen, but there are gaps to what he saw.  He couldn't tell you what the man who took her looked like and wouldn't even be able to recognize him in a line-up because Finn is unable to recognize faces.

Petey likes to live in the solitary gaps she finds.  People talk about her, know her story, but do they really?  She's the pretty girl with an ugly face and the honeybees she helps tend with her mother allows her to take cover from what everyone says about her...until one night when Finn arrives at her house on a dark horse.  They go on the most magical ride, falling into the gaps between the world they live in and the other world that exists between.  The more Petey and Finn spend time together, the more their gaps are filled with much-needed love and acceptance.

The man took Roza because she was the most beautiful creature he had ever seen.  He told her he would never hurt her until she came to love him.  He offers her the finest things in beautiful places, but whatever the facade may be, it is still a prison.  He also knows Finn is searching for Roza and is working to create a gap large enough where Roza will never be found.  Little does he know how resourceful, strong and patient his beautiful prize can be.

Told in alternating stories between Finn (for the most part) and Roza, the reader is immersed into a  beautiful story of reality and fantasy.  Roza's world is fantastical and horrible at the same time while Finn lives in the real world that is becoming more beautiful every day.  Ruby's writing flows with emotion and beauty, taking the reader beyond the pages to the heart of the book - one about the importance of relationships.  It's been awhile since I last cried while reading a book, and this one I couldn't help myself.  It wasn't out of sadness, but out of the beauty and deep strong characters Laura Ruby crafts in this novel.  Magical realism at it's best in this book.  Highly recommended.

Other magical realism book pairs:

Friday, June 5, 2015

Let's Do Some Summer Reading!

Usually, #readYAlit doesn't have summer chats, but this year, we are!  This is the brainchild of Diane Mankowski, an Illinois school librarian and Dayna Hart from British Columbia and myself will be sharing and helping as well :)  So come be a part of this!!

Monday, June 1, 2015

10 Ways Librarians Can Rage Against Conformity

Dylan Thomas had it right:
     "Do not go gentle into that good night...Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

Okay, maybe rage isn't the exact word I'd use for librarians.  But the theme of this poem is exactly what I'd use for librarians.  It's amazing how fast libraries and our profession has altered in the last 10 years.  I remember having a card catalog still available in the school where I started my first job as librarian. (and no, it wasn't in the sixties or seventies either...more like the late 90's).

What Thomas is conveying in the poem is to never give up, never stop fighting the good fight, always move forward and onward despite difficult times.  With this rushing tide of change we are part of, when it comes to libraries and our roles in them, this is a theme we must adopt.  But it doesn't always mean you have to be on the frontline taking it all in at once. 

Moving forward doesn't have a speed limit as long as it continues to go forward.  Some librarians have moved quickly and embraced change while others are more tentative, waiting to see how things work, what is going to happen and then act on it. Collectively, we become that tide with change following in our wake.

Last night I was in an exceptional Twitter chat with Angela Maiers where the topic was "#youmatter. When was the last time someone said that to you?  When was the last time you said that to someone? So, I'm here to say you DO matter!  Not only do you matter, but what you do matters too.  Librarians shouldn't be pigeon-holed to a stereotype that keeps perpetuating and the further our profession moves forward, the more we will be valued for what we are today.  There should be no excuses, no reasons to not want to be professionally fierce.

And not wanting to change are the difficulties we must rage against, and they are our most powerful enemy. It's time to fight AGAINST dark days and be a part of the battalion who want better than what once was.  It's about goals we can make and do our best to fulfill; making and committing to a change (small or large) to make yourself part of the fast-paced change our profession now demands.

Oh, I'm not saying anyone should spend their entire summer working, but we all know that educators take their work with them even when summer break is happening.  Asking the "what if..." question and then pursuing it can make all the difference (and that's another poem by Frost for another day :)

Here are a few ideas:

1. Look at your procedures and tweak them to allow more fluidity.  It's not about the "stuff" but about the positive relationships you can create.

2. Take a web tool you've never used before and teach yourself through Youtube videos, tutorials on the website, or by Googling how to use it.  Make a goal to incorporate this into your library or teach it to a class.

3. Network.  More than that, bring in a positive perspective and shy away from those who network and bring complaints.  Even if you don't like something, find that one thing that made it good.

4. Read books.  Lots and lots of books (or as many as you possibly can).  Now take them and share them with your campus however you'd like.

5. Create an orientation presentation for students or new teachers. Delete the facts from the slides (because you're going to tell them) and adapt it to capture attention, not be read.

6. Attend a workshop and make it your goal to accomplish it during the school year, not one you just attended for summer credit.

7. Let someone or more than one know they matter and why.

8. Volunteer to be part of staff development.  It can be a variety of ways from offering equipment, helping with information, presenting, creating ideas.  The more involved you are, the more you'll be seen as part of the team.

9. Look at the library spaces and see what could be a possibility to accommodate students or classes. Think about everyone's needs, not just a specific audience.  Kids aren't quiet by does this impact the library? How can it be changed?

10. Challenge yourself to be available.  Not just behind the circulation desk or your office, but on the floor, in the halls, at events and functions.

Now let's make some waves!~~

Monday, May 25, 2015

Rook by Sharon Cameron

Scholastic ,2015

It was known as Paris in the past.  Today, it’s called the Sunken City where two classes live.  Those that live the Upper City have the most splendid views as well as the prestige and money that accompanies their class.  The Lower City is plagued with poverty and filth but is also the stage for the Razor, a contraption that beheads those of criminals or even wealthy family who go against the dictatorship of Allemande, a man small in stature but larger than life.  Beside the Razor is the Tombs, where those awaiting death stay until summoned up by the evil LeBlanc, who is in charge of ensuring Allemande’s rule. 

But little do they know Le Corbeau Rouge, also known as The Red Rook, has just entered the city…
Meanwhile, across the sea is the Commonwealth, where those who have enjoy a more pastoral life live.  Sophia Bellamy has just entered the room, awaiting her Banns and the man she is to wed, a certain Monsieur Hasard, who catches the attention of all of the ladies in the room, except her.  But she knows she must in order for her home to stay in the family.  She will not be the ruination of her father and her brother Tom. 

But she is hiding a secret most people don’t know.  Lady on the outside, Red Rook on the inside…
Wherever they live, everyone lives in a world of no technology, where they watch as more and more useless satellites fall from the skies.  The world has gone back to the simpler days of non-mechanized work, where most people are back to an agrarian lifestyle.  The world is now a place where plastic sells high on the black market and a can with the strange word "diet" is sought after by collectors of the old world.  

There are things that haven't changed though.  Greed, the need for power, tyranny, murder and war are still part of the landscape, and one that the evil LeBlanc intends to see to the end.  The only obstacle is the Red Rook. LeBlanc pulls no stops when it comes to crippling Sophia, but she does have a back-up plan in place, or does she?  Are those working with her for or against her?  

Sharon Cameron writes a dystopic novel set in future Paris with all the  regale of the Revolution of its past in an excellent combination.  People in ball gowns from the 1700s are still mystified by modern things of today's world, all set in a future that is as rich and full as the story itself.  What is also unique about this novel is that Cameron parallels her newest novel to the classic, The Scarlet Pimpernel by weaving it into the story in subtle ways.  Sophia is a strong female character who knows to rely on herself first while Rene Hasard, her betrothed, shares the same characteristics with a twist of slyness.  If you have been looking for a great dystopia read, pick up this historical dystopia in all of its glory, romance, triumphs and downfalls. It will not disappoint.

Booktrailer by author:

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Mortal Danger by Ann Aguirre

Feiwel and Friends, 2014

Edie knew this was the end of the line.  One step off the bridge would take her from the misery of her current life to a world of nothingness.  But someone else has another plan for Edie…

Going to a private school, Edie Kramer knows the difference between her and the Teflon crew – those gorgeous and popular students everyone loves and wants to be like.  But one day would change Edie’s life.  What they did to her was unforgivable and if Edie could teach them a lesson she would.  But really, what kind of lesson could she, Edith Kramer, science nerd extraordinaire, do to Cameron, Allie and rest of the crew?  Riddled with pain and a sense of complete loneliness, Edie has made her decision to jump, until Kian guides her down and gives her an intriguing option.

Edie can’t believe a guy like Kian would even care about her.  He is one of those guys who turns girls, and even women’s heads, because of his unbelievable looks.  Why would he be so interested in her?  When he tells her why he’s there, she can’t believe it’s real.  She gets three favors to use within five years and in return…she will owe three favors.  After going through every possible situation trying to debunk Kian’s offer, Edie realizes he’s offering her the truth and once she agrees, a sign is burned onto her wrist.  She now belongs to the firm of Wedderburn, Mawer & Graf.  And revenge is fresh in her mind…

Going through a complete physical transformation, Edie returns to Blackbriar with a different mindset and agenda.  Beyond beautiful, she starts a new year at high school slowly working her way into the Teflon crew to make them pay.  But terrible things begin to happen to them – coincidence or not?  On top of it all, she begins to see horrible entities…a crazy man who wants to grab her only to disappear; three dark creatures who watch her from the street.  Then Kian tells her the other truth.  Edie is now a pawn between two evil entities, but why?  And what’s the outcome for them both when there isn't a good side to help?

Ann Aguirre delivers a dark novel of love, revenge and survival in her latest.  She fills the pages with fantastically evil creatures the reader must guess at if they’re human, chimeras, or real monsters; what a shift in paradigm or reality.  The strength of the main character, Edie, derives from the fact that although her fa├žade changes, who she is doesn't, which puts her and the plot into a juxtaposition.  Part reality, part fantasy, this book is full-on amazing and will read fast.  Recommended for high school.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Importance of Libraries and What We Do

I've seen all types of Top Five's for different areas of education, but rarely do I see a Top Five for school libraries (or libraries in general!)  So I combed through then scoured Youtube looking for what I think are the top five videos about and for libraries and this is what I found.  My criteria were:
1. Had to be about school libraries
2. Definitely no cheesiness!  It has to have importance attached to it
3. Well done format.

So, here are the Top Four.  I searched as much as I possibly could for a fifth and couldn't find one, so if you do, please add a comment with the link! :)

School Libraries Matter: The Changing Role of the School Librarian

Principals Know: School Librarians are the Heart of the School

 School Libraries from NJASL

What Are Databases and Why You Need Them