Sunday, March 25, 2018

Sunday, February 18, 2018

We Are #Diverse: YA Fiction and Non-Fiction pair, Then and Now

NOTE:  I have been told by several people that Loving Vs. Virginia is a work of fiction.  I have adjusted the blog post as necessary to reflect that.

When you get your hands on a great non-fiction book and fiction book pair, it can make an impact far beyond than just being a satisfying read.  This is true of the next two books.

Both happened during my lifetime.  One I had heard about, but only in passing; the other I never heard about even though it took place within the last five years.

Both books made an impact on their social culture.  One became a law; the other created awareness.  One challenged society behind a curtain; the other challenged society with the shutters open wide.

Both books allow the reader to see what happens when the status quo is challenged.  One book showed the horrors of segregation and violence found in our history books that our grandparents or even our parents knew/experienced first hand.  The other shows that this is still happening today and something teenagers could experience first hand during their lifetimes.

Both books also show strength in individuals.  One woman refused to live apart from her husband and was sparked to make a difference, never knowing what path that would lead her down and the strength she would need through herself and others to impact our nation.  One young man showed strength through hours of physical and emotional pain to find the power to forgive and understand the power they created through social media and broadcasts.

Both are books that should be read or listened to.  Written in narrative non fiction format and novel in verse fiction format, they are compelling, each in their own way, but both books are alike in that they show how endurance through a time a change and acceptance can be powerful.

I read The 57 Bus, which is the story of Sasha.  They identify as agender and was more comfortable wearing a skirt that pants or shorts.  They also knew the difficulty of being different, but with the school Sasha attended in Oakland California, they were accepted.  But one day on the bus going home, someone saw the uniqueness that was who this quiet person who loved Russian literature and history was and decided to mess with them.  A lighter came out, and skirt was set on fire, and Sasha was severely burned on over 20% of his body.  But this book is also about teens and the way they think.  It's about different cultures and opportunities, it's about the love of families and the pain of making bad choices.  I especially like the fact that the author wasn't biased in her writing on guilt or innocence but stayed factual through eyewitness accounts, courtroom testimonies and interviews. (non-fiction)

I listened to Loving vs Virginia.  I had heard about this case but really didn't think anything about it.  Sometimes that happens to important Supreme Court Cases...we don't really think about them because they happened so long ago.  But this audiobook hit to the heart.  Listening to how Mildred and Richard's romance blossomed and turned into something deeper through their individual voices and viewpoints created a depth of understanding that this is something we still deal with today in our culture.  The couple's voices take you through their secretive marriage to the struggles they faced trying to live as husband and wife in the state of Virginia; having their home and lives invaded through police bullying and threats; and the tipping point and amazing people who supported their decision and never gave up.  It took years for interracial marriages to become law, but their were the pioneers.  HIGHLY recommended as an audiobook but keep a hardcopy on the shelves as well. (fiction)

Monday, February 12, 2018

TCEA 2018 Recap (includes great presentation links!)

The Texas Computer Educators Association conference 2018 has gone down in the books as one of my favoriate TCEA conferences of all time.  My legs are ached when I got home...I never knew how awesome compression socks can be outside of being in an airplane!  Now that the week is over, I've had time to really enjoy looking back at everything I learned and shared.  If you've never been to TCEA, you should come get your technology on!  Here are some presentation I co-presented on as well as some AMAZING presentations of all types to encourage campuses to embrace not only technology but the changing role of student learning and educator curriculum.  Even if you didn't come, many of the presentations handouts are shared via the TCEA website
Here is my curated list of amazing presentations recommended for librarians to take a peek out and go forth and conquer (if not this year, then next year!) 

Friday, February 2, 2018

The Devil Made Me Do It: YA Reads For Those Who Like Horror

Devils Unto Dust by Emma Berquist
Greenwillow, 2018

Glory, Texas sits in the middle of the West Texas plains.  Full of dust and hard-living, Glory isn't a town for the weak of heart or spirit.  In fact, no place is, not after the slow plague ten years ago that turned those infected into Shakes, not quite human creatures who are always looking for their next victim.  Glory and other town are able to keep the Shakes at bay with fencing and shake-hunters, rough men who go outside the safe boundaries to hunt them down.  

Willie, aka Daisy Wilcox, is trying her hardest to make ends meet for her and her family.  Willie's mother succumbed to the infection and she isn't sure if Mother is dead or alive.  Her father, the local drunk, is never home except to steal the hard earned money she ekes out.  But then he goes one step further.

One day, Willie's home is approached by some very rough shake hunters who are looking for Willie's father and the money he stole from them.  Now, it's up to her to find her father and return the money or lives will be at stake.  With the help of two young shake-hunters, Willie must travel to the next town over...across the plain riddled with Shakes...

Once forced out, she sees the reality and horror of life outside Glory.  With only two inexperienced shake hunters and unexpected visitors, Willie isn't sure she'll make it to the next town.  And then....

Berquist takes the setting of the Texas plains and weaves a dystopic tale where not quite zombie-like creatures can be more terrifying than the natural predators of the plains.  This will capture the attention of those wanting more horror dystopia set within a future Western.  What makes this book even more unique is the Western aspect of the novel itself, which is hard to find in current YA fiction collections.  Recommended 7th-12th grades.

Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics
2015, Harlequin Teen

Amanda and her family have lived their lives in the woodlands.  Her father, a trapper, maintained a decent living while she and her siblings helped her mother around the house.  The last winter was a bad one for the entire family, especially her mother, but Amanda has a lot to be happy about, especially her trysts in the forest with the love of her life.

But things change.  When Amanda finds out she's pregnant, she desperately needs to hide the fact, especially after she is shunned by the one person she thought loved her.  Her father fears another brutal winter will further hurt the health of his family.  With that in mind, he decides to move his family to the prairie lands across the mountains.  A long drive, but perhaps this is what Amanda needed....a fresh start.

The entire family makes the drive to their new homestead, where Amanda's father was told he could pick from several abandoned houses as his own.  Things look up for the family.  They pass other homesteaders who wave in the distance to them.  Mother is doing well taking care of the baby, who can neither hear or see, and her little brother and sister, while tired, are healthy and curious.  

But once they find a home, the horror begins....little does Amanda nor her family know the house they selected has a gory past, and one that will quickly rise up to greet them.  

Sometimes you can't run far or fast enough....

Talk about CREEPY.  This was definitely a page-turner where the author left a crumb trail only to lead the reader right into the edge of horror, death and hauntings.  This is truly a novel for those YA readers who absolutely love true horror, not just supernatural.  Recommended 9-12th grades

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Sound and the Fury: My Experiences with Audiobooks

I absolutely LOVE to read....and read....and so on (you get it) and with that mindset, I didn't really delve much into audiobooks because I always had my book in hand.  I also felt the same way about
e-books.  I foolishly considered myself a purist who would choose hardcopy over any other format.

Well, I have since changed that mindset!

Time is different for me now and in order to keep up with the massive amounts of titles I'd love to read, I had to rethink my plan.  One day I had a three hour drive ahead of me with nothing to do.  I'm one of those people who don't travel with the radio on, preferring instead, peace and quiet.  The meeting I had to go to was one where all of the reading lists for the Texas Library Association was convening and I lamented about the fact that I had less time than ever to read.  One librarian from Katy ISD (Robin Cashman) and the other from San Antonio (Dana Hutchins) suggested audiobooks.  I'll admit, I did the whole "OK, I will" without really going to, but she then started setting me up with an account and watching me download the books.

On the way home, I listened to my very first audiobook....WOWOWOWOWOW!!

It was one of those HUGE new Stephen King books (Sleeping Beauties) and three hours wasn't going to cut it.  So I spent the rest of that week when I was walking, driving, getting ready in the morning, etc to "read with my ears."

And I was hooked.

What makes them such a draw is that the delivery by those reading the books is above amazing.  They put emotion, character, voice into it and constantly changed they own syncopation and tenor to match other characters in the book.  It really was like listening to their conversations or allowing them to open up to me.  The only comparison I could possibly make is that instead of being visually stunning, they were auditorally (yes, my own made up word) resounding.

Since then in the last month I have "read" six other audiobooks and HIGHLY recommend you "read" them too!
Mary Addison is in a group home, complete with ankle bracelet.  She's been that way for a few years now.  Why?  Because at nine years old, Mary killed a baby.  Now a teenager, Mary wants out, but public opinion has already condemned her as a baby killer.  Can she ever outrun that reputation?
Mary Addision is a baby killer....allegedly.

This urban fiction novel packs a punch up until the very end for anyone listening to this.  Although this is about Mary, the listener will also get caught up in the lives of the other girls in the home, what brought them there and the hope or hopelessness they face.  9-12th grade.
 Sebastian's summer isn't going the way he thought it would.  His best friend isn't around and his mother is pressuring him to get a job.  He realizes he does need something to distract him, especially when he can't forget what happened when he picked up a gun, which makes him spiral ever downward into depression and dark thoughts.  But then Aneesa moves in and his life begins to turn around.  Too late or just in time?

Readers will get caught up in the past and present and find themselves on a roller coaster ride of Sebastian's life in this realistic fiction novel.  9-12th grade.
 Nix has spent her life on the high seas, searching for treasure, adventure and old maps.  With each map her father finds, the ship sails through time and space to travel back to that time.  Nix has been to ancient Rome and Chine to modern day New York City and Hawaii in the 19th century.  But it's one map her father is obsessed that could completely change or erase Nix.  And when it's found, she has to make a difficult decision and suffer loss.

Adventure fantasy at its finest, readers will be transformed along with the narrator's voice of Nix and her other shipmates.  7th-12th grades
 Breakfast Club meets Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None in this new mystery novel.  Five teens are in after school detention.  The brain, Bronwyn; the beauty, Addy; the jock, Cooper; the criminal, Nate; and Simon the outcast.  But at the end of detention, Simon is dead and the other four are now murder suspects.  Who did it and why will drive the reader but the motive for it will push the reader over the edge.

This relies on four different narrators who bring to life not only the characters, but the story behind each one, including personal lives and secrets.  9-12th grade.
 These tales will delight and enthrall readers who enjoy listening to fantastical creatures and peculiar people.  Made up as a sort of fairy tale-like anthology, readers will meet all types of people including a man who turns into an island; the first person who can transform into a bird; people who can grow their limbs back over and over and lonely giants, each tale is a mixture or whimsy and wonder with a little horror mixed in.

If you know the origins of fairy tales, this book will delight you with the morals each tale has in its own dark and delightful way.  7th-12th grade.
Reminiscent of fairy tales, this novel is about two very different girls.  Mina is beautiful and fragile-looking, but is far from it.  Living with a glass heart, she is able to manipulate glass and mirrors to make her way to the throne.  Lynet is the replica of her mother, the dead queen and is constantly surrounded by the king's protectiveness for his only daughter.  Ever the daredevil, little does she know the power she wields on her own that far surpasses what she can do.

A little Snow White, a little Rapunzel, this fantasy novel will delight readers of the genre, especially when they heard two different voices in alternating chapters recall events through completely different lenses.  7th-12th grade. 

Here are reasons why audiobooks should be in the library collection:

1. There are just some students who don't like to "read" so give them an option
2. Some people like to listen and read at the same time (great for struggling readers)
3. Long road trips by bus for extra-curricular (just sayin')
4. These are great examples of prose and poetry for UIL events
5. Use snippets of the books during a booktalk.  Let the characters talk to the kids instead
6. They may be more expensive but the library owns them for perpetuity!
7. Comes in many different options from playaways to digital to CD so technology doesn't have to be a barrier

SO...if you were like me, then yes, you should definitely try it at least once.  But beware, you'll get hooked!

Happy reading (with both your eyes and ears!)

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Top 10 Best Reads of 2017

2017 was a good read year for me and there are certainly those books that really stood out from the rest.  Here's my top 10 list for young adults, both fiction and non-fiction (although I could put more, I'll hard to do!)
Most of these are 2017 publications, but I included books from the past 18 months.  So in no particular order: