Archive for the ‘book reviews’ Category

…and they’ll offend you and you and YOU!   Well, if I’m doing my job right they will.  There are books in the library that offend everyone because there are books FOR everyone.   It’s like going down the rabbit hole — follow me around that circular logic, my friends.  Wheee!

Just in time for Banned Books Week, a coworker sent me an email about this crazy-crazy happening that took place over the weekend.   I didn’t hear about until now because my computer has died and it just sits there, taunting me, like a big, silver paperweight….holding my music hostage!! *sniffle*  Anyway…

SPEAK up for SPEAK!!!

An associate professor of management at Missouri State University, Wesley Scroggins, has written a diatribe about how Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson is basically soft porn and should be removed from the school libraries in the district where he lives. 

Yes, he’s talking about THAT Speak, which ten years on is still an extremely popular young adult novel.  I’ve mentioned it in this blog before: briefly in a review and as a book that’s been made into a film – incidentally, the film stars Kristen Stewart of Twilight fame). 

So, here is Ms. Anderson’s response. 

…and please, oh please, play the video of her reading her poem “Listen”, which she created based on reader response to Speak.

Now, I took a sharp left turn when I could have been a teacher, so I’m going to go to an expert on this one.  

Here is an extremely well-reasoned and literary rebuttal to Mr. Scroggins’ “willful misreading” (I like that, that says it so well) by Philip Nel, Professor of English and Director of Kansas State University’s Program in Children’s Literature. 

This story has been all over the interwebs and Twitter has kinda exploded (Follow the thread #SpeakLoudly) and Ms. Anderson and Sarah Ockler, whose book Twenty Boy Summer is also being challenged have just done interviews with the paper that printed the initial opinion piece.  (he’s also going after Slaughterhouse Five, but Kurt Vonnegut can’t fight back…)  So anyway, keep an eye out for that article.

Here Ms. Ockler explains a bit more about the situation (who the challenge/opinion piece writer is, why this is a bigger deal than just the removal of one or two books from a school district’s library, and how you can get involved if you want to do something more).  Apparently this is the same area where another school board recently removed Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian.

I just have to say…this reminds me so much of the craziness that happened with Sarah Dessen’s book, Just Listen.  In Florida, an upset parent stood up in front of school board members and began reading portions of the date-rape scene, which by necessity is horrific

Yet instead of saying that yes, that particular scene was unsavory but necessary and that there is more to the book than just that scene, the parent and the school board member running the meeting painted the whole book with the same brush, disregarded the fact that the book was important for so many reasons, and that perhaps, by describing that situation, other teenage girls might recognize that a situation they’d been subjected to was non-consensual…or they might recognize a situation getting bad and get themselves out of it before they are hurt. 

*okay…deep breath*  Go here for Ms. Dessen’s response at the time.

Earlier today I set up the Banned Books Display for the teens in my library.  Every year someone will inevitably say, “…but no one really bans books anymore, right?”  Um, no.  …and people still hold book burnings, too (that Qu’ran incident is only the latest and greatest), though they’re mostly symbolic and feel-good events, “Throw another Harry Potter on the barbie!”  Perfectly fine, yay First Amendment rights and all that…they can burn them as long as they bought them…no worries.

What I worry about is when somebody other than a child or teenager’s parents comes in and takes books away from those teens.  The theme for this year’s Banned Books Week is particularly apt, “Think for yourself and let others do the same.”  

Putting up big walls around teenagers will not keep them safe, for someday they must go out into that world.   Refusing to let them see the reality of choices, even bad choices (for example, what can happen to you when you’re addicted to methamphetamines like the main character in Ellen Hopkin’s book Crank), leaves them vulnerable.

Hopkins, who you may or may not have heard was dis-invited from a book festival earlier this year, says it so well in her Manifesto: “Ignorance is no armor.”  Please read the whole Manifesto.

So, I’ve gone on a bit, but please, share with me and those people who read this blog…have you read Speak, or Just Listen, or any one of the top hundred books banned this decade? 

Please, #SpeakLoudly.  The next book facing a challenge might be one you need to read.

Some folks around the blogosphere who are Speaking out for Speak:

YA author Jo Knowles


YA author Cecil Castellucci





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For a lot of teenagers, 9-11 is their touchstone, the big event that mars their memory. 

I was sitting around with  my friends one evening and we were reminiscing about where we were for the “big, terrible events” in the last 20-odd years…We all remembered the Shuttle Columbia disaster, Waco,  the Virginia Tech massacre, the Oklahoma City bombing and some of us remembered the Challenger disaster …I remembered sitting in my dorm room watching the Columbine massacre unfold over and over again on the television….and we all have a story about “where we were” when the Towers fell on 9-11, that shocking, horrible day.

Those images stay with you for a very long time.  …and everyone deals with them differently.  As a society we cope in a variety of ways, for good or ill, and that makes us who we are as Americans.

My friend and co-worker, Jenn Carrico, wrote a very insightful article about it for the Saturday Extra.  It’s worth reading, in my opinion.  For my part, I simply want to reflect on the fact that teens today have 9-11 as one of the major touchstones of their lives. 

Folks, you grew up in a world where terrorism was able to shut down air traffic for a whole day, and it was suddenly conceivable that fanatics could hijack planes and use them as projectiles bring down buildings on top of innocent people.  The nature of violence had changed.  What was once beyond imagining had become real.

I want to share some books with y’all, being that it’s an anniversary of sorts for September 11th:

9-11 Artists Respond (Volume 1) &

9-11 The World’s Greatest Comic  Artists Tell Stories to Remember (Volume 2)

These graphic novels are collections of short vignettes from various well-known artists.  Some pieces are stark and without words, some are subtle and nuanced, some smack you upside the head.   These volumes include works by  indie artists and as well as pieces by known artists — artists from all styles and genres contributed to this memorial.  They’re poignant and sad, some are cynical and full of dark humor, and some are flat out tributes to the fallen.  These artists poured themselves onto the pages of these books and in doing so helped a nation express our grief.

Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan

Love is the Higher Law follows the lives of three teens as they struggle in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade towers.  Claire is just trying to get her little brother home safely, Peter and Jasper had made plans to hook up at a party that night, but circumstances intervened.  Now Jasper is fending off phone calls from his frantic parents in Korea and Peter is wandering in a daze and has to decide what is really important to him.  The book is filled with Levithan’s trademark humor, despite the stark and horrific subject matter, and music recommendations abound –  you could fill a playlist from these pages.  There is heartbreak and soul-searching in Manhattan, through the eyes of these teenagers, but ultimately, as it must, life goes on.

Other literature of teen interest featuring 9-11:

With Their Eyes: September 11th: a view from a high school at ground zero ed. by Annie Thoms

The Usual Rules by Joyce Maynard

In the Shadows of No Towers by Art Spiegelman

The 9-11 Report: a graphic representation by Sid Jacobsen and Ernie Colon

Cinnamon Girl by Juan Fillipe Herrera

Where were you when the Towers came down?  

I was at work  (The Home Depot, Garden Dept. – that’s how I paid for library school) and a coworker mentioned that a plane had hit the World Trade Towers.  I thought, it must be an accident – that had happened before, small aircraft lose control sometimes and it’s unfortunate.  I hoped that not too many people were hurt.  Then a little while later, she told me another plane had hit the other tower, a big passenger plane that had been hijacked…this was an attack.  We were all stunned – scared – in shock.  My father works at an international airport.  I was worried that something might happen to him. 

The rest of the day passed in a blur.  My coworkers and I wandered around doing our jobs, heading back to the break room regularly for glimpses of the television which for once was tuned to the news channel instead of the music or entertainment station.  I do remember one encounter from that day clearly, though.  I was shifting a pallet display into a corner of the department when a teenage girl and her mom approached me.  The mom nodded to her daughter as if to tell her that it was okay to ask me a question.  The girl seemed very serene, but I could tell that she’d been crying.  When she spoke, her voice shook.

“They said you had the flags out here.  I need a flag, please”

It nearly broke my heart.  Our store had a huge stack of flags that had been sitting on a cardboard pallet display for months and we’d hardly sold any.  I helped the young lady pick one out, and then pulled the display front and center of the store.  The flags sold out within the hour.

That simple act of getting a flag helped that young woman get through the day….and I held onto that moment in the weeks and months afterwards, as I watched the horror on the TV (because I was not able to turn away).

As we remember the lives lost (in the initial attacks and the rescuers who bravely sacrificed their lives in an attempt to come to their aid) let us mark this anniversary as we would any event of such magnitude, with respect and reverence, and learn from our past so that we might not repeat it.

Peace be with you.



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Thirteen Reasons Why

Jay Asher


There are thirteen reasons why Hannah Baker killed herself, and Clay Jensen is one.  Two weeks after Hannah’s suicide, Clay finds a box on his front porch.  Inside are seven cassette tape and Hannah’s eerie voice.  As he starts listening, Clay learns that he must listen to the tapes and then pass them on.  If he does not do this, all of the tapes will be made public.  Clay spends the night criss-crossing town, learning about Hannah’s pain and painfully learning more about himself.  What he learns will change his life forever.


Although this book isn’t a real upper, it definitely a book that everyone should read.  This is an amazing story that shows how every action, or lack there of, can affect a person and how bullying can truly hurt people. 


Marsha is a youth services librarian at the Cliffdale Branch.  Thanks for continuing to review and send me material to post, Marsha! -Missy


The author has set up a website just for this book.  You can even listen to Hannah’s tapes…if you want to.


Just push play.


Also try these books on bullying (and OMG this wasn’t a hard list to put together – there are so many books on the topic because it’s such an important issue):

The Beckoners by Carrie Mac

Boys, Girls, and Other Hazardous Materials by Rosalind Wiseman

Brutal by Michael Harmon

Buddha Boy by Kathe Koja

Burn by Suzanne Phillips

The Bully by Paul Langan

By the time you read this, I’ll be dead by Julie Anne Peters

Carrie by Stephen King

Chess Rumble by G. Neri, art by Jesse Joshua Watson

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

Defying the Diva by D. Anne Love

Does My Head Look Big in This? Randa Abdel-Fattah

Down Sand Mountain by Steve Watkins

Endgame by Nancy Garden

Fade to Black by Alex Flinn

Freak by Marcella Fleischman Pixley

Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick

Give a Boy a Gun by Todd Strasser

Jumped by Rita Williams-Garcia

Kiss Me Kill Me by Lauren Henderson

Kissing the Rain by Kevin Brooks

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

Payback by Paul Langan

Shattering Glass by Gail Giles

Shooter by Walter Dean Myers

Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers

Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher

CCPL&IC cardholders can request any of these titles from our catalog by clicking here.

There have always been bullies, but sometimes reading about (and talking about) the issue helps make it a little better. 

Have you read any of these books?  What did you think?  Tell us in the comments.



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Found this really cool article at the LA Times online talking about how more and more adults are catching on to all the great stuff being published for teens these days.

Just a taste:

“YA authors are able to take themselves less seriously. They’re able to have a little more fun, and they’re less confined by this idea of themselves as Very Important Artists. That paradoxically leads them to create far better work than people who are trying to win awards.”


According to [Lizzie Skurnick], who also reviews adult fiction for publications including The Times, YA books are “more vibrant” than many adult titles, “with better plots, better characterizations, a more complete creation of a world.”


“There’s some amazing, vibrant, fantastic literature in the YA venue,” said Cecil Castellucci, a young adult author who recently started the Pardon My Youth book club at Skylight Books in Los Feliz to “help people understand that YA literature is not just for young adults.”

Read the rest here:


So everybody read lots and lots of teen books, m’kay? 

Cool.  Circulation stats doubled. 

Need a  suggestion?   If you’re still into vampires, I recommend the hilarious, snarky, and oh-so-romantic Hearts at Stake: The Drake Chronicles by Alyxandra Harvey

 You can also check out our After Twilight @ CCPL booklist or www.vampirelibrary.com (fair warning, this link contains both teen and adult series) for more vampy titles.



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Gamma Glamma

Gamma Glamma

Kim Flores

Luz is a high school freshman who would like to make a fabulous debut on the school scene.  It will be much different than being known as a whiz kid, aka geek, like in middle school.  She would like to attend Homecoming until her science teacher elects her to participate in the science fair.  A bigger problem is that the science fair falls on the same weekend as Homecoming.  Homecoming is the same dance where Luz is going to confess her undying love for a sophomore.  What is Luz to do?  Her plan is to do a horrific science project that will knock her out of the competition.  But will it work?

This novel is filled with a lot of Hispanic culture.  Kim Flores, the author, provides the readers with some typical ‘cliquish’ high school characters.  Gamma Glamma is a cute novel and would make a good back-to-school television special.

Marsha is a youth services librarian at the Cliffdale Branch Library.

Thanks for posting, Marsha!

Sorry about the dearth of posts, folks, I’m getting back on track and will be putting up reviews from coworkers and myself, booklists, program reviews and pictures, neat and interesting things that are happening at the library, and whatever else comes up.  Stay tuned!



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 the declaration - gemma malley

The Declaration

by Gemma Malley


In England in the year 2030, a drug called Longevity has been created which all but stops the aging process. In 2080, the government enacts a law called “The Declaration” which makes it illegal for people taking Longevity to have children.  Now in the year 2140, it is illegal to be young and children are all but extinct.  It is here where we meet Anna who’s a Surplus (or a child who was illegally born to people taking Longevity).  She lives in Grange Hall where she hopes to “make up for the sins of her parents” by learning how to clean and perform other menial tasks in hopes of being someone’s housekeeper.  Everything is going along quite well for Anna.  That is until Peter, a boy of Anna’s age, is brought to Grange Hall.  Peter tries to convince Anna that he knows her parents and that they love her and want her back and that Peter has a plan to get the two of them out.


This book will definitely make you think.  What freedoms would you be willing to give up or sacrifice if someone told you that you could live forever?  The book also has themes similar to Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Shadow Children series.  This story starts out rather slowly, but becomes a page turner as soon as Peter shows up. It also has a heavier emphasis on description and less on dialogue. If you’re interested in what happens after the end of the story, look out for the sequel, The Resistance coming soon to your local library!


Jennifer is a youth services librarian at the North Regional Branch Library.


Thanks for posting, Jenn.  I really liked this book, too.  I’m reminded of Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.  Ender is a illegal Third.  🙂



Sorry for the dearth of posts, lately.  I’ll be back soon with a recap of this summer’s adventures at the library and some details about what’s coming next!




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Here Lies Arthur

by Philip Reeve

So you think you know the story of King Arthur?  He was a wonderful king, had loads of knights, a great castle and a round table, right?  Wrong!  Here Lies Arthur tells the story of Arthur’s rise to power from a young girl’s point of view.   The story begins as Gwyna becomes Myrddin’s servant boy (yes, servant boy) and follows her thru her teenage years as she watches Arthur’s cruel and vicious rise to power.  This book is a fresh and different take on the traditional Arthurian legend.


Jennifer is a youth services librarian at the North Regional Branch.

Thanks for posting, Jenn!


I really enjoy these types of stories, too.  Some other books you might like to check out:

The Avalon series  by Marion Zimmer Bradley

The Grail Quest series by Bernard Cornwell

The Arthur Trilogy by Kevin Crossley-Holland

The Pendragon Cycle series by Stephen R. Lawhead

Black Horses for the King by Anne McCaffery

The Squire’s Tale and The Knight’s Tale series by Gerald Morris

I am Mordred by Nancy Springer 

The Legends of King Arthur series by Rosemary Sutcliff

The Idylls of the King by Alfred, Lord Tennyson  The Once and Future King by T.H. White

…or go to our catalog and do a basic subject search for “King Arthur.”

Thanks for stopping by!

Read on, read on.



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