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Posts Tagged ‘Family Relationships’

Confessions of a BlabbermouthConfessions of a Blabbermouth
Written by Mike Carey and Louise Carey
Art by Aaron Alexovich
ISBN: 1401211486
Published by DC Comics (Minx)
Date of Publication:

Reader’s Annotation:
When Tasha’s Mom starts dating an intensive newspaper columnist, she’s find out that truth is often stranger than fiction.

Plot Summary:
Tasha is a modern girl. With her popular blog, Tasha can connect with a large audience around the world. Her mother runs an online lingere store and suffers from bad-boyfriend syndrome.

Tasha doesn’t want to meet her mom’s new dating prospect, a romance writer by the name of Jed. Tasha isn’t quite sure that she likes him and tries to avoid any interaction when she can. Jed’s daughter, Chloe, is a young newspaper columnist and now attends Tasha’s school. As Chloe and Tasha deal with their new roles, while their parents continue to date, each discovers that there’s more to the surface they either of them first perceived.

Between Tasha’s blogging and Chloe’s column, the girls also discover that just because you use words in public, doesn’t mean that their meanings are true. Each must find their own voice and the power to speak up before their voices are replaced with another person’s words..

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Critical Evaluation:
Tasha and Chloe are like every other modern young girl in the world. They experience heartache, pain, and love in the harsh world of high school. Bullies threaten you during one day and parents punish you on the next day. As your emotions become more disastrous with each wrong turn, the only way out would be to find an outlet in which to express yourself.

As blogging and social networks have shown, young people use this as a means to express that frustrations or joy in their daily lives. But as it is proven in reality, and with Tasha’s experience, it can come back to haunt you. How you present yourself online versus how you present yourself in the real world can vastly different. How you deal with these situations is how you grow-up and become the person you were meant to be. The internet is a means to establish your voice, but it can also be your enemy.

Author Mike Carey’s writing collaboration with his daughter Louise provides for an entertaining read. The accompanying art by Aaron Alexovich provides a manic tone which matches Tasha’s personality.

Information about the Authors:
From Mike Carey’s Webpage, about a British author, whose works include comic books and original prose, has been a writer since the early 1990s. Carey’s work with Vertigo Comics (Sandman-spinoffs) have lead to the creation of the original series The Unwritten, which we co-collaborates with artist Peter Gross. Carey is the author of the Felix Castor novels.

Louisa Carey is the daughter of Mike Carey. An inspiring writer whose work has been featured on the London Metropolitian Archive, Louisa has recently collaborated with her parents for the soon to be published boo, The Steel Seraglio.

Information about the Artist:
From Aaron Alexovich’s Facebook page, graduated from the California Institute of Arts with a focus on Character Animation. Alexovich has worked on comic books through DC Comics and SLG Publishing as well as animation on the Invader Zim cartoon.

Aaron Alexovich on Twitter

Aaron Alexovich’s Web Page and Comic

Genre:
Realistic Fiction, Family Relationships

Curriculum Ties:
Journal Writing, Plagarism

Booktalking Ideas:
How do you connect with others on the Internet?
Is it important to be yourself or to have a fake name on the Web?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
Ages 15 and up

Challenging Issues:
There are no current challenges for this book. The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Potential Issues would include profanity and slight violence.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
When the Minx line first came out, I thought that the selections were fun and approachable for teen readers, especially for teen girls. While the publishing line has been discontinued, the books still remain fun and approachable.

Reference:
Alexovich, A. (n.d). About. Facebook. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/aalexovich/infoAlexovich

Carey, M. (n.d.) About. Retrieved from mikeandpeter.com/

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Stoner and Spaz
By Ron Koertge
ISBN: 9780763657574
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Date of Publication: 2002

Reader’s Annotation:
Ben Bancroft’s self-imposed sheltered life was cracked when Colleen Minou pushed her way and changed his life forever.

Plot Summary:
Ben Bancroft has cerebral palsy, a disability that renders his left hand useless and forces him to walk with an exaggerated limp. Ben’s used to being on the sidelines, expecting outsiders to ignore him due to his “disability”. It is primarily this reason why he prefers the darkness of the Rialto Theatre, his favorite place to watch films.

One night, during a screening of Bride of Frankenstein, Colleen Minou barges into Ben’s life, demanding his attention and refusing to shy away from Ben’s taboo subject of his disability. Colleen has her own problems though; addicted to drugs and in an unhealthy relationship with a man far too old for Colleen’s teenage year. Colleen has a “devil may care” attitude that pushes Ben out of his comfort zone.

Yet, before he knows it, Ben begins to have feelings for Colleen. Colleen in turn begins to wonder if the straight and narrow path isn’t as bad as she once thought it was. As each deals with their personal demons, dreams and desires, Ben and Colleen must come to grips with who they are and what it means to be different together.

Unshelved book reivew
Critical Evaluation:
Ron Koertege has a simple writing style in that his stories are short and to the point. This style is never more apparent with the snappy dialogue between Ben and Colleen. There’s almost a screenplay-like quality to the dialogue in which the reader could easily see the character’s conversations played out in a visual medium.

The shortness of the story does not diminish its impact though. It’s clear from the beginning that Ben is out of his element in his interactions with Colleen. Readers who feel detected when speaking with the opposite sex, or with someone they wish to have affection with, will relate to Ben’s confusion and his desire to take a chance and make an intimate connection. Young readers will understand Ben’s reluctance due to his cerebral palsy as while the condition is real, it could be used as a symbolization of a feeling out of place from “normality”.

Colleen’s use of drugs doesn’t dilute the story or turn it into a tale of woe. The facts behind Ben’s condition and Colleen’s addiction are treated with respect. There’s never a feeling that Ben or Colleen are individuals that should entice pity. It’s because of these conditions that the characters are who they are and, for better or for worse, it’s what makes them unique.

Koertge’s story is a fun, quick read that Young Adult readers will enjoy, even more so with the honest, harsh realities of the characters’ life and situations.

Information about the Author:

From Ron Koertge’s Webpage, Koertge began to write young adult literature when his beginning writing career began to flounder. Koertge is in his early seventies and continues to write books and poetry for teens, specifically for young male readers. Koertge’s misspent youth serves as a reminder of the teen mentality, providing a solid foundation for believable characters.

Koertge has written over a dozen young adult novels. Koertge is also a poet, whose poems have been published since the early 1970s.

Ron Koertge on Twitter

Genre:
Realistic Fiction

Curriculum Ties:
Cerebral Palsy, Addiction

Booktalking Ideas:
What are some methods you cope when you are stressed?
Do you have a safe place you turn to when you need comfort?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
Koertge has mentioned in interviews that this book should be read by an older audience.

Challenging Issues:
Stoner and Spaz has been challenged and banned due to drug use, language concerns, and sexuality. In an interview with the Los Angeles Review of Books, Koertge expected to be banned because of the material. He doesn’t expect that his troubled characters are role models but characters in which life lessons can be obtained. What’s interesting about the interview is Koertge’s experience with challenges has not changed what he feels is the constant reality of the situation.

“Years ago I agreed to sit on panels on censorship. After all, even in my fifties I was still the Bad Boy of Young Adult fiction. And here’s what I noticed: at the end of the evening nobody had changed his or her mind. In fact, most of the debaters were more firmly convinced of their rightness than before. It was a phenomenon I’ve learned to call Hardening the Collective. Nobody had a good time, nobody laughed, nobody went out afterward with the opposition and had a drink” (LARB, 2011).

The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
After reading Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, I noticed the blurb that Koertge wrote on the back of the book. The blurb listed Koertge as the author of Stoner and Spaz. I was curious about the wording of the title and decided to pick up the book at my library. Though it was a quick read, I liked the story and felt it would be worth sharing to teens.

Reference:
Koertge, R. (n.d.). A word from Ron Koertge. Retrieved from ronkoertge.com

Koertge, R. (2011).  Hazardous Material. Los Angeles Review of Books. Retrieved from http://blog.lareviewofbooks.org/post/24379220832/getting-banned-writers-on-the-worlds-oldest-solution

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I’ll Get There. It Better Be Worth the Trip
By John Donovan
ISBN: 9780738721347
Publisher: Harper & Row (Flux for the reprint edition)
Date of Publication: 1969

Reader’s Annotation:
After the death of his grandmother, Davy adjusts to his new life with his mother in New York City.

Plot Summary:
Davy’s grandmother has just died, leaving Davy and his dachshund Fred, without a home. Eventually his mother takes Davy and Fred back to New York City, enrolling him in a private school. Davy is unsure about his future and the path of his new life. Davy’s mother is happier at a party with a cocktail in hand. Davy’s father has a new girlfriend who connects better with Davy than his own mother.

When Davy enters his new school, he meets Douglas Altschuler, a competitive jock who slowly becomes Davy’s friend. As the boys grow closer, a question begins to form in Davy’s mind: Why do I care so much about this boy? Breaking through the taboo topic of homosexuality, John Donovan’s landmark novel is the story of what it means to grow up and to become an adult in a already confusing world.

Critical Evaluation:
John Donavon’s tale of friendship and maturity is a quick but interesting read. At times the story seems too simple in that Davy’s voice is more childlike instead of a young teen’s voice. As the novel progresses, the first-person voice improves, highlighting Davy’s entrance into maturity.

In regards to the sexuality of the book, the homosexuality act between Davy and Douglas is conducted off the page. From a 21st Century perspective, this seems too tame. Yet, to even suggest such an act, especially in Young Adult fiction, would have been an incredible risk in the late 1960s. Donavon almost treats it like an afterthought. The parental reactions are a true reflection of their characters and it would have been surprising if the parents had acted differently.

Donovan’s themes of childhood maturity doesn’t just stem from sexual identity but from family situations. Davy acknowledges that his life was better because of his grandmother and that his parents will never achieve that inspirational status. One might question why Davy was placed in the care of his grandmother but it becomes apparent with Davy’s interactions with his parents that his brief encounter with his grandmother was a blessing. Towards the end of the novel, it’s clear that Davy was actually better off without either of them, which is why Davy’s maturity will be stronger than he could imagine.

While the book is not primarily focused on LGBT issues, it’s still a great book to suggest to a young LGBT audience. Audiences might feel a connection with Davy’s confusion and gain an understanding of the history of LGBT issues.

Information about the Author:
From his Obituary in the New York Times, John Donovan was a graduate of  the College of William and Mary. He gained his law degree from the Univeristy of Virginia and worked with the Library of Congress in their Copyright Office.

He served as the executive director of the Children’s Book Council. He was the author of four books and two short plays. He died in 1992 at the age of 63.

Genre:
Realistic Fiction

Curriculum Ties:
Family Relationships, Sexual Identity

Booktalking Ideas:
Who do you turn to when you need to talk to someone?
Is there a place you like to escape to when everything becomes overwhelming?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
14 and up

Challenging Issues:
There are no current challenges for this book. The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Potential issues would include homosexuality, substance abuse, and poor family relationships.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
This was the first book that addressed homosexuality in a neutral fashion. This would be a great addition to any teen seeking advice about their sexuality identity.

Reference:
New York Times. (1992). Obituaries: John Dovovan, 63; Wrote, Books and Plays. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/1992/05/01/obituaries/john-donovan-63-wrote-books-and-plays.html

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Everybody Sees the Ants

Everybody Sees the Ants
By A.S. King
ISBN: 9780316129282
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Date of Publication: 2011

Reader’s Annotation:

After a bully threatens Lucky Linderman, his mother takes him to Arizona, where he begins to learn what it means to stand up for one’s self.

Plot Summary:
Lucky Linderman is considered a “problem” teen with “social problems”. This assessment stems more from an assignment for his social studies class. Lucky was to create a survey and asses the results in a research paper. The question he presented was what landed him in trouble:

“If you were going to commit suicide, what method would you choose?”

Naturally the school’s administration is up in arms. Lucky vows to never smile again.

Six months pass and Lucky does his best to avoid trouble. This changes dramatically when he helps a young girl find her missing bikini top at the bottom of the pool. Lucky was the only one willing to help the girl as the bully in Lucky’s life refused to help and threatened anyone who did. Now Nader McMillian has Lucky in his sights and won’t be satisfied until Lucky suffers. Unsatisfied with her husband’s response to the situation, Lucky’s mother decides to take him to Arizona to visit her brother and his family.

During his time in Arizona, Lucky begins to find strength and confidence, pushing out of the comfort zone he had struggled to maintain. His uncle teaches him about body building and he meets an eccentric girl who is a hair model. While Lucky begins to understand how to stand up for himself, he continues to have dreams where he talks to his grandfather, a Vietnam POW that was missing in action. As the dream conversations continue, Lucky begins to understand the different meanings of strength and that life has a way of healing old wounds, depute age or time.

Critical Evaluation:
Using magical realism and fantasy as a means of exploring Lucky’s reactions and emotions, A.S. King provides readers with a stirring tale of a broken family struggling to heal itself. The pacing of the story was at first confusing as King moves from flashback to dream sequence to reality quite quickly. The rhythm is found soon enough and the reader adapts swiftly enough.

While the story does focus on the bullying aspect between Lucky and Nader, the larger story is how a family becomes broken before it’s even created. King shows readers that family dynamics are created through our experiences and upbringing. What affected a father in his youth, affects his son in the present. Families have generational patterns, for better or worse. It’s up to each member to recognize those patterns and evolve for emotional survival. King’s skill as a writer is highlighted here with this family dynamic. It’s hard to read at time because you want the characters to have larger reactions. Yet, you can’t help but want to read the book because it means the characters have stayed true to themselves.

The dynamics between Lucky and his young grandfather are heartbreaking in that you can’t help but wonder what it would have been like if Lucky had his grandfather when he was younger. Yet, Lucky does eventually realize that he wouldn’t have become the person he was now. The same could be said with the relationship between Lucky’s father, as the grandfather’s absence plays a large part on how Lucky’s father reacts or, in most cases, doesn’t react.

The book succeeds because of King’s writing talent and her imagination. Between Lucky’s conversations with imaginary ants or watching as a group of militant young high school girls perform The Vagina Monologues, Everybody Sees the Ants will provide readers with both humor and thought-provoking ideas.

Information about the Author:
From A.S. King’s Webpage, Amy Sarig King was born in Pennyslvania, where she currently lives with her husband and children. While she has always desired to be a writer, King has a degree in Photography from the Art Institute of Philadephia. King has written four books with a fifth to be published in the Fall of 2013. King is a public speaker for libraries and schools and has worked in writing workshops to assist other writers with their skills.

King’s Webpage provides resources for educators and teens in regards to her books.

A.S. King on Twitter

A.S. King on Facebook

Genre:
Realistic Fiction, Magical Realism, Mystery/Crime

Curriculum Ties:
Death and Dying, Family Relationships

Booktalking Ideas:
What types of conversations do we have when we are alone?
How important is communication? With friends? With family?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
Kirkus Reviews recommends a reading age of 14-18.

Challenging Issues:
There are no current challenges for this book. The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Potential Issues would be bullying and violence.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
Having been impressed with A.S. King’s Please Ignore Vera Dietz, I was excited to see she had written more titles. Everybody Sees the Ants was an engrossing read and timely as well. As the issue of bullying continues to gain recognition, I thought this would be a great book to recommend for those who have suffered bullying in the past.

Reference:
King, A.S. (n.d.). Author. as-king.com Retrieved from http://www.as-king.com/html/author.php

Kirkus Review. (2010). Please Ignore Vera Dietz. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/as-king/please-ignore-vera-dietz/

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Life as We Knew It
By Susan Beth Pfeffer
ISBN: 9781595141712
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Date of Publication: 2006

Reader’s Annotation:
After an asteroid destroys a portion of the moon, humanity must struggle to survive against the Earth’s changing catastrophic conditions.

Plot Summary:
Miranda Evans has a simple, normal life. She still has the complexities of having divorced parents, a new sibling on the way, and regularly scheduled homework. But maybe compared to some kids, Miranda’s life is a happy one.

One night an asteroid hits the moon, knocking it out of its orbit, leaving the moon only two-thirds whole. In that moment, the Eastern Seaboard has been flooded and there are worldwide reports of massive tsunamis destroying ocean communities, even countries. Slowly, Miranda’s life begins to change for the worse. There’s gas rationing, electricity is scarce, and food has become the most valuable commodity in the world.

As the days go by, the situation doesn’t seem to be getting better. Friends leave or die and family members are lost or missing. It’s now every man for themselves. For Miranda and her family, it’s a fight to survive another day.

Critical Evaluation:
Susan Beth Pfeffer  initially drew inspiration for the story from a B-movie called Meteor, which starred Sean Connery and Natalie Wood. After watching the film, and dismissing it’s horrible premise, Pfeffer began to question what would happen if a teen was faced with an apocalyptic scenario. The resulting answer was Life as We Know It.

The book is a dark piece of fiction as with each day that is presented in Miranda’s diary any lingering hope of survival continues to diminish. Pfeffer is honest in the grim portrayal and presents a realistic idea of what the damage to the moon could cost the inhabitants of the Earth.

The characters of the story are portrayed as realistic in that there is a desire for the past to return as life would be easier. But handling a catastrophic transition isn’t easy for anyone and such changes don’t happen over night. Miranda’s mother is portrayed as practical, looking at the means of helping her children survive instead of just her own well-being. The young adult reactions are a mixture of selfish desire and with scared realization. Again, there is honesty in the characterizations which makes the novel hard to read at times since you know everything will not be rosy.

It is not a happy tale and those looking for a joyful ending would be better served looking else where for their entertainment. Pfeffer succeeds in this endeavor in that she writes well, which is reflected in Miranda’s observations.

Information about the author:
From Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Blog, Pfeffer is the writer of over 70 books. Her focus has been towards Young Adult and Children’s fiction starting with the publication of her book Rainbows and Fireworks in 1973. Pfeffer lives in New York with her cat and continues to write fiction, with titles outside of The Last Survivors series.

Susan Beth Pfeffer on Twitter

Genre:
Fantasy/Science Fiction, Horror/Thriller

Curriculum Ties:
Astronomy, Survival Skills

Booktalking Ideas:
What would you first do if the world was about to end?
What supplies would you need if you hope to survive a catastrophe?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
Kirkus Reviews suggests an age range of 19-20. The book features a sixteen protagonist was written for a young adult audience. I would suggest an age range of 16 and up.

Challenging Issues:
There are no current challenges for this book. The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Potential Issues would be nightmares caused by anxiety of the characters’ conditions.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
When I first picked up this book, I couldn’t finish it. The story became too depressing and it felt too tangible. When I picked up the book a few months later, I found that the story was still engaging but I could handle the apocalyptic storyline better. There are a great number of dystopian books for Young Adults on the market today. Susan Beth Pfeffer’s tale of Earthly doom gives a realistic perspective of what would happen in this type of disaster. And for that reason alone, I think it’s a great book to give to teens. It’s a great alternative to mainstream dystopia.

Reference:
Amazon. (n.d.). Books by Susan Beth Pfeffer. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/Susan-Beth-Pfeffer/e/B001H6QEWY/ref=la_B001H6QEWY_pg_6?rh=n%3A283155%2Cp_82%3AB001H6QEWY&page=6&ie=UTF8&qid=1354854426
Kirkus Reviews. (2010). Life as we knew it. Retrieved from Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/susan-beth-pfeffer/life-as-we-knew-it/

Pfeffer, S.B. (2010). The big idea: Susan Beth Pfeffer. Whatever.Scalzi.Com. Retrieved from http://whatever.scalzi.com/2010/04/06/the-big-idea-susan-beth-pfeffer/

Bonus Features!

Mini Review!

The Last Survivors Series

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The Outsiders
By S.E. Hinton
ISBN: 9780143039857
Publisher: Penguin Books (First Published with Viking Press)
Date of Publication: 1967

Reader’s Annotation:
Ponyboy Curtis, a Greaser, finds himself in trouble after an attack from a Soc.

Plot Summary:
In Tulsa, Oklahoma, there are two sides, two types of people; the Socs who are the rich kids and the Greasers who struggle to make ends meet. Ponyboy Curtis is a one of the greasers. With his parents dead due to a tragic car accident, Ponyboy’s older brothers, Sodapop and Darry, work hard to support the family while pushing Ponyboy to finish school. Ponyboy sometimes resents that he’s forced to focus on school, never understanding the sacrifices his brothers have made to support his eduction.

Ponyboy’s best friend is Johnny, a boy who has suffered too much violence in his young life. Together, Ponyboy and Johnny make up the younger part of their Greaser group, alongside their reckless friend Dallas, Two-Bit and Steve. One night Ponyboy meets Cherry Valance, a doc who helps Ponyboy to break down the ideal barriers of the Greasers versus Soc mentality. That same night, Ponyboy and Johnny face-off with Cherry’s boyfriend, Bob. What happens from that encounter changes everything for Ponyboy and he must face the consequences of that night and the actions that followed. In the end, Ponyboy discovers what it means to have a label and that a family is what we have when we stand by the ones we love.

Critical Evaluation:
S.E. Hinton’s tale of different social classes have stood the test of time mostly because Hinton wrote from personal experience. Hinton felt that her generation wasn’t being portrayed honestly in Young Adult fiction and set out to tell the truth about her life.

This is a a story about social struggle and how being a teenager doesn’t change that struggle but sometimes makes it worse. Ponyboy knows that his life isn’t ideal and as a teenager, his voice is constantly ignored by those who have his “best interest” at heart. But like millions of teenagers across the globe, Ponyboy feels misunderstood and begins to find his voice in the midst of all the confusion.

Ponyboy’s relations to the social class scheme is an important lesson for readers in that it shows the world is not fair and never will be. What’s important is that a connection is formed with friends and family that will last a lifetime. That support is important in that it shows it’s not easy to go through life alone. An example of this would be in the action of Dallas, who suffers for being a loner, despite his varied personal connections.

The story still resonates with Young Adult readers in that the concepts of alienation and social class remain prevalent, even more so in this ultra-connected society.

The A.V. Club on The Outsiders

Information about the Author:
From S.E. Hinton’s Webpage, Hinton first published The Outsiders as a response to lackluster teen novels that had been published in the 1950s and 1960s. Being a teenager herself, Hinton wanted to present a story in which a reader would understand the real issues that faced teenagers.

After the publication of The Outsiders, Hinton found that she was experienced writer’s blog and didn’t write anything new for three years. Luckily, her future husband encouraged writing bits at a time until she eventually finished the book That Was Then, This is Now. Hinton continued to write Young Adult literature, growing in strength as a writer. She has also written the adult novel, Hawkes Harbor.

S.E. Hinton’s Webpage

Genre:
Realistic Fiction, Family Relationships

Curriculum Ties:
Drama, Classic American Literature

Booktalking Ideas:
What would you do for your family?
What would you do for your friends, if they were threatened?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
As the book was written when Hinton was in her teens, the book has an intended audience of such. Recommended age range would be 15 and up.

Challenging Issues:
The Outsiders is a frequently challenged and banned book. Complaints against the book cite gang violence and obscenities as some of the reasons. The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged again in the future.

Why did I include this book in the titles selection?
This book pushed the boundaries of what teens read in the 1960s. The story still resonates with teen and adult readers. While there are some faults with the narration of the story, the themes of alienation and family/friend connections are issues that teens continue to face. This is a book about teens, written by a teen for teens.
Reference:
Hinton, S.E. (n.d.). Biography. Retrieved from http://www.sehinton.com/bio.html

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Doctor Who
Created by
Produced by BBC
Date of Release: First episode release – 1963;  Reboot release – 2005

Annotation:
The Doctor is a Time Lord and travels through space with his human companion in his ship the TARDIS.

Plot Summary:
Coming from the planet of Gallifrey, The Doctor travels through time and space with his TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimensions in Space). The Doctor is a Time Lord, an ancient alien race that has the power to regenerate into a new being when he is being threatened by death. It is for this reason the Doctor is over a thousand years old, possibly more.

As the Doctor travels through the universe, usually with a companion from his favorite planet Earth, he fights for intellect, romance, and justice against brute force and evil. He’s a curious soul who constantly finds himself in trouble but has a stout heart to find a solution. He’s very, very clever and very, very fun. Beware his angry though. The wrath of the last Time Lord has altered history and destroyed civilizations, for not all journeys and adventures are happy ones.

Critical Evaluation:
Since it’s first broadcast in 1963, Doctor Who has captured the imagination of children and adults for almost fifty years. The current Doctor Who series has continued to gain momentum and has discovered a larger audience in America instead of just the historical audience in the United Kingdom.

Beyond anything presented in the series, the character of the Doctor represents hope. A simple hope that there will be happiness and satisfaction to be found in little things. A hope that even the smallest thing can bring joy and that our sense of adventure we had as children hasn’t been destroyed but been ignored. The Doctor has seen great heartache as well and knows that his adventures won’t always be easy, especially for his wide-eyed companions. Traveling with the Doctor is a guarantee that your life can change but it’s not always easy and sometimes you don’t come back unchanged or come back at all.

The series, beyond its science fiction background, does also have some horrific elements. The Doctor’s enemies are not typical arch-nemesis but vile creatures that could destroy planets and universes. Some episodes, specifically those written by Stephen Moffat in Series 1-4, bring old-fashioned chills to those unexpected viewers. Those particular episodes are nail-bitting, hide behind your pillow tales that was the standard with the original series.

Overall, the series has stood the pass of time and has come out stronger than ever. Past Doctor adventures from the 70s and 80s are becoming more accessible to new viewers, with new editions being released every new quarter. The older episodes showcase shorter stories in larger episode arcs. They are slower paced compared to the newer series but are just as fun as the new adventures.

Genre:
Science Fiction/Fantasy

Curriculum Ties:
As Doctor Who does travel through time and space, past episodes can be used to showcase different historical settings. Series 5 used Winston Churchill’s bunker while Series 4 used Agatha Christie for a character and storyline. The discussion of alternative histories would be another suggestion.

Booktalking Ideas:
Where would you go if you had a chance to go anywhere? Including a different time period or a different planet?
What adventure would you like to have on Earth?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
The series began as a family show and continues that standard with the reboot. The series is recommended for all ages.

Challenging Issues:
Potential Issues include romantic situations and violence.

Why did I include this series in the title selections?
Doctor Who has been a favorite of mine for quite some time. The series is accessible to new viewers and remains a delight almost fifty years since its creation. The series, though considered more science fiction due to the alien nature of the Doctor, actually merges different genres in its presentation. It allows for all viewers with different tastes and styles an opportunity to find something for themselves.

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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
By Ransom Riggs
ISBN: 9781594744761
Publisher: Quirk Books
Date of Publication: 2011

Reader’s Annotation:
After witnessing the gruesome death of his grandfather, Jacob Portman travels to Wales to learn the truth about his grandfather and to discover the meaning of his grandfather’s collection of strange photographs.

Plot Summary:
Jacob has grown up on his grandfather’s bedtime stories. For years, Grandpa Abraham Portman spun tales about his childhood, with tales of adventure and excitement. Jacob’s favorite stories describe a children’s home in Wales, where children are protected from monsters by a bird, a peregrine. Grandpa Portman even has old photographs of the children who seem to defy gravity and logic with their accomplishments. Yet, as Jacob grows old, the stories begin to seem silly and Jacob begins to ignore them as mere childish fairytales.

When Jacob is fifteen, he is witness to a horrific accident that claims the life of his grandfather. In the aftermath of the tragedy, Jacob finds himself returning to those stories. As Jacob delves further into his grandfather’s past, he begins to realize that maybe his grandfather’s stories were more truth than fiction. Jacob begins to look towards the west for answers. What he discovers is more important than he could have ever imagined. And that what we see is sometimes more than what we can ever understand.


Critical Evaluation:
Ransom Riggs’s first novel reads like a beautiful dream, despite its nightmarish, horrific elements. Using photographs from ten different independent collections, Riggs is able to provide a tangible past to the Welsh children’s home in Grandpa Portman’s stories. While the photographs are an added bonus, they would mean nothing if Riggs’s writing style was unable to match the photograph’s beauty. Luckily, the reader is given a well-written story that readers of all age can enjoy.

In regards to the horrific elements of the story, Riggs succeeds in presenting a scary story for young adult readers. Riggs’s descriptions of the children actually add more to the photographic elements, balancing the story with a lovely visual prose.

Overall, the story was coherent and delightful. This book is highly recommended for those readers yearning for an old-fashioned horror story.

Information about the Author:
From Ransom Riggs’s Webpage, Riggs first studied English at Kenyon Collge, followed by film studies at the University of Southern California. Riggs currently lives in Los Angeles where he combines his passion of writing and visual arts. He is a blogger for MentalFloss.Com.

Ransom Riggs on Twitter

Ransom Riggs on Facebook

Genre:
Fantasy, Horror/Thriller, Historical Fiction

Curriculum Ties:
Magic, Alternative History, Photography

Booktalking Ideas:
What do you see when you take a picture?
How are we different from our parents? From our grandparents? Did you see any similarities?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
School Library Journal suggests a reading grade of 6 to 12. I would recommend this title as an Ages 14 and Up.

Challenging Issues:

There are no current challenges for this book. The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Potential Issues would be its horrific elements and violence.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
My husband had picked this book up from the library and suggested I read it. He was willing to pay for late fees just so I would have time to finish it during our vacation. Riggs’s use of photograph, mixed with an engrossing story, provided for an entertaining read. It’s one of the first books I recommend now for readers looking for something different than the mainstream paranormal books that are currently popular amongst teens.

Reference:
Grajek, S. (2011). What horror is this?!. School Library  Journal. Retrieved from http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/slj/newsletters/newsletterbucketsljteen/892814-444/what_horror_is_this.html.csp

Riggs, R. (n.d.). Bio. Retrieved from http://www.ransomriggs.com/bio/

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Gilmore Girls
Created by Amy Sherman-Palladino
Produced by Dorothy Parker Drank Here Productions
Released by Warner Brothers Television
Original release: 2000
Number of Seasons: 7

Annotation:
Lorelei Gilmore and her daughter Rory live in Stars Hollow, Connecticut, where the town is filled with interesting, eccentric characters.

Plot Summary:
When she was sixteen, Lorelei Gilmore discovered she was pregnant. Instead of marrying the baby’s father, Christopher Hayden, Lorelai leaves her parent’s home in Hartford and make her own way in the world. The mother and the baby eventually make Stars Hollow their home. Lorelai found work as a maid at the Independence Inn, where she rose through the ranks from maid to becoming the Inn’s executive manager.

Lorelai’s daughter, Rory, is a bright, young woman who has just been accepted into Chilton Preparatory School. This news is exciting as it means it’s one more step closer to Rory’s dream school, Harvard University. Unfortunately, Lorelai doesn’t have enough funds to pay for the tuition. With no one else to turn to, Lorelai swallows her pride and seeks assistance from her parents; an action that Lorelai tried to avoid due to their antagonizing relationship. Lorelai’s mother says yes, they will pay for Rory’s tuition, but on the condition that the two younger Gilmores join the senior Gilmores, Richard and Emily, for dinner every Friday night. For Emily and Lorelai’s relationship has been cracked for sometime, as what you wish for your child isn’t always what they desire.

Critical Evaluation:
With sharp dialogue and snappy settings, Gilmore Girls remains a well-written, funny program that explores issues such as family relationships amongst social classes, teen relationships, and the power (and craziness) of living in a small town. Because Lorelai was a teenager when she gave birth to Rory, the family dynamic is often sister-sister instead of mother-daughter. This dynamic comes into play as Rory grows up and begins making decisions without her mother. This conflict is mirrored in Lorelai’s interactions with Emily and provides for both laughs and drama. The supporting cast enhances the quirky small-town of Stars Hollow and viewers will be delighted when those small characters make brief appearances.

The music of the show is an important piece of the program as it’s almost the third staring member of the cast. Lorelai’s love of 80s music was a highlight in the first season when The Bangles appeared as guest stars. Rory’s best friend Lane loves music but hides it from her strict mother. Lane eventually starts her own band with Sebastian Bach, the former lead singer of the rock band Skid Row, stars as her bandmate. Carole King, who lent her music to the theme song, later plays a music shop owner. Grant-Lee Phillips plays the town’s troubadour.

The later seasons saw a change in the storyline that almost detracts from the relationship between Rory and Lorelai. It’s an issue that is somewhat solved in the end. Viewers of the show will be sad when the series eventually ends, as Stars Hollow because a part of their life and we can’t help but feel like family.

Information about the Creator:
From Amy Sherman-Palladino’s Wikipedia page , inspired by the quirky, witty dialogue of Dorothy Parker and Woody Allen, Sherman-Palladino has made a reputation of creating television programs that involve obscure popular culture references and quirky dialogue. Married to fellow writer Daniel Palladino, started as a staff writer for the sitcom Roseanne. She created different projects after leaving Roseanne but found no success as many of the projects were cancelled.

Sherman-Palladino created Gilmore Girls during a quick pitch to Warner Brothers. The show became an instant success with family groups in part to the relationship between Rory and her mother Lorelai. She left the show before it’s final season. Her latest success, Bunheads, will have its second season starting in January 2013.

Genre:

Realistic Fiction, Family Relationships

Curriculum Ties:
Popular Culture

Booktalking Ideas:
How do you relate to your parents?
Are there things you keep hidden from your parents?

Challenging Issues:
Potential Issues include some sexual situations, especially during later seasons.

Why did I include this series in the titles selection?
Being a fan of the show since it’s first episode, the snappy dialogue and parental relationships are a would be treat to any teenager looking for quality television.

Reference:
Wikipedia. (n.d.). Amy Sherman-Palladino. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amy_Sherman-Palladino

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The Fault in Our Stars
By John Green
ISBN: 978-0-525-47881-2
Publisher: Dutton Books, A Member of Penguin Books
Date of Publication: 2012

Reader’s Annotation:
As Hazel Grace Lancaster continues to deal with her diagnosis of thyroid cancer, she is unexpectedly faced with the possibility of love and a window of happiness.

Plot Summary:
Sixteen year old Hazel Grace Lancaster has thyroid cancer. While she has been able to live with the disease for three years, she is aware that her time is short. As Hazel faces the concept of a limited life, she is forced into group therapy by her parents who are concerned she is falling into a depression. During her time at group therapy, Hazel meets Augustus Waters (Gus) who is in remission from a form of cancer that took away his right leg.

Gus is instantly smitten with Hazel. Hazel finds herself in a struggle as the idea of any relationship seems like a waste when time is limited. The question that now faces Hazel is will the pain be worth it in the end when love and life have expiration dates. As Hazel grows closer to Gus, her life begins to evolve and she begins to understand a life is not just a personal journey but an experience best served with other people.

Critical Evaluation:
Hazel Grace’s story is one that many readers will instantly connect with, even those without cancer. In fact, while cancer is a catalyst for the story, it is not the common theme and is not used as a crutch for the story’s plot. Hazel’s largest problem is the reality past her cancer; what it means to live a life and to have an impact on someone else’s life. This concept, which seems so simple at first, is a powerful one that Green navigates quite well.

Young adult readers will connect with Hazel and Gus’s stories because Green is not condescending in his characterizations. The characters are real and tangible. As they are caught between childhood and adulthood, their inner struggle will connect resoundingly with young readers. John Green’s tale of love and identity is beautiful and achingly haunting. Green understands the teen condition and is joyful in his celebration of life and happiness.

Information about the Author:
From John Green’s Webpage, a graduate of Kenyon College, Green is the author four books, with a co-authorship on a five. He also contributed a short story for the Let It Snow anthology. Green draws inspiration from his surroundings, looking at life questions instead of just plot scenarios.

Green, along with his brother Hank, created the Vlogbrothers YouTube channel, which originally began as a video correspondence between the two brothers. The site http://www.youtube.com/vlogbrothers has over 840,000 subscribers with over 270 million video views.

John Green on Twitter

John Green on Facebook

John Green on Tumblr

Genre:
Realistic Fiction, Romance

Curriculum Ties:
Cancer and Recovery

Booktalking Ideas:
What does it mean to be an impact to the world? To a friend or family member?
What would you discuss with your favorite author if you had an opportunity to do so?

Challenging Issues:
John Green is no stranger to his books being challenged. Looking for Alaska has been questioned in the past due to its sexual content. The Fault in Our Stars has no current challenges. The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Reading Level/Interest Age:
Kirkus Reviews suggests an age range of 15-18.

Why was this book chosen?
I was assigned to read this book as part of my course work for Materials for Young Adults course through San Jose State University. I found that while it was required reading, the emotional impact was far greater than I expected. The characters moved me to tears. When such a book affects a reader through emotions, it seems a waste to hoard the book to oneself. I chose this title because I think Young Adults will appreciate a writer who writes for their mentality. The characters were tangible and dealt with issues that any modern teen faces each day. While the cancer aspect of the story is an important element to the plot and evolution of the characters, the decision to love and to be loved is a universal concept, especially to Young Adults who are experiencing love for the first time.

Reference:
Green, J. (n.d.). John Green’s Biography. Retrieved from http://johngreenbooks.com/bio-contact/

Kirkus Review. (2012). The Fault in Our Stars. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/john-green/fault-in-our-stars/

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