Thursday, March 31, 2016

Maps and the Fruits of Exploration

World Map 1636. Photography. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 17 Feb 2016.
We have written on the blog before about our fascination with maps, even though they don't always reflect the reality of the globe we're spinning on (hence the True Size website, which is a pretty fun tool). But maps can be more than an atlas, or a piece of paper that's really hard to fold up once it's unfolded, or an app on your phone. We've assembled some quotes from authors about the diverse qualities of maps - how maps affect people, stories that maps tell, the personal geographies that our lives become - and would like to share some books about maps and geography from the library catalog that we hope fit the tenor of the quotes.

Map People

There are map people whose joy is to lavish more attention on the sheets of colored paper than on the colored land rolling by. I have listened to accounts by such travelers in which every road number was remembered, every mileage recalled, and every little countryside discovered. Another kind of traveler requires to know in terms of maps exactly where he is pin-pointed at every moment, as though there were some kind of safety in black and red lines, in dotted indications and squirming blue of lakes and the shadings that indicate mountains. It is not so with me. I was born lost and take no pleasure in being found, nor much identification from shapes which symbolize continents and states.
~John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America

Maps of Our Private World

Regular maps have few surprises: their contour lines reveal where the Andes are, and are reasonably clear. More precious, though, are the unpublished maps we make ourselves, of our city, our place, our daily world, our life; those maps of our private world we use every day; here I was happy, in that place I left my coat behind after a party, that is where I met my love; I cried there once, I was heartsore; but felt better round the corner once I saw the hills of Fife across the Forth, things of that sort, our personal memories, that make the private tapestry of our lives.
~Alexander McCall Smith, Love Over Scotland

Story as Map

A story is a map of the world. A gloriously colored and wonderful map, the sort one often sees framed and hanging on the wall in a study full of plush chairs and stained-glass lamps: painstakingly lettered, researched down to the last pebble and participle, drawn with dash and flair, with cloud-goddesses in the corners and giant squid squirming up out of the sea...[T]here are more maps in the world than anyone can count. Every person draws a map that shows themselves at the center.
~Catherynne M. Valente, The Boy Who Lost Fairyland

No Compass

Amazing where your life can deposit you before you know it. One, two, three, and you're on a completely different road than the one you'd always expected to be on at this point in your life. There is no compass when such things happen, no rules and no maps to guide you, and no one who cares if the sun is glaring or if the asphalt is melting beneath your tires.
~Alice Hoffman, Blue Diary

Unruly Places: Lost Spaces, Secret Cities, and Other Inscrutable Geographies by Alastair Bonnett

The Trivia Lover's Guide to the World: Geography for the Lost and Found by Gary Fuller

The World's Weirdest Places by Nick Redfern [eBook] 

How the States Got Their Shapes Too: The People Behind the Borderlines by Mark Stein 

Atlas of Cursed Places: A Travel Guide to Dangerous and Frightful Destinations by Olivier Le Carrer, Sibylle Le Carrer

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Picture Book are Not Just for Kids! Part 6

To tie up this little series, I thought I would go back to childhood.  Comparing my taste in books now to my taste when I was a child has surprised me!  I remember the library* books that stood out to me the most when I was a new reader were those that captured my imagination and took me beyond what I could experience in normal life as a little kid.  Today I enjoy books that are clever, funny, and beautifully illustrated, but many of my first books don't really rank with this criteria.  I do still enjoy books that spark my imagination, but maybe (it hurts me to admit!) I need a little more help starting up my imagination than I used to - I certainly use it less these days.  In any case, here are a few of the books, and book series, I loved as a child that wouldn't necessarily make my favorites list if I had discovered them today.

Eloise: A Book for Precocious Grown Ups by Kay Thompson
Why I loved it: I thought this book was so much fun.  It still is, actually.  I loved how Eloise had such an active imagination, and how the things she imagined up appeared as illustrations in red outlines.  I also loved the fact that she had a pet turtle that lived with her and her pug.  In fact, I named my childhood turtle Skipperdee, after hers.  I envied her independence, and the fact that Eloise had a live-in Nanny.  I think I sometimes even imagined the apartment complex we lived in during my elementary years was a fancy hotel because the idea made me feel glamorous like Eloise.  So basically, Eloise made my childhood much more exciting than it actually was, and that was a good thing!  We also have a version that includes an audio CD, Eloise Read-Along.

Animalia by Graeme Base
Why I loved it: This book provided hours of entertainment and challenge for my young mind (plus my sister and I could look at it together without fighting - mostly).  It never got old, no matter how many times I had looked at it or for how long.  Each page is an illustration for one letter of the alphabet and contains innumerable items beginning with that letter.  It is also accompanied by a caption made only by alliterations of words beginning with that letter.  For example, "lazy lions lounging in the local library" accompanies the L illustration.  The goal, at least when I read it, is to name as many items in the picture as possible.  I remember this being tricky, because sometimes I didn't know what an item was, so I couldn't name it, and especially not using a word beginning with the correct letter.  (Last year I discovered The Eleventh Hour by Base and spent several happy hours solving its puzzles.)

Andrew and the Wild Bikes by Allen Morgan
Why I loved it: This book made me fall in love with my bicycle.  I could not stop thinking about what my life would be like if I came across a herd of living, furry bicycles, and got to catch one and tame it.  Imagining that I had done just that, I would tear up and down our street on my own bike.  The idea of this story was so intriguing that the feeling of it has stuck with me all these years, and although the book is not so much attractive to me any more, it still inspires me and takes me back to the excitement of my childhood dreams.  (Sadly, there is no picture for this one in the catalog!)

Frances books by Russell Hoban
Why I loved them: Frances is such a distinct and likable character, with her little ditties and sweet quirks, such as sitting below the sink and avoiding any food aside from bread and jam.  Her habits and ways of thinking so accurately represent the behaviors of young children.  Which, of course, I didn't realize when I was a young child reading the Frances books, but I'm sure the fact still improved my relationship with her.  As an adult reader, I love how Frances' parents don't try to change her or force her to behave, but rather, they patiently guide her as she works things out on her own.

Strega Nona books by Tomie DePaola
Why I loved them: I recall that an elementary school librarian read one or more of these to my class for storytime, which was a cozy, happy time of my week at school.  Therefore, I think I loved these (and still do) because of that warm association it created.  I remember especially loving the look of the illustrations of these books - the colors, the consistency, the texture.  I liked the magic in each of the books, each of the unique characters, and the little snippets of Italian sprinkled throughout.  I still get the same warm, fuzzy feeling whenever I pick up a Strega Nona book.  My favorite is Strega Nona Meets Her Match.

I will never stop enjoying picture books, but I'm done sharing them on the blog for now.  I hope you enjoyed the tour!

*My Grandma always took my sister and me to Tony Hillerman - where did you go when you were little?  Do you remember any books that caught your imagination?  Please share in the comments!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

March in Review

I wanted to try something new with blogging. Instead of just talking about topics in youth literature, I want to talk about the books I'm reading. I love reading reviews of the books I read (after I finish them), so part of what I want to do is write mini-reviews for the books I've read in the past month.

Here's what I read in March.

Some of the Parts by Hannah Barnaby

I actually didn't think I was going to like this book. I thought it was going to be too similar to Jessi Kirby's Things We Know By Heart. I was wrong. Some of the Parts was less about finding organ recipients and more about grieving, and it was beautifully written. I'm so glad I decided to give this book a chance; I almost didn't read it.

The Siren by Kiera Cass

Confession: I didn't love The Selection series. I liked it well enough to read the first three books, but I haven't read the others. Because of that, I wasn't sure I was going to read The Siren, but I haven't read many books about sirens, and I love the ocean, and plus: THAT COVER. It's so pretty that I couldn't resist it. Needless to say, I adore this book. It is so much better than the books in The Selection series: the story is more interesting, the writing is fantastic, and basically everything about it was so good that I wish there was a sequel. Or a whole series. Anything that will let me stay in the world Cass created for a just a little while longer.

The Distance From Me to You by Marina Gessner

When you're a couple chapters into a book and you say, "This is reading like a packaged book," and you turn out to be right, it's probably not a good sign. That's what happened when I started reading The Distance From Me to You, and I ended up not enjoying the book as much as I would have liked. I love the idea of it: a teen decides to hike the Appalachians on her own, which could lead to so much self-discovery and learning how to be self-sufficient. At the end of the day, this book was more of a romance than a coming-of-age story, and that's why I was disappointed in it.

The Love That Split the World by Emily Henry

I had high hopes for this book. I love the cover, and a friend of mine liked the book. Unfortunately, the book didn't work for me, partly because of the instalove and partly because I just got bored about halfway through the book. I liked the idea of having Native American mythology in it, though, I enjoyed reading those myths, though there are some people who feel like the author didn't represent the mythology well. Overall, for me, this was an okay but not great read.

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

I adore Morgan Matson. And I liked so much of this book. That being said, it is way too long for a contemporary novel. Halfway through the book, I said, "So, the story is over, then?" because it seemed like everything had been wrapped up nicely. I loved all the subplots of the book, but I felt like there was too much filler, which is why the book was too long and felt like it was over when I was only halfway through it. Overall, I liked the book, but it takes some patience to get through some of the less-interesting parts.

All the Answers by Kate Messner

I've been trying to read more middle grade fiction, and I thought this book would be good for when I visit schools to talk about our summer reading program. While I liked the story well enough, I thought the book was flawed in how it dealt with Ava's anxiety disorder. I don't want to say too much about it, because of spoilers, but I think how other characters responded to Ava's anxiety disorder could have been handled better.

Next month, I'm supposed to read poetry, short stories, plays, and screenplays for the reading challenge my sister and I are doing. So far, I'm planning on reading Buried Child by Sam Shepard, Our Town by Thornton Wilder, The Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe, and Black Hawk Down: The Shooting Script by Ken Nolan, and I want to re-read Flying at Night by Ted Kooser. I have to admit, though, that I might sneak some YA and middle grade fiction into the mix, especially since I'm trying to read things that I can talk to kids about during my summer reading program outreaches.

Did you read anything you loved (or hated) this month? Tell us about it in the comments!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Diverse Voices in Mystery

"I wanted to tell a story that hadn't been told," [Walter] Mosley said in an interview at the book festival, which is sponsored by The Times. "It's a whole period that's not talked about, not related to. It was harder then to be black. There was no upward mobility, until recently."

One of the elements altering literature, Mosley said, is the hunger for a broader range of American experiences from the reading public--a shift he applauds.

"In America, black history is American history," Mosley told his audience. "We're looking at our fellow Americans."
~Anne-Marie O'Connor and Julie Ha, "Diversity Shines at L.A. Festival of Books"

The We Need Diverse Books campaign's vision is "A world in which all children can see themselves in the pages of a book." But why stop there? The library hopes to "promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people", and readers of all ages! We are mystery fans here at the blog, so we thought we'd begin by showing you some diversity in that genre.

Mystery authors such as Walter Mosley and Barbara Neely brought mainstream success to ethnically diverse mysteries in the 1990s, paving the way for increasing amounts of non-white detectives. Here's a smattering of the diverse detectives you can find in the library catalog.

Land of Shadows by Rachel Howzell Hall

Black Water Rising by Attica Locke

Sex, Murder, and a Double Latte by Kyra Davis

The Dewey Decimal System by Nathan Larson

Land of Careful Shadows by Suzanne Chazin

Follow Her Home by Steph Cha 

The Last Confession by Solomon Jones [eBook] 

One Red Bastard by Ed Lin 

Six Suspects by Vikas Swarup

In the Heat by Ian Vasquez

Slow Burn by  Eleanor Taylor Bland

Summer of the Big Bachi by Naomi Hirahara

The Salaryman's Wife by Sujata Massey 

Bitter Sugar by Carolina Garcia-Aguilera 

Deception On All Accounts by Sara Sue Hoklotubbe 

Indian Country Noir edited by Sarah Cortez & Liz Martínez

In the Heat of the Night by John Ball [LP] 

Plain Brown Wrapper by Karen Grigsby Bates [eAudiobook]

Not Your Usual Suspects - Genre Spotlight: Mystery [Library Journal]

Mystery Detective Novels by Women of Color [Goodreads]

Diversity of Series Character [Stop, You're Killing Me]

'American Indian Mysteries': A Crossover Genre Not Quite There [Dancing Badger]

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Picture Books are Not Just for Kids! Part 5

I'm discovering that most picture books I love are funny.  These three are not particularly.  In fact, I would label them as tear-jerkers.  (The fourth is more heartwarming and less sad, but I'm including it anyway).  I often avoid reading this kind of book at storytime because there is the distinct possibility that I will start crying right there in the middle of it all and upset the kids - and probably the parents.  But these three are good enough that I haven't been able to help myself (and I succeeded at not crying during storytime - barely!).

The kids like these books, too, but I think they must experience them differently than we do as adults.  As I started pondering this, I felt at first that these bittersweet stories introduce children to concepts of friendship, loyalty, loss, etc, rather than offering something a child can relate to already.  When you are only 5 years old, you don't know what it is like to have a lifelong friendship, or have your life saved by a friend.  But young children do certainly feel those intense, longing feelings of love and loss - with parents, siblings, and the rare, super close childhood friend - whether they totally understand them or not. 

Amos and Boris by William Steig
Why I love it: It is a great vocabulary builder compared to many contemporary books, with words like phosphorescent, ambitions, mote, and abounding.  It is long and descriptive, so the characters - a whale and a hardy mouse who meet by chance - are well-developed by the end of this beautiful story.  It is an illustration of friendship that goes much deeper than your average picture book story, with bittersweet themes of mortality, and earned trust, admiration, and respect between friends.  It has that  feel of a classic book that captures the human spirit in a timelessly powerful way.

Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen
Why I love it:  Not only is it set in a library, but it also stirs the imagination because the main character is a real, live lion.  The characters in this story have some nice depth to them, which, in part, causes the end to be really satisfying: a tragic misunderstanding of sorts is resolved and important lessons are learned - namely that one can respect the rules without blindly following them. I like that lesson, and I think it is important for children to understand because it can make them critical thinkers, help keep them safe, and even give them the voice they deserve to gently question. 

Lion and Bird by Marianne Dubuc
Why I love it: It makes me cry every time I read it!!  It is a simple, slow story of companionship and change that is sad, bittersweet, heartwarming, and gentle all at once. This quote captures its essence: "And so it goes.  Sometimes life is like that."  Part of what makes this story slow and sad is that the scenes are drawn out in the illustrations.  One sentence on a page will describe simply how the seasons turned, or the birds flew overhead, but the illustrations on the next page carry on that sentence without adding to it and cause the reader to feel the passing of time and the sinking in of the emotions Lion and Bird stir in us.  What a beautiful book!  I can also heartily recommend other creations of Marianne Dubuc.

Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle
Why I love it: Because preschoolers love to make noises, and this book is full of them.  Make that rhyming noises that create a great plot.  This one has a bit of a moral at the end, which, as I have mentioned, I only like sometimes.  Many children's books teach that children must earn kindness and acceptance by proving themselves to those who don't at first accept them, or that being on one's best behavior is the only way to be loved.  Little Blue Truck, however, serves as a great example of being kind to those who have not been kind to you - a message of unconditional love that can go both ways - sometimes you are giving to someone who doesn't deserve it, and sometimes you are the receiver who doesn't deserve it.  Basically the message I get from this story is that it's not becoming to be ill-behaved, but even badly behaved individuals need love - and often, kindness will turn a person toward better behavior more effectively than shunning or punishment will.

What do you think about how children experience bittersweet stories and the emotions they evoke?  Any favorites that fall into this category?  I'd love to know!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

By the Book: Las Vegas

Neon lights of the The Strip at night, Las Vegas, Nevada, United States of America, North America. Photography. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 5 Feb 2016.
Continuing where By the Book: San Francisco left off, we have compiled a list of books about Las Vegas, Nevada, the "Entertainment Capital of the World". When we think of Vegas, we usually picture something like this:

OCEAN'S ELEVEN (1960) - LAWFORD, PETER; MARTIN, DEAN; SINATRA, FRANK; BISHOP, JOEY; DAVIS JR, SAMMY. Photography. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 17 Feb 2016.

But, of course, the Rat Pack are gone, as are many of the hotels that featured them in their heyday (and you can watch their implosions in a YouTube video, because, it seems, in Vegas even destruction is played as entertainment).

It's famously said that "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas", from gambling losses to raucous parties to ill-advised weddings, but here are some books that tell tales of "Sin City" and its environs - because Las Vegas is more than its infamous Strip. What book best portrays Vegas to you? Let us know in the comments!


Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream by Hunter S. Thompson

Blood Aces: The Wild Ride of Benny Binion, The Texas Gangster Who Created Vegas Poker by Doug J. Swanson 

Positively 5th Street: Murderers, Cheetah's, and Binion's World Series of Poker by James McManus

About a Mountain by John D'Agata


Dragonfish by Vu Tran

Beautiful Children by Charles Bock

We Are Called to Rise by Laura McBride

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins 

The Delivery Man by Joe McGinnis, Jr 


Reading American cities: Books about Las Vegas [The Guardian]

Las Vegas, Nevada [Goodreads]

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Brilliant Brontës: Brontës on Film

As you can imagine, there will never be a shortage of Brontë novel adaptations for the big and small screen. Plus, for three women who lived relatively quiet lives in the country, there have been multiple accounts of said lives filmed. The Brontë family continues to fascinate readers and theatergoers, much like Jane Austen, and while sometimes I wonder if the world needs another version of these classic works, it's fun to critique them. Maybe someone could make some movies about the life of Virginia Woolf, too? Then my favorite English authors would all be represented...but that's a topic for another blog post.

I've watched several of these adaptations already (and, not listed, but if you are an Anne Brontë fan I recommend getting The Tenant of Wildfell Hall via Interlibrary Loan), but I thought I'd watch something new for the purposes of this post, rather than trying to comb my faulty memory for more details about past viewings. (But do watch the Isabelles Adjani and Huppert as Les Sœurs Brontë, and my friend and I keep wrangling over the merits of the 2008 version of Wuthering Heights with Tom Hardy - she argues "more naturalistic than other productions", I argue "I can't understand Tom Hardy".)

I chose the 1939 Wuthering Heights, with the stunning cast of Laurence Olivier, David Niven, and Merle Oberon. This version slightly truncated the story, leaving out Hareton Earnshaw and Catherine Linton altogether. I found Olivier to be slightly too urbane to be convincing as Heathcliff the stableboy, but in a large part that's due to Received Pronunciation, which is still how a lot of English actors speak, whatever their regional accents. Also, despite his jet-black hair (dyed?), Olivier seems less exotic than his co-star Oberon (whom he apparently detested). The film score was a bit heavy-handed - it pervaded every scene - and, at least in the beginning, seemed too sprightly for the content, though its composer, Alfred Newman, was nominated for an Academy Award. As the movie went on, the actors' performances grew on me.  I will never be a whole-hearted fan of Wuthering Heights, but Olivier and Oberon really brought the intensity and complexity to their roles, and David Niven was pitch-perfect in the thankless role of Edgar Linton.

I also watched the 1997 Jane Eyre and I'm going to gush a little, because I loved Samantha Morton as Jane. I'm not sure if I've seen another adaptation where Jane does voiceovers, but they seemed perfect here. I was less enamored with Ciarán Hinds as Mr. Rochester (although I chose this version because I loved him in Persuasion) - he felt slightly too ineffectual in that role, not severe or magnetic enough. Gemma Jones played Mrs. Fairfax, and she really is a jewel of English cinema - I've seen her play so many roles adeptly, and this was no exception. Sometimes I felt like Samantha and Gemma were the emotional heart of the film, and Ciarán was just floundering to find his center and barking his lines in an attempt to sound passionate.

I chose these two adaptations to compare how the handling of the Brontës' work had changed over the years, but the main difference I noticed in these productions was the handling of the score - it was much less noticeable in Jane Eyre, but that might also have been the difference between a theatrical release and and a televised production.

What is your favorite adaptation of the Brontës' work? Let us know in the comments!


The Brontës of Haworth
1973 mini-series; with Barbara Leigh-Hunt, Vickery Turner, Alfred Burke

Les soeurs Brontë  = The Brontë sisters
1979 film; with Isabelle Adjani, Marie-France Pisier, Isabelle Huppert, Pascal Greggory

Adaptations of the novels

Jane Eyre

1944 film; with Orson Welles, Joan Fontaine, Margaret O'Brien, Agnes Moorehead

1997 TV drama; with Samantha Morton, Gemma Jones, Ciaran Hinds, Rupert Penry-Jones, Deborah Findlay

2006 mini-series; with Toby Stephens, Ruth Wilson, Francesca Annis 

2011 film; with Jamie Bell, Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Judi Dench

Wuthering Heights 

1939 film; with Merle Oberon, Laurence Olivier, David Niven, Flora Robson, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Miles Mander, Hugh Williams, Donald Crisp, Leo G. Carroll

1992 film; with Juliette Binoche, Ralph Fiennes, Janet McTeer, Sophie Ward, Simon Shepherd, Jeremy Northam, Jason Riddington, Simon Ward, Dick Sullivan

2008 TV drama; with Tom Hardy, Charlotte Riley, Andrew Lincoln, Sarah Lancashire, Burn Gorman, Rosalind Halstead


The Enthusiast's Guide to Jane Eyre Adaptations

The Reader's Guide to Wuthering Heights: Movie and TV Adaptations

*This post is part of our year-long Brilliant Brontës challenge! To see more posts, search for the labels "Brontë, challenge" in the blog sidebar. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Picture Books are Not Just for Kids! Part 4

Another set of fantastic no-category books for you here in Part 4!  Well, mostly uncategorized... Sometimes I pick up a book thinking I will not like it because of the illustration style or the amount of text, or something along those lines, and I read it anyway and find a new favorite.  That was definitely the case with Estelle Takes a Bath, because the illustrations didn't appeal to me and I usually dislike the cookie-cutter nature of bath books.  With The Great Quillow, it was the length - too long doesn't work for preschoolers, so why should I bother?  That's What Friends are For at first seemed too simplistic, and I haven't liked some of Gorbachev's other stories.  But I didn't discard any of these titles out of hand, as I sometimes do, and I'm glad I didn't!  They were good enough to make my favorites list, and I never would have known what I was missing.

That's What Friends are For by Valeri Gorbachev
Why I love it: Guessing books are really fun for the kids, but it's also great entertainment for me to hear their suggestions, in this case, of why Goat's friend, Pig, is seen in his window crying the morning of their dinner plans. I can't pin down exactly why I find this one so particularly endearing, but it has a charm about it that brings me back to it over and over. I certainly like the surprise ending, and the sweetness of Goat's active compassion toward his dear friend before he even knows what is saddening him.

Estelle Takes a Bath by Jill Esbaum
Why I love it: The adorable surprise ending, the colorful, rhyming text, and the serendipitous covering up of Estelle's private parts throughout her campaign to exterminate a certain small intruder who has interrupted her cozy bath. It's a fun little romp of a book. There are a good number of bath picture books, and of all the ones I've read, this is the one that stands out to me as my favorite. My second favorite would be How to Wash a Woolly Mammoth by Michelle Robinson.  (But those may be the only bath stories I like very much!)

The Great Quillow by James Thurber
Why I love it: It is believably silly and imaginative, with mystery and suspense moving it toward a very satisfying ending.  This one is longer than I would read to preschoolers during storytime, but the first, second, and third graders I read it to loved it.  In fact, they were asking if they could check it out to take home themselves.  The main character, who is pretty eccentric, is also quietly confident in himself in the face of doubt and mockery from his fellow townspeople as he concocts a plot to get rid of a rude and demanding giant who has taken up residence just outside the town.  This story is a refreshing example of perseverance and creativity with some good humor sprinkled in.  Another bonus is that the illustrations are by Steven Kellogg!

Waiting for Winter by Sebastian Meschenmoser
Why I love it: It makes the kids say passionately, "Hey, that's not what's going on!!" and laugh at the silly squirrel and his friends who keep thinking they have found winter - "cold, wet, and soft."  The illustrations are mostly pencil sketches with some accenting color here and there, but they are very lively and add much to the tale.  What impresses me most, is that the funny overtones of this story still allow plenty of room for the wonder and awe of experiencing snow for the first time.  I also quite enjoyed Meschenmoser's Mr. Squirrel and the Moon.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Trends in Young Adult Fiction: Plots

In January, I posted about this year's cover trends in YA fiction. Today, I want to talk about trends in plots of YA books.

Organ recipients

Last year, Jessi Kirby wrote Things We Know By Heart, a book about a girl who seeks out the recipients of her deceased boyfriend's organ donations. The trend of seeking out organ recipients after a loved one passes away is continuing this year, with Some of the Parts, by Hannah Barnaby, and The Way Back to You, by Michelle Andreani.


Retellings are always a trend, but this year, I've noticed a lot of Peter Pan retellings in particular.

Unhooked by Lisa Maxwell
Wendy Darling Volume 2: Seas by Colleen Oakes
Never Ever by Sara Saedi
Everland by Wendy Spinale

Books about sexual violence

I haven't figured out if this is trending again because of the Sexual Violence in YA Fiction series the Teen Librarian Toolbox did, or if it's trending for other reasons. Either way, books that are similar to Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak, both in style and subject matter, started trending again last year, and it has continued into this year.

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston
The Word for Yes by Claire Needell
Wrecked by Maria Padian
The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith

Also in this category, reminiscent of Jennifer Brown's Thousand Words is The Best Possible Answer, by E. Katherine Kottaras.


Jinn seems to be the new trend for paranormal fiction, as vampires seem to be trending out.

Circle of Jinn by Lori Goldstein
Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

Mental illness

This is a big one. Part of the diversity people want to see included in YA fiction is mental illness, plus, the Teen Librarian Toolbox has done a series of posts on Mental Health in YA Fiction. What started as a trend last year is continuing this year.

The Problem With Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout
The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter
When We Collided by Emery Lord
Underwater by Melissa Reichardt
A World Without You by Beth Revis
Jerkbait by Mia Siegert
Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley

Climate change/natural disasters

This is a slightly harder topic to pin down. There are some books coming out that are about actual natural disasters, such as hurricanes. There are also books coming out about water contamination, and I've noticed a few dystopian books coming out where society has changed as a result of climate change (e.g., in one of these books, the snow won't melt, so it's always winter).

Dig Too Deep by Amy Allgeyer
Even if the Sky Falls by Mia Garcia
Learning to Swear in America by Katie Kennedy
Up From the Sea by Leza Lowitz

Time travel

Time travel is one of those topics that sometimes is a trend and sometimes isn't. It's not new to YA, but I've noticed several time travel books coming out this year. I use the term "time travel" loosely--the books in this category can be about characters who constantly travel through time, or they can be about a character who wakes up in a different year than that character would normally live in.

The Love That Split the World by Emily Henry
Once Upon a Kiss by Robin Palmer
Into the Dim by Janet B. Taylor

What trends have you noticed in YA fiction this year? Let us know in the comments!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Japanese Literature

Japan. Photograph. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 5 Feb 2016.
Konbanwa! That's "Good evening" in Japanese. Our culture gets a lot of Japanese influences, don't you think? We're reading Haruki Murakami; we're tidying up using the KonMari method; we're watching films by Hayao Miyazaki; we're playing kawaii games like Neko Atsume on our phones; there are 14 restaurants listed in Albuquerque's "Best Ramen" list on Yelp; and, it looks like New Mexico will be getting our first "cat cafe" - a phenomenon already very popular in Japan - soon.

There have certain been several famous Japanophiles (the Japanese would call them "shinnichi") throughout history, from Lafcadio Hearn to Gwen Stefani.There's even a Japanophiles! Group on Goodreads and you can watch a series called Begin Japanology on YouTube - the first episode is about Bento.

But to truly immerse yourself in the culture of a country, we recommend reading some of its best known literature. Here are some recommended reads from Japanese literature, from the classics to more recent.

Kusamakura by Natsume Sōseki

Thousand Cranes by Yasunari Kawabata

Somersault by Kenzaburo Oe

The Sound of Waves by Yukio Mishima [eBook]

Out by Natsuo Kirino 

The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino 

Silence by Shūsaku Endō 

A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro [eBook]

Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu

The Tales of the Heike translated by Burton Watson [eBook]

If there are any other Japanese books you want to recommend, let us know in the comments! Shitsurei shimasu! [translation “I’m being rude by leaving your presence”]


5 Essential Japanese Writers [Book Riot] 

Julith Jedamus's top 10 Japanese novels [The Guardian]

Japan: The Official Guide [Japan National Tourism Organization] 

The Great Divide: How Sushi Culture Differs in America Versus Japan [First We Feast]

Japan's Ministry of Cool [The Atlantic]

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Picture Books are Not Just For Kids! Part 3

So many of my favorite books are based on lovably mischievous protagonists misbehaving or making trouble in some way, so that's what I'll share with you here in Part 3.  I enjoy reading these stories because they are funny to me and to the kids, but I've recently started feeling the need to explain morality to children to some degree: "Did you see that?  The raccoon is STEALING!!  We wouldn't steal, would we?  We'd pay for our pizza - that's the right thing to do!"  I don't want to take all the fun out of a silly story, but I do hear parents whispering suggestions to their children about what the naughty character could do instead.  It's a fine line, and I'm still learning.

On that note, here are some of my favorite stories of impish characters causing trouble.  Enjoy!

Secret Pizza Party by Adam Rubin
Why I love it: Probably because the main character is a raccoon who just can't help himself when it comes to the temptations of pizza - especially because the narrator (you) is egging him on.  I love that it almost feels as if it is written more for adults than for children.  It has no real lessons, although plenty of room to start conversations up about right behavior and such. It's funny in a grown-up-kid-humor, slap-stick sort of way.  You could analogize it to the picture book equivalent of super tasty, crave-able cheese puff snacks while books with upstanding characters, a good lesson, or a wider vocabulary would be a meatier, more nutritious dinner.  Another book I enjoy by the Rubin/Salmieri author/illustrator duo is Dragons Love Tacos.

Stuck by Oliver Jeffers
Why I love it: Every time I read this one, I think I know what will happen and then the absurd happens instead, and I laugh out loud.  The protagonist is, of course, another innocently mischievous kid just trying to get his kite out of a tree.  The changing color schemes and the comically expressive illustration style (including silly conversation bubbles that pop up here and there), are just bonuses. This is definitely my favorite book by Jeffers (link).

Here Comes the Tooth Fairy Cat
Here Comes the Easter Cat, &
Here Comes Santa Cat by Deborah Underwood
Why I love them: Underwood and her illustrator, Claudia Rueda, beautifully encapsulate the mischievous nature of cats in their main character named Cat.  Not all cats (or naughty protagonists) have a heart of gold under their troublemaker veneer, but it's clear that Cat does in these three books starring him.  With one simple illustration and one or two corresponding sentences occupying each spread, the stories are each a conversation between the narrator - who speaks in first person so that it sounds like the reader is narrating - and Cat.  The reader asks Cat questions and guesses the meaning of his expressions and the signage he uses to communicate (he draws pictures and holds them up because he can't talk).  Each of these books is laugh out loud funny, but my favorite is probably Here Comes Santa Cat, despite the fact that I'm not a huge fan of Christmas or Santa. 
Note: Here Comes Valentine Cat was published in December and has been recently added to the catalog.  I can't wait to read it!!

Any recommendations for books containing mischievous characters?