29 December 2009

Book Club - DEC - American Shaolin by Matthew Polly

The subtitle for American Shaolin reads "Flying Kicks, Buddhist Monks, and the Legend of Iron Crotch : An Odyssey in the New China." What could be cooler than all of that? This is a truly entertaining account of Matt Polly's fascinating journey to the Shaolin Temple.

Leave your comments on this post, and while you're at it view some video clips on his website: http://www.mattpolly.com/polly-resources.htm.

Recommended to all adult and teen readers!
Call number: YA 796.8155 POL (with Adult Nonfiction)

13 December 2009

Lips Touch : Three Times by Laini Taylor

Lips Touch is the compilation of three separate stories, all with a similar nature. Whether it's goblins, demons, humans, or spirits, love can lead to unexpected things. In “Goblin Fruit,” Kizzy's heart begs to be loved and for just one kiss she might be willing to risk her soul. “Spicy Little Curses (Such as These)” introduces the reader to the pain and the power of Hell, and to a woman named Estella who can journey back and forth to Hell to make deals and trades and bargains to save lives on Earth. One of those deals results in a curse that goes unchallenged for years until a young man challenges a beautiful woman to voice her love for him. And in “Hatchling,” three women all rely on safety from the same man, a man who is in love with the woman who is a danger to the other two. In a world of demons and unreliable memories, one wonders how much strength love provides. Laini Taylor is an elegant storyteller, and the illustrative talent of Jim DiBartolo enhances the inherent beauty of printed words.

Recommended to older readers, especially those with an appreciation for the short story. Due to the strong fantastical elements, underlying fairy-tale themes, and a focus on love and romantic destiny, these stories will likely appeal particularly to girls and those who love fairy-tale retellings.
Call number: YA TAYLOR (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian

11 November 2009

Break by Hannah Moskowtiz

Jonah would be an average teenager if his family wasn't so dysfunctional: his parents should be divorced, his brother Jesse is allergic to everything (no, really), and baby brother Will seriously won't stop crying. The only normalcy in his life is his beautifully calm girlfriend Charlotte and his best friend Naomi. He'd be just another average teenager, too, except for his obsession with breaking every bone in his body: 206 in total. He's gotten almost 20 already, and Naomi is documenting every bit of it on film. Only Naomi and Jesse know that Jonah is hurting himself on purpose, until Jonah finally admits it to Charlotte, who tells the principal and he gets sent to a temporary facility for teens with similar mental issues and self-destructive patterns.

Why does Jonah hurt himself? Well, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and Jonah's family needs all the strength they can get. Except, to what end?

The ending is a bit too neat for me, but the journey to get there is fascinating. Plus, Hannah Moskowitz is a teenage author and that's bound to appeal significantly to many readers. Recommended to high school readers.
Call number: YA MOSKOWITZ

Reviewed by kate the librarian

09 November 2009

In their own words...

I just finished reading two books that were very similar in style and managed to shed light on the world from almost every angle possible. Both books presented the daily lives of individuals through portraits and interviews. In both cases the pictures of the people represented all walks of life, in their own environments. The quotes spoke from the heart and minds of real people, struggling and enjoying and living out loud.

It's Complicated : The American Teenager by Robin Bowman (2007) depicts black-and-white images of teenagers, ages 13-19, from all geographical regions, socioeconomic backgrounds, races, religions, and lifestyles. They are photographed on their home turf, on their farms and in their city streets. These teens spoke of faith, God, shoot-outs, children (their own, their siblings, their nieces and nephews), sex, drugs, school, their parents, and the government with honesty and respect. The author's disclaimer states "This book contains statements made by these teenagers -- statements I have no verified. I am not making these statements, I am just reprinting them." The statements of these individuals speak volumes about stereotypes, insecurities, and hope for a positive future. For better or worse, one can't help but to see himself on these pages in one way or another.
Call number: YA 305.235 BOW (Nonfiction)

Faces of Sunset Boulevard: A Portrait of Los Angeles by Patrick Ecclesine (2008) gives a broad picture of Los Angeles, California using images of the people that live, work, and play there. In full-color, the reader meets Olympic soccer players, actors, models, unpublished writers, doctors, politicians, drug addicts, and the homeless. Each person has a story to tell about where they came from, how they got here, and where they are going. The fact that it all revolves around the City of Angels and that the majority of interviews are with adults (with a few teenagers and two kids thrown into the mix) limits the teen appeal of this collection.
Request this book through the BCCLS catalog or ask a librarian!
I love fun, real life tidbits of information. These books are easy to flip through, and the people are a blast to get to know.
Reviewed by kate the librarian.

07 November 2009

Solace of the Road by Siobhan Dowd

I have a soft spot for author Siobhan Dowd. First of all, she's Irish, and that right there is about the best thing you can be in my book. Reading books that are set in Ireland and revolve around Irish characters is awesome for me because I've been to many of the places to which they refer. I've been to Ireland three times, and spent 16 days driving around the country on my last visit. Some of my family is originally from Ireland, but I don't personally know anyone currently living in the country; it's just always been a special part of who I am. The other reason that I have a soft spot for Ms. Dowd is because I read about her death right as I was finishing reading her first teen novel. I can't say that her books are my favorite, but I can say that I would never tire of reading her words, and she's an author to respect and appreciate.

Holly Hogan hates being at Templeton House, a place for kids without families. But she soon discovers that she's not a fan of living in a "real home" with Ray and Fiona Aldridge in London either. The home she does like is the one with her Mam in Ireland, so she's on a mission to get back there, convinced she'll be able to find her mother and live happily ever after. Of course, no one can know that she's running away or she'll be put back in isolation at the Home. So, with a blonde wig she finds at Fiona's, she becomes Solace and she sets out on the road.

Nothing is quite as it seems in Holly's world, and being Solace makes her stronger and smarter and more confident, but never for long. Over the course of her travels, she meets a variety of strangers, and she discovers the truth about her Mam and herself. This is a true coming-of-age story, and while the ending is happy, it is also real in a way that allows readers to respect the struggles and pain that sometimes propels us to get to the end of the road.

Recommended to all readers, notably those who like adventure with a touch of melancholy.
Call number: YA DOWD

reviewed by kate the librarian

27 October 2009

Night Road by A. M. Jenkins

About this book, YA author Robert Lipsyte says, "Read this as a tense thriller about vampires on a road trip, or read it as a metaphorical tour de force about a boy becoming a man. But read it!"

Cole has been summoned back to Manhattan to the Building for a meeting with Johnny, where he is given the responsibility of caring for and teaching newbie Gordo how to survive as a hemovore. ("'Hemo, meaning blood. Vorare, meaning to devour.'" Never VAMPIRES.) Since becoming a heme, Gordo has been allowed to live within the safety of the Building, feeding whenever he wants, without the worry of taking too much blood and making a willing participant a victim instead. He doesn't understand self-control, self-sufficiency, or self-discipline. In order to teach Gordo the ways of the world, Cole and Sandor take him out on the road; no destination in mind because, really, it's the being out in the real world that's the thing. Of course, now that he's stripped of security, he's forced to fully grasp the facts of his new life and finds that he's lonely and homesick. His self-hatred and desperation drives him to make a decision: to fast . . . no feeding, at all, ever again. The problem is, hemes HAVE to feed. Eventually he will break and then self-control will be impossible.

The ending of Night Road is a bit rushed and too neatly concluded, some elements don't really add up to much of anything, and the suspense falls short of expectations, but the relationships among the characters are beautiful, and experiencing the lives of the hemes could make us think about our own. I'll admit, as a coming-of-age metaphorical tour de force, I am a big fan of this book. Where the suspense was lackluster, the writing was thrilling.

Recommended to high school readers, especially boys who either won't admit to liking the Twilight series, or those who really didn't like it because of all the romance and drama.
Call number: YA JENKINS (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian

25 October 2009

The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp

Sutter Keely lives in the moment. He spends most days of his senior year cutting class, drinking whiskey and smoking pot with his best friend Ricky, cruising around town, and enjoying the beauty that life has to offer. Most days are spectacular. When beautiful Cassidy dumps him because he can't even follow the simple request to try to think of her feelings before he does something, he's a little bit lost. On top of that, Ricky begins dating Bethany, who doesn't find a lot of humor in Sutter's drunken antics. Luckily for Sutter, there's Aimee, the girl who finds him sleeping on a neighbor's lawn early one morning and offers to help him find his car. As the two learn more and more about each other's lives, an emotional attachment forms; only Sutter knows it's not going to last.

This National Book Award finalist offers some truly spectacular writing. Sutter seems to have a way with words that is both charming and frustrating. :: For concerned adults, the alcohol abuse is part of Sutter's life, but it certainly isn't glorified or condoned by his friends or family. In many ways, Sutter knows that he is the one sabotaging his own future and his own happiness. ::

This book serves a dose of deep, with a light, accesssible presentation, and should be recommended to all high school readers.
Call number: YA THARP (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian

21 October 2009

Sweethearts by Sara Zarr

For a Teen Librarian, I am behind the times when it comes to reading. I know this, and for the most part I've accepted it. I'm grateful for when I can read what I want, and the "popular books" often don't make it to the top of my pile. And "popular books" isn't just the Twilight series (which I have read) or the Percy Jackson series (which I haven't); "popular books" is pretty much anything that gets a lot of favorable talk, and doesn't need much hand-selling to teens looking for something to read from the library. That's why I tend to be slow to read books like the Harry Potter series, Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian or, apparently, Sara Zarr's Sweethearts

Talk about a book you can read in a day! I knew that when I opened Sweethearts last night and read the first few pages that I should never have started what I couldn't finish. I had to sleep, so I only read about halfway through the book last night . . . and couldn't help but finish it this morning.

Cameron Quick was Jennifer Harris's only friend. They stood by each other when other kids called them weird (Cameron) or fat (Jennifer), and they really believed that they didn't need anyone else in order to be perfectly content. One day in third grade, Jennifer goes to Cameron's house after school, and what Cameron's dad makes them do changes both of their lives. And then Cameron and his dad disappear. The kids at school tell Jennifer that Cameron is dead, and Jennifer has no options left except to become Jenna and be a survivor. But what has really become of Cameron?

Sweethearts is, in many ways, a typical teen problem novel. But rather than being overly-dramatic or stuffed too chock-full of issues, there is nothing in this story that exists just to shock readers or pull at their heartstrings. Cameron and Jenna are real, three-dimensional characters who deal with their problems in the best ways they can, and they learn to live their lives with or without each other. The past is over, but the love never ends.

Recommended to high school readers, the insecure, the lonely, the loved, and the hopeful.
Call number: YA ZARR (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian

My Name is Jason. Mine too: Our Story. Our Way. by Jason Reynolds and Jason Griffin.

My Name is Jason. Mine Too. tells the genuine story of two men -- black/white, poet/artist -- struggling to get by and find some food and some happiness in a world of creativity. Drawings and words mingle together to lead the reader through a real life experience of what it's like to have a dream, but not necessarily a plan.

This is my favorite poem from the pages in this book; it reminds me of an artist friend of my own, and sometimes of myself, too:
It's so hard
To explain to people
The beauty in brokenness
The scarring in sweet salvation
The lovely lacerations
Of the unlimited
Who dare to do don'ts
Miss a few meals
But will to do won'ts
While well-to-dos
Whisper questions
Who I think I am
And who they think I should be
I laugh and hope
They leave
Me alone
Because it's just
So hard
To explain to people
That my life
Is not unhard
But not unhappy
--[from My Name is Jason. Mine Too: Our Story. Our Way.]
Visit the authors online, too.

13 October 2009

The Compound by S. A. Bodeen

Are you prepared in the case of a nuclear disaster? An escape route, food, shelter, and ensured safety for all of your loved ones? Billionaire Rex Yanakakis, head of “the biggest computer manufacturer and software developer in the world,” has thought of everything. The Compound is an underground shelter built specifically for the Yanakakis family, a pretty close replication of the mansion that existed in their lives before the nuclear attack. One thing that Rex didn’t count on, though, was leaving his son Eddy, Eli’s twin brother, behind.

At fifteen, Eli has survived six years in the Compound. He’s let his hair grow long so that it covers his face, he refuses to touch anyone or be touched by anyone in his family, and he barely talks to anyone if he can help it. He misses Eddy, is reproachful of his sisters, and seriously distrusts his father, who is withdrawn, erratic, and secretive. When Eli discovers a connection to the outside through wireless internet access, everything changes. What if there was no nuclear disaster? What if Eddy and Gram are still alive and well? What if this was all just a game?

This title will certainly appeal to fans of Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Life As We Knew It and the dead & the gone, Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games, and other apocalyptic fiction. There are plot twists that may be upsetting to some readers, but many will be enthralled by this action-packed survival adventure. The underlying reality of the whole scenario is disturbingly exciting.
Call number: YA BODEEN (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian

07 October 2009

Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson

Oh Suite Scarlett! Please, join us in taking a peek at the sweet life of Scarlett Martin and her brother Spencer who live in a NYC hotel with their parents and sisters. That's right, they live IN a hotel. In New York City!

Yeah, it's not that cool. Hopewell Hotel is pretty old and definitely falling apart, piece by intricate piece. Almost no one stays there anymore, and the Martins have been forced to let go of most of their staff. On the morning of her fifteenth birthday, Scarlett joins her family for a breakfast of undercooked waffles, charred waffles, and frozen whipped cream. Apparently, Belinda, the beloved (and awesome) cook and the last of the staff, had to be let go from the hotel. And now all of the kids are expected to pitch in and help with the building's upkeep, among other tasks. Scarlett is more than disappointed; with all of her friends being off someplace cool or exotic for the summer, she was planning on getting a job and gaining freedom and a cash flow. As it turns out, she gets everything she thought she wanted and then some . . . and learns the meaning of the phrase "Be careful what you wish for!"

Enter the newest hotel guest: Mrs. Amberson, the best (and possibly most interesting, and quite likely the most tragic) thing to happen to the Martin family in recent memory.

Some elements of the story don't quite work, but the storytelling itself more than makes up for anything lacking within the book. The author make sure that the reader knows what is important. The true-to-life relationships, laugh-out-loud dialogue, and real emotion are outstanding and make this story well-worth the read. Recommended to all readers, especially those with a flair for the dramatic!
Call number: YA JOHNSON (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian

01 October 2009

Super fun, interactive, new nonfiction...

There is a whole display in the library's Teen Room of the latest and greatest NEW nonfiction titles. You should check it out; these books are FUN.

Skulls by Noah Scalen is the winner of the 2008 "Webby People's Voice Award" in the Personal Website Category, and this book just a representation of what you can discover at http://www.SkullADay.com/. (Seriously, so cool.)
Call number: YA 745.59 SCA
Custom Kicks : Personalized Footwear by Maki, which is an innovative design and illustration studio based in the Netherlands. This book shows images of custom shoes from artists around the world, each with their own websites where you can find much, much more awesomeness. For examples, take a look at Metalwing and Zeptonn.
Call number: YA 391.413 MAK

The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

This novel is based on the true story of a Hitler Youth named Helmuth Hubener who was imprisoned and ultimately put to death at the hands of the Nazis. From his jail cell on death row in Berlin, Germany, Helmuth recounts the course of events leading up to his imprisonment. It is 1933 and Helmuth is in fifth grade when Adolf Hitler becomes the new chancellor of the Reich. Helmuth has anticipated this announcement, and is happy that Hitler promises to bring peace to Germany. He admires the Nazi soldiers in his community. But when the harassment of Jews begins and the violence of war and hatred hit closer to home, Helmuth begins to distrust the forces that he has been raised to respect. Helmuth is charged with distributing information about the war that questions Hitler, and it is all he can do to stand up for his beliefs and his loved ones, even at the risk of his life.

Recommended to young readers with an interest in history, World War II, and personal stories. Susan Campbell Bartoletti also wrote the nonfiction account Hitler Youth : Growing Up in Hitler's Shadow.
Call number: YA BARTOLETTI (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian

30 September 2009

Permanence : Tattoo Portraits by Kip Fulbeck

Permanence is a pictorial compilation of tattoos on real-life people paired with explanations, stories, and justifications written in the individual’s own words and handwriting. Some people get tattoos for a reason, others “just because”; some people have tattoos that mark a specific time, person, or circumstance, others are random. None are forgettable. Kip Fulbeck, an artist with a love for ink, has put together the images and stories of many people – from college student to celebrity – showing how tattoos represent our culture. Rather than giving the reader a full history of how and when people began putting and accepting ink into their bodies, or discussing how tattoos went from underground to mainstream, or questioning (or defending) tattooing as an art form, Fulbeck instead simply allows individuals to express what their tattoos mean – or don’t mean – to them, including interviews with individuals like tattoo artist Kat Von D. The purpose of this book is not to encourage or discourage tattooing, and the adults interviewed do not necessarily censor their words. Permanence is an open forum that allows readers – those with tattoos and without, those thinking about getting one, and those who never will – a glimpse into a cross-section of the tattoo culture.

Recommended to high school readers and adults with an interest in tattoos and art and the cultural relevance of both.
Call number: YA 391.65 FUL (with adult nonfiction)

Reviewed by kate the librarian

Eminem : The Way I Am by Eminem (AKA Marshall B. Mathers III)

Rap star and pop culture icon, Eminem, tells a candid tale of his life in the music industry in the 1990s and 2000s. Most readers can’t help but know some of the background of Eminem’s young life, or his infamous song lyrics, or his outspoken attitude toward other musicians and society in general. Marshall Mathers spent much of his early and teenage years in a trailer park in Detroit and entered into the rap scene in high school with the guidance of good friend and mentor Proof. As a poor white guy, Eminem had to fight for his rightful place in the spotlight, and Proof – the black guy that knew everyone – helped him claim just that. Eminem talks about it all, including the times in his life when the fame, the money, and the rap scene became overwhelming. He talks about his daughters, his relationship with Kim, and his passion for his music. As is typical of the rap artist, Eminem doesn’t hold back, but neither is he blatantly crass, gratuitous, or obnoxious. In fact, he comes across as funny, passionate, and sincere in this authentic autobiography of an intriguing life.

Recommended to high school readers and adults interested in the life and music career of this infamous artist.
Call number: BIOG EMINEM

Reviewed by kate the librarian

Antsy Does Time by Neal Shusterman

Returning from The Schwa Was Here, this is another account of the hilarious adventures of Anthony “Antsy” Bonano. Antsy has yet another grand idea to occupy his time, but this time it’s for a really good cause. He discovers that Gunnar Umlaut only has six months to live because of some rare illness, so Antsy decides to give his classmate one month of his life. As a result, many other students are inspired to do the same, and soon many in the community are on board! Antsy is thrilled that so many are willing to give up a month of their life to extend Gunnar’s, and it’s a pretty decent bonus that Gunnar’s gorgeous older sister seems to have taken a special interest in Antsy, too.

Of course, no good deed goes unpunished, but in Antsy’s case every twist and turn is thrilling for the reader. The humor is over-the-top, and the characters are fascinating. This book is recommended to all readers, especially those who enjoyed the companion The Schwa Was Here.
Call number: YA SHUSTERMAN (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian

Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles

Ellie thought that Josh would be different. She thought that Josh really liked her. Josh just wanted to get the guys off his back about being a virgin. Caleb, who has been in love with Ellie for, well, forever, can’t believe that Josh would ever be “one of those guys.” And Corinne is disgusted by all of them and doesn’t understand why Ellie keeps putting herself in situations where she knows she’s going to get hurt. But this time IS different; this time Ellie got pregnant.

Told in alternate viewpoints, the perspectives of Ellie, Corinne, Josh, and Caleb intertwine to tell all sides of the story. Caleb’s mother is an especially strong and welcoming character and is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to protecting those important to her, as well as providing comfort and humor at the right moments. The romance that blossoms between Corrine and Caleb will be unsurprising, but welcomed by most readers. Ellie’s story will appeal to readers with an interest in novels about teen pregnancy and other teen issues. Rather than being a depressing story, this novel tries simply to be honest.

Because of the nature of the content, this title is recommended to older teen readers.
Call number: YA KNOWLES (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian

15 September 2009

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

Mary has always and forever wondered what is past the fence, beyond the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Does the ocean exist, like in her mother's stories from before the Return? Are there really buildings that touch the sky? Or has everything been destroyed in the wake of the Return?

The fence protects the village by holding the Unconsecrated at bay, confining them to the Forest of Hands and Teeth. The Guardians and the Sisters protect the village by maintaining the fence, keeping watch over the Unconsecrated, and ensuring that families survive and new generations are created. Mary feels responsible for protecting her mother, who has not been the same since Mary's father fell to the Unconsecrated. When it comes time for Mary to decide whether to kill her mother or allow her to Return, she gives her the freedom to return to her love and live in the Forest. When the fence is breached and the Unconsecrated are uncontrollable, who will protect Mary?

This is more than a story about zombies; this is a story of the unbelievable strength of one teenage girl's dreams -- her dream of the ocean, of love, and of the future. She grows emotionally and spiritually in the time it takes her to journey from the village to the end of the Forest, and she gains a great love, and suffers more loss than she could have ever imagined. Recommended for readers who like traveling adventures, love stories, or rampant zombies murder scenes. There's nothing too graphic here, but pretty horrific all the same. This is an emotionally powerful story that creeps up on the reader without notice.
Call number: YA RYAN (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian

North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley

North of Beautiful is a book about love, adventure, family, pain, and strength. There is so much packed into one whole story that it's difficult to write a synopsis that does it justice.

Terra Cooper has long blond hair and a killer body, but all too often people can't see beyond the port-wine stain covering her left cheek. No matter what she and her mother have tried in order to cover, lighten, or get rid of the birthmark, it looks like it's there to stay. Her dad is adamant that the family is no longer allowed to waste any more money on Terra's face; her mom, always well-meaning, thinks Terra "will be so beautiful" if only one of the treatments will work; her boyfriend Erik just wonders "why not fix your face?"; and her best friend Karin seems to be secure in the fact that she's the prettier one. It is only when Terra meets Jacob, with the cleft lip and the complicated childhood, that she begins to learn to feel comfortable in her own skin.

This is a beautiful story that follows not only Terra and Jacob as they persevere to find where their paths in the world are, but also their families, as they all struggle to recognize the relationships that matter the most and the things that are truly important in life. With interesting conversations about maps, travel, and history, this story has broad appeal, especially those who loved John Green's Paper Towns.

Recommended to all readers.
Call number: YA HEADLEY (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian

All the Wrong People Have Self-Esteem by Laurie Rosenwald

Have you ever noticed that there are a lot of books (movies, music, people) that try to tell you "You're not alone!" and "Be yourself! You're wonderful!"? Well, this book truly shows you that if you feel alone in your thoughts, appearance, or emotions, you really aren't alone. How could you be alone if the person that wrote this book also exists?!

The tongue-in-cheek, sarcastic, over-the-top humor won't be lost on most teens who are looking for a quick escapist-type read. And the truths attached to the emotion beneath the words will resonate with and empower most teens who (1) feel like they're not good enough, (2) wonder if they're the only ones who think most of what other people think is dumb, or (3) think that they're really that much better than everyone else. This book is a cut-and-paste collage of images, colors, and words. It is eye-catching and exciting. But best of all, it speaks to the heart of the teenage mind, and doesn't apologize for being seen or heard.

Don't ignore a book with this title: All the Wrong People Halve Self-Esteem : An Inappropriate Book for Young Ladies* (*Or, Frankly, Anybody Else). Recommended to everyone (although older adult readers might just not get it).
For more about the author and her art, visit www.rosenworld.com.
Call number: YA 305.235 ROS (Nonfiction)

Reviewed by kate the librarian

03 September 2009

Celebrate Banned Books Week!

As we in the library world gear up for Banned Books Week (September 27 - October 3, 2009), take a look at why some of your favorite titles have been banned across the states. Leave a comment to everyone what you think about it!

Most Challenged Books of 2008 (from VOYA 08/09)

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
*Anti-ethnic, anti-family, homosexuality, religious viewpoint, and unsuited to age group

His Dark Materials Trilogy by Phillip Pullman
*Political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, violence

Internet Girls (ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r) by Lauren Myracle
*Offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group

Scary Stories by Alvin Schwartz
*Occult/Satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, violence

Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
*Occult/Satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, violence

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
*Drugs, homosexuality, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited to age group

Gossip Girl by Cecily Von Ziegesar
*Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

Uncle Bobby’s Wedding by Sarah S. Bannen
*Homosexuality, unsuited to age group

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
*Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

Flashcards of My Life by Charise Mericle Harper
*Sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

For lots more information, check out the
American Library Association and this list of classics!

01 September 2009

BOOK CLUB - OCT - Sold by Patricia McCormick

Thirteen-year-old Lakshmi lives in a small mountain village in Nepal with her mother and stepfather, struggling daily with a small farm just to feed their family. When the opportunity comes along for Lakshmi's family to sell her as a servant to a wealthy family, they feel they have no other choice. Lakshmi is scared to go into the city, but is proud to do what she has to do to support her family and provide for her baby brother. After much travel and being handed over to different "aunts" and "uncles," Lakshmi ends up at "Happiness House" with Auntie Mumtaz. It is here that she eventually learns that she has been sold into the sex trade industry and is forced to grow up long before she is ready. Based on truth, the author traveled from Nepal to Calcutta and saw firsthand the impact of sexual slavery on young girls and their families. Lakshmi's story is sad, but powerful and inspirational.

Recommended for high school readers and mature younger readers, especially those interested in humanitarian and cultural issues.
Call number: YA MCCORMICK (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian

Color of Earth by Kim Dong Hwa

The first in a trilogy, this Korean manga begins to tell the story of Ehwa, a beautiful young girl becoming a woman. The story begins when Ehwa is only a child, after her father's death. The story revolves around the mother-daughter relationship, and through the delicate illustrations and the interaction between Ehwa and her mother, readers can clearly see the intimacy that exists between the two women as they establish themselves as friends and confidants. Readers also experience the ecstasy and pain of the women through their separate romantic interests and experiences. Ehwa's mother falls in love with a traveling salesman who often comes by unexpectedly, with long bouts of absence in between visits. Ehwa develops crushes on two young men, both of which are doomed to fail. It is the strength and vulnerability of the two women that makes them such believable and wonderful characters, and which makes readers crave the full story of their lives.

Recommended to high school and adult readers. Some mature content is depicted graphically.
Call number: YA MANGA HWA (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian

BOOK CLUB - SEPT - Oldies, but Goodies by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Susan Beth Pfeffer has written lots and lots of books, including Life as We Knew It (the 2009 One Book NJ selection) and companion the dead & the gone. As a teen, I grew up reading Susan Beth Pfeffer too, but instead of meteors and shopping center scenes, I just remember crying a lot. Recently I reread two of Pfeffer's acclaimed novels, hoping to use one for our Book Club discussion meeting during Banned Books Week. There may have been less tears this time around, but my heart and my head both struggled to find a place of comfort long after the stories' conclusions. There is little comfort to be found in those pages.

If there is one theme throughout most of Susan Beth Pfeffer's writing, it is about perspective. These are books that make you think, even if you don't want to.

The Year Without Michael tells of everyone's story but Michael's. When Michael disappears shortly before he begins his first year of high school, his family doesn't know how to cope. Sixteen-year-old Jody was the last to see him -- he was leaving the house to play with a friend, promising to be home by dinnertime -- and he seemed just fine, normal. With little to go on, the police don't know if Michael ran away or was kidnapped, if he's still out there somewhere or dead. Now Jody needs to comfort and support her little sister, Kay, try to be the backbone of the family while her parents fight, and listen to her grandparents blaming her parents and her parents blaming the police. Jody just blames Michael.

About David is the heart-wrenching story of David as seen through the eyes of his best friend Lynn. When evidence is clear that the seventeen-year-old was responsible for the shooting of both his parents before turning the gun on himself, Lynn is shocked. But she isn't surprised. David is Lynn's oldest friend, and she knows him pretty well, but she also knows that he had secrets and that he was severely unhappy. He never came to terms with the fact that he was adopted, and he struggled with his adoptive parents' extremely high expectations of him. But what could possibly lead him to believing that this was his only way out, his only way of relieving his own pain?

Request these books through the BCCLS catalog or ask a librarian!

Reviewed by kate the librarian

17 August 2009

BOOK CLUB - AUG - A Swift Pure Cry by Siobhan Dowd

From Random House publishers:

Setting: Ireland,1984. After Shell’s mother dies, her father gives up on work and his children and escapes reality by drinking. The unexpected challenge of caring for a home and her two siblings leaves Shell little opportunity to enjoy her youth. She frequently skips school just to spend time with her only friends, Birdie and Declan. But when Birdie leaves town to live with her aunt, Declan and Shell’s friendship evolves into intimacy until he flees to America, leaving Shell pregnant. Months later, scandal erupts in the community; a baby boy is found dead in a cave, and Shell admits to giving birth to a stillborn daughter. Two babies dead, and no one knows the father of both is Declan, and no one knows the baby boy’s mother is Birdie—no one, that is, except Shell.
  • When Birdie sees Shell and Declan kissing, why does she only blame Shell? What role does Shell play in Declan’s betrayal of Birdie? Why does Birdie refuse to speak to Shell? How does Birdie’s betrayal of Shell affect each of them?
  • As Shell’s father grows more distant and turns increasingly to alcohol, Shell begins to assume more responsibility for Trix and Jimmy. From what is her father trying to escape?
  • Young Shell must cope with a secret pregnancy, the care of her two siblings, her father’s neglect, and her mother’s death. What character traits does Shell possess that enable her to handle all that life has thrown at her?
  • Shell does not think she has anyone to support her when she discovers she is pregnant. Why is she so fearful of asking anyone for help? Who could have helped her?
  • When Rose is born, Shell either does not realize or is unwilling to accept the fact that Rose is dead. How does Jimmy help Shell understand that Rose is dead? Why does Shell assume the responsibility for Rose’s death? Could Rose have been saved?
  • Why does Shell’s father confess to a crime he did not commit? Why does he think he is guilty? How does his admission of a crime he didn’t commit help Shell communicate with him? How does it alter their relationship?
  • What impact does Father Rose have on Shell? How does he help her through a difficult time? How does he fail her? What factors influence Father Rose to leave the priesthood?
  • The people in the community are devastated to learn that two babies in their community have been found dead. How could the police have better handled the cases? What role do the gossips play in Shell’s arrest? Besides Shell, who knew the identity of the parents of the baby boy? Was his death intentional?
  • Shell receives a letter from Declan telling of his adventures and life in America, but Shell burns the letter and does not respond to it. Why?
  • Do you think this is an apt title for the story told? Why or why not?

10 August 2009

Beach Reads

As I was on the beach this weekend (my one beach weekend of the year!), I realized that I am obsessed with seeing what everyone else is reading as they lounge in their beach chairs. Jodi Picoult (My Sister's Keeper) definitely won out, and I didn't see a single Harry Potter this year. There have been reports for years that people are reading less and less (unless maybe you factor in newspaper and Internet reading, which you certainly could), so it intrigues me to find so many people reading on the beach year-in and year-out. The same people who say that they "don't read" are very often the ones saving that perfect book for when they are on the beach. When they finally have some extended time to relax and do anything they want . . . they choose to read. I guess reading can't be that boring. ;)

I brought three books (Seventeenth Summer, The Au Pairs : Skinny-Dipping, and Uncle Tom's Cabin) to Sea Isle City this year (to read in less than 48 hours), but I only finished two (Seventeenth Summer and Skinny-Dipping). The Au Pairs series, about three girls who all score a high-paying job as an au pair for a high-class family for a summer in the Hamptons, is definitely one of my favorite beach reads of all time. The adventures of Jacqui, Mara, and Eliza -- and their many boyfriends, or boys who are friends -- are at times thrilling, at times embarrassing, and always hilarious. There's four in the series and I'm halfway through; can't wait to read Sun-Kissed next summer! Anyway, here's a list of some more great beach reads for the summer . . . or any time!

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen & Seth Grahame-Smith.
Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway.
Forever by Judy Blume.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (series) by Ann Brashares.
How to Deal (this is a paperback publication of two books: Someone Like You and That Summer) by Sarah Dessen. I love anything by Sarah Dessen for a lazy day.
Stormbreaker (series) by Anthony Horowitz.
Guyaholic by Carolyn Mackler.
Maximum Ride (series) by James Patterson.
How to Build a House by Dana Reinhardt.
The Uglies (series) by Scott Westerfeld.

Maybe I'll get around to my old stand-bys, Uncle Tom's Cabin and Gone with the Wind, next year, too!

04 August 2009

CD Clocks

We wrapped up Crafternoons by making clocks using CDs as part of the "decoration." We ordered the pieces from Oriental Trading, but I think I could have figured out a way to make it even cooler by just buying the clock hardware (the hour/minutes/seconds hands and the workings to make them keep time!) and allowing the kids to be creative with a clean slate. Still, all-in-all, what matters is that I think we had a pretty wonderful summer of creative expression! Looking forward to tonight's End of the Summer Celebration with Didgerdoo Down Under!

30 July 2009

Scrapbooking & Collage

...And the revealing of what we've been working on for the past few weeks at one of our Express Yourself! Summer Reading Program programs. Basically, for an hour a week, we offered a complete artistic free-for-all. Seriously good times.
(Mine isn't complete. It will eventually be a photo album of sorts for the 3 newest girls in my life and their parents.)

28 July 2009


Anyone in grades 4-12 is invited to play Nintendo Wii at the library the second Friday afternoon of each month, 3:30-5:30 p.m. Check the library's calendar for a schedule of dates/times, or stop into the library to pick up a flyer.

Marble Magnets

Despite Taylor's confusion/suspicion/hesitation, our marble magnets came out pretty cool. And they were super easy to make (just the way I like it). The inspiration and instructions came from the blog, Not Martha.



In an ideal world, I would have had more magnets (especially because we had lots of marbles and a few minutes leftover)... hmm, and a better camera.

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork

While not for every reader, Marcelo's story is one that transcends boundaries: geography, race, mental and physical ability, gender, and age all become meaningless as his character relates to each and every individual.

Marcelo is a high-functioning seventeen-year-old on the autistic spectrum. When asked, he tells people, "From a medical perspective, the closest description of my condition is Asperger's syndrome." But he doesn't have all of the characteristics usually associated with Asperger's syndrome and autism; he functions very well in most situations, but he lacks the ability to interpret many of the social cues that the rest of the world absorbs mindlessly. In an effort to help Marcelo become more self-sufficient and capable, his father, Arturo, insists that he take a job in the mail room of the offices where he works as a lawyer. It is in this very "real world" situation that Marcelo begins to learn more about others, himself, and the way the world around him truly functions. Not all choices are black and white, not all decisions are right or wrong, but Marcelo must figure out how to live life the best way he can, which sometimes means working hard, making mistakes, and learning to trust.

Recommended to all readers!
Call number: YA STORK (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian

25 July 2009

Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen

I don't know what it is about Sarah Dessen that makes me love chick lit, but I just can't get enough of her stories. (And there are enough to choose from... Just Listen is another one of my favorites.)

When Auden receives a picture from in the mail from her brother (who is spending some international time away from home... for the past two years) that says "Time of your life," she decides to take a chance and head down to the beach to stay with her father and stepmother for the summer months. Heidi just gave birth to Auden's sister, Thisbe, and they've been inviting Auden to their home for months. She decides that it will allow her some time to bond with Dad, get an advance on some of her school reading in preparation for her freshman year of college, and maybe relax a little bit. What she ends up with is the realization that her father isn't the greatest dad, school maybe isn't everything, and she still can't sleep at night. But what she also finds is that through Eli, she's been given a chance to reclaim her childhood, take some chances, and experience new things -- like riding a bike, taking care of a baby, and PROM! Life isn't always as it seems at first glance, and sometimes all you need is a second chance, or a third, or as many as it takes to get it right.

Recommended to girls of all ages, especially those with a (hidden) romantic side.
Call number: YA DESSEN (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian

Honor Society

I recently went to a Jonas Brothers concert for their 2009 World Tour. There was a band touring with them called Honor Society. I've never heard of them (until now) and I think their music is fantastic! I recommend for teens to check their music on iTunes or buy their album in stores today!

Reviewed by Caroline, age 12

There is currently nothing available in our libraries by Honor Society, but you can check out a variety of music by the Jonas Brothers through the Franklin Lakes Library collection.

Lines, Vines and Trying Times: ROCK CD 4108
Jonas Brothers: Music from the 3D Concert Experience: J CD 3117
2009 Grammy Nominees: ROCK CD 3892
Radio Disney Jams 10: J CD 3088
A Little Bit Longer: ROCK CD 3633
Disney Channel Holiday: J CD 3027

Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey

Jessica Packwood is a completely normal teenager about to start her senior year of high school, and is very excited about turning 18, her developing crush on Jake, and Math League. The one thing freaking her out is the new foreign guy who she swears called her "Antanasia." Jessica knows that she was adopted and that her birth name is Antanasia, but NO ONE else (besides her adoptive parents) knows that, not even her best friend Melinda. What freaks her out even more is when Lucius Vladescu moves onto her parents' property as a foreign exchange student. He tells Jessica that he is a vampire . . . and so is she! She is descended from Romanian vampire royalty and they are destined to be married because of some pact that was signed when they were infants, before their parents were killed, to ensure peace between their families! What?! He's crazy, right?

This book is yet another title on the growing list of books highlighting the current popularity of vampires. If you can keep in mind that Jessica is NOT Bella, and Lucius is NOT Edward (althoug he's certainly strong and handsome and sensual), and that the setting is rural Pennsylvania, and not Forks, Washington . . . well, if you can do that, then you will be able to appreciate this story's sense of humor and interesting cast of characters, even if it isn't originial or particulary well flushed-out. There's just something about a vampire love story that's hard not to get sucked into (no pun intended)!

Recommended to teen girls.
Call number: YA FANTASKEY (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian

The Schwa Was Here by Neal Shusterman

Have you ever wondered what it might be like to be invisible? The Schwa doesn't need to wonder, because he just is, almost all the time, until he finds his way into Antsy's life. Antsy and his friends are intrigued by the Schwa (real name: Calvin Schwa) because he can seemingly pop up out of "nowhere," and almost everyone he comes into contact with ignores him completely or forgets about him immediately. For fun, they decide to test out "the Schwa Effect," and amazingly it appears that Calvin Schwa really is invisible -- at least to teachers and classmates. Could it be possible that money can be made off of the Schwa's ability to disappear and reappear virtually unnoticed? The course of events that take places are hilarious, but along the way the Schwa and Antsy develop a very serious friendship with each other and with Old Man Crawley and his blind granddaughter, Lexie, all of whom must try to help keep the Schwa from disappearing forever.

This book is recommended to all readers, middle school age and older, especially those with an interest in first kisses and ultimate adventures. The prolific Neal Shusterman offers titles that cover a wide range of interests for all ages; for more, try Unwind, Everlost, and The Schwa's sequel Antsy Does Time.
Call number: YA SHUSTERMAN (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian

21 July 2009

Summer Reading Program SCHEDULE CHANGE: Creative Writing

FYI for all those interested: due to a lack of sign-up, Creative Writing sessions will not take place on Tuesday Eveninings; instead, please join us in the Local History Room on Thursdays for Scrapbooking & Collage Making from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and Creative Writing from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Questions? Email me at kate_thelibrarian@yahoo.com, call the library at 201.891.2224, or check the library website.

20 July 2009

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer

This book states many repetitive themes in the last three books of the Twilight series. Unlike J. K. Rowling and Stephen King, Stephenie Meyer's unoriginality destroys her cycle and therefor diminishes the reputation of her book, Breaking Dawn.

Reviewed by Edward, age 16

16 July 2009

Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks

Cadel Piggott is a genius. Really. At age seven he was brought to see a psychologist because he kept getting in trouble as a result of his manipulation of computer and security equipment. By his thirteenth birthday, he was in his 11th year of school and was causing traffic jams, demolishing building construction, and had the capability to wreak general havoc on his classmates and the surrounding community. After high school graduation, his adoptive parents agreed to enroll him at the Axis Institute, an institute of higher learning that was founded by his long-time psychologist, Thaddeus Roth. The institute was designed to "tap into the unrealized skills of those who have lost their way in a community of fosilized values and blunted minds."

Once at the Institute, Cadel becomes more and more aware of the differences between himself and the other students and teachers. He begins to recognize a pattern of evil, blatantly obvious from some of the course titles: "Computer Science" was Infiltration; "Accounting" was Embezzlement; "Law" was Loopholes. What Cadel does not yet realize is that he could be responsible for complete destruction, without even trying.

For more, check out Genius Squad, the sequel to Evil Genius.

Recommended to middle school readers interested in action, adventure, mystery, and odd suspense!

Call number: YA JINKS (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian

14 July 2009

Beads by Bethany

Next week the library welcomes Beads by Bethany, a jewelry designer, Science teacher at West Essex Junior High School, and advisor to the Junior High Jewelry Making Club. On Monday at 4:30 p.m., we'll be making necklaces with glass and pearl beads. You can register for this program by calling the library or online.

Book Boxes

...made from discarded library books! I think that our favorite part was ripping the pages from the attached covers -- gasp! There's just something about destroying something sacred that feels so gratifying. :) This is what we started with:

And this was the result... Fun times!

08 July 2009

Duct Tape

We had an awesome time with Duct tape at one of the Crafternoon programs as part of the Express Yourself! Teen Summer Reading Program at the library. There is so, so much you can do with Duct tape (pretty much anything, really!). Here are some pictures of Taylor making this totally functional, practical bag:

For some great ideas for Duct tape projects, try some of these links:
www.ducktapeclub.com (check out their Ductivities; also, you can purchase some great colors of tape from this site)
http://thecraftychica.blogspot.com (this is where we found directions for the bag that Taylor's putting together)
Also, I can't get enough of Hardwear Jewlery where they also have directions from some jewelry you can create using Duct or electrical tape.

BOOK CLUB - NOV - The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Very often, I avoid books that get a lot of press. Very often when I do that, I'm missing out on some awesome books. (I found this out with Hunger Games and Harry Potter. It's a good thing I got into Twilight before anyone knew about it.) Sherman Alexie's YA title has gotten some rave reviews from day one, and it's a National Book Award winner, so naturally I just got around to reading it this week (because I had to). And I have to say, for a story that took me about an hour to read all the way through (maybe I'm exaggerating), I don't know what took me so long!

Fourteen-year-old Junior wants more from life than to epitomize the stereotypical life of a Native American on the Spokane Indian Reservation. He doesn't want to grow up to be a drunk like his dad or an ex-drunk like his mom. He's one of the smartest kids in his class, and with a little encouragement, he wants to believe that he can contribute to making the world a better place... so he tells his family that he wants to enroll at a (mostly white, middle- to upper-class suburban, prejudiced) school off the rez. The story follows Junior as he attempts to make his way through daily life as an outsider at his new school, and his struggles to play his role as a member of the rez. With touching authenticity, Junior finds hope in his dreams.

Recommended for all teen and adult readers. The illustrations add the best touches of humor to a story that absolutely, truly relates to those from all walks of life.
Call number: YA ALEXIE (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian