Category Archives: Let’s Talk

Everything I Learned From Reading YA Fantasy for One Month

Everything I learned from Reading YA Fantasy for One Month with a stack of booksHere, in no particular order, is everything I learned from reading YA fantasy novels for the better part of one month:

  1. Ten years ago something big happened. A life-changing event or a war. Ten years later after stewing on this and nothing else for a decade, it’s time to act.
  2. If a character is an orphan they are probably also a monarch in hiding/disguise or a lesser god. Possibly both.
  3. Do not get distracted by the luxuries found in the castle or manor house. Don’t do it.
  4. The heroine will probably be involved with brothers who are the love interest and the villain.
  5. The love interest and the villain might be the same person.
  6. Magic is never free.
  7. Favors are never free.
  8. In fact, nothing is ever free. Everything is really expensive in fantasy worlds and debts are dangerous. You have been warned.
  9. There may be dancing or at least a party where someone gets to wear a fancy gown.
  10. The main character will inherit something. It will not be what they expect.
  11. There will be a quirky animal sidekick or a plucky best friend. Not both.
  12. There will be pining.
  13. If anyone loses something of great sentimental value they are not getting it back. Unless it’s the key to unlocking their powers and/or their mysterious origins. Then they’re definitely getting it back.
  14. Two characters will kiss. That may or may not be a good thing.
  15. Even if it feels like the absolute worst thing has happened, at least 80% of the cast will be back for book two.
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Let’s Talk About the 2018 Printz Award

So how about those Youth Media Awards? (I previously talked about my library’s mock printz for this year and shared some predictions in this older post.)

Every year the American Library Association’s (ALA) division called YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) (among others) has committees of dedicated librarians choosing the best of the best books in various categories for things called the Youth Media Awards. In YA literature, the biggest award is the Printz for outstanding overall books. Other awards include the Morris which is for best debut.

Speculation on what will and will not make the Printz cut is a hot topic in library circles and heavily debated since the official criteria leaves a lot up to interpretation. I spend a lot of time trying to guess contenders both for myself and for my job where I chair a committee that chooses shortlist titles for a systemwide Mock Printz.

This year I came up with this short list. The first six titles were on my library’s Mock Printz shortlist and the final four were ones that I hoped would win something.

  1. Landscape With Invisible Hand by M. T. Anderson
  2. The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed
  3. Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
  4. The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater
  5. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  6. Spinning by Tillie Walden
  7. Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore
  8. I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo
  9. Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman
  10. American Street by Ibi Zoboi

So how did my predictions stack up? Pretty well. While I still with I Believe in a Thing Called Love, Jane Unlimited, and American Street had gotten more attention I’m happy to say my committee’s shortlist was pretty on point. I’m not going to detail all of the awards here (you can find the full roster of winners and honors in ALA’s press release) I will say my committee covered about 80% of the winning titles between booktalks and our Mock Printz program.

Here are the wins for the books I mentioned here:

  1. Landscape With Invisible Hand by M. T. Anderson
  2. The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed
  3. Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (Printz honor, Newbery honor, Coretta Scott King honor)
  4. The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater (Stonewall winner, Nonfiction award finalist)
  5. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (Printz honor, Coretta Scott King honor, Morris Award winner)
  6. Spinning by Tillie Walden
  7. Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore (Best Fiction for Young Adults booklist selection)
  8. I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo
  9. Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman (Printz honor, nonfiction award winner)
  10. American Street by Ibi Zoboi (Best Fiction for Young Adults booklist selection)

Have you read any of these or are they on your radar? Do you follow the youth media awards every year?

 

Let’s Talk About the Printz Award, my library’s Mock Printz, and how you can join in

Every year the American Library Association’s (ALA) division called YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) has committees of dedicated librarians choosing the best of the best books in various categories for things called the Youth Media Awards. In YA literature, the biggest award is the Printz for outstanding overall books. Other awards include the Morris which is for best debut.

Speculation on what will and will not make the Printz cut is a hot topic in library circles and heavily debated since the official criteria leaves a lot up to interpretation. I spend a lot of time trying to guess contenders both for myself and for my job where I chair a committee that chooses shortlist titles for a systemwide Mock Printz.

This year, I thought it would be fun to get blog readers involved and try to do a Miss Print Mock Printz.

As a starting point here is the shortlist my committee came up with:

  • Landscape With Invisible Hand by M. T. Anderson
  • The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed
  • Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
  • The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  • Spinning by Tillie Walden

Because of time constraints (we do the Mock Printz as a live two hour discussion) we only cover five or six books at most. This list is determined based on titles the committee enjoyed, books getting buzz and critical acclaim (starred reviews from publishers and the like), and general appeal. We also try to cover a variety of genres which is something the real Printz doesn’t have to do. Now, a few of my favorites of the year did not make the cut with our shortlist so to the above contenders I would add:

  • Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore
  • I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo
  • Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman
  • American Street by Ibi Zoboi

There could be other books I’ve read that are just as likely as contenders which I’m forgetting. There could be titles I’ve never read or even heard of that will get attention from the committee. It’s hard to say and they read much more widely than I would.

That said, I feel good about this list and comfortable predicting that at least some of them will be Printz contenders.

This year I’m feeling pretty on point with my pre-awards reading. I have read 4 of the 5 Morris finalists (still need to get to Devils Within from the titles there) and 2 of the 5 nonfiction award finalists (The 57 Bus and Vincent and Theo). These are the only two awards that give a shortlist before the award announcements at ALA’s midwinter conference. Knowing and having read so many of the titles in play this year I’m very excited to see how the awards shake out this year.

I’m going to post an update for this post after my library system has their Mock Printz with our winners and then I’ll do another follow up after the actual awards are announced.

Until then:

Have you read of the Youth Media Awards? Do you follow them? What books would you predict for the Printz award?

If you want to try to read some of the shortlist (including my four extra picks) you still have plenty of time to track them down at your library and I’d love to hear thoughts as you read them!

  1. Landscape With Invisible Hand by M. T. Anderson
  2. The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed
  3. Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
  4. The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater
  5. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  6. Spinning by Tillie Walden
  7. Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore
  8. I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo
  9. Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman
  10. American Street by Ibi Zoboi

I Read YA Week Kickoff

Today Scholastic’s teen community I Read YA is starting their annual I Read YA week. This year the theme is “YA stands for . . .” To celebrate Scholastic will be sharing some videos from their authors about YA along with some giveaways and other cool things.

I have talked about this a bit already but this blog is turning ten in a couple of months and as part of that I’ve been thinking about the things that have changed in those ten years and the things that have stayed the same and I as soon as I heard about this years theme, I knew I wanted to take part.

For me YA started as a way to find my people when I first discovered the YA section as a teen in my local library. Now, years later, it’s a way to continue finding and sharing books I love with people but also a way to hopefully help make the teens and YA readers I meet through this blog or in my library to find books that they’ll love and hopefully to learn more about themselves and how to be comfortable in their own skin and how to make their own small part of the world just a little better.

But that’s me. What do YOU think YA stands for? Let’s talk in the comments!

There are 3 easy ways to help celebrate I Read YA week between today and July 17:

  1. Share the “What Does YA Stand For?” Social Graphic (above): During I read YA week, post the celebratory graphic to Twitter. Tag @IreadYA and use the hashtag #YAStandsFor.
  2. Post Your Own #YAStandsFor Video: Film a short video stating what you believe YA stands for! Post to Twitter and/or Instagram using the hashtag #YAStandsFor and tag @IreadYA.
  3. RT or Quote RT #YAStandsFor Video on Twitter: Share and re-promote #YAStandsFor videos from any of our Scholastic authors once they are live on I read YA’s Twitter.

If you want to do even more, there are also some fun daily challenges:

  • Monday, July 10: Tell @IReadYA what you believe #YAStandsFor
  • Tuesday, July 11: Tell @IReadYA about the YA book that helped you find your voice
  • Wednesday, July 12: Give a shout-out to your favorite fictional literary hero (tag @IReadYA and #YAStandsFor)
  • Thursday, July 13: Swap a YA book about the positive power of friendship with your bestie (tag @IReadYA and #YAStandsFor)
  • Friday, July 14: Create a graphic showcasing an inspirational YA quote (tag @IReadYA and #YAStandsFor)
  • Saturday, July 15: Choose a YA book and share 3 important life lessons you took away from reading it (tag @IReadYA and #YAStandsFor)
  • Sunday, July 16: Acknowledge a YA book you believe should be taught in high schools (tag @IReadYA and #YAStandsFor)
  • Monday, July 17: Snap a pic of the YA book you believe everyone needs to read (tag @IReadYA and #YAStandsFor)

I’m working on upping my #Bookstagram game so watch for some posts for these challenges on my Instagram for the rest of the week!

Everything I Learned From Reading Contemporary YA for One Month

Everything I learned from Reading Contemporary YA for One Month with a stack of booksHere, in no particular order, is everything I learned from reading contemporary YA novels for the better part of one month:

  1. A lot of teens want to go to Stanford. Not all of them will get in.
  2. You can love your best friend or hate your best friend or actually be in love with your best friend. You still won’t end up at the same college.
  3. Colleges no longer send out acceptance letters in big envelopes or rejections in little envelopes. It’s all digital. Except when it isn’t and someone frames a rejection letter to stay humble. Then it might be analog.
  4. If two teens are involved romantically and over eighteen they will have sex (or come close anyway).
  5. You can’t buy love or happiness, but you can win the lottery.
  6. It is a truth universally acknowledged that if a girl’s father is a mechanic she will know more about cars than her love interest.
  7. You can have widowed or divorced parents but you cannot have a daughter living with her single mother. Same goes for sons living with single fathers.
  8. STEM-loving girls are drawn to art-loving boys–opposites attract.
  9. There will be dancing.
  10. Teens might worry about affording their dream college or getting into their dream college. Teens will not apply to college based solely on proximity and financial aid packages.
  11. Everyone goes to prom. No one goes to prom alone.
  12. There will be pining.
  13. If anyone loses something of great sentimental value they are not getting it back.
  14. Some people might wear glasses or contacts but no one wears sunglasses.
  15. Even if it feels like the absolute worst thing has happened, it’s going to be okay because life goes on and you’re still heading toward that happy ending.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Re-Reading and Curating My Personal Library

I started thinking about this post when I re-read Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief series this winter. Since I’ll be spending next week re-reviewing that series (based on my re-reads), today seemed like a good time to share this post.

I never thought of myself as a person who re-reads books. I even mentioned that I wasn’t a re-reader when I talked about curating my personal library.

I was wrong.

It turns out I am totally a re-reader but I still had a lot of curating to do because I didn’t have books that I wanted to re-read on my shelves. I discovered this in a very concrete way when I picked up the Queen’s Thief series for the first time in seven years. And wound up buying three sets of the series over the course of one month.

As soon as I heard about the reissues of Megan Whalen Turner’s books, I knew I’d be buying a set as soon as they came out. My plan was to re-read the entire series once the reissues were in hand so that I’d be ready when Thick as Thieves came out. My plans changed when I found out I’d be reviewing Thick as Thieves for School Library Journal (reader, I screamed). Thick as Thieves is marketed as a standalone but I wanted to have the series fresh in my mind so I could really be sure this book would stand on its own. (Spoiler: It totally does.)

SO instead of re-reading shiny new editions, it was time to pull out my rag tag set. My “original” set of MWT books includes library sale copies and one ARC. The library sale copies included two hardcovers I acquired at my first ever library job as a shelving page. Then I found a paperback of book three (and discovered there was a book three!) when I was working as a library clerk. I received an ARC of A Conspiracy of Kings in 2010 from Caroline Ward, one of my favorite library school professors who gave me her copy when I finished her Children’s Literature course. (Caroline is the best and gave every student in her class a book to keep.)

Maybe everyone else who re-reads all the time knows this already, but I felt such nostalgia when I picked up this series again and re-read these books I had picked up years ago. I love this series in a way that I love few things and it was amazing to rediscover these stories.

I also realized that even though I knew the broad strokes of the series by heart, I still had room to be surprised by the intricacies of the series. I’ll spare you all the details but I also discovered that while I remembered favorite lines and scenes, I often forgot their framing in the larger context of the story which added another layer to my (re)reading.

Anyway, I had a blast re-reading the series and realized I loved it so much that I became one of those weirdos with multiple editions.

So now in addition to my rag tag set I have a full set of hardcovers. I love having these because the series has changed so much (remember The Thief was originally published in 1996). Even The Thief and The Queen of Attolia are far enough apart that the aesthetic changes a bit although they have the same trim size. By the time The King of Attolia is published, the series was due for a complete reissue. I have to admit that these covers are some of my favorites. I really like the subtle nods to the characters–especially on A Conspiracy of Kings where you can pinpoint the exact scene used to show Sophos on the cover.

Since I love that cover art so much, I decided I should also get a set of paperbacks. I like this version of The Thief a bit more because it feels like it really is Gen and Hamiathes’ Gift. The cover for The Queen of Attolia has always given me chills. It works interestingly as the cover for that particular book but also in the context of the rest of the series.

And then it seemed like the series might have been done except for some tantalizing hints from MWT that she had more to say. Until lo Thick as Thieves was announced along with a complete reissue, special bonus content, and maps for the first time ever. I love these covers and have been poring over them basically since they were announced trying to pick out all of the details. The reissue makes sense with current cover trends and it also works with the direction the series is taking. Thick as Thieves is the first story that doesn’t focus directly on one of the main kingdoms (Eddis, Attolia, and Sounis) and as such it has a new cast of characters and a new setting. While I love the hyper-realistic artwork of the 2006 reissues, I don’t know what they would have pulled for potential art from Thick as Thieves. Seeing the series as a whole with this latest story, the new covers make so much sense and underscore the grand stage of these books.

Also because I have fallen so far down this rabbit hole (and accidentally found an ARC of The King of Attolia through sheer happenstance) I’m trying to complete a set of ARCs but that might be more than my budget and sanity can stand.

And, of course, I had to dedicate much more shelf space to the full set:

Since picking up MWT’s books I’ve also started re-reading other favorites from my shelves including Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, Saving Francesca and its companion The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta. I’m currently re-reading Diana Wynne Jone’s Dalemark Quartet which is interesting because I only barely remember reading it and also because the series is currently out of print so tracking down copies took some time.

I think a lot of my choice to start re-reading right now is escapism. The world is scary and unpredictable, especially lately, so it’s nice to be able to return to stories where I know exactly what to expect and that I will love it. As more and more of my favorites go out of print or become scarce in the library, I also find that I like having copies on my shelves so I can read them at the drop of a hat.

Those are the things I’m keeping in mind as I decide what gets to stay on my shelves. Is this a book I loved? Is it a book I will re-read and love again? Is it a book I’ll miss if it’s gone? These questions aren’t easy to answer and sometimes my choices change. But for now it’s as good a criteria as any to decide what books have earned the right to take up space in my heart and on my shelves.

Do you re-read books? Do you spend a lot of time thinking about what books you own and why? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

What I talk about when I talk about curating my personal library.

When I was younger I didn’t buy books. I read books at a great enough speed and in enough quality that the library was the only way to go. When I started working in a library I went through a brief and horrifying phase where I would rescue discarded library copies because I might read them someday. Then I started working at Books of Wonder with an employee discount and things really got out of hand. This doesn’t even factor review copies and gifted books from over the years. Not to mention author signings of which there are many because I live in New York.

I always read closely on my first read–taking time to write down quotes I want to remember and, now that I’m a reviewer, making sure to note key information and pages with important points to reference in my review–so I rarely re-read books except for a handful of exceptions.

People talk about dealing with their books in a lot of ways. Culling. Sorting. Organizing. Hoarding. Admiring. Brag shelves. TBR piles. Bookcases. Stashes. I’ve always thought of it as weeding since I have a library background.

Then last year I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondō and I started thinking about getting rid of books in a different light. (I haven’t reviewed the book on here but I cannot recommend it highly enough. I really like the idea that you can take and leave what you want from her approach and also that you can find your own perfect balance.) One of the main tenets of the KonMari method is that you focus on what you want to keep instead of what you no longer want. You also keep things that bring you joy.

Now instead of thinking about it as weeding I have started to think about curating a personal library. What titles do I want to have on my shelves? What books do I want to own? What books would I re-buy if I lost them? And so on.

Again, as someone who doesn’t re-read, it’s not always enough to say I enjoy a book or that I want to come back to it. Sometimes even having a signed copy that I bought isn’t enough.

Then there are the difficult books with the prickly topics. Do I want to own a book that reminds me of when my aunt died? What about the novel with a strikingly resilient and strong heroine and a plot also mirrored some of the worst years of my life? Or the book that was painfully beautiful and romantic but also made me physically ill with its description of a character’s fingers being broken?

I think about books in a few ways when they’re on my shelves. There are books I want to keep close (the books I might flip through or reference, books from authors I admire or favorite stories I can’t stop thinking about, books that have a personal connection to me), there are books that make me smile (favorite stories, classic titles, things you would pry from my cold, dead hands), and then there are the mementos (books I got signed by authors I can almost call friends, titles from BEA, a book I’ve had since I was a child).

So the books I asked about before? I probably won’t be keeping those.

I’d prefer to keep room on my shelves for my three copies of The Hobbit and the copy of Ella, Enchanted that my mother got me years and years ago during her freelance stint at HarperCollins which I got signed years after. Instead of keeping books that cause me stress and make me sad I’m keeping my set of Chris Van Allsburg picture books, my multiple editions of Emma and Little Women and my full set of R. L. LaFevers ARCs.

It’s a process and what I keep or don’t keep changes constantly. But that’s how I’m thinking about the books I own now. Not so much as what I do or do not want, but the personal library I choose to curate to represent who and what I am at this moment.

That’s me. What about you? How do you curate your personal library? Tell me in the comments.