Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

51gYiBKcKnL__SL500_AA240_Chains is a story of history, slavery, oppression and hope. Isabel is an African American slave during the American Revolution.  While her and her sister’s freedom was promised by their late owner, Isabel and her younger sister Ruth are sold to a cruel loyalist family in New York. Once in New York Isabel is approached by a friendly black slave patriot asking for her assistance by spying on her loyalist owners. While she initially declines, Isabel decides to help on the promise of her and her sister’s freedom.  She quickly learns, however, that there are few people that a girl in her position can trust. After her sister is sold by her owners, Isabel realizes that her freedom can only be given by one person, herself.

 From “this book also follows the progress of the war from the standpoint of both loyalists and rebels. Readers have glimpses of the wealthy, the working class, the soldiers, and the slaves — all while their eyes are riveted to the story of one lonely girl.”

While historical fiction might not be a popular genre for young adult readers the adventure and compelling narrative make this historical fiction appealing to all. While sometimes difficult to read due to the realities of war and slavery, Laurie Halse Anderson doesn’t sacrifice the story for the sake of an easier read. The story is very well researched and accurately depicts the lives of slaves in Isabel’s situation. Laurie Halse Anderson creates a character that is not only believable, but is also relatable as well. While the story has a bit of a slow beginning, the reader is quickly lost in the narrative, feeling as if they are also experiencing the Revolution as a slave fighting for their freedom.  As an American History major with a specialization in African American history I tip my hat to the author for telling a story that is often difficult to tell, especially to younger audiences. It’s just a bonus that it is also beautifully written. 

Other books by Laurie Halse Anderson:  Speak, Twisted, Wintergirls and another historical fiction, Fever 1793

Adult books on slavery: Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, Cane River by Lalita Tademy, The Book of Negros by Lawrence Hill

If you liked reading about slavery and/or the American Revolution you might also enjoy: Before we were Free by Julia Alvarez, The Astonishing life of Octavian Nothing by M. T Anderson, Copper Sun by Sharon M. Draper

If you liked reading an American historical fiction you might also enjoy: The Year of the Hangman by Gary L. Blackwood, Blood on the River James Town 1607 by Elisa Lynn Carbone, The Sacrifice by Kathleen Benner Duble

5Q 3P (only because historical fiction is not something that appeals to all teens) M and maybe some J

*the sequel “Forge” is set to be released in 2010 an there is talk of a third book as well.


Banned Book Week

bannedbooks-225x300Today officially marked the start of Banned Book  Week in the United States. According to the ALA Banned Book week

 “is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment.  Held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States.”  – ALA


Here is the list of the top 10 banned books from 2008…

  1. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
    Reasons: anti-ethnic, anti-family, homosexuality, religious viewpoint, and unsuited to age group
  2. His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman
    Reasons: political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, and violence
  3. TTYL; TTFN; L8R, G8R (series), by Lauren Myracle
    Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group
  4. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
    Reasons: occult/satanism, religious viewpoint, and violence
  5. Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
    Reasons: occult/satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, and violence
  6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
    Reasons: drugs, homosexuality, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, suicide, and unsuited to age group
  7. Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily von Ziegesar
    Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group
  8. Uncle Bobby’s Wedding, by Sarah S. Brannen
    Reasons: homosexuality and unsuited to age group
  9. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
    Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group
  10. Flashcards of My Life, by Charise Mericle Harper
    Reasons: sexually explicit and unsuited to age group

Recognize any of them? I notice a lot of them say they are unsuited to age group, does it suprise you that most banned books are banned for that reason?

Between Mom and Jo by Julie Anne Peters

51hp046fQ8L__SL500_AA240_Nick is your average kid – he likes pets and loud music, and enjoys hanging out with his friend Matthew. He also has two moms. As Nick grows up and reflects on some of his memorable moments both good and bad, we see some of the struggles he has had to endure and the strength he has gained from the two women in his life. However, things fall apart fast for Nick when his parents separate and he is left living with his birth mom Erin.  This book challenges conventions about what it means to be a family and examines the various roles people play in one’s life.

Between Mom and Jo is an exceptional book that covers some very difficult topics. While the story is based upon a family with two moms the issue of divorce is applicable to any family structure. While some might find the book controversial (I definitely don’t) what shines through is Nick’s voice about growing up being different from everyone and his love for his family. Ultimately, the story is about family, something that everyone can relate to. Despite most of the chapters being a type of flashback, the book does not feel disjointed.  All of the main characters are vibrant and through the flashbacks the writer is able to give depth to the characters as we come to see the reason behind some of their decisions. The writing is colourful and the story relevant.  I strongly recommend this book for any library as an excellently written fiction novel.

Other books by Julie Anne Peters:  Define ‘normal’Keeping you a Secret and Luna

If you liked Between Mom and Jo you might also enjoy:  Luna by Julie Anne Peters, Out of the Pocket by Bill Konigsberg, Far from Xanadu by Julie Anne Peters


*Side note, the newer paperback cover no longer has the two moms on the cover, but rather a solo picture of Nick.

new movie news

41ufb7c4JyL__BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA240_SH20_OU15_Just found out some cool new movie news from one of my favourite blogs.

Apparently Stephenie Meyer’s The Host is gong to be made into a movie. While I haven’t read this book, and outside of Twilight I’m not a huge fan of Meyer, this will be interesting to look out for.

Also the writer for the movie Juno, Diablo Cody (who I love) is currently penning a script for a new Sweet Valley High Movie. Blast from the past on that one.

Here are the articles about both movies:

Sweet Valley High

The Host

No such thing as too L.O.U.D

Every once in a while I’m going to check out some of the programs that public libraries across North America offer their young adults. Hopefully this will provide some neat ideas to not only be used in my portfolio but also for other librarians who might come across this blog.

 The first one I’m looking at is from my public library in London. One of the programs that the London Public Teen Annex offers is a program called L.O.U.D (London Ontario Underground Dimensions). This program organizes music gigs for teen bands at various city library branches. The shows are geared for younger people who can’t make it out to bars or clubs but are deeply interested in music. It also is a platform for teen musicians and bands to be able to play for an audience. The library also holds an annual Battle of the Bands. This program seems to be very popular with the youth, as they are able to hold at least one show a month.

 I think the program is genius. Music being such an important part of young adult culture it is great that the London Public Library was able to create a program that reaches teens through something they love. The fact that they also let them use the library as a venue, establishes that the Teen Annex really is about teens and for teens. Giving them this venue identifies to teens that they have a place within the library. It also brings teens who are perhaps not interested in reading into a library space. You can even get L.O.U.D 2008 concert shirts.

 For a schedule of upcoming shows and more information on L.O.U.D please visit the London Public Library’s website.

The need for School Librarians.

I found this interesting newspaper article about school librarians. The article was in response to a September 18th article about how parent volunteers are stepping up to try and make up for the loss of the valuable services that school librarians provide.  The parent who authored the article expressed concern about promoting this volunteering as a solution to the closing of school libraries and instead argued for the essential role that only librarians can provide.  At least once person gets it.

 Find the article here.

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

51rCnp4IQkL__BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA240_SH20_OU15_Uglies is the first in a series by Scott Westerfeld. Tally Youngblood lives in a world segregated by beauty. Those under the age of 16 are pre-operation, waiting out the days until their 16th birthday when they will be turned pretty and be able to enter the pretty world. Shortly before her 16th birthday Tally meets Shay, an Ugly who doesn’t want to turn pretty. When Shay runs away to a secret town of Uglies called the “Smoke,” Tally is brought to the authorities and faced with a decision, betray her friend or never turn pretty. Tally sets out to find the Smoke, but when she gets there her choice becomes more difficult as she meets new friends and hears some shocking truths about the world she used to know.

 This is a great adventure story that deals with some very important issues facing teens today. The issue of what is beautiful, the feeling of inadequacy and the desire to be more “pretty” are very relevant to young adults today, especially girls. As Tally learns that there is more to people than what they look like, readers are reminded that appearance isn’t everything and that striving to be something you are not can sometimes be dangerous – you can lose yourself. I really enjoyed this book, it was very well written and I thought the dialogue was well done and the descriptions of the different world wonderful. Westerfeld does a fantastic job at making the world of Pretties and Uglies believable and exciting. While the book is directed at teen girls, I think that some boys might find the adventure rather exciting; especially considering the romance is kept to a bare minimum.

 Other books by Scott Westerfeld:  Pretties Specials Extras, Peeps and Last Days

 If you liked Uglies you might also enjoy: Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer, Double Identity by Margaret Peterson Haddix, The Unnameables by Ellen Booraem

 4Q 5P MJS