Sister Wife by Shelley Hrdlitschka

51YGEfPQwtL__SL500_AA240_Through the narrative of three girls, Sister Wife tells the story of growing up in a polygamous community. Celeste finds herself questioning her faith and falling for a young boy named Jon.  Taviana, an outsider brought into the community and then exiled, must decide who she really is and Nanette, who believes so strongly in the community, must come to terms with her sister’s inappropriate behaviour.

I really enjoyed this book. I have read several stories based on utopian societies, usually about Mormons, and they all are usually about the mother trying to leave with her kids. I appreciated having the different voices giving light to the various sides, and it being about young girls not yet married. Nannette was an especially interesting character because she truly believed in the community and could not comprehend her sister’s behaviour.  What I did not like, however, was the ending. It really annoys me when books are not evenly paced and the ending comes abruptly. In this case the reader was left with what could have been a very interesting chunk of the story missing.  However, overall I would strongly recommend this book to a wide audience.

Other books by Shelly Hrdlitschka: Dancing Naked and Gotcha! 

If you liked Sister Wife you might also enjoy:  Redemption by Julie Chibbaro, Full Service by Will Weaver, The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams and Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult

Rating: 3Q 4P MJ


Program: Podcasts to the President

071005_ObamaYouth_vl-verticalThe Harold Washington Library Centre in Chicago is helping students with a podcast to the President. The students will be invited to express via the podcast what they believe has changed or still needs to change in America. They will be using the website to post their podcast.

I think this is a very innovative program. While perhaps not everyone would find this appealing, it does give socially aware teens the opportunity to speak their mind and express their concerns. Giving a voice to youth is so incredibly important and I tip my hat to the Chicago library for initiating this.

For more information about this program click here

For more information about This I Believe click here

Photo by Steve Pope

Leftovers by Laura Wiess

31H9H3amgQL__BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA240_SH20_OU15_Leftovers is a story about the lives of two girls whose parents have deeply impacted their lives for the worse. The girls, Blair and Ardith, describe in detail how their lives have led up to an unforgivable act of desperation and revenge. Blair is from a wealthy family whose mother’s main concern is making a good appearance so she can become a judge. Basically ignored except when it comes to benefiting her mother, Blair is in the total opposite situation of Ardith, who is too visible. With parents who are more concerned with partying than with what her brother’s drunken friends are capable of, Ardith goes to extremes to disappear. This is a story of despair, abuse, and friendship.

Wiess’ story of these two girls’ lives is haunting. The narrative, shared by both girls, is told in such a way that it allows the reader to be able to identify with every hurt, betrayal and despair. The writing is poetic and the story incredible moving. Wiess is able to demonstrate how family abuse is not static and can come in many types.  She also nails some of the heartbreaking truths of what it is like growing up as a girl. One might think that by using the popular theme of best friends against the world there would be some sort of predictable and conclusive ending, but in the end the reader is left questioning whether or not the girls really ended up winning. This book is moving and relevant. I highly recommend it.

Other books by Laura Wiess: Such a Pretty Girl and How it Ends

If you liked Leftovers you might also enjoy: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson, The Facts Speak for Themselves by Brock Cole, Touching Snow by M. Sindy Felin and Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin.

Rating: 5Q 4P S

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Interview with a Children’s Librarian

I met with my dear friend Debra Franke who is a Children’s Librarian here in London a couple weeks ago to discuss school, library topics, etc. I was thinking back to our first assignment on library space and how smaller libraries cater to Young Adults, so I got her to answer some questions dealing with her experience working at a small branch library.

  1. You worked in a small branch library, did you get the opportunity to work with any teens?

 In the small branch libraries, I do find there are often opportunities to work with teens. At one small library where I worked, the youth tended to be mostly tweens, and we often got the best response to programs advertised for ages 8-12 or 8-14. The tweens attended our movie afternoons, gaming programs, and the graphic novels workshops I led for drawing and writing graphic novels. Usually a fairly even number of male and female youth attended the library, but I was pleasantly surprised that a large number of boys attended the graphic novels workshops.

In the slightly larger small library where I have also worked, there tends to be a larger number of teens, many of whom are tweens, and many of whom tend to be approximately 14-15 years old. They come in regularly after school and in the evenings, and they come to do homework, spend time with friends, use the technology, talk to the library staff, and attend library programs (for example, teen gaming nights, music nights, arts and crafts, book clubs, etc.). For them, the library is very much their after-school hang-out, community hub, and social place, and meeting place.
2. In a small library is it usually the Children’s librarian’s responsibility to come up with programming and services for the Young Adult population or some one else’s?

In the libraries where I have worked, the Branch Librarian is also the Children’s Librarian and the Teen Librarian; we look after both the children’s and teen collections, and the children’s and teen programs and services. This means planning unique programs for each individual library according to its local neighborhood’s needs, and also planning programs to take place consistently at all libraries across the city, for example, summer reading programs.

While the Children’s Librarian is also responsible for teen programming, this programming can be done very successfully in collaboration with other library staff, such as library assistants. In one of the libraries where I have worked, all of the staff participate in creating and running programs for the young adult population; in this way, everyone’s strengths, gifts, and interests can be combined through a team-work approach to offer a larger variety of programs for teens.

In addition to the Branch Librarian and other library staff running young adult programs, we also depend on library volunteers who sometimes assist with programs, and community members who collaborate with the library to offer programs to young people in our library meeting spaces.

3. What do you think are some of the limitations of serving the teen population in a smaller library?

I have found that one of the challenges in a smaller library is space. When several young people come into the library together, they often desire a space of their own to sit and talk and read, and they often want space to be on the computers in pairs or small groups. They are looking for a corner of the library to unwind, work on homework projects, have group discussions, socialize, and make plans. The idea of the library as a community hub and social space is definitely alive and well, and when several children, teens, and adults fill a small library, each with their own individual needs, it can prove challenging to find the best balance of physical space that allows each group to engage the activities they most desire.

In a small library, the limited physical space also often means that there is less technology available than at a larger library, for example, a smaller number of public computers and research computers. When the number of computers and physical space is limited, last minute homework projects and social networking needs cannot always be immediately accommodated. However, because of internet technology today, many patrons bring laptops into the library, and many teens access the library website and its electronic catalogue, databases, and homework help from home as well as in the library.

Of course, collections and programming can also be affected by the library’s size. When the physical size of the collection is smaller, it becomes more challenging to ensure that all of the most sought-after books, magazines, DVDs, CDs and other materials are available. This means that staff are required to be intentional about, and dedicated to, excellent collection development and management, successful readers’ advisory and reference interviews, teaching teens about ordering materials from other branches, and planning the library’s space well so that materials are easy-to-find.

In terms of programming in the smaller library, I have found it very helpful to have several conversations with the teens in the small library, to find out what kind of programs they would most enjoy. When there is a smaller number of teens attending a particular library, attendance might tend to be lower, and finding a popular program topic and advertising well (including word of mouth!) can help to increase attendance and success.

4. What do you think is more important for a teen in the public library, Space or Collection?

From my experience, I feel that both are very important and that they are intertwined in different ways; however if I had to choose one, I would say that the Collection is more important. In general, the space is important because teens often use the small library as a place to meet and hang out, and they want a space of their own where they can gather away from the other patrons and staff, and where they can have the room they need for spreading out their belongings, being social, and working on the computers together. In this way, the library as “meeting place” and “social space” is largely what seems to draw the teens in.

However, once the youth physically enter into the library, I feel that the collection becomes extremely important. Making sure the collection holds the key titles that youth are looking for can help to engage them in reading and literacy and programming such as book clubs; maintaining a good collection can help a teen to see the library as a place that is much more than a social space. It also helps teens to find out about popular titles and get excited about reading through ‘word of mouth’: essentially, because their friends are reading it and loving it, they want to read it also. The collection is important in supporting the necessary resources for homework and school projects; a good variety of materials which are placed in easy-to-find places around the library can minimize frustration and maximize excitement and interest in reading, researching, interacting with audio-visual materials, and discussing likes and dislikes.

Because of the growing use of the Internet and the World Wide Web, as well as audio books and electronic databases, more and more teens can be reached before they ever set food in the library. The library’s physical and electronic collection is something that can be well advertised and easy-to-find on a library’s website, making it accessible and visible to teens when they are using the library’s webpage or homework help options from home.

5. Finally, what was your favourite Young Adult book growing up.

I had quite a few books that I loved as a teen, but I’d have to say that my all-time favourite young adult novel was S. E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. I read this book for the first time in Grade 7, and Ponyboy Curtis and Johnny were two characters that I never forgot. Their home lives, friendships, hardships, sadness, and courage were engraved into my heart.  I also loved any and all Judy Blume books, largely because Blume spoke to so many of the questions, emotions, and fears that resonate with so many tweens and teens. I was also a fan of W.O. Mitchell’s Who Has Seen the Wind.

Thanks again Debra for being a great mentor and answering these questions!

YALSA blog review

yalsaThe YALSA blog provides updates about relevant information to the YA field with respect to programs, conferences, initiatives, resources and activities. While it is associated with the ALA, the information can be very helpful for Canadian librarians as well.

What did I learn? I learned that there is literally a ton of information available for YA librarians. This website provides a lot of information but it also provides links to other websites that would be helpful. 

What surprised me? There were a few pleasant surprises with this blog. To begin, I was really surprised that it allows teens to blog. You have to be 13 or older and approved by the blog manager, but I thought it was amazing that considering it is about teens, they let teens have a voice. I thought that this was great. I was also surprised by the content. The blogs had great program ideas, important links, etc. It seemed like a great place to get quality information to help improve YA services in a library.

How useful a resource is this? I think this is a very useful resource. It is a great way to get new ideas, but it is also a great way to stay up to date. The website includes issues that are really relevant, but also talks about things teens are interested in. It is a great resource for staying connected and to learn.

Will you continue to monitor?  Why or why not? I will continue to monitor this site, and I might even post a few of the programs for my program section. I think it is a great resource for ideas and would be helpful to any librarian working with young adults.

My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger

414EJ3OFiOL__BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA240_SH20_OU15_My Most Excellent Year is, according to the title, about “love, Mary Poppins and Fenway Park”. The story follows the lives of three Boston teens: T.C, a baseball obsessed typical Bostonian; his bestfiend/brother Augie whose love for theatre shines through; and the new girl in town Alegandra, daughter of a Mexican ambassador. Told through each of their narratives from a collection of instant messages, school assignments, etc., the story reveals truths about family, identity, growing up, true friendship and the first time falling in love.

I have very mixed feelings about this book. I enjoyed the dialogue for its witty sarcasm, and thought that that the characters were quirky. There were times when I was laughing out loud, and some of the humour between the adults was especially well done. I also in some appreciated the story being told through emails, letters, assignments, etc., as it was not only a fresh way to tell a story, but it also included technologies that are very relevant to today’s teens. However, the different narratives and the mediums from which the characters communicated really broke up the story and made it hard to connect with any one person. I typically do not mind multi-character narrative stories, but this one left me more confused than excited. The book was also exceedingly long considering it is not really plot driven.  However, just because I did not enjoy the book does not mean that other people won’t. It was very humorous and light to read which many people will find enjoyable. The characters, while stereotyped, are actually very interesting and fun to read. I would still recommend this book despite the fact that I did not really enjoy it.

Other Books by Steve Kluger: Almost Like Being In Love, Last Days of Summer

If you enjoyed reading a book with different narrators you might also like: Scrambled Eggs at Midnight by Brad Barkley, Shift by Jennifer Bradbury, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, Black and White by Paul Volponi

Rating: 2.5Q 4P JS

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The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong

51DmqDRJz0L__SL500_AA240_“I wasn’t Chloe Saunders, sheltered art-school girl anymore. I wasn’t even Chloe Saunders, Schizophrenic. If Chloe Saunders, necromancer, followed the old rules, she could wind up in a padded cell, ranting about the voices no one else could hear.”

The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong is the first of the Darkest Powers series about a girl named Chloe who can talk to ghosts. After seeing her first ghost at her high school Chloe is sent to a group home and diagnosed with schizophrenia, which she is happy to accept in light of the option of being able to see and hear ghosts. However, the ghosts keep trying to communicate and when one of the girls at the group home goes missing Chloe starts really questioning what is happening to her. Aided by two brothers in the group home Chloe begins to understand her gift and embrace it. She soon learns that the group home is not as normal as she thought, and could really be a dangerous place for supernatural like her and the other kids.

The Summoning is both a new and old story. In a world dominated by vampires and zombies it is nice to have a good old-fashioned ghost story. I thought Armstrong did a good job at developing the characters, especially Chloe. Chloe struggling with the idea of being schizophrenic really added a lot to the character and to the storyline. I thought the group home was a great setting and the other characters fascinating. Despite the kids at the group home being unique in their powers, the book does shine light on some real aspects of what living in those types of places can be like, as well as how people feel about being there. At its root the book is also a coming of age story with themes that apply outside the supernatural genre such as physical changes, puberty, friendship, problems with authority and trying to figure out who you are.  At times the pacing of the book was rather slow, however it was necessary to set the stage for the big plot twist and cliff hanger. I did not really appreciate the book until near the ending, but having it all come together made it irresistable to read. I cannot wait to read the sequel.

Other books by Kelley Armstrong:  Bitten, the Awakening, Haunted, Living with the Dead.

If you liked reading about ghosts you might also enjoyKit’s Wilderness by David Almond, The Presence by Eve Bunting, All the Lovely Bad Ones by Mary Downing Hahn, Restless by Rich Wallace, A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb.

If you enjoy reading a supernatural romance, you might also like: Glass Houses by Rachel Caine, Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer, House of Night Series by P.C Cast, Blue Bloods by Melissa De La Cruz, Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause.

3Q 5P JS

*The third book in the Darkest Powers series, The Reckoning, is set to be released April 27, 2010.