Costa Reading

One girl with too many books.


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Colorado Teen Literature Conference

One of our assignments for this Young Adult Lit class could be to volunteer at the Colorado Teen Literature Conference at the Tivoli on the Auraria campus. I jumped at the opportunity to attend this one day conference again. I love any chance to learn more about the field of YAL and talk to fellow book lovers. It’s also so wonderful to see all of the teens that are willing to give up their Saturday to meet with teachers, librarians, and authors. Seeing all of their fresh faces in the crowds made me happy to know that there is a whole new generation of readers out there.

One of the keynote speakers at the conference this year was A.S. King. She is the author of Ask the Passengers, Reality Boy, Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future, Everybody Sees the Ants, Please Ignore Vera Dietz, and The Dust of 100 Dogs. King started the conference with an inspiring speech meant for people of all ages even though it was directed toward the teens in the room. She really emphasized that we all make decisions that either help us achieve our dreams or sabotage our dreams. She told the audience that we all have baggage that we lug around with us. It might be past experiences or people in our past. Her point was that we have control over what we allow in this baggage. We can take out whatever we feel we don’t need anymore. I liked her speech because she was trying to empower the audience to take control over our lives to do what will make us happy. I think this is a message that everyone needs to hear at some point in his or her life.

You can read more about A. S. King and her books here.

The first session I went to was “Gender Studies in Young Adult Literature” presented by Bree Ervin. I’d read most of the books the speaker was talking about but I really liked the points she was making about why these books were key in teaching teen boys and girls about gender roles. She talked about a lot of books like Openly Straight, The Knife of Never Letting Go, Dust Land, Cinder, Book Thief, Legend, Luna, and Ask the Passengers. Her main points were that our society is too ready to put labels on people so they can decide how to react to them. These titles rip off those labels and break down the barriers and let people just be who they’re meant to be. Girls can be strong but they can also be weak. Boys can be rescued but they can also do the rescuing.

The next session I went to was called “Stranger than Fiction: Young Adult Nonfiction”. I decided to attend this session because nonfiction is not one of my strong areas for readers advisory. I never pick up a nonfiction book to read for pleasure but I have plans to change this. The presenter, Angie Manfredi’s session gave me a good reading list to start with and my goal is to read at least 5 of them over the summer. Her list included:

Parrots Over Puerto Rico by Susan L. Roth

The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism & Treachery by Steve Sheinkin

Call of the Klondike by David Meissner

Hidden Like Anne Frank: 14 True Stories of Survival by Marcel Prins and Peter Henk Steenhuis

Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different by Karen Blumenthal

A Volcano Beneath the Snow: John Brown’s War Against Slavery by Albert Marrin

Titanic Voices From the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson

Pure Grit: How WWII Nurses in the Pacific Survived Combat and Prison Camp by Mary Cronk Farrell

Theater Geek. By Mickey Rapkin
Boys in the Boat. By Daniel James Brown.
Brilliant Blunders. By Mario Luvio.
The New Kids: Big Dreams and Brave Journeys at a High School for Immigrant Teens by Brooke Hauser
My Foreign Cities by Elizabeth Scarboro

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

You can check out Angie’s blog here.

I stayed for the rest of the conference but the above three were the highlights for me. I came away with a better idea of why gender roles are so important to understand in YAL and I have a long list of nonfiction to hook teens. King’s speech also inspired me to overcome all of those obstacles to achieve my dreams and to help the teens I see every day achieve theirs.


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A Fractured Fairy Tales Reading Ladder

A fractured fairy tale takes a traditional fairy tale and changes the plot, setting, characters, and/or message to create a whole new kind of story. It is usually obvious which fairy tales these fractured stories are based on and it can be easy to pick out the points the author chose to change.

Lately it seems as though authors are using these usually misogynistic traditional tales and changing them to promote a different way of thinking about everyone’s role in society.

There are no longer helpless damsels in distress with a knight on a white horse coming to rescue her. And if she does need help, she doesn’t sit passively by and do nothing; she actively participates in her rescue.

On the other hand, all men are not the strong dashing type, they also need to be rescued sometimes and this isn’t emasculating in any way.

It’s important that children and teens understand that it’s okay to be strong, weak, happy, sad, angry, intelligent, and (sometimes) ignorant. Nobody is perfect and our literature needs to reflect this. Kids need to be taught that it’s okay for them to make mistakes and it’s what they do after they’ve made them that is important.

I think that these fractured fairy tales I’ve listed in my reading ladder do this very well. They are in leveling order, beginning with the upper elementary age/lower middle school and progressing to upper high school.

Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

For grades 4-6

As next door neighbors Hazel and Jack have been best friends since they were six. They’ve been there for each other through each of their family’s difficulties. However, now that they’re eleven, others have started to question their friendship, thinking it’s abnormal for a boy and a girl to be friends. Hazel and Jack stay true to their friendship, not caring what other people think. Until one day when Jack’s whole personality seems to change. He freezes Hazel out of his life and then disappears. Hazel knows in her heart that something is desperately wrong and sets out to rescue him. She travels through a frozen forest to find the Snow Queen who has bewitched Jack. Will she be able to break through the enchantment to reach Jack’s heart and bring him home?

 

Tale Dark and GrimmA Tale Dark & Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

For grades 5-7

This story of Hansel and Gretel is more true to the traditional Grimm Brother’s fairy tales. However, Gidwitz has the brother and sister traveling through the tales much as a reader would read through the stories in a book. He changes the tales in ways to make the story flow but keeps the original intention and feeling. Most importantly, the original gore of the Grimm’s tales is retained. Gidwitz doesn’t sugar coat any of the more sinister bits and this is what has appealed to all of the kids I’ve recommended the book to. However, this is the main reason I would say it’s for 5th-7th graders.

As brother and sister, Hansel and Gretel must help each other navigate their way through the many evils that surround them. They take turns being the logical rescuer of the other. I love the way this book makes the sibling’s relationship so very important. This is something we don’t see too much of. A lot of books for this age group are about being the sole hero.

 

Far Far AwayFar Far Away by Tom McNeal

For grades 6-8

Jeremy Johnson Johnson has been friends with the ghost of Jacob Grimm for the last few years. The ghost is a voice of reason for Jeremy until he becomes friends with Ginger, a spunky girl who challenges him to break out of his shell. Then they become involved in a series of dangerous events and their lives are put in danger.
This book felt very much like a fairy tale but I couldn’t pinpoint any one specific tale.
Far Far Away is definitely a coming of age tale for boys. Jeremy is trying to figure out how to save his house because his father is frozen into inaction by depression. He is also discovering who he is and how he can become the person he wants to be. Jacob is that external voice that would usually be the protagonist’s inner voice.
sisters redSisters Red by Jackson Pearce

For grades 8-10

Scarlett and Rosie march are the contemporary Little Red Riding Hoods. Their grandmother had been killed in their house by a Fenris, a werewolf like creature who attack young girls. The sisters aren’t helpless little girls anymore. Rather they take the fight to the Fenris by acting like victims and then killing as many Fenris as they possibly can. They don’t do this alone however, they are joined by a long family friend who also happens to be a huntsman. Things can’t stay the same however, they start to change as Rosie and Silas begin to have feelings for each other.
The question of the strength of a sister’s bonds are questioned and whether or not they’ll be able to survive the next challenges the three are going to face.


CinderCinder
by Marissa Meyer
For grades 9-11
Cinder is a cyborg Cinderella who lives New Beijing. She is treated as a servant by her stepmother, Adri, and one of her stepsisters, Pearl, but she absolutely adores her stepsister, Peony. Cinder works as a mechanic to repair androids and this is how she meets Prince Kai. Of course she develops feelings for him (this is a Cinderella story after all) but she doesn’t become the damsel in distress. She fights for her freedoms and to improve her lot in life. She even makes it her mission to save Prince Kai for the evil Lunar Queen Levana.
This is definitely not the traditional Cinderella story and has many different levels of complexity. It takes on stereotypical gender roles while tweaking the traditional fairy tale. And as the series moves on to Scarlet, Cress, and Winter readers are introduced to many more versions of fractured fairy tales.


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My Book Life

Books have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Some of my earliest memories are of my mother reading out loud to my sister, brother, and me. I don’t remember learning how to read myself but for as long as I can remember I wasn’t without a book wherever I went. It was the same with my mother. She not only told us kids how important it was to be a good reader, she showed us by her example. She made it so that books were always available to us. We had more books in the house than we had shelves for them and we were constantly adding to the collection. Whenever we went to yard sales, which was a lot, the first place I would go would be to the table stacked with books. We also made regular trips to the public library and left with more books than we could possibly read.

As a teen I used books as a safe way to experiment with who and what I wanted to be. I read about tragedy and heroism, about love and loss, about fantastical creatures and scientific impossibilities. From the safety of my own room, I traveled to many different places and met many different people. Consciously, I read for fun and unconsciously, to learn more about myself.

As an adult, I’ve been able to embrace teen literature in ways I never did when I was a teen. I can truly disappear into a teen novel, be inspired by those young protagonists, and remember what it was like to feel so lost or alone in my troubles. I feel that’s what teen literature should be for teens now. Books should help them to find themselves, help them decide what kind of person they want to be, now and in the future.

This is why I love my job so much. As a librarian, I have a small amount of power to nurture life long readers in the children and teens I come into contact with in the library.