Costa Reading

One girl with too many books.


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Book Talking

I book talk every day at work. I’m constantly trying to connect readers with books they will enjoy and that they need. These book talks generally happen spur of the moment and in a conversation. In other words, I’m flying by the seat of my pants and I’m told that I’m good at it, by my coworkers, my bosses, and the people I recommend books to. So when I saw that one of our assignments was to do a book talk I thought it would be a breeze, a for sure A+. But let me tell you, there’s a big difference book talking in a setting you’re familiar and book talking to a classroom of your peers! Especially when the book you choose is convoluted and hard to describe.

I chose to book talk Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgewick because it won the Michael Printz award for 2013. The premise sounded good too. It’s a story of two people who, through their many lives, connect with each other on Blessed Island. Throughout thousands of years Eric and Merle meet and each time they mean something different to each other. The story of their lives is a carefully woven, intricate tale that could not possibly be summed up in a three minute book talk. This is one book that you say a couple of sentences about and then a person just has to read the book for themselves. It’s a wonderful book that I could hand to teens interested in many different genres but I’m still hard pressed to describe it.

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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.