Joanne Austin Database YA Blog Assignment LIBR 265 San Jose State University

Materials Index:

21 by Adele (Music CD)
Beautiful Creatures Margaret Stohl & Kami Garcia (Book)
Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce (Book)
Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson (Book)
Death the High Cost of Living by Neil Gaiman and Chris Bachalo (Graphic Novel)
Divergent by Veronica Roth (Book)
Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey (Book)
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (Book)
The Fault in our Stars by John Green (Book)
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes (Book)
Graceling by Kristin Cashore (Book)
Here us out! Lesbian and Gay Stories of Struggle, Progress, and Hope, 1950 to the Present by Nancy Garden (Book)
Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey (DVD)
Hope in Patience by Beth Felbaum (Book)
Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan (Book)
Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle (Book)
Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (Audio CD)
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (Book)
Looking for Alaska by John Green (Book)
Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (Book)
Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff (Audio CD)
Midnighters: The Secret Hour by Scott Westerfeld (Book)
On the Road by Jack Kerouac (Book)
Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (Book)
Perks of Being a Wallflower by Simon Chbosky (Book)
Persepolis by Majane Satrapi (Graphic Novel)
Pink by Lili Wilkinson (Book)
Ranma 1/2 by Rumilo Takahashi (Manga)
Seventeen (Magazine)
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (Book)
Superman Earth One by J. Michael Straczynski (Graphic Novel)
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (Audio CD)
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
Young Justice Season 1 by Gary Weisman & Brandon Vietti
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Midnighters The Secret Hour by Scott Westerfeld

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Midnighters The Secret Hour by Scott Westerfeld ISBN: 978-0060519537, HarperTeen; First Edition edition (March 1, 2005)

Plot Summary:

When Jessica Day moves to the small town of Bixby, Oklahoma, Jonathan, Rex, Dess and Melissa know that there is something special about her, and isn’t the fact that she’s from Chicago. Jessica Day is one of them, a midnighter, able to perceive and move around in the secret hour when time stops. Each of them has a special ability. They aren’t sure what Jessica’s is, but for some reason it has the Darklings that share the midnight hour acting more dangerous than ever before.

Critical Evaluation: 

The Midnighters: Secret Hour is a plot driven adventure story, but it also has excellent characters. The initial four midnighters, have experienced the blue time for years, they are already aware of the hidden dangers and the foibles of their friends. The character of Jessica Day is used with great effect for her perspective as a new comer. Through her eyes, the reader is able to see the calm beauty of the secret hour for the first time and experience the chill dread of the primordial monsters that dwell there. Westerfeld has created characters that are laced with realism. They are flawed, but are loyal to what they consider to be their own kind, the midnighters. 

Information about the author:

Scott Westerfeld’s first book in the Leviathan trilogy was the winner of the 2010 Locus Award for Best Young Adult Fiction. His other novels include the New York Times bestselling Uglies series, THE LAST DAYS, PEEPS, SO YESTERDAY and the Midnighterstrilogy. Scott’s newest book, UGLIES: SHAY’S STORY, is a graphic novel told from Tally’s friend Shay’s perspective. Scott was born in Texas, and alternates summers between New York and Sydney, Australia.

Reader’s Annotation:

Jessica Day may seem like a normal kid, but Melissa, Dess, Rex and Jonathan know that she isn’t. Jessica Day is a Midnighter, and maybe something a little more.

Genre:

YA Horror. YA Speculative Fiction.

Curriculum Ties:

N/A

Booktalking Ideas:

I would talk about how exciting it would be to have a extra hour in which time stops every night.

Reading Level/Interest Age:

Grades 6 and up

Challenge Issues:

None.

Reasons for inclusion:

I loved the Uglies and wanted to give this series a chance.

Bloodhound (Beka Cooper Book Two) by Tamora Pierce

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Bloodhound (Beka Cooper Book Two) by Tamora Pierce ISBN: 978-0375838170, Random House Books for Young Readers; 1 Reprint edition (May 25, 2010)

Plot Summary:

The second book in the Beka Cooper Series, continues the story of Beka’s life in the Provost’s Guard. Beka is proud of having graduated to the rank of “dog,” but isn’t to happy about her partner as he catches very few criminals, but only chats, eats and drinks the whole time he is watch. It turns out he is none to happy with Beka as her constant edginess makes him uneasy. He requests a transfer and Beka is assigned to partner her former trainers, Goodwin and Tunstall. Beka and her friends find out about some counterfeit coins and go to investigate. At the same time the Lower City is ready to explode as food prices rocket due to a bad harvest. 

Critical Evaluation: 


The strength of novels that Tamora Pierce writes is in the setting, and this book is no exception. The world of Beka Cooper is squalid and full of prostitutes and thieves, but there is honor in the Lower City and even though the “Dogs” of the Provost’s Guard accept bribes, most of them will enforce the law when it counts. Pierce uses colorful language, words like “cove” and “mot” to create a feeling that the book could almost be set in seventeenth or eighteenth century London. 

Information about the author:

Tamora Pierce was born on December 13, 1954, in South Connellsville, a coal-mining town in western Pennsylvania. When Pierce was five, her parents moved her and her two younger siblings to Dunbar, Pennsylvania, where her uncle provided her with her first books— Winnie the Pooh and The Cat in the Hat—and fostered her love of reading.At age eight, Pierce’s family moved to San Mateo, California, where her parents’ marriage began to fall apart. Pierce dealt with the tension in her parents’ marriage by telling herself stories. One day her father suggested that she start writing these stories down. Pierce, fascinated by Star Trek and The Lord of the Rings, began to focus on creating her own imaginary lands, unusual characters, and, what other fantasy novels failed to include—teenaged female warriors.

In 1969, Pierce’s parents divorced, and she and her siblings moved with her mother back to Fayette County, in western Pennsylvania. The differences between California and Pennsylvania made Pierce feel out of place, and during the rest of her high school career at Uniontown Area Senior High School, Pierce focused less on her writing and more on helping others feel better about themselves. In 1972 she attended college at the University of Pennsylvania, studying psychology, sociology, education, and a variety of languages. During her junior year of college, Pierce rediscovered her interest in writing, and in her senior year she took a writing class. After graduating with a degree in liberal arts, Pierce spent some time in Idaho as a housemother in a group-home for teenaged girls. At that time, she was working on a novel for adults, but in telling the story to her girls, she adapted the content to appeal more to their teenaged interests.

In 1976, Pierce moved to New York to publish her writing and, after working a few non-literary jobs to pay the rent, began working for a literary agency. Her agent suggested Pierce rework her 732-page novel for adults into four separate books for teens. Having already told a teenage version of her book to her girls in Idaho, Pierce decided to take her agent’s advice. She published Alanna: The First Adventure in 1983. Alanna: The First Adventure is the first book within The Song of the Lioness quartet, and it tells the story of a strong young woman training to become a page, a knight’s servant, in the land of Tortall by pretending to be a boy.

After publishing her first quartet, Pierce went to work on others. Throughout the 1990s, Pierce wrote her second and third quartets, The Immortals and The Circle of Magic. She continued to write, and she began to make appearances in schools, encouraging students to write. In 2000, Pierce traveled to England for her first publisher-sponsored tour, to promote her most recent quartets, The Protector of the Small and The Circle Opens.

Critics agree that Pierce’s books have made a great impact on young female readers, encouraging them to be strong and to overcome challenges like those faced by the characters she develops. Although courageous, Pierce’s characters all have their own flaws, which, critics agree, allows readers to identify with them easily. After receiving such positive reactions to Alanna, Pierce decided to write about Alanna’s daughter Alianne in two books, Trickster’s Choice and Trickster’s Queen. In 2004, the Young Adult Library Services Association, a division of the American Library Association, included Trickster’s Choice on their annual list of Best Books for Young Readers.

Pierce, who continues to write, currently resides in Manhattan with her husband Tim Liebe, himself a writer and an actor. Pierce has several cats and birds and enjoys rescuing animals in need of help and a good home. Although Pierce has no children of her own, she loves spending time with her many nieces and nephews, as well as with her friends. She travels around the country, including Pennsylvania, visiting libraries and appearing at young writers’ conferences.

Reader’s Annotation:

Already tested once, Beka Cooper is ready go out and pound some heads. There are some strange things going on in the Lower City that need investigating…if only she could find a partner who would stay.

Genre:

YA Fantasy

Curriculum Ties:

N/A

Booktalking Ideas:

Read an excerpt of a fight scene.

Reading Level/Interest Age:

Grades 7 and up

Challenge Issues:

Violence.

I would make sure that all material was purchased in accordance with my library’s collection development policy and make sure to keep a file containing positive reviews for books that I thought might be challenged. In the event of a challenge, I would actively listen to the parent’s concern and ask if they had read the book. I would then explain why the book had been added to the collection and provide with the reviews and a copy of the collection development policy. I would affirm that they are within their rights to limit what their children read, but that other parents also have the right to determine what their children can read. If all else failed, I would provide the parent with a reconsideration form.

Reasons for inclusion:

Reading the first Beka Cooper novel had hooked me on the series.

Seventeen (Magazine)

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Seventeen  ASIN: B000LXS9PE, Hearst Magazines.

Plot Summary:

Geared towards teenage girls, this magazine is filled with info on how to look good and eat smart. Plus a whole lot of ads. Readers will also find exercise tips and stories from real teens.

Critical Evaluation:

Readers may wonder if Seventeen has managed to remain relevant to today’s youth. The answer is yes. Why? The secret to Seventeens success is obvious upon one look through the magazine: teen concerns over trying to look to their best are never going to go away. 

Information about the author:

N/A

Reader’s Annotation:

Tips on hair, clothes and makeup.

Genre:

Magazine

Curriculum Ties:

N/A

Booktalking Ideas:

N/A

Reading Level/Interest Age:

Grades 9 and up

Challenge Issues:

Parents may be dismayed by the emphasis placed on looks.

I would make sure that all material was purchased in accordance with my library’s collection development policy and make sure to keep a file containing positive reviews for books that I thought might be challenged. In the event of a challenge, I would actively listen to the parent’s concern and ask if they had read the book. I would then explain why the book had been added to the collection and provide with the reviews and a copy of the collection development policy. I would affirm that they are within their rights to limit what their children read, but that other parents also have the right to determine what their children can read. If all else failed, I would provide the parent with a reconsideration form.

Reasons for inclusion:

It is still one of the top selling magazines for teens

Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

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Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold ISBN: 978-0316066457, Little, Brown & Company; First Edition edition (2002).

Plot Summary:

After fourteen year old Susie Salmon is raped and then murdered, she goes to her own personal heaven. There she spends her time watching her family as they first search for her then come to the realization that she is dead. The police investigate her killer, but can find no evidence that links him to the crime. Years go by and she is forced to watch her family fall apart, unable to affect the outcome of events. Her sister Lindsey becomes convinced of the identity of the killer and puts herself in harm’s way when the killer becomes aware of her. 

Critical Evaluation: 

Lovely Bones is novel about the slow process of letting go. After her death, Susie refuses to let her family go. Instead she spends her time watching them from her own personal heaven. They can, at times, sense her presence, and that makes it even harder for them to let her go and move on with their lives. Susie’s father is weighed down with guilt over not having been able to protect her and is obsessed with finding her killer. This obsession also consumes Susie’s sister. Unable to cope, Susie’s mother flees her family to pursue a new life in California. Susie’s brother was very young when she was killed and, although he is willing to move on, is bitter that the memory of Susie will never let them have a normal life. Susie suffers also and is urged by others to put her earthly life behind her, but Susie regrets that she was killed so young, before she had gotten to experience love. It is not until this longing is fulfilled that Susie is finally able to put the past behind her and move on and let her family do the same.

Information about the author:

Born in the early 1960s, Sebold spent her formative years in suburban Philadelphia. Her mother was a journalist for a local paper, while her father was a professor of Spanish at the Ivy-League University of Pennsylvania. She had an older sister who excelled in school, and while Sebold was also a good student, she was the self-admitted joker in her family. It was a way of coping with the stress inside the household, which she dissected years later in her memoir, Lucky. Her parents were undemonstrative, and her mother suffered from panic attacks and endured a secret drinking problem for a number of years. Because her parents were more intellectual than their neighbors in their upper-middle-class world, Sebold recalled that they were considered somewhat “weird,” a tag that followed her into college.

Sebold chose to attend Syracuse University—in part to distance herself from her family—and it was there, near the end of her freshman year, that she was attacked while walking back to her dormitory on the evening of the last day of school for the year. She struggled with her assailant, but was badly beaten and bloodied. After sexually assaulting her in a tunnel that was once the stage entrance to a now-closed amphitheater, he let her go. She managed to make it back to her dorm, and was taken from there to a local hospital. When she gave the police her account of the rape, one cop told her that the tunnel had been the site of where a young woman was once murdered and dismembered, and made the offhand remark that Sebold was “lucky” to have walked away.

Sebold’s rapist was caught, convicted, and given a maximum prison sentence, but the ordeal was far from over. She recounts in Lucky, her 1999 memoir centered around the experience, that she lost friends over it, and that even her father was disdainful that she had not put up more enough of a struggle. Somewhat surprisingly, Sebold returned to school in Syracuse, and after graduating headed to the University of Houston for a brief attempt at graduate school. She eventually settled in New York City, where she planned to become a writer. For years, she lived in the East Village—during its rattiest period, before it was an acceptable post-college, bar-and-restaurant-filled enclave—while working as a research analyst and teaching English as an adjunct instructor at Hunter College on the side. She wrote fiction and poetry, but her submissions were met with rejection. It took her several years to emerge from her post-assault experience, she admitted, and recalled her 20s as a period in which she dated the wrong men, drank too much, snorted heroin for three years, and took part in daring stunts like climbing to the top of the Manhattan Bridge.

Sebold applied to graduate school in California, but was determined to relocate no matter what. “If I didn’t get in I was going to buy a dozen nude-colored panty hose and get an office job in Temecula, California,” she said in the interview with Valby. Accepted into the master of fine arts writing program at the University of California’s Irvine campus, she took out a student loan, and met her future husband on the first day of school. She earned her M.F.A. in 1998, and a year later Lucky was published by Scribner. Its title, of course, was the word that the police officer had used in an attempt to console her. The work earned good reviews, with Publishers Weeklydescribing it as a “fiercely observed memoir about how an incident of such profound violence can change the course of one’s life,” but failed to catch on with readers. After disappointing sales of about 14,000 in hardcover, it was not even released in paperback.

Yet Sebold had already started the manuscript that would become her first published novel, The Lovely Bones. She felt compelled to chronicle her own traumatic experience first, she told Christina Patterson in an interview that appeared in London’s Independent. “When I felt a sense of polemic entering the novel, I realised that I had to get myself out of there,” she admitted. Finally, she finished The Lovely Bones manuscript, and it netted her a two-book deal with Little, Brown. As advance copies began circulating in the months prior to its June of 2002 publication date, a publishing-industry and bookseller buzz began to attach to it.

Reader’s Annotation:

At fourteen, Susie Salmon wasn’t ready to die, there were so many things that she had not yet experienced. Susie watches from her personalized heaven as her family falls apart in the wake of her death.

Genre:

Crossover

Curriculum Ties:

N/A

Booktalking Ideas:

This book is different because it is told from the perspective of the dead.

Reading Level/Interest Age:

N/A

Challenge Issues:

Murder. Rape. Controversial view of Heaven.

I would make sure that all material was purchased in accordance with my library’s collection development policy and make sure to keep a file containing positive reviews for books that I thought might be challenged. In the event of a challenge, I would actively listen to the parent’s concern and ask if they had read the book. I would then explain why the book had been added to the collection and provide with the reviews and a copy of the collection development policy. I would affirm that they are within their rights to limit what their children read, but that other parents also have the right to determine what their children can read. If all else failed, I would provide the parent with a reconsideration form.

Reasons for inclusion:

Great crossover story

Death the High Cost of Living by Neil Gaiman

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Death the High Cost of Living by Neil Gaiman ISBN: 978-1563891335, Vertigo (June 1, 1994).

Plot Summary:

Meet Didi, a perky young goth girl who insists that she is the living incarnation of Death, one of the Endless, a pantheon of powers that rule the destiny of man. Once every one hundred years, Death must take on mortal form for one day in order to taste the bitter tang mortality in order to better understand what she takes from mortals. Rather than seeing this as a dreaded obligation, Didi embraces life, and takes pleasure in the smallest acts. Didi meets Sexton, who wants to commit suicide, and together they embark on a journey of discovery.

Critical Evaluation: 

It is impossible to read this three issue miniseries without being in awe of both Neil Gaiman’s and Chris Bachalo’s ability to communicate the essential elements of a story through each panel. Gaiman’s style is masterful and understated. He keeps the story small – the characters do not undergo any radical transformation and their main obstacles are not so impressive. Sexton is a teenager doesn’t have any real problems, but who wants to commit suicide simply because there in nothing that interests him in his life. Didi is able to show him the small things about life that are worth living for. Didi’s ability to embrace life makes her an extremely lovable character and Sexton does fall for her, but in the end is willing to wait until his time is up to see her again. Although Didi wishes her time as a mortal would never end, she realizes that it is bitter sweet inevitability of death that makes life all the more beautiful and precious.

Information about the author:

Beginnings
Neil Gaiman was born in Hampshire, UK, and now lives in the United States near Minneapolis.  As a child he discovered his love of books, reading, and stories, devouring the works of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, James Branch Cabell, Edgar Allan Poe, Michael Moorcock, Ursula K. LeGuin, Gene Wolfe, and G.K. Chesterton.  A self-described “feral child who was raised in libraries,” Gaiman credits librarians with fostering a life-long love of reading: “I wouldn’t be who I am without libraries. I was the sort of kid who devoured books, and my happiest times as a boy were when I persuaded my parents to drop me off in the local library on their way to work, and I spent the day there. I discovered that librarians actually want to help you: they taught me about interlibrary loans.”

Neil Gaiman is credited with being one of the creators of modern comics, as well as an author whose work crosses genres and reaches audiences of all ages.  He is listed in the Dictionary of Literary Biography as one of the top ten living post-modern writers and is a prolific creator of works of prose, poetry, film, journalism, comics, song lyrics, and drama.  

Reader’s Annotation:

Once every one hundred years, Death must take on mortal form in order to taste the bitter tang mortality.

Genre:

Graphic novel.

Curriculum Ties:

N/A

Booktalking Ideas:

If death were a person, what do you think it would look like? Neil Gaiman imagined death as perky, goth teen.

Reading Level/Interest Age:

Grades 9 and up

Challenge Issues:

Suicide. Paganism. 

I would make sure that all material was purchased in accordance with my library’s collection development policy and make sure to keep a file containing positive reviews for books that I thought might be challenged. In the event of a challenge, I would actively listen to the parent’s concern and ask if they had read the book. I would then explain why the book had been added to the collection and provide with the reviews and a copy of the collection development policy. I would affirm that they are within their rights to limit what their children read, but that other parents also have the right to determine what their children can read. If all else failed, I would provide the parent with a reconsideration form.

Reasons for inclusion:

Neil Gaiman is one of the greatest writers of this generation.

Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey

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Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey 978-0689860089, Aladdin; First Edition edition (April 1, 2003)

Plot Summary:

The fishing village of Half Circle Hold is very traditional. Men fish, women prepare the fish for market, and only a man can be a Harper. While Harper Petiron was alive, Menolly’s parents were willing to overlook her oddities. Now that he is dead, they want her to give up her dreams. She learns that her mother had deliberately botched the healing of menolly’s hand after a fish gutting accident in order to keep her from playing and she runs away from the Sea Hold. Menolly is just barely able to avoid being caught out in threadfall. Thread are deadly spores that rain down on the planet of Pern and destroy all organic material that it comes in contact with. Menolly is able to find a cave just in time to save herself and to bond with nine fire lizards, small flying lizards of limited intelligence that are able to communicate telepathically and teleport. 

Critical Evaluation: 

Readers should be fairly warned: Pern novels are addictive and numerous. Pern is a very comprehensive setting. Like the Marion Zimmer Bradley’s planet of Darkover, Pern is a Terran (Earth) colony that has forgotten it is a colony. Pern has a history that spans the time when humans first landed on the Pern, to 2,500 years after the landing. Pern society has built up around the threat of Threadfall. Thread are spores that fall from the sky and burn all organic matter that they touch. Thread are unable to penetrate rock, and so the Pernese live in Holds made out of stone. Dragonriders, who ride out into threadfall and burn the spores before they can destroy food sources are much revered. Although Dragonsong has a great setting, and a well constructed plot, the characters do fall flat at times and feel a little one dimensional. Characters seem to be only either out to get Menolly or fall in the sternly kind category. 

Information about the author:

Anne McCaffrey was born on April 1st, 1926, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at 1:30 p.m., in the hour of the Sheep, year of the Fire Tiger, sun sign Aries with Taurus rising and Leo mid-heaven (which seems to suggest an early interest in the stars).

Her parents were George Herbert McCaffrey, BA, MA PhD (Harvard), Colonel USA Army (retired), and Anne Dorothy McElroy McCaffrey, estate agent. She had two brothers: Hugh McCaffrey (deceased 1988), Major US Army, and Kevin Richard McCaffrey, still living.

Anne was educated at Stuart Hall, Staunton Virginia, Montclair High School, Montclair, New Jersey, and graduated cum laude from Radcliffe College, majoring in Slavonic Languages and Literatures.

Anne McCaffrey has tried to live up to her auspicious natal day. Her first novel was written in Latin class and might have brought her instant fame, as well as an A, if she had written it in that ancient language. Much chastened by teacher and father, she turned to the stage and became a character actress, appearing in the first successful summer music circus in Lambertsville, NJ. She studied voice for nine years and, during that time, became intensely interested in the stage direction of opera and operetta, ending that phase of her experience with the direction of the American premiere of Carl Orff’s LUDUS DE NATO INFANTE MIRIFICUS in which she also played a witch.

Her working career included Liberty Music Shops and Helena Rubinstein (1947-1952). She married in 1950 and has three children: Alec Anthony, b. 1952, Todd, b.1956, and Georgeanne, b.1959.

Anne McCaffrey’s first story was published by Sam Moskowitz in Science Fiction + Magazine and her first novel was published by Ballantine Books in 1967. By the time the three children of her marriage were comfortably in school most of the day, she had already achieved enough success with short stories to devote full time to writing. Her first novel, Restoree, was written as a protest against the absurd and unrealistic portrayals of women in s-f novels in the 50s and early 60s. It is, however, in the handling of broader themes and the worlds of her imagination, particularly the two series The Ship Who Sang and the fourteen novels about the Dragonriders of Pern that Ms. McCaffrey’s talents as a story-teller are best displayed.

Although she used to make appearances throughout the world as guest of honor at science fiction conventions, arthritis has now restricted such travel. She lives in a house of her own design, Dragonhold-Underhill (because she had to dig out a hill on her farm to build it) in Wicklow County, Ireland. It is not remotely like a castle, “on purpose,” she says to people who believe ‘hold’ is synonymous with ‘castle’ in Ireland.

Anne runs a private livery stable and her horses have been successful in Horse Trials and showjumping. She does not ride in competition, she hastens to add, but has enjoyed the success of horse and rider and, until recently, rode out on her black and white mare, Pi.

Reader’s Annotation:

Music is everything to fifteen year old Menolly, and when she is told that women cannot be a Harper she decides to run away.

Genre:

Fantasy

Curriculum Ties:

N/A

Booktalking Ideas:

Talk about the setting of Pern.

Reading Level/Interest Age:

Grades 5 and up

Challenge Issues:

None.

I would make sure that all material was purchased in accordance with my library’s collection development policy and make sure to keep a file containing positive reviews for books that I thought might be challenged. In the event of a challenge, I would actively listen to the parent’s concern and ask if they had read the book. I would then explain why the book had been added to the collection and provide with the reviews and a copy of the collection development policy. I would affirm that they are within their rights to limit what their children read, but that other parents also have the right to determine what their children can read. If all else failed, I would provide the parent with a reconsideration form.

Reasons for inclusion:

It is still enjoyable after all these years.

The Hobbit (DVD) Directed by Peter Jackson

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The Hobbit (DVD) Directed by Peter Jackson ASIN: B00BEZTMFY, New Line/Eurpac (March 19, 2013).

Plot Summary:

Bilbo Baggins is recruited by Gandalf the Grey to join a party of dwarves as their burglar. The dwarves wish to reclaim the homeland in the lonely mountains from the dragon Smaug. Initially hesitant to leave the comforts of home, Bilbo finally decides to join. The party face all manner of dangers on journey, and although not a warrior, Bilbo proves that he is a brave ally.

Critical Evaluation: 

As always, Jackson has come through with wonderful sets full of sweeping vistas, painstakingly detailed costumes and wonderful cinematography. Ian McKellan is back as Gandalf and plays him perfectly- kind, but with a stern edge if crossed. Martin Freeman was also a good choice for the role of Bilbo. Freeman brings a certain understated humor to the role and does an excellent job of playing a respectable hobbit who frowns upon adventure. 

Information about the author:

Peter Jackson was born as an only child in a small coast-side town in New Zealand in 1961. When a friend of his parents bought him a super 8mm movie camera (because she saw how much he enjoyed taking photos), the then eight-year-old Peter instantly grabbed the thing to start recording his own movies, which he made with his friends. They were usually short, but they already had the spectacular trademark that would make Jackson famous: impressive special effects, made at a very low cost. For example, for his film “World War Two” which he made as a teenager, he used to simulate a firing gun by punching little holes into the celluloid, so that, once projected, the gun gave the impression of displaying a small fire. Jackson’s first step towards the more serious filmmaking came with an entry in a local contest to stimulate amateur and children’s film. For this film, he used stop-motion animation to create a monster that ruins a city in the style of Ray Harryhausen. Unfortunately, he didn’t win. When Jackson was 22, he embarked on an movie making-adventure that would change his life. This film, Bad Taste (1987), was begun as any other Jackson film, in an amateuristic style, at a low budget and using friends and local people to star in his film. Jackson himself did nearly everything in the movie, he directed, produced, filmed and starred in it, in a number of roles, amongst them that of the hero, “Derek”. And everything was filmed on a second-hand, $250 camera. It took Jackson and his friends four years to complete the movie. What had started out as an joke in a group of friends, then became a cult-classic. A friend of Jackson who was working in the movie industry convinced him the film had commercial prospects and arranged for it to be shown at the Cannes film festival, where it won a lot of acclaim, as well as a number of prizes. The movie soon became a hit because of its bizarre humor and overdose of special-effects, some realistic, some hilarious because of their amateuristic look. After the success of Bad Taste(1987), Jackson became recognized as a director and the door to fame and fortune was opened. He gave up his job at a local photographer’s shop and became a well-known director of horror-movies, after the success of his first professionally made movie, Dead Alive (1992).

Reader’s Annotation:

When a party of dwarves show up unexpectedly on Bilbo Baggin’s doorstep, Bilbo must decide whether to remain respectable or to follow the road to adventure.

Genre:

Fantasy

Curriculum Ties:

N/A

Booktalking Ideas:

Dress up like a hobbit.

Reading Level/Interest Age:

N/A

Challenge Issues:

Magic.

I would make sure that all material was purchased in accordance with my library’s collection development policy and make sure to keep a file containing positive reviews for books that I thought might be challenged. In the event of a challenge, I would actively listen to the parent’s concern and ask if they had read the book. I would then explain why the book had been added to the collection and provide with the reviews and a copy of the collection development policy. I would affirm that they are within their rights to limit what their children read, but that other parents also have the right to determine what their children can read. If all else failed, I would provide the parent with a reconsideration form.

Reasons for inclusion:

This a popular movie with a teen book tie-in.

The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

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The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton ISBN 978-0142407332, Speak; PLATINUM EDITION edition (April 20, 2006)

Plot Summary:

Ponyboy Curtis has lived with his older brother, Sodapop, under the guardianship of their eldest brother, Darry, ever since their parents died in a car crash. Ponyboy, Sodapop, and Darry are greasers as are all of their friends. Greasers are lower class boys who wear their hair greased back, and are rivals with the Socs, short for socials, who are upper middle class kids who live on the West side of town. Animosity between the two groups heightens when Ponyboy and his friend Johnny strike up a conversation with two Soc girls, Cherry and Marcia, at a movie. Ponyboy and Johnny offer to walk the girls to a friend’s house where they can get a ride home and they are intercepted by the girl’s drunken boyfriends, Bob and Randy. Later that night, Ponyboy gets into a fight with Darry and meets up with Johnny in a park. Unfortunately, Bob, Randy and several of their Soc friends also show up at the same park and after the events of that night, things will never be the same for either group.

Critical Evaluation: 

S.E. Hinton’s novel, The Outsiders, is filled with memorable characters with crazy names like Ponyboy and Sodapop. For the most part, the Greasers are poor, high school dropouts who regularly engage in illegal activity. They are also fiercely loyal, have a code of honor and a great sense of camaraderie within their group. Dally Winston is the epitome of his image. A hood who is in and out of jail, but who once took the fall for a friend for a crime he did not commit. Dally is also the one that Ponyboy and Johnny turn to when they get into trouble. Although vilified at first, the Socs also possess good qualities. Through the eyes of Ponyboy, and the conversation between Ponyboy and Johnny and two Soc girls, the reader also comes to realize that while Socs may not have to worry about money, they do have to deal with their own problems, and the same sort of worries that everyone, everywhere has to deal with.

Information about the author:

Susan Eloise Hinton was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She has always enjoyed reading but wasn’t satisfied with the literature that was being written for young adults, which influenced her to write novels like The Outsiders. That book, her first novel, was published in 1967 by Viking.

Once published, The Outsiders gave her a lot of publicity and fame, and also a lot of pressure. S.E. Hinton was becoming known as “The Voice of the Youth” among other titles. This kind of pressure and publicity resulted in a three year long writer’s block. 

Her boyfriend (and now, her husband),who had gotten sick of her being depressed all the time, eventually broke this block. He made her write two pages a day if she wanted to go anywhere. This eventually led to That Was Then, This Is Now.

That Was Then, This Is Now is known to be a much more well thought out book than The Outsiders. Because she read a lot of great literature and wanted to better herself, she made sure that she wrote each sentence exactly right. She continued to write her two pages a day until she finally felt it was finished in the summer of 1970, she got married a few months later. That Was Then, This is Now was published in 1971. 

In 1975, S.E. Hinton published Rumble Fish as a novel (she had published a short story version in a 1968 edition of Nimrod, which was a literary supplement for the University of Tulsa Alumni Magazine). 

Rumble Fish was the shortest novel she had published. It received a great deal of contrasting opinions, with one reviewer claiming it to be her best book and the next claiming it to be her last. 

The latter was apparently wrong. Tex was published in 1979, four years after Rumble Fish. It received great reviews and people raved about how the writing style had matured since previous publications. Tex would be the last book S.E. Hinton published for nine years. After another span of four years, S.E. Hinton’s son, Nick was born. 

Four years after Tex was released, quite a few major events took place in S.E. Hinton’s life. In March of 1983, the movie The Outsiders was released. The following August, Nicholas David was born. Two months later the movie Rumble Fish was released. 

In 1985 the movie version of That Was Then, This Is Now was released. Three years later S.E. Hinton became the first person to receive the YASD/SLJ Author Achievement Award, which was given by the Young Adult Services Division of the American Library Association and School Library Journal. 

Taming The Star Runner was released in October of that year. It was the first book that S.E. Hinton had published that wasn’t in first person. With a seven-year wait, S.E. Hinton released another book in 1995. This time she did something that no one expected. 

Big David, Little David was written for children around the kindergarten age. This deviation from Teen fiction seems to be a reflection of the current important things in S.E. Hinton’s life: Family. The children’s fiction trend continues with her latest release- The Puppy Sister, which is a fantasy book written for Elementary school level children.

S.E. Hinton currently lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma with her husband David. Her son Nick is away for college. 

Reader’s Annotation:

There has always been animosity between the greasers and the socs, but it is not until the lines get blurred that the violence escalates.

Genre:

Realistic Fiction. 

Curriculum Ties:

N/A

Booktalking Ideas:

Describe cliques in the Fifties compared to cliques today.

Reading Level/Interest Age:

Grades 7 and up

Challenge Issues:

Violence.

I would make sure that all material was purchased in accordance with my library’s collection development policy and make sure to keep a file containing positive reviews for books that I thought might be challenged. In the event of a challenge, I would actively listen to the parent’s concern and ask if they had read the book. I would then explain why the book had been added to the collection and provide with the reviews and a copy of the collection development policy. I would affirm that they are within their rights to limit what their children read, but that other parents also have the right to determine what their children can read. If all else failed, I would provide the parent with a reconsideration form.

Reasons for inclusion:

No young adult collection would be complete with out it.

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

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Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes ISBN: 978-0156030304, Mariner Books (May 1, 2005)

Plot Summary:

Charlie Gordon has an I.Q. of 68 and works a menial job at a bakery so that he will not have to be institutionalized. His mother never accepted his limitations and always pushed him to better himself. Then she pushed him away altogether in order to give his sister a “normal” childhood. Charlie thinks that his life would be better if he were smarter. It is while he is attending Beekman College Center for Retarded Adults, that he first hears about an experimental surgery that increases intelligence. Charlie agrees to undergo the surgery and over three months experiences increases in intelligence until his I.Q. score is 185. Unfortunately, greater intelligence does not equal greater happiness and Charlie grows ever more isolated.

Critical Evaluation: 

This novel is told in epistolary form, which is used to great effect as a device to record Charlie’s gain in intelligence, as well as his heartbreaking decline. The correlation between knowledge and happiness is a theme that runs throughout the novel. Charlie believes that he would have more friends if he were smarter, but when he becomes smarter, he realizes that his friends at the bakery were ridiculing him all along. A nurse tells Charlie that if God had wanted him to be smart God would have made him that way. This statement foreshadows Charlie’s eventual decline and also put the reader in mind of Adam and Eve and the tree of knowledge. Just as in the case of Adam and Eve, knowledge does not bring him happiness. Instead, his greater intelligence gives him the ability to predict his eventual relapse. He is aware that he will return to his former state, but he is unable to do anything about it. Though very sad, this novel is a good introduction to teens about the issues surrounding those who suffer from mental disabilities.

Information about the author:

Daniel Keyes was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1927 As a young man, he served in the US Maritime Service and later received a BA in psychology from Brooklyn College (CUNY) Early in his professional life, Keyes worked as an editor of fiction; he was also employed in the fashion photography industry He later taught English in the New York City schools and returned to Brooklyn College to earn an MA in English and American Literature He also taught English and Creative writing courses at Ohio University, where he remains a Professor Emeritus In 1988 he received the Distinguished Alumnus Medal of Honor from Brooklyn College

Keyes’ published works include the novels The Touch (1968), about a radiation accident and its human toll; The Fifth Sally (1980), dealing with multiple personality disorder and an attempt to combine a sufferer’s separate personalities into a single personality; and Until Death Do Us Part: The Sleeping Princess (1998), concerned with the issue of mental competency in death penalty cases His non-fiction works include The Minds of Billy Milligan (1981), which examines the life of a man who suffers from multiple personality disorder and is acquitted of rape and kidnapping charges through an insanity defense; Unveiling Claudia: A True Story of Serial Murder (1986), which explores the story of Claudia Yasko, a woman who claimed to have murdered several individuals; The Milligan Wars (1994), a sequel to The Minds of Billy Milligan; and Algernon, Charlie, and I: A Writer’s Journey (2004), which examines Keyes’ creation of his classic novel.

Of course, Keyes is most noted for Flowers for Algernon (1966) The work was initially published as a novelette in 1959 and won the Hugo award for Best Short Fiction in 1960 Keyes then expanded it into novel length This version of the story won the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1966 In 1968 a film of the novel, titled Charly, was made, starring Cliff Robertson

Daniel Keyes currently lives with his family in southern Florida, where he continues to write

Reader’s Annotation:

Charlie Gordon, a man suffering from mental retardation, thinks that his life would be better if he were smarter. He is about to find out.

Genre:

Realistic Fiction. 

Curriculum Ties:

The history of mental healthcare.

Booktalking Ideas:

Read exerpt from the book.

Reading Level/Interest Age:

N/A

Challenge Issues:

Sexual situations.

I would make sure that all material was purchased in accordance with my library’s collection development policy and make sure to keep a file containing positive reviews for books that I thought might be challenged. In the event of a challenge, I would actively listen to the parent’s concern and ask if they had read the book. I would then explain why the book had been added to the collection and provide with the reviews and a copy of the collection development policy. I would affirm that they are within their rights to limit what their children read, but that other parents also have the right to determine what their children can read. If all else failed, I would provide the parent with a reconsideration form.

Reasons for inclusion:

It is a classic crossover novel.