The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle

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The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle ISBN: 978-0451450524, Roc Trade; Reissue edition (January 1, 1991)

Plot Summary:

Upon hearing that she is the last of her kind, a unicorn makes a dangerous journey out of her forest. As she travels, she finds that humans can no longer even recognize what she is, but instead think that she is a white horse. After speaking with a cryptic butterfly, she learns that the unicorns were herded away by a monstrous red bull. While looking for them, she is captured by a witch who runs a carnival. Her carnival is supposedly a menagerie of “magical creatures” but the unicorn and a harpy are the only real magical creatures as Mommy Fortuna, the carnival owner, has used illusion to make the others appear to be so. The unicorn is freed by a magician when he sees what she truly is. Schmendrick the magician and the unicorn are later captured by bandits, but subsequently escape. They are accompanied by the bandit leader’s wife. The three companions journey on and eventually find the answers that they seek, but in the end, the unicorn finds herself to be very different from the unicorn that she was.

Critical Evaluation: 

The Last Unicorn is written in such a way as to evoke a fairy tale setting and at the same time it includes very realistic elements that combine to give the book a unique feel. The descriptions of the unicorn’s forest are beautiful and haunting and the unicorn’s life there is one of idyllic peace. The unicorn is immortal and seems to be unaware of the passing of time. The red bull is a simple monster, and like a fairy tale monster, possesses no complexities. Against this backdrop is placed the very human character of Molly Grue and to a lesser extent, Schmendrick. When Molly first sees the unicorn she says “Where have you been?… Where were you twenty years ago, ten years ago? How dare you come to me now, when I am this?” Molly, a very pragmatic woman, has passed the age of fairy tales, but has never set aside her longing to be touched by the fantastical. 

Information about the author:

Born in Manhattan on April 20, 1939, Peter Soyer Beagle, son of Simon and Rebecca Soyer Beagle, was raised in the Bronx, New York. From an early age he was a voracious reader, and his parents encouraged him in his pursuits of the literary arts. As early as sixth grade, he proclaimed that he was going to be a writer, and during his years at the Bronx High School of Science (1955), he was a frequent contributor to the school literary magazine. It was in this period that his work caught the attention of the fiction editor at Seventeen Magazine. In his senior year of high school, he entered a poem and a story into the 1955 Scholastic Writing Awards Contest, without realizing that one of the top prizes was a college scholarship. His poem took first place, and he spent the next four years at the University of Pittsburgh.

In his sophmore year at U Pitt, one of his short stories, Telephone Call, won first place in a Seventeen Magazine short story contest. In short order, he acquired an agent, cranked out several more pieces (including “A Fine and Private Place” when he was only 19), and graduated with a degree in creative writing, a minor in Spanish, and a passion for writing.

He then spent a year overseas, returning home when he found himself enrolled by his very capable agent in a writing workshop at Stanford University, where, besides honing his writing skills, he met Enid, who would later become his first wife.

After his time at Stanford had ended, he kicked around the East Coast for a while, before deciding that his heart belonged with Enid in California, and so he and a friend undertook a cross-country motorscooter trip, which would later become the basis of I See By My Outfit. Once he had married Enid and moved in with her and her three children, he supported himself and his family as a freelance writer for years, even after the well-received publication of “The Last Unicorn”.

In the 1970’s, Beagle increasingly produced screenplays, (he continues to write for the screen to this day) while also pursuing his avocation as a folk singer, delighting audiences with songs in English, Yiddish, French and German. A live album of his songs has been released, and he once played at The Palms in Davis, CA. According to him, “singing (and dishwashing) are the only other things I’ve done for money.” Between 1973 and 1985 he performed every weekend at the club L’Oustalou in Santa Cruz, California. In 1980, his marriage to Enid ended, and in in the summer of 1985 he moved to Seattle, Washington for several years.

At some point, he evidently decided he had had enough rain, and moved back to California. (I know he lived in Santa Cruz at some point, but can’t find the exact time frame.) He now resides in Davis with his wife of ten years, the Indian writer and artist Padma Hejmadi. As he says, “I’m in the phone book.” I checked – he is. Beagle is active in the Davis community, and is a member of the “Friends of Davis” group, which recently protested the opening of a Borders Bookstore, which would put many local Davis bookstores out of business, instead of another business such as a clothing store, which the Davis community desperately needed. The Friends of Davis ended up taking the city to court to block the project – all information I can find now is that the court action is “ongoing”

Reader’s Annotation:

When a unicorn learns that she may be last of her kind, she starts a journey that will change her forever.

Genre:

Fantasy. Crossover.

Curriculum Ties:

N/A

Booktalking Ideas:

Have you ever wished that fairy tales were true?

Reading Level/Interest Age:

N/A

Challenge Issues:

Witchcraft and 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:

A wonderful example of a crossover title.

 

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Young Justice: Season One – Volumes 1, 2 & 3 (2012) created by Greg Weisman and Brandon Vietti

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Young Justice: Season One – Volumes 1, 2 & 3 (2012)  created by Greg Weisman and Brandon Vietti ASIN: B006PA0WF2, Warner Home Video

 Plot Summary:

Justice League sidekicks Robin, Kid Flash, Speedy and Aqualad are excited. Today they have been promised entrance into the Justice League’s HQ. However, when they arrive at the Halls of Justice, Speedy informs them that it is just the fake HQ that is there for the tourists. The real HQ, Watch Tower, is in orbit above the Earth. Angry that the Justice League refuses to take him seriously, Speedy leaves. The Justice League receives a report of a fire at Cadmus Labs, but then is called away on a more important mission. The three sidekicks decide to investigate on their own and discover a secret underground cloning facility. Hacking into the computers, Robin learns of a weapon that is on the level 52. They are discovered and fight their way down to the lowest level only to find that the weapon is a teenage clone of Superman, code named Superboy. Superboy is only sixteen weeks old, but has been force educated by telepathic genetic clones called genomorphs. The side kicks free Superboy only to have him attack them due to the genomorph’s telepathic control. Later the genomorphs free Superboy from their control in the hopes that he will someday lead them to freedom. As the four escape from Cadmus Labs, they are met by Justice League who are disappointed in their actions and shocked at finding a clone of Superman in their midst. Aqualad refuses to back down and answers that they did good work as a team and will continue to do so with or without the Justice League. Batman relents and the new team Young Justice is formed. Robin, Kid Flash, Aqualad and Superboy are soon joined by Miss Martian, the Martian Manhunter’s niece, and Artemis, who claims she is Green Arrow’s niece. Batman assigns them to an old JL HQ, which is a hollowed out mountain, and instructs them that as the Justice League spends so much time in the spotlight, they will need Young Justice to be their covert surveillance team. Batman will provide them with their missions, Black Canary will train them and the android, Red Tornado, acts as a live in advisor.

Critical Evaluation: 

Although the show mostly revolved around action and sinister secret organizations, Young Justice had a depth to the characters that is sometimes missing in the superhero cartoon genre. Superboy is troubled by the fact that Superman, the closest thing that he will ever have to a father, seems to want to avoid him. Kid Flash has a crush on Miss Martian, but she only has eyes for Superboy. Robin, who is brilliant and a techno wiz, desperately wants to be the leader, but is forced to recognize that he does not yet possess the maturity to do so. Aqualad, the most mature of the group, is the leader, but second guesses himself. He also misses his home in Atlantis. Artemis wants to be part of the team, but is hiding a secret about herself that she fears will lead to the others rejecting her. Near the end of the first season, we learn that Superboy and Miss Martian are also hiding secrets for similar reasons. In short, the series is filled with teen angst that teens will relate to.

Information about the author:

Weisman is a former English composition and writing teacher and received degrees at Stanford and USC. During an interview done during Comic-Con International 2010, Weisman revealed that while 22 years old, he wrote a four issue mini-series for DC Comics starring the superheroine Black Canary. The first issue of the series was pencilled, but the project was ultimately shelved due to the character being used in writer/artist Mike Grell’s high profile Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunter series. Elements from the ill-fated project were used for his DC Showcase: Green Arrow short film.

In addition to developing and showrunning the popular seriesGargoyles, the second season of W.I.T.C.H. and The Spectacular Spider-Man, Weisman has written for numerous animated series, including Men In BlackRoughneck: Starship Troopers Chronicles,Kim Possible and Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Weisman wrote the series bible for Max Steel and produced the show’s first season. Weisman voice directs and voice acts on occasion; he played the role of Donald Menken onThe Spectacular Spider-Man.

Weisman is notable for the question and answer forum he participates in with Gargoyles fans online, often revealing his intended plans for the show.

Weisman has also written for comics, including Gargoyles, a continuation of the storyline from the television series. Weisman was not new to comics, having spent time at DC as an editor and co-writing Captain Atom with Cary Bates. A parody of Gargoyles appeared in a Weisman-penned story in JLA Showcase #1.

Reader’s Annotation:

Ready to take their mission to next level, a group of sidekicks band together to form a team of their own.

Genre:

Superhero cartoon.

Curriculum Ties:

N/A

Booktalking Ideas:

N/A

Reading Level/Interest Age:

N/A

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:

I had read that this was a really great series and wanted to try it out.

21 by Adele Music CD

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21 by Adele Music CD, ASIN: B004EBT5CU, Columbia (2011)

 

Plot Summary:

Sometimes referred to as British soul, the music of 21 has clearly been influenced by American jazz and blues singers. Adele claims Mary J. Blige, Kanye West, Alanis Morrisette, Tom Waits, and Sinead O’Connor as her inspiration for the unique sound of the album.

Critical Evaluation: 

21 manages to grab the listeners attention from the very first song, “Rolling in the Deep,” and even those who are not fans of R&B may enjoy this album. This song has a fast paced, bluesey sound and is accompanied by a drum beat and gospel background singers. It would require a very strong vocal talent to keep up with that, which Adele has in spades. Other notable songs from this album are “Rumor Has It” and “Set Fire to the Rain.” The album was inspired, in part, by a bitter break up and the pain of this event is reflected in the lyrics.

Information about the author:

Adele is the British singer whose 2008 debut album won two Grammy Awards and made her a leading pop singer in the U.K and the United States. Adele Adkins (who performs under her first name alone) was raised in London, grew up imitating the Spice Girls at home, and began singing in earnest at age 14, according to her official biography. After posting songs to MySpace.com, Adele was discovered by XL Recordings in 2006. Her 2008 debut album, 19, included the singles “Hometown Glory” and “Chasing Pavements” and won her Grammy Awards as best new artist and (for “Chasing Pavements”) best female pop vocal performance. Never a pop waif, Adele is known for her smoky voice and plus-sized body, which she uses to belt out power ballads and soul-tinged pop. (Her voice “could stop traffic,” journalist Paul Rees once told the BBC.) Her follow-up album, 21, was released in 2011, debuted at #1 on the U.K. music charts, and stayed there for 10 straight weeks, selling millions of copies. It was helped along by the acclaimed heartbreak-of-romance single “Someone Like You,” which became a big hit after Adele performed it at the BRIT Awards in February of 2011. Adele had surgery on her vocal cords later that year, temporarily derailing her rise, but returned to perform “Rolling in the Deep” at the Grammy Awards in 2012. That night she took home all six Grammys she was nominated for: album of the year and best pop album (both for 21), song of the year and record of the year and best short-form music video (all for “Rolling in the Deep”), and best pop vocal performance (for “Someone Like You”). She also sang the theme song to the 2012  movie Skyfall and earned an Oscar nomination for best original song.

Reader’s Annotation:

Bluesy, Gospel and pop by turns, Adele’s 21 is eleven tracks of raw vocal talent.

Genre:

Popular music.

Curriculum Ties:

N/A

Booktalking Ideas:

N/A

Reading Level/Interest Age:

N/A

Challenge Issues:

None.

Reasons for inclusion:

Adele was the winner of the teen’s choice award for 2012 for best female singer.

On the road by Jack Kerouac

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On the road by Jack Kerouac ISBN: 978-0143120285, Penguin Books; Reprint edition (November 20, 2012)

Plot Summary:

When Sal first meets Dean Moriarty (Neal Cassady), he is attracted at once to his level of energy and enthusiasm for life. Dean is described as a jailkid who had “spent a third of his time in the poolhall, a third in jail, and a third in the public library.” Dean is intelligent, but different from Sal’s other, more polished intellectual friends. Dean wants to learn how to write and about Nietzsche and other such topics but does not know the jargon and so often sounds nonsensical and rambling. Sal also describes Dean as a conman who is using him but that he is okay with it. The two undertake a series of trips in search of new experiences and in search of America. As the story progresses Dean’s selfishness becomes more and more evident and culminates in Dean’s leaving Sal stranded in Mexico City, sick with dysentery.

Critical Evaluation: 

Jack Kerouac’s style of writing that he called spontaneous prose – writing with very little revision in order to arrive at the raw truth – is immediately engaging. The story is related in a rambling way that is reminiscent of a letter or a conversation. Kerouac’s characters also feel very real because they are real, as are many of the experiences. Sal’s journey is his journey. One of the biggest themes of the book is the search for a deeper meaning in life. Sal and Dean travel across America seeking kicks, but also seeking a kind of spiritual enlightenment. By the end of the book, the theme of coming to terms with responsibility is also apparent. Sal is ready for commitments that constrain his personal freedom; in essence, he is ready to grow up. Dean, however, chooses to remain a child, never taking his commitments seriously and thinking only of himself.

Information about the author:

Born Jean-Louis Kerouac, Kerouac is the most famous native son of Lowell, Massachusetts. His parents had immigrated as very young children from the Province of Quebec, Canada, and Kerouac spoke a local French Canadian-American dialect before he spoke English. He was a football star at Lowell High School and upon graduation in 1939 was awarded a scholarship to Columbia University. However, after an injury sidelined him on the football team, Kerouac grew unhappy with Columbia and dropped out of school. During this period in New York City, Kerouac became friends with the poet Allen Ginsberg and the novelist William S. Burroughs, as well as Herbert Huncke and others who would be associated with the “Beat Generation.”

During World War II, he briefly joined the Merchant Marine and the U.S. Navy, and after the war, in 1947, he met Neal Cassady, with whom he would in the late 1940s begin crisscrossing the country by automobile.

Kerouac wrote his first novel, “The Town and the City,” about his struggle to balance the expectations of his family with his unconventional life, which was published in 1950 with Ginsberg’s help. Kerouac took several cross-country trips with Cassady during this time, which became the basis for his most famous work, “On The Road.” The manuscript – presented to his editor on a single, unbroken roll of paper, the scroll that was later exhibited to record crowds in Lowell – was rejected and six years would pass before it was published in 1957. In the years in between, Kerouac followed Ginsberg and Cassady to San Francisco and the term “Beat Generation,” which Kerouac coined, gained popularity. When Kerouac finally broke through with the release of “On The Road, he was faced with challenges presented by the fame that followed as he tried to live up to the image portrayed in his novels and facing criticism from the literary establishment for being part of what was considered a fad. He would go on to publish additional novels, many of which used settings based on Lowell – including “Doctor Sax,” “The Subterraneans,” “The Dharma Bums” and his final great work, “Big Sur.” He settled in Florida with his wife, Stella Sampas, and his mother, where he died in 1969 at age 47. He was buried in Lowell.

Reader’s Annotation:

Based on Kerouac’s road trips with Neal Cassady in the late Forties, On The Road is a story about the search for meaning and while it is known as the defining book of the Beat Generation, it has remained relevant to every generation since then. 

Genre:

Realistic fiction. Autobiographical. Counterculture/beat generation literature. Crossover

Curriculum Ties:

American history.

Booktalking Ideas:

This the book that started it all

Reading Level/Interest Age:

N/A

Challenge Issues:

Language, sexual situations, alcohol, sex, drugs.

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:

Though this book may not be appropriate for all teens, advanced thinkers may benefit from a book was such a key factor in American counterculture movement.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

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Graceling by Kristin Cashore ISBN: 978-0547258300, HMH Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (September 7, 2009)

Plot Summary:

In the Seven Kingdoms, when a child is born with odd colored eyes all know that the child will graced with a remarkable talent. Such children are considered the property of the crown and must serve their King until he releases them. Ever since Lady Katsa killed a man who was threatening her at a young age, all have known that her grace is killing. King Randa uses his niece as a weapon to punish and threaten any that would oppose him. Tired of her uncle’s brutality, Katsa forms a secret council to oppose the evil tyranny of corrupt rulers. It is through the missions of the council that she first runs into Prince Po, also graced with a fighting ability. Together, they uncover a secret that will shake the Seven Kingdoms to its foundations.

Critical Evaluation:

Graceling is a beautifully written fantasy novel that revolves around the theme that everything is not always as it appears. Much of what takes place is an illusion and nobody’s grace is what it appears to be. Leck’s ability to make people believe anything that he says is simply a mirror to other lies and assumptions that take place throughout the novel. Prince Raffin, Katsa’s cousin is secretly gay, and Lord Oll, King Randa’s spymaster, is secretly working for the council. However, that is not to say that Graceling is a deep novel. For the most part, it is full of adventure and daring feats by gracelings who should be considered to be supernaturally talented in their area of expertise. In a scene reminiscent of Dumas’ The Three Musketeers, Katsa stands off King Randa’s entire guard by detailing how she will be able to kill each of them in turn. It is also a love story between Prince Po and Lady Katsa. Po and Katsa travel across the Seven Kingdoms as an unstoppable force for good.

Information about the author:

From her blog:

So, here’s the short tale of me: I grew up in the countryside of northeastern Pennsylvania in a village with cows and barns and beautiful views from the top of the hill and all that good stuff. I lived in a rickety old house with my parents, three sisters, and a scattering of cats, and I READ READ READ READ READ. I read while brushing my teeth, I read while chopping parsley, the first thing I reached for when I woke up in the morning was my book; the only two places I didn’t read were in the car and in bed. What did I do then? The one thing I liked even more than reading: I daydreamed.

And so, without knowing it, I was planting the seeds. Reading and daydreaming = perfect preparation for writing.

At 18 I went off to college– thank you, Williams College, for the financial aid that made this possible– and it almost killed me. College is hard, man, and the Berkshires are cloudy. A (phenomenal) year studying abroad in sunny Sydney revived me. After college I developed a compulsive moving problem: New York City, Boston, Cambridge, Austin, Pennsylvania, Italy, and even a short stint in London, where my showerhead hung from the cutest little stand that was exactly like the cradle of an old-fashioned telephone. The best phone calls are the pretend phone calls made from your telephone tub.

During my stint in Boston, I got an M.A. at the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at Simmons College. (Thank you, Simmons, for the scholarship that made this possible!) Grad school almost killed me, but I felt a lot more alive than when I was almost being killed in college. The Simmons program is stupendous. It got me thinking and breathing YA books. It got me writing.

Am I getting boring?

Since Simmons, I haven’t stopped writing, not once. I’ve developed a compulsive writing problem that makes my moving problem look like a charming personality quirk. I can’t stop! But it’s not actually a problem, because I don’t want to stop. I’ve been writing full-time for a bunch of years now, first doing educational writing for the K-6 market and now working on my novels. It’s a dream job, which is another way of saying that when I shop for work clothes, I go straight to the pajamas section.

A few years ago I grew tired of all the moving and dealt with it by, um, moving, from Jacksonville, Florida, to Cambridge, Massachusetts, trading the St. Johns River for the Charles River and pelicans for geese. As a native northerner, it’s nice to be back in the land of four seasons. I feel as if I’ve come home. :o)

And that’s my story.

Reader’s Annotation:

In the Seven Kingdoms, when a child is born with odd colored eyes all know that the child will graced with a remarkable talent.

Genre:

Fantasy.

Curriculum Ties:

N/A

Booktalking Ideas:

What would it be like to be really good at something, but told that because of your talent you were not free to do what you wanted.

Reading Level/Interest Age:

Grades 8 and up

Challenge Issues:

Violence, 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:

A YA librarian recommended it to me.

Hear Us Out!: Lesbian and Gay Stories of Struggle, Progress, and Hope, 1950 to the Present by Nancy Garden

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Hear Us Out!: Lesbian and Gay Stories of Struggle, Progress, and Hope, 1950 to the Present by Nancy Garden ISBN: 0374317593, Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR); First Edition edition (April 17, 2007)

Plot Summary:

Hear Us Out! explores the gay teen experience in a series of essays that arranged by decade. She begins in the fifties when she was a teenager and just beginning to realize that she was lesbian. At the time, homosexuality was considered to be a pathological condition.  Her book goes on to list the struggles of each decade from Stonewall to Harvey Milk to the formation of Gay-Straight Alliance clubs on campuses across the nation. Each decade is followed by two short stories that explore the LGBT teen experience in that decade.

Critical Evaluation: 

Hear Us Out! by Nancy Garden is unlike other material that a curious teen may find on the library shelf that deals with the gay experience in America. Instead of the usual “opposing opinions” type material that will dryly list the facts, Garden is passionate about the subject and as a gay rights activist, was an eyewitness to events as they unfolded. The book is also written on a personal level as one might communicate to a friend, rather than in an academic style. GLBT teens or anyone who is simply curious about the gay experience will find this to be a valuable resource. The fictional stories that follow the essays illustrate the events talked about in the essay. They are full of stories of forbidden love, hidden passions, and at times feel a little clichéd, but the reader does not have to read these in order to enjoy the essays.

Information about the author:

Garden was born 1938 in Boston. She earned a B.F.A. (1961) and an M.A. (1962) from Columbia University School of Dramatic Arts. Through school and for several years after college, Garden worked in theater, supplementing the work with odd jobs in offices. She later taught school and worked as an editor of children’s literature. She has also written non-fiction, mystery and fantasy for children and young adults.

Garden is best known for Annie on My Mind, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 1982. It was critically acclaimed but attracted controversy because of its lesbian characters, Annie and Liza who fall in love. It was one of the first teen novels to feature lesbian characters in a positive light.[3] In 1993, it was banned by the Kansas City school system and burnt in demonstrations. It was returned to shelves only after a First Amendment lawsuit by students in 1995. It is #48 on the American Library Association’s list of 100 Most Frequently Banned or Challenged Books, 1990-2000.[4]

Beside the Edwards Award, Garden received the Robert B. Downs Award for Intellectual Freedom in 2001 from the University of Illinois Graduate School of Library and Information Science.[5][6]

Garden’s reviews of young adult titles have appeared in the Lambda Literary Foundation‘s Lambda Book Report.

She currently divides her time between Massachusetts and Maine, with partner Sandy Scott, their golden retriever, Loki, and their cats.[7]

Reader’s Annotation:

Drawing from her own experience and research, YA author, Nancy Garden, reveals the history of the gay rights movement through a series of essays that each covers one decade, from the fifties to the new millennium. Interspersed between these chapters are short stories about the LGBT teen experience in each decade.

Genre:

Nonfiction. Short stories.

Curriculum Ties:

Civil rights.

Booktalking Ideas:

Things were very different for gay teens in the 1950’s than they are today.

Reading Level/Interest Age:

Grades 9 and up

Challenge Issues:

Sexual situations, LGBTQ issues, suicide.

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:

I thought that this would be helpful to any LGBTQ is curious about the gay civil rights movement and what it was like to be a gay teen years ago.

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi

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Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi ISBN: 978-0375714573, Pantheon; First Edition edition (June 1, 2004)

Plot Summary:

In Persepolis 1, Marjane Satrapi graphically depicts her life in Iran during a time of social unrest. She and her family suffered under a totalitarian government and were elated when the Shah was finally exiled only to find that they had exchanged one totalitarian government for another. Satrapi was a witness to the changes as her personal freedoms were being curtailed. All girls were forced to wear the veil, and separated from the boys. Anything that was non-traditional was labeled Western and decadent and was forbidden. Her Marxist, free-thinking family protested but went in constant fear of being found out by the authorities. Then the country was attacked by Iraq and Satrapi was a witness to the devastation of war. By the time Satrapi was fourteen, she was in full rebellion over the injustices that she had witnessed. Her mother feared that she would be executed and sent her to Austria to save her life.

Critical Evaluation: 

This incredibly moving tale is all the more absorbing because it is told from the perspective of a young girl who is trying to understand the world around her. Raised by intellectual parents to think critically, she observes what is happening and as a child, she asks questions about the things that don’t make any sense to her. Persepolis 1 attempts to create a narrative of the events that took place in Iran in the late seventies and early eighties and it is at turns amusing, heart breaking and satirical as it pokes fun at the inconsistencies of the totalitarian regimes. Its frank narrative style and simple black and white pictures make it easy to read, but many may find that depiction of dead bodies and descriptions of violence may be too much for them. Those who view the West in a saintly light may also be in for a shock as Satrapi depicts the Western nations as both manipulative and greedy.

Information about the author:

Born in 1969 in Rasht, Iran, Satrapi grew up in Iran’s capital, Tehran. She was an only child of secular, Marxist parents. Iran’s Islamic Revolution against the shah, the country’s monarch, took place in 1979, the year Satrapi turned ten, and her child’s-eye view of the changes in her country later became a focus of her first book. Her parents, who were against the regime of the shah, happily joined in the first protests that helped depose him, but the religious rule that followed turned out to be worse for them. An uncle of Satrapi’s was imprisoned by the shah’s regime, then executed by revolutionaries. Her mother, who was not religious, eventually felt compelled to wear Islamic garb to avoid attracting the attention of the religious police.

Satrapi studied at the Lycee Francais, the French high school in Tehran. Her parents, who had taught her to think freely and not believe the propaganda the government required the teachers to teach, became concerned when Satrapi began to openly question the teachers. They wanted their rebellious daughter to live in a freer society, so they sent her to Austria to study.

In Vienna, as she later recounted in her second book, Satrapi expected to live with a friend of her parents, but when the friend decided she did not want Satrapi with her any longer, she sent the young woman to live in a convent. She left, according to the book, when one of the nuns used ethnic slurs while yelling at her. She threw herself headlong into life as a western teenager, befriending punks and anarchists and throwing herself into romantic relationships and drug use. She found various temporary homes until, finally, she ended up homeless in wintertime and woke up in a hospital.

At 18, she moved back to Tehran, where she attended college and struggled to adjust to living behind a veil and under the watch of the religious police, which would sometimes raid and break up the parties where she and her friends would wear makeup and western clothes. After college, she moved to France, where she studied art in Strasbourg, then moved to Paris. Some of her friends there, who were part of a prominent artist’s studio called the Atelier des Vosges, introduced her to graphic novelists, starting with Art Spiegelman, whose graphic novel Maus told the story of the Holocaust through the lives of a few Jewish survivors. She realized she could tell stories and make serious points the same way. “Images are a way of writing,” she wrote on the Pantheon website. “When you have the talent to be able to write and to draw it seems a shame to choose one. I think it’s better to do both.” Graphic novels had some of the advantages of filmmaking as a way to tell stories, but without needing sponsors or actors, she added.

Inspired, Satrapi created a book of black-and-white comic strips about living in Tehran from ages six to 14. The book, Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood (named after a part of Iran known for its ruins) tells the story of her growing up, while also showing the Islamic Revolution and its effects on Iranians. Toward the end of the book, war breaks out between Iran and Iraq, and her mother puts tape on the windows of the family home, anticipating correctly that Iraqi bombs will fall nearby. The book also included moments of humor. “Tales of torture and war are offset by lighter scenes, like the 13-year-old Marjane trying to convince the morals police that her Michael Jackson button is really a button of Malcolm X, ‘the leader of black Muslims in America,'” wrote Tara Bahrampour in the New York Times. Iranians, Satrapi explained, are used to using humor to stave off despair.

Reader’s Annotation:

Persepolis 1 is the autobiographical story of Marjane Satrapi’s childhood growing up in Iran. Satrapi was a witness to the Islamic Revolution and the war between Iran and Iraq. The graphic novel is a witness to those who fought against totalitarianism in Iran and the power of greed.

Genre:

Graphic Novel. Autobiography.

Curriculum Ties:

World history. American foreign policy. American history.

Booktalking Ideas:

What would it be like if one day you had to give up freedoms that you had taken for granted.

Reading Level/Interest Age:

Grades 5 and up/Grades 9 and up

Challenge Issues:

Depictions of violence, torture and death.

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 book gives great insight into the history of Iran and the Middle East

The Perks of being a WallFlower by Simon Chbosky

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The Perks of being a WallFlower by Simon Chbosky

Plot Summary:

Charlie is a shy, highly intelligent teen who has just started his freshman year. He starts school with no friends because the previous year his best friend, Michael, killed himself. Charlie has a history of psychological problems that date back to the day that his Aunt Helen died. In his growing sense of isolation his flashbacks to this time become worse. Then he meets Patrick, an outgoing gay senior, and his equally outgoing stepsister Sam. Charlie admires their lack of fear and they enjoy Charlie’s intelligence and honesty that sometimes gives rise to profound statements. Charlie instantly has a crush on Sam, but she tells him that he is too young for her. Charlie is welcomed into their circle of friends and begins to learn how to participate in life instead of just watching it. 

Critical Evaluation: 

This coming of age novel, told in epistolary form, is written to an unknown person that Charlie has picked out to confide his inner most feelings to and only refers to as dear friend. It is never really clear whether Charlie ever actually mails the letters and so the letters feel more like journal entries than a form of communication in which it is possible that another person may respond. Charlie is a complicated character whose shyness and inability to act may be familiar to many teen readers. The Perks of Being a Wallflower rises above the usual coming of age story because it is a story within a story. There is the story that reflects the usual teenage anxieties about identity and the fear of what others will think of us, and then there is the story of Charlie’s psychological problems. Although there are hints throughout the novel, they are not really revealed until the very end.

Information about the author:

tephen Chbosky was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on January 25, 1972, to Fred, a former CFO consultant, and Lea, a tax preparer. He grew up in Upper St. Clair, graduating from the local high school. He received his Bachelor of the Fine Arts degree from the University of Southern California’s film writing program in 1992.

Chbosky is a screenwriter, television writer, and stage writer. His first film, The Four Corners of Nowhere, which he wrote the screenplay for and also directed, premiered at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival, the largest independent cinema festival in the United States. The film won Narrative Feature honors at the Chicago Underground Film Festival. According to an All Movie Guide plot description written by Sandra Brennan, The Four Corners of Nowhere is a “humorous film [that] attempts to explain the nihilistic attitudes and terminal ennui of the X-generation.” The film follows the lives, relationships, and opinions of a group of twentysomethings living in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In addition to his honors for The Four Corners of Nowhere, Chbosky has been recognized for other films to which he contributed.   

He is the recipient of the Abraham Polonsky Screenwriting Award for his screenplay Everything Divided. Chbosky wrote the screenplay for the film version of the popular stage play, Rent, and he was the co-editor and contributor to another stage play, Sexaholic. His current project, Fingernails and Smooth Skin, is the story of a young couple whose longtime relationship is threatened by their foibles and infidelities. Chbosky was a participant in the Sundance Institutes Filmmakers’ lab. Chbosky is the editor of Pieces: A Collection of New Voices, a collection of fictional short-stories, and he is also the author of a book for a musical, Kept.

Reader’s Annotation:

Charlie is entering his freshman year of high school with no friends. His best friend killed himself the year before and now he feels isolated. Then he meets two outgoing high school seniors, Patrick and his stepsister Sam. They take Charlie under their wing and show him a different way to live.

Genre:

Realistic Fiction. LGBTQ themes.

Curriculum Ties:

N/A

Booktalking Ideas:

If you have ever felt shy, you may be able to relate to Charlie

Reading Level/Interest Age:

Grades 9 and up

Challenge Issues:

Language, sexual situations, LGBTQ issues, sexual abuse.

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 coming of age novel.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher Audiobook, Unabridged read by Debra Wiseman & Joel Johnstone

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Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher ISBN: 978-0739356500, Listening Library (Audio); Unabridged edition (October 23, 2007)

Plot Summary:

Clay Jensen arrives home from school to find that he has received a shoe box containing seven audio tapes. The box has no return address and is anonymous. Upon listening to the first tape, he discovers that it is a recording that Hannah Baker, a girl that has recently committed suicide, mailed out before her death. According to Hannah, there are thirteen people whose actions caused a snowball effect that caused her to kill herself. These thirteen people must listen to the tapes and then pass them on to the next person in the tapes. The last person will be able to destroy them. Someone has a second set of the tapes, and if the tapes are not passed on, that person will release them so that everyone knows what kind of a person they really are. Clay is confused because he never did anything to hurt Hannah, whom he liked and had a crush on. According to the tapes, it starts with a rumor. An innocent first kiss that one of the thirteen lied about to turn into a sexual encounter. The rumor causes a chain reaction of other hurtful actions that resulted in Heather feeling totally alone and losing the will to live.

Critical Evaluation: 

The audio version of Thirteen Reasons Why is a chilling listening experience. The book alternates between Clay’s experiences in real time and Hannah’s voice on the tape. In the audio book, this is accomplished by two different readers, both of whom do an excellent job of portraying the pain of these characters. The act of listening to Hannah’s recorded voice also allows the listener to feel closer to Clay’s experience. This story, while many may find it morbid, is actually a lesson to teens on the consequences of actions. None of the thirteen could have predicted what would eventually happen. They only saw their actions as it affected them with no care for the repercussions to another human being. Only posthumously is Heather able to reveal to them how their actions hurt her. Another theme that is prevalent in the book is that we can never really know what is going on in another person’s head, but that we should make the effort to try. Clay is the only one that Heather considers to be blameless, but even he feels the guilt of not having reached out to her and of being too self-involved to see the signs of her impending suicide.

Information about the author:

Jay Asher was born in ArcadiaCalifornia on September 30, 1975. He grew up in a family that encouraged all of his interests, from playing the guitarto his writing. He attended College right after graduating from San Luis Obispo High School. It was here where he wrote his first two children’s books for a class called Children’s Literature Appreciation. After high school, he decided he wanted to become an elementary school teacher. He then transferred to California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo where he left his senior year in order to pursue his career as a serious writer. He is married. Throughout his life he worked in various establishments, including as a salesman in a shoe store and in libraries and bookstores.[1]Many of his work experiences had an impact on some aspect of his writing.

Reader’s Annotation:

Clay Jensen is about to embark on a journey through the mind of a dead girl. Teen suicide, Hannah Baker, mailed out tapes to the thirteen people that she felt were implicated in her decision to kill herself. Someone has a second set of tapes, and all thirteen people must listen to the tapes and pass them on to the next person or the second set of tapes will receive a general release.

Genre:

Realistic Fiction. 

Curriculum Ties:

N/A

Booktalking Ideas:

This book is about the consequences of actions

Reading Level/Interest Age:

Grades 8 and up

Challenge Issues:

Suicide, sexual situations, rape.

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 book is a good way for teens to explore the consequences of actions.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

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Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card ISBN: 978-0812550702, Tor Science Fiction (July 15, 1994)

Plot Summary:

Set in a not so distant future, humanity is embroiled in wars between the three dominant blocks of power: the Hegemon, the Polemarch and the Strategos, when contact with an alien race of insect like beings, which humans name the Formic, erupts into war. Humans put aside their differences and create the International Fleet, or IF, in order to combat the alien threat. The Formic possess more sophisticated technology than humans, but curiously seem to lack any means to communicate. Alien prisoners that are captured simply die. Humanity seems to be on its way to extinction when one man, Mazer Racham, is able to lead the humans to a victory that no one really seems to understand. The Formic are defeated and pushed back into their own space. Many decades later, the IF is in search of tactical genius to lead them against the Formic in an anticipated “third invasion.” 

Critical Evaluation: 

Andrew Wiggin’s parents were not expecting to give birth to tactical geniuses, but after both older siblings are tested, the International Fleet requests that the couple have an unheard of “third child.” Both Peter and Valentine, the older siblings, are geniuses, but Peter, a budding sociopath, lacks the compassion that is needed to understand the enemy, and Valentine displays too much compassion. Ender combines the traits of both compassion and ruthlessness, and after he seriously injures another boy in order to obtain a lasting victory against the bully, Colonel Graff decides to take him to Battle School, an installation that orbits the Earth. In Battle School, highly intelligent children are trained in battle strategy and form platoons that are led by the most talented of their number. The school administration employs ruthless techniques in order to prepare the students, but Ender knows that if he wants to survive, he must be the best. The hopes of an entire world are riding on his shoulders.

Information about the author:

Orson Scott Card is best known for his science fiction novel Ender’s Game and it’s many sequels that expand the Ender Universe into the far future and the near past.  Those books are organized into the Ender Quintet, the five books that chronicle the life of Ender Wiggin; the Shadow Series, that follows on the novel Ender’s Shadow and are set on Earth; and the Formic Wars series, written with co-author Aaron Johnston, that tells of the terrible first contact between humans and the alien “Buggers”.
Card has been a working writer since the 1970s.   Beginning with dozens of plays and musical comedies produced in the 1960s and 70s, Card’s first published fiction appeared in 1977 — the short story “Gert Fram” in the July issue of The Ensign, and the novelet version of “Ender’s Game” in the August issue of Analog.
 
The novel-length version of Ender’s Game, published in 1984 and continuously in print since then, became the basis of  the 2013 film, starring Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, Hailee Steinfeld, Viola Davis, and Abigail Breslin.
 
Card was born in Washington state,  and grew up in California, Arizona, and Utah. He served a mission for the LDS Church in Brazil in the early 1970s. Besides his writing, he runs occasional writers’ workshops and directs plays. He frequently teaches writing and literature courses at Southern Virginia University.
He is the author many sf and fantasy novels, including the American frontier fantasy series “The Tales of Alvin Maker” (beginning with Seventh Son), There are also stand-alone science fiction and fantasy novels like Pastwatch and Hart’s Hope. He has collaborated with his daughter Emily Card on a manga series, Laddertop. He has also written contemporary thrillers like Empire and historical novels like the monumental Saints and the religious novels Sarah and Rachel and Leah. Card’s recent work includes the Mithermages books (Lost GateGate Thief), contemporary magical fantasy for readers both young and old.   
Card lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Kristine Allen Card,  He and Kristine are the parents of five children and several grandchildren.

Reader’s Annotation:

Andrew Wiggin’s parents were not expecting to give birth to tactical geniuses, but after both older siblings are tested, the International Fleet requests that the couple have an unheard of “third child.” Six year old Andrew “Ender” Wiggin may be humanity’s last hope against an alien race, but first Ender must survive battle school.

Genre:

Science fiction.

Curriculum Ties:

Great historical leaders, dictators and military battles

Booktalking Ideas:

Do the ends ever justify the means?

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:

This book was a Hugo and Nebula Award winner. The movie is due to be released later this year.