In the Stacks – Steve’s Hub Reading Challenge Experience

In the Stacks: A Blog Straight from the Mind of Steve

It is that time yet again dear readers. I have just run out of time finishing the YALSA Hub Reading Challenge for this year. And once again… I must wave the white flag of defeat and inform you that I did not finish the 25 book goal. I started out in February with high hopes thinking that I could finish those 25 in no time at all. Well… the spirit died out fast I’m afraid. However! I am still quite happy with myself that I was able to read some of the most fascinating and entertaining stories that I have EVER READ!

Now of course, I did start out this challenge with the same strategy as last year, which was to read as many graphic novels on the list as possible. Dogs of War, War Brothers, and Boxers and Saints were absolutely the top picks in that regard.

steveDogs of War is split into three main stories about the service dogs in World War I, World War II, and Vietnam. Each story becomes more intense with the type of exposure each animal had while assisting Allied troops overseas. Now I don’t want to spoil too much here… but each story does seem to find its way into a hopeful and happy ending.

War Brothers is a fictional account of teenage boys in Africa that become enslaved and forced into a life of guerilla warfare by a tyrannical warlord. A close group of friends are faced with the constant reminder that if they do not fit into this savage new way of life, they are surely expected to lose their own.

And last but not least was Boxers and Saints. There are two intertwining stories revolving around the Boxer Rebellion in China around the turn of the twentieth century. The images are quite captivating, and the stories very easy to become hooked on. Yet the most interesting thing about both of them was that though they reflect a serious subject matter, they still show moments of true teenage innocence. Each story is told through the eyes of a young boy and young woman who through their different life paths, become engrossed in the bitter struggle of Chinese citizens who sought a way to rid their homeland of foreign oppression. Can you guys tell I am drawn to graphic novels involving combat??? Continue reading

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Teen Tuesday – Award-winning Audiobook Will Give You Goosebumps

If you’ve looked at this year’s YALSA Hub Reading Challenge list you’ll know that, in addition to books and graphic novels, there are also award-winning audiobooks.  And if you’ve yet to give them a try, let me wholeheartedly give my endorsement.  Audiobooks offer another way to experience literature, and when done well, that listening experience may even prove better than reading the book.  The narration alone usually requires the listener to slow down and think, allowing one to hear the changes in tone and nuance.  Above all, listening lets us feel the power in spoken words.

scowlerI recently listened to the audiobook of Scowler by Daniel Kraus, this year’s young adult Odyssey Award winner.  The narrator was the amazingly talented Kirby Heyborne, who did a truly remarkable job bringing these characters to life.  The way he vocalized each individual’s distinctive personality–from the deep gritty sound of Marvin Burke, to Sarah’s soft, slurry tenor and the exaggerated voices of Ry’s toys–added a masterful layer to a story already rife with physical and psychological trauma.

That said, while I certainly applaud the merits of the audio performance and the novel’s extraordinary writing, Scowler was not a story I enjoyed, and had I been reading it rather than listening to the audiobook, this is one I would have put down early on.  The fact that it’s on the YALSA reading list was my main reason for selecting it.  I was also looking for something outside my comfort zone and Scowler definitely fit that bill.  I am not a horror fan and to Daniel Kraus’ credit, his writing was so descriptive and chilling that at times, I felt ill.  Really, I could only listen to this in small increments because the story had me so rattled.

There are some very dark places the author explores in the psychotic mind of a father and the rapidly deteriorating sanity of a son.  A stranger’s appearance outside their home foreshadows the vise of terror that will grip 19 year old Ry Burke, his mother, JoBeth and sister, Sarah.  Shortly thereafter, the explosive crash of a meteorite on the family farm lends a surreal, otherworldly quality to all the events that follow.  The countdowns, both before and after the impact, begin each chapter and add to the suspense.  Ry’s memories of the suffering he and JoBeth endured, and the events that led to his father Marvin’s incarceration, are horrific and only heighten the panic of their current situation.

This is not a book for marshmallows like me, and I would recommend it for true horror fans only–those of you who can read Stephen King and shrug.  But what I said about the power of spoken words?  Scowler may prove to be more frightening as an audiobook.  The sounds and voices that narrate this story are scarier than anything you’ll imagine in your head.  Listen, and let me know what you think.

Teen Tuesday – Reading Graphically

Graphic novels aren’t usually my first reading choice.  However, after last year’s YALSA Hub Challenge where I read a number of graphic novels because they were, well—short—and I was on a deadline, I discovered I really enjoyed them.  It felt like a different reading experience because the pictures were so much a part of each story, adding more depth and nuance beyond what the words conveyed.  The characters, the settings, the emotional impact and visual clues were drawn right there on the page and not something I had to conjure in my imagination.  Lucky for me, the Hub Challenge list included award winners and honored books, so the graphic novels I read were among the year’s best.  What better way to whet the appetite for more?  Here are a few graphic novels recently added to our library’s catalog that you might want to check out yourself:

brodysghostBrody’s Ghost by Mark Crilley

Dumped by his girlfriend, Brody has been wallowing in self-pity until a ghost recruits him to find the serial killer responsible for the “Penny Murders.”   This is a six book series and the library has volumes one through four available now with volume 5 slated for a mid-April release.  The books are slim, but packed with detailed illustrations and a fast moving plot that leaves the reader in suspense at each conclusion.  There’s an East meets West futuristic atmosphere to the series that reminds me of Blade Runner.  In addition, Mark Crilley gives his readers a look at his creative process by including preliminary sketches and thoughts on layout and perspective for each installment, an added bonus for budding graphic artists.

The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks

She has superpowers!  She fights evil ninjas!  She needs to pay rent!  Faith Erin Hicks explores the awesome role of a superhero by taking a humorous look superherogirlat her daily life.  A life where Superhero Girl runs into her arch nemesis while grocery shopping, where she forgets to take off her mask before a date, and where she needs a roommate to help keep expenses down.  And don’t even get the girl started on her wildly famous superhero brother, Kevin!  A collection of comic strips rather than a singular plot line, The Adventures of Superhero Girl is a smart, quirky read that will have you chuckling.

battlingboyBattling Boy by Paul Pope

A young demigod must prove his worth by defending a besieged city from demons and monsters.  The artwork nicely highlights the frenetic pacing and monster fight sequences.  The use of full color also beautifully heightens the drama and the decaying and dangerous city that is Arcopolis .  Battling Boy is a rather reluctant hero whose t-shirt wardrobe gives him the power of the animal he’s wearing.  With a demanding god for a dad and the city’s politicians looking to spin his appearance in a favorable way, Battling Boy has more than monsters to worry about.

Bad Houses by Sara Ryan and Carla Speed McNeil

Bad Houses is a somber look at the residents of a small town and the connections they share.  Lewis and Anne meet when she appears at an estate sale badhousesthat Lewis is working with his mom.  While he and his mother make a living clearing out the homes of the town’s deceased residents, Anne and her mom live stuffed to the gills amongst the piles of junk Anne’s mother is hoarding.  The realistic artwork is, at times, cringe worthy, but highly effective.  The characters are multi-faceted and the glimpses into their pasts shed a revealing light on their present circumstances.  Lewis and Anne are a likeable couple and their romance fills the reader with hope.

I hope there are some undiscovered titles here!  Of course, recommendations are always welcome, so please feel free to post your favorites and let me know what I need to check out next!

In the Stacks – Hooray! It’s Hub Reading Challenge Time Again!!!

Well readers, it appears that the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) has released their infamous list of award winning titles for this year’s Hub Reading Challenge, and so I say… LET THE GAMES BEGIN!!!

casualtiesThis year there are a whopping 77 options to choose from. I have already kicked this party off by now finishing a whole 2, count ‘em TWO books! Victory is as good as mine. Thus far I have read Chris Lynch’s Vietnam #4: Casualties of War and Jeffery Brown’s Star Wars Jedi Academy. I must say, I was relieved to see Lynch’s book on the list, as my last three books that I read for last year’s challenge were his first 3 books of the Vietnam series. At last… the series is done. It was hard to part with those amazing stories of 4 friends and their individual tales of Vietnam in all of its beauty and destruction from the point of view of the 4 branches of service (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines- for those of you non-military savvy folk).

So with two titles down for me, it’s just 23 more to go. I have until the end of the day on June 25th. I was a bit shy of finishing last year, but I think this might just be my year. My locker is already full of other books to read. Which ones you may wonder (If you even care)? Well… let me see now… I’m seeing William Shakespeare’s Star Wars by Ian Doescher. Although… I got the book version, when it was really listed as an Amazing Audiobook pick. And I can see now why that might be. I did in fact start the book with high hopes. Basically, imagine reading Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope in the same way you would read such classics as Romeo & Juliet or Macbeth. Now I don’t know about you, but if I was ever given the option to read Shakespeare or hear someone else read Shakespeare to me in school (cause let’s face it people, who reads Shakespeare of their own free will?), I would have to say, READ IT TO ME!!!! I mean I haven’t even gotten to the droids getting to Tatooine yet and I don’t feel motivated enough to pick up the book again anytime soon. I’m definitely going to have to track down an audiobook copy.

Further doJediAcademywn along my ever narrowing locker is Tim Federle’s Better Nate than Ever. A teenage who seeks fame in the theatre… How can I NOT read this book!? Haha Also, there is Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina. What can I say guys? The title alone makes this worth reading. And funny enough… A book I recently got for my step-daughter made it onto this year’s list. That is non-other than Faith Erin Hicks’ The Adventures of Superhero Girl. Is this some crazy coincidence? Perhaps; we shall see. You know as I sit here and look over all of these phenomenal titles… I am getting my second wind to pick up another book and start reading right now. Maybe this is my year to finally finish this challenge, but only time will dear readers. Until then… stay classy… stay reading!

Teen Tuesday – Hub Reading Challenge Take Two!

It’s baaack!  Now that the winners of the Youth Media Awards have been announced, it’s time once again to sign up for YALSA’s Hub Reading Challenge.  Click on the link, join the fun, and stretch your reading horizons!  I signed up last year for the first time and really enjoyed the wide variety of books I wouldn’t have read otherwise.  Sad, but true, it’s too easy to get into a reading rut.  The remedy?  Busting out of our self-imposed parameters now and then, and the Hub Challenge is a great way to start!

universeThis year’s list includes 77 titles in book and audio format.  Among them are Great Graphic Novels, Amazing Audiobooks, Popular Paperbacks, and Quick Picks, along with this year’s award winners and honor books.  As one who doesn’t read a lot of adult novels, I especially enjoy the Alex Award winners, books written for adults but also recommended for teens.  I have The Universe Versus Alex Woods as my next read.

One of my favorite authors, Markus Zusak, was this year’s winner of the Margaret A. Edwards award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults.  All four of his books are on the Hub reading list, but if they’re going to count toward my reading, I’d have to reread them . . . hmmm.  It takes 25 books to complete the Hub Challenge and the deadline is June 22nd, so I’ll probably stick to the new titles I haven’t yet read.  For those who choose Markus Zusak’s books, I highly recommend them all for the descriptive prose, touching characters, and unique style.  Each of his books is a gem.

Like before, I’ll note my progress and post some reviews.  My blog companion, Steve, joined last year and took up the challenge with me and I’m hoping this year, we can talk a few others into giving it a try.    What a great opportunity to experience some of the best literature for young adults.  And the icing on the cake?  Finishers will be entered into the grand prize drawing for a YALSA bag of new 2013-2014 books!  Sign up now, you’ll be glad you did.

By the way, check out SimonTeen’s Facebook page.  This publishing house is giving away 50 copies of Printz award-winning author John Corey Whaley’s newest book, Noggin, due out in April.  Contest ends February 25th but there are other giveaways and promotions going on, so if you’re feeling lucky and like free books, it’s worth checking back often.

Teen Tuesday – Some Thoughts on the Hub Challenge

reading challenge logo - finisherThere it is!  My shiny badge!  I read the required 25 books plus one extra to finish the Hub Challenge by June 22nd.   My own personal goal was to read something from each category and I almost accomplished that.  I did not read anything by Tamora Pierce, winner of the Margaret A. Edwards award for her significant and lasting contribution to teen literature.  I do have First Test, book one in the Protector of the Small quartet, but I just didn’t get to it in time.  It’s now in one of my “to be read” piles (teetering stacks that never shrink and threaten to crush me in my sleep).  Here, then, are the books I did read:

If I were to pick my favorite list overall, it would be the Alex award winners—adult books with appeal for teens.  I read Chris Ballard’s One Shot at Forever, which was everything I shy away from—it was historical, nonfiction and involved sports, specifically high school baseball.  I loved this book!  There is nothing in it that hasn’t been done in movies a million times: small town team with wacky coach competes against the “big boys.”  But where the book shines is in the details.  Readers come away with a real sense of the town, the team and the English teacher/coach.   Photos and interviews with the players 40 years later reminded me that this was a true story, told with more depth and scope than any movie could.   I also read the widely publicized fictional novels Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan, and Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple.

In the Best Fiction category, I read Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews (find my review here) and Enchanted by Alethea Kontis.

The William C. Morris award is given to first time authors writing for teens, and from that list I read Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby and Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo.

Among the Odyssey winners, awarded for best audiobooks, I listened to Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian read by Nathaniel Parker and Elizabeth Fama’s Monstrous Beauty read by Katherine Kellgren.  Here again, I would never have listened to either of these audiobooks were it not for the Hub Challenge.  I had read The Last Guardian, but listening to it again was a chance to say a wistful goodbye to a favorite character and series.  As a darkly romantic mermaid tale (ha ha), Monstrous Beauty was not something I would normally pick up, but Katherine Kellgren is well known among audiobook fans.  She is quite the vocal talent, having won many awards for her performances, and I have enjoyed listening to her before.  She has a wide range of accents that make each character distinctive.  I also listened to Allan Wolf’s The Watch That Ends the Night from the Amazing Audios category, read by a cast of performers.  I commented on it back in April.

From the Popular Paperbacks category, I read Struts and Frets by Jon Skovron and Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy by Bil Wright.

In the Quick Picks category, I read April Henry’s The Night She Disappeared, which I reviewed here, Ten by Gretchen McNeil that was reviewed by one of our teen reviewers, Taylor P., here,  and Beneath a Meth Moon: An Elegy by Jacqueline Woodson.

From the Nonfiction list, I read Deborah Hopkinson’s Titanic: Voices from the DisasterI mentioned back in April that it “was an excellent recounting of the doomed voyage, complete with photographs, menus, telegrams, and passenger accounts presented in a compelling narrative.”  Here again, was a book and topic that I was totally engrossed in, much to my surprise, but due completely to the dramatic skill and engaging voice of the author.

From the Printz award list, given to the best in young adult literature, I read In Darkness by Nick Lake, Dodger by Terry Pratchett, and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz, a multiple award winner that also made the Best Fiction and Stonewall award lists.  Not surprisingly, I preferred all of the honor books to this year’s winner, In Darkness, and had hoped my personal favorite, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, would take the prize.  But it did receive an honor award and won the Edgar for best young adult mystery, so I wasn’t alone in my love!

From the Great Graphic Novels category, I read Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller by Joseph Lambert and My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf thanks to fellow reviewer, Steve, and his wonderful recommendations.  I also read Raina Telgemeier’s Drama, another award book that appeared on multiple lists, and Faith Erin Hicks’ Friends With Boys that I reviewed here.

The Schneider Family book award recognizes books that embody the disability experience for children and teen readers.  Somebody, Please Tell Me Who I Am by Harry Mazer and Peter Lerangis was this year’s teen winner and the only book listed on the Hub Challenge as the remaining winners were for younger audiences.  This was a thoughtful book that explored the traumatic brain injury suffered by Ben, the main character, when he is gravely injured during his tour of duty in Iraq.  Also included is his relationship with his younger autistic brother, Chris, and Chris’ role in Ben’s recovery.

The Stonewall award is given to the best in GLBT writing.  Benjamin Alire Saenz’ Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe and Raina Telgemeier’s Drama are in this category along with another favorite discovery, October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard by Leslea Newman.  When asked to contribute a review for the Hub blog after I completed the challenge, this was the book I picked.  You can read it here.

As I said in my Hub review, am I coming back next year?  You bet!

In the Stacks: Confessions of a YALSA Hub Challenge Reader

In the Stacks: A Blog Straight from the Mind of Steve

It is with much sadness in my heart that I submit this new blog. As I write these very words, with tears in my eyes (not really, but you get the idea), I sit here defeated. I regret to inform you all that I did NOT complete the YALSA Hub Reading Challenge. The clock has stopped, the buzzer has rung, and my final tally is only a mere 15 books completed out of my 25 book goal. I will say, however, that I am extremely pleased that I did set aside the time to read a whole 15 books in such a short amount of time. This being because I have not read 15 books total in almost a couple years let alone a couple months. So… a small pat on the back for me is still in order I’m sure. Not that it matters, but I have included my list of items that I read from the selected titles on my list:

  1. My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf (still can’t believe that name)
  2. Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller by Joseph Lambert
  3. Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm
  4. October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard by Leslea Newman
  5. Drama by Raina Telgemeier
  6. Somebody, Please Tell Me Who I Am by Harry Mazer
  7. The Watch That Ends the Night by Allan Wolf
  8. The Night She Disappeared by April Henry
  9. Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95 by Phillip Hoose
  10. The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
  11. Every Day by David Levithan
  12. Ten by Gretchen McNeil
  13. Personal Effects by E.M. Kokie
  14. The Silence of Our Friends by Mark Long
  15. Struts and Frets by Jon Skovron

dramaI am also very happy that I got to read such amazing titles that I would have never known had I not done this challenge. Some new favorites were made and much fun was had. Drama, I must say, was absolutely a marvelous graphic novel! A tale about an eccentric high school girl obsessed with boys and theatre, what more could you need in a story? The story was so funny and the images were superb. I even got my step-daughter reading it. I think it’s safe to say we both have a mutual author we both like now. I even just recently picked up another work by Raina Telgemeier titled Smile. I can’t wait to start it now that I have some free time without any other reading commitments.

Every Day by David Levithan is another amazing read I discovered. I have read some other things by Mr. Levithan before like the infamous Nick everydayand Norah’s Infinite Playlist and Will Grayson, Will Grayson. I will say that those were excellent books as well, but Every Day just had this story line that almost immediately sucked me in and soon enough it was pure torture for me to have to break from reading it. It is a teenage love story, and a good one at that. The story is about a person who falls in love with a beautiful girl and the foundations of their hopeful romance. The catch; this person wakes up each morning in the body of a completely different person (Either a boy or girl, ranging from about 12 to 19 years old, and living in a location that’s within a 50 mile radius from the lady he/she loves). Now if that doesn’t add on an extra special element from your usual YA romance books I don’t know what will.

Lastly, I was extremely pleased that the last book I read for this challenge was Struts and Frets by Jon Skovron. I absolutely LOVED this book! It almost made me cry that inevitably I would have to finish the book and move on with my life because I just became so invested in these wonderful characters. The story is about Sammy, a rock star in the making who is trying his best to make his high school band mates into the new sound of his generation. Sammy has to take his main advice on life from his strutsandfretsattractive, therapist mom and grandfather who once was a talented musician but now struggles with the onset of Alzheimer’s. Sammy and all of his friends are just such relatable characters to everyone we all knew our teen years at that period when “real life” was just around the corner.

All of these amazing titles and many, MANY more are just waiting to be picked up in the YA area at Whitney. Try and set some time aside this summer and check ‘em on out! Happy reading to you all!

In the Stacks: The HUB Reading Challenge – Working My Way to the Finish Line!

So as some of you know, I have been challenging myself to finish YALSA’s Hub Reading Challenge. My goal is to finish 25 approved titles, whether they are books, graphic novels, or audiobooks by June 22nd. I have been at it just over a month now, and so far I have made it to book number 8 on my literary quest of reading awesomeness. Sounds like something Jack Black would say, doesn’t it? For my first three books I am proud to say that I was able to run through them in just under a week and a half and I definitely got my history on.

myfrienddahmerBook numero uno was titled My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf. Ha-ha-oh! Sorry guys, but just looking at the author’s name I have to say, I feel so bad for all of the horrible jokes that he must have endured in his life. But anyway, back to the book. My Friend Dahmer is the story about none other than Jeffrey Dahmer, one of the most despicable serial killers of the 20th Century. Now instead of focusing on Dahmer’s serial killing spree, the book (sorry, graphic novel) focuses on Dahmer’s life from middle school through high school. Author Backderf was a fellow classmate with Jeff, and only one of a couple of people close enough to ever be considered something of a friend to him. It seems that Dahmer was clearly an oddball in school to say the least, and this story really shows the events in his life that helped transform him into the monster he became. For anyone interested in reading it, it’s well worth your time.

The second title I read was Joseph Lambert’s graphic novel Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller. This was truly a wonderful graphic novel, and Ihellenkeller say that because the imagery in the story was so well captured. Lambert actually made a brave effort by illustrating certain parts of the story through the eyes of young Helen. Helen Keller was a deaf and blind young girl, who with Annie Sullivan’s tutelage learned to still become a highly functioning woman in America. Now I’m sure most of you have either read or seen The Miracle Worker which focuses on the initial meetings of Annie and Helen and the bitter struggle Annie faced teaching young Helen how to act and behave. The story ends with that breathtaking climax by the water pump where Helen finally “understands” all of the items around her and how to identify them using ASL.  Well guys, in Lambert’s graphic novel, that’s only part on. The story continues on and actually reveals a lot of interesting background information on both of the main characters from childhood on. So if you feel like learning more about these people, besides what you encountered with The Miracle Worker, you simply must check out this book.

trinityTo finish this blog, I would just like to share some feedback on the third book (well… graphic novel) that I read on my list which was called Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm. Now I want to caution you all about this one, this book contains an abundant amount of scientific knowledge within its wonderful pages. It is definitely a story where you might have to read certain pages, and then re-read them again in order to grasp what point it is that the author is trying to captivate. Trinity shows an in depth perspective of the entire Manhattan Project from start to finish, resulting of course with the dropping of Fat Man and Little Boy over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. What I found to be a marvelous part in the story was what transpired after the bombs were dropped and World War II ended. You can see what became of the men and woman who participated in the Manhattan Project in the years that followed, and also all of the guilt that plagued some of the brilliant minds behind the atomic bomb such as Robert Oppenheimer. So to summarize everybody, focus hard on the parts about nuclear physics and chemistry (they do illustrate some examples to help you understand the basic concepts), and enjoy the magnificent tale that brought weaponry and warfare to a whole new level.

-Steve

YALSA’s HUB Challenge to date – Halfway There!

When I comwheredyougobernadettemitted to the Hub Reading Challenge back in February, I figured if I could reach the halfway point by April, I would be in good shape to finish on time.  Well, it’s twelve books down so . . . halfway point achieved!  Since I haven’t been reading Hub Challenge titles exclusively, I was pretty pleased that I got this far already.

In the context of important April dates and events, let’s review my current and completed list of Hub Challenge books so far:

  • April is National Humor Month and the book I’m currently reading, Me, Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews, is hilarious, raunchy and told in the self-involved, self-deprecating voicemeearlanddyinggirl of a teenage boy—not that we’re being stereotypical!  With “dying” in the title, one doesn’t usually expect a laugh riot, but so far it’s wickedly funny.  Stay tuned.
  • April is National Poetry Month and October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard by Leslea Newman is one of my favorite reads so far this year.  See my March 5th post for a review.  I’m also currently listening to The Watch That Ends the Night by Allan Wolf, an amazing audio.  Several narrators lend their vocal talents and accents to the passengers, crew and even the iceberg as the Titanic heads toward its inevitable collision.   Since it’s the audiobook that’s part of the Hub Challenge, I’m enjoying the sound of the poetry, but readers who choose the book will get the benefit of seeing the verse visually, especially pertinent for the concrete poems.
  • April 15, 2012 was the 100 year anniversary of the Titanic’s sinking and a number of books revisited this tragic event.  Deborah Hopkinson’s Titanic: Voices From the Disaster was an excellent recounting of the doomed voyage, complete with photographs, menus, telegrams, and passenger accounts presented in a compelling narrative.  The author follows the ship from its      departure to the final hours of its sinking, from the rescue of the survivors to the outcome of the investigations.  Fascinating stuff.
  • April 16th is the feast day for St. Bernadette, a French nun who saw visions of the Virgin Mary at Lourdes.  The title character in Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple is given a pendant of St. Bernadette by her husband after she wows the architectural community with her ingeniously designed home.  This Alex award winner not only answers where she went but how she got there in this satirical send-up to Seattle, the Microsoft culture and brilliantly dysfunctional families.  Daughter Bee gets the ball rolling when she requests a trip to Antarctica as a      reward for perfect grades.  Loved it!
  • April is National Frog Month!  Celebrate by reading Enchanted by Aletha Kontis.  A bevy of fairytales gets reworked in this new mash up featuring a main character who’s been turned into a—you guessed it!—frog.
  • April is also National Autism Awareness Month and in the Schneider award-winning book, Somebody Please Tell Me Who I Am by Harry Mazer and Peter Lerangis, main character Ben has an autistic brother who is the only one Ben seems to remember after he suffers a traumatic brain injury from his tour in Iraq.  This spare novel explores the repercussions on the talented high school graduate, his family, friends and fiancé after he shocks them all by enlisting.
  • National Astronomy Day is April 20th this year and my title tie-in is Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.  If the main characters from Benjamin Alire Saenz’s book were real, they’d no  doubt be celebrating by lying on the bed of Ari’s pickup and stargazing.  This multiple award winning book (Pura Belpre author award, Stonewall award, and Printz honor) about two Latino teen boys, unlikely friends from diverse backgrounds, is realistically portrayed and sensitively written.  Ari’s internal struggle and voice especially rings true.
  • Charles Dickens finished Oliver Twist, begun as a monthly serial, in April of 1839.  Both Charles Dickens and his character, the Artful Dodger, get star treatment by Terry Pratchett in his latest young adult novel, Dodger.  Dodger is a “tosher” who makes his living prowling the sewers of Victorian London looking for treasures—jewelry, coin, anything of value.  When Dodger rescues a mysterious young lady who has leapt from a moving carriage, he comes into contact with not only Mr. Dickens, but later, Sweeney Todd, Benjamin Disraeli, Queen Victoria.  This historical fiction has it all—Mystery! Romance! Intrigue!  The sights, sounds, and smells of London are all richly imagined in this excellent adventure.
  • Lastly, April is Stress Awareness Month and who doesn’t have any of that in their lives?  If you were Artemis Fowl in Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl: the Last Guardian, you’d certainly be feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders when pixie arch nemesis, Opal Koboi, tries to destroy all of humanity and uses your ancestral estate as the jumping off point.  Or perhaps      you’re a new student stressing over the ins and out of school, like Faith Erin Hicks’ main character in Friends With Boys or a love struck middle schooler dealing with a theater club’s production, like in Raina Telgemeier’s Drama, or a love struck high schooler fantasizing about a  relationship with an out-of-reach work colleague as in Laura Buzo’s Love and Other lovenadotherPerishable Items.  And work!  Work can be stressful.  Just ask Carlos Duarte from Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy by Bil Wright.   Carlos has landed a dream job as a makeup artist at Macy’s and now he’s juggling his job with high school and family responsibilities.  As one who is beyond fabulous, Carlos is becoming beyond crazy over his sister’s abusive boyfriend.

Okay, so that about wraps it up.  Hope you’ve found something in there to pique your interest.  April just started, so there’s a lot of month left in which to read . . . .   What’s on your reading list?

In the Stacks – Steve takes the Hub Reading Challenge!

hubreadingchallengeOk… It is time I got to challenge myself in this fine new year. Our amazing Youth Services Assistant Miss Judi has inspired me to take part in this excellent challenge. Now it started all the way back in early February, but it goes all the way until June 22nd. That gives me a little over 3 months to read/listen to just 25 titles of various materials primarily based around our fantastic Young Adult Collection. How am I feeling right now? Confident. How likely am I to finish these titles in that timeframe? … We shall see. Now I have never been a devoted reader, sad to say. Yet I feel that I can easily take down this challenge and hold my head up high. It is also a good thing that the challenge ends on the 22nd because that will give my over worked brain time to rest in time for my birthday on the 24th. Whew! It’s also such a fantastic thing to be participating in this challenge because that gives me at least 3 months worth of blogging material.  YAY!!! 😀

Now don’t you worry fellas, this doesn’t mean that all of my blogs from here on out will be about this challenge, I still have me a few ideas up my sleeve for other blog subjects as well. Ok… I am off. I have to print out that list of available books to read/listen to for this challenge and get going. There will be more to follow dear readers and until next time… stay classy.  – Steve

Are you interested in taking the challenge?  Visit http://www.yalsa.ala.org/thehub/2013-hub-reading-challenge/ to learn about how you can join in the fun!