Teen Tuesday – Finishing the Hub Reading Challenge

There it is at last!  My finisher badge!      reading challenge logo - finisher

This year I barely managed to complete the Hub Reading Challenge, squeaking by on the last day with my 25th book–I am the Messenger–one that I own and had previously read.  Like my fellow blogger, Steve, I started off at the beginning of February thinking I’d fly through this.  Twenty five books in five months?  There would be plenty of time to read five books each month.  Then work, and family, and sleep, and other books got in the way and before I knew it, I was scrambling through the Hub’s eligible title list looking for anything I could finish quickly.

I’m well aware that the point of the Hub Reading Challenge is to encourage us to become familiar with last year’s award-winning young adult fiction, nonfiction, and audiobooks.  The exposure to new titles and new authors is a winning proposition no matter how many books one finishes in the Challenge.  And yet. . . once I started, it became a mad dash to the finish, using whatever strategies I could come up with to see me to the end.

I’m not an athlete and I’m not much of a competitor.  I don’t even read fast!  But last year, I finished the Hub Challenge for the first time, and I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it again.  So this is what I did: Continue reading


Teen Tuesday – YALSA Hub Challenge: What Are You Reading?

octobermourningLast week, Teen Tuesday encouraged (pleaded, cajoled, threatened) readers of YA literature to join the YALSA Hub Challenge and read 25 of this year’s award winning books by June 22nd.  There’s still plenty of time to participate!  Earn a cool badge and possibly the grand prize . . . .  Read all about it in last week’s post, where you’ll also find a link to the book list.

With seven books down and 18 to go, here is my first review.

October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard by Lesléa Newman

This slim volume of 68 poems chronicles the events that led to the death of Matthew Shepard, the University of Wyoming student who was brutally beaten, robbed and left tied to a fence one very cold October night.  Lesléa Newman explains in the introduction that one of the last things Matthew did was attend a planning meeting for Gay Awareness Week that was set to begin in several days.  She was the event’s keynote speaker.  She arrived on campus the day he died.

As a work of historical fiction, October Mourning uses several poetic forms and devices to imagine specific moments from before that night and after.  Some of the poems are written as narratives from people and objects: the doctor, one of the attackers, Matthew himself, the fence, the truck.  There are concrete poems, haikus, and rhymed couplets; while a few are simply lists, and some are even in the style of William Carlos Williams’ famous apology poem “This is Just to Say.”  Explanations of the poetic forms used are included at the end of the book, making this a great resource for poetry studies, and while the poems are meant to be read as a whole, there are a number that could easily stand alone for classroom discussions.

View this book as a poetic exercise alone and you’ll be impressed with the way the different forms highlight and capture the emotional impact of each carefully crafted poem.   The majority of the poems are short and very accessible.  It’s the visual imagery that is heartbreaking.  Take, for example, the poem “What You Can Do in Eighteen Hours” which starts out in a relatable way with “Write a term paper/Cram for a final/Fly across the ocean” but concludes, “Wait to be discovered/lashed to a fence/Shivering under a blanket/of stars.”

View this book in its historical context and dare to be left dry-eyed.  In writing October Mourning as a tribute to Matthew Shepard, Lesléa Newman chose verse to fully explore feelings of fear, hate and grief, but also empathy and understanding.  This little book shines a glaring light on a senseless tragedy and makes a powerful plea for compassion.  As Lesléa Newman states, “Because only if each of us imagines that what happened to Matthew Shepard could happen to any one of us will we be motivated to do something.  And something must be done.”

Teen Tuesday – Sign Up and Take the Challenge!

hubreadingchallengeCalling all readers of young adult books!  Sign up to take YALSA’s Hub Reading Challenge!  I did and now I’m berating you to do the same.  Go!  Now!  Sign up!  It’s open to just about everyone—teens and adults—and besides bragging rights, you’ll earn a badge to put on your blog/website, AND be eligible for the grand prize—a whole bag of books for your very own!  So hurry over, read the guidelines, and sign up!

The challenge began February 3 (I found out late—sorry!) and runs until June 22nd.  You just have to read/listen to a total of 25 books by the deadline date.  That’s an average of only 2 books a week.  Easy peasy, right?

You have among 83 titles to choose from: 73 YA titles plus ten Alex award winners, books written for adults but also recommended for teen readers.  You’ll find it’s a diverse list—among the best of the best in both content and format!  There are the usuals:  the Printz, Morris, Stonewall and Schneider Family award winners and honor books.  But, there’s also the top Great Graphic Novels, Quick Picks, Amazing Audiobooks, and Popular Paperbacks for the past year.  A pdf file listing all the eligible titles can be downloaded from YALSA’s page here or stop by Whitney’s Young People’s Library and I’ll be happy to give you a copy.   You really want to do this, don’t you?  Go.  Now.  Sign up!

I’ll report on my progress and post some reviews, and I’m hoping for feedback from other intrepid readers who take up this challenge.    What a great opportunity to read outside your comfort zone and most likely, discover some real gems along the way.   And that’s the beauty of this contest—you really can’t lose!  It’s a win/win situation no matter how many books you finish.  Ah, come on!  This’ll be fun!  Go.  Now.  Sign up!