Reference Books – Old Fashioned?

There’s a thread currently going around on the ALSC listserv I subscribe to regarding ready reference collections and how necessary it is to maintain one – the original poster asked two questions: what methods are librarians using to track reference usage (since they are non-circulating and thus have no check-out statistics), and if people are continuing to keep a reference section at all. Here’s my take:

At my library, we keep a very, very limited reference collection. We have the current World Book Encyclopedia, a science encyclopedia, an African-American cultural encyclopedia (three books), an Atlas and a handful of textbooks. I wasn’t working here when (and if) the library decided to downsize its reference collection, but that’s the impression I get – what we have may have been moved to the circulating collection, or just weeded for disuse.

The most practical reasons for downsizing reference collections are space and money. We live in an age where subscribing to the electronic versions of encyclopedias is cheaper and easier; they get updated automatically, they don’t take up precious shelf space, and they’re easier to navigate. When I was a student, and I had to write research papers, we had strict regulations on how many electronic versus paper resources we could use – a practice which is outdated and, I think, probably contributes pretty directly to the declining use of ready reference.

The other thing to consider, related to the time and money factor, is that by far the most popular service my library offers (at least to teens and young people) is the ready availability of computers, laptops, and wi-fi. I absolutely do not believe that libraries are in danger because “everything is online” – all you have to do is stick your head in our youth area after school to see the number of kids who rely on us to provide the electronic tools they need for academics and other purposes. Libraries and books aren’t going anywhere, but the internet (and the access we provide) has taken the place of many hard copy reference materials – which are at least a month to a year behind the information you can find on the internet.

This is not to say that ALL materials traditionally catalogued as reference have no use, but I do think it’s why most of those get rotated into the circulating collection. It’s no longer vitally important that they stay in the library for everyone to use; they are an option now, not the only source of information.

It’s been a while since I’ve done a media breakdown!

Watching: Sleepy Hollow, Dracula, Grey’s Anatomy. I REALLY wish Grey’s would stop doing legal storylines – now I know how people in the medical/CSI fields must feel about all of those horribly inaccurate procedural shows. One of the most recent episodes of Grey’s features a medical malpractice case that makes zero sense if you have any sort of legal background (two of the three attorneys I work part-time for are med mal lawyers, so…yeah). But Sleepy Hollow continues to be bananas in the most enjoyable way.

Reading: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, by Holly Black. I love that Holly Black isn’t afraid to go there when she writes; I am pretty much constantly surprised by how visceral and brutal Coldtown is. Which is good, because it’s a vampire book, and this is a book that never forgets that vampires are monsters.

Playing: Still Pokémon. I had to return a borrowed copy of Skyrim, which I hope to get for Christmas so that I can continue my journey of exploration and becoming the baddest ass character in all the land. Seriously, don’t mess with my wood elf, she will cut you.

Voting Round One, Part Two

I wasn’t a fan of the way I did the little summaries under each poll option in Round One, Part Two, so I’m changing my method here and just offering a sentence or two on why I chose each title. Have fun voting! Polls close Wednesday night, so get your votes in while you can and tell everyone you know!

If you missed Part One, find it here.

Round One, Part Two: Fantasy

Something Wicked This Way Comes is one of the best examples of horror fiction written for young people, and provides an intelligent discussion on the nature of good vs. evil without talking down to its audience. The carnival setting plays into stereotypical childhood fears, but uses that to tell a story of the destruction of innocence that doesn’t feel pessimistic or overly cynical. Read more about Something Wicked This Way Comes here.

The Hobbit shares the themes of good vs. evil, and while obviously it’s an iconic story it has never felt dated – it’s an example of the hero’s journey made fresh through Tolkein’s stellar world building. As a child it made me believe that I could kill dragons. Read more about The Hobbit here.

Abarat has the silliness of Alice and Wonderland and a similar dreamlike quality, but with more cohesion and a clearer end goal. Candy, our main character, is one of the few YA heroines without a romantic subplot to worry about – she has more than enough to focus on while adventuring in Abarat and helping the strange creatures she meets there. Read more about Abarat here.

Ella Enchanted features a kickass female character who figures out how to solve her own problems. From pretty much the moment she’s born until the end of the book, she has to outsmart and outmaneuver the many, many people who try and take advantage of her. Watching her break her own curse and take charge of her life is incredibly empowering. Read more about Ella Enchanted here.

Locke & Key is a fabulous graphic novel series written by Stephen King’s son, Joe Hill – it is one of those great examples of the graphic novel format, with creepy text and eerie illustrations that complement each other to perfection. The story, about three siblings who discover the weird things going on in their house and in their own heads, is spooky and fascinating. Read more about Locke & Key here.

The Book of Lost Things was doing twisted fairytales before it was cool. It’s heartbreaking, and exhilarating, and haunting and dark and the main character, David, grows so much through the course of the book. The Book of Lost Things addresses loss, family troubles, and identity issues with some of the most darkly beautiful prose. Read more about The Book of Lost Things here.

If I had to describe Weetzie Bat in one word, it would be transcendent – Francesca Lia Block spins magical descriptions , and lifts the ordinary into the wondrous. The themes about making your own family and learning to rely on others are beautiful and lasting. Read more about Weetzie Bat here.

I struggled over which of Holly Black’s many novels to include, since she has taken the urban fantasy genre to a whole new level with her gritty take on fairytale-type stories. Tithe introduces Black’s darker, stranger, more transformative fairytale world. Read more about Tithe here.

Round One, Part Two: Science Fiction

This steampunk retelling of World War I has everything – steam-powered robots, giant genetically engineered airships, runaway royals, snappy dialogue, and lovely illustrations. Scott Westerfeldt mixes fact and fiction liberally, and the end result is a thrilling adventure with a bit of romance mixed in. Read more about Leviathan here.

Shades of steampunk, dystopia, science fiction and urban fantasy mix in The City of Ember, a story so vivid it has been retold as both a film and a graphic novel. Jeanne DuPrau’s prose is claustrophobic, and reading about this underground city that starts to fail will make your heart race. Read more about The City of Ember here.

This is one of those sci-fi books that will make your skin crawl with how very, very accurate it feels. This is a future where everyone has a feed implanted in their brains, which provides them with a constant stream of information and communication…which has led to the complete consumerization of society. The most popular show on TV is a soap opera called “Oh? Wow! Thing!” Read more about Feed here.

All the romance of Twilight with the stakes of The Hunger Games, Matched owns its teen romance in a way that feels more weighty than other love triangles. The liberal dose of dystopia, so popular in YA lit these days, doesn’t feel derivative – instead, it makes Cassia’s struggles more urgent. Read more about Matched here.

Winner of the 2011 Printz Award (think the Newberry for young adult literature), Ship Breaker feels oily, gritty and dangerous. While the dysoptian setting feels familiar (a world destroyed by environmental issues and clogged with pollution), Bacigalupi’s characters are like firecrackers in the smog: colorful, energetic, and memorable. Read more about Ship Breaker here.

It’s not a secret that I love Eoin Colfer’s juvenile fantasy series, Artemis Fowl, very, very much – Airman is his prose taken up a level. It’s a bit historical fiction, a bit science fiction, all adventure. It’s even got a subplot about escaped convicts to add some spice. Read more about Airman here.

A Marvel book that takes a closer look at the villain side of things – the stars of Runaways are kids find out their parents are super villains, and decide to run away and do something about it. They take charge of their own destinies, and the writing is good enough to elevate the characters above the cut-out stereotypes they initially embody. Read more about Runaways here.

This smart, loopy take on a spirit quest won the Printz award in 2010 – probably because the awards committee found Cameron, the lead (who happens to be sick with mad cow disease) and Dulcie (the possibly hallucinated angel with a sugar addiction) as charming and compelling as I did. Read more about Going Bovine here.

Round One, Part Two: Realistic Fiction

Chris Crutcher is a superstar in the world of YA literature, and I think Whale Talk represents the best of what he does. His characters are multifaceted and go through real growth, and he deals with extremely rough issues (Whale Talk addresses broken homes, domestic abuse, bullying, and racism, among others) in a way that allows him to build to explosive climaxes that never feel gimmicky. Read more about Whale Talk here.

The pessimistic Junior is the point of view in this story that tackles Native American identity and community. This semi-autobiographical book handles utterly serious issues with a dose of self-deprecating humor, making Junior a relateable and real voice. Read more about The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian here.

“In that moment we were infinite.” This line is iconic and completely encapsulates The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Charlie spends the book searching for infinite moments, moments that will have meaning in his life beyond the instant they happen. While Charlie is an extreme, this book speaks to anyone that felt isolated and lost during high school – before finding where they belonged. Read more about The Perks of Being a Wallflower here.

Don’t read this on the train if you’re prone to crying over prose. I can’t really tell you how amazing it was to read about Hazel, the incredible protagonist here who struggles with young love and terminal cancer, after the problems I’ve had with John Green’s female characters in the past – unlike others, Hazel is no one’s plot device and her story is her own. Read more about The Fault in Our Stars here.

Darkly funny, awkwardly depressing and ultimately uplifting, Holes tells the story of a character who literally pulls himself out of the ground to overcome a family curse and escape the juvenile delinquent center he finds himself in after an unfortunate series of accidents. A book about crime, punishment, and redemption through hard effort. Read more about Holes here.

Even small moments can end up changing your life completely. That’s what Troy learns when he’s pulled back from the brink of almost-suicide by homeless, drug addict Curt MacCrae – who turns Troy’s world upside down with the power of punk rock and learning how to drum. Read more about Fat Kid Rules the World here.

I read Speak in one sitting over the course of two hours. It is a harrowing, captivating novel. Laurie Halse Anderson shoves the truth of victim blaming, clique culture, and the consequences of not speaking up in your face, and it’s not comfortable, but it is one of the most necessary novels I have ever read. Read more about Speak here.

As a librarian, this book (and the undercurrent theme of book banning) speaks to me on a fundamental level – but Harper’s fight for her individuality and personal freedom should speak to everyone. Read more about Memoirs of a Bookbat here.

Round One, Part Two: Historical/Non Fiction

A mainstay for many girls growing up, Little Women has a lot to say to everyone about gender roles and adolescence while the story follows four sisters growing up. If you tell me you didn’t cry when you read about Jo, you’re lying and I don’t believe you. Read more about Little Women here.

It is appropriate that Marjane Satrapi’s illustrations are all stark black and white – they ensure that there’s nothing to distract you from the growing dread of her Iranian surroundings. One reviews states that Satrapi never lapses into “sensationalism or sentimentalism” – the short answer is, she doesn’t have to. Her story speaks for itself. Read more about Persepolis here.

The first time I read this book, the twist blew me away – suddenly, I was reading a very, very different novel than I expected to be, and Haddix handles the genre shift in a way that isn’t clunky or heavy handed. The culture shock Jessie experiences when she suddenly finds herself in a different time is almost as fascinating as the medical experimentation going on in the background. Read more about Running Out of Time here.

I’m putting this in historical fiction rather than sci-fi (even though it relies on a time travel element) because the horrors Hannah is forced to suffer when she is transported back in time to Nazi-occupied Poland. A story about remembering, courage, and preservation. Read more about The Devil’s Arithmetic here.

A fish out of water story where the stakes are life and death – this fictional account set during the witch trials (not in Salem, but adjacent to) was the first historical fiction novel to convince me that wasn’t synonymous with “boring.” It helps that Kit Tyler is such a colorful, interesting character to read about. Read more about The Witch of Blackbird Pond here.

This collection of poetry tells the story of a girl growing up in the dustbowl of Oklahoma during the 1930’s, when nothing would grow and the rains never came. The poems are alternately emotional, dry like the dust of the title, plainly stated and violent – the things Billie lives through would devastate others. Read more about Out of the Dust here.

I’m cheating slightly by including this here – It’s Kind of a Funny Story was inspired by author Ned Vizzini’s stay in a mental institution, and thus doesn’t quite count as non-fiction. But my realistic fiction bracket was full, and Craig’s story is full of so many people whose wounds feel real. It is a book that teaches the reader that it’s ok to ask for help and that mental illness isn’t something to be ashamed of. Read more about It’s Kind of a Funny Story here.

Dodger was a finalist this year for the Printz award (the young adult equivalent of the Newberry), and for good reason – loosely based off the Dodger character from Dickens (or rather, this book provides a character that could have been that Dodger’s inspiration), Pratchett’s account of the underbelly of post-Victorian London is horrifying, disgusting, and exhilarating. It is also fearless in how is portrays human nature and resilience. Read more about Dodger here.

Round Two of voting will match the winners of Part One with the winners of Part Two – and will go up Friday after Thanksgiving. I hope everyone has a happy holiday, and remember to pass this on to all your literary friends!

Voting Begins!

Before we get to the polls, I wanted to share an adorable story with all of you: most of the songs and rhymes I do for my storytime are carried over from week to week, so there’s a lot of repetition.  (When the new session starts in January, I will be planning out a whole new storytime which will stick through the winter/spring session.)  We have been doing “This Old Man, He Played One” every week, and a rhyme with scarves that goes “Fingers like to wiggle waggle, wiggle waggle, way up high” (down low, side to side, etc.). “This Old Man” plays to limited success, but the wiggle waggling is the favorite of many children.

One of my regulars had to attend a different storytime because of his caregiver’s work schedule last week. When it ended, he came out of the storytime singing “wiggle waggle” to the precise tune of “This Old Man.” He also proceeded to remix some of the other songs he’d heard in that morning’s storytime, and his accuracy and pitch on the tunes was almost perfect.

This kid is just shy of three. It was the cutest remix I’ve ever seen.

Voting!  Sorry this is going up a day later than expected – putting the polls together was more time consuming than I expected.

Round One, Part One: Fantasy

A boy wizard an his owl versus a girl and her daemon – both destined to change the world. Harry Potter deals with classism, The Golden Compass with religion – both take place in worlds of magic, and both have some of the most beautiful prose I’ve ever read. Haven’t read them? Read more about Harry Potter here and The Golden Compass here.

While different in tone, I Shall Wear Midnight and Sabriel both feature young women learning to navigate the strange powers they possess while maintaining their sense of self. Midnight has Pratchett’s singular humorous bent, while still managing to spring emotional weight on the reader; Sabriel is delightfully macabre with its sprinkling of necromancy and spirits. Read more about I Shall Wear Midnight here and Sabriel here.

Speaking of macabre…historical fiction meets monstrous entity in The Monstrumologist, while Hold Me Closer, Necromancer stars a teen and his realization that he has the power to raise the dead. Another matchup of humor versus poetic horror, read more about The Monstrumologist here and Hold Me Closer, Necromancer here.

Neil Gaiman versus a Neil Gaiman endorsed graphic novel, both starring adventurous young women who bite off more than they can chew. For Coraline, it’s getting involved with the otherworldly Other Mother; for Anya, it’s inviting the ghost of Emily home with her. Read more about Coraline here and Anya’s Ghost here.

Round One, Part One: Science Fiction

I like pairing classics, although it makes the choice a lot harder. All dystopian novels owe some of their DNA to The Giver, while A Wrinkle in Time melds hard science with interstellar travel and spiritual beings seamlessly. Read more about The Giver here and A Wrinkle in Time here.

Speaking of dystopias…both The Maze Runner and The Hunger Games are stories of survival in bleak futures, where the main characters are only working with part of the information. Thomas from The Maze Runner has more of an internal battle to fight, while Katniss struggles against forces outside her control. Read more about The Hunger Games here and The Maze Runner here.

I picked The City of Gold and Lead instead of the first book in the Tripods trilogy, The White Mountains, because the city as described is so vivid – clogged with pollution, heavy with increased gravity, the prose feels as oppressive as the story of alien domination. On the other side, you have the descriptions of the Battle Room, and the impending doom of alien invasion.  Read more about Ender’s Game here and The City of Gold and Lead here.

Surgical perfection versus cloning and organ harvesting –  this last match-up is a battle of medical oddities. Tally Youngblood eagerly anticipates becoming a Pretty, without a care or responsibility, until the truth of her utopian society is revealed, while Matteo Alacran waits for the drug lord he was cloned from to claim his organs. Read more about Uglies here and The House of the Scorpion here.

Round One, Part One: Realistic Fiction

The best in survival fiction, both voluntary and involuntary. Brian and Sam have been inspiring people for years with their tenacity, ingenuity and fortitude; Hatchet reveals that we are made of stronger stuff than we might think, while My Side of the Mountain explores the freedom of choosing to live your own life. Read more about Hatchet here and My Side of the Mountain here.

As a high school girl, these two series spoke to me on a pretty fundamental level – the girls featured went through and came out of so many of the same troubles I was having, and they did with grace (mostly) and humor (typically). The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is definitely the more emotional of the two, but Georgia Nicolson provided much needed perspective on all the little things that felt like life-enders at the time. Read more about The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants here and Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging here.

On the surface, these two classics don’t have much in common: Scout’s story of race relations during the Great Depression versus a group of boys degenerating into chaos alone on an island. However, both deal with the breakdown of society in the face of savagery – it is more literal in the case of Lord of the Flies, but Scout must also face the failure of justice and the violent results of human brutality. Read more about To Kill A Mockingbird here and Lord of the Flies here.

One of the things that makes great YA is the fearlessness to tackle the big issues. Both of these novels do so with tragic skill, whether it’s Eleanor navigating her abusive home and budding relationship with Park, or Hannah baldly laying out the decision to end her life. Both novels are sharp illustrations of the kind of literature that can be deeply affecting. Read more about Eleanor & Park here and Thirteen Reasons Why here.

Round One, Part One: Historical/Non Fiction

I didn’t actually realize until the moment that both of these are World War II narratives – the Book Thief tells its story from inside Germany, about the little rebellions people fought every day and how they can turn into something huge, while Code Name Verity is about spies and truth and camaraderie in Nazi-occupied France. Both feature girls that will break your heart with their courage. Read more about The Book Thief here and Code Name Verity here.

I confess – when the boys in my class were reading Hatchet, I was reading Julie of the Wolves.  (We all read The Island of the Blue Dolphins.) Julie’s story, of adapting to life amongst the wolfpack and surviving in the bare tundra and reconnecting with her Eskimo heritage, captured me; Karana, alone on her island, made me examine the connections I made with other people. Read more about The Island of the Blue Dolphins here and Julie of the Wolves here.

The most popular pirate story ever written versus one of the most controversial novels still part of the school curriculum. Both feature voyages and unlikely friendships – Jim Hawkins sails with, and befriends, the bloodthirsty Long John Silver, while Huck meanders down a river with escaped slave Jim. Read more about Treasure Island here and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn here.

Blankets is a serene, emotional story about first love and reminiscing, while Stitches is the violent, disturbing tale of being lied to “for your own good” and the mental and physical damage that can do. While Stitches is more visceral, Blankets is more familiar – but both are the kind of story that sticks with you long after you’ve put it down. Read more about Blankets here and Stitches here.

These initial pairings were formulated using a very scientific method of what I thought was appropriate multiplied by process of elimination.  The second round for all categories will go up on Saturday, and then I’ll close the polls next Wednesday and post the next round of match-ups. Feel free to debate heatedly in the comments! You can also vote more than once, so advocating for your favorites is encouraged. Tell your friends! Tell your librarian! Tell everyone!

Final Brackets!

Voting starts on Wednesday! The initial match-ups will be randomly generated within brackets, I will post a March Madness-style graphic to show the pairings by Wednesday.

Fantasy/Supernatural
1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
2. I Shall Wear Midnight, Terry Pratchett
3. The Golden Compass, Philip Pullman
4. Sabriel, Garth Nix
5. The Monstrumologist, Rick Yancey
6. Coraline, Neil Gaiman
7. Locke & Key, Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
8. The Book of Lost Things, John Connolly
9. Abarat, Clive Barker
10. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkein
11. Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury
12. Ella Enchanted, Gail Carson Levine
13. Weetzie Bat, Francesca Lia Block
14. Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, Lish McBride
15. Tithe, Holly Black
16. Anya’s Ghost, Vera Brosgol

Science Fiction
1. Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card
2. Leviathan, Scott Westerfeldt
3. The Giver, Lois Lowry
4. A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle
5. Feed, M.T. Anderson
6. The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
7. The Maze Runner, James Dasher
8. Runaways, Brian K. Vaughn
9. The House of the Scorpion, Nancy Farmer
10. Going Bovine, Libba Bray
11. Matched, Allie Condie
12. The City of Ember, Jeanne DuPrau
13. Ship Breaker, Paolo Bacigalupi
14. The City of Gold and Lead, John Christopher
15. Uglies, Scott Westerfeldt
16. Airman, Eoin Colfer

Realistic Fiction
1. Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell
2. The Fault in Our Stars, John Green
3. Holes, Louis Sachar
4. Hatchet, Gary Paulson
5. Fat Kid Rules the World, KL Going
6. Whale Talk, Chris Crutcher
7. Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson
8. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Ann Brashares
9. Memoirs of a Bookbat, Kathryn Lasky
10. My Side of the Mountain, Jean Craighead George
11. Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging, Louise Rennison
12. To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee
13. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky
14. Lord of the Flies, William Golding
15. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie
16. Thirteen Reasons Why, Jay Asher

Historical/Non Fiction
1. Code Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein
2. The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
3. A Separate Peace, John Knowles
4. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
5. Island of the Blue Dolphins, Scott O’Dell
6. The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Elizabeth George Speare
7. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
8. The Devil’s Arithmetic, Jane Yolen
9. Running Out of Time, Margaret Peterson Haddix
10. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi
11. It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Ned Vizzini
12. Stitches, David Small
13. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
14. Blankets, Craig Thompson
15. Dodger, Terry Pratchett
16. Out of the Dust, Karen Hesse

Send this to everyone!  Otherwise it’s just going to be me voting for all my faves (which means that Golden Compass will probably win everything, let’s not lie).

More YA Literature, and This Week’s Storytime

My storytime this week had four kids instead of two!  Which was very exciting, actually.  What is also exciting is how consistently great the parents/caregivers are who come with the kids – doing a lapsit storytime depends pretty heavily on parental involvement, and the parents I’ve been seeing have not hesitated to jump right in and sing, rhyme, and interact with me and their babies.

The books I picked were not great, and I’ve been bad about practicing my books ahead of time – after this week I won’t make that mistake again!  I read Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? by Eric Carle, and Joey and Jet In Space by James Wang.  Both great books, but Joey and Jet especially was a little too abstract for my group.  I thought Polar Bear, Polar Bear would be good for some animal sounds, but if the kids are too young to really participate it ends up reading too fast and not very smoothly.

Here’s an update on our YA brackets!

Fantasy/Supernatural
1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
2. I Shall Wear Midnight, Terry Pratchett
3. The Golden Compass, Philip Pullman
4. Sabriel, Garth Nix
5. The Monstrumologist, Rick Yancey
6. Coraline, Neil Gaiman
7. Airman, Eoin Colfer
8. The Book of Lost Things, John Connolly
9. Abarat, Clive Barker
10. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkein
11. Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury
12. Ella Enchanted, Gail Carson Levine

Science Fiction
1. Ender’s Game
2. Leviathan, Scott Westerfeldt
3. The Giver, Lois Lowry
4. A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle
5. Feed, M.T. Anderson

Realistic Fiction
1. Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell
2. Looking for Alaska, John Green
3. Holes, Louis Sachar
4. Hatchet, Gary Paulson
5. Fat Kid Rules the World, KL Going
6. Whale Talk, Chris Crutcher
7. Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson
8. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Ann Brashares
9. Memoirs of a Bookbat, Kathryn Lasky
10. My Side of the Mountain, Jean Craighead George
11. Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging, Louise Rennison
12. To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee
13. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky
14. Lord of the Flies, William Golding
15. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie

Historical Fiction
1. Code Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein
2. The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
3. A Separate Peace, John Knowles
4. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
5. Island of the Blue Dolphins, Scott O’Dell

A couple of things to note while we’re selecting our brackets. The original problematic bracket from EW is focused on young adult literature – that’s literature written and aimed at teens, with specifically teenagers in mind. One of the problems I had with their selections is that some of them (Dune, Flowers for Algernon, etc.) are adult books that happen to be popular with teenagers. Other books on the list are really aimed at children, or at least young people under the age of thirteen. I’m not including Watership Down, for example, because the author wrote it with his young daughters in mind – daughters younger than teen years. Samesies with Roald Dahl’s work, or Tamora Pierce – both authors wrote almost exclusively for the under-twelve crowd.

A Best of YA List We Can Be Proud Of

A bit of a self-plug here: I also run a wiki for storytime resources, which you can find at http://mbuehlerstoryrhymes.wikia.com. It’s still small but growing all the time; whenever I find a rhyme that I like or that works especially well, I throw it up there so I can find it again more easily later (and also so other people can use it as a resource, hopefully!).

Entertainment Weekly is currently running a big bracket poll entitled What is the Best Young Adult Novel of All Time? and frankly, the poll is a bunch of B.S.  (See the current bracket polls here.)  I have many issues with the way this is set up – first, I can see four books right off that I wouldn’t categorize as YA (Dune, The Earthsea Trilogy, Flowers for Algernon, and The Princess Bride. Just because you read something in high school or as a high schooler doesn’t make it a young adult book.) Second, some of the matchups don’t make any sense – what structure does pairing Harry Potter against Holes make, especially for the initial bracket? There’s nothing to compare there! (See also: The Mortal Instruments versus The Invention of Hugo Cabret.)

So let’s construct our own poll. We’ll start by selecting 64 YA titles, split into four categories of 16 titles – I propose science fiction, realistic fiction, fantasy/supernatural, and historical fiction (on the assumption that most titles, even if they don’t fit solidly into any of these, can be loosely sorted this way, and because I think it’s a more fair way of determining initial match ups). A week from today, I’ll post the entire line-up, and we’ll do voting in one-week blocks. Not many people read this blog yet, so unless you guys want to see me voting by myself, tell your friends and let’s make this a full-fledged discussion.

Here are some of my proposals. Unlike the EW list, and every list ever, I’m not using one title for whole series – these suggestions are what I think are the best books in the series, so tell me if you disagree:

Fantasy/Supernatural
1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
2. I Shall Wear Midnight, Terry Pratchett
3. The Golden Compass, Philip Pullman
4. Sabriel, Garth Nix
5. The Monstrumologist, Rick Yancey
6. Coraline, Neil Gaiman
7. Airman, Eoin Colfer
8. The Book of Lost Things, John Connolly

Science Fiction
1. Ender’s Game
2. Leviathan, Scott Westerfeldt
3. The Giver, Lois Lowry

Realistic Fiction
1. Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell
2. Looking for Alaska, John Green
3. Holes, Louis Sachar
4. Hatchet, Gary Paulson
5. Fat Kid Rules the World, KL Going
6. Whale Talk, Chris Crutcher

Historical Fiction
1. Code Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein
2. The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

That’s to get us started – what else goes here, folks? I’ll post a complete bracket on Monday, the 18th, and the discussion and voting can commence!

Establishing Presence

First thing’s first: I saw Ender’s Game, and while I stand by my earlier statements regarding seeing the film versus not, I was extraordinarily disappointed in it. I’ve got a review up over here if you’re interested in more detail.

I spent a long time this week working on an entry about how I need to establish a presence in the library, and how that might help in attracting more kids to my storytimes and also establish with the teens that I am actually an authority figure, despite being the newest person at the library and also really short – but the whole thing just ended up sounding SUPER whiny and also really obvious. So. TL;DR, establishing presence in the library as a librarian is important!

Here’s what we read this Tuesday:

Wolf Won’t Bite, by Emily Gravett
Fall Is Not Easy, by Marty Kelly

Wolf Won’t Bite may  have been a little old for my regular, but it’s got fun pictures that are pretty silly to look at so it got some laughs.  And because I only  had two, I sat on the floor for Fall Is Not Easy, which is a smaller book, so that everyone could get a better look at the illustrations.

I’m brainstorming with my supervisor and the head of our PR department about how we can increase attendance to the lapsit storytime; one thing we’re going to start doing for the next programming quarter is advertising in pediatricians’ offices, which I hadn’t thought of but is totally obvious. So apart from the website and quarterly newsletter, my homework is to come up with other ways to get the word out.