Books & More from the Teen Scene

Book reviews and other reflections from one of Oregon's young adult librarians

“Seedfolks” by Paul Fleischman March 28, 2013

Filed under: Classics,Fiction,Multi-Cultural,Realistic,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 10:08 am
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Seedfolks cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

112 pages; published March 1999

The Basics

A community garden takes root in a vacant lot on Gibb Street in Cleveland, Ohio, making friends and neighbors of the individuals who come together to cultivate it. Told in 14 distinct voices that reflect the diversity of the neighborhood, Seedfolks is as rich as it is brief.

Booktalk

A young Vietnamese girl named Kim, wishing to honor the memory of her father, sneaks into a vacant lot near her family’s apartment. Hiding behind a refrigerator so no one will now, she plants a handful of lima beans.

But when she is spotted, instead of being angry, the neighbors are interested. One by one, others in her community – remembering gardens and farms from Guatemala, Korea, India, Romania and other places of their youth – step into the lot and claim their own piece of earth. Even those who cannot tend a plot take an interest, fighting to have to lot cleared or helping solve the problem of irrigation.

Each of the seedfolks has their own reasons and a story to tell. In 14 small stories, they create a picture of a community and find common ground.

Random Thoughts

  • The audiobook – which is how I enjoyed this story – was extraordinary. The 14 stories are told by 14 different voice actors, each with an accent or dialect that fits their character. The diverse voices definitely enriched the experience.
  • This may be one of those books for young people that are even more enjoyable to older teens and adult readers, who have the life experience to read between some of the lines and drink in the full measure of the message.
 

“Jinx” by Sage Blackwood March 25, 2013

Filed under: Fantasy,Fiction,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 7:47 pm
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Jinx cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

368 pages; published January 2013

The Basics

Jinx is having a pretty rough time. Born into a humble clearing in the magical forest of the Urwald, his stepparents (both his real parents have died) have decided that he’s a bit inconvenient, what with the new baby coming and all. So, his not-very-nice stepfather is planning to abandon him to die in the thick of the forest. Jinx is saved at the last minute, but unfortunately by Simon, who is a good cook and a decent-but-possibly-evil wizard who may or may not be planning to do something dastardly to Jinx.

Booktalk

The bad news: Jinx’s stepfather is about to abandon him in the thick woods of the Urwald to die.

The good news: Jinx has been saved by a wizard named Simon.

The bad news: Simon may be evil.

The good news: Trolls have carried off Jinx’s stepfather to his death.

The bad news: Jinx is now sort of enslaved by the wizard.

The good news: Simon makes excellent pumpkin pie.

The bad news: Jinx may have been the victim of Simon’s evil spell that has stolen Jinx’s ability to see people’s feelings.

The good news: He can still talk to the trees.

The bad news: Jinx has headed out alone into the dangerous Urwald to seek his fortune and solve the mystery of his missing powers.

The good news: He has found two companions to come with him on his adventure.

The bad news: Both his new friends seemed to be cursed … and intent on sending Jinx straight into the arms of the almost-certainly-evil wizard, the Bonemaster.

Will there be any more good news?

Random Thoughts

This well-written, clever, rollicking fun fantasy gives me the perfect thing to recommend next time someone asks for a romance-free story for a middle-grade boy.

 

About those tardigrades aka water bears aka moss piglets … March 14, 2013

Filed under: Science — hilariouslibrarian @ 8:36 am
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Author Karen Healey allows tardigrades to play a key role in her new book, When We Wake. She does a pretty good job of explaining what a tardigrade is within her story, but I would also refer you to the incomparable Hank Green (brother and YouTube cohort of extraordinary author John Green) because Hank is awesome:

 

“When We Wake” by Karen Healey

When We Wake cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

296 pages; published March 2013

The Basics

Tegan Oglietti was having a lovely day in 2027 until she was shot and killed on the steps of the Australian Parliament House. The next time she opens her eyes, 100 years have passed. Tegan is the first successful story to come out of an experiment in cryogenics. Quickly dubbed the Living Dead Girl, Tegan has a whole new Australia to get used to and – as far as Tegan is concerned – the government has a lot of explaining to do.

Booktalk

Imagine what it would be like to blink and wake up 100 years from now. Think about what would have changed. Fashion – people would dress differently. Maybe whole new fabrics would have been invented. Speech – slang would be different, maybe other ways of talking. Technology, certainly. Social issues. The environment.

That’s what Tegan Oglietti is dealing with. Back in 2027, she was having a nearly perfect day – headed to a protest with her new boyfriend and her best friend. She doesn’t even remember the fatal shot that tore through her.

But now, she’s awake – the first person to be fully revived by Australian doctors working to perfect the science of cryogenics. Tegan has a lot more to deal with that just getting used to a world with no blue jeans, no red meat,  weird new slang words, and disturbingly racist No Immigration policies. Tegan soon realizes there’s more to her revival than her doctors and military handlers are willing to say. The Living Dead Girl has made a discovery nearly as chilling as being frozen in the first place.

Random Thoughts

It is interesting how things collide. The cryogenics in this story depend on “something” derived from tardigrades aka water bears aka moss piglets. The day after I read the chapter that introduces the tardigrades, I had a family walk into the library and ask for help finding information about “a microscopic creature whose name sounds kind of like the Tardis from Dr. Who.” What are the odd of encountering the same microscopic creature in two days??

 

“Lucid” by Adrienne Stoltz and Ron Bass March 5, 2013

Filed under: Fantasy,Fiction,Mystery,Realistic — hilariouslibrarian @ 9:47 am
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Lucid cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

343 pages; published October 2012

The Basics

Maggie and Sloane are two different girls from very different worlds. Maggie is an actress in New York City. Sloane is a small-town girl. But they are entwined by their dreams, each living the other’s life when it’s time to sleep.

Booktalk

Maggie is 16. A New York City actress. Sophisticated. Urbane. Fragmented family.  A loner. But when she goes to sleep each night, she lives a day in the life of Sloane. Sloane is a straight A high school student from a small town. Loving family. Close friends. When she closes her eyes at night, she is Maggie.

Two vividly drawn characters each live rich lives, full of family drama and the hopeful possibility of new love. Each enjoys the time spent in the other’s life. But both are plagued by the same worry – what is she is only a dream and someday I stop dreaming her? Worse – what if I’m a dream and someday she stops dreaming me?

Random Thoughts

I enjoyed each of these characters so much, it was devastating to think that one of them might turn out to not be real … until I had to slow down and realize that … neither one is real, really, right? It is, after all, a work of fiction. And a very enjoyable one.

 

“Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice” by Phillip Hoose March 1, 2013

Claudette Colvin cover

Images courtesy of GoodRead.com

The Facts

133 pages; published January 2009

The Basics

Before Rosa Parks, there was Claudette Colvin, a teenager in Montgomery, Alabama angry about the systematic mistreatment of blacks. One day, she just plain refused to give her up seat on a bus to a white passenger. She was arrested and hauled bodily off the bus, all the while screaming, “It’s my constitutional right!” Her actions sparked the flame that eventually led to Rosa Parks’ more famous bus stand-off and to the Montgomery, Alabama Bus Boycott that rocketed Martin Luther King Jr. to a national civil rights platform.

Booktalk

Have you ever been so sure you’re right that you would be willing to be hurt – maybe even die – for an idea? Claudette Colvin was only 15 years old when she took a stand. You see, in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955, if you were black and riding a bus, there was an expectation. That expectation was that you would never sit in any of the first 10 seats on the bus and that – if those 10 seats were already full of white people and another white person got on – well, you and all the other black people sitting in the row they wanted would have to give up your seats. That was how they did things under Jim Crow in the South, when they tried to keep black people separated from white people and give black people less at every turn.

So, there was Claudette Colvin – 15 years old – sure it was wrong. So, one day, a white lady got on her bus and Claudette didn’t give up her seat. It was a big deal. She was hauled off the bus, arrested, mistreated, called names, threatened – even some of the people in her own community were against her.

A while later, Rosa Parks did the same thing and got herself in trouble in order to spark the Bus Boycott that led to the Civil Rights Movement and changed a lot of things in the South. But there was Claudette Colvin again. In order to end that bus boycott, a lawyer filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of people who had been arrested on Montgomery buses. Although she knew people might want to hurt – or even kill – her for it, Claudette Colvin put herself on the line again for what was right and agreed to testify.

Would you have the courage to do what she did?

Random Thoughts

Phillip Hoose does an excellent job of exploring Claudette Colvin’s story and placing in context for readers who may have little experience with bald racism and segregationist policies. Colvin is not a saintly or perfect subject. She had some rough times and awkward elements that had nothing to do with the Civil Rights Movement, but he doesn’t pull punches and handles the material very well.

In Her Words …

“Back then, as a teenager, I kept thinking, Why don’t the adult around here just say something? Say it so they know we don’t accept segregation? I knew then and I know now that, when it comes to justice, there is no easy way to get it. You can’t sugarcoat it. You have to take a stand and say, ‘This is not right.’ And I did.”

Awards and Honors (from http://www.GoodReads.com)

  • National Book Award for Young People’s Literature (2009)
  • Newbery Honor (2010)
  • School Library Journal Best Book of the Year (2009)
  • Cybils Award Nominee for Middle Grade/Young Adult Non-Fiction (2009)
  • Sibert Honor (2010)
  • An ALA Notable Children’s Book for Older Readers (2010)
  • Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award Nominee (2011)
  • YALSA Award for Excellent in Nonfiction for Young Adults Nominee (2010)