Books & More from the Teen Scene

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

“How to Fake a Moon Landing: Exposing the Myths of Science Denial” by Darryl Cunningham June 12, 2014

How to Fake a Moon Landing cover

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The Facts

176 pages; published April 2013

The Basics

In a traditional, multi-panel graphic novel format, Darryl Cunningham is succint and direct as he refutes for the claims of science deniers, pseudoscientific theories, and claims of hoaxes. Sections cover the moon landing, homeopathy, chiropractic care, MMR vaccines, evolution, fracking, climate change, and science denial itself.


Interesting and fast-paced, How to Fake a Moon Landing pulls no punches. Cunningham takes each of the eight science denial scenarios head-on, explaining the claims of the believers and then tearing them apart. Each section includes a rich amout of history and background on the topic, as well as the “claims vs facts.” I was impressed by how much information he packed in and his ability to simply and clearly address conversations which have generated a cacophony of debate. I have booktalked this in several classrooms now. I find it good to acknowledge that the book has a high potential to offend, but even more potential to inform and to encourage further independent research on the part of the reader.

Random Thoughts

  • I believe my favorite fact is that Daniel Palmer, the man who performed the first chiropractic adjustment, died a few weeks after a “strange incident in which his son ran over him with a car.” The next panel observes, “the official cause of death was typhoid, but being run over couldn’t have helped.”
  • How anyone ever came up with the practice of fracking is beyond me.

I Will Recommend This to …

  • Practically everyone – I just keep talking about it.
  • Kids who need to read a science-based book for this year’s Summer Reading Club.
  • Anyone interested in one of the eight topics covered.
  • Teachers looking for an engaging, yet informative book for their classroom libraries.

“Little Fish: A Memoir from a Different Kind of Year” by Ramsey Beyer September 26, 2013

Little Fish cover

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The Facts

272 pages; published September 2013

The Basics

Lists, journal entries, reflections, comic strips, and drawings are blended together to tell the sweet, sometimes funny story of a girl leaving a small, small town to be a little fish in the big pond of art school in Baltimore.


Ramsey Beyer was a shy girl who loved art and punk rock, growing up in Paw Paw, Michigan. Although she had a great family and good friends, she didn’t quite feel like Paw Paw was “her” place. If you’ve ever felt that way, you will relate to this book. Ramsey does the brave thing and heads out – 600 miles away to attend art school in Baltimore. She makes new friends, gets homesick, gets a crush, learns new things, has great adventures, gets sad sometimes, and changes her major. She tells it all in her own style, through reproducing lists and journal entries from when she was in college, as well as new drawings and comic strips. It is beautiful to look at and beautiful to read as you find out what it is like for this little fish to learn to swim in a new pond.

I’ll Recommend This Book To …

  • Readers who like realistic fiction
  • Seniors who are nervous about college
  • Graphic novel and art fans
  • Other people who make lists

A Page from Little Fish …

There are LOTS of lists. They are very interesting.


Image courtesy of


“Page by Paige” by Laura Lee Gulledge May 21, 2012

Page by Paige cover

Images courtesy of

The Facts

192 pages; published May 2011

The Basics

Paige Turner has just moved from Virginia to New York. A bit lost and lonely, she pours her feelings and innermost thoughts into a new sketchbook, and ends up creating a record of her discovery of friendship, first love, and a new confidence in herself.


Paige Turner (hey – her parents are writers) spends a lot of time in her own head. It’s not easy for her to speak up or say what she really means or make new friends. After a move from Virginia to New York City, she’s pretty lost until she decides to take some advice left behind by her grandmother. Rule #1 is – “No more excuses! Buy a sketchbook and draw a few pages each week.” It’s not easy at first, but she draws – she draws how it feels to be surrounded by two-dimensional people in a new city, how the inside of her head is different that what people see, and how sometimes her head gets cluttered with thoughts and she feels like she needs to shake them out like a salt shaker. As she follows the other rules … “Draw what you know” … “Listen to what’s going on in your head” … “Let yourself fail” … “Figure out what scares you and do it” … she connects with new friends, finds love, and releases a bold, creative, playful side of herself for everyone to enjoy.

Random Thoughts

The drawings are absolutely striking and express so much emotion. The experience is really lovely. Here are some examples in the YouTube book trailer:


Cybils Award Nominee for Graphic Novels (Young Adult) (2011); ALA Teens’ Top Ten Nominee (2012); YALSA Great Graphic Novels for Teens (2012); Texas Maverick Graphic Novel Reading List for Grades 6-12 (2012); Will Eisner Comic Industry Award Nominee for Best Lettering (2012)


“Chopsticks” by Jessica Anthony, illustrated by Rodrigo Corral May 19, 2012

Filed under: Chick Lit,Fiction,Graphic Novel,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 7:25 am
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Chopsticks book cover

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The Facts

272 pages; published February 2012

The Basics

Told in the format of an extraordinarily detailed scrapbook, Chopsticks explores the mental deterioration of Glory, a teen-aged piano prodigy who has lost touch with her life and her gift in the wake of her mother’s death.


Glory is a piano prodigy, pushed relentlessly onto the world stage by her father. Glory is a grieving teen, missing her mother. Glory is in love, with Frank, the rebellious boy who moves in next door. Glory is lost in her mind, stuck in the repeating pattern of playing Chopsticks over and over and over. Now, Glory has disappeared.

This is a beautiful story and a beautiful book. Absent any traditional text, Glory’s story is laid out in photos, pictures, letters, news clippings, screen shots of texts, graffiti, postcards, grade reports, letters and more. The reader is pulled into the heart of the story, leafing through Glory’s family albums, reading her most heartfelt letters, viewing Frank’s dark, angry artwork. The experience is both lovely and sad.


“Anya’s Ghost” by Vera Brosgol March 29, 2012

Filed under: Fantasy,Fiction,Graphic Novel,Multi-Cultural,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 8:55 am
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Anya's Ghost cover

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The Facts:

221 pages; published June 2011

The Basics:

Anya is an awkward teen who – on her worst day ever – falls down a well and find herself face-to-face with the bones and ghost of a girl about her age. In a quick decision during her rescue, Anya grabs the girl’s pinky bone, allowing the ghost to follow her home.

Book Talk:

Anya is already feeling pretty low. Her Russian immigrant family is weird. She doesn’t really have many friends. The boy she likes doesn’t notice her. Then, she hits a new low when she falls down a well and ends up meeting a ghost who follows her home after the rescue, intent on being Anya’s new best friend. At first, it’s great to have an awesome new bestie, but Anya soon starts to suspect this ghost may not have her best interests at heart.

Random Thought:

The sweet simplicity of the art style belies how creepy this story gets.


“Hikaru No Go” (Volume 1) by Yumi Hotta November 23, 2011

Hotta, Yumi (author). Obata, Takeshi (artist). Hikaru No Go, Volume 1. San Francisco: Shonen Jump, 2006. 187 pages. ISBN: 159116222x.

Hikaru No Go Vol 1 cover

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Hikaru is an average kind of 12-year-old boy, more interested in sports than in school and not interested at all in ancient Chinese history. His life changes when he finds a blood-stained Go board and becomes inhabited by the spirit of a long-ago Go master who is still seeking a way to play his beloved game and – someday perhaps – the “Divine Move.”


Does anyone here care about Go? Do you even know what Go is?

Well, it’s an ancient Chinese game that is like chess – played with black and white pieces on a square grid. If you don’t know anything about it, you’re a lot like Hikaru. He’s a 12-year-old Chinese boy who just found an old, old Go board with blood on it. He doesn’t even know what the board is for. But he’s the only one who can see the blood, so he has some kind of connection with what’s inside.

Can you image what is inside this old block of wood? Only the spirit of Sai, a Go master from the Heian Period (that’s 794-1185 in China). When Hikaru sees the blood, that’s the signal for Sai to come out of the Go board and take over part of Hikaru’s consciousness. Soon, Hikaru find himself spending time in Go parlors and playing against master Go players, with Sai telling him how. He friends start to think he’s crazy. The Go players can’t figure him out.

Hikaru hates Go, but there is something about the intensity of these players that makes him think. Maybe he can understand why Sai would wait even beyond death, hoping for a chance to experience the ultimate moment in Go – the play of the “Divine Move.”

Wait! There’s More:

If you get hooked on this fast and funny story, good news! There are a total of 23 volumes to enjoy.

Teen View:

“I love this series. Even though I didn’t understand it at first because I don’t know anything about Go, I totally realized, ‘This is amazing.’ It really explains what’s important in the game and I love the characters, especially Sai because he gets really involved and yells at Hikaru and he’s so into it. It’s amazing.” – Catrina, age 15, major Manga enthusiast

Awards/Honors (source:

  • Shogakukan Manga Award in 2000
  • Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize in 2003 (series)