Books & More from the Teen Scene

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

Maya Van Wagenen’s Popularity Tips – A Selection October 7, 2014

Filed under: Quotes — hilariouslibrarian @ 11:24 am
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Betty Cornell's Teenage Popularity Guide cover

Images courtesy of

One of the elements I most enjoyed from Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen was the periodic insertion of “Maya’s Popularity Tips,” which ranged from tongue-in-cheek to hilariously specific to perfectly serious. They certainly could not be confused with the prim and proper tone of the 1951 advice she is following from author Betty Cornell.

Here are a few favorites:

Never throw up in class. It’s better just to run out of the room and retch in the hallway. Even if you make it to the trash can in the corner, if anyone sees you puke, you will be tormented forever. During elementary school I hurled in a wastebasket. When we moved away five years later, the last thing one boy said to me was, “You’re that girl who barfed in kindergarten.” It’s impossible to live some things down.

When you’re wearing an embarrassing hairstyle and people have started to notice, it’s always safest to have a sudden, urgent, need to pee.

Make your yearbook pictures memorable because, as my science teacher says, “Your grandkids have to laugh a something.”

Bite your tongue off before nerd-talking about Lord of the Rings to the boy you like. Unless he himself is from Middle Earth.

Don’t question your wardrobe choices based on someone else’s religious intolerance.

Laugh at your friends’ painful situations only after they give you permission to do so … or when no one else is around.

Maya’s Final Popularity Tip

Popularity is more than looks. It’s not clothes, hair, or even possessions. When we let go of these labels, we see how flimsy and relative they actually are. Real popularity is kindness and acceptance. It is about who you are, and how you treat others.

P.S. Betty Cornell’s Teen-Age Popularity Guide has now been republished and is available in bookstores and libraries for readers who want to enjoy the text that inspired Maya to live and write Popular!


Great quotes from Alice Roosevelt September 25, 2014

Filed under: Quotes — hilariouslibrarian @ 10:28 pm
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Alice Roosevelt photo

Image from the Library of Congress

By all accounts, Alice Roosevelt was not an easy daughter to raise or person to know, but she has a sharp mind and a sharper tongue and left a legacy of some delightfully snarky quotes that make a person both smile and cringe a little.

If you can’t any something good about someone, sit right here by me.

I have a simple philosophy: Fill what’s empty. Empty what’s full. Scratch where it itches.

I’ve always believed the adage that the secret of eternal youth is arrested development.

My father always wanted to be the corpse at every funeral, the bride at every wedding and the baby at every christening.

He [Calvin Coolidge] looks at though he’s been weaned on a pickle.

My specialty is detached malevolence.

You can’t make a souffle rise twice.

Source: The Almanac of Theodore Roosevelt –


The Quote that Keeps Coming Back to Me and Making My Eyes Sting … from “Coaltown Jesus” by Ron Koertge October 24, 2013

Filed under: Books,Fiction,Quotes,Realistic,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 10:53 am

Coaltown Jesus quote


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

Claudette Colvin cover

Images courtesy of

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.


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

  • 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)

Awesome Scene from “The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door” by Karen Finneyfrock February 27, 2013

Filed under: GLBTQ,Quotes — hilariouslibrarian @ 9:02 am
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Sometimes, when reading a book, I have the feeling that the author just really needed to say something so she has a character say it … even if it’s not strictly central or necessary to the plot. In this case, I was delighted to find the following passage because Celia Door says something so well – in just the words I’ve wished I had, but never seem to have at my command when they are needed.

From Page 152:

“Ugh, that movie was stupid,” the other girl said.

“I know, everything is zombies now. That movie was so gay,” said the salesgirl.

“What did you say?” I asked.

The girls looked surprised, as if I has just walked over to their private table in a restaurant and asked to sit down. “We’re just talking about the movie with the zombie aliens,” the salesgirl said dismissively.

“But what did you call it?” I asked. I could feel Drake shift uncomfortably next to me and take a small step away.

“I said it was stupid, don’t bother seeing it,” said the girl.

“But you didn’t say ‘stupid,'” I said, my voice getting a little louder. “You said it was ‘gay.'”

“Oh, yeah, whatever, I didn’t mean it literally.”

“No, you said ‘gay’ like that was another word for ‘stupid’ or ‘lame.'”

“A lot of people say that,” one of the other girls broke in, “she didn’t mean it in a mean way. She’s cool with gay people.”

“Well, if you’re cool with gay people, then why don’t you choose another word to use so you don’t offend anyone?”


Go, Celia!


Charlie Joe’s Tip #14 February 12, 2013

Filed under: Fiction,Quotes,Realistic,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 9:25 am
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From Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading by Tommy Greenwald

Tips for not reading or explaining why reading is terrible are scattered throughout the book, but it was this list that made me laugh out loud (in a librarian kind of way).


To make sure you don’t get too invested in the characters or story of whatever book you’re reading, please remember these simple facts:

1. The characters aren’t real. (fiction)

2. You don’t know these people personally. (nonfiction)

3. They may well be dead. (historical biography)

4. They would ignore you in a restaurant. (sports biography)

5. What they’re doing could never happen. (science fiction)

6. There’s not way that awesome girl would fall in love that that dorky guy. (teen fiction)

7. There’s no way that skinny kid could strike out that huge kid. (sports fiction)

8. None of this will matter later in life. (math textbook)

9. None of this will matter ever. (science textbook)

10. Who cares? (pretty much any book ever)


Side Effects … January 16, 2013

Filed under: Quotes,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 8:26 am
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Some things linger in the mind. After finishing “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green, I found myself thinking about this:

“Whenever your read a cancer booklet or website or whatever, they always list depression among the side effects of cancer. But, in fact, depression is not a side effect of cancer. Depression is a side effect of dying.”

Other things Hazel Lancaster identifies as “side effects of dying”:

– Cancer

– The rotating case of characters at the Cancer Support Group

– Worrying

– Parental permissiveness

– Nostalgia

– Thinking you won’t die