Wednesday, September 20, 2017

What we're reading: Banning old stereotypes

Becoming Who I Am: Young Men on Being Gay,
by Ritch C. Savin-Williams

Reviewed by librarian Hubert K.

This is a book that was recently added to the Burbank Public Library collection, and we’re writing about it because we don’t have a separate Young Adult nonfiction section, and we don’t want it to be overlooked by those who might have an interest in and perhaps a need to read it.

This book tries to give a picture of what the world is like for gay teens today. It would be of interest to these teens, to whom it is primarily directed, but also to adults, since things have changed in the past few years, and a lot of people, both young and old, are still stuck on the old stereotypes about what life is like for gay teens.

In this book, you hear the story from teens your own age. There are still challenges, but things are a lot better for teens growing up today, and this book traces the course of development that young gay men might be likely to experience in their adolescence. Although it is by no means the same for all teens, depending a lot on where you live, what your family is like, and such things as whether you are a part of a racial minority, it’s time to update our understanding, so that gay teens may be less fearful and more confident to be who they are. It also gives the opportunity to focus on real challenges that remain, rather than fighting ghosts of a (thankfully) bygone era.

If you are a young gay man, you will learn a lot about sexual, emotional, and relational development in this timely contemporary overview.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

What we're reading: Novels about loss

Kissing in America, by Margo Rabb and Tell Me Three Things, by Julie Buxbaum  

Reviewed by Anarda   

This realistic novel is a rather wonderful meditation, not on kissing in America (or anywhere else but on the pages of a book), but on grief. Eva is a young New Yorker who lost her beloved father two years ago in a plane crash. Nothing about her life after his death has given her any kind of peace, any kind of closure. Her mother refuses to talk about him or about his absence in their lives, and remains a rather cool matronly figure. The only thing that has given Eva some solace is reading her beloved romance novels, “trashy” books that somehow speak to her longing for connection. Her one good friend, Annie, a wiz teen who would be destined for Harvard if only her parents had the money to send her, is the only person who understands what Eva has lost. When Eva falls for senior Will, a multiracial hunk whom Eva tutors in writing, and who seems to reciprocate her feelings, she thinks she has found her own perfect romance. But when Will sullenly announces he is moving in with his hateful father on the West Coast, Eva becomes distraught. How can her true love survive this transplanting? Doesn’t he know he is meant to stay at her side?

Let’s just say Eva does find a manipulative way to get to Will and Los Angeles, and it involves a hilarious and mind-opening trip cross country on a commercial bus with BFF Annie, a paranoid chaperone aunt, and visits with a potential step-grandmother in Texas and a favorite adult friend in Tucson. Does kissing occur? Yes, but not with Eva. So...whose mind is opened under the wide skies? Again, not so much Eva’s, at least not until the end of her trip, and then not so pleasantly. Eva has a lot to learn about herself and her actions, but it is her grief that has stalled her, and it is her grief that she must confront.

Editor's note: Don't you love the Kissing cover? Wow.

I read Kissing right after finishing Tell Me Three Things, by Julie Buxbaum, a story that also examines loss and unexpressed grief. In this novel, Jessie is transplanted from Chicago by her recently widowed pharmacist father to the wealthy enclaves of...the Valley?! Yep, probably Studio City or Sherman Oaks, and sent to what I can easily imagine is a stand-in for Harvard-Westlake School. Oh, and Jessie has a brand new stepmother who is involved with the studios, and is rich, rich, rich--well, richer than Jessie's father, anyway, and with the house and cars to prove it. Her new stepbrother is snarky and distant, but Jessie soon learns that he misses his dead father, and neither teen is ready for the new, combined “happy” family their two remaining parents are bent on producing. The whirlwind romance in which her father and stepmother engaged did not include either teen, and Jessie is still coping with her enormous feelings of grief and loss.

One thing saves Jessie: the unexpected emails she receives from “Somebody/Nobody,” a mysterious student who sensitively guides her through her days at this strange private school full of Richie Rich boys, nasty queen bees and their hench-girls, difficult classes, and scary lunchrooms. Who is SN? We watch as Jessie begins to settle down, albeit uncomfortably, finding new friends through the advice of SN; and along with her, we try to guess who SN really is.You may figure out this mystery before Jessie does, but you will still come away with a tender read about loss and how to live with the aftermath of catastrophe. Losing a parent is inevitable, and it will always hurt us, but losing a parent when you are young can be particularly devastating, as these two books show us.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

6+7 Book Club Report

Sixteen of our 19 members showed up for 6+7 Book Club on Tuesday night at the Central Library, at which meeting we discussed Beastkeeper, by Cat Hellisen, sort of a weird take on the "Beauty and the Beast" fairy tale.

It was a lively discussion, with two definite sides (love vs. hate) and a bunch of people falling somewhere across the spectrum. Teens who liked it said they thought it was a creative and unusual kind of fairy tale variation, and they liked the imagery and the characters. Those who disliked it thought the curse was inconsistent and confusing, and punished people unjustly instead of targeting only those people who might actually have deserved to be cursed. Some also felt the ending was abrupt, and that there was not enough back story on several of the characters, especially Alan. Voting, like the discussion, went from a high of 10 to a low of 3, so we ended up with a rating of 6.75.

Next month, our book is Masterminds, by Gordon Korman. Because we just added three more members to this club (which is now full), we are again short of books; but three more copies are on order, and we will contact the three who didn't receive a book when they are ready to be picked up.

For the month of November, we chose to read Variant, by Robison Wells. Our eclectic list of other books we considered
(in sort of descending order) includes:

I Will Always Write Back, by Caitlin Alifirenka
The Only Road, by Alexandra Diaz
The True Meaning of Smekday, by Adam Rex
P.S. I Like You, by Kasie West
Ender's Shadow, by Orson Scott Card
The Sea of Trolls, by Nancy Farmer

Next month's meeting is on Tuesday, October 10.

Teen Storyboarding Workshop, with...


You can practice your writing, drawing, and storytelling skills with help from professional cartoonists!

The workshop is on Saturday, September 30, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m., at the Central Library (in the auditorium).

You MUST sign up, by emailing This workshop is for TEENS in grades 6-12 only! 

If you want to do a little research beforehand, or practice your skills privately before bringing them to the workshop, get some help from a few of the books in our collection:

Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice, by Ivan Brunetti

Drawing from Memory, by Allen Say

Cartooning : The Best One-stop Guide to Drawing Cartoons, Caricatures, Comic Strips, and Manga, by John Byrne

The Cartoonist's Workbook, by Robin Hall

How to Create Animation in 10 Easy Steps, by Will Bishop-Stephens   

Comic Book Design, by Gary Spencer Millidge   

This is just a small selection of the animation-, cartoon- and manga-related books we have at Burbank Public Library! Check them out!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Movie history in Burbank!

This week, on Wednesday, September 13 at 7 p.m. at the Buena Vista Branch, you can meet the Warner BROS. Well, not really, but closest thing to it.

We are hosting an author named David Thomson, who is also a famous film critic, and he has written a book about the Warner brothers--Harry, Albert, Sam, and Jack (alias Mose, Aaron, Szmul, and Jacob!)--who came to America as uneducated Jewish immigrants and proceeded to found a movie studio that became the smartest, toughest, and most radical in all of Hollywood.

Mr. Thomson will be introduced as our special guest by Mark Greenhalgh, who is a senior archivist at Warner Bros. Corporate Archive, and he will be "in conversation" with George Feltenstein, Senior Vice President of Theatrical Marketing at Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. So there WILL be "bros" from WB there!

Mr. Thomson's book will be available for purchase and signing.

Also, if your teachers choose to offer you extra credit for attending this program, proof of attendance slips will be distributed at the end of the event.

Come find out about movie history in Burbank!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

10-12 Book Club Report

On Thursday night, the 10-12 Book Club met to discuss The Rest of Us Just Live Here, by Patrick Ness. Or, should I say, half of the book club met. Only nine people out of our membership showed up at the meeting, and out of those missing, only one contacted us to let us know she wouldn't be coming. Let us remind you that if you are a member of book club, one of the commitments to which you have agreed is to contact us before book club if you will not be able to attend—otherwise, your absence is unexcused, and after a couple of those, we will give up your place to someone else. So please take note! If we don't hear from those of you who missed this meeting by next Friday, September 15th, to confirm your membership in this year's club, you will not be receiving a book in November.

Back to our meeting: The comments were all over the place on this book. Some of us enjoyed the realistic parts, in which we learned about Mikey and his sister and their psychological issues, their politics-obsessed mom, their friends and crushes, while disliking the segues into fantasyland via the chapter headers about the "indie kids," while others wished that Ness had quit messing around and just written the book about the indie kids instead of teasing us with partial information. We all got it that he was making some kind of parodic statement (Buffy and the hell mouth); it's just that most everybody didn't like it because they felt it was distracting from either or both of the story lines! Despite that, most of us liked the idea of the cat god. Only George really hated the book, and it got a final rating of 6.65, not the worst we have ever given. And several of us agreed that of Ness's wide array of fictional efforts, we much prefer the Chaos Walking series (The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer, Monsters of Men) to anything else he has written; although one of us hasn't yet forgiven him for Manchee.

For October, we are reading How It Went Down, by Kekla Magoon, a definite departure from fantasyland. Books will be available for pick-up starting Monday at both branches. If you weren't in attendance at the meeting, please pick one up promptly.

And for November, our choice is Beka Cooper: Terrier, by Tamora Pierce, a smart combination of fantasy, realism, and mystery/police procedural. If you like it, there are two sequels. By the way, don't be deterred: These books (the Beka Cooper series) have among the worst covers I have ever seen on a YA book.

Other books we considered (and will keep on the list) were:

The Queen of Blood, by Sarah Beth Durst
The Accident Season, by Moira Fowley-Doyle
The Tiger's Curse, by Colleen Hock
The Truth Commission, by Susan Juby
Firebug, by Lish McBride
The Walls Around Us, by Nova Ren Suma
Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein
The Program, by Suzanne Young

Our next meeting is on Thursday, October 5, at 7:00 p.m. We hope to see you then!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Someone asked...

I'm in a group on Goodreads called "Polls for our Souls," where people ask questions about books because they're looking for something good to read, or they want to compile a book list, or they want to get validation for being the only person in the world who didn't like Harry Potter (sorry, dude, can't help you there). Today's question was, "What are your favorite YA fantasy books?"

Wow, now there's a question. Since I am a huge reader and enjoyer of fantasy, I had to click on "My Books" in Goodreads, find my "fantasy" list, and pull the YA faves out of the 224 books I have gathered there onto eight pages!

Here is my list, although there may be more. And some of them are single books, while others are trilogies or series. Also, I purposely excluded books that are not considered YA but that I would probably recommend to teens anyway (I'll save those for another post). These aren't in any particular order, by the way:
Six of Crows, Crooked Kingdom, by Leigh Bardugo
The Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner (there are now 5 books)
Graceling, Fire, and Bitterblue, by Kristin Cashore
Finnikin of the Rock, Froi of the Exiles, Quintana of Charyn, by Melina Marchetta
Far, Far Away, by Tom McNeal
Beka Cooper trilogy by Tamora Pierce
The Great Library 1 + 2 by Rachel Caine
The Tiffany Aching books (5, I think?) by Terry Pratchett
The Chronicles of Kazam (4 and counting), by Jasper Fforde
Seraphina and Shadow Scale, by Rachel Hartman
The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater
Howl's Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones
The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman
The Mirrorworld books (3 so far) by Cornelia Funke
Lockwood & Co. books (3) by Jonathan Stroud
So...what are some of YOUR favorite fantasies? Do you share any with me? Are there some that you're thinking, "I can't BELIEVE she didn't put this one on the list!"? Share in the comments!

Thursday, August 31, 2017


When it comes to personal fashion, do you go along with the crowd, or are you a trend-setter? Are leggings and a T-shirt your go-to uniform, or are you one of those people who enjoys introducing quirky elements into your outfits, perhaps mined from vintage sources, or maybe as inventions that are all your own? If you're looking to branch out in the fashion arena, the library collection has some ideas to offer you:

For a great overview, try The Fashion Book, by Alexandra Black.  It gives the back stories behind your favorite looks, and shares tips from style icons, designers, and top models. Another amazingly complete resource is Dressing the Decades: Twentieth-Century Vintage Style, by Emanuelle Dirix. It profiles the decades and their designers, and is extravagantly illustrated, highlighting trends such as the cocktail dress, the Chanel suit, the tunic dress, boho chic, Futuristic chic, etc.

If all this history and context is more than you wanted to know, then go with Penny Chic: How to Be Stylish on a Real Girl's Budget, by blogger and fashion stylist Shauna Miller. She gives you great ideas for DIY projects in which you find and recycle old pieces, and then put them together strategically with in-budget items from Target and Walmart to create a killer outfit.

If your fashion obsession extends beyond the personal to career aspirations, check out Drawing Fashion: A Step-by-Step Guide to Drawing Fashion  Figures, Clothes, and Fabrics, by Hilary Lovel.  It's all in the title: Learn how to draw 18 fabulous outfits, with specifics about inking and coloring, and tips for how to put together a collection and how to accessorize your model.

And if you want to take your creativity a step further, how about The Costume Making Guide: Creating Armor and Props for Cosplayby Svetlana Quindt? Even if you aren't the cosplay type, who says you couldn't earn a few extra dollars in this unconventional manner, by creating costumes for ComiCon for your classmates who would appreciate that? Think about it.

Are you wondering about now what brought on all this fashion talk? Well, the beginning of the school year always offers an opportunity to present yourself differently than you have before, and when I was a teenager, I spent August going to the fabric store to find just the right material to create outfits for myself with the help of my mom's old Singer sewing machine. And coincidentally, a new resource just popped up that brought it all back: It's a website, a Vintage Patterns Wiki, that just uploaded more than 83,000 vintage sewing patterns from Vogue, McCall's, Butterick, Simplicity, and others. If you aspire to sew it yourself, or are thinking ahead to this year's Hallowe'en costume, this is the place to look.

You can search on it by:
  • garment type (dress, blouse, coat, costume, etc.)
  • brand (any of the above mentioned pattern-makers, and many more)
  • decade, from the 1920s to 1990s
  • season
And even if you have no desire to sew, this database is a fascinating look at the evolution of fashion, and a fun place to find posts about bringing vintage looks back to life, including some personal posts (and photos) by people using the database. Check it out!