Saturday, December 29, 2012

Melissa's latest favorite

This book was actually published in 2011, but since I just discovered it (and it's still fairly new), I'm going to recommend it as my "best of 2012," hoping it is a discovery for others as well.

Holly Goldberg Sloan is a writer, producer, and director, including in her credits Made in America, Angels in the Outfield, and The Big Green. I'll Be There is her debut novel, written for young adults, and I'm hoping that this career shift is going to be permanent, because I love this book! Others apparently agree with me, because it was chosen this year by the Children's Literature Council of Southern California to receive the Peggy Miller Award for Young Adult Literature, which is how I discovered it. We do not, in fact, own this book at Burbank Public Library; I don't know how it was overlooked, but I have ordered a couple of copies and it's on its way. So you may have to wait awhile to read it, but definitely put it on your list! (I would recommend this for 9th grade and up.)

Although the story, the characters, and the writing are all compelling, the thing I like most about this book is how it so clearly illustrates a librarian concept. In library school we talked a lot about the "digital divide," which is defined on Wikipedia as follows:
A digital divide is an inequality between groups, broadly construed, in terms of access to, use of, or knowledge of information and communication technologies. The divide inside countries (such as in the United States) can refer to inequalities between individuals, households, businesses, and geographic areas at different socioeconomic and other demographic levels, while the global digital divide designates countries as the units of analysis and examines the divide between developing and developed countries on an international scale.
So let me break that down for you: What it's saying is that some people have computers (and cell phones, and e-book readers, and all the other digital devices you can name that are such a taken-for-granted part of contemporary society), while others do not, and this can create a Grand Canyon of difference between the haves and the have-nots in their perceptions about everyday life. We see this every day at the library, as a constant stream of people without computers come in to use ours; but many people never give it a second thought.

The thing that makes the characters in this book so interesting is that they are on opposite sides of the digital divide, and neither of them initially realizes that about the other. Sam (17) and his little brother Riddle were spirited away from home by their trainwreck of a father when they were very young, so they lead an idiosyncratic lifestyle. Because their father, a thief and a drifter, moves them from town to town on the whim of the voices he hears inside his head, they don't go to school (Sam completed the second grade, and Riddle has never attended), and they have little knowledge of television or even radio, no cell phone, no iPad, no modern "conveniences" that other teens their age take completely for granted. So when Sam encounters Emily, who comes from a regular suburban family, each is completely outside the other's experience, to the point where communication is almost impossible.

Shortly after they meet for the first time, before each knows anything about the other except that there is an attraction, the two have made a plan to meet at 7:00 in the evening at the local IHOP. Both are worried about making it to the meeting, but for reasons that are poles apart:
Sam could tell time. But it meant nothing to him. He didn't have a watch. He didn't have a cell phone or a computer or anything that even displayed time. The clock on the dashboard of the truck had been broken for years.... Time for Sam was about the position of the sun. It was about feeling hunger in his stomach. It was about the temperature just after dawn. Time wasn't measured in minutes or even hours.... All of a sudden, everything was getting so complicated.
One of the other complicating issues is that Sam needs to find a way to make enough money to buy some food at the restaurant and also to send Riddle to a movie for two hours while he's there, so he won't have to worry about leaving his brother alone with his psychotic father. (He ends up helping people unload trucks at the city dump.) Meanwhile, Emily is also thinking that things are complicated, because they picked someplace far away from her house to meet, and she doesn't drive:
Emily suddenly wished that they'd picked someplace closer. But what she really wished was that they'd exchanged cell phone numbers and email addresses and regular addresses. Because at this point, she couldn't call him or even find him online to change the plan. She could ride her bike out there [to the restaurant]...but she didn't have a way to tell him to ride there to meet her. She hoped he liked mountain bikes. She figured he wasn't someone who sat inside playing video games at all hours, because he looked weathered, and those kinds of kids looked pale and sort of fidgety. He probably did lots of sports.
Sam, of course, doesn't play sports; he's tan because he's virtually homeless and spends most of his days outdoors. Later, when they meet, he listens to Emily go on about calculus homework and AYSO (she figures maybe he will like her more if he knows that she, too, plays sports), and wonders what those are. Eventually, something happens to reveal the disconnect between their lifestyles, and from that point on the book gets sad, happy, exciting, frightening, tragic--almost every emotion you can imagine.

Lots of young adult books say, "and then everything was different," when they are referring to something not really all that earth-shattering--a crush on the new person at school or whatever. But in the case of these two, everything really was different as a result of their encounter, and it was also different for the reader. I love books like this that make you turn all your assumptions over and scrutinize them. I also make it a habit to revisit authors who make me fall for their characters and stories, so I'm hoping Holly Goldberg Sloan has another one in the works!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Anarda's favorites for 2012

It’s that time of year again when Melissa makes me name that one book--VoilĂ ! that I can hail as my favorite Young Adult read of 2012, and once again it simply isn’t obvious to me which is my absolute number one pick. So, I’ll write about several titles that I thoroughly enjoyed, that moved me, and that continued to grow in my estimation long after I finished them, and maybe one of them will rise to the top!

My short list of favorites include:

The Storyteller, by Antonia Michaelis
Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein
Tiger Lily, by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Froi of the Exiles (part two of a series), by Melina Marchetta
Bitterblue (part three of a series), by Kristin Cashore
All five books had in common their ability to make me care deeply about the characters--enough to cry or at least get teary-eyed--and while I never thought of myself as a person who even liked a three-hankie book, something about these titles gripped me and wouldn’t let go. Three of the titles--Code Name Verity, Froi, and Bitterblue--address the ravages of war and its aftermath; The Storyteller heartbreakingly depicts the toll of sexual abuse on a family and community; while Tiger Lily is the artful narration by Peter Pan’s Tinker Bell of the tragically thwarted love between Peter and Tiger Lily.

Nope, I can’t choose between them! You can’t compare apples to oranges, and these were all distinctive books. Choose the one that suits your mood, and read, read, read!


These are all books that we have previously reviewed on this blog (because, of course, we review what we like!). Here are the links, if you want to know more:

For The Storyteller, reviewed by Anarda
For Tiger Lily, reviewed by Sara
For Code Name Verity, reviewed by Anarda
For Bitterblue, reviewed by Melissa
And for Froi of the Exiles, see Melissa's review on Burbank Public Library's main blog.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Teen Review: Post-Apocalyptic Classic

The Road
by Cormac McCarthy
287 pages
Post-Apocalyptic Fiction
Not part of a series
10th grade and up
Reviewed by M.K., 12th grade


In the near future, some unnamed apocalypse has ravaged the earth, destroying almost all life on the planet. A father and son remain, and venture throughout post-apocalyptic America on the only remaining road in the country that leads to a coast. As the father fights a mental battle, he does everything in his power to protect his son and find a better future for him. This is not made easy by the fact that it is a constant war against the odds, including brutal conditions, scarce supplies, and savage scavengers, willing to do anything to survive. Armed only with a handgun, the father and his son, who are “each the other's world entire,” look for hope in a world that has long been deserted by it.


The Road is not an easy book to read. The descriptions are so vivid and accurate that you feel like you're right there next to the protagonists. Unfortunately, this is not exactly the ideal world to be in. The mood and setting, despite its bleak and terrifying nature, is still quite beautiful, in an eerily unnerving way. There is very little dialogue, which speaks volumes about the way it's written, because you still get to know the father and son very well. It's this ability to transmit their personalities through their choices and emotions that I think earned McCarthy the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. That, and the simple, yet beautiful story of a man and his son surviving with nothing but their deep love for each other in a hopeless world. The Road is simply inspiring, and I would recommend it to anyone going through a tough time, just to show them that as long as you have someone you love, there's always a golden sky at the end of a storm.

My Rating: 5/5

Editor's note: There's also a movie (that's where this photo came from), which came out in 2010, but it is rated R...

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Teen Review: Grand fantasy series

by George R. R. Martin
674 pages
Book 1 of 7 from a series called A Song of Ice and Fire
Mature young adults and up
Reviewed by M.K., 12th grade


In the fictional world of Westeros, summers can last decades and winters a lifetime. As the long summer comes to an end, a dreaded and ancient evil thought dead for thousands of years is slowly making its return, planning to take down the kingdom's massive “Wall.” As Lord Eddard “Ned” Stark, head of the honorable Stark family and ruler of Winterfell, is enjoying his peaceful life, his old friend, King Robert Baratheon, bestows upon him the second most powerful title in the Seven Kingdoms, “The Hand of the King.” After making his way south to the capital, Ned soon realizes his old friend is under threat from lords, liars, princes, survivors of a previous dynasty, and even his own queen. As plots, schemes, betrayal, tragedy, war, death, and terror engulf the Seven Kingdoms, the Starks prepare to fight a battle against all odds. For "when you play the game of thrones, you win or you die."


A Game of Thrones is without a doubt a classic. In my opinion, not since The Lord of the Rings has there been a more captivating fantasy series. This novel is incredibly well-written but also easy to read. The conflicts are thrilling, the descriptions of the scenery mesmerizing, and there are so many characters with such a variety of thoughts, emotions, and personalities that it's almost impossible not to be drawn into Martin's spectacular world of Westeros. But perhaps the greatest compliment I can give it is that you don't have to be a fan of fantasy to enjoy this book. There are so many references to modern politics and the dark arts behind it that it makes it enjoyable for everyone.

My Rating: 5/5

Editor's note: I, too, am working my way through this series (every single book is at least 600 pages, and the third one is more than 1,000!), and I agree with M.K. that it is enthralling. Also that people who like historical fiction will enjoy this every bit as much as those who read fantasy, because it is full of the kind of political and personal intrigue you would find at, say, the court of King Henry VIII! I hadn't thought to review it for the YA blog, since it is an adult fantasy series, but many older teens are naturally graduating to reading adult fiction (as they should at some point), so we went ahead and posted M.K.'s review here. Just note that there is some mature content (as one reviewer said, "there are graphic scenes and terrible behavior!"), so consider whether it is appropriate for you!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Teen Review: Vampires before Twilight

Interview with the Vampire
by Anne Rice
352 pages
Horror / Fantasy
Book 1 of 10 from a series called The Vampire Chronicles
12th grade and up
Reviewed by M.K., 12th grade


A handsome yet quaint gentleman from Louisiana by the name of Louis talks to a reporter. The subject at hand: his first 200 years as a vampire. What follows is the fascinating and horrible tale of Louis's transformation at the hands of Lestat, a vampire who wanted an immortal companion. Though first terrified of his own power, Louis slowly comes to terms with his horrific nature, but not without resentment. As he tries to keep his monstrous secret, he comes across a poor little girl dying next to the corpse of her mother. Though at first he's against Lestat turning their company of two vampires to a party of three, Louis comes to love Claudia as a daughter. However, Louis and Claudia both get fed up with Lestat. As the interview goes on, Louis tells us of love, betrayal, murder, secrets, adventure, horror, self-hate, and self-acceptance.


I would first like to start by saying that Interview with the Vampire is not easy to read, and certainly requires a level of maturity, so I would only recommend it to experienced readers. Back to the book though, it is absolutely fascinating. The plots, subplots, and descriptive details of the setting are what sets this book apart from other vampire stories. I can't imagine a young adult not loving this book, because it has almost everything you could ask for. Interview with the Vampire is a classic and should be the staple for all emotional, story-driven vampire books. If someone were to ask me for a good vampire book, Anne Rice's masterpiece beats Twilight hands down, every single time.

My Rating: 5/5

Friday, December 21, 2012

Today is the deadline!!!

Were you thinking of applying to go, via our Sister City program, to Incheon, Korea? If so, TODAY is the deadline to apply! You need to turn in your application by 5:00 p.m. upstairs at the Central Library in Administration, so don't be late! Want to know more? Here is the previous blog post:

What we're reading: Historical fiction

A Brief History of Montmaray
by Michelle Cooper
296 pages
Historical fiction
First book in a series of three
Grades 9 and up
Reviewed by: Melissa

We were going to read this book for 10-12 Book Club in February, but we couldn't track down enough paperback copies, so we went with an alternate choice. Since I read it anyway in anticipation, I will review it here, and you can check it out of the library if you still want to read it but didn't get it for book club!

This book takes place on the fictional island of Montmaray, which is way out of sight of the European continent almost dead center between Great Britain and France, in the Bay of Biscay. This locale gave it a strategic advantage during World War I, when it was a meeting place for negotiations between powerful political allies, but by 1936, when the story opens, the "kingdom" has dwindled to a somewhat pathetic shadow of its former self. As Sophie FitzOsborne, the 16-year-old narrator notes, there are more "royals" on the island than there are subjects: Her crazy uncle, the king, whose mind was damaged in the Great War and who never leaves his room; his daughter, Veronica, bookish head of the household at age 17; Sophie, the niece, whose parents died when she was a child; and Sophie's younger sister, Henry (short for Henrietta), a quirky tomboy. The heir to the throne, Toby, is away at boarding school in England, and the cast is rounded out by the weird housekeeper, whose obsession with caring for the king leaves the girls to cope with the dank, leaking, slowly collapsing castle on their own; and her son, Simon, an aspiring diplomat (but actual office boy) about whom Sophie has a few romantic fantasies. There used to be a village on the island, but the population has dwindled to one loyal fisherman's family, who help with the cleaning and deal with supplying the island from passing ships, and that's it for the cast of characters.

The book is told from Sophie's viewpoint, in the form of a journal, so all the events are tinged with her perceptions and prejudices. For more than half of the book, the journal details and explains life on Montmaray (past and present), and I have to confess it's a little slow and gets bogged down in Sophie's rather self-absorbed musings. If you can hold out for about 140+ pages, though, things finally begin to get exciting: Two Nazi officers--one a scientist seeking the Holy Grail, the other an SS thug--land on the island and take over an empty cottage, and they soon come into conflict with the royal family, with disastrous results. After this it's one exciting, hair-raising adventure after another, until the breathless finale. There are two more books in the series, The FitzOsbornes in Exile, and The FitzOsbornes at War, both of which are owned by Burbank Public Library, and both of which received good reviews from other readers (I haven't gone there yet).

This book reminded me so much of another book, although that one doesn't have either the royal aspect or the historical context:
I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith, which tells the story of 17-year-old Cassandra Mortmain, who similarly lives with her oddball family in ever-increasing poverty in a broken-down old castle in England in the 1930s. The book is also written in a journal format with Cassandra as narrator, but I found the writing to be much more clever, and although I did enjoy the historical aspects of Montmaray, Smith's I Capture the Castle is a wonderful, lively romantic story with a lot of wry humor thrown in. I don't know whether to say "if you liked that, then read this," because while I was reading Montmaray, I was thinking it was more than a bit derivative of Smith's book. I guess I'll say that if you like the historical aspect (and wish for sequels!), read the one, and if you like romance (and clever writing), read the other. (I'm a sucker for a good first line, which is: "I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.") There is also a movie of I Capture the Castle, and it's not bad, but the book is far superior.

Note: Dodie Smith is best known for writing the children's classic, The Hundred and One Dalmatians.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Teen Review: Graphic Novel

Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life
by Bryan Lee O'Malley
192 pages

Graphic Novel – Action / Romantic Comedy
Vol. 1 of 6
9th grade and up
Reviewed by M.K., 12th grade


Scott Pilgrim is an average Canadian slacker fresh into his 20s. With hardly an idea what to do with his life should his band, “Sex Bob-omb,” fail to reach the heights for which he hopes, he begins to dream of a strangely beautiful girl with colorful hair. He eventually meets Ramona Flowers, the girl of his dreams (literally), in the flesh. As they build a relationship, Ramona talks about her life and important aspects of it, such as the recent break-up that led to her moving to Canada, and oh, the fact that she can travel through an alternate dimension. Scott falls head over heels for Ramona, but he is about to find out that dating her won't be easy. As supernatural forces come into play, Scott must fight strange battles to win the rights to his soulmate.


Scott Pilgrim Vol. 1 is just the start of an incredibly unusual series of graphic novels. The characters, such as Scott's gay roommate and Ramona's ex-boyfriend, are all so varied and different that it's a joy just getting to know them, let alone reading about their crazy involvement in Scott's story. The story is interesting, blending all types of genres into one, and the writing is fun to read and humorous, especially for today's teenagers. Besides that, the graphic illustrations are out of this world. With vivid colors that pop, Bryan Lee O'Malley has created a great-looking world. He's combined the look of comic books, retro video games, and other different aspects to build a strange environment, especially in the action scenes. In fact, if there's one word I'd use to describe Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life and the chapters that follow, it would definitely be unique!

My Rating: 5/5

Editor's note: The library owns all six volumes of this series, as well as the DVD of the movie based on the series.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Teen Review: Epic Fantasy from the beginning

The Hobbit
by J. R. R. Tolkien
320 pages
Prequel to The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
10 and up
Reviewed by M. K., 12th grade


It all begins in the Hill, a beautiful, happy place inhabited by hobbits, small human-like creatures with big, furry feet whose personalities matched their peaceful environment. One such hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, is visited by his friend, Gandalf the Grey. Upon the old wizard's arrival, Bilbo throws a party for him and his 13 dwarf companions, known as Thorin's Company (after their leader, Thorin Oakenshield). What starts as a harmless party suddenly changes when Gandalf and the dwarves reveal their true purpose: to journey to the Lonely Mountain to reclaim treasure being guarded by a dragon called Smaug. Though at first reluctant, Bilbo agrees to come with them for what will be the making of what I think is literature's most beloved adventure. In this coming-of-age story, Bilbo Baggins faces battles that will undoubtedly tear his innocence away, but none so fearsome as the battle with a certain magical ring...


Unlike its three famous successors (the Lord of the Rings trilogy), The Hobbit was written mostly as a children's novel, making the book far easier to read. Though this makes it sound inferior and simplistic, it's still a fantastic story with great themes. Some might even argue its childish nature actually adds an air of beauty, innocence, and magic to the story. Just reading it is an amazing adventure on its own. That's not to mention that Bilbo Baggins is a very interesting character--a cheerful, peaceful hobbit whose innocence is being taken as he is forced to change to survive. His adventurous, romantic, and clever nature make him an incredibly likeable character, especially when he uses all these traits to get himself out of certain situations. The Hobbit is one of my top five books, and is a must-read for anyone even slightly interested in fantasy. I hope that Peter Jackson's films do justice to Tolkien's classic.

My rating: 5/5

Editor's note: We are reading The Hobbit (in anticipation of the film!) in the 6+7 Book Club this month.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Teen Review: Revisiting old favorites

by J.K. Rowling
734 pages
Book 4 of 7
12 and up


As the summer comes to an end, Harry attends the Quidditch World Cup with the Weasleys, but what starts out as a wonderful event ends in terror as Voldemort's followers publicly foreshadow the coming years. Harry makes his way back to Hogwarts to discover that his beloved school of witchcraft and wizardry is hosting an international tri-wizard tournament between Hogwarts and two other schools, one in France and one in Eastern Europe. Harry watches as the sixth- and seventh-year students of each school put their names into the Goblet of Fire with the hope of representing their school, and then is stunned as he is chosen, for the first time in the history of the tri-wizard tournament, as a fourth contestant.

Finally, with this book, teenagers can relate to the world's favorite young wizard. It's not easy making a fantasy novel to which young adults in today's world can really relate, but Rowling has pulled it off with The Goblet of Fire, arguably the bildungsroman of the Harry Potter series, as our hero faces not only his own growing maturity, but also experiences a terrifying event that causes his final loss of innocence and the return of his greatest nemesis.

My Rating: 5/5

by J.K. Rowling
759 pages
Book 7 of 7
13 and up
Reviewed by M.K., 12th grade


For the first time since the day his old friend Hagrid knocked down that door, Harry will not be attending Hogwarts. With Snape's betrayal, Dumbledore's absence, and the rise of Voldemort, Harry faces his greatest challenge. He's a marked man, all alone but for his loyal friends, Ron and Hermione. As the world of magic encounters its darkest and most horrible time, it is up to Harry to find the remaining horcruxes, learn about the secret life of Dumbledore, uncover the truth behind his own past, and stop Voldemort once and for all in the epic conclusion to the series.


As the final installment, Deathly Hallows is the traditional story of our hero fighting against all odds with limited help. His sacrifices, the sacrifices of his friends, and his bravery make this book stand out as the smartest and most mature of the series. And though some have argued that its ending was a bit far-fetched and poorly done, I liked Rowling's decisions, and think that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a worthy conclusion to the story of the world's most beloved young wizard.

My Rating: 5/5

Friday, December 14, 2012

Teen Review: Science Fiction

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
by Douglas Adams
193 pages
Science Fiction / Comedy
Book 1 of 5
13 and up
Reviewed by M.K., grade 12


Arthur Dent is a fairly average man whose house is facing imminent destruction via bulldozer to make way for a freeway bypass. In retaliation, Arthur lies down in front of the bulldozers to stop them, but is interrupted by his friend Ford, who tells him the world is about to end. This gets Arthur back on his feet, but little did he know the earth was being destroyed by aliens to make way for a hyperspace bypass. As our little blue planet is being sacrificed for the sake of quick travel, Arthur and Ford (who in the middle of all this chaos reveals he's an alien) manage to escape, thus beginning Arthur Dent's unbelievable adventure in outer space. Armed only with his confusion and utter disbelief at the wacky truth behind the galaxy's “hyper-intelligent” beings, Arthur comes into contact with the likes of depressed robots, galactic presidents, and the Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything, while trying his best to get his home back.


Never will a time come when someone reads Hitchhiker's Guide without a big grin on their face. This book is the epitome of good British humor, but is written in a way for other cultures to appreciate as well. Douglas Adams has done a terrific job of creating conflicts for the main characters. The situations he finds for his protagonists are oftentimes incredibly crazy and unbelievable, yet at the same time we find ourselves totally relating to them. It's almost as if Adams has found a way to take funny situations in our day-to-day lives and increase them on a hilarity scale to fit perfectly into a science fiction universe. The constant use of irony in this book, such as the humanizing of aliens to make them out to be just as dumb and ordinary as human beings, was way ahead of its time. Which is why I think Hitchhiker's Guide can still be appreciated today as a modern comedy. It is, in my personal opinion, one of the best light-hearted books out there and should be considered a classic treasure in the world of comedy and science fiction.

My Rating: 5/5

Editor's note: This series was originally a radio comedy that was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 1978. It has also been a stage show, a TV series, a computer game, and a comic book series! There are spin-off books by such notable Young Adult authors as Eoin Colfer and Neil Gaiman, in addition to a "science of" book. The sequels are: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe; Life, the Universe and Everything; So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish; Mostly Harmless; and And Another Thing.... Burbank Public Library has the published original radio scripts and all the books, also in audio. We are reading Hitchhiker's Guide this month in the 8+9 Book Club.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Best Books of 2012???

According to, these are the best books of 2012. Do YOU agree? Let us hear from you! (You can post comments...)

Better yet, if YOU have a favorite book you read in 2012, SEND US A REVIEW and we will publish it!

REACHED, by Ally Condie
SON, by Lois Lowry
THE KILL ORDER, by James Dashner
INSURGENT, by Veronica Roth

DODGER, by Terry Pratchett
CODE NAME VERITY, by Elizabeth Wein
EVERY DAY, by David Levithan
SERAPHINA, by Rachel Hartman
THE RAVEN BOYS, by Maggie Stiefvater
THE DIVINERS, by Libba Bray
PANDEMONIUM, by Lauren Oliver
WHY WE BROKE UP, by Daniel Handler/Maira Kalman
CINDER, by Marissa Meyer
SHADOW AND BONE, by Leigh Bardugo
THRONE OF GLASS, by Sarah Maas
GRAVE MERCY, by Robin LaFevers

We have featured reviews of the bold-faced books here on the blog, if you want to click back to older posts and see them. If you are looking for something good to read over your winter holidays, maybe this is the place to start!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Teen Review: The Book Thief

The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak
554 pages
Historical Fiction
Not part of a series
13 and up
Reviewed by M.K., 12th grade

Throughout history, Death has always been incredibly busy, but no time was busier for Death than during World War II. During his many ventures throughout Europe, though, he kept encountering a nine-year-old German girl named Liesel. Why he's taken such an interest in this girl he cannot say, but one thing's for certain: She's seen enough death for her age. Liesel's parents have been taken to a concentration camp, so she is sent to live with foster parents on a very unique street. She finds it tough adapting to her new environment, but she quickly develops a strong bond with her foster father, Hans, who teaches her to read. Liesel becomes so fascinated by books that she starts a career of stealing them, all while getting to know boys, accordionists, good people, bad people, and a Jewish fistfighter. As the bombs begin to fall, Death tells us the story of Liesel, her strange, quirky neighbors, and her life as the book thief.

The Book Thief has made its way into my heart as one of my all-time favorite novels. It is so beautifully written that I can't help but recommend it to everyone with even the slightest affection towards reading. The story is reminds all who love reading why they fell in love with it in the first place. With small, amazing illustrations, wonderful dialogue, and witty writing, it's almost impossible to ignore this book once you get started. The focal point of Death as the narrator, telling the story from his point of view, is perhaps one of the most unique aspects of a novel I've ever seen and I must praise Zusak and his genius mind for being brave enough to include it.

My rating: 5/5

Alternate covers...

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Teen Review: The Hunger Games

by Suzanne Collins
374 Pages
Dystopic Fiction
First book in a series of three
13 and up

Reviewed by E.E., 9th grade


In the nation called Panem, which used to be known as North America, the leaders hold a drawing, at which they choose one female and one male from each District to compete in the Hunger Games. These aren’t any ordinary games; they are designed to test you and push you to your limit, putting yourself against everyone else. Oh, and one more thing: Only one victor can survive. So you can see why Katniss Everdeen took her sister’s place when they called Primrose's name. Now, she needs to go against all the odds and make a decision: Survive for the sake of her family and best friend, or die for the sake of her true love.


The Hunger Games is now one of my favorite books. The plot is fictitious, yet still so believable. The balance between action, drama, and romance is incredible. Katniss is fierce but still a loveable character. The plot has twists that I’m sure many won’t see coming. I haven’t seen any of the movies yet, but I’m glad I read the book first because it’s really, really, REALLY good! I suggest you stop what you’re doing right now, run down to the library, and check it out if you haven’t read it yet, because it’s so worth it! I hope the next books in the series are just as good, if not better. I literally could not take my eyes away from the book, I read for the entire afternoon!


Friday, December 7, 2012

Gingerbread Madness!

We had FUN at our Gingerbread House craft on Wednesday! People were creative! People were silly! Magically, all the extra candy, marshmallows, and frosting we provided disappeared by the end of the afternoon. People went home smelling like vanilla frosting and gumdrops! And here is [some of] the evidence. For more, go to our FACEBOOK PAGE and look at the album...

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Teen Review: Autobiography

A Child Called “It”
by David Pelzer
189 pages
Nonfiction/Autobiography: 362.76 Pelzer
Yes, part of a series (can be read as stand-alone)
Young Adults and up
Reviewed by E.E., 9th grade


As a young boy, Dave Pelzer was physically and mentally abused by his alcoholic mother while his father was away at work. From beatings to eating food scraps out of the garbage, he had a terribly rough childhood. Unsure who to tell and unable to speak up, Dave struggled to deal with his mother’s dangerous behavior towards him. He was no longer considered a son to her, but instead an ‘it.’ The book reveals how he escapes his near-death situations and his mother’s torturous games!


Dave’s book is truly heartbreaking, and I admit that I came close to tears at many parts. It’s almost impossible to imagine how a mother could abuse her son to such an extreme extent, and how a child could be so mentally scarred that he couldn’t report it to anyone. His story really opens your eyes to how real child abuse is, and how serious it has become. It must have taken a lot of courage for him to publish his story, so real and raw; you can almost step into his shoes and feel what he felt. I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone looking for an autobiography that isn’t dry or boring.

I’d consider this book to be one of, if not my favorite autobiography. A story like his makes you thankful for having a loving and caring family. It also raises awareness about child abuse, as his was one of the most serious cases of child abuse in the state of California.

My rating: 5

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Gingerbread House Challenge!

Here are some samples; think you could do better? Come and show us! We will post YOUR beautiful creations on Friday! All you need to do is SHOW UP, at the Central Library, TODAY at 3:30 p.m. We will provide the gingerbread house KIT, plus lots of extra fixings, and you and your team (bring your own or be matched up with others) can be creative! Call 818 238-5589, or email us! Hope to see you at 3:30!

Nice roof tiles...

Love the roof line gumdrops...

Nice icicles!


All-white textured roof and nice use of candy!

Yeah, maybe not this time...

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Are you coming?

You KNOW you can do a better job than this sad attempt below...

818 238-5589

Monday, December 3, 2012

Holiday Crafts at the Library!

The holidays are coming! Put yourself in the mood with crafts at the library:

MAKE A GINGERBREAD HOUSE! Put together your own team of FOUR, and come to the Central Library on Wednesday, December 5 at 3:30 to build and decorate a gingerbread house! Call 818 238-5589 or email us at to give us the names of you and your teammates—space is limited, so we need you to reserve YOUR gingerbread house NOW! This program is for TEENS ONLY, in grades 6-12!

This program is for kids in grades 1-8, and is also at the Central Library, on Friday, December 7 at 4:00 p.m. Reservations are also required for this—call 818 238-5610 (the children’s room) by Dec. 4 to hold your space.

We hope to see you there!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Go to Incheon, Korea!

Since 1961, Burbank has been Sister Cities with Incheon, Korea, and every year the cities participate in a student exchange--one year our students go there, the next year their students come here. In summer of 2013, we will be sending 12 exchange students to Incheon!

To apply, you must be a Burbank resident and be entering your freshman, sophomore, junior or senior year in high school. Being selected is an honor, and entails a great deal of responsibility, since you will be representing both the City of Burbank and the Sister City Committee.

Completed applications must be submitted by or before 5:00 p.m., Friday, December 21, 2012, at the Burbank Central Library, 110 N. Glenoaks Blvd., Burbank, ATTN: Sharon Cohen. (Incomplete applications and applications received after the deadline will not be considered!)

If you would like to represent Burbank in Incheon this coming summer, go to the Sister City page on our website, scroll to the bottom and download the 2013 Student Exchange Application--Korea pdf. Read all the requirements carefully (and discuss them with your parents) to see if you are able to comply with them, and submit your application before the deadline.

INTERVIEWS with prospective exchange students (that means you!) will take place in early January.

Good luck!

Program tonight!

It's Louisa May Alcott's 180th birthday, and she's appearing in person at Buena Vista branch TONIGHT! No, really! Okay, it's an impersonator (Valerie Weich), but she's very lifelike. Also, we are serving birthday cake!

So, let's review: Your teacher gives you extra credit for coming to the library (which you wanted to do anyway) to see a famous author (or the next best thing) and eat cake. It's all good! See you tonight? 7:00...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

New poll

In honor of the upcoming movie THE HOBBIT...look to your right. You can choose multiple answers...

The 6+7 Book Club will be reading The Hobbit in January!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Go, turkey, go!

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

The library is CLOSED Thursday and Friday,
but will be open Saturday, November 24.

Book Clubs Report

There were 11 at 10-12 Book Club this month, to discuss Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, by Lish McBride, and everybody liked it! The rating was 8. Next month, we are reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor, and the month after that it's Pregnant Pause, by Han Nolan. Jenna, Jordan, Clare and Derek need to pick up their book (I have them all at Central at the moment). Books we considered but didn't choose were:

Please Ignore Vera Dietz, by A. S. King
Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett
Room, by Emma Donoghue
The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern
The Adoration of Jenna Fox, by Mary Pearson
Streams of Babel, by Carol Plum-Ucci
Blink and Caution, by Tim Wynne Jones
The Replacement, by Brenda Yovanoff
Fifteen attended 8+9 Book Club, at which we discussed You Killed Wesley Payne, by Sean Beaudoin. This may be the most debated book we have read, since half the club thought it was amazing and the other half hated it! Some thought it was really clever, others thought it was too clever to be readable, but all agreed that the glossary at the back was the best part of the book. (Some thought that if the glossary had become footnotes, the book would have been better.) The ratings went from a low of 4 to a high of 9, with an average of 6.8. Next month we are reading Human.4, by Mike A. Lancaster, and then we are finally making Cameron happy by reading The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams, our second choice after we were unable to get copies of Let It Snow, the volume of short stories by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle. We will be adding a few copies of this to the library's collection, however, so you can check it out and read it on your own. Christopher, Alvin and Arsh can pick up Human.4 at either library. Other books we nominated:
The Future of Us, by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler
Paper Towns, by John Green
Let It Snow, by John Green/Mauren Johnson/Lauren Myracle
A Mango Shaped Space, by Wendy Mass
Divergent, by Veronica Roth
The Hobbit, by J. R. Tolkien

The 6+7 Book Club had 14 at November's meeting, and reaction to Mortal Engines, by Philip Reeve, was medium. Some enjoyed the Steampunk elements and the relationships, while others found the book confusing or dull and didn't finish. The rating was a middle of the road 6.5. Next month's book is the schoolgirl spy novel I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You, by Ally Carter, and for the following month we had a tight race and a run-off to get there, but we will be reading The Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkien. Caitlyn, Asif, Kendelle, Bella and Gabriella may pick up their books at either library. Unchosen books included:
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, by John Boyne
The Ranger's Apprentice, by John Flanagan
Fang Girl, by Helen Keeble
The Red Pyramid, by Rick Riordan
Midnighters: The Secret Hour, by Scott Westerfeld
Remember that you can check to see WHAT we are reading and WHEN we are meeting by going to the Teen Programs page on our website.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Saturday, November 17, 2012

6+7 Book Club next Tuesday!

Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m. at the Central Library, the 6+7 Book Club will discuss Mortal Engines, by Philip Reeve. The description from the Publisher's Weekly review:

In the Europe of the future, the great cities have uprooted themselves from the Earth and donned wheels; roving the Hunting Ground that was once Europe, cities literally devour one another as part of a new social construct called Municipal Darwinism. The mighty city of London, in danger of running out of "prey," looks toward the east, where an enormous wall protects the static cities of the Anti-Traction League--the "heretics" who have chosen the barbaric practice of living on the bare earth. But London's mad Lord Mayor develops a plan to get through the wall: He resurrects a vicious and ancient technology, a post-20th-century update of the nuclear bomb, all the more horrible with time and refinement, and mounts it in the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral.
Club members, let us know if you will NOT be attending! We hope to see you there!

Friday, November 16, 2012

What We're Reading: Sarah Rees Brennan

The Demon’s Lexicon
by Sarah Rees Brennan
322 pages
Three-book series
(this is book one--the other books are The Demon's Covenant and The Demon's Surrender)
High school, grade 9 and up
Reviewed by

Nick and Alan are brothers united by tragedy, filial love, and a sense of duty to fight and destroy the demons and magicians who murdered their father and who continue to pursue them and their mother from town to villlage to London itself.To hide from demonic search parties, Nick adopts the demeanor of the tough outsider who disparages school and knows something about auto engines--and swords, when necessary. Alan is the limping, red-haired, bespectacled scholar, translater of arcane languages, and occasional bookstore employee, protector of his dark, powerful, but emotionally withdrawn younger brother, and keeper of their equally dark, brooding mother.She guards a mysterious talisman that a sinister magician seeks, but she also harbors an abiding fear of Nick.When a local brother and sister arrive on Nick and Alan’s doorstep seeking help to remove the strange marks that the brother, Jamie, has received from demonic forces, the two brothers reluctantly agree to help them.First stop, the Goblin Market,where Alan chooses to “carry” one of the demonic marks Jamie was given and Nick performs a ritual dance to call on his own familiar demons for help and answers.

But in short order, more dire problems are revealed, not the least being a relationship Alan has been hiding from Nick; and why is Alan lying to Nick, his closeset companion? And if Alan is lying about their relationship,the only close relationship Nick has ever experienced, what does this make Nick? Is he the cold,violent monster he has always thought he was?
There are any number of books published about demons and demonic possesion, evil magicians and their machinations, and romancing the “dark side,” but this book centers on the point of view of a particularly troubled young man and his empty inner life rather than a yearning young woman and her empty heart. Nick is a teen who truly doesn’t understand the forces that have been working on him all his life: He doesn’t understand his mother’s pathological avoidance of him, he doesn’t understand why he can’t read the feelings of the people around him, and--except for his brother Alan--he doesn’t understand why he can’t even care about others. He doesn’t know why the talisman his mother holds is more valuable than building a stable life, and he doesn’t comprehend making a loving sacrifice for one’s family. Does being pushed around by the demands of magical forces preclude the idea of free will? Can loyalty trump destiny? Can love be learned? These questions are partially answered in this first book of a trilogy, and I’m intrigued enough to want to know the outcome. Yes, I liked this book!

Rating: 3.75--The writing is better than average, and the story provides a slightly different twist to a familiar theme.

Cover: I’ve seen better, I’ve seen worse. The hardcover version shows Nick full-face, while the paperback version shows a full-figure representation of him.

In addition to this trilogy, Sarah Rees Brennan is the author of Team Human, co-writing with Justine Larbalestier. Her new book is Unspoken, a romantic Gothic mystery about a girl who discovers that her imaginary friend is actually a real boy. Unspoken was just nominated for Best Fiction for Young Adults 2013 by ALA/YALSA. Sarah writes from Ireland, but likes to travel the world collecting inspiration.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Service hours!

While we welcome your help for service hours at the library, there are hundreds (maybe thousands?) of you, while we have only a few positions at each branch for which we can use volunteers. So we would like to remind you (now that some of your deadlines for turning in your services hours are approaching) that there is another way to get service hours: Write book reviews!

Yes, you can write a book review for this blog, and if you follow our guidelines (click on the "book review guidelines" page above for instructions), we will not only publish your review, we will give you one service hour for every review you write.

Please take note of the part in the instructions where it says "Do not review books you are reading anyway for school!" This blog is for recreational reading--we want it to be entertaining, and to recommend books to teens that they want to read (rather than being compelled to by an assignment). But if you just read the latest book by Charlie Higson or Melina Marchetta and you want to tell all your friends (and a bunch more people who read this blog) that they should read it too, here's your chance! Email us at

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

What we're reading: Lish McBride

Necromancing the Stone
by Lish McBride
342 pages
Fantasy/paranormal fiction
Two-book series (this is book two)
Reviewed by Melissa

We just finished reading Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, by Lish McBride, for 10-12 Book Club. Anarda discovered this book first and insisted I read it; I really liked it, so we pitched it to the club. Most of them enjoyed it as much as we did. So this past weekend, I made time to read the sequel, Necromancing the Stone, and if anything, I liked it more.

All your favorite characters are back, a few short weeks after the dramatic conclusion to the first book, and now Sam has to go about the task of becoming Seattle's resident necromancer. This wasn't something he planned, and he is both untrained and totally unprepared for the challenges he will face. Complicating matters are such things as his werewolf girlfriend (who may be having second thoughts), the new status of his three best friends (ghost, were-bear, and personal assistant), and his inherited and rather sulky chief factotum, James the pukis. Then someone significant dies, there are unexpected results involving the use of his powers as a raiser of the dead, and evidence points to there being a sinister force at work behind the scenes. Throw in some smackdowns by various paranormal entities, not to mention his personal baggage with his family, and Sam is understandably feeling a bit overwhelmed.

One reviewer on Amazon said that this is really James's book, and while I disagree (I feel that Sam is always the heart and soul of the story), I do think that James's dilemma is heart-rending, as well as crucial to the plot. The fine line Sam walks is how to be who he is and do what he does without turning into the evil Douglas Montgomery, and the challenges set up to test his resolve are many, frequent, and sometimes devastating--but good cheer is maintained throughout, and the dialogue is witty. McBride keeps a really nice balance of serious ethical choice and zany comic relief in this book, and makes it easy to become personally engaged with and root for her characters.

The other thing I love is that while McBride could choose to do another book about these people, the story that was started in book one comes to a satisfying conclusion in book two, and they stand together as a perfect, self-contained unit. If she decides to come back and write another, it will be gravy--but she didn't leave anything significant hanging there waiting for resolution, and I appreciate that! While I am a big fan of series fiction, there is something to be said for an approach that doesn't string the reader along for years waiting for the big pay-off. I loved this "miniseries," and look forward to whatever she decides to write next!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Dear Teen Me...

San Francisco-based Zest Books, which publishes nonfiction for teens (the latest was Regine's Book, which was reviewed here in July by Erica S.) has just published a book called Dear Teen Me: Authors Write Letters to Their Teen Selves, edited by E. Kristin Anderson and Miranda Keneally, and including letters to themselves as teens from YA authors Ellen Hopkins, Lauren Oliver, Nancy Holder, Carrie Jones, Robin Benway, Sean Beaudoin, Cynthia Leitich-Smith, and a bunch more...

One of the ways the editors have chosen to publicize the book is to "go" on a national four-week blog "tour," which means they enlisted bloggers--either teens or those who blog for teens--to feature the book on their blog in some way, hopefully by writing a letter to their own teen self. So...I decided I would do it, because the main reason I think I ended up as a teen librarian (when I went into library school planning to become an archivist!) is that I remember so clearly how much I hated being a teenager, and the empathy I feel for teens is what made me want to be their friend and advocate in the public library, now that I'm an adult.

[Teen flashback weirdness: The radio is playing in the background as I write this, and Roberta Flack's song Killing Me Softly ("strumming my pain with his fingers, singing my life with his words, killing me softly with his song...") just came on. That song always gives me the shivers, and not in a good way--it's what I sang as my solo in the one middle school talent show in which I chose to participate, and I will never forget shakily going to hit the high notes, opening my mouth, and having absolutely nothing come out. Brrrr...]

Anyway, Dear Teen Me...what advice would I give? What would I say to her? So many things...maybe a list?

Susan Dey in LOOKER, 1981
1. You are not fat. NOT fat. You think you are, but it's all in your head. Sure, if you compare yourself to supermodel and Partridge Family star Susan Dey, who, by the way, turned out to have a serious eating disorder, or to your mother, from whose hipbones you could hang a coathanger, then you could feel that way--but don't! You just take after the curvier side of the family (Dad's), but that's okay--you do NOT have to starve yourself from 126 lbs. (!) down to 115 just to please your mother, or deprive yourself of beach trips because you refuse to appear in a bathing suit in front of your friends. You are not unpopular because you are fat--you are unpopular because you have believed other people's stories about you instead of your own. When you get out of the hell that is high school and go away to college, this will start to change. In fact, ironically, much later in life you WILL be fat, but you will be a lot happier. Not because you are fat, but because you are YOU.

Me, at 17, senior year.
2. There is a reason you haven't had a boyfriend yet. It's not because you aren't pretty. It's not because you aren't smart. It's not because you don't deserve one. It's because you are afraid. Nobody ever taught you how to relate to boys. Nobody let you know that boys could be your friends, because your parents always cast them as either dangerous, or Prince Charming in waiting. That is why you keep falling into unrequited love with guys who are way too old, gay, out of your league, already involved with someone else, etc., so you can pretend to be involved without having to risk anything. So--take a deep breath, RELAX, and enjoy being around guys because they can be fun, interesting, different...not because you're looking for your future husband! You could wait for that until you're 30 or so. In fact, please do. Trust me.

3. Stop editing yourself. Deep inside that fundamentalist church-raised, uptight, shy, painfully self-conscious girl is spontaneity, artistic talent, and many other gifts, if you can only give up all the judgment, the preconceived notions, the "shoulds" and "mustn'ts," and let yourself be, well, yourself. You have been raised to think that every decision you make is irrevocable. It's not. You have been made to believe that you choose a career, a mate, and a life by the time you are 21 years old, and that's it--your path is set. That's nonsense. You can always choose to change your mind. Nothing is as important--or set in stone--as it seems when you are 17.

4. Save up your allowance and buy Apple Computer stock.

If you have enjoyed my painfully honest revelations and would like to go on the blog tour yourself to see what other bloggers have written in this same spirit, go to the blog tour schedule. Four or five different people have blogged each day for a month (October 15 to November 16), and you can read them all by clicking on each day's links.

Meanwhile, Dear Teen Me will be on our library shelves any minute now, so keep checking the catalogue and read the book to find out what your favorite authors have to say about being a teen, from their now-adult perspective. In the words of the LGBT youth campaign, "It gets better." I promise.