Saturday, August 2, 2014

Teen review: Graphic nonfiction

Reviewed by Spencer Kierstein, grade 9

Maus I: My Father Bleeds History,
by Art Spiegelman

Maus is Vladek Spiegelman’s first story in a two-part series of his Holocaust experience. It is told in a comic book format as realistic nonfiction, totaling 159 pages.

The plot is similar to many other survivor’s stories, but the characters are drawn as animals instead of as humans. The main two are mice portrayed as Jews and cats portrayed as Nazis. There others as well: The Polish are pigs, Americans are dogs and the French are frogs. Along with that plot, which is set during the 1930s in Europe, there is an alternate plot with equal importance, set in the late 1970s or early '80s, the book doesn’t specify. The alternate plot is really Vladek telling his son Art (who is the author) the story, while the first plot is a flashback into 1930s Europe.

The more recent plot shows Vladek’s current status as a senior citizen affected by the Holocaust and how his family assists him in his old age. His son is always irritable when visiting Vladek because of old habits brought up by the Holocaust (saving random junk, obsessive organization, and ignorant consideration of others) and his second wife is frustrated from living with him. The second plot goes through his love life, his financial struggles, military service, and finally his experience with the Nazis. During their invasion he becomes a P.O.W. (prisoner of war) and then is shipped to the ghetto, where he struggles to make ends meet. During this time, readers definitely get to see why Vladek became one of the few survivors of the Nazi invasion. His resourcefulness, thoughtfulness, and courage were very inspiring, and provided his escape.

I recommend this book to a high school student interested in a deeper and unique perspective about the Jewish discrimination during the Nazi invasion. The only thing I’d like to have seen is a little more violent action scenes, but that might just be my teenage male kicking in. On a scale from 1-5, this book deserves a 4 because of its can’t-put-down plot, realer-than-life characters, and a setting that makes its mark in history books everywhere.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Book Club Report

We had almost exactly half our members in attendance last night at the summer meeting of the Teen Book Clubs--seven out of 15 for 6+7, six out of 11 for 8+9, and 11 out of 24 for 10-12. Vacations, workshops and camp meant that the other half were out of town, out of state, or out of the country! But we forged ahead and got acquainted with some new members, then picked books in some lively sessions led by me, Anarda, and Chloe (thanks, Chloe!), and here's the report:

The 6+7 Club will be reading
Pendragon #1: The Merchant of Death,
by D. J. MacHale

Their first choice,
Lockwood & Co.: The Screaming Staircase,
by Jonathan Stroud
doesn't release until August 26, which doesn't give us enough time to order it or you time enough to read it by book club. So we'll have that one for October! (Sorry.)

Other books the club considered included:

Enclave, by Ann Aguirre
Wish, by Clamp
The Very Ordered Existence of Merilee Marvelous,
          by Suzanne Crowley
The Giver, by Lois Lowry
When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead
Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase, by Jonathan Stroud
Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief, by Wendelin van Draanen

The 8+9 Club selection is Life As We Knew It,
by Susan Beth Pfeffer.

Other books the club considered included:

Tiger Lily, by Jody Lynn Anderson
The Naturals, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Enchanted, by Alethea Kontis
The Shadow Society, by Marie Rutkoski

The 10-12 Club picked The Butterfly Clues, by Kate Ellison, for September. (They actually picked Reality Boy, by A. S. King, but oops! it doesn't come out in paperback until September 23! If you still want to, we can read it in November. Sorry, my bad.)

Other books they considered included:

Meet Me at the River, by Nina de Gramont
Speechless, by Hannah Harrington
Please Ignore Vera Dietz, by A. S. King
Reality Boy, by A. S. King
The Vow, by Jessica Martinez
Fracture, by Megan Miranda
The Sharp Time, by Mary O'Connell
My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan, by Seth Rudetsky

We will order the three selections and let you know when to pick them up.

Our first meetings of the new year are:

10-12: Tuesday, September 9 (Buena Vista)
6+7: Tuesday, September 16 (Central)
8+9: Wednesday, September 17 (Buena Vista)
all at 7:00 p.m.--see you then!

These are your commitments as book club members:
  1. Attend the meetings. If you can't attend, email or call us BEFORE the meeting to say so. (Remember that three "unexcused" absences mean you will be excused from book club membership!)
  2. Read the book. Every book isn't for everyone, but we want you to at least make an effort--50 pages minimum, 100 would be better, but ideally read every book!
  3. Behave with decorum. Take your turn to speak, don't talk over others. Don't hold side conversations while someone else is speaking. Be considerate in general!
Welcome to Book Club! See you in September!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Take our survey!

We're so happy that so many of you chose to spend part of your summer with us at the library! But we want to know what you THOUGHT of all the programs and activities on offer for our Set Forth! Teen Summer Reading Program!

So please--take a minute to take our SET FORTH SURVEY--it's only four questions! Click here to be connected to the Survey Monkey link. Thanks!

Teen Review: Realistic Fiction

Reviewed by Amy Sepulveda, 10th grade

In Cammie McGovern's Say What You Will, the point of view shifts from Amy, an intelligent, but disabled teenage girl who shows that anyone can do anything, to Matthew, who is at first just along for the ride, but gets sucked into so much more. Amy’s mother hires peer helpers for her so she can make a few friends before they begin their senior year of high school. She begs Matthew through email to sign up for it, though they had previously only spoken twice. Once school starts, Amy finds that Matthew is the only one of her five peer helpers with whom she is at ease, and they soon learn everything they can about each other. Say What You Will shows how two young people can fall in obvious love, and though things can get in the way, nothing can release their strong grips on each other’s hearts.

In my opinion, Say What You Will could easily become the next The Fault in Our Stars, another brilliant story about love with obstacles. There are similar messages conveyed through the characters who have problems a teenager should not have to experience. I was sucked into it and finished Say What You Will 's 343 pages within five hours. The cover art is cute and shows speech bubbles that represent that even with Amy’s inability to speak, she still finds ways to achieve her goals.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Book Clubs! TTT!

Summer reading is over…NOT! It's time for the members of the TEEN BOOK CLUBS to get together, meet the new members, and choose their first book of the year, to discuss in September at their first meeting of the school year!

We meet TONIGHT, July 30th, at 7:00 p.m., at the Central Library (upstairs). This meeting is for book club members only.

Please note that the 10-12 Book Club is full, but we are accepting names for the waiting list. If you are a teen who wishes to join either the 8+9 or 6+7 Book Clubs, please contact teen librarians Melissa Elliott and Anarda Williams, at tonight if possible, so that you can be included at this meeting. There are still a few places available in those two clubs.

Current members: Bring suggestions of books you would like to propose that we read! Your fellow book club members would much rather read something recommended by YOU! (We will bring some ideas as well, if you're stumped, but THINK!) Remember that they have to be age-appropriate to your group…

Another reading-related reminder--there are still ballots for the Teens' Top Ten books of the year available, and soon the voting will begin! You can download the ballot here, and keep track of the ones you have read, pick a few more you want to read, and prepare to vote! We will post when the voting is open.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Teen Review: Running With Scissors

Reviewed by Amy Sepulveda

Running with Scissors
is a disconcerting memoir of the author, Augusten Burroughs, who had a sad childhood and had to constantly deal with his mother’s psychologist’s family, who were the exact opposite of himself. Burroughs’s mother and father had a very intense, verbally and physically abusive relationship. While he was just a young boy (around seven years old), he is mentally and emotionally harmed by this, although he does not particularly notice his own troubles. After his parents’ divorce, his mother somewhat abandons him at her psychologist’s home, saying Augusten must live in the "tornado of disgust" that is their house.

I thought that the people in Augusten’s surroundings had sad lives, and even though they had a psychologist for a father, they did not get the real help they needed. There are details in some parts of the story that could be somewhat disturbing, based on one’s personal maturity level and their tolerance for others’ ways of life. I would recommend Running with Scissors to people who have unhealthy home environments, or to anyone interested in psychology and how patients should be treated. The cover art shows a child with a box on his head, obscuring his face and eyes from everything, which might symbolize what should have been shielded from the horrors that once awaited Burroughs at home when he was a child.

The book is 315 pages, and I believe it deserves a 4/5 rating. This is definitely a high school (or more mature) reading level.

Editor's note: I agree with Amy that this book is definitely an adult book that some mature high school readers may also enjoy. It received widely differing ratings on Goodreads (from one star to five!), so it seems like it's a book that really depends on what its reader is looking for to be appreciated.