Saturday, May 2, 2015

Original Pantoums by our teens!

Here is Caleb Vaughan's--can you guess the subject?

Punching wood to make some tools
Mining stone with those tools
Killing mobs, protecting your self
Building a house to protect your self more


Mining stone with some tools 
Craft stone tools to mine some iron
Killing mobs protecting your self
Digging in caves for hours and hours


Craft stone tools to mine some iron
Die, respawn, and find all your stuff
Digging in caves for hours and hours
Get lucky and find a diamond or two


Die, respawn, and find all your stuff
Make your house bigger so you can be cool
Get lucky and find a diamond or two
Fight some blazes in realm of fire


Make your house (a lot) bigger so you can be cool(er)
Die in some way so you lose all your stuff
Fight some blazes in realm of fire
Make eyes of ender and prepare your descent


Die in some way so you lose all your stuff
Find a portal to the shadow realm
Make eyes of ender and prepare your descent
Kill the dragon and read the poem

All of this started with you punching some wood


And here is Katrina Darwich, with

P.E. Teacher

Can I have a new P.E. Teacher? 
We run a mile each day
She speaks too softly
I can’t hear her orders


We run a mile each day
I always collapse afterwards
I can’t hear her orders
We barely know the game

I always collapse afterwards
But then we play a sport
We barely know the game
But she makes us play like pros

But then we play a sport
Softball is the worst
But she makes us play like pros
I can’t even hold the bat

Softball is the worst
She never, ever explains it
I can’t even hold the bat
Can I have a new P.E. teacher?



Friday, May 1, 2015

Teen review: Realistic and romantic

Stargirl is a fictional story written by Jerry Spinelli. It is a relatively fast read at 186 pages. It’s short, sweet, and deep. It is a realistic story in the genre of romance, and is a coming-of-age story. This book has some mature (deep) ideas, but isn’t necessarily a hard read, so I would recommend it to young adults in eighth grade and up, but to truly appreciate what the author is trying to get across may require an older reader. Although I would not restrict younger teens and kids from reading this book, since there are no explicit scenes or bad influences, it is a book about high schoolers, which everyone knows can be a tough step in life.

This is a book about romance between Leo Borlock, an average teen in high school going about his business and known for his school-related show called the “Hot Seat,” and the new girl. Now, this new girl isn’t what people would consider typical, as far away from conventional as you could possibly be. People think she is weird, unusual, even strange. She is different, and everyone judges her for that: They judge everything from her clothes to her pet to her name, Stargirl.

High schoolers judge other people for standing out because they aren’t sure what do with their uniqueness. It’s human nature to judge, to be intimidated, to be scared of what we don’t understand and that is exactly what happens here. Reputation is a big deal for many people in high school, and Leo Borlock isn’t sure he is ready to throw it all away for one girl; one beautifully intelligent and unique girl. He is intrigued by her and he isn’t sure what to do about it. This is a story of basic human nature, of the horrors of high school, of the importance to be yourself, of the hardships it takes to fit in, of the easy sway of the crowd, and of course about a sweet love story that will make you look at life a little differently.

Personally I would rate this well-written book a five. This is a story that everyone should pick up eventually. It is sweet and short, but gets its point across through Stargirl, the purest of them all, the most genuine. These qualities are something that should be admired. She is one of a kind and didn’t try to be someone she wasn’t. This story gives advice to everyone out there: Although it’s hard to be different, don’t cheat yourself out of a happy life by living someone else’s.

Editor's note: We have both Stargirl and its sequal, Love, Stargirl, which picks up a year after the end of the first book, in both regular and e-book formats.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Pantoum in review!

We had a really great time at the Pantoum Poetry Writing Workshop with author Ron Koertge Wednesday night at Buena Vista branch! We had 34 teens eager to write a quatrain with the second and fourth line becoming the first and third line of the subsequent quatrain! (Yes, that's the format.) We did some warm-up thesaurus-style synonym comparisons, we listened to Ron read a pantoum he wrote, and then we jumped in. There was an intense period of pencil chewing, erasing, and a few "Ahah!"s, and then we shared our results with the group.


People were so creative in their choice of topic: We heard pantoums about the exploration of self and the world, the perils of P.E. class, and even one about Minecraft! One lucky person won an autographed copy of Ron's book, Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses, from which we took material to do our Readers' Theater program last February, and everyone headed out with extra credit slips for those whose teachers offered that incentive. We hope to see Ron around the library again this summer to help us with some Flash Fiction!


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

What we're reading: Marcus Sedgwick

I had the privilege this past Sunday to introduce the writer Marcus Sedgwick as the keynote speaker for the annual Frances Clarke Sayers lecture at UCLA. (Frances was an awesome librarian, teacher, and writer whose memory is preserved by featuring writers speaking about their work at this annual event.) So as part of my research to write his introduction, I read or reread a few of his books.  Here is a review of one of my favorites, a realistic contemporary novel with an interesting twist:

She Is Not Invisible, by Marcus Sedgwick, is set in the present day, beginning in England but primarily taking place in New York City, and narrated by a blind girl named Laureth. Laureth's father, a writer, is supposed to be in Austria, but his precious notebook, which never leaves his possession, has somehow turned up in the hands of a stranger in New York City, who has emailed to claim the reward offered inside its front cover. Laureth, worried about her father, takes her little brother, Benjamin (and his stuffed raven, Stan), and gets on a plane to New York to find him--and what an adventure it is!

What is so wonderful about this book is how it is written. It takes us into the entire experience from the "viewpoint" of the blind girl. Nothing in the book is described visually--which you don't think of as such a big deal until you realize how visually dependent most authors are as they set the scene for you. People are described by how they look and what they are wearing; rooms are painted for you with colors and styles of furniture; streets are grim-looking or festive. But not here. As you read She Is Not Invisible, you experience the world by holding the hand of the sighted Benjamin and having it interpreted for you through the filter of a bright seven-year-old, who is used to helping his sister but who brings his own perspective to everything. As Laureth, you hear voices and sounds, smell smells, feel textures, but there is absolutely no visual to this story. Questions from Laureth and answers from Benjamin, plus her faith and confusion and confidence and fear become yours, as if it is you whom Benjamin leads by the hand.

The book is also about coincidence, synchronicity, an obsession with making order from chaos, discovering random moments of clarity from within a background of noise. It's a journey for all the characters, and the last paragraph is an unexpected and delightful gift. (All you philistines who read the last page of a book first, DON'T DO IT!)


What a cool book!


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Teen Film Review! Moonrise Kingdom

Editor's note: One of our teen reviewers recently asked if we would entertain (pun intended) the idea of publishing film reviews as well as book reviews. We thought about it, and decided, Why not? We will give a couple of cautions, however: Readers, pay attention to ratings, and reviewers (just as with book reviews), don't give away the whole plot, the punch lines, or the ending!

Here is Chelsea, our very first movie reviewer on the YA Think! blog, extolling one of her favorites:


Moonrise Kingdom
2012 ● DRAMA ● PG-13 ● 94 MIN.
Directed by: Wes Anderson
Written by: Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola
Cinematography by: Robert Yeoman
Starring: Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Bob Balaban, and Harvey Keitel.



A storm cackles thunder while accompanied by the orchestral sounds of Benjamin Britten and rainfall. This introduction is the ominous announcement of Wes Anderson’s seventh feature film, Moonrise Kingdom. In the prologue, given by The Narrator, this story begins on the fictional island of New Penzance in September, 1965. The fate of the island is revealed when in three days’ time a terrible storm will strike.

The story centers around the Island’s appointed pseudo-military troop, The Khaki Scouts of America. The stasis of the troop is interrupted when one of their members, Sam Shakusky, goes missing along with a local girl, Suzy Bishop. Sam, an unhappy orphan and a skillful outdoorsman, is a direct foil to Suzy; her difficult family life causes her to find solace in reading her adventure stories. When Sam and Suzy both face harsh judgement in their personal lives they decide to join forces and leave their insecurities behind. They deliberate on this plan for months and, once the blueprint is set, they escape to find a new life in the woods.

Sam and Suzy’s escapades enable them to develop a profound connection with each other. Meanwhile Suzy’s parents, Mr. (Bill Murray) and Mrs. (Frances McDormand) Bishop, Sam’s troop leader Scoutmaster Ward (Edward Norton), and the island’s policeman Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) tirelessly comb every inch of the island. Then the Khaki Scouts themselves decide to take measures and set out on a dangerous mission, which inevitably goes awry. Luckily, The Narrator discovers a more effective route to finding the runaways.

Adam Stockhausen’s production design enhances the natural beauty of the lush terrain. Attention to color, symmetry and an overall nostalgic tone inspire this kaleidoscopic world of the 1960s, where record players and saddle shoes were a constant.

The soundtrack to the film telegraphs Sam and Suzy’s personalities and actions. Hank Williams plays triumphantly for Sam, while the French singer François Hardy delicately underlines Suzy's presence.

The film method known as “French New Wave” can be seen in every frame of Moonlight Kingdom. From the cinematography to the directing and acting, this technique revolutionized and challenged the purpose of filmmaking. French New Wave rewarded a heavy directorial hand. Wes Anderson’s directing style definitely correlates to one of the movement's founders, Jean Luc Godard, whose film Le Perriot le fou has a similar story line of two people on the run who find each other as much as they find themselves. Anderson is careful to make film references to French New Wave and never plagiarizes. He allows his own vision to shine alongside the subtle references to cinema history. Moonrise Kingdom is crafted as a sentimental memory to its former inspiration.

Almost like one of Suzy’s fantasy adventure books, Moonrise Kingdom begins and ends confidently and tenderly. Sam and Suzy set out on this expedition to find their place in the world. Trials and tribulations teach them the meaning of what it means to care for another person. This exceptional story of love and adventure is a wistful tale of two people understanding what it means to accept each other.

Reviewed by Chelsea G.