Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Sensitive content

Grace wants out of her house. Her stepfather is a tyrant, and her mother responds to the stress by taking her obsessive-compulsive disorder out on her. Grace wants out of her town, too small and pedestrian to contain her ambitions. Her dream is to direct plays, in New York City, and she's on point for that future, saving every penny and working as a stage director for her high school plays and musicals, when it happens: She gets involved with Gavin. Gavin, about whom she has fantasized for years. Gavin, the cool, gorgeous, talented, charming boy of her dreams. Gavin, who just broke up with his girlfriend, and is appealingly needy when he entices Grace with his interest. Before she knows it, she's having the relationship she thought she wanted...but then it starts to turn dark. The neediness turns into an obsession to, first, control every aspect of their relationship, and then every facet of Grace's life. Soon, all Grace wants is out...of her Bad Romance.

I really don't know what to say about this book. I am a huge fan of Heather Demetrios's previous book, I'll Meet You There; I regularly recommend it to high school book club, but haven't yet managed to persuade them to read it, because simply describing the events of the book make it sound like some dumb romance, when the truth, the essence of that book is so much more than that. So when I saw that she had written a new book, I grabbed it from the shelf and took it home in high anticipation mode.

Honestly, I'm not sure that I'm glad I read it. Her writing is, again, "all that," but the characters, the way things play out, the first/second person dichotomy of the narrative, the lack of resolution on so many levels—all of that left me truly ambivalent.

It's not that it wasn't authentic or realistic; quite the opposite. Demetrios managed to pull off the things that so many people get wrong when depicting abusive relationships. For instance, she gives emotional abuse as much weight as she does physical abuse, which is valid. Abuse is about the feelings of pain, fear, and anxiety, regardless. In line with that, she doesn't make it all one-sided, demonizing the stepfather and making the mother a helpless victim: Her mother's character is nuanced, and the way she takes out her frustrations on Grace seemed real and valid.

I also appreciated that she didn't give Grace another romance to pull her out of the disastrous one she was in. But...even though Grace's friendships and her own inner fortitude are what managed to pull her through, there's no real indication that she couldn't fall into another abusive relationship, given the slightest opportunity. She has become slightly more self aware, and has dumped this guy, dumped her family, and gotten on with her life...but there's a part of her that keeps clinging to the idea that she needs a guy—albeit a better guy—to complete and/or save her.

Also, since this story is told entirely from Grace's viewpoint, the only resolution we get on Gavin is that Grace wishes she could warn all his future victims about the toxicity of the love that's hiding behind that perfect, endearing, beautiful demeanor. And I know she has no agency or ability to affect who and what he is—but it just seemed like there should be something more. The book makes his parents seem so ideal, so wonderful, so caring, so how did they turn out a codependent, passive-aggressive, vindictive, manipulative crazy mess like Gavin? And why don't they see the need to help/fix him? (except to encourage his girlfriend to do it!)

The bottom line is that this was not a book I needed to read, because the book's imagery and story are powerful and will stick with me; and honestly, I don't want them to. I'm not sure that anyone who hasn't been in Grace's shoes should read it. The afterword and acknowledgments from the author indicate that this was highly autobiographical, and that's what it felt like—a major purge of the badness of the past. It seems like a book that could be powerfully transformative for someone who has experienced what she did; but to read about it if you haven't is overwhelming. I'm not advocating hiding your head in the sand and never reading about anything negative, but this was a lot to take in.

I also want to note that this book is definitely for older teens (16 and up?) because of the maturity of the content. And I'm not just talking about the sex, the violence, and the language. I'm talking about the acts, the attitudes, and the trauma. This is a story that will stick with you, so be sure you want that.

Or, you can go read I'll Meet You There, and be as smitten as I was.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Writing Contest!

The month of October is almost half over. Why should you care? Because you are only two weeks away from the DEADLINE for this year's "Stranger in a Strange Land" writing contest! That's right, your story is due on MONDAY, October 30th, before 5:00 p.m. Don't know what I'm talking about? Watch the awesome video at right, made by Burroughs High School students to advertise the contest! Or, you can go here to read all about it.

Saturday, October 14, 2017


TODAY, Saturday, October 14, is the last day you can vote for your favorite books to be on YALSA's Teens' Top Ten list. Go here and vote for your favorite three you read this summer from the ballot of 26 books. This list is generated completely by teens--no adult voting allowed! Will your favorites include Heartless or Diabolic? Did you love The Killing Jar? Or was it Rebel of the Sands? Are you sticking with Cassandra Clare? or do you like The Art of Being Normal? Go make your voice heard--vote!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Friday the 13th!

Are you superstitious? Do you walk around ladders instead of under them, always pick up stray pennies, cross your fingers behind your back, clutch your rabbit's foot, stay away from mirrors, avoid black cats? Then you're probably tiptoeing around today, hoping that life won't notice you! But if you are one to dare Luck to do its worst, then here are a few (wildly different) books about superstition and luck, both good and bad:

Send Me A Sign,
by Tiffany Schmidt

The Jumbee, by Pamela Keyes

My Swordhand is Singing,
by Marcus Sedgwick

Lucky T, by Brian Kate

Girl Against the Universe,
by Paula Stokes

As Easy As Falling Off the Face of the Earth, by Lynne Rae Perkins

MY fingers are crossed that you'll like one of these!

And if your quest is just for a good scary book, check out some of the horrifying reads on display at the Central Library! (Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha...)

Thursday, October 12, 2017

October 6+7 Book Club Report

On Tuesday night, 17 of our 19 members came to club to discuss Masterminds, by Gordon Korman. Due to double-booking of the auditorium, the club met in the picture-book area of the children's room, which may have sparked more conversation than we usually have about a book. Initially, there didn't seem to be that much to talk about, but as we got into the book further, we all had many questions, speculations, and opinions about who was and was not in on the secret and to what degree, and the simple (or not so simple) mechanics of both hiding and running a town out in the middle of nowhere. There was discussion about whether someone (the kids? the adults who weren't in on the entire deception?) should have figured out certain things sooner, like the fact that smoke never came from the chimneys at the plant, or what, exactly, all the employees did in their work at the plant and why, if they were only making orange traffic cones, no one was allowed to go and visit (take a daughter to work day?). Our lively back-and-forth actually made us run a little long before we were ready to rate the book and choose a new one!

Some good news: We were under the impression that our library (for some odd reason) didn't have copies of books #2 and #3 in the trilogy, but we were wrong! They are both in the children's room. We figured out that the books had been cataloged, not under "Masterminds," but under their subtitles (Criminal Destiny and Payback), so those who want to read the sequel can check it out from here after all! And I asked our cataloger to fix the records in the catalog so that when you type in "masterminds," the other two books pop up as well, and he has promised to do so.

The book we will be reading for November is Variant, by Robison Wells, and for December, we ended up picking Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen. If we can't get sufficient copies of that book (we're not sure we can), then our runner-up book is Cinder, by Marissa Meyer.

Other books we considered (in approximate order by preference):

Ender's Shadow, by Orson Scott Card
The Fire Within, by Chris d'Lacey
The War That Saved My Life, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry
Nightmares, by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller
The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelly Barnhill
The Girl With No Name, by Marina Chapman

Our next meeting is on November 14.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

National Coming Out Day

The entire month of October is LGBTQ History Month, but October 11 has taken on special significance since it was designated as "Coming Out Day" back in 1988. Some might maintain that with greater visibility and more tolerance for differences in society, the act of coming out as a gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender person has less significance; but studies have shown that homophobia thrives in an atmosphere of silence and ignorance. Once people know that they have loved ones who are lesbian or gay, they are far less likely to cling to fears or stereotypes. Many people assume they don't even know someone who is lesbian or gay, but in fact, most everyone does!

To highlight Coming Out Day, here are a few books from our teen fiction collection that are specifically about coming out—serious, humorous, romantic, difficult, sweet.


Whatever, by S. J. Goslee

Ask the Passengers, by A. S. King

The Vast Fields of Ordinary, by Nick Burd


Almost Perfect, by Brian Katcher

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe,
by Benjamine Alire Saenz

More Happy Than Not, by Adam Silvera (mature, with difficult subject matter)

We have a book list of LGBTQ fiction (look for the distinctive Keith Haring artwork, right, on its cover) available at all branches of Burbank Public Library, compiled from and for all viewpoints. Pick one up next time you visit!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

What we're reading: Regency fiction with Garth Nix

On her 18th birthday, Lady Truthful Newington is to inherit the Newington Emerald, a beautiful bright green stone on a chain of silver leaves that will stunningly complement her red hair and green eyes, and will also, incidentally, give her additional magical powers. Shortly before she achieves her majority (turns 18), her father the Admiral hosts a dinner party, to which he invites her three male cousins--the Newington-Lacy boys--and a few other close companions, and decides to give the party a glimpse of the famous emerald. But in the midst of an abruptly manifesting storm, the lights go out, and when they come back on, the emerald is gone!

Newt (Truthful's nickname), who is scheduled to go up to London to stay with her aunt and make her debut in society, enlists her aunt in a scheme whereby Newt arrives two weeks early and masquerades as her (male) cousin, a chevalier from France, to try to track down and regain possession of the emerald. But there are some strange forces at work to keep her frustrated in her quest, and soon there are sorceresses, people from the government, and random strangers all either searching for the stone or doing their best to keep Newt from finding it.

I decided to read Newt's Emerald for three reasons:
  1. I liked the cover (something I can't always say about YA books!);
  2. I have heard raves by several people I trust about the writing of Garth Nix (Sabriel, etc.), and wanted to read something by him;
  3. I read somewhere that Nix was inspired to write this historical fiction set in Regency England as a tribute to the Regency Romance novels of Georgette Heyer, and since I absolutely adore those, I thought I might like this.
I did like it, but...the things that were right with this book were somehow not quite enough for me to feel truly enthusiastic about it. It was cute, it had clever moments, it was mildly entertaining, and...that's it. Nix got all the details right for a Regency Romance, plus he added magical elements, which is always fun; but nothing seemed adequately developed--not the history, not the magic, not the characters, not the romance! I concluded that it was a pleasant surface read, to which I will probably never give a second thought.

I do think, however, that if you have read and enjoyed the Finishing School books (Etiquette & Espionage is the first) by Gail Carriger, or Sorcery & Cecilia, by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer, you would probably enjoy this as well. Neither of those was really my kind of book; but everyone has different taste, and some of the teens in book club loved both of those series, which are quite similar to this. So I am giving it an endorsement, for those readers!

Friday, October 6, 2017

10-12 Book Club Report

On Thursday night, eight members of the 10-12 Book Club met to discuss How It Went Down, by Kekla Magoon. This is one of those books that newscasters are so fond of characterizing as "ripped from the headlines," since it is about a young black boy who is shot on his way home from the convenience store. Magoon has attempted to show her readers how many different "takes" there can be, based on one incident, and how even those who observed it close up and first-hand may see it completely differently from others who were standing scant feet away. The story is unusually told from 17 different perspectives! Plus, of course, the reader's.

Most of our members enjoyed the book, or at least felt that it was significant or important. Some felt the start was slow; a few really didn't like the multiple points of view, particularly since some of the names were similar and they got confused; and one specifically said it was too dark for him; but everyone seemed to agree that it was an interesting and novel way to tell a story, and quite effective. Our final rating was a solid 7 out of 10.

For November, the club will be reading Beka Cooper: Terrier, by Tamora Pierce, a combination of fantasy and police procedural with an intriguing main character. Note to readers: Worst cover EVER, please don't judge the book by it! Also, for those of you who missed last night's meeting, this is very important: If you have never read anything else by Tamora Pierce, then the preface to this book will make absolutely no sense. Don't worry about it--just skip it. Don't read it, it will just put you off the book, and the book is wonderful. Skip it and start with chapter one.

For our December book, the club chose The Truth Commission, by Susan Juby. NICE cover, by contrast, and a really fun realistic fiction book.

Other books we considered, in descending order of popularity, included:

Graceling, by Kristin Cashore
Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein
The Walls Around Us, by Nova Ren Suma
The Program, by Suzanne Young
Salt to the Sea, by Ruta Sepetys

The club will meet next on November 2. Those who missed the meeting last night may pick up their books from either Buena Vista or Central--there are three copies waiting at each location.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The creepy house next door...

Thornhill, by Pam Smy

Reviewed by Jeff McLeod, library volunteer

Something strange is going on at Thornhill, and for 35 years no one has dared to enter its haunted grounds, not until Ella moves in next door. When she glimpses a girl in the window of the dilapidated former orphanage, lonely Ella becomes determined to discover who she is and befriend her, but Mary's diary reveals that she may be beyond Ella's reach...

When I first saw the book on the shelf, I thought, “Should I read this?” I liked the cover; it looked like a ghost story set in a haunted house. I decided I would read a couple of chapters, then I would take it home--probably. This was around 3 p.m.

After you begin to read the book, you will notice a lot of illustrations. When I began the book and, after reading a few chapters, I saw the illustrations, I scanned them quickly. THEN I realized I should have slowed down and looked at the illustrations more slowly and carefully. I went back, and I’m so glad I did. These illustrations will give you a better sense of what is really being said after you read it. Also, there are a couple of dark pages before the illustrations begin, a marvelous idea! 

As the book begins, you feel sorry for Mary Baines, sewing dolls. She is so bullied that you will feel badly for her throughout the book. You will also be reading “thump, thump, thump,” as you go along. Keep it in mind, “thump, thump, thump”…

I don’t want to give away too much information about the book, because I’d really like to encourage you to not only read it, but enjoy it too, and wonder what will be said next, then slowly and carefully examine the illustrations the author is sharing with us. You will also read about Ella Clarke and who she is, and then later Jacob, as he looks at the site of Thornhill…and don’t forget,“thump, thump, thump”… enjoy!

Besides a sense of what is being said, the aid of the illustrations honestly encouraged me to keep on reading until I finished the book. This I was able to do before the library closed at about 8:15 p.m. Really, remember to carefully look at the illustrations the author has so kindly shared with us.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Tomorrow is National Taco Day!

You could just celebrate by eating some tacos. Yelp says there are 16 places in Burbank where you can get some, so we are well supplied (and that doesn't count taco trucks!). Or you could make your own! (We have cookbooks. See our catalog.) But why stop there?

While you are eating your tacos, take a picture of yourself (or on second thought, you will be way too messy, get a friend to take it), and send it to us. We will post it on our Teen Facebook Page for October 4, National Taco Day! You know you and your taco want a day of fame! Send your photo to burbank.teens@gmail.com. Let's have lots of smiling tacos (and people) on our FB page!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Stranger in a Strange Land

Yes, that is the title of a book by science fiction author Robert Heinlein. (And yes, it is a little mature for most of you to read--11th and 12th graders could try it.) But the NAME, oh the name was perfect for this year's teen story writing contest!

In case you just got here, every year for Teen Read Week (which is actually Teen Read Month in Burbank), we post a story-writing challenge for teens in grades 6-12. You have the month of October to write your story, and then we pick out the top writers in two categories (short and long) and give prizes.

Some Burbank teachers now offer extra credit if you write a story and turn it in to them as well as to us; but we hope you'll just do it because it's FUN!

All the rules are here; read them carefully, and turn in your story by Monday, October 30th, at 5:00 p.m.

If you are puzzled by the idea we came up with, here are a few books that might be good examples for you to read:

There's a great short story in a collection called The Starry Rift, edited by Jonathan Strahan, called "Ass-Hat Magic Spider," by Scott Westerfeld. (Sorry about the language, blame Scott, not me!) It's a fun, entertaining story about going out into the great beyond and what one thing you would insist on taking with you when you went.

The book that immediately came to mind when we were considering the theme for this contest was The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin. It tells the story of a lone human emissary to an alien world called Winter. His job is to see whether Winter is ready to be included in a growing intergalactic civilization. But to do so he must understand the differences between his human views and those of the completely dissimilar culture that he encounters there. It's a fascinating psychological trip into human emotion.

There's a book called Fuzzy Nation, by John Scalzi, that explores the idea of sentience (which means "the capacity to feel, perceive, or experience subjectively"). Miner Jack Holloway is digging for priceless sunstones on a newly discovered planet run by a giant corporation. In the course of making a tremendous discovery of a large deposit of the sunstones, he also engages with a cat-like species that he first treats as a pet, but soon begins to think might be sentient, which would be, if true, an economic disaster for the corporation (because the beings would be considered the "owners" of the planet). Let the political (and criminal) arm-twisting begin!

In Earth Girl, by Janet Edwards, a girl named Jarra was born with an unusual condition that does not allow her to leave the planet Earth; she is thereafter labelled as “handicapped” and, crudely, as an “ape” in this science fiction trilogy. She is determined to blend in and prove her worth, so Jarra enrolls on an archaeological dig, masquerading as just another “off-world” teen interested in the distant past of her home planet, and proceeds to show her intellectual strengths as well as her personal vulnerabilities.

The Arrival, by Shaun Tan, is an amazing wordless picture book about the experiences of an immigrant in a new home.

There is a wonderful science fiction series written by Patrick Ness, called "Chaos Walking." The first book is The Knife of Never Letting Go. It takes place on a planet far from Earth, but has been settled by Earth people, including a young man named Todd. Todd's people are from a particular religious cult, and emigrated to this planet to be able to have complete freedom of religion. The only trouble is, the planet had a few nasty surprises for them. The first was a virus (some called it a plague) that hit all the colonists hard; and when it was over, all the women were dead, and all the men could hear each others' thoughts. But it wasn't like a cool, mind-to-mind telepathy thing; it was more like a constant barrage of Noise that was nearly impossible to block out. But then, Todd and his dog Manchee (whose thoughts are also audible) discover a weirdly silent place, and when they seek it out, they discover a secret that makes it necessary for them to run for their lives. It's kind of hard to hide, though, when the people chasing you can hear your every thought...

The other two books in the series are The Ask and the Answer, and Monsters of Men. If you like lots of action, and tension that keeps ratcheting up higher and higher, then this is the series for you!

What do all these books have to do with our story writing contest? They are all about people who are out of their comfort zone, surrounded by strangers, and trying to figure out the world around them and how they can fit into it, or whether they even want to. Check one out today!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

DACA Scholarships

Do you know someone eligible to renew their DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)? Mission Asset Fund is providing 2,000 scholarships so they can pay the $495 application fee and apply to the Department of Homeland Security by the Oct 5 deadline. They will need to provide an EAD card (work permit) with an expiration date on or before March 5. If someone needs a scholarship, the deadline to apply for that (in order to get it to Homeland Security by October 5) is tomorrow, Friday, September 29. Go here to find out more.

8+9 Book Club Report

Eighteen of our 20 members attended 8+9 Book Club on Tuesday night at the Buena Vista Branch, at which meeting we talked about The Accident Season, by Moira Fowley-Doyle.

We had a lengthy and rather heated discussion: About a third of the room loved the book and appreciated all the complexities, mysteries, and innuendo of the story line, while another third disliked the book, mostly for the same reasons! A small percentage also felt that the discussion and participation by the characters in adult behaviors (smoking, drinking, etc.) was excessive, which we agreed upon as being more typical in a book about European teens (the book is by an Irish author and is set in Ireland). The final ratings were all over the place, with a high of 10 and a low of 1, and our final rating averaged out to 5.65.

Next month, our book is Everything Everything,
by Nicola Yoon.

For the month of November, we will read Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld. Be More Chill, by Ned Vizzini, was the first choice, but we couldn't obtain sufficient copies. The list of other books we considered (in sort of descending order) includes:

A Study in Charlotte, by Brittany Cavallero
Perfect Cover, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
Fan Art, by Sarah Tregay

Next month's meeting is on Tuesday, October 24.

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 melliott@burbankca.gov. 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!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Teen Review: Wuthering Heights

We have another opinion about Wuthering Heights! Also check out Katrina's review from this summer, if you missed it.

Wuthering Heights

by Emily Brontë
336 pages
Gothic romance/tragedy
Recommended for high school

Reviewed by Selia Hairapetyansian

This is one of the most entertaining books I’ve read in a while. The main character is Heathcliff, a dark and mysterious man. When Heathcliff was a child, he was adopted by a rich man (Mr. Earnshaw) with two kids and taken to live at Wuthering Heights. Wuthering Heights is the most prominent place in the whole book and is the great home Heathcliff grows up in, but when Mr. Earnshaw passes away, Heathcliff is treated as a peasant, often getting hurt by his stepbrother Hindley. This causes Heathcliff to leave to become his own man; he returns many years later.

The story takes many twists and turns, as there’s a lot of conflict between the characters. When he returns to Wuthering Heights, he falls in love with his stepsister (Catherine). Almost everything Heathcliff does or thinks about has to do with Catherine. This leads to many conflicts between the two as well as among the family. It also causes Heathcliff to turn malicious and seek to do harm.

The relationship between Catherine and Heathcliff is passionate yet very confusing, as Catherine has many different ideas of what they are to each other.  The ending is quite dramatic and suspenseful, and one you won’t see coming.

One thing I like most about this book is how you never get enough of it, as it’s like a movie constantly playing in your head. However this also leads me to what I disliked, and that would be how the story is always changing and you have to read very carefully to fully understand the plot, which can be quite confusing at times.

This book would be great for anyone who loves to read classical books from the 1800s. The plot isn’t your typical love story and the ending goes far into the future of Heathcliff’s life. I would really recommend reading this book as you’ll definitely want to know what happens in the end.

Editor's note: I went looking for a cover to put up with Selia's review, and found hundreds. This book has been re-released many times by many publishers, and each has a concept of the central themes of the book and what will draw in readers, all of them different. I'm featuring three here, but if you go to Google images and put in "Wuthering Heights the book" you can see just how many there are! A fun experiment in "appeal."