unRequired Reading Blog
April is National Poetry Month, which is a perfect time to highlight all the amazing poetry that is out there, but . . . UGH . . . POETRY. At least, that’s how I used to feel. When I was a kid I LOVED poetry, especially Shel Silverstein. But as I got older, and school started requiring me to think about the poetry we were reading and what the deeper meaning might be, I started to resent it. I mean, couldn’t I just ENJOY the poetry instead of trying to decipher how the poet might have been feeling when he wrote it? Apparently not.
Then I started working as a youth services librarian, and I was introduced to novels in verse. All of those middle school and high school memories came flooding back, and I wanted nothing to do with it. Until I read one. Then I read another and another. Finally, I realized I LOVED novels in verse! Why? Because they are complete stories told through a collection of poetry. Poetry rarely takes up a whole page, which made the books super fast to read! It also amazed me how by simply changing the spacing or even font size within a poem an additional meaning was made clear.
Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity starts with something different and unexpected, a story’s protagonist, or hero, not being very heroic. Our protagonist, a young female British spy, is being held hostage in an aristocratic hotel in Nazi-occupied France. While other spies would withstand any amount of torture in order to protect their friends, family, and country, Code Name Verity’s protagonist, whose name and identity are a secret, begins by making a deal with the Gestapo. She will give them anything and everything they want to know, including writing the story of how she arrived in Nazi-occupied France, and, in return, they will feed her, clothe her, stop torturing her, and they will not kill her—for now.
A gray day, perfect for revisiting a twitchy acquaintance: Edgar Allan Poe. Roderick Usher and family inhabit their cracked, creepy house in one of his best short stories, “The Fall of the House of Usher." The Poe story has been used by other authors since he wrote it, even made into an opera. One offers a different perspective from Roderick Usher’s doomed sister, Madeline; the other features the descendants of Madeline and Roderick, from a master of modern horror, Robert McCammon.
Technology has become an integral part of our lives, to the point that many of us can’t imagine (or remember) life before we had personal computers and cell phones. Technology is also a huge part of literature, from characters with cell phones to cyborgs & robots to space travel. In honor of Teen Tech Week (March 6-12, 2016), I’ve created a list with some of my favorite young adult titles that feature technology—and one that features life after technology fails.
Mila and Julian were supposed to enter the Isles together. Julian was her mentor, her support. But when he plummeted from the thin cable stretching across the waters, she knew it was now up to her. To follow his instructions and get inside the Isle, no matter what. But being captured, labelled as as terrorist, and having a phone implanted in her head—even if everyone else has one—is a little more than she bargained for. The phone’s video feature works like everyone else’s in the Isles, capturing her every move so the detectives can watch her.
“Shallow graves always give up their dead.” -- These Shallow Graves
In the 1890s, there was only one acceptable job for a heiress and socialite like Josephine Montford—leveraging her beauty and breeding to marry well and young. None of the teens at Miss Sparkwell’s School for Young Ladies have any goals beyond that—except Jo. She longs to be a gutsy investigative journalist like Nellie Bly. (True fact: In a day when daring careers were only for men, Nellie Bly faked mental illness to be admitted to the Women’s Lunatic Asylum, and the exposé she wrote about it changed mental health care forever.) It’s hard to imagine a dream that could be further outside the seemingly impermeable box of restrictions that Jo’s family and society have constructed for her.
In The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club, Phillip Hoose tells a captivating true tale of rebellion and bravery. In my studies of history, I had never heard of the resistance movement against German soldiers led by Danish schoolboys. Until I read this book, that is.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year—Galentine’s Day! This February 13, what better way to honor your female friendships than with books that get to the heart of the season?
Many people don’t think about this, but books have pick-up lines. Just like those people in school, online, or anywhere else where people are looking for love. With a book, sometimes all it takes is that first line to get a reader hooked. Sometimes, it’s the first few few lines, but those are still pick-up lines. After all, many times the pick-up lines you hear from interested humans are not one sentence.
“My dad works at an advertising agency and my mom anchors the local evening news. They are both very good-looking for old people, and I’m not being arrogant but just stating a fact when I say I inherited the best from both of them.” – Ashley, We Are All Made of Molecules
Ashley is the best-looking and most popular person in high school. Stewart, not so much. Stewart is a certifiable genius. Ashley? Well, let’s just say she’s a few fries short of a Happy Meal.