Why Teens Should Read ‘Adult’ Fiction

Hey team,

Thought I’d pass along this funny opinion piece. In it, Canadian hipster author supreme, Sheila Heti, argues that teens should read raunchy, experimental and/or challenging fiction because they’re raunchy, challenging little experimenters. In turn, Heti suggests that adults should/do read ‘The Hunger Games’ (et al.) because they’re (we’re) exhausted and beaten down by life and, thus, in need of escape.

Check it:


Issues of Christianity in Harry Potter

For those interested, I thought I’d provide two authors who can shed more light on the Christian content of the Harry Potter series so you can see what I was talking about in class. Even though I’m not very religious, I met both Connie Neal and John Granger at both of the Harry Potter conventions that I’ve been to, and their lectures were amazing to attend. John Granger in particular is a delight! Both are considered the BEST scholars on the Christian content of HP, especially John Granger. Here are links to their websites:

Connie Neal’s: http://www.connieneal.com/product-pages/whats-a-christian-to-do-with-harry-potter.htm

John Granger’s: http://www.hogwartsprofessor.com/johngranger/

Writing a book review – Via Caroline Adderson

This morning I had the pleasure of attending a presentation to West Vancouver Memorial Library staff on writing book reviews presented by author and Globe and Mail book reviewer Caroline Adderson. I thought I would re-cap some of her presentation for this class. Most of the points below start with the text from Caroline’s slides and are followed by my notes and responses to what she said to the group.

The general gist of the presentation was that reviews can be tricky things to write and that finding your personal style can take time. Getting your points across in a succinct manner is also a real challenge given the decrease in word length of many review publications.

The responsibilities of the book reviewer.

1. To the reader of the review: you must be engaging and entertaining.

2. To the publisher of the review: you must follow their rules and their format.

3. To the author of the book: you must be honest but say nothing that you would not say to their face.

The steps to creating a book review.

1. Read the book carefully. Make annotations, notes, take out quotes.

2. Start writing the review while you’re reading the book. Record what you’re thinking about, capture the emotion and your response. This will avoid having to stare at a blank screen when you’re done the book. It also helps to get a flavour of the authors writing style into your review.

3. Use the book. Quotations will give proof to the points you’re making and justify your idea(s) about the book.

4. Review the book as it is. Don’t criticize it for something it doesn’t attempt to do.

5. Write more than a plot summary.

6. Your ideas about the book are more interesting than your opinion. Is there something topical that gives the book context in the real world. This could also be something historical, something about the authors complete works, or a personal anecdote.

7. Don’t nitpick the flaws. The pleasures of the book should outweigh the minor problems. Talking about problems can give them more weight then they are due.

8. Rewrite your review. Many times. Draft – put it aside – read and rewrite. Repeat 4 or 5 times. Also you will likely start long and edit down to right length.

Good resources for short reviews (WVML staff write 75 word reviews for staff picks so the  focus was on brevity)

The New Yorker – Briefly Noted.

Geist – End Notes.

Globe and Mail – Mini Reviews.

YA Space: Chicago Public Library’s YOUMedia

I chose to look at a non-traditional YA space for my assignment, but wanted to also spotlight a library space that is pretty swell. I had a chance to check out Chicago Public Library’s YOUMedia space when it opened in Summer of 2009 (I was living in Chicago at the time) and was pretty blown away. Supported by the Pearson and MacArthur Foundations, YOUMedia seeks to provide teens with the space, tools, people, and inspiration to facilitate interest-based learning of arts and digital technology. Youth-driven visual arts, music/recording, literary arts/poetry/hiphop, social media, gaming, graphic design, videography, performance, and photography are the broad themes of activity, but good old reading, socializing and hanging out are cornerstones of the space as well. Check out the YOUMedia blog(s) for the most current examples of what this awesome space is yielding, including teens getting involved with library advocacy during difficult times for CPL.  YOUMedia is located at the downtown Harold Washington Library, itself an awesome space for Js, YAs, As, and everyone else.

Dystopian YA Display

This past Saturday I was working the reference desk at the SPL (Surrey Public Library) when a teen girl approached me asking for “books written at the end of the world”. She wasn’t familiar with the term ‘dystopian’ but her close friends had recently become obsessed with a book about a “hungry game”. She needed something immediately, as the book was for a school project, so waiting on the library request list for the Hunger Games was not an option.

Fortunately, my supervisor and recent SLAIS graduate overheard my reference interview with the teen girl and enthusiastically informed us that a dystopian book display had recently been set up in the YA department. The display included “Extras” (the sequel to “Uglies”), “The Maze Runner”, and several other contemporary dystopian fiction titles which I’m now interested in reading.

The teen girl, who had admitted to being a reluctant reader, happily left with four or five titles from the book display. It was obvious that her interest in dystopian fiction had been guided by her friends’ interests. Either way, it was very nice to see a successful book display in the SPL teen section.

Maria Tatar, in her op-ed with the NY Times, notes that “many authors of more recent books for children and teenagers have similarly crossed over to the dark side, and we applaud them for it.” On the other hand, some adults still believe that too much dystopian fiction can be harmful. These negative attitudes are often supported by prevailing assumptions about children growing into young adulthood. I’m specifically referring to the assumption that children are influenced by what they read and therefore should only be exposed to books with a positive message. As aspiring librarians, many of us support the belief that literature written on sensitive topics provides young adults (and children!) with an opportunity to cope with the issues before being exposed to them in real life. Well written dystopian fiction can be uplifting as it slowly brings the reader down into the trenches and pulls them up to a place higher than they were at the beginning of the story. In her article published in The Observer, Moria Young argues that dystopian fiction should always leaves the reader with hope.

An Awesome Online Teen Space and the Coolest Library Ever!

I just wanted to share this teen space that I blogged on for a project last semester. I totally fell in love with it because it was so far above the other teen blogs I had researched for that project. I love how it’s interactive and captures what it is to be a teen in a stylistic way:


Also I LOVE the look of this library. I know it’s not teen-specific, but we’re talking about library spaces now and even though this is more library architecture, I thought it was still related enough to share. I didn’t even know how to choose between all the pictures that I found so I’m just linking to the google image search:


Library keeners at work/lurk

Last class we briefly spoke about teen advisory groups, their potential benefits, and their limitations as far as “preaching to the choir”. Youth services blogs are a great way for teens and YA librarians to collaborate and share ideas/events/whatever and, if actively integrated with social networks, allow for exposure to and participation by youth who are not necessarily in the library or are dealing with peer (or other) pressure that stigmatizes involvement. Push to Talk is my old library’s teen blog and I always thought it was a pretty good example of balanced contributions from staff and patrons. Scroll down to the “We love them!” section of the links for more Puget Sound library YA blogs.

Youth participation in a UNICEF study on education quality

While we are on the topic of youth engagement, I stumbled across this article, “Youth participation: success for research and for our future” summarizing the findings of a study conducted by UNICEF that collaborated with youth to find out the effects of deteriorating education quality in Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States. The article touches on a lot of what we discussed in class: empowering youth to have a voice in the issues that concern them, creating healthy alliances with adult mentors, and creating a safe environment for youth to discuss opinions openly.

The research study is called a Case Study on Youth Participatory Research on Education Quality in CEE/CIS Innovative Practices, Lessons Learned and Recommendations. The youth who participated  “identified the main issues to be explored, developed the questions, and tested and revised the research tools.” They also “developed advocacy statements and provided suggestions for how to address education challenges” (6). The study gave youth from marginalized communities a chance to “participate and express themselves for the first time” (21).

It may seem like common sense to involve youth in projects in which they are the primary stakeholders, but it hasn’t always been the case. It’s exciting that youth participation is becoming more legitimately realized among service providers and non-profits.