Tag Archives: Young Adult

Not quite age appropriate…

I just read two GREAT BOOKS that aren’t quite right for their “target” audience. Don’t worry, nothing scandalous, but just a bit off the mark.

The first is called I Want My Hat Back by John Klassen. It’s a hilarious picture book about a bear who has lost his hat. There is a subtlety to it that may be lost on little ones. Also, at the very end, some particularly sensitive children might get sad, if they even pick up on what happens at all. That being said, I was laughing so hard at the end! If you appreciate a good picture book, see if your local library has it. There are other great reviews on the web, like this one from Wired‘s Geek Dad, or this one from the Calling Caldecott blog. Great story, but might not be right for the tiniest children.

The next is a young adult book called The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler. The premise is this: It’s 1996, and the Internet is not in widespread use yet. Josh goes next door to his best friend Emma’s house with an America Online CD-ROM that came in the mail. Emma loads it onto her new desktop computer, and when she logs in, she finds herself and Josh on Facebook fifteen years in the future. I thought it was a clever concept, but no teen actually remembers getting those AOL CD-ROMs, or even what a CD-ROM is. I’m 28, and so I was 13 in 1996. I clearly remember using a dial-up modem, not being able to use the phone while online, not having a cell phone, and all those details that are essential to this book. They are pointed out clearly in the text, but I think it will go over the heads of most teens. Give this book to someone my age or a bit older and the connection to both the old and new technology is there. That being said, the story of being able to see into one’s future was cool, especially when Emma and Josh make slight changes to their current lives that make big waves down the line. Try this review from the LA Times for more.



Authors I Love: Bruce Coville

The other night, I went to a bonfire. My friends and I were talking about favorite books from childhood, when one of them said, “I got to meet the author of My Teacher is an Alien once.”

That, intrepid readers, would be Bruce Coville, an author I have never met, but whose books shaped my childhood and my brain.

Bruce Coville is from Syracuse, New York, and he once worked as a gravedigger. I remember reading that on the back of one of his books when I was younger and thinking, “This guy is so cool.” Coville’s writing style is humorous, friendly, and well-crafted. He is prolific, but he doesn’t sacrifice quality for quantity.

I’m also constantly impressed at authors who can write as a different gender and get it right. Bruce Coville’s female characters don’t feel like caricatures, which is refreshing.

The first Bruce Coville book I ever read was The Ghost in the Big Brass Bed, which is a Nina Tanleven book. Nina Tanleven is a spunky sixth-grader with a tendency for solving ghostly mysteries; her dad makes cookies and says goofy things, and her best friend is a girl named Chris. When my mom bought me my copy of The Ghost in the Big Brass Bed, she also made a rule: I was not allowed to read it after dinner, because I would have nightmares. I think she made this rule because I had a big brass bed. Guess what: I read it after dinner (sorry, Mom) and I didn’t have nightmares. Instead, my Goosebumps-loving brain wanted to know more and more about ghosts, and I wanted to read more and more Bruce Coville. Continue reading

Do Nothing But Read Day: The Podcast Book Club Episode 09

In this very special edition of the podcast, Brandon and I talk about extended reading and what we’re reading on Do Nothing But Read Day!

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Do Nothing But Read: The Podcast Book Club Episode 08

On this episode, Brandon and I talk about books that we think would make great movies… and what makes a good movie, anyway?

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The Reading Life: Sideshow

I used to attend the University of Vermont in the lovely city of Burlington, Vermont. UVM is a great school with fascinating class options. While I was there, I took a class that has informed how I think about the world.

It was a sociology class titled, “The Sociology of Freakishness,” and it was taught by Laurie Essig. She teaches at Middlebury College now. Here’s the course description:

Sociology of Freakishness
P.T. Barnum taught us that freaks are always made, not born. A freak is a performance of otherness for fun and profit. In this course we will explore how the freak show gave birth to American culture and how American culture continues to organize itself around the display of freakishness. We will ask what configurations of power are at play in the performance of freaks. How do gender, race, nation, sexuality, and class come into play, and how are those forms of power translated into a performance of otherness that forces us to watch it over and over again?

This was one of the coolest classes I’ve ever taken; it’s up there with “Science Fiction and Anthropology.” Laurie showed us that people are constantly performing their identity, and sometimes that identity becomes “freaked.” We watched the film, Freaks!, and analyzed the performance aspect of sideshows. Our final paper was to examine an aspect of freakishness in our own lives. I wrote about the modified (tattooed, pierced, scarred, etc.) community. (This seems to be one of my default topics for research papers. Others include Stephen King and Playboy magazine.)

Particularly interesting to me were accounts of sideshows and freak shows throughout American history. There are a handful of freak shows in the United States today, but these tend to be “shock shows,” like the Lizardman and the Enigma. Not to say they aren’t amazing; I’ve seen both of those performers live and they were incredible.

Books about sideshows and freak shows can kind of become sideshows themselves. A sideshow is all about spectacle and observation. So in the act of reading about sideshows, we create a spectacle of the characters and their oddities.

Ladies and germs, step right up and see this list of books from the deepest, darkest jungles of Wisconsin.

Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body edited by Rosemarie Thomson

This is a great academic reader-type of book, with articles by the leading scholars in the field of freak shows. Laypeople can enjoy it, too; the general theme is that freaks are not born, they are made. Even if someone is born with a physical difference, they are not “freaked” until someone makes the oddity bigger than the person. This book has articles about Michael Jackson, tattooed ladies, and the freakishness of being cute.

Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

This is one of my favorite books. It’s a novel about the Binewskis, a family of both born and made freaks. Papa and Crystal Lil decided they wanted their children to be freaks from the start, so they exposed themselves to radiation, arsenic, and hard drugs. The resulting children include Arturo the Aqua Boy (he has flippers and is a megalomaniac), Electra and Iphigenia (very flexible conjoined twins), and Olympia, the narrator (an albino hunchback dwarf). Yes, it’s bizarre. Suspend your disbelief.

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Do Nothing But Read: The Podcast Book Club Episode 06

In this episode, Brandon and I talk about young adult novels adapted from the BBC show Doctor Who! It’s super nerdy, so be warned.

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Authors I Love: R.L. Stine

R.L. Stine probably thanks his lucky stars that he was born with such a cool name. Born Robert Lawrence Stine, he has scared thousands of kids in the past twenty-five years.

Stine is great because he really likes what he does. It seems like scaring people gives him a thrill, which makes me glad. Also, he has written enough books to get a kid from third grade up through high school without rereading anything. He is prolific. (According to him, he’s written around 330 books!)

If you grew up in the 1990s, you probably read the Goosebumps series. Goosebumps premiered in 1992, and the books are still being published! Each book is a self-contained horror story aimed at elementary age kids. Some example plots: a murderous ventriloquist dummy! A sponge with teeth! Plants that come alive! These books are short, scary, fun, and quick to read. They are not Ulysses, which in my opinion, is a good thing.

This leads me to another reason why I love R.L. Stine: his books are incredibly accessible. Growing up, I loved to read, but many of my classmates treated reading like it was torture. However, when it came to Goosebumps books, these same classmates ate them like candy. One boy in my third grade class started a Goosebumps club, of which I was the only female member. My (amazing, spectacular, delightful) elementary school librarian detested the Goosebumps books, but she kept buying them and keeping them on the shelves because she knew they got reluctant readers flipping the pages.

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