All About Adolescent Literacy

All about adolescent literacy. Resources for parents and educators of kids in grades 4-12.
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The MashUp: A Blog About Books For Teens

Jamie Watson: The MashUp Blogger

Jamie Watson is's consultant for young adult literature. Jamie is a reviewer for School Library Journal and she is active in the Young Adult Library Services Association, serving on several of its committees, including Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers and Selected Audiobooks for Young Adults. She is a librarian in suburban Baltimore.

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Good News/Bad News

August 18, 2009

The good news is I've been selected to serve on the 2010 Printz Award committee. The Michael L. Printz Award is an award for a book that exemplifies literacy excellence in young adult literature. It's named for a Topeka, Kansas librarian who was a long-time active member of the Young Adult Library Services Association. Recent winners include Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchettea, American Born Chinese by Gene Yang, and Looking for Alaska by John Green.

As a committee member, I'll be reading hundreds of books once, and many of them twice or three times. Undoubtedly, my house will be drowning in books, my eyes will be red, and my family and friends a distant memory--at least for 12 months!

 The bad news is to prepare for all the reading and to abide by the rules that I not speak publicly about what I'm reading during the review period, I'm going to stop writing The Mash-up. I've really enjoyed sharing my musings on YA lit with you, and I hope you've enjoyed reading my posts. After the 2010 Printz Award winners are announced, I look forward to sharing with you what the review process was like and giving you some great book suggestions mined from all my reading.

 I hope you'll stay in touch. You can always find me at, which is a great platform for book lovers to share reviews and recommendations. I'll continue to post new young adult reviews there through 2009, and adult book and other non-Printz eligible titles year round.

Keep reading all the good stuff!




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Retelling The Inferno

August  8, 2009
Dante's Inferno, I'll admit, is one of those things I've never read, but I'm familiar enough with the cultural references to get the idea. With The Young Inferno , John Agard has taken this a step further.

Much like Shakespeare's works, those who read and know the works of Dante can find them bawdily funny, scary and dramatic. Those who have a tough time with the language, just find it a slog. In this book, masterfully illustrated in black ink by Satoshi Kitamura, those who have less than a passing familiarity with The Inferno can at least begin to appreciate the mood and tone of the work. Those who have read it will see how Agard has updated it with more current cultural references (ranging from Frankenstein to Hitler) but they keep perfectly with the canto they are in. Those who are struggling with it for an assignment may find a more youthful, easier to read version.

Don't get me wrong, it's NOT easy to read, just easier than the original. Some references flew right over my head. After reading some plot summaries of The Inferno and re-reading, I got a lot more of them.
But with just a passing familiarity, I still found that the book captured the tone of the work, and could work in a classroom as both a beginning to study of Dante, or as a wrap up to compare and contrast.

Publishers often do graphic retellings of books to assist in study, and frankly, most are pretty bad. Agard and Kitamura's vision is different, it's more of a repurposing than a retelling. 

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Whither magazines

July 28, 2009
Nothing beats magazines at the beach, on a long car ride, while eating lunch. For many years, teen librarians in the know have been promoting magazines as something good for reluctant readers to read, and enjoy reading.  They're quick to read, focus largely on pop culture figures and are full of pictures.

I recently presented a training module that had been created a few years before. Part of the module had 25 recommended magazines for teens - but in the last 10 years, 40% of them have gone out of business.

It's not just teen magazines, adult magazines are dropping like flies too. But even trendspotter ypulse has commented on the demise of the teen magazine.
So if teens are getting this information more quickly  from a blog or gossip website, what does this mean for traditional magazines? And ways to reach teenagers by reaching them with magazines?

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New Books for Reluctant Readers

July 15, 2009
What books show real appeal to reluctant teen readers? This is what the Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers committee attempts to find out. I found time at the recent ALA Annual Conference to listen to this year's committee discuss the newest crop of books, all of which they have tested with real reluctant readers. Here are their findings - even though I've not (yet) read any of them personally, they are now on my shortlist!

One of the more popular fiction books was Laurie Halse Anderson's Wintergirls. This raw, emotional story about girls with eating disorders has been polarizing among many adults who have read it, but reluctant readers seem to have found the uber-honesty compelling.

Non-fiction books are where the Quick Picks committee can really shine; finding books with teen appeal that might not be in the mainstream. From street art to video games to tattoos to delicious miscellany , the Quick Picks nominations are full of browsable, high interest non-fiction books for teens of all ages.

Remember, any teen can be turned into a reader with the right book. Take a look at this nomination list and see if any of these books are the missing link for your reluctant reader(s.)

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