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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Audio Holiday

December  1, 2008

With the holidays around the corner, there may be a long car ride in your family's future. Here are some suggestions for finding an audiobook that the whole family will enjoy.

At first glance, Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book might seem more suited to Halloween, but this spooky coming-of-age story with a twist is a perfect listen any time of year. After toddler Bod's family is killed, he takes refuge in the graveyard, where he is "parented" by its kindly-- but dead--denizens. The audiobook is read by Gaiman himself and Another cool feature of the audio is the way that each CD is a self-contained piece of the adventure. In other words, no more changing CDs in the middle of a chapter! Gaiman has said that this is his play on Kipling's The Jungle Book, and it makes me want to revisit that classic. Don't be frightened by the seemingly dark subject matter, the story is really no darker than another tale of an orphan whose parents are killed. (You know, Harry Potter.)

Speaking of Harry Potter, you might also try something seasonal, A Christmas Carol as read by Jim Dale, famous for his Harry Potter audiobook performances.

One great thing about both of these audio presentations is what delicious stories they are. I can see listening to each of these stories year in and year out, creating a new holiday tradition.

While I'm not promoting Gaiman's audiobook as a way to win something, it's worth a try.

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Reading for the Weekend : Kendra by Coe Booth

November 19, 2008

Many adults who work with teens, especially urban teens, are well aware of the urban fiction dichotomy. Teens love it, devour it and previously reluctant readers become avid readers if they discover it and love it. However, the extremely frank use of language, depiction of sexual situations, crime, and drug give many adults pause --is this what we should encourage teens to read?

That is up to the individual, but there are great alternatives that are more teen friendly, as well as wonderfully written. The most recent example is Kendra by Coe Booth.
Booth's first novel, Tyrell, won the LA Times Book Prize for best young adult novel, and was named a "Great Story" by Oprah's Angel Network for at-risk teens.

Kendra is 14-year old girl who lives with her grandmother, Nana. Kendra's mother Renee was 14 herself when she had her daughter, and she gave Kendra to Nana while she continued with her education. When Renee returns to New York for a job as a college professor, Kendra assumes she and her mother will finally become a family, but that isn't Renee's plan.

Kendra's confusion and fragile self esteem manifest themselves in some risky behavior with the boy who has the locker next to hers.
Kendra makes some VERY bad decisions, but readers will empathize with her. Mother Renee could be utterly distasteful, but somehow readers will feel for her, too.

Frank discussion of sexuality makes this book most suitable for older teens,

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National Book Awards

October 27, 2008
As the calendar year winds down, awards season winds up. The National Book Award nominations (including those for Young People's literature) were announced recently, and as always the shortlist has surprises, and some familiar faces.

First, E. Lockhart's The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks , the only one of the five I've read at this point, which I blogged about back in March. I'm pleased with the staying power of this one, even if its not my favorite of E. Lockhart's books (which isn't the question anyway, as this is the only one she wrote in 2008!)

Kathi Appelt's The Underneath is getting quite a lot of buzz as to being a Newbery contender as well. I cannot bring myself to read it, as the premise is based on animal cruelty. It may be incredibly beautifully written, even the best book ever, but if there is a threat of an animal dying, I'm not reading it.

Laurie Halse Anderson's Chains is a historical fiction title aimed at a middle school audience, slightly lower than her usual fare. This book from the much honored Anderson concerns slavery, spying and the price of freedom.

Now, the two surprises. What i Saw and How I Lied is by Judy Blundell. Blundell has written many series books under the pen name Jude Watson, including suspense series novels and movie tie-ins, some of which I've read and found quite enjoyable. This is another historical fiction title, set during World War II, and will be on shelves next month.

Also out next month is Tim Tharp's The Spectacular Now . Tharp's first book, Knights of the Hill Country was one of my favorites of 2006, and simply one of the best portrayals of small town life I've read, as well as being a great boy book and sports book. Both of Tharp's books are about older teens as well, and fill a great niche for that end of the age group.

The awards will be presented November 19 in New York, so you still have a few weeks to get your reading done!

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Reading for the Weekend - Peeled

October  9, 2008

As a new librarian, one of my jobs was to put together collections for teachers to use to supplement their curricula. Each fall, every elementary school teacher had the same lesson: apples and pumpkins.

So as the summer draws to a close, it seemed appropriate to read a middle-grade novel about apples, Peeled by Newbery Honoree Joan Bauer!! The cover, the setting, even some of the names are apple-y!

Hildy, a journalist for the high school newspaper The Core, yearns for a good story to cover and jumps right in when the Queen of the Apple Blossom Festival comes down with a mysterious case of food poisoning. While working on the food poisoning story, Hildy comes across an even bigger case--a potentially haunted house. As Hildy expands her investigation, the mystery touches nearly everyone in Banesville, NY.

I found some of the plot twists far-fetched, but Hildy is a strong, endearing female character. Also important to note is that this is a wholesome story. It's available as an audiobook and would make a good family listen.

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