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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Just like Sex and the City

June  2, 2008

The Sex and the City (SATC) movie has been inescapable these last few weeks. While, it may not have strong appeal to teens--though I have heard of moms and daughters watching together--the cultural trickle-down of anything so massive in popular culture is bound to be reflected. Some teen books seem to me to be close cousins.

The series most similar to SATC is the The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. "The Sisterhood", which features four friends, who seemingly have little in common, save their ability to share the same pair of jeans, is one of the strongest entries in the "girlfriends" genre of books. Just like their older counterparts in SATC, the girls have guy problems, self-esteem issues, and occassionally issues with each other. But ultimately, they are a tight-knit group of friends--a nice alternative to the "mean girls" found elsewhere.

Mean girls have their own SATC in the Gossip Girl series. Here, the boy problems and self-esteem issues meet massive shopping and drinking, and the friends do occassionally have big issues with each other. Launched in 2002, at the height of SATC mania, Gossip Girl has become a cultural phenomenon that doesn't flinch from showing rich girls in all their sordid glory. Girls that can handle the edgier content are devouring this series as much as ever.

A combination of the sweetness of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, and the lifestyles of the rich and famous approach of Gossip Girl is Melissa de la Cruz's Au Pairs series. Featuring three girls of disparate backgounds and personalities, they have one big thing in common--they all need money and end up working (and playing) together by nannying young children in the Hamptons.

Remember that teens, especially older teens, want to read like adults (and be like adults in lots of other ways too!) Rather than jump right into chick lit with 20- and 30-something characters, these books allow teens to experience the same fun, fluffy, escapist reading that adult women do!

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Teens' Top Ten

May 27, 2008

Lists are fun to make. Librarians, teachers, publishers, we all like to make lists.

One of YALSA's newest lists, Teens' Top Ten , is voted on by teens this year during Teen Read Week, October 12-18. Nominations are made by teens who are members of the YA Galley project. (This year, one of the participating nominating groups was from nearby Strasburg, VA)

This years nominations include the usual (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows ) and more fantasy (City of Bones , Ironside) , some vampires (Eclipse , Vampire Academy ) and some excellent realistic fiction (Before I Die , Glass. )

A total of 24 books have been nominated. If you work with teen groups (or just an individual teen!) get them started on the reading this summer using some of the tools YALSA has created to promote the books.

Read now. Vote in October. Have fun!

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Jezebel's Fine Lines

May 19, 2008

I love it when Young Adult literature shows up outside the usual venues like the journals, blogs and websites of librarians and young adult authors.

One of the most enjoyable and unexpected places to find critiques of classic young adult books is Jezebel's Fine Lines feature. Jezebel is a relatively new addition to the Gawker Media family of blogs, and its niche is a female take on pop culture. Each Friday, a Jezebel writer discusses a young adult book from her childhood. Recent takes include The Chocolate War, Weetzie Bat, Then Again Maybe I Won't, even The Babysitter's Club!

When you're immersed in young adult literature--like I am at the library--it's refreshing to hear from "lay people" about their favorite books.

And how do these books hold up? Reading what made The Cat Ate My Gymsuit so memorable also reveals how it's both dated and timely (Ms. Finney may wear a macrame necklace, but she also speaks out about unpopular political decisions during an unpopular war.)

I really enjoyed the writer's take on The Witch of Blackbird Pond. Both she and many of the commenters remembered reading and liking the book, but no one could recall much about it. Add me to this group--my edition had Kit wearing a red velvet-looking dress, but that's about all I remember, except that it was kind of boring and not "witchy" enough. Now, the Wicked Wicked Ladies in the Haunted House? Those were some memorable witches. I can remember Mavis and Lucrece as vividly as any characters from my childhood reading.

Enjoy Jezebel's take on our childhood reads, and enjoy letting your adult self read these books again. And doesn't it make you wonder which books that are popular today will still be remembered fondly 30 years from now?

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Happy Children's Book Week

May 12, 2008

Nearly 90 years ago a group of people with a vested interest in children's books came together to create the very first "Children's Book Week", to encourage children's books and reading. Since then, the event has continued to support, promote and most importantly celebrate Children's Literature in all ways. Now administered by the Children's Book Council, the event kicked off this Monday.

The CBC has listed many ways to celebrate Children's Book Week. Some take very little planning, others can give you ideas to celebrate the event next year.

This year kids also had a chance to vote on their favorite books and authors. (Winners will be announced May 14.) Of the nominees, I was particularly struck by the five in the running for favorite author: Jeff Kinney (the Wimpy Kid series), JK Rowling (Harry Potter, of course), Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson series), Anthony Horowitz (Alex Rider) and Erin Hunter (The Warriors). Of the five, ALL are part of books in series. three of the five are fantasy series, and Alex Rider, while not fantasy, is certainly not completely grounded in reality. (Alex Rider is a great character, as believable as a teenage secret agent can be.) Only Jeff Kinney has written a book that is "realistic fiction."

Is this just a reflection of the Harry Potter phenomenon? Or has fantasy become the dominant genre all on its own, through the strength of many good stories and the desire of kids to imagine the near impossible? I'll be looking forward to seeing who wins--will Jeff Kinney split the fantasy vote and pull out the victory?

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