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 Sports

May  7, 2008

This is an exciting times for sports fans--the NBA and NHL playoffs. MLS soccer, Major League Baseball, golf, tennis, and NASCAR. Here are some books to engage teens who love sports.

Walter Dean Myers' The Game is a good basketball read for middle schoolers (and the Recorded Books audio is an even better listen.) For older readers, Paul Volponi has basketball in nearly all his books, including Rucker Park Setup. Both of these are great "guy" reads.

Pat Hughes' Open Ice is a good sports read with a dishy side plot for the casual reader. After Nicky suffers one concussion too many, he's told he can no longer play hockey, a sport he loves. But life without hockey isn't just life without hockey, it affects his life with his family, friends and girlfriend in serious ways.

Kadir Nelson's We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball is a fabulous look at the African-American forefathers of the present day game. School Library Journal called this "an engaging tribute that should resonate with a wide audience and delight baseball fans of all ages."

Even manga gets into the sports market, with The Prince of Tennis , a 42-volume series about a tennis prodigy that has sold 40 million copies in Japan alone.

When the season ends, perhaps a book can help you hang on to the joy of victory (or the agony of defeat) a little longer.

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Poetry Friday

April 24, 2008

National Poetry month is winding down, but our love of poetry--and sharing it with tweens and teens--should go on all year round.

Many bloggers are trying to do just that, with their Poetry Friday posts. Each Friday, a selection of children's literature bloggers share a poem or a poetry-related posting to keep the love and interest of poetry going all year long.

While poetry may not elicit excitement in teens, song lyrics often do. And aren't they just another form of poetry? Sneak that poetry in wherever and however you can!

One of the more unique poetry-centered books I've read recently is Catherine Andronik's Wildly Romantic. This biography of the English Romantic poets tells the story of their poetry through their tabloid-worthy behavior. The gossip sites would have a field day with Coleridge's opium addiction, his mistresses, illegitimate children, and even a gruesome funeral!

Happy Poetry Friday!

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April  1, 2008

I find the question "Can you find me more books like Harry Potter, Lemony Snicket, Twilight, etc." to be the most challenging question there is for a librarian. Often, kids and teens who discover this book will be followed by a parent, saying "they never read anything until they discovered this book. Please help us find some more titles like this."

The truth is that books "like that" are unique, which is why they become so popular. There isn't anything else "like this."

But for once, I've found a read-alike that I can whole-heartedly recommend, and it comes from the most unlikely source. Newbery winner Lois Lowry has a new book, The Willoughbys and it is a total readalike for the Lemony Snicket series! It's a testament to Lowry's writing prowess that the book both succeeds on its own terms, and has strong appeal to a built-in audience.

The book begins as Timothy, twins Barnaby A and Barnaby B, and young Jane find an abandoned baby on their doorstep. What follows is the black humor, fake "definitions," and parody of old-fashioned language familiar to the readers of the Series of Unfortunate Events. There are unlikeable characters, preposterous situations, and eventually a surprising, but satisfying ending.

Even the reviews are surprising: Lemony Snicket himself reviewed the book for Publisher's Weekly!

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Boarding School Redux

March 17, 2008

I just finished what feels like my umpteenth boarding school-related book, E. Lockhart's The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks.

Lockhart is a delightful writer, and this novel is her most accomplished yet, but I couldn't help feeling I'd read this before. Boarding school books aren't new—two of the most-read high school classics are A Separate Peace (1959) and Catcher in the Rye (1951). But the last few years have brought both John Green' s Printz Award winner, Looking for Alaska, and the Harry Potter books, which were all set at the boarding school of Hogwarts.

What is it about the boarding school that makes it such a popular setting? Is it the childhood desire for more kids and no parents? A way of making school seem exotic? Is it just a cultural touchstone, just like cats who help solve mysteries, or the wisecracking best friend?

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