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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What Makes a Poem a Poem?

July  3, 2009

I recently listened to an audiobook version of Helen Frost's Diamond Willow. A wonderful choice for family listening for young tweens, it takes place in Alaska and has a moral center, a smart but flawed young heroine, animals, adventure, family, Native American beliefs and more, all in a very short form. (just 2 cds)

However, one thing you won't notice from the audiobook is that the print version was written in a very unique poetic style. Each page is composed in blank verse diamond shape poems, with a bolded internal message in the middle of each diamond. In other words, the layout of the poem gives a secret message that isn't "visible" when the poem is read aloud. You can see what I mean here.

The story was still a good, self-contained story, but in just listening, I would not call it poetry - there's a good bit of dialog, and no rhyme or even meter. So what makes something poetry? Is it a misnomer to call it poetry just because it's shaped like poetry? Or would a more careful listen make the language seem more poetic?

This is truly an example of while the plot and story work in both formats, it's an exceptionally different experience whether you are reading or listening. I'd love to know young readers/listeners opinions on this!

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June 24, 2009

One of the most common requests any literature professional gets is "What is a good book for a middle school boy?"


To start to answer that question, try Guys Read.  And stay tuned to for a more comprehensive list this summer.


But what is really the perfect book for a middle school boy? I might suggest Sir John Hargrave's Mischief Maker's Manual.  A compilation of pranks from the classics (short sheeting a bed, or as it's called here "apple-pie bed," and Saran wrap over toilet seats.)


But technology has allowed brand new pranks to appear that grandfathers didn't do in their own youth, such as changing someone's ringtone to something completely uncool, or changing the autocorrect on their computer to something, well, cheeky.


Obviously, you need parents and friends with a sense of humor, who won't mind being a butt of these jokes. But even if they're just read as "wouldn't that be funny?" it should still have lots of boy appeal.  For the parents, there are lots and lots and lots of warnings about knowing that doing these things could get the prankster in a spot of trouble.


Keep this one in mind for the next gift giving occasion, as the book has places for notes and to come up with your own pranks.


And hurry! A contest to win a copy of the book ends tomorrow! And that's no joke!


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What does it mean?

June 11, 2009

I've enjoyed getting to know our new Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor. The fact that she credits a childhood love of Nancy Drew as the origin for her law career is especially intriguing to us children's literature fans (and young Nancy Drew readers.)


It's also especially intriguing to journalists. Her love of Nancy Drew is analyzed, and deemed to be common, yet feminist.

In fact, it doesn't make her unique, but rather just like two other female justices, Sandra Day O' Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Unsurprisingly to me, it's Jezebel who weighs in with the most insightful piece, interviewing Nancy parodist Chelsea Cain on what this might mean.

What if your reading habits were put up to that kind of scrutiny? Or those of the kids and teens in your life? Could you spin it? Does reading Captain Underpants or Batman or Harry Potter lead to a need to save the world? And how about the kid who reads horror novels (of which I was one?) Would I be able to defend my teen love of Stephen King as anything more than escapism? Or would I even confess to it?


Time and again, kids reading is put up to this kind of test. What does it MEAN? I think it just means that you like a good story, in the genre or style of your choosing.



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Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

May 30, 2009
Recently I had the great honor of seeing Phyllis Reynolds Naylor receive the Maryland Author Award . Naylor, the winner of the Edgar Award and Newbery medal was a highly deserving winner.

Her acceptance speech was food for thought. She talked about some of the letters she'd received from young readers, particularly young readers of the Alice series of books. Much of the correspondence is available on Alice's blog .

As I, and others, have mentioned, the easy availablity of authors in the virtual world, via websites, Facebook pages and Twitter have changed the nature of the author/reader relationship immensely. I was a voracious reader as a teen, but I never would have imagined writing Judy Blume about my real life problems. She was just as fictional to me as the characters she created.

But Naylor talked about real continuous correspondence she had with a few regular readers, and I can only imagine she is not at all alone in this.

What a wonderful connection! Are there others out there, readers and authors, who have had such a close correspondence with someone who touched them in their writing, whether it's the writing of the novel, or the writing of the letter?

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