Book Review: After

After by Francine Prose

SUMMARY: A school-shooting incident in nearby Pleasant Valley causes Tom's high school administrators to be worried about a ripple effect. A crisis counselor is hired and a watchdog atmosphere grows as the teens' privileges rapidly disappear. Tom and his sophomore classmates are annoyed but not overly concerned about the new security restrictions until they notice eerie disappearances of friends who fail to conform, including Tom's two best friends. The random drug tests, backpack searches, parental e-mail, and dress codes soon expand into mind-controlling daily assemblies, book censorship, and camps for "behavior" problems. After a tip from a Pleasant Valley basketball player, Tom is convinced that students everywhere are being sent away and hopes his father hasn't also been brainwashed via the e-mails from the school authorities. The pace picks up as Tom and friend Becca are caught trying to alert their fellow students to the menacing counselor and know that their lives are at risk. (from the School Library Journal review)

OPINION: How much freedom are you willing to give up for the greater good? Should schools implement dress codes? Is it OK for police dogs to sniff students' lockers for drugs? Should schools restrict your reading material? What starts as a contemporary story about school violence quickly turns into a dystopian fantasy as students gradually lose freedoms in the name of safety. Many issues of student rights are explored, but the author incorporates them in such a gradual way that it blurrs the line between right and wrong. How much is too much?


Get a Clue

Today, 23 teens came to play in our Clue Tournament! Everyone brought their Clue games to share, so we had regular and Simpsons games going on. It was a lot of fun. We did a double elimination first round, then a second round with three games of three. This narrowed it down to the three finalists: Sophia, Deborha, and Genni. In the final round, Deborha was the winner, getting a $10 gift card to KB Toys! All the finalists got candy, too. Once people were eliminated from the tournament, they played lots of other board games from our teen stash, including Scattergories, Monopoly, and Scrabble. It was a great afternoon! Check out the pictures below.



The first round begins!

Another shot from the first round.


New on the Shelves

The latest, greatest, up-to-the-datest additions to the teen shelves...

  • Bloodline by Kate Cary
  • The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
  • The Secret Blog of Raisin Rodriguez by Judy Goldschmidt
  • The Clique: A Novel by Lisi Harrison
  • How It Happened in Peach Hill by Marthe Jocelyn
  • Beast by Ally Kennen
  • Knocked Out by My Nunga-Nungas by Louise Rennison (replacement copy)
  • Love Is a Many Trousered Thing by Louise Rennison
  • Choosing Up Sides by John Ritter
  • My Father, the Angel of Death by Ray Villareal
  • Deadly Invaders: Virus Outbreaks Around the World, from Marburg Fever to Avian Flu by Denise Grady
  • The Big Book of Boy Stuff by Bart King


Harry Potter Pix!

The first pictures from the Harry Potter event are back! These were taken by Mrs. Trimbur, a member of the library's board.

Making cookie mix in Potions class.

Making a dragon egg in Care of Magical Creatures class.

Christina was our Muggle Studies professor!

Do you know these people?

What a great costume!

Losing control in the Quidditch Obstacle Course!

Me running the trivia game. It was like trivia, a relay race, and musical chairs all rolled into one!

Going over and under the broomsticks on the Quidditch Obstacle Course!


Indoor Tye Dye...It Worked!

This afternoon, 19 teens and 2 parents stopped in to tie dye their items. We did the tie dye upstairs, and it's a good thing because at about 3:00, it poured down rain! Most people brought shirts, but there were a few pairs of socks, a skirt, and a pair of shorts in the mix as well. People watched a short instructional video, tied up their items with rubber bands, soaked them, and then added a variety of colors with squeeze bottles. I wish I had pictures, but I forgot to take any! It was so busy, I was running around like a crazy person. Maybe next time...we are definitely doing this again! Meanwhile, bring your projects back and show me how they turned out!!!


Book Review: Tyrell

Tyrell by Coe Booth

SUMMARY: Now that his father is in jail, nothing seems to be going right for 15-year-old Tyrell. His mother's refusal to work and her stint with welfare fraud have forced them into homelessness and life in a roach-infested shelter in Hunts Point. At the shelter, Tyrell soon realizes that his attraction to another resident, Jasmine, could derail his dreams of a future with his girl, Novisha. Torn between the needs of the women in his life and his seven-year-old brother, Tyrell is determined to stay clean as he agonizes over creating a new life for his family. This is a thrilling, fast-paced novel whose strong plot and array of vivid, well-developed characters take readers on an unforgettable journey through the gritty streets of New York City's South Bronx. At its heart is the painful choice the teen must make as he realizes the effect of his mother's failure to do right by their family. (from the School Library Journal review)

OPINION: This edgy teen book is written by a woman who knows what she's talking about. Coe Booth grew up in the Bronx, then returned there to work with families and teens in crisis. She isn't just making up the situations in this book, and it is obvious. This book does not glorify street life, offer any easy answers, or make excuses for people's choices. Tyrell is not a parody or stereotype of the ghetto. He has stopped going to school, but tries to make sure his younger brother is successful in the classroom. He stands by his girl, Novisha, even in the face of massive temptation from Jasmine. When Tyrell has to decide how far he is willing to go to make his family some money, he determines his morality by thinking about where he doesn't want to go in life...jail. The whole time I was reading, I was on the edge of my seat, wanting to see Tyrell succeed but being afraid that he wouldn't. Definitely read this book. Look for Coe Booth's next book, Kendra, in 2008.

AUTHOR INFO: http://www.coebooth.com/


Nintendo Night Insanity

Yesterday, 43 teens showed up for Nintendo Night. It was absolutely crazy! People played a bunch of games my originial NES and they played Super Smash Brothers Melee on the GameCube. The main event of the night was two Pokemon tournaments, one for Game Boy Advance and one for Game Boy DS. Anay won the Advance tournament, and Sean and Quincy were battling it out for the DS final when it was time to leave. They were supposedly finishing the battle on the way home, but I don't know who actually won! Thanks to Jimmy for selling me his GameCube, to David for bringing games and controllers for the GameCube, and to Rachel who brought in her Wii!!!

The tournament begins.

Comparing notes.

Nice hat!


New Nonfic!

Here's the newest stuff on the teen nonfiction shelves!

  • College Planning for Gifted Students by Sandra L. Berger
  • High School's Not Forever by Jane Bluestein and Eric Katz
  • Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul Letters: Letters of Life, Love, and Learning by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Kimberly Kirberger
  • The Yo Momma Vocabulary Builder by Justin Heimberg, Christopher Schultz, and Steve Harwood
  • The Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn Iggulden and Hal Iggulden
  • What Are My Rights? by Thomas A. Jacobs
  • The Big Book of Girl Stuff by Bart King
  • In Search of the Far Side by Gary Larson
  • Hardwear: Jewelry from a Toolbox by Hannah Rogge

Mystery Men

Last night, 17 teens came out to watch the hilariously dumb superhero movie Mystery Men. Everyone seemed to like it...or maybe they just came for the snacks and comfy floor pillows. Actually, there were a lot of funny moment that got big laughs, and everyone left smiling. And a few people even checked out books!

Join us for our last movie event, the Grease sing-along, in August. Sign-ups begin on Monday!


Jewelry Success!

Last night, 20 teens came to Marissa's jewelry workshop. We learned how to do a simple chain pattern that made great bracelets, necklaces, anklets, and rings. It kept us busy for a while, but it was easy enought to remember. It was fun to learn an actual jewelry-making skill! Marissa was a great teacher and everyone had great finished projects. Check out the photos!

Starting the projects.

Beads are fun!

One group, mostly enjoying themselves.

Another group, hard at work. And happy birthday to the twins!

Finished products on the ankles of Gretchen and Alexa!

Two girls show off their necklaces.

Who knew the Power Rangers had such style??


New While I Was Away

I found a pile of new titles by my computer when I returned, so here's what you should be looking for on our shelves next time you're at the library:
  • Prom Nights from Hell (short story collection featuring Stephenie Meyer, Meg Cabot, and Lauren Myracle)
  • The Eternal Flame (Great Tree of Avalon series) by T. A Barron
  • Chance Fortune and the Outlaws by Shane Berryhill
  • Ironside by Holly Black
  • Pants on Fire by Meg Cabot
  • The Problem with Paradise by Lesley Dahl
  • LBD: Friends Forever! by Grace Dent
  • Prison Ship: Adventures of a Young Sailor by Paul Dowswell
  • Kiffer Kiffe Tomorrow by Faiza Guene
  • River Secrets by Shannon Hale
  • Blue Schwartz and Nefertiti's Necklace: A Mystery with Recipies by Betty Jacobson Hecthman
  • Devilish by Maureen Johnson
  • Beast by Ally Kenen
  • Dreamquake: Book Two of the Dreamhunter Duet by Elizabeth Knox
  • River Secrets by Martine Leavitt
  • Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier
  • The White Darkness by Geraldine Mc Caughrean
  • The Pull of the Ocean by Jean-Claude Mourlevat
  • Getting It by Alex Sanchez
  • Anahita's Woven Riddle by Meghan Nuttall Sayers (?)
  • A Drowned Maiden's Hair: A Melodrama by Laura Amy Schlitz
  • Mercy on these Teenage Chimps by Gary Soto
  • Red Moon at Sharpsburg by Rosemary Wells

Our Author 411 Questions

I composed and sent off Book Grub's Author 411 questions about Love, Stargirl over the weekend. Hopefully, they will pick some of ours to send to Jerry Spinelli! I will let you know as soon as I hear anything!

Stargirl ends with an epilogue 15 years in the future, yet Love, Stargirl starts right after she moves away. How did you try to reconcile the plot of Love, Stargirl with the ending you had already written? Did you have any difficulties? Do you have any plans to write a third book about Leo or Stargirl that would tie the two together?

Stargirl is written as a narrative from Leo’s point of view, while Love, Stargirl is written as a diary from Stargirl’s point of view. The books are very different because of this. Which storytelling style do you like better for these characters? Or does the story work better when told from both points of view?

Stargirl is incredibly different than the average teen, and there isn’t anyone like her in other books for teens. How did you come up with the idea for a character like Stargirl? Do you know any real-life Stargirls?

In Love, Stargirl, Stargirl collects a lot of unlikely and unusual friends. How did you manage to make these characters interesting without making them unrealistic?

At the beginning of Love, Stargirl, she says, "I love beginnings. If I were in charge of calendars, every day would be January 1." If you were in charge, what day would you like to celebrate more often?

If you could talk to Stargirl, what would you ask her?

Do you celebrate solstice or other natural events? If so, how?

What is your experience with homeschooling? What drawbacks and benefits do you see in that type of education? Did you have to research it to write Stargirl or Love, Stargirl?

If you could change your name, what would you want to be called?

Are there any plans to make a movie of Stargirl or Love, Stargirl? Would you like to see her on the big screen?

Do you have plans to write sequels to any other of your stand-alone books? Are any of your other characters, such as Maniac Magee, wanting to be revisited in some form?

Are any of your book characters based on real people?

What new projects are you working on?

Which of your books are you most proud of? Do your children or grandchildren have any favorites?


Book Review: Cures for Heartbreak

Cures for Heartbreak by Margo Rabb

SUMMARY: Black humor, pitch-perfect detail, and compelling characters make this a terrific read, despite the pain that permeates every superbly written page. Ninth-grader Mia has just lost her mother to cancer, and now her father is hospitalized with heart trouble. The story follows her first through bleak days at the hospital, then as she copes with her grief for her mother, her father's new girlfriend, and her sometimes disastrous attempts to find love. The novel's vivid New York City setting is almost another character, with vibrant descriptions of subway rides, shopping trips, and local color. Mia's early experience with loss influences everything about her life, from her bond with her father and older sister to her troubles with school and relationships. As she struggles to make sense of her mother's death and her father's illness, she also sees humor in everyday situations, and her irreverent commentary brings the story to life. (from the School Library Journal review)

OPINION: Having dealt with a friend's very sudden, painful death when I was 18, I really connected with the uncertainty, confusion, guilt, and other raw emotions that Mia survives in this story. It's not about a cure, really, but about hanging on to real life as time moves on. This could be a hard read, but the author includes a lot of dark humor that eases the emotional load and tension without being unrealistic. This story is driven by relationships, much like books by Sarah Dessen, so try this book if you are a fan of hers.