Tuesday, April 30, 2013

ASTRONAUT ACADEMY: Re-Entry by Dave Roman

Looking for a graphic novel that will make you giggle? Check out ASTRONAUT ACADEMY: Re-Entry by Dave Roman. This series follows the hijinks of students enrolled in a school in outer space. And we're talking highly funny hijinks: shapeshifters that will steal your heart (literally), time travel, detention, a bilingual panda, heartbreak, robots, and Fireball, a game that resembles lacrosse and Quidditch, but with FIRE. And there's a competition montage. This story is so ready to be made into an animated film.

I laughed out loud several times while reading this book, which includes subtle pop culture references as well as different characters' definitions of OTP. Yes, you read that correctly. At one point, someone goes "Squee!" Then there's this great exchange between two characters:

"Labels can't define who we are on the inside."
"Are you being sarcastic?"
"Only if you want me to be."
"I [heart] sarcasm. (No, seriously.)"

The cast of characters is multicultural, which is delightful. Roman's black-and-white-and-gray illustrations clearly show kids with different skin colors, different hair styles, and different fashion senses. Some are shy, some are outspoken. Some are bullies, some are friends. A few are spies. A few are ninjas. Did I mention there's also a raccoon or two, a rabbit or two, and that this is book two in the line? Read the ASTRONAUT ACADEMY graphic novels in order:
#1 Zero Gravity
#2 Re-Entry

When I dropped by Dave's blog , I discovered that he's signing copies of his books for his local bookstore, WORD, which is also holding a really cool contest. Want to get an Astronaut Academy-style portrait of yourself (or a friend), hanging out with the character of your choice? Click here to learn more.

ASTRONAUT ACADEMY: Re-Entry will be available May 14th, 2013 from :01 First Second Books.

Related posts at Bildungsroman:
Interview: Dave Roman
Graphic Novel Review: Teen Boat!

Monday, April 29, 2013

What It Looks Like When 100+ Books Arrive at Ballou High School

Follow this link for all information on how to buy books off the Powells wish list for Ballou High School.

I think in this case, pictures are worth a thousand words, right? We have sold just over 100 books off the Powells wish list for Ballou Library and it is truly wonderful to see these titles unpacked with so much excitement. This is why we do the book fair - because we know how much the books are wanted and will be enjoyed.

In all honesty though, sometimes I feel as if I am nagging the entire internet with posts and tweets trying to cajole folks to spread the word and help us sellout. I wish it was easier; heck, I wish it was unnecessary. I wish that I didn't get emails from people disappointed that we were staying with the same school as years previous, that we had not found someplace "needier". I wish I did not have to explain why Ballou still needs our help and I wish I didn't get frustrated and even a little angry at how a school library in our nation's capitol that has not money for new books deserves lots of novels and science fiction and romance (even with vampires) and all of those other types of books that don't sound serious enough to some folks but are desperately wanted by teenagers everywhere.

Just look at that girl with Redshirts - pretty darn happy, don't you think?

The spring book fair formerly ended yesterday but I'm going to leave the list open for just a little while longer. I can't help but think that seeing these pictures might prompt a few folks to buy a book or two or let some folks know about the book fair who might have missed the initial Guys Lit Wire post. I do hope everyone will share these pictures far and wide though - it's pretty cool to see how excited teenagers can be about the gift of books, isn't it? They make me feel hopeful in a thousand different ways; hopeful and pretty damn happy.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong is author Prudence Shen's laser-guided satirical commentary on a clash of the cliques that has the potential to destroy friendships, dreams, and dozens of deadly, armored robots. 

Hollow Ridge High School is dealing with the fight of the century.  In this corner we have the cheerleadering squad. Popular, gorgeous and fierce, these ladies are looking for some brand new uniforms. Looking for funds throughout the school, merciless head cheerleader Holly has set her sights on one club's unused budget.

In the other corner is the robotics club. Led by their neurotic but clever president Nate, these geeks are not going down without a fight. 

Stuck in the middle of this struggle is poor Charlie, captain of the basketball team. His only crime is being the ex-boyfriend of Holly and being Nate's best friend. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Accidental Time Traveller

The Accidental Time Traveller by Janis Mackay (expected publication May 1, 2013*)

Twelve-year-old Saul is on his way to the shops, expecting to pick up some cookies and sweets, when a young girl in old fashioned clothes suddenly appears in the street. She is terrified by the oncoming traffic, dazed and bewildered and clearly not a local. Except, as Saul finds out, she is a local. She's just 200 years out of time. Saul takes the girl, Agatha Black, to his fort and decides he will help her get back to her own time.

I have some mixed feelings about this book. I expected it to be a little more on the adventure and science fiction side, especially with Time Traveller in the title (I'm a huge Doctor Who fan, so that may have unduly influenced my expectations).  The book turned out to be more a "learning about yourself and others" story, as Saul learns to connect with Agatha, stand up to the local bully, be friends with a girl (I'd forgotten how big a deal this is for younger kids). Thankfully, Mackay steers pretty clear of the preachiness to which this sort of story often falls prey. Once I got over my disappointment at the lack of a strong sci-fi element (and at the actual mechanism of time travel -- I won't spoil it, but it is a little bit of a let down), I found I rather liked Saul and his friends. I read something in The Guardian about looking for "normal" boys in fiction -- leaving aside the very problematic and loaded nature of that question -- and I think this book would fill the bill for a "normal" boy quite nicely. Ultimately I like the book and I think upper elementary school readers will like it as well.

*Thanks to NetGalley for my copy.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Amost 100 books on the way to Ballou HS from the Spring Book Fair!

We had a great weekend with the wish list for Ballou and appreciate so much everyone helping us spread the word. Please see our earlier post for all the details and do what you can to help us make as big of a dent as possible in this wishlist of 300+ titles.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Operation Teen Book Drop 2013

It's time to ROCK THE DROP! Today is the day for Operation Teen Book Drop 2013!

Love books? Share them! In honor of
Support Teen Lit Day, readergirlz has teamed up with Figment, I Heart Daily, Soho Teen, and 826NYC to celebrate the sixth annual Teen Book Drop. Anyone anywhere in the world may participate simply by leaving the book of their choice in a public place (a coffeehouse, a school, a skateboard park) for someone else to find. It's just that easy! Plus, there's the bonus fun when someone contacts readergirlz to tell them they found the book that you dropped.

Rock the Drop 2013If you want to chronicle your drop, share it on social media like this:

* Follow @readergirlz on Twitter and tweet #rockthedrop
* Print a copy of the bookplate and insert it into a book (or 10!) Drop a book in a public spot (park bench, bus seat, restaurant counter?) with a note or Post-It on the front saying something like, "THIS BOOK IS FREE!" or "READ ME!" Lucky finders will see that the book is part of ROCK THE DROP!
* Post the banner at your blog and social networks. Proclaim that you will ROCK THE DROP!
* Snap a photo of your drop and post it at the readergirlz Facebook page. Then tweet the drop with the hashtag #rockthedrop to share the news with other readers.

This year's bookplate was designed by the super-talented Lindsay Frantz. Thank you, Lindsay!

You can also participate on a larger scale, if you'd like, by donating a bunch of books to the place or cause of your choice. Visit a local shelter, a school, a library, a children's hospital, and ask if they take donations. Once you've gotten the okay, gather up new or gently used books from your friends, family, classmates, and co-workers, add the bookplates, tuck in some bookmarks, then drop the books off!

For example, you could send Ballou High books from their wish list via Powells books! That would be a cool way to tie-in both readergirlz and GuysLitWire. Here's how you can help out Ballou High: It's Time for the Annual Spring Book Fair for Ballou High School Library!

If you're in New York, drop by Figment today - they are giving away TWO books (one to keep, one to drop) to all participants while supplies last! Click here for details.

Visit the readergirlz blog, Facebook page, and Twitter for more news and pictures before, during, and after the event!

In Pursuit of Lost Books -- On the Road

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

It's Time for the Annual Spring Book Fair for Ballou High School Library!!!

And we are back!

As longtime readers know, this time of year we here at GLW get hard at work to help librarian Melissa Jackson at Ballou Sr High School in Washington DC fill her school's shelves. From our previous efforts, starting in 2011, we have helped Ballou move from a library that had less than one book for each of its 1,185 students to a ratio now of FIVE books per student. While this is all kinds of wonderful and something we are quite proud to be part of, the American Library Association advocates eleven books for each student. Ballou is still operating at a serious literary deficit and so we are staying with them until they are busting that minimum standard and knee deep in all the reading these students could ever want or need.

The most exciting news for Ballou is that a new structure is in the works for the school and should be completed by January 2015. As the existing building dates to the late 1950s and is in disrepair, to say the project is overdue would be a vast understatement. But while the new Ballou is going to be a great and wonderful thing, it is not the answer to all its students' problems. The bright and shiny 2015 Library and Media Center will be 5,800 square feet of awesomeness but there is no money in the budget - nothing from the DC public school system - to actually provide books for its shelves.

Wrap your head around that fact for a moment, please. The library space will be grand, the library contents...not so much.

The main problem for Ballou's library, the thing Melissa Jackson is constantly working on, is getting new books. Her students want what all teen readers want - popular and newly released titles that speak to them. Specifically, the Ballou teens are asking for science fiction, romance, fantasy, graphic novels, historical fiction, thrillers and realistic fiction.

Sound like basically every other teen you know?

So while there are plenty of congratulations all around to DC for building the new school, the walls and windows will do nothing to actually get books into the hands of these kids who happen to be smack in the middle of one of the most challenging environments in the country. On the city's most recent standardized tests, only 22 percent of Ballou 10th-graders were proficient in math, and just 18 percent were proficient in reading. To improve their lives, we need to make books an easily accessible part of their school experience and, just as important, we need to make sure these are books that will get them excited about reading.

So, you know the drill - a wish list has been created at Powells books that has been vetted by both Melissa and her student literary leaders. We continue to partner with Powells because they do a killer job of getting the books out fast, they offer lots of sale titles (be sure and watch for those) and their "Standard" used copies a pretty much like new. Plus, we are supporting a bricks and mortar store in the fine city of Portland, Oregon which is nice way connecting both sides of the country in one outstanding literary effort.

Yeah, we love Powells.

Our 2013 Wish List for Ballou, (here's the link if you want to embed it in a post: http://bit.ly/GLWBookFair), has a lot of manga, urban fiction, poetry, paranormal titles and a boatload of big sellers. (Margo Lanagan, Ellen Hopkins, Sherman Alexie, Cassandra Clare, Paolo Bacigalupi and Walter Dean Myers are all front and center.) As a fan of nonfiction I'm delighted to see books like Courage Has No Color, The Elements, How to Fake a Moon Landing: Exposing the Myths of Science Denial and The Pregnancy Project on the list and there is also a healthy collection of adult crossover titles like Here, Bullet, (Brian Turner) The Grey Album (Kevin Young) and The Intuitionist (by Colson Whitehead). There is also a lot of urban fiction, as requested by the students, and since Melissa is working with a reading population that varies in literacy levels from 5th grade to college prep, we have liberally mined the resources of the ALA Quick Picks list to discover books with older teen appeal but manageable reading levels.

You can check out the list, make your selections for the school and please know while we prefer new it is perfectly fine to purchase used copies of a book (more bang for your buck). But check and make sure the book is in "standard" used condition and not "student owned" (you will have to click on the title and leave the wish list to check this). The "student owned" copies are very cheap for a reason - they are written in and thus not a good choice for this effort.

Once you have made your selections head to "checkout" and you will be prompted to inform Powells if the books were indeed bought from the wishlist. This lets the store know to mark them as "purchased" on the list. After that you need to provide your credit card info and also fill in the shipping address. (If you have already done this in the past the info will be saved to your Powells account.) Here is where the books are going to:

Melissa Jackson, LIBRARIAN
Ballou Senior High School
3401 Fourth Street SE
Washington DC 20032
(202) 645-3400

It's very important that you get Melissa's name and title in there - she is not the only Jackson (or Melissa) at the school and we want to make sure the books get to the library.

After that you pay for the books and you're done! Please head back over here when you get a chance and leave a comment letting us know who you are, where you're from and what you bought. Also be sure to follow @BallouLibrary on twitter where Melissa will be updating on books as they arrive and student reactions. You can also let her know what you have ordered via twitter - I'm sure she will be delighted to let the kids know what's coming their way.

The list will be open for two weeks - until April 28th. EXTENDED through May 5th!!!

As always, the crew at GLW and especially me personally, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for helping us in this effort. The book fair is one of the best examples of what we all believe in - getting as many books as possible into the hands of kids who need them. Books matter so much - actual physical books that can be checked out and shared and read dozens of times over by kids for whom owning an e-reader is a distant dream. The Book Fair for Ballou is all about letting kids in a tough spot know that someone out here, someone they will never meet, wants them to read great books and is willing to put forward some of their own hard-earned dollars to make that happen. This level of caring is a powerful thing folks, and it can change the world in significant ways.

Buy a book, send a tweet, post on your blog or at facebook. Spread the word for Ballou and never doubt how much your help is appreciated. And now, enjoy a few recent pictures from the Ballou Library facebook page showing just how much this library is appreciated!

Toriko! Vol 2 is on the list! (And we would be happy to add many more in the series... :)

Chess Club getting serious in the library

Annual African American "Read In"

Women's History Month celebration

How to Impress your English Teacher while Avoiding Extreme Boredom

W. Somerset Maugham is a writer with a fancy name. Writers with fancy names are known for writing books which are not all that exciting. W. Somerset Maugham's book The Magician, however, is an exception.

While it's true that much of Maugham's writing is about stormy relationships between husbands and wives living during the early part of the twentieth century -- not your typical guy fare -- The Magician is about a betrothed couple, the dull Arthur Burdon and the stunningly beautiful Margaret Dauncey, whose lives are invaded by a strange and rather unpleasant character in the form of professed magician George Haddo. Besides being unpleasant, entirely full of himself and showing a proclivity for putting down those around him, Haddo is difficult to read. It's hard to tell when he is joking and when he is boasting. He also claims to be a magician and seems to exude some sort of supernatural aura. He upsets docile animals just by standing near them and takes a snake bite from a cobra without being affected in the least by its venom. Arthur, an accomplished surgeon and man of science, dismisses Haddo's shenanigans as mere tricks. Margaret is disgusted by him.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Slaves of Spiegel

It is space. Desolate, wild, boundless, huge. In a far distant corner of the universe, in an unnamed galaxy, a small untidy planet hurtles through time.

Candy wrappers from a million stars, printed in a million languages, tumble across the arid ground. Soft drink cans, of every imaginable shape and size, rattle and click together in the solar wind. Here is a half-eaten taco from the planet Glupso in the Mouse Nebula. Here is a styrofoam box which once contained a deluxe cheeseburger from Earth.

Here and there, a circle of rocky outcroppings conceals the landing place of a giant spaceburger, one of those dreaded pirate ships of the cosmos. Here and there, in the shadows, a dark round form can be seen - a fat space pirate, standing guard.

This place is Spiegel, home of the feared and hated Fat Men, whose raids have depleted much of the junk food in the universe. This is Spiegel the notorious, known on a thousand thousand worlds as the sugar vampire, the grease magnet, and the home of the fat guys...

So the Fat Men, commanded by Sargon, "search throughout the universe for the most greasy, heavy, addictive, and calorific foods." They bring three greasy spoon chefs to their planet for an intergalactic cook-off.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Hey Presto!

I'm a sucker for magic. I was age 11 when I discovered where the books of magic were stocked in the tiny branch library near my house; I was a few years later when me and a few friends met a junior member of the Magic Castle's Junior Society who teased us with tricks and promised he could get in to see a free show (he couldn't); And I still can't resist picking up a book of magic and thumbing through to see if there's some new slight-of-hand I haven't seen explained before.

There are a lot of classic books in the field of magic, full of tricks broken down by type (coin, rope, card, etc), but for most of these books the illusion is described in great detail but given only one or two (if any) key illustrations. More modern books that are well-illustrated, many with photos in full color, tend to have simple illusions and are aimed at younger magicians. Finding the balance of an impressive trick with enough images to make it easy to follow, that's always been a winning combination for me, and Hey Presto! Amazing Magic Tricks to Confound and Astound is a solid starter book for the curious.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda

In Chile, they have just exhumbed the body of Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto, better known throughout the world as Pablo Neruda. Neruda was a prominent member of the Communist party, and a supporter of the democratically elected Salvador Allende, who was ousted by a military coup led by Augosto Pinochet. He died in 1972, while being treated for prostrate cancer, and recent claims by his driver that he was poisoned by order of the Pinochet regime led to his exhumation. You can read more about it in the New York Times, among other places.

It being in the news, and April being National Poetry Month, I thought a post about one of Neruda's best-known and best-loved works, Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair was in order.

The copy I own is pictured to the right. It's a small book with an artisanal feel to it because of the really nice paper that forms its cover (with French flaps, for those of you who understand the term - or with big folded-in flaps for those who don't) and rough-cut edges on the pages inside. Each poem is presented in the original Spanish text facing a translation by W.S. Merwin, and the book is interspersed with illustrations by Pablo Picasso.

This collection of poems was written when Neruda was a very young man - high-school aged, really, since they were published in 1924, when he was only 19. The poems are astonishing in their imagery and sensuality. Here is just a snippet of the translation of number fourteen, "Every Day You Play":

Every day you play with the light of the universe.
Subtle visitor, you arrive in the flower and the water.
You are more that this white head that I hold tightly
as a cluster of fruit, every day, between my hands.

You are like nobody since I love you.
Let me spread you out among the yellow garlands.
Who writes your name in letters of smoke among the stars of the south?
Oh let me remember you as you were before you existed.

You can read the rest here, but the poem closes with "I want to do with you/what spring does with the cherry trees." *swoon*

Monday, April 8, 2013

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell


How can I not love a book set in 1986-1987, a book that captures the intensity of first love and the hopelessness of growing up poor and/or different? I was 16/17 in those years, and the awkwardness of attraction and the way music defined who we were and wanted to be washed over me with a wave of nostalgia as I read Eleanor & Park. How can I not love a book whose first sentence in chapter one reads “XTC was no good for drowning out the morons at the back of the bus”? How can I not love a book where the boy gives the girl his green Prefab Sprout t-shirt to replace the one smeared with her blood?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

You Can't Blame the Cavemen

Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells us about Sex Diet and How we Live by Marlene Zuk is a response to what has been a common explanation for our modern habits, that we have not evolved to fit our modern world, that, as far as genes are concerned, we are still cavemen. This theory purports that we were once perfectly suited to our environment, clubbing or spearing animals, collecting rare pieces fruit and mating polygamously. Our current lifestyle, which includes lots of flour, sugar and commitment, is supposedly unnatural, so it's no wonder we're fat and depressed.

Well, it was fun while it lasted. Not that my wife ever bought it when I blamed my inner caveman for my tendency to overeat Little Debbie snack cakes and lose concentration around women in heels. But according to Zuk the whole theory is just wrong. Her attack is three-pronged: 1) we were never "in balance" with nature; 2) evolution is often more rapid than we realize; and 3) we often misread anthropological discoveries to promote non-scientific agendas.

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Shattering by Karen Healey

Summerton is the most perfect, idyllic city on the coast of New Zealand. It's always pleasant weather, the crime rate is spectacularly low, and the tourism business is booming. Something dark lies under the surface, though, and when three teens—Keri, Janna, and Sione—catch a glimpse of that darkness in their brother's suicides, they start to unearth the secrets behind Summerton's isolation from the world.

Karen Healey's second novel (after Guardian of the Dead) artfully draws from The Golden Bough to create a tense, supernatural thriller set in a sinister small town. It's not a terribly difficult mystery to work out if you're a little familiar with Frazer's myth of the sacrificial king (which, in my case, translates to "watched Eureka Seven"), but it's well-executed and shows the price of cutting a community off from the world for an artificial tranquility. Healey also trades the Māori mythology that drove Guardian of the Dead for more familiar Western witchcraft, which is kind of a disappointment—the Māori mythology was really one of the highlights of her debut novel, and she actually took the time necessary to acknowledge colonialist issues surrounding Māori culture—but it makes The Shattering a little more accessible.

The main attraction, though, are the three central characters and their stories. Alternating between their points of view gives the reader a chance to see each character through the other's eyes, which gives them considerably more depth than attainable through single point-of-view. They've all got their struggles and defy normality as well, and Healey does an excellent job letting her cast be diverse in a variety of ways without tokenizing anyone's experiences: Keri is a lesbian and struggles for most of the book with the logistics of coming out; Janna is a punk-rocker who jumps from fling to fling and stands up to anyone who tries to shame her for that; and Sione is a shy Samoan boy balancing his feelings with everyone else's. The characters themselves can be a lot more interesting than the plot—which is already pretty strong to start with—and their relationship (and the fraying it endures) begins to play a major factor in the plot itself during the last third.

The Shattering is Healey's second novel (she's just released her third, When We Wake, which I am currently very excited to read), and it's a marked improvement from Guardian of the Dead. I, for one, am definitely keeping my eye on her future books.