Posts tagged ‘YA lit’

Links: girls on book covers, a Twilight novella, and the Lambda Literary Awards

I wrote a little earlier on the depiction of larger female characters on book covers and touched on the “disembodied parts” look that seems popular on books intended for girls. Karl of Txt-based Blogging wrote a post on the depiction of boys vs. girls on YA book covers (inspired by Codes of Gender, which I watched earlier this year!), concluding that, as in most media depictions, girls and women are shown as passive and off-balance whereas boys and men are given more active, strong poses. He posted a link to this post on YALSA-bk and it generated quite a bit of discussion. What do you think?

Last week it was announced that Stephanie Meyer would be releasing a 200-page “novella,” THE SHORT SECOND LIFE OF BREE TANNER, in June. One dollar of every $13.99 purchase will go the American Red Cross. If you’re reading this for yourself and not buying it for a library, I second Leila’s suggestion at Bookshelves of Doom to read the free downloadable version and donate more than $1 to your charity of choice instead. She suggests Kiva and I encourage Heifer International, but mostly I just want our money to go somewhere meaningful, wherever you decide that is.

Did you see OCLC’s announcement earlier this week about an iPhone app, pic2shop, that lets users scan book barcodes and then see which local libraries have the book. I know that this won’t benefit all library patrons and that the digital divide is very real, but it’s still a neat way to get people who do have iPhones to consider the public library when they’re looking for a book–and for libraries to keep their WorldCat records up to date.

The finalists for the 2010 Lambda Literary Award were announced earlier this month; since 1989 the award has recognized “the finest lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans literature available in the United States.” Miriam at Feministing has a writeup with some thoughts on the categories in which awards are given.


April 4, 2010 at 11:25 PM Leave a comment

Review: THE DAUGHTERS by Joanna Philbin

When fourteen-year-old Lizzie Summers slips up and reveals on camera that being the daughter of a supermodel isn’t always glamorous and wonderful, it sparks a huge fight between her and her mom, but it also prompts a photographer to ask Lizzie to model for her. All her life Lizzie has felt that her crooked nose, frizzy red hair, and bushy eyebrows have made her the beast to her mother’s beauty, though, so she’s not sure she can accept the offer, even if the photographer specializes in “new pretty,” regular people whose flaws make them beautiful. Lizzie also doesn’t know if she can operate in her mother’s world–or if her mom will even let her do it.

Complicating matters further, Todd Piedmont, Lizzie’s childhood friend and the boy with whom she shared her first kiss at eight years old, has just moved back from London and she’s getting mixed signals from him. He seems to be interested in her–he even tried to kiss her before his party–but now he’s dating Ava Elting, the snobbiest girl in school.

Through it all, Lizzie knows she can always count on her friends Carina Jurgensen and Hudson Jones. Carina’s dad runs a media empire and Hudson’s mom is a famous pop star, so they know what it’s like to always be in a parent’s spotlight. Together the girls figure out who they are beyond just being their parents’ daughters and make sense of boys and social politics at school.

Gossip Girl/Clique/Mean Girls-style books aren’t usually my thing, but I liked the twist here that the parents are famous, not the girls themselves–something Philbin must know herself from experience, since she’s the daughter of Regis Philbin. THE DAUGHTERS was also less racy than I was expecting; although one character is accused of “hooking up” with a girl we never meet, the main romantic arc culminates in nothing more than a knee-watering kiss. And in general the characters here were nicer than I was expecting. Maybe all of this gentler content is because the characters are fourteen and the book is aimed at readers 12+.

At some points the writing relies on clichés (Lizzie’s friends are a Brita filter, the clouds are fluffy like cotton candy, someone’s jaw actually drops open) and the romantic part of the plot is fairly predictable and the cliffhanger seemed a little cheap (Lizzie’s story is wrapped up pretty nicely but the last page and a half introduce a new crisis in Carina’s life).

Overall, though, it’s a good first novel that I really warmed up to as I read on. The characters are what make the book interesting: they’re genuinely trying to figure out who they are and to stay true to themselves. Rather than focusing on status and scandal, Lizzie and the other daughters affirm reliability and the importance of friends and family.

A note on the cover: the ARC I have is a similar design, but the three girls are all clearly dark-haired (the girls in the story are a blond, a brunette, and a redhead). The updated cover reflects the girls’ different looks and gives them more interesting outfits. The cover was actually my biggest problem with the book, so I’m glad to see it fixed. I’m still not a fan of the umbrella, but at least the cover models look like the characters.

THE DAUGHTERS will be out in May and the second book in the trilogy, THE DAUGHTERS BREAK THE RULES, comes out in November.

Read more reviews:

Book source: ARC from the publisher at PLA

If you’d like to read this book, I’ll send you my ARC. You have to promise, though, that you’ll either post a review online or send one to the publisher and that you’ll pass it on to someone else when you’re finished with the same conditions attached. Whoever emails me first gets it!

April 2, 2010 at 1:55 PM Leave a comment

PLA Blog: queering the library

I wrote about the best session I attended today, Spanning the Generations: Serving the GLBTIQ Community of ALL Ages. Read about it on the PLA Blog: “Queering the Library”.

[Full text will appear here in a month.]

March 25, 2010 at 10:29 PM Leave a comment

From the listservs: movies based on books

Last week someone posted an announcement to YALSA-bk that Asa Butterfield and Chloe Moretz would be playing Hugo and Isabelle in the movie adaptation of THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET. This sparked a long discussion about movies that were based on children’s and YA books, with most people falling into the “movies ruin books” camp.

While the cynic in me tends to agree, I think we have to recognize that a book and a movie are different narrative forms and that because of their own characteristics, each have unique limitations and strengths. While books are capable of telling much more sophisticated stories with subplots and a lot of interior thoughts and development, the visual aspect of movies mean that they can convey emotions that might not be so easily crammed into specific words. And movies are better at juxtaposing different images without commentary, which is more difficult to do in a verbal narrative. While some pointed out that there are kids who see a movie based on a book, don’t like it, and then are reluctant to read the book, I think that there’s still room to enjoy a book after it’s been turned into a movie we don’t like–it doesn’t have to “ruin” the book for us.

Members of the listserv mentioned the seeming increase of children’s and teen’s books being adapted into movies. One librarian said that her sister was in the film business and that it wasn’t that writers and directors and producers were out of ideas, but that they were being conservative and wanted something with a “built in audience.” That is, since so many kids have read the Percy Jackson books, they know they’ll have butts in seats if they make a Percy Jackson movie. One librarian did point out, though, that movie studios have been drastically changing stories from the start, pointing in particular to Mary Poppins and animated Disney movies. This isn’t a new trend–it’s just something we notice more because more books are being adapted.

I finally went to see Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief with my husband this weekend. I’d heard some pretty terrible things about it, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn’t as bad as I’d thought. I was especially pleased that it wasn’t as video game-like as I was expecting: they do receive a map with three different locations that are revealed only when their quest at the previous one is finished, but there was no mine cart/runaway boat/flying-through-the-air-avoiding-objects sequence like it seems a lot of movies for kids contain. I also thought that Percy’s introduction to his true nature and to Camp Half-Blood was much quicker and more natural than it was in the book; the characters in the novel seemed like they were going awfully far out of their way to keep him in the dark for as long as possible. What did bother me about the adaptation, though, was the way Percy’s relationship with his father was much closer and warmer than it was in the book. It seems like that really changes the spirit of the story. I don’t mind the events of the story being a lot different or even certain characters not being present, but I want the spirit of the story to feel the same.

The discussion on YALSA-bk benefitted from an email from Alex Flinn, author of BEASTLY, which has been adapted into a movie that will be in theaters this summer. I actually got to hear Alex Flinn speak at the Hussey-Mayfield Memorial Public Library in Zionsville on Wednesday. She mostly talked about her youth and becoming a writer and what goes into writing a novel and getting it published, but she also touched briefly on having her book adapted into a movie. Her email to the listserv, though, was more specific. She said that at first she was scared exactly because so many movie adaptations haven’t been faithful to their subject material, but that she was lucky to read the screenplay before they started and found that “they pretty much left the plot alone.” She pointed out that there are different levels of changes, saying that she’s not bothered that the main character’s hair color is different (as some fans are), but that “[a]t one point, they’d been talking to an actor who wanted a fairly major change made to the main character’s relationship with his father. That would have bothered me more than hair color.” During her visit in Zionsville, she’d explained that BEASTLY initially came from thinking about what crappy parents both the beauty and the beast from the fairy tale must have had for them to get into their situation, so the beast’s relationship with his father is really important to Flinn–and to the spirit of the story.

I thought the movie adaptation of CORALINE is a good example of where the book and the movie tell similar (but not identical) stories with each being strengthened by the format. While the film changed some of what happened, the intricate stop-motion style was really beautiful and very well-suited to the strange and creepy other world in the story. But the book explores in a way that a film can’t Coraline’s internal state during her adventure. They’re different, but one isn’t necessarily better than the other. And really, we don’t have to pick one over the other, do we? We can enjoy both–if they both deserve it.

Late last year, Walter Kirn, the author of UP IN THE AIR, was interviewed by NPR about the movie adaptation of his book. He talked about how the film version was necessarily different from the book:

There are two different forms of storytelling: Novels tend to come from the inside of a character and movies tend to look at them from the outside in relation to others in their world. And so, I fully understood that for this book to make it onto film it had to be sort of opened up, unfolded. […] And the finished product, though it bears the distinct genetic imprint of the book, is quite different in some details and yet I am entirely pleased with it. […] [T]he novel is a sort of a piece of paper and the movie has made it into a paper airplane. That suggested the movie is more complex than the book, which I don’t think it is, actually. I mean, you’re able to do things in novels: introduce subplots, other characters, thematic layers and so on, in a way that you simply can’t in a movie. A movie really has to choose its battles. And most adaptations end up having to really edit out a lot of the book and bring forward those elements that they think play dramatically. In this case, a whole new character had to be introduced. A sort of sidekick had to be given to a lonely hero who spends most of the time in the novel observing and thinking about his world. But now we had to give him a chance to talk about his world.

The addition of a completely new character is a huge change to be made when adapting a book into a movie, but Kirn recognized that because so much of the “action” in the book actually went on in the main character’s mind and reflected his internal, personal changes, a film version would have to externalize a lot of that. And despite this huge change, he thinks that the addition of that character and the interactions she has with the protagonist are the source of a lot of humor in the movie.

I really liked his metaphors for the way a book and its movie adaptation are related:

You know, here’s how adaptation works – almost everything in the movie is in the book in some form. But it’s as though the deck has been completely reshuffled and some of the cards have been assigned different values, some of the fours have been made into jacks and some of the jacks have been made into twos. And it’s as though, you know, a new poker hand has been made out of these cards that were dealt in the book. And yet the book and the movie to me are both obviously members of the same family. They’re like non-identical twins. You see the nose. You see the ears. You see the stature and the voice in the way of moving, and you go, yes, these are the same creature in some respect, but they are two different versions of the creature.

I still feel ambivalent about movie adaptations. I don’t hate them as much as a lot of librarians seem to (I do understand that it must be hard to see something you love changed a lot!) because I think that a movie can and often must tell a different story, and that movies can do things that a book can’t. And honestly, sometimes a story just needs tightening, and the time limitations of a movie can do that. But it does seem like things are often unnecessarily changed or that the spirit of the story is lost. I want to remain hopeful about future adaptations, though, because some have turned out to be so good (for example, has a list of ten movies that are better than the books on which they’re based–in their opinion, at least). I also hope that we can take even the bad film adaptations and use them as an opportunity to get more kids reading–or at least discussing the media they do consume.

March 21, 2010 at 9:19 PM Leave a comment

Book covers: the popular and the paperback

Goodreads has a list of books people have judged by their covers and I was kind of surprised to see how many of them are YA book covers. Does this just reflect the Goodreads userbase, or is it indicative of the ability of YA novels to draw people in with their covers?

I’ve been thinking recently about the way book covers change when the book comes out in paperback. Earlier this month The Compulsive Reader wrote a post about just that with a number of examples and offers her opinion on improvements or disappointments in the change, and Alea of Pop Culture Junkie has a number of posts that show the differences between cover versions.

Since librarians and hardcore fans are the primary consumers of hardcover novels, they’re the audience publishers consider when designing the cover the first time around. But since libraries mostly purchase hardcover books, the paperback covers are designed to appeal to book store browsers and changes often reflect that. This is my no means scientific, but it seems like a lot of the time when books written for girls have their covers redesigned for a paperback release, the cover features a shot of a real girl on the cover rather than an illustration or an inanimate object. This may be related to the hypothesis proposed by a friend in my earlier post touching on the depiction of larger female characters on book covers that publishers think women need to identify with the protagonist.

I think the most disappointing paperback covers I’ve seen so far are those for Shannon Hale’s PRINCESS ACADEMY and THE GOOSE GIRL:

The cover of the hardcover edition of Shannon Hale's PRINCESS ACADEMY. The illustration shows nine girls walking single file, some holding hands, all wearing colored dresses. They walk in the foreground while in the background hills with trees, goats, and houses are shown. There is also a mountain with a winding path and a large building with a red roof in the background. The cover has a silver Newbery Honor Book medal.


The cover of the paperback edition of Shannon Hale's PRINCESS ACADEMY. The cover shows a realistic illustration of a girl from the shoulders up, half-turned toward the viewer. She is wearing a blue shirt or dress and her hair is brown and worn in a braid down her shoulder. She stands before an arched window of greyish brown stone with red vines crawling up it. The cover also has a silver Newbery Honor Book medal.


The cover of the hardcover edition of Shannon Hale's THE GOOSE GIRL. The illustration shows a castle on a green hill with a path winding down to a small body of water with a group of white birds. A girl in a red dress with blonde hair leans against a tree. The illustration is made to look cracked as with age or wear.

THE GOOSE GIRL in hardcover

The cover of the paperback edition of Shannon Hale's THE GOOSE GIRL. The cover shows a realistic drawing from the waist up a girl with blonde hair loose around her shoulders with braids around her head wearing a white dress and standing in a doorway of ivy.

THE GOOSE GIRL in paperback

I like the illustration style for the hardcover versions a lot, but beyond that they’re distinctive. The paperback versions just reminds me of every other medieval-style fantasy book I read growing up a decade or two ago, especially CATHERINE, CALLED BIRDY and THE MIDWIFE’S APPRENTICE. I suppose publishers know what they’re doing–their profits depend on it–but the paperback covers of YA novels, especially those aimed at girls, often disappoint me. I guess I’m not the target demographic!

March 16, 2010 at 8:00 PM Leave a comment

Links: larger women and book covers, the popularity of youth lit, and dads reading to daughters

In a delightful bit of crossover, Gwen over at Sociological Images rounds up a bunch of covers of books about larger girls, most of whom don’t look that big on the cover. There’s also been some discussion about how the women on these covers are mostly disembodied parts–common in advertising (see here, here, and here for examples)–but there’s also been counter-discussion positing that it’s because publishers think that women want to be able to identify with characters and that’s harder when you can see their face. I’m not sure I buy that; I’d like to see a study sampling books with covers depicting men and covers depicting women that determines if there is a gender difference in whether or not faces are shown. And what about YA book covers?

Susan Carpenter writes for the LA Times about the rising popularity of YA lit among adults. She addresses the increasing sales of youth lit in general (“Where adult hardcover sales were down 17.8% for the first half of 2009 versus the same period in 2008, children’s/young adult hardcovers were up 30.7%.”), acknowledges the rise in critical acclaim for youth lit, and points to the growing number of movies based off of books for teens and children (my husband and I are finally going to go see the Percy Jackson movie this weekend!). She also makes the great point that current YA writers grew up when YA books were finally starting to mature:

Many of today’s young adult authors were born and raised in the 1960s and 1970s, when YA began to move beyond the staid, emotionless tales of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys in favor of more adventurous work from Judy Blume, Madeleine L’Engle and Robert Cormier. Now, they’re turning out their own modern masterpieces.

And finally, Lee Wind of I’m Here. I’m Queer. Now what the Hell do I read? has a post about reading with his daughter and what other dads need to know about reading with their own daughters. He paints a beautiful picture of a household full of readers and also touches on dialogic reading, which we’ve been talking about in my Youth Services class recently. I also love how he gets to the heart of why, beyond developmental and literacy-related reasons, reading with kids is so great: “Reading is the doorway to a Shared experience with your kid. Don’t just read it TO her. Experience it WITH her.”

March 11, 2010 at 8:57 PM 2 comments

Reflections on ALA Annual

One month from today I’ll be headed to Portland for PLA’s 2010 National Conference! I’m really looking forward to more opportunities for professional development and meeting other cool librarians from around the country. In anticipation of PLA 2010, I thought I’d reflect on the highlights of my experience at ALA Annual 2009, which was the first conference I ever attended.

I was really lucky last year; it was my first year in the SLIS program and ALA was in Chicago, so I was able to attend at the student rate, not pay airfare, and not pay for a hotel (I have friends in Northwest Indiana so I stayed with them and took the train into town)–all of which made the conference affordable. And it was such a fantastic experience! By last summer my experience in actual libraries was pretty limited: most of what I knew I knew from class readings, homework, and discussion. Going to ALA showed me how much more libraries could be.

My first day, I attended YALSA’s Genre Galaxy, which covered different genres of YA lit: what makes them appealing, what books are out there, and how to sell them to teens or program around them. But the best part of this preconference were the authors who spoke to us about their work, including James Kennedy (whose appearance was all done in-character and involved local teens re-enacting a scene from his book–Elizabeth Bird of Fuse #8 did writeups and posted videos here, here, and here), Dom Testa, Simone Elkeles, David Lubar (whom I also got to speak with during a break–he’s such a cool dude!), Patrick Jones, Libba Bray, and Holly Black. Honestly, I was a little bit star-struck after a day of hearing these YA lit rockstars talk–and getting to talk to them one-on-one during breaks! The giddiness of being able to meet people whose work I enjoyed so much really impressed on me how great it’d be to be able to bring that experience to teens and children through author visits.

I also attended a bunch of sessions that blew me away with how incredibly awesome and proactive libraries could be. Scott Nicholson talked about gaming in libraries and did a great job explaining why gaming is good aside from just the way it brings kids into the library, and he explained the importance of being able to back up gaming in your library with your mission statement. Different librarians also talked about how they’d implemented gaming in their libraries–and it ranged from something as small as just having a teen-organized gaming collection in a tiny public library to a huge program with classes and guest speakers on how to create games at NYPL.

I also attended the panel discussion on Teen Advisory Boards and again had my mind blown (see my earlier post about my class presentation on TABs). The only Teen Advisory Board I’d seen in action was just a group of kids the librarian could bounce ideas off of. I’d never even considered how TABs could be harnessed to make a library better and give teens leadership opportunities, or how they could very nearly run a teen department with the right development work from the librarian. More than any other session, this panel discussion got me really excited about being able to work in a library and really make an impact with what I did there.

I sat in on a presentation on sex in YA literature that challenged notions we all have about teens and sexuality and the books they read. Laura Ruby‘s talk about writing for children and then writing for teens and having her books challenged gave interesting insight into the author’s side of things, and Marty Klein did a great job of putting things in a historical and psychological context and examining the state of teen sexuality and teen sex education today.

I also went to the panel discussion on graphic novels that included a representative from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Neil Gaiman, Terry Moore, and Craig Thompson. Again, it was interesting to hear from the creators of works that get challenged, works we feel we need to defend. The consensus seemed to be that they don’t set out to be controversial; they just write and draw the story they want to tell and it’s only after it’s been released that the work starts to get categorized and analyzed and challenged and loved. They also did a good job of making the point that just because it’s a graphic novel doesn’t mean it’s for children–and that’s something we need to keep in mind as librarians. I also enjoyed their conversation about how graphic novels differ from other media like film or text.

Beyond the sessions I attended (and there were more–those were just the ones that I found particularly inspiring or interesting), I had time to check out all of the vendors on the convention floor. I got some neat free stuff including books and bags and pins and a Polaroid of me hugging the Cat in the Hat and ARCs (see my earlier post on ARCs)–including one of CATCHING FIRE, which was fantastic and exciting. Especially since this was my first conference, this part really was overwhelming at times. There are just so many people and so many booths and so much stuff everywhere. I was shielded in part by not actually having any sort of purchasing power, and it did give me a good idea of what’s out there for when I am working in a library and go to conferences representing my institution.

Part of visiting vendors was being able to meet authors and illustrators and get signed copies of their books. I got to meet Mo Willems and tell him what a fan I was and have him sign a few books; I met E. Lockhart and briefly discussed Frankie’s mix of psychopath and awesome while she signed my copy of THE DISREPUTABLE HISTORY OF FRANKIE LANDAU-BANKS (now out in paperback with a much more boring cover); and I not only met and received signed books from MT Anderson but was able to have a surprisingly long conversation with him. He turned out to be a super-nice guy and I really wish I’d been able to talk with him even longer. I also ran into Lori Ann Grover of readergirlz right before the Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder banquet and had a chance to learn more about how she started readergirlz and all of the great things they’ve done so far.

And finally, I got to attend the Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder banquet and the Michael L. Printz Award reception. The Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder event was so elegant and the acceptance speeches were moving and inspiring. I especially loved Ashley Bryan‘s story of growing up black and wanting to illustrate and his energetic, expressive group recitations of Langston Hughes’s poetry.

While the Printz reception was a more casual affair, it felt more personal, too. I enjoyed hearing from the honor books’ authors as well as the winner, and I especially liked the chance to mingle with the honorees afterward.

My first conference experience was a little bit overwhelming and exhausting (I really packed in every activity I could while I was there), but more than that it was incredibly inspiring and energizing. Through the sessions I attended and the people I met, I got to see what kinds of rockin’ awesome things librarians are doing. I came away from the experience feeling really excited about my profession and really motivated to learn more and do more.

So with PLA quickly approaching, I’m looking forward to being able to re-energize myself in my work, especially in a more focused framework since PLA will be about public libraries specifically, and I’m looking forward to everything I’ll learn and be inspired by and inspired to do. The one way in which I felt like my ALA experience was lacking was that I didn’t get to meet as many new people as I wanted, and I’m hoping to do that at PLA–in just one month!

February 24, 2010 at 4:19 PM Leave a comment

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