Magic, Fun and Imagination for CYRM Intermediate Novels

August 1, 2016 | Posted in Blog: Story Stories, Book Reviews, Libraries, libraries | By

The novels nominated for the Intermediate California Young Reader Medal this year will bring your 3rd through 6th graders plenty of what they love: fun, magic and imagination. As always, readers must read all novels nominated in a category to be eligible to vote. Here is a quick summary of each novel in the Intermediate category.

Chock-full of puzzles, Escape from Mr Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein is very popular with 2nd – 5th grade readers, who love to solve the puzzles along with the characters. The Public Library in Alexandriaville had been closed for 11 years. Mr. Lemoncello, world-famous game-maker and public library supporter, set out to right this wrong by holding an extravagant party/contest for 12 twelve-year olds to celebrate the opening of the brand new state of-the-art public library. This book details that contest by following the stories of a couple of those contestants. Librarians, like me, will enjoy the many references to children’s literature and the Dewey Decimal classification system. This book begs for group projects like create a game and the website mentioned in the back of the book has extensions galore.

The other two books nominated are both fantasies. Anne Ursu’s The Real Boy is the more adventurous of the two. Oscar knows he’s different but he doesn’t know why. He understands cats, but not people. The magician’s apprentice tells Oscar he’s useless; worthless. When something unknown attacks the village and the magician is gone, Oscar wonders if he can possibly help – and how. Ursu’s robust fantasy will have readers questioning the role of magic in fairy tales and in their own lives. This is good for fantasy and fairy tale readers 4th grade and up. I have a free Story Sheet called Sensing Magic which examines Ursu’s use of sensory words to convey Oscar’s changing attitude toward magic and challenges students to begin a magical story.

Liesl Shurtliff’s Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin is the most humorous of the three novels. This is a must-read for middle grade fairy-tale lovers and has just enough humor to attract those less inclined to read. Rump paints a sympathetic and believable backstory for a character whose motivation has never been clear: Rumpelstiltskin. Shurtliff’s unnamed fantasy-land (for names are important) is whimsical enough that readers will want to stay just to find out what quirky creature might appear next. The Story Sheet Back Together Again helps students deconstruct how Shurtliff re-told Rumpelstiltskin and challenges them to de-construct and re-tell Humpty Dumpty in a new way.

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Bronco Riding

September 9, 2013 | Posted in Blog: Story Stories, Book Reviews, libraries | By

I’m subbing in a high school library for a few weeks. Before I started this job, when I mentioned it to parents, they would ask me, “Do high school kids even read?”

That question, naturally, made me a bit defensive entering this library. I’m writing YA, ferchrist’s sake. They better read.

Once I arrived at this library I did, indeed, discover that what the teenagers check out most is: computers. But that’s OK. They’re doing their homework.

But hey, I’ve only got a few weeks at this substitute librarian thing. I want to succeed at my future dream career as a YA writer/real librarian. I need these kids to read. So I did the best thing I could think of: what motivates each and every teen to read.

I put together a book display.

At least I picked a subject they might like: Uncommon Couples. That will motivate them to read. Right? Aside from the obvious chick lit, werewolf and vampire stuff, I included Marley & Me, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Double Helix, that sort of thing.

Then I hid behind the circulation desk and watched to see if any of them picked up a book.

I didn’t witness it, but later in the day, I saw Anatomy of a Boyfriend, by Daria Snydowsky, on the coffee table next to someone’s knitting.

Sweet victory.

But she didn’t check the book out.

Partial victory.

From my spot behind the circulation desk, I saw another girl reading the same book the next period. But she, too, left the library without stopping at the circulation desk.

I wasn’t sure whether this counted as a win for me and books or not.

Then, during lunch, a co-ed group of teenagers had gathered around the coffee table. They were taking turns reading aloud to each other. Boisterous laughter ensued. This is a librarian’s dream, right? A library full of teens, sitting together, warmly conversing, laughing, sharing literature aloud, during their free time.

It is a substitute librarian’s nightmare.

What the hell book was that? It was not The Double Helix.

They were reading Daria Snadowsky’s Anatomy of a Boyfriend. That book was really getting around. Nancy (not her real name), the other librarian, and I quickly looked up reviews for the novel, which I had added to the display without reading.

Rookie librarian.

“Oh, poop,” I said – not exactly what I said – as both of our screens filled with impassioned accounts of the book. I explained to Nancy how I innocently did a subject search for “dating” and found this cute cover. Then I naively stuck the book next to Anthony and Cleopatra, which no one had yet cracked.

Once lunch was over, Nancy retrieved the book from the coffee table. She opened it to a page – 151 ­– and read this aloud, “You’ve got a long night of bronco riding ahead of you, cowgirl.”

I frowned. “I’ve really enjoyed working with you, Nancy. I hope you like the new sub tomorrow.”

Needless to say, I took the book home and read it myself. You can see my GoodReads review here: link to review

I liked the book, so I put it back in the display. It faced a different direction, so I hate to say this, but it hasn’t been picked up since. However, I am pleased to report that some romance manga, Franny and Zooey, and Gone with the Wind have all been checked out.

And, I’m sure that Anatomy of a Boyfriend is available on any e-reader. You can check those out, as the kids know, at the library. Hey, maybe that’s why they’re checking out so many computers.

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