But What About The NON Reluctant Readers? (this is actually a give away post!)

As librarians we bend over backwards for our reluctant readers.  We salivate at the idea that a book is perfect for reluctant readers, that it’s so appealing that kids who don’t like books will LOVE it.  We preen with delight when non-readers tell us “I loved this book and I never read books.”  We feel an indescribable thrill when we talk about how we connected reluctant readers with the right books.  We champion books that are not all that well-crafted because we know, we know, that they will speak to a reluctant reader, that they will suck in some teen who doesn’t read often or widely.

This is something I am proud of in our profession.  This is a particular reward, a particular task that takes particular skills, in our profession.  Not everyone is good at it and it takes time and skill and patience.  It takes the ability to, at times, squash down that voice inside you that wants to prostrate yourself at a teenager’s feet and scream, “NOT TWILIGHT!  THERE’S SO MANY *GOOD* BOOKS YOU COULD BE READING INSTEAD!”  And that is a lot harder than you might actually think, when you are a person who loves good literature so darn much.

But we push through that!  We reach out for reluctant readers, we constantly assure them that we are there for them, that our collection is for them, that we won’t give up on them.  And I’m damn glad we do.

Only sometimes, sometimes, I wonder about what happens when we forget about our non reluctant readers – those teens that can’t get enough, that read dozens of books and still want more, the ones that walk out of the library with a huge pile of books and a big smile.

What happens to them in our giant stampede of “THIS BOOK WON’T HURT YOU, I SWEAR!” reassurances?

I think I know.  It’s not that they stop coming into the library, not quite, it’s that they stop coming to us.  They go to the adult section, you see, and fall in love with Harry Dresden and Daenerys Targaryen.  And while that is totally awesome – nothing breaks my heart quicker than to see a 15 year old, a bright, voracious reader look right at me and say, “Yeah, young adult books are just boring, I’m not really interested anymore.”

When we, and here we means librarians, teachers, writers, publishers, publicists, all of us who are involved in this industry, when we encourage the dumbing down of young adult fiction, we tell this 15 year old they’re right.

We say: “Yup, you had a good run here with us, you really loved those kid books!  But now you’re way too smart and sophisticated and mature as a reader for all this stuff, this baby stuff, so you might as well go find real books!”

And I don’t want to be in an industry that says that.  Do you?

When I am doing training and workshops for librarians I inevitably come up against the Octavian Nothing issue.

Here I am, having just spent an hour telling them all the latest zombie-romance-vampire-killing-non-stop-action books that are sure to fly off their shelves and now I stand before them and tell them that, with limited budget, they need to buy Octavian Nothing – a dense, historical novel that wrestles with huge, hard questions and is written in deliberately stylized prose meant to evoke the 18th century.  They stare at me in bewilderment.  Who am I?  Can they trust anything I say?  HAVE I GONE MAD?

So then I tell them the most important part: Octavian Nothing is not for all your teen readers.  Octavian Nothing is the kind of book you have to sell to your teen readers, the kind you have to work to connect with the right teen.  And maybe Octavian Nothing is right for one teen out fifty.  But for that one, this is the kind of book that can change their life – the kind of book that can open a world of possibilities in them, that can make them think and wonder, that can make them say, “Yeah, young adult literature is awesome.”

Don’t you want that?

And yes, they nod, thinking about Octavian Nothing, thinking about the American Revolution and questions of liberty and freedom and justice and moral right.  That seems profound, that seems like a higher calling.  Yes.

But what if that same question was posed about a book where monsters rip people’s faces off, where the blood flows copiously, and there are very nasty things that go bump in the night?

Would it be so easy to nod then?

The Monstrumologist is that book.  It’s not for every reader.  It’s not for many reluctant readers (though there are some who will be drawn in, much to their surprise!)  It’s sophisticated, smart, classically structured, dense, and detailed.  The Monstrumologist is a book for the teenagers who think that young adult literature doesn’t have anything left to offer them.

The Monstrumologist tells the story of young Will Henry, who is apprenticed to Pellinore Warthrop, the monstrumologist of our title.  Dr. Warthrop is an amazing character, full of sharp edges and determination – a man who never flinches from his duty, even when his duty is dark business indeed, he springs off the pages with clarity.  Will and Dr. Warthrop, as I am sure will come as no surprise to you, encounter and do bloody battle with a great number of monsters, both of the human and inhuman variety.  The books are richly plotted, detailed historical pieces and, oh yeah, they’ re rip-roaringly-turn-on-the-lights scary and stomach-churningly gory. 

This blog is not a review of The Monstrumologist series, per se, Bear already handled that for me a few days ago  And if you want to read a great one try out Liz’s review of the first book (she has great reviews of all three titles in the series, Curse of the Wendigo and Isle of Blood.) or you could read the professional reviews, which were glowing.  (Booklist said it “might just be the best horror novel of the year.”)  I wasn’t lucky enough to get an AR of Isle of Blood but I can’t wait to read it next week because this is a series that has only become richer and more fulfilling with each volume, as you come to know all the characters and their world better.

When I heard that Simon & Schuster had declined to pick the book up for a fourth volume, I felt YA lit grow poorer.

But!  Now we know there will be a fourth volume and THAT makes us all richer.

To celebrate and because I hope this series of posts has convinced at least one of you, dear readers, that you absolutely MUST start this series today, I’m giving away a copy of The Monstrumologist so that you too can be taken in by Will and Dr. Warthrop (and so that you too can have nightmares!!) All you have to do to enter is leave a comment on this blog and I’ll randomly select a winner!  The contest is open extra long since I’m currently out of the country on vacation – so you have until September 19 to enter.

If you can’t wait that long, head out to your library to get The Monstrumologist right this second.  I promise, you’ll be richer for it. (and probably a little scared too…)

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Blog Birthday! (and a chance to win “Ruby Red” by Kerstin Gier!)

Yesterday was my  blog’s first birthday!

Happy birthday, blog!

It’s been a really great year, even though I am the world’s slack-iest blogger.  (my excuse for not being more present in May is that I was moving.  Yeah, that’s it.) I couldn’t even begin to list the highlights, there were just too many to list.  Thank you so much to everyone who reads and comments, whether you’re in the library/publishing world or not.  (but especially if you’re in the library/publishing world, as you’re my peeps! ♥)

So, in honor of my blog’s birthday I thought it was the perfect time to give you, dear readers, a present!  YAY!

The awesome folks at Macmillan contacted me about hosting a giveaway for Kerstin Geir’s Ruby Red and I was excited to say yes because this book has been at the top of my TO BE READ list for months!  How to count the ways I am excited about it?  It’s the first in a series, originally published in German, it’s already a huge international bestseller, and it’s about a time-traveling society and a girl who has untapped powers.  Need I mention there’s a charming fellow time-traveler?  Um, hello.

Here’s the official blurb from Macmillan, which I hope will make you as giddy as it made me:

Gwyneth Shepherd’s sophisticated, beautiful cousin Charlotte has been prepared her entire life for traveling through time. But unexpectedly, it is Gwyneth, who in the middle of class takes a sudden spin to a different era!

Gwyneth must now unearth the mystery of why her mother would lie about her birth date to ward off suspicion about her ability, brush up on her history, and work with Gideon–the time traveler from a similarly gifted family that passes the gene through its male line, and whose presence becomes, in time, less insufferable and more essential. Together, Gwyneth and Gideon journey through time to discover who, in the 18th century and in contemporary London, they can trust.

You can find lots more goodies at the Macmillan page for Ruby Red including an audio excerpt and the first chapter of the book.

There’s also the super-sweet book trailer …

I KNOW, RIGHT? So, I know you are dying to have your very own copy and, thanks to the kind folks at Macmillan, I have one to give away. What a great birthday present! 🙂

All you have to do to enter is:

  • Be a resident of the US or Canada
  • Comment on this post no later than June 15th
  • Wish my blog happy birthday!
  • (and, for fun, you can mention one of your favorite books featuring time travel. But that’s not required!)

Thanks to Macmillan for the giveaway and THANK YOU, each and every one of you, for reading and being part of my radical first year. I hereby resolve that year 2 shall be full of even more posts, reviews, prizes, and fat acceptance. I can’t wait and I hope y’all stick around!

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There Are No 50 Books “Everyone” Should Read (Give Away post!)

After our teen group meeting, a group of boys split off and starting playing Super Smash Brothers Brawl and a group of teen volunteers came into the room and started eating leftover cake and ice cream.  It was a fun atmosphere.  One of the teen’s boyfriend arrived and looked around.  “Um,” he said slowly, pointing at the boys playing video games.  “Doesn’t this, like, go against the point of, um, book club or whatever?”

Another boy jumped in.  “No.  It’s not about – it’s like.  This is our big-party-fun-time.  It’s – this is where – we can – ” he couldn’t seem to get the right words out.  I tried to help.

“It’s that the library is about fun,” I supplied, smiling.  “You don’t have to think about school or homework or getting into college if you don’t want to.  You can just come and hang out and enjoy yourself. ”

The TAG kids nodded emphatically over the smashing sounds of Mario.  That’s it exactly.

Fun.  Remember that?  Enjoying yourself?  Remember that?  Last week, I returned to my alma mater for my favorite, hands-down my favorite, professional conference: Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival.  Lots of amazing things, more amazing things than I could imagine, happened.  I had the chance to interview Gary Schmidt for half an hour for an article for VOYA and David Diaz gave me a packet of cherry Pez for blow-drying one of his paintings.  I also had the chance to hear Roger Sutton give the Ezra Jack Keats lecture.  The lecture was a lot about how Harry Potter changed the field of children’s publishing.  This part was fascinating, of course, and I can’t wait for The Horn Book article that’s sure to result.  BUT it was also a chance for Roger to speak up about the importance of pleasure reading, defending children and teen’s reading choices.  I don’t know how I managed to resist standing up and shouting AMEN!

I was tweeting throughout Roger’s lecture and here are some highlights from my notes:

  • “Reluctant reader often means they are not reading what we want them to read.”
  • “Kids have always fallen in love with terrible books, libraries need to have them too.”
  • “In my dream library, no one ever says that’s not good enough.”
  • “A librarian’s job is to get out of the way and let the reader choose.”

AH, ROGER, YOU’RE THE BEST!

This all reminded me of the recent flap about the The Independent‘s recent article about “The 50 Books Every Child Should Read.”  While this is a noble effort to be sure it’s also … frustrating and, well, silly.  There are no 50 books “every” child should read.  This is just as silly as that Facebook meme about the BBC’s list of books.  Why should you feel guilt about what you have and haven’t read?  Who came up with that list anyway?  Who is judging you?  When did reading become a chore or a competition or (shudder) a requirement?  Reading is supposed to be fun, remember?

And, with that in mind … here’s the GIVE AWAY part of the blog, huzzah!

A few months ago, Simon & Schuster offered me a chance to do a giveaway on my blog.  I told them heck yeah, because giveaways are awesome.  They’ve given me FIVE signed copies of Elixir by Hilary Duff to give away and I couldn’t be more excited.

Yes, Elixir by Hilary Duff.  Yes, that Hilary Duff.

Are you rolling your eyes yet?  Maybe you are.  But let me tell you – this book might not win the Printz but it’s a fun time.  It really is.  I read it in one sitting and I enjoyed the heck out of it.  It’s soapy and ridiculous and full of details about everything from rainforests to red carpets.  The story involves Clea, a socialite without a care in the world.  Everything changes when her father disappears in the rainforests of Brazil and she decides to go off and try to solve the mystery of what’s happened to him.  This is the first plot element I loved: Clea getting out there and doing something herself, a plot that kicks off without a boy pushing her along.  Hurrah!  (don’t worry, we get to the triangle later.  It’s my favorite kind, too: the best friend or the mysterious stranger.)   Once she gets to Brazil it gets all supernatural-y and there’s reincarnation and a mysterious stranger who Clea can’t help but be drawn to and adventures in the jungle. Now come on.  That’s a fun time, especially for teen readers.   The plot doesn’t quite all hang together and the reincarnation stuff gets a little confusing but, really, I wasn’t reading it for plot, I was reading for jungle adventures and longing looks and a female protagonist with a mind of her own.   This book delivered that in spades.  I wasn’t reading because I wanted to impress anyone (like the BBC) or because someone who doesn’t know anything about my life or my tastes was “requiring” me to.  I was reading for pleasure.  And you know?  That’s required reading to me.

So, thanks to the awesome folks at Simon & Schuster, YOU can win your own signed copy of Elixir.

You can keep it for yourself, add it to your library’s circulating collection, or use it as a prize giveaway.  This really would make a great teen giveaway:  this book was a fun time for me, but teen readers that gobble up paranormal-romances will like it EVEN MORE.  AND it’s signed.  My teens treat signed books like gold.  Better still, I have five of them to give away and the contest is open internationally.  All you have to do is leave a comment saying you want to be entered and, at the end of this week, I’ll do a random drawing and notify you if you’ve won a copy.

There are no books “everyone” should read, not every child, not every teenager, not every adult.  All of us, every single one, should read what we want.  And we should treat reading like what it IS: a big-party-fun-time.

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