David Levithan and Cross Shelving

I am currently reading David Levithan’s new novel, The Lover’s Dictionary. This is the first of his novels, at least that I’ve read, that hasn’t been filed in the YA section. As I’ve been reading it I’ve sort of kept a check list of reasons for this in my head, but what I’ve found is that the major rationalization seems to be the age of the characters, who come across as just past young adulthood. My other thought while reading this novel is that it is probably one of the best solo novels I have read by David Levithan.

This got me thinking about cross shelving. My mother is a children’s librarian, and she has told me before that some novels (like the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson books) are shelved in both the Children’s and YA sections. It makes sense to me; some kids are still okay looking for books in the Children’s section, but other kids who might not be ready for everything in YA would still like to start browsing there. Continue reading

YA Lit Symposium Pre-Conference: On Beyond Stonewall

The morning began with Michael Cart giving an overview of some of the important social and political events related to LGBTQ issues. Next, Cart and Christine Jenkins presenting a list of all of the books with LGBTQ content from 1969 to 2010. They booktalked many of these, highlighting some trends (resolution by automobile crash, melodrama, impossibly good looking gay men and the women who love them), the breakthrough books, and the real dingers. It was like being back in library school, taking a class on LGBTQ YA Lit, but it was compressed. If you want to spend more time with these books and these issues, check out Cart and Jenkins’ book from Scarecrow Press, The Heart Has It’s Reasons.

If you get your hands on their bibliography and were not in attendance, please note that this is not a list of recommended books. Some are good and some are not so good. During introductions, we each chose books from the list to highlight. Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan and Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and Levithan got the most nods, along with the graphic novel Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki. Please add your own recommendations in the comments. Continue reading

Book Review: Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares is the story of two people who first meet on the pages of a red moleskin notebook. One day Dash is perusing the shelves of his favorite bookstore, the Strand, and instead of a first edition Salinger, he finds a notebook challenging him to follow the dares left for him by a girl named Lily and leave some of his own in return. As they follow the clues (and dares) of a total stranger, Dash and Lily end up everywhere from NYC’s Macy’s during the week before Christmas to a club in the middle of the night (listening to a band called Sorry Rabbi, Tricks are for Yids). Each dare reveals something new about Dash and Lily and brings them closer to the day they will actually meet. When that day finally arrives, they are forced to reconcile the versions of each other they had in their heads with the real thing.

This book has a frenetic energy about it, like everything is happening so quickly that neither Dash nor Lily can keep their changing opinions straight. It’s like an explosion of hormones and opinions and pretentious language and really honest emotion, all barely contained within a shell of insecurity and feigned apathy. It’s like this book is screaming, “READ ME IF YOU ARE A TEENAGER. NO, SERIOUSLY.”

In true Levithan-Cohn style, this book is full of snarky dialogue, the craziest and most awesome array of characters ever (from a gay Jewish hipster couple to a family not unlike the mafia, if you replace violence with Christmas cheer), and a plotline so ridiculous and serendipitous that it’s almost impossible not to enjoy yourself.

Even with all of this to choose from, what I love most about this book is that it is a romance that isn’t really a romance. In most YA romances, the narrator is usually a girl who develops an all-consuming crush on a boy, they meet, and then lots of sexy scenes are spliced together with lots of mushy, let’s-express-our-feelings scenes. While these books are definitely fun to read, they aren’t always the most honest or healthy portrayal of what a couple can be like.

For most of this novel, Dash and Lily never actually occupy the same space. The promise of romance is always there, but it takes a backseat to the emotional development of the characters. Because of the dares they challenge each other with, both Dash and Lily are forced to look at the world through someone else’s eyes: they challenge each other’s ideas, they unknowingly push each other outside of their comfort zones, and they ultimately help each other form a better understanding of themselves.

Preconference: Promoting Teen Reading with Web 2.0 Tools

What a line up for the preconference event on Friday, June 25 from 12:30-4:30p! Promoting Teen Reading with Web 2.0 Tools will feature the following speakers and topics:

Eliza Dresang , author of Radical Change: Books for Youth in a Digital Age will talk about evolving literacies and teen readers

Authors John Green and David Levithan will talk about the future of reading and writing young adult literature

Kristen Purcell with Pew Internet & American Life will give an overview of teen online behavior

Authors Malinda Lo (Ash, 2009), Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (Beautiful Creatures, 2010), and Melissa Walker with readergirlz will give a panel presentation on putting teen reading and web 2.0 tools into practice

This is a ticketed event for $99. This is a great opportunity to learn how to connect with teens beyond the collection in your library!

It’s Perfectly Normal

Do you ever find your conversations with teens veering more toward the personal than the professional?

Are books on sex, drugs, abuse or depression constantly going missing from your shelves?

Have you ever found yourself thinking, “I’m a librarian, not a therapist!” (…or a social worker, or a nurse, or a police officer?)

Would you like to hear how some of the hottest YA authors incorporate tough subject matter into their books–and their interactions with teens?

If you answered yes to any of the above, YALSA’s full-day preconference on June 25 is for you!

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Meeting Them Where They Are: Nerdfighteria

I have a confession to make: I am a Nerdfighter. If you know what I mean, skip the next two paragraphs.

What’s a Nerdfighter? Well, it all started with a video blog called Brotherhood 2.0, in which YA author, John Green, and his brother, Hank, decided that they would communicate via video blog, no text, for the entire year of 2007. They alternated days of making videos to each other and posted them on YouTube, so the world could watch their conversation. They talked about growing up as nerds, they talked about books and music, they wrote songs, answered questions and made up challenges. They talked about current events and how to make the world a better place. It turns out that both brothers are good storytellers who can monologue on topics serious and amusing with great heart and humor. We watched, we laughed, and we were inspired. Over the course of the year and in the time since, the brothers Green have collected a following, and we call ourselves Nerdfighters.

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So Much Better Than the Movie

I’ve been thinking lately about books that make the jump to the big screen, spurred most recently by a discussion over at Feministing about Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. The comments there have brought up issues of who makes certain decisions about a film (was Norah’s flannel left out by the screenwriter, the costume designers, or the director?), the sacrifices screenmakers make in order to make a book more “filmic,” and what it means when films deviate significantly from their source text.

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Joseph’s Lexically Limited Review of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist

Late in the movie, Norah tells Nick about the Judaic concept of tikkun olam, a Hebrew phrase that translates to “repairing the world.” It turns out to be the perfect phrase to chart the course of two characters who begin the film broken but find solace in one wild New York night. [view trailer] Continue reading

Out of the Closet and Into the Library

Posted by Kelly Czarnecki

A fantastic and call to action presentation was given by four panelists at ALA on Monday: Erin Downey Howerton, School Liasison for the Johnson County Library in Kansas, Brent Hartinger, author of Geography Club and upcoming book about the attack of the soul sucking brain zombies (at least that’s what I think I heard), Sara Ryan, Teen Services Specialist for the Multnomah County Library system in Portland, Oregon and author of Empress of the World, and David Levithan, author of Are We There Yet? (All the panelists are so much more than what I mentioned, but those are a few things about them.

Erin talked about how she wanted to add GLBT books to the collection and the fact that people might object to them. It was a good sign that Rainbow Boys by Sanchez and The Misfits by Howe were tattered copies already in the system. Lists from the ALA 2000 annual conference put together by the GLBT roundtable and updated in 2004 were used as guides to build the collection.
Rainbow Kite by Shyer is a story about a gay teen’s coming out that Erin shared her enthusiasm for with colleagues that opened a lot of doors for further conversation. Adding booklists to binders so that teens don’t have to approach staff for suggestions if they would prefer not to and putting booklists inside of books to point out similar reads were suggested to connect teens with GLBT themed books. Erin thinks of books as people and wants them to meet the people they were always destined to meet. Further recommended resources:

2006 Popular Paperback GLBTQ list
The Heart Has Its Reasons: Young Adult Literature with Gay/Lesbian/Queer Content, 1969-2004 by Michael Cart
Outsource: A Handbook for Serving Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Teens at the Library by Hillias Martin and James Murdock

Brent Hartinger told his story of growing up as a gay teen and how he didn’t see himself represented in books. There was a made for tv movie called What If I’m Gay? which was done from the point of view of straight friends which was not very helpful or enlightening. Like Geography Club, he started a support group and safe meeting place (away from the seedy bar) which grew to 450 members of GLBTQ teens and even offered themselves as a resource to counselors.
Geography Club was in its 3rd printing in less than a month, turned into a stage play, and brought about an avalanche of emails and letters from people that related to Russel (even straight people who understood that everyone knows what it’s like to have a secret). He talked about the controversy of this book in his home town and the importance of continuing to foster diverse collections and helping spread the word as a library for GLBTQ folks.

Sara Ryan suggested the article: If I Ask, Will They Answer?: Evaluating Public Library Reference Service to Gay/Lesbian Youth by Dr. Ann Curry, published in the Fall 2005 issue of Reference and User Services Quarterly. Sara has a fantastic booklist for teens with GLBT related themes and links on the Multnomah County Library site. Sara has been spotlighted by YALSA for the phenomenal work she does (that I can’t possibly capture here).

David Levithan’s book, Wide Awake, comes out September 2006 which is about a gay Jewish President of the U.S. This is his form of a protest song against the last presidential election. As the last speaker of the session, his discussion on the moral imperative of GLBT books themselves and what we do with them was truly uplifting and nothing short of a call to action. In talking about preaching your beliefs, he said that sometimes we need to preach-even though we can’t shove our beliefs down anyone’s throat or force people to do what they don’t want to do, we cannot be afraid of our beliefs just because there might be people louder than us. “Let us make this the loudest god damn fire there is, book by book, shelf, by shelf. . . “ it is about making progress and making things right.

Day of Silence (or no name calling) was recommended for a library program. Partnering with local GLBT organizations, book displays, book lists, and adding authors to your library web site, adding authors myspace accounts to your library’s, adding Spanish/English language GLBT materials from the Human Rights Campaign to the collection-these are free!, adding search words to your catalog that reflect the needs of GLBT people were some of the ideas shared by the panelists and audience.

Also, check out one of this years Movers and Shakers, Bart Birdsall from Tampa Florida, who indeed made the freedom of speech for gay teens the loudest god damn fire there is.