Back to School Booklist – Humor

So, the kids are going back to school. Or are already back in school. Down here in Mississippi, this is the fourth week of school! Middle school is hard. The adjustments, the transitions. A lot of turmoil. So what I’m saying is that I think our kids deserve a laugh. If you need a quick display idea or just something to hand a kid who’s dreading going to school on Tuesday, here’s a list of really hilarious middle grade:

The Ginny Davis books by Jennifer Holm (of Babymouse fame!). These are old enough that your middle school readers might not be familiar with them, and they’re great. Filled with photographs, journal entries, and looking like a scrapbook, this colorful series will grab a tween’s attention–and make them giggle, too.

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Don’t Delay, Join PPYA!

by Lisa Goldstein

Wondering which YALSA committee to apply for? Consider Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults.’  I’m currently the chair of PPYA, and this is my third year on this selection committee.

PPYA creates three to five themed booklists each year. Past themes have included food, body image, and spirituality; this year’s themes are war, humor, and GLBTQ. Books of any format – fiction, nonfiction, graphic novel – which fit the declared themes and are popular among teens make the list. Literary quality is not a strong consideration. Members use circulation stats and teen feedback to gauge popularity, and do their best to ignore standards in taste, writing, or cover art.

Committee members serve on two of the subject lists, for which they acquire, read, and evaluate every nominated title. Each list usually ends up with between fifty and seventy-five nominations, and is eventually whittled down to twenty to twenty-five titles.

One of the most helpful things about PPYA work is also one of the trickiest: most books do not fit neatly into one category. Libba Bray’s Beauty Queens, for example, is hilarious, but it also has fantastic GLBTQ characters. Which list does it belong on? This can lead to fascinating discussions with committee members, and helps immensely with readers’ advisory further down the line. Does a teen in your library need a book with a positive portrayal of a transgender character? Give her Bray’s Beauty Queens. Does another teen want a funny book? Recommend Beauty Queens. Because PPYA doesn’t focus on new releases, committee members attain a well-rounded knowledge of young adult literature. Reading and categorizing over one hundred young adult books can’t help but aide readers’ advisory, as well as the creation of book lists and pathfinders. Continue reading

Youth participation at its finest

One day this past week, a co-worker of mine came into the workroom to retrieve a laptop to bring to a patron. I heard the phone ringing on the information desk and pointed it out to my co-worker. He went back out to the desk, with the laptop and came back to the workroom a few minutes later. “I went out to the desk and someone was on the phone saying, ‘I don’t know’ a lot.” My co-worker proceeded to tell us that he asked the teen, “dude, what are you doing on the phone?” The teen matter-of-factly responded, “It was ringing and so I answered it.”

We had some good laughs after that and chalked one up for some true youth participation. Anyone else have some humorous moments to share?

Booklist Forum

Posted by Beth Gallaway

I make it a point to get into twon in time to see the Booklist Forum at each ALA. Traditionally 8-10PM on Friday night, it is always a delight.

Mo Willems, former stand-up comic, opened with how to draw his famed pigeon: An “O” within an “O” for a head, a strategical placed pupil to indicate emotion), a sideways letter M for a beak, two lines for the neck and to deliniate a throat (sound effects optional), a “cirdrangal” (starts out as a circle with a triangular end) with a wing, stick legs and letter V’s for legs. “The faster you draw the more life it has,” said Willems, before congratulating us on our differently-styled brids and imploring us to “make people draw pigeons!”

Author Lisa Yee spoke about humiliation, headache and heartbreak in humor (Willems helpfully drew a large letter “H” to illustrate her alliteration) and talked about her everyday life that includes researching her books through spying, mostly on her children, blowing up peeps in the microwave (hint – put 2 in, stick a toothpick in each, and let the jousting begin!) and “dropping Mentos… into diet Coke to watch the explosions.” In her research to prove that guys can be sensitive (“Right? Right? Back me up, guys,” she asked of her fellow panelists – Lubar made a great show of laughing at this assertion) she gave us great and funny quotes from young readers. “Girls travel in wolf packs and just talk and talk and talk… about why unicorns have horns” Lisa’s son informed has informed her.

David Lubar was uproarious per usual, noting that now we’d all learned two lessons – don’t go on car rides with Mo and make sure Lisa doesn’t have Mentos when she’s drinking a Pepsi. He gave us some great reasons for writing humor:

  • Mark Twain lived til he was 75 – Kafta, 42
  • Angst is for whiners
  • High school would have been bearable if the Pearl had been funny

Punctuated by two signature Lubar booklists (“Great Books Set in New Orleans” and “Edgiest Books”), David (who is not bitter at all about his books being virtually ignored by bestowers of YA lit awards, really) touched on the need for more humor in fiction for teens. He doesn’t need to write books about kids with alcoholic parents and in other terrible situations: “I don’t write books about those kids… I write FOR those kids.”

Jack Gantos delivered a more sober speech about the background of comedy in the history of literature – the Homeric tradition of engaging the reader by making him/her her smarter than the protagonist. This is Gantos’s way of thinking about the reader when he was writing. Comedy is based on a foundation of truth, and is doubly successful when the character reinforces the reader’s view of the character’s stupidity. He also discussed his theory of dramatic comedy.

The evening ended a little early, but it was a great program – so full they had to bring in more chairs.