Wednesday, April 5, 2017

March Madness Round 3

We're down to eight books!  Go vote using the link

Smile vs Wonder - both of these books beat their competitors by a landslide.  Sorry Between Shades of Gray and Red Queen.  Looks like sweetness and normalcy ruled the day.

Legend vs. Lightning Thief - Two more huge victories here!

Maze Runner vs. Girl Stolen - While Maze Runner easily beat If I Stay, Girl Stolen barely edged out I Funny.

Drama vs. Hunger Games - I'm thinking that the disappointing ending to Divergent made most kids so made they voted for Hunger Games more.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

March Madness Round Two

Round One winners brought with them a couple of surprises.  It looks like we still have everyone's favorite historical fiction novel, Between Shades of Gray, in our contest.  Three graphic novels, Smile, Drama, and the Maximum Ride Manga books, progressed to the next level.  And, of course, we have plenty of dystopian fiction moving on as well.  Here is a list of all the winners and who they are up against for round two.

Between Shades of Gray vs. Smile
Red Queen vs. Wonder
Maximum Ride Manga vs. Legend
Lightning Thief vs. Pulse
Maze Runner vs. If I Stay
Girl Stolen vs. I, Funny
Drama vs. Underdogs
Divergent vs. Hunger Games

You can vote for round two by going to

Monday, March 20, 2017

March (Library) Madness 2017

It's back!  Those silly basketball players don't even know how much I look forward to their tournament because it means that it's also time for our book tournament!  So here's how the books stacked up.  The top 32 most checked out books in the library are listed above in the order in which they will enter our tournament.  If you want to go straight to the page and start voting, then click here!  You can see their book covers on the voting pages.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham

Dreamland Burning is a fascinating story about the Tulsa Race Riots of 1921. This was a precarious time in our past when the KKK was starting to rear its ugly head.  It is paired with a modern day story of what racism looks like in our world today.  We learn of Will, in 1921, who is the son of an Osage Indian woman and a white man who likely married her because of her wealth from the oil discovered in Indian lands in which she had part ownership.  We also get to know Rowan, who lives today, who is the daughter of a black woman and a white man.  Both characters have to make tough decisions about how to do the right thing in the face of a world that doesn't always agree with who they are.

I loved the mystery in this book.  As the details of the skeleton found under the floor in part of Rowan's house are discovered, we are constantly flipped back into 1921 to try and piece out all of the details.  The clues that we are given in Rowan's time are just enough for us to think we know what is going to happen to Will in 1921.  But Latham does a fanstastic job of keeping us guessing until the very end when we discover exactly who that skeleton belongs to and how that person really died.    

I love learning about American history.  I especially love learning about parts of our country's history that are not commonly known or understood.  For instance, when I ask students what they know about Japanese internment camps during WWII, most of them just stare right through me.  It always floors me that in 5th and 8th grade, when students are supposed to learn American history, the parts of WWII that are taught the most are Pearl Harbor and all of the atrocities that took place in Europe.  American racism isn't something that textbooks and teachers like to talk about.  But there is a quote in this book that really made me think.  

"I understand now that history only moves forward in a straight line when we learn from it.  Otherwise it loops past the same mistakes over and over again." -- Rowan, Dreamland Burning

I feel like we have been looping past the same mistakes for some time now.  And it only seems to be getting worse.  That's the reason I work to find fiction that I can put in the hands of my students.  Reading a textbook and listening to a lecture isn't going to teach teenagers about some of these buried parts of our past.  But, hopefully, getting to know characters who have lived through it will somehow make a dent in the amount of history that is not being taught.  Maybe then we can straighten out that line and move forward.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

North Texas Teen Book Festival 2017

I love going to this book festival each year!  It seems to really have grown a lot since it began three years ago.  This year, I heard they expected about 10,000 teenagers in attendance!  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to attend on the day of the event since my son was in the regional meet for his awesome power-lifting ability!  But, they had a wonderful day just for educators on the day before the big day.  I got to see plenty of authors and talk to some that also attended YAK Fest, so it was a great day.  Here are my thoughts and observations from the day.

Ally Carter
Ally Carter
Ally Carter had some really great things to say.  She was on a panel with Elizabeth Eulberg, YAK Fest 2017), and they are obviously good friends.  Ally told the crowd that she does all of her writing at a Panera Bread by her home.  She just plugs in her earbuds and goes!! They even sent her a gift card when she tweeted about it one day.  Memorable story:  Ally saw a little girl in Panera one day who obviously had cancer.  She was wearing an Elsa dress and seemed so happy.  She thought to herself that sometimes you just need to wear an Elsa dress for the day to make yourself happy.  Her goal is to have her books be someone's Elsa dress.  She wants to make people happy with her books.

Angie Thomas
This is a new author.  Her name is Angie Thomas.  Remember that name, people.  She is going to be around for a while.  My favorite part of listening to her, besides listening to her read from her book (!!), was what she said about her favorite books from her childhood.  She loved Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry because she grew up in Mississippi and it really hit home with her.  She also loved the Harry Potter series and said she was always waiting for her letter to arrive so that she could attend Hogwarts.  In her words, "One book gave me a mirror, and the other book gave me a window."  Is that beautiful or what?? 

Here is a video of Angie Thomas reading from her debut book, The Hate U Give.

Ibi Zoboi27ef868543abf9c4e16439c1aeb8f0bd.jpg
Ibi Zoboi and Renee Watson have written two beautiful books that everyone should read.  These books discuss cultural issues that I know nothing about, but I can't wait to read them so I can learn.  After listening to them read from their books, I know that I will be looking for these to order for you very soon.  

Jason Reynolds
I can't say enough about this guy.  He has the most wonderful speaking voice and is so passionate about the topics he writes about - probably because many of them are reflective of what he has experienced in his past.  For instance, in the book The Boy in the Black Suit, he writes about a boy who keeps finding himself going to the funerals of his friends.  Jason told the audience that he had his first experience as a pall bearer at the age of 14.  He writes what he knows.  This includes using "his language" which was something he never saw in the books he was told to read growing up.  This is why he didn't read a whole novel until he was 17 years old!  I'm going to try and get him to come to YAK Fest in 2018.

Image result for laurie halse anderson
Laurie Halse Anderson
Who doesn't love Laurie Halse Anderson??  She is so down to earth and loves to talk about her books.  She told us that she wrote Speak because of a personal experience similar to what Melinda goes through in the book.  She wrote it for herself and never intended for it to published.  Laurie told us that it's a topic that isn't discussed enough and that she encourages teenagers to have the courage to talk about tough topics.  Her favorite series as a kid was the Nancy Drew books.  

Friday, February 3, 2017

YAK Fest 2017

YAK Fest 2017 was a huge success!  There were so many teens that were able to join us, and I think we had the highest attendance so far!  All of the authors were really excited and many of them have emailed me to say that they loved getting to know our Texas teens and were very impressed with them.  Below are a few memories from the day.

Here's my yearly author selfie backstage with everyone right before they walked out onstage for their introduction.  From the front of the picture moving backwards:  Lindsey Lane, Jonathan Maberry, Will Ritter, Brendan Reichs, Samantha Mabry, Elizabeth Eulberg, Kate Elliott, Jeff Zentner, Christian McKay Heidicker.  

Jeff Zentner gave a passionate keynote speech about empathy.  You can read his speech on his website by clicking here.  But he is only leaving it on his site for a limited time!

Jeff Zentner signing autographs.

Melanie Crowder with one of our HMS 7th graders. 

K.A. Holt 

Christian McKay Heidicker and his selfie pose.   

Lindsay Cummings 

Sasha Alsberg listening to one of her many followers. 

Lisa Schroeder 

Tim Tingle telling a story. 

Brendan Reichs 

Emmy Laybourne 

Elizabeth Eulberg 

Will Ritter 

April Henry 

Jonathan Maberry 

The Escape Hatch - one of our favorite parts of YAK Fest.  Hanging out with authors is the best! 

I'm already planning YAK 2018!  Let me know of the authors you really want to meet.  Maybe we can make it happen!  Happy Reading!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Free Audiobooks Just in Time for Summer!!

What's better than free?  Nothing!  Whether you have ever listened to an audiobook or not, you need to go get these.  All you have to do is go to the site and sign up for text reminders to get the books downloaded to your account.  You will need the (free) Overdrive app, but it will be so worth it!

Sometimes, listening to a book while you walk, ride your bike,  or go for a long road trip in the car is just the thing!  You are still reading - just reading with your ears!  Don't let anyone tell you different!  All of these books are considered YA.  The cool thing is that they come out in pairs.  The books that are chosen are paired up because they have similar themes or subjects.  It's a great way to try new books.

Here are a few links to help you!  And if you would like a preview of some of these awesome books, just CLICK HERE for a sound clip of all of them!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

North Texas Teen Book Festival 2016

NTTBF was amazing again this year!  It was so crowded, but we still got to see so many authors!  I even spoke with a few of them about coming to YAK Fest next year, so stay tuned on that subject!  There's just something about hearing the author talk about his book that makes reading the book so much more meaningful.  Hearing the backstories about how the ideas formed makes it so that you appreciate the story that much more.  Also, getting to know the authors through the panel discussions gives a little insight as well.  Hearing James Dashner say that he dreamed about a maze when he was a kid and then watched The Shining (which has a terrifying scene with a maze in it at the end) and THAT was the reason he wanted to write Maze Runner?  Now I think of that maze in a whole new way!  I have included some quotes from each of the authors I heard speak.  All the quotes are under the pictures of the panel.  Hopefully, you will find some insight into stories that you didn't already have.

Clean Slate Panel
Jessica Brody, James Dashner, Caragh O'Brien, Mary Pearson, Adam Silvera, Teresa Toten

Talking about her Boys of Summer novels:  "I've never explored teen romance from a boy's point of view so I'm really excited to have this new book." 

"When I was in 7th grade I was too busy thinking about boys to think about writing.  I was obsessed with Christopher Pike books."

"Don't be afraid to write crap, because crap makes a great fertilizer."

"I hear voices, which I don't like to always admit, but those voices make me curious and make me want to write."

"When I was a 7th grader, I thought all writers were dead.  I had never met an author like yall are today."

"I had a vision of the maze one night.  It's been in my head since I was a kid.  I watched the Shining when I was younger.  The garden maze scene at the end and that stuck with me.  Mazes have always creeped me out.  Also, I was watching the TV show Lost while righting the Maze Runner."

"When I was in 7th grade, I was obsessed with Judy Blume's Superfudge books."

"If you're just following what you're interested in, you never know what you'll do when you're older."

"Having a good editor helped me figure out that I just needed to keep working on my story.  There's a messy time of ideas coming and going."

"Even though we know we affect you guys with our books, you have no idea how much YOU affect US as writers!"

"In 7th grade, I wanted to be a WWE Wrestler.  My signature move was going to be the Adam Bomb!"

HMS books by these authors:
Jessica Brody - Unremembered Trilogy, My Life Undecided, Boys of Summer (coming soon)
James Dashner - Maze Runner series, 13th Reality series, Mortality Doctrine series
Caragh O'Brien - Birthmarked series, Vault of Dreamers series (coming soon)
Mary Pearson - Jenna Fox Chronicles, Remnant Chronicles
Adam Silvera - More Happy Than Not (coming soon)
Teresa Toten - Shattered Glass (coming soon), The Unlikely Hero of 13B

Research Lab Panel
Karen Blumenthal, Libba Bray, Nathan Hale, Ruta Sepetys, Janet Taylor

"When researching books, you want to hear people's voices as much as possible.  Primary sources are the best resources."

"One of the things I love about researching the past is that it gives us the present."

"You may know about my cartoon bibliography pages and the research babies."

"I do most of my research on the road.  I want to talk to the people.  I spoke with two elderly men who were among the original divers who were a part of the rescue team of the wreck of the "Ghost Ship."  I then traveled to the coastlines of six different countries to talk to the people who were there when all the bodies started washing up on the coasts."  -- talking about Salt to the Sea

"Many of the people who I had to talk to for my research were part of Soviet Russia and many of them were afraid to talk because of their history of not being allowed to talk about the past.  That's a challenge when writing about hidden history."

"My book is about sewage and smoochin'."

HMS books by these authors:
Karen Blumenthal - Tommy:  The Gun that Changed the World, Steve Jobs:  The Man Who Thought Different
Libba Bray - Gemma Doyle trilogy
Nathan Hale - Hazardous Tales series, Rapunzel's Revenge, Calamity Jack, Frankenstein: A Monstrous Parody (coming soon)
Ruta Sepetys - Between Shades of Gray, Out of the Easy, Salt to the Sea
Janet Taylor - Into the Dim (coming soon)

Angels and Demons Panel
Brodi Ashton, Sarah Rees Brennan, Cynthia Hand, Faith Erin Hicks, D.J. MacHale, Victoria Scott

"Putting all the bad things you see in yourself into a bad character is a lot of fun."

"I'm terrified of monkeys.  They look too much like humans than should ever be possible."

When asked if it is more enjoyable to write a bad character -  "YES!  I can point to readers in my signing line and determine if they would like Dante Walker or not."

"I lived in a haunted house growing up.  The ghost's name was Rose, and I think she liked Jimi Hendrix but hated my version of Jimi Hendrix."

"Most of my books have characters based on myself."

"If there is a ghost, the ghost always wants something. So they are all mystery stories.  That's why I'm drawn to them, but as an author I get to come up with the stuff that the ghost has the ability to do.  But it still has to make sense."

"Its way more fun to write villians than it is to write a hero."

HMS books by these authors:
Brodi Ashton - Everneath series, My Lady Jane (coming soon)
Sarah Rees Brennan - Untold, Team Human
Cynthia Hand - Unearthly series, The Last Time We Say Goodbye
Faith Erin Hicks - Nameless City, Nothing Can Possible Go Wrong, The Adventures of Superhero Girl, Friends with Boys, War at Ellsmere, Last of Us (coming soon)
D.J. MacHale - Morpheus Road series, Pendragon series, Sylo Chronicles
Victoria Scott - Fire and Flood series, Titans

Dystopian Dynasty Panel
Victoria Aveyard, Bethany Hagen, Alex London, Jonathan Maberry, Jenny Martin, Caragh O'Brien

"It's challenging to not go too bleak when writing dystopia."

"I'm an entertainer so my natural instinct is to blow something up.  My favorite scenes to write are fight scenes."

When asked if she could survive her REd Queen world - "No!"

"I heard someone say once that high school is a dystopia."

"My response to conflict is to take a nap.  So if I was in my dystopian world, I would probably just go take a nap."

"Human relationships are what make you care about the characters.  My favorite scene in Proxy is the camping scene in the desert because they were just acting like regular teenagers.  So that made it fun.  And, you know, fart jokes."

"What we broke as adults, you can fix in your future."

"I was the guy in high school who always got in trouble for snarky comments and inappropriate humor.  That's what I like to put in my books."

"I've been thinking about how to survive the zombie apocolypse since i was ten.  I've thought toooo much about it."  #zombiemotivationalspeaker

"Start your story with the ending and the rest will come."

"The war inside - who you are and what you believe in vs the expectations of you on the outside."

When I started writing birthmarked I wanted it to be about regular people.  The challenge wasn't about writing a dystopia.  It was how do I tell a story about people I really care about."

HMS books by these authors:
Victoria Aveyard - Red Queen series
Bethany Hagen - Landry Park series
Alex London - Proxy series
Jonathan Maberry - Rot and Ruin series, Nightsiders series
Jenny Martin - Tracked series
Caragh O'Brien - Birthmarked series, Vault of Dreamers (coming soon)

All the World's a Stage Panel
Julie Murphy, Paul Rudnick, Amy Spalding, Kristin Rae, Caragh O'Brien

"I love going to these events so that I can talk to my readers and hear about their expeiences with my books."

"To be a writer you have to be very comfortable with yourself.  It is a bit solitary."

"The Hershey company found out about my obsesion with chocolate.  They sent me the biggest chocolate bar I've ever seen and I refused to share.  I looked like a rat sitting on the couch gnawing at that chocolate bar."

"I do this for the attention.  I mean look at me!  Do I look like someone who isn't doing this for attention?"

HMS books by these authors:
Julie Murphy - Dumplin
Paul Rudnick - It's All Your Fault (coming soon), Gorgeous (coming soon)
Kristin Rae - Wish You Were Italian, What You Always Wanted (coming soon)

Touch of Paranormal Panel
Lori Goldstein, Jennifer Latham, Samantha Mabry, Natalie Parker

Weirdest Google for book: "Hot teenage boys"

"Best writing tip:  Never compare yourself to a finished published work."

"I rewrote my book three times before the publisher decided to take it.  I ended up taking out a lot of the paranormal."

"My teenage daughters will not read what I write."

Best wrting tip - "Do what feels right to you even if it breaks the supposed rules."

"I sent in a tape to Courtney Love to audition for the new bass player in their band."

"My character isn't paranormal.  She's just a victim of a generational curse."

Weirdest Google for book:  "Effects of poisonous plants on the human body"

Best writing advice:  "Writers are the ones who are willing to do the work.  Do it like you brush your teeth in the morning."

Weirdest Google - "Cutting off body parts and how to staunch the flow of blood and how long does it take a body to decompose in the swamp"

Best writing tip - "Break the rules."

Count Chocula or Booberry?  "What are these?"

"Would you rather sweat cheese or vomit marbles every hour on the hour?"

"Space pirate or medieval wizard?"

HMS books by these authors:
Brenden Reichs - Virals series
Lori Goldstein - Becoming Jinn series
Jennifer Latham - Scarlett Undercover, Dreamland Burning (coming soon)
Samantha Mabry - A Fierce and Subtle Poison
Natalie Parker - Beware the Wild series

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Squirrel Monkey Sighting - TLA16

So, this happened today.  

Author Panels - #TLA16

Science Fiction Author Panel
Jonathan Maberry, Barry Lyga, Peter Brown, Rodman Philbrick, and Raymond Arroyo
From left to right - Maberry, Lyga, Brown, Philbrick, Arroyo

So excited to listen to these awesome guys!  I have a bit of a reader crush on Jonathan Maberry after reading the entire Rot and Ruin series.  I tweeted my geeky discovery that his books include really cool snippets that relate back to the Walking Dead series (Sheriff Rick and Carl).  He tweeted back, and now I feel like we are old friends.  :)

Now that I am sitting here listening to the others, I am getting to know them too.  Author panels are my focus today.  I know there are lots of things I could go to so that I can learn about librarian things that are important, but c'mon!  The author panels are calling my name!  So this post is mostly about that.  My obsession with authors and the need to hear them talk about their books in person.  Oh, and picking out cool quotes they have about books, their lives, and just stuff in general.  

Jonathan Maberry
"A character shows up in my head and starts talking to me.  And by the way, if you're not a writer, that's a cry for help."

"Writing YA is much more liberating than writing adult fiction!"

"When I was 11 I was aware that I knew I didn't want to be a little kid anymore, but I didn't know where I wanted to go.  In the Nightsider series, my character was a little like that because he had to become a hero without proof that it was actually possible."

Barry Lyga
"I grew up reading comic books.  I loved it that the characters and the world mattered more than the fact that the stories didn't always go together.  When I started writing, I didn't care about that either.  I just cared about telling the story."

When asked what genre he would consider his reading habits to fall into, "Trash Literature.  Or Dewey number 666."

"I've wanted to be a writer since I was seven years old.  But I didn't want to starve so I decided to be a lawyer and a writer, or a priest and a writer.  And then I discovered girls."

Rodman Philbrick
"When you put me in a genre, just don't put me in the Old Geezer category!  But however you can get kids to read, do it!"

Peter Brown
"There is truth in fiction that you can only get to in stories."

Books in the HMS Library
Jonathan Maberry books - Rot and Ruin series, Orphan Army
Barry Lyga - I Hunt Killers series, Secret Sea (coming soon)
Rodman Philbrick - Freak the Mighty, The Big Dark (coming soon)
Peter Brown - The Wild Robot (coming soon)

Debut Authors
Victoria Aveyard, Julie Buxbaum, Traci Chee, Robin Epstein, Jan Gansei, Christian Heidicker, Laurent Linn, Leah Thomas

From left to right - Buxbaum, Aveyard, Heidicker, Epstein, Gangsei, Linn, Thomas, Chee
Laurent Linn
"YA fiction is all about character and how you change the world."

Victoria Aveyard
 "Red Queen is the first book I ever wrote and finished.  I wrote it when I was 21 and had just graduated with a film degree.  I was still a young adult so this book really fit me."

"Writing is therapeutic for me.  I'm an entertainer, but I'm doing this because it fulfills me at some deep level."

When asked if she was in her book, "To write truthful characters there has to be touchstones from yourself to make the characters feel real."

"Red Queen's original ending included time travel.  I'm so glad I didn't go with that because I don't want to screw around with time travel!"

"Hunger Games meets Game of Thrones meets X-Men.  That's my favorite description of  my book."

Jan Gangsei
" There's a wonderful enthusiasm in writing for teenagers.  I love writing for that age group."

"I was finished with the book, and then my editor and I decided to add a whole new character to the book.  Now she is a favorite character and I'm so glad I did it." 

"Homeland for teens - that's the best description I've heard for my book Zero Day."

Christian Heidicker
"I have a lot of adults admit embarrassingly that they read YA.  And then I get to tell them that I write it."

Traci Chee
"I wanted to give girls a character that they could relate to because I never saw girls who looked like me in books when I was young.  I also wanted the setting to be real even though there are pirates."

"There are about 10 secret messages that I've put inside my book.  I love that my editor let me do that."

Books in the HMS Library
Victoria Aveyard - Red Queen series
Jan Gangsei - Zero Day
Traci Chee - Reader (coming soon)
Leah Thomas - Because You'll Never Meet Me (coming soon)
Robin Epstein - Hear (coming soon)

Fantasy Retellings Author Panel
Liz Braswell, Samantha Mabry, Lisa Maxwell, Marissa Meyer, Joy Preble, Liesel Shurtliff

From left to right - Mabry, Meyer, Preble, Braswell, Maxwell, Shurtliff
Liesl Shurtliff
"There are no rules to world building until the end when you need a lot of rules.  There are no parameters in the beginning, and then I need to make sure the world makes sense to the reader."

"The miller's daughter, in Rump, has an annoying habit of flicking out her tongue (like my little sister).  Then I had a bunch of readers question that.  In Jack, I gave her a reason for having that habit.  So I turned my mistake into something interesting."

"Stories are like holding up a mirror to ourselves and finding out what we need."

Marissa Meyer
"You need to create a world that your readers want to spend time in.  J K Rowling is my world building idol."

"As writers, it's your job to never give your reader an excuse to tune out.  You have to create authenticity."

"Everyone has fears.  But in fairy tales, we can explore the darkness and then we have hope that in the real world it will all turn out ok."

Lisa Maxwell
"I think there's a part of us that likes inching up to the darkness of fairy tales."

Liz Braswell
"I would rather bend my plot and characters around if it means that the world I'm creating becomes more believable."

Books in HMS Library
Mabry - A Fierce and Subtle Poison (coming soon)
Meyer - Cinder series, Heartless (coming soon)
Preble - Sweet Dead Life, Dreaming Anastasia, It Wasn't Always Like This (coming soon)
Maxwell - Unhooked (coming soon)
Shurtliff - The True Story of Rumplestiltskin, The True story of Jack (coming soon), The True Story of Red Riding Hood (coming soon)
Braswell - Once Upon a Dream, A Whole New World (coming soon)