Archive for March, 2014

Reflection on readers’ advisory

Monday, March 17th, 2014

It is bizarre, and a little shocking, to think that a month and a half has passed by as quickly as it has. When I started my Readers’ Advisory posts in February, March seemed so far away, and yet here we are. The series of posts was for an assignment in Public Libraries. The details of the assignment are difficult to get into, but suffice to say, ‘use a blog for readers’ advisory’ was one of the options given, and me being eager to use this blog more, that was the option I went with. I don’t regret it – if anything, I find it interesting, and it was good to familiarize myself with some of the tools available to me.

I’ve found the process of readers’ advisory fun and challenging – mostly challenging. There’s no better way to say it: readers’ advisory is hard when you’re not dealing with an actual person! Broadcasting general ideas into the internet ether is somehow more challenging than working with a person face-to-face to find something that they would like to read.

I like to think this is because readers’ advisory is such a personal process: everyone is going to want something different, and everyone is going to have different preferences. To try and do something like that through an impersonal computer screen felt almost impossible. I often asked myself, ‘How can I do readers advisory when I don’t know who I’m advising?’ To solve this, I eventually came up with a format, where I would pick one novel, briefly summarize it, and then recommend other novels related to it. This, in my head, answered the question, ‘I like x, can you recommend something like it?’ It is not the only way to do readers’ advisory, but it is the method I went with. Whether or not it was a good method remains to be seen. Read the rest of this entry »

Readers’ Advisory: Reluctant readers

Sunday, March 16th, 2014

Readers’ Advisory: Reluctant readers, especially young boys

This particular Readers’ Advisory takes a slightly different approach. I’ve realized that I’ve made some underlying assumptions about the patrons I’m supposedly dealing with: a) that they like to read, and in the case of my previous RA, b) that they’re girls. Boys (for purposes of this discussion, roughly ages 9-12) are often overlooked, and boys who are reluctant readers even more so.

Laura Barnett’s article at The Guardian addresses this in some way, offering suggestions that young boys might like, with a fairly broad selection of genres. Jessica Piper provides a list based on which books are popular in her classroom, and while not focused specifically on boys, has many books they would like.  Neither of those lists appears to address the issue of young readers whose reading age may be lower than their physical age, but there appears to be an intense focus on getting them interested in books, which is definitely a component of engaging reluctant readers.

While it would be impossible to recommend simply one book, thanks to the fact that everyone’s preferences will vary wildly, the lists mentioned above appear to offer many choices. I can’t really hope to expand on that, but will offer some suggestions below, as a way of ensuring that boys aren’t left out too.

You might like…

Fantasy

Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer: 12 year old Artemis Fowl II desperately attempts to restore honour to the family’s name, after his father loses a lot of money by trying to corner the Russian mafia. His solution? Capture a fairy and demand a ransom in gold. The fairies don’t like that. Fast-paced and suspenseful, this fantasy has just enough familiar elements to not alienate young readers, while still being compelling.

The Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling: The popularity of this series is phenomenal, so it would be impossible to do the whole series justice with a short blurb. But the basis is this: scrawny 11 year old Harry Potter discovers he is a wizard, and is sent to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to learn magic. But the evil Lord Voldemort is trying to restore his power – and get rid of Harry in the process. Suspenseful and with a richly detailed world, the series is bound to capture the imagination of young readers, particularly the earlier books, which are shorter and more appropriate for a younger age.

The Lightning Thief, Rick Riordan: When Percy Jackson discovers that the father he never knew is actually Poseidon, God of the Sea, he gets sent to Camp Half-Blood for others like him. There he gets caught up in a quest to prevent another war between the gods. Fast-paced and action packed, there is enough there to engage young readers.

Action

Stormbreaker, Anthony Horowitz: After the death of his uncle, 14 year old Alex Rider discovers that he was actually a spy, and preparing Alex to be one too. Recruited into the British intelligence service MI6, he begins to track down villains to carry out his uncle’s mission. The first in a series, the story is action-packed and suspenseful, while featuring a variety of locales.

Sure Fire, Jack Higgins: Twins Rich and Jade aren’t happy they have to go live with their father following their mother’s death. But when their father is kidnapped, they find themselves tackling bigger problems. Like Stormbreaker, the series features a variety of exotic locales to explore and plenty of adventure.

Sports

Pop, Gordon Korman: After moving to a new town midsummer, 16 year old Marcus Jordon feels lonely. However, he befriends retired linebacker Charlie ‘Pop’ Popovitch, who trains him well, but has a prankster streak that often gets Marcus in hot water. But Charlie is hiding a secret that he doesn’t want his family to discover. An intense, emotionally-driven novel, it touches on a variety of issues besides football.

Gym Candy, Carl Deuker: Mick Johnson struggles not to make the same mistakes as his former football star father. But after making the varsity team, he struggles to keep his edge and make his father proud. This drives him to try out “gym candy” or steroids, despite the known health risks. A disturbing but powerful novel, Deuker does not gloss over steroids side effects, taking the reader through an emotional roller coaster that is paralleled by Mick’s emotions. It is an intense read, but may be appropriate for an older set.

The Million-Dollar Throw, Mike Lupica: Eighth grade Nate Brodie’s family is going through stressful times, and to top it all off, his best friend Abby is going blind. But he gets a chance at fixing that, by being able to win a million dollars if he completes a pass during the halftime at a Patriots game. Will the pressure to succeed overwhelm him? A realistic fiction that has an intense, emotional plot.

Realistic Fiction

Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Jeff Kinney: Greg records his sixth grade experiences as he and his friend Rowley struggle to get through. But when Rowley becomes more popular, Greg must do what he can to save their friendship. A funny and relatable series that young boys might like.

Middle School: Get Me Out of Here!, James Patterson: When Rafe is accepted to an art school in New York City, he naively believes that he will be able to leave boring old math and history behind forever. He’s wrong. Finding the intense academic achievement stifling, he looks for fun and adventure in other activities. Part of a series, beginning with Patterson’s Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life, this is a funny, but also very emotional, series that young boys might relate to.

Sources

Barnett, Laura. (2012) 10 books to help boost young boys’ reading. The Guardian. Retrieved March 15, 2014, from www.theguardian.com/books/shortcuts/2012/feb/08/10-books-boost-boys-reading

Fries-Galther, Jessica. (2009) Strategies to Engage Boys in Reading (and the Girls, Too. Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears. Retrieved March 15, 2014, from beyondpenguins.ehe.osu.edu/issue/arctic-and-anarctic-birds/strategies-to-engage-boys-in-reading-and-the-girls-too

Piper, Jessica. (n.d.) Top 12 Young Adult Books for Reluctant Readers. TeachHUB. Retrieved March 15, 2014, from http://www.teachhub.com/top-12-young-adult-books-reluctant-readers

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Readers’ Advisory: How to be Popular, by Meg Cabot

Saturday, March 15th, 2014

Readers’ Advisory: How to Be Popular, by Meg Cabot (2006)

Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Steph Landry has been the butt of jokes ever since an incident in sixth grade. Though she’s been content to hang out with her friend Jason, she wants a different high school experience. Discovering a copy of How to be Popular, she decides to make a change as she starts eleventh grade. But becoming popular is easy; maintaining that state isn’t. After all, she isn’t expecting the popular girl at school to be angry at her attempts to be popular too, nor does she expect Jason to be so hurt by being left behind.

Meg Cabot is known for her YA literature, and How to be Popular looks at popularity – and unpopularity – in an entertaining and funny way. YA fans might enjoy reading about Steph’s rise in popularity, or root for her to see the value in the friend that’s always been there for her. The book might be geared more towards teenage girls, but YA fans of all stripes might find something to like it all of it.

If you liked this book, you might also like…

Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality, Elizabeth Eulberg: Lexi is a great girl…yet somehow always manages to be on the sidelines. With a family obsessed with pageants and perfection, she often finds herself overlooked, but not any more! She’s determined to play the beauty game too. Revenge and How to be Popular are both very funny, relatable books.

How Not to be Popular, Jennifer Ziegler: Maggie is tired of moving all over the country, and having to leave friends behind every time. So when he family moves to Austin, she has a plan: she won’t be popular. She won’t be noticed. She’ll be able to come and go without incident. Except things don’t go as planned. A funny, entertaining look at popularity, How Not to be Popular shares a similar light-heartedness as Cabot’s work that readers may enjoy.

Confessions of a Not It Girl, Melissa Kantor: Jan is a high school senior, who seems to be overshadowed by her ‘it girl’ friend. But she’s about to find out that someone being the not it girl has its advantages. A mix of humour and wit make this an easy and fun reads for YA fans.

Sources

Goodreads: Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality
Goodreads: How Not to Be Popular
Goodreads: Confessions of a Not It Girl
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Readers’ Advisory: World War Z by Max Brooks

Sunday, March 9th, 2014

Readers’ Advisory: World War Z, by Max Brooks (2006)

Synopsis: Set in the aftermath of a zombie outbreak that devastated the globe, World War Z is an oral history of the people that survived the outbreak. With stories from around the globe, the pandemic is described from the early stages to the very late – all from the point of view of the various participants.

World War Z has a very detailed background to it, and a good sense of internal coherency – even if it is not immediately apparent. Though this is set in the future, an unspecified amount of years from now, the stories feel real and engaging, with each character having their own distinct voice. The format of each chapter is not uniform, particularly since Brooks jumps from style to style – some chapters being written out like a transcript, while others are more poetic. For some, this shift may be difficult to grasp, but for those who don’t mind such a thing, the novel offers a wide variety of stories.

Brooks’ previous novel, The Zombie Survival Guide, is a predecessor to this novel, though it is lighter in tone. Still, fans of one may very well enjoy the other, particularly thanks to the consistency between the two. With the use of the zombie as a metaphor, the novel also offers an insightful social commentary about the state of the world; the fear of a mindless, uncontrollable terror; and the perils of isolationism. For those who enjoy horror or post apocalyptic settings, this book might be for them.

If you liked this book, you might also like…

Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood: Both are post-apocalyptic novels that share stories from the survivors, and that offer social commentary on the modern world. The last man on earth, known only as Snowman, mourns the loss of his best friend Crake, and the woman they loved, Oryx. With the help of the ‘perfect’ Children of Crake, Snowman sets out to find answers as to how humanity fell.

The Zombie Autopsies, Steven C. Schlozman: While World War Z focuses on the human side of the zombie outbreak, The Zombie Autopsies describes the scientific side, as it attempts to explain the science of reanimation. A medical textbook, interspersed with field notes from the doctors studying the zombies (even as they fall to the plague), it provides a very realistic look at the undead.

Robopocalypse, Daniel H. Wilson: Like World War Z, Robopocalypse focuses on the near-extinction of humanity by robots, told through the point of view of the survivors. Like World War Z, it is done in an episodic fashion, focusing on a variety of different people with a common narrator between all of them.

Sources

Goodreads: Oryx and Crake
Goodreads: The Zombie Autopsies
Goodreads: Robopocalypse
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