Archive for the ‘readers’ advisory’ Category

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…


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.


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.


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.


Barnett, Laura. (2012) 10 books to help boost young boys’ reading. The Guardian. Retrieved March 15, 2014, from

Fries-Galther, Jessica. (2009) Strategies to Engage Boys in Reading (and the Girls, Too. Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears. Retrieved March 15, 2014, from

Piper, Jessica. (n.d.) Top 12 Young Adult Books for Reluctant Readers. TeachHUB. Retrieved March 15, 2014, from


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.


Goodreads: Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality
Goodreads: How Not to Be Popular
Goodreads: Confessions of a Not It Girl

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.


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

Readers’ Advisory: Deafening, by Frances Itani

Saturday, February 22nd, 2014

Readers’ Advisory: Deafening, by Frances Itani (2003)

Synopsis: It is the eve of World War I. Set in a small Ontario town, Deafening focuses on Grania O’Neil, a young girl who lost her hearing at the age of five, thanks to scarlet fever. With the help of her grandmother, Grania attends the nearby School for the Deaf, and learns how to open up to the world. Eventually, she falls in love with Jim, a hearing man, and together they try to live with each other.

Then the war hits, and Jim is sent overseas as a stretcher bearer. Here the book veers between Grania and Jim, drawing a poignant comparison between Grania’s struggle to hear and Jim’s struggle to survive in the harsh world of the Western Front.

Deafening received critical acclaim, and for good reason: it presents a very vivid story, not just for Grania, who presents a unique point of view, but for Jim as well. Itani describes the war in vivid detail, with an emphasis on the dehumanizing effects of it. Set among such an unusual backdrop, the love story is definitely compelling for those who enjoy historical fiction or Canadian fiction. There is a wide variety of Canadian authors and Canadian fiction out there, and highlighting a Canadian work like this is a way to introduce people to literature they might not know about.

If you liked this book, you might also like…

The Cartographer of No Man’s Land, P.S. Duffy: Set both in a Nova Scotian fishing village and the front lines of World War I, this book explores the effects of the war on both fronts: through Angus, who signed up to find his brother-in-law, and through his sin Simon back home. This dual exploration of the war at home and overseas bares much similarity to the format of Deafening. If you liked the war aspect of Deafening, you might like this too.

The Way the Crow Flies, Ann-Marie MacDonald:  The story of eight year old Madeleine, living in an Air Force base near the border, and eventually, her adult search for a killer. Set in the sixties during the Cold War, this book is also historical fiction, though with a different bent. Based on the Steven Truscott case, the violence within may not be for everyone. MacDonald describes everything very vividly and elegantly, so if you’re interested in Canadian historical fiction, this might be worth checking out.


Goodreads: The Cartographer of No Man’s Land
Goodreads: The Way the Crow Flies

Readers’ Advisory: Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden

Sunday, February 16th, 2014

Memoirs of a Geisha, 1997

Synopsis: Chiyo Sakamoto is taken from her small fishing village at a young age, and sold to an okiya, a geisha boarding house. Her sister Satsu, however, is separated from her and sold elsewhere. Chiyo is trained from an early age to become a geisha herself, but the resident geisha, Hatsumomo, tries to thwart Chiyo, fearing she would overtake her as head geisha. Eventually, due to a series of mishaps, the head of the geisha house refuses to invest any further in Chiyo, forcing her to pay off her debt via working for the okiya.

This changes one day when Mameha, a rival geisha, pushes the head of the geisha house to reinvest in Chiyo, and takes her on as her apprentice. From there, Chiyo changes her name to Sayuri and begins working as a geisha, while the threat of World War II grows ever closer.

Rich and atmospheric, Golden goes into exhaustive detail about the life of a geisha and the culture of Japan, cleverly done by having an elderly Chiyo/Sayuri be dictating the events of her life to the reader as a memoir (it begins with a ‘translator’s note’ that establishes this premise.) So those who are unfamiliar with the culture of Japan, and geisha in general, should be able to follow along without much confusion. Golden also writes with very evocative language, painting a clear picture of Kyoto and the surrounding areas.

At times very introspective, this novel is more a look at Sayuri’s life than anything else, and would be well appreciated by readers who have a love of historical fiction, the history of Japan, or even stories about forbidden love.


If you liked this book, you might also like…

The Teahouse Fire, Ellis Avery: The story of a young American orphan adopted by a Japanese family during the Meiji Restoration, taken in by a family known for teaching the art of the tea ceremony. A detailed look at the culture of Japan, and particularly the massive changes underwent by Japanese society at the time. Like Memoirs of a Geisha, it delivers a vivid, atmospheric picture of Japan.

The Commoner, John Burnham Schwartz: A story of a young woman who marries into the restricted Japanese Imperial Family, and finds herself at the whims of the Empress. She must change herself to try and survive such a bureaucratic household, and the novel details her life. Much as Memoirs of a Geisha explored the lives of geisha through one, The Commoner also examines a mysterious and little-known topic, the Chrysanthemum Throne, and provides a fictionalized glimpse into this life.

The Valley of Amazement, Amy Tan: Dealing with courtesans in turn of the century Shanghai and San Francisco, this novel outlines the connections between three generations of women. Though this does not deal with Japan, Tan offers a very atmospheric novel documenting how ancient practices are being threatened by a modernizing society, in a similar manner of Memoirs of a Geisha.

Geisha, A Life, Mineko Iwasaki with Rande Brown: Though this is not fiction, the author having worked as an actual geisha, this biography does certainly provide another detailed look at the world of geisha. Golden used Iwasaki as a reference when writing Memoirs of a Geisha, but apparently misrepresented certain aspects of the culture, so Iwasaki wrote Geisha, A Life in response. Very detailed, vivid, and certainly authentic; thanks to its close ties with Golden’s book, fans of one may well appreciate the other.


Goodreads: The Teahouse Fire

Goodreads: The Commoner

Goodreads: The Valley of Amazement

Goodreads: Geisha, A Life


Readers’ Advisory: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Saturday, February 8th, 2014

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins (2008)

Synopsis: Katniss Everdeen lives in the poverty-stricken District 12 of Panem, a futuristic North America. Every year, a male and a female Tribute are picked from each District to compete in the titular Hunger Games. When Katniss’ younger sister Primrose is selected as that year’s District 12 Tribute, Katniss volunteers to take her place in the Games.

Finding herself pitted against twenty-three other Tributes, in a hellish arena designed to mimic both natural and unnatural weather conditions, Katniss struggles with both the difficulties of the arena and her own emotions.

The Hunger Games is a popular series right now, and it’s not hard to see why. Though Collins’ novel is set in a dystopia world, she blends action sequences with more romantic subplots. For those who like critical analysis, the plot itself provides plenty to think about, particularly with the concept of the Hunger Games themselves – a fight to the death for the Tributes, but entertainment for the wealthy citizens of the Capitol.

The novel does not shy away from violence, which may not be to every reader’s tastes. But for those who don’t mind, the novel offers a fast-paced plot, with plenty of action and drama. Told through Katniss’ point of view, the reader is offered an intimate glimpse into the workings of her mind. Overall an entertaining book.

If you liked this book, you might also like…

Divergent by Veronica Roth: in a dystopian Chicago, 16 year old Beatrice Prior must choose which segment of society to join for he rest of her life, with the choice being between staying with her family, or being who she really is. It has a similar theme of competition, action mixed with drama, and a dystopian world.

Girl in the Arena by Lise Haines: Lyn is a gladiator’s daughter whose family is deeply involved in the world of televised blood sports. But when her father is killed in the arena, Lyn must fight back, possibly to the death. The concept has similarities to the televised Hunger Games, and the idea of one girl fighting to the death.

Blood Red Road by Moira Young: a young girl, Saba, sets to free her kidnapped brother in a ruined world. Throughout her trials, she discovers she is a fierce and cunning fighter with the potential to bring down her corrupt world. The dystopian element is also present, and the main character is a fierce fighter embroiled in a society wide battle, similar to Katniss.

Goodreads: Divergent
Goodreads: Girl in the Arena
Goodreads: Blood Red Road

Readers’ Advisory: Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman

Sunday, February 2nd, 2014

Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman (1996)

One night, while Richard Mayhew and his fiancée are travelling to dinner with her boss, they come across a strange young woman, named Door, bleeding on the pavement. Taking her back to his apartment to recuperate, he quickly finds himself disconnected from the London he knows: people don’t notice him, ATMs refuse to read his debit card, and his apartment is even rented out while he’s in the bath! It soon comes to light that Door is a part of London Below, a strange world co-existing with Richard’s London, where people tend to ‘fall through the cracks’. By helping Door, Richard has made himself part of London Below too.

The problem is, Door is searching for information on who ordered her family to be killed while still on the run from their assassins. But with no other recourse, Richard is forced to join Door and her companions, the Marquis de Caraberas and the bodyguard Hunter. They only have one clue leading them, left by Door’s late father: Find the angel Islington.

Neverwhere is Neil Gaiman’s first foray into novel writing, having previously been known for the graphic novel series Sandman, and it is a story rich with details. Gaiman’s propensity for dark humour is in full force here, as there are places such as Earl’s Court, a subway car where a medieval Earl does indeed hold court; a monastery of Black Friars exists; and Night’s Bridge is a mysterious and slightly feared bridge. For those without extensive knowledge of the London subway system, those names might not have the impact they would to a native Londoner, as they are all based off of subway station names. The book provides a map of the London Underground in that case.

Though this is not the typical high fantasy most might think of when they hear the genre, Neverwhere is an excellent example of urban fantasy – where fantastical elements and mundane collide. Gaiman’s writing is relatively fast-paced, with a layer of whodunit mystery on top of it all. It is a skilful blend of genres, and might be enjoyed by those who enjoy urban fantasy.

If you liked this book, you might also like…

King Rat, by China Miéville: a fantastical book set in modern-day London, it blends many magical, mythological, and modern elements in the same way Neverwhere does.

Un Lun Dun by China Miéville: though this book is young adult, it contains many themes similar to Neverwhere, replete with an alternate London. With an engaging world and lively prose, this would also be recommended even if the genre isn’t the exact same.

Winter’s Tale, by Mark Helprin: set in a fantastical New York, it has the same urban fantasy elements as Neverwhere. Tonally it is similar to Neverwhere.

A Madness of Angels by Kate Griffin: fantasy in the modern day, it follows an “urban sorceror” around an alternate London. Has many of the same fantastical-meets-modern elements that permeate Neverwhere.


Goodreads: A Madness of Angels

Goodreads: King Rat

Goodreads: Un Lun Dun

Goodreads: Winter’s Tale


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