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Readers’ Advisory

    Books Readers' Advisory

    Tis the Season: Differences Between Faux Printz and Actual Printz Discussions

    Like most librarians I love to speculate about book awards. I happily participate in the discussion at Someday My Printz Will Come, and I’m a big fan of Cross Referencing’s What Should’ve Won series. Both manage to talk intelligently about contenders and the merits of winners while still being respectful of the work the Printz committees both current and past put in to choosing a winner.

    Today I’d like to discuss a few of the major differences between serving on the actual committee, as I did for the 2012 award, and participating in informal Printz discussion. I would imagine this goes for other awards too, but as I haven’t served on any of those committees I can’t guarantee it. Of course, since one of the differences that doesn’t need lots of explanation is confidentiality I won’t be getting into specifics.

    1. Multiple Readings

    This is one of the biggest differences, and yet it was absolutely essential near the end of the Actual Printz process. When the process gets down to the end committee members will often re-read a book or parts of a book several times. With really excellent books often details of plot, structure, and characterization become clearer and more impressive with multiple readings. On the other hand, some books just don’t stand up to this intense scrutiny. Sometimes titles with a lot of buzz from people with excellent taste don’t end up recognized by the committee and  I suspect that often it’s because the committee are the only readers who gave them a second reading.

    2.Breadth of Reading

    Faux Printz discussions are almost always based of someone’s list; a blogger, the books that got a lot of stars, Twitter consensus, whatever. Influential Reader #1 finds a book they think is good, they mention it and suddenly it’s on the to read list of Influential Readers #2-#8. A couple of them read it and like it and now it is a must read. It inevitably goes on a list and now it’s a contender. At some point during the year it will be declared a “weak year”, because the big books aren’t “putting out” so to speak. It happens nearly every year.

    The Actual Printz, on the other hand, is looking a lot broader. Books that are even remotely possible contenders are divided up for a first read or partial read depending on how close to Printzy-ness they come. Committee members are sent hundreds of books and somebody on the committee takes a look at most of them. Committee members are also watching other sources to find gems that might not arrive on their doorstep. I promise that the committee has read books you’ve barely even heard of and unless one of those titles is chosen they might not ever hit your radar.

    3. 100% Finish Rate

    One of the obstacles even in a good informal Printz discussion is that it’s rare that everyone participating has actually read all the books under discussion. Not surprisingly this generally leads to people arguing passionately and voting for the books they have read, which skews the results quite a bit to the books with wider distribution, known authors, and overall bigger buzz.

    Of course the Actual Printz is decided by people who have read all of the nominated books. In Faux Printz discussions we often give up on reading books that don’t work for us personally. In Actual Printz discussion not only must you finish the book, but it’s essential to determine whether the problem finishing is with the book or with the reader. Additionally, having nine opinions about a dark horse book instead of two or three makes for a very different type of discussion.

    4. Criteria, Criteria, Criteria

    The Actual Printz award has criteria, starting with the charge “To select from the previous year’s publications the best young adult book (“best” being defined solely in terms of literary merit).”  Now, SMPWC  does a truly excellent job at trying to focus discussion on criteria, but I’ve seen enough discussion and enough certainty about mediocre books by very popular authors to know that not all discussions hit those marks.

    The Printz is not for being inspiring or being socially important. The winner might be one or both of those things but that is by coincidence, not design.  “POPULARITY is not the criterion for this award. Nor is MESSAGE.”  Amen to that.  The Printz is in the committee’s opinion the best book by literary standards, period.  The Actual Printz committee comes back to the criteria over and over during the course of the year.



    Books Readers' Advisory

    Breaking Away: A Possible 2013 Trend?

    I love spotting trends in YA books, especially ones that are a little more subtle. In this case I think it’s fascinating that several established YA authors ended up publishing books with similar themes at the same time. Especially given how far in advance these things are settled.

    The theme I’m talking about is young women on the verge of college (or close) breaking away from their parents’ expectations and becoming their own people.

    So far I’ve found:


     The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr


    Just One Day by Gayle Forman


    Return to Me by Justina Chen


    Dirty Little Secret by Jennifer Echols


    The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle

    And not quite like the others, but still about a girl choosing her own path:


    Transparent by Natalie Whipple


    Black Helicopters by Blythe Woolston

    Do you have titles to add? Let me know in the comments.

    Programs Readers' Advisory

    Teens’ Top Ten and Connecting to Teen Readers with Fandom

    Last week YALSA announced the list of Teens’ Top Ten nominations for this year. That got me thinking about how these kind of lists are really helpful to librarians. If you are not familiar with it Teens’ Top Ten is a really neat program that lets groups of teens around the country get books before they are released and vote on their favorites. The nominations are then put up for an online vote with winners announced for Teen Read Week.  It’s a great example of youth participation and you can learn more about it here

    No teen librarian worth their duct tape is going to stop reading professional reviews and ordering a diverse collection because they see what avid outspoken (and largely white and female) readers put on the list.


     The value of the list to us is something a little different. Teens’ Top Ten is basically telling us what authors/books/series have a fandom, and that’s another another way for us to connect with teen readers. If John Green and Cassandra Clare’s fans can connect online to vote in an poll don’t you think at least a few of them in your community can be connected via the library?


    Okay, so what now?

    Lurk Online

    At the very least spend a little time online learning the basics so you can talk to teens about the titles. What do fans call themselves? What are the big ships? What are the big events for fans like cover reveals, new releases, movie announcements?

    fandom gif

    Reach Out With Social Media

    Follow the authors and some of the bigger fan sites if they exist. Retweet or Reblog things of interest to fans with your library media accounts as appropriate. Post your events in the right places and you might even reach fans who aren’t already library users.



    Talk about having a built in audience for a program. Here are just a few ideas:

    • General fan meet-up
    • Trivia Contest
    • Fanart Contest
    • Fanfiction Writing Group
    • Cosplay Event
    • Theme Party/Release Party
    • Movie Marathon
    • Book Discussion
    • Tshirt or Button Making
    • Fandom specific crafts (Try Pinterest!)
    • Fandom related Summer Reading Prizes
    • Watch fanmixes, parodies, and other related YouTube videos


    Readers Advisory

    These popular series can serve as benchmarks for reader’s advisory since they are so widely read.  That means even if you don’t have time to read all of them, or your copies are never available, you should still familiarize yourself with the appeal factors.  Lists and displays of similar titles are a great way to promote lesser known titles in your collection.

    Why stop there? Once you are familiar with the book or series you can do character based reading lists as well. What would Hazel read? How about Prince Kai? What kind of books would Tris like?


    Readers' Advisory

    Flash Booktalk Week: 10 Flash Booktalks

    Flash Blog Graphic (1)


    Today and tomorrow I’m going to share some of my all time favorite flash booktalks, but first I’ll let you in on a secret. Every summary in each of my book reviews is intended to be used as a flash booktalk with minimal tweaking.  Feel free to use any of these with your teens, but if you are going to post them online please link back to my blog.

     17 and Gone by Nova Ren Suma

    They come to Lauren to tell their stories, appearing out of nowhere. Girls that have vanished and now haunt her days and her dreams. All of them seventeen and all of them missing. Abby Sinclair is the first, but she’s followed by Fiona, Emily, ShyAnn, and so many more. Lauren becomes obsessed with them; letting everything else fall away as she tries to figure out what it means. Are they dead? Is she next? Can she save any of them? Can she save herself?

    Poison by Bridget Zinn

    Have you ever wished the girls who came complete with cute little animal sidekicks kicked just a little more butt? Would you like a fairy tale where the girl made her own poisons, glamours, and sleeping potions instead of getting beaten by magic and waiting for a prince to save her? Meet Kyra: sixteen, master potioner, fugitive, and determined to save her kingdom even if it means murdering her best friend. Sound good? Read Poison by Bridget Zinn.

    This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

    It all starts with an email, sent by mistake. Ellie is living a quiet small town life with her mother when she receives an email meant for someone else.  She writes back and over time they start share more and more about themselves, becoming close friends despite never exchanging full names or meeting in person.

    She has no idea that the person on the other end is Graham Larkin, Hollywood’s latest heartthrob, until he brings the movie he’s shooting to Ellie’s small town in hopes of meeting her face to face. There’s just one problem: being with Graham would put her in the spotlight; the same spotlight her mother brought her to Maine to escape.

    Teenage Love Affair by Ni Ni Simone

    Zsa-Zsa has everything: hot clothes, her own ride and her smokin hot boyfriend Ameen. Then Zsa-Zsa’s first love Malachi comes back into her life and Ameen is not happy.  He’s not just jealous, he’ll do anything to make sure Zsa Zsa knows she belongs to him.  Will Zsa Zsa drop Ameen for Malachi? Will she get some help before Ameen goes too far?   Check out Teenage Love Affair by Ni Ni Simone.

     Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

    Cullen Witter used to be pretty sure that nothing interesting would ever actually happen in his quiet hometown of Lily, Arkansas. Not anymore. His brother is missing and the whole town is more interested in the sighting of a woodpecker everyone thought was dead than in finding Gabriel.

    Cabot Searcy doesn’t take college very seriously until his roommate’s suicide left him with a mysterious religious text and more questions than answers. His obsession drives away his friends, family, and even his wife. It eventually leads him to Lily, Cullen, Gabriel, and the reality of second chances.

    Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

    Min and Ed were not your typical high school couple. Ed’s a popular basketball player and Min likes old movies and hanging out in coffee shops.  They shouldn’t work, and they didn’t. Now Min is returning a box of stuff to Ed, along with a letter describing each item and why it matters in explaining why they broke up.

    The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

    It is the first day of November, and so, today, someone will die. Every November the deadly water horses come close to the shore and every November the men of Thisby try to capture them as race horses.

    Sean Kendrick has won the Scorpio Races four times for his employer, but he dreams of a horse and the prize to call his own.  Puck Connolly enters the race almost by accident but soon learns winning is the only way to save her home.

    As the two riders grow closer they fight against the men who don’t want a woman in the race, and the jealous rich boy who wants Sean’s horse for his own. Still, the biggest threat waits for them in the blood-thirsty water horses that can turn on humans at any time.

    Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

    Cas kills the dead. Yes, you heard me. He goes after murdering ghosts and finishes them off, once and for all. His father died doing the same job and Cas inherited his weapon.

    It’s mostly the same town after town: track, hunt, and kill.  That is until Cas begins tracking a mysterious ghost named Anna Dressed in Blood, a girl murdered in 1958 and a ghost like he’s never seen before.

    The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanan

    Jessica lives for running. She’s a star athlete on the Liberty High track team, so when she loses her leg below the knee in an accident she doesn’t know what to do.

    During her recovery she is fitted for a prosthetic leg and will have to learn how to walk again, but that’s not enough. Jessica wants to run. It’s not impossible, her track coach shows her YouTube videos of athletes running with sleek carbon-graphite running blades, but her running dream comes with a price.

    A leg like that costs around 20,000 dollars and Jessica’s family is still struggling with the hospital bills. However, Jessica and her new friend Rosa, a girl with cerebral palsy, are determined to overcome everything in her way.  With the help of her teammates, family, and friends Jessica’s dream, and a chance to help Rosa with hers,  just might be in reach.

    Brooklyn Burning by Steve Brezenoff

    Meet Kid.

    Kid did sometimes stay at the warehouse that burned down in Greenpoint.

    Kid knows the police think he had something to do with it.

    Kid also sometimes crashes in the basement of Fish’s bar to avoid sleeping on the street.

    Kid’s mom doesn’t know Kid’s dad kicked Kid out.

    Kid isn’t over Felix, but Kid might be feeling something for Scout.  Why do I keep saying Kid’s name? Because the book doesn’t tell us whether Kid is male or female. I don’t think it matters, but you can read Brooklyn Burning and see for yourself.

    Readers' Advisory

    Using Flash Booktalks: 30 Books in 30 Minutes

    Flash Blog Graphic (1)

    30 books in 30 minutes, and sometimes 15 books  in 15 minutes depending on the attention span of my audience is one of the main ways I use the flash booktalks. 30 Books in 30 minutes is 30 bare minimum book talks to help the teens identify books they might be interested in.

    My goal with the 30 titles (unless I’ve been asked to do something specific) is a very balanced pack. In addition to the hot, new, and popular books I also like to include older titles with lots of teen appeal, especially if it’s a genre that isn’t hot at the moment like mysteries. I also like to make sure I have a good number of  books with clear boy appeal as well as a mix between light and serious, fantasy and reality.

    Another important part of 30 books in 30 minutes are the transitions. I tend to group books together a bit. This means I may lose some audience attention on certain types of books so I try to grab them back with a quick introduction.

    For example, I may do a run of books about “girls behaving badly”, followed by “real life drama”.  The next set has wider appeal so I’ll lead in by saying something like “We’ve talked about a lot of death and destruction, but you can’t have death and destruction without zombies, demons, and vampires.”

    Of course I prefer to have the physical books to hold up while I’m talking, and when I do I have my booktalks taped to the back. If it’s not possible to do this, for example if I’m not at my location, I will print my talks very large and have them on a podium or table in front of me. Usually because they are so short I have enough of the booktalks memorized it’s just a safety net.

    I  always provide a list of the books in the order I will talk about them so the audience can follow along and mark ones they are interested in reading. I also take a stop watch and give it to one of the teens, although more recently they just use their phone. I ask the audience not to interrupt because the teen will be timing me to be sure I get through all 30 books. This adds a bit of interest for my teens and also tends to put a lid on questions until the end.

    I rarely use props, but have occasionally used things like my cellphone, a mini-basketball, or a length of caution tape to spice things up.