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Readers’ Advisory

    Readers' Advisory

    Writing the Flash Booktalk

    Flash Blog Graphic (1)

    Now that you have some ideas on why you might want to try flash booktalks you’ll need to actually write some.

    The Hook

    First, find your hook. If you are going to booktalk a title in one minute you need to find a hook. A hook is the thing that is going to sell the book in about 60 seconds give or take.

    An unusual format might be a hook.  Books written as screenplays, scrapbooks, diaries, and emails have a built-in hook. Possibly the easiest hook is the high concept story. It’s easy to tease a book quickly if it has one overwhelming concept. High concept books include things like The Hunger Games, most spy novels, and road trip books. Even Hatchet is a high concept book when it comes to booktalks.

    A really great first line can also be a hook, think about these examples:

    “When the doorbell rings at three in the morning, it’s never good news.” – Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz

    “There was a hand in the darkness and it held a knife.” – The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

    “Before anyone reading this thinks to call me a slut—or even just imagines I’m incredibly popular—let me point out that this list includes absolutely every single boy I have ever had the slightest little any-kind-of-anything with.”

    The Boyfriend List  by E. Lockhart

    I can also find a hook by picking out the things I know from experience get my teens interested in a book.  Things that seem to be the biggest draws are fighting for survival, betrayal, and secrets.

    For example, with Incarceron the hook is the huge prison and the fight for survival:

    Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

    Incarceron is a prison so huge that it contains not only cells, but forests and large cities filled with gangs prisoners.  Finn, a seventeen-year-old prisoner, has no memory of his childhood and is sure that he came from outside Incarceron, but some prisoners don’t even believe there is an outside – making escape attempts dangerous if not pointless.

    Then Finn finds a crystal key that allows him to communicate with a girl named Claudia. She claims to live Outside- her father is the Warden of Incarceron, and she is being forced into an arranged marriage. Finn is determined to escape the prison, and Claudia believes she can help him and possibly save herself at the same time. But they don’t realize that there is more to Incarceron than either of them could imagine.

    Before I Fall is another excellent flash booktalk candidate. It’s easy to get down the the basics of the story. Lauren Oliver really has a knack for catchy concepts.

    Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

    What would you do differently if you knew today was the last day of your life?   Samantha had everything: popularity, a hot boyfriend,  she and her friends ruled the school and they made sure everyone knew it.  Until the accident… until  Sam died….until she woke up again the next morning to start the same day over… Until it happened six more times after that…..enough that Sam starts to examine all of her relationships, even the ones with people she thought didn’t matter.

    The Essentials

    When writing the flash booktalk you need to zero in on the things that attract a reader to a book. Who is the character? What is the conflict? Why would the reader care what happens?   As I share more booktalks you’ll see that many of them seem a little vague. One of the perks of doing such short booktalks is that you can easily avoid giving too much away.

    Here’s an example:

    Gentleman by Michael Northrop

    Everyone has seen them in school. The underachievers…the kids with bad grades and have bad attitudes… the kids who skip school or fall asleep on their desks…the kids who smoke whatever. You know…those waste-of-space  cases.

    Mike, Tommy, Mixer, and Bones have being underachievers down pat. Not only are they from the wrong side of the tracks, they’re from the wrong side of everything. Mr. Haberman, the despised remedial English teacher, calls them the four “Gentlemen,” but there is nothing gentle about them. They all have problems, but they are tight, they look out for each other, and they are loyal.

    It wasn’t unusual when Tommy was sent to the principal’s office. It wasn’t unusual that he disappeared on the way. What was unusual was that he stayed disappeared.

    Mike thinks Mr. Haberman has done something to Tommy, and the remaining Gentlemen are determined to solve this mystery. But it’s surprising how fast things spiral out of control.

    In about a minute we know all the players, we know what the issues are, and we haven’t given much away except that there is DRAMA! Drama is what keeps people reading after all.



    Readers' Advisory

    Flash Booktalk Week: Why Flash Booktalks?

    Flash Blog Graphic (1)

    One of my favorite tools that I’ve developed as a youth services librarian is the flash booktalk. A flash booktalk is exactly what it sounds like: a short teaser to get readers interested in a book delivered in one minute give or take a little time. This week we are going to talk about why I think flash booktalks are so great, how to write them, how to put together a 30 Books in 30 Minutes program, and I’ll share some of my favorite flash booktalks.

    Why do flash booktalks?

    Attention Grabbing

    If most movie trailers seem to be about two and half minutes and regular commercials are even shorter why wouldn’t we follow a pattern that is obviously effective? The whole point of booktalking is to sell the book. I can’t imagine giving a four or five minute booktalk, although I’m sure it works for some people.

    Instructive to Write

    Writing a flash booktalk means drilling down to the essence of a book. You really need to think about the story and decide what the appeal factors are for your audience. Flash booktalks also require an economy of words. I found short annotations and twitter-like taglines much easier to write when I’d already thought about the core of the book. They can also be easily adapted as shelf-talkers.

    Easy to Remember

    We all know there is nothing more boring then watching someone read off a piece of paper. Flash booktalks are really easy to memorize, so you can make eye contact with your audience and focus on delivery. I’ll share my strategy for handling dozens of booktalks in Wednesday’s post.

    Useful One on One

    I often use the flash booktalks that I’ve memorized, or bits and pieces of them, in the stacks to hand sell books to patrons. They are also useful for recommending books to co-workers. Another benefit of having already thought about what sells the book.

    Easy to Integrate into Other Programs

    Since they basically amount to commercial breaks it is super easy to integrate them into other programs. Let’s say you were doing a theme party for a certain book or series with multiple activities, why not do one or two flash booktalks for similar books between each activity?



    Programs Readers' Advisory

    Book Speed Dating


    I’ve talked about this program in other places, but I wanted to share it with my new followers and have it somewhere I can easily refer to it. This is how I’ve done several successful Book Speed Dating programs for teens. You could easily call it a Book Tasting and adapt the reading time for younger kids.

    Set Up

    ●        Long tables with chairs
    ●        A book you want to promote at each spot
    ●        Pencils
    ●       Forms for writing down interesting titles

    Running the Program

    I asked the teens to pick a seat and explained that finding the right book is like finding the right person. There is a book for everyone, but life is too short to read books you don’t like just like you don’t want to waste your time with someone who doesn’t make you happy.

    I set a timer for three minutes and told them to look at the book, read the blurb, or start reading if they wanted to.  You may want to vary the time depending on the fluency of your readers. Three minutes seemed like a good amount of time for most teens to get a feel for the book. At the end of the three minutes I gave them a minute to write down the title and author if they want to read more, and made sure that they knew it’s wasn’t a big deal if they didn’t.

    Everyone then passed the book to their right and I set the timer again.  After a couple rounds of this I gave them a break and booktalked a few titles.  Hopefully after about 45 minutes each person has found at least a couple of books they’d like to get to know better.