Browsing Tag:


    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.

    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?