It’s all about Teen Lit! Banned Books Week September 27- October 3

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Banned Books Week 2015 (September 27 to October 3) is highlighting books written for teens. Teen literature because it realistically confronts serious issues dominates the most challenged lists of literature.
Area Teen Librarians are participating in Banned Books by displays and programs. At the Oak Park Public Library Rachael Bild is having teen volunteers research why a teen book is challenged, wrapping the book in brown paper, writing the reason on the cover and promoting “Blind Date with a Banned Book”. Rachael has found that talking about the freedom to read with the teen volunteers has been an invigorating process.
Trixie Dantis at the Arlington Heights Library is doing the Banned Book Blind Date but as a program. Books will be wrapped and numbered with the genre and reason they were banned on the outside. Teens will get 30 seconds to “speed date” the book before passing it on to the next person. The teens will write down the numbers and in the end check out the books. Teens can’t unwrap the books unless they’re checking it out.
At Zion-Benton Public Library Dawn Abron is hosting a Don’t Read John Green Party. The teens will celebrate Banned Books Week with An Abundance of Quotes (Make Quote Art), Looking for Bufritos (Eat Fried Burritos), The Fault in Our Vinyls (Make a Phone Skin out of Vinyl) and Paper Kahoots (Play John Green Kahoot trivia). Teens will enter the Vlogteen Confessional to win John Green prizes. Four John Green titles are on the Most Challenged Banned Books List.
Niles Library teens are celebrating their freedom to read by visiting the Banned Book Display in the Teen Underground. A discarded work of literature has been shredded and the teen are guessing what title is the shredded book from a ballot list of 15 top teen challenged titles.
First of all teens are amazed that the library shredded a book. After carefully explaining that the book was water damaged and had to be discarded, the teens begin to read why each teen book has been challenged. This leads to discussion about certain books and an informal book discussion begins. The books also seem to disappear quickly from the display. What is most evident is that these titles have been read and show the effects of multiple check-outs.

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Posted by on September 24, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Teen Tournament of Books 2015@Niles Library

graphic teen tournament of books

At ALA Midwinter 2015, eight members of the Niles Teen Advisory Board were selected to participate in the Best Fiction for Young Adults Session on Saturday January 31, 2015 along with other lucky teens from Chicago area libraries. As a qualifying element to participate, teens posted reviews of books on the BFYA list to the Niles website. Some of the teens had also participated in the BFYA session in ALA Conference in Chicago in 2013 so the teen librarians had many excited motivated readers who wanted to join the team. All the teens were superstars at the ALA Midwinter session with their presentation and reading. After the fun of the  presentation with excitement high the idea was presented to the Niles team to initiate a Niles Teen Tournament of Books for National Literature Day in April. The teens had read and reviewed a great number of books for their participation  at ALA so they had a head start on reading and reviewing. At the March Teen Advisory Board meeting books were picked and judges assigned. Teens in  high schools in our district were contacted and other teens joined the members of the Teen Advisory Board.

Eleven teens volunteered for the tournament and twelve books from the BYFA list were chosen. Each teen judge read and reviewed two books and then picked their choice to go on to the next round of reading and reviewing. Dates for each bracket were assigned but with AP Exams, Spring Break, spring sports, exams and graduation parties the Tournament extended from spring to summer.

In August the complete bracket tournament, reviews and winning book Panic by Lauren Oliver were posted to the Niles Website.

This fall the second Annual Tournament of Books featuring the Abraham Lincoln Award Nominees and Read for a Lifetime Reading Lists will offer more reading fun for Niles teens. The Teen Department recently acquired six Kindle Paperwhites and the complete 2016 Abraham Lincoln Book Award and 2015-2016 Read for a Lifetime Reading lists will be uploaded to the devices. The thirty teens who are signed up for both reading programs along with the over twenty teen advisory board members were contacted to join the tournament. At the September Teen Advisory meeting books and judges will be chosen. This tournament will run from Teen Read Month in October to Teen Literature Day in April – plenty of time to read and review two books. The game plan is to post the Tournament on the Niles Website on Teen Literature Day during National Library Week 2016.

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Posted by on August 24, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Completed 2015 Tournament of Books Bracket

2015 bracket final

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Posted by on April 16, 2015 in Uncategorized


And The Winner Is…I’ll Give You the Sun vs. The Winner’s Curse

I confess that there were other books on each side of the tournament bracket that I enjoyed more than both of these. If I’ve learned anything from participating in this tournament, then it’s that the goal is to really to pick the one book that everyone can live with.

I don’t love I’ll Give You the Sun for a couple of reasons, but I do like it a lot. The story of twins Jude and Noah, told through their alternating POVs, grabbed me right away. I found both characters and the transformations they experience over the course of the book to be very compelling. I also think that their passion for art – their need to create – is written in a beliewinner's cursevable way. That’s why I was willing to chalk up the many, many instances of miraculously good or bad timing within the plot to magical realism. The last 50 pages – which wrapped almost everything up in an improbably, overwhelmingly happy way – nearly ruined it for me, though. Judgmental dad has turned into “everything’s cool” dad.  He’s even cool with his 16-year old daughter dating a legal adult who’s also a recovering alcoholic. I’d love it if Nelson were to check in with Jude and Noah in another three years to reveal that some of the happiness they experienced was temporary, that they’ve transformed further, and that their lives go on in unexpected directions.

The Winner’s Curse took its sweet time in hooking me, as I never really connected with the main characters. I also had issues with Rutkowski’s fictional Valorian society. It’s supposedly inspired by the Roman Empire, which had a habit of enslaving the peoples it conquered; but with the picnics, balls and emphasis on manners, this society reminded me more of Jane Austen’s 19th century England. Many little plot holes bothered me, such as: if women are trained in combat and expected to join the military, why can’t they leave the house without an escort? The romance between Valorian aristocrat Kestral and Heranni slave Arin also made little sense to me. Could these two people possibly like each other if the plot did not demand it? Despite my issues, I did find it quick-paced and quite readable. I started to like it more once the Heranni revolution began. What I enjoyed most is the continuous game of bluffing and manipulation that Kestral engages in with everyone she meets. Forget her piano, forget Arin; what Kestral loves more than anything is gambling.

This contest was not a hard decision for me. With characters that attached themselves to me almost instantly and believable depictions of love and passion, I’ll Give You the Sun is the winner that I can live with.

Winner: I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

i'll give you the sun

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Posted by on March 23, 2015 in Book Review, Tournament of Books


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Tournament of Books Bracket 2015

Keep up to date on the bracket.  See if you can predict the winner in the comments section.

2015 bracket semifinals

The winner will be announced later this week. 

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Posted by on March 16, 2015 in Uncategorized


Round 3: I’ll Give You the Sun vs. Guy is Real Life

I have a few confessions to make pertaining to this round of the tournament. Confession #1: I absolutely, positively hated Jandy Nelson’s first title, The Sky is Everywhere. When I saw that this book had made it this far into the tournament, I balked. The writing style of that title was such that I panned it on more than one occasion during my YA Lit classes. I put it off until ti'll give you the sunhe end because I was pretty sure that I was going to hate it. Confession #2: I am a newly-minted gamer. I love my tabletop games like it’s nobody’s business. I’ve connected games into my life at every opportunity and got super GEEKED that I was going to be reading Guy in Real Life. My role in the tournament, though, is to take a look at these two titles and match them evenly…so, I did.   As with pretty much every YA novel that I’ve come across in the past few years, I was surprised and pleasantly so.

I’ll Give You the Sun (IGYTS) is about twins Jude and Noah, art, pain, love, death and journeys. This title is full of colorful language, and I had a bit of trouble with it at first. It felt as though I was reading a magical realism title, and as a reader, I’m not the best at that whole suspend-your-questions-and-just-believe thing. As the book went on, it became enveloping. The style did its twisting and turning so I could see the real magic that was happening in the world of Lost Coves. The characters of Jude, Noah and their compatriots are fully developed. IGYTS describes the intertwined relationship between not only brother and sister, but twins. There is a kind of magic in that relationship that only those two people know; twins have been together since the first day. In this story, Jude and Noah move in different paths, but their stories seemingly cannot move forward one without the other. I love the perspective that Nelson shows when the two twins see their sibling’s relationship with their mother before and after a major incident. In the beginning of the book, Noah waxes on the fact that his mother and grandmother loved Jude best. However, as the story goes on, and time goes by, it becomes clear that Noah and his mother had a shared love through art. It is tough for siblings to have that kind of experience when they both want the same thing…love and acceptance.

guy in real lifeGuy in Real Life similarly features love and journeys, but I’d add that this book focuses on acceptance, denial, stereotypes and relationships. But, this story’s relationships focus a bit less on family and a bit more on friends and the world of online gaming. Both Svetlana and Lesh fit into the “typical” tropes for teenagers today (I hate that idea of typical…we is who we is, dang it!). Lesh is a guy who meets a girl by kismet, and she happens to be a confident, smart and original girl gamer. He doesn’t start out the novel as a guy who is into games, but he very easily falls into online games when he is grounded. This leads him to create a character that looks a bit like (and reminds him of) the Svetlana he’s interested in in his real world. What I loved best about this book was Svetlana’s multifaceted character. I love that she embraced her own style and wasn’t worried about popularity or acceptance from anyone more than her friends and herself. She also wasn’t perfect to her family. She had an admirer in Fry, and she wasn’t afraid to punch him in the gut when he needed it. My biggest issue with this book was the ending and the stalker-from-MMORPG-thing. The end felt rushed, and it made me wonder how exactly all of that happened to come about. It was a bit disappointing to me, too, that the parents in this book seemed to be blundering and a bit out of scope. It’s sad that parents have to be an afterthought in YA sometimes.

So, without further ado, I would like to proclaim (and shock the heck out of everyone including myself) I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson the winner of this round. Kudos, Nelson, on turning a doubter into a believer. And, of course, thank you for giving us Jude, Noah, Guillermo, Dianna, Brian and Oscar.

The Winner: I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

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Posted by on March 12, 2015 in Book Review, Tournament of Books


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Round 3: Battle of the Demanding Parent

There has been quite a few interesting match-ups over the course of this tournament, but I think this one might be one of the most diverse.  Here I am…trying to choose between The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski and Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isobel Quintero.  I thought for quite some time about some kind of link between both of these stories and while one is a realistic fiction book written in journal form and the other is a fantasy thriller.  I finally found a common ground.  If there’s one thing that a majority of teens can always commiserate about, it’s parents.  Gabi and Kestrel could sit down and grab some coffee and talk for hours about how Gabi’s mom is constantly telling her she’s too American and will never get a man while Kestrel could unload the whole situation involving her father’s dream that she follow in his footsteps and choose a life in the military.  It was this realization that helped me organize my thoughts a bit.Gabi, a Girl in Pieces

I’m not going to take the time to fully summarize the plot of either of these books.  If you have been following the tournament, I’m sure you have an idea what the stories are about.  In short,  Gabi,  A Girl in Pieces is the journal of a Mexican-American high school senior who is dealing with a plethora of monumental issues in the lives of her loved ones including teen pregnancy, coming out to your family, and meth addiction.  Gabi uses her journal to organize her thoughts and emotions while uncovering her own identity through poetry.  The Winner’s Curse is a thriller set in a world where the Valorians have successfully the Herrani people who are now employed as slaves.  Kestrel, daughter of a high-ranking Valorian general, makes a spontaneous purchase at a slave auction which furthers her empathy for the Herrani people. With an uprising looming, Kestrel’s new relationship with Arin may sway on which side she plants her loyalty.

This is not an easy decision for me as I did not truly love either of these books.  I enjoyed them both and will definitely recommend them to others, but neither left me wishing the book just a bit longer.  I feel most people have already decided that Gabi, A Girl is Pieces will move on to the next round, but I’m not quite ready to set The Winner’s Curse on the back burner.  Gabi started out slow for me.  At first I thought it was an average book about a teen girl dealing with the same problems in every book.  While that’s true, Quintero managed to grab me when I least expected it.  Soon I could not stop reading the book.  I read close to 3/4 of the book in one sitting.  The connection was there and tears were flowing.  The Winner’s Curse is a much different book.  Gabi depends on its readers making the emotional connection and falling into Gabi’s life story.  The Winner’s Curse depends on the drama of the story to catch the reader.  While Gabi took a while for me to latch to her story, Kestrel grabbed me immediately.  Her character was more likeable from the get go.  Unfortunately I found some problems in The Winner’s Curse as well.  The whole story depends on Kestrel purchasing Arin.  Even after finishing the book, I still don’t know why Kestrel would get sucked into the auction and bid on Arin.  It’s so out of her character.  While I enjoyed the story, I kept going back to that fact the entire time.

I waited until the last minute to decide on a winner for this battle.  I thought that maybe the answer would just appear to me in a dream sequence.  Unfortunately I was not that lucky.  I finally landed on a deciding factor.  Gabi and Kestrel both have interesting stories.  Out of the two, whose life would I want to continue experiencing?  This may make me a bit unpopular, but I think that I have to choose The Winner’s Curse.

Winner: The Winner’s Curse

winner's curse


Posted by on March 11, 2015 in Book Review, Tournament of Books


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