About Mary Miller

I am a Young Adult Librarian at Niles Public Library.

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.


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. http://blog.nileslibrary.org/teen-tournament-of-books-2/

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.

After the Printz…

Books can captivate, bore, or face flinging against the closest wall. This winter take your mind off the weather, lift your spirit and follow the YASF 2015 Tournament of Books.

Since a lot of area teen librarians have never experienced serving on a Printz committee the Young Adult Services Forum of the Illinois Library Association thought it would be fun for teen librarians to express their thoughts on what YA book merits the title BEST.Last year fifteen librarians participated in the 2014 YASF Tournament of Books voiced their opinions on the merits of 16 books and picked Out of the Easy by Ruta Septys.

The 16 books for the 2015 list were chosen from a list of 36 nominated titles from YASF members and were ranked according to starred reviews.

Bring out the Trumpets!!!  Announcing the 2015 YASF Tournament of Books List:

• 100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith
• Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld
• Egg & Spoon by Gregory Maguire
• Gabi: a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero
• Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A. S. King
• Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
• Guy in Real Life by Steven Brezenoff
• I’ll Give you the Sun by Jandy Nelson
• Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson
• Noggin by John Corey Whaley
• This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki
• Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
• Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer
• We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
• Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkowski
• Young Elites by Marie Lu

Joined by a star cast of librarian judges:

• Dawn Abron, Zion Benton Public Library
• Caitlin Bergan, McHenry Public Library
• Rachel Bild, Oak Park Public Library
• Donna Block, Niles Public Library
• Kris Buican, Gemini Junior High School
• Sarah Burkard, Deerfield Public Library
• Veronica Defazio, Plainfield Public Library
• Caitlin Greener, Niles North High School
• Jennifer Hovanec, Deerfield Public Library
• Anne Jamieson, Deerfield Public Library
• Jennifer Jazwinski, Algonquin Public Library
• Elise Martinez, Zion Benton Public Library
• Alea Perez, Hinsdale Public Library
• Brandi Smits, Lansing Public Library
• Kim Zahrobsky, Elmwood Park Public Library

The first round reviews are due Wednesday, February 11, second round on Wednesday February 25, third round on Wednesday March 11 and fourth round on Wednesday March 25. The winning book will be announced Thursday March 26. All reviews will appear on this blog.The plan is for the winning author to visit YA day at A Library State of Mind Conference on Saturday October 24, 2015.


Let’s Celebrate Teen Literature Day, April 17, 2014 by praising and giving thanks for the wonderful work of The Abraham Lincoln Award and the Read for a Lifetime Reading Program committees. Illinois teen librarians are so fortunate in having two lists that promote reading for high school students. At Niles Public Library, these lists are crafted into colorful brochures each spring. This allows time for recruiting new readers for both programs and also allows time for the high school students to read the four books from each list. Since most titles are also appropriate for seventh and eighth graders the brochures are distributed with Teen Summer Reading logs.

Jeanne Urbanek of the Illinois Secretary of State Office oversees Read for a Lifetime with an excellent website that contains all participation, reporting and annual lists. Here is the “Hot off The Website” 2014-2015 list. Book Selection for the list is done by a 10-12 member Read for a Lifetime Book Club of public and school librarians, teachers, administrators and parents. The first of March each year, the members receive an e-mail requesting their suggestions. Each member sends a list of 25 titles. Jeanne puts all the suggestions together and pulls out the multiple mentions. The multiple mentions comprise the core list. She sends the remaining titles back to the members and they choose 15 titles from that list. This pattern is continued until the final list of 25 titles is attained. The deadline for reading the books is usually in the middle of April. All high school students who read four or more titles from the list receive a certificate from Secretary of State Jesse White. During the first 15 years of the program 17,450 students and 123 adults from more than 500 high schools and public libraries throughout Illinois have read 78,500 books.

The Abraham Lincoln Award committee is under the supervision of the Illinois School Library Media Association Board. The committee also maintains an excellent website with voting and registration information. There is a registration fee to participate in the voting process. All registered librarians and teachers nominate adult, young adult fiction and non-fiction titles in the fall and the nomination committee selects a long list. The reading committee, after reading the nominated books carefully, meets to debate and select the final list of 22 titles. The ABE committee is fortunate to have a high school student reader panel that participates in the selection day process. All titles selected by the students are noted on the yearly list. The deadline for posting votes for the ABE award is March 15th of each year. Here is the 2015 Abraham Lincoln Award List, also hot off the website. In 2014 150 public and school libraries participated in the ABE reading program with a total of 3451 high school voters.

Both lists coordinate well. The Read for a Lifetime list includes more classic and non-fiction titles along with contemporary young adult fiction while the ABE list mostly includes recent popular young adult fiction. There was a rule in the past that all books on the ABE list had to be paperbacks but that has changed in recent years to include hardcover books. The 2014-2015 lists have only two  titles Eleanor & Park and Raven Boys on both lists.

Happy Teen Literature Day to all Illinois Young Adult Librarians!


Just One Day by Gayle Forman and Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys are two of my favorite books of 2013. Both authors construct characters with the skill of a painter’s stroke.  The settings of New Orleans and Paris are vivid. Allyson Healey and Josie Moraine are strong protagonists who show a great deal of determination and character and throughout both books I was totally empathetic with both their struggles.  What is there not to enjoy while turning the pages!   Decisions, decisions…


In Just One Day Allyson Healey is the good girl who has always followed the program of her parents. Everything her parents want she wants. This novel is relatable to the huge universe of teens with helicopter parents. Her depression following the Paris episode is understandable and her lack of joy at the beginning of her freshman college year heartbreaking.  How Allyson comes to life with the friendship of Dee and her Shakespeare class progresses the story well. Although this is a coming of age story is it above all else a romance, a passionate love story. Willem is everyone’s first love.


Out of the Easy is all heart. “Josie girl, she got a heart like an artichoke. A leaf for everyone.” When I first read this book last summer I cried at the end. Rereading it for this review, on Fat Tuesday for true atmosphere, I again cried. I am such a sap for sad endings.  I loved the characters.  I loved the spunkiness of Josie, her concern for Charlie, and her quest for a college education. The banter between Josie and Willie was hilarious yet touching. The villains in the story are so slimy. Her poor excuse for a human being mother is pure evil and Mr. Lockwell made my skin crawl.

Ruth Sepetys can write!   She has crafted a historical fiction novel that captures the Southern charm of the city of New Orleans with all its highs and lows. Rising above the typical tired tale of a madam with a heart of gold she has written a novel with unique characters with a setting so strong you can envision every scene. Heart wins over Passion. 

My vote is for Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys.

What is your Favorite 2013 YA Book?

Each January when the Printz award and the Best Books List are announced, Illinois Teen Librarians are surprised, elated or shocked. Now is your chance to vote for your best book by participating in the YASF 2013 YA tournament of books this March.   In this tournament, 16 titles will be placed in brackets with the winner from each bracket moving on to the next. Librarian judges will decide which book will win by writing a review on the blog with the reasoning for their decision. At the January 30th meeting, forum members will select the titles and the judges.

eleanor and partkjpgMy 2013 favorites, Eleanor & Park and Fangirl,appear on both adult and teen 2013 best book lists.  It is really amazing that two books by one author are on the best lists in one year.

Set in Omaha in 1986, Eleanor and Park form a friendship when Park lends Eleanor tapes and comic books.  There is a lot of conversation on the bus in this era before cell phones, texting and tablets and the alternating voices of Eleanor and Park provide a two-sided perspective on the falling in love scenario. The dialogue is well written and most of the reviews cannot resist quoting the hand holding scene. This is a tender, uplifting, and touching love story that is not trite, sentimental or unrealistic. The lyrical writing stirs memories of that “first love.”

Belittled by her classmates for her red hair and “big body,” Eleanor lives in a stepdad situation. Eleanor shares a room with her four siblings, her stepdad is abusive and there is little privacy or money. At school she is subjected to numerous pranks by the popular group.

A geek and somewhat of a free spirit, Park is a son of an American father and a Korean mother.  His loving parents are kind and his family serves as a contrast to Eleanor’s horrible home setting.

Due to the cursing of some characters and the abusive character of the stepdad, this book was challenged in Minnesota during Banned Books Week in September.  It is an honest view into how poverty, bullying and abusiveness can erode the human spirit but not destroy it. Despite Eleanor’s scary home life the story is not depressing and shows how love conquers all.fangirl

So far Fangirl is on Library Journal’s best 2013 YA Lit for Adults and also the 2013 Best Young Adult Fiction List.  It is a coming of age story about fanfiction and also features a first love theme. Main character Cath writes Simon Snow fanfiction which resembles the Harry Potter character. When both Cath and her twin sister go to college, writing fanfiction continues to consume Cath while her sister Wren relishes the social scene. The relationship between the sisters and their father is the heart of the novel. The characters, the college setting and the plot have a lighter atmosphere than Eleanor & Park. There is a strong emphasis on how Cath develops as a writer with the help of her college friends.

What are your favorite 2013 titles? Join in the fun of the Young Adult Services Forum Tournament of Books and participate as a judge or submit titles by sending an e-mail to mmiller@nileslibrary.org before January 30, 2014.


Managing the Unmanageable Manga

During these grey days of winter, combat seasonal-deficit-disorder and take control of your colorful YA Manga collections.marymillermangapic

Popular series seem to go on forever…Naruto is on volume 59, Bleach on volume 54, One Piece volume 66 out in March, and they show little signs of ending. Unfortunately, YA shelf space does not expand as waistlines do around the holidays. Breathe deeply and decide what to weed and what to keep. Circulation statistics do not rule as sole criteria since this is a collection that flies out the library and gives all Young Adult librarians warm fuzzy feelings that teens are reading.

When deciding what to weed, consult with your anime and manga club. Do they still read series that have ended? What are their favorite series and what are their least favorites? Hunting though the manga you will probably discover series that ceased after a few volumes, and now you have room to order new series.

There are three very helpful sources.  No Flying No Tights, Graphic Novel Reporter, and The New York Times manga bestsellers list.  The library journals have articles on manga and most regularly review new series. Each January, YALSA publishes their best graphic novels list which includes new and popular manga titles.

At the YALD (Young Adult Librarian’s Discussion) meeting on January 16th at the Des Plaines Library, several librarians commented that they use Otaku USA , Viz, and the Tokyo Pop newsletter.

Join YALSA’s Electronic Discussion Lists for another great discovery tool. Young adult librarians discuss many issues from new and popular titles, how to start a manga collection, and shelving dilemmas.  The organization of graphic novels relies on collaboration between cataloging and public service departments.  Each library tends to discover a “whatever works” solution.

Your friendly comic book stores are also useful allies. They are suppliers of free comics to libraries on Free Comic Book Day.  To find a comic store close to your library consult the Free Comic Book Day website.freecomicbookdaylogo

Even with careful checking some manga series will slip through the cracks and not be discovered until a teen request an issue and the series is now on volume 15. Thanks to library systems and the generous sharing of materials a new manga series is just a click away. This is the perfect time to reassure yourself that perfection is unattainable and place the system hold. As with shelf space, YA book budgets are not expandable either.