Category Archives: Humor

Tina’s Mouth by Keshni Kashyap

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Tina's Mouth

Tina’s Mouth by Keshni Kashyap, ISBN: 9780618945191

Overview: Tina is a shrewd observer of high school culture, with its cliques and fashion obsessed shallow people. She’s recently been dumped by her best friend, Alex, so she has plenty of time to compose a journal to Jean-Paul Sartre as an English class assignment. In it, she’ll muse about her older brother and sister’s troubles with love, her embarrassing extended family, and the boy she likes but can’t seem to figure out. Tina writes with wit and just enough angst to make this a fun and enlightening read.

Critical Evaluation: There is not much new territory covered in this graphic novel, but it is still an enjoyable story. Tina’s issues are familiar, though they are seen through the lens of an Indian American family. So her brother and sister experience dating woes, just like anyone else, but they are mostly caused by their parents’ attempts to arrange a marriage. Or there is Tina’s breakdown of all of her aunts, from the gossiping ones, to the drunken aunt who hands out advice like, “Marry a European.” Even with familiar tropes, I like the way Tina thinks about things and infuses every situation with the snark and eye rolls so characteristic of teens.

Some reviews on Goodreads have complained about the drawings of the book. I had no issues with them and found that I thought they matched the text quite well. They are more basic, but this is a style common in many other illustrated novels, like Persepolis or from the children’s section, Diary of a Wimpy Kid. That the book is supposed to represent a teen’s journal lends even more credibility to the simplicity of the illustrations. That in itself is also very reminiscent of Daria, which I assume must be an influence on this novel.

Reader’s Annotation: Tina contemplates high school, her embarrassing family, and why she can’t understand boys in a journal addressed to Jean-Paul Sartre. This may be one of the funniest class assignment you’ll read.

Information about the author: Keshni was born to Indian parents and raised in the San Francisco area. She studied literature at Berkeley and film at UCLA. She now lives and works in New York City.

“Tina’s Mouth” is her first novel. She is primarily known as a filmmaker. She also contributes frequently to “The Daily Beast” website.

Genre: Graphic Novel, Humor, Realistic Fiction

Curriculum ties, if any: Tina creates this journal for his English honors class assignment on existentialism, so this could be a fun way to talk about existentialism and Jean-Paul Sartre.

Booktalking Ideas: Tina is very reminiscent of Daria, and even though Daria was current when I was in high school, I think she remains popular in a cult sense. For those who hadn’t heard of Daria, I would emphasize how funny and snarky she is.

Reading Level/Interest Age:  Tina is a sophomore in high school and deals with issues common to high school students. The expressed purpose of the book from Tina’s perspective is for an existentialism assignment, which I think will resonate more with older teens.

Challenge Issues:

  • Language
  • Drug references
  • Sexual references

Defense Strategy:

  1. First, I would want to be familiar with the book. As I’ve read this book, I’d be aware of potential issues that could be challenged. In the case of a book I had not read, I would want to have access to reviews.
  2. Then I would put together a rationale for why this book is included in the collection. This rationale would include:
    • Bibliographic Citation of the book.
    • A description of who the book is best suited for.
    • A summary of the book and applicable other information, such as biographical information about the author.
    • My justification for including the book. This would include how it fits in with the selection policy and library mission statement, and include its educational significance if applicable or the impact it could have on readers.
    • Copy of selection policy and library mission statement at my library.
    • ALA Library Bill of Rights
    • Good and bad reviews of the book
    • Alternative works a student could read
    • Reconsideration form if patron is not satisfied with rationale
  3. When talking to patron, I would listen to their concerns without getting on the defensive and attempt to sympathize with their concerns. In some cases, all an upset patron needs is to be able to vent and know that someone is listening to them.
  4. If needed, I would send the challenge up the chain of command.

This book meets the recreational needs of teens. I also think that the controversial elements included are commonplace in some teens’ lives, and deserve representation in the books that they read.

Why did you include this book? : It was recommended to me and seemed like it would provide another angle to my project. It also provides the perspective of a non-white teenager.

Reference Page:

Keshni Kashyap author biography (2013). Goodreads. Retrieved from http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2867364.Keshni_Kashyap

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OCD, the Dude, and Me by Lauren Roedy Vaughn

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OCD, the Dude, and Me

OCD, the Dude, and Me by Lauren Roedy Vaughn, ISBN: 9780803738430

Plot Summary: Danielle and her mother get in a fight on the first day of school because of the mess in Danielle’s room. But what her mother doesn’t understand is that what she sees as mess is a carefully organized system for Danielle’s books. Many things in Danielle’s life are carefully handled, like her weight, her style of dress, and her lack of friends. As a result of her essays in class, her English teacher decides that Danielle should see a counselor and join a social skills class. Both seem like a waste of time, until Danielle meets Daniel. He introduces her to “The Big Lebowski” and friendship. This book is told in a quirky and funny style, with a lovably flawed narrator on a heartfelt journey.

Critical Evaluation: This book is told through a variety of formats. Danielle explains at the beginning that she is keeping a color coded binder to capture her life. This includes diary entries, letters to her aunt, and the essays that she writes for her English class, along with comments and grades from the teacher. This provides for an interesting look at her, and an interesting form of narration. Like “Notes,” this means that we see different sides of Danielle. However, the further we read, the more we see that she doesn’t really censor or change her language in her class essays, which also demonstrates something about Danielle’s character.

The other element of the book I find most interesting is the way important details are revealed to the reader as the story progresses. I had a feeling that there was more to the story, and more to Danielle’s neuroses than was established initially. I have to commend the author because I did not guess what her actual traumatic event would be beforehand. At the same time, the resolution of the story seems too neat and easy. I won’t spoil anything I haven’t already, but it seemed like all it took for most of Danielle’s issues to fade was one friend.

Reader’s Annotation: Danielle confines her whole life to her color coded binder. Can she make room for friends and all the unpredictable elements of life?

Information about the author (from book jacket): Lauren Roedy Vaughn is an award-winning educator who has spent twenty years teaching English to high school students with language-based learning disabilities. Lauren lives with her husband in Los Angeles, where she is an avid yogini and Big Lebowski nut.

Genre: Realistic Fiction, Humor

Curriculum ties, if any: This would have ties to a journal writing assignment in an English class, or possibly a look at mental health.

Booktalking Ideas: The second half of the book incorporates a lot of “Big Lebowski” references, so for teens who love that movie, I think the book would appeal as well. I would emphasize that it is funny but heartfelt, and enjoyable to read.

Reading Level/Interest Age:  Danielle is a senior in high school. Because of the challenge issues listed below, it may be more appropriate for a high school student. Publisher’s Weekly recommends this for ages 14 and up, and School Library Journal for grades 9 and up.

Challenge Issues:

  • Language
  • Drug Use
  • Mention of sexual situations

Defense Strategy:

  1. First, I would want to be familiar with the book. As I’ve read this book, I’d be aware of potential issues that could be challenged. In the case of a book I had not read, I would want to have access to reviews.
  2. Then I would put together a rationale for why this book is included in the collection. This rationale would include:
    • Bibliographic Citation of the book.
    • A description of who the book is best suited for.
    • A summary of the book and applicable other information, such as biographical information about the author.
    • My justification for including the book. This would include how it fits in with the selection policy and library mission statement, and include its educational significance if applicable or the impact it could have on readers.
    • Copy of selection policy and library mission statement at my library.
    • ALA Library Bill of Rights
    • Good and bad reviews of the book
    • Alternative works a student could read
    • Reconsideration form if patron is not satisfied with rationale
  3. When talking to patron, I would listen to their concerns without getting on the defensive and attempt to sympathize with their concerns. In some cases, all an upset patron needs is to be able to vent and know that someone is listening to them.
  4. If needed, I would send the challenge up the chain of command.

I think this is one of those books that you want to have on hand for teens that have experienced things like Danielle has. I imagine it will feel good to see someone in the pages of a book who has OCD, has experienced traumatic things, and who struggles to keep everything together. The language and other controversial elements just add to the authenticity of the book.

Why did you include this book? : It received a lot of positive reviews and sounded interesting. It also deals with mental health.

Notes from the Midnight Driver by Jordan Sonnenblick

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Notes from the Midnight Driver by Jordan Sonneblick

Notes from the Midnight Driver by Jordan Sonnenblick, ISBN: 9781611065862

Plot Summary: Alex is mad at his mother for going out on a date, but he’s mostly mad at his father for running off with his 3rd grade teacher. So he gets drunk and tries to drive his mother’s car to his father’s house to yell at him. But he doesn’t get very far. He is sentenced to community service, which turns out to be keeping an old cranky man company at a nursing home. Solomon Lewis doesn’t want him there, and he makes it very clear by berating and insulting Alex every chance he can get. But the letters to the judge asking her to switch his assignment don’t work. Gradually, Alex finds out that Solomon used to be a jazz musician. Conversations turn into guitar lessons, and concerts held at the nursing home. Alex isn’t so eager to finish his community service hours anymore, but Solomon’s health is getting worse.

Critical Evaluation: This book combines several styles of storytelling, which I particularly enjoyed. Most of the story is told from Alex’s perspective, but he also includes his repeated letters to the judge on his case asking for a community service reassignment. So we get Alex’s conversational, inner monologue, as well as his more formal and polite voice as he uses with authority. We also briefly see his drunken voice, which unfortunately for him is reserved for the cops who arrest him. And we see his halting conversation skills with girls that he likes, or has just realized that he likes.

I do not recall a specific setting for this book, which says to me that it is meant to be more universal, representing a friendship between sixteen year old and senior citizen in almost any town. I keep returning to the funnier elements of the book, like the funny way that Laurie berates Alex for his drunk driving or the pranks Solomon plays on the residents at the nursing home. But I don’t mean to suggest that there is no weight to the book. Our narrator may sound snarky most of the time, but when he thinks he has killed someone, he is devastated and feels the full weight of his actions. Of course it is only a garden gnome, but the moment speaks to the more serious elements of the book.

Reader’s Annotation: After crashing his mother’s car while driving drunk, Alex is sentenced to hang out with a grumpy old man at a nursing home. Alex can’t believe his bad luck, until he finds out that Solomon also plays guitar… and maybe he won’t be grumpy all the time.

Information about the author: Jordan Sonnenblick was born in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri in 1969. He attended the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia where he majored in English. He also took numerous classes in Russian, history, and anthropology. He studied abroad in London, was involved in the marching band, played drums for a theater group, and performed as Santa Claus for cancer patients at a hospital.

After college Jordan joined Teach for America and taught 5th grade in Houston Texas. He then taught 11 years of 8th grade English in New Jersey. He lives with his wife and two children.

Genre: Realistic Fiction, Humor, Audiobook

Curriculum ties, if any: I think this book could be used to talk about jazz history.

Booktalking Ideas: This is a very funny, but heartfelt story. I think girls will like hearing about Laurie, the tiny but tough best friend that can and does kick Alex’s butt. Musical students will like hearing about that there is a fair amount of music talk in the book. I think it would also be fun to mention that there are a lot of Yiddish insults in the book, and maybe during a booktalk I would point some of them out.

Reading Level/Interest Age:  Alex is sixteen years old, and some of the story refers to things that older teens will understand better. School Library Journal finds this book appropriate for readers in 8th grade or higher, while Publisher’s Weekly suggests it for readers 12 years old and up.

Challenge Issues:

  • Drunk Driving

Defense Strategy:

  1. First, I would want to be familiar with book. As I’ve read this book, I’d be aware of potential issues that could be challenged. In the case of a book I had not read, I would want to have access to reviews.
  2. Then I would put together a rationale for why this book is included in the collection. This rationale would include:
    • Bibliographic Citation of the book.
    • A description of who the book is best suited for.
    • A summary of the book and applicable other information, such as biographical information about the author.
    • My justification for including the book. This would include how it fits in with the selection policy and library mission statement, and include its educational significance if applicable or the impact it could have on readers.
    • Copy of selection policy and library mission statement at my library.
    • ALA Library Bill of Rights
    • Good and bad reviews of the book
    • Alternative works a student could read
    • Reconsideration form if patron is not satisfied with rationale
  3. When talking to patron, I would listen to their concerns without getting on the defensive and attempt to sympathize with their concerns. In some cases, all an upset patron needs is to be able to vent and know that someone is listening to them.
  4. If needed, I would send the challenge up the chain of command.

The drunk driving in this story should serve more as a cautionary tale than encouragement for readers. After the initial drinking, Alex doesn’t drink again in the book.

Why did you include this book? : It is a funny and touching book by an author I have previously read and enjoyed.

Reference Page:

Bio (2013). Jordan Sonnenblick. Retrieved from http://www.jordansonnenblick.com/bio/

King of the Mild Frontier: An Ill-Advised Autobiography by Chris Crutcher

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King of the Mild Frontier

King of the Mild Frontier by Chris Crutcher ISBN: 0060502495

Plot Summary: Chris Crutcher chronicles his life, from his childhood to his job as an adult, and how his life led him to write for teens. His parents had a happy marriage, though his mother was always drinking. His brother was very good at tricking Chris, which led to a lot of funny situations. And Chris deals with not being good at sports or with girls for many years. As an adult, Chris works as a therapist. It is in this work that he meets everyday heroes; people who must deal with difficult circumstances but rise above and do what it is right. These Encounters with heroes lead Chris to become a young adult author. This is a funny and heartfelt story about the trials and tribulations of growing up, and what’s on the other side.

Critical Evaluation: Chris Crutcher writes in a very genuine and straightforward manner. The tone is conversational and somewhat self-deprecating, as Chris shares rather embarrassing stories about his childhood and his strengths and weaknesses. It makes the whole experience of reading the book very accessible and down to earth, which I appreciate. This gives me the impression of Chris as an approachable and humble author, who does his best to relate to his readers.

This is not really an exciting book. There are plenty of funny moments, especially when Chris discusses his involvement in sports, and moving moments, like when Chris talks about some of his encounters with patients as a therapist. Some of the other books I’ve read this semester were hard to put down; there was so much going on and so much at stake I just had to keep reading. In contrast, I could read this book at a more leisurely pace, put it down to start something else, and come back to it later. That might make it a tougher book for a reluctant reader to get through, but I don’t think of this as a downside to the book. I believe that this book will most appeal to those who have already read Chris’ other books, and they will be motivated enough to complete the book.

Reader’s Annotation: Even authors have to deal with pimples, and bullies, and gym class. In his memoir, Chris Crutcher talks about his childhood, and how he finds inspiration for his books.

Information about the author: Chris Crutcher was born in Dayton, Ohio in 1946. He grew up Cascade, Idaho. Before becoming an author, Chris taught in Washington and California and acted as director of an Oakland alternative school for almost ten years. He also has 25 years of experience as a child and family therapist specializing in abuse and neglect.

These experiences led him to become a YA author. His numerous books are critically acclaimed, and he is one of the most frequently banned authors in America, which he considers an accomplishment. He continues to write novels and is a contributor to Huffington Post and the Voices from the Middle Column. He lives in Spokane, Washington.

Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir

Curriculum ties, if any: This could be tied into any class that was talking about a particular Chris Crutcher book, or for a discussion of how one’s life influences their writing.

Booktalking Ideas: I would definitely sell this to teens who have read Chris Crutcher. I would also emphasize that it is funny and heartfelt. Chris’ experiences as a teenage boy, with pimples and masturbation should resonate with other teenage boys, though I probably won’t bring those particular examples up in a booktalk.

Reading Level/Interest Age:  Chris chronicles most of his life in this book, so at certain points he is younger, and at other points older than the teen readers we are targeting. He writes it as an adult, and is unapologetic in his descriptions of somewhat racy or controversial topics (there is mention of masturbation, but no details). Since most of his books are YA titles for older readers, I imagine this is read by the same age, despite being told in a more adult way.  Booklist suggests this title for grades 8-12, and School Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly for grades 8 and up.

Challenge Issues:

  • Sexual situations
  • Language

Defense Strategy:

  1. First, I would want to be familiar with book. As I’ve read this book, I’d be aware of potential issues that could be challenged. In the case of a book I had not read, I would want to have access to reviews.
  2. Then I would put together a rationale for why this book is included in the collection. This rationale would include:
    • Bibliographic Citation of the book.
    • A description of who the book is best suited for.
    • A summary of the book and applicable other information, such as biographical information about the author.
    • My justification for including the book. This would include how it fits in with the selection policy and library mission statement, and include its educational significance if applicable or the impact it could have on readers.
    • Copy of selection policy and library mission statement at my library.
    • ALA Library Bill of Rights
    • Good and bad reviews of the book
    • Alternative works a student could read
    • Reconsideration form if patron is not satisfied with rationale
  3. When talking to patron, I would listen to their concerns without getting on the defensive and attempt to sympathize with their concerns. In some cases, all an upset patron needs is to be able to vent and know that someone is listening to them.
  4. If needed, I would send the challenge up the chain of command.

This is a true story, so it obviously has true accounts of Chris’ life, but also of incidents he has been involved in or witnessed. As such, it does no one any good to avoid these subjects. Chris Crutcher also talks at some length about heroes in a way teens might not expect, which I think is important for teens to read about.

Why did you include this book? : I think of Chris Crutcher as a YA heavyweight, so it seemed only natural to include one of his titles in my project. I was attracted to his memoir because I thought it would provide a better understanding of all of his other books and that devoted fans of his would also be interested in learning more about his background.

Reference Page:

Very brief biography (2013). Chris Crutcher website. Retrieved from http://www.chriscrutcher.com/biography.html

I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

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I am the Messenger

I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak ISBN: 0375830995

Plot Summary: Ed’s first good deed is when he helps to stop a bank robber. After that, he starts getting Aces in the mail with cryptic instructions for who to help next. Couple that with a couple of thugs that occasionally visit to rough Ed up and make sure he completes the tasks, long hours driving a taxi, his smelly and emotive dog, and being love with his best friend, Audrey, and you’ve got Ed’s life as it has become. Completing the tasks feels mostly good, allowing him to meet a sweet old lady who just needs company or unite two brothers, but Ed has no idea who is sending him these playing cards and he’s not sure he’d like the reason behind them.

Critical Evaluation: Though not nearly as powerful a read as “The Book Thief,” this is still a well written and enjoyable story. When we meet Ed, he seems perfectly content with the way his life is. He lives in a tiny house, drives a taxi underage, and spends lazy nights playing cards with his similarly low achieving friends. But he feels worthless, and simultaneously unable to change that. The cards, accompanied by the thugs sort of force him to take action. Character development is very clearly supposed to be a focus of this book, with both Ed and the people he helps growing as people throughout the story. It’s not often that you read a book where nearly all the characters do that. I especially liked a scene with Ed and Audrey’s boyfriend. This is a guy that Ed has looked down on somewhat because of who he is to Audrey, but here you see each tentatively trying to understand the other.

The other element that caught my attention is the rising action of the story. There are slower moments of the book, but these are nicely interspersed between sequences that are faster paced and even gripping. I think this story is well suited to a lot of action because, though there is a climax to the story, and somewhat of an escalating of tasks, Ed has exciting adventures throughout the story. All of these individual stories he becomes involved in coalesce and escalate into the final mission, which is both to find out who is behind these playing cards, and how to improve his life long term. Even after the action has slowed, the resolution was still satisfying to me because there are many personal elements for Ed to work out. I got a good mix of answers to all my questions, but also an understanding that the story would continue to progress and change after the book ended.

Reader’s Annotation: Someone is sending Ed Aces in the mail with lists of people that need help in some way. Who is sending these messages, and what do they want with Ed?

Information about the author: Markus Zusak was born in 1975 in Sydney, Australia. He is the author of numerous books, most notably “The Book Thief.” This book, “I am the Messenger” was published in 2002.

His first three books were all published in Australia and garnered a number of awards there. “The Book Thief” topped bestseller lists all over the world. “I am the Messenger” won the 2003 CBC Book of the Year Award (Older Readers) and the 2003 NSW Premier’s Literary Award (Ethel Turner Prize), as well as receiving a Printz Honor in America. Markus continues to live in Sydney, Australia.

Genre: Mystery

Curriculum ties, if any: None in particular.

Booktalking Ideas: I would emphasize the friendship in this story, because it adds humor to the story. This is particularly good for boys who enjoy mysteries, as I think they will identify with Ed, and maybe understand the involvement of violence more.

Reading Level/Interest Age:  The main character is 19 in this book, and already has a full time job and an apartment. Teens should still enjoy the mystery, and that, even though he is older than them, he doesn’t have his life figured out either.

Challenge Issues:

  • Violence
  • Language
  • Sexual situations

Defense Strategy:

  1. First, I would want to be familiar with book. As I’ve read this book, I’d be aware of potential issues that could be challenged. In the case of a book I had not read, I would want to have access to reviews.
  2. Then I would put together a rationale for why this book is included in the collection. This rationale would include:
    • Bibliographic Citation of the book.
    • A description of who the book is best suited for.
    • A summary of the book and applicable other information, such as biographical information about the author.
    • My justification for including the book. This would include how it fits in with the selection policy and library mission statement, and include its educational significance if applicable or the impact it could have on readers.
    • Copy of selection policy and library mission statement at my library.
    • ALA Library Bill of Rights
    • Good and bad reviews of the book
    • Alternative works a student could read
    • Reconsideration form if patron is not satisfied with rationale
  3. When talking to patron, I would listen to their concerns without getting on the defensive and attempt to sympathize with their concerns. In some cases, all an upset patron needs is to be able to vent and know that someone is listening to them.
  4. If needed, I would send the challenge up the chain of command.

The violence is somewhat important to the storyline because it makes Ed’s actions more impressive. The ultimate theme of doing good things for others should make up for that. As for the language, I believe that it makes the book more believable and authentic.

Why did you include this book? : I read The Book Thief and really enjoyed it, and wanted to try something else by him. This was also the first mystery I read for the class.

Reference Page:

Biography for Markus Zusak. Goodreads. Retrieved from http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/11466.Markus_Zusak

Nothing can possibly go wrong by Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks

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nothing could possibly go wrong

Nothing can possibly go wrong by Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks ISBN: 9781596436596

Plot Summary: Charlie and Nate are best friends. It’s been that way since they were children. They’ve changed in a lot of ways since then, Charlie getting into sports and becoming more popular, and Nate joining the robotics club at school, but their friendship stays constant. But things start to go wrong. Charlie’s girlfriend Holly, the head cheerleader, breaks up with him. Both Holly and Nate want funding from the school, so Nate runs for school president, and she makes Charlie run against him. The race is getting cutthroat, and Charlie is put in the middle.  Then Nate and Charlie come up with an idea for everyone to get funding. The Robotics Club will to enter a robot battle by souping up a robot. But they are going to need financial backers, and Holly and her squad are looking like the only option. Can they convince her to work with them? Can they get along long enough to pull this thing off?

Critical Evaluation: Graphic novels have some advantages over straight text novels. You have both written and visual ways to express your story. There’s something beautifully simple about simply drawing someone’s embarrassed or hurt expression, as opposed to describing it. On the other hand, there is overall less space to get your story across in a graphic novel. The way a character can really get their point across in just a look. I really enjoyed the way the text and illustrations complemented each other in this story. There didn’t seem to be much excess in that sense. Don’t get me wrong—there is a lot of skill in being able to convey the same thing through writing, which is also beautiful, but graphic novels are easy. It’s not surprising that they are so popular with reluctant readers. This was the case in this novel. The main characters backgrounds are shared over a couple of mostly wordless pages of their shared experiences. It’s clear through the way they talk to each other that even when they are mad at the other, there’s too much history between them. I found the language and conversation (since that is the only text available) to be authentic sounding and helpful at conveying emotions, connections, and moving the plot along. This is not necessarily a great work of art, but it is a lot of fun.

Reader’s Annotation: When school budgets get cut, both the cheerleader’s uniforms and the Robotics Club’s supplies are on the line. A fierce political battle begins for president of student council begins, but maybe, if they work together on a robot rumble, everyone can get the funding they want. The only problem is, they hate each other.

Information about the author: This is Prudence Shen’s first book, while Faith Erin Hicks has written several before. Both considered themselves geeks as teens, though Faith tried to hide it. Prudence says she was obsessed with X-Files as a teen and intense reading. Faith would spend hours alone in her room writing stories, but didn’t feel comfortable sharing her nerdy tendencies with friends.

Faith Erin Hicks was born in rural British Colombia. She lives along the ocean in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Prudence Shen was born in 1984, and now lives in New York.

Genre: Graphic Novel, Humor

Curriculum ties, if any: The characters in the book are working on a robot, which I know has engineering, hence scientific and mathematic relations, so perhaps there is a connection there.

Booktalking Ideas: I would highlight the humor, the classic comedic pair up of groups that hate each other, and of course, robots!

Reading Level/Interest Age:  Characters are juniors and seniors in high school. Publisher’s Weekly suggests this book for ages 12 and up, and School Library Journal for grades 6-9, but both think older readers will enjoy it as well.

Challenge Issues:

None. There is no sexual content and very little rough language. One reviewer on Amazon said that she felt totally comfortable giving it to her 9 year old to read. So, I’m going to assume that this is a pretty safe bet.

Why did you include this book? : It sounded like an entertaining read, and represents a particular kind of graphic novel.

Reference Page:

About Faith Erin Hicks (2013). Faith Erin Hicks website. Retrieved from http://www.faitherinhicks.com/about/

Prudence Shen author page. Macmillan website. Retrieved from us.macmillan.com/author/prudenceshen

Shen, P., Hicks, F.E. (May 10, 2013). Why being a young geek will make you a cool adult. Huff Post Books. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/prudence-shen/why-being-a-young-geek-wi_b_3254296.html

Gorgeous by Paul Rudnick

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Gorgeous by Paul Rudnick ISBN: 9780545464260

Plot Summary: Becky’s overweight mother has just passed away. She’s just graduated from high school and is working as a cashier, wondering if this is how her life will go. Then she gets a mysterious phone call from a famous fashion designer with a very tempting offer. He says he knew Becky’s mother and will make Becky three dresses that will instantly transform her into the most beautiful woman in the world. Becky knows she’s rather plain looking, but this sounds fishy. Indeed, there is a catch. She must get married within a year, or lose it all. Enter a heartthrob movie star, and a humanitarian prince and a whole lot of experiences Becky has never had. But Becky can’t shake the nagging feeling that all the attention is undeserved, and that if anyone knew who she really was, this would all go away.

Critical Evaluation: The theme and imagery of this book seem to be the strongest elements to me. Initially, the theme is somewhat hidden behind biting remarks and humor. But it is in this manner that Rudnick gets his main points across in a jab at consumerism and ascribing our sense of worth to our outer beauty. For me, he is much more successful at demonstrating the second. Perhaps with a second careful reading, I would pick out more of the details about consumerism. As it is, I do recall the way that Becky and her friend talked about designers and fashion before she became Rebecca. But she contemplates her worth and beauty a lot more as the novel progresses. I think it helps that Becky is not totally taken in by the beauty industry; the person she most admires is her overweight mother. And her sense of self-worth doesn’t actually change much once she gets the dresses. She admits to being captivated by what she looks like, but it seems like the biggest change is that now she is less honest, a change she frequently feels guilty about.

And, in a book about the fashion and beauty industry, perhaps it is not surprising that the imagery is very vivid. There is a lot of detail dedicated to describing Rebecca’s outfits, and those around her. Once I consider that, I do realize that another change from Becky to Rebecca is that she is now much more aware of what everyone around her is wearing. All of this imagery helps to make the settings much more vivid, though it is admittedly only one dimension of the settings.

Reader’s Annotation: If someone offered you a chance to be the most beautiful woman in the world, with the help of three dresses, would you do it? Becky says yes, but soon starts to wonder what she’s gotten herself into…

Information about the author: This is Paul Rudnick’s first YA novel. He is most well known as a playwright and screenwriter of In and Out and Jeffrey. He also frequently contributes to the New Yorker and Entertainment Weekly.

He grew up in Piscataway, New Jersey in one of few Jewish families in the area. He went to Yale University and moved to Manhattan afterwards to begin his theater career. He has been called one of the wittiest writers of our time and has won numerous awards for his plays.

Genre: Fantasy, Humor, Satire, Fractured Fairytale, Chick Lit

Curriculum ties, if any: This might be interesting to discuss in a unit on consumerism.

Booktalking Ideas: This is quite a funny novel, so I would want to highlight that. I think this will appeal mostly to girls, and the occasional boy, so I would talk about the opportunity to get a practically instant makeover that suddenly makes you beautiful, famous, and rich. But that it has drawbacks.

Reading Level/Interest Age: The main character is 18, has just graduated from high school. Publisher’s Weekly recommends this book for ages 14 and up and School Library Journal for grades 9 and up.

Challenge Issues:

  • Language
  • Homosexuality

Defense strategy:

  1. First, I would want to be familiar with book. As I’ve read this book, I’d be aware of potential issues that could be challenged. In the case of a book I had not read, I would want to have access to reviews.
  2. Then I would put together a rationale for why this book is included in the collection. This rationale would include:
    • Bibliographic Citation of the book.
    • A description of who the book is best suited for.
    • A summary of the book and applicable other information, such as biographical information about the author.
    • My justification for including the book. This would include how it fits in with the selection policy and library mission statement, and include its educational significance if applicable or the impact it could have on readers.
    • Copy of selection policy and library mission statement at my library.
    • ALA Library Bill of Rights
    • Good and bad reviews of the book
    • Alternative works a student could read
    • Reconsideration form if patron is not satisfied with rationale
  3. When talking to patron, I would listen to their concerns without getting on the defensive and attempt to sympathize with their concerns. In some cases, all an upset patron needs is to be able to vent and know that someone is listening to them.
  4. If needed, I would send the challenge up the chain of command.

This book fits the recreational needs of teens, but it also has an important message about being yourself, being honest, and recognizing one’s beautiful qualities inside and out. It is packaged in a way that teens can relate better to it, and don’t feel like they are being pandered to.

Why did you include this book? : I’d read that it was an enjoyable read. It fits the fantasy and humor genre, and as “chick lit” is one I don’t normally read.

Reference Page:

Bruni, F. (1997). At home with: Paul Rudnick; you want gay role models? How about a joke first. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com