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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Sunday: The Inspy Long List

Happy Easter!

Do you know about the INSPY awards? I'd heard of them on twitter and a few blogs and finally got around to looking into it. It's a book blogger award for Christian fiction, looking at books that are explicitly Christian and published by Christian publishers as well as general fiction books that are faith-drivin. As they say on their website, the award is "discover and highlight the very best in literature that grapples with expressions of the Christian faith."

AND! It's not too late to apply to be a judge-- today's the deadline. The shortlist will be announced on April 15 and the winner will be announced on June 28.

One of the categories is Young People's Literature that covers both Middle Grade and Teen books. Here are the Teen books on the nomination long-list!

    

Wreath by Judy Christie. Wreath's mom is dead, and Wreath is determined to stay out of foster care, but she also has to stay our of the way of her mother's boyfriend. So, she lives in the junkyard, makes enough money for food and is just trying to hang on until she graduates, but there are good adults in her life, and they're starting to realize that's something up.

Thundersnow by Sheila Hollinghead. Sarah Jane lives in the Deep South during the Depression. In addition to the crushing poverty of her family, Sarah Jane tries to shield herself and her younger brother from their abusive mother.

There You'll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones. After Finley's brother dies, she decides to follow his footsteps and go to Ireland, retracing his steps. But her trip is complicated not only by pressures at home and her overwhelming grief, but also a very famous and very cute Hollywood actor.

    

Crazy Dangerous by Andrew Klaven. Sam is a Preacher's Kid and ends up befriending Jennifer, an odd-ball classmate. At night, Jennifer hears the voices and sees the visions. Does she need professional help, or is she seeing a vision of something to come that needs to be stopped?

Right Where I Belong by Krista McGee. In this retelling of the story of Ruth, Natalia's father has just gotten divorced. For the third time. Natalia's done and decides to move from Spain to Florida to be with her ex-step-mother. But it's a new language, a new country, and a new school. Then she meets Brian, a preacher's kid whose faith is unshakeable.

The Embittered Ruby by Nicole O'Dell. When Carmen's parents divorce, she has to leave a lavish life-style. Her attempts to hold on to her own life go horribly wrong and she ends up at Diamond Estates, a youth ministry home for troubled teens. Another book in this series, The Shadowed Onyx is also on the long list.

    

Addison Blakely: Confessions of a PK by Betsy St. Amant. Addison has always been the picture-perfect preacher's daughter, but how much of her faith is genuine, and how much is inherited? A host of new people in her life make Addison see shades of gray where there was only black-and-white before.

Temptation by Travis Thrasher. In the first two books in this series, we meet Chris and his new town of Solitary-- a town harboring dark secrets and evil. In the third installment, Chris is done trying to figure this town out. He meets an amazing girl and decides to leave it all behind him. Chris is done with Solitary, but Solitary isn't done with Chris. You'll want to start at the beginning of the series with Solitary.

How to Save a Life by Sarah Zarr. Mandy is pregnant and know she can't keep the baby. After Jill's father dies, her mother decides to adopt a baby and brings Mandy to live with them in the final weeks of her pregnancy. Jill doesn't want the baby, or Mandy, around-- her mom can't just replace her dad like that. Mandy has her own secrets and it's more than the pregnancy that she's running from.

What are you picks to win this year? What do you wish you had nominated?

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Saturday, March 30, 2013

National Doctor's Day

It's National Doctor's Day! When I was in high school, I really wanted to be a virologist for the CDC and track epidemics and research new diseases. Then I realized that reading about it is much more fun, and probably better for my immune system.

    

The Secret of the Yellow Death: A True Story of Medical Sleuthing by Suzanne Jurmain. Jurmain walks us through the ravages of yellow fever and the steps and experiments the doctors went through to prove that it is, indeed, spread by mosquito. This book is more about the search for a cause, rather than the disease itself. For a look at the 1793 Philadelphia outbreak, read Jim Murphy's An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793.

The Hot Zone: A Terrifying True Story by Richard Preston. It reads like a thriller, but this is the true story of the time Ebola hit the DC suburbs and how the government reacted. Published for adults, this was a favorite of mine when I was a teen (and a big part of the reason why I wanted to be a virologist when I grew up!)

Invincible Microbe: Tuberculosis and the Never-Ending Search for a Cure by Jim Murphy and Alison Blank. Weaving together the medical and social histories of TB and the various cures tried over the centuries, this is a fascinating book. The reemergence of TB today, and its drug-resistance make it terrifying.

    

Deadly by Julie Chibbaro. After assisting her midwife mother with several births and watching her brother die from infected wounds after a carriage accident, Prudence wants to know real things, not the stuff they teach her at finishing school. She's elated to get a job with the Department of Health as they investigate the spread of typhoid. An excellent look at the investigation that brought in Typhoid Mary and the controversy surrounding it-- a controversy dealing with personal rights, crazy ideas in science, and discrimination against immigrants.

Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson. In the early days of the United States and a yellow fever epidemic is raging through Philadelphia. Mattie quickly finds herself alone in a city that's been decimated by disease. She has to protect herself not only from the yellow fever, but also the thieves that stalk the streets, taking things from deserted houses. While trying to survive, she desperately tries to find out information about her friends and family and if they still live.

The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton. After a NASA deep space probe returns to Earth and lands in the desert, residents of a nearby town are found dead. Doctors are sent in to investigate, but this disease is literally out-of-this-world. Filled with fake sources and footnotes, this was another high school favorite of mine, even if I wasn't entirely sure if it was fiction or not (it is).

    

Cinder by Marissa Meyer. This futuristic cyberpunk retelling of Cinderella not only stars an Android, but features and Earth riddled by a mysterious plague imported from the moon. Plague deaths cause major plot points in this book, and with clues dropped in the sequel, Scarlet you know it's going to become even more important.

Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix. When the children of Clifton start dying of diptheria, Jessi's mother tells her something that changes her life forever. It's not 1840, it's the 1990s and Clifton is a tourist and research site where people are kept in the dark in order to be more authentic. But it's up to Jessi to leave Clifton, because there's no cure for diptheria in 1840, but there is one today, and she needs to bring it back.

Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks. In the seventeenth century, when the Plague hits a small English village, they voluntarily seal themselves off, so they don't spread the disease further. Anna is an 18-year-old widow who watches as the disease takes her friends and family and tries to offer comfort and help to the dying. Published for adults, teens who enjoy literary fiction will like this one.

What are your favorite disease books?

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Friday, March 29, 2013

Deaf History Month

Deaf History Month started on March 13 and goes until April 15. In honor of deaf history, here's a list of books about or featuring deaf people.

    

Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John. Everyone's taken aback when Piper starts managing the band Dumb. Even if Piper weren't hearing impaired (which she is. Severely.) she's not the type of student one associates with managing a cool high school band. But, when she discovers that her parents have just spent her college fund to get cochlear implants for her baby sister, well, maybe this band thing will be a way to make some money.

Strong Deaf by Lynn McElfresh. Jade is the only hearing person in her family. Her parents are committed advocates for deaf culture and rights and when her older sister, Marla, is home from her residential school, there is definite friction. Told in both Jade's and Marla's voices, we see how both girls feel out-of-place and resent the other. American Sign Language has its own syntax and grammar that's different from spoken English. Marla signs, so her voice uses ASL grammar.

Read My Lips by Teri Brown. When Serena moves to a new town, she's desperate to fit in. The popular girls promise her entry into their group, but only because they know she can read lips-- and can use this talent to find out everyone's gossip.

    

Invincible Summer by Hannah Moscowitz. Noah comes from a large family, but one that also has serious issues. Told over the course of four summers, we see Noah's family's issues, especially his relationship with his brother Chase, and the beach-neighbor girl they're both sleeping with. Noah's youngest brother, Gideon is deaf.

Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller by Joseph Lambert. Ok, so you should probably just read The Story Of My Life by Helen Keller, but if you're looking for a different angle on Keller's life, check out this graphic novel. Incorporating Annie Sullivan's letters, Lambert shines fresh light on Sullivan and Keller's relationship and story. The art changes styles to reflect the different perspectives.

First Girl Scout: The Life of Juliette Gordon Low by Ginger Wadsworth. Juliette Gordon Low is remembered for starting the Girl Scouts, but holy cow, what a life she lead. She was a force to be reckoned with-- more than enough money and unattached (widowed, bad marriage) and a drive to have a space where girls could be people-- something society tended not to allow them to be. Low was partially deaf, after a grain of rice entered her ear canal at her wedding.

    

The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk. Due to his size and deafness, Will is an outsider at his new school, an especially hard adjustment since his old school was just for the hearing impaired. When a football player is murdered, Will's outsider status may give him the edge he needs to figure out who did it.

T4 by Ann Clare LeZotte. The Nazis wished to exterminate more than the Jews. Doctors were ordered to euthanize anyone who they deemed disabled. Told in verse, Paula is a deaf teen who's trying to always stay one step ahead of the Gestapo, trying to survive.

Of Sound Mind by Jean Ferris. Theo's family depend on him for almost everything. As the only hearing member of the family, he's often called on to translate and buffer. He's also the only one who notices the silence on their house, as conversations are in sign, not spoken words. Then Theo meets a girl he wants to spend all his time with, but that's when his family needs him more than ever.

Which books with deaf characters would you add to the list? Leave me a comment to let me know!

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Thursday, March 28, 2013

National Nutrition Month: Books About Food

It's National Nutrition Month. Nutrition is weird, because every 5 years they tell you that everything you thought was good for you will certainly kill you tomorrow if you aren't already dead. So, instead of focusing on nutrition specifically, here's a list of books about food generally.

And, when putting this list together, I realized they are all adult titles. They are all ones I think will have teen appeal, but some are for your more mature reader (I mean that both in terms of being OK with naughty words but also in the sense that they enjoy and understand heavier, denser prose.)

    

The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food by Jennifer 8. Lee. The frame is about fortune cookies and where they come from (they aren't really Chinese) but overall it tells the story of Chinese food in America (and, to a lesser extent, around the world.) Not only does it delve into the dishes themselves (what's "authentic" and what's American) but also how Chinese restaurants revolutionized the restaurant business (for instance, delivery.)

A History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage. This book shows human history through the lens of the most important beverages of the day-- how history shaped the beverage, and how the beverage shaped history. (In case you're curious-- beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea and Coca-Cola. In the epilogue it comes full-circle back to water as the most important and politically charged beverage of today.)

Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China by Fuschia Dunlop. In 1992, Dunlop was studying in Chengdu when she fall so in love with the food, she decided to enroll in cooking school. In addition to being an incredible love letter to food and cooking, it's also a wonderful look at how much China has completely changed in such a short period of time. It includes recipes and I must recommend Dunlop's many Chinese cookbooks. Her latest, Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking is a good one for teens or others looking to start with dishes that are easier to make.

    

97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement by Jane Ziegelman. Ziegelman looks at 5 families who lived in New York between 1863 and 1935 with a focus on their food cultures and how they families adopted to American food and cooking, while also showing how American food and cooking absorbed so much of the food immigrants brought with them. (For the curious, Italian, Irish, German Christian, German Jewish, and Russian Jewish).

The Story of Sushi: An Unlikely Saga of Raw Fish and Rice by Trevor Corson. Through the frame of following a class of students training to be sushi chefs in LA, Corson teaches the reader as the students learn about the history of sushi, its role in the US and post-war Japan, but more importantly about the fish-- where they come from and why they taste the way they taste and why we like them.

Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl. As a noted food critic, Reichl has written a lot about the subject. I chose this title because it talks about the lengths she went through so she wouldn't be recognized when showing up at restaurants to review them. The focus on appearance, and how it changes how people treat you, is an angle that will resonate with teen readers more than some of Reichl's other work.

    

How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. Bittman has a way of breaking down the cooking process so not only are the recipes easy to understand and follow, but you really understand WHY he recommends cooking things the way he does. This is an excellent choice for someone who's never cooked before (it will tell you how to boil an egg) but is so complete, that I also recommend it to very experience cooks of all ages.

No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach by Anthony Bourdain. The best way to know a people and a culture is through their food. In his awesome TV show with the same title, Bourdain travels the world to discover its food. This companion book is great for fans of the show, but also offers a good glimpse into the life for those without cable.

Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World by Dan Koeppel. I could have done this entire list with books about one specific food. I chose this one because the wars and politics of bananas are recent and the future of the banana is rather uncertain with an unknown blight wrecking havoc. (Also, bananas keep coming up in my daily life for odd reasons lately, so a book about bananas it is!)

What are your food must-reads?

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Passover: Stories of Emigration

Passover started at sundown on Monday. I decided against trying to find a novel for each of the plagues and instead focus on what the Passover story is about-- a people fleeing a repressive and oppressive government. This is a story that we're still living today.

    

The Good Braider by Terry Farish. In this verse novel, Viola's family leaves South Sudan for Cairo and, eventually, Maine, where she tries to move on from the horrors she faced at home and fit into American society.

Journey of Dreams by Marge Pellegrino. Caught in the violence and brutality of the Guatemalan Civil War, Tomasa and her family journey to find her mother, and then journey further to the United States.

Home Is Beyond the Mountains by Celia Barker Lottridge. In 1918, Turkey invaded Persia and Samira's Assyrian village was burned to the ground. Her family flees to the mountains, but only she and a brother survive, to bounce between refugee camps and orphanages. Then, she's given the opportunity to walk back over the mountains and return home.

    

First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers by Loung Ung. Ung's family lived in Phnom Penh until the Khmer Rouge took power and sent them to labor camps and trained Ung to be a child soldier. This harrowing memoir is gripping and makes the history and politics easy to understand for teens unfamiliar with the time period. Follow it with Lucky Child: A Daughter of Cambodia Reunites with the Sister She Left Behind, which follows Ung's early years in the US after escaping Cambodia.

A Time of Miracles by Anne-Marie Bondoux, translated from the French by Y. Maudet. Koumail knows that his real name is Blaise Fortune. He is a French citizen. As a baby, he was rescued from a train wreck by Gloria. Since the age of 7, they have been on the run from the rebels, from the war. He doesn't understand the war and everytime he asks, Gloria tells him that it's useless to try to understand the Caucasus. It's not the concern of a French citizen.

Leaving Glorytown: One Boy's Struggle Under Castro by Eduardo F. Calcines. As he grows up in Castro's Cuba, Eduardo gets used to watching what you say, used to hunger, used to his father being gone at labor camp (for daring to apply for an exit visa), used to the jealousy as other families get their visa and his family is still stuck.

    

Forgotten Fire by Adam Bagdasarian. In 1915, Vehan Kenderian's father is arrested by the Turkish police and his older brothers are executed in the family courtyard. Vehan and the remaining family members are forced out of their home and into a stream of other Armenians. He manages to escape and, somehow, survive.

Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta. I seem to put this book on every list. I'm not sorry about it, either. Aftr the days of the unspeakable, Seranonna curses Lumatere, and its exiles are left to find each other and try to find a way home, never knowing if there's a home to find their way back to. I'm putting it on this list, as the years the Lumaterans spend wandering and trying to survive remind me of the years the Jews spent in the desert after fleeing Egypt.

The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen. This is the book that still makes me a little wary to open the door and see if Elijah's coming. For when Hannah does it, she's no longer in New Rochelle, surrounded by relatives who do nothing but remember, she finds herself in a Polish village in the 1940s, the only one who understands what's happening and how much worse it's about to get.

What books would you add to the list?

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Maryland Day: Books from The Old Line State

Ok, so Maryland Day was actually yesterday. It's not Maryland's statehood day (which is April 28) but rather is a legal holiday celebrating the day in 1634 when Europeans first landed in Maryland. In honor of the day, here's a list of books by authors from Maryland.

    

Incredibly Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. In this second-to-last installment of the long-running Alice series, Alice finishes her senior year and is ready to take that leap into adulthood and what comes next. If you don't already know Alice, you'll want to start at the beginning with The Agony of Alice. The final book in the series will be out this summer. Naylor lives in Bethesda.

Teeth by Hannah Moscowitz. Rudy's brother is sick, so his family moves to a remote island where magical fish have been known to provide miracle cures. On the island, Rudy meets Teeth, another misunderstood and lonely (if not entirely human) boy. Moscowitz is a student at the University of Maryland in College Park.

Ethan, Suspended by Pamela Ehrenberg. When Ethan is suspended from school, his mom sends him to live with his grandparents in DC. There, he's the only white kid at his new school, as his elderly and eccentic grandparents are one of the few who never left the neighborhood. Eventually, he learns to adjust to his new situation. Ehrenberg currently lives in DC (which is next door to Maryland) but she grew up in Baltimore.

    

Gifted Hands by Ben Carson. Carson grew up in a poor home in Detroit. His mother had a third-grade education, his lack of motivation and temper forecast a bleak future. Despite all the odds against him and the numerous obstacles, he grew up to become one of the best surgeons in the world and the head of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.

Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe by Edgar Allen Poe. The master of mystery and suspense was from Baltimore.

So Not The Drama by Paula Chase. It's freshman year and Mina is ready to take Del Rio Bay high school by storm. She was queen of junior high, and she's ready to stay on of the social scene, but the school is huge and Mina's friends have their own drama to contend with as they start high school. The first in the Del Rio Bay Clique series, follow it with Don't Get It Twisted.

    

If Only by Carole Geithner. Corinna has to find a way to navigate life after her mother dies of cancer. She and her father are consumed by their grief and loss as they try to get through the next year. Geithner lives in Maryland, outside of DC.

How To Say Goodbye In Robot by Natalie Standiford. Bea is Robot Girl, someone who refuses to let other people in-- because her family moves all the time and it's just easier that way. Then she starts at a new school and meets Jonas (aka Ghost Boy) who's also lonely and distant, but for very different reasons. Standiford lives in New York, but grew up in Baltimore, which is the setting of many of her books.

I Love You, Beth Cooperby Larry Doyle. For some reason, Denis Cooverman (debate team, valedictorian) decided to declare his love for Beth Cooper (head cheerleader) in the middle of his graduation speech. What follows is one hilarious night that's a print version of all the teen movies this book is an homage to. Published for adults, this is a book with high teen appeal. Doyle lives in Baltimore.

Who are your favorite authors from Maryland?

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