Gonzo YA Librarian

Small town librarian discusses crafts, books, comics, media, teens, and more.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Zombies are coming to Summer Reading

Zombie feltie prototype for a possible 2012 Summer Reading Teen craft. Idea taken from Appleton's former teen librarian and the book Zombie Felties.

This guy was done up out of gray, white, and a little black felt, sewed together with kind of roughly with overstitching and stuffed with some scrap felt.

His intensines are yarn, I added a few details and blood with sharpies.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

What to Expect When You're Expecting Larvae review

What to Expect When You're Expecting Larvae is a fun and unique piece of non-fiction for children.  While not a likely source for writing a scientific paper on the lifecycle of insects, it is perfect for children who have lots of questions about baby bugs.  Covering topics like where different insects lay their eggs, what different types of adult and infant bugs eat, and what they look like; this book should answers many questions, and drive the curious child to look for further books. 

A good read aloud book, or something a child can pick up on their own, the text and information is well assembled for the younger curious child.  The illustrations are colorful and cute, though some children may want to see photos of actual baby bugs.  Some of the humor will go over younger children's heads, but adults should enjoy reading it as well.

A good purchase for a public or elementary school library.  Use along with your science unit on insects, your children's bug house, or just in spring when bugs start appearing.

Also posted at: http://www.gonzoyalibrarian.blogspot.com

Book source: ePub provided by publisher via NetGalley

Friday, April 2, 2010

Winter's End by Jean-Claude Mourlevat (contains spoilers)

Winter's End is the story of four teens who escape from a terrible orphanage/school where they've been housed after their parents rebel against the government. Three of them get to a safe house, where they are drawn in to the new rebellion, but the fourth is captured and forced to participate in a deadly game.

I was really drawn into Winter's End at first, as the set-up of the orphanage/school was interesting as were the dog-men. It continues at a decent pace with escalating excitement as the reader discovers more and more about the world; though the love story part was less believable, with two sets of teens falling in love at first sight.

For me the book really started to fall apart when everyone from the government seemed to be incompetent and easily defeated, and that all the power the government became unbelievable. The final rebellion worked out way too neatly, and the whole book wrapped up quickly in a very neat little package. If I had read this before Hunger Games, it might have worked for me, but with a weaker evil government, a way too tidy ending, and far less perilous peril, it just disappointed me in the end. It also didn't help that while it starts out being about the two girls, the boys take the lead and have all the fighting power and leadership skills, and the girls end up singing, cooking, and longing for their boys. Katniss (and Katsa from Graceling) have raised my expectations quite high for girls/women fighting evil governments.

I think that if Winter's End had been expanded into a second book, letting things play out more fully and giving the girls more of a role in the rebellion (which you really think they are going to have for a while) I would be able to recommend the book more. I'd give it 3 out 5, because it started out really well and kept me reading and wanting to see what would happen, it just didn't finish strongly. I'd give it to teens who like dystopian books, and those who are ask me for something to read while waiting for Mockingjay, but only after I had recommended Graceling and Maze Runner.

Book source: Checked out Winter's End (and all others mentioned) from my library

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

"Need" and "Captivate" by Carrie Jones

I will admit that I'm not big on the supernatural romance books, which is unfortunate as it is the current craze in YA and Adult publishing. It started with vampires and werewolves, and has moved on to include dark fairies, and now fallen angels. I do try and keep up by reading at least one or two of the newest ones, especially if they seem extremely popular. Even so, it is a rare event that I enjoy one enough to genuinely gush over it. So enjoy this rare double, spoiler free review/commentary on Carrie Jones' Need series.

Last fall I picked up Carrie Jone's new book "Need," attracted to it by the cover (shiny) and the positive buzz on my listservs and blogs. I devoured it, I really did. It is not a perfect book, there are some large plot holes and Zara, the main character, does some really stupid things, but it is an awful lot of fun. The Book Smugglers' review is dead-on, and so I won't try and restate the same stuff. Jones gives the characters depth and personalities, and has a good pacing to her writing. The teens feel like teenagers, and have the standard teen lack of knowledge of their own mortality, which kind of explains some of the stupid things Zara does. Jones has an interesting twist on pixies, including that the kings leave trails of gold glitter. The end was a little too neat, but that's what paves the way for the sequel. I definitely recommend this title, flaws and all, especially to fans of Twilight or any other supernatural romance.

The sequel, "Captivate," just came out last month. I swiped it from cataloging to read it over our snowy weekend. Once again, it has a cool shiny cover, and I devoured it. It fills in some of the plot holes, and sure enough, the ending to "Need" was a little too tidy, and so there are consequences. I really enjoy that Jones doesn't take herself too seriously, and acknowledges her Buffy-Scooby Doo-esque team by have the characters make reference to it. This book brings in some larger happenings, and introduces some Norse mythology, which I'm a sucker for when it is done correctly. The teens continue to be teenagers, and Zara and her boyfriend, Nick, are so that couple that are constantly holding hands and having PDAs in the hallway. Nick is well portrayed as the macho leader of the pack, and Zara's annoyance at this is genuine. I felt like they were kids at my high school, which really makes the book work. My main problem with "Captivate" was that, it was one of those books where you get to a certain point and start looking at the number of pages left vs. where the plot is and realize that it's going to be a cliffhanger. So, now I'm hooked into another series, and have no knowledge of when the third will be out. I would definitely recommend both these books for any library serving teens. There's also nothing beyond smooching, so they are probably safe for most tweens, especially those that have read Twilight or any of the other major YA supernatural romance series.

Book source: Checked out both books from my library

Monday, February 1, 2010

Craft: Gyotaku (Fish Prints)

Gyotaku (gyo=fish, taku=rubbing) is an art invented by Japanese fishermen in the 1800’s. It allowed them to keep a record of their catches. It continues to be an art form and has been adapted as an alternative to the stuffed fish on the wall for modern sport fishers. Traditionally a real fish is used, along with high quality ink, and rice paper. Libraries can adapt the art further for a program.

Materials and supplies:

-rubber fish from Dick Blick


Option 1

-tempera paint


Option 2

-Speedball Fabric Printing Ink (heatset) (Dick Blick or Oriental Trading)


-additional fabric paint, i.e. puffy paints (optional)




1. Start with tempera paint and scrap paper to get a feel for the process.

2. Coat fish well with choosen medium. It is important to do this quickly, as the paint will start to dry and you’ll lose parts of the fish.

3. Cover fish with paper/t-shirt, pressing down and molding it around the fish.

4. Pull it up smoothly.

5. You have a print. If on fabric, follow directions on paint to heatset. Touch up with a paintbrush as needed.

6. Follow directions to heatset. You may want to use puffy paints to further decorate.

January Reads

In a crazy attempt to get and keep caught up with new youth books coming out I've decided to try and read a book a day. January went well, with 31 books read, counting graphic novels, adult titles, and audio books. Here are some highlights:

Ship Breaker - Paolo Bacigalupi
(book source: ARC from publisher)
Bacigalupi is fairly new author, and this is his first youth novel and only second published novel. A post-apocalyptic adventure in a world where tsunamis and hurricanes have destroyed large amounts of the coasts, oil is extremely scarce, and the gap between the haves and the have-nots has widened to the extreme. The hero of the story is a young teen who works under horrific conditions breaking apart old ships for salvageable metal and parts. He collides with a wealthy girl who becomes shipwrecked nearby (and hits many stereotypes of the character type), and gets caught up in even bigger problems when he decides that saving her might be his key out.

The beginning was a little slow, but the descriptions are good and pull you in. Definitely gets into the environmental warnings about pollution and climate change bringing the end to the world as we know it. Not the best book, or even great, but a fun read. I'd be interested in seeing more of the world, though with different characters. Recommended for teens and mature tweens who enjoy fast-paced adventures and Miyazaki movies about man vs nature.

Going Bovine - Libba Bray (book source: checked out from library)
Cameron is your typical apathetic teen, going through his day to day existence with no real goals or interest in anything other than the hot chick. That all changes when he starts to see fire giants and gets diagnosed with Mad Cow Disease. Things look pretty bleak until a punk rock angel (pink hair, combat boots, plaid skirt, and a habit of spray painting things on her wings) named Dulcie drops by and sends him off on a quest to save himself and the world. Tagging along is Gonzo, a hypochondriac video-game playing dwarf, and later a talking lawn gnome, who claims to be the Norse god Balder. The three guys set off on one of the craziest roadtrips, encountering jazz players, dimension hopping scientists, happiness cults, and reality tv.

I really enjoyed Going Bovine, so I was pleased when it won the Printz. Nothing like Bray's other books, it is a crazy ride, with lots of literary references, the whole thing being Don Quixotesque, and brings up some good discussion topics. I can see this being used in English classes, as it just has a lot, maybe a little too much, crammed into it. It is both funny and sad, and mainly unforgettable. Even if you can't get into it yourself, hand it to that 15 year old guy you know, it might just be written for him.

Shiver - Maggie Stiefvater and Wings - Aprilynne Pike (book source: both checked out from library)
Not going to get a full review on these titles, but both are good supernatural romances, Shiver with werewolves and Wings with fairies. Teen girls will likely enjoy them, as might your adult Twilight fans. They are both new authors and these are the first books in their respective series. Also, they both have very interesting takes on some classic literary creatures. Not my favorite reads, but I'll probably pick up the next in both series.

Three Cups of Tea - David Relin & Greg Mortenson (book source: checked out from library)
After nearly dying in the mountains of Pakistan, Greg Mortenson was saved by the people of the remote village Korphe. He promised to build them a school as thanks, and though it took years he kept his promise and started a campaign to bring schools to the tiny villages of the area.

This is the most amazing book I've read in ages. If you haven't read it, you should. It will open your eyes to another point of view of some of the most remote areas of the world, that we as Americans usually only see on the news in a negative light. You will be amazed that Greg Mortenson survived and continues his work. Not a read for most teens, though some might be interested in it or required to read it. Good for advanced students or those getting ready for college.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Summer Reading Programs

Summer Reading was very successful this year. I issued a challenge to the local teens that if 500 of them signed up for the Summer Reading Program (SRP) I'd bleach my hair and dye it bright pink. To get the word out about SRP I went to all the local schools and the Boys and Girls Club and told them about the reading portion, the prizes, the programs portion, and my challenge. I also used the library Facebook group to promote it.

In the end we had 520 teens sign-up. This is our third summer doing a teen SRP, and we had 372 teens sign-up the first year, 368 the second, so you can see how big of a leap it was. Now, next year, I'll have some sort of challenge based on how many hours they read. My library board has suggested I jump out of a plane, which kinda makes me wonder if they are trying to replace me or something :) My main issue with the plane idea is that it is too hard to top the next year.

The programs were also very successful. I'm very pleased with the number of teens that came to the movies, crafts, and game days.
Movies: Twilight, The Clique, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, City of Ember, Hairspray, and Prince Caspian.
Crafts: Twilight crafts, bleaching t-shirts, fish print t-shirts, t-shirt tote bags, spa crafts, and marble magnets.