Note: I was given an early release copy of this book on NetGalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Any images or quotes are from an unedited copy.
This book provides a comprehensive introduction to gardening. Included are important aspects that will help children trying to garden for the first time, or parents trying to work with young children to teach them about gardens. In addition, educational charts, definitions, and information about things from companion gardening to soil types are included. This is a full-fledged gardening how-to. Students can learn about growing food (vegetables and fruit) or flowers. Every page is filled with attractive, full-color images that only increase interest in the reading.
I would recommend this to book to families or librarians. Surely the pandemic inspired many to garden, I know did for our family. This book will help families grow fresh healthy foods well. Further, if a librarian is looking to start a gardening programs this would be a perfect book to combine with your program. We started a garden this year and did companion gardening. I wish we had this book for advice at the time.
The author of Gardening is Awesome is an actual farmer. According to thewebsite, she owns and operates a dairy farm with her family in Wisconsin. She is the recipient of several awards from National Dairy Farmer of the Year to Wisconsin Library Association Outstanding Children’s Book 1996. She is the author of many books regarding farming and growing things.
One of my favorite memories is planting flowers or plants with my children. This book is a memory maker, highly recommend.
Note: I was given an early release copy of this book on NetGalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Any images or quotes are from an unedited copy.
Description: (from the publisher): ‘Young scientists will learn all about many different scientific principles and properties using everyday tools and ingredients from their own kitchens! Make a lemon volcano, flour craters, edible paper, and more with these hands-on science projects”.
This “cookbook” is filled with vibrant, colorful photographs and really cool looking recipes. The publisher notes the interest level as being grades 2-5, but I really think older students would enjoy these projects as well. It would be a perfect addition to a family library and should provide many fun and educational family days. It also works for libraries and definitely for library programers. The book states, “Scientists can work from home” (p. 4) and I love that this encourages children to try science and view themselves as capable. Everything you need to prepare is included, as the book explains, what you need to become a kitchen scientist. Some of my favorite “recipes” include: Lemon Volcano, Make a Slushy, and Rock Candy. These are just such interesting ideas to try at home, but also perfect for library programming. Check out the images from the book below.
According to her website, Niki Ahrens has worked in public education and holds a Masters of Education degree in Policy and Leadership Studies from the University of Washington. As well as, a Bachelor of Science in Teaching degree. She now is a certified Naturalist and author. Check out her engaging website for more information.
Glossary, activities, further reading, index, Page Plus, recipes, step-by-step instructions, and table of contents.
Tracing the history of young adult literature is not a simple task. Throughout centuries, the roles of youth have changed drastically. Young adult fiction today is written, mainly, for teenagers who are dealing with current adolescent issues. An article from Pew Research shows that depression and anxiety tops the list of concerns for teens. In fact the article reports, “70% of teens saying that (anxiety and depression) is a major problem among the people their age in the community where they live” (Horowitz and Graff, 2019). Young adults today deal with the stress of constant social media, pressures of academic achievement, along with the development of their own identities. Not too mention, these students spend their elementary and high school careers practicing, not only disaster drills, but also lockdowns in preparation of a school shooter. This is a reality they live with every day, a fear they must face each time they enter the classroom. Young people are concerned with the state of our country, the inequalities that still exist, and are interested in improving the world. Here is a little bit more about what is going on with teenagers today.
Teens Dealing with Anxiety/Depression
Teens Organize Peaceful BLM Protest
Teens and March for Our Lives
YA Literature Now and The Future
Book publishers and authors hoping to respond to current young adult culture should look to publish diverse books that feature characters which identify with a variety of communities. Like much literature, historically, representation in YA literature has mostly been white and homogeneous. However, book creators are taking notice and the publishing statistics of 2020 will likely provide interesting numbers, especially after the recent Black Lives Matter protests, and the #metoo and LGBTQ+ advocacy movements. While providing young adult e-books is important, access e-audio is especially important. According to Pew Research, “There has been an uptick in the share of Americans who report listening to audiobooks, from 14% to 20%” (Perrin, 2019). Audiobooks are a great alternative for reluctant and struggling readers. Further, it often allows the opportunity to experience a story from the character’s unique “voice”.
Stephenson, D. (2011). History of children’s and young adult literature. Wolf, S., Coats, K., Enciso, P., Jenkins, C. (eds.) Handbook Research on Children’s and Young Adult Literature. New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group.
Up until now, in tracing YA genre history, books read by youth represented either what adults thought young people needed to read (Pilgrims Progress) or what they chose to read (Gulliver’s Travels). At this time, publishers acquired titles that would be marketed to parents of youth. After all, parents or schools were typically the ones with means to purchase. Therefore, books for youth were often either didactic or an entertaining book written to adult audiences that young people got ahold of. However, with a sudden culture shift, publishing houses gained a new market. Michael Cart (2009) explains that “the shrinking job market of The Great Depression sent droves young people out of the job market and into high school” and finally, “it was there that a youth culture began to form visibly enough to attract the attention of marketers, who began labeling its denizens “teens,” “teensters,” and finally, in 1941, “teenagers.”… And so, by the end of the 1940s, a whole new group of consumers who wanted—indeed, needed—to read about themselves had come into being”. Therefore, while books had been written for or read by “teens” before, now publishers were specifically looking for books that teens wanted.
The “Brand-New” Teen
Below find an article from the December 11, 1944 of Life from photographer, Nina Leen. The article shares images documenting the average teen’s lives. Next, is Leen’s June 11, 1945 article in Life featuring Teenage boys. What do you think of the pictures and descriptions, as compared to today’s teens?
The Voice of Teens in YA
Several titles are argued as representing the the beginning of the modern YA literature. But one novel stands out as pivotal. In 1969, The Outsiders, written by S.E. Hinton caught the attention of a literary agent and Viking Publishing. Hinton, was actually Susan Eloise Hinton and she began writing the novel at the age of fifteen. The book was groundbreaking. Telling a story from the teenage point of view, about what is was actually like to be a teenager. Publishers suggested using the name S.E., to throw readers off that the male protagonist voice was written by young girl. Certainly this is an example of how the publishing industry was driven by the culture of the time, when gender roles held still held expectations. (Loveday, V., 2009)
The Outsiders, is the story of Ponyboy Curtis and his neighborhood Greaser gang of close friends. Ponyboy and his friends live in constant tension with the Socs, the more wealthy teens in town. An unexpected violent event causes Pony and his best friend, Johnny to go on the run. Pony’s is a timeless coming-of-age story that addresses socio-economic issues, friendship, morality, mortality, and identity. In an interview with EW,Hinton explained that the idea for The Outsiders came to her because she was “mad about the social situation at my high school, which was basically the Socs versus the Greasers like it is in the book…Then when a friend of mine got beaten up on his way home from school… I got mad and began a short story..” (Biedenharn, 2017). Here was a a book to which teens could relate!
Young Adult Literature Reads During Renaissance and Early America
Reading by young adults shifted during the time of the Renaissance also contributing to the youth books in Early America. Coudert (2017) explains that during early modern England and America, “one finds that same concern for the health and well-being of children, the conviction that education should not be coercive but contribute to the development of an autonomous yet socially responsible individual, the belief that curiosity is to be encouraged, and the relationship that the physical body must be educated along with the mind” (p. 389). Of course, during this time gender and societal roles became more pronounced which led to differing training for boys verses girls. Notably, Coudert continues that the “relatively rosy picture of childhood education in the early modern period minimizes the very real underlying view among parents and educators that children are inherently evil” (p. 390). With the belief that children needed the evil “trained” out of them, authors and book sellers focused on creating didactic works. The goal of didactic literature is to teach, in a moral way, rather than entertain. Stephenson explains that, “many things children have read don’t meet all historians standards for children’s literature” and that “Historic books…have clear descendants in contemporary textbooks rather than trade books one finds in book stores or libraries” (p. 180). Meanwhile, youth were still reading “adult” books for entertainment. Including books like Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (1719) and Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathon Swift (1726). While more didactic literature, like Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan (1678) was written and sold specifically for youth readers.
Below check out the images of an early Robinson Crusoe (Lang, J. 1905, archive.org) especially edited and illustrated for youth. Next, are images of an original copy of Gulliver’s Travels (source: British Public Library) . The maps used for this edition were pirated from the cartographer Herman Moll. These actual lands, far from Swifts’s home, were superimposed to represent the imaginary lands created in his work of satire. Finally, pictured is an early copy of Pilgrim’s Progress (Bunyan, 1817, archive.org).
Defining Young Adult Literature as a genre, especially when looking at the history of the book, requires understanding for who the books were written. Stephenson (2011) notes that, “Some materials aimed predominately at young readers, such as 18th century’s novels, target people we’d now consider fully adults, and the 20th century’s creation of the young adult genre expanded the categories of non-adult readers” (p. 180). Further, Stevenson quotes Darton’s work Children’s Books in England in defining children’s (& young adult) literature, “printed works produced ostensibly to give children spontaneous pleasure, and not primarily to teach, nor solely to make them good, nor to keep them profitably quiet” (p.180). Therefore, tracing young adult literature of the past requires looking at books that were not solely meant to teach a lesson and the culture of youth readers.
Medieval Youth Readers, c. 500-1500
Anglo-Saxon young adults differed from today’s youth in that they were often sent away to learn a trade. Many working as servants, farmhands, or in apprenticeships. Meanwhile, continuing education was reserved for the wealthy who typically would study religion, law, and business. Military training was another option for young aristrocrats. Of course, during this period it is likely that books were mostly only available to the wealthy, ministry, or students. Orme (2005) states of youth literature, “Children seldom feature in literature from England before 1400…After that date, however, children’s literature begins to survive on a significant scale in the English language…notably a comic tale in verse called The Friar and the Boy.There is also evidence that adolescent children read adult fiction such as romances, the works of Chaucer, and Ballads of Robin Hood “. (Orme)
Check out The Friar and the Boy below (source: Hazlitt, 1899), or click the link above. It can be assumed the protagonist is around 14-15 years old, since his father is seeking an occupation for the youth. Meanwhile, the tale certainly includes a lesson: be respectful , kind, and giving to your elders. Still, the young man in the story is given some spectacular agency. He is able to exact some pretty twisted and dark revenge on enemies/bullies. Also pictured below is an early 18th century copy of The Canterbury Tales from the Boston Public Library (Rare Books Department). This is piece is printed on sprinkled calfskin. Finally, check out the Ballad of Robin Hood, from The Ballads of Derbyshire. (Source: Jewitt, L., 1896). Notice the woodcut used for the cover of the Ballads of Derbyshire from 1706.
Please see the fourth post in this series “The History of YA Literature” (Part Four)
First point I would like to make about this book is the audience. When looking up the reading level, I found it to be grades 7-9, whereas the reading level is more like 14-17 years. Of course, every youth reader is different. But I would consider this to be a book more for high schoolers and older, rather than middle school. While the book looks like a quick read, and resembles a nonfiction that might be found in a Children’s Dept., without a doubt this is more mature reading. In fact there is a lot of text and a lot of serious and triggering topics are covered. With that being said, I believe an excellent job of not sharing explicit images is done here.
This nonfiction reads like a True-Crime podcast, by that I mean, it is absolutely fascinating and engrossing. Just like that reactionary element that causes you to not look away from a wreck, you are not going to put this book down. Honestly, I would recommend this to adult readers just as much as youth. The text tells the remarkable and fantastical story of the Zodiac Killer beginning with the cultural climate, actual accounts of murders and survivors, and the killer’s taunting communications with police and press.
Another aspect this text does really well is setting the stage with images. Many of the attacks perpetuated on young people were in cars, on beaches, or private places. The reader is really transported to the era and place with images of older model cars and the locations.
Slideshow images include: Zodiac Killer victim “David Faraday’s Rambler station wagon looked similar to this 1960’s station wagon” (p. 13). “The Corvair was a popular car in the 1960’s. Darlin Ferrin and Michael Mageau were attacked while sitting in hers” (p. 16). “Lake Berryessa is mostly known for its beautiful views and relaxing atmospheres. In September 1969, however, it was the state of a brutal and lethal attack perpetrated by the Zodiac” (p. 20).
This title manages to exude all the appeal of a True-Crime podcast without overly glamorizing the murderer, which is a significant task when dealing with such a prolific perpetrator. Victims and their family members are named and humanized. The dedication of law enforcement to stop the killings is detailed. Technical aspects of investigation and information about careers in law enforcement are shared in images and sidebar. Certainly, this design is likely to inspire empathy for victims and interest in future careers (namely detective rather than murderer).
Slideshow images include: A sidebar detailing the job description of police officers (p. 14). The efforts of investigators to find the killer is shown with this graphic that shows the number of interviews conducted in the search (p. 23). The killer’s note on a victim’s car, “This is the door to Bryan Hartnell’s car. After the Zodiac attached him and Cecelia Shepard, he wrote this cryptic message to taunt police” (p. 31). Victim after an attack, “Bryan Hartnell, shown here, survived the Zodiac and was able to give a physical description of his attacker” (p. 30). The impact on victim’s family is illustrated by this sidebar detailing a brother’s challenge to the Zodiac Killer (p. 24).
Finally, the political unrest, dissatisfaction of citizens, and protests occurring when the Zodiac Killer began attacking will surely resonate with today’s readers (young and old) who are also living through historic, anxiety-inducing, times. Features include: final Notes, For More Information, Index, Picture Credits, and About the Author.
Crime Scene Investigation Activities– this webpage provides links to all different kinds of opportunities to “play detective”. Users might attempt their skills at Handwriting Analysis, a CSI Web Adventure, or Fingerprint Classifications.
ACS Chemistry for Life: Forensics- “Heading into a forensics lab opens up a world of chemistry. Learn about the science behind crime investigations and try some of the techniques for yourself”.
True-Crime and True-Crime podcast, and I believe I can use this term without hyperbole, are epically popular right. Readers of The Zodiac Killer: Terror In California are going to finish reading and want more. Here are a few suggestions:
The Borden Murders, by Sarah Miller– This is the haunting tale of Lizzie Borden. The author shares primary source elements, and the narrative is a perfect level of creepiness. (Published by Schwartz and Wade, 2016).
Note: I received an early release copy of this title from the publisher on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Any images, quotes, information shared is from an unedited copy.
As a YA Librarian I speak with many high school students overwhelmed with studies, important tests, extracurricular activities, part-time jobs, and family responsibilities. Add to all that the tension and prominence and tension of social media and we find that today’s teens reporting being overtaxed. According to Pew Research (2018), “When it comes to the pressures teens face, academics tops the list: 61% of teens say they feel a lot of pressure to get good grades. By comparison, about three-in-ten say they feel a lot of pressure to look good (29%) and to fit in socially (28%), while roughly one-in-five feel similarly pressured to be involved in extracurricular actives and to be good at sports (21% each) (Horowitz & Graff). So how might teenagers and young adult conquer all their obligation in the healthiest way, both physically and mentally? One idea would be understanding how the teenage brain works, and how to best utilize that central unit.
In this quick read, which is well-supported with valid sources (scientific studies, peer-reviewed information, and accounts from actual teenagers) readers learn about the brain. Gutestam explains the parts of the brain, how they work, what changes the brain, and what teenagers (and parents) might expect in these critical years. The text manages to be interesting to lay-readers while also not “talking down”. In fact this title would be as useful and understandable a read from junior high, high school, college students, and adults. Personally, I found several tips that are useful for my own workday. Notably, Gutestam mentions that when working with students they “were actually all voicing the exact same concerns as the managers had, albeit in their own words and based on their own experiences” (Location 87 of 2728). Certainly, this book is useful to people of all ages.
Each chapter begins with a an effective visual (“mind-map”) introducing the upcoming focus. Readers then receive a brief introduction before getting into heavier material. Other excellent features includes several unique features: “Do You Recognize This?” actual comments from students the author worked with: “Teenage Brains Tell Their Stories” testimonials from teenager’s own experiences: Things to Try which are brief bullet point tips for readers to implement into their lives: “A Letter to Myself” letters written by students studying in college and university.
The text covers everything from the how the brain works, focus, healthy sleep, physical activity, down time, social needs, “play time”, time in, learning, stress, a conclusion, and final not to parents. The book also shares a references and further reading section. This text addresses the whole person from physical, mental, and emotional needs and how these correlate with the brain. Readers might read the book all at once, it is a quick and useful read. Or they chose to read it piece by piece as needed. Personally, I am ordering this book for my son so he bookmark suggestions that might make his academic career a little less grudging.
This non-fiction read is superbly organized, well-written, and highly needed for youth and parents alike.
More Resources and features
Author, Malin Gutestam’s, website (linked here) is filled with useful resources. Including an offer to receive a “FREE #1 bonus Brain Tools for Teens 15 Best Study Hacks.
“Brain Tools for Teens FANTASTIC! The combination of brain billowy, scientific date, specific and accessible strategies and commentaries from teenagers all make it the best book I have ever read on this topic. I highly recommend it to physicians, psychologists, social workers, teachers, teenagers, and their families” -Wendy Wornham , MD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School. (NetGalley)
“As a teacher I need to challenge my students to learn new things, not only in subjects like English and Maths but also how to study and deal with stress. This book has been an enormous help in that mission. It gives you food for thought and many practical tips that you can try with your students, your own teens and yourself. In the digital age we live in this is a must read book” -Emma Naas, Teacher and Keynote Speaker, Winner of European Language Label and the Golden Apple, Skype MT, Ambassador #TeachSDGs. MIE fellow, Kakuma Project Ambassador. (NetGalley)
In this title from Instant Help, (link in title), authored by psychotherapist Sheri Van Dijk readers are offered “evidence-based strategist you can use to take control of your emotion and reactions in order to respond effectively to peer pressure, bullying, cyberbullying, and gossip, allowing you to navigate the many social issues that make these years so challenging” (Goodreads).
“Brain Tools for Teens by Malin Gutestam”. (2020). NetGalley.
This is going to be a short post because, once again, she did it again! Summers gives readers a novel cannot be put down. With brilliant subtly the narrative tackles faith verses religion, sisterhood, family, identity, and grief. Like Sadie, this is a feminist novel. Many of the women abused and manipulated in this book fall victim to the insidiousness of a systematic patriarchal society. I want to say so much more about this book, but I don’t want to give spoilers. This book is just too go for a blog! I want to DISCUSS it! I want to discuss the nature of religion, faith, and manipulation. I want to sit down with a list of every man in this book and compare them. I want sit down with a list of every girl in this book and compare them. I NEED to discuss this book. I have a patron that visits the library to check out Sadie repeatedly. Guessing, she will soon have two books to read over and over. Wow, Courtney Summers. Just WOWO.
I urge you to read this book and comment on this blog. Let’s talk because it was so good!
I can tell this was crazy, well researched. I noticed a lot of similarities to the Peoples Temples and Jim Johns, which Summers confirms a loose basing. Check out the linked interviews below:
Remember all those Disney princess movies you loved as a kid? Well, here is a whole new way to look at them. City of Villains is the first in a new series that has readers looking at Disney villains in a whole new way. First, I want to say to all authors and publishers, when it comes to fairy-tale retellings I am so here for it! Keep them coming! I am loving it. As far as this novel goes, get ready for some gritty, dark crime-noire. An especially delightful part about this reading is picking out familiar different characters as high school students in a whole different world. I like that that novel is fantasy but still brings up some real-world issues like wealth inequality, gentrification, etc. Also, I have to say- great first sentence.
Who Should Read it?
I would recommend this book to fans of Veronica Mars, YA Fantasy, Comic-book lovers, fairy-tale lovers, not mention Disney lovers.