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.
Juniper Jade live does not necessarily look like every other teenager’s. For instance, her classroom is her kitchen table. Her classmates are her little brother and sister. Her teacher is her Dad. She can remember having had one friend outside her family, and with a recent move that number is down to zero. She dreams of attending the public school that she gazes at across the street from her house. Maybe making a new friend or meeting a cute boy. Her parents say no. She disagrees. Eventually their arguments begin to involved something much more serious.
Juniper’s parents have specific goals in how they want to raise their children, one of those being limiting exposure to “big Pharma”. That means that Juniper and her siblings have never been vaccinated. One day, she starts to feel sick, is running a fever, and her illness keeps getting worse and worse. Turns out that Juniper has the measles, and the ramifications of her contracting this illness have some devastating consequences.
This read had me torn. The concept is great, interesting, and something that will generate important conversation. To vaccinate or not to vaccinate? That is the question for many parents today. This novel suggests who choosing not to vaccinate may look like for the parent’s baby when they become a teenager. Juniper is at an age where she is trying to self identify and she doesn’t feel that her parent’s choices are measuring up. She is lacking independence, and now, she sees the problem as deadly.
My issue with the book is that it was a bit one-sided. To the point her parents are nearly made out to be villains, or kooks. I think the debate could have used a little more finessing in the narrative. Still, I would recommend the book. Especially, with the timeliness of this Covid world.
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 I share are from an unedited copy.
Let me tell you, I have read a lot of biographies, auto-biographies, and memoirs on royalty. My main focus has been Queen Victoria, her descendants, and historic & current royalty from all over the world. I have not limited my search of information on the topic having read books for kids, teens, and adults books on the subject. Add to the reading, binging every documentary on monarch history. I just find it fascinating. With that in mind, I went into this read expecting to just see how the book was designed for children and review a few facts. Imagine my surprise at actually learning A LOT about Queen Elizabeth that I had never even known! Yes, this book is written for youth, but it still exceptionally comprehensive.
The biography shares a huge period of time, as it covers the story of Queen Elizabeth’s life from birth to today. Considering that the Queen is currently 94 years old, readers are getting nearly a full century of history, The book begins with a letter to readers that shares some quick facts about Queen Elizabeth (she is the longest reigning monarch; she was never supposed to be queen; she grew up during World War II; she dedicated her life to service). I especially like that this letter also explains the role of Queen Elizabeth in a government where she does not actually have any power. That is a really confusing concept that most adults do not fully understanding. Especially those of us in the States. Meanwhile, this note is sure to catch reader’s interest and keep them reading.
The art here is gorgeous. It is filled with several photographs combined with adorable cartoon/comic like images in a soft, pastel pallet. Honestly, this book is just so visually appealing. Throughout the book terms and ideas are defined and detailed. For example, on page 11 “Caesarean section” is defined, and on page 13 the event of a General Strike is described. Further, small images of with quick facts abound throughout. There are even pages reminiscent of a comic splash page to highlight or accentuate quotes, etc. Readers will meet many historical figures along with Queen of Elizabeth while reading, as history-makers and leaders are often described and pictured. Other features include: Quiz with answers in the back, index, glossary (which is exhaustive and illustrated), a Who’s Who (which we need when it comes to royalty), beautifully illustrated timeline, and family tree- also illustrated.
To learn more about this title check out this link.
Sources: Table of Contents (p. 2-3), The Grand Wedding (p.54-55) , General Strike “Spalsh-like” page (p.13)
I would recommend this book to students working on research, it would be a remarkable source for reports! I also recommend this book to any young people interested in history, fairy tales and princesses. Finally, with the popularity of the Netflix series, The Crown, I believe the would be an awesome family read! Parents who enjoyed the Netflix series would love reading this with their children.
DK Life Series: Queen Elizabeth II is on order at the Frankfort Community Library and will be available for check out soon! In the meantime check out these books about other important historical figures:
DK Life Series: Martin Luther King Jr– From Goodreads, “IN this biography, discover the amazing story of Martin Luther King Jr, whose powerful words and dreams for the future inspired the world.
DK Life Series: Alexander Hamilton– From Goodreads, “In this kids’ biography, discover the amazing life story of Alexander Hamilton, Found Father of the United States who work as an American statesman and strong personality made him an icon of history and popular culture.”
Creating in the kitchen is a popular hobby for all ages and the opportunity to learn how to make unique and international dishes is even better! This hybrid, comic book cookbook is a delightful opportunity to learn about a different culture, the history of a Ramen- which is growing in popularity in the United States, and try some new recipes. The book begins with an introduction of the author, also a chef, Hugh Amano and the comic illustrator, Sarah Beacon.
There is just so much good to say about this unique book! It is a cookbook, it is a history, it is an introduction to a different culture, it is shares the perfectionism and artistry that is Ramen, and it is filled with over 40 different recipes! Let’s Make Ramen includes a brief introduction, history of the unique dishes and culture, an about the author, and a complete index of recipes. Each page is FILLED with gorgeous illustrations. Most important, this duo make the possibility of making Ramen seem doable, as each recipe is shared with step-by-step instructions and the explanative images.
Slideshow images include: “A Brief History of Ramen” (p. 2), an example of the gorgeous chapter intro splash pages (p.1), instructions on how to make seafood broth (p. 69), a Japanese Raman-YA (p. 15), the story of the Onsen Eggs (p. 106), introduction on how to enjoy Ramen (p. 7), like many other cookbooks this comic cookbook shares pages on necessary pantry ingredients for Ramen making (p.16),
Curious to learn about little more about America’s recent and growing interest in Ramen? Check this New Yorker article, “America’s Ramen Obsession, from Maruchan to Momofuku” (link in embedded in text). Or take a little virtual trip to Japan and learn about the a day in the life of a Ramen Chef.
Let’s Make Ramen is an excellent edition to a collection for so many reasons. It represents a unique example of a hybrid book that combines history, facts, comics, and recipes. The book instructs on how to prepare Ramen in simple, yet detailed, instructions making the process a possibility for teenage readers. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in Japanese culture, travel, or those teens who love to scroll Pinterest looking for recipes to try. Just imagine how amazing your Instagram feed will look with a picture of a perfect bowl of Ramen that made by you!
Awards and nominations
Long listed for the Best Art of Eating Prize
Named One of the Best Cookbooks of the Year by the Chicago Tribune
One of YALSA’s Great Comic Books for Teens
Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Food & Cookbooks
Sources: Amazon & Goodreads
The Smart Girl’s Guide to Going Vegetarian by Rachel Meltzer Warren MS. RDN. Curious about what it takes to become a vegetarian or a vegan? Warren, a “nutrition writer, educator, and counselor”, shares a healthy and safe path in taking on the new lifestyle. The book contains an introduction from Warren, who became a vegetarian at 12 years old, and everything from what to do while eating out, to recipes, to how to ensure you are receiving enough nutrients.
Hack Your Cupboard by Alyssa Wiegand and Carla Carreon shares elegant recipes that require simple pantry ingredients. This cookbook shares tips for family recipes, dorm room dishes, and cooking in your first apartment. This is a great title to check out of the library or purchase for use through young adult life stages.
All of the books area available at FCPL so stop by to check on out today!
Amano, H., Becan, S. (2019). Let’s make Ramen: A comic book cookbook. Ten Speed Press.
Quite possibly one of the most captivating of history’s mysteries, the story of the last reigning Romanovs is filled with drama, tragedy, and intrigue. In The Family Romanov readers are offered an introduction to Russian history and Romanov rule. This provides a strong context in understanding Tsar Nicholas II’s constant series of fatal choices as a ruler. Raised in a bubble of wealth and educated to believe in the divine right of rulers, Nicholas often misunderstood the plight and starvation of his people. Additionally, he believed his choices and circumstances were directly from God. The need to provide an heir also weighed on the Tsar and Tsarina. They had four daughters before finally being given the little Tsarevich Alexei who was afflicted with hemophilia. Fleming (2014) quotes the Tsar’s diary account, “A hemorrhage began this morning without the slightest cause…It lasted until evening . The child was remarkably quiet and even merry but it was a dreadful thing to to live through such anxiety” (p.54) . With the hopes of the monarchy set on this one, sick, little boy, this family lived in perpetual fear and worry.
In sharing the Romanov’s story, Fleming’s is a family tale. The Tsar and Tsarina were deeply in love and delighted in their children. Each member of this historic family is brought to life as the unique, mischievous, and loving human beings they each were. Of course, the strangeness of Rasputin, who was often behind the Tsar’s poor political decisions, makes the story even more interesting. Only Rasputin was able to stop Alexei’s bleeding, even today historians do not know how he did that.
Slideshow images from The Family Romanov : The Winter Palace, Rasputin with the Romanovs, Olga, Tatiana, and a friend in Crimea, “Some of Moscow’s poorest citizens outside a shared house”, Alexandra at Alexei’s bedside (photo insert between pages 132-133).
There are lots of books on Russian history and this family, but what makes The Family Romanov unique is that the wealthy ruler’s perspective is interspersed with that of the poor, common people trying to survive in the harsh Russian climate and failed economy. Readers are treated to the complicated emotions on each side. While Nicholas was naive to the Russian people’s dire needs, he did care for his people. Meanwhile, there are accounts of Russian citizen’s which illustrate the awe and reverence for the Royal family.
This title is an excellent addition to any collection, especially due to its timeliness. The distribution of wealth at the fall of the Russian, is quite similar to the current U.S economy. Below is an image from the book illustrating the wealth distribution in Russia at that the turn of the twentieth century . Next is a graph describing the wealth distrubution in the U.S. in 2017. Certainly, this book shares one of history’s most cautionary tales and will allow readers a chance to analyze our current climate with that of the past.
This book is filled with primary sources, maps, and many pictures of both rich and poor which are sure to capture a reader’s attention. There is are comprehensive Bibliography and Notes, as well as a Family Tree tracing the linage of Nicholas and Alexandra. Reader’s wanting to know more will enjoy the “Romanov’s Online” section, which directs to further resources. The book is told in four parts: “Before the Storm”, “Dark Clouds Gathering”, “The Storm Breaks”, and “Final Days”. The Family Romanov is available at my library as a physical book, an ebook, and an e-audiobook. I especially enjoy the audiobook, which is preformed by many voices and truly brings the story to life.
Boston Globe Horn Book Award for Nonfiction Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Young Adult Literature NCTE Orbis Pictus Award Robert F. Sibert Nonfiction Honor Book YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction FinalistALSC Notable Children’s Books, Older Readers, 2015 Booklist Editor’s Choice 2014 Booklist Editors Top of the List for Youth Nonfiction 2014 Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books Blue Ribbon 2014 Cybils Award in Nonfiction for Young Adults 2014 Horn Book Fanfare 2014 Huffington Post Great Kid Books for Gift-Giving 2014 Junior Library Guild selection Kirkus Reviews Best Teen Book 2014 Los Angeles Times Literary Book Prize nominee New York Public Library Best Books for Teens 2014 Publishers Weekly Best Young Adult Books 2014 SCBWI Gold Kite Award for Nonfiction School Library Journal Best Book 2014 Wall Street Journal 2014 Washington Post Best Books for Kids 2014
If you like The Family Romanov you might also like:
Sometimes You Need a Read that is just Chills and Thrills
The first book in this series didn’t “wow” me, to say the least. I only gave it two stars on Goodreads. However, I did find it interesting enough that when I heard there was a sequel I ordered the book. Now, The Unleashed scared the life out of me! Just 😳! Just Wow! Dang!
In my insta post I mention it is is like reading a horror movie. You know in a horror movie, there are several scary “night” scenes, broken up with scenes where the sun rises and things are less heart stopping? Then the movie builds to the finally terrifying scene. Well, this book is minus the sunrises. It is just non-stop horrifying moments until the final OMG culmination. Finally, it has an Epilogue that has me thinking there SURE BETTER BE THIRD BOOK!
If you love a good scare, then I recommend this book. Now, the question is should you skip the first one? No, I would read the first book, too. Even though it isn’t as scary, it does set up The Unleashed nicely. Also, to really understand Hendricks’s devotion to Eddie you will need the context of the first book. Think of it as the pilot of a series. Usually not the best episode but the story needs set up.
I recommend these books to fans of shows like Supernatural and Buffy the Vampier Slayer. What is your favorite scary read?
SPOOKY HOUR WITH Danielle Vega
Sharing these because I found it fun to hear scary stories told by the author. I would love to hear her read The Unleashed.