Wednesday, December 15, 2010

December SPELLBINDERS! Winner and a new Giveaway!

Spellbinders Logo
December, 2010
And the winner is . . .
SEA cover The Winner of November's book giveaway Sea by Heidi R. Kling is Maggie Desmond O'Brien! Congratulations, Maggie! Please email Kimberley Little at so we can get your prize mailed off to you!

My Invented LifeAnd don't forget to enter December's book giveaway of the novel, My Invented Life, by Lauren Bjorkman, our guest columnist this month!

To Enter is easy: Just leave a comment on the
Spellbinder blog or email Kimberley at and you might win My Invented Life by Lauren Bjorkman, published 2010 by Henry Holt Publishers.
Feature Article
The YALSA Symposium - by Carolee Dean

November 5-7 the YALSA Symposium was held in Albuquerque, NM where more than 400 librarians, educators and authors met to discuss "Diversity, Literature, and Teens: Beyond Good Intentions." The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) is a division of the American Library Association (ALA). YALSA's mission is to advocate, promote and strengthen library services to teens.
  Lois & Carolee at YALSA
Lois Ruby and I presented a poster on Character and Culture by highlighting twenty-one New Mexico children's authors. Each of us wrote a brief description of how living in the southwest has shaped our experiences and influenced our writing. 

Terry TruemanTerry Trueman, author of the Printz Honor book Stuck in Neutral, and parent of a child with severe disabilities, gave a presentation entitled "Beyond Good Intentions and Chicken Soup: Young Adult Literature and Disability Diversity: How Far Have we come?" Co-presenters were Dr. Heather Garrison and Dr. Katherine Schneider who discussed books that include positive portrayals of teens with disabilities and how to use books to promote acceptance and diversity. We will talk more about this presentation in January when the Spellbinders newsletter focuses on Exploring Disability in Children's Literature. 

Vaunda NelsonNew Mexico's own Vaunda Nelson was the speaker at the Bill Morris Author Luncheon. Her book, Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshall, was the recent winner of the Coretta Scott King Award. Vaunda is a full-time librarian as well as author and all around sweet person.
Peotry Panel
The poetry panel on "Forms and Faces of Poetry for Teens" included (left to right) Ann Burg, Jen Bryant, Margarita Engle, Pat Mora and April Halprin Wayland. They talked about their poetry and read aloud from their novels in verse. 

Nikki, April & CaroleeOn Sunday morning Nikki Grimes gave suggestions for conducting poetry readings at schools in "Open Mike: Reaching Teens at Risk Through Poetry". That's her in the middle with April on the left and me on the right.

Ellen & LaurenThe symposium wrapped up with Ellen Hopkins (left) and Lauren Myracle (right) speaking at the closing session about overcoming intellectual freedom challenges so the right book can get to the right kid at the right time. Mark your calendars for 11/2/12 for the next biannual YALSA symposium in St. Louis, Missouri. Hope to see you there!

Texas LibrariansSaturday night 30 authors signed books their publishers had donated to the event. Every participant got 5 tickets they were able to exchange for signed books. Here I am at the signing with three delightful librarians from Texas.
Guest Column
YA Librarians are Awesome   by Lauren Bjorkman
Lauren Bjorkman
Lauren Bjorkman
I like November. My birthday is in November. My first YA novel came out last November. And this November I attended my first national event as an author-the YALSA conference in Albuquerque. There I discovered a few things about YA librarians. They talk to strangers. They have lively conversations in elevators, in fact, a social no-no in other spheres. And they have passion for getting diverse books into the hands of teen readers.

During the pre-conference session called "Beyond Stonewall", authors Michael Cart and Christine Jenkins gave us a "history lesson" on GLBT teen fiction from 1969 to 2010, book-talking dozens of titles. They are experts on the subject.

All the earlier books with GLBT characters were tragedies, and usually ended with the gay character killed in a car wreck. Or truck wreck. Or motorcycle wreck. Seriously! Things got better in the 80's, when some books ended on a hopeful note-particularly those by M.E. Kerr. Still, the majority of GLBT teen lit consisted of "problem" novels.

My Invented LifeIn the 2000's there were many breakthroughs - GLBT books for the retail market, ones with multi-cultural characters, humor, happy endings, and many that received awards.

In the afternoon, I spoke on a panel about future trends in GLBT teen lit with Megan Frazer (Secrets of Truth and Beauty), Kirstin Cronn-Mills (The Sky Always Hears Me), and Malinda Lo (Ash). Our topics were serious-the fluidity of sexuality, labeling, coming out, heteronormativity, and settings without homophobia-but we still managed to make 50+ librarians laugh out loud.

AlamosaFriday night, I participated in a Q&A at Alamosa Books, an Albuquerque bookstore devoted entirely to young readers and teens. From left to right: Malinda Lo, Lauren Bjorkman (me), Kirstin Cronn-Mills, Alexandra Diaz (Of All the Stupid Things), and Megan Frazer.

The next day, I attended a session on "Commercial Success and Diversity". One particularly poignant moment came when the authors on the panel shared stories about their novel covers.

  • The cover for 8th Grade Superzero, for instance, a coming-of-age YA about nerdy African-American teens was given the classic silhouette picture that hides the main character's race.
  • Neesha Meminger (Shine, Coconut Moon) expressed gratitude that the cover of her novel about South Asian teens in NY didn't include a red sari, mangos, or spices.
  • When Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez  (Hater) complained about the three white teens on the cover of her book about a Mexican-American, one of the girls got an airbrushed tan. 
  • Cynthea Liu (Paris Pan Takes the Dare) remembered how sad she felt when she learned that the Chinese-American girl on her cover would be a cartoon. 
Shiprock, NMWith so many talented and multi-published authors in attendance, I felt a bit like a small minnow in a big pond. But what a pond! I got to talk to librarians in Kansas, Indiana, Ohio and even one in Shiprock, New Mexico that had my book in their library collections. Which made me a semi-famous minnow for the day!
Kimberley's Book Buzz
Kimberley Griffiths Little
Kimberley Little
Kimberley Griffiths Little
It's double whammy for Young Adult Book titles two months in a row! In November we discussed some fascinating books that deal with a wide variety of crisis in teen's lives. A great issue so if you missed it go here.

Since YALSA was right in our backyard this year, we can't help dishing about the 800 Young Adult Librarians swarming the Albuquerque Convention Center and talking non-stop about YA literature. So I bring you Young Adult Book Buzz as we prepare for the American Library Association Youth Media Award Announcements that will be held Monday, January 10 at 7:30 a.m. in San Diego, California!

A few titles that have had glowing reviews and are currently *buzzing*!

Ship Breaker
Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

A fast-paced post apocalyptic adventure set on the American Gulf Coast.


YouYou by Charles Benoit

Fifteen-year-old Kyle is a member of the "hoodies." So named for their ubiquitous hooded sweatshirts, they are the slackers/burnouts/freaks common to every high school. This book is written in an unusual second person Point of View as we live within Kyle's head as he gets picked on by bullies, serves detention, and pines after a girl.

FinnikenFinnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta

Finnikin, son of the head of the King's Guard, has been in exile for a decade, after the violent takeover of his birthplace by a usurper, followed by a curse by a priestess that has effectively shut the kingdom off from the outside world.

The Sky is EverywhereThe Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

When her older sister dies from an arrhythmia, 17-year-old Lennie finds that people are awkward around her, including her best friend. While dealing with her conflicted feelings toward her sister's boyfriend, her anguish over Bailey's unexpected death, Lennie must also cope with her unresolved feelings about her mother, who left when Lennie was an infant.

Fever CrumbFever Crumb by Reeves, Philip

Foundling Fever Crumb has been raised as an engineer although females in a future London, England, are not believed capable of rational thought, but at age 14 she leaves her sheltered world and begins to learn startling truths about her past while facing danger in the present.

RevolverRevolver by Marcus Sedgwick

Sedgwick's historical mystery, set in the Arctic Circle in 1899 and 1910, makes good use of the word chilling. Outside their remote Scandinavian village, Sig's father dies of exposure after trying to rush home across a frozen lake. The reason for his carelessness becomes apparent to Sig when a hulking beast of a man arrives at their tiny shack with a Colt revolver, demanding his share of a stolen wealth of gold.

Last Summer of the Death WarriorsThe Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco X. Stork

Seventeen year old Pancho is bent on avenging the senseless death of his sister, but after he meets D.Q. who is dying of cancer, and Marisol, one of D.Q's caregivers, both boys find their lives changed by their interactions.

NothingNothing by Janne Teller and translated from Danish

When thirteen-year-old Pierre Anthon leaves school to sit in a plum tree, and train for becoming nothing, his classmates set out on a desperate quest for the meaning of life.

A few more excellent fiction and non-fiction titles:

Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson

Borrowed Names: Poems About Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C.J. Walker, Marie Curie, and Their Daughters by Jeannine Atkins

We Could Be Brothers by Derrick D. Barnes

They Called Themselves the KKK: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

Will Grayson, Will Grayson, by David Levithan and John Green
Picture the Dead, by Lisa Brown & Adele Griffin

Now that it's December and 2010 is coming to a close - What are some of YOUR favorite books this year? Please tell us in a comment on the blog:

The Secret Language of Stories
Carolee Dean
Carolee Dean
Carolee Dean
Adolescence is a period of rapid growth and life-altering change. With this month's focus on young adult literature, it's the perfect time to talk about the transformational arc of characters. In a well-crafted novel, movie, or play a character will grow and change in a significant way. Owen, in the YA novel, Crash Into Me by Albert Borris, goes on a road trip with three teens he met online. They plan to visit the sites of celebrity suicides and then kill themselves, but as he connects with the teens on the trip, he finally discusses his brother's tragic death, and he begins to find hope. In Heidi Kling's novel, Sea, Sienna begins the story deathly afraid of flying and fearful of the ocean because of her mother's plane going missing three years early. She falls in love with Deni, a teen she's met at an orphanage in Yogyarta, and by the end of the story she's travelling with him to tsunami ravaged Aceh to help him find his missing father. In the process she not only overcomes her fear of flying, but faces potential death from a variety of other sources including malaria and bird flu.

This character transformation even happens in short stories and picture books, though often to a lesser degree. The young wife in The Gift of the Magi starts out feeling sad because she has no money to buy her husband a Christmas gift. She sells the one thing that really sets her apart, her hair, to buy him a chain for his pocket watch. When he comes home and appears shocked by her new appearance, she faces the potential loss of what she values most - his affection. In the end he tells her that he sold his watch to buy her a set of combs for her hair. They both realize how truly rich they are because of the great love they possess. 

In the picture book The Frog Prince Continued, the frog and his wife begin the story disgruntled with each other. Married life isn't what they thought it would be. He goes off looking for a witch to change him back into a frog and suffers a near death experience when a fairy accidentally changes him into a carriage. He despairs that he will have to sit in the forest until he rots, but then the clock strikes midnight and he is a prince again. When he finally returns to the palace, he and his wife have a newfound appreciation for each other.

Transformation is often painful and never easy. It is that awkward change from caterpillar to butterfly and typically involves some type of death experience, much like the chrysalis phase where the caterpillar melts into goo before being reborn as a monarch. There is no real change without this death of the old and birth of the new, but it is human nature to avoid it, to hold onto what is comfortable and familiar. The one exception may be adolescence when teens are eager to throw off the bonds of childhood to embrace the "freedom" of adulthood. It isn't until they are mid stream through the river of reformation that they realize just how treacherous those waters can be.  

To read more about the twelve stages of The Secret Language of Stories, visit our previous issues of Spellbinders at

For a fun activity focusing on character transformation, visit the monthly activity blog on my website at  
2011 Youth Media Awards
Here is the list of awards given out at the 2011 Youth Media Award announcements at the ALA Midwinter Conference:
  • Alex Awards
  • Andrew Carnegie Medial
  • Coretta Scott King Book Award
  • Coretta Scott King - Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement 
  • John Newbery Medal
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder Award 
  • Margaret A. Edwards Award
  • May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture
  • Michael L. Printz Award
  • Mildred L. Batchelder Award
  • Odyssey Award
  • Pura Belpré Awards
  • Randolph Caldecott Medal
  • Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal
  • Schneider Family Book Award
  • Stonewall Children's & Young Adult Literature Award
  • Theodore Seuss Geisel Award
  • William C. Morris Award
  • YALSA Award for Excellent in Nonfiction for Young Adults
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