Like most of y’all public librarians, I’m doing lots of Summer Reading outreach right now. When it comes to daycares and elementary schools, I could knock out presentations for these kids in my sleep. When I meet with the teens, though, I get a little more than nervous. It’s like every single group of teens is its own separate country, complete with its own culture and laws and I’m just some literacy-crazy over-coffeed tourist. Does this make me sound old? Consider removing yourself from my lawn, OK?
Recently, my coworker and I headed over to a local high school to talk to the teens about summer reading.
In addition to the principal having no idea that we were going to show up (even though it was confirmed in a series of emails) and us having to scramble together some sort of audience for our booktalks, it also seemed like some of the teachers weren’t super-pumped to see us. Case in point, I was booktalking Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake in one of the classrooms. As I’m talking about how Anna rips her victims in half, the teacher starts making THE WORST NOISES:
Me: Are you OK?
Me: Do you…not like the book?
Teacher: I think students should be reading inspirational biographies about successful people, not this… ::grimace::
Me: Sometimes librarians and teachers aren’t on the same page when it comes to recreational reading. Those biographies might be fine for your classroom, but what they read on their own time is their own business.
No joke, the students burst out into applause at this point. I hope I accidentally sparked a crew of rebellious readers. Or maybe they just like to disagree with their teacher for sport. Hard to tell.
In any case, I thought I’d share my super-short booktalks. I’ve tested them out a bunch, and they’ve been tried-and-true crowd-pleasers. Even the surliest groups of jaded Brooklyn teens have liked these talks. I should say that I never memorize my booktalks word-for-word, even though they often come out sounding the same every time. I try to remember key points and then make my talk as conversational as possible. I like to start with questions if I can. I don’t care if the teens interrupt me. If they interrupt, at least I know they’re listening.
Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake: Granted, not my favorite title. I’m going to be honest. The super-murderous ghost decides not to kill the dude and then they start making out?!? YOU CAN’T TAKE A MURDEROUS GHOST TO PROM, OK? But, it’s got a solid cover and premise, making it really good for booktalks.
I start by asking: How do you kill something that’s already dead? That’s the job of Cas Lowood, a modern day Ghostbuster (the teens got the Ghostbusters reference, so yay, olds). Cas mostly deals with super-violent ghosts that are out murdering and tormenting the living. Cas thinks he’s pretty good at his job until he faces his toughest ghost yet: Anna Dressed in Blood, who wears a dress that constantly bleeds. It’s known that Anna leaves no survivors. Though Cas thinks his chances of surviving Anna’s wrath are few, he faces her anyway. And while he doesn’t succeed in killing her, Anna spares his life. Why?
(To this, a teen said, “Is Cas ugly? Because if he’s not, maybe that’s why. Anna likes him.” Teens are smart. Don’t forget).
Everyday by David Levithan: Not my favorite by David Levithan, and it’s certainly problematic, but it does REALLY well in booktalks. It’s hard not to give A a gender, but I do my best.
The main character is called A, because A’s never had anyone to give them a name. You see, A wakes up in a different body every morning. A ages with the people they occupy: When A is three, they only wake up in the body of 3 year olds. Same for when A is 15. Other than that, A can wake up in a girl’s body or a boy’s, of any race. Anything is possible. A’s learned to live this way, how to seamlessly fit into the person’s life as to not cause problems. A can barely imagine another way of life, until one day, A falls meets a girl and falls in love. Now, A’s obsessed with getting back to her, not matter what body they’re in. How can A get find their way back to her each day? Could you fall in love with someone who looked different every day?
Sometimes the gender dynamics of this book can get the teens all hyped up (OMG A IS SOMETIMES A GIRL AND IS IN LOVE WITH A GIRL OMGGGG!!). Try and keep the discussion respectful and shut down any hateful speech. This one did really well in a recent visit, with teens snapping pics of the cover so they could remember it for later.
Continue reading “I’m the librarian your teacher warned you about: YA Summer Reading Super-Short Booktalks”