VIDEO: A Brief History of Young Adult Literature

EpicReads has posted this excellent video examining the roots of Young Adult (YA) literature and the influential titles that have popped up over the years.

The Outsiders by SE Hinton gets a special mention that it rightfully deserves: that book is just as meaningful to teens today as it was when it first came out.

VIDEO: Neil Gaiman Reads “The Day the Saucers Came”

This is my favorite Neil Gaiman poem. At least, right now it is.

This is a poem, as Neil puts it, “about the end of the world…or maybe it’s just about paying attention to things.”

WHAT’S NEXT: El Deafo by Cece Bell

deafo

I have learned to trust book recommendations from authors I love.

Patrick Rothfuss led me to Catherynne Valente and to Peter S. Beagle.

Now it’s time to trust Rick Riordan.

The pen behind Percy Jackson recommends the graphic novel El Deafo, by Cece Bell:

Cece Bell tells the story of a young girl (rabbit?) growing up with a severe hearing impairment. She does a great job tackling the subject with humor and pathos, letting us see the world through the narrator’s eyes (and hear through her super Phonic Ear). Along the way, we meet pushy friends, clueless peers, helpful teachers, not-so-helpful siblings, and a whole cast of other characters that any kid can relate to.

VIDEO: Raina Telgemeier’s Graphic Novel, SISTERS

Raina Telgemeier is the author and illustrator of several excellent graphic novels that you absolutely have to read.

SMILE was her first and it’s her story of a terrible fall that caused her to lose her front teeth, but also about what it’s like to go through school when you’re also dealing with heavy dental surgery.

DRAMA was her second, all about a high school drama class and the somewhat awkward search for relationships there.

SISTERS is her most recent and it’s about…well, just watch the video below and she’ll tell you all about it.

Science-Fiction, Fantasy, and You

Written by Grant Goodman, 2/16/2015

Time travel. Rocket ships. Wizards. Dystopias.

You will meet many people in your life who look down on “those kinds of stories.” They are the serious types. They believe in their serious literature.

We can let them believe in that.

They can have their stories about sad people in sad cities. Because, honestly, we read those books, too. Every now and again, we need a palate cleanser, a waystone that lets us step back into our own world.

The deep truth is this: we like other worlds. We like worlds that don’t already exist.

Besides, the biggest milestones of human storytelling tend to be about magic and dystopias.

The Odyssey is full of witches and sea monsters and Cyclops. Beowulf fought a dragon. Shakespeare filled his plays with ghosts and wizards and prophecy. Mary Shelley brought the dead back to life. Jules Verne sent humanity to explore the moon long before John F. Kennedy was born.

Reading fantasy and science-fiction connects us to the roots of the world. The desires to explore and to escape and to imagine are built into us.

That’s why we need Suzanne Collins to send us into the arena. That’s why we need Darren Shan to show us the hidden world of vampires. That’s why Ray Bradbury once wrote, “I have never listened to anyone who criticized my taste in space travel, sideshows or gorillas. When this occurs, I pack up my dinosaurs and leave the room.”

So go ahead and dive into sci-fi and fantasy.

But don’t be afraid to dip your toes into realistic fiction, either. There’s excellence to be found there, too.

LINK: Gayle Forman Investigates “Dark” YA

Gayle Forman, author of If I Stay, just put out an article in TIME magazine.

She dives head-first into tackling a tough topic: why do teens prefer literature that explores darker topics like war, abuse, and mortality.

My favorite quote is this one:

New brain mapping research suggests that adolescence is a time when teens are capable of engaging deeply with material, on both an intellectual level as well as an emotional one. Some research suggests that during adolescence, the parts of the brain that processes emotion are even more online with teens than with adults

In other words, it’s more than likely that teen brains are more receptive to stories that trigger intense emotions.

Read the full article here.

VIDEO: John Green on How to Write a Novel

John Green does an awesome video series in which he plays video games and talks about life at the same time.

In this episode, he discusses the many methods of writing a novel.

I absolutely love this quote:

“A huge part of my writing process is telling myself that it’s okay to suck…that it’s okay to make mistakes…”

I know that more than a few of you have made a stab at writing a novel, and if you have, you know what it’s like to spend an hour or two at the keyboard, followed by the realization that you’re going to have to delete everything you wrote.

He drops a lot more wisdom (and discusses how The Fault in Our Stars changed over time).

Why Graphic Novels Are Good For You

Written by Grant Goodman, 2/1/2015

As an English teacher, one of the most frequent requests I hear from parents is, “Can you get my son/daughter to stop reading so many comics and start reading real literature instead?”

Wait.

Can we re-examine that question?

Did you just ask me to tell your child to STOP READING something he or she likes?

That’s a firm “No.”

No, I will not.

There is a generational gap that leads to the misunderstanding of comics and manga and graphic novels. For many of our current parents, comics are those 3 or 4 panel gags that run in the newspaper. Or they’re the classic, simple superhero tales that they grew out of.

The problem is that if you shut kids out of comics/graphic novels/manga, you’re turning them away from one of our best learning tools out there. Comics are the marriage of image and word. They are expressive, they are detailed, and they are pieces of art.

Readers of comics learn to understand perspective, form, shape, and contrast. They can pick up a sense of motion, a skill for reading between the lines (or, in this case, “reading between the panels”). Most importantly, however, I argue that comics are a pure form of imagination boosting, which everyone needs.

I believe that adolescents who struggle with literature can benefit tremendously with comics. Part of what makes a strong reader is the ability to turn words into images. Comics bridge that gap. When you start building a mental library of how characters look when they deliver emotional speech, you can start carrying that over into literature. When you see a sweeping desert landscape that pulls the breath from your lungs, you have a template for when you come across it in a book.

I’m not saying that comics should only be there for struggling readers, though. There are plenty of works out there that rival the complexities of any novel you’ll ever pick up.

I can easily nominate the 27 volumes of Hiromu Arakawa’s Fullmetal Alchemist as one of the greatest fantasy tales of our time: two brothers use alchemy in an attempt to bring their mother back to life. The experiment fails horrifically, forcing the older brother to sacrifice part of his body in order to keep his younger brother alive. The series follows their quest to find a way to restore their bodies, which forces them to examine their world’s military corruption, oppression of religious minorities, and the politics of a civil war.

If you want to learn how to take another look at comics, you should pick up Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics. It will teach you all about the inner workings of comics and how they’re good for us.

The bottom line is this: if you’re reading comics, you’re doing the right thing.