Saturday, September 22, 2012

October Mourning by Leslea Newman

Leslea Newman's October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shephard is the kind of verse novel that readers would find in the subgenre entitled verse biographies in my books. That is to say that this is a fictionalized account of a life, told entirely in verse. In this case, the 68 poems that make up this book vary widely from a haiku to the villanelle to free verse, and are discussed in an appendix. Additionally, they are told in different points of view  that start and end with the fence and include Matthew's friends, his mother, the policemen who investigate the crime and the two men who committed it. This is a style that will be attractive to readers familiar with Allan Wolf (The Watch that Ends the Night) and will help to create empathy for readers who may not be familiar with Shepard's case, although this is hardly necessary, given the gravity and horrific nature of the crime. This is a book that should be read with kleenex handy.

This is an incredibly powerful book, and one that should be included in public and high school libraries, not only because it is a good book about poetry and poetic forms, as well as a heinous incident that should be remembered for its own sake, a remembrance of a man whose only crime was being part of the LGBTQ community, but also because voices in those communities deserve to know that they are welcome in any community.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Pregnancy Project: overlooking expectations about teens.

Gaby Rodriguez took on a rather unusual project in her senior year, which she fully explains in The Pregnancy Project: a memoir. You probably already know about it, as it landed her on Good Morning, America, as well as being covered by a slew of international media. Just what kind of project could have had this impact?

Well, Ms. Rodriguez starts by explaining to her readers that she comes from a family where teen pregnancy is not at all unusual, and the then 17-year-old hoped that by faking her own pregnancy (with her mother's, the school's and her boyfriend's knowledge), she could gauge the honest opinions of the people around her, and so by doing see, and potentially evaluate and change them, as she had grown up with and had a lot of experience with the subject. Her own experiences are painful and enlightening in equal measure, leading to her sudden fame and the relevance of this title, which will appeal to anyone who has found themselves being judged.
Note - any librarians going to the upcoming ALA Annual conference in Anaheim will have the opportunity to hear Ms. Rodriguez read from her book in the Exhibits on Saturday afternoon as part of the Auditorium Speaker series.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Alien Investigation - looking at both sides of an issue

Kelly Milner Halls' Alien investigation : searching for the truth about UFOs and aliens allows that there are people who believe [unconditionally] in life on other planets and Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs), and people who do not, and then sets out to look at existing evidence, providing a very balanced view of the subject for readers on either side of the issue.

Among chapters that include dozens of examples of described sightings and encounters are interviews with credible sources that provide readers with information that could add to these debates, such as physicist Stanton Friedman, who believes in the likelihood of long-distance space travel, and government black programs expert Michael Scraft, who would write off many UFO sightings as having been classified tests of advanced military crafts.

The design of the book allows for pictures that illustrate the subject, whether the 'ball lightning' that has been confused for an alien spaceship, or archival photos of places where aliens were seen and the people who saw them. Another clever design feature is the report tab that denotes the interview pages. The end matter is as thorough as Halls' other books, and includes a glossary, source notes, sources, a bibliography, photo acknowledgements and a list of UFO organizations and festivals for readers interested in the subject. 

The even-handedness of the subject makes this a book that will find a home in any library, and one that is a natural draw for reluctant readers.