Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Yang, Gene Luen. American Born Chinese. First Second Books, 2006. 233 p. PBK $17.95 ISBN 978-1596431522

SUMMARY: Three separate but intertwined stories weave together this representation of a Chinese American teen's thoughts, feelings, and experiences in dealing with his mixed identity. First is the mythical story of the monkey who wants nothing more than to be a god. Next is a realistic story of Jin Wang, one of only three Asian Americans in his school. And last, there is the story of Danny, a blond boy, with a Chinese cousin, Chin-kee, an exaggerated Chinese stereotype who annoys and embarrasses Danny to the point of violence and hatred. The three stories reveal how they are related when they come together in a thought-provoking and hopeful conclusion.

RISKS: Depiction of Chinese stereotypes in Chin-kee's character

EVALUATION: I think this book keenly describes the internal conflict which individuals caught between different cultures might go through. The weaving together of separate and seemingly unrelated narratives in the comic book format makes a compelling reading experience and would make for interesting discussion about the book. Humor is spread throughout the narratives and enhanced by the artwork, which is simple, straightforward, and contains just the right details.

READER'S ANNOTATION: Everyone wonders at times about who they really are. Am I a product of my culture, or am I in control of who I become?

TOPICS: Chinese Americans; identity; schools;

AWARDS: National Book Award Finalist, 2006; ALA Best Books for Young Adults, 2007; Michael L. Printz Award, 2007; Will Eisner Best Graphic Album: New, 2007; Booklist Editor's Choice, 2006; SLJ Best Books for Children, 2006; Arizona: Grand Canyon Reader Award Nominees, 2009; New Jersey: Garden State Teen Book Award Nominees, 2009; Pacific Northwest Young Reader's Award Nominees, 2009; Pennsylvania: Young Reader's Choice Award Nominees, 2009; Kentucky: Bluegrass Award Nominees, 2008

Ages 12 & up

Monday, December 7, 2009


Richardson, Justin and Peter Parnell. And Tango Makes Three. Henry Cole, illus. Simon & Schuster, 2005. 29 p. TR 16.99 ISBN 978-0689878459

SUMMARY: This is the true story of two male chinstrap penguins in the Central Park Zoo and how they found companionship with each other. A perceptive zookeeper gave this self-proclaimed couple the opportunity to make a family by giving them an egg to hatch. At the end of the book, they are a happy family of three.

RISKS: Depiction of homosexual relationship/parenting - albeit in animal form

EVALUATION: This beautifully illustrated, fun and tender picture book is as innocent or harmful as you make it. These are penguins, in a zoo, who want a family. Looking at the story in a bigger way, it is a universal narrative about love and families and the desire to have someone close. Once again, the representation of homosexuality in whatever guise will no doubt offend some readers. More liberal adults, however (one might add, children, too) will find this story of love and togetherness both touching and refreshing.

READER'S ANNOTATION: Not your ordinary zoo story, or penguin story, or even animal story. Baby Tango stars in this delightful and inspiring true story of a unique family.

TOPICS: penguins; companionship; homosexual parents; familial relationships; zoo animals; Central Park Zoo, New York, NY;

AWARDS: ALA Notable Children's Books, 2006; ASPCA Henry Bergh Children's Book Award, 2005

Ages 4-8

Friday, December 4, 2009


Garden, Nancy. Annie on My Mind. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007 (c1982). 263 p. PBK $8.00 ISBN 978-0374400118

SUMMARY: "Seventeen-year-old Liza puts aside her feelings for Annie after the disaster at school, but eventually she allows love to triumph over the ignorance of people. Includes an interview with the author."

RISKS: Lesbian relationships

EVALUATION: The fact that this title is still in print and still praised, is a sort of testament of its universality and enduring qualities. It is a simple, straightforward love story, yet not so simple because Eliza is coming to terms with her sexuality. The honesty and sensitivity with which Garden treats Eliza's homosexual experiences and feelings is unparalleled by other books published at the time and for many years afterward. And the ending is completely satisfying, no matter how sad (realistic, imperfect - not everything is wrapped up neatly). NB: Includes a fascinating interview with the author conducted by Kathleen T. Horning.

READER'S ANNOTATION: There are many obstacles to love. When Liza and Annie find a place in their hearts for each other, will there be a place for their love in the world?

TOPICS: love; homosexuality; lesbians; private high schools; New York, NY;

AWARDS: Margaret A. Edwards Award, 2003; Booklist Reviewer's Choice, 1982; ALA Best Books, 1982; ALA Best of the Best lists (1970-1983)

Ages 12-17

Thursday, December 3, 2009


Klause, Annette Curtis. Blood and Chocolate. Laurel Leaf, 1999 (c1997). 264 p. PBK $7.50 ISBN 978-0440226680

SUMMARY: "Having fallen for a human boy, a beautiful teenage werewolf must battle both her packmates and the fear of the townspeople to decide where she belongs and with whom."

RISKS: Vulgar language, sensual tone, sexual references, graphic violence

EVALUATION: I think this book had better writing than Silver Kiss (also by Klause), and an equally interesting story. Because the protagonist is female, but she is the supernatural creature, this story gives a slight twist on the common "supernatural being loves a human" theme. I thought it was realistic how Aiden reacted to Vivian’s animal form, but I’m not sure how I feel about the overall message that you should stick to dating your own kind. The ending was exciting, suspenseful, and made for a nice, no-loose-ends conclusion. NB: I don't recommend the 2007 movie version - I think it was poorly done.

READER'S ANNOTATION: Wild desires are sometimes hard to anticipate and sometimes hard to explain. How much of the wolf in Vivian will she try to reveal to the boy she loves?

TOPICS: werewolves; horror; love; sex & sexuality; identity; family relationships; rites of passage;

AWARDS: ALA Popular Paperbacks, 2008; New Jersey: Garden State Teen Book Award Winners, 2000

Ages 14-17

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Levithan, David. Boy Meets Boy. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2005 (c2003). 185 p. PBK $8.95 ISBN 978-0375832994

SUMMARY: Paul has known he was gay since kindergarten, when it showed up on his student evaluation. He lives in an ideal world for a gay teen, where he is accepted as readily as any other person despite his sexuality. The Gay/Straight alliance is larger than the football team, and the quarterback is also the homecoming queen.

RISKS: Homosexuality

EVALUATION: I love how this book portrays the scenario of a community where homosexuality is accepted and not a big deal. I appreciate the freshness of the love story, where a gay teen can delve into romance and relationships without persecution or hate inhibiting him. But to keep a perspective on a more present reality, Levithan includes Tony, a boy from another school who hangs out with Paul and his group of friends, but has to hide his homosexuality from his own schoolmates and his family. It is truth and fantasy at the same time, and also terribly funny and moving.

READER'S ANNOTATION: Imagine a world where those who live in shame and fear feel comfortable at the center and happy with themselves. Paul's is a dream of a high school experience where normal is larger than you can imagine.

TOPICS: friendship; homosexuality; high school;

AWARDS: Illinois: Lincoln Award Nominees, 2008; ALA Popular Paperbacks, 2006; New Hampshire: Flume Award Nominees, 2006; New Jersey: Garden State Teen Book Award Nominees, 2006; ALA Best Books for Young Adults, 2004; ALA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, 2004; Washington, D.C.: Capitol Choices List, 2004

Ages 12-17

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Haddon, Mark. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. Vintage Contemporaries, 2003. 226 p. PBK $14.00 ISBN 978-1400032716

SUMMARY: "Despite his overwhelming fear of interacting with people, Christopher, a mathematically-gifted, autistic fifteen-year-old boy, decides to investigate the murder of a neighbor's dog and uncovers secret information about his mother."

RISKS: Vulgar language

EVALUATION: The voice of Christopher John Francis Boone is crystal clear and constant throughout this unique novel. There aren't many books out there that utilize the first person with an autistic protagonist as Haddon does - and does well. It is an enlightening and beautiful experience to be inside the mind of Christopher, with quirks and details right on the mark, as he solves the mystery of what initially began as the murder of his neighbor's dog but reveals something much bigger about his own family. Christopher tells the clever story with the accuracy of a Cartesian detective and with perfect guilelessness.

READER'S ANNOTATION: When Christopher's world has gone crazy, perhaps his inability to think like everyone else is his greatest gift.

TOPICS: mental illness; autism; divorce; savants; England; mysteries;

AWARDS: Arizona: Grand Canyon Reader Award Nominees, 2008; ALA Popular Paperbacks, 2006; Colorado: Blue Spruce Award Nominees, 2006; Georgia: Georgia Peach Award Nominees, 2006; Indiana: Eliot Rosewater Award Nominees, 2006; New Hampshire: Flume Award Nominees, 2006; New Jersey: Garden State Teen Book Award Nominees, 2006; New Jersey: Garden State Teen Book Award Winners, 2006; Texas: Tayshas Reading List, 2006; ALA Best Books for Young Adults, 2004; Alex Awards, 2004; SLJ Best Adult Books for High School Students, 2003

Ages 15 & up