Thursday, July 28, 2011

Top Ten Books In Your Facility: What are they?

Amy Cheney, the programming goddess who works in Cali, recently asked those of us on the Yalsa-lockdown listserv “What are the 10 most popular titles right now?” While I can’t speak for the entire school as I am only serving youth at one site this summer, I can say that at that one site, Horizon, the most popular books seem to be:

1) Anything at all by Walter Dean Myers (he just visited and there is nothing on the carts which is driving everyone crazy)

2) Tyrell by Coe Booth

3) Street Pharm by Alison Van Diepen

3) Homeboyz by Alan Sitomer

4) 16 on the Block series by Babygirl Daniels

5) Where’s Waldo

6) The Power of Birthdays

7) Rikers High by Paul Volponi

8) Played by Dana Davidson

9) Anything at all by Ni Ni Simone

10) Random Family by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc

We'll do an official school-wide list this fall. What are *your* top ten? Post in the comments!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Programming Spotlight: Walter Dean Myers


I think that’s how many of us felt yesterday to be in the presence of the inimitable godfather of young adult literature, Walter Dean Myers. Thanks to YALSA’s Great Stories CLUB, the NEA, Lainie Castle at ALA's PPO office, Anne Lotito Schuh, Phoebe Yeh at Harper Collins, and the author himself, almost all the students present yesterday at Horizon Juvenile Detention Center had the chance to hear from the author of Dope Sick, Monster, Carmen, and the recently released We Are America to name a few of the titles from over one hundred he has penned. Disarming as ever, he spoke about second chances, showed students some of his tools as a working writer, and talked about the joys of making a living using one’s mind. If that wasn’t already enough (and it was!) he even sat down and autographed well over a hundred books to be given as gifts to students, teachers, administrators and staff. I am filled with gratitude. He and Phoebe left us with some prizes for readers-- stay tuned!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Dope Sick by Walter Dean Myers

If you could go back in time and change just one moment, what would it be? Where would you start over from? Lil’ J has been shot in the arm by a police officer and fears a cop shooting will be pinned on him as the story opens. He pushes his way into what seems to be a deserted building while looking for an escape, thinking he’ll try the roof. Instead, he runs into not-quite-human-or-is-he? Kelly. Using magical realism, dialogue, first person narration and flashbacks, Myers reveals the context of this life-or-death-or-prison moment in Lil’ J’s life and invites the reader into a critical dialogue via Kelly and Lil’ J’s conversation. How does one shift one’s perspective from blaming outside sources to making one’s life “your own fault?” About once a week a student tells me or another student that Dope Sick is “fire,” which pretty much sums up the popular appeal.

Myers, Walter Dean. Dope Sick. New York: Harper Collins, 2009.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Barrio Kings by William Kowalski

Rosario thinks he’s got his life pretty straight: he's got a beautiful girlfriend, Connie; an apartment for the two of them and the baby they’re expecting; and a solid legal job while he wraps up his high school diploma. He’s put his past with the Barrio Kings behind him. Or so he thinks, until his homeboy, Juan, shows up, freshly released from prison and itching for revenge against the Barrio Kings’ arch rivals, the Vandals. What’s a reformed gangbanger to do? Flat characters are superceded by quick pacing, white space, larger font and a plot that some will find familiar and/or compelling. This reader is certainly interested in hearing from anyone else whose read titles from Orca Publishing’s “Rapid Read” series. Recommended for striving readers who are looking for realistic fiction to help them anticipate life after re-entry. Or just a quick read or a new series along the lines of the Bluford High Series.

Kowalski, William. The Barrio Kings. Victoria: Orca Book Publishers, 2010.