Monday, November 26, 2012

Body Weight Issues in Y.A. Lit and Donna Cooner’s Skinny
Books that address body weight issues will forever be popular because, thanks to peer pressure/the media/magazines/infomercials/the culture of celebrity, body weight issues will forever be with us. Is there a female out there who doesn't obsess about her weight? Whether you're a size 2 or size 22, it's like females are born with a 'I-will-never-be-satisfied-with-my-weight' gene - it kicks in with our hormones around age 10 or 11...and never lets up. Of course, females don't have a lock on weight obsession. I have a nephew who went on a purging binge his 8th grade year to try and rid himself of his 'blubber' as he called it. As with most weight issues, there were some other things going on at home that triggered this terrible time in his life - thankfully, with the encouragement of his family, he got some outside psychological help and, now a senior in high school, is doing much better.
In the past, Y.A. novels that address body weight issues have pretty much stuck to anorexia and bulimia, but with Donna Cooner’s Skinny, we can now add obesity and the effects of Gastric Bypass surgery to the lexicon.

“How can anyone possibly eat all that? And you wonder why you are HUGE?”
“God, she takes up so much space. Just look at those thighs. I can’t believe her fat is touching me.”
“They’re laughing at you. Look at that fat girl out exercising. Hopeless.”
“You’re like the big marshmallow monster in that old Ghostbusters movie. Soft. Gooey. Horrifying.”
Skinny is the voice inside Ever Davies’s head that constantly reminds her she’s anything BUT skinny. Ever doesn’t need her dad, stepmom, stepsisters, and classmates to comment aloud when Skinny is always there to pass judgment for them. Y’see, when Ever was in middle school, her mother died from a sudden sickness and her dad remarried a woman with two perfect daughters, leaving Ever to cope with her sadness by eating her way up to 302 pounds.
Her best and only friend, a nerdy boy named Rat, encourages Ever to take drama and try out for the school musical. Ever loves musicals and has a knock-out voice, one that even cute guy Jackson would take notice of if he could see past her rolls of fat and listen to her sing, but then that’s the thing – Ever allows her low self esteem to hold her back from pursuing the things she loves. In Ever’s experience, she seems to generate two reactions from the ‘normal’ kids – invisibility or revulsion. Most girls want nothing to do with her, afraid her ‘gross obesity’ will rub off on them, while guys take no notice of her at all except for the occasional douches/cowards who hurl insults from passing cars.
Ever does her best to remain invisible - she sits at the back of class, never volunteers answers, keeps to herself after school - but then one day she’s at a school awards ceremony and the worst thing possible happens – the chair she’s sitting in actually BREAKS…onstage…in front of everyone.  Skinny is quick to verbalize exactly what the shocked and horrified faces of those classmates and teachers surrounding her are thinking. Mortified beyond measure, the public humiliation is enough to drive Ever to make a change and try to lose the weight. How? Gastric Bypass surgery.
Cooner, a former Gastric Bypass patient herself, knows firsthand the range of emotions and physical changes that that come with this difficult medical procedure. There’s nothing easy about the surgery, from the procedure itself to the change in eating habits – no sugar in the diet, no water while eating or you’ll be too full for food, the need to chew your food into nothingness because you only get 3 tablespoons of food…total! For the surgery to be a success, exercise is also a must and patients are warned it can take more than a year before a desired weight is reached…if then. Determined, Ever does as the doctor orders and, sure enough, starts to shed the pounds. Unfortunately, Skinny still has some things to say. Even as her classmates take notice of her shrinking form and praise her for the weight loss, the sadness and insecurities that got Ever up to 302 pounds in the first place don’t automatically disappear post-surgery. As Skinny is quick to point out, can these same people who ignored and hurled insults at her when she was heavy truly be her friends now just because she’s several sizes smaller?
To her credit, Cooner also doesn’t write Ever as some misunderstood saint – Ever may have been discriminated against in the past for her size, but she’s  guilty herself of having wrongly judged the motives of others who tried to befriend or help her along the way. This realization is what helps Ever grow stronger in her sense of self-worth and in her relationships with others. Best of all, by learning to love who she is – flaws and all - she’s finally able to quiet Skinny…forever.  
For students who are drawn to books on eating disorders, I created the poster at the top there to share, and here are some other titles that my students have, um, devoured…
Wintergirls – Laurie Halse Anderson
Eighteen-year-old Lia struggles to come to terms with her best friend's death from anorexia as she struggles with the same disorder.
Perfect – Natasha Friend
Following the death of her father, Isabelle uses bulimia as a way to avoid her mother's and ten-year-old sister's grief, as well as her own.
Perfect – Ellen Hopkins
Northern Nevada teenagers Cara, Kendra, Sean, and Andre, tell in their own voices of their very different paths toward perfection and how their goals change when tragedy strikes.
Identical – Ellen Hopkins
Sixteen-year-old identical twin daughters of a district court judge and a candidate for the United States House of Representatives, Kaeleigh and Raeanne Gardella desperately struggle with secrets that have already torn them and their family apart.
Purge – Sarah Darer Littman

When her parents check sixteen-year-old Janie into Golden Slopes to help her recover from her bulimia, she discovers that she must talk about things she has admitted to no one--not even herself.
Nothing – Robin Friedman
Describes a young man's battle with bulimia in a Jewish family and his struggle is confronted by family and friends and the pain of his father's cancer.
Skin – Adrienne Vrettos
When his parents decide to separate, eighth-grader Donnie watches with horror as the physical condition of his sixteen-year old sister, Karen, deteriorates due to an eating disorder.
The Best Little Girl in the World – Steven Levenkron

Kessie thinks she's overweight. She's five foot four and ninety-eight pounds. A now-classic that tells of one girl's struggle with anorexia nervosa.
Faded Denim: Color Me Trapped – Melody Carlson
Originally trying to lose only a few pounds, seventeen-year-old Emily's weight loss spins out of control as she develops eating disorders until she decides that trusting in God and her friends can help her regain her health.
Skinny – Ibi Kaslik
The death of their father, two sisters struggle with various issues, including their family history, personal relationships, and an extreme eating disorder.
Shrink to Fit (Kimani Tru) – Dona Sarkar
Basketball star Leah Mandeville believes that losing weight and becoming superthin will solve everything wrong in her life, and, reaching her goal, discovers that her "perfect body" comes with a whole new set of problems.
Hunger – Jackie Morse Kessler
Seventeen-year-old Lisabeth has anorexia, and even turning into Famine--one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse--cannot keep her from feeling fat and worthless.
Just Listen – Sarah Dessen
Isolated from friends who believe the worst because she has not been truthful with them, sixteen-year-old Annabel finds an ally in classmate Owen, whose honesty and passion for music help her to face and share what really happened at the end-of-the-year party that changed her life.
*list summaries from MARC records

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

SCASL Snapshot Day November 9, 2012

For the past few years, our state's association of school librarians (SCASL) has requested our school libraries participate in an initiative known as Snapshot Day. The idea is for each school library in South Carolina to choose a day during the month of November to collect data about its collection, circulations, technology, patrons, etc. so that data can be used to share within our school as well as compiled along with other libraries state-wide to be used as an advocacy tool. What better way to promote your library to people who may not understand what it is you do all day than to show them exactly what it is you've done in one day? Better still, why not pretty-up all that data with a poster that depicts information and scenes from that day? After gathering information based on my November 9th school day, I submitted the info to SCASL and created a poster about my library stats. The poster definitely grabs the attention of students and teachers and can be a conversation starter about the library collection and how patrons use our library. It's also an excellent gage for me to compare the previous Snapshot Day (conducted in April) with my latest one to see how my school library program is growing in its second year open...

My stats for November 9, 2012, were as follows:

Number of students attending my high school:  498
Number of teachers on my staff:  32
Number of school librarians on my staff:  1
Number of full or part time library assistants on my staff:  0
Number of computers in my school library and on mobile laptop labs:  72 (13 student desktops, 59 netbooks)
Number of mobile devices such as Kindles, Nooks, and iPads:  57 (20 Nook SimpleTouches, 8 Nook Color, 29 iPads)
Number of items in my library's collection:  3,088
Number of individual students visiting the library (not with a class):  88
Number of classes visiting the library and the total number of students in those classes: 9 classes/235 students
Number of teachers visiting the library (with and without classes):  11
Number of classes the school librarian taught:  4
Number of items circulated:  70
Number of individual student computer uses:  151

Monday, November 12, 2012

YALLFest 2012

On the ride home from this year's 2nd Annual YALLFest, the group of students I took to the festival were already making plans to attend next year's festival. Nicole, a junior, even asked if once she graduated, she could continue to go with our school to the festival as a chaperone. Teens don't normally think past the next weekend, so you know an event must've been amazeballs to inspire that kind of long-term planning!!

Me and the fifteen students I took as part of a field trip were all YALLFest newbies. I only heard about the first YALLFest after the event *sniff*, and kicked myself when I saw a list of the authors who'd been just a three hour drive away *wipes tear*. When you live in upstate South Carolina, Y.A. author visits or sightings are few and far inbetween. For years, author Neal Shusterman has been great about visiting schools in our area - for a fee that required sharing him amongst schools - but as library budgets continue to shrink, paying authors to come in our schools is fast-becoming a fond-reminiscence for most. When this year's YALLFest line-up was announced, featurting 44 of some of today's most popular and well-loved authors, my head and heart nearly exploded.

The easiest thing to do would've been to go on my own, but knowing I have students who love these authors and their books as much as I do, I couldn't NOT try to take some of them. The cost of the festival itself is FREE, so the only student expense would need to be for the school bus transportation. School field trips aren't cheap, so to reduce travel expenses for the kids, I charged $25 a person - which covered about a third of the cost of the trip - and paid the rest out of my library budget. Money totally well-spent.

Though there are some huge corporate sponsors - Amazon, Tumblr, Justine magazine, to name just a few - the YALLFest festival is Blue Bicycle Books' baby. An independently-owned, small local book store, much credit and thanks fall at the feet of the Sanchez family - owners since 1998. Putting on a festival event of this size is no small feat, especially one that's still so new to the scene, but these people come off as pro's. Miraculously, author panels started on time! Plenty of books by the authors were available for purchase! Authors showed up for their books signings, and in most cases stayed or worked it until they had signed and spoken to every fan in line! If there were any divas or douches, I didn't see them, because everyone I came in contact with - authors, booksellers, volunteers - had read the southern charm rulebook and was on his/her best behavior. And when some panel discussions got a bit bawdy - I'm looking at you, Simone Elkeles and Gayle Forman - well, c'mon that only added to the awesomeness.

Me and fifteen of the raddest readers you could ever meet.

Blue Bicyle Books had plenty of copies of all the authors' books available for purchase. New authors also had booths set up to promote and sign their books.

While waiting to get books signed, fans could take part in trivia contests where you match a book quote to its author and win a free t-shirt. Nine of my kids won shirts!

Nicole enjoying a fangirl moment with her favorite author, Ellen Hopkins. If she looks like she's hyperventilating, it's because she is!

Um, Nicole wasn't the only one who may have fangirl-ed a little over Ms. Hopkins...

One thing I also really appreciated was that authors, such as Jess Rothenberg, were willing to sign student notebooks or YALLFest posters in lieu of books. Not all kids can afford books - which is why they use libraries! - and the authors understood that and were happy to sign. Some clever peeps brought along their Nook/Kindle covers and had authors sign those - might have to steal that idea for next year!

Each hour from 11pm-4pm, there were at least three author panels you could attend to hear your faves discuss topics like "YA Boy Band: Boys Writing Girls (& Boys)," "The Future of Sci-Fi/Fantasy," "Not Your Normal Paranormal", and "Good Girlz and Bad Boyz." What quickly became obvious to all in attendance is not only are these authors passionate about what they do, but they're passionate about supporting each other and the profession. No shame in writing Y.A.!!

Ladies and gentlemen, Stephanie Perkins - one of my fave authors AND a style icon. 

Annnd the award for savviest marketing goes to Simone Elkeles and her publishers, who understand the hottness of the Fuentes brothers should NOT be contained to just words on pages...note: I laminated the poster to protect the boys from student drool. ;-)

So YALLFest #3 has been announced for November 9, 2013 - my students and I are already looking forward to it!!
New Library Displays - Wutchuwant? and MUST-HAVE SEQUELS!!

I'm a total XM radio junkie, and station 2 - Hits 1 - is one of my main jams. A regular feature of the channel is their daily "Hits 1 Wutchuwant Countdown" where the station countdowns the top five most requested songs of the day by listeners. Pop culture thief that I am, I thought, "Why not make my own Wutchuwant countdown for my library featuring, duh, our top circulated items?" It was easy enough to find an XM radio picture via Google Images, so the poster wasn't difficult to design at all. If you're a Follett Destiny person, just go into Library Reports and choose the Top Titles feature to see what those titles are (you can also do most requested holds), and voila!...you've got a display.

Best of all, this little display works ALL YEAR. The only thing I change are the book covers every 2-3 weeks. Students really do pay attention too, because I end up getting hold requests based on what they see their peers are also reading. Ahh, the power of popularity.

October and November are always big book release months, and this year has been allllllllll about the sequels! Me and my students have been anxiously awaiting Becca Fitzpatrick's Finale, Rick Riordan's The Mark of Athena, Robison Wells' Feedback, Kami Garcia's Beautiful Redemption, and Cinda Chima's Crimson Crown, just to name a few. To let my students know what to expect (because Ally Condie's Reached and Alexander Gordon Smith's Execution are still to come!), I created a 'Must-Have Sequels!!' display. Using an image of shoppers on Black Friday (who better to capture all that anticipation and excitement? ha!), I then added captions about the different books alongside the peeps with the tagline, "Avoid the crowds - pick up your copies here in the library!" This dispaly is directly behind my circulation desk, so it's easy for students to see and immediately put in their hold requests if all of our copies are out.

If you have cool displays you'd like to share, comment with a link - I always love to steal, I mean, get new ideas from others. ;-)