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In Memory of Lois Duncan

Before The Hunger Games, or Harry Potter or James Patterson’s Middle School Books, there was Lois Duncan.

The Young Adult books of my time  (I graduated from high school in 1977) were limited.  Most of them were problem novels about drug addicts and  teenage alcoholics. (News Flash! drug addicts and alcoholic don’t  read books.)

But in the 1970s and 1980s,  Lois Duncan was one of the most popular young adult authors.  Her books were about normal teenagers suddenly thrown into terror and suspense.

Books like…

Ransom-a  terrorist comes aboard a school bus and takes students hostage.

Don’t Look Behind You – April’s normal life ends  abruptly, when she and her family are forced to flee drug dealers and  enter the Witness Security Program

or  Locked in Time– Lenore begins to realize that her stepmother and stepsiblings never age.  Her stepmother kills off her husbands when they become inconvenient.

Young Adult Author, Richard Peck talked to The New York Times about Duncan in 1978:.

“Lois Duncan breaks some new ground in a novel without sex, drugs or black leather jackets. But the taboo she tampers with is far more potent and pervasive: the unleashed fury of the permissively reared against any assault on their egos and authority. … The value of the book lies in the twisted logic of the teenagers and how easily they can justify anything.”KillingMrGriffin

This was certainly true of Killing Mr. Griffin. When several high school students plot to kidnap their loathsome English teacher, they are suddenly dealing with a dead body and a whole host of other problems.   Lest you think I am giving the plot away, that’s only the beginning.  The story is about the teens’ attempt to cover their tracks.

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Then there were The Daughters of Eve in Duncan’s first book. Members of a female secret society are advised by a radical feminist teacher to carry out extreme acts of violence.  The New York Times Book Review referred to it as a female Lord of the Flies.

Lois Duncan died on June 15 at age 82.  Her books will be remembered by many former teens.

She knows what you did last summer. And she knows how to find that secret evil in her characters’ hearts, evil she turns into throat-clutching suspense in book after book. Does anyone write scarier books than Lois Duncan? I don’t think so.

—  R.L. Stine, author of Goosebumps and Fear Street

 

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Novelist: A Cure for the Reading Funk

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I have been in a reading funk lately. Even as a librarian, I find myself having a hard time connecting with that just right book.  Usually my motto is “So Many Books-so little time.”

Life feels stressful at present and I want pure escapism.  Perhaps I’ve worked so hard reading children’s books for this blog that I haven’t found time to read for  me.  Usually when I walk into a library, I feel like a kid in a candy store.  But sometimes, I feel overwhelmed by the choices.  My reading life has never fit in to simple categories.

One great cure for the reading funk is the Novelist Online Database.  It’s available on most public library’s webpages.  Library employees will be happy to share this resource with you.  Novelist recommends books for adults, teens and children. It links back to the library catalog so you can reserve the book

Novelist can…

  • help you locate all the books by your favorite author.
  • provide read-alikes for popular authors and titles
  • provide genre lists for countless interests.  (There are 8 themed lists for teen graphic novels and 13 themed lists for adult mysteries.)
  • locate a book with a particular setting.
  • find books in series
  • find informational as well as fiction books.

Once you locate a book, there are book reviews, age range, lexile levels and subject headings.  I have been using Novelist and Novelist K-8 for years. I have yet to tap into to all the resources available.

Novelist is a great tool for teachers and homeschoolers.  It’s easy to find books that supplement the curriculum.  Historical fiction can be a great way to help students grasp history.  Parents can also use Novelist to help children explore their interests. This database has evolved over time to meet the changing needs of its users.

Novelist is as its best recommending books to upper elementary, teens and adults. The upper elementary years  can be a golden age of reading. .  During this time, children begin getting more specific in their reading choices. If we want children to enjoy reading, we need to offer them lots of choices. There will be more competition for entertainment as children reach their teens.   Finding the right books for children and teens is a key ingredient in creating lifelong readers.  Novelist is a great tool in this process.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Books by Beverly Cleary

April 12, 2016  was Beverly Cleary’s 100th birthday.  Here are a few of the books that she has written:

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Otis loves to stir up excitement at school.  He especially loves to pick on Ellen Tebbits, perhaps because she is so neat, clean and well behaved.

When Otis goes too far, Ellen and her best friend, Augustine, seek revenge.  Will Otis get what he deserves?

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When Keith’s  family stays at an old hotel, Keith meets a talking mouse who rides his toy motorcycle.  Ralph S. Mouse becomes a hero for Keith and his family.

Other books about Ralph’s adventures are Runaway Ralph and Ralph S. Mouse.

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Henry Huggins wants to do something important, like Scooter, the seventh grader on his street, who delivers papers.  Getting a paper route isn’t as easy as it looks, especially when you show up for the interview, hiding four kittens in your sweatshirt.

Henry is quite enterprising and works hard to achieve his ambitions, even when that pesky Ramona gets in his way.

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This is the first book where Ramona emerges as the main character.  Although this book is written from a kindergartner’s perspective, the audience for this book will be older children who will find Ramona’s antics amusing .  Other Ramona books are Ramona and Her Mother, Ramona and Her Father, Ramona the Brave, and Ramona Quimby, Age 8.

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Leigh Botts is the new kid in town.  His parents have recently separated and someone keeps stealing his lunch. Leigh shares his daily troubles with his favorite author, Mr. Henshaw.

This is a very different book for Beverly Cleary.  It received high critical acclaim including the 1984 Newbery Medal.

 

 

 

 


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Why Audiobooks?

About 10 years ago,  I fell in love with audiobooks.  I felt torn because I had adult books I wanted to read and prize winning children’s books that also deserved my attention.  Audiobooks became part of the solution!   I began looking forward to my time in the car.

Audiobooks can be enjoyed by the whole family. Consider taking them along on your next road trip. For this post, I have selected audiobooks that families can enjoy listening to together.

On the Reading Rockets Website, Denise Johnson lists these benefits of listening to audiobooks.

  • Introduce students to books above their reading level
  • Model good interpretive reading
  • Teach critical listening
  • Highlight the humor in books
  • Introduce new genres that students might not otherwise consider
  • Introduce new vocabulary or difficult proper names or locales
  • Sidestep unfamiliar dialects or accents, Old English, and old-fashioned literary styles
  • Provide a read-aloud model
  • Provide a bridge to important topics of discussion for parents and children who can listen together while commuting to sporting events, music lessons, or on vacations
  • Recapture “the essence and the delights of hearing stories beautifully told by extraordinarily talented storytellers” (Baskin & Harris, 1995, p. 376)http://www.readingrockets.org/article/benefits-audiobooks-all-readers

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The Harry Potter books are among other things, hilarious, but never more so when they are narrated by Jim Dale who creates over 200 voices and special effects for all the wizards, muggles, goblins and house elfs that pass through Hogwarts.  The Harry Potter volumes are among the top selling audiobooks of all time.  Children who have already read these books will notice things they missed.

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Country music singer and actor, Lyle Lovett, brings  Kathi Appelt’s adventure tale, The True Blue Scouts of Sugarman Swamp to life.  Two raccoon scouts, Bingo and J’miah are trained to wake the Sugarman, a Yeti like creature, in the event of trouble.  And trouble is coming!  Jaeger Stitch, world-class alligator wrestler, plans to turn the peaceful swamp into to the world’s tackiest theme park. To make matters worse, a gang of feral hogs are headed  toward the swamp.   Lovett has the perfect southern drawl. This story will appeal to a wide range of ages.

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I raved over Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan’s Echo in an earlier post. (https://librarianlou.wordpress.com/2016/03/15/for-music-and-history-lovers-2/) This recording helps complete the book.  The harmonica pieces are printed in each section, but its not the same as hearing the music which will be more familiar to  parents than their children.

In the section set in Nazi Germany, the heavy but clear German accents are vital in creating the characters of evil Nazi leaders as well as the kind voices of Frederich’s father and uncle.  Dialogue that looks confusing in print will be clearer in the audio version.  Echo won the 2016 Newbery Honor Award and the audiobook won one of two 2016 Odyssey Awards for outstanding productions in children’s recordings.

Don’t let the costs of audiobooks discourage you.  Many are available at the public library. Services like Audible are also making these books more accessible.