Plot/Content Summary: Teen Ink is a magazine that does not employ writers, reporters, or artists. The content of the magazine is entirely made up of submissions from teens from all over the country. Topics covered are diverse, from health issues to discrimination, teen activism to sports. Teens write fiction and non-fiction and provide paintings, photographs and other forms of artwork for the magazine. Each monthly issue contains articles written around specific themes, in the December 2011, issue the themes were “Celebrating the Season” and “Sibling Stories.” The magazine is organized with the following “sections:” Art Gallery, College Directory, College Reviews, Community Service, Environment, Feedback, Fiction, Health, Heroes, Nonfiction, Points of View, Poetry, Pride & Prejudice, Reviews: Book, Reviews: Movie, Reviews: Music, Reviews: Video Games, Sports and Travel & Culture. The wide range of topics covered provides a place for teens with varying interests to enjoy both reading as well as contributing to Teen Ink.
Critical Evaluation: Teen Ink is packed full with interesting and high quality writing and artwork. The honest, authentic teen voices that can be found throughout the pages of the magazine lend it depth and significance. The teen contributors to Teen Ink, both young women and young men, are creative and intelligent, interesting and interested. Teen Ink provides an opportunity for teens to become published writers and artists, “Hundreds of thousands of students have submitted their work to us and we have published more than 45,000 teens since 1989,” (Teen Ink: About Us, n.d.). Teen Ink empowers and engages, it provides an important forum for teens to exchange ideas and discuss issues important to them. It is by teens and for teens making it a great resource for information and inspiration. The magazine is used in English, creative writing, and journalism classrooms across the country. Several books have been published by the Teen Ink organization, they are entitled Teen Ink and contain themed collections of essays gathered from the magazine. The Teen Ink website contains content from the magazine as well as content unique to the web and is an additional place for teens to engage and exchange thoughts, feelings, and ideas.
Genre/Format: Print and Online Magazine
Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 14 -18
Challenge Issues: There are many real issues that young adults deal with covered in this magazine, so there might be a challenge to some of the content. However, this magazine has been praised by The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Teacher Magazine and many more. In response to challenges, one can refer to the library’s collection development policies.
Why is this magazine included? Teen Ink is the perfect magazine for older teens of both genders to include in a library collection. I found it when I was in search of interesting and independent teen magazines that do not simply repeat the same beauty tips and celebrity gossip as many magazines on the market.
Plot/Content Summary: Teen Voices is not your average teen magazine. It is a print and online magazine for teen girls, BY teen girls. The mission: “Teen Voices supports and educates teen girls to amplify their voices and create social change through media.” Teen Voices is not just a magazine but a non-profit organization that supports teens’ development in creating the magazine and mentors teens through the process. Teen Voices also supports teen girls’ leadership development and social justice awareness and activism.
Articles in Teen Voices cover a wide breadth of topics, like arts and music, book reviews and author interviews, diversity and equality, food, health, the media, careers, teen activism, relationships, social networking. The magazine also includes fiction and poetry written by teen girls. Recent articles include:
- Recent Events in Egypt from a Girl’s Eye View
- Girl’s Hurt by Gang Violence
- Got the Knowledge to Go to College? Teen Voices Helps You on Your Way!
- When Relationships Get Tough, Can They Be Too Rough?
- Got the Facebook Blues?
Critical Evaluation: The content of Teen Voices, like the voices it represents, is diverse and intelligent. Since teens are creating content, the magazine is highly relevant and authentic. Articles cover real-life issues and, while there is always room for fun, the magazine addresses young women as competent, intelligent people with the ability to think and analyze and question the status quo. Other teen magazines, with their emphasis on appearance and social status, do not compare to the depth and strength of the content in Teen Voices. Teen Voices and its staff have received awards and honors, that acknowledge the important and life-changing work that the organization does.
Genre/Format: Print and Online Magazine
Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 14 -18
Challenge Issues: There are many real issues that young women deal with covered in this magazine, so there might be a challenge to some of the content. However, this magazine has won awards and has a positive review in School Library Journal. In response to challenges, one can refer to the library’s collection development policies.
Plot Summary: Sixteen-year-old Steve Harmon is on trial, as an adult, for felony murder. He’s terrified. The prosecutor calls him and his co-defendant “monsters.” But, is he a monster, or is he innocent, as he claims? Steve is accused of being the lookout man in a convenience store robbery that ends with the murder of the store owner. But was he there? Uniquely presented in Steve’s voice, the book consists of first person journal entries as well as a movie script-style of story telling, complete with blocking and camera directions. Steve reports on what prison is like, how his trial is progressing and he looks back on the day the events took place. Dealing with the complexities of racism, poverty, peer pressure, and freedom, readers will experience how painstakingly difficult the jury’s job is as they try to distinguish honorable from self-serving motives and truths from lies.
Critical Evaluation: Compelling and intense, Monster paints a picture of a young boy struggling with right and wrong, prejudice, and the pressure to belong. The honest first person accounts, and movie script-style, give the book authenticity and interest and draw the reader in to the story. Myers uses realistic language and sets the scene with honesty and integrity. Many teens will relate to various elements in Steve’s struggles, teens who have been incarcerated or who have committed crimes will hear themselves in some of Steve’s words. The depths of Steve’s troubles give the reader empathy for his predicament as well as ambivalence about the crimes he is accused of committing. This book is better suited to more mature teens, due to its heavy subject matter, violence, and references to sexual assault in prison. Monster received numerous awards and honors including: Michael L. Printz Award Winner 2000, Edgar Award nomination for Best Young Adult Mystery 2000, Coretta Scott King Award Honor 2000, National Book Award Finalist 1999, ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults 2000, ALA’s Recommended Books for Reluctant Young Readers 2000.
Reader’s Annotation: The maximum length of the annotation should be no more than two sentences
Information about the Author: Walter Dean Myers has written somewhere around 100 books, mostly young adult realistic fiction. He has also written children’s picture books and nonfiction.
He was born in West Virginia, in August 1932 and was raised in Harlem, New York. Myers dropped out of high school, but not before a teacher who recognized his writing talent, told him to “keep writing no matter what happened to [him.]” He also loved basketball, which plays a role in several of his novels. He calls his teen years the most difficult years of his life, and draws his writing inspiration from these years.
Genre: Issues, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Alternative Formats, Multicultural Fiction, Realistic Fiction
Sub Genres & Themes: Issues: Social Concerns: Crime and Criminals; Mystery/Suspense/Thriller: Contemporary Mystery; Alternative Formats: Mixed Formats
Curriculum Ties: Social Studies
- Discuss Steve’s predicament, what would YOU do?
Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 14-18
Challenge Issues: Crime, Murder, Violence. In response to any challenges, one can refer to the library’s collection development policies. Also, there are several positive reviews of the book, and it has won several awards and honors, three are mentioned above.
Why is this book included? Hailed by critics, I chose to include Monster for its excellent writing and compelling storyline as well as several awards and nominations, as noted above. I am also a big fan of Walter Dean Myers, so I wanted to include a title of his in my blog. Monster was published in 1999, but the story of Steve’s struggles is timeless, and will continue to be current for many years to come. Additionally, Monster depicts an African American teen, providing much-needed ethnic diversity to the teen Mystery genre.
Bibliographic Information: Carvell, M. (2002). Who Will Tell My Brother? New York, NY: Hyperion. ISBN: 0786808276. 160 pages.
Plot Summary: Evan Hill was born to a white mother and Mohawk father. Unlike his brother, Evan looks more like his mother than his father, so has to claim his Mohawk identity more explicitly. His concept of his identity is confusing and complex, particularly because Evan is an artistic, sensitive, and thoughtful teen. He is a senior in high school and decides to stand up and speak out against the racist and stereotypical Indian school mascot. His brother, before him, tried to get the Indian mascot removed, but did not prevail, and Evan has taken up the torch. Evan talks to teachers and students and attends school board meeting after school board meeting to express his point of view. Those who want things to stay just the way they are are far less civilized in expressing their dissent. Evan is harassed and even physically threatened by students, and then his family’s beloved dog is killed by people trying to send a message. Evan wonders who will tell his brother about the dog’s untimely and undeserved death.
Critical Evaluation: Who Will Tell My Brother?, beautifully written in free verse from Evan’s point of view, is touching and inspiring. It is accessible, even for reluctant readers, because, being in free verse, it makes its point eloquently, but with fewer words than many novels. Addressing issues of anti-American Indian racism, stereotyping, bullying, and bystanders this book has a lot going on in it. But, life has a lot going on in it, and this book makes these complex topics accessible through poetic free verse and deeply expressed emotions. American Indian students who have felt this very injustice or other students who have experienced similar injustices will likely find strength and inspiration in Evan. Students who have not been exposed to these issues will gain insight and empathy due to Evan clearly articulated outrage at an American Indian being used as a school mascot. This book provides a great opening for discussion on racism, bullying as well as the roles and responsibilities of bystanders to bullying.
Reader’s Annotation: Evan Hill must face strong opposition from bullies and an unsympathetic school board when he fights to have his high school’s Indian mascot removed.
Information about the Author: Carvell says that Who Will Tell My Brother? was, “inspired by the experiences of my two sons.” Carvell’s sons, like Evan and his brother in the book, have a white mother and their father is a member of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe. Carvell’s books are well regarded by American Indian reviewers for their authentic portrayals of Indians.
Genre: Issues, Multicultural Fiction, Realistic Fiction
Subgenre/Theme: Issues: Social Concerns: Activism; Multicultural Fiction: Native Americans
Format: Free Verse Novel
Topics Covered: Racism, Violence, Bullying, Bystanderism, American Indian, Stereotypes, Family, Identity, Social Justice
Curriculum Ties: English, Social Studies, History
- What would YOU do? If you saw bullying…
- What would YOU do? If your ethnic group was being used as a mascot…
Reading Level/Interest Age: 14-18 years
Challenge Issues: There are those who believe that Indian mascots should be allowed, but I doubt that would make them challenge this book. There are no obvious challenge issues associated with this book. Preparation for any challenge can include the librarian’s: reading of the book, adhering to the library’s collection development department, and possessing reviews of the book from well-regarded sources
Why is this book included? This book is a high quality book in a unique format, that might have particular appeal for some teens. It was well received by reviewers and covers an important topic not often addressed in literature.
Slapin, B. (2003). Who will tell my brother?. Multicultural Review, 12(2), 98.