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.
Hear Me Out: True Stories of Teens Educating and Confronting Homophobia a Project of Planned Parenthood of TorontoPosted: December 14, 2011 | |
Bibliographic Information: Planned Parenthood of Toronto. (2004). Hear Me Out: True Stories of Teens Educating and Confronting Homophobia. Toronto, ON: Second Story Press. ISBN: 1896764878. 197 pages.
We all need a space to tell our stories, to be heard. So for me being able to tell this story is an important act of resistance. I tell my story often and loudly. I tell it to break the silence, to educate, to inspire. I tell my story in the hope that someone who hears me might think about the revolutionary potential of simply loving themselves and sharing their stories.
ayden isak hoffman-scheim
Hear Me Out: True Stories of Teens Educating and Confronting Homophobia, pg. 51
Hear Me Out is a book of stories, teen stories, true stories by teens about themselves. These teens are volunteers with Toronto’s Teens Educating and Confronting Homophobia (T.E.A.C.H.), “a peer-based program run by Planned Parenthood of Toronto to educate and change negative attitudes about gay, lesbian, queer, bisexual, transsexual, and transgendered [GLBTT] people.” These teens are brave, they’ve been through a lot, and they are here to tell their stories, to educate and inform, and, perhaps most importantly, to make sure other GLBTT young people know that they are not alone. Each chapter is written by one young person, the chapters range from coming out stories to stories about homophobic violence and bullying to stories of first love and family acceptance. Issues of culture and race are woven throughout the book, as the teen voices come from diverse backgrounds. Through it all, the wise, honest – and brave – voices of teens come through loud and clear.
Critical Evaluation: This book is important, as it addresses serious subjects from the perspective of the teens experiencing what is being discussed. Hearing from the teens themselves makes this book powerful and moving as well as telling and illuminating. One only has to read the first page to realize that reading Hear Me Out is going to be a different experience than reading any other book. It is honest, authentic, and interesting. Even people in GLBTT communities will learn from the diversity of experiences and voices, and people outside the community will get a glimpse into what life is like for the young people in the book, and possibly other GLBTT youth that readers may know. Many of the teens also speak specifically about the T.E.A.C.H. program, which could be useful for those interested in starting a similar organization. The back of the book includes a brief glossary and section of short biographies of each of the 19 teen contributors.
Reader’s Annotation: Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, and transgendered teens tell their stories in their own words of what life is like for them. Their stories describe adversity and struggle as well as achievement and triumph.
Information about the Author: n/a
Category: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transsexual, and Transgendered youth
Topics Covered: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered, Transsexual, Homophobia, Racism, Bullying, Violence, Family, Friends, Identity, Coming Out
Curriculum Ties: Gender and Sexuality
Booktalking Ideas: Read a piece from any of the essays, like the quote included above in the “Content” section.
Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 12 -19
Challenge Issues: This book is all about GLBTT youth and sends a message of the importance of acceptance, so it could very well be challenged. In response to any challenges, one can refer to the library’s collection development policies. Also, there are several positive reviews of the book, including reviews by VOYA and Booklist.
Why is this book included? Initially found in the YALSA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults 2006 list, under the GLBTQ heading, this book is included because young adult collections should address the needs and issues of the diverse communities they serve.
Planned Parenthood of Toronto. (2004). Hear Me Out: True Stories of Teens Educating and Confronting Homophobia. Toronto, ON: Second Story Press.
Plot Summary: Clarisse “Precious” Jones is sixteen, pregnant, illiterate and living a life of unimaginable horror and suffering. The physical and emotional abuse, that Precious endures at the hands of her mother is so brutally and meanly inflicted, that most viewers will wonder how a person could be so incredibly cruel. Precious lives with her mother. Her father only appears every so often, and his visits resulted in the rape and impregnation of his daughter Precious. The depths of abuse and cruelty leveled at Precious might make another person crumble, but she pushes forward. She keeps trying to make a life for herself, dreaming, in beautifully filmed fantasy sequences, of being a much adored star. When she is kicked out of her high school for being pregnant, Precious attends an alternative school. There, Precious has a teacher who believes in her students, often when they do not even believe in themselves. At her new school, Precious finally learns to read and write and she literally and figuratively finds her voice.
Critical Evaluation: This film is intense. I expect that people familiar with the type of abuse and suffering Precious is subjected to, could experience some level of post traumatic stress. Others, who have been fortunate enough not to have experience with this level of cruelty and brutality will likely find themselves in disbelief. But, there is something about the acting and directing and scenery and dialogue that forces us to look at Precious’s life and recognize that there are people who suffer in similar ways. Even those viewers who do not want to believe will be hard pressed not to, given the gritty realism of the film. There is sadness and such devastating circumstances that viewers could become overwhelmed by emotion, but there is a tempering force. Precious is strong, sometimes witty and often triumphant, and these moments, make worthwhile the viewer’s endurance of the suffering in the movie.
Critics loudly applauded this film; it received numerous awards and nominations, fifty film organizations nominated Precious for a variety of awards, the film won several of these. Here are some highlights:
- The 2010 Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actress, Mo’Nique (Won); Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay), Geoffrey Fletcher (Won); Best Picture, Precious (Nominated); Best Director, Lee Daniels (Nominated); Best Actress, Gabourey Sidibe (Nominated); Best Film Editing, Joe Klotz (Nominated)
- The 2010 Golden Globe Awards: Best Motion Picture – Drama, Precious (Nominated); Best Performance By An Actress In A Motion Picture – Drama, Gabourey Sidbie (Nominated); Best Performance By An Actress In A Supporting Role In A Motion Picture, Mo’Nique (Won)
- Independent Spirit Awards: Best Feature, Precious (Won); Best Director, Lee Daniels (Won); Best Female Lead, Gabourey Sidibe (Won); Best Supporting Female, Mo’Nique (Won); Best First Screenplay, Geoffrey Fletcher (Won)
- NAACP Image Awards: Outstanding Motion Picture, Precious (Won); Outstanding Independent Motion Picture, Precious (Won); Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture, Gabourey Sidibe (Won); Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture, Mo’Nique (Won); Outstanding Writing in a Motion Picture, Geoffrey Fletcher (Won); Outstanding Directing in a Motion Picture (Theatrical or Television), Lee Daniels (Won); Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture, Mariah Carey (Nominated) and Paula Patton (Nominated); Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture, Lenny Kravitz (Nominated)
An extensive list of awards and nominations for the film can be found here.
Reader’s/Viewer’s Annotation: Abused and ignored Clarisse “Precious” Jones is sixteen, pregnant, and illiterate. When she gets kicked out of school for being pregnant, she starts attending an alternative school, with a teacher who believes in her, and her journey toward a life of her own begins.
Information about the Author/Director: In addition to being a director, Lee Daniels is an actor and a film producer. Notably, he produced the highly acclaimed film Monster’s Ball for which Halle Berry won the Best Actress Academy Award and which won the Best Screenplay Academy Award as well (Lee Daniels, n.d.).
Curriculum Ties: Discussions of poverty, abuse, acceptance, self-respect, self-esteem
Reading/Viewing Level/Interest Age: Ages 14 to adult
Challenge Issues: Violence; Emotional Sexual, and Physical Abuse; Mature Language. In response to any challenges, one can refer to the library’s collection development policies.
Why is this film included? While this movie is difficult to watch and painful at times, it also sends a message of hope and the strength of the human spirit. It is feels frightening real and provides a voice to Precious, and other young women, who deserve to have their voices heard.
Lee Daniels. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lee_Daniels
Plot Summary: “My parents came from poor people who came from poor people who came from poor people, all the way back to the very first poor people.” Fourteen-year-old Arnold Spirit, Jr., called Junior by his friends and family, lives on the Spokane Indian Reservation. His best, and only, friend Rowdy protects him from kids on the “rez,” who use Junior as a punching bag. He is teased and picked on because he’s skinny, he wears glasses, he lisps, and, according to him, “Everyone on the rez calls me a retard about twice a day.” But, Junior is smart and thoughtful, he’s an aspiring cartoonist, and he has managed to eke out a small amount of hope for his future. He makes the life-changing decision to leave the rez school to attend Reardon, a school 22 miles from the reservation, with only white students in a wealthy, all-white town. Students at Reardon are high achievers, both academically and in athletics. Will Junior’s Indian community feel betrayed by his decision? Will the kids at his new school open their hearts to him? Readers will root for this unassuming, honest, witty and smart protagonist, as he makes his way through the murky waters of growing up and self-discovery.
Critical Evaluation: Alexie’s honest, authentic writing tells Junior’s story with intimacy and feeling. And while this book reads like a memoir, it is fiction, but heavily based on Alexie’s own life. Readers get the opportunity to be present for day-to-day life as well as some of the more dramatic moments of Junior’s life, and through it all Alexie’s dry wit and social commentary are meaningful and not at all didactic. The complex issues of race and class intersect, intertwine, and give readers plenty to think about. Part devastatingly sad, part funny, and part hopeful, this coming of age story provides pause for thought about life’s complexities, as well as some of its most simple, and basic, pleasures. Alexie’s is an important voice in young adult literature, as there are very few books depicting contemporary Indian Reservation life. Though Junior is fourteen, the novel’s content is mature enough to keep older teens engaged. In fact, the many levels of this book would likely be best understood by teens older than the main character. While the content is often heavy, the writing is accessible for a wide range of reading levels; this book, with its many cartoon illustrations, is enjoyable to read, and could be a great choice for reluctant readers. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian won the National Book Award
Reader’s Annotation: Junior’s life takes a dramatic turn when he decides to leave the Spokane Indian Reservation school for an all-white school in an affluent town 22 miles away from his reservation home.
Information about the Author: Sherman Alexie is an author, a poet, and a filmmaker. He has written 22 books, and has received numerous honors for his creative works. Alexie has a strong voice and does not shy away from controversy (see “Challenge Issues” below). He is a frequent public speaker and an advocate for Native American Youth.
Genre: Issue, Realistic Fiction
Category: Issue: Social Concerns: Racism; Issue: Life is Hard: Multiple and Unique Issues, Outsiders
Topics Covered: Growing up, American Indian, Indian reservation, racism, poverty, discrimination, Bullying
Curriculum Ties: This book would provide plenty to talk about for a high school English or social studies class
- “I think Rowdy might be the most important person in my life. Maybe more important than my family. Can your best friend be more important than your family?” (p. 123)
Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 14 to 19
Challenge Issues: This book contains a lot of cursing and references to sexuality. It also exposes readers to poverty, racism, hatred, sadness and grief, things that some adults feel they need to protect young people from. Alexie’s own experience of hearing from teens that this book speaks to them and they appreciate its honesty is discussed in his Wall Street Journal Blog piece, entitled Why the Best Kids’ Books Are Written in Blood. More information about censorship of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian can be found in the Blog of The Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association.
Why is this book included? This book is included for several reasons. 1) Authentic American Indian voices are underrepresented in American literature in general, and in young adult literature in particular, so it is important that Alexie’s voice is heard and available for young people to read. 2) It is a great book, funny, poignant, and gives us all a lot to think about. I enjoyed it a lot and think you will too. 3) Related to #2, it won the National Book Award among other honors and was highly critically acclaimed.
Alexie, S. (2009). The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. New York, NY: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
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: In Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, Crutcher joins two teens together as friends, their connection? They both have physical characteristics that make them outsiders and the recipients of much ridicule and bullying. Sarah Byres’ face and hands are grotesquely disfigured by a burn she suffered at three years old. She insists on being called Sarah Byrnes, not just Sarah, to cut off at the pass any comment a person might make about the irony of her last name. Eric Calhoune, called Moby by most of the kids at school, was extremely overweight, hence the nickname Moby, until he joined the swim team where he started to lose weight.
Early in the book we find Eric in a metal ward with Sarah Byrnes attempting to talk to Sarah and bring her out of her catatonic state. The book travels back and forth in time between the present, Sarah’s current state of not looking at or speaking to anyone, and past interactions between Sarah and Eric. As the story unfolds between Sarah and Eric and a handful of their high school classmates in a Contemporary American Thought class the book addresses issues of religious beliefs, abortion, child abuse, and suicide. While these issues are hugely significant to the story, at its core the book is about friendship and love.
Critical Evaluation: Told with humor and sensitivity, Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes is a tale of strength, loyalty, and deep commitment. Through Eric’s voice, readers deeply feel both his outsider status and his wit, charm, and kindness. Readers watch him make mistakes, take chances, and work to resolve problems that are perhaps too big for a teen to resolve on his own. Crutcher, true to his style, manages to get inside a teen’s head and bring his readers there with him. The excellence of this novel has to do with the fact that Crutcher brings his writing’s signature honesty and authenticity to a compelling, emotional, dramatic and suspenseful story. The various other young adults: a former bully, an evangelical Christian, and others have depth and complexity not often seen in the supporting cast. Do to its richness and multiple layers of meaning, this book lends itself well to class or book group discussions. Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes has earned multiple honors, examples are: 1994 ALA Best Book For Young Adults, 1997 California Young Reader Medal, and 1993 School Library Journal Best Book.
Reader’s Annotation: High school students Eric Calhoune and Sarah Byrnes have been friends since they were young, connected by Eric’s obesity and Sarah’s disfigurement. During their senior year, dramatic events stir up their lives and challenge them as they have never been challenged before.
Information about the Author: Chris Crutcher is one of the most challenged authors of the past decade. He wears his challenges as a badge of honor. In fact, he says, “There’s only one thing to say to the censors: Shut up.”
Chris Crutcher was born in July of 1946, and has managed to accomplish a lot, and influence the lives of thousands of young adults, in his 65 years. He started his career as a teacher, he then went on to direct a “last chance” alternative school in Oakland, CA. After 10 years in Oakland, Crutcher moved to Spokane, WA, wrote his first book, and became a child and family therapist and child protection advocate. Chris Crutcher has been very busy having a positive impact on the lives of young people for the past several decades.
He wrote his first book in the early 1980’s and written a total of 14 books. He has been a very popular YA realistic fiction author since the 1980s, and he has won several awards and honors for his books. His writing is deeply authentic and often revolves around sports, in some way. Crutcher himself played sports in his youth. In 2000, Crutcher won the Margaret A. Edwards Award, for his “body of work,” and in 1998, he won the National Intellectual Freedom Award and the ALAN Award, (Crutccher, n.d.).
Crutcher still works as a therapist and child protection advocate. He is also a columnist, a public speaker and he recently started blogging for The Huffington Post. Check out his Huffington Post blog here.
Genres: Contemporary Life, Issues, Realistic Fiction
Subgenres/Themes: Contemporary Life: Sports; Issues: Life Is Hard: Physical and Emotional Abuse
Topics Covered: Child Abuse, Friendship, Sports, Abortion, Religious Beliefs, Bullying
Curriculum Ties: Discussions of diversity: racial, ability, physical, religious; dealing with abuse; everyday heroes; stereotypes and assumptions (from Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes: Teaching the Novel )
- Discuss dealing with a friend in a catatonic state
- Discuss what friendship means
Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 15 – 19
Challenge Issues: Discussions of abortion, an attempted suicide, premarital sex, a Christian character is portrayed as hypocritical. 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 honors, three are mentioned above.
Why is this book included? First off, Chris Crutcher is a stalwart in young adult literature, and any complete collection should include his books. Also, this book, in its 304 pages, manages to raise many important issues for teens. And, interestingly, several of these issues are discussed among the teens, so there are several perspectives represented. A critically praised, awarded, and honored book, Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes is a classic young adult novel deserving of shelf space in any young adult collection.
Crutcher, C. (n.d.). Biography. Retrieved from http://www.chriscrutcher.com/biography.html
Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes: Teaching the Novel. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.msu.edu/user/schne138/resourcepacket/index.html
Plot Summary: Christopher Creed has gone missing, leaving only a mysterious note via email. Did he kill himself? Or run away? Or, was he kidnapped or murdered? Christopher was not what one would call popular. Though he was well known to students throughout the school, he was considered weird and annoying, and was a frequent recipient of violence at the hands of his peers. Torey Adams is a popular football player, boyfriend of the prettiest girl in school, and in Chris’ eyes, one of the “perfect people.” But is Torey’s life perfect? Why does he feel so angry when his friends make derogatory remarks about Chris after his disappearance? Torey, along with Ali, Chris’s neighbor, and Ali’s boyfriend, Bo, investigate what really happened to Chris, ending up, themselves, knee deep in the mystery. Along the way Torey discovers his own empathy, what it really means to “fit in,” and that people are not always what they seem.
Critical Evaluation: This suspenseful book will keep readers hooked, anxiously awaiting the answer to: what happened to Christopher Creed? Written in the first person voice of 16-year-old Torey Adams, the narrative flows with Torey’s realistic reports and reflections. Addressing the universal teen concepts of intolerance of difference, adults’ lack of understanding of young people, and the difficulty of finding one’s place in the world, this book has staying power. Plum-Ucci’s first person account from the perspective of Torey allows readers to enter the world of a teenager and join him in his difficult struggle to realize that the thoughts he had always had about the world and people’s places in it might not be accurate. This book has won numerous awards and honors: Michael L. Printz Award Honor 2001, Edgar Award Nomination for Best Young Adult Mystery 2001, Children’s Book Council’s Children’s Choice List Honor 2001, ALA and YALSA’s Best Books for Young Adults Honor 2001, ALA and YALSA’s Most Popular Paperbacks 2004.
Reader’s Annotation: When Christopher Creed goes missing, popular football player Torey becomes an unlikely ally in the search for what happened.
Information about the Author: Carol Plum-Ucci lives in Southern New Jersey. Plum-Ucci grew up on a New Jersey Barrier Island and often uses the south Jersey shore as the backdrop of her novels. She was raised in a funeral home, but interesting trivia about Plum-Ucci does not stop there. For years she worked for the Miss American organization, including being assistant to the producer of the pageant. Also, “Plum-Ucci has ghost written for six Miss Americas, two CEOs and others who are nameless by discretion. “ (Plum-Ucci, About, n.d.).
In September of this year (2011) a follow-up novel to The Body of Christopher Creed was published; it is entitled Following Christopher Creed. Plum-Ucci is dedicated to interacting with and helping out her readers. Her website has a page entitled, “Students” where one can find several sections, below is an example of some of the links she offers.
Genres: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Issues, Realistic Fiction
Categories/Themes: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller: Contemporary Mystery, Issues: Life Is Hard: Outsiders and Missing Teens
Topics Covered: Bullying, Intolerance, Stereotypes
Curriculum Ties: Discussion of stereotypes, outsiders, assumptions
- Use the mystery aspects of the book to draw potential readers in
Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 13 – 17
Challenge Issues: This book was challenged in the Appleton Area School District in Appleton, Wisconsin. It was challenged by several parents for “innappropriate words in the book” and one parent critic stated, “The Body of Christopher Creed is not a book to motivate and entice kids into reading.” In response to any challenges, one can refer to the library’s collection development policies. Additionally, there are several positive reviews of the book, and it has won several awards and honors.
Why is this book included? Initially chosen for its multiple awards and nominations, The Body of Christopher Creed is a fresh, relevant, intelligent addition to a teen collection.
Plum-Ucci, C. (n.d.) Carol Plum-Ucci: About. Retrieved from http://carolplumucci.com/About.html