A Youthful Frame of Mind

News from the Rod Library Youth Collection

January 2013

  • Displays . . . Narrative Nonfiction, Bullying, Steampunk, and more!
  • Book Display Highlights
  • Narrative Nonfiction Book Give-Away
  • Coming up in February . . .


Book Display Highlight: Steampunk!

Chances are that even if you haven't heard the term Steampunk you've seen it around in one form or another. From antique-like jewelry and clothing to popular books and movies, Steampunk has made its mark in a big way. But what exactly is Steampunk as a genre? And does it have useful applications in the classroom?

For some, the definition of Steampunk is up for debate, but in general Steampunk is a sub-genre that occurs when you mix Science Fiction and/or Fantasy with Victorian aesthetic and the spirit of 19th Century industrialization and scientific inquiry. Some of the genre's deepest roots can be found in the works of H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, and Mary Shelley. These authors saw the rapid advancement of technology during this time period and imagined how it might affect the future. Although not a solid rule, contemporary Steampunk titles often take inspiration from a point in history when steam technology was the peak of innovation and generally imagines a futuristic alternate world where that form of technology carries society into the future rather than being replaced by electricity. Steampunk combines innovative science and engineering with ornate Victorian design to create a very specific aesthetic--a balance between functionality and excess. This Neo-Victorian aesthetic has become popular in literature, film, television, art, clothing, and decor because it is so open to creative interpretation and, therefore, lends itself to world-creating and DIY projects. You can check out some of the great ways that people use the aesthetic in this PBS Offbook video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6-AmXihFsU or just run a Google image search on Steampunk. See? You knew Steampunk all along!

If you've experienced Steampunk before or if you clicked the links and just became acquainted with it, you know there's no denying the creative appeal. Steampunk, however, is far-reaching and has a lot of practical applications as well, especially in the classroom. Because the genre dips into so many wells, Steampunk-inspired books are great ways to augment lessons in history, literature, creative writing, math, and science. Why not use David Wiesner's popular book Flotsam, a wordless picture book. There's a working camera in it that dates back to the 19th Century, and a mechanical fish swims alongside real fish. Pair it with a book about how things work, such as David Macaulay's Jet Plane: How It Works, to facilitate a discussion about the scientific process--how scientists use the discoveries and mistakes from the past to make progress. Or, focus on how simple machines and the science of mechanics can stand the test of time. In this pairing, you combine the wonder, functionality, and process of scientific inquiry and discovery by incorporating some decidedly Steampunk-esque elements of the books. Try Shaun Tan's highly-awarded graphic novel The Arrival, a Sci-Fi/Fantasy story with Steampunk elements about immigration and feeling like a stranger in a strange land. You could definitely pair it with Gwenyth Swain's Hope and Tears: Ellis Island Voices, a book that focuses on Ellis Island during the peak years of immigration into the United States. Now you have a wealth of opportunity to discuss the history of immigration, ethnic groups, nationalism, and the immigrant experience!

The great thing about Stempunk is its versatility. The genre can be applied to any number of subject matters and projects, and it has certainly already made its mark in popular culture. Considering ways to use the creativity that Steampunk inspires in the classroom setting presents an excellent opportunity to keep lessons relevant and interesting for students at every grade level. Check out some of the great selections the Youth Collection has to offer at the display behind the reference desk!

Who Says Nonfiction Has to be Boring?

In the past, Narrative Nonfiction has occupied an uncertain place in Youth Literature. It straddles the line between nonfiction and fiction. How can that be? Well, Narrative Nonfiction combines the researched facts of a topic with prose work and seeks to make an otherwise informative text as engaging and accessible as fiction. Is it possible to do both? To simultaneously write an informative piece and tell a great true story? Well, if trends in Youth Literature are anything to go by, heck yeah! The past few years have seen Narrative Nonfiction books winning a slew of awards, and reluctant readers grabbing them up by the armfuls.

Want to give it a try but are a little nervous? Sink your teeth into James Swanson's Chasing Lincoln's Killer (2009), a nailbiting, intense, quick-page-turning ride through the night that President Lincoln was shot. You will learn Booth's motives, follow his mishaps, and breathe just as hard as he does as he takes flight. The manhunt and the events that follow after Lincoln is removed from the theater are jaw-dropping. You will never again say, "history is boring," after reading this book. It's an awesome read aloud, too! Recommended for grades 6-12.

Checkout the display boxes for more great titles and two great narrative nonfiction giveaways!

Narrative Nonfiction Give-Away: Phillip Hoose's "Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95"

Phillip Hoose is the author of a number of publications dealing with conservation, the environment, and social justice including Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice, a National Book Award winner, The Race to Save the Lord God Bird, and It's Our World Too. In his most recent book, Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95, Hoose turns his attention to the story of a Rufa Red Knot, a small shorebird scientists have started calling Moonbird. Since 1995 when scientists began tracking him, Moonbird has flown an astounding 325,000 miles, a distance equivalent to flying to the moon once and half way back again. This is a phenomenal feat all on its own, but it is particularly amazing because the Rufa Red Knot species is rapidly declining due to humans disrupting their feeding grounds.

Among many other accolades, Hoose's Moonbird was a YALSA Excellence in Non-Fiction Award Finalist, a Science Magazine’s Science Books & Films Children’s Prize Finalist, and was named by the School Library Journal as a Best Book of 2012. The book has been acclaimed for its excellent research, beautiful pictures, and pitch-perfect prose that manages to convey the facts of Moonbird, his species and the danger it is in, and the efforts of scientists and conservationists to protect it in an accessible, eloquent, and entertaining manner. Don't miss a chance to win this awesome Narrative Nonfiction book in this month's Award Book Give-Away in the Youth Collection!

Narrative Nonfiction Give-Away: Jim Murphy and Alison Blank's "Invincible Microbe: Tuberculosis and the Never-Ending Search for a Cure "

Invincible Microbe: Tuberculosis and the Never-Ending Search for a Cure is the first collaborative project Jim Murphy and his wife, Alison Blank, have done. Murphy has written a number of other nonfiction books, including An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 and has been the recipient of such awards as the Newbery Honor and the James Madison Book Award. Blank is a successful children's media creator, editor, and writer. Invincible Microbe has been named a Library Journal Top Nonfiction Book of 2012, a NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book of 2013, and was a Cybils Award Finalist.

This exceptional piece of Narrative Nonfiction presents the history of Tuberculosis, a sickness that has been affecting society since some of our earliest ancestors, Homo erectus, first roamed Earth. With engaging prose, Murphy and Blank describe how such a tiny germ (25,000 set end-to-end would only be an inch long) could be one of the deadliest sicknesses on the planet. What makes Tuberculosis so terrible is its ability to evolve, becoming stronger and more resistant to the cures that people have managed to develop over the years. The book has been acclaimed for its lively, accessible prose and the effective way the images work with the text. Don't miss the chance to win this great Narrative Nonfiction book in this month's Award Book Give-Away in the Youth Collection!

Coming up in February . . .

The African American Read-In! The read-in is an opportunity to celebrate books by and about African American authors in a community setting. You can visit photo galleries of past read-ins at the Youth Collection webpage!

Congratulations to Ali Bailey and Samantha Doyle, the winners of the November/December Book Give-Away! Ali and Samantha won copies of Steve Jenkins's The Beetle Book and Lois Lowry's Son, respectively.