Favorite Picture Books of 2015

I love reading picture books. I especially love strange, quirky, slightly adult picture books that really make you think. These are my favorite picture books that I read in 2015; most of them were published this year as well. All of them are just strange enough to read out loud to teens during story time, which is one of my favorite things to do at teen programs.

The Whisper 22747854 Jampires 23846164 I Will Fight Monsters for You  This Is Sadie

The Queen's Shadow: A Story about How Animals See Please, Mr. Panda

Favorite Fiction of 2015

I somehow narrowed my list down to just 10 favorite YA Fiction of 2015! There is a large variety here – stand-alones, books in a series, an anthology, some short novels and some that are very long, some super popular and a few that flew under the radar this year. I hope this helps some people discover new books to read!

Book covers link to my public library’s catalog, because you should be getting books from the library!

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Favorite Manga of 2015

Welcome to the first blog post I’ve made in soooooo many months! And of course it’s about manga! Here are my Top 10 Manga from 2015, featured in no particular order.

If you’re a manga lover I highly recommend reading all of these series, and if you’re a librarian you should definitely have them all in your library! Akame ga Kill, Attack on Titan: No Regrets, and Citrus should probably be in the adult GN section, but everything else can go in YA!

My Little Monster, Vol. 1 by Robico    

Servamp Vol. 1 by Strike Tanaka    Citrus, Vol. 1 by Saburo Uta

Northern Kentucky YA Fest Recap


Over the weekend I got the chance to participate in the fabulous Northern Kentucky YA Fest. (Did you know that parts of northern Kentucky are considered suburbs of Cincinnati, Ohio? There’s your fun State Line Fact of the Day.)

Everything about it was awesome. The teens were awesome. The authors were awesome. The volunteers were awesome. And the organizers were awesome, specifically Eden Grey, librarian extraordinaire, who was in charge of the whole damn thing and pulled it off like a pro. You never would have guessed that this was the first year they’ve ever done it!

Here are some photos. And let me just say: this all just goes to show that anyone can organize an event like this. Eden and her crew looked around, realized that there weren’t any YA festivals in their area, decided to organize one, and went ahead and did it. These events are such wonderful ways to…

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YA Anthologies – Violent Ends and Taking Aim

Violent Ends by Shaun David Hutchinson

Incredibly powerful storytelling with a consistent tone despite the 18 different authors. One of the best contemporary books I’ve ever read, and highly recommended. Each story is very well written, and while told from different perspectives, keeping the story straight is easy because of the quality storytelling and editing. The violent end happens in the beginning, and the rest is like a web of stories woven together in a masterful way.

Taking Aim: Power and Pain, Teens and Guns

Poor storytelling, too much message-sending, bland characters, unbelievable and predictable settings and situations, unreadable short stories that no teen will find appealing. Sorry, I did not enjoy this at all and I don’t think teens will either.

Manga Writing Workshop for Teens

I recently ran a Manga Workshop for grades 6-12 at my public library. With very little artistic skill, and no manga drawing experience, I drew on my experiences as a writer and a manga reader to design the workshop. I also used the knowledge gained from the incredibly informative and well done manga series Bakuman, which follows two high school students on a quest to be the best manga writing/drawing team of their time. The series is done by a best-selling author/illustrator combo, and they reveal the inside world of the manga publishing world. I find that when working on manga, most teens get stuck in the character designing phase, and just draw characters – this is great, but not productive as far as creating an actual manga.

So I worked from my prior knowledge and experience to come up with a step-by-step process for designing a manga story and drafting it into a storyboard. My workshop focused only on those activities, and attendees were encouraged to practice drawing on their own, with the assistance of drawing books and guides they could check out from the library. The activities detailed below are things that anyone can do, regardless of drawing ability. At the end of the workshop the participants will have a draft of a story that they can continue working on!

Step 1: Complete the Manga Story Worksheet that I designed. As the instructor I went through each section of the worksheet and defined terms and described what was required for each. If you’re unfamiliar with the sections or terms just leave a comment and I’ll answer, or look up definitions for unfamiliar terms somewhere like About.com’s Manga section, which is very helpful.

Step 2: Brainstorm sample chapter ideas with the participants. A lot of common manga tropes and plots can be used here. For example:

  • It’s a boring summer vacation day and the characters must find something fun to do.
  • A transfer student arrives in the main character’s class.
  • The main character sleeps through their alarm.
  • A character loses something very important to them.
  • A character finds something important from their childhood.
  • Someone from the MC’s past shows up unexpectedly.
  • The main character gets sick.
  • A new enemy appears.
  • An old friend returns.
  • A parent or friend is injured in an accident.
  • The characters discover they have magical powers or superpowers.

Step 3: Draft a quick chapter sketch. This will be a one or two page layout of what happens in a single chapter (or half a chapter) of the story. See the Manga Story Example for an example of what this could look like. The sketches will be rough, if there are sketches at all. In my example, there are no drawings, and only text and lines are used to indicate what is happening in the story.

Step 4: Draft a detailed storyboard. This will be a more detailed version of the chapter sketch done in the previous step. Each page of the chapter will be drawn out on its own piece of paper, featuring panels, character sketches (preferably with little detail, so as not to distract from the plotting), and text bubbles. Again, see the Manga Story Example for what this might look like. This step could take the students some time to complete, so encourage them to take their work home and complete a storyboard on their own.



A page from the manga “Bakuman” by Takashi Obata