7 Days of Transformative Teen Reads

Teen Read Week

To kick off Teen Read Week, a nationwide initiative encouraging teens to read and visit libraries more, here are seven teen titles recommended for all ages (one for each day of the week, and an extra title in case you run out) featuring enterprising, unconventional, and interesting young people, who hopefully will inspire you to stand up, to speak up, to be unafraid of change, to be yourself.

If you enjoyed Looking For Alaska (or any John Green book for that matter), you’ll like at least one of these titles. Especially since one of them is by John Green!  See what I did there?

The Carrie Diaries, by Candace Bushnell, follows the high school exploits of a teenage Carrie Bradshaw, and serves as an engaging and tantalizingly familiar origin story for Bushnell’s popular character of broadcast fame. Beginning her senior year of high school, Carrie is at a crossroads (as all teens find themselves), conflicted between the future her father has planned for her or following her dreams of living in the Big Apple as a writer. At a time when everyone else around her seems obsessed with more trivial pursuits, Carrie is determined to rise above that. If only those trivial pursuits didn’t come wrapped up as cute boys, needy friends, and high school arch-nemeses.

The Wednesday Wars, by Gary D. Schmidt, is one of my all-time favorite coming of age stories, one that I think just about anyone would enjoy. Wonderfully written, it’s filled with clever humor, real heart and the surprising thoughtfulness of all great novels for young people. Holling Hoodhood is convinced that Mrs. Baker hates him, not the least because he’s the lone Presbyterian in a school filled with Catholic and Jewish students, his Wednesday afternoons spent in manual labor under her supervision while everyone else is off learning religion. After particular incidents spark Mrs. Baker's realization that Holling isn’t quite the hoodlum he appears to be, those labors, with the help of Shakespeare, become lessons on life, love, family, and the intricacies of human folly, both antique and modern.

And check out the sort-of sequel called Okay For Now, which follows one of Holling’s friends, another boy of surprising contrasts named Doug Swieteck, who discovers his own strengths and talents when his family moves to a new city.

What if you didn’t like who you’d become? What if you regretted the choices you’d made leading up to where you are now, like your eating habits (or lack thereof), your dating choices (great-looking but shallow), and your plans for your future (ew, really?). Then one day, you wake up in an ambulance and your memories of the past few years pretty much cut off right before you hit puberty? Welcome to the life of Naomi Porter, high school junior and teenage amnesiac. Enjoyably insightful, Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac examines the choices of a teen who is given a second chance, but one with all the consequences those kinds of second beginnings rarely explore. Like how to deal with the discovery that your parents are now divorced AND remarried, you’re one of the popular mean girls at school, AND you dress like one, too!  Naomi has a lot of catching up to do, and maybe…. a lot of changes to make.

An Abundance of Katherines, by John Green, follows Colin Singleton, anagram aficionado, mathematical prodigy and aspiring genius, whose nineteenth endeavor in love has ended unhappily, with a girl named (same as the eighteen girls before her) Katherine. At the urgings of his best friend, the funny and Judge Judy-obsessed Hasan, the teens take to the road, in part to help Colin get over his break-up with Katherine XIX a.k.a. Katherine the Great, and to help Colin find his Eureka moment, that thing that will help him finally achieve genius-hood, in particular his Theorem of Underlying Katherine Probability, which will predict the future of a relationship between two people. His calculations become a tiny bit more complicated with the introduction of non-Katherine variable, Lindsey, and her boyfriend, Colin, or as our protagonist and his friend dub him, TOC, “The other Colin.”

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon, is just as curious and evocative as the title, with a main character who is as interesting and endearing as he is odd and true-to-life. Fifteen-year-old Christopher John Francis Bone is a true fan of master observer Sherlock Holmes, an expert mathematician who can calculate prime numbers up to 7, 057, and he doesn’t like to be touched. And colors, those affect him like physical stimuli (don’t even get started with the color yellow). When his neighbor’s dog is found, dead in the garden with a kitchen utensil sticking out of it, and Christopher is initially blamed for it, he takes it upon himself to find the true culprit, a mystery case that will test not only his social skills (what few he has), but any skills really concerning the big world beyond his front door, leading him to uncover things, both terrifying and wonderful, that he never would have otherwise.

For a more comprehensive review, click here.

And another related read that I found particularly stellar, with a character similar to, yet very different from, Christopher, is Marcelo in the Real World, by Francisco X. Stork, whose main character, Marcelo (of course), a teen who hears music that no one else can hear, finds how he fits into the world that everyone else expects him to be a part of, the one that he has such a hard time relating to.

Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli, is another one of those books that I think should be a classic in young adult literature. Seen through the eyes of a high school boy named Leo, we’re introduced to newcomer Susan Caraway, or Stargirl, as she introduces herself, as delightfully unconventional and quirky as her self-given name. The entire school, steadfast conformists all, are taken aback at Stargirl’s enthusiastic disregard for popular opinion: she wears the unlikeliest clothes (from kimonos to buckskin to flapper-era wear), she sings Happy Birthday for people she doesn’t know (accompanied by an ukulele), and she cheers for both teams at sporting events, among many other things. First Leo, then the rest of the school body, find themselves enamored of this lone-drum marcher, and not a little changed, while Stargirl herself begins shifting polarities, but none of those things come without their own consequences, good and bad.

Click on any of the titles to visit the OC Public Libraries website to reserve a copy today!

For more information on Teen Read Week, visit the official site here.  Sponsored by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA).


Gluten-Free Cookbooks Galore – Dig In!

Many of us, for health or other reasons, are now eating gluten-free.  In other words, we have eliminated gluten from our diets.  But what is gluten?  The short definition is that gluten is a protein found in wheat and certain other grains.  For more information, please see the several articles regarding gluten in OC Public Libraries' Health and Wellness Resource Center database.  You can access this database at home using your library card number or at one of our branches without a library card.

As a result of eliminating gluten from my own diet I have discovered many wonderful grains and recipes that I may never have encountered otherwise.  Believe me, there is a LOT of yummy stuff out there that does not involve gluten!  Whether you can eat gluten or not, the many gluten-free cookbooks in OC Public Libraries’ collection are well worth exploring.  Below are a few which I have personally reviewed and/or used in my own kitchen.  Bon app├ętit!

The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook: Revolutionary Techniques, Ground-Breaking Recipes by America’s Test Kitchen (eds.)

One of the best features of this cookbook is a detailed opening section on gluten-free living, including a detailed description of gluten, why it aids in baking and cooking and how to cook well without it.  The authors also describe the foundational ingredients of a gluten-free pantry and give their evaluations of several commercial gluten-free flours, breads and pastas. The cookbook includes recipes for breakfast items, grains and pasta dishes, “comfort foods”, breads, cookies and bars, pies, other desserts and cakes.  There are many large photos showing finished products as well as smaller “step-by-step” photos for certain dishes.  Along with most recipes the authors have included a detailed section entitled “Why This Recipe Works” in which they discuss the challenges they faced when perfecting the recipe and how they resolved them with ingredients and techniques.

Roben Ryberg  began cooking with gluten-free flours almost two decades ago in order to help expand a gluten-intolerant friend’s diet.   The great strength of Ryberg’s cookbook is that she provides multiple variations for each recipe.   For example, she includes four different chocolate-chip cookie recipes: one using cornstarch, one using oat flour, one using potato starch and a fourth using rice flour.  For corn bread fans, she also presents four variations: two using cornmeal, one using millet flour and another using rice flour.   Before most recipes Ryberg offers helpful tips and notes on the effects that the ingredients will likely have on the final outcome.  The lack of photos in Roberg’s cookbook leaves all the more room for a huge selection of recipes covering appetizers, soups and stews, breakfast items, vegetable dishes, pies, tarts, cookies, other desserts, cakes, meat and poultry dishes, fish dishes, salads, an enormous array of breads and even a section on wedding cakes.

Often, those who are gluten-intolerant are also intolerant of dairy foods.  Hence, cookbooks that present recipes which are both gluten-free and dairy-free are invaluable for many, including myself.  Denise Jardine opens her cookbook with a nicely detailed discussion of dairy-related health issues, calcium and dairy food alternatives.  She includes recipes for breakfast items, snacks, salads, soups, fish dishes, meat and poultry dishes, vegetarian dishes, sauces, breads and desserts.  There are a few photos.  An extremely handy feature of Jardine’s book is that she notes in bold color-coded squares before each recipe whether it’s free of common allergens/irritants such as eggs, soy, nuts, sugars and/or oil.

A Gluten-Free Birthday for Me! by Sue Fliess

As this attractively illustrated picture/recipe book opens, we meet a cheerful little girl who is helping her family to get their house ready for her birthday celebration.  The author conveys the feeling that gluten-free living is very doable, keeping the mood light and fun throughout.  For example, when it comes time to bake the cake, the birthday girl smilingly notes, “Can’t use flour, / can’t eat wheat… / That’s got gluten!  What’s to eat? / Search the cookbooks… / time to bake -- / chocolate-cookie-crumble cake!”  The cake is a huge hit, and all the kids at the party want seconds.  After the story, the author includes two gluten-free dessert recipes, including one for the chocolate-cookie-crumble cake.  There are also some tips for friends and family of the gluten-intolerant, as well as a list of Web sites concerning gluten-intolerance.  

This is a great cookbook for eight to eleven-year-olds which includes recipes for seven different dishes and a flour mixture to use in general in gluten-free baking.  Some of the recipes included are blueberry pancakes, classic lasagna, cupcakes, chicken fingers and pineapple muffins.  There’s also a helpful opening section which provides kids with some tips on preparing to cook and defines many cooking terms.  Each recipe is accompanied by an inviting photo of the dish, a list of both ingredients and tools that will be needed and a step-by-step guide to making the dish.  Key steps are color-coded to match  illustrative photos of those steps.  This slim book is a great introduction to gluten-free cooking for children.

The above is just a small sampling of the numerous gluten-free cookbooks that we have for you to check out at OC Public Libraries.  And we are adding more!  Keep checking our catalog for new additions.


Move Over Hannibal Lecter

Monster, Vol. 1: The Perfect Edition is a re-release of a manga by Naoki Urasawa. The story revolves around Kenzo Tenma, a brilliant young Japanese neurosurgeon living in West Germany. Tenma’s talents gain him high esteem and the respect of his colleagues. As the head of the neurosurgery department, he has a promising career. Tenma learns his skills alone won’t keep him in his current position and he regrets some of the choices he has had to make along the way. The price for moving up the ladder so fast is to blindly follow the director’s politically biased guidelines. However, on one occasion Tenma, dissatisfied with the hospital administration, chooses to defy the director’s order to operate on a state official rather than a young boy who was there first; because of this "irresponsible" act, Tenma is demoted. Depressed, he resorts to continue working day to day, wishing the hospital director were dead.

What happens next? The hospital director and two other doctors mysteriously die. The boy whose life Tenma saves and jeopardizes his future for, disappears during the chaotic confusion of the sudden deaths and investigation. Tenma, of course, had a motive to kill the director, but no evidence is found so the case grows cold. Fast-forward to nine years later, Tenma is now chief of surgery. A hit and run patient, wanted by the police for questioning for his involvement in recent burglaries and brutal killings, is brought to the hospital. The man is terrified out of his wits because the "monster" is after him. The patient flees the hospital, with Tenma in hot pursuit. Once again, Tenma is forced to confront choices he made in the past.

Monster will appeal to avid manga readers and novices alike. The story and art are intriguing and intricate. The plot of is absorbing and full of twists. The character development is remarkable; even the minor characters have depth and are multidimensional. This volume reveals the identity of the monster and his connection to Tenma, but readers will have to wait to find out what made him the monster. Fans of suspense thrillers will be hooked! This fan can’t wait for the release of this edition’s next volume!


Read for the Record 2014

Who hasn't secretly wanted to set a world record? Surely you could come up with something offbeat like the world's biggest rubber band ball or longest yo-yo session. Sounds difficult though, doesn't it?

It might not be as hard as you think: just participate in Read for the Record®.  On October 21, 2014, readers across the country will unite to read the children's book Bunny Cakes by Rosemary Wells. They will celebrate literacy by taking part in the world's largest shared reading experience.

We're talking millions of adults and children, all reading the same book on the same day. The current world record was set just last year: 2,462,860 readers!

Record-breaking is just a small part of what Read for the Record is about. Jump Start, the sponsoring organization, uses the publicity from this event to draw attention to its goal of celebrating early literacy and making sure that every child is ready for kindergarten.

At the OC Public Libraries, our Read for the Record (RFTR) activities are coordinated through our Literacy office, READ/OC.  Every branch library that has signed up to sponsor a reading of Bunny Cakes in the week leading up to October 21 will receive a supply of paperback copies of the book that will be distributed, one per family, while supplies last. Libraries planning programs include: Cypress, La Habra, Costa Mesa, Rancho Santa Margarita, Irvine Heritage Park, Stanton, Fountain Valley,  Villa Park, Irvine University Park,  La Palma, Ladera Ranch, Tustin, El Toro, Garden Grove Regional, Aliso Viejo, Seal Beach, Brea, Mesa Verde, Westminster, Los Alamitos/Rossmoor and Laguna Niguel.  Contact your local library for details.


September is Library Card Sign-Up Month


It’s September! Join us in celebrating library card sign-up month. If you don’t already have a library card, visit your local OC Public Libraries branch and fill out an application. It is free to get a card; all you need is a photo ID and proof of your current California address.

Great books aren’t hard to find, but getting them at the library is the most economical method. While libraries are the best place to get books, libraries are for way more than just books. An OC Public Libraries' card gives you access to DVDs , music CDs, musical scores, foreign language collections, current magazines, language learning resources and much more!

Once you have a library card you don’t even need to visit a physical branch, you can access books and materials from the comfort of your home, while on a vacation, or at work! Your library card allows you to check out eBooks and eAudiobooks. It allows you to check out digital copies of magazines through Zinio. It allows you to access our free library research databases and resources. You can place holds on books, renew your materials, or review your account all online.

The library is a place for children, teens, and adults. Your public library is here to grow with you and support you no matter how old you are or what stage of life you are in. Whether you are a young child visiting us for storytime, a teen checking out books for school or an adult interested in our free WiFi and programs, we are here for you! Bookstores and online sources are great, but libraries are unique because we don’t just have the most current books and the most popular titles. We have a great mix of classic literature, current titles, local history, and special collections. We also have staff members who are eager to help you find your next favorite book. Our libraries have flexible hours, many of our branches hours include evenings and weekends. Our
eLibrary is open 24/7.

A library card the best bargain in town! Visit your local
OC Public Libraries branch and get a card today!