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Boston, Massachusetts, Site of 2013 NCTE Convention and ALAN Workshop
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ALAN Online News - April 2013
Scenes from a Book Fair

They come into the library, and their eyes light up. There's never enough time to browse, they tell me, as they start a stack of new releases and time-tested favorites.

"Have you read this one?" "Is there another copy of the book about the cyborg? I saw it on the video." "Is there a new series I'd like?" "Hey, that vampire book is on sale for $3!" "Can I pick these up on Friday?" "I love young adult literature. I like to know what the kids are reading, but it's not just that. I just enjoy reading it for myself."

Under the cashier's table, the stacks of paperbacks multiply. Waiting till Friday. The day teachers get paid. 

Teachers, subs, practicum students all profess their devotion to YA literature, knowing they're among friends here in the library. So many books and so little time - what a great problem to have!

Anne McLeod
Editor, ALAN Online News
In This Issue
The Gift of an ALAN Workshop
TextMessages Podcast
ALAN Merchandising Committee
Spring Break Reading
Speak Loudly
Missing your issue of TAR?
Please email membership secretary Karin Perry.

Gift Yourself with an ALAN Workshop

I believe the best gift you can give yourself is an ALAN 
Workshop. Boston in November is this year's treasure. What does an ALAN Workshop offer you? My first workshop was Denver in 1999. It was author Chris Crutcher, the ALAN breakfast  speaker, who was the carrot that lured me there. What I discovered is  that an ALAN conference has SO many more treasures to savour than  just the breakfast gathering. 
In Boston you will meet  authors that you and your students or teen book club attendees  
absolutely love. But you will also hear these authors deliver inspiring,  sometimes deeply moving, and/or funny speeches that affirm the value  of what you are doing daily. In addition, you are bound to meet authors with whom you may not yet be familiar but who will peak your interest and add to the arsenal of book titles you want in your classroom or  
library. In addition publishers will provide you with a box full of new  books that you can take home to share with the youth and colleagues in your life. 
The reason I return yearly is to reconnect with folks who  share my passion for adolescent literature and its creators and  supporters. I hope you will join me in Boston and discover for yourself the very precious gift that an ALAN conference is.
- Barb Dean, ALAN Board of Directors

A YA Literature Podcast with Jennifer Buehler
This month we visit with Jennifer Buehler, whose TextMessages podcast about reading recommendations for teens is  one of many resources on, a site sponsored by NCTE and the International Reading Association (IRA). 
Jennifer, how long have you been part of the TextMessages project?
I began doing this job five years ago, taking over from Scott Filkins, an NCTE staffer who did the first five episodes. Together with Lisa Fink, NCTE's coordinator of ReadWriteThink projects, Scott and I work together to get the show done each month. 
How do you develop ideas for the podcast?
Each summer the three of us brainstorm a range of topics to explore over the coming year: things like themed text sets, new and noteworthy titles, topics and issues related to young adult literature (such as censorship), and authors I'd like to interview. Then each month I search for titles that fit our planned topic, or at the last minute I propose an alternative idea based on what I've been reading lately. I try to bring listeners in-depth commentary on the newest high-quality books for teens in diverse range of genres, topics, and styles. 

Getting to talk with authors on a regular basis sounds like a lot of fun. 
Interviewing authors has been one of the highlights of my experience, and I hope I have gotten better at this over time. My job is an amazing one in that it gives me an excuse to just walk up to an author and ask about a possible collaboration for the podcast. I've interviewed Laurie Halse Anderson, John Green, Matt de la Pena, Coe Booth, Nancy Werlin, Sara Zarr, E. Lockhart, Deborah Wiles, Matthew Quick, A.S. King, Francisco X. Stork, Patricia McCormick, and Chris Crutcher. A forthcoming show this summer will feature Kristin Cashore.

The techies among us would like to have some details about how the podcast is created each month. What audiorecording programs and/or devices do you use, especially when the show features an author interview?
Each year at the NCTE Annual Convention, I work with publishers to line up three or four author interviews. Interviews are usually about 45 minutes long; after I get home I edit them down to fit the format of a 20-minute podcast. At the conference I simply use a digital voice recorder to record the interview. At home, I record my part on my laptop using a free program called Audacity and a low-tech microphone that plugs in to the laptop through a USB jack. I rely on Scott Filkins to paste together the clips and make it all sound good. Occasionally I interview an author over the telephone using the NCTE conference call recording system. The sound quality is never as good, but I sometimes go that route as a way to get an author on the show who might not be slated to go to NCTE.

I couldn't do this work without Scott, who now works as the show's producer. After I choose the books or author interview clips, write a script for myself, record the show, and send him the audio files, he puts it all together with the musical intro and outro and loads the new content onto the ReadWriteThink website. The support from Scott and Lisa -- and their flexibility as I sometimes change up topics and struggle to meet deadlines -- makes it possible for me to keep doing the work year after year alongside my work as an English Education professor. 
Help spread the word about TextMessages by forwarding the link or posting the attached flier on your department's bulletin board. 

ALAN Merchandise
The ALAN Merchandising Committee is Looking for a Few Good (Wo)Men

If you have graphic design and/or merchandising experience and are interested in helping
to shape the public image of ALAN, you might be just the person the ALAN Merchandising
Committee needs. Committee members will design and create apparel and accessories that will promote and advertise ALAN (hats, t-shirts, tote bags, mugs, etc.) that will be sold online at the ALAN Marketplace. The 2013 committee will also be charged with creating a design(s) to celebrate a very important milestone - ALAN's 40th birthday.

Interested parties should submit their self-nomination via this Google form to co-chairs Ricki Ginsberg ( and Daria Plumb ( by April 15th, 2013.


- Daria Plumb, ALAN Merchandising Committee

Spring Break Reading 


For some, spring break is a time for sand and surf. For others, it's a time to make a dent in the stack of books that's been growing on our nightstands. Here are a few recommended reads, courtesy of just a few  of ALAN's YA aficionados. 


Mark Letcher, ALAN Board of Directors

Fingerprints of You, by Kristen-Paige Madonia (Simon & Schuster, 2012)

Seventeen-year-old Lemon has known only one move after another, as her mother Stella drifts from job to job and boyfriend to boyfriend.When Lemon herself becomes pregnant, she tries to prepare for the baby as best she can.  Curious about her own father, she travels with her friend Emmy to San Francisco. Once Lemon meets Ryan, pieces of the puzzle begin to move into place - not cleanly or neatly, but Lemon does see how her impressions of her father, and of her mother, have been misguided in many respects. Madonia slowly develops her characters, and their relationships to each other over the course of the novel, so that their growth is completely genuine. Suitable for older teens, it's a supremely-crafted novel about love, forgiveness, and understanding how our pasts shape our present and future. 

Wendy Glenn, ALAN Past President and Chair of Anti-Censorship Committee

The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door, by Karen Finneyfrock (Viking, 2013)

Celia Door enters freshman year cloaked in intentional Darkness.  Donning her black hoodie, eyeliner, and boots, she watches the world of school from the fringes, plotting sweet revenge against the girl who pushed her to this lonely place.  When Drake arrives from New York City and befriends Celia because of her unique character, Celia's assumptions about self and other are challenged-and revenge doesn't result in the outcome she expects or desires. Filled with wit, humor, and honesty, Celia's voice fuels reader's considerations of identity and perception.


Anne McLeod, Editor, ALAN Online News

The Difference between You and Me by Madeleine George (Viking, 2012)
Jesse, a 14-year-old who is very much out of the closet, falls for Emily, the student council vice president who is dating a football player and wants  to keep their relationship confined to the remote restroom of the public library where they meet each week. Things get even more complicated when the girls end up on opposite sides of a debate about whether their school should accept funds from a big box discount  retail shop that wants to come to town. Jesse finds an ally in Esther, who shares her activist spirit. Even as her passion for Emily grows, Jesse is forced to think about what she wants and deserves in a relationship. George takes on serious topics with a deft touch in this sweet, smart, and well written read for young teens. 


Jennifer Buehler, ALAN Award Committee member; former ALAN Board member 

Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein (Hyperion, 2012)

It took several tries before I got caught up in the story of Code Name Verity. I think one reason may be because this book is many different things at once. On the one hand it's a World War II thriller where the two main characters are girls. One is a pilot, and one is a spy. Together they run air missions into Nazi-occupied France, delivering supplies and gathering intelligence for the Allied Forces. At its core, the book is the story of their friendship. At the same time, it's an intense work of historical research with tons of information about planes, airfields, and wireless code. This book reminds us that the truth is elusive and that a person's will can be tested in unimaginable ways. But it also reminds us that the bonds of friendship are strong, and individuals can remain true to each other even in the most horrible circumstances. Code Name Verity is a moving and remarkable page-turner, and an inspiring account of friendship.  (Excerpted from Jennifer's podcast, TextMessages)


Joan Kaywell, former ALAN President, Membership Secretary, Newsletter Editor

This Is Not a Drill, by  Beck McDowell (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2012)

This was a tough read for me, especially after the Sandy Hook shootings.  That is not to say the book wasn't written well or engaging, it's just that it hit me emotionally very hard and the feelings have stayed with me.  Two teens, who used to be an item, are coincidentally partnered as volunteers to assist with an elementary class.  An estranged parent with PTSD loses control, pulls a gun, and holds all of the children hostage over a custody issue regarding his son.  The story is told from two alternating points of view (Emery and Jake) as they are the ones left to try to save the children. 


Barb Dean, ALAN Board of Directors
Revolution, by Jennifer Donnelly (Read by Emily Janice Card & Emma Bering. Random House/Listening Library, 2010)
I am drawn to novels into which I can dig my teeth down deep and enter the inner terrain of my own heart and spirit. My spring break reading provided such a story. Jennifer Donnelly's novel Revolution was an auditory extravaganza that transformed the many miles I spent behind the wheel enroute to my spring break retreat. Revolution is a 
multi-layered story narrated by two teenagers, Andi Alpers and Alexandrine Paradis. Andi is a modern day girl who has encountered one of life's brutal assaults - the death of her younger brother. Alexandrine is an eighteenth century girl caught in the agony of watching her charge Louis Charles, the son of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI navigate the horrors of the French Revolution. Both believe they are responsible for the tragedy that occurs in their lives. This wonderful novel offers complex characters, gripping historical details 
that underscore the ever present influence of history and a view of the world of classical music and its influence on modern day music. What touched me most deeply was Donnelly's heart-breaking portrayal of the redemptive power of love and of the terrible sacrificial price love entails. 


Speak Loudly

Respecting Different Perspectives


 A few weeks ago in my Advanced Young Adult Literature course at the university,my students and I read Adam Rapp's 33 Snowfish (Candlewick, 2003) as part of a discussion on literary censorship in schools. The title centers on the experiences of three disenfranchised young people whose bad decisions are both caused and critiqued by the institutional norms that define their role in society.  The title contains much that adult readers might choose to censor-explicit discussions of sexuality, prostitution, drug use, profanity, violence, crime, etc.


Conversations around this title reminded me that, even among those opposed to censorship, there exists a continuum of perspectives on the issue.  This was evidenced in students' responses to the novel resulting from an activity I call, Walk the Line. In preparation, I place a long piece of masking tape in a straight line on the floor of our classroom.  I ask students to begin by standing on the line as they listen to various statements.  As they determine whether or not they agree or disagree with each statement, they move away from the line in varying degrees representing the strength of their convictions.  Those who agree fully with the statement remain on the line, and conversation across the group follows.


The statements considered in our recent discussion of 33 Snowfish included:

  • This novel features admirable characters.
  • This novel addresses ideas and themes worth pondering.
  • This novel is offensive.
  • This novel is well written.
  • This novel should not be present in a school classroom or library.

This activity yielded rich conversation about character and author motive and whether or not intention matters, the definition(s) of "inappropriate," considerations of quality as enough to justify texts containing elements that often come under attack, and teaching in ways that are responsive to the needs of kids who inhabit varying communities. 


Although all students agreed that the novel deserves a place in the hands of kids, they disagreed on just how that might be achieved.  For some, the novel would serve as a literature circle text infused in thematic units related to identities or oppression or hope in darkness. For others, the novel would hold a place on the classroom library shelf and be open for any student to access during independent reading. And for some, the text would be given only to specific readers selected by the instructor. Conversations revealed, too, the various forces that might influence these perspectives on censorship and accompanying classroom action-from the social ("This novel is essential reading in the way it implicates our society and treatment of young people on the fringes.") to the practical ( "I would limit use of this novel, as I don't want to lose my job.").


Relative to our organization and its members, the conversation also raised additional questions that might be worth considering in our own reflections on censorship:

  • Is censorship ever justifiable?
  • If so, under what circumstances?
  • If so, who decides?
  • As educators, how do we self-censor in the text choices we make?
  • On what do we base our decisions?
  • Do these decisions reflect the best interests of the young people in our care?


As we ponder, I wonder where our responses will fall along the continuum.  Enjoy the conversation!


- Wendy Glenn, Chair, ALAN's Anti-Censorship Committee


Calls for Papers and Proposals 


From The ALAN Review


Fall 2013 Theme: Reading and Using Nonfiction Young Adult Literature

So often our schools tend to privilege the reading of fiction over the reading of nonfiction. But what about those kids who want to read something other than the novels we assign? What about the students who crave nonfiction? The theme of this issue asks us to consider the role of nonfiction in the classroom and in the personal choice reading of adolescents. What is it about nonfiction that grabs students? What role can/should nonfiction play in classrooms? What nonfiction have you used that empowered adolescents? What is it that we must consider or celebrate when we teach/use/ recommend nonfiction? This theme is meant to be open to interpretation, and we welcome manuscripts addressing pedagogy as well as theoretical concerns. General submissions are also welcome. Submission deadline extended to April 30, 2013.


Summer 2014 Theme: How to Teach Young Adult Literature in an Age of Censorship and Common Core?

In a time of extreme criticism and scrutiny of texts that are being used in the classroom, what are proponents of young adult literature to do? This issue seeks to address that question with submissions that offer very practical ways of incorporating (or continuing to incorporate) young adult literature in the classroom. What ways are you teaching young adult literature? How are you using young adult literature to meet or exceed what is being required in the common core? What experiences have you had with censorship, and how have you dealt with them? How can beginning teachers approach the inclusion of YAL in their classrooms to take advantage of the power of young adult literature to improve reading skills and foster a lifelong love of reading?

Submission deadline: November 1, 2013.


Fall 2014: Open Call

The last 40 years have seen an explosion of young adult literature novels. From vampires to zombies, biographies to poetry, video games to movies, YAL is a considerable force in the world of publishing and media. This issue is an open call issue so we ask you to consider young adult literature writ large. What is it that we know and can say about this field? Who are the authors and texts that are shaping the current and next generations of readers? What has changed or stayed the same about young adult literature? What are the trends, themes, or topics that capture the attention or imagination of adolescent readers? This theme is meant to be open to interpretation, and we welcome manuscripts addressing pedagogy as well as theoretical concerns. General submissions are also welcome. Submission deadline: March 1, 2014.


Stories from the Field

Editors' Note: Stories from the Field invites readers to share a story about young adult literature. This section features brief vignettes (approximately 300 words) from practicing teachers and librarians who would like to share their interactions with students, parents, colleagues, and administrators around young adult literature. Please send your stories



ALAN Online News
Items needed for this newsletter: ALAN organizational news items, YA Links in the News, candidates for Spotlight on an ALAN Member, feature articles about programs in your area that promote teen reading or young adult literature. Photographs are welcome as well. Please make sure to have media permission of the subjects and send a photo credit. Please send to Deadline for next newsletter is May 10, 2013.

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