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  • May 2019
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Spotlighting “In Darkness”

Earthquake, I think, cos it’s the only thing that could smash everything up like this. When we were little, my sister and me, we would make cities out of the mud in the gutters of Site Soley, and then we would say we were dinosaurs or earthquakes and stomp those cities to nothing.

The devastation I pictured in my head never got close to this, though. From above, Haiti looks like it’s been wiped off the earth by an angry god.

In Darkness, Nick Lake

in-darkness-printz120Every winter, committees of book-obsessed library folk convene in secret to discuss the hundreds of titles published in the previous year and bestow honors on the best of the bunch. The Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature (which we’ve blogged about here and there) is presented by one such committee each year to honor the best book written for teens.

The winner of the 2013 Printz Award?  In Darkness by Nick Lake—a dark tale of slavery &  freedom, voudou & reincarnation, and life & death in Haiti.

The story begins with a 15 year-old boy named Shorty who lives in Site Soley, one of the most dangerous, poverty-stricken slums in the world. When his twin sister is captured by a rival gang, Shorty finds himself drawn into the fold of the chimères—violent gangsters from his neighborhood who run their own system of law and order amid the chaos of life in the slum. Soon his dangerous activities within the gang land him in the hospital with a gunshot wound in the arm. That’s when the 2010 earthquake hits, devastating much of Haiti and leaving Shorty trapped deep beneath the rubble of the collapsed hospital—in total darkness.

Toussaint l'Ouverture, leader of the 1791 Slave Rebellion in Haiti.

Toussaint l’Ouverture, leader of the 1791 Slave Rebellion in Haiti.

As he struggles to survive among the rats and bodies around him, Shorty clutches a pwen—a stone given to him by one of the gang’s leaders, which is said to be imbued with a god’s spirit, keeping its owner safe from death. In the darkness, Shorty contemplates the voudou beliefs of his people, which hold that the boundaries between the living and the dead are not as fixed as they may appear. As hunger and thirst overwhelm him, Shorty begins having strange flashbacks into another man’s life as his story is interwoven with the tale of Toussaint l’Ouverture, a Haitian slave who led the 1791 rebellion that transformed Haiti into a free society.

How is it possible for Shorty to experience the memories of a man who has been dead for hundreds of years? Is the ghost of Toussaint l’Ouverture descending on Shorty to lead him into the land of the dead under the sea? Are their two souls linked by some strange twist of voudou magic? Or is Shorty just slowly wasting away into madness as he waits to die in the darkness?

Grab a copy of the book to see what happens. Does In Darkness measure up to your favorites from 2012?

Start your 2013 reading lists with YALSA’s new award winners!

Over the weekend, librarians from all over the country gathered in Seattle to make some decisions about the best books of the year for teens and children.  The results of these meetings (and a year of reading everything that the committee members can get their hands/eyes on) are reflected in a variety of awards and book lists, giving readers a great resource for filling up their to-read shelf on Goodreads, or equivalent listmaking app, including paper and pencil.

(Some of the lists won’t be live until later in the week so check back at this link.)


These are the books published for teens last year that are deemed to have the best literary merit.

This year’s winner:


“Fifteen-year-old Shorty awakens beneath the ruins of a crumbled hospital in Haiti, where his weakening mind begins flashing back through his own violent history, the loss of his twin sister, and his mystical connection to Toussaint L’Ouverture, the nineteenth-century revolutionary who helped liberate his country.”

Former winners:

Have you read any of these great books?

wherethings  goingbovine  jellicoeroad


This award goes to the best book published last year by a first time author. No pressure, right?


When the death of a royal prince threatens the fragile peace between humans and dragons in Goredd, court musician Seraphina is drawn into the murder investigation. But even as she aids Prince Lucian in his mission to uncover the murderer, Seraphina conceals a dangerous secret of her own—her half-human, half-dragon heritage.

Or try out these previous winners:

freakobserver   flash burnout  cursedark



The Alex Award honors books published for adults that teenagers might really identify with and enjoy.

There is not one single book that wins an Alex, but a list.  Here are some highlights

tellthewolves  pure    dahmer     caringcreepy

There are also lists honoring the best quick, fun reads, comics, audiobooks, and more… explore them and fill up your to-read list for next year! By then there will be even more lists to peruse…


– Tessa, CLP – East Liberty

Vote for your favorite YA book of 2012!

Every January, a bunch of library folk get together at their semi-annual meeting and announce the winners of annual YA book awards.   This is something I greatly look forward to each year, and spend early January scrambling to read as many of the award contenders as possible, as well as perusing YA blogs for predictions.

For a comprehensive list of the panoply of awards for young adult materials, click here.

I’ve read many opinions from bloggers, librarians, so-called-experts, etc., but I want to know what YOU (the real experts at enjoying YA literature) have to say!  Vote for your pick for the 2013 Printz Award.  The Michael L. Printz Award is given annually to the “best book written for teens, based entirely on its literary merit”.  Vote now–do it!

I do apologize if your favorite book is not included in my list–please comment on this post with your pick.

We need your opinion! Be a graphic novel reviewer.

Every year, the Young Adult Services Association, a national association of Young Adult Librarians/Library Staff/Library Advocates, puts out lists of the best media of the year in a bunch of different subjects.  Don’t like long, slow books? Take a look at the Quick Picks list. Prefer movies? We have Fabulous Films for you. Want to read nonfiction? They have it. Into books published for adults?  They’re onto that too.

There is also a list of the best graphic novels published for teens, and that’s where we need your help.  In January, this list is voted on through a committee.  I’ve volunteered to be on it, so all this year I’ve been reading comics and graphic novels to find what I think are the best ones that teens would like.  The rest of the committee and other graphic novel readers have also been nominating titles for the list.  But we need to know what the teen readers really think. After all, we’re making the list for you.

If you want to let the committee know what you think of the nominated titles, you can do so by

1. finding a nominated title by looking at the list

2. getting it from your library (or asking me if I have a reading copy you can borrow)

3. reading it

4. using this online form to tell me what you thought of it.

Then I can take your opinions with me to help us decide what really are the Great Graphic Novels of this year.

Have a title that’s not nominated yet, but you think it should be?  You can nominate it using this form – but it has to have been published after September 2011.

Happy reading,

-Tessa, CLP – East Liberty


Brought to you by cuteoverload.com

Aw! I feel like this bunny whenever Spring rolls around. Days get longer, and my attention span does the opposite–just in time for final projects, finals, and if you’re like me–summer classes. Sound familiar?

I’ve resorted to chugging coffee in order to stay on-task, so I can’t help but notice that the lack of mug on that bunny’s desk.

Fortunately, the last day of school is coming up, along with summer reading, because my reading habits change in the Spring, too. Sure, I’ve still got a big pile of books that I think look cool, but unless they have pictures (as many of my favorites do), read to me as the awesome audiobooks on this list would, or are pretty short, I can’t get all the way through.

Summer will be here in a flash, and I know that with it will come more time to read. In the meantime, I’m relying on shorts to get me through the last days of school! Get it? “Cause you wear shorts when it’s hot outsi–yeah, okay. I should never have gone there.

Short stories are a great go-to when you don’t have time or aren’t excited about something longer. Plus, they’re like checking out one book but getting a bunch. Check out the short stories tag in our LibraryThing catalog or one of these. Another idea? Check out the magazine collections at your local branch or–for something with a more personal touch–the zines collection at Main.




And the Winners Are: The 2012 Michael L. Printz Award

On Monday, January 23rd, the American Library Association announced the award-winning books written in 2011.  For those of you who fondly remember hunting through the shelves of your library as a child looking for the round foil medals of Newbery and Caldecott award books, I have good news for you.  There’s a teen award called the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature that is given out to a book that “exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature”–  a.k.a. a really good teen book!  Check your library’s shelves for the four titles that will be sporting a new Printz award sticker or reserve a copy today!
Seventeen-year-old Cullen’s summer in Lily, Arkansas, is marked by his cousin’s death by overdose, an alleged spotting of a woodpecker thought to be extinct, failed romances, and his younger brother’s sudden disappearance.
Sixteen-year-old Min Green writes a letter to Ed Slaterton in which she breaks up with him, documenting their relationship and how items in the accompanying box, from bottle caps to a cookbook, foretell the end.
When the twelve-year war between the Uplanders and Downlanders is over and Cam returns home to his village, questions dog him, from how he lost an arm to why he was the only one of his fellow soldiers to survive, such that he must leave until his own suspicions are resolved.
Nineteen-year-old returning champion Sean Kendrick competes against Puck Connolly, the first girl ever to ride in the annual Scorpio Races, both trying to keep hold of their dangerous water horses long enough to make it to the finish line.
~Kelly, CLP – Woods Run
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