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GEPL Teens: What I Just Read – The Summer of Chasing Mermaids

Teens Blog BannerBy: Hannah Rapp, Teen Librarian

Blog Entry 171 - ImageI’ve been doing a lot of good reading this summer (we have a staff summer reading program too!) so once again, you get to hear my thoughts on another great, summery read!

What I Just Read: The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler

What’s It About (Jacket Description): The youngest of six talented sisters, Elyse d’Abreau was destined for stardom—until a boating accident took everything from her. Now, the most beautiful singer in Tobago can’t sing. She can’t even speak.

Seeking quiet solitude, Elyse accepts a friend’s invitation to Atargatis Cove. Named for the mythical first mermaid, the Oregon seaside town is everything Elyse’s home in the Caribbean isn’t: An ocean too cold for swimming, parties too tame for singing, and people too polite to pry—except for one.

Christian Kane is a notorious playboy—insolent, arrogant, and completely charming. He’s also the only person in Atargatis Cove who doesn’t treat Elyse like a glass statue. He challenges her to express herself, and he admires the way she treats his younger brother Sebastian, who believes Elyse is the legendary mermaid come to life.

When Christian needs a first mate for the Cove’s high-stakes Pirate Regatta, Elyse reluctantly stows her fear of the sea and climbs aboard. The ocean isn’t the only thing making waves, though—swept up in Christian’s seductive tide and entranced by the Cove’s charms, Elyse begins to wonder if a life of solitude isn’t what she needs. But changing course again means facing her past. It means finding her inner voice. And scariest of all, it means opening her heart to a boy who’s best known for breaking them . . .

Did I Like It: It had depth, a summer feel, and an engaging story, so obviously YES!

Thoughts: Despite the fact that The Summer of Chasing Mermaids is actually set in a pretty chilly town in Oregon, rather than someplace warm, it still felt like a good summer read to me. There was an ocean, beaches, no school, outdoor activities, romance, friendship – all the things I associate with the best summer reads (like Sarah Dessen’s Colby books!) So despite the hoodies and the freezing ocean, The Summer of Chasing Mermaids definitely satisfied my desire for a good seasonal read. But it dealt with some heavier issues as well, so don’t mistake “summery” for “frivolous” – the best summer books are never totally frivolous.

Elyse is dealing with some pretty heavy issues in this book. Literally losing the power to speak and – just as bad for her – to sing is a tough, tough thing, and is very recent in Elyse’s past. She’s dealing with the grief of losing something she loved, and the pain of trying to figure out whole new ways to communicate, whole new ways to be. Add into that the threat of her beloved aunt and cousin losing their home, right as it is becoming her home, and Elyse has lots on her mind. But despite that, she still finds time to laugh, to love, to make new friends, and to feel good about herself. Grief is complicated, and Elyse’s grieving and living showcase that beautifully.

This is a book where the details, the side characters, and the smaller plots really add up to more than the sum of their parts. Which is impressive, because each of those parts is pretty great. A highlight of the side plots and characters is Christian’s younger brother Sebastian, who must hold on to his sense of self despite the shaming he receives from others for not fitting in to the box of “normal little boy” that they want him to fit into. And he does – it’s not easy, and he gets down sometimes, but Sebastian never lets go of his love for mermaids and pretty things, his sweetness and affection for Elyse and Christian, or his love of Atargatis Cove itself. Other side elements are equally as rich, like the nuanced portrayal of non-physical abuse, the proud “feminist killjoy” friend Elyse makes, Elyse’s aunt Lemon and her coven, the stormy, cold Pacific, and more.

Overall, The Summer of Chasing Mermaids was a layered, complex read that still managed to feel perfectly in season with the summer. It’s a book that makes me want to read it again, so I can get more of the nuance, find things I didn’t see before, and have a chance to know the characters even better. And if that doesn’t convince you to pick it up, maybe one of Elyse’s poems that plays a key role in the story will make you want to hear more of her voice on the page.

plan B
plan Battered and Broken
plan Boxed in
plan Bailed on and Back from the dead
plan Better luck next time
plan Balled up
plan Backtracked
plan Backhanded
plan Backward steps
plan Blackballed, Black-marked, and Blacklisted
plan B-side, Bye Bye Baby
plan Belly up and Beat down
plan Bad days ahead and Best are far Behind”

-From The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Kids: What Is Your Phone Number?

By: Carolyn Wissmiller – Youth Department Programing Associate

Little Girl on Cell Phone

Photo From:


For the past 11 years, I’ve been registering kids for our Summer Reading program. Here’s one major cultural shift that’s occurred during that time: children no longer know their phone numbers.

Here are some of the responses I’ve received to the question, “What’s your phone number?”

  • I don’t know.
  • Mine or my mom’s? I don’t know my mom’s. I’m not sure what mine is.
  • Our home number? Mom, what’s our home number?
  • I don’t have a phone yet.

These responses came from all age groups – preschoolers through 8th graders.

I distinctly remember teaching my children our phone number when they were three-years-old. Of course, I have to admit it was our one and only phone number. It was a preschool assignment. If your child does not know your phone number, how will they reach you in an emergency? They don’t have to memorize every number, but make sure they know at least one parent’s number.

Here are some website with tips and tricks for helping your child learn phone numbers:

Lasting Thumbprints: 
Fun Way To Learn Phone Number
8 Ways to Teach Kids Addresses and Phone Numbers

Learning Phone Numbers

Your Modern Family:
Teach Kids Their Name and Number

Posted in GEPL Kids

GEPL Teens: Teens Write – Fandoms

Teens Blog BannerBy: Elizabeth W., Teen Blogger

Blog Entry 170 - ImageFandoms have recently become a major part of how people interact with a book, movie, or TV show. In many ways a fandom is just a place to talk about a work you like with other fans. However, fandoms do have some serious negative aspects that we don’t often realize.

Recently in an interview Young Adult authors Cassandra Clare and Maggie Stiefvater explained the negative aspects of their fandoms. Each said that they had been insulted by fans or felt dehumanized by them. Their fans sometimes seemed to care more about the characters in their novels than about them as people. They have received threats from fans of their work who care deeply about their books but don’t seem to respect them. Both authors feel that they are particularly targeted like this as women authors.

It all comes down to respecting people online. In a fandom, it’s easy for someone to say things that they wouldn’t say to someone face to face. Although fans love the work that their authors create they sometimes don’t seem to respect that author as a fellow human being. In the interview, Stiefvater said, “I’m seen as either a demon or a queen, and the reality is somewhere in between.” People in fandoms often don’t realize that their overzealous emotional responses to books and movies can seriously hurt people’s feelings. Fans should support authors and creators, not tear them down. Fandoms unfortunately produce strong emotions and an anonymous online environment where people feel they can say whatever they want without repercussions.

I know that this revelation about the darker side of fandoms has impacted my view of them. It’s important to always stay polite and respectful of other people, both authors and other fans, when we are participating in a fandom. While authors love when people engage with their work in interesting ways and enjoy their books and movies, they certainly do not appreciate the hate that often comes with it. All of us need to make sure that we are interacting with others online in a way that is courteous and kind. Even if someone wants to critique an author or disagree with them, there are ways of doing that without hurting that author’s feelings or making them feel unsafe. I’m not saying to stop interacting with fandoms. Fandoms can be a really great way of connecting with other people and appreciating a work of fiction, a movie, or a TV series. However, I do believe that we can make fandoms an even more positive environment by respecting and appreciating each other online.

-Elizabeth W.

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Tweens: Tween Book Review – The Maze Runner


What’s your first name and school?: Joey; Glen Crest.

What are you reviewing?: Maze Runner

What did you review?: A book.

What did you like about it?: I like that when there was a calm part James Dashner always makes it exiting. I would rate this book 5 stars because of all the excitement, you are always wanting to read on after the first words of the book.

Who would like this?: Thrillseakers.

On a scale from yuck to best ever, how much did you like it?: Best ever.

Posted in GEPL Tweens

GEPL Tweens: Tween Movie Review – Dark Knight Rises


The Dark Knight Rises Movie PosterWhat’s your first name and school?: Andrew; Hadley

What are you reviewing?: Dark Knight Rises

What did you review?: A movie.

What did you like about it?: The Dark Knight is about Batman hen is hated for being the bad guy in the Dark Knight. Ban is the bad guy who try to hurt Batman and take over the city. He is the guy who came out of the hole as a kid and tried to hurt the people who put him there.

Who would like this?: Everyone.

On a scale from yuck to best ever, how much did you like it?: Good.

Posted in GEPL Tweens, Tweens Reviews

GEPL Teens: What I Just Read – Honey Girl

Teens Blog BannerBy: Hannah Rapp, Teen Librarian

Blog Entry 169 - ImageI’ve been on a kick this summer of reading (big surprise) summery books! This season has been full of flip-flops, beaches, water, and lazy days for me – at least when I’m reading! This latest What I Just Read was definitely a highlight of all that seasonal reading.

What I Just Read: Honey Girl by Lisa Freeman

What’s It About (Jacket Description): How to survive California’s hottest surf spot: Never go anywhere without a bathing suit. Never cut your hair. Never let them see you panic.

The year is 1972. Fifteen-year-old Haunani “Nani” Grace Nuuhiwa is transplanted from her home in Hawaii to Santa Monica, California after her father’s fatal heart attack. Now the proverbial fish-out-of-water, Nani struggles to adjust to her new life with her alcoholic white (haole) mother and the lineup of mean girls who rule State Beach.

Following “The Rules”—an unspoken list of dos and don’ts—Nani makes contact with Rox, the leader of the lineup. Through a harrowing series of initiations, Nani not only gets accepted into the lineup, she gains the attention of surf god, Nigel McBride. But maintaining stardom is harder than achieving it. Nani is keeping several secrets that, if revealed, could ruin everything she’s worked so hard to achieve. Secret #1: She’s stolen her dad’s ashes and hidden them from her mom. Secret #2: In order to get in with Rox and her crew, she spied on them and now knows far more than they could ever let her get away with. And most deadly of all, Secret #3: She likes girls, and may very well be in love with Rox.

Did I Like It: It was the perfect summer read. Do I need to say more?

Thoughts: There’s so much to unpack in Honey Girl, which is impressive for a relatively quick and beachy read. First of all, I really got into the historical fiction aspect. I’ve never known much about the 70s, beyond watching That 70s Show, and not surprisingly, surfer culture in southern California was definitely different than the small-town Midwest culture portrayed on that show. I didn’t have to believe in astrology to be interested in how Nani embraced it, I didn’t need to own a mis-matched crochet bikini to picture how perfectly 70s it was, and I certainly didn’t need to know how to surf to become completely immersed in the culture portrayed. Because it really was a whole culture – the rules, the hierarchies, the divisions. Reading about the beach culture Nani lives in was almost like reading a fantasy or sci-fi novel, because it was such a completely different world than any that I’ve lived in. The novel is semi-autobiographical, so I believe most of the vivid cultural details. And this surf/beach culture was so much fun to read about that I hardly would have cared if parts of the book weren’t quite accurate.

Another thing that really stood out to me about Honey Girl was how different and refreshing it was to see a sympathetic protagonist who was unabashedly interested in being popular. So often in the books I’ve read, the popular group are portrayed as bad, and the people who want to be popular as misguided or desperate. Freeman certainly didn’t shy away from showing the ugly sides of the popular and competitive world that Nani is entering. But she also showed the good sides of the popular teens, and didn’t seem to be judging Nani for her desire to be part of their group, and to be popular. Her desire to be part of the ruling clique didn’t make her bad, although it sometimes made her behave badly, and it was easy to empathize with Nani’s goals. Despite, or perhaps because of, the personal struggles and grief Nani was dealing with, her interactions with “the lineup” of popular girls and with surf culture in general still seemed important and worthwhile to read about. To me, that really demonstrates Freeman’s ability as a writer, and the incredible, believable complexity and depth of Nani as a character.

Honey Girl was the ideal summer read for me – high enough stakes and serious enough issues to make it engrossing to read, but with a lightness as well, and a beach setting so well described that I could practically feel the sun, sand, and ocean. It’s not necessarily the best or even my favorite book that I read this summer, but of all the books I’ve binged on lately, I think Honey Girl is the one I’m most likely to pick up again another summer. I highly recommend grabbing it while the sun is still out (or in a few months when you need to pretend it is!)

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Tweens: Tween Movie Review – Chasing Mavericks


Chasing Mavericks Movie PosterWhat’s your first name and school?: Eric; Hadley Jr. High

What are you reviewing?: Chasing Mavericks

What did you review?: A Movie.

What did you like about it?: I liked that the book was about surfing in the ocean, and I don’t really like surfing but I like to swim in the ocean. Also it was a little scarey at the end because he almost dies but he did not. And that is why I like the movie.

Who would like this?: People who like the ocean and surfing.

On a scale from yuck to best ever, how much did you like it?: Amazing.

Posted in GEPL Tweens, Tweens Reviews

GEPL Tweens: Tween Book Review – The Missing Pieces of Me


The Missing Pieces of Me by Jean Van LeeuwenWhat’s your first name and school?: Merry Lai; Hadley

What are you reviewing?: The Missing Pieces of Me

What did you review?: A book.

What did you like about it?: I like everything about it. I liked that it was a mystery book. It was my favorite book I have read. I felt bad for Winnie because her mom was always mad at her because she never did anything right. Even if she tried to do something right, it always turned out wrong.

Who would like this?: Ages 8-12.

On a scale from yuck to best ever, how much did you like it?: The Best Book

Posted in GEPL Tweens, Tweens Reviews

GEPL Tweens: Tween Book Review – Red Thread Sisters


Red Thread SistersWhat’s your first name and school?: Aisha; col

What are you reviewing?: Red Thread Sisters  

What did you review?: A book.

What did you like about it?: I liked how it talked about sisterly friendship,and how a red thread connected Wen to her new family. I also liked how Wen works so hard to find a family for her best friend. Even when Wens new sister Emily was begging for her to play she found a way to do both.

Who would like this?: My best friend.

On a scale from yuck to best ever, how much did you like it?: Best.

Posted in GEPL Tweens, Tweens Reviews

GEPL Tweens: Tween Movie Review – Minions


What’s your first name and school?: Quinn; Hadley

What are you reviewing?: Minions

What did you review?: A movie.

What did you like about it?: The movie Minions is about the minions from Despicable Me 1 and 2 with out their leader Gru. Unfortunately the movie wasn’t as good as I expected it to be. For example one of the reasons was that the movie couldn’t get me to really get my hopes up when one of the minions was about to get hurt.

Who would like this?: Someone who likes Penguins of Madagascar.

On a scale from yuck to best ever, how much did you like it?: O.K

Posted in GEPL Tweens, Tweens Reviews