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Middle School Reviews: Fish in a Tree

Check Out Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly HuntWhat’s your name?: Elsa

What school do you attend?: Glen Crest

What grade are you in school?: 6th grade

What are you reviewing?: A book

What’s the title of what you are reviewing?: Fish in a Tree

Did you like it?: Yes, Fish in a Tree is a very good book. The main character, Ally, hated reading. No one believed in her, but when her old teacher left and Mr. D came he had faith in her and later, did some research only to find out Ally is dyslexic.

Who would like this?: Someone who likes books that show persistent characters.

How many stars would you rate this?: Four Stars

Posted in Middle School Reviews

What I Just Read – Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel

By: Hannah Rapp, Young Adult Librarian

Check Out Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel by Sara FarizanA few years ago, I read a haunting debut novel called If You Could Be Mine, and was thrilled to hear that the author had a new book coming out. Somehow though, I never got around to her second offering until this summer, and boy am I glad I did.

What I Just Read: Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan

What’s It About (Jacket Description): High-school junior Leila has made it most of the way through Armstead Academy without having a crush on anyone, which is something of a relief. Her Persian heritage already makes her different from her classmates; if word got out that she liked girls, life would be twice as hard. But when a sophisticated, beautiful new girl, Saskia, shows up, Leila starts to take risks she never thought she would, especially when it looks as if the attraction between them is mutual. Struggling to sort out her growing feelings and Saskia’s confusing signals, Leila confides in her old friend, Lisa, and grows closer to her fellow drama tech-crew members, especially Tomas, whose comments about his own sexuality are frank, funny, wise, and sometimes painful. Gradually, Leila begins to see that almost all her classmates are more complicated than they first appear to be, and many are keeping fascinating secrets of their own.

Do I Like It: Yes, and I can’t believe I waited so long to read this!

Thoughts: If I had to really distill Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel down to one word, I think I would choose “realistic.” Not just because it’s part of the genre of realistic fiction, but because every detail of the book rang so true to me, from things that were painfully familiar to experiences totally outside of my own. Leila was an amazing main character in part because she is simultaneously average and extraordinary – just like most people are. She’s a middling student, hates running in gym class, both loves and resents her family, and falls hard for someone who might not be the best choice for her. In short, she felt like someone I knew – or someone I once was.

Not surprisingly for a book I loved, this book centers almost entirely around Leila’s relationships with others. Sure, there’s a play, and some parties, but most of the tension, drama, and wonderful scenes are focused on Leila re-negotiating her relationships with those around her after Saskia enters the picture. From Leila’s “perfect” older sister to her wallflower best friend, from the new people in her life like Saskia and Tomas to the old friends like Lisa, Leila is forced to realize time and time again that she may have been wrong about even the people closest to her, or that even if she wasn’t, her relationships to them could change when she forces them to realize they may have been wrong about her. It’s a fascinating interplay between Leila being forced to question herself and her judgments while at the same time her confidence in herself grows.

And then, of course, there’s Saskia. Even in audiobook format, which in this case I thought detracted from my appreciation for her as a character, she shone. She was compelling, entrancing, and engaging, but also remote. Just like Leila, it’s hard for readers to really wrap their mind around her, especially as she sends inconsistent signals. She’s at the center of the story, but somehow, absent from the page – like Leila, we have a hard time seeing what, if anything, is below the surface, which makes her all the more fascinating but also inconsequential. If all these descriptions sound like contradictions, that’s because Saskia if full of them. Ultimately though, she is really only a catalyst – someone who comes in, changes everything, but remains unchanged herself. And that makes her both a really unique and interesting character, as well as one of the least important and relatable characters in the book. Love her or hate her, Saskia is worth the price of admission – but the changes she brings about in Leila’s life are worth so much more.

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

Beat the Heat with These Cool Summer Reads

By: Kate Easley, Youth Librarian

It’s been so hot lately! Like Pete at the Beach hot or Amelia visiting the Grand Granyon hot.

I have stacks of books waiting to be read, but I just can’t read anything set during a sweltering summer or in a hot, dry climate right now.

Instead, I need to picture myself climbing Mt. Everest or playing in the snow to help stay cool. If you are in the same boat, here are some books to help you cool off:

Posted in Where The Child Things Are: GEPL Youth

TV vs. Movies (Take Two)

By: Sean Mc., Teen Blogger

Picture of an old TV on one side and a movie reel with film streaming off it on the other.TV has been a medium that has fascinated the nation since the 50’s when people really started to make their way out to the suburbs and start new lives there. With the advent of this new technology, people in the storytelling business found a whole new way to get their products to the public at large, and began filling every American home with shows of all kinds, although the number of channels has seen a decent increase since then, as well as the kinds of shows and the subjects they cover.

One of the big issues in television has been that more and more people want to stay home and watch things there, rather than go to the movies, where they have to pay to go see something once and sit in (formerly) not-too-comfortable chairs. Especially with channels like HBO and Starz, people are becoming more and more likely to stay home, and wait until a movie comes out on a channel like this or on Netflix, where they can then watch it at their own leisure, and for a much better price (especially in regards to the food served).

The question has risen in some circles of whether movies are a thing of the past, and whether TV will replace them, or even become the only place that they are shown, because companies could make more off advertisements rather than huge productions and marketing campaigns to get people to go out to the theatres. In response, this has led to campaigns to get people to go to the movies and support the production companies, even having a little video by one of the actors in the film you are about to see thank you for going to the movies. These campaigns, as well as a rise in popularity of the dine-in theatre and the new design for chairs, have helped to increase attendance, especially for movies with less of a fan following.

Movies overall do not seem to be suffering, save for those that absolutely bomb on the openings (Batman v. Superman, I am looking at you), yet people still think that TV is the new way to go. Nobody has to have a campaign to make people watch more TV, and it is much more accessible to the general public.

However, there is a very important comparison to make, one that can be looked at through something which also began to gain a lot of popularity a bit before TV was invented. Comics were something that had rarely been seen before the 1930’s in America, although serial stories were not unheard of (see: Great Expectations). These short and colorful tales were enough to capture the reader’s attention, especially in the younger generations, who leaned towards comics instead of full length novels.

TV is much like this in the sense that they are short issues that come out every week or so and give the reader a short amount of time to travel to another place, without losing those with shorter attention spans. In fact, many of the TV shows that fared best were those that, like comics, could still create a following, but required less time to make than a full movie, and could be marketed to the public as a simpler alternative to movies.

Classic shows like The Simpsons, Star Trek, and Batman, featured a bright and colorful show but still tackled themes in society and politics that movies simply did not have the reaction time to deal with. This allowed TV to be a more versatile medium, still moving, but more available, and very different from movies. Movies still excel in areas like moving people and telling beautiful stories, allowing them to be a much better place to demonstrate the new technical capabilities of film-making, rather than on the TV or even phone screen.

Movies even tried to copy TV in creating series, some more successful (such as the widely followed Marvel movies), some were less successful (such as Jaws, which, on its own was a masterpiece, yet by the third movie, the audience lost interest). It was here that the movie industry found its weakness. It had great stories to tell, but when those stories went well once, the tendency to tell the same thing over and over created an air of repetitiveness that has led to a general distrust of sequels to critically acclaimed movies, in fear that they might ruin the experience that was gained from the original.

Books and comics are two very different mediums that both captured the attention of the nation, over and over. As time has gone on, they have changed forms, from long novels to short online stories written by fans, and from comic strips in the newspaper to web comics followed more for the author than the story, yet neither has faded. Neither has taken a hold of the culture completely, although they have fought for it constantly. TV and movies are much the same. They will fight for the spotlight until we can stream both directly to our brains, and even then will never relent in their struggle to be the best.

The one issue with this is that neither truly can be “better” than the other. For every James Bond film, there will be another season of Law and Order. For every Star Trek movie, there will be another season of The Simpsons. The two are so fundamentally different, it is almost impossible to truly compare the two under the same light. Some studios, like Marvel and DC, have even accepted this, and have worked on creating a world in both, doing shorter stories in TV more like individual issues, yet also doing larger projects in the movies, more like novels. This has helped both companies greatly (save for the latest attempt at movies from DC’s end) yet both have realized how different the mediums are. This is a realization that seems like more common sense than anything, but it really truly is something new to many people.

TV and movies cannot replace one another, and other mediums are coming into view as well, such as in video games, which have a long way to go until they are critically recognized at the same level as TV and movies, but it shows that consumers are more than willing to accept these stories in more than one way, and that is something that will never change. They may fight, but in the meantime, we can still go out to midnight premiers of our favorite movies, and then relax at home and binge-watch a whole season of our favorite show, and in the end, both can be just as amazing.

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

#PokémonGO

By: Christina Keasler, Middle School Librarian

Christina standing next to a Pokémon character.Pokémon Go or Pokémon No? Are you playing? Why or why not?

I was introduced to Pokémon in 6th grade. I loved Team Rocket. I thought they were hilarious. Pokémon was my gateway anime. After that, I watched Dragon Ball Z, Cowboy Bebop, Fuli Culi, and a few more. But I never forgot my Pokémon roots. I’ll randomly spout out a Pokémon fact without thinking about it, and I’ll always have love for my favorites. I was actually planning on going as Misty for Halloween before the craze happened.

Now Pokémon Go has conquered the world. It makes approximately $2 million a day. With the new game, all of my memories are flooding back to me. I am completely on board. I have two Pokéstops across the street from my house, and enjoy the two Pokéstops at the library.

As with anything as big as Pokémon Go, there is a lot of news about it. Many have been talking about the positive and negative things related to the phenomenon. Four teenagers were lost 100 ft. underground in a cave, people are upset about trespassing, robberies, safety, and appropriateness of Pokéstops and gyms.

With the bad comes the good. Pokémon Go has made kids of all ages go outside again. People are reliving the 90s – not just because they’re playing with the little monsters, but it’s the last time they’ve seen so many kids outside.

Nostalgia aside, this is a great way to motivate yourself to get outside and explore new places, or appreciate spots you’ve taken for granted or overlooked. Whether you play on your own device, or a grown up’s, make sure you are being safe and aware of your surroundings, just like the Gyarados on the loading screen says.

Screenshot of the Pokémon GO game.If you play, you may have heard a lot of tips and tricks of what to do in the game. Some of these have been tested, and they’re not all true. When you’re trying to catch a Pokémon and they’re annoying and dodge away from you, it’s been said that you can tap on the rolling ball so you don’t lose a Pokéball. I have personally tried this, and it has never worked for me. I tried multiple times because I really really wanted this to work.

However, naming your Eevee a certain trainer name has at least somewhat accurately generated a specific evolution. Rainer makes a Vaporeon, Pyro makes a Flareon, and Sparky makes a Jolteon. Unfortunately, I already had two Jolteons before I learned this trick.

Make sure you play at different times of the day – different Pokémon come out at different times. You’re not likely to find a Ghastly around noon! Also note that being by water will attract more water-type Pokémon.

The library has accepted the Poké-craze. We’re going to put lures up at our Pokéstops, and we’re going on Pokéwalks July 28. Be sure to join us as we catch ‘em all! And just remember to be safe while having fun!

Posted in The Middle: GEPL Middle School

Middle School Reviews: The Unwanteds

Check Out The Unwanteds by Lisa McMannWhat’s your name?: Aidan 

What school do you attend?: St. Petronille

What grade are you in school?: 7th grade

What are you reviewing?: A book

What’s the title of what you are reviewing?: The Unwanteds

Did you like it?: I have mixed feelings about this book. It was a great idea, but they could have gone a lot farther with it. For instance, the main character’s twin brother practically sentenced him to what he thought was death, and he doesn’t even care. I think that this is an average book, built on a great idea that was wasted.

Who would like this?: Someone who likes post-apocalyptic fantasy science fiction.

How many stars would you rate this?: Three Stars

Posted in Middle School Reviews

Middle School Reviews: Esperanza Rising

Check out Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz RyanWhat’s your name?: Merry

What school do you attend?: Hadley Middle School

What grade are you in school?: 7th grade

What are you reviewing?: A book

What’s the title of what you are reviewing?: Esperanza

Did you like it?: Yes, I loved this book. It was very interesting and there was an amazing meaning to this book. I loved how it included her family members during the story. It was an amazing thing to see how hard it was for Esperanza, then overcoming her difficulties. I liked how the girl went through her challenges with her help from her family members.

Who would like this?: Ages 8-12

How many stars would you rate this?: Five Stars

Posted in Middle School Reviews

Animated Movies

By: Hannah Rapp, Young Adult Librarian

Zootopia Movie PosterLast week, I settled in to my apartment on a Friday night and watched Zootopia. Yes, very exciting night for an adult woman living in Chicago, right? Anyways, I was excited to watch the movie after being on the holds list for it at the library for a while, and it didn’t disappoint. Hilarious jokes (seriously, the sloths slayed me,) astute social commentary, a sweet friendship, and all packaged as a solid buddy cop movie. I loved it.

It got me thinking though. I rarely watch movies, since I find TV shows a little easier to work in to my daily schedule. And in the last few years, a lot of the movies I’ve seen have been animated. If I were to actually count, it would probably be a hilariously large number of animated movies for an adult. Whether it’s re-watching Beauty and the Beast or Mulan for the 20th time or finally getting to Zootopia (and, soon I hope, Finding Dory), I’ve found animated movies for kids are some of my favorites. And you may have noticed a couple weeks ago, a teen volunteer reviewed Finding Dory and gave it eight out of ten stars, so it’s not just me who’s finding enjoyment in movies aimed at a younger audience.

So why is it that animated movies hold such a wide appeal, even for teens and adults well outside their target demographic? I don’t have any actual answers, because that would probably require tons of research by several very smart people with doctorates, but I do have some ideas. One is that, by and large, kid’s movies are positive. They’re not all sunshine and roses (Lion King or Up anyone?) but most of them involve good triumphing over evil, limited death and destruction, and a happily ever after style ending. And I love that. I love finishing a movie and feeling happy and satisfied, and I bet I’m not the only one who finds that to be a huge appeal of these movies.

Another factor is almost certainly nostalgia. Don’t get me wrong, as Beauty and the Beast’s Oscar nominations prove, it’s an excellent movie. But it was also the first movie I remember seeing in theaters, and a childhood staple, and I doubt I’d be watching it quite as often if I didn’t have such great memories of it.

But what about current movies, without the nostalgia factor? Well, since my childhood, there’s been a shift in a lot of animated movies to including more content specifically for adults. I don’t mean anything inappropriate, but rather things like pop culture references, wordplay, and jokes that go right above the heads of the main child audience. Shrek is probably the biggest example of this (and one of the earliest) but at this point, it’s become the norm for most animated movies. That doesn’t mean the movies have changed their intended audience or become inaccessible to kids – Frozen mania and Finding Dory’s lucrative opening weekend definitely prove that these movies are still hits with young children. But the extra little Easter eggs and more grown-up humor really help the movies appeal to older audiences as well (much to the relief of parents everywhere, I’m sure.)

What’s the point of all this? To be honest, mostly I wanted comment on a phenomenon I’ve noticed and talk about movies I love. But if you have shied away from animated movies in the past, consider giving them another chance – many of them are for you too, not just little kids. And if you already love them, you can join me in singing it from the rooftops. Because who doesn’t love talking dogs, powerful ballads, and a happily ever after?

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

Pokémon Go

By: Melissa Hilt, Youth Department Assistant Director

Pokemon Go LogoIf you have gone outside at all in the past week or been on social media you have probably seen and heard a lot of people playing Pokémon GO. Groups of people of all ages can be found all over the place glued to their devices, trying to catch these elusive Pokémon.

Has your child expressed interest in playing the game (or maybe already downloaded it)? There are a few things you should know as a parent to make sure that they are safe, not racking up any unwanted bills, and having fun. Like everything, there are pros and cons to Pokémon GO.

Pro: It’s free!

The app is free to download, however there are in-app purchases available. If you want to make sure your child is not racking up bills, you will want to make sure you have their phone set up to disable in-app purchases.

Pro: It’s fun!

Pokémon GO is fun and as a parent, you might even feel nostalgic playing with your kids.

Pro: It gets your kid outside and moving around.

In order to find Pokémon and visit Pokestops and Gyms, your kids will need to be outside. Yes, some people do it while someone is driving them around, but most people are out walking or riding their bikes. It’s screen time,yes, but it’s active screen time.

Pro: You can play with them!

If you were a kid when the first Pokémon games came out, you’ll likely become as obsessed with this game as your kiddo is. You can go for walks to catch creatures together or take a family trip to a “Pokémon gym” to battle your highest-level finds. It’s a different kind of family fun, but it’s fun all the same.

Pro: It can be educational.

In the game, players can go to “Pokéstops” to get items. Most of these stops are public landmarks like libraries, churches, fire stations, and public parks. You can use these stops as an opportunity to teach your child about their town and surroundings.

Con: It tracks your GPS.

Because the game is connected with Google Maps so that you can locate Pokémon in real time and real places, your child’s phone’s location will be activated.

Con: It leads to distracted walking/driving/biking.

If your child is out biking or walking around with friends trying to catch Pokémon, due to the nature of the game, their eyes will have to be glued to the screen. This makes for distracted walking in roads, riding bikes with one hand, or running to a location with their head down. Remind your child to always be aware of their surroundings and to be stopped before looking down at their phone.  They can set it up so that the phone will make a noise when a Pokémon is near.

Con: It uses data.

Since you can’t always play sitting at home using your WiFi, the app does use a lot of data, which is something to be aware of, especially if your child has their own phone and you do not have unlimited data.

Con: It’s being used to “lure” children to secluded areas.

One of the options in the game is to “lure” people to your location to engage in a battle. I have read that children are being lured to secluded areas, and no one wants that to happen to this child. It’s a good idea to set some guidelines with your kids. Let them know where and when they can play, or make sure that you can go out with them so there’s a set of eyes. Kids should be aware of stranger danger and travel in groups if they are not with their guardians.

Youth Staff Member with Pokemon FaceIf you have made it this far, I am guessing your child is already playing or has been begging you to let them play. I know here at the library, which by the way has two Pokestops and a handful of Pokémon inside, we have been seeing kids and adults come through playing the game so we decided we need to have a Pokémon GO Safari!

Join the library’s Pokémon experts on a safari to catch as many Pokémon as you can. We will be casting lures at several downtown Glen Ellyn Pokestops along the way. Just bring your own device loaded with the Pokemon GO app. The safari will meet in the library’s Youth Program Room and conclude at the library. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes, as our safari will take us on walk within a few blocks of the library. For children 12 years and younger, adult caregivers will be required to sign permission slips and participate in the safari until the end of the program.

Posted in Where The Child Things Are: GEPL Youth

Diversity in Media

By: Hannah S., Teen Blogger

We Need Diverse BooksDiversity in media has become increasingly popular and is shining light on discussions about inclusion. Along the way, however, there has been an increase in misrepresentation in media regarding people with disabilities and how they live life. This is due to the stories being written and portrayed by able-bodied people with no disabilities. Why is this harmful and what can be done to make sure people with disabilities are accurately portrayed in media?

The misrepresentations of disabilities in movies, books, etc. are causing people to have a skewed view on how to treat people with disabilities and how to view them within society. It is important for people to understand different disabilities from the perspective of those who experience and live with them. A simple approach to improving the inaccurate portrayal of people with disabilities is to have writers and actors people with disabilities create these roles or to have a consultant to help along the way. This will not only help educate people of what disabilities are really like but they will also help people with disabilities feel more adequate and represented. It is especially important for children and teens with disabilities to have a character they can relate to and see themselves in. I, as a teenager who is disabled, have trouble finding characters who accurately portray my disability. This struggle can lead children and teens with disabilities like me to feel different and left out.

On the other hand, a handful of stories have done a great job with representation and accurate portrayal. Some authors clearly did their research and consulted with people with disabilities before writing anything that could possibly be upsetting or inaccurate. Some authors also do a good job of using the proper terminology and using appropriate wording to avoid offending anyone. This makes a big difference in how people with disabilities view themselves and also how they are seen in society. People with disabilities’ confidence can vastly improve when there is a character that they can read about in a book or see in a movie that portrays their thoughts and sensitivities accurately.

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School