Everything I Needed to Know I  Learned from a Teen Book                      Linda Jerome and Ruhama                      ...
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Need to Contact Us?Got a suggestion?Want a handout?Email us:  – Ruhama : rjkordatzky@yahoo.com  – Linda : L.Jerome@lacross...
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Everything I Needed to Know I Learned from a Teen Book


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A presentation given at the annual Wisconsin Library Association conference. This talk was to show how to give another angle to popular teen titles, in hopes that it will grab a new batch of readers.

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  • (Innovators, trend-setters, early adopters, consumers; how scarves worn for the cold became neckties; how purple teeth led to purple becoming associated w/ royalty; innovators hall of fame in the back of the book) What it if was your job to say what was cool? The aptly-named Hunter is a professional cool-hunter. No ads go on TV without his approval; no new shoes hit the stores unless he’s down with them. It’s a pretty sweet deal until he meets Jen, a rare “innovator,” a person who actually creates cool at the street level. And when Hunter’s boss disappears and he and Jen try and find her, they uncover a plot to end consumerism as we know it.
  • Main story: Ted and Kat take their cousin Salim to ride the Eye, but he disappears and only the kids can solve the mystery Side story: weather   Ted knows his brain isn’t quite right, but he’s been labeled ‘high functioning’. Part of this disorder is his fascination with weather systems. Ted puts himself to sleep listening to the shipping forecast, and is able to explain several factors about weather to the reader. He also uses weather to explain common phrases: Everyone was polite. Everyone was calm. But you could have cut the atmosphere with a knife . That’s what people say when invisible feelings vibrate in the air, like ions do just before an electric storm (81). Ted’s descriptions of clouds, the difficulty of tracking weather and his mock weather reports will make anyone willing to study meteorology a little more in depth.
  • (Basics of a con: gain the mark’s confidence, suggest a score and provide a “convincer,” suggest the real score, blow-off & getaway; tells and micro-expressions; Never think like a mark: mark always thinks he can get something for nothing, always believes it when something is too good to be true) Cassel Sharpe comes a family of curse workers—people who have the power to change your emotions, your memories, your luck just by the slightest touch of their hands. Curse work is illegal and so most curse workers are considered criminals and con artists. Except for Cassel—he’s the straight kid in a crooked family. That is until he starts having disturbing dreams and sleepwalking. Until his brother start acting strangely. And until Cassel discovers he’s been conned by the people he trusted the most and must now figure out what’s true about himself and his family.
  • Main story: older brother heads off to the VietNam war Side story: photography   Jamie is an Army brat, through and through. She is very proud of the Colonel (her dad) and her brother, who just got shipped off overseas. It’s summertime and Jamie is restless, so her dad suggests she volunteer at the rec center, and that’s where she learns the art of developing film. This pursuit becomes even more desirable when her brother sends a roll of film as his first letter. Because Jamie is learning the whole process, readers are given tons of information about film, cameras and developing. This is a dying art and is fascinating for today’s digital age. It may even inspire budding photographers!
  • (Behind the scenes in the restaurant business) 17-year-old Mclean’s father is a restaurant consultant which means that Mclean moves a lot and each time they move, Mclean reinvents herself—and to be honest, she probably couldn’t tell you who the real Mclean is anymore. And then they move to Lakeview and it is there that Mclean finally starts to make real friends and real connections and so when it’s time for them to go, Mclean, for the first time, doesn’t really want to leave her friends, the restaurant or the Mclean she is becoming.
  • Main story: teens who are in the wrong place at the wrong time and are treated as terrorists Side story: computer and technical geekiness   Everyone knows Marcus is a genius with computers—even his teachers know that he can ‘go through school firewalls like we Kleenex, spoof the gait-recognition software, and nuke the snitch chips they track us with” (10). But nobody has been able to pin any of this on him. Throughout the book, Marcus patiently explains all kinds of nifty things to the reader: how gait-recognition software works, how an indie browser is virtually invisible and even how the Enigma machine helped bring down the Nazi regime. This book is jam-packed with geekiness and does explain the computer and online world quite well.
  • (White whale, Moby Dick = basics of bridge) It’s the summer after junior year for 17-year-old Alton Richards and it looks pretty bleak—his girlfriend dumped him for his best friend and he has no money and no job. Then he’s forced to drive around his crotchety, blind and very rich great-uncle to his bridge club 4 times a week and be his cardturner—he has to read his blind uncle his cards. What begins as a reluctant familial obligation becomes a genuine interest in bridge and a genuine interest in a bridge-loving girl named Toni.
  • Main story: Foster and her mom trying to create a new life in WV Side story: baking   Foster has loved baking ever since she received an Easy Bake oven at age four. When her mom has to move quickly to escape a controlling boyfriend, Foster discovers the easiest way to meet (and win over) the locals is through perfecting muffins and cupcakes. She even lands a gig baking a select few for the local hangout: Angry Wayne’s Bar & Grill. There are even recipes sprinkled through the text!
  • (pranks, Cacophony Society, urban exploration, public ridiculousness) Frankie Landau-Banks, age 14: Debate club. Her father’s “Bunny Rabbit.” A mildly geeky girl attending a highly competitive boarding school. Frankie Landau-Banks, age 15: A knockout figure. A sharp tongue. A chip on her shoulder and a gorgeous new senior boyfriend. She is no longer the kind of girl to take “no” for an answer, especially when “no” means she’s excluded from her boyfriend’s all-male secret society. Not when she knows she smarter than any of them. And when there are so, so many pranks to be done. Frankie Landau-Banks, age 16: Possibly a criminal mastermind. This is the story of how she got that way.
  • Main story: Alex has been date raped and now must seek justice—through her peers Side story: book within a book   Alex is a gifted piano player, and that’s one of the reasons she attends Themis Academy. But she’s managed to get herself in trouble and knows that approaching the administration will get her nowhere. So she turns to the local student police: The Mockingbirds. Throughout this story are references to the inspirational story: To Kill a Mockingbird. In fact, readers who have already read the classic will better appreciate the references made in this book. For instance, chewing gum is the signal for whether or not a trial will be heard by the council.
  • (Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability = mathematical equation that will predict the future of any relationship; assorted footnotes w/ tidbits of info such as the world record for watermelon seed spitting & the invention of television and the Dutch word for horse’s penis--paardenlul) Colin Singleton is a washed-up child prodigy with a penchant for anagrams and girls named Katherine. All of his girlfriends have been named Katherine and he has been dumped by every single one of them. When the last Katherine dumps him (#19), his best friend takes him on a wild road trip that includes a feral pig, a dead Austro-Hungarian archduke, mathematical theories and a girl whose name isn’t Katherine.
  • Main story: Jack the Ripper has returned to London in the modern day Side story: boarding school in London from an American POV   Rory’s parents are going to England for a year to teach at the University of Bristol, so she takes advantage of the temporary move to enroll in Wexford. She chooses this school because it seems to be the epitome of everything a boarding school in London should be. Rory is excited to be in an environment completely different from the NOLA area in which she usually lives. She walks readers through the schedule, the people (especially rankings within the student body), the attitudes and the buildings, making folks feel right there with her. For anyone who thinks s/he knows English boarding schools (thanks to Harry Potter), this book will kick it up a notch.
  • (A Girl’s Guide to Football Players, pgs 2-7) This collection of short stories follows the on and off-the-field travails of a Wisconsin high school football team and the girls who love them. These often-humorous stories explore relationships, friends, rumors, peer pressure, bullies and, of course, football.
  • Main story: someone’s been murdered and Ingrid is determined to use her detective skills to solve the crime Side story: local theater productions   Ingrid enjoys acting as much as she enjoys sleuthing, and she’s thrilled when she gets to play the lead role in the community production of Alice In Wonderland. The reader gets to follow the whole process: from auditions to set design to rehearsal after rehearsal after rehearsal. Ingrid even describes the theater layout, including the auditorium as well as the stage. Readers get a sneak peek into what happens when a new director comes on the scene!
  • ( Famous last words—Winston Churchill: “I’m bored with it all”; Thomas Edison: “It’s very beautiful over there”) Miles Halter leaves his decidedly dull life in Florida to seek the “Great Perhaps” at the Culver Creek boarding school and there he finds his first real friends (and is given his first nickname), partakes in school pranks and falls hard for the clever, funny, and screwed-up Alaska Young—a girl at the heart of an event that will forever separate his life into the before and the after.
  • Main story: a teenager’s moment of indiscretion lands him in a nursing home doing community service Side story: Yiddish language (not all side stories are large)   Alex isn’t so sure about Solomon—the old man he has to befriend, especially when Sol calls him a schlemazzel . But the judge—who tells him that meshuggener is much worse—won’t switch his sentence, so Alex is stuck. And he must endure insults, catch phrases and a general sprinkling of Yiddish within the conversation every time he reports to Sol’s room. Some readers may recognize a few of the phrases and others may wish to incorporate them into their own conversations!
  • (Parasites; how parasitic wasps saved 20 million lives--page 233-34) A year ago, Cal Thompson was a college freshman more interested in meeting girls and partying than attending biology class. Now, after a fateful encounter with a mysterious woman named Morgan, biology has literally become Cal’s life.Cal was infected by a parasite that has a truly horrifying effect on its host. Cal himself is a carrier, unchanged by the parasite, but he’s infected the three girlfriends he’s had since Morgan and all three have turned into the ravenous ghouls Cal calls Peeps and it’s Cal’s job to hunt them down before they can create more of their kind…
  • Main story: four teens who embody the four elements battle three older spirits who lost one of theirs Side story: heavy metal music and bands   Zoe never expected the guys to accept her into the band—after all, who would believe a girl could play bass for a metal band? But Zee’s got talent—and a guitar—and so she’s in. This sotry is peppered with band names, lingo and full on practices. Zee plunges the reader head first into what makes up a metal band, including the euphoria of participating in a concert. Anyone just getting into this style of music will want to track down the song titles suggested to get a feel for the history of heavy metal.
  • (French Revolution/music creation/modern & classical music and their connections) Andi Alpers life is a total mess—completely broken by her brother’s death two years earlier, she’s got a bad attitude, lots of meds, failing grades and a father who left. When Andi’s dad learns that she’s about to be expelled from school, he drags her along on his trip to Paris so she can work on her senior thesis on a famous Parisian musician. But while she’s there, Andi discovers a secret diary, written by the companion to the son of Marie Antoinette, Louis-Charles, who died under mysterious circumstances. And so begins an unforgettable journey of music, grief, forgiveness and family through the lens of the French Revolution.
  • Main story: several girls have decided to give up dating while in high school Side story: Beatles trivia   Penny’s parents are Beatles freaks—so much so, they’ve named their daughters after songs. “Truth be told, I should have hated the Beatles. That should’ve been my rebellion. But instead, the Beatles became a part of me” (17). Because she loves their music, it infiltrates her life and inspires her (especially for the main story). Readers will also learn a few tidbits, which will segway beautifully for pairing this book with books about the Beatles!
  • (Brain chemistry, nano-view of the human brain/eyes) The Armstrong twins, owners of the Armstrong Fancy Gifts Corporation, have a single top-secret goal: to turn the world into their vision of a utopia—no conflict, no hunger, and no free will. Opposing them is a guerilla group of teen hackers, code name BZRK. But this is no ordinary war—weapons are deployed on the nano-level making the human brain the battleground. And there are no stalemates here…it’s either victory or madness.
  • Main story: biography of the first president Side story: making wax statues   “ The leadership at Mount Vernon knew they must do something to change this impression [of George Washington’s appearance]. An education building was planned to teach visitors to Mount Vernon about Washington’s character and leadership abilities. Since Stuart’s image gave people the impression that Washington was grumpy and boring, could a more accurate image of the man change the perception?” (9) Those in charge of research and the art decided to focus on three major timeperiods of his life and would create three extremely lifelike replicas of the man. As you delve into each age, you learn how a wax figure is contstructed—from designing jaw lines to adding hair to tinting skin.
  • (History lessons included in the obits/day in history column: Wat Tyler’s beheading during the English Peasants’ Revolt; Susan B. Anthony fined $100 for attempting to vote; love story of Alexander Berkman & Emma Goldman; tragic story of Anne Frank) During the summer of 1962, a young man named Jack Gantos is grounded for two months after sort-of accidentally firing his father’s rifle. Escape comes in the unexpected form of his elderly neighbor, Ms. Volker and a long, boring summer suddenly turns into one that includes the newly dead, molten wax, twisted promises, Girl Scout cookies, underage driving, learning how to type and countless bloody noses.
  • Main story: navigating 8 th grade Side story: Tess’ love of math   Tess is a geek—she can’t help it that she loves math and is able to relate it to many aspects of life. Like describing the pecking order of teenagers? She uses the greater than and less than symbols. And she uses the Additive Property of Equality to explain why she finally confesses to the principal that she knows who the history test cheaters are. Each chapter has a math item as the title and Tess does an excellent job of explaining what each equation, term or activity is as it relates to mathematics (and life, too).
  • (John James Audubon’s Birds of America) It’s 1968 and Doug and his family have just moved to a new town and Doug struggles to be more than the “skinny thug” that his teachers and the townspeople think him to be. But he finds allies in Lil—a fiery girl whose father owns a grocery and hires Doug as a delivery boy—and in Mr. Powell, the librarian who shares Doug’s love for Audubon’s Birds of America and encourages and instructs Doug to draw them. Doug needs all the friends he can find as he endures an abusive father and the return of his oldest brother from Vietnam in this heart-tugging story of loss, recovery, creativity and survival.
  • Main story: a biracial teenage girl discovers her Mexican roots Side story: everyday life in rural Mexico   Clara’s been sent to Mexico for the summer. She’s never met her paternal grandparents and isn’t excited about the prospect of no TV, no friends and no familiar food. But when she finally gets settled, she realizes how special life is for the unplugged. Readers get to see how laundry is done, tortillas are made, medicines are created, how to grocery shop, and, my favorite, how coffee is harvested. (read p 136 ff)
  • Everything I Needed to Know I Learned from a Teen Book

    1. 1. Everything I Needed to Know I Learned from a Teen Book Linda Jerome and Ruhama Kordatzky Bahr WLA 2012 LaCrosse, WI Free Powerpoint Templates Page 1
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    29. 29. Need to Contact Us?Got a suggestion?Want a handout?Email us: – Ruhama : rjkordatzky@yahoo.com – Linda : L.Jerome@lacrosse.lib.wi.us Free Powerpoint Templates Page 29