Fresh Off the Press: 2015 Sprint OYAN Review!

Check out the Spring OYAN Review!

You will find program ideas on making stop-motion videos, starting a crafting club, and providing early literacy programs for teen parents. Plus insights to letting go of your teen council, meet the new OYEA Award winner Aimee Meuchel, an interview with author of Jackaby, William Ritter, and much more.

Download your copy today!


The Swap by Meagan Shull

reviewed by Sonja Somerville, Salem Public Library

The SwapThe Facts

400 pages; published  August 2014

The Basics

Ellie is a seventh grader slowly sliding off the bottom rung of the social ladder after her best friend turns mean girl over the summer. Jack is a boys’ boy in a family of boys’ boys obsessed with hockey, workouts and winning. Both battling some private demons and public humiliation, they end up in the nurse’s office on the first day of school, each feeling the other must have it so easy. A wish, a few words from the mysterious nurse, and BAM! They’ve switched lives just in time to go home for the weekend and find out.


I was leery of this book because I’ve seen Freaky Friday a bunch of times and feared the story would be overly familiar. Granted, it is the same general idea, but so well done and entertaining. It was sort of Freaky Friday meets Strangers on a Train. The characters who swap lives and bodies don’t really know each other. They live in radically different households and occupy decidedly different rungs on the social ladder of their middle school. This story isn’t about understanding each other. It’s about Ellie and Jack each using their unique strengths to force change in the other’s life. It’s that great combination of funny and touching that I am a total sucker for. It’s good, clean fun for middle grade readers with enough substance to also appeal to the high school crowd.

Random Thoughts

  • I adored Jack’s three burly, boisterous brothers who – despite the boyish smells and odd fitness rituals – were truly good guys.
  • Sometimes, you get so fixated on trying to make the wrong person like you that you miss the fact that you have true, blue friends that are more worthwhile.

I’ll Recommend This To

  • Boys and girls alike
  • Teens feeling like they want a time out from life
  • Fans of realistic fiction
  • Readers looking for a story for something light and clean

Sonja also blogs about young adult books at

Book Review: The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr

Lucy Variations Boy, did this bring back memories!  Of course, I wasn’t a world famous child prodigy, like 16 year old Lucy.  I was just your average kid who’s piano teacher mother expected me to perform perfectly at every recital…and didn’t.  Not that big a deal when it was just the students & their parents. But what if it was an international piano competition that you’d been working for months to win?  And what if you walked out the door as your name was called to the stage?

Lucy had an excellent reason to walk out the door.  Wouldn’t you if you’d just been told that your beloved Grandmother had died?  Grandfather, ever the perfectionist, hadn’t wanted her to know until after the competition.  As she walked out, Grandfather told her, “That was it.”  Lucy didn’t play again.  Instead, the family focus shifted to her equally talented younger brother, Gus.

After years of international travel, performances, study, and music, Lucy returns to regular school, albeit a private one.  She’s finally in one place long enough to hang out with friends, study anything she wants, and even have a crush.  Life is good…or should be.

Then Gus’s long time teacher dies suddenly and a replacement has to be found.  Enter Will, young, kind and interested in helping Lucy regain her passion for the piano.   Or is he?

Beautifully written with multi-dimensional characters, Zarr has penned a coming of age story with a dramatic flair (I mean, how many of us are prodigies?)  Still, Lucy’s struggle to become her own person in the face of family expectations is universal and one that we can all relate to.

Book Review – Chime by Franny Billingsley

From the book jacket – “17-year-old Briony Larkin has a secret.  She believes her secret killed her stepmother, destroyed her twin sister’s mind, and threatens all the children in the Swampsea.  She yearns to be rid of her terrible secret, but risks being hanged if she tells a soul.  That’s what happens to witches: They’re hanged by the neck until dead.

Then Eldric arrives–Eldric with his golden mane and lion eyes and electric energy–and he refuses to believe anything dark about Briony.  But he wonders what’s been buried beneath her self-hatred, hidden in Rose’s deepest thoughts, and whispered about by the Old Ones.  And Briony wonders how Eldric can make her want to cry…especially when everyone knows that witches can’t cry.  A wild, haunting mystery and romance that is as beautifully written as it is captivating.”

From Booklist – “…Exploring the powers of guilt and redemption, Billingsley (The Folk Keeper, 1999) has crafted a dark, chilling yet stunning world. Briony’s many mysteries and occasional sardonic wit make her a force to be reckoned with. Exquisite to the final word.–Leeper, Angela Copyright 2010 Booklist”

From me – A poetic and atmospheric tale set in backwater Britain.  The language creates an atmosphere that doesn’t leave when the book is over.  On my list of potential Mock Printz titles.

Getting Graphic with Ruth Allen

Previously published on Multnomah County Library’s Embarrassment of Riches blog at

I must confess that I loathe manga. I think the characters’ huge eyes are disturbing, and I find most of the plots mystifying at best and insipid at worst. Even though I’ve had a number of people explain the appeal, I still don’t find them appealing. I’m sure the problem is with me since millions of other people seem to enjoy manga. I do, however, occasionally enjoy a good graphic novel and I’ve read three this past week that hit the spot.

I was recently in Amsterdam, and when I got back, I read A Family Secret, a graphic novel that is set in that city during World War II. The story is about two girls – one Dutch and the other a Jewish German who left Germany with her family to escape the Nazis. The Dutch family members represent a variety of Dutch people’s positions during the war: one brother joins the Resistance; another joins the army and fights in Russia with the Germans; the father is a policeman who finds no other choice than to keep doing his job even when the Nazis require him to do things his family would rather he didn’t; and the girl and mother are sickened by what’s happening in their city. The story was compelling and the twist at the end was satisfying. I’m looking forward to reading the companion book, The Search.

Oregon is the home of the most recent women’s Olympic gold medalist in fencing (2008), and so I decided to read a bit more about the sport when I saw Foiled by Jane Yolen on the shelf. Aliera is a loner at school who is awesome at fencing. She basically goes from high school to fencing lessons to home, and then does it all over the next day. She doesn’t need anyone, and the other students certainly don’t seem to need her. But then the new school year starts and a gorgeous new boy ends up being her lab partner. What to do?Her fencing instructor has always said she needs to protect her heart, but that’s now proving to be difficult. I thought this was going to be a straightforward romance, but it turned out to be something a little different.

Another sort of different story is Prime Baby by Gene Luen Yang. Many of us who have siblings have wondered at one time or another if our brothers and sisters might have come from outer space. When Thaddeus’s young sister begins making noises, all of which come out in prime numbers (eg. “ga ga ga” and “ga ga ga ga ga”), he thinks his sister might be an alien. Everybody thinks he’s crazy, but then something happens that surprises everyone BUT Thaddeus. I liked the sassy, snarky kid – he’s got brains, imagination and, in the end, heart.

Genreflexes: Super Heroes, sorta

Superheroes for People Who Don’t Like Superheroes: A Brief List! by Ian Duncanson:

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller

In Dark Knight, Batman is just as mentally anguished with his role of vigilante as the burdened superheroes of Alan Moore’s Watchmen comic series. Gotham is rotting and crime-ridden, not the sanitized comic book metropolis that is lucky to only suffer from the occasional super villain problem. Look no further than this for the basis of Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker in the last Batman film. 

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore

I neglected to include Watchmen on this short list because the movie was too hyped and recent, but here’s a less famous, still awesome graphic novel by Moore that was also made into a disappointing movie. If you’ve ever wanted to see classic characters from famous Victorian novels team up to save a steampunk version of England, this is the superhero comic for you! Think of League as the most over-the-top “superhero” graphic novel in Moore’s canon. It’s non-traditional, but nowhere near as serious or brooding as V for Vendetta or Watchmen. I would stick with older teens when recommending this one! Steer clear of the movie at all costs.

20th Century Boys by Naoki Urasawa

I absolutely had to include a manga on this little list, and there was never any question which one would make it here! Although it has been available in Japan for nearly a decade, 20th Century Boys finally began making its way to the United States last year, and Western Otaku breathed a sigh of relief! When Kenji and his friends begin an investigation into the bizarre suicide of their childhood friend Donkey, they don’t know that they’re involving themselves in a battle that will decide the fate of humanity. What connection does a symbol from their youth have to the fate of the world? This series should appeal to even non-manga fans through its mature artwork and engaging mystery. Kenji & co. aren’t superheroes, per se, though they will be forced to save the world. Recommend this series to older teens!

Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware

Jimmy isn’t a superhero…but he often daydreams that he is. Saddled with a boring office job, non-existent family relations, and no hope for a love life, Jimmy spends much of his days in a fantasy world where he dons a costume that mysteriously resembles that of Superman and becomes “the smartest kid on Earth!” As the story progresses, we learn that a history of familial abandonment throughout the Corrigan family tree is once again threatening to consume the current generation. Chris Ware’s cartoon art is architecturally detailed without being overwhelming, and he is amazingly gifted at using distance to portray alienation and finding hope and pathos in bleak ordinariness..