Sunday, July 28, 2013

Visit the World through Literature

Be sure to check out some of these books for a teen perspective from different places and cultures around the world.

Alegria, M. (2007). Sofi Mendoza’s Guide to Getting Lost in Mexico. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Alegria, M. (2007). [Cover art]. Sofi Mendoza's Guide to Getting Lost in Mexico. New York: Simon and Schuster. Retrieved from

In this story Sofi, a Mexican-American, who has grown up in California crosses the Mexican border to attend a party. When she can’t get back into the United States because of an error in her documentation, she is forced to stay with relatives in Mexico while her paperwork is straightened out with Immigration in the USA. This novel depicts life in rural Northern Mexico from the eyes of an American teenager.



Alexie, S. (2007). The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. New York: Little Brown.

Alexie, S. (2007). [Cover art]. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. New York: Little Brown. Retrieved from

This story takes place in the United States, but it follows Junior, an American Indian teenager, who is finding himself torn between his life on the Reservation near Spokane, Washington and his life at the local high school where he is the only American Indian student. The story depicts life on an American Indian Reservation. 




Beah, I. (2007). A Long Way Gone: A Memoir of a Boy Soldier. New York: Sarah Crichton Books.

Beah, I. (2007). [Cover art]. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. New York: Sarah Crichton Books. Retrieved from
Ishmael was kidnapped by his government in Sierra Leon (Africa) at the age of 12 and forced to fight as a soldier in the Civil War.  He was given drugs, guns, and forced to commit horrible crimes against his fellow countrymen, women, and children. This is his first hand account of what happened. An eye-opening account from a former child-soldier.



Bartoletti, S. C. (2008).The Boy who Dared. New York: Scholastic.

Bartoletti, S. C. (2008). [Cover art]. The Boy who Dared. New York: Scholastic.
Retrieved from
Helmut is a sixteen year old boy in Germany during Hitler's rise to power. When he discovers the truth about the Nazi Party's rise in Germany he tries to get the truth out to the people. Because of his actions he is tried for treason and ends up on death row. 









 Dau, J. B. (2010). Lost Boy, Lost Girl: Escaping Civil War in Sudan. New York: National Geographic Books for Children.

Dau, J.B. (2010). [Cover art].  Lost Boy, Lost Girl: Escaping Civil War in Sudan. New York: National Geographic Books for Children. Retrieved from

John and Martha, both orphaned by the Civil War in Sudan, recount harrowing trips out the Sudan and to the United States. This story is not an easy read and includes death, disease, war, and starvation, but you will learn an important lesson of survival, hope, and determination. In the end you will be cheering for John, Martha and the rest of the lost boys and girls from this conflict in the early 1990's.



Ho, M. (2005).  The Stone Goddess. New York: Scholastic.

Ho, M. (2005). [Cover art]. The Stone Goddess. New York: Scholastic. Retrieved from

During the communist takeover of Cambodia in the 1980's, Nakri is forced out of her happy life and her family is torn apart. She and her siblings are taken to child labor camps and her father is kidnapped by the army.  Eventually she and her family are able to reunited and relocate to the United States, but the memories of the takeover remain with her.




Mikaelson, B. (2004). Tree Girl. New York: Harper Teen.

Mikaelson, B. (2004). [Cover art]. Tree Girl. New York: Harper Teen. Retrieved from

Gabi, a happy Mayan teen, watches her entire village massacred by the Guatemalan government one day in the 1980's while she is climbing a tree. She is able to escape, but knows most of her family is dead.  In hopes that she might find her sister alive, she must make the long dangerous trip to safety at the Mexican boarder. This is a story of survival and identity as Gabi must deny her Mayan ancestry in order to survive.




McCormick, P. (2006). Sold. New York: Disney-Hyperion.

McCorkick, P. (2006). [Cover art]. Sold. New York: Disney-Hyperion. Retrieved from

In Nepal Lakshmi is very poor but happy with her family. To help the family, she is sent to India to work as a maid. When she gets to India, she is actually enslaved and forced to work as a prostitute. Lakshmi must maintain hope if she is going to endure and triumph.








Perkins, M. (2010). Bamboo People. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge Publishing.

Perkins, M. (2010). [Cover art]. Bamboo People. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge Publishing.
Retrieved from

Told from the point of view of two teen boys in Myanmar (Burma) this story tells of the conflict in that country  from two different perspectives. Chiko comes from an educated family and must join the Burmese army. Ta is a Karen and fights with his dad against the Burmese. Will they form an unlikely alliance based on friendship not war? This book tells the story of a civil war that has been going on for years and has affected many lives.





Qamar, A. (2008). Beneath my Mother's Feet. New York: Anthem Books.

Qamar, A. (2008). [Cover art]. Beneath my Mother's Feet. New York: Anthem Books.Retrieved from

Pakistan: Nazia is a teenage girl whose working class family has always worked hard in order to save for her dowry. When her father is hurt in an accident, she and her mother are forced to become the family's breadwinners. This change brings into question her entire way of life and future. Will she be able to marry into a respectable family if she is working as a maid? Does she want to?

Sepetys, R. (2011). Between Shade of Grey. New York: Philomel Books.

Sepetys, R. (2011). [Cover art]. Between Shade of Grey. New York: Philomel Books. Retrived from

Lithuania, 1941: Lina is 15 when the Soviet Army invades. Her father is taken and she is sent to work under Stalin's orders. The story highlights the strength of hope and Lina fights to survive.











Smith, Z. (2001). White Teeth. New York: Vintage.

Smith, Z. (2001). [Cover art]. White Teeth. New York: Vintage. Retrieved from
Disclaimer: This novel was written for adults...themes and language are strong. This librarian read this book the summer after high school and it was such a wonderful experience that I had to share it. The story follows the lives of two middle aged men and their families, including teenage children, in England. The author, Zadie Smith, was only 23 when she published the novel. It gives us a comical glimpse into the lives of our counter-parts across the pond in the UK and insights into religion, race, and identity.



Thursday, February 2, 2012

EBSCO search box

Research databases

Limit Your Results

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Searching for that Des Moines Register article...

It happens to me all the time. I read an article in the Des Moines Register. Some unspecified amount of time later, I think "Oh this would be perfect for that student!," or "Man, am I going to show Ben he's wrong" (love you dear). But can I find it? No, I can't. The Des Moines Register Website is hard for me to search, so what do I do?
There are two solutions. The first is that the State Library of Iowa provides access to a database of articles by the Register. The bummer of that is that you need your state library card to get  access, and I need to get a replacement because I lost mine. If you have your card, it would be a great place because they offer full-text access.
The second solution is to try this link
or just go to the Des Moines Public Library catalog and click on the "new obit index" tab. They have a search engine where you can search for articles by various access points. It only gives me the citation for the articles that it pulls, but then I can look in back at my library for all issues from the past year.
Neither are perfect, but they have helped me out in a pinch--especially with those fun "hard copy" assignments!

Monday, January 2, 2012


Come and enjoy a free cup of coffee at the B.J. Harrison Library.
Cheers and happy semester!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Kid Friendly E-Readers? I'm In!

Okay, what are all over my home and car? What do I trip on in the morning? The answer: my kids' books. My kids have a lot of books. I mean a lot, a lot, a lot of books. They drag them all over the house, and kids books are the worst to try and fit on a shelf. They are all different sizes, shapes, and materials. Library books are a nightmare because they always get damaged.

We need to invent a kid-proof e-reader! Wouldn't that be perfect? No more books to pick up from under the dinning room table. No more worries about damaging library books. It would be the ideal baby shower gift. Libraries could stock up on e-books, and parents could just download them without a worry!

They make other kid-proof electronics like personal CD/DVD players and digital cameras--e-book readers couldn't be that hard to make for kids! Just make it water-proof, and drop-proof and your good to go!
Although they don't meet my standards of "kid friendly," here is a link to a website that reviews some of the kid friendly e-readers out there:
Will my grandkids be looking at e-readers?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Typical Librarian

Okay we all know the two stereotypes about librarians. One is a little to PG-13/R rated for this blog, and the other is of the grumpy, old woman wearing a cardigan, glasses and a bun who is obsessed with trivial rules.
I'll let you decide about the first, but I know that as a profession we would like to leave the grumpy, old librarian image behind!
Let's get away from this image!
It isn't too hard to figure out why the image of the grumpy, rule obsessed lady has become ubiquitous with librarian. Let me list three things that are harmless to the non-library world: talking, eating, and talking on a cell phone (not while driving). Walk through library doors and you are likely to treated like a criminal for doing any of the aforementioned actions. Although I am officially part of the library world, I am not, yet, an official librarian so please let me make an argument for all of these activities on behalf of the non-librarian world.

1) Talking. Even laughing or giggling! Communication is very important. I have young children, and I spend a lot of time trying to encourage them to speak. People must speak to learn collaboratively or work on projects. I know that a lot of noise is distracting, but have you ever walked past a person with an iPod. They blast loud music into their ears with those things so I am pretty sure that a little chatting isn't going to distract them. Bottom line: Please use common sense librarians. Try to satisfy patrons of all noise levels. If you shush more than once a day, should you revise your noise level policy?

2)Eating. Hey, I get low blood sugar and pass out if I don't eat every few hours. Seriously, I almost had to quit my job when I was pregnant because I couldn't eat at the library where I work, and I was always dizzy and shaky! People like to eat. When your patrons check out the books they are going to eat around them. Couldn't we just take out the trash and vacuum more often to avoid the supposed pest issue? Can't we figure this out because us non-librarians really like to eat. Please.

3)Cell Phones. People like their cell phones. We really like our cell phones*. *please see my post "my new phone..."
Stop telling us we can't talk on them! We have already established with section 1 that you do not like talking, but how is whispering into a phone different than whispering to a person at the library? Please read this article in Library, and consider having a  "no rude people on cell phones" policy instead of a "no cell phone policy."
I am inviting librarians to join the rest of the world, and enjoy some talking, eating, and cell phone usage!