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What Makes a Good “Bad” Book?

Trashy books: they’re the ones that cause young patrons to avert their eyes from a librarian (or, better yet, use the self-scan) and hide the dust jackets from their parents. They almost always contain steamy stuff (sex, or at least lust) and, often, controlled substances (booze, drugs, human blood, poisoned donuts…). Wish-fulfillment is common; escapism […]

What Makes a Good YA Love Story?

It’s a simple formula. Boy meets girl (or, more often, girl meets boy. Or, less frequently, boy meets boy or girl meets girl). Boy and girl fall in love. One loses the other, or some other conflict arises. Then comes the happy ending. This plot, or some variation of it, is one we’ve read over […]

What Makes a Good YA Coming-Out Novel?

Since John Donovan’s groundbreaking 1969 I’ll Get There. It Better Be Worth the Trip, young adult novels featuring gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning teens have come a long way. Once few and far between, they have enjoyed a steady rise in numbers and prominence, particularly over the last decade, as prolific and acclaimed queer* […]

What Makes a Good Book About Dance?

How can books inspire and excite children about the riches of dance? How can these books connect with their interests both in  dance classes and outside of them? Dance books can put into words and images the language of the art form as well as the feelings and passion of dancers. It’s easy to find […]

What Makes a Good Manners Book?

What’s the magic word? These days many children would answer, “Expelliarmus!” or some other Harry Potter-ism, but for generations before this the magic word has always been “please.” And yet anyone who works with children regularly can attest to the fact that quite a lot of them don’t seem familiar with that magic word, or […]

What Makes a Good YA Dystopian Novel?

Dystopias are characterized as a society that is a counter-utopia, a repressed, controlled, restricted system with multiple social controls put into place via government, military, or a powerful authority figure. Issues of surveillance and invasive technologies are often key, as is a consistent emphasis that this is not a place where you’d want to live. […]

What Makes a Good Picture Book App?

With the digital literary world ever-expanding and evolving, picture book apps are multiplying like Wanda Gág’s cats. In this rapidly changing climate, what gives a book-based app staying power? A successful picture book app… Is interactive — but not too interactive What distinguishes a picture book app from a traditional picture book or an e-book […]

What Makes a Good Rock-and-Roll Book?

Every time critics and writers declare rock-and-roll dead, it rises again; re-tuned, rebranded, and repackaged for a new generation. Signs of life abound: Green Day’s Gen Y suburban angst, captured in their mini rock opera American Idiot, has sold 14 million copies internationally and became a smash adaptation for the Broadway stage. Folk singer Elizabeth […]

What Makes a Good Space Book?

The vastness of the universe, explored and unexplored, presents possibilities for all of us to imagine new and different (and perhaps better) worlds, technological feats, and ourselves as active participants in the quest for knowledge beyond our own planet. A good space book captures this melding of anticipation and discovery that lies at the heart […]

What Makes a Good Book about Sharing?

It doesn’t take long when working in a bookstore or a public library to realize that many parents are after one thing in a picture book — they want it to make their child better. Parents want children who are polite, cooperative, and kind. They want them to be good listeners who easily relinquish the […]