Friday, May 20, 2011

Alphabetical Listing of Entries




Graphic Novels



Friday, May 13, 2011

Literature Resource Center

Title: Literature Resource Center

Publishing Company: Gale and Cengage Learning

Summary: The Literature Resource Center has limited access for users and requires a library card. Within, it contains biographies, bibliographies, and critical essays on authors from all different literary disciplines, ranging from the classics to science and business writers, as well as popular magazines. Like most databases, the Resource Center has a range of search techniques that range from the basic search to the advanced search. The results are sorted into the categories of Literature Criticism, Biographies, Topic and Work Overviews, Reviews and News, Primary Sources and Literary Works and Multimedia. This allows users to limit their results even without having filled out an advanced search form. The Resource Center, along with the basic and advanced search, also provides a person and works search. The downloadable Guided Tour provides a step-by-step introduction to the database for new users. Providing an entire list of the journal titles is a helpful addition that allows users to browse without having a search topic set up.

Critical Evaluation: The Literature Resource Center is an invaluable resource for both teenagers and students of all ages, whether they are currently in school or not. It provides numerous critical articles which are helpful not only as citations for papers but as articles that stimulate intellectual thought regarding a book that is currently being read. For example, when Don Quixote is entered in a basic search, 630 critical articles are retrieved that analyze everything from the dynamic between Don Quixote and Sancho Panza to a comparison between Don Quixote and Hamlet. These articles could help inspire a paper topic that had previously not been thought of. The Reviews section also contained News in which Don Quixote was recently referenced, which was amusing to see how classic literature still has comparisons to modern life. While some users may find it easier to use Wikipedia for an author biography, the Resource Center also provides biographies through the Gale Online Encyclopedia.

Reader's Annotation: The Literature Resource Center offers resources on literature from across a whole range of disciplines at the click of a mouse.

Information About the Company: Gale is part of Cengage Learning and strives to perfect online and educational publications for learning across all ages. Its multiple divisions target different age groups, from school aged students to adults and public libraries.
Gale also deals with licensing issues and is based in Michigan. Read more about the company at its website.

Genre: Database; Literature

Curriculum Ties: English Literature

Booktalking Ideas:
  • The Literature Resource Center is an essential database for teen students who are researching articles for papers or just brainstorming ideas on paper topics.
Reading Level: 15+

Challenge Issues N/A

Why This Database?: Staff Recommendation

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Peninsula Library System Digital Book Library

Title: Peninsula Library System Digital Book Library

Publishing Company: OverDrive

Summary: The Peninsula Library System Digital Book Library, powered by OverDrive, provides a wide range of eBooks and audio books for library users to download onto their computers, eBook readers or smart phones (through the use of an OverDrive application). The homepage provides multiple categories of books available for the online viewer's perusal, ranging from Fiction, Nonfiction and audiobooks in a variety of formats. It also lists the newest additions to each section as well as including a division of new Children's and Young Adult literature, as well as recently returned eBooks and audio books. Each category is broken down into multiple genres, allowing for easy browsing. In order to access this database, users must first sign into their SMCL account which is created through the ownership of having a library card. Next, after location an item they wish to read, the user must place a hold on the item by typing in their library card number and email address. Once the user receives the confirmation email, they must add it to their cart and download it in the format that their browser supports.

Critical Evaluation: Unfortunately, this database is relatively new to the San Mateo County Library System and thus the collection of books available for checkout and download is subsequently quite slim. However, like everything else in the library, it is for free and is currently expanding despite issues from publishing companies like Harper Collins that is attempting to limit the number of check-outs each eBook can have before it needs to be renewed. Also, the check-out system is rather confusing, especially for the average user who has not had the system explained or demonstrated to them. If the number of steps could be reduced or limited to only the Digital Book Library without requiring the need to access the user's email account, it would make it easier for users to check out books as well as improve the circulation. Another issue with the eBook database is that each eBook is treated like a physical print copy and can only be checked out to one patron at a time. On the positive side, the database allows teens who do not have access to an eBook reader or smart phone to read books on the computer, which could be helpful for school projects when all other physical copies are checked out.

Reader's Annotation: The Peninsula Library System's Digital Book Library allows users to download eBooks and audio books for free onto their computer, eBook reader, or smart phone all for no cost.

Information About the Company: OverDrive is a digital distributor of eBooks and audio books. Founded in 1986, OverDrive currently hosts more than 500,000 titles.
OverDrive deals with both publishers and libraries as well as schools and retailers. Read more about this company at its website.

Genre: EBook database

Curriculum Ties N/A

Booktalking Ideas:
  • Need to read the Scarlet Letter by tomorrow and your classmates have checked out all the library copies? The Peninsula Library System's Digital Book Library has a copy available to check out and read onto your computer or smart phone. While our collection is currently expanding, there are many titles that may catch your eye and allow you to test our newest database.
Reading Level: All ages; Teen items 15+

Challenge Issues:
  • Unlike common thought, you do not need an eBook reader like the Kindle or the Nook to read eBooks. The Peninsula Library System Digital Book Library allows users to download eBooks and audio books onto their computers and read them right off the screen.
Why This Database?: System-wide eBook database

Gale Virtual Reference Library

Title: Gale Virtual Reference Library

Production Company: Gale and Cengage Learning

Summary: The Gale Virtual Reference Library is offered from the San Mateo County Library System's database section with only a library card needed for complete access. The Reference Library has a variety of reference material that is helpful for teens ranging from medicine, law, the environment, education, history, literature, multicultural studies, and science. Users can do a basic search for keywords within specific strata of the results, such as in the documents' titles, the keywords, the subject, or the entire document itself. They can also browse via the available publication via subject matter. Like most databases and information retrieval engines, the Reference Library has an advanced search as well as a Subject Guide Search. The subject guide allows for users to search for specific subjects rather than keywords and allows users to discover overarching subjects that they might have not originally thought of. Two other helpful sections of the Library are the Dictionary and Title List that users can access at any step of their search.

Critical Evaluation: The Gale Virtual Reference Library is a helpful source for teens to receive reference help from reliable sources at a time in which they may not be able to access a physical library, whether the school media center or a public library. With their library card, teens can log on and search for articles and book excerpts and read them online for their research. While not as extensive as other databases, the Reference Library is a good starting point for research topics and its full-color photographs and illustrations should not be too daunting to any student, as the layout of many of the encyclopedias referenced are similar to textbooks. This database is also a good fact-checking information area whose references will not be looked down upon by teachers as the information is originally from published encyclopedias rather than Wikipedia. The related subject results after performing a search will be helpful and familiar to users who are used to clicking hyper links and following a train of thought to its conclusion.

Annotation: An online reference tool, the Gale Virtual Reference Library provides 24/7 access to a medley of encyclopedias and other published reference materials that would otherwise be unaccessible when libraries are closed.

Information About the Company: Gale is part of Cengage Learning and strives to perfect online and educational publications for learning across all ages. Its multiple divisions target different age groups, from school aged students to adults and public libraries.
Gale also deals with licensing issues and is based in Michigan. Read more about the company at its website.

Genre: Database; Reference Services

Curriculum Ties: Information Retrieval

Booktalking Ideas:
  • For those who love using Wikipedia but whose teachers frown when they see it referenced for a paper, the Gale Virtual Reference Library provides a plethora of information with only a library card needed for access. Available 24/7, just like Wikipedia, the Reference Library provides excerpts from numerous published reference materials for students to use whenever they want.
Reading Level: 15+

Challenge Issues N/A

Why This Database?: Staff Recommendation

Femme Fatale

Title: Femme Fatale

Musician: Britney Spears

Publisher: Jive

Copyright: 2011

Summary: Femme Fatale is an edgy, dance-floor club album from Britney Spears. Starting with Till the World Ends and Hold It Against Me, these two songs have a strong beat and sexualized lyrics that directly reference dancing on a darkened dance floor. Hold It Against Me, itself a pun, continues the sexual attraction in the club theme with an even faster beat than the first song. Together, these two are a strong start the the album and set the theme. Britney Spears alternates the speed with the song Inside Out and lets the listeners take a breather while continuing a steady beat and increasing her own singing speed. Inside Out continues the tension but increases it through the lyrics which state that the couple will break up despite their sexual attraction. Almost immediately, I Wanna Go increases the tempo once more and rarely lets up until the end of the album. The remaining songs continue the partying and love theme while inserting more sexual innuendo puns into the lyrics and song titles.

Critical Evaluation: Overall, Femme Fatale is a high-energy dance album that will entertain those who are a fan of fast-paced and heavy-beat songs that they can jump around to in the club or listen to while exercising. The beginning of the album started off the strongest with the two hits and often aired on the radio songs Till the World Ends and Hold It Against Me. Adding a slightly slower song right afterwards allowed the listeners to rest before launching into the remainder of the dance album, blending together different tempos in order to provide some variety instead of high-intensity monotony. The music could have been changed to still contain a melodic beat but at a different pace, such as one of Britney's old hits I'm a Slave For You. The lyrics of the songs themselves are not groundbreaking nor as intriguing in composition in comparison to Britney Spears' old hits. While some may be entertained by song titles like Hold It Against Me, and the album itself, others may criticize it and its highly sexually charged lyrics.

Listener's Annotation: Britney Spears' newest album is all that it promises to be: a high-energy dance album that can be listened to at a club or while exercising. Femme Fatale includes the hit songs Till the World Ends and Hold It Against Me.

Information About the Musician: With six albums under her belt and her personal life part of general media knowledge, Britney Spears is a common household name. From the girl-next-door to the scandalously sensual singer, Britney Spears has guaranteed her place in history.
Femme Fatale is her newest and seventh album. Visit her website to see where her Femme Fatale promotional tour stops next.

Genre: Rock; Pop; Dance

Curriculum Ties N/A

Booktalking Ideas:
  • Fans of Britney Spears' high-energy songs and who have heard the song Hold It Against Me over and over on the radio will love her seventh and newest album release Femme Fatale. Consisting of twelve club-worthy songs, this CD will give the listeners energy enough to keep dancing or exercising, whichever the situation calls for.
Listening Level: 16+

Challenge Issues:
  • While some of the lyrics on this CD are charged with sexual tension, these songs are also available on the radio as well as for download or streaming online. With the overall sexualization of society, many songs have similar content, which does not make it acceptable but should create a certain lens with which to view this CD.
Why This CD?: Circulation; Billboard 200

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


"Victoria, for your hand in marriage, I'd cross oceans or continents. I would go to the gold fields of San Francisco and bring you back your weight in gold. I'd go to Africa and bring you back a diamond as big as your fist. Or I'd go to the Arctic and I'd slaughter a polar bear and bring you back its head."

Title: Stardust

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Publishing Company: Paramount Pictures

Copyright: 2007

Plot Summary: Stardust begins in the village of Wall, its namesake which divides England and the magical kingdom of Stormhold, and a young man named Dunstan Thorn. Dunstan escapes through the Wall and meets a beautiful, leashed woman at a bizarre marketplace. They sleep together, and nine months later, Dunstan, having returned to England receives a baby named Tristan. Eighteen years later, Tristan is also a young man who attempts to win the heart of his true love Victoria against the elegant Humphrey. In Stormhold, the ailing King pits his sons against each other in the race to return light to a ruby pendant which only responds to royal blood. The ruby flies into the night sky and knocks a star out of orbit. Seeing the star fall, Tristan vows to fetch it in return for Victoria's hand in marriage. Also seeing the star fall, a trio of aging witches yearn for eternal youth and also go on the hunt for the star. When the dust settles, the star turns out to be a beautiful young woman who stares at the pendant that knocked her out of the sky. As Tristan crosses the Wall, all Stormhold powers converge on the fallen star's whereabouts.

Critical Evaluation: Stardust is a dark and twisted fairy tale which for readers of Neil Gaiman's published works, would not be a surprise. The overall tone of the movie is dark and yet humorous, in which playful music blends with horrific actions done by the characters on screen. The dialog within the movie is witty and allows the viewers to get to know the characters. Tristan Thorn as the protagonist is a rather sympathetic and entertaining character despite his bumbling beginnings. He is a hardworking young man whose earnest love for Victoria shows with his every action despite her being unworthy of such efforts. Yvaine, the fallen star, is a rather unsympathetic character but it is rather understandable, having been knocked out of orbit by a magical pendant. The plot of the film is well-paced with the Stormhold royalty and the witches hunting the fallen star with their lives at stake contrasted with Tristan and Yvaine walking by foot looking for the Wall.

Viewer's Annotation: Tristan Thorne is a normal English boy who crosses a gap in the Wall, into the magical kingdom of Stormhold, to retrieve a falling star in order for his love's hand in marriage. Little does he know what forces of darkness he will face as witches and Stormhold royalty also seek the star.

Information About the Director: Matthew Vaughn is an English born director and producer. He is best known for directing the movies Layer Cake and Kick-Ass as well as the upcoming newest installment in the X-Men universe, X-Men: First Class.
As a producer, Vaughn worked on the famous Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels as well as Snatch.

Genre: Fantasy; Romance; Coming-of-age

Curriculum Ties N/A

Booktalking Ideas:
  • How is Tristan Thorn an endearing and respectable hero, despite his rather bumbling beginnings as a humble English shop-boy? How could average teenage viewers relate to his attempts at happiness?
Viewing Level: 15+

Challenge Issues N/A

Why This Movie?: Hugo Award Winner

Reference Page:
Vaughn, M (Producer and Director). (2007). Stardust [Motion picture]. USA: Paramount Pictures.

Easy A

"Maybe this is gonna sound stupid and, believe me, it's not like I was expecting, you know, fireworks or a string quartet or anything but I always thought pretending to lose my virginity would be a little more, I know know, special? Judy Blume should've prepared me for that."

Title: Easy A

Director: Will Gluck

Production Company: Screen Gems

Copyright: 2010

Plot Summary: To avoid spending time with her best friend's wacky family for the weekend, Olive Penderghast lies and says she spent the weekend losing her virginity with a college student. Like most rumors, Olive's spread like wildfire through her school and soon all the Christians say she will be damned and everyone is can't keep their eyes off her. Reveling in this newfound attention, Olive starts to change her wardrobe and demeanor at school. She uses her new popularity to help downtrodden guys at school like her gay friend who wanted to play straight until he graduates. Soon, every unpopular guy wants to spread the rumor that he spent time with Olive by paying her in gift cards and her best friend won't even talk to her. Olive starts receiving unwanted attention in the form of the Christian students protesting over her sexual exploits and she begins to feel the full impact of her so-called adulterous lifestyle. To make things worse, Olive has never been on a date with a guy, let alone had sex with one.

Critical Evaluation: Olive's use of her webcamera to talk directly to the audience reduces the distance between her as protagonist and the viewers, quite like in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. She also narrates the storyline as events unfold and her witty and strong personality really pull the movie through. With her newfound identity in school, Olive is able to remake herself through clothing and overall demeanor, especially how she acts among the other students. This could be taken as a positive cast to the otherwise negative image of an "easy" girl that Olive cultivates. The multiple references to 80s movies, especially those with chivalrous male leads, is a wink to the past from Olive and the older characters in the movie also make references to when times were different. While the ending was not as concrete as it could have been in terms of how everyone takes Olive's webcast, it summed up the story well and left it to the viewer's imagination.

Viewer's Annotation: Easy A tells the story of a rumor gone wild when Olive Penderghast lies that she lost her virginity to a college student. Soon the entire school knows and Olive's previous squeaky-clean image goes wild.

Information About the Director: Will Gluck is a New York born director, producer, and screenwriter. Gluck has written for many television series as well as directed and produced multiple movies.
He has directed the movies Fired Up and Friends with Benefits, along with Easy A. Some of Gluck's television series were the John Larroquette Show and The Loop.
Genre: High School; Rumors; Romance

Curriculum Ties N/A

"Booktalking" Ideas:
  • How does Olive's original lie get blown out of proportion? What are other dangerous rumors that can be spread without much prior notice? Why do you think that Olive embraced the rumors so strongly instead of rejecting it whole-heartedly?
Viewing Level: 16+

Challenge Issues N/A

Why This Movie?: Critics Choice Winner

Reference Page:
Gluck, W. (2010). Easy A. Screen Gems.

Nintendo Power

Title: Nintendo Power

Publishing Company: Future US, Inc

Summary: Nintendo Power's articles and reviews range in length from single paragraphs to a couple of pages and their depth and intricacy vary to the same extent. The articles are all written in the second-person point of view with the authors talking directly to the readers and gamers. Advertisements are integrated into the general layout of the magazine and add to the general mood of the publication. Nintendo Power also includes interviews with game publishers and designers that provide insight as well as intriguing and entertaining conversations with people who know and have built the game from the bottom-up, versus those who only know the end product. The Letters corner contains reader responses to specific questions and allows gamers to hear multiple points of view on specific subjects such as whether or not they have bought games because of the artwork on the box or around specific topics such as old handheld games like the Game Boy or the Super Nintendo.

Critical Evaluation: From even the covers of the magazines, Nintendo Power is colorful and eye-catching to the readers and also set a tone of youthfulness, from that of Link riding a horse to two-tone Pokemon set in a ying and yang background. As the majority of the articles are written as reviews with a walk through of the game included (a walk through being a basic guides to the plot and game play of a game), they are written in the second person, addressing the readers directly through the use of the pronoun "you." While this could be more engaging to some readers, the repetitiveness of the second person point of view could start feeling like a Choose Your Own Adventure novel. However, this writing style does make it easy for readers to quickly find the information they are looking for, also assisted by the use of quick and easy subtitles such as Knowing the Score and Hey! Listen!.

Reader's Annotation: Nintendo Power covers all things gaming, including reviews, tips and tricks, strategy guides, and previews. While targeting a younger audience through its heavy coverage of youth-games, Nintendo Power also entices older teen gamers with its insightful reviews and hints.

Information About the Publishing Company: While Future US, Inc is not the original publisher of this magazine, they have a history of publishing self-interest magazines that cover a range of topics from gaming, music, and technology. Their monthly audience for their multitude of print and online publications is 29 million strong.
Future US, Iinc is headquartered in South San Francisco, California. Read more about the company at their website.

Genre: Gaming; Reviews

Curriculum Ties: National Gaming Day

Booktalking Ideas:
  • For the young gamer or one who reminisces about the good old days of Zelda, Nintendo Power covers games that other reviewers might overlook, as well as covering themes in game releases such as Japanese visual novels' rising popularity in the United States and the general progression of the Zelda series.
Reading Level: 14+

Challenge Issues:
  • While Nintendo Power's games are targeted for younger gamers than GamePro, there still is a large amount of animated violence within them, even if there is no gore. For example, the Dead or Alive series centers around one player's character defeating another player's character, or an Artificial Intelligence character by beating it up. The screenshots within the magazine are all easily PG and the tend more towards the Pokemon end of gaming rather than that of Mortal Kombat.
Why This Magazine?: Circulation statistics

Transworld Skateboarding

Title: Transworld Skateboarding

Publishing Company: Bonnier Corporation

Summary: Transworld Skateboarding is a magazine directly targeted to fans of skateboarding and contains mostly photographs of skateboarders doing tricks in a variety of locations all around the world. They range from posed photos in which skaters pick the perfect time of day as a backdrop, to run down areas that lack any special lighting. The layout of the magazine provides for large images that allow skateboarders to see how a trick looks as it plays out. It does not, however, show how to do the trick or lay out a description of it other than its title. Transworld also contains spotlight articles interviewing or focusing on the careers of skateboarders who have worked their way up from parks to having multiple sponsors. The articles provide a glimpse into the different levels of the sport of skateboarding and how skaters of all ages participate. The advertisements within Transworld are integrated into the magazine and lack price tags, often looking just like the photos of the skateboarders doing tricks.

Critical Evaluation: The images of the skateboarding tricks are breathtaking, especially as they are so rapidly taken that when viewed in the proper sequence, the skateboarders almost look like they are darting across the page. Similarly, the layout design of the magazine is akin to that of a photo-book and the amount of text is incorporated in a manner that it does not distract readers from the action. The advertisements did not have prices or much information regarding how to purchase the products, or how to even locate it. This made the integration of advertisements and articles easier and lends more weight to the photo-book design. However, the main problem that the magazine has is that it caters towards expert skateboarders or at least those who know the jargon, especially the names of the tricks. For those who are just starting to skateboard, there is no "starter" version or portion that can help them acclimatize to the sport.

Reader's Annotation: For fans of skaters, Transworld contains all the best skateboarding tricks documented in frame-by-frame photographs.

Information About the Publishing Company: Bonnier Corporation is an American publishing company. Bonnier was formed in 2007 when its Swedish company combined with World Publications.
Bonnier's magazines are all based on special-interest activities such as sailing, parenting, popular science and fishing. Read more about the company at its website.

Genre: Skateboarding; Sports

Curriculum Ties N/A

Booktalking Ideas:
  • For those who love skateboarding or for those who want to learn more about it, Transworld offers interviews and photographs of skaters doing tricks that will make your jaw drop.
Reading Level: 15+

Challenge Issues N/A

Why This Magazine?: Staff Recommendation


Title: Seventeen Magazine

Publishing Company: Hearst Corporation

Summary: Seventeen contains quick blurbs about fashion, makeup, hairstyles, and other topics that teenage girls will find interesting, such as how to make quick money and interviews with famous teens. Written for those who do not have a lot of time to read lengthy articles, most of the articles are very succinct and to the point and contain a large amount of graphics and price tags, along with locations at which the clothing or other product can be purchased. Similarly, the advertising is all targeted towards teens and, for the most part, have younger models in them. Most of the articles are organized by specific themes, such as Sporty Chic for Spring and Sunny Steals, containing a comparison of different brands and the price ranges. While there are a few longer length articles in Seventeen, they are at the back of the magazine and are not easy to locate. Seventeen also contains quizzes for teens to fill out and test their knowledge, as well as quizzes to discover how they relate to others.

Critical Evaluation: Seventeen is not a literary magazine as much as it is a fashion guide for teens, containing reviews and comparisons for those who want to update themselves on the newest fads quickly without having to dig through lengthy articles. The clean design of the magazine allows for readers to alternate between different products and find out information about where to buy them and the cost. While some spreads may be more cluttered due to the number of products per page, such as Her Style which combines shoes, makeup, bags, etc, it still is easy to find distinguish what text goes with what item. The blend of advertising and articles is almost seamless which, on one hand, makes for a uninterrupted reading experience, but on the other hand makes the entire magazine a shopping catalog rather than a published work that reviews products. The how-to articles were the most interesting, as they did not require the purchase of an item.

Reader's Annotation: Chock full of beauty and styling tips, fashion deals and how to deal with teen issues, Seventeen is a quick and easy reference and entertainment magazine for busy teens.

Information About the Publishing Company: Hearst Corporation is an American publishing media organization. Hearst publishes a multitude of media, from newspapers to magazines as well as broadcasting and interactive media.
Heart's published magazines range from Cosmopolitan and Esquire to Oprah and Popular Mechanics. Read more about the company at their website.

Genre: Fashion; Shopping; Teen Life

Curriculum Ties N/A

Booktalking Ideas:
  • Seventeen Magazine provides all the fashion tips, hints, and reviews that teens could need. Written in an entertaining and easy to read manner, it also contains a handful of articles that go in depth into subjects that are applicable to and should interest teens of all ages, from how to make money or how to help someone going through difficult situations.
Reading Level: 15+

Challenge Issues N/A

Why This Magazine?: Circulation Statistics

Monday, May 9, 2011

Goodbye Lullaby

Title: Goodbye Lullaby

Musician: Avril Lavigne

Publisher: RCA

Copyright: 2011

Summary: Goodbye Lullaby is Avril Lavigne's fourth released album and strongly deviates from her previous musical style, sounding quite like the old MTV Unplugged sessions, in which musical artists performed on stage with only a set number of musical instruments and live singing. While still classified as pop and rock, Goodbye Lullaby's overall tune is lighter on the beats and focuses on Lavigne's views on life and love. What the Hell does have an upbeat tune and discusses how love feels and the need to break free of limitations now and again. Similarly, Stop Standing There discusses love and the need for people to not waste any time and get to fully understand their loved ones and live life fully. Continuing the love theme, I Love You is a rather sentimental description of loving someone in their entirety and for loving someone for sharing a past together. Goodbye speaks of having to move on to new things despite still having feelings for someone.

Critical Evaluation: Goodbye Lullaby was a rather strange album and while it did deviate strongly from Avril Lavigne's previous musical style, the songs varied in intensity and often felt like they were from two separate albums. While her vocals were as strong as ever throughout, songs like What the Hell and Alice were most reminiscent of her previous style and many of the others were almost like ballads with acoustic accompaniment. Instead of starting and ending with the two strong and more rock-influenced songs, the album could have blended the styles of songs within the track listing and perhaps provided a more varied and alternating musical experience. For example, Minutes to Midnights by Linkin Park alternated between heavy rap songs like Bleed It Out and What I've Done with Leave out All the Rest and Shadow of the Day. Like in movies, the tension of a CD has to be alternated to keep the listeners on their toes.

Listener's Annotation: Blending together love ballads and Avril Lavigne's familiar rock beats, Goodbye Lullaby is her newest studio album that contains the hit song What the Hell.

Information About the Musician: Avril Lavigne is a Canadian singer and songwriter who has been performing since her teens. She is mainly known for her rock-punk songs Complicated and Sk8ter Boi, as well as her heavy eye makeup and skater fashion.
Lavigne has released three albums before Goodbye Lullaby. Read more about the artist at her website.

Genre: Pop; Rock

Curriculum Ties N/A

"Booktalking" Ideas:
  • For those who had Avril Lavigne's old hit songs stuck in their head for days on end, Goodbye Lullaby will be a nice change and add some new titles into their mental playlist. Blending a range of styles, Avril Lavigne shows that she will not be stuck into the same niche and will branch out and try different musical styles.
Listening Level: 15+

Challenge Issues N/A

Why This CD?: US Billboard Ranked Album

The Fame

Title: The Fame

Musician: Lady GaGa

Label: Interscope

Copyright: 2008

Summary: Lady Gaga's first album consists of songs that all center around the glamorous life of someone who lives in the spotlight, from Paparazzi to the Fame. Each song has its own mini-theme underneath the lyrics, such as that of Just Dance whose heavy-club beat which also carries undertones of someone attempting to drink their troubles away, which is something that many listeners could appreciate. LoveGame focuses on what the title clearly states, the game of love and sexual tension. Paparazzi's lyrics are reminiscent of poetry in their structure while the words themselves are more akin to that of a stalker in nature. Like many of her other songs, it depicts the disturbing side of fame and stardom. Beautiful, Dirty, Rich's lyrics are simplistic in nature if viewed on paper, but when listened to, it becomes almost a mantra accompanied by the heavy club beats that promote the party going life despite difficulties.

Critical Evaluation: The overall tone of the CD is upbeat and makes listeners want to dance, or at least nod their head to the beat. The lyrics themselves varied between the songs, from those which would make listeners wonder what the songwriter was thinking at the moment, to those which cause people to shake their heads at the writer's audacity. A perfect example is the song LoveGame, in which the lyrics state sexual tension between the singer and someone in the club: "I wanna take a ride on your disco stick." While some criticize Lady Gaga for innuendo of that nature, many other popular songs contain similar lyrics, if not much worse. The childish rhyming nature of LoveGame's lyrics almost has a sense of her poking fun at the abundance of sexual themes in music. The sprinkling of slower songs near the end of the album is quite similar to the general downward slope of a novel's plot after the climax and was a positive way to end the CD.

Listener's Annotation: A blend of the now-famous Lady Gaga's top hits, The Fame is a Platinum ranking album that will make listeners want more.

Information About the Musician: Lady Gaga started off as a song-writer before being signed as a performing artist. Her first album, The Fame, catapulted her into celebrity and she continued with two more studio albums.
Lady Gaga is famous for her outlandish costumes and catchy club songs. Follow Lady Gaga at her website.

Genre: Pop; Dance

Curriculum Ties N/A

"Booktalking" Ideas:
  • The CD that started it all, The Fame is Lady Gaga's first released album and contains four #1 songs, while the rest are all recognizable to those who listen to Pop radio. From LoveGame to Paparazzi and Just Dance to Poker Face, those who love Lady Gaga or to those who haven't heard her yet, The Fame is an entertaining and energizing CD that will make you want to move.
Listening Level: 16+

Challenge Issues:
  • While some of the lyrics within the album's songs have racy innuendo, it is not much worse than any other music that can be heard on the radio.
Why This CD?: Platinum Album


Title: GamePro Magazine

Publisher: GamePro Media

Summary: Each issue of GamePro, a monthly release magazine, covers a specific gaming theme, from a preview guide of new games being released in the fall, to eleven reasons why personal computers (PCs) are still valid gaming consoles, and to themes such as suspense, covering games like Diablo 3, Dead Space 2 and an article on Dracula's Legacy in media. While covered in advertising like any other modern magazine, GamePro's are almost seamlessly integrated into the magazine's gaming theme, such as an internet security ad featuring Tron: Legacy. Each article goes in depth into a specific issue or game and ranges from a very detached writing style to one that directly addresses readers' responses. GamePro covers game and product reviews and polls from other online gaming sources, as well as articles covering other topics that also can relate to gaming. Also, the articles often dip into gaming history and compare how things have changed as well as honoring the origins of specific themes and styles of gameplay, such as the Nintendo 64's James Bond Goldeneye as the advent of third-person shooters on home consoles.

Critical Evaluation: Compared to other game reviews both online and in print, the reviews within GamePro lean more towards the side of an analytical essay versus a written blurb about the reviewer's experience with the game. The articles cover both pros and cons as well as comparisons between similar games with a complexity that belies its humble print format. The very layout of the magazine is also very clean cut and minimalist, blending clean screenshots and artwork with their lengthy articles. The writing styles within the articles is also varied enough to ensure that the readers do not become bored, by alternating between personalized reactions to games and clean-cut reviews. One article which caught my eye was a female editor responding to how much she disliked responding to her view on women in games, as she believes herself to be a gamer first and woman second, rather than a spokesperson for female gamers.

Reader's Annotation: GamePro is a professional magazine that delves into the complex world of the games that you love and the games that haven't been released yet.

Information About the Publisher: GamePro Media, along with its printed magazine, has a website that hosts the same reviews and articles alongside downloadable games and other content. GamePro Media's mission is to engage, entertain and inform gamers of all ages.
Check out the newest from the gaming world at their website!

Genre: Gaming; Reviews

Curriculum Ties: National Gaming Day

Booktalking Ideas:
  • While many look down upon magazines as literature and gaming even more so, GamePro's articles discuss games in an analytical and engaging manner that could easily fit in an academic journal. The sheer coverage of all the games can draw in both new and old gamers, as well as gamers of all ages.
Reading Level: 16+

Challenge Issues:
  • Some of the games and the articles could contain adult themes and graphic images that would be inappropriate for preteens. However, the target audience for the majority of the games is for teenagers, especially regarding the detailed nuances of each article that could bore younger readers who just want the basic facts on a game. Hopefully, the titles of the games on the cover of each issue as well as the cover themes (Diablo or a busty World of Warcraft Elf, for example) should give users a hint of the reading level.
Why This Magazine?: Staff recommendation

High School Musical

"In my other school, I was the freaky math girl. It's cool coming here and being...whoever I wanna be."

Title: High School Musical

Director: Kenny Ortega

Production Company: Disney Channel

Copyright: 2006

Plot Summary: Troy and Gabriella are two very different teens who meet each other at a New Year's Eve karaoke event. Troy, one of the star players of the school's basketball team the Wildcats, has a secret love of singing, while Gabriella is a math whiz who is too shy to perform in front of others. At the New Year's Eve party, Troy and Gabriella sing and have an instant connection. It is only when Gabriella transfers into Troy's high school and they have the same home-room class that they meet once more. Auditions for the musical start causing waves throughout the school: from Troy's teammates who believe he is abandoning them, from the math club who want Gabriella to win the tournament for them, and the original musical stars who feel like they are being challenged.

Critical Evaluation: While the movie is made by Disney and thus has rather juvenile humor, the themes within the story are more suited for teens than preteens, especially the theme of trying to fit in by rejecting some aspect of the self. Both Troy and Gabriella, the main protagonists, have a comfortable niche that they have made in their teenage lives, with Troy as an athlete and Gabriella as an intellectual. That Troy and Gabriella breaking away from their stereotypes frees many other teens and allows them to admit their own quirks and hobbies. The villains of the movie were rather one-dimensional in comparison to the two protagonists, with little motive other than to continue ruling the musical. The ending of the movie was rather Disney-perfect but that was anticipated.

Reader's Annotation: Troy and Gabriella live worlds apart in their social circles and it is only when they are forced to sing a duet at a New Year's Party that they realize what they have been missing.

Information About the Director: Kenny Ortega is a California-born producer, director, and choreographer. Famous for the popular High School Musical series of Disney Musical movies, he has also directed This Is It. Ortega has also directed for the television series Ally McBeal and Gilmore Girls.
Follow Ortega's projects at his website.

Genre: Musical; High School Life; Sports; Romance

Curriculum Ties N/A

"Booktalking" Ideas:
  • Troy and Gabriella are brave individuals for leaving their comfort zone and trying something new, let alone being able to stand up and sing on stage while being uncomfortable doing so. What are other ways that you can do something new without going to that extent?
  • How did the songs in the movie make the themes more accessible to the viewers through the lyrics and catchy beats? Or do you believe that the songs can take away from the themes by having the viewers distracted by the tune rather than concentrating on important dialog?
Viewing Level: 15+

Challenge Issues N/A

Why This Movie?: Emmy Award Winner

Reference Page:
Ortega, K (Director). (2006). High School Musical [Motion picture]. USA: Disney Channel.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Ferris Bueller's Day Off

"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

Title: Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Director: John Hughes

Production Company: Paramount Pictures

Copyright: 1986

Plot Summary: Ferris Bueller's Day Off beings with Ferris feigning illness to his parents in order to skip school. As a senior, Ferris believes that every day should be seized to its full capacity. His definition of a full day does not involve being trapped in school. While his parents believe his hammed up acting, Ferris' sister knows his tricks. Once on his own, Ferris hitches a ride from his friend Cameron and they borrow Cameron's rigid father's Ferrari to break Ferris' girlfriend Sloane out of school. Once freed, the trio drive into Chicago for a day on the town, one more day of freedom before the upcoming summer then the time when they will be separated for college. Meanwhile, as Ferris, Cameron, and Sloane have fun in town, escalating to Ferris singing and dancing on a parade float, the school Principal swears to catch Ferris in the act of skipping school, going so far as to go to his house.

Critical Evaluation: Despite being a prankster protagonist and narrator who lies to his parents, Ferris Bueller is an easy-going and sympathetic narrator who audiences should relate to and whose antics elicit a laugh. Ferris' direct conversation with the audience could be startling at first but then his casual nature makes it feel natural and makes the audience wonder when he next will talk directly to them or simply make eye-contact with the screen and pull a face. While the plot of this movie was simple and direct to the point: boy skips school with girlfriend and friend for a joyride into the city while avoiding being caught, the best part of it is in the journey and the memories that the three friends make. Regarding characters, many viewers will most likely relate more to Cameron rather than Ferris, as a character who is insecure and does not know what he will do with his life.

Reader's Annotation: For Ferris Bueller, life shouldn't be wasted in school, especially when graduation is coming up and everything as he knows it will change. Life is for living, so Ferris skips school with his girlfriend Sloane and best friend Cameron and live it up in Chicago.

Information About the Director: John Hughes was born in 1950 in Michigan. In 2009, he died of a heart attack after a lengthy career.
Hughes was famous for writing and directing many popular teen movies other than Ferris Bueller's Day Off. These movies included Sixteen Candles, Weird Science, and the Breakfast Club.

Genre: Comedy; Coming of Age; High School

Curriculum Ties N/A

Discussion Ideas:
  • What sort of protagonist do you believe Ferris Bueller to be? Do you believe he provides a good example to teens of having "harmless" fun in order to enjoy your life? What about his view of stopping the high speed, always-busy life in order to have fun and live a little?
Viewing Level: 15+

Challenge Issues N/A

Why This Movie?: Nominated for a Golden Globe Award

Reference Page:
Hughes, J (Director). (1986). Ferris Bueller's Day Off [Motion picture]. USA: Paramount Pictures.


"I think I've kind of been in a bubble... thinking that fairness was gonna just happen. It's not. People like me are gonna have to get up off their fathers' laps and go out and fight for it. "

Title: Hairspray

Director: Adam Shankman

Production Company: New Line Cinema

Copyright: 2007

Plot Summary: Hairpsray tells the story of Tracey Turnblad, a rather short and stout teenaged girl living in 1960s Baltimore. Her life is filled with song and dance and she loves to watch the Corny Collins Show and her favorite member Link. When a spot in the show opens up, Tracey auditions without a moment's hesitation, despite being put down by the show's station manager Velma and her daughter Amber. After being sent to detention, Tracey discovers a new type of dancing from the school's black students as well as a glance into a world that she had never known and the unfairness of segregation that exists even on her beloved Corny Collins Show. Tracey struggles with her love of dancing and being able to dance with her new friends.

Critical Evaluation: The themes of this remade version of Hairspray are the same as the previous version: of self-acceptance, standing up for what you believe in, and never giving up. Tracey Turnblad is a typical underdog but her persistence and her generally happy demeanor is endearing to the audience and that she never seems to become disgruntled or hopeless could give viewers hope despite their own troubles. The very catchy songs and the amazing singing and dancing all lend the movie a feeling of hope, exuberance, and the ability to reach your dreams. The characters in the movie were not fleshed out in the manner that a reader of a book would expect, but throughout the course of the movie, viewers get to understand characters through their behavior, dialog, and lyrics.

Reader's Annotation: Tracey Turnblad may not be the typical slender and blonde teen that comes to mind when viewers think of Miss Hairspray, but her love of dancing and music will take Tracey further than even she thought possible.

Information About the Director: Adam Shankman is an American film director, producer and choreographer. Shankman has been nominated for two Primetime Emmys and is famous for his directing abilities as well as his choreography.
Having started as a dancer, Shankman then broke into the choreographing business and from there, he moved on to directing and producing. Follow Shankman at his Twitter page.

Genre: Musical; Historical; Race Politics

Curriculum Ties: African American History Month

"Booktalking" Ideas:
  • How is Tracey Turnblad an underdog in this story? How is she easy for viewers of all ages to relate to? This can be in terms of her age, physical appearance, or demeanor.
  • Would the themes of Hairspray work as well without the upbeat atmosphere caused from the music, singing, and dancing of a musical? Could it have worked without the song-and dance or do you think it is an intrinsic part of the movie, as shown by its roots as well as the plot of the movie itself?
Viewing Level: 15+

Challenge Issues N/A

Why This Movie?: Nominated for 3 Golden Globe Awards

Reference Page:
Shankman, A (Director). (2007). Hairspray [Motion picture]. USA: New Line Cinema.

What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know

"I mean, if I had to choose right now
between a single kiss from Sophie
or, say,
being the only guy at a week-long orgy
with of the models
from the Victoria's Secret catalog,
I'd choose that single kiss.

Title: What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know

Author: Sonya Sones

ISBN: 978-0-689-87602-8

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Copyright: 2007

Plot Summary: What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know begins with Robin Murphy and his girlfriend Sophie as they begin their romantic relationship in high school. However, due to Robin being highly unpopular, to the extent that his last name is used as an insult, Sophie's friends abandon her and the rest of the school mocks her. Robin, being used to this aimed at himself, bridles at the changes Sophie has to encounter just for being with him. Sophie, however, thinks of ways to fight back and believes that it will all blow over once something new happens. However, Robin suddenly gets a new chance at his teenage life when he is accepted to a college-level art program, where nobody knows what a Murphy is and nobody knows his embarrassing past. He gets a new group of friends who automatically invite him to hang out and he is the center of attention. Robin struggles between supporting Sophie and enjoying his teenage years with his new college friends.

Critical Evaluation: The format of Sones' novel is intriguing. Each page consists of a short poem format with no set rhyme scheme, but with indentation that causes the reader to pause at certain points in the sentences, as can be seen in the quote above. While at first, the format felt stilted and awkward, as the reader continues reading they are drawn in by the unfolding plot and the format becomes smooth and rhythmic. It is a very original format and may put off readers at first, but if given a chance, it allows for a quick and entertaining read. Similar to reading song lyrics, What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know has innate music within the writing. The main characters within the novel of Robin and Sophie are endearing and well-rounded, especially as the plot continues and Sophie's friends return to her, her actions are believable. The side characters do not have enough time devoted to making them complete and three-dimensional.

Reader's Annotation: Robin Murphy is a ridiculed 15-year-old who finally gets to date the girl of his dreams, only to realize that all her former friends turn their backs on her for dating the Murphy, a common insult derived from his name. Soon, his guilt overrides his love for her and he takes solace in his college art class, where nobody knows him as Murphy and he falls into a crowd of cool, artistic young adults.

Information About the Author: Sonya Sones was born in Boston and first thought she would grow up to be an artist. Later, she decided she liked animated films and earned her degree in film-making and photography.
Sones started writing after reading to her children and now is a prolific young adult writer who has been awarded multiple honors. She lives in California. Read more about Sones at her website.

Genre: Popularity; Fiction; Dating; Romance; Art

Curriculum Ties N/A

Booktalking Ideas:
  • How did the format of the book affect the experience of learning about Robin and his life? Did you feel it helped or took away from the process?
Reading Level: 15+

Challenge Issues N/A

Why This Book?: 2007 Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers

Reference Page:
Sones, S. (2007). What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know. New York: Simon & Schuster Books.