Archive for Homosexuality

Booktalk: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

Darkest Part of the Forest cover

I’ve been a fan of fantasy books since I was a kid.  While I admit a certain fondness for high fantasy stories featuring princesses, castles, and unicorns, I have a special place in my heart for the stories where fantasy and reality blur.  Because (of course) those kinds of stories were more likely to really happen to me!

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black is an awesome fantasy story set in modern day featuring some characters that feel like they just stepped out of a fairy tale and others who feel like your childhood friends or the kid you used to be.  And because I always like books that cross genres because then I can use different hooks to appeal to different readers, I should also mention that this story blends fantasy with adventure and suspense AND it also features numerous romantic angles!


The town of Fairfold seems like a modern place that fits into the 21st century.  But the town has very old roots, and those roots are filled with magic.  Most of the magic is invisible, but there’s one magical thing in the town that you CAN see.

That magical thing is a boy — a very unusual boy.  And tourists will come from miles around just to see him.  This boy has horns on his head and pointed ears, but other than that he looks human.  The boy is lying in a glass coffin in the woods.  It’s a very special coffin, because it can’t be opened and it can’t be broken.  The boy appears to be asleep … at least, no one’s ever seen him open his eyes.  And there’s one more unusual thing about the magical boy.  Even though he’s been there for as long as anyone can remember, he never gets any older.

Hazel and her brother Ben grew up in the town of Fairfold, so they both spent a lot of time hanging out in the woods and visiting the magical boy.  Like generations of kids before them, they’ve spent time talking to him and wishing he would wake up.  Hazel and Ben have seen pictures of the magical boy from years ago.  And in every picture he looked EXACTLY the same.

Hazel and Ben don’t know it yet, but the town of Fairfold is about to go through some major changes.  And one of those changes is that the magical boy is going to wake up.

Booktalk: More Than This by Patrick Ness

More Than This cover

More than This by Patrick Ness is a profound book that is difficult to categorize, in part because the reader doesn’t fully understand this world until it unfolds.  And even by the end of the story … well, let’s just say this book raises more questions than it answers.  It’s a richly rewarding story, and one that will have a strong impact on teens, especially on curious teens who enjoy taking their minds in new directions.


Seth was dead, and then he was alive again.  The last thing he remembered was swimming in the ocean.  He remembered the pull of the undertow and how he was fighting against the waves, and that no matter how hard he tried to swim away from the rocks, he couldn’t.  He remembered the waves dashing him against the rocks.  He remembered the sound of his shoulder blade snapping in two, so loud that he could even hear it underwater.  He remembered drowning  … and then he remembered waking up here.  Wherever “here” is.

Seth doesn’t know if he’s dead, or alive, or dreaming.  He doesn’t know if he’s in heaven, or hell, or somewhere in between.  All he knows is is that he woke up in front of a house that looks vaguely familiar.  He doesn’t know exactly where he is, but when he steps inside the house it feels like he’s been here before, a very long time ago.  He also knows that wherever he is, he’s completely alone.  He listens carefully, but he can’t hear the sound of any people, or animals, or birds, or even insects.  This world is completely silent.

Seth doesn’t know what kind of place this is, or why it feels familiar, or what happened to everybody else.  He doesn’t have the answers to any of these questions … YET.

Booktalk: From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun by Jacqueline Woodson

If you haven’t read any books by Jacqueline Woodson yet, you need to remedy that right away.  She’s written a lot of books for children and teens, ranging from picture books to novels.  Her realistic fiction stories for teens feature characters who have to deal with life-changing problems like teenage pregnancy in The Dear One, a terrible secret in I Hadn’t Meant to Tell You This, and a boy’s troubled relationship with his mother in From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun.

The biggest and loudest reaction I’ve ever had to a booktalk was when the kids responded to the last line of my booktalk of From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun.  Multiple times at multiple schools, the kids’ reaction was so loud that I had staff members come over from different parts of the library to see what was going on.  It got so that I spent so much mental energy bracing myself for what might happen at the end of the booktalk that I didn’t realize that it might generate another kind of reaction, too.  One time I started this booktalk and when I got to the line about Melanin’s skin being darker than everybody else, everyone in the class turned in unison to look at one kid whose skin was a lot darker than everyone else (and whom I hadn’t even noticed until the moment that it happened).  I felt like I’d painted a bullseye on that kid, and I felt just terrible about it.  However, by the time I got to the end of the booktalk I’d given the class something else to think about.

I think my message here, if I can find one, is that while we always try to show how every book we’re presenting has universal appeal, some details of the story might apply to individual students in the class whether you realize it or not.  You’re booktalking about a girl who has a weight problem, and kids in the class turn to stare at a girl who has a weight problem of her own.  You’re booktalking about a boy named Kevin, and the kids start giggling because there’s a boy named Kevin in their class.  You’re booktalking about a kid who’s being abused by a family member, and one or more of the kids in your audience is being abused when they go home at night.  There are always going to be some details of the books you present that will jump out at members of your audience.  Your job as a booktalker is to push through the distractions in the classroom and show your audience how each of these books can appeal to them and apply to their lives.


Melanin Sun has spent most of the thirteen years of his life not fitting in.  The first reason was his name – Melanin Sun.  Now you’d probably figure that any mother would have to be crazy to give her kid a name like that, but then again, her name is Encanta Cedar, so maybe it’s not so crazy after all.  The other thing that made it hard for Melanin to fit in was his color – not just that he was black, but that his skin was darker than anyone else he knew, including his mother.  Melanin wondered a lot about what his father looked like.

Well, like I said, Melanin didn’t fit in with most people.  But he did have a few friends – there was Ralph, and Sean, and even Angie, who gave him her number and said they should hang out sometime.  Melanin manages to fit in, in this very small world of just his mother and his friends.  But that small world is about to be destroyed.  It all starts when Melanin’s mother tells him that she wants him to meet the new special person in her life.  Melanin thinks it’s no big deal; it’ll just be some guy she’ll go out with a couple of times, they’ll break up, and everything will go back to normal.  Because that’s what always happens.  But when the meeting actually takes place, Melanin feels like his whole world is going to end.  Because not only is his mother’s new love white … but she is a woman.