Archive for Humor

Booktalk: Goose Chase by Patrice Kindl

In this episode, we revisit Patrice Kindl (of Owl in Love fame), who put a funny spin on the Goose Girl fairy tale in her novel Goose Chase.  I like to use this book to break things up in my booktalking presentations and make my audience laugh after I’ve finished telling them about a bunch of dark, scary, or sad books.

As always, a first-person booktalk takes a little extra effort, acting ability, and self-confidence.  I find it both challenging and entertaining to look right at my audience and tell them (with a mostly straight face) that I’m as lovely as the dawn!  In some ways, I both love and fear doing first-person booktalks.  Does that make any sense?  Well, surges of adrenaline work both ways, I suppose …


You might think that having your tears turn into diamonds and gold dust fall from your hair would be a good thing.  You’d think that, but you’d be wrong. You might also think that it would be wonderful to have a prince and a king competing for your hand in marriage.  But you know what?  That’s not so great, either.  You know how you want that perfect someone to look into your eyes and see into your heart and realize that the two of you are soulmates and that you’re destined to spend the rest of your lives together?  Yeah, well that’s not gonna happen when you’ve got diamonds and gold falling out of your head!

You know, six months ago my life was a lot easier.  I was a goose girl.  My life was simple, I lived by myself, and I was happy.  And then one day I gave an old beggar woman my last crust of bread.  And in return, she gave me a blessing, which if you ask me is more of a curse.  Oh, and by the way, not only do I have diamonds falling out of my eyes and 24-karat dandruff, but I’m also as lovely as the dawn.  That’s right, I’m a triple threat.  But all my powers aren’t helping me at all right now; in fact, they’re what got me into this mess.  You see, right now I’m locked up in a tower while the prince  and the king wait for me to decide which one of them I’m going to marry.  (Confidentially, my answer is “neither one,” but these guys don’t know how to take no for an answer!)

You know that “happily ever after” stuff?  Don’t believe a word of it!

Booktalk: The Secret Blog of Raisin Rodriguez by Judy Goldschmidt

Since there’s been so much depressing news here on the east coast now that Hurricane Sandy has come and gone, I thought it was about time we had a funny story again!  The Secret Blog of Raisin Rodriguez by Judy Goldschmidt is the first in a series of books featuring Raisin’s adventures, although unfortunately the sequels are not in print at this time.

This is a great book to recommend to teens who enjoy realistic fiction, humorous books, and diary-format fiction.  If you have teens who enjoyed Click Here (To Find Out How I Survived Seventh Grade) by Denise Vega — which I booktalked in a previous episode — then they would DEFINITELY love this book, as well!


Raisin Rodriguez was happy and well-adjusted when she lived in Berkeley, California.  She was happy with the weather, with her home, and with her best friends.  But that was before her parents got divorced and her mother remarried.  Now Raisin and her sister Lola have been dragged across the country to live in Philadelphia with their new stepfamily.  Raisin is completely devastated, and she writes her feelings in her blog,  She writes about how she’s dealing with her new family and her new school.  How can she get social hotshot Fiona to be her friend?  How can she get social reject Jeremy to stop being her friend?  How can she get the quiet and mysterious CJ to notice her?  When will her stepfather stop calling her “dude,” and who gave him permission to congratulate her when she finally got her period?  Read her blog to find out.  You might as well – it’s not as private as she thinks!

Booktalk: Owl in Love by Patrice Kindl

This wasn’t the first booktalk I ever wrote, but it’s the first one I wrote that I remember being proud of.  I presented it at a meeting of young adult librarians, and several of them asked if they could have copies of it afterwards.  So that was how I knew that it was good.

As you probably know by now, I’m not a fan of romance books, but if a book crosses another genre with romance and does it well, it can win me over.  Owl in Love was definitely one of those books.  Owl in Love combines fantasy and humor with a sweet and troubled female protagonist, and readers will find themselves empathizing with this very unique teenager.

If you enjoy this book (and I think you will), then it’s worth checking out more of Patrice Kindl’s books.  I’m a big fan of Goose Chase, which explores the lighter side of fantasy, and The Woman in the Wall, which explores its darker/sadder/lonelier side.


Owl is in love with her science teacher, Mr. Lindstrom.  She perches on a tree branch outside his window every night and watches him sleep in his underwear.  Fruit of the Loom, size 34.  Now, Owl isn’t an owl all the time.  She’s a shape-shifter – a were-owl.  You see, she’s only an owl at night; during the day she’s an ordinary 14-year-old girl.  Well … mostly ordinary.  Except that her eyes are a little too round.  Her eyebrows are a little too thick.  Her skin is a little too gray, because her blood is black instead of red.  Oh, and she will not eat the cafeteria food.  I mean, why should she?  Owl always eats whatever she catches at night, like insects or small rodents.  She just can’t stand the thought of ravioli, hamburgers, or pizza.  But Owl’s problem isn’t that she’s a shape-shifter; she’s been living with that her whole life.  Her problem is that she’s in love with Mr. Lindstrom, who’s married, human, and her teacher.  So, Owl sits outside his window and watches him sleep every night.  And as she does so, she notices a strange boy and an even stranger owl lurking in the woods near Mr. Lindstrom’s home.  Owl now has to face the fact that the man she loves might be in danger.  Can Owl protect him and still keep her identity a secret?

Booktalk: Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman

I can’t believe it took me this long to share a historical fiction booktalk!  Actually, Catherine, Called Birdy combines some of my favorite elements of teen fiction.  It’s historical fiction, it’s written in a journal format, and it’s also hilarious!  Check out Karen Cushman’s website to learn more about the author of Catherine, Called Birdy, The Midwife’s Apprentice, Matilda Bone, and lots of other exciting historical fiction titles.


Catherine’s life has just gone from bad to worse.  Up until now, she’s been the daughter of a not-very-rich lord.  They have their title, they have their land, but that’s about it.  Catherine has spent her days doing things she hates, like cooking and cleaning and sewing and embroidery – and she’s not good at any of it!

But now, like I said, things just got worse.  Catherine’s father has decided that he wants her to be married to someone as rich as possible as soon as possible.  But Catherine doesn’t want to be married, especially not to the ugly old men who keep coming to see her.  She’d rather be a monk, a musician, or even a crusader!  Catherine has to make a plan, and soon, if she doesn’t want to be married.  But she has a lot of tricks up her sleeve, and she’ll use every last one to drive her suitors away.

Life sure was tough in the thirteenth century!

Booktalk: The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place Book 1: The Mysterious Howling

I don’t booktalk to children’s groups too often, so when I do, I like to pick books that will appeal to the broadest possible audience.  The Mysterious Howling is a cute and sweet story as well as an enthralling mystery, and that’s quite an accomplishment!  To learn more about The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series, be sure to check out Maryrose Wood’s website.


When Penelope graduated from the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, she never imagined that her first job as a governess would be such a challenge.   The advertisement said that the governess should be energetic, and that experience with animals was strongly preferred.  Penelope was energetic, and she loved animals (especially ponies), so she was very excited about the interview for this new job.  But she couldn’t get a good idea of what the children were like.  Everyone she asked about the children was very vague, or avoided the subject completely.  After Penelope got the job and signed the contract, she went upstairs to unpack … but then she went outside to investigate some strange howling noises coming from the barn.  And that’s when Penelope met the children.  Because those weren’t animals howling in the barn … the children were making those noises!

That’s how Penelope learns that she is expected to be a governess for three children who had been found living in the woods.  Three children who were raised by wolves.  She is expected to teach these children French, Latin, history, etiquette, drawing and music.  But these children don’t speak English, they prefer to walk on all fours, and they LOVE chasing squirrels.  This is definitely going to be a challenge!

Booktalk: Click Here (To Find Out How I Survived Seventh Grade) by Denise Vega

Sometimes I need to booktalk a book that makes me laugh and makes the kids laugh.  After all, everyone needs a break from sad books and scary books, right?  This is a great booktalk for the middle school set, especially for 7th graders who light up when they see that it’s a book about THEM.  You can check out Denise Vega’s website to learn more about Click Here (To Find Out How I Survived Seventh Grade) and its entertaining sequel, Access Denied (And Other Eighth Grade Error Messages).


My name is Erin Swift.  I have big feet and I love Snickers bars.  I just started seventh grade, and already it’s a disaster.  First, my best friend Jilly and I are in different classes for the first time since kindergarten.  Second, I’m in the same class as Serena Worthington, who is stuck up and annoying and mean.  Third, on my first day of school, Serena Worthington called me a puppet.  As in “Jillian is Gepetto and you’re Pinocchio” kind of puppet.  And you know, it didn’t even make me feel better when I punched Serena in the face for saying it!

But after a few days, I realized that this new school wasn’t all bad.  First, I actually became a little bit famous for punching Serena Worthington.  Second, I only kept the nickname Pinocchio for the first week of school.  Because after that, the janitor found two eighth graders making out in a closet, and people forgot all about Erin the Puppet.  And third, I made a couple of new friends, Rosie and Mark, and we’re all in the computer club together.  Rosie is a good listener and a good friend, and Mark … well, let’s just say that the more time I spend with Mark, the more HTML stands for Hot Tamale Mark LOVE!

I’ve started a home page where I’m writing about my life, posting pictures of me and my friends, and providing fun links to click on.  Click here to throw virtual darts at Serena Worthington’s face.  Click here to contribute your own Revenge of the Puppet ideas.  Click here if you are tired of clicking and just want a Snickers.

Booktalk: Artichoke’s Heart by Suzanne Supplee

Suzanne Supplee’s superb novel Artichoke’s Heart provided me with a dilemma: how do I booktalk a book that I enjoyed immensely but which probably would only be picked up by a very limited audience?  How can I get an entire class interested in the story of a fat girl who needs to lose weight?  Part of your goal as a booktalker is to find different ways of appealing to your audience’s interests.  Yes, Suzanne Supplee wrote an excellent book with a fantastic narrator who is funny, sarcastic, and smart.  But how can I get the boys in the class (as well as the skinny girls) to overcome their “this book isn’t about me” assumptions and give this book a chance?  I was so moved by the scene at the beginning of the book in which Rosemary is thinking about her terrible Christmas presents that I knew that this scene should be the main hook of my booktalk.  Yes, I’m telling my audience that this story is about a fat girl.  But I’m also telling them that it’s about a teenager who is frustrated by her family, and that their cluelessness is demonstrated in the presents they chose to give her for Christmas.  And every teenager in my audience can identify with what it feels like to be misunderstood and frustrated by family members.

Some books sell themselves because they have an eye-catching cover, because they’re part of a popular series, or because they’re by a famous author.  Some books sell themselves with just a little bit of encouragement from a librarian, teacher, parent, or friend because they tell a story whose one-sentence description would automatically appeal to every single teenager.  Like, What would happen if a snowstorm trapped you in your school for a week? just to give an example.  The real challenge of booktalking is to take a book that you love to pieces but which might not appeal to everyone in the class, and then you create a powerful booktalk that SHOWS THEM what a fantastic book it is.


Rosemary Goode has just received the worst Christmas present ever.  Actually, MOST of her presents were lousy, and she only got one good one.  This Christmas, Rosemary got a treadmill, two diet books, tickets to a conference called “Healing the Fat Girl Within,” and a book of Emily Dickinson poems.  You can guess which one was the good present.  So far she’s read a couple of the poems and she’s been using the treadmill for hanging her wet laundry.  Rosemary spent the holidays in sweatpants, not because of a fashion choice, but because she’d outgrown everything else.  But Rosemary being fat isn’t a new development; she’s been heavy for years.  Ever since the day she wore a new green coat to school in 6th grade, the kids in her class have been calling her an artichoke, and it’s a nickname she absolutely hates.  Up until now, food has been one of Rosemary’s only friends.  She would eat whenever she was unhappy, and she was unhappy a lot.  But now that she’s almost sixteen years old and she’s outgrown all her clothes, Rosemary knows that she has to change her life.  She doesn’t want to be glamorous or beautiful; she just wants to be normal.  But losing weight is going to have to come naturally, not because her mother or Aunt Mary, or that damn treadmill are trying to guilt her into it.  Rosemary is going to start changing the way she eats a little at a time, and as winter turns into spring, losing weight is going to be the first of many changes in her life.  And some of those changes are going to surprise her.

Booktalk: Bloodthirsty by Flynn Meaney


First things first — isn’t that cover just completely ADORABLE???

Okay, now on with the story.

Finbar Frame is one of the most sarcastic, snarky, and hilarious narrators I’ve encountered in a while.  I found myself spending equal amounts of time laughing with him and at him while I was reading this book.  Bloodthirsty is an entertaining story about identity, and relationships, and honesty.  It will be especially appreciated by fans of Twilight and similar vampire stories, as well as by any teens who love to hate those books.

You can learn more about Flynn Meaney, Bloodthirsty, and her upcoming projects at her website.


Finbar Frame has a lot of things going against him.  He’s not a popular star athlete like his brother, he’s allergic to the sun, and… oh yes, his name is Finbar.  When a girl on the train sees Finbar’s pale skin and bandaged arms, she has a suspicion about what he really is.  When she asks what happened to him and Finbar answers, “Too much sun,” she’s not confused or horrified.  Instead, she’s delighted.  That’s because she thinks that this strange boy must be a vampire like the one in the book she’s reading.  She’s wrong, of course, and Finbar thinks that the whole idea is ridiculous.  But when he realizes that LOTS of girls think that vampires are sexy, he begins to change his mind.  One thing’s for sure — Finn is going to have his work cut out for him as he tries to get girls to date him, as he struggles to find the RIGHT girl, and as he deals with the consequences of being a fake vampire.

Booktalk: The 6th Grade Nickname Game by Gordon Korman

This one’s for all the teachers in the house!  I hadn’t thought about The 6th Grade Nickname Game for a while, but after it came up recently in a dinner conversation with several educators I decided that it was time to share this booktalk.  I’ve often placed this book into the hands of reluctant readers, especially boys, when they’ve visited my library.  This was a good book for me to add to my booktalking repertoire because a funny book about boys helped to balance out all the sad books about girls.  And while we’re on the subject … why DO I keep choosing sad books about girls?

Of course, whenever you’re looking for great books (especially funny ones) to recommend to young readers, Gordon Korman is an excellent choice.


Wiley and Jeff are legends in class 6B.  They’ve been playing a game for years – a nickname game.  They’ve given nicknames to lots of kids and teachers, and their nicknames are so popular that they always stick.  Charles Rossi always snoops around watching people, so they call him Snoopy.  Their principal always looks at everyone with big round eyes, so they call him Deer in Headlights.  Some people had easy nicknames: Kelly Warnover became Warmed-Over-Leftovers, Christy Jones became Crusty Bones, and 6B’s new English teacher Mr. Hughes just had to be Mr. Huge.  Jeff and Wiley even gave nicknames to entire classes.  6A had all the smartest kids in it, so they were called the Bright Lights.  6B, on the other hand, had the kids who didn’t do so well in school, so they were called the Dim Bulbs.

Up until now, these nicknames have been a lot of fun, but suddenly there’s a downside.  You see, class 6B did very badly on the practice test for the State Reading Assessment.  But if they don’t pull themselves together and do well on the real test, Mr. Hughes is going to be fired!  The problem is, 6B has been called the Dim Bulbs for so long that they’ve really come to believe it.  Even Jeff and Wiley have to admit that sometimes a nickname can do more harm than good.  Is there any hope for the Dim Bulbs?  Can they prove their nickname isn’t true?  And can they ace a test to save their teacher’s job?

Booktalk: I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President by Josh Lieb

As soon as I saw this book, I just knew that I had to read it.  Great cover?  Check.  Hilarious title?  Check.  Funny and sarcastic writing style, channeling the genius of Dave Barry (right down to the footnotes)?  Check.  And to top it all off, this book was just as much fun to share as it was to read!

Josh Lieb clearly knows humor when he sees it; he’s worked on Newsradio, The Simpsons, and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (where he’s the executive producer).  He’s also very media-savvy, as you can see in the snazzy Sheldrake Industries website that was created to promote the book.  Go read this book for yourself, and then share it with some teens who will appreciate a smart and funny read.


My name is Oliver Watson, and I am superior to each and every one of you.  Now to most people, I appear to be an ordinary 7th-grade student. My teachers think I’m stupid … because I don’t LET them know how smart I really am.  And a lot of bullies pick on me.  Or, at least, they used to.  But the bullies who picked on me were much more likely to get sick than other students.  That’s because a) I have secret undercover bodyguards b) my bodyguards will shoot a mini-dart into the neck of anyone who bothers me and c) those darts are filled with a chemical that I developed when I was in the first grade.  Have I mentioned that I’m a genius?  Now you might be wondering how I can afford secret bodyguards, secret mini-darts, and secret chemicals.  Well, I can afford it because I’m actually the third-richest person in the world.  I own land, and banks, and baseball teams, and television networks.  I even have an underground lair — a concrete cavern the length of ten football fields.

And yet, there’s something missing.  In spite of all of my triumphs, I still haven’t managed to achieve the one measure of success that my father did when he was a boy — being elected as class president.  So now I’m going to add “winning the student election” to my list of things to do.

My name is Oliver Watson.  Vote for me … OR ELSE.