Booktalking Rant

I just attended a workshop on teen programming and services. Almost a decade ago, I was a children’s and YA librarian rather than a library director. From this blog, you can see that I still have a lot of interest in that field, and continue to consider it my area of specialty.
I had one problem with today’s workshop. When they spoke about booktalking, they said that there was no need to actually read the book that you were booktalking. They considered that an outdated idea!
Well, I must be outdated, because I feel it is entirely necessary to read any book that you booktalk. You have to know if the book you are booktalking is one that you would actually recommend to teens. Without knowing the book yourself, how would you know if it is worth recommending. We have all read books that have received great reviews or even awards that we personally did not like. I wouldn’t booktalk any of those even if they did win awards.
I also see booktalking is a very intimate program. You are exposing your own personal reactions to books, endorsing them, and you are responsible for those endorsements. I wouldn’t let that hinder what type of book I booktalked, and often raised teachers eyebrows with my choices, but I would limit it to books that I was passionate about. Often kids would come back to me wanting to talk about this great book that I had led them to through a booktalk. How do you talk in detail about that book, strengthening the tie between the library and that particular kid, without knowing the ending?
Now once I did break this rule myself. I was in the middle of this incredible book and had to do a booktalk that week, so I booktalked it even though I didn’t know the ending. But I was honest with the kids, telling them that I was so excited about this book that I couldn’t even wait until I finished it to tell them about it!
If you are passionate and honest about the books you are recommending, then booktalks are golden. If you can’t find a handful of YA books that you love and you can booktalk, then you need to ask for suggestions! You are reading the wrong books!

Ginger Finds a Home

Ginger Finds a Home by Charlotte Voake (0-7636-1999-X)
This is a wonderful book featuring a little orange cat who doesn’t have a home except for a patch of weeds at the end of a garden. But he is found by a little girl who returns day after day to earn his trust and befriend him.
The book is great for storytimes featuring cat stories as a contrast to more fictionalized cats. Ginger is entirely realistic and completely heartwarming.

Roller Coaster

Roller Coaster by Marla Frazee (0-15-204554-6)
Almost as much fun as riding a coaster, this book is filled with swerves, laughter and loops. The pictures are ones that you will want to study at length, since they are rich with tiny details showing characters’ reactions to the ride. Keep an eye on the elderly couple and contrast them with the brawny men.
Best for small groups or laps where you can talk about the illustrations.

Mind Games

Mind Games by Jeanne Marie Grunwell (0-618-17672-1)
This book is a read that sneaks up and hooks you before you realize what is happening. In the format of a seventh grade group science project on ESP, this book gives a glimpse into the personality of the kids involved in the project as well as their experiment. Right at the beginning of the book, you learn that the group won the lottery through their research, but was it science or ESP that gave them the winning number?
Boys and girls will like this book with its engaging characters from a range of backgrounds. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys fantasy and also kids interested in science. Since it is also a book very based in school-life, kids who enjoy school settings in their books will enjoy this as well.