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Stuff for the Teen Age

Mrs. Conte Recommends: Great Teen Reads and Programs at Morris Park


I recently finished reading two excellent teen novels. The first novel is historical fiction set during World War II, and the second novel is a work of fiction written in verse which takes place in the present. However, no matter the time frame, their themes will resonate with teens and adults. In addition, the Morris Park Branch was fortunate to host an author visit with a young adult author, Rosanne Parry, just weeks ago. We now have her book in The New York Public Library system, and from the response that the author got from the teens in my branch, I am sure that this novel, Second Fiddle, will get my stamp of approval as well!! I just received my copy, and I can't wait to read it.

The first novel I am recommending is titled Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. The main character, Lina, is 15 years old in 1941 Lithuania. Like any normal 15 year old regardless of the year, Lina is excited that summer is about to begin and since she is a gifted artist, Lina is looking forward to a summer of art school, boys and fun. However, after her father, a college professor, disappears under suspicious circumstances, Lina, her mom and her brother Jonas are carted off by Stalin's secret police and deported to Siberia. The author's family was in Lithuania during the 1940s when Josef Stalin's program of ethnic cleansing wiped Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia off the map. Sadly, these countries did not reappear on any map until 1991. It is estimated that Josef Stalin killed more than twenty million people during his reign of terror. Lina's story contains the themes of hope in adversity and love and family rising above hate. Lina's artistic ability, and a love interest play a pivotal part in the story as well. Check out Ruta Sepetys's interview in March 2011's School Library Journal, and her website at

The second young adult novel that I would like to critique is Orchards by Holly Thompson. This story takes place in the present in poetic form in the style of Ellen Hopkins and Samantha Schutz. The main character, Kana Goldberg, is half Jewish and half Japanese, and after a classmate commits suicide during the summer of 8th grade, Kana is sent to Japan to the home of her maternal grandmother. Here, Kana tends the family's orange orchard recovering from the aftermath of Ruth's suicide that has sent the entire 8th grade into turmoil. Some of Kana's friends stay in New York for the summer all of them coping with this senseless tragedy in their own way. News about another classmate sends everyone reeling for a second time during the already sad summer. This novel is thought provoking. Check out the author's website at

In Rosanne Parry's novel, Second Fiddle, the setting is 1990s Berlin right after the Berlin Wall comes down. The main character, 13 year old Jody and her two best friends become involved in a journey that takes them from Berlin to Paris. They rescue a badly beaten Russian soldier from drowning, and become involved in a web of intrigue with international ramifications. Roseanne visited the Morris Park Branch in April. She explored the daily life of a writer, explained how she develops her themes and chooses her settings and even shared some of her personal life with the teens. Read more about Rosanne Parry at

This was just one of the wonderful programs that the Morris Park Branch Library hosts for teens. Here are some of the programs we look forward to in the future:

Write it out: Fighting Words - What's on your mind? Got something to say about yourself, your friends, or your family? Buff up your writing skills with assistance from Ireland's own Fighting Words writers and volunteers. Outline an idea with your friends or family and create a story that tells your story. Your words will become part of an on line compilation, featured along pieces by Fighting Words authors. All materials provided. For ages 12 and up Tuesday, May 24 @ 3:30 pm

Blockbuster Books: Join filmmaker, Allyston Morgan in making a Book Trailer - Make it a blockbuster summer with the library! Write a script, shoot the film, and edit it all together. Materials will be provided. Thursday, June 2, 9, 16, 23, 30 @ 4:00 pm For ages 12-18

Summer Reading Kickoff Celebration: Tuesday, June 7, 2011 from 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm Stop by and sign up the whole family for summer reading 2011 and enjoy the festivities!

All of these programs are at the Morris Park Branch Library at 985 Morris Park Avenue, Bronx, NY 10462.


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Between Shades of Gray

I'm reading this book right now. It was recommended to me by my mother, which marks one of the only times in recent history that she told me about a young adult novel instead of the other way around. She was born in Latvia, left the country with her family in the 1940's before the Baltic countries were absorbed into the Soviet Union, and lived in a displaced persons camp in Germany for a decade before coming to the United States. And in her opinion, this book is both accurate and enjoyable.

Mother Knows Best

Glad to hear that Mom recommended a good book! Have you seen her interview in March School Library Journal? It gives you a little background of where she got the characters from. Rosanne Parry was at Morris Park last month. She actually was in Berlin when the wall came down since her husband was stationed in the service at that time. Glad to see that historical fiction, my favorite genre, is still being written.

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