Monthly Archives: February 2013

Digital Poetry Contest Short List Winners

At the end of the Digital Poetry Contest, we selected 5 poems for the short list and sent them off to YA author Lisa Schroeder. After much deliberation, she has selected the final winner, with the comment “this was hard”. The winning poem will be published on our website tomorrow. Today, however, we wanted to feature the four short list poems. Congratulations to everyone. We were most impressed with your writing!



at night
in my bed
when the lights are turned off,
i stare up at my ceiling
and suddenly my hands are above my head,
creating a picture that only i can see
on the separating me and the night.
some nights it’s just criss-crosses,
multicolored polka-dots,
anything that pops,
other nights i try to recreate Starry Night
only the blue sky is changed
it’s now the new york city skyline.

at night
in my bed
i lay my head against the pillow
and make sure my neck is against it
just so i can hear my pulse pound
(p      o u     n        d)
in my ear
and know i am alive.

at night
in my bed
i think of everyone i spoke to that day.
i remember what we said
what they wore
what their facial expressions were.
and i wonder if they think about me the same way
or if i think too much of people.

(Jessica, age 16)


On The Inside

It’s suffocating
I can’t breath
I can’t move
I can’t see
I can’t feel
at all…

I am numb and pain
at the same time
and I’m angry
on the inside

I am mute and I speak
at the same time
and I’m screaming
on the inside

I am blind and I see
at the same time
and I’m crying
on the inside

I’m angry!
I’m screaming!
I’m running!
I’m crying!

I’m So Sorry!

On The Inside…

(Yalexie, age 17)



Soccer is freedom,
Nothing else.
With each dribble I am like a boss-
I am in control
With every play I am like a cat-
I am confident
In games I am like a bird-
I have been set free
Without this game, I’m choking-
I’m a fish on land

This game gives me everything.
I could never have enough
I’m a greedy king
I need more.
Enough is never enough

How could I live without my passion?
I cannot.
This game is the air I breathe
Necessary to my survival

Soccer is my friend
Always there for me
I feel o so fortunate

Many are not as lucky as I
But like a friend, there are ups and downs
I get frustrated
I want to play more, better
But never ever to quit.

Practice makes perfect
As the saying goes
I sometimes feel obsessed-
I am addicted
My heart is pounding
Too much of anything isn’t good
Except for soccer
I can’t get enough
I love every bit of it

Just it and I together,
We’re the perfect team
Sailing through the ups and downs
Working through the thick and thin.

(Ally, age 16)



Grace followed in her footsteps
And clung to her aura
It’s gentle hands tried to keep her steady,
As she walked through the path of life
Which was lined by an array of flowers
Their scents enticing, tempting
Leading her through the crossroads,
Invisibly coated with the paints of pure and evil
But the intoxicating aroma of sin
Enticed her with fragrances of black rose
She hadn’t noticed the thorns
On the stems of what was luring her
To the murderous  hands of death
Her beauty couldn’t save her
Instead, it attracted the demons
Who prised away grace’s fingertips,
Throwing it and her innocence into the flames
And placing her into deaths palm

(Eve, age 14)

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Authors are rock stars.

A couple of us from Eight Cousins went to Winter Institute in Kansas City over the weekend. Winter Institute is organized by the American Booksellers Association and is a professional conference for independent bookstore owners and employees. It’s a great opportunity for book sellers to network with each other, connect with publishing houses, and meet authors. As you can imagine, publishers and booksellers have a rather symbiotic relationship and much of the weekend is dedicated to two things: professional training and showcasing upcoming titles (think fashion week, but for books). I could go on and on about the industry side of the conference, but I’ll skip to the author signing event.

In the publishing industry, authors are kind of like rock stars and the author event is always very exciting. Upon first seeing the list of who would be there, I gasped when I noticed Laurie Halse Anderson’s name. When the event started, I made a bee line straight to her table. There was a rather long line — as you might expect — and I kept thinking about what I wanted to say to her. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to come up with anything unique. I’m sure she’s heard, “I love your books” a thousand times. So when I finally got to the front of the line I said the one thing that genuinely conveyed what I was thinking: “I want to thank you for writing Speak.” She was so gracious and even though I’m sure she’s heard that sentiment over and over, she still managed to make me feel like I was the only person who had ever said it. She signed my book, gave me a hug, and I walked away with stars in my eyes and a fluttery heart. Now, I’m moderately embarrassed to admit this, but I then did the only thing I could think of at that moment: I posted something on Facebook. Thankfully I managed to refrain from using OMG!, but I was definitely thinking it.

Fast forward to the next day and I’m sitting at the airport with my travel companions. Doing exactly the thing that people like to criticize these days, I was absorbed with my iphone, catching up on my RSS feed, and not paying any attention to my immediate environment. When I moved over to talk to someone in my group, I noticed someone across the aisle who looked familiar. “Oh, she’s probably from the conference”, I thought, until a few minutes later when Carol started talking to her about her books. It was then that I realized, “oh. my. god. that’s Laurie Halse Andersen.” I sat there, freaking out in my head, trying to think of something to say and thinking about the fact that I already put the ‘I met Laurie Halse Anderson’ post on Facebook, but wondering if I could do it again. Once again my heart started fluttering and I now understand why young kids freak out when they see their teachers in the grocery store. The night before it had been a party. Everyone was dressed up, putting on their best public persona, but here we were in travel clothes sitting on uncomfortable chairs and waiting for an airplane. It was too normal. I was tongue-tied. Horrified, I realized I was missing an amazing opportunity, but I couldn’t think of anything to say! It was at that moment that one of my other travel companions looked up and shouted, “OH MY GOSH, YOU’RE LAURIE HALSE ANDERSON!” I haven’t laughed so hard in such a long time. Partly from nerves, partly because that’s exactly what I had been thinking, partly because it was so unexpectedly loud. Once again Laurie (can I call her that?) was incredibly gracious. We all talked for a few minutes. She even let us take a couple of pictures (now posted on Facebook, of course). We said good-bye and she boarded the flight.

Who knows if she’ll remember meeting us, although I think it’s safe to say we made an impression. But I was overwhelmed at how amazingly kind she was. I keep using the word gracious, because it is so apt. I’m still kind of kicking myself for not talking more. But really, what I most want to say most is, “Thank you for writing Speak.

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Digital Poetry Contest

Our Digital Poetry Contest ended on February 14th and we’ve sent the short list off to YA author, Lisa Schroeder. We’ll be announcing that list and the final contest winner next week. In the mean time, we had so many excellent submissions that we wanted to post some of the poems that aren’t on the short-list, but deserve recognition. Write on. Eight Cousins

My Kite and I 

During the expanse of spring and fall,

My favorite is the time of the kite.

Warm air and gentle wind are our call,

Through the sky, my best friend soars and takes flight.

Winds too strong,

Carry our hopes of takeoff away.

Though winds tame and long,

Bored, my vessel and I will sway.

Wind that buffets, swoops and stings,

Forces down rain, sleet and snow.

The chilling howls, through my head still rings.

This drives us away, now inside we must go.

Along with the cold, my kite and I despise the heat

Humid air, motionless, and stiff as glass,

We attempt not to falter or admit defeat,

But are sent plummeting, lifeless into the grass.

However short our time may be,

I will savor the time when it was only my kite and me.

(Madeleine, age 14)

It’s Good

It’s going fast.

Into the dark,

the unknown,

but there’s something ahead


It’s good.

It’s clear.

So it continues



Nothing to obstruct.

Nothing to hold back.

It’s there and it’s going.

On and on and on.

By itself



Into the dark,

the unknown,

but something’s ahead


(Leah, age 17)

School is like Jail

School is like Jail

You go against your will,

You are to do as you are told,

And your humor becomes ill.

All your rights are gone far away,

You have a forced schedule,

People try to take advantage of you,

And the food is terrible.

The only difference

Between School and Jail

Is that one helps your future

While the other helps you fail.

(Derrrick, age 18)

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8 by Eight: Inexcusable by Chris Lynch and Exposed by Kimberly Marcus

9781442442313Our current set of 8 by Eight books focus on teen relationship violence. Chris Lynch’s Inexcusable (Simon & Schuster, $9.99) is an important contribution because it is narrated from the male perspective. Keir insists that he is a “good guy”. He systematically explains how the situation evolved, the events that led up to Gigi’s accusations against him, and why she can’t possibly be right about what she says he’s done. Keir’s misunderstandings and refusal to recognize the bias of his own perspective are evident from the first sentence: “The way it looks is not the way it is”. As much as Keir tries to convince the reader of his innocence and justify his position, the evidence that he himself proclaims is carefully stacked against him. It’s hard to empathize with Keir at all, but I don’t think we’re meant to. Instead, Lynch’s story reminds us to carefully and critically examine the very essence of who we know we are. Because what we know isn’t always what is.

9780375865916In Exposed by Kimberly Marcus, the story is narrated by Liz, sister of the accused and best friend of the accuser. Liz is a photographer and therefore knows that, when taking pictures, what you leave out is as important as what you put in. Unlike Keir, she also understands that perspective is everything and that there is often an enormous gap between what is and what we want to be. Written in free verse, there is a lot of open space within the narrative and on the page for readers to fill in the story, allowing for a range of possible interpretations.

Both authors provide opportunities for debate and Inexcusable contains a Reading Group Guide. Furthermore, both books have enough respect for the difficult nature of the topic to refrain from imposing superficial endings. Neither book offers answers; both ask a lot of important questions.

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Customer Review: Mattie, age 14

9780062014535Mattie, age 14, reviewed an advanced reader copy of Requiem by Lauren Oliver for us (Harper, $18.99, available March 5, 2013). Rating the book as “fabulous”, Mattie recommends Requiem for “people who like the other books in the series or people who like dystopias”. She also indicates that the book teaches important lessons, has an excellent plot and interesting people, is well written, and made her laugh.

Thanks for the review, Mattie!


Local kids and teens who are interested in receiving advanced copies of books should contact us about our ARC review program. Stop in the store and ask one of our staff members, or email us at

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First, read this article entitled “Are eBooks the Death Knell of Authorial Greatness?”.

Second, “pbooks”?!?!?! Is that a thing? I’ve never seen that phrase before, but I love it! Well, part of me loves it, because I think it’s funny. The other part of me thinks that we don’t need two categories of books (pbooks and ebooks) as if physical and digital are equal. Books are books and ebooks need their own title because they are a derivative form of books (feel free to respond in the comments, but keep it friendly; we’re all book lovers here!)

Third, this article articulates something that people been talking around for a while, but don’t always have the vocabulary to express it quite so lucidly. I hear people all the time professing their love for the ‘tactile’ nature of books and their reluctance to lose that. As a book historian, I appreciate hearing most readers readily accept, and proclaim, that the container matters to the reading experience. Books are printed on all sorts of different qualities and types of paper. Fonts are chosen very specifically. Binding is crucial to engagement with the text (think about the assumptions you make about a leather-bound edition versus a paperback). And, yes, of course cover design is vital. In the publishing world, all of these different aspects of the book are carefully debated and chosen. They are the things that people are referring to when they say that they like the way a book ‘feels’. And, in my opinion, all of these components are what makes the physical form of a book a work of art. Ebook editions, however, are all identical. At least within a device. An ebook might look different on a Kobo, iPad, or Nook, but every ebook on an iPad, for example, looks basically the same. I’ve been wondering when publishers will start to use the technology to distinguish their books. Will they start to shade the paper a bit? Format fonts? Try to create art and design within the technology? I don’t know. But I can’t wait for the day when I can start reading an ebook on the cover rather than the first text page. It drives me nuts to only ever see the small thumbnail cover on my ebook shelf, when I double-click I want to see a full size cover. And don’t get me started about the lack of dust jackets or back covers. Publishers (app developers?) take note.

Finally, this article is fascinating because it highlights the connection between the tactile and memory, and places that connection into the context of literary tradition. I was just thinking the other day about a book I read on my e-reader. I had been excited to order a digital advanced reading copy of a book by one of my favorite authors, but I can’t remember the end of the story. Seriously. I just read it a few weeks ago and it’s already fading from memory. I can remember almost every book I’ve ever read. And if I own it, I can tell you where it is on my bookshelves. Most bibliophiles can. But I’m already forgetting a new book?!?! By one of my favorite authors!?!? Terrible. As much as I love having access to the new and the not-yet-published, I do agree with some of Rich’s claims from the article. I never flip through my old ebooks. I rarely remember to recommend the books I’ve read digitally. And yes yes! The physical books surrounding my desk are all little monuments to themselves. Even if I haven’t read a book for years, every time I see it, the memory of reading is reinforced and the story stays fresh in my mind.

I do believe that authorial greatness can happen on any platform. But is the physical necessary to keep a book in the public’s memory long enough for it to be recognized as great? I guess we’ll see. Nevertheless, there are a lot of amazing authors writing right now. I’m glad we have shelves full of their books to reminds us of that.

8 by Eight: Teen Dating Violence Awareness

Too Common

  • Nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year.1
  • One in three girls in the US is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds rates of other types of youth violence. 2
  • One in ten high school students has been purposefully hit, slapped or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend.3
  • One quarter of high school girls have been victims of physical or sexual abuse or date rape.4

1 in 3 girls in the US is a victim of physical, emotional, or verbal abuse from a dating partner. These are the statistics on the Teen Dating Violence Awareness website. When I was in college, the numbers we cited were 1 in 4. Anecdotally, I rarely meet anyone who is one of the other 3. The issue is so pervasive, some of the women I meet can’t even be bothered to be upset about it. Which is upsetting.

In honor of Lisa Schroeder’s new YA novel, Falling for You, we’ve been running a poetry contest for teens over the past few weeks. Falling for You is an issues book with a happy ending. Rae lives with her mother and a controlling, abusive step-father. He demands she take care of the house, cook his dinner, and eventually turn over her paychecks from the Flower Shop where she works after school. Rae’s solace is her poetry. She writes through her pain and, because she is afraid to tell even her closest friends about her home life, poetry is her only outlet of expression. When Rae meets Nathan, she is surprised at how much he seems to like her. Rae is even more surprised to slowly discover that Nathan’s feelings towards her are less about love than they are about his need to control her.

Because poetry is such a formative aspect of the novel, we decided to host a poetry contest after the book’s release. However, I don’t want to ignore another significant part of Schroeder’s novel, which is the abuse that Rae endures at the hand of her step-father that then resurfaces in a different form in her relationship with Nathan. Nathan’s actions, in the name of love, are anything but. Rae knows something’s not right, but again and again, the people around her dismiss her feelings. Not surprising really. If 1 in 3 girls experiences abuse in a relationship, then abuse becomes horrifyingly normal.

February is Teen Dating Awareness month, and in honor of ALL teens — female and male — who have experienced violence in a relationship, we have selected 8 novels that deal with these types of struggles. The novels all raise different issues and we hope that they can be used to spark conversations about dating violence and the confusion that often surrounds such conversations. Check back for reviews of a selection of our 8 by Eight books and please jump in and join the conversation.

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8 by Eight: I Lay My Stitches Down Poems of American Slavery

9780802853868Writer Cynthia Grady and illustrator Michelle Wood have put together an intricate collection of poems and quilt-inspired illustrations that focuses on slavery ($17). Grady explains that “Quiltmaking and poetry share similarities in craft” and shows how color, shape, sound, and structure create the overall pattern in both types of art. The poems are unrhymed verse, 10 lines of 10 syllables, which follows the shape of a quilt block. Furthermore, each poem contains three references: biblical, spiritual, and musical, to mimic the three layers of a quilt. The illustrations are equally nuanced and complex and also utilize visual references to quilting and history.

The poems range in subject matter from work to celebrations, education to freedom. The poem, North Star, for example focuses on how slaves, who were inherited by non-slavers, were often educated and highlights the North Star, which was used to navigate the way to freedom.

North Star

Age six saw me with a new master. He
was no slaver. Instead of tobacco
fields, I blowed the planes of Euclid. Instead
of flax, I spun my way through Homer’s verse.
I longed to hear the heavenly hymns of
Pythagoras one starry night, when a
voice in the salt shed said, “Make no diff’rence
what you know. A body wants to be free.”
I bade my master farewell. His blessings
send me north, lighting my way to freedom. 

For the rest of our recommendations for Black History month, visit our 8 by Eight page. The 8 by Eight books change every two weeks. Starting on February 14th, the new selections will focus on Teen Dating Violence awareness.

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8 by Eight: The Other Side

9780399231162The Other Side, by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by E. B. Lewis, is one of those perfect picture books. The story begins, “That summer the fence that stretched through our town seemed bigger. We lived in a yellow house on one side of it. White people lived on the other. And Mama said, ‘Don’t climb over that fence when you play’. She said it wasn’t safe”. Clover wonders about the fence. Who put it there. What it means. And why it keeps her away from Annie, on the other side. Although the fence divides them, Clover and Annie start to develop a friendship. They meet in the middle and eventually cross the divide. The ripple effect their small actions have on the community is both heartwarming and inspiring. This story has something important to say about fences, and children, and courage, but it says all of these things quietly, letting the reader slowly absorb the message, rather than forcing it. Like the narrative, the illustrations are subtle and inviting. Each image convey the sun, possibilities, and eternal fun of childhood summers. Recently celebrating its 10th anniversary, if you haven’t seen this book in a while, definitely look for it on our 8 by Eight display. It is not to be missed.

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