I am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President

Cover Art from: amazon.com
Cover Art from: amazon.com

Lieb, J. (2009). I am a genius of unspeakable evil and I want to be your class president. New York, NY: Razorbill.

ISBN: 978-1-59514-240-5

Plot Summary: When Oliver is first nominated for class president he turns the offer down. Everyone thinks he is the biggest idiot in the entire school but secretly he is an evil genius and the third richest person in the world. When his father inspires him to re-enter the race, so he can prove he is superior to him of course, he uses all of his evil genius resources to rig the election. He also meddles in the lives of his teachers, arranges for a political coup in Africa, and secretly showers a girl he hates in presents during his campaign. When voting day finally comes he has the perfect speech all planned out and is sure he can win or at least make his rigging the election look real. This is ruined when his opponent makes an inspiring speech that Oliver’s dad loves. Oliver looses it and gives a speech about how worthless the position of eighth grade class president really is totally blowing his idiot cover. He then panics and wets himself in a feeble attempt to cover for what he has just said. He runs away and is about to order the whole school be bombed into oblivion when his dad catches up to him and says he is proud of him for running the campaign and asks where he learned that speech. Having his fathers approval and a plausible cover for his sudden intelligence the book ends with Oliver calling off the bomb strike.

Critical Evaluation: At first glance this book appears to be geared towards slightly younger readers but as you get into the story it becomes apparent that older readers will get more enjoyment from the story. The book has some great social commentary about the evilness of rich people who do not specifically set out to do evil things but accomplish them with their all absorbing self interest. The final speech about the whole political system starting with meaningless school elections and going up to meaningless adult elections is also so darkly hysterical due to how true it rings. One of the greatest things about the book though is no truly knowing if Oliver is who he thinks he is. Throughout the book comments on Oliver’s weight indicate a disconnect between how he perceives his appearance and how he actually looks. This sets the seed of doubt in readers minds about how true his claims of genius are. Many of his actions are pretty outrageous and sound like the kind of stuff a dorky middle school kid might imagine to make himself feel better. However, there are also moments where other people notice his genius especially Tati the girl he hates but for some reason showers with secret gifts. The book makes it seem impossible for him to be as smart or powerful as he thinks he is but also equally impossible for this to all be in his head.

Reader’s Annotation: This is the story of Oliver the biggest idiot in his whole school at least that is what he wants you to believe he is actually an evil genius.

Author Information: Josh Lieb is a producer for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and has also worked on shows like the Simpsons. This is his first novel and he lives in New York.

Genre: Fiction

Booktalk Ideas: 1) Do you believe that Oliver is really as smart or evil as he thinks he is?

2) Do you think Tati realizes how smart Oliver really is or that he is behind the prizes her mom always wins?

Reading Level & Interest Level: The book is listed as being for readers age 12-17 and though the book takes place in middle school I think that teens will be more interested in the humor of the book.

Challenge Issues: For a book about an evil genius this book is pretty tame there are a few explosions, threats of violence, bullying, and crude behavior but this is all pretty mild. The book is well reviewed and makes a unique addition to the collection.

Why is it included?: This is a funny and strange book I wanted to include it because it is really unique.

I am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President


Cover Art from: mangamanlives.com
Cover Art from: mangamanlives.com

Lyga, B., & Doran, C. (2011). Manga man. Boston, MS: Houghton Mifflin.

ISBN: 978-0-547-42315-9

Plot Summary: This graphic novel tells the story of what happens when Ryoko is pulled out of his manga world and into a comic book world. While he is waiting for a machine that can sen him back to his world to be finished he begins attending high school and dating the most popular girl in school Marissa. He teaches Marissa about the space in between the panels and shows her how their worlds are alike. Marissa’s ex does not like this and challenges Ryoko to a fight. Due to the differences in fighting styles in the two worlds Ryoko almost kills him and gets expelled from school. He comes back to apologize to Marissa and gets shot by another classmate. He moves between the panels to get away from the situation and Marissa goes to his house to find him. When she finds out the machine is working she thinks he went back to his own world and tries to follow him. It is then revealed Ryoko was just in the other room cleaning up. The machine was destroyed when Marissa tried to follow him so she did not make it to his world instead she becomes a manga character in the comic book world at the end of the book.

Critical Evaluation: The book takes place over a fairly short period of time so there is not as much opportunity for character development. The one character who does have some character development is Marrisa who goes from simply being curious about Ryoko to falling in love with him. During this time she also learns that her “real world” is another form of manga which is hard for her to accept at first but she soon embraces it. She fully embraces Ryoko’s manga weirdness that others mock from fairly early on in the story. In the book the majority of the characters dislike the ways Ryoko shows emotion and call him out for being weird and messy. For example when Ryoko is in a bad mood he gets a storm cloud by his head, or when he moves quickly he creates speed lines which then fall to the ground when he stops moving. These differences add a lot of humor to the plot and the illustrations.

Reader’s Annotation: This book tells the story of Ryoko a manga teen in a comic book world.

Author Information: Barry Lyga has written several books for teens in multiple genres. His first novel was The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl which is very popular with teens as is its sequel. He previously worked in the comic book industry which has inspired his work. The illustrator Colleen Doran has worked on many famous comic book characters and with famous writers including Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman. She has also written her own books.

Genre: Fiction

Curriculum Ties: This would be a really interesting book to use in an art class to discuss different illustration styles.

Booktalk Ideas: 1) Why can Ryoko see the space between the panels?

2) Are you more familiar with manga or western style comic art, and how did you like the combination of the two in this book?

Reading Level & Interest Level: This book is listed on Barnes and Noble as being for readers age 12. This seems a little young to me as the characters are all in high school and a lot of the plot revolves around teenage issues so I think the interest level is more for teens age 14-18.

Challenge Issues: The book features a brief depiction of a drunk teenager at a party at the start of the book. There is also a romantic scene that involves nudity but it stops before the characters actually have sex and there are no actual genitals depicted. They are blurred as is often done in Anime. Some people may still object to this especially for younger readers but the book is really well reviewed and this is a very minor part of the story. The book has also won awards including the Kirkus Reviews Best Teen Book of the Year for 2011.

Why is it included?: I originally was not going to use this book for my blog assignment I read it fun after we had an inspiring guest speaker for this class talk about graphic novels. Once I read it I decided I had to include it for this assignment and bumped one of the books I has been planing on using.


Che: A Graphic Biography

Cover Art from: amazon.com
Cover Art from: amazon.com
Jacobson, S., & Colon, E. (2009). Che: A graphic biography. New York, NY: Hill and Wang.
ISBN: 978-0-8090-9492-9

Plot Summary: This book details the life of Che Guevara starting with what his life was like as a child and the time he spent on his famous motorcycle journey. It also describes his early days as a revolutionary and his time on the front lines in Cuba. The book continues the story with his political career in Cuba and his later involvements in starting revolutions in other countries and his death. In order to further readers understandings of the events that take place in the book it also provides plenty of background information.

Critical Evaluation: The book is very well put together and images are particularly well done. Throughout the story the authors provide background history that fills in details about the political climate in South America, the current state of the Cold War at the time, and some history of previous South American revolutions. Readers do still need to have some knowledge of the Cold War and South American history to frame this information on however as the story does not provide a complete picture of either. While the story naturally focuses on Che’s life as a revolutionary it does depict his whole life which gives readers a greater sense of how he developed into the revolutionary leader. The illustrations also really illustrate the changes in his life as you can see him growing older and how at times physical hardship affected his looks. The illustrations are very well done and the historical figures throughout the book are recognizable which greatly helps the flow of the story.

Reader’s Annotation: This graphic novel vividly draws readers into the life of revolutionary  Che Guevara.

Author Information: Sid Jaconson and Ernie Colon are New York Times bestselling authors. They have previously collaborated on a graphic novel about 9/11.

Genre: Biography

Curriculum Ties: This is a great look not only at Che Guevara’s life but also at the state of affairs in South America during his lifetime.

Booktalk Ideas: 1) How did Che’s experiences on his motorcycle journey shape his later political ideals?

2) Why did Che begin to lose political support later in his life, yet still remain an icon of resistance?

Reading Level & Interest Level: This book is listed as being for readers age 16-18 years which seems appropriate. The vocabulary is more suited to older readers and the book does require some knowledge of that period of history to full understand it so younger teens will be less likely to enjoy it.

Challenge Issues: The book features many depictions of warfare, death, and injuries however, these images are not overly bloody or gruesome and serve to convey what the fighting was really like. Further the book is clearly intended for older reader and it is unlikely that younger readers would be interested in reading leading to some self censor. Lastly the book is very well reviewed and very educational.

Why is it included?: I was intrigued by how in depth and detailed the information in this book is. Graphic novels have a bit of a reputation for being easier to read than more traditional novels and this is a great example of why that isn’t true the text contains just as much if not more information than other biographies for teens and the pictures convey even more information throughout the book that would be harder to convey purely through text.

Che: A Graphic Biography

How to Be a Zombie: A Hands-On Guide for Anyone with Brains

Cover Art from: serenavalentino.com
Cover Art from: serenavalentino.com

Valentino, S. (2010). How to Be a Zombie: A Hands-On Guide for Anyone with Brains. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.

ISBN: 978-0-7636-4934-0

Plot Summary: This book is divided into the three parts. It begins with a section on different types of zombies and information about how to survive as a zombie. The second section includes tips for zombie fashion, how to do makeup to look like a zombie and fun events to do once you have been zombified. The last section includes resources for learning more about zombies including books, movies, and games.

Critical Evaluation: This book is well organized and put together. The text references many different types of zombies that are based on different zombie books and movies. Some of these references are more subtle and others are pretty blunt but it is still fun to see which references readers catch. The book is full of cool art work and combines media in the illustrations, photographs, and comics throughout the book. The book is written as a how to guide for newly created zombies and humans that are considering becoming zombies or are curious about zombies. The book is primarily written as if addressing a zombie though so some of the changes between addressing a zombie vs addressing a human can be a little awkward, One of the best things about the book are all the resources listed for readers to learn more about zombies. The selected materials cover a variety of formats and types of zombies. The one thing some teens may object to is the author’s warnings that they may need to check with their parents about some materials that are more gory. However, there are only a few of these warnings and some readers will appreciate them.

Reader’s Annotation: Do you have an obsession with zombies maybe you’re having a craving for brains or are just curious about these undead creatures, if so this is the book for you.

Author Information: Serena Valention has written two graphic the novels GloomCookie and Nightmares & Fairy Tales. She has also written a guide on how to be a werewolf and has written books for Disney Press. She currently lives in San Fransico and is working on her third book about Disney about Ursala.

Genre: non-fiction

Booktalk Ideas: 1) What zombie books and movies did you noticed being referenced in the first part of the book?

2) Which of the suggested books have you read and which would you like to read?

Reading Level & Interest Level: The book is listed as being for readers age 12-17 which properly reflects both the reading and interest level.

Challenge Issues: Some of the content is gross or gory but it is all clearly fake the book even shows readers how to so zombie makeup. This book is well reviewed and encourages readers to further their reading by listing novels and graphic novels featuring zombies.

Why is it included?: I wanted to include a non-fiction book that was clearly just for fun. Some people think that all non-fiction is boring and serious so which is completely untrue. This is a book that I would want to display in the non-fiction section to draw readers over and show them that non-fiction can be just as fun as fiction.

How to Be a Zombie: A Hands-On Guide for Anyone with Brains

Death Stars, Weird Galaxies, and a Quasar-Spangled Universe: The Discoveries of the Very Large Array Telescope

Cover Art from: amazon.com
Cover Art from: amazon.com

Taschek, K. (2006). Death stars, weird galaxies, and a quasar-spangled universe: The discoveries of the Very Large Array telescope. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press.

ISBN: 978-0-8263-3211-0

Plot Summary: This book begins by explaining what VLA, very large array, radio telescopes are and how they work. The following chapters outline some of the scientific discoveries that have been made possible by this technology. This includes discoveries about the composition of planets in our galaxy as well as discoveries about black holes, death stars, and quasars.

Critical Evaluation: This book is formatted in a way that is similar to children’s non-fiction books including lots of images. However the language makes it clear that it is intended for older readers. This format is great for teens that are visual learners or who get bored with more textbook like books that have more text and few pictures. The book is very good at explaining what is being described throughout the text. The book also has a glossary and index making it easy for readers to figure out terms that are confusing them. The book does require readers to know some basic things about space that are not explained in the book. However, this fits with it being for older readers that may feel their intelligence is being insulted when every little thing is explained. The book also does a great job with the images it includes. The book has several charts to explain the more complicated concepts and many images of the phenomenons that are being explained in the text. The book is fairly short so these images help keep readers clear on what exactly is being discussed.

Reader’s Annotation: Have you ever wondered how scientists see into black holes? or how they map celestial bodies on the furthest edges of the known universe? Learn that and more with this book.

Author Information: Karen Taschek has written several books for young adults including a series of books about horses. She has also authored another non-fiction book about bats and is the co-editor of the Wonder Science Series for Young Readers.

Genre: non-fiction

Curriculum Ties: This book can be used to discuss VLA radio telescopes, black holes, the formation of galaxies, and other celestial bodies.

Booktalk Ideas: 1) How do VLA radio telescopes work?

2) The book mentions a few projects that were on going when the book was written but have since been completed what have we learned from these projects?

Reading Level & Interest Level: This book is listed as being for readers age 14. This book can clearly be enjoyed by older teens as well though the enjoyment of readers younger than 14 will depend a lot on how much they already know about space. The book is good about explaining things but readers still need to have some prior knowledge about space.

Challenge Issues: I can not think of any reasons why this book would be challenged, It is a well done book with lots of information and great pictures.

Why is it included?: I noticed my local library did not have a very large Young Adult non-fiction section and that many of the books they did have seemed to be geared a little young or a little old for most teens. I liked this book because it had a more teen friendly format that did not come across too much like a text book.

Death Stars, Weird Galaxies, and a Quasar-Spangled Universe: The Discoveries of the Very Large Array Telescope

Seventeen (Magazine)

Cover Art from: seventeen.com
Cover Art from: seventeen.com

(2015, March 1). Seventeen.

Magazine Description: This is a beauty, fashion and lifestyle magazine that also features some celebrity interviews. The magazine also features articles about the real experiences of teens and some health and fitness tips.

Critical Evaluation: I specifically looked at the March 2015 issue that featured Meghan Trainor on the cover. Her interview was one of the cover stories but the magazine also featured an article with outfit ideas for different styles and body types, the true story of a girl whose boyfriend was embarrassed to be dating her because she was plus sized, spring break confessions, and how to stop monthly breakouts. The magazine also featured monthly articles like a pull out section with a quick workout plan and healthy drinks and a section on embarrassing true stories. Overall I noticed in this issue there was a lot of body positivity. Meghan Trainor discussed the importance of being comfortable in your body in her interview and the article about the girl whose boyfriend was embarrassed by her ended with her dumping him for not treating her right. The magazine also showed clothing and makeup for a variety of different personal styles, body types and budgets which sets it apart from magazines that only a few looks that are all created with designer clothes and makeup. Overall this magazine came across as more accessible for teens they would be able to more easily find something that fits their personal style and budget.

Reader’s Annotation: This magazine has clothing and makeup looks that you can really achieve yourself as well as cool interviews and fun and funny confessions from real teens.

Booktalk Ideas: 1) Do you think this magazine has a positive message about body image and why?

2) What would you do if someone you had a crush on wanted to be with you but not let anyone else know?

Reading Level & Interest Level: This is another magazine that is very clearly for teens. I think this magazine is also more practical to teen interests featuring clothes and makeup at a variety of price points and in multiple styles and for different body types. The magazine also features true stories from real teens.

Challenge Issues: There are some mentions of teens hooking up however their are no descriptions of exactly what they are doing and this is a very small part of the magazine. Overall the magazine sends a positive message about being comfortable with who you are. The magazine is also very popular with teens.

Why is it included?: I thought that this magazine was a more practical beauty and fashion magazine and liked that it included positive messages about being comfortable with who you are.

Seventeen (Magazine)

Sports Illustrated (Magazine)

Cover Art from: si.com
Cover Art from: si.com

(2015, June 8). Sports Illustrated.

Magazine Description: This magazine is all about sports and profiles different sporting events and athletes. The magazine covers all different types of sports including baseball, basketball, soccer, football, golf, as well as sports like BMX biking.

Critical Evaluation: I specifically examined the May 8 2015 issue of Sports Illustrated. This issue featured four of the women from the women’s United States soccer team on the cover. Inside the magazine featured a large article on Abby Wambach as well as smaller profiles of every women on the team. The magazine also featured other information about the Women’s World Cup including their predictions of which teams would advance each round. The magazine also included articles on the FIFA scandal including a factual article and an op ed style piece that discussed how the United States taking legal action against FIFA showed that the country finally cares about soccer. The magazine also featured articles on other sports including  long articles on basketball and horse racing’s Triple Crown. There were also shorter articles like an article on BMX biking that included workout and training tips and an article composed of charts and graphics providing information on major league baseball.  Many of the articles were short and to the point and used graphics or pictures to provide more information about the topic. The magazine has a good balance of having a few in depth looks and other quick reads so readers can stay up to date on several different sports with ease.

Reader’s Annotation: Keep up on all the action in the world of sports with Sports Illustrated.

Booktalk Ideas: 1) What do you think of the FIFA situation?

2) Do you agree with the magazine’s predictions of what will happen in the Women’s World Cup?

Reading Level & Interest Level: This magazine is not specifically written for teens but many teens still read it. I think libraries could potentially benefit from ordering two copies of the magazine one to shelf in the teen periodicals and one to shelf in the main collection.

Challenge Issues: Some people may object to having this magazine in the teen section due to the swimsuit issue however most of the year the magazine is completely dedicated to sports. The magazine is popular among teen sports enthusiasts and they should not be denied the access to the latest sports information because of an issue the magazine publishes once a year.

Why is it included?: I wanted to include one magazine for adults that still held a lot of appeal to teens. This was shelved in the main collection at my local library but I remember seeing class mates read it when I was in high school .

Sports Illustrated (Magazine)