Happy Teen Read Week

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This is Teen Read Week, in which teenagers are encouraged to dive into books with a panoply of lures, including posters, colored pencils, bookmarks and even video games. A project of the national Young Adult Library Services Assn., which is a division of the American Library Assn., Teen Read Week faces a challenge: how to recommend works that sit well with parents that teenagers might embrace.

That tension can be seen on YALSA’s ultimate teen bookshelf, a list of 50 essential reads (PDF download). It includes new books and classics: ‘Feed’ by M.T. Anderson, ‘The Diary of a Young Girl’ by Anne Frank, ‘Weetzie Bat’ by Francesca Lia Block, ‘Fat Kid Rules the World’ by K.L. Going and the audiobook of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’ And it also includes the ‘His Dark Materials’ series by Philip Pullman; some find the books controversial -- the series ranked No. 2 on the 2008 banned books list.

Being somewhat transgressive will entice some teen readers -- but that’s not the message the library association is trying to send. This year’s Teen Read Week’s theme is the nice and Halloween-y ‘Read for the fun of it -- read beyond reality.’ To draw teens in, some Los Angeles Public Library branches are giving away copies of the video game Guitar Hero for XBOX 360 -- (with controller guitar but without the game console). On Tuesday, authors will appear at nine different branches, from Pacific Palisades to the Central Library downtown, for readings and giveaways. At the Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Regional Branch Library in South L.A. on Friday, a makeup artist will demonstrate professional monster makeup. Check your local branch for more Teen Read activities.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

from Philip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’ series.