Meet the Teachers: Highlighting Educators in the Community

Educators hold a special place in our hearts at Half Price Books. Earlier this year, we introduced you to a pair of teachers who are true HPB booklovers. Adriana and Jeffery Sifford visited every HPB in the Houston, TX area (there are nine for anyone who’s counting) in a single day and tweeted about their adventure along the way. In this Q&A, we get to know Adriana and Jeff, and discover more about their choice to pursue a career in education.

Why did you become an educator?
Adriana – When I was a reporter, I covered education and I loved going to teachers’ classrooms and watching them teach. Students were engaged, teachers were having fun. I watched how students were learning from the teachers, and I always wanted to be a part of that.
Jeffrey – This may sound so cliché, but to make a difference. I always enjoyed learning and that’s something I wanted to pass on.

A

What do teachers do when their kids are at lunch? Take selfies in the classroom! Looking good, Adriana.

Who was your favorite teacher and why?
Adriana – My favorite teacher was Ms. Martinez. She was my 9th grade English teacher. She was nice, patient and was there for us when we needed her. She was also my debate coach. She made learning fun!
Jeffrey – My favorite teacher was my 4th grade English teacher, Mrs. Zaskoda. She made reading come alive and I looked forward to going to her class every day. Continue reading

Behind the Book: The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

Editor’s Note from Kristen Beverly, HPB Buyer:

I was on a phone call with booksellers from across the country when someone said, “Have any of you read The Astonishing Color of After? I just read the first 50 pages and it’s phenomenal. You haaave to read it!” So, I went home that night, picked it up and thus began my love affair with this book. I was so enraptured by Emily X.R. Pan’s writing that I read the entire thing in two mind-blowing days. The story starts out with the main character’s mother appearing to her as a red bird. I had the opportunity to meet Emily earlier this year at a bookseller’s conference. The first thing I asked her was, “Where exactly did the inspiration for that red bird come from?” Apparently, I’m not the only one who wondered. Here’s the scoop from Emily herself – the story behind the book.

astonishing-cover-debut-novelPeople like to ask me why the mother in my story turns into a bird. “Why this giant red bird, of all things?”

It’s a tricky question for me to answer, because I’m not totally certain of it myself. But I’ll try to make my best guess. To do that, I first need to tell you a bit about my story development process:

It’s like I’m sitting in a boat, out in the middle of the ocean, scanning the surface of the sea for pieces of wreckage that drift past. Those pieces might be characters, concepts, settings, plot twists — any tiny component of a story that has flitted into my consciousness at some point and then decided to stay.

That ocean is my brain. And sometimes it takes years for me to realize that a few specific pieces that have been floating around totally separately could actually come together in the most perfect and interesting way — and that’s when I finally sit down and begin writing the story.

So back to that bird. I’d always known that I wanted to write a story of a person transforming into a bird. I wasn’t sure of the circumstances. I just knew: At some point a human being was going to become a bird.

I started writing The Astonishing Color of After back in 2010. It had a different title, and a different cast of characters, and it definitely had no bird. I tried rewriting that story many different ways, in many different voices and even in different age categories. And it was literally years later that it occurred to me that instead of having the mother die by pneumonia and just be plain old dead…she could turn into a bird.

Not long after I started toying with that idea in my head, I lost my aunt to suicide. I couldn’t stop thinking about her death and its impact on my family. I couldn’t stop thinking about how easily that could’ve been my own mother, who struggles with many of the same things my aunt battled.

A long time after that, I sat down to rewrite the novel from scratch yet again, and the opening pages poured out. I knew that this was the story I had been trying to puzzle together all along.

At first, I couldn’t figure out the importance of the red bird. But later I realized why she was so crucial in this story. My Buddhist family taught me that after death comes a transition—whether that’s reincarnation, or a journey to a different place, or something else. That transition might take up to 49 days, and the spirit of the person might stay near us before the transition occurs. So the bird, I realized, was my way of clearly visualizing a spirit being stuck in that limbo.

When the book begins, the bird is still here in our human world, still tangible. She seems like she’s free. But she’s not. She’s waiting. The bird’s freedom comes only when the main character, her daughter Leigh, has figured out some very important things.

––––

emily-xr-pan-headshot-swatch

Emily X.R. Pan is a debut young adult author who currently lives in Brooklyn, New York. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @exrpan. Her debut YA novel The Astonishing Color of After is available in Half Price Books stores and online at HPB.com while supplies last.

 

10 Most Recently Challenged Books

This week we celebrate Banned Books Awareness Week, which pays tribute to the freedom to read and draws attention to books that have been banned or challenged.  Though we’d like to imagine that the censorship of literature is a thing of the past, books get banned and challenged every year for various reasons.  Here is a list of ten of the most frequently challenged books in the last few years and the reasons they have been challenged.

1. Looking for Alaska, by John Green, was challenged because of offensive language and being sexually explicit.

2. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James, was challenged for being poorly written and sexually explicit with concerns that “a group of teenagers will want to try it.”

3. I Am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel & Jazz Jennings, was challenged for homosexual content and being inaccurate.

4. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, by Susan Kuklin, was challenged for being “anti-family,” having offensive language and homosexual themes.

5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon, was challenged for “profanity and atheism.” Continue reading

Teen Read Week: Final Chapters of Divergent and Legend trilogies

If you ask me how I feel about the final books of the Divergent and Legend trilogies coming out this fall, I will jump up and down with excitement and then break down into tears. Since 2011, young adult booklovers have been following the adventures of Tris and June as they fight battles, fall in love, and struggle to make their respective worlds better places. Now their journeys are coming to an end as the final books in each trilogy are released, and though I desperately want to read the books, I know I will miss the characters when the journey is over.

Allegiant by Veronica Roth

Release date: Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Main Characters: Tris & Four

Set within a dystopian version of Chicago, the Divergent Trilogy follows sixteen-year-old Tris Prior, who struggles to find herself within the accepted walls of the factions. But when traitors from two factions work together to seize control of their divided society, Tris discovers the world of the factionless and the reasons the factions were created.  This third book promises to answer all of the questions left unanswered in its predecessors. A movie based on her first book, Divergentis scheduled to be released March 2014.

Champion by Marie Lu

Release date: Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Main Characters: June & Day

This dystopian trilogy begins on the flooded coast of the former city of Los Angeles, where the Republic and the Colonies are at war. The Legend Trilogy follows two fifteen-year-olds, June and Day, who are pitted against each other by the Republic, and are used as pawns by the Patriots. In an interview with USA Today, Lu said that she hopes people will still like her after the ending, which makes me nervous about saying good-bye to these characters. Although there is talk about a movie version of Legend, production has not yet begun on the project.

(Sigh) Well, I guess there is nothing we can do after the last books come out but read each trilogy all over again.

You will be able to find Allegiant and Champion on their release dates at your local Half Price Books as part of our New Bestsellers Program.

— 

Julie is Production Manager at Half Price Books Corporate.
You may follow her on Twitter at @auntjewey.