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Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Be a Changemaker Workshops

beachangemakerSometime last year I got a call from Kirsten Cappy at Curious City asking if I wanted to help her write a series of workshops supporting a book called Be a Changemaker by Laurie Ann Thompson. If you aren’t familiar with Curious City, it’s a site where you can find a variety of book based library program ideas with easy to personalize and use publicity materials. I was familiar with Curious City because I had used Kristen’s materials in a previous teen summer reading program. Because I end up having to develop so many program ideas and publicity materials from scratch, it’s nice to find a resource I can use that is less time intensive.

Curious City facilitates children’s literature discovery by creating marketing tools that engage readers with story. “

So Kirsten and I spent a year developing a curriculum, brainstorming ideas, and writing out detailed “lesson plans” or workshop outlines to help librarians lead teens through a multi-part workshop that would encourage teens to be changemakers in their local communities. The premise, for me, became something like what I try to do with Teen Programs in a Box: here are a bunch of ideas and resources, pick and choose the ones that work best for you in terms of your resources and community and bam – you have a program.

I was excited that it was about this book, this topic, because I believe in the power of teens to be a positive force for change in our world. That’s what a changemaker is, someone who sees a problem and works to help address it. Teens do this everyday as we see in moments like the Halo Awards that recognize kids and teens for their amazing achievements and positive contributions to this world. Be a Changemaker takes teens through a variety of steps that begin with brainstorming what problems you would like to address, what your passions are and then leads you through the process of basically organizing a small group of people around a plan to help try and address that problem. Whether it be creating a plan to collect discarded crayons from restaurants or finding a way to help encourage sick kids in your local community, teens can and do start amazing initiatives and this is a great tool to help them do it.

beachangemaker2

The workshops we created are available for free in PDF form at the Curious City website. They include workshop outlines, some basic support materials like handouts and worksheets, and publicity materials that you can download and personalize with your library (or school) information to promote your workshop. You can find it all here: http://www.curiouscitydpw.com/2015/05/10/be-a-changemaker-workshops/. In all there are a total of 6 workshops. I tried to take what I know about what makes programs successful and apply them to these workshops. We tried to make sure they were engaging, with lots of hands on activities and opportunities for self exploration and self expression.

Teens can change the world. These workshops and this book can help inspire and challenge them to do it.

More on the Book:

Be a Changemaker: How to 
Start Something that Matters

By Laurie Ann Thompson
Foreword by Bill Drayton
Published by Beyond Words/Simon Pulse
For Ages: 12 and up
Hardcover ISBN: 9781582704654, $19.99
Paperback ISBN: 9781582704647, $12.99

Sexual Violence and Male Survivors: a Dialogue between Two Male Survivors Who Are Thriving (#SVYALit)

svyalitIn June, as part of the #SVYALit Project, we will be discussing the topic of male survivors of sexual abuse. Current stats indicate that by the time they reach the age of 18 1 in 6 males will be the victim of sexual abuse. Today YA author G. Donald Cribbs interviews a fellow male survivor and therapist about the topic.

Donald: Gerry, thank you for joining me today as we talk about sexual violence for male survivors, what that looks and feels like, and the particular struggles male survivors identify on their journey toward wholeness and healing.

To begin, can you please introduce yourself and your credentials as far as how they apply to today’s topic?

Gerry: My name is Gerry Crete and I’m a licensed professional counselor, licensed marriage and family therapist, and a certified clinical trauma professional. I have a doctorate from the University of Georgia and my dissertation topic was resilience of male survivors of sexual abuse. As a survivor myself, I was drawn to this topic out of a desire to advocate for other male survivors and to make a difference in the way that society sees this problem.

Donald: My name is Donald Cribbs, and I am currently employed as a Therapeutic Support Staff (TSS) in behavioral health and rehabilitation services. I work with clients who are school-aged, in schools, their communities, and homes. During the summer, I often work at our intensive therapy camp, which allows me to work with other staff members and clinical professionals. During the rest of the year, I also work some shifts at our inpatient hospital which has three sections, adult, child/adolescent, and extended acute care.

While I am a mental health professional, I am also a graduate student at Messiah College for a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling. I may be nowhere near your caliber of qualifications, Gerry, but the thing that makes us equals is unfortunately that we have both grieved, faced, and survived our childhood sexual abuse. I join you in seeking to find ways to support other male survivors through my writing and advocacy.

What is the difference between identifying as a victim and a survivor of sexual violence? Why is this harder to disclose for male survivors in particular?

Gerry: I would say that I was a victim in the past, but now I am a survivor in the present. Victimhood occurred in the past and identifying solely as a victim keeps me stuck in the past. In the present, however, I am not only surviving but also thriving. This is not meant to deny either the painful realities of the past or the struggles of the present, but it is a way to stay focused on the present and the future in a positive way.

Most male survivors do not disclose for a variety of reasons. Boys are often socialized to believe that there is shame in being a victim. They might hope that if they just forget about it, that it will go away. They may fear that if other people know about it, then they will be judged or blamed. In many cases sexual abuse involves seduction by an older person and the boy may experience pleasure. If this is the case, then the boy may have a lot of confusing thoughts and feelings. He might feel that he was somehow responsible for the abuse. He might question his sexual identity. If the abuser is someone he cares about, like a family member, then he might be afraid that something bad will happen to that person. He might be afraid of the perceived “fall out” that will come in the family with disclosure. These are just a few, but there are many more reasons why male survivors avoid disclosure.

Donald: These are all excellent points, Gerry. Thank you. Several points you made resonate with me as a survivor. I follow a continuum of: victimà survivor à adaptor à thriver à overcomer

I have also been studying about posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS), posttraumatic growth (PTG), and resilience, which make a kind of continuum of their own. I appreciate what you said about surviving and thriving, that these aspects of our healing journey are not necessarily separate from painful memories, or current struggles, as you said. As a childhood sexual assult (CSA) survivor, we live in an interesting paradox of opposites at times. We might experience growth or resilience in one moment, and then something may trigger us, opening old, painful wounds.

What are the stigmas our culture has perpetuated surrounding male survivors of sexual violence and sexual abuse?

boytoyGerry: The stigma around sexual violence and abuse is so great that our culture is afraid to talk about it. It is this silence that keeps victims living in fear and shame. Our culture teaches that men must be strong, independent, and invulnerable. Sexual violence and abuse creates a wound that is personal, physical, and relational. Deep down victims may fear that they are so damaged that no one would love them if they knew the truth. Society perpetuates this lie by promoting the image of the stoic, tough, and self-sufficient male. Instead society needs to learn how to nurture, heal, and connect with boys, not just with survivors of sexual abuse, but also with all boys, so that they grow up as secure and compassionate men.

Donald: Coming to terms with abuse and surviving sexual violence is hard enough. What do you see as essential for male survivors?

Gerry: It is essential for male survivors to engage in the process of healing. At first this might mean disclosing to a trustworthy person. I recommend seeing a professional counselor who specializes in trauma recovery in order to begin the process of remembering the past and mourning this loss. In my experience shame and isolation are the poisons of abuse. The essential antidotes are acceptance and community.

Donald: Once a male survivor has shared his experience with others, what might be appropriate next steps? Can you suggest any online resources for male survivors?

Gerry: www.malesurvivor.org and www.1in6.org are excellent online resources.

Donald: How can I know if my experience as a male survivor has affected my sexual identity? Is there hope for me?

Gerry: One reason why childhood sexual abuse is so wrong is that it can disrupt a person’s natural sexual identity development. Many male survivors of sexual abuse question their sexual orientation or experience unwanted or confusing sexual desires. Sometimes survivors re-enact their abuse in some way. This is the brain’s way of trying to resolve past trauma. Unfortunately reliving the trauma through pornography or with others causes more confusion, shame and bad feelings.

The good news is that a counselor who specializes in treating sexual abuse can help a survivor to work through these confusing thoughts and feelings and distinguish between one’s own identity and any effects from the abuse. A survivor can reclaim his own sexual identity apart from the abuse and build a better future.

Donald: Do I have to go to a counselor or seek counseling? Why or why not?

swaggerGerry: Sexual abuse is a very serious trauma and counseling is highly recommended. In my opinion, the sooner you begin treatment, the better. If you had a physical injury, like a broken leg, you would want it treated by a doctor right away. You wouldn’t want to limp around in pain for years and risk infections or other complications. Guys often dismiss, deny, and suppress their feelings and avoid their pain. Counseling is an opportunity to begin the healing process and take your life back.

Donald: I can admit to having a negative initial experience with counselors and counseling, yet here I am working in mental health and seeking to become a counseling professional. Thankfully, I have good news that not all counselors or counseling is negative, and I have benefitted from receiving good counseling. I hope those reading this interview will seek out a counseling option that is best for them.

Speaking of options, what are my options with regards to my healing journey? Will it ever get any better than it is today?

Gerry: If you are struggling with this alone, but are willing to begin the healing journey, then the answer is a definitive yes.

Donald: What else can I do to deal with it? What shouldn’t I do to deal with it?

Gerry: It is so important that you don’t deal with this alone. Avoid turning to alcohol, drugs, sex, television, gambling, the Internet, you name it, to numb the pain. My belief is that healing happens through growth fostering relationships. When you risk vulnerability with someone that you trust, and that person responds with compassion and understanding, then healing happens.

Donald: Am I alone? Is it just me? How common is this for male survivors?

Gerry: You are not alone. It is estimated that one in six men have experienced sexual abuse or assault.

Donald: As a professional, what have you learned that can help me deal with this right now?

Gerry: If you are currently being abused, then you need to seek help immediately. If you are not currently being abused, then it is important to recognize that you might become triggered by people or things that remind you in some way of the abuse. When this happens, it is helpful to first acknowledge that you are safe and take deep breaths. Be conscious of how your body responds to triggers. Notice if your muscles tense or if your breathing changes. As you inhale, tense your muscles; then as you exhale, relax your muscles. Do this until the tension goes away. Practice prayer and/or meditation.

Donald: Would it help me to read books about other male survivors, or will it just make it worse, or possibly trigger me?

Gerry: Reading a book about other male survivors can validate your experiences and help you process your own thoughts and feelings. It can also help you recognize the reality that you are not alone.

It is possible, however, to be triggered by stories similar to your own, so be conscious of your reactions. It is a good idea to journal your thoughts and feelings as you read. There is nothing wrong with feeling angry or sad when reading a book about abuse. But if you notice that you are having a traumatic reaction such as increased heart rate, tense muscles, changes in breathing or feelings of fear, then put the book away and reach out to a trusted friend or family member.

Donald: How can I cope with the memories, flashbacks, nightmares, or times when I become triggered? What does it mean to “revisit the trauma”?

Gerry: If you are experiencing these symptoms on a regular basis then you need to speak with a counselor who specializes in trauma. There are many treatments that can reduce and possibly eliminate these symptoms.

Donald: Gerry, thank you very much for taking the time out of your schedule for this important discussion. Male survivors need fellow male survivors to know they are not alone, that survival and the ability to thrive and move beyond the abuse is possible.

If you have questions, or you’d like to join this discussion, you may comment below; however, please understand, this is not a substitute for counseling. If you need to speak with someone immediately, call RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network):

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1.800.656.HOPE (4673) or www.rainn.org

About Donald Cribbs:

G. Donald Cribbs has written and published poetry and short stories since high school. Donald is a graduate of Messiah College in English and Education, and is currently a graduate student in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. He and his wife and four boys reside in central Pennsylvania where the author is hard at work on his next book, the sequel to his debut novel, THE PACKING HOUSE (2015), by Booktrope. Having lived and traveled abroad in England, France, Belgium, Germany, China and Thailand (you can guess where he lived and where he visited), the author loves languages and how they connect us all. Coffee and Nutella are a close second. Learn more at his blog.

More About Male Survivors:

On June 24th author Eric Devine will be moderating our next #SVYALit panel discussion which will feature the author of Boy Toy, Barry Lyga, and the author of Swagger, Carl Deuker. The conversation will take place live at 12 Eastern and be archived as part of The #SVYALit Project for everyone to hear.

You can read Donald Cribbs review of Swagger here: Book Review for SWAGGER: http://gdonaldcribbsbooks.blogspot.com/2015/05/book-review-swagger-by-carl-deuker.html.

We have a booklist featuring male survivors of sexual violence here. In addition I would recommend the newer titles The Gospel of Winter by Brendan Kiely and Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Mathew Quick.

Please visit the #SVYALit Project Index for more information and links to all of the posts.

About the Books:

Swagger by Carl Deuker
Publisher’s Annotation: When high school senior Jonas moves to Seattle, he is glad to meet Levi, a nice, soft-spoken guy and fellow basketball player. Suspense builds like a slow drumbeat as readers start to smell a rat in Ryan Hartwell, a charismatic basketball coach and sexual predator. When Levi reluctantly tells Jonas that Hartwell abused him, Jonas has to decide whether he should risk his future career to report the coach. Pitch-perfect basketball plays, well-developed characters, and fine storytelling make this psychological sports novel a slam dunk.

Boy Toy by Barry Lyga

Five years ago, Josh’s life changed. Drastically. And everyone in his school, his town—seems like the world—thinks they understand. But they don’t—they can’t. And now, about to graduate from high school, Josh is still trying to sort through the pieces.

Heather Booth says: “I think this is a good one because the boy needs to confront and understand the problems with society’s idea of male sexuality before he can admit that he was actually abused by his teacher.”

Career Conversations – What I learned when my teens wanted to host a program series on careers

Career Conversations posterThis year I undertook a challenge: an ongoing program series designed by my teen board, reliant on the generosity of adults in the surrounding community, not especially fun, on my night off. This became Career Conversations, and we had our fourth and final program last night. Overall, it was a smashing success. Here’s what I’ve learned this year in taking this leap.

High school students just won’t register ahead of time.

Wouldn’t it be great if they did? Wouldn’t it make our lives so much less anxiety ridden? Yeah. It would be so nice. But they just don’t. I think it’s partly because they are so bleeping busy that they genuinely do not know that they’ll have time to attend a non-essential event, and partly because they just don’t think about it the way the parent who registers younger kids and tweens for programs does. They assume that the program will happen with or without them, and that’s the kicker. Last night’s program would have been the fifth of its type, but I panicked and pulled the plug at the last minute when no one had registered. When I told my teen board that it was cancelled, several teens said that they had been planning to come…. but just didn’t register. Every night as my panelists arrived, I had a sinking fear in the pit of my stomach, waiting for teens to trickle in. And they did. Every time. Phew.

Learning about other people’s jobs is so interesting!

I would run this program every week, just to sit and hear people talk about what they do. This year, we heard from an engineer who worked in health care, a doctor who followed his wife into his career path, someone who worked for a political campaign that changed her life, a stay at home dad who started his own business so he could be his own boss, an author whose passion is helping victims of sexual violence, and an art historian who has unwittingly become an expert in the best – and worst – truck stops in the midwest. “What kind of work do you do?” is a cocktail party question, but beyond hearing “I’m an engineer, a librarian, a stay at home mom, a volunteer…” what do we really learn about people? This panel conversation setup allowed people to really get to the heart of why they love what they do, what brings them satisfaction, and what challenges they face.

Each profession definitely has a different tone

The engineers were surprisingly funny, and engaged in a fair amount of competitive, good natured ribbing between themselves. The health professionals left no doubt about the weight they bear in being responsible for people’s lives. The politically connected folks had long answers and carefully measured every word that they spoke. The creatives talked to each other a lot, and focused the most on finding fulfillment and personal satisfaction in their work. A number of teens attended all four panels, and I’m so glad that they were able to see this diversity. After last night’s panel on arts & entertainment careers, a teen thanked the panel at the end by saying, “I don’t plan to go into your field at all, but this was definitely the most interesting conversation and I learned so much from it!”

Life is long and the path isn’t always straight

This is something that I think teens don’t hear so often, and I wish they did. Sure, some people knew from a young age that they were going to be doctors and then became doctors, and I can certainly admire their dedication and focus. But I definitely appreciated the panelists who talked about trying things and finding out that they hated them and changed direction, those who worked two jobs to do what they really had a passion for, and even last night’s graphic designer and screenprinter who talked about getting kicked out of high school at 15 then moving to the US with a backpack, $100, and one friend on this continent. There are as many ways to make a life as there are people on earth, and teens need to understand that they are the ones ultimately in control of the path they follow.

Following the teens’ lead was so worth it, but I needed their support to do it.

Several years ago, I stopped trying to program “just for fun” types of events for high schoolers and shifted to things that were more useful: learn to caddy, summer volunteering, getting a teen liaison on the Board. I’ve tried to do some jobs workshops or resume review events before, but with a huge and well funded high school in our community with a counseling department that can far outpace me, they never flew. But partly they didn’t fly because I clipped their wings. Fearing failure, I would cancel the programs if I didn’t get a response. Career Conversations worked in part because I pushed on despite the fear. But it would not have worked it all without the buy in and support of my teen board. They promoted it to their friends, they showed up even when the topic wasn’t in line with their interests, and they gave suggestions for future panel topics. And this worked, I got their buy in and support, not because of something I did, but because of something I didn’t do. I didn’t butt in. I didn’t tell them it wouldn’t work. I didn’t redirect them when I thought “been there, done that, didn’t work.” I let them lead, and it made for one of the most terrifying and most successful things I did this year.

Book Review: Anything Could Happen by Will Walton

anythingIn Will Walton’s Anything Could Happen, 15-year-old Tretch realizes he is in love with Matt, his straight best friend, while sitting together in church and hearing the message “hold fast to that which is good.” Tretch isn’t out yet, even though he suspects that Matt, who has two gay dads (and is often assumed to be gay himself because of this fact—weird logic, right?), would be fine with it, as would his family. His mom is “uneasy” about Matt’s dads, but Tretch knows his family would still love him and stand by him if he came out, though he can’t imagine it. Their town is tiny and he thinks that his family would become ostracized if he came out and they supported him.

 

But coming out doesn’t feel really pressing to Tretch. He nurses his crush on Matt all through their semi-eventful winter break. They hang out and have sleepovers (where they sleep together in the same bed), Matt kind of starts to date a girl named Amy, another girl has a crush on Will, and Tretch starts to think more about coming out. This book is light on plot but heavy on interpersonal dynamics, which is just fine by me.

 

Anything Could Happen is a great addition to the younger side of LGBTQIA+ books. The whole story is sweet, warm, and happy. It’s all very wholesome (if you know me well, you know I usually accompany that word with a retching noise, but I mean it in kindest and best sense of the word here), full of gosh, heck, and freakin’. The friendships are all happy and loving, as are the family relationships. Tretch spends a lot of time with his grandparents and parents. The first person he comes out to is his older brother, who just says “cool” and then tells him a story about his girlfriend’s brother coming out to their preacher dad and how that went fine, too.

 

The whole thing sort of feels like it’s from another time, which I think is because of the setting in a very small town. If it weren’t for references to contemporary music and electronic devices, it could be set anytime in the past. The ending packs a lot in—Tretch busts out his amazing moves on the dance floor, has a heart-to-heart with Matt, and comes out to a few more people. He even comes to some kind of understanding with Bobby, the son of his dad’s business partner and his longtime bully.

 

The message at the end is that things are going to get better, but they’re already good. Will really takes to heart the lesson from the beginning, to hold fast to that which is good, surrounding himself with good and kind people throughout the book. Great for the 12 and up crew.

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9780545709545

Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.

Publication date: 5/26/2015

Book Review: The Porcupine of Truth by Bill Konigsberg

porcupineThere are some books that you finish and think, well, that’s it—I can’t pick up another book today. Gotta let this one sit. Bill Konigsberg’s The Porcupine of Truth is one of those books. In fact, I suspect I will be thinking about this book for a long time to come. This was the 65th book I read this year, and it stands out as easily being in my top ten so far.

 

Carson and his mom relocate from New York to Billings, Montana for the summer. Carson hasn’t seen his dad for 14 years—not since he was 3—and now his dad, a longtime alcoholic, is dying of cirrhosis of the liver. Caron’s mother, a therapist/school counselor, dumps him at the zoo when they first arrive in town, where he runs into Aisha, an intriguingly funny girl around his own age. It turns out Aisha isn’t just hanging out at the zoo—she’s been sleeping there since her dad kicked her out of their house for being a lesbian. Her dad wanted to send her away to a religious program to “make” her straight, but Aisha would rather live on the streets than suffer through that. Carson and Aisha instantly bond and he invites her to stay with his family. When they start to clean out flood-damaged boxes in the basement storage, they uncover some interesting details about Carson’s father’s family that don’t exactly match up with the story he’s been told. Carson knows his grandpa (also an alcoholic) took off when his dad was just a kid, but doesn’t know much beyond that. He and Aisha start to put some pieces together and decide to embark on a road trip to see if they can uncover the truth… and maybe meet his grandpa.

 

On their road trip they follow in grandpa Russ’s footsteps, tracking down the same people he stayed with as he went west. Throughout Wyoming, Utah, and California, Carson and Aisha have many deep and profound (as well as silly) conversations about family, faith, and choices. Early on Carson notes that he doesn’t believe in God. Aisha isn’t a fan of the things people do in the name of Jesus—she bonds with Carson’s dad over this, too. They decide they believe in plenty of things other than God—waffles, strawberries, and The Porcupine of Truth, their made-up deity. On their journey, they meet and have intense conversations with a spiritual couple, a narrow-minded Christian, a Mormon couple, and a man raised Jewish but who has lots of questions and sees lots of options for faith and belief.

 

Here is the part where I talk about some spoilers, okay? Because this book is so important and I want to tell you why. So if you intend to read it—and you should—and don’t want to know what happens near the end, just stop reading this review now. Know that the book is wonderful—I laughed and cried in equal parts. The writing is brilliant and the story will stick with you.

 

Are you sticking with me? Ready for the spoilers? Okay.

 

When Carson and Aisha get to San Francisco, they track down a man named Turk who may have known Russ. When Carson finds this now elderly man, he is in for a big surprise: Turk was his grandpa’s lover. Another shock? His grandpa died in the early 80s from AIDS. When he finds this out, standing in front of an AIDS quilt, he loses it. Everything that follows is profoundly moving. What was a good book became a great book in the last 100 or so pages. For those of us who were adults or even children in the 80s, we remember seeing the initial stories about AIDS, reading about the panic and fear, understanding that, generally speaking, it was a death sentence. And it never becomes less powerful or upsetting to see a personal story of life in the shadow of AIDS. Many teen readers might not fully understand the history behind AIDS (going back to it being called GRID and understanding how severely it ravaged the gay community) or have seen or read some of the documentaries or stories adults are more familiar with. This look at what it meant to be a gay man at this period of time will be deeply moving for readers of all ages. For Carson, he came to Billings with only a rather icy mother who talked to him like he was one of her patients. Weeks later, his father is back in his life, his mother understands now what he needs from her, and he has a new grandpa (Turk) and sister (Aisha).

 

This story of family—both the one we are born into and the one we can choose to make—is not to be missed. Konigsberg packs so much into this story, and his characters, all damaged and flawed, struggle with HUGE questions. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It left me wanting to know more about all of the characters’ pasts and their futures. Masterfully written and intensely moving, this is a road trip book unlike any other. Be ready to laugh, groan, and cry as you follow Carson and Aisha on their (literal and metaphorical) journey.

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9780545648936

Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.

Publication date: 5/26/2015

 

Middle Grade Monday – Memorial Day Take 5

middlegrademondayI’m somewhat torn over the fact that Memorial Day is a holiday. On one hand, I think it’s valuable for us to recognize the service and sacrifices of those who’ve served our country so selflessly. On the other hand, as a middle school librarian, I wonder what it means to my students beyond a day off from school. The ones who have family members who have served or are currently serving in the military certainly understand, but what about the others? And as for me, I grew up in an era of growing doubt and skepticism of those serving in our military. Gone were the days when service people were viewed through the lens of unambiguous patriotism. A sense of unease over military tactics, fueled by growing real-time media coverage, had brought a sense of the moral complexities of war that concerned many parents and teachers I had, who had grown up in a more ‘Captain America’ era of viewing the military as the ultimate good. But seeing people and their actions in their complexity it ultimately a good, if confusing, reality.

There are a number of young adult books which deal so well with these topics. I’m thinking of A.S. King’s Everybody Sees the Ants, Laurie Halse Anderson’s The Impossible Knife of Memory, and Walter Dean Myers’ Fallen Angels and Sunrise Over Fallujah. But for middle grades, there are not as many obvious choices. Issues such as PTSD need to be dealt with on a more sensitive level, and can be difficult to fully describe to a middle grade audience. I recommend the following 5 books / series for those students in the middle grades who are interested in stories dealing with the military side of war:

9780545270298_xlgChris Lynch’s Vietnam series:

Four best friends. Four ways to serve their country.

Morris, Rudi, Ivan, and Beck are best friends for life. So when one of the teens is drafted into the Vietnam War, the others sign up, too. Although they each serve in a different branch, they are fighting the war together — and they pledge to do all they can to come home together.

9780545522946_xlgAnd his World War II series:

There are few things Roman loves as much as baseball, but his country is at the top of the list. So when it looks like the United States will be swept up into World War II, he turns his back on baseball and joins the US Army.

Roman doesn’t mind. As it turns out, he is far more talented with a tank than he ever was with a baseball. And he is eager to drive his tank right into the field of battle, where the Army is up against the fearsome Nazis of the Afrika Korps.

The North African terrain is like nothing Roman has ever known, and desert warfare proves brutal. As Roman drives his team deeper into disputed territory, one thing becomes very clear: Life in wartime is a whole new ball game.

Camo Girl  by Kekla Magoon (see my review here) provides a complex view of a middle grader dealing with his father’s PTSD that was a direct result of his military service.

10677573The Bloodlines series by M. Zachary Sherman:

Tradition. Loyalty. Strength. It’s in their blood. A set of war stories connected by a family bloodline–each book follows a different family member into battle. This series reinvents military fiction through the exciting combination of graphic-novel art and socially interactive story lines. Each hero faces a realistic character-building moment as they experience life on the battlefield in these wars: World War II,in Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan. Each book includes maps, notes on weapon technology and background on the actual historical battle.

 

 

 

And, finally, P.S. Be Eleven, by Rita Williams Garcia, which deals realistically and sensitively with the after effects of serving in Vietnam as seen through the three girls’ interactions with their uncle, Darnell.

9780061938627

Sunday Reflections: How We Talk About the Victims of Sexual Abuse Matters

sundayreflectionsAs Christmas vacation approached during my 9th grade year, my fear increased. I couldn’t go back. But there was a part of me that also thought, surely I must be wrong about what happened. So one day I went into my school guidance counselor and I told her the story of what happened the year before I moved to this new place to live with my mother. I told her fully believing that she would look at me and say something along the lines of it was perfectly normal and everything was fine.

“I’m sorry, I have to call the police now” is what she said instead when I finished my story. So I sat there as she called the police and then my mother who came to hear what I had to say.

You see, the year before I lived in a different state with my father and a variety of other family members. One of them did a variety of things to me that became increasingly uncomfortable and then downright traumatizing. I lived in fear. I stayed up at night trying to protect myself. I tried to go to friends houses as often as possible. But it was sinister and subtle what was happening, and I just wasn’t sure. In part because you don’t think it can happen to you, in part because some people are really good at grooming you in ways that make you doubt and question, and in part because you just don’t think someone who claims to love you can do this to you. But they can and they do. And it alters the landscape of your life.

The following year, now living with my mom, was a tremendous relief. There was no more fear. There was no more anxiety. There was no more hiding and scheming to stay out of the house. And I just couldn’t go back. Even for a two-week Christmas break, I knew I couldn’t go back.

And I didn’t, for many, many years I didn’t go back. There was a brief investigation where everything was swept under the rug, but I was given a voice that day in the counselor’s office and I never went back for many years.

The only way I know of to fight back against this – to make sure the attackers are convicted and jailed, and victims receive the care they deserve – is for adults to start talking to our kids about sexuality. Too many of us still don’t know how to find the words because we were raised by parents who didn’t know how to talk about it either.- from Laurie Halse Anderson, author of SPEAK.

But navigating family events was and continues to be a tremendous issue. Many family members said it wasn’t fair what I did, cutting off ties to protect myself. They still continued to feed this person information about me, which forced me to cut ties with them as well. Everyone was so worried about protecting this person, they forgot to think about protecting me. It was yet another form of betrayal and injury.

And navigating family events today can still be complicated. Everyone has an opinion about what happened, and very few of them want to remember what happened so they judge me. They judge me as I work out ways to make sure that I and my girls are never left alone with this person at family events. They judge me as I decline invitations and when I do go, I put boundaries in place. Boundaries are difficult to enforce, a reminder to them all that this person they love did this horrific thing and it’s often easier just to pretend that I’m being petty and difficult.

I’m expected to just forgive and forget. It’s in the past they say. I’m supposed to sweep it under the rug. I’m supposed to make life easy and convenient for everyone, including the person who did this thing to me.

I am alone in my effort to keep myself safe. Not even physically any more, just emotionally. But there’s no one on my team in my family because denial is so much easier, even though it is a salt in the wounds for those of us who are victims. Your comfort comes at the cost of my silence, and sometimes it is too great a price.

So I thought of all of this when the news of Josh Duggar broke out this week. About what it must have been like for those girls having to continue to grow up in the same home as this person who had violated them. Having to smile and play happy family for the camera while inside I imagine they were thinking and feeling much different things.

I know what it’s like to have a family that wants to pretend that these things didn’t happen to you. That years later you should be over it, forgive it, and everyone should play happy family again. But the truth is, many times you can’t. And even if you can and do, it has to be on your time table, not everyone else’s. Being violated in that way, living in that type of fear, it resets something inside you. There can be healing, maybe even forgiving, but there is no forgetting. Thirty years later sometimes the most seemingly innocent thing can trigger an emotional response in me regarding the events of that year.

And it is such an offensive idea that the victims of sexual abuse should pretend otherwise for the sake of others.

Time and time again when these things happen we tend to react by wondering how this will ruin the abuser’s life. Josh Duggar did this when he said in his statement that he knew he had to stop before he ruined his life, never once mentioning how he might have ruined the lives of his victims. This happened after Steubenville when the press wondered how it would ruin these boys lives being labeled a sex offender, the victim only a foot note. My family wondered this when they claimed that I owed it to this family member to keep in touch with him just because he was a part of my family, as if I was somehow hurting HIM by breaking off contact.

When recent events happened in my neighborhood one of the mother’s felt bad about pressing charges, wondering what would happen to this man that had violated her daughter. This is what I told her: You owe it to your daughter to press charges. She needs to know that someone cares about what happened to her, that someone is on her side, that you are there to support her and protect her and be her champion. She needs to know that she matters by having people recognize the harm that was done to her.

I can’t presume to speak for the victims of Josh Duggar’s abuse. And I can’t presume to speak for other survivors.  Everyone deals in their own time and in their own way. And I can’t pretend to know how this situation was or was not dealt with. And it’s horrible that these girls are now being forced to face this part of their life again whether they want to or not by having it put into the public spotlight. But it’s there and I think there are a few things I want to make sure we take away from all of this:

1.Victims of sexual abuse should be able to keep themselves safe at all times and draw personal boundaries that allow them to maintain both their physical and emotional health. Actually, all people should. But in events where abuse is known the victims should be able to draw those boundaries and they should be respected by all family members.

2. Victims of sexual abuse should be given the time and the space to deal with their emotions on their own terms. It’s not about what’s best for the family but about what’s best for them. Counseling from a neutral party that is licensed in sexual abuse should be consulted. Not a family friend, not a clergy member who is not trained to deal with sexual abuse, not a clergy member who has close family ties, but a neutral party that is trained and licensed to deal with this type of abuse.

3. Family and friends should recognize and understand that this healing journey is personal and it is not smooth. Even the most seemingly fine individual may have moments where they are triggered, even years after the event.

4. Family and friends should not put pressure or put expectations on the victims that they need to forgive their offender and no time limits should be given. I’m not saying forgiveness is a bad thing or an impossible thing, I’m saying outside forces don’t get to determine what the violated think and feel about what happened to them or on what time table.

Worse, with the statement they released, they’ve now framed the story so that the victims cannot come forward, if they choose to do so, without being painted as “unforgiving” and choosing to “ruin his life” even though he said he was sorry.

It’s a statement designed to silence the victims. – from Josh Duggar says he’s sorry, so what? by Kathryn Elizabeth

5. How we talk about what happened sends a message to the victim about their value in the family and in the world. It’s important that they be respected, validated, and allowed to seek legal recourse if they wish; that they be allowed to go on their own personal healing journey; that they be allowed to draw whatever boundaries they need in the future to keep themselves safe. And it’s important that family members recognize that when they draw these personal boundaries they are not the one causing problems, that responsibility rests solely on the shoulders of the person that violated their trust and safety.

That’s why how we talk about what happened in the Duggar family matters right now. We are in the midst of a huge cultural discussion about consent and sexual violence. People are listening. This conversation can help shape the narrative of how we talk about sexual violence, how we talk about the victims/survivors, and even how we talk about the different types of sexual abuse. Every time we talk publicly about important things, it helps frame that narrative. What we say right now and how we say it matters. It matters to every survivor out there in that it validates or invalidates their story. It matters in that it can help change the tone of how we approach issues of sexual abuse in the future, allowing more victims to come forward, speak up and get the support that they need. And it matters in helping to prevent sexual abuse because how we talk about it does or does not make clear what our expectations are in terms of how we approach each other sexually, it helps make clear what – and who – we as a culture value.

For more on sexual violence, please visit the Sexual Violence in YA Literature Hub (#SVYALit)

SRC is Coming: 5 Tips for Staying Calm During the Stressful Summer Months

thingineverlearnedIt’s almost here – summer reading. If you are a YS or YA librarian you’ve most likely spent the last month getting publicity together and out into the public, making school visits, decorating, and making sure performers are all lined up and payment paperwork is in order. It’s a busy time of year. And that’s an understatement.

This year I had a first and a booked performer contacted me to let me know they had a terrific new job opportunity in a new state, which is great for them but was a few stressful moments for me. It all worked out, in part because the performer was kind enough to recommend a back-up and that transition went smoothly. After 20 years of doing this I feel kind of calm about it all, but even I still approach the oncoming summer months the way one might approach an oncoming storm. There’s no denying that it’s an intense period of programming and marketing and watching statistics, because at the end of the day those stats matter very much to library administrators.

There’s a lot of very real internal and external pressure during these months. So it’s important that we find ways to de-stress and keep ourselves going. Here are some of my favorite tips, please share yours in the comments.

1. Network for Support

Now more than ever it’s nice to have relationships with fellow librarians who I can complain to because they alone understand. Whether it be the problems of trying to deal with last minute snags on the day of a performance or what happens when that one family comes 15 minutes after the program has started and you are very sorry but you can not let them in because the room capacity has been reached, it’s nice to have that friend that you can meet for lunch or send the what do I do now text to get a moment of support. For more check out networking part 1 and part 2.

2. Keep a Stash of Snacks and Water Handy

A hungry Karen is a cranky Karen, which is super bad for prime SRC days. And sometimes despite your best planning and preparation, you can’t get to lunch before a big program because you’re too busy setting up and decorating and putting up signage. Make sure you have healthy snacks – and don’t forget some chocolate! – nearby. It can make everyone’s day go better. Also, stay hydrated. Staying hydrated is good. There’s a lot of truth to those Snickers commercials.

3. Have a Backup Plan to Your Emergency Backup Plan

So one time our performer ended up being more than 30 minutes late, which caused a whole host of problems. We had 100 people waiting around the library and it was not awesome. After about 15 minutes of crying kids, complaining parents, and a noise level that dramatically interfered with others trying to use the library, I grabbed some books and corralled everyone into the program room for an impromptu storytime. I have since learned the value of having an emergency activity ready in case a performer is late or, worse yet, cancels. Always have a backup activity on standby.

4. Consider Letting Staff Take Vacation During SRC

So let’s talk about a controversial part of SRC: summer vacations. Many libraries don’t permit youth services staff take vacation during the summer because of the intense focus placed on summer reading. This means that any youth services or young adult librarian who has school aged children never really gets to take a family vacation, which I hope we can all agree is an issue.  But don’t get me wrong, it’s an issue for all youth services staff because everyone wants to take a vacation during summer sometimes. One time my brother had the audacity to get married in the early summer – in a different state. Trying to get time off to attend the wedding of my only sibling proved to be challenging, which is unfortunate because our family obviously can’t be expected to arrange their life around our work, no matter how much our work may mean to us. I have had conversations with others on Twitter about this very topic and always get a lot of responses ranging from no we’re not allowed ever to yes we are and it makes all the difference. If you are an administrator who does not permit your youth services staff to take any vacation during the 6, 8, 10 or 12 weeks that your SRC is taking place, please consider finding ways to make this possible for your staff. For example, you can have more performers and less staff lead programs so that other staff may sub in and do introductions on that day. You’ll definitely want to have back up people in place in case of emergency and illnesses any way, so why not let them make sure your youth services staff can have one week of vacation in the middle of summer.

5. Color Yourself Calm

colormecalm

Recently there have been numerous articles about coloring books for adults and the health benefits. You can read some of those articles here, here and here. So when Quarto Publishing Group and I discussed doing a series of posts and giveaways, I knew I wanted to include this book because I wanted to write this post – it’s timely for us all – and I wanted one of the books to be for you  because I know what is approaching us all. So much of what we do as youth services and young adult librarians is about serving others, knowing them and meeting their needs. But there is a thing they tell you when you are a new parent: in order to be a good parent you must also make sure to take care of yourself, to make sure your needs are met and you give yourself permission to recharge. I think this is also true for any of us in a service profession. We have to keep filling our tank in order to keep having something to give. So take a few moments and color a picture, de-stress, find your calm, fill your rank. Give yourself permission to take care of you during this very busy time.

Trust me, we’re all going to need it.

About Quarto Publishing Group

The Quarto Publishing Group (formerly Quayside Publishing Group) books have earned a reputation for style and quality in the fields of art, crafts, hobbies, food and drink, nature, lifestyle, reference and children’s. The children’s program just launched in 2014 with the creation of Walter Foster Jr., but expanded dramatically with the “coming home” of our Quarto UK imprints Frances Lincoln Children’s Books and QEB Publishing, now formally published through Quarto USA. In addition, a number of our general and specialty book imprints, such as Quarry Books, Motorbooks, and Race Point, publish books on history, craft, art, and other topics of interest to teen readers. Visit us know at www.quartous.com and beginning this June at www.QuartoKnows.com.

Don’t forget to go to the Quarto Publishing Giveaway post to win a copy of Color Yourself Calm in addition to four other Quarto titles. Giveaway closes on 5/26/2015. Open to U.S. Residents.

Friday Finds – May 22, 2015

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Sunday Reflections: Writing Religion When It’s Not Your Faith, a guest post by Melissa Walker (#FSYALit)

Middle Grade Monday – The Truth About Stacey (The Baby-Sitters Club Graphic Novels)

Take 5: 5 Tools for Movie Making in Your MakerSpace (Quarto Week) (MakerSpace)

Book review: Vanished by E.E. Cooper

Take 5: Postcards from France, programs, books and more for a France themed day (Quarto Week) (TPiB)

Book Review and Program Ideas: Playing with Surface Design by Courtney Cerruti

Quarto Publishing Week Giveaway

Take 5: 5 Books on Duct Tape and Washi Tape for Makers

Book Review: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Around the Web

Poverty and Teen Crime

YA 4 Lyfe, Y’all

Neville Up (but warn J.K. first)

‘Lifebooks’ help kids in foster care track their history

On writing sex in YA

On writing about mental illness

Chuck Wendig on Mad Max versus Game of Thrones

The maker bookshelf for aspiring makebrarians

Twitter Accounts To Follow For LGBT Book Recs/Discussion from YA Yeah Yeah

Book Review: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

In Sarah Dessen’s latest novel, Saint Anything, we meet main character Sydney at a turning point in her life. Her brother Peyton, in and out of trouble since middle school, has just been sentenced to time in prison for a drunk driving accident that severely injured another teen boy. Sydney’s parents, especially her mother, are devastated that their son will have to spend time in prison. Sydney is devastated that because of her brother, a young man her age will never walk again. Unable to face returning to her private day school where everyone knows both her brother and his fate, Sydney has decided to enroll in the local public school for her junior year. Adrift in a sea of new faces and reluctant to head home to an empty house after school, she chooses to go for a slice of pizza at a local restaurant, where she meets and is quickly befriended by the Chatham family, who own the pizza parlor. Two of the Chathams, Mac and Layla, are fellow students at Sydney’s new school, and she is quickly enfolded into their circle of friends, which includes an entitled, self-styled musical genius, and a giant young black man who plays football. The Chathams know nothing about Sydney’s life or family and she initially prefers it that way. Gradually, she reveals more about herself and is relieved to find that the Chathams still warmly accept her, having family issues of their own.

Honestly, this novel seemed much longer than it was, in the best of possible ways. Dessen is a gifted author with the ability to speak volumes through her characters’ brief observations and opinions. She brilliantly to shows us how intensely creepy the ‘bad guy’ (Ames) of the story is, not through describing him but through other characters’ reactions to him. Much of the undercurrent of Sydney’s story – one of a girl who has lived in the shadow of her older brother’s magnetic personality her whole life finally realizing herself as a person – revolves around the complex Ames. A former addict himself, Ames became friends with Peyton during one of his stays in a rehabilitation facility. He worms his way into every aspect of Sydney’s family’s life through manipulation that her parents seem not to see until it is almost too late.

Like all of Dessen’s novels, there is so much to this story – and so much of it happens so subtly as to almost go unnoticed. This work, in particular, is very quiet. Characters are so well developed that they are as familiar as one’s own family and friends. Most readers will easily see themselves in Sydney, a girl who feels invisible and is brought into her own by the love and acceptance of her flawed but wonderful new friends. It has been quite some time since I’ve read a novel where I was so easily absorbed into the story and felt so much as if I were there, one of Sydney’s new crowd, along for the ride. It is the work of a gifted story teller.

It is also a novel I am eager to put into the hands of my students. My hope is that many of them will be able to relate to one or more of the main characters and see the others for the well drawn portraits of familiar people in their lives. As well, I hope that the realistic but nonjudgemental portrayal of the issues that teens must deal with will help them to both navigate their own lives successfully and have empathy for others who are navigating their own issues. I highly recommend this book to any collection serving teen readers. Dessen has earned her star reputation for good reason.

Full disclosure, Sarah Dessen is local to me and I had the opportunity to see her at my local book store for this book tour. She is just as lovely and real in person as her books suggest. If you haven’t had a chance to read her recent essay in Seventeen Magazine, please go do so now. Also, we have an extra copy to give away! Enter our drawing for your own copy of Saint Anything!

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