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Friday Finds: February 15, 2019

tltbutton3This Week at TLT

New books alert: Writing advice, Latinx teens on a road trip, Muslims in love, and so much more

Fight the Power: Music as a Social Force, a guest post by Lisa Krok

Cindy Crushes Programming: Hosting a Fortnite Party, by Cindy Shutts

Feminist AF: The Amelia Bloomer Project, by Ally Watkins

Post-It Note Reviews: Books for younger readers featuring a biracial protagonist, homeless kids in India, babysitters, and more

Book Review: Watch Us Rise by Renée Watson and Ellen Hagan

My MARVELous Vocabulary: a guest post by author Jerry Craft

Sunday Reflections: Are Teens Reading Less?

Around the Web

Federal Watchdog Issues Scathing Report On Ed Department’s Handling Of Student Loans

‘We Live With It Every Day': Parkland Community Marks One Year Since Massacre

J.J. Abrams & ‘The Other Two’s Chris Kelly Developing Half-Hour ‘They Both Die At The End’ At HBO

31 YA Books By Black Authors That You Can’t Miss This Year

New books alert: Writing advice, Latinx teens on a road trip, Muslims in love, and so much more

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Books, books, and more books! All of the books I get end up going back out the door in some fashion—to teen readers I know, to classroom libraries of friends, to my own school, or in giveaways. I can’t read/review every book I get, but it’s fun to be able to sift through boxes and see what grabs my attention, and to see what books will find loving new homes with the right reader. The following are the books that have arrived here in the past few weeks. I will be reviewing many of them in the upcoming months on TLT. See something you’ve already read and need to make sure I don’t skip? Or something you’re super excited to read when it comes out? Let me know with a comment here or on Twitter, where I’m @CiteSomething.

 

All descriptions from the publishers.

 

smoke summonsSmoke and Summons by Charlie N. Holmberg (ISBN-13: 9781503905436 Publisher: 47North Publication date: 02/01/2019 Series: Numina Series #1)

 

A captivating world of monsters and magic from the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Paper Magician Series.

As a human vessel for an ancient spirit, Sandis lives no ordinary life. At the command of her master, she can be transformed against her will into his weapon—a raging monster summoned to do his bidding. Unlike other vessels, Sandis can host extremely powerful spirits, but hosting such creatures can be fatal. To stay alive, she must run. And in a city fueled by smoke and corruption, she finds a surprising ally.

A cunning thief for hire, Rone owns a rare device that grants him immortality for one minute every day—a unique advantage that will come in handy in Sandis’s fight for freedom. But Sandis’s master knows how powerful she is. He’s determined to get her back, and he has the manpower to find her, wherever she runs.

Now, to outwit her pursuers, Sandis must put all her trust in Rone and his immortal device. For her master has summoned more than mere men to hunt her down…

 

 

antidoteThe Antidote by Shelley Sackier (ISBN-13: 9780062453471 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 02/05/2019)

 

From the author of The Freemason’s Daughter comes a lush romantic fantasy perfect for fans of Everless!

In the world of healers, there is no room for magic.

Fee knows this, just as certainly as she knows that her magic must be kept secret.

But the crown prince Xavi, Fee’s best friend and only source of comfort, is sick. So sick, that Fee can barely contain the magic lying dormant inside her. She could use it, just a little, to heal him. But magic comes at a deadly cost—and attracts those who would seek to snuff it out forever.

A wisp of a spell later, Fee finds herself caught in a whirl of secret motivations and dark pasts, where no one is who—or what—they appear to be. And saving her best friend means delving deeper into the tempting and treacherous world whose call she’s long resisted—uncovering a secret that will change everything.

Laini Taylor meets Sara Holland in this lavish fantasy from lauded historical romance author Shelley Sackier!

 

 

barelyBarely Missing Everything by Matt Mendez (ISBN-13: 9781534404458 Publisher: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books Publication date: 03/05/2019)

 

In the tradition of Jason Reynolds and Matt de la Peña, this heartbreaking, no-holds-barred debut novel told from three points of view explores how difficult it is to make it in life when you—your life, brown lives—don’t matter.

Juan has plans. He’s going to get out of El Paso, Texas, on a basketball scholarship and make something of himself—or at least find something better than his mom Fabi’s cruddy apartment, her string of loser boyfriends, and a dead dad. Basketball is going to be his ticket out, his ticket up. He just needs to make it happen.

His best friend JD has plans, too. He’s going to be a filmmaker one day, like Quinten Tarantino or Guillermo del Toro (NOT Steven Spielberg). He’s got a camera and he’s got passion—what else could he need?

Fabi doesn’t have a plan anymore. When you get pregnant at sixteen and have been stuck bartending to make ends meet for the past seventeen years, you realize plans don’t always pan out, and that there some things you just can’t plan for…

Like Juan’s run-in with the police, like a sprained ankle, and a tanking math grade that will likely ruin his chance at a scholarship. Like JD causing the implosion of his family. Like letters from a man named Mando on death row. Like finding out this man could be the father your mother said was dead.

Soon Juan and JD are embarking on a Thelma and Louise­–like road trip to visit Mando. Juan will finally meet his dad, JD has a perfect subject for his documentary, and Fabi is desperate to stop them. But, as we already know, there are some things you just can’t plan for…

 

generation citizenGeneration Citizen: The Power of Youth in Our Politics by Scott Warren (ISBN-13: 9781640091276 Publisher: Counterpoint Press Publication date: 03/05/2019)

 

Since its beginnings in 2009, Generation Citizen has grown to become one of the preeminent civics education organizations in America. Championing the activism of young people now and throughout history — from the civil rights movement to #BlackLivesMatter and the Parkland students —
Generation Citizen is a bold reminder of the positive power of politics, and an inspiring, actionable guide for anyone ready to fight for democracy.

 

 

 

 

dear allyDear Ally, How Do You Write a Book by Ally Carter (ISBN-13: 9781338212266 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 03/26/2019)

 

Have you always wanted to write a book, but don’t know where to start? Or maybe you’re really great at writing the first few chapters . . . but you never quite make it to the end? Or do you finally have a finished manuscript, but you’re not sure what to do next? Fear not — if you have writing-related questions, this book has answers!

Whether you’re writing for fun or to build a career, bestselling author Ally Carter is ready to help you make your work shine. With honesty, encouragement, and humor, Ally’s ready here to answer the questions that writers struggle with the most.

Filled with practical tips and helpful advice, Dear Ally is a treasure for aspiring writers at any stage of their careers. It offers a behind-the-scenes look at how books get made, from idea to publication, and gives you insight into the writing processes of some of the biggest and most talented YA authors writing today.

 

 

wicked saintsWicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy Series #1) by Emily A. Duncan (ISBN-13: 9781250195661 Publisher: St. Martin’s Press Publication date: 04/02/2019)

 

A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself.

A prince in danger must decide who to trust.

A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings.

Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war.

In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between dark and light. Wicked Saints is the thrilling start to Emily A. Duncan’s devastatingly Gothic Something Dark and Holy trilogy.

 

in the neighborhoodIn the Neighborhood of True by Susan Kaplan Carlton (ISBN-13: 9781616208608 Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers Publication date: 04/09/2019)

 

A powerful story of love, identity, and the price of fitting in or speaking out.

After her father’s death, Ruth Robb and her family transplant themselves in the summer of 1958 from New York City to Atlanta—the land of debutantes, sweet tea, and the Ku Klux Klan. In her new hometown, Ruth quickly figures out she can be Jewish or she can be popular, but she can’t be both. Eager to fit in with the blond girls in the “pastel posse,” Ruth decides to hide her religion. Before she knows it, she is falling for the handsome and charming Davis and sipping Cokes with him and his friends at the all-white, all-Christian Club.

Does it matter that Ruth’s mother makes her attend services at the local synagogue every week? Not as long as nobody outside her family knows the truth. At temple Ruth meets Max, who is serious and intense about the fight for social justice, and now she is caught between two worlds, two religions, and two boys. But when a violent hate crime brings the different parts of Ruth’s life into sharp conflict, she will have to choose between all she’s come to love about her new life and standing up for what she believes.
seriousSerious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett (ISBN-13: 9781534445284 Publisher: Simon Pulse Publication date: 04/16/2019)

 

After an awkward first encounter, Birdie and Daniel are forced to work together in a Seattle hotel where a famous author leads a mysterious and secluded life in this romantic contemporary novel from the author of Alex, Approximately.

Mystery-book aficionado Birdie Lindberg has an overactive imagination. Raised in isolation and homeschooled by strict grandparents, she’s cultivated a whimsical fantasy life in which she plays the heroic detective and every stranger is a suspect. But her solitary world expands when she takes a job the summer before college, working the graveyard shift at a historic Seattle hotel.

In her new job, Birdie hopes to blossom from introverted dreamer to brave pioneer, and gregarious Daniel Aoki volunteers to be her guide. The hotel’s charismatic young van driver shares the same nocturnal shift and patronizes the waterfront Moonlight Diner where she waits for the early morning ferry after work. Daniel also shares her appetite for intrigue, and he’s stumbled upon a real-life mystery: a famous reclusive writer—never before seen in public—might be secretly meeting someone at the hotel.

To uncover the writer’s puzzling identity, Birdie must come out of her shell…discovering that most confounding mystery of all may be her growing feelings for the elusive riddle that is Daniel.

 

 

love fromLove from A to Z by S. K. Ali (SBN-13: 9781534442726 Publisher: Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers Publication date: 05/07/2019)

 

From William C. Morris Award Finalist S.K. Ali comes an unforgettable romance that is part The Sun Is Also a Star mixed with Anna and the French Kiss, following two Muslim teens who meet during a spring break trip.

A marvel: something you find amazing. Even ordinary-amazing. Like potatoes—because they make French fries happen. Like the perfect fries Adam and his mom used to make together.

An oddity: whatever gives you pause. Like the fact that there are hateful people in the world. Like Zayneb’s teacher, who won’t stop reminding the class how “bad” Muslims are.

But Zayneb, the only Muslim in class, isn’t bad. She’s angry.

When she gets suspended for confronting her teacher, and he begins investigating her activist friends, Zayneb heads to her aunt’s house in Doha, Qatar, for an early start to spring break.

Fueled by the guilt of getting her friends in trouble, she resolves to try out a newer, “nicer” version of herself in a place where no one knows her.

Then her path crosses with Adam’s.

Since he got diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November, Adam’s stopped going to classes, intent, instead, on perfecting the making of things. Intent on keeping the memory of his mom alive for his little sister.

Adam’s also intent on keeping his diagnosis a secret from his grieving father.

Alone, Adam and Zayneb are playing roles for others, keeping their real thoughts locked away in their journals.

Until a marvel and an oddity occurs…

Marvel: Adam and Zayneb meeting.

Oddity: Adam and Zayneb meeting.

 

 

deposingDeposing Nathan by Zack Smedley (ISBN-13: 9781624147357 Publisher: Page Street Publishing Publication date: 05/07/2019)

 

Nate never imagined that he would be attacked by his best friend, Cam.

Now, Nate is being called to deliver a sworn statement that will get Cam convicted. The problem is, the real story isn’t that easy or convenient—just like Nate and Cam’s friendship. Cam challenged Nate on every level from the day the boys met. He pushed him to break the rules, to dream, and to accept himself. But Nate—armed with a fierce moral code and conflicted by his own beliefs—started to push back. With each push, Nate and Cam moved closer to each other—but also spiraled closer to their breaking points.

 

 

 

kingsbaneKingsbane by Claire Legrand (ISBN-13: 9781492656654 Publisher: Sourcebooks Publication date: 05/21/2019 Series: Empirium Trilogy Series #2)

 

In this sequel to the instant New York Times bestseller Furyborn, two queens, separated by a thousand years, connected by secrets and lies, must continue their fight amid deadly plots and unthinkable betrayals that will test their strength—and their hearts.

Rielle Dardenne has been anointed Sun Queen, but her trials are far from over. The Gate keeping the angels at bay is falling. To repair it, Rielle must collect the seven hidden castings of the saints. Meanwhile, to help her prince and love Audric protect Celdaria, Rielle must spy on the angel Corien—but his promises of freedom and power may prove too tempting to resist.

Centuries later, Eliana Ferracora grapples with her new reality: She is the Sun Queen, humanity’s long-awaited savior. But fear of corruption—fear of becoming another Rielle—keeps Eliana’s power dangerous and unpredictable. Hunted by all, racing against time to save her dying friend Navi, Eliana must decide how to wear a crown she never wanted—by embracing her mother’s power, or rejecting it forever.

 

 

bright burningBright Burning Stars by A.K. Small (ISBN-13: 9781616208783 Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers Publication date: 05/21/2019)

 

Best friends Marine Duval and Kate Sanders have trained at the Paris Opera Ballet School since childhood, where they’ve formed an inseparable bond forged by respective family tragedies and a fierce love for dance. When the body of a student is found in the dorms just before the start of their final year, Marine and Kate begin to ask themselves what they would do to win the ultimate prize: to be the one girl selected to join the Opera’s prestigious corps de ballet. Would they die? Cheat? Seduce the most talented boy in the school, dubbed the Demigod, hoping his magic would make them shine, too? Neither girl is sure.

But then Kate gets closer to the Demigod, even as Marine has begun to capture his heart. And as selection day draws near, the competition—for the prize, for the Demigod—becomes fiercer, and Marine and Kate realize they have everything to lose, including each other.

In Bright Burning Stars, debut author A. K. Small pens a stunning, propulsive story about girls at their physical and emotional extremes, the gutting power of first love, and what it means to fight for your dreams.

 

 

this mightThis Might Hurt a Bit by Doogie Horner (ISBN-13: 9781534427174 Publisher: Simon Pulse Publication date: 06/04/2019)

 

A grieving teen faces dangerous classmates, reckless friends, and the one-year anniversary of his sister’s devastating death in this poignant, quirky, often humorous novel that’s perfect for fans of Jeff Zentner and Brendan Kiely.

Kirby Burns is about to have the second worst day of his life.

Tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of the worst day of his life, and in the three hundred and sixty-four days since then he hasn’t stopped running: from his family, his memories, and the horse-sized farm dogs that chase him to the bus stop every morning.

But he can’t run forever, and as This Might Hurt a Bit begins, Kirby and his friends PJ and Jake sneak out of his house to play a prank whose consequences follow them to school the next day, causing a chain reaction of mayhem and disaster. It’s a story that’s touching and funny, an authentic meditation on the pain of loss, and the challenge of getting paint to stick to cows.

 

 

destroyDestroy All Monsters by Sam J. Miller (ISBN-13: 9780062456748 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 07/02/2019)

 

A crucial, genre-bending tale, equal parts Ned Vizzini and Patrick Ness, about the life-saving power of friendship.

Solomon and Ash both experienced a traumatic event when they were twelve.

Ash lost all memory of that event when she fell from Solomon’s treehouse. Since then, Solomon has retreated further and further into a world he seems to have created in his own mind. One that insulates him from reality, but crawls with foes and monsters . . . in both animal and human form.

As Solomon slips further into the place he calls Darkside, Ash realizes her only chance to free her best friend from his pain is to recall exactly what happened that day in his backyard and face the truth—together.

Fearless and profound, Sam J. Miller’s follow up to his award-winning debut novel, The Art of Starving, spins an intimate and impactful tale that will linger with readers.

 

 

bloodyBloody Seoul by Sonia Patel (ISBN-13: 9781947627215 Publisher: Cinco Puntos Press Publication date: 07/02/2019)

 

Rocky’s the most loyal 16-year-old you’ll ever meet: loyal to the Three Star Pa gang, which his father runs in Seoul, Korea; loyal to his best friends, who accompany him everywhere he goes; loyal to his ever-escalating public bullying of Ha-na, a girl at school; and, finally, loyal to the memory of his mother, even though there are some things about her that he tries to forget. He loves his friends, his city, and the power he wields. But when he catches his father in a lie, the truth is exposed, and his life begins to unravel—and Rocky has no idea where it’s going to lead.

 

 

 

storm crowThe Storm Crow by Kalyn Josephson (ISBN-13: 9781492672937 Publisher: Sourcebooks Publication date: 07/09/2019)

 

Eragon meets And I Darken in this thrilling new fantasy debut that follows a fallen princess as she ignites a rebellion to bring back the magical elemental crows that were taken from her people.

In the tropical kingdom of Rhodaire, magical, elemental Crows are part of every aspect of life…until the Illucian empire invades, destroying everything.

That terrible night has thrown Princess Anthia into a deep depression. Her sister Caliza is busy running the kingdom after their mother’s death, but all Thia can do is think of all she has lost.

But when Caliza is forced to agree to a marriage between Thia and the crown prince of Illucia, Thia is finally spurred into action. And after stumbling upon a hidden Crow egg in the rubble of a rookery, she and her sister devise a dangerous plan to hatch the egg in secret and get back what was taken from them.

Fight the Power: Music as a Social Force, a guest post by Lisa Krok

There is no doubt that teen activism is on the rise in today’s political climate. Options including peaceful protests via marches, boycotts, petitions, blogs, books, artwork, and more are popping up across the country. Looking back to the Civil Rights Movement, music was a catalyst in voicing messages of resistance and hope. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (RRHF) in Cleveland, Ohio hosts programs to inform teachers, librarians, and students about how music was used in the past as a change agent, and how we can apply that to present day.

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On a bitterly cold and blustery January day, RRHF Education Instructor Deanna Nebel shared ways music can be used as a social force with an auditorium full of students. She began with a very recent release by The Killers, “Land of the Free”. A sampling of the song was played, and then the audience was asked to break down the message in the lyrics.

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Pictured: Deanna Nebel

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The message of mass incarceration of people of color is clear: the “Land of the Free” has “more people locked up than the rest of the world”. While this was one of the more recent uses of music as a social force, many other examples were covered in class. Below are some related artists that encompass a variety of marginalized voices that teens can research on their own.

  • Joan Baez (Latinx heritage) promoted social change and became friends with Martin Luther King, Jr. Some of the most memorable songs she sang are “We Shall Overcome” at the 1963 March on Washington, and “Birmingham Sunday”, which was used in the opening of Spike Lee’s documentary 4 Little Girls (1997). The latter references the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing by the KKK, which resulted in the tragic deaths of four children. Baez was inducted to the RRHF in 2017.

See Joan Baez’ 2010 White House performance of “We Shall Overcome”:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14DQJS2vw2I

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  • Bob Dylan (Jewish heritage) was born Robert Allen Zimmerman, and took the name Bob Dylan when he began performing. Contrary to popular belief, his name was not chosen based upon the poet, Dylan Thomas, but from a character on the television show Dylan is still performing to this day, and some of his most well-known songs include “Blowin’ in the Wind”, “The Times They are a Changin’”, “Like a Rolling Stone”, and “Hurricane”, which told the story of what some felt was the wrongful conviction of boxer Rubin Carter. This story was later made into the movie The Hurricane, featuring Denzel Washington. Dylan was inducted into the RRHF in 1989.

Click here for Bob Dylan writing prompt for teens:

https://www.rockhall.com/fight-the-power

  • Buffy Saint-Marie (Piapot Plains Cree First Nation) witnessed wounded soldiers returning from the Vietnam War. This inspired “Universal Soldier” in 1964, which was a protest song. Saint-Marie was an active philanthropist and started the non-profit fund Nihewan Foundation for American Indian Education in 1996. The word “Nihewan” comes from the Cree language meaning “talk Cree”, implying “be your culture”.

See “How to write a protest song” by Buffy Saint-Marie, (2017)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7mDvukMvttU

  • Aretha Franklin (African-American) was the Queen of Soul and the first woman inducted into the RRHF in 1987. Her powerful voice continued the fight after the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Although segregation was no longer legal, some still did not regard African-Americans as equals.  Aretha addressed this in a song that was not asking for respect, but DEMANDING it…and just in case you missed it, she spelled it out for you:

Respect Live, (1968)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0L4Bonnw484

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Aretha Franklin

An admirable quality of using music as a social force is its versatility. Different time periods and genres all lend themselves to advocacy for change. Song lyrics are basically poetry, so teen activists need to select the ones that express the message they are looking to convey. Any style of music:  rock, country, hip-hop, folk, and more can be used.

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Deanna Nebel shows examples of different albums with societal messages.

Education Programs Manager, Mandy Smith, shared more information about RRHF program offerings. “Fight the Power” is part of a larger umbrella of programs entitled “Rockin’ the Schools”.  The RRHF also partners with the Roots of American Music (ROAM) and the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage (MMJH) for a “Stop the Hate Youth Sing Out” collaboration. ROAM is a non-profit organization whose mission is to facilitate learning in diverse communities by providing customized arts programs, workshops, residencies, and performances through the use of traditional American music. Students begin by taking the “Stop the Hate” tour at the MMJH. Considering biases they have experienced in their own lives, they reflect upon what they have learned and how to use their voices to stand up to hate. Students are then partnered with a ROAM musician back in their classrooms and work on writing their own original protest songs. The songs are later performed at the RRHF in front of a panel of judges and other students learning about protest via music. The winners are then invited to perform their original songs during the “Stop the Hate Youth Sing Out” award ceremony on the RRHF main stage, in front of about 500 audience members and can win anti-bias education grants. Additionally, the MMJH encourages participation in their “Stop the Hate” essay writing contest to win scholarships.

Smith also suggested the RRHF Library and Archives as a great resource for teens. Those local to the Cleveland area can contact library@rockhall.org  or (216) 515-1956 to schedule visits. If not in the area , items are searchable at  http://library.rockhall.com/home and use https://rockhall.on.worldcat.org/discovery to find materials near you. Best of all, teachers and librarians can sign up for a FREE account to access Rock Hall Education resources at https://edu.rockhall.com/about.

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More resources:

https://www.rockhall.com/fight-the-power  (Teacher resources from RRHF)

https://www.rockhall.com/learn/education/rockin-schools

http://rootsofamericanmusic.org/

http://www.maltzmuseum.org/blog/stop-the-hate-at-rock-hall/

Special thanks to Gretchen Unico, Education Coordinator, for assistance in setting up the RRHF visit.

 ROCK ON!

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-Lisa Krok is a library manager, member of 2019 and 2018 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers team, and a Ravenclaw. She loves Queen and all things Freddie Mercury. Lisa can be found being bookish and political on Twitter @readonthebeach.

Cindy Crushes Programming: Hosting a Fortnite Party, by Cindy Shutts

cindycrushesprogramming

Like most teen librarians, my teens are obsessed with Fortnite. This popular video game downloads for free and is playable in different seasons, where they will play through different storylines and new player skins become available. One of the most popular parts of Fortnite is the dancing that different skins do. I have tweens and teens dancing around all day. I thought this could be a successful program for teens and tweens. I have done different fandom parties in the past for Divergent, Hunger Games, and British royals so I knew I could do this successfully.

fortnite

Trivia: The first part was I made a Jeopardy style PowerPoint using a format another librarian had already made.  My categories were modes, dances, character/skin, game development and seasons. In this part, I made a couple mistakes. I used information I got from an article that was incorrect for the season questions. My tweens gently corrected me. I listened to them because I know they are usually right if they correct me. If you want to use trivia, double-check your answers!

Jeopardy Power Point Template

Dance off: The dance off was super fun. I played the music from the Fortnite dances and the teen who got all the dances right won a small gift card from GameStop.

Craft/snack:  We had blue Gatorade as the drink, because in the game they drink a slurp juice. I also had a food craft where they cover up Rice Crispy treats with a red fruit roll up and put a cross with white frosting to be medic bandages.

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DIY Fortnite Crafts & Party Ideas – Red Ted Art’s Blog

 

The Game: Here is where things got rough. We have a PlayStation 4 and I have downloaded Fortnite on it.  I had planned to play a mini tournament. I turned on the PlayStation 4 and it needed an update and it would not let me update. Even my tech savvy teens could not figure out what was wrong. I looked at the teens and said move the tables and shut the door. You get to play live action Fortnite. I told them no running so they would not get hurt. They got it right away. They used their creativity to make what could have been a failure into a success.

Result: I am so proud of my teens they made this event work even though I had some difficulties. We had such happy kids. We even had kids ask if we can do this again. I will be happy to do it again, but plan to make sure that PlayStation 4 is really working. Or even just prepare to play a live action version with one of the teens ahead of time. The teens made this program special!

Feminist AF: The Amelia Bloomer Project, by Ally Watkins

Did you know that there’s an ALA committee that curates an excellent list of feminist books for children and teens?

The Amelia Bloomer Project blog on WordPress: https://ameliabloomer.wordpress.com/

The Amelia Bloomer Project blog on WordPress: https://ameliabloomer.wordpress.com/

If not, I’m delighted to introduce you to the Amelia Bloomer Project, a committee of the Feminist Task Force of the Social Responsibilities Round Table (SRRT). The Amelia Bloomer Project committee members search all year for books aimed at ages birth-18 that are well-written, well-illustrated, and have significant feminist content. During the ALA Midwinter Conference, members deliberate to produce a list of quality titles that meet this criteria.  This year’s list has 68 titles on it, and Top Ten titles were selected. Check out this year’s list here!

I’ve been lucky enough to be a member of this committee and it’s been an incredible experience. It’s changed the way I look at my reading and the way I approach my own feminism. Being able to share this with the members of my committee has been powerful and rewarding. I’m delighted to continue my term as a Bloomer, and if you’re interested–great! Applications for the 2020 committee are currently open. Apply here before midnight Pacific on Friday, February 15.

Post-It Note Reviews: Books for younger readers featuring a biracial protagonist, homeless kids in India, babysitters, and more

IMG_3631Now that I work in an elementary library, I’m reading a lot more titles for younger readers. It’s been super interesting to me to see what the students (grades K-5) check out. I’ve spent so long completely in the world of YA and am glad for an opportunity to work with younger readers and to read all of the great picture books, chapter books, and middle grade books I’ve missed out on!

Post-It Note reviews are a great way to display books in your library or classroom, a way to let kids recommend their favorite titles without having to get up in front of everyone and do a book talk, and an easy way to offer a more personal recommendation than just the flap copy offers.

All summaries are from the publishers. Transcription of Post-it note review under the summary.

 

 

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The Unsung Hero of Birdsong, USA by Brenda Woods

 

The Coretta Scott King Honor-winning author tells the moving story of the friendship between a young white boy and a Black WWII veteran who has recently returned to the unwelcoming Jim Crow South.

On Gabriel’s twelfth birthday, he gets a new bike–and is so excited that he accidentally rides it right into the path of a car. Fortunately, a Black man named Meriwether pushes him out of the way just in time, and fixes his damaged bike. As a thank you, Gabriel gets him a job at his dad’s auto shop. Gabriel’s dad hires him with some hesitation, however, anticipating trouble with the other mechanic, who makes no secret of his racist opinions.
Gabriel and Meriwether become friends, and Gabriel learns that Meriwether drove a tank in the Army’s all-Black 761st Tank Battalion in WWII. Meriwether is proud of his service, but has to keep it a secret because talking about it could be dangerous. Sadly, danger finds Meriwether, anyway, when his family receives a frightening threat. The South being the way it is, there’s no guarantee that the police will help–and Gabriel doesn’t know what will happen if Meriwether feels forced to take the law into his own hands.

(POST-IT SAYS: 12-year-old Gabriel’s eyes are opened to the racism in the South in 1946. Unique look at what it means to be black and a WWII vet. Gabriel’s voice is engaging, the setting is vibrant, and Woods’ storytelling is, as always, strong and affecting. Ages 9-12)

 

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Blended by Sharon M. Draper

 

Eleven-year-old Isabella’s blended family is more divided than ever in this thoughtful story about divorce and racial identity from the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of Out of My Mind, Sharon M. Draper.

Eleven-year-old Isabella’s parents are divorced, so she has to switch lives every week: One week she’s Isabella with her dad, his girlfriend Anastasia, and her son Darren living in a fancy house where they are one of the only black families in the neighborhood. The next week she’s Izzy with her mom and her boyfriend John-Mark in a small, not-so-fancy house that she loves.

Because of this, Isabella has always felt pulled between two worlds. And now that her parents are divorced, it seems their fights are even worse, and they’re always about HER. Isabella feels even more stuck in the middle, split and divided between them than ever. And she’s is beginning to realize that being split between Mom and Dad is more than switching houses, switching nicknames, switching backpacks: it’s also about switching identities. Her dad is black, her mom is white, and strangers are always commenting: “You’re so exotic!” “You look so unusual.” “But what are you really?” She knows what they’re really saying: “You don’t look like your parents.” “You’re different.” “What race are you really?” And when her parents, who both get engaged at the same time, get in their biggest fight ever, Isabella doesn’t just feel divided, she feels ripped in two. What does it mean to be half white or half black? To belong to half mom and half dad? And if you’re only seen as half of this and half of that, how can you ever feel whole?

It seems like nothing can bring Isabella’s family together again—until the worst happens. Isabella and Darren are stopped by the police. A cell phone is mistaken for a gun. And shots are fired.

 

(POST-IT SAYS: There’s a lot packed into this look at straddling multiple worlds and identities. An emotional look at being biracial (and all that goes with it) as well as at divorce and blended families. Ages 9-12)

 

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Monstrous Devices by Damien Love

 

On a winter’s day in a British town, twelve-year old Alex receives a package in the mail: an old tin robot from his grandfather. “This one is special,” says the enclosed note, and when strange events start occurring around him, Alex suspects this small toy is more than special; it might be deadly.

Right as things get out of hand, Alex’s grandfather arrives, pulling him away from an attack—and his otherwise humdrum world of friends, bullies, and homework—and into the macabre magic of an ancient family feud. Together, the duo flees across snowy Europe, unraveling the riddle of the little robot while trying to outwit relentless assassins of the human and mechanical kind.

With an ever-present admiration for the hidden mysteries of our world, Monstrous Devices plunges readers into a gripping adventure that’s sure to surprise.

(POST-IT SAYS: Dark, creepy, weird, and full of twists! Fans of strange mysteries who don’t mind unresolved questions will like this adventure. Chases, fights, and lots of intrigue. Ages 10-14)

 

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The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman

 

Four determined homeless children make a life for themselves in Padma Venkatraman’s stirring middle-grade debut.

Life is harsh in Chennai’s teeming streets, so when runaway sisters Viji and Rukku arrive, their prospects look grim. Very quickly, eleven-year-old Viji discovers how vulnerable they are in this uncaring, dangerous world. Fortunately, the girls find shelter—and friendship—on an abandoned bridge. With two homeless boys, Muthi and Arul, the group forms a family of sorts. And while making a living scavenging the city’s trash heaps is the pits, the kids find plenty to laugh about and take pride in too. After all, they are now the bosses of themselves and no longer dependent on untrustworthy adults. But when illness strikes, Viji must decide whether to risk seeking help from strangers or to keep holding on to their fragile, hard-fought freedom.

(POST-IT SAYS: A powerful and heartbreaking look at poverty, love, and grief. The sisters escape abuse but face very bleak situations on the street/on the run. Ultimately hopeful but very sad. Ages 10-14)

 

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Best Babysitters Ever by Caroline Cala

 

A funny new middle grade series about three 12-year-old best friends who start a babysitting club in their small California town. Perfect for fans of series like Whatever After and the Dork Diaries.

Once upon a time, a girl named Kristy Thomas had a great idea: to form The Baby-Sitters Club with her best friends. And now twelve-year-old Malia Twiggs has had a great idea too. Technically, she had Kristy’s idea(And technically, little kids seem gross and annoying, but a paycheck is a paycheck). After a little convincing, Malia and her friends Dot and Bree start a babysitting club to earn funds for an epic birthday bash. But babysitting definitely isn’t what they thought it would be.

Three friends. No parents. Unlimited snacks. And, okay, occasionally watching other people’s children. What could possibly go wrong?

(POST-IT SAYS: A modern Baby-Sitters Club! If the BSC girls were snarkier, less skilled, and more diverse, that is. A fun and entertaining start to a series with very wide appeal. Ages 10-12)

Book Review: Watch Us Rise by Renée Watson and Ellen Hagan

Publisher’s description

watch us riseNewbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Award-winning author Renée Watson teams up with poet Ellen Hagan in this YA feminist anthem about raising your voice.

Jasmine and Chelsea are best friends on a mission–they’re sick of the way women are treated even at their progressive NYC high school, so they decide to start a Women’s Rights Club. They post their work online–poems, essays, videos of Chelsea performing her poetry, and Jasmine’s response to the racial microaggressions she experiences–and soon they go viral. But with such positive support, the club is also targeted by trolls. When things escalate in real life, the principal shuts the club down. Not willing to be silenced, Jasmine and Chelsea will risk everything for their voices–and those of other young women–to be heard.
These two dynamic, creative young women stand up and speak out in a novel that features their compelling art and poetry along with powerful personal journeys that will inspire readers and budding poets, feminists, and activists.

 

 

Amanda’s thoughts

This book is so good. Order it, read it, book talk it, display it, love it.

 

Jasmine, Chelsea, and their friends attend a high school all about social justice and equity (or, allegedly it is). All students are required to be in a social justice club. But, like everywhere, their school is not perfect, with racism, sexism, and more alive and well. Jasmine and Chelsea leave their clubs to form a women’s rights club, focusing their intersectional feminism and activism on and around their lives at school. Together with their best friends Nadine and Isaac, they create art and foster conversations about many important issues. Jasmine, who is black, is a writer and an actress. Isaac, who is Puerto Rican, is a visual artist. Japanese and Lebanese Nadine is a singer and  DJ. And Irish and Italian Chelsea is a talented poet. Together, they inspire each other and help each other learn, grown, discover, and act. This book covers a lot of ground, tackling so many subjects in honest, creative, and effective ways.

 

I’m going to leave this review short and simple, because the real joy will come from reading about these smart, passionate, and motivated young people for yourself. This book is immensely readable—I burned through it in a couple of hours. Great dialogue, great writing, great poetry, great characters, great everything. It’s not often that I find a book wholly satisfying. And, even more rare, this book made me feel nostalgic for my teen years, remembering back to when I was a zine-writing young feminist and Gender and Sexuality Studies student. Empowering and inspiring, this book demands a wide readership. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781547600083
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication date: 02/12/2019

My MARVELous Vocabulary: a guest post by author Jerry Craft

NewKid HC cAs far back as I can remember, I have always loved comic books. Way before I had ever heard the term “graphic novel,” or aspired to create one, I remember running to my local candy store almost every week to buy the latest issues. But even though I bought them, I didn’t always read them. I had never heard the term “reluctant reader,” back then, but that’s exactly what I was. Occasionally, I would read my comics cover to cover, but those were mainly the issues that had more action scenes and fewer pages with our heroes as their secret identities. Those pages I would quickly scan in order to get the gist.

In junior high school, comics were looked at as some type of contraband that teachers would confiscate “to keep them from rotting our brains.” In fact, by the time the school year came to an end, some of those teachers would have larger comic collections in their bottom desk drawer than most of us had at home. So that was what I expected. Until Mr. Krupka, the first teacher I ever had who not only liked comics, but he actually encouraged us to read them. We quickly realized that if Mr. Krupka took one of our comics, it was only because he wanted to read it first! And much to our surprise, he even returned them!

With the exception of Mr. K., few of my teachers ever saw how comics helped to build my vocabulary. Especially Marvel Comics, because I couldn’t even read the cover without having to go and consult my family’s 400-pound Miriam Webster Dictionary (a book that looked more like I would use it to recite some type of ancient incantation than look up a word). But I had to because every title I bought had some type of fancy adjective before the name of the hero.

The Uncanny X-Men, The Incredible Hulk, The Invincible Iron Man, Astonishing Tales, The Macabre Man-Thing, and of course, Spider-Man who was both “amazing” AND “spectacular!” And if that wasn’t enough, I also had to go back to the dictionary to see what my favorite hero was trying to prevent! An apocalypse? . . .  Total annihilation? . . .  I went back to that gigantic dictionary so many times that not only did I build my vocabulary, I also built up my arm strength! (Have I mentioned how heavy it was?) So the better my reading skills and vocabulary, the less intimidated I was about reading other types of books. Even though I STILL didn’t really enjoy reading. It was not as if I COULDN’T read other books—I just didn’t WANT to. There’s a huge difference between the two.

Reading comics also encouraged me to write and draw my own comic books, which I absolutely loved (and obviously still do.) By the time I got to high school (in Riverdale), I was confident enough in my skills that I tried to talk my earth science teacher into allowing me to make a comic book instead of writing a term paper. And she let me! My comic was all about the life of a plant and how winter came in the form of an onslaught of spaceships armed with freeze rays! I still remember how our heroes transported supplies by using the xylem and phloem systems! Let me type that again . . . because I used that in my comic, I STILL remember xylem and phloem! And that’s without having to look it up!

By the time I was a college student at the School of Visual Arts (SVA), my comics were even better. And I also began to realize that between comic books, which I still loved, and TV cartoons like Schoolhouse Rock, did not rot my brain at all. If anything, they nourished it. But it still amazed me how many teachers did not understand. (Luckily, many of the teachers at SVA were cartoonists, so of course, they got it.) 

When I got out of college, it was very hard for me NOT to use my platform to help teach. So I created a comic strip called Mama’s Boyz — the story of a mom raising her two teenage sons while also running the family bookstore. Needless to say, Mom spent a lot of time trying to get her sons to read. In addition to literacy, over the years, I also used my comic strip to teach my readers about healthy eating, diabetes, teenage pregnancy, and organ and tissue donation. And the NY Daily News even commissioned me to develop a series of comic strips for their AIDs supplement. Miraculously, I pulled it off.

Fast forward  twenty years, during which time I published about two dozen books on my own because I NEVER thought that mainstream publishing would be interested in the types of stories that I wanted to tell. Stories with African-American protagonists where, even if they dealt with serious issues, still have to convey a sense of hope. And because I love to make people laugh, I wanted to add humor. There are sooo many important books by African-American authors who cover a myriad of topics, from historical to contemporary fiction, and my goal is to add my stories to complement their narratives so that kids can get a wide range of African-American life.

And that brings us to New Kid, my middle-grade graphic novel that follows the life of Jordan Banks, a 12-year-old boy from the Washington Heights section of New York City. More than anything, he wants to go to art school. But much like my parents, Jordan’s mom and dad don’t think that being an artist is a real job, which means they think he’ll probably live the rest of his life in their basement. So they send him to a prestigious and predominately white private school in Riverdale, a very affluent community. (Just like my parents did to me.) Each day, Jordan leaves his African-American and Latinx neighbors and tries to fit into a community that he has only seen on TV. But because he is also small for his age, and light-skinned with straight hair, he doesn’t always feel a part of the kids from his neighborhood, either. So, in essence, it’s a classic fish-out-of-water story. 

The teaching aspect comes from examining many of the nuances of trying to fit into the setting of Riverdale Academy Day School. The microaggressions, the code-switching, the “being confused with other Black kids” . . . (And English teachers will like that I teach kids about metaphors!)  But Jordan’s not perfect either. My goal is definitely not to blame, it’s to open eyes while also opening mouths that will look forward to having healthy conversations. I’d love for New Kid to be a book that African-American kids proudly claim as their own, while other kids see it as a book that always embraces them without ever being condescending. And it’s very important for me to make them laugh.

So with your help, we can start healthy discussions, and if the book does well, then maybe, I can finally move out of my parents’ basement.

Thank you!

CraftJerry ap 1 Credit Hollis KingJerry Craft is an author and illustrator whose most recent book is New Kid (HarperCollins, February 5, 2019). Craft has worked on numerous picture books, graphic novels, and middle grade novels, including The Zero Degree Zombie Zone by Patrik Henry Bass. He is the creator of Mama’s Boyz, an award-winning syndicated comic strip. He has won five African American Literary Awards and is a cofounder of the Schomburg Center’s Annual Black Comic Book Festival. He received his BFA from the School of Visual Arts and now lives in Connecticut. Visit him online at www.jerrycraft.com.

Sunday Reflections: Are Teens Reading Less?

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I have come across several conversations recently on Twitter that suggest that YA fiction is selling less, which often translates to teens are reading less. It’s important to note that these figures are referring specifically to the UK sales figures of YA, so the data may be radically different for the US. And as always, the conversation is more complicated than it seems. Are YA sales figures down? I don’t know, and I don’t know that that data tells us what we think it does. But if you find yourself asking are teens reading less? The short answer is no. The longer answer is slightly more complicated then that.

As someone who has been doing this for 26 years now, the hand wringing over teens are reading less is not new. There is a strong sense of been there, done that in these conversations and the correct answer is often this: it’s not that teens are reading less, it’s that teens aren’t reading what adults wants them to be reading in the ways they want them to be reading it, and that is an entirely different argument. The teen reading landscape has changed several times in the last 26 years, it’s changing now, and it will change again and again. What causes that change, what it means, and how we respond it it are an entirely different conversation.

If we’re being completely honest, it is true that teens are reading very differently and I understand that these changes are causing some fear among authors, publishers, teachers, and adults in general. Because the shift in teen reading habits impacts those groups in several ways: in sales and income, in how we can (or can’t) measure teen reading, and in how we can (or can’t) influence, monitor and control teen reading. Everyone having these conversations have different motivations, and that matters too.

You see, it’s not that teens are reading less I find, but more that teens are reading differently, and digital media is a huge influencer of this change. Today’s teens typically have devices (newest Pew Center data suggests that around 95% of teens have a mobile device of some sort) and these devices give them access to a whole new world of reading opportunities, which teens are availing themselves of. Wattpad, online fan fiction, and free downloads via either libraries or places like Amazon make it easier for teens to get the reading content they want, with immediate gratification and more anonymity than ever. Today’s teens don’t have to ask an adult to buy them the books that they want, or ask a librarian to help them find the titles on the shelves. In fact, online reading helps teens cultivate teen friendly spaces with little (known) adult monitoring and interaction. There are pros and cons to this development, depending on how much you want to monitor teen reading.

In addition, in the early 2000s the YA publishing market exploded while research suggested that more adults were buying YA than teens, which pushed the YA market more towards adults than YA when developing new authors and titles. Over time, the YA market aged up, adults became proud readers of YA, and the pop culture references on the pages of YA became more and more dated and less teen friendly. Many teens felt like YA was no longer their space, and so they abandoned it for new teen spaces. And with the explosion of technology and online creative writing forums, this task was easier to do than it was in the past. So teens carved out for themselves new teen spaces and once again, the reading landscape is changing.

This is coupled with the fact that we don’t really have any real way to measure teen reading. We do testing, which really only measures how well a teen can perform on a test about reading. Sales figures tell us who is buying a book, but not who is reading it, or how many people read one book. The same is true for circulation statistics. These are all imperfect measurements that tell us more about who buys or checks out an item and less about whether they read, like or recommend an item. Let me be very clear about this: we have no real good way of making quantifiable statements regarding teens reading for pleasure. Many of us who work with teens can tell you a wide range of anecdotal stories that have value, but there aren’t any real facts and figures that we can talk about because our measurement tools are deeply, inherently flawed.

When considering sales figures it’s also important to remember that as the economy shrinks, people have less disposable income and are less likely to buy books, which is not the same as being less likely to read books. In fact, overall public library use seems to be up, though many of my colleagues seem to suggest that while the circulation of physical items is down slightly, the circulation of digital content is up significantly. I myself am one of the last to adopt digital reading, but even I find myself reading more with a device in hand then a physical book in hand. It’s been a long time since I have checked out a physical book or a movie from my library, and I go there 5 days a week. Again, imperfect data.

We also have to look at a ton of other factors: competition for teens time and attention, our marketing and merchandising, the growing mental health issues we see in today’s teens and the amount of work causing it, etc. So. Much. Homework. And whether we like it or not, between Brexit and the growing white nationalism happening here in the US, which our teens *are* aware of and effected by, our teens are growing increasingly anxious, dismayed, and overwhelmed. Some teens are rejecting things like realistic fiction (too similar to their current real world experiences), while others are reading them with a fervor and choosing to be political;y active online and in the real world. Some teens are too busy marching to end school violence to read the latest literary tome that adults feel they should read. With growing incidence of racial and sexual violence, the under-funding of public education, and the fact that 1 in 5 kids and teens go to bed hungry, many people – teens included – don’t have the emotional energy or time necessary to read a book for fun, they’re too busy trying to just survive. The adults in the room are creating an environment that are putting up more and more obstacles for teens when it comes to having time for pleasure reading. So for those adults wringing their hands about teen reading I say this: change the environment, it will help a lot.

But even this is not a death toll for libraries, because though some libraries are reporting that the circulation of physical items is down, it’s not zero. And our libraries seem to be fuller and busier than ever. A majority of public libraries are thriving.

I think it’s good to have conversations about sales figures and circulation statistics and to try and figure out what those fluctuations mean and how they can help us better serve our patrons. But do I think teens are reading less? No, and in 26 years the answer has always been no when the question is asked. It just often means that we need to examine our practices and adjust to a new generation of readers and a changing market. In other words it’s not them, it’s us.

Editor’s Note: I did not link to the actual online conversation that started this discussion because it was problematic in many very real ways.  For example, the original article indicated that publishers should avoid publishing “issue” novels while having a primary graphic of author Angie Thomas. Angie Thomas is a women of color and the author of The Hate U Give, which has been on the New York Times Bestsellers list for now over 100 weeks. Using Angie Thomas’ picture contradicted their main argument and is probably a racist dog whistle. Though I did not want to link to the article that ignited this conversation, I did want to address the concerns about teen reading.

Some Additional Resources to Consider:

Friday Finds: February 8, 2019

tltbutton3This Week at TLT

What’s new in LGBTQIA+ YA February 2019

DIY Neon Signs

How Fairytales Help Us Navigate the World, a guest post by author Maureen McQuerry

The Life Saving Slogan: You are Not Alone, a guest post by Shelley Sackier

Book Review: LGBTQ: The Survival Guide for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Teens by Kelly Huegel Madrone

More Than an Identity, by teen contributor Elliot

Sunday Reflections: Raising Daughters & the Fight for Full Bodily Autonomy

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