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Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Friday Finds – February 5, 2016

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Sunday Reflections: Wrestling with A Birthday Cake for George Washington as a Mother and a Librarian

Depression and Obsession: The Pressure of Teen Athletes, by Mia Siegert

Middle School Monday – Audacity Jones to the Rescue by Kirby Lawson

Book Review: Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

Video Games Weekly: Lego Marvel Avengers

TPiB: Book Planters

Evy’s First Impressions

Around the Web

What’s Lost When Kids Are ‘Under-connected’ to the Internet?

MakerSpace: The Making of a Manual

In the February 2016 issue of School Library Journal, I share in an article titled Small Tech, Big Impact my journey in creating a small Teen MakerSpace at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County in Ohio. In addition to creating the space itself, I was equally excited to organize and put together a manual for my MakerSpace. This is not an exaggeration, I have been known to pet it while it sits at my desk. It’s not weird, I swear. It’s just, as someone who loves planning and organizing, such a crowning achievement of this space and journey. I mean, this manual is super organized and epic. Okay, maybe it’s a little weird how much I love this manual. But it’s not just a manual, it the embodiment of a challenging and exhilarating professional journey.


It’s not much on the outside, though I could get one of those cool notebooks that allow you to make a cover and do so. (Note to self: do this ASAP).


But it’s very useful – at least to me – on the inside.


It’s divided into 5 main parts.

Part 1: YA Services 101

The Teen MakerSpace is part of our overall YA Services plan, so in this section I include a basic plan overview, information about our YA social media, and a teen collection outline. I wrote about and provide examples of all of these elements in the ALA Editions book I edited with TLTer Heather Booth titled The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services (2014). I actually used my examples as a starting point and adapted it for this library in this community.


Part 2: The MakerSpace General Overview

In this section, I include the initial MakerSpace proposal, an outline of all the various media that we have, and an outline of all the apps that we have for our iPads. I also included an inventory checklist and any information that may be necessary for re-ordering. The button makers and 3D pens, for example, require us to keep certain supplies re-stocked and it includes information on what and where to order these supplies. There is also an opening and closing checklist in this section. Although our Teen MakerSpace is always open, some of the items are only brought out when a staff member is present in order to help protect more delicate or higher cost equipment. These items are kept on a rolling storage cart so that they can easily be moved in and out of the space.

Part 3: The MakerSpace Station Instructions

In this section, I scanned in or downloaded the various instructions for each component that we purchased. There are the instructions for littleBits, Dot and Dash, Ollie and more. There are instructions for each app that we highlight on our iPad stations. There are guides for doing stop motion animation and green screen photos. If it is a part of our Teen MakerSpace, the instructions can be found here. There are also step by step examples of any of the crafts we have in the space and duplicate copies of all signage in the area. I have all of this saved onto a file as well so that I can keep them easily updated or replace any lost or damaged copies. I found that a lot of the instructions could easily be found in PDF form on the Internet to download, save and print.

Part 4: Circulating Maker Kits

A popular part of our Teen MakerSpace are our Circulating Maker Kits. We have age appropriate kits on both the children’s floor and in the Teen MakerSpace. This section contains an inventory of each kit, including ISBN numbers and any links to support materials that we may provide. Because the kits contain a variety of items, including books, thing a ma bobs (technical term, I promise) and handouts, we had to create an inventory sheet to place in each circulating backpack so that staff knew what to look for when checking the item out to a patron. These inventory sheets also help us know what topics we have covered when we look to make additional kits, and our CMKs have been so popular that we do in fact hope to add more.

Part 5: The Maker Collection

Because we care very much about books, we have included a collection of “Maker” books in our Teen MakerSpace. In fact, we have booth a Juvenile Maker Collection and a Maker Collection with age appropriate materials on each floor. In this section we have a bibliography of our collection so we can keep it stocked, order replacements, and keep an eye on new materials for subjects we may have gaps in.

There is technically a 6th section which includes the MakerSpace Assistant job description. We are looking to hire an assistant to help staff the space so we have it more fully available to the teens in our community for more hours a week.

This manual is the culmination of a lot of hard work and research. It was fun, it was challenging – and to be honest, it is and always will be something that is in process. I promise I’ll stop petting the manual soon. Probably.

What’s New in LGBTQIA+ YA January and February 2016

It’s time for another roundup for new and forthcoming YA (and sometimes not YA) books featuring LGBTQIA+ characters. Right now my list of 2016 titles stands at 86 with known pub dates and many more with unknown, as of now, dates. I’m sure it will grow as the year goes on. Need more suggestions to add to your list? Check out Dahlia Adler’s QUILTBAG Compendium, Gay YA, and this Storify, from Gay YA’s book club Twitter chat in December, of favorite 2015 titles and anticipated 2016 titles.  The titles I’m including here have LGBTQIA+ main characters as well as secondary characters (in some cases parents). Know of a title I missed in this list? Or know of a forthcoming title that should be on my radar for an upcoming list? Leave a comment or tweet me @CiteSomething. This list covers January 2016 and February 2016 titles. Head over to this link for the previous post (October, November, and December 2015 titles) in this series. All annotations here are via the publishers.


January 2016

stakesRaise the Stakes by Megan Atwood (ISBN-13: 9781467781039, Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group, Publication date: 01/01/2016)

Colin’s trans sister needs money for gender reassignment surgery. So Colin agrees to enter a mysterious contest run by “the Benefactor.” But soon his goal shifts from winning the $10 million prize to unmasking the Benefactor.





this is whereThis is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp (ISBN-13: 9781492622468, Publisher: Sourcebooks, Publication date:01/05/2016)

10:00 a.m.
The principal of Opportunity, Alabama’s high school finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.

10:02 a.m.
The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.

The auditorium doors won’t open.

Someone starts shooting.

Told from four perspectives over the span of 54 harrowing minutes, terror reigns as one student’s calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival.

(See previous posts about this book here and here)


this songThis Song Is (Not) For You by Laura Nowlin (ISBN-13: 9781492602903 ,Publisher: Sourcebooks, Publication date: 01/05/2016)

Ramona fell for Sam the moment she met him. It was like she had known him forever. He’s one of the few constants in her life, and their friendship is just too important to risk for a kiss. Though she really wants to kiss him…

Sam loves Ramona, but he would never expect her to feel the same way-she’s too quirky and cool for someone like him. Still, they complement each other perfectly, both as best friends and as a band.

Then they meet Tom. Tom makes music too, and he’s the band’s missing piece. The three quickly become inseparable. Except Ramona’s falling in love with Tom. But she hasn’t fallen out of love with Sam either. How can she be true to her feelings without breaking up the band?



colorsColors by Russell J. Sanders (ISBN: 978-1-63476-543-5, Publisher: Harmony Ink, Publication date: 01/14/2016)

With a beautiful girlfriend, a scholarship to a prestigious musical theater school, and talent to spare, life is good for high school senior Neil Darrien. He’s on his way to stardom, but then newcomer Zane Jeffrey secures a place in the school show choir, rousing Neil’s envy. Neil soon sees there’s more to Zane than a talented performer, though—he’s funny and charming, and the two boys become friends.

Neil’s girlfriend Melissa doesn’t like Neil spending so much time with Zane, and she draws Neil into her church. There, Neil is faced with a choice between righting a wrong and risking revealing a secret that could cost him everything he’s worked so hard to achieve.

As Neil’s relationship with Melissa deteriorates, Neil starts to see Zane in a different light—one that has him thinking of Zane as more than just a friend.



we are the antsWe Are The Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson (ISBN-13: 9781481449632, Publisher: Simon Pulse, Publication date: 01/19/2016)

From the “author to watch” (Kirkus Reviews) of The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley comes a brand-new novel about a teenage boy who must decide whether or not the world is worth saving.

Henry Denton has spent years being periodically abducted by aliens. Then the aliens give him an ultimatum: The world will end in 144 days, and all Henry has to do to stop it is push a big red button.

Only he isn’t sure he wants to.

After all, life hasn’t been great for Henry. His mom is a struggling waitress held together by a thin layer of cigarette smoke. His brother is a jobless dropout who just knocked someone up. His grandmother is slowly losing herself to Alzheimer’s. And Henry is still dealing with the grief of his boyfriend’s suicide last year.

Wiping the slate clean sounds like a pretty good choice to him.

But Henry is a scientist first, and facing the question thoroughly and logically, he begins to look for pros and cons: in the bully who is his perpetual one-night stand, in the best friend who betrayed him, in the brilliant and mysterious boy who walked into the wrong class. Weighing the pain and the joy that surrounds him, Henry is left with the ultimate choice: push the button and save the planet and everyone on it…or let the world—and his pain—be destroyed forever.



burnBurn by Elissa Sussman (ISBN-13: 9780062274595, Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers, Publication date: 01/19/2016)

Burn is the thrilling companion to Elissa Sussman’s masterful and original fairy tale, Stray. This engaging and imaginative continuation of the original fairy tale begun in Stray will appeal to readers of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and fans of the musicals Wicked and Into the Woods.

After helping to rescue Princess Aislynn, Elanor has finally rejoined the rebel camp she calls home. Stolen from her parents at a young age and forced into service by the Wicked Queen, Elanor now wants nothing more than to see the queen removed from power. But Elanor has secrets, mistakes she’s spent years trying to forget, and the closer the rebels get to the throne, the harder it is for Elanor to keep her past hidden away. Booklist said of Stray, “Sussman delightfully mixes dystopian tension with retold fairy tales, and the result is something wholly original.” Includes a map.



raisingThe Raising (The Torch Keeper, #3) by Steven dos Santos (ASIN: B018EL5CI6, Publisher: Curtis Brown Unlimited, Publication date: 01/20/2016)

Three Pasts. Two Fates. One Choice.

Once a humble orphan existing in the shadows of the brutal Establishment, Lucian “Lucky” Spark has evolved from lone vigilante to “The Torch Keeper,” a fiery symbol of the valiant resistance. Lucky now leads the heroic fight to restore justice and liberty to the downtrodden survivors of a world devastated by geological catastrophe and tyranny.

But as the Torch Brigade prepares to launch a final, desperate gambit against the ruthless forces controlled by his former companion, the mysterious Cassius Thorn, Lucky struggles with the secret of his own true identity. Is he the spark of hope destined to unite a nation and finally end this destructive crusade? Or is he truly the dark catalyst of the past, intent on reducing the remnants of humanity to smoldering embers?

With the fates of his brainwashed brother, Cole, and genetically transformed love, Digory Tycho, caught in the crossfire of epic war, Lucky’s final choice may have apocalyptic consequences for an entire world.


like i knowLike I Know Jack by MC Lee (ISBN: 978-1-63476-808-5, Publisher: Harmony Ink, Publication date: 01/21/2016)

When Jack finds himself assigned to a new case with Anna Baxter, the agent who made life difficult on his previous mission, he is glad to find Leo McCormack will also be joining them.

They are tasked with getting close to high school student Connor White in order to infiltrate a drug ring being run by his friend, Gregor Slovik. Connor is gay, and Jack is conflicted about just how close to get to his target. With Leo’s help, Jack tries to navigate the pitfalls of their assignment. When Agent Baxter attempts to manipulate the mission to achieve the outcome she wants, Jack is forced to make a risky decision.



shallowShallow Graves by Kali Wallace (ISBN-13: 9780062366207, Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers, Publication date: 01/26/2016)

For fans of Holly Black and Nova Ren Suma, a gripping, hauntingly atmospheric novel about murder, revenge, and a world where monsters—human and otherwise—lurk at the fringes.

When seventeen-year-old Breezy Lin wakes up in a shallow grave one year after her death, she doesn’t remember who killed her or why. All she knows is that she’s somehow conscious—and not only that, she’s able to sense who around her is hiding a murderous past. In life, Breezy was always drawn to the elegance of the universe and the mystery of the stars. Now she must set out to find answers and discover what is to become of her in the gritty, dangerous world to which she now belongs—where killers hide in plain sight, and a sinister cult is hunting for strange creatures like her. What she finds is at once empowering, redemptive, and dangerous.

Tense, complex, and wholly engaging, Shallow Graves is a stunning first novel from Kali Wallace.


any other girlAny Other Girl by Rebecca Phillips (ISBN-13: 9781617738821, Publisher: Kensington, Publication date: 01/26/2016)

After a disastrous, reputation-destroying party at the end of junior year, Kat Henley has a new plan. When it comes to boys–especially other people’s boys:

Don’t touch.
Don’t smile.
Don’t charm.

In the past, drawing attention to herself helped distract people from what really makes Kat different–having two gay parents. But it’s also cost her friendships. Kat can’t afford to lose any more of those, especially not her cousin, Harper. They’re spending one last summer together at the lake, where they run into an intriguing newcomer named Emmett Reese. After years of trying to prove she’s just like everybody else, Kat has found someone who wants her because she’s not. A boy who could be everything she wants too–if Harper hadn’t liked him first. . .


are youAre You LGBTQ? by Jeanne Nagle (ISBN-13: 9780766071391, Publisher: Enslow Publishing, Publication date: 01/28/2016)

Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer or Questioning. Each of these terms has an individual meaning and community around them. Through interviews with professionals as well as those in the LGBTQ community, readers can learn not only the definition of each of these words, but also what it means on a greater scale. Perfect for research or personal use, this text will provide teens with answers to many of their questions about sexuality and create a dialogue through which they can learn to accept each other and themselves.




sunThe Sun Dragon by Annabelle Jay (ISBN: 978-1-63476-341-7, Publisher: Harmony Ink, Publication date: 01/28/2016)

Dragons once roamed the skies, as common as our modern-day airplanes but much more beautiful in their gliding, soaring thermal choreography. Until King Roland and his gold-greedy men defeated them.

Years later King Roland reveals that not only did he let the dragons live, but he turned them into humans so that they could enter the population and breed him an army. Allanah, a sophomore in high school, saves her know-it-all friend Victoria from exactly this fate with magical powers she never knew she had. Allanah’s first high school crush, Jason, reveals that he’s been sent by a secret society of wizards to bring Allanah and Victoria to the Council to have their magical abilities tested by The Egg. Everyone, including Allanah, is shocked by what she produces: the world’s first light dragon.

Allanah must save her best friend and all of the rest of the dragons from Roland’s evil plan, but when she meets the beautiful Dena, a member of the native forest-dwelling Igreefee camp, she must wrestle between her feelings for her new wizard crush, Cormac, and her attraction to Dena.


February 2016

taggedTagged Out by Joyce Grant (ISBN: 9781459410756, Publisher: Lorimer, Publication date: 02/01/2016)

The inner-city Toronto Blues baseball team is having a lousy year. Shortstop Nash and the Blues can’t seem to win. They especially hate losing to their archrivals, the rich kids of the Parkhill Pirates. When all-star player Jock joins the team, it looks like the Blues might be able to turn the season around. The only problem? When the Pirates find out that Jock is gay, they ambush Nash and Jock, and Nash has to decide if he wants to stand by his teammate.




symptomsSymptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin (ISBN-13: 9780062382863, Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers, Publication date: 02/02/2016)

A sharply honest and moving debut perfect for fans of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Ask the Passengers.

Riley Cavanaugh is many things: Punk rock. Snarky. Rebellious. And gender fluid. Some days Riley identifies as a boy, and others as a girl. But Riley isn’t exactly out yet. And between starting a new school and having a congressman father running for reelection in über-conservative Orange County, the pressure—media and otherwise—is building up in Riley’s life.

On the advice of a therapist, Riley starts an anonymous blog to vent those pent-up feelings and tell the truth of what it’s really like to be a gender fluid teenager. But just as Riley’s starting to settle in at school—even developing feelings for a mysterious outcast—the blog goes viral, and an unnamed commenter discovers Riley’s real identity, threatening exposure. And Riley must make a choice: walk away from what the blog has created—a lifeline, new friends, a cause to believe in—or stand up, come out, and risk everything.

From debut author Jeff Garvin comes a powerful and uplifting portrait of a modern teen struggling with high school, relationships, and what it means to be a person.



spiritSpirit Level by Sarah N. Harvey (ISBN-13: 9781459808164, Publisher: Orca Book Publishers, Publication date: 02/02/2016)

Harriet (known as Harry) is a donor-conceived child who has never wanted to reach out to her half-siblings or donor—until now. Feeling adrift after a breakup with her long-time boyfriend, Harry tracks down her half-siblings, two of whom are in Seattle, where Harriet lives. The first girl she meets is fifteen–year-old Lucy, an effervescent half-Japanese dancer. Then she meets Meredith, a troubled girl who is always accompanied by her best friend, Alex. Harry and Alex are attracted to each other, much to Meredith’s chagrin, and when it becomes clear that Meredith is an accomplished liar, Harry makes it her business to figure out what Meredith is up to. In the course of her investigation, she discovers a lot about Meredith, but the biggest shock is not about Meredith—it’s about Alex, who was born female. So now Harry must deal with not only her growing attraction to Alex, but also Meredith’s hostility. As decisions are made around whether to contact their donor, the three donor sisters negotiate their relationship and Harry tries to figure out what she really wants.



abyssThe Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie (ISBN-13: 9780738746913, Publisher: Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd., Publication date: 02/08/2016)

For Cassandra Leung, bossing around sea monsters is just the family business. She’s been a Reckoner trainer-in-training ever since she could walk, raising the genetically-engineered beasts to defend ships as they cross the pirate-infested NeoPacific. But when the pirate queen Santa Elena swoops in on Cas’s first solo mission and snatches her from the bloodstained decks, Cas’s dream of being a full-time trainer seems dead in the water.

Waiting for her on the pirate ship is an unhatched Reckoner pup. Santa Elena wants to take back the seas with a monster of her own, and she needs a proper trainer to do it. She orders Cas to raise the pup and teach him to fight for the pirates. If Cas fails, her blood will be the next to paint the sea.

But Cas has fought pirates her entire life. Santa Elena has no idea what she’s in for.



bleeding earthBleeding Earth by Kaitlin Ward (ISBN-13: 9780986448485, Publisher: Adaptive Studios, Publication date: 02/09/2016)

Between Mother Nature and human nature, disasters are inevitable.

Lea was in a cemetery when the earth started bleeding. Within twenty-four hours, the blood made international news. All over the world, blood oozed out of the ground, even through the concrete, even in the water. Then the earth started growing hair and bones.

Lea wishes she could ignore the blood. She wishes she could spend time with her new girlfriend, Aracely, in public, if only Aracely wasn’t so afraid of her father. Lea wants to be a regular teen again, but the blood has made her a prisoner in her own home. Fear for her social life turns into fear for her sanity, and Lea must save herself and her girlfriend however she can.


radioRadio Silence by Alice Oseman (ISBN: 9780007559244, Publisher: HarperCollins, Publication date: 02/25/2016) UK BOOK

What if everything you set yourself up to be was wrong?

Frances has always been a study machine with one goal, elite university. Nothing will stand in her way; not friends, not a guilty secret – not even the person she is on the inside.

But when Frances meets Aled, the shy genius behind her favourite podcast, she discovers a new freedom. He unlocks the door to Real Frances and for the first time she experiences true friendship, unafraid to be herself. Then the podcast goes viral and the fragile trust between them is broken.

Caught between who she was and who she longs to be, Frances’ dreams come crashing down. Suffocating with guilt, she knows that she has to confront her past…
She has to confess why Carys disappeared…

Meanwhile at uni, Aled is alone, fighting even darker secrets.

It’s only by facing up to your fears that you can overcome them. And it’s only by being your true self that you can find happiness.

Frances is going to need every bit of courage she has.

Evy’s First Impressions

What prompts a teen to pick up one book instead of another? Evy dug through Heather’s big old box-o-books and picked four to take home. What did she pick and why? This TLT Teen Advisory Board member is an avid YouTube fan, so she decided to tell you in a video. Thanks Evy!

Books discussed:

Gorgeous by Paul Rudnick

Love Drugged by James Klise

Under Shifting Glass by Nicky Singer

The Sister Pact by Stacie Rayme

TPiB: Book Planters

IMG_7260I am not a crafty person. At all.  I’m unable to draw a straight line or measure correctly and have little to no patience for not catching on to something quickly. So when we ended up with all this extra dirt at the library (don’t ask), and my supervisor said hey, want to make some book planters for a program, I said sure mostly because I wanted to be accommodating, not out of some love for creating things.


IMG_7286I poked around online for how to make book planters and found lots of detailed instructions, including one titled something like “How to make a book planter in 946 easy steps.” It was more like 40, I guess, but that’s the same thing. Some suggested you cut through the cover. Some involved various power tools for cutting. Some wanted you to stack books up, use a tool to cut a deep round hole, and stick a potted plant in. And on and on. I took the best bits of what I found and came up with this.




IMG_7246You will need:

Discarded hardcover books (I used ones that had broken spines, missing pages, etc) If you can find ones with nice endpapers, bonus!

Box cutters (SHARP)

Cling wrap

Glue (Elmers or Mod Podge or whatever–don’t use rubber cement! That was a bust). I used Aleene’s Original Tacky Glue

Sponges or brushes

A ruler or cardboard square/rectangle template, if you’re feeling precise



Drop cloths


Butcher paper

Plastic bags

Paper towel

Plastic cups





Setting up:

IMG_7241Cover your work space with drop cloths or butcher paper. Things got quite messy—dirt, dripped glue, and an infinite number of shredded book pages everywhere.






Getting to work:

For the sake of mess and time, I partially prepped most of the books, but you could let your group start from the beginning.

IMG_72441. Get rid of dust jacket. Flip through the book and see if there are any pages with pictures that you’d like to paste into the front at the end. Snag them if so.






IMG_72502. With the front cover of the book open, glue the pages along all three sides to create a seal. I dotted tacky glue along one side, wiped it all over with a sponge, making sure to really get the corners and making sure the top few pages weren’t flapping loose. Once all sides are covered in glue, set the books aside to dry for a bit. I did this in the days before the program because I was worried the books would still be too wet to easily transport home if attendees glued them at the program. That said, one woman did choose an unglued book and did it at the program. It was mostly dry by the time she left about 90 minutes later.


IMG_72343. Once the book is dry, grab a box cutter and decide what size square or rectangle you’d like to cut out of the book’s pages. Use cardboard for a template to cut around, or measure with your ruler/use a ruler as a guide, or just eyeball it. Start slowly and carefully cutting. You will need to cut and remove pages in many, many rounds. Corners are hard. Just remember most of that hole will be covered in dirt and plants, so being inexact is okay. Just try not to mangle that nice top page. You could have the books completely uncut at the program and let attendees start from the top page. My lovely coworkers helped prepare our books and cut through the first 100 pages or so. Cutting takes a while.


(At this point, you may want to grab the piles of book pages being cut out. I plan to reuse them for some blackout poetry in April.)


4. Once the pages are cut nearly all the way to the bottom or deep enough for soil and plants, you can glue the inside of your square/rectangle to create another seal or just skip right to lining it with cling wrap. We lined enough so that it came up over the top quite a bit–you can trim it later.


IMG_72355. Using your plastic cup, scoop out some soil from your bag and arrange soil and your succulents in the hole. Most attendees fit 2 or 3 small succulents.






6. After planting, use your box cutter to trim off the excess plastic wrap, leaving just a bit to help protect those top pages from any water that might overflow.


IMG_72527. If your book doesn’t have nice endpapers and you want to add something more to your planter, you could create a collage from discarded pages and pictures.






IMG_72548. That’s it! I had brought in plastic grocery bags and we were able to set the books carefully inside them for transport home (if you glue the books the day of the project, you might not be able to do this easily).





IMG_7285It was a fun program and the book planters turned out lovely. My program was open to adults and teens. I had 6 adult women, 1 man, and 1 teen. The planters would make great gifts for anyone who likes books. Also, if I could successfully make one, anyone can!




Video Games Weekly: Lego Marvel Avengers

Lego Marvel’s Avengers is the newest installment in the Lego video games franchise, but it’s the second Lego game taking place in the Marvel Universe. What’s interesting is Lego tends to release their games around the same time the accompanying movie comes out (like Jurassic World), and it’s a bad sign that game is coming out NOW instead of 2015 when Age of Ultron came out.


Background: Lego games are pretty formulaic; if you’ve played one Lego game, you’ve played them all. To summarize, the player has to change between different characters because they have different abilities like knock down structures, rebuilding things, and solving puzzles. The games are oftentimes very loyal to the movie companions, which is one of its biggest strengths. The game series hasn’t really changed this kind of gameplay, which is why new installments aren’t that exciting. I’ll still give new Lego games a try if they take place in one of my favorite fictional universes, but I never expect a new gaming experience. It’s kind of like buying the same book with a different cover!
Platform: PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Nintendo 3DS, Wii U, and PC.

Rated: E10+

Single or Multiplayer: Single and co-op multiplayer

Storyline: The game is a crazy combination of many Marvel movies and the comic books, which is cool for diehard Marvel fans. According to Kotaku, the game has elements from The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Winter Soldier, Iron Man 3, and Thor: Dark World. I’ve seen the majority of the Marvel Universe movies, and haven’t really read the comics, so for me the experience was a little disorienting. When you start the game, you’re dropped in the middle of a battle, and you have to work in superhero pairs to solve puzzles and beat up bad guys.


The game also used audio straight from the movies, but not always in the same context. I started flailing around on my couch yelling “IS THAT CHRIS HEMSWORTH’S VOICE?!?!?!?” when I started playing the game, if that helps describe the experience. Some reviewers really liked it, while some really hated it. You decide.

The biggest pain is needing specific superheros to complete actions. This is very normal in Lego games, but the problem is there are over 100 characters that you need to unlock. The game will give you hints as to which character/ability you need to complete an action, but they only show you a tiny character head instead of spelling out the hero’s name. It can get frustrating, especially because the puzzles get tedious and repetitive.

Verdict: Eh. If you have die hard Marvel fans, buy it for them. Marvel fanatics will LOVE this game because of the movie/comic book universe blend, and the game is guaranteed to have at least one character that even the biggest Marvel fan can’t remember.

Hard pass on Game Night unless you have Marvel fans. Even if you do happen to have Marvel fans, Lego Marvel Superheroes was a better Marvel game! The game won’t be enjoyed by everyone, and you could get better Lego games.

Questions? Comments? Tweet them at me!

By: Alanna Graves
Twitter: @LannaLibrarian


$59.99 on Amazon

Book Review: Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

symptomsPublisher’s description:

Riley Cavanaugh is many things: Punk rock. Snarky. Rebellious. And gender fluid. Some days Riley identifies as a boy, and others as a girl. But Riley isn’t exactly out yet. And between starting a new school and having a congressman father running for reelection in über-conservative Orange County, the pressure—media and otherwise—is building up in Riley’s life.

On the advice of a therapist, Riley starts an anonymous blog to vent those pent-up feelings and tell the truth of what it’s really like to be a gender fluid teenager. But just as Riley’s starting to settle in at school—even developing feelings for a mysterious outcast—the blog goes viral, and an unnamed commenter discovers Riley’s real identity, threatening exposure. And Riley must make a choice: walk away from what the blog has created—a lifeline, new friends, a cause to believe in—or stand up, come out, and risk everything.

From debut author Jeff Garvin comes a powerful and uplifting portrait of a modern teen struggling with high school, relationships, and what it means to be a person.


Amanda’s thoughts

Well, that extremely thorough summary up there really hits most of the main pieces of this story. This is 100% the story of a gender fluid teen. That fact is at the heart of every piece of this plot. We read the term “gender fluid” over and over again as we learn exactly what that means to Riley. Readers who are unfamiliar with what being gender fluid means (or means to one person) will walk away with a pretty complex picture of this identity .


Riley is starting at a new school. Riley’s father is a congressman, which matters because he’s up for re-election and needs Riley to attend fundraisers and help his campaign by not rocking the boat further. Riley has recently attempted suicide and had a recovery stint in a psychiatric hospital. Riley’s anxiety  and panic attacks are still a constant, but medication and therapy are helping with that. Riley hopes to start over at the new school, but is instantly called “it” or “tranny” and other slurs. “Is that a girl, or a guy?” kids whisper in the hall. It would appear that judgmental teenagers looking to figure out how they should categorize a person are all over the place. Go figure.


Riley makes two good friends, Solo (Jason Solomona) and Bec (self-named because of her prominent nose, “bec” being French for “beak”), though their friendships start out tenuously. Riley starts an anonymous blog as a way to connect with “people like me,” a suggestion from Riley’s therapist. The blog quickly gains traffic, especially after one of Riley’s replies to a reader goes viral when something unexpected happens. Riley is scared that someone will discover the blog and out Riley, but the community found there is too good to turn away from. Of course, you can probably see where this is going, right? Riley’s dad is a high-profile congressman. Riley is already being bullied at school. Riley isn’t out to Riley’s parents yet. Expect things to fall apart, especially when it appears that Riley has a stalker on the blog who may know Riley’s true identity.


I really liked this book for a lot of reasons. Riley spends a lot of time talking/thinking about being gender fluid. Riley talks about feeling neutral, or feeling more “boy” or “girl” on certain days, or “both” or “neither.” Riley talks about the body dysphoria and the various ways it makes Riley feel when Riley shifts between identities. There is a lot going on here about gender, identity, and assumptions, not just with Riley but with some secondary characters in the book, both at the support group Riley attends and at school. Solo and Bec are great characters—particularly Solo (who refers to himself as “the three-hundred-pound brown kid with the furry Chewbacca backpack”). He’s an absolutely fantastic character. Part of the football team, Solo, who initially really seemed to connect with Riley, falls to the pressure of his jerk peers. He doesn’t make fun of Riley or hurl slurs, but he distances himself from Riley and doesn’t stand up to his peers right away. It doesn’t take long for him to ditch that attitude, though, and be a real friend to Riley. As far as enemies go, the biggest one is Jim Vickers, the football-playing a-hole who goes out of his way to bully and threaten Riley. Things go from bad to worse (to really, really a lot worse) with him.


Riley’s anxiety and panic attacks are also described in great detail. We see Riley getting help through therapy, medication (complete with adjusting doses as things change and having backup medication for the particularly bad moments), and learning techniques to try to stave off anxiety—things like deep breathing, visualization, and more. We see how horrible the panic attacks can be. Riley is open about them and their affects. Mental health issues are also addressed with the character of Bec’s mom, who is deeply depressed after a tragic incident in their family.


Though the novel is about a lot of very serious things, Riley’s wry humor and easy banter with Bec and Solo help lighten the tone. Though Riley struggles with coming to terms with this identity and sharing it with others, Riley has a lot of support. Riley has compassionate friends, a caring online community, people in the support group who can relate, and loving (if sometimes judgmental and not understanding) parents.


The novel starts with a blog post. “The first thing you’re going to want to know about me is: Am I a boy, or am I a girl.” Of course, since Riley is gender fluid, we know those labels don’t apply or only sometimes apply. Garvin manages to successfully avoid all pronouns for Riley or any other indications of what gender Riley was assigned at birth, helping drive home points about identity. An author’s note discusses where the idea for this book came from as well as offers resources on gender identity, anxiety, and depression. I have many pages of notes on this book and feel like this is a really rambling review, but there was just so much going on in this book. Here’s the takeaway from this review: THIS GREAT BOOK WITH A GENDER FLUID MAIN CHARACTER EXISTS. IT’S GREAT. THE WRITING IS GREAT. LOTS OF STUFF HAPPENS. THERE IS A LOT TO THINK ABOUT. GO GET IT!

Riley’s story is an important one and one we haven’t seen much of yet in YA. I hope The Symptoms of Being Human finds it way to the shelves of every library that serves teenagers. 


Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

ISBN-13: 9780062382863

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Publication date: 02/02/2016


Middle School Monday – Audacity Jones to the Rescue by Kirby Lawson

MSMAt Miss Maisie’s School for Wayward Girls, twelve-year-old Audacity Jones is holding everything together by the force of her personality. Who comforts distraught students? Who makes Professor Teachtest’s* lessons bearable? Who learns how to repair the school roof on her own? Audacity. But when the opportunity for adventure presents itself, she cannot resist.

Audacity is off with Commodore Crutchfield on an adventure of dubious merit. He won’t reveal the purpose of their errand, which takes them to Washington, D.C., and has hired a nefarious seeming chauffeur/assistant with the ominous name of ‘Cypher.’ When Audacity is abandoned at the DC train station, she is taken under the care of Juice, who is determined to see to her wellbeing. Additionally, back at the School Wayward for Girls, Audacity’s fellow students have begun to suspect something is wrong due to the unusual nature of her postcards.

Audacity is a well written and relatable heroine – especially in her tendency to seek out time in the ‘punishment room’ (library) of the School for Wayward girls. The story is engaging and engrossing, as one might expect from Kirby Lawson. I’d give this novel to fans of Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events books. I hope to see more of Audacity’s adventures in the future.50242850

*Professor Teachtest is a particular call-out to those serving in today’s school environment:

The first pupil — and Mis Maisie’s favorite — was enrolled in the School for Wayward Girls, where most of the girls were neither wayward nor schooled except in through the latest fad in education: Professor Teachtest’s Apple Core Method. Even Divinity had to admit that without Audie’s stories to make the dreary lessons and relentless testing palatable, Professor Teachtest’s Method would have turned each Wayward mind to mush. The professor could not be reached to defend himself: He was in the process of purchasing his third villa in Tuscany.


#MHYALit: Depression and Obsession: The Pressure of Teen Athletes, by Mia Siegert

mia1I remember the day my boyfriend said he liked me better when I was depressed. That happy-me was annoying and foolish, juvenile and boring, that I was only cool when I was at my worst, struggling to get by as a young athlete on an Olympic-hopeful track. I remember where he said it, pulling me toward the lockers, just out of earshot of everyone, how he gave me Nirvana albums for my birthday. That day, I stopped smiling. Sure, there are pictures of me with a grin on my face, a plastic personality I mastered in an attempt to make sure everyone was happy with me and that I could maximize my chances of getting a sponsor.

I was a sophomore in high school. I just turned fifteen.

Even before then, I was a deeply unhappy child by no fault of my extremely supportive parents. Some people are just born sad, something that I didn’t understand until I was in my early twenties. I assumed it was my surroundings. My misery had to be caused by those around me, not something within, something I couldn’t control. I was mercilessly bullied in elementary school, from tiny things like being told I had too much hair on my upper lip, that I was ugly, that I was fat, that I had nose zits (so badly that I had a major triggered reaction when seeing a mock up of my book cover). Then it got worse: kicked in the leg in the hallway, punched in the face on the bus, stabbed in the neck with a pencil. Middle school wasn’t much better with the prank phone calls about boys at dances saying I was sexy, designed to try and get me grounded while making fun of me for my clothes, a lime green shirt with a black stripe that I loved and immediately gave away so I’d never wear it again.

This was a year before everything happened.

With unhappiness, like many others, I clung to obsessions because it was something to ease the pain and distract me from what was wrong, really wrong. I loved horses. I still love horses, and I miss riding them, training them, showing almost unrideable ones so well that I got the attention of (and later trained with) the coach of the United States Equestrian Team for Show Jumping. I was so obsessed there was nothing else on my mind. I couldn’t connect with people the way I did with horses. Horses were honest; people could be cruel.

I was seventeen when my favorite horse, Grando 181, died. I could have ridden him the day before after I took my ACTs, but he’d been acting up that week and I was feeling lazy, something I rarely felt. I’ve never regretted that decision more in my life. I won’t forget the assistant barn manager taking off toward my car, saying, “Your horse is sick.” I won’t forget asking “which one” even though I already knew it was him and it wouldn’t have mattered. I won’t forget me asking where it was, running full speed to the indoor ring where the grooms walked him, trying to keep him from rolling so his intestines wouldn’t twist up even more. I won’t forget not recognizing him, drenched in sweat and in pain. I won’t forget seeing him loaded up on the trailer to go into a seven-hour emergency surgery, being told he had less than a 25% survival rate, that if he made it seven days, we were in the good. I won’t forget the sound of the phone ringing, my Mom running up the steps, us racing in the car, stepping into the vet’s practice as he collapsed. I won’t forget how I put his head in my lap and he looked me in the eye, doing everything he could to get on his feet so I wouldn’t see him sick. Or how he looked at me when I was told to leave the stall, then turned his head away, because he didn’t want me to see him die.

I won’t forget how a few months later I had a horrible fall where I crushed the cartilage in both knees and was told I wouldn’t be able to run again.

I won’t forget how a few months later, overdosing on pain killers just so I could compete (despite not being able to feel my legs) I was pulled into an empty stall by my trainer and was dismissed, told “life isn’t fair.”

My career was over. I was eighteen.

jerkbaitThe way I latched onto horses and show jumping as a sport is similar to the way Robbie latched onto hockey in my debut, JERKBAIT. Same age (18) and everything. Like me, Robbie is extremely depressed. Like me, Robbie adopts a persona that is pleasing, sometimes popular, among his teammates. Like me, Robbie suffers anxiety for the future, fearing failure just as much as he fears success and the what-if. Like me, when Robbie’s world shattered, he felt hopeless—what else is left?

When I started writing JERKBAIT, it was extremely autobiographical. I was Tristan and Heather was a former friend, someone who blamed a (what I eventually learned was non-existent) suicide on me on the two-year anniversary of Grando’s death. In the early drafts, I chronicled how miserable I was, how worthless I felt in the shadow, how desperately I wanted to fit in. I wrote about a terrifying encounter with a person who would later be convicted as a sex offender, someone I met online because I didn’t have anyone to speak with in person as I lost friends with my decision to compete on the A-circuit.

But stories evolve, and JERKBAIT improved as I moved away from my story and into those of the characters. I discovered that although Tristan is the protagonist, the story was really about Robbie, a NHL prospect who seems to have everything. But soon, he attempts suicide, repeatedly. Forced to share a room with Tristan so that Tristan can care for Robbie and protect his career, Robbie is faced with his fears. He’s gay, closeted not because of shame but because of the pressure, because of the all-too real and current repercussions of being out in the professional sports world, especially with the cutthroat nature of juniors.

I feel it’s important to not skirt around the pressures, anxiety, and depression that often accompany teen athletes and present it in YA literature. There needs to be literature that a teenager could relate with and, in my opinion, their caretakers or parents. Warning signs need to be addressed immediately. People need to learn that although it’s important for athletes to perform at their best the only way to do so is to have help, usually from an outside professional. And maybe, just maybe, if there are a few more books that delve into the pro-sports world with teen athletes, bringing up the often ignored issues (locker room homophobia, hazing), maybe then we will stop seeing a large amount of teen athletes quit their passion in efforts to get up to a professional level. Maybe then, it will alleviate some of the anxiety teen athletes face as they can focus on their love, their passion, their sport, and, more importantly, having a fulfilling life.

Meet Our Guest Blogger

Mia Siegert received her MFA from Goddard College and her BA from Montclair State University where she won Honorable Mention in the 2009 English Department Awards for fiction. Her debut JERKBAIT (a YA coming-of-age thriller) will be released May 2016 by Jolly Fish Press. Siegert has been published in Clapboard House, Word Riot, The Limn Literary & Arts Journal, as well as a few other small presses. Siegert currently works as an adjunct professor and a costume designer. She enjoys training horses and watching hockey.


Even though they’re identical, Tristan isn’t close to his twin Robbie at all—until Robbie tries to kill himself. Forced to share a room to prevent Robbie from hurting himself, Tristan starts seeing his twin as not an NHL prospect, but a struggling gay teen who is terrified about coming out in the professional sports world. Trapped together in their claustrophobic room, Robbie suggests they run away with “Jimmy2416,” a guy Robbie has talked to online for months but never met. Tristan must decide whether to tell his parents about Robbie’s plan, losing his twin’s trust forever, or go on a journey that will put their lives and innocence in jeopardy. (Coming May 3, 2016 from Jolly Fish Press).

Sunday Reflections: Wrestling with A Birthday Cake for George Washington as a Mother and a Librarian

birthdaycakeChances are you are not unaware of the controversy surrounding the book A Birthday Cake for George Washington, which was recently recalled by Scholastic Publishers. If you need some context, you can begin here, here and here. If you Google, and I recommend that you do, you will find a plethora of posts presenting many different opinions and points of view on this title. Although this book does not necessarily fall under the purview of our umbrella here at TLT, I have decided to share some of the thoughts I have been having about the discussion because I am the mother of a small child and a librarian.

The basics in case you are unfamiliar: Scholastic published the book A Birthday Cake for George Washington which many people are calling a “happy slave narrative” in that it whitewashes the history of slavery by presenting us with a story about a slave, Hercules, serving as George Washington’s chef. It presents us with this story that suggests that Hercules had it better than many other slaves and was honored to have this position of higher respect, although it does go on to note in an end note that Hercules did eventually runaway, I believe ironically on George Washington’s birthday.

A Happy Slave Narrative Diminishes the Profound Impact of Slavery

As people we often put stories into a personal context to help understand their meaning, and this is what I keep going to. You see, the year I was in the 8th grade, I was repeatedly abused by someone. That abuse was traumatizing and horrifying and it colored everything that happened that year; it shaped who I was and who I was to become. When not immediately in the abusive situation, I worried and stressed about when it would happen again. I lived in a constant state of anxiety and stress and fear.

Were there moments of happiness during my 8th grade year? Yes, there were. But if someone was going to write my life narrative I would not want them to depict my 8th grade year as a happy year, or to even highlight those happy moments, because that is not the truth of my story. Also, I wouldn’t want them to let me abuser so easily off the hook. The events of those years shaped who I am, they changed the course of my life, and they caused me intense struggles at times with anxiety, depression, self esteem and physical intimacy. To suggest otherwise is not only dishonest, but it does a tremendous disservice to me and all victims of abuse.

And what I went through during that year doesn’t even compare to slavery. For centuries in human history and yes, American history, black people were considered not fully human and were owned by other people. Slave owners dictated every moment of their life: when they could sleep, where they could be, what they could do, what, when and how much they could eat . . . and they often used physical violence and emotional manipulation to make all of this happen.

Were there “good” slave owners? Um, I guess there were less abusive slave owners. But slavery in itself is both immoral and unconscionable, so even if you are doing it better than others, it’s still an evil act in and of itself. A slave owner or slavery supporter is suggesting that one human being has the right to own and deny the basic humanity of a fellow human being. There is no sugar coating that. Even in the best of situations, it is still evil.

Contradictory Messages and the Cognitive Development of Early Childhood

As a parent, I’m a big advocate for teaching children self-autonomy. I believe this is a strong, solid foundation to help kids learn that they and they alone have the rights to their body and that this help prevent childhood sexual abuse. Self autonomy and mutual respect is the cornerstone of teaching consent. I don’t force my child to hug anyone, not even me. And the corollary to this is that we must respect each other: You demand respect for your body, but you must also give others that same respect for the bodies of others. I remind my child constantly that they can’t touch another person without their permission. Respecting others is, I believe, a foundational concept to teaching kids basic human rights, both theirs and the rights of others.

To me, anything that might suggest that slavery was in any way okay, or that there were good slave owners, or the idea of a happy slave, undermines our attempts as parents and educators to teach children the basic concepts of basic human rights, basic respect for others, and self-autonomy. It’s also why as a parent I have chosen never to hit my child why saying, “we don’t hit others.” Young children don’t have the cognitive or emotional skills to understand nuance, what they see is a conflicting message which negates what you are trying to teach.

There’s also a trust issue involved. If children can’t trust the adults in their life to teach them honest truths, then how do they develop any meaningful trust with either the adults in their life or the concept of education itself. How do we teach children that slavery is bad while showing them smiling slaves? And how do they trust us to teach them if they feel we are sending them confusing or outright dishonest messages? And once trust in education is broken, just as with any trust, it can be so hard to regain.

Unlearning Later What We Learned Wrong the First Time

I happen to be the parent of a 7-year-old. I spend a lot of time having to teach her the truth about things she hears, primarily from peers, throughout the course of her day. Knowledge is about building blocks. We learn a concept or an idea and they we build on it, or expand it. For example, when Piaget discusses childhood stages he talks about accommodation and assimilation. Very young children learn the word puppy and then, when they see a new furry animal, they call it a puppy; they put it into a box they already have a label for. Over time, as their cognitive skills grow, they begin to understand that not all furry animals are puppies and begin putting these different animals into more and more accurate boxes: puppy, kitty, bear.

I think of it also in terms of math. Each year in math you learn harder math skills and your ability to be successful at them can be greatly impacted by how successfully you learned the correct math skills in the year before. If somewhere along the line you learn something incorrectly, it can be harder in more advanced stages because you misunderstand a fundamental at a lower stage.

Now imagine trying to teach high school and college age students about the truth of American history and slavery when they have been taught at an earlier age the idea of the happy slave and good slave owner. As their instructor tries to teach the true horrors of slavery they are countering this lessons with arguments of “but there were good slave owners and happy slaves.” They can’t dismantle these constructs learned early in childhood enough to understand the truth behind slavery.

Grappling with the idea of slavery is hard. Acknowledging our history means that we have to admit a lot of horrible things about who we really are as a nation and the human capacity for evil. But being honest about slavery is important because we don’t get to rewrite history or downplay the horrors of our history so that we can feel comfortable today. If by definition slavery is evil, and I believe that it is, than we owe it to ourselves, to our children, and to our future to be honest about that evil.

Honoring the Dignity of ALL the Children in Our Midst

My children are white, which means they come into this world without having to understand the reality of racism. And whether we like it or not, racism is still a very real thing that we must grapple with as humans. When my neighborhood was canvased by the KKK a little over a year ago, my first thought was not about my child, but about the little girl down the street, her friend. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like for this little black girl to walk outside and find these flyers everywhere, how much it would hurt her and cause her to fear living in her own neighborhood, in her own home. And I couldn’t imagine as a parent what it might be like to have your child come in and ask you what this flyer meant. And although as the mother to two little girls I have had to fight a lot of sexism and sexist messages, I have not and will not have to teach my child about racism in the same way that the parents of a child of color will.

But as librarians and educators, people entrusted by our communities to nurture and raise their children, we have a responsibility to not only educate, but to respect and value all the children in our communities. We owe it to our children with disabilities to provide our communities with accurate representations of life with various challenges. We owe our children with mental health issues accurate representations of mental health issues without harmful stereotypes. And we owe it to our children from various ethnic backgrounds to provide accurate representations of life both past and present for various groups. It’s not just about representation, because yes of course children deserve to see themselves reflected in the media they consume. It’s also about being honest about history so that we can start breaking down those harmful stereotypes and creating environments where marginalized groups are respected and cared for by the whole community. I teach my children the dignity and basic humanity of others by making sure they read stories that open their world view, expand their knowledge of life outside their little bubble. I believe this is one of the primary purposes of literature, books are both windows and mirrors. And if we want our children to grow up healthy and happy and respecting both themselves and others, then those windows and mirrors have to be honest.

So What About Censorship

I am not a fan of censorship; though by definition this is not censorship. Censorship is when the government intercedes and forbids the publication or distribution of information. This is a product producer making an informed market decision based on consumer feedback. It’s no different then when someone sees that Abercrombie or American Apparel has produced a sexist or rape culture t-shirt and they get vocal about it and the distributor decides to pull the t-shirt. That’s how the free market works. It is also, I would argue, how Democracy works. The public spoke up, they made a public vote with their voices, and the creator of the content, Scholastic, decided to pull their book. I think it was the right decision.

Content creators do have a responsibility for their message. In my opinion, the message of the happy slave – especially directed to young children who are just learning basic foundational concepts like respect and human rights – is not a responsible message. But more than that, it is a message that suggests that the publisher isn’t aware of basic child development and how negligent this message is at this critical time period of cognitive development. The book not only hurts the African American community, but in my opinion it hurts the reputation of the publisher who has branded itself as someone who is an authority on child development and a trusted source for producing developmentally appropriate books for kids. In my opinion, recalling the book was a smart market decision for several reasons, one of which is that it helps to restore the public trust in this very image that Scholastic has worked so hard to cultivate. Plus, alienating a part of your consumer base is just a bad economic practice, which is why I can’t figure out why Marvel and Disney continue to act like girls don’t care about or have an interest in the superhero franchise.

I do understand why libraries that have already purchased and added the books to their library shelves have a harder time considering withdrawing the book in question from their collection. As a librarian and advocate for intellectual freedom, I am woefully hesitant to remove any book for any reason. And trust me, I have been asked to many times. Part of the reason we as librarians are so hesitant to remove items from the collection because once you start, it’s so hard to know where to draw the line. If I withdraw a book that the Native American community declares is harmful to the native population, then do I also have to remove all the GLBTQ books that the conservative population declares are harmful to the conservative community? Why is one argument valid and the other is not? Those are hard arguments to make when the people standing before you are arguing from a place of sincere belief and asking that you respect those beliefs.

In the case of A Birthday Cake for George Washington, I do think libraries can remove the book on the principle that it was recalled by the publisher of the book. If we had some other item in our libraries, say chairs, that were recalled by the seller of those items for safety reasons, we wouldn’t hesitate to remove the chairs and in fact might be considered financially liable for any injury should we fail to do so. So what type of responsibility do we have when a publisher withdraws a book? In my 22 years as a YA librarian, this is new territory for me and it is certainly a question I am wrestling with (although for the record, the library that I currently work in does not own the title in question and I am not in charge of that collection).

So What Can We Do Right Now?

One thing we should all definitely do it to take a moment right now to analyze our collections. Do we have good diversity happening in our collections? If not, we should work on orders right this moment to help fill any collection gaps that we have. And we should turn to reliable sources to fill those gaps. Make sure that you are purchasing titles with POC characters written by POC authors, because we need diversity at all levels. Our kid readers need to know that they can grow up to be writers as well as readers.

Consider your sources and make sure you are buying well reviewed titles not just from the professional journals, but from members of the community that is represented in the work. For example, look for reviews of literature with Latino characters from the Latino community and see if they mention anything about harmful stereotypes or cultural inaccuracies.

Don’t just put the books on the shelves, but put them on display. But not just in Diversity Displays, just in displays in general. For example, if you do a display on dystopian titles, make sure you have dystopian titles by POC authors and featuring POC main characters. If you go to do say a mystery display and find you don’t have any diverse titles to add, then fill those holes.

Be active in the library community. Listen to the conversations others are having. Be open to changing your mind. But also be willing to advocate: for kids, for books, for libraries.

As I said at the beginning, this is a conversation I have been paying attention to, as a librarian and as a mother. I have strong opinions on parts of it and am still wrestling with questions for other parts of it. But as a human and as a person who believes in the power of story to shape a mind, I do think what stories we tell and how we tell them are important. I believe that words matter and that stories can inform who we are and what we believe. That’s why this conversation matters.

Please Note: These are my opinions alone and do not represent School Library Journal, the library where I work, or any other member of TLT.