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Continuing Anti-Racist Work in Publishing in the Wake of the George Floyd Protests, a guest post by Roseanne A. Brown

Being a Black debut is weird right now.

Being Black right now is weird. And being a debut right now is weird. But being both? Being both is a whole new level of weirdness I did not know it was possible to achieve.

My debut novel A Song of Wraiths and Ruin came out on June 2nd, and like most writers with spring/summer releases this year, I spent the months before coming to terms with the reality that the launch I had dreamed of for years would not be possible in the wake of COVID-19. As disappointing as it was, the health and safety of my community mattered more.

But then June 2nd itself arrived. A Song of Wraiths and Ruin came out on a day when the world was gripped in the throes of some of the largest scale protests we’ve seen since MLK was assassinated. The unjust killing of George Floyd at the hands of the police marked a turning point in the conversation on racial injustice, and institutions around the globe are still reckoning with what it means to not only be non-racist, but anti-racist in the face of centuries of subjugation and oppression of Black people.

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown

In the publishing world, this looked like a push to highlight books by Black authors that might have otherwise gotten lost in the chaos. The people of the publishing community, lead by amazing Black women writers, came together to create a Black Tuesday to ensure that my book, A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow, You Should See Me In a Crown by Leah Johnson, and several other books by Black authors that released on June 2nd were not forgotten. Posts went up, the books went out of stock across multiple retailers, and everyone from authors to booksellers to publishers and beyond reaffirmed their commitments to amplifying Black voices in our industry.

I have zero complaints about the reception ASOWAR has gotten. Seeing readers connect with these characters I’ve loved for years has been a highlight of my career. But I am curious to see how the commitment to amplifying Black voices will continue now that Black Lives Matter is no longer trending and people’s feeds have gone back to normal.

The Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) recently released the 2019 figures for the yearly report they compile on the state of diversity in children’s literature, and the numbers are simply appalling. Out of the 3,716 books that the CCBC received, there were more books about animals than there were books about children of color. Of the measly 11.9% of books that featured Black/African protagonists, less than half were actually written by Black/African authors.

We Need Diverse Books has been a fixture in the industry since 2014, and the movement for more inclusive children’s media has brought hundreds of wonderful books into the world that are going to change young reader’s lives for the better. But the numbers make it clear that the work is far from over, and now—when the world feels like it’s ending and the future is murkier than it has ever been—now is the time to ramp up our efforts instead of pulling back.

Buying books by Black authors is a great start, but the work to elevate and amplify Black voices cannot end there. As a community, we need to be pushing Black voices front and center when there isn’t a national tragedy happening. We need to be listening to these voices even when the truths they are saying are uncomfortable to hear. We need to make sure that Black and other IPOC publishing professionals at all levels have the support and mentorship they need to continue putting out books of anti-racism and radical Black joy.

In the weeks since Black Tuesday, several organizations that committed to doing better by Black writers and employees have proved that their environments are still unsafe for the very people they claim to support. The same Black writers people were clamoring to support a few weeks ago have been silenced and harassed as they continue to speak up about racist practices in the industry.

Being anti-racist is going to take more than a few weeks of hyping certain books and creating aesthetic Instagram posts. It’s going to take a fundamental shifting in the way we all view and interact with the world. It’s going to take interrogating the way each and everyone of us has allowed the structures of this industry to function unjustly for so long.

The work does not and cannot end with buying a copy of a Black author’s book or even blacking out an entire bestseller list, though that is an excellent start. The work will end when Black and other marginalized voices are no longer working in this industry at a structural disadvantage. And it’s going to take every single one of us at every level of the publishing hierarchy to make sure this change stays for good.

We all need to keep showing up for Black voices and Black lives, even when it’s no longer on trend to do so.

Meet Roseanne A. Brown

Photo credit: Ashley Hirasuna

Rosanne A. Brown is an immigrant from the West African nation of Ghana and a graduate of the University of Maryland, where she completed the Jimenez-Porter Writers’ House program. Her work has been featured by Voice of America, among other outlets. A Song of Wraiths and Ruin is her debut novel.

You can visit her online at 

Website: roseanneabrown.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/rosiesrambles

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rosiesrambles/

Roseanne suggests getting her book from her local indie, Books With a Past.

About A Song of Wraiths and Ruin

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown

The first in a gripping fantasy duology inspired by West African folklore in which a grieving crown princess and a desperate refugee find themselves on a collision course to murder each other despite their growing attraction—from debut author Roseanne A. Brown. This New York Times bestseller is perfect for fans of Tomi Adeyemi, Renée Ahdieh, and Sabaa Tahir.

For Malik, the Solstasia festival is a chance to escape his war-stricken home and start a new life with his sisters in the prosperous desert city of Ziran. But when a vengeful spirit abducts his younger sister, Nadia, as payment to enter the city, Malik strikes a fatal deal—kill Karina, Crown Princess of Ziran, for Nadia’s freedom.

But Karina has deadly aspirations of her own. Her mother, the Sultana, has been assassinated; her court threatens mutiny; and Solstasia looms like a knife over her neck. Grief-stricken, Karina decides to resurrect her mother through ancient magic . . . requiring the beating heart of a king. And she knows just how to obtain one: by offering her hand in marriage to the victor of the Solstasia competition.

When Malik rigs his way into the contest, they are set on a heart-pounding course to destroy each other. But as attraction flares between them and ancient evils stir, will they be able to see their tasks to the death?

ISBN-13: 9780062891495
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 06/02/2020
Age Range: 13 – 17 Years

Post-It Note Reviews: Mythology, fencing, basketball, HIV, and more

School ended for me on June 5th. I gave myself two treats that day: I went to get bubble tea from my favorite local business and I picked up the library books that had been waiting for me at the public library for weeks and weeks. Our local library has been doing curbside pickup nearly the entire pandemic, a move I don’t agree with or think was in the best interest of the staff. But starting June 1st, more things began to open up here in Minnesota and I decided to do curbside pickup. I look forward to burning through my TBR list this summer as we won’t be traveling, I won’t be doing any summer library/summer school stuff, and while I should be writing, I know at least for now I only have the concentration to read, to get out of my own head and into world’s created by other people.

All descriptions from the publishers. Post-it note review follows the description.

Curse of the Night Witch by Alex Aster (ISBN-13: 9781492697206 Publisher: Sourcebooks Publication date: 06/09/2020 Series: Emblem Island Series #1, Ages 8-12)

A fast-paced series starter, perfect for fans of Aru Shah and the End of Time and filled with adventure, mythology, and an unforgettable trio of friends.

On Emblem Island all are born knowing their fate. Their lifelines show the course of their life and an emblem dictates how they will spend it.

Twelve-year-old Tor Luna was born with a leadership emblem, just like his mother. But he hates his mark and is determined to choose a different path for himself. So, on the annual New Year’s Eve celebration, where Emblemites throw their wishes into a bonfire in the hopes of having them granted, Tor wishes for a different power.

The next morning Tor wakes up to discover a new marking on his skin…the symbol of a curse that has shortened his lifeline, giving him only a week before an untimely death. There is only one way to break the curse, and it requires a trip to the notorious Night Witch.

With only his village’s terrifying, ancient stories as a guide, and his two friends Engle and Melda by his side, Tor must travel across unpredictable Emblem Island, filled with wicked creatures he only knows through myths, in a race against his dwindling lifeline.

(POST-IT SAYS: With courage and cooperation, Tor and friends use generations of stories to try to track down the Night Witch and change Tor’s story. A fast-paced and action-filled adventure full of friendship, magic, and monsters. An easy rec for fans of fantasy.)

Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes (ISBN-13: 9780316493802 Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Publication date: 03/03/2020, Ages 8-12)

From award-winning and bestselling author, Jewell Parker Rhodes comes a powerful coming-of-age story about two brothers, one who presents as white, the other as black, and the complex ways in which they are forced to navigate the world, all while training for a fencing competition.

Framed. Bullied. Disliked. But I know I can still be the best.

Sometimes, 12-year-old Donte wishes he were invisible. As one of the few black boys at Middlefield Prep, most of the students don’t look like him. They don’t like him either. Dubbing him “Black Brother,” Donte’s teachers and classmates make it clear they wish he were more like his lighter-skinned brother, Trey.

When he’s bullied and framed by the captain of the fencing team, “King” Alan, he’s suspended from school and arrested for something he didn’t do.

Terrified, searching for a place where he belongs, Donte joins a local youth center and meets former Olympic fencer Arden Jones. With Arden’s help, he begins training as a competitive fencer, setting his sights on taking down the fencing team captain, no matter what.

As Donte hones his fencing skills and grows closer to achieving his goal, he learns the fight for justice is far from over. Now Donte must confront his bullies, racism, and the corrupt systems of power that led to his arrest.

Powerful and emotionally gripping, Black Brother, Black Brother is a careful examination of the school-to-prison pipeline and follows one boy’s fight against racism and his empowering path to finding his voice.

(POST-IT SAYS: Get this book in the hands of a book club/literature circle. Readers will (hopefully) rage at the racism, bullying, and injustice. A quick read featuring a great family and a challenging and caring mentor. Will especially speak to biracial kids. Ages 8-12)

Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang (ISBN-13: 9781626720794 Publisher: First Second Publication date: 03/17/2020, Ages 14-17)

In his latest graphic novel, Dragon HoopsNew York Times bestselling author Gene Luen Yang turns the spotlight on his life, his family, and the high school where he teaches.

Gene understands stories—comic book stories, in particular. Big action. Bigger thrills. And the hero always wins.

But Gene doesn’t get sports. As a kid, his friends called him “Stick” and every basketball game he played ended in pain. He lost interest in basketball long ago, but at the high school where he now teaches, it’s all anyone can talk about. The men’s varsity team, the Dragons, is having a phenomenal season that’s been decades in the making. Each victory brings them closer to their ultimate goal: the California State Championships.

Once Gene gets to know these young all-stars, he realizes that their story is just as thrilling as anything he’s seen on a comic book page. He knows he has to follow this epic to its end. What he doesn’t know yet is that this season is not only going to change the Dragons’s lives, but his own life as well.

(POST-IT SAYS: LOVED this! I 100% do not care about sports, but a well-written story will rope me in. An interesting memoir/biography/deep dive into one school’s team of mainly BIPOC athletes. Powerful, tense, and riveting.)

Rick by Alex Gino (ISBN-13: 9781338048100 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 04/21/2020, Ages 8-12)

From the award-winning author of George, the story of a boy named Rick who needs to explore his own identity apart from his jerk of a best friend.

Rick’s never questioned much. He’s gone along with his best friend Jeff even when Jeff’s acted like a bully and a jerk. He’s let his father joke with him about which hot girls he might want to date even though that kind of talk always makes him uncomfortable. And he hasn’t given his own identity much thought, because everyone else around him seemed to have figured it out.

But now Rick’s gotten to middle school, and new doors are opening. One of them leads to the school’s Rainbow Spectrum club, where kids of many genders and identities congregate, including Melissa, the girl who sits in front of Rick in class and seems to have her life together. Rick wants his own life to be that . . . understood. Even if it means breaking some old friendships and making some new ones.

As they did in their groundbreaking novel GEORGE, in RICK, award-winning author Alex Gino explores what it means to search for your own place in the world . . . and all the steps you and the people around you need to take in order to get where you need to be.

(POST-IT SAYS: This book should be in all collections because of the focus on a group of LGBTQIAP+ middle schoolers, how characters stand up to bullying and homophobia, and the asexual representation. Not the most well-written book, but covers important ground. Ages 8-12)

American as Paneer Pie by Supriya Kelkar (ISBN-13: 9781534439382 Publisher: Aladdin Publication date: 06/09/2020, Ages 8-12)

An Indian American girl navigates prejudice in her small town and learns the power of her own voice in this brilliant gem of a middle grade novel full of humor and heart, perfect for fans of Front Desk and Amina’s Voice.

As the only Indian American kid in her small town, Lekha Divekar feels like she has two versions of herself: Home Lekha, who loves watching Bollywood movies and eating Indian food, and School Lekha, who pins her hair over her bindi birthmark and avoids confrontation at all costs, especially when someone teases her for being Indian.

When a girl Lekha’s age moves in across the street, Lekha is excited to hear that her name is Avantika and she’s Desi, too! Finally, there will be someone else around who gets it. But as soon as Avantika speaks, Lekha realizes she has an accent. She’s new to this country, and not at all like Lekha.

To Lekha’s surprise, Avantika does not feel the same way as Lekha about having two separate lives or about the bullying at school. Avantika doesn’t take the bullying quietly. And she proudly displays her culture no matter where she is: at home or at school.

When a racist incident rocks Lekha’s community, Lekha realizes she must make a choice: continue to remain silent or find her voice before it’s too late.

(POST-IT SAYS: Wide appeal—deals with common middle school issues like bullying, exclusion, and changing friendships. An easy rec for those who liked Amina’s Voice, Count Me In, and Wishtree. A great read full of warmth.)

You Say It First by Katie Cotugno (ISBN-13: 9780062674128 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 06/16/2020, Ages 13-17)

An addictive, irresistible YA novel about two teens from different worlds who fall for each other after a voter registration call turns into a long-distance romance—from Katie Cotugno, the New York Times bestselling author of 99 Days. Perfect for fans of Mary H.K. Choi, Robin Benway, and Nicola Yoon.

One conversation can change everything.

Meg has her entire life set up perfectly: she and her best friend, Emily, plan to head to Cornell together in the fall, and she works at a voter registration call center in her Philadelphia suburb. But everything changes when one of those calls connects her to a stranger from small-town Ohio.

Colby is stuck in a rut, reeling from a family tragedy and working a dead-end job. The last thing he has time for is some privileged rich girl preaching the sanctity of the political process. So he says the worst thing he can think of and hangs up.

But things don’t end there.…

That night on the phone winds up being the first in a series of candid, sometimes heated, always surprising conversations that lead to a long-distance friendship and then—slowly—to something more. Across state lines and phone lines, Meg and Colby form a once-in-a-lifetime connection. But in the end, are they just too different to make it work?

You Say It First is a propulsive, layered novel about how sometimes the person who has the least in common with us can be the one who changes us most.

(POST-IT SAYS: A quick read that will appeal to those that like a rocky road to romance. The two white main characters connect despite their differences and learn from each other. Though Meg is politically passionate, politics plays a smaller role than I’d thought/hoped they would.)

The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert (ISBN-13: 9780316456388 Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Publication date: 03/10/2020, Ages 10-13)

Award-winning YA author Brandy Colbert’s debut middle-grade novel about the only two black girls in town who discover a collection of hidden journals revealing shocking secrets of the past.

Beach-loving surfer Alberta has been the only black girl in town for years. Alberta’s best friend, Laramie, is the closest thing she has to a sister, but there are some things even Laramie can’t understand. When the bed and breakfast across the street finds new owners, Alberta is ecstatic to learn the family is black-and they have a 12-year-old daughter just like her.

Alberta is positive she and the new girl, Edie, will be fast friends. But while Alberta loves being a California girl, Edie misses her native Brooklyn and finds it hard to adapt to small-town living.

When the girls discover a box of old journals in Edie’s attic, they team up to figure out exactly who’s behind them and why they got left behind. Soon they discover shocking and painful secrets of the past and learn that nothing is quite what it seems.

(POST-IT SAYS: Huge fan of Colbert’s YA books and this MG debut is just as fantastic. A great look at managing new and old friendships, racism, and Black history. I loved Al’s dads and Edie’s mom and the diary/mystery element. One of the best books I’ve read lately.)

A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramée (ISBN-13: 9780062836687 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 03/12/2019, Ages 9-12)

From debut author Lisa Moore Ramée comes this funny and big-hearted debut middle grade novel about friendship, family, and standing up for what’s right, perfect for fans of Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give and the novels of Renée Watson and Jason Reynolds.

Twelve-year-old Shayla is allergic to trouble. All she wants to do is to follow the rules. (Oh, and she’d also like to make it through seventh grade with her best friendships intact, learn to run track, and have a cute boy see past her giant forehead.)

But in junior high, it’s like all the rules have changed. Now she’s suddenly questioning who her best friends are and some people at school are saying she’s not black enough. Wait, what?

Shay’s sister, Hana, is involved in Black Lives Matter, but Shay doesn’t think that’s for her. After experiencing a powerful protest, though, Shay decides some rules are worth breaking. She starts wearing an armband to school in support of the Black Lives movement. Soon everyone is taking sides. And she is given an ultimatum.

Shay is scared to do the wrong thing (and even more scared to do the right thing), but if she doesn’t face her fear, she’ll be forever tripping over the next hurdle. Now that’s trouble, for real.

(POST-IT SAYS: As much about the Black Lives Matter movement as it is about friendship, identity, courage, and finding your voice. A little slow to really get going, but the engaging and multifaceted characters will keep readers reading.)

We Didn’t Ask for This by Adi Alsaid (ISBN-13: 9781335146762 Publisher: Inkyard Press Publication date: 04/07/2020, Ages 13-17)

From Adi Alsaid, the acclaimed author of Let’s Get LostNever Sometimes Always, and North of Happy

Every year, lock-in night changes lives. This year, it might just change the world.

Central International School’s annual lock-in is legendary — and for six students, this year’s lock-in is the answer to their dreams. The chance to finally win the contest. Kiss the guy. Make a friend. Become the star of a story that will be passed down from student to student for years to come.

But then a group of students, led by Marisa Cuevas, stage an eco-protest and chain themselves to the doors, vowing to keep everyone trapped inside until their list of demands is met. While some students rally to the cause, others are devastated as they watch their plans fall apart. And Marisa, once so certain of her goals, must now decide just how far she’ll go to attain them.

(POST-IT SAYS: I love bottle episodes! A great concept—locked in the school for a week—full of diverse and interesting characters. I devoured this, loving all the new relationships and truths that spring up when you’re trapped together.)

Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett (ISBN-13: 9781984829955 Publisher: Random House Children’s Books Publication date: 10/29/2019, Ages 14-17)

Simone Garcia-Hampton is starting over at a new school, and this time things will be different. She’s making real friends, making a name for herself as student director of Rent, and making a play for Miles, the guy who makes her melt every time he walks into a room. The last thing she wants is for word to get out that she’s HIV-positive, because last time . . . well, last time things got ugly.
Keeping her viral load under control is easy, but keeping her diagnosis under wraps is not so simple. As Simone and Miles start going out for real—shy kisses escalating into much more—she feels an uneasiness that goes beyond butterflies. She knows she has to tell him that she’s positive, especially if sex is a possibility, but she’s terrified of how he’ll react! And then she finds an anonymous note in her locker: I know you have HIV. You have until Thanksgiving to stop hanging out with Miles. Or everyone else will know too.
Simone’s first instinct is to protect her secret at all costs, but as she gains a deeper understanding of the prejudice and fear in her community, she begins to wonder if the only way to rise above is to face the haters head-on.

(POST-IT SAYS: A really important book. Not a lot of representation yet of teens living with HIV. Full of typical teenage self-discovery complicated by Simone’s feelings about sharing her truth. Powerful and covers important ground.)

Morgan’s Mumbles: What High Schoolers Need in a Library, by Morgan Randall

Today we are excited to introduce you to a new, recurring teen contributor named Morgan Randall. Morgan just graduated from high school and will be sharing her thoughts about teens, libraries, and bringing the two of them together here on Wednesdays.

One of my fondest memories as a child is going to my town’s “public library” over the summer, and getting my first ever library card. I remember being so proud of it and feeling so empowered to be able to browse the shelves of the library choosing what I wanted to read, from what felt like endless options. I felt empowered by the freedom I had to educate myself with, what felt like, endless resources. Sadly, this memory wasn’t a longed live one. My town’s “public library”, was one of our high schools libraries which was opened to the public. This made it difficult to get to during the school year, as I had classes to attend when it was opened. Of course, I still had access to my school library, but in both middle and high school, we never had a time built into our schedule to go to the library. Which made it hard to access, since after school I was preoccupied with theatre and before school, it was always full of students talking and playing games.

One thing I had loved about the library growing up was the atmosphere, it was quiet but not because it was empty. It was quiet because everyone there had mutually agreed to focus on learning. I loved the environment of being surrounded by other people choosing to further their education, it felt magical as we were all there physically together but mentally we were all in different worlds with different lives. This was something that my library at school had lacked. In high school, my library had become more of a place where classes were watched if they didn’t have a sub. It was loud, and there were always people playing games, like Jenga (which is a great game but not exactly a quiet one).

While I do agree, there should be a space within schools for teenagers to play games together and hangout. I think by making this place your library, you remove the library as a resource and escape for those who find comfort in it. This past school year I was a senior in high school and one thing that was hard for me was never being able to find a quiet place to study or escape to. I feel like, and it may just be the idealist within me, this should have been a library. I wish I would have had a library to go to study for my classes, but also to be able to have an escape and a quiet place to just read.

Another thing I wish my library had was resources for me to research colleges, scholarships, and even application resources. Being the oldest child of my parents, I had to figure out a lot of application stuff alone and do all my research alone. It wasn’t that my parents refused to help, they were just equally as confused, and honestly, it led to more fights than it was worth. I wish that I had a library to access after school hours, that would provide resources for college applications, resume writing, portfolio creating, and help on writing college application essays.

I think not having access to these resources harmed me a lot in my application process as I tried to navigate college websites and applications. But I think limited resources are far deeper than just the lack of informative text that should be available. Many people around the world are censored on what they can read, in my small town there were books that are viewed as classics that I was never allowed to read in school because of content. I think not having access to a library that was not censored effected not only my resources but also my knowledge of the worlds as a whole and effected my cultural lens. Growing up in a small town the lack of perspectives made me feel limited and didn’t give me room to discover who I was and develop my own thoughts, however, I think uncensored reading allows for individuals to research into all different thought patterns and ideas to develop their own individual opinions on the world and life in general.

So as a recap, as a recent high school graduate, things I find vital that I lacked growing up include:

  • A library that provides extended hours for students and those who need it.
  • Library’s, and other spaces, for individuals to be able to study, read, and learn in peace.
  • Resources within public and school libraries for college searching. Along with researching scholarships and resources on how to apply to these things.
  • This also applies in the same sense for those wishing to enter the workforce, there should be resources to create resumes and other important things for job interviews.
  • A public library, separate from the school, that allows for uncensored reading.

I think libraries are being used less and less not because they aren’t important, but because they lack the resources that they need to have or because they do not provide the same comfort and security as they should. Libraries should be able to be something that everyone has a fond memory of, and I think it is important to start reforming them into the resources they need to be.

Morgan Randall, Teen Contributor

Morgan recently graduated high school and is currently enrolled to attend college in the fall getting her BA in Theatre and Dance with an emphasis on Design and Technology. She loves theatre, writing, reading, and learning. But something that has always been important to her is being a voice for those who feel like they don’t have one, and being a catalyst for change in any way possible.

Cindy Crushes Programming: Five Virtual Programs You Can Do Right Now Part 3, by Cindy Shutts

Teen programming looks a little different for public libraries right now because getting together in groups just isn’t safe so everyone has turned to virtual programming. You can see our previous discussions on virtual programming here, here, here and here. Today we have even more virtual programming ideas for you.

Volunteering

My Co-Worker Faith Healy came up with allowing the teens to write a blog post about what is going on in their lives during this timer whether they are part of a protest or just dealing with living through a pandemic. This will go on our blog once we have enough posts. We want to encourage teens to use their voice. We will give them a half hour credit for each post.

Online Book Club via Zoom

One of the Teen’s bookshelves of honor.

We are going to have our first zoom book club at the end of the month. One thing we are not going to do is assign a book for our online book club
because we know it would be hard for members to have access to the same book since services are so limited at our libraries right now. We hope to move to having a teen picked reading theme for each month.

TAG (Teen Advisory Group)

We also planned our first district TAG meeting. We hope to get more input into what teens would like to be doing for virtual programs. We will also
give them an hour for community services. For all of our zoom events we are going to require sign up ahead of time for safety so we know who is coming. We want to avoid having an issue. For each of our virtual programs we plan to have two librarians at least so we can monitor the chat for safety.

Trivia

My Co-Worker Faith again has some great ideas. She is making a mini trivia quiz for some of our programs to use as an advertisement such as Animal Crossing and putting a link to sign up for our virtual Animal Crossing event. She is also working on special trivia events we can do as separate programs.

How to Host a Virtual Trivia Night

How to Host a Zoom Trivia Night

Virtual Talent Show

The Plainfield Library is working on doing a virtual talent show.
They are using zoom to coordinate. Teens are going to work on their talent all summer and it will come together in a virtual show at the end of the program series.

How to Host a Virtual Talent Show

Cindy Shutts, MLIS

Cindy is passionate about teen services. She loves dogs, pro-wrestling, Fairy tales, mythology, and of course reading. Her favorite books are The Hate U Give, Catching FIre, The Royals, and everything by Cindy Pon. She loves spending times with her dog Harry Winston and her niece and nephew. Cindy Shutts is the Teen Services Librarian at the White Oak Library District in IL and she’ll be joining us to talk about teen programming. You can follow her on Twitter at @cindysku.

Teen Friendship: It’s Complicated, a guest post by Kit Frick

Photo credit: Simon Maage on Unsplash

When I was a teen, I clung tight to my small, close-knit friend group. I liked to describe the sandstone walls that surrounded us as “Abercrombie and Fitch High School,” and by nature and by nurture, I did not fit in with the mainstream aesthetic. Social interactions with anyone outside of my little group of misfits made my anxiety spike big time. It didn’t matter how kind or thoughtful the other person was being; I was convinced that niceness was a trap. I lived with the pervasive fear that anyone and everyone was judging me. Sometimes, they probably were. Most of the time, I was my own harshest critic.

I was a few weeks into my life on a residential college campus in New York when a worldview-shattering realization hit: I had spent the last few weeks talking to strangers, sometimes strangers with backgrounds and experiences very different from my own, and the world had not ended. Quite the opposite—I was building an expansive, life-affirming network of new friends. I was newly nineteen, and for the first time, I wasn’t consumed by social anxiety.

I’m known for writing YA thrillers, but my books are also about complicated female friendships. I put my characters through a lot, but in a way, they’re lucky: they learn to foster important peer relationships outside of their comfort zones earlier than I did, and thank goodness for that, because these friendships are key to these teen girls’ ability to save themselves from the perilous situations I’ve written them into.

Amanda and Rosalie, the co-protagonists in All Eyes on Us, begin the novel at serious odds. These two girls from opposite sides of Logansville, West Virginia have pretty much nothing in common aside from the intense, harmful pressure they’re being subjected to by their families and communities. Pressure that has driven both of them into staying in unhealthy relationships with real estate heir and town golden boy, Carter Shaw.

When Rosalie and Amanda are targeted by an anonymous harasser out to get Carter and take the girls down with him, they come together to end their stalker’s reign of terror. I have to give it to Rosalie especially; Amanda hates her when the book begins, and Rosalie knows it. Amanda’s only seeing a small sliver of the truth, but Rosalie’s actions, while justified by the physical and emotional necessity to shield herself from the conversion “therapy” she’s already been subjected to as a younger teen, are nonetheless hurting Amanda. And if I were Rosalie as a teen, I don’t think I would have allowed myself to trust Amanda’s olive branch when it comes. I probably would have run for the hills, and without the uneasy alliance the girls form, who knows where they would have ended up. (Nowhere good!)

I Killed Zoe Spanos also explores an unlikely friendship between two teen girls—this time bonded by a search for truth and justice. When local teen Zoe Spanos goes missing, Anna Cicconi confesses to playing a role in her death and the concealment of her body, but her story is riddled with holes, and teen true crime podcaster Martina Green is determined to uncover the truth and get justice for Zoe’s family. Here’s the thing, though: Martina isn’t convinced of Anna’s innocence, just that Anna couldn’t have killed Zoe in the way she described to police. Either the wrong girl is in juvie awaiting trial, or what Anna did is a lot worse than the accident she confessed to. Throughout the course of the novel, Martina puts her friendship with Zoe’s younger sister Aster in jeopardy in her quest for the truth, and Anna allows herself to trust Martina, despite the reality that Martina’s not necessarily out to exonerate her. It’s a lot. Way more than I would have been capable of dealing with as a teen, where the most explosive fall-out in my friend group involved a punk rock hoodie. Don’t ask.

Photo credit: Simon Maage on Unsplash

As a writer of YA thrillers, it’s important to me to not just write girls into peril, but to also allow them to fight their way out of danger. Often that involves high-stakes relationship building, and I think that has a lot to do with my own adolescent experiences as a very timid relationship-builder. I would not have fared well in one of my own books, okay? Don’t drop Teen Kit in a thriller; it’s going to end badly. But fiction allows us to explore our shortcomings as well as our successes. And important teen topics shouldn’t be limited to realistic YA contemporary. Genre fiction allows us to write about issues important to real teens—such as complex female friendships—against the backdrop of thrills, chills, and twisty mysteries. Thrillers can be both an escape and a space for social engagement. This capacity to “walk and chew gum” is part of what makes engaging with the genre so exciting to me as a creator writing for a teen audience.

Meet Kit Frick

Photo credit: Carly Gaebe, Steadfast Studio

Kit Frick is a novelist, poet, and MacDowell Colony fellow from Pittsburgh, PA. She studied creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College and received her MFA from Syracuse University. When she isn’t putting complicated characters in impossible situations, Kit edits poetry and literary fiction for a small press and edits for private clients. She is the author of the young adult thrillers I Killed Zoe SpanosAll Eyes on Us, and See All the Stars, all from Simon & Schuster / Margaret K. McElderry Books, as well as the poetry collection A Small Rising Up in the Lungs from New American Press. Kit is working on her next novel.

BUY LINKS:

Signed pre-orders from Riverstone books: https://riverstonebookstore.indielite.org/pre-order-signed-copies-kit-fricks-new-book

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/i-killed-zoe-spanos-kit-frick/1134080087

Bookshop.org: https://bookshop.org/books/i-killed-zoe-spanos/9781534449701

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781534449701

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1534449701/

SOCIAL:

Website: https://kitfrick.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kitfrick

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kitfrick/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kitfrickauthor/

About I Killed Zoe Spanos

For fans of Sadie and Serial, this gripping thriller follows two teens whose lives become inextricably linked when one confesses to murder and the other becomes determined to uncover the real truth no matter the cost.

What happened to Zoe won’t stay buried…

When Anna Cicconi arrives to the small Hamptons village of Herron Mills for a summer nanny gig, she has high hopes for a fresh start. What she finds instead is a community on edge after the disappearance of Zoe Spanos, a local girl who has been missing since New Year’s Eve. Anna bears an eerie resemblance to Zoe, and her mere presence in town stirs up still-raw feelings about the unsolved case. As Anna delves deeper into the mystery, stepping further and further into Zoe’s life, she becomes increasingly convinced that she and Zoe are connected—and that she knows what happened to her.

Two months later, Zoe’s body is found in a nearby lake, and Anna is charged with manslaughter. But Anna’s confession is riddled with holes, and Martina Green, teen host of the Missing Zoe podcast, isn’t satisfied. Did Anna really kill Zoe? And if not, can Martina’s podcast uncover the truth?

Inspired by Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, Kit Frick weaves a thrilling story of psychological suspense that twists and turns until the final page.

ISBN-13: 9781534449701
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication date: 06/30/2020
Age Range: 14 – 18 Years

DIG Author A. S. King Receives the Printz Award, Virtually

Last night, Riley and I watched A. S. King receive her Printz Award virtually. Long time readers know that we are super huge fans of Amy (can we call her Amy?) and she did not disappoint with her acceptance speech. Though I am sad that I did not get to go to ALA and celebrate with A. S. King in person, I was wowed by her acceptance speech. You can view all the acceptance speeches online. A. S. King’s speech which tackles white privilege, racism, and more begins at 30:30. But please watch all of the speeches and celebrate with all the honor winners as well. Congratulations to everyone!!!

“We are now in generation of 15 in America” King reminds us as she talk about generational trauma, enslaved people, the whitewashing of history and the mental health of our youth. “You didn’t make the white supremacy we live in, you are only its willing caretaker. You may resign at any time.”

The Soundtrack of Our Lives, Part Two by Riley Jensen

At the beginning of this year The Teen, Riley Jensen, shared a musical theater playlist for teen librarians wanting to learn more about the musicals that teens are listening to. In the midst of this pandemic she’s had a lot of time to listen and talk musicals with her friends so today she is sharing another playlist.

Someone Gets Hurt from Mean Girls

I honestly like the musical better than the movie. It really adds so much depth to each character and this song is sung with such power and emotion.

I’m Breaking Down from Falsettos

This song is so dynamic and it never fails to make me laugh.

Not Your Seed from The Guy Who Didn’t Like Musicals

A nice little angsty teen song.

A Summer in Ohio from The Last 5 Years

This song is so cute and it sounds so nice.

Mama, I’m a Big Girl Now from Hairspray

This song is just always so fun to sing and it’s my favorite song from Hairspray.

Hopelessly Devoted to You from Grease

It just sounds so pretty and you just want to get up and sway along with the music.

I’d Give My Life for You from Miss Saigon

The relationship between the mother and son is so strong. This song is haunting. Overall this musical is just remarkable.

Cousin’s Cousin from Ever After

Another song that makes me laugh every time. This song is so chaotic that it’s hilarious.

Agony from Into the Woods

I mean, who doesn’t want some princes being absolute fools because they’re trying to one up each other? It’s just a chaotic mess.

Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight) from Mamma Mia

This is my favorite Mamma Mia song. I just want to get up and dance whenever I hear it.

Head Over Feet from Jagged Little Pill

A jukebox musical of Alanis Morissette songs. It just sounds so beautiful. All of their voices mix so well.

God, I Hate Shakespeare from Something Rotten

This song is just so humorous. I love making fun of Shakespeare.

Only for You from Love Never Dies

It’s just so whimsical and playful.

The Witch from Big Fish

This song is so foreboding. It sounds dangerous but in a fun way.

We Got Work to Do from Fire Bringer

I relate to this song basically everyday.

I’m Gonna Make You Love Me from Ain’t Too proud- The Life and Times of the Temptations

I just want to melt into their voices. It’s just so perfect and the harmonies are so good.

I’m Here from The Color Purple

This song makes me cry. It’s so beautiful and powerful.

Maria from West Side Story

This song may be the most repetitive song in the word but it’s still good.

Waiting for Life from Once on This Island

This musical just makes me feel good. Her voice is just so uplifting and I could listen to her all day.

So Much Better from Legally Blonde

I love a good “I don’t need you anymore” song. This is another musical that I like better than the movie.

Sunday Reflections: This is What Happened the Time I Didn’t Call the Police at the Library

Once upon a time, there was a teen librarian who was the sole teen librarian in a medium sized library. At this point in her career she had worked with teens for a little over ten years. That librarian is me. Hi.

One day, as she was sitting at her desk buying YA books or planning her next teen program, she got a call that a staff member had caught a group of teens doing graffiti on the outside of the library building. Although most of the teens had escaped, one unlucky teen now sat outside the library director’s office and he was asking me to come in and talk to him. Not the teen, the director.

The director wanted to know what I though he should do. He wanted to call the police and file a report. But I asked him to hit the pause button and did a little exploring.

For the sake of this story I feel that it is important to point out that this teen was not white but Latinx. And we lived in a town which had tremendous amount of ire and wrath pointed at the Latinx population because a young undocumented Latinx man had killed a police officer who was pursuing him. I mean, it was like 10 years prior to this incident but I’m here to tell you, the community was incredibly racist against the Latinx community and cited that incident as the source of justification for their racism.

First, it turned out that the graffiti in question was written in pencil on a brick building. This would actually be pretty easy to clean up.

Second, there was some question as to whether or not the young man who sat in the chair outside his office was the perpetrator or just a guy who chose crappy friends and didn’t run fast enough so he was the one getting caught.

Conversations happened and it was agreed that the young man in question would return the next day after school and that I would stand outside and make sure that he scrubbed all the graffiti off of the side of the building. Both of those things happened quite successfully. You would think that would be the end of this magical tale, but it is not. Though if it were, it would be a satisfying end in and of itself.

But you see, as the young man in question scrubbed the grafitti off of the side of the building, him and I talked. A lot. We talked about his life. We talked about mine, mostly about what happens in the library. And he learned that every Tuesday afternoon after school I had a sort of coffeehouse, for want of a better name, where teens came after school and hung out. We also played video games and it turns out that he really liked playing Guitar Hero and he was kind of good at it.

No, scratch that. He LOVED playing Guitar Hero. And he was GREAT at it. Like, he could seriously put the guitar behind his back and play it without looking and still kick everyone’s butt at Guitar Hero. I know this because he then spent the next 3 or 4 years coming to the library every Tuesday after school.

This kid turned out to be an amazing kid who just did a stupid thing, which a lot of kids do. But he started coming every Tuesday on the reg to my after school coffeehouse in which I never served coffee because I didn’t drink it and didn’t know how to make it. He became one of my greatest advocates and program marketers. Towards the end of the program as interest began to fizzle out, which always happens because all programs have a shelf life, he would walk into an empty room, want someone to play with, and then text all his friends and tell them to get to the library ASAP. And they did.

Here are some things you should know about this young man. Though he would become a program regular and he would become a great voice and advocate for the library, I happen to know for a fact that those 4 years in high school he never checked out and read a library book. Not for school. Most definitely not for pleasure reading. But he was there. He was enthusiastic. And both of our lives were changed by that relationship.

I eventually left that job and moved away. He would contact me as an adult to tell me that one of our regulars had died by suicide and we grieved together. For a very long time, we were friends on Facebook and I had the honor and privilege of learning more about the young man I had helped him become. He entered community college and finally read a book that excited him so much he contacted me to talk about it.

I could have told my director that day to go ahead and call the police. That would have been the easiest route for me. It would have been someone else’s responsibility. And I’m not going to lie, I have called the police on teens before and after that incident.

But that one time, I didn’t call the police. And that decision made all the difference for that young man and I. My teen program was more successful because I gained an ally among the teens in my library system. He gained the respect of an adult who valued him and a regular place to engage successfully in an activity that he loved.

Right now, our country is actively engaged in discussions about policing and policing in libraries. I share this story with you because I implore you to understand, calling the police is not always the right answer. That moment changed everything for everyone involved in this story and it would have gone very differently if the decision to call the police had been made.

Years later, I would read the YA book Uninvited by Sophie Jordan and gain an even better understanding of how over policing and incarceration can make crime worse. Uninvited is set in a future where the geneticist can pinpoint the DNA that may make you prone to violence. The main character has been training to be a professional cellist (violinist? maybe?) player and is about to be accepted into her dream school when she is flagged as having the gene. She is then put into what is basically jail for others who have been flagged, and some of them are in fact quite violent. So in an effort to survive, she has no choice but to become violent, in a self fulfilling prophecy. It is very much a cautionary tale that illustrates how incarceration can make potential or small time criminals into violent offenders. There are lots of great nonfiction titles on this topic and I invite you to use your Google skills and seek them out and read them.

Our Black and brown teens are policed in ways that are vastly different than our white teens. They are charged more, locked up more, and often given longer sentences. And yes, they are more likely to be killed by the police. If you work with teens, you need to know and understand this verifiable truth and it should inform how you choose to work with your teens and if, when and how to involve the police. One simply phone call can change a life forever.

I’m glad every day that I didn’t call the police on that young man. Both our lives were changed forever, in positive ways.

Friday Finds: June 26, 2020

This Week at TLT

Book Review: I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick

RevolTeens: Being the Change and Leading the Way by Christine Lively

Three YA Titles That Talk About Black Lives Matters and Protests

Book Review: My Eyes Are Up Here by Laura Zimmermann

So I Guess Now I’m Someone Who Talks About Boobs, a guest post by Laura Zimmermann

Riley’s Post It Note Reviews: A Wicked Magic, Goddess in the Machine and Havenfall

Around the Web

Summer reading lists for young people at a time of crisis

Film Adaptation Of Timely YA Novel ‘I’m Not Dying With You Tonight’ In The Works From Prominent Productions & ‘Jumanji’ Producer

Why There’s A Push To Get Police Out Of Schools

The Numbers Are In: 2019 CCBC Diversity Statistics

Book Review: I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick

Publisher’s description

For fans of Sadie and Serial, this gripping thriller follows two teens whose lives become inextricably linked when one confesses to murder and the other becomes determined to uncover the real truth no matter the cost.

What happened to Zoe won’t stay buried…

When Anna Cicconi arrives to the small Hamptons village of Herron Mills for a summer nanny gig, she has high hopes for a fresh start. What she finds instead is a community on edge after the disappearance of Zoe Spanos, a local girl who has been missing since New Year’s Eve. Anna bears an eerie resemblance to Zoe, and her mere presence in town stirs up still-raw feelings about the unsolved case. As Anna delves deeper into the mystery, stepping further and further into Zoe’s life, she becomes increasingly convinced that she and Zoe are connected—and that she knows what happened to her.

Two months later, Zoe’s body is found in a nearby lake, and Anna is charged with manslaughter. But Anna’s confession is riddled with holes, and Martina Green, teen host of the Missing Zoe podcast, isn’t satisfied. Did Anna really kill Zoe? And if not, can Martina’s podcast uncover the truth?

Inspired by Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, Kit Frick weaves a thrilling story of psychological suspense that twists and turns until the final page.

Amanda’s thoughts

I’m a very impatient person, so it’s no surprise I’m an impatient reader. I sometimes have a hard time with mysteries or thrillers where we’re reading to find out who did something. I know the whole entire point of the book is to keep us guessing, but I have to fight the urge to be like “JUST TELL US!” and skip ahead to the end. My point is that, for me, I’m probably not going to stick with it or not skim to get to the end faster if it’s not a completely compelling and unpredictable story. That said, I read every word of this book, didn’t skip to the end, and didn’t know who actually did what until it was revealed.

If you’re a fan of unreliable narrators—or of unreliable characters, period—you will enjoy this book. We toggle back in forth in time to the summer Anna spends as a nanny and to a later point, after she has confessed to killing Zoe Spanos. Except, did she? She has trouble remembering details. Some things feel like a dream. Is she just being led by what police are saying happened? We see her spend an entire summer forgetting things, talking about blacking out, feeling an eerie sense of memories that she can’t possibly have. Or can she? Everything that seems true or false is up for debate. So many of her sentences are punctuated with “I guess,” or “maybe,” or “I don’t remember.” With her history of ditching school, drinking to the point of blacking out, being brought home by cops, and stealing her moms medicine, maybe she did kill Zoe and just can’t remember. Or maybe that’s what someone wants her to think.

Interspersed with Anna’s story are transcripts from a podcast by a local teen who is trying to figure out just what happened to Zoe. Other secondary characters provide bits and pieces of their relationships with Zoe and it seems like many other people could be suspects. When an autopsy report throws Anna’s story into question, she finally begins to question if she actually did kill Zoe, but it’s hard to piece together the truth when your own brain is being so foggy and unreliable.

Full of lies, manipulation, half-truths, secrets, twists, and SO MUCH tension, this mystery will easily rope in readers as we, along with all of the characters, try to figure out just who killed Zoe Spanos.

Review copy (ARC) courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781534449701
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication date: 06/30/2020
Age Range: 14 – 18 Years