Teen Librarian Toolbox
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Cindy Crushes Programming: DIY Harry Potter Book of Monsters

Harry Potter is a series that continues to be popular as new tween and teen readers discover it every day. In celebration of all things Harry Potter, Cindy Shutts recently hosted a program with her teens and taught them how they can create their own book of monsters. The steps are outlined below.

Supplies

  • Hot glue and gun
  • Fake fur
  • Large googly eyes
  • Red felt
  • White felt
  •  Composition notebooks

Step One: Measure the composition notebook.

Step Two: Cut and measure the fur a little bit larger than the notebook. This allows there to be a little overlap and gives a better effect. Excess can be trimmed off.

Step Three: Hot glue the fur on the notebook. Start at one end and press the fur down as you glue. This ensures that the glue does not dry before you have a chance to attach the fur.

Step Four: Cut sharp looking teeth out from the white felt. It looks better if you do it free hand rather than tracing it because the trace marks often show. Hot glue the teeth on the inside cover of the notebook.

Step Five: Cut a tongue out of the red felt and hot glue it on the inside cover of the notebook.

Step Six: Hot glue the googly eyes on the felt so it looks like a monster.

Step Seven: Let dry then enjoy your book of monsters.

Finals Thoughts: This was a very enjoyable craft. I had been avoiding it because of the costs, but I saw a picture online that looked easier and cheaper. I used a 40% off coupon on the fur. The fur is the most expensive part of this program. Use a coupon if you can! There are more difficult versions that cost more money to make, but this one was perfect for us. The teens loved it and wanted to do it again.

Penguin Random House 2019 Showcase: Books featuring Ziggy Stardust, friends pretending to date, a vengeful ghost, vampires, and more!

Book mail is my favorite of all the mail. Recently, I came home early from work one day to find THREE packages of books from Penguin Random House waiting for me. WOOHOO! Three! AND I was off work early!

All of the books I get end up going back out the door in some fashion—to teen readers I know, to classroom libraries of friends, to my own school, my kid’s school, or in giveaways. I can’t read/review every book I get, but it’s fun to be able to sift through boxes and see what grabs my attention, and to see what books will find loving new homes with the right reader.

Today I’m sharing with you forthcoming titles from Penguin Random House. All annotations are from the publisher. Watch my Twitter (@CiteSomething) for giveaways, where some of these titles will be included! 

Ziggy, Stardust and Me by James Brandon (ISBN-13: 9780525517641 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 08/06/2019)

In this tender-hearted debut, set against the tumultuous backdrop of life in 1973, when homosexuality is still considered a mental illness, two boys defy all the odds and fall in love.

The year is 1973. The Watergate hearings are in full swing. The Vietnam War is still raging. And homosexuality is still officially considered a mental illness. In the midst of these trying times is sixteen-year-old Jonathan Collins, a bullied, anxious, asthmatic kid, who aside from an alcoholic father and his sympathetic neighbor and friend Starla, is completely alone. To cope, Jonathan escapes to the safe haven of his imagination, where his hero David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and dead relatives, including his mother, guide him through the rough terrain of his life. In his alternate reality, Jonathan can be anything: a superhero, an astronaut, Ziggy Stardust, himself, or completely “normal” and not a boy who likes other boys. When he completes his treatments, he will be normal—at least he hopes. But before that can happen, Web stumbles into his life. Web is everything Jonathan wishes he could be: fearless, fearsome and, most importantly, not ashamed of being gay.

Jonathan doesn’t want to like brooding Web, who has secrets all his own. Jonathan wants nothing more than to be “fixed” once and for all. But he’s drawn to Web anyway. Web is the first person in the real world to see Jonathan completely and think he’s perfect. Web is a kind of escape Jonathan has never known. For the first time in his life, he may finally feel free enough to love and accept himself as he is.

A poignant coming-of-age tale, Ziggy, Stardust and Me heralds the arrival of a stunning and important new voice in YA.

As Many Nows as I Can Get by Shana Youngdahl (ISBN-13: 9780525553854 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 08/20/2019)

A timely, searing, and unconventional romance from an urgent new voice in young adult fiction

In one impulsive moment the summer before they leave for college, overachievers Scarlett and David plunge into an irresistible swirl of romance, particle physics, and questionable decisions. Told in non-linear, vivid first-person chapters, As Many Nows as I Can Get is the story of a grounded girl who’s pulled into a lightning-strike romance with an electric-charged boy, and the enormity of the aftermath. Cerebral, accessible, bold, and unconventionally romantic, this is a powerful debut about grief, guilt, and reconciling who you think you need to be with the person you’ve been all along.

Frankly in Love by David Yoon (ISBN-13: 9781984812209 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 09/10/2019)

This smart, romantic, and totally original coming-of-age YA contemporary debut about a Korean-American teen falling in (and out) of love is perfect for fans of The Sun is Also a Star, Eleanor & Park, and Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda.

High school senior Frank Li is a Limbo—his term for Korean-American kids who find themselves caught between their parents’ traditional expectations and their own Southern California upbringing. His parents have one rule when it comes to romance—”Date Korean”—which proves complicated when Frank falls for Brit Means, who is smart, beautiful—and white. Fellow Limbo Joy Song is in a similar predicament, and so they make a pact: they’ll pretend to date each other in order to gain their freedom. Frank thinks it’s the perfect plan, but in the end, Frank and Joy’s fake-dating maneuver leaves him wondering if he ever really understood love—or himself—at all.

The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus (ISBN-13: 9780525555483 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 09/17/2019)

Told in two distinct and irresistible voices, Junauda Petrus’s bold and lyrical debut is the story of two black girls from very different backgrounds finding love and happiness in a world that seems determined to deny them both.

Trinidad. Sixteen-year-old Audre is despondent, having just found out she’s going to be sent to live in America with her father because her strictly religious mother caught her with her secret girlfriend, the pastor’s daughter. Audre’s grandmother Queenie (a former dancer who drives a white convertible Cadillac and who has a few secrets of her own) tries to reassure her granddaughter that she won’t lose her roots, not even in some place called Minneapolis. “America have dey spirits too, believe me,” she tells Audre.

Minneapolis. Sixteen-year-old Mabel is lying on her bed, staring at the ceiling and trying to figure out why she feels the way she feels—about her ex Terrell, about her girl Jada and that moment they had in the woods, and about the vague feeling of illness that’s plagued her all summer. Mabel’s reverie is cut short when her father announces that his best friend and his just-arrived-from-Trinidad daughter are coming for dinner. 

Mabel quickly falls hard for Audre and is determined to take care of her as she tries to navigate an American high school. But their romance takes a turn when test results reveal exactly why Mabel has been feeling low-key sick all summer and suddenly it’s Audre who is caring for Mabel as she faces a deeply uncertain future.

Junauda Petrus’s debut brilliantly captures the distinctly lush and lyrical voices of Mabel and Audre as they conjure a love that is stronger than hatred, prison, and death and as vast as the blackness between the stars.

Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall (ISBN-13: 9781984837011 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 09/24/2019)

In the faux-documentary style of The Blair Witch Project comes the campfire story of a missing girl, a vengeful ghost, and the girl who is determined to find her sister—at all costs.

Once a year, a road appears in the forest. And at the end of it, the ghost of Lucy Gallows beckons. Lucy’s game isn’t for the faint of heart. If you win, you escape with your life. But if you lose…. 

Sara’s sister disappeared one year ago—and only Sara knows where she is. Becca went to find the ghost of Lucy Gallows and is trapped on the road that leads to her. In the sleepy town of Briar Glen, Lucy’s road is nothing more than local lore. But Sara knows it’s real, and she’s going to find it. 

When Sara and her skeptical friends meet in the forest to search for Becca, the mysterious road unfurls before them. All they have to do is walk down it. But the path to Lucy is not of this world, and it has its own rules. Every mistake summons new horrors. Vengeful spirits and broken, angry creatures are waiting for them to slip, and no one is guaranteed safe passage. The only certainty is this: the road has a toll and it will be paid.

Sara knows that if she steps onto the road, she might not come back. But Becca needs her.

And Lucy is waiting.

The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh (ISBN-13: 9781524738174 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 10/08/2019)

New York Times bestselling author Renée Ahdieh returns with a sumptuous, sultry and romantic new series set in 19th century New Orleans where vampires hide in plain sight.

In 1872, New Orleans is a city ruled by the dead. But to seventeen-year-old Celine Rousseau, New Orleans provides her a refuge after she’s forced to flee her life as a dressmaker in Paris. Taken in by the sisters of the Ursuline convent along with six other girls, Celine quickly becomes enamored with the vibrant city from the music to the food to the soirées and–especially–to the danger. She soon becomes embroiled in the city’s glitzy underworld, known as Le Cour des Lions, after catching the eye of the group’s leader, the enigmatic Sèbastien Saint Germain. When the body of one of the girls from the convent is found in the lair of Le Cour des Lions, Celine battles her attraction to him and suspicions about Sèbastien’s guilt along with the shame of her own horrible secret.


When more bodies are discovered, each crime more gruesome than the last, Celine and New Orleans become gripped by the terror of a serial killer on the loose–one Celine is sure has set her in his sights . . . and who may even be the young man who has stolen her heart. As the murders continue to go unsolved, Celine takes matters into her own hands and soon uncovers something even more shocking: an age-old feud from the darkest creatures of the underworld reveals a truth about Celine she always suspected simmered just beneath the surface.


At once a sultry romance and a decadent thrilling mystery, master storyteller Renée Ahdieh embarks on her most potent fantasy series yet: The Beautiful.


WAR GIRLS by Tochi Onyebuchi (ISBN-13: 9780451481672 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 10/15/2019)

Two sisters are torn apart by war and must fight their way back to each other in a futuristic, Black Panther-inspired Nigeria.

The year is 2172. Climate change and nuclear disasters have rendered much of earth unlivable. Only the lucky ones have escaped to space colonies in the sky. 

In a war-torn Nigeria, battles are fought using flying, deadly mechs and soldiers are outfitted with bionic limbs and artificial organs meant to protect them from the harsh, radiation-heavy climate. Across the nation, as the years-long civil war wages on, survival becomes the only way of life. 

Two sisters, Onyii and Ify, dream of more. Their lives have been marked by violence and political unrest. Still, they dream of peace, of hope, of a future together.

And they’re willing to fight an entire war to get there.

Acclaimed author, Tochi Onyebuchi, has written an immersive, action-packed, deeply personal novel perfect for fans of Nnedi Okorafor, Marie Lu, and Paolo Bacigalupi.

Song of the Crimson Flower by Julie C. Dao (ISBN-13: 9781524738358 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 11/05/2019)

From the acclaimed author of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns comes a fantastical new tale of darkness and love, in which magical bonds are stronger than blood.

Will love break the spell? After cruelly rejecting Bao, the poor physician’s apprentice who loves her, Lan, a wealthy nobleman’s daughter, regrets her actions. So when she finds Bao’s prized flute floating in his boat near her house, she takes it into her care, not knowing that his soul has been trapped inside it by an evil witch, who cursed Bao, telling him that only love will set him free. Though Bao now despises her, Lan vows to make amends and help break the spell. 

Together, the two travel across the continent, finding themselves in the presence of greatness in the forms of the Great Forest’s Empress Jade and Commander Wei. They journey with Wei, getting tangled in the webs of war, blood magic, and romance along the way. Will Lan and Bao begin to break the spell that’s been placed upon them? Or will they be doomed to live out their lives with black magic running through their veins?

In this fantastical tale of darkness and love, some magical bonds are stronger than blood.

Games of Deception: The True Story of the First U.S. Olympic Basketball Team at the 1936 Olympics in Hitler’s Germany by Andrew Maraniss (ISBN-13: 9780525514633 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 11/05/2019)

From the New York Times bestselling author of Strong Inside comes the remarkable true story of the birth of Olympic basketball at the 1936 Summer Games in Hitler’s Germany.Perfect for fans of The Boys in the Boat and Unbroken.

On a scorching hot day in July 1936, thousands of people cheered as the U.S. Olympic teams boarded the S.S. Manhattan, bound for Berlin. Among the athletes were the 14 players representing the first-ever U.S. Olympic basketball team. As thousands of supporters waved American flags on the docks, it was easy to miss the one courageous man holding a BOYCOTT NAZI GERMANY sign. But it was too late for a boycott now; the ship had already left the harbor. 

1936 was a turbulent time in world history. Adolf Hitler had gained power in Germany three years earlier. Jewish people and political opponents of the Nazis were the targets of vicious mistreatment, yet were unaware of the horrors that awaited them in the coming years. But the Olympians on board the S.S. Manhattan and other international visitors wouldn’t see any signs of trouble in Berlin. Streets were swept, storefronts were painted, and every German citizen greeted them with a smile. Like a movie set, it was all just a facade, meant to distract from the terrible things happening behind the scenes. 

This is the incredible true story of basketball, from its invention by James Naismith in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1891, to the sport’s Olympic debut in Berlin and the eclectic mix of people, events and propaganda on both sides of the Atlantic that made it all possible. Includes photos throughout, a Who’s-Who of the 1936 Olympics, bibliography, and index.

Out and Proud (On the Page and In Real Life): My Long and Not-Straight Journey to Self-Acceptance, a guest post by Amber Smith

Confession: When I was in eighth grade, I stole my public library’s copy of Nancy Garden’s Annie on My Mind because I was too afraid to check it out. I kept it hidden under my bed for years, its pages well-worn from reading it so many times.

I remember coming of age in the 90s and feeling very disconnected from a lot of the progress I saw happening on TV and in the media where queer people were out and proud and beginning to be more accepted, because in my little corner of the world, I didn’t know any gay people. My only references were conflicted at best, and harmful at worst.

I’m not entirely sure why these are the things that are branded in my memory as vivid as if they happened yesterday, but these are some of the earliest times I became aware that there were people who thought there was something deeply wrong and shameful about the existence of gay people:

1. Watching Melrose Place in 1994, and the shock and disgust and horror that erupted out of a potential/suggested kiss between two men that aired on the show.  

2. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Being in a military family, I was very aware of the controversy surrounding this, and it absolutely boggled my mind. There were clearly plenty of people who thought LGBTQ people were not fit to serve in the military, and I couldn’t make sense of what one had to do with the other (because it made zero sense).

3. The token lesbian character on the show Friends: Ross’s ex-wife who had left him for another woman. Whenever she was mentioned, it was always accompanied with a roaring laugh track.

4. And then when Ellen’s sitcom was canceled after she came out on the show.

What I was learning slowly, one small instance at a time, was that visibility and being “out” (whatever the hell that meant; at the time I wasn’t sure) always came at a price.

When I looked around at my life, this is what I saw: There was not a single out student at my entire high school; though we were (of course) present. The gym teachers were rumored to be “dykes” and were either laughed at behind their backs or treated like predators to their faces. There were not LGBTQ-Straight Alliances back then; in fact, “LGBTQ” wasn’t even a thing yet. The word “queer” was still an insult, and it was not a word I wanted to be associated with in any way.

Still, I relished the rare book, movie, or TV show that featured any gay characters, which were few and far between. In high school I would discreetly stalk the video store, searching for movies that had any kind of gayness in them, and I would try to act casual as I brought my stack of VHS tapes to the checkout counter, watching the faces of the cashiers closely for signs of judgment or disapproval. (To this day, I don’t know if I imagined them or if they were real). I’d watch the movies in the middle of the night when no one in my house was awake, literally playing them on mute and reading the subtitles, desperate to find a connection to this world (which I both suspected and feared I was a part of) that was positive. Finding Annie on My Mind was life-changing because it was the first time I had found a story where there was love and hope and acceptance, with characters that felt real and whole, flawed and complex. I needed this book like I needed oxygen.

By the time I got to college, I was ready for some freedom. I found my first girlfriend and felt like I was alive for the first time in my life. I may have been emboldened by being able to be out around my fellow art students, but what I soon learned was that life in the real world was very different from strolling around campus holding hands with my girlfriend. It only took a few verbal attacks and threats of physical violence to put a quick end to PDAs altogether. It’s a very disorientating and confusing feeling to know with every fiber of your mind and heart and soul that you are living your life the way you need to be living it, and at the same time, to be deeply terrified of the consequences for doing so.

Amber in college, circa 2000

Each of these moments left marks and scars, both big and small, some more fully healed than others.

After the breakup with my first serious girlfriend, I went so far back into the closet I practically disowned my entire life. I gave away all my cherished Ani DiFranco and Melissa Etheridge CDs, my collection of VHS tapes, all of my gender studies textbooks, and even my stolen copy of Annie on My Mind. Trying to be in a committed relationship while being in the closet made my world feel microscopically small. This life was too hard, I decided; I would just stay single for the rest of my life and that way I’d never have to be fully out. I wouldn’t have to be subjected to hate or violence ever again. This whole gay thing would be a non-issue, right?

Wrong.

I was so deeply unhappy and unhealthy during that time. I was committing hate and violence against myself now. I felt like I was between two worlds and that I didn’t belong to either of them. With my family, I felt like I was living a lie. Alternately, since I was in the closet, I felt like I wasn’t “gay enough” to be a part of that community either. It would take me years to find my way back out into the light. I ultimately had to seek therapy and gradually work through a lot of that internalized homophobia I had lurking around in the cobwebs of my mind. I had to learn how to love and accept myself for who I was, to discover on my own terms that I didn’t have to try to cram myself into anyone else’s ideas about who I should be. And it would still be years before I could finally come out to my family.

Amber at her student art show, 2004

When my second book, The Last to Let Go was published, and featured a lesbian protagonist, I had a whole new and public coming out experience. While this one was very positive, it still brought up a lot of these old wounds and memories of what it was like to come of age in a time and place where there was such uncertainty of whether or not I would be accepted and loved, or even safe. That’s when I started thinking about the book that would become Something Like Gravity.

Writing is always therapeutic for me, and I found that I really needed a place to work through not only my own experiences, but also a place to address the recent backlash against the LGBTQ community and a lot of the transphobia ramping up over the last several years (because whenever there is progress, there is going to be backlash). But the thing that inspired me to turn Something Like Gravity into a love story is that my soul really needed to write about something that was equally as powerful as all of the difficult, painful experiences. In this case, that something became a story about falling in love, finding hope, and living your truth, against all odds.

I lived in fear and anger for a long time, and while I’m thankful that things are slowly changing and some of us in the LGBTQ community are beginning to find more equality, there are still so many fights to be won. In many respects I see history repeating itself in the plight of queer youth today—particularly individuals who identify as trans or nonbinary—and it makes my heart ache.

There is nothing I know of that opens minds and hearts better than sharing our stories, and I wrote Something Like Gravity in the hope that it can help in some small way to give young people who may be feeling some of what I felt at their age a space to be seen and validated and safe. And ultimately, it is my hope that readers will be able to find aspects of themselves in these characters; even if they aren’t transgender or queer. We are all perfectly imperfect, each of us a work in progress, and the one thing that connects us is love. I believe that love is powerful, transformative, and it is what gives us hope—something no one should ever be without.

Although I took a constantly twisting road to get here, I can say that today I am out, happy, loved, and incredibly proud of the life I’ve created.

P.S. I should add that I have since donated, with apologies and thanks, a new copy of Annie on My Mind to the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library.

Meet Amber Smith

Photo credit: Deborah Triplett

Amber Smith is the New York Times bestselling author of the young adult novels The Way I Used to BeThe Last to Let Go, and Something Like Gravity. An advocate for increased awareness of gendered violence, as well as LGBTQ equality, she writes in the hope that her books can help to foster change and spark dialogue surrounding these issues. She grew up in Buffalo, New York, and now lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her partner and their ever-growing family of rescued dogs and cats. Pronouns: she/her/hers.

Website: www.ambersmithauthor.com 

Twitter: @ASmithAuthor 

Instagram: @ambersmithauthor

Facebook: @AmberSmithAuthor

About SOMETHING LIKE GRAVITY

For fans of Love, Simon and Eleanor & Park, a romantic and sweet novel about a transgender boy who falls in love for the first time—and how first love changes us all—from New York Times bestselling author Amber Smith.

Chris and Maia aren’t off to a great start.

A near-fatal car accident first brings them together, and their next encounters don’t fare much better. Chris’s good intentions backfire. Maia’s temper gets the best of her.

But they’re neighbors, at least for the summer, and despite their best efforts, they just can’t seem to stay away from each other.

The path forward isn’t easy. Chris has come out as transgender, but he’s still processing a frightening assault he survived the year before. Maia is grieving the loss of her older sister and trying to find her place in the world without her. Falling in love was the last thing on either of their minds.

But would it be so bad if it happened anyway?

ISBN-13: 9781534437180
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication date: 06/18/2019

Book Review: Rules for Vanishing

Publisher’s Book Description:
In the faux-documentary style of The Blair Witch Project comes the campfire story of a missing girl, a vengeful ghost, and the girl who is determined to find her sister–at all costs.

Once a year, the path appears in the forest and Lucy Gallows beckons. Who is brave enough to find her–and who won’t make it out of the woods?

It’s been exactly one year since Sara’s sister, Becca, disappeared, and high school life has far from settled back to normal. With her sister gone, Sara doesn’t know whether her former friends no longer like her…or are scared of her, and the days of eating alone at lunch have started to blend together. When a mysterious text message invites Sara and her estranged friends to “play the game” and find local ghost legend Lucy Gallows, Sara is sure this is the only way to find Becca–before she’s lost forever. And even though she’s hardly spoken with them for a year, Sara finds herself deep in the darkness of the forest, her friends–and their cameras–following her down the path. Together, they will have to draw on all of their strengths to survive. The road is rarely forgiving, and no one will be the same on the other side. 

Karen’s Thoughts:

You may have seen some of my recent reviews and noticed that I am going through a bit of a YA thriller reading streak. The Rules for Vanishing takes readers on a journey down a ghost road in order to find a missing sister and friend, with mixed results.

I love a good town with creepy legends story. Here we have a ghost, a ghost road and a missing sister who vanished a year ago trying to find said ghost. It’s a fantastic set up. Unfortunately, what happens on the ghost road gets a bit predictable. You see, along the road the group of teens have to pass through several gates and it is clearly established that once they get through each gate, something awful is going to happen. What that awful looks like is different each time, but there is a bit of built in predictability that I feel hampers the tension in the story. There is a rhtymn established: gate, conflict, brief moment of respite to process what just happened, gate, conflict, brief moment of respite . . . As a reader, I wish that this pattern wasn’t so clearly established.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a few twists and turns along the way. But one of the earlier twists unfortunately undermines the final twist a bit because in some ways, it was already done and far more eerily earlier in the novel.

What this book serves up well is a reflection on family, identity and friendship, all of which have been broken in various ways by the vanishing that occurred a year earlier. Here we see teens wrestling with the after effects of not just loss, but loss without any sense of closure because no one is really sure what happened a year ago. It is this part of the story that feels more fleshed out and compelling.

Overall, I feel that this is an optional purchase. Many teens will be interested in reading it and there are some genuinely creepy moments, but it has a predictability about it that may turn some readers off.

Nonfiction Roundup: MakerSpace Edition

Today I’m sharing with you some of the new nonfiction that I’m loving for Teen MakerSpace and making ideas. As you know, I believe making is a combination of traditional arts and crafts or technology, it doesn’t have to be one or the other. There are lots of great titles out there. And when it comes to making with teens, I have been known to find inspiration in books that are geared and marketed for younger kids even, because you can find inspiration anywhere and just adapt the activities accordingly. So here are some fun titles that I am exploring as we speak. Have fun making!

Friday Finds: June 14, 2019

This Week at TLT

What’s new in LGBTQIA+ YA June and July 2019

Teen Services 101: So You Want to Do Teen Programming, but What About the Books?

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2019 Showcase: Books featuring beasties, a killer flu, a changeling, and pirates

Teen Services 101: What Do We Know About Teen Programming?

Sunday Reflections: I Could Not Stop for Death, on the emotional labor of teen librarianship

Around the Web

Can You Reshape Your Brain’s Response To Pain?

Half of Americans Are Effectively Poor Now.

Lies My Bookshelf Told Me: Slavery in Children’s Literature

10 of the Best Young Adult Books of June 2019

Annual Reminder that Graphic Novels are “Real” Reading

What’s new in LGBTQIA+ YA June and July 2019

It’s time for another roundup for new and forthcoming YA (and sometimes not YA) books featuring LGBTQIA+ characters.  The titles I’m including here have LGBTQIA+ main characters as well as secondary characters (in some cases parents), as well as anthologies that include LGBTQIA+ stories. 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 June and July 2019 titles. Head over to this link for the previous post (May 2019) in this series. All annotations here are via the publishers/Goodreads. I also have a 2018 master list. I’m working on the 2019 list. I’m happy to send you any list if you’re interested. Tweet at me or email me to request the list. I’m amanda DOT macgregor AT gmail DOT com.

Looking for more information on LGBTQIA+ books or issues? Check out the hashtag here on TLT and go visit YA Pride and LGBTQ Reads, two phenomenal resources. 

June 2019

Not Your Backup (Sidekick Squad Series #3) by C. B. Lee (ISBN-13: 9781945053788 Publisher: Interlude Press Publication date: 06/01/2019 Series: Sidekick Squad Series #3)

Emma Robledo has a few more responsibilities that the usual high school senior, but then again, she and her friends have left school to lead a fractured Resistance movement against a corrupt Heroes League of Heroes. Emma is the only member of a supercharged team without powers, she isnt always taken seriously. A natural leader, Emma is determined to win this battle, and when thats done, get back to school. As the Resistance moves to challenge the League, Emma realizes where her place is in this fight: at the front.

All Eyes on Us by Kit Frick (ISBN-13: 9781534404403 Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books Publication date: 06/04/2019)

Pretty Little Liars meets People Like Us in this taut, tense thriller about two teens who find their lives intertwined when an anonymous texter threatens to spill their secrets and uproot their lives.

PRIVATE NUMBER: Wouldn’t you look better without a cheater on your arm?
AMANDA: Who is this?

The daughter of small town social climbers, Amanda Kelly is deeply invested in her boyfriend, real estate heir Carter Shaw. He’s kind, ambitious, the town golden boy—but he’s far from perfect. Because behind Amanda’s back, Carter is also dating Rosalie.

PRIVATE NUMBER: I’m watching you, Sweetheart.
ROSALIE: Who IS this?

Rosalie Bell is fighting to remain true to herself and her girlfriend—while concealing her identity from her Christian fundamentalist parents. After years spent in and out of conversion “therapy,” her own safety is her top priority. But maintaining a fake, straight relationship is killing her from the inside.

When an anonymous texter ropes Amanda and Rosalie into a bid to take Carter down, the girls become collateral damage—and unlikely allies in a fight to unmask their stalker before Private uproots their lives.

PRIVATE NUMBER: You shouldn’t have ignored me. Now look what you made me do…

The Confusion of Laurel Graham by Adrienne Kisner (ISBN-13: 9781250146045 Publisher: Feiwel & Friends Publication date: 06/04/2019)

A teen copes with her grandmother’s coma by becoming obsessed with a mystery bird that she cannot identify in Adrienne Kisner’s sharp and poignant YA novel, The Confusion of Laurel Graham.

Seventeen-year-old Laurel Graham has a singular, all-consuming ambition in this life: become the most renowned nature photographer and birder in the world. The first step to birding domination is to win the junior nature photographer contest run by prominent Fauna magazine. Winning runs in her blood—her beloved activist and nature-loving grandmother placed when she was a girl.

One day Gran drags Laurel out on a birding expedition where the pair hear a mysterious call that even Gran can’t identify. The pair vow to find out what it is together, but soon after, Gran is involved in a horrible car accident.

Now that Gran is in a coma, so much of Laurel’s world is rocked. Her gran’s house is being sold, developers are coming in to destroy the nature sanctuary she treasures, and she still can’t seem to identify the mystery bird.

Laurel’s confusion isn’t just a group of warblers—it’s about what means the most to her, and what she’s willing to do to fight to save it. Maybe—just maybe-if she can find the mystery bird, it will save her gran, the conservatory land, and herself.

Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian (ISBN-13: 9780062839367 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 06/04/2019)

“A love letter to queerness, self-expression, and individuality (also Madonna) that never shies away from the ever-present fear within the queer community of late ’80s New York, Like a Love Story made me feel so full—of hope, love, courage, pride, and awe for the many people who fought for love and self-expression in the face of discrimination, cruelty, and death.

“A book for warriors, divas, artists, queens, individuals, activists, trend setters, and anyone searching for the courage to be themselves.”—Mackenzi Lee, New York Times bestselling author of The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue

It’s 1989 in New York City, and for three teens, the world is changing.

Reza is an Iranian boy who has just moved to the city with his mother to live with his stepfather and stepbrother. He’s terrified that someone will guess the truth he can barely acknowledge about himself. Reza knows he’s gay, but all he knows of gay life are the media’s images of men dying of AIDS.

Judy is an aspiring fashion designer who worships her uncle Stephen, a gay man with AIDS who devotes his time to activism as a member of ACT UP. Judy has never imagined finding romance…until she falls for Reza and they start dating.

Art is Judy’s best friend, their school’s only out and proud teen. He’ll never be who his conservative parents want him to be, so he rebels by documenting the AIDS crisis through his photographs.

As Reza and Art grow closer, Reza struggles to find a way out of his deception that won’t break Judy’s heart—and destroy the most meaningful friendship he’s ever known.

This is a bighearted, sprawling epic about friendship and love and the revolutionary act of living life to the fullest in the face of impossible odds.

If It Makes You Happy by Claire Kann (ISBN-13: 9781250192677 Publisher: Feiwel & Friends Publication date: 06/04/2019)

Claire Kann’s If It Makes You Happy is a coming-of-age novel about a young girl learning to embrace her cultural and sexuality identity.

Winnie is living her best fat girl life and is on her way to the best place on earth. No, not Disneyland—her Granny’s diner, Goldeen’s, in the small town of Misty Haven. While there, she works in her fabulous 50’s inspired uniform, twirling around the diner floor and earning an obscene amount of tips. With her family and ungirlfriend at her side, she has everything she needs for one last perfect summer before starting college in the fall.

…until she becomes Misty Haven’s Summer Queen in a highly anticipated matchmaking tradition that she wants absolutely nothing to do with.

Newly crowned, Winnie is forced to take center stage in photoshoots and a never-ending list of community royal engagements. Almost immediately, she discovers that she’s deathly afraid of it all: the spotlight, the obligations, and the way her Merry Haven Summer King, wears his heart, humor, and honesty on his sleeve.

Stripped of Goldeen’s protective bubble, to salvage her summer Winnie must conquer her fears, defy expectations, and be the best Winnie she knows she can be—regardless of what anyone else thinks of her.

Wild and Crooked by Leah Thomas (ISBN-13: 9781547600021 Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Publication date: 06/04/2019)

Critically-acclaimed author Leah Thomas blends a small-town setting with the secrets of a long-ago crime, in a compelling novel about breaking free from the past.

In Samsboro, Kentucky, Kalyn Spence’s name is inseparable from the brutal murder her father committed when he was a teenager. Forced to return to town, Kalyn must attend school under a pseudonym . . . or face the lingering anger of Samsboro’s citizens, who refuse to forget the crime.

Gus Peake has never had the luxury of redefining himself. A Samsboro native, he’s either known as the “disabled kid” because of his cerebral palsy, or as the kid whose dad was murdered. Gus just wants to be known as himself.

When Gus meets Kalyn, her frankness is refreshing, and they form a deep friendship. Until their families’ pasts emerge. And when the accepted version of the truth is questioned, Kalyn and Gus are caught in the center of a national uproar. Can they break free from a legacy of inherited lies and chart their own paths forward?

Tell Me How You Really Feel by Aminah Mae Safi (ISBN-13: 9781250299482 Publisher: Feiwel & Friends Publication date: 06/11/2019)

Aminah Mae Safi’s Tell Me How You Really Feel is an ode to romantic comedies, following two girls on opposite sides of the social scale as they work together to make a movie and try very hard not to fall in love.

The first time Sana Khan asked out a girl–Rachel Recht—it went so badly that she never did it again. Rachel is a film buff and aspiring director, and she’s seen Carrie enough times to learn you can never trust cheerleaders (and beautiful people). Rachel was furious that Sana tried to prank her by asking her on a date.

But when it comes time for Rachel to cast her senior project, she realizes that there’s no more perfect lead than Sana—the girl she’s sneered at in the halls for the past three years. And poor Sana—she says yes. She never did really get over that first crush, even if Rachel can barely stand to be in the same room as her.

Told in alternative viewpoints and set against the backdrop of Los Angeles in the springtime, when the rainy season rolls in and the Santa Ana’s can still blow—these two girls are about to learn that in the city of dreams, anything is possible—even love.

The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante (ISBN-13: 9780525514022 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 06/11/2019)

This stunning YA debut is a timely and heartfelt speculative narrative about healing, faith, and freedom.

Seventeen-year-old Marisol has always dreamed of being American, learning what Americans and the US are like from television and Mrs. Rosen, an elderly expat who had employed Marisol’s mother as a maid. When she pictured an American life for herself, she dreamed of a life like Aimee and Amber’s, the title characters of her favorite American TV show. She never pictured fleeing her home in El Salvador under threat of death and stealing across the US border as “an illegal”, but after her brother is murdered and her younger sister, Gabi’s, life is also placed in equal jeopardy, she has no choice, especially because she knows everything is her fault. If she had never fallen for the charms of a beautiful girl named Liliana, Pablo might still be alive, her mother wouldn’t be in hiding and she and Gabi wouldn’t have been caught crossing the border.

But they have been caught and their asylum request will most certainly be denied. With truly no options remaining, Marisol jumps at an unusual opportunity to stay in the United States. She’s asked to become a grief keeper, taking the grief of another into her own body to save a life. It’s a risky, experimental study, but if it means Marisol can keep her sister safe, she will risk anything. She just never imagined one of the risks would be falling in love, a love that may even be powerful enough to finally help her face her own crushing grief.

The Grief Keeper is a tender tale that explores the heartbreak and consequences of when both love and human beings are branded illegal.

A Queer History of the United States for Young People by Michael Bronski (ISBN-13: 9780807056127 Publisher: Beacon Press Publication date: 06/11/2019 Series: ReVisioning American History for Young People Series #1)

Queer history didn’t start with Stonewall. This book explores how LGBTQ people have always been a part of our national identity, contributing to the country and culture for over 400 years.

It is crucial for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer youth to know their history. But this history is not easy to find since it’s rarely taught in schools or commemorated in other ways. A Queer History of the United States for Young People corrects this and demonstrates that LGBTQ people have long been vital to shaping our understanding of what America is today. 

Through engrossing narratives, letters, drawings, poems, and more, the book encourages young readers, of all identities, to feel pride at the accomplishments of the LGBTQ people who came before them and to use history as a guide to the future. Here we meet: 
* Indigenous tribes who embraced same-sex relationships and a multiplicity of gender identities.
* Emily Dickinson, brilliant nineteenth-century poet who wrote about her desire for women.
* Gladys Bentley, Harlem blues singer who challenged restrictive cross-dressing laws in the 1920s.
* Bayard Rustin, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s close friend, civil rights organizer, and an openly gay man.
* Sylvia Rivera, cofounder of STAR, the first transgender activist group in the US in 1970.
* Kiyoshi Kuromiya, civil rights and antiwar activist who fought for people living with AIDS.
* Jamie Nabozny, activist who took his LGBTQ school bullying case to the Supreme Court.
* Aidan DeStefano, teen who brought a federal court case for trans-inclusive bathroom policies. 
* And many more!

With over 60 illustrations and photos, a glossary, and a corresponding curriculum, A Queer History of the United States for Young People will be vital for teachers who want to introduce a new perspective to America’s story.

Rise by Ellen Goodlett (ISBN-13: 9780316515351 Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Publication date: 06/11/2019 Series: Rule Series #2)

Dark pasts and forbidden romances haunt three ambitious sisters as they fight to inherit the throne in this sequel to Rule, which New York Timesbestselling author Elly Blake called “dazzling” and “pulse-pounding.”

Sisters Akeylah, Ren, and Zofi are all a step closer to their dying father’s throne, a step closer to the crown that will allow one of them to rule over Kolonya. But the sisters’ pasts continue to haunt them. Each hides a secret marked with blood and betrayal, and now their blackmailer is holding nothing back. When King Andros discovers the sisters’ traitorous pasts, the consequences will shake the entire kingdom to its core.

As Kolonya’s greatest threat stalks closer and closer, weaving a web of fear and deceit around Ren, Zofi, and Akeylah, even the people they love are under suspicion. If the sisters are going to survive, they’ll have to learn to trust each other above all else and work together, not only to save themselves, but to protect everyone and everything they hold dear.

With shocking reveals and suspenseful storytelling, this breathtaking sequel to Rule will keep you guessing until the very last page.

Something Like Gravity by Amber Smith (ISBN-13: 9781534437180 Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books Publication date: 06/18/2019)

For fans of Love, Simon and Eleanor & Park, a romantic and sweet novel about a transgender boy who falls in love for the first time—and how first love changes us all—from New York Times bestselling author Amber Smith.

Chris and Maia aren’t off to a great start.

A near-fatal car accident first brings them together, and their next encounters don’t fare much better. Chris’s good intentions backfire. Maia’s temper gets the best of her.

But they’re neighbors, at least for the summer, and despite their best efforts, they just can’t seem to stay away from each other.

The path forward isn’t easy. Chris has come out as transgender, but he’s still processing a frightening assault he survived the year before. Maia is grieving the loss of her older sister and trying to find her place in the world without her. Falling in love was the last thing on either of their minds.

But would it be so bad if it happened anyway?

All of Us with Wings by Michelle Ruiz Keil (ISBN-13: 9781641290340 Publisher: Soho Press, Incorporated Publication date: 06/18/2019)

Michelle Ruiz Keil’s YA fantasy debut about love, found family, and healing is an ode to post-punk San Francisco through the eyes of a Mexican-American girl.

Seventeen-year-old Xochi is alone in San Francisco, running from her painful past: the mother who abandoned her, the man who betrayed her. Then one day, she meets Pallas, a precocious twelve-year-old who lives with her rockstar family in one of the city’s storybook Victorians. Xochi accepts a position as Pallas’s live-in governess and quickly finds her place in the girl’s tight-knit household, which operates on a free-love philosophy and easy warmth despite the band’s growing fame. 

But on the night of the Vernal Equinox, as a concert afterparty rages in the house below, Xochi and Pallas perform a riot-grrrl ritual in good fun, accidentally summoning a pair of ancient beings bound to avenge the wrongs of Xochi’s past. She would do anything to preserve her new life, but with the creatures determined to exact vengeance on those who’ve hurt her, no one is safe—not the family Xochi’s chosen, nor the one she left behind.

Last Bus to Everland by Sophie Cameron (ISBN-13: 9781250149930 Publisher: Roaring Brook Press Publication date: 06/18/2019)

From Sophie Cameron, the author of Out of the Blue, comes a novel of magic, adventure, and what it means to truly belong.

Brody Fair feels like nobody gets him: not his overworked parents, not his genius older brother, and definitely not the girls in the projects set on making his life miserable. Then he meets Nico, an art student who takes Brody to Everland, a “knock-off Narnia” that opens its door at 11:21pm each Thursday for Nico and his band of present-day misfits and miscreants.

Here Brody finds his tribe and a weekly respite from a world where he feels out of place. But when the doors to Everland begin to disappear, Brody is forced to make a decision: He can say goodbye to Everland and to Nico, or stay there and risk never seeing his family again. Will Nico take the last bus to Everland?

Technically, You Started It by Lana Wood Johnson (ISBN-13: 9781338335460 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 06/25/2019)

A hilarious, snarky, and utterly addicting #ownvoices debut that explores friendship, sexual orientation, mental health, and falling in love (even if things might be falling apart around you).

When a guy named Martin Nathaniel Munroe II texts you, it should be obvious who you’re talking to. Except there’s two of them (it’s a long story), and Haley thinks she’s talking to the one she doesn’t hate.

A question about a class project rapidly evolves into an all-consuming conversation. Haley finds that Martin is actually willing to listen to her weird facts and unusual obsessions, and Martin feels like Haley is the first person to really see who he is. Haley and Martin might be too awkward to hang out in real life, but over text, they’re becoming addicted to each other.

There’s just one problem: Haley doesn’t know who Martin is. And Martin doesn’t know that Haley doesn’t know. But they better figure it out fast before their meet-cute becomes an epic meet-disaster . . .

July 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Impossible Distance to Fall by Miriam McNamara (ISBN-13: 9781510735453 Publisher: Sky Pony Publication date: 07/02/2019)

A story about falling—falling from grace, falling in love—as well as soaring to heights you wouldn’t know were possible if you never stepped out into thin air.

A story about falling—falling from grace, falling in love—as well as soaring to heights you wouldn’t know were possible if you never stepped out into thin air.

It’s 1930, and Birdie William’s life has crashed along with the stock market. Her father’s bank has failed, and worse, he’s disappeared along with his Jenny biplane.

When Birdie sees a leaflet for a barnstorming circus with a picture of Dad’s plane on it, she goes to Coney Island in search of answers.

The barnstorming circus has lady pilots, daredevil stuntmen, fire-spinners, and wing walkers, and Birdie is instantly enchanted—especially with a girl pilot named June. Birdie doesn’t find her father, but after stumbling across clues that suggest he’s gone to Chicago, she figures she’ll hitch a ride with the traveling circus doing what she does best: putting on a convincing act and insisting on being star of the show.

But the overconfidence that made her belle of the ball during her enchanted youth turns out to be far too reckless without the safety net of her charmed childhood, and a couple of impulsive missteps sends her and her newfound community spinning into freefall.

Wilder Girls by Rory Power (ISBN-13: 9780525645580 Publisher: Random House Children’s Books Publication date: 07/09/2019)

A feminist Lord of the Flies about three best friends living in quarantine at their island boarding school, and the lengths they go to uncover the truth of their confinement when one disappears. This fresh, new debut is a mind-bending novel unlike anything you’ve read before.

It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.

It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.

But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.

The Boy and Girl Who Broke the World by Amy Reed (ISBN-13: 9781481481762 Publisher: Simon Pulse Publication date: 07/09/2019)

The Astonishing Color of After meets Eleanor & Park in this breathtaking and beautifully surreal story about a friendship between two teens that just might shake the earth around them or at the very least make them face some painful truths about the nature of what drives us apart…and what brings us together.

Billy Sloat and Lydia Lemon don’t have much in common, unless you count growing up on the same (wrong) side of the tracks, the lack of a mother, and a persistent loneliness that has inspired creative coping mechanisms.

When the lives of these two loners are thrust together, Lydia’s cynicism is met with Billy’s sincere optimism, and both begin to question their own outlook on life. On top of that, weird happenings including an impossible tornado and an all-consuming fog are cropping up around them—maybe even because of them. And as the two grow closer and confront bigger truths about their pasts, they must also deal with such inconveniences as a narcissistic rock star, a war between unicorns and dragons, and eventually, of course, the apocalypse. 

With a unique mix of raw emotion, humor, and heart, the surreal plotline pulls readers through an epic exploration of how caring for others makes us vulnerable—and how utterly pointless life would be if we didn’t.

Me Myself & Him by Christopher Tebbetts (ISBN-13: 9781524715229 Publisher: Random House Children’s Books Publication date: 07/09/2019)

Perfect for fans of Becky Albertali’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and A. S. King’s Still Life with Tornado, this story of parallel time lines cleverly explores how our choices can change and shape us—as well as the ways in which choices don’t change the core of our being at all.

When Chris Schweitzer takes a hit of whippets and passes out face first on the cement, his nose isn’t the only thing that changes forever. Instead of staying home with his friends for the last summer after high school, he’s shipped off to live with his famous physicist but royal jerk of a father to prove he can “play by the rules” before Dad will pay for college. 

Or . . . not.

In an alternate time line, Chris’s parents remain blissfully ignorant about the accident, and life at home goes back to normal—until it doesn’t. A new spark between his two best (straight) friends quickly turns Chris into a (gay) third wheel, and even worse, the truth about the whippets incident starts to unravel. As his summer explodes into a million messy pieces, Chris wonders how else things might have gone. Is it possible to be jealous of another version of yourself in an alternate reality that doesn’t even exist? 

With musings on fate, religion, parallel universes, and the best way to eat a cinnamon roll, Me Myself & Him examines how what we consider to be true is really just one part of the much (much) bigger picture.

Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells (ISBN-13: 9781534437906 Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers Publication date: 07/30/2019)

A determined young woman sets out to rescue her kidnapped girlfriend by stealing a dragon from the corrupt emperor in this stunning fantasy debut that’s perfect for fans of Margaret Rogerson, Rae Carson, and Rachel Hartman.

Raised among the ruins of a conquered mountain nation, Maren dreams only of sharing a quiet life with her girlfriend Kaia—until the day Kaia is abducted by the Aurati, prophetic agents of the emperor, and forced to join their ranks. Desperate to save her, Maren hatches a plan to steal one of the emperor’s coveted dragons and storm the Aurati stronghold.

If Maren is to have any hope of succeeding, she must become an apprentice to the Aromatory—the emperor’s mysterious dragon trainer. But Maren is unprepared for the dangerous secrets she uncovers: rumors of a lost prince, a brewing rebellion, and a prophecy that threatens to shatter the empire itself. Not to mention the strange dreams she’s been having about a beast deep underground…

With time running out, can Maren survive long enough to rescue Kaia from impending death? Or could it be that Maren is destined for something greater than she could have ever imagined?


Teen Services 101: So You Want to Do Teen Programming, but What About the Books?

On Monday as part of our ongoing Teen Services 101 discussion we talked specifically about teen programming in public libraries and I said something kind of controversial: It’s hard to host a successful teen book discussion group/club in a public library. Note I didn’t say it’s impossible, but I did say it was hard and I stand by that statement. But there are a lot of ways that you can tie reading and literature into programming and today I’m going to share a few of my favorites.

Popular Book/Book Character Events

I’m old enough to remember when Harry Potter parties were the biggest game in town. I’ve also hosted Rick Riordan inspired Olympians camps, Hunger Games events, and Divergent programs, just to name a few. When The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants was big we literally sent a pair of blue jeans around to all the branches and had teens sign them. An Alice in Wonderland inspired mad hatter tea party is a blast! There are so many ways that you can tie books in with programming.

An Alice in Wonderland quote put into a graphic and made into a t-shirt. I told you, I’ve made a lot of t-shirts for teen programs. I did not, for the record, design this graphic.

You can find tie-in events to go with any book. Does the main character do photoraphy? Have a photo making event or paint photo frames. Does the main character sing? Have a karoake party. Take, for example, the graphic novel The Cardboard Kingdom. The title alone is a great event, just have tweens and teens create mini-kingdoms out of cardboard or have them make cardboard armor. You can use MakeDo kits to help make this happen. Find things within the book to inspire activities for your book based events.

A teen models a cardboard helmet made by Morgan, TMS Assistant at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County

If you’re feeling uninspired, you can go by the standby of trivia and viewing parties (as long as you have a public performance license). Or use the elements of the book to create your own Escape Room.

Book Inspired Crafts

I like to tie reading and the YA collection to various craft activities. For example, I’m a big fan of digital media and I have taught teens how to create their own memes and put their favorite quotes on them. I’ve also challenged teens to turn their photos into their own interpretations of their favorite book covers. You can do a lot with a smart phone and a few apps.

Almost any craft activity can be book themed if you add a quote or an image that represents a book.

Just a few of the various book related crafts you can do:

  • Put your favorite quote on a meme using digital media
  • Put your favorite book quote on a blank canvas
  • Make a triptych to describe your favorite book by taking a series of 3 pictures that represent the book
  • Use digital media to make book trading cards
  • Use stop motion or video creation software to create your own book trailers
  • Put your favorite book quote on a book tote or t-shirt
  • Make postcards inspired by your favorite books
  • Make a specific book themed photo booth. For example, you can make Harry Potter props for a Harry Potter themed photo booth
  • Or make a Book Face photo booth

Making Mini Books

There are tons of great books out there that teach you how to make your own mini books and journals. These make for fun programs that get teens thinking about books and writing. Again, you can use digital media or some other art form to put your favorite book inspired quotes on the cover.

Other Things You Can Do:

The Penguin Random House Post it Note book wall at BEA 2019
  • Make space on the wall for teens to share book recommendations via Post It Notes
  • Book spine poetry
  • Black out poetry
  • Turn book covers and graphic novel pages into buttons with a button maker
  • Use a comic book app or blank comic book pages and graphic novel panels to have teens create their own comics and graphic novels
  • Want to promote historical fiction? Host a retro party with retro crafts, games and activities. Books set in the 1980s are now historical fiction, so have fun with that!
  • Want to promote fantasy? Dragon crafts, fairy gardens and DIY crowns are just a few of the activities that you can do
  • Want to promote science fiction? Galaxy slime, galaxy jars and DIY lava lamps are just a few of the activities that you can do

There are over 100 teen programs outlined here at TLT and many of them can easily be given a book related spin. You can also browse through the Teen Programming tag to find ideas. Pinterest and other librarian blogs can also be your friend. I have a regular routine with a variety of blogs and library websites I check periodically to see what everyone else is doing.

When promoting your programs, be sure to put up a display of If You Liked, Try . . . book that go along with your theme. That’s another great way to tie books and reading into programming.

The truth is, every program we do can be tied in with books in some way and can be used to promote our collections and to help cultivate a lifelong interest in books and reading. Programming doesn’t have to be book clubs and discussions to be literary and promote reading. There is nothing wrong with book clubs and discussions, but we need a variety of programming to get a variety of people to engage with our collections. Programming doesn’t take away from our collections and it doesn’t prevent us from creating a book centered culture, it gets our patrons in the doors and reminds them that we have books that can be read and explored in a variety of ways.

I know you all have more great programming ideas that are book related, so please share with us in the comments. Link to any posts you’ve done, share your Pinterest boards, etc.

Teen Services 101

I’m just getting started, what do I need to be successful?

Foundations: Understanding Teens Today

What Do Teens Want from Libraries Today?

The Challenges and Rewards of Serving Teens Today

What Do We Know About Teen Programming

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2019 Showcase: Books featuring beasties, a killer flu, a changeling, and pirates

Two days after I mailed out 33 books to donate to teachers/schools, this giant box showed up. My family gets a kick out of the fact that no matter how many books I sort through and ship out, just as many appear within days, filling my office back up. The UPS driver deserves a medal for having to walk up our steep driveway almost every day.

All of the books I get end up going back out the door in some fashion—to teen readers I know, to classroom libraries of friends, to my own school, my kid’s school, or in giveaways. I can’t read/review every book I get, but it’s fun to be able to sift through boxes and see what grabs my attention, and to see what books will find loving new homes with the right reader.

Today I’m sharing with you forthcoming titles from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All annotations are from the publisher. Watch my Twitter (@CiteSomething) for giveaways, where some of these titles will be included! 

Midnight Beauties by Megan Shepherd (ISBN-13: 9781328811905 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 08/13/2019 Series: Grim Lovelies Series)

The witches, beasties, goblins, and Royals return in this spellbinding conclusion to New York Times best-selling author Megan Shepherd’s Grim Lovelies duology.

Ever since she discovered her affinity for magic, seventeen-year-old Anouk has been desperate to become a witch. It’s the only way to save her friends who, like Anouk, are beasties: animals enchanted into humans. But unlike Anouk, the other beasties didn’t make it out of the battle at Montélimar in one piece.

With her friends now trapped in their animal forms, Anouk is forced into a sinister deal involving a political marriage with her sworn enemy, a wicked plot to overthrow London’s fiercest coven of witches, and a deadly trial of fire to become a witch. The price for power has always been steep in the world of the Haute. Now, it will cost Anouk everything.

Wicked and delightful, this spellbinding sequel and conclusion to Grim Lovelies is perfect for fans of The Cruel Prince and The Hazel Wood.

Fever Year: The Killer Flu of 1918 by Don Brown (ISBN-13: 9780544837409 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 09/03/2019)

From the Sibert honor-winning creator behind The Unwanted and Drowned City comes a graphic novel of one of the darkest episodes in American history: the Spanish Influenza epidemic of 1918.

New Year’s Day, 1918. America has declared war on Germany and is gathering troops to fight. But there’s something coming that is deadlier than any war.

When people begin to fall ill, most Americans don’t suspect influenza. The flu is known to be dangerous to the very old, young, or frail. But the Spanish flu is exceptionally violent. Soon, thousands of people succumb. Then tens of thousands . . . hundreds of thousands and more. Graves can’t be dug quickly enough.

What made the influenza of 1918 so exceptionally deadly—and what can modern science help us understand about this tragic episode in history? With a journalist’s discerning eye for facts and an artist’s instinct for true emotion, Sibert Honor recipient Don Brown sets out to answer these questions and more in Fever Year.

Only Ashes Remain by Rebecca Schaeffer (ISBN-13: 9781328863553 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 09/03/2019 Series: Market of Monsters Series #2)

Dexter meets Victoria Schwab in this dark and compelling fantasy about a girl who seeks revenge on the boy who betrayed her, a sequel to the critically-acclaimed Not Even Bones.

After escaping her kidnappers and destroying the black market where she was held captive, all Nita wants is to find a way to live her life without looking over her shoulder. But with a video of her ability to self-heal all over the dark web, Nita knows she’s still a prime target on the black market. There’s only one way to keep herself safe. Nita must make herself so feared that no one would ever dare come after her again. And the best way to start building her reputation? Take her revenge on Fabricio, the boy who sold Nita to her kidnappers. But killing Fabricio is harder than Nita thought it would be, even with Kovit by her side. Now caught in a game of kill or be killed, Nita will do whatever it takes to win.

Guest: A Changeling Tale by Mary Downing Hahn (ISBN-13: 9780358067313 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 09/03/2019)

From the master of spookiness, Mary Downing Hahn. When malicious sprites called the Kinde Folke snatch Mollie’s baby brother and replace him with a hideous changeling, Mollie travels through eerie, perilous lands to save him.

When her adorable baby brother is replaced by an ugly, ill-tempered changeling, Mollie is determined to find the so-called Kinde Folke who took baby Thomas, return the changeling she calls Guest, and make them give Thomas back. Natural and magical obstacles and her own reckless temperament make her journey arduous and full of dangers, and a plot rich in surprises and twists makes this book a must-read for Mary Downing Hahn’s fans.

The Vanderbeekers to the Rescue by Karina Yan Glaser (ISBN-13: 9781328577573 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 09/17/2019)

NYT Bestselling series! Harlem’s favorite family returns in the third installment in the Vanderbeerkers series, wherein the Vanderbeeker kids find themselves racing to save their mother’s baking business from city closure. Illustrated with delightful black and white illustrations.

For the Vanderbeeker kids of Harlem’s 141st Street, spring break couldn’t be off to a better start. Isa’s back from band camp, Oliver’s building his first-ever treehouse in the backyard of the brownstone, and Laney, Jess, and Hyacinth are excited to help their mother when she gets the once-in-a-lifetime chance to star in a cooking magazine.

But the Vanderbeekers’ plans go off the rails when an unexpected visit from city officials puts their mother’s bakery in jeopardy. Now they’ll have to band together to save the day before they’re out of business. Perfect for fans of The Penderwicks and Front Desk.

Endangered Operation by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (ISBN-13: 9781328629074 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 10/01/2019 Series: Carmen Sandiego Choose-Your-Own Capers Series)

Join Carmen Sandiego and decide where in the world to go next in this globe-trotting, daring caper! Help Carmen save wild animals of all kinds, especially the rare Amur tiger cub kidnapped from you by VILE. With 20 possible endings, your adventures can take you all over the world—or out of the game. Which will you choose?

In this choose-your-own-caper story set in the world of Carmen Sandiego, you are a junior zookeeper caring for a rare newborn Amur tiger cub. VILE, in its latest plot, is stealing exotic animals to sell to a billionaire collector, and your charge is cub-napped! Carmen arrives and you decide the best way to get your cub back is to help her defeat VILE and rescue all the animals they’ve captured. Or do you? Twenty different endings to this story keep readers coming back for more adventures with Carmen Sandiego!

Emmy in the Key of Code by Aimee Lucido (ISBN-13: 9780358040828 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 09/24/2019)

In this innovative middle grade novel, coding and music take center stage as new girl Emmy tries to find her place in a new school. Perfect for fans of GIRLS WHO CODE series and THE CROSSOVER.

In a new city, at a new school, twelve-year-old Emmy has never felt more out of tune. Things start to look up when she takes her first coding class, unexpectedly connecting with the material—and Abigail, a new friend—through a shared language: music. But when Emmy gets bad news about their computer teacher, and finds out Abigail isn’t being entirely honest about their friendship, she feels like her new life is screeching to a halt. Despite these obstacles, Emmy is determined to prove one thing: that, for the first time ever, she isn’t a wrong note, but a musician in the world’s most beautiful symphony.

Anya and the Dragon by Sofiya Pasternack (ISBN-13: 9780358006077 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 09/24/2019)

This lush tale of magic and dragons is a gem for any adventure-seeking middle grader and perfect for fans of Aru Shah and the End of Time.

Anya and the Dragon is the story of fantasy and mayhem in tenth century Eastern Europe, where headstrong eleven-year-old Anya is a daughter of the only Jewish family in her village. When her family’s livelihood is threatened by a bigoted magistrate, Anya is lured in by a friendly family of fools, who promise her money in exchange for helping them capture the last dragon in Kievan Rus. This seems easy enough, until she finds out that the scary old dragon isn’t as old—or as scary—as everyone thought. Now Anya is faced with a choice: save the dragon, or save her family.


Lintang and the Pirate Queen by Tamara Moss (ISBN-13: 9781328460301 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 10/15/2019)

Gutsy girls and strong women make up the diverse and appealing crew of a pirate ship that battles intrigue and deadly monsters in an action-filled fantasy adventure.

“Combine a pirate adventure of mythic proportions, a uniquely charming cast of characters, and a vivid new fantasy world and you get Lintang and the Pirate Queen. Magical, inventive, and positively unforgettable.”—Marissa Meyer, bestselling author of The Lunar Chronicles

Lintang is an island girl who longs for daring and danger. When she meets the feared pirate, Captain Shira, and her all-female crew, Lintang is determined to join them. Secrets within secrets, life-or-death battles with spectacular monsters, and hair’s breadth escapes keep readers turning the pages of a story populated by women of color who are fighters, adventurers, and leaders.

Santa’s Puppy by Catherine Hapka (ISBN-13: 9780358051848 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 10/15/2019)

Homeward Bound meets Elf in this heartwarming tale for the whole family. Can Chris, Holly, and Ivy help Santa’s dog Peppermint Bark jingle all the way home to the North Pole before Christmas Day ends?

For 364 days of the year, Santa and his best friend, Peppermint Bark, are inseparable. Santa’s fluffy white dog helps herd the reindeer, keep tabs on the elves, and check the list—twice. But though Peppermint Bark asks every Christmas, he never gets to join Santa on his sleigh ride around the world. Until the dog decides to stow away . . .

When eight- and eleven-year-old Chris and Holly Kerstman discover a small white dog wedged in their chimney on Christmas morning, they can’t imagine where he came from, until he tells them. Peppermint Bark is unlike any dog they and Holly’s best friend, Ivy, have ever met: His breath smells of mint, faint jingle bells can be heard when he wags his tail, and he can talk! He tells the kids all about his secret sleigh ride and how he got accidentally left behind on their rooftop, but when it comes to answering the question of how he’ll get home to the North Pole, Peppermint Bark is stumped. It’s up to the kids to work together to get Peppermint Bark home before the last magical portal to the North Pole closes at midnight on Christmas Day. A Christmas tale with enough heartwarming moments and heart-pounding action to entertain the entire family this holiday!

A Talent for Trouble by Natasha Farrant (ISBN-13: 9781328580788 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 11/19/2019)

A girl determined to follow her dream persuades two friends to join her for an off-the-grid adventure that becomes a survival story as they confront storms, illness, injury, and a gang of international jewel thieves.

Desperate to meet up with her unpredictable father, quiet Alice persuades two friends to abandon their boarding school’s orienteering exercise and head for a remote, inaccessible island. As they confront storms, illness, injury, and a gang of international jewel thieves, the quest tests their courage and loyalty and strengthens the bonds of friendship. Readers will cheer the runaways on, laugh with them at their foibles, and share Alice’s pleasure in overcoming the obstacles that stand in her way. This combination adventure, school story, and family story will delight fans of all three genres.

Dog Driven by Terry Lynn Johnson (ISBN-13: 9781328551597 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 12/03/2019)

From the author of Ice Dogs, comes a riveting adventure about a musher who sets out to prove her impaired vision won’t hold her back from competing in a rigorous sled race through the Canadian wilderness. Perfect for fans of Gary Paulsen.

McKenna Barney is trying to hide her worsening eyesight and has been isolating herself for the last year. But at the request of her little sister, she signs up for a commemorative mail run race in the Canadian wilderness—a race she doesn’t know if she can even see to run. 

Winning would mean getting her disease—and her sister’s—national media coverage, but it would also pit McKenna and her team of eight sled dogs against racers from across the globe for three days of shifting lake ice, sudden owl attacks, snow squalls, and bitterly cold nights.

 A page-turning adventure about living with disability and surviving the wilderness, Dog Driven is the story of one girl’s self-determination and the courage it takes to trust in others.

Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things by Jacqueline Firkins (ISBN-13: 9781328635198nPublisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 12/17/2019

In this charming debut about first love and second chances, a young girl gets caught between the boy next door and a playboy. Perfect for fans of To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

Mansfield, Massachusetts, is the last place seventeen-year-old Edie Price wants to spend her final summer before college.  It’s the home of wealthy suburban mothers and prima donnas like Edie’s cousins, who are determined to distract her from her mother’s death with cute boys and Cinderella-style makeovers. She’s got her own plans, and they don’t include any prince charming.

But as she dives into schoolwork and getting a scholarship for college, Edie finds herself drawn to two Mansfield boys strumming for her attention: First, there’s Sebastian, Edie’s childhood friend and first love, who’s sweet and smart and . . . already has a girlfriend. Then there’s Henry, the local bad boy and all-around player who’s totally off limits—even if his kisses are chemically addictive.

Both boys are trouble. Edie can’t help herself from being caught between them. Now, she just has to make sure it isn’t her heart that breaks in the process.

The Mystwick School of Musicraft by Jessica Khoury (ISBN-13: 9781328625632 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 01/21/2020)

Humor and heart shine in this middle-grade fantasy about a girl who attends a boarding school to learn how to use music to create magic, perfect for fans of Nevermoor and The School for Good and Evil series.

Amelia Jones always dreamed of attending the Mystwick School of Musicraft, where the world’s most promising musicians learn to create magic. So when Amelia botches her audition, she thinks her dream has met an abrupt and humiliating end—until the school agrees to give her a trial period. Amelia is determined to prove herself, vowing to do whatever it takes to become the perfect musician. Even if it means pretending to be someone she isn’t. Meanwhile, a mysterious storm is brewing that no one, not even the maestros at Mystwick, is prepared to contain. Can Amelia find the courage to be true to herself in time to save her beloved school from certain destruction?

The Stars We Steal by Alexa Donne ( ISBN-13: 9781328948946 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 02/04/2020)

Engagement season is in the air. Eighteen-year-old Princess Leonie “Leo” Kolburg, heir to a faded European spaceship, only has one thing on her mind: which lucky bachelor can save her family from financial ruin? 

But when Leo’s childhood friend and first love Elliot returns as the captain of a successful whiskey ship, everything changes. Elliot was the one that got away, the boy Leo’s family deemed to be unsuitable for marriage. Now, he’s the biggest catch of the season and he seems determined to make Leo’s life miserable. But old habits die hard, and as Leo navigates the glittering balls of the Valg Season, she finds herself failing for her first love in a game of love, lies, and past regrets.


Ink in the Blood by Kim Smejkal (ISBN-13: 9781328557056 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 02/11/2020)

A lush, dark YA fantasy debut that weaves together tattoo magic, faith, and eccentric theater in a world where lies are currency and ink is a weapon, perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Kendare Blake.

Celia Sand and her best friend, Anya Burtoni, are inklings for the esteemed religion of Profeta. Using magic, they tattoo followers with beautiful images that represent the Divine’s will and guide the actions of the recipients. It’s considered a noble calling, but ten years into their servitude Celia and Anya know the truth: Profeta is built on lies, the tattooed orders strip away freedom, and the revered temple is actually a brutal, torturous prison.

Their opportunity to escape arrives with the Rabble Mob, a traveling theater troupe. Using their inkling abilities for performance instead of propaganda, Celia and Anya are content for the first time . . . until they realize who followed them. The Divine they never believed in is very real, very angry, and determined to use Celia, Anya, and the Rabble Mob’s now-infamous stage to spread her deceitful influence even further.

To protect their new family from the wrath of a malicious deity and the zealots who work in her name, Celia and Anya must unmask the biggest lie of all—Profeta itself.

Teen Services 101: What Do We Know About Teen Programming?

Today I am ready to resume our Teen Services 101 discussion (I’ll put all the previous posts at the end of this one) by talking about Teen Programming. Programming, as you know, is an important part of teen services. Here we discuss some of our thoughts regarding teen programming. I am specifically going to share with you some things that we – and here by we I mean teen librarians who answered an online survey – have found to be true of teen programming likes and dislikes. Specifically, in broad categories, I’m going to share with you what is often most successful and what is often least successful when it comes to teen programming in public libraries. Please keep in mind that there are always outliers and exceptions, but as a general rule, this is what we find tends to work or not with teens and programming.

How this data was collated: 1) Around 50 teen/YA librarians responded to a very informal poll and discussion about what has worked or not worked for them regarding teen programming, 2) this list was then vetted by 10 of my closest peers and respected YA/teen services librarians, and 3) this has been proven true time and time again in my 26 years of working with teens. It’s a curated list of best practices presented to you with the knowledge that as with all things, it’s not a hard and fast rule, but it is a good reference point.

Things that typically prove successful with teens and programming

Programs that offer opportunities for self-expression

There is a reason that I know 22 different ways to make a t-shirt: t-shirts are a great way to get teens engaged with making and programming while also giving them an opportunity for self expression. Poetry, journals, digital media, etc – these are all programs that have been successful for me time and time again. Teens are going through a tremendous amount of identity exploration and they seem to enjoy creative opportunities where they can embrace and express who they are.

The Teen making a T-shirt bag in the Teen MakerSpace

Popular culture tie-ins

Some of my most popular and well attended programs have been Harry Potter, Doctor Who and Sherlock related. The trick is you have to pay attention to what your teens are into and strike while the iron is hot. Sometimes this means putting together a quick, last minute program. Cindy Shutts recently shared a WWE program that she did with her teens, something that would not have occurred to me but demonstrates the value of knowing your teens and responding to their interests in a timely manner. Take a few moments each day to talk with your teens, discover what they love, and tie your programming into these things. This simple act communicates respect and value while inviting your teens to have fun with you in the library.

Escape rooms

Escape rooms are fun ways to get teens into the library to work together as teams and engage in creatively problem solving while having fun. I find these to be slightly similar to interactive murder mysteries, which I have also successfully hosted in the past. There is something fun about solving puzzles, following a trail of clues, and trying to escape a room or solve a mystery.

Maker programs

You do not have to have a dedicated makerspace to host a maker program. In fact, a large amount of teen program has always been maker related. Crafting, DIY – it’s all a maker program and they are popular for a reason. The best part about maker programs is that teens usually have something to take home with them. Also, they are another way to get teens engaged in creative self-expression as mentioned above.

Craft programs

See above. Crafting is making – and it is popular. A bulk of my programming over the past 26 has involved crafting or marking of some type in large part because that is what has always been the most attended type of programming for me. Also, most people like having something fun to take home.

Gaming (tabletop and electronic)

Gaming of any variety has always been fun and popular with teens. It’s not necessarily quiet, so chose your space and time accordingly. There is a ton of research out there about the various benefits of both types of gaming and I urge you to look into it if you need to make a defense to admin about why gaming should be a part of your teen programming.

Trivia events

I love a good trivia night! Stump the librarian, popular culture trivia nights, general trivia nights – there are a lot of ways you can incoporate trivia events into your teen programming. They can be an event in and of themselve or a part of a wider themed event. For example, most Harry Potter programs usually have a trivia component to them. I highly recommend hosting trivia events with your teens.

Life size games

I was turned on to life size games when Heather Booth blogged here about Life Size Angry Birds. I repeated that program multiple times while the game was popular and it is a lot of fun. I have seen various posts about life size chess, Candy Land, Hungry Hungry Hippos and more. These games are fun because they make something little quite big and tap into childhood nostalgia.

Childhood nostalgia

When one of my previous makerspace assistants suggested that we put a perler bead station in the makerspace, I argued that it was too juvenile for teens. I was proven wrong. Time and time again my teens remind me that as they sit on the cusp between childhood and adulthood, they often like to do things that are childlike or remind them of their childhood. Sometimes teens just want a moment to dive back into the carefree moments of their childhood.

Food

I have mixed feelings about food and programming. One in twelve people has a food allergy, some of them life threatening, and my child is one of them. I hate the way everything in our world is food based as it can exclude a lot of people. At the same time, I know that 1 in 5 children goes to bed hungry so having food at a program, even in a fun way, can be a great way to help address this situation. And food based programming is fun and popular. Cupcake Wars like events have proven popular for me, for example. What I would recommend here is to be mindful of food allergies – know what the top 8 food allergens are – and make sure and provide a variety of options so that participants can partake safely. You’ll want to make sure your advertising makes it clear that food will be present and keep all packaging so participants can look at the ingredients listings if necessary. Also, because of the prevalence of deadly peanut allergies, I highly recommend not having any peanuts or peanut butter. You’ll also want to be aware of what the food handling laws in your immediate area are before introducing food at your library.

Things that typically prove unsuccessful with teens and programming in public libraries

So what doesn’t work as well when it comes to teens and library programming? Well, we’re going to talk about that. And I’m sorry to say, I’m going to have a moment of heresy here.

Teen book clubs in public libraries (more successful in school libraries)

I feel like this is heresy to say, but in my experience it is very hard to host a successful teen book club in a public library. It’s not impossible, I know, for example, that Amanda MacGregor has hosted a successful book club both in the public and now in the school library. I have tried and failed to start three book clubs at three different locations. I know only a handful of public librarians that have led successful book clubs in a public library setting. Many respondents to my survey have also indicated that they too have been unsuccessful at book discussion clubs/groups. Those that are successful indicated that they partnered with the local school and did it on the school grounds and teachers offered extra credit for participating. Like I said, your mileage may vary, but I definitely wouldn’t start with this if you are trying to start putting together some teen programming.

So what about the books? We’re going to talk more on Wednesday about how to tie books and reading into our teen programming in creative ways.

Information sessions/lecture type programs

Again, there are always exceptions here, but on the whole, teens seem the least interested in attending information sessions or lecture type programs. I know that Heather Booth has hosted some well attended career panels, proving that this is not a hard and fast rule. Irving Public Library hosts author panel discussions that have well over 100 teens in attendance. But over the course of 26 years, my least attended programs have always been something that was more education based.

Things without a lot of personal choices involved

I have also found that the more personal choice a teen has, the more successful a teen program will be. For example, if you are going to host a craft program, consider offering a choice of five programs instead of one so that a teen can choose what they do within that time and space. Having some stations as opposed to one activity chosen and dictated by an adult seems to have more teen appeal. Whenever you can in whatever way you can, open up your teen programming to allow teens to make more personal choices within that time and space. We all like restaurants that have more on the menu as opposed to less, so think of programming in the same way.

Things that feel too much like more hours in school

The number one response I got when I asked my fellow teen/YA librarians about teen programming was this: it can’t be anything like school. By the time our teens come into the public library, they have already spent eight hours in school and the last thing they want is to be involved in anything that resembles school. I’m not saying here that programming can’t, isn’t or shouldn’t be educational, what I am saying is that it should help teens achieve educational goals in fun ways. But also, keep in mind, teens deserve recreational opportunities and downtime just as much as any other group.

And there you have it, a brief overview of what overwhelmingly tends to work and not work when it comes to teen programming in public libraries. As I mentioned in my introduction, there are always exceptions. These are not hard and fast rules, they are more here’s what we know and think based on experience and current best practices. Your mileage may vary and you should definitely do what works best for your patrons.

What tips, tricks, stories and experiences do you have to share with us? Please comment below and share your thoughts.

Teen Services 101

I’m just getting started, what do I need to be successful?

Foundations: Understanding Teens Today

What Do Teens Want from Libraries Today?

The Challenges and Rewards of Serving Teens Today