Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Take 5: TV Shows to Inspire Teen Programs

Some of my favorite teen programs have come from TV shows. Remember Minute to Win It? That was a great source of teen programming because it consisted of just putting together a bunch of 60 second challenges and tying them in with something that was already popular. Other TV shows that have inspired teen programs for me have included Top Chef, Cupcake Wars and Jeopardy. But there are some new shows out there that I’m itching to turn into teen programs.

Making It

I love this show. It is without a doubt trying to be the American Version of The Great British Bake Off, but with crafting, and I’m all for it. My family and I are huge GBBO fans, as are many of the teens I talk to. Making It takes the same type of premise but incorporates making/crafting and it’s in a barn instead of a tent. But the challenges are interesting: make a theme wall that tells us something about who you are, decorate a mailbox, make a home for some type of animal.

One of the recent episodes had pairs working together to make costumes. My favorite was Wok and Roll, which involved one person dressing up as a wok and the other as a piece of sushi. This challenge was obviously Chopped inspired (we’ll get to that show in a minute) as it involved a basket full of 5 craft supplies and each team had to use at least 3 items out of the basket. This is a great idea for cleaning out your craft closet of all those miscellaneous supplies!

What I like about this show is that it is a series of challenged for a season and then you take a break. Be inspired by the challenges and use them as jumping off points. But also, I like the idea of having a short series of making/craft programs and then taking a break and having another season.


Speaking of Chopped . . . Chopped has been on for years now, but I have always loved the premise: Here’s a basket full of miscellaneous ingredients, figure out something to do with all of them. You could do this with food or crafting, as mentioned above. The premise is key here: here’s a mystery basket full of stuff, now do something with it. As I mentioned, using the premise for a crafting/making type program definitely is a good way to empty your craft closet of all those miscellaneous supplies. You could do cupcake decorating, cookie decorating, toy mashup programs, etc.

Get Out of My Room

Universal Kids (I just recently learned there was a Universal Kids channel!) has a show called Get Out of My Room which is a room makeover show for tweens. It’s basically the Property Brothers meets Trading Spaces for pre-teens, kind of. In it, siblings who share a room each get their own room designed around their personality and then they make craft projects to decorate their siblings rooms. In one episode, for example, one sister made homemade marquee initials for her Hollywood loving sister’s wall. So there are some easy and affordable craft projects and tips tucked into each show.

Another one of my favorite repeat teen programs that I have done is called Renovate Your Room. In it I invite a local decorator to come and share some basics of decorating. We then cut apart magazines and make mood boards and layouts for our dream room. I then have one small activity that teens can do and take home. For example, you can paint light switch covers or turn old magazine holders that your library is going to discard into cool desk accessories. I’ve even turned old cassette tapes, plastic cups and floppy disks into night lights and pen holders.


Remember when we were kids and your brother would pretend to hit you and if you flinched you got “two for flinching?” No, was that just my brother? Well, the old art of trying to get someone to flinch has been turned into a truly horrific gameshow on Netflix. To be honest, I truly hate the way it’s done because it involves things like low grade electrocuting people and dumping things on them. The contestants are clearly consenting, but it’s the type of challenges that are implemented that don’t sit right with me. My teens love it, but I’m not it’s biggest fan.

Here’s how it works. Contestants are put through a variety of tests and they are supposed to not flinch. Some of the tests are pretty benign. For example, a train goes past that with foul smells and you have to sit there while the train passes by and not flinch at the foul odors. When you flinch you are out. The last person standing without flinching wins. Unfortunately, not all of the challenges or so benign and that is why the show is pretty controversial. I’m not endorsing the show by any means.

However, with a bit of modification and adult supervision, this could be a pretty fun program. For example, my teens love to do a lot of online challenges like the blindfold food challenge, some of which could be safely and easily incorporated into a program like this. More gentle challenges like popping balloons, opening a bunch of cans of nuts knowing that one of them is going to have a pop out snake, or even jack-in-the-boxes would certainly work. Or use your Makey Makey or Little Bits to create a sound board with buttons and some buttons create no noise and others do and the person playing has to push each button and try not to flinch when the noise happens. With a little creativity, the try not to flinch game can work and be fun.

Ellen’s Game of Games, Hollywood Game Night, Match Game, etc.

There is a renaissance of game shows happening right now on TV and there is no real shortage of inspiration to choose from. With a little adapting, they can be an incredibly fun source of tween and teen programming.

When using a TV show or movie for your programming, remember to keep copyright in mind. For example, I didn’t call my Minute to Win It inspired program series Minute to Win It – I called it the 60 Second Showdown. I have seen other libraries use the name of the show as the name of their program, but I like to make it clear that my program is inspired by a certain show while giving it a unique name just in case.

What programs have you done that have been inspired by TV shows and how did you do them? Share with us in the comments. I would love to know what other librarians are out there doing.

Friday Finds: December 6, 2019

This Week at TLT

Escaping from Reality Shows us How to Change It, a guest post by Ryan La Sala

Cindy Crushes Programming: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Escape Room

Penguin Random House Spring 2020 Showcase

Take 5: YA Lit for Teens That Love to Bake

Sunday Reflections: Teachers, Please Stop Giving Kids Homework Over School Breaks

Around the Web

‘We Wanted Our Patrons Back’ — Public Libraries Scrap Late Fines To Alleviate Inequity

The Problem with Picture Book Monkeys

Here’s What’s Happening in the American Teenage Bedroom

How Dyslexia is a Different Brain, Not a Disease

Escaping from Reality Shows Us How to Change It, a guest post by Ryan La Sala

REVERIE takes place in our world. Connecticut, to be specific. It’s a version of Connecticut you’d recognize, even if you’ve only seen postcards. We have old mills and slow rivers and vibrant autumns. The usual stuff. There is, however, one major difference. 

In REVERIE’s imagining, Connecticut is slowly being warped by a strange magic that mines the secret, subconscious worlds people build within themselves, and manifests those worlds in our reality. The characters refer to these phenomena as reveries, because that’s what they are: fantasies that superimpose themselves over our reality. Fantasies that entrap, and refuse to dislodge themselves from reality until they are appeased. 

I developed the concept of the reverie around the idea of inverting escapism. Dreams are common territory in fiction, but usually as an act of solitary, inward exploration (or prophecy, if we’re being uncanny). I love those stories but my goal with REVERIE wasn’t to dig into fantasies that one could simply wake up from. I wanted fantasies that were aggressive, and moody, and dead-set on surviving once they’d been manifested. So I created a magic that gives material form to belief, and I created a magic system that gives power to those typically rendered powerless by reality. 


By explanation, let me start with Kane, the unlikable hero of REVERIE. Kane uses escapism as a form of self-preservation. He is lonely and disenchanted with a reality that has been unkind to him, as reality often is to young queer. Kane withdraws into books, movies, and anything that provides a realm other than our own. And he’s content with this, until the sudden inheritance of power—and the ensuing responsibility—reveals to him how ill-equipped he is to navigate relationships, leadership, community, and other hallmarks of a hero. 

With Kane, I wanted to show how a person can become so insulated by daydreams that they forget how to manage the world around them. When we withdraw, the world only notes our absence for so long. It then continues on without us, and often the things that forced us to withdraw get the luxury of continuing unchecked, as we drift further into ourselves. 

Do I fault Kane for using escapism as self-preservation? Absolutely not. Fantasy’s function as refuge is very important to me. His reaction to reality is not his fault. But his inaction eventually is his fault, especially as he learns about his own ability to affect the reality around him. Eventually, running away means abandoning people he could otherwise help. Eventually, running away is not an option. 

I like this journey for Kane. His path out of himself contrasts well with his adventures into the interior worlds of other people. I think his point of view enables him to be an effective narrator to drive home an important lesson. 

Escapism isn’t always bad. Reality is a harsh place, and no one should be faulted for wanting a break. But there are people among the escaping ranks with power. People like Kane, who has the advantage of privilege, and stability, and—sure—magical reality bending magic. Maybe you don’t have Kane’s magic, but you do have his imagination. Lots of writers and bookish people share that. They spend hours in other worlds, analyzing system of magic, fantastical machinations, and mind-boggling world building. They — really we— are practically trained on both imagining a more fantastic world, but also manifesting it through bravery, heroics, honesty, and determination. 

So escapism has its educative uses, doesn’t it? From the negative of the world, it creates a technicolor solution to the reality that necessitates it. My argument, if I have one, is that escapism can be a harbinger for change. As a reaction to reality, escapism can be the exercise of deconstructing our reality’s faults, experimenting with their improvement, and ultimately devising actionable ways to create that change in our material world. The last part, the action part, is what Kane needs to learn. As a person with power, it’s up to him to find a way to bring his reality and his dreams together; to bring his dreams home, because ultimately it is reality where he must live.

A reverie is a fantasy imposed upon reality, borne from a person’s interior world. Often that interior world is much more hospitable than the world that inspires it. Reverie’s make me think of safe spaces, of shelters, of refuge. They make me think of gay bars full of pride, and libraries full of wonder. Places where the fantasy of what the world could be like kiss against the partition of what it is.

So I don’t discourage dreaming. Ever. I support escapism with my whole heart. Whether for indulgence, or comfort, or thrill, I see escapism as not just necessary, but deeply practical. Because it’s escapes that help us feel safe, and coax us towards dreaming.

And, ultimately, it’s escapes that show us the work that needs doing once we’re ready to wake up.

Meet Ryan La Sala

Photo credit: Lauren Takakjian

RYAN LA SALA grew up in Connecticut, but only physically. Mentally, he spent most of his childhood in the worlds of Sailor Moon and Xena: Warrior Princess, which perhaps explains all the twirling. He studied Anthropology and Neuroscience at Northeastern University before becoming a project manager specialized in digital tools. He technically lives in New York City, but has actually transcended material reality and only takes up a human shell for special occasions, like brunch, and to watch anime (which is banned on the astral plane). Reverie is Ryan’s debut novel. You can visit him at ryanlasala.com or follow him on Twitter @Ryality.


Inception meets The Magicians in this wildly imaginative story about what happens when the secret worlds people hide within themselves come to light.

All Kane Montgomery knows for certain is that the police found him half-dead in the river. He can’t remember anything since an accident robbed him of his memories a few weeks ago. And the world feels different—reality itself seems different.

So when three of his classmates claim to be his friends and the only people who can tell him what’s truly going on, he doesn’t know what to believe or who he can trust. But as he and the others are dragged into unimaginable worlds that materialize out of nowhere—the gym warps into a subterranean temple, a historical home nearby blooms into a Victorian romance rife with scandal and sorcery—Kane realizes that nothing in his life is an accident, and only he can stop their world from unraveling.

ISBN-13: 9781492682660
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication date: 12/03/2019

Cindy Crushes Programming: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Escape Room

Today YA Librarian Cindy Shutts is walking us through her Star Wars themed Escape Room.

To learn more about the basics of hosting an Escape Room, please check out Breakout Edu as they have basic kits that you can use as a foundation. You can also read a couple of previous posts on Escape Rooms here at TLT:

TPiB: Build an Escape Room by Michelle Biwer – Teen Librarian Toolbox

TPiB: Locked in the Library! Hosting an Escape Room by Heather Booth

Cindy Crushes Programming: Hosting a Stranger Things Escape Room

Cindy Crushes Programming: Star Wars Escape Room

Cindy Crushes Programming: Mission to Mars Escape Room

Cindy Crushes Programming: Riverdale Escape Room

Basic program premise . . .

Your teens will be “locked” in the library and in order to escape, they must unravel a mystery, find the secret codes, and “unlock” the boxes to survive or meet your end goal. Most escape rooms give participants an hour to escape.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Escape Room

Plot: An evil warlock has cursed the town of Greendale with zombiism. You have 45 minutes to find the cure.


  • You could use the Breakout Edu Kit
  • 4 digit lock
  • 3 digit lock
  • Word lock
  • Key lock and key
  • Two lock boxes
  • Directional Lock
  • Fake Spell container with the cure. I used an old perfume bottle I got that was labeled spell.
  • Spellbook
  • Black Cat (fake)
  • Random decorations: I used all the items I have in my office and around my house and the items that I use to make displays.
  • Letter from Sabrina to Harvey

Instructions: I read the prompt, so everyone knew what was going on. I also let them know they had two hints. I am always prepared to add one more hint later on if they need it.

Directional Lock: The directional lock code will be hidden in the letter from Sabrina to Harvey. The code is Up Down Right Left. I hid the letter in the large lockbox. The directional lock was on the small lockbox.

Wordlock: This is very simple the code is spell. I will have the spellbook and also Sabrina’s last name is Spellman so many things will be labeled Spellman.

4 Digit Lock: In the spellbook, I placed a spell recipe for the cure. This spell gives the code for the 4 digit lock. This lock was on the large lockbox.

Spell for Anti-Zombie

three frogs’ eyes = 6

one buck’s antlers = 2

all the legs of a spider = 8

scorpion’s pincers = 2

3 Digit Lock: I am making a fake urn box. The code will be on the urn. I added a fake label to look like the urn came from Sabrina’s family business, The Spellman Funeral Home and Crematorium. The code is 666. I used that as the date they started the business 6/66. This lock was on the large lockbox.

Red Herring: I pulled all my old documents for my Riverdale Escape Room. This was super confusing to the teens who kept looking at the old documents. This lock was on the large lockbox.

Bustle: 11 YA Books To Read if You Like the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

Epic Reads: 16 Books to Read if You Like the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

Final Thoughts: This was a challenging escape room. I made a mistake and scheduled it on a day without school. Therefore, I did not have many teens attend. The teens who attended loved it, but next time I need to make sure I schedule it for a school day.  I am trying to increase circulation. Every time I do in an Escape Room activity I use library books as decorations that are related to the topic. Teens can check them out after the Escape Room activity.

Additional Materials:

Letter to Harvey

Dear Harvey,

 I am hoping this letter finds you well. I have to meet with you in the woods. I fear there is danger coming to our town of Greendale. Plus bring the rest of the Gang with you so we can stop this evil before it begins. I will be up the road, but turn downward when you get to the cave. You must go right when you see the bear painting, but left when you pass the Greendale Forest ranger station. I will meet you all at midnight.

Be Safe, Sabrina

Spell For Anti-Zombie

three frogs’ eyes =

one buck’s antlers =

all legs of a spider =

scorpion’s pincers =

Penguin Random House Spring 2020 Showcase

If you’ve read my frequent posts detailing new books, you know the deal: I get lots of book mail. LOTS.

All of the books I get end up going back out the door in some fashion—to young 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.

Pull out your TBR lists or get ready to add to the orders for books that stock your library or classroom shelves. Today I’m sharing with you forthcoming titles from Penguin Random House. All annotations are from the publisher.

Check my Twitter (@CiteSomething) for a giveaway where you can enter to win some of these books! 

The Blossom and the Firefly by Sherri L. Smith (ISBN-13: 9781524737900 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 02/18/2020 Ages 12 up)

From the award-winning author of Flygirl comes this powerful WWII romance between two Japanese teens caught in the cogs of an unwinnable war, perfect for fans of Salt to the Sea, Lovely War, and Code Name Verity.

Japan 1945. Taro is a talented violinist and a kamikaze pilot in the days before his first and only mission. He believes he is ready to die for his country . . . until he meets Hana. Hana hasn’t been the same since the day she was buried alive in a collapsed trench during a bomb raid. She wonders if it would have been better to have died that day . . . until she meets Taro.

A song will bring them together. The war will tear them apart. Is it possible to live an entire lifetime in eight short days?

Sherri L. Smith has been called “an author with astonishing range” and “a stellar storyteller” by E. Lockhart, the New York Times-bestselling author of We Were Liars, and “a truly talented writer” by Jacqueline Woodson, the National Book Award-winning author of Brown Girl Dreaming. Here, with achingly beautiful prose, Smith weaves a tale of love in the face of death, of hope in the face of tragedy, set against a backdrop of the waning days of the Pacific War.

Break the Fall by Jennifer Iacopelli (ISBN-13: 9780593114179 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 02/18/2020 Ages 12 up)

“This book makes you understand exactly what it is like to compete as a woman at the highest level in sport, and it is exhilarating and satisfying indeed.” –Holly Sorensen, Television Creator/Showrunner, Make it or Break It, Step Up: High Water

Audrey Lee is going to the Olympics.

A year ago, she could barely do a push up as she recovered from a spine surgery, one that could have paralyzed her. And now? She’s made the United States’ gymnastics team with her best friend, Emma, just like they both dreamed about since they were kids. She’s on top of the world.

The pressure for perfection is higher than ever when horrifying news rips the team apart. Audrey is desperate to advocate for her teammate who has been hurt by the one person they trusted most–but not all the gymnasts are as supportive.

With the team on the verge of collapse, the one bright spot in training is Leo, her new coach’s ridiculously cute son. And while Audrey probably (okay, definitely) shouldn’t date him until after the games, would it really be the end of the world?

Balancing the tenuous relationship between her teammates with unparalleled expectations, Audrey doesn’t need any more distractions. No matter what it takes, she’s not going to let anyone bring them down. But with painful revelations, incredible odds, and the very real possibility of falling at every turn, will Audrey’s determination be enough?

The Vanishing Deep by Astrid Scholte (ISBN-13: 9780525513957 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 03/03/2020 Ages 12 up)

Bestselling author Astrid Scholte, returns with a thrilling adventure in which the dead can be revived…for a price.

Seventeen-year-old Tempe was born into a world of water. When the Great Waves destroyed her planet five hundred years ago, its people had to learn to survive living on the water, but the ruins of the cities below still called. Tempe dives daily, scavenging the ruins of a bygone era, searching for anything of value to trade for Notes. It isn’t food or clothing that she wants to buy, but her dead sister’s life. For a price, the research facility on the island of Palindromena will revive the dearly departed for twenty-four hours before returning them to death. It isn’t a heartfelt reunion that Tempe is after; she wants answers. Elysea died keeping a terrible secret, one that has ignited an unquenchable fury in Tempe: Her beloved sister was responsible for the death of their parents. Tempe wants to know why.

But once revived, Elysea has other plans. She doesn’t want to spend her last day in a cold room accounting for a crime she insists she didn’t commit. Elysea wants her freedom and one final glimpse at the life that was stolen from her. She persuades Tempe to break her out of the facility, and they embark on a dangerous journey to discover the truth about their parents’ death and mend their broken bond. But they’re pursued every step of the way by two Palindromena employees desperate to find them before Elysea’s time is up–and before the secret behind the revival process and the true cost of restored life is revealed.

The Small Crimes of Tiffany Templeton by Richard Fifield (ISBN-13: 9781984835895 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 03/10/2020 Ages 14 up)

The Serpent King meets Girl in Pieces in this moving and darkly funny story about a teenage girl coming of age and learning how to grieve in small-town Montana.

Tiffany Templeton is tough. She dresses exclusively in black, buys leather jackets that are several sizes too big, and never backs down from a fight. She’s known in her tiny Montana town as Tough Tiff, and after her shoplifting arrest and a stint in a reform school, the nickname is here to stay.

But when she comes back home, Tiffany may not be the same old Tough Tiff that everybody remembers. Her life is different now: her mother keeps her on an even shorter leash than before, she meets with a probation officer once a month, and she’s still grieving her father’s recent death.

As Tiffany navigates her new life and learns who she wants to be, she must also contend with an overbearing best friend, the geriatric cast of a high-maintenance drama production, her first boyfriend, and a town full of eccentric neighbors–not to mention a dark secret she’s been keeping about why the ex-football coach left town.

A Phoenix First Must Burn: Sixteen Stories of Black Girl Magic, Resistance, and Hope by Patrice Caldwell (ISBN-13: 9781984835659 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 03/10/2020 Ages 12 up)

Sixteen tales by bestselling and award-winning authors that explore the Black experience through fantasy, science fiction, and magic.

Evoking Beyoncé’s Lemonade for a teen audience, these authors who are truly Octavia Butler’s heirs, have woven worlds to create a stunning narrative that centers Black women and gender nonconforming individuals. A Phoenix First Must Burn will take you on a journey from folktales retold to futuristic societies and everything in between. Filled with stories of love and betrayal, strength and resistance, this collection contains an array of complex and true-to-life characters in which you cannot help but see yourself reflected. Witches and scientists, sisters and lovers, priestesses and rebels: the heroines of A Phoenix First Must Burn shine brightly. You will never forget them.

We Were Promised Spotlights by Lindsay Sproul (ISBN-13: 9781524738532 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 03/24/2020 Ages 14 up)

The Miseducation of Cameron Post meets Everything Leads to You in this queer young adult novel.

Taylor Garland’s good looks have earned her the admiration of everyone in her small town. She’s homecoming queen, the life of every party, and she’s on every boy’s most-wanted list.

People think Taylor is living the dream, and assume she’ll stay in town and have kids with the homecoming king—maybe even be a dental hygienist if she’s super ambitious. But Taylor is actually desperate to leave home, and she hates the smell of dentists’ offices. Also? She’s completely in love with her best friend, Susan.

Senior year is almost over, and everything seems perfect. Now Taylor just has to figure out how to throw it all away.

Lindsay Sproul’s debut is full of compelling introspection and painfully honest commentary on what it’s like to be harnessed to a destiny you never wanted.

Hello Now by Jenny Valentine (ISBN-13: 9780399546952 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 03/31/2020 Ages 12 up)

From Carnegie Medal finalist Jenny Valentine comes a bold new story about love and second chances, perfect for fans of David Levithan’s Every Day.

Jude doesn’t believe in love, or magic. Life is little more than ordinary. That is, until Jude’s mother loses her job and moves them to a little town by the sea to live with Henry Lake–an eccentric old man with rooms to rent. Henry is odd, the town is dull, and worst of all, Jude feels out of place and alone.

So when Novo turns up in the house across the street, dressed all in black and looking unbearably handsome, Jude’s summer takes an immediate turn for the better. But Novo isn’t all that he seems to be–or maybe he’s more than Jude can possibly understand. Novo is pure magic–someone who can bend and stretch the bounds of time. Someone who wakes up in different places and at different points in history with utter regularity. He knows that each Now is fleeting, that each moment is only worth the energy it expends on itself, and that each experience he has will be lost to him before long.

But Jude and Novo form a bond that shifts reality for both of them. Jude begins to question what forever really means–only to find out that Novo knows that forever isn’t real. And when things go horribly wrong, Jude and Novo are faced with an impossible question that may change both of their lives irreparably–what is worth sacrificing for love?

A stunningly written, compelling exploration of what it means to love and live in the moment that quite literally defies both logic and time.

Look by Alexandra Romanoff (ISBN-13: 9780525554264 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 03/31/2020 Ages 14 up)

“The Prom Queen of Instagram” meets We Are Okay in this totally enthralling, emotionally deep, contemporary YA.

Things Lulu Shapiro’s 10,000 Flash followers don’t know about her:
• That the video of her with another girl was never supposed to go public.
• That Owen definitely wasn’t supposed to break up with her because of it.
• That behind the carefully crafted selfies and scenes Lulu projects onto people’s screens, her life feels like a terrible, uncertain mess.

Then Lulu meets Cass. Cass isn’t interested in looking at Lulu’s life, only in living in it. And The Hotel—a gorgeous space with an intriguing, Old Hollywood history and a trust-fund kid to restore it—seems like the perfect, secret place for them to get to know each other. But just because Lulu has stepped out of the spotlight doesn’t mean it’ll stop following her every move.

Look is for fans of Emergency Contact, Everything, Everything, and We Are Okay. It’s a story about what you present vs. who you really are, about real intimacy and manufactured intimacy and the blurring of that line. It’s a deceptively glamorous, feminist, emotionally complex, utterly compelling, queer coming-of-age novel about falling in love and taking ownership of your own self—your whole self—in the age of social media.

Verona Comics by Jennifer Dugan (ISBN-13: 9780525516286 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 04/21/2020 Ages 12 up)

From the author of Hot Dog Girl comes a fresh and funny YA contemporary romance about two teens who fall in love in an indie comic book shop.

Jubilee has it all together. She’s an elite cellist, and when she’s not working in her stepmom’s indie comic shop, she’s prepping for the biggest audition of her life.

Ridley is barely holding it together. His parents own the biggest comic-store chain in the country, and Ridley can’t stop disappointing them—that is, when they’re even paying attention.

They meet one fateful night at a comic convention prom, and the two can’t help falling for each other. Too bad their parents are at each other’s throats every chance they get, making a relationship between them nearly impossible . . . unless they manage to keep it a secret.

Then again, the feud between their families may be the least of their problems. As Ridley’s anxiety spirals, Jubilee tries to help but finds her focus torn between her fast-approaching audition and their intensifying relationship. What if love can’t conquer all? What if each of them needs more than the other can give?

Free to Be Me: An LGBTQ+ Journal of Love, Pride & Finding Your Inner Rainbow by Dom&Ink (ISBN-13: 9780593094679 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 04/28/2020 Ages 12 up)

Scribble your feelings and feel your true self in a technicolor guide to being the happiest you, discovering LGBTQ+ history, and making your own queer mark on the world.

Complete with hilarious and thoughtful color illustrations, readers are encouraged to explore their own story with writing prompts and empowering activities coupled with important stories of LGBTQ+ history from antiquity to the present. No self-respecting young adult will want to put this book down . . . and if they don’t have self-respect yet, this book will challenge them to dig deep and find it. This is the perfect gift for the out-and-proud set, anyone peeking their head out of the closet, and friends and allies alike.

Take 5: YA Lit for Teens That Love to Bake

Recently, The Teen developed a love of baking. I’m all for it because I get to eat a lot of yummy treats. And wanting to be a supportive mom but also being a librarian, I’ve put together a goody bag of YA literature that features teens that bake, which you can find below.

The Teen baked shark cookies for Shark Week

I asked for recommendations on Twitter, and you can find the entire conversation here: https://twitter.com/TLT16/status/1165658378460434432. There are a lot of mouth watering reads to be found.

Close to Famous by Joan Bauer

A novel full of heart, humor, and charm from Newbery Honor winner Joan Bauer!

When twelve-year-old Foster and her mother land in the tiny town of Culpepper, they don’t know what to expect. But folks quickly warm to the woman with the great voice and the girl who can bake like nobody’s business. Soon Foster – who dreams of having her own cooking show one day – lands herself a gig baking for the local coffee shop, and gets herself some much-needed help in overcoming her biggest challenge – learning to read . . . just as Foster and Mama start to feel at ease, their past catches up to them. Thanks to the folks in Culpepper, though Foster and her mama find the strength to put their troubles behind them for good.

Check Please by Ngozi Ukazu

Helloooo, Internet Land. Bitty here!

Y’all… I might not be ready for this. I may be a former junior figure skating champion, vlogger extraordinaire, and very talented amateur pâtissier, but being a freshman on the Samwell University hockey team is a whole new challenge. It’s nothing like co-ed club hockey back in Georgia! First of all? There’s checking. And then, there is Jack—our very attractive but moody captain.

A collection of the first half of the megapopular webcomic series of the same name, Check, Please!: #Hockey is the first book of a hilarious and stirring two-volume coming-of-age story about hockey, bros, and trying to find yourself during the best four years of your life.

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acedvedo

With her daughter to care for and her abuela to help support, high school senior Emoni Santiago has to make the tough decisions, and do what must be done. The one place she can let her responsibilities go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness. Still, she knows she doesn’t have enough time for her school’s new culinary arts class, doesn’t have the money for the class’s trip to Spain — and shouldn’t still be dreaming of someday working in a real kitchen. But even with all the rules she has for her life — and all the rules everyone expects her to play by — once Emoni starts cooking, her only real choice is to let her talent break free.

The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan

Seventeen-year-old Rukhsana Ali tries her hardest to live up to her conservative Muslim parents’ expectations, but lately she’s finding that harder and harder to do. She rolls her eyes instead of screaming when they blatantly favor her brother and she dresses conservatively at home, saving her crop tops and makeup for parties her parents don’t know about. Luckily, only a few more months stand between her carefully monitored life in Seattle and her new life at Caltech, where she can pursue her dream of becoming an engineer.

But when her parents catch her kissing her girlfriend Ariana, all of Rukhsana’s plans fall apart. Her parents are devastated; being gay may as well be a death sentence in the Bengali community. They immediately whisk Rukhsana off to Bangladesh, where she is thrown headfirst into a world of arranged marriages and tradition. Only through reading her grandmother’s old diary is Rukhsana able to gain some much needed perspective.

Rukhsana realizes she must find the courage to fight for her love, but can she do so without losing everyone and everything in her life? 

The Sweetest Thing by Christina Mandelski

In the world of Sheridan Wells, life is perfect when she’s decorating a cake. Unfortunately, everything else is a complete mess: her mom ran off years ago, her dad is more interested in his restaurant, and the idea of a boyfriend is laughable.

But Sheridan is convinced finding her mom will solve all her problems—only her dad’s about to get a cooking show in New York, which means her dream of a perfect family will be dashed.

If you have any YA reads that feature teens that like to cook or bake, please leave a comment below and let us know about the title you recommend.

Sunday Reflections: Teachers, Please Stop Giving Kids Homework Over School Breaks

It’s Thanksgiving week and The Teen is doing . . . homework, homework and more homework. She’s done projects. She’s done reports. And today, the last Sunday of her week long holiday break, she’s studying for a test that will be on the Monday after break.

She is not alone. I’ve spoken to many teens who have done a ton of homework this week on holiday break. Families have had to alter plans. My daughter has studied in the car while travelling to Thanksgiving dinner with family. She stayed home while other went and participated in family holiday traditions like looking at lights.

In short, The Teen hasn’t gotten a break at all.

And as her parent, I’m kind of resentful of it, to be honest.

One of the excuses we often hear about homework is that we’re preparing our kids for the world of work. But here’s the thing, a vast majority of the people I know don’t do work they aren’t paid for. I know there are exceptions. My husband is in management and he has left family gathering because an alarm went off or some other issue occurred. But on the whole, when adults aren’t working their time is exactly that, their time.

But that’s not the case for teens around the globe. Their time outside of school is spent doing more school work.

I’ve dropped my daughter off at 5:30 in the morning at the school only to pick her up at 7:00 PM after a variety of after school activities and then watched her stay up well past midnight to complete homework. Most nights in the last month I’ve maybe seen my daughter for about 5 minutes before she sat herself down at the kitchen table and eaten while she’s done hours worth of homework.

I’ve watched her breakdown and cry as she told me how much homework she had and how she had no idea how she was going to get it all done.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the amount of homework our teens have. My daughter is a junior in high school and she has 8 teachers who don’t talk to one another as they schedule homework and tests and that’s a lot of work to pile up one on top of another. That’s like having 8 different bosses who don’t communicate with each other at all piling on projects that all have the same due date despite the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day.

Add to this issue the fact that science tells us that teens need far more sleep and need to sleep in later and you have a real recipe for disaster.

The Teen has up until this past year been a prolific reader. The only book she has been able to read this year is 1984 by George Orwell, and she only made the time to read it because it was assigned, as were several projects and tests surrounding it.

I have seen a real push back against giving younger kids homework and allow them more time to engage in play and downtime, but I have not seen that same push back for our teens. At the same time, I see a lot of articles out there talking about the rising rates of stress, anxiety, addiction and suicide among our teens. And in our profession we talk a lot about the declining rates of teens attending library programs and reading for fun. I posit that there is a correlation between the amount of homework our teens are facing and this intense academic pressure and the mental health of our teens.

What I would like to suggest is this: If you are a teacher, please don’t assign any projects or homework over school breaks. Let kids genuinely have a break. Don’t assign tests on the Mondays after break either.

Keep in mind that your homework assignments don’t just affect the kids in your class, they impact families. I have many a friend who posted this past week on Facebook about how they had to modify or cancel plans because of the amount of homework their kids had.

Most importantly, remember that teens need down time too. They need a real break. Everyone needs a time and a space to decompress and enjoy family and friends, even our teens. Keeping teens motivated and helping them learn, grown and develop good work ethics doesn’t have to mean they have to work 24/7. One of the greatest things we can teach our kids is how to develop healthy lifestyles that include a work/life balance that allows them to thrive.

Winter break is coming up and I’m counting on you: please don’t assign homework over the break. Everyone deserve a break.

Friday Finds: November 29, 2019

This Week at TLT

RevolTeens: The Lies We Tell and the Teens We Hurt

New books alert: An alternative history fairytale, a romance, middle school friendship, and more!

If You Like The Good Place, Read This

Crash Course: Recent poetry books for younger readers

Cindy Crushes Programming: DIY Lip Scrubs

Around the Web

Active Shooter Drills May Not Stop A School Shooting — But This Method Could

Pennsylvania Overhauls Its Child Sex Abuse Laws

Report: High Schoolers’ Lack of Digital Literacy Skills Is “Troubling”

Many Native Americans Can’t Get Clean Water, Report Finds

Addressing dyslexia is key to reducing criminal recidivism

RevolTeens: The Lies We Tell and the Teens We Hurt

This week’s RevolTeens will be a little shorter in deference to the holiday weekend and will have a different focus. While I have used this space to highlight the mighty teens who are challenging the systems that confine them and demanding that their voices be heard, I’ve been thinking a lot about what helps or shuts down teens who see injustice and prejudice, and what makes the difference between the teens who revolt and the teens who remain silenced. I don’t claim to be any expert, but I’ve noticed some things that we adults can do to help.

First, we have to stop lying to kids.

Lies like, “You have to go to college.” or “I can’t make any exceptions” or all the other things we say just to force compliance and make our jobs easier have got to stop. When we dismiss a teen’s concerns or questions with these lies and platitudes, we are telling them that their concerns, problems, and passions are not important or valid. Teens always see through our lies and they are smart enough to know which adults can be trusted or not. When we tell them that adults are the authorities and that change or challenge of the status quo is impossible, we are lying to them. If we don’t know the answer or we’re not sure, there’s nothing wrong with saying so honestly and figuring it out with them. Teens respect honesty, not dishonest authority. Pretending that there is only one way to do things or one way to be successful is a lie. If we expect and hope that the young people of today will change the world at some point after they become “adults,” we have to be honest with them. Yes, there are challenges and traditions and other obstacles, but these things can and should be discussed and confronted. We can model that with them by engaging in difficult conversations about who holds the power and who makes the decisions. We can give them agency by telling them what actions they could take and what the repercussions are and then let them decide. We can advise and listen. The moment we lie to them, we lose all our credibility and our ability to help them. Lying to teens is just saying to them, “You cannot trust me.”

Next, we have to stop acting as if bad things don’t happen to them.

Yes, this is a form of lying, I know. Bad things happen to everyone without exception. We suffer losses and setbacks and we receive devastating news. It’s a universal indiscriminate human experience. Many well meaning adults work hard to protect kids’ innocence, but as Chris Crutcher told the ALAN Conference audience, “Innocence leads to ignorance.” When we shelter or protect kids from loss and pain, we invalidate the inevitable loss and pain that they are feeling. When we talk about and acknowledge their pain and help them find ways to work through those awful and overwhelming feelings, we help them build empathy for themselves and others. Telling a teen that they shouldn’t talk or read about the pain of losing someone they love, or of becoming critically or chronically ill, or of any of the ways that life causes pain, only teaches shame and robs their peers of the chance to help their friends. It doesn’t make the pain stop, it just makes them feel alone and ashamed. We don’t have to know what to say, we just have to listen and care. Truly, that is the greatest and most powerful way to help a kid know that they are loved and that their pain and eventual healing is important and universal. We need to stop telling them that their pain isn’t “appropriate” for discussion or for reading about. Instead, we have to make space for that pain and help them see examples of other people who have suffered pain and survived. We have to help them see their pain as survivable by talking about it and showing them how to help each other and themselves.

Finally, we need to expand what success is.

We all see the stories of teens who are accepted into every Ivy League school, or who get perfect scores on their SAT or who start multimillion dollar businesses. Those kids are lauded. Those kids are inarguably successful. Kids earn superlatives throughout school, and that’s wonderful – for those kids. But I know that there are other successes for other kids. Getting up in the morning and just showing up for school is a victory for many students. Raising their hand and contributing to a class discussion is a win for many students. I’m not talking about “participation trophies” because those are too generalized and maligned. Those of us who work with teens everyday know that so many of them have given up on themselves as early as upper elementary school when they start failing state tests. It’s devastating to see happen. Those kids need to be acknowledged for what they do well. We just have to take the time to help them find their successes. They may not realize that they’re the first ones to help another student or that they ask the questions that others need answered. They may be taking risks and challenging themselves in some areas. Those triumphs are just as important as a different student who gets straight As. They’re all important. They should all be acknowledged. Success is relative, ever changing and elusive. We can help kids find theirs so they’ll believe in their own possibilities and potential for more success.

I take for granted that we all want the teens of today to be the happy, productive, world changers of tomorrow. We can help them see what’s possible or we can snuff out their faith in themselves and their belief that the world can be more fair and just. If we are honest with them, acknowledge their pain, and celebrate their successes, we can embolden them to change their world and upend the status quo.

RevolTeens is a monthly column by librarian Christine Lively. Christine Lively a school librarian in Virginia. I read voraciously, exchange ideas with students, and am a perpetual student. I raise monarch butterflies, cook, clean infrequently and enjoy an extensive hippo collection. Christine blogs at https://hippodillycircus.com/ and you can follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/XineLively

New books alert: An alternative history fairytale, a romance, middle school friendship, and more!

I am very lucky to get so! many! books!

All of the books I get end up going back out the door in some fashion—to teen readers I know, to classroom libraries of friends, to my own school, or in giveaways. 

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

All descriptions from the publishers.

Belle Revolte by Linsey Miller (ISBN-13: 9781492679226 Publisher: Sourcebooks Publication date: 02/01/2020 Ages 14 up)

From the author of the Mask of Shadows duology comes a standalone fantasy where two young women must trade lives, work together to stay alive, and end a war caused by magic and greed before it kills thousands.

Emilie de Marais is more at home holding scalpels than embroidery needles and is desperate to escape her noble roots to serve her country as a physician. But society dictates a noble lady cannot perform such gruesome work.

Annette Boucher, overlooked and overworked by her family, wants more from life than her humble beginnings and is desperate to be trained in magic. So when a strange noble girl offers Annette the chance of a lifetime, she accepts.

Emilie and Annette swap lives—Annette attends finishing school as a noble lady to be trained in the ways of divination, while Emilie enrolls to be a physician’s assistant, using her natural magical talent to save lives.

But when their nation instigates a terrible war, Emilie and Annette come together to help the rebellion unearth the truth before it’s too late.

The Queen Bee and Me by Gillian McDunn (ISBN-13: 9781681197517 Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Publication date: 03/03/2020 Ages 8-12)

From the highly acclaimed author of Caterpillar Summer comes a heartfelt story about the sweetness and stings of middle-school friendship.

Meg has always found comfort in her best friend Beatrix’s shadow. Self-assured Beatrix is the one who makes decisions, and the girls have been a pair since kindergarten. But middle school has brought some changes in Beatrix, especially when Meg tries to step outside her role as sidekick.

A special science elective is Meg’s first step away, but when she’s paired with quirky new girl Hazel, Beatrix steps in to stake her claim on Meg. Meg is taken aback at how mean Beatrix can be—and how difficult it is to stand up to her friend. But as Meg gets to know Hazel while working on their backyard beehive project, she starts to wonder: Is being Beatrix’s friend worth turning down the possibility of finding her own voice?

This pitch-perfect exploration of middle-school friendship dynamics brims with heart and hope, and will resonate with readers of all ages.

Wicked As You Wish by Rin Chupeco (ISBN-13: 9781492672661 Publisher: Sourcebooks Publication date: 03/03/2020 Ages 14 up)

An unforgettable alternative history fairytale series from the author of The Bone Witch trilogy about found family, modern day magic, and finding the place you belong.

Many years ago, the magical Kingdom of Avalon was left desolate and encased in ice when the evil Snow Queen waged war on the powerful country. Its former citizens are now refugees in a world mostly devoid of magic. Which is why the crown prince and his protectors are stuck in…Arizona.

Prince Alexei, the sole survivor of the Avalon royal family, is in hiding in a town so boring, magic doesn’t even work there. Few know his secret identity, but his friend Tala is one of them. Tala doesn’t mind—she has secrets of her own. Namely, that she’s a spellbreaker, someone who negates magic.

Then hope for their abandoned homeland reignites when a famous creature of legend, and Avalon’s most powerful weapon, the Firebird, appears for the first time in decades. Alex and Tala unite with a ragtag group of new friends to journey back to Avalon for a showdown that will change the world as they know it.

Time of Our Lives by Emily Wibberley, Austin Siegemund-Broka (ISBN-13: 9781984835833 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 04/21/2020 Ages 14 up)

A reflective, romantic coming-of-age novel that explores life after high school—perfect for fans of Fangirl and Emergency Contact

A boy desperate to hold on, a girl ready to let go.

Fitz Holton waits in fear for the day his single mother’s early-onset Alzheimer’s starts stealing her memory. He’s vowed to stay close to home to care for her in the years to come—never mind the ridiculous college tour she’s forcing him on to visit schools where he knows he’ll never go. Juniper Ramirez is counting down the days until she can leave home, a home crowded with five younger siblings and zero privacy. Against the wishes of her tight-knit family, Juniper plans her own college tour of the East Coast with one goal: get out.

When Fitz and Juniper cross paths on their first college tour in Boston, they’re at odds from the moment they meet— while Juniper’s dying to start a new life apart from her family, Fitz faces the sacrifices he must make for his. Their relationship sparks a deep connection—in each other’s eyes, they glimpse alternate possibilities regarding the first big decision of their adult lives.

Time of Our Lives is a story of home and away, of the wonder and weight of memory, of outgrowing fears and growing into the future.

We Are Not Free by Traci Chee (ISBN-13: 9780358330004 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 06/09/2020 Ages 12 up)

“All around me, my friends are talking, joking, laughing. Outside is the camp, the barbed wire, the guard towers, the city, the country that hates us.

We are not free.

But we are not alone.”

From New York Times best-selling and acclaimed author Traci Chee comes We Are Not Free, the collective account of a tight-knit group of young Nisei, second-generation Japanese American citizens, whose lives are irrevocably changed by the mass U.S. incarcerations of World War II.

Fourteen teens who have grown up together in Japantown, San Francisco.

Fourteen teens who form a community and a family, as interconnected as they are conflicted.

Fourteen teens whose lives are turned upside down when over 100,000 people of Japanese ancestry are removed from their homes and forced into desolate incarceration camps.

In a world that seems determined to hate them, these young Nisei must rally together as racism and injustice threaten to pull them apart.

Forest of Souls by Lori M. Lee (ISBN-13: 9781624149245 Publisher: Page Street Publishing Publication date: 06/23/2020 Ages 14 up)

Danger lurks within the roots of Forest of Souls, an epic, unrelenting tale of destiny and sisterhood, perfect for fans of Naomi Novik and Susan Dennard.

Sirscha Ashwyn comes from nothing, but she’s intent on becoming something. After years of training to become the queen’s next royal spy, her plans are derailed when shamans attack and kill her best friend Saengo.

And then Sirscha, somehow, restores Saengo to life.

Unveiled as the first lightwender in living memory, Sirscha is summoned to the domain of the Spider King. For centuries, he has used his influence over the Dead Wood—an ancient forest possessed by souls—to enforce peace between the kingdoms. Now, with the trees growing wild and untamed, only a lightwender can restrain them. As war looms, Sirscha must master her newly awakened abilities before the trees shatter the brittle peace, or worse, claim Saengo, the friend she would die for.