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Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Book Review: Young Palestinians Speak: Living Under Occupation by Anthony & Annmarie Young

When I’m reviewing books for professional publications, I stay quiet about them on social media. I’m always really excited once a review comes out to be able to talk about the book, finally! Here’s one of my most recent reviews, which originally appeared in the June 2017 issue of School Library Journal

 

youngredstarROBINSON, Anthony & Annemarie Young . Young Palestinians Speak: Living Under Occupation. photos by Anthony Robinson. 144p. chron. filmog. further reading. maps. websites. Interlink. Jul. 2017. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781566560153.

Gr 7 Up –A number of Palestinian kids and teens discuss their hopes and dreams and what it is like living in an occupied country. An introductory chapter explains the Occupied Territories, provides an overview of the history of the Palestinian land, and explores the impact of occupation on subjects such as human rights, citizenship, education, housing, land ownership, and the economy. The authors visited or held video conferences with participants from nine Palestinian cities and villages. Their meetings took place in schools, community centers, libraries, and homes. Robinson and Young devote a chapter to each city or village. Each chapter briefly examines the area’s geographic makeup, history, and location, then provides a transcript of the conversation. The kids speak about school, aspirations, family life, safety, and the difficulties of living in the Occupied Territories. Many answers are typical of young people anywhere, but most touch on the experience of living under occupation. In addition, excerpts from some of the young people’s writing are included. Photographs, maps, and art are interspersed throughout, enhancing the text. Beyond the initial information in each chapter, there is very little commentary from Robinson and Young; the voices of the Palestinian youths are what drive and shape this work. A time line of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is appended, as are references for films, websites, and books. VERDICT A straightforward, compelling, and eye-opening look at life in Palestine for all nonfiction collections.

ALA Recap: Libraries are Not Neutral Spaces (Things I Never Learned in Library School)

thingsineverlearnedinlibraryschoolThis past Sunday I had the honor of presenting with a panel of fabulous librarians about how libraries are NOT neutral spaces. Like most librarians, I spent a major part of my career proclaiming that we were. But over time, I have come to realize that we are, in fact, not. For example, if during the month of December you put up a Christmas tree or a Christmas display but don’t acknowledge that any other holidays exist, you are making a non-neutral statement and highlighting certain faiths and traditions over others. Did you choose to avoid putting up a Black Lives Matter display? That was not a neutral decision. This month is Pride, did you put up a Pride display? Whether you answer yes or no to this question, your answer is not a neutral decision. Every decision to do or not do something in our libraries is not a neutral decision, and it often reflects our own personal, cultural or institutional biases.

You can find the slides to our ALA Presentation here

You can read tweets about the presentation under the #CritLibAla17 at #ALAAC17

It has been a process for me to learn how to examine and break down my personal biases in considering everything I do in my library, from putting up a display to deciding when, where, and how to program. The work of being inclusive and advocating for my teen patrons – ALL of my teen patrons – is ongoing and never done. It takes some intentionality on my part and I am working on training my staff to have that same type of intentionality.

In fact, for me, displays and collections are a big part of how I try and be intentional and inclusive. I didn’t have a term for it until this weekend thanks to someone one Twitter, but I regularly perform diversity audits of my YA collection. I will sit down monthly with some type of topic or focus in mind and go through my collection to make sure I have a well represented number of titles and authors that represent that topic. For example, with Pride approaching, I spent the month of April going through every single letter in GLBTQAI+ to make sure that I had a good representation of titles for each letter in my collection. And when doing so I go through and make sure that they include as many POC, LatinX, Native American, Asian and more authors as possible. I don’t want to just be diverse in having GLBTQAI+ titles, I want to make sure that those titles are as diverse and representative as possible.

I recently went through the process of re-writing my display policy and procedures for my staff to help achieve this same goal. I want to make sure that every display we put up is inclusive. If we do a fantasy display, my staff is reminded to go through and check to make sure that there are books by diverse authors featuring diverse characters on that display. A display that solely features cis-het-white male authors is not acceptable in my department, but building them takes dedicated work on all levels. It means that I have to make sure I am building good collections for my staff to pull titles from and it means that my staff has to do the work of looking at the display daily to make sure they have a good balance of titles to choose from.

#SJYALit: Making a Social Justice Book Display that Engages Teens

Storytime Underground Libraries are Not Neutral Spaces Handouts

I discuss displays more here: The Display Must Go On. In the future I hope to add a statement to my display policy, which is included in the link, specifying that 50% or more of the display must feature diverse authors and main characters. And since we have a display notebook where we are making note of past displays so that we have good notes for future displays, I would like to create a form where we list the titles put on display and the theme of the display. This not only will provide us good info for doing RA or creating/repeating future displays, but it will help us do those diversity audits so that we can make sure we are being inclusive not just in our collections but in our displays.

sjyalit#SJYALit (2017)

The Social Justice in YA Lit Project/Discussion, using YA literature to discuss a variety of social justice issues including own voices, representation, discrimination, education, poverty and more.

Although I talked a lot about displays, many others on the panel talked about other good points and I highly recommend that you check out the slides and read the work of those I had the honor of speaking with. I learned a lot from my peers. For example, I have never processed what it means that Christian creation stories are catalogued in religion while Native American creation stories are catalogued as folklore. This was a profound moment of realization for me that finally helped me more fully understand what settler colonialism means. Doing the work means being engaged in the professional community and learning from your peers. It’s important to follow and read from librarians from different backgrounds.

I want to make one final note about holiday programming, which comes up frequently when we talk about libraries as neutral spaces. Many libraries engage in Christmas programming in their libraries and there is an ongoing argument that this is what our communities want and that Christmas is a secular holiday. For me, as a Christian, Christmas is a profoundly religious holiday and I decided when I had children not to discuss or introduce the concept of Santa to my children because I did not want to dilute the sacredness of this day. So no, our communities, even our Christian communities, don’t all want us to be doing holiday or Santa programming at the library. Even some of the fundamental beliefs we have about what our communities want may be wrong.

As I mentioned, this was truly an important and enlightening discussion for me. I continue to learn and grow as a librarian and appreciate every opportunity to talk with my peers, challenge my beliefs and make sure that I am heading in the right direction as a librarian for myself, for my teens, and for my community. I want to keep doing the good work, and sometimes that means changing what I think I know, what I believe, what I do, and the how and why of how I do it. It’s often uncomfortable, but I keep doing the work anyway.

Thank you to my co-presenters:

Nicole Cooke

Assistant Professor / Director of the MS/LIS Program, School of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois

Cory Eckert

Librarian, The Post Oak School

Kendra Jones

District Manager, Youth & Family Services, Timberland Regional Library, Washington

Jessica Anne Liddell

Branch Manager, Grand Rapids Public Library

Debbie Reese

Founder and Editor, American Indians in Children’s Literature

What’s New in LGBTQIA+ YA June 2017

tltbutton7It’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 2017 titles. Head over to this link for the previous post (May 2017 titles) in this series. All annotations here are via the publishers/Goodreads. I also have a 2017 master list that I’m always working on. I’m happy to send you the list if you’re interested. Tweet at me or email me to request the list. I’m amanda DOT macgregor AT gmail DOT com.

 

JUNE 2017

masqMasquerade (Micah Grey, #3) by Laura Lam (ISBN-13: 9781509807789 Publisher: Pan Macmillan Publication date: 06/01/2017)

Micah and his friends have won the magician duel against Maske’s age-old rival—yet despite this glory, trouble still looms. Imachara is under attack by either the anti-monarchy Foresters, or a group even more dangerous. One blast damages the Kymri Theatre, forcing Micah and the others to flee to dingy rooms in a bad part of town and perform street magic to keep their skills sharp. Micah has a vision of the end of the world, and strange dreams of a grave robber stealing bodies. He that discovers many people in his life are lying to him, and he has no idea who he can trust. The Chimaera and the Alder’s powers have returned, and it’s up to Micah to stop the storm of the past from breaking and destroying the world.

 

 

 

tash heartsTash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee (ISBN-13: 9781481489331 Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers Publication date: 06/06/2017)

From the author of Lucky Few comes a quirky teen novel about Internet fame, peer pressure, and remembering not to step on the little people on your way to the top!

After a shout-out from one of the Internet’s superstar vloggers, Natasha “Tash” Zelenka suddenly finds herself and her obscure, amateur web series, Unhappy Families, thrust in the limelight: She’s gone viral.

Her show is a modern adaption of Anna Karenina—written by Tash’s literary love Count Lev Nikolayevich “Leo” Tolstoy. Tash is a fan of the 40,000 new subscribers, their gushing tweets, and flashy Tumblr gifs. Not so much the pressure to deliver the best web series ever.

And when Unhappy Families is nominated for a Golden Tuba award, Tash’s cyber-flirtation with a fellow award nominee suddenly has the potential to become something IRL—if she can figure out how to tell said crush that she’s romantic asexual.

Tash wants to enjoy her newfound fame, but will she lose her friends in her rise to the top? What would Tolstoy do?

 

 

 

felixFelix Yz by Lisa Bunker (ISBN-13: 9780425288504 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 06/06/2017)

“If it wasn’t for the fused-with-Zyx thing, I suppose I would just be normal—whatever that means.”

When Felix Yz was three years old, a hyperintelligent fourth-dimensional being became fused inside him after one of his father’s science experiments went terribly wrong. The creature is friendly, but Felix—now thirteen—won’t be able to grow to adulthood while they’re still melded together. So a risky Procedure is planned to separate them . . . but it may end up killing them both instead.

This book is Felix’s secret blog, a chronicle of the days leading up to the Procedure. Some days it’s business as usual—time with his close-knit family, run-ins with a bully at school, anxiety about his crush. But life becomes more out of the ordinary with the arrival of an Estonian chess Grandmaster, the revelation of family secrets, and a train-hopping journey. When it all might be over in a few days, what matters most?

Told in an unforgettable voice full of heart and humor, Felix Yz is a groundbreaking story about how we are all separate, but all connected too.

 

 

 

perfect tenPerfect Ten by L. Philips (ISBN-13: 9780425288115 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 06/06/2017)

Who is Sam Raines’s Perfect Ten? 

It’s been two years since Sam broke up with the only other eligible gay guy in his high school, so to say he’s been going through a romantic drought is the understatement of the decade. When Meg, his ex-Catholic-turned-Wiccan best friend, suggests performing a love spell, Sam is just desperate enough to try. He crafts a list of ten traits he wants in a boyfriend and burns it in a cemetery at midnight on Friday the thirteenth.

Enter three seemingly perfect guys, all in pursuit of Sam. There’s Gus, the suave French exchange student; Jamie, the sweet and shy artist; and Travis, the guitar-playing tattooed enigma. Even Sam’s ex-boyfriend, Landon, might want another chance.

But does a Perfect Ten even exist? Find out in this delectable coming-of-age romcom with just a touch of magic.

 

 

 

gentlemansThe Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee (ISBN-13: 9780062382801 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 06/27/2017)

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda meets the 1700s in this hilarious and swashbuckling stand-alone teen historical fiction novel. A young bisexual British lord who embarks on an unforgettable Grand Tour of Europe with his best friend/secret crush stars. An 18th-century romantic adventure for the modern age written by This Monstrous Thing author Mackenzi Lee.

Henry “Monty” Montague doesn’t care that his roguish passions are far from suitable for the gentleman he was born to be. But as Monty embarks on his grand tour of Europe, his quests for pleasure and vice are in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

So Monty vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

Witty, dazzling, and intriguing at every turn, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is an irresistible romp that explores the undeniably fine lines between friendship and love.

 

 

impossibleThe Impossible Vastness of Us by Samantha Young (ISBN-13: 9780373212422 Publisher: Harlequin Publication date: 06/27/2017)

“I know how to watch my back. I’m the only one that ever has.”

India Maxwell hasn’t just moved across the country—she’s plummeted to the bottom rung of the social ladder. It’s taken years to cover the mess of her home life with a veneer of popularity. Now she’s living in one of Boston’s wealthiest neighborhoods with her mom’s fiancé and his daughter, Eloise. Thanks to her soon-to-be stepsister’s clique of friends, including Eloise’s gorgeous, arrogant boyfriend, Finn, India feels like the one thing she hoped never to be seen as again: trash.

But India’s not alone in struggling to control the secrets of her past. Eloise and Finn, the school’s golden couple, aren’t all they seem to be. In fact, everyone’s life is infinitely more complex than it first appears. And as India grows closer to Finn and befriends Eloise, threatening the facades that hold them together, what’s left are truths that are brutal, beautiful and big enough to change them forever…

From New York Times bestselling author Samantha Young comes a story of friendship, identity and acceptance that will break your heart—and make it whole again.

MakerSpace: Mod-A-Tee Making Hot Glue Stencils and Spray Painting T-shirts

makerspacelogo1

This summer is the “Summer of Shirts” in the Teen MakerSpace at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County (OH). Every Monday we are teaching our teens a different way that we can make or modify t-shirts. So far we have done Sharpie Tie-Dye, puffy paint, and low-tech screen printing. Last Monday we taught our teens how to create t-shirts using hot glue guns and spray paint and it turned out quite spectacularly, if I’m being honest.

The basic premise: You will make a negative stencil using a hot glue gun and then spray paint over it so that when it is removed you will have a fantastic (and original!) t-shirt design.

glue1

Supplies Needed:

  • T-shirts or tote bags (plain)
  • Hot glue gun with plenty of glue sticks
  • Parchment paper
  • Fabric spray paint (you can buy fabric spray paint or make your own using these instructions: Make Your Own Fabric Spray Paint | My Crazy Blessed Life!)
  • A piece of cardboard to put in between the two layers of your t-shirt
  • Something to keep your work space safe, like a plastic table cloth
Tulip Fabric Spray Paint

Tulip Fabric Spray Paint

Not Needed but Helpful

  • A computer with a printer
  • Sharpies and other embellishments

Making Your Shirts

Step 1: Creating Your Hot Glue Stencil Pieces

First you want to create a design on a piece of paper to be the template for your stencil. You can freehand this if you have the skill, or simply print something off on a piece of paper using your computer. Simple text and graphics work best. For example, silhouettes and big block letters are ideal.

After you have your design on paper, lay a piece of parchment paper over top of it. You will then trace it using the hot glue gun to create your hot glue pieces. Allow them to dry fully before you peel them off the parchment paper. Patience will be an important part of this process throughout as there is a lot of no really, let things fully dry before going on to the next step.

Making the hot glue stencil pieces

Making the hot glue stencil pieces

Step 2: Setting Up for Painting

You will then want to start setting up your shirt for painting. Be sure and put your piece of cardboard in between the two layers of your shirt and to cover your work space with your plastic table cloth to help with any over spray. You’ll also want to spray outside (on grass is recommended) or in a well ventilated space like a garage with an open door.

Getting ready to paint

Getting ready to paint

Gently peel your hot glue pieces off of the parchment paper and position them onto your shirt. When you spray paint the shirt, the hot glue pieces will prevent the paint from getting on the space it is covering.

Hot glue stencil pieces in place

Hot glue stencil pieces in place

Step 3: Painting

You will want to carefully spray paint your t-shirt. If you let colors dry in between coats you can overlay colors and create amazing effects. The trick is to apply gentle pressure, light coats, and to be patient.

Putting on your first coats of paint

Putting on your first coats of paint

After you finish painting your t-shirt, it will look something like this:

A t-shirt with the hot glue stencils in place

A painted t-shirt with the hot glue stencils in place

Above is a cat themed t-shirt made by one of our teens. You can see the places that are covered by the hot glue stencil pieces. She made a template using a silhouette image, printed it, made her hot glue stencil pieces and painted in multiple layers. You then want to make sure and let your paint FULLY DRY. If you try and remove your hot glue stencil pieces you may smudge the surrounding paint. Again, patience is called for. It’s a theme.

The completed cat t-shirt

The completed cat t-shirt

Step 4: Finishing Touches

After your t-shirt is fully dry, you can add embellishments if you like. We found that t-shirts made with text on them kind of popped better if you outlined the text using a Sharpie marker, for example. Or you could use puffy paint to add some dimensionality.

A finished t-shirt

A finished t-shirt

Our Gallery

Stencils can be re-used. The stencil used to make the t-shirt above was also used to make the tote bag below.

glue4

I’m a Maker tote bag

One of our teens cut the neckline out of a t-shirt to make a different type of design and we painted the neck cut-out to make it into a bib for one of the TMS Assistant’s baby. I love this bib so much.

glue3

Final Thoughts

All in all we had about 20 teens participated and they really enjoyed the activity and made some great t-shirts. To do a complete t-shirt from beginning to end took as little as an hour. The fabric spray paint was moderately expensive and didn’t go as far as we thought it would. In fact, we ran out half way through our night and I ran to the store to get more. We did this as a drop-in activity over a six hour period and this really worked well as we could provide more one-on-one instructions.

Sunday Reflections: Who needs healthcare?

In case you haven’t heard, this week the Senate Republicans released their ‘healthcare’ bill. I’m not here to analyze the changes this would make to our current healthcare system, but there is a good brief analysis here. I am here to talk about the impact this might have on our lives and the lives of our patrons.

To be honest, my views on healthcare were radically changed when I watched my best friend slowly die from cancer. Up until that point, I had taken health care for granted. I was privileged to grow up in a family where one of my parents worked for a company that provided the highest level of healthcare coverage (General Electric.) Having all of my wisdom teeth extracted cost my family $4. But watching Shannon fight and resist her eventual death caused me to reconsider all of my assumptions. What wouldn’t I be willing to sacrifice for the 18 extra months we had with her following her diagnosis? And what wasn’t she willing to do to have that extra time with her family, which included two internationally adopted sons with special needs? I remember watching her have a blood transfusion and going from deathly pale to her normal pink skin tone. I remember how uncharacteristically assertive I was when her husband was out of town and she called me to come advocate for her in the emergency room.

And still, her melanoma killed her. Was she not worth those extra 18 months? What about children born with life threatening conditions. For a political party to advocate against abortion on the pretense of being ‘pro-life’ but then refuse to care for the most vulnerable amongst us – how is that compassion? Refusing care even to those who have ‘brought it upon themselves’ (i.e.. drug addicts, etc.) ignores the responsibility we hold for generations of oppression and neglect.

And no, we cannot depend upon the ‘better natures’ of our society to correct these inequities on their own. One only need look at the statistics on charitable giving to see that most of it comes from those least able to afford it. If those who are ‘obscenely rich’ were willing to donate the amounts necessary to provide healthcare to everyone, they would have already made the effort to provide a livable wage to all of those under their employ. And so it becomes the responsibility of the government to enforce a basic level of care to ensure the health and livelihood of its citizens.

To put it pragmatically, a healthy and well educated citizenry contributes to the overall gross domestic product of a country. Why is this so difficult for some to understand?

Friday Finds: June 23, 2017

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Sunday Reflections: Colonel Mustard in the Library with the Lead Pipe, aka on “Due Process” in Literature and Yes, Another Discussion of MOXIE

MakerSpace: DIY Fidget Spinners in Three Ways

Book Review: Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee

TPiB: Build an Escape Room by Michelle Biwer

#SJYALit: The X-Men and the social justice of diverse brains (Or, Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not a hero), a guest post by Rachel Gold

Around the Web

In case you hadn’t heard…

9 Things Readers Do Better Than Anyone Else

High School Students Create Racial Literacy Text to Help Schools and Teens Learn to Talk About Race

9 Refugee Stories for Kids and Teens

We all know how this will affect the children we work with…

Handguns and other firearms cause the deaths of more children in the United States each year than the flu or asthma.

Turning Back the Clock on Hunger and Malnutrition

 

#SJYALit: The X-Men and the social justice of diverse brains (Or, Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not a hero), a guest post by Rachel Gold

sjyalitWhen I was twelve and in my fifth year of getting bullied at school, I discovered a place where people could go to learn to use their powers for good, to band together against prejudice, and to save the world: Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters.

I had to spend part of my days in a world that increasingly hated me for being impulsive, smart, unruly, genderfluid and queer. But the rest of the time I had superpowered allies who struggled like I did and still managed to save the world.

In Marvel’s universe, many superpowers come from mutations in the human genome. And humanity is not sure how it feels about mutants — there’s a lot of envy, fear, and hatred.

Kitty Pryde’s acceptance to the School for Gifted Youngster’s wasn’t the easiest, but she learned early on that mutants have to help each other out! From Uncanny X-Men #129, published in Jan. 1980.

Kitty Pryde’s acceptance to the School for Gifted Youngster’s wasn’t the easiest, but she learned early on that mutants have to help each other out! From Uncanny X-Men #129, published in Jan. 1980.

The mutant superhero mindset remains one of the best I’ve found for talking about neurodiverse brains, queerness and gender diversity. The concept of neurodiversity comes from the movement to see brains on the autism spectrum (ASD) as a diverse way of thinking rather than a disorder. In addition to ASD, neurodiversity has been applied to ADD/ADHD and other diverse brain styles.

Too often the conversations around ADHD and ASD seem to be about brokenness and to push people to focus on what they can’t do. Sadly this is also still the case about queer/trans kids in too many parts of the world.

About twenty years ago, I learned that I have an ADHD brain and suddenly a lot of my early years made much more sense. I’ve been lucky to spend a lot more time in the superhero mindset than the broken/disorder mindset. My brain is more creative than 99% of the brains around me. And yes, maxing a brain for that kind of creativity has downsides too. Just like superpowers.

A powerful mindset

In the broken/disorder model, I spend way too much time trying to fix my weaknesses. I push myself to do things I’m bad at. But in the superhero model, I find allies to help with my weak spots and I train hard at what I’m best at. The world doesn’t need me to become adequate at doing paperwork — the world needs me to write books and solve problems is new ways.

The same is true of you. You don’t need to be good at 95% of the things you currently suck at. (As an adult, I have never needed to know how to make a bed. How to make appropriate eye contact, yes, that’s useful.) But the world needs you to excel with your particular gifts.

The superhero mindset doesn’t make life easy, but it makes it hopeful and gives us a clear path to success. It gives us the courage and impetus to keep going. It shows us that some powers are hard to control and we have work to do. In the X-Men, Cyclops can shoot lasers out of his eyes, but he can’t stop doing this and has to wear a special visor that controls his powers. Rogue can steal powers and memories with a touch and has to keep most of her skin covered all the time. The younger team, the New Mutants, all struggled with learning to control their powers.

Our mindset about our differences can empower us or cut us down. One of the key elements of social justice is human dignity. It’s much easier to connect to your dignity, and demand others treat you with dignity, if you see yourself as heroic rather than broken.

I spent a lot of time these days answering variations of the question, “Am I broken?” with: “No, you’re a superhero.” And seeing how many other people will real-life roleplay being superheroes with me. Not only do lots of them say yes, but they tend to get joyful about it. So, what are your superpowers?

Welcome to the School for Gifted Youngsters (and Adults). Here’s your homework:

  • Find stories that make you feel powerful.
  • Make and tell stories.
  • Find one person who gets your story.
  • Play SuperBetter, an online game that you play as the hero of your own life (www.superbetter.com).
  • If you’re new to comics, consider starting with: Ms. Marvel and Young Avengers.
  • Think about heroes, what makes a person heroic, how you are heroic.
  • Remember that heroes need downtime, rest and many allies.

About Rachel Gold

Rachel Gold_author photo_vert_mediumRachel Gold is the award-winning author of multiple queer and trans young adult novels—including Being Emily, the first young adult novel to tell the story of a trans girl from her perspective. Her latest novel, Nico & Tucker, is about love, nonbinary lives, healing and knowing who you really are. Rachel has an MFA in Writing and a day job in marketing, but is better known as an all around geek and avid gamer. For more information visit: www.rachelgold.com.

TPiB: Build an Escape Room by Michelle Biwer

tpibEscape rooms and breakout rooms are a buzzworthy program in librarian world of late. I tried building my first escape room in the fall, and recently finished my second one! Here is my strategy:

Steps for Building an Escape Room

1. Pick a general theme! Murder Mystery? Based on a book? Science?

2. Who is your audience?

How many people are you expecting? How many people do you want to be able to go through the room at once? What kinds of stories might interest them? What is the age range? All of these factors will affect what choices you make when you design your escape room game.

Because I want to maximize participation I do not make teens sign up in advance for escape room events. I just block out a 2 hour chunk of time where I can run the game as many times as I need to. I also design my escape rooms to be adaptable so that they can be played by varying numbers of players in different time limits.

3. Storytime: Why are people locked in a room?

How can they escape? Is escaping their only goal? This part is important,  as when I was fielding suggestions from teens they had awesome ideas like “build the trash compactor from Star Wars.” But it doesn’t make a ton of sense that they would have to unravel clues in that situation. We ended up going with the room being an abandoned spaceship and their goal was to escape AND to get the coordinates for their destination.

4. Think about design.

What space are you going to use? A conference room or the whole library? What materials do you need to turn your library or conference room into this place? A coworker and I recently put together a box of supplies for escape room programs that will be shared systemwide. The most important material is different colors of masking tape! It is amazing what teens can design with just tape. There are also props for mystery and sci-fi theming in the box

5. Time to build the set!

Don’t worry about the clues at this point. Just give your TAB teens or volunteers all of the decorating supplies, tell them the theme and what the room is supposed to be, and set them loose. Anything they think up will be cooler than what you could make on your own.

6. Plan the clues, then plant the clues.

Base this on your answer to the story question. For inspiration look at Breakout EDU’s example games. It can be as simple as hiding keys and lock combos in various places. It can also be as complicated as hiding clues in VR environments, in Minecraft, or having multiple goals in order to escape the room. I recommend doing this after the space is decorated because you will have a better sense of where you can hide things, plus the decorators can still participate in the program because they don’t know what the clues are.

7. Write everything down!

If you get more than a few teens for your program you will want to run the escape room multiple times so having a record of where everything is hidden and what clues lead where is important! You can adapt Breakout EDU’s brainstorming worksheet for this purpose.

Here is my chart from my latest escape room:

Theme: Star Wars

Story: You are a team of rebels assigned to a mission on the planet Tatooine. Your mission has gone awry and Stormtroopers are chasing after you. You have found this abandoned rebel ship. To escape on this ship from Tatooine you must:

  1. Find location of closest rebel base.
  2. Find launch codes for primary, secondary, and tertiary control panels.
Purpose What Will They Do With It? Where Will it Lead?
Mini Safe with Combo(on top of utility shelf) Conceal location of closet rebel base Open it-(password hidden under random chair in room) Location of Yavin 4, closest rebel base (on flash drive)
Numeric Lock 1 Lock up box Open box-(key hidden underneath red lightsaber) Secondary systems control launch code
Numeric Lock 2 Lock up box Open box-(key inside Darth helmet) Primary systems control launch code
Alpha Lock 1 Lock up kitchen cabinet Unlock-Password hidden under safe (password set to DOAY, anagram of Yoda) Tertiary systems control launch code

See Also:

TPiB: Locked in the Library! Hosting an escape room program

TPiB: Escape Room The Game, a review

All About Escape Rooms | School Library Journal

Book Review: Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee

When I’m reviewing books for professional publications, I stay quiet about them on social media. I’m always really excited once a review comes out to be able to talk about the book, finally! Here’s one of my most recent reviews, which originally appeared in the June 2017 issue of School Library Journal. I am SO EXCITED to now be able to rave to everyone about this book. 

 

tash heartsTash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee

ISBN-13: 9781481489331 Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers Publication date:06/06/2017

★ Gr 9 Up—Seventeen-year-old Kentucky filmmaker and Tolstoy superfan Tash Zelenka’s summer takes an unexpected turn when her web series, Unhappy Families (a modern adaptation of Anna Karenina) goes viral. The newfound fame causes tension between Tash and her best friend Jack, who also works on the series. Tash is easily caught up in the increased social media attention, her fans’ expectations, and the criticisms. She is also grappling with her complicated relationship with her sister, Klaudie, who drops out of acting in the series to more fully enjoy her last summer before college. Plus, Tash must deal with her flirtation with vlogger Thom, her confusing feelings for Paul (Jack’s brother and Tash’s other best friend), and her worries about the end of the series and her impending college applications. Tash is also beginning to come out to people as romantic asexual and needs to figure out how to share her identity with Thom, whom she will be meeting soon at the Golden Tuba independent web awards. Tash and her group of artsy theater friends are vibrant, creative, and thoughtful. They may not always totally understand one another, but their admirable and complicated friendships have so much heart. The much-needed asexual representation plays a significant role in the story, with readers privy to Tash’s thoughts on identity and conversations with friends about what the term means. VERDICT Funny, well written, and compulsively readable, this will especially appeal to readers with an interest in web series. A strong choice for YA shelves.

MakerSpace: DIY Fidget Spinners in Three Ways

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This past week we spent some time setting up a DIY Fidget Spinner station at the Teen MakerSpace at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County (OH). There are no shortage of DIY Fidget Spinner tutorials out there and we tried several and landed on the following three for our DIY Fidget Spinner station.

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Cardboard Fidget Spinners (No Bearings)

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The basic premise for our fidget spinner was found at the Red Ted Art blog and corresponded nicely with our new MakeDo Cardboard Creations station. You can find the basic tutorial here: http://www.redtedart.com/make-fidget-spinner-diy/. The no bearing center uses a toothpick, hot glue and cardboard as the spinning mechanism which we used for both our cardboard and origami fidget spinners.

To see a short video of our cardboard fidget spinner, click here: https://www.instagram.com/p/BVSxb6CnWHP/?taken-by=makerspaceplmvkc

It was pretty easy to do and works fairly well. I thought I would be creative and add bottle caps from our bottle cap crafts station to enhance my fidget spinner and I do not recommend this as it makes the fidget a little to big to fit nicely between your fingers and hand. On a second attempt we used scrapbook paper and the epoxy circle stickers from the bottle cap crafts and this worked much better. You can also just use pennies.
fidget5Supplies Needed:
  • Cardboard
  • Box cutter
  • Toothpicks
  • Hot glue
  • Pennies
  • Embellishments (if desired)

Very low cost, quick and easy, effective

Origami Fidget Spinner (No Bearings)

Using the same premise as above, we also made an origami fidget spinner. You can find a variety of origami ninja star tutorials online and turn your origami ninja star into a fidget spinner. We used a toothpick and beads to make our own bearing to create the spinning mechanism.

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To see a short video of our origami fidget spinner, click here: https://www.instagram.com/p/BVSxMkWHJ4Q/?taken-by=makerspaceplmvkc

Supplies Needed:

  • Origami paper
  • Toothpicks
  • Hot glue
  • Embellishments (if desired)

Very low cost, quick and easy, effective

3D Pen Fidget Spinner (with Bearings)

We also bought some bearings off of Amazon and used them in combination with our 3D pens to make fidget spinners. Our first attempt looked like a traditional fidget spinner and used 4 ball bearings. It spins really well and we are very happy with the outcome.

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With our second attempt we wanted to see if we could make our ball bearings go farther so we used one for the center to make our spinning mechanism and replaced the exterior ball bearings with pennies. By doing this, we can make more fidget spinners with the bearings we have on hand. This worked basically the same.

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To create our 3d pen fidget spinner we made circles around all four of our objects first and then we joined them together.

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Supplies Needed:

  • 3D pen and filament
  • Ball bearing
  • Pennies

Higher cost because you need a 3D pen, filament, and the bearings, a little more challenging and time consuming, effective

In setting up a station with various types of fidget spinners for teens to try they get to really engage in comparing and contrasting and problem solving. We’ve already made a variety of various fidget spinners and find it to be a lot of fun. I highly recommend this activity.