Teen Librarian Toolbox
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Book Review: Home and Away by Candice Montgomery

Publisher’s description

home and awayTasia Quirk is young, Black, and fabulous. She’s a senior, she’s got great friends, and a supportive and wealthy family. She even plays football as the only girl on her private high school’s team.

But when she catches her mamma trying to stuff a mysterious box in the closet, her identity is suddenly called into question. Now Tasia’s determined to unravel the lies that have overtaken her life. Along the way, she discovers what family and forgiveness really mean, and that her answers don’t come without a fee. An artsy bisexual boy from the Valley could help her find them—but only if she stops fighting who she is, beyond the color of her skin.

 

 

Amanda’s thoughts

What a great exploration of heartache, home, second chances, grace, forgiveness, family, race, and identity. This was the first book I’ve read from both this author and this publisher (Page Street Publishing) and I look forward to more from both.

 

Tasia’s life seems pretty great. The summary up there tells you all about it. But everything is thrown into chaos when she discovers her mother hiding a box of newspaper clippings and more from Tasia’s life. In that box is a picture of her Black mother with a white man—a man who turns out to be Tasia’s biological father. At 18, Tasia cannot believe she’s been lied to this long. Not only is the only father she’s ever known not her biological father, but she’s biracial. There are certainly all kinds of different and totally okay ways to react to both pieces of news. For Tasia, she decides to track down Merrick, her biological dad, and then move in with him for a while. She can’t get past her parents’ betrayal. She moves from her McMansion (her words) in her affluent neighborhood to Merrick’s small apartment, transferring to a public high school as well. Here she makes new friends, including bisexual Kai El Khoury, who was adopted by Merrick’s parents. It’s hard for Tasia to talk to her old friends about any of this, so she kind of withdraws from everyone, throwing herself into her new life. Her new life comes with a lot of introspection and suspicion. Who sent that box to her? Why did her mother never tell Merrick or Tasia the truth? Will she ever be able to forgive her parents? Through it all, she begins to understand just how many different sides people have, and that they don’t show all their sides to everyone.

 

I enjoyed this book for many reasons. Tasia is a football-player, which is hardly a big deal at all except for her new coach, who initially is a total jerk to her. She has all kinds of interesting friends, both old and new, with diverse identities, and makes many missteps with them, learning along the way how to be a better friend, how to trust more, and how to forgive and move on. Though initially I thought maybe the book was a bit too long to sustain the story, once it really got underway, there is so much going on, and so much that Tasia has to process, that I ended up wanting even more toward the end. Her explorations of the many tensions in her life and her many identities is compelling and honest. It was a joy to watch her find so many new truths on her path to healing and learn to reconcile the different pieces of her life. I hope this great book finds a large audience, because Tasia’s story is an important one. 

 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781624145957
Publisher: Page Street Publishing
Publication date: 10/16/2018

Circulation Statistics are an Imperfect Measure of Who We are and What Libraries Do

I know several libraries that are chewing their nails about declining circulation statistics. The issue is, of course, that circulation statistics are one of the primary measures of success for school and public libraries. They are, however, an imperfect measure of both library success and impact. For a profession that has the term science right there in the title, we rely on some pretty flawed data to help drive what we do.

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Circulation statistics measure how many times an item is checked out of a library collection. Most libraries use this data for a variety of things, including collection development and annual reporting. One of the things circulation figures look at is overall circulation. For example, a library will run a report and determine that the library system circulated 1,000,000 items for the year. Depending on the size of the collection and the service area, they will then determine whether or not this is a good number. Over the years, we track circulation increase and decrease to determine whether or not we are contracting or expanding. Circulation statistics are a really big deal, but should they be?

Any business, and though we are non-profit, libraries are in fact a business, needs data to help drive discussions, planning, evaluation and more. For profit businesses measure things like profit and loss, return on investment, and staffing costs. To be clear, libraries do and should be measuring these types of figures as well. But today we’re going to talk about one of our primary tools of measurement: circulation statistics. Though circulation statistics are a very standard unite by which libraries evaluation their success and plan, I would argue that they are a very ineffective tool. Furthermore, I worry that many libraries place far too much emphasis on this number, which is inherently flawed as a measuring tool

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Circulation is not the same as reading nor is it a measure of impact

Circulation statistics tell us if an item is checked out and that’s it. As a data point, it doesn’t give us a lot of information. This data doesn’t give us any information about what the patron did with the item once they checked it out. For all we know, a patron checked out an item and then it sat in their car for two weeks where they forgot about it and returned it completely unused. This data also doesn’t tell us if the patron liked the item, if they liked their experience of the library, or if that item made any impact on things like personal growth, education, or recreation. Circulation data is not the same as impact or use. To be clear, there is no real way we can measure this data, but it is a slippery slope to suggest that circulation is the same as impact. At the end of the day, the only thing this number tells us is that a patron checked out an item. It’s only the beginning of a story, of an item’s journey. We never know what happens next.

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We know that circulation doesn’t realistically reflect the way patrons use certain collections

Fiction books and biographies are typically items that a patron will check out and read because it takes an investment of time. DVDs are also an item that can’t be used inside of a library. But there are many items and collections that are used in-house or both in-house and out-of-house. Take board books for example; These are short books that are typically read to babies and toddlers. Many parents and caregivers will bring their small child with them to the library and sit down and read many board books to their children before selecting just a few to check out and take home. The same happens with pictures books. Likewise, most children and teen librarians will tell you that a lot of graphic novels get read right there at the library. There are many areas of the collection which have use higher than what their circulation statistics may indicate. One way to try to get a better number is to measure in-house use as well as circulation, but measuring in-house use is both an imperfect act and it requires more work for staff. I would argue, however, that we should be collecting this data for collection development and for measuring use and communicating our use to admin and our communities.

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Circulation doesn’t measure sharing within households and friends

When I first began working in libraries, a book called Rats Saw God by author Rob Thomas was published. This book had tremendous word of mouth from teen to teen and many teens would check it out and then share it with their friends. One teen might check it out, meaning it got one circ., but many teens read that single copy on the single circulation. I parent a teen who loves to read YA. We will often both read the same book even though it only gets checked out by one of us. As a family, we have often traveled in a car listening to an audio book. Four people are listening to that book, but it only gets one circulation. The same happens when we check out and watch a movie. One circulation statistic does not indicate how many people may or may not have engaged with that item.

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There are many access barriers to circulation

Recently, we kept finding a book hidden on a shelf. We had a teen that was coming in every day, grabbing this book and reading it, and then hiding it so that he could pick it up and read it again the next day. He couldn’t check out the book and take it home because his card was blocked by fines. Fines, fees, blocked cards, the rules we put in place to get cards – especially if you are a minor – can make checking out an item hard. Many of our patrons find creative ways to get around the access barriers we put in place. Many patrons stop using the library all together or stop using traditional library materials because of the access barriers we put in place. Many library patrons use the library in ways that aren’t represented by circulation statistics and we put up a lot of access barriers that prevent our patrons from doing the very thing we need them to do to measure our success.

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Libraries are more than the circulation of traditional materials

Circulating traditional items is not the only nor is it the most important thing that libraries do. The various services and amenities that libraries provide are legion, and many of them are hard to measure. Circulation statistics and program attendance are concrete figures, but they don’t tell the whole story. We can add in things like Internet computer use and PAC searches, but this is still an incomplete picture. Some libraries use tally sheets to keep track of the number of informational and reference questions answered, but this is also still an incomplete picture. When we talk about libraries, we need to gather as much data as possible to help us measure success and communicate this success to our administrators, our boards and our communities, but we need more than statistics. We need personal stories, we need patron feedback, and we need to paint a more holistic picture of who we are, what we are doing, and the benefit we bring to our communities. Statistics are not enough for us to tell our stories and measure our success.

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There are other things we should be looking at when we talk about circulation. How is our library at marketing? What kind of transportation barriers do people have to get to the library? How are we doing at customer service and retention? Once patrons are inside the building, are they able to find what they want or do they walk away empty handed? What type of external competition are we facing? What budget and staff challenges do we face? Is our process for ordering, processing and managing materials efficient and do they promote quickly getting materials into the hands of our patrons? There are so many more questions we should be asking ourselves and so many issues we should be discussing beyond circulation statistics.

Circulation statistics. They are important and have value, but I fear that we place too much emphasis on this data. In the year 2018, it does not tell the whole story of who we are and what we do and what obstacles we have to overcome to do it. So yes, track your stats and keep working towards growth, but let’s also keep the big picture in mind. We are more than just our circulation statistics and those statistics don’t tell us everything we need to know. We need to find better ways to measure our success and tell our story.

Sunday Reflections: It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye

This past week, I started a new job at a new library. I didn’t make a big announcement in part because I’m so very bad at saying goodbye. And although this new job is a great opportunity for me professionally, leaving my old job was harder than ever for me.

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I began my library career at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County, where I worked for the first 7 years of my career. With another co-worker, I built that program from scratch at the tender age of 20. When I left the first time, I cried for an entire year afterwards. I didn’t want to leave it then and I didn’t want to leave it now. Getting asked to come back was one of the best things that ever happened to me. And professionally, turning the teen program into the Teen MakerSpace was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. I had in many ways hoped to retire at this library, ending it all where it all began. Plus, it was an honor to work once again with my mentor and friend. She’s retiring at the end of this month and I wish her nothing but the best.

My library mentor

My library mentor

It’s not just the program that you come to love, it’s the people. Coworkers. Teens. I’m a very relationship oriented person and leaving a workplace can be difficult. And as you know, I genuinely care about the teens I serve. As a teen services librarian, you have to say goodbye every year to a small cohort of your teens as they go off to college or whatever comes next. There’s a lot of goodbye built into being a teen librarian.

I'm not gonna lie, I took a picture of my Teen MakerSpace manual and put it up at my new desk. I will miss you TMS manual! Though I'm already making a new one.

I’m not gonna lie, I took a picture of my Teen MakerSpace manual and put it up at my new desk. I will miss you TMS manual! Though I’m already making a new one.

This past week, I began a job as the Children’s and YA Materials Selector at Fort Worth Public Library. This is hands down the largest library system I have ever worked at and it in right in the middle of a big city. So there is a lot of change happening here. I’m going from a medium sized Midwestern rural library to a big big big city library system. I’m going from a position where I’m in charge of anything and everything teen related to being the collection development person. I’m going from being in charge of a staff to being in charge of, well, no one. And did I mention it’s big? Like, super big.

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Like I said, it’s a lot of change.

There’s a huge learning curve here. I have to learn new people, new demographics, new systems, new processes and more. I’ve already met a ton of people and, although they’re very nice and I will eventually make meaningful connections, those first few weeks or months when you are a stranger in a strange land are always so very hard for me.

Thing 2 helping me pack boxes of books to take to the Rowlett Public Library

In larger systems, everyone has very specific job titles with very specific jobs and very specific responsibilities. This is not always the case in smaller systems when you are just in charge of everything. In my new position, I’m a collection development librarian. Like many larger systems, there are programming or collection development librarians and I am working with collections. In order to help fulfill my desire to work with and serve teens hands on, I am also working with the local arts council to help create a Teen MakerSpace as a volunteer at the public library in the town that I live. So I will still get to do some programming. I will still get to connect with teens. I will still get to serve and advocate for teens in the area of programming as well. I feel blessed in that I get to learn and grow and still do all of the parts of teen librarianship that make me feel the most like me.

25 years as a Teen/YA Librarian. I've met a lot of people I love along the way.

25 years as a Teen/YA Librarian. I’ve met a lot of people I love along the way.

This fall I begin my 26th year as a Teen Services Librarian, and I’m beginning it at Fort Worth Public Library. It’s a new and exciting adventure that I am looking forward to taking. In my previous 25 years as a Teen Services Librarian I have started 2 teen programs from scratch, revamped 2, created a Teen MakerSpace, managed a small staff twice, built several collections, served literally thousands of teens, published a professional book, and started Teen Librarian Toolbox. It’s not a shabby resume and I’m looking forward to see what happens next. Let’s do this.

Friday Finds: October 12, 2018

tltbutton3This Week at TLT

Wrestling with some truths in the movie “The Hate U Give”

Writing Outside Your Own Life (and Not Chickening Out), a guest post by Jacqueline West

Book Review: The Collectors by Jacqueline West

“All American Boys” Authors Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely Discuss Racism, White Privilege, and Censorship in Today’s Civic Landscape, a guest post by Lisa Krok

Post-it Note Reviews of Recent YA Releases

Around the Web

What are we teaching boys when we discourage them from reading books about girls?

Migrant children may be adopted after parents are deported

Legal holes allow migrant kids’ adoption in US

Creating an Inclusive Library

 

 

 

Post-it Note Reviews of Recent YA Releases

IMG_3631I do my best to get a LOT of reading done, but can’t even begin to attempt to read all the books that show up here. Even if I quit my library job, I still couldn’t read them all.  I read just about every free second I have—sitting in the car while waiting for my kid, on my lunch breaks at work, sometimes even while I’m walking in the hall at work. A lot of that kind of reading isn’t super conducive to really deep reading or taking many notes. Or maybe I’m reading in my own house, but while covered in sleeping dachshunds, or while trying to block out the noise of kids playing. I might not get around to being able to write a full review, but I still want to share these books with you, so here are my tiny Post-it Note reviews of a few titles. I also do these posts focusing on books for younger readers. It’s a great way to display books in your library or classroom, a way to let kids recommend their favorite titles without having to get up in front of everyone and do a book talk, and an easy way to offer a more personal recommendation than just the flap copy offers.

All summaries are from the publishers. Transcription of Post-it note review under the summary. 

 

 

 

 

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Meet the Sky by McCall Hoyle

From award-winning author McCall Hoyle comes a new young adult novel, Meet the Sky, a story of love, letting go, and the unstoppable power of nature.

It all started with the accident. The one that caused Sophie’s dad to walk out of her life. The one that left Sophie’s older sister, Meredith, barely able to walk at all.

With nothing but pain in her past, all Sophie wants is to plan for the future—keep the family business running, get accepted to veterinary school, and protect her mom and sister from another disaster. But when a hurricane forms off the coast of North Carolina’s Outer Banks and heads right toward their island, Sophie realizes nature is one thing she can’t control.

After she gets separated from her family during the evacuation, Sophie finds herself trapped on the island with the last person she’d have chosen—the reckless and wild Finn Sanders, who broke her heart freshman year. As they struggle to find safety, Sophie learns that Finn has suffered his own heartbreak; but instead of playing it safe, Finn’s become the kind of guy who goes surfing in the eye of the hurricane. He may be the perfect person to remind Sophie how to embrace life again, but only if their newfound friendship can survive the storm.

 

(POST-IT SAYS: The far-fetched plot will appeal to readers who like their main characters in peril. Survival, self-discovery, romance, and letting go of control combine for an enjoyable , well-paced read.)

 

 

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Girl CEO by Katherine Ellison, Ronnie Cohen
Rebel girls, young entrepreneurs, and other trailblazing tweens and teens will find inspiring success stories and practical advice for launching their own illustrious careers—right now!

Mini-biographies of leading women entrepreneurs—from Katrina Lake to Oprah, Tavi Gevinson to Sheryl Sandberg, and Ursula Burns to Diane von Furstenberg—offer windows into what it takes to succeed, with a particular focus on the challenges faced (and overcome) by girls and women. Each success story provides different lessons in life and leadership—such as how to:

*identify a lucrative niche

*build and maintain a brand

*grow a loyal customer base

*raise money for research and development

*turn an interest (or a passion) into a career

*build a strong network

Fascinating figures from the words of media, technology, fashion, food, and more share their secrets with tomorrow’s leaders. Some of the women whose stories will be included in the book are:

Oprah
Prerna Gupta
Sheryl Sandberg
Venus Williams
Katrina Lake
Ursula Burns
Noa Mintz
Estee Lauder
Mikaila Ulmer
Madam CJ Walker
Diane von Furstenberg
Tavi Gevinson
Joy Mangano
Lilly Singh
Mariam Naficy
Judy Faulkner
Debbie Sterling
Anne Wojcicki
Katharine Graham

 

(POST-IT SAYS: Full color makes this book very visually appealing. Great profiles of and advice from diverse women entrepreneurs, inventors, CEOs, media stars, and other leaders. Inspiring and educational.) 

 

 

 

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We Are Not Yet Equal: Understanding Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson, Tonya Bolden

Carol Anderson’s White Rage took the world by storm, landing on the New York Times bestseller list and best book of the year lists from New York TimesWashington PostBoston Globe, and Chicago Review of Books. It launched her as an in-demand commentator on contemporary race issues for national print and television media and garnered her an invitation to speak to the Democratic Congressional Caucus. This compelling young adult adaptation brings her ideas to a new audience.

When America achieves milestones of progress toward full and equal black participation in democracy, the systemic response is a consistent racist backlash that rolls back those wins. We Are Not Yet Equal examines five of these moments: The end of the Civil War and Reconstruction was greeted with Jim Crow laws; the promise of new opportunities in the North during the Great Migration was limited when blacks were physically blocked from moving away from the South; the Supreme Court’s landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision was met with the shutting down of public schools throughout the South; the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 led to laws that disenfranchised millions of African American voters and a War on Drugs that disproportionally targeted blacks; and the election of President Obama led to an outburst of violence including the death of black teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri as well as the election of Donald Trump.

This YA adaptation will be written in an approachable narrative style that provides teen readers with additional context to these historic moments, photographs and archival images, and additional backmatter and resources for teens.

 

(POST-IT SAYS: Required reading. A powerful look at how white supremacy has been maintained and equality suppressed and undermined. An accessible exploration of systemic racism and injustice. Ages 12-18)

 

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Uncharted by Erin Cashman

 

Seventeen-year-old Annabeth prefers the fantasy of her books and paintings to reality—because in reality, her mom is dead, and it was all her fault. She vows to make her dad’s life easier in return. But upon accompanying him to his friends’ secluded manor, he goes missing in the woods.

Annabeth suspects the manor’s heir Griffin knows more about the disappearance than he’s letting on. He’s irritable, removed, and he’s under police investigation for the mysterious “accidents” happening at his family’s estate.

Annabeth fears her father isn’t lost, but rather a victim of something sinister. She launches her own investigation, tracing clues that whisper of myth and legend and death, until she stumbles upon a secret. One that some would die to protect, others would kill to expose—and which twists Annabeth’s fantasy and reality together in deadly new ways.

 

(POST-IT SAYS: Easy recommendation for fans of thrillers, mysteries, and legends/mythology. Plenty of suspense keeps the story interesting and moving along even when the pacing feels off.)

 

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Here to Stay by Sara Farizan

Bijan Majidi is:

  • Shy around girls
  • Really into comics
  • Decent at basketball

Bijan Majidi is not:

  • A terrorist

What happens when a kid who’s flown under the radar for most of high school gets pulled off the bench to make the winning basket in a varsity playoff game?

If his name is Bijan Majidi, life is suddenly high fives in the hallways and invitations to exclusive parties—along with an anonymous photo sent by a school cyberbully that makes Bijan look like a terrorist.

The administration says they’ll find and punish the culprit. Bijan wants to pretend it never happened. He’s not ashamed of his Middle Eastern heritage; he just doesn’t want to be a poster child for Islamophobia. Lots of classmates rally around Bijan. Others make it clear they don’t want him oranybody who looks like him at their school. But it’s not always easy to tell your enemies from your friends.

Here to Stay is a painfully honest, funny, authentic story about growing up, speaking out, and fighting prejudice.

 

(POST-IT SAYS: Sports, Persian culture, prep school, racism, and bullying are at the heart of this thoughtful and, at times, quite funny book. Great characters, smart writing, and full of heart. An excellent read.)

 

 

 

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I, Claudia by Mary McCoy

Disaffected teen historian Claudia McCarthy never expected to be in charge of Imperial Day Academy, but by accident, design, or scheme, she is pulled into the tumultuous and high-profile world of the Senate and Honor Council. Suddenly, Claudia is wielding power over her fellow students that she never expected to have and isn’t sure she wants.

Claudia vows to use her power to help the school. But there are forces aligned against her: shocking scandals, tyrants waiting in the wings, and political dilemmas with no easy answers. As Claudia struggles to be a force for good in the universe, she wrestles with the question: does power inevitably corrupt?

 

(POST-IT SAYS: This gender-bent modern take on I, Claudius is very long but super compelling. Power, scandal, plot twists, politics, and popularity collide in the student senate. Give this to readers who like drama and scheming.)

 

 

 

 

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Girls on the Line by Jennie Liu

Sixteen-year-old Luli has just aged out of the orphanage where she grew up, and her childhood friend Yun helps her get a job at the factory where Yun works. Both girls enjoy the freedom of making their own decisions and earning their own money—until Yun gets pregnant by her boyfriend, who’s rumored to be a human trafficker. China’s restrictive family planning laws put Yun in a difficult position: she’ll either have to have an expensive abortion or face crippling fines for having a child out of wedlock. When she disappears, it’s up to Luli to track her down and find a way to help her.

 

(POST-IT SAYS: Such an intense read. An excellent addition to all collections because it is both well-written and gives voice to a story I don’t think we’ve seen in YA. This complex and serious story will appeal to readers looking for a challenging and thoughtful book.)

 

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Pride by Ibi Zoboi

Pride and Prejudice gets remixed in this smart, funny, gorgeous retelling of the classic, starring all characters of color, from Ibi Zoboi, National Book Award finalist and author of American Street.

Zuri Benitez has pride. Brooklyn pride, family pride, and pride in her Afro-Latino roots. But pride might not be enough to save her rapidly gentrifying neighborhood from becoming unrecognizable.

When the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street, Zuri wants nothing to do with their two teenage sons, even as her older sister, Janae, starts to fall for the charming Ainsley. She especially can’t stand the judgmental and arrogant Darius. Yet as Zuri and Darius are forced to find common ground, their initial dislike shifts into an unexpected understanding.

But with four wild sisters pulling her in different directions, cute boy Warren vying for her attention, and college applications hovering on the horizon, Zuri fights to find her place in Bushwick’s changing landscape, or lose it all.

In a timely update of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, critically acclaimed author Ibi Zoboi skillfully balances cultural identity, class, and gentrification against the heady magic of first love in her vibrant reimagining of this beloved classic.

 

(POST-IT SAYS: An immediately engaging and extremely well-written Pride and Prejudice remix that’s highly enjoyable whether readers know the source material or not. A smart look at dating, culture, identity, gentrification, and family.) 

 

 

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Glimmer of Hope: How Tragedy Sparked a Movement by The March for Our Lives Founders

Glimmer of Hope is the official, definitive book from The March for Our Lives founders. 

Glimmer of Hope tells the story of how a group of teenagers raced to channel their rage and sorrow into action, and went on to create one of the largest youth-led movements in global history.

100% of the authors’ proceeds will benefit the March for Our Lives Foundation and the ongoing fight for gun violence prevention in the United States.

The full list of contributors, in alphabetical order, are: Adam Alhanti, Dylan Baierlein, John Barnitt, Alfonso Calderon, Sarah Chadwick, Jaclyn Corin, Matt Deitsch, Ryan Deitsch, Sam Deitsch, Brendan Duff, Emma González, Chris Grady, David Hogg, Lauren Hogg, Cameron Kasky, Jammal Lemy, Charlie Mirsky, Kyrah Simon, Delaney Tarr, Bradley Thornton, Kevin Trejos, Naomi Wadler, Sofie Whitney, Daniel Williams, and Alex Wind.

(POST-IT SAYS: A powerful collection of essays about the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, the aftermath, rally, social media movement, and the march. Includes info on mobilizing and endorsed reforms. Finished copy will include many photos. An important book.) 

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Martin and Bobby: A Journey Toward Justice by Claire Rudolf Murphy

Martin and Bobby follows the lives, words, and final days of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy. Initially wary of one another, their relationship evolved from challenging and testing each other to finally “arriving in the same place” as allies fighting poverty and racism. The stories of King and Kennedy reveal how life experiences affect a leader’s ability to show empathy for all people and how great political figures don’t work in a vacuum but are influenced by events and people around them.

Martin’s courage showed Bobby how to act on one’s moral principles, and Bobby’s growing awareness of the country’s racial and economic divide gave Martin hope that the nation’s leaders could truly support justice. Fifty years later, their lives and words still stir people young and old and offer inspiration and insight on how our country can face the historic challenges of economic and racial inequality.

(POST-IT SAYS: Really powerful look at the differences and similarities of these two great men. A deep dive into the racism, activism, poverty, and other issues of their era. Lots of pictures and info from a lot of primary sources. A unique presentation of their lives. Very compelling. Ages 14-18)

“All American Boys” Authors Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely Discuss Racism, White Privilege, and Censorship in Today’s Civic Landscape, a guest post by Lisa Krok

In the midst of a week full of national dissent and tension, Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely took to the stage to get real with a live audience. The Ensemble Theatre in Cleveland Heights, Ohio was the perfect venue for an intimate discussion on serious subjects. Reynolds and Kiely first became friends a few years back while touring for their debut books, When I Was the Greatest and The Gospel of Winter, respectively. The Trayvon Martin tragedy had occurred already, and after Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri, the two friends had some candid discussions about racism and police brutality. This prompted them to begin writing All American Boys together. Told in alternating perspectives of Reynold’s black teen, Rashad Butler, and Kiely’s white teen, Quinn Collins, the story opens with Rashad being beaten by a police officer while Quinn witnesses from down the street. As the plot unfolds, family, friends, and the community have different takes as to the officer’s culpability. When protests begin with kids at school, Quinn has mixed feelings about what to do next.

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Aside from the Martin and Brown situations, the authors had their own anecdotes from their teenage years that sparked their interest in collaborating on the book.  Reynolds’ terrifying   run-in with D.C. police at age 16 while in a car with friends couldn’t be more opposite of Kiely’s tale of being pulled over while driving his mom’s minivan in Boston. While Reynolds and his black friends were presumed to be criminals, Kiely and his white friends were let off and told to go home and be safe. Why? Racism and white privilege. Both were polite and respectful to police, but nonetheless, biases prevailed. The biggest difference, according to Kiely, was that he was nervous, but didn’t have anything to fear other than being caught. “I think about the fear I never had to experience, the accountability I never had…it is a tug to remind me what it means to have white privilege in America.”

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All of this dovetails into censorship and book banning of both All American Boys and another book depicting police brutality, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Both have been challenged and/or banned in some areas, most recently in Charleston, South Carolina. When the Wando High School summer reading list included the two titles above, Charleston area police protested the books, stating that they promoted negativity and distrust of police. The three authors responded in a joint statement:

“Our books are not anti-police, they are anti-police brutality. We’re proud of the teachers at Wando HS who are using literature that reflects the lives of so many young people across this country. To deny these books from reading lists would deny too many young people the reflections of the reality they know and experience.”

-Jason Reynolds, Brendan Kiely, and Angie Thomas

Reynolds expounded upon this on stage, revealing he and Kiely have police officers in their families, and they value and respect the job police officers do. He reiterated that they are just anti-police brutality, and would love it if police were anti-police brutality, too. “We just hope that for us as a community, in order for things to shift, we gotta be able to engage and lean into these discussions…this book hopefully will serve as a platform and a framework for us to have these discussions, these uncomfortable discussions, in healthy and safe ways…It’s okay for you to disagree, just not okay for you to disengage.”

See Jason Reynolds’ impassioned remarks here:

Kiely emphasized that censorship especially impacts marginalized people. “When you are censoring over and over and over again stories that feature characters who live marginalized experiences, you are censoring the people whose lives their stories reflect. You’re censoring their life existence in your community. That to me is part of the injustice. That’s part of the real cruelty to people who live in our own communities.”  When thinking about a whole variety of marginalized experiences, it worries him when people use things like language as an excuse to censor, or use things like “well but there are choices characters make in this book,” or “we can’t have people knowing that they can make this choice and still survive.” “Censorship, in my opinion, is one of the most unethical things we can do when it comes to literature,” Kiely continues. “I think about the places where our book has been banned and think about how so many students in those communities who have experiences like Rashad and his family and his church community and the whole book and all the white kids who then don’t get an opportunity to reflect in ways that they haven’t been asked to reflect on before. That censorship is robbing them of part of their own humanity as well.”

Reynolds brought up a strong point about how people don’t get worked up about censoring video games that simulate war. “Why books?” he pondered. “Nothing else gets this kind of flak. Most cartoons are worse than the books we write, and nobody seems to care.  Ask your kids what the words in their favorite rap song are.  Ask them to rap it out for you. Nobody seems to mind as long as they’re doing the dance”.  He expressed concerns about kids who can’t afford to buy a book, and the book is taken out of their schools. Reynolds credits fellow author Laurie Halse Anderson as noting “It is the insecurity of adults that gets in the way of children.” He continues, “Everybody in this room has to make a decision to be more loyal to their futures than to their fears.”

Kiely says people don’t want to process the racism. “People use a number of excuses to talk about why the book shouldn’t come into communities. They would say well it might incite a riot.’”  It is hard for Kiely understand how this is possible. Those who have read the book know that “the book is anti-violence and it exposes the harm violence really causes families, communities. I struggle with those excuses, but I think they are all codes for ‘we don’t talk about the stuff that would make us have to shift the power dynamics that currently exist in our community.’”

Many thanks to Heights Libraries for sponsoring this event!

Books related to the Black Lives Matter movement, specifically regarding police brutality:

tyler johnsonTyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles

How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon

alfonso

I Am Alfonso Jones by Tony Medina

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

dear martinDear Martin by Nic Stone

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

For more information, see the following resources:

https://www.postandcourier.com/news/charleston-area-police-protest-the-hate-u-give-school-assignment/article_facc8330-7df9-11e8-8a0a-8331f0a41cbe.html

https://www.oif.ala.org/oif/?p=15093

https://www.slj.com/?detailStory=sc-police-union-challenges-summer-reading-list-hate-u-give-american-boys

https://www.slj.com/?detailStory=brendan-kielys-and-jason-reynoldss-csk-author-honor-speeches-for-all-american-boys

https://www.slj.com/?detailStory=making-the-personal-political-angie-thomas-on-the-hate-u-give

http://oaklandlibrary.org/blogs/childrens-services/talking-kids-about-race-and-racism

http://sfusd.libguides.com/blacklivesmatter

https://www.aclu.org/know-your-rights/what-do-if-youre-stopped-police-immigration-agents-or-fbi

lisakrok

-Lisa Krok is branch manager of Cleveland Public Library’s Harvard-Lee branch, a member of the Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers team, and a Ravenclaw. She can be found being bookish and political on Twitter @readonthebeach.

Book Review: The Collectors by Jacqueline West

Publisher’s description

collectorsEven the smallest wish can be dangerous. That’s why the Collectors are always keeping watch.

The Collectors sweeps readers into a hidden world where wishes are stolen and dreams have a price. Fast-paced, witty, and riveting, this contemporary fantasy adventure has magic woven through every page.

It’s the first book in a two-book series from Jacqueline West, the New York Times–bestselling author of The Books of Elsewhere series. For fans of Serafina and the Black Cloak, The Isle of the Lost, and The Secret Keepers.

Van has always been an outsider. Most people don’t notice him. But he notices them. And he notices the small trinkets they drop, or lose, or throw away—that’s why his collection is full of treasures. Then one day, Van notices a girl stealing pennies from a fountain, and everything changes. He follows the girl, Pebble, and uncovers an underground world full of wishes and the people who collect them. Apparently not all wishes are good and even good wishes often have unintended consequences—and the Collectors have made it their duty to protect us. But they aren’t the only ones who have their eyes on the world’s wishes—and they may not be the good guys, after all.

Jacqueline West, author of the New York Times–bestselling Books of Elsewhere series, draws readers into a story about friendship, magic, and the gray area between good and evil. The Collectors is for fans of Cassie Beasley’s Circus Mirandus and Jonathan Auxier’s The Night Gardener.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

This is totally one of those books where I finish reading it and want to demand the next book be in my hands RIGHT NOW so I can find out what happens. After lots of fabulous twists and turns, and being left uncertain who to trust or believe, I just want to see where this story goes. I suspect many readers will be just as drawn in as I was.

 

11-year-old Van wears hearing aids, and while he may not always hear everything, he certainly sees everything. A keen observer, he notices little things that others overlook, like small, forgotten items that he secrets home to his model stage, where they become part of his imaginary world. His opera singer-mother is often preoccupied with other things, and while shopping one day, Van comes across a strange girl stealing pennies from a fountain. He tries to figure out what her deal is, but his mother appears and the girl disappears before he can learn much. Eventually, his quest to find out more leads him to hidden underground chambers, where he follows the girl to a room labeled The Collection. Here, he finds shelves filled with glass bottles, which turn out to be captured wishes. Van has so many questions: who would steal wishes? Why? Do they help make them come true? Or do they stop them from coming true? What does Pebble, the girl, have to do with all of this? And how come Van can talk to and understand animals? Things grow more complicated when Van meets Mr. Falborg, an Opera Guild member with vast collections of his own. When Van is kidnapped by men from the underground chambers, he’s told he’s dangerous because he knows their secrets. He’s given instructions to prove he’s not their enemy and released. Unfortunately, that proof requires him to steal something from Mr. Falborg, who also tells Van he is in danger. Suddenly, it seems impossible to know who to trust, who is good or bad. Pebble claims that the collectors keep people safe from what could happen if wishes came true, but Falborg is telling Van a different story. And when Van discovers the most secret part of Falborg’s collection, he really doesn’t know what to think or who to believe. Forced to choose a side to align himself with, Van is confused. Wishes are hard to control and could bring chaos, but who can really be trusted to carry them out in the best way? When wishes are tied up with power, control, and good/bad, how can you even make a wish? And when Van finds out Pebble’s big secret, we’re all left wondering what will happen as the book closes.

 

Great characters, interesting world-building, tons of suspense, and leaves readers wanting more. A great addition to any collection. Be careful what you wish for! 

 

Review copy (ARC) courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9780062691699
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/09/2018

Writing Outside Your Own Life (and Not Chickening Out), a guest post by Jacqueline West

collectorsAs an author, I make a lot of school visits. And at a lot of school visits, a student will hurry up to me before my talk starts, hand me a lanyard microphone—the kind that links with hearing aids— and disappear again. I’ll wear the microphone as I speak, remembering, every time I bump it with an overdramatic gesture (which happens not infrequently), that one person in the crowd is experiencing the moment just a bit differently than everyone else.

 

I’ve always been drawn to stories about people who see things that others don’t see, who notice things that others don’t notice. I didn’t realize it until just recently, but all the main characters in my novels—at least so far—have this in common. Olive in The Books of Elsewhere finds magic spectacles that bring paintings to life. Jaye in Dreamers Often Lie has brain trauma that brings on Shakespearean hallucinations. When I started writing The Collectors, I knew eleven-year-old Van would be one of those people too. I knew he would be an isolated kid, shuttled around the globe by his opera-singing mother, often lost in his own miniature, collectible world. I knew he would perceive things differently from the people around him. But it wasn’t until I was halfway through the book that I realized something huge: Van was hard of hearing. Suddenly, with that discovery, both the logic and the magic of the story fell into place.

 

My first instinct was to chicken straight out.

 

A story about deafness was not mine to tell. Deafness and hearing loss are not my personal experiences. There are no deaf or hard-of-hearing people in my immediate family. There are authors, like Cece Bell of El Deafo, who do have this background, and who have used it as material for recent, brilliant work. Of course, I write about characters whose lives are different from my own all the time—but this difference felt so foundational to my character’s experience, hoping that I could understand it well enough to use it in my own story seemed arrogant. Maybe even stupid.

 

My second instinct was to leave that element out of the story and just go on without it. But when I tried, I couldn’t get through a single scene. It felt like I had just met someone named Timothy and told him that I was going to call him Reginald instead. My characters wouldn’t go backward with me. They wouldn’t let me rip this vital thread out of the story. Van was hard of hearing. He just was. This was an important part of his life, and it had stemmed from the very heart of the story, and there was no way I could cut it out now without killing the whole thing.

 

So my third instinct was to give up on it completely. I would say goodbye to Van, a character I utterly loved, and goodbye to the magical world I had nearly finished building, and leave them on the shelf in my office that’s stuffed with other out-of-steam manuscripts. But days went by, and then weeks and months, and Van’s story refused to leave me alone. That’s when I started to hope that a fantasy about wishes and underground worlds and distractible talking squirrels—all experienced through the perspective of a boy with hearing aids—might be a story I was meant to tell. So I got help.

 

I read like crazy (I highly recommend What’s that Pig Outdoors? by Henry Kisor and Gerald Shea’s Song Without Words). I reached out to local DHH teachers, who let me visit with their students, interviewing them, shadowing them during their school day, peppering them with questions. (One of those teachers even read the whole manuscript for inaccuracies. Thanks again, Angela!) I met with a book club from a school for the Deaf, and with parents of deaf and hard-of-hearing kids. The generosity and insight of all these people were incredible. The things they shared with me combined with the Van who already existed in my imagination, giving him his own unique view of the world—a view that leads him into danger, wonder, and unexpected magic.

 

I was reminded of something important as I wrote this book: we all want to find ourselves in a story. When you ask people to share a tiny bit of themselves, so that you can weave it into a story that will resonate with others, they don’t usually say no. They say sure! And then they tell stories of their own. It’s such a gift—and it’s one that I hope I can pass along to every reader who opens a copy of The Collectors. That, and some dangerous wishes, and an underground collection, and a distractible talking squirrel. Hope you enjoy.

 

 

Meet Jacqueline West

JacquelineWest2.2017Jacqueline West is the author of the middle grade fantasy The Collectors, the YA novel Dreamers Often Lie, and the NYT-bestselling series The Books of Elsewhere. Her debut, The Shadows (The Books of Elsewhere, Volume One), garnered multiple starred reviews and state award nominations, was named a Publishers Weekly Flying Start, and received the 2010 CYBILS award for fantasy/science fiction. Jacqueline lives amid the bluffs of Red Wing, Minnesota, surrounded by large piles of books and small piles of dog hair. Find Jacqueline online: www.jacquelinewest.com, Instagram: jacqueline.west.writes, and Facebook.

About THE COLLECTORS

Even the smallest wish can be dangerous. That’s why the Collectors are always keeping watch.

The Collectors sweeps readers into a hidden world where wishes are stolen and dreams have a price. Fast-paced, witty, and riveting, this contemporary fantasy adventure has magic woven through every page.

It’s the first book in a two-book series from Jacqueline West, the New York Times–bestselling author of The Books of Elsewhere series. For fans of Serafina and the Black Cloak, The Isle of the Lost, and The Secret Keepers.

Van has always been an outsider. Most people don’t notice him. But he notices them. And he notices the small trinkets they drop, or lose, or throw away—that’s why his collection is full of treasures. Then one day, Van notices a girl stealing pennies from a fountain, and everything changes. He follows the girl, Pebble, and uncovers an underground world full of wishes and the people who collect them. Apparently not all wishes are good and even good wishes often have unintended consequences—and the Collectors have made it their duty to protect us. But they aren’t the only ones who have their eyes on the world’s wishes—and they may not be the good guys, after all.

Jacqueline West, author of the New York Times–bestselling Books of Elsewhere series, draws readers into a story about friendship, magic, and the gray area between good and evil. The Collectors is for fans of Cassie Beasley’s Circus Mirandus and Jonathan Auxier’s The Night Gardener.

Wrestling with some truths in the movie “The Hate U Give”

I went with one of my best friend’s on Thursday to see a special screening of The Hate U Give, the movie based upon the novel of the same name written by Angie Thomas. This is a book that we both read as part of an adult book club that we are in (she’s our leader). I’ve read the book as a teen librarian, I’ve read the book as a parent of very white children, and my very white children have read it as well. The Teen and I have also been to book events where we have heard Angie Thomas speak about this book. So to say that I was excited to see this movie is an understatement. Also, The Teen wants you to know that she is mad that I went without her.

hate-u

The movie, like the book, is excellent. The quality of the acting is remarkable. I was especially moved by the performance of Russell Hornsby who played the father, Maverick Carter. I believe he delivered an Oscar worthy performance. And Amandla Sternberg was equally excellent as Starr. There were many powerful performances delivered and I’m not going to lie, I was moved, I was uncomfortable, I was ashamed, I laughed, I wept, and I went on a full spectrum ride of emotional reactions.

10 Books To Read After “The Hate U Give” – School Library Journal

I am not a movie reviewer or a theater expert, but I was amazed at the production value of the movie because I happen to be aware that several scenes had to be re-shot after K J Apa was added to the cast after a previous casting controversy. I don’t know how they managed to go back and re-shoot entire scenes or add him in or whatever it is they did, but if I didn’t know about the casting situation and wasn’t looking, I would never have known. It was flawless. I watch Riverdale – I am the mother of preteens and teens after all – but I’m not particularly a K J Apa fan, but I didn’t hate him in the role of Chris. Trust me when I say that is high praise coming from me.

There were a lot of scenes that I was not prepared to see brought to life so vividly on the big screen and they gutted me. I can’t imagine what it must be like for black teens who live these lives and have these conversations with their families and each other to see their truth depicted on the big screen. I am certainly not in a position to really evaluate this movie or talk about what it can or does mean in terms of representation. I many ways, this is not my movie to review and what I say has no merit whatsoever.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – Reading Guide and discussion

What I do want to talk about is a very sad truth that I realized as I walked out of the theater. You see, as I have mentioned here often, I am an older white women who comes from a conservative background. Through my years working with teens I have had my mind opened and have had the privilege to work with a wide variety of teens from a wide variety of backgrounds and I like to think that slowly but surely, I am changing for the good. But I also realized as I walked out of this movie that there are a lot of people, people that I am friends with, who would see this movie and still walk away thing that Khalil deserved what happened to him. I think about this truth a lot.

As I wrestle with my privilege I have come to understand that it is not a black person’s responsibility to educate me about racism. That no one owes me their time, attention or story to help me see them as human. And yet, Angie Thomas has written this remarkable book which can do that very thing we need, to help us to talk honestly about current events and the frequent killing of unarmed black boys and men at the hands of white police officers. This book and books like it force us to see the very headlines we read about through a different lens. I was devastated to realize that this book and this movie, which challenged, devastated and helped me grow, would not necessarily do that for everyone. I want to make sure you hear me loud and clear here: this is not a failing on any part of anyone involved in the writing of this book or the making of this movie, but speaks to the failing of my fellow white people to sit with and acknowledge the full humanity of people of color. That I walked away thinking there are so many people whose minds would not be swayed in any way by this movie is a testimony to how deeply entrenched racist views are in our world. I know black people have known this for a long time, I have not and I am truly sorry.

I walked away from this movie having a better understanding of a truth that I have often heard about issues of racism but haven’t fully grasped: we can’t move away from racism because many people don’t want to because they want to continue in the power that comes from oppressing others. Cycles of poverty, gang violence, “the projects”, selling drugs, gentrification, prison as an extension of slavery, white privilege – these are all fairly new concepts to me that I have been trying to grapple with as an older white woman coming from a place of privilege and a fairly conservative background. There was a lot of good discussion in the movie that brought these truth to more light for me. But the thing is, I can honestly tell you that I know far too many people who won’t be moved at all.

I am thankful to Angie Thomas for writing this book. I know that she did not write it for me, and yet I have benefited from it because I have listened and grown. That was a gift she did not owe me, but I am thankful to receive it. I am also thankful for all of the work and emotion that went into making this movie. It is hands down a stellar movie and I will wrestle with it for a very long time. I’m sure I still don’t get it, but I’m going to keep trying.

Friday Finds: October 5, 2018

tltbutton3This Week at TLT

Operation BB Blasts Off!

Book Review: Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith

YA A to Z: R is for Classic Retellings, a list curated by Natalie Korsavidis

What to know about writing twins: a guest post by Ashley and Leslie Saunders

1100 words, a guest post by Claire Rudolf Murphy

Book Review: Lost Soul, Be at Peace by Maggie Thrash

Things I Never Learned in Library School: Can You Copyright a Dance Move? A discussion of Fortnite

#SVYALit: Laurie Halse Anderson and Eric Devine talk about teaching Speak on NPR

Sunday Reflections: On Male Rage

Around the Web

Yay for Kelly Link!

Carnegie medal promises immediate action over lack of diversity

American Girl: A Story of Immigration, Fear and Fortitude

The Teens Who Rack Up Thousands of Followers by Posting the Same Photo Every Day

Poetry and Graphic Novels to Read After The Hate U Give

15 New YA Books To Know In October 2018