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Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Career Conversations – What I learned when my teens wanted to host a program series on careers

Career Conversations posterThis year I undertook a challenge: an ongoing program series designed by my teen board, reliant on the generosity of adults in the surrounding community, not especially fun, on my night off. This became Career Conversations, and we had our fourth and final program last night. Overall, it was a smashing success. Here’s what I’ve learned this year in taking this leap.

High school students just won’t register ahead of time.

Wouldn’t it be great if they did? Wouldn’t it make our lives so much less anxiety ridden? Yeah. It would be so nice. But they just don’t. I think it’s partly because they are so bleeping busy that they genuinely do not know that they’ll have time to attend a non-essential event, and partly because they just don’t think about it the way the parent who registers younger kids and tweens for programs does. They assume that the program will happen with or without them, and that’s the kicker. Last night’s program would have been the fifth of its type, but I panicked and pulled the plug at the last minute when no one had registered. When I told my teen board that it was cancelled, several teens said that they had been planning to come…. but just didn’t register. Every night as my panelists arrived, I had a sinking fear in the pit of my stomach, waiting for teens to trickle in. And they did. Every time. Phew.

Learning about other people’s jobs is so interesting!

I would run this program every week, just to sit and hear people talk about what they do. This year, we heard from an engineer who worked in health care, a doctor who followed his wife into his career path, someone who worked for a political campaign that changed her life, a stay at home dad who started his own business so he could be his own boss, an author whose passion is helping victims of sexual violence, and an art historian who has unwittingly become an expert in the best – and worst – truck stops in the midwest. “What kind of work do you do?” is a cocktail party question, but beyond hearing “I’m an engineer, a librarian, a stay at home mom, a volunteer…” what do we really learn about people? This panel conversation setup allowed people to really get to the heart of why they love what they do, what brings them satisfaction, and what challenges they face.

Each profession definitely has a different tone

The engineers were surprisingly funny, and engaged in a fair amount of competitive, good natured ribbing between themselves. The health professionals left no doubt about the weight they bear in being responsible for people’s lives. The politically connected folks had long answers and carefully measured every word that they spoke. The creatives talked to each other a lot, and focused the most on finding fulfillment and personal satisfaction in their work. A number of teens attended all four panels, and I’m so glad that they were able to see this diversity. After last night’s panel on arts & entertainment careers, a teen thanked the panel at the end by saying, “I don’t plan to go into your field at all, but this was definitely the most interesting conversation and I learned so much from it!”

Life is long and the path isn’t always straight

This is something that I think teens don’t hear so often, and I wish they did. Sure, some people knew from a young age that they were going to be doctors and then became doctors, and I can certainly admire their dedication and focus. But I definitely appreciated the panelists who talked about trying things and finding out that they hated them and changed direction, those who worked two jobs to do what they really had a passion for, and even last night’s graphic designer and screenprinter who talked about getting kicked out of high school at 15 then moving to the US with a backpack, $100, and one friend on this continent. There are as many ways to make a life as there are people on earth, and teens need to understand that they are the ones ultimately in control of the path they follow.

Following the teens’ lead was so worth it, but I needed their support to do it.

Several years ago, I stopped trying to program “just for fun” types of events for high schoolers and shifted to things that were more useful: learn to caddy, summer volunteering, getting a teen liaison on the Board. I’ve tried to do some jobs workshops or resume review events before, but with a huge and well funded high school in our community with a counseling department that can far outpace me, they never flew. But partly they didn’t fly because I clipped their wings. Fearing failure, I would cancel the programs if I didn’t get a response. Career Conversations worked in part because I pushed on despite the fear. But it would not have worked it all without the buy in and support of my teen board. They promoted it to their friends, they showed up even when the topic wasn’t in line with their interests, and they gave suggestions for future panel topics. And this worked, I got their buy in and support, not because of something I did, but because of something I didn’t do. I didn’t butt in. I didn’t tell them it wouldn’t work. I didn’t redirect them when I thought “been there, done that, didn’t work.” I let them lead, and it made for one of the most terrifying and most successful things I did this year.

Book Review: Anything Could Happen by Will Walton

anythingIn Will Walton’s Anything Could Happen, 15-year-old Tretch realizes he is in love with Matt, his straight best friend, while sitting together in church and hearing the message “hold fast to that which is good.” Tretch isn’t out yet, even though he suspects that Matt, who has two gay dads (and is often assumed to be gay himself because of this fact—weird logic, right?), would be fine with it, as would his family. His mom is “uneasy” about Matt’s dads, but Tretch knows his family would still love him and stand by him if he came out, though he can’t imagine it. Their town is tiny and he thinks that his family would become ostracized if he came out and they supported him.


But coming out doesn’t feel really pressing to Tretch. He nurses his crush on Matt all through their semi-eventful winter break. They hang out and have sleepovers (where they sleep together in the same bed), Matt kind of starts to date a girl named Amy, another girl has a crush on Will, and Tretch starts to think more about coming out. This book is light on plot but heavy on interpersonal dynamics, which is just fine by me.


Anything Could Happen is a great addition to the younger side of LGBTQIA+ books. The whole story is sweet, warm, and happy. It’s all very wholesome (if you know me well, you know I usually accompany that word with a retching noise, but I mean it in kindest and best sense of the word here), full of gosh, heck, and freakin’. The friendships are all happy and loving, as are the family relationships. Tretch spends a lot of time with his grandparents and parents. The first person he comes out to is his older brother, who just says “cool” and then tells him a story about his girlfriend’s brother coming out to their preacher dad and how that went fine, too.


The whole thing sort of feels like it’s from another time, which I think is because of the setting in a very small town. If it weren’t for references to contemporary music and electronic devices, it could be set anytime in the past. The ending packs a lot in—Tretch busts out his amazing moves on the dance floor, has a heart-to-heart with Matt, and comes out to a few more people. He even comes to some kind of understanding with Bobby, the son of his dad’s business partner and his longtime bully.


The message at the end is that things are going to get better, but they’re already good. Will really takes to heart the lesson from the beginning, to hold fast to that which is good, surrounding himself with good and kind people throughout the book. Great for the 12 and up crew.


Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9780545709545

Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.

Publication date: 5/26/2015

Book Review: The Porcupine of Truth by Bill Konigsberg

porcupineThere are some books that you finish and think, well, that’s it—I can’t pick up another book today. Gotta let this one sit. Bill Konigsberg’s The Porcupine of Truth is one of those books. In fact, I suspect I will be thinking about this book for a long time to come. This was the 65th book I read this year, and it stands out as easily being in my top ten so far.


Carson and his mom relocate from New York to Billings, Montana for the summer. Carson hasn’t seen his dad for 14 years—not since he was 3—and now his dad, a longtime alcoholic, is dying of cirrhosis of the liver. Caron’s mother, a therapist/school counselor, dumps him at the zoo when they first arrive in town, where he runs into Aisha, an intriguingly funny girl around his own age. It turns out Aisha isn’t just hanging out at the zoo—she’s been sleeping there since her dad kicked her out of their house for being a lesbian. Her dad wanted to send her away to a religious program to “make” her straight, but Aisha would rather live on the streets than suffer through that. Carson and Aisha instantly bond and he invites her to stay with his family. When they start to clean out flood-damaged boxes in the basement storage, they uncover some interesting details about Carson’s father’s family that don’t exactly match up with the story he’s been told. Carson knows his grandpa (also an alcoholic) took off when his dad was just a kid, but doesn’t know much beyond that. He and Aisha start to put some pieces together and decide to embark on a road trip to see if they can uncover the truth… and maybe meet his grandpa.


On their road trip they follow in grandpa Russ’s footsteps, tracking down the same people he stayed with as he went west. Throughout Wyoming, Utah, and California, Carson and Aisha have many deep and profound (as well as silly) conversations about family, faith, and choices. Early on Carson notes that he doesn’t believe in God. Aisha isn’t a fan of the things people do in the name of Jesus—she bonds with Carson’s dad over this, too. They decide they believe in plenty of things other than God—waffles, strawberries, and The Porcupine of Truth, their made-up deity. On their journey, they meet and have intense conversations with a spiritual couple, a narrow-minded Christian, a Mormon couple, and a man raised Jewish but who has lots of questions and sees lots of options for faith and belief.


Here is the part where I talk about some spoilers, okay? Because this book is so important and I want to tell you why. So if you intend to read it—and you should—and don’t want to know what happens near the end, just stop reading this review now. Know that the book is wonderful—I laughed and cried in equal parts. The writing is brilliant and the story will stick with you.


Are you sticking with me? Ready for the spoilers? Okay.


When Carson and Aisha get to San Francisco, they track down a man named Turk who may have known Russ. When Carson finds this now elderly man, he is in for a big surprise: Turk was his grandpa’s lover. Another shock? His grandpa died in the early 80s from AIDS. When he finds this out, standing in front of an AIDS quilt, he loses it. Everything that follows is profoundly moving. What was a good book became a great book in the last 100 or so pages. For those of us who were adults or even children in the 80s, we remember seeing the initial stories about AIDS, reading about the panic and fear, understanding that, generally speaking, it was a death sentence. And it never becomes less powerful or upsetting to see a personal story of life in the shadow of AIDS. Many teen readers might not fully understand the history behind AIDS (going back to it being called GRID and understanding how severely it ravaged the gay community) or have seen or read some of the documentaries or stories adults are more familiar with. This look at what it meant to be a gay man at this period of time will be deeply moving for readers of all ages. For Carson, he came to Billings with only a rather icy mother who talked to him like he was one of her patients. Weeks later, his father is back in his life, his mother understands now what he needs from her, and he has a new grandpa (Turk) and sister (Aisha).


This story of family—both the one we are born into and the one we can choose to make—is not to be missed. Konigsberg packs so much into this story, and his characters, all damaged and flawed, struggle with HUGE questions. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It left me wanting to know more about all of the characters’ pasts and their futures. Masterfully written and intensely moving, this is a road trip book unlike any other. Be ready to laugh, groan, and cry as you follow Carson and Aisha on their (literal and metaphorical) journey.


Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9780545648936

Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.

Publication date: 5/26/2015


Middle Grade Monday – Memorial Day Take 5

middlegrademondayI’m somewhat torn over the fact that Memorial Day is a holiday. On one hand, I think it’s valuable for us to recognize the service and sacrifices of those who’ve served our country so selflessly. On the other hand, as a middle school librarian, I wonder what it means to my students beyond a day off from school. The ones who have family members who have served or are currently serving in the military certainly understand, but what about the others? And as for me, I grew up in an era of growing doubt and skepticism of those serving in our military. Gone were the days when service people were viewed through the lens of unambiguous patriotism. A sense of unease over military tactics, fueled by growing real-time media coverage, had brought a sense of the moral complexities of war that concerned many parents and teachers I had, who had grown up in a more ‘Captain America’ era of viewing the military as the ultimate good. But seeing people and their actions in their complexity it ultimately a good, if confusing, reality.

There are a number of young adult books which deal so well with these topics. I’m thinking of A.S. King’s Everybody Sees the Ants, Laurie Halse Anderson’s The Impossible Knife of Memory, and Walter Dean Myers’ Fallen Angels and Sunrise Over Fallujah. But for middle grades, there are not as many obvious choices. Issues such as PTSD need to be dealt with on a more sensitive level, and can be difficult to fully describe to a middle grade audience. I recommend the following 5 books / series for those students in the middle grades who are interested in stories dealing with the military side of war:

9780545270298_xlgChris Lynch’s Vietnam series:

Four best friends. Four ways to serve their country.

Morris, Rudi, Ivan, and Beck are best friends for life. So when one of the teens is drafted into the Vietnam War, the others sign up, too. Although they each serve in a different branch, they are fighting the war together — and they pledge to do all they can to come home together.

9780545522946_xlgAnd his World War II series:

There are few things Roman loves as much as baseball, but his country is at the top of the list. So when it looks like the United States will be swept up into World War II, he turns his back on baseball and joins the US Army.

Roman doesn’t mind. As it turns out, he is far more talented with a tank than he ever was with a baseball. And he is eager to drive his tank right into the field of battle, where the Army is up against the fearsome Nazis of the Afrika Korps.

The North African terrain is like nothing Roman has ever known, and desert warfare proves brutal. As Roman drives his team deeper into disputed territory, one thing becomes very clear: Life in wartime is a whole new ball game.

Camo Girl  by Kekla Magoon (see my review here) provides a complex view of a middle grader dealing with his father’s PTSD that was a direct result of his military service.

10677573The Bloodlines series by M. Zachary Sherman:

Tradition. Loyalty. Strength. It’s in their blood. A set of war stories connected by a family bloodline–each book follows a different family member into battle. This series reinvents military fiction through the exciting combination of graphic-novel art and socially interactive story lines. Each hero faces a realistic character-building moment as they experience life on the battlefield in these wars: World War II,in Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan. Each book includes maps, notes on weapon technology and background on the actual historical battle.




And, finally, P.S. Be Eleven, by Rita Williams Garcia, which deals realistically and sensitively with the after effects of serving in Vietnam as seen through the three girls’ interactions with their uncle, Darnell.


Sunday Reflections: How We Talk About the Victims of Sexual Abuse Matters

sundayreflectionsAs Christmas vacation approached during my 9th grade year, my fear increased. I couldn’t go back. But there was a part of me that also thought, surely I must be wrong about what happened. So one day I went into my school guidance counselor and I told her the story of what happened the year before I moved to this new place to live with my mother. I told her fully believing that she would look at me and say something along the lines of it was perfectly normal and everything was fine.

“I’m sorry, I have to call the police now” is what she said instead when I finished my story. So I sat there as she called the police and then my mother who came to hear what I had to say.

You see, the year before I lived in a different state with my father and a variety of other family members. One of them did a variety of things to me that became increasingly uncomfortable and then downright traumatizing. I lived in fear. I stayed up at night trying to protect myself. I tried to go to friends houses as often as possible. But it was sinister and subtle what was happening, and I just wasn’t sure. In part because you don’t think it can happen to you, in part because some people are really good at grooming you in ways that make you doubt and question, and in part because you just don’t think someone who claims to love you can do this to you. But they can and they do. And it alters the landscape of your life.

The following year, now living with my mom, was a tremendous relief. There was no more fear. There was no more anxiety. There was no more hiding and scheming to stay out of the house. And I just couldn’t go back. Even for a two-week Christmas break, I knew I couldn’t go back.

And I didn’t, for many, many years I didn’t go back. There was a brief investigation where everything was swept under the rug, but I was given a voice that day in the counselor’s office and I never went back for many years.

The only way I know of to fight back against this – to make sure the attackers are convicted and jailed, and victims receive the care they deserve – is for adults to start talking to our kids about sexuality. Too many of us still don’t know how to find the words because we were raised by parents who didn’t know how to talk about it either.- from Laurie Halse Anderson, author of SPEAK.

But navigating family events was and continues to be a tremendous issue. Many family members said it wasn’t fair what I did, cutting off ties to protect myself. They still continued to feed this person information about me, which forced me to cut ties with them as well. Everyone was so worried about protecting this person, they forgot to think about protecting me. It was yet another form of betrayal and injury.

And navigating family events today can still be complicated. Everyone has an opinion about what happened, and very few of them want to remember what happened so they judge me. They judge me as I work out ways to make sure that I and my girls are never left alone with this person at family events. They judge me as I decline invitations and when I do go, I put boundaries in place. Boundaries are difficult to enforce, a reminder to them all that this person they love did this horrific thing and it’s often easier just to pretend that I’m being petty and difficult.

I’m expected to just forgive and forget. It’s in the past they say. I’m supposed to sweep it under the rug. I’m supposed to make life easy and convenient for everyone, including the person who did this thing to me.

I am alone in my effort to keep myself safe. Not even physically any more, just emotionally. But there’s no one on my team in my family because denial is so much easier, even though it is a salt in the wounds for those of us who are victims. Your comfort comes at the cost of my silence, and sometimes it is too great a price.

So I thought of all of this when the news of Josh Duggar broke out this week. About what it must have been like for those girls having to continue to grow up in the same home as this person who had violated them. Having to smile and play happy family for the camera while inside I imagine they were thinking and feeling much different things.

I know what it’s like to have a family that wants to pretend that these things didn’t happen to you. That years later you should be over it, forgive it, and everyone should play happy family again. But the truth is, many times you can’t. And even if you can and do, it has to be on your time table, not everyone else’s. Being violated in that way, living in that type of fear, it resets something inside you. There can be healing, maybe even forgiving, but there is no forgetting. Thirty years later sometimes the most seemingly innocent thing can trigger an emotional response in me regarding the events of that year.

And it is such an offensive idea that the victims of sexual abuse should pretend otherwise for the sake of others.

Time and time again when these things happen we tend to react by wondering how this will ruin the abuser’s life. Josh Duggar did this when he said in his statement that he knew he had to stop before he ruined his life, never once mentioning how he might have ruined the lives of his victims. This happened after Steubenville when the press wondered how it would ruin these boys lives being labeled a sex offender, the victim only a foot note. My family wondered this when they claimed that I owed it to this family member to keep in touch with him just because he was a part of my family, as if I was somehow hurting HIM by breaking off contact.

When recent events happened in my neighborhood one of the mother’s felt bad about pressing charges, wondering what would happen to this man that had violated her daughter. This is what I told her: You owe it to your daughter to press charges. She needs to know that someone cares about what happened to her, that someone is on her side, that you are there to support her and protect her and be her champion. She needs to know that she matters by having people recognize the harm that was done to her.

I can’t presume to speak for the victims of Josh Duggar’s abuse. And I can’t presume to speak for other survivors.  Everyone deals in their own time and in their own way. And I can’t pretend to know how this situation was or was not dealt with. And it’s horrible that these girls are now being forced to face this part of their life again whether they want to or not by having it put into the public spotlight. But it’s there and I think there are a few things I want to make sure we take away from all of this:

1.Victims of sexual abuse should be able to keep themselves safe at all times and draw personal boundaries that allow them to maintain both their physical and emotional health. Actually, all people should. But in events where abuse is known the victims should be able to draw those boundaries and they should be respected by all family members.

2. Victims of sexual abuse should be given the time and the space to deal with their emotions on their own terms. It’s not about what’s best for the family but about what’s best for them. Counseling from a neutral party that is licensed in sexual abuse should be consulted. Not a family friend, not a clergy member who is not trained to deal with sexual abuse, not a clergy member who has close family ties, but a neutral party that is trained and licensed to deal with this type of abuse.

3. Family and friends should recognize and understand that this healing journey is personal and it is not smooth. Even the most seemingly fine individual may have moments where they are triggered, even years after the event.

4. Family and friends should not put pressure or put expectations on the victims that they need to forgive their offender and no time limits should be given. I’m not saying forgiveness is a bad thing or an impossible thing, I’m saying outside forces don’t get to determine what the violated think and feel about what happened to them or on what time table.

Worse, with the statement they released, they’ve now framed the story so that the victims cannot come forward, if they choose to do so, without being painted as “unforgiving” and choosing to “ruin his life” even though he said he was sorry.

It’s a statement designed to silence the victims. – from Josh Duggar says he’s sorry, so what? by Kathryn Elizabeth

5. How we talk about what happened sends a message to the victim about their value in the family and in the world. It’s important that they be respected, validated, and allowed to seek legal recourse if they wish; that they be allowed to go on their own personal healing journey; that they be allowed to draw whatever boundaries they need in the future to keep themselves safe. And it’s important that family members recognize that when they draw these personal boundaries they are not the one causing problems, that responsibility rests solely on the shoulders of the person that violated their trust and safety.

That’s why how we talk about what happened in the Duggar family matters right now. We are in the midst of a huge cultural discussion about consent and sexual violence. People are listening. This conversation can help shape the narrative of how we talk about sexual violence, how we talk about the victims/survivors, and even how we talk about the different types of sexual abuse. Every time we talk publicly about important things, it helps frame that narrative. What we say right now and how we say it matters. It matters to every survivor out there in that it validates or invalidates their story. It matters in that it can help change the tone of how we approach issues of sexual abuse in the future, allowing more victims to come forward, speak up and get the support that they need. And it matters in helping to prevent sexual abuse because how we talk about it does or does not make clear what our expectations are in terms of how we approach each other sexually, it helps make clear what – and who – we as a culture value.

For more on sexual violence, please visit the Sexual Violence in YA Literature Hub (#SVYALit)

SRC is Coming: 5 Tips for Staying Calm During the Stressful Summer Months

thingineverlearnedIt’s almost here – summer reading. If you are a YS or YA librarian you’ve most likely spent the last month getting publicity together and out into the public, making school visits, decorating, and making sure performers are all lined up and payment paperwork is in order. It’s a busy time of year. And that’s an understatement.

This year I had a first and a booked performer contacted me to let me know they had a terrific new job opportunity in a new state, which is great for them but was a few stressful moments for me. It all worked out, in part because the performer was kind enough to recommend a back-up and that transition went smoothly. After 20 years of doing this I feel kind of calm about it all, but even I still approach the oncoming summer months the way one might approach an oncoming storm. There’s no denying that it’s an intense period of programming and marketing and watching statistics, because at the end of the day those stats matter very much to library administrators.

There’s a lot of very real internal and external pressure during these months. So it’s important that we find ways to de-stress and keep ourselves going. Here are some of my favorite tips, please share yours in the comments.

1. Network for Support

Now more than ever it’s nice to have relationships with fellow librarians who I can complain to because they alone understand. Whether it be the problems of trying to deal with last minute snags on the day of a performance or what happens when that one family comes 15 minutes after the program has started and you are very sorry but you can not let them in because the room capacity has been reached, it’s nice to have that friend that you can meet for lunch or send the what do I do now text to get a moment of support. For more check out networking part 1 and part 2.

2. Keep a Stash of Snacks and Water Handy

A hungry Karen is a cranky Karen, which is super bad for prime SRC days. And sometimes despite your best planning and preparation, you can’t get to lunch before a big program because you’re too busy setting up and decorating and putting up signage. Make sure you have healthy snacks – and don’t forget some chocolate! – nearby. It can make everyone’s day go better. Also, stay hydrated. Staying hydrated is good. There’s a lot of truth to those Snickers commercials.

3. Have a Backup Plan to Your Emergency Backup Plan

So one time our performer ended up being more than 30 minutes late, which caused a whole host of problems. We had 100 people waiting around the library and it was not awesome. After about 15 minutes of crying kids, complaining parents, and a noise level that dramatically interfered with others trying to use the library, I grabbed some books and corralled everyone into the program room for an impromptu storytime. I have since learned the value of having an emergency activity ready in case a performer is late or, worse yet, cancels. Always have a backup activity on standby.

4. Consider Letting Staff Take Vacation During SRC

So let’s talk about a controversial part of SRC: summer vacations. Many libraries don’t permit youth services staff take vacation during the summer because of the intense focus placed on summer reading. This means that any youth services or young adult librarian who has school aged children never really gets to take a family vacation, which I hope we can all agree is an issue.  But don’t get me wrong, it’s an issue for all youth services staff because everyone wants to take a vacation during summer sometimes. One time my brother had the audacity to get married in the early summer – in a different state. Trying to get time off to attend the wedding of my only sibling proved to be challenging, which is unfortunate because our family obviously can’t be expected to arrange their life around our work, no matter how much our work may mean to us. I have had conversations with others on Twitter about this very topic and always get a lot of responses ranging from no we’re not allowed ever to yes we are and it makes all the difference. If you are an administrator who does not permit your youth services staff to take any vacation during the 6, 8, 10 or 12 weeks that your SRC is taking place, please consider finding ways to make this possible for your staff. For example, you can have more performers and less staff lead programs so that other staff may sub in and do introductions on that day. You’ll definitely want to have back up people in place in case of emergency and illnesses any way, so why not let them make sure your youth services staff can have one week of vacation in the middle of summer.

5. Color Yourself Calm


Recently there have been numerous articles about coloring books for adults and the health benefits. You can read some of those articles here, here and here. So when Quarto Publishing Group and I discussed doing a series of posts and giveaways, I knew I wanted to include this book because I wanted to write this post – it’s timely for us all – and I wanted one of the books to be for you  because I know what is approaching us all. So much of what we do as youth services and young adult librarians is about serving others, knowing them and meeting their needs. But there is a thing they tell you when you are a new parent: in order to be a good parent you must also make sure to take care of yourself, to make sure your needs are met and you give yourself permission to recharge. I think this is also true for any of us in a service profession. We have to keep filling our tank in order to keep having something to give. So take a few moments and color a picture, de-stress, find your calm, fill your rank. Give yourself permission to take care of you during this very busy time.

Trust me, we’re all going to need it.

About Quarto Publishing Group

The Quarto Publishing Group (formerly Quayside Publishing Group) books have earned a reputation for style and quality in the fields of art, crafts, hobbies, food and drink, nature, lifestyle, reference and children’s. The children’s program just launched in 2014 with the creation of Walter Foster Jr., but expanded dramatically with the “coming home” of our Quarto UK imprints Frances Lincoln Children’s Books and QEB Publishing, now formally published through Quarto USA. In addition, a number of our general and specialty book imprints, such as Quarry Books, Motorbooks, and Race Point, publish books on history, craft, art, and other topics of interest to teen readers. Visit us know at and beginning this June at

Don’t forget to go to the Quarto Publishing Giveaway post to win a copy of Color Yourself Calm in addition to four other Quarto titles. Giveaway closes on 5/26/2015. Open to U.S. Residents.

Friday Finds – May 22, 2015

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Sunday Reflections: Writing Religion When It’s Not Your Faith, a guest post by Melissa Walker (#FSYALit)

Middle Grade Monday – The Truth About Stacey (The Baby-Sitters Club Graphic Novels)

Take 5: 5 Tools for Movie Making in Your MakerSpace (Quarto Week) (MakerSpace)

Book review: Vanished by E.E. Cooper

Take 5: Postcards from France, programs, books and more for a France themed day (Quarto Week) (TPiB)

Book Review and Program Ideas: Playing with Surface Design by Courtney Cerruti

Quarto Publishing Week Giveaway

Take 5: 5 Books on Duct Tape and Washi Tape for Makers

Book Review: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Around the Web

Poverty and Teen Crime

YA 4 Lyfe, Y’all

Neville Up (but warn J.K. first)

‘Lifebooks’ help kids in foster care track their history

On writing sex in YA

On writing about mental illness

Chuck Wendig on Mad Max versus Game of Thrones

The maker bookshelf for aspiring makebrarians

Twitter Accounts To Follow For LGBT Book Recs/Discussion from YA Yeah Yeah

Book Review: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

In Sarah Dessen’s latest novel, Saint Anything, we meet main character Sydney at a turning point in her life. Her brother Peyton, in and out of trouble since middle school, has just been sentenced to time in prison for a drunk driving accident that severely injured another teen boy. Sydney’s parents, especially her mother, are devastated that their son will have to spend time in prison. Sydney is devastated that because of her brother, a young man her age will never walk again. Unable to face returning to her private day school where everyone knows both her brother and his fate, Sydney has decided to enroll in the local public school for her junior year. Adrift in a sea of new faces and reluctant to head home to an empty house after school, she chooses to go for a slice of pizza at a local restaurant, where she meets and is quickly befriended by the Chatham family, who own the pizza parlor. Two of the Chathams, Mac and Layla, are fellow students at Sydney’s new school, and she is quickly enfolded into their circle of friends, which includes an entitled, self-styled musical genius, and a giant young black man who plays football. The Chathams know nothing about Sydney’s life or family and she initially prefers it that way. Gradually, she reveals more about herself and is relieved to find that the Chathams still warmly accept her, having family issues of their own.

Honestly, this novel seemed much longer than it was, in the best of possible ways. Dessen is a gifted author with the ability to speak volumes through her characters’ brief observations and opinions. She brilliantly to shows us how intensely creepy the ‘bad guy’ (Ames) of the story is, not through describing him but through other characters’ reactions to him. Much of the undercurrent of Sydney’s story – one of a girl who has lived in the shadow of her older brother’s magnetic personality her whole life finally realizing herself as a person – revolves around the complex Ames. A former addict himself, Ames became friends with Peyton during one of his stays in a rehabilitation facility. He worms his way into every aspect of Sydney’s family’s life through manipulation that her parents seem not to see until it is almost too late.

Like all of Dessen’s novels, there is so much to this story – and so much of it happens so subtly as to almost go unnoticed. This work, in particular, is very quiet. Characters are so well developed that they are as familiar as one’s own family and friends. Most readers will easily see themselves in Sydney, a girl who feels invisible and is brought into her own by the love and acceptance of her flawed but wonderful new friends. It has been quite some time since I’ve read a novel where I was so easily absorbed into the story and felt so much as if I were there, one of Sydney’s new crowd, along for the ride. It is the work of a gifted story teller.

It is also a novel I am eager to put into the hands of my students. My hope is that many of them will be able to relate to one or more of the main characters and see the others for the well drawn portraits of familiar people in their lives. As well, I hope that the realistic but nonjudgemental portrayal of the issues that teens must deal with will help them to both navigate their own lives successfully and have empathy for others who are navigating their own issues. I highly recommend this book to any collection serving teen readers. Dessen has earned her star reputation for good reason.

Full disclosure, Sarah Dessen is local to me and I had the opportunity to see her at my local book store for this book tour. She is just as lovely and real in person as her books suggest. If you haven’t had a chance to read her recent essay in Seventeen Magazine, please go do so now. Also, we have an extra copy to give away! Enter our drawing for your own copy of Saint Anything!

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Take 5: 5 Books on Duct Tape and Washi Tape for Makers

ducttape7Duct tape crafts have been a very popular part of my MakerSpace. Sometimes I’ll have some high tech making planned and my tweens and teens will walk in and say nope, we want a break from that can you please bust out the duct tape. There’s just something satisfying it seems sometimes about sitting around a table, cutting up tape while you talk to your friends, and making something old school with your hands. You get that immediate sense of accomplishment, you get that social interaction, and you get that feeling that happens when you’ve made something out of nothing from your own two hands.


Here are my Top 5 Books for Working with Duct and Washi Tape

Duct Tape: 101 Adventerous Ideas for Art, Jewelry, Flowers, Wallets and More by Forest Walker Davis

This book is a little different from your traditional duct tape craft book. Although there are some instructions in here, it’s also a showcase for true art. Each project has a brief description of how the item was made, but there aren’t really step-by-step instructions. Davis creates a wide variety of types of flowers – more than I have ever seen in any other books. He also creates large 3-d sculptures, like owls, which are very popular right now. And there are a series of canvas art creations that look like true masterpieces. One of the canvas pieces is about pixilation which would be great for a Minecraft program. From Quarto Publishing Group.

Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2014

Published by Running Press

I first learned about Washi Tape from TLTer Heather Booth, who used it in a program with her teens. Washi tape is slightly easier to use than duct tape because it isn’t quite as sticky. If you’ve ever worked with duct tape only to have a piece fold in onto itself and have to start all over then you understand that benefit of this.

Published by Quarto Publishing Group

Published by Sterling Publishing

And here are the top 5 things my Tweens and Teens like to do with Duct and Washi tape:

1. Cover notebooks, folders, pens, etc. for school

ducttape9Covering things in tape is definitely the easiest way to go.

2. Canvas art

So in the picture above, we tried our hand at making our own canvas art by making a small Doctor Who inspired canvas. We used Union Jack for the background and created a Tardis out of blue duct tape. We used stickers for the lettering. Other people at the even did different types of canvas art. Overall it worked well for us and we were impressed with what we could do on our first attempt.

3. Picture frames

Again, covering things in tape is easy. And you can get really creative with your photography and make it a tech workshop.

4. Bottle cap crafts/Marble magnets/necklaces

ducttape6Bottle cap crafts and marble magnets have long been a staple of my craft programming. We’ve done them at almost every program including Divergent, Doctor Who and Sherlock themed programs. And I love them even more since one day, in a moment of desperation, I tried using duct tape instead of paper. This bottom row of magnets was all made using duct tape. You simply put your bubble on a small piece of duct tape and then cut around it to get your circle. You then press it into your bottle cap and woila – quick, easy magnets. There is comic book themed duct tape which would make this a perfect craft for this year’s SRC.

The basic info for making Bottle Cap Jewelry can be found here.

And here is the basic info for making Marble Magnets.

And here are 50 things you can do with Bottle Caps.

5. Cell Phone Carrying Cases


These have been incredibly popular at my programs. And if you don’t have a phone, they also work to hang on locker walls to put pens and notes in. For cell phone cases, I use card stock paper as a base to give it a little more security because I really like my cell phone in one piece. There are a lot of tutorials on YouTube for making cell phone cases.

About Quarto Publishing Group

The Quarto Publishing Group (formerly Quayside Publishing Group) books have earned a reputation for style and quality in the fields of art, crafts, hobbies, food and drink, nature, lifestyle, reference and children’s. The children’s program just launched in 2014 with the creation of Walter Foster Jr., but expanded dramatically with the “coming home” of our Quarto UK imprints Frances Lincoln Children’s Books and QEB Publishing, now formally published through Quarto USA. In addition, a number of our general and specialty book imprints, such as Quarry Books, Motorbooks, and Race Point, publish books on history, craft, art, and other topics of interest to teen readers. Visit us know at and beginning this June at

Don’t forget to go to the Quarto Publishing Giveaway post to win a copy of Duct Tape: 101 Adventerous Ideas for Art, Jewelry, Flowers, Wallets and More by Forest Walker Davis in addition to four other Quarto titles. Giveaway closes on 5/16/2015. Open to U.S. Residents.

Quarto Publishing Week Giveaway

This week is Quarto Publishing Group week. Every day we are highlighting a different book from the Quarto Publishing Group, chosen by yours truly. In exchange for hosting this week, I got to choose 5 of my favorite titles to give to YOU, our readers, as a giveaway. So I did my research and chose 5 titles that I thought YA librarians could use in their collections, in their programs, or for themselves personally. I hope that you enjoy them. It was really hard choosing just 5 because they had a lot of interesting titles to choose from including a biography on John Hughes, his movies defined my early adolescence, some cool picture books, and a great picture book called Dreams of Freedom. They also have a book called Cats in Sweaters that I can’t help but thing TLTer Robin Willis would love. See, such hard decisions.

To enter the giveaway, just do this Rafflecopter thingy here. This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only, sorry. One random winner will be selected by Rafflecopter and then the Quarto Publishing Group will send the 5 titles selected out to that winner. There are multiple free entries because we wanted to make it as easy as possible for you to enter.

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About Quarto Publishing Group

The Quarto Publishing Group (formerly Quayside Publishing Group) books have earned a reputation for style and quality in the fields of art, crafts, hobbies, food and drink, nature, lifestyle, reference and children’s. The children’s program just launched in 2014 with the creation of Walter Foster Jr., but expanded dramatically with the “coming home” of our Quarto UK imprints Frances Lincoln Children’s Books and QEB Publishing, now formally published through Quarto USA. In addition, a number of our general and specialty book imprints, such as Quarry Books, Motorbooks, and Race Point, publish books on history, craft, art, and other topics of interest to teen readers. Visit us know at and beginning this June at

And Here are the 5 Books We Chose for You:

How to Make a Movie in 10 Easy Lessons by Robert Blofield

Featured in my 5 resources/tools for helping teens create movies in your MakerSpace post, I love this book so much I just ordered 3 copies for my library’s MakerSpace. It’s a good resource. There is also a learn guitar title in this series which I highly recommend as well.

Origami City: Fold More Than 30 Global Landmarks by Shuki Kato & Jordan Langerak

There is a lot you can do with this for a road trip themed book discussion group, display or program.

Playing with Surface Design: Modern Techniques for Painting, Stamping, Printing and More by Courtney Cerruti

Again, a ton of great arts and craft ideas that can easily be incorporated into a teen program on any theme.

Duct Tape: 101 Adventerous Ideas for Art, Jewelry, Flowers, Wallets and More by Forest Walker Davis

Duct tape crafts continue to be popular with my teens and Davis does some truly fabulous things with tape. Check out my fave duct tape books and crafts here and read more about this book.

Color Me Calm and Color Me Happy by Lacy Mucklow

On Friday we’re going to talk about adult coloring books and some tips for staying stress free during Summer Reading, a very busy time of year of YS and YA librarians. This book has some amazing coloring pages that are sure to help you relax during the SRC.