Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Book Review: The Whispers by Greg Howard

Publisher’s description

whispersA middle grade debut that’s a heartrending coming-of-age tale, perfect for fans of Bridge to Terabithia and Counting By 7s.

Eleven-year-old Riley believes in the whispers, magical fairies that will grant you wishes if you leave them tributes. Riley has a lot of wishes. He wishes bullies at school would stop picking on him. He wishes Dylan, his 8th grade crush, liked him, and Riley wishes he would stop wetting the bed. But most of all, Riley wishes for his mom to come back home. She disappeared a few months ago, and Riley is determined to crack the case. He even meets with a detective, Frank, to go over his witness statement time and time again.

Frustrated with the lack of progress in the investigation, Riley decides to take matters into his own hands. So he goes on a camping trip with his friend Gary to find the whispers and ask them to bring his mom back home. But Riley doesn’t realize the trip will shake the foundation of everything that he believes in forever.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

11-year-old Riley’s mother always told him a story about wish-granting Whispers that live in the woods behind their South Carolina home. Just leave them a tribute, tell them your heart’s desire, and the Whispers, who know all the secrets in the universe, will take care of you. When Riley’s mother disappears, he desperately hopes this story isn’t just fiction.

 

Riley’s mom has been missing for four months when we meet Riley. He’s repeatedly interrogated by a detective but can’t come up with any other details to help them find her—Riley was at home playing, his mother was napping, there was a mysterious car nearby, then she was gone. They keep going over the details, and Riley has no hope that the detective, who he thinks is incompetent, will ever find his mom. It’s up to him. It’s up to the Whispers in the woods behind his house. They must know where his mom is.

 

Riley, a self-professed mama’s boy, has been miserable since she disappeared. He’s started wetting the bed (which he refers to as “my condition”), his father hardly acknowledges him, and the bullying and teasing he’s always faced at school has gotten worse. He has one good friend, biracial Gary, and a protector in an older neighbor, Dylan, but beyond that, is alone. He’s carrying the heavy weight of guilt, worried that he somehow drove his mother away with his “other condition,” which is how he refers to the fact that he likes boys. He thinks that he’s being punished for this.

 

Deciding to take things into his own hands, Riley heads into the woods with Gary and Gary’s younger brother to camp, hoping to maybe hear more from the Whispers, who have been speaking to him lately. They tell him that “she’s here.” Believing them, believing that she’s in those woods, Riley heads deeper into the forest. He offers the ultimate tribute to the Whispers, but will it be enough for them to reveal where she is?

 

Readers will tear through this story, with many questions along the way. Is Riley hiding something from the detective? Or from the reader? What’s really going on with his neighbor, Dylan? Who is Kenny from Kentucky? What happened in the shed? Does the unlikely helper he encounters in the woods know something about his mother? Everything is eventually revealed and answered, and what readers learn will likely send them scrambling back to reread the story through new eyes. A moving, thoughtful examination of trauma, grief, and the power of imagination. 

 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9780525517498
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 01/15/2019

Helping Patrons Find What They’re Looking for On Our Shelves

I would like to propose something that will be complete heresy to many people in library land. But my friends, some of our standard operating procedures make it really difficult for our patrons to walk up to a shelf, find what they want or discover something new, and walk away a satisfied customer. So I have some revolutionary ideas I would like to propose.

We have to stop shelving books in strict alphabetical order

In most libraries, we shelve books alphabetically by author’s last name and then alphabetically by title within each author group. In a lot of cases this works perfectly well, except when the author writes a series or multiple series. What I propose is this: on our spine labels, we put the name of each series and the book number and shelve accordingly. Thus, each author who writes a series would have the series shelved numerically and patron’s browsing the shelves would clearly see what the series is and what book number it is.

seriescutters

This is a patron based system that helps make each library visit successful and satisfying for our patrons. Take, for example, Jennifer Lynne Barnes who writes multiple (all very good) ya series. Here we see that among the various series one of those is The Naturals and by putting that information on the spine label and shelving them in order on the shelf, patrons can walk up to the shelf and find the next book in the series.

dcicons

My corollary to this is that we should also think about the ways in which we catalog certain series. For example, there is currently a DC Icons series which has various titles written by popular YA authors, which means that each book in the series would be shelves by author. However, if we shelved the books by series name, DC Icons, all the DC character books would be shelved together. This one in particular is tricky because some people might want to read Wonder Woman by Leigh Bardugo because they are Leigh Bardugo or Wonder Woman fans and not care about the other books in the series, while some readers will want to read the entire series. In this scenario I am still inclined to shelve all the titles together as DC Icons, but it’s possible that I am wrong.

On shelf merchandising

shelf1 shelf2

Rows and rows and rows of full shelves can cause browsing fatigue. Even I, a librarian who loves YA, can walk up to a book shelf and start browsing for something new to read and I get overwhelmed by the sheer number of titles that stand before me. This is part of the reason that those in the know about marketing and merchandising suggest having your shelves no more than 1/2 to 2/3 full. But there is something else we can do on our shelves to help break up the shelves and prevent browsing fatigue:

shelf5 shelf3

If you have multiple copies of titles, face those titles out right in the middle of the shelf. This works best with multiple copies because it allows a patron to take a copy and there are still a couple before it holding the row of books up. When scanning the shelves of books, having copies facing out in the middle of a row helps to break up that browsing fatigue and keeps the eye engaged.

merchandising2

 

Putting complete series on a new book shelf display, not just the newest title

Most libraries have a new book display section or shelf where we pull and put a new book on display. Sometimes, however, that book is book 2 or 3 in a trilogy, which means a patron who walks up and browses the display sees book 2 or 3 and now has to try and find books 1 and 2 before they can start reading book 3. What if we just put the entire trilogy on a the display shelf with the new book so patrons could walk up to the display, see the series, and check it all out at once? Yes, some readers only want book 3. But if we want to make things as easy as possible for our patrons, pulling books 1 and 2 and putting them on display with book 3 will help them discover a new series and walk away satisfied patrons.

display1

Don’t get me wrong, all of these proposals require more diligence on our part when it comes to merchandising. It means we have to constantly go back into our shelves and straighten, fill holes, pull books and re-shelve them. And for most libraries, changing the spine labels to represent series would require a lot of work (and money) and re-training of staff. But if we are being truly patron centered and thinking about ways in which we can help our patrons walk away successfully with a satisfying user experience, I think the extra work is worth the effort. I think these are particularly good practices for teen readers who often want to browse the shelves but don’t always want to ask an adult staff person for help finding the next book in a series or for book recommendations. And let’s face it, even our best staff don’t know every book series order and this helps staff as well as patrons. Our goal is satisfied customers checking out books and I believe these practices help make that happen.

Sunday Reflections: My Wild and Weird YA Librarian Resume

I was recently speaking with a friend when it occurred to me she didn’t really have any idea what I did as a YA librarian. Spoiler alert: we do not get paid to sit around all day in quiet and read. At the same time, I was going through and cleaning up my “office” space, which is really the dining room, and started really going through a bunch of old notebooks and papers, which made me spiral down a black hole of statistics. Given the lowest numbers, I came up with the following:

yalibrarian

These are low estimates as they don’t account for the years where I had daily after school programs or the years that I had programs every Tuesday with anywhere from 50 to 110 teens in attendance. They don’t count the years I had a Teen MakerSpace that was open daily and on the weekends. It doesn’t include all the school visits and tours, outreach events, and more. It’s just a very basic beginning look of stats I put together to help my friend understand on a very basic level exactly what it is that I do and why it meant so much to me.

But then I got to thinking, if I was going to put together a realistic resume, I could include a lot of fun things.

For example, I can make or modify a t-shirt in no less than 22 ways.

shirt3

I can write my name in Lego form.

I can turn a toothbrush into a mini-robot.

bristlebot1

I can write an interactive murder mystery, from scratch.

I can make slime in no less than 10 ways.

slime3

I can make my own board game.

I can turn a beloved TV or book character into a party theme, complete with character themed decorations and food.

shrinkydinks

I know more than 10 creative ways to use Shrinky Dink film.

I can turn trash into art.

robots22 - Copy

I know all the lyrics to High School Musical, Hamilton, and many other musicals.

I can turn a simple fingerprint into an epic button.

buttons2

I can make a stop animation movie using a variety of artifacts, including clay, Legos and paper art.

I can turn a blank canvas into art in now less than 20 ways.

canvas4

In short, the life of a YA librarian contains multitudes. I’ve done a lot of cool things, learned a lot, and feel really blessed. If we were to truly make a resume that showed everything we could do, it would require reams of paper and would be a pretty creative document.

What unique skills would you put on your resume? I think it would be fun to see what we’re all putting on our next resume.

Friday Finds: January 11, 2019

tltbutton3This Week at TLT

Book Review: Standing Up Against Hate: How Black Women in the Army Helped Change the Course of WWII by Mary Cronk Farrell

How History (and Librarians) Inspire Freedom of the Press, a guest post by Mary Cronk Farrell

DIY Book Trading Cards

Book Review: Black Enough: Stories of Being Young and Black in America edited by Ibi Zoboi

WRITING YOUR OWN STORY (SORT OF), a guest post by Greg Howard

Book Review: Heretics Anonymous by Katie Henry

Book Review: Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams, a teen perspective

Around the Web

Parkland Shooting Panel Report Calls For Arming Teachers, Chronicles Slew Of Blunders

2019 Video Game Release Schedule

12 of Our Most Anticipated Historical YA Fiction of 2019

Send Girls to See Captain Marvel

 

 

Book Review: Standing Up Against Hate: How Black Women in the Army Helped Change the Course of WWII by Mary Cronk Farrell

Publisher’s description

standingStanding Up Against Hate tells the stories of the African American women who enlisted in the newly formed Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) in World War II. They quickly discovered that they faced as many obstacles in the armed forces as they did in everyday life. However, they refused to back down. They interrupted careers and left family, friends, and loved ones to venture into unknown and sometimes dangerous territory. They survived racial prejudice and discrimination with dignity, succeeded in jobs women had never worked before, and made crucial contributions to the military war effort. The book centers around Charity Adams, who commanded the only black WAAC battalion sent overseas and became the highest ranking African American woman in the military by the end of the war. Along with Adams’s story are those of other black women who played a crucial role in integrating the armed forces. Their tales are both inspiring and heart-wrenching. The book includes a timeline, bibliography, and index.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

You know what I know literally nothing about? The role of black women in WWII. This book certainly changed that. Immensely readable and supported by a lot of photographs and newspaper clippings, this book will fill a gap in, I’m guessing, the knowledge of many. By the end of WWII, 6,520 black women served in the US Army. This book tells some of their stories.

 

The 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, an all-women and all-black group, was the only unit of black women allowed to serve overseas during WWII. These women sorted and redirected mail, an enormous undertaking given the amount of mail from home (often addressed with just the soldier’s first name, with no other identifying info) that had built up while soldiers were on the move. They know that no mail meant low morale for the soldiers, so their job was a vital one. Readers get some background on what the Jim Crow era was like in the South, with black people treated as second class citizens. When women began to be recruited for noncombat positions to free up men to fight, many thought there was no way they could handle it—many thought that women didn’t belong in the military and were really only fit to be housewives. This discrimination and doubt was doubly apparent when it came to accepting black women as part of the military. The women who enlisted, including Major Charity Adams, a former teacher (and one of only two black women to obtain the rank of Major in WWII), saw it as an opportunity. They went into the military expecting to face less segregation and discrimination, but found, perhaps unsurprisingly, that was not the case. Black women and white women were kept apart at the training center, a place where many of the black women expected to work as one corps, not two. Barriers did break down over time, in some ways, but the military was still a reflection of the world at large at the time. 

 

Though skilled, capable, and qualified, the black women found themselves being eliminated from certain opportunities and given the run around to keep them from applying. It was mainly white women who were allowed to go on for training for specialist positions while most black women were barred from any additional training. Often, black women were assigned menial labor tasks, especially in the South, where they were told that “Negroes know their place.” When some of the women refused, citing discrimination, they were threatened with court martial and jail time. In general, the black women throughout the various training camps and bases faced threats, verbal abuse, KKK intimidation, physical attacks, and police violence. In 1945, when they were overseas, they were welcomed in Birmingham and treated well. Free of the Jim Crow rules and racist attitudes of the US, they were treated with respect and welcomed into people’s homes. But, of course, attitudes within their own military didn’t magically transform, and the women of the 6888th continued to face scrutiny. In the fall of 1945, many black women reached the end of their tours of duty, returning home to the US to discrimination. Black soldiers weren’t given the hero’s welcome that white soldiers were. For the most part, they were just given their discharge papers and sent on their way. The final chapter reflects on what the women got out of their time in the military.

 

An author’s note looks at the continued racism and segregation in the US after WWII as well as military service by black men and women in the wars since then. A glossary, time line, notes on sources, and a select bibliography round out the text. Finished copies will include a forward by a black retired Major General.

 

This thorough look at the role black women played during WWII is an excellent addition to all collections. Well-written and incredibly engaging, with ample quotes from women involved in the 6888th and so many pictures, this book is highly recommended. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781419731600
Publisher: ABRAMS
Publication date: 01/08/2019

How History (and Librarians) Inspire Freedom of the Press, a guest post by Mary Cronk Farrell

standingWhen I got my first real job as a broadcast journalist at age 21, I believed my work would contribute to the common good. I believed the stories I reported, first as a radio journalist and later in television news, would help people understand events in our local community more clearly, feel more empathy and maybe open their minds or change their hearts.

 

Was I too idealistic? Was believing that the news media played a crucial role, not just in preserving democracy, but also as a force for good in our lives nothing but a fanciful notion of a naïve do-gooder?

 

It certainly seems so today.

 

But in researching the stories of black women who risked their lives to serve their county in a segregated army during World War II, I discovered evidence of how a free press pushed our nation to progress toward equality, how newspaper stories about injustice inspired people to empathy, and how the press rallied citizens to demand fairness.

Ranks of the all-black #6888th Postal Battalion of Women’s Army Corps, 1945. (National Archives)

Ranks of the all-black #6888th Postal Battalion of Women’s Army Corps, 1945. (National Archives)

In the spring of 1945, black members of the Women’s Army Corps stationed at Fort Devens, Massachusetts, had withstood all they could stand. Day after day they donned blue work uniforms and reported to Lowell Army hospital to wash dishes and scrub floors. White WACs at the same hospital wore white uniforms for jobs as lab technicians, nurse’s aides and assisting wounded soldiers write letters home.

Major Charity Adams inspects Women’s Army Corps ranks, February 1945. (National Archives)

Major Charity Adams inspects Women’s Army Corps ranks, February 1945. (National Archives)

Throughout World War II, complaints arose, and inspections verified that black WACs were too often assigned to menial jobs not prescribed for WACs. One inspection at Fort Breckinridge, Kentucky, found thirty black WACs working in the laundry, fifteen assigned to service jobs, including dishwashing at the base club, and five “well-educated negro women…administration school graduates…employed sweeping warehouse floors.”* At Fort Knox, Kentucky, black WACs worked in the kitchen, a white officer saying, “Most of these girls are much better off now than they were in civilian life.”*

 

At Fort Devens, the black women tried to work through the system, sending their complaints of discrimination up the chain of command to no avail. Alice E. Young, 23, had finished one year of nursing school while working as a student nurse in a Washington, D.C. hospital. She’d joined the army due to promises she’d be trained as a nurses’ aide and worked at Lovell awaiting a space in the training program.

 

But one day the commander of the hospital Colonel Walter M. Crandall toured her ward and saw Alice taking a white soldier’s temperature. “No colored WACs,” he announced, would take temperatures in his hospital. “They are here to scrub and wash floors, wash dishes and do all the dirty work.”**

 

Alice was demoted to hospital orderly, her hopes of going to med tech school dashed. She cleaned the hospital hallways and kitchen, washed dishes, cooked and served food and took out the garbage. Sixty percent of the black WACs at Lovell had similar duties.

Devens WACS Stage Sitdown, The Chicago Defender, March 24, 1945.

Devens WACS Stage Sitdown, The Chicago Defender, March 24, 1945.

They decided to strike. According to the New York Times, 96 black WACs initially refused orders to go to work due to discriminatory assignments. After several days, most eventually went back to work under threat of court martial for insubordination, a death penalty offense in wartime.

 

But Alice and three others who walked away from their posts at the hospital did not return and were court martialed. “These women made this gesture of protest in hope that someday their descendants might enjoy fully the rights and liberties promised to Americans,”** their attorney said.

 

Major news sources like the New York Times and Time Magazine covered the strike and the women’s trial, as well as small town newspapers like the Daily Sun in Lewiston, Maine, and African American newspapers across the country. When the army court convicted the four women and sentenced them to one year of hard labor with no pay and dishonorable discharge, the story received wide coverage.

Army Court Convicts 4 WACs of Disobeying Superior, The Washington Post, March 21, 1945.

Army Court Convicts 4 WACs of Disobeying Superior, The Washington Post, March 21, 1945.

Many Americans both white and black read about the unfairness the striking women had faced. They protested the harsh penalty by writing letters to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Secretary of War, Congress and editors of newspapers. Many called for punishment of Colonial Crandall, rather than the women.

 

The news stories and subsequent uproar by citizens made a difference. The War Department found a way to reverse the verdict on a technicality and reinstate Alice and the others to active duty. The Army did not investigate Colonel Crandall’s behavior, but he was relieved of his hospital command and pressured to retire. In addition, the army changed policies at Lovell Hospital prohibiting black WACs from being assigned to menial jobs not done by white WACs.

Headline, front page, The Afro American, Baltimore, MD, April 28, 1945.

Headline, front page, The Afro American, Baltimore, MD, April 28, 1945.

The pervasiveness of our news media today allows us to be even better informed than Americans during WWII, but it requires diligence and critical thinking due to the massive amounts of information at our fingertips, and the phenomenon of “fake news.”   Reporters Without Borders, an organization that tracks freedom of information, ranks the United States 45th out of 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index. We fall below a host of European countries and others around the world including Ghana, South Korea, Uruguay and South Africa.

 

With the news media’s ever-increasing focus on the sensational and the obvious partisanship of news outlets, I’ve become more jaded and I don’t regret I’ve left the business. But librarians inspire me to keep faith with my ideals. They’re on the front lines championing freedom of information and teaching students critical skills to assess the news they see. They inspire us all to work within our own spheres of influence to defend our freedom of the press which is critical to democracy and a powerful force for truth and justice.

 

* When the Nation was in Need: Blacks in the Women’s Army Corps during World War II, by Martha S. Putney (Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2001)

**United States V. Morrison, Anna G, A., Green, Mary, E., Young Alice E., Murphy, Johnnie, A. (Proceedings of a General Court-Martial, Fort Devens, M.A., March 19, 1945)

 

Meet Mary Cronk Farrell

Mary Cronk Farrell 2015. (534x640)Mary Cronk Farrell, author of critically acclaimed and award-winning Pure Grit: How American World War II Nurses Survived Battle and Prison Camp in the Pacific, now releases the incredible story of how black women in the army helped change the course of World War II:  Standing Up Against Hate: How Black Women in the Army Helped Change the Course of WWII (Abrams, January 2019).

 

Connect with Mary online: 

Website: www.MaryCronkFarrell.com

Blog: http://www.marycronkfarrell.net/blog

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Author-Mary-Cronk-Farrell-180125525368386/

Twitter: @MaryCronkFarrel

Instagram:  MaryCronkFarrell

 

About  Standing Up Against Hate: How Black Women in the Army Helped Change the Course of WWII

standingStanding Up Against Hate tells the stories of the African American women who enlisted in the newly formed Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) in World War II. They quickly discovered that they faced as many obstacles in the armed forces as they did in everyday life. However, they refused to back down. They interrupted careers and left family, friends, and loved ones to venture into unknown and sometimes dangerous territory. They survived racial prejudice and discrimination with dignity, succeeded in jobs women had never worked before, and made crucial contributions to the military war effort. The book centers around Charity Adams, who commanded the only black WAAC battalion sent overseas and became the highest ranking African American woman in the military by the end of the war. Along with Adams’s story are those of other black women who played a crucial role in integrating the armed forces. Their tales are both inspiring and heart-wrenching. The book includes a timeline, bibliography, and index.

(ISBN-13: 9781419731600 Publisher: ABRAMS Publication date: 01/08/2019)

SEE AMANDA’S REVIEW HERE

 

DIY Book Trading Cards

tradingcard

My family traveled over the holidays and at one point, we saw a TSA agent with a K9 dog. Thing 2 pointed and said, “look, there’s a dog,” which prompted the TS-9 to hand her a trading card made about the dog, whose name was Hilbert. It was a genius marketing strategy to make kids comfortable and satisfy their curiosity while maintaining their distance and prevent them from approaching or petting the working dogs.

tradingcards7 tradingcards8I kept thinking about this K9 trading card and all the fun marketing potential it has. So the other day I tweeted and said, what if we made book trading cards? I liked the idea so much that I then started obsessively figuring out ways to make trading cards and exploring the best tools, as I have a tendency to do. Here’s a look at 5 tools I used, the trading cards I created using them, and then at the end of this post I have a few ideas for ways that we can use the idea of trading cards to promote reading, programs and libraries in school and public libraries.

Instax Mini Trading Cards

tradingcards6

As regular readers know, I am recently obsessed with the Instax Mini camera. I like the wide variety of things you can do with it AND the fact that you get an instant picture. Patience is not a virtue I have and I don’t have a lot of art or tech skills. You can buy a variety of Instax Mini sticker frames, which have a piece that goes on the back of your photo, which helps make this project work. This back sticker makes it so that you can use both sides of the photograph to make quick and easy trading cards. Use a Sharpie marker (I found the Extra Fine tip worked the best) to write on the front and back of your instant photo. You can also use metallic silver Sharpies to write directly on the black back if you don’t have sticker frames. I wrote various facts and gave a rating for my book in the margins of the photo. Here I did an example using the upcoming book Dig by A. S. King.

tradingcards3

The benefit to this method is that it is seriously quick and easy. The drawback, of course, is that you have to have a couple of Instax Mini cameras on hand, which I recommend. (Did I mention I am a huge fan?) Film is not, however, cheap and I haven’t found it for less than around $0.68 a picture. So though it may be quick, easy and kind of low tech, it’s not in-expensive. The Instax Mini is a fun device, with immediate results and most tweens and teens I know are currently really interested in this device. This is a good starting place if you want easy and immediate results.

Sports Card Pro App

tradingcards2

The trading card that you see in the upper right hand card was made using the Sports Card Pro app, which I downloaded for free. It has in app purchases, but the initial app download is free. I made no additional purchases to create my trading card so the entire product was free to me.

Where you see the rocket ship in the left hand corner the Sports Card Pro app gives you a choice of various sports balls to put in that corner. This didn’t really work for me so I saved my picture and opened it in another app, Candy Camera, to add the rocket ship. But if you want a sports theme, you can do it all in this app and pretty quickly. I made the example you see in this picture in about 2 minutes while laying in bed with the TV on in the background and no real experience with the app. I tell you this because I want you to understand how quick and easy it was.

One of the things I liked about this app is how much focus it put on the picture, but that left less room for text. It has rigidly set text boxes and design elements, so it doesn’t allow for a lot of personalization or moving elements around. Some people would like this, but I found it frustrating as I wanted to move certain elements slightly in one direction or another and it just doesn’t give you that freedom of design. You could get around this problem by doing the most basic design in this app, saving your card and then uploading it into another app – like Over or PS Express – to add more design elements, but that’s a lot of additional steps and requires some additional knowledge.

Because this is a mobile device app, you have to be able to print wirelessly to some type of device. Because I knew I wanted a small, trading card size, I used the Print to Size app on my cell phone which allows you better control over sizing as opposed to simply printing from a mobile device to a wireless printer. I printed to both a regular printer and a Selphy photo printer, which I discuss more at the end of this post.

So while this is a good app for designing a sports themed card, it’s not necessarily good for other themes. It was quick and easy, but not very versatile.

Trading Card Creator at ReadThinkWrite

tradingcards5 tradingcards4

This is a free online program that has an educational focus, so it has a lot more room for text. You can include facts about the book, main characters, setting, etc. After you go through the generator – which is an easy to fill out step by step form – you download your card as a .pdf and it prints on a piece of letter size paper. Adobe is required to run the program.

When you print out your page it comes with instructions that tell you to cut it out, fold it, and tape it closed. It prints in color, but I accidentally printed mine in black and white. If you choose the “Make Your Own” option it allows you to put in your own category headings. Otherwise, the big section headings are pre-programmed, which can be a great feature for younger or newer users. However, it does not seem to allow you to move the various elements or text boxes around, so format wise there isn’t a lot of versatility here either. This is a quick and easy tool, but if you want more personalization or versatility, this isn’t the best tool for you. It’s a really great starting place and will work really well in most school or library settings.

Freehand Design Tools: Microsoft Publisher, Google Draw and Canva

tradingcards1

I used the format presented in the ReadWriteThink card and a sports trading card I had at home for inspiration to try my final option: Microsoft Publisher, Canva and Google Draw. Each of these programs are publishing programs that allow you the greatest amount of freedom and versatility in how you design and where you place your various trading card elements. You can see the results in the bottom left hand corner of the picture above. Both Canva and Google Draw are basically no or low cost programs that allow you to do freehand design. Microsoft Publisher requires the purchase of a yearly license and it is costly. All three design programs require a certain amount of skill, which most people get just by tinkering around in the programs. I am least well versed in Google Draw and abandoned that medium pretty quickly for something more familiar. I use Publisher and Canva pretty frequently so I was able to produce something I liked pretty quickly and without a lot of difficulty. The final product you see in the picture above was made using Publisher, which I am most comfortable with and, I feel, gives you the most freedom. The Teen and many of the teens I work with, however, are much more familiar with Google Draw and would probably prefer it.

After completing my card design I grouped all my design elements, right clicked on my trading card, saved it as a .jpeg and printed it to size. I was able to print 6 cards per one letter size sheet of card stock paper. Saving it as a .jpeg also allows you to upload it and share it on social media or easily transfer it from one device to another, like from my laptop to my cell phone. There are some real advantages to having a .jpeg file versus a .pdf file.

Printing My Trading Cards

All of the options allow you to save and print your trading card in one fashion or another. If you use a freehand graphics program you can save as a .jpg and print on card stock. You’ll want to use card stock to give it the heft of a trading card. If you have the option, I would print to photo paper to give it that glossy trading card look. Although I liked the look of the curved edges for the trading card design, it requires some additional cutting which was harder to make look nice with my questionable scissor skills. I liked the straight lines because I could use a paper cutter and get nice, straight edges. Your mileage may vary.

selphy4

If printing from a handheld device I would recommend using the Print to Size app and printing 2 trading cards side by side on one postcard using the Selphy printer and cutting them apart. This was the method of printing I used in the very first picture of this post. Printing with a Selphy printer or onto photo paper using a traditional printer gives you that glossy trading card resembling finish. If you’re not familiar with the Selphy photo printer, it’s a tool I highly recommend for anyone wanting to print photos from a mobile device. It’s small, portable and has its own built in wi-fi so you can take it with you on outreach events and print immediately from a smart phone or tablet. I reviewed the Selphy printer here if you would like more information.

Things to Include on a Book Trading Card

  • Title
  • Author
  • Setting
  • A catchphrase or brief descriptive phrase
  • Fun facts like characters, themes
  • If you like X, read this statements . . .
  • A star rating

What to Do with Book Trading Cards?

At it’s most basic, libraries could make book trading cards for our favorite or most recent YA titles and hand them out during book talks or at outreach events. Imagine book talking a book then handing each tween or teen a card with a picture of the book cover and a few basic facts about the book so they could remember to ask for it. Wouldn’t it be great to have teens come into the library after a day of booktalking and just hand staff a book trading card instead of trying to remember details about the book you booktalked that they want and hoping that staff can get enough details to get the right book into their hands?

This would also be a great marketing tool for the library itself or for specific programs. For example, during National Library Week multi-branch systems could make cards for each branch with basic facts about the branch and hand them out to visitors. Libraries could host some type of challenge inviting patrons to visit as many branches as possible during National Library Week and offering an entry into a prize for patrons who get one card from X number of branches.

Beyond using book trading cards as a promotional tool, we could also get tools into the hands of tweens and teens and encourage them to make their own. This activity combines reading/literacy with making, helping us achieve more of our goals. Have a program day where you provide a couple of Instax Mini cameras and some Sharpies and challenge teens to make their own trading cards. Or set up an ongoing station in the corner of your library and make a trading card wall to display teen created book trading cards. Teens could stop in during lunch, study hall or after school and make a quick book trading card and put it on your wall recommending books to their peers.

Learning how to use a good graphics program is a valuable skill for anyone, so don’t be afraid to have some in-depth sessions where you teach teens how to use Publisher, Canva or Google Draw and challenge them to design their own book trading cards. Many schools and libraries have tech training labs and this would be a fun project to teach design basics with some set parameters. I have found that many people want some concrete guidelines and examples to begin learning design with and here we would have a built in template to help guide us.

And don’t forget that if you want an easy to use template, you can have tweens and teens use the ReadWriteThink trading card creator. Print two of each card, one for participants to take home and one to display on an RA wall or book display. Or print 3 – so they can trade!

Some Final Thoughts and Perspectives

Depending on what you need, there are pros and cons to each of the various methods used above. Most school and public libraries are already set up to use something like the ReadWriteThink trading card creator and print. This is probably a really good starting point.

I highly recommend purchasing a smart phone/tablet and Selphy printer for any teen library space that wants to do a lot of photo based making and programming, but it does require some initial financial investment and the ongoing cost of the specific Selphy paper. You would need multiple devices to have a program, though you can connect multiple devices to one Selphy printer. Or you can set up a small maker station using one device and one printer and allow teens to create as they wanted. Not every teen area or school library has the space or the staff, but if you do a small maker station is a good idea.

And in my ideal world, I would write a grant to get 5 to 10 Instax Mini cameras for a teen space or program to do a wide variety of programming things there. You could also just have one and have teens share or set up a maker station using this method as well.

Don’t forget to create a hashtag so you can encourage tweens and teens to share their book trading cards online.

I made a wide variety of trading cards using all 5 methods over a two-day period. I spent all in all about 3 hours making trading cards. Again, I am a pretty proficient user of both Publisher and Canva so I didn’t have to learn the basics. Each method has its pros and cons and really all of them work pretty well. I liked the Sports Card Pro app the least, mainly because I was not making a sports themed trading card and it required some work around to get rid of the sports themes. As you can see, for my examples I used Thing 2’s Operation BB as a theme for my example cards, mainly because I had those photos readily available on my phone. We did, in fact, print out several of the cards we liked best – the one made in Publisher – and handed them out as a promotional tool and people thought they were very cool. I also uploaded it to the Operation BB social media page. These will, in fact, work really well as fun promotional tools. I had a lot of fun making the trading cards and highly recommend it.

So now it’s your turn. Make a trading card for your favorite book or book character and sharing it with us in the comments or on social media using the hasthag #BookTradingCard. I would love to see what everyone is creating (and reading!)

Book Review: Black Enough: Stories of Being Young and Black in America edited by Ibi Zoboi

Publisher’s description

black enoughEdited by National Book Award finalist Ibi Zoboi, and featuring some of the most acclaimed bestselling Black authors writing for teens today—Black Enough is an essential collection of captivating stories about what it’s like to be young and Black in America.

Black is…sisters navigating their relationship at summer camp in Portland, Oregon, as written by Renée Watson.

Black is…three friends walking back from the community pool talking about nothing and everything, in a story by Jason Reynolds.

Black is…Nic Stone’s high-class beauty dating a boy her momma would never approve of.

Black is…two girls kissing in Justina Ireland’s story set in Maryland.

Black is urban and rural, wealthy and poor, mixed race, immigrants, and more—because there are countless ways to be Black enough.

Contributors:
Justina Ireland
Varian Johnson
Rita Williams-Garcia
Dhonielle Clayton
Kekla Magoon
Leah Henderson
Tochi Onyebuchi
Jason Reynolds
Nic Stone
Liara Tamani
Renée Watson
Tracey Baptiste
Coe Booth
Brandy Colbert
Jay Coles
Ibi Zoboi
Lamar Giles

 

Amanda’s thoughts

This is a truly excellent collection of contemporary short stories. There wasn’t a dud in this anthology, which is pretty impressive, because I usually feel like collections  are often so uneven, that they have a few strong stories and just as many forgettable, undeveloped stories. These stories all focus on being young and black in America. They look at identity, tradition, ideas of blackness, relationships, and experiences in various urban and rural areas across the country.

 

In Renée Watson’s piece, 17-year-old Raven, a counselor at a camp for young girls from the Portland, Oregon area, is surprised to find one of her campers is her father’s daughter from the family he had after he left when Raven was seven. Varian Johnson’s story is set in South Carolina and follows Cam, who is visiting his grandma, as he deals with code switching, being called an Oreo, and thinking he’s not black enough for the girl he likes. Leah Henderson sets her story at a prep school where art, futures, and authentic selves are all in question. Lamar Giles’s “Black. Nerd. Problems” entertainingly focuses on a group of mall employees at an after-hours mall party.

 

Kekela Magoon’s main character mourns the loss of a school friend who was maybe the only person to see her real self. Jason Reynolds shows us a group of boys walking home from the pool through Bed-Stuy dreaming of the perfect sandwich. Brandy Colbert’s “Oreo” deals with a potentially Spelman-bound senior, her parents’ complicated feelings about HBCUs, and how her cousin from Missouri thinks she “acts white.” Tochi Onyebuchi shows readers a Nigerian American debate superstar who unexpectedly finds a passion for metal music. Liara Tamani’s story is set at a church camp where there’s pressure to send naked selfies. Jay Coles brings readers to the tiny town of North Salem where two boys from feuding families reveal their feelings toward each other while getting ready to compete in the big horse race.

 

Rita Williams-Garcia’s story is the only one to veer into fantasy, with a gay male model encountering an 1840s slave (either in a wash basin or in a dream) who can’t understand his modern life and freedoms. Tracey Baptiste’s “Gravity” takes place in a brief time span on a dance floor when a Trinidadian girl is sexually assaulted by her dance partner. A real standout story is Dhonielle Clayton’s “The Trouble with Drowning,” in which twin sisters from a wealthy area of Washington, DC experience a growing distance and a family unwilling to address mental health issues.

 

Justina Ireland’s main character, Devon, is in “the backwoods of Maryland” for the summer while her mother gets help for her depression and begins dating a local girl, trying to learn to live in the moment even though their relationship seems sure to end when they both leave for college. Coe Booth’s is set at college, where computer science student Garry hopes to be reunited with Inaaya, a girl he knew (and fell for) from past summer hackathons. Nic Stone’s main characters come from very different upbringings, but learn to see each other beyond their stereotypes and bond over their love of Percy Jackson books. And finally, Ibi Zoboi looks at the one night of freedom of Nigeria (Geri), the daughter of black nationalist revolutionary freedom fighter caught for tax evasion who can’t wait to be eighteen and leave the confines of the movement.

 

The stories, settings, and writing styles are varied. While readers will never know what to expect when they flip to the next story, they will not be disappointed. Each story is thoughtful and engaging, with tones varying from serious to more lighthearted. One of the best things about anthologies is the potential to introduce readers to writers they are unfamiliar with. This collection features so many wonderful authors and I hope that, if readers don’t already know their work, these stories will encourage them to seek out their books. Teachers and librarians, put this book up on a display featuring books by the authors included here. A great exploration of identity and cultures—a necessary addition to all collections. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9780062698728
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 01/08/2019

WRITING YOUR OWN STORY (SORT OF), a guest post by Greg Howard

whispersLet me start by clearly stating that THE WHISPERS is first and foremost, a work of fiction. I’m reluctant to even call it semi-autobiographical. With that said, there’s no doubt that I left a lot of me on the page. Sort of.

 

When I first had the idea for this story, I thought a lot about my childhood—colorful family members, small towns in South Carolina where I grew up, the woods I explored with my buddies, those early school friends and bullies who leave a lifelong, indelible mark one’s psyche and memory. But I kept circling back a central missing puzzle piece of my youth—my mother.

 

 

My mother was a conspicuous and fundamental figure in my childhood even though she was absent for most of it. Why she wasn’t around isn’t as important as the fact that she was there in a monumental way in the beginning—when your attachments and developmental influences take root and form who you are as a person. She was a local beauty queen beloved by everyone, a steadfast pillar of the church community, a faithful wife and nurturing mother revered by other wives and mothers for her beauty inside and out. She was practically an angelic presence temporarily on loan from God to the good citizens of Georgetown, South Carolina. Or at least that’s how I remember it.

Greg's mother

Greg’s mother

 

As I grew older and wiser (sort of), the more I realized that my memories of my mother were a mix of the authentic and the imagined—some created from faded Polaroids, others from family lore, but only a scattering from actual events and real-life moments. That’s why I consider the mother in THE WHISPERS to be a tribute to my mother, but also a fully fictionalized character.

A young Greg and his sister

A young Greg and his sister

To my main character, Riley, his mother is virtually his entire world and when she goes missing, he’s not only completely lost without her, but obsessive about finding her and bringing her home. The world as Riley knows it simply doesn’t work without her. His dad grows isolated and distant, his brother retreats from the family, his grandparents are despondent, and as a mama’s boy who finds himself suddenly without a mama, Riley feels as alone and acutely isolated as I did at his age.

 

Growing up a self-aware queer kid the rural deep South only added to my seclusion. It was time when you didn’t talk about such things, neither at home or at school, and certainly not at church. Preachers told me I was going to hell without even realizing (I hope) the oppressive guilt and shame they were imposing on an already sensitive, fragile kid. Authority figures seemed to know without question or a second thought that I was not normal. I never found myself in television, movies, or books, but only ever saw a romantic construct of love represented between a man and a woman. Even at that young age, I felt erased from society and reality. Compound that with the absence of my mother and you have one deeply confused, broken and lonely little boy.

 

That was my story, but through writing THE WHISPERS, it became Riley’s.

 

Sprinkling the seasoning of my life into THE WHISPERS was deeply satisfying, incredibly cathartic, and at times particularly painful. From Grandma’s fruit salad recipe, to the Pentecostal corn choir, to missing family photo albums and boyhood crushes, to camping trips in the woods, childhood trauma, a country market, nightmares so vivid I remember them to this day, and even to the greatest dog in the history of dogs, Tucker—I lent it all to Riley. And it was interesting to see with those same story ingredients borrowed from my life, how drastically his path diverged from my own.

 

I used to think of THE WHISPERS as my own story. But the longer I’m away from it, the more I consider it Riley’s story. Those are now his adventures, hopes, pains, dreams, struggles and triumphs. But I’m delighted that my real-life memories served Riley well and found a safe and evergreen place to land. Riley’s was a more fantastical journey than mine, but imagination was important to us both. Imagination was the vehicle of our escape to an alternate world. One full of hope. And in that small yet significant way, Riley and I share this story.

 

When writing fiction, I don’t believe you can truly write your own story. At some point the characters hijack it and make it their own, and that’s okay. So, now I can say with definitive clarity that THE WHISPERS is my own story. Sort of.

 

Meet Greg Howard

Photo credit: Jamie Wright Images

Photo credit: Jamie Wright Images

Greg Howard grew up near the coast of South Carolina. His hometown of Georgetown is known as the “Ghost Capital of the South” (seriously…there’s a sign), and was always a great source of material for his overactive imagination. Raised in a staunchly religious home, Greg escaped into the arts: singing, playing piano, acting, writing songs, and making up stories. Currently, Greg resides in Nashville, Tennessee, with his husband, Steve, and their three rescued fur babies Molly, Toby, and Riley.

 

 

 

 Connect with Greg online:

Twitter: @greghowardbooks

Instagram: @greghowardbooks

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/greghowardbooks/

 

About THE WHISPERS

whispersA middle grade debut that’s a heartrending coming-of-age tale, perfect for fans of Bridge to Terabithia and Counting By 7s.

Eleven-year-old Riley believes in the whispers, magical fairies that will grant you wishes if you leave them tributes. Riley has a lot of wishes. He wishes bullies at school would stop picking on him. He wishes Dylan, his 8th grade crush, liked him, and Riley wishes he would stop wetting the bed. But most of all, Riley wishes for his mom to come back home. She disappeared a few months ago, and Riley is determined to crack the case. He even meets with a detective, Frank, to go over his witness statement time and time again.

Frustrated with the lack of progress in the investigation, Riley decides to take matters into his own hands. So he goes on a camping trip with his friend Gary to find the whispers and ask them to bring his mom back home. But Riley doesn’t realize the trip will shake the foundation of everything that he believes in forever.

(ISBN-13: 9780525517498 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 01/15/2019)

CHECK BACK ON 1/15/2019 FOR AMANDA’S REVIEW OF THE WHISPERS

Book Review: Heretics Anonymous by Katie Henry

A recent article suggested that faith is one of the last remaining subjects that are taboo in YA literature, which reminded me that I had not yet written a review of one of the best books I have read in a long time that talked about faith and spirituality in the life of teens: Heretic’s Anonymous by Katie Henry.

hereticsanonymousPublisher’s Book Description:

Michael is an atheist. So as he walks through the doors at St. Clare’s—a strict Catholic school—sporting a plaid tie, things can’t get much worse. His dad has just made the family move again, and Michael needs a friend. When a girl challenges their teacher in class, Michael thinks he might have found one, and a fellow nonbeliever at that. Only this girl, Lucy, is not just Catholic . . . she wants to be a priest.

But Lucy introduces Michael to other St. Clare’s outcasts, and he officially joins Heretics Anonymous, where he can be an atheist, Lucy can be an outspoken feminist, Avi can be Jewish and gay, Max can wear whatever he wants, and Eden can practice paganism. After an incident in theology class, Michael encourages the Heretics to go from secret society to rebels intent on exposing the school’s hypocrisies. When Michael takes one mission too far—putting the other Heretics at risk—he must decide whether to fight for his own freedom, or rely on faith, whatever that means, in God, his friends, or himself.

Karen’s Thoughts:

With my new commute to work, I have about an hours drive each way and I have been listening to a lot of audio books. I’m a pretty new audio book connoisseur and the person doing the reading can make or break a book (I’ve stopped several because they had a terrible reader). This was a good production that drew me into the story and kept me engaged. So as an audio book, I recommend it.

I was drawn to this book by both the cover and the title. I mean, there’s burnt toast on the cover, it’s intriguing. But I approached this book with personal caution because as a Christian, I’m always hesitant when a book starts out with “Michael is an atheist”, because I don’t want to have my personal faith choices outright attacked. This book does not do that in any way and I appreciated so much the way that it handles and introduces a wide variety of faith perspectives and discussions. In fact, here we find a thoughtful group of teens who are wrestling with personal identity and faith and none of them really attack or try and convert the other. It was a refreshing reminder that people can hold very different faith points of view and still care about and respect one another. The way Henry handles each characters faith is thoughtful and respectful. I can’t speak to whether or not the representations of each faith is authentic or accurate, but I felt like it was respectful.

I could personally really identify with Lucy who is both Christian and Feminist. Michael assumes that she can not truly be Catholic as a feminist and Lucy reminds him time and time again that she very much embraces her faith, she also questions and challenges some of the worldly structures of her faith that oppress and demean women. I’ve had some of the same conversations that Lucy has with my friends who are also both feminist and Christian. And I love that Katie Henry shows that yes teens are intelligent, deep, and wrestling with these issues. The depiction of teens Henry presents in Heretic’s Anonymous is very much on point with the teens I am raising and interacting with daily.

Heretic’s Anonymous isn’t just about faith, it’s about family, friendship, finding yourself and having the courage to stand up for what you believe and challenging the system. It’s also about finding that delicate balance between standing up and speaking out and knowing how to do so in ethical ways that respects others around you. In a time when #resistance is trending and young people are in fact speaking out about things like gun control, Heretic’s Anonymous is a reflective look at how you can stand up and challenge the system and what the consequences for one’s actions might be.

This book is entertaining and reflective and thoughtful; it’s fun and engaging while also looking into some serious issues. I appreciate that it represents such a wide variety of faith view points in the characters, the discussions that they have, and the ways in which they have them. None of these teens are perfect and there are some major falling outs, because faith is deep and personal. And I think that is one of the ways in which Heretic’s Anonymous excels, it really shines a light on exactly how deep and personal faith can be while sharing with us these lives that are wrestling with faith in a world in which they are trying to find themselves while the adults around them are telling them how to dress, act, think and be. Highly recommended.