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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!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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.

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.


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

When The Mr. and I were in college, he was an art major. I had the distinct privilege of of learning about an array of artistic ideas while watching him take classes. Because of this experience, or perhaps just because of the moments we’ve shared and the influence he has had on me, I’ve always had a tendency to involve arts and crafts into my teen programming in the library. As someone who intensely values self expression and learning, I think it is great to offer teens an introduction to a wide variety of mediums, techniques and opportunities to explore. You never know what might just click with them.

When looking for teen program ideas, I find that it is helpful to be aware of what books are in my nonfiction area. I try to thumb through them when new one comes in, making a note of any ideas I might want to tuck away for future use. Sometimes I will find a single activity that I adore and later use at a theme program, like a Doctor Who party. Other times I might find an idea or technique that I want to build a whole program around, like t-shirt alteration.

Playing with Surface Design is a book that is all about using things like stamps, inks, paints, etc. to alter the surface of something to create a new sort of something. With just a few simple techniques, you can upcycle something you buy at a thrift store to make it uniquely your own, for example. Or you can create your own package wrapping and ribbons, giving something that homemade touch that seems to say I love you and went through this extra step of effort. Or you can take a pair of thrift store shoes and make them new and personal.

Playing with Surface Design discusses four main types of surface altering: monoprinting with gelatin, paste paper, credit card painting and mark making. Mark making is literally doing things like making random marks on a piece of paper – and yes, it can mean scribbling – and then using that paper to make cool designs. Gelatin is like doing printing but instead of using a traditional ink you use a gel based ink. Paste paper involves using various combs and tools to make patterns on paper using paste and pigments. Don’t worry, it’s all explained really well at the beginning of the book.

Here are some examples of ways that you could use this book in teen programming:

1. Paste Paper Mobile

One program that I have done multiple times is a program called Renovate Your Room. It’s all about teaching teens simple things they can do to re-decorate their room on a budget. I will usually have a local interior design person come in to discuss basic things like layout and design, color theory, and even feng shui. Another activity I sometimes do is use a stack of discarded magazines and have them create a collage of their dream room using pictures cut from the magazines. And then we might do a simple activity, like some duct tape crafts that you can add into your room to give it some flair. On page 41, Cerruti goes through the steps of creating a paste paper mobile. This would be a great hands on activity for this type of a program. Also, if you were having a thematic teen program it would be fun to create a mobile for a background decoration.

Some of the other activities that would be great for a Renovate Your Room type of program include Painted Pillow Cover (p. 47), Color Play Lampshade (p. 53) and Scribble Garland (p. 81).

2. Making Polka Dots

I can’t believe I have never thought of this myself, but in the section on Study in Circles: Tea Towels (page 43), Cerutti shares how you can use bubble wrap and ink pads to make polka dots. You could do this, for example, in a t-shirt alternation program, or in a program where you make your own journals, papers, gift wrap and more. It’s quick, simple and kind of genius.

3. Framed Photo Mats

One of my favorite things to do with my teens is to do photography types of activities using apps with a variety of filters – it involves tech!  With the right tools – a smart phone or table and access to a printer – you can do a wide variety of fun programs with teens creating pictures, whether they be selfies, photobooths, or thematic. You could combine that with a program where you make your own photo mats using the techniques in Playing with Surface Design.

4. Back to School Crafts

There are a variety of activities that would be fun to include in a back to school program including Moder Black-And-White Book Covers (p. 69) Patterned Notebooks (p. 73), Making Marks Postcards (p. 77).

5. Earth Day Printmaking

As little kids, almost all of us did crayon rubbings of leaves and twigs and liked the outcome. Bold Botanical Prints (p. 61) takes those rubbings to the next level and teaches the basics of gelatin printmaking. The prints can then be framed and displayed in your teen area, or taken home.

Some of the other activities mentioned include making personalized notecards, stamping wrapping paper, making marbled tassles, and creating stamped-envelope keepsake pouches.

Other titles in this book series include Washi Tape (which I love) and Playing with Image Transfers (which I want desperately). There are some examples of artists working in the filed in the final portion of the book and I think it helps make the art real, pairing it to names and examples of people doing this type of art in the real world.

This book excited me with all of the creative ways I thought of using it in my personal life and teen programming. I found the directions to be pretty thorough and easy to follow. I definitely recommend it.

This book was sent to me for review as part of our Quarto Week here at TLT. Later today we will be hosting a giveaway for 5 of the books we chose for you.

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

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

In my home, Paris is a dream destination. The Tween collects a variety of memorabilia and we tend to collect and read books that take place in France. This post for a Paris themed TPIB has been sitting in my drafts folder for a really, really long time. But I’m finally dusting it off and sharing it with you as part of our Quarto Week because of the book Origami City.

Origami City: Fold More Than 30 Global Landmarks by Shuki Kato & Jordan Langerak does exactly what you think it would do – it gives you step by step instructions for folding more than 30 landmarks out of paper. After a brief introduction giving you basic instructions and explaining the symbols used in paper folding, the various origami project are divided into geographic regions. The section on Europe includes a few French landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower, the Le Louvre Pyramid and the Arc de Triopmhe. In addition there are some basic fun projects like a house, car, stop sign, park bench, etc. so you can, in fact, make a little paper city.

This book would be a great addition to our previous Eat and Read Around the Globe program outline that includes things like making postcards from each city and tasting the foods of the region. In addition to the France location, it includes the Taj Mahal (which looks awesome), the Tokyo Tower, Big Ben (Doctor Who program!), and the Sydney Opera House, to name just a few.

5 YA Titles Set in France

Starry Nights by Daisy Whitney

Just One Day by Gayle Foreman

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Rook by Sharon Cameron

More YA Reads set in France

Craft Ideas:

French Manicure : Have a spa day and give yourself a French manicure.

Little Paper France : Make a little paper model of France that you can use to decorate. You can also decoupage the pieces onto a canvas or other cool thing – like a jewelry box – if you wanted. These pieces would be a great addition to your city that you make using the Origami City book.

Eiffel Tower Paper Banner : Decorate by creating a paper banner with images from France.

Edible Eiffel Tower : Edible crafts are yum.

Free Printable Paris Themed Bottlecap Craft Inserts : Use these cool inserts – which are Free! – to make bottle cap jewelry or magnets.

If you use the FilterMania app on a smart phone or tablet, there is an Eiffel Tower frame you can use to create cool pictures.

You can also use Instagram images and Publisher (or some other design program) to create Paris themed postcards.

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

About the Books Mentioned:

Starry Nights by Daisy Whitney

Seventeen-year-old Julien is a romantic—he loves spending his free time at the museum poring over the great works of the Impressionists. But one night, a peach falls out of a Cezanne, Degas ballerinas dance across the floor, and Julien is not hallucinating.

The art is reacting to a curse that trapped a beautiful girl, Clio, in a painting forever. Julien has a chance to free Clio and he can’t help but fall in love with her. But love is a curse in its own right. And soon paintings begin to bleed and disappear. Together Julien and Clio must save the world’s greatest art . . . at the expense of the greatest love they’ve ever known.

Like a master painter herself, Daisy Whitney brings inordinate talent and ingenuity to this romantic, suspenseful, and sophisticated new novel. A beautifully decorated package makes it a must-own in print. (Bloomsbury 2013)

Just One Day by Gayle Forman

Allyson Healey’s life is exactly like her suitcase—packed, planned, ordered. Then on the last day of her three-week post-graduation European tour, she meets Willem. A free-spirited, roving actor, Willem is everything she’s not, and when he invites her to abandon her plans and come to Paris with him, Allyson says yes. This uncharacteristic decision leads to a day of risk and romance, liberation and intimacy: 24 hours that will transform Allyson’s life.

A book about love, heartbreak, travel, identity, and the “accidents” of fate, Just One Day shows us how sometimes in order to get found, you first have to get lost. . . and how often the people we are seeking are much closer than we know. (Speak 2013)


Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris–until she meets Étienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, Étienne has it all…including a serious girlfriend.

But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss? (Dutton 2010)



Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Readers of If I Stay and Elizabeth George will love Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, author of the award-winning novel A Northern Light. Revolution artfully weaves two girls’ stories into one unforgettable account of life, loss, and enduring love; it spans centuries and vividly depicts the eternal struggles of the human heart.

BROOKLYN: Andi Alpers is on the edge. She’s angry at her father for leaving, angry at her mother for not being able to cope, and heartbroken by the loss of her younger brother, Truman. Rage and grief are destroying her. And she’s about to be expelled from Brooklyn Heights’ most prestigious private school when her father intervenes. Now Andi must accompany him to Paris for winter break.

PARIS: Alexandrine Paradis lived over two centuries ago. She dreamed of making her mark on the Paris stage, but a fateful encounter with a doomed prince of France cast her in a tragic role she didn’t want—and couldn’t escape.

Two girls, two centuries apart. One never knowing the other. But when Andi finds Alexandrine’s diary, she recognizes something in her words and is moved to the point of obsession. There’s comfort and distraction for Andi in the journal’s antique pages—until, on a midnight journey through the catacombs of Paris, Alexandrine’s words transcend paper and time, and the past becomes suddenly, terrifyingly present. (Random House 2010)

Rook by Sharon Cameron

History has a way of repeating itself. In the Sunken City that was once Paris, all who oppose the new revolution are being put to the blade. Except for those who disappear from their prison cells, a red-tipped rook feather left in their place. Is the mysterious Red Rook a savior of the innocent or a criminal?

Meanwhile, across the sea in the Commonwealth, Sophia Bellamy’s arranged marriage to the wealthy René Hasard is the last chance to save her family from ruin. But when the search for the Red Rook comes straight to her doorstep, Sophia discovers that her fiancé is not all he seems. Which is only fair, because neither is she.

As the Red Rook grows bolder and the stakes grow higher, Sophia and René find themselves locked in a tantalizing game of cat and mouse. (Scholastic 2015)

All book descriptions are the publisher’s book descriptions.



Book review: Vanished by E.E. Cooper

In E.E. Cooper’s Vanished, Kalah is left to put together the pieces of a mystery after one of her best friends disappears and another commits suicide.


Kalah, a junior, is newly best friends with seniors Beth and Britney, who have a long history of fighting and making up. Kalah and Beth have been hooking up, unbeknownst to Britney (and to Kalah’s boyfriend or anyone else, for that matter). Kalah feels closer to Beth, but Beth has a history of not getting involved or attached, so it’s hard to know how she really feels about Kalah. Britney is moody, jealous, and controlling. She’s extremely concerned with her image, going so far as to lie about getting into every Ivy League school she applied to. Kalah knows this new friendship is fragile, but she’s desperate to reconcile her public and private self and show who she really is. She intends to tell Beth how she really feels and what she wants (to be with her) on the night of Beth’s 18th birthday. But that plan goes away when Beth disappears to get some “space.”


Kalah is devastated that Beth left without even so much as a goodbye. She’s also, rightfully so, extremely worried, but Britney gives the impression that she knows more about Beth’s disappearance and that it’s fine. In fact, nobody seems super alarmed that she’s gone. She’s 18, she wanted some space, she’s clearly fine, let it go. Things become murkier when Jason, Britney’s boyfriend, is taken in for questioning after eyewitnesses report seeing him arguing with and then making out with Beth. Kalah isn’t sure who or what to believe, a feeling that intensifies when Britney leaves a suicide note and disappears. No body is found, but she’s presumed dead. Kalah tries desperately to get in touch with Beth, but when she finally hears back from her, she starts to wonder if maybe the truth of all of this is far more complicated and insidious than anyone could imagine.


There is a lot going on in this book beyond the main plot. Kalah repeatedly references her anxiety and OCD, and talks about having spent some time in therapy and the various ways her therapist helped her learn how to cope with these things. Her mother suggests she go back to therapy after all of this happens, an idea Kalah is resistant to. Kalah also has never been attracted to a girl before and doesn’t know how to tell anyone about it, or if she wants to. When she does tell her brother and her mother that she loved Beth, they are kind, loving, and sympathetic. This book also features lots of odious adults—nosy reporters, and oversharing and pushy officer, and absent or terrible parents (particularly Britney’s racist mother).


The ending of the book leaves a lot of room for interpretation—do we believe the story Kalah has put together or the one presented to her—and ends on a total cliffhanger. The pace of the book really ramps up about halfway through and manages to sustain the suspense and mystery all the way to the last word. My only real quibbles with the book are the slow start, the too similarly named main characters (Beth and Britney—took me a while to keep them straight), and the less well-developed secondary characters. It’s also hard to feel like we really know Beth or Britney because they both spend much of the story gone—they’re really gone before we get to see much of them. Over all, though, this a was a compelling read, one that will be a hit with fans of suspense stories and plot twists. An easy recommendation for a wide audience of readers. 



ISBN-13: 978006229390

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Publication date: 5/12/2015

Series: Vanished Series #1

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

One of the things my teens like to do best in my MakerSpace is to make mini movies, so I’ve been working on upping our game and finding new tools to learn new skills. Below are 5 of the various resources, apps and tools I recommend for making a variety of types of short films with tweens and teens in a MakerSpace. In addition to the tools listed below, you’ll need some type of camera. For me, I still recommend a basic tablet with a video camera. You can get a digital camera, or even a Flip camera if you would like, but a tablet takes quality stills and motion video AND is easy to access a variety of tools to use with it.

So here are 5 tools that I recommend . . .

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

Not surprisingly, the best tool and resource I have found to get our start teens ted on the right foot is a book. How to Make a Movie in 10 Easy Lessons is a concise but thorough basic introduction into simple movie making. It covers topics such as writing a script, visualizing every shot, storyboarding, lighting and sound and editing. There is a great discussion on types of shots, angles and more. It’s a pretty thorough overview and it comes in at just 62 pages, which means it’s a great guide for getting started without being overly technical. The suggested age range is ages 10 to 14, and the illustrations definitely are on the young side, but the information and presentation are good and I definitely use it with teens. (ISBN: 978-1-63322-012-6)

2. GIFfer

GIFfer is an app that is easy to use for making short animated GIFs. GIFs are the looping pictures you see all over the Internet. GIFfer allows you to easily snap and upload your own pictures and do some basic manipulation like adding filters and frames to create your GIF. This is the app I first used with my MakerSpace to make stop motion pictures, which you can read about here.

3. StopMotion

StopMotion is another app you can use to make stop motion movies. It is much more complex than GIFfer, which means you can do more things. It also means it has a much steeper learning curve. But if you seriously want to delve into the world of stop motion, this is a good place to start. I have just started using it, but you can find more information here.

4. iMovie

Yes, iMovie is yet another app. This one allows you to edit video or, if you want a template to start with, it has a fun variety of trailers that you can personalize. The trailers would be a great tool to make an “ad” for your SRC and they have a superhero themed trailer ready and waiting for you. Here is an example trailer I made in the past:

And here’s a previous post I wrote on this tool.

5. Power Director

This is The Mustache Man. This is also my niece who just turned 13 this month. She writes scripts, has her friends audition, and then makes various movies on her YouTube Channel. She is so into this process that when she received money for Christmas she used it to purchase Power Director, a video editing software program that she uses and recommends to make short films. Many computers come with Movie Maker, a Microsoft product that you can use. But if given the choice between the two, she recommend Power Director. It can cost around $70.00, but if you want to create a MakerSpace that has some good video editing software you might want to investigate it. You can find a good comparison chart of the Top 10 video editing sfotware programs here and Power Director comes out on top.

What about you? What tools are you using? Please let me know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

This week we will be discussing books from Quarto Publishing Group. At some point this week we will have a giveaway for a set of 5 books from the Quarto Publishing Group, including a copy of How to Make a Movie in 10 Easy Lessons by Robert Blofield. Stay tuned!

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

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

Raina Telgemeier, who is currently taking over the world, turned her incredible talents in an interesting direction, taking on the retelling of the original Ann M. Martin Baby-Sitters Club novels in graphic novel format in the mid 2000s. Now that her talents are being widely recognized and are in high demand, these are being re-released in a full color version with updated covers. True confession time, I’ve never read one of the original novels. I have read other Ann M. Martin titles, but it never seemed necessary to read the Baby-Sitters Club books. They came and went with great frequency until they gradually lost their cache amongst my students. But now they are back – with the full force of the extremely popular Telegemeier’s uniquely appealing style.

For those of you like me who’ve never experienced the series, it revolves around four seventh grade friends who run a sort of babysitting cooperative. They have regular meetings to discuss their business and their clients, and they advertise as a group. I’m assuming the advantage of this to the families they babysit for is that one of the four girls will most likely be available, so they will only have to make one phone call?

This title, the second in the series, has two main story threads. The first explains the title – Stacey has Type 1 diabetes. About half of the novel focuses on Stacey’s struggles in coming to terms with her condition and the fallout from it, including the ways it has changed her relationships with her friends and her parents. I thought the book dealt with these issues in a very helpful and straightforward manner. Stacey missed a good deal of school time in sixth grade and almost had to repeat the year. Her best friend abandoned her, and her parents became extremely overprotective. We are given a window into what Stacey feels and the struggles she faces. Along the way, we are introduced to the idea of seeking adult help, advocating for oneself, the importance of communication between friends, and the value of forgiveness. All are presented in a realistic and nonjudgmental fashion that will encourage readers to seek similar solutions when confronted with their own difficulties.

The other half of the story addresses a challenge to the club – a group of eighth grade girls have started the rival ‘Baby-Sitters Agency’. The rival group, being older, advertises their services highlighting their maturity and ability to stay out later that our protagonists. I was a little less pleased with how this story line played out, although there were several significant moments where the club worked together to come up with ways to improve their business. In addition, the girls manage to navigate the fine line between being ‘tattletales’ and involving adults when situations could have serious consequences. I think my main quibble with this story line is the idea that leaving a newborn infant with a 14-year-old would be preferable to leaving her with a twelve-year-old. I’m not entirely sure I’d leave an infant in the care of a college student unless I knew him extremely well… I suppose I buy the idea of leaving your three-year-old in the care of a twelve-year-old you know well for a few hours in the afternoon. In some communities. I also wasn’t super pleased with the way the girls dealt with it when their competition met their inevitable downfall. Their response, however, was fairly typical for what we expect of seventh graders. I would love to see, in subsequent episodes, the four main characters being able to see their competitors in a more complex light.

On the whole, I was delighted by this novel. I’m sure it will be popular with my students, and I look forward to a new generation of Baby-Sitters Club enthusiasts. Highly recommended for all collections serving middle grade readers. This particular title will be available July 28th. Review copy was provided by Scholastic.

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

As a Youth Ministry major at a conservative Christian college in the Midwest, I soon became acquainted with a yearly Halloween tradition known as Hell House or Hell Stop, depending on what they chose to call it. It was a new concept to me and I went and visited one once and to me, personally, it was traumatizing the way they combined the traditional horrors of a haunted house with the intense guilt of Christian sin. I came out of my first experience incredibly shaken, which is of course the point. So I was very excited when author Melissa Walker contacted Ally and I about writing a guest post regarding her YA novel, Small Town Sinners. This discussion about faith and spirituality in YA lit has done many things, including helping me discover books I might have missed the first time around and giving us all an opportunity to explore faith experiences, whether they be real and personal or those of fictional characters in the pages of a book, that help us better understand our teens. In addition, as part of the ongoing discussion about needing more diversity in books, one of the main questions I keep hearing being asked is how do you write about something or someone that is so different from your real world knowledge and experience – in this case a faith that is different than your own. The answer I keep hearing over and over again is that one, you must do  your due diligence and research, but the other part of that answer is that you must be willing to listen to those who are actually living that life, or as in the case of Small Town Sinners, that faith. Today we are honored to have author Melissa Walker sharing her experience with us in writing about a faith that was different than her own in her book, Small Town Sinners.

I first heard about the concept of Hell House from a friend’s mom. She started talking about how her church had staged a “haunted house of sin” for Halloween, and my jaw dropped as I heard the details—a dramatic play with scenes about gay marriage, abortion, suicide, pornography… and then a meeting with the Devil and a rescue by Jesus, who asked attendees if they’d like to be saved.

This I had to see.

I grew up attending a Methodist church in the liberal southern town of Chapel Hill, NC. I’m familiar with Christian church life—being shushed during the main service before I got to escape to my Sunday School classroom, following along with the words in the hymnal, watching sunlight stream through stained glass windows, enjoying picnics with fried chicken and corn on the cob and greens with bacon fat (yum), and loving that feeling of being known (and parented) by all the adults in the congregation on Sundays.

But Hell House? It sounded extreme to me and was certainly not my experience—I was fascinated. I pitched an article about a Hell House to ELLEgirl magazine, where I was Features Editor, and one Friday before Halloween, I flew into a small West Texas town. The pastor who was staging the Hell House was expecting me, and he had asked a local restaurant to stay open because I was coming in late and would need supper. That was just the first of many warm gestures that met me in this town.

I won’t lie: Over the weekend I saw some crazy stuff. The gay marriage scene of this particular Hell House ended with one partner dying of AIDS in a hospital bed while the devil shouted about wicked deeds. The abortion stage included a beating heartbeat soundtrack and a central table where a girl sat screaming and bleeding, plus the ghost of her aborted child visiting her at age five (played by a five-year-old congregant) and asking “Why did you kill me, Mommy?” The devil, played by the children’s pastor, was truly terrifying with his extra-long nails and the way he whispered in my ear: “I know how you’ve sinned.”

It was plenty for my article. But there was a lot that I didn’t get to include in the ELLEgirl story. Like how the teenagers I met were smart and funny and warm, how the parents I talked to were genuine and kind and wanted the best for their kids. And how the people in this small town were very much like the people in the small town where I grew up. I kept thinking about those people, and I found myself struggling with how shocking I found their version of Christianity. The journalistic piece was one part of the story, but I wanted to ponder their truth from another angle.

When I started writing Young Adult fiction, I wrote about the fashion world in the Violet on the Runway series, because it was what I knew as a magazine editor in NYC. But eventually, I looked back to that weekend in West Texas, and I wrote a book called Small Town Sinners.

At first, I thought the story would be about a girl rebelling against her church’s strict, controversial teachings. My initial outline was very black and white. But then I started writing, and my main character, Lacey Anne, was much more nuanced than that. After all, she wasn’t me. She’d grown up with Hell House in her church, and to her, it was a fantastic play, a way to bring more people to God, and a chance to be in the spotlight. She didn’t consider the politics of it, or the controversy. She just wanted the main role—Abortion Girl.

I know religion is a hard thing for lots of readers—I had two authors decline to blurb the book, both saying it was because the religious aspects made them upset, and I understand that. Hell Houses are intense and dramatic, but there’s more to the book than that. I wanted the story built around the Hell House production to have quiet, introspective moments. Because when that much commotion is going on externally, there are deep emotions happening internally, too.

I wasn’t trying to write a book with “issues” in it, but I did want to present a story that felt true to what these characters—high school students in a small, conservative town—might be facing. It turns out that what it took for me to write about a religion that wasn’t my own was a strong sense of trust in my characters. I had to know Lacey Anne and her friends and family on a deep level; and once I started writing, I saw things through their eyes and their points of view took control of the narrative. I love books that deal with hard subjects because reading about how characters handle their own tricky situations can ideally create empathy, understanding, and a real consideration of “What would I do if that were me?”

Meet Our Guest Blogger:

Melissa Walker is a writer who has worked as ELLEgirl Features Editor and Seventeen Prom Editor. All in the name of journalism, she has spent 24 hours with male models and attended an elite finishing school for girls in New Zealand, among other hardships. She has written for many publications including Redbook, Glamour, New York, Teen Vogue, Family Circle and more (see samples of her magazine work). She is the co-founder of I Heart Daily with fellow ex-ELLEgirl Anne Ichikawa. It’s a daily newsletter about likable stuff.

Melissa lives in Brooklyn and has a BA in English from Vassar College. She would tell you her SAT scores too, but, you know, the math part was hard. She loves meeting teenagers, and is game to speak at your library or school about writing, books, fashion, magazines or pop culture (but, you know, in a smart way). Get in touch to discuss.

Melissa’s site:


The story of Lacey Anne Byers, a small town girl who is excited to star in Hell House, her church’s annual haunted house of sin, until a childhood friend reappears and makes her question her faith. (Bloomsbury, 2011)

The Lingering Effects of Hyperemesis Gravidarum: the life taking, life altering beast

Today, May 15, is Hyperemesis Awareness Day. Hyperemesis gravidarum, according to the Hyperemesis Education and Research (HER) Foundation, is an extreme form of pregnancy sickness, defined as “unrelenting, excessive pregnancy-related nausea and/or vomiting that prevents adequate intake of food and fluids.” Affecting about one to three percent of pregnant women, HG can lead to weight loss, malnutrition and dehydration. In severe cases, it can lead to miscarriage and, rarely, it can be fatal.

Having already shared my story many times here at TLT, I enlisted the help of some of my friends, survivors themselves, to share their stories. Today Suzanne shares her thoughts about HG. HG impacts our teens in a variety of ways: a pregnant teen can find themselves suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum.  Or a pregnant mother in the home may find themselves suffering from HG, which has tremendous impact on everyone in the home.

Hyperemesis is a beast that devours babies and mothers.

It took eight years of celebrating my son’s life, the joy I have as his mother, until the deaths stopped overwhelming me.  The due date he shares with his older sister who didn’t survive HG.  I think about my friend who announced her pregnancy the same week I did;  her child did not survive HG. I always think about the mom and twins who died the week my son was born alive.  All of them gone. All of them daily remembered.  But that same week I bake a cake and put up streamers, my grief deepens. Five lives lost in a year and remembered that week. My son, the sole survivor.


Some might say these thoughts mean I don’t appreciate or celebrate my son, but nothing could be further from my truth.  But the coincidence of all these dates and deaths make his birthday an emotionally confused time.  So much sorrow mixed in with the date of my child’s healthy birth.


Hyperemesis is a beast that chews up relationships.

“It was hard to love you when you were sick,” he said during counseling with a local pastor.  That truth cut me even more deeply than the pending divorce.  When I was most vulnerable and ill, I was not loved?


I am certain I was horrific during the short pregnancy that cost me my daughter; it was the worst time in my life. I know our living sons’ pregnancies were awful. I know the PPMADs that I suffered were intensified by the malnutrition and debilitation of HG, and that they made me miserable to be around. And I’m certain the postpartum diagnosis of Fibromyalgia, along with all of its pain and fatigue, made me a very poor partner.


But I wasn’t loved?


I know I’m not the only mom to hear such things from her partner. It was indescribable devastation on an already broken heart.


I’m certain HG contributed directly to the loss of my marriage, my children’s nuclear family, and the financial poverty in which my now smaller family lives.  The divorce also created a new grief: the loss of time of my living children.  I no longer get to be their mother in the way I should be. I am legally obligated to miss them 43% of the time, so they can be parented by the father.


Hyperemesis is a beast that swallows emotional safety: in other words, bring on the PTSD

Recently, I was driving on the Interstate to meet a friend for lunch when a wave of dizziness and nausea overwhelmed me.  I knew what was coming; after all, I have much experience with vomit.  There was no time or place to pull over safely at 75 mph. So I scanned for something to save my car from the impending puke. I grabbed an empty coffee cup and vomited violently, all the while guiding my car along the highway, looking for a safe place to stop.


I pulled over on a street off an exit ramp and parked. I sat in a puddle of urine from the force of the vomit. Shaking. Sobbing. Wondering where to put my coffee cup. I didn’t know how to get back on the highway, if I should drive with the shaking, crying, nausea, and the problem of the coffee cup. What should I do with my coffee cup full of puke?


I texted my friend that I wouldn’t make lunch, that I was ill. Then I waited for the waves of dizziness to pass and found the Interstate. It was long drive home.


I was still shaking when parked the car in the garage, went inside, and changed my clothes. It was a deep and intense panic. I paced the house and eventually had to leave its confines. I paced the neighborhood.  My heart was racing. My breathing  shallow. My thoughts spinning. I was hot. I was cold. I had to walk. I could not calm down. Scared. Sick. Alone. I could not stop worrying I’d never see my children again, where all fear and panic take me since HG and since divorce. I was terrified.


I eventually knocked on a neighbor’s door.  We sat on her deck with iced tea and talked. Well, I talked and she listened. My panicked thoughts. My frustrations with schools. My financial issues. She listened some more. Nodded where appropriate. Said things to comfort me.


I was hours into my full blown anxiety attack when she spoke words that shocked me. Slack jawed and wide eyed, I shut up for the first time since knocking on her door.


She asked again. “Could you be pregnant?”


The answer should have been obvious since I had a tubal ligation years earlier, my period had stopped., and I am unmarried and celibate. But I had to really think about my answer for a while.


“No, that would be impossible.”


“You puked once and will probably feel better tomorrow. You’re not pregnant. So what’s the problem?”


My heart beat was slowing. “I can’t be pregnant. I’m single, sterilized, and menopausal.”
She laughed, “You see? This won’t last.”


She was right. The hours of panic and terror, for I was truly feeling terror, were because I have PTSD from pregnancy. Hyperemesis Gravidarum does that to a woman.


My neighbor’s question was exactly what I needed to hear to stop the terror. I was simply sick, not pregnant, not going to suffer through HG for nine months, experience another loss, have my life split open and spit out by the beast. I have PTSD.  It really was just puke.


Hyperemesis is a beast that digests joy

The loss of joy in pregnancy is something HG moms frequently discuss when pregnant and postpartum, but a decade later, I don’t think much about that omission. I don’t even give much thought to the dehydration, malnutrition, medications, or mind-altering nausea.  What occupies my thoughts when I look back aren’t the moments of pregnancy lost or endured,  it is how Hyperemesis Gravidarum completely altered every facet of my life.


That is my lingering effect from the beast.

Meet Our Guest Blogger:

Suzanne is a writer and teacher of writing. She is teaches in the University of Michigan Summer Bridge Program and is a Writing Consultant in the University of Michigan Rackham Graduate School. She has two sons, one cat, and one guinea pig.  She has had HG three times.

More on HG:

The ABCs of HG: an unconventional picture book (Karen’s story)

Teen Issues: Teen Pregnancy and Complications

Teen Pregnancy and Complications, HG and pregnancy termination (An anonymous story)

Life’s Bilest Moments, HG poetry

There’s No Sister Like an HG Sister

We were going to have a brother but got a sister instead, a tween’s story

World HG Awareness Day, just the facts

Chocolate Chip Cookies and Turkey Sandwiches

Fighting the HG War, an anonymous guest post

My Brother’s Sweatshirt, a story of HG

Sunday Reflections: Why I Care About Kate Middleton’s Pregnancy

“It’s like Bella, without the vampires” – how a YA novel helps me explain Hyperemesis Gravidarum (#HGDay15)

Please share with others to help us raise awareness.  The key to a successful HG pregnancy is early and aggressive treatment.  Get more information at the Hyperemesis and Education Research Foundation (HER) at