Around the Web
From the Economic Policy Institute: Early Education Gaps by Social Class and Race Start U.S. Children Out on Unequal Footing
Allow girls to participate in your robotics session, Timmons. A petition.
Around the Web
From the Economic Policy Institute: Early Education Gaps by Social Class and Race Start U.S. Children Out on Unequal Footing
Allow girls to participate in your robotics session, Timmons. A petition.
In early June my colleague and I journeyed to the city of Cincinnati (OH) to tour their new MakerSpace. It was glorious in many ways. You can see pictures of that visit on the TLT Tumblr page here, here and here. I learned many things:
1. I can not consistently spell Cincinnati correctly.
2. A button maker is the most glorious fun you can ever have. No, seriously, it is.
So I looked at my colleague when we returned and said, “We need it, a button maker!” To which she replied, “Why yes, yes we do.” And thus the button maker was ordered. After exhaustive research, which involved talking with fellow TLTer Heather Booth who also has a button maker, we opted to purchase ours through American Button Machines. We purchased both a 1.25 inch and a 2.25 machine.
On June 22nd I hosted my first teen program using the button maker and to say that the teens enjoyed it would be an understatement. They were ravenous to create buttons.
We then (and by we, I mean me in this case) made a template to make Super Reader buttons to give to kids who completed their SRC goal.
After our first program using the button maker, we realized that we needed better instructions. On Monday, July 6th we are going to kick of our Maker Mondays with a variety of Maker stations and we wanted to make sure we had some good instructions for patrons to follow. I made some personalized instruction sheets using some of the pictures off the American Button Machine site and adding my own commentary.
The original American Button Machines instructions that I adapted can be found here
Our plan for Maker Mondays is to have a variety of stations set up and have really detailed instructions at each station. We will have: Little Bits, Legos, Button Making, the Ellison dies, paper cutters, the Ellison machine, Strawbees and whatever else we come up with set up around our programming room.
And because we loved our button maker so much, we ordered the pieces and parts to make mirrors and key chains. I did it for you readers, I swear. I wanted to write you a fully informed post. In a not surprising turn of events, I have to report that we also loved the mirrors. They are a little smaller than I would like, but great for putting on lip gloss and checking for monsters under the bed.
Thank you Cincinnati Public Library for a great visit and inspiration! We love our button machine and have already done a prototype of our Maker Mondays with teens that was very successful. We love our button maker!
My Original Mobile Makerspace
My Updated Mobile Makerspace
MakerSpace Tech Tools Comparison Chart
The Unboxing and Learning Curve
Exploring Circulating Maker Kits and Circulating Maker Kits part 2 with a Book List
The Maker Bookshelf/Collection (with a book list)
Strawbees part 1 and part 2
“We’re all going to die down here!”
As step three in our efforts to fully embrace the Maker movement, and in conjunction with our Maker Collection of circulating titles, we are putting together Circulating Maker Kits (CMKs) that will check out to the public and provide our community with some simple but fun hands on introductions to Making. The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County already has a really good prototype for this in the form of circulating toy kits bundled by theme for early childhood education, so we just adapted it for our Circulating Maker Kits. We are collecting a variety of toys, tools and resources on a particular theme and putting them together in clear backpacks that will be checked out as one complete unit. Each CMK will have an inventory list and in addition to the resources we buy, we are also planning to print off on-line instructions where appropriate to add in the kits as well, or resource pages with lists of on-line sites that will be of further interest.
We did a lot of research about what to put in each kit, with a few particular needs in mind.
1. We needed the items to be low cost.
We anticipate having some loss and needed to make replacements, so low cost is key. Also, we live in a more financially challenged community and we don’t want to put too high of a financial burden on our patrons should they have to pay for lost or damaged materials.
2. We needed the items to fit in our circulating bags.
3. We needed the items to be easy(ish) for staff to keep track of when checking the bags in and out.
The CMKs are a little more of a burden for circulation staff in that we will ask them to inspect each kit before checking it out and upon return to make sure that all the pieces and parts are there and accounted for, so we wanted to make it as easy as possible for staff while still putting together some fun and educational circulating maker kits.
There are lots of cool things out there that we considered, include marble mazes, magnetic building blocks, stomp rocket kits and more. We researched on-line and in person. I went to toy stores, Barnes and Noble, and offbeat places like TJ Maxx (they always have interesting toys there that I’ve never seen anywhere else). We found out that a few other libraries had circulating maker kits, either to check out to patrons or to check out to branch libraries for programming, and we looked at what they put in their kits.
And after all that research, this is what we decided on for our trial run . . .
CMK#1: Tinker & Build with Straws
Strawbees, Make it Yourself (with Straws) 9780749669102, Geodesic Domes
We have the Accucut dies so we can easily fill a circulating kit with parts and pieces with minimal costs, especially since you can recycle things like milk jugs to make the connectors.
Animation Studio, Stopmotion Explosion, Brick Flicks, The Klutz Book of Animation
The Animation Studio has a little stage that folds out and works perfectly for a kit. Users will have to provide their own technology, such as a smart phone, tablet or laptop, but this kit is a great place to explore and get started.
CMK#3: Robotics (Teens)
The Robot Book, Robot Building for Teens, Recycled Robots
CMK #4: Paper Machines
The Paper Boomerang Book, Karakuri, Paper Toy Monsters, The Flying Machine Book
Partly because I thought the Paper Toy Monsters book was adorable, we decided to go with paper machines because it’s pretty easy and cost effective to keep putting blank paper in a bag to offset the cost of some of the higher priced CMKs we put together. The Karakuri and Paper Toy Monsters books both have templates that can be punched out and used. We will put a notion on the books asking patrons to use them as templates for reference, but we anticipate that we will have to replace these books as the templates get used up.
CMK #5: Robots (Easy)
Robots for Children, Bot + Boy by Ame Dyckman, Build a Robot toy, Stacking Robots, Robots for Children
We wanted to make sure and include a few younger kits (there are a few more listed below). There is no shortage of robot books, both pictures books and amazing How To books, so this was actually one of the harder kits to put together because we had to make some hard decisions about what we would (could) include and what we had to just leave on our wishlist for another day. We did purchase many additional titles, however, for the circulating collection.
CMK#6: Build with Me
Quercetti Tecno Building Toy, Dreaming Up by Christy Hale, Tinkerlab, Make: Tinkering, How Cars Work: The Interactive Guide to Mehanisms that Make a Car Move
CMK #7: Electricity
Snapcircuits Jr, Squishy Circuits, Making a Circuit, What is a Circuit
Rainbow Loom & Monster Tail, Loom Band It, Totally Rubber Band Jewelry, Loom Magic Charms, Loom Magic Creatures
We bought a large, bulk order of bands and are pre-making packets that circulation staff can easily slip into the kit when it is returned. We will also include a note saying please use the band provided to make whatever they like and to feel free to buy additional bands if they want to make additional projects.
CMK #9: Legos for Teens
Chain Reaction, Totally Cool Creations, Cool Creations in 35 Pieces
This is one of the kits that staff is not looking forward to checking out and in because it will contain a handful of Legos. There will be a replacement cost for Legos should they not come back. Though I recently read on the ALATT Facebook page that another library uses a shipping scale to weigh the Legos as opposed to counting items which is a great idea we are exploring.
CMK #10: Engineering (School Age)
Goldie Blox, Rosie Revere the Engineer, Engineering ABCs
The 5 following CMKs are founded on the Duplo series of Read and Build kits that come with a book and the pieces to make a small Duplo creation that corresponds with the book. In addition to the Duplo kit, we are adding a couple of age appropriate books on the topic to go in the kit. I’ll be honest, I wanted to do these kits because I thought the Duplo kits were perfect for our purposes, but the Children’s Librarian Debbie Baker is working on ordering the additional materials for these kits so I don’t know fully yet what will be in each kit. Duplo, like Legos, is a great introduction to making because it involves concepts like building, following instructions, and basic geometry.
CMK #11: Cars (Easy)
Duplo Read & Build Let’s Go Vroom, My Car by Byron Barton, Car Goes Far by Michael Garland
CMK#12: Fairy Tales (Easy)
Duplo Read & Build A Fairy Tale, Maisy’s Castle by Lucy Cousins, The Usborne Book of Fairy Tales
CMK #13: Jungle (Easy)
Duplo Read & Build Peekaboo Jungle, Over in the Jungle by Marianne Berkes
CMK #14: Farm (Easy)
Duplo Read & Build Busy Farm
CMK #15: Caterpillar (Easy)
Duplo Read & Build Grow Caterpillar Grow, The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, Caterpillar to Butterfly by Laura Marsh
Possible Future CMKs:
Rubber Band Fun: Rubberband Mania, 15 Genius Rubber Band Life Hacks to Simplify Your Life, Epic Rubberband Crafts, Rubber Band Powered Flying Machines, The Racecar Book, Amazing Rubberband Cars
Duct Tape Fun: Sticky Fingers, Stick It!, Duct Tape Discovery Workshop, Duct Tape 101, Tape It & Make It
Life Hacks: The How to Handbook, How to Build a Fire and Other Handy Things Your Grandfather Knew, How to Sew a Button and Other Nifty Things Your Grandmother Knew, Life Hacks
Movie Making 101: Movie Maker, Learn to Speak Film, How to Make a Movie in 10 Easy Lessons, Tricky Video: The Complete Guide to Making Movie Magic (Klutz) – maybe include a green sheet and a book on green screen
Music: Garageband tutorial, Learn to Speak Music
As you can see, it’s a work in progress. But I like to think it is a good work in progress. The kits will be cataloged as one item and technical services is doing an awesome job of creating detailed records for us. We’re going to be printing off an inventory of each kit with the content to put in both a reference guide for us and to laminate and put in the front pocket of each kit. This should make it easier for everyone to tell what’s inside. Most of the items were ordered as part of our Maker Bookshelf order and you can easily find that here. Though we have gone through and added some additional items which are listed above in each kit description.
The Maker Collection is almost processed and ready to be put out for the public. The CMKs will probably take another week or so to get ready for circulation, we currently have about half of the items in and processed.
And on a personal note, once I got the go ahead to proceed with this project I dove right into doing a ton of research. Debbie Baker, head of Children’s Services, and I have worked hard on putting all of this together and it has been the most professionally rewarding experience I have had in a long time. It’s been exciting and invigorating. I’m hoping our community feels the same once it is all unveiled.
My Original Mobile Makerspace
My Updated Mobile Makerspace
MakerSpace Tech Tools Comparison Chart
The Unboxing and Learning Curve
Exploring Circulating Maker Kits
The Maker Bookshelf/Collection (with a book list)
Edited to add, after seeing this article on SLJ we have decided to add some nature themed kits.
Written by Jessi Schulte-Honstad, Young Adult Services Supervisor for Skokie Public Library, Skokie IL.
In Patrick Jones’ current book series, Locked Out and Support and Defend he looks at the effects of losing a parent to the justice system and military service. Written specifically with reluctant readers in mind, Jones works hard to portray the lives of underrepresented youth in ways that are easily accessible and appealing to all readers. This is important stuff; with an estimated 2.7 million children in the United States who have an incarcerated parent, and 900,000 children who have at least one active duty or deployed parent, the issue of missing a parent in adolescence is a huge one.
Patrick and I go way back, we used to booktalk at county correctional facilities for incarcerated youth- some of the highlights of my library career! The kids in the juvenile detention system are eager for outside entertainment, and librarians are treated as celebrities presenting in front of a group of remarkably passionate readers. However, you couldn’t help but be haunted by the things you learned there, and challenged by the dearth of relatable material for them. Jones tackles these stories from firsthand experience; during his time as a librarian serving patrons in detention centers and speaking with military families, he has learned much about the effects that these kinds of losses have on teens- whose futures are on the line.
Xavier’s father is finally coming home from prison, after ten long years. The timing couldn’t be worse- he’s doing great on his baseball team and there is talk of him going pro someday. His Catholic school girlfriend Jennie is amazing. He’s squeaking by in his classes and excited for the future. When his father comes home, and starts back into the business that landed him in jail in the first place, tempers flare. Xavier has to control himself if he wants to succeed, but with his history, is that possible? Jones tells a heartbreaking tale of anger and resentment that rings all too true for the kids whose parents have been locked up. They are locked out.
Rosie has perfect grades, the perfect boyfriend, and in the years since her military father has come home, she has had a complete family that cares for her. But trouble brews between her father and brother, who is also home from the military. Her father doesn’t want to drift through life as the manager of a fast food chain or retail store, so instead he re-enlists and shakes Rosie’s perfect life apart. Seething with anger, Rosie sabotages herself in every way possible. She puts her own future at risk, because she can’t accept her father’s. A truthful portrayal of the bad choices we make when stressed and scared, Always Faithful is the story of one military family and the struggle to succeed when your parents choose to leave you behind.
How did your library career inform your work as writer?
Other than publishing in a pro wrestling newsletter when I was 8, my first “real” publishing was because of my library career, starting with an article in RQ magazine in 1986 through my last one (so far) in VOYA in 2009 (interview with Dave Cullen, author of Columbine.) So I learned first by writing articles, then professional books a great deal about the business of writing/working with editors, as well as gaining confidence. I never would’ve read a YA book if I hadn’t done YA work in a library. Many of the teen characters in my first six novels from Bloomsbury were inspired by teens I meet working in libraries, in particular while visiting school doing booktalks and other YA work. Also, and I’ll talk more about this later, the idea of youth involvement stems from my YA work. Simply, if I was working in a factory in Flint, I wouldn’t have written these books. Finally, being active in the YA professional world helps me understand what books kids want, don’t want, what is missing from the market and what stories are likely to succeed.
To begin with, I am one and except for a brief “spurt” in my 20’s when I didn’t have a TV, I’m a reluctant reader except about those topics which really interest me in non-fiction. So when there is a new pro wrestling biography, I will read it over the weekend. Or if I get fascinated with something, then I’ll read everything on that topic: but that is more reading for purpose than pleasure. When I booktalked, I did do lots of reading, but a great deal of that was on audio. Also I served on YALSA’s Quick Picks for four years and loved it, so it was very cool when my first novel Things Change made that list, and then later when all four titles from my first reluctant reader series (The Dojo) made the list as well. Finally, in my old day work I worked with kids in custody and so many of them were struggling readers for so many reasons, but in part because they didn’t see themselves in books and/or they’d failed so many times trying to read in past that they associated any book with failure. I wanted to write books that let these kids succeed.
I did my first series about Mixed Martial Arts because there wasn’t any YA novel out there about the topic, plus it contains a lot of scenes of people punching each other in the face, which seems a theme in my work. The Alternative comes from my great experiences first as a librarian then as an author visiting schools in this type of environment. Students in an alternative school had some major influence on that series. First I put together a list of 20 possible books and they voted what topics they were most interested in, and then small groups of students volunteered (though they did get extra credit and I bought them lunch) to read the books in manuscript. Mostly they said I got it right – both the experience of being in an alternative school but also some of their experiences being kids of color/in the minority. One of the books in that series (Target) was about parental incarceration, so that inspired along with the Strengthening. Families Affected by Incarceration project this new series Locked Out. Also many of the kids in custody and in alternative schools are more likely to have a parent who is/or has been locked up, so again, it was writing about topics for the audience that I want to appeal to: young men of color who need books they can succeed in reading.
How can you – a white guy – dare write in first person as an African American female?
I started a blog called Monday Night RAWing (Reading Advocating/Writing) and I just posted an interview with Paul Volponi and another with Paul Langan who writes Bluford High answering this very question. I also ask this question to writers of color, like Greg Neri, giving me their take. The female part I’ve done before in my Bloomsbury books, but writing about somewhat from a different ethnic background is challenging and I admit to bracing for the blows and there have been several. Like the one blog “review” that begins “Jones, who is white” while another told me I wasn’t aware of my white privilege. Thanks for the info. I was serving all these kids in corrections, 80% kids of color (I actually have a nonfiction book spring 2016 about the big changes in youth in custody, so while we’re locking up a lot less kids than ever before, the DMC disproportionate minority contact remains appalling) and so few books. I add an extra layer of protection in that I have kids of color at various alternative schools where I visit read the books in manuscript, but again, to bloggers that doesn’t matter because – it comes down to a core belief – I shouldn’t be writing a book in 1st person about a black girl in poverty. And of all the things wrong with that, the worst is this: you’re saying to Coe Booth, you can’t write about anyone BUT black kids in Brooklyn. Write, research, and respect, rinse, repeat.
I mainly know what I see on YALSA-BK and the coolest things non technology-related are the growth of the Teen Book Festivals. I’ve done three this year, just recently one in the Twin Cities, and it is just amazing to see that many teens in one place excited about reading. Second, is the growth of programming around Cos Play: not what is not true of even most of these kids, I think, this attracts outsider kids (I have my outsider character in The Barrier attend a Manga convention.) Finally, I still see lots of YA librarian jobs posted, so it seems the field is doing fine with tons of great stuff coming from YALSA.
What do you think are some of the challenges facing young adults today and how do you think your books can help resolve them?
It is such a cliché but as connected as teens are via social media, I wonder if it all isn’t very anti-social. When I hear from teens, not as much as I used to since kids who read reluctant reader books are not the kind to reach out to authors, that’s the big theme: feeling alone. One of the other inspirations for the Locked Out series was a nonfiction title about children of incarcerated parents called All Alone in The World. In my soon to be published novel Clicked, the main character is in front of his computer on homecoming night and he comments about watching all these other people post – and to him brag – about how much fun they are having which makes him feel worse. But the main thing most of my books are about is second chances: kids in The Alternative go to Rondo because they’ve failed in a regular school. In Locked Out, these teens feel such a complex web of emotions and because of it most of them make mistakes. And I guess the big thing, like a teen who read Target, is he said something like “how do you know so much about me” because his Dad just went to prison and told me that I (pun intended) Nailed it. I have always said and probably wrote someplace, the best YA lit isn’t that which paints the prettiest pictures, but displays the best mirrors. I hope teens reading my books see themselves in the story and know they’re not alone in the world.
Not as much as before, as mentioned, and most of my interaction tends to be in small groups during school visits. One of my favorite things during school visits is to ask the teacher librarian to organize a lunch with the kids who want to be writers so we can talk craft. Also as mentioned, I hear from readers as I’m writing. A teen I met in Keller, TX, just finished reading three books in spring 2016 series and her comments were very helpful. For about five years after Things Change came out it was rare that a month would pass without an “I am Johanna” or “I think my friend needs to read this because her boyfriend is hitting her” email. That’s so powerful to know that something I’ve written sitting in my house or in a hotel airplane made a difference in people’s lives. With my reluctant reader fiction, I actually hear more from parents and teachers thanking me for writing something their child (always a son) actually enjoyed reading.
Other than collection, what other ways can libraries better serve your readers?
Three things: get every kid a library card. I wrote a whole book on this and I still believe it. And also waive fines from over x number of years. We got cards for kids getting out of custody and I’d say 75% hadn’t checked out a book in years because of fines when they are eight. Two, get out of the building: the teens who NEED libraries are, for the most part, not in libraries. I talked about this recently on a YALSA podcast, but it is not just teens in custody: it is teens in alternative schools, charter schools, homeless shelters, halfway houses, Boys Clubs, juvenile justice diversion programs: all these high risk kids libraries librarians could help but instead (major rant) we’re sitting at a reference desk like it was 1975 waiting for teens to come ask us questions. Finally, buy library materials these kids can read. My fear is again our collections over-represent the teens who USED to use libraries, not those we want to and need to get libraries in their lives. End rant.
“Listen.” Each of the mysterious guests at Greenglass House is called upon to tell a story and this is the traditional formula for the start. All of the guests have a secret – a reason for being at the house. All have a different reason, but all of the reasons have something to do with the house. But even more mysterious than each one’s secret is the fact that they all show up in the week before Christmas…during a snow storm.
Traditionally a very slow week in his family’s business, adopted son and only child Milo is looking forward to some quiet time alone with his parents in their rambling five story home at the top of a cliff overlooking a smugglers’ cove. In fact, smuggling is a large part of the local economy and Greenglass House was built by one of the most notorious smugglers, Doc Holystone. After his death, the house was sold to Milo’s grandparents. But one by one, more and more guest show up to stay. Milo’s parents, the Pines, even call in their usual cook for reinforcements.
When guests’ personal items go missing, Milo and his new friend Meddy devise a plan to figure out exactly what is going on, and why each of the guests has come to stay. They begin by making themselves some role playing characters to go along with Meddy’s favorite game, which just happens to be the game Milo’s father played when he was younger.
This is a quiet, well developed, multifaceted mystery that is sure to appeal to a large swath of middle grade readers. Milo, along with solving the mystery, is dealing with some very personal issues about his adoption, which are complicated by the fact that he and his parents are of different ethnicities. He also seems to have always been very close with his parents, helping them out with the family business, and perhaps not engaging in many close peer relationships. This comes out in his interactions with Meddy, and we see him struggle to let go of some of his more particular ways. Every different thread of this story, from Milo’s relationships, to the guests’ ulterior motives, to the role playing game, to the stories being told each evening, to the fantastically rich history of Greenglass House itself, is completely engaging. And the climax of the story – Oh. My. Word. I have no problem understanding why this novel won the Edgar Award for Juvenile Literature.
What is surprising to me is how little I’ve heard about it. If I’m remembering correctly, I believe I heard about it from John Scalzi, of all people (or, it could have been Chuck Wendig.) I just remember it wasn’t from someone I normally depend on for Middle Grade recommendations. I purchased a copy of it at my local book store’s semi-annual sale, because nothing else I wanted to buy was available yet – but oh, how glad I am that I did. If you collect for middle grade readers, I highly recommend purchasing multiple copies.
On Monday July 6th I will host my first “Maker” program at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County. And the truth is it is different and revolutionary from all the other programs that I have ever hosted at a library in exactly no way.
You see, librarians have always been makers and our libraries have always been Maker Spaces.
I am currently working at the first library that I ever worked at. I was hired there as a paraprofessional to work with teens. I built collections, I booktalked books, and I did programming. The things that I do now, 22 years later, as a YA librarian are not a lot different then the things I did then as a YA paraprofessional, I just know more now and do them better.
Sometimes we use different tools, like ebooks and 3D printers, but the goals and objectives are still the same, I’m empowering teens and helping them to learn, to create, and to engage in meaningful self exploration and self expression.
It’s been almost 15 years since I taught my first Pimp Your Blog program. Today we would call that a MakerSpace event if we were going to use the currently popular jargon. And if I were going to host that event today it would indeed be a Maker program. It was a maker program back then, as well, we just didn’t know to call it that. Because, you see, the heart of what we do as librarians hasn’t changed, just the tools and language surrounding it. We have always been makers and we have always equipped our local communities to be makers.
Repairing your own vehicle, setting up a home computer network, learning to code, learning to sew . . . those tools and more have always been at our libraries. And from crafts at storytimes to the most basic of teen and adult programs, we have always engaged our patrons in the most basic of maker programs.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to the maker language and label. I think the terms are empowering. There is something fulfilling about the idea that at the end of the day we have made something. And that idea that we get to be a maker, it sounds so achieved and accomplished. Although part of this I fear is that the idea of crafting has been associated with feminine things and coming from the art community there is equally some bias against art, artists, and artistic pursuits. The starving artist is an unfortunate trope that probably makes some want to shun that label as well.
But to be a maker . . .
And yes, I know that in theory making involves more science and technology, more tech tools. But I also know that we would have done these types of programs regardless of the new terminology because we are a living and responsive profession and we see the need so we meet it. That’s the way of librarianship. That’s why I was teaching teens to blog and do basic html almost 15 years ago.
And whatever label we choose to put on our resources and programs, there’s no denying that the growing need to incorporate technology into our library spaces is challenging largely because it all comes with a much higher price tag in a time when budgets seem to be declining. Libraries aren’t dying as many people seem to think, in many ways the need for libraries have never been greater, but many of us our struggling to meet the growing technology needs of our local communities in the face of dwindling incomes and staff and hours.
I recently visited the Maker Space at the Cincinnati public library and it was glorious. I’m not going to lie, I turned green with envy. But I also had that a-ha! moment when I thought of course libraries should have Maker Spaces. Just as libraries should have Internet computers labs and e-book collections. It’s not a new goal or mission, it’s just providing new tools to help fulfill our longstanding goals and mission to our local community.
We have always been makers. Libraries have always been maker spaces. The tools change, but the core of who we are and what we do is the same. We are educators, enablers, equippers. We are a space to try new things, learn new things, and do new things. We are open doors and new opportunities. We are makers. We always have been. We always will be. Even when the terminology changes.
Around the Web
Epic Reads is posting Winter 2016 Cover Reveals
YA Movie News – Looking for Alaska
Publisher’s Book Description: Fans of John Green’s Looking for Alaska as well as Lauren Oliver and Sarah Dessen will embrace this provocative debut novel, an exploration of taboo love set against the backdrop of a suburban high school.
Charlie, a senior, isn’t looking forward to her last year of high school. Another year of living in the shadow of her best friend, Lila. Another year of hiding behind the covers of her favorite novels. Another year of navigating her tense relationship with her perfectionist mom.
But everything changes when she meets her new English teacher. Mr. Drummond is smart. Irreverent. Funny. Hot. Everyone loves him. And Charlie thinks he’s the only one who gets her.
She also thinks she might not be the only one with a crush.
In this stunning debut, Jessica Alcott explores relationships-and their boundaries-in a way that is both searingly honest and sympathetic. (Published June 2015 by Crown)
Karen’s Thoughts: This debut novel will resonate with readers who are struggling to find themselves in what seems like a sea of rejection. Charlie’s mother rejects her, telling her she loves her but following it up with those “buts . . . ” In fact, this novel combined with Making Pretty by Corey Ann Haydu perfectly captures how we as parents can break our kids in profound ways, even when we think we are loving them. It’s a reminder that sometimes a parent “doing their best” isn’t always good enough because some parents, their best is still incredibly toxic and damaging. At its core, however, Even When You Lie to me is a book about boundaries, and everyone is crossing them. With well developed characters, uncomfortable but realistically tense situations, and a few broken taboos and Even When You Lie to Me explores the concepts of rejection and longing and trying to find yourself in very authentic ways. I appreciated that Alcott took on the topic of student-teacher relationships in a way that made it clear that at the end of the day the adults are ultimately responsible for setting and maintaining boundaries.
Denton Little’s Deathdate takes place in a world exactly like our own except that everyone knows the day they will die. For 17-year-old Denton Little, that’s tomorrow, the day of his senior prom.
Despite his early deathdate, Denton has always wanted to live a normal life, but his final days are filled with dramatic firsts. First hangover. First sex. First love triangle (as the first sex seems to have happened not with his adoring girlfriend, but with his best friend’s hostile sister. Though he’s not totally sure. See: first hangover.) His anxiety builds when he discovers a strange purple rash making its way up his body. Is this what will kill him? And then a strange man shows up at his funeral, claiming to have known Denton’s long-deceased mother, and warning him to beware of suspicious government characters…. Suddenly Denton’s life is filled with mysterious questions and precious little time to find the answers.
Debut author Lance Rubin takes us on a fast, furious, and outrageously funny ride through the last hours of a teenager’s life as he searches for love, meaning, answers, and (just maybe) a way to live on. (Published April 2015 by Knopf)
Karen’s Thoughts: This book was interesting and fun. It reminded me of the fantastic 80s movie Adventures in Babysitting in that a lot of absurd adventures take place over the course of a short period of time. It just happens that this period of time involves Denton Little trying to get to his funeral alive. You see in the future, they can tell you the day of your death and you are invited to attend your funeral before you actually die to spend one last day with loved ones. But fate, it seems, wants to make sure Denton does indeed die. And then there are some interesting twists where Denton learns that everything he thought he understood about this world he lives in and his family are maybe not completely true, setting us up for a sequel that I will definitely be reading because the concept is fascinating and the writing is good.
For another fun read that reminds me of Adventures in Babysitting check out A BAD DAY FOR VOODOO by Jeff Strand.
Publisher’s Book Description: On the outside, there’s Violet, an eighteen-year-old dancer days away from the life of her dreams when something threatens to expose the shocking truth of her achievement.
On the inside, within the walls of the Aurora Hills juvenile detention center, there’s Amber, locked up for so long she can’t imagine freedom.
Tying their two worlds together is Orianna, who holds the key to unlocking all the girls’ darkest mysteries…
What really happened on the night Orianna stepped between Violet and her tormentors? What really happened on two strange nights at Aurora Hills? Will Amber and Violet and Orianna ever get the justice they deserve—in this life or in another one?
In prose that sings from line to line, Nova Ren Suma tells a supernatural tale of guilt and of innocence, and of what happens when one is mistaken for the other. (Published March 2015 by Algonquin)
Karen’s Thoughts: Dark, alluring, fascinating, and deep, you won’t want to miss this book. Sum writes a haunting and poignant tale that will haunt readers for a long time afterwards.
Publisher’s Book Description: From the Morris-Award winning author of Charm & Strange, comes a twisted and haunting tale about three teens uncovering dark secrets and even darker truths about themselves.
When nearly killing a classmate gets seventeen-year-old Sadie Su kicked out of her third boarding school in four years, she returns to her family’s California vineyard estate. Here, she’s meant to stay out of trouble. Here, she’s meant to do a lot of things. But it’s hard. She’s bored. And when Sadie’s bored, the only thing she likes is trouble.
Emerson Tate’s a poor boy living in a rich town, with his widowed mother and strange, haunted little brother. All he wants his senior year is to play basketball and make something happen with the girl of his dreams. That’s why Emerson’s not happy Sadie’s back. An old childhood friend, she knows his worst secrets. The things he longs to forget. The things she won’t ever let him.
Haunted is a good word for fifteen-year-old Miles Tate. Miles can see the future, after all. And he knows his vision of tragic violence at his school will come true, because his visions always do. That’s what he tells the new girl in town. The one who listens to him. The one who recognizes the darkness in his past.
But can Miles stop the violence? Or has the future already been written? Maybe tragedy is his destiny. Maybe it’s all of theirs. (Published June 2015 by St. Martin’s Griffin)
Karen’s Thoughts: Khuen is the modern master of dark YA psychological thrillers. Perfectly paced and mesmerizing, Khuen doesn’t pull any of her punches and the twists are dark and twisty in all the perfectly menacing ways that make you want to look away but keep you glued to the page and keep you up all night wanting to finish. I saw the other day that Christa Desir tweeted about this book saying, “It’s everything I want in a YA novel.”
I always love when a book has a cover or title that just screams PICK ME UP OFF THE SHELF! While we all know better than to (just) judge a book by its cover, a recent conversation with my teenage friends in YA book club was a good reminder that when browsing packed bookstore or library shelves, a lot of us judge books by covers because we have to—how else do you know where to start picking things up and browsing them? James Dawson’s THIS BOOK IS GAY will leap off the shelf at readers.
In David Levithan’s introduction, he calls it a handy guidebook. The book is filled with Dawson’s stories, facts, charts, illustrations, and stories of more than 300 LGBT* (his acronym) people. In July 2013, Dawson conducted a national survey on the issues covered here. This is where the quotes, some statistics, and in-depth interviews came from. Dawson says to think of this book as an instruction manual. He notes that everyone has their own individual experiences, identities, and opinions.
Dawson covers a lot of ground in his book. He writes about sexual thoughts and feelings, wondering about sexuality, labels and how they can change, history, slang, scientific theories, biological differences, stereotypes, subcultures, fear, heteronormative values, institutional homophobia and transphobia, paranoia, the history of HIV/AIDS, bullying, discrimination, dating violence, sexual abuse, bullying, depression, and suicide. WHEW, right? He goes on to look at homophobia around the world, what we can do about it, various views from various religions, coming out, where to meet other LGBT* folks, sex, STIs, relationships, promiscuity, monogamy, marriage, babies, and so much more. The book ends with an A-Z of “gay saints,” has a chapter for guidance for parents and caregivers of LGBT* youth, a cheat sheet of “weird” terms, and helplines and other resources.
In many ways, this is a great resource. The conversational tone and whimsical illustrations make it easily accessible and easy to flip through. It’s both serious and funny, covers a ton of topics, and is a great starting point for anyone looking to know more about being gay or coming out. STARTING POINT is a good word to laser in on. With Dawson writing as a gay cis male, much of the book skews this way. Dawson says he used the acronym LGBT* “to represent the full and infinite spectrum of sexual and gender identities.” But most these identities get little to no coverage throughout the book. The book is exactly what the title tells us, GAY. While I had some issues with the things that got ignored or glossed over (and a few times bristled at terms used or explanations), this book is generally a fine starting point. If we view this as a basic introduction to LGBT* issues and experiences, it (usually) works. Its frank discussions and personal stories are extremely useful, especially if you think of a teen reader coming across this book when he/she/they might most need it. I wish this book were one of a series, with other titles being things like THIS BOOK IS ASEXUAL, THIS BOOK IS NON-BINARY, THIS BOOK IS PANSEXUAL, THIS BOOK IS INTERSECTIONAL (I could keep going, but you get my point). The main message of this book—be you and be proud—is an important one and one that teenagers especially can never hear enough times. For gay cis boys, this is a pretty great resource. For everyone else, start here, but seek out more nuanced and inclusive materials as your next step.
REVIEW COPY COURTESY OF THE PUBLISHER
Publication date: 6/16/2015