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Book Review: The Trouble in Me by Jack Gantos

Publisher’s description:

troubleThis fiery autobiographical novel captures a pivotal week or two in the life of fourteen-year-old Jack Gantos, as the author reveals the moment he began to slide off track as a kid who in just a few years would find himself locked up in a federal penitentiary for the crimes portrayed in the memoir Hole in My Life. Set in the Fort Lauderdale neighborhood of his family’s latest rental home, The Trouble in Me opens with an explosive encounter in which Jack first meets his awesomely rebellious older neighbor, Gary Pagoda, just back from juvie for car theft. Instantly mesmerized, Jack decides he will do whatever it takes to be like Gary. As a follower, Jack is eager to leave his old self behind, and desperate for whatever crazy, hilarious, frightening thing might happen next. But he may not be as ready as he thinks when the trouble in him comes blazing to life.

 

Amanda’s thoughts:

Gantos is one of the many authors who is an automatic read for me. I’ve read every book he’s ever published and heard him speak about his writing many times, most recently at Simmons last month. He is hilarious in person and his books always make me laugh out loud, even when the subject matter is not necessarily funny. In this new book, we see just how deeply Gantos longed to be someone else and understand more clearly how he could end up, soon after the events of this book, smuggling drugs and going to prison.

 

Young Jack Gantos is a liar, an “okay” kid who spent a lot of time thinking about “mindless junk.” He could fake that he was cruel, but generally felt really bad about things afterwards. He’s introspective and insightful, often pouring out his thoughts to his diary. Jack refers to his father as a “mouth bully” who uses “salty” language to insult Jack as a way to toughen him up. His mother is pregnant. His older sister is pretty much perfect. Something falls into place (or maybe out of place) in Jack the day he unintentionally (but predictably) gets blasted by a fireball of his own creation. “I love fire,” he thinks. It’s on this day that he meets Gary Pagoda, the neighbor boy recently sprung from another stint in juvie. Jack instantly wants to be like him. He has this intense feeling that he is suddenly different from who he’s been, that his old self needs to be gone for good, and that he should be Gary’s follower. His first time hanging out with Gary involves a game with gasoline in a pool and M-80s. For many, this would be the perfect time to reconsider this new friendship and split, but Jack throws himself into his new role as Gary’s punching bag and flunky. But Jack, mildly terrified, plunges in to this new friendship–and into a pool of fire.

 

What follows are a few weeks of increasingly dangerous and stupid hijinks from Jack and Gary, most of which involve fire. Jack is so utterly desperate to figure out if this version of himself is the right one. He often talks about feeling lost, wanting to be led, feeling deeply dissatisfied and uncomfortable in his own skin. Gantos writes:

“…When I was young I was exactly who I said I was, and did what I thought was right to do. Then as I got older I left that true self behind and began to know myself only through the eyes of the people around me. I reshaped myself and made it easier for everyone to think I was doing okay because I learned to do just okay things. But I wasn’t okay. I was lost. Still, I loved the word okay. It was a magic word that cast a paralyzing spell over my parents while I was busy searching to become the opposite of okay.” 

 

This is kind of the bottom line of The Trouble in Me: Who am I and how can I appear to be okay when I’m anything but? We see Jack run toward bad choices because he’s so eager to be led. We see him make crappy decisions and see that deep down he struggles with these choices and feelings, but he desperately wants to be someone. And being himself—whatever or whoever that is—never feels like enough. Not at 14 and certainly not a few years later when we meet him again in Hole in My Life. Gary Pagoda may set off or intensify Jack’s feelings of the trouble in himself, but the feeling remains long after Gary is gone. Gantos writes about the time after his few weeks with Gary. By the time he got to high school, he didn’t care what happened to him. He dropped out of school, moved with his family to Puerto Rico, and then moved back to Florida, where he quickly made a mess of things again. He finally feels in charge of his own life when he moves into a welfare hotel and meets up with the guys who will go on to lead him to his next—and biggest—trouble. A funny, honest, and uncomfortable look at who we find when we go looking for our selves. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9780374379957

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Publication date: 09/01/2015

Book Review: Violent Ends

Publisher’s description:

violent ends frontIn a one-of-a-kind collaboration, seventeen of the most recognizable YA writers—including Shaun David Hutchinson, Neal and Brendan Shusterman, and Beth Revis—come together to share the viewpoints of a group of students affected by a school shooting.

It took only twenty-two minutes for Kirby Matheson to exit his car, march onto the school grounds, enter the gymnasium, and open fire, killing six and injuring five others.

But this isn’t a story about the shooting itself. This isn’t about recounting that one unforgettable day.

This is about Kirby and how one boy—who had friends, enjoyed reading, playing saxophone in the band, and had never been in trouble before—became a monster capable of entering his school with a loaded gun and firing on his classmates.

Each chapter is told from a different victim’s viewpoint, giving insight into who Kirby was and who he’d become. Some are sweet, some are dark; some are seemingly unrelated, about fights or first kisses or late-night parties. This is a book of perspectives—with one character and one event drawing them all together—from the minds of some of YA’s most recognizable names.

 

Amanda’s thoughts:

violent ends backFirst of all, let’s get the names of all 17 authors out there so you can start to understand exactly how phenomenal this book is: Steve Brezenoff, Beth Revis, Tom Leveen, Delilah S. Dawson, Margie Gelbwasser, Shaun David Hutchinson, Trish Doller, Christine Johnson, Neal and Brendan Shusterman, Blythe Woolston, E.M. Kokie, Elisa Nader, Mindi Scott, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Kendare Blake, Hannah Moskowitz, and Courtney Summers.

 

You’re sold already, right?

 

We meet Kirby in chapter 1. He’s 12 and witnessing some bullying from other kids in his neighborhood. When we see him again, in chapter 2, he’s now a junior in high school. Before we get too many pages into this story, the big event happens: Kirby Matheson walks into his school and opens fire, kills 5 classmates, kills a teacher, wounds many others, and then turns the gun on himself.

 

The question of “what would push a kid to do something like this?” is asked and answered over and over in the chapters that follow the massacre. The perspectives switch with each chapter and sometimes it takes a little bit to see how this character’s story ties into the larger narrative. We hear from Kirby’s camp friend, Teddy; his friend Zach, who he plays Dungeons and Dragons with; Lauren, the head cheerleader with an eating disorder; Jenny, his onetime girlfriend; Billie, a photographer girl with some secrets; Morgan, who rejected Kirby’s offer to take her to the school dance; Mark, who played a cruel prank on Kirby; the gun Kirby uses; Reba, a girl who ditched the assembly that turned into the massacre; Ray, who used to live in the house Kirby’s family bought; Abby, who appears to have a crush on Kirby; Carah, Kirby’s sister; Ruben, a classmate who falls under suspicion as a possible accomplice; Alice, a stoner who had a crush on one of the kids who gets killed; Laura, Kirby’s old neighbor; and Nate, a classmate with a complicated history with Kirby. It’s an awful lot of perspectives, yes, but it works. It really works. Taken all together, we see not just more pieces of Kirby’s life, but the often dark and always complex lives of everyone involved in the story. In some way or another, they all are involved in Kirby’s story, but they all have rich stories of their own. Their stories include horrible home lives, regret, pressures, confusion, and guilt.

 

In a lot of ways, it seems like any one of them could be pushed to a breaking point—though maybe not one that would play out like Kirby’s. When we ask ourselves how a kid could do something like shoot up his school, it often feels like the real question is how is it that tragedies like this don’t happen even more often. Together, the 17 authors present a riveting and terrifying look at a tragedy, how we get there, how it affects a community, and how we go on after. They take us beyond the facts of the massacre and past the speculation about what could make a teenager turn into a murderer. Haunting and heartbreaking, this powerful book will remind readers—especially teen readers who have huddled in classrooms during lockdown drills or during the real thing—that we rarely know what’s really going on in someone’s life or how close to the breaking point someone might be.

 

Review copy courtesy of Edelweiss and the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781481437455

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Publication date: 09/01/2015

Teen craft cabinet essentials

When I began hosting craft programs at the library, I wondered how people could possibly talk about crafts as an inexpensive activity. Everything cost money! Even many “cheap” crafts don’t come cheap if you don’t have any supplies stored up. Case in point: Poetry Month favorite, blackout poetry.

Use your damaged and discarded books and newspapers and create inspiring poems by marking out lines and words with Sharpies… which cost over a buck a piece. If you don’t have a tub of them somewhere in your library to pull into the program room, that free program does actually cost money.

The most cost effective solution is to beg and borrow where you can, and kindly bring the Interlibrary Loan staff a tray of brownies every now and then as thanks for letting you borrow their Sharpies (or the scissors from the YS staff… or the knitting club for their cast off yarn…). But sometimes a teen librarian just needs her own stuff, kwim?

It takes time to build a great craft stash, so don’t be afraid to ask for the funds you need, but plan carefully too. Take into consideration what you have, what you want, and what you can add bit by bit in a logical way. Spend the funds you are allocated, too! Did you get $20 for a program and have $3 left? If your library works on a “use it or lose it” kind of budget, by all means use that $3 in a meaningful, appropriate way. Here are some of the little things that add up over time, but all make great additions to a teen crafting stash. Items to collect from staff members at no cost to you are starred.

Teen Craft Cabinet Wish List

(aka the “what to buy with the last $5″ list)

Scrapbook paper

*Old magazines/books/comics

Tacky glue (if you have only one type, this is what I recommend for its versatility)

Glitter glue

Glue sticks

ModPodge

Sharpies

Scissors (Fiskars cost more but are worth it. With teens, you can get away with school size/quality)

Retractible utility knives

Duct tape

Washi tape

*Embroidery floss, yarn

*Multi-colored felt, fabric remnants and scraps

*Containers (glass jars, small boxes, Altoid tins, etc)

Puff paint

Fabric markers

Fine tipped markers

Colored pencils

“Grown up” coloring books (Dover always has a few inexpensive options)

Craft sticks

Paper plates

*Shopping bags (for toting items home)

Baby wipes (for cleaning up)

Don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for sales on stacking containers, portable drawers, or just some shoe boxes for organizing your stash!

What else would you add? What are your most versatile craft stash pieces?  

5 Second Reviews by The Teen

The Teen keeps stealing ARCs from my TBR pile so I told her she had to review them, which works really well because I like knowing what actual teen readers have to say about teen books. However, this is the “review” she left me.

So obviously we have to work on writing better reviews. Though someone said on Twitter that post-it note reviews might be a cool thing, which I think The Teen would totally buy into. She said the book was well written but kind of scary and horror is not her thing. So if horror is your thing, she says you will probably like this.

About HOTEL RUBY by Suzanne Young

When Audrey Casella arrives for an unplanned stay at the grand Hotel Ruby, she’s grateful for the detour. Just months after their mother’s death, Audrey and her brother, Daniel, are on their way to live with their grandmother, dumped on the doorstep of a DNA-matched stranger because their father is drowning in his grief.

Audrey and her family only plan to stay the night, but life in the Ruby can be intoxicating, extending their stay as it provides endless distractions—including handsome guest Elias Lange, who sends Audrey’s pulse racing. However, the hotel proves to be as strange as it is beautiful. Nightly fancy affairs in the ballroom are invitation only, and Audrey seems to be the one guest who doesn’t have an invite. Instead, she joins the hotel staff on the rooftop, catching whispers about the hotel’s dark past.

The more Audrey learns about the new people she’s met, the more her curiosity grows. She’s torn in different directions—the pull of her past with its overwhelming loss, the promise of a future that holds little joy, and an in-between life in a place that is so much more than it seems…

Welcome to the Ruby.

Coming November 3rd from Simon Pulse. ISBN: 9781481423007

The Teen just finished reading this book and a boy that sits with her a lunch is now reading it because he said it sounded good and The Teen highly recommends it. If you read our earlier review of EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING than you know that her saying that this book even comes close is high praise indeed.

About THE ANATOMICAL SHAPE OF THE HEART by Jenn Bennett

Artist Beatrix Adams knows exactly how she’s spending the summer before her senior year. Determined to follow in Leonardo da Vinci’s footsteps, she’s ready to tackle the one thing that will give her an advantage in a museum-sponsored scholarship contest: drawing actual cadavers. But when she tries to sneak her way into the hospital’s Willed Body program and misses the last metro train home, she meets a boy who turns her summer plans upside down.

Jack is charming, wildly attractive . . . and possibly one of San Francisco’s most notorious graffiti artists. On midnight buses and city rooftops, Beatrix begins to see who Jack really is—and tries to uncover what he’s hiding that leaves him so wounded. But will these secrets come back to haunt him? Or will the skeletons in Beatrix’s own family’s closet tear them apart?

Coming November 3rd 2015 from Feiwel and Friends. ISBN: 9781250066459

These reviews are reviews of ARCs provided by the publisher

Book Review: Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez

out of darknessPublisher’s description:

“This is East Texas, and there’s lines. Lines you cross, lines you don’t cross. That clear?”

New London, Texas. 1937. Naomi Smith and Wash Fullerton know about the lines in East Texas as well as anyone. They know the signs that mark them. They know the people who enforce them. But there are some forces even the most determined color lines cannot resist. And sometimes all it takes is an explosion.

Ashley Hope Pérez takes the facts of the 1937 New London school explosion—the worst school disaster in American history—as a backdrop for a riveting novel about segregation, love, family, and the forces that destroy people.

 

Amanda’s thoughts:

Look, I know we’re all busy people. We read a ton of books. Our TBR lists are infinite scrolls and we’ll never even touch half of what we hope to read. But you need to figure out a way to find time to read this book as soon as possible. Don’t write it down on a list and then forget about it. Don’t bookmark this review as some reminder. Go RIGHT NOW and order this book from your library or favorite bookstore. Whatever else you’re reading can wait a day or two for you to read this instead. It’s that good. IT’S THAT GOOD, PEOPLE. 

 

The novel begins in media res (you know—in the middle of things). It’s March 18, 1937. Did you need some time to adjust to how completely emotionally obliterating this book will be? Too bad—welcome to page one, where we are faced with the rubble of a recently exploded school littered with bodies. No, check that—it manages to be worse than that: riddled with bits of bodies. Let’s make it worse: bits of children’s bodies. Sufficiently upset? Perez is just getting started.

 

We leave this heart-wrenching and gruesome scene to jump back to September 1936. Naomi and her twin siblings Beto and Cari are new to town, having recently been relocated from their San Antonio barrio to an oil-mining town by the twins’ father (and Naomi’s stepfather), Henry (their mother is dead). Naomi, who is Mexican, and her biracial siblings are instructed by Henry not to speak Spanish. The children seem to pass as white, but Naomi faces the town’s ugly racism. African-American Wash, the siblings’ one friend, is no stranger to racism either. The foursome quickly become friends, but keep their friendship secret, mainly getting together in wooded areas removed from the judging and gossiping of others. Wash is the one saving grace in Naomi’s fairly unhappy life. Her classmates are constantly whispering about her. The girls hate her because she’s pretty and the boys just want to get in her pants. She does make one girl friend, and a few of the neighbors are friendly, but even if she had a thousand friends, it wouldn’t erase what is happening at home. 

 

What’s happening at home, you ask? Some pretty horrific stuff. Naomi is essentially raising her siblings. She does all of the cleaning, cooking, and shopping (not easy when the stores don’t want to let in Negros, Mexicans, or dogs–the wording on the sign at the grocery store) while also attending high school. Naomi dislikes Henry (to put it mildly), that much we know, but the reasons why she hates him are slowly revealed. You might be able to guess what’s happening even with no context, but I’m not explicitly going to give you spoilers. Let’s just say it’s as bad as think…. multiplied by 100 more bads. Oh, and wait until you reach the end. Then it’s an infinite amount of bad. 

 

Wash and Naomi grow closer, after some initial misunderstandings, and eventually Naomi trusts him enough to start confiding in him. Wash makes a plan for them to run away, with the twins, to Mexico, where it seems at least a tiny bit possible that a Mexican girl and an African-American boy could start a life together. What they have now is one very passionate and intense relationship that can only take place in secret. But with so much against them, could they possibly pull off a future together? 

 

That question becomes simultaneously less and more important when the school explosion happens. Based on an actual event in history, the explosion leaves nearly 300 dead. Chaos and despair permeate the town, and the angry, grieving townspeople are desperate to find someone to blame. When Wash, who was present at the scene of the disaster, falls under suspicion, every single ugly thing that has been simmering in the novel gets turned up to 11. If this were a movie, I would have been watching it with my eyes mostly covered. Since it’s a book, I just settled for sobbing and repeatedly putting it down. As you’re reading this book, go ahead and keep this question in the back of your mind: “What is the worst possible way all of this could end?” Then make it worse. And then make it so much worse you kind of feel sick that your brain could come up with such scenes. Now you’re almost there. IT’S THAT BAD, PEOPLE. 

 

Have I convinced you yet to read it?

 

Perez’s story is nothing short of brilliant. The writing is tight, the tension manages to constantly increase, and the characters are exceptionally well-rendered. Was this book hard to read? Yes. Should that scare you away? No. Recommend this one widely to teens who like doomed love stories, historical fiction, diversity, or books where terrible things happen to people. Profoundly moving and richly imagined, this is a story that you won’t soon forget. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

ISBN-13: 9781467742023

Publisher: Carolrhoda Lab/Lerner Publishing Group

Publication date: 09/01/2015

Middle Grade Monday: There’s always next year: Things I’ve learned coordinating middle school volunteers (a guest post)

Tween-Volunteer-Page-1024x768Our library has two different volunteer programs that I have run for two years now. One is offered for two hours a week, five week sessions, four times during the school year; four weeks of work, the last week is an appreciation party. Registration is maxed at ten. They gather as a group, and act as our middle school advisory board. Then they splinter off to complete assigned tasks. The summer volunteer program is a different animal. In previous years the library has limited to the first ten kids to sign up. I tripled the registration limit to accommodate the needs of our community. Both years had close to 30 middle schoolers interested helping out in the library. I tweaked it to fit the needs of the community as well as myself. It’s been a crazy evolving experience, with still more to edit. If you are thinking of incorporating middle school volunteers at your library, you might learn from my two years of progress.

Orientation:

I had this brilliant idea where I would get all (most) of the prospective volunteers for a group training. The first year included a tour around to find out where everything was and where to use it. I had to do multiple “make up orientations”. This summer, I made a really cool and detailed PowerPoint. I had one make up orientation. Both years included me having to give personal one-on-one reminder sessions with nearly every volunteer – at least once.

Next year: Giving up on the orientation altogether. It takes time to coordinate just for them to forget everything I told them.

Scheduling:

My first summer of volunteers, I had kids come in whenever they could, and trying to reach a minimum amount of time over the summer. Unfortunately, what happened was we had 15 kids coming at the same time each day for the first week, and virtually no one at the end of the summer. While the distribution of summer prep is more in demand in the beginning, we had no way of organizing volunteer duties for the rush, and needed more help wrapping up. The following summer, this summer, I had a new plan. I had created a document asking for volunteer availability. That way, I could not only control the flow of volunteers, but know exactly when the next one was coming. This worked to an extent, but I still scheduled more volunteers than we had work for.

Next year: I will be scheduling each volunteer for one hour shifts rather than two, once a week, and only one month for each volunteer.

Coordinating:

Volunteer duties were a little sloppy the first year. The volunteers had a list next to their sign-in sheet with duties that they needed to check every day when they came in, but with so many kids coming in at once, the list wasn’t really effective. I also naively assumed that staff members would be eager for extra help and come up with duties on the fly. It did not work out very well. The second year, I made a Google Sheet accessible to all youth staff members. Staff members were asked to list duties for volunteers to complete for them as well as an explanation of the job, where the necessary supplies would be found, and when the job needed to be completed. Volunteers were coordinated by me. On days that I was not there (vacation), there was an assigned person in charge. Things went more smoothly, but after hearing feedback from fellow staff members, I know it still needs work.

Next year: I’m still on the fence about it, but I’m debating if I shouldn’t schedule volunteers on days that I know I won’t be in the library.

Rewards:

When I first inherited the volunteer program, the kids got to graze on candy while in the advisory board portion of the meeting. There were only asked to come in for 4 weeks. There was no appreciation party. There has always been an appreciation party for summer volunteers, but had smaller attendance due to the registration cap. In the summer of 2014, because volunteers were able to make their own schedule, I added a volunteering minimum to attend the party. Very few kids made the minimum of ten hours in two months. This minimum was removed this summer. Anyone who volunteered at all this summer was invited to the appreciation party. We had a higher attendance of kids throughout the summer and at the party.

Next year: I’m not changing much about the party aspect next summer. I think anyone who helps is welcome to come to the party.

It is important to acknowledge the fluidity of the middle school volunteer program. As time passes, the needs of this age group and the community may change slightly, and you will need to meet their needs. Don’t get too attached to any idea, or you may not notice when it stops working.

While sometimes it can be trying, seeing the friendships build between kids that need this social outlet is uplifting and beyond worth it.

Meet Our Guest Blogger:

christineChristina Keasler is the Middle School Librarian at Glen Ellyn Public Library. When she’s not making edible R2D2s with middle schoolers at the library, she’s out picnicking with her husband and toddler, eluding her cats with a laser pointer, or at the drive in seeing some cool movie probably about dinosaurs.

The #MHYALit Discussion Hub – Mental Health in Young Adult Literature

MHYALitlogoofficfialAfter our first year of the #SVYALit Project, we decided that we at TLT liked the way the format worked and wanted to use it to discuss other topics of relevance to the life of teens. One of the ideas we discussed was using the format to discuss mental health issues in the life of teens and in YA literature, but I was not yet quite ready to delve more deeply into that topic because I was not yet ready to admit my own personal struggles with depression and anxiety. Earlier this year I did in fact share my personal story, which seemed to be the last stumbling point in TLT embracing the #SVYALit format to move forward in discussing mental health. So today we are excited to announce that in addition to #SVYALit and #FSYALit, in 2016 we will be using this same format to more fully discuss both poverty and mental health in the life of teens. Thus, we are excited to put out a call for guest posters for the #MHYALit Discussion (Mental Health in YA Literature).

1 in 5 teens will be diagnosed with some type of mental health issue. In addition, many other teens will be affected by mental health issues in the family as their parents, siblings, and friends struggle with mental health issues. During 2016 TLT would like to really use YA literature to discuss mental health issues in the life of teens. And we need your help. If you would like to write a guest post or share a book list, please contact me at kjensenmls at yahoo dot com. We will be talking throughout 2016, but we would really like to have a good array of posts to launch in early 2016. Amanda MacGregor and Ally Watkins will be helping to organize and coordinate this discussion.

There are lots of important conversations happening right now in many ways about mental health issues. Lots of people are being brave and sharing their personal struggles. Lots of great teen advocates, librarians, authors, and other professionals are engaging in these important conversations and we recommend reading and engaging in as many of them as possible. It’s a huge issue in the life of teens. We are not qualified experts in this discussion, though many of us at TLT have struggled with mental health issues in a variety of ways. And we have of course worked with many teens who have shared their personal stories and struggles with us; this has impacted our understanding of the issues and made us more cognizant to how important this topic is. We hope you’ll join us in reading and writing about this topic.

Project Goals:

  • To facilitate a discussion about the ways various mental health issues are presented and discussed in YA literature.
  • To examine specific titles and create lists of titles that those wanting to look for titles with diverse representations of various mental health issues can add to their collections or buy for the teens in their lives.
  • To include a wide variety of voices on the topic of mental health issues in the life of teens.

Some Basic Information

According to the NCCP, approximately 20% of adolescents have a diagnosed mental health issue. Most mental health disorders begin to present in the adolescent years. Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among adolescents. According to NAMI, 50% of children who present with a mental illness will drop out of school.

In addition, a variety of teens are living in houses where they are being raised by a parent who suffers from some type of mental health issue. Approximately 1 in 4 adults in the U.S. suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder. These are the parents, grandparents, and love ones of many of our teens.

Mental health issues are an important issue for teens. Reading stories about characters with mental health disorders can help teens understand their parents, their friends, or their selves. It can give them hope. It can affirm and validate their experiences. Below are links to several lists of YA titles that deal with mental health issues in some way.

Posts:

A Variety of YA Lit Book Lists and Discussions

For Statistics, Facts and Resources, Check Out These Resources

We need your help building our resource guide! Have a book list or blog post you want to see included? Please email us a link at kjensenmls at yahoo dot com. Although we will be taking guest posts all throughout 2016, if you know you would like to participate in the launch in early 2016, please email me by the end of September. We will be continuing our discussions on #SVYALit, #FSYALit, #Poverty and #MHYALit throughout all of 2016. Thank you for your help in discussing this important issues in the life of teens.

“Librarians are how libraries speak.” ~ The Bloggess

sundayreflectionsI’ve had a deep, abiding love for the writing of Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess, ever since she introduced the world to Beyonce, the giant metal chicken, and now it turns out she loves me too. And you. And you.  (It’s a few weeks old, but read it now if you haven’t yet.)

Makes your heart swell up, doesn’t it? See how my heart is so swollen up that it’s leaking out of my eyes? Yep.

We cheer the articles lauding the importance of libraries, and we scoff at those marveling at the discovery that librarians don’t all wear buns, and some prefer coding to card catalogs. But to read one like Jenny’s, where it becomes clear that it wasn’t just the library, but the librarians inside it, that made a difference, and to know that we’re still doing the work that makes that quietly dramatic change for our young patrons? Well, I take a different kind of joy in sharing that with my Facebook friends. It’s a sigh of relief that all of this that we do day after day? This matters.

As writing is the craft of the author, reader’s advisory is the craft of the librarian. Authors send their books out into the void, we catch them in and bring them back, and point them home.  The Bloggess is right:

 Librarians are how libraries speak.

We are not just the collectors and caretakers of our materials. We are the voice of the books we have on our shelves, speaking to potential readers when the books themselves can’t. When the books are quiet, or by first time authors, or just different enough that they’re not fitting tidily into the easily marketable genres, we are the voice of those books.

But librarians are the voice of more than what is on our shelves. As R. David Lankes says in this emotional call to action, (which I highly recommend everyone spend 20 minutes on this morning) The Community is Your Collection,

We have the amazing vocation of improving the societies that we are a part of. We are the stewards of our community’s aspirations and goals.”

The people we serve are the most important piece of our collection. How can we be their voice? We are the ears, the heart, the muscle, and the voice of our services, our space and our resources. We are these things not for the sake of what’s inside the building itself, but for the transformative power that they hold when connected correctly with the right people at the right time in the right way with the right support. We are the conduits and the catalysts. A library changed Jenny Lawson’s life when a librarian put those books in her hand, but not because the books were there. It was because the librarian was there, was listening, was able to make that connection, and do it in such a way that made a difference.

Where else in our community can we be?

What other magical connections can we make?

Whose voice will you be?

Friday Finds – August 28, 2015

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Sunday Reflections: Today, I am Pooh Bear (reflections on depression in the life of tweens and teens part 2)

Middle Grade Monday Book Review – School for Sidekicks by Kelly McCullough

Book Review: Bright Lights, Dark Nights by Stephen Emond

August #ARCParty

All the Dragons in the World – The Depiction of Sexual Abuse Exposure and Escape in YA Literature (a guest post by author Ash Parsons)

Review from This Month’s School Library Journal: Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans by Don Brown

Reflections of Reality: Foster Teens and Orphans in Young Adult Science Fiction, a guest post by Kerry Sutherland

Around the Web

Sigh…at least it’s just a vocal minority.

Teen angst icon becomes Countess.

15 Facts about Lego, from Mental Floss.

Library Takeover!

A breakdown of this year’s Hugo Awards kerfuffle.

 

Book Review: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

everythingeverythingI loved this book, it is indeed everything, everything! But even more telling is The Teen’s reaction to this book. She finished reading it yesterday and then immediately started reading it again. She left for school today carrying the book in her hand. She used words like “perfect”, “amazing”, and “beautiful” to describe Everything, Everything, in a really loud and enthusiastically high pitched voice. When I suggested that she loan the ARC to The Bestie to read she said, and I quote, “But I want to keep just reading it over and over again. When the book comes out I’m going to buy all the copies and carry it with me everywhere.” So, obviously, we are giving it a rave review.

Publisher’s Book Description:

This innovative, heartfelt debut novel tells the story of a girl who’s literally allergic to the outside world. When a new family moves in next door, she begins a complicated romance that challenges everything she’s ever known. The narrative unfolds via vignettes, diary entries, texts, charts, lists, illustrations, and more.

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

Karen’s Thoughts:

This is a beautiful and beautifully written love story. This is also one of the few books that took a dramatic turn that I did not suspect and was stunned by. It was, quite simply, perfection. The characterizations were spot on and compelling, even Maddy who has this rare disease that most of us could in no way relate is in fact completely relateable and has a compelling teen voice. She has all the normal yearnings and desires and self doubt that a typical teenager has. She is trapped inside the seemingly perfect microcosm and yet even she can not escape the trials and tribulation of life, reminding us all that no matter how perfect we try to make our world and how much we try and control our lives and environment, there is a chaos that comes crashing in irregardless; life is, without a doubt, something beyond our control, practically imperfect and yet glorious all the same.

And then there is Olly. Olly is dark, mysterious and tormented. He is broken, yet kind and loving. If there is any flaw, it may be that Olly is an idealized romantic hero, the perfect boyfriend that so many of us want. Though he is, of course, in no way perfect.

The scenes between Maddy and Olly both sizzle and swoon. Many of them take place through email or over instant messages, but they perfectly capture those first few does he like me the way I like him doubts and insecurities that happen in the beginning stages of a relationship. They are gloriously awkward and tantalizingly full of promise.

Maddy also has a long-term care nurse who is devoted to her care and full of wisdom. She plays a crucial part near the end of the story.

I can’t tell you about the twists and turns that this story takes and how what appears to be a simple yet beautiful love story because something more moving and profound, I will just beg you to read it and take this emotionally compelling journey of love and self discovery with me. It is glorious and profound and moving.

EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING by Nicola Yoon comes out September 1st from Delacorte Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 9780553496642

I picked up an ARC at TLA earlier this year which is the source for this review.