Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Book Review: Stonewall Riots: Coming Out in the Streets by Gayle E Pitman

When I’m reviewing books for professional publications, I stay quiet about them on social media. I’m always really excited once a review comes out to be able to talk about the book, finally! Here’s one of my most recent reviews, which originally appeared in an issue of School Library Journal

Gr 6–9—A thorough if somewhat disjointed examination of the events before, during, and in the aftermath of the Stonewall Riots gives young readers an overview of the LGBTQ+ activism of the 1950s and 1960s. Pitman traces meeting places, social clubs, and the rise of organizations and activist groups as well as the many police raids of gay establishments, focusing on the June 28, 1969, raid on the mob-owned Stonewall Inn. Due to a lack of documented accounts, use of pseudonyms, and conflicting reports, controversies remain over the actuality of events at Stonewall. Post-Stonewall, readers learn about the increase in radical groups and visibility that challenged negative attitudes and discrimination. Pitman occasionally expands the narrative focus to examine what was happening in various places around the country and to consider other issues and movements of the time, including weaknesses and missteps in the movement for LGBTQ+ rights. The unique approach of using various objects (matchbooks, leaflets, buttons, arrest records, photographs, and more, with many reproductions too small or low resolution to read) to guide, inform, and reconstruct the story of the riots prevents a smooth narrative flow and makes the text feel repetitive as it moves back and forth in time. Back matter includes a time line, notes, bibliography, and an index. 

VERDICT An important look at a major moment in American history. Readers will come to understand why the iconic Stonewall Inn is now on the National Register of Historic Places, a National Historic Landmark, and a National Monument.

ISBN-13: 9781419737206
Publisher: ABRAMS
Publication date: 05/14/2019

The Weight of Our Words: Reflections on how we talk about mental health and why it matters

Trigger Warning: Please note, mental illness and suicide are discussed in the following post.

Before you begin reading this post I wanted to let you know that I have The Teen’s full permission to share this with you.

As I walk up to my teenage daughter to pick her up from her Sunday School class, I can immediately see that she is upset. She has what I like to call her angry posture: Her arms are crossed across her body. She is rigid. She is closed off. Her face is a mask. When I ask her what’s wrong, she kind of tilts her head to the door and mouth’s the words “in the car” to me. I know whatever happens next is not going to be good.

Her feelings pour out of her as soon as she closes the door. “X (the youth leader) said that mental illness is caused by demons. She basically just told me that I’m possessed by demons and I am so angry.” We continued to talk on the drive home and she explains to me that today’s Sunday school lessons was about demons – or maybe it was about mental illness, I’m not sure how it all started – and that the youth leader kept implying that the underlying cause of mental illness was demons and demon possession. The underlying cause, she emphasized, was demons.

This is how the rest of our day and night went. I would ask The Teen a question, say “what do you want for lunch?” And she would reply with her answer followed by, “but what do I know, I’m possessed by demons.” Any statement she made would be followed up by a dismissal, “but what do I know, I’m possessed by demons.” It was heartbreaking and angering to witness. I was angry. I was heartbroken. I was in full parental damage control.

You see, for several years now my teenage daughter has been in counseling for an anxiety disorder. She comes by it rightfully, regular TLT readers know that I have shared very openly my own struggles with depression and anxiety. Genetics is a bitch sometimes and you will never experience worse mom guilt than realizing that you have passed down the very worst parts of you and have to watch your child struggling with the very things that have haunted you for a lifetime. I have worked hard to protect my child from the very thing that had just happened.

The Teen had her first panic attack in the 7th grade, ironically at another church youth event. She sat in a chair listening to a sermon as the boy behind her reached out and started stroking her hair. She fled to the bathroom where she experienced what would turn out to be her first panic attack. Later that night she came home and told me that she thinks she had a panic attack and as we discussed what she experienced as I told her that yes, it sounded like she had and we would keep an eye on things to see what happens. And yes, we also talked about how it was not okay that this boy had touched her without her permission.

Over time, she would have a couple more panic attacks and we started doing the work that we needed to do to help her with her anxiety. At night I would go into my room and cry because I was heartbroken to realize that my beloved child had gotten the very worst parts of my broken brain. During the day, we talked and worked on getting the help she needed to live a life with a generalized anxiety disorder.

So when this youth leader spent the morning talking about people with mental illnesses being possessed by demons, it was personal and painful for her. We’ve done a lot of work in my house to erase the stigma associated with mental illness. I do that work because I want people to not feel shame about mental illness so that they will reach out and ask for and receive the help they need. I do that work because I have lost far too many people to mental illness and suicide. I do that work because I know how close my own children have come to losing their mother several times in the last decade. I do that work for me. I do that work for my daughter. I do that work for the 1 in 4 people who struggle with mental illness.

And in the course of one brief Sunday School lesson, that work was being undone by someone that I had entrusted my daughter’s spiritual and emotional well being with. And I was angry. No, I was livid.


One of my first difficult encounters in the library dealing with mental illness occurred in my very early twenties. I was working as a YA paraprofessional in a public library while working on my degree in youth ministry at a local conservative Christian college. Yes, it’s true, I have a degree in youth ministry from a conservative Christian college. My faith is very important to me. I had arrived at work and soon a young man came in, agitated. He told me he thought he was possessed by demons and that he wanted books that told him how to get the demons out of him.

I was in way over my head here. This was a young man clearly struggling with mental health issues and I was young and naive. I found what I could find in the collection about the topic he had asked for, I gave him a Bible, and I also gave him information about local mental health services hoping that he would seek and find the help that he needed. I talked to my supervisor and we explored what we could legally say and do to help this young man. At the time, I didn’t know his name or anything about him. It was terrifying and overwhelming and it was the first time I realized the full weight of my job.

Although that was the first time I saw this young man, it was not the last. He began coming into the library fairly regularly. He never spoke to me of demon possession again. He would eventually assault another patron and begin regularly threatening me. In the end, for everyone’s safety, he was eventually permanently banned from the library, a measure that libraries only ever use in the most extreme cases. I don’t know what happened to him, but I will never in my life forget that first encounter with him. I will never forget the desperation in his eyes, the fear I felt for him, and the ways in which I felt so unprepared and so inadequate to help him. I will never forget how his fear that he might be possessed by demons haunted him and prevented him from truly understanding that what he needed was support and care for a mental health issue.

Over the years, like any public library employee, I have worked with many people struggling with mental health issues of varying degrees. It never gets easier.

Resource: The Clam Before the Storm: How Teens and Libraries Can Fight Mental Illness


My child is not possessed by demons. She is intelligent, kind, and compassionate. She is, like me, one of the 1 in 4 people who struggles with a mental health issue. She has an illness with known causes and known treatments and she deserves respect, support and medical care just the same as any other person struggling with a chronic illness. Getting proper care and support is vitally important. It can literally be the difference between life and death.

We’ve been wrestling with what was spoken at church for the past few days. My teen is very lucky, she lives in a home where she is loved, supported and cared for. She knew that what was said was factually incorrect and that she could talk about what was said and how it made her feel and we’ve been working through it. Not every teen in that room will be as lucky, some of them may be struggling with their own mental health issues and now, once again forced to feel confusion and shame; they may delay seeing out the help that they desperately need. This is the weight of our words.

When we talk incorrectly about mental illness or attach stigma or shame to mental illness, people die. Fear, shame, confusion and stigma can all lead to people failing to seek out care and treatment, putting their lives in actual risk. I recently heard on NPR that the suicide rates in America are increasing at an alarming rate across all demographics, including our teens. Our teens are in crisis and what we say matters.

How we speak about mental health matters.

Watching my child struggle these past few days with the impact of a 45 minute Sunday School lesson has reminded me once again about the duty we have when we are entrusted with the care of youth. How we speak, what we say, whether intended or not, can have significant weight. We will often never know the full extent of our impact on our teens, both positive and negative, but there is a weight to our words that they carry with them.

I’m pretty sure my daughter will never go to that church again. She doesn’t feel safe there. She doesn’t feel respected there. And she doesn’t trust that youth leader. And she feels shame; shame that I have worked so hard to tell her that she didn’t need to feel. I resent that I took my daughter to a place that was supposed to be safe and affirmed and she walked out feeling the exact opposite.

This week has been a stark reminder for me in a far too personal way that for those of us who work with teens, the weight of our words is a burden that our teens will carry with them long after we have forgotten that we have even spoken them. So choose your words wisely each and every time.

Please note: there is a lot of mental health information available, including information specific to teens and mental health. Please consult reputable resources, learn the statistics and the impact and how you can talk about mental health issues without causing harm to others.

Book Review: Technically, You Started It by Lana Wood Johnson

Publisher’s description

A hilarious, snarky, and utterly addicting #ownvoices debut that explores friendship, sexual orientation, mental health, and falling in love (even if things might be falling apart around you).

When a guy named Martin Nathaniel Munroe II texts you, it should be obvious who you’re talking to. Except there’s two of them (it’s a long story), and Haley thinks she’s talking to the one she doesn’t hate.

A question about a class project rapidly evolves into an all-consuming conversation. Haley finds that Martin is actually willing to listen to her weird facts and unusual obsessions, and Martin feels like Haley is the first person to really see who he is. Haley and Martin might be too awkward to hang out in real life, but over text, they’re becoming addicted to each other.

There’s just one problem: Haley doesn’t know who Martin is. And Martin doesn’t know that Haley doesn’t know. But they better figure it out fast before their meet-cute becomes an epic meet-disaster . . .

Amanda’s thoughts

You know how I’m always going on and on about how what I really want is just a book of endless dialogue because that’s what I like—strong characters just talking? Well, with this book, I get that. The entire novel is told through texts between Martin and Haley. It was supremely satisfying to me, a character-driven reader who always just really wants people plopped down in a space and talking. This review is going to be really short, which isn’t because I didn’t enjoy the book (I did! So much!), but because there isn’t a ton to say other than “I really liked this book!” I like that it’s people who get to know each other through texts and that we only see their story that way. I like that it’s about mistaken identity. I like that the characters have interesting, complicated families and friendships. I like that Martin is bi and Haley is demisexual. I like that the two develop a quick banter with instant little inside jokes. This is a cute and fun story that’s a perfect summer read (it’s also summer in the book). One of my very favorite hobbies is eavesdropping, and reading this book gave me that giddy feeling of getting to spy on someone and also knowing things they don’t know. Hand this to readers who like different formats and their romances more on the cerebral side. Good fun.

ISBN-13: 9781338335460
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date: 06/25/2019

Teen Services 101: What Keeps Teens Coming Back to the Public Library?

Today we’re going to wrap up our Teen Services 101 series by assuming that you’ve done the research, created your space, hosted the programs and done the work. With all of that in mind, what will keep the teens that walk into your library coming back? Because that’s what we want, for our teens to keep coming back to the library.

They have to find something they need, want or value

If teens coming into your library and don’t find anything of interest to them, they’re not coming back. And since not all teens are the same, that means we have to have a variety of things available. This takes an investment of space, time, resources, staff and money. Some of the things that teens are looking for include: books, information, access to the Internet, a safe space to be social, and/or fun programming. That’s a lot of ground to cover.

They have to feel valued and respected by the library and its staff

And by staff I mean all staff. From the moment a teen walks through the door to the moment they leave, teens need to be treated well by staff. It’s not enough to have a dedicated teen librarian who respects and values teens. In fact, if at the end of the day when that teen goes to check out they have a bad interaction at the circulation desk, all of our work as teen librarians can be undone. This is why it is important that we work with all staff to break down bias, provide customer service basics training, and work to build positive opinions about teens in the library.

At one of the libraries I used to work at there was a staff member who loathed and detested teens and she made a point every day of positioning herself by the back entrance at exactly the moment when teens would be coming into the library after school and giving them the stink eye. They called her the “dragon lady”. It was a lot of work undoing all the damage she had done when I started working there. It was also a lot of work trying to dismantle her biases against teens to try and get her to stop this behavior.

At the end of the day, library administration should be setting high standards for customer service to ALL library patrons and should be training staff to meet those standards and holding them accountable if they don’t. Everything done behind the scenes is undone if we don’t treat patrons well and every dollar invested is wasted if we aren’t providing good customer service.

See: What Does Customer Service to Teens in the Library Look Like

They have to have a positive experience

At the end of the day, it is total experience that matters. Teens, like any other library patron, want to have positive experiences. And like everyone else, they are more likely to remember, talk about and share the negative experiences. We used to say that for every negative interaction a patron has they will share it with 10 people, but that has dramatically changed because of the impact of social media. One negative experience can be shared online with hundreds of people in an instant. The only control we have over what’s said about us online is to do our part to make sure our teens are having positive experiences so that they have something positive to say about our libraries and staff.

The reality is, even the most dedicated and amazing teen librarian or teen services team can’t do this alone. You need administration buy in and support, you need every staff member to support your work by treating teen patrons with good customer service, and you need the infrastructure to help make it all happen. That’s a big part of the job, advocating for teens and teen services and helping to put these elements into place so that teens have a space and a reason to come into the library, and then to keep coming back for more. And the number one thing you need to make all this happen is the knowledge, passion and dedication to help make it happen. It all starts with you, the teen librarian, but it doesn’t end there.

Teen Services 101

I’m just getting started, what do I need to be successful?

Foundations: Understanding Teens Today

What Do Teens Want from Libraries Today?

The Challenges and Rewards of Serving Teens Today

What Do We Know About Teen Programming

So You Want to Do Teen Programming, but What About the Books?

Sunday Reflections: Stand Up for Children

Several weeks ago, I was lucky enough to go to BEA (Book Expo America). Of one of the many highlights of this event for me was meeting George Takei, who was there promoting his new graphic novel They Called Us Enemy. You see, I am a long time Stark Trek everything fan and this was it, I finally finally got to meet someone from the universe that carried me through my teens and early twenties.

As I stood in line, I was not prepared for what would happen. You see, George Takei took my hand as I put it out to shake his and he held onto it with his two hands and looked me straight in the eye and told me what it was like for him as a young child to be put in Japanese internment camps here in America. He told me how his family lost everything and they were plunged into poverty that would take them years to recover from. And then he told me that he could not be silent because it was happening again.

Make no mistake, it is happening again.

I expected that I would cry while meeting George Takei, but I was entirely wrong about the reason that I would cry. You see, here I stood and stared into the eyes of a hero of mine and I could see that even though he had lived through what had happened to him and his family that he was still truly haunted by it. As a person who talks frequently and often about the long term effects of childhood trauma, I was truly staring into those effects in the eyes of a by all accounts completely successful adult.

Then this week the news became far worse then I could ever imagine. Stories poured out about what the conditions were like for children right here in the United States of America in border camps. People began arguing not about what those conditions were, but about whether or not we should be calling them concentration camps. And then members of our government stood up and argued that we shouldn’t be supplying these children with things like toothbrushes and soap.

Trump Administration Argues Migrant Children Not Entitled To Soap, Toothbrushes, Beds

I am horrified about what is happening. I went to church this morning and sat in my Sunday School class and this topic didn’t even come up. The silence regarding this issue was loud and vulgar.

Make no mistake, these children are being treated horrifically and they are experiencing trauma, they will feel the effects of this trauma their entire lives. It will reverberate throughout their lives and ours and all of human history. As we speak we are dehumanizing and abusing and traumatizing children.

The Long Term Effects of Childhood Trauma

Please do not be silent. You can call (202) 224-3121 and ask your representative to stop this horrific abuse of children. I share with you today the words of George Takei:

Friday Finds: June 21, 2019

This Week at TLT

New books alert: Magic-fueled airships, an underwater future, a young activists’ handbook, and more!

Cindy Crushes Programming: DIY Harry Potter Book of Monsters

Penguin Random House 2019 Showcase: Books featuring Ziggy Stardust, friends pretending to date, a vengeful ghost, vampires, and more!

Out and Proud (On the Page and In Real Life): My Long and Not-Straight Journey to Self-Acceptance, a guest post by Amber Smith

Book Review: Rules for Vanishing

Nonfiction Roundup: MakerSpace Edition

Around the Web

If Kids Can’t Read What They Want in the Summer, When Can They?

The Hunger Games Is Getting a Prequel Novel, Set During the ‘Dark Days’ of Panem

How I Grew Up Frighteningly Ignorant of Sex

Harvard Rescinds Offer To Parkland Survivor After Discovery Of Racist Comments

New books alert: Magic-fueled airships, an underwater future, a young activists’ handbook, and more!

Books, books, and more books! All of the books I get end up going back out the door in some fashion—to teen readers I know, to classroom libraries of friends, to my own school, or in giveaways. I can’t read/review every book I get, but it’s fun to be able to sift through boxes and see what grabs my attention, and to see what books will find loving new homes with the right reader. The following are the books that have arrived here in the past few weeks. I will be reviewing many of them in the upcoming months on TLT. See something you’ve already read and need to make sure I don’t skip? Or something you’re super excited to read when it comes out? Let me know with a comment here or on Twitter, where I’m @CiteSomething.

All descriptions from the publishers.

Emily Out of Focus by Miriam Spitzer Franklin (ISBN-13: 9781510738546 Publisher: Sky Pony Publication date: 05/07/2019)

Twelve-year-old Emily is flying with her parents to China to adopt and bring home a new baby sister. She’s excited but nervous to travel across the world and very aware that this trip will change her entire life. And the cracks are already starting to show the moment they reach the hotel—her parents are all about the new baby, and have no interest in exploring.

In the adoption trip group, Emily meets Katherine, a Chinese-American girl whose family has returned to China to adopt a second child. The girls eventually become friends and Katherine reveals a secret: she’s determined to find her birth mother, and she wants Emily’s help.

New country, new family, new responsibilities—it’s all a lot to handle, and Emily has never felt more alone.

From the author of Extraordinary and Call Me SunflowerEmily Out of Focus is a warm and winning exploration of the complexity of family, friendship, and identity that readers will love.

Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon by Mary Fan (ISBN-13: 9781624147333 Publisher: Page Street Publishing Publication date: 06/11/2019)

Liang Anlei wants a life of glory and revenge

As a warrior who protects her village from shadow spirits, Anlei has never been beyond the borders of her town. All of that changes the day the viceroy and his fleet of mechanical dragons arrives. It’s the protection her village is desperate for, but it will only be given in exchange for Anlei’s hand in marriage. Torn between wanting to protect her village and her own freedom, Anlei is forced to make a sacrifice.

The day before her wedding, she encounters Tai, a young thief who is also trying to save his people. Tempted by his quest and the thrill of glory it promises, the two embark on an epic journey to the Courts of Hell to discover where the shadow spirits come from. But the secret of their existence isn’t so easily solved.

Amid dark experiments and battles on magic-fueled airships, Anlei must summon the courage to be the hero; to live the life she has always dreamed of.

Brave the Page by National Novel Writing Month (ISBN-13: 9780451480293 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 08/27/2019)

The official NaNoWriMo handbook that inspires young people to tackle audacious goals and complete their creative projects.

Partly a how-to guide on the nitty-gritty of writing, partly a collection of inspiration to set (and meet) ambitious goals, Brave the Page is the go-to resource for middle-grade writers. Narrated in a fun, refreshingly kid-friendly voice, it champions NaNoWriMo’s central mission that everyone‘s stories deserve to be told. The volume includes chapters on character, plot, setting, and the like; motivating essays from popular authors; advice on how to commit to your goals; a detailed plan for writing a novel or story in a month; and more!

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that believes in the transformational power of creativity. They provide the structure, community, and encouragement to help people find their voices, achieve creative goals, and build new worlds–on and off the page. With its first event in 1999, the organization’s programs now include National Novel Writing Month in November, Camp NaNoWriMo, the Young Writers Program, Come Write In, and the “Now What?” Months.

Hope Is Our Only Wing by Rutendo Tavengerwei (ISBN-13: 9781641290722 Publisher: Soho Press, Incorporated Publication date: 09/10/2019)

Set in Zimbabwe, Rutendo Tavengerwei’s unforgettable novel offers a beautiful and honest look at adolescence, friendship, and the capacity for courage.

For fifteen-year-old Shamiso, hope is a futile leap into darkness. Grief-stricken and bewildered after her father’s death in a mysterious car crash, she’s shipped off from her home in the UK to a Zimbabwe boarding school. For Tanyaradzwa, a classmate whose life has been turned upside down by a cancer diagnosis, hope is the only reason to keep fighting. 

As an unexpected friendship blossoms between them, Tanyaradzwa helps Shamiso confront her fear of loss. In opening herself to someone with a potentially fatal illness, Shamiso knows that she might be opening herself to more pain. Yet Tanyaradzwa is the only one who gives her the strength to ask the burning question: What really happened to her father?

Enough Is Enough: How Students Can Join the Fight for Gun Safety by Michelle Roehm McCann, Shannon Watts (Foreword by) (ISBN-13: 9781582707013 Publisher: Simon Pulse/Beyond Words Publication date: 10/08/2019)

From award-winning author Michelle Roehm McCann comes a young activist’s handbook to joining the fight against gun violence—both in your community and on a national level—to make schools safer for everyone.

Young people are suffering the most from the epidemic of gun violence—as early as kindergarten students are crouching behind locked doors during active shooter drills. Teens are galvanizing to speak up and fight for their right to be safe. They don’t just want to get involved, they want to change the world. Enough Is Enough is a call to action for teens ready to lend their voices to the gun violence prevention movement. This handbook deftly explains America’s gun violence issues—myths and facts, causes and perpetrators, solutions and change-makers—and provides a road map for effective activism.

Told in three parts, Enough Is Enough also explores how America got to this point and the obstacles we must overcome, including historical information about the Second Amendment, the history of guns in America, and an overview of the NRA. Informative chapters include interviews with teens who have survived gun violence and student activists who are launching their own movements across the country. Additionally, the book includes a Q&A with gun owners who support increased gun safety laws.

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett (ISBN-13: 9781250145444 Publisher: St. Martin’s Press Publication date: 10/08/2019)

A speculative thriller in the vein of The Handmaid’s Tale and The Power. Optioned by Universal and Elizabeth Banks to be a major motion picture!

“A visceral, darkly haunting fever dream of a novel and an absolute page-turner. Liggett’s deeply suspenseful book brilliantly explores the high cost of a misogynistic world that denies women power and does it with a heart-in-your-throat, action-driven story that’s equal parts horror-laden fairy tale, survival story, romance, and resistance manifesto. I couldn’t stop reading.” – Libba Bray, New York Times bestselling author

No one speaks of the grace year. It’s forbidden.

Girls are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds, drive women mad with jealousy. They believe their very skin emits a powerful aphrodisiac, the potent essence of youth, of a girl on the edge of womanhood. That’s why they’re banished for their sixteenth year, to release their magic into the wild so they can return purified and ready for marriage. But not all of them will make it home alive.

Sixteen-year-old Tierney James dreams of a better life—a society that doesn’t pit friend against friend or woman against woman, but as her own grace year draws near, she quickly realizes that it’s not just the brutal elements they must fear. It’s not even the poachers in the woods, men who are waiting for their chance to grab one of the girls in order to make their fortune on the black market. Their greatest threat may very well be each other.

With sharp prose and gritty realism, The Grace Year examines the complex and sometimes twisted relationships between girls, the women they eventually become, and the difficult decisions they make in-between.

The Dragon Warrior by Katie Zhao (ISBN-13: 9781547602001 Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Publication date: 10/15/2019)

“An exhilarating tale. . . Readers will be enthralled.” —J.C. Cervantes, New York Times bestselling author of The Storm Runner

A debut novel inspired by Chinese mythology, this middle-grade fantasy follows an outcast as she embarks on a quest to save the world from demons—perfect for fans of Aru Shah and the End of Time and The Serpent’s Secret.

As a member of the Jade Society, twelve-year-old Faryn Liu dreams of honoring her family and the gods by becoming a warrior. But the Society has shunned Faryn and her brother Alex ever since their father disappeared years ago, forcing them to train in secret.

Then, during an errand into San Francisco, Faryn stumbles into a battle with a demon—and helps defeat it. She just might be the fabled Heaven Breaker, a powerful warrior meant to work for the all-mighty deity, the Jade Emperor, by commanding an army of dragons to defeat the demons. That is, if she can prove her worth and find the island of the immortals before the Lunar New Year.

With Alex and other unlikely allies at her side, Faryn sets off on a daring quest across Chinatowns. But becoming the Heaven Breaker will require more sacrifices than she first realized. . . What will Faryn be willing to give up to claim her destiny?

This richly woven contemporary middle-grade fantasy debut, full of humor, magic, and heart, will appeal to readers who love Roshani Chokshi and Sayantani DasGupta.

The Light at the Bottom of the World by London Shah (ISBN-13: 9781368036887 Publisher: Disney Press Publication date: 10/29/2019)

Hope had abandoned them to the wrath of all the waters.

At the end of the twenty-first century, the world has changed dramatically, but life continues one thousand feet below the ocean’s surface. In Great Britain, sea creatures swim among the ruins of Big Ben and the Tower of London, and citizens waver between fear and hope; fear of what lurks in the abyss, and hope that humanity will soon discover a way to reclaim the Earth.

Meanwhile, sixteen-year-old Leyla McQueen has her own problems to deal with. Her father’s been arrested, accused of taking advantage of victims of the Seasickness-a debilitating malaise that consumes people, often claiming their lives. But Leyla knows he’s innocent, and all she’s interested in is getting him back so that their lives can return to normal.

When she’s picked to race in the action-packed London Submersible Marathon, Leyla gets the chance to secure his freedom; the Prime Minister promises the champion whatever their heart desires. The race takes an unexpected turn, though, and presents her with an opportunity she never wanted: Leyla must venture outside of London for the first time in her life, to find and rescue her father herself.

Now, she’ll have to brave the unfathomable waters and defy a corrupt government determined to keep its secrets, all the while dealing with a secretive, hotheaded companion she never asked for in the first place. If she fails, or falls prey to her own fears, she risks capture-and her father might be lost forever.

Cindy Crushes Programming: DIY Harry Potter Book of Monsters

Harry Potter is a series that continues to be popular as new tween and teen readers discover it every day. In celebration of all things Harry Potter, Cindy Shutts recently hosted a program with her teens and taught them how they can create their own book of monsters. The steps are outlined below.

Supplies

  • Hot glue and gun
  • Fake fur
  • Large googly eyes
  • Red felt
  • White felt
  •  Composition notebooks

Step One: Measure the composition notebook.

Step Two: Cut and measure the fur a little bit larger than the notebook. This allows there to be a little overlap and gives a better effect. Excess can be trimmed off.

Step Three: Hot glue the fur on the notebook. Start at one end and press the fur down as you glue. This ensures that the glue does not dry before you have a chance to attach the fur.

Step Four: Cut sharp looking teeth out from the white felt. It looks better if you do it free hand rather than tracing it because the trace marks often show. Hot glue the teeth on the inside cover of the notebook.

Step Five: Cut a tongue out of the red felt and hot glue it on the inside cover of the notebook.

Step Six: Hot glue the googly eyes on the felt so it looks like a monster.

Step Seven: Let dry then enjoy your book of monsters.

Finals Thoughts: This was a very enjoyable craft. I had been avoiding it because of the costs, but I saw a picture online that looked easier and cheaper. I used a 40% off coupon on the fur. The fur is the most expensive part of this program. Use a coupon if you can! There are more difficult versions that cost more money to make, but this one was perfect for us. The teens loved it and wanted to do it again.

Penguin Random House 2019 Showcase: Books featuring Ziggy Stardust, friends pretending to date, a vengeful ghost, vampires, and more!

Book mail is my favorite of all the mail. Recently, I came home early from work one day to find THREE packages of books from Penguin Random House waiting for me. WOOHOO! Three! AND I was off work early!

All of the books I get end up going back out the door in some fashion—to teen readers I know, to classroom libraries of friends, to my own school, my kid’s school, or in giveaways. I can’t read/review every book I get, but it’s fun to be able to sift through boxes and see what grabs my attention, and to see what books will find loving new homes with the right reader.

Today I’m sharing with you forthcoming titles from Penguin Random House. All annotations are from the publisher. Watch my Twitter (@CiteSomething) for giveaways, where some of these titles will be included! 

Ziggy, Stardust and Me by James Brandon (ISBN-13: 9780525517641 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 08/06/2019)

In this tender-hearted debut, set against the tumultuous backdrop of life in 1973, when homosexuality is still considered a mental illness, two boys defy all the odds and fall in love.

The year is 1973. The Watergate hearings are in full swing. The Vietnam War is still raging. And homosexuality is still officially considered a mental illness. In the midst of these trying times is sixteen-year-old Jonathan Collins, a bullied, anxious, asthmatic kid, who aside from an alcoholic father and his sympathetic neighbor and friend Starla, is completely alone. To cope, Jonathan escapes to the safe haven of his imagination, where his hero David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and dead relatives, including his mother, guide him through the rough terrain of his life. In his alternate reality, Jonathan can be anything: a superhero, an astronaut, Ziggy Stardust, himself, or completely “normal” and not a boy who likes other boys. When he completes his treatments, he will be normal—at least he hopes. But before that can happen, Web stumbles into his life. Web is everything Jonathan wishes he could be: fearless, fearsome and, most importantly, not ashamed of being gay.

Jonathan doesn’t want to like brooding Web, who has secrets all his own. Jonathan wants nothing more than to be “fixed” once and for all. But he’s drawn to Web anyway. Web is the first person in the real world to see Jonathan completely and think he’s perfect. Web is a kind of escape Jonathan has never known. For the first time in his life, he may finally feel free enough to love and accept himself as he is.

A poignant coming-of-age tale, Ziggy, Stardust and Me heralds the arrival of a stunning and important new voice in YA.

As Many Nows as I Can Get by Shana Youngdahl (ISBN-13: 9780525553854 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 08/20/2019)

A timely, searing, and unconventional romance from an urgent new voice in young adult fiction

In one impulsive moment the summer before they leave for college, overachievers Scarlett and David plunge into an irresistible swirl of romance, particle physics, and questionable decisions. Told in non-linear, vivid first-person chapters, As Many Nows as I Can Get is the story of a grounded girl who’s pulled into a lightning-strike romance with an electric-charged boy, and the enormity of the aftermath. Cerebral, accessible, bold, and unconventionally romantic, this is a powerful debut about grief, guilt, and reconciling who you think you need to be with the person you’ve been all along.

Frankly in Love by David Yoon (ISBN-13: 9781984812209 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 09/10/2019)

This smart, romantic, and totally original coming-of-age YA contemporary debut about a Korean-American teen falling in (and out) of love is perfect for fans of The Sun is Also a Star, Eleanor & Park, and Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda.

High school senior Frank Li is a Limbo—his term for Korean-American kids who find themselves caught between their parents’ traditional expectations and their own Southern California upbringing. His parents have one rule when it comes to romance—”Date Korean”—which proves complicated when Frank falls for Brit Means, who is smart, beautiful—and white. Fellow Limbo Joy Song is in a similar predicament, and so they make a pact: they’ll pretend to date each other in order to gain their freedom. Frank thinks it’s the perfect plan, but in the end, Frank and Joy’s fake-dating maneuver leaves him wondering if he ever really understood love—or himself—at all.

The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus (ISBN-13: 9780525555483 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 09/17/2019)

Told in two distinct and irresistible voices, Junauda Petrus’s bold and lyrical debut is the story of two black girls from very different backgrounds finding love and happiness in a world that seems determined to deny them both.

Trinidad. Sixteen-year-old Audre is despondent, having just found out she’s going to be sent to live in America with her father because her strictly religious mother caught her with her secret girlfriend, the pastor’s daughter. Audre’s grandmother Queenie (a former dancer who drives a white convertible Cadillac and who has a few secrets of her own) tries to reassure her granddaughter that she won’t lose her roots, not even in some place called Minneapolis. “America have dey spirits too, believe me,” she tells Audre.

Minneapolis. Sixteen-year-old Mabel is lying on her bed, staring at the ceiling and trying to figure out why she feels the way she feels—about her ex Terrell, about her girl Jada and that moment they had in the woods, and about the vague feeling of illness that’s plagued her all summer. Mabel’s reverie is cut short when her father announces that his best friend and his just-arrived-from-Trinidad daughter are coming for dinner. 

Mabel quickly falls hard for Audre and is determined to take care of her as she tries to navigate an American high school. But their romance takes a turn when test results reveal exactly why Mabel has been feeling low-key sick all summer and suddenly it’s Audre who is caring for Mabel as she faces a deeply uncertain future.

Junauda Petrus’s debut brilliantly captures the distinctly lush and lyrical voices of Mabel and Audre as they conjure a love that is stronger than hatred, prison, and death and as vast as the blackness between the stars.

Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall (ISBN-13: 9781984837011 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 09/24/2019)

In the faux-documentary style of The Blair Witch Project comes the campfire story of a missing girl, a vengeful ghost, and the girl who is determined to find her sister—at all costs.

Once a year, a road appears in the forest. And at the end of it, the ghost of Lucy Gallows beckons. Lucy’s game isn’t for the faint of heart. If you win, you escape with your life. But if you lose…. 

Sara’s sister disappeared one year ago—and only Sara knows where she is. Becca went to find the ghost of Lucy Gallows and is trapped on the road that leads to her. In the sleepy town of Briar Glen, Lucy’s road is nothing more than local lore. But Sara knows it’s real, and she’s going to find it. 

When Sara and her skeptical friends meet in the forest to search for Becca, the mysterious road unfurls before them. All they have to do is walk down it. But the path to Lucy is not of this world, and it has its own rules. Every mistake summons new horrors. Vengeful spirits and broken, angry creatures are waiting for them to slip, and no one is guaranteed safe passage. The only certainty is this: the road has a toll and it will be paid.

Sara knows that if she steps onto the road, she might not come back. But Becca needs her.

And Lucy is waiting.

The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh (ISBN-13: 9781524738174 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 10/08/2019)

New York Times bestselling author Renée Ahdieh returns with a sumptuous, sultry and romantic new series set in 19th century New Orleans where vampires hide in plain sight.

In 1872, New Orleans is a city ruled by the dead. But to seventeen-year-old Celine Rousseau, New Orleans provides her a refuge after she’s forced to flee her life as a dressmaker in Paris. Taken in by the sisters of the Ursuline convent along with six other girls, Celine quickly becomes enamored with the vibrant city from the music to the food to the soirées and–especially–to the danger. She soon becomes embroiled in the city’s glitzy underworld, known as Le Cour des Lions, after catching the eye of the group’s leader, the enigmatic Sèbastien Saint Germain. When the body of one of the girls from the convent is found in the lair of Le Cour des Lions, Celine battles her attraction to him and suspicions about Sèbastien’s guilt along with the shame of her own horrible secret.


When more bodies are discovered, each crime more gruesome than the last, Celine and New Orleans become gripped by the terror of a serial killer on the loose–one Celine is sure has set her in his sights . . . and who may even be the young man who has stolen her heart. As the murders continue to go unsolved, Celine takes matters into her own hands and soon uncovers something even more shocking: an age-old feud from the darkest creatures of the underworld reveals a truth about Celine she always suspected simmered just beneath the surface.


At once a sultry romance and a decadent thrilling mystery, master storyteller Renée Ahdieh embarks on her most potent fantasy series yet: The Beautiful.


WAR GIRLS by Tochi Onyebuchi (ISBN-13: 9780451481672 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 10/15/2019)

Two sisters are torn apart by war and must fight their way back to each other in a futuristic, Black Panther-inspired Nigeria.

The year is 2172. Climate change and nuclear disasters have rendered much of earth unlivable. Only the lucky ones have escaped to space colonies in the sky. 

In a war-torn Nigeria, battles are fought using flying, deadly mechs and soldiers are outfitted with bionic limbs and artificial organs meant to protect them from the harsh, radiation-heavy climate. Across the nation, as the years-long civil war wages on, survival becomes the only way of life. 

Two sisters, Onyii and Ify, dream of more. Their lives have been marked by violence and political unrest. Still, they dream of peace, of hope, of a future together.

And they’re willing to fight an entire war to get there.

Acclaimed author, Tochi Onyebuchi, has written an immersive, action-packed, deeply personal novel perfect for fans of Nnedi Okorafor, Marie Lu, and Paolo Bacigalupi.

Song of the Crimson Flower by Julie C. Dao (ISBN-13: 9781524738358 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 11/05/2019)

From the acclaimed author of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns comes a fantastical new tale of darkness and love, in which magical bonds are stronger than blood.

Will love break the spell? After cruelly rejecting Bao, the poor physician’s apprentice who loves her, Lan, a wealthy nobleman’s daughter, regrets her actions. So when she finds Bao’s prized flute floating in his boat near her house, she takes it into her care, not knowing that his soul has been trapped inside it by an evil witch, who cursed Bao, telling him that only love will set him free. Though Bao now despises her, Lan vows to make amends and help break the spell. 

Together, the two travel across the continent, finding themselves in the presence of greatness in the forms of the Great Forest’s Empress Jade and Commander Wei. They journey with Wei, getting tangled in the webs of war, blood magic, and romance along the way. Will Lan and Bao begin to break the spell that’s been placed upon them? Or will they be doomed to live out their lives with black magic running through their veins?

In this fantastical tale of darkness and love, some magical bonds are stronger than blood.

Games of Deception: The True Story of the First U.S. Olympic Basketball Team at the 1936 Olympics in Hitler’s Germany by Andrew Maraniss (ISBN-13: 9780525514633 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 11/05/2019)

From the New York Times bestselling author of Strong Inside comes the remarkable true story of the birth of Olympic basketball at the 1936 Summer Games in Hitler’s Germany.Perfect for fans of The Boys in the Boat and Unbroken.

On a scorching hot day in July 1936, thousands of people cheered as the U.S. Olympic teams boarded the S.S. Manhattan, bound for Berlin. Among the athletes were the 14 players representing the first-ever U.S. Olympic basketball team. As thousands of supporters waved American flags on the docks, it was easy to miss the one courageous man holding a BOYCOTT NAZI GERMANY sign. But it was too late for a boycott now; the ship had already left the harbor. 

1936 was a turbulent time in world history. Adolf Hitler had gained power in Germany three years earlier. Jewish people and political opponents of the Nazis were the targets of vicious mistreatment, yet were unaware of the horrors that awaited them in the coming years. But the Olympians on board the S.S. Manhattan and other international visitors wouldn’t see any signs of trouble in Berlin. Streets were swept, storefronts were painted, and every German citizen greeted them with a smile. Like a movie set, it was all just a facade, meant to distract from the terrible things happening behind the scenes. 

This is the incredible true story of basketball, from its invention by James Naismith in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1891, to the sport’s Olympic debut in Berlin and the eclectic mix of people, events and propaganda on both sides of the Atlantic that made it all possible. Includes photos throughout, a Who’s-Who of the 1936 Olympics, bibliography, and index.

Out and Proud (On the Page and In Real Life): My Long and Not-Straight Journey to Self-Acceptance, a guest post by Amber Smith

Confession: When I was in eighth grade, I stole my public library’s copy of Nancy Garden’s Annie on My Mind because I was too afraid to check it out. I kept it hidden under my bed for years, its pages well-worn from reading it so many times.

I remember coming of age in the 90s and feeling very disconnected from a lot of the progress I saw happening on TV and in the media where queer people were out and proud and beginning to be more accepted, because in my little corner of the world, I didn’t know any gay people. My only references were conflicted at best, and harmful at worst.

I’m not entirely sure why these are the things that are branded in my memory as vivid as if they happened yesterday, but these are some of the earliest times I became aware that there were people who thought there was something deeply wrong and shameful about the existence of gay people:

1. Watching Melrose Place in 1994, and the shock and disgust and horror that erupted out of a potential/suggested kiss between two men that aired on the show.  

2. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Being in a military family, I was very aware of the controversy surrounding this, and it absolutely boggled my mind. There were clearly plenty of people who thought LGBTQ people were not fit to serve in the military, and I couldn’t make sense of what one had to do with the other (because it made zero sense).

3. The token lesbian character on the show Friends: Ross’s ex-wife who had left him for another woman. Whenever she was mentioned, it was always accompanied with a roaring laugh track.

4. And then when Ellen’s sitcom was canceled after she came out on the show.

What I was learning slowly, one small instance at a time, was that visibility and being “out” (whatever the hell that meant; at the time I wasn’t sure) always came at a price.

When I looked around at my life, this is what I saw: There was not a single out student at my entire high school; though we were (of course) present. The gym teachers were rumored to be “dykes” and were either laughed at behind their backs or treated like predators to their faces. There were not LGBTQ-Straight Alliances back then; in fact, “LGBTQ” wasn’t even a thing yet. The word “queer” was still an insult, and it was not a word I wanted to be associated with in any way.

Still, I relished the rare book, movie, or TV show that featured any gay characters, which were few and far between. In high school I would discreetly stalk the video store, searching for movies that had any kind of gayness in them, and I would try to act casual as I brought my stack of VHS tapes to the checkout counter, watching the faces of the cashiers closely for signs of judgment or disapproval. (To this day, I don’t know if I imagined them or if they were real). I’d watch the movies in the middle of the night when no one in my house was awake, literally playing them on mute and reading the subtitles, desperate to find a connection to this world (which I both suspected and feared I was a part of) that was positive. Finding Annie on My Mind was life-changing because it was the first time I had found a story where there was love and hope and acceptance, with characters that felt real and whole, flawed and complex. I needed this book like I needed oxygen.

By the time I got to college, I was ready for some freedom. I found my first girlfriend and felt like I was alive for the first time in my life. I may have been emboldened by being able to be out around my fellow art students, but what I soon learned was that life in the real world was very different from strolling around campus holding hands with my girlfriend. It only took a few verbal attacks and threats of physical violence to put a quick end to PDAs altogether. It’s a very disorientating and confusing feeling to know with every fiber of your mind and heart and soul that you are living your life the way you need to be living it, and at the same time, to be deeply terrified of the consequences for doing so.

Amber in college, circa 2000

Each of these moments left marks and scars, both big and small, some more fully healed than others.

After the breakup with my first serious girlfriend, I went so far back into the closet I practically disowned my entire life. I gave away all my cherished Ani DiFranco and Melissa Etheridge CDs, my collection of VHS tapes, all of my gender studies textbooks, and even my stolen copy of Annie on My Mind. Trying to be in a committed relationship while being in the closet made my world feel microscopically small. This life was too hard, I decided; I would just stay single for the rest of my life and that way I’d never have to be fully out. I wouldn’t have to be subjected to hate or violence ever again. This whole gay thing would be a non-issue, right?

Wrong.

I was so deeply unhappy and unhealthy during that time. I was committing hate and violence against myself now. I felt like I was between two worlds and that I didn’t belong to either of them. With my family, I felt like I was living a lie. Alternately, since I was in the closet, I felt like I wasn’t “gay enough” to be a part of that community either. It would take me years to find my way back out into the light. I ultimately had to seek therapy and gradually work through a lot of that internalized homophobia I had lurking around in the cobwebs of my mind. I had to learn how to love and accept myself for who I was, to discover on my own terms that I didn’t have to try to cram myself into anyone else’s ideas about who I should be. And it would still be years before I could finally come out to my family.

Amber at her student art show, 2004

When my second book, The Last to Let Go was published, and featured a lesbian protagonist, I had a whole new and public coming out experience. While this one was very positive, it still brought up a lot of these old wounds and memories of what it was like to come of age in a time and place where there was such uncertainty of whether or not I would be accepted and loved, or even safe. That’s when I started thinking about the book that would become Something Like Gravity.

Writing is always therapeutic for me, and I found that I really needed a place to work through not only my own experiences, but also a place to address the recent backlash against the LGBTQ community and a lot of the transphobia ramping up over the last several years (because whenever there is progress, there is going to be backlash). But the thing that inspired me to turn Something Like Gravity into a love story is that my soul really needed to write about something that was equally as powerful as all of the difficult, painful experiences. In this case, that something became a story about falling in love, finding hope, and living your truth, against all odds.

I lived in fear and anger for a long time, and while I’m thankful that things are slowly changing and some of us in the LGBTQ community are beginning to find more equality, there are still so many fights to be won. In many respects I see history repeating itself in the plight of queer youth today—particularly individuals who identify as trans or nonbinary—and it makes my heart ache.

There is nothing I know of that opens minds and hearts better than sharing our stories, and I wrote Something Like Gravity in the hope that it can help in some small way to give young people who may be feeling some of what I felt at their age a space to be seen and validated and safe. And ultimately, it is my hope that readers will be able to find aspects of themselves in these characters; even if they aren’t transgender or queer. We are all perfectly imperfect, each of us a work in progress, and the one thing that connects us is love. I believe that love is powerful, transformative, and it is what gives us hope—something no one should ever be without.

Although I took a constantly twisting road to get here, I can say that today I am out, happy, loved, and incredibly proud of the life I’ve created.

P.S. I should add that I have since donated, with apologies and thanks, a new copy of Annie on My Mind to the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library.

Meet Amber Smith

Photo credit: Deborah Triplett

Amber Smith is the New York Times bestselling author of the young adult novels The Way I Used to BeThe Last to Let Go, and Something Like Gravity. An advocate for increased awareness of gendered violence, as well as LGBTQ equality, she writes in the hope that her books can help to foster change and spark dialogue surrounding these issues. She grew up in Buffalo, New York, and now lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her partner and their ever-growing family of rescued dogs and cats. Pronouns: she/her/hers.

Website: www.ambersmithauthor.com 

Twitter: @ASmithAuthor 

Instagram: @ambersmithauthor

Facebook: @AmberSmithAuthor

About SOMETHING LIKE GRAVITY

For fans of Love, Simon and Eleanor & Park, a romantic and sweet novel about a transgender boy who falls in love for the first time—and how first love changes us all—from New York Times bestselling author Amber Smith.

Chris and Maia aren’t off to a great start.

A near-fatal car accident first brings them together, and their next encounters don’t fare much better. Chris’s good intentions backfire. Maia’s temper gets the best of her.

But they’re neighbors, at least for the summer, and despite their best efforts, they just can’t seem to stay away from each other.

The path forward isn’t easy. Chris has come out as transgender, but he’s still processing a frightening assault he survived the year before. Maia is grieving the loss of her older sister and trying to find her place in the world without her. Falling in love was the last thing on either of their minds.

But would it be so bad if it happened anyway?

ISBN-13: 9781534437180
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication date: 06/18/2019