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Crash Course: Series books for beginning readers

Earlier this month I wrote about picture books and graphic novels for elementary students. Today I’m tackling popular series books for beginning readers. You may call the readers or this group of books something different—maybe books for emergent readers or maybe early readers. Whatever the terminology, these books with great stories and lots of illustrations are perfect for kids who are growing in their reading fluency and ready to sit down and read a book on their own.

As with my other posts in this series, these are books that are popular at the elementary school where I work. Have suggestions for other titles to look into? Let us know in the comments or over on Twitter!

Summaries here of book one in each series are from WorldCat.

Unicorn and Yeti series by Heather Ayris Burnell, Hazel Quintanilla

Book one: Sparkly New Friends

“Unicorn and Yeti run into each other (literally) while looking for sparkly things, and despite some differences, (for instance Unicorn is magic, Yeti is not, Yeti likes snowball fights, Unicorn can not throw snowballs)–the two become friends over a shared love of hot chocolate with rainbow sprinkles.”

This new series is VERY popular at my school. Are we in the golden age of Unicorns? I think so. Practically every day I’m complimenting some kiddo on their unicorn-themed clothing or accessories.

Tales of Sasha series by Alexa Pearl, Paco Sordo

Book one: The Big Secret

“In the Tales of Sasha series debut, Sasha discovers that she really isn’t like the other horses in her valley when wings sprout from her back and she soars through the air!”

Dragon Masters series by Tracey West, Graham Howells

Book one: Rise of the Earth Dragon

“Drake never thought dragons were real. But he soon learns that dragons are real – and that he is a Dragon Master! The magic Dragon Stone has chosen Drake and three others – Ana, Rori, and Bo – to train dragons. Will Drake be able to connect with his dragon? Does he have what it takes to become a true Dragon Master?”

This is one of our most popular series. Often when readers have moved on from this section at our school, I will see them check out a harder book aimed at older readers but also grab one of these for their second choice.


Zapato Power series by Jacqueline Jules, Miguel Benitez

Book one: Freddie Ramos Takes Off

“Freddie finds a mysterious package outside his apartment containing sneakers that allow him to run faster than a train, and inspire him to perform heroic deeds.”

Yasmin series by Saadia Faruqi, Hatem Aly

Book one: Meet Yasmin!

“In this compilation of four separately published books, Pakistani American second grader Yasmin learns to cope with the small problems of school and home, while gaining confidence in her own skills and creative abilities.”

I was thrilled when we got a bunch more of this in recently. Curious and bold Yasmin brings great energy to her every adventure. The illustrations are GREAT—I want to dress like Yasmin!

Sadiq series by Siman Nuurali, Anjan Sarkar

Book one: Sadiq and the Desert Star

“Sadiq’s father is going on a business trip, but before he goes he tells Sadiq a story of the Desert Star, which fits in perfectly with Sadiq’s third grade class field trip to the planetarium, and inspires Sadiq to build a simple telescope to study the stars when his father returns.”

This new series, featuring a Somali American Minnesota kid, was an instant hit at my school. HUGE need for this series to exist.

Critter Club series by Callie Barkley, Marsha Riti

Book one: Amy and the Missing Puppy

“During spring break, mystery-lover Amy looks for clues to the disappearance of wealthy Ms. Sullivan’s Saint Bernard puppy.”

Friendship and animals—a great draw for young readers! Super cute illustrations with the kiddos in varied situations (not all are mysteries).

King & Kayla series by Dori Hillestad Butler, Nancy Meyers

Book one: King & Kayla and the Case of the Missing Dog Treats

“King’s human, Kayla, has baked some treats for a friend’s new puppy, Thor, but some go missing and it is up to King to find the culprit.”

The books in this series are all mysteries and feature great narration from good doggo King.

Craftily Ever After series by Martha Maker, Xindi Yan

Book one: The Un-Friendship Bracelet

“Best friends Emily and Maddie have one big thing in common: they love to craft and create! Whether it’s making art with balloons, cities of cardboard and straws, or the matching friendship bracelets they wear, they’re always coming up with fresh ideas. But when a new student named Bella shows up at school, their friendship is put to the test. Maddie immediately befriends her and discovers that Bella is just as crafty as she and Emily are! As Maddie and Bella spend more time together, Emily finds herself spending more time alone. Then, when Emily’s friendship bracelet falls off, she begins to think that maybe it was an un-friendship bracelet this whole time. Will the friends find their craftily ever after?”

Sofia Martinez series by Jacqueline Jules, Kim Smith

Book one: My Family Adventure

“Follow 7-year-old Sofia Martinez as she deals with her family and daily adventures.”

I love Sofia! Like the Zapato series, this series includes lots of Spanish words that, for the most part, can be easily deciphered by non Spanish speakers, though this series does include a glossary.

Desmond Cole, Ghost Patrol series by Andres Miedoso, Victor Rivas

Book one: The Haunted House Next Door

“When supernatural things start happening in the house timid Andres and his parents just moved into, next-door-neighbor Desmond Cole, eight, comes to the rescue.”

We are forever being asked for “scary books” or “creepy books.” While these are certainly not actually scary or creepy, they seem to fit the bill for early readers.

Eerie Elementary series by Jack Chabert, Sam Ricks

Book one: The School Is Alive!

“Sam Graves discovers that his elementary school is alive and plotting against the students, and, as hall monitor, it is his job to protect them – but he will need some help from his friends.”

This series, too, is satisfyingly “scary” for younger readers.

The Notebook of Doom series by Troy Cummings

Book one: Rise of the Balloon Goons

“Alexander has just moved into Stermont, but the elementary school is being torn down, his new classroom is located in the hospital morgue, a notebook he finds is full of information about monsters and everywhere he turns there are spooky balloon men determined to attack him.”

Why yes, ANOTHER spooky series! Extremely popular at my school!

Owl Diaries series by Rebecca Elliott

Book one: Eva’s Treetop Festival

“This full-color, highly illustrated diary series is perfect for young readers who love friendship stories starring animal characters! Eva Wingdale gets in over her head when she offers to organize a spring festival at school. Will Eva have to ask Sue (a.k.a. Meanie McMeanerson) for help? Or will the festival have to be cancelled?”

Press Start series by Thomas Flintham

Book one: Game Over, Super Rabbit Boy!

“When King Viking and his evil robot army attack Animal Town, and kidnap Singing Dog, it is up to Super Rabbit Boy, with some help from Sunny and his video game console, to save the day.”

Do the children at your school or in your life suffer from video game mania? Probably. This gaming-based series flies off our shelves.

Molly Mac series by Marty Kelley

Book one: Tooth Fairy Trouble

“When Molly Mac loses her first tooth, talk of the Tooth Fairy makes her head spin! What does the Tooth Fairy do with all of those teeth anyway? Molly and her best friend, Kayley, decide to investigate. When Molly figures out what happens to her lost tooth, will she approve?”

Heidi Heckelbeck series by Wanda Coven, Priscilla Burris

Book one: Heidi Heckelbeck Has a Secret

After being homeschooled her whole life, Heidi Heckelbeck enters a real school in second grade, where she encounters a mean girl named Melanie who makes her feel like an alien.

Otherization of Sikh Women, a guest post by Jasmin Kaur

Today we are honored to host this moving guest post by author Jasmin Kaur.

Eyes wide with apprehension, lips parted with a sudden inhale, it was the same look of shock I’d grown used to. On this particular occasion, the white woman’s fingers furiously typed on her phone, perhaps to a friend. Her gaze bounced to each of my friends’ turbans and beards and finally landed on me. I had heard that Australia could often be inhospitable to immigrants and people of colour, but I didn’t think that in Melbourne, one of its most diverse cities, people would display their discomfort at the sight of Sikhs so unabashedly. Among the dozen of us waiting to be seated at the restaurant, I was the only one from out of town.

As painfully familiar as the woman’s wide-eyed glance was the feeling of otherness. Of my heart thumping with a sudden desire to be invisible. I turned to my friend, whispering that we were being watched.  Then, my friend did something that I was too emotionally exhausted to do: she asked the woman why she was staring.

“I recognized Jasmin Kaur. I think I follow her on Instagram.”

After we had a thoughtful conversation with the woman and my friends commented on how wonderful it was that this reader recognized me half away across the world from home, my mind was still spinning. I’d had many emotionally intense run-ins with strangers before, but never anything like this. Never a person staring at me in public with nothing but a kind word to say.

When I chose to tie a dastaar (Sikh turban) back in high school, I knew it would come with attention. In fact, this identity was made to draw attention. When the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, formalized our visible identity, the dastaar was an important element in rendering Sikhs unique and distinguishable from members of other faith communities. As a child, I distinctly remember sitting on the fir-green carpet of our local gurdwara (Sikh place of worship) listening to a speaker explain the story of why it was so important for us to stand out. When the tenth Guru’s father, Guru Tegh Bahadur, attained martyrdom in defence of a persecuted group of Kashmiri Hindus, Guru Gobind Singh questioned whether many Sikhs were present to witness the event. No one was sure because no one could tell who, exactly, was Sikh. It was in this moment that the guru declared that they would make Sikhs so distinct that even in a crowd of thousands, we would be unmissable.

There is beauty in being unmissable, in being so in love with your sovereignty as a kaur (Sikh woman) that you declare it with a crown. But there is also struggle. Each time I step out of the comfort of my own home, I enter a world that views my body as an artifact. By this, I mean that I am constantly on display to be studied, critiqued and openly discussed by strangers, often as though I am not even there. As though I am an object that can’t talk back. When I step into public spaces, I constantly move as though I am bracing myself for a tidal wave. The glares, the stares, the hateful comments exist within the memory of my tense muscles, my thumping heart, my lowered gaze that is too tired to observe which strangers happen to be ogling today.

I grew up in Abbotsford, a large-enough city in BC, Canada with a strong Punjabi population. White people are familiar with us. They see us every single day. And yet, I seem to exist here as a perpetual surprise. The other day, after a long stretch of writing from my bedroom, I decided to switch things up and work from a coffee shop. As soon as I swung open the door, two tables of middle-aged and elderly white people halted their conversations to stare at me. Eight people, to be exact. Their eyes followed me to my table, their necks twisting to keep up with my movements, until I sat down and they could finally let me go.

This type of staring is a common occurrence throughout my day. I’ve gotten it since I entered middle school when I began to tie a ramaal, a small headscarf that is much more subtle than a dastaar. Sometimes when people stare, I’ll smile. This will result in them either smiling back in embarrassment or looking away in surprise. As a woman of colour and a Sikh woman specifically, I don’t think I owe strangers a constantly positive, pleasant, model-minority attitude, though. Just like you, I could be having a bad day. Just like you, I could be caffeine-deprived, exhausted and just looking to quietly reach my next destination. I don’t need to be on all the time, maintaining my best “customer-service” attitude for strangers who consider me nothing more than “the other”. I don’t need to prove my humanity to white people. I don’t owe you a smile for your stares.

The stares and glares are irritating, but they are definitely not the worst. I’ve had more than my fair share of overtly racist run-ins with strangers, from local drivers shouting “terrorist!” at me as I walk down the street, to train passengers in Australia swearing at me for sitting next to them to store-clerks in Spain serving the white people standing behind me in line and simply pretending I don’t exist. These experiences add up, they pile one on top of the other and pack themselves at the back of my mind. They don’t make me want to remove my dastaar but they do remind me of the violence that comes from non-conformity in a world that seeks to synthesize everyone into a singular image.

“Usually when people stare at me in public spaces, it’s because of my Sikh identity.”

When I shared this with the white woman at the restaurant, she was flustered. Shocked to hear that I could be treated so badly by strangers. The two of clearly experienced the world through very different eyes.

I was quiet when we finally sat down to eat, trying to make sense of this strange concoction of emotions that arose from the interaction. Like many people of colour who experience microaggressions and overt racism in public spaces, my experiences have left me with a sense of guardedness. I don’t feel bad about it, though: I have more than enough reason to be anxious.   

Jasmin Kaur is the author of the YA poetry & prose release When You Ask Me Where I’m Going (October 1; HarperCollins), her debut book of poetry & prose that tells the story of 18-year old Kiran as she flees a history of trauma in Punjab and raises her daughter, Sahaara, while living undocumented in North America. Kaur’s writing is a powerful salve and formidable reclamation of self-acceptance and love in a world that often ignores, erases, or ridicules women of color and undocumented immigrants.

Crash Course: Graphic novels for younger readers

Earlier this month, I shared a bunch of recent picture books that focus on community, caring, inclusivity, and connections. Today, I’m looking at graphic novels that are popular in the elementary library where I work. Just like I firmly believe picture books are for people of all ages, and have value and usefulness for people beyond the “recommended” age group, graphic novels also have wider appeal than their suggested ages may indicate. Even if you just work with older teens, it’s useful to know about these books that may be more widely read by younger readers, but will certainly find older audiences.

The graphic novel returns from just one class.

I did a recent post with mini-reviews of a bunch of graphic novels (they’re kind of my go-to read when my brain feels super overwhelmed). Karen has also posted quite a bit about graphic novels, and Ally often does comics and graphic novel roundups, too. Pop “graphic novels” into our search bar and check out some of these other great resources!

As with every post, we always want to hear from you. If you work with younger readers or have younger kids in your life, what graphic novels are they loving? Let us know in the comments or over on Twitter!

We recently moved the graphic novel section, so now it’s right around the corner from my desk. Saves me a lot of walking!

I ran a report at work to see what our top 50 books of the past year looked like. I did a post at the end of the school year that showed our top 25, if you’re interested. Of our top 50 for the past year, there were six Dog Man titles, four Amulet books, and three Raina Telgemeier books. The graphic novel look at school is FIERCE. I have lots of conversations with adults that are like this one:

And a lot of conversations with kids that are like this one:

Whether you’re looking to learn a bit more yourself, searching for a new book or series to hand to a young person in your life, or hoping to do some collection development, let’s dive in!

Compass South: A Graphic Novel (Four Points Series #1) by Hope Larson, Rebecca Mock (Illustrator)

Pirates pursue 12-year-old twins in the 1860s. Lots of action and adventure. The sequel, Knife’s Edge, offers up further danger and possible treasure.

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol

So good. Russian American Vera hopes she’ll fit in at camp more than her school, but camp isn’t as great as she’d hoped. Shows how complex the social dynamics of childhood can be. Muted colors work well for the general feeling of misery.

The Mystery Boxes (Explorer Series #1) by Kazu Kibuishi (Editor)

What’s inside the mystery box? A group of great graphic novelists offer up their answers in these short comics. Series also includes The Hidden Door and The Lost Islands.

New Kid by Jerry Craft

SO enjoyable. We definitely need more graphic novels featuring black kids. Fantastic full-color art enhances this story of racism, privilege, day-to-day middle school issues, and fitting in.

March Grand Prix series by Kean Soo

Animal racecar drivers? Yes, please!

Secret Coders series by Gene Luen Yang, Mike Holmes (Illustrator)

Clues, puzzles, and mysteries all just waiting to be solved by smart kids and coding!

Mega Princess series by Kelly Thompson

Princess Max (with the help of her jerk pony) would rather be a detective than a princess who has all of the powers of all princesses ever.

Phoebe and Her Unicorn Series by Dana Simpson

Friendship and hijinks in the vein of Calvin and Hobbes. Phoebe’s reluctant new best friend, unicorn Marigold Heavenly Nostrils, helps her feel less lonely.

And speaking of Calvin and Hobbes….

… these still circulate like mad at school. This makes me happy! In elementary school, my own kiddo went through a HARDCORE Calvin and Hobbes phase, even going as Stuependous Man for superhero day at school!

Lucy and Andy Neanderthal Series #1 by Jeffrey Brown

Stone Age kids and plenty of humor.

Click by Kayla Miller

Absolutely charming and great. A really heartfelt and positive exploration of friendship, fitting in, and standing out. Fortunately, it looks like this is the first in a series about Olive’s adventures. Sequel called Camp!

Q and Ray series by Trisha Speed Shaskan, Stephen Shaskan (Illustrator)

Adorable animal detectives are on the case! Great for lower grades.

Invisible Emmie by Terri Libenson

Emmie and Friends series. Middle school look at friendship, popularity, confidence, and embarrassment. Heartfelt and relatable.

Narwhal and Jelly Series by Ben Clanton

Silly and cute, this series focuses on friendship.

Lowriders series by by Cathy Camper, Raúl the Third (Illustrator)

A bunch of pals who love working on cars have wild adventures in space and (in the sequel) the underworld.

The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell and friends

I love the emphasis on creativity, imagination, and working together as well as the creative play that allows you to imagine yourself however you’d like to be—or to show the world how you really are.

Hilo series by Judd Winick

Hilo’s not from around here—he fell from the sky! He and his new friends uncover all kinds of creatures and have lots of adventures.

Cleopatra in Space series by Mike Maihack

Cleopatra is zapped far into the future, where (no pressure) she has to save the galaxy. VERY popular at my school.

Bird & Squirrel series by James Burks

A scared squirrel and bold bird make for unlikely friends, but together they can face anything!

I could keep going, but WHEW, that’s already a lot of books. Happy reading!

Crafting Community: Fire Me Up Studios by Stacey Shapiro

I’m back with another Crafting Community post. This time, we were hosted by the wonderful artisans of Fire Me Up Studios in my library’s town.  A pottery studio along the lines of Paint Your Heart Out if you’ve ever been to one, they also teach pottery classes along with painting and other art forms. Crafting Community is funded thanks to the Union County Grant, a local grant that has provided the funds for my library to be able to pay our artists. Since this particular program required equipment, it was an outreach opportunity to host the program at Fire Me Up Studios.

We worked in their mudroom, a room in the back of the studio where there are rows of potter’s wheels waiting for the students. We had six students sign up, and a friendly potter from Fire Me Up led the class. She taught us how to literally throw it on to the potter’s wheel so it would stick and be safe, and then demonstrated the several steps we needed to turn our clay into a usable bowl, cup, or pot. My hands were full of clay, so I couldn’t take process photos, but I can recreate what we were taught.

Each student threw a slab of clay we had warmed up by rolling into a ball onto our potter’s wheel. We shaped it into a cone, and then pushed it down into a hockey puck-like shape. This is where working with the clay became more difficult and the instructor had to move around to each of our potter’s wheels to help us individually. The more you work with the clay, the more fragile it becomes as well and we had to be careful not to overwork it. On my second piece, I dug down too hard to make an impression into the clay and ended up with a piece that had no bottom, which is far worse than a soggy bottom on the Great British Baking Show. The instruction, however, was great, and each participant ended up with two pieces. Fire Me Up let us choose our paint colors and we would be back to pick them up in three weeks’ time after two firings and painting.

Teens were eager to learn the new skill and  were mostly receptive during the class. Although there was a lot of confusion during the more complicated steps of pottery making, each teen made something that they will be able to pick up from the studio and take home. Offering classes like this outside of what they might be able to do in art classes provides new and exciting opportunities for our patrons, and hopefully creates a lasting relationship between the library and local businesses.

The only unfortunate thing in this class is that it isn’t easily replicable in other libraries. However, if you have a local pottery studio, make sure to reach out to them! We are, as always, grateful to Union County for the grant that has made this program possible.



Stacey Shapiro is a teen librarian in Cranford, New Jersey, a cat mom, and a BTS fan. She was a 2019 ALA Emerging Leader and is currently serving on the Printz 2020 committee. When she has any free time, she’s playing Breath of the Wild on the Switch.

Sunday Reflections: What I’ve Been Learning about Childhood Trauma and Librarianship

After the lights go out on the stage and the audience has long left the theater, the actors on the stage remain. They have to reset the scenery and put props in the beginning places and hang up costumes so the performance can be repeated again the next day. Even if a performance ends at 9:30 at night the kids on the stage often won’t be ready to go home for hours. And for those teens that don’t yet drive, their parents wait in the parking lot or at home by the phone until they get the message that they are finally ready to go home, exhausted and hungry yet sometimes still with hours of homework to complete and tests to study for.

As my teenage daughter walked out to the car where her father waited a week ago, it was dark and cold and she was one of the last teens to leave. As she approached the car she saw the door standing open and her father laying on the ground. She wasn’t sure yet what was wrong but he did manage to tell her to call her mom. Which she did. And as soon as I heard her crying and telling me, “Mommy, there’s something wrong with Daddy.”, I jumped into the car and raced back to the school. That night would change us all.

Thankfully, as she waited, a car full of people stopped and asked her if she needed help. Which she desperately did. They called 911 and I arrived just minutes before the ambulance did. What I saw will haunt me for a really long time. I see my husband sitting there slumped over, fighting to breathe, and holding his left arm in unnatural ways every time I close my eyes. I can’t imagine what she sees at night when the darkness seems to want to haunt you with your worst fears and memories.

I was barely equipped to handle the events of last Saturday night at the age of 46. I can’t imagine what it was like for a 17-year-old.

The Teen and her Dad. He’s a really great Dad.

It’s been a really rough week to be a Jensen. There have been medical tests and a lot of uncertainty and trying to unpack the emotional fall out of knowing that everything in your universe has just shifted. The ground seems less stable now, less assure of itself. This beloved husband and father seems so much more precious now because we just don’t know what this means for him, for us, for our family. The silence in the uncertainty is deafening.

My Dad was visiting to see the play when all of this happened. For the last year and a half now my Dad has been fighting some serious health battles of his own. My kids went and saw him in ICU a little over a year ago and we thought for sure that would be the last time we saw him. Every time we see him, and he lives in another state so it isn’t that often, we know that this time is most likely going to be the last time. So the weekend was already heavy with emotion and medical trauma.

American Library Association: Toward a Trauma-Informed Model

I’ve been reading a lot lately about trauma informed librarianship. School Library Journal recently ran an article about the topic. I’ve seen it mentioned in some other places. I even joined a Facebook group that discusses trauma informed librarianship. I was already thinking a lot about childhood trauma and trauma informed librarianship when my family, my kids, faced their own medical trauma this past week.

Where Healing Happens: Librarians Adopt Trauma-Informed Practices To Help Kids

Trauma informed librarianship asks us all to recognize the fact that at any time any of our patrons may be experiencing their own trauma and that knowledge should inform how we approach librarianship and our patrons. Studies have shown that trauma can literally rewire the brain. It has long lasting effects. Focus For Health shares the following infographic about Childhood Trauma:

My daughter is doing okay. We talk about what’s happening and are trying to help her process the shock of walking out and seeing her father in desperate need of medical care. She has a strong family unit that loves and supports her. Because she has some anxiety issues, she already has a counselor in place so she too can help process recent events.

But I’ve worked with so many kids, so many teens, who don’t have any of those resources in place. Teens living in abusive homes. Teens living in a constant state of hunger and uncertainty. Teens living on the street. Teens who have no one to tell them that they are loved and safe and to help them process moments. Teens whose brains are being rewired and who will feel the long term effects of their childhood trauma long after they are no longer children. They will become adults who have a hard time forming long-term meaningful relationships, who live with a heightened sense of fear and anxiety even when they are living successful lives. They will become adults who are addicts because they chose to self medicate in a world where our medical care is woefully inadequate, especially when it comes to mental health care. It haunts me knowing that some of the kids I see coming into my library today will become the homeless adult who sits outside my library in the darkest hours of the night.

I have noticed in my professional discussions recently that a lot of libraries are backing away some from dedicated teen services and I fear this. I fear it for a lot of reasons, because I know that the key to building lifelong learners and library users is to provided dedicated teen services. But I also fear it because it’s just another way that our society sends teens the message that they are too hard, too difficult, and too challenging. I fear it because we will become another institution telling teens that there is no place for them here. I fear it because at the exact moment in their lives where teens need someone to say that we understand your unique needs and we care about meeting them successfully, we are saying the exact opposite.

Teens need communities that care about them. They need to know that they are valued and understood and supported. They need community organizations to do the work of helping them successfully navigate adolescence. Libraries used to be one of those places and more and more, I see libraries backing away from this and I fear what the long term effects will be.

Teens need adults and spaces that care about them. I hope that libraries will continue to be one of those spaces. For some of the teens in our communities, it will literally be the difference between life and death.

PS. The Mr. is doing pretty okay. We have had a lot of tests and are talking with doctors to figure out what happened and what it means in the long term, but he’s doing pretty okay.

Friday Finds: November 8, 2019

This Week at TLT

Crash Course: Recent picture books on community, caring, inclusivity, and connections

Cindy Crushes Programming: Fairy Tale Hairbows

Sick Kids in Love: A Look at Chronic Illness in the Life of Teens

Library Events That Bring Stories to Life, a guest post by L M Preston

Healing Is Not a Journey We Take Alone, a guest post by Bree Barton

Around the Web

There’s now an e-reader just for kids, and it misses what children love about books

Screen Use Tied to Children’s Brain Development

Most Of Nation’s Top Public Universities Aren’t Affordable For Low-Income Students

As Boycotts Mount, Macmillan CEO Defends Library E-book Embargo

Crash Course: Recent picture books on community, caring, inclusivity, and connections

I currently work in an elementary school library. I’ve bounced around over the years: bookseller at a children’s indie during graduate school at Simmons; children’s librarian; a few years in a high school library; a stint at a large public library doing teen programming and reference stuff. This year when not at the elementary library, I’ve kept busy with lots of other projects. I presented on Social Justice and Activism at Teen Lit Con, did a giant project for School Library Journal on nonfiction series for grades K to 12, served on School Library Journal’s Best Books committee, wrote reviews for SLJ, wrote a billion posts for TLT on YA literature and advocacy, and worked on my own novels. I believe in being busy and in variety. All that’s to say that if you know me through TLT you may not know I spend my days with little kids, and if you know me from my work with little kids, you may not know that it’s just one of the hats I wear. I like my skill set to be like a Swiss Army knife of knowledge—I can bust out a book recommendation for any age and any situation. I don’t have many talents, but I do have that going for me.

TLT may be focused on teens, but I like to include books and information for other ages, especially because so many of us work with various age levels or have kids of all ages in our lives. Also, many books can hold appeal for ages well beyond their “recommended” age range.

Whether you’re looking to just keep current, or read TLT a lot but actually work with younger kids, or need some ideas for gifts for people in your life, this short Crash Course series I’m going to do over my next few posts will give you lots of info. The topics I’m very broadly looking at here—community, caring, inclusivity, and connections—are ones teachers at my school are always looking for and are ideas that my coworker and I in the library are always looking to promote.

Have other suggestions to add to this list? Let us know in the comments or over on Twitter!

Be sure to check back for the four more posts coming in this series this month!

One of my favorite recent books!

We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins (2018)

A young dino is super excited to go to school, but learns her new classmates are children… which are delicious. Themes of friendship and getting along.

The Wall in the Middle of the Book by Jon Agee (2018)

The things are the other side of the wall are perceived as threats, but the little knight character learns his side is not what he thinks and that the other side may be safe and welcoming.

All of Us by Carin Berger (2018)

Themes of friendship and community show that we are stronger together.

Let the Children March by Monica Clark-Robinson, Frank Morrison (Illustrator) (2018)

Elevates children’s voices and shows them as important activists. Themes of civil rights, segregation, activism, and change.

All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold, Suzanne Kaufman (Illustrator) (2018)

Yay for diversity and inclusion! Everyone is welcome at school! A look at how we learn, grow, and share our traditions.

Mixed: A Colorful Story by Arree Chung (2018)

Colors move to separate spaces but then eventually two get together to create a baby/new color. Themes of prejudice, segregation, tolerance, and acceptance.

Don’t Touch My Hair! by Sharee Miller (2018)

Seriously. Don’t do this. Don’t touch ANYONE’s hair.

My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero, Zeke Pena (Illustrator) (2019)

Excellent father-daughter relationship and look at community.

Try a Little Kindness: A Guide to Being Better by Henry Cole (2018)

Kindness is always a big theme at school. Animals show kindness here in various ways, like sharing, helping, and being polite. Themes of friendship and helping.

The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld (2018)

Instead of offering solutions or suggesting how the character should feel or react, the rabbit just listens and provides comfort through that simple but important act. Themes of emotions, loss, and processing feelings.

Saffron Ice Cream by Rashin Kheiriyeh (2018)

A young Iranian Muslilm girl is excited to be going to Coney Island but misses the ice cream from back home. Compares life in Iran versus life now in Brooklyn. Themes of friendship, connection, immigrants, and cultures.

I Like, I Don’t Like by Anna Baccelliere, Ale + Ale (Illustrator) (2017)

Looks a privilege and poverty through the Right to Play.

Marwan’s Journey by Patricia de Arias, Laura Borras (Illustrator) (2018)

The journey of one young immigrant boy filled with uncertainty and hope. Themes of immigrants, refugees, courage, and home.

Nothing Rhymes with Orange by Adam Rex (2017)

Poor Orange is left out of all the rhyming fruit fun. Themes of loneliness and friendship.

Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller, Jen Hill (Illustrator) (2018)

Explores just what it means to be kind and shows that small acts can be meaningful. Themes of bullying, kindness, helping, friendship, values, and feelings.

Me and My Fear by Francesca Sanna (2018)

At a new school in a new country, the main character’s fear dominates everything until she makes new connections and realizes everyone has fears. Themes of emotions, friendship, and worries.

I Am Human: A Book of Empathy by Susan Verde, Peter H. Reynolds (Illustrator) (2018)

Understanding universal feelings like hope, hurt, happiness, and sadness. Themes of compassion and empathy.

When You Are Brave by Pat Zietlow Miller, Eliza Wheeler (Illustrator) (2019)

Facing new things can be scary. Themes of courage, fears, and overcoming obstacles.

Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights by Rob Sanders, Jared Andrew Schorr (Illustrator) (2018)

Teaching young students to RESIST! Themes of politics, activism, and peaceful protest.

First Laugh–Welcome, Baby! by Rose Ann Tahe, Nancy Bo Flood, Jonathan Nelson (2018)

About Navajo families and the First Laugh ceremony.

I Love My Colorful Nails by Alicia Acosta, Luis Amavisca, Gusti (Illustrator) (2019)

A young boy loves to paint his nails, and has a supportive family, but is teased at school. Eventually, his peers come around. Themes of gender expression, gender noncomformity, bullying, and friendship.

I Walk with Vanessa: A Story About a Simple Act of Kindness by Kerascoet (2018)

Wordless. All it takes is one brave and kind child to show others how to behave and include someone who has been bullied.

Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal (2018)

Wondering why she has so many names, Alma learns about her ancestors.

Not All Heroes Wear Capes by Jennifer Moore-Mallinos (2019)

Looks at the ways we can be kind and help and shows people in our community at work. Themes of volunteering, helping, and building community.

Say Something! by Peter H. Reynolds (2019)

You can make a difference! Themes of action, injustice, multiculturalism, and speaking up.

It Feels Good to Be Yourself: A Book About Gender Identity by Theresa Thorn, Noah Grigni (Illustrator) (2019)

A wonderfully inclusive and important look at gender identity. I love this book.

Under My Hijab by Hena Khan, Aaliya Jaleel (Illustrator) (2019)

A little girl observes the different way women wear their hijab and their hair.

Home Is a Window by Stephanie Ledyard, Chris Sasaki (Illustrator) (2019)

A great story about family, home, and dealing with change.

The Buddy Bench by Patty Brozo, Mike Deas (Illustrator) (2019)

A class builds a buddy bench where classmates can wait to be invited to play. Themes of inclusivity, friendship, and loneliness.

Does your school have a buddy bench? Mine does!

Cindy Crushes Programming: Fairy Tale Hairbows

Hair bows are popular with the tween sensation JoJo Siwa leading the way. A lot of my teens love fairy tales and with Frozen II about to be released I decided to combine the two.

Supplies:

I used a smaller ribbon like a 2.5cm. Then I tried bigger ribbons, but because I made them by hand it was easier with small ones. I used gold ribbon for Beauty and the Beast, mermaid scales ribbon for The Little Mermaid, and light blue for Cinderella.

Flat Alligator Hair Clips with Teeth

Accent buttons

Hot glue gun and sticks.

This video helped me a lot. Watch the video.

Step One: Cut the ribbon. I used about 2 feet of ribbon in each bow. It really depends on the type of ribbon. I used mermaid scales ribbon and it was thicker so it needed to be longer than a thinner ribbon.

Step Two: Wrap the ribbon around your forefinger and middle finger two times so you have two loops, but you have to keep your fingers spread apart. The hanging part of the ribbon will be the one length of one side of the ribbon. You have to make sure it is not too short. I will say this hurt my fingers a little. I have tiny fingers and I think people with longer fingers would have an easier go.

Step Three: Once you wrap it around your fingers two times the part of ribbon you are wrapping should be at the button. You will wrap it behind the two loops and thread it through the part nearest the hand. This will make a temporary third loop.

Step  Four: You then bring the ribbon around and thread it through the new third loop. You will need the part of the ribbon you are threading through on the side of the fingers that are facing you.

Step Five: Tighten the ribbon with the side you have been wrapping through. Do not use the dangling part from the beginning because that will unravel the whole ribbon.

Step Six: Slowly and carefully push the ribbon up your fingers to take it off. This is a difficult because if you take it off too fast it might unravel. I lost a few example bows when doing this too quickly.

Step Seven: Pull the bows apart and fluff them up.

Step Eight: Trim the ribbon with scissors. Fold the end of the ribbon in half and cut it diagonally. Watch to make sure you keep it even on both ends of the ribbon.

Step Nine: Attach the Flat Alligator Hair Clips with Teeth to the back of the bow. I used a hot glue gun, but this is a slow step and be careful not to use too much glue to make your bow to look cute.

Step Ten: Accent button: I used a rose button for Beauty and the Beast, but I cut off the back of the button before I hot glued it. For The Little Mermaid I used a seashell button.

Final Thoughts: This craft is for a smaller group. I had to help a lot of my teens with their first one. I showed the video to the group to help them visualize how to make the bows. I really liked it and had a large group. The perfect group size would have been 15 instead of 20.

Sick Kids in Love: A Look at Chronic Illness in the Life of Teens

Approximately 20 million kids and teens are living with a chronic illness. Roughly 40% of the population is living with a chronic illness. A chronic illness can last anywhere from 3 months to a lifetime and includes things like mental illness, diabetes, cerebral palsy, asthma, epilepsy and rheumatoid arthritis, just to name a few. They can be mildly uncomfortable and inconveniencing to incredibly painful and radically life changing. They can be both seen or unseen, meaning that many kids and teens are suffering and we may not ever know it because they don’t talk to us about it.

Adolescence and Chronic Illness

Sick Kids in Love is the story of two teens living with chronic illness and falling in love. Unlike the popular cancer stories of the early 2000s – I’m looking at you John Green – these kids don’t die. But they are living their lives with chronic illness, one is visible and the other is invisible. Isabel has Rheumatoid Arthritis and Sasha has Gaucher Disease. This sets up some interesting dynamics because although both teens clearly suffer from chronic illness, how they are treated and talked to and about are very different.

As the two fall in love, they are met with the every day challenges of normal adolescence compounded by the reality of living with chronic illness. They don’t just meet and fall in love, they have to learn how to be in a relationship together, something that a lot of YA lit doesn’t actually dive into that fully.

This book is moving, touching, and although the main characters may not die in the end, they will often still manage to make you ugly cry. It’s a huge step forward in disability representation in YA lit and highly recommended.

Publisher’s Book Description:

Isabel has one rule: no dating.
It’s easier–
It’s safer–
It’s better–
–for the other person.
She’s got issues. She’s got secrets. She’s got rheumatoid arthritis.
But then she meets another sick kid.
He’s got a chronic illness Isabel’s never heard of, something she can’t even pronounce. He understands what it means to be sick. He understands her more than her healthy friends. He understands her more than her own father who’s a doctor.
He’s gorgeous, fun, and foul-mouthed. And totally into her.
Isabel has one rule: no dating.
It’s complicated–
It’s dangerous–
It’s never felt better–
–to consider breaking that rule for him. 

Library Events That Bring Stories to Life, a guest post by L M Preston

When I was young, I would spend hours in the library. Although, I loved reading, story time, interactive events and recreations of stories were some of my best memories. As an author, I’ve created those events at various libraries. Kids love hands on, and becoming one with stories. To bring stories to life within the library doesn’t take a lot of effort. It takes imagination. Kids are open and eager to make believe, and the libraries are the best places for them to experience new stories, new places and many adventures.

Some events I’ve run that were great successes as an author can be used at libraries, done on websites, with parents, or created as a challenge.

Dungeons And Dragons Adventure Based On Author’s Book

As an author, I’ve created D&D like experience for readers at libraries that model my stories. These have been fun events that can take on a life of their own. Kids hate leaving these events early and have tons of enjoyment by getting into their characters and experiencing adventures within a story. We start with a video book trailer of the book. Then each participant is given a character with different characteristics. The author or ‘dungeon master (reader)’ creates the scene, acts as narrator to the story and leads characters into key points of their ‘quest’. It can go on for hours and even be a theme for the month.

Living Stories

To create a living stories event in a library, creating a theme based around a popular story can gain participation even from the teenage readers. Have readers vote on a book, or base it off the book club selection of a book. Once the book of choice is chosen invite kids to do art projects to create a scene from the book and even have a prop building contest. Create areas through the library that mimic a scene in the book, encourage the child to read in the area, dress up as a character, then lead to an art or interactive activity.

Story Scavenger Hunts

Everyone loves a good scavenger hunt. Creating an adventure with clues to books from different authors is an amazing way to introduce young visitors to the library to new books. Having a monthly scavenger hunt to find and reveal new books, coming titles, or newly acquired books to the library is a way to get readers excited early. Having a consistent monthly event builds readers anticipation. It can even be part of the building up to a book club.

Library Camp Out

Camping, smores, ghost stories are ways to kick off a library day camp out. Kids can come with their blankets, camp snacks and check out their favorite book. A room in the library can be decorated like an enchanted forest, a space station, a desert camp grounds or more. Readers can be invited to pick a book with the camp location them and read away in their own camp spot. Smores, treats, and prizes can be given to the camper that retells the best stories based on what they’ve read.

Story Reenactment

Story reenactments can allow kids to further immerse and enjoy stories. Having a reenactment doesn’t mean the kids have to had read the stories. Small and short scenes can be replayed by the kids or the librarian. There can even be areas in the library that scenes from books in that section can be acted out. For the savvy library, having videos strategical placed can lead the reader on a library adventure where they can participate in the fun.

As an author, and a kid at heart, finding enjoyable ways to tell stories captures kids and adult interest alike. Taking events, activities that people love, and bringing that to the library continues to make the library the most adventurous place a reader can go.

By: LM Preston, fiction and non-fiction author, www.lmpreston.com and www.empoweredsteps.com, Twitter: LM_Preston, Blog: www.lmpreston.blogspot.com and http://homeschoolandwork.blogspot.com

L.M. Preston, a native of Washington, DC. An avid reader, she loved to create poetry and short-stories as a young girl. She is an author, an engineer, a professor, a mother and a wife. She writes Young Adult fiction and inspirational non-fiction books. Her passion for writing and helping others to see their potential through her stories and encouragement has been her life’s greatest adventures.She loves to write while on the porch watching her kids play or when she is traveling, which is another passion that encouraged her writing.