Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Book Review: Waiting by Carol Lynch Williams

When people think about faith, they usually think “Christian fiction” or “Inspirational fiction”.  I happen to both be a Christian and to hate Christian fiction.  I know that seems like a controversial statement, but on the whole it tends to focus so much on being Christian that it loses its focus on good writing, story, and character development.  So I am always excited to read a ya novel that handles faith with depth and grace, which is part of the reason why I love Waiting by Carol Lynch Williams.

Back cover blurb: When the best part of a family dies, everyone falls apart . . .
First lines: After it happened no one in school would talk to me.  No one.

London comes from a family of missionaries.  She has grown up in Africa and Latin America with her parents and brother, Zach.  The two of them were incredibly close.  But now he is gone. And everything is falling apart.

Waiting is a tale of healing.  Of families that fall apart and can’t find a way back to each other.  Of guilt and blame.  Of losing your faith and finding it again.  Although there are some controversial subjects presented here, such as teen pregnancy and abortion, it is told with an eye towards hope and redemption.  Williams realizes that faith isn’t something other in one’s life, but something that weaves through all parts of it – even when we aren’t sure what we believe anymore.  So here we have a haunting, beautiful look at teens trying to incorporate a spiritual life in a real world touched by tragedy.

Waiting is a beautiful story told in haunting and beautiful poetry.  Carol Lynch Williams is the PEN American Foundation Physllis Reynolds Naylor Award for her previous novel Glimpse.  This is one of the few books that have made me cry.  I give it 5 out of 5 stars and highly recommend it.

Wild Child Conference Key Note Speaker 2011: The Power of Presence

Every year in September in Marion, Ohio there is a conference known as The Wild Child Conference. The goal of this conference is to keep educators and organizations that work with teens in the know about teen life, culture, and the topics that impact their lives. For the third year in a row, I have the honor of being a part of the board of the Wild Child Conference. The 2011 WCC looked at addiction in the lives of teens.  Here, keynote speaker Annette Franks talks in basic terms about addiction.  To be honest, she spoke quickly and I didn’t get a lot of good notes.  But I really liked what she said about the power of presence and hope that is highlighted below.

Information for the 2012 Wild Child Conference

Intro questions:
How many of you grew up living on over an acre?
How many of you live on over an acre of land now?
How many of you turn off your cell phones when you are with your family?

In some ways things are the same, but we can’t deny that life for today’s teen has changed dramatically.  We – the adults in their lives – are overworked and plugged in.  We need to unplug and practice the power of presence.

If people are going to understand addiction, people need to understand what it looks like.
Addiction is the most treatable yet untreated disease in our country.  Treatment is not enough, we plop the kids back into a culture that encourages people to find a sense of wholeness outside of oneself. Our culture encourages addiction. We must change our culture.

Key problem: Searching for wholeness outside of our self.
Kids must learn to be present with them self. They must learn to love self, what it is like to be seen, heard, and valued. We need to be better role models for our children/teens.

We have power in our presence. If we are taking care of ourselves and radiating joy and look children in the eye, they will feel something – that feeling awakens their inner seed.  When a teen comes to you, they are opening a door.  Put down what you are doing, face them, look them in the eye and really listen.

Interesting facts about the U.S.: We have the highest rates of addiction, mental illness, divorce and suicide. We work the longest # of hours and have the fewest number of days off. We are racing . . . but to what? How do we define success in our culture: money, possessions, how you look, name brands.

We have lost touch with our rhythmns of nature. We have lost touch with ourselves.
Substance abuse costs $484 billion a year. Diabetes costs $150 billion a year. Cancer costs $275 billion a year. It’s not just in the substances: it’s in our thinking and behavior.

When you use name brand stuff: YOU are paying to do their advertising. Real success=do you love who you are, do you love what you are doing, do you love your family, do you feel grateful? We have to get back to that!

If we want our teens to recover, we have to be living different as a culture. The thinking of what is really important: Present with our self, present with our loved ones, and we have enough energy to smile and listen. The things that are going to help are kids get sober and stay sober are free.  The greatest gift you can the teens in your life is the Power of Presence.

Friday Fill-Ins: My last summer read

Shhh! Don’t tell anyone, but summer is coming to an end soon.  The school supplies are out in the stores.  I know, I didn’t want to see them either.  So here’s today’s Friday Fill-In.

Given that summer reading is drawing to a close, the ONE book I want to make sure I read before it is back to school time again is ________________________ by ___________________.

TPIB: Meme ALL the Shirts! (Heather Booth)

Though I’m no technophobe, I’m not what you would call an early adopter. So involving technology in my teen programing isn’t always (ever?) the first thing that springs to mind when I sit down to plan my next session. This TPIB is for people like me, who want to bring some of the basic STEM elements into their teen programs, but aren’t sure where to start and have a core group of teens who enjoy a hands-on project. It works with a wide range of ages and interest, and is equally great with guys or girls.

Cost: Approximately $1/person if teens bring their own shirts, Approximately $5/person if the library supplies them

Time: 30 minutes minimum

Consumable Supplies:
Iron-on Transfer Paper for Inkjet Printers (Available at craft or computer stores, and currently on sale at www.dharmatrading.com in fun styles. We used the glitter variety for extra fun!)
T-shirts (Hobby Lobby offers clothing blanks at very reasonable prices. The plain white Ts I supplied were $4 each)

Reusable Supplies:
Computer and Internet access
Inkjet Printer
Pillowcase or towel

The short story:
Memes can be easily created by using a number of online meme generator sites. These images can then be reversed using simple photo editing software, then printed onto inkjet transfer paper and ironed on to t-shirts.

The details:
Whether or not you’ve made them or used them, chances are you’ve seen them. The prevalence of easy online meme creators like www.memegenerator.net and the Keep Calm-o-matic www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk, makes it easy enough for even very young teens to find and modify popular memes, or upload their own photos and manipulate them. We all know that teens are not just consumers of technology and digital culture, but creators and curators as well. This is one way to foster this in a lighthearted manner. You can give teens some suggestions of memes to consider using in case they are new to the game or just needed a starting place. Given the snarky nature of much meme culture, I pointed them toward some that generally yield fairly “parent friendly” results:

All The Things: http://memegenerator.net/all-the-things
Keep Calm: http://www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk/
I can haz cat: http://memegenerator.net/I-Can-Haz
Condescending Willy Wonka: http://memegenerator.net/Willywonka
Success Kid: http://www.quickmeme.com/Success-Kid/
Conspiracy Keanu: http://memegenerator.net/Conspiracy-Keanu
Y U No: http://memegenerator.net/Y-U-No
First World Problems: http://www.quickmeme.com/First-World-Problems/

I gave my teens the initial caution that their parents were going to ask to see what they made at the library, and that I wouldn’t print anything with curse words, anything that was derogatory, or any personal attacks and then let them have at it. My library doesn’t have a computer lab, but we do have two laptops, which I set up in the meeting room. I also brought in any and all laptops I could borrow for the day. Macs are especially helpful here, since a Guest Account can be easily created, protecting the content on the owner’s machine. With six computers and thirteen participants, the teens worked with friends and sat together, which was great – it’s how they usually use our computers, and it contributed to an atmosphere of helpfulness and collaboration.

The trick to printing transfer images is that the image needs to be reversed as a mirror image in order for it to read correctly on the t-shirt. I created step-by-step directions for how to save an image and then manipulate it and save it again, both for Mac and PC (we had both in the room). Some teens were able to do this without any trouble at all; others needed some help. The beauty of this phase was that a lot of the help they got was from one another!

Then the logjam occurred. We had only one printer, and boy was it working hard to crank out those ink-laden images. During this down-time, some teens browsed for books, others hung out in the room and dished about One Direction, and some continued creating more memes and compiling images into their own unique t-shirt designs. The ironing was simple, and with two stations, this part went much quicker.

By the end of the evening as the teens finished up and went on their way, we’d used all of the transfer paper, made several extra shirts, and thanks to the casual nature of the program in its final hour (what was slotted for 1.5 hours lasted 3 for some eager t-shirt designers!), I had the go-ahead to do a duplicate of this program, a few other program ideas, and what just might be a new core Teen Library Advisory Board.

We used memes as a starting point for creativity, but you could begin anywhere – and your teens certainly will take you there if you let them.

Some ideas:
Host a wearable photo contest
Create “Who I Am” word clouds (Wordle, Tagxedo)
Use the wearable art to promote a ballot initiative or in conjunction with a library fundraiser
Use glow-in-the-dark transfers to liven up a night program or lock-in
Incorporate the covers of favorite books for a peer booktalking or “ask me about” program
Tie it into a book themed movie release party – see the Hunger Game examples in the links above for ideas

Heather Booth is a regular TLT contributor and she talks about this program at The Doings Western Springs.  You can see Darren McRoy of the Western Springs Patch talk about the program here.

Karen would like to add, this is another great way to get teens involved in the Teen Read Week Art Contest: It Came from a Book.  They could make memes, t-shirts or even memeshirts!

How might you do this program at your library? Please share in the comments!

Book Review: Zom-B by Darren Shan

“A boy staggers into the gym. He’s bleeding. Terrified. Moaning. He falls and I see that a chunk has been cut-bitten-out of the back of his neck.  Blood spurts from the wound. As we gape, more kids spill into the gym. All screaming. Some bleeding. Everyone in shock.” (Back cover of Zom-B)

Zom-B is the first book in a new 12 part book series coming out by Darren Shan.  Darren Shan is, of course, popular for The Vampire’s Assistant and The Demonata series.  If you are familiar with the works of Shan you know that he writes some pretty twisted horror, and book one in this series is no different.

It starts out with simple news reports: there have been zombie attacks in Ireland.  As B watches the news with dear old dad you can’t help but wonder – can it be true?

Meet B’s dad, a racist with a capital R.  Also a wife beater.  All in all, not an easy person to like.  B is being raised as a racist but struggles against this upbringing.  One of B’s best friends is secretly black, but B is also just as likely to say and do racist things.  It is hard, after all, to escape that type of intense social conditioning from your parents.

A majority of this first book deals with racism, zombies don’t bust on to the scene until the final third of the book except being in the background on the news.  When the zombies attack it is intense and gory and shocking, with some interesting twists.

Since this is the first book of a series that has a lot of set up involved, it is hard to critique it on its own.  At times the racism is extremely heavy handed, and it is of course incredibly disturbing to read.  It is interesting to see B struggle with these two parts of self, but B is not always a likable character – for obvious reasons – so it makes this a much more challenging read.

To be honest, I have never been at such a loss as to what to say about a book.  I didn’t love it, I found it difficult to read, and I don’t know that I want to keep reading the series.  It has the potential to go in some really interesting directions, but I am not sure that this first book sold me on the series and the question I keep asking myself is – why?

1) I really didn’t like the characters.  Of course part of the overall arc of the story may well focus on B’s change in thinking, which has the potential to be an interesting story.  There are some definite elements of the story that indicate that there is hope for B.  And there are some very discussable elements in this story regarding racism.

2) The racism and domestic violence was really heavy handed and disconcerting, although, again, it appears that it will be an important part to the overall arc which we don’t clearly understand so it is hard to judge.  There is some definitely interested set-up with some very shady characters and some unique twists on tradition zombie conventions.

There are a few interesting twists in this book that Darren Shan asks reviewers not to reveal, and I won’t.  There are some amazingly despicable adults, but there are a couple that provide a voice of reason.  In the end, this is the most ambivalent and unsure review I have ever written and I just don’t know what to tell you.  I will mention that a few of the Goodreads reviews give it 3 or 4 stars.  I give it 3 stars.  I do see kids reading this series, especially given the popularity of Darren Shan, zombies, and the need for more horror in our teen collections.

This review refers to an ARC of the book I received at ALA.  Coming in October from Little, Brown (978-0-316-21818-4).

Don’t Miss These Titles! The OMG WHAT JUST HAPPENED Books!

I love a good plot twist.  And I love a good adventure.  But there are few books that really WOW me and take me to a place that I didn’t already see coming.  I guess that is what happens when you read so much…kinda stinks sometimes.  But every once in a while, you’ll get that ending or plot twist that just completely blows your mind.  The following books…consider me mind blown.

False Memory by Dan Krokos was a book that I had heard a lot of hype about and jumped through hoops to get my hands on before pub date.  Miranda wakes up in a mall and has absolutely no idea how she got there or what is going on.  Her memory is completely wiped.  As soon as she panics, she begins to release an energy that puts everyone around her in full out terrified mode.  She has no idea what is going on but she meets someone in the mall who is not shocked and who does know what’s going on.  She’s then led to a group of teens where they all have these abilities that they’ve been trained in for years and they’ve all been genetically altered to be these amazing ninja fighters.  Of course there is a OMG moment in the plot that causes things to speed up and you’re lead toward a very climatic ending for the first book in a series that will be popular with guys and girls alike and a bit of a sci-fi edge to keep things current.  Loved it.  (ISBN: 9781423149767, Release Date: 8/14/12, Disney-Hyperion)

So I finished Burn for Burn in the airport at ALA while I was waiting for my plane and immediately got really ticked off at NetGalley.  I thought, how dare they mess up and not give me the ending to this book!  Well, Vivian and Han give a cliffhanger that is like none other and I believe that when you look up cliffhanger in the dictionary, their smiling faces will be right there.  Three girls with different pasts and sets of friends come together to destroy the lives of the people who have hurt them.  Do not piss these girls off.  It will not end well for you.  This is the first book in the series (now I know this…before, I didn’t) and will leave you completely slack-jawed and just in awe of the magic that they laid out before you.  This isn’t strictly contemporary, there is a tinge of a supernatural element.  Just know that I am terrified of these girls.  (ISBN: 9781442440753, Release Date: 9/18/12, Simon & Schuster)

I picked up this book because I saw that Mark Frost wrote it and I was a huge fan of Twin Peaks.  This may very well be my favorite fall book so far.  Will West has always been told by his parents to live his life completely cautiously because he has a bit of a touch of power, whether intellectual or athletic, Will is pretty much a supernatual powerhouse.  One day, Will trips up and scores off the charts on a nationwide exam and a private institution comes calling for him.  Think X-Men Academy.  All sounds fine and dandy but all of a sudden, Will’s parents don’t seem like his parents and his dad sends him a cryptic message making Will think that something very, very wrong is happening and it’s up to Will to figure it out and stop it.  SO STINKING GOOD…I read this book in a day and was wanting more!  Buy it.  You teens will love you for it.  (ISBN: 9780375870453, Release Date: 9/25/12, Random House Children’s Books)


Let’s talk Access! And why libraries are radically unsafe places, and that’s a good thing!

Access: Noun
1. the ability, right, or permission to approach, enter, speak with, or use; admittance: They have access to the files.

2. the state or quality of being approachable: The house was difficult of access.
3. a way or means of approach: The only access to the house was a rough dirt road. (from dictionary.com)

So you may have noticed the other day I got all ranty about a magazine’s decision to pull a review for the book Pretty Amy by Lisa Burstein.  On the one hand, I concede that they have the right to publish whatever they wish in their magazine, I really and truly do.  On the other hand, I object on the grounds that what they are in fact doing is limiting their readers access to information and the ability to make decisions for themselves.  I’m all about access to information.

Let me tell you a story. At the age of 20 I was majoring in Youth Ministry at Mount Vernon Nazarene College in Ohio.  My life goal was to be a youth pastor.  College, as you may have heard, is expensive and I needed a job.  So I went to the job placement center on campus and they said the local public library was wanting to hire someone to work with teens and since my major was working with teens they thought I would be a good candidate.  I didn’t get the job at first (shame on them!), but a few weeks later they called and said they liked me so much that they decided to hire a second part time person to work with teens.  The rest, as they say, is history.

At this same time I was taking my religion classes and my bible classes and my adolescent development classes and my psychology classes.  One day a professor made a point that would stick with me forever: 80% of all decisions for Christ are made in the teenage years.  If you think about it, this makes sense.  Adolescence, as we know, is when most teens go through the process of trying to figure out what they think, feel, believe and want to be.  It is during the teenage years, primarily, that teens decide to go from being someone who is forced to go to church with their parents to someone who has decided of their own free will to actively embrace and engage in their life of faith.  As in most areas of development, adolescence is a crucial stage.

But what makes someone go from being the person dragged to church to the person who desires to go to church?  I believe that part of our answer is ACCESS.

“A truly great library contains something in it to offend everyone.”
– Jo Godwin
You see, we can’t make decisions without having things to decide from.  You can’t decide you are going to be a Christian (or a Muslim or an Atheist or whatever) without having enough information on all sides of the equation to make an informed personal decision.  I can’t say that I hate the color blue if I have never seen anything that is the color blue.  I don’t have enough information to make a qualified decision.  In the same way, I can’t decide I am going to be a Christian unless I understand what it means to be one.  This is why access to information is so very important.

Free Speech, Free Access

So theoretically, our nation is founded on the principle that all people deserve the right to pursue Life, Liberty and Happiness.  That we have certain fundamental rights, such as free speech and the right to practice our faith of choice.  Again, these rights demand that we also have the right to ACCESS.

That is where your local public library comes in.  We are all about ACCESS.  Our goal is to have a wide variety of materials on our shelves to represent a wide variety of thoughts, opinions, feelings, etc. so that you can make informed personal decisions.  I guarantee you, there is something in every library that will offend you.  But there is also going to be stuff that meets your personal needs.

I mention this because just yesterday someone posted a comment on my Pretty Amy post and they used the words “Free Speech” in quotes.  As if there was something somehow fishy about this concept of free speech. (Please go read our comment exchange here, it is totally and completely a good look at honest civil discourse, which is also important).  This person represents an organization known as Safe Libraries. 

Intellectual freedom is the right to freedom of thought and of expression of thought. As defined by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is a human right. Article 19 states:
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.[1]
The modern concept of intellectual freedom developed out of an opposition to book censorship.[2] It is promoted by several professions and movements. These entities include, among others, librarianship, education, and the Free Software Movement.
(from Wikipedia, I know – for shame.)

So let’s take a moment to talk about “safe libraries”.  Of course we want libraries to be safe places in so far as when you walk into my building, I want you to leave it unharmed in any way.  BUT, I propose that intellectually, libraries are in fact unsafe places and that is a good thing!  You see, I want you to be challenged and grow and be a radical thinker.  Why is this important?  Let’s remember that before we understood that the Sun was the center of the universe we believed that the Earth was.  A radical notion indeed, so radical that Galileo was charged with being a heretic.  Sometimes, radical thoughts are required to help us move forward in our understanding of self and the world we live in.  Without radical thoughts, unsafe thinking, we would not have scientific progress, personal growth, and those “a-ha” moments that change the course of human history.  We would still be reading off our stone etched tablets by candle light while we rode camels to the marketplace and did our personal business in a hole in the ground.  See, radical thinking is good!

So How do You Make the Library a Safe Place?

So yes, libraries are in fact intellectually unsafe places – as well they should be.  BUT, every library everywhere believes that parents have the right to help guide their children in using the library.  In fact, we highly encourage you to do so.  Whether it be buying products, consuming media, or navigating the stacks in the library – it is the parents role to help make sure that their children are engaging in the things you want them to.  Look, you really don’t want me parenting your child, I promise you.  I woke up this morning and watched the “alien dinosaur from space” movie (Godzilla) with my 3-year-old.  If it has sharks or dinosaurs in it, we’re in.  Some people would object to that.  See, you don’t want me parenting your child.

So here is how I discuss materials selection with parents so that you can make the library a safe place for your family according to your personal standards, which are probably not my own (remember, dinosaurs and sharks!) . . .

1.  Actively use the library with your child/teenager.

2.  Discuss your families personal boundaries so your child/teenager clearly understands your household rules.

3.  When selecting materials, look at the age of the characters in the book.  This will give you some indication as to the type of situations that will be covered, the language used, etc.

4.  Read the back cover and inside jacket information for more clues.  On the title page there is often CIP information that will tell you major subject headings.  This is often found in the catalog as well.

CIP information for I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga
See the subject heading serial murderers? That’s a clue.
5.  Still not sure?  Read reviews from multiple sources.  I recommend more than one source because sex or language may not phase one reviewer so they won’t mention it but another reviewer may.  Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Goodreads all post multiple reviews of titles.

6.  Talk to your librarian.  This one is tricky because the truth is, I don’t read every book that gets placed on my shelves.  It is physically impossible for me to do so.  I do read reviews, but again, different reviewers focus on different elements.  And even if I have read the book, you and I may have personal differences about what is acceptable.  If I know a book has sex in it and I’m talking to the parent of a teen, I will mention it because some parents have strong feelings about that.  If I am talking to an obviously younger teen and doing some one-on-one RA (reader’s advisory) I go to the younger end of my YA collection.  I tend to think 1) age of characters and 2) if I know it, content.  It is important to remember: we don’t always know the specific content and we don’t always agree on what is acceptable.

Here’s my real, true life story example:  A patron once came in and complained to me about Harry Potter.  This patron was a teacher and was reading the book out loud to her class and she said it had a cuss word in it.  It was probably the second or third book.  I personally had read – and loved – the HP books and had no idea what she was talking about.  I didn’t remember there being any bad words in it.  It just didn’t stand out to me in the same way that it stood out to her.  Because people are different.

7.  Read the book first and decide for yourself if you want your child reading it.

8.  Better yet, read the book with your child/teen and discuss it along the way.  Discuss what parts of the stories you like and those that you don’t, how it fits in with your family’s value system, etc.  I think this last part is really important because the truth is, your teenager is going to school with kids/teens completely different than yours (unless you home school) and they are hearing and seeing things every day that they may need help processing.  This is also important because, theoretically, they will one day enter the larger world, get a job, etc. and they will spend a lot of time with people who are radically different than them.  Reading has the power to help build empathy, to create dialogue, etc.  We can shelter our children to the point that they shatter when they enter the “real world”, or we can give them strong foundations and critical thinking skills to help them live quality adult lives so they can interact with the world in positive, meaningful ways.  That is what ACCESS does.

So here’ my real life parenting example.  You see, I am a parent.  I have 2 little girls.  They are awesome (you’ll have to take my word for it.)  My tween likes to watch iCarly, but I have banned it in my house. Why?  Because it is not okay with me that Sam hits Freddie.  I think physical abuse is physical abuse no matter who is doing it to whom or why.  We don’t get to hit people.  It’s not funny.  It’s not acceptable.  I draw that line in my home.  If Freddie were hitting Sam we all know that women everywhere would be screaming about the violence against women.  Violence is not funny, it is not okay.  So we don’t watch iCarly.  That doesn’t mean that you can’t watch iCarly.  It just means that my kids can’t.  I deny them access because that is my parental right, but you don’t get to deny my children access.

Wait, Let’s Get Back to Access

So let’s go back to Pretty Amy for a moment, shall we?  You see, when that magazine decided not to run a review of Pretty Amy, they were withholding access to information and not allowing their readers to make that decision for themselves.  They deemed the book inappropriate instead of allowing teenage girls and their families everywhere to make that decision for themselves.  Was it within their rights?  Definitely.  It’s just not my favorite decision.

What are your thoughts on access?  And what tools do you suggest to parents/teens to help them navigate the library?

Happy Blogiversary (Pt 2) ! : Stephanie’s Top 10 Posts

I am still very new to Teen Librarian’s Toolbox, but it’s a blog that I’ve followed for quite some time.  In March, Karen was gracious enough to let me join her as part of the TLT Team.  I don’t make pretty pictures for my posts like she does unfortunately, so unless she takes this blog and adds in her pretty pictures…it may look a little sparse! [Karen’s Note: I am so happy to be working with Stephanie, she has a tremendous heart for teens and such knowledge of our field.  And yes, I added pictures for you.]

So, in no order, rhyme, but lots of reason, here are my Top 10 TLT Posts!

I first really started paying closer attention to this blog when #the2012project started up because the concept was awesome and it completely interested me.  I had already been a fan of Karen’s excellent RA posters but this involved the teens.  It gave them ownership.  And to me, this is one of the strongest ways that we can give a voice that teens are in the library reading or hanging out all the time.  It’s a great advocacy campaign.  If you have not yet participated, there’s still plenty of time left!

Building the Stacks

I absolutely love this post because Karen hit the nail right on the head for those of us who work with tiny book budgets and an administration that wants numbers but doesn’t understand the investment.   And what I really love was that she didn’t stop with library administration but she talked to publishers and authors.  It was a perfect advocate piece and I loved every bit of it.

The ABCs of Hyperemesis Gravidarum

It’s something to hear about a disease online or on the news.  It’s another thing to hear about what it did to someone who is your friend.  As Karen educated me through her pain and her loss, I learned so much about her strength and her resilience as a woman. And it made me super thankful that she had a platform, such as Teen Librarian’s Toolbox, to help spread awareness of this disease.  Her story is heartbreaking but she is such a beautiful person because of it and because of all she does to increase awareness.

Thirteen Reasons Why: Teens & Suicide

This is one of my favorite books of all time and so it comes as no surprise to me that I love this post so much.  I live in an area of Louisiana where we have the highest rate of teen suicide in the state and I think that this book carries so much importance and that people need not overlook the message that Jay Asher was putting forward.  I actually used this book in my Adults Read YA Book Club and when we had our joint meeting of teens and adults, one of the best comments I heard was that the most gutting part of the book for my adult reader was not the suicide but the last person on the tape.  And that it taught her to always listen and take time for teens.  Powerful messages.

Q&A: Meet the 2012 Printz Award Winner, John Corey Whaley

This guy had to make it in there somehow.  I won’t continue to sing his praises because I’ve done so in many posts.  I was glad to be able to introduce someone that I believe in and that I care about as a friend to you guys.

Book Review: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

This is, so far, one of my favorite books ever written.  Ever.  Of all time.  And being able to review it, in my small way, was my passing along of this tale to the readers.  Choose kindness.  It’s a message that resounds with all ages and the story will stick with you long after you’ve finished.  August, you’ve stolen my heart.

What if Amy Wasn’t Pretty: A Tale of Censorship

Again, Karen worked her word magic (she’s so much better at that than me) and told the story of how some books are affected by censorship and why they shouldn’t be.  This is a newer post and still a hot commented topic so if you haven’t read it yet, check it out now and leave your thoughts with us.

Please Ignore Vera Dietz (guest post by Jenny Torres Sanchez)

I loved how Jenny was right on target with my own thoughts and feelings towards making sure teens find connections with books.  A.S. King is a perfect example of Why YA is completely relevant and Jenny’s novel, The Downside of Being Charlie, is another perfect example.  Teens HAVE to find a connect in literature and some of the more pretentious or classic lit, while very important to study and understand, does not do that for most teens.  

Dear Teen Me, with love from Stephie Jo

 This post made me reflect on so much about myself and my journey into adulthood.  No one will understand how much this post meant other than me but it was very cathartic to write and I think that every single person reading this blog should take five minutes and think about what you would tell your teen self.  Did you make it?  Are you stronger?  Or did you give up your hopes and dreams?  What did you become.

Racial Stereotyping in YA Lit

Who is reading Sarah Dessen? It might surprise you!

Race topics are a HUGE deal for me and this was one of my favorite posts because it allowed me to ‘preach’ on my platform.  I have issues with racial stereotyping and not just with the books that are out there but even with myself as a librarian and in making sure I am not stereotyping my teens.  I’m always very reflective and this post was one that I really got to share my heart with you guys.

And there you have it folks, my top 10 posts.

Wild Child Conference 2011: Asset Building

Every year in September in Marion, Ohio there is a conference known as The Wild Child Conference. The goal of this conference is to keep educators and organizations that work with teens in the know about teen life, culture, and the topics that impact their lives. For the third year in a row, I have the honor of being a part of the board of the Wild Child Conference. The 2011 WCC looked at addiction in the lives of teens.  Here, Jodi Galloway, a licensed social worker and coordinator for the local anti-drug education program, discusses how she uses the 40 Developmental Assets as a means of empowering teens and decreasing at risk behavior.

Information about the 2012 Wild Child Conference

Jodi Galloway, licensed social worker, uses the 40 Developmental Assets from the Search Institute to build assets and help curb risk seeking behavior http://www.search-institute.org/assets (introduced in 1989, started out as 30 assets now 40)


The 40 Assets is a model of PREVENTION
What kids are doing well in life? What do they have that is making them be successful?


We need to hear about teenagers doing good! We hear about bad teenagers. We need to hear about the ones who are doing well – there are more doing well than not.


Adults have to remember what it was like to be an adolescent. Things are very different, but they are the same.


Ways Asset Building is different

  • Problem centered approach vs Asset building approach
  • Grounded in research and proven in programming
  • The more assets a teen has, the less likely they are to engage in risky behaviors
  • The more assets a teen has, the more likely they are to be engaged in positive behaviors


Internal and External Assets
External – community around them including family and school
Internal – inside self


Complete list of 40 assets http://www.search-institute.org/content/40-developmental-assets-adolescents-ages-12-18


Look at your community: Is every headline in the newspaper focusing on teens doing negative behaviors?  It isn’t just about having something for them, but about them giving back.

Empowerment is that sense of feeling valued and important

Empowerment includes: 

1) Boundaries and Expectations – Family, School, Community
“Our school has a dress code but nobody enforces it”

Kids need positive role models and high expectations


2) Constructive use of time: libraries can help with this
Creative activities, programs, reading (but they still need hang out time)


3) Commitment to learning
They must be motivated to do well. Not all kids work well in school, it can be a different type of environment.


4) Positive Values
Teens need to see positive values being lived out so that they can internalize them and incorporate them into how they live their life.


5) Social Competencies
Isolated teens are less likely to do well.


6) Positive identity
How teens view themselves, the world, and their place in the world; have a sense of purpose

You can help teens be empowered by being an asset focused individual, organization and community – and by engagin in daily asset building activities.

Daily Asset Building Activities:

  • Smile at young people
  • Ask people about themselves and listen
  • Notice when they are doing something right and encourage them to continue
  • Involve youth in leadership and program planning
  • Compliment young people
  • Talk about how to have a positive outlook when life gets difficult
  • Ask young people about their talents and abilities. help them identify and strengthen them.
  • Ask young people to tell you about a good book they’ve read recently.
  • Train volunteers leaders and coaches in asset building.
  • Attend a school function for a young person such as a play performance, game, recital, etc.
  • Discuss how community and world events can influence a person’s outlook of the future.
  • Reward asset-building activities.
  • Sponsor neighborhood activities, get-togethers.
  • Plan parent/teen nights

Where Things Come Back – Blog Tour

For over a year, I have been salivating and talking about this book to every person I know, every teen that comes into the library, and to every librarian or blogger or person who loves teens.  Why?  Because there are some books that you read that create a permanent stamp on your heart.  Corey Whaley’s book did just that for me.

Tomorrow is the official release date for the paperback and I have to say, I was a fan of the original cover art but this paperback?  It’s hot stuff.  I was lucky enough to find a copy in the wild at ALA and had to pose and take a pic with it!

I feel as if things don’t only come back but they also come full circle.  Picture it.  Louisiana Tech University.  2004ish.  I sat down in French class across from this guy.  He was a nice guy, really funny, and adorbs.  A few more classes together and I considered myself acquaintances with this charming guy.  Added each other as friends on FB and then in late 2009, noticed that charming guy is now a YA author.  I thought, “Well isn’t that cool.  I’ll message him because I’m now a YA librarian and I would love to promote his book!”  And so it began and my friendship with Corey is now one that I treasure dearly as he is one of the kindest, most amazing guys that I know and gives THE BEST advice ever.  Crazy how you never know what that kid next to you in class will become one day.  In my case, a rock star Printz Award winning author.  

Because we’ve already interviewed Corey AND he’s written a ‘Why YA?’ post, I thought that I would share with everyone Corey’s speech from the Printz Award Reception at ALA Annual in Anaheim.  This speech moved me and my friend both to tears and I’m surprised you don’t hear us crying in the background.  So, pick up a copy of this book immediately, but first, check out YOUR 2012 Michael L. Printz winner, Mr. John Corey Whaley’s acceptance speech.  It’s good stuff.  #savealibrary