Monday, December 31, 2012

Book Review: Crown of Embers by Rae Carson

I clench my jaw. He won't do as I ask because my input is valuable, or even because I am his queen. He'll only agree to consult me because it will make me feel better?

The general turns to go. "Wait."

He whirls, and it's possible I imagine his flitting look of impatience.

God, what do I say to this man? How can I convey that I am the sovereign and he is not? That even though I come from a foreign land, these are my people?

The Godstone leaps in response to my prayer, and an answer floats to me gently on the afternoon breeze.

Sorrow comes easily to my voice when I say, "I lost so may people I loved in the war with Invierne. We all did. But the only reason we survive to mourn is because our army fought bravely and selflessly. And no one fought harder than my own Royal Guard, who held off the invaders at tremendous cost so I could have time to work the Godstone's magic." I hope he hears what I'm not saying: Yes, General, we won the day because of me, remember? "I'll not see them doubted or disrespected. In fact, I'll defend each on of them with my dying breath if I must, as they defended me. Am I clear?"

Teen Librarian Confession: I'm done with confessions

The library world, at least the teen portion of it, seems to go through waves of guilty confessions.  We hear things like...
  • I never watched Buffy 
  • I don't really like John Green's books
  • I never finished The Book Thief, To Kill a Mockingbird, Jane Eyre, Harry Potter, The Outsiders...
  • I only read what I have to
  • I don't have tattoos
  • I never dyed my hair
  • I hate video games
  • I think the music most teens listen to is stupid
  • I don't Facebook/Twitter/Instagram
  • I don't read series
  • I don't blog
  • I don't get manga

And it does feel good to get these things off our chests, but to what end? Are we hoping that someone will finally give us the piece of the puzzle that we've been missing that will help us enjoy what we haven't enjoyed, finish what we started, or be who we don't think we are?  Is this the librarian version of a humble-brag, proving that we don't just go along with the trends, anti-trend as they may be, but instead are truly blazing our own path into libraryland?

This isn't coming from a place of frustration or an attempt at a humbler humble brag.  I'm far from the ideal teen services librarian.  But that's the thing -- we all are, because there's no way we can all be everything to everyone.  There's no way we can be as enthusiastic about the things we innately love, or as passionate about the things that have been a part of our lives since our own youth, or as well versed about the aspects we have studied voraciously as we are about the things we don't care for, just learned about, or have never studied.  It's just. not. possible.  And that's ok.  That's actually better than ok.  Because when teen see that we can geek out about stuff, they see we're human.  When they see us comfortable in our own skin, they see that we can be role models.   When they see us reflect on something we've loved forever when we try to relate to them about something they just found out about, they can see that the experience that they're having might just be a transformative one for them; just like it was for us.


Friday, December 28, 2012

A few of Karen's favorite things . . .

Christmas is over so I won't bore you with my witty intro that makes the song get stuck in your brain (mmmm . . . brains!)  No, I'll just dive right into it.  These are my favorite things.

Collection Development Tools: Netgalley/Edelweiss

I work at a smaller library now, and run a blog, so I really use a lot of Advance Reader's Copies (ARCs, or galleys if you prefer).  You can find them here (if the publishers approve you, and sometimes they don't, which sometimes takes me back to the feeling in middle school I had when everyone picked me last to be on their kickball team.  To be fair, I did really stink at kickball.)  Anyhow, you request and ARC, if you get approved it sends it to your e-reader, and viola - books.  To date, I have bought every book I have read and loved via an ARC.  With a smaller budget, I like knowing that my teens are going to read it when I spend that money.  And as a bonus, I am better prepared when the new books come in to make recommendations, put together displays, and market, market, market because I have read the book.


Emergency Craft Supply Must Have: Duct Tape

It comes in so many glorious colors and patterns. You can do so much fun stuff with it.  They have written whole books about it.  Whether you are doing ductagami or simply decorating notebooks and folders with it, I gotta have some on hand.

Proof That I Can't Get Rid of Anything: Discarded Magazines

It should come as no surprise to you that I love words. Truly.  And you can do so many fun things with discarded magazines including decoupage, make your own magnetic poetry, marble magnets, guitar pick jewelry.  Sometimes, I will even just be talking to a teen who is a huge Twilight fan and I will go back in my office and get a discarded Seventeen out of my stash and give it to them - I am a hero!! I love being a hero.

Make Your Own Magnetic Poetry Kits

Social Media Addiction: Twitter

Twitter has a seriously rich book community - authors, publishers, librarians, book bloggers.  I am there every day and every day I learn about new books, share book/library love with my peers, and learn about new tech and teen trends.

Don't Underestimate the Value of Twitter

It's Absence Makes Me Ragey: ISBN Numbers

It brings me great joy when publisher ads and book reviews include ISBN numbers.  Yes, I am perfectly capable of going and looking them up.  But you know, it's super nice when I don't have to and I can just enter the ISBN number into my jobber and a title to my cart.  If I am using an online source, I can simply cut and paste it.  I will love you all hardcore if we can make it a point to add ISBN numbers with our book info.  And I will wholeheartedly admit that we do not always do that here at TLT.  Let's make it our New Year's Resolution to embrace the ISBN number.  Pinky swear.

An ode to the ISBN number:
You make my life so easy
When I don't see you I get queasy
It's true that I can go hunt you down
But seeing you turns smile from frown

Great books, now let me go look up the ISBN number
Yay- great books AND I don't have to go look up the ISBN number
Best. Ad. Ever.

Most Benefit for Your Buck: Teen Volunteers

They rock! It seems like I shouldn't have to say more than that.  But I guess I will.  I get to serve teens by helping them serve their community: win-win.  Plus, I get to spend time with them one-on-one and talk about things, if I am lucky that thing=books.

Can't Live Without: VOYA and SLJ

I am not going to lie, I don't really use these for the book reviews because the jobber we use has all the journal reviews in one place for me.  Okay, so I am still using their book reviews, just not in the traditional way.  I do, however, love these resources because of the following: Booklists, Programming Articles, Author Interviews, etc.  I also love to read the letters to the editor (I am a huge online comment junkie as well.)  Don't forget to visit their online sites as well, lots of additional content.


What Do I Do Next? Post It Notes

Not only can you make art with them, but you can leave yourself little notes and stick them on your computer.  You will not be surprised to know that I find them all over with ISBN numbers written on them.  I leave myself one every day on my computer letting me know what I need to do tomorrow.  Sometimes I leave notes saying, "return Stephanie's e-mail", or "remind Christie to write that review," or "bring back your really overdue library books."  Librarians make the worst library patrons, just saying.

Post It Note Art

My Brain: My iPhone

Yes, it keeps me connected to Twitter.  But our tech at work is old and slow and I send my e-mail to it, use it to do quick searches on the Reference desk when our Internet decides it is trying to lose a race against a snail, and I take pictures. Tons and tons and tons of pictures.  Pictures at programs, pictures of books, random pictures when living my daily life.  You never know when you can turn one of them into an awesome RA poster, which I do often.  I have almost nothing but photography apps and photos on my cell phone. I have been known to pet my phone and call it "pretty".  Also, The Mr. has banned it from the dinner table.

Last But Not Least: You - My Fellow Librarians

I steal some of my best ideas from you guys.  I mean borrow, I borrow some of my best ideas from you guys.  Best program I have ever done? Live Angry Birds courtesy of Heather Booth.  Most fun I had this year? I #mustacheyoutoread which was started by Kearsten at Glendale Public Library.  And who else is going to understand when I say, "when will we be done with the instalovetriangle business?"

So here we are, at the end of the year and these things have made my year rock! And I promise, as my New Year's Resolution, I will never complain about the lack of ISBN numbers on ads again. Pinky swear.  Here's looking forward to a great 2013.  I hope you all will continue to join us next year.  We're all in this together :)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Take 5: Crossing Over Adult Books to Movies in 2013

These days it seems like Hollywood is raiding YA fiction for it's screenplays.  We have Beautiful Creatures, City of Bones, and Ender's Game to look forward to, while every day it seems another news release screams another book has been optioned, sometimes even before the series is complete (*cough* Insurgent *cough*). So I thought that while we're talking crossovers for teens, we could look at some adult books that are making their way onto the big screen that are defiantly going to be attracting teens.

Fav 5 Programs of the Year: Christie's Version

"Don't count every hour in the day; make every hour in the day count."
- unknown

Everyone always has their favorite things that they love to do at work, things that just make your day.  Mine is doing things with the kids, whether it's just sitting down and hanging out or having a formal program.  There's always something going on at my library, and while we have a lot of programs, I thought that I'd share my favorite 5 of the year.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

These are a Few of My Favorite Posts

Karen . . .

Show Me How to Live, guest blogger Eric Devine talks YA Lit to the guys in his class
I love this post for a couple of reasons. 1) TLT can be kind of Estrogen heavy and I always appreciate getting a guys point of view.  2) Eric writes really well and I love what he says here not only about guys, but about zombies.

The Animaniacs Guide to being a Faboo! Young Adult Librarian
Look, I'm not a funny person.  I am very serious.  I can't tell a joke.  I think of a witty comeback hours after the conversation is over.  But it's hard not to be funny when the Animaniacs is playing in the background and a 3-year-old is giggling.  So this one time, I was kinda funny. Please remember it.

Discuss: Is fat the last acceptable prejudice in YA lit?
Okay, I concede that this is cheating, but I have to go with our whole discussion of body image in YA lit.  I was stunned when Christie told me how she felt about Every Day by David Levithan and why - and then it got us both really thinking and talking via posts.

TPIB: Live Angry Birds
Look, this is the best program I have ever done and I owe it all to Heather.

Libraries are the Beating Heart (of communities)
This is why I do what I do.  It is what I believe.  In every way - this.


The ABCs of Hyperemesis Gravidarum
I was so thankful for this post because Karen shared so much information about a disease which I knew nothing about.  I even share this post almost daily with people I know to increase awareness.

Don't Underestimate the Value of 'Hanging Out'
Exactly what it says and so very true!  One of my favorite things to do is not to have a 'program' but to just hang out and get to know my teens!

The Book Review for The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
Love, love, love this book.

But What About? - A Guest Post from Lois Lowry 
Being able to coordinate a week celebrating The Giver was excellent in and of itself but when I was able to network and connect with Lois Lowry?  Best moment of my librarian life.  And I love her post!
Racial Stereotyping in YA Literature
This is always and will probably always be one of my favorite topics to discuss with fellow librarians/media specialists and teens!  

Christie . . .

Discuss: Is fat the last acceptable prejudice in YA lit?
I think this is one of my favorite things we've done on the blog.  We keep getting new comments from people every week who find it, and say, YES, you're saying what I've been thinking! And I think it's really opened us up to being able to talk about things on the blog that might not be the norm...

I'm Just a Girl
While I have the opposite of what most libraries have (an abundance of boys and a smattering of girls for programs and hanging out), there's no denying that there are these messages that are coming through, and the fact that the way YA lit is marketed towards girls and women specifically is something we as teen services specialists need to focus on. What's the message that's getting to our teens?

A Zest For Nonfiction 
I had so much fun working with Zest and finding new books that I didn't know about, and re-discovering ones that I did.  I think they're doing good things, and I'm glad we got to partner with them.

Star Wars Reads Day
Oh, I had such fun with this program this year.  My library got lucky and was an official site, and we got surprised by a local branch of the 501st that came out and interacted with the kids.  SO much fun and excitement! 

We #MustacheYOUtoread at the Library
This has been hysterical.  It started out as a display  done by teens in Glendale, and then Karen started playing around with it and made it our blog holiday card. So I made paper mustaches, and the kids went nuts! They will wear them all day, it makes a really easy display- just print the photos out on a black and white printer on color paper, and tape them up on a door or window or wall.  They love finding themselves, and mine continue to show themselves off to friends and family.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

These Are a Few of My Favorite Reads... The 2012 Christie Edition

Gumdrop on trees and Whiskers on reindeer and....  that's not the lyrics? But, wait, the song is supposed to be from an EASTER movie I've been told (although why the Song of Music is an EASTER movie I've never figured out....) And would Maria and Scarlett have a fight over the drapes if they were ever together?!??!  AHH! (this is what happens when there's too much Christmas music in the air)...

Anyway, here are my favorite reads of 2012....  They are definitely skewed for my tastes, so your mileage may vary.  Are they going to win prizes and accolades and awards?  Some will, some won't, and that's OK.  Some people will be like, YES, and some will be like, REALLY, you liked THAT? And you are all entitled to your opinion. And these are the ones that I've read...  I have a pile of ones to be read that I haven't gotten to yet (Diviners, Smoke and Bone) that have taken a back seat to life and committee work...  *sigh*

Friday, December 21, 2012

These are a few of my favorite reads: the 2012 Karen edition

Raindrops on roses and zombies eating kittens,
Bright copper boys and warm fuzzy kisses,
Page after page, turning with need
These are a few of my favorite reads . . .

MG Reads, approved by my tween
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead
Wonder by R J Palacio
The Cavendish Home for Boys &Girls by Claire Legrand
Whatever After: Fairest of All by Sarah Mlynowski
(the complete top 10 post is here)

Heartwarming Reads
Guitar Notes by Mary Amato
The Sweetest Thing by Christina Mandelski
Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
Wonder by R J Palacio

The Books That Make You Go Hmmm (aka Thoughtful Reads)
Ask the Passengers by A. S. King
Perfect Escape by Jennifer Brown
The Downside of Being Charlie by Jenny Torres Sanchez
The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna
Speechless by Hannah Harrington

Mindbending Reads (aka What the Heck is Happening Here?)
The Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby
Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross
Every Day by David Levithan
BZRK by Michael Grant
Through to You by Emily Hainsworth

Sci Fi Awesomeness
The Future We Left Behind by Mike A. Lancaster
BZRK by Michael Grant
Crewel by Gennifer Albin
Insignia by S J Kincaid
Across the Universe/A Million Suns by Beth Revis

Dystopian Worlds I Wouldn't Want to Live In, But Love to Read About
Delirium/Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver
Starters by Lissa Price
Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin
Unwind/Unwholly by Neal Shusterman

Grrr, Arrr . . . Brains . . . Nom, Nom (Zombie Reads)
Rot & Ruin series by Jonathan Maberry
This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers
Ashes/Shadows by Ilsa J. Bick
Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter

Reality Bites, But These Books Rock
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Pretty Amy by Lisa Burstein
Speechless by Hannah Harrington
Skinny by Donna Cooner

Literary Masterpieces
Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama

Riddle Me This, Batman (Mysteries)
I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga
The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison
Hemlock by Kathleen Peacock

Fantastic Fantasies
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

These Girls Kick Ass
Ashes/Shadows by Ilsa J. Bick
Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa
Stormdancer (The Lots War Book One) by Jay Kristoff

These Guys Do Too
Hold Me Closer, Necromancer/Necromancing the Stone by Lish McBride
Quarantine, book 1: The Loners by Lex Thomas
Tap Out by Eric Devine
Dodger by Terry Pratchett

Books That Can Make Even Me Like History
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
The Diviners by Libba Bray

Pop Spewing Reads (aka Dude, I think I just peed myself aka Book That are Side Splitting Funny)
Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan
A Bad Day for Voodoo by Jeff Strand
The Necromancer series by Lish McBride
Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

Best Road Trips of the Year
In Honor by Jessi Kirby
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

Just Pure Aweseomeness (My top 5 of the Year - today)
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
The Diviners by Libba Bray
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Ask the Passengers by A. S. King
Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

A few of Stephanie's Favorite Things...

I almost hate the title of this post because one of my not so favorite things is the song "My Favorite Things".  So, it's stuck in your head as well.  You're welcome!  Well, 2012 is coming to a close and this year has really shaped me has a professional librarian (I didn't say mature) and as reader in general.  When I think about my favorite things as a librarian, I have such a random smorgasbord of things.  You're in for a real treat.  In no order of are a few of my favorite things!

Okay, I kinda lied about the order of importance.  There is no possible way that I could do my job without a ton of coffee.  I usually drink anywhere from 6-10 cups a day.  I know this isn't healthy is what it is.  At least I stopped when I got pregnant!

I cannot stress enough how much Edelweiss has helped me with collection development.  Some of you who have been with TLT for a while may remember my post which I so lovingly called: Edelweiss, or Crack Cocaine for Librarians/Collection Development People.  Edelweiss in its simplest terms is just a website, originally created for bookstores for purchasing, that collects the publishers catalogs.  Because of this website, you can view catalogs from almost all of the publishers and create your book orders months in advance.  Plus, they have egalleys and a ton of other material to access.  Create an account and get sucked into the happiness of ordering!

Times are a changing and to be quite honest, I'm not sure how you can remain current and not belong to some sort of social media.   While Facebook is good for connecting and keeping in touch with people, Twitter is the best for keeping in touch with what is happening RIGHT NOW.  If not for Twitter, I wouldn't have made at least 60% of the connections that I have today.  I met Karen and TLT through Twitter, several authors who have introduced themselves TO ME (that was fun!), and other professionals in this field who are so passionate about youth services that it is impossible for me to have a down day without being surrounded by my Tweeps.  I have one good friend via Twitter who can instantly make me smile and keeps me going when times get hard.

My Library
My job is the YA Coordinator for a 10 branch library system in North Louisiana called the Ouachita Parish Public Library, recently chosen as one of Library Journal's Star Libraries receiving 5 stars...the first time a library has received that honor in our state.  I'm a little proud.  With 10 branches comes having 9 staff members, all but one being a paraprofessional, who work with YA services in addition to reference.  These nine staffers are some of the hardest working, talented, ambitious staff members in the system, in my opinion.  They make my job so much easier and enjoyable.  We've undergone some staff changes this year and I have 6 newbies who have taken on their jobs within the past year.  It's been tough at times but we finally have a great cohesive group and I love them!  Also, I have a wonderful administration who places a very high emphasis on YA services.  Without my Director and Assistant Director, I'd be completely at a loss.  They provide me with an amazing book budget, programming budget, and rarely tell me no.  It's a wonderful partnership.

KDL What's Next Database
When I first started working at the public library in 2004, my supervisor at the time showed me the KDL What's Next website and I've used it ever since.  That's eight years of longevity for this site and while I am sure there are things out there that may be bigger and better, this is my go-to site when I am looking up series for YA and Adult books.  I use this website on a daily basis and when I am ordering books, the tab stays open at all times.  Keeping up with series at 10 different branches can be tough and without KDL, I couldn't do it!

Duct Tape
I pray that duct tape never really goes away in libraries.  We've been harnessing the power of the tape for a very long time and back when I started duct tape programming, there was only silver.  Now there are a variety of colors, designs, and you can even purchase it in large sheets.  I have a large tote in my supplies filled with tons of duct tape in all different colors.  I have used it all in about 100 different ways.  Some of my favorite ways?  Repairing my leather couch in the YA area after someone poked a hole through it with a pen, making duct tape flip flops for some of my teens who did not have shoes to wear to the library but wanted to be here (true story), marking extension cords for different branches (each one of our branches has an assigned color), and just the programming in general.

I read a lot.  And I like to keep track of what I read and set goals for myself.  One of my most used personal and professional tools is my Goodreads account.  It allows me to not have to remember if I've read that book or not and even to feel super smart when I get closer to my goal of 125 books this year.  I'm at 119 as I write this post.  Hopefully I'll hit it!

Detention Center Outreach
I really like teens in jail.  I love all my teens but there is something about working with incarcerated youth that absolutely brightens my day.  The majority of my teens live in a world that unless you've been there, you can never understand.  I still don't.  Some of them I want to shake and scream at them to just not do certain things but as one of my favorite teen boys (now in jail for attempted murder...yes, murder) told me one day in my office, "Mrs. Stephanie, sometimes it kill or be killed.  Sometimes you try to make the right decisions but the wrong ones can cause members of your family to get hurt.  I try but I have to take care of my family."  Can you imagine being told that?  And let me just say, the boy who told me this is one of the nicest, most well-spoken teen boys that I've ever had the pleasure of working with.  I went to his court cases, I spoke with his parole officer about his behavior in the library and how different it was than on the streets, but in the end, he made a decision that will affect him for the rest of his life.  So, what does this mean for me, the librarian?  I advocate for their continual need to be enriched by literature.  To learn different worldviews and to understand the world that exists outside of our tiny zip code and to also understand that choices bear consequences.  I advocate that they are, despite the gravity of the decisions, still teens.  And I treat them as such but with respect and love.  I talk to them about who THEY ARE AND CAN BECOME not what they did.  Many people disagree with me but I have earned a large amount of respect with my incarcerated teens and many return to visit with me when they get out of jail and bring their moms and grandmothers to meet me.  I know I am making a difference.  I just pray that they can survive each day.

Authors, Agents, Editors, Publishers, Oh My!
Over the past few years, I have extended my professional network outside of just librarians and those working in libraries in YA services.  Why?  Because my relationships with authors, editors, agents, publishers, etc. has been overwhelmingly beneficial to me in my job.  I think that more and more librarians are starting to realize the possibility of networking outside of libraries but it's still mindblowing how many of my sales rep friends or friends in different divisions of publishing companies have absolutely no idea what librarians do and how we operate with our teens.  The relationships I've cultivated and maintained have helped me out, in knowing my books like a rockstar, but have also been mutually beneficial in that I am able to help people understand how we market their books in libraries, what teens like (or don't like), and how we run our services with programming and outreach. 

EarlyWord YA Galley Chat
I love knowing about what is coming out ahead of time and the EarlyWord YA Galley Chat allows me to do just that, compare notes with people around the world, and even snag copies of ARCs from super sweet publishers.  Galley chat has been instrumental in helping me stay ahead of the game on popular trends in YA fiction as well as upcoming ARCs that will make good purchases for my library.  We meet monthly via Twitter on the third Tuesday of each month at 4PM EST. Just follow the hashtag #ewyagc and hang out with us!  (You can even come 30 minutes early for virtual cocktails!)

Well, that's about it for me.  Have a Happy Holiday season, be merry, bah humbug, and Happy Chrismahanukwazakah!


Thursday, December 20, 2012

So You Wanna Be a Superstar? The Book, The Event, The Giveaway

Kids who love the arts often hang out in our libraries.  Chances are when you attend the school musical, you know half the kids on stage and wonder why you have never met the other half.

How can you serve the superstar aspirations of those kids?  Could the library be more than a repository of the scripts and monologue books come audition time? 


There is a new Event Kit connected with the YA book So You Wanna Be a Superstar? The Ultimate Audition Guide (Running Press Kids) that could help you do so. Read more to learn how you can enter to WIN SIGNED COPIES OF SO YOU WANNA BE A SUPERSTAR!

Confessions of a Teen Librarian: Holiday Edition with Christie G

There's been a lot of talk lately in the blogsphere (or maybe I just have been seeing the wrong blogs) about the perceptions and expectations about librarians.  To my mind, there have always been expectations that go with certain aspects of the profession, but that those that work with youth tend to get pigeonholed more than most.

It's like we're all to be cut from the same dough, that teen (and youth) librarians and specialists have to like certain things (*cough* Twilight *cough*), to be uber happy and joyful and sugary sweet.  Like this.  And when you're more like this, it's BAD.  

Hmmm.  I don't think so.  You can't bend your personality into something that it's not meant to be- it's not healthy mentally or physically, and it's definitely not something to model to the youth that we work with on a daily basis.  We all have to put on a public face when dealing with things, but not everyone has an outlet to share them. Whether it's a journal, blog, vlog, screaming at the wall, a best friend, a significant other, a pet- sometimes you just have to let it out.  And it seems like the holidays mean we have to hide most of all.  So....

I'll tell you my holiday secrets if you tell me yours in the comments....

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

On the 12th day of Christmas, my TLT brought to me . . .

The Red Reading Chair

The Red Reading Chair is a blog by school librarian Amianne Bailey.  Amianne has actually written one of my favorite blog posts ever here at TLT: Atticus Was Right, a story about a bully, an Autistic boy and Sharon Draper's Out of My Mind.  I'll never forget the day she told me this story and how we both teared up at how literature can really touch a person and make them somehow different.

Amianne is the school librarian at a K-6 school here in Texas and we sometimes get together and talk about books, of course.  School librarians have to be "on" a lot more than public librarians.  Last Friday Amianne did a Polar Express program where she had classes come into the library ALL DAY LONG in shifts.  When I do a program, it is often only once a day.  But not those school librarians.  And teachers.  They have to be "on" and "performing".  But Amianne is awesome at it, and now she has started a blog to share her lesson plans.

So, I know this is the Teen Librarian Toolbox, but the truth is - a lot of our teens are often Tweens if you define teens in your library as kids in grades 6-12, which a lot of libraries do.  That is how they are usually divided in schools: middle school is grades 6-8 and high school is graded 9-12.  So I am often working with Tweens - and there are some ideas that you can use with them at The Red Reading Chair.

We also talk a lot about using Picture Books with teens, which can be a great idea.  You can do fun things with teens and picture books like do reader's theater, crafts, poetry, and more.  I am going to be doing something in February with this picture book with my teens:

The Red Reading Chair is a great resource by a passionate, creative school librarian - check it out!

Book Review: Altered by Jennifer Rush

When you can’t trust yourself, who can you believe?

The door shut behind him and his footsteps pounded down the steps. I whirled on Nick. "Why did you do that?"
He cracked a knuckle. "You think you have any right to my memories? To my life before this? You don't."
Trev rose behind me. "Anna."
"why do you make me look like the bad guy?  Like I can't keep your secrets or something."
Nick tsked. His expression turned coarse. "Because what if you can't? You're the daughter of the enemy. We never should have brought you in the first place."
I started for him, not that I even knew what I planned to do. Punch him? Gouge out his eyes? A hard dig of the thumbs, don't give in, even if it makes you squirm.
Thankfully, it didn't come to that. Trev stepped between us. Don't, the look on his face said. You're being ridiculous.
I huffed in resignation as Nick cracked another knuckle. The tension felt thick enough to braid. If it weren't for Trev, I was almost certain Nick would have fought me, not even caring that I was a girl.
And that was a fight I would never win.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

On the 11th Day of Christmas, my TLT gave to me . . .

The great Patrick Jones wrote that good librarianship is "a combination of skills, knowledge, and attitude.  The contention here is that YA work is perhaps different from other library work in that without the "right" attitude as a base, the other two traits [skills and knowledge] do not matter as much."

 Brian Herzog's Swiss Army Librarian blog focuses on all three traits, with a healthy dose of humor, and an emphasis on fostering an attitude that translates to good customer service - for teens as well as for other age groups.  His "Reference Question of the Week" feature is one of my favorite blog series.  Since many of us teen services librarians also wear other hats - reference librarian, reader's advisory, administration - it's important to keep tabs on what's going on in those worlds too, and Swiss Army Librarian is a fun and informative way to do so.

A few of Heather's favorite things

Life can be kind of chaotic sometimes - I often say that I went into librarianship so that at least one part of my life would be organized.  As a part time librarian and working mom with plenty of side projects, a lot of my favorite things are ways to make my time more efficient and streamline processes.  What makes my life as a teen librarian easier? 

I use Goodreads to log every book I read.  I used to use this super cute notebook, which I still treasure, but with all of the bouncing around and back and forth of my schedule, using an online log makes more sense.  Everyone has their own way of using GoodReads.  Personally, I review very few books on GoodReads because the bulk of my reading is done for my work as a Booklist reviewer, but I do give stars and put things on shelves when I think it would be handy to help me find them again.  Why log everything?  Oh bless your heart.  I used to have a mind like a steel trap, but that sucker is rusty.  Skimming through the list will usually jog my memory enough to help me find the book I'm looking for and want to suggest to a patron.

My mobile desk

Fancy, right?  Give me a three ring binder and one of these calendars and I'm a happy girl.  In my mobile desk I keep the bare minimum - the stuff I'll use no matter which desk I'm staffing, and at every meeting I go to: a calendar, a running notepad, department head meeting minutes (What's the deadline for spending that per capita grant money?  What's the billing code?), budget overview documents, my cheat sheets for running reports, with plenty of space left over for the current issue of VOYA.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Murder of a Shopping Bag Lady: mental illness in three acts

Like many of you, the events of Friday, December 12th has me thinking and reflecting on the world that we live in.  It also has me thinking about my kids, not just the kids that I have given birth to - but to every kid I have loved along the way as a librarian, because they become a part of your life.  This weekend I have spent a lot of time thinking about mental health and the ways in which we view it in our world today and the ways in which we fail the most vulnerable among us.  These are my thoughts.

Act I
A while ago, during a time of transition in my life, my family and I had the opportunity to stay with another couple.  The man in this story wore a gun on his hip - all. the. time.  We could all be sitting in the living room on the couch and the gun would be there.  At the time, my children were 2 and 8.  It soon became clear that having us around was causing this man to unravel, and the situation escalated, slowly at first and rapidly towards the end.  His behavior became increasingly erratic and disturbing, at times outright threatening. 

At one point, I walked into the living room to see him showing a large hunting knife to my 2 year old. "This is a cool toy," he told my 2-year-old. "I am going to set it right here on this coffee table for you to play with." I grabbed my child and we left the house.  I wrestled with what I had seen, who says those kinds of things to a small child?

As his behavior continued to unravel, he began playing what he thought was a funny joke: he would use the automatic garage door opener to open the garage, pull out his gun, and pretend that someone was breaking in. 

On our final night there, there was an incident involving my children in the bathroom.  They had locked themselves in for privacy, the 2-year-old followed the 8-year-old everywhere, and they became upset that the 2-year-old was in the bathroom - why? what was she doing? The man slammed down the footrest of his chair and bellowed, "I'll get them out of that goddamn bathroom."  At the exact same moment my girls opened the door, I grabbed them, and we fled the house.  I don't know how he intended to get them out of the bathroom, but the environment had grown menacing enough of the last two weeks that I feared him.  The night before I had laid in bed and wondered: if he finally snaps and pulls his gun, do I tell the girls to hide in the closet or try and unlock the front door and flee.  We packed our things and left.

Act II
But, let's take a moment and step into my time machine, shall we?  My sophomore year in high school we were given a reading assignment: we had to check out and read a nonfiction book.  Like most teens, I found my book by browsing the shelves.  It was titled The Murder of a Shopping Bag Lady (by Brian Kates) and it at least sounded interesting.  I mean, it had murder in the title.  It would turn out to be my most profound reading experience ever, one I still think of to this day.

On the 10th day of th day of Blogmas, my TLT gave to me . . .

Your TAB needs to make Mockingjay pins?  You're wondering what to do with six dozen marshmallows, rubber bands, and sharpies because the program budget is spent but you need to squeeze one more event in?  You keep hearing about some new creative... thing but don't know what it is or how it's used?  I like using Makezine for all of these things.  Some of it is crazy over the top amazing, some of it makes me laugh, some of it just helps me think about materials and activities in new ways.   Visit Makezine for maker trendspotting and to discover other creative blogs - they aggregate links from hundreds of other sites and blogs.

TPIB: Turn your Instagram pics into Photobooth bookmarks

You can take any 4 Instagram pictures (or Hipstamatic pictures) and turn them into a bookmark craft with your teens.  Technically, you can do it with any photos as long as you get the measurements right - but Instagram/Hipstamatic are kind enough to have frames built in. 

Think of the things you can do here!
TAB/TAG bookmarks
Teen volunteers in action
Program bookmarks (which you can also import into publicity posters)
Graduation gifts
Mother's/Father's Day Gifts
BFF gifts
"Get Caught Reading" bookmarks
You get the idea.

Put some cool facts on the back and you have a great publicity piece.

So, let's get started . . .

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The day after: resources to help children cope

Last night my 4-year-old slept in bed with me.  Some of the children that died yesterday in Newtown were only a year older than her.  I can't even imagine. The tween had a friend spend the night and the two of them slept on the floor in the living room.  The fell asleep to the tunes of High School Musical 2, completely unaware of the violence that had occurred earlier in the day.  I met them at the bus stop and was surprised that they knew nothing, though grateful.  I decided not to tell them, yet.  Obviously they will find out, but after I had spent the day crying I decided to leave the innocence in place a little while longer.

I remember when the Tween started Kindergarten and she came home and told me how they had to turn off all the lights in the classroom and go hide in the corner.  I asked her why and she replied, "in case a person with a gun comes and tries to kill us."  I was appalled.  When I was in school, we worried about our grades and sometimes bullies.  The only drills we had were fire drills and earthquake drills.  Now our schools have lockdown drills in case a person with a gun comes and the scary truth is, it happens more often than it should.  In fact, it shouldn't happen at all.  Children should wake up in the mornings in a house full of love and go to school with a full belly and be ready to learn in a safe environment, but that doesn't happen as often as it should.

Our world is broken. We are broken.  We are broken people living in a broken world and out of our brokenness, we continue to break the most vulnerable among us.  We need to fix it. 

Unfortunately, we need this information, so here are a variety of resources on how to talk to children about violence.  I share these resources with you now as long as you join me in making this promise: we will work together to help create a world where we need these resources far more less than we need them now.

Federal Occupational Health: Helping children cope with school violence Helping children cope with violence

Newtown, Old Story: This actually has a really good roundup of links so check it out

I turn the page . . .

I turn the page because I need a
However brief and fleeting
To believe that this world can be
That we can join hands
and rise
above the barren landscape
its lips puckering for a single drop
of kindness
to quench its weary soul
Heroes of old
fought valiantly
But where is the valor now?
It can still be found in story
So I turn the page
and wait for the hero
to jump out of the book
and save us all from
And yet I think it is time
for us to write a new story
and become the heroes
before it is too late

Friday, December 14, 2012

Choose love

Our hearts go out to all in this time of tragedy. Be safe. Choose love.

Are you Nobody too? There's a pair of us. (part 2)

On Tuesday I talked about why we as teen librarians need each other.  If you didn't read that post, but are interested in this topic, I suggest you go back and read it now to place this post in context.  Now let's talk about how to make these connections happen.  

There are usually a couple ways we know it's time to look away from what we're doing and make a connection.

Here's one:
My dog demonstrates one way I know that it's time to pay attention to something.
Can you feel that cold wet nose?

Here's another:
(photo credit: danjaeger on Stock.Xchng)
We're pretty used to moving when someone is in our face and demands our attention, or when someone is totally avoiding it.  That teen browsing in the corner who avoided eye contact - you're going to go see if he knows where the new books are, right?  The giggling that you know is bound to end with someone accidentally-on-purpose falling off the chair - you're all over that too.  These are the cues we have to know it's time to engage with our patrons, our work, and other parts of our daily lives.  But engaging with one another tends to be motivated from a different place.  We get lonely.  We get bored.  We get desperate. We need ideas. Now.
We need connections to help ourselves, not to help someone else.

Of course, the flip side of this is that in helping ourselves, we are helping someone else too.

Cover Reveal: Dear Cassie by Lisa Burstein

Earlier this year, I wrote a lot about a girl named Amy.  Amy was, of course, the main character in Pretty Amy, the debut ya novel by Lisa Burstein.  I really liked Pretty Amy and its message, and it became a rallying point for me regarding the notion of censorship.  I have talked with Lisa some back and forth regarding my thoughts and together, we became warriors not only for Amy, but for the fundamental idea behind libraries: the right to read (it's important!).  Lisa Burstein has a new book coming soon, Dear Cassie, and it is my honor to introduce Cassie's story to you (we met Cassie in Pretty Amy).  So, make the drum roll sound in your head . . .
What if the last place you should fall in love is the first place that you do?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Book Review: Struck By Lightning: The Carson Phillips Journal by Chris Colfer

I was very excited when this book came in the library and immediately checked it out!  I am a huge Chris Colfer fan from his work on Glee and with his middle grade/Children's fiction book The Wishing Spell.  Needless to say, if he wrote it/sang it/acted in it/touched it, I want it.

Struck by Lightning is the tale of an outcast high school senior named Carson Phillips, who is desperate to escape his small-town and rush away to college becoming the youngest editor of The New Yorker in history.  However, his classmates are less than enthusiastic about Carson's attempts to start a Journalism Club and it seems that the only members of this club are those who are so close to failing school that this is their one redeeming notch to school administration.

So while Carson is busy trying to write a school newspaper with a team who can barely remember to show up to school, he is also dealing with a depressed alcoholic single mother who seems to constantly berate him, a grandmother whom he loves more than anything who is in a nursing home and suffering from Alzheimer's, and a guidance counselor who instead of pushing him to pursue his academic dreams of attending Northwestern, would rather him apply to the local college so she can get points and freebies like a limited edition drinking cup.

All very melodramatic yet Carson still finds the silver lining on his cloud.  After he receives word that Northwestern really needs more than just an application, like a literary publication or a magazine, Carson decides to start a literary magazine publication on his own using student submitted works.  How does the outcast receive these student submitted works?  Blackmail of course.  Finding out the nasty deeds of every single popular person and teacher of the school leads Carson on an adventure of blackmail to get what he wants.

It has it moments of hilarity and while I personally didn't find this to be one of my favorite works, many misfit high schoolers will definitely identify with the shunning that Carson receives and eagerly cheer him on when he gets his revenge.  Very odd'll have to read that one for yourself!

Have a great day!

On the 9th day of Blogmas, my TLT Gave to Me

So before, I talked about The Goddess of YA, and then two of my favorite craft-spiration sites, Oops, I Craft My Pants and P.S.- I Made This.  Today, I have for you a blog done by NINE (yes, NINE) readers and contributors that covers everything YA.

I share with you, Forever Young Adult.

I found Forever Young Adult and KNEW that I found my tribe.  It was like the first time I found Karen, knew that we were going to hit it off and be awesome.  These people THINK like me, read like me, understand teen culture like me, and if I could just drink like them, we'd be like the Wonder Twins.  Or the Avengers of YA.

They review EVERYTHING that has to do with young adult, from movies to television to music to books.  Fashion and culture, everything is covered.  They watch the shows that I can't (or don't want to) watch, and by reading their recaps I can converse intelligently with my teens.  I can laugh with others of my tribe over the teen movie drinking games.  And when they start a read-along like Little Women (re-capping the classics from new and exciting viewpoints of the characters, like fratboy Laurie), I am a goner- it's how I have to start my work day. Then share it with everyone else. And I love their writing style.  It's concise, and breaks things down beautifully:  see A Highly Scientific Analysis of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and read for yourself.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

TPIB: Extreme Gingerbread Challenge

Sugar + a festive spirit + teens = program success in my book.  This is the third year in a row I've hosted a "Gingerbread Challenge" and though each year plays out a little differently, every program has been a fun one.
How much fun?  THIS much fun!
This can be adapted to run any time of year - you could do haunted houses at Halloween, beach shacks in the summertime, or make it a green home design for Earth Day.  Our library is part of a community wide holiday event, so our program happens just before this event, then those teens who want to do so enter their confection in a contest.  We display the houses and let visitors vote on their favorite.  The winner gets a small gift card donated by a local ice cream shop.

The kids visiting the library LOVED seeing what the "big kids" did.  This is a great way to show your community how valuable, creative, and engaged the teens in your library are. 

Building and decorating gingerbread houses isn't a new or revolutionary idea for a program, but here are some tricks I've learned along the way.

On the Eighth Day of Blogmas, my TLT gave to me

Guys Lit Wire!  I am not of the whole 'guys and girls read different books' mentality but I do like to find books that appeal to my reluctant boy readers and books that have male main characters.  Guys Lit Wire is a site I stumbled across via Twitter one day and fell in love.  Basically, the group of contributors (and according to their page there are a TON), put together book reviews and a few articles about books that appeal to guys.  The plus side?  The books aren't always new!  I find this super refreshing because there are several books that they have reviewed in the past that were a little older but that I had not read or heard about which allowed me the opportunity to showcase older books along with newer books in my displays.

Check it out, laugh because the reviews and labels are brutally honest, and enjoy!


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

I'm nobody! Who are you? Part 1 (Why us teen librarians should talk to one another)

I'm Nobody, who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there's a pair of us!
Don't tell! they'd advertise – you know!
-Emily Dickinson

If you're the only teen librarian in your library, it can be a lonely job.  You plan programs on your own, or with the hopefully enthusiastic, but sometimes grudging or misguided assistance of a TAB, you order and read books that you might not be able to gush about with anyone else you work with.  You serve a population with distinct needs, and you're on your own deciphering what those needs are and how to address them through your service.  Depending on when you're on desk and where that desk is, you may go days without having a really engaging conversation with a teen patron, let alone another colleague who shares your passion and focus.  My library system has recently morphed from a regional system to one that encompasses half the state.  What were once fairly local networking meetings are no longer as convenient - or possible - to attend.

The irony of this is that our job is all about making connections with people, and connecting those people to what they need.

A lot is written and discussed about why and how we can better connect with teens.  But why and how should we connect with one another?

Just like attending a professional conference can give you new ideas and energy, having regular, informal meetings with other teen librarians can do the same.  Why is this important?  Think about your performance after you get home from conference.  Do you try new programs? Order  books you just heard about? Try new approaches at booktalking or reader's advisory? Change your signage? Explore new websites or technology?  YES, of course you do!  Meeting the librarian down the street or three towns over for a sandwich or cup of coffee isn't really the same as attending the YALSA YA Literature Symposium or PLA, but it serves a similar purpose.  It breaks us out of our own way of doing things and allows us to share our knowledge and ideas with each other.  It reminds both of us that while we're doing this alone, we're not really out there all on our own.

Start me up

On the Seventh Day of Blogmas, my TLT gave to me

The Show Me Librarian!  Okay, so I know this is Teen Librarian's Toolbox and the blog I'm 'giving' to you is primarily for children's services BUT those of us working in public libraries 1) sometimes serve both populations, 2) are always looking for good Tween/Teen books and programs, and/or 3) (if you're me...) HATE working with children.  Okay, that's a little much but I really, really don't like working in Children's Services.  There is a reason I don't.  Storytime with me would be a very bad idea.  I can't fake it and I say 'crap' a lot (along with a few other choice words).  That's frowned upon.

Back to The Show Me Librarian...Amy Koester has made me like children.  Or at least the books.  What Amy has done is provide an excellent book review, commentary, and programming site that gives me ideas when I am working with my own son (and future daughter), ideas that I pass along to my Children's librarians, and a ton of programming ideas for my middle grade groups.

Just recently, she did a Spy Club post, which really made me think about modding this idea for my 6-8th graders who would LOVE a program like this.  Other awesome postings are How to Start a Lego Club, her Day in the Life of a Children's Librarian series, and her awesome post about her YA Tab Lock-In that literally made me green with jealousy.

Amy does have a heart for YA as well and posts things for YA savvy librarians but this resource is absolute GOLD for those of you serving all of youth services.  Or for those of you who want to learn to like children.  Wait, maybe that's just me...bah humbug.  (;

Stephanie (I felt the need to sign this post so that the other awesome chicks at TLT don't get a 'Kiddie-Hating' reputation!)

Monday, December 10, 2012

5 Minute Booktalks: NaNoWriMo Edition by Kearsten

Did you, like me, start November with a bright and shiny resolution to write 50,000 words of a novel in thirty days for National Novel Writing Month? If so, I certainly hope you were more successful than my almost 7,000 words. November got too crazy a month for me, and I ended up abandoning my lonely little manuscript after only one week. In an attempt to inspire myself to do better next time, I put together a list of teen books in which writing plays a role - and maybe you'll be inspired to begin a writing journey of your own!

Pemba's Song by Marilyn Nelson and Tonya C. Hegamin.  When Pemba moves to a small town in Connecticut, she's furious with her mother for forcing her to leave all her friends behind in Brooklyn, and can't imagine anything will be as exciting as what her friends are doing without her. But then Pemba starts seeing a face other than her own looking back at her in her mirror. A sad-eyed woman calling Pemba, "friend". Encouraged by an older neighbor, Pemba begins researching her home's history, and then the life of a female slave who died there. As she learns more, she records her fears, frustrations and loneliness in song lyrics and verse:  "it's the city symphony/ I'm wishin'for, rockin'me like a harmony."

On the Sixth Day of Blogmas, my TLT gave to me

I love Stacked.  I always have.  Stacked is one of my favorite blogs to visit because of the constant stream of reviews (esp. of books that I want to read) but more so because of the really introspective content.  Some people have a way with words and all of the articles that I read penned by Kelly, Kimberly and Jen really are top notch when it comes to YA services.  Many of you found the blog during the whole 'ARCgate' controversy and Kelly made some very interesting and crucial points and what was even more important was that she got us really thinking and talking about what was acceptable conduct at professional conferences.

Some of the more recent postings that I've really enjoyed were Defining Contemporary, Realistic and Historical Fiction, all of the posts during Contemporary Week (my favorite genre), and  Some thoughts on "new adult" and also "cross-unders".


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Reflections: When is a Prank More Than Just a Prank? What I learned from 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher

As you have probably heard, there are some serious things happening both in the news and in real life regarding Kate Middleton and her pregnancy.  It turns out, Kate has HG - Hyperemesis Gravidarum.  Those of you who frequent this blog know that I am passionate about raising awareness and were probably surprised by my silence on the subject.  The truth is, I did spend some time Tweeting about it.  I also spent some time remembering my experiences and shed a few tears. So here is what I want to say:

Kate Middleton, according to the press, does not have morning sickness. She does not have severe morning sickness.  She has Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG).  A debilitating, life threatening pregnancy illness that can cause severe complications for both the mother and child.  She is in for a rocky road ahead and I hope (and yes I have even been praying) that Kate responds well to treatment and that her HG is kept under control so that the impact on her mind and body are minimized.  I think if anyone is in a position to get good treatment, it is her.  I am sad to hear that she has HG because I wish it on no one.  I am sometimes thankful that HG is getting the publicity that it needs, although that publicity has often been wrong.  (For some of the best media coverage of HG, check out this video segment from the Katie Couric show.)  To get good and accurate information, I implore you to visit the Hyperemesis Education and Research Foundation at

But let's talk about the Prank Heard Round the World

The other day, Australian radio DJs called the Duchess in the hospital by pretending to be the Queen.  Possibly in response to that prank, one of the nurses involved - the nurse who initially put the call through - took her life.  The Internet has been abuzz with opinions regarding culpability, mental stability, etc.  From the get go, the prank made me angry.  Like, frothing mad seething angry.  Why?

An Illness By Any Other Name
The DJs involved felt that it was somehow appropriate to call in and harass and make fun of a woman who was sick and wrestling with a serious situation.  Personally, I don't care what type of sickness a person has, your job is step back and let them recover in peace.  But no, they felt that it was somehow a good idea - and within their rights - to call and harass and mock a sick person.  Keep in mind, one of the main purposes of a hospital is to take care of the sick and dying - why do we think they have time to deal with pranks? Would we have thought it was funny if she had cancer? A heart attack? An organ transplant?  No, but it was just "morning sickness" right?  Silly girl, can't handle a little bit of morning sickness.  And yet, what she was dealing with made her become so dehydrated that she was placed into a hospital for several days so that she could be properly hydrated.  Take a moment sometime and Google what happens when your body becomes dehydrated.  Or I could save you the effort and tell you - it is painful, terrifying, and soul wearying.  But it doesn't matter what she had, you leave a sick person alone so that they can rest and heal.

Want to know about HG and my personal story?
Want to know what it is like to be so dehydrated that you have to go to the hospital for IV fluids?

The Right to Medical Privacy
Then we have the issue of medical privacy.  I am not sure how they regard medical privacy outside the U.S., but here it is a sacred thing.  What happens to you medically is designed to be kept between you and your doctor.  Part of the reason for this is so that it doesn't impact your future life; employers can't discriminate against you based on your medical history because they don't have access to it.  Your family, friends, neighbors, strangers - none of them have a right to know because information can have consequences.  It can create bias.  It can change perceptions. It can change opportunities.  Also, there is an emotional component to our medical lives. When we are sick, whatever that sickness may be, we have a right to process and deal with that information privately on our own terms and on our own timetable.  I get to choose when and how to tell the world I have cancer so that I have the time I need to figure out how I feel about this fact.  I get to choose when and how to tell the world  about my HG experiences.  I am very open about my experience, but I have had time to process what happened to me.  I had time to grieve the loss of my baby.  I had time to heal and not be terribly afraid of being sick or of going to the doctor.  I had time to come to terms with the fact that I can never have anymore children because of HG.  By trying to make Kate and her family go public with her medical information, those DJs were robbing Kate of all that we respect and value regarding medical privacy.  They took the control away from her and alienated her basic human rights.

Your Job's in Jeopardy
And finally, by pulling off this prank, they put everyone at the hospital in incredible legal risk.  They jeopardized their jobs.  In order for their prank to work, the hospital staff had to put the call through, which they did.  By putting the call through the hospital staff was in incredible legal peril.  They had become unwilling co-conspirators in all of the above.  They violated their patients right to medical privacy. They put these DJs, and the world, in the position to mock and laugh at a sick, hospitalized woman.  Every person in the hospital was now in legal peril and the truth is, they were probably going to lose their jobs.  Not only would they lose their jobs, but given the widespread nature of the prank - it went global - they were more than likely now unemployable in the field in which they had trained and worked.  They were now going to have incredible difficulty feeding their families, paying their rents, etc.  If it wasn't happening at the time, I assure you the wheels were in motion.  You don't break your employers rules in such a public way without there being consequences.

If You Poke a Bear with a Stick . . .
There is an underlying cruelty to pranks; by pulling a prank you are seeking to get your enjoyment and satisfaction at the expense of others.  Your laughs come courtesy of putting another human being into a situation and the truth is, unless you know that other person intimately, you really don't know the emotional ramifications of what you are doing.  You may be pulling an elevator prank on a person who has severe claustrophobia that spent the morning psyching up for an elevator trip.  You may be pulling a prank on a person who found out last night that their spouse has cancer, that their child is failing, that their world is falling apart.  You may be pulling a prank on a person who spent all of high school being bullied and is in an emotionally sensitive place every day.  What you are doing is taking a gamble with someone else's emotional and physical well being - a gamble that you have no right to take because you can never know the full ramifications of any given situation for another human being.  And yes, you do bear the burden of responsibility for your actions.  Even if the other person's reactions don't make sense to you, you - the prankster - bear the burden of responsibility for pushing a button and flipping a switch that you had no right to do, and all for the sake of a laugh. 
“No one knows for certain how much impact they have on the lives of other people. Oftentimes, we have no clue. Yet we push it just the same.”  - 13 Reasons Why, Jay Asher

A Bully by Any Other Name
A prankster is nothing more than a glorified bully.  They are using another person - unwillingly - to generate a laugh. A prankster is the HS bully who gives the class geek a mega wedgy while everyone in the hallway laughs.  A prankster is the mean girl who slut shames, the boy with the shock gum who delights in seeing that jolt of pain when their victim is zapped, the group of kids at prom with the bucket of pigs blood.  While we are taking a stand against bullies, let's remember that pranks are often just another form of bullying because it comes at the expense of another human being without their consent and without knowledge of the impact that it has on them.

“You don’t know what goes on in anyone’s life but your own. And when you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re not messing with just that part. Unfortunately, you can’t be that precise and selective. When you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re messing with their entire life. Everything. . . affects everything.” - 13 Reasons Why, Jay Asher

One can't help but think in this situation of the book 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher.  The main idea behind this book is that our words and actions have consequences.  We may not even see them at the moment, but there is a recipient on the other end and we can never fully understand the impact we are having.  Sometimes we see it too late.  This is why we must think carefully before we speak, step lightly on the path of other lives.  When we come in contact with another life, we leave our finger prints on it.  That is a huge responsibility to bear, we should not do so as lightly as we often do.

“No one knows for certain how much impact they have on the lives of other people. Oftentimes, we have no clue. Yet we push it just the same.” - 13 Reasons Why, Jay Asher

Saturday, December 8, 2012

What It's Like for a Girl: How Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama made me think about the politics of sexuality in the life of girls

Please note: this post is on a sensitive subject and can have triggering discussions for some.
"What have we here?" a cocky teenage voice said.
A group of boys ducked under the short doorframe into the room.  A particularly tall one stared through the open window with his mouth gaping, as if she were an animal in the zoo.
"Good day t' ye," Hester said. "I did not see ye at my door, or I should not have carried out such a graceless act.  Would one of ye care to rest yourself?" She motioned to the chair near the door.
A boy with a Boston t-shirt who looked to be about her age pushed his way past the others. He pointed in the direction of the bed. "I'd like to rest myself there, with you." Machine-gun laughter burst from behind him." - Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama

Monstrous Beauty is the story of an older teen named Hester.  Hester lives in Massachusetts, a place still rich with history and legend and some believe, magic.  Hester is a lover of history with a scientific bent, she does not believe in magic.  A few days after Hester was born, her mother died.  The same thing has happened to every woman in her lineage as far back as they can tell.  This knowledge has made Hester take a vow that she will not allow herself to fall in love so that she is not tempted to marry, bear a child and suffer the same fate as her ancestors.  In an alternating storyline, we hear the story of passionate lovers Syrenka and Ezra.  With each turning page it is clear that their stories intersect in ways that Hester could never have imagined.

While reading Monstrous Beauty, I had a variety of reactions and immediately closed the book upon finishing to write a post about an aspect that I found both true and troubling.  Monstrous Beauty is many things: it is a richly dark gothic tale that slowly peels back the layers of a centuries old mystery and helps our young heroine, Hester, break a family curse.  The building blocks of the story are put together so incredibly well, almost flawlessly.  It is a mastercraft lesson in storytelling.  I give it a 4.5 out of 5 stars.

But there is one aspect of the story that I found deeply troubling: there is some incredibly disturbing sexual brutality, both outright and implied.  In fact, in the first 100 pages Hester is approached and put in sexually threatening situations twice.  Syrenka herself is raped in a moment that becomes the catalyst for our story.  I found this unnerving.  And then I spent some time really thinking about the implications of what life is like for a girl and how it is depicted in Monstrous Beauty.  So let's take a quick journey through my life, shall we . . .