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Playaways in the Library: A Story in Your Pocket

My library system recently got funding to invest in a starter collection of Playaways. Trying to maximize the most of our funds, we opted for the Playaways rather than the Playaway views (which I have to admit are awesome- I’ve played with them at ALA Midwinter, so if you’re going to ALA Annual go check them out- they’re under Findaway World, booth 1657). At my location, I focused on youth and young adult titles, including those that I knew were ones that were going to be required summer reading, and they have circulated like CRAZY! My kids (I always call my youth patrons my kids) are familiar with how they work as the upper elementary and middle schools have them in their libraries, and they were so excited about “their” library having them. So today, in my kids words, I present to you why they think Playways are “super better” than audiobooks (with a translation in parenthesis).

  • Cuz they don’t melt in the car (the audiobooks that we carry are all on CDs, and especially in Texas heat, if they’re left in the car they can tend to warp)
  •  I don’t have to share with anyone (Playaways are self contained audiobooks that use headphones, so one person can listen at a time if you choose. If you want more than one, you can use an audio cord to plug it into a radio or your car, or a headphone splitter to use for multiple headphones).
  • Don’t need iTunes to listen to it (a lot of my kids and teens do not have CD players save on their computers, just a variety of MP3 players, so in order to listen to the audiobooks they were having to download them onto their devices)
  • It plays in order (when they did download the audiobooks onto their devices, they were having trouble with the chapters staying in order)
  • I can slip it into my pocket and no one knows I’m doing homework (the Playaways are about the size of my iPod touch, and much smaller than my cell, so they can put them in a backpack or pocket and just have the headphones or earbuds out and pretend to listen to music instead of actually doing homework)
  • It helps with my English (I recently did a display where I paired up the Playaways we had with the physical books, thinking that the kids would want to read along with the audio version. Turns out that it wasn’t the kids who were checking them out the most from that display, it was our ESL adult who were trying to improve their reading and comprehension skills- by listening and reading along, they could pair up the words and practice, and since they were young adult books, they could talk along with their teens and share the experience)
  • Easy to work (the buttons are really easy for smaller fingers to use, and the cases that we have contain the instructions to use as well, so even the youngest kids can listen to the picture book ones that we purchased)
  • It’s a storytime when you’re not in the library 

Do you have Playways in your library? What has been your experience? Share with us in the comments!

Karen’s Note: I checked out a Playaway from Christie’s library and I have this handy old iPod device that allowed me to listen to the Playaway on my car stereo. You simply plug the device into the earphone jack and put it on the correct radio station.  Mine is seriously old, there are newer versions if you look around online.  Also, I had Playaways at my old library system and they are popular because a lot of teens no longer have CD players for audio books because, you know, everything is on their phone.  Actually, I don’t even own a CD player, though I do have one in my car which is where I listen to my audio books, which I now adore.  For me the biggest issue for Playaways versus Books on CD is that I didn’t have to worry about the batteries running out and then I didn’t have to buy my own battery to replace in the unit (most libraries do not provide replacement batteries due to cost).

June is Audio Book Month.  Learn more and enter our Audio Book Giveaway.

Friday Finds – June 28, 2013

This Week at TLT:

Join Karen for her Sunday Reflections on the world we are leaving to our children.

Where to find Christie at this year’s ALA Annual meeting in Chicago. Happening now!

Are you a Doctor Who fan? Some of your teens are bound to be. Check out one of our most commented upon posts – Karen’s list of YA books for the Doctor Who fan.

Help us welcome Dana Folkerts, Youth Services Librarian from Thomas Ford Memorial Library in Western Springs, IL, with her guest post on the Odyssey Award. (And enter for a chance to win some YA audiobooks, including Rotters and Scowler by Daniel Kraus!)

Read Karen’s review of Tarnish by Katherine Longshore.

Interested in using Tumblr but have no idea where to start? Join Robin for a quick introduction.

Christie has important views about talking about rape culture and our teens.

Everyone has an opinion about this year’s YALSA Happy Hour at ALA Annual in Chicago. (And the message it is sending.)

YAY – more Daniel Kraus! Five Questions with ROTTERS and SCOWLER author Daniel Kraus.

It’s time for our Annual Teen Art Contest – It Came From a Book!

Heather discusses her plans for this year’s ALA Annual Conference.

Previously on TLT:

Have a look at last year’s plans for ALA’s Annual meeting, held in Anaheim, California.

Around the web:

The 2013 Kids Count Data Book is available now! From their web site:

“The 2013 KIDS COUNT Data Book provides a detailed picture of how children are faring in the United States. In addition to ranking states on overall child well-being, the Data Book ranks states in four domains: Economic Well-Being, Education, Health, and Family and Community.”

The Institute of Museum and Library Services’ report Growing Young Minds was recently published. It brings together powerful statistical and annecdotal evidence of the importance of what we do every day.

An awesome response to the NPR article on kids reading can be found over at Book Riot.

Heather’s Commuter Conference: ALA Annual 2013

At one point, I was a conference hound, but since the birth of my second child, I’ve backed off significantly.  Now, after a loooong [for me] hiatus, I’ll be back at Annual this year!  I’m excited to see old friendly faces and have some new conversations.  AND, for the first time, I’ll have a face-to-face meetup with Karen and Christie!

This year will be a real working conference for me.  I’ve been honored to be the Youth Participation Coordinator for YALSA as a part of the Local Arrangements Committee, and will be bringing a small group of my own teen book group down to “The City” for the Best Fiction for Young Adults Teen Feedback Session.  If you’re attending this year, I strongly urge you to make it to this session, as it’s a great opportunity to peek into the minds of a diverse group of teens regarding some of their favorite new fiction – – and what they wouldn’t recommend.  You’ll also see me dropping off handouts and making sure presenters have what they need at various YALSA sessions.

I’m really hoping to see Elizabeth Wein, author of Code Name Verity, my favorite book of last year, whose new book I’m anxiously waiting to get my hands on.

With so much of my conference events lead by my tasks for the Local Arrangements Committee, I haven’t had a whole lot of time to plan for exploring the events outside of the teen services realm.  It’s always so interesting to me to pop into a session and learn about a totally different aspect of librarianship.  There’s so much diversity in our profession, and we can learn a lot by branching out and peeking into a session beyond the ones were we know we’ll have a buddy to sit next to.

Another big difference for me between this year and some others is that I’m local to Chicago, so no fun hotel parties for me; it’s back home at night.  Though I’m very appreciative that I can attend this year, going to a conference in your home town is really a different experience — more like full time work all weekend plus all of the regular home stuff than the three day learning/sight-seeing/networking party that it might be in, say, New Orleans.  So, if you see me yawning at the early session, it’s not because of the late night, it’s because I was on the early train downtown.  I still plan to swing by the lake, because there’s nothing like Lake Michigan in the summertime, and am looking forward to squeezing in as much as I can between trips in and out of Union Station.

It Came from a Book, the second annual Teen Art Contest

YA Lit + Teen Created Art = It Came from a Book!
Teens – we want to see your book inspired artwork!
Librarians – we want to help you get your teens reading and creating, and we want to give you a great way to celebrate YA lit.

Librarians, we need your help encouraging teens to read and create art.  Please download the 11×17 poster and help us get the word out.  You can share the information on your library websites, Facebook pages and other social networking sites.  You can also print copies of the poster to put up in your libraries.  You can download official posters at www.libraryasincubatorproject.org.

To submit artwork, simply send a digital photograph, or file if your artwork is digital, to 2013artcontest@gmail.com by November 1, 2013.  Teens can submit artwork themselves or librarians can submit artwork on behalf of their teens.  Please just make sure we have the information requested below.

Your e-mail submission should include your full name, the name of your school or public library, the title and author of the book that inspired your art piece, and the statement “I affirm that this is an original piece of artwork.”  We will use your submitting e-mail address to keep in contact with you.

Beginning November 8th, tell your family and friends to visit the online It Came from a Book art gallery at The Library as Incubator Project.org and vote.  Online voting will determine our grand prize winner.

One grand prize winner will be announced on November 18th.  They will receive a $50.00 Amazon gift card, The Library as Incubator Project t-shirt, and book from our sponsors EgmontUSA and Zest Books.

A special note to librarians:
As you encourage your teens to read, create and submit, I want to encourage you to consider having a YA lit inspired art show at your library.  Your teens will still have their art pieces since we are only requesting digital submissions, so that means you can set up a great art gallery right there in your school or public library.  Have an opening night reception with food and drinks and give your teen artists the chance to talk about their artwork as the public comes in to view it.  For more information on this idea, check out how Justin the Librarian created a teen art gallery in his library.  Be sure to check out our Teen Programs in a Box (TPiBs) for some great book inspired craft ideas to do with your teens.

Also, please share with your teens the ya lit inspired photography series of Margot Wood, The Real Fauxtographer.  She has an ongoing blog where she discusses the teen fiction she reads and shares the pictures she takes inspired by the books.

Keep your eye on Library as Incubator Project for more ways to get art into your libraries and for additional blog posts throughout the next few months regarding It Came from a Book. 

Throughout the next months we will have blog posts supporting this project and more. You can visit any of the sponsoring sites – Library as Incubator Project, EgmontUSA, Zest Books and TLT- for information.

A special thank you to The Library as Incubator Project, EgmontUSA, and Zest Books for supporting this project and encouraging teen reading and art.

Happy Hour? When what we do is different than what we say we do

In case you missed it, Heather, Karen, Robin and I were on Twitter on Thursday night (and on email too but you can’t see the emails, poor you because they had way more sarcasm and snark) discussing the YALSA Happy Hour that will be going on in Chicago. 

Disclaimer: Heather and I are members of YALSA and have been since library school. Karen is an on again and off again member as finances allow.  We have worked on a variety of YALSA committees. We are BIG YALSA supporters here on Teen Librarian Toolbox!

The problem we’re having is not the Happy Hour.  Meeting and mingling and drinking with YALSA people is awesome and should be done more often – let’s start local meet-ups!  Our problem is with the evening’s “entertainment.” 

(Screen capture from the YALSA blog as of 6/22/2013 8:15am CDT):

Now, I know that the YALSA Office, President & Board always work hard to do fun things when the conferences and meetings come into town, and it’s a huge job. Trying to find a place to hold all of us is hard, trying to find a time that doesn’t conflict with the majority of YALSA meetings, and the things that we know in advance that publishers are doing is difficult, and trying to balance that with the non-existent budget and the fact that everyone is spread everywhere in the hotels all just makes you want to pull your hair out.  We appreciate the work YALSA, President Jack Martin, and the Board do.  Really.

Here’s where I have issues with the whole message coming across in this.


First, there’s the inconvenience.  Everyone’s coming from conference things on Saturday, so you want us to either wear what we’re going to wear to the fashion show ALL DAY, or run to our hotel and change then come to the fashion show. Um, yea. Then, there’s the fact that anyone who’s not local is going to have to PACK special clothing to be in the categories (because I don’t know a lot of people who wear GALA attire to conferences- actually, I don’t wear anything that would remotely fit any of the four categories to conferences, but that’s beside the point).  Karen doesn’t even own anything that resembles gala attire because she can’t afford it on a librarian’s salary.

Second, and most importantly, you’re telling me that AFTER I go to all this trouble, someone is going to go around and pick the best of the best based on appearance, and that if my appearance isn’t good enough, we’re all gonna know it in the extra special round. Now, I spend a LOT of time and energy telling teens that the need to work on their self esteem and not let their looks (and what they were born with) make them feel second best. That is part of what we do as teen specialists. We are on the battlefield of diffusing the hurt and confusion from bullying and name calling, and trying to stem the tide of suicidal thoughts, cutting, and other self harm because of body image issues, and yet my organization wants to have their event so that we can show off the best dressed and the prettiest, because that’s what a fashion show is.

Third, you’re stepping all over Librarian Wardrobe, which is actually fun and interesting and breaking ground, and something people opt into specifically because they are interested in the fashion angle. I wanted to go to the one in Anaheim last year but didn’t make the conference due to surgery recovery and hope to make their event this year.


I have nothing against drinking. I had a lovely time in college, did a number of bar bands (going around the night before games to the local bars and performing for alumni), I have wine with dinner, and I currently have limoncello and some other alcohols in my fridge. 

BUT.  Let’s look at the last line again:

Remember to bring plenty of cash for the bar. That way when Jack taps YOU to participate in the fashion show, you’ll be able to say an enthusiastic, “Yes!” Expect FUN and HAPPINESS at this always-exciting YALSA event!

I’m guessing it’s really trying to be a cute way of saying it’s a cash bar so bring money, but it comes across as slimy and gross and fits right into all the wrong things that we’ve been pointing out here on TLT. It acknowledges that we’re uncomfortable being judged on our appearance!  It points out that under normal circumstances, professional women and men aren’t tapped by the President of their professional organization for reasons so surface and irrelevant to the work we do.  It comes across like this:

Be liquored up so that when the President of the association comes around to tap you, you can say yes without any hesitation because now you’ll agree to do stuff you wouldn’t if you were sober!   


Heather pointed out that this is at least the second time IN CHICAGO that YALSA has had a fashion-themed Happy Hour. We are supposed to be the creative people- where IS that creativity?!?!?! I talked with That Guy this morning, and we came up with a list of things that could get people pulled up to award prizes that would involve little/no effort for bring materials and still make a Happy Hour fun. (forgive if they get geeky- That Guy was working, and I am off today, so we go to the engineer side a little)

  • Best Use of the Color Cerulean
  • Best Use of Scarves
  • People with Prime Numbers of Nametag Ribbons (those association ribbons people tag onto their badges like flags)
  • People with n Letters in their Names, where n is a perfect square (16 letters, 25 letters, etc)
  • People who are named after literary characters
  • People who dress after their favorite literary characters
  • People holding a book (not an ARC)
  • People holding an ARC (not a book)
  • Most extravagant shoelaces
  • Dress as your favorite author
  • People dressed as Doctor Who companions (could actually be anyone but the person choosing could say a Doctor quote and see if the person would actually go with them- thereby being a Doctor’s companion)
  • Most shocking/tasteful/colorful SOCKS
  • Best use of skulls
  • Best use of the current Collaborative Summer Reading Theme
  • Twitter/Blog bingo- make up cards with YALSA members twitter/blog info, and then people have to go around finding those people to win prizes
Or, ya know, we could do what other associations within ALA, or other non image based professional organizations do. Go to a location (bar, coffee shop, restaurant), rent out the back room, ask for donations, serve hors d’oeuvres, charge for drinks and let people pay for their own real food, invite the authors who are in town to come join us, and have a good time.  No demeaning gimmicks required.

Heather’s note: 

Am I a killjoy?  Probably.  But WOW am I tired of the librarian conversation rolling back around to what we as librarians wear & how we present ourselves physically.  The YALSA Happy Hour is probably the biggest regular informal gathering of YA librarians in the country.  I’m disappointed that we’ll spend it talking about how we look or don’t look — even in the professional attire categories that are listed — instead of what we do.  

What we do is exciting and diverse and innovative, and we can learn so very much more from one another than where we bought that scarf.  I would love to see YALSA focus the Happy Hour on encouraging the kind of sharing that is possible when you get a whole bunch of us together, and I’m disappointed in this focus on image.  

So hey, YA librarians out there – I don’t care what you’re wearing.  Are you comfortable?  Are you approachable?  Are you, um, not smelly?  Then I say you’re dressed just fine.  Let’s not further sort ourselves by those who match the folks on stage and those who don’t.  That is not what our profession is about.  I want to hear how you connect with your teens, what the last book was that blew you away, which app you can’t stop telling people about, how you handled that horrible situation at your library the other day, what that teen said to you that had you crying tears of joy the whole way home.  I didn’t get into this profession for the comfortable shoes or the cardigans, the colorful hair or the tattoos, the punny t-shirts or the tote bags.  Did you?

Karen’s Note:

I spend my time telling my teens that you are more than how you look.  That “It Gets Better.” That women and men are equal.  Now I am going to go to a professional conference where apparently I will be an unwitting participant in a fashion show, just by showing up.  This is part of everything that I preach against (even in jest or fun, because we can find ways to have fun that don’t emphasize looks or dress).  And to make it even worse, a man (YALSA President Jack Martin) gets to choose who will or won’t be in the fashion show.  That’s right, once again a man is deciding who is worthy.  I am sure that Jack is an awesome guy, but I am tired of living in a world where guys are the deciders, where looks, dress and appearance are primary motivators, and where a gathering of young adult librarians seems to focus on a message radically different than the message we are (I hope) preaching to our teens.  We spend enough of our lives worrying about whether or not we look right or “good enough”, having anxiety about whether or not we will be chosen (you remember picking teams in PE, right?) – I don’t want to pay to go to a conference with my PEERS and have to worry about these things all over again, as an adult.  As everyone tweeted about who wore what at the Oscars this year I couldn’t help but wonder, “Why aren’t we talking about these actresses accomplishments in the arts as opposed to judging what they wear?”  That’s what I want you to judge me by, my accomplishments as a librarian, not whether or not I have an awesome gala outfit.  

Five Questions with ROTTERS and SCOWLER author Daniel Kraus

June is Audio Book Month – take a minute to enter our giveaway!

Listening Library is thrilled to talk horror, audio, and inspiration with Daniel Kraus, the author of two highly-acclaimed novels—both available on audio from Listening Library and recommended for YA listeners 14 and up. (As we like to say, “Listen with the Lights On!”) He is also an editor at the American Library Association and has a brand new YA Lit column called Booklandia, so be sure to check it out! Daniel’s audiobook ROTTERS, read by Kirby Heyborne, was the winner of the 2012 Odyssey Award, given by the American Library Association to the best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults in the United States. Lucky for listeners, and thanks to the SYNC program, ROTTERS is available for FREE download from June 27 – July 3.. And his latest audiobook, SCOWLER, also read by Kirby Heyborne, is available now at your local library or wherever books are sold. After Daniel’s Q&A, step into the recording studio with narrator Kirby in this great video.

Q: What is special or unique about the horror genre?  Why do you gravitate toward writing horror stories and what do you think this genre gives to teens?

A: With the possible exception or romance/erotica, it’s the one genre that tries to elicit a specific emotional, and even physical, response. I think the attraction for this kind of visceral thrill is strongest when you’re a teen. It’s the age when kids decide it’d be fun to drive too fast or jump off a cliff into a reservoir or experiment with drugs or whatever. It’s no wonder that teens want to experience some of these transformational thrills in their literature too.
Some of us get addicted to that thrill of pushing past safe boundaries and we never stop, and that’s how you end up with writers like me.

Q: In all of your books, you seem fascinated by small towns in the Midwest – and yet you live in a big city.  What draws you to this setting?

A: There is plenty to be scared of in the city. But for me, the endless stretches of nothing in the Midwest are what’s scariest. It’s almost like being in outer space. No one can hear you if you scream. No one can reach in time to save you. You could run, but the distances are great and you probably won’t make it. The isolation of the country can do strange things to people, but you’d never know it when you zoom by some farm house doing 80 on the interstate.

Q: Have you ever read your work aloud as part of your writing process? Have your audiobooks affected how you think about how writing sounds? (Or do you ever hear narrator Kirby Heyborne’s voice in your head?!)

A: In my case, I think it’s best that I *don’t* think about the audiobook process when I write. If I did, it might make me worry “How in the hell is Kirby going to do *this*?” Case in point is Scowler’s voice in SCOWLER, which basically looks like this on the page: “Tk-tk, hr’wo-gep-gep-gep.” Of course, to write dialogue like that you have to have some sense of what it sounds like, and I communicated that to Kirby once he was ready to record the audio, and I think it helped.

Q: We include your titles on our
Guys Listen website and we constantly hear from librarians and teachers that your books and audios have been perfect to place in the hands (or headphones!) of their male patrons and students, many of whom are considered reluctant readers. What do you think are the biggest challenges in helping guys discover stories that speak to them and encourage a love of reading? How does it make you feel to know you have the ability to reach this audience? 

A: It’s difficult to answer this based on my personal experience because I always loved to read. What fostered that love, however, availability. I never read the books that were put in front of me at school, which I think turned reading into an act that felt a little daring and subversive. I’d go wander the adult stacks looking for the most unsettling stuff, or pick something off my sister’s shelves that boys weren’t “supposed” to read, or snoop around in my parents’ room until I found something even more illicit. The hunt was almost as exciting as the reading. Once you frame it this way, the reluctance slips away. This isn’t unique to boys, but it’s certainly a way to present the idea of reading to them.

Q: We also include your titles on our Kids & Bullying: Audiobooks for Conversation website, as your books not only tell gripping and unique tales but they also confront important topics from bullying and abuse to poverty. Do you set out to tell a story that addresses specific issues that you feel are important and/or underrepresented in teen literature?

A: Never, never, never. Setting out to tackle a particular “issue” would be death to my writing. I’d feel like I was merely plugging a curricular hole. Tell a story, as deeply and richly and honestly as you can, and real issues will present themselves. Then you’ll fight through them. That’s what a writer does.

And don’t forget to enter our Audiobook Giveaway!

Talking About Rape Culture and Our Teens

We’ve talked a lot on Teen Librarian Toolbox about sexual assault (in YA lit, in the media, in commercials, etc.). Going around the Twitterverse the other day was a piece by Patton Oswalt, a comedian out in LA entitled A Closed Letter to Myself About Thievery, Heckling and Rape Jokes, that was published by the Huffington Post. If you want to read it I linked to it- the part about rape culture is in the last third, although it is connected to his first and second parts.

At the end, he states:

And just because I find rape disgusting, and have never had that impulse, doesn’t mean I can make a leap into the minds of women and dismiss how they feel day to day, moment to moment, in ways both blatant and subtle, from other men, and the way the media represents the world they live in, and from what they hear in songs, see in movies, and witness on stage in a comedy club.
There is a collective consciousness that can detect the presence (and approach) of something good or bad, in society or the world, before any hard “evidence” exists. It’s happening now with the concept of “rape culture.” Which, by the way, isn’t a concept. It’s a reality. I’m just not the one who’s going to bring it into focus. But I’ve read enough viewpoints, and spoken to enough of my female friends (comedians and non-comedians) to know it isn’t some vaporous hysteria, some false meme or convenient catch-phrase.
I’m a comedian. I value and love what I do. And I value and love the fact that this sort of furious debate is going on about the art form I’ve decided to spend my life pursuing. If it wasn’t, it would mean all of the joke thief defenders and heckler supporters are right, that stand-up comedy is some low, disposable form of carnival distraction, a party trick anyone can do. It’s obviously not. This debate proves it. And I don’t want to be on the side of the debate that only argues from its own limited experience. And I don’t need the sense memory of an actor, or a degree from Columbia, or a moody, desert god to tell me that.
I’m a man. I get to be wrong. And I get to change.

What gets me is that he has to talk to his female friends in order to be
aware of the rape culture. It’s not like it’s some invisible wall until someone lifts the shield, like the little kid in The Emperor’s New Clothes. It’s a daily part of life. Don’t believe me? Check out The Everyday Sexism Project, or their twitter. The stories are heartbreaking, and happen EVERY DAY.
Not to mention the problems in the gaming culture. Check out this article about The Creepy Side of E3 and the stories about business cards being pushed down dresses. Or the crap Microsoft played off during their scripted demo during E3 (note that there’s a noise from the audience, but at the end of the fight, there’s no applause, nor is there anywhere during the demo- where their would actually be if it wasn’t insulting)
It’s hidden in movies as well. I showed Hotel Transylvania for our Tween Night (8-12 years old, mostly 8-10 years that night), and near the beginning of the movie there’s a scene where the zombie crew is catcalling a female zombie in a business suit:
Hotel Transylvania
It was meant to gain a laugh from adults, and went over the head of most of my kids. When I did hear laughs, I paused the movie for a minute and asked them a question- did they think it was funny when the guy zombies were talking and whistling at the girl zombie, and they said maybe.  Then I asked them if they thought it would be funny if someone did that to their mom walking down the street, and the answer instantly changed to no. Just that one dynamic change shifted their ideas. 

Just shifting things a little bit can change the course of thinking- enough that we can make a difference.

How to Tumblr, part 1

Get ready to jump in with my go-to method for learning something new – start doing it. Okay, yes, usually I read a few articles and ask some of my younger friends about their experience with whatever the new thing is. After that, though, when a new social media platform comes on the horizon, it’s best to just jump in with both feet.  (I promise this won’t hurt.)

So, first things first, go to https://www.tumblr.com/ , fill out your email, choose a password, enter a username, and click on the BIG button at the bottom that reads ‘Sign up and start posting.’ Before you go, you may want to brainstorm a few possible user names, the one you usually use is probably already taken. Yes, seriously. Go ahead, I’ll wait here for you.

Okay, so you’re back. Did it ask you your age? Good. You have to be 13 years old to use Tumblr. In fact, here is a screenshot from their terms of service that I absolutely love (because, be honest, it’s not like you really read them before you agreed to them.)

Unless you’ve skipped ahead (in which case, go for it – you don’t need me!) you are on a page asking you to ‘Find Blogs. Follow five.’  Oh, yes, in case you didn’t know, Tumblr is a blogging platform. You don’t actually have to do this, but now would be a good time to search for people or organizations you’d like to follow. You can follow us! Just type in teenlibrariantoolbox – it should be the only search result. ATTENTION KAREN: now is when you can search for Doctor Who!

Here are some other library or YA related Tumblrs you may want to follow:

  • thelifeguardlibrarian – who compiles a list of Tumblarians (more on that later)
  • Libraryjournal
  • Schoollibraryjournal
  • Himissjulie
  • Fancylibrarian
  • Yaflash
  • Bookshelfporn
  • Bookavore

Now you may want to look for some of your favorite authors. Just go ahead and search. A random sampling of some of the Tumblr authors I follow includes Maureen Johnson, Sarah Reese Brennan, Ally Carter (theallycarter), Laurie Halse Anderson, Rachel Hawkins (therealladyhawkins), and John Green (fishingboatproceeds). As you can see, some of them have had to pick rather odd names. Just search for your favorites. You may also want to search for other people you follow on other platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.) Also, sometimes the web site freezes at this point. No worries, just close it and open again.
At this point you will want to log in to your email and verify your Tumblr account. They have sent you an email, just follow the directions. It should take you back to Tumblr. You’ll be at your dashboard. Let me stop here and explain a little more of what Tumblr is about.

Yes, Tumblr is a blogging platform, but it is also an interactive social media web site. When you log in, you aren’t shown your blog you are shown your dashboard, which is an aggregate of all the Tumblrs you follow, with entries in reverse chronological order. That is, the most recent Tumblr entry by one of the Tumblrs you follow will show up at the top of your dashboard. You can scroll down to the last one you recognize and start from there – although I wouldn’t advise it. You see, once you really get going on Tumblr you’ll realize that a lot of what is going on is people reblogging other people’s content and either adding to it or commenting on it. So something you visually recognize might be a reblog of something else. This is especially true if you follow users who follow each other. This is where the interaction happens. In my experience, it’s best to just read from the top down. (Your mileage may vary.)

So, for the next couple of days, explore on your own. See if you can find Tumblrs you’d like to follow. Go to The Lifeguard Librarian’s Tumblr page here http://thelifeguardlibrarian.tumblr.com/tumblariansand follow some interesting looking libraries or librarians. Maybe even click the heart symbol on the bottom of an entry you particularly like. I’ll be back in a couple of days with part 2 of How to Tumblr, and we will discuss reblogging, creating your own blog entries, and customizing your Tumblr. Until then, best of luck!

Karen’s Historical Fiction Challenge Update: Tarnish by Katherine Longshore

So, I have now read the 4th out of 5 books in my personal historical fiction challenge.  That book was Tarnish by Katherine Longshore.  So, let’s chat.

We all know I am not awesome at history, that’s the reason for the challenge.  This book is about Anne Boleyn, and even I know who she is.  I loved her in this book because she was the anti-thesis of everything that I struggle with as a historical fiction nonreader: she is strong willed, intelligent, and refuses to be put in the pretty, pretty box that a lot of women are forced to be in.  But she suffers for it in reputation, when we first meet her she has just returned from being sent away for a previous thing.  Longshore creates a strong, admirable female character while remaining authentic to the time period.

Anne is trying to seek the favor of the king in court and she strikes up a deal with the devil, in this case the devil is named Thomas Wyatt.  Everything about their bargain is interesting as they both try to remain true to their character, win, and to up their station in court.  The one thing they can’t do is to allow themselves to fall in love.  That would be bad and put both of their stations in jeopardy.  Plus, Wyatt is already married.  But marriage isn’t much of a deterrent in this time period because almost all the men have mistresses and very few of the people marry for love.  That in itself is a very interesting aspect of this world.

Like The Rose Throne (which is technically fantasy, not historical fiction) and Maid of Honor, there is a lot of action taking place here in court.  And I don’t mean the throw the book at them court, but the we are all part of the king’s (or queen’s) inner circle jockeying for position court.  If you like that type of historical fiction, then you will find this to be an excellent read.

The one thing I really struggled with was the YA aspect of this:  I am not sure that it really has a teen voice.  Anne is supposed to be around 16 in this book, and of course she wouldn’t talk like a modern day teenager, but her voice was really mature and sophisticated.  That’s probably correct for the time period, but I don’t know how well my teen readers would embrace it.  Also, there was a lot of very frank, mature discussion of sex.  For example, Anne’s sister is a mistress to the king and often refers to herself as a whore.  So while I thought it was a really well developed and written story, it didn’t necessarily read as YA to me.

So, things that are done well and I really liked:

The characters are richly developed
The deal with the devil and the plan to catch a king, with all of its emotional complexity
The behind the scenes look at a well known historical character and incident
The thoughtful look at what it means to fall in love and some people are willing to sacrifice that for status
There was a lot of interesting family stuff in here that I didn’t mention

Things I am on the fence about:

To me, it didn’t read “young adult”.  It would work just as well in the adult section and I think find a much bigger audience there.  But then, this type of historical fiction is not as popular with my teens as it is with adult readers.  That’s how it read, to me, an adult book that teen readers of the genre would also love.  But I read a ton of reviews on the title and I am the only one who says this so I must be doing something wrong.  But then, I don’t read a lot of historical fiction (hence the challenge) so I have nothing really to compare it to.

School Library Journal and Kirkus both gave it favorable reviews.  It is well written, engaging, and definitely fills an important collection need.  Add it.  Longshore’s first title is Gilt, a novel about Catherine Howard’s marriage to Henry VIII.

Reflections on an Odyssey (a guest post)

It’s been almost five months since the ALA Youth Media Awards were announced in Seattle. Excitement has died down for many people, and committees are already working on choosing next year’s winners. For me, the past months have been relatively easy compared to last year, when I was a member of the 2013 Odyssey Committee.
The Odyssey Award is Excellence in Audio Book Production presented by the American Library Association.  Find out more here.

To be honest, I’m not really sure how I got on the committee, which chooses the best in audiobook production for children or teens. I first served on the ALSC Membership Committee, then applied to be on any of the media award committees. I didn’t have any specific audiobook “history” other than being a listener, as many of us librarians are. When I met my fellow committee members and learned of their backgrounds, I definitely felt like a newbie, but I don’t think it mattered all that much. I was prepared to do my share of the work, to listen to their comments, and to soak up as much of this experience as I could.

Things started off slowly for us. We didn’t get a lot of submissions until late summer, and when it rained, it poured. When all was said and done, our committee of nine received more than 500 audiobooks. Some were disqualified right away because they weren’t published in the correct timeframe or for the appropriate audience. Most of the committee work was done online; we only met in person at Annual and then at Midwinter, when we chose the winners.

One of the most difficult aspects of being on the Odyssey Committee (aside from the amount of listening time involved), in my opinion, was separating the story from the audiobook production. The Odyssey Award is not based on the book’s popularity or its content. More so, the committee is focused on “technical and aesthetic aspects, including the effective use of narration as well as music and sound effects when they are incorporated into the production.”* We listened closely to the narrator(s), of course, but we were also listening for mispronunciations, muffled sounds, coughs, throat sounds, as well as music and sound effects. If accents were used, were they authentic? How are characters distinguished from one another? Were narrators consistent? Did read-alongs follow the text presented in the book? These are just some of the questions we had to ask ourselves while listening and re-listening to audios. Had I just been listening as a non-committee member, my primary concern would probably be whether I liked the story and its narrators—quite a bit simpler than being on the committee. 

Rotters is the 2012 Odyssey Award Winner, which I recently reviewed.  You can win a copy of the audio book by entering the Rafflecopter drawing below.
Just to refresh your memories, the committee chose The Fault in Our Stars as the 2013 Odyssey award winner, with honors going to Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian, Ghost Knight, and Monstrous Beauty.
If you’re going to ALA in Chicago, don’t miss the 2013 Odyssey Award and Presentation at 3:30 p.m. Monday, July 1at McCormick Place Convention Center Room S106b. Last year, attendees received a free autographed audiobook of the winning titles and were treated to some awesome performances. I’ll be there, so please stop by and say hi!
Dana Folkerts, Youth Services Librarian, Thomas Ford Memorial Library, Western Springs, IL
June is Audio Book Month.  Enter to win some audio books!