Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

12 Blogs of Christmas: Terrible Minds

The last 3 blogs of the 12 Blogs of Christmas – though certainly not the least – are brought to you by Robin.  Robin joined us earlier this year to add a school librarian perspective to TLT.  Plus, we like her.

Blog #10: Terrible Minds

Chuck Wendig is the author of numerous adult novels and books on writing. He recently released Under the Empyrean Sky – the first in a planned YA trilogy – which got a very positive review in School Library Journal. He first came to my notice as someone frequently tweeted by Maureen Johnson, but I’ve since started following him on Twitter myself. His humorous anecdotes about his toddler aside, Chuck has a well reasoned opinion on almost everything related to the world of publishing, writing, pop culture, etc. If you want to stay informed, this is a wonderful place to start. If you’re not put off by profanity. Lots of profanity. I suggest you start here, with his essay “25 Things You Should Know About Young Adult Fiction.”

12 Blogs of Christmas: The Daring Librarian

One of the blogs I adore, and one of the people that I completely admire and hope to be like one day is The Daring Librarian.


AKA Gwyneth Jones, she is one of the most vibrant people online that I follow, and has awesome energy and creativity- and when I need a pick-me-up, I start browsing through her site and her twitter. Her blog isn’t just about one thing- it’s about EVERYTHING going on within her sphere, and I actually love that. For example, one day it can be about using QR codes, while another day it’s about a recipe for your holiday party.

– Christie

12 Blogs of Christmas: Women Write About Comics (Seriously, a lot)

Blog #8: Women Write About Comics (Seriously, a lot)

I adore comics. I mean, seriously love them. I read them, I watch movies made from them, I follow story lines and alternate time lines and research them. Gail Simone and other female comic writers are personal heroes of mine. So it should come as no surprise that one of my favorite blogs is 

Women Write About Comics.

Made up of 11 female contributors who love comics more than me, they tackle everything from breaking news stories and events to featuring continuing columns about the tougher issues in comics like Feminism/Fandom and Race and Sexism.

12 Blogs of Christmas: Justin the Librarian

I love reading about all the wonderful, inventive stuff other libraries are doing, and dreaming about what I could do if I had their money. (Dear Santa, please give me an unlimited black American Express and send the bill to some gazillionare who won’t care). One of my favorite librarians to follow (working at one of the libraries that are doing awesome things, and I don’t say that just because I know one of them) is Justin The Librarian.


I love how he’s not only talking about the wonderful makerspace stuff that they’re doing, but showing us HOW he’s doing it- sharing the actual CODE for the tweeting bear (hey, when I get my Pi’s in, can my dinosaur be tweet buddies with your bear?). Additionally, he shows day-in-the-life posts not only of his family but of the library as well

– Christie

Sunday Reflections: All I want for Christmas is the chance to go to college

I drive by a billboard every day that says that a teen drops out of high school every 26 seconds.  I’m not sure if that is just DFW kids, or Texas kids, or on average all kids.  But that’s a lot of kids – 7200 a day.  I’ve been thinking about this a lot.  And then the other day, a librarian friend posted on FB about how a family in the library mentioned that her child couldn’t read while kind of laughing and she, the librarian, was frustrated because we sometimes see low socio-economic families who don’t value education – and I want to to talk about that.

But I want to start somewhere else. I want to start with how I ended up going to college.  You see, when I was in high school we didn’t talk about going to college in my home.  I didn’t fill out one single college application.  I didn’t sit by my mailbox and wait for any acceptance letters. And I only took the SAT because we were required to.  So one Saturday morning I rolled out of bed with a fever of 102 degrees, I trudged in to take the test and then I went home and spent the next four days in bed.  My scores were – okay.  I could have taken the test again, but there was no point.  I didn’t need those test scores for anything.  You see, we didn’t have the money for me to go to college and even though I was a good student who worked hard, this was just not something that was in my future.  It was a non issue.

I obviously did end up eventually going to college, and I even went on to earn my Master’s in Library Science degree.  A degree I will still be paying for when my children enter college on their own, if we can find a way to make that happen.  And despite having a master’s degree and a lot of quality, professional experience, I now only work part-time.  This reality keeps me up at night because my oldest daughter, now almost a teen, has started asking me how she is going to be able to pay for college and the honest answer is this: we can’t.  I want more than anything to make sure that happens for both of my girls but the reality of our economic situation is that, like many Americans – even educated professionals with experience – we are living paycheck to paycheck.  I don’t want a big house or a fancy car or an exotic vacation, I just want to make sure my kids are fed and have the opportunity to go to college.  That’s number one on this and all future Christmas lists.

But let’s go back to the high school dropout rate.  There are a lot of reasons that kids drop out of school, but one of them is poverty.  You see, in many families, they aren’t planning for college just as my family didn’t.  They know that college isn’t an option.  They don’t value education because their parents don’t value education and didn’t instill that value in them.  They don’t value education because they are too busy trying to survive; the money that college requires is so far out of reach for them that they don’t even dare to dream.

For other families, they are too busy just trying to survive the day to day to worry about the future.  Many teens have to go home and take care of younger siblings while parents work two or three often part-time jobs.  Or the teens themselves are working jobs to help feed the family.  It’s hard to focus on school and plan for the future when you aren’t sure if there will be food on the table tonight when you get home and you have to go work to try and help make that happen.


“The words most associated with “dropout” are words likes “failure,” “deadbeat” and “burnout.” What you would never expect is that there’s another category of dropouts altogether. They are driven, ambitious and will stop at nothing. These are the 38% of tenth-graders in California who left high school to work. That’s right, to get a job. So why would a tenth-grader leave school for a job when they’re barely driving? Actually, they’re getting jobs to put food on the table. So many families are struggling to make ends meet that kids feel pressure to contribute.”
from School Rules.org

When I was in middle school I was friends with a girl named Patty for a brief period of time, before her family disappeared.  I remember that her family was so poor that they lived downtown in a terrifying motel with cheap weekly rates and no way to make food.  One day her family simply disappeared.  Patty wasn’t planning prom or college, Patty was simply trying not to die.  People like Patty don’t talk about going to college, they talk about how young they can get a job so they can eat.

So now I find myself a parent.  I have a tween and she is smart.  She works hard every day to do well in school.  Right now, she thinks she wants to be a physical therapist when she grows up.  But like many children around the world, she seems to realize that college is just out of reach for her.  We’re not poor, not by the federal standards and not compared to many of the patrons that I serve daily at the library, but we also can’t pay for college.  I can see how it could be so easy for kids everywhere who know that college isn’t in their future to not value their high school diploma.  In their world, their most pressing issue isn’t getting a high school diploma in two years, it’s getting a job tomorrow to help put food on their table. These teens have no hope for their future, because they are too desperate to make it through the day.  If we want to start lowering high school drop out rates, we have to be willing to make today palatable for our teens – safe, well fed, less stressful – and give them hope for a future.  You can’t plan for a future you can’t even dream of.

For more information about the high school dropout epidemic, see Undroppable and Do Something.

Can We All Just Stop Saying the Internet Is Free Now Please?

Rich Teen, Poor Teen: Books that depict teens living in poverty

Working with youth who live in poverty

Sunday Reflections: This is what losing everything looks like

Sunday Reflections: Going to bed hungry

Sunday Reflections: A tale of two libraries

Sunday Reflections: Poverty doesn’t always look the way you think it does

Feeding Teens at the Library: Summer and Afterschool Meals

The Economy as Villain in The Year of Shadows by Claire LeGrand

Friday Finds – December 20, 2013

This week at TLT
Our Sunday Reflection was about poverty and the importance of public education.

Book Reviews

Join us for our 12 Blogs of Christmas series!

Christie talks about one insidious way our schools are failing our kids.

2013’s Top Ten circulated books in my Middle School.

Relive my 10 Favorite TLT posts for 2013.

And my Top 10 Reads in 2013 – can you tell I’m on vacation?

Previously at TLT

Christie reviewed Crown of Embers by Rae Carson.

We reviewed Prophecy by Ellen Oh.

Around the Web

The first movie poster for the upcoming adaptation of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars was revealed as part of the 2013 Project for Awesome (you can still donate for a couple more days.) I happened to really love the tagline, although I understand why some don’t. Read Green’s reaction to it here.

Read an interesting analysis of the iPhone Christmas commercial here. I became oddly invested in the discussion.

Victoria Schwab, author of YA novels The Near Witch, The Archived, and the upcoming The Unbound announced that her adult novel Vicious has been optioned for a movie by Ridley Scott’s team.

Shia LaBeouf makes an excellent case for librarians in schools. (To teach information skills.)

This is an amazing take on the “affluenza” debate.

We are sad to hear of the passing of a bright star in the YA world, Ned Vizzini.

Cybils Mini Reviews: Plague Edition featuring Reboot by Amy Tintera and A Matter of Days by Amber Kizer

The month of December finds me busily trying to read over 200 YA Speculative Fiction books for the 2013 Cybils (which are awesome).  I had read a lot of the nominated books, but not all.  So now I am happily playing catch up.  Today I present mini reviews on two books that have a plague theme: A Matter of Days by Amber Kizer and Reboot by Amy Tintera.  As you know, I love a good epidemic: see Epidemics list 1 and list 2.

First up: Reboot by Amy Tintera
Tagline: 5 years ago, I died. 178 minutes later, I woke up.

First of all, this is technically a zombie novel.  Why did you not tell me this people?  You know I love a good zombie novel.  A plague causes people to die and then they wake up later “different”.  Not traditional zombie, because they can talk and think, but with varying degrees of emotion.  The longer you are dead, the less emotion you seem to have.  Reboots are a threat to the population, so they are rounded up by the government (it’s always the government) where they are “employed” as soldiers sent out to track down other reboots and criminals.  So you have your dystopian element happening here.

Wren 178 is so named because it took her 178 minutes to reboot after death.  She is considered a machine, the go to reboot for dangerous assignments.  Lower numbers have more emotions, and 178 is the highest number there is in the reboot dorm.  But soon everything she thought she knew about herself, about the reboots, and about the world in which she lives is tested when she meets and agrees to train Callum 22 and she is given a secret assignment that goes terribly wrong.

I liked and highly recommend this book.  I thought it was an interesting twist on the zombie novel and can be used as a springboard discussion starter on human rights, understanding those that are different from us, and the role of government in society.   This book can really spark a lot of science and ethics discussions.  There is a lot of good stuff in there in terms of character arcs and emotional growth, action for those wanting a little action, and a little romance for those who want that as well.  Pair this with Blackout by Robison Wells and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins for a great discussion about government.

Second up: A Matter of Days by Amber Kizer
Tagline: Will you be a survivor or a statistic?

On the 56th day of the Blustar Pandemic, Nadia’s mother dies and her and her younger brother, Rabbit, set out to cross the country on their own to find their grandfather and uncle as instructed in a letter.   What ensues is basically the road trip from hell: Nadia is barely 16 and can’t technically drive and she is suddenly tasked with getting her little brother safely through the elements in a barren world populated by the few that survive, and they are often less than helpful.  At several intervals they meet various groups that try to rob them, imprison them, and more.  And they save a few people along the way.

There really isn’t anything new or cutting edge here, but A Matter of Days is a good survival story for those interested in that genre (raises hand).  I really liked the relationship between Nadia and Rabbit and they way they both grew under the very real pressures they now faced, and how they sometimes fell apart.  I also liked that they picked up a teenage boy, Zach, and there was no dreamy staring into his eyes or insta-love because the needs of immediate survival and that initial distrust was there.  Thank you Amber Kizer for that.

The Mr. also picked up and read this book and he liked it.  In particular, he liked the sparse storytelling style which stressed the urgency of their situation (and I agree) and he just liked the voice of the characters.  It’s very readable, great I think for reluctant readers, and I think teens will come away from it satisfied.

I love those claustrophobic feeling books where there are only a few characters on the page and you just have to be fully invested in their story.  See also: Ashfall by Mike Mullin, These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner, and In Honor by Jessi Kirby.

12 Blogs of Christmas: Book Blather

This is Heather’s final blog in the 12 blogs of Christmas, and it is Blog #6: BookBlather

I met Drea of BookBlather briefly at ALA this summer and she brings the same energy and perceptiveness to her blog as she did when wrangling a slew of teens into the city and up onto the dais at BFYA.  You’ll find reviews and program ideas on Book Blather, and I especially love her program writeups.  You will never need to guess at the cost, timing, or potential pitfalls of a program if you follow Drea’s tutorials, and you’ll get some darn cool ideas too.  Keep Book Blather on your radar.  New posts don’t pop up every week, but when they do, they’re certainly worth waiting for.

5 Posts to Look Into

Teen Program: Book Hedgehogs
Summer Reading: Did It Work?
Teen Program: Gooey Creations
Mock the Movie: Labyrinth
Teen Program: Stop Motion Lab


Next week are blogs 7-12, done by Christie and Robin.  And here’s a look back at Karen’s Top 3 Blogs

#3: YA Lit Quotes (http://www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/2013/12/12-blogs-of-christmas-ya-lit-quotes-we.html)
#2: Go Book Yourself (http://www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/2013/12/12-blogs-of-christmas-go-book-yourself.html)
#1: Diversity in YA (http://www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/2013/12/12-blogs-of-christmas-diversity-in-ya.html)

12 Blogs of Christmas: Make It At Your Library

Blog #5: Make It @ Your Library

All I really feel like I have to say about Make It @ Your Library is… how freaking cool is that?!  I swear these people are listening to my thoughts.  How many times have you said, “I need a list of maker programs that take about an hour. I can’t sift through pages of these elaborate Pinterest ideas — just give me the stuff that actually works.  And I want to sort it by cost and theme and skill level and mess level and age range too. And no floofy graphics, just simple, easy to access information.”  All the time, right?  Well, folks, they can hear us!

Here are 5 to try ASAP:
DIY Smartphone Film Scanner
Lego Picture Creator (a great tie-in with Karen’s Lego Mobile Makerspace)
Inverted Bookshelp
Make Your Own Flea Circus (a great tie in with a Tiny Food Party)
Solar Powered Robot from Trash


Book Review: Poor Little Dead Girls by Lizzie Friend

Tagline: Harmless pranks or murder games?

Publisher Annotation: The first time she is blindfolded and kidnapped, star-athlete and posh boarding school newbie Sadie is terrified. She wakes up in a dark room surrounded by hushed whispers, hooded strangers, and a mysterious voice whispering not-so-sweet nothings in her ear. But once the robes come off, she realizes it’s just an elaborate prank designed to induct her into the group that’s been pulling the strings at Keating Hall for generations. The circle has it all–incredible connections; fabulous parties; and, of course, an in with the brother society’s gorgeous pledges. The instant popularity is enough to make Sadie forget about the unexplained marks on her body, the creepy ceremonial rituals, and the incident that befell one of her teammates the year before. So the next time Sadie is kidnapped, she isn’t scared, but she should be. The worst of Keating Hall is yet to come.  

Poor Little Dead Girls by Lizzie Friend is something you don’t see too often in ya lit, an old school political thriller with a few Robin Cook like twists thrown in.  Cross some of what you get in John Grisham’s The Firm with the Gossip Girls series, add a dash of Robin Cook, but make it all for teenagers and you get this suspenseful look at the length that the upper echelons of society will go through to preserve an elite society.

There is some good character development here with not everyone being what they seem to be.  I’m a big fan of Sadie who shows some strong moral character, makes some difficult decisions, and just shows a backbone. I also give her bonus points because she is involved in nontraditional activities, in this case Lacrosse.

I’ll be honest, this whole everyone is in boarding school theme that keeps occurring in YA is grating on my last nerve, but the setting is important to this work and Sadie is definitely not rich; some of the class issues are highlighted and discussed in very interesting ways that reflect some of the cultural/political discussions you hear in the current media.  They take them to interesting extremes, but those are always the most fun ways to discuss these topics.  At least, I hope they are extremes.

Poor Little Dead Girls was a quick, interesting read.  The characters have a good voice that will appeal to teen readers, as will the mystery plot with the political overtones.  It’s definitely a unique entry into this years crop of titles and I recommend it.

Annie Miller in the November 1, 2013 issue of Booklist states: “ Friend skillfully develops each character in this novel, which blends themes of romance and friendship with the glam of Cecily von Ziegesar’s Gossip Girl (2002) and a sinister private-school mystery reminiscent of Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Boys (2012)”  And Kirkus said, “While the climax involves an odd murder stratagem that doesn’t appear terribly lethal, to that point, the story is both immersive and topically relevant. A promising suspense debut” (October 15, 2013). 

Published in 2013 by Merit Press.  ISBN: 978-1-4405-6395-0.