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Friday Finds – February 28, 2014

This Week at TLT

Our Sunday reflection looks at the perplexing reality of adult non-involvement in suspected abuse.

Heather coaches us on setting realistic, measurable goals.

Remember Book Fairs? 

Christie shares 8 new books that will lift you out of your winter doldrums.

Kearsten joins us to recommend YA lit that will appeal to your musical tastes.

TV Shows We Love

Book Review – The Hit by Melvin Burgess

Discussing THE S WORD by Chelsea Pitcher, a guest post by Lourdes Keochgerien.

Around the Web

At Salon, social media advice for parents. 

At NPR, more on social media and whether it contributes to our sense of isolation.

Tumblarians and the library presence in social media.

Jennifer Lynn Barnes, YA author, talks about the science of parasocial relationships and how they impact authors

From Huffington Post, is Spritzing the future of reading?

From the Pew report, a look at computer use

TV Shows We Love: Teen Wolf

MTV’s werewolf series claims to be loosely based on the 1985 movie starring Michael J. Fox. It is about a teenage werewolf who plays a sport (lacrosse.) So, yeah, it’s about as much like the movie as Skittles are like a Hershey bar…they’re both candy.

I’m never one to pass up a supernatural drama, much less one that focuses on teens, so I gave it a try – I’m so glad I did. In the first episode, Scott and his best friend Stiles go out hunting a dead body in the woods. Scott is attacked by some sort of creature and becomes…you guessed it – a werewolf! The funny thing is that it’s Stiles who figures out what is going on. Stiles, whose father is the police chief, whose idea it was to go looking for the dead body in the woods, whose zany impulsiveness and hyper intelligence provide the impetus for much of the action of the show. Because yes, Scott is the protagonist, but Stiles is the heart of the show. I ask any of you who watch it – could you replace Scott with just about anyone? Yes. But Stiles – Stiles is irreplaceable.



At the same time that Scott is becoming a werewolf, a new family moves to town. A new family whose surname just happens to be ‘Argent’. To those of us with a rudimentary understanding of French, Argent = Silver. Werewolves are killed by silver bullets. About as subtle as a sledgehammer, but this show is for teens who may or may not have this as part of their vocabulary, so I’ll let it pass. The teen member of the Argent family is the ethereally beautiful, but somewhat awkward, Allison. I give you three guesses as to which two characters fall in love. First two guesses don’t count.

Allison, the new girl in town, is taken in by the high school queen bee, Lydia. Lydia, whose mean girl nature is a shield for her extreme intelligence. Lydia, who has been the girl of Stiles’ dreams since elementary school. Lydia, who (spoiler alert) turns out to have a supernatural power, herself. Lydia is essentially Stiles to Alison’s Scott.

Mixed in with all of these wonderful teen characters are the hidden gems of the show – fully realized adult characters. In a show for teens! Adults with lives and back stories and complicated emotions and motivations. Seriously. For all of the mixed up conglomeration of weirdness that passes for the show’s mythology (it really does appropriate from almost every culture’s supernatural mythology) – it does an amazing job with characterization. Equally amazing are the complexities of the relationships between the characters. There is nothing superficial here, even when it seems like it might be natural (Lydia’s relationship with the captain of the lacrosse team, for example.)
 
The writing on this show is superb. The directing is even better. The special effects are…getting there. I highly recommend it!

Reading recommendations:

  • Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause
  • Raised by Wolves, Trial by Fire, and Taken by Storm by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
  • The Gathering, The Calling, and The Rising by Kelly Armstrong
  • Shiver, Linger, and Forever by Maggie Stiefvater 

SVYALit Project: Discussing THE S WORD by Chelsea Pitcher, a guest post by Lourdes Keochgerien


“Maybe the first step to stomping out the world’s ugliness is dragging it into the light.” ~ Angie The S Word

I can’t pinpoint exactly when I started thinking about sexual violence/abuse. It was a topic that always remained in my peripheral vision – I don’t recall us discussing it in my sexual education class. But, when I joined Tumblr the topic began demanding my attention constantly and forced me to analyze my own thoughts. I think sometimes we are so engrossed in trying to smoke out the negative out of social media, the positive gets unnoticed.

But, in retrospect, I realize I was exposed to the topic before I even finished high school. I read young adult literature novels that tackled sexual violence/abuse – Chris Lynch’s Inexcusable, Barry Lyga’s Boy Toy, Laura Wiess’s Such a Pretty Girl – but having the reinforcement of reality now has made me see how important and necessary these books are. Exposure to this literature can and does prepare young adults to face head on what is possible in this, at times, treacherous world. It prepared me without my conscious acknowledgment. It has given me empathy – understanding and value. I can only understand to a degree, but I can value these voices and their experiences ad infinitum.

I recently finished reading Chelsea Pitcher’s fantastic The S Word. (Now, there are some spoilers ahead. Not massive ones, but here’s your head’s up.) The story centers on the recent suicide of Angie’s best friend Lizzie. We find out that Angie’s boyfriend, Drake, and Lizzie we caught in a compromised position during prom. As a result, Angie severs all relations with her best friend as Lizzie is labeled a “slut” by her classmates. It is etched onto her locker, her car, her very soul. It was too much for her to bear, especially with a religious background and the lack of any intervention from her peers.

One thing I noticed was how easily Lizzie’s peers labeled her a “slut.” There was no hesitation. There was not a moment of introspection. (And this is not a jab at teenagers. This is a comment on the word itself. It’s so normalized we overlook the need to ruminate.) The word just became who she was to the rest of the student body. Before prom, Lizzie was just in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She was the daughter of a preacher. (It should be noted that these are not great either. They are flat and one dimensional. Lizzie was much more than that.) Suddenly, she was just this one thing. It made me realize how common the word is, how quick we can be to allow that term existence, life.

“‘I don’t know.’ Cara looks at me finally. ‘It was just easy. You call some other girl a slut, and nobody’s looking at you anymore.’” ~ Cara, Angie’s cheerleading friend

  

This quotation just left me cold. It was just easy. The nonchalant way this was written by Pitcher made me shiver and was brilliantly done in order to drive the point home. It’s the passing of a burning, dangerous torch you never knew was circulating.  

We find out towards the end that Drake raped Lizzie. During prom. In a diary entry she states that it was not a stranger, but a friend, someone she had known since childhood that did this to her. Reading about sexual violence/abuse on the internet almost daily, I know this is not something fictitious. This happens. The way Lizzie can be so introspective after such a traumatic ordeal made me see her in a whole another light. It gave me a glimpse into the mind of someone who experiences such a life altering moment. But, I know, because of young adult literature, that there are many ways to cope after. I think Lizzie chose this route because she was used to silence in her life. Because of her father and his less-than-holy-activities. Because of her best friend. She did not want to hurt Angie. She did not want to hurt anyone. So she wrote.

The most jarring moment in this novel for me was when, at graduation, we see in electric blue letters the word RAPIST written on Drake’s gown – courtesy of Angie. The reaction? It was not shock. It was not distraught whispers. It was laughter. Laughter. I couldn’t comprehend how this was humanly possible. I assumed the internal dialogue was, “There is no way the most popular guy in school could be a rapist. The concept is utterly hilarious.” But when the word suddenly took a serious tone, it was no longer funny. It became difficult for people to say in the book. You can call someone a slut all you want, but a rapist. No, that is taking it too far. You need proof for the latter. The former, that is easy. This reality in the book and in our world just made me sad.

The last chapter of the novel is a journal entry from Lizzie, describing her excitement about the play. The book ends on this note of hope. Hope that passivity does not and will not prevail in similar circumstances. Hope that as readers and human beings we learn to understand and, especially, value what others have to say when they don’t say anything at all. This is why young adult literature is so magnetic and necessary – it reminds us, it reminds me, that the world is at times ugly yet beauty can be and will be found. Addressing sexual violence/abuse in young adult literature enables writers and readers to break down misconceptions and highlight, showcase, promote truth.

“‘So maybe it isn’t about doing what’s good. Maybe it’s about doing what’s necessary.’” ~ Jesse, in “cahoots” with Angie

Books like The S Word are necessary for dialogue about sexual violence/abuse, particularly for teenagers. It captures the world of high school in such a dynamic and powerful way. There is no sugar coating. There is instead a raw, emotional story about the consequences of assumption and passivity. I left this story feeling more informed, more aware, more human. YA never fails me in this regard.

Lourdes Keochgerien is the Editor-at Large for YARN, The Young Adult Review Network, where she has worked since its inception. After finishing her thesis on YA literature, she moved back to Uruguay with her family and now freelances creating Readers’ Guides and providing Spanish language consulting on manuscripts. She can be found at lkeochgerienwrites.blogspot.com.  

Book Review: The Hit by Melvin Burgess

When you think edgy YA lit, certain names come to mind: Ellen Hopkins. Sherman Alexie. Patrick Ness. Ellen Hopkins.  Oh wait, did I say Ellen Hopkins twice?  There’s a reason for that.  But you probably also think Melvin Burgess.

LIVE THE ULTIMATE HIGH. PAY THE ULTIMATE PRICE.

The Hit takes place in a world where the gap between the haves and the have nots is incredibly wide.  The world, well at least the country, is on the verge of revolution.  And for those who have nothing to live for, they can take a drug called DEATH.  Death promises you the most amazing week, but at the end of it you will die. Adam downs death before his girlfriend, Lizzie, can stop him, and we are in for one heart pounding week.

If you had one week to live, what would be on your bucket list? Not surprisingly, sex is on Adams.

Adam lives with his family: a mom that is tired to her core from working, a dad with a disability and on the dole, and a beloved brother who seems to have a golden future written in the stars.  Until his brother disappears.  Could he have been part of the protest movement? Surely not the golden child!

Lizzie is too good for Adam and he knows it, and yet there she is.  But even she can’t stop Adam from taking death.

This is an amazing book.  Action packed, thought provoking, and heartbreaking.  Burgess does an outstanding job of tapping into our current world fears and issues – particularly our current socioeconomic struggles and growing class wars – and creating a tale that is reflective without being preachy.  The plot twists and turns, the action ramps up in violent but fun ways, and the characters are flawed, imperfect, self-absorbed; in a word, realistic and believable.

This is one week readers will never forget.  Highly recommended for mature readers (remember, this is Burgess so there is sex and violence and language for those who need to know).  It received starred reviews from Booklist, Publishers Weekly and VOYA (5Q, 5P). Michael Cart says, “the novel is viscerally exciting and emotionally engaging. Best of all, it is sure to excite both thoughtful analysis and heated discussion among its readers. A clear winner from Burgess.” (Booklist, 1/01/14)

From Scholastic Chicken House.  February 2014.  ISBN: 978-0-545-55699-6.

TV Shows We Love: Switched at Birth (with book recommendations) by Carli Spina

As soon as I found out that Teen Librarian Toolbox was going to have a series of posts on favorite TV shows, I knew I wanted to write about Switched at Birth. Currently in its third season on ABC Family, the show centers around two families who discover that their daughters were inadvertently switched by the hospital when they were born. One of the daughters, Daphne, lost her hearing as a toddler due to bacterial meningitis. As the show opens, she has been attending a school for the Deaf for years, meaning that many of the characters in the show are Deaf or hard of hearing and communicate primarily or entirely via American Sign Language (ASL). The other characters in the show are a mix of Deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing. During the first season, one of the major plot points revolves around Daphne’s newly found biological family learning ASL to better communicate with her as they get to know each other as a family. Despite being Deaf, Daphne is never defined solely by this aspect of her character. She is a stellar athlete and a good cook, both of which are just as central to her character as is her deafness. 

Over the course of its three seasons, the show has never shied away from topics relating to deafness and Deaf culture, tackling topics such as the choice of one character to get cochlear implants, the difficulty some family members have with learning and using ASL, and the activism of the students at the fictional Carlton School for the Deaf when the school is threatened with closure. But, while the show deals with these topics, it doesn’t treat its Deaf characters differently than the hearing characters. Instead, the show highlights how its Deaf characters face the same plethora of issues that other teens in the show face related to relationships, career plans and extracurricular activities.

The show has also featured characters with disabilities, including a current love interest for Daphne who uses a wheelchair due to a sports injury. Switched at Birth admittedly has elements of soap opera to it, but I always find the stories entertaining and I love the fact that the show features actors who are Deaf, hard of hearing or have disabilities to play these roles, including Academy Award winner Marlee Matlin, who has a recurring role on the show. Beyond all of these characters, 

Switched at Birth is a show about family and how family relationships work when everyone is pulled by their different interests. Bay, the girl with whom Daphne was switched, is a talented artist who struggles to fit in at her preppy high school. Her brother, Toby, is a musician, who plays in a band with Emmet, a boy from Carlton. Even both sets of parents get interesting storylines, which is not always the case in dramas focused on teens. Whether you have been looking for a show that features Deaf characters in a central role or you are just interested in finding a fun new teenage drama that offers a lot of diversity in its cast, Switched at Birth is a great show that has a lot to offer.

If you enjoy Switched at Birth, you might want to try these young adult books:

The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk: This mystery follows Will Halpin as he moves from a school for the Deaf to another public school where he must try to keep up with his classes by reading lips while trying to find his place in the social order. When a classmate dies, he joins together with one of his classmates to try to solve his murder. Readers will see similarities to Daphne’s interactions with students at her siblings’ preppy private school and will appreciate Will’s references to the politics at his old school for the Deaf.

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick: In this Schneider Family Book Award winner, Selznick tells the story of two Deaf characters. One is a boy living in Minnesota in 1977 and the other is a young girl in New Jersey in 1927. The boy’s story is told through words and the girl’s is told through drawings. The two stories are interspersed throughout the book, building to a point where they come together. This is a powerful book about the importance of family and love. For readers interested in learning more, the book also offers suggestions for further reading.

Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John: Fans of Toby and Emmet’s band in Switched at Birth will want to check out this Schneider Family Book Award winner, which follows Piper as she manages a local band in an attempt to save money for college. Because Piper is Deaf, the book includes discussions of lip reading, sign language and also her parents’ decision to get cochlear implants for her younger sister. But, beyond these topics, it is also a fun and funny book about rock music and working with a band.

Of Sound Mind by Jean Ferris: As the only hearing person in his family, Theo is forced into the role of interpreter for his parents and his brother. His mother in particular expects him to always be available to help her to negotiate the world and to handle all of the transactions related to her high power art career. While he has held this role for many years, his impending graduation from high school and his desire to leave home for college lead to resentments and frustrations that he is unwilling and unable to express to his parents. The story is powerful and relatable for anyone who has ever felt conflicted about their place in their family.

Wait For Me by An Na: In this book from An Na, Mina is a high school senior who is caught in a web of lies that she has created in an attempt to appease her demanding mother. She is forced into the role of perfect daughter, struggling for straight As, working at her family’s dry cleaner, and helping out with her hearing-impaired sister. The book captures the pressures that teenagers can feel while trying to decide whether to strive for the dreams of their family or to instead break free to follow their own passions.

Carli Spina is a librarian with an interest in young adult literature and Switched at Birth is definitely a TV show she loves. Find her on Twitter (@CarliSpina) for more on young adult literature and librarianship. 


Under the Lights: A reflection on a life in football (with book recommendations) by Amianne Bailey

I grew up under the Friday Night Lights of Texas High School Football. As the daughter of an athletic trainer, I guess you could say I also grew up under the glare of the gymnasium lights and those that illuminated baseball diamonds and tracks. But since this is Texas, I lived for those fall Friday nights. My Mom crisscrossed the Metroplex taking my sister and me to the countless football, basketball, and baseball games (not to mention the track meets that were my least favorite), so that we could see our Daddy in action because he was rarely home on a Friday night in our childhood memories. His seasons really didn’t end–one rolled right on into the other until summer. Thankfully, our Dad valued quality over quantity in terms of time, so he always made up for his absence when we were together. And I know that my sister and I both agree–that even though high school sports took much of our Daddy’s time and attention–we wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Proof: My sister and I both married high school football coaches. We often joke that we knew exactly what we were getting into so we have no reason to complain about become football widows and pseudo-single moms when the season starts. Honestly, I think we were meant to marry coaches because we both “GET IT.” We grew up with this lifestyle–the Friday night games, forming ragtag gangs with the other coaches’ kids, hanging out in the field house, the late-night coaches’ parties after victories and losses, not seeing much of our Daddy on Saturdays and Sundays. But as a kid, the fun outweighed the sacrifice. Honestly, some of my best memories of my childhood are associated with a high school sporting event–rather it be going hoarse from cheering my Daddy’s team on to victory or heading to Austin for a state basketball tournament. Even though we didn’t have our Daddy around as much as we liked, my sister and I were (and still are) so PROUD to be Coach Hart’s daughters.
Since sports have always been a fixture in my life, it’s a good thing that I love them so much. I’m not just a coach’s wife; I am a sports FANATIC. I have an intense love for my teams (Gig ‘Em Aggies!), and my husband and I even named our daughters after prominent football figures (Hint: A coach named Tom and a QB named Manning–not Eli).

People often forget that Friday Night Lights was first a book; the nonfiction bestseller based on the 1988 football season of the legendary Odessa Permian High School football program inspired the movie, which came out in 2004 and starred Billy Bob Thornton and Tim McGraw. The TV show, which began in 2006 and lasted five seasons and is loosely based on the book, chronicles the on and off the field drama of the fictional Dillon High School Panthers, their coaches (Coach Taylor!), their families (Tami Taylor!), their players (Tim Riggins!), and the town. Thanks to Net Flix and the power of Twitter(search #cleareyesfullheartscantlose) FNL still enjoys a cult-like following even though it ended in 2011. Author Sara Dessen is a HUGE fan, and the show still inspires Buzz Feeds (http://www.buzzfeed.com/emilyorley/19-pieces-of-advice-from-tami-taylor).

Shockingly, I was late to the FNL party. My husband and I started watching it last summer (gotta love that NetFlix), and after a few episodes I had a startling revelation: I can’t watch this amazing show anymore. Even though I LOVED it and could devour an entire season in one lazy afternoon of becoming one with my couch, I stopped watching it in the middle of season 1.  Here’s why: Not only is FNL the story of my life, but it’s also the story that I’m writing. I’ve always dreamed of writing a book, so after years of overcoming fear and excuses, I am. And I took the best piece of writing advice ever given to me: Write about what you know. So I’m writing about two teenagers, a small town, and Texas high school football. My story is very different from FNL, but of course, there are themes that resonate, so that’s why I chose to stop watching the show because I didn’t want to be influenced by those storylines and worry about them seeping into my writer brain. Someday when my book is finished, I will relish watching Friday Night Lights. It’s not only my kind of show, it’s my kind of life.

If you know a teen who loves Friday Night Lights or sports in general, hand them these books:
Nonfiction:
The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis (movie)
Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis (movie)
My Losing Season by Pat Conroy
The Junction Boys by Jim Dent

Twelve Mighty Orphans: The Inspiring True Story of the Mighty Mites Who Ruled Texas Football by Jim Dent

Fiction:
Knights of the Hill Country by Tim Tharp
Raiders Night by Robert Lipsyte
Crackback by John Coy
Anything by Carl Deuker–Payback Time, Gym Candy, Swagger, Runner, Heart of a Champion
Pop by Gordon Korman
Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach
Anything by Mike Lupica–(QB1, Game Changers, The Underdogs)
I know that many who look at Texas high school football from the outside might scratch their heads in confusion or even become critical because they just don’t get it–the passion, the fanaticism, the LOVE for “a town, a team, and a dream.” But I get it. And I embrace it. As a coach’s kid, a coach’s wife, and a high school educator, I have watched the power of sports impact the lives of young people in a positive way. I have watched countless coaches devote their time and hearts to a group of young athletes–to bringing out the best in them. These coaches become parent-figures, motivators, teachers, disciplinarians, and true mentors to thousands of young people each season.  From the outside, it might look like it’s only about winning, but it’s about so much more than that. It’s about molding character, teaching life lessons, making a difference in the life of a kid.  Win or lose, lives are changed on football fields, gym floors, baseball diamonds, and tracks all across Texas each season. And THAT’S why I have cherished growing up from a coach’s kid to a coach’s wife. I love knowing that in some small way, I’m still a part of that great community of coaches–true life-changers.

As they say in Dillon, Texas, “Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can’t Lose.”

Amianne Bailey is a High School Librarian in Texas.  She previously wrote the awesome post Atticus Was Right. Before she found her “dream job” in the library, she worked in the trenches as a high school English teacher for eleven years. She loves to read (obviously), spend time with her family, and watch sports. You can visit her blog at http://mywesternsky.blogspot.com/.

Take 5: Love with a musical soundtrack (guest post by Kearsten)

Looking for a story about falling in love, but would prefer that it fits your musical tastes? Read on…


Do you see love in the neon colors and new wave sounds of the 80s? Try Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, an enchantingly sweet and sad story of first love between two high school misfits. Both Park and Eleanor are unsure of where they fit-in, and are cutely awkward as they bond over comic books, the Smiths, Joy Division, the Cure, and, of course, Star Wars references. And what book lover can resist one character telling the other she likes him because, “‘You look like a protagonist…You look like a person who wins in the end'”?!


Do you prefer to fill your iPod with Nirvana and Jimi Hendrix? Have you ever dreamed of leading a band to stardom? In Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John, eighteen-year-old Piper works to do just this, as she takes on a managerial role of Dumb, the most recent winners of a local battle of the bands. Yes, the band members don’t really know her, despite attending the same high school. No, she doesn’t know much about music. And yes, she’s deaf, but with force of will and a bit of musical education from an anonymous friend, she’s able to help the band find their own musical voices while finding her own strength in the bargain.

Do you harbor a secret (or not-at-all secret) love for the Beatles? Join British teen, Toby, in I am NOT the Walrus by Ed Briant, who just wants to play Beatles songs on his brother’s bass guitar with his best – and only – friend.Okay, so maybe he’d also like to play a gig and wow crowds of girls with his musical ability/sex appeal. But then he finds a note hidden his brother’s bass suggesting that maybe his brother stole the guitar.  And his new, female, and hot friend, Michelle, thinks he should try to find the original owner. Should he return the bass? Should he forget about the note and play the gig his buddy found for them? Should he spend the next two days wooing Michelle?  Or should he just focus on evading the seriously creepy and dangerous-looking dude that seems really want Toby’s bass, no matter what it takes?

  
**(These next two are for older teens, as they feature strong language and/or alcohol use and sexual situations)**
 

If you’re looking to find love in the audience of an underground punk rock show, you need to read Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. This is an older book, but features another sweet, but definitely saltier, love story, this time set in New York City. In one crazy, punk rock-filled night, Norah and Nick meet at a show, and, in a moment of unusual generosity (and some curiosity) agreed to work together to try to make their respective exes jealous. They spend the rest of the evening chasing a secret concert, meeting up with then losing track of their friends (who are hilarious), fighting with and then falling for each other…as often happens in all-night New York City adventures (or so I hope).


If you, like Esme, prefer rappers and hip-hop slang to be the background beat to your love story, try Sister Mischief by Laura Goode.  Esme and her friends are a bit unusual in small town Minnesota. As an out Jewish lesbian headlining an all-girl rap group, Esme feels she’s in a great place to start a hip-hop gay-straight alliance at her school, but is denied the opportunity by their conservative principal. Can a secret, surprise concert performed by their group, Sister Mischief, change minds, or will her new relationship with fellow rapper Rowie derail her plans?  

More Music and Books
Karen also highly recommends Guitar Notes by Mary Amato and Wise Young Fools by Sean Beaudoin 

Share your fave titles about music in the comments!
 

Christie’s Winter 2014 Books To Look For

Looking for something to pick up, or something to get you out of the doldrums of winter? Look no further than these 8 books- all coming out in Winter/Spring 2014 (some already released and getting huge buzz) and ready to be snatched up by teens (and teen specialists) everywhere….




JANUARY/ FEBRUARY
INFINITE by Jodi Meadows
Ana knows her life will be at risk in Heart, so she escapes with her friends to help keep the other Newsouls safe; however, only she knows the true cost of reincarnation and the price she’ll pay if she returns to face their foe.
Conclusion of the Incarnate trilogy, Ana is the first “new” soul in a world where everyone else has been reborn hundreds of times.
GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE by Andrew Smith
In a small town in Iowa, two best friends have unleashed the ultimate unstoppable army. An army of horny, hungry 6 foot tall praying mantises that only want to do two things.
Already released and getting huge buzz, Smith (Winger, Marbury Lens series) is making huge waves- warning, there is *language*.
MARCH
DUST OF EDEN by Mariko Nagai
In early 1942, thirteen-year-old Mina Masako Tagawa and her Japanese-American family are sent from their home in Seattle to an internment camp in Idaho. What do you do when your home country treats you like an enemy?
This was never in any of my history books in school or college- I didn’t discover this awful part of our history until later. It’s an important part that needs to be told.
CURED by Beth Wiggins
Now that Fiona and Noah are no longer beasts, they’ve set out to find their mother and spread the cure along the way. Raiders and a suspicious ally could make all the difference between getting to their mother, getting the cure out, and the destruction of everything.
Sequel to Buzz. 
FIVE KINGDOMS: SKY RAIDERS by Brandon Mull
Welcome to the Outskirts- where the kingdoms lie between dreams and wakefulness, reality and imagination, life and death- and once you arrive, it’s hard to leave. When the magic of the Outskirts start to unravel, it’s up to Cole and Mira to set things right- before he’s forgotten in the real world.
Certain start of a new series. 

LIV, FOREVER by Amy Talkington
When Liv wins an art scholarship to Wickham Hall, it’s her ticket out of her foster care life- who cares if things are way different and a bit weird. Killed a few weeks after coming to the school, she discovers she’s only the latest victim, and her best friend, Gabe, is her only link to the world of the living, to being able to solve the murders, and her link to her love, Malcolm.
Seemingly perfect for fans of the paranormal, the starcrossed, and the mysterious….
BAD HALF by Sally Green
In modern England, witches live side by side with normals- witch witches (good) and black witches (bad) and Nathan (both black and white). With his father the most cruel black witch around and his mother dead, he must escape the cage he’s been put in before his 17th birthday in order to receive the gifts from his father, or die.
 I am extremely interested in the duality aspect of it…

THE FINISHER by David Balducci
No one ever leaves Wormwood- until Quintin does. Vega’s certain he was chased into the Quag, and is determined to find the truth, even though it may cost her more than she thought.
Currently reserving judgement- like the premise, and I personally like David Balducci’s works, but not at all fond of the adult authors getting into YA…


Middle Grade Monday – Book Fair Week

Hello everyone! How many of you out there are in school libraries? Love it or hate it, sometimes we have to raise our own funds – usually by having a book fair. My school holds two a year, one spring and one fall. We haven’t had a decent budget for the library since before the economic ‘difficulties,’ and in recent years it has dried up completely. If you remember my post about our Book for All Readers program, that is where most of our fall book fair profits go. With the profits from our spring book fair, we try to replace items that have been lost or damaged, as well as purchase the popular new titles and additions to popular series. It’s a difficult juggling act. We’ve been waiting for a long time for things to turn around.

There are some real benefits (beyond the financial) to having a book fair, however, that I’d like to highlight. Firstly, it gets the students excited! Sure, they may be more excited about the posters and the fuzzy pencils than the books, but often that excitement will translate into the students taking more books home.
Students with more disposable income will purchase books from the book fair and have them at home. Students without will wait to see what items we chose to get from the book fair and add to the collection. Many studies show a significant positive correlation between the number of books in the home and student literacy rates. I’m willing to go to great lengths to get more books into the students’ hands.

Secondly, it engenders positive feelings about the library. I will often tell the other adults in my life that it is book fair week at school. Their most common response is, “Oh! I used to love book fair!” I’m not sure if I’m too old, or if my schools just never held them. I was always a library user anyway, though. My students generally see it as a positive experience and a service the library provides to them.

Finally, it’s a good way to see what books your students are really interested in. Often these are easily predictable. We always sell a good number of whichever is the newest Rick Riordan, Jeff Kinney, etc. Sometimes, though, your top sellers will come as a surprise. This past fall, our top seller was Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer, which received poor enough reviews that it hadn’t occurred to me to purchase any for our collection. Based on the students’ interest, though, I ended up adding two copies and they are always out.

Scholastic seems to be the only game in town these days. They offer a good set up, plenty of stock, and a fair return on the profit. Are there any other companies out there that you have used with success? Do you have any fond memories of book fair?  Chime in in the comments section.

Achieve Every Goal Always Forever in Three Easy Steps

If your library calendar is like mine, it’s performance evaluation time.  Which means it’s also the dreaded goal setting time of year.  Will you aspire to increase program participation by 25%?  Bring fiction circulation up by 10%?  Do a classroom visit each month?  Secure five new sponsors for the summer reading club?

Or will you take the opposite tack and create non-goal goals, like maintaining your current staffing level, continuing to be responsive to teen suggestions, or running a summer reading club [like you do every year and have since the beginning of time]?

Please spare yourself the agony and embarrassment and forego both of these types goals.

“BUT!” You’re saying, “What’s wrong with wanting to increase circulation???  Why shouldn’t listening to my beloved teens be a goal?????”

No, I’m not crazy and I haven’t thrown in the towel.

Goal setting is really important in helping us move forward with our teen services – if it’s done right.  And neither of the above extremes quite gets it.  Here are three steps to take that will make your goal setting more realistic, more useful to all of the stakeholders, and more likely to be achieved.  And the best part is, it’s actually going to be easier and make you feel better than setting lofty or wimpy goals would.

1.  Think about what your teens, your library, and your community really need, but don’t discount what you really need.

 We often look to the Library’s mission statement and past patron requests when it’s goal setting time.  Have teens been begging you to get a gaming center at the Library?   Are you all tasked with enriching the cultural experiences of your community?  Has your library been on an environmentalism kick lately?

Maybe what you really need in order to do your job well to focus on is none of the above, but instead build up your PLN.  Maybe it’s been five years since you’ve attended a conference out of state and been exposed to new ideas from other regions of the country.  Maybe you’ve been throwing yourself into new technologies and it’s time to get back to the books for a season.

Don’t lose touch with what makes you great or your motivations for doing the job.

These are YOUR goals, not DEPARTMENT goals.  How will these goals help YOU be a better librarian, a better resource to your teen patrons, and a better colleague to your peers?  If you are personally motivated to achieve the goals, instead of motivated simply by the idea that it’s what you should do, you will be more focused on working toward meeting the goals.

2.  Only set goals that you have control over.

This is why setting goals that hinge on increasing X by Y, or those that rely on someone else to make a final decision are wrongheaded.  You could do everything right, and never increase a collection’s circulation by a single checkout if external factors limit the community’s access to or interest in the material or format.  You could do everything right, but wind up in a situation where the Powers That Be have decided that public librarians shouldn’t be doing booktalks in the local school.  You could plan the best program session ever and have it fall flat if your core group of attendees decides that they’d rather play intramural basketball or work on the school play instead.

These things are out of your control.  But it doesn’t mean you can’t work toward them.

Reframe your goals into manageable chunks that you can accomplish:

  • Increase circulation by 10% becomes 
    • Weed the collection, 
    • create focused thematic displays each month, 
    • create five new lists of readalikes for popular titles.
  • Boost program attendance by 5% becomes
    • Increase marketing efforts by including program announcements on social media and in popular off-site hangouts.  
    • Do a survey of local teens to figure out what types of programs are of the most interest
  • Visit at least 4 classrooms each month becomes
    • Make contact with a teacher, librarians, or other liaison at every school in my service area.
    • Create a handout describing the full range of support I can provide. 
    • Follow up with school relationships that have been successful in the past.
  • Create a makerspace becomes
    • Research potential setups and requirements for a makerspace 
    • Get feedback on makerspaces from other libraries 
    • Host a teen focus group.  
    • Create a budget and proposal for the Board to review next January.

3.  Change course when needed.

This is NOT cheating.  Let’s say one of your personally relevant, achievable goals is to attend more of your local region’s youth librarian meetups in the next county over.  Then let’s say that the weather all winter long is just horrible and you hate driving on snowy roads and your car is making that weird noise again.  Change course.  Adjust your goal so that you’re gaining similar skills and benefits in an online environment.

Or perhaps you detailed the ways you would do outreach in small ways across a variety of locations in your community, and then you are invited to be involved in the monthly teen night at a community center and need to devote more time and energy to that project.  It’s not a failure if this becomes a new goal and the initial goal gets set on the back burner for a while.  It’s actually a success, because clearly some of that early outreach must have worked really well!

And that’s it.

If your goals are personally important to you, achievable by you, and changeable by you when you need to change them, the likelihood of you actually wanting to work toward making them happen is going to increase significantly.  And if you actually want to focus on those things in your work life, you probably will find the time to do so, despite the many directions we are pulled in every day.

Plus, if you’ve written these things down as goals, and your supervisor knows they’re goals (because they’re in your performance evaluation) if you need more time away from a different project to work on these things (remember! things that YOU WANT to do!) you are more likely to get more time at work to do them! Because the truth about your manager is that if you do well at achieving your goals, she will look better to her manager too.  This is how we all succeed together.

-Heather