Teen Librarian Toolbox
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We (don’t) want the funk! Take 5: Ways to break out of a reading funk in the new year

The Bookworm and her favorite book

“Yes, that’s a ‘P’.”   The book worm and her favorite book / Will Houghton. Library of Congress PPOC

If it hasn’t happened to you yet, it will. I promise. One day, you’ll pick up that next book on your TBR pile, have no idea why it’s there, and 50 pages in realize that you don’t remember the main character’s name and don’t care to figure it out. Then you’ll realize that you can’t distinguish the last book you just finished from this one and you’d really just rather go bake a cake and stare out the window. And then it’ll hit you like a ton of bricks. You’re in a reading funk. And man, is it not a fun place to be.

The year is ending, and a fresh start is upon us. But that doesn’t always mean that we’re ready to hit the ground running. These funks know no calendared boundaries. But reading is part of the job. Reading is part of the job that most of us adore! So what can we do about it?

1. Bake a cake and stare out the window.

Really, the world will not come crashing down if you take a reading holiday. Give yourself a little vacation to indulge in your other hobbies (because remember – this reading thing probably did start out as a hobby) and see how you feel in a week.

2. Take a recommendation from someone you don’t usually ask for advice.

What is the head of the Circulation department reading? Your barista? What about your 8 year old nephew? Stray further from your regular PLN and see if someone else’s enthusiasm about their favorite genre might be contagious.

3. Dig deep into your TBR pile.

Don’t look at the top of the pile or list — look at the bottom. What were you itching to get your hands on two years ago? Scan back and find a time that you were in the opposite of a reading funk (What would that be? A reading fervor?) and pull something out that you didn’t have time for. Maybe connecting back to that energy will bring it all back home.

4. Find your old favorites.

What’s the book you can always read one more time? Pull out your old paperback, or treat yourself to a shiny, fresh, new edition and sink into the comfort of the pages like the embrace of an old friend. One of the best things about this kind of reading is that you can pick up and leave off just about anywhere and it’s not jarring. Skip the parts you don’t care for and focus on your favorite passages. See where it leads.

5. And now for something completely different.

Always read YA? Try an adult nonfiction about history. Usually tend toward realism? Pick up that fantasy novel everyone’s been talking about. When I get into a reading funk, I can usually break out by pulling out a fluffy, sometimes raunchy celebrity memoir. It’s nothing that I’ll ever talk to teens about so it’s purely self-indulgent reading. It’s fun, there’s no obligation to write about it, and it’s all mine.

How do you break out of your reading funks? Share in the comments.

Karen’s Guide to Working with Your Local Radio Station, adventures in creative marketing

For 7 or 8 years, I got to be on the local radio station every Friday morning. It was a glorious thing for me. So today I’m going to share with you how that relationship came to be and some of my tips for working with your local radio station. I highly recommend that if you have a local radio station, especially a smaller, independent station, that you reach out to them and find ways to work with them to promote your library.

I was really lucky in that our local radio station had great hosts and we developed great working relationships over time.  We developed a rhythm, but they always made sure to have a brief segment where we talked specifically about upcoming library programs.  All the rest we made up as we went along. It was exactly like the morning shows you hear as you drive to work, except I wasn’t as funny. I’m just not good at funny.


Here are my radio cohorts: Host Rob Whalen, Intern Paige Dunham and Intern Margaret Emily engaging in a cricket spitting contest. Emily is filming and narrating the video for live broadcast. From the WDCM Facebook page.

If you have a local radio station, make contact with them and offer to do a weekly show with them.  Be open to what they need.  Simply talking about books doesn’t necessarily make great radio.  So I stayed on top of current news and pop culture tidbits, and then when I found and opening I would swoop in and make that library tie in.  Are they talking about J-Lo joining the cast of American Idol?  Mention she is on the cover of this week’s People and you can come to the library and browse the magazine collection.  Are they talking about The Walking Dead?  Be sure and mention all the great zombie titles in your collection.  You have to be quick and stay on your toes. But you also have to remember that every single thing you say doesn’t have to be library related; simply by being there as a representative for the library you are getting the library recognition outside of it’s four walls in a creative way.

Keep in mind that your local radio station also may be available to do a remote broadcast; this is great if you have a big event coming up.  They do sometimes charge a fee to do a remote broadcast, so make sure and get all the details before hand.  A remote broadcast is a great idea for a SRC kick-off party, library anniversary celebration, or author event, just to name a few.  Be sure to meet with your broadcaster beforehand to discuss when they will do breakaways and arrange a variety of people for them to talk to during your event.  If possible, have prize giveaways.

When Working with Your Local Radio Station Keep in Mind: It’s Their Show and You are the Guest

WDCM Marion, Ohio was the radio station I worked with while at The Marion Public Library

They are running the show, so get the 411 beforehand.  There are things that you can not say and huge fines involved.  We all remember what happened with Janet Jackson at the Super Bowl.  You don’t want the on air equivalent of a wardrobe malfunction.  And you don’t want to offend your hosts. You are in their space so please try and respect it. Ask them point blank and establish clear boundaries: what can I not say?

Talk to your administrators to discuss their rules on that end, too.  You want to try and avoid talking politics or anything that will reflect poorly on the library.  You don’t have the same freedom that the radio host does.  It is really easy when it is just you and the radio host sitting in a room talking to forget that the microphone is there and people are listening. Let the radio hosts know ahead of time of specific topics that you aren’t allowed to discuss and make sure that you make your boundaries clear up front.

Make sure you have the personality for it.  If you are not the right fit, then this is not the right marketing vehicle for you.  That’s okay.  The radio station hosts will be able to tell right away if it will work or not.  Trust them, they know what they are doing.

If you can, try and make it a regularly occurring segment on a regular day of the week at a regular time.  If people know when and where to find you, they will tune in. As I mentioned I went every Friday morning like clockwork.

When Working with Your Local Radio Station Keep in Mind: The Ins and Out of a Radio Show are a Delicate Dance, Learn the Steps [Read more…]

Book Review: Pandemic by Yvonne Ventresca (The #SVYALit Project)

As part of my Cybils reading, I came across a book called Pandemic. I’m a huge fan of pandemics (in theory only of course). In fact, I have the movie Contagion on my DVR and watch it quite often, much to The Mr.’s dismay. So I was immediately intrigued by this title and looking forward to reading it. It did not disappoint, but it turned out to be a very interesting read for reasons that I was not expecting.

Pandemic is an interesting book because it is about a pandemic, but it also turns out to be a book about the effects of sexual violence on its main character, something I was not expecting at all. I thought that it handled several of the issues really well and was quite pleased with the way that Ventresca is able to show the long term effects of sexual violence on our main character in a unique situation.

When we first meet Lilliann, she is out of school and it is quite clear that *something* happened between her and a male teacher which is being investigated and has had a profound impact on her. She has developed some obsessive fears and anxieties, informed in part by her parents work in infectious diseases (a minor plot convenience that you have to overlook).

Both of her parents are away when the pandemic starts, leaving Lillian on her own. It starts slowly, with occasional news reports, and then it becomes clear that this is the real deal. Kids are left without parents, neighborhoods begin to fall into chaos, and wandering bands of looters start trying to find the resources necessary to survive. Because of her OCD/Anxiety issues that have arisen as a result of her teacher issues, Lillian was in the process of hoarding food. In the beginning she is set up to survive quite nicely, but over time a variety of circumstances play out that put her in a precarious position.

And in the midst of all of this she is still left to deal with the emotional consequences of this event that has happened to her. It doesn’t just go away because she is in a life or death situation. She is still plagued by shame, doubt, confusion, anxiety and fear and these emotions impact the decisions she makes in the midst of this pandemic. They impact how she can or can’t engage with other survivors to try and find help, or to provide it. They impact how she reacts in some very key moments of crisis. The effects of her experience never stop informing who she is and how she acts, even in the midst of a much more imminent crisis, which I think is important and profound because it highlights the long term effects that survivors of sexual violence can experience. They reorient Lilliann in such a way, shifting the core of who she is, that it continue to inform how she views the world and the decisions she makes, much as it can for real world sexual violence survivors.

There is another very interesting thing that we see happening in Pandemic as well as we see how others react when someone discloses that they are the victim of sexual abuse. Why don’t people disclose/report right away we often hear. But the truth is, even those that do report immediately aren’t treated in a way that supports victims. Lillian has two best friends and they each respond quite differently when Lilliann comes forward with her allegations. One friend is believing and supportive while the second is anything but. Even in the midst of a changing world, this second friend is disbelieving and at times cruel and vindictive, blaming her friend for the actions of an adult or accusing her of outright lying.

In the midst of all of this is also some really interesting reflections on the idea of forgiveness, particularly the idea of forgiving those who commit acts of sexual violence against us. Can survivors forgive those who harm them? Should they? Do they have an obligation to? There is no one right answer to this question, some survivors do and some do not. But it is interesting to read Lillian’s story and ponder whether or not she can forgive the teacher that harms her in the midst of a dying world. It puts a pressing perspective on a very real life question. By taking these scenarios into extremes, Ventresca gives us a safe way to discuss very real issues surrounding the topic of sexual violence.

To be clear, this is at the end of the day a book about a pandemic and if you like those types of reads (like me), it’s a pretty good one. There is all the tension that comes as we read about loved ones dying, the slow disintegration of our normal routines, and the attempts to keep oneself fed and safe when all the normal channels cease to function. Ventresca just manages to take it to new and interesting places by making her main character one who is forced to deal with the emotional struggles of abuse in the midst of the end of the world.

About Pandemic:

Even under the most normal circumstances, high school can be a painful and confusing time. Unfortunately, Lilianna’s circumstances are anything but normal. Only a few people know what caused her sudden change from model student to the withdrawn pessimist she has become, but her situation isn’t about to get any better. When people begin coming down with a quick-spreading illness that doctors are unable to treat, Lil’s worst fears are realized. With her parents called away on business before the contagious outbreak-her father in Delaware covering the early stages of the disease and her mother in Hong Kong and unable to get a flight back to New Jersey-Lil’s town is hit by what soon becomes a widespread illness and fatal disaster. Now, she’s more alone than she’s been since the “incident” at her school months ago.

With friends and neighbors dying all around her, Lil does everything she can just to survive. But as the disease rages on, so does an unexpected tension as Lil is torn between an old ex and a new romantic interest. Just when it all seems too much, the cause of her original trauma shows up at her door. In this thrilling debut from author Yvonne Ventresca, Lil must find a way to survive not only the outbreak and its real-life consequences, but also her own personal demons. (Publisher’s Description)

Published in May 2014 from Sky Pony Press

Middle Grade Monday – The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud

I am honestly delighted with this second entry in the distinctly well written Lockwood & Co. series by Stroud. It has so many elements to recommend it to my middle school readers! In case you missed it, I recently reviewed the first book in the series, The Screaming Staircase. When I opened the library’s latest book shipment, I was excited to find this one inside – especially since it was right before a scheduled break. I knew I would have time to read it before I put it out for circulation.

This entry into the series begins six months after the events of Combe Carey Hall as detailed in The Screaming Staircase. The agents at Lockwood & Co., Anthony, Lucy, and George have several more cases to their credit, but continue to be frustrated by the interference of Quill Kipps and his agents from the ultra-posh Fittes Agency. As the book opens, a minor lack of information causes the agents to get themselves in a sticky situation from which they are rescued by Kipps and his agents, who take credit for the operation. This leads to a not so friendly wager between the two groups over a yet to be determined contest of agenting prowess. We have little time to wait, as both groups are called in on a case by Inspector Barnes.

As set up during the last chapter of The Screaming Staircase, this case is heavily dependent upon a psychic relic containing a ‘source’ which has continued to speak to Lucy on and off throughout their cases. Its importance comes into focus on this case as they realize that their ‘skull in a jar’ is somehow related to the Bickerstaff case. Bickerstaff, being a mad scientist type who created a bone mirror to attempt to see into the afterlife, is uncovered, along with the mirror. George, who gets a glimpse of the mirror at the beginning of the case and almost loses his life to Bickerstaff’s ghost, becomes obsessed with the object and it’s properties, beginning to act strangely. Lucy and Lockwood, who dismiss George’s idiosyncratic behavior as a rule, don’t pay enough attention to the change in George’s personality. Of course, this almost leads to the demise of all three agents.

As it continues being the story of three relatively unsupervised 15/16 year olds, it adds elements that will only increase its appeal to middle graders. Some of the highlights of this entry into the series include the manipulative and creepy messages Lucy receives from the skull, a ghost who constantly relives being eaten alive by rats (sure to be popular with my students,) an informant with a serious lack of attention to personal hygiene, a death by stabbing, the black market in psychic relics, and the continued rivalry between the Lockwood agents and Kipps’ group from the Fittes agency. We also get a glimpse, at the end, of Lockwood’s secret room which neatly sets up the next entry into the series. I’m not sure how many volumes Stroud has planned, but if they all remain as strong as the first two I hope they continue for a long while. This series is a definite purchase for all collections serving students ages 10 to 14.

Serving Full T.I.L.T. (Teens in Libraries Today)

Some time recently Eden Grey, Rebecca Denham, Heather Booth and I got into a conversation on Twitter, as one does. How, we began discussing, do you convince your library administrators that you need to do teen services – and do them well? That online conversation soon became an epic planning session as we decided that it was a question we wanted to answer and answer well, which is how the upcoming series we named Serving Full T.I.L.T. came to be. To serve teens today in libraries, we wanted to put together a good package that we can use off the cuff to talk with our fellow staff members, our local communities, and even the press. So over an 8 week series that’s what we’ll be doing, working together to put together that basic info and share it with you so that we all have what we need to answer the question: why should libraries serve teens?

The series will look like this:

January 14 By the Numbers, making the case for teen services using basic demographic information (Karen Jensen)

January 21 Sarcasm, Spice and Everything Awesome: The Developing Teen (Rebecca Denham)

January 28 Brain Science 101 (Heather Booth)

February 4 Asset Building 101, How using the 40 Developmental Assets can help us plan and evaluate teen programming (Karen Jensen)

February 11 Diverse teens, diverse needs (Eden Grey)

February 18 Sharing stories, how knowing and sharing the stories of our teens can help make the case (Heather Booth)

February 25 Empathy, remembering what it means to be a teen and how it makes us better teen services librarians (Heather Booth)

March 4 A Teen Services 101 Infographic (Rebecca Denham and Karen Jensen)

March 11 Talking Up Teens: Discussing Teen Services with Library Administration (Eden Grey)

Heather Booth is the Teen Services Librarian at Thomas Ford Memorial Library in suburban Chicagoland. She has worked in libraries since 2001 and is the author of Serving Teens Through Reader’s Advisory (ALA Editions, 2007) and the editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Servcies along with Karen Jensen. She has been reviewing Books for Youth and Audiobooks for Booklist Magazine since 2006.  She can be reached at teenreadersadvisor (at) gmail.com or @boothheather on Twitter.

Rebecca Denham is a Young Adult Librarian at heart who masquerades as an Assistant Branch Manager by day at a very busy library somewhere in the metropolitan wilds of Texas.  When not distracted by management duties Rebecca is reading, reviewing YA literature and coming up with fun, innovative programming with diverse teen appeal. When not writing and reviewing for her blog Rebecca volunteers her time for the following committees: Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers (YALSA), 2015-2016, Best Fiction for Young Adults (YALSA), 2013-2014, 2014-2015,Youth Engagement (YALSA), 2013-2014,Spirit of Texas Reading Program HS (YART), 2011-2015, Teen Book Con Planning Committee, 2011 to present, Book Reviewer for VOYA, December 2011 to present,A4YA Reviewer for SLJ, Febraury 2014 to present.

Eden Grey: Eden is a Teen Librarian, a YA Lit reviewer, otaku, herder of cats, Michigan-native, traveler, and proud pet of a 3 year-old dachshund. She lives in Northern Kentucky, where she reads, writes, sews, and blogs. You can find her on Twitter: @edyngrey Her blog address is www.edynjean.wordpress.com.

Karen Jensen is the creator and administrator of Teen Librarian Toolbox and a YA librarian for 21+ years. You can see her complete bio and resume at the About TLT page.

Sunday Reflections: A Very Literary Christmas

There was no Christmas tree this year. At this point, we’re not even sure where home is going to be in 2015. But there was still a bag of books waiting for The Tween when she woke up on Christmas morning.

The number one item on her Christmas list was book 3 in The Land of Stories series, which I bought at the school’s Scholastic Book Fair. When she saw it in the book she hugged and stroked it like any good book lover would. Surprinsgly, however, it was not the first book she read this Christmas morning.

Close to Christmas I had found an Edgar Allan Poe metal lunchbox at the Half Price Bookstore. I have always been a huge fan of Poe. When I graduated high school I used the little money I got to buy the complete works of Poe. When I learned I was pregnant with The Tween I campaigned aggressively to name her Annabel Lee. The Mr., however, thought it seemed like a curse to name our child after a dead girl in a poem written by a demented author. He seemed pretty firm on this point, which is why her name is not, in fact, Annabel Lee. So we bought the metal lunch box and found a $1.00 copy of some of Poe’s work to stick inside of it.

She disappeared within minutes and I found her sitting in a closet reading the short story The Tell Tale Heart by flashlight. Which, when you think about it, is the best way to read this story.

Later I caught her and The Mr. looking through the table of contents while he shared his memories of reading each of the stories. He had to explain to her what a pendulum was. And then they were discussing why the main character in The Tell-Tale Heart kept hearing the beating heart under the floorboards. Spoiler alert: it’s about guilt.

We also bought her Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – for only $5.o0, score! – to complete her Harry Potter set. HP continues to be a seminal work for tweens who are discovering them for the first time. I continue to be amazed every day at the talents of Rowling and her ability to capture the hearts and minds of generations with this tale of friendship and bravery.

A friend got her the 2015 Guinness Book of World Records, a choice I think you can never go wrong with. 21 years working in a public library with tweens and teens and I think this is one of the most requested books. Well, maybe it’s a tie between this and A Child Called It.

It’s funny because I remember being pregnant with The Tween almost 13 years ago. I was sitting in a teen program and I sat back for a moment, looking at all my teens that I had spent years nurturing in teen programs, and wondered what it would be like to have my own child among them. Would she want to come, I wondered? What if she doesn’t like science fiction, I feared. What if she doesn’t like to read . . .

Now, she is one of my library teens. She has come to my programs. She has helped me set up and clean up. She has helped me plan. She has sat in a room with her peers and taught them how to do things like make Rainbow Loom bracelets. I get to share my favorite books with her and take her to see all the YA book based movies. It’s a magical meeting of the two best parts of me, my librarian world and my child.

It was a very literary Christmas this year. One of the sparsest and most uncertain, almost devoid of festivity and decorations. But it was in many ways one of our best because we sat around and talked about the stories that moved us.

Friday Finds – December 26, 2014

This Week at TLT

Sunday Reflections: Why I Learned to Stop Thinking of My Patrons as “Stupid”

Middle Grade Monday – 5 Christmas Movies to Share with your Tween

The Tween and Friends Top 14 Reads in 2014

The Tween ARC Party: The Tween an friends look at some upcoming 2015 book releases

Around the Web

SAT Scores strongly correlate with family income – surprise.

As the total number of homeless individuals continues to drop, the number of homeless children hits a record high.

Read more about the importance of livable wages here: Improving Wages, Improving Lives: Why raising the minimum wage is a civil and human rights issue.

Lots of good news from the Nielsen Children’s Book Summit.

Author Laura Ruby being smart on the Internet.

A fun free teen tech program from Robot Test Kitchen.

Why 2014 was a better year than we remember.

The Tween ARC Party: The Tween an friends look at some upcoming 2015 book releases

The other day I was getting ARCs organized for 2015 when The Tween and her Bestie were over. We had an impromptu ARC party where the tweens went through each physical arc I had on the premises and sorted them into Oh My Goodness I Want to Read piles and the Meh ones. They’re looking at covers, reading back covers, and of course we have to take into account their personal reading preferences (which leans toward speculative). And yes, I totally use every tween and teen that comes into my house as an information resource. I’m not even ashamed.

This is the pile we began with . . .

The stack on the left is January 2015 titles, which you can see I have the most of (probably from a combination of TLA and ALA).

Their favorite cover was this . . .

They liked the combination of music and space. Unmade is the second book and conclusion to Entangled by author Amy Rose Capetta.

Unmade Publisher’s Description: The galaxy-spanning conclusion to Amy Rose Capetta’s acclaimed sci-fi debut, Entangled.

Cadence is in a race against time and space to save her family and friends from the Unmakers, who are tracking the last vestiges of humanity across the cosmos. As the epic battle begins, Cade learns that letting people in also means letting them go. The universe spins out of control and Cade alone must face the music in the page-turning conclusion to Entangled. Coming January 13th from HMH Books for Young Readers. (YA)

The Tween actually has already read this book, interestingly enough. The week before winter break was the school Scholastic Book Fair and The Tween had chosen 3 books to purchase at the preview: The Spider Ring, The Land of Stories book 3, and The Neptune Project by Polly Holyoke. She purchased and read both The Spider Ring and The Neptune Project within 2 days. She highly recommends both. The Neptune Project is out now and The Spider Ring comes out in January and is about a girl who inherits a ring to control spiders.

The Spider Ring Publisher’s Description: A powerful ring. A dangerous web.

When Maria inherits a strange, spider-shaped ring from her grandmother, she doesn’t realize she’s also inheriting a strange power — the power to control spiders and have them do whatever she wants. This is a pretty cool thing when it comes to fetching objects from another room . . . or if Maria wants to use the spiders to get back at some mean kids in her class.

But the power comes with a price. Maria has attracted the attention of the Black Widow — who is trying to collect all the spider magic for herself. The Black Widow is not going to let anything stand in her way — especially not Maria.

The story of the ring is being woven like a web — and Maria is going to have to do everything she can to not get trapped within it. Coming January 27th from Scholastic Press (though if your school has a Scholastic Book Fair you can buy it now). Author Andrew Harwell. (MG)

In 2013 my family listened to and loved Pie by Sarah Weeks, so The Tween was very excited to see Honey. Also, she is a huge dog person so it gets bonus points for the dog on the cover. This is another ARC she read in a day and raved about.

Publisher’s Description: For a girl like Melody and a dog like Mo, life can be both sticky and sweet.

Melody has lived in Royal, Indiana, for as long as she can remember. It’s been just her and her father, and she’s been okay with that. But then she overhears him calling someone Honey — and suddenly it feels like everyone in Royal has a secret. It’s up to Melody and her best friend, Nick, to piece together the clues and discover why Honey is being hidden.

Meanwhile, a dog named Mo is new to Royal. He doesn’t remember much from when he was a puppy . . . but he keeps having dreams of a girl he is bound to meet someday. This girl, he’s sure, will change everything.

In HONEY, Sarah Weeks introduces two characters — one a girl, one a dog– who are reaching back further than their memories in order to figure out where they came from and where they’re going. It’s a total treat from beginning to end.

Coming January 2015 from Scholastic Press (MG)

As you can see from the picture above, The Tween is a huge Paris fanatic. She even dressed up one year as the Eiffel Tower and you can see the remnants from that homemade costume on the wall. Plus, she got awesome Paris pajamas for Christmas that she can sit back and read this upcoming Lisa Schroeder title, My Secret Guide to Paris.

Publisher’s Description: From the author of the Charmed Life and It’s Raining Cupcakes series comes a novel of family, friends, and a Paris adventure that readers will never forget!

Nora has always wanted to see Paris, thanks to her Grandma Sylvia’s stories. But when Sylvia suddenly passes away just months before their planned trip, Nora thinks she’s lost everything.

Nora still dreams of Paris–and when she finds her own name on a set of clues to a Parisian scavenger hunt packed away in her grandmother’s room, along with plane tickets, Nora knows that Sylvia still wants her to go, too.

At last, Nora sets off on the adventure–and mystery–of a lifetime. What did Grandma Sylvia want her to find in Paris? Why do all the clues insist that Nora’s mother be with her? And could the key to healing and forgiveness be found at the top of the Eiffel Tower? Coming February 24th from Scholastic Press (MG)

As you can see, they put a lot of books in their TBR pile. The Bestie (on the left) felt like she was most interested in Vivian Apple at the End of the World. The Tween seemed particularly interested in Hell Hole by Gina Damico as her next read.

Vivan Apple at the End of the World Publisher’s Description: Seventeen-year-old Vivian Apple never believed in the evangelical Church of America, unlike her recently devout parents. But when Vivian returns home the night after the supposed “Rapture,” all that’s left of her parents are two holes in the roof. Suddenly, she doesn’t know who or what to believe. With her best friend Harp and a mysterious ally, Peter, Vivian embarks on a desperate cross-country roadtrip through a paranoid and panic-stricken America to find answers. Because at the end of the world, Vivan Apple isn’t looking for a savior. She’s looking for the truth. Coming January 8th from HMH Books for Young Readers. Written by Katie Coyle. (YA)

Hellhole Publisher’s Description: A devil is a bad influence . . .

There was a time when geeky, squeaky-clean Max Kilgore would never lie or steal or even think about murder. Then he accidentally unearths a devil, and Max’s choices are no longer his own. The big red guy has a penchant for couch surfing and junk food—and you should never underestimate evil on a sugar high.

With the help of Lore, a former goth girl who knows a thing or two about the dark side, Max is racing against the clock to get rid of the houseguest from hell before time, and all the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos this side of the fiery abyss, run out. Coming January 6th from HMH Books for Young Readers. Author Gina Dimaco. (YA)

As they read, I’ll have them check in with us all and share their thoughts. Let me know what’s on your 2015 TBR in the comments, I want to make sure I’m not missing something I need to be reading.

The Tween and Friends Top 14 Reads in 2014

Many Friday nights I have anywhere from 2 to 5 preteen girls hanging out at my house. Not all of them are readers, but two of them are very fervent readers. In fact, I was surprised recently to learn that The Tween’s BF had almost 5 times the AR points as her, which is astounding when I think about how very much The Tween reads. Though to be fair, The Tween still reads largely in the MG category, which means her books are often worth fewer points, while the BF reads a ton of YA books which can tend to be worth more points. Also to be fair, The Tween reads a lot of the ARCs we get for TLT to give me her point of view and they are, of course, worth no points. Anyhow, it’s always interesting to talk to the kids that come to my house about books. Last Friday I had The Tween and Friends put together a list of their Top 14 Reads of 2014. For the purposes of this list I didn’t not limit it to new books, but just wanted to see of all the books they read between them what they liked best in 2014.

1. A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

This should be surprising to no regular TLT reader. The Tween was crazy about this book and we even took the BF to Tween Reads to meet the author, where they both got their own signed copies. I also listened to this on audio because my daughter was such a huge fan and to be honest I really liked it a lot. When I ask The Tween why she likes it her #3wordbooktalk is “magic, hopeful, happy”.

2. The Neptune Project by Polly Holyoke

The Tween actually just read this book this past week. I sent her off to the Scholastic Book Fair and she came home wanting 3 books: The Neptune Project, The Spider Ring and the 3rd book in the Land of Stories series. She bought both The Neptune Project and The Spider Ring, both of which she read immediately. She commented frequently that it was “sad” and that she “wants to speak to dolphins” while reading. In the end she said, The Neptune Project is “one of those books that just really gets to you and make you realize that you have a good life.” Note: The Spider Ring technically has a January 2015 publication date but it was sold early at her school’s Scholastic Book Fair.

3. Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter

The Tween’s BF LOVES this series and since I do too, we talk about it a lot. She thinks she is weird because she “likes bloody books”, but I keep assuring her that lots of people do which is why mystery and horror are so popular. We even talked a little bit about why people are drawn to these types of stories and how they help us process the darkness of life in a safe environment. Not that she cares about any of that, she just thinks the books are incredibly cool.

4. The Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer

One of the best things about this new group of Tweens is that they are just now finding both the Harry Potter and Twilight series. So while I was there to experience it the first time, it is fun watching them experience it for their first time. The BF is a HUGE fan of the Twilight series. Although I will be the first to point out some of its flaws (I can’t stand the scene, for example, where Edward disables Bella’s vehicle to stop her from doing something she wants to do under the pretense that he is protecting her, it genuinely enrages me), I can’t help but remember the appeal for young teens who are just starting to think about romance.

5. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

This year I took The Tween to a Dallas meet and greet for the movie. Then I took her and her friends to see the movie. AND THEN she read the book. That’s right, she did it totally backwards. But her and her friends were compelled to read the book after watching the movie (which is also true for If I Stay), which is why I am a big champion of book based movies. The Tween didn’t cry at the movie (I sobbed like a big baby) but she did cry reading the book. All of the tweens said they liked the positive relationship in the book and that was why they were drawn to it.

6. Savvy by Ingrid Law

It was the BF who insisted this book be put on the list, neither The Tween or I have read this one yet. But that same girl who likes bloody books, she said she liked this book because “it’s one of those feel good books”. A reminder that readers aren’t drawn to just one type of book and we can take what we know about our readers and introduce them to new types of books as long as we keep them connected to the appeal factors of our audience.

7. The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer and Brandon Dorman

This is one of The Tween’s favorite series at the moment. She won’t stop talking about it and – shhhhh don’t tell – I went ahead and bought her book 3 for Christmas. Land of Stories fits nicely into the twisted fairy tales genre that is really popular at the moment, but The Tween also says she really likes the good brother/sister relationship.

8. The Giver by Lois Lowry

I was really impressed when they brought up this book because I know that 1) it’s not something they had to read for school and 2) neither one of them saw the movie (The Mr. and I went but did not take The Tween). That means that they discovered this book on their own, and yes probably sparked in part by the movie advertising, but they chose to read it and connected with it. The appeal factor for them was that it is “different than most stories.”

9. Leisl and Po by Lauren Oliver

The Tween is a huge fan of Lauren Oliver, who happens to be the first author she met in person on what our family refers to as Lauren Oliver day. She got a signed copy of Leisl and Po probably two years ago, but read it for the first time this year where she really became a fan of fantasy. In fact if you ask her, she’ll tell she is a “fantasy girl.” The appeal factor here is once again the relationships. The Tween states that Leisl and Po “taught the meaning of having a good friend.” I mean if you’re cool with your good friend being a ghost and all.

10. Dark Life by Kat Falls [Read more…]

Middle Grade Monday – 5 Christmas Movies to Share with your Tween

For personal reasons, I don’t support telling children that Santa (or the Tooth Fairy or Easter Bunny) is real.* On the other hand, a good story, whether based on historical narrative or cultural mythology, is a good story. By the time kids are in the ‘middle grades’ years they are generally aware that Santa is not an actual person, elves are not real, and there is no magical workshop based at the North Pole. This doesn’t mean that they can’t enjoy a good Christmas movie. In fact, it may be just what they need to help them transition from childhood belief to their new understanding of the role that the Santa mythology plays in the holiday.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966) – If for no other reason than the brilliant language, enhanced by the narration of the magnificent Boris Karloff, this is an essential choice. And be very clear, I am speaking of the original animated version, not the Jim Carrey headlined, nightmarish abomination from 2000. Sorry, I have strong feelings about this. Not that I have anything against Jim Carrey. Scratch that, I have a lot against Jim Carrey, but all is forgiven due to his inspired performance in The Truman Show. Regardless, this classic version of Dr. Seuss, in which he had a large hand, is worth enjoying on an annual basis.

Scrooged (1988) – As an unrepentant fan of Bill Murray, I have to recommend this movie. It’s a creative take on Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, and features some truly classic performances. My favorite performance is Carol Kane as the Ghost of Christmas Present (your tween might recognize her as the wife of Miracle Max from The Princess Bride.) For those of us who were teens and tweens during this time period, it’s also a pretty good composite of what life (or at least popular culture) had to offer when we were their age. Also, it’s PG-13, so use your judgement for when your tween is ready.

The Santa Clause (1994) – Oh, Tim Allen, you really lucked out with this one. For anyone who has fallen into what seems like a perpetual state of relationship disrepair with your tween, this is a useful choice. It’s also my favorite visually imagined version of Santa’s workshop. With some of the best performances being delivered by the children in the film (special shoutout to teenaged David Krumholtz), this is a great version of the ‘reluctant hero’ story. Bring tissues.

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) – A truly faithful interpretation of the Dickens classic, this is the version I recommend to anyone who is trying to help their tween understand just what is going on in Language Arts class. Is it just my school, or do schools everywhere try to teach play format with this? Gonzo is an inspired choice as narrator, with Kermit and Miss Piggy falling naturally into the roles of Mr. and Mrs. Cratchit, all of our favorite characters from the muppets canon get their 5 minutes in this delightful performance. And, of course, Michael Caine makes the perfect Scrooge – believably unsympathetic to start, but growing more and more relatable as the story progresses. Also, One More Sleep ‘Til Christmas.

Elf (2003) – Where would I be without this movie? I turn it on every year when the winter doldrums strike. It seems almost inconceivable that Will Ferrell will be able to make it through the entire story without breaking character, but he does it every time. No other adult attempting to portray childlike innocence can hold a candle to this performance (“son of a nutcracker!”) Packed with small performances by big name actors, this is the perfect choice to share with any tween who has lost the magic of Christmas.

Regardless of what you celebrate at this time of year, if you celebrate anything at all, the break we all get from school, work, etc., is the perfect time to share a favorite movie with a favorite tween or two. Happy viewing and a restful season to all.

*Statement is not intended to pass judgement, your mileage may vary, you do you, etc.