Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Miss Mayhem by Rachel Hawkins with bonus guest post!

Harper Price is back, and just as fun as the first time! This week the sequel to Rachel Hawkins fabulous Rebel Belle hit the shelves, continuing the story of Harper Price, high school queen bee turned magical Paladin. Harper’s boyfriend David (former nemesis turned supernatural powerhouse that she is compelled to protect) is “fine?” Everything is going along well, even Bee has been returned by the Ephors. And then everything goes pear shaped. Honestly, this installment was like trying to walk through a house of mirrors. You aren’t entirely sure what is going on, but nothing seems quite right. It all comes out in the end, though. And what an end…sigh. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. If you like snarky, twisty, paranormal adventures with fierce girls and the boys who love them, this one will be right up your alley.

We welcome Rachel Hawkins today with a guest post on her love of libraries and librarians (yay!) We love you, too, Rachel.

My library growing up was one of those old municipal buildings, the kind that forever smell like Pine-Sol and old paper, the sound of fluorescent lights humming overhead competing with the squeak of shoes on linoleum. I don’t think I’d be hurting anyone’s feelings by admitting that it was a little sterile, a  little ugly, and that the carpet always scraped my knees when I knelt down to look at books on lower shelves.

But it was still, to me, a magical place.

I was really little when my mom first started taking me to the library. Thanks to Levar Burton and Reading Rainbow (a show which started the year I started Kindergarten, making me the perfect candidate to tell the butterfly in the sky that I could go twice as high), I was obsessed with the idea of the library. Those little kids on the show, wearing overalls and telling me about a book, ending with, “Check it out?” Oh, man, I wanted to be one of those kids. I never got that chance, but I did check out just about every book the show recommended. I can still remember the little thrill of victory I’d get when we’d go to the library to request one of those Reading Rainbow books, and it was still on the shelves. “HA!” I would think. “I got here FIRST! I AM THE SUPREME CHECKER OUTER!” (It’s possible that the show made me not only a reader, but a super competitive person as well.)

My mom will be the first to admit that she’s not a reader, but when she saw that I definitely was, she signed me up for every library program there was, and put me in the very capable hands of Mrs. Green, the children’s librarian. Mrs. Green was, as far as I can tell, a superhero. She possessed one of the best superpowers there was, after all: an uncanny sense of what book fit what kid. And not just in the, “Oh, you like this author? Here, have more of that same author!” way. Mrs. Green could see what made you tick as a reader. In my case, I loved ghost stories and fairy tales, so Mrs. Green, seeing that I liked my books a bit on the dark side, steered me towards Roald Dahl. (I know, you’re all thinking, “The guy who wrote that candy factory book? Is his stuff dark?” Go read The Witches, and tell me you’re not traumatized by the end of that book. Then go read Boy, and understand where all that came from.)

Now, Mrs. Green was just doing her job, of course- recommending books to kids was a large part of the whole Children’s Librarian Thing. But what she was also doing was not only building a reader, but building a writer. By leading me to the stories that she got were somehow embedded in my DNA, Mrs. Green was showing me the path to those things I’d later pull out of my own “mental junk drawer” to make books of my own. “You like these things,” she was teaching me to see, “but those things can also lead to other things, can open up whole new areas of interest you didn’t know you had.”

And then of course, there was the selection! Even today, when I go into a library, I’m almost overwhelmed by how many books there are. And all free! My parents were huge supporters of my reading, and I don’t think they ever said, “No,” to buying me a book, but still, when you have a voracious reader, you really need a place with free books. Plus there was something so fun about the ritual of it all, selecting the perfect five or so books, wanting some to read by myself, others for my mom to read to me so we could talk about them, others that I maybe just wanted to look at because the illustrations were so pretty.

Eventually,  I outgrew the children’s room, and got to move over to the Adult Reading Room, which was a whole separate part of the building, and I still remember the joy of exchanging my children’s card for an adult one. There wasn’t a Mrs. Green there to help guide me through the stacks, but by then, thanks to all that time learning what kind of books I was into, I was able to find things pretty easily on my own (and since what I was into were romance novels and Stephen King- natural progression from fairy tales and Roald Dahl, really-, I maaaaaybe didn’t talk to my mom about what I was reading anymore.)

We talk a lot about “write what you know,” but I think the truth is, it’s closer to “write what you love.” It takes a long time to figure out what you love, both as a reader and a writer, but having access to so many books, and access to a person who knows how to help guide you through those books is so essential to that process.

So that’s why my library, for all that it was far from glamorous, always feel magical to me. Magic happened there. All the books I’ve written wouldn’t have existed without it, and I will always be so thankful to my mom for taking me there, and to Mrs. Green for showing me the way.

I still hate those kids who got to be on Reading Rainbow, though.

For those of you who missed out on the Twitter chat with Rachel last night – the third and final book about the adventures of David, Harper, and all of their friends is now in edits! (Also – it includes a road trip!)

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