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Video Games Weekly: Video Game Genres 101

videogamesweeklyThis week, I wanted to reach out to those of you who are not very familiar with video games. So, I thought it might be helpful to write out a list of video game genres and definitions! I will probably be linking to this article frequently, and will update it as new genres/terms emerge in the video game realm [and the ones I accidentally skipped].

Video games, like books, can be broken down into different genres. Video game genres, however, tend to represent either the story experience or game play mechanics, but a game can have many “genres” assigned to it. These two factors create endless combinations, and are what makes the video game medium so unique!

Story Experience Genres

Action – This is a broad term for a game that has an emphasis on physical challenges. Action games usually have a player controlling one character, and navigating an environment while battling enemies or obstacles. Many “action” games are also “adventure” games. One example is Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor.


Adventure – This is a broad term for a game that has an emphasis on puzzles and interactions with the game environment, and do not require quick reflexes. Typically, there is less violence compared to shooter games, but that is not always the case. Many “adventure” games are also “actions” games.

Party – Party games are created intentionally for groups of people to play together. They’re often simple to learn, and have a variety of “mini games”. Think of any Mario Party game.


Role Playing – Also known as “RPG”. It’s a broad term for a game where the player controls one or more characters in a well established world. World exploring is key to this genre, and usually the character has to complete “quests”. In a way, you can think of it as Dungeons and Dragons, but in a video game! One example of a role playing game is Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.


Simulation – This game tries to emulate a real life experience, or a fictional reality. There are subgenres like sports, real life, and construction simulation games. An example of a popular simulation game is the Sims franchise.

Sports – This game can fit into “simulation”, but even then sports games can be broken down into more genres. There are sports games almost for every sport, ranging from football, baseball, to racing, even including Quidditch!


Strategy – These games have an emphasis on planning and skillful thinking in order to win the game. The game is usually slow paced so players can carefully plan their moves. There are subgenres such as “turn-based strategy”, which means players alternate taking turns to move their pieces. A popular strategy game is the Civilization franchise.


Game Play Mechanics

Massive Multiplayer Online Games – As the name suggests, this is a type of game where many players play together online. There are subgenres like “massive multiplayer online role playing games”, also known as “MMORPGs”, which are the most popular. The best example is the game World of Warcraft.


Platform – Also knowns as “platform jumper” games, where the player has to navigate a series of platforms to reach the end, often with enemies in their way. Well known platform jumper games are Super Mario and Donkey Kong.

Sandbox – This type of game takes place in a “free world” where players can do whatever they wish. A sandbox game can have goals or objectives but at its core, players are meant to roam free without any restraints. The best example is Minecraft.


Shooter – This is the oldest genre in video games. As the name suggests, players have to destroy a target or enemies using a weapon. The game continues as long as the player survives. Players develop quick reflexes due to fast paced gameplay.
First Person Shooter – Also known as “FPS”. This is a sub genre of shooter games, where the game is experienced from the character’s perspective. This point of view is useful for players who want to focus their aim, and have a “real” gameplay experience. Well known FPS games are Call of Duty and Halo.

Third Person Shooter – Also known as “TPS” or “3PS”. This is a sub genre of shooter games, where the game is experienced outside of the character’s perspective, i.e. players can view both their character and their surrounding environment, as if the camera is behind the character. A well known 3PS games is Gears of War.


By Alanna Graves

TPiB: Locker Crafts

It’s back to school time which for a lot of middle school and high school teens means one thing – LOCKERS! Well, I’m sure it means a lot of things. But for the creative side of me it means LOCKERS! I love making a locker personal, which means MAKING STUFF. We’re all about making! So here are some of our current favorite magnetic crafts that would be great for a locker making event.

The key, of course, to locker crafts are magnets. I have something to say to you about magnets. When you go to the craft store you will find that the cheapest magnets you can buy are these:


DO NOT BUY THESE. They are self-adhesive but they do not in fact stick well. And because they are rolled up it is hard to get them to lay flat. Basically, I have nothing positive to say about this magnet approach except that it is, in fact, usually cheapest. And there is a reason for that.

So what do I recommend? These:magnets2

They seem to have the sticking power we need for our crafts and they are still self-adhesive, a bonus because hot glue it turns out is in fact really hot. I may or may not have recently have been reminded of that fact the hard way.

So now that we have the ever important magnet discussion out of the way, let’s move on to the locker crafts I have to share with you. And here’s an important thing, if you have some additional ideas, please do share them with me in the comments. I love new ideas.

Magnetic Memes

Made with some original artwork and the BeFunky app

Made with some original artwork and the BeFunky app

As you may have read, I am obsessed with making my own photos and creating magnetic frames. So obsessed, we recently painted The Teen’s closet door with magnetic paint so we could decorate it with all of our “locker crafts”. It’s all in the name of MakerSpace research, I swear.


But here’s why I like the photo memes:

1) Let’s be honest, I’m in love with my kids. But you don’t have to use pictures of your kids. You can make them with a picture of anything and a quote from anywhere. It’s an opportunity to be creative and personal.

2.) I love how it combines learning how to use tech with allowing teens an opportunity for creative self-expression.

Here is a short tutorial on making your own memes and here is our tutorial for how we made them into magnetic duct taped framed masterpieces that hang well in a locker.

Magnetic Memes, Take II – The Grid Photo


In addition to making photo memes, I am also obsessed with the grid photo. It’s a great way to show a relationship over time or highlight a special day or event. For example, here is a grid photo of The Teen and The Bestie ice skating the other weekend. It would be a great way to do the 12 years of school (see, obsessed with my kids). I have done montages of my marriage to The Mr., the girls over time, the girls with various friends, etc. I even recently made one for a friend and her husband who went on a cruise. Teens could do their senior year, homecoming, prom, etc.

To make the grid photos I use the grid option on the Photo Shake app. You can do something like 16 to 25 photos. It allows you to move the photos around. You can have frames or no frames. I have printed them out larger size and framed them so they decorate my walls. You can print them out in the smaller Instagram size and use the above mentioned magnetic duct tape framing technique to create a grid photo for a locker.

Magnetic Memes, Take III – Button Form, Kinda


If you have a button machine you can easily turn your buttons into magnets. You simply take out the pin, use the machine as directed, and put a magnet on the back. You just need to make sure it is a thick enough magnet to compensate for the inward curve of the button back. Teens can make their own photo memes as outlined above and use them to make magnets. I made this one using a Lego minifigure, a background, and the PhotoCandy app. I downloaded it into Publisher to make sure it was the correct size for my button machine and then printed it off and voila’ – I have a homemade and completely awesome magnet. We are doing this for our upcoming Star Wars Reads Day activity.

Magnetic Chalkboards


Yesterday I outlined two ways you can make chalkboards. Add magnets to the backs of your creation and you have a locker chalkboard. Again, you’ll want to make sure you use strong enough magnets because these are slightly heavier. They have 4×4 canvas frames that would work well for this craft. And in the comments Kirsten shares with us how you can make your own (cheaper) chalkboard paint in a variety of colors.

Magnetic Chalkboards Adapted into Dry Erase Boards


You can use the tutorial mentioned above with a couple of variations to make a dry erase board instead of a chalkboard. After cutting your matte board to size, cover it with contact paper. You can use white contact paper to get a traditional dry erase board look if desired. We used colored matte boards and clear contact paper to get various colors for our dry erase boards. They work really well.

Rainbow Loom Pencil Hangers


The Teen found and did this craft all on her own. Afterwards she came and got me and said, “Mom, this would be a great library program.” It was a proud day for me. She of course used a YouTube video as a tutorial, which you can find here.

Bottle Cap Magnets


This is a tried and true standby for us. As you can see, we have done a lot of variations: Minecraft, Divergent, Sherlock, Duct Tape, etc. You can find instructions here.

There you have it, some of my favorite locker crafts. These have all been tested by several of my teens have the teen seal of approval.

Have some of your own to share? Drop me a comment. I’m always looking for new ideas.

See Also: Teen Program in a Box: Send Them Back to School with Style

Book Review: What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

what we sawPublisher’s description:

Critically acclaimed memoirist Aaron Hartzler, author of Rapture Practice, takes an unflinching look at what happens to a small town when some of its residents commit a terrible crime. This honest, authentic debut novel—inspired by the events in the Steubenville rape case—will resonate with readers who’ve ever walked that razor-thin line between guilt and innocence that so often gets blurred, one hundred and forty characters at a time.

The party at John Doone’s last Saturday night is a bit of a blur. Kate Weston can piece together most of the details: Stacey Stallard handing her shots, Ben Cody taking her keys and getting her home early. . . . But when a picture of Stacey passed out over Deacon Mills’s shoulder appears online the next morning, Kate suspects she doesn’t have all the details. When Stacey levels charges against four of Kate’s classmates, the whole town erupts into controversy. Facts that can’t be ignored begin to surface, and every answer Kate finds leads back to the same questions: Who witnessed what happened to Stacey? And what responsibility do they have to speak up about what they saw?


Amanda’s thoughts:

The relative calm of Kate’s Iowa high school is broken when the police show up and arrest four basketball players on charges of sexual assault, rape, and distribution of child pornography. What follows is an utterly sickening look at the pervasiveness of rape culture. When Stacey Stallard doesn’t show up to school the Monday after Dooney’s big party, rumors go around about how blackout drunk she was. The above mentioned picture circulates widely. When Mr. Johnston calls her name for attendance (she’s absent), Randy fake coughs the word “whore.” And that’s the general consensus about Stacey–she’s a whore, a slut. Kate notes, “[Stacey] has no problem attracting guys—any guys. All the guys. Jocks, preps, burnouts. Sometimes, it seems as though she’s dated half the junior class.” Even before we get very far into the story, it seems like a safe bet to think that Stacey will be blamed for getting raped. After all, she’s a slut, right? When Kate looks at Twitter, she sees messages like these:

Wait, the police can take my phone cause U R A SLUT?

Gonna rape her good for SURE now.

White trash ho was so drunk she couldn’t tell a dick from a donut.

What u get for inviting a TRAMP to the party.

If we lose state cause of this whore she’s gonna get more than raped.


The messages make Kate feel sick. They make me feel sick. Kate is initially shocked at the vehement outrage everyone seems to instantly have for STACEY, not for any of the star basketball players. I only wish I could feel shocked. Anyone who has paid any attention to the world at all is familiar with rape culture. Hartzler spends 336 pages making us take a long, hard look at exactly how rape culture plays out in this story. A reporter shares that allegedly there is a video of Stacey being raped—though authorities haven’t been able to find it. The principal’s statement is sickening and just the first of many times he defends these “fine” boys:

“These young men are innocent until proven guilty. It is important to understand that we are dealing with allegations against four students who have been examples of fine sportsmanship….”


The news report is also sickening, talking about “troubling” reports of Stacey’s behavior—the same tired old garbage that is always trotted out: she was drunk, she was dressed provocatively, she was maybe dating one of the boys. In other words, she was asking for it. I could quote passage after passage supporting these points (these “fine” boys, this “slutty” girl).


Kate and a friend are the only ones who seem to spend any time at all thinking about Stacey and how this is affecting her. At times I felt this overwhelming awe that a whole entire town could so easily champion these “good boys” and vilify the victim. Not awe because it seemed impossible, just awe that it is so completely possible. When I was a teenager, a friend of mine was raped.  A few weeks after it happened, her mom called me. She wasn’t calling to see if I thought her daughter was doing okay; she was calling to ask me if I thought her daughter was lying. This was well over 20 years ago now, but I still remember everything: where I stood in my room, what my phone looked like, how I instantly felt sick that her own mother didn’t believe her. That was the first time I remember really seriously thinking god help you if you’re raped–even your own mother might not believe the truth. Of course, in this case, the truth might just be on film, if anyone can track down the alleged recording.


There is a lot to talk about here. I have pages and pages of notes. Hartzler’s novel addresses the role social media plays in rumors and bullying, rape culture, slut-shaming, speaking up, and consent. He pushes Kate to think about what consent looks like and models both what it does and does not look like in her relationship with Ben. There is a wonderful scene where Mr. Johnston takes Reggie to task for making it seem like he couldn’t help himself if he were to rape a drunk girl. “You’re saying that our natural state as men is ‘rapist,'” Mr. Johnston says to Reggie. He asks the boys in class to brainstorm what you could do with a drunk girl instead of rape her. Bring her water, drive her home, find her friends, just walk away. THIS is the conversation that we all need to be having—not girls, here’s how you don’t get raped, but boys, here’s how you don’t rape.


Hartzler’s novel is not just phenomenal, it is important. It is an unflinching examination of just how exactly rape culture comes to exist. If you’ve somehow made it this far in life without really thinking about what rape culture looks like, Hartzler’s book will make it clear to you. And if you read this and think, but that’s not really what is happening, you need to look around you. Look at the news. Look at Steubenville.  Look at Owen Labrie‘s case, where the girl said no at least 3 times, but “the defense maintained that she did not resist actively enough.”  Look anywhere, really. Powerful and terrifying, this is another title that definitely makes my top books of 2015 list.


And, hey, parents reading this: go talk with your kids about consent. NOW. Think they’re too young? They’re never too young for that conversation. Here are some places to start if you need some food for thought for starting this VITAL ongoing conversation.

How to Teach Consent to Kids in Five Simple Steps

It’s Never Too Early to Teach Children About Consent and Boundaries

How Parents Talk to Children About Consent

How to Have the Consent Talk with Your Kids

Off to College is Too Late for the Consent Talk

Check in First: How to Talk About Sexual Consent

Planned Parenthood’s Consent and Rape section


For further reading also see:

The Steubenville High School Rape Case

Teen Librarian Toolbox’s Sexual Violence in Young Adult Literature hub

Buzzfeed: What Is Rape Culture?

#NoMoreShittySons, a Storify by Carrie Mesrobian


Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

ISBN-13: 9780062338747

Publisher: HarperCollins

Publication date: 09/22/2015

Middle School Monday – Color Coding and the Tweenage Brain

100_1435One of my favorite things about my current job is an after school club I run called “Readers Club.” The name confuses some of the parents, but the students seem to understand. It’s a club for students who love reading, but we don’t read books together. Basically, it’s a student advisory board/booster club for the library. The students give me input on decisions made for the library, they help decorate and make displays, write thank you notes to volunteers, etc. This is also the group I take with me to the elementary school for Read Across America day, so we spend a few minutes practicing our Dr. Seuss read-aloud skills every meeting.

A number of the elementary schools and some of the middle schools in the area have switched from one general fiction shelving area to ‘genrefied’ shelving. I’m not sure how I feel about it, both in terms of shelving time and student discovery, but I do know I want to take one small step in that direction. Some indication of genre on the spine of our novels would most likely increase student discovery of new books. Looking into it, there seemed to be two main options, the graphic genre labels that most library supply companies sell, and color coded spine label covers. I knew which I preferred, but I thought I would get some input from my Readers Club students. The students overwhelmingly preferred the colored label covers, so that’s what we decided to go with. From there, we brainstormed fiction genres, which led to a really fascinating (to me) discussion of subject headings and the necessity to group some genres into sub genres of larger ones. They helped me come up with what they thought were the most popular genres, and then I ordered the labels.

Up until that point I wasn’t sure what colors would be available. Because we didn’t want brown, we ended up with what you see in the picture above (plus light blue, but it’s backordered.) Once they came it was time to meet with Readers Club again and decide which color would go with which genre. There were three that everyone immediately suggested and agreed with – none of which were a surprise to me. They all wanted horror to be red, sports to be orange, and humor to be yellow. Is there some sort of universal color association at play here? It would make an interesting study – maybe someone has already done it. The rest of the colors were a little more difficult to assign, which led to much discussion, most of which had to do with avoiding assigning colors that are traditionally viewed as ‘gendered’ to any genre that might be at risk of being also thought of as gendered in some way. Maybe they do listen to me?

So, for this year, one of our projects as a club will be to help decide which books fall into which genres. We’ll mostly use the subject headings, but there are always a number that have multiple genre subject headings. Also, I’ll be relying upon their opinions as to which books may or may not fall within a genre – for instance, many ghost stories are horror, but some are historical fiction and some are fantasy. And where will we put magical realism, or will we just leave it with the unmarked books? I’m glad I have the students’ input, though. Much as I try, it can be difficult to know exactly what they will think.


TPiB: DIY Chalkboard Fun

completebookofchalkboardletteringWe’ve all seen pictures of some of the amazing chalkboard signs outside of book stores with their witty saying about reading. I give everyone bonus points if they make a Tardis reference because I’m a huge Doctor Who fan. Plus, the Tardis is just cool.

Workman Publishing has a great book that will help us all learn the fine art of creative chalkboards called The Complete Book of Chalk Lettering: Create and Develop Your Own Style (by Valerie McKeehan). They sent me a copy in the mail and it will come as no surprise to you to hear that The Teen immediately grabbed this one and started playing with it. And since we were in full locker craft mode, we came up with a couple of ways to make our own chalkboards so that we can practice the fine art of chalkboard lettering, though I should point out that there is in fact a chalkboard or two inside the book itself provided for your practice needs. The book is amazing and is a lot of fun, so do check it out.

The main thing you are going to need for this craft is, of course, a chalkboard surface. A simple walk around the craft store and you will find that you have a lot of options. There are chalkboards that you can glue onto other surfaces, there are chalkboard stickers and there is chalkboard paint. For our purposes we used chalkboard paint. And because I’m investigating making chalkboards in a teen craft setting, my goal is both less expensive and easier to make. If you are making a chalkboard for yourself and have a little more money to spend then there are no limits to how creative you can be.

Chalkboard #1



  • A blank canvas (purchased at Michael’s)
  • Chalkboard spray paint
  • Duct tape
  • Chalk

This version was actually pretty easy to make. We simply spray painted our canvas with the chalkboard paint and waited for it to dry. I recommend using a couple of coats, which means drying in between coats. We had some other chalkboards around so we practiced our lettering using the book while we waited for the paint to dry.

We then decorated our chalkboard and made boarders, etc. with our duct tape. Pretty simple but satisfying.

Chalkboard #2



  • Old picture frame (purchased at a thrift store for a quarter)
  • Spray paint (any color)
  • Chalkboard spray paint
  • Matte board
  • Markers, etc. to decorate the painted frame

To prep our project, we first took our frame apart. You can safely discard the glass. We then spray painted our frames our color of choice, in the example above blue. After drying you can use sharpies to draw doodles on the frame if you would like.

To make the chalkboard, you first need to cut a piece of matte board the size of frame so that it fits inside. Then give it a couple of coats of chalkboard paint, allowing the paint to dry fully in between each coat. When your chalkboard is dry you simply put the frame back together with the chalkboard inside.

We had a lot of fun making these and they were a big hit. Together with the book you can do some fun chalkboard things. If you make a bigger chalkboard using a larger frame that compliments your teen area you can create a fun space for your teen area as well to do signage and fun displays.

About the Book:

Hardback, 176 pages  (also available in Electronic book text )

ISBN: 9780761186113 (0761186115)
Published by Workman Publishing
Book provided by the publisher
Ubiquitous at boutiques and cafés, on Etsy and Pinterest, in stationery and home decor, the art of chalk lettering is hotter than ever. Valerie McKeehan, an Etsy standout whose work has been featured in magazines and websites from Good Housekeeping to RealSimple.com, teaches us everything we need to know to create gorgeous hand-drawn chalk designs. The book is also a practice space, with three foldout “chalkboards”—the inside cover and foldout back cover are lined with blackboard paper.In over 60 lessons, learn the ABCs of lettering (literally) and basic styles: serif, sans serif, and script. Next, how to lay out a design, combine various styles into one cohesive piece, add shadows and dimension. Master more advanced letter styles, from faceted to ribbon to “vintage circus.” Use banners, borders, flourishes. And finally, 12 projects to show off your newfound skills: including a Winter Wonderland Snow Globe; a smartphone-themed birthday card to text friends and family; a one-of-a-kind party invitation to create, photograph, and mail; and a bake sale sign guaranteed to put everyone who sees it in the mood for a cupcake!



Sunday Reflections: Be a leader. Be a troop leader.

sundayreflectionsI’ve said it on Twitter a number of times, but I really do mean it, so I’m going to say it here again, firmly: become a scout leader. If you are interested in becoming a YS or YA librarian, or are seeking your first YS or YA librarian job, or think maybe becoming a YS or YA librarian is something you might want to do but want to get a little experience first, I highly encourage you to consider becoming a Girl Scout leader, or an adult volunteer for a troop at the very least.

Every year girls want to be a part of Scouting but are unable to for the lack of adult leaders. This means that girls in your community are likely unserved by a troop, or they have a troop with a harried leader with more girls than she intended to take on, who is going to burn out fast without another pair of helping hands. That alone is a reason to volunteer with this organization that has been a part of the lives of so many influential women. You don’t have to have a child in Girl Scouting and you don’t need to be a woman. You just need to be there.

Girl Scouting is the organization I have experience with, but I am nearly certain that many other youth organizations would offer similar benefits – Boy Scouts, 4H, Campfire, etc. But I’m going to speak to my personal experience here, and how it directly applies to my work as a librarian.

Program Planning

A scout leader, like a librarian, does program planning on both the small and large scale. On the small scale, you have your troop meetings. You’ve got to know your audience, their abilities, the time you have, the space and supplies that you have, the budget that you’re working with (and if you think library budgets can be skimpy, well, you’re in for a special treat here–at least until that cookie money rolls in next spring!), and you’ve got to hit the high marks for the program and get your larger message across. And you do all of this in about an hour once or twice a month. On a larger scale, there are Service Unit and Council events that you can help coordinate, or just be involved with, that require longer range planning: fundraising, registration, being a liaison with outside presenters or locations, promotion and more. All of this is part of the nuts and bolts of being a librarian that they don’t teach you in library school.

People Skills

You’ll learn crowd control, like how to bring the troop’s attention back to the activity at hand and still have their interest and smiling faces directed at you. You’ll learn how to talk to parents about what you need from them in the way of support to make meetings go the way they’re supposed to go. And maybe you’ll even get some experience working with girls who need a little more help than you anticipated. These are all skills that you will definitely need once you have your YS or YA librarian job, and reading an article about classroom management is only going to get you so far.

Girl Scouts, like libraries, takes all comers. That includes girls with the extreme giggles, girls who have perfected the side eye way too young, girls whose special needs you will come to understand, girls who are still learning English, girls who are older than your regular troop’s age because their best friend and ride is in your troop, and more. Not to mention parents who really want to be involved but are stretched thin with other obligations, volunteers with very clear personal agendas, and people you might never have chosen to sit in a room with if not for Scouts. But that’s the beauty of it. Because you get to experience all of these interesting people and learn their stories, and be a part of helping them have a great experience that they wouldn’t have been exposed to if you hadn’t been there. Just like in libraries.

a large circle of girls and leaders linking hands

Bureaucracy–but no, wait–it’s good!

Every organization is going to have layers. In scouting you have a troop, with it’s leader, co-leaders, parent volunteers, parent non-volunteers, cookie parents, and drivers. Then there’s the Service Unit, Council, and National organization. Learning who in this structure can help you with what, who will champion your successes, who will pull you out of the weeds, and whom you can lean on whenever you need it is a critical skill to have in your work life too.

What success looks like

I’m starting my third year as a scout leader, and I’ll be honest: sometimes it felt like I was piloting a sinking ship. But then these amazing things happen, and you never know when to expect them. Like the girls discussing how to spend their cookie money, and in the midst of a debate over whether a water park or a trampoline center would be better, they decide to donate some of it to a local animal shelter or food bank. Or that day that you realize that they have all memorized the song you taught them, or the Girl Scout Promise, and that they actually look forward to the ceremony of it all. Or seeing the girl who was in tears and hiding behind her mom the whole first month but now races into the room and gets giant where-have-you-been-all-my-life hugs from her new best friends. Or the way parents look you in the eye at the end of the year and say “Thank you. She has had a great time, and you have done so much work, and this is really such a great experience for her,” and really really mean it.

Girl scout & Bill Nye

Girl Scout Gold Award recipient meets Bill Nye at the White House Science Fair

Scouting makes a difference in the lives of these kids. And it is so incredibly rewarding to see it happen and know that you were part of it. My biggest successes in the library world have felt the same: sometimes it’s a a real slog and it’s hard to remember why you’re doing it. But you keep doing it because you get these glimmers of reward. The half head nod from the teen you helped find a book last week. The kids that came to your program last week even though you didn’t think they had fun the month before. The book you took a chance on ordering that is always checked out. And then one day, you see that teen in the grocery store and they react in a way that makes you feel like a celebrity, or a parent comes in and says, “Oh YOU’RE So-and-so, my kid talks about your programs/book suggestions/etc all the time!” It happens. But it takes work. And time. And persistance. And a fair amount of tolerance for extreme giggles and perfect side eye, and challenges you didn’t anticipate. And parades without marching bands because maybe it’s too wet for them, but nothing stops a Girl Scout or a librarian.

But it’s so worth it.

The Girl Scout year begins October 1st. They’re waiting for you!

Friday Finds – September 18, 2015

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Sunday Reflections: Exit Strategies, a personal reflection for National Suicide Prevention Week (Trigger Warning)

TPiB: How to Make a Photo Meme

Middle Grade Monday – Changes

Macmillan Fall Roundup

Video Game Review: Splatoon

Relearning reluctant readers

Book Review: Breakaway by Kat Spears

Lockdown Drills, Bomb Threats and Testing, Testing, Everywhere – a discussion of I CRAWL THROUGH IT by A. S. King

Around the Web

After 25 Years, Teach for America Results are Consistently Underwhelming. Surprise.

The National Book Award for Young People’s Literature longlist was announced.

I hope our teen girls are listening and internalizing this.

Free coding sites

Hot-Headed in Houston: An LGBTQ Author Goes Rogue

Lockdown Drills, Bomb Threats and Testing, Testing, Everywhere – a discussion of I CRAWL THROUGH IT by A. S. King

icrawlthroughitOccasionally someone will write an article suggesting that YA fiction is overly simplistic and not real literature, to which a very reasonable answer is always: Have you read A. S. King? King is just one of the authors that prove that YA fiction is not just fiction but true, challenging, high quality literature that reflects our world and challenges us to really think deeply about who we are and what we’re doing. Obviously, I’m a fan.

I was excited to hear there was a new King book coming out this fall and very excited to read it early. This book was challenging to me in so many ways: as a reader, as a mother, and as a member of the human race.

When The Teen started Kindergarten, I was appalled to learn after school one day that the teacher had turned off the lights and ordered all the kids to huddle in the corner of the classroom and practice being quiet in case someone bad came. These are the now notorious lock-down drills that schools across our country participate in because we have an epidemic of mass shooting that plague our schools and public spaces in ways that I could have never imagined when I was a child. As a parent, I can’t help but wonder what type of psychological trauma we may be inflicting on our children by having them practice as early as age 5 what to do when a “bad guy” comes to school. As a member of the human race, I can’t even begin to fathom how it is that we allowed ourselves to get to this point and what we can do to rectify it.

At the same time, I also find myself fuming about the massive focus on testing that has inundated our schools. The Teen has spent more time in school learning testing strategies than she has actually learning the content of the subjects she is supposed to be testing on it seems. In elementary school her homework consisted not of doing multiple math problems but of highlighting passages on standardized worksheets to demonstrate that she knew good test taking strategies. When news came out this week about the arrest of Ahmed Muhamed in Irving, Texas for his creation of a clock, I couldn’t help but think that we spend so much time focusing on tests and reducing our students to numbers that we no longer know who are students are and what their skills and passions are. Imagine what type of reaction Ahmed would have had if a teacher had taken the time to really get to know this young man and knew what he was capable of and was therefor not at all surprised to see Ahmed sharing yet another marvelous engineering invention.

Lock-down drills, bomb threats, mass shootings, standardized testing . . . these are just a few of the very real topics that A. S. King takes on in very surreal ways in her new novel I CRAWL THROUGH IT. Metaphorically speaking, these teens are crawling through this life with the weight of the world on their shoulders, leading them to cope with life in unique ways. One young man is building an invisible helicopter to escape to a possibly real or possibly not island, one young woman has turned herself into an inside out digestive tract, another wears a lab coat as a suit of armor, and still another has hair that grows when she lies.

What is real and what is not in this world? The emotion is truer than true; the effects on the mental health and emotional well being of our teens may be communicated in various surreal ways but there is no denying the stark reality of their lives and the depth of emotion it brings. Even in those moments when readers may be challenged to understand the symbolism and abstraction, which King has hinted at in past works but has definitely ramped up in unique ways trusting her teen readers to think and feel and be challenged in this latest, they will connect with the emotional plight of our characters. These teens ARE our teens.

More than anything, I loved the ways that King challenged me to think about these very real issues in the lives of teens. And I loved the imagery of literally crawling through it, whatever it may be, to get to a different place. This imagery is played out brilliantly at the end of the novel in ways that felt tangible to me. As someone who has had many life experiences where I felt like I was barely crawling through them just hoping to get to the other side 0f – well, something – I liked the ways that King chose to make this happen for her characters.

I’m not going to lie, this is a book I feel like I would have to read a few more times to truly understand and take it all in. It is the type of book I imagine that college professors will be asking their literature students to read and dissect in the future. Like MORE THAN THIS by Patrick Ness, it’s a book I understand was bordering on brilliant even though I am still trying to process it. It’s also a book I have wanted to discuss with everyone. There are parts of it that are truly mesmerizing, parts that are truly haunting, and parts that make me want to march onto Washington and demand change for my kiddos, both the two I gave birth to and the many others I nurture daily in my library life.

I hope that I CRAWL THROUGH IT by A. S. King is just the first of many more explorations of the effects of lock-down drills and pernicious testing that begin to fill our YA collections. These are topics that are teens are in fact wrestling with and thinking about, and King does a masterful job of exploring them in truly unique ways. If you work with or care about teens, you’ll definitely want to read this.

Publisher’s Book Description:

Four teenagers are on the verge of exploding. The anxieties they face at every turn have nearly pushed them to the point of surrender: senseless high-stakes testing, the lingering damage of past trauma, the buried grief and guilt of tragic loss. They are desperate to cope, but no one is listening.

So they will lie. They will split in two. They will turn inside out. They will even build an invisible helicopter to fly themselves far away…but nothing releases the pressure. Because, as they discover, the only way to truly escape their world is to fly right into it.

The genius of acclaimed author A.S. King reaches new heights in this groundbreaking work of surrealist fiction; it will mesmerize readers with its deeply affecting exploration of how we crawl through traumatic experience-and find the way out.

Releases September 22, 2015 from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 9780316334099

I received a copy of this ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Further Reading:

US|In Age of School Shootings, Lockdown Is the New Fire Drill

Growing Up Locked Down – What are the psychological …

The Harsh Dilemma Of Preparing Kids For The Worst

Testing Our Schools | FRONTLINE | PBS

What is Wrong with Standardized Testing (Infographic)

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Standardized Testing

If you have other great links to discussions on these topics please add them in the comments

Book Review: Breakaway by Kat Spears

23848184Publisher’s description:

When Jason Marshall’s younger sister passes away, he knows he can count on his three best friends and soccer teammates–Mario, Jordie, and Chick–to be there for him. With a grief-crippled mother and a father who’s not in the picture, he needs them more than ever. But when Mario starts hanging out with a rough group of friends and Jordie finally lands the girl of his dreams, Jason is left to fend for himself while maintaining a strained relationship with troubled and quiet Chick. Then Jason meets Raine, a girl he thinks is out of his league but who sees him for everything he wants to be, and he finds himself pulled between building a healthy and stable relationship with a girl he might be falling in love with, grieving for his sister, and trying to hold onto the friendships he has always relied on. A witty and emotionally moving tale of friendship, first love, and loss, Breakaway is Kat Spears at her finest.


Amanda’s thoughts:

First of all, let me say that for the most part I liked this book. That said, I don’t like the tag line on the cover. No one really wins anything in this story, but they sure all lose and lose and lose. And yeah, the story has soccer in it, but it doesn’t account for much of the plot. The tag line and cover may help draw in readers that otherwise wouldn’t gravitate toward this book, but to me they aren’t a great fit.  ANYWAY. Pet peeves aside, let’s move on.


This is not a light story. There is very little hope. Bad things pile upon bad things. Characters make crummy choices, act like jerks to each other, and overlook/can’t properly deal with some dark stuff that’s going down. Their friendships get strained and fall apart. You like books that show the crappy lives some teens have? You’ll love this one.


Race and class play big roles in this book. Jason lives with his mother in a small apartment. He sleeps on the sofa bed, contributes what he can to help pay bills, and repeatedly mentions being poor and being hungry. Mario’s parents primarily speak Spanish. Jordie’s mom is Vietnamese. Jordie’s family has a lot of money, a fact that increasingly drives a wedge between Jordie and his other friends. Jason’s possible love interest, Raine, also comes from a family with a lot of money. Jason doesn’t see how it could ever possibly work out between them when Raine’s privilege and resources will send her down a path after high school very different than the one Jason is imaging he will go down. There are divorced parents and dead parents. There is drug addiction, alcoholism, death, abuse, and mental illness. I firmly believe no book ever has “too many issues,” just that some books present a lot of issues and don’t deal with them well. Spears navigates all of the issues in the characters’ lives skillfully, presenting what feel like very real (if very bleak) lives. Their friendships and other relationships are complicated by all of the factors and issues listed above.


This moving (and depressing) story takes a hard look at how friendships strain and how friends fail each other (and themselves). The ending will be annoying to some people–there’s no real closure, we have no idea what will happen to any of the characters or their relationships, and the sense we’re left with is one of sadness and hopelessness. This is the reality for these characters, Spears seems to say. Being briefly brought back together by a tragic event is likely not enough to reunite them as real friends or help them change the paths they’re on. I’m good with that kind of ending, but I know many readers (particularly the teens I know) are not. Pair this one with Adam Silvera’s More Happy Than Not for another look at grief, poverty, and changing friendships.


Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781250065513

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Publication date: 09/15/2015



Relearning reluctant readers

Einstein quote: the only thing that interferes with my learning is my education

As a librarian, I’ve always tried to champion the reluctant readers. I’ve worked to provide a wide variety of reading material in my collection development ranges – everything from high interest low level books, to compelling nonfiction, to fiction told by and about diverse voices, to comics, image heavy browsing books, and more. When parents would lament about how their teens just don’t read, I’d nod sagely and advise them, as I’d been advised, to give it time and provide ample options for free choice. [Why wouldn’t these parents just chill out and back off?!] I’d assure them that comic books are real books, and that engaging with books on nail art or internet memes is reading, as it’s engagement with the text. All of it, when self-selected, works to create good feelings about books, self confidence, and becomes a scaffold to reading more. I don’t think they believed me a lot of the time.

And then I met a reluctant reader whose resistance to novels just broke my heart: my own kid! Getting to know my daughter as a reluctant reader has completely reoriented me, and yes: it knocked me off my high horse right quick. What I know about her is that she loves stories. She creates them in her mind, in her play, in her notebooks, and on canvas. She listens to them whenever people will read to her, or in audiobook format, she watches them on screens, and she reads them visually in comics. It’s the physical and mental act of reading itself that challenges her and that she dislikes. She is so hungry for stories that her own skill level slows her down so much that it gets in the way of her consumption.

Now. She’s not a teen yet. She’s a developing reader. She needs to learn how to read fluently because it’s a basic life skill, without even addressing the joy of discovery to be found in sinking into your new favorite book. She has to learn it. She has to get better. And I know that in time she will. But it’s hard. It’s hard to know that the path that I know will lead her to happiness is rocky and her feet are bare. It’s hard to hold myself back from taking the book from her and reading for her, letting her get swept away on the magic carpet of words that she so desperately wants to be on.

The fact is though, that she has to read to become a better reader. She needs to do the work that she’s assigned at school, and practice those spelling words, and follow through where her teacher expects it. And though I’ll never stop reading to her and never deny her audiobooks, I may suggest she choose something with a few more words on the page. At least on occasion. Reading is a skill that expands the potential to consume stories, but it isn’t the key to enjoying them. It’s not even necessary for enjoying stories. I live in the intersection of the Venn diagram where a love of stories and a love of reading overlap. She’s not there yet. And that’s ok because she’s in her own circle.

My daughter’s experience doesn’t mean that all of these teens are in the same circle she’s in, but they have a lot going for them. They’re in the circle for “my teacher is encouraging/scary enough that I’m here at the library looking for a book.” They’re in the “my parents really care about me and brought me to the library” circle. They’re in the “I already know what I like, and I already know I don’t like what my [mom/dad/teacher] likes” circle. They’re in the “a librarian in my community cares about what I’m reading and is providing me options” circle.

So back to my interactions with “reluctant reader” teens and their parents. I’ve had a healthy taste of humble pie, and it’s making me more empathetic. These parents – most of them at least – don’t want their kids reading Proust. They just want them reading a full page of text because it’s an important skill to have. We want our kids to succeed, whether they’re actually our kids or not. We all do. And though my lines are still the same: provide options; books are books; all reading is good reading, I say them with a greater understanding of the difficulty of letting the process unfold at its pace, of navigating the wire between “free choice” and “graded assignment” and of the personal stake that these parents feel in both their children’s reading enjoyment, and the academic success that they think it will bring them.