Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

MakerSpace: Button Maker Challenges

At The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County (OH), we have found that one of the most popular activities among our teens in our Teen MakerSpace is making buttons. We run into a lot of our teens around town that look like this:

Buttons, buttons every where!

Buttons, buttons every where!

I spy a teen guy with a ton of buttons

I spy a teen guy with a ton of buttons

But we started to notice that teens were just coming in, printing of a couple of pictures (and engaging in some serious copyright infringement while doing so), and leaving. We really wanted to find a way to encourage teens to get more creative in their button making. So we took the idea of challenge cards and created a variety of button making challenges.

Our button making challenge station

Our button making challenge station

A lot of our challenges are based on ideas we found in some of the books we have right there in our Maker Collection. We scoured through our collection and our resources to come up with creative and fun challenges. And we asked the teens in the Teen MakerSpace for their ideas as well.


Books inspire button making

We then created Button Making Challenge cards and put them out for our teens to look at and get inspired by.

Button Making Challenge Cards

Button Making Challenge Cards

We have been excited to see a lot more scenes that look like this in our Teen MakerSpace:

Teens in the Teen MakerSpace

Teens in the Teen MakerSpace

So here is a look at some of our challenges and what our teens have created in response to them.

Sharpie Art Buttons

I am obsessed with Sharpies. So discovering there were books about Sharpie art was a gift. We do a variety of simple Sharpie art activities. One of the simplest is to invite teens to color with Sharpies and turn their artwork into buttons.


The Teen hard at work on some Sharpie art buttons

Sharpie art buttons!

Sharpie art buttons!

Typography Books + Sharpie Art Books=Button Awesomesauce Magic!

Typography Books + Sharpie Art Books = Button Awesomesauce Magic!

Stick Figure Art Buttons

Using a couple of the stick figure art books we have found, teens love to turn their stick figure art into buttons.

Sharpies + Stick Figure Art

Sharpies + Stick Figure Art

Stick Figure Art Buttons!

Stick Figure Art Buttons!

Finger Print Art Buttons

I have already talked some about our obsession with fingerprint art buttons. You can read more about it here. It’s a lot of fun and makes the cutest buttons.


A teen makes a finger print elephant


Fingerprint Art Buttons!

More finger print art buttons

More finger print art buttons

Chalkboard Buttons

We discovered that there is chalkboard paper, which can be used to make buttons. Instead of using regular chalk, our teens use chalk markers in combination with art books The Art of Chalk and The Complete Book of Chalk Lettering to create original chalk masterpieces which they then make into buttons.


The TMNTs in Chalkboard Art form


Chalkboard art buttons

Sidewalk chalk poetry and a camera

Sidewalk chalk poetry and a camera

Map Art Buttons

Using some of the ideas in the Map Art Lab book (pictured below), we made a variety of map art buttons.


Map Art Buttons

Map art button

Map art button

The Map Art Lab book is also the source of The Books of Your Heart Button. For more information, see this post.

The Books of Our Heart Button

The Books of Our Heart Button

Coloring Pages Buttons

We have a variety of coloring pages in our Teen MakerSpace and encourage the teens to color and then cut out a portion of their page to make their buttons. It asks them to look with a creative eye about editing an already laid out design and only use a portion of it.

Coloring pages buttons

Coloring page buttons

Fill in the Blank Buttons

It’s like Mad Libs, but in button form. The teens can create a quote – like a funny story or a question – and leave a blank. Then when they meet people in the street they can ask them to fill in the blank.

Digital Media Lab Buttons

We wanted to create some button challenges that invited teens to use our iPad lab to do some digital media creation and photo manipulation. There are a variety of apps that will let you use filters, add artwork, and add text to your pictures to create great photos. In addition, we have a green screen so we wanted to get our teens using that as well. When they create the picture they like, they can then size them and print them out and turn them into buttons.

Made with a Scrabble board and an iPad with photo manipulating apps

Made with a Scrabble board and an iPad with photo manipulating apps

Some of the digital media lab challenges include:

Turn your favorite book quote into a button.
Star in a book cover for your fave book using a picture you take and photo apps.
Turn your photo into a mini comic book or graphic novel.
Turn your photo into a meme.

Green screen photos make for fun buttons

Green screen photos make for fun buttons

The Teen dressed as a Weeping Angel. Hipstamtic filters.

The Teen dressed as a Weeping Angel. Hipstamtic filters.

More photos manipulated with photo apps and turned into buttons. Washi tape makes up the borders on some of these buttons.

More photos manipulated with photo apps and turned into buttons. Washi tape makes up the borders on some of these buttons.

Teens love to turn their personal photos into buttons.

He made a button of himself wearing all his buttons that says, "I Like Buttons". It's very meta.

He made a button of himself wearing all his buttons that says, “I Like Buttons”. It’s very meta.

By creating a variety of challenges, we have found ways to get teens creating original artwork that they then turn into buttons. It has been fun to see what our teens create, and we have found ways to get teens to stay and talk a bit instead of just printing off a quick picture. I feel like our challenges are helping teens learn a little bit more about themselves, the creative process, and art in general. It has also challenged us to look more deeply at the books in our collection and find creative ways to incorporate art into the Teen MakerSpace.


Challenge Cards: buttonchallengefirstpage buttonchallengesecondpage

Thoughts on Summer Reading Lists from a Public Librarian (and a Mom)




TLT Roundtable: What About “Clean” Books? What does “clean” mean when we are talking about books?

Yesterday, Blink YA shared a post about “Clean” YA Reads. You can read it here.


As it always does, when this term pops up it sparks considerable discussion. Over time I have thought a lot about what this term means and my feelings towards it. And yesterday, I reached out to my fellow TLTers to ask their thoughts as well. Here’s a bit of the discussion we had and some of our thoughts.

Karen’s Thoughts:

Clean is a value label, a judgement of content. The opposite of clean is dirty. If books without sex are clean, then books with sex are “dirty”, and the people who read them must be dirty as well. And the teens who are having sex – and some of them are – well, they by extension must also be dirty. I’m very uncomfortable labeling a portion of the population that I have committed my life to serving with a negative label.

In addition, the idea of clean is far too subjective. What makes a book clean? Is kissing okay? Heavy petting? A discussion of sex? Fade to black sex? The answer to that question is different for every person. But if I tell you that as a book is clean and you read it and it doesn’t meet your definition of clean, then I have broken trust with you, the librarian-reader relationship is broken. You won’t ask me again to recommend books to you, and that’s a problem.

In the world of librarianship, our rallying cry is that we don’t operate “in loco parentis”. This means I don’t get to parent your children by deciding what is and isn’t appropriate for your child to read, and you don’t get to parent mine. When we start labeling the content of books, or worse – not selecting books because of content – then we are leaning more towards acting as parents as opposed to librarians.

The other truth about this label is, we all read differently. Two people can read the same book and notice entirely different things. Did you know that there is a cuss word in one of the Harry Potter books? I didn’t – until a patron came and complained to me about it. It just didn’t stand out to me at all when I read it, but it did to another reader. If she had asked me before checking the book out if it was “clean”, I would have said yes. But it wasn’t appropriate for her because it used the word Damn and she found that incredibly offensive. To me the book would have been “clean”, but to her it was not.

Telling someone that a book is clean feels like you are making a subtle promise: this book will be okay for you. That’s a scary promise to make to someone, because we don’t know how they will respond to the work. To me, the word “clean” expresses a dangerous bias.

Let me tell you a story. The other day, The Teen came to me and asked me a question: What is cum? I paused for a moment to think, because I wasn’t prepared for the question. “Where did you hear this term?”, I asked her. She read it in a book, of course. So in that moment we had a long conversation about what cum is, what happens in the book, and more. In fact, because of the book A Totally Awkward Love Story, we had no less then 3 conversations about sex as she came to me and asked me questions about what she was reading. I was talking to a friend about it and she said, “I don’t know that I could have those types of conversations with my kids.” But I was glad that we did. I was glad that she came to me and I answered because I want her to continue to come to me. I want her to ask the questions she asks – and she is going to have a lot of questions – and be able to answer them in the framework of our faith and our hopes and dreams for her. I would hate for her to go ask her friends or strangers on the Internet. Those moments happened because of a book. This book was by no means what those who use the label would consider “clean”, but it helped me to mold and shape my daughters knowledge and attitude towards sex and relationships. To me, that’s not a bad thing. The book wasn’t “dirty”, it was a tool for questioning and discussion. I respect that there are parents out there who would not want their child reading that book, but I’m glad that it was there for my daughter to read so that we could have those conversations. And I would hate for someone to label my child as “dirty” because she read that book and asked those questions, because that is damaging. It would be damaging to her sense of self, her sense of place in this world, and her views about sex and her sexuality.

Ironically, just yesterday I had a chance to really examine how I would answer the question: so how do you help teens find books appropriate for them? I had a grandmother come in with her 15-year-old grandson asking for “age appropriate” reading for him. I took them to the teen section and we talked a little bit about what he liked to read. When asked about content I pointed out that these were books about teens, and that they tended to think and talk about the things that teens do. I told her that if she was concerned about content then she might want to read the books first or read online reviews. We talked about a few specific titles. At the end of the interaction, everyone was satisfied.

Let me tell you another story. One day last year, two Amish women were with a circulation clerk in the teen area. They had asked for horse stories for their 12-year-old daughter/sister and the clerk had printed off a list of books with the subject heading “horse”. She was in the process of handing them the title The Scorpio Races by Maggie Steifvater, because it does indeed have horses. But this is not the type of horse story they were asking about. Not because there is anything wrong with the book, but because when Amish parents ask for horse stories for a 12-year-old they don’t mean stories about horses that come out of the water once a year and participate in a violent race. So I went in and started talking to the parents, asking them what they were looking for. I told them what the book was about and they made the decision not to check out that book. I then helped them find books that were the types of horse stories they wanted to read. This past year we set up a huge “Horse and Buggy” collection because we have a large Amish population and they have very specific reading interests. That’s okay too. We help meet their needs without using labels that may infer a value.

Here’s another important thing to consider when we start talking about “clean” YA reads: I have not and can not read every book that comes in and out of my collection. I read a lot, as you know, but even I will never read it all. So often times I find myself talking with patrons about books and the only answer I can give them is, “I don’t know, I haven’t read this title.” I can show them how to look up the subject headings and reviews, but that doesn’t mean that the book has no sex. Many books are not about sex but the main characters still talk about or have sex. Many reviewers won’t mention this because they feel differently about sex than the reader does. This all goes back to every reader is different and everyone reads each book differently. If I have read a book and am asked, I have no problems saying “yes this book has sex in it”, because I have answered a direct question that I know the answer to and am not expressing a value judgment. But I don’t always know the answer to that question, and “I’m sorry I haven’t read this book” is an equally valid answer.

I’m very happy to talk about themes, setting, characters, etc in a book. But I personally draw the line when it comes to making value judgments about content. And to me, “clean” is a value judgment. When we say clean we automatically have an emotional response to that word; we have specific and personal expectations that we associate with that word. So I don’t use it.

Robin’s Thoughts:

What do you mean by clean? No romance at all . . . no kissing . . . no touching . . . no sex? For adults or teens? I do feel like asexual individuals should be able to find romance free reads, but that’s not really the question here, is it?

Amanda’s Thoughts:

Look, I get what is meant by “clean.” So do you. I don’t have to waste my breath (or rather my typing) to tell you why I can see how it might be a useful type of shorthand for a particular person/reader. But I hear “clean reads” and I shudder. All I *really* hear is the implication that it’s not “dirty,” that everything not billed as a “clean read” is dirty. That you, teenager who swears or drinks or has sex (or kisses or gets in trouble or makes any of the million missteps and mistakes that we all make that may be viewed as “bad”), are dirty. You’re to be censored. You’re shameful. You’re forbidden. You’re to be avoided. Telling me a book is “clean” is like telling me someone is “nice.” Barf. Boring. And? Also meaningless. Who decides what “clean” is? Calling something “clean” in this context is implying safe and appropriate. Says who? I hate to be the one to break it to you, but life isn’t CLEAN. To think or assume that it is is a gross misunderstanding of the reality of many teens’ lives. And while I understand that there are people who may want to read “clean” books—or, more likely, parents or other gatekeepers who may want teenagers to be reading “clean” books—you’re ultimately not doing anyone any favors by blocking out very real parts of life. You’re not “protecting” readers. It’s just a book. They’re just words. It’s just made-up characters in fictional situations making fictional choices. Books aren’t manuals for how to be or what to do. But they are pretty useful ways to vicariously experience different situations, to see characters behave in ways you might not—or characters behave in ways you might—to explore, to judge, and to absorb. So if you want to ask me if a book has swear words, or characters have sex, or if someone drinks, go ahead. I can answer those questions. That’s totally fine. You’re entitled to know those things and make your choices. But don’t ask me if it’s “clean.” I’ll probably sprain my eyeballs from the effort it will take to resist a major eye-roll, flip through the book to look for any visible dirt marks or Cheeto fingerprints, and let you know, yep, looks clean enough to me. My house needs to be clean. My books need to be just as complicated and “dirty” as real life can be. 

For more thoughts on this, check out this Oral History Podcast by Christa Desir and Carrie Mesrobian on the topic of “clean” reads:


Book Review: If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo, reviewed by teen reviewer Lexi

ifiwasyourgirlA big-hearted novel about being seen for who you really are.

Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school. Like anyone else, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret. She’s determined not to get too close to anyone.

But when she meets sweet, easygoing Grant, Amanda can’t help but start to let him in. As they spend more time together, she realizes just how much she is losing by guarding her heart. She finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself–including her past. But Amanda’s terrified that once she tells him the truth, he won’t be able to see past it.

Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that she used to be Andrew.

Will the truth cost Amanda her new life–and her new love?

If I Was Your Girl is a universal story about feeling different–and a love story that everyone will root for.


“Being a girl in this world means being afraid. That fear’ll keep you safe. It’ll keep you alive.”

Life isn’t easy, especially for Amanda Hardy. After being assaulted for the last time, Amanda’s mother decides it is time to give her a fresh new, and hopefully safe, start. And this is where Amanda begins her story, on a bus to Lambertville, Tennessee. This is where Amanda’s life either changes or stays in the same crappy existence it’s always been. Amanda can only hope that things look up.

It is never easy to be a girl in a man’s world. It is even harder for Amanda since she is a transgender girl. Society , especially the conservative deep south, is never too kind to the people that aren’t normal. It beats you down and tries to conform you into its perfect plastic doll that it deems perfect. But for people like Amanda, for people who don’t meet these norms, being cookie cutter perfect isn’t an option. This book tells a story about the kids who aren’t normal; the kids who don’t meet the expectations of parents, of peers, of their town. This book tells the story of 19 year old Amanda Hardy who is so much more than her parents thought she was. She is brave even without knowing it. Her battle against prejudice and ignorance nearly got her killed, but still she treads on inspiring many and even the reader to be better at who they are.

I will not say that i am 100% knowledgable on being transgender nor how it feels to be in the wrong body, but as an ally I can say that these people are so influential in their struggle and are very courageous to speak up and say ‘ Hey this is me and if you don’t like it than mind your own business’. Because for so many of us out here we aren’t as brave, aren’t as forthcoming to admit that we don’t fit in. Amanda only really wanted to be normal, but there really is no normal, only what we see as normal and i feel like she finds her normal. She was always normal. She just had to realize that she was worth something. She wasn’t disposable.

The topic of suicide is very touchy. But this book not only brings to light the brutality expressed towards Transgender people and people in the lgbt community, but the effects of such cruelty they have on the the person. No person should ever have to feel so trapped that they think the only way out is to kill themselves. Bullying is not okay. This book sings this so loud. It screams the injustice of small towns with closed minds. It screams to open not only doors for the people who are different but to also open the minds of others.

If I Was Your Girl is a story about a girl who sucks at being a boy. She faces hate from people who don’t even know her and from herself as well. But she lives, because she is worth it. She matters and she is loved.

If I remember nothing from this book other than the knowledge that we matter, i would be fine with that.

However, i know i will remember far more than that. The main thing i loved though is the fact that it highlights the fact that statistically speaking, the population is suppose to be 10% lgbt. It highlights the fact that we are out here even though most books ignore our existence. We are out here and we matter.

We matter.

Publisher’s Book Description:

Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school in Lambertville, Tennessee. Like any other girl, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret. There’s a reason why she transferred schools for her senior year, and why she’s determined not to get too close to anyone.

And then she meets Grant Everett. Grant is unlike anyone she’s ever met—open, honest, kind—and Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself…including her past. But she’s terrified that once she tells Grant the truth, he won’t be able to see past it.

Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that she used to be Andrew.

Book Review: Run by Kody Keplinger

Publisher’s description

RUNBo Dickinson is a girl with a wild reputation, a deadbeat dad, and a mama who’s not exactly sober most of the time. Everyone in town knows the Dickinsons are a bad lot, but Bo doesn’t care what anyone thinks.

Agnes Atwood has never gone on a date, never even stayed out past ten, and never broken any of her parents’ overbearing rules. Rules that are meant to protect their legally blind daughter — protect her from what, Agnes isn’t quite sure.

Despite everything, Bo and Agnes become best friends. And it’s the sort of friendship that runs truer and deeper than anything else.

So when Bo shows up in the middle of the night, with police sirens wailing in the distance, desperate to get out of town, Agnes doesn’t hesitate to take off with her. But running away and not getting caught will require stealing a car, tracking down Bo’s dad, staying ahead of the authorities, and-worst of all-confronting some ugly secrets.


Amanda’s thoughts

Well, this was fantastic. The narrative voices, the vivid setting, the story, the writing… all fantastic. The girls take turns narrating the two timelines of the story, with Bo narrating the present and Agnes narrating the backstory. This is a great friendship story about opposites attracting. Bisexual Bo has a bad reputation—she comes from a “bad” family and her peers label her a slut and spread infinite rumors about her. Legally blind Agnes is a good girl, a “poor sweet blind girl” who’s never been given the chance to be “bad.” Or the chance to do anything. Both girls are in desperate need of a real friend. Despite their differences, they grow close, forming a tight bond based on respect, support, kindness, and true friendship. We see their friendship grow through Agnes’s narration. Meanwhile, in Bo’s timeline, we know the girls are on the run, but we don’t know why. It appears that they are headed to make a new start somewhere… that is, if the police don’t catch them first.


Also, and probably obviously, this book is noteworthy because it features a blind main character. Agnes uses a cane, talks repeatedly about using enlarged print or braille and other school accommodations, and has lived her whole life with people treating her like she’s some kind of special angel because she’s blind. Agnes longs to be given more freedom. Bo knows Agnes doesn’t need her help to do lots of basic stuff, but is always there for her if she does need assistance. Agnes’s relationship with her parents and her expectations for her future are both heavily shaped by her disability. We learn a lot about what being blind means for Agnes on a day-to-day basis but also what it means for her in a larger sense.


One of the main problems with alternate narration is that it’s often so hard to tell the characters apart. Keplinger does a great job of making Bo and Agnes sound very different both in the things they say and how they say them. We can tell early on that Bo isn’t as tough as she seems and Agnes isn’t as meek as people believe her to be.  This is an easy recommendation for anyone who likes a road trip book, an adventure, a Thelma and Louise-type story, a friendship story, or an opposites attract story. Highly recommended. 


 ISBN-13: 9780545831130

Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.

Publication date: 06/28/2016

TPiB: It’s Shark Week!

Shark Week is my favorite weeks of the year. I’m a little bit obsessed with sharks. Not in a I would want to see one up close in personal in real life way, just in a they are totally cool like dinosaurs, aliens and robots way. I dive into Shark Week every year. See what I did there, cheesy pun totally intended. And I  can not wait for Sharknado 4. I have Jaws saved on my DVR and I watch it regularly. I am all about Shark Week!

So I was totally excited to learn that YA author Martha Brockenbrough – she’s more than a YA author, but that’s how I know her – was writing a Shark Week companion book for the Discovery Channel. (Side note: If you haven’t read THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH yet you should totally fix that.)


“They do have an enemy, and it is us.” – page 26

To be honest, I loved this book. It has great colored pictures of sharks, which is what I need in a shark book. It also has many interesting (and colorful) fact pages, like a section on Shark Myths: Busted and Weirdest Shark Names (Lollipop Catshark is my favorite). So even though I referenced Jaws earlier, you should know that Jaws did a lot of harm to sharks. They have even had some Shark Week specials that covered this topic, and Brockenbrough has a brief section in her book about this. This is part of a section on inaccurate movie portrayals and sharks in stories. And yes, Sharknado is mentioned. And as we are in the midst of the 13th month of the hottest temperatures on record, I found the section on what climate change means for sharks interesting.

I’ve also been thinking of way we can have fun with Shark Week in our Teen MakerSpace.

Shark Buttons!

As you may have heard me say, fingerprint buttons have proven very popular for us here at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County. So I wanted to see if I could make a shark one.


And after I wrote Jaws on this button, I thought, “I wonder if I could recreate the Jaws poster – which is awesome – into a button!”


I think I did a fairly decent job, though to be honest it took me several tries.

There are some other great books that you can add to Shark Week to do a display.


More Shark Week Activities

And from a previous post, here are some other activities you can do. Yes, I literally copied and pasted this from a previous post. But I thought it would be helpful to have all the shark week ideas in one place. You’re welcome.

Shark Jawbone Paracord Bracelet

This is not actually made with shark jawbones, in case that needs to be said. But here you can make a paracord bracelet, which is cool, that has shark in the name.

Fish Prints

Gyotaku is the Japenese art of fish printing. Sharks eat fish, plus these are cool, so I think they work. The Mr. was an art major at college and I have been to an event where they did this and it was fun. They used real fish, but you can buy kits that use plastic fish which you may want to purchase if you have an aversion to leaking fish guts, which some people do. You basically need something to print on, say a blank t-shirt. You need the fish, real or not, and you need printing ink – the ink used in printmaking, though I guess you could use paint if you would like – paint rollers, pans to pour the ink into, tablecloths, etc. You ink, or paint the fish, and slap it down on your t-shirt to transfer it. Then you get a glorious fish print. Click on the Fish Prints heading above for better directions.

Under Sea Aquariums

There are a lot of ways you can create some type of an undersea aquariums. If you have a blank wall to decorate, you could have your tweens and teens create one here AND decorate your library, it’s what we call win/win. You could use simple things like butcher paper, craft paper, pipe cleaners, beads, etc. Have them do this in your children’s area, put out a display of both fish AND back to school books and put together some punny saying about going back to SCHOOL. Because, you know, fish groups are called a school of fish.

Or you do an upcycle craft using baby food jars or empty water bottles to make little aquarium. You can buy plastic sharks in bulk to make this happen. Instructions can be found here: http://blog.chickabug.com/2012/03/how-to-make-under-the-sea-snow-globe-aquariums.html.

Shark Origami

I think the title kind of says it all. Click the link for instructions.

Crayon Resist Whale Shark

I’ve always liked crayon resist painting. And, there’s science involved! I admit this is definitely for say the Tween set more so than your teens, but if you have stations and an awesome shark movie playing in the background – may I suggest Jaws? It’s covered under Movie Licensing USA – they may enjoy it.

Clothespin Shark

Yes, again, this one seems youngish. It was very hard to find older shark themed craft ideas. BUT, it’s back to school time and smack some magnets onto these bad boys and you could make a cool Sharknado themed locker. Don’t forget to add some blood!

Shark themed party outline at SheKnows

40 plus Shark Week activities at A Day in Our Shows

This site has 40 Shark Week crafts including making a cool shark themed watermelon, papercrafts and more.

And here is a cool shark themed manicure.

And here is a YouTube tutorial on how to build a Lego Shark

Basically, my thoughts are this:

  • Do a book display
  • Have Jaws playing in the background
  • Have food – it can be something simple like gummy fish/sharks or something elaborate like the watermelon shark
  • Have a few craft stations set up
  • Get out your smart phone and make Vine video of tweens & teens trying to do the dun dun, dun dun, dun dun dun dun theme music from Jaws. Or reciting some of its most famous lines: “We’re going to need a bigger boat.”
  • If you really want to get fancy, set up a photo booth station with shark fins and other fun beach items

Middle School Monday: Nonfiction on the Horizon

MSM11Every once in a while I scroll through the available titles in Netgalley and Edelweiss. This time I found a bounty of upcoming nonfiction. Here are some of the most tempting:

cover87635-mediumSpy on History: Mary Bowser and the Civil War Spy Ring by Enigma Alberti

“The true story of Mary Bowser, a former slave-turned-spy who delivered key intelligence secrets during the Civil War. Readers uncover secrets using codes hidden in the book and spycraft materials included.”

This might be good to pair with Laurie Halse Anderson’s Chains.



Oh, Ick! 117 Science Experiments Guaranteed to Gross You Out! by Joy Masoff

“From the bestselling author of Oh, Yuck! and Oh, Yikes!, with over 1.25 million copies in print, here is an A-Z compendium of hands-on grossness.

Featuring 117 interactive experiments and ick-tivities, Oh, Ick! delves into the science behind everything disgusting.

Stage an Ooze Olympics to demonstrate viscosity and the nature of slime. Observe how fungi grow by making a Mold Zoo. Embark on an Insect Safari to get to know the creepy crawlies around your home. And learn what causes that embarrassing acne on your face by baking a Pimple Cake to pop—and eat. Eww!”

Coming November 1 from Workman Publishing Company. I was a big fan of Oh, Yuck! Can’t wait for this new addition to the series.


Kid Artists by David Stabler

“The series that began with Kid Presidents and Kid Athletes has a new volume that chronicles the childhoods of 16 celebrated artists—everyone from Claude Monet and Vincent van Gogh to Mary Cassat, Frida Kahlo, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and even Dr. Seuss! Readers will learn:

· Georgia O’Keeffe was so enthralled by nature that she once ate dirt just to see what it tasted like.

· Jackson Pollock lost the top of his right index finger in a childhood accident (and the severed tip was eaten by a rooster!).

· Andy Warhol’s favorite childhood lunch was—what else?—a bowl of Campbell’s tomato soup.

Every scribble, sketch, and sticky situation comes to life in these kid-friendly and relatable stories, all with Doogie Horner’s trademark full-color illustrations. Kid Artists is a delight for budding artists and eager readers alike.”

Coming August 9 from Quirk Books. I love this series as well.

cover91294-mediumMonster Science: Could Monsters Survive (and Thrive!) in the Real World? by Helaine Becker

““What if the terrifying creatures of your nightmares were indeed prowling the big, wide world beyond your blankie?” begins the intriguing premise of this book. “Could they really exist? And if so, how?” In a completely original approach to exploring science, award-winning author Helaine Becker places six different kinds of monsters — Frankenstein, vampires, bigfoot, zombies, werewolves and sea monsters — under her microscope to expose the proven scientific principles behind the legends. For example, the chapter on Frankenstein delves into how electricity and organ transplants work in the human body, and whether they could really bring someone back to life — all presented in short, readable sections. There’s also historical background on each monster, as well as trivia and jokes in sidebars, and fun quizzes at the end of every chapter for readers to test their knowledge. Becker uses the never-ending appetite for all things monster to engage the imaginations of children and get them excited about science. The just-ghoulish-and-icky-enough illustrations by Phil McAndrew are pitch-perfect, drenched with child-friendly humor. This is a book with tremendous cross-curricular applications in life, earth and physical sciences, as well as in literature (myths and legends), history and literacy skills. With its playful spirit, this is also a book children will happily pick up and devour on their own.”

Coming September 6 from Kids Can Press – this looks like a real winner. I can’t imagine that it won’t fly off the shelves. A good addition to your science collection.

Sunday Reflections: Brexit and Helping Teens Understand the Importance of the Political Process

sundayreflections1The recent UK referendum vote on exiting the EU (and its results) are a useful starting point to help teens understand the importance of being involved in the political process. At least it has that. If you need to read up on the situation, the BBC has a thorough explanation of the vote and its potential consequences here.

We hear a good amount of buzz these days about how (and why) younger voters are feeling politically disaffected, and about both low voter registration and low voter turnout for these demographic groups, at least in the U.S. We actually have chronically low voter turnout in the States, and that is just the count of registered voters, not people eligible to vote. The Brexit referendum voter turnout in the UK was right at 72.2%, which I find breathtaking. Imagine how our country might be different if we had similar voter turnout.

But what our teens need to see most is the sharp distinction in the breakdown of the vote by age or generation. While the ‘leave’ vote won in the EU referendum by a slim margin, it’s estimated that around 75% of those voters 29 and under voted for ‘remain’. Much has been made of how the older generation, who will have to live with the consequences of this vote for significantly less time, have made a decision that will disproportionately affect the lives of younger UK citizens.

My fear is that the same will be true in our upcoming presidential election. Regardless of your opinions on the potential outcome of the election this fall, however, it only can benefit all of us to have more active and politically engaged citizenry, and that needs to start before they are eligible to vote. If you’re looking for a starting point for discussing political involvement with your teens, you could do much worse than asking them to listen to this short Planet Money podcast on Brexit with you.

Friday Finds: June 24, 2016

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Sunday Reflections: How Do I Talk to The Teen About Orlando?

Thank God It’s Monday! Blog Tour with Jessica Brody

Middle School Monday: Making Our Own Seat by Julie Stivers

Book Review: All The Feels by Danika Stone

Scenes from a Teen MakerSpace Open House

#MHYALit: This Book Will Save Your Life, a guest post by author Kathleen Glasgow

The Making of Our String Art “READ” Sign

No room for a Makerspace? Try circulating tech tools

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Growing Up in YA

No room for a Makerspace? Try circulating tech tools

makerspacelogoI work in a beautiful stone building with historic significance, much beloved in the community. But, like anyone who works in an older building will tell you, the beauty and ambiance come at a definite price: space, connectivity, and quirks. My library doesn’t have a Makerspace, and chances are, we won’t have one anytime in the near future. But just like we find workarounds for the sub-optimal placement of electrical outlets, we’ve found a workaround for this gap too.

Our circulating technology collection debuted at the beginning of the year, and while it’s always had some devoted fans, this summer has seen a big increase in its use. The collection, cataloged as “YA Tech Tools” allows teens (and others!) to check out an item and experiment with it at home for three weeks at a time. I’ve found that most items don’t stay out for the full checkout period. Kids play around with them, get excited about the possibilities, then return them to check out another tool!

What’s in the collection?

Initially I sought to include items that could be used in creative ways that embraced STEAM (yes, with the A for art) without any additional equipment. This meant items like:

  • littleBits
  • wooden figure models
  • 3Doodlers
  • an Artograph projector
  • Geomate geocaching GPS
  • extra hands for small detail work

Then I added in items that can be used with computers or require a smartphone or tablet, like:

  • Sphero robots
  • Finch robots
  • Scribbler II robots
  • Edison robots
  • Makey Makeys
  • Green screen
  • Wacomb drawing tablet
  • a DJ Mixing table
  • an audio mixing setup including a microphone
  • a digital audio recorder

Each item circulates with an instruction sheet and a review sheet. The review asks brief questions and has given me some good ideas for how to improve the collection.

These items are stored in a locking cabinet on wheels that can be rolled into a program space when needed, or can sit in a section of the Teen Lounge at other times. I’d really love for the items to be out and touchable, but we just don’t have the staff coverage for that, so there’s a BIG sign at the case that tells people to ask for the cabinet to be unlocked whenever they want to play. A low table is positioned near the cabinet so that people can easily gather around and experiment together.

Are you in a library without a makerspace too? What are your workarounds and methods for feeding this important and growing way of interacting with information?