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Friday Finds: July 29, 2016

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Sunday Reflections: It Starts in Local Communities – And it Starts with You!

MakerSpace: Making Fingerprint Pokemon Go Buttons

Middle School Monday: Summer.  Yes, Summer. By Julie Stivers

Book Review: A Week of Mondays by Jessica Brody

#ARCParty: July 2016 New #YALit Releases

Book Discussion: Autism in AFTERWARD by Jennifer Mathieu

Around the Web

There have been a number of good pieces about the new novel When We Was Fierce by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo this week. If you haven’t heard anything about it, I’d suggest starting with this Kirkus review, followed quickly by this thought piece. Once you’ve absorbed those two and are ready for an in depth analysis, try this piece. And honestly, God speed to the publishing industry in working through these issues.

For a palate cleanser, you can read Brendan Kiely’s and Jason Reynolds’s CSK Author Honor Speeches for All American Boys.

Jason Reynolds To Write A Miles Morales Spider-Man Young Adult Novel

This is an interesting study…

New writers of color on the horizon.


From Our Mailbox: #MHYALit and POC

FullSizeRender (6)A couple of weeks ago we opened our inbox to see there was a request for titles on mental health that featured POC characters. A brief scan of the #MHYALit Discussion index proved that we didn’t have a good resource for this. Karen, Ally, and I are always talking about what book lists we’d like to see done and what guest posts we’re hoping to find to fill gaps in our project. Before we jump into our post, a communal effort, let us just take a second to say that we are ALWAYS looking for more guest posts and more voices for this project. We have had so much great feedback and seen so many wonderful and important posts throughout the year. We try to pop up on Twitter every now and then putting out calls for more posts. 

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So, in case it’s not clear, let us repeat it again: We’d love to get some more guest posts lined up, particularly posts offering intersectional and diverse views. Find any of us on Twitter (@TLT16, @aswatski1, and @CiteSomething), leave us a comment here, or send us an email (found here). Posts can be on any topic related to mental health. 


That said, let’s jump back to our mailbox question and titles on mental health featuring POC.


While doing some research we came across these facts regarding mental health:

Which is why we put out the call once again for more #MHYALit guest posts with intersectionality. For example, the upcoming Afterward by Jennifer Mattheiu shows us a poorer family with a child on the ASD spectrum who suffers from trauma and his family is not able to get him the therapy he needs and it is directly contrasted with a wealthier victim of trauma who can and does get access to good therapy.

I (Karen) want to point out that one other important thing that I learned while researching this list is that there is much more stigma in minority communities regarding mental health. See, for example, The Stigma of Mental Illness in Communities of Color on NPR. Because of this stigma, people of color are much less likely to seek out treatment, which means it’s even more important that we have more diversity in our mental health titles so that we can help normalize the discussion and let teens of color know that they are not alone in their struggles and they can get good care and support.


Upon discussion, we realized that it was harder to brainstorm titles then we could have imagined. But we got back to the request with a promise that we would post a list soon and a thank you for reminding us to make sure we were addressing diversity. After doing some research and looking at our own reading lists, we came up with a beginning list. It’s a woefully small list and if you have titles to recommend, please add them in the comments. Rather than repeat titles, for a very thorough look at Depression in YA and the Latin@ Community, please see the excellent post by Cindy Rodriguez on Latinxs in Kid Lit.


Anything by Stephanie Kuehn

Stephanie Kuehn is a post-doctoral fellow in psychology and she writes excellent YA literature. You can find good discussions of mental health in any of her titles. Her most recent title, The Smaller Evil, comes out August 2nd. She talked about it some in this previous #MHYALit Post. Make no mistake though, you should read all of her titles: Charm and Strange, Complicit and Delicate Monsters are her previous titles.

Kuehn's 4th YA novel, The Smaller Evil, will be released by Dutton Books for Young Readers on August 2, 2016

Kuehn’s 4th YA novel, The Smaller Evil, will be released by Dutton Books for Young Readers on August 2, 2016

Publisher’s Book Description for The Smaller Evil

Sometimes the greater good requires the smaller evil.

17-year-old Arman Dukoff is struggling with severe anxiety and a history of self-loathing when he arrives at an expensive self-help retreat in the remote hills of Big Sur. He’s taken a huge risk—and two-thousand dollars from his meth-head stepfather—for a chance to “evolve,” as Beau, the retreat leader, says.

Beau is complicated. A father figure? A cult leader? A con man? Arman’s not sure, but more than anyone he’s ever met, Beau makes Arman feel something other than what he usually feels—worthless.

The retreat compound is secluded in coastal California mountains among towering redwoods, and when the iron gates close behind him, Arman believes for a moment that he can get better. But the program is a blur of jargon, bizarre rituals, and incomprehensible encounters with a beautiful girl. Arman is certain he’s failing everything. But Beau disagrees; he thinks Arman has a bright future—though he never says at what.

And then, in an instant Arman can’t believe or totally recall, Beau is gone. Suicide? Or murder? Arman was the only witness and now the compound is getting tense. And maybe dangerous.

As the mysteries and paradoxes multiply and the hints become accusations, Arman must rely on the person he’s always trusted the least: himself.


pointePointe by Brandy Colbert

Pointe is a complex and riveting story about a young ballerina whose world was rocked when her best friend went missing. Years later he returns and everyone is left dealing with the effects of tragedy. Pointe also deals with eating disorders, which are far too common in the world of dance.

Publisher’s Book Description for Pointe

Theo is better now.

She’s eating again, dating guys who are almost appropriate, and well on her way to becoming an elite ballet dancer. But when her oldest friend, Donovan, returns home after spending four long years with his kidnapper, Theo starts reliving memories about his abduction—and his abductor.

Donovan isn’t talking about what happened, and even though Theo knows she didn’t do anything wrong, telling the truth would put everything she’s been living for at risk. But keeping quiet might be worse.



tinyprettythingsTiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton

Tiny Pretty Things is the first book in a duology. The second book, Shiny Broken Pieces came out earlier this year. It also focuses on the world of dance and shares the story from the point of view of three different characters in alternating chapters. In this book, characters deal with eating disorders, addiction and the stress that comes from wanting to be the very best in the highly competitive world of dance.


Publisher’s Book Description for Tiny Pretty Things

Gigi, Bette, and June, three top students at an exclusive Manhattan ballet school, have seen their fair share of drama. Free-spirited new girl Gigi just wants to dance—but the very act might kill her. Privileged New Yorker Bette’s desire to escape the shadow of her ballet star sister brings out a dangerous edge in her. And perfectionist June needs to land a lead role this year or her controlling mother will put an end to her dancing dreams forever. When every dancer is both friend and foe, the girls will sacrifice, manipulate, and backstab to be the best of the best.


nototherwiseNot Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz

(From Amanda’s 2014 SLJ review)

High school junior Etta juggles many identities, none of which seem to fit quite right. She’s bisexual, but shunned by her group of friends, the self-named Disco Dykes, who can’t forgive her for dating a boy. She has an eating disorder, but never weighs little enough to qualify as officially anorexic. She’s a dancer, but just tap these days, not ballet, because as a short, curvy, African American teen, she doesn’t seem to have the right look for ballet. She feels like she’s never enough—not gay enough, straight enough, sick enough, or healthy enough. More than anything, she just wants to get out of Nebraska and hopes auditioning for the prestigious Brentwood arts high school will be her ticket to New York. A rehearsal group introduces her to Bianca, a quiet (and extremely sick) 14 year old from her eating disorder support group. Together, they prepare for the auditions and form a surprising friendship, one that embraces flaws, transcends identities, and is rooted in genuine caring. Moskowitz masterfully negotiates all of the issues, never letting them overwhelm the story, and shows the intersectionality of the many aspects of Etta’s identity. The characters here are imperfect and complicated, but ultimately hopeful. Moskowitz addresses issues like biphobia, race, class, privilege, friendship, and bullying in ways that feel organic to the story. Etta’s candid and vulnerable narrative voice will immediately draw in readers, making them root for her as she strives to embrace her identity free from labels and expectations.

Publisher’s Book Description of Not Otherwise Specified

Etta is tired of dealing with all of the labels and categories that seem so important to everyone else in her small Nebraska hometown.

Everywhere she turns, someone feels she’s too fringe for the fringe. Not gay enough for the Dykes, her ex-clique, thanks to a recent relationship with a boy; not tiny and white enough for ballet, her first passion; and not sick enough to look anorexic (partially thanks to recovery). Etta doesn’t fit anywhere— until she meets Bianca, the straight, white, Christian, and seriously sick girl in Etta’s therapy group. Both girls are auditioning for Brentwood, a prestigious New York theater academy that is so not Nebraska. Bianca seems like Etta’s salvation, but how can Etta be saved by a girl who needs saving herself?

The latest powerful, original novel from Hannah Moskowitz is the story about living in and outside communities and stereotypes, and defining your own identity.


boyintheblacksuitThe Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds

We’ve gone back and forth with authors and each other discussing whether or not grief could, would, or should fall under the umbrella of mental health. Where you fall in this discussion probably depends a lot on your own experience of grief. For many people, grief can present itself as a period of situational depression. The Boy in the Black Suit is a moving story of one young man’s journey through grief.


Publisher’s Book Description of The Boy in the Black Suit

Just when seventeen-year-old Matt thinks he can’t handle one more piece of terrible news, he meets a girl who’s dealt with a lot more—and who just might be able to clue him in on how to rise up when life keeps knocking him down—in this wry, gritty novel from the author of When I Was the Greatest.

Matt wears a black suit every day. No, not because his mom died—although she did, and it sucks. But he wears the suit for his gig at the local funeral home, which pays way better than the Cluck Bucket, and he needs the income since his dad can’t handle the bills (or anything, really) on his own. So while Dad’s snagging bottles of whiskey, Matt’s snagging fifteen bucks an hour. Not bad. But everything else? Not good. Then Matt meets Lovey. She’s got a crazy name, and she’s been through more crazy than he can imagine. Yet Lovey never cries. She’s tough. Really tough. Tough in the way Matt wishes he could be. Which is maybe why he’s drawn to her, and definitely why he can’t seem to shake her. Because there’s nothing more hopeful than finding a person who understands your loneliness—and who can maybe even help take it away.


Reading and Wrestling with GHOSTS by Raina Telgemeier

Edited August 4, 2016 to add: Faythe Arredondo is one of the many individuals I have seen express some concerns about Ghosts on Twitter. On August 4th, 2016 she wrote a post about her thoughts on Teen Services Underground, which I highly recommend you read.



At ALA this year I was excited to pick up an ARC of GHOSTS by author Raina Telgemeier, mainly because The Teen loves this author and it was my mommy guilt gift.

Upon return I handed it to her and she promptly read it. Our conversation about it went something like this:

Me: Did you like GHOSTS?

The Teen: Loved it!

Me: What’s it about?

The Teen: Ghosts.

I had it on the back burner that I wanted to read it, primarily because I know that it had a character with Cystic Fibrosis and Thing 2’s friend’s father passed away in November of last year from CF. I was curious to see how Telgemeier presented CF in this story.

Fast forward a couple of weeks and I started hearing concerns here and there – primarily on Twitter –  about GHOSTS. There has been some concern expressed by several people about the way Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is presented in the story. So I finally sat down and read the book.

I initially thought that the discussion of Dia De Los Muertos in the story was a small part of the book, but no, it is a pretty big part of the story. The main character, Catrina, has just moved to an environment that will supposedly be better for her little sister Maya, who has Cystic Fibrosis. This new location has a strong Mexican population who believes heavily in the concept of ghosts and participates in the yearly Dia De Los Muertos tradition. The two story lines intersect in that Maya knows that she will die from the CF and she wants to contact the ghosts to find out what will happen to her after she dies. It’s a moving story about a young girl having to face the very real knowledge not that she will someday die, but that she will someday soon die from known causes. It’s not a matter of if but when.

From a storytelling point of view, I absolutely understand why Raina Telgemeier chose this tradition to tell this story. And as I read it, it seemed like there was nothing but respect for the culture and traditions being discussed. Catrina, who is half Mexican, is skeptical, in part because she didn’t grow up with these traditions being passed down to her, but I don’t think skepticism is in itself disrespect. Many tweens and teens are skeptical, even of deeply held family beliefs and traditions. Catrina’s skepticism and lack of knowledge is balanced by other characters.

But is the depiction of Dia De Los Muertos an accurate and respectful presentation? Reading Ghosts, it is hard to tell exactly what it is people believe happen on this day. In the book, literal spirits cross into the human world and are able to interact with people, even touching them physically. They dance, they play in bands, they cook feasts. I personally do not believe in ghosts, but I know plenty of people who do. But what do people believe happen on this day? It was hard for me as a reader to know if this was just a storytelling device or a real life interpretation of Dia De Los Muertos and what its adherents believe happen on this day. There is some end matter on the topic, but to me it did not seem in depth enough to communicate with readers what the real beliefs and intents of this day are. I do think Telgemeier needed to do a better job of making sure readers understood what was real and what was creative license used for the story.

The other question that comes up as a reader, especially considering the #ownvoices movement, is whether or not Raina Telgemeier has a right to tell this story. The end matter does not in any way suggest that this is her culture. In fact, she states that she attended a Dia De Lost Muertos festival which moved her and it became a part of this story. As an outsider, I completely understand how you can participate in something like this and become enamored of the culture and want to study it further and incorporate it into your story. However, questions about cultural appropriation – using a culture that is not your own to achieve personal gain – are definite questions that we are currently wrestling with. As a reader, my ongoing wrestling with the idea of #ownvoices and cultural appropriation definitely came into play, but then I am an adult who is more fully aware of the many varied, in depth and high stakes conversations that are happening in many ways around our world regarding these topics. What about younger readers?

As a mother, I wondered about tweens and teens being able to read books critically without adults leading the conversation. Keep in mind, these are topics I talk with The Teen about a lot. We live and breathe these discussion in my home. And yet, when I asked The Teen the first time about reading Ghosts she raised no concerns. After hearing people’s concerns online, I went back and asked her again about Ghosts, this time with some more pointed questions.

Did you think it was respectful to other cultures I asked? To which she replied yes. But how do you know it is respectful I asked? We talked some about what she could do to investigate that, including researching the author’s background, reading critical reviews, and researching the day more in depth.

Do you think the characters had a right to participate in the Dia De Los Muertos festival I asked? Yes, she said, because the family had Mexican heritage. She was actually able to relate to me very well who the characters were, what their relationships were, and how this affected the story.

Do you think the author has a right to write this story I asked? To this, she didn’t really have an answer. And to be honest, I don’t either.

I talked some via text to Alana Graves, who had raised some concerns on Twitter. We both agreed that we THOUGHT that the author was being respectful, but that we didn’t necessarily feel comfortable making that declaration because it’s not our culture, so it’s not our place to say if the title is respectful or not.

From a storytelling perspective, I thought that using Dia De Los Muertos to tell this story made perfect sense and was very effective and moving. I understood what the author was trying to do and felt that she had done it successfully. That’s not the same thing as saying that I felt she accurately portrayed this culture or this tradition, because I am not in a position to do so. Neither is it the same as saying she had a right to tell this story. This is a concept I am wrestling with: When do authors of fiction have a right to tell a story? Do they have a right to tell certain stories?

As an outsider who has seen friends struggle with Cystic Fibrosis, I thought that Telgemeier did a good job with this aspect of the story as well. The stress, the sometimes resentment, and some basic information about the disease were all portrayed in ways that I felt worked well for the story and in no way diminished the character of Maya or brought the storyline to a screeching halt.

In the end, I am left thinking a lot about this book. I am very familiar with the #ownvoices discussions and am wrestling with what that means to me as a reader, librarian, reviewer, and mom. And I am very aware of the many conversations that are happening right now about many other books, including When We Was Fierce (which I have not read) and Cloudwish (which I have also not read). Each time I approach a book that includes a different culture, a disability or a mental health issue,  I wrestle with how to examine that depiction critically, how to acknowledge my own biases, and how to ask myself (and my teens) the right questions. Hard conversations are happening right now in the world of children’s and ya publishing, but they are important conversations. I’m trying to do a lot of listening.

Have you read GHOSTS by Raina Telgemeir? What did you think and why? She is a very popular author and there will be high demand for this title.

Publisher’s Book Description

Catrina and her family are moving to the coast of Northern California because her little sister, Maya, is sick. Cat isn’t happy about leaving her friends for Bahía de la Luna, but Maya has cystic fibrosis and will benefit from the cool, salty air that blows in from the sea. As the girls explore their new home, a neighbor lets them in on a secret: There are ghosts in Bahía de la Luna. Maya is determined to meet one, but Cat wants nothing to do with them. As the time of year when ghosts reunite with their loved ones approaches, Cat must figure out how to put aside her fears for her sister’s sake – and her own. (Graphix, September 2016)

Kicky’s Post It Note Reviews, Jackaby Edition

kickypostitreviewsThe Teen recently read 8 books in 3 weeks, none of them of course were the ones she needed to read for school. I had the honor of going to ALA in Orlando for a quick trip this year, and came home with several ARCs, many of which she has already read. She also read the entire Jackaby series, because we got an ARC of book 3 and she had to read books 1 and 2 before she could read book 3. Today we’re going to talk about the Jackaby series by William Rittner. In the next few days we’ll have another post with some of the other titles she read.




We begin with the Jackaby series. The Teen read all three books in three days and LOVED THEM. Jackaby is a type of Sherlock Holmes(ish) series with a lead investigator who can see the paranormal realm, a talent very few people share. He is joined by Abigail Rook (who is technically the main character) who does not have his sight, but has a sharp mind and an eye for detail. Each book is a new and interesting mystery.

The Teen’s Overall Thoughts on the Series

It reminded me a lot of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who – which I love – and it was really fun to read. It’s kind of historical, like an alternate historical fiction because of the elements of the supernatural. Because it’s kind of historical, a lot of people had stereotypical views of women but Abigail proved them wrong! It was very dramatic and suspenseful and I couldn’t stop reading but I didn’t want it to end.

JACKABY (Jackaby #1) Book Description

jackaby1 “Miss Rook, I am not an occultist,” Jackaby said. “I have a gift that allows me to see truth where others see the illusion–and there are many illusions. All the world’s a stage, as they say, and I seem to have the only seat in the house with a view behind the curtain.”

Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary–including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police–with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane–deny.

Doctor Who meets Sherlock in William Ritter’s debut novel, which features a detective of the paranormal as seen through the eyes of his adventurous and intelligent assistant in a tale brimming with cheeky humor and a dose of the macabre. (Algonquin, September 2014)

Jackaby Post It Review:

“Intriguing, fun and amazing!”

BEASTLY BONES (Jackaby #2) Book Description

Ritter_BeastlyBones_jkt_COMP.indd“I’ve found very little about private detective R. F. Jackaby to be standard in the time I’ve known him. Working as his assistant tends to call for a somewhat flexible relationship with reality.”

In 1892, New Fiddleham, New England, things are never quite what they seem, especially when Abigail Rook and her eccentric employer R. F. Jackaby are called upon to investigate the supernatural.

First, a vicious species of shape-shifters disguise themselves as a litter of kittens, and a day later, their owner is found murdered with a single mysterious puncture wound. Then in nearby Gad’s Valley, now home to the exiled New Fiddleham police detective Charlie Cane, dinosaur bones from a recent dig mysteriously go missing, and an unidentifiable beast starts attacking animals and people, leaving their mangled bodies behind. Charlie calls on Abigail for help, and soon Abigail and Jackaby are on the hunt for a thief, a monster, and a murderer.(Algonquin, September 2015)

Beastly Bones Post It Review:

“Fun, well written and amazing”

GHOSTLY ECHOES (Jackaby #3) Book Description

jackaby3Jenny Cavanaugh, the ghostly lady of 926 Augur Lane, has enlisted the investigative services of her fellow residents to solve a decade-old murder—her own. Abigail Rook and her eccentric employer, Detective R. F. Jackaby, dive into the cold case, starting with a search for Jenny’s fiancé, who went missing the night she died. But when a new, gruesome murder closely mirrors the events of ten years prior, Abigail and Jackaby realize that Jenny’s case isn’t so cold after all, and her killer may be far more dangerous than they suspected.

Fantasy and folklore mix with mad science as Abigail’s race to unravel the mystery leads her across the cold cobblestones of nineteenth-century New England, down to the mythical underworld, and deep into her colleagues’ grim histories to battle the most deadly foe she has ever faced. (Algonquin August 23, 2016)

Ghostly Echoes Post It Review:

“Loved reading this so much!”

Book Discussion: Autism in AFTERWARD by Jennifer Mathieu

afterwardWhen I initially began reading AFTERWARD by Jennifer Mathieu, I was certain I would be coming to you today to discuss this title as part of the Sexual Violence in YA Literature Project (The #SVYALit Project). However, as I got further and further into the book, this book became an important read – to me personally and I think to the larger topic of disability representation in YA lit – for its look at the way a young man’s struggle with Autism, and in particular being on the Autism Spectrum and suffering from a severely traumatic event, impacts him and his family. This book moved me in ways I could never have imagined.

You see, I am the aunt of three nephews who are on the Autism Spectrum. They are on the higher end of the spectrum, which means that there is little to no verbal communication, stimming, self harm, sleep disruption, the need for strict routines and predictability, etc. This is not an end of the spectrum that is represented very often in the mainstream media. While there has been some progress with the representation of ASD characters in the media, it has been my experience that they tend to be characters on the lower end of the spectrum. This means they often can communicate verbally and are portrayed as being charmingly “quirky”. Although it is obvious that these characters are not what would be considered neurotypical, it does not represent the lives of many families who are living with the daily reality of more severe Autism. When I read or watch these stories, I do not see my nephews and the struggles of their family. When discussing the topic of Autism, I often think to myself, we need to have more diversity in Autism representation.

Afterward is the story of two boys who are drawn together through a horrific event. Caroline’s brother Dylan is kidnapped by a man and is missing for a period of 4 or 5 days. He is found in the apartment of this man and in the presence of Ethan, another boy who was kidnapped and has been missing for about 4 years. Dylan is Autistic and although he does engage in some verbal communication, he is not able to tell his family what happened to him. It is clear, however, that he has been very traumatized by the events and his sister Caroline wants to know what happened to him so she can try and help him. This causes her to seek out and start up a friendship with Ethan. The book is then told from the dual POV of Caroline and Ethan.

There is a lot happening here in Afterward. This is a book about struggling with trauma and sexual violence; it is a book about emotional and mental health; it is a book about PTSD; it is a book about surviving. But it is also a book about Autism. And more importantly, it may be the only book that asks us to consider the impact of trauma not just on a family, but on a family that was already struggling to raise a young man on the spectrum.

And it asks us to consider what it is like for a teenager to not only love a brother who is on the spectrum, but to want to help this brother that she loves without being able to ask him what happened to him. And it was this part of the story that resonated with me the most. There are scenes where Caroline tries to calm down her brother using her toolbelt of techniques that her family has developed over the years. There are recorded episodes of Jeopardy watched over and over and over again, Caroline knowing every question and answer before they come because she has seen them so many times. For one of my nephews, it was Veggietales. And like Dylan, another one of my nephews repeatedly stacks blocks as a source of comfort. It sometimes felt like Mathieu had stared right through the windows at our family home to write this story.

And like many families, there is guilt and blame and anger and sorrow and grief. Dylan’s family was already dealing with all of these things, but now they are amplified by this traumatic event. Caroline in particular struggles with guilt because she was supposed to be watching Dylan in that moment that he left the house, as many on the spectrum do, and was wandering alone when kidnapped. In fact, wandering is one of the greatest safety concerns for individuals on the higher end of the spectrum and many families install locks, alarms and take other measures to help ensure the safety of their loved ones. But those steps take money, and money is something Caroline’s family doesn’t have a lot of.

Socioeconomic diversity is also something that is addressed in Afterward. Dylan’s family doesn’t have the money they need to get Dylan many of the Autism therapies that would benefit him, and they definitely don’t have the money to get him the counseling he needs after his kidnapping. It’s something that Caroline reflects on a lot, especially as she talks to Ethan, whose family does have money and is working hard to get him the therapy he needs.

As I mentioned, for me this book was personal. I saw my neurotypical nephew struggling to take care of his three ASD brothers in the character of Caroline. I saw a family struggling to navigate daily life and stay together in the face of stress and economic hardship, like my family and friends with children on the spectrum do. But most importantly to me, I saw an acknowledgement that there are kids on the higher end of the spectrum.

I do want to take a moment to point out that there is a lot of good #SVYALit and #MHYALit discussion happening here, particularly between Ethan and his therapist. There are discussions of how Ethan’s body could have responded physically to the sexual abuse even though it was not something that he wanted, discussions about whether or not he could have escaped and why he might not have tried to, and more. And although this is a good example of a positive therapy experience, it reminds us all that therapy is not a quick and easy fix but a process. In fact, the book takes place over the course of about a year and the therapy process is not a steady march forward, but a jagged line of progress and set backs. And it’s an important reminder for all that although survivors can in fact survive, they must embrace a new you in order to do so.

I felt that Afterward by Jennifer Mathieu was a moving and powerful read on many levels, but it was this reflection of my family that stuck with me the most.

Publisher’s Book Description

When Caroline’s little brother is kidnapped, his subsequent rescue leads to the discovery of Ethan, a teenager who has been living with the kidnapper since he was a young child himself. In the aftermath, Caroline can’t help but wonder what Ethan knows about everything that happened to her brother, who is not readjusting well to life at home. And although Ethan is desperate for a friend, he can’t see Caroline without experiencing a resurgence of traumatic memories. But after the media circus surrounding the kidnappings departs from their small Texas town, both Caroline and Ethan find that they need a friend–and their best option just might be each other. (Roaring Book Press, September 20, 2016).

Autism and Libraries

#ARCParty: July 2016 New #YALit Releases

 Here’s a look at some new #YALit releases coming out in June, July and August of 2016.

#ARCParty for July 2016 #YALit Releases

  1. We are getting to go through July #yalit ARCs #arcparty

    We are getting to go through July #yalit ARCs #arcparty
  2. "There is nothing innocent about Shadow House"
"the way out, that's disappeared too"

    “There is nothing innocent about Shadow House”
    “the way out, that’s disappeared too”
  3. June release
A family isolated in the woods, a teen trying to escape the tight rule of their father 

    June release
    A family isolated in the woods, a teen trying to escape the tight rule of their father
  4. June release
Eating disorders, anxiety, ballet, therapy

    June release
    Eating disorders, anxiety, ballet, therapy
  5. Science fiction
Teens joins the army

    Science fiction
    Teens joins the army
  6. A secret espionage organization for girls, WW2

    A secret espionage organization for girls, WW2
  7. "Could you driving the call?"
You wake up in a strange land, can you survive?

    “Could you driving the call?”
    You wake up in a strange land, can you survive?
  8. Army family life
Brother wounded in action in Afghanistan
Road trip, pilgrimage

    Army family life
    Brother wounded in action in Afghanistan
    Road trip, pilgrimage
  9. Father dies in prison;  technology
Assassins Creed

    Father dies in prison; technology
    Assassins Creed
  10. Post 9/11 issues;
Told from two points of view in different times;
Muslim life

    Post 9/11 issues;
    Told from two points of view in different times;
    Muslim life
  11. I have read this! It's like an episode of The Twilight Zone where everyone is turning into wax. 
Great title to add to lists of quirky towns like Nightvale, Rocks Fall Everyone Dies

    I have read this! It’s like an episode of The Twilight Zone where everyone is turning into wax.
    Great title to add to lists of quirky towns like Nightvale, Rocks Fall Everyone Dies
  12. The Teen, "Oh a plague, yay!"
Teen tests positive for a plague and is sent to a colony where all may not be as it seems

    The Teen, “Oh a plague, yay!”
    Teen tests positive for a plague and is sent to a colony where all may not be as it seems
  13. They were both excited about this
bored rich kids go wild, shoplift and go violent

    They were both excited about this
    bored rich kids go wild, shoplift and go violent

Book Review: A Week of Mondays by Jessica Brody

Publisher’s description

week of mondaysWhen I made the wish, I just wanted a do-over. Another chance to make things right. I never, in a million years, thought it might actually come true…

Sixteen-year-old Ellison Sparks is having a serious case of the Mondays. She gets a ticket for running a red light, she manages to take the world’s worst school picture, she bombs softball try-outs and her class election speech (note to self: never trust a cheerleader when she swears there are no nuts in her bake-sale banana bread), and to top it all off, Tristan, her gorgeous rocker boyfriend suddenly dumps her. For no good reason!

As far as Mondays go, it doesn’t get much worse than this. And Ellie is positive that if she could just do it all over again, she would get it right. So when she wakes up the next morning to find she’s reliving the exact same day, she knows what she has to do: stop her boyfriend from breaking up with her. But it seems no matter how many do-overs she gets or how hard Ellie tries to repair her relationship, Tristan always seems bent set on ending it. Will Ellie ever figure out how to fix this broken day? Or will she be stuck in this nightmare of a Monday forever?

From the author 52 Reasons to Hate My Father and The Unremembered trilogy comes a hilarious and heartwarming story about second (and third and fourth and fifth) chances. Because sometimes it takes a whole week of Mondays to figure out what you really want.


Amanda’s thoughts

At the beginning of the story we see Ellie as someone who is totally devoted to her boyfriend. He takes up most of her time, she’s stopped doing fun things she used to do, pre-Tristan, and she’s a little pathetic. Okay—maybe more than a little. I wrote “BARF” a bunch of times in my notes, frustrated with her fixation of Tristan. But you know that will have to change, especially when Tristan breaks up with her… over and over again.


Ellie gets to live out the “if onlys” that the rest of us can only imagine. She tries some different things to try and change the outcome with Tristan—follows the “rules” for how to keep a man (gee, can you guess what word I wrote by that note? Yep: BARF). She figures if she’s not a “match” for Tristan, as he says, she’ll transform herself into whatever it is he might want. She doesn’t seem to ever grab onto the thought of “what am I supposed to learn from this?” and is just stuck on “how can I better manipulate my desired outcomes?” She thinks the thing that she has to do in these do-overs is to stop the break-up, but really she needs to figure out who she really is and how to live for herself. Once she realizes she’s been focusing on the wrong thing, she’s able to break the curse of it always being Monday.


This was the perfect book to read in the days I was finishing up packing to move. It was super readable, funny, and light (and “light” is not a disparaging term at all). While the story was pretty predictable—because it has to be, by nature of the plot—it was fun to watch Ellie try to figure out what she needed to do differently each Monday. It was also satisfying to watch her grow and change—or maybe it’s more accurate to say she grows and STOPS changing, as in stops trying to change who she is to fit the ideals other people set up for her and to see her become more herself. Fun, cute, and satisfying—even if it takes seven versions of the same day for Ellie to see what readers will be able to see from day one. 


Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9780374382704

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Publication date: 08/02/2016


Middle School Monday: Summer.  Yes, Summer. By Julie Stivers


It’s summer! A magical time for school librarians…

[First, a shout-out to my colleagues in our school district and around the country who are librarians at year-round schools. You get no summer break. You transition directly from year to year. You are amazing. I couldn’t do it….]

For those of us on traditional schedules, what are we doing during the summer?

Reading.  Yes, I know that as librarians, books are not–and should not be–our sole purview. We want widespread access to information, equitable educational outcomes for our students, literacy integrated in every subject. But, come on, books! BOOKS. Summer gives school librarians time to read without pause. Find new books to recommend as class texts. And, of course, read books and authors that reflect our diverse schools. I’m going to be talking about some of my favorites over the coming weeks and I can’t wait to hear about your new finds.

Rethinking our library spaces.  In addition to a freshly painted wall [half chalkboard paint / half Carolina Blue], I sought help from a guru in our district (Thank you, @klallen!) and she had great ideas for redesigning the space to create more efficient zones for library activities [free reading / instruction / circulation]. My library is tiny! To free up space, we’re dismantling the circulation desk to just a small book drop and circulation computer.

Creating new spaces.  I’m turning my office into a space for students and bringing my desk out into the library. [Actually, my desk looks like it’s from 1952 and it is broken. I will probably just use a table.] I’m excited about being OUT in the library and am doubly excited to create another space for students to learn and play. Our school does not have an art teacher or program and I’m envisioning using this space for electives and other free time to give students creative and artistic reign to create, envision, make, tinker. Will I call it a MakerSpace? STEAM Lab? I don’t know! I think names matter–which is why I call myself a Librarian and the school space, a Library.  Anyone have any ideas for an art-focused “making” space?

Connecting with students. I’m going into school today to meet with four of my students who are coming into the library to help. My plan is for us to do some organizational work in the library, but we may end up just sitting around and talking. Either way, I’ll consider it a success. I’m lying. I hope we just sit around and talk.

You notice that lesson planning isn’t on this list? I’m resisting the temptation until the school year gets a bit closer, or even actually begins. I don’t want to burnout this year like I was this past year in May, so what is the most important item on our summer lists?

Relaxing.  Re-energizing.  Spending time with family and friends.

I hope you’re having a great one!  Please, please help me name our new learning space and I’d love to hear about any library tasks you accomplish over the summer, and any of your favorite new MG or YA reads.


MakerSpace: Making Fingerprint Pokemon Go Buttons

pokemonbuttons2Pokemon Go is big – you’ve probably heard. So my library is like many libraries and we are trying to plan a Pokemon Go program for our patrons while the program is still hot. Yes, I know Pokemon has been popular for 20 years now, but this is a new level of popularity and we want to tap into the zeitgeist in a timely manner.

We’re in the brainstorm stages, but one thing I know for sure we want to do is continue to use one of our most popular Teen MakerSpace stations – our button makers – to get teens creating. So I spent a part of last week researching Pokemon related button making ideas. And then it hit me, our fingerprint buttons are already so popular, so why not try making Fingerprint Pokemon Buttons.

Which is how I stumbled down the rabbit hole of Pokemon characters. I know Pikachu and a few of the characters I have caught playing Pokemon Go, but my knowledge of Pokemon is definitely lacking. So I had to research and find characters from Pokemon that might be easier to translate in the fine art form of fingerprint art.

Pikachu, it turns out, is actually kind of the easiest. In fact, I have perfected my fingerprint Pikachu and plan on putting that on my next resume.



Not Just a Button, a Pokebutton


I particularly wanted to play around with the idea of the Pokemon being in the Pokeball, but having the red portion of the Pokeball didn’t really work. Making the black bars creates the illusion of the Pokeball, but I had to make them shorter in order to provide space for the fingerprint Pokemon. The Pokeball template ended up looking like this:

pokeballtemplate1Although we definitely want to encourage our fingerprint button makers to be creative and make whatever they want, we have found that many participants want examples that they can follow. So I made a page of examples: Pokeball ExamplesPokeball Examples-page-001

Pokeball Examples 002

Some of my fingerprint Pokemon examples were a little, um, less than successful. It’s okay, you can laugh.

Scan0030 Scan0032

My finished template page ended up looking like this:

pokeballtemplatesIt’s just one of the many activities that we will do for our Pokemon Go program, but it was a fun one to put together. And you have to admit, teen librarians have some of the most interesting resumes out there.

Sunday Reflections: It Starts in Local Communities – And it Starts with You!

A man laid down on the ground with his hands up in the air, he was shot anyway. There were bombings in Kabul and a mass shooting in Germany. The Republican convention ended with the notion that we should hang the democratic presumptive nominee for treason and the leaked news that members of the DNC and media colluded to make sure she got the nomination.


The world is a mess.

It’s easy to get pessimistic and feel like we are in the end times here just waiting for the apocalyptic event that tips the scales and has us all living out our own post apocalyptic version of The Walking Dead.

But there are things we can do. Things we MUST do.

First, vote. If you are of voting age, then please make sure to register to vote and to exercise that right. It’s not just the presidential election that matters, numerous seats in the Senate are up for the taking and we need to make a statement and fill those with people who understand that they are public servants. Vote out big money and corporate influence. Vote. Vote. Vote.

Vote for education.

Vote for families.

Vote for jobs.

Vote for unity.

Second, start changing the world one person at a time, one community at a time. Get involved locally. Volunteer. If there aren’t opportunities, create them.

Get to know your neighbors.

Make sure your local community has artistic, creative, and meaningful ways for people of all ages to engage in. Make sure they are accessible. For example, my local community doesn’t have a lot to offer youth, but it has an active soccer program which is accessible to only a few – you have to have the money to play and parents who work 9 to 5 work schedules so you can go to practice and games. Same for the softball program. That’s . . . not a lot. Opportunity is nothing if it also doesn’t have accessibility.

I happen to live in a community that doesn’t have a regular public library. There is a small public library that is part of the high school, but it doesn’t have the same breadth of collections, hours and programming that an independent library has. So a local friend of mine who is a HS librarian (different town) and I are working to put together a YA book club and discussion group. It’s not a lot, but it’s what we know.

Inspired by author Christa Desir, I now host Spaghetti Sundays at my house. I make a big pot of spaghetti and whoever wants to come comes and we hang out. Again, it’s not a revolutionary act, but it’s something I can do to help build relationships and bring positivity into the lives of my girls and our local community.

Of course as a librarian there are tons of things I do to help change my community and my teens for good, but I don’t work in the same community that I live and I know many of us don’t.

If you’re like me and you feel discouraged and overwhelmed, then let’s start trying to do what we can. (And yes, I know many of us are.) What we need is for our communities to feel connected, the people in our communities to feel respected and valued, and for our children to feel empowered and have hope.

No one person can do it alone, but together we can change the world.