Teen Librarian Toolbox
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Middle School Monday: Let Students Do It

MSM1You know that social media phenomenon where everyone is putting forth their best selves and as users we can come away with a warped view of how fabulous everyone else’s life is?

I don’t want this blog to be like that. I don’t want to share projects and ideas that have turned out successfully and have ANYONE think that tells my complete story. I mess up. A lot. Although I’m trying to think of it as failing forward.

I’m going to share one such story for two reasons.

  1. It was so mortifying to me—in the moment—that by sharing it, I hope to cleanse myself of the whole experience. [I once had a friend who shared an unflattering picture of himself on Facebook “to cleanse himself of it” and I’ve always loved that sentiment!]
  2. More importantly, it drove home an important lesson that I really should have already known. Hint: It is the title of this post.

We have an amazing 7th grade science teacher at our school. [Follow her at @BethMCampbell.] In addition to the fabulous things she does in the classroom, she organizes an overnight (!) camping trip for our 7th graders, complete with these amazing and fun enrichment activities. I was tapped to do something at the campfire. Tell a story, maybe? Not really in my wheelhouse. [I’d rather write a story than tell one.] But, I thought, how hard can this be? I’m a librarian. I can find a good story to tell.

I COULD NOT FIND A STORY. My instructions were that it could not be scary. I thought, no problem, I’ll find a funny one. I reached out to the brilliant librarians in my district. I reached out to one of my professors who is a storytelling master. They sent me great ideas. For various reasons, they didn’t fit. [Because of my own failings or content or audience, not because of the suggestions.]

I finally decided to tell some urban legends, as they are our modern day fairy tales. I was excited to learn that people call them FOAF Tales—because they always happen to a friend of a friend. Or, my neighbor’s cousin’s sister-in-law’s college roommate. Fun, right?

The stories I chose aren’t important. I’ll just say this. I bombed. I BOMBED. I had spent hours—hours—researching and practicing, but it just didn’t work. I even stopped after the first story. As, I was sitting there in the moment—and, after, while I reflected on it—the words bouncing around in my head were…


One of the reasons it didn’t work was that the STUDENTS wanted to talk. THEY wanted to tell stories. I should have put the idea of student campfire storytelling out to all the 7th graders a week in advance and see who wanted to participate.

We could have then worked on finding or creating stories. I could’ve helped them! It would have been fun! They could have practiced. What a great confidence builder! And a fun way for students to get public speaking experience. [All of THAT is what is in my wheelhouse.] Learner agency plus fire. I love it.

What makes this even worse is that normally I’m a champion for LETTING STUDENTS DO IT. How did that knowledge leave me at such an important (and public) juncture? How? [Y’all. My principal was even there.] Instead of me stumbling through the experience, it would have been our students SHINING.

What an epic and humiliating fail on my part. I’ve got to fail it forward though with a takeaway I will remember: Let students do it. Let students do it! [Whatever IT is.] Truly, everyone wins.

Have an awesome week, everyone!

I’m Julie Stivers at @BespokeLib and I fail sometimes!

#MHYALit: How to Help, by Ally Watkins

Today our #MHYALit Discussion co-coordinator Ally Watkins shares some tips for helping teens in the midst of a mental health crisis. But not just teens, anyone really.

You can read all the #MHYALit posts here or click on the #MHYALit tag.


There’s something darkly ironic about dealing with a mental health crisis the year that you’re helping coordinate a project about mental health awareness in YA Lit.

Earlier this year, I wrote a post about how to manage and what it looks like to live with chronic mental health problems. Things were actually pretty good then! I had all of these really great intentions of reading backlist over the summer, doing a bunch of reviews, helping contact guest posters.

And then the bottom dropped out.

I won’t drag y’all through the details with me, but little by little (as it often happens), my cocktail of meds stopped working for me. And by the time I realized what was happening, I was in trouble. Throughout the summer and early fall, me and my mental health team (I’m very grateful to have a good medical team!) attempted five different adjustments to my medications before we settled on a combination that worked. During this, I was in therapy and monitoring my symptoms really closely. The process was something akin to torture. And the side effects? I don’t even know where to start. Special thanks to my friends (including my lovely co-coordinators Karen and Amanda) for helping keep me somewhat grounded throughout this process. I seem to be more regulated now, which is great, because I’m going to need everything that I can to fight the approaching seasonal depressive symptoms I’m already starting to manifest.

This entire episode really got me thinking about the teens that we serve that deal with these illnesses and disorders. The books that we’ve been highlighting throughout this process are all fantastic and important, but what if, like me, a teen is suffering with anxiety so severe that it prevents them from being able to concentrate on a book? We need to find ways to meet suffering teens where they are, especially considering that mental health symptoms often make it difficult for them to seek help or resources on their own.

Please consider this your regular reminder that audiobooks are books and that listening to them is is reading and not in any way cheating. Audiobooks are basically the only way that I was able to read this summer. Talk to your teens that are dealing with mental health struggles. Ask them what they like to read, and if it would be helpful for you to have those titles in an audio format. Whether it’s lack of focus caused by anxiety or depression or if it’s a side effect, being unable to concentrate on a book is real, and if you’re a reader, it’s a real loss.

Busy Hands

Is there someone on your library staff or in your community that can teach a handiworks class in your library? Whether it be knitting or crocheting or scrapbooking, having something to keep your hands busy (maybe while listening to an audiobook! Or watching something on Hoopla!) can be really helpful for someone whose brain is constantly racing. Consider leaving coloring sheets and colored pencils out in your teen area, or having programs that include this type of craft or activity. If a kid feels like they can be included in library activities despite their illness, they’ll feel the sense of inclusion that we’re always trying for.


If there are teens in your library that are struggling, try to meet them where they are. Make a resource list of reputable online information about mental illness that they can peruse at home. Include local resources or care providers. Remember that a symptom of anxiety is often not wanting to approach anyone, so they may be seeking this information on their own: having it available for them in a trustworthy list of resources will help them get their hands on correct information curated by a professional.

Fall is a really difficult time for a lot of sufferers of mental illnesses. Let’s do what we can to make it easier on the teens we serve.

Friday Finds: October 28, 2016

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Tech Talk: The Ongoing Quest for iPad/iPhone Printing, Or, How I Fell in Love with a Printing App

Middle School Monday: Embracing our Book-ishness

#MHYALit: Puzzling Through Teen Mental Health, a conversation with Emily Franklin and H.A. Swain

Video Games Weekly: Paper Mario – Color Splash

October/November #ARCParty

Uppercase Unboxing

#MHYALit: The Best Way to Erase the Stigma of Mental Health – Talk About It!

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#MHYALit: The Best Way to Erase the Stigma of Mental Health – Talk About It!

Today, as part of the Mental Health in YA Lit Discussion (#MHYALit), guest Deanna Cabinian is discussing the importance of talking about mental health in order to help erase the stigma.

You can read all the #MHYALit posts here or click on the #MHYALit tag.


Recently I had the pleasure of going to a book signing where I met YA authors Jennifer Niven and Kathleen Glasgow. The thing I love about these ladies is they aren’t afraid to go there when it comes to mental health issues. Ms. Niven talked about Finch having bipolar disorder in All the Bright Places and Ms. Glasgow talked about the self-harm Charlie, the main character of her novel Girl in Pieces, struggles with. As I sat there listening to their talk, I thought, this never would have happened when I was sixteen. There were no books like this when I was a teenager; if there were I never heard about them. I thought it was too bad these novels hadn’t come out ten or fifteen years ago when I really could have used them.

One of my very close family members has struggled with OCD, bipolar disorder, and depression—basically the trifecta. I never used to tell people about it, though, and hid my own family’s issues for a long time, almost three decades, because I worried about what people might think. What would they say? Would they judge my family members differently? Would they think I was sick—that these conditions were catching? Would they think we were all freaks?


When I was twenty-six years old I pulled my two closest coworkers into a conference room (they would later attend my wedding) and told them about what my family had been through and what we were currently dealing with. I just spewed everything in a rush without taking a breath. It was a three-minute summary of what life had been like for the past ten years.

“Everyone knows someone with mental health issues,” my friend said. “It’s not a big deal.” If that was true, though, then why didn’t we talk about it? Why didn’t we talk about how hard it is to see someone go through that? How we spend hours worrying and wondering, are they okay?

There’s always been so much shame surrounding mental illness, to the point that sometimes people wait years to get help. They don’t want to admit they have a problem, that their mind is behaving in ways they can’t control. This is why books like All the Bright Places and Girl in Pieces are so important. They get people talking. They tell people they are not alone. That they are not freaks. They tell people it’s okay to talk about it.

The good news is now people are starting to talk about it en masse. Talking about it is the only way to get loved ones the help they need. It’s also the only way to make a dent in the stigma.


Do you want to write a guest post and talk about YA lit, teens and mental health? Contact one of us, we’d love to talk with you.

About the Author


Deanna Cabinian has worked in radio, television, and magazine publishing, but her greatest passion is writing. A graduate of Northern Illinois University, she has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a Master’s degree in sport management. Her debut contemporary YA novel, One Night, was released on September 5. Find her online at deannacabinian.com.

Uppercase Unboxing

Welcome to the first of three unboxing posts – one each month. As you might have already gathered, I was contacted by Uppercase and offered a free three month subscription to their ‘box’ service in return for blogging about what I received. I’m not entirely sure why they chose me out of the four of us to contact, but I’m also not going to look a free book in the mouth…or something like that.

So I put box in quotes because that is the first thing I noticed about the package – it arrived in a bubble envelope and the contents of the ‘box’ are actually delivered in a simple cloth bag. Which…six of one, half a dozen of the other…makes no real difference, it was just a surprise. Here are the entire contents, laid out for your viewing:


You’ll see that this month’s book is Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter. I received an ARC of this, but passed it on to another eager reader. I get way more ARCs than I have time to read, and I live in a tiny apartment, so…yeah. Now, however, I’m intrigued, especially since it’s blurbed on the front cover by Leigh Bardugo, in whose taste I have the utmost confidence. Here is the publisher’s summary:

Vassa in the Night is a powerful and haunting modern retelling of the Russian folktale “Vassilissa the Beautiful” for teen fans of urban fantasy, fairy tales, magic, and horror who enjoy books by Leigh Bardugo, Kendare Blake, Catherynne Valente, and V. E. Schwab.

In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell themselves they’ve arrived. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now—but not Vassa’s working-class neighborhood.

In Vassa’s neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling out again could become an issue. Babs Yagg, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters—and sometimes innocent shoppers as well. So when Vassa’s stepsister sends her out for light bulbs in the middle of night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission.

But Vassa has a bit of luck hidden in her pocket, a gift from her dead mother. Erg is a tough-talking wooden doll with sticky fingers, a bottomless stomach, and a ferocious cunning. With Erg’s help, Vassa just might be able to break the witch’s curse and free her Brooklyn neighborhood. But Babs won’t be playing fair….

Also, to sweeten the offering, the copy is signed.


The next item is the ‘Punk Rock Writers Journal’, which features images of famous authors reimagined as punk rockers. Of the 18 featured authors, 10 are men and 8 are women, which is decent gender representation. Unfortunately, only 3 of the 18 are people of color, and they made Langston Hughes look positively ghostly white. It’s a notebook. I don’t generally use them, but it might make a nice gift for the classical book lover with a sense of humor in your life. I can see where it would appeal to teens.


Next, we have a set of Cassette Tape bookmarks, which I thought was a rather random inclusion, since most teens I know have no idea what a cassette tape is, unless they’ve read Eleanor and Park. I however, will enjoy using them.

And finally, there is a cute little sticker of one of the characters from the novel. In all, I would say it’s a reasonable offering of items worth slightly more than the cost of the subscription ($23/month + $6 shipping.) If you’re looking for a gift for your favorite teen or YA book fanatic, this would serve well.




October/November #ARCParty


For those of you new to TLT, here’s how an ARC Party works: The Tween and The Bestie go through each title, reading the back cover info aloud to one another. After examining the covers, they then give each book a yeah or nay, letting me know if they are interested in reading each title. Here are the books we looked at last night and their initial reactions.

  1. Blood Red, Snow White by Marcus Sedgwick

Oct 2016

Russian revolution, "double agents",… https://t.co/ZbfvPAUoPV

    Blood Red, Snow White by Marcus SedgwickOct 2016Russian revolution, “double agents”,…  https://www.instagram.com/p/BL9ZFQFjadL/ 

  2. The Messenger by Carol Lynch Williams

Oct 2016

Ever speaks to the dead, paranormal, romance https://t.co/PebnZZ0XzP

    The Messenger by Carol Lynch WilliamsOct 2016Ever speaks to the dead, paranormal, romance  https://www.instagram.com/p/BL9ZVpmjPUm/ 

  3. The Baby by Lisa Drakeford

Oct 2016

A teen surprises everyone by giving birth and everyone is… https://t.co/HP3oT50Vw6

    The Baby by Lisa DrakefordOct 2016A teen surprises everyone by giving birth and everyone is…  https://www.instagram.com/p/BL9ZgUwjnVA/ 

  4. A Darkly Beating Heart by Lindsay Smith

Oct 2016

A teen is sent to Japan and slips back in… https://t.co/CgNIp4xsZj

    A Darkly Beating Heart by Lindsay SmithOct 2016A teen is sent to Japan and slips back in…  https://www.instagram.com/p/BL9ZqFIDjUQ/ 

  5. This Is Our Story by Ashley Elston

Nov 2016

5 boys go hunting, only 1 comes back and Kate is… https://t.co/zCTKJ2Gzi3

    This Is Our Story by Ashley ElstonNov 20165 boys go hunting, only 1 comes back and Kate is…  https://www.instagram.com/p/BL9aMavjfqr/ 

  6. Trouble Makes a Comeback by Stephanie Trombly

Nov 2016

Will Zoe take a detour and find out… https://t.co/HyxNVdMIig

    Trouble Makes a Comeback by Stephanie TromblyNov 2016Will Zoe take a detour and find out…  https://www.instagram.com/p/BL9acpMDSbL/ 

  7. Diabolic by S J Kincaid

Nov 2016

1 of the most anticipated reads for Fall 2016. Science… https://t.co/JR8pZUnghi

    Diabolic by S J KincaidNov 20161 of the most anticipated reads for Fall 2016. Science…  https://www.instagram.com/p/BL9apukD6ue/ 

  8. Girls in the Moon by Janet McNally

Nov 2016

Family, music, poetry, identity, family secrets https://t.co/SAHAvXNgdq

    Girls in the Moon by Janet McNallyNov 2016Family, music, poetry, identity, family secrets  https://www.instagram.com/p/BL9bAapD3wk/ 

  9. The Amateurs by Sara Sheppard

Nov 2016

5 years ago a girl disappeared, a group of teens… https://t.co/RKC4Ccw7OJ

    The Amateurs by Sara SheppardNov 20165 years ago a girl disappeared, a group of teens…  https://www.instagram.com/p/BL9bOCIDRYz/ 

  10. The Best Possible Answer

Nov 2016

What do you do when your boyfriend leaks racy pics of you… https://t.co/np1N7qWJhY

    The Best Possible AnswerNov 2016What do you do when your boyfriend leaks racy pics of you…  https://www.instagram.com/p/BL9bbZXDvRa/ 

  11. We Are Still Tornadoes

Nov 2016

Set in the 80s. Should two best friends be more than friends? https://t.co/ex4iE8TL8r

    We Are Still TornadoesNov 2016Set in the 80s. Should two best friends be more than friends?  https://www.instagram.com/p/BL9bmKkD6jw/ 

  12. Saving Hamlet by Molly Booth

Nov 2016

Drama/theater, HS crushes, time travel to Shakespearean… https://t.co/GJnWUA5fZy

    Saving Hamlet by Molly BoothNov 2016Drama/theater, HS crushes, time travel to Shakespearean…  https://www.instagram.com/p/BL9b8R9DXvB/ 

  13. Spindle by E K Johnston

Dec 2016

Story spinners, demons, curses
A retell one of Sleeping Beauty https://t.co/Tyj7QNmctD

    Spindle by E K JohnstonDec 2016Story spinners, demons, curses
    A retell one of Sleeping Beauty  https://www.instagram.com/p/BL9cf7iDGV5/ 

  14. Everyday Magic by Emily Allbright

Dec 2016

Hollywood behind the scenes https://t.co/u6Iaj1epO9

    Everyday Magic by Emily AllbrightDec 2016Hollywood behind the scenes  https://www.instagram.com/p/BL9ct7MjeoS/ 

Video Games Weekly: Paper Mario – Color Splash

This week’s video game is the newest edition of the “Paper Mario” series.  Paper Mario takes the classic 2D side scrolling game and gives it a role-playing feel, often with 3D elements and a paper aesthetic.  Mario usually has a hammer that can squish enemies, and as always he has to save Princess Peach in Mushroom Kingdom.

YouTube Trailer:

Platform:  Wii U

Rated: E

Single or Multiplayer: Single

Storyline: Mario and Peach set out to a town called Prism Island, only to learn that the world’s color and characters have been drained by Shy Guys wielding straws.  The town’s color source used to be from a fountain that held Big Paint Stars, but the fountain has been drained and the stars are missing.  In addition, there’s a giant black paint version of Bowser throwing the world into chaos, and it’s up to Mario to save Princess Peach (who once again gets kidnapped) and restore the Big Paint Stars alongside his new sidekick, Huey the paint can.


The storyline isn’t really fleshed out, nor are the rules of the universe.  There are parts of the universe that are graphically realistic looking, called “Things”, and the game gives absolutely no reason as to why they exist or why you can “squeeze” them into cards.  It’s a jarring experience in a overall beautifully crafted aesthetic world.

Gameplay: Mario has a nifty magic hammer that can soak up red, blue, and yellow paint.  By running around, players can smack whited out areas to restore their colors, hit enemies, and suck up more paint by smacking the natural parts of the world.

What do I mean by this?  Instead of a typical Mario game where players kill enemies by simply jumping on top of them, Mario has to select a series of cards like the ones above to kill enemies.  Players can choose up to two cards, and decide to boost their effects by using paint to color them.  After the player’s turn, the enemies take their turn attacking Mario.

In order to progress in the game, Mario has to find both regular Paint Stars and Big Paint Stars.  These stars unlock new areas in the world, which have their own subplots and obstacles.

Overall, it takes about four or five hours of gameplay to unlock each Big Paint Star, and there are six in total.  Despite the obstacles of each area being very intriguing, the unfortunate part is how the turn-based combat system just doesn’t work for me.  There simply isn’t enough variety in enemies and action cards to keep the game interesting, and you don’t need to plan out complex strategies in order to win.  I found myself doing everything in my power to avoid enemies as much as possible because I didn’t want to have to sit through another battle.

The game is meant for players who have enough patience for turn-based games, but even then fans of the  genre will be disappointed with the limited amount of strategy needed in order to succeed.  Next week, I’ll be reviewing XCOM 2,which is another turn-based game that might be more suitable for these types of gamers.   


Verdict: The game is beautiful to look at, but players are better off admiring Tearaway Unfolded for the paper aesthetics, and should look elsewhere for turn-based combat games.  Secondary purchase for circulating collections.


Questions? Comments? Tweet them at me!

By: Alanna Graves
Twitter: @LannaLibrarian


Pricing: $60 on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Paper-Mario-Color-Splash-Wii-Standard/dp/B01CKGI4RM/ref=sr_1_1?s=videogames&ie=UTF8&qid=1477367240&sr=1-1&keywords=paper+mario+color+splash

#MHYALit: Puzzling Through Teen Mental Health, a conversation with Emily Franklin and H.A. Swain

MHYALitlogoofficfialHA SWAIN: I love how Last Night at the Circle Cinema is constructed as a big puzzle in which you expertly lay down clues for the reader. It’s the kind of book you finish and then need to start again immediately to figure out everything you missed on the first read. Understanding one’s own mental health (or that of a friend’s) can feel equally puzzling, especially because life isn’t a story you can reread. Was this set up a conscious decision on your part as a way to comment on mental health?


Emily Franklin: Yes, this book is about muddling through the puzzle of life. How often do we have clarity on our feelings? It’s tough to recognize a tough day versus a really tough stretch, or to translate this into a needing help situation. Therapy and talking to an empathetic listener really can help untangle strands of stress or unhappiness, not only to make change in our lives but just to unload. But our society still has such negative feelings and stigma with mental health which then creates tension about asking direct questions. We wouldn’t hesitate to ask a friend how their broken leg is healing, but it feels tougher to ask if they are struggling with depression or grief. Issues without clear solutions or quick fixes are sometimes uncomfortable for humans to muddle through.


HA SWAIN: I really appreciated that you never explicitly state that Bertucci struggles with a diagnosed mental illness. Was that a conscious choice and if so, why?


last nightEmily Franklin: I don’t know that I ever sat at my desk and thought, you know, I just won’t say anything direct about this. The whole book is a puzzle, as you said, and part of the puzzle for all of us is figuring out the pieces of ourselves and how they fit with our world. Also how our friendships fit together and how even close friends have secrets or hide parts of themselves. And I think there’s an over-statement thing that can happen in fiction – both YA and adult – and I’m more a fan of quiet.


HA SWAIN: How much do you think Codman and Livvy understood about Bertucci’s situation? And what advice would you give to young adults who are watching a friend struggle with mental health issues?


Emily Franklin: I think Codman and Livvy – especially Livvy as she grew closer to Bertucci and helped care for his mother with him – were aware of his illness. At first they probably thought he moved in extremes but they liked his grandiose ideas and pranks, his energy. But I think Livvy knew he was unwell and certainly knew he’d stopped taking his meds. But like many close friends, she didn’t feel able to confront him about this, mainly because she hoped he’d be okay and also because it is easy to feel as though we are intruding in terms of mental health. I’ve learned as an adult that I will risk a friendship or relationship to ask if someone needs help or to speak up, but these actions are not risk-free. It’s even harder for teens to do because it’s a learned skill that we don’t teach.


HA SWAIN: I love how Bertucci is not defined by a diagnosis. He’s not just “the depressed guy” or “the bipolar guy.” Like any real person, he’s a wonderful conglomeration of character traits, some which make him incredibly interesting, enigmatic, fun, and endearing and others that are deeply troubling. What’s the importance of creating nuanced, realistic portraits of teens who have mental health issues?


Emily Franklin: When I set out to write this novel, I was coming out of the darkest period in my own life. One of my kids had been in the hospital and my dear grandfather had died, leaving a big hole in my heart. The thing is, I was still me. I was sad and depressed and yet I still cooked and helped my friends and did homework with my other kids and made weird jokes. But my best friend in the world knew I was only half-myself. So as I wrote CIRCLE I really had in mind the selves we present to the outside world, the self we show to the mirror, the self we share with our partners and this self we reserve really and truly for our best friend. I think Livvy and Codman and Bertucci are whole, nuanced people because I didn’t want make one the anxious guy and one the stressed girl and one the plagued kid. They are all entwined and, for Bertucci, I wanted him to straddle the line between inventive, brilliant, and wacky on one hand and unbalanced on the other.


HA SWAIN: We’ve talked a lot about Bertucci’s mental health, but let’s chat about Livvy and Codman. So many teens struggle with undiagnosed mental health issues at different times in their lives. How would you support a teen like Livvy who may be struggling with her own anxiety or dealing with a friend who’s going through a hard time?


Emily Franklin: I think Codman uses humor to gloss over his feelings – something I’ve certainly done. And Livvy is pretty stressed – her parents are about to separate and using her as their go-between. She’s a high-achieving person and probably spends more time taking care of others rather than herself. Livvy needs to be able to talk about her feelings – and I think she and Codman finally do in their confrontation at the end of the book. But I also chose to have these missed connections between Livvy, Codman, and Bertucci as well as their parents because it felt real. So often we WANT to speak or to connect but we hold off, and the moment is gone. In this case, to tragic consequence. With my own kids, we urge open communication, and to have this there has to be no judgment. I think a lot of parents are so afraid of what they might find by asking their kids deep questions that they say nothing and hope for the best. 


HA SWAIN: So true! And yet, even though we hear so much about the importance of talking to teens about mental health, you had a hard time placing this novel with a publisher because many of them felt the story was too dark. What does that say about society’s level of comfort of talking openly about mental health, especially with young adults?


Emily Franklin: If I had a dollar for every time I had to read a rejection letter from an editor saying they loved my writing but wished my subject matter could be lighter…well, I’d have a lot of dollars. Carolrhoda is great because they take risks and Andrew Karre, my editor, immediately recognized the triangular friendship and the darkness being balanced with humor and love. As a society, we like to think of childhood as trouble-free. So it’s tough when issues arise – either from circumstance or biology or both. Being a human is a beautiful, difficult thing and we all need supports— young adults especially. Asking for things to be “easier and lighter” as these editors asked (one actually cried at the end and yet still asked me to make it “less sad”) is a fantasy. Not that every day or every page contains within it such heartbreak, but we can’t dismiss the pain or feelings just wishing it away. We have to acknowledge and accept. Sometimes, just getting it out there – to a reader, a therapist, or a best friend or a stranger on the bus – can make all the difference.


About Last Night at the Circle Cinema (Lerner, 2015)

Olivia, Bertucci, and Codman are a trio-an impenetrable triangle of friendship. Beyond friendship, they share a love of the Circle Cinema, a once thriving movie theater now facing the wrecking ball, about to be forgotten forever-which is, as far as Olivia and Codman can tell, what’s going to happen to them after graduation.

Bertucci convinces Olivia and Codman to spend their last night before graduation locked inside the Cinema’s concrete walls. None of them can open the box before sunrise. The trio is then forced to face each other, the events of the past year, and whatever is to come when the new day dawns.


Credit: Lou Rouse

Credit: Lou Rouse

Emily Franklin is the author of a novel, Liner Notes and a story collection, The Girls’ Almanac. She is also the author of sixteen young adult books including Last Night at the Circle Cinema, selected by the American Association of Jewish Libraries as a Sydney Taylor Notable Book for 2016, a Junior Library Guild Selection, and an ALAN Pick. Her work has been featured on National Public Radio and in the New York Times, Boston Globe, and in numerous literary magazines. She lives outside of Boston with her husband and four children and is at work completing a new novel and another story collection.



autor-close-upH.A. Swain writes books for children and teens. She is the author of the young adult novels Gifted and Hungry. Her illustrated children’s book, All Kinds of Kisses and How Many Hugs will be published in 2016 and 2017. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. Follow her @HeatherASwain or stop by her Facebook fan page to say Hi!

Middle School Monday: Embracing our Book-ishness.


Last week, I wrote something review-ish. It was frankly more of an ode to a book than a review of one and I am happy to own that fervent love of a book. I’m also proud to own (and advertise) the consuming love I have for MG and YA books in general.

It was striking that several times last week, I came face-to-face with the idea that school librarians today don’t really know a lot about books—aren’t really expected to know a lot about books. That we are primarily focused on technology—either integration or fixing equipment.

An aside: Surely this started when we started calling ourselves media specialists? Anyone else cringe at that term? It sounds like we work at a big-box TV store. Even worse, it doesn’t connect what we do to the public libraries that our students can visit for their entire lives and the academic librarians that they will encounter when they go to college. I am a LIBRARIAN. I work in a LIBRARY. That library is housed in a school. Yes, of course, we deal with technologyjust like our fellow librarians in other library settings.

That was a long aside. Back to the story. In several, separate incidents, fellow educators expressed surprise that youth literature was a huge part of my life or thought that I was unique in our profession. Why is that surprising? When—as school librarians—did it get less obvious that we love and know books?

Another aside: I know several wonderful school librarians who freely admit that books are not why they became a school librarian. They are more focused on access to information or the excitement of good research. That’s awesome, too! A major plus of the school librarian role is that it can look different for each of us.

But, I know, I know that there are many of us who are here because, for us, kids/teens + books = paradise. I’m beginning to think that perhaps we make this obvious in our individual interactions with teens, but that when we are speaking to staff—because of the role that many of us find ourselves in—we are passing on information about technology, copyright laws, equipment purchases, software fixes, and a million other things that aren’t literacy, books, or reading. Our love of books is getting lost under all the other information we’re distributing. Have people forgotten that we know books? That we are focused on reading, engagement, and literacy?

What’s the fix? Just as we advocate for our libraries and ourselves, I think we also have to make our ‘book-ishness’—and our knowledge about literature and literacy—more public. Not just with our teens or a few colleagues, but throughout the school.

I’d love to hear how you are a public beacon for reading at your school—not with your students, but with your colleagues. 🙂 Do you have a teacher/staff book club? Do you do (novel) book talks at staff meetings?

Would anyone like to write a review—or even an ode—to an ‘under the radar’ book? I’d love to publish some on this blog. You can then link to your review on your library website or school newsletter and advertise in your school. You know. To show off your ‘bookish-ness’. And expertise.

[I’m serious about the reviews. Contact me at @BespokeLib if interested!]

Julie Stivers