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Book Review: Piper by Jay Asher, Jessica Freeburg, and Jeff Stokely

Publisher’s description

piperLong ago, in a small village in the middle of a deep, dark forest, there lived a lonely, deaf girl named Maggie. Shunned by her village because of her disability, her only comfort comes from her vivid imagination. Maggie has a gift for inventing stories and dreams of one day finding her fairy-tale love.

When Maggie meets the mysterious Piper, it seems that all her wishes are coming true. Spellbound, Maggie falls hard for him and plunges headfirst into his magical world. But as she grows closer to the Piper, Maggie discovers that he has a dark side.

The boy of Maggie’s dreams might just turn out to be her worst nightmare…

With striking illustrations from Eisner-nominated artist Jeff Stokely, mixed with Jessica Freeburg’s work on historic and legendary horrors, Piper is an exciting new departure for Jay Asher that deftly touches on the same themes of truth, guilt, and redemption that made Thirteen Reasons Why a beloved bestseller.


Amanda’s thoughts

My first thought when I finished this was that I want someone to write about disability in this book. There are interesting things going on with Maggie, who is deaf and can read lips (even, apparently, without always looking at the person, if the art is to be believed), and the deaf rat, and “the boy with the crippled leg,” the only child to escape the piper. That person is not me, because I don’t think I have the insight to fully explore that topic, but someone should look at this.

In Hameln, rats are destroying the grain harvest and storage as well as biting residents and spreading disease. The local rat catcher can’t get a handle on it, so when a stranger appears who claims to be able to play music and control the animals, the town reluctantly agrees to his terms in hopes of finally being rid of the rats. The piper and Maggie, a deaf girl used to being tormented, form a bond. He shares a bit with her about how to find a common song to control creatures. He’s interested in accountability, justice, and consequences. Maggie believes in forgiveness, acceptance, and finding the value in everyone. While the piper eventually does what he says he will do, the town’s leaders are always wondering if he’s a fraud, or has some kind of dark magic, or brought the scourge on himself. Fed up with their reluctance to pay to him, the piper eventually leads the children out of town, positioning Maggie to become the new story’s hero.

This dark story of trust, control, and revenge is a quick read with great illustrations that add so much to the story. Readers unfamiliar with the Pied Piper story will be particularly engaged in this tale, curious to see where it goes. A good addition for reluctant readers and graphic novel fans. 


Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9780448493664
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 10/31/2017

Book Review: The Ocean in My Ears by Meagan Macvie

Publisher’s description

ra6Meri Miller lives in Soldotna, Alaska. Never heard of it? That’s because in Slowdotna the most riveting activities for a teenager are salmon fishing and grabbing a Big Gulp at the local 7-Eleven. More than anything, Meri wants to hop in her VW Bug and head somewhere exciting, like New York or L.A. or any city where going to the theater doesn’t only mean the movies. Everything is so scripted here—don’t have too much fun, date this guy because he’s older and popular, stay put because that’s what everyone else does.

But when her senior year should be all boys, SAT prep, and prom drama, Meri feels more and more distance between herself and the people she loves. Her grandma dies, her brother gets hurt, and even her best friend checks out to spend more time with some guy. As she struggles with family, grief, friends, and hormones, Meri must decide if she really is ready for the world beyond her backyard.

Meagan Macvie’s debut novel, The Ocean in My Ears , raises questions of love, purpose, and the power to choose your own future even when your future’s the thing that scares you the most.


Amanda’s thoughts

the oceanMeri is complex. Heading into her senior year of high school, she’s desperate to leave her tiny Alaska town (a town known for two things—salmon fishing and having the highest per capita teen birthrate in the nation), but also terrified of leaving behind everything she knows. She has sex with a creepy older guy she’s dating but is also worried that it’s a sin and she might regret it (also, he’s a terrible human being but she hangs out with him for waaaaay too long). She doesn’t reveal anything about her life to her distant (both emotionally and physically) parents but longs for someone to do some parenting and for them to maybe understand her or even just see her. She has big dreams and big doubts. She’s been raised in a religious setting, having gone to Christian school until junior high. Her mother, and the church, repeatedly drive home the point that sex outside of marriage is a sin. It’s terrible, awful, you will go to hell, you will get diseases, you will get pregnant. Meri hears all of this but still wants to make her own choices, come to her own conclusions. It’s never easy stumbling your way through adolescence (the only way through is by stumbling, I think), but Meri is having a particularly hard time senior year. Her dad is either always off working in the oil fields or at home ordering her around, her grandma is dying (and her mom is gone for much of the book in Idaho tending to Meri’s grandma), her best friend has ditched her for a boy, and she likes Joaquin, a nice dude who she worries her parents won’t approve of, but instead dates jerky oaf Brett. She’s trying to figure out what she wants in life, but that’s hard to do in her tiny, isolated town with the constant talk of judging, sinning, and Satan.


Set in 1990, this look at a small town girl feeling trapped, frustrated, and ready to explore bigger horizons will appeal to fans of Carrie Mesrobian’s Just a Girl and other realistic YA where the main plot is the day-to-day existence of a teenager just trying to figure it all out. 


Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781932010947
Publisher: Ooligan Press
Publication date: 11/07/2017

Star Wars YA Roundup by Michelle Biwer

In 2014 after the Disney acquisition of Lucasfilm, Disney relegated the Star Wars Extended Universe to non-canon status, leaving a new generation of writers a fresh canvas with which to fill in some of the backstories and gaps in Star Wars mythology. Of course any public librarian knows these new books are coming out fast for every age group, including some great new YA lit. The books on the list below mostly feature young people rising up against the Galactic Empire and joining the Rebellion (aka some great readalikes for teens who like dystopians and/or Star Wars).


Titles listed in Star Wars chronological order


rebel risingRebel Rising by Beth Revis: Disney Lucasfilm Press, 2017

A prequel to last year’s standalone Star Wars film, Rogue One, Rebel Rising covers Jyn Erso’s backstory including her upbringing in the heart of the Rebellion and her tempestuous but loving relationship with her adopted parent, rebel extremist leader Saw Guerrera.



guardiansGuardians of the Whills by Greg Rucka: Disney Lucasfilm Press, 2017

Baze and Chirrut were spiritual leaders on their home moon of Jedha, at least until the Galactic Empire began destroying their city and mining their religious temples for resources. This middle grade novel explains how the Empire’s takeover led these two heroes (also first seen in Rogue One) to resist and protect their home with Saw Guerrera and the Rebellion.


ahsokaAhsoka by E.K. Johnston: Disney Lucasfilm Press, 2016

Ahsoka Tano, the first female Jedi to be featured prominently in Star Wars lore and former apprentice of Anakin Skywalker, builds a resistance movement against the Galactic Empire on the Outer Rim planet of Raada. A must for fans of the Star Wars: The Clone Wars or Star Wars Rebels tv shows, this book covers the time between when Ahsoka leaves the Jedi Order and joins the Rebellion.


leiaLeia, Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray: Disney Lucasfilm Press, 2017

Princess Leia Organa is just sixteen when she joins the Junior Imperial Senate, intending to follow in the footsteps of her parents by leading the planet of Alderaan and protecting it as much as possible from the Empire. Leia soon finds out that her parents are more than just good diplomats, they are leaders of the Rebellion. This novel lays the groundwork for the very beginnings of the Rebellion on Alderaan and Leia’s involvement before the events of A New Hope.


lost starsLost Stars by Claudia Gray: Disney Lucasfilm Press, 2017

All Thane and Ciena wanted during their childhoods was to one day become imperial pilots. They both train hard to fulfill this dream but after seeing the horrors that the Empire inflicts against its people Thane becomes disillusioned and joins the Rebellion. These childhood friends find themselves fighting on opposite sides of the war in this rare, humanizing portrayal of rebel and imperial soldiers. Also a good entry point for those not as familiar with Star Wars as the main characters are first introduced in this book and not currently tied to any other part of the franchise.


certain point of viewFrom A Certain Point of View: Del Rey, 2017

Anthology featuring 40 new stories set in the Star Wars universe from the perspectives of characters you might not expect, including the monster from inside the trash compactor in A New Hope…There are gems in this collection for both the casual fan and the super obsessed, lightsaber owning fan. The star studded author lineup includes the Young Adult and Middle Grade authors Renée Ahdieh, Tom Angleberger, Jeffrey Brown, Meg Cabot, Rae Carson,  Zoraida Córdova, Delilah S. Dawson, Claudia Gray, E. K. Johnston, Nnedi Okorofor, Daniel José Older, Beth Revis, Madeleine Roux, Gary D. Schmidt, Sabaa Tahir, and Elizabeth Wein.


bloodlineBloodline by Claudia Gray: Del Rey, 2016

Bonus non YA title: Set before the events of The Force Awakens, Bloodline is a great follow up to Leia, Princess of Alderaan. Now Senator Leia, the former Princess of Alderaan is campaigning to become First Senator, essentially the leader of the new coalition government after the defeat of the Empire. Rumors spread about Leia’s true parentage, tying up a plot thread of the original trilogy with an intriguing twist.

Collecting Comics, November 2017 Edition (by TLTer Ally Watkins)

Welcome to the November 2017 edition of Collecting Comics! Here are some suggestions of comics coming out in November that your teens and tweens will enjoy!


Friends and Foes (Red’s Planet Book 2) by Eddie Pittman (Amulet Books, November 7) In the second book of the Red’s Planet middle grade graphic novel series, Red has crash landed on a strange planet surrounded by a plethora of interesting alien creatures. Somehow she gets caught up in a wild election, and she and her friends must decide what’s worth fighting for.


Raid of No Return (Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales #7) by Nathan Hale (Amulet Books, November 7) In the 7th book of the wildly popular Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales graphic history series, Hale tackles a long-requested topic: WWII. After Pearl Harbor, a group of pilots made history by becoming the first Army bombers to be launched from aircraft carriers. Some of them crashed and were captured, and some landed in China. Raid of No Return is a story of survival during wartime. This entire series will appeal to your young history buffs.

Cici’s Journal: The Adventures of a Writer-in-Training by Joris Chamblain, illustrated by Aurélie Neyret (First Second, November 7). Cici wants to be a novelist, and she loves to watch people, especially grownups. By watching the world around her, she notices the old man who goes into the forest every week with a lot of paint. What is he up to? Filled with journal notes, doodles, and Cici’s observation, this middle grade graphic novel will thrill your young readers and writers-in-training.


The Once and Future Queen by Adam P. Knave and DJ Kirkbride, illustrated by Nicholas Brokenshire (Dark Horse Books, November 14). Rani is a chess prodigy with no plans to be any kind of leader but once she pulls Excalibur from the stone, it’s too late. Now she needs to assemble a new round table to protect earth from an invasion of Fae. This blend of magic, romance, adventure, and mythology will appeal to a large swath of your teens!

Princeless Volume 6: Make Yourself, Part 2 by Jeremy Whitley, illustrated by Emily Martin (Action Lab Entertainment, November 21).  The princess-saving team is ready to strike again! Fresh off fighting vampires, zombies, and swamp creatures, Princess Adrienne, Bedelia the Blacksmith, and Sparky the dragon set off to the mountains to save twin princesses Andrea and Antonia. The Princeless series has been charming readers of all types for several years, and your young patrons will be thrilled with the new installment.


Goldie Vance Volume 3 by Hope Larson, illustrated by Jackie Ball (BOOM! Box, November 21). Goldie Vance, aspiring teen detective, is back! And this time she’s trying to figure out who’s sabotaging Sugar Maple’s car before the big race. There’s no love lost between Goldie and Sugar, but they need to work together to get to the bottom of the shenanigans or no one will be safe the day of the big race. Collects issues #9-12 of the comic book series.

Spider-Man: Miles Morales Volume 3 by Brian Bendis, illustrated by Szymon Kudranski and Bazaldua (Marvel, November 21). After his encounter with Spider-Gwen, Miles’s life is turned upside down! And so is his mom’s. How can she cope with the situations and who will she turn to? Collects issues #15-19 of the comic book series.


Star Wars: Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Captain Phasma by Kelly Thompson, illustrated by Marco Checchetto (Marvel, November 28). What happened to Captain Phasma After A Force Awakens? Marvel expands Phasma’s story and reveal how she escaped the destruction of the Starkiller base. Your patrons will want to read this one before The Last Jedi comes to theaters! Collects issues #1-4 of the comic book series.

Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys: The Big Lie by Anthony Del Col, illustrated by Werther Dell’Edera (Dynamite Entertainment, November 28). In this noir imagining that older teens will love, teen sleuths Frank and Joe Hardy are accused of the murder of their father. They team up with their friend Nancy Drew to prove their innocence and find the real killer.


Cloudia & Rex by Ulises Farinas and Erick Freitas, illustrated by Daniel Irizarri (Lion Forge, November 28). Cloudia, her sister Rex, and their mom find themselves in the middle of a supernatural exodus of sorts. When their car is hit by lightning, they find themselves with some interesting supernatural adjustments. They slowly realize that they’re being used by gods for their own purposes…and that’s a lot of responsibility. Collects several single issues of the comic book series.

BONUS NON COMIC! Supergirl: Age of Atlantis by Jo Whittemore (Amulet Books, November 7). Supergirl (aka Kara Danvers) has been spotting citizens with strange abilities all over National City. If that’s not weird enough, the Department of Extranormal Operations captured a mysterious humanoid sea creature. Are these two things related?? Sure to thrill Supergirl fans!


Friday Finds: October 27, 2017

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Event Recap: John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down Book Tour by Michelle Biwer

MakerSpace: Using a Silhouette Cameo to Do Screenprinting

Book Review: Calling My Name by Liara Tamani

Using Snapchat to Engage Teens at the Library

#MeToo: Teens, Libraries and Sexual Harassment

Dispelling Some Myths about Public Libraries, One Tweet at a Time

Cover Reveal: HOW YOU RUINED MY LIFE by Jeff Strand

Introducing Medal on My Mind, a new blog about Stonewall Book Award contenders

What’s New in LGBTQIA+ YA October 2017

TPiB: Emoji Fortune Tellers

Around the Web

Teachers Report Stressed, Anxious Students In The ‘Age Of Trump’

Lifting Students Up Without Lowering The Bar

Disney Channel is making history with its first gay coming-out story

17 YA Books By Authors Of Color To Look Out For In The First Half Of 2018

Angry librarian goes on brutal Twitter rant after journalist suggests closing all libraries


TPiB: Emoji Fortune Tellers

Sometimes an amazing craft idea has to change direction to make it work. That’s what happened with this project, for a few reasons. First, the inspiration:

How cool is that?! A DIY Magic 8 Ball is something my coworker and I stumbled upon while preparing for our superstition-filled Friday The 13th escape room, and it sounded like the perfect October drop in craft program for my middle school visitors. My coworker went to town creating the piece for our escape room while I just chilled, thinking about how cool it would be for my drop in program later in the month.

Problem 1: cost

When my coworker told me that she had to special order the container from an Etsy seller at something like $6, I scoffed, thinking that surely I’d be able to scrounge something workable up at a lower cost at a craft store. The thing is, for this to work, you need a few particular qualities for the container. It has to be water tight, have round sides AND one flat side. When I started browsing, I realized that I couldn’t find anything quite right, and the things that came close were glass and still over $1 each. Not my first choice. Fortunately, I found some workable metal and plastic containers on clearance at 75 cents each.

Problem 2: drying time

See how in the demo video she draws her words on with paint, then later, at 1:45 she explains how she painted it “in two layers over two days”? Yeah. That’s no drop-in program there. Early on I decided to substitute black duct tape for the paint.

I tried using a sharpie to draw the words and it was a bumpy mess. That’s when inspiration hit. If I had to attach paper to make it legible, why not make it cute too?

I printed off a bunch of emoji pics, cut them to size, affixed them to the cube with double sided tape, then covered it all with book tape.

emojiscissors emojidoublesided booktapeemoji






Problem 3: It’s not water tight

And I did find it out the hard way. At this point, I was less than 24 hours away from program time and couldn’t buy different containers. The only solution was to seal the gaps in the tin, right? After rifling through my craft cabinet for the E-6000 leftover from a long ago program, only to find that it had long ago dried up, I threw the towel in and headed home for the night. Sometimes you need a little distance from the problem and a good homecooked meal. While measuring out the rice for dinner, it hit me: if I couldn’t change the container, I’d have to change the medium.






After experimenting with lentils and rice, I settled on instant rice, which my daughters helped me color with food coloring before school. Word of caution: regular long grain rice will take the coloring more easily but takes longer to dry. Instant rice dries fast but has a less even distribution of the coloring.

So here’s where we ended up. They’re definitely not Magic 8 Ball, but the kids seem happy with Magnetic Emoji Fortune Tellers nonetheless. Since this is a drop-in DIY program, I made a quick little photo tutorial with the emoji fortune teller instructions to have at the station, which you’re welcome to use as well. fortuneteller2

What’s New in LGBTQIA+ YA October 2017

tltbutton7It’s time for another roundup for new and forthcoming YA (and sometimes not YA) books featuring LGBTQIA+ characters.  The titles I’m including here have LGBTQIA+ main characters as well as secondary characters (in some cases parents), as well as anthologies that include LGBTQIA+ stories. Know of a title I missed in this list? Or know of a forthcoming title that should be on my radar for an upcoming list? Leave a comment or tweet me @CiteSomething. This list covers October 2017 titles. Head over to this link for the previous post (September 2017 titles) in this series. All annotations here are via the publishers/Goodreads. I also have a 2017 master list that I’m always working on. I’m happy to send you the list if you’re interested. Tweet at me or email me to request the list. I’m amanda DOT macgregor AT gmail DOT com.

Looking for more information on LGBTQIA+ books or issues? Check out the hashtag here on TLT and go visit YA Pride and LGBTQ Reads, two phenomenal resources. 


October 2017


27 hours27 Hours by Tristina Wright (ISBN-13: 9781633758209 Publisher: Entangled Publishing, LLC Publication date: 10/03/2017 Series: Nightside Saga Series)

Rumor Mora fears two things: hellhounds too strong for him to kill, and failure. Jude Welton has two dreams: for humans to stop killing monsters, and for his strange abilities to vanish.

But in no reality should a boy raised to love monsters fall for a boy raised to kill them.

Nyx Llorca keeps two secrets: the moon speaks to her, and she’s in love with her best friend, Dahlia. Braeden Tennant wants two things: to get out from his mother’s shadow, and to unlearn his colony’s darkest secret.

To save everyone they love, they’ll both have to commit treason.

During one twenty-seven-hour night, these four runaways must stop the war between the colonies and the monsters from becoming a war of extinction, or the things they fear most will be all that’s left.



royBeing Roy by Julie Aitcheson (ISBN-13: 9781635337129 Publisher: Dreamspinner Press Publication date: 10/03/2017)

If you ask Roy Watkins who she is, she’ll look you in the eye and say “an artist.” If you asked her whether she identifies as straight or gay, male or female, proud-of-it trailer trash or hick town refugee, she’ll tell you to mind your own damn business. As this unique coming of age story unfolds, Roy finds her greatest challenge in defining herself before the world does it for her—and she’s in no hurry to force herself into a slot.

Growing up Roy in a West Virginia trailer park in the early nineties is one thing, but when she gives up her childhood love for a scholarship to snooty Winchester Academy in the hunt country of Virginia, the state line isn’t the only boundary she’ll have to cross to find out what she’s really made of.



wild beautyWild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore (ISBN-13: 9781250124555 Publisher: Feiwel & Friends Publication date: 10/03/2017)

Love grows such strange things.

Anna-Marie McLemore’s debut novel The Weight of Feathers garnered fabulous reviews and was a finalist for the prestigious YALSA Morris Award, and her second novel, When the Moon was Ours, was longlisted for the 2016 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Now, in Wild Beauty, McLemore introduces a spellbinding setting and two characters who are drawn together by fate—and pulled apart by reality.

For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They’ve also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens.

The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he’s even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family.


that inevitableThat Inevitable Victorian Thing by E.K. Johnston (ISBN-13: 9781101994979 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 10/03/2017)

Victoria-Margaret is the crown princess of the empire, a direct descendent of Victoria I, the queen who changed the course of history. The imperial tradition of genetically arranged matchmaking will soon guide Margaret into a politically advantageous marriage. But before she does her duty, she’ll have one summer of freedom and privacy in a far corner of empire. Posing as a commoner in Toronto, she meets Helena Marcus, daughter of one of the empire’s greatest placement geneticists, and August Callaghan, the heir to a powerful shipping firm currently besieged by American pirates. In a summer of high-society debutante balls, politically charged tea parties, and romantic country dances, Margaret, Helena, and August discover they share an extraordinary bond and maybe a one-in-a-million chance to have what they want and to change the world in the process.

Set in a near-future world where the British Empire was preserved not by the cost of blood and theft but by the effort of repatriation and promises kept, That Inevitable Victorian Thing is a surprising, romantic, and thought-provoking story of love, duty, and the small moments that can change people and the world.



not yourNot Your Villain by C.B. Lee (ISBN-13: 978-1-945053-25-2 Publisher: Duet Books Publication date: 10/05/2017 Series: Sidekick Squad #2)

Bells Broussard thought he had it made when his superpowers manifested early. Being a shapeshifter is awesome. He can change his hair whenever he wants, and if putting on a binder for the day is too much, he’s got it covered. But that was before he became the country’s most wanted villain.

After discovering a massive cover-up by the Heroes’ League of Heroes, Bells and his friends Jess, Emma, and Abby set off on a secret mission to find the Resistance. Meanwhile, power-hungry former hero Captain Orion is on the loose with a dangerous serum that renders meta-humans powerless, and a new militarized robotic threat emerges.

Sometimes, to do a hero’s job, you need to be a villain.



echo after echoEcho After Echo by Amy Rose Capetta (ISBN-13: 9780763691646 Publisher: Candlewick Press Publication date: 10/10/2017)

Debuting on the New York stage, Zara is unprepared — for Eli, the girl who makes the world glow; for Leopold, the director who wants perfection; or for death in the theater.

Zara Evans has come to the Aurelia Theater, home to the visionary director Leopold Henneman, to play her dream role in Echo and Ariston, the Greek tragedy that taught her everything she knows about love. When the director asks Zara to promise that she will have no outside commitments, no distractions, it’s easy to say yes. But it’s hard not to be distracted when there’s a death at the theater — and then another — especially when Zara doesn’t know if they’re accidents, or murder, or a curse that always comes in threes. It’s hard not to be distracted when assistant lighting director Eli Vasquez, a girl made of tattoos and abrupt laughs and every form of light, looks at Zara. It’s hard not to fall in love. In heart-achingly beautiful prose, Amy Rose Capetta has spun a mystery and a love story into an impossible, inevitable whole — and cast lantern light on two young women, finding each other on a stage set for tragedy.



line in theA Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo (ISBN-13: 9780735227422 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 10/17/2017)

The line between best friend and something more is a line always crossed in the dark.

Jess Wong is Angie Redmond’s best friend. And that’s the most important thing, even if Angie can’t see how Jess truly feels. Being the girl no one quite notices is OK with Jess anyway. If nobody notices her, she’s free to watch everyone else. But when Angie begins to fall for Margot Adams, a girl from the nearby boarding school, Jess can see it coming a mile away. Suddenly her powers of observation are more a curse than a gift.

As Angie drags Jess further into Margot’s circle, Jess discovers more than her friend’s growing crush. Secrets and cruelty lie just beneath the carefree surface of this world of wealth and privilege, and when they come out, Jess knows Angie won’t be able to handle the consequences.

When the inevitable darkness finally descends, Angie will need her best friend.

“It doesn’t even matter that she probably doesn’t understand how much she means to me. It’s purer this way. She can take whatever she wants from me, whenever she wants it, because I’m her best friend.”

A Line in the Dark is a story of love, loyalty, and murder.



57 busThe 57 Bus by Dashka Slater (ISBN-13: 9780374303235 Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux Publication date: 10/17/2017)

One teenager in a skirt.

One teenager with a lighter.

One moment that changes both of their lives forever.

If it weren’t for the 57 bus, Sasha and Richard never would have met. Both were high school students from Oakland, California, one of the most diverse cities in the country, but they inhabited different worlds. Sasha, a white teen, lived in the middle-class foothills and attended a small private school. Richard, a black teen, lived in the crime-plagued flatlands and attended a large public one. Each day, their paths overlapped for a mere eight minutes. But one afternoon on the bus ride home from school, a single reckless act left Sasha severely burned, and Richard charged with two hate crimes and facing life imprisonment. The case garnered international attention, thrusting both teenagers into the spotlight.



trackerTracker Hacker by Jeff Adams (ISBN-13: 978-1-63533-714-3 Publisher: Dreamspinner Press Publication date: 10/17/2017 Series: Codename: Winger #1)

Theo Reese is just an average high school student with a passion for hockey and an uncanny talent when it comes to computers… at least on the surface.

What his teammates, fellow students, and even his boyfriend don’t realize is that Theo leads a double life. When he’s not putting up his facade of normal, Theo is working as an agent for Tactical Operational Support, where his technical genius is more than just a hobby. At sixteen he is responsible for helping agents in the field and keeping the TOS network secure.

It’s a secret he has to keep—from everyone.

But secrecy becomes even harder when a hacker compromises the system TOS uses to track its agents and Theo’s dad goes missing. Theo must find him and stop the hacker, which means leaving the comfort of his computer screen and venturing into a very real and very deadly world.

And if that’s not enough to deal with, all the secrecy is really putting a strain on Theo’s love life.




like waterLike Water by Rebecca Podos (ISBN-13: 9780062373373 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 10/17/2017)

Like Water is an unforgettable story of two girls navigating the unknowable waters of identity, millennial anxiety, and first love, from the acclaimed author of The Mystery of Hollow Places.

In Savannah Espinoza’s small New Mexico hometown, kids either flee after graduation or they’re trapped there forever. Vanni never planned to get stuck—but that was before her father was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease, leaving her and her mother to care for him. Now she doesn’t have much of a plan at all: living at home, working as a performing mermaid at a second-rate water park, distracting herself with one boy after another.

That changes the day she meets Leigh. Disillusioned with small-town life and looking for something greater, Leigh is not a “nice girl.” She is unlike anyone Vanni has met, and a friend when Vanni desperately needs one. Soon enough, Leigh is much more than a friend. But caring about another person threatens the walls Vanni has carefully constructed to protect herself and brings up the big questions she’s hidden from for so long.



HarmoniousHearts2017FS_v1Harmonious Heart 2017 – Stories from the Young Author Challenge edited by Anne Regan (ISBN-13: 978-1-64080-159-2 Publisher: Harmony Ink Publication date: 10/24/2017)

Harmony Ink Press is proud to present the winners of the fourth annual Young Author Challenge. This book contains the best of the best in short LGBTQ+ fiction by authors from age fourteen to twenty-one. They represent the future of both our literature and our community, and the future looks as bright as these voices are strong, inventive, and unique. These fifteen stories range from the realistic to the fantastical, and they are populated with characters from all across the rainbow. They explore love, friendship, being different, finding one’s purpose and place, and what it means to grow up—in the modern world or one of pure imagination.



mickMick & Michelle by Nina Rossing (ISBN-13: 978-1-63533-716-7 Publisher: Dreamspinner Press Publication date: 10/31/2017)

Fifteen-year-old Mick Mullins has a great life: his parents are sweet, his sister is tolerable, and his friendships are solid. But as summer descends on Queens, he prepares to turn his carefree existence upside down by disclosing a secret he has kept long enough. It’s time to work up the courage to reveal that he is not a boy, but a girl—and that her name is Michelle. Having always been the perfect, good boy, Michelle is terrified that the complicated truth will disappoint, hurt, or push away the people closest to her. She can’t continue hiding for much longer, though, because her body is turning into that of a man’s, and she is desperate to stop the development—desperate enough to consider self-medicating with hormones.

Most of all, Michelle fears that Grandpa, who is in a nursing home after a near fatal stroke, won’t survive the shock if he finds out that his favorite grandchild, and the only boy, is a girl. If she kills her beloved Grandpa by leaving Mick behind, she isn’t sure embracing her real identity will be worth the loss.



americaAmerica Vol. 1: The Life and Times of America Chavez by Gabby Rivera and Joe Quinones (ISBN-13: 9781302908812 Publisher: Marvel Publication date: 10/31/2017)

At last! Everyone’s favorite no-nonsense powerhouse, America Chavez, gets her own series! Critically acclaimed young-adult novelist Gabby Rivera and all-star artist Joe Quinones unite to shine a solo spotlight on America’s high-octane and hard-hitting adventures! She was a Young Avenger. She leads the Ultimates. And now she officially claims her place as the preeminent butt-kicker of the entire Marvel Universe! But what’s a super-powered teenager to do when she’s looking for a little personal fulfi llment? She goes to college! America just has to stop an interdimensional monster or two first and shut down a pesky alien cult that’s begun worshipping her exploits before work can begin. Then she can get on with her first assignment: a field trip to the front lines of World War II – with Captain America as her wingman!


Introducing Medal on My Mind, a new blog about Stonewall Book Award contenders

Medal on my MindWe’re always happy to have guest posts here at Teen Librarian Toolbox, especially when they can help boost projects we find really cool. Today the fine folks from Medal on My Mind, a new blog dedicated to examining books that are eligible to win Stonewall Awards, join us to tell us more about their work.


Q: What is Medal on My Mind, anyway?

Medal on My Mind is a mock award blog speculating the potential results of the Stonewall Book Award – Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children’s & Young Adult Literature Award. In anticipation of this award, which honors books about LGBTQIA+ experience, we’re taking a close look at eligible titles and assessing them the way members of the award committee might. We write long-form considerations of individual books, interspersed with the occasional round-up post that collects titles by genre, format, identity, etc. We’ll be updating on a more or less weekly basis until the award is announced at ALA Midwinter in February 2018.


Q: Who’s running these shenanigans?

We’re a small team of four queer librarians: Kazia Berkley-Cramer, Alec Chunn, Stacy Collins, Dani Crickman. (Alec, who originated the project, isn’t active on the blog this year, since he’s currently serving on the Rainbow Books List Committee.) Alec, Dani, and Kazia all work in children’s/teen services at libraries, while Stacy works as a subject librarian in children’s literature. Each of us works with children’s and YA literature in some other capacity, too, as reviewers, booksellers, and teachers.


Q: Why did you want to start MoMM?

We’d been paying attention to the other mock ALA award blogs that are well-known in our field. We couldn’t help but notice that the “general” awards (Caldecott, Newbery, Printz) are the ones our field regards most highly and the ones that get the most hype. When Alec suggested creating a blog for the Stonewall Book Award, we were all enthusiastic about the opportunity to draw attention to the growing numbers of LGBTQIA+ books being published for children and teens.


gentlemansQ: What are some books you’ve talked about already, and what are some you’re looking forward to getting to?

K – I’ve waxed on about my love for Julie Murphy’s (initially controversial) Ramona Blue, and Dani and I co-wrote a post about some truly outstanding graphic novels! I’ve also just written about Mackenzi Lee’s heartbreaking and hilarious The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, hands-down one of the funniest and surprisingly deep books I’ve read this year.


S – At this point, I’ve written about Wild Beauty, the gorgeous magical realism novel from Anna-Marie McLemore (just out this month!). I’m really looking forward to writing about AdriAnne Strickland and Michael Miller’s Shadow Run and April Daniels’ Dreadnought. Both speculative fiction, both with a trans/genderfluid character, but a difference in where that character sits in the narrative.


D – So far, I’ve written about Misa Sugiura’s It’s Not Like It’s a Secret, a debut novel with an adorable interracial lesbian love story that I feel hasn’t been getting the attention it deserves, and Adam Silvera’s History Is All You Left Me and They Both Die at the End. I’m looking forward to writing about Rebecca Podos’s Like Water and E. K. Johnston’s That Inevitable Victorian Thing.


wild beautyQ: Are there books you really want to win?

D – I’ve got my heart set on Wild Beauty. I love it for all the reasons Stacy illuminates in her post about it, and most especially for how it employs a premise that feels so perfect for magical realism–five cousins in love with the same person—to show that women can be queer in so many varied ways.

K – I haven’t yet had the chance to read Wild Beauty, so currently my vote goes hands-down to Ramona Blue!

S – WILD BEAUTY! Ramona Blue and Gentleman’s Guide are close seconds for me too.


Q: What do you think about LGBTQIA+ representation in children’s and YA books this year?

Several great books have come on the scene this year, and the intersection of excellent writing craft with full, nuanced representation is getting stronger every year. Our acronym is…big, with many identities featured, intersecting, and sometimes barely captured (if at all) among its letters. Our publishing world (like the rest of the world) has begun to give some attention and space (both badly needed) to uplift certain parts of that acronym. We’re looking forward to both broader and deeper representation as we move forward.


Q: What do you hope to see published in the future?

So much! More books by and about queer PoC/Native people. More books by and about trans and nonbinary people, intersex people, ace/aro people. More books by and about queer disabled people. More picturebooks, beginning readers, transitional readers, and middle grade with LGBTQIA+ representation. More queer characters in all the genres.


Q: Do you cover the Lambda awards as well?

Nope! While we might reference the Lammies or do a surprise one-off post about them, our focus here is just on the children’s/teen division of the Stonewall!


Q: With the current conversations around #ownvoices narratives and reviewing, do you think MoMM fills a void?

Yes, but it’s complicated! We definitely fill a noticeable void in terms of award blogs and discussion, which we’ve always found disappointingly absent. But in terms of #ownvoices reviewing, we stand on the shoulders of folks like Vee S. and Malinda Lo, who have been working tirelessly to make space for public discussion around queer children’s and teen literature long before us. We’re excited to be bridging the gap between these two spaces, although this, too, is complicated! Our identities as queer people are vital to the project. Drawing on our own experiences and our accumulated knowledge to talk about books–and in doing so, making more evident that this is what anyone who talks about books professionally does–is an important piece of our work. However, we’re aware of all the positions we don’t occupy and the gaps that exist in what we know. Under an umbrella as big as LGBTQIA+, where so many other identities intersect, our claim to #ownvoices is often tenuous, at best. It’s a fallible standard, but it’s a starting point, and one we’re glad to be making those steps forward.


Q: Who can join the conversation?
Anyone, including you! We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments sections of our posts. If you’ve served on the Stonewall or you have a lot to say about a title from this year, let us know and we can talk about guest post possibilities.

Cover Reveal: HOW YOU RUINED MY LIFE by Jeff Strand

Have you read any Jeff Strand? That’s one of my go to questions for anyone – teen or YA reader – who lament that there are not enough funny books in YA. And I get it, the funny is definitely outnumbered in YA, it truly is. But Jeff Strand is a pretty dependable author when it comes to the funny. He writes with wit, sarcasm and snark, all qualities that I can appreciate. And horror. That’s right, Jeff Strand often combines horror and humor for a winning combination. A BAD DAY FOR VOODOO by Jeff Strand is one of the funniest books I have ever read.

This is one of the funniest, LOL books I have ever read

So I was honored when Sourcebooks Fire reached out to me and asked if I wanted to host a cover reveal for his most recent book, HOW YOU RUINED MY LIFE. Yes! Yes, I do. But first, what is this book about?

Rod’s life doesn’t suck.

If you ask him, it’s pretty awesome. He may not be popular, but he and his best friends play in a band that has a standing gig. Yeah, it’s Monday night and they don’t get paid, but they can crank the volume as loud as they want. And Rod’s girlfriend is hot, smart, and believes in their band—believes in Rod. Aside from a winning lottery ticket, what more could he ask for?

Answer: a different cousin.

When Rod’s scheming, two-faced cousin Blake moves in for the semester, Rod tries to keep calm. Blake seems to have everyone else fooled with his good manners and suave smile, except Rod knows better. Blake is taking over his room, taking over his band, taking over his life! But Rod’s not about to give up without a fight. Game on. May the best prankster win…

And now . . . The Great Cover Reveal (insert drum roll here please)


Preorder How You Ruined My Life: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Indiebound


“Thanks for coming out tonight! Are you ready to rock?”

A couple of people in the audience indicate that yes, they are indeed ready to begin the process of rocking. A few others don’t look up from their cell phones, but I’m confident that they’ll discover their readiness to rock as soon as we start playing. The rest of the eleven or so people in the club haven’t bothered to walk over to the dance floor. Presumably, they’re waiting for the headline act before committing to whether or not they’re mentally and physically prepared to rock.

“We’re Fanged Grapefruit,” I say into the microphone. “This first song is an original called, ‘You Can’t Train a Goldfish to Catch Popcorn in Its Mouth, So Don’t Even Try.’ One, two, three, go!”

I can’t remember which of us came up with the name Fanged Grapefruit. I think it was Clarissa, our drummer. I consider myself the creative driving force of the band, but if you see Clarissa, you’ll understand why she doesn’t lose many arguments. She’s at least six foot three (though I’ve never measured her), and you wouldn’t want to arm wrestle her unless you were willing to lose an arm. When she really gets going, her drumsticks become a blur. And when she’s done with a set, the sticks look like they’ve been gnawed on by beavers.

Mel, short for Melvin, is lead guitar and background vocals. I’m lead vocals and rhythm guitar. Ironically, Mel is a worse guitar player and a better singer than me. Not everything we do in Fanged Grapefruit makes sense.

Mel doesn’t look like he should be in a punk rock band. He looks like he should be president of the Chess Club. Which he is, but I assure you, the guy plays chess with attitude. He also gets straight A’s and is likely to be our class valedictorian, and if so, I hope he’ll pause his inspiring commencement speech for a wicked guitar solo.

I’m Rod, short for Rodney. Nice to meet you. I’m pretty much average, I guess.

Other band names we’d brainstormed included Untidy Reptiles, Autocorrected Text Fail, Rod & the Whacknuts, Carnivorous Vegans, Impolite Music for Unruly People, The RMC Experiment, Say Goodbye to Your Ears, Pawn Takes Rook, Crunchy Noise, Crispy Noise, Chicken Fried Noise, (The Parentheticals), Fake News Echo Chamber, Hairnets Gloriously Aflame, Dog Eat Dog Eat Munchkin, The Self- Diagnosing Hypochondriacs, Sequel II, and Sushi Gun.

We play at this club, the Lane, every Monday, which is the only day you can get in if you’re under eighteen. We go onstage around eight, and we’re home by nine fifteen, so all our parents are cool with us being out on a school night. It also helps that they’ve never actually been inside the Lane, which is a bubbling pit of health code violations. If you have to go to the bathroom, hold it. Trust me.

I’m sure we’d have a much bigger audience if we could play on a Friday or Saturday night, but Clarissa, Mel, and I are only sixteen, so we’ve got a couple of years to go. (Sorry if it was insulting that I did the math for you.) We hope that by the time we’re old enough to play there on a weekend, we’ll have upgraded to venues where your feet don’t stick to the floor as often.

Anyway, we begin to rock out on our guitars and drums, and select members of the audience begin to move to the music. Well, okay, only two of them. And one is my girlfriend, Audrey. You might say that she doesn’t count, but we got together because I was in a band, so I think she does count, thank you very much.

Audrey runs our merch table. We never sell anything, though she gives away free stickers to people who look like they might be band managers. She’s as tiny as Clarissa is non- tiny. You won’t believe me if I say she’s the most gorgeous girl at our school, so all I’ll say is that if you look at her and look at me, you’d say, “Wow, how did that happen? He must be in a band.”

By the end of our set, three people in the audience are bopping their heads to the music. That’s a fifty percent increase from when we started. Fanged Grapefruit rules!


After dropping off Clarissa, Mel, and then Audrey (because I always pick her up first and drop her off last, even though she lives the furthest away), I go home, take a shower, and start packing my lunch for the next day.

“How was your gig?” Mom asks, walking into the kitchen.

“Great! Every show gets a little better.”

“I was going to do that for you,” she says, pointing to the sandwich I’m making.

“I know.” Mom works two jobs, both of which suck, so I’m always happy to make my own lunch. Plus I’m very specific about the spread of my peanut butter. It should be as close to the edge of the bread as possible without spilling over, and the thickness should be consistent. Generally, I’m a pretty casual guy, but not when it comes to peanut butter application. We all have our quirks.

“I’ve got news,” she says.

“Dad got out of prison?” Dad isn’t really in prison. He left us two years ago. We joke about him being in prison as a coping mechanism.


“I’m finally going to get a baby sister?”

“Ha. You wish.”

“You got a raise?”

Mom shakes her head. “I did get a five- dollar tip on an eighteen- dollar meal though. That was nice.”

“Wild panthers have run amok in our neighborhood, gobbling up people left and right?”

“Maybe you should stop guessing.”

“Maybe I should. So is this good news or bad news?” I ask.


I set down the butter knife. “That doesn’t sound like a good ‘well…’”

“I wouldn’t necessarily call it bad news,” Mom says. “It’s definitely not the worst news ever. Nobody died or anything.”

“Tell me.”

“You know your aunt Mary and uncle Clark?”

“Of course.” I don’t think I’ve seen Uncle Clark since I was six. We live in Florida, and they live in California. He and Dad never got along, so every couple of years, Aunt Mary would visit us by herself. With Dad out of the picture, I assumed we’d see more of our extended family, but it never really happened.

“Aunt Mary and Uncle Clark are going on a cruise.”

“That’s cool.” I consider that for a moment and then get very excited. “Are they taking us with them?”



“It’s one of those around- the- world cruises. Three whole months. Doesn’t that sound fun?”

Did I mention that Aunt Mary and Uncle Clark are rich? You probably picked up on that when Mom said they were going on a three- month- long world cruise.

“Is Blake going with them?” I ask.

“No. He’s not.”

Suddenly, I have an idea where this conversation is headed. It doesn’t make me happy. “Maybe you should spell this out for me,” I say.

“Your cousin Blake is going to live with us for three months. Isn’t that exciting?”

I stare at her for a few hours.

(Possibly, I’m exaggerating.)

“Starting when?” I ask.

“Next week.”

“You mean before the school year ends?”

“Yes. He’s going to transfer to your school.”

“That’s messed up!”

Mom shrugs. “They got a good deal on the cruise.”

“Where’s he going to stay? We don’t have a guest bedroom.”

“Well, I thought…you know…”

“He can’t share my room!” If I wasn’t almost an adult, I would have stomped my foot.

“Honey, it’s only for three months.”

“That’s a quarter of a year! I thought we were broke,” I say. “How are we going to pay for all that extra food?”

“We’re not that broke, and obviously, your aunt and uncle will help pay for groceries.”

“Isn’t he a spoiled brat?”

“You haven’t seen him in ten years,” Mom says.

“Well, ten years ago he was a spoiled brat.” “I’m sure he’s fine now.”

“Doesn’t he have any friends he can stay with in California?”

My mom sighs. “Rodney, he’s family. Family is always welcome in our home.”

I hope I’m not coming off as whiny and selfish. If a hurricane tore the roof off their house and they lost all of their worldly possessions, sure, I’d happily donate half of my room to Cousin Blake while they rebuilt their lives. But asking me to give up my privacy so Aunt Mary and Uncle Clark can go on a luxury cruise seems kind of unreasonable.

However, I’m pretty sure this is a done deal, and my mom has enough stress in her life without me continuing to protest.

“All right,” I say.

“Thank you.” Mom gives me a hug. “I think you’ll enjoy having him here.”

Who knows? Maybe I will. Maybe my cousin is a really cool guy. Maybe he has good taste in music. And maybe he’s witty and entertaining. And maybe he’ll be willing to help with emergency cleanup if we’re having a wild party and Mom calls suddenly to say she’s on her way home early.

We might end up being the best friends that any two cousins could ever be. We’ll giggle and frolic and be inseparable.

But probably not.

I can’t believe I have to share my room.

I return to making my lunch. I’ll try to be optimistic and pretend that these will be the best three months of my life. How bad could it be?

ABOUT Jeff Strand

Jeff Strand has written more than twenty books and is a four-time nominee of the Bram Stoker Award. Three of his young adult novels were Junior Library Guild picks. Publishers Weekly called his work “wickedly funny.” He lives in Atlanta, Georgia. Learn more at JeffStrand.com.

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Dispelling Some Myths about Public Libraries, One Tweet at a Time

teenprogramI have worked in public libraries for 24 years now and every few months (weeks? days?) it seems like another think piece or post on social media comes out proclaiming that we should just shut down and stop funding our public libraries because no one even uses them anymore, or everyone just uses the Internet, or that nobody reads, or that you can just buy your books from Amazon. That happened again this week but this time, the outcome was different.

Earlier this week Andre Walker posted that no one, especially adults, uses public libraries anymore and that we should just take all the books and put them in the schools.

To be clear, Walker is a New York Observer columnist who lives in the UK, so he is probably talking about UK libraries, which I am no expert on. However, this type of sentiment is very common and librarians and library users responded to his tweet. To begin, let’s break his tweet down. This tweet makes a lot of incorrect assumptions:

1. That nobody – especially adults – uses public libraries anymore.

The truth is, public library use is up, especially among millennials.

Public library use in U.S. highest among Millennials | Pew Research

Library usage and engagement by Americans | Pew Research Center

2. That a public library is nothing more than a building full of books.

As I mention, I have been a public librarian for 24 years and even before the turn of the century, public libraries were more than just a building full of books. Yet with the growth of technology and a public that is increasingly reliant on online access, public libraries have become increasingly important as an information portal to their local communities. That’s to say nothing of the programming, services, and resources that public library provides to help meet the educational, developmental, recreational, and informational needs of citizens of all ages in their local communities.

But at the same time that public library usage goes up and local communities grow increasingly dependent on their libraries to meet a wide variety of their needs, our culture, which seems to be growing steadily away from the idea of the collective good, continues to decrease or even suggest un-funding public libraries. This puts our most vulnerable populations at risk as they are the most dependent on the library for computer usage to search for and apply for jobs, as well as the technology training that many local libraries provide, supplemental materials for school work, and even just safe places to be social and engaged. But it is not just our most vulnerable that libraries serve in our collections, programs and services, but the entire public. For example, The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County (where I work), hosts a Great Decisions series where we invite the public to come and discuss current and relevant topics with informed speakers and reading materials. This week alone we will host a 10-hour family Halloween movie marathon, story times, safe Trick or Treating, and our Teen MakerSpace will be open for teens to come in and safely explore topics like coding, robotics, electronics and crafting in a safe environment with access to a great variety of tools and resources that they may not have at home.

And yes, we have books. A lot of them and in a variety of formats on a variety of topics to meet a variety of needs and interests. Books to help you fix your car, apply for college or jobs, learn a new skill, decorate your home, etc. etc. etc. Oh, and to read for fun. Because reading for fun is valuable too: 10 Benefits of Reading: Why You Should Read Every Day.

To highlight what public libraries are doing, I asked my fellow librarians on Twitter to share with us the various ways that their local public libraries were helping their communities using the hashtag #PubLibsProvide. Libraries are doing amazing things, from lending mobile hotspots and bikes to creating seed sharing libraries. This is in addition to the daily task of providing quality reference assistance, computer access, technology training, and, of course, access to a wide variety of books, materials and resources.

3. That school and public libraries are interchangeable.

I think it’s also important to point out here that school and public libraries each have very different functions and service focus, both equally important, and that communities need both. Research shows us time and time again that students who attend schools with strong libraries are more successful: Strong School Libraries Build Strong Students. Their goals are, rightly, focused on the students first and foremost. Research also reinforces the knowledge that communities with strong arts programs, including public libraries, thrive and are more attractive to both business and new residents: How Arts and Cultural Strategies Create, Reinforce, and Enhance Sense of Place; Why Public Libraries Matter: And How They Can Do More – Forbes; Making Cities Stronger – Urban Institute. The hours, types and breadth of the collections, and types of programs and services at a school library aren’t meant to serve the entire community in the same way that a public library is and does. So while moving the books from a public to a school library may be beneficial to the students in the schools that receives those books, it would not benefit the entire community in the same way that the local public library is and does.

The outcome to this story is, however, slightly different then the outcome of most of these stories. You see, the response to Mr. Walker was so loud and with such a positive outpouring of support for public libraries that he changed his mind:

Thank you to everyone that Tweeted. Even I learned of some innovative new ideas that I want to go and talk with my admin about.