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Friday Finds: April 21, 2017

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Sunday Reflections: Empty Bellies, Starving Hearts – What happens when teens see compassion die

App Review: Enlight

What’s New in LGBTQIA+ YA April 2017

#SJYALit: Rape Culture–Twenty-five years ago and today, a guest post by Clara Kensie

Rethinking How We Think about Cheerleaders

You Don’t Have to Use the Internet & Other Absurd Things Politicians Say in 2017

#SJYALit: Good Girls Don’t Wear That! a guest post by Kim Baccellia

#SJYALit: Breaking Taboos, Telling Secrets, a conversation between Isabel Quintero and Elana K. Arnold

Around the Web

How I Feel As a Native Woman When Trump Idolizes Andrew Jackson

In Portugal, Drug Use Is Treated As A Medical Issue, Not A Crime

Schools Will Soon Have To Put In Writing If They ‘Lunch Shame’

A teen girl flawlessly took a Republican senator to task and defended Planned Parenthood in epic town hall exchange


Friday Finds: April 14, 2017

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Sunday Reflections: That’s Me in the Corner . . .

Middle School Monday: Book Review and Giveaway, The Speed of Life by Carol Weston

For National Poetry Month: A Social Justice Poetry Project for Teens, a guest post by Laura Shovan

#SJYALit: How to be Female, a conversation between Mindy McGinnis and Amber J. Keyser

MakerSpace Madness: Out of the 1, Many – Transforming Art in Multiple Ways

Spotlight on Salaam Reads

Around the Web

Help with understanding the United incident

Desertification by Donalyn Miller

Lawmaker’s Childhood Experience Drives New Mexico’s ‘Lunch Shaming’ Ban

Should High School Students Need A Foreign Language To Graduate?

A library’s purpose in the internet age

Why Do Conversations About Pop Music Still Bash the Fangirl?

5 reasons to love Beverly Cleary for her 101st birthday

Meet The Teen Sexual Assault Survivors Who Took On Their School District And Won

Middle School Monday: Book Review and Giveaway, The Speed of Life by Carol Weston

MSM1This is, perhaps, the most perfect eighth grade girl book I have ever read. In fact, it was excruciating to read (in the best possible way) as I felt I was right back in Middle School myself. It reminded me of nothing more than the Judy Blume books I read at that age, but current for today’s readers.

static1.squarespace.comFrom the publisher:

Sofia lost her mother eight months ago, and her friends were 100% there for her. Now it’s a new year and they’re ready for Sofia to move on.

Problem is, Sofia can’t bounce back, can’t recharge like a cellphone. She decides to write Dear Kate, an advice columnist for Fifteen Magazine, and is surprised to receive a fast reply. Soon the two are exchanging emails, and Sofia opens up and spills all, including a few worries that are totally embarrassing. Turns out even advice columnists don’t have all the answers, and one day Sofia learns a secret that flips her world upside down.

SPEED OF LIFE is the heartbreaking, heartwarming story of a girl who thinks her life is over when really it’s just beginning. It’s a novel about love, family, grief, and growing up.

There are multiple moments in this novel that ring true to life. My favorite of these is when Sofia and her best friend each tell their parents they are at the other’s house in order to go to a party together. Although Sofia makes a number of typical mistakes for a girl her age, she is a strong character who will enlighten many young women in the art of being true to yourself.

You can read the author’s guest post from last week here. If you’d like to be entered in the drawing to win a copy of The Speed of Life, please leave a comment on this post (preferably with your Twitter handle.)

Friday Finds: April 7, 2017

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Guest Post: Five Things I’ve Learned from Being an Advice Columnist by Carol Weston

MakerSpace Madness: Mod-A-Tee @ Your Library – Fun with T-Shirts

#SJYALit: From Aberrant Girl to Nasty Woman, a conversation between Elana K. Arnold and Amber J. Keyser

Book Review: Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan

The Power of Humor in YA, a guest post by Jeff Strand

Video Games Weekly: Legend of Zelda, Breath of the Wild

Life-enhancing things that matter to young Muslim women, a guest post by Khadija

Book Review: The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi

MakerSpace: Low Tech, Low Cost “Screenprinting”

Around the Web

How Teachers Help Students Who’ve Survived Trauma

Kansas High School Student Explains What Led To Ousting Of New Principal

Fighting Hate In Schools

New Data Powers Progress for Teens, Also Creates Problems

Read an excerpt from Kristin Cashore’s 5-genre novel, Jane, Unlimited

This YA Author Is Shutting Down Slut-Shaming Trolls Everywhere


Guest Post: Five Things I’ve Learned from Being an Advice Columnist by Carol Weston

I’ve been “Dear Carol” at Girls’ Life since the magazine’s first issue in April of 1994. For 23 years, I’ve been hearing from tween and teen girls. What have I learned?

 9781492654490-3001. School Can Be A Refuge

When I was 28 and Girltalk: All the Stuff Your Sister Never Told You was first published, I had no idea I’d be answering letters for decades. I’d written the book in a big sister voice, and I set up a P.O. box in Evanston, Illinois, just in case any girls wanted to get in touch. Letters poured in—and I learned how complicated the world is.

So many experts say, “Talk to your parents.” And that sounds… sound. But I quickly came to realize that parents don’t always know best. Some parents drink, some hit, some call their kids fat or stupid or lazy, and some say, “I wish you were never born.” I was stunned the first time I got a letter from a girl who was pregnant by her stepfather. As “Dear Carol,” I now realize that many kids are mistreated at home, and that girls with nightmarish lives need all the compassion and support the rest of us can offer. Do you have a hunch that a particular student could use a smile and a kind word? You’re probably right.

For countless tweens and teens, school is a safe space where they can find themselves and learn to shine. When a girl writes me about a troubling situation, I ask if there’s a nearby adult she can confide in, a librarian, teacher, nurse, counselor, or clergyperson. I tell her that this person will listen and won’t judge. Needless to say, such trustworthy adults (who may be overworked and underpaid) are heroes. They turn kids’ lives around, though they may never receive a formal thank-you.

2. Kids Need Adults (Though They’d Rather Not Admit It)

At the mall, we see mortified tweens rolling their eyes and saying “Daaaad!” or “Mahhhm!” Yet when no one’s looking, these girls tell me they feel hurt because their parents pay more attention to siblings or because they won’t get off their devices. For young people who feel invisible at home, it’s extra important to feel seen, heard, or valued elsewhere.

Even when tweens are happy campers, they may not live in a home full of books, so a librarian’s recommendations really do matter. If English is not the student’s first language, he may know about Harry and Hermione but not about Charlotte’s web and Charlie’s chocolate. Librarians have the privilege of sharing the joy of reading with the next generation and turning kids into readers. When a librarian says, “I think you’d like this,” and hands over a carefully chosen book, it can be such a gift. Speed of Life can help a grieving student know that time doesn’t heal but it helps. Ava and Pip can help a shy student come out of her shell.

I was already out of grad school when my high school librarian invited me to join her weekly writers’ group. I did, and her group helped me define myself as a writer. In my Ava and Pip series, it’s the librarian, Mr. Ramirez, who encourages Ava to enter a writing contest. Ava doesn’t win, but by the end of the book, she decides that when she grows up, she wants to be an author of children’s books.

3. Plus Ça Change, Plus C’est La Même Chose

Politics and technology change, but the bulk of my mail will always be about friendship, love, family. Teens—like grownups—want to get along with the people they care about and see every day. Girls feel sad when their best friend from first grade makes a new bestie or posts about a party to which she wasn’t invited. They feel overlooked when their divorced dad talks with excitement about a girlfriend. They worry when they find out someone they like is smoking or cutting.

Readers used to send me stamped letters; now it’s mostly email. But the contents haven’t changed so very much. That said, childhood does seem shorter than ever. I routinely hear from 11-year-olds who earnestly ask, “At what age are you supposed to have sex?” And more teens confess, “I want to be famous,” hoping I know some secret shortcut.

I’m glad our books and lives are more diverse and multicultural than ever, and that, for instance, we say “blended families” instead of “broken homes.” But we’re not where we need to be. I used to start my author visits with the question: “What’s the difference between fiction and nonfiction?” Today, because of fake news and disinformation, the answer isn’t always crystal clear, and critical thinking skills are essential.

4. We Can All Use Advice

Too many kids believe that if they have a feeling, they should take action. She likes Max? She should tell him! She’s mad at Kiara? She should confront her! She’s attracted to Taylor? They should take their relationship to “the next level”! I’ve told thousands of girls: don’t take action; take your time. No need to make fast decisions or speak your mind at every turn—especially if it might devastate the other person.

Most students are not going to bare their souls to someone they have to face in the halls. But if a student does share, and it feels appropriate, guidance can go a long way. For some, you might be just an ear. For others, you might be the one who reminds them to calm down—or aim high. It’s often the librarians who are aware of game-changing opportunities, contests, internships, travel experiences, even boarding schools. I went to a public school until twelfth grade, then spent senior year in France with School Year Abroad, I’m glad I learned about and applied to this wonderful program.

5. Novelists Get to Cause Trouble

Years ago, I naïvely imagined that there would come a day when I’d get to the bottom of my mailbag. I’d offer all of my best voice-of-reason advice and, ta-da, fewer teens would get pregnant or develop eating disorders. Today I understand how hard it is to make a difference—and how crucial it is to keep trying.

With nonfiction, I strive to provide answers. With fiction, it’s the opposite: I get to ask questions and pile on problems. But I can fix things too. And I can give hope.

My new novel, Speed of Life, begins eight months after the sudden death of Sofia’s Spanish mother. Sofia’s friends were there for her, but now it’s the middle of eighth grade, and they want her to bounce back. She cannot. Yet twelve months (and twelve chapters) later, Sofia is in a much happier place.

I was crying at the keyboard when I wrote the scene where Sofia speaks to her mother. But I had fun writing about Dear Kate acting rash. Yes, one character really is an advice columnist—and no, she does not have all the answers.

Carol Weston1_photo by Linda Richichi USECarol Weston lives in Manhattan and is the author of 16 books including Speed of Life, Ava and Pip, The Diary of Melanie Martin, Girltalk, For Teens Only. Her website is

Friday Finds: March 31, 2017

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Sunday Reflections: A Sea of Black Belts and the Myth of the Lazy Teen

TPiB: Escape Room The Game, a review

Middle School Monday: Jumpstart Creative Writing with Storybird Poetry

Book Review: Just a Girl by Carrie Mesrobian

SJYALit: Social Justice Reading in Schools, a guest post by Alex B.

SJYALit: More Social Justice Reading in Schools, a guest post by Alex B.

Around the Web

A High School’s Lesson For Helping English Language Learners Get To College

30 Young Adult Books for Activists-in-Training

In case you haven’t heard…

Without school librarians, we’re on a dystopian path

Student Loan Forgiveness Program Approval Letters May Be Invalid, Education Dept. Says

The CCBC’s Diversity Statistics: A Conversation with Kathleen T. Horning

There’s Someone Inside Your House: How the creepy cover was designed


SJYALit: More Social Justice Reading in Schools, a guest post by Alex B.

sjyalit6th grade (and any grade) can be great. YA literature can be great. Educators, librarians, writers, publishers, and other advocates can be great. In a time of uncertainty, it is helpful for me to say so! Also, you’re here, reading this, as part of Teen Librarian Toolbox’s Social Justice in YA Lit project. That’s great, too. I have posted about my experience with LGBT literature and social justice reading in a 6th grade classroom, and I want to share a little more. It seems important to use my voice, carve out space for self-reflection, and keep thinking and moving forward.

In answering the question, “what would I add to a curriculum that includes social justice in its texts and readings?” I originally came up with the following list of relatively new books that celebrate diversity in theme or authorship.

Alexander, K. (2014). The crossover. New York, NY: HMH Books for Young Readers.

Written in verse, the front jacket states, “in this heartfelt novel, basketball and brotherhood intertwine to show Josh and Jordan that life doesn’t come with a playbook and, sometimes, it’s not about winning.” There is strong appeal in the two brothers’ personalities and relationships, in addition to the mentions of LeBron or 2 Chainz and the inclusion of text messages, but the emotional depth is the major strength of the book. I have seen firsthand the excitement this book and author inspires in children, young adults, and teachers and librarians alike at an author presentation in a public library, and the content and structure of the book would tie into curriculum themes and learning standards well.

Engle, M. (2015). Enchanted air: Two cultures, two wings: A memoir. New York, NY: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

This memoir told in verse begins by introducing readers to Margarita Engle’s parents’ story and then opens with “Magical Travels, 1951-1959” which chronicles her first trips to Cuba, progressing through “Winged Summer, 1960,” “Strange Sky, 1961-1964,” and finally “Two Wings, 1965,” when the author is fourteen. Many chapter titles and phrases throughout are dual language, such as “Hasta Pronto/Until Soon” (p. 116). It is very important, describing her coming-of-age, historical events, and conflict over gender and ethnicity well. I like the open and explorative tone with use of figurative language and the complex coming-of-age issues discussed, and it would be a great book to use in teaching connections to other texts.

Kostecki-Shaw, J. S. (2011). Same, same but different. New York, NY: Henry Holt.

Two boys, Kailash and Elliot, become pen pals in art class, drawing pictures of their worlds and sending them from India to America and vice versa. They describe their families, alphabets, favorite classes, hobbies, and landscapes and repeat the phrase “same, same but different” until the phrase is inverted at the end.  The statement, “we’re best friends…even though we live in two different worlds. Or do we?” is a wonderful reflection on the lines we draw. The repetition of the title as a line throughout is great for reading aloud. This is a picture book that I would recommend including in curriculums for older students, as its content and structure are useful in discussing themes that could eventually lead to better understandings of social justice.

Myers, W. D. (2009). Looking like me. New York, NY: EgmontUSA.

Jeremy lives in Harlem and creates an “I am” list of his identities. He fist bumps everyone who helps him with his list. This is another picture book I would include in curriculum or programming for older students, in addition to or as a connection to his previous popular text Monster (HarperCollins, 1999).

Tonatiuh, D. (2014). Separate is never equal: Sylvia Mendez and her family’s fight for desegregation. New York, NY: Harry N. Abrams.

This book is has won numerous awards, including a Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor in 2015. As Sylvia starts at a desegregated school in California, 1947, she reflects back on the last three years and her father’s part in filing a progressive lawsuit. A beautifully told, important true story with lovely illustrations, the book also includes an author’s note, photos of Sylvia, her parents, and the schools, a glossary, and a bibliography. Quotes from the superintendents and from the educational specialists involved in the case show both the prejudice involved as well as the need for public education’s celebration of diversity. Sylvia is relatable yet inspiring and is a strong girl for readers to meet. It is the third and final picture book that I would recommend using in curriculums at different levels, if the theme involves social justice reading.

Woodson, J. (2014). Brown girl dreaming. New York, NY: Nancy Paulsen Books.

Told in verse poems in five parts with photos at the end, the artistic autobiography begins with Woodson’s memory of learning to write, discusses 1960s and 70s experiences with race in the north versus south, and ends with a class presentation of her poetry and affirming final poems about identity and beliefs. I had read Jacqueline Woodson’s The House You Pass on the Way (1997) and considered it for inclusion in classroom lessons or a classroom library, and she continues to write important books. This seems especially accessible and easy to include in lessons!

I am still not sure what book I would choose to include that focuses on social justice for LGBT people – Jacqueline Woodson’s The House You Pass on the Way (1997) would be one option – but I want to.  The nice thing, in my reflection, was that there are a lot of options – in so many areas – to choose from. One of my undergraduate education courses gave out a list of “multicultural adolescent literature ideas,” and it would be many, many pages longer now if it was updated with YA lit published in the last few years. In a recent article, Temple (2017) writes (, “YA can tackle social issues head-on, without any fears of seeming didactic or overwrought because as a genre, it doesn’t have the same kind of baggage. Literary fiction, despite all our claims that it opens our hearts to one another, is just not the best genre for engineering social change.” The end of the article states, “So whether in explicit protest novels, fiction as resistance, or simply by loudly representing underrepresented voices, it’s YA that has the best chance to jump on that ‘wave of popular energy’ and lead us all to a better world. Or at least, I hope so.”

The next step would be to make sure these books are included in curriculums, shared in schools, libraries, bookstores, and other spaces, and used in creative and powerful ways.


Alex B. is an aspiring librarian in a Master’s of Library and Information Science + K-12 program. She’s gay and has a goofy sense of humor. She can read, is testing her ability to write, and is so-so at talking. She does love to listen so you can connect with her via email (absjyalit at or comment here with your stories or thoughts!

SJYALit: Social Justice Reading in Schools, a guest post by Alex B.

sjyalitI have had many great experiences in graduate school for Library and Information science, but one of them has been the discussion on personality traits of people who work in libraries versus museums versus archives; coming from a background in education, I consider schools as well. Personality trait is maybe the wrong phrase, but I am talking about trends such as how outspoken on values and beliefs people are; in my 6th grade classroom, we watched Sara Bareilles’ music video for the song “Brave,” so that is one consideration, as are words like reticent, shy, political, or strong. Do you share your opinions with others? Do you have a disclaimer on them? Do you work to promote values and support the rights you believe in? I am still working on it, and considering qualifiers like when, how, how much, etc.

While watching the show When We Rise recently, I saw a portrayal of Tom Ammiano, one person I researched and mentioned in a past post ( I also heard Harvey Milk’s catchphrase again, “come out.” Yet, I was not out as a middle school teacher. I was unsure how to respond to student questions and anxious about possible conflict, and my cooperating teacher during student teaching had told me (not knowing I was gay) that she would never recommend that LGBT people go into education and definitely not come out if so.

My experience in the 6th grade classroom

Despite the personal tension, however, I found myself excited by the curriculum and the work I could do to help students think critically about issues of social justice, build empathy for others, and practice being open-minded, creative, and kind. The books we read had diverse characters and touched on themes of classism, racism, xenophobia, and sexism, but not homophobia. How unique was this curriculum? How much different could  – and should – it look? My Curriculum and Instruction courses, as well as some of my Library and Information Science courses, have had “diverse” and “multicultural” in their titles and in their discussions and assignments. It seems as though many educators address issues of social justice through exploration of a text or prompt in conjunction with standards of reading and writing; books may be the easiest way to enhance student experience.

So, what did we read?

Wonder by R. J. Palacio (Alfred A. Knopf, 2012) was newly released and gaining traction.

Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick (Blue Sky, 1993) was thematic and engaging for most students.

The Other Half of my Heart by Sendee T. Frazier (Delacorte Press/Random House, 2010) was a popular choice.

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai (HarperCollins, 2011) was both thought-provoking and fun.

I would recommend these beyond a curriculum to be read with families and read by younger and older students (and adults!). I also loved to use children’s picture books in my lessons and there are many new possibilities for these and other books that include a social justice narrative; for issues that are so pressing, complex, and personal, it makes sense to branch out, be creative in use, and build a network across formats, grade levels, environments, or fields.

Students need these books and these experiences. It was both invigorating yet sometimes exhausting to be implementing these units with students, since the content was emotional and the landscape of addressing social justice in a curriculum and in schools was developing. We have the opportunity to give students tools for social change and social justice in young adult literature, in and out of schools, and educators and librarians (not to mention writers, publishers, students, and scholars) are working hard to do so. When I had or have questions or concerns, I go back to the enjoyment of the books, memories of my students’ positive exclamations and connections around them, and online resources like those provided below.


Alex B. is an aspiring librarian in a Master’s of Library and Information Science + K-12 program. She’s gay and has a goofy sense of humor. She can read, is testing her ability to write, and is so-so at talking. She does love to listen so you can connect with her via email (absjyalit at or comment here with your stories or thoughts!


American Association of School Librarians. (2017). Roald Dahl’s Miss Honey Social Justice Award. Retrieved from

Brown, J. (2017). Equity & social justice in the library learning commons [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Hansen, J. (2014). Check it out: Want help boosting cultural responsiveness at your school? Ask your librarian! Teaching Tolerance 48, 20-22. Retrieved from

Harmon, J. (2015). Social justice: A whole-school approach. Edutopia. Retrieved from

Johnson, M. (2016). Do school librarians and educators have an obligation to address social change? [Blog post]. Knowledge Quest. Retrieved from

Kumasi, K. D. & Hughes-Hassell, S. (2017). Their eyes are watching us: serving racialized youth in an era of protest. Knowledge Quest, 45(3), 6-8. Retrieved from

Southern Poverty Law Center. (2017). Teaching tolerance: a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved from

Teaching for Change. (2017). Retrieved from

Acosta, A. (July 13, 2016a). Third graders assess and improve diversity of classroom library. Teaching for Change. Retrieved from

Acosta, A. (July 13, 2016b). Virginia middle school students critique lack of                      diverse books. Teaching for Change. Retrieved from                                                  

Acosta, A. (July, 20, 2016). Developing critical literacy. Teaching for Change.                   Retrieved from

We Need Diverse Books. (2017). WNDB. Retrieved from

Wetta, M. (2016). Libraries and social justice [Blog post]. The Hub: Your Connection to Teen Collections. YALSA. Retrieved from

Middle School Monday: Jumpstart Creative Writing with Storybird Poetry

MSM11Have you been using Storybird? It’s a wonderful free digital tool that uses images to unlock creative writing in our students [and ourselves!]. Sometimes, writing poetry or prose from scratch can be daunting for students—this is why Storybird can be so effective. With Storybird, users choose the art FIRST and then create poems, picture books, or chapter books using the artwork.

The artwork is extremely varied—and differs greatly in terms of tone, medium, and subject matter. There is truly artwork that would fit the writing of our students from K to 12, making it a wonderful fit for the tricky age-level that is middle school.

Storybird is a favorite tool of mine because of two empowering events that seem to happen with every class.

  1. A student that has never shown interest in poetry will have an immediate affinity for Storybird poetry. As the words are preloaded, it is a sort of ‘found poetry’ like black-out or spine poetry. It’s almost like putting together a puzzle. Without fail, a student will blow us away with her/his/their talent with this mode of poetry. It’s awesome!
  2. Also, in every class, there will be at least one student who will love the tool so much that they will start using it to create poems in their free time.

girl reading poem

Storybird has a new feature that I’m incredibly excited about. Teachers are able to select the words [up to 100] that will pre-fill for a poetry assignment.

What a wonderful project choice for a culminating assignment for any subject! I can imagine 6th grade students using this feature to create cool poems after their space unit. Or, 7th graders writing poems on an aspect they’ve been studying during their WWII units. 8th graders ‘studying’ vocabulary by building poetry. It can fit just about any topic. Any unit. Any subject.

Recently, sixth graders created poetry using a vocabulary list I created from G. Neri’s Yummy: Last Days of a Southside Shorty.

yummy poem

Whenever I incorporate creative mini-projects after reading literature, I’m going to include this as a choice. Thank you Storybird for adding this feature. I LOVE IT!

I’m Julie Stivers at @BespokeLib—and I get excited about things. Have a great week!

Friday Finds: March 24, 2017

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Support Libraries, Save the IMLS

Quick Book Review: The Other F-Word by Natasha Friend

Recently in Book Mail

Middle School Monday: I Wish Donald Trump Knew That… by J.

Getting Ready for May the Fourth: Some Star Wars STEAM Ideas

Things I Never Learned in Library School: The Best Made Plans . . . Still Sometimes Fail

#SJYALit: If You Don’t Get It, You Won’t Get It Right, a guest post by Shaun David Hutchinson

Book Review: Armstrong and Charlie by Steven B. Frank

Teen Book Club – Creating a Place to Read and Belong! (a guest post by Sheri Schubbe)

Book Review: Pyromantic by Lish McBride

Around the Web


Black and Latina Girls Keep Disappearing in Washington, DC

The Next Caldecott?

Social Media Provides Interesting Insights Into Mumps Outbreak


You Probably Believe Some Learning Myths

The Supreme Court Rules In Favor Of A Special Education Student

The White House Said After-School Programs Don’t Help Kids. Here’s What the Research Says

What Donald Trump Doesn’t Understand About Libraries