Subscribe to SLJ
Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Friday Finds: August 18, 2017

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Sunday Reflections: Talking with Teens about Charlottesville

A Grief Moderated: Middle Grade Fiction for Young Readers Dealing with Loss – Guest Post by Kerry Sutherland

What’s New in LGBTQIA+ YA August 2017

I Tried to Escape the Bus (and Failed!) – An Escape the Bus Review

I Went to a STEAMFest and This is What I Learned

#FSYALit: From Rejection to Reconciliation: Changing Notions of Faith and Spirituality in LGBTQ YA, a guest post by Rob Bittner

One in Three: Teen Dating Violence and Michelle Carter – a guest post by author Heather Demetrios

Around the Web

Author Celeste Ng Reads These Books To Fuel Her Resistance

Enlisting young adult fiction in the fight against racism

Malala Yousafzai Has Been Accepted to Study at Oxford University

YA Movies Get Real

We’re crushing HARD on teen movie Everything, Everything.

Teen Choice Awards 2017

County library rolls out new Book Bikes


A Grief Moderated: Middle Grade Fiction for Young Readers Dealing with Loss – Guest Post by Kerry Sutherland

middlegrademondayMost tweens and young teens have experienced death, perhaps of a distant, elderly relative or of a beloved pet. What about those who have lost a parent, sibling, or close friend? When a teacher, guidance counselor, or concerned adult approaches us for recommendations for middle grade fiction that will support the management of the complicated emotional and social issues only a child who is suffering over the death of a someone close to them can understand, here are a few recent titles with characters who are on the same difficult journey as these young readers.

Five Elements series by Dan Jolley

Twelve-year-old Gabe has lived with his Uncle Steve since his parents died in a car wreck when he was three, so when Gabe and his friends disobey his uncle’s orders and create a dangerous situation for them all, Gabe feels responsible for his uncle’s ensuing disappearance. His quest to find his uncle as well as the hope that his mother may be alive in an evil shadow dimension creates emotional drama within the adventure this group of Elementalist friends undertakes. Gabe’s friend Brett brings along some devastating emotional baggage of his own: he blames himself for the drowning of his older brother Charlie while the two of them were the only ones in a boat together (“he knew it was his fault”) and is sure that his family hates him for their loss. His overwhelming guilt (“more than he can handle”) leaves him open to manipulation, as this fantasy series deals with much more than fictional monsters and powerful artifacts. As his twin sister Lily stands by him through the dangers they face, the greatest support she offers him is the acceptance of the reality they face in a future without their brother, because “no matter what we do, Charlie’s still gone.”

 The Secret Horses of Briar Hill by Megan Shepherd

Convalescing in a hospital for children with tuberculosis in World War II England, twelve-year-old Emmaline sees what no one else in the converted mansion can see: winged horses in mirrors. The Horse Lord, who asks for Emmaline’s help to keep an injured horse, Foxfire, safe, tells Emmaline in a letter that “death isn’t the end,” but what Emmaline discovers after her closest friend dies and her obsession with the horses hits an overwhelming pitch is horrifying for both her and readers. She endangers her own life to protect Foxfire, but she finds out that the sister and parents with whom she has been looking forward to reuniting died in a fire before she came to Briar Hill, and as the only survivor, she has somehow blocked her memories of the tragedy, as well as her helplessness to save those she loved most. As she struggles for her own life through her illness, she has the chance to carry the hope and strength she feels when she is with Foxfire into reality and share it with other children who are sick and alone. She knows that “certain special people who die before their time become winged horses,” so her desire to help Foxfire is clearly an attempt to atone for her failure to save her family. This bittersweet story seems like a sure hit for girls who love horses, but the depth of Emmaline’s grief is revealed in the suppression of her memories, a coping mechanism that some young readers may relate to and need help working through as they manage their grief.

The Girl with the Ghost Machine by Lauren DeStefano

When ten-year-old Emmaline’s mother dies, her father is unable to let go, holding them both hostage to his grief, as “it seemed as though everything else had died” with his wife. He crafts a machine that he is sure will bring her back, ignoring his living child for two years as he pours his love and time into a dream of the past. Emmaline hates the machine and what it has done, reprimanding him for not accepting the finality of death, essentially reversing roles and pressing him to take care of her and practical matters as a parent should. The machine proves itself by using memories to provide a few moments with a loved one, but Emmaline knows that memories are irreplaceable, and while she misses her mother, she is thrown into a new grief when one of her close friends drowns as they are ice skating together. The brief time she takes to cry for her mother distracts her from Oliver, as she and Oliver’s brother Gully leave Oliver behind when Emmaline becomes upset over Oliver’s comments about the machine. The two share the guilt and forge ahead, leaning on each other with a hard lesson learned that “everything could be taken away in heartbeat.” Memories are vital, but holding on to the past keeps us from continuing to live and love in the present and future: “if someone was still close enough to hold on to, then you should hold on.” This story is a heartbreaking reality of emotions packaged in a fantasy, much like the author’s other titles, most of which speak to grief in accessible ways.

More titles that may be helpful for young readers dealing with grief:

Waiting for Augusta by Jessica Lawson (death of father)

Lemons by Melissa Savage (death of mother)

Jelly Bean Summer by Joyce Magnin (brother who is MIA)

Stay by Katherine Lawrence (father is dying of cancer, protagonist speaks to twin brother, who died in utero)

The Kane Chronicles trilogy by Rick Riordan (death of mother is a motivating force in the Kane siblings’ quest)

Keeper of the Lost Cities series by Shannon Messenger (death of adoptive parents’ daughter in the past affects protagonist’s relationship with her new family)


Kerry Sutherland is the young adult librarian at the Ellet branch of the Akron-Summit County Public Library in Akron, Ohio. She has a PhD in American literature from Kent State University, along with a MLIS from the same. She reviews middle grade and young adult fiction and nonfiction for School Library Journal, and is a published author of short fiction, novels, poetry, professional and academic work. She loves cats, Shadowhunters, Henry James, anime, and NASCAR.

Twitter: @catfriends

Instagram: @superpurry

Friday Finds: August 11, 2017

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Sunday Reflections: Boyfriends, Breakups and Blocking – Oh My! Talking with teens about a different type of access

Harry Potter Birthday Celebration! By Michelle Biwer

SLJTeenLive: Teen MakerSpace On a Budget Preview

Book Review: You Don’t Know Me but I Know You by Rebecca Barrow

New Releases and Mini Reviews: Little & Lion, The Bakersville Dozen, and The Epic Crush of Genie Lo

Video Games Weekly: Slime Rancher

MakerSpace: Outreach Activity – Book Face

Around the Web

Jeff Bezos Should Put His Billions Into Libraries

As Far As Your Brain Is Concerned, Audiobooks Are Not ‘Cheating’

John Green’s ‘Turtles All the Way Down’ gets a dizzying, turtle-free cover

  • And the tweet that completely sums up my feelings:

Untitled6 YA Must-Reads for Jane the Virgin Fans

12 Books on Immigration, Youth, & Latinx Identity That Will Enrich Your Life

42 Diverse Must-Have YA Titles for Every Library


Harry Potter Birthday Celebration! By Michelle Biwer

tpibLast week I hosted my second movie matinee of the summer for teens. I was expecting these events to be very popular, as the first event was a screening of Moana sponsored by a local restaurant. I really thought catered food would be the way to my teens’ hearts, but attendance was low.

I was prepared for low attendance for this event, but Harry Potter’s name will apparently do more for publicity than speaking to summer reading school visits and your entire department publicity strategy combined. Thankfully I had just enough supplies for 20 hungry teenagers.

I scheduled three hours for this program which ended up being a perfect amount of time to capture their attention and run all the activities I had planned. When they first arrived we took a vote on which Harry Potter movie we would watch and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was chosen. The younger teens paid rapturous attention to the film and the older teens found my Harry Potter Uno cards and started playing. I’m glad I brought those as a backup activity because it held their attention for an hour and gave them a chance to socialize.

Once I saw some restlessness in the crowd I brought out the butterbeer. We have a no cooking policy in our library system so the “recipe” was vanilla ice cream, cream soda, and butterscotch syrup. It was surprisingly tasty and disappeared as soon as everyone was served. I also had great intentions of the teens creating “snitches” from ferrero rocher chocolates and set out all the supplies. Instead, they were just immediately devoured. Can’t say I am surprised!


At this point there were only a few teens left really watching the movie so I started letting interested teens make their own wands. The setup was very simple-dowels, hot glue guns, brown paint, and paintbrushes. They used the hot glue to add texture and decoration and once the glue hardened they painted over the dowels with brown paint.


With one hour left in the program and no interest in finishing the film we switched over to trivia. We started with Harry Potter Jeopardy which I made using a blank slideshow Jeopardy template. I don’t mean to brag, but I am the biggest Harry Potter fan I have ever met so I made sure the hard questions were HARD.

With the last few minutes of the program half of the teens continued to play trivia with Kahoot! and the other half played Beanboozled, a gamified “muggle” version of Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans.

Screen Shot 2017-08-06 at 8.20.04 AM

In my heart, every day is a Harry Potter Celebration but it was fun to share my passion for a few hours!

Friday Finds: August 4, 2017

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Sunday Reflections: Who are we marketing YA lit to?

MakerSpace: Legos! The one tool every makerspace needs?

Book Review: The Authentics by Abdi Nazemian

The Day The Teen Discovered Hoopla and Everything Changed

Book Review: Dress Codes for Small Towns by Courtney Stevens

Around the Web

THE LAST MAGICIAN is on The NY Times list for the second week in a row!!! #7!!!

C-students Make Great Entrepreneurs

Recrafting a Legend with Miles Morales: An Interview with Author Jason Reynolds

Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?

The digital divide between rural and urban America’s access to internet

Friday Finds: July 28, 2017

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Sunday Reflections: The Day I Did Everything Wrong

MakerSpace: How to turn a photo into a silhouette – and make it into a book page button of course!

Book Review: The Lake Effect by Erin McCahan

Video Games Weekly: Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy

July #ARCParty: A look at some late summer and early fall 2017 YA lit titles

#SJYALit: Time For Confrontation: Moving Forward in the Diversity Conversation, a guest post by S. K. Ali

Around the Web

Illinois Teens Lead American Sign Language Storytime

An NYC Scout Troop Provides Homeless Girls A Place Of Their Own

The Mothers Being Deported by Trump

FL Schools Brace for Book Challenges

Texas slashed funding for Planned Parenthood and ended up with more teen abortions

Read the First 2 Chapters of Blight

13 Tips for Teaching News and Information Literacy

Justice Department brief argues against protections for LGBTQ workers


Education Is a Political Act by Donalyn Miller

Friday Finds: July 21, 2017

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Sunday Reflections: Today, as the Mother of Daughters, is a Good Day for Geekdom

MakerSpace: Button Making is All the Rage (The Complete Button Making Index)

MakerSpace: The #ButtonFun Gallery

Book Review: Madness by Zac Brewer

MakerSpace: How to Design a Button

Video Games Weekly: Stardew Valley

Recently in book mail

Around the Web

Where Are All the Black Boys? A 2017 Assessment and Comparison

Afghan Girls’ Robotics Team Wins Limelight at Competition

ROASTING Female Doctor Who Haters

When Black Hair Violates The Dress Code

Are girls free to be girly in YA? Short answer: yes.

12 Unique Bookshelves That Will Bring You One Step Closer To The Library Of Your Dreams

Friday Finds: July 14, 2017

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Sunday Reflections: When the Opioid Crisis Hits the Library

MakerSpace: 5 Ways We Transformed T-Shirts into Something New

MakerSpace: Summer of Shirts Index and Gallery

Book Review: The Art of Starving by Sam J. Miller

YA is Ultimately for Teens, and That’s Okay

Join the TLT Teen Advisory Board!

What’s New in LGBTQIA+ YA July 2017

#SJYALit: Teens Taking Action in YA Fiction, a guest post by Robin Talley

Around the Web

Shout out to Maddi @littlebrarian who used one of our posts as inspiration for her own program:

Screen Shot 2017-07-14 at 9.26.22 AM

As if we needed more evidence for how supremely unqualified Betsy DeVos is…

27 Female Authors Who Rule Sci-Fi and Fantasy Right Now

I’m not interested in characters meant to teach a lesson.

New YA Novels From First-Time Authors You Need To Read In The Second Half Of 2017

We Found 81 Incidents Of Trump-Inspired Bullying That Happened Last School Year

Want to Raise Your Child to Love Reading? Read These Secrets


Friday Finds: July 7, 2017

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Sunday Reflections: “These Kids Lead Dark Lives”, the Summer The Teen Learned about Privilege

Recently in Book Mail

MakerSpace: Teaching Teens to Use Canva to Design their Own T-shirts (Laser T-shirt Transfers)

#SJYALit: Government Dystopia Booklist

Book Review: Who’s That Girl by Blair Thornburgh

Eid al-Fitr Exploration by Michelle Biwer

Around the Web

Summer Reading For Your Woke Kid

A Classic Library Service Boosts Literacy and More, Studies Show

The 16 Most Anticipated YA Books To Read In July

Teacher Of The Year In Oklahoma Moves To Texas For The Money

Author Shannon Hale, being wise on the Internet

Children of the Opioid Epidemic Are Flooding Foster Homes.

A Summer Camp Where Grieving Kids Have Permission To Have Fun

Vanishing Summer Jobs For Teens

Confronting the Myths of Suburban Poverty

Late-night screen time puts teens‘ sleep and mental health at risk

SLJ Curates Democracy Book List

B&N: 35 of Our Most Anticipated Fantasy Novels of the Second Half of 2017

Book Deals: Week of July 3, 2017

Tweet of the Week:

Thank you Robin for bringing this book to our attention and reminding us to check out the history of librarianship to better understand who we are and where we are headed.

A Look at This Week’s Bestseller List:

Congrats to everyone, including some of our favorite books of 2017 here at TLT!

Eid al-Fitr Exploration by Michelle Biwer

At my library we have recently started a quarterly cultural exploration series. These events are whole library affairs in which we partner with local organizations to educate and celebrate our diverse community.

Most recently I coordinated an exploration of Eid al-Fitr, a Muslim holiday following Ramadan. We partnered with a local mosque to create fun and educational activities and performances as part of this event. I brought together teens from the mosque and my TAB group (there was also some overlap) and together they planned what stations we would have at the event. It was important to us that every station was an opportunity to learn more about Eid as a cultural tradition. We did not focus on the religious aspects of the holiday.

decorations (800x600)

This was a two hour program that took place over two floors of the library. Members of the mosque came in to decorate and promote the program a few weeks before the event.

prayer rugs_decorations (600x800)Prayer rugs hung in the library’s atrium.

Opening Event

Author Visit: Our local independent bookstore brought the wonderful author Hena Khan to our event. She read from one her picture book Night of the Moon and spoke of the importance of representation in children’s literature and the exciting launch of the Simon & Schuster imprint Salaam Reads.

author event pic (800x600) Standing room only!


Eid Around the World: Teen and adult volunteers from five different countries explained how Eid is celebrated in their country.

Craft Stations: Teen volunteers helped kids create both glass and paper lanterns and explained the significance of lanterns in traditional and modern Eid celebrations.

Calligraphy/Eid cards: A volunteer wrote the patron’s name in Arabic on a card which they got to decorate.

Henna: Teen volunteers designed henna body art for patrons.

henna (800x600)

Mosque info table: A leader from our local mosque tabled at our event and answered questions from interested patrons.

Closing Event:

Dance Performance: A local Dabka dance troupe performed.

We had over 200 people attend at least part of the event and are looking forward to a Diwali celebration in the fall!