Teen Librarian Toolbox
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Morgan’s Mumbles: 15 Journals to Keep by teen contributor Morgan Randall

In last week’s post, I talked about keeping journals, and I wanted to share a list of ideas of journals to keep to spark ideas of something new for you to start right now. Feel free to mix up any of these in ways that work best for you, as journaling is a super individual practice and should be a very unique experience for each person. (I have inserted pictures of my notebooks, however, know that mine definitely aren’t the “prettiest” ones of these journals, they are practical applications in my life that work. Know that yours can be more creative than mine or far more simplistic, do whatever works best for you.)

Commonplace Book

Commonplace books (or journals) are a collection of quotes you hear, ideas, and random bursts of inspiration. These were mostly kept during the renaissance, but I think that is a thing a lot of people tend to subconsciously compile, be it through notes in our phones or random sticky notes. I personally enjoy keeping quotes that inspire me (and random bursts of inspiration) in its own area so that I always have something to look at when I need inspiration.

Bullet Journal

Bullet Journals can often be intimidating by the large community that surrounds them, personally I love the practice of having one place to collect ideas and create a planner that works for my schedule depending on the week. I have made complicated ones before, but currently, my process is rather simple. I only use a black pen and a few thin markers to color code. I create a calendar (for the year, month, and then weekly setups) along with habit, sleep, and anxiety trackers. This works for me, but feel free to add to it as much as you want.


I personally do not keep a journal, however, I plan on starting one soon, I know it is something a lot of people benefit from having and enjoy the process every day of having somewhere to reflect on their emotions and the daily events. I also think it is really cool to have a record of your life so that you can always have something to reflect back on to see exactly what was happening in your life (be it mentally or physically)

Dream Journal

This is another one I plan on starting soon because I oftentimes have really strange dreams and I like to look back on them to get ideas or try to decipher what they meant. This kind of journal would be somewhere where you write down your dreams every night (or whenever you have a dream that sparks your interest), and it would help you remember your dreams as well as be able to reflect on them (if that is something you are interested in).

Art Journal

Art journals come in all different forms (as do most journals) some people keep it more as a sketchbook, whereas others use it more as a collection of collages. I do both, depending on my mood, it is an easy way to create without the pressure of impressing anyone else because it is an art just for yourself. Below is a pencil sketch that normally I would have lost the paper to, but having it in a journal allows me to look back on it in case I decide one day to make it into an actual painting.

Travel Journal

This is NOT a journal you should currently be keeping, because you shouldn’t be traveling. But once the world opens back up, and you can safely travel I recommend you log those travel times in a journal where you collect records of events that happened on that trip, ticket stubs, and pictures. This will allow you to have a record of your vacations and be able to easily remember them all. This is also a great place to keep packing lists!

Reading Journal

This is another idea for logging what you are reading, collecting quotes, and writing reviews of books. If you enjoy annotating while you read, this might also provide you with more space to write all your thoughts and ideas out while you read. This can collect your opinions on books, and noteworthy points so if you want to look back to remember your opinion (or maybe an important quote) it is easy to access. This is my reading log (that I started in June), I haven’t updated it but I think it is a good layout if you need an idea for a log.

Writing Journal

If you are an aspiring author, or maybe you just have a lot of ideas and short bursts of inspiration. I recommend keeping a journal of your writings. I have a poetry journal, and one for book ideas. These can include plot structures, studies, character creation, and even actual writing. Let it flow natural and collect important things for your current or future self, while writing.

Gratitude Journal

I keep my gratitude reflection to a line each day in my bullet journal, but if gratitude is something you are consciously trying to work on maybe keeping a journal for it would be best. For some ideas of things to include, I would recommend a daily “Gratitude Log” where you write down the thing you were most grateful about each day, a running list of things that you are grateful for that sometimes you take for granted (maybe this is family, good books, morning coffee, or even just waking up), and (if this is something you can do) just write down everything that happens that you are grateful for. Let this book act as a reminder, when you have hard days, months, or even years that there is always something to be grateful for even if it’s hard to see.

Brain Dump Journal

This journal is exactly what it sounds like, a place to collect notes, ideas, lists, and anything else that doesn’t normally have a place. Let it grow organically and just be a space to get things out of your mind and onto paper.

Time Capsule Journal

My version of this is more of a junk journal. I collect random things from daily life that when put together into my journal form a “Time Capsule” of my life. Personally, my current journal is overflowing. It has random sketches, pictures, receipts, scraps of paper, and random notes given to me by people. This is all “junk” in theory, but I put it in a journal that I can always flip through and remember each moment for each item and lets me be able to easily look back on specific moments.

Food Journal

For me, this is a collection of recipes I have tried (or would like to try) and other random food-related things. These “random things” are nutrition facts, substitutes for items, grocery lists, and even notes about what I am eating and how it makes me feel. I recently went vegetarian and am in the process of going vegan (or at least completely cutting out dairy and only using farm-fresh/locally sourced eggs), so this allows me space to consciously keep track of foods I enjoy and new restrictions I am placing on my diet.

Music Journal

Similar to a reading journal, this is a space to create spreads/collages of songs, albums, and artists. If you enjoy listening to and dissecting music, I recommend keeping a journal like this to create a space for you to reflect on new songs and albums. And allow you to rate them, mark down what you liked and didn’t like, and even how it made you feel. If you enjoy creating music, take this a step farther and include things you enjoy in music and would like to try, along with lyrics that you think of or composition ideas.

Inspiration Journal

This is probably the vaguest, but I recommend keeping a journal of something that specifically inspires you. I have a few journals like this. One is a collection of historical figures that inspire me (and that I wasn’t taught about in school), one is a workout plan/log, and one on sustainability. Create a journal full of things that inspire you.

Philosophy and Theology Journal

This one is slightly more targeted at people who enjoy studying thought processes and ideologies. Create a place where you can collect notes on major philosophers and their thought processes. And if you are religious/spiritual, or enjoy studying those things, extend this into theological beliefs and study the differences between religions and how they have evolved over time. If you are religious/spiritual, you can extend this into a prayer or meditation journal if you are comfortable with it.

Here are some additional TLT posts that you may find helpful in your journaling journey.

Morgan RandallTeen Contributor

Morgan recently graduated high school and is currently enrolled to attend college in the fall getting her BA in Theatre and Dance with an emphasis on Design and Technology. She loves theatre, writing, reading, and learning. But something that has always been important to her is being a voice for those who feel like they don’t have one, and being a catalyst for change in any way possible.

Cindy Crushes Programming: Animal Crossing and the Virtual Library, by Cindy Shutts

Animal Crossing New Horizon is already one of the most popular games ever released. It is super popular with teens and adults. I bought a Switch during Quarantine to play and I have spent over 400 hours playing since. It is a game where you move on to an island and have to build it up along with your house. You will befriend different animal characters who have personality types such as snooty, sisterly, jock and many others. This game  is played much like the Sims but no one dies.  I knew I wanted to do programming around it.

Playing the Game:

One type of programming is playing the game with teens. I got advice from Krista Hutley from the  Wilmette Public Library who told me that using Zoom is the best way to post dodo code. This will prevent people who are not signed up from attending. We had sign-up online and we emailed everyone the zoom link. We wanted to keep our program just teen also to keep everyone safe. I collected recipes in the game and extra items and placed them on my island. I built a mini library on my island so I could pretend to do Storytime and also give RA.

I did have some issues with the program. The library internet could not handle this program. I had tested it before even at work, but I had someone who was my friend come to my island. I did not realize our internet at work was Nat Type D when you need Nat Type A or B. Also one teen had internet issues. Even with the issues the teens had a lot of fun and we were able to talk about how much we all loved animal crossing. With our virtual programming we try to have two librarians attend one to run the program and one to make sure everyone is behaving.

I made a Take and Make Necklace kit using the DIY Recipe Bottle. This was a fun kit and I am enclosing the instructions. This craft looks like it is going quickly.

Take and Make Craft DIY Recipe Bottle


  • Jump Ring
  • Mini Bottles that contain Metal Eye Hooks
  • Necklaces
  • Mini Recipe card. I found this online. I just printed them off and sized them to fit in the bottle.


1. Take the cork out of the bottle and then place a DIY Recipe Card in the bottle.  Put the cork back in the bottle.

2. Screw the metal hook eye in the center of the cork by hand.

3. You can use your figure scissors or pliers to move to open and close the jump ring. Open the jump ring and place on the metal eye hook.

4. Then take the necklace  in the middle and place it in the jump ring.

5. Close the jump ring.  You now have a necklace!

6. Be careful, the Bottle are made of glass!

Escape Room

I also made an Animal Crossing Escape room. I used google forms to create it. I wrote a story in google docs first. I made it a chose your own adventure. I wrote about 18 pages of text. I had to write the script for every choice they made. This was a lot of fun. I love working on it. I then put it in google forms. I had different pages for different answers. I did realize I had to make the final pages be submit pages so I could record the data of how many people did the escape room. I used this video to help me create the formatting in google forms.


Here is the link to try it out. It is being released today!

Cindy Shutts, MLIS


Cindy is passionate about teen services. She loves dogs, pro-wrestling, Fairy tales, mythology, and of course reading. Her favorite books are The Hate U Give, Catching FIre, The Royals, and everything by Cindy Pon. She loves spending times with her dog Harry Winston and her niece and nephew. Cindy Shutts is the Teen Services Librarian at the White Oak Library District in IL and she’ll be joining us to talk about teen programming. You can follow her on Twitter at @cindysku.

Have Some Doodles, by Teen Contributor Riley Jensen

During this pandemic a lot of people have an excessive amount of free time. It can be hard to find things to do that will fill all that time, so here are some simple doodles that could take up some time. Also, this is an easy programming idea to share because you don’t need a lot of supplies.

Basic Banner:

  1. Draw two squiggly lines with some space between. These lines should be parallel to each other and horizontal.
  2. Connect the two lines at both sides.
  3. At two corners that are diagonal from each other draw a small swirl, but don’t connect the swirl to the line.
  4. The swirls will be connected to the squiggly lines with two straight lines. One at the point where the swirl stops and one where the swirl curves in.
  5. This is the point where you can trace over the banner with a black pen.
  6. Now, you will need two colors that are close to each other. One will be the color of the banner and the other will be the color of the shadow. Color the main part of the banner and the outside of the swirl the lighter color. Color the inside of the swirl the darker color, so it looks like a shadow.

Color Gradient Words:

  1. Get two colors that are close to each other so you can achieve the gradient.
  2. With the lighter color, write out whatever word you want. You may want to make the word a fairly large size.
  3. With the darker color, go about halfway down each letter and go over the bottom half.
  4. Now, you can either leave the word the way it is or you can trace the word however you want.

Separated doodle:

  1. Draw two semi-circles with a good amount of distance between them.
  2. Fill in the semi-circles with the same color that they were drawn with.
  3. Trace the flat parts of the semi-circles with a black pen.
  4. In the space between the two semi-circles write whatever word you want.
  5. Once you have your word you can do whatever you want to it to add flare.

Here are some more doodle examples:

Also, here are some great books about doodling and lettering:

Riley, Teen Reviewer

I am a senior in high school and an avid reader. I have been reviewing books on this blog since 2012. I love musical theatre and listen to show tunes a lot. I also love murder books (both fiction and nonfiction), and she wants to go to college to be a forensic scientist after high school. Reading is one of my favorite things to do, so I must put that hobby to good use for my mom.

Book Review: The Insomniacs by Marit Weisenberg

Publisher’s Book Description: A sharp and romantic novel about two suburban teens who can’t sleep uncovering the secrets of their neighborhood by night. Think The Summer I Turned Pretty with flashes of Rear Window!

When seventeen-year-old competitive diver Ingrid freezes up and sustains a head injury at a routine meet, her orderly life is turned upside down. Now housebound and sedentary on doctor’s orders, Ingrid can’t sleep and is haunted by the question of what triggered her uncharacteristic stage fright.

The only thing she remembers about the moment before the dive is seeing Van, her neighbor, former best friend, and forever crush, on the sidelines. Then one sleepless night, she sees Van outside her window…looking right back at her. They tentatively begin “not sleeping” together every night but still living separate lives by day.

Ingrid tells herself this is just temporary, but soon, she and Van are up every night together, increasingly intertwined in helping each other put pieces of memory together. As Van works through his own reasons for not being able to sleep, both of them are pulled into a mystery that threatens to turn their quiet neighborhood into a darker place than they realized. 

Karen’s Thoughts:

I read this book yesterday and writing my review now while my thoughts are fresh. For the most part, I would highly recommend this book except an issue regarding consent and the power dynamics of age and position involved, which I will discuss in a moment.

The Insomniacs really grabbed me from the get go. Our main character, Ingrid, has suffered a major concussion in a diving accident and now she can’t sleep at night. She soon learn that estranged childhood friend and hot dude Van across the street also is having problems with insomnia. Van, having been through this issue before and having had counseling, knows a lot about the psychology of insomnia which leads to some interesting discussions about mental health and sleep tucked into this book.

The two soon realize that the reason they can’t sleep may be tied together by the same events and involve an abandoned house next door. So they spend their nights staring out Ingrid’s bedroom window which has the best view and bonding. Secrets are shared and old memories are dissected as they discuss why, exactly, Ingrid stopped hanging around with Van, Max and Wilson. The four of them used to be best friends but they day in which her father very publicly left was the day that changed everything.

On the surface, this book is a moody mystery about neighborhood secrets. But this book is really a deep exploration into emotions, identity, growing up and changing, and family dynamics. One of the things that I truly loved about this book was that it was raw, earnest and felt authentic. Some of the YA I read throws me right out of the narrative because the teens often seem like mini adults that have been arbitrarily and conveniently slapped with the YA label to make it marketable as YA; not so with The Insomniacs, these teens were realistically and messily plodding through complicated age appropriate feelings with the world awareness and experience of a 17-year-old. They were confused by the actions of others, they did things they knew were wrong and continued to do them because they didn’t have the tools to do them differently, and they made mistakes that negatively effected their relationships because, again, they didn’t have the emotional tools to do those things differently. In other words, they were authentic teens trying to figure out how to navigate a world of complex emotions and feelings.

The mystery element was intriguing from page one and it involves a lot of elements that are related for both Ingrid and Van. Every step of the way you want to keep reading to find out what, exactly, is happening in the house next door and why it’s keeping Ingrid and Van awake each night.

The book does involve a discussion about the age of consent and positions of power in an adult-teen relationship that I think could have been more fully addressed. Although a majority of the characters clearly condemn this relationship and parties are held accountable, the teen involved makes comments that seem to minimize or justify the relationship and that made me feel uncomfortable as someone who understands the power dynamics that are often at play here.

Most of the characters are presumed white and straight, though Van is a biracial teen with Japanese and white parents. Issues discussed include mental health, therapy, divorce and parental alienation, adultery, consent and abuse, drug use, and addiction. Family and friendship are big themes in this book as well. Bonus points because it involves a teen involved in a sport we don’t see mentioned much in YA – competitive diving – and it really looks deeply into the pressures that teens face academically and trying to get into college, including athletic scholarships. The Insomniacs really understands the complexity of teen life and the issues that they face.

At times this book reads like a long, languid dream, an apt mood for a book about teens who can’t sleep. It was different in pace and tone and incredibly intriguing. Plus, I liked the characters and wanted them to succeed on their own and as a couple who clearly should and wanted to be together. It’s definitely a deep and complex novel that takes on heavy teen issues with the gravitas I think that they deserve. Overall, I recommend this book, with the caveat that I would have liked to have seen the issues of consent more fully developed.

This book comes out September 1st from Flatiron Books

RevolTeens: Helping Teens Through Revolting Times, by Christine Lively

While teen contributor Morgan Randall talks about developing healthy habits today, librarian Christine Lively talks today with us about helping teens during these difficult times. Together, these posts combine a two point perspective on helping teens deal with the emotional and mental toll of 2020.

In the past few months, everything has become revolting. The nation, from our workplaces, homes, stores, and our schools are now potentially dangerous because of COVID-19. 2020 has been absolutely terrible. Not only that, but it has been terrible and terrifying in unprecedented ways that affect everyone.  We’re all feeling despair and fear. We’ve seen revolt and protest across the country in response to injustice, and nobody knows when the injustice or the virus will end. While this space is usually to highlight RevolTeens who are changing the world, this month I wanted to focus on how the changing world may be changing teens instead.

Teens are having a terrible time. If you are a teen or know a teen, you know this. Adolescence and young adulthood is a time of milestones and celebrations. They’re one of the biggest markers of growing up. Prom, graduation, college, summer jobs, summer trips, and sports have been canceled or greatly changed. Losing those celebrations and milestones isn’t a small thing. It’s a truly life altering loss. Johns Hopkins Children’s Center senior life specialist Nily Rahman shares this on the Johns Hopkins Medicine Website.

‘“Teenagers are grieving,” Rahman says. “They’ve been working hard and looking forward to these events for years, and now they don’t get to attend a prom or walk across the stage for their diplomas.”

According to Rahman, some of these losses are things parents can’t fix. Well-meaning parents may try to help provide some kind of substitute, but their good intentions don’t always pan out. “One mom I know tried to put on a prom for her kid and it sort of backfired, and made the loss feel worse,” Rahman says.

As an alternative, she suggests teenagers look toward the post-pandemic future, and work on a vision of something that will be memorable and fun.

TLT teen contributor Riley Jensen is coping by perfecting her baking skills

“We’re asking teens, ‘When you’re finally able to celebrate, what would you want it to look like?’ We’re encouraging them to create collages, vision boards and written plans so they have something they can look forward to, even if it’s different from what they originally pictured.”’

So many of us parents, teachers, and librarians are struggling to reach teens. Looking past the pandemic and knowing that somehow there will be a time “after” can be a much better approach than telling teens that it isn’t so bad or that they haven’t lost everything.

Rahman also suggests closely monitoring teens’ mental health. The teens in your life may be sad and overwhelmed, and that is definitely to be expected. If you know a teen well, you may be the expert they need to notice when their behavior and moods have changed enough to cause concern. Some warning signs she mentions:

  • Sleep changes, such as sleeping more or insomnia
  • Eating a lot more or a lot less
  • Signs of self-harm, substance abuse or acting out more than usual
  • Complaints of body aches that aren’t due to a physical problem
  • Isolating more than normal (for example, eating dinner alone in their room)
  • Not participating in activities that normally bring them joy

The CDC also offers resources and information for teens themselves. Their website has a page dedicated to information and resources for teens to manage their mental health and stress including hotlines they can call in times of crisis.

Mental Health First Aid also has great tips to help teens cope during COVID_19.

Here are a few tips for mental health and coping from teen Mental Health First Aid that you can discuss with the teens you know.

  1. Maintain a daily routine with consistent sleep, activity and study patterns.
  2. Stay connected with others, and try to find moments of humor.
  3. Talk to people you feel comfortable with about your feelings or worries, then give yourself permission to stop worrying.
  4. Eat breakfast every morning, plus snacks and meals at regular times throughout the day.
  5. Limit coffee or energy drinks, as these will increase feelings of anxiety and make it difficult to relax.
  6. Look for patterns or be aware of situations that make you feel particularly worried or anxious. When you’re in these situations, try relaxation or distraction techniques or ask a family member or friend to help.
  7. Relieve times of high anxiety with physical activity; engage in regular aerobic exercise (e.g., walk, jog, yoga, dance).
  8. Limit the amount of time you spend talking about or watching/listening to news media or social media if you are finding information about the COVID-19 situation overwhelming or distressing.
  9. Do hobbies or activities that you enjoy, calm you down or focus your mind and body. These could be arts and crafts, physical activity, listening to music, reading, journaling, watching TV or movies, or chatting with friends by phone, videoconference or text.
  10. Understand that the people around you are probably also finding this situation stressful, and they might also be having difficulty controlling their emotions. Try to resolve conflict.
  11. If you continue to feel overwhelmed, out of control or unable to calm down after a period of weeks, seek help from a mental health professional.
  12. Take time for yourself.
  13. Be kind to yourself and each other. We’ll work through this together.

Take care of yourself and of others during this stressful time. Teens need as many caring adults in their lives as they can get. There will be a time for RevolTeens to get back to shaking up the world and showing us a better way forward. Right now, they’ve lost so much. The best way we can help them is to listen, pay attention to how they’re feeling and acting, and get them help – from a trusted adult, a life coach, a therapist, or whomever they really need. Understanding them starts with hearing them, being there for them, and helping them stay safe.

About Christine Lively

Christine Lively a school librarian in Virginia. I read voraciously, exchange ideas with students, and am a perpetual student. I raise monarch butterflies, cook, clean infrequently and enjoy an extensive hippo collection. Christine blogs at https://hippodillycircus.com/ and you can follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/XineLivelyFacebookTwitterShare

Morgan’s Mumbles: Healthy Habits, by teen contributor Morgan Randall

Every Wednesday, teen contributor Morgan Randall shares what’s on her mind. She is one of the many teen voices we are sharing here to help us all listen to teens to better serve them. Today she is sharing some healthy habits, combine this with Christine Lively’s post on helping teens cope with the pandemic and you have a great resource for helping teens navigate these difficult times.

Recently, I have been trying to incorporate healthy habits into my daily and weekly routines. Here are some habits I think that truly can have a great impact on the way you live your life:

  1. Have a Morning Routine – This can be something that is just a few steps, or very elaborate. But I highly recommend you try to build a regular routine that you practice every day when you get up (and challenge: try to do it without it being on your phone). Try to create a routine that involves/encourages productivity in the morning, but make it productive for yourself NOT for your job. It won’t be easy, new routines are hard to adapt to and I haven’t been the best at doing this habit so far, however, when I do those days are the most productive and I feel the best. My ideal routine (for myself, yours could be very different): wake up, make my bed, yoga, read my Bible, bullet journal/look at my schedule for the day, daily hygiene (brush teeth, wash face, etc), get dressed for the day, drink water, make breakfast and tea, then eat both of those.
  2. Drink Lots of Water – As I have been trying to live a healthier lifestyle, I have begun to try and drink the necessary amount every day. We are often told to drink eight eight-ounce cups of water a day, but for a majority of teenagers and adults, this isn’t an accurate amount to drink. I recommend using a water calculator, which use your age, weight, and how active you are in order to determine a more accurate amount of water to intake. It is important to drink water first thing in the morning, to help start your day off refreshed.
  3. Journal – Personally, I have recently been enjoying bullet journaling, because it allows me a way to track my emotions, sleep, habits, plan my days and months, and have a collection of my memories in one place. There are lots of really pretty bullet journals out there, which personally made it really hard to start because I wanted mine to be perfect. However, I realized that a minimalist approach that isn’t “pretty” is just fine because it is for me personally to plan and reflect not for anyone else. However, you don’t have to bullet journal, there are plenty of other kinds of journals to keep and I recommend you explore them until you find one you like. A few ideas: classic journal (a diary in a sense where you record your days), brain dump journal (just a space to write what comes to mind), commonplace journal (a collection of quotes and notes from things you are reading or that you hear), dream journal (a record of your dreams), and there are so many more.
  4. Make Bed – This is an easy thing to do at the beginning of the day that helps put you on the right foot. If you make your bed every day when you get up you have already completed one productive activity, which is really helpful in tricking you brain into being more productive during the day.
  5. Workout – This can be for any amount of time, and it can be as simple as walking or something more strenuous. The goal is to get your body moving and be able to feel better after the workout. I read a quote the other day that really changed my relationship with working out: “Exercise is a celebration of what your body can do, not a punishment for what you ate.” It is highly recommended that you workout in the morning, however, if you can’t pick a specific time in your routine that you workout during three to five times a week.
  6. Yoga – Personally, I love yoga in the morning when I wake up and right before I go to bed. It is a way to relax and decompress. Plus, it provides me with time to reflect, because I do yoga in silence. There are all different levels of yoga, some of which in themselves can be their own workout, but some are able to just be calming stretches. Feel free to create a routine that works for you, and don’t be afraid to try new things.
  7. Meditation – I typically do this after my evening yoga, using a guided meditation. There are a lot of meditation apps and guided meditations on YouTube. However, if you prefer meditation can be done in complete silence and you explore and discipline your mind individually.
  8. Fun Reading – During the school year, this was hard for me, because oftentimes I would read out of requirement rather than for enjoyment. Even if its just a few pages, or a chapter or two, try to set time aside every day to read something enjoyable.
  9. Spend Time Outside – Take some time every day to go outside and get some sunlight. (Friendly reminder: wear sunscreen). Be responsible and safe while doing so, but spend time walking, swimming, gardening, or even just sit outside for a while.
  10. Get Dressed – Something helpful to me has been to take the time every day and get dressed, even if I have nowhere to go because it tricks me into being productive and it makes me feel better about myself.
  11. Plan Your Meals – Every week I like to plan my meals because it allows me to be conscious of the things I am putting into my body. Plus, it forces me to limit how much I drive-thru places which is super important for my health and my wallet.
  12. Reach Out To Someone – Every day I have been trying to reach out to someone, even if it is just a “hi” in a text. This has allowed me to rekindle some friendships and stay in touch with important people in my life, even during these hard times.
  13. Have A Creative Outlet – It is super important to find a way to creatively express myself, and to do so consistently. This doesn’t have to be daily, but I try to do a creative activity I enjoy daily or every other day. This allows me to stay in touch with my creativity and avoid getting too bored.
  14. Practice Gratitude – I practice my gratitude when I journal, however, if journaling isn’t the best way for you to express your gratitude I challenge you to write letters to those you are grateful for, or call/text them and let them know.
  15. Take Technology Breaks – This allows you to separate yourself for a while, to be able to reflect and decompress. This can vary from have a day separate from social media, or maybe just turning off your phone for a few hours every day. Just find a way to be conscious about your technology intake.

Morgan RandallTeen Contributor

Morgan recently graduated high school and is currently enrolled to attend college in the fall getting her BA in Theatre and Dance with an emphasis on Design and Technology. She loves theatre, writing, reading, and learning. But something that has always been important to her is being a voice for those who feel like they don’t have one, and being a catalyst for change in any way possible.

How to Get Out of Handcuffs and Other Things You Need to Know to Write a Mystery Thriller: The Murder Teen Interviews YA Author April Henry

As you may know, teen contributor Riley Jensen is interested in becoming a forensic scientist. Last Thursday, she interviewed prolific YA author April Henry over Zoom. Ms. Henry was very gracious to talk with The Murder Teen and answer her questions about writing a mystery/thriller novel for teens. It’s a fascinating conversation that talks about research and devolves into a very in depth conversation about how one can get out of handcuffs. Now Riley wants practice handcuffs and a lock picking set for her upcoming birthday, so there’s that.

April Henry’s 25th novel The Girl in the White Van releases tomorrow, July 28th. The interview is posted for you below. I tried to close caption the video for the first time to make it accessible and I hope that works correctly.

About The Girl in the White Van

A teen is snatched after her kung fu class and must figure out how to escape—and rescue another kidnapped prisoner—in this chilling YA mystery.

When Savannah disappears soon after arguing with her mom’s boyfriend, everyone assumes she’s run away. The truth is much worse. She’s been kidnapped by a man in a white van who locks her in an old trailer home, far from prying eyes. And worse yet, Savannah’s not alone: Ten months earlier, Jenny met the same fate and nearly died trying to escape. Now as the two girls wonder if he will hold them captive forever or kill them, they must join forces to break out—even if it means they die trying.

Master mystery-writer April Henry weaves another heart-stopping young adult thriller in this story ripped straight from the headlines.

Coming July 28th, 2020 from Henry Holt & Company

About April Henry

New York Times-bestselling author April Henry knows how to kill you in a two-dozen different ways. She makes up for a peaceful childhood in an intact home by killing off fictional characters. There was one detour on April’s path to destruction:  when she was 12 she sent a short story about a six-foot tall frog who loved peanut butter to noted children’s author Roald Dahl. He liked it so much he showed it to his editor, who asked if she could publish it in Puffin Post, an international children’s magazine. By the time April was in her 30s, she had started writing about hit men, kidnappers, and drug dealers. She has published 25 mysteries and thrillers for teens and adults, with more to come. She is known for meticulously researching her novels to get the details right. 

Find out more about April Henry and her books at her webpage.

Morgan’s Mumbles: Game Recommendations, by teen contributor Morgan Randall

Games have always been a huge part of my life, I play games with my family and my friends. It has always been a great way to have conversations and make funny memories. Here are a few games my family has been playing recently, during quarantine:


Designer: Steve Jackson

Illustrated: John Kovalic

Price: Around $20 (depending on where you buy it from)

Players: 3-6

Age: 10+

Playing Time: 1 – 2 Hours

This is personally my favorite of all the card games we own (a heads up it is classified as a card game, but it does come with a board and standees to represent your progression within the game.) This game was published in 2001, and my family got the game last year. Since then we have been able to play a lot and collect expansion packs. Personally, I love the game because it is a condensed version of many “dungeon crawl” type games. You collect treasure, fight monsters, and try to get to the last room before all the other players. You can help one another, or curse each other. It allows for all sorts of funny outcomes and situations. Your goal is to reach 10th level, which you can do by defeating monsters and selling items.

Rate: 5/5

If you get the game and play it (and enjoy it), I recommend the expansion packs. Personally, my favorites include Munchkin Game Changers, Munchkin 4: Need for Steed, and Munchkin 7: Cheat with Both Hands

Bargain Quest

Designer: Jonathan Ying

Illustrated: Victoria Ying

Price: Around $30 (depending on where you buy it from)

Players: 2-6

Age: 8+

Time: 30 Minutes – 1 Hour

This is one of our most recent game purchases, I bought it for my dad on Father’s Day. The game is a card game that was published in 2017, and lets you take on a unique role during an adventure. You become the shop keeper, your goal is to lure players to your shop and sell equipment to them so they can go off and fight against the monsters. Your goal is to collect the most experience by being the best shop, where the other players are the competitor shops.

Rate: 4.5/5

Currently, we do not have expansion packs however I am really interested in getting the Black Market Expansion. There are a lot of options for expansions if you end up enjoying the game.


Designed: Frèderic Moyersoen

Illustrated: Andrea Boekhoff, Frèderic Moyersoen

Price: Around $10 (depending on where you want to buy it from)

Players: 3-10

Age: 8+

Time: 30 Minutes

This card game, published in 2004, is a game of deception. All the players are a team of dwarves trying to escape the mines, but are you all truly on the same team? Someone is betraying the rest of you and sabotaging you from obtaining the treasure you came searching for. We recently purchased this, and have only played a few times, personally I did not enjoy it (however we played with the minimum players of 3) because it was easy to tell who was sabotaging out work. I think this problem would be erased if you played in a larger group.

Rating (For small groups): 2.5/5

My parents played with a few friends and said that it was more enjoyable in a large group. However, I will not rate that because I personally have not had that experience.


Designed: Martin Nedergaard Andersen

Illustrated: Lucas Guidetti Perez

Price: Around $15 (depending on where you buy it from)

Players: 1-4

Age: 6+

Time: 15 Minutes

This game is so frustrating, but I love it at the same time. This card game was published in 2016, and it is relatively simple to understand, but hard to win (which makes it frustrating). There is a prison break and your goal is to piece together tunnels to keep him from escaping. It is a team game (if you play with more than one player).

Rating: 4/5

If you like a challenge this is fun, especially in a group of 3 or 4.

Older games that are (STILL) enjoyable:

  • Ticket To Ride (Rate: 4/5)
  • Dominos (Rate: 4/5) // Chicken Foot (5/5)
  • Clue (Rate: 3.5/5)
  • UNO (I personally enjoy the Flip cards the most 5/5)

Morgan RandallTeen Contributor

Morgan recently graduated high school and is currently enrolled to attend college in the fall getting her BA in Theatre and Dance with an emphasis on Design and Technology. She loves theatre, writing, reading, and learning. But something that has always been important to her is being a voice for those who feel like they don’t have one, and being a catalyst for change in any way possible.

More on Table Top Games

Murder Books, by teen contributor Riley Jensen

I hope to pursue a career in forensics, so it only makes sense that I read nonfiction books about how forensics has developed and the many parts of it. I haven’t read all of the books that will be listed, but they are about forensics.

Blood, Bullets, and Bones by Bridget Heos

I have read a good portion of this book, mostly the section about poison testing. This book is about the development of forensic science. In each chapter it starts by talking about how certain things were done before modern technology and then how it changed as we gained more knowledge.

Serial Killers and Psychopaths by Charlotte Greig and John Marlowe

This is another book that I’ve read the majority of. This book is easy to skip around in since it’s a collection of multiple cases. It’s divided into the type of murder that was committed so you can look specifically at the people who were mass murderers or people who were considered the first killers. This book gives a good summary of the life of each killer and the crimes they committed.

The Forensic Casebook by N.E. Genge

I have read all of this book and I also annotated it. It gave a lot of very detailed information on multiple aspects of forensics. It gives information about everything from firearm evidence to forensic botany. This book is more about the actual process of each aspect of forensics instead of the development of them.

Here are some other books that I haven’t read about forensics:

And if you like reading fictional murder books, I like these authors: Christopher Golden (Body Bags series), April Henry, and Maureen Johnson.

A Great Big List of MG and YA Collection Development Resources

When I give presentations on doing Collection Diversity Audits, I get asked a lot about how I determine whether or not a book is counted as diverse. The process is always changing for me as I learn more and grow, and at this point I focus on Own Voices. The truth is, the answer to this question is that I continually engage in listening, learning, reading and growing. The work is never done and it must be intentional. I keep and continually add to an ongoing list of resources that help me do this work. Today I am sharing the bare bones of that list with you. It is by no means complete, and I’m sure that there are many more that I need to add. But it is a really good starting point.

Anti Racist and Social Justice Reading Lists, A Collection of Resources (in random order)

Chicago Public Library/Ibram X. Kendi (adult books): https://chipublib.bibliocommons.com/list/share/204842963/1357692923?page=1

Publisher’s Weekly (kids books): https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-book-news/article/83549-a-children-s-and-ya-anti-racist-reading-list.html

The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2020/jun/03/do-the-work-an-anti-racist-reading-list-layla-f-saad

Center for Racial Justice in Education: https://centerracialjustice.org/resources/reading-lists/

Teen Librarian Toolbox (teen books on social justice and activism): http://www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/2020/06/33269/

15 Books about Social Justice and Human Rights: https://www.rebekahgienapp.com/social-justice-picture-books/

We Are Teachers 24 Books That Teach Social Justice for Kids: https://www.weareteachers.com/books-about-social-justice/

40 Picture Books for Young Activists: http://www.allthewonders.com/books/forty-picture-books-for-young-activists/

Scholastic 25 Picture Books to Teach Kindness, Empathy and Justice: https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/blog-posts/christy-crawford/2017/Picture-Books-to-Promote-Kindness-Empathy-and-Social-Justice/

We Need Diverse Books has an actual roundup of lists and discussion posts: https://diversebooks.org/resources-for-race-equity-and-inclusion/

Diverse and Own Voices Reading Lists for Youth, by age and format (not comprehensive)

Young Readers

SLJ Diverse Board Books: https://www.slj.com/?detailStory=50-Board-Books-That-Show-IBPOC-Faces-diversity-baby

45 Favorite #OwnVoices Diverse Picture Books: https://imaginationsoup.net/diverse-ownvoices-picture-books/

Read Brightly Black Boy Joy Picture Books: https://www.readbrightly.com/picture-books-featuring-black-male-protagonists/

Read Brightly Black Girl Magic: https://www.readbrightly.com/picture-books-featuring-black-female-protagonists/

#OwnVoices Picture Books: https://imaginationsoup.net/diverse-ownvoices-picture-books/

Own Voices Beginning Chapter Books: https://imaginationsoup.net/ownvoices-beginning-chapter-books/

Middle Grade Readers

#OwnVoices Middle Grade Books: https://imaginationsoup.net/diverse-realistic-chapter-books-middle-school-ownvoices/

#OwnVoices Fiction for Grades 2-6: https://seattle.bibliocommons.com/list/share/220740577/650702937

Diverse Realistic Chapter Books for Middle School by #Own Voices: https://imaginationsoup.net/diverse-realistic-chapter-books-middle-school-ownvoices/

Diverse Books for Tweens and Teens by Own Voices Authors: https://www.readbrightly.com/diverse-books-tweens-teens-written-voices-authors/

8 #OwnVoices Middle Grade Books by LatinX Authors: https://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/8-fabulous-ownvoices-middle-grade-latinx-novels-giveaway/

Teen/YA Readers

Read Black Authors (MG and YA book lists): http://www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/2020/06/because-black-lives-matter-read-black-authors/

45 Black YA Books to Read to Your TBR: https://afomaumesi.com/black-young-adult-novels/

16 YA Books by Black Authors You Can Pre-order Right Now: https://www.epicreads.com/blog/preorder-books-by-black-authors/#.Xt-kJSzjuw8.twitter

YA Black Girl Magic: https://www.epicreads.com/blog/black-girl-magic-books/?fbclid=IwAR0ft7qSt4YeMPtEN_jXWzewOQjdElvQFj0ZXY1_RBJ_Mg2C5fiePvJxrVc

Diverse Meet Cutes and Rom Coms: https://www.slj.com/?detailStory=meet-cutes-come-all-colors-YA-diversity-romance-POC&fbclid=IwAR0GmjLvKNt_p16R_12_ohYYmIRDmK1loDKox9pr-YjXzUip2mPQgr3LW68

YA with Black Authors 2020: https://www.buzzfeed.com/farrahpenn/young-adult-books-by-black-authors-2020?fbclid=IwAR2RiRZdAHwZ-x5dxNan2O5CuYSAL6ieppEg7Sz2aHOhCdxsWpGFPgFJ4ko

General Resources, to follow important conversations, read reviews, and diversify your reading

Lee and Low Books: https://www.leeandlow.com/

We Need Diverse Books: https://diversebooks.org/

The Brown Bookshelf: https://thebrownbookshelf.com/

Latinx in Kidlit: https://latinosinkidlit.com/

Disability in Kidlit (no longer updated, but a great resource for important discussions and reviews): http://disabilityinkidlit.com/

American Indians in Children’s Lit: https://americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com/

LGBTQ Reads https://lgbtqreads.com/young-adult/

Social Justice Books: https://socialjusticebooks.org/booklists/new/

Diverse Bookfinder.org: https://diversebookfinder.org/

Teaching Tolerance: https://www.tolerance.org/

Read Woke Librarian: https://cicelythegreat.wordpress.com/

Project LIT: https://thebrownbookshelf.com/28days/day-28-jarred-amato-talks-project-lit/

Crazy Quilt Edi List of Diversity Resources (including book awards): https://crazyquiltedi.blog/diversity-resources/

Again, We Need Diverse Books has a really great list of resources on Where to Find Diverse Books: https://diversebooks.org/resources/where-to-find-diverse-books/

Blogs that focus on younger readers in general

Brightly: https://www.readbrightly.com/

JBrary: https://jbrary.com/

Celebrate Picture Books: https://celebratepicturebooks.com/

The Picture Book Review: https://thepicturebookreview.com/

Multicultural Children’s Book Day: https://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com

A Mighty Girl: https://www.amightygirl.com/blog?p=11056

Imagination Soup: https://imaginationsoup.net/

A Fuse 8 Production: http://blogs.slj.com/afuse8production/

The Yarn: http://blogs.slj.com/theyarn/

Blogs that focus on Middle Grade readers in general

The Nerdy Book Club: https://nerdybookclub.wordpress.com/

Ms. Yingling Reads: http://msyinglingreads.blogspot.com/

MG Book Village: https://mgbookvillage.org/

Here Wee Read: http://hereweeread.com/

Mr. Schu Reads: http://mrschureads.blogspot.com/

CeCeLibrarian’s Book Blog: https://cecelibrarian.com/

Kid Lit Frenzy: http://www.kidlitfrenzy.com/

Books in the Middle: https://booksinthemiddle.wordpress.com/

Blogs that focus on YA/Teens in general

Publisher Blogs

Epic Reads (Harper): https://www.epicreads.com/

Fierce Reads (MacMilan): https://www.fiercereads.com/

I Read YA (Scholastic): https://www.ireadya.com/

Sourcebooks Fire: https://www.sourcebooks.com/young-adult.html

Get Underlined (Random House): https://www.getunderlined.com/

The Novl (Little, Brown): https://www.thenovl.com/

Riveted (Simon & Schuster): https://rivetedlit.com/

General Blogs

YA Books Central: https://www.yabookscentral.com/

YA Interrobang: https://yainterrobang.tumblr.com/

Teen Librarian Toolbox: http://www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/

Rec it Rachel: https://recitrachel.com/

Diversity in YA: http://www.diversityinya.com/

LGBTQ Reads by Dahlia: https://lgbtqreads.com/author/dailydahlia/

Reading While White: http://readingwhilewhite.blogspot.com/

Rich in Color: http://richincolor.com/

Book Riot: https://bookriot.com/

Professional Journals and Sources

School Library Journal: https://www.slj.com/

Booklist: https://www.booklistonline.com/

Kirkus: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/

Publisher’s Weekly: https://www.publishersweekly.com/

Edelweiss: https://www.edelweiss.plus/#dashboard

VOYA: http://voyamagazine.com/

Early Word: http://www.earlyword.com/

Children’s Bookshelf: https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/index.html

Publishing Trends: http://www.publishingtrends.com/

Hasthags to Search and Follow










Blogs that also talk about books on occasion, mostly YA

Buzzfeed: https://www.buzzfeed.com/

The Mary Sue: https://www.themarysue.com/

Hypable: https://www.hypable.com/

Den of Geek: https://www.denofgeek.com/books/top-new-ya-books-2020/

Paste Magazine: https://www.pastemagazine.com/

PopSugar: https://www.popsugar.com/

Teen Vogue: https://www.teenvogue.com/

Resources for Examining Bias in Books

Teaching Tolerance Examining Stereotypes in Books: https://www.tolerance.org/classroom-resources/tolerance-lessons/examining-stereotypes-in-books

In Time Examining Children’s Books for Bias: https://intime.uni.edu/evaluating-childrens-books-bias

Resources from Lee and Low:

Guide for Selecting Anti-Bias Children’s Books from Social Justice Books, A Teaching for Change Project

A Guide to Selecting Multicultural Literature by Dr. Barbara D. Brown, African Studies Center, Boston University

A Checklist for Evaluating Diverse Children’s Media from The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop

Examining Children’s Books for Bias: http://www.racialequityvtnea.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Evaluating-Children%E2%80%99s-Books-for-Bias-Criteria-MAY-2018-3.pdf

10 Criteria for Choosing Diverse Texts in Your Classroom from the Writing Mindset

Classroom Libraries as Windows and Mirrors: Ensuring Diverse, Representative Books for Our Students 2018 ILA expert panel (Answer starts at minute 03:05)

Assessing Children’s Literature from the Anti-Defamation League

Diverse Classroom Libraries for K–6 Students from Reading Rockets

Lee and Low: https://blog.leeandlow.com/ (many of the above Resources for Examining Bias in Books is    from the Lee and Low blog page)

And older list of previous resources

What resources would you add to this list? I’m always looking for new ones. Please leave a comment as I would love to have a more comprehensive list.