Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

As I Try Desperately to Get Home Again, Not All Children Can. Here’s why it matters.

The news is full of horrific stories of young children being taken away from their families for the sin of wanting to come to a new country to flee the extreme poverty, violence, and whatever else it is that one flees from. There are pictures of babies crying, audio of children wailing and crying out for their moms and dads. We sold them the promise of the American Dream and then when they come seeking asylum and hoping for a better life for their babies, we ripped apart families and put children in cages.

As someone who works with youth, I know and understand the importance of feeling safe and secure in the development of a child; I understand the importance of being talked to, being read to, of making healthy attachments. I understand the long term effects of childhood trauma. These children are suffering trauma compounded by trauma compounded by trauma. The lifelong impacts of this will be devastating for us all.

KidLit Says No Kids in Cages

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At the same time, I am dealing with my own family emergency. My Dad is not okay and I am thousands of miles away from him. After a lot of tears and anguish and wrestling with fears and doubts and uncertainty, I whipped out my credit card and booked super expensive tickets that I can’t afford to go out and see my Dad. We leave tomorrow.

Here’s the deal, I have no idea how I will ever pay down the balance on my credit card. I don’t know if my Dad will recover or if he will pass away. I am begging God, the universe and everyone in between to please provide a miracle and if not, to let the girls and I see him one more time to let him know that we love him. Suddenly I am a child again crying at night for her Daddy.

I am a 45 year old woman who is trying desperately to get home to see her father. Many of these children will never have that choice, we took it away from them. And yes, I mean we. This is us. We elect our politicians, we hold them accountable, we are collectively responsible to one another because no man is an island and that’s how society works. We’re in this together.

The woman sitting beside my Dad throughout all of this is my stepmother. She is a pretty remarkable woman and I think often of how much she loves my Dad, how much she loves my children, and the anguish she is going through as she sits vigil beside my father’s bed. She is only able to do so because just a couple generations past, someone in her family immigrated to this country from Mexico.

My parents divorced when I was in the 4th grade, I was around 9 or 10. It was a horrific thing to go through. Nobody handled it very well and there was a lot of heartache through the years. Parents fought, moved, and moved again. Relationships were broken and over time, slowly and painfully, they were reborn. The four years I was in high school, I did not speak to my father. There were legitimate reasons for that and they were the right decision for me at that time. Then over time, people change, healing happens, and new relationships are born. I know every day that I am lucky for the healing that happened between my father and I, for the relationship that we were able to cobble together despite all the hurt and heartache. During the last 15 years, as I parent my own children, I saw him become a man who took genuine care of this new family that he had made for himself. He has been a good grandfather to my daughters. For the first time in my life, I had a home to go back home to with memories and traditions and that sense of an anchor that makes it easier to navigate this world. I love going to my father’s house and sharing childhood memories with my children, taking them to the places that I used to love to go, and watching them return to the same home over and over again and making that connection stronger. I have loved, finally, having a place to go home to.

There shouldn’t be a lot of parallels to what’s happening in the news and what is happening in my own life, but I can’t stop thinking about the two and perhaps it is the nature of the human mind to draw connections where perhaps there shouldn’t be. I come from a broken family and my heart aches to see these families being broken. I know that they are not broken in the same ways, but I know that broken families are destructive forces that leave lifelong scars. I know that I have privilege that allows me to remake a relationship, to keep in contact, to jump on a plane to try to see my father.

These children have none of those things. They are being torn from their families and they often don’t even have the language skills necessary to advocate for themselves, to ask the questions that are burning in their hearts. They are in a new place with no family or friends to turn to for emotional support or stability. I can not imagine the fear and uncertainty. The terror.

Sheer terror and anguish.

Yesterday, Donald Trump declared that he was ending this policy, but by all accounts there is no plan in place to reunite those children already ripped from their parents arms. Some of those parents may already have been deported. Some of those children may grow up never knowing where their parents are or how to get into contact with them. Some of those children may never get the chance to say goodbye to their Dad.

Trump’s Executive Order On Family Separation: What It Does And Does Not Do – NPR

I am a 45-year-0ld white woman, steeped in privilege, who just wants to sit beside her Dad’s bedside and have the chance to say goodbye if that is what this moment calls for. I desperately want this moment to be something else, of course. But in my own personal anguish and desperation and pleading with the universe, I can’t help thinking of those kids. I’m a 45-year-old woman who just wants her Daddy, I can’t imagine what it must be like for these kids.

One of the hardest moments I have ever had working in the library occurred at the Reference desk. A woman came up to me with a name of her birth mother that she was trying to track down. This was after Hurricane Katrina and she knew that the woman lived in New Orleans. I did a little searching and unfortunately found her in the Social Security Death Index, she had died soon after Katrina. I looked up at this woman who was probably the age that I am now and delivered the news. The woman stood before me and openly wept as I told her I was so very sorry. “At least I know what happened to her,” she said. “Thank you.”

How many of these children will never get the chance to know.

I’m not here to debate immigration policy or politics with you. I am here as a lifelong advocate for youth to remind us all that we must do everything we can to minimize the harm that we do to children in every aspect of life because it has lifelong consequences for youth and for our future. Do the research, we will spend millions trying to undo the lifelong damage that is being caused right now as our politicians try and use innocent children as pawns.

Important Resources:

Brain Development • ZERO TO THREE

Childhood Trauma : Long-Term Effects and Symptoms

Immigrant Children Separated From Parents At The Border: NPR

How To Help Parents And Kids Separated At The Border – Refinery29

MakerSpace: Rhonna Designs Photo and Collage App Review

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Behold, I have found a new photo app! As I mentioned last week, a friend fell into a button maker group and they talk a lot about two things:

1) The Canon Selphy printer, which I reviewed last week and

2) The Rhonna Designs app, which a lot of people in the button making community use to design their buttons.

rhonna1For more information about Rhonna Designs, visit their homepage

Rhonna App information at the iTunes stores

Here’s a look at some photos created by the Rhonna Design app from the Rhonna Designs homepage.

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And, since you know I love a good photo app, I decided to try it out. For you. I’m a giver.

As you can see, the Rhonna Designs app specializes in making Instagram ready pics and memes by layering photos, backgrounds, texts and graphics. There is a pretty steep learning curve for this app, but once I figured it out I was able to make some quick and easy graphics for this post in literally one minute.

The Basics

Technically, there are 3 Rhonna Design apps: Rhonna, RhonnaCollage and Rhonna Magic. You can buy one for $1.99 or buy all three in a bundle for $4.99. I made the mistake of buying just one and realized it is better to have all three. Each app in the package does a very specific thing and then you can open your photo in the next app to do that specific thing.

Let me try and clarify, it’s kind of confusing.

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App descriptions screen cap from Rhonna Designs home page

Rhonna Designs has a collection of backgrounds which you can use or you can use your own photo. You can then add text or a variety of stickers. In this app you also have some filters, frames and a mask feature. If you buy only one of the apps, this is probably the one you want to buy.

Rhonna Collage allows you to make a collage, just like the name says. You can pick a layout or begin with a blank page and create your layout. I have tried a lot of collage apps and this one is probably my favorite in terms of how it lets you choose a background and layer pictures over the top of it.

Photo made using Rhonna Collage

Photo made using Rhonna Collage

Rhonna Designs Magic uses layers and allows you to use a variety of filters and effects to enhance your photo. For example, you can use Bokeh lighting, light leaks and blur effects. It also has a “candy” feature which allows you to color your photos. One of my favorite features in Instagram in the title shift, which allows you to blur edges and pull the focus on a specific part of a photo. Blur effects allows you to do that same thing here. Bokeh lighting allows you to add light flares allows you to play with the lighting on your photo. If you don’t like an effect, you can just go in and delete the layer.

Photo then opened in RD Magic and transformed using the candy function

Photo then opened in RD Magic and transformed using the candy function

This is a photo I transformed using something from all three of the apps:

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And here is a photo I created using Rhonna Designs made into a button. The background is a background provided in the app, I then just layered stickers and texts using this years Teen Summer Reading theme.

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I spend a lot of time using photo apps, and overall I liked this one. I still don’t think it does everything I would like one app to do and I kind of hate having to open it in another app to do some of the magic effects. I do, however, really like many aspects of the collage app. In fact, I like everything it does, I just wish it did them all in one place and for one lower price. And like many apps, there are additional in app purchases for things like more text fonts and sticker options, so it can get pricey if you let it.

I do have a digital media lab in our Teen MakerSpace which consists of a bank of iPads with pre-loaded apps, and I would definitely consider adding these. Though you can do a lot of these same things with a free Canva account, which has a lot more versatility when using a tablet. Though it works very quickly and pretty easily for a smart phone app. So if you’re using a smart phone, definitely check out this app. If you’re using a tablet or a PC, I also recommend researching Canva before making any purchasing decisions. It’s also important to note that although a basic Canva account is free, there can be some additional purchases in using that as well.

I would recommend this app, depending on what you want to use it for. If you are looking for quick, mobile and something to use on your smartphone, it definitely has a lot more options in one place, especially if you are primarily going to be making Instagram pics and memes. Many photo apps do one or a few specific things, and all together this app bundle does a lot of things in one place.

There is also a PC version of Rhonna Designs that you can use, which I have not tried.

More Digital Media/Photo App Reviews at TLT

How Did You Do That? Photo Apps Version – Teen Librarian Toolbox

Fused (with an assist from the Silhouette app) – Teen Librarian Toolbox

Aviary – Teen Librarian Toolbox

App Review: FotoRus

App Review: Candy Camera

App Review: Enlight

App Review: Prisma

App Review: A Beautiful Mess

MakerSpace Tech Review: Canon Selphy 1300 Printer

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When I began thinking of creating a Teen MakerSpace, I knew that one of the things I wanted to include was a digital media lab or station. My goal was to teach my Instagram and meme loving teens how to create their own Instagram worthy pics or memes. And given the number of super cool apps available out there, I thought that using tablets would be a good way to do this. The only problem with tablets is that they don’t print well with conventional public library printing systems. If you have secure access to a wifi printing system, you can get around this, but if you have to hard wire into a printer using tablets for things like photo manipulation and meme creation can be a real stumbling block. Actually, it’s impossible. Printing from a tablet is challenging if you don’t have secure access to an air print enabled printer.

I developed a somewhat doable work around for this problem, but it involved more steps than simply hitting print and it is by no means ideal. This work around involves creating some type of an account, such as a Dropbox or Flickr account, to upload photos into and then logging onto another device to print them. See, not ideal. Too complicated, too many steps, and just too cumbersome. I have spent 3 years researching the best ways to print from tablets.

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I have recently, however, become aware of the Canon Selphy 1300 photo printer and have found that this is indeed a really good device to help fix the printing problem. The Canon Selphy has a built in WLAN so you connect with it using wifi but it has its own unique password so you don’t have to worry about others jumping onto your connection and accidentally printing. I want to print my pictures, I don’t want others to find the printer and send their own prints to it.

The Canon Selphy works like this: You have to download a print app to print from your tablet or smart phone. There is a Canon Selphy app that you can use, but I have also used it with a generic app called Print to Size. Both worked fine. The Print to Size app allowed me to make my picture smaller on the sheet and make more than one copy as I was printing the image to make buttons out of them.

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The Basics

The Canon Selphy 1300 costs $110.00 by itself.

You can buy a paper/printer cartridge pack that makes 108 prints for $37.99. This averages out to roughly .36 cents a print.

You can print wirelessly through a password secure WLAN.

The Canon Selphy printer prints onto 4×6 photo paper.

It has a few other features that I haven’t fully explored yet, like making photobooth strips.

Mobile & Compact Printer | SELPHY CP1300 | Canon USA

A Few Unique Things

Printing on the Canon Selphy is different than printing on a regular copier because of the printing method used. Here, your paper will make several passed through the printer and it prints one color at a time.

The Canon Selphy paper has perforated edges, which means that your photo doesn’t have crisp edges at the two ends. You can solve this with a paper cutter, but I would prefer clean edges without this extra step.

The Quality of the Photo

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For me, the biggest selling point was the amazing quality of the photo. It does not compare at all to a standard printer because it is really sharp and clear. I have made a lot of art using a simple smart phone and some apps and I was blown away with the improvement in print quality using the Canon Selphy. I printed several prints in both color and black and white and was very satisfied with the quality of the prints.

So Why the Canon Selphy?

I learned about the Canon Selphy from a friend who is a part of an online button making community. Many button makers use this printer because it is small and travels well. Many in the button making community use the Selphy and they set up quick photo booths, print their photos, and turn those photos into buttons. This is something we do with our Teen MakerSpace outreach, minus the printing, so we wanted to see if this would be a good tool for our mobile photo booths. The answer is yes, yes it would be. It’s portable, easy to use and quick, a great resource for mobile photo booths.

A digital media image becomes a button

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It also helps us solve the setting up a digital media lab using tablets and being able to print problem. And with the printer being portable, we can store the Selphy when we aren’t emphasizing the digital media lab and bring it out when we are.

Final Thoughts

I recommend the Canon Selphy 1300 both personally, I’m going to print all the things, and for a digital media lab looking to use tablets and wanting a quick way to print quality images using a secure wireless connection. It’s also a very workable printer for mobile printing if you want to set up a photo booth.

Celebrating 7 Years of TLT: 7 Years, 7 Books Giveaway

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Seven years ago today, Teen Librarian Toolbox began. Throughout the past 7 years, I have been humbled, honored, proud and a lot of other amazingly positive things to be able to do this blog. Let me tell you about 7 of them, because it seems like 7 is the appropriate number.

1. Heather Booth, Amanda MacGregor, Robin Willis and Ally Watkins

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These four women are fabulous librarians and youth advocates. They are talented writers and voracious readers. But they are more than that, they have turned out to be really, really good friends that I value. I turn to them for both professional and personal advice. I have stayed with Heather and Robin has stayed with me. We have presented together. We have supported each other through some really cruddy moments of our lives. I’m honored and blessed to not only know these women, but to get to work with them as peers and to call them my friends. Each has their strengths that they bring to this blog and our profession.

2. The #SVYALit Project

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In 2014, we began trying to have a yearly focus for the blog that kind of was an undercurrent or theme for the year if you will. This all began out of a conversation with a variety of authors, including Christa Desir and Carrie Mesrobian. As a sexual assault survivor myself, it was an honor to be able to turn that horrific life experience into something positive to raise awareness and just talk about the issues surrounding sexual assault in the life of teens. We have talked with countless authors, discussed a ton of books, and spoken about conferences about the issues.

3. The #MHYALit Project

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Several TLT members, including me, wrestle with mental health issues of some sort or another. Some of us parent children who wrestle with them. All of use have worked with youth who struggle with them. This was another project that allowed us all to take an issue we have a great passion for – mental health – and raise awareness and try and discuss the issues in the life of teens. Amanda MacGregor in particular has spoken at a lot of conferences on this issue. Our goal is to continue to raise awareness and erase the stigma.

4. Working with The Teen

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I am a mom, and I adore my children. As The Teen has gotten older, she has collaborated a lot with me here at TLT. It has been very important to me and personally rewarding to be able to model to my daughters a strong, independent women building something from scratch and being successful at it. They have made a lot of personal sacrifices and watched all the work and effort I have put into this blog. And now, The Teen gets to work with me. She helps me review books, talks to me about what’s popular with teens, and more. I can’t thank you enough for helping this blog be successful so that I can teach my daughters about the strength and achievements of women in their chosen professions.

5. Being a Book Cheerleader

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I’m not going to lie, I personally love reading YA. Over the years I have read 1,000s of YA books. In fact, I’ve been a YA librarian for 25 years this year and I stopped keeping track at some point, but I know that I have read over 5,000 YA books. And like most book readers, I love talking about those books and sharing my opinions. So it’s always fun to get to read books before they’republished, find those gems that I want to be a cheerleader for, and then just be an advocate for good or important YA books.

6. Photo Apps Galore

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When I was a teenager, I wanted to be a ballerina, an oceanographer and a photographer. I took dance for many years, but I wasn’t really amazing at it and knew that it was not the profession for me. I don’t know what happened to oceanography, as I still love the ocean and everything about it. I never had the resources, however, to really try out photography. Doing this blog means I have to take pictures and talking about makerspaces on this blog means I have to have makerspace related content; this all means that I have an excuse to try a ton of photo apps. I love trying out the various photo apps and seeing what I can do creatively with the pictures that I take. I’m not going to lie, my home walls are full of pictures, primarily of my kids, but also of “art” that I have created that usually starts with a photo I’ve taken using one of the various photo apps that I review here at TLT. I have seriously tried out a ton of photo apps, and it has been fun.

7. YOU!

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My journey here at TLT has made the world so much bigger for me. I’ve met a huge variety of authors and librarians and bloggers and readers and teens. It has been an honor to meet each and every person. It has expanded my world view, made my heart grow bigger, and taught me so much about privilege and empathy and compassion and being a better citizen. Thank each and every one of you for this honor and privilege!

So here we are at 7 years. Everyone here at TLT wants to keep moving forward and doing the work. If you feel so inclined, please leave a message telling us something you like about TLT so that we have an idea of what we should keep doing moving forward. We’re giving away 7 Books for 7 Years to one TLT reader. This one is open Internationally because we value each and every one of you. Do the Rafflecopter thingy by Friday, June 15th at Midnight to be entered to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday Reflections: In Which The Teen Writes a Poem About Sexual Harassment

TRIGGER WARNING: THIS POST TALKS ABOUT SEXUAL HARASSMENT

I know it’s been a rough week in a lot of ways for us all between the mix of politics and loss, but it was also a really rough week at the Jensen household because of everyone’s arch nemesis: sexual harassment.

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On Friday, I received a text from my daughter explaining how angry she was about the sexual harassment she had received by a “friend” the night before. This friend got into her sports bag and took an item of hers and put it on himself. She asked for it back repeatedly and he refused. Finally, she approached him to take it back and he proceeded to say some sexual things to her that she says made her feel “scared” and “dirty”.

They are 15 years old. And I’m sad to say that this is not the first time she has experienced some type of sexual touching or harassment. But it is the first time that she has come to me so visibly shaken and expressed feeling scared and dirty. Scared and dirty. Scared and dirty. Scared and dirty. I just keep hearing this over and over again.

This is what sexual harassment does.

As we talked about it and processed it and tried to determine what we were going to do, she shared with me that she was so upset about it that she wrote a poem. She has given me permission to share that poem.

Are you done yet

Undressing me with your eyes?

Are you happy

Now that you’ve made me cry?

 

You’ve stared at me

It’s felt like hours

You’ve smiled smugly

Enjoying your power

 

It’s like you can’t see it

My hatred that churns

You can’t see the effect

That makes my skin burn

 

You make me sick with fear

But I won’t say a thing

I’m far too afraid

Afraid of what it will bring

 

I’ll keep my hatred inside

Put on a pretty smile

You’ll never see me break

My tears will stay in for a while

During our discussion of how she felt about what happened, she kept saying she didn’t want to do anything about it. At one point I said to her,” I know you don’t want him to get into trouble but he also needs to know that he can’t do this to others going forward.” To which she replied, “I’m not worried about him getting into trouble, I’m scared he’ll be angry and hurt me.” That was the moment the undid me because I am far too aware of how often boys and men do respond with violence and retribution in these instances. She’s not wrong.

As a mom and a woman, I’ve been incredibly angry and upset about these events, as you can imagine. I’ve seen this all play out over and over and over again in this world and my anger is compounded by the fact that this is my baby girl we’re talking about.

I don’t have any fancy resolution to this post. I don’t have a neat and clean way to wrap this post up. The truth is, this will keep happening. It will happen again to her. It will happen to her younger sister. It will happen to her best friends and worst enemies. It will keep happening until we find a way to seriously address the issues in our culture that allow this to keep happening. And we have to stop shrugging this off and protecting the boys and men who do this. We have to talk about the patriarchy and power and privilege and toxic masculinity and sexism and why we choose to protect men instead of their victims. We have to change the dynamics. All of them.

Until then, I’m just going to be over here raging because I had to listen to my daughter talk about how someone who was supposedly her friend made her feel scared and dirty.

I’m pretty mad at you right now world. I seriously am.

MakerSpace: Screenprinting Program Recap

Regular readers know that I have been on a roller coaster journey trying  to learn how to do screen printing in order to host a program at the Teen MakerSpace at my library, The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County (OH). There were tragic fails, epic highs, emotional angsty, and some down right sweating as the program came closer and I still wasn’t sure how to set up the first portion of the program (more on that in a minute).

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I am happy to report that we hosted our program on Monday night and it was a success! 99% of the teens walked out with a successfully screen printed t-shirt. As always, I had printed out instructions that the teens could take home and a sample of books that they could check out from the library to help them further explore screen printing. We did screen printing on paper and t-shirts. There was one shirt, our first, that we had to try and fill in some, but otherwise it went really, really well.

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So here’ what I did.

First, I set up the room into three main stations:

1) Designing your stencil

2) Making your screen

3) Doing the actual screen printing

DESIGNING YOUR STENCIL

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To design our stencils, I brought out a couple of laptops and our Silhouette Cameo cutting machine. We used cardstock as our medium to cut into stencils and this worked really well. With a little bit of instructions, our teens were able to sit down and make their designs. I was worried about how the teens would do with the design process because the Silhouette has its own design software, but it’s not too different in the details from things like Microsoft Powerpoint, which most of our teens have used some in school. Some teens needed a little more one on one than others, but everyone did walk away from this station with a design of their own making and choosing cut into a stencil.

“Details Make Fails”

At one point, I was explaining how simpler designers were better and a teen came up with the phrasing “Details Make Fails”. This became kind of our motto in the design phase. The more details you try to add, the more likely you are to have a failed project, especially as a newbie.

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Cutting a finished stencil down to size to fit on our screens

Using multiple laptops to one Silhouette Cameo cutter meant we could have more than one teen designing at once and we could just move the USB from latptop to laptop to do the actual cutting. I believe you can have 1 Silhouette set up on up to 5 devices.

MAKING YOUR SCREEN

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To make our screens, we used a temporary spray adhesive purchased in the sewing section of a craft store to adhere the design to a piece of pre-cut mesh curtain. We pre-cut all of our materials to size and were able to get 25 pieces of screen from one $5.00 mesh curtain purchased at the local Wal-Mart. We had 8×8 embroidery hoops so we cut our screens to a 10×10 size. Each embroidery hoop cost $1.50 and the screens average out to $0.20 s0 each screen is roughly $1.70 (I’m going to round up to $2.00 because I like to make my math simpler).

We have 3 Teen MakerSpace staff so each staff member helped at a station.

DOING THE ACTUAL SCREEN PRINTING

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Before working on a shirt, we had each teen practice on a piece of card stock paper. If they were satisfied with the result, they would then screen print their shirts. Although we had squeegees available, which is the traditional way you screen print, most of the teens preferred to use a foam paint brush to help prevent bleeding under the stencil.

RUNNING THE PROGRAM

Because I knew that we would have to allow teens time to design their stencils, I ran the program for a full 5 hours. As each teen came in, I gave them a brief run down of how traditional screen printing worked and how we were modifying that process so that they could do it at home if they wanted to. I then introduced them to the Silhouette Cameo cutter, explaining that if they didn’t have access to that type of technology at home they could still make their own stencils. That was our goal: to teach teens how they could take a Teen MakerSpace project and do the entire process at home without a lot of fancy tools and not a lot of money.

All in all, it took each teen about 20 minutes to make a t-shirt. We bought t-shirts on sale at a local craft store for $2.50 each. Each screen cost us about $2.00. And a single color of paint and a foam brush costs about $2.00. So each t-shirt cost us about $6.50.

HERE’S ONE T-SHIRT FROM START TO FINISH

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AND HERE’S A GALLERY OF SOME OF OUR SCREEN PRINTING JOURNEY

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Not only did my teens learn how to screen print, but I did as well! This was a fun, successful, and relatively inexpensive program. It had a steep learning curve for me personally, but watching those teens successfully create their own shirts and seeing that joy and pride was 100% worth it.

Collecting Comics: June 2018 Edition by Ally Watkins

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Check out these June-releasing comics that your tweens and teens will be clamoring for!

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The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell (Knopf Books for Young Readers, June 5). A neighborhood full of kids use ordinary boxes to create amazing costumes and transform their street into the cardboard kingdom! Come along for the ride this summer as these kids have quests and adventures before school starts.

Supergirl: Being Super by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Joëlle Jones (DC Comics, June 5). Kara Danvers crash landed to Earth as a child and has all these amazing powers: but she just wants to be a normal teen. Until an earthquake hits her small town. Suddenly, her powers are on overdrive and secrets about her past are coming to light. Who can she trust? And can she save her town? Collects issues #1-#4 of the limited comic book series.

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Mech Cadet Yu, Vol. 1 by Greg Pak, illustrated by Takeshi Miyazawa (BOOM! Studios, June 5). Once a year, giant robots from outer space bond with cadets from the Elite Sky Corps Academy to help keep the planet safe. But this year, the wrong kid was picked. Stanford isn’t a cadet. He and his mom have been working as janitors at the academy. He’ll have to convince a LOT of people he’s worthy of his new bond. Collects issues #1-#4.

Science Comics: Rockets by Anne Droyd and Jerzy Droyd (First Second, June 12). In another installment of the popular Science comics series, this nonfiction graphic work tackles a topic that’s sure to thrill your kids: rockets! Starting with Newton’s Laws of motion and working its way up to rockets we may see in the future, this book will fly off your shelves into the hands of your nonfiction lovers.

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The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Vol. 8: My Best Friend’s Squirrel by Ryan North, illustrated by Erica Henderson (Marvel, June 26). Doreen Green is back for another adventure! When her friends Nancy and Tippy-Toe find themselves on an alien world, Doreen must get herself to the other side of the universe to save them! With appearances by fan favorite Loki! Collects issues #27-#32.

Princeless: Raven the Pirate Princess Book Five: Get Lost Together (Action Lab Entertainment, June 26). Six weeks have passed since the attack on the ship and the loss of Sunshine. The crew is convinced she’s dead, but she’s actually alive on a mysterious island where not everything is as it seems. Meanwhile, back on the ship, Ximena has been putting off confessing her feelings. But is it too late to make this relationship work?

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Giant Days: Extra Credit by John Allison, illustrated by Jenn St-Onge, Lissa Treiman, and Canaan Grall (BOOM! Studios, June 26). This volume of Giant Days contains shorts and bonus material from university pals Esther, Daisy, and Susan. Includes a special “what if” story in which they never became friends! Your fans of Giant Days will be so excited for bonus stories.

Invincible Iron Man: Ironheart Vol. 2: Choices by Brian Michael Bendis, illustrated by Stefano Caselli (Marvel, June 26). Riri Williams AKA Ironheart is back! She’s determined to take on the world in this second volume of the Ironheart series. Can she defeat villains who have it out for her and an AI that thinks it knows what’s best? Collects issues #6-#11 of the comic book series.

 

Sunday Reflections: Dear Writers, Women’s Stories Don’t Always Have to Involve Sexual Violence

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TRIGGER WARNING: THIS POST INVOLVES A FRANK DISCUSSION ABOUT SEXUAL VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN IN OUR MEDIA CONSUMPTION

The last day of school is a half day. The Teen comes home at Noon. It’s already almost 100 degrees outside and she had two finals on this last day. So she asks me if I want to join her in doing “important things”. In our home, this is code for laying in bed and watching tv together.

“Do you want to go do important things with me Mom?”, she asks.

Of course I do. This is where she tends to open up with me and we have some of our deepest, most profound talks. Thing 2 is an active, play outside kind of kid and doesn’t often partake, so these are some of the rare moments that we have alone. If I can, I’m all for doing “important things” with my kids because this time is passing quickly and I don’t want to miss a moment of opportunity.

So there we are, doing “important things.” We flip channels until we find something we may want to watch. On the screen, a woman is walking a lone on the desert. We pause, trying to figure out what this is and what’s happening. Suddenly, two men appear in a truck. They start talking to her. The Teen tenses.

“Do you think they’re going to rape her mom?”, she asks.

I can feel the The Teen growing more and more tense beside me.

“Mom, they’re going to rape her. You know they’re going to rape her. They always rape the woman,” she says.

The men are inviting the women into the truck. One man stands behind her.

The Teen is now in a state of panic.

“Mom, change the channel. They’re going to rape her.”

We changed the channel.

The movie we were watching was called It Stains the Sands Red. I don’t know if those men raped that woman or not, but I’ve been thinking a lot about that moment of doing “important things”. I can’t stop thinking about the tension in her body, the rising anxiety in her voice, both the fear and expectation that when those men walked onto the screen she clearly understood that those men were going to rape that woman. That’s what she has been conditioned to expect when she sees a man and a woman on the screen in anything other than a RomCom or Superhero movie.

****

I went to the theater to see The Maze Runner one afternoon when the kids were in school without having read the book first. I tried to read the book, but it just wasn’t my thing. But The Mr. was off and we wanted something to do so we went and saw the movie.

If you’re not familiar with the story, a group of teen boys are enclosed in a space with no adults that they can’t seem to escape. At first, there are nothing but boys. Then one day, a girl is deposited into the glade (I think that’s what they called it. The minute that girl was dumped into the glade, I became anxious. One girl in a sea of young men – she’s going to get raped I told The Mr.

She didn’t. But I was anxious the entire movie because it felt like she would. That she should. I walked out of that movie discussing with The Mr. that the movie was unbelievable not because of the science fiction elements of the story, but because a girl had been placed into a non-regulated group of boys and they didn’t rape her. That’s not what would happen, I argued. THAT was the thing that made the movie unbelievable for me, the knowledge that I knew and understand that in that situation, it was very unlikely that girl would actually be safe in that situation.

As a consumer of media, I have been conditioned to expect that those boys were going to rape that girl. And when they didn’t, it wasn’t that I was disappointed (I was in fact relieved), but I found it unbelievable.

****

A friend and I are trying to find a Netflix show to binge. We like to watch dark British mysteries and then, in general, mysteries.

We select one and it begins with a woman running naked on a beach. She is running for her life.

“Not this one,” we say.

We select another one and it begins with a woman running naked in a forest. She is running for her life.

“Not this one,” we say.

We select another one and it begins with a woman running naked down a street, on the beach, through the forest . . . it doesn’t matter. They are all beginning the same. A woman is running naked. She is beaten and bloody. She has no shoes. She keeps looking back over her shoulder.

You know that she is fleeing from someone who has or is attempting to rape her.

We binge watch a comedy because we can’t find a mystery or crime show this day that we haven’t seen that doesn’t involve sexual violence against a woman.

****

I’ve been thinking a lot about the stories we tell and how women are used in those stories. About how we conditioned by the media we engage in to expect and glance over sexual violence against women. I’ve been thinking about how young that begins and what it means for how we all view women in media and in the world.

I want to read and watch mysteries and thrillers that don’t always involve sexual violence against women. I NEED to be able to read and watch mysteries and thrillers that don’t always involve sexual violence against women.

I want my daughters to grow up in a world where they can see a man and a woman on the screen and not automatically get tense because they know that the man is going to rape the woman because that’s what always happens.

I want my daughters to grow up in a world where the boys in their lives haven’t been taught over and over and over again in the media that they consume that when a man and a woman are together in a room, the man is going to rape the woman. I want her to grow up surrounded by men who understand that women’s stories don’t always have to involve sexual violence against the woman.

Mysteries don’t always have to be about the rape and murder of a woman. That’s not creative. That’s not breaking any boundaries. We’ve done that, a lot.

There are so many more stories that could be written. Creative tales that don’t objectify, stereotype, or constantly put women in harms way.

We need different stories.

We need better stories.

We need mysteries and thrillers and contemporary dramas that show all the other ways in which women live, thrive, survive, fail and are harmed.

Women’s stories can be about more than sexual violence.

Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have any stories about sexual violence. Sexual violence is very real and we can’t pretend it doesn’t exist. It is harmful to pretend it doesn’t exist. We spend a lot of time here at TLT and I spend a lot of time personally advocating for a greater awareness and end to sexual violence against women (and men). We dedicate pages on this blog discussing how adults and educators can use YA literature to raise awareness of topics like consent, sexual violence and the long term effects of childhood trauma. This is not me saying that we should never acknowledge sexual violence against women on the page or on the screen.

Last night I finished reading an upcoming ya book, one of the best books I’ve read in 2018, arguably one of the best books I’ve read that really takes a deep dive into the world of sexual violence in the life of girls. It’s powerful, haunting and very, very necessary. It also doesn’t use sexual violence as a plot device; it mines the depths of sexual violence against girls to explore the short and long term impacts and the ways in which we talk about that violence against women. In this book, sexual violence isn’t an unnecessary plot device, it’s a real and horrific reality that is revealed so that the reader walks away thinking deeply about the impact of this violence on everyone involved. It’s not using sexual violence for the sake of entertainment, but it asks you to think long and hard about what happens to the girls in our world.

Another difference is that the author of this ya book is a woman writing about sexual violence against women as opposed to a man who is writing a mystery or a thriller who needs something to happen in a story so he goes straight to sexual violence. This author dives deep into the emotional impact, the trauma, that surrounds the topic of sexual violence against women as opposed to a man who is simply looking to fill a plot hole or looking to provide trite character motivation. I’ve followed this author on social media for years and have read almost all of her books and I know that she is a passionate advocate for women and that book and her other titles are motivated not by shock value but from a deeply passionate place of advocacy and awareness; she is a woman who wants to change our culture and seeks to help make that happen by tearing away the curtain that seeks to keep sexual violence against women in the dark or simply uses it for an easy and well worn plot device. This is a raw, frank and honest exploration of sexual violence and the darkness that surrounds it.

There is a difference in the ways that storytellers use sexual violence against women in their stories and what motivates them to tell those stories. As consumers, we have come to lazily accept sexual violence against women in our stories and we don’t often explore how it hurts us, men and women both. Of course it effects boys growing up with sexual violence used so casually and seemingly without consequence as a storytelling device. And of course it effects girls. There are no winners when sexual violence is an unexplored plot device. Sexual violence for the sake of sexual violence in our stories is not helping our conversations surrounding things like consent, #metoo, and feminism.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about the tension, anxiety and stress that comes when you are a woman engaging with media. I’ve been thinking a lot about the casual acceptance of the ways that violence against women is used to propel a story forward and what it’s like for even young girls watching these stories. I’ve thought a lot about how already, at the age of 15, my teenage daughter understood how casual our storytellers are with using sexual violence against women as a storytelling device and how much anxiety it caused her as a young woman trying to engage with story.

If you are a storyteller, please think about the stories that you are telling and how you use sexual violence against women in those stories. What is your motivation for doing so? Can the story be told in a different way? What is the impact that your use of sexual violence has on our culture? Is it gratuitous? Does it appropriately reflect the true trauma that comes with being a victim of said sexual trauma?

If you are a storyteller, ask yourself, how will it effect the men and the women engaging with my story? How will it shape their view of women? How will it shape their view of women and their place in our world? How will the women engaging with my story feel about their sense of self and sense of place in our world? How will the men engaging with my story feel about women and view their sense of place in our world?

Stories told about women don’t have to be about sexual violence against women. We deserve to see ourselves on the page or on the screen exploring all the other aspects of our lives.

Even as a survivor of sexual violence myself, I want there to be a better balance in our stories. Yes, I want us to talk about and be realistic about sexual violence in the life of women. 1 in 4 women will be the victims of sexual violence. We have to talk about that. It’s a fact.

But I am more than just a survivor of sexual violence and my life story is about more than the sexual violence that happened to me. In the same way, stories about women need to be about more than sexual violence.

Tell different stories. Find different plot and character motivation. Give your stories more depth, more creativity.

Do better by the women in your stories.

I just want to do “important things” with my daughter and have more choices that don’t involve casual sexual violence against women.

Mini Book Reviews: What I’ve Been Reading including books by Lauren Oliver, Claire Legrand, Caleb Roehrig, Justina Ireland and more

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately, so I wanted to take a moment to share some quick reviews with you. Some of these titles are already out, a few more of them are digital ARCs I have downloaded off of Edelweiss. A few of the titles don’t even come out until October of this year, but you’ll definitely want to make sure to read them and share them with teens.

Broken Things by Lauren Oliver

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Publisher’s Book Description

It’s been five years since Summer Marks was brutally murdered in the woods.

Everyone thinks Mia and Brynn killed their best friend. That driven by their obsession with a novel called The Way into Lovelorn the three girls had imagined themselves into the magical world where their fantasies became twisted, even deadly.

The only thing is: they didn’t do it.

On the anniversary of Summer’s death, a seemingly insignificant discovery resurrects the mystery and pulls Mia and Brynn back together once again. But as the lines begin to blur between past and present and fiction and reality, the girls must confront what really happened in the woods all those years ago—no matter how monstrous.

Karen’s Thoughts

We all have our go to authors, and Lauren Oliver is one of mine, which is why I have already read this and way in advance. It’s a haunting story of murder, betrayal, friendship, love and trying to right the wrongs of the past. Three friends were entranced with a story that was published without an ending, so they set out to make their own. The ending they got was, however, not what they expected. Five years later, the two remaining girls are trying to find out what really happened and clear their names in a town that hates them for what it thinks they’ve done. Lyrical and haunting, there’s a lot to consider here. Broken Things also takes on the topics of awakening female sexuality and the power that comes with it, desire, and what it means to be broken in a world that can be harsh and unforgiving. Coming in October 2018 from HarperCollins. Definitely recommended.

Sawkill Girls by Claire LeGrand

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Publisher’s Book Description

Beware of the woods and the dark, dank deep.

He’ll follow you home, and he won’t let you sleep.

Who are the Sawkill Girls?

Marion: the new girl. Awkward and plain, steady and dependable. Weighed down by tragedy and hungry for love she’s sure she’ll never find.

Zoey: the pariah. Luckless and lonely, hurting but hiding it. Aching with grief and dreaming of vanished girls. Maybe she’s broken—or maybe everyone else is.

Val: the queen bee. Gorgeous and privileged, ruthless and regal. Words like silk and eyes like knives, a heart made of secrets and a mouth full of lies.

Their stories come together on the island of Sawkill Rock, where gleaming horses graze in rolling pastures and cold waves crash against black cliffs. Where kids whisper the legend of an insidious monster at parties and around campfires.

Where girls have been disappearing for decades, stolen away by a ravenous evil no one has dared to fight… until now.

Karen’s Thoughts

Much like Broken Things mentioned above, Sawkill Girls by Claire LeGrand (another of my instant buy authors) takes us into the world of female sexuality and friendship in lyrical and hauntingly beautiful ways. Here, we combine local myths and legends with a long string of disappearing girls and dip our toes into ritualism, magic, and secret societies. Readers will walk away from this one thinking long and hard about what it means to be a girl in today’s world. I wanted it to end slightly sooner than it did, but this one is powerful and moving. Readers will love it and I think it will become a classic. Comes out in October 2018 from Katherine Tegen Books. Definitely recommended.

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

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Publisher’s Book Description

Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville—derailing the War Between the States and changing America forever. In this new nation, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Reeducation Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead. But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.

But that’s not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn’t pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose. But when families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies. And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.

Karen’s Thoughts

I’m not going to lie, it was the zombies that drew me to this book. And it’s such a fresh and interesting take on zombies at that. But this is a powerful look at racism, and that subject will haunt you far longer and more profoundly then any of the zombies will. I came for the zombies, but appreciated the confrontation of our nation’s racist past, a past we still haven’t dealt with and an issue we are still struggling with today. I do have some slight concerns that this book may contain some unfortunate stereotypes regarding Native Americans and have some other reviewers expressing the same concern. Definitely recommended.

Watch You Burn by Amanda Searcy

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Publisher’s Book Description

Jenny didn’t want to move to the creepy, possibly haunted town with her dad. But the cops are on to her, and the only way she can protect herself is by moving as far away from her hometown as possible and staying out of trouble.

But even after she moves, Jenny still gets the itch. The itch to light a match and then watch it burn.

It’s something she hasn’t been able to stop, ever since an accident years ago. Now, in a new town, Jenny has the strange feeling that someone is watching her every move. Will her arsonist ways be exposed? Or is the burning truth deep inside her a greater danger?

Karen’s Thoughts

Put this in the hands of fans of Allegedly by Tiffany Jackson when they ask what other twisted thrillers with an unreliable narrator you might have in your collection. It doesn’t match the skill in storytelling that Allegedly has, but it’s a satisfying read for those who want to read a twisted thriller where you’re not entirely sure what’s happening and who’s to blame. Broken families, compulsive tendencies, arson, and more are discussed in this twisted psychological thriller. This comes out October 2018 from Delacorte Press. This will have a lot of interested readers.

The Truth Lies Here by Lindsey Klingele

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Publisher’s Book Description

In small town Michigan, Penny, an aspiring journalist, teams up with the nerdy boy-next-door and the town’s star quarterback to find her conspiracy theorist father after he goes missing and several other townspeople turn up dead in the woods.

The deeper she digs, the weirder things start to get. Townspeople repeat the same phrases—verbatim. Men in black suits stroll around Main Street. Chunks of her memory go missing. Pretty soon, Penny’s research leads her to the long-ago meteorite crash in Bone Lake’s woods, and she’s going to have to reconsider her definition of “real” if she wants answers. . . .

Karen’s Thoughts

I read this simply because of the X-files comparison. And it’s an apt comparison, to be honest. A small town, a disappearing dad who loves a good conspiracy theory, and a lot of strange, unexplained events. The attempt to unravel the truth and the realization of what that truth is a fun and entertaining read. Sometimes, it’s nice just to read a fun, engaging book and this fits the bill. This is also a really authentic depiction of small town, rural, Midwestern life. Recommended.

Recently The Teen, who is an avid reading and reviews a lot of the ARCs I get for TLT, was going through all the ARCs on the shelf and proclaimed, “there is nothing here I want to read.” That has never happened before. It turns out, she is really wanting to read mysteries right now and there is, to be honest, not a lot of mysteries being released in YA. That doesn’t mean there are none, but there are definitely fewer than there has been in past years, a complaint I hear from many of my teens. So I started searching for some YA mysteries she hasn’t read and we landed on one new one, we liked it enough to read a previous book by that same author, and started a new series.

White Rabbit by Caleb Roehrig

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Publisher’s Book Description

Rufus Holt is having the worst night of his life. It begins with the reappearance of his ex-boyfriend, Sebastian—the guy who stomped his heart out like a spent cigarette. Just as Rufus is getting ready to move on, Sebastian turns up out of the blue, saying they need to “talk.” Things couldn’t get much worse, right?

But then Rufus gets a call from his sister April, begging for help. And then he and Sebastian find her, drenched in blood and holding a knife, beside the dead body of her boyfriend, Fox Whitney.

April swears she didn’t kill Fox—but Rufus knows her too well to believe she’s telling him the whole truth. April has something he needs, though, and her price is his help. Now, with no one to trust but the boy he wants to hate yet can’t stop loving, Rufus has one night to prove his sister’s innocence…or die trying.

Karen’s Thoughts

Because I’m a librarian, I don’t often buy books, I check them out from the library unless I’ve already read it and want a copy for my personal library. But this book had so much strong buzz, I chose not to wait and bought it. It is a very intriguing mystery. Our main character shows up at the scene of a murder and is drawn in to help solve it, in large part because once he showed up, he’s now a suspect himself. Oops. There is some really powerful LGBTQ content here in a really moving love story as characters embrace who they are and how they feel about each other. And then, of course, there is the mystery itself, which is a twisted plot that involves broken families, class warfare, and local drug culture. It’s very much a tale for our times, and it’s a good read too! Definitely recommended.

Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig

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Publisher’s Book Description

Flynn’s girlfriend has disappeared. How can he uncover her secrets without revealing his own?

Flynn’s girlfriend, January, is missing. The cops are asking questions he can’t answer, and her friends are telling stories that don’t add up. All eyes are on Flynn—as January’s boyfriend, he must know something.

But Flynn has a secret of his own. And as he struggles to uncover the truth about January’s disappearance, he must also face the truth about himself.

Karen’s Thoughts

After reading White Rabbit, I decided I wanted to go back and read Last Seen Leaving. I actually ended up liking Last Seen Leaving even more than White Rabbit. Like White Rabbit, Last Seen Leaving contains some powerful LGBTQ content as well as our main character bonds with another character wile trying to discover what happened to an ex-girlfriend. I loved watching these two characters bond while solving this mystery. Politics, broken families, class, identity, and more are discussed here. There’s even some talk about female bodily autonomy and consent, including the importance of male as well as female consent in sexual situations. There are a lot of interesting nuggets packed into this engaging mystery. Definitely recommended.

Trouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly

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Publsiher’s Book Description

Of course I didn’t like Digby when I first met him. No one does.

The first time Philip Digby shows up on Zoe Webster’s doorstep, he’s rude and he treats her like a book he’s already read and knows the ending to.

But before she knows it, Zoe’s allowed Digby—annoying, brilliant, and somehow…attractive? Digby—to drag her into a series of hilarious, dangerous, and only vaguely legal schemes all related to the kidnapping of a local teenage girl. A kidnapping that might be connected to the tragic disappearance of his little sister eight years ago. When it comes to Digby, Zoe just can’t say no.

But is Digby a hero? Or is his manic quest an indication of a desperate attempt to repair his broken family and exorcize his own obsessive-compulsive tendencies? And does she really care anyway?

This is a contemporary debut with razor-sharp dialogue, ridiculously funny action, and a dynamic duo you won’t soon forget.

Karen’s Thoughts

This book is the first in a series which was recommended to me by a friend. I would have liked the book, except male main character is really manipulative and doesn’t respect the female main characters boundaries and she continues to not stand her ground, which causes her a lot of very real problems. I didn’t like this relationship dynamic at all so I won’t be continuing the series. The mystery itself was interesting, I just couldn’t stand this guy and the way he treated the people in his life. Teens will be drawn to the humor, the friendships and the mystery.

MakerSpace: Guitar Pick Jewelry

Because this year’s summer reading theme, Libraries Rock!, is music based, we have been trying to find ways to make our various MakerSpace activities music oriented. Luckily for us, we have a guitar pick punch that hasn’t been used very much in our space. Outside of the obvious – you can use it to make actual guitar picks – you can also use it to make guitar pick jewelry!

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You can do a variety of things with a guitar pick: decoupage it, glam it up with glitter and rhinestones, or you can engrave them. Since we also have a Silhouette Cameo, we will definitely be adding engraving guitar picks and turning them into jewelry for one of our MakerSpace activity stations. Your mileage may vary, because you don’t have to do very much to make cool guitar pick jewelry.

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Supplies:

  • Guitar pick punch (available for purchase at Amazon)
  • Plastic (can be purchased or you can use things like invalid credit cards and foot take out containers)
  • Small hole punch (1/16 for smaller holes)
  • Various jewelry making supplies and findings like o rings, cord, and pliers
  • A laptop and Silhouette Cameo for engraving (see section on engraving for less expensive methods)

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If you want to engrave your guitar pick, you can use hand held engraving tools or a Silhouette Cameo with an etching tool.

Making Your Guitar Pick

Making your guitar pick is simple and quick. You can buy a variety of colorful plastic strips online or you can use plastic found around the house. I’ve even used old bank and credit cards, making sure not to include any of my name or number in a way that can be seen. If you’re going to do something like decoupage your pick, you can even use plastic from take out food containers.

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After you punch out your guitar pick, you’ll want to use the small hole punch at one end of the guitar pick to make a hole so you can attach it to your jewelry with an o ring.

Engraving Your Guitar Pick

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You can buy an etching tool for the Silhouette Cameo which you can use to engrave your guitar pick. You’ll want to follow these instructions, with a slight modification. I suggest choosing the highest level of settings, including making 10 passes. We tried a variety of settings but found that making 10 passes really helped to make sure that you could see the engraving.

You can also do DIY engraving using a hand tool, which is less expensive. They have instructions at Instructables for this. There are also suggested ways of engraving at WikiHow.

Making Your Jewelry

With your guitar pick now ready to go, you can make whatever kind of jewelry you want to make following basic jewelry making principles. Necklaces and ear rings work best because of the size of the guitar pick. And of course, they make cool key rings.

The cost, time and skill for this project depends on how elaborate you make your jewelry, which makes it very customizable.