Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Collecting Comics: Comics take on addiction, STEM, space and more in October, by Ally Watkins


Here are some great October comics your teens and tweens will be clamoring for!


Secret Coders: Monsters and Modules by Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes (First Second, October 2). In this sixth and final volume of the wildly popular Secret Coders series, the coders must travel to another dimension to save humanity! They must write their most complicated code yet to save the day.

On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden (First Second, October 2). Tillie Walden’s latest graphic novel is about a girl on a crew in the deepest reaches of space, working to rebuild the broken down past. The newest member of the crew, Mia, might just have an ulterior motive for being there. Told in alternating timelines and flashing back to Mia’s years in boarding school where she fell in love with another student, this epic love story will enthrall your readers.


Graphic Memoirist Grapples With Family Addiction In ‘Hey, Kiddo’ : NPR

Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka (Graphix, October 9). This powerful graphic memoir from popular cartoonist and children’s author Krosoczka has already been longlisted for the National Book Award. It tells the story of young Jarrett, who dealt with a drug addicted mother and was raised by grandparents with larger than life personalities. As he grows up, he finds solace in his art.

Lost Soul, Be at Peace by Maggie Thrash (Candlewick, October 9). In this follow-up to Thrash’s acclaimed graphic novel Honor Girl, she returns to her teenage life a year and a half after the summer that changed her life. Young Maggie is grappling with depression and parents that don’t understand, and she only cares about her cat, who then disappears somewhere in the walls of her house. This story writes about depression and families with brutal honesty.

Lafayette! (Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales #8) by Nathan Hale (Amulet, October 16). The latest Hazardous Tale from Nathan Hale takes on the story of the Maquis de Lafayette, the young Frenchman who became an American Revolutionary War hero, fighting alongside Alexander Hamilton and George Washington.

Science Comics: The Brain: The Ultimate Thinking Machine by Tony Woollcott, illustrated by Alex Graudins (First Second, October 16). The newest work of nonfiction in the Science Comics series takes on the human brain. In it, young Fahama must learn about the brain as quickly as possible in order to escape from the clutches of a mad scientist and his zombie assistant! Your young readers will learn about the brain along with Fahama!


Aquicorn Cove by Katie O’Neill (Oni Press, October 16). O’Neill’s two previous graphic novels, Princess Princess Ever After and The Tea Dragon Society have been award-winning and very popular. In her next book, she dives into a story about the responsibility of being a guardian to who and what you love. When Lana and her father return to their hometown to help with cleanup after a big storm, Lana grows closer to her aunt and finds something magical: a colony of Aquicorns, magical seahorse-like creatures that live on the reef. Lana and her aunt slowly begins to realize that for the humans and the sea life to coexist together, something must change.

Lumberjanes: The Infernal Compass by Lilah Sturgess, illustrated by Polterink (BOOM! Box, October 23). This is the first original graphic novel set in the world of the Lumberjanes made wildly popular by the comic book series. In this story, the girls of Roanoke cabin get separated during orienteering thanks to a mysterious compass, and Molly is becoming more and more insecure about her relationship with Mal and the other girls.

Runaways Volume 2: Best Friends Forever by Rainbow Rowell, illustrated by Kris Anka (Marvel, October 30). Your fans of Rainbow Rowell will be thrilled to read the next collected trade editions of Runaways. In this arc, the team welcomes a new friend, Gert tinkers with technology that may be over her head, Karolina’s celebrity past catches up with her, and everyone tries to be a family again! (Collects issues #7-#12 of the comic book series).


Crush by Svetlana Chmakova (JY, October 30). This book, the follow-up to the popular Awkward and Brave, Jorge has it all together…until he encounters his crush. He’s great when he’s with his group of friends…until those dynamics start to shift. Will he be able to balance expectations versus what he really wants?

The Hidden Witch by Molly Knox Ostertag (Graphix, October 30). This follow-up to the popular The Witch Boy, shows Aster and his family adjusting to his new life working in witchcraft, unlike the other shapeshifter males in his family. Meanwhile, Aster’s nonmagical friend, Charlie, is having trouble–a curse has tried to attach itself to her. Now they must find the source of the curse before magical and nonmagical people start to get hurt!

BONUS NONCOMIC: Lumberjanes: The Good Egg by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Brooklyn Allen (Amulet, October 30). This third in the series of Lumberjanes novelizations follows fan favorite Ripley, who finds an abandoned egg. She’s determined to take care of it until the parents return, but will she be foiled by poachers, who want the egg for themselves?

Circulation Statistics are an Imperfect Measure of Who We are and What Libraries Do

I know several libraries that are chewing their nails about declining circulation statistics. The issue is, of course, that circulation statistics are one of the primary measures of success for school and public libraries. They are, however, an imperfect measure of both library success and impact. For a profession that has the term science right there in the title, we rely on some pretty flawed data to help drive what we do.


Circulation statistics measure how many times an item is checked out of a library collection. Most libraries use this data for a variety of things, including collection development and annual reporting. One of the things circulation figures look at is overall circulation. For example, a library will run a report and determine that the library system circulated 1,000,000 items for the year. Depending on the size of the collection and the service area, they will then determine whether or not this is a good number. Over the years, we track circulation increase and decrease to determine whether or not we are contracting or expanding. Circulation statistics are a really big deal, but should they be?

Any business, and though we are non-profit, libraries are in fact a business, needs data to help drive discussions, planning, evaluation and more. For profit businesses measure things like profit and loss, return on investment, and staffing costs. To be clear, libraries do and should be measuring these types of figures as well. But today we’re going to talk about one of our primary tools of measurement: circulation statistics. Though circulation statistics are a very standard unite by which libraries evaluation their success and plan, I would argue that they are a very ineffective tool. Furthermore, I worry that many libraries place far too much emphasis on this number, which is inherently flawed as a measuring tool


Circulation is not the same as reading nor is it a measure of impact

Circulation statistics tell us if an item is checked out and that’s it. As a data point, it doesn’t give us a lot of information. This data doesn’t give us any information about what the patron did with the item once they checked it out. For all we know, a patron checked out an item and then it sat in their car for two weeks where they forgot about it and returned it completely unused. This data also doesn’t tell us if the patron liked the item, if they liked their experience of the library, or if that item made any impact on things like personal growth, education, or recreation. Circulation data is not the same as impact or use. To be clear, there is no real way we can measure this data, but it is a slippery slope to suggest that circulation is the same as impact. At the end of the day, the only thing this number tells us is that a patron checked out an item. It’s only the beginning of a story, of an item’s journey. We never know what happens next.


We know that circulation doesn’t realistically reflect the way patrons use certain collections

Fiction books and biographies are typically items that a patron will check out and read because it takes an investment of time. DVDs are also an item that can’t be used inside of a library. But there are many items and collections that are used in-house or both in-house and out-of-house. Take board books for example; These are short books that are typically read to babies and toddlers. Many parents and caregivers will bring their small child with them to the library and sit down and read many board books to their children before selecting just a few to check out and take home. The same happens with pictures books. Likewise, most children and teen librarians will tell you that a lot of graphic novels get read right there at the library. There are many areas of the collection which have use higher than what their circulation statistics may indicate. One way to try to get a better number is to measure in-house use as well as circulation, but measuring in-house use is both an imperfect act and it requires more work for staff. I would argue, however, that we should be collecting this data for collection development and for measuring use and communicating our use to admin and our communities.

The Teen spending time in the Teen MakerSpace

Circulation doesn’t measure sharing within households and friends

When I first began working in libraries, a book called Rats Saw God by author Rob Thomas was published. This book had tremendous word of mouth from teen to teen and many teens would check it out and then share it with their friends. One teen might check it out, meaning it got one circ., but many teens read that single copy on the single circulation. I parent a teen who loves to read YA. We will often both read the same book even though it only gets checked out by one of us. As a family, we have often traveled in a car listening to an audio book. Four people are listening to that book, but it only gets one circulation. The same happens when we check out and watch a movie. One circulation statistic does not indicate how many people may or may not have engaged with that item.


There are many access barriers to circulation

Recently, we kept finding a book hidden on a shelf. We had a teen that was coming in every day, grabbing this book and reading it, and then hiding it so that he could pick it up and read it again the next day. He couldn’t check out the book and take it home because his card was blocked by fines. Fines, fees, blocked cards, the rules we put in place to get cards – especially if you are a minor – can make checking out an item hard. Many of our patrons find creative ways to get around the access barriers we put in place. Many patrons stop using the library all together or stop using traditional library materials because of the access barriers we put in place. Many library patrons use the library in ways that aren’t represented by circulation statistics and we put up a lot of access barriers that prevent our patrons from doing the very thing we need them to do to measure our success.


Libraries are more than the circulation of traditional materials

Circulating traditional items is not the only nor is it the most important thing that libraries do. The various services and amenities that libraries provide are legion, and many of them are hard to measure. Circulation statistics and program attendance are concrete figures, but they don’t tell the whole story. We can add in things like Internet computer use and PAC searches, but this is still an incomplete picture. Some libraries use tally sheets to keep track of the number of informational and reference questions answered, but this is also still an incomplete picture. When we talk about libraries, we need to gather as much data as possible to help us measure success and communicate this success to our administrators, our boards and our communities, but we need more than statistics. We need personal stories, we need patron feedback, and we need to paint a more holistic picture of who we are, what we are doing, and the benefit we bring to our communities. Statistics are not enough for us to tell our stories and measure our success.


There are other things we should be looking at when we talk about circulation. How is our library at marketing? What kind of transportation barriers do people have to get to the library? How are we doing at customer service and retention? Once patrons are inside the building, are they able to find what they want or do they walk away empty handed? What type of external competition are we facing? What budget and staff challenges do we face? Is our process for ordering, processing and managing materials efficient and do they promote quickly getting materials into the hands of our patrons? There are so many more questions we should be asking ourselves and so many issues we should be discussing beyond circulation statistics.

Circulation statistics. They are important and have value, but I fear that we place too much emphasis on this data. In the year 2018, it does not tell the whole story of who we are and what we do and what obstacles we have to overcome to do it. So yes, track your stats and keep working towards growth, but let’s also keep the big picture in mind. We are more than just our circulation statistics and those statistics don’t tell us everything we need to know. We need to find better ways to measure our success and tell our story.

Sunday Reflections: It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye

This past week, I started a new job at a new library. I didn’t make a big announcement in part because I’m so very bad at saying goodbye. And although this new job is a great opportunity for me professionally, leaving my old job was harder than ever for me.


I began my library career at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County, where I worked for the first 7 years of my career. With another co-worker, I built that program from scratch at the tender age of 20. When I left the first time, I cried for an entire year afterwards. I didn’t want to leave it then and I didn’t want to leave it now. Getting asked to come back was one of the best things that ever happened to me. And professionally, turning the teen program into the Teen MakerSpace was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. I had in many ways hoped to retire at this library, ending it all where it all began. Plus, it was an honor to work once again with my mentor and friend. She’s retiring at the end of this month and I wish her nothing but the best.

My library mentor

My library mentor

It’s not just the program that you come to love, it’s the people. Coworkers. Teens. I’m a very relationship oriented person and leaving a workplace can be difficult. And as you know, I genuinely care about the teens I serve. As a teen services librarian, you have to say goodbye every year to a small cohort of your teens as they go off to college or whatever comes next. There’s a lot of goodbye built into being a teen librarian.

I'm not gonna lie, I took a picture of my Teen MakerSpace manual and put it up at my new desk. I will miss you TMS manual! Though I'm already making a new one.

I’m not gonna lie, I took a picture of my Teen MakerSpace manual and put it up at my new desk. I will miss you TMS manual! Though I’m already making a new one.

This past week, I began a job as the Children’s and YA Materials Selector at Fort Worth Public Library. This is hands down the largest library system I have ever worked at and it in right in the middle of a big city. So there is a lot of change happening here. I’m going from a medium sized Midwestern rural library to a big big big city library system. I’m going from a position where I’m in charge of anything and everything teen related to being the collection development person. I’m going from being in charge of a staff to being in charge of, well, no one. And did I mention it’s big? Like, super big.


Like I said, it’s a lot of change.

There’s a huge learning curve here. I have to learn new people, new demographics, new systems, new processes and more. I’ve already met a ton of people and, although they’re very nice and I will eventually make meaningful connections, those first few weeks or months when you are a stranger in a strange land are always so very hard for me.

Thing 2 helping me pack boxes of books to take to the Rowlett Public Library

In larger systems, everyone has very specific job titles with very specific jobs and very specific responsibilities. This is not always the case in smaller systems when you are just in charge of everything. In my new position, I’m a collection development librarian. Like many larger systems, there are programming or collection development librarians and I am working with collections. In order to help fulfill my desire to work with and serve teens hands on, I am also working with the local arts council to help create a Teen MakerSpace as a volunteer at the public library in the town that I live. So I will still get to do some programming. I will still get to connect with teens. I will still get to serve and advocate for teens in the area of programming as well. I feel blessed in that I get to learn and grow and still do all of the parts of teen librarianship that make me feel the most like me.

25 years as a Teen/YA Librarian. I've met a lot of people I love along the way.

25 years as a Teen/YA Librarian. I’ve met a lot of people I love along the way.

This fall I begin my 26th year as a Teen Services Librarian, and I’m beginning it at Fort Worth Public Library. It’s a new and exciting adventure that I am looking forward to taking. In my previous 25 years as a Teen Services Librarian I have started 2 teen programs from scratch, revamped 2, created a Teen MakerSpace, managed a small staff twice, built several collections, served literally thousands of teens, published a professional book, and started Teen Librarian Toolbox. It’s not a shabby resume and I’m looking forward to see what happens next. Let’s do this.

“All American Boys” Authors Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely Discuss Racism, White Privilege, and Censorship in Today’s Civic Landscape, a guest post by Lisa Krok

In the midst of a week full of national dissent and tension, Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely took to the stage to get real with a live audience. The Ensemble Theatre in Cleveland Heights, Ohio was the perfect venue for an intimate discussion on serious subjects. Reynolds and Kiely first became friends a few years back while touring for their debut books, When I Was the Greatest and The Gospel of Winter, respectively. The Trayvon Martin tragedy had occurred already, and after Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri, the two friends had some candid discussions about racism and police brutality. This prompted them to begin writing All American Boys together. Told in alternating perspectives of Reynold’s black teen, Rashad Butler, and Kiely’s white teen, Quinn Collins, the story opens with Rashad being beaten by a police officer while Quinn witnesses from down the street. As the plot unfolds, family, friends, and the community have different takes as to the officer’s culpability. When protests begin with kids at school, Quinn has mixed feelings about what to do next.


Aside from the Martin and Brown situations, the authors had their own anecdotes from their teenage years that sparked their interest in collaborating on the book.  Reynolds’ terrifying   run-in with D.C. police at age 16 while in a car with friends couldn’t be more opposite of Kiely’s tale of being pulled over while driving his mom’s minivan in Boston. While Reynolds and his black friends were presumed to be criminals, Kiely and his white friends were let off and told to go home and be safe. Why? Racism and white privilege. Both were polite and respectful to police, but nonetheless, biases prevailed. The biggest difference, according to Kiely, was that he was nervous, but didn’t have anything to fear other than being caught. “I think about the fear I never had to experience, the accountability I never had…it is a tug to remind me what it means to have white privilege in America.”

all american

All of this dovetails into censorship and book banning of both All American Boys and another book depicting police brutality, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Both have been challenged and/or banned in some areas, most recently in Charleston, South Carolina. When the Wando High School summer reading list included the two titles above, Charleston area police protested the books, stating that they promoted negativity and distrust of police. The three authors responded in a joint statement:

“Our books are not anti-police, they are anti-police brutality. We’re proud of the teachers at Wando HS who are using literature that reflects the lives of so many young people across this country. To deny these books from reading lists would deny too many young people the reflections of the reality they know and experience.”

-Jason Reynolds, Brendan Kiely, and Angie Thomas

Reynolds expounded upon this on stage, revealing he and Kiely have police officers in their families, and they value and respect the job police officers do. He reiterated that they are just anti-police brutality, and would love it if police were anti-police brutality, too. “We just hope that for us as a community, in order for things to shift, we gotta be able to engage and lean into these discussions…this book hopefully will serve as a platform and a framework for us to have these discussions, these uncomfortable discussions, in healthy and safe ways…It’s okay for you to disagree, just not okay for you to disengage.”

See Jason Reynolds’ impassioned remarks here:

Kiely emphasized that censorship especially impacts marginalized people. “When you are censoring over and over and over again stories that feature characters who live marginalized experiences, you are censoring the people whose lives their stories reflect. You’re censoring their life existence in your community. That to me is part of the injustice. That’s part of the real cruelty to people who live in our own communities.”  When thinking about a whole variety of marginalized experiences, it worries him when people use things like language as an excuse to censor, or use things like “well but there are choices characters make in this book,” or “we can’t have people knowing that they can make this choice and still survive.” “Censorship, in my opinion, is one of the most unethical things we can do when it comes to literature,” Kiely continues. “I think about the places where our book has been banned and think about how so many students in those communities who have experiences like Rashad and his family and his church community and the whole book and all the white kids who then don’t get an opportunity to reflect in ways that they haven’t been asked to reflect on before. That censorship is robbing them of part of their own humanity as well.”

Reynolds brought up a strong point about how people don’t get worked up about censoring video games that simulate war. “Why books?” he pondered. “Nothing else gets this kind of flak. Most cartoons are worse than the books we write, and nobody seems to care.  Ask your kids what the words in their favorite rap song are.  Ask them to rap it out for you. Nobody seems to mind as long as they’re doing the dance”.  He expressed concerns about kids who can’t afford to buy a book, and the book is taken out of their schools. Reynolds credits fellow author Laurie Halse Anderson as noting “It is the insecurity of adults that gets in the way of children.” He continues, “Everybody in this room has to make a decision to be more loyal to their futures than to their fears.”

Kiely says people don’t want to process the racism. “People use a number of excuses to talk about why the book shouldn’t come into communities. They would say well it might incite a riot.’”  It is hard for Kiely understand how this is possible. Those who have read the book know that “the book is anti-violence and it exposes the harm violence really causes families, communities. I struggle with those excuses, but I think they are all codes for ‘we don’t talk about the stuff that would make us have to shift the power dynamics that currently exist in our community.’”

Many thanks to Heights Libraries for sponsoring this event!

Books related to the Black Lives Matter movement, specifically regarding police brutality:

tyler johnsonTyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles

How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon


I Am Alfonso Jones by Tony Medina

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

dear martinDear Martin by Nic Stone

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

For more information, see the following resources:










-Lisa Krok is branch manager of Cleveland Public Library’s Harvard-Lee branch, a member of the Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers team, and a Ravenclaw. She can be found being bookish and political on Twitter @readonthebeach.

Wrestling with some truths in the movie “The Hate U Give”

I went with one of my best friend’s on Thursday to see a special screening of The Hate U Give, the movie based upon the novel of the same name written by Angie Thomas. This is a book that we both read as part of an adult book club that we are in (she’s our leader). I’ve read the book as a teen librarian, I’ve read the book as a parent of very white children, and my very white children have read it as well. The Teen and I have also been to book events where we have heard Angie Thomas speak about this book. So to say that I was excited to see this movie is an understatement. Also, The Teen wants you to know that she is mad that I went without her.


The movie, like the book, is excellent. The quality of the acting is remarkable. I was especially moved by the performance of Russell Hornsby who played the father, Maverick Carter. I believe he delivered an Oscar worthy performance. And Amandla Sternberg was equally excellent as Starr. There were many powerful performances delivered and I’m not going to lie, I was moved, I was uncomfortable, I was ashamed, I laughed, I wept, and I went on a full spectrum ride of emotional reactions.

10 Books To Read After “The Hate U Give” – School Library Journal

I am not a movie reviewer or a theater expert, but I was amazed at the production value of the movie because I happen to be aware that several scenes had to be re-shot after K J Apa was added to the cast after a previous casting controversy. I don’t know how they managed to go back and re-shoot entire scenes or add him in or whatever it is they did, but if I didn’t know about the casting situation and wasn’t looking, I would never have known. It was flawless. I watch Riverdale – I am the mother of preteens and teens after all – but I’m not particularly a K J Apa fan, but I didn’t hate him in the role of Chris. Trust me when I say that is high praise coming from me.

There were a lot of scenes that I was not prepared to see brought to life so vividly on the big screen and they gutted me. I can’t imagine what it must be like for black teens who live these lives and have these conversations with their families and each other to see their truth depicted on the big screen. I am certainly not in a position to really evaluate this movie or talk about what it can or does mean in terms of representation. I many ways, this is not my movie to review and what I say has no merit whatsoever.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – Reading Guide and discussion

What I do want to talk about is a very sad truth that I realized as I walked out of the theater. You see, as I have mentioned here often, I am an older white women who comes from a conservative background. Through my years working with teens I have had my mind opened and have had the privilege to work with a wide variety of teens from a wide variety of backgrounds and I like to think that slowly but surely, I am changing for the good. But I also realized as I walked out of this movie that there are a lot of people, people that I am friends with, who would see this movie and still walk away thing that Khalil deserved what happened to him. I think about this truth a lot.

As I wrestle with my privilege I have come to understand that it is not a black person’s responsibility to educate me about racism. That no one owes me their time, attention or story to help me see them as human. And yet, Angie Thomas has written this remarkable book which can do that very thing we need, to help us to talk honestly about current events and the frequent killing of unarmed black boys and men at the hands of white police officers. This book and books like it force us to see the very headlines we read about through a different lens. I was devastated to realize that this book and this movie, which challenged, devastated and helped me grow, would not necessarily do that for everyone. I want to make sure you hear me loud and clear here: this is not a failing on any part of anyone involved in the writing of this book or the making of this movie, but speaks to the failing of my fellow white people to sit with and acknowledge the full humanity of people of color. That I walked away thinking there are so many people whose minds would not be swayed in any way by this movie is a testimony to how deeply entrenched racist views are in our world. I know black people have known this for a long time, I have not and I am truly sorry.

I walked away from this movie having a better understanding of a truth that I have often heard about issues of racism but haven’t fully grasped: we can’t move away from racism because many people don’t want to because they want to continue in the power that comes from oppressing others. Cycles of poverty, gang violence, “the projects”, selling drugs, gentrification, prison as an extension of slavery, white privilege – these are all fairly new concepts to me that I have been trying to grapple with as an older white woman coming from a place of privilege and a fairly conservative background. There was a lot of good discussion in the movie that brought these truth to more light for me. But the thing is, I can honestly tell you that I know far too many people who won’t be moved at all.

I am thankful to Angie Thomas for writing this book. I know that she did not write it for me, and yet I have benefited from it because I have listened and grown. That was a gift she did not owe me, but I am thankful to receive it. I am also thankful for all of the work and emotion that went into making this movie. It is hands down a stellar movie and I will wrestle with it for a very long time. I’m sure I still don’t get it, but I’m going to keep trying.

Operation BB Blasts Off!

operation bb

It’s been a rough week for me personally as a sexual violence survivor and I believe for our country as a whole. I was going to come here today and talk about it, but I am emotionally spent and drained so I thought I would share something good with you. Because in the midst of all my personal pain and anxiety during this week, I was also blessed by the heart of a child. Not just any child, my child, so I have been blessed a lot this week. Believe me when I say I needed it and am thankful for it.

On Monday, Thing 2 (age 9) and I were at J C Penney when we saw that they had a massive amount of backpacks on clearance for some prices between $2.50 and $3.00 each. It was an amazing price and I was feeling myself pulled to them. I wanted to walk away, but I couldn’t. “I wonder if there is a place that needs donations of backpacks,” I said to Thing 2. And that sentence sparked her imagination.

“What if we put books in each backpack and gave them a backpack full of books?,” she wondered. And then she got excited. And I mean, really excited. She explained her vision to me and it was pretty awesome.

So we talked a bit because I wanted to see how serious she was, and she was both serious and passionate. As she explained what she thought she wanted to do, I realized that she saw an opportunity to do something good and that I needed to help her. This was one of those make or break parenting moments. What I said next really mattered.


So then I called her Dad on the phone and said, “Hey, it would be totally cool if I spent a bunch of money on backpacks, right?” I told him why, what Thing 2 wanted to do, and he said yes. We had just gotten paid, so that helped. He really likes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, so that also helped. Not every parent would have the opportunity to say yes, and I knew we couldn’t fully fund what she wanted to do, but I knew we could buy the backpacks and I knew how I could help her achieve her goals. And I still have enough faith in humanity to know that there are indeed some people out there who would help me help her help others. I was not wrong and I thank you for that.


On the way home, I asked her what she wanted to name her project. She’s going through a space phase and everything with her is space related, so she said what about Books in Backpacks. Then she said, what about Operation Books in Backpacks. Over time it became Operation BB: Books in Backpacks. Having an operation is very space sounding. The books in backpacks part is just pragmatic. There were even a lot of space themed backpacks there! She also loves dinosaurs and sharks. Sadly there were no dinosaur or shark backpacks. A full 10% of the backpacks she selected were space themed, go figure!

So then we went home and I helped her make an Amazon Wishlist and she told me what some of her favorite books were and we got started. I had a couple of requirements. One, I wanted to help her make sure it was a diverse list. She’s met me so she got that part. Two, I told her I thought the books should be paperbacks because they are both less expensive for donors and often easier to carry. So a list was made.

At the TLA conference earlier this year, I met a real life astronaut and got her a book about astronauts signed by an astronaut. The space phase is not new and it is real!

At the TLA conference earlier this year, I met a real life astronaut and got her a book about astronauts signed by an astronaut. The space phase is not new and it is real!


Look, a real life astronaut!!

We talked about where we could donate the backpacks. I talked to her about children’s homes and foster care. We donate to the local food bank regularly and a few years ago The Teen and one of her besties did a project where they collected books to donate to the local food pantry’s backpack program, which I am sure inspired Thing 2’s idea. We posted online and we found a DFW person who hosts a foster kid closet. When kids are put into foster care, they often are moved from place to place with very few belongings and stuff their belongings into trash bags. This is one of the organizations we will be donating to. We have several places lined up that we can donate backpacks to and make sure they get into the hands of kids who need them.

We went to the dollar store and bought some coloring books. She wanted each backpack to have 2 books, a coloring book and colored pencils. A bulk order of colored pencils is on the Amazon Wishlist and she did received a box of them. She’s 9, she still likes to color. Also, coloring is very popular right now.


Thanks to some generous donors, we have already put a few backpacks together. Thing 2 was very excited to put the backpacks together. I mean, REALLY EXCITED. Two of the books on her list have fish on the covers and one of the coloring books had a fish on the cover, so she made sure those books go together. She did find some space themed backpacks and has some space themed books on her list. We bought Star Wars coloring books for those bags. Some of the backpacks are loosely themed, another thing that I found interesting about her thinking.

Then on Wednesday night, a tragic school bus accident happened near us. The local high school announced that they were collecting 40 backpacks and school supplies to replace those lost in the accident. The kids effected attended a nearby middle school. I took the remaining 27 backpacks that I had and dropped them off then stopped at the store to buy some more. Thankfully, as of right now, there are still a lot of the backpacks left and at such a good price.

She asked about continuing the project when there are no more backpacks and it looks like we can buy bulk orders of backpacks online for around $3.50 to $4.00 each in the future. They aren’t the fun designs we currently have, but they’re cool colors and such. She was happy with that.


As I mentioned, she is going through a space phase so the same day we bought the backpacks her astronaut Halloween costume arrived. She hasn’t taken it off much at home. I helped her put together a flyer to promote her operation (done on Canva, I know some of you will ask) and she is, of course, in the costume. As a mom, my heart has been touched by how excited she is to do this, how compassionate she has been in thinking of others, and how creative she is in going full space themed here. I’ve got to admire her branding ability, without her even knowing really what branding is.

I also want to say, as a mom and a librarian, I have been excited to see her excited about books. You see, Thing 2 was diagnosed with dyslexia in the 2nd grade and reading has been and is a challenge for her. This is the first year she has really been excited about books. The struggles she has trying to read have left her often feeling “stupid” (her words, not mine). She’s behind her friends at school and she knows it. So I was stunned when she said she wanted to fill the backpacks with books and not say candy or stuffed animals or Legos, all things she also has a lot of passion for. This is the first time she is showing real interest in reading and seems to understand that giving another kid a book would mean something to them. My heart has grown ten sizes this week for a lot of reasons.

I don’t know if we will try and fill the 100 backpacks we have and be done or if we will continue. I just know that as her mom, I want to try and support her in this because I love how compassionate she is being. I love how excited she is. I love how she is thinking creatively and problem solving. And I love that we get to spend time together as we do this. I hope that not only is she learning and growing, but that she is building positive skills and memories that she will keep with her for a lifetime.

Thank you to everyone who has shared the information, sent us books, and sent her encouraging words. It means a lot to me as her mom and she has thought it was pretty cool herself. Maybe the younger generation will save us after all.

YA A to Z: R is for Classic Retellings, a list curated by Natalie Korsavidis

Today for YA A to Z, YA Librarian Natalie Korsavidis is curating a list of classic stories retold. 

That’s R for Retellings


Anderson, Jodi Lynn. Tiger Lily. HarperTeen, 2012

Fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily receives special protections from the spiritual forces of Neverland, but then she meets her tribe’s most dangerous enemy–Peter Pan–and falls in love with him. (Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie) Editor’s Note: Because this book contains portrayals of Native Americans, I recommend that you read Debbie Reese’s thoughts on this novel at American Indians in Children’s Literature.


Brownlee, Tiffany. Wrong in all the Right Ways. MacMillan, 2018

Emma’s life has always gone according to her very careful plans. But things take a turn toward the unexpected when she falls in love for the first time with the one person in the world who’s off-limits: her new foster brother, the gorgeous and tormented Dylan McAndrews. (Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte)

Connolly, Kara. No Good Deed. Delacorte Press, 2017

Ellie is USA’s best shot at Olympic gold in archery, but one wrong turn in Nottingham on her day off from the trials and she’s somehow been transported back to the Middle Ages. Amidst an evil sheriff who wants to lock her up, a knight who might not be who he says he is, and an assassination plot, she must not only find her way back to the present, but fight to survive and not change history. (Robin Hood by Howard Pyle)

Donne, Alexa. Brightly Burning. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018

Stella Ainsley leaves poverty behind when she quits her engineering job aboard the Stalwart to become a governess on a private ship. On the Rochester, there’s no water ration, more books than one person could devour in a lifetime, and an AI who seems more friend than robot. But no one warned Stella that the ship seems to be haunted, nor that it may be involved in a conspiracy that could topple the entire interstellar fleet. (Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte)

An Epic Chart of 162 Young Adult Retellings – Epic Reads

Eulberg, Elizabeth. Prom & Prejudice. Point, 2011

For Lizzie Bennett, a music scholarship student at Connecticut’s exclusive, girls-only Longbourn Academy, the furor over prom is senseless, but even more puzzling is her attraction to the pompous Will Darcy, best friend of her roommate’s boyfriend.

Fletcher, Susan E. A Little in Love. Scholastic, 2015

Eponine, the street girl from Les Misérables, tells the story of her life and her unrequited love for Marius, which ultimately leads to her death on the barricades during the short-lived rebellion of June 1832.


George, McKelle. Speak Easy, Speak Love. HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2017

After she gets kicked out of boarding school, Beatrice goes to her uncle’s estate on Long Island. Beatrice’s cousin, Hero, runs a struggling speakeasy out of the basement. Along with Prince, a poor young man determined to prove his worth; his brother, John, a dark and dangerous agent of the local mob; Benedick, a handsome trust-fund kid trying to become a writer; and Maggie, a beautiful and talented singer; Beatrice and Hero throw all their efforts into planning a massive party to save the speakeasy. (Much Ado about Nothing by William Shakespeare)

Howard. A. G.  Roseblood. Harry N. Abrams, 2017

Shortly after arriving at RoseBlood conservatory, Rune starts to believe something otherworldly is indeed afoot. The mystery boy she’s seen frequenting the graveyard beside the opera house doesn’t have any classes at the school, and vanishes almost as quickly as he appears. When Rune begins to develop a secret friendship with the elusive Thorn, who dresses in clothing straight out of the 19th century, she realizes that in his presence she feels cured. (The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux)

Howard, A. G.  Splintered. Amulet Books, 2013

A descendant of the inspiration for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, sixteen-year-old Alyssa Gardner fears she is mentally ill like her mother until she finds that Wonderland is real and, if she passes a series of tests to fix Alice’s mistakes, she may save her family from their curse. (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll)

Howe, Catherine. Conversion. G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2014

When girls start experiencing strange tics and other mysterious symptoms at Colleen’s high school, her small town of Danvers, Massachusetts, falls victim to rumors that lead to full-blown panic. Only Colleen connects their fate to the ill-fated Salem Village, where another group of girls suffered from a similarly bizarre epidemic three centuries ago. (The Crucible by Arthur Miller)

Levithan, David. Marly’s Ghost. Dial Books, 2006

The spirit of Ben’s girlfriend Marly returns with three other ghosts to haunt him with a painful journey though Valentine’s Days past, present, and future. (A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens)

Korman, Gordon. Jake, Reinvented. Hyperion, 2003

Rick becomes friends with the popular new boy, Jake Garrett, football player and host of superlative parties, and in the process discovers the true nature of his schoolmates and uncovers the mystery of Jake’s past. (The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald)

olivia twist

Langdon, Lorie. Olivia Twist. Bloomsbury, 2018

Born in a workhouse and raised as a boy among thieving London street gangs, Olivia is as tough and cunning as they come. When she is taken in by her uncle after a caper gone wrong, her life goes from stealing on the streets to lavish dinners as a debutante in high society. (Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens)

Madsen, Cindi. All the Broken Pieces. Entangled, 2012

Following a car accident, Liv comes out of a coma with no memory of her past and two distinct, warring voices inside her head. As she stumbles through her junior year, the voices get louder until Liv meets Spencer, whose own mysterious past also has him on the fringe. As the voices invade her dreams, and her dreams start feeling like memories, she and Spencer seek out answers. Yet the deeper they dig, the less things make sense. (Frankenstein by Mary Shelley)

Mallory, Alex. Wild. HarperTeen, 2014

When Cade, a boy who has lived in the forest his whole life, saves a regular teen from a bear attack, he is brought into modern civilization for the first time. (Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs)


Monir, Alexandra. Suspicion. Random House, 2014

Seventeen-year-old Imogene Rockford turned away from her family and their English country manor after her parents’ death, but assumes her duty as the new Duchess of Wickersham despite threats and strange occurrences. (Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier)

Nelson, Katie A. Duke of Bannerman Prep. Sky Pony Press, 2017

Follows Tanner McKay, a star on his public high school’s debating team as he ambitiously pursues and wins a scholarship at the elite Bannerman Prep. Debate is Tanner’s ticket out of a life of poverty and family drama and into a new and better future. But when he’s paired with the prep school playboy everyone calls the Duke, Tanner’s plans seem doomed to fail. (The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald)

Oppel, Kenneth. This Dark Endeavor. Simon & Schuster BFYR, 2011

When his twin brother falls ill in the family’s chateau in the independent republic of Geneva in the eighteenth century, sixteen-year-old Victor Frankenstein embarks on a dangerous and uncertain quest to create the forbidden Elixir of Life described in an ancient text in the family’s secret Biblioteka Obscura. (Frankenstein by Mary Shelley)

Peterfreund, Diana. Across a Star-Swept Sea. Balzar + Bray, 2013

Sixteen-year-old Persis Blake struggles to balance her life as a socialite and a secret spy in a future where Regs, or regular people, have power over the Reduced–those genetically engineered or drugged into physical and mental impairments. (The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy)

Shepherd, Megan. The Madman’s Daughter. Balzar + Bray, 2013

Dr. Moreau’s daughter, Juliet, travels to her estranged father’s island, only to encounter murder, medical horrors, and a love triangle. (The Island of Dr. Moreau by H. G. Wells)

Watson, Kate. Seeking Mansfield. Flux, 2017

Finley Price has perfected two things: how to direct a world-class production, and how to fly way, way under the radar. The only person who ever seems to notice Finley is her best friend, Oliver Bertram. If Finley could just take Oliver’s constant encouragement to heart and step out of the shadows, she’d finally chase her dream of joining the prestigious Mansfield Theater. (Mansfield Park by Jane Austen)

Watson, Kate. Shoot the Moon. Flux, 2018

Tate Bertram, a nineteen-year-old gambling addict who, despite almost losing his life over his vice, is not ready to admit he has a problem. (Great Expectations by Charles Dickens)

Zarins, Kim. Sometimes We Tell the Truth. First Pulse, 2016

A group of teens on a bus ride to Washington, DC, each tell a story–some fantastical, some realistic, some downright scandalous–in pursuit of the ultimate prize: an automatic A in civics class. (Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer)


natalieNatalie Korsavidis is the Head of Young Adult at the Farmingdale Public Library. She received her MLS at CW Post University. She is currently President of the Young Adult Services Division of the Nassau County Library Association. She has spoken at New York Comic Con and the Long Island Pop Culture Convention.

Things I Never Learned in Library School: Can You Copyright a Dance Move? A discussion of Fortnite

thingsineverlearnedinlibraryschoolAs someone who works with teens, Fortnite has been on my radar for a while. Last week, Thing 2, who is almost 10, started trying to teach me all of the Fortnite dances so we looked up some YouTube videos for the first time to really look at them. The YouTube video I found showed each Fortnite dance and where in popular culture the dance came from. Epic Games has created a game that includes dance moves that you can trace back to particular people, TV shows, or moments in popular culture. One of the most popular parts of this game was not created by them, but is really just an archive of fun and popular dance moves. Which begs the question: what type of responsibility do the creators of Fortnite have to give proper credit and monetary compensation to the creators of those dances?

fortniteEvery Fortnite Dance and Where it Comes from

It was interesting to me that just a few days later, an article appeared on Forbes asking whether or not you can copyright a dance and if Fortnite should credit the creators of the dances. As a librarian, it was a question I had asked myself while watching the YouTube video. It is a question that a lot of people are asking, and as a librarian, I think it’s an important question for us to pay attention to.

Fortnite Profiting Off Dance Moves: Is It Legal? – Forbes

Fortnite’s use of viral hip-hop dance moves has some artists grumbling

And yet I know that we frequently do dances or the names of dances appear in songs with no such attribution. You can do the mashed potato, you can do the twist . . . but do you know where those dances came from? Who started them? What about twerking? I am a librarian, but I am not a copyright librarian or lawyer, and the discussion of copyrighting dance moves is a new and interesting concept to me.

Who Owns a Dance? The Complexities of Copyrighting Choreography

The world of dance is a world that has always fascinated me personally. I took dance lessons up until the time I graduated high school and I continue to love and support dance. I have seen every season of So You Think You Can Dance (Darius was robbed this past season) and I am also really enjoying the new World of Dance (have you seen Michael Dameski?). And yet, I have never thought about or seen the idea of copyrighting dance moves or choreography discussed. But it does make sense. Every year So You Think You Can Dance talks about their Emmy winning dance routines from previous seasons. And yet every dance contains a variety of moves that are just the basic moves of dance, whether it be a pirouette or the robot. New choreography always contains some of the very basics of dance combines with some new ideas. It’s how you put those traditional moves together in new and exciting ways that matter.

To make the Fortnite situation even more complicated, the discussion is also a discussion about cultural appropriation. You see, most of the dances that appear in Fortnite can be traced back to a variety of black artists or characters, like rappers Snoop Dogg and 2 Milly and characters from shows like Scrubs and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Chance the Rapper in particular has spoken out about Fortnite and the issue of cultural appropriation.

Is ‘Fortnite’ Appropriating Black Culture? – LADbible

‘Fortnite’s’ continued appropriation of culture and lack of diversity

A huge part of teen librarianship is simply talking to teens about the things that they like, and Fortnite is definitely one of those current things. I’m glad that I have this information so I can help prompt my teens to think about the issues of copyright and cultural appropriation. I don’t have answers, but I can help lead my teens into think about the things they love in new and complex ways.

#SVYALit: Laurie Halse Anderson and Eric Devine talk about teaching Speak on NPR


Way back in 2014, which right now seems like a lifetime ago and in a different world, TLT hosted the Sexual Violence in YA Lit Project.  As part of this project, author and teacher Eric Devine wrote a post about teaching the book Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson to his high school students. In the midst of the #MeToo movement and Kavanaugh hearings, author Laurie Halse Anderson and Eric Devine revisit this post and had a discussion on NPR about Speak, teens, and sexual violence. You can listen to that discussion here: https://www.npr.org/2018/09/30/653160035/teaching-high-school-students-about-sexual-assault-through-literature.

Sunday Reflections: On Male Rage

Trigger Warning: Sexual Violence discussed. Also, I break my rule about cussing to make a point.


I was driving in my car listening to the Kavanaugh questioning when Kavanaugh began to speak. Soon after, I saw pictures and video of his testimony. My first thought was: I know this man.

Ask most women, and we know this man.

He is the father who quickly whips his belt out of the loops of his pants when he feels like a child is disrespecting him.

He is the teenage boy that calls you from the end of the street to let you know you stupid cuntwhorebitch that he knows that even though you turned him down for a date, he knows you went on a date and he knows who with and what time you left and what time you came back.

He is the teenage boy that tells you about his girlfriend that he loves then asks you to give him a blow job and calls you a stupid cuntwhorebitch when you refuse.

He is the college friend that says he’ll drive you to the study session and drives right past the place where you’re supposed to study and when you ask him why he is taking you to an abandoned industrial warehouse, he rages and froths at the mouth when you suggest he is anything but a good man.

He is the man waiting at the bus stop who gets up and follows you for blocks and when you call and ask for help, he calls you a stupid cuntwhorebitch.

He is the man at the Reference desk who raged because you refused to answer a personal question and made a complaint to the library board letting it be known that you are a stupid cuntwhorebitch who was rude and disrespectful.

He’s the man who won’t admit he is wrong, even when the evidence is right before his own eyes.

He’s the man who confuses fear for respect.

He’s the man who thinks retribution is justice.

He’s the man who thinks he’s entitled to the things that he wants whenever he wants them and on his own terms.

Rage is a weapon. It is a power move meant to intimidate and control.

But not all rage is unjustified. Jesus raged in the temple and threw over the tables of the money changers. This is one of the most commonly cited examples of justified rage.

I felt rage when my grandmother asked me to ignore my own abuse at the hands of a family member because he was a good man.

I felt rage when my daughter told me what a supposed friend had said to her about what she could and should do with him.

I felt rage every time a friend has called and asked me what to do because they just found out that their sons or daughters had been sexually abused.

I have felt rage.

I have felt rage often since our country elected an admitted sexual predator to office and I have felt rage often when I read yet another newspaper headline about a man found guilty of rape given zero to very little sentence.

The same people who are in the media trying to justify Kavanaugh’s rage have tried to discount female rage for years. Women, you see, are not allowed to feel rage. Serena Williams rages and she is vilified. The black mothers of black teenage boys shot far too young by the police that are supposed to protect them express rage and they are vilified. Women rage against sexual violence and we are vilified.

Not all rage is created equal.

We accept and excuse and justify male rage and it harms us all. The ways that we accept male rage and reject female rage are another example of toxic masculinity.

Men, we are told, are supposed to rage.

Women, we are told, are supposed to smile.

I was not smiling when I heard potential Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh rage. I was shaking in fear. Because I know that man. He’s not fair or balanced or impartial. He has shown us who he is. He has shown us what type of man he is and the truth is, he is exactly the type of man that the patriarchy wants to affirm for this nomination because he represents everything that they hold so dear.

After listening to him rage, there are calls today for women to be silent online. Some have chosen silence, but I am not. We have been silenced for far too long and I can no longer be silent.

I will rage.

I will rage for the past me who was silenced for so very long and for every other victim that has been forced to sit in silence.

I will rage so that any future victims will be able to seek justice and support without blame or ridicule or dismissal.

I will rage so that my daughters will know that it is not okay for a man to fly into a rage and call you a stupid cuntwhorebitch just because you tell him no.

I will rage until we no longer tolerate male rage and vilify female rage.

I will rage until we no longer need to rage because we consider men and women equal, until we have honest conversations about consent and sexual violence, and until I know that the people we elect to represent us are held to the highest of standards and respect and represent all Americans equally and thoughtfully.

Today is not that day and I am not silent.