Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

MakerSpace: Making T-shirts with Infusible Ink

One of the most popular activities I have ever done with teens involves making t-shirts. In fact, I know over 22 different ways to make, manipulate, upcycles and recycle t-shirts and have done so in over 100 programs with 1,000s of teens over the years. My kids wear t-shirts made by me and sometimes made by themselves, sometimes in libraries. So I’m here today to share with you another new and exciting way to make t-shirts with the help of one of my best friends, Krista, and her blog FreakTraveler.com.

Krista and I do a lot of things together, like talk books (she leads the local adult book club I am a part of where I sometimes actually read the book) and we craft together. We both have Silhouette Cameo machines and we’ve made a lot of t-shirts together. This past week we tried the new Cricut Infusible Ink vinyl and pens using our Silhouette Cameo machines (they work!) and I’m going to walk you through it.

To begin with, you’re going to need either a Cricut or a Silhouette Cameo machine. I have a Silhouette Cameo, which is the same machine I have for the Teen MakerSpace and the teen maker activities I do.

The Silhouette Cameo at the Teen MakerSpace at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County, Ohio

You’ll also need the Infusible Ink materials, which are created by Cricut. You can use them with the Silhouette Cameo because it’s not the machine that matters, but the t-shirt. Cricut sells special Infusible Ink products that they recommend you use and these materials include various t-shirts, tote bags and coasters. They are more expensive than many of the blank t-shirts you can buy so we did some research and learned that you can use non Cricut t-shirts, they just need to be 95% cotton and 5% spandex, or as close to this ratio as possible. For the record, it is recommended by Cricut that you use their products to get the best transfer.

Cricut has both pre-printed infusible ink vinyl. Here you see a mermaid pallet in soft, pastel colors.

They also have infusible ink markers that you can make shirts with. There are maybe a dozen different colors and they have two different tip sizes.

The markers allow you to make your own designs and color them in. I’m going to walk you through this in just a moment. The difference between the infusible ink and traditional vinyl is the way that your final product feels. Whereas with traditional HTV (heat transfer vinyl) you can kind of feel the vinyl sitting on top of your shirt, the infusible ink vinyl makes it feel more like traditional screen printing. It creates a soft, smooth finished product. The Teen hates the way traditional HTV shirts feels and won’t wear t-shirts I make for her, but this she likes.

Insubile Ink Vinyl Transfer

To use the pre-printed infusible ink vinyl, you basically just make your design, cut it out and transfer it as you would an HTV shirt. You do have to mirror your image with infusible in vinyl so that the final product is facing the right direction. But it’s just 1) design, 2) cut and 3) transfer with heat. The process is the same, it’s just the feel of the final product that feels different.

Here we are about to transfer the letters that we have cut out using our Silhouette Cameo and the Infusible Ink Vinyl
And this is what the final product looks like. The colors were a little light for the shirt that we used, but the process worked perfectly and we were very happy with the finished product.

Using Invisible Ink Markers

The real change comes here when you are using the infusible ink markers.

First, you are going to make your design in the Silhouette Cameo but instead of cutting it, you have to send it to the printer and print it on regular printer paper. Krista designed this by herself entirely in the Silhouette Cameo studio and then sent it to her printer. Yes, it’s basically a coloring sheet printed on your printer.

You then color it in using the infusible ink markers.

When you are done, you will have something that looks like a coloring book page, but it’s done in infusible ink markers.

You then turn this over onto your shirt and press it the same as you would traditional heat press vinyl. The tutorials we watched said that you need to use a lint roller on your shirt before applying the markers, but we did not. You do want to make sure that you put a piece of cardboard between the two layers of your shirt before pressing because it can bleed through. Thankfully, we did listen to this part of the tutorial because the markers did bleed through onto the cardboard.

You’ll want to press your design at 385% for about 60 seconds. You need a heat press for this one as an iron doesn’t get hot enough. I’ve used a heat press with teens in a Teen MakerSpace and this is 100% the way to go. The instructions said to let your design cool completely before removing the paper. This is what Krista’s final shirt looked like after the transfer:

And here’s a comparison of the design next to the shirt.

This process worked really well and we were very happy with it. I highly recommend it.

For a teen program, I would probably put out a few design sheets printed out for teens to use as well as blank paper so they can make their own designs if desired. You’ll need several packs of markers and you’ll want to pay attention as they do have different tip sizes. They are not inexpensive as a pack of five markers cost about $14.99 at Michaels and the general 40% off coupons that Michael’s often advertises don’t apply to this new product.

Using a Silhouette Cameo to design and cut vinyl to make t-shirts works less well in a program setting unless you have more than one device. So for a teen makerspace where people can walk in and work on their own, vinyl works well. But for a program type of setting, the infusible ink markers would actually work better. There are a lot of ways that you can use this with teens. The end product is pretty cool.

Please go visit my friend Krista’s blog at FreakTraveler.com because she was so awesome to help me put this post together. I even make an appearance here and there.

More about the Silhouette Cameo and Teen MakerSpaces here at TLT:

And for the record, Silhouette Cameo doesn’t pay me for these posts. I just really like using one and have found it works well as a makerspace activity.

The Great A. S. King Book Giveaway in Honor of The Teen’s Birthday

Seventeen years ago today I gave birth to my first child and it was one of the greatest moments of my life. At the time, I had already been a teen librarian for about 10 years and I wondered what it would be like to one day have a teen who could and be a part of my teen program and I’m not going to lie – it’s been pretty awesome!! I love this kid. She’s smart, compassionate and SHE LOVES READING! It’s been a great joy to get to read, share and talk about books with her. In case you couldn’t tell, I freakin’ adore this kid. It’s a genuine honor to get to be her mom.

Earlier this year she decided that author A. S. King was her favorite living author and she went through and read the entire works of A. S. King. You can read all about that here, including what she thinks of each book. I got to take this journey with her and it was a year full of remarkable moments and great conversations for us surrounding one author and one of our favorite things that we share – books! This reading journey has meant so much to me and I will treasure it always.

Still Life with Tornado is one of her favorite A. S. King books

Edgar Allan Poe is her favorite dead author for those of you wondering. She was pretty excited when they read a Poe short story last year and when the English teacher asked if anyone had ever read Poe she got to reply that she had read his entire works.

The Teen at age 13 with her metal Edgar Allan Poe lunchbox

So today in celebration of my kid I’m going to be giving away a complete set of A. S. King paperbacks and a pre-order of her upcoming middle grade book The Year We Fell From Space, which comes out in October. Please note, the paperback of Dig doesn’t come out until April of next year but I’m going to pre-order it as part of the giveaway. Read below for more information. If you are selected as a winner, I will contact you to ask for your mailing address and order the books online and have them mailed directly to you via Amazon. This giveaway is open to U. S. residents only please and one winner will be selected randomly by Rafflecopter. I checked on Amazon and it looks like paperback copies are available as mentioned below.

What’s included in this giveaway? Paperback copies of the following books:

A pre-order of the hardback of The Year We Fell from Space, which comes out in October of 2019

A pre-order of the paperback of Dig, which comes out in April 2020 (the hardback copy is available now if you want to purchase one for yourself)

That is 10 paperback books by author A. S. King and one hardback book, giving one lucky winner an almost complete collection of A. S. King books.

To enter, do the Rafflecopter thingy below by midnight tonight (8/23/2019) and celebrate The Teen and her love for books with me.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

P. S. – I got her consent to do this beforehand because consent is important.

Cindy Crushes Programming: DIY Silhouette Framed Art

Today for Cindy Crushes Programming librarian Cindy Shutts walks us through a quick, easy craft that turns silhouettes into art.

DIY Silhouettes Frames

Supplies:

  • Photo Frames
  • Glitter Glue, light colors
  • Background Paper: I used Handmade Modern Luxe Paper Pad that I got at Target. You could use scrapbook paper.
  • Silhouettes: I use the Silhouette Cameo Machine, but you could make them yourselves. For more information on creating silhouettes, please see Step 1.

Step 1: Make Your Silhouette

Here’s a tutorial that walks you through turning your own photo into a silhouette using the open source (which means free!) online GIMP program. Using this method you would print your silhouette off on regular printer paper and then cut it out by hand.

These various items were made using the GIMP silhouette tutorial above

Here’s a tutorial that walks you through using the Silhouette App on a smart device to create your silhouette. There are several photo apps that you can use to create silhouettes. Once you have created your silhouette using this method, you will print it out using your printer and then cut it out by hand. With this method you will need a way to print from a smart device to a printer.

These silhouettes were made using the Silhouette app. The one on the right is then blended with a space background using the Fused app. Because this graphic is from a different post it was made blue, but black silhouettes often make the most striking contrast.

Here’s a tutorial that walks you through creating a silhouette using the Silhouette Cameo machine. This method provides for better cutting lines as you are having the machine do the cutting for you. You can also find for free or purchase a variety of SVG silhouette graphics online if you don’t want to make the silhouette yourself. This is the method that I used. If you have access to a Silhouette Cameo, this is the quickest and easiest way to make a silhouette. You can even pre-make some popular silhouettes and have them already cut out and ready to use.

Step 2: Frame Your Silhouette

  • Open the picture frame and remove the back.
  • Take your scrapbook paper and trace the back of the frame on it. Make sure to trace it on the back of the paper. I cut it a tiny bit over the line. This will be your background.
  • Cut out the paper in the shape of the back of the frame.
  • Glue the silhouette image on the paper toward the middle.
  • Cover the paper and image with light colored glitter glue.
  • Please let it dry before moving on to the next step.
  • Glue the paper to the back of the frame.
  • After everything is dry, place the back of the frame back into the frame.

Final Thoughts: This was a relatively easy craft. Everyone loved it and wanted to do a second frame. I highly recommend it because it is easy and really attractive.

Tabletop Game Review: Throw Throw Burrito

Throw Throw Burrito is called a “dodgeball card game” and it’s made by the makers of Exploding Kittens, a super fun game that my teens enjoy playing. And it is exactly what it says it is: a card game with a bit of dodgeball thrown in. It’s like a library sanctioned food fight without real food. Here’s how it works.

Each player gets a small pile of cards, which is your hand. You will have two piles of cards, a personal discard pile on your right, which the player to your right will discard into. And your personal discard pile on your left, which the player on your left will draw from. You play around the table and you will pick up a card from the pile on your right, add it to your hand, and then discard to the pile on your left. You are trying to get matching card groups of three and it’s a quick playing game with everyone drawing and discarding at once. There are no turns here, you just go and keep going. You have to pay attention. When you get a group of 3 matching cards, you lay them down as if you were playing Goldfish or Rummy.

Two burritos, which are basically squishees, are placed in the middle of the table. These are your “dodgeballs”. When you get 3 of a kind you place those out of your hand. If you get a brawl, duel or war card the dodgeball – or dodge burrito to be more precise – part comes into play.

For a burrito duel, you pick a player and have a good old fashioned back to back count to three dual Aaron Burr style, but with a squishee burrito. It’s all fun and games. No one gets hurt because it’s a squishee.

If you play a burrito brawl, the player to your left and right are now in a burrito brawl. Both players grab and throw, no formal duel is involved.

For a burrito war, everyone just grabs and throws. If you get hit, you grab a burrito x out of the pot. It’s basically like a strike. More info about this in a moment.

If you grab a burrito when it’s not your turn to grab a burrito or if you get hit with a burrito and lose a duel or brawl, you get a burrito bruise. It’s basically like a strike. Each strike is worth 1 point and you deduct these points from your total number of points at the end of the game to determine the winner.

If all of this sounds confusing, fear not because there are detailed game instructions here with a short video: https://www.throwthrowburrito.com/how-to-play

This is a fun game that I recommend for library programs. Be forewarned, there is a physical aspect of the game so you’ll want to have it in a separate space that allows for the burrito throwing and the raucous laughter that comes with playing.

Book Review: Contagion by Erin Bowman

This past weekend the entire Jensen family drove to Houston to take Thing 2, who is basically space obsessed, to the NASA Johnson Space Center. As we embarked on our trip I thought it would be fun to listen to an audio book that took place in space and Contagion by Erin Bowman was the perfect book for our family road trip.

After receiving a distress call, a corporate mining ship that just happens to be closest is sent to a distant planet. Upon arriving there they find that it looks like everyone is dead. When a sudden storm breaks out, everyone scrambles for cover and one sole survivor is found and the dead rise. That’s right – there are space zombies! And it is epic and awesome.

What follows is an intense scramble to get off the planet before being taken down or infected by a parasite that no one knows anything about and trying to keep the rest of the galaxy safe. At one point there is an intense chase scene that is amplified by the self destruct count down happening every minute. Surviving crew members are racing through a maze of shafts and tunnels being pursued by cosmically supercharged bad guys, some of whom used to be their friends and lovers, and they are racing against a literal countdown to self-destruction. It is a real edge of your seat thriller.

As with any good science fiction, there is also a lot of relational, ethical and political drama. There is the mystery of who knows what, who is or isn’t infected, and what is the moral thing to do when it’s not just your life but potentially the entire galaxy at stake. The book ends with a few twists and turns and set up the next book, Immunity, which is already out and I am on hold for the audio book as we speak. We have to figure out another family trip so we can listen to the book together!

The book itself was good and I highly recommend it, but I also want to take a moment to praise the family book listening experience. This is the second or third time that the entire family has gotten so fully invested in a book that everyone was so into. They didn’t want to turn off the car and each time we got in the car, even to drive 5 minutes down the street to eat, they immediately clamored for me to turn the book back on. It’s not just a good book, it’s a well done audio book.

I will say because we listened to it as a family and you may want to listen to it with your family, there is a character who says the F word a lot. My youngest child is 10 and I just told her to not say that word and we kept listening and it was fine for us. There is also some violence and intense anticipation, for those who would want to know. Though to be fair I do believe I mentioned space zombies.

This was a great, thrilling and entertaining book. I highly recommend it.

Publisher’s Book Description

It got in us

After receiving an urgent SOS from a work detail on a distant planet, a skeleton crew is dispatched to perform a standard search-and-rescue mission.

Most are dead.

But when the crew arrives, they find an abandoned site, littered with rotten food, discarded weapons…and dead bodies.

Don’t set foot here again.

As they try to piece together who—or what—could have decimated an entire operation, they discover that some things are best left buried—and some monsters are only too ready to awaken

Coming Soon: YA Lit on the Small and Big Screen

Like many people, I watch a lot of Netflix. Too much? I mean, it’s possible. But it turns out, a lot of what I’m watching on Netflix came from a YA novel, which should surprise no one.

I first noticed this phenomenon when I saw a movie called iBoy on the streaming service. Isn’t that a YA novel, I thought? And the answer is yes. It’s a book written by Kevin Brooks which was originally published in 2010. I had no idea it had been made into a movie and yet here I was watching it. So today for you I share a round up of current and coming soon small and big screen productions that come from a YA novel. This is by no means a complete list so if you know of more please add them to the list in the comments.

Ranking all the YA novels you can currently watch on Netflix, including Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han https://thewhisp.mommyish.com/entertainment/ranking-netflix-original-ya-novel-adaptations/5/

Trinkets series on Netflix (https://deadline.com/2018/10/netflix-orders-trinkets-series-based-ya-novel-brianna-hildebrand-kiana-madeira-quintessa-swindell-leads-1202483312/)

The Wilds series on Amazon (https://variety.com/2019/tv/news/amazon-the-wilds-series-1203226989/)

Light as a Feather, which you can now see on Hulu, began on Wattpad but you can buy the books and add them to your YA collections now https://www.forbes.com/sites/adamrowe1/2018/10/13/how-light-as-a-feather-traveled-from-a-wattpad-novel-to-a-hulu-tv-show/#450619b95d8c

YA Novel The Stand In is the basis of the Netflix Rom-Com The Perfect Date (https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2019/03/12/1751964/0/en/YA-Novel-The-Stand-In-from-Carolrhoda-Lab-Becomes-the-Netflix-Film-The-Perfect-Date-Starring-Noah-Centineo.html)

Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen coming soon to Netflix (https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/netflix-options-sarah-dessen-ya-novels-sets-along-ride-adaptation-1214672)

Tiny Pretty Things optioned by Netflix (https://deadline.com/2019/08/netflix-orders-tiny-pretty-things-ballet-drama-series-based-book-cast-1202662556/)

The Grishaverse/Shadow and Bone series by Leigh Bardugo (https://deadline.com/2019/01/netflix-orders-shadow-and-bone-series-leigh-bardugo-grishaverse-fantasy-novels-1202532783/)

Aurora Rising optioned https://deadline.com/2019/06/aurora-rising-ya-novel-adapted-television-mgm-tv-1202632339/

Panic by Lauren Oliver is coming to Amazon https://www.hypable.com/lauren-oliver-first-look-deal-amazon/

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi is being made into a movie https://www.tor.com/2019/02/21/children-of-blood-and-bone-movie-adaptation-tomi-adeyemi/

Popsugar has a list of some current and upcoming productions https://www.popsugar.com/entertainment/YA-Novels-Becoming-Movies-34609728

Epic Reads also has a list of all the YA books being made into movies https://www.epicreads.com/blog/book-to-movie-adaptations-progress/

Cheat Sheet has a list of movies coming out in 2020 that are based on YA books https://www.cheatsheet.com/entertainment/books-becoming-movies-2020.html/

Screen Rant has a list of movies in production and some possibilities https://screenrant.com/ya-adaptations-development-possibilities/

Also, if you’re interested, here’s a list of all the teen shows currently on Netflix that may be of interest to teens: https://www.thrillist.com/entertainment/nation/best-teen-shows-on-netflix

To keep up with this information, I use resources like those you see above and The Hollywood Reporter, Coming Soon.net, Hypable, io9.com, The AV Club, MovieInsider.com and the coming soon feature on IMDB.

Kicky’s Post It Note Reviews: In which a Teen tells us what she thinks about Raven, Sweat Pea, Guts and more

The Teen has been read a lot this summer and she’s heart today to share her thoughts with some post it note reviews. She’s brief, concise and to the point. In other words, she’s the exact opposite of me. Because we also talk about the books we read, I sometimes expand on her reviews with some of our follow up conversations.

Publisher’s Book Description

When a tragic accident takes the life of 17-year-old Raven Roth’s foster mom—and Raven’s memory—she moves to New Orleans to recover and finish her senior year of high school.

Starting over isn’t easy. Raven remembers everyday stuff like how to solve math equations and make pasta, but she can’t remember her favorite song or who she was before the accident. And when impossible things start happening, Raven begins to think it might even be better not to know who she was before.

But as she grows closer to her new friends, her foster sister, Max, and Tommy Torres, a guy who accepts her for who she is now, Raven has to decide if she’s ready to face what’s buried in the past… and the darkness building inside her.

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Kami Garcia and first-time graphic novel artist Gabriel Picolo comes this riveting tale of finding the strength to face who you are and learning to trust others—and yourself.

Post It Note Review

“Very quick read. Positive message throughout.”

I asked what the positive message was and The Teen said, “You know how Raven’s dad is a demon. Well she doesn’t want to grow up like her dad and the message is that you don’t have to follow in your parents footsteps, that you can be your own person.”

Publisher’s Book Description

A true story from Raina Telgemeier, the #1 New York 
Times
 bestselling, multiple Eisner Award-winning author of 
SmileSistersDrama, and Ghosts!

Raina wakes up one night with a terrible upset stomach. Her mom has one, too, so it’s probably just a bug. Raina eventually returns to school, where she’s dealing with the usual highs and lows: friends, not-friends, and classmates who think the school year is just one long gross-out session. It soon becomes clear that Raina’s tummy trouble isn’t going away… and it coincides with her worries about food, school, and changing friendships. What’s going on?

Raina Telgemeier once again brings us a thoughtful, charming, and funny true story about growing up and gathering the courage to face — and conquer — her fears.

Post It Note Review

“Shows anxiety very well and supportive family and friends.”

As The Teen herself has an anxiety disorder, it is high praise indeed that she felt that this was a good, honest depiction of anxiety. Thing 2 has also read this book and highly recommends it as well.

Publisher’s Book Description

Barbara Dee explores the subject of #MeToo for the middle grade audience in this heart-wrenching—and ultimately uplifting—novel about experiencing harassment and unwanted attention from classmates.

For seventh grader Mila, it starts with an unwanted hug on the school blacktop.

The next day, it’s another hug. A smirk. Comments. It all feels…weird. According to her friend Zara, Mila is being immature, overreacting. Doesn’t she know what flirting looks like?

But it keeps happening, despite Mila’s protests. On the bus, in the halls. Even during band practice-the one time Mila could always escape to her “blue-sky” feeling. It seems like the boys are EVERYWHERE. And it doesn’t feel like flirting–so what is it?

Mila starts to gain confidence when she enrolls in karate class. But her friends still don’t understand why Mila is making such a big deal about the boys’ attention. When Mila is finally pushed too far, she realizes she can’t battle this on her own–and finds help in some unexpected places.

From the author of STAR-CROSSED, HALFWAY NORMAL and EVERYTHING I KNOW ABOUT YOU comes this timely story of a middle school girl standing up and finding her voice. 

Post It Note Review

“Extremely good & shows how much harassment affects everything.”

When The Teen moved into middle school in the 7th grade, her and her friends really began experiencing a lot of sexual harassment from the boys at school. There were catcalls, swatted behinds and more. When she read the description of this book she told me, “I know this is middle grade and a little young for me, but I really want to read it.” So she did. She said this was a very important and impactful book and she hopes that it is read far and wide.

Publisher’s Book Description

The first middle grade novel from Julie Murphy, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Dumplin’ (now a popular Netflix film), is a funny, heartwarming story perfect for fans of Rebecca Stead, Ali Benjamin, and Holly Goldberg Sloan.

Patricia “Sweet Pea” DiMarco wasn’t sure what to expect when her parents announced they were getting a divorce. She never could have imagined that they would have the “brilliant” idea of living in nearly identical houses on the same street. In the one house between them lives their eccentric neighbor Miss Flora Mae, the famed local advice columnist behind “Miss Flora Mae I?”

Dividing her time between two homes is not easy. And it doesn’t help that at school, Sweet Pea is now sitting right next to her ex–best friend, Kiera, a daily reminder of the friendship that once was. Things might be unbearable if Sweet Pea didn’t have Oscar—her new best friend—and her fifteen-pound cat, Cheese.

Then one day Flora leaves for a trip and asks Sweet Pea to forward her the letters for the column. And Sweet Pea happens to recognize the handwriting on one of the envelopes.

What she decides to do with that letter sets off a chain of events that will forever change the lives of Sweet Pea DiMarco, her family, and many of the readers of “Miss Flora Mae I?”

Post It Note Review

“Super cute and gives a strong message of hope.”

The Teen is a fan of author Julie Murphy so she was pretty happy to read this book. She especially liked how hopeful it was.

Publisher’s Book Description

For fans of Love, Simon and Eleanor and Park, a romantic and sweet novel about a transgender boy who falls in love for the first time—and how first love changes us all—from New York Times bestselling author Amber Smith.

Chris and Maia aren’t off to a great start.

A near-fatal car accident first brings them together, and their next encounters don’t fare much better. Chris’s good intentions backfire. Maia’s temper gets the best of her.

But they’re neighbors, at least for the summer, and despite their best efforts, they just can’t seem to stay away from each other.

The path forward isn’t easy. Chris has come out as transgender, but he’s still processing a frightening assault he survived the year before. Maia is grieving the loss of her older sister and trying to find her place in the world without her. Falling in love was the last thing on either of their minds.

But would it be so bad if it happened anyway? 

Post It Note Review

“I think this relationship was toxic and harmful but at least it’s LGBTQ+ affirming.”

This is one of several books lately where The Teen has come to me upset because she has felt that the relationship presented in the book is toxic and she just couldn’t route for or buy into the relationship. We talk a lot about toxic relationships vs. healthy relationships and I’m thankful every time that books help us have those conversations. She’s conflicted about this book because she was very happy with how LGBTQIA+ affirming it was but didn’t really like the relationship. All the professional reviews I read mention that both participants often are truthful with each other while holding things back and I think it was this aspect that she struggled with. You can read author Amber Smith’s post Out and Proud (On the Page and In Real Life): My Long and Not-Straight Journey to Self-Acceptance here.

Book Review: The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson, reviewed by teen reviewer Elliot

In the first day at his new school, Leo Denton has one goal: to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in his class is definitely not part of that plan- especially because Leo is a trans guy and isn’t out at his new school. Then Leo stands up for a classmate in a fight and they become friends. With Leo’s help and support, the classmate, who is a trans girl, prepares to come out and transition- and to find a new name, Kate. Though Kate and Leo are surrounded by bigots, they have each other, and they have hope in the future.


Elliot’s Thoughts

As someone with a trans experience I was delighted to find a book that followed the journey of not one, but two trans individuals. However, as I delved into this book I quickly realized that the trans representation seemed to be very cliche’ and it was difficult for me to be transported to another world because, for me, this book just seemed like fiction rather than a world that I could escape to.

To start, the characters in this book were not very fleshed out. Most of the characters did not have any backstory and thus lead to them being more like characters than actual people. Even Leo, the character who got the most of a background, still seemed to not be very connected to his past despite being driven by it. 

Characters were often introduced merely as plot devices rather than being used as actual people with connections to others in the story. One of the best examples of this is with Leo’s twin sister, Amber, and his younger sister, Tia. Both of his sisters are mentioned multiple times throughout the novel, but we never learn much about them, their personality, or their relationship to the other characters in the story.

My next biggest problem is how Kate’s identity was explored throughout the novel. The POV rotated between being from Leo’s POV and Kate’s POV and with each rotation, the title of the chapter was labeled as the character’s name to clarify who’s POV the audience was reading. However, instead of titling the chapters from Kate’s POV as “Kate,” author Lisa Williamson titled them as Kate’s birth name, “David.” Perhaps this was because Kate was not out about her gender identity and Williamson just wanted that to be clear to the audience, but to me it just seemed like sloppy trans representation especially because even after Kate came out, her chapters were still labeled as “David.”

One of my last major complaints is that the biggest turning point in the novel was completely spoiled for me…from the description that Williamson gave on the back of the book! Throughout the first half of the novel it is never mentioned that Leo is trans. He blends in and acts just like everybody else until he hooks up with a girl and has to reveal his identity before things get too intimate. If the back of the novel had not already told me that Leo was trans, I would have never suspected a thing and I would have been very pleasantly surprised at this point of the story, but, unfortunately, I did not get to enjoy the reveal and it made me feel disconnected with such an intimate part of Leo’s story arch.

Now that I’ve spent a lot of time harping on this novel, I’d like to take a second to express the things that I DID enjoy about Williamson’s novel. 

From the very beginning of the novel, Williamson made Leo a very mysterious character. His father left when he was a kid and he had a really dark history at his old school which, although he purposefully never talks about that experience, is the reason for his transfer to his new school. This mystery of what happened at Leo’s old school was one of the few things that made me want to keep reading. I wanted to know about Leo’s past- why his father left, where his father went, what happened at his old school, and why Leo is such a hard-shelled person. 

Williamson provided a similar scenario that needed to be answered about Kate’s life. From the very first chapter we learn about Kate’s trans identity and how she has been aware of her identity ever since she was a child. However, Kate never came out to anybody except for her two best friends, Felix and Essie. This leaves us wondering if she’s ever going to come out to her family and how that will change her experience at school and her relationship with her parents. These unanswered questions following Leo and Kate were what kept me reading until the very end, so I have to applaud Williamson for keeping the book interesting. 

In conclusion, I would give Williamson’s The Art of Being Normal a 2 out of 5 stars. It was interesting enough to keep me reading until the very end and I felt somewhat satisfied when I finished. However, there were so many things that I think could have been done better. I appreciate being able to read a story about trans individuals, but I think I set my expectations a little too high. Overall, this novel was good for exposure, and a good place for people to be introduced into the experiences of those with a trans identity; however, I hope that after someone reads this, that they don’t expect Leo and Kate’s stories to represent the whole trans community.

Cindy Crushes Programming: Star Wars Escape Room

Today YA Librarian Cindy Shutts is walking us through her Star Wars themed Escape Room.

To learn more about the basics of hosting an Escape Room, please check out Breakout Edu as they have basic kits that you can use as a foundation. You can also read a couple of previous posts on Escape Rooms here at TLT:

TPiB: Build an Escape Room by Michelle Biwer – Teen Librarian Toolbox

TPiB: Locked in the Library! Hosting an Escape Room by Heather Booth

Cindy Crushes Programming: Hosting a Stranger Things Escape Room

Basic program premise . . .

Your teens will be “locked” in the library and in order to escape, they must unravel a mystery, find the secret codes, and “unlock” the boxes to survive or meet your end goal. Most escape rooms give participants an hour to escape.

Plot: Your planet is about to be exploded by the Death Star. You have 45 minutes to find the key to the escape pod. Use the Force to uncover the clues that will lead you to safety.

Supplies: 

  • You could use the Breakout Edu Kit
  • 4 digit lock
  • 3 digit lock
  • Word lock
  •  Key lock and key
  • Two lock boxes
  • Directional lock
  • Note  ”Rebels must surrender by 12:00 hour or the planet will be destroyed”
  • Note with Riddle
  • Porg
  • Four
  • 4 Wookies with numbers
  • Star Wars planet map printed out from internet
  • Various space and Star Wars props
  • Skelton key labeled escape pod

Room and lock set up

Word lock: Siren.

I will have a riddle “what warns of danger but also can lead to the death of sailors?” Lock on big box. See supplemental materials below.

4 Digit lock: I will hide four Wookies that all have different numbers on them in the room. The number will be 0132. Lock on big box.

3 Digit lock:  I will make a note that says “A space ship enters warp speed and is going 3 times the speed of light 299 792 458 meters per second 3(299792458). How many meters does it go in one second and what are the last three digits of the number”?  899,188,374 (374)

Key lock: Key will be placed place in the big box. Lock will be placed on the small lockbox.  Skelton key labeled escape pods will be placed in small lockbox.

Red Herring: Will be various props and the note that says, “Rebels must surrender by 12:00 hours or the planet will be destroyed”

Directional lock: “S.O. S. This is Rebel Leader Gyn. I am on planet Mooja. We received a message from Arbra that a message from Hok has been received that Javin is in danger from the Deathstar. Evacuation needs help! Anyone who hears this message needs to help the people of Javin!”  Note will correspond with map of Star Wars planets. The combination is Up Down Right Left. Lock on big box.

Final Thoughts: This was a fun adventure! The teens thought it was way harder than the last Escape Room and in fact only got the Escape Room done with less than 30 seconds to go.

Supplemental Notes and Materials

Read Wild: Sarah Mulhern Gross Introduces Us to the Concept of Citizen Science

As warmer weather spreads across the country, I have been thinking about ways to get my students outside during their summer vacation. We are doing a joint biology/English field study this week as part of my literature and the land unit, but I know that most of my students spend little to no time outside if they aren’t forced to do so.  One possible solution to this problem is to get students involved in citizen science projects (Jenkins, 2011). Citizen science projects engage non-scientists in scientific endeavors to address questions raised by researchers (Cooper, Dickinson, Phillips, & Bonney 2007). Research has shown that young people who participate in citizen science projects are more connected to the environment and more scientifically literate (Edwards, 2014).  While there is a lack of research on the effects of citizen science on adolescents, due to its recent emergence in science classrooms, one can hope that it will have the same positive effects. If students are not spending time outdoors perhaps a citizen science project will motivate them to do so.  

There are hundreds of citizen science projects out there that teens and adults can become involved in.  Citizen Scientists: Be a Part of Scientific Discovery from Your Own Backyard by Loree Griffin Burns is a fantastic introduction to projects like the Audubon Bird Count and FrogWatch USA. My personal favorite is tagging monarch butterflies!  Once you are ready to dive into citizen science I recommend checking out Scistarter for links to projects looking for citizen scientists.  

Here are a few citizen science/book pairings that could inspire you and your teens to get involved and maybe even spend some time outside:

A 52-Hertz Whale by Bill Sommer and Natalie Haney Tilghman and Orcasound: In Sommer and Tilghman’s book, the main character is tracking a whale as part of a citizen science project.  Interested in doing something similar? Orcasound allows interested citizen scientists to listen to live hydrophones in the Pacific Northwest and log any whale sounds heard.  The project aims to help preserve the population of orcas in the area where the underwater microphones are deployed. 

Silhouette of a Sparrow by Molly Beth Griffin and Battling Birds and/or Feederwatch: Garnet Richardson, a budding ornithologist, is sent to a lake resort to avoid a 1926 polio outbreak. Interested readers can learn more about ornithology by participating in any of Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology citizen science projects. Battling Birds and Feederwatch are my favorites.  Battling Birds allows viewers to watch Cornell’s birdfeeder cams and contribute questions and observations. Feederwatch is a  winter project (November-April) that asks interested citizen scientists to set up bird feeders and periodically count the birds they see. 

Trickster edited by Matt Dembicki and Canid Camera : Trickster is a graphic collection that brings together 21 Native American storytellers and twenty-one comic artists. Each story focuses on a different trickster character including coyotes, ravens, rabbits, raccoons, dogs, wolves, and beavers. When I read the book I was immediately drawn to the wide variety of species represented in different native cultures.  It made me think of the Canid Camera project in NY state.  The project was the focus of a recent article in The New York Times, which is how I learned about it, and is currently seeking volunteers.  Volunteers can sort through trail camera photos and ID the species seen.  A field guide is provided and for students who live in the northeastern part of the US it may help them learn more about the animals in their own area!

Hurricane Season by Nicole Melleby and SKYWARN: In Hurricane Season, Fig’s life becomes infinitely more stressful when hurricane season hits the Jersey Shore.  She and her father already dealt with one storm, but she knows that the weather can make her dad act irrationally. She spends a lot of time watching the weather and weather reports.  Weather aficionados ages 16+ can become trained SKYWARN Weather Spotters in the U.S. thanks to NOAA. Check out their website for info on free training classes.  This is a great citizen science opportunity for high school students!

These are just a few citizen science projects that are out there.  Read a book that deals with citizen science or inspires citizen science action to block out one of the #readwild bingo squares for our challenge.  Share your favorite citizen science projects and books that might inspire action in the comments!

Cooper, C. B., Dickinson, J., Phillips, T., & Bonney, R. (2007). Citizen Science as a Tool for Conservation in Residential Ecosystems. Ecology & Society, 12(2), 1-11.

Edwards, R. (2014). Citizen science and lifelong learning. Studies In The Education Of Adults, 46(2), 132-144.

Jenkins, L. l. (2011). Using citizen science beyond teaching science content: a strategy for making science relevant to students’ lives. Cultural Studies Of Science Education, 6(2), 501-508.