Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

First Look: Shadow of the Batgirl by Sarah Kuhn

What do Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Ben Affleck and Robert Pattinson all have in common? They all have or will play Batman, which has been rebooted what seems like a million times on the big screen. But in the comic books, there are a lot of worlds in which “the bat” is a woman. You can currently see Batwoman on the CW, for example. But what if the mantle of the bat was taken on by a teenage girl? Not just any girl, but a teenage assassin! We are so excited to share this first sneak peek at Shadow of the Batgirl by Sarah Kuhn and Nicole Goux with you. After the synopsis, check out a couple of pages from this exciting new graphic novel that comes out today from DC Comics!

Cassandra Cain, teenage assassin, isn’t exactly Batgirl material…not yet, at least. But when Batgirl goes missing from Gotham, can Cassandra defy her destiny and take on a heroic mantle of her very own?

Cassandra Cain is the daughter of super-villains and a living weapon trained from birth to be the ultimate assassin. But that doesn’t mean she has to stay that way, right? She’ll have to go through an identity crisis of epic proportions to find out. But how do you figure out who you’re supposed to be when you’ve been trained to become a villain your entire life?

After a soul-shattering moment that sends Cass reeling, she’ll attempt to answer this question the only way she knows how: learning everything she possibly can about her favorite hero–Batgirl. But Batgirl hasn’t been seen in Gotham for years, and when Cass’s father threatens the world she has grown to love, she’ll have to step out of the shadows and overcome her greatest obstacle–that voice inside her head telling her she can never be a hero.

Sarah Kuhn, author of Heroine Complex and I Love You So Mochi, takes on her favorite hero of color for a new audience of readers. Featuring the edgy art style of Nicole Goux, Shadow of the Batgirl tells the harrowing story of a girl who overcomes the odds to find her unique identity. 

This graphic novel is a part of DC Comics line in which the background stories of various characters are explored in fun, new and interesting ways. You can see more of their upcoming titles here.

You can add Shadow of the Batgirl on Goodreads or follow the buy links on Goodreads to purchase it today. You can also visit your local indie bookstore to purchase this title and don’t forget to request it at your local public library!

Book Review: The Life Below by Alexandra Monir

As Naomi lifts off into space and away from a rapidly deteriorating Earth, she watches the world fade away, and along with it Leo, a Final Six contestant she grew close to during training. Leaving Earth behind is hard, but what’s ahead, on Europa, could be worse. The International Space Training Camp continues to hide the truth about what happened to the last group of astronauts who attempted a similar colonization but failed mysteriously. With one shot—at this mission and to Europa—Naomi is determined to find out if there is alien life on Europa before she and her crew get there.

Leo, back on Earth, has been working with renegade scientist Dr. Greta Wagner, who promises to fly him to space where he can essentially latch on to Naomi’s ship. And if Wagner’s hypothesis is right, it isn’t a possibility of coming in contact with extraterrestrial life on Europa—it’s a definite. With Naomi unaware of what awaits, it’s up to Leo to find and warn her and the others.

With all the pieces of their journey finally clicking into place, everything else starts to fall apart. A storm threatens to interfere with Leo’s takeoff, a deadly entity makes itself known to the Final Six, and the questions the ISTC has been avoiding about the previous failed mission get answered in the worst way possible. If the dream was to establish a habitable domain on Europa… the Final Six are about to enter a nightmare.

Karen’s Thoughts:

When we left our crew at the end of The Final Six, the teens had gone through an intense selection process and some teens were chosen to go to space to save the human race. We pick up at lift off and the action does not disappoint. There is sabotage, political intrigue, lies, and a group of desperate teens trying to survive in a situation that they are in no way truly equipped to survive. It’s edge of your seat on every page.

These teens are on a mission to save the entire human race, but what happens if the information they have is a lie? And how do they know who to trust? It’s an important question as the teens – and the reader – are racing to discover what their truth is and it’s one of the primary driving forces of this novel. This group of teens are hurtling through space and the only information they have are the voices of a select few adults in their comms and two A.I. They don’t even know if they can trust each other.

Down below, Leo is enlisted by a rogue scientist who claims that the information the teens in space possess is faulty and that their lives and the fate of the entire mission is at risk. He is quickly trained and launched into space – alone I might add – in a desperate mission to correct the faulty data and save the girl he loves, Naomi. That’s right, there’s a rewarding and moving love story the compels a lot of the action.

The adults in this series are truly the worst, but the action is non stop and it’s a fun read with environmental themes that are relevant to our times. Fans of Doctor Who, science fiction, and all things space will enjoy this duology.

Recommended. This book publishes on February 18, 2020 from HarperTeen. I read an digital advanced reader on Edelweiss.

Adult – One of the Biggest Obstacles to RevolTeens, by Christine Lively

If teens are going to change the world, and they absolutely are – they always do – they need the adults who love them to support them and have their backs, while giving them the space, time, and room to revolt. If our hope is that our RevolTeens will challenge injustices, solve the problems we’ve failed to solve – or that we’ve caused, and generally improve the future then we need to remove one of their biggest problems – the adults who love them.

When my kids were small, we had friends, family, and other assorted adults to spend time with them. When people showed an interest in playing with our kids or doing things with them, my mantra was, “Kids can’t have too many people who love them in their lives.” I am certain that I was right about that. Those adults and that time they spent with my children was important and showed the kids that they were important, interesting and lovable to people who weren’t their parents. Those relationships were essential to them developing confidence, self-worth, and happiness. 

Working with and raising teens, I’ve realized that kids’ need for adults who value them doesn’t change. What changes is adults’ ideas of what a kid needs. However great and noble our intentions, many of us somewhere along the line have changed from fans and cheerleaders when they are little to overzealous advisers and nosy counselors as those same kids enter adolescence.

Making a kid’s childhood happy and joyful is usually simple. Most of us see the children in our lives and immediately feel joyful, hopeful, and excited about this time in their lives. We also feel confident that we can engage with them and make them happy. Playing, singing, celebrating, and just being with a little kid is a blast. They know what they want and their needs seem clear cut. Play, sleep, eat, repeat.

The teen years seem far more mysterious. So many of us have conflicted and frustrating memories of our own adolescence. The common mythology is that each person’s life trajectory is determined by their performance in high school, we want nothing more than to set them up for maximum success. We advise them, coach them, harangue them, and alienate them at just the time when they need as many allies and fans on their side than they did as toddlers and young children.

Are our intentions good? Probably. Does that matter? No.

If you are a parent of a teen or someone who works with teens, you’ve felt it and you’ve seen it. We want them to read the right books, take the right classes, participate in all the right extracurricular activities, play the right sports, have the right friends, attend the best schools, and “be successful.” Just writing that sentence made me stressed out and tired. If the kids we care about are academically minded, that whole list is tiring. If the kids we care about have any challenges, or don’t have any easily identified strengths in adolescence, we start feeling desperate to help them “stand out” and excel. It can paralyze them, make them feel even more alone, and cause rifts in the relationships they most depend on.

I have a son who is a junior in high school. He’s overwhelmed with all the “life altering decisions” he feels he has to make in the next year. We want him to be happy and successful. He and I were having a conversation about college options, gap years, and other things he needs to consider when he shouted, “Mom, I have no idea what I’m doing!” It was an epiphany moment for me. I took a second and looked at him and said, “Nobody knows what they’re doing. I don’t know what I’m doing. If you stopped any adult on the street and asked if they feel like they know what they’re doing, I bet nearly all of them would say no.” Yet, we continue to give our teens this overwhelming pressure to not only know what they’re doing but also the pressure to constantly be working toward their goals and to always be moving toward success. We become a menacing kind of Greek chorus of teachers, counselors, family, and every other adult in their lives constantly asking them where they’re want to go to college, if they’ve finished their homework, and on and on…. No wonder they’re revolting!

People will often point out that most of the sweeping revolutionary ideas, social movements, and cultural changes in our country have been started by and sustained by young people. Teens and young adults who aren’t fully invested in maintaining the status quo and who want to fix injustices are the ones who not only speak up, but who refuse to be quiet until the problem is addressed and fixed. Countless young adult books, teen centered movies, and teen fantasies center on teens upending the adults who are holding them back.

It’s a well used theme for good reason. If the adults close to teens are one of the obstacles in their lives, they have to spend time and energy fighting us before they can ever take on the world. If we stand with them and encourage them, they can take on the world with support and advice from people who love them. We can make a difference for teens who want to change the world by not adding to their stress and supporting their revolutions instead of becoming another obstacle for them to overcome.

What can we do?

Stop offering (or forcing) help on teens. Instead, we can all focus on being available and curious. Being a student is an overwhelming battle every day to prove yourself and your worth. Teens are literally graded on their performance multiple times each day. Asking them if they need help is always a good idea, and honoring their answer is the very best way to be helpful. Help isn’t always helpful, but honoring requests is.

Stop framing their interests as potential ways for them to excel and stand out. We all give a lot of lip service to the value of failing or dabbling in the things that interest us. As an adult, I have tried my hand at bread making, knitting, drawing, writing fiction, running a home business, and many other things. I’ve failed at all of them and learned from those failures and attempts. When I did try, the only thing at stake was a little bit of money and some of my pride. I never felt that my success or failure in any of those things would determine the trajectory of my whole future. Teens need to feel that, too. Find ways to help and support them in letting go of those expectations.

Start appreciating them again. We often know what we love about our teens, but are so busy helping them “get good” at things that we forget to celebrate those qualities that we love. We always ask toddlers and little kids to show us their newest acquired skills and we’re quick to marvel at nearly their every move. We can start doing that with teens and again focus on helping them enjoy and experiment just for the pursuit of joy rather than to find something to add to their college applications.

Listen, listen, listen, and only give advice when they ask or are clearly dealing with a critical situation. My daughter, who is now 22 and always patient with me, has taught me this skill. It was so hard to learn and practice. When my children come to me to tell me about a problem, my immediate reaction is to offer to help, offer solutions, and to generally try to fix it. What she has had to tell me many times is that she just needs me to listen. Listening is what they need. They get more advice, help, and instruction than they could ever follow. They need to be heard and feel heard so they can start to figure things out themselves.

RevolTeens are not a new phenomenon. They are a time honored force for change. The best way for all of us well-meaning adults to help them is to not become an obstacle ourselves, but to support them, love them, and let them lead the way.

About Christine Lively

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

#RethinkAmerican: Part three in the Great Stories Club series, by Lisa Krok

Back in October and December, I posted the first two parts of this series. These can be found in the links below:

Part one: Racial Healing Circles   Part two: #RethinkLabels

These were developed in conjunction with ALA’s Great Stories Club grant and the Diversity Center of Northeast Ohio (DCNEO), who funded my project with a matching grant. Together with DCNEO, we provided programming that correlates to the themes of our Great Stories Club books. All book clubs and programs are held at the Harvey Hub. This is a collaborative effort between Morley Library and Harvey High School that is new this past school year. Mondays through Thursdays, the high school and the library each provide a staff member after dismissal time in the school library media center for about three hours. This provides opportunities for programming, book clubs, crafts, homework help, and more.

We meet first to discuss the designated books, and then follow up a week later with DCNEO  that corresponds to the themes of the books. The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon was selected from the choices Great Stories Club provided, due to its themes of immigrants and deportation. There is a large immigrant population at the school we work with, so this is an important and relatable topic for the teens. When we met to examine the book together, I showed the group photos of Nicola Yoon and her husband, author David Yoon. They immediately noticed that Nicola is a Black woman, and David is a Korean-American man, just like Natasha and Daniel, the main characters in the book. This fascinated the crowd, and seemed to make the book more authentic to them, since it was inspired by the author’s real life.

The following week, we met again to dig deeper into the themes of the book with DCNEO for the #RethinkAmerican program. We began with an icebreaker called Cross the Line. This involved Simone Hutchings, our DCNEO leader, stating “Stand up if you…” and a situation. The cases states were things like:

-Stand up if you were born in the United States

-Stand up if you were born in another country

-Stand up if you are proud to be an American

-Stand up if you have ever told a joke that could be considered racist or offensive

-Stand up if you speak more than one language

…and many more. This sparked interesting conversations afterwards.

*Everyone was given the right to privacy if they did not feel comfortable disclosing a particular situation.

Next, giant pads of paper were hung in three areas of the room. Students were instructed to think about what being an American means for different groups: the media, their families, and themselves. The group broke up and moved around the room to write their ideas on each sheet. The photos below show their varied responses.

We debriefed afterwards to point out similarities/differences amongst the three pages. Next, we translated those ideas to what we see as American values and our own personal values. Each student was given the sheet below, and volunteers shared their thoughts.

We concluded with a brief video and discourse. Similar to the #RethinkLabels video from part two in our series, DCNEO has created a #RethinkAmerican video, also. View it here: #RethinkAmerican video  (three minutes).

Many thanks to the American Library Association’s Great Stories Club and the Diversity Center of Northeast Ohio!

-Lisa Krok Lisa Krok, MLIS, MEd, is the adult and teen services manager at Morley Library and a former teacher in the Cleveland, Ohio, area. She is the author of Novels in Verse for Teens: A Guidebook with Activities for Teachers and Librarians, forthcoming from ABC-CLIO in March 2020. Lisa’s passion is reaching marginalized teens and reluctant readers through young adult literature. She was appointed to the 2019-2020 YALSA Presidential Advisory Task Force, served two years on the Quick Picks for Reluctant Reader’s team, and is on the BFYA committe. Lisa can be found being bookish and political on Twitter @readonthebeach.

Tale as Old as Time: Fairy Tales, Mythology and Folktales Retold – a booklist for the 2020 SRP reading theme

In preparation for the upcoming summer reading program theme Imagine Your Story, I recently spent some time working on a comprehensive booklist of fairy tale, folktale and mythology retellings. I used as my starting point this great post from Epic Reads, the source of the graphic below. I had help from my friends and fellow librarians Rachel Strolle, who blogs at Rec it Rachel ,and Mary Hinson, who blogs at Mary Had a Little Book Blog. The original Epic Reads post appeared in 2014, so together the three of us worked to add new MG and YA titles posted since that date.

Image Source: Epic Reads

For the purposes of this post I looked at MG (Middle Grade) and YA (Young Adult) titles. This is probably not a complete list so if you have titles to add, please leave a comment and let us know what age group and category the title you are mentioning would fall under. Thank you!

Various Popular Series that Cover Multiple Fairy Tales

Disney’s Twisted Fairy Tales by Liz Braswell

  • Part of Your World (The Little Mermaid)
  • As Old as Time (Beauty and the Beast)
  • Once Upon a Dream (Sleeping Beauty)
  • A Whole New World (Aladdin)
  • Straight on ‘Til Morning (Peter Pan)

Disney Villain series by Serena Valentino

  • Fairest of All (Snow White)
  • The Beast Within (Beauty and the Beast)
  • Poor Unfortunate Soul (The Little Mermaid)
  • Mistress of Evil (Sleeping Beauty)
  • Mother Knows Best (Rapunzel)
  • The Odd Sisters

Whatever After series by Sarah Mlynowski (Middle Grade)

  • Fairest of All (Snow White)
  • If the Shoe Fits (Cinderella)
  • Sink or Swim
  • Dream On
  • Bad Hair Day
  • Cold as Ice
  • Beauty Queen
  • Once Upon a Frog
  • Genie in a Bottle
  • Sugar and Spice
  • Two Peas in a Pod
  • Seeing Red
  • Spill the Beans

The Grimm Series by Adam Gidwitz (Middle Grade)

  • A Tale Dark and Grimm
  • In a Glass Grimmly
  • The Grimm Conclusion

Descendants by Melissa De La Cruz* (Middle Grade)

  • The Islde of the Lost
  • Return to the Isle of the Lost
  • Rise of the Isle of the Lost
  • Escape from the Isle of the Lost

The Kingdom Keepers by Ridley Pearson (Middle Grade)

  • Disney After Dark
  • Disney at Dawn
  • Disney in Shadow
  • Power Play
  • Shell Game
  • Dark Passage
  • The Insider

Various Fairytale Retellings and Series by Fairy Tale


  • The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury – Aladdin

Beauty & the Beast

  • East by Edith Pattou
  • Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George
  • Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley
  • Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
  • Spirited by Nancy Holder
  • Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier
  • The Princess and the Hound by Mette Ivie Harrison
  • Stung by Bethany Wiggins
  • The Hollow Kingdom by Clare B. Dunkle
  • Beastly by Alex Flinn
  • Beauty by Robin McKinley
  • Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
  • Beast by Brie Spangler
  • A Cruse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer
  • Of Curses and Kisses by Sandhya Menon (this book comes out in 2020)
  • Everlost (The Skinjacker series) by Neal Shusterman
  • Beastkeeper by Cat Hellison
  • Dark Triumph (His Fair Assassin) by Robin LaFevers
  • Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones
  • Bookish and the Beast by Ashley Poston
  • Among the Beasts and Briars by Ashley Poston
  • The Queen’s Council by Emma Theriault


The Frog Prince (The Princess and the Frog)

Goose Girl

  • Bloodleaf by Crystal Smith
  • Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
  • Thorn by Intisar Khanani

Hansel and Gretel

The Little Mermaid

Little Red Riding Hood



  • A Curse As Dark As Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce
  • Spinners by Donna Jo Napoli
  • Rump by Leisl Shurtliff (MG)
  • The Crimson Thread by Suzanne Weyn
  • The Wishgranter (Ravenspire #2) by C. J. Redwine

Sleeping Beauty

The Snow Queen

  • Cold Spell by Jackson Pearce
  • Winter’s Child by Cameron Dokey
  • Stork by Wendy Delsol
  • The Shadow Queen by CJ Redwine
  • Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu (MG)
  • The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman
  • The Snow Queen series by K. M. Shea
  • Stealing Snow by Daniella Page

Snow White

Snow White and Rose Red

  • Blanca y Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore
  • Circuse Rose by Betsy Cornwell

 Twelve Dancing Princesses

Other Series related to Fairy Tales or Fairy Tale Like

  • Once Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris (MG)
  • Princess Academy by Shannon Hale (MG)
  • Hamster Princess by Ursula Vernon (MG)
  • Septimus Heap by Angie Sage (MG)
  • Twice Upon a Time by Wendy Mass (MG)
  • Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke (MG)
  • The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer (MG)
  • The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani (MG, not recommended by several people for the way it discusses body image and racism)
  • The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdeah – 1,001 Nights
  • Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh – Shahrazad story
  • The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale – Grimm’s Fairy Tale (MG)
  • The Princess and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang (graphic novel)
  • The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert – General fairy tale themes
  • The Girl who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill (MG)
  • The Ever Afters series by Shelby Bach (MG)
  • Ever Cursed by Corey Ann Haydu (this book comes out in 2020)

Books about Fairies in General

  • The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
  • The Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa
  • Wicked Lovely series by Melissa Marr
  • Need series by Carrie Jones
  • Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer
  • The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare
  • Hex Hall series by Rachel Hawkins
  • The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff
  • The Folk of the Air series by Holly Black
  • Mirrorworld series by Cornelia Funke
  • The Spiderwick Chronicles by Ton DiTerlizzi (MG)
  • Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull
  • Betwixt by Tara Bray Smith
  • The Faerie Path series by Allan Frewin Jones
  • Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paoini
  • The Falconer series by Elizabeth May

Books about Dragons

  • Eragon (The Inheritance Cycle) by Christopher Paolini
  • Seraphina by Rachel Harman
  • Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
  • Firelight by Sophie Jordan
  • Talon by Julie Kagawa
  • The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede
  • Scorched by Mari Mancusi
  • The Last Dragon Chronicles by Chris d’Lacey
  • Fallen Isle series by Jodi Meadows
  • Fire & Heist by Sarah Beth Durst
  • The Aurelian Cycle (Fireborne is book #1) by Rosaria Munda
  • Spark by Sarah Beth Durst (MG)
  • The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill (MG, GN)
  • Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin (MG)
  • Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells
  • Inkmistress by Audrey Coulthurst

Books about Mermaids in General

  • The Syrena Legacy (Of Poisedon is book #1) by Anna Banks
  • Forgive My Fins by Tera Lynn Childs
  • Tempest by Tracy Deebs
  • Waterson by Amanda Hocking
  • The Siren by Kiera Cass
  • Sirena by Donna Jo Napoli
  • Waterfire Saga (Deep Blue is book #1) by Jennifer Donnelly
  • The Tail of Emily Windsnap by Liz Kessler (MG)
  • Aquamarine by Alice Hoffman
  • The Vicious Deep by Zoraida Cordova
  • Undertow series by Michael Buckley
  • A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow
  • Songs from the Deep by Kelly Powell

Books about Unicorns in General

  • The Unicorn Rescue Society by Adam Gidwitz
  • Beasts of Olympus: The Unicorn Emergency by Lucy Coats
  • The Unicorn Quest by Kamilla Benko
  • Here There Be Unicorns by Jane Yolen
  • Drink, Slay, Love by Sarah Beth Durst
  • Rampant (Killer Unicorns) by Diana Peterfreund
  • Unicorn Chronicles by Bruce Coville (MG)
  • Mirrorworld series by Cornelia Funke
  • The Dark Lord Clementine by Sarah Jean Horowitz (MG)
  • Zombies vs. Unicorns

Classic Literature and Folktale Retellings

Alice in Wonderland

East of the Sun, West of the Moon

  • East by Edith Pattou
  • Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer


  • Reflection by Elizabeth Lim – Mulan
  • Spin the Dawn (The Blood of Stars #1)  by Elizabeth Lim (Mulan)
  • The Magnolia Sword by Sherry Thomas

Peter Pan

The Prince and the Pauper

  • Princess and the Fangirl by Ashley Poston

Robin Hood

  • Hood by Jenny Elder Moke (this book comes out in 2020)
  • Sherwood by Meagan Spooner

Other Classic Lit Retellings

  • Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige –– Retelling of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum
  • The Great Hunt by Wendy Higgins –– Retelling of The Singing Bone by the Brothers Grimm

Folktale Retellings

  • Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste – Haitian folktale “the Magic Orange Tree” (MG)
  • Paola Santiago and the River of Tears by Tehlor Kay Mejia (Mexican folklore, 2020 publication date)

MG and YA Retellings: MYTHOLOGY

African Mythology Retellings

  • Zorah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu
  • Children of Blood and Boneod and Bone (Legacy of Orisha) by Tomi Adeyemi
  • Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia (African gods) (MG)

Asian Mythology Retellings

  • Eon by Alison Goodman
  • Prophecy by Ellen Oh
  • Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon
  • The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F. C. Yee (The Monkey King)
  • The Magnolia Sword: A Ballad of Mulan by Sherry Thomas
  • A Thousand Beginning and Endings short story collection edited by Ellen Oh
  • The Dragon Warrior by Katie Zhao
  • Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee
  • Wicked Fox by Kat Cho

Egyptian Mythology Retellings

Norse Mythology Retellings

Greek / Roman Mythology Retellings

Hades and Persephone Retellings

Cupid / Psyche Myth Retellings

  • Psyche in a Dress by Francesca Lia Block
  • Destined by Jessie Harrell
  • Lovestruck by Kate Watson
  • Only Everything (True Love #1) by Kerian Scott
  • Cupidity by Caroline Goode
  • Thwonk by Joan Bauer

Helen of Troy Retellings

Rick Riordan Books

Percy Jackson & the Olympians

  1. The Lightning Thief (2005)
  2. The Sea of Monsters (2006)
  3. The Titan’s Curse (2007)
  4. The Battle of the Labyrinth (2008)
  5. The Last Olympian (2009)

The Heroes of Olympus

  1. The Lost Hero (2010)
  2. The Son of Neptune (2011)
  3. The Mark of Athena (2012)
  4. The House of Hades (2013)
  5. The Blood of Olympus (2014)

Rick Riordan Presents

  • Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi
  • The Storm Runner by J. C. Cervantes (Mayan gods)
  • Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee (Fox spirit)
  • Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez (Cuban science fiction)
  • Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia (African gods)
  • Race to the Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse (Navajo gods, not recommended by Dr. Debbie Reese)

As I mentioned above, although we put a lot of time and effort into researching this list, I’m sure we are missing titles and if you would like to add to the list please feel free to do so in the comments. Also, if you find any books that may be in the wrong category or that should not be on this list for one reason or the other, please let me know in the comments. You’ll note that there are a few titles on the list that have a note that they are not recommended, I chose to include this note rather then just leave the titles off of the list so that those who may not be aware of the concerns may investigate those concerns.

Sunday Reflections: The Curious Case of the Death of Nancy Drew

Trigger Warning: Sexual abuse and the abuse and killing of women are mentioned in this post

Nancy Drew has been on my mind a lot lately. Recently, Thing 2 found and started watching the new Nancy Drew series on the CW. So when we went to an amazing used book store on Monday, she was excited to find row upon row of Nancy Drew books. “Can I buy one?”, she asked. She walked out with two.

Anytime my child with dyslexia who hates to read asks for a book, I feel like saying no is the wrong answer. So we bought them. They sit on the top of her TBR pile, waiting to be devoured by this kid who was excited to find a female sleuth to inspire her. Ninety years later and Nancy Drew is still inspiring little girls everywhere. This matters.

Which brings us to Friday, where I stumbled across the news that for the 90th anniversary of Nancy Drew comic book writers decided to . . . kill her? And have the Hardy Boys investigate her death? So for the 90th year celebration of Nancy Drew, we are going to learn more about Nancy Drew by killing her off and letting two male characters investigate her death? I’m going to give this a no. And yes, I understand how comic books work.

Don’t get me wrong, although both of my kids love mysteries and thrillers, I live in the world of science fiction and fantasy where no one stays dead. So I get that this is just a device to sell books and tell a story. It’s just not an approach that I personally like and I would like to explain why.

Several weekends ago the girls and I sat down and tried to find a new mystery thriller to binge watch. We started three and only watched about the first 15 minutes because they all started the same. Scene: a woman is running nude and barefoot (through a forest, on a beach, down a dark street, the setting doesn’t matter) and she is bleeding and in peril. The police – more often than not a man – begin investigating her death. As a woman raising daughters, I can’t help but notice that most crimes in our media revolve around the sexual assault and murder of women. Women see a lot of female peril in the media and we live our real lives in a lot of fear of being stalked, assaulted, raped and attacked. We are most likely to be killed by a man we know, love and trust. We get it, we know that we are in peril. We don’t need the constant reminders from the media. It’s exhausting.

It feels like no one knows how to write a mystery or a story about women without involving their abuse and murder. We kill women so much in fiction – and yes, I know this is a sad reflection of real life – that I doubt anyone thought twice about killing Nancy Drew. But they should have.

Nancy Drew debuted as a fictional character in 1930. Women had only had the right to vote for 10 years at this point. And here when I say women I mean white women, women of color still wouldn’t have the right to vote until decades later. Submission and traditional feminine roles were still considered the law of the land. The core cannon of literature was (and one can argue still is) dominated by old, white men. And yet here was a teenage girl going around and investigating mysteries. It was, is and will always be revolutionary. The character of Nancy Drew matters.

Nancy Drew is an important part of the feminist movement. The fact that her stories exist is profoundly important to generations of women. And she continues to be important to all the little girls who are still finding her.

It’s also interesting to note that this newest book in which Nancy Drew dies so that the Hardy Boys can investigate her death is written by . . . men. I learned this the same week that I learned that for the past several decades the V C Andrews books were written by a man as is the completion of the most recent Jane Austen novel. There are a lot of men writing these properties that were started by and revolutionary for women.

When I talked about how upset I was about this recent development on Twitter, I got some DMS and replies that said things like, “Now you know how the Star Wars fans feel.” They were pointing out the fact that Rey dominates the recent Star Wars films and takes over the role of savior originally given to Luke Skywalker. Except if you look closely at the new Star Wars films, Rey is one character in a main cast that also involves Kylo Ren, Poe and Finn. So out of the 4 main characters of this franchise, there is one woman. Rose Tico, a woman of color, was completely sidelined in the later films. There is no lack of men in the new Star Wars universe.

What about Doctor Who being rebooted as a woman? Well, I’m a Doctor Who fan and I’m not going to lie, my girls and I love the new Doctor. We also loved all the other Doctors. There are 50 years of episodes of Doctor Who starring a male lead as a supposedly male character. Though for the record, the Doctor is in fact an alien so traditional gender conventions probably don’t apply. However, the current main cast consists of the Doctor and her 3 companions, 2 of whom are male. So when you’re looking at the male to female ratio, you have a pretty even split. But the new Doctor was introduced by killing off a black woman and the first series of Whittaker’s arc focuses more on the two men grieving their loss then it does on any of the two female leads. So in many ways, last season of Doctor Who was still prominently male focused and it started by killing off a woman to give the two male leads a story.

A lot of women have to die to give male leads backstory or motivation in our media. This is called fridging. ” A male hero’s grief in the aftermath of shocking violence against a woman is a tried-and-true element of storytelling.” (Source: https://www.vox.com/2018/5/24/17384064/deadpool-vanessa-fridging-women-refrigerators-comics-trope ) Killing Nancy Drew in her 90th anniversary issue so that the Hardy Boys can investigate her death has the potential to become an issue of fridging. And I’m tired of being in the refrigerator. And I certainly want something different for one of the most important and iconic female teens from literature.

Twenty 18th and 19th Century Female Writers to Know

But those comparisons talk about movies. So what about books? In comparison, Agatha Christie wrote her first novel in 1920. She is arguably one of the best and most prolific writers of mystery novels. But even if you look at her oeuvre, you’ll note that she often wrote about a male lead. You will recall one Hercule Poirot. She also wrote the iconic Miss Marple, though Poirot appears in more novels because it was the early 1900s and sexism was (and still is) a thing. So when you start looking at Nancy Drew contemporaries in the early 1900s, you get a better perspective on just how important Nancy Drew is.

A quick look at Wikipedia tells us that there are more than 500 Nancy Drew books. Mildred A. Wirt wrote 23 of the first 30 Nancy Drew novels under the pen name Carolyn Keene. The mere act that this girl would go out, investigate and solve mysteries, and often save the men in her life, was revolutionary. She was the female answer to and counterpoint to the Hardy Boys. So handing her anniversary story over to the Hardy Boys feels like a giant step backwards and a weird way to celebrate the Nancy Drew brand. I don’t celebrate my children and their significance to me or the culture by killing them and the idea of it would horrify you. It’s an extreme comparison, I know.

So my girls and I are going to celebrate the 90th anniversary of Nancy Drew the best way we know how. We’re going to read these inspiring books where a female teen fiercely goes out and solves mysteries. We’re going to binge watch the show on the CW. We’re going to watch the movies that have already been made. We’re going to be inspired by and celebrate a living, breathing Nancy Drew that centers her in her own narrative. And we’re going to reject more media that insists the only way to tell a good story is to kill a woman.

Book Review: Bent Heavens by Daniel Kraus

forest with reflection in lake and man silhouette; Shutterstock ID 418079275; Title: –

Publisher’s Book Description:

Liv Fleming’s father went missing more than two years ago, not long after he claimed to have been abducted by aliens. Liv has long accepted that he’s dead, though that doesn’t mean she has given up their traditions. Every Sunday, she and her lifelong friend Doug Monk trudge through the woods to check the traps Lee left behind, traps he set to catch the aliens he so desperately believed were after him.

But Liv is done with childhood fantasies. Done pretending she believes her father’s absurd theories. Done going through the motions for Doug’s sake. However, on the very day she chooses to destroy the traps, she discovers in one of them a creature so inhuman it can only be one thing. In that moment, she’s faced with a painful realization: her dad was telling the truth. And no one believed him.

Now, she and Doug have a choice to make. They can turn the alien over to the authorities…or they can take matters into their own hands.

Karen’s Thoughts:

Every once in a while, you read a book that leaves you stunned. This was one of those books for me. It is not an exaggeration when I tell you that there were a couple of moments while I was reading this book that I sat the book down and ran out to the garage where The Mr. was working and said, “Holy crud, you won’t believe what just happened.” It was mind-blowing, jaw dropping and stunningly fascinating, in truly dark and twisted ways. I’m still thinking about this book days later.

If you’re not familiar with Daniel Kraus, he writes super dark YA that is like Stephen King on steroids. Rotters is about a young boy who goes to live with his dad who is a grave robber. Scowler is about the very true terror of domestic violence. Kraus is also the man behind the middle grade Trollhunters series, which you can see on Netflix (Thing 2 has watched the entire series). So he’s not all dark all the time, but his YA is very dark. And glorious.

Liv is dealing with the loss of a father who has the distinguished honor of being the town laughingstock, having claimed to have been abducted by aliens. He’s now missing, but no one believes he has been abducted by aliens and Liv is learning to live with the truth that he is probably dead. Then she discovers a creature that may just prove her dad wasn’t crazy after all. Now in possession of this creature, Liv and her childhood friend Doug takes matters into their own hands to try and clear her father’s name and what happens next is truly stunning. And disturbing.

In Bent Heavens, Kraus explores the nature of violence and asks one of the age old questions that come up frequently in horror and science fiction: just who, exactly, are the monsters? The answer to that question involves some very truly unsettling scenes. And although the answer to that question will surprise no one, the path Kraus weaves to get us there is unlike anything I’ve read in YA for quite some time.

Like truly great literature, Kraus challenges his readers to step into the darkness and confront the bitter truths of human nature. Along the way, he weaves a visceral tale that pulls back the current on small town politics, mental health stigmas, violence, grief, and anger. It’s a wild, uncomfortable and challenging ride through the darkest parts of human nature, and it will punch you in the gut. It touches on some other important and timely topics that I can’t mention here because I don’t want to give too much away. But everything that happens does so for a reason and readers will not be disappointed. It’s some great craftsmanship and storytelling.

I need you to read it so we can talk about it. Highly recommended.

This book comes out February, 25, 2020. I read a digital arc for this review.

The Billie Eilish Readalike Playlist

Billie Eilish has been popular in my house for a while now, probably since first hearing the song Lovely back in 2018. My favorite Billie Eilish song is “You Should See Me in a Crown”, while Thing 2 seems particularly fond of “Bad Guy”. So the other day, as I watched a group of pre-teen and teen girls choreograph a dance to a Billie Eilish song, I had a moment of inspiration: I wonder if I could create a reading RA list based on Billie Eilish songs. So I sat down and started researching her various songs and what they meant. It turns out, there are websites that help you do this.

I then started getting serious about this project. I even turned it into an RA sheet for my work. So what follows is a list of a variety of YA books based on theme and song that teens may enjoy reading if they like the music of Billie Eilish. This was a fun list to create, and it is by no means complete. It only touches on a few of her songs and even on those songs there are a lot more books we could add. So if you have some titles you would like to add, please feel free to do so.

Books About Toxic Relationships

“Bad Guy”, “When the Party’s Over” and several other Billie Eilish songs are about toxic relationships, both romantic and friendships. So here are a few YA books about toxic relationships that your teens may be interested in reading.

You Should See Me in a Crown

“You Should See Me in a Crown” is inspired by the BBC series Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch. In it Andrew Scott, also known as the Hot Priest from Fleabag, plays Moriarty, Sherlock’s arch-nemesis. At one point he proclaims, “you should see me in a crown.” The rest is history. The series is a lot of fun and was extremely popular, I even had a very successful Sherlock party at the time. So here are a bunch of Sherlock retellings or books that are Sherlock Holmes like that teen readers will find interesting.

Books About Mental Health and Depression

One of Billie Eilish’s early hits was a song called “lovely” that she sings with Khalid. It’s a very melancholy song about mental health and depression and it appears on the soundtrack for the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. The title began kind of as a kind of sarcastic nod to how depressing the song is. While listening to it someone said, “oh how lovely” and the rest, as they say, is history. Here a few YA books about mental health and depression that your teens may like.

Dark Books about Dark People doing Dark Things

“Belly Ache” and “Bad Guy” are told from the point of view of monsters, whether that means psychopaths or literal monsters depends on the song. Billie Eilish has stated in many interviews that she likes to write songs that tell the story from the point of view from the monster under your bed. Here are several YA books that are about psychopaths and monsters.

Climate Change

Billie Eilish is an advocate for knowing and working to fix climate change. The topic of climate change appears in her most recent video “All the Good Girls Go to Hell”. Here are a few YA fiction titles on climate change that teens may be interested in reading. If you are Googling for additional titles, you may want to also search under the term “cli-fi”, which is a shortened version of climate change.

Basically Dark, Twisted and Kind of Awesome

If you had to describe Billie Eilish’s aesthetic, you might say she is basically dark, twisted and a lot of fun. So here are a bunch of YA books that are basically dark, twisted and a lot of fun. I like to think that Billie Eilish would like these books and recommend them to her fans.

Cindy Crushes Programming: March Madness Bracketology

Background: Basketball is my favorite sport. I was lucky enough to live in Joliet, IL which is just an hour away from Chicago. I grew up watching the Chicago Bulls during their prime. It was a magical time.

I also am a Kansas Jayhawk. I went to the University of Kansas for a short while and both my parents and sister went there. The University of Kansas is one of the premier basketball schools in the country. The first Kansas coach was Dr James Naismith who actually invented the game of basketball and KU houses the Original Rules of Basketball.

What is March Madness?

March Madness is the NCAA basketball tournament (Men’s and Women’s) of which the winner is the national champion. Currently the tournament includes the top 68 teams in the country. 32 of the teams are the winners of the conference tournaments held in March which get automatic bids. The rest are picked by rankings and their strength of schedule. It is always hard to figure who is in and who is out. The champion is crowned in April.

Here is the link to the NCAA page about the bracket. It has a nice video that gives more information about how the tournament runs. I also have last year’s bracket so you can get a better idea of how the bracket will look.


How to create a program:

This is hard to program time wise. You have to wait until selection Sunday to do the Men’s Bracket. The Women’s Bracket is released the following Monday. Games for the Men’s Tournament actually start that Tuesday night. I like to have the program start on that Tuesday so I can have the participants both brackets that night.  The Women’s Bracket is not as challenging. The University of Connecticut women have won six times in the last decade. It takes away a lot of upsets. This year should be more interesting as UCONN already is projected to be a second seed instead of a number one seed. Baylor beat UCONN at home which snapped their home winning streak of 98 games. Brackets come out for the men on March 15 and Women March 16.


  1. Print out brackets.  I like to use CBS Sports Brackets because I think they usually have the best bracket or Yahoo Sports Brackets.
  2. Bring a lot of pencils. You need to make sure the teens will be able to erase.
  3. I like to talk about the history of college basketball and explain what the brackets mean. Each of the four brackets has a number one seed. These are the best teams in the country. The 16th seeds are the worst. The Number 16 team plays the Number 1 team in the first game up. Until 2018 a Number One Seed had never lost to a Number 16. In the Men’s Bracket in 2018 University of Maryland Baltimore County (16) beat Virginia(1).
  4. Explain how to fill out their brackets. Please look over the bracket before you hand them out so you know how to fill them out. For the play in the games I have them circle who they believe will win. For the rest of the games I have them write in t their winners. This part takes the most time. A lot of the teens have no idea how to fill it out. I tell them they can pick different ways. I always like the cutest mascot. It really can work well. I make sure to tell them to not always pick the higher team in the bracket because they are always upsets. I check handwriting on this part because it is really important that you can read them.
  5. I always like to end the program playing a One Shining Moment video which is the song they play at the end of the tournament.

After the program: I like to have a prize for the teen who had the best bracket. This means waiting until after the Championship Game. I do a simple scoring which I give each right answer one point but you can do it a lot of ways such as one point for round 1 and 2 and then up the points for the later rounds. This is subjective. I make them write a score for the final game to be a tie breaker but have never had to use it.  I call the winner and give them a random prize.

Final Thoughts: This was an easy program for me since I know a lot about basketball. If you are doing it for the first time, I do recommend learning more about the tournament to be prepared to help the teens. There are often questions. The teens who like sports love to do this program and try to out basketball trivia on me which is fun.

Editor’s Note: You can also use the March Madness bracket format to do a book themed program. Here’s an older post about this.

The Soundtrack of Our Lives: The Teen and I Discuss what Musical Theater Means to Theater Teens and Why Librarians Should, and Can, Care

There are a lot of different ways to tell a story and books are just one of them. No one was more surprised then me when The Teen signed up for musical theater in the 7th grade. I have no talent to pass on and this child of mine is introverted and shy so it never occurred to me that in theater, she would find herself and her people. She is now a junior and I have seen her perform in 6 musicals, 6 plays, and win 2 awards. More than that, it has been my greatest parental joy to see her happy, fulfilled, working hard, succeeding and just finding herself.

The Teen in Sweeney Todd

She is one of many teens who find themselves in theater. Theater kids are her friends and her family. And like many teens around our world, they speak a lot in musicals. Today she has put together this list of her and her friends favorite songs from the musicals that speak to them and shares what they mean to her. Want to know about teens and what they’re thinking about? Don’t forget about the theater kids.

The Teen’s Musical Playlist

A list of songs from various musicals and why they matter.

Dead Mom from Beetlejuice

This musical is very easy to relate to. A lot of people have lost someone who they loved and relied on. It can be hard for people to talk about that but this song really captures how it feels to experience a lose.

She Used to Be Mine from Waitress

This musical is truly beautiful. It talks about wishing you could go back and change the things that you did in the past because you aren’t living a happy life. As the musical progresses the main character begins to accept that she made mistakes and realize that who she has become is enough.

In My Dreams from Anastasia

This song is just so extraordinary. It sounds so amazing and the singer has a stunning voice.

Lifeboat from Heather

This song gives us insight into the life of one of the Heathers. Se talks about how she wishes she didn’t have to be the way she was but she feels like she has no choice.

I Don’t Need Your Love from Six

This musical is so fun and it actually talks about something important. This musical is about the six wives of Henry the VIII. This song is about his last wife and she sings about how she shouldn’t be known for who her husband was because she was so much more than that.

In the Air Tonight from American Psycho

This musical sounds super cool and the Eleventh Doctor is in it. It is a very violent show but if you look past that it has some really awesome music.

I Like It from A Bronx Tale

This musical is very underrated. It has some amazing music and it talks about how greed can lead to so many problems.

Mama Who Bore Me from Spring Awakening

This song has so much depth. It sounds so meaningful and it has so much heart.

Wait for Me from Hadestown

Amazing voices, amazing choreography, and amazing set. Just an all around amazing performance and show.

Rockin’ Jerusalem from Choir Boy

This may not technically be a musical but the songs are beautiful. Every voice is meant to be heard.

Turn it Off from The Book of Mormon

This song is hilarious. It is absolutely ridiculous and so fun. You can’t help but sing along.

High Adventure from Aladdin

This musical is fun and this song is even more fun. It makes you want to go on a high adventure.

Requiem from Dear Evan Hansen

This is my favorite song from the whole musical. It talks about how the sister of the boy who committed suicide can’t feel sad about losing him because he really wasn’t that good to them. It sounds so enchanting and it makes me cry every time.

One Normal Night from The Addams Family

If you love the movie then there is a good chance that you will love this musical. It really adds a fun little extra bit to the family.

City on Fire from Sweeney Todd

The Teen and cast sing City on Fire from Sweeney Todd

After doing this show I always find myself thinking about this song. It was awful to learn how to sing because it’s all over the place but it was so fun.

Tradition from Fiddler on the Roof

This musical made me mad when it ended but the opening really sets up for a spectacular show.

Think of Me from The Phantom of the Opera

All of the songs in the show are amazing and this musical will always be a classic.

Tango: Maureen from Rent

Everyone knows the opening song for this musical but this song is also amazing.

No Me Diga from In the Heights

This is one of the most funny songs from the show. It is just so fun to sing along to.

Cell Block Tango from Chicago

This song is known by everyone in theatre. It makes you want to be in jail just so you could do something like this.

A Few More Thoughts from a Teen Librarian on Public Libraries and Musical Theater

You’ll notice that she left Hamilton off of this list. Make no mistake, we went through our Hamilton phase and wore that soundtrack out. Hamilton singalongs were and are a ton of fun. I’ve even done a few High School Musical singalongs when the movie was popular. These are just a few ways you can incorporate musical theater into your teen services.

Want to know how you can incorporate musical theater into your programming and support local teens and your local schools? Start networking with your local drama teacher and ask them to do a special sneak peek of upcoming musicals at your library. They can sing a couple of songs in costume, do a meet and greet, and generate PR while you get some fun, arts based, and community networked programming. You don’t need scenes or props, just local teens in costume singing a couple of songs to generate interest and community support. On the occasions when I have worked in libraries that did this, they were tremendously successful. You have a somewhat built in audience because every kid that comes and performs will bring some parents and friends with them.

Drama by Raina Telgemeier is a fun book about teens and theater

You can also find out far enough in advance what those upcoming high school musicals are to make read-alike book lists, put up displays, and help promote community events. YA Librarian Cindy Shutts and coworkers have started a great series of Broadway Booklists to help get your started: Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, Hadestown, and Prom: The Musical. You can bundle the books on the lists with the soundtracks and the movie if they’re available and make binge kits and circulating bundles.

There are also a lot of book lists out there for tweens and teens who love musical theater. You’ll definitely want to check out the classic No More Dead Dogs by Gordon Korman about a young boy who turns a book report into a musical theater rock opera . . . on roller skates. Goodreads has a book list of 63 YA titles that deal with theater, not just musical theater.

You can do workshops, viewings, singalongs and more. Teach teens how to use technology to create their own playlists. Set up a music writing station as suggested by Mary Amato in this post. Circulate ukuleles. Make-up, costuming, graphic design and more are all ways that you can incorporate musical theater and theater in general into your library programming. Network with your local schools, community theaters, and your very own teens.

And Scene . . .

The Teen writing her musical playlist list for you

Before writing this post, The Teen, Thing 2 and I just finished watching High School Musical, The Musical, The Show on Disney+. The Teen cried through the last two episodes because it captured perfectly everything that musical theater means to her. It’s about the grit that is required when life throws you every curve ball, because as you know, the show must go on. It’s also about finding your family, which I am so glad happens for these kids.

Teens crave ways to express themselves creatively, they crave finding a place that they can belong and feel comfortably accepted as self, and they thrive when they are supported by the adults in their lives and their communities. Supporting the arts and bringing them into our libraries in creative ways can make all of this happen.