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Book Review: Girls on the Verge by Sharon Biggs Waller

girlsonthevergePublisher’s Book Description

A powerful, timely coming-of-age story about a young woman from Texas who goes on a road trip with two friends to get an abortion, from award-winning author Sharon Biggs Waller.

Camille couldn’t be having a better summer. But on the very night she learns she got into a prestigious theater program, she also finds out she’s pregnant. She definitely can’t tell her parents. And her best friend, Bea, doesn’t agree with the decision Camille has made.

Camille is forced to try to solve her problem alone . . . and the system is very much working against her. At her most vulnerable, Camille reaches out to Annabelle Ponsonby, a girl she only barely knows from the theater. Happily, Annabelle agrees to drive her wherever she needs to go. And in a last-minute change of heart, Bea decides to come with.

Girls on the Verge is an incredibly timely novel about a woman’s right to choose. Sharon Biggs Waller brings to life a narrative that has to continue to fight for its right to be told, and honored.

Karen’s Thoughts

In November of 2016 when they announced that Donald Trump would be our new president I, like many women, went out and bought a supply of Plan B to keep on hand. Fast forward to the year 2019 and access to abortion and to some extent even birth control is very much being challenged. And this is most definitely the case in the state of Texas, where I live, work and raise two daughters who may have a genetic predisposition to a life threatening pregnancy condition called Hyperemesis Gravidarum, the very pregnancy condition that threatened my life and forced my husband and I to access abortion services to end a failing pregnancy and save my life. The fundamental right to full bodily autonomy and to make one’s own medical decisions is a topic that I feel strongly about; I am glad that novels that tackle the topic of abortion head on that are written by people who care about teens are being written, especially at a time when reproductive justice is being threatened.

Abortion is a topic that doesn’t come up often in YA literature, although it has and does occasionally appear. In Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E. K. Jonston, a teen girl who is raped finds herself pregnant and terminates her pregnancy with no shame or regrets. In The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu, a teen who is forced to protest abortion with her conservative mother has an abortion before she joins her pro-life parents on the picket line. Aftercare Instructions by Bonnie Pipkin, The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas and What Girls are Made Of by Elana K. Arnold are just a few of the 59 titles mentioned on a Goodreads list of YA titles that deal with the topic of abortion. Out of the 1,000s of YA novels written, this is a very low number of titles.

Girls on the Verge is a no holds barred look not only at abortion, but at the difficulties one teen in the state of Texas has in trying to access an abortion. Her mind made up, it’s not so much about the will she or won’t she, but the how of it. Camille takes a road trip that involves a fake abortion clinic that wants to pray and counsel the teen, a court appearance to try and obtain the right to an abortion without parental consent by a judge who forces his own personal convictions on the teen, and a quest to find abortion pills. Currently living in the state of Texas, this entire journey felt real. And along the way, there is a lot of rich and meaningful conversation about what it means to be female and female friendship that happens in that car. I loved and valued the conversations that these girls had.

This is a controversial subject and I felt that Waller handled every aspect of it so well. Camille is pretty sure of her decision and doesn’t feel a weight-load of guilt, a point of view that isn’t often presented when we talk about the topic of abortion in any form of media let alone YA literature. She is very well supported by one female companion and is somewhat supported by her lifelong best friend who has personal moral objections to Camille’s decision, but also chooses to support her friend so that she doesn’t have to go through this alone. The discussion is meaningful, rich and, I think, important. Each teen is challenged in various ways and the reader gets a lot of insight into their lives and thoughts.

The characters are deeply drawn and readers will be invested in them, but more than anything this is a timely and important novel about the topic of reproductive justice and the current challenges to it that anyone with a uterus faces. Waller shares resources and a personal note that explains why she felt it is important that this novel and novels like it get written. Highly recommended.

A Tale of Three Printers, portable photo printers that is (Tech Review)

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Doing both makerspace and outreach events, I have found it helpful to have a portable photo printer available. This allows you to work with teens and instantly print photos while eliminating the need for traditional printers, wires, Internet access and the constant rearranging of printing tray sizes. The advantage is that you are not tied down to a large printer that plugs in to a wall and requires access to the Internet. You can do photo booths, quick photo based crafts (including buttons!), and so much more with a portable photo printer. Fear not, there are many portable photo printers to choose from and today I’m going to talk about three of them. Each devise has their advantages and disadvantages and having tried them all, I break it down for you. The three devices I will be reviewing today include the Fuji Instax Square 10 photo printer, the Polaroid Zip Pocket Printer and the Canon Selphy 1300.

The Fuji Instax Square 10 Printer

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As some of you may have figured out, I am currently obsessed with instant photography. I started with the Instax Mini 9 (which I recommend) and started exploring the square format because I liked the size and look of the film. It turns out, there is a Square printer that you can purchase for roughly $160.00. And yes, this is not in-expensive. And to top it off, then you have to buy new film pretty frequently and it all starts to add up. Instant photography is not a cheap interest by any means.

But before you dismiss this printer right out of hand because of the cost (and cost concerns are legitimate, especially for a library), let me tell you one thing that rocks about the Square printer: you can print right from your mobile device. This means that you can create the photos that you want using any app on your phone and print it and still get the instant photography look. It takes a lot of the guess work out of instant photography and gives you so much control and creative license. Many people invested in instant photography consider it cheating, and in many ways it is, but with the film being so expensive it’s nice to have an idea that your photo is going to look good before you print it.

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This photo printer has a rechargeable battery that makes it completely portable without cords and you connect wirelessly with its built in wifi directly to the printer. That means if you have properly charged everything up, you can print using only your wireless device and this printer with no cords for a period of time. It gets a 10 out of 10 for portability. And it’s fairly easy to use. It’s biggest drawback is, of course, the price. Pictures can cost anywhere from $1.00 to $1.50 depending on where you get your film and how much you pay.

  • Portable: Yes
  • Wireless: Yes
  • Requires a free printing app and a mobile device
  • Cost: $160 for the printer, about $1.00 a picture

Polaroid Zink Mobile Printer

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This mobile printer also connects wirelessly to your mobile device so again, you can create photos using any app of your choice and print them in a size that is very similar to the Fuji Instax Mini film size, which is 2 x 3 inches. When I asked The Teen which of the three printers she preferred she said this one because she liked the size of the film the best. I should note here that you can get an Instax Mini Film printer that works similarly to the Square printer mentioned above, but in terms of printing cost this printer is more cost effective. The printer itself costs around $95.00 and the film is around $10.00 for 20 prints, or .50 cents a print.

Of all the three portable printers I have tried, this one had the worst quality printing. The colors were off and the pictures just didn’t have that depth and snap to them compared to pictures produced by the other two printers. So it’s less expensive, but it’s also not as good of quality.

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I also had the most connectivity issues with this printer. You connect to it wirelessly with its own mechanism, which means you can use it in a park or at a school you are visiting, but I had to reconnect with it more than I did the other printers.

  • Portable: Yes
  • Wireless: Yes
  • Requires a free printing app and mobile device
  • Cost: $96.00 for the printer, about $0.50 a picture

Canon Selphy 1300

printing7The Canon Selphy 1300 is a slightly less portable printer that has its own wifi connection and prints onto a more standard size film paper. You must use Selphy paper for this printer and each bundle of paper that you purchase comes with its own ink cartridges because yes, you have to change (though it is quick and easy) ink cartridges. Paper bundles range in size and price but you can get a 216 sheet bundle for $68.00, which makes this the most affordable printing device at roughly .32 cents a picture.

As I mentioned, the Selphy is slighlty less portable simply because it is bigger in size and has a few more elements. You can still connect to it wirelessly, but it doesn’t fit in the palm of your hand like the other two printers do. You can, however, buy a handy carrying case designed specifically for it.

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The quality of the pictures, however, far surpasses the printing quality of the other two printers. And it gives you the most creativity and adaptability because you can print any size picture up to a 4×6, which is the size of the paper. I use this device with an app called Print to Size and you can even print multiple pictures on one page and cut them down to size. So a little more work is involved, but if you want a square size with a white border like the Square printer, you can do that. And if you want the small size of the Polaroid Zip printer or the Instax Mini, you can also do that. There is so much more versatility with this printer once you figure out how to get multiple photos on a page.

  • Portable: Yes
  • Wireless: Yes
  • Requires a mobile device; a free printing app is not required (you can print directly without an app), but it is recommended to get more versatility in your designs
  • Cost: $160 for the printer, about $0.34 a picture

Final Thoughts

I highly recommend the Selphy printer as it has the most functionality, the most adaptability and it has the best quality photos. There is an optional battery pack that you can purchase and it has it’s own built in wifi for connectivity, so it is truly portable though it is biggest in size. The cost and quality make this the optimal purchase.

If true instant photography is what you are looking for, the Fuji Instax Square printer is a costly but high quality tool that is truly portable and fun. I plan on using this one for a long time, though sparingly.

I gave the Polaroid Zink printer to The Teen because she seemed to like it but it was the lowest quality in terms of printing. The cost and portability are there, I just was the least satisfied with the prints.

Depending on your needs, there is a portable printer out there for you. If you want to get the most bang for your buck, I recommend the Canon Selphy 1300.

Book Review: Quarantine, A Love Story by Katie Cicatelli-Kuc

quarantinePublisher’s Book Description: Oliver wants a girlfriend, and there’s a girl back home who might be interested in him. The problem is, he has to spend his spring break on a volunteer trip in the Dominican Republic. Flora, on the other hand, isn’t really looking for a boyfriend. She just wants to end a miserable spring break visiting her dad and her new stepmom in the D.R.

The solution to both their problems? Get back home to New York ASAP. Sadly, they won’t be getting there anytime soon.

Their hopes are dashed when Flora’s impulsiveness lands them in quarantine — just the two of them. Now, the two teens must come together in order to survive life in a bubble for 30 days. In that time, love will bloom. But is it the real thing, or just a placebo effect?

In her debut novel, Katie Cicatelli-Kuc delivers an introspective and witty story about finding love in the most unexpected place.

Karen’s Thoughts:

Please note, there are some very real spoilers in this review as I explain to you why I can not in good faith recommend this book as a person who campaigns against sexual violence and for the importance of consent in relationships.

As someone who spends a lot of time advocating for consent education, I can not in good faith recommend this book, even though I believe it will have a lot of teen appeal. This love story begins when two strangers meet on an airplane and are placed in a quarantine hold for a short period of time. The girl, not wanting to return home, fakes being sick so that she will have to stay in quarantine for an additional 30 days. Not wanting to stay in quarantine alone, however, she grabs and kisses the teen boy against his will and knowing full well that he wants to go home and that he has a budding relationship on the horizon, forcing him to stay in quarantine with her for that 30 days. He has, effectively, been denied his free will and freedom by the selfish impulses of this girl and over the course of time, they fall in love. It’s kind of a reverse Beauty and the Beast story, a story that I stopped liking a long time ago because I do not believe that true love can be found in relationships where one person is basically holding another person prisoner.

To be honest, none of the females presented in this book are presented in an overly positive or redeeming light. Flora is presented as an authority who guides Oliver, often sharing with him truth bombs about life and relationships, but she herself is lost and floundering. She does exhibit growth over the course of the novel as they are both given a lot of time for introspection, but I could never get past what she did to Oliver. Oliver’s other love interest, Kelsey, is a selfish, fame obsessed young woman who uses Oliver’s new found notoriety to try and propel herself to social media stardom, spurred on in part by Flora who thinks she is trying to help Oliver nab the girl of his dreams.

Oliver starts out as a more naive and floundering young man, but he also grows. Towards the end as he starts to stand up for himself and express himself more fully, readers seem him becoming a more competent and fully fleshed character.

The most realistic part about this novel is the social media component. Flora and Oliver start the hashtag #Quaranteens and milk (and try to manipulate) their quarantine status for social media likes and for the most part it works; but as always life, truth and social media are more complicated than anyone can predict and it gets messy. This in particular is the part that I find teens will be most drawn to. It truly captures the social media zeitgeist.

I would have felt much differently about this book if at the end of the 30 days the teens would have grown, realized that what Flora did to Oliver was completely unconscionable and gone their separate ways. Alas, this is a love story and that is not what happens. Because this is a relationship that is built upon the very clear violation of one person’s ability to consent about what happens to their life – keep in mind, he is now forced to spend 30 days in a quarantine away from his life, friends and family – I can not get behind it or recommend it. Once the impetus for how these two teens were forced to spend time together became clear, I wanted to tap out of this book. I read it until completion to see if or how the issue was dealt with, and although they do at times talk about consent, I personally could never get past the very clear violation of consent that brought the two teens together.

Out of curiosity to see what other reviewers were saying about this book, I did some research. Booklist says this about this novel: “And since Flora, for some reason, laid one on Oliver after they met on the plane (a dramatic first kiss for them both), he’s stuck right there in quarantine with her. ” They go on to recommend it as a “a sweet, simple romance with a fun concept.” (Booklist, 1/01/2019, Maggie Reagan. 336p. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2019). Kirkus mentions the kiss but doesn’t even acknowledge any concern for an obvious lack of consent and the dramatic impact it has on Oliver’s life. I think it is unfortunate as book reviewers that we continue to fail to acknowledge problematic consent issues and recommend books that have them without any caveats.

I think the novel has a lot of teen appeal elements, but I personally don’t recommend it.

This book is slated to be published in March, 2019.

Hip Hop is Happening in YA Lit, a guest post by Lisa Krok

The Grammys have often failed to recognize hip-hop artists in the most notable award categories. Based upon the lack of representation of Black performers in the Motown tribute, the Grammys clearly still have work to do. However, the steps toward progress are in motion, with huge wins for Childish Gambino and Cardi B. Childish Gambino’s “This is America” won Grammys for Song of the Year, Record of the Year, Best Rap/Sung Performance, and Best Music Video. The Song of the Year honors writers of songs, while the Record of the Year honors the recording artist. “This is America” was the first rap song to win these two distinguished accolades. Additionally, Cardi B was the first female solo artist to win the Grammy for Best Rap Album for “Invasion of Privacy”, alongside several other award nominations. This year Childish Gambino and Cardi B made history, and Young Adult Lit is here for it!

Three strong and exceptionally talented Black YA authors have hit the trifecta with books that are new releases or coming soon and reflect hip-hop culture. As rapper and social theorist KRS-One stated, “Rap is something you do, hip-hop is something you live”.

hiphop1Many teens will already be familiar with author Angie Thomas from (NYT Bestseller for 100+ weeks) The Hate U Give (Balzer + Bray, 2017) book and movie. The Hate U Give has received multiple awards and honors, including YALSA’s William C. Morris Award, a Coretta Scott King honor, a Printz honor, and the National Book Award long list, just to name a few. Thomas, a former teen rapper herself, recently released On the Come Up featuring Bri, a female teen rapper trying to make it big. Living up to a dead father who was a rap legend is tough. Combine that with racist actions from school security, a recovering addict mom desperately trying to make ends meet, and competition in the ring, finding your voice is difficult and is sometimes misconstrued by those who want to knock you down. Thomas passionately and realistically portrays the harsh realities of being Black and poor, while pushing forward and going for your dream. On the Come Up released February 5, 2019 from Balzer + Bray.

See Epic Reads track-by-track breakdown of Spotify’s On the Come Up playlist, along with a rap name generator. Playlist features tracks from Biggie, Common, Cardi B, Tupac, Nicki Minaj, Queen Latifah, Nas, Kendrick Lamar, Missy Elliott, Childish Gambino, J. Cole, Lauryn Hill, and many more legends. Selections for the playlist were chosen by Angie Thomas.

https://www.epicreads.com/blog/on-the-come-up-playlist/

hiphop2Lamar Giles is a founding member of We Need Diverse Books, and was an Edgar award finalist  for both Fake ID (Harper Collins, 2014) and Endangered (Harper Collins, 2015). Additionally, Overturned (Scholastic, 2017) was a 2018 Top Ten Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers and a Kirkus Best Book of 2017. Giles also edited the WNDB anthology Fresh Ink (Random House, 2018) and contributed to anthologies Black Enough: Stories of Being Young and Black in America (Balzer + Bray, 2019) and Three Sides of a Heart (Harper Collins, 2017). He is best known for his crime fiction, and in his newest release, Spin (Scholastic Press, 2019), takes on a murder mystery involving DJ Paris Secord, aka DJParSec. This fast-paced mystery starts off with DJParSec’s two estranged friends, Kya and Fuse, under suspicion for her murder. When some of the ParSecNation fandom spins off into an ill-intended Dark Nation side, Fuse and Kya band together to uncover the true killer. Tough female protagonists + hip-hop + murder mystery = a winner for Lamar Giles. Spin was released January 29, 2019 from Scholastic Press. Giles also has a middle grade fantasy forthcoming, The Last Lastay-of-Summer from Versify/HMH on April 2, 2019.

Spin has a Spotify playlist, too!

Check out these tracks inspired by DJParSec, featuring Cardi B, Queen Latifah, Monie Love, Missy Elliott,

Lil’ Kim, Drake, J. Cole, Beyonce, Jay Z, and more.

https://t.co/Di5WOPGGv1

hiphop3Tiffany D. Jackson is a master of twist endings, as evidenced by the shocking revelations in Allegedly (Katherine Tegen Books, 2017) and Monday’s Not Coming (Katherine Tegen Books, 2018). Jackson’s awards and honors include 2018 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers for Allegedly, and most recently the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent for Monday’s Not Coming. Additionally, Monday’s Not Coming received a Walter Dean Myers honor and was named a SLJ Best Book of 2018. She adds her own contribution to this hip-hop book fest with Let Me Hear a Rhyme (Katherine Tegen Books, 2019). Jackson collaborated with Malik “Malik-16” Sharif, who provided the lyrics within the novel. Set in the 1990’s in Brooklyn, friends Steph, Quadir, and Jarrell are mourning the loss of Biggie Smalls, who they felt represented their neighborhood via his music. When Steph is shot and killed, his two friends conspire with his sister, Jasmine, to commemorate him. When they unearth shoeboxes full of recordings of Steph’s songs, they promote him as “The Architect”, while the producer has no idea that he is promoting a dead client. This amusing situation adds levity to the mystery, as the team of three begin to uncover what really happened to Steph. Let Me Hear a Rhyme is forthcoming from Katherine Tegen Books on May 21, 2019. 

“I think about the lyrics in so many hip-hop songs and understand why Steph made me listen to them. Life has never been easy for black folks, and survival means doing things you wouldn’t do normally. Can I really judge someone trying to live?”

 – Jasmine, Let Me Hear a Rhyme

Great songs tend to have a “hook”, and so do great books. The three aforementioned novels each have a KILLER first line:

  • “I might have to kill somebody tonight.” – On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
  • “I did not kill Paris Secord.” – Spin by Lamar Giles
  • “You’ve probably seen this scene before: Ladies in black church dresses, old men in gray suits, and hood kids in white tees with some blurry picture printed on the front and the spray-painted letters RIP.” – Let Me Hear a Rhyme by Tiffany D. Jackson

The hot, striking covers, cool beats, and captivating hooks make all three of these selections great for many types of readers, including the most reluctant of readers. Books like these, and rap music itself, lend themselves to many creative opportunities for teens to break down lyrics and even write some of their own.

So, if rap = poetry + rhythm, then poetry as lyrics can work in many different ways.

“A poet’s mission is to make words do more work than they normally do, to make them work on more than one level.     – Jay Z

Teens may also be interested in trying their hand at Poetry Slams, a la The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. Tips about poetry slams can be found here:

https://www.powerpoetry.org/actions/how-write-slam-poetry

Angie Thomas stated at an event in 2018 that hip-hop has given a voice to urban America. See Angie’s comments here:

Lastly, give the amazing Bahni Turpin’s audiobooks a listen. Turpin narrated Allegedly, The Hate U Give, On the Come Up, and DJParSec’s portion of Spin, among many others. Her voice is a perfect fit for the characters in these stories. Please see the links below for more information about Bahni Turpin, We Need Diverse Books, and these three fantastic authors.

https://www.audible.com/search?searchNarrator=Bahni+Turpin

https://diversebooks.org/

https://www.facebook.com/ACThomasAuthor/

https://www.lamargiles.com/

http://writeinbk.com/

 

lisakrok– Lisa Krok is a longtime fan of hip-hop, especially Queens Latifah and Nicki, along with the legendary Biggie. Her rap generator name is “Bad Swerve”. Lisa is a die-hard YA reader and a Ravenclaw, with a passion for reaching reluctant readers. She served on the 2019 and 2018 YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers teams. Lisa can be found being bookish and political on Twitter @readonthebeach.

Fight the Power: Music as a Social Force, a guest post by Lisa Krok

There is no doubt that teen activism is on the rise in today’s political climate. Options including peaceful protests via marches, boycotts, petitions, blogs, books, artwork, and more are popping up across the country. Looking back to the Civil Rights Movement, music was a catalyst in voicing messages of resistance and hope. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (RRHF) in Cleveland, Ohio hosts programs to inform teachers, librarians, and students about how music was used in the past as a change agent, and how we can apply that to present day.

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On a bitterly cold and blustery January day, RRHF Education Instructor Deanna Nebel shared ways music can be used as a social force with an auditorium full of students. She began with a very recent release by The Killers, “Land of the Free”. A sampling of the song was played, and then the audience was asked to break down the message in the lyrics.

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Pictured: Deanna Nebel

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The message of mass incarceration of people of color is clear: the “Land of the Free” has “more people locked up than the rest of the world”. While this was one of the more recent uses of music as a social force, many other examples were covered in class. Below are some related artists that encompass a variety of marginalized voices that teens can research on their own.

  • Joan Baez (Latinx heritage) promoted social change and became friends with Martin Luther King, Jr. Some of the most memorable songs she sang are “We Shall Overcome” at the 1963 March on Washington, and “Birmingham Sunday”, which was used in the opening of Spike Lee’s documentary 4 Little Girls (1997). The latter references the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing by the KKK, which resulted in the tragic deaths of four children. Baez was inducted to the RRHF in 2017.

See Joan Baez’ 2010 White House performance of “We Shall Overcome”:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14DQJS2vw2I

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  • Bob Dylan (Jewish heritage) was born Robert Allen Zimmerman, and took the name Bob Dylan when he began performing. Contrary to popular belief, his name was not chosen based upon the poet, Dylan Thomas, but from a character on the television show Dylan is still performing to this day, and some of his most well-known songs include “Blowin’ in the Wind”, “The Times They are a Changin’”, “Like a Rolling Stone”, and “Hurricane”, which told the story of what some felt was the wrongful conviction of boxer Rubin Carter. This story was later made into the movie The Hurricane, featuring Denzel Washington. Dylan was inducted into the RRHF in 1989.

Click here for Bob Dylan writing prompt for teens:

https://www.rockhall.com/fight-the-power

  • Buffy Saint-Marie (Piapot Plains Cree First Nation) witnessed wounded soldiers returning from the Vietnam War. This inspired “Universal Soldier” in 1964, which was a protest song. Saint-Marie was an active philanthropist and started the non-profit fund Nihewan Foundation for American Indian Education in 1996. The word “Nihewan” comes from the Cree language meaning “talk Cree”, implying “be your culture”.

See “How to write a protest song” by Buffy Saint-Marie, (2017)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7mDvukMvttU

  • Aretha Franklin (African-American) was the Queen of Soul and the first woman inducted into the RRHF in 1987. Her powerful voice continued the fight after the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Although segregation was no longer legal, some still did not regard African-Americans as equals.  Aretha addressed this in a song that was not asking for respect, but DEMANDING it…and just in case you missed it, she spelled it out for you:

Respect Live, (1968)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0L4Bonnw484

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Aretha Franklin

An admirable quality of using music as a social force is its versatility. Different time periods and genres all lend themselves to advocacy for change. Song lyrics are basically poetry, so teen activists need to select the ones that express the message they are looking to convey. Any style of music:  rock, country, hip-hop, folk, and more can be used.

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Deanna Nebel shows examples of different albums with societal messages.

Education Programs Manager, Mandy Smith, shared more information about RRHF program offerings. “Fight the Power” is part of a larger umbrella of programs entitled “Rockin’ the Schools”.  The RRHF also partners with the Roots of American Music (ROAM) and the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage (MMJH) for a “Stop the Hate Youth Sing Out” collaboration. ROAM is a non-profit organization whose mission is to facilitate learning in diverse communities by providing customized arts programs, workshops, residencies, and performances through the use of traditional American music. Students begin by taking the “Stop the Hate” tour at the MMJH. Considering biases they have experienced in their own lives, they reflect upon what they have learned and how to use their voices to stand up to hate. Students are then partnered with a ROAM musician back in their classrooms and work on writing their own original protest songs. The songs are later performed at the RRHF in front of a panel of judges and other students learning about protest via music. The winners are then invited to perform their original songs during the “Stop the Hate Youth Sing Out” award ceremony on the RRHF main stage, in front of about 500 audience members and can win anti-bias education grants. Additionally, the MMJH encourages participation in their “Stop the Hate” essay writing contest to win scholarships.

Smith also suggested the RRHF Library and Archives as a great resource for teens. Those local to the Cleveland area can contact library@rockhall.org  or (216) 515-1956 to schedule visits. If not in the area , items are searchable at  http://library.rockhall.com/home and use https://rockhall.on.worldcat.org/discovery to find materials near you. Best of all, teachers and librarians can sign up for a FREE account to access Rock Hall Education resources at https://edu.rockhall.com/about.

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More resources:

https://www.rockhall.com/fight-the-power  (Teacher resources from RRHF)

https://www.rockhall.com/learn/education/rockin-schools

http://rootsofamericanmusic.org/

http://www.maltzmuseum.org/blog/stop-the-hate-at-rock-hall/

Special thanks to Gretchen Unico, Education Coordinator, for assistance in setting up the RRHF visit.

 ROCK ON!

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-Lisa Krok is a library manager, member of 2019 and 2018 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers team, and a Ravenclaw. She loves Queen and all things Freddie Mercury. Lisa can be found being bookish and political on Twitter @readonthebeach.

Cindy Crushes Programming: Hosting a Fortnite Party, by Cindy Shutts

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Like most teen librarians, my teens are obsessed with Fortnite. This popular video game downloads for free and is playable in different seasons, where they will play through different storylines and new player skins become available. One of the most popular parts of Fortnite is the dancing that different skins do. I have tweens and teens dancing around all day. I thought this could be a successful program for teens and tweens. I have done different fandom parties in the past for Divergent, Hunger Games, and British royals so I knew I could do this successfully.

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Trivia: The first part was I made a Jeopardy style PowerPoint using a format another librarian had already made.  My categories were modes, dances, character/skin, game development and seasons. In this part, I made a couple mistakes. I used information I got from an article that was incorrect for the season questions. My tweens gently corrected me. I listened to them because I know they are usually right if they correct me. If you want to use trivia, double-check your answers!

Jeopardy Power Point Template

Dance off: The dance off was super fun. I played the music from the Fortnite dances and the teen who got all the dances right won a small gift card from GameStop.

Craft/snack:  We had blue Gatorade as the drink, because in the game they drink a slurp juice. I also had a food craft where they cover up Rice Crispy treats with a red fruit roll up and put a cross with white frosting to be medic bandages.

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DIY Fortnite Crafts & Party Ideas – Red Ted Art’s Blog

 

The Game: Here is where things got rough. We have a PlayStation 4 and I have downloaded Fortnite on it.  I had planned to play a mini tournament. I turned on the PlayStation 4 and it needed an update and it would not let me update. Even my tech savvy teens could not figure out what was wrong. I looked at the teens and said move the tables and shut the door. You get to play live action Fortnite. I told them no running so they would not get hurt. They got it right away. They used their creativity to make what could have been a failure into a success.

Result: I am so proud of my teens they made this event work even though I had some difficulties. We had such happy kids. We even had kids ask if we can do this again. I will be happy to do it again, but plan to make sure that PlayStation 4 is really working. Or even just prepare to play a live action version with one of the teens ahead of time. The teens made this program special!

Feminist AF: The Amelia Bloomer Project, by Ally Watkins

Did you know that there’s an ALA committee that curates an excellent list of feminist books for children and teens?

The Amelia Bloomer Project blog on WordPress: https://ameliabloomer.wordpress.com/

The Amelia Bloomer Project blog on WordPress: https://ameliabloomer.wordpress.com/

If not, I’m delighted to introduce you to the Amelia Bloomer Project, a committee of the Feminist Task Force of the Social Responsibilities Round Table (SRRT). The Amelia Bloomer Project committee members search all year for books aimed at ages birth-18 that are well-written, well-illustrated, and have significant feminist content. During the ALA Midwinter Conference, members deliberate to produce a list of quality titles that meet this criteria.  This year’s list has 68 titles on it, and Top Ten titles were selected. Check out this year’s list here!

I’ve been lucky enough to be a member of this committee and it’s been an incredible experience. It’s changed the way I look at my reading and the way I approach my own feminism. Being able to share this with the members of my committee has been powerful and rewarding. I’m delighted to continue my term as a Bloomer, and if you’re interested–great! Applications for the 2020 committee are currently open. Apply here before midnight Pacific on Friday, February 15.

Sunday Reflections: Are Teens Reading Less?

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I have come across several conversations recently on Twitter that suggest that YA fiction is selling less, which often translates to teens are reading less. It’s important to note that these figures are referring specifically to the UK sales figures of YA, so the data may be radically different for the US. And as always, the conversation is more complicated than it seems. Are YA sales figures down? I don’t know, and I don’t know that that data tells us what we think it does. But if you find yourself asking are teens reading less? The short answer is no. The longer answer is slightly more complicated then that.

As someone who has been doing this for 26 years now, the hand wringing over teens are reading less is not new. There is a strong sense of been there, done that in these conversations and the correct answer is often this: it’s not that teens are reading less, it’s that teens aren’t reading what adults wants them to be reading in the ways they want them to be reading it, and that is an entirely different argument. The teen reading landscape has changed several times in the last 26 years, it’s changing now, and it will change again and again. What causes that change, what it means, and how we respond it it are an entirely different conversation.

If we’re being completely honest, it is true that teens are reading very differently and I understand that these changes are causing some fear among authors, publishers, teachers, and adults in general. Because the shift in teen reading habits impacts those groups in several ways: in sales and income, in how we can (or can’t) measure teen reading, and in how we can (or can’t) influence, monitor and control teen reading. Everyone having these conversations have different motivations, and that matters too.

You see, it’s not that teens are reading less I find, but more that teens are reading differently, and digital media is a huge influencer of this change. Today’s teens typically have devices (newest Pew Center data suggests that around 95% of teens have a mobile device of some sort) and these devices give them access to a whole new world of reading opportunities, which teens are availing themselves of. Wattpad, online fan fiction, and free downloads via either libraries or places like Amazon make it easier for teens to get the reading content they want, with immediate gratification and more anonymity than ever. Today’s teens don’t have to ask an adult to buy them the books that they want, or ask a librarian to help them find the titles on the shelves. In fact, online reading helps teens cultivate teen friendly spaces with little (known) adult monitoring and interaction. There are pros and cons to this development, depending on how much you want to monitor teen reading.

In addition, in the early 2000s the YA publishing market exploded while research suggested that more adults were buying YA than teens, which pushed the YA market more towards adults than YA when developing new authors and titles. Over time, the YA market aged up, adults became proud readers of YA, and the pop culture references on the pages of YA became more and more dated and less teen friendly. Many teens felt like YA was no longer their space, and so they abandoned it for new teen spaces. And with the explosion of technology and online creative writing forums, this task was easier to do than it was in the past. So teens carved out for themselves new teen spaces and once again, the reading landscape is changing.

This is coupled with the fact that we don’t really have any real way to measure teen reading. We do testing, which really only measures how well a teen can perform on a test about reading. Sales figures tell us who is buying a book, but not who is reading it, or how many people read one book. The same is true for circulation statistics. These are all imperfect measurements that tell us more about who buys or checks out an item and less about whether they read, like or recommend an item. Let me be very clear about this: we have no real good way of making quantifiable statements regarding teens reading for pleasure. Many of us who work with teens can tell you a wide range of anecdotal stories that have value, but there aren’t any real facts and figures that we can talk about because our measurement tools are deeply, inherently flawed.

When considering sales figures it’s also important to remember that as the economy shrinks, people have less disposable income and are less likely to buy books, which is not the same as being less likely to read books. In fact, overall public library use seems to be up, though many of my colleagues seem to suggest that while the circulation of physical items is down slightly, the circulation of digital content is up significantly. I myself am one of the last to adopt digital reading, but even I find myself reading more with a device in hand then a physical book in hand. It’s been a long time since I have checked out a physical book or a movie from my library, and I go there 5 days a week. Again, imperfect data.

We also have to look at a ton of other factors: competition for teens time and attention, our marketing and merchandising, the growing mental health issues we see in today’s teens and the amount of work causing it, etc. So. Much. Homework. And whether we like it or not, between Brexit and the growing white nationalism happening here in the US, which our teens *are* aware of and effected by, our teens are growing increasingly anxious, dismayed, and overwhelmed. Some teens are rejecting things like realistic fiction (too similar to their current real world experiences), while others are reading them with a fervor and choosing to be political;y active online and in the real world. Some teens are too busy marching to end school violence to read the latest literary tome that adults feel they should read. With growing incidence of racial and sexual violence, the under-funding of public education, and the fact that 1 in 5 kids and teens go to bed hungry, many people – teens included – don’t have the emotional energy or time necessary to read a book for fun, they’re too busy trying to just survive. The adults in the room are creating an environment that are putting up more and more obstacles for teens when it comes to having time for pleasure reading. So for those adults wringing their hands about teen reading I say this: change the environment, it will help a lot.

But even this is not a death toll for libraries, because though some libraries are reporting that the circulation of physical items is down, it’s not zero. And our libraries seem to be fuller and busier than ever. A majority of public libraries are thriving.

I think it’s good to have conversations about sales figures and circulation statistics and to try and figure out what those fluctuations mean and how they can help us better serve our patrons. But do I think teens are reading less? No, and in 26 years the answer has always been no when the question is asked. It just often means that we need to examine our practices and adjust to a new generation of readers and a changing market. In other words it’s not them, it’s us.

Editor’s Note: I did not link to the actual online conversation that started this discussion because it was problematic in many very real ways.  For example, the original article indicated that publishers should avoid publishing “issue” novels while having a primary graphic of author Angie Thomas. Angie Thomas is a women of color and the author of The Hate U Give, which has been on the New York Times Bestsellers list for now over 100 weeks. Using Angie Thomas’ picture contradicted their main argument and is probably a racist dog whistle. Though I did not want to link to the article that ignited this conversation, I did want to address the concerns about teen reading.

Some Additional Resources to Consider:

DIY Neon Signs

Sometimes, in order to find new activities to do with teens, I buy kits and try and find ways to adapt them to do in the library with teens. For Christmas, I bought each of the girls this DIY Neon Sign kit because it was cool, but also because I thought it would make a cool Teen MakerSpace activity. All the supplies can be bought individually to do as an activity, but the El wire needed is kind of pricey. So I would recommend doing this as a group activity to make signs to decorate a teen space as opposed to having each teen make an individual neon sign to take home, depending on your budget.

The inspiration kit

The inspiration kit

Supplies:

Cost for an individual sign: Approximately $5.00

Step 1: Creating Your Template

Using your paper and marker, write out the word or saying you want your sign to say. For a library teen space, I recommend something like “Books” or “Read”. For a Teen MakerSpace, you could go with something like “Make” or “Idea Lab”.

You want to write crisp and legibly and – most importantly – in cursive because you need all of the letters to connect.

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This will be your template.

Step 2: Making Your Wire Word

You now want to use the template to bend your wire into the word you are trying to make. I found this worked better with two people and two sets of hands. The pliers will also help. When you are done bending your wire into your word, you can also use the pliers to close the gaps on some of the letters, like the end of the letter P and the curve in the letter C below.

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Step 3: Making the El Wire Word

You will then take the El wire and bend it to form into the wire word you made in step 2. At this point, you will have the metal wire which is guiding you in making the word out of the El wire.

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Step 4: Attaching the Two Words

We attached our El wire to the wire word using zip ties. After you attach the El wire and the guide wire, you can snip the zip tie ends and you really don’t see them. Other sites recommend joining the two with a hot glue gun.

Finished DIY Neon Sign

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The finished product is really pretty cool. If I had to do it again, I might use a painted piece of wood or canvas as a background for my sign. I will say bending the wire to make some of the letters was hard and I have not been satisfied with the letter “a” in the middle of the word space. Once you have the El wire, depending on how you attach the two wires together, you can actually take your project apart and make new words.

Here are some additional tutorials to help you . . .

Rookie DIY Neon Sign Instructions

 

More Than an Identity, by teen contributor Elliot

Today TLT teen contributor Elliot is talking with us about identity. Since we work for and with teens, it’s important to listen to them, which is why we have invited Elliot to be a contributor here. We hope you will enjoy their posts.

Elliot


Self discovery is one of the most important and most difficult challenges that a teenager can face. You live your whole entire life thinking that you know who you are until the chemicals in your mind start to change and hormones and coursing through your body altering everything you thought you knew about yourself. Never have I struggled more with my identity than when I was searching for my sexuality and gender identity.


In seventh grade I met a wonderful person who I will refer to as “S.” S was avidly searching for their identity and was experimenting with all sorts of sexualities and gender identities that I had never heard of before. When they introduced me to all of these terms “genderfluid,” “pansexual,” “asexual,” and so many more, my brain was so overwhelmed, but I was so excited that I finally had terms that I could relate my experiences with. I was so proud to find my place in the LGBTQ+ community. . . until people started only seeing me as part of the community.


Being part of the LGBTQ+ community is really special- you meet people who have gone through similar struggles as you and you have a place where you know that your identity is real and valid. However, a person who is part of the LGBTQ+ community is often seen as nothing more than just a member of the LGBTQ+ community. While I believe that this community is extremely important and a large part of the lives of those in the community, I also believe that the world needs to realize that LGBTQ+ people are more than their identity,


Growing up, as I was discovering who I was I was, people often associated my name with “that gay person.” Although that was a fairly true label for me, hearing that I was just “that gay person” to a lot of people dulled my self image and self worth. My friends got to be known for their amazing basketball skills, their beautiful artwork, and their stunning performances in the school play. They weren’t known as “that straight person” and I didn’t understand why I was being limited to being labeled solely on my sexuality.


The fact that my entire identity was based around my connection to the LGBTQ+ community made me dread the fact that I wasn’t cisgender or straight. I severely wanted to sever myself from the community just to get a chance of proving to the world that I was capable of doing amazing things that I could be known for instead. It got to a point where I started telling people that I was straight and I was “just going through a phase.” I truly did just about anything to get people to see that I am more than just my identity.


The point I want to make with all of this is that although it’s great to be proud of who you are, you shouldn’t make your whole life about your identity and you shouldn’t let anyone else make your whole life about your identity. Finding out your identity is amazing, but becoming your identity can be exhausting, depressing, and unfulfilling. The world needs to realize that not all people who are part of the LGBTQ+ community are the same. We are just as three dimensional as a cishet person and we shouldn’t be looked at for just our sexuality and/or gender identity. We should be looked at as people- people who just so happen to not be cishet.