Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Book Review: The Last Last Day of Summer by Lamar Giles

Publisher’s Book Description:

When two adventurous cousins accidentally extend the last day of summer by freezing time, they find the secrets hidden between the unmoving seconds, minutes, and hours are not the endless fun they expected.

Otto and Sheed are the local sleuths in their zany Virginia town, masters of unraveling mischief using their unmatched powers of deduction. And as the summer winds down and the first day of school looms, the boys are craving just a little bit more time for fun, even as they bicker over what kind of fun they want to have. That is, until a mysterious man appears with a camera that literally freezes time. Now, with the help of some very strange people and even stranger creatures, Otto and Sheed will have to put aside their differences to save their town—and each other—before time stops for good.

Karen’s Thoughts:

I’ve been reading more middle grade in the moment because, as some of you may recall, I’m raising an 11-year-old with dyslexia and this has proven the need for more read together time then raising a more independent reader has. I’ve been wanting to read this one for a while because it has elements in it that I thought would appeal to the both of us as huge Doctor Who fans, and I was not wrong. As I started reading this it immediately brought to mind some of my childhood favorites: The Phantom Tollbooth, A Wrinkle in Time and even Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

This is a delightful and engaging romp through a bizarre town (another favorite trope of mine!) where weird things happen and everyone just kind of accepts that. I loved the emphasis on family, small town life, and trying to get the most out of your summer. There was talk of self-esteem, having adventures, and working through your differences of opinions. There was problem solving and creative thinking and celebrating yourself and your community. But most of all, there was just a lot of hijinks and fun!

It’s summer – albeit a weird summer because we’re in the midst of a pandemic – and this is the perfect summer read!

Some Other Great Middle Grade Books About Weird Adventures and Towns

Black Lives Matter, Trans Lives Matter and Librarians Must Do Better

The Teen Librarian Toolbox Team wants to unequivocally say that Black lives matter. We stand in solidarity with our Black colleagues, patrons, and friends and we acknowledge the overwhelming whiteness of librarianship We recommend that others search and read widely on the topic of dismantling whiteness in librarianship.

Even while engaged in supporting our communities, librarianship still has a lot of systemic issues in place that leads to and contributes to the oppression of our peers in our workplace and patrons in our communities. There is still so much work to be done.

The Teen Librarian Toolbox Team wants to unequivocally say that we stand with our trans colleagues, patrons, and friends. From the Library Journal choice for Library of the Year to the recent tweets by author J K Rowling, there has been a lot to happen recently to harm our trans colleagues and patrons. We invite you to read this piece Kacen Callender’s them.us to understand more of the harm being perpetuated against the trans community.

As a group of white librarians, we are very aware of our privilege and we are committed to listening, learning and unlearning and intentionally using our platform to lift up marginalized voices whenever possible.

We believe it is our responsibility as educators, librarians, professionals, parents, friends and humans to raise our voices and unequivocally say that we stand united against hate and discrimination and challenge ourselves to learn, unlearn, and grow. 

We get a small monthly fee from School Library Journal that we have over the years used to sustain our platform and to make various donations. We typically donate to buy books for various causes and to social justice oriented platforms such as the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, The Trevor Project, No Kid Hungry, and more. In the coming months, we will be donating funds to various Black centered platforms. If you would like more information on supporting Black Lives Matter or buying from Black owned bookstores or authors, please see these resources: https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/ Buy from Black Owned Book Stores

Please buy, read, share and promote books by Black and trans authors, and not just during Black History Month or Pride.

Karen Jensen

Amanda MacGregor

Robin Willis

Ally Watkins

Cindy Crushes Programming: Make and Take Crafts for a Pandemic State of Mind

Today for Cindy Crushes Programming we’re talking about Make and Take Kits. Though a lot of libraries initially swerved to Virtual Programming, with things like curbside pick up now happening, many libraries are starting to think about and put together Make and Take Kits. These are kits where all the supplies are provided for a program activity that patrons can drive through and pick up via curbside. Librarian Cindy Shutts shares some specific Make and Take Kit activities and I talk about some things you’ll want to consider when putting your Make and Take Kits together.

Since many libraries are not having  in person programs for a while including mine. I have been looking at possible make and take crafts. This is a hard one to do because you have to make sure you provide all the supplies that patrons need to complete the craft. Often teen patrons might not have supplies you would assume they have in their homes such as glue and scissors. I tried to think of easy and fun crafts that could be done quickly.One way to find out what supplies teens have by having them sign up ahead of time so you can find out which supplies they need such as markers or crayons. I suggest making a Youtube video or linking to one already made for teens who are visual learners. Do not forget to put the instructions in the bag.

The Classic Pet Rock

Supplies needed:

  • A rock
  • Googly eyes or buttons or beads for the eyes
  • Glue. I am putting glue dots in the kits to make it easier for the teens.
  • Markers


  1. Glue the eyes on the rock
  2. Use marker to add decorations

Nail Polish Splatter Art Tile


  • Tile
  • Nail polish


  1. Make sure your tile is nice and flat.
  2. Drip different colors of nail polish on the tile to create different patterns
  3. Let nail polish dry

DIY Hair Bows

This is based on this previously blogged about craft and you can find instructions at the post.

Some Things to Consider When Creating Make and Take Craft Kits

Do not assume that your patrons will have any of the supplies they need at home, including things like scissors and glue. Provide every supply necessary in the kit itself so that no one takes home a kit and can’t complete it because they don’t have the tools they need at home. Somewhere shared online that they were sending glue dots home in case their kids didn’t have glue. Another person I talked to said they were even sending crayons. In order to make accessible craft kits, you’ll want to include every supply needed.

Consider having patrons pre-sign up for kits so that you have enough on hand. First come, first served can be very frustrating when you go to great lengths to go out during a pandemic and then you go away empty handed. You could use something as simple as a Google form to help facilitate sign ups for kits to make sure that everyone that comes to pick up a kit leaves with a kit.

Whenever possible, consider making detailed step by step instructions – including pictures – or make a video tutorial and share the information where that tutorial can be found in with your kits, especially if they are more difficult crafts.

Though many libraries have circulating maker kits, because of the nature of the pandemic you’ll want to consider kits in which no items are returned for health and safety reasons. It’s true that you could probably clean and disinfect things like safety scissors, but you’ll also probably lose a fair number if you send them out in kits with the expectation that they will be returned. Plus, is cleaning and sanitizing safety scissors the best use of our time in this particular scenario when you consider how deadly the virus can be for some?

Create a hashtag for your library system, your kits, or specific projects and invite your patrons to share their completed projects with you when they are done so you can get some built in social media and PR. It’s voluntary, of course, but if you’re making kits you might as well invite your patrons to share their completed projects with you.

You’ll want to look for crafts that are easy, creative, inexpensive and require as few supplies as possible, but are still fun and have a visual punch. Kits can be put into something simple like a ziploc or paper bag. Be sure to include some type of branding on your craft kits.

Make and Take Craft Kit Resources

Pinterest Board of Make and Take Craft Kits: https://www.pinterest.com/PosiePea/library-make-take/

Because Black Lives Matter: A Collection of Intersectional Resources

When I first began really diving into Equity, Diversity and Inclusion education, I didn’t know that one of my arguably many knowledge deficits surrounded the idea of intersectionality. Intersectionality is “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.” (Dictionary) What this means is that we must recognize the fact that people are shaped by more than one identity.

Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term Intersectionality and you can read more about it here: https://www.vox.com/the-highlight/2019/5/20/18542843/intersectionality-conservatism-law-race-gender-discrimination.

Lib Guides has a collection of resources on the topic of intersectionality to help you better understand the concept if it is new to you: https://libguides.utm.edu/diversityresources/intersectionality

Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw also does an excellent Ted Talk on the topic that you will want to watch:

So today I want to share with you some book lists that highlight the intersectionality of race and things like religion, disability, and gender and sexuality.

The Association of Jewish Libraries shared a list of books that highlight the Black Jewish experience: https://jewishlibraries.org/blog/id/461?fbclid=IwAR32_mo_8wX_faqN0VbQAPT-9X25osM7OJ142H43WdpCCJj7XdTHxEe1dKw {Edited to add: Please see Katherine Locke’s disappointment with this list in this Twitter thread and see her recommendation for Color Me In by Natasha Diaz}

Queer Books for Teens has a list of recommended LGBTQIA+ books featuring Black teens here: http://queerbooksforteens.com/best-of-lists/books-with-black-characters/

This Book Riot article features 2020 releases with disability representation and although it does not exclusively feature Black disability representation, there are a few titles on the list that will help us all fill that very real gap in our collections: https://bookriot.com/2020/01/13/disability-representation-on-ya-book-covers/

Here is a list that talks about and highlights the Afro-Latinx experience: https://remezcla.com/lists/culture/books-with-afro-latino-characters/

Teen Vogue has a short list of 8 books that highlight the experience of Black females written by Black authors: https://www.teenvogue.com/gallery/black-female-authors-ya-books

Because Black Lives Matter, a Collection of Resources

Last night I sat and watched with my entire family the Kid Lit Rally for Black Lives Matter hosted by The Brown Bookshelf. It was a powerful, important and moving call to action. Below I am including a link to the recording in hopes that you will check it out and spend some time with it.

One of the things that I hear repeatedly and have worked to convey is the importance of every day diversity in our collections, on our reading lists, and in our personal and professional reading. This was also repeated multiple times last night. It’s important for white librarians like myself to remember that diversity, equity and inclusion can’t just be putting up a Black History Month display, but must include making sure that every book list, every book display, every book recommendation and our collections as a whole are diverse and inclusive. This is why I began the process in 2015 of doing Diversity Audits and have spent the last five years of my life not only holding myself personally accountable, but teaching and training others to do the same. Librarianship is still over 80% white and female, and no matter our good intentions, we come to the table with implicit bias and work in systems with systemic racism. We try to share tools here at TLT all the time to help ourselves and our peers do better. So today I’m sharing more of those tools with you. My fellow white librarians, we owe it to the youth serve to do the work, on ourselves and in our libraries.

Kid Lit for Black Lives Matter: Recording of the rally


Book Lists of Interest for You

SLJ – 50 BIPOC Board Books: https://www.slj.com/?detailStory=50-Board-Books-That-Show-IBPOC-Faces-diversity-baby

Black Boy Joy for Younger Kids/Middle Grade: https://www.helpingkidsrise.org/post/2018/01/23/black-boy-joy-books-highlighting-the-everyday-life-of-being-a-black-boy?fbclid=IwAR23zymuKspxMesvZiG_wW1rUNocFJAYYe5zWtjduLdN_3RFnjXoWC9FjzM

Black Boy Joy Picture Books: https://www.readbrightly.com/picture-books-featuring-black-male-protagonists/?fbclid=IwAR0kHrFLns9cjpva_Qbu62nCIA-vD3pXAG5u5y5vC2d0hVW4aT6rv3ZC02w

Picture Books with Black Female Protagonists: https://www.readbrightly.com/picture-books-featuring-black-female-protagonists/?fbclid=IwAR0xEcRMTVsZPYmL-iXrfUSfAIpJuUo6f8VYO3PpYMv7RaDA3LF0NaIJMUA

YA Black Girl Magic: https://www.epicreads.com/blog/black-girl-magic-books/?fbclid=IwAR0ft7qSt4YeMPtEN_jXWzewOQjdElvQFj0ZXY1_RBJ_Mg2C5fiePvJxrVc

Diverse Meet Cutes and Rom Coms: https://www.slj.com/?detailStory=meet-cutes-come-all-colors-YA-diversity-romance-POC&fbclid=IwAR0GmjLvKNt_p16R_12_ohYYmIRDmK1loDKox9pr-YjXzUip2mPQgr3LW68

YA with Black Authors 2020: https://www.buzzfeed.com/farrahpenn/young-adult-books-by-black-authors-2020?fbclid=IwAR2RiRZdAHwZ-x5dxNan2O5CuYSAL6ieppEg7Sz2aHOhCdxsWpGFPgFJ4ko

Because Black Lives Matter, Read Black Authors

Yesterday I tweeted and said something that really resonated with me: Collections Have Consequences. What we buy, what we read, what we share – it all helps shape the narrative. Today I just want to uplift Black authors. Here are a collection of lists of YA books written by Black authors. If you buy books for a library, I challenge you to see how many of these books your library owns. If you parent or are a reader, see how many you have read or bought for the people in your life. And keep in mind, books by Black authors don’t always have to be about Black Lives Matter, because part of what we mean when we say that Black Lives Matter is that they matter every day, in every way. Black youth deserve to see themselves in every day stories full of joy, hope, and promise. And white readers, like me, need to read contemporary stories about Black life that normalize and celebrate every day Black joy. On Twitter yesterday I saw a Tweet by Christine Taylor-Butler that said, “in this time of stress people want to “flood” their kids with books about racism. Please provide 20 joyful books for every one book on racism. They also need to know POC kids are like every other kid.” This is really important for those of us who build collections to keep in mind always.

31 YA Books by Black Authors: https://www.buzzfeed.com/ehisosifo1/ya-books-by-black-authors-that-you-cant-miss-this-year

Diverse Meet Cutes: https://www.slj.com/?detailStory=meet-cutes-come-all-colors-YA-diversity-romance-POC

The YA Books by Black Women You Need to Read: https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2019/04/228625/best-ya-books-by-black-women

Great Reads for Teens by African American Authors: https://www.bcls.lib.nj.us/great-books-teens-african-american-authors

YA Books by African American Authors: https://www.lapl.org/teens/books/african-american-literature-and-history-young-adults

YA Fiction by Black Authors: https://seattle.bibliocommons.com/list/share/1058529507/1132097257

If you have additional booklists to share or books to recommend, please leave a comment.

Because Black Lives Matter, a Collection of Anti-Racist Reading Lists

These past few days have seen a wide variety of global protests in support of Black Lives Matter. As a white woman, I constantly find myself having to do the work of breaking down my own misinformation, white privilege and internalized racism. Today I wanted to just share with everyone who, like me, needs to learn more, do better, and break down the white washed history that we are taught in our public schools a variety of links to various anti-racist book lists. If you haven’t already started doing the work, today is a good day to start.

Anti-Racist Reading List by Ibram X. Kendi


Understanding and Dismantling Racism: A Booklist for White Readers


31 Children’s books to support conversations on race, racism and resistance




Teaching Tolerance: Anti-Racist Education


Social Justice: Fifteen titles to address inequity, equality, and organizing for young readers | Great Books


Column: Ithaca teen shares how to be a white ally

More on being a white ally


RevolTeens: A Letter of Apology to the Class of 2020, by Christine Lively

Dear Class of 2020,

On behalf of adults everywhere, I would like to apologize. As adolescents, teens, emerging adults, your time between childhood and adulthood has been horrible, and it’s our fault. Your adolescence has been marked by terrors from the time you were born right around September 11, 2001 until your graduation now 19 years later, our country has been at war. You have attended schools that are falling apart structurally, and you have faced the terror of school shootings while also experiencing the terror of practicing being a potential victim of one every year growing up. You’ve been subjected to the incredible and unrelenting stress of high stakes testing every year in school. And now that you’ve survived all of that, your celebration of making it to the end has been canceled, and you’ve been cut off from seeing your friends, teachers, coaches, and anyone else who is not your family without any kind of warning. It would almost be funny if every single part of your growing up didn’t require you to face the possibility of death. It’s our fault, and I am sorry. 

I started writing the RevolTeen column and reading young adult fiction because I really like teenagers. I think teens are some of the funniest, most creative, most passionate, and most interesting people I’ve ever met. I believe that working with teens helps me to think through my own adolescence and give it some perspective. I think that many other adults, however, get to their high school graduation and think, “My God, the last six years have been horrible, but I made it and I never want to think about it again!” This is where the problem lies.

I heard a graduation speech this year that really brought this problem into perspective to me. The speaker may have been trying to be funny, but they weren’t. They told the graduating seniors: Now that you’ve graduated, you can spend the rest of your life working to forget how terrible high school was and move on to your “real” life.

What kind of garbage is that? Yet, I think that most adults feel this way, and it’s an attitude that we really need to change.

Basically, adults have accepted that life between the ages of 12 and 18 is horrible. We’ve also decided, “Look, it was a terrible time for me, so it’s just going to be terrible for my kids, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Sorry!”

So, what do adults get out of this attitude? Well, we get to commiserate. “Oh man, you think your middle/high school years were bad? Let me tell you what I went through!” We share these stories as if we survived battle, and for a lot of us, that’s what it felt like. We also get out of trying to help you with your problems. I mean, if we’ve all decided that being a teen sucked for us so it’s going to suck for you, we can just ignore your complaints. We can answer any pain you tell us about as an unavoidable trial of growing up. What do you want us to do about it? We’ve set you up in a no-win situation. If you try to talk to us about what you’re going through we can put you off with, “Of course you’re miserable! Everyone’s miserable at your age!” You see, we’ve crossed that graduation threshold and listening to you would just force us to relive the pain of our own adolescence. We’ve graduated, so we don’t want to talk about it. We’re trying to forget all about it. We also get to stay comfortable by not doing the hard work of changing systems. The middle school and high school experience has remained the same for generations in America. There have been incremental shifts and more accommodations for students with different abilities, learning styles, and talents, but the basic structure is the same. Changing entrenched structures and systems is hard. If we’ve resigned ourselves to the fact that it just “can’t be changed,” then we don’t have to actually do anything but keep things the way they are.

Class of 2020, we have failed you.

I write every month about “RevolTeens.” I love to highlight the teenagers who don’t accept adolescence as a time to be merely endured or survived. I want them to know that we adults see them and are in awe of their optimism and stubbornness. They’re the characters in every great teen coming of age story who fights back against the bullies, or goes out and stays weird in the face of rejection and judgment, or makes the football team when all the kids and adults at their school think they’re worthless. We all cheer for them.

But teens aren’t revolting for the romance of it or to become stars. They’re revolting because we tell them from the time they enter Middle School until the day they graduate high school, “Nobody likes Middle or High School. You just have to live through the next six years, and then your ‘real’ life can start.”

I have three young adult children of my own, and I work every day in a high school library. I talk with other parents and teachers and we’re all drained. My parents used to hope that my brothers and I would be successful enough in high school to get into college and have a good start in life. My parent and teacher friends now spend our sleepless days and nights just hoping our kids and the kids we work with will live to see their graduation. These are dreary days.

Class of 2020, you have survived. You may be holed up at home. You may be sick of logging into your laptop to find your schoolwork for the day. You didn’t get your graduation. But you have survived. You are the greatest RevolTeens of them all. Living is a revolution. You’re revolting against hopelessness, against stress, against anxiety, against depression, against generations of adults who didn’t make adolescence better for you than it was for us. You are a wonder.

Adults, we are revolting. Surely we can do better.

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

Tween and Teen Programming Ideas: Online Scattegories is the Word Game You Need

Word games have always been my favorite kind of games, which is why I love Scattegories. It’s an older game that involves making word lists using specific prompts and a designated letter. For example, your letter might be S and then you’re given 12 categories for which you must come up with something that starts with the letter S. So for a fruit you might say “strawberries” It sounds easy but with a timer putting pressure on you and the challenge to come up with something that everyone else won’t, it’s a lot harder than you might think. You have to think fast and be creative because if someone else uses the same word as you, it counts for neither of you.

I was super excited when I found that there is a way to play virtual Scattegories over Zoom or whatever online group meeting format you may be using. If you follow this link the virtual game does almost all of the work for you: https://swellgarfo.com/scattergories/.

To play, you will need a small group of people to play as individual players or on teams. Please note, you could use this in person as well as online. But if you use it online to do virtual programming, you will need a virtually meeting platform like Zoom which gives you the ability to share your screen so everyone can see the word list. But you could also use this in a regular program (when it is safe to do so) and project the categories onto a large screen using a projector. The online Scattegories generator doesn’t have to be for virtual gaming.

If you are playing virtually, I recommend hosting a private room with a password to help make sure that you don’t get Zoombombed. You’ll want to create a safe online experience for your participants by using as many safety precautions as you can.

So let’s play . . .

Your initial screen looks like this on a PC:

or this on a handheld device:

Participants will need to have a piece of paper and pen nearby to play. When everyone is ready you push play, the categories are revealed and the timer begins counting down.

For this round everyone will be trying to think of words that start with the letter S to fill in the categories below. Remember, your participants will write their answers down on a sheet of paper numbered from 1 to 12 to correspond with each category.

Participants will write their answers on a piece of paper and then when the timer is done, the fun begins. As the host you will ask each participant to share their answers down the list. If two or more people get the same answer, that answer does not count. What you want here is to come up with something unique so that you don’t get cancelled out by another player or team. At the end of each round keep a total of how many each player or team got for a round and that will give you a total score.

I played this last night with a group of 5 families and found it easier just to have everyone hold up the correct number of fingers at the each of round to let me know what their score for that round was. We played 5 rounds total and at the end of those 5 rounds I totaled everyone’s score and declared a winner. They won bragging rights and everyone had a good time.

Thankfully, the virtual Scattegories interface allows you to make some personal adjustments. You can make it child friendly. You can increase or decrease the total number of categories that appear on the screen. You can even remove categories and add your own, which means you could make a totally bookish themed virtual Scattegories game. All of this customization makes this a really fun and innovative platform for library programming for tweens and up.

The customization means that if you are hosting a Teen Book Club, you can make all your categories YA lit related.

This was fun and easy to do and I recommend it. There are so many fun programming possibilities to be had with this tool, both online and in person.

Join us for a Parent & Teen Virtual Book Club to Discuss THE BURNING with Laura Bates

Earlier this year The Teen and I both read a profoundly moving feminist novel titled The Burning that touched on a wide variety of issues that we are both very passionate about. So we are excited to get to host this online Virtual Book Club with the author, Laura Bates. It’s a free virtual event, but please follow this link to make reservations: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-burning-parentteen-book-club-with-author-laura-bates-tickets-105979304954

Please leave us a comment if you have some specific questions you would like us to ask.

About this Event

An important book for readers of all ages in the #metoo era

Read The Burning together with your teen and then join Laura Bates, internationally renowned feminist and founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, for a book club discussion.

The discussion will be moderated by YA librarian Karen Jensen of School Library Journal‘s Teen Librarian Toolbox, and her teenage daughter.

The Burning is a powerful call to action, reminding all readers of the implications of sexism and the role we can each play in ending it.

Praise for The Burning:

“A smart, explosive examination of gender discrimination and its ramifications.” – Publishers Weekly

“A haunting rallying cry against sexism and bullying.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Will take readers on an emotional roller coaster.” – School Library Journal