Teen Librarian Toolbox
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#FactsMatter: The 2021 Project Focusing on Nonfiction and Information Literacy

At TLT, we have often focused on middle grade and young adult fiction when we talk about books. But if there is anything that the last year of our lives have shown us, it’s that we have done our world a disservice. We have done our youth a disservice. Each year Teen Librarian Toolbox announces a yearly project, an area of focus to guide us. This year we will be focusing on juvenile and teen nonfiction and information literacy. This doesn’t mean we won’t continue to talk about, read, and review fiction, it just means that we will be working hard to highlight nonfiction titles as well.

And we could use your help, as always, with our yearly project.

If you are an author, a teacher, a librarian or a publisher, please contact us to write a guest post, talk about your book, or share what you are doing in the classroom or in your libraries to help your youth become informed consumers of information. Share your favorite resources, tools, etc. If you have a topic that fits and want a space to share it, we are here for you.

If you would like to participate by writing a post, please fill out this Google Form: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSe7-unzEqgqmOZdwKa_0hZ5NOa_Q1gFlzGpkmnJvsDqfdY90w/viewform?usp=sf_link

Keep checking back here as we will try and update this post periodically with links to all of the posts after 2021 kicks off, so that all the posts are in one place.

Join TLT as We Interview Kate Moore, author of The Radium Girls on Tuesday, October 27

Tomorrow, October 27th at 6:00 PM Central, I will have the honor of interviewing author Kate Moore about her book, The Radium Girls.


The incredible true story of the women who fought America’s Undark danger

The Curies’ newly discovered element of radium makes gleaming headlines across the nation as the fresh face of beauty, and wonder drug of the medical community. From body lotion to tonic water, the popular new element shines bright in the otherwise dark years of the First World War.

Meanwhile, hundreds of girls toil amidst the glowing dust of the radium-dial factories. The glittering chemical covers their bodies from head to toe; they light up the night like industrious fireflies. With such a coveted job, these “shining girls” are the luckiest alive — until they begin to fall mysteriously ill.

But the factories that once offered golden opportunities are now ignoring all claims of the gruesome side effects, and the women’s cries of corruption. And as the fatal poison of the radium takes hold, the brave shining girls find themselves embroiled in one of the biggest scandals of America’s early 20th century, and in a groundbreaking battle for workers’ rights that will echo for centuries to come.

Written with a sparkling voice and breakneck pace, The Radium Girls fully illuminates the inspiring young women exposed to the “wonder” substance of radium, and their awe-inspiring strength in the face of almost impossible circumstances. Their courage and tenacity led to life-changing regulations, research into nuclear bombing, and ultimately saved hundreds of thousands of lives…

Join us on Tuesday for a discussion by registering here: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_f5xjGiXoQi6cMRtn6OpkmQ

Book Review: Holy Spokes: a biking bible for everyone by Rob Coppolillo (with a TPiB)

It’s January, which means your TV is being flooded with weight loss ads and 1 out of every 1 person it seems is making a resolution to lose weight and get in shape.  Cycling is a great way to do that.

When The Mr. and I were dating, we spent a lot of time – at times almost daily – cycling through the canyons in California.  This was the first I had ever done it, and yes, I did it for a guy, but it turned out to be a lot of fun and living in the suburbs now, I miss those adventures.  I started out knowing exactly nothing about buying my first bike, what the various gears meant, and how to be safe.  Oh how I could have used this book!

Holy Spokes is divided into several informational chapters that include a brief history of the bike, finding your book type, and more.  There is some discussion about the environmental impact (or lack there of) in using a bike as opposed to a car and a look at using your bike for work.  Think Premium Rush starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt (or if you are older, Quicksilver starring Kevin Bacon).  Also – movie tie-in!

Some interesting facts learned from Holy Spokes:

  • Many cyclists shave their bodies while racing, not for aerodynamics, but to aid in first aid and recovery in the event of a crash.
  • Crumpling your race number before pinning it on your jersey will help prevent it from keeping air and becoming a drag, literally.
  • There are bikes that fold to make commuting easier.

The one draw back to Holy Spokes: Lance Armstrong.  Holy Spokes was published just a few days ago,
right as the proverbial doodoo was hitting the fan for Armstrong.  He is, of course, mentioned in the book.  There is a brief mention of his wins with a disclaimer regarding “Lance Armstrong’s Dark Cloud”, which as we all know finally burst.  However, this is by no means the focus of the book and does not negate the depth and coverage of the information presented on the topic of biking.

Holy Spokes looks at all types of bikes, and all types of biking, from those who just want a leisure ride to those who want to cycle competitively.  What type of book you need depends on what you want to do with it.  Picture from Zestbooks.net

Holy Spokes is published by Zest Books (I am a fan), which means that it is presented in a way that is quick and easy to read while being engaging and informative.  There are information inserts, some short stories and interviews, and a few line illustrations that help you define and label various parts of a bike.  High recommended.


True story: I once had a bike festival at a library I worked at. It took a ton of work by a great committee, but we put it together.  A team of BMX stunt riders came and did a show in the section of the parking lot that we had closed.  The local police can come out and talk bike safety.  Do a giveaway for some bike helmets and, if you can get a generous donation or a grant, a bike.

You can do bike related crafts from the very simple to the more sophisticated, like using fabric markers to design your own bandanas.  For the simple, make a huge bicycle mural out of butcher paper on the wall and have tweens and teens decorate the bike.  Thinks stinkers!  For younger kids, it could even become a fun bike version of Pin the Tail on the Donkey: Put the Sticker on the Bike.  You can even use discarded magazines (Eco Craft Alert!) to make your own stickers as part of your event.  Information here.

If you have a big enough space you can set up a fun tricycle obstacle course and have teens race to see who can complete the course first without banging their knees completely off.

We have a local pizza vendor set up in the parking lot and they were selling slices and cans of pop.  It really was a fun little parking lot festival with a few indoor activities designed to move people into the library to browse so they didn’t just watch the BMX team in the parking lot and leave without thinking about using the library.

If you want to make a health festival out of it you can have a martial arts demonstration, someone talking nutrition, etc.

Holy Spokes, a Biking Bible for Everyone by Rob Coppolillo.  Published January 22, 2013 by Zest Books. ISBN: ISBN-13: 978-1-936976-23-2.

P.S. I looked, but I didn’t have any pictures of The Mr. and I during our biking phase.  It’s hard to ride and snap pics.  Plus, it was long enough ago that we didn’t have smart phones.  Yes, I realize I just aged myself.

Book Review: Uncool, a Girl’s Guide to Misfitting In by Erin Elisabeth Conley

The Unrules:
  • Be kind to your fellow misfits.
  • Believe that black is a color suitable for any occasion, worthy of even being added to the rainbow.
  • Think.  Be.  Think and be different.
  • Throw caution to the wind.  Take chances with fashion, hobbies, hopes, and dreams.
  • Be OK with wearing things that your mother, grandmother, or nosy old neighbor thinks are ugly.
  • Don’t be afraid to look weird.
  • Write a blog.  Make a documentary film.  Publish a zine.  Learn the accordion.  Build a radio-controlled blimp.
  • Express your individuality in a healthy, creative way.
  • Let your inner geek speak- whether it’s through music, art, science, origami, circus school, or whatever.
  • Do something slightly risky (but never dangerous) every once in a while.  Take up the sport of spelunking (cave exploring), or invite your gym teacher to join you for lunch.
  • Have patience with people who are different from you.  (You know, the ones who are so “normal” they’re practically clones.)
  • Find something to believe in, a worthy cause of sorts.  Volunteer and invest some genuine spirit into it.
  • Feel free to pop over to the Dark Side, but don’t move there.
  • Orbit Planet Normal in your mother ship, but don’t inhabit it.
  • Don’t change just because someone else thinks you should.
  • Know that even though you may misfit, there is always someplace you are welcome in the world.

Uncool, a 2009 YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, is a fun and active read for teen girls who are always faced with the pressure of fitting in and bending to the whims of everyone’s opinions, whether it’s the media or family and friends.  When you know that you are not stepping to the same tune as everyone else, life is always difficult, and the humor that runs rampant throughout the book helps give girls already anxious about issues like appearance, clothing, cliques, and being themselves a lift and an easy way to navigate through some of the tougher waters.

Containing recommended book lists and playlists, Mad Libs for thinking through issues, and activities for handling situations in non-confrontational ways, Uncool engages readers into making active insights into the world around them.  It encourages the inner weirdness in all of us in a positive way, without shining rainbows and glitter over the negatives of middle school and teen life.  A lack of an appendix for additional resources (websites or readings), and its nonstandard size are the only negatives for adding it to a library collection- at 4 1/2 inches by 5 1/2 inches it’s perfect for a teen to carry around in a purse or backpack unnoticed, but it’s going to be hard to keep track of on traditional library shelving.
I can definitely see using this in library programming, paired with fiction books such as the ones listed on our Top Ten Books Dealing with Body Image, or with programs on self esteem, or as part of “spa days” for teens.  Get some of the Mad Libs or other writing activities blown up, create a playlist on your iPod with some of the recommended songs, and go to town for your program opener.  Lead with a discussion of where things stand in books and media before creating body salts or killer robots for crafts.
Some totally “Uncool” role models to share with teens:
Daria, from the awesome animated series from Mtv
Lisa Simpson, from the Simpsons animated series
Georgia Nicolson, from author Louise Rennison
Kat, from the movie 10 Things I Hate About You
Bridget Jones, from the books and the movies
And let us not forget one of the coolest Uncool people out there, Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Share your favorite “Uncool” female role models for us in the comments.

Retro Movies with Reel Culture: 50 Classic Movies You Should Know About (So You Can Impress Your Friends) by Mimi O’Connor

Retro can be cool.  And let’s face it, there are some great classic movies out there.  In fact, a lot of our ya lit, TV shows and movies like to drop those classic movie references in there and sometimes, teens can be lost.  But don’t fear – there is a book to help! Isn’t there always?

Reel Culture: 50 Classic Movies You Should Know About (So You Can Impress Your Friends) outlines 50 significant movies from 1938 to 1991. This is a great browsing titled put together in chronological order.  It is an interesting look at some of the classic movies that helped define our culture at the time; the movies that we keep going back to time and time again.  Each title has about a 2 to 3 spread that outlines the movie, answers what all the fuss is about and tells you the stuff that people are still talking about.  Reel Culture than gives you a few significant quotes from each movie: “Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” (p. 13)

Reel Culture is part of Zest Books Pop Culture series (which also includes Scandalous, The End, Dead Strange, and How to Fight, Lie and Cry Your Way to Popularity (and a Prom Date).  Each book in the series has the same browsable format with insets of pictures, interesting facts and more.  Although teens will enjoy flipping through these titles, they will appeal to adults as well and they provide some good basis for teen programming.  Read on for some specific programming examples.

True story: During my senior year of high school I may have been suffering from what is commonly referred to as “Senioritis”. It’s a real disease, I swear to it. Anyhow, my teacher gave us a list of books to choose from to read and do a book report on. I picked the shortest book on the list, which happened to be Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, the inspiration for the movie Apocalypse Now (It’s in the book!). It didn’t hurt that I was in love with Martin Sheen and wished he was my dad. Anyhow, long story only moderately short: That was the best stinking book I had read and I ended up doing the best book report ever. I never have been very good at slacker moments.  But it certainly can be some interesting discussion of how some movies are inspired by books even if they aren’t a direct book to movie adaptation.

Here are just a few of the programming ideas you can tie in with Reel Culture:

  • Book to Movie book discussion groups (The Wizard of Oz, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory) 
  • Movie marathons (80s, Horror, Prom)
  • You can use some of the information to create contests both online and in-house: Most Iconic Characters, Top Movie Couples, Legendary Oscar Moments, Movie quotes
  • Since the book only goes up to 1991, have teens add their own titles to represent later years.

Have a Flashback Party:
Show movies in the background
Bust out some retro boardgames and do some retro crafts. Think modge-podge, sock monkeys, and more.  There are some ideas in this Flashback Fridays post.  Some fun retro games you may want to include are Battleship, Clue, Uno, Yahtzee, etc.

Have a Disco Party:
Truthfully, you probably can’t show Saturday Night Fever, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with it.  You can use discarded cds and foam flower balls to create disco balls.  Just break the cds up and glue them to the foam flower ball and voila’, a disco ball.  Do some 70s Karaoke and be sure and YouTube some Disco moves.


An 80s Party Would Be, Like, Totally Fun:
One of my favorite movies included in Reel Culture is The Breakfast Club.  I think this is still an important and relevant movie for today’s teens.  You can have teens dress us up in 80s fashion and come view the movie.

An Oompa Good Time:
With Willy Wonka playing in the background, have a chocolate making and tasting program.  Or do a dessert version of Iron Chef using various candies, graham crackers, whip cream, marshmallow cream and more.  I have done this and it rocked! The teens loved it and begged to do it again.:

Social Media:
You can use your social media sites to share quotes, do short quizzes and more for an online movie festival during the award season.  In fact, create your own Teen Movie Awards and give your teens the chance to nominate and vote on their favorite movies during this time.

Film Wise is one of my favorite websites for movie lovers, and would be a great addition to your Reel Culture social media campaign.  They have a quiz called Invisibles where the main character is erased from a screen shot of a movie scene and you have to guess what movie it is.  There are a wide variety of movie quizzes and activities that would tie in nicely here.

Tapping into Teens Creativity:
And don’t forget that you can get teens to use their tech to create their own mini movies.  Have them act out scenes, create movie trailers and more.  The iPhone has a great app called iMovie that makes it easy to create movie trailers to share. 

You can also  tap into your teens creativity by having them make movie posters for their favorite books and sharing them online and in house.  One of my favorite Tumblrs is the Minimal Movie Posters, which are both a great example and another fun thing to share using your social media sites.  You can also check out Tech Blog which has 42 Awesome Minimalist Movie Posters.

What movie related programming have you done?  Tell us about it in the comments.

A “Zest” for Teen Nonfiction: Your TLT Zest Books HQ

During the month of November TLT is going to be talking about Teen Nonfiction and Science Fiction.  As part of our celebration we are doing a special project with Zest Books for the week of November 11th-17th.  During this week we will be reviewing several of their titles, giving you ready made programs to use with their books, and sharing some of our own personal stories inspired by their titles.
 *  Book Reviews  *  Teen Programs in a Box  *  Booklists  * Giveaways  *
If you are not familiar with Zest Books, these are great Teen Nonfiction titles because they are quick yet heartfelt teen reads that are packaged perfectly for their audience.
Oh, and did I mention that we will be having several giveaways during this week where you can win a package of several Nonfiction titles from Zest Books?  Well – we are!!!
Join us every day November 11th – 17th as we talk about the end of the world, our first crushes (and breakups) and share some amazing teen programming that includes fashion, babysitting and saving the Earth!
As we post new posts, they will be linked here for your convenience, making this your TLT Zest Books Headquarters.
Dear Teen Me, authors write letters to their teen selves edited by E. Kristin Anderson and Miranda Kenneally
The End, a look at books containing epidemics based on The End: 50 apocalyptic Visions from Pop Culture That You Should Know About . . . before it’s too late by Laura Barcella
Uncool (Book Review)
Girls Against Girls (Book Review and Discussion)