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Friday Finds: April 3, 2020

Is it Friday already? What day is it? I think it must be Friday.

This Week at TLT

My debut novel is coming out…in the middle of a global pandemic, a guest post by Liz Lawson

Book Review: Somebody Told Me by Mia Siegert

Cindy Crushes Programming: DIY Price is Right Game, by Cindy Shutts

Girl, You Crack Me Up! Funny Female Authors in Middle Grade Fiction, a conversation with authors Jessica Kim and Arianne Costner

Turner Syndrome and Representation, a guest post by Sarah Allen

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Fall 2020 Showcase: Quests, anxiety, ghosts, rom-coms, and more!

New Books Alert: Folktales, Chernobyl, stand-up comedy, and more!

Making More Materials Discoverable in OverDrive: Curating Collections, a guest post by Kathryn King

March ARC Party: A look at the new MG and YA lit coming your way in March 2020

Sunday Reflections: The Story of the Tree is Our Story, a story of love and loss in the time of pandemic

Around the Web

Collecting Unemployment When You’re Self-Employed

9 Out Of 10 Children Are Out Of School Worldwide. What Now?

Disney Publishing Releases Online Reading Guidelines

Jason Reynolds Is the Bard of Black YA Fiction. Now He’s Written a Totally Different Kind of Book.

Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2021) Nominees Round Up, April 3 Edition

EveryLibrary Creates Fund to Help Library Workers in Need

A great roundup of learning from home resources by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

My debut novel is coming out…in the middle of a global pandemic, a guest post by Liz Lawson

I’m not going to sugarcoat it. I have been rotating in and out of depression since all of this started a month ago. I’m sure I am not alone in this. The world right now is… heavy. So, so heavy. And I, like so many people, feel helpless, confused, fearful…a rotating kaleidoscope of emotions that are mostly negative.

I want to be clear: this isn’t a call for pity. Far from it. My depression (for the most part) wasn’t because of personal issues. It was because… you know… the world. The world that is both showing how pained it can become and how much its people are willing and able to come together for each other. There is so much trauma right now happening, but there are also daily stories of people coming together, supporting local businesses to the best of their ability, doing small favors for elderly or high-risk neighbors and family. I have several friends who are likely going to give birth this month. New life is still happening, all around us.

But, last weekend I was sad. Very very sad. About why this all happened and what is happening right now and what might happen in the future. Just like so many of you are. Just like most of us. All the uncertainty is so hard to grapple with and live inside. My ability to handle it changes with every passing hour.

And, last weekend, my author copies arrived. Of my debut, my debut that I had worked on for YEARS and years (that is honestly some thirty-three years in the making).

All of them showed up yesterday.

I opened the box and bawled. It wasn’t a joyous bawl. It wasn’t excited or proud or anything that I’d imagined. I bawled because it was yet another (tiny) reminder of what has been taken from us. I was sad. So, so sad.

So I did what I do when I’m sad. I talked to people. My husband. My family. My friends. And talked. And talked some more.

And, finally, I was reminded – hours (and hours and an entire nighttime) later, what I had forgotten: That we are in this together. That feeling joy in the midst of enormously painful, world changing situations isn’t selfish.


I was reminded that a human being can both be very, very sad about one thing and feel happy, too. That feelings can exist simultaneously. That it is okay (actually, healthy) for them to. It is human. What we are experiencing right now is HUMAN. Our grief and our happiness and the hope that still exists in the world—that is what makes all of us uniquely human.

In THE LUCKY ONES, my characters grapple with similar emotional upheaval. May lost her brother in a school shooting a year prior to the opening of the book, and she is still in pain. She is struggling and pushing back against a world that let her down so completely. But, through meeting Zach and through the help of her friends, she learns that she can still feel hope. That not only can she feel it—that it is OKAY for her to feel. She gives herself permission to feel both the negatives and the positives of our world.

Please know that if you are sad, you are not alone. If you are depressed, yup, same here. If you are feeling joy – that is okay too.

We are in this together.

Pre-order THE LUCKY ONES from Skylight Books in Los Angeles.

Meet Liz Lawson

Photo credit: Jenn KL Photography

Liz Lawson has been writing for most of her life in one way or another. She has her Masters in Communications with a Concentration in Rhetoric from Villanova University, and has written for a variety of publications including PASTE MAGAZINE. When she’s not writing, she works as a music supervisor for film & television. Liz resides in Los Angeles, CA, where she lives with an adorable toddler, a fantastic husband, and two VERY bratty cats. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter at @lzlwsn.

About The Lucky Ones by Liz Lawson

For fans of Thirteen Reasons WhyThis Is How It Ends, and All the Bright Places, comes a new novel about life after. How do you put yourself back together when it seems like you’ve lost it all?

May is a survivor. But she doesn’t feel like one. She feels angry. And lost. And alone. Eleven months after the school shooting that killed her twin brother, May still doesn’t know why she was the only one to walk out of the band room that day. No one gets what she went through—no one saw and heard what she did. No one can possibly understand how it feels to be her.

Zach lost his old life when his mother decided to defend the shooter. His girlfriend dumped him, his friends bailed, and now he spends his time hanging out with his little sister…and the one faithful friend who stuck around. His best friend is needy and demanding, but he won’t let Zach disappear into himself. Which is how Zach ends up at band practice that night. The same night May goes with her best friend to audition for a new band.

Which is how May meets Zach. And how Zach meets May. And how both might figure out that surviving could be an option after all.

ISBN-13: 9780593118498
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Publication date: 04/07/2020
Age Range: 14 – 17 Years

Cindy Crushes Programming: DIY Price is Right Game, by Cindy Shutts

When my brother and I were kids, we used to love to watch and then play The Prices is Right during the summer, so I was pleased as punch to hear that Cindy Shutts had put together a version of the game while sheltering in place.

In Illinois we have been given the order to shelter in place. There are a lot of games you can play but for my family who I live with (my parents) I made my own version of The Price is Right which can easily be a program.


  • Random items to be priced
  • Notecards to write the prices on

Step One: I played the theme song from the show and did the famous “come on down your are our first contest on the Price is Right.”

Step Two: I picked a random item I had at my house and asked them what the retail price on Amazon was. The first person to get the answer closer to the price without going over wins this round and advances to the next game.

Step Three: I chose pretty easy games to play. This first contestant game I chose was high or lower. I had five books and I asked them if the list price was high or lower than the price I gave them. I had no prizes but if I did this at the library I would have given candy. My dad got three of five so he moved on to the showcase showdown.

Check out this Price is Right themed party for some decoration ideas

Pinterest Board of Price is Right Games and Ideas

Step Four: I had my mom come up to play the item game. She did well.

Step Five: The game I chose to play was a household item with the wrong price and all the numbers higher one up or one lower.

There are a lot of games you can modify to work at home or at your library.  You will need more games since I modified my home version for just two players.

Here is the list of price games: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_The_Price_Is_Right_pricing_games

Step Six: I did not do this step since I only had two players. The wheel is one of the most iconic parts of the game. I would have used my 10 sided die to simulate the game. Roll one ten sided die then roll the same ten-sided die to get the second number. In this game the person closer to a dollar without going over goes on to the Showcase Showdown. This game is done twice in the show.

Step Seven: Showcase Showdown. I used an old receipt to make this game. I read what was on the receipt and both of my parents had to guess the price. My mom guessed only 45 cents off and won the game. One way to make the game more exciting is to pick a variety of items from Amazon and print out pictures and have them guess how much the items are in total.

Make a DIY Plinko Board

Final Thoughts: I loved this. I want to bring this to the library and I feel like this will be such a wonderful program for the teens.

Cindy Shutts, MLIS


Cindy is passionate about teen services. She loves dogs, pro-wrestling, Fairy tales, mythology, and of course reading. Her favorite books are The Hate U Give, Catching FIre, The Royals, and everything by Cindy Pon. She loves spending times with her dog Harry Winston and her niece and nephew. Cindy Shutts is the Teen Services Librarian at the White Oak Library District in IL and she’ll be joining us to talk about teen programming. You can follow her on Twitter at @cindysku.FacebookTwitterShare

Girl, You Crack Me Up! Funny Female Authors in Middle Grade Fiction, a conversation with authors Jessica Kim and Arianne Costner

Hey all! I am Arianne Costner, author of MY LIFE AS A POTATO. Fun fact: This post also includes pictures of Jessica and I jumping out of an airplane!

And I am Jessica Kim, author of STAND UP, YUMI CHUNG. Isn’t it wild that our debut books are out there in the world now? Feels like just yesterday when we met for the first time. 

A: It does! I remember meeting up over the summer with some other writer friends. We were excited because our books have one thing in common–they’re both marketed as humorous. We realized that we both have a love for comedy and want to see more of it, especially written by females. We’ve done lots of fun things together since then–even skydiving! I’ll attach a pic of that below! So I’ll kick this convo off and ask you, Jessica: Why is writing comedy important to you?

J: Personally, funny books are the ones I like to read the most. I tend to gravitate toward people who have a good sense of humor, so it makes sense that the characters I end up loving are also the ones who can make me laugh. 

I think comedy is especially important during tough times, too. It can give readers an escape when things are too serious or scary outside. Sometimes, laughter is the best medicine, right? 

I also think it’s important that girls see funny books written by other girls, because the comedy genre is pretty male-dominated. Why do you think that is, anyway? 

A: I’m not sure! In trade reviews (and non-trade reviews alike,) I’ve been compared to authors like Jeff Kinney, Gordon Korman, Lincoln Pierce, and Chris Grabenstein. It’s flattering of course because I LOVE these guys! But it’s interesting that I’ve never been compared to a female author–not that I’ve seen, anyway. This could be because I have a boy main character, and books with boy MCs are often written by males. It’s glaring, though, that there aren’t as many females thriving in this space of “goofy” middle school stories. 

Honestly, it’s been a little intimidating. At times I’ve worried that kids would see my name on a book and decide it wasn’t going to be as funny. Earlier on, I even considered going by A.L. Costner to keep my gender ambiguous, but then I thought, you know what? No way! Girls need to see female authors write books like this! Besides, kids today are very keen and I never want to underestimate them. 

What about you? Did you ever feel intimidated trying to write a funny book?

J: I didn’t necessarily feel intimidated while writing the book, because funny books are the only ones I know how to write, but when I was promoting my book, I noticed I was often the only woman on the funny book panels. What’s that all about? I really hope that changes quickly because the world is missing out on some awesome hilarious-girl content! Speaking of which, can you share your process of creating humor? How did you know a joke was landing?

A: I tested most of the quips on my husband, and he is very honest–brutally honest, sometimes, but that’s why he’s helpful! I also did lots of good old Youtube and Google searches about creating humor and humorous scenarios. We are so lucky to have a world of resources at our fingertips! And of course, I read other books for inspiration. Speaking of which, I’m curious: Who are some of your favorite funny female authors?

J: I’m a big fan of Dusti Bowling, Remy Lai, Lisa Yee, and Booki Vivat. They crack me up. What about yours?

A: First of all, YOU obviously haha. I also love Niki Lenz and all of the authors you mentioned above! If we are going to kick it old school, Judy Blume is fantastic. I grew up reading her Fudge series. Louise Rennison is a crack up and a total inspiration! And, of course, Renee Watson is an icon. Since it’s April Fools Day, I have to finish by asking: What was your favorite April Fools joke you’ve played?

J: Well, this didn’t happen on April Fool’s Day, but once my friends and I mixed some spicy wasabi into our friend’s green tea ice cream while she was in the restroom. We thought it’d be hilarious but then she started coughing and her eyes started watering and she turned bright red and I was afraid we were going to have to call an ambulance. I’ve been wary of playing pranks of anyone ever since. Though I did see this hilarious thing on the internet where someone scratched creepy messages onto some bananas (like: I know what you did or HELP or DO NOT EAT etc) for unsuspecting grocery buyers to discover as the bananas brown a few days later. I’d never do that though! What about you?

A: Oh, the banana thing sounds hilarious! We are all a little wary around produce right now haha, so maybe not the best prank for this year! Growing up, my siblings and I would TP my parent’s bedroom on April Fool’s Day. That wouldn’t go over well these days, amiright?

J: With toilet paper being such a scarce commodity these days, it may be more of a favor than a prank. In any case, I hope you have a delightful April Fool’s Day and thanks so much for chatting with me. And also thanks to those who listened in on our conversation! We hope you’ll check out our books linked below.

Signing off!

Arianne and Jessica

And as promised, here are pictures of Jessica and I jumping out of an airplane. Have a great April Fool’s Day, everyone!

Meet Arianne Costner

Arianne Costner lives in the middle of the desert with her husband and three children. She is a former English teacher who believes that writers should crack up at their own jokes. When she isn’t writing, she can be found playing the piano and composing music. Her favorite kind of potato is the tater tot, with mashed potatoes coming in close second—as long as they’re not gluey.

Arianne’s twitter: @ariannecostner Arianne’s IG: @authorariannecostner.   website: ariannecostner.com 

Meet Jessica Kim

Jessica Kim writes about Asian American girls dfinding their way in the world. Before she was an author, Jessica studied education at UC Berkeley and spent ten years teaching third, fourth, and fifth grades in public schools. Like Yumi, Jessica lives with her family in Southern California and can’t get enough Hot Cheetos, stand-up comedy, BTS, and Korean barbecue.

Jessica’s twitter: @jesskimwrites IG:  @jesskimwrites. website: jesskimwrites.com

About My Life as a Potato by Arianne Costner

For anyone who has ever felt like a potato in middle school, this hilarious story about a boy forced to become the dorkiest school mascot ever will have readers cheering!

Ben Hardy believes he’s cursed by potatoes. And now he’s moved to Idaho, where the school’s mascot is Steve the Spud! Yeah, this cannot be good.

After accidentally causing the mascot to sprain an ankle, Ben is sentenced to Spud duty for the final basketball games of the year. But if the other kids know he’s the Spud, his plans for popularity are likely to be a big dud! Ben doesn’t want to let the team down, so he lies to his friends to keep it a secret. No one will know it’s him under the potato suit . . . right?

Life as a potato is all about not getting mashed! With laugh-out-loud illustrations throughout, hand to fans of James Patterson, Gordan Korman, Jeff Kinney, and Chris Grabenstein!

ISBN-13: 9780593118665
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Publication date: 03/24/2020
Age Range: 8 – 12 Years

Arianne’s local indie is Red Rock Books (order from here to get a signed book of MY LIFE AS A POTATO).   

About Stand Up, Yumi Chung! by Jessica Kim

One lie snowballs into a full-blown double life in this irresistible story about an aspiring stand-up comedian.

On the outside, Yumi Chung suffers from #shygirlproblems, a perm-gone-wrong, and kids calling her “Yu-MEAT” because she smells like her family’s Korean barbecue restaurant. On the inside, Yumi is ready for her Netflix stand-up special. Her notebook is filled with mortifying memories that she’s reworked into comedy gold. All she needs is a stage and courage.

Instead of spending the summer studying her favorite YouTube comedians, Yumi is enrolled in test-prep tutoring to qualify for a private school scholarship, which will help in a time of hardship at the restaurant. One day after class, Yumi stumbles on an opportunity that will change her life: a comedy camp for kids taught by one of her favorite YouTube stars. The only problem is that the instructor and all the students think she’s a girl named Kay Nakamura—and Yumi doesn’t correct them.

As this case of mistaken identity unravels, Yumi must decide to stand up and reveal the truth or risk losing her dreams and disappointing everyone she cares about.

ISBN-13: 9780525554974
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 03/17/2020
Age Range: 9 – 12 Years

Jessica’s local indie is

Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore (order from here and get a signed nameplate along with STAND UP,  YUMI CHUNG! ).

Turner Syndrome and Representation, a guest post by Sarah Allen

I was born XO, which does not stand for hugs and kisses.

Lots of things became chaotic when I was born. I had something called omphalocele, which means my intestines were sticking out through a hole in my stomach where my belly button should have been. I was rushed to surgery before my mom was able to hold me. In the NICU, recovering from surgery number one, doctors discovered that there was another problem, one even more life-threatening. There was a constriction in my aortic valve, causing my heart to pump so hard it was growing way beyond safe size. This meant another surgery.

Oddly enough, it was something as simple as my uniquely puffy hands and feet that tipped one of my many incredible doctors off to the real underlying cause of all the medical drama. They ran some tests and confirmed the doctor’s suspicion. My dramatic entry into the world was the result of a genetic disorder called Turner syndrome.

An average person is born with 46 chromosomes. In girls, two of those chromosomes are XX. Not in girls with Turner syndrome. Turner syndrome means you are born with only one X instead of two. A missing X, for a total of 45 chromosomes.


There are a few core things that come with having Turner syndrome. Short stature is one, and I took growth hormone shots starting at age eight that helped me reach my happy five-foot-four. Another aspect is infertility. Many also deal with heart or kidney problems, some vision or hearing loss, and physical characteristics such as low-set ears, wide neck, and barrel-shaped ribs. It can also come accompanied by learning disabilities such as Non-verbal Learning Disorder.

Here’s the thing, though. With some support and determination, there’s nothing in this unique set of challenges to stop a Turners girl from living a normal, happy, even thrilling life of her choosing. My parents signed me up for the best school they could find, and put me in extracurriculars the same as all my other siblings. They expected self-sufficiency and hard work, and I learned from them that nothing could stop me from achieving what I wanted in my life. (Like publishing a book, maybe?)

But here’s the other thing: I never once saw myself represented in the books I read, or in any other media for that matter. I loved spunky girls like Ramona and Anne Shirley, but none of the characters ever looked quite like me, or was thinking about the uncommon challenges I was facing.

To be honest, this is not terribly surprising. Only 1 in 2500 girls is born XO. Only 1-2% of embryos with monosomy X are even carried to term, resulting in 10-20% of all miscarriages. But I knew girls like me were out there. In my gut I believed our stories mattered just like anyone else’s.

It took several other novels and help from professors in my MFA program at Brigham Young University, but I finally felt ready to tell a story about a girl with Turner syndrome.

And this is how Libby and WHAT STARS ARE MADE OF was born. I didn’t see my physical story, my body, represented in any of the books I read. Honestly, I felt like a pretty normal kid, a pretty normal person, and I would have given anything to find a book that told me, yeah, I was. I wanted to offer that to other readers.

STARS is about a girl who loves with everything she has, and never stops trying to help the most important people in her life despite her challenges. STARS is about the value inherent in every individual, no matter their circumstances or limitations, full stop. I wanted to reflect that individual worth to anyone who happened to pick up my book, no matter who they are, where they live, or what they look like.

C.S. Lewis said, “We read to know that we are not alone.” This has always been my writing mantra. I wrote this book for the girls like me, and for any kid who feels themselves on the fringes of “normal.” I wrote it as a celebration of weirdness and individuality. I want every reader who picks up this book to leave assured of one important thing: you are what stars are made of.

Sarah grew up in Utah and currently lives in the Pacific Northwest. Like Libby in WHAT STARS ARE MADE OF, she was born with Turner syndrome. She has an MFA from Brigham Young University, and in her spare time can be found writing poetry and watching David Attenborough documentaries or Pixar movies. She is a hardcore fan of golden retrievers, leather jackets, and Colin Firth.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
FSG Books for Young Readers
On Sale: 03/31/2020
ISBN: 9780374313197
Ages 10-14

Sarah would love it if you could support her indie, Third Place Books, which is offering signed copies of WHAT STARS ARE MADE OF.

Making More Materials Discoverable in OverDrive: Curating Collections, a guest post by Kathryn King

Yesterday I tweeted that my supervisor, Kathryn King, had trained me and given me access to curate collections in OverDrive and that I was excited because I was going to take a deep dive into our Teens page at the Fort Worth Public Library to help teens find the books they were looking for during this unprecedented time. A lot of people asked me how to do this so Kathryn wrote up a tutorial for us. Thank you Kathryn for all that you are doing to help our community connect with the information they need during this time and for sharing that information with other libraries that find themselves in the same situation during this time.

As we are all facing difficult times with our physical locations closing to the public, we still want to provide excellent customer service for the products we can share remotely.  Fort Worth Public Library decided to step up their game and start actively curating collections in OverDrive.  OverDrive provides curated collections that they create but Fort Worth Public Library wanted to tailor our offerings to what our users were facing and to promote materials we had available. 

Setting up OverDrive staff users so they can curate collections:

Users must have the permission to curate assigned to them in their logins in order to create curated collections.  This permission is set in Marketplace Users under ADMIN.

Setting the permission:

Go to Admin and choose Marketplace users

Click on the pencil to edit a user’s account.

Scroll to users permissions

Choose curate and click save

This user will now have to ability to curate collections on Overdrive and Libby.

To curate a collection:

Once you are in OverDrive Marketplace

  1.  Go to Curate.  It is in the lighter blue tool bar.  You will get a drop down menu.  Choose Standard curation.

Click on the green button to Create Standard Collection

The “learn more about curation” link will take you to a very thorough help page with lots of information.

  •  Give your collection a name.  This will display in OverDrive.  You can also give it a description. This will display under the main title in OverDrive.

Click pin as main collection and hit next

  • To choose where you would like it to be published, click in the box “Publishing locations”

A drop down menu will appear and you can choose the locations you want the collection to display.

There are more options if you scroll

  •  Click on the collection you want and they will move into the main box.
  • Choose how the titles will display.  All titles, Available Only or Show all titles but show available first. This last option is the one we use most often.
  • Click Save Draft
  • You are now ready to search for titles to put in your collection.  Type in search in the search box or choose to an advanced search.
  •  When you get your results you will see the option to add it to the main collection.  Click the add to main collection button to add the title to your collection.  OR you can click the box in front of the cover art and add all the titles at once at the bottom of the list.

You must have at least 5 titles in a collection for it to display in Libby.  Our preference is to have Libby and the website offer similar experiences.  Manya uses Libby almost exclusively.

  • When you finish picking your titles click on the box for your collection.  This will take you back to the collection screen.
  1. Check over the summary and the titles that will be in the collection. 

When picking titles to highlight in a collection, you should consider the number of available copies and the holds.  In my example, I will remove The Body by Bill Bryson because we only have 7 copies but 13 holds currently.  Over the Top was a great choice because all 10 copies are available. 

To remove a title(s), click on the box in first column and then click on delete titles.

  1. Then save draft and then publish.

Click confirm

  1. You will now need to go to the tab organize published collections.  New collections are always added to the bottom of the display page.  If a page is not showing you will need to use the left hand menu to choose a page
  1. Scroll to the bottom to find your newly created collection
  1. You will get a four pointed arrow.  Click and hold the mouse button down and move your collection to the position you would like it to be in.

You can also use the up and down arrows to move the collection

  1. Your collection will display on the site within 24 hours.

Additional information:

If you want/need to edit the collection you have already published, you can click on the pencil.  This is how you can add/remove titles.  The X will delete the collection.

When you go to edit a collection you will need to first “create draft”

And then make sure to PIN your collection.  If you don’t pin the collection, when you go to add your titles it won’t let you add them to the existing collection.

After you make changes, save draft and then publish.

Using Kathryn’s instructions, I began curating the Fort Worth Public Library Teens page in OverDrive. I’m putting together a variety of thematic collections that I think will help our patrons find the books they want to read. I’m excited about what this means for us moving forward in terms of doing Reader’s Advisory in OverDrive with our patrons.

About Kathryn King

Kathryn King, Collection Development Manager at the Fort Worth Public Library, received her MLS from Texas Woman’s University in 1998. She was an AV librarian and a Children’s Librarian before moving to collection management in 2004. She has worked for a county library in upstate New York, Los Angeles Public Library, Dallas Public Library and has been with FWPL since 2006. A firm believer in data driven decision making, she has presented programs at the national, state, and local levels about using statistics in collection management and right sizing collections.

March ARC Party: A look at the new MG and YA lit coming your way in March 2020

The Teen and I had kind of gotten out of the practice of doing ARC Parties, but we thought with the current situation it would be a good time to revive the practice and share with you some books that came out in March 2020. Here’s how it works: We go through the stack of ARCs we have on hand, read the back cover description, and we give a sneak peek at new and upcoming releases. Sometimes we’ve read them and we share a mini-review. Sometimes The Teen gives her point of view just based on the cover or description. But it’s a fun, quick way to familiarize ourselves with some new and upcoming releases.

Sunday Reflections: The Story of the Tree is Our Story, a story of love and loss in the time of pandemic

At the end of February in 2011, our town in Ohio flooded. At that time, it was the most traumatic thing that had happened to us. I had to find a way to escape our flooding home through flooding, freezing waters with a two-year-old and an eight-year-old. That moment changed everything about our lives and what we thought we understood about the world. We carry that trauma of that moment with us every time it rains.

That summer, still struggling from the 2008 recession and now dealing with having lost 1/3 of our lives in a flood, we moved to Texas. We were barely able to buy a new house, having found a renter for our Ohio home and a job in Texas, before everything fully and completely fell apart for us. Our renter ghosted, we struggled to pay the mortgage and tried to sell a house in a town in a state that was devastated by the 2008 recession. Eventually, we would lose that house to foreclosure and have to spend the next seven years trying to fix our credit while standing in grocery stories crying as we tried to figure out what food we could buy as we lived – barely – paycheck to paycheck. We were like every one of our neighbors, barely hanging on and trying to raise kids in a word that was scary and fraught and unstable.

When we bought our house in Texas, besides the very low price that we could possibly afford, it was the tree that made me want to proclaim yes. This was a tree that a kid could climb and try to reach the sky. This was the tree of my childhood dreams. As a child of divorce, we lived in apartments. And as a military kid, we moved a lot. There were no trees for me to call my own, to climb and try to touch the stars or name the clouds or build a tree house full of memories. This tree was every thing my childhood heart longed for and everything my parental love wanted for my children.

Several years ago, tornadoes came through parts of Texas and tore huge limbs full of years of tales from the tree. Although the tree continued to get new green leaves each new spring, you could tell the tree was slowly dying. Once again, a storm had done immeasurable damage to our home.

The tree needs to go, The Mr. would argue. It’s dead, decaying, and the limbs are falling off. For the last few years, I fought him. There is still new growth I would proclaim, even as the trunk began to fall away and the tree became a bizarrely misshappen shell of what it used to be.

But I had already lost the home where my children’s growth had been documented in pencil on the door jam. I had said goodbye to friends I loved, traditions I held dear, and the place that I had called home. I had fought through years of depression and anxiety to finally, sometimes, be able to call this new place my home. And the tree was part of the reason that I could. I would sit on the back patio and watch my children climb this tree. I watched them tell stories, spin tales, and bask in the glory of the sky.

As The Teen became a teen, I watched her and her friends climb that tree so they could glimpse sneak peeks of the neighbor boys in their own backyard without their shirts on. They would whisper and giggle and I would pretend not to notice because I knew exactly what they were doing and why. Twelve-year-old Karen would have done the same exact thing.

It seems fitting, then, that as the world is changing once again, The Mr. and I took the time this weekend to finally take down the dying tree. It seems fitting, somehow, that these two moments in time are coinciding. The world as I know it is once again changing. We are in the midst of a pandemic, something I could have never fathomed no matter how many pandemic novels I read or movies I watched – and trust me, the answer to both of those is a lot, it was my favorite genre up until about a month ago.

Having been through traumatic events before, I know that the world will not be the same after this. I have no idea what the world will look like, but I know everything is once again changing.

The world is changing. I am changing. My children are changing. So it seems fitting that in this moment, the dying tree is finally being excavated piece by piece from my backyard.

And it makes my heart ache.

My heart aches because once again, a symbol of my children’s childhood is being wrenched from my landscape. My heart aches because once again, I know that my children will face traumatic life changing events that will change everything about who they are and what their future may be.

The Teen was born shortly after 9/11. At the age of three she almost died from a rare disease called Kawasaki disease. At the age of four her mom almost died in pregnancy and had to make the heartbreaking decision to end that pregnancy, it took me almost a year to fully mentally and physically recover from the events of that time. At the age of six her little sister was born with her own health complications. At the age of eight, our home and town flooded. At the age of twelve, her childhood friends were victims of sexual violence. At the age of seventeen, just in the year 2020, a classmate died from suicide, a fellow student brought a gun to school that was discharged, and now . . . we are facing a pandemic.

I think about my teenager and all of her fellow teens. They’ve grown up in a time of environmental crisis, post 9/11 wars, police and school shootings, a deep recession, and more. Rights of passage like prom and graduation and everything they’ve been hoping for are being cancelled. We’re all hunkering down in our houses and praying that somehow this passes quickly with as few lives lost as possible and as little economic damage as possible.

I’m not here to tell you that this is the worst time in history. I’ve learned that all times in history have been bad for someone, most often marginalized groups. And though my family has had its fair share of trauma that we carry with us in the fabric of our DNA, we still have a lot of blessings and privilege and support. I feel thankful and sad at the same time. I am already mourning as I fear once again how the world is changing around me. We are all living in a time of immense grief and uncertainty.

A tree once stood here.
A tree once stood here. That tree meant everything to me.

The grief of the world feels too large for me to carry today, so I will mourn this tree, a symbol of childhood lost in a time when our children are losing everything.

Stay safe and healthy every one.

DIY Do Not Disturb Spinner, by Kara DeCarlo

Like most of the world, The Teen has moved to online virtual learning during this unprecedented time. She spends most of her days behind closed doors in her room in online meetings and doing assignments. The other day I wanted to check on her so I knocked on the door and she had to tell me that now was not a good time because she was online with a class. So I tweeted that I now needed some type of in/out board like we have a work so I would know when it was safe to knock. Fellow librarian Kara DeCarlo came to the rescue and shared with me this DIY Do Not Disturb Spinner that she had created for her own home. This might be a fun activity to share with all of our teens now finding themselves trying to navigate in this new online virtual learning world. Thanks Kara!


  • Paper
  • Scissors & something pointy (like an exacto)
  • Pencil
  • Markers
  • Brad fastener
  • Tape (painters or washi or masking)
  • 2 round objects of different sizes

  Make a list of reasons why the door might be closed

  Trace round things on paper

  Cut out circles

 On small circle, write out things from your list

Once you have worked out the spacing of the words–you want them evenly distributed around the circle–write them in using markers. I used red for “DO NOT DISTURB” and green for “door is shut, but you can interrupt me”.

Place the small circle on top of the large circle and tape down using painters, washi, or masking tape. The tape is a temporary step, so don’t use anything super sticky!

Tape your taped circles to the window and tape them on the window WITH THE LARGE CIRCLE ON TOP.

 Find your largest word, and draw a box around it. Take your circles back to your work space and take all the tape off.

 CUT THE LARGE CIRCLE ONLY. Using your pokey thing, poke a hole in the box you just drew–just big enough to get your scissors into. Cut out the box you drew.

 Place the large circle–now with window–on top of the small circle. Line them up as best you can.

 Use your pokey thing to poke a small hole for your brad fastener to go through.

Poke the brad through and write on the large circle: Why is the door closed? Feel free to add doodles, fancy lettering, and make it your own.

 Hang on your door using 2 pieces of scotch tape on the large circle. The small circle will spin freely behind it.

Meet Kara DeCarlo

Kara DeCarlo is a School Liaison librarian for a large suburban library in northern Illinois. She’s a DIY enthusiast–a side effect from her college days in theater and art. When not at work she leads a junior high Girl Scout troop, digs in the dirt, paints and makes stuff out of metal. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram as @KaraPaints

An Interview with Author Sonja K. Solter

Sonja’s debut middle grade book, When You Know What I Know, published March 24, 2020. It is a sensitive, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful novel in verse about one girl’s journey in the aftermath of abuse.

Q: Tell us a little more about yourself.

I didn’t know I wanted to be a writer when I was younger (though I do remember enjoying writing a poem during an author’s visit in sixth grade). I was a big reader, and you might have thought I wanted to be a librarian because I even made library cards for all of my books! However, I always thought I would go into science and went down a medical science track for a long time before I realized that I wanted to write. I was also a Music Together® director and teacher for a few years, which was great fun! Currently, I live with my husband and two kids in Louisville, Colorado where I write and teach online as a creative mentor with Society of Young Inklings.

Q:  How/when did you become interested in writing Middle Grade and Young Adult fiction?

When I shifted to writing, I also knew right away that what I wanted to write was kidlit. I believe that’s because it had such a deep and broad influence on me growing up, expanding my world with experiences both similar to and different from my own—and, even, expanding the scope of the universe for me, as some of Madeleine L’Engle’s work did.

Q: In the Author’s Note of When You Know What I Know you mention that your main character’s voice (Tori) came to you in the woods. Can you tell you tell us a little more about this experience and your journey of writing Tori’s story?

I’m a very intuitive writer, so most of the first drafts of my manuscripts come to me in chunks of scenes, often out of order. In this case, Tori’s voice came to me with the poem “Believe Me,” and just felt insistent that she wanted to be heard—not just by her mom, as in the poem, but by society as a whole.

Even though I experienced the beginnings of the story this way, however, I also know that much of my writing revolves around certain themes that are some of my ‘big questions’ in life: the human experience, relationships, etc. In this case, I was influenced by my realization from online comments on news articles that many people found it very difficult to understand the experience of trauma survivors. That lack of understanding can decrease empathy and, even, lead to not believing survivors.

Q: I am particularly interested in the variety of ways the people in Tori’s life respond to her revelation of abuse at the hands of a trusted adult. Can you speak more to these responses and how you developed the lives of the characters that circle around Tori?

There is definitely a theme in the novel of adults not responding in the ways they should to Tori’s revelation of abuse. In this book, both Tori’s mom and grandmother at first respond with denial and the assumption that she misunderstood what happened because she’s a child. Her mom realizes the truth far in advance of Tori’s grandmother, but, in both cases, this ties into a bigger question of how adults show up for kids when they need them. The way in which adults’ own issues and challenges lead them to fail kids, even if only in the moment, can apply to kids’ experience in a variety of circumstances. I think it’s important to show this kind of realism so that the fact that Tori can still receive support and be believed down the line also feels true. Tori’s healing journey, including addressing the disturbances to her relationships, is tough–she’s come through something genuinely difficult in a variety of ways–but that also makes it a whole, deep healing process, in which she’s facing what happened and honoring her feelings.

Q: In When You Know What I Know, Tori’s story is both poignant and hopeful. What do you hope your readers will take away from the story?

I hope that readers will continue to break the shame and taboo around the issue of sexual abuse. It’s absolutely appropriate that we all feel upset that sexual abuse happens, but that shouldn’t spill over onto survivors and their speaking out.

I also want readers to take with them the hope that things will get better, no matter what difficulty they are in, even if it doesn’t happen right away. And for them to keep reaching out for support, even if they don’t get it immediately.

Q: What is in your writing future? Are you working on any more ideas?

I always have fiction kidlit manuscripts in various stages of completion and revision—all the way from picture books up through YA. They range from more serious work with trauma to humorous picture books. So we’ll see what makes it into the world next!

Q: Finally, the question I ask all authors, what is your favorite flavor of ice cream?

My favorite flavor of ice cream is pear! It’s pretty unusual here in the United States, but more common in my mom’s native country of Finland, where I used to spend a few weeks each summer when I was little.

Sonja K. Solter traveled extensively with her family as a child and once brought over seventy books on a trip. (Her mother is still trying to figure out how that one slipped by her). Sonja graduated with an interdisciplinary degree in Human Biology from Stanford University and has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University. Her master’s critical thesis was on writing trauma in middle grade and young adult realistic fiction. She is currently a creative writing mentor to youth with the Society of Young Inklings and enjoys writing poetry and prose for children of all ages.