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DNA Profiling Program Recap by Michelle Biwer

Screen Shot 2018-05-21 at 6.44.03 AMA local branch of the international biotechnology corporation Thermo Fisher conducts outreach every year in my community. They approached our library system with offers of free programs they could run at the library for our patrons.

A group of scientists from Thermo Fisher came to share a 1.5 hour program about DNA profiling for teens at my library. The first 45 minutes of the program highlighted the terminology and background the teens would need to know (What is DNA? How can we match DNA? And the surprising fact that 99% of human DNA is the same from person to person). The presenters used examples from King Tut’s tomb to demonstrate how scientists establish identification, family ties, and other markers from a person’s DNA.

The second half of the presentation was a hands on test of their knowledge. The teens got to separate into groups and actually load DNA samples into a machine and use electrophoresis to separate DNA fragments and look at characteristics of human DNA. They had so much fun using this equipment and asking ridiculous and great questions of the scientists who volunteered their time to assist with this program. I will always remember the middle school boy who asked “If we loaded this machine on my face, would it alter my DNA?” (The answer is no, if you were wondering).

I was pleased with the high turnout from the homeschool community for this event, some families had traveled over an hour to attend the program. I would recommend reaching out to your local Thermo Fisher location or other scientific lab to discuss the possibility of joint programming.

Friday Finds: May 18, 2018

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Post-it Note Reviews of Elementary and Middle Grade Books

Proposal: Serving New Adults in Public Libraries

Book Review: Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2018 Showcase and Giveaway

Twin Cities Teen Lit Con 2018: Mental Health in YA Literature Presentation

Recently in Audio Books

YA A to Z: Gaslighting, a guest post by author Anna Hecker

YA A to Z: These Are a Few of My Favorite Things, Historical Novels That Is . . . a guest post by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

Around the Web

Schools See Steep Drop in Librarians, New Analysis Find

Hospitals See Growing Numbers Of Kids And Teens At Risk For Suicide


Post-it Note Reviews of Elementary and Middle Grade Books

Now that I work in an elementary library, I’m reading a lot more titles for younger readers. Rather than review all of them like I usually do, I’m stealing Karen’s Post-it note review idea and sharing the titles with you that way. It’s been super interesting to me to see what the students (grades K-5) check out. I’ve spent so long completely in the world of YA and am glad for an opportunity to work with younger readers and to read all of the great picture books, chapter books, and middle grade books I’ve missed out on!


All descriptions from the publishers.



Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake

In the wake of a destructive tornado, one girl develops feelings for another in this stunning, tender novel about emerging identity, perfect for fans of The Thing About Jellyfish.

When a tornado rips through town, twelve-year-old Ivy Aberdeen’s house is destroyed and her family of five is displaced. Ivy feels invisible and ignored in the aftermath of the storm—and what’s worse, her notebook filled with secret drawings of girls holding hands has gone missing.

Mysteriously, Ivy’s drawings begin to reappear in her locker with notes from someone telling her to open up about her identity. Ivy thinks—and hopes—that this someone might be her classmate, another girl for whom Ivy has begun to develop a crush. Will Ivy find the strength and courage to follow her true feelings?

Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World exquisitely enriches the rare category of female middle-grade characters who like girls—and children’s literature at large.



Wolfie and Fly by Cary Fagan, Zoe Si

A classic story of imagination, friendship, adventure and speeding through the ocean in a cardboard box. For fans of Ivy & BeanJudy Moody or Nate the Great.

Wolfie and Fly is an early chapter book at its simplest and best. Our heroine, Renata Wolfman (Wolfie) does everything by herself. Friends just get in the way, and she only has time for facts and reading. But friendship finds her in the form of Livingston Flott (Fly), the slightly weird and wordy boy from next door. Before she knows it, Wolfie is motoring through deep water with Fly as her second in command in a submarine made from a cardboard box.

Out on a solo swim to retrieve a baseball vital to the mission, Wolfie is finally by herself again, but for the first time, she finds it a little lonely. Maybe there is something to this friend thing…




Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

Aisha Saeed’s middle-grade debut tells the compelling story of a girl’s fight to regain her life and dreams after being forced into indentured servitude.

Life is quiet and ordinary in Amal’s Pakistani village, but she had no complaints, and besides, she’s busy pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher one day. Her dreams are temporarily dashed when—as the eldest daughter—she must stay home from school to take care of her siblings. Amal is upset, but she doesn’t lose hope and finds ways to continue learning. Then the unimaginable happens—after an accidental run-in with the son of her village’s corrupt landlord, Amal must work as his family’s servant to pay off her own family’s debt.

Life at the opulent Khan estate is full of heartbreak and struggle for Amal—especially when she inadvertently makes an enemy of a girl named Nabila. Most troubling, though, is Amal’s growing awareness of the Khans’ nefarious dealings. When it becomes clear just how far they will go to protect their interests, Amal realizes she will have to find a way to work with others if they are ever to exact change in a cruel status quo, and if Amal is ever to achieve her dreams.




Whatshisface by Gordon Korman

When 12-year-old Cooper Vega moves for the third time in five years, he receives a state-of-the-art smartphone to help him stay in touch with old friends. He’s had phones before, but this one is buggy and unpredictable. When a boy named Roderick Northrop communicates with him through the phone, Cooper realizes that his phone isn’t buggy at all; the thing is haunted!


Sunny (Defenders Track Team Series #3) by Jason Reynolds

Sunny tries to shine despite his troubled past in this third novel in the critically acclaimed Track series from National Book Award finalist Jason Reynolds.

Ghost. Patina. Sunny. Lu. Four kids from wildly different backgrounds, with personalities that are explosive when they clash. But they are also four kids chosen for an elite middle school track team—a team that could qualify them for the Junior Olympics. They all have a lot of lose, but they all have a lot to prove, not only to each other, but to themselves. Sunny is the main character in this novel, the third of four books in Jason Reynold’s electrifying middle grade series.

Sunny is just that—sunny. Always ready with a goofy smile and something nice to say, Sunny is the chillest dude on the Defenders team. But Sunny’s life hasn’t always been sun beamy-bright. You see, Sunny is a murderer. Or at least he thinks of himself that way. His mother died giving birth to him, and based on how Sunny’s dad treats him—ignoring him, making Sunny call him Darryl, never “Dad”—it’s no wonder Sunny thinks he’s to blame. It seems the only thing Sunny can do right in his dad’s eyes is win first place ribbons running the mile, just like his mom did. But Sunny doesn’t like running, never has. So he stops. Right in the middle of a race.

With his relationship with his dad now worse than ever, the last thing Sunny wants to do is leave the other newbies—his only friends—behind. But you can’t be on a track team and not run. So Coach asks Sunny what he wants to do. Sunny’s answer? Dance. Yes, dance. But you also can’t be on a track team and dance. Then, in a stroke of genius only Jason Reynolds can conceive, Sunny discovers a track event that encompasses the hard hits of hip-hop, the precision of ballet, and the showmanship of dance as a whole: the discus throw. As Sunny practices the discus, learning when to let go at just the right time, he’ll let go of everything that’s been eating him up inside, perhaps just in time.



All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor

A soaring and heartfelt story about love, forgiveness, and how innocence makes us all rise up.

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook is a powerful middle grade novel, perfect for fans of Wonder and When You Reach Me, from Leslie Connor, the award-winning author of Waiting for Normal and Crunch.

From comes Eleven-year-old Perry was born and raised by his mom at the Blue River Co-ed Correctional Facility in tiny Surprise, Nebraska. His mom is a resident on Cell Block C, and so far Warden Daugherty has made it possible for them to be together. That is, until a new district attorney discovers the truth—and Perry is removed from the facility and forced into a foster home.

When Perry moves to the “outside” world, he feels trapped. Desperate to be reunited with his mom, Perry goes on a quest for answers about her past crime. As he gets closer to the truth, he will discover that love makes people resilient no matter where they come from . . . but can he find a way to tell everyone what home truly means?



Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble by Anna Meriano, Mirelle Ortega

“A charming and delectably sweet debut. Mischief, friendship, and a whole lot of heartLove Sugar Magic has it all.” Zoraida Córdova, award-winning author of the Brooklyn Brujas series

Leonora Logroño’s family owns the most beloved bakery in Rose Hill, Texas, spending their days conjuring delicious cookies and cakes for any occasion. And no occasion is more important than the annual Dia de los Muertos festival.

Leo hopes that this might be the year that she gets to help prepare for the big celebration—but, once again, she is told she’s too young. Sneaking out of school and down to the bakery, she discovers that her mother, aunt, and four older sisters have in fact been keeping a big secret: they’re brujas—witches of Mexican ancestry—who pour a little bit of sweet magic into everything that they bake.

Leo knows that she has magical ability as well and is more determined than ever to join the family business—even if she can’t let her mama and hermanas know about it yet.

And when her best friend, Caroline, has a problem that needs solving, Leo has the perfect opportunity to try out her craft. It’s just one little spell, after all…what could possibly go wrong?

Debut author Anna Meriano brings us the first book in a delightful new series filled to the brim with amor, azúcar, y magia.




Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

A heartbreaking and powerful story about a black boy killed by a police officer, drawing connections through history, from award-winning author Jewell Parker Rhodes.
Only the living can make the world better. Live and make it better.

Twelve-year-old Jerome is shot by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real threat. As a ghost, he observes the devastation that’s been unleashed on his family and community in the wake of what they see as an unjust and brutal killing.

Soon Jerome meets another ghost: Emmett Till, a boy from a very different time but similar circumstances. Emmett helps Jerome process what has happened, on a journey towards recognizing how historical racism may have led to the events that ended his life. Jerome also meets Sarah, the daughter of the police officer, who grapples with her father’s actions.

Once again Jewell Parker Rhodes deftly weaves historical and socio-political layers into a gripping and poignant story about how children and families face the complexities of today’s world, and how one boy grows to understand American blackness in the aftermath of his own death.



Confusion Is Nothing New by Paul Acampora

Ellie Magari just learned that her mother is dead. Perhaps that would be sad if Ellie had ever met the woman. Exactly who was Ellie’s mom? Does it even matter that she’s gone? Perhaps a dead mom can still help Ellie figure out what it means to be a girl in the world today. Either way, Ellie wouldn’t mind a role model beyond her master chef Dad.

Fueled by the bighearted sounds of ’80s rock and roll, plus large doses of Cyndi Lauper’s girl-power joy, Confusion Is Nothing New is about friendship, family mysteries, and the perfect pizza. It’s also about fathers and daughters and girls who understand that it’s good to make things, but breaking things is okay too.

In fact, sometimes breaking things is required.




The Crims by Kate Davies

The Addams Family meets Despicable Me in the first book of this new trilogy, perfect for fans of Lemony Snicket and Pseudonymous Bosch!

The Crim family is full of notorious criminals. Notoriously inept, that is. Uncle Knuckles once tried to steal a carnival. Great-Uncle Bernard held himself hostage by accident. Aunt Drusilla died slipping on a banana peel. But Imogen is different. She was born with a skill for scandal. A knack for the nefarious. A mastery of misdemeanors.

Despite her natural talent for all things unlawful, Imogen got out of the family business years ago. But when the rest of the Crims are accused of pulling off a major heist—which seems doubtful, to say the least—Imogen is forced to step in to clear their names. Because only a truly skilled criminal can prove the bumbling family’s innocence….


Proposal: Serving New Adults in Public Libraries

When I began working in a public library to serve young adults, I was truly myself a young adult – the tender age of 20 – so it didn’t seem weird to me at the time that the library called teenagers young adults. As I grew older, however, I began to realize that what libraries meant when they said young adult services was services for teenagers. To this day, it rankles that what we mean by YA services is Teen services, primarily because 1) we are the only industry that calls teenagers young adults and because 2) teenagers do not think of themselves as young adults. I think that the label of YA for teenagers was a misstep.


If I’m being honest, at every library I have worked at in the last 15 years, although our books have a YA sticker on them, the locations and services are called and marketed as Teen Services. This is because teens think of themselves as teens. In fact, I recently made “I LOVE YA” buttons to hand out at a promotional events and the teens didn’t even read it as I LOVE Young Adult (as in YA Lit) but as I LOVE YA (as in I LOVE YA MAN). This was a dramatic demonstration to me, once again, that there is a real disconnect between the publishing industry, libraries, and the very teens we serve in the language that we use.

In the current YA market, there is a real push for books set in college. I see and respect the need for the books, but I also recognize that for school and public libraries, putting books with adult aged characters in a college setting among more traditional YA books with teenage characters could make us very susceptible to real challenges. It’s one thing to make books available to everyone and say we don’t act as parents, it’s quite another to put them into a space targeted and marketed as teen and say these are acceptable to teen readers. These books, more than most YA, it occurs to me truly are young adult; they are very much about the young adult experiences of 19 to say 24 year olds, which are different then the teen experience because there are still very real legal, social, emotional differences between these two age groups.


Emergency Contact is a NYT Bestseller on the Young Adult list that features a college setting

Throughout all of human history, we have known that people like to read up. Middle schools like to real books about high schoolers. So it makes sense that high schoolers would like to read books about the college experience, especially those high schoolers who are very near to entering college themselves. The question is, where do we put them? I am by no means an advocate for censorship or content warnings, I work actively hard to build a solid, well rounded and inclusive collection for my teen readers. But the reality is many teenagers have parents and some of them are very invested in what their child is reading at the library which something that libraries have always advocated: we’re not responsible for what your teen reads, you are. And let’s face it, many parents would have a legitimate complaint to be made if we put books with characters that are by all practical purposes adults into a collection marketed to teens. It’s one thing to look at a parent complaining about a book and say some teens have sex and quite another to look at a parent and say it’s okay that your teen is reading this book with adults having sex. It’s a challenge that would be hard to defend in the local press, and like it or not administrators care very much about challenges and the local press.

I see this rise in YA books featuring college age characters as an opportunity which I am embracing to push for more and better services to truly young – or new -adults. Libraries have always engaged in adult services, but early adulthood is challenging and can often be overlooked. Once again, however, the terminology gets in the way. Industry wise, young adult means teen, so calling these new services young adult – even though they are targeted to adults who are very young in the adult world – can be confusing. And yet the term new adult has come to mean a very particular type of literature that has a heavy emphasis on sex, which is unfortunate because I think new adult is exactly the term that we need. So for all intents and purposes, I think public libraries should truly embrace the term new adult and start serving them in very real ways.

Infographic on the Teen Brain and Development


The transition from being a teenager to a new adult is a complex one. For some people it happens quickly, for some it is a slower transition. Many teenagers have been having adult responsibilities for a while now, many new adults won’t face true adult challenges until they are closer to their mid-twenties. It’s a complicated and complex time period. Legally, a person becomes an adult at age 18, but we know through brain science that it is not until the age of 24 or 25 that we begin making more concrete, adult types of decisions and engaging in more adult like thinking. Many parts of adolescence continue into adulthood in contemporary society, but numerically there is that finite dividing line of age 18. Legally, everything changes on your 18th birthday in most circumstances. We can argue whether that’s good or bad, but it is current reality.

Creating Services and Collections for New Adults

What I am proposing at my library is to create some new and special collections and services targeted to new adults, those ages 19 through say age 24.

New Adult Collection

For my collection, I have found a space which is incredibly close to the teen collection, which makes it a very smooth transition. I would include a variety of titles that center the new adult experience, including the well spring of YA titles set in college that are currently being released. Anyone can read them, because anyone can read anything at the library, but we are not labeling them as teen. Some of the series and authors I would house here include Sarah J. Maas, some of the older Rainbow Rowell books, and Cora Cormack.

Some example lists can be found here:

10 YA Books Set in College – Book Riot

Go Back to School With These 6 YAs Set in College – Barnes & Noble

10 New and Upcoming College-Set YA Novels – The B&N Teen Blog

7 YA Novels That Take on the Journey from High School to College

Young adult books set in college or after high school (58 books)

College and Career Planning and Test Books Collection

While we’re at it, I am proposing making a specific college and career planning collection a part of this collection. So it would flow nicely: Teen, New Adult, College and Career Planning. They’re all right there together and more clearly labelled for discovery. Books would include topics such as paying for college, choosing a college, career planning and test prep books.

Circulating Adulting 101 Kits

We have also been talking about circulating some non-traditional materials. We initially had tremendous success with our circulating maker kits, though with the creation of our Teen MakerSpace this circulation died and we took the kits apart and just assimilated the pieces into the Teen MakerSpace. However, circulating Adulting 101 kits are something we are investigating because if we’re being honest, a lot of what it takes to get started in adulthood can be expensive and overwhelming.

For example, we could include a Baking 101 kit that has a couple of cookbooks, some baking pans, measure cups, etc. Or a Basic Home Repair 101 kit that has a basic home how-to book, a basic tool set, work gloves, etc. With the news that many teens are putting off learning to drive until adult hood, we’ve even talked about a Driving 101 kit that would include a basic car repair book, a driver’s handbook, collapsible cones to practice driving, etc. These kits, like any other library material, could be checked out by anyone so teens learning to drive or older adults who want to try some basic home repair may be interested in them as well. There are a lot of interesting things we can do here if we choose to go in this direction.

Make! After Hours

In the midst of all of this, is our Teen MakerSpace. Due to limited space and safety concerns, we have a very strict age limit for our Teen MakerSpace. But we could host a monthly after hours event for new adults and take those tools out of the space and set up stations throughout the library. This would allow us to host an event for new adults where they could engage in making and be social with their peer group.

As I mentioned, this proposal is, I think, a natural way to help our teens transition into new adulthood, while also providing some more targeted services to an age group that can get really lost in the transition from teen to adult services. It helps that it works really well for our physical space. All of our teen services and collections are on the main floor near our adult collections and services and there is space near both to help provide for these new collections. We have the right space to make this work if we so choose to follow through. It’s actually quite a natural and beautiful bridge amongst all of the spaces, almost like it was meant to be.

To be clear, we are currently at the proposal stage. I’ve done the research, written the proposal, and turned it in. Who knows what will happen next, because there are a lot of pieces and parts in play and I am not the only staff person requesting space, time and money. But even if we don’t adopt this plan or don’t adopt it now, I think it’s a good plan. I think doing targeted services to new adults will help libraries cultivate and maintain adult supporters, it bridges the gap in the same way that we used to argue for young adult services. If we make the effort to serve teens, it would be a real loss to lose them in early adulthood and then have to try and find ways to woo them back once they have children or get a little bit older. I think it’s a natural progression of library services that many libraries have been under-serving.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2018 Showcase and Giveaway

tltbutton7Beyond the people I work with and the people this blog has led me to get to know, by far the best aspect of blogging for TLT is the constant influx of books. All of the books I get end up going back out the door in some fashion—to teen readers I know, to classroom libraries of friends, to my own school, my kid’s school, or in giveaways. I can’t read/review every book I get, but it’s fun to be able to sift through boxes and see what grabs my attention, and to see what books will find loving new homes with the right reader.



IMG_2100Today I’m sharing with you titles from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All annotations are from the publisher.

I’m also doing a giveaway for some of these ARCs. Enter via the Rafflecopter between May 15th and May 20th. One winner will win 3 books. U.S. only!




dark hollowThe Gift of Dark Hollow by Kieran Larwood, David Wyatt (ISBN-13: 9781328696014 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 08/07/2018)

Book two in the series that is Redwall meets Watership Down continues the stirring adventure of the young rabbit Podkin One-Ear as he battles to save his land from the evil Gorm tribe. The Longburrow series is Middle Earth for middle graders!







chimney rockThe Race to Chimney Rock by Jesse Wiley (ISBN-13: 9781328549969 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 09/04/2018)

Go west, young pioneer–your journey begins here! In this first leg of your trek on the Oregon Trail, you need to find your way to Chimney Rock–but not without unpredictable challenges ahead. This is the first installment of four books that will take you all the way to Oregon Territory–if you make the right choices.

In book one of this exciting choose-your-own-adventure series, it’s 1850 and your first goal is to get your family, covered wagon full of supplies, and oxen to Chimney Rock on time. But hurry–you’ll need to make it through the rugged mountains before winter snow hits. Plus, there are wild animals, natural disasters, unpredictable weather, fast-flowing rivers, strangers, and sickness that will be sure to stand between you and your destination!
Which path will get you safely across the prairie? With twenty-two possible endings, choose wrong and you’ll never make it to Chimney Rock on time. Choose right and blaze a trail that gets you closer to Oregon City!


IMG_2804Path to the Stars: My Journey from Girl Scout to Rocket Scientist by Sylvia Acevedo (ISBN-13: 9781328809568 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 09/04/2018)

The inspiring memoir for young readers about a Latina rocket scientist whose early life was transformed by joining the Girl Scouts and who currently serves as CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA.

A meningitis outbreak in their underprivileged neighborhood left Sylvia Acevedo’s family forever altered. As she struggled in the aftermath of loss, young Sylvia’s life transformed when she joined the Brownies. The Girl Scouts taught her how to take control of her world and nourished her love of numbers and science.
With new confidence, Sylvia navigated shifting cultural expectations at school and at home, forging her own trail to become one of the first Latinx to graduate with a master’s in engineering from Stanford University and going on to become a rocket scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Simultaneously available in Spanish!




girl in the locked roomThe Girl in the Locked Room: A Ghost Story by Mary Downing Hahn (ISBN-13: 9781328850928 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 09/04/2018)

Ghost story master Mary Downing Hahn unrolls the suspenseful, spine-chilling yarn of a girl imprisoned for more than a century, the terrifying events that put her there, and a friendship that crosses the boundary between past and present.

A family moves into an old, abandoned house. Jules’s parents love the house, but Jules is frightened and feels a sense of foreboding. When she sees a pale face in an upstairs window, though, she can’t stop wondering about the eerie presence on the top floor—in a room with a locked door. Could it be someone who lived in the house a century earlier?

Her fear replaced by fascination, Jules is determined to make contact with the mysterious figure and help unlock the door. Past and present intersect as she and her ghostly friend discover—and change—the fate of the family who lived in the house all those many years ago.


maryMary Shelley: The Strange True Tale of Frankenstein’s Creator by Catherine Reef (ISBN-13: 9781328740052 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 09/18/2018)

On the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein, comes a riveting biography of its author, Mary Shelley, whose life reads like a dark gothic novel, filled with scandal, death, drama, and one of the strangest love stories in literary history. 

The story of Frankenstein’s creator is a strange, romantic, and tragic one, as deeply compelling as the novel itself. Mary ran away to Lake Geneva with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley when she was just sixteen. It was there, during a cold and wet summer, that she first imagined her story about a mad scientist who brought a corpse back to life. Success soon followed for Mary, but also great tragedy and misfortune.
Catherine Reef brings this passionate woman, brilliant writer, and forgotten feminist into crisp focus, detailing a life that was remarkable both before and after the publication of her iconic masterpiece. Includes index.



bluecrowneBluecrowne: A Greenglass House Story by Kate Milford (ISBN-13: 9781328466884 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 10/02/2018)

Return to the world of the bestselling Greenglass House, where smugglers, magic, and pyrotechnics mix, in a new adventure from a New York Times best-selling, National Book Award–nominated, and Edgar Award–winning author.

Lucy Bluecrowne is beginning a new life ashore with her stepmother and half brother, though she’s certain the only place she’ll ever belong is with her father on a ship of war as part of the crew. She doesn’t care that living in a house is safer and the proper place for a twelve-year-old girl; it’s boring. But then two nefarious strangers identify her little brother as the pyrotechnical prodigy they need to enact an evil plan, and it will take all Lucy’s fighting instincts to keep her family together.

Set in the magical Greenglass House world, this action-packed tale of the house’s first inhabitants reveals the origins of some of its many secrets.



westWest by Edith Pattou (ISBN-13: 9781328773937 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 10/23/2018)

In the sequel to the beloved high fantasy East, Rose sets off on a perilous journey to find her true love when he goes missing in a thrilling tale of danger, magic, adventure, and revenge.

When Rose first met Charles, he was trapped in the form of a white bear. To rescue him, Rose traveled to the land that lay east of the sun and west of the moon to defeat the evil Troll Queen. Now Rose has found her happily-ever-after with Charles—until a sudden storm destroys his ship and he is presumed dead. But Rose doesn’t believe the shipwreck was an act of nature, nor does she believe Charles is truly dead. Something much more sinister is at work. With mysterious and unstoppable forces threatening the lives of the people she loves, Rose must once again set off on a perilous journey. And this time, the fate of the entire world is at stake.


senior pupsSweet Senior Pups (True Tales of Rescue) by Kama Einhorn (ISBN-13: 978-1328767035 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 11/20/2018)

Photo-packed series explores the stories and science behind animal sanctuaries. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Visit the Senior Dog Sanctuary of Maryland to meet three very special old dogs—Mino, Buffy, and Jack—who are ready and waiting to make new families very happy. Includes full-color photos, maps, and graphics throughout.

At many animal shelters, older pets are often overlooked in favor of puppies and kittens. But you’ll find only dogs over the age of six at the Senior Dog Sanctuary of Maryland. Mino, Jack, and Buffy are three dog roommates at the SDS, each having a unique personality but all of them in need of a new home. For every dog at SDS, the road to release is a different one but always features rescue, recovery, rehabilitation, and ultimately release. Join Mino as he shares stories about Buffy, Jack, and the SDS staff they get ready for their forever families. Other books in the photo-packed Sanctuary Stories series include Welcome, Wombat.



welcome wombatWelcome, Wombat (True Tales of Rescue) by Kama Einhorn (ISBN-13: 978-1328767028 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 11/20/2018)

Photo-packed series explores the stories and science behind animal sanctuaries. An up-close look at what life is like at a real wombat sanctuary in Australia—straight from a wombat herself in a nonfiction chapter book for elementary-aged readers. Includes full-color photos, graphics, and maps.

When a new baby wombat shows up at Sleepy Burrows Sanctuary in Australia, Chance, the veteran wombat, is excited to show the new gal the ropes. Before any animal can be successfully released, many things have to happen. After rescue comes recovery, then rehabilitation, and finally, release. Those are animal-sanctuary tenets—an animal will remain safe until release or until it dies. For Chance and the new wombat, Panzer, this means learning how to find food, dig, and find a lifelong companion. Readers will love Chance, Panzer, and the crew of wombats. Other books in the photo-packed Sanctuary Stories series include Sweet Senior Pups.



beaversBeavers by Rachel Poliquin (ISBN-13: 9780544949874 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 12/04/2018)

Beavers, the first book in the new middle-grade nonfiction Superhero Field Guide series is a look at the most unsuspecting of animal heroes.

Meet Elmer, an ordinary beaver. He may not be as mighty as a lion or as dangerous as a shark. He may be squat and brown. But never underestimate a beaver.

I can almost hear you saying, “But aren’t beavers just lumpy rodents with buck teeth and funny flat tails?”

Yes, they are! And believe it or not, those buck teeth and funny flat tails are just a few of the things that make beavers extraordinary.



clickClick by Kayla Miller (ISBN-13: 978-1328911124 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 01/09/2019)

A debut graphic novel about friendship and finding where you “click” in school.

Olive wants to get in on the act . . .
. . . Any act!

Olive “clicks” with everyone in the fifth grade—until one day she doesn’t. When a school variety show leaves Olive stranded without an act to join, she begins to panic, wondering why all her friends have already formed their own groups . . . without her. With the performance drawing closer by the minute, will Olive be able to find her own place in the show before the curtain comes up?

Author-illustrator Kayla Miller has woven together a heartfelt and insightful story about navigating friendships, leaning on family, and learning to take the stage in the most important role of all.



bad babysittersBad Babysitters by Caroline Cala (ISBN-13: 978-1328850898 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 02/05/2019)

A funny new middle grade series about three 12-year-old best friends who start a babysitting club in their small California town. Perfect for fans of series like Whatever After and the Dork Diaries.

Once upon a time, a girl named Kristy Thomas had a great idea: to form The Baby-Sitters Club with her best friends. And now twelve-year-old Malia Twiggs has had a great idea too. Technically, she had Kristy’s idea. (And technically, little kids seem gross and annoying, but a paycheck is a paycheck). After a little convincing, Malia and her friends Dot and Bree start a babysitting club to earn funds for an epic birthday bash. But babysitting definitely isn’t what they thought it would be.

Three friends. No parents. Unlimited snacks. And, okay, occasionally watching other people’s children. What could possibly go wrong?



owlsThe Owls Have Come to Take Us Away by Ronald L. Smith (ISBN-13: 978-1-328-52689-2 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 02/19/2019)

In this delightfully creepy novel from Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award winner Ronald L. Smith, twelve-year-old Simon thinks he was abducted by aliens. But is it real, or just his over-active imagination? Perfect for fans of Mary Downing Hahn and Louis Sachar.

Twelve-year-old Simon is obsessed with aliens. The ones who take people and do experiments. When he’s too worried about them to sleep, he listens to the owls hoot outside. Owls that have the same eyes as aliens—dark and foreboding.

Then something strange happens on a camping trip, and Simon begins to suspect he’s been abducted. But is it real, or just the overactive imagination of a kid who loves fantasy and role-playing games and is the target of bullies and his father’s scorn?

Even readers who don’t believe in UFOs will relate to the universal kid feeling of not being taken seriously by adults that deepens this deliciously scary tale.


Michele Bacon’s Empathy Challenge

Today author Michele Bacon joins us to talk about travel and opportunities to develop empathy. Her new book is Antipodes, out now. For Amanda’s review, hop over here. 


antipodesEach year, my daughter’s school hosts Roots of Empathy, an international program that provides empathy-based education for children. Roots of Empathy provides each participating class with an experienced teacher: an infant. Through regular, positive interactions with this tiny human, elementary students—fifth graders, in our school’s case—connect with the baby’s humanity on a deep, meaningful level, thereby learning the essence of empathy at a young age. Roots of Empathy’s mission is to change the world by creating caring, peaceful, and civil societies.


I wish we could replicate it in every elementary school. Imagine how kind our society would be if we fostered emotional literacy in every citizen. In every leader. On the ground, every day.


As librarians, you do that. Steinbeck famously said, “You can only understand people if you feel them in yourself,” and books are the most accessible way for most of us to do that. Book people know books build empathy. Stories transport readers so realistically that a character’s emotions feel real. We know reading Harry Potter—and his battle against pureblood Death Eaters—made high schoolers lest racist. Readers understand acutely that no matter where we’re from, no matter what we eat, no matter what language we speak, regardless of our abilities or creed, people are people.


Every time you recommend to a teen a book with characters who are living a different experience, you give that teen an opportunity to develop empathy.


Thank you.


The other surefire way to build empathy is to travel—not as a mere tourist, but as an engaged citizen of the world. When we engage others whose lived experiences differ from our own, when we connect meaningfully with those outside our culture, language, and privilege, we open our minds to learning and our hearts to empathy.


Around the world, I’ve befriended people who’ve solved the same problems I’ve solved, but in very different ways. Living outside my own culture forced me to compromise. Immersing myself in foreign societies opened my eyes to different ways of innovation.


People are people.


Travel solidified in my mind and heart the concept of humanity as a shared experience. I want that experience for everyone.


This summer, as you’re working endlessly on summer programming, I invite you to send your teens and tweens on travel. Challenge them to travel within the spheres of their reach. This travel may entail engaging neighbors on the other side of town or voyaging around the world.


Regardless of their means, invite your teens to cultivate genuine friendships with people unlike themselves. Challenge them to create meaningful connections with teens whose lived experiences are different than their own. Inspire them to know—really know—someone or something different than themselves. While I hope these interactions will be more meaningful than checking a box, I’ve made some boxes for you:


Michele Bacon’s travel bingo (click on link for pdf)


Perhaps your teens can tackle one item at a time together, as a community. Or translate one of these ideas into a meaningful program at your library. Or create one collaborative project. Or harvest this chart for discussion groups.

Regardless, here is one more tool for your toolbox. With very little effort, you can convert it to a summer-long bingo challenge. All you really need is a prize.



I’m so passionate about cultivating empathy, I’ll offer ten prizes. If you’re sending your teens “on travel” to cultivate empathy, let me know. I’ll send a finished copy of my new novel to the first ten librarians who take me up on this offer. When your program ends, identify a winner (whatever that means to you,) and I’ll inscribe my new novel for your winner. You can find me on Twitter @MicheleBacon


I hope this will be a meaningful experience for you and your teens. However you choose to use this, I’m in. I’m happy to video chat with you and your teens about lived experiences. If sharing my travels or stories help, I’m in. If you’d like to share your related experiments with me, I’m in.


I’m determined to foster a society in which there is more empathy than greed. Can we work together to cultivate empathy?


How can I help?


Meet Michele Bacon

headshot2For the past many years, I have been writing and traveling (and, let’s be honest: chasing down small people who don’t like to wear clothes). I’ve traveled to all 50 states and dozens of other countries, always collecting pieces of characters and ideas for stories. I recently spent a year on sabbatical in Christchurch, New Zealand, where I may have left my heart at Ilam School. Now that we’ve settled back in the States, I’m writing for young adults and children, exploring the Pacific Northwest, and baking like a fiend. (You’d thinking baking would be the same everywhere, but it’s not. Something is different about kiwi butter.)

Outside of writing, I am a tabletop game enthusiast, passionate skier, and lover of prime numbers. I also am a mentor at the Moving Words Writing Clinic, and a freelance copy editor.

I live in Seattle with my partner and three growing children.

I love hearing from readers and fellow writers.
You can find me:
Via email at writer(at)michelebacon(dot)com
On Twitter @michelebacon,
On Instagram as WriterMicheleBacon
On Tumblr as michelebacon



When Erin Cerise steps off her plane in Christchurch, New Zealand, she’s determined to overcome her losses of swim team captainship, her boyfriend Ben, and her reputation. Her mother is certain studying abroad will regain Erin’s chances of a good future. Once Erin meets her uninspiring host family and city, though, she’s not so sure.

Before Christchurch, Erin wasn’t always intense and focused. When had her priorities gone upside down?

Now, Erin balks at NZ’s itchy school uniforms, its cold houses, and her hosts’ utter inability to pronounce her name correctly. Christchurch does boast amazing rock climbing, gorgeous scenery, and at least one guy who could make her journey worthwhile—if she lets him.

With months ahead of her, Erin slowly begins to draw on the years behind her, one step back into her memories at a time. As she rebuilds herself from the other side of the world, she finds that although her life has been turned upside down and she’s far from home, every way she moves takes her closer to where she came from.

#SVYALit: The Importance of Language in Building a Culture of Consent, or no actually, don’t suggest getting people black out drunk

It is a warm, bright, sunny day just before The Teen is about to start her journey as a high school student. We are taking our dog, Charm, for a walk around the block. It is in this moment that a door of opportunity opens and I begin to talk with her about the rules for being female: Don’t leave your drink unattended if you go out in public, don’t drink too much (well, because you’re a teenager, don’t drink at all), always make sure people know where you are, if you leave a party and go somewhere else make sure people know where you will be and who you will be with. For many women, a great deal of emotional energy is spent learning how to keep ourselves safe in public spaces from the men who would wish to violate us.


As a survivor of sexual abuse, I have always been very frank in my discussions with my daughters about sex, sexual violence, consent and more. When I first learned that I would be the mother of daughters, I was anxious and scared. I knew that the obstacles set before them would be many. I was well aware and informed of the fact that there was a very high likelihood that before they ever became legal adults, someone would do great harm to them. 1 in 4 of our female children are sexually harmed or violated in some way before they turn 18. My goal in life was to try and keep them safe.

When The Teen past through her 8th grade year unharmed, the year of my most intense abuse, I thought perhaps that I would feel safe and a sense of accomplishment. That turned out to be false because although she may have gotten through the 8th grade untouched, several of her friends did not and I realized that in many ways, she would never really be totally safe. And as she entered into high school and the idea of increased freedom and social events loomed, I realized that I would have to talk with her about the various things she could do to help try and keep herself safe, with the stark truth that in the end, if someone wants to harm her, they will find a way to do so and it is never the victims fault.


Consent means that you must get a person’s permission to do something to them, to their person, to their bodies. What advocates who speak out against sexual violence hope to do is to build a culture of consent. This means we want to build a culture in which it is clearly understood that a person has complete bodily autonomy at all times beginning at birth. This means that a person has a right to decide if, what and when something happens involving their body. It means that we teach each other to respect people’s rights, their boundaries, and their no.


I have not forced my children to hug or kiss another person, not even me. I wish I could say that I have never pouted when refused, but the truth is that I have. Common courtesy does not have to involve a person’s body being violated. A kid is not obligated to hug or kiss grandma on the cheek. A woman does not have to thank a man after a date with a hug, a kiss, or sex. We don’t owe our bodies, our affection, to others. A person doesn’t have to get a tattoo because the rest of the group decided they wanted to get one.


When The Mr and I had been married for about 4 years, we were getting a divorce. One day in a moment of despair, I went and got a tattoo. I willingly offered my body up as a canvas and asked a man with a tattoo needle to permanently ink me. I got a very small (and very painful) heart tattooed onto my back to remind me in a time of great sorrow that my God loved me and that I was a person who deserved to be loved.

There have been many times since this happened that I have regretted getting that tattoo, the permanence of it. But I have never forgotten what it meant to me at the time, why it happened, or how it carried me through one of the many very dark moments of my life.

The Mr and I did not end up getting that divorce, for which I am very grateful. And we went on to have two lovely girls, whom we both adore. Our little family is happy, though we are haunted by the undercurrents of sexual violence because I am first a victim and then later a survivor and sexual violence changes you, changes your outlook. My girls have spent the night at very few people’s homes. The Teen is about to get her second degree black belt. They have never not known what consent and sexual violence are. Being a sexual violence survivor has impacted the ways in which I view the world and parent my children.


Creating a culture of consent means that we begin from birth teaching our children that they have full bodily autonomy and that they should respect others right to the same. We teach our children to respect other people, to respect their property, to respect their boundaries, and to respect their right to say no.

Thing 2 is a very affectionate child. She will often approach her sister, The Teen, and ask for a hug. The Teen is just as likely to say no as she is to say yes. Thing 2 will pout. “She has a right to say no,” we tell her, “it’s her body, if she doesn’t want you to touch her right now, you have to respect that.”

Consent culture means teaching each other that you have to ask for permission, that you have to pay attention to others – who they are, what they’re saying both verbally and non verbally – and that you have to stop doing something when someone says no. If someone says stop tickling me, you stop tickling them. If someone says I don’t want to get wet right now, you don’t squirt them with the hose or push them in the pool.

Consent means you don’t get to force what you want onto someone else.


When we talk about consent in my home, we also talk about guilt, manipulation, and coercion. An adult once told my daughter that if she gave her a hug then she would get x. I don’t remember what x was, but let’s say it was a piece of candy. I stopped that adult right then and said you can give her the candy if you want or don’t if you don’t want, but don’t try to bribe or manipulate her. Her body and her affection are not your bargaining chip. Later that night I talked with my daughter about why this was not okay from both points of view, explaining that she should never do this to another person and that she didn’t need to respond when someone did it to her.

Bribery is not consent.

Bullying is not consent.

Coercion is not consent.

Emotional manipulation is not consent.

Getting someone drunk or stoned so you can try and sway them or just work an end around to their no is not consent.

True consent means that you respect the other person’s right to say no and honor that no.

Yes means yes and no means not.

I get it, hearing no can be disappointing. I have tucked my kids at night without a good night kiss because they didn’t want to be affectionate in that moment and it was disappointing. I wanted that good night kiss from my baby. But that is my problem, not theirs. The emotions of that disappointment are mine to deal with; my emotions are not their responsibility, they are mine.


Yesterday I stumbled across a news story about the original Avengers that made my heart sink.

We are a Marvel family here. We’ve seen every movie opening weekend. We have the DVDs and watch them often. We’ve dressed up as superheroes for Halloween, bought capes at Six Flags, and talked at length about what it means to be heroic, what it means to do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do.

The news reported that several of the original Avengers – Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlet Johansson, Robert Downey Jr and Jeremy Renner- got matching tattoos to celebrate. That sounds cool. I loved the idea of this group of people going through this 10 year journey and celebrating this bond.

But as I read the reports, it got less cool. The language was concerning.

Chris Hemsworth, the article said, had to be bullied into getting his.

Downey said Johansson came up with the idea for the tattoo and got one in New York with Evans. He also said he had to bully Chris Hemsworth into getting his. Apparently Hemsworth, unlike Ruffalo, could be swayed. Source: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/avengers-matching-tattoos_us_5af1d6bbe4b0ab5c3d6a949e

Mark Ruffalo was the last hold out. On Twitter, Chris Evans suggested to Scarlett Johansson that they should just “get him black out drunk”. To what? Get him tattooed against his will? To lower his inhibitions to getting tattooed?

“We just need to get Ruffalo blackout drunk,” Evans tweeted. Source: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/avengers-matching-tattoos_us_5af1d6bbe4b0ab5c3d6a949e

For the record, we have no context for what happened leading up to and surrounding that tattoo. We don’t know if Ruffalo wanted to get the tattoo but was worried about the pain. Or perhaps he just really didn’t want to do this thing. I can’t talk about the context, because it is unknown to me. Yet, Chris Evans is a very popular cultural figure with a large public platform and he said a thing that dripped with non-consent language. He talked publicly and openly suggesting that they get another person “black out drunk” in order to do to their body something that they have so far chosen not to do. He talked openly about taking away Mark Ruffalo’s consent about what happens to his body.

Was it a joke? It could have been. Was it harmful? I would argue that yes, it was harmful.

1 in 4 women are sexually assaulted in their lifetime, most of the time by someone they know and trust. 1 in 5 men are sexually assaulted in their lifetime, most of the time by someone they know and trust. Their bodies are violated by people who refused to accept their no and took away their right to bodily autonomy.

Suggesting that it is okay to get someone black out drunk to do something that they did not choose to do is refusing to accept their no and taking away their right to bodily autonomy. This statement and statements like this do not help us build a culture of consent.

The reality is, every night somewhere there are men who leave their homes with the sole purpose of getting someone black out drunk so they can rape them. Some of them purchase special drugs to help make sure that this happens. Others just rely on good old fashioned alcohol to do the job for them. Others don’t set out with that intention, but if they see a drunk woman in their targets, they won’t hesitate to act on it. There are a large number of men (and yes, women) for whom the idea that no means no doesn’t hold true.

Suggesting this on a social media platform where you have over 9 million followers if dangerous. These words do not help us build up a culture of consent, they do not help us address the realities of sexual violence, they do not help us tear down the very long standing culture that suggests all we need to do is be insistent, never give up, or get someone drunk to make them do the things that we want them to do that they have chosen not to.

Don’t get me wrong, I realize that Chris Evans is not in any way advocating for rape or sexual violence of any sort here. He was, in fact, talking about a tattoo. But he was also using language that directly speaks to our ideas about consent. In a time when we are having very needed and real conversations about #MeToo and #TimesUp, Evans chose to engage in language that reinforces dangerous norms and suggest that it would be both okay and funny to just get Mark Ruffalo black out drunk so that he would get the tattoo. He seems to be suggesting getting Mark Ruffalo black out drunk to violate his body in ways that Ruffalo has expressed that he does not want to engage in. This is not what consent looks like.

Somewhere, there are many men – incels, MRAs, misogynists, etc. – who believe that they are entitled to other people’s bodies and here is a subtle reinforcer for them that it would be okay, perhaps even funny, to get someone black out drunk and do with them what they wish.


We all say and do problematic things. We’ve all grown up in a patriarchal culture that undermines and objectifies women. We have all grown up in a white centered, ableist centered, hetero normative culture and we say and do problematic things that reinforce that. Coming to understand how problematic our culture is and the ways in which we contribute to it is long, hard and never ending. You don’t wake up one day and you are a perfect ally who always says and does the right things. Internalized misogyny, racism, ableism, etc. are very real things. Challenging, learning and growing is hard. We make missteps. We eat our feet, eat crow, and hurt and alienate people along the way.

I do not think that Chris Evans was intentionally harmful. I know that a lot of people reading this will think I’m being overly dramatic and difficult. I’m not throwing away all my Marvel movies and putting Chris Evans on my cancelled list. I do recognize that as a sexual assault survivor and advocate, what he said was personally hurtful and culturally problematic. I wish that he had not said it. I fear that in a fight for progress against sexual violence, it’s an unnecessary bump in the road. It personally rankled me. The Teen and I talked about it. And I just feel the need to publicly say, please don’t joke like this or talk like this or make suggestions like this.

Please respect another person’s right to say no when it comes to what happens to their bodies.

Yes, even when we talk about tattoos.

As a librarian, as someone who believes in the power of words and actively works to put words and stories into the hands of others on a daily basis, I believe that Evans spoke in a way that is harmful to the fight against sexual violence and building a culture of consent.

Because building a culture of consent is long term, ongoing work and every little bit helps.

For more about sexual violence, young adult literature and the life of teens, please check out the #SVYALit Project at http://www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/2014/02/svyalit-project-index/

Little Bits Droid Inventor Review by Michelle Biwer

My love of Star Wars aside, I like the simplicity of use and customization options of the Little Bits Droid Inventor Kit. The tweens at my library really enjoyed the building process of making their own Star Wars droid and were able to complete most tasks without any help. Because a lot of its functions are basic and the droid moves at a slow speed I would recommend this for middle schoolers. For high schoolers, a Sphero Star Wars droid moves at a much faster speed and allows for much more complex coding.

What to know before purchasing:

  1. App based, so you must have a tablet or phone available to control each droid.
  2. Recommended for Grades 3-8.
  3. Each kit is about $100 and contains the parts for one R2D2.

What sets this product apart from other robotics equipment you have in your STEM arsenal?

  1. Step by step video instructions. The steps to build the robot are very clear and detailed. I have run a robot building program with a group of senior citizens with little technology experience, and they were able to completely follow the build instructions of this kit without my help.


  1. Little Bits components fit together like Legos, making the process familiar to most children and teens.
  2. Many build options. You can build a robot and then control it by driving it around. But you can also reassemble it and follow the instructions to make it move its arms, or draw a secret message. It has about 20 gestures or “missions” preprogrammed that you can complete by assembling different components in different ways. In a one hour program I found that tweens can complete usually 3 or 4 of those missions, making this kit suitable for repeat programming.
  3. Group friendly. I have found that 2-3 tweens can work together quite well to build the robot.
  4. Some coding functionality. The assembled droid can be controlled by “driving” it around or by coding with very basic block-based programming suitable for tweens new to coding.
  5. Compatible with other Little Bits Kits. If your tweens love experimenting, they can try to create new functionality for their droid with other kits you might have at hand. Keep in mind there aren’t instructions in the app for combining other kits.

5 Question Interview with Undead Girl Gang author Lily Anderson


Today we are lucky to be joined by Lily Anderson, author of Undead Girl Gang, for a 5 question interview:

Other than Mila, who was your favorite character to write and why?

I love all of my characters, obviously, but writing love interests is such a unique challenge in every book. For UNDEAD GIRL GANG, I knew going in that Mila was going to have a crush on Xander–her best friend’s big brother–because I spent all of junior high and high school crushing on the older brothers of my friends. Xander is a popular guy with a nerd background, so it was too fun to put him in situations where a lot of attention was on him and he wasn’t sure what to do with it.

I also wanted to make sure he was earning his keep as the swooniest boy in school, so I based his looks on a young Tom Hiddleston, which meant spending a lot of time watching his movies and interviews and gifs of his face. Just to make sure that I was capturing all that sharp faced, blue eyed earnestness (and not at all for my own fangirl purposes).

The Nouns are consummate mean girls – did you have a lot of experience with mean girls growing up?

Being a teenager is so much about discovering how your actions affect other people and the depths of your own emotions. It’s why I love YA! Teenagers are so willing to put everything on the line, every day. Which is the longest, most convoluted way of saying that I was a mean girl! I was the youngest of my friends by a couple of years and being mean was a shortcut to fitting in. Because being mean can be perceived as being funny (see: my first book, The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You). I viscerally remember being 16 and thinking about the friends I had. We were theater kids and very physically affectionate (we once spent an entire summer having cuddle parties in the park) but I truly didn’t know if any of them knew that I cared about them. And decided, from then on, to use my empathy instead of smothering it.

I focus a lot on meanness in my books because of my past. Not to excuse it, but to examine it. In UNDEAD GIRL GANG, June and Dayton die as the most popular girls in school and come back to life, stuck with two girls that they made miserable. And both June and Dayton seem truly shocked to find out that people considered them to be mean because they never thought about themselves from a macro point of view. They were the heroines in their story and the villains in other people’s. Coming back from the dead gives them a chance to not just atone, but to understand their power and use it positively.

How did you research the Wiccan practices that Mila uses to bring the girls back?

I grew up in a house with zero religion (I’d call us an agnostic family, but I can feel my father shouting “Atheist!” as he reads this). My grandmothers and some of my extended family went to church, but I knew basically nothing about Christianity. (Later, I would learn almost everything I currently know about Western religion from Godspell, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and Fiddler On The Roof. True Story.) Wicca is the only religion that I’ve ever claimed as my own. I discovered it when I was eight or nine and found a Silver Ravenewolf’s TEEN WITCH in my local bookstore. The idea of divinity being equally reflected in nature as in ourselves has guided my personal spirituality since.

Mila, the main character in Undead Girl Gang is Wiccan. She later discovers that she can also wield real, big, scary magic capable of bringing back the dead. These are not the same thing and the book says as much. Wicca couldn’t be less about things that go bump in the night. It’s about seeing the light and purpose in everything—midnights as beautiful as dawns, the planet always providing for our needs—and never about things that go bump in the night. Mila self-identifying as a witch makes it all the less likely that she would be able to do something as dark and extraordinary as necromancy. It’s like knocking on wood and having something bad happen anyway. She can’t bring back the dead because she’s a Wiccan. She’s a Wiccan who brings back the dead (and basically every other Wiccan in the book is not cool with it).

Is your mythology of the undead based on any particular mythology?

More than anything else, the rules for the undead in UGG were inspired by my lifelong obsession with the movie Death Becomes Her. In it, Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn take a magical potion that makes them young and beautiful and immortal—as long as they can take care of themselves. The movie is full of comical body horror that even I—a straight up fraidy cat—could handle and I’ve always wondered how to translate that into fiction.

So, like Meryl and Goldie, our girl gang has to be careful because they don’t heal. They are walking corpses being held up by Mila’s spell, so they’re in better shape nearer to their lifeforce than away from it. And since they’re only back in the land of the living for seven days, they start to show some physical wear as their time counts down.

What can you tell us about any upcoming projects you have in the works?

Right now, I’m trying to balance writing two very opposite YA books at the same time—my first full out drama (writing without jokes is hard!) and a lighter, sillier contemporary that might have some magic in it.


From the Publisher:

Veronica Mars meets The Craft when a teen girl investigates the suspicious deaths of three classmates and accidentally ends up bringing them back to life to form a hilariously unlikely–and unwilling–vigilante girl gang.

Meet teenage Wiccan Mila Flores, who truly could not care less what you think about her Doc Martens, her attitude, or her weight because she knows that, no matter what, her BFF Riley is right by her side.

So when Riley and Fairmont Academy mean girls June Phelan-Park and Dayton Nesseth die under suspicious circumstances, Mila refuses to believe everyone’s explanation that her BFF was involved in a suicide pact. Instead, armed with a tube of lip gloss and an ancient grimoire, Mila does the unthinkable to uncover the truth: she brings the girls back to life.

Unfortunately, Riley, June, and Dayton have no recollection of their murders. But they do have unfinished business to attend to. Now, with only seven days until the spell wears off and the girls return to their graves, Mila must wrangle the distracted group of undead teens and work fast to discover their murderer…before the killer strikes again.


About the Author:

Lily Anderson is a school librarian and Melvil Dewey fangirl with an ever-growing collection of musical theater tattoos and Harry Potter ephemera. She lives in Northern California. She is also the author of THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN ME IS YOU and NOT NOW, NOT EVER. She tweets @ms_lilyanderson.

Friday Finds: April 27, 2018

fridayfindsThis Week at TLT

Book Review: Stay Sweet by Siobhan Vivian

YA A to Z: The Long Road to Gentrification, a guest post by author Lilliam Rivera

New and forthcoming YA and MG to know about

Parrot Mambo Drone Review by Michelle Biwer

Collection Development: Updating My GN and Manga Collection; or, that time I decided I wanted to face my arch nemesis and build a better collection for my patrons

Sunday Reflections: What are the limits of free speech in the library? Reflections on the incident at Aurora Public Library

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Rethinking How Students With Dyslexia Are Taught To Read