Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Past as Present, Present as Past, a guest post by J. Anderson Coats

When I was fifteen, I got busted sneaking into a university library.

The security gate slowed me down, but I looked enough like a college student with my backpack and ratty jeans that I breezed right through—past the information desk, up the stairs, and deep into the stacks.

Ten minutes later, a librarian found me sitting on a stepstool in the medieval history section with a book open on my knees. She asked to see my student ID, and when I told her I’d left it at home, she said I’d have to leave.

“But I’m researching my novel,” I protested, “and you have books here that I can’t get anywhere else.”

She raised one eyebrow in a pointed oh really sort of way.

“No, see, I’ll show you.” I reached into my backpack, pulled out a folder, and fanned out my notes, along with a half-finished chart detailing the particulars of medieval criminal law for a scene in my sprawling, extensively researched but somehow still deeply inaccurate historical novel set in the thirteenth century about a Scottish girl who found herself in Wales and had to figure out her place in the community. A girl who’d had bad things happen to her, but was slowly—slowly—finding her way forward.

“I’m not here to make trouble,” I insisted. “I just need these books.”

The librarian was quiet for a long moment. Then she said, “Today only. It can’t happen again. That’s what interlibrary loan is for. Got it?”

I stayed till the building closed.

By seventeen I’d filled five binders with collected research that fueled six complete novels, including the one about the Scottish girl that ended up at an opulent 400K words. My research into the middle ages had long since expanded beyond any particular novel, though. I wanted to know just for the knowing.

Each binder was rigorously subdivided, organized, tabbed, and coded— region, topic, subtopic, chronological date. I collected maps, drawings, family trees, and accounts, and I made hundreds of charts, graphs, lists, and sketches. No one taught me to do this. Hardly anyone knew about it. But I could and did spend hours paging through what I’d made. Adding. Updating. Minutely rearranging.

I liked worlds I could control.

My interest in the past made me incomprehensible to most kids my age. I liked how they kept a cautious distance, not quite sure how to make fun of me if I already knew I was a freak. I liked how knowing uncommon, arcane things gave me power over almost any interaction I was likely to have. My charts and lists made me feel unusual, mysterious, and untouchable.

Becoming anything is hard. Rebuilding when the pieces are shattered so small is a whole different way of becoming.

I am thirteen. It’s my first week of middle school, and the boy I’m made to sit next to in art class is explaining in vivid detail how he’s going to trap me in the bathroom and feel me up. His language is emotionless and precise. He makes eye contact in the kind of intense, disturbing way that makes me certain he means it.

“I may not stop there,” he says. “I haven’t decided yet.”

The art teacher doesn’t look up from his newspaper. He refuses to let me change seats. He tells me to sit down and do my assignment and stop trying to get attention.

“You won’t know exactly when it’ll happen,” the boy goes on. “It’ll be the best thing that ever happens to a pig like you, though.”

I am thirteen, and I have no idea how to make him leave me alone. The guidance counselor gives me a secret, girls-only smile and says, “It’s probably because he likes you.” My mom reminds me that bullies will find another target if you ignore them.

I am thirteen, and I have no idea how to make them listen. How to make them understand what it costs me to walk into that classroom. Sit in that seat. Let it all happen.

Things just get worse.

Four of my binders have survived. They have endured two transcontinental moves and countless hours of flipping. They have almost—but not quite—been entirely supplanted by the internet.

The best part of the binders now is turning the pages one by one, remembering how each new entry, each photocopied map or genealogy table laboriously typed into some early version of Word is one more step I took out of the darkness.  

It was stories that finally coaxed me to breathe and look up, and because the present was so bleak, I looked to the past, because the past is nothing but stories we tell ourselves to make sense of things that happened.

The binders were a way to step into that past and make it my own. They were a way to imagine a future with something like potential, then construct one through fiction. To that end, I collected everything for my binders, even things I didn’t need at the moment. My research books came from libraries across the country through the magic of interlibrary loan, and I knew I might never have access to them again, so nothing was beneath my notice.

The whispers of Spindle and Dagger are here. Another story about a girl who’d had bad things happen to her, who could slowly—slowly—find her way forward. Tucked away amid the maps and charts, waiting till I was ready to come full circle.

Meet J. Anderson Coats

J. Anderson Coats has received two Junior Library Guild awards, two Washington State Book Awards, and earned starred reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal, the Horn Book Review, and Shelf Awareness. Her newest books are Spindle and Dagger, a YA set in medieval Wales that deals with power dynamics and complicated relationships, and The Green Children of Woolpit, a creepy middle-grade fantasy inspired by real historical events. She is also the author of R is for Rebel, The Many Reflections of Miss Jane Deming, The Wicked and the Just, and the forthcoming middle-grade fantasy, The Night Ride (2021).

Social:

Web: http://www.jandersoncoats.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jandersoncoats

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jandersoncoats

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jandersoncoats/?hl

Buy Links

https://bookshop.org/books/spindle-and-dagger/9781536207774

https://www.mercerislandbooks.com/book/9781536207774

https://www.eagleharborbooks.com/book/9781536207774

https://www.elliottbaybook.com/book/9781536207774

https://www.secretgardenbooks.com/book/9781536207774

About Spindle and Dagger

This rich literary novel follows Elen, who must live a precarious lie in order to survive among the medieval Welsh warband that killed her family.

Wales, 1109. Three years ago, a warband raided Elen’s home. Her baby sister could not escape the flames. Her older sister fought back and almost killed the warband’s leader, Owain ap Cadwgan, before being killed herself. Despite Elen’s own sexual assault at the hands of the raiders, she saw a chance to live and took it. She healed Owain’s wound and spun a lie: Owain ap Cadwgan, son of the king of Powys, cannot be killed, not by blade nor blow nor poison. Owain ap Cadwgan has the protection of Saint Elen, as long as he keeps her namesake safe from harm and near him always.

For three years, Elen has had plenty of food, clothes to wear, and a bed to sleep in that she shares with the man who brought that warband to her door. Then Owain abducts Nest, the wife of a Norman lord, and her three children, triggering full-out war. As war rages, and her careful lies threaten to unravel, Elen begins to look to Nest and see a different life — if she can decide, once and for all, where her loyalties lie. J. Anderson Coats’s evocative prose immerses the reader in a dark but ultimately affirming tale of power and survival.

ISBN-13: 9781536207774
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication date: 03/10/2020
Age Range: 16 – 17 Years

Tween and Teen Programming Ideas: Nostalgia with an Online Twist

Tweens and teens are constantly participating in a balancing act of growing up but still being kids. And they like to do fun things. With everyone focusing on virtual programming right now, I thought I would share with you a few fun websites that tap into childhood nostalgia and provide some fun online programming. The best things about these websites is that you don’t need anything but a device to access them, so if your patrons are clicking through to you page or social media, then they probably have the means to access them. It’s not a perfect solution to being closed and having to practice social distancing, but it is a way to help our patrons find fun things to do during this time.

Mecabricks

Mecabricks is an online, virtual Lego like building platform. It allows you to build fully rendered 3D Lego models virtually. You can pick the style and color of brick at each step of the way. The best thing about this site is that you don’t have to have any bricks at home. When I ran a Lego club the first thing I learned was how many kids had never really played with Legos because they are very cost prohitibitive. You could share this site with patrons just for fun or run a virtual brick building club and give participants specific challenges and ask them to share or submit their creations.

Lite Brite

This online Lite Brite is the same concept as above with the virtual Legos, except it’s a Lite Brite. You make a pattern with little colored pegs and then turn it on and they light up.

Etch a Sketch

Here’s another childhood favorite brought to you online. In this one you use the arrow keys to sketch and then shake to erase your picture and start over.

Jigsaw Explorer

This website lets you do puzzles online. You can also create a custom puzzle and share it online. So turn pictures of your library building or book displays into puzzles and share them with your patrons.

Fuse Beads Picture Converter

So this one is not entirely online, you still need some additional supplies if you want to make the final fuse bead creation. But if you want to make fuse bead (also known as perler beads) crafts, you can use this online tool to turn your favorite photos into perler bead patterns. You can then print them out, place your beads, and fuse them to make your own personal fuse bead art. But I also think you don’t need to do the perler bead part if you don’t want to. It’s fun just to see what is created.

There are a ton of free online art, craft and digital media tools. If you Google you will find tons of great lists being compiled by art teachers, homeschooling parents, and other librarians just like me. There is no limit to what you can find and share. And the creative challenges that you can come up with. Please share some of your favorite online creation tools with us here in the comments.

Sunday Reflections: Advice for Graduating Seniors – It’s All Political

Last night I watched the Graduate Together special in which the class of 2020 was honored and President Barack Obama gave a commencement address. In that address he talked about how the class of 2020 would be our leaders and gave them, frankly, good advice about doing so with honesty, dignity and respect. It was, as most commencement speeches are, an inspired speech that reflected the current times – because how could you not mention them? – and asked our graduating class to go out and make the world a better place.

Online, there was push back. People were upset that President Obama made his commencement speech political. But here’s the deal, whether we like it or not, everything is political. Especially right now.

Everything is a political act.

Voting is a political act. Not voting is a political act, it’s just not a very good one.

For many of the kids graduating this month, simply having the audacity to exist is a political act.

Many of our kids have learned very early in life just how important politics is at every level. They have had to fight for the right to exist. To be safe. To be heard. To be fed and healthy.

But many of our kids do not. I know because I constantly hear friends and family say things like, “Oh I don’t get involved in politics.” Which means that they have probably never had to fight for their right to exist.

As I grow older, I am learning how very important politics is at every level. I used to be less engaged in local politics. I know, I’m ashamed of me too. But I have watched as other states have followed the advice of scientists and studied the scrolls of history and made more measured plans as they seek to respond to the current pandemic. In the meantime, my governor has thrown cautioned to the wind. Even as my state has growing death rates we are re-opening. Thankfully there are pockets where local government is choosing a different, more measured approach based on science. Because politics at every level matters.

Texas has had minimal testing for Covid-19. A couple of weeks ago residents of the county in which I live learned that a unit came to offer testing on a Sunday, but the local judge had ordered that no one tell the general public so that they would not get tested. We will never know the true numbers at any level for this pandemic because the tests we have are faulty (I’ve read they can have as high as a 40% false negative rate) and many leaders are purposely trying to keep the numbers low. It’s all political.

The Teen will be voting in her first election this fall. She has marched, mailed postcards, and done many civil acts of service up to this point. There are many ways that you can engage in politics, even before you are old enough to vote.

If I could impart any wisdom to the graduating class of 2020 it would be this: It’s all political. So make sure that you are involved in every way to help shape those politics. Start before you turn 18 and never stop.

And it’s more than voting for top leadership every 4 years. Vote in every election. Go to school board and local city council meetings. Add your local, state and national representatives into your contacts and contact them regularly. Hold them accountable for their actions. Demand transparency and accountability. Make your voice heard.

A large majority of the teens who are graduating this month will be able to vote in the 2020 presidential election. Do that. Do not let what is arguably one of the most important elections in the history of our nation in your lifetime go by without casting your vote.

You would think that voting, an important part of our government, would be easy, but it is not. Every where you turn there are road blocks designed to keep many of our most marginalized citizens quiet. Gerrymandering, for example, is still rampant. As are steps to dismantle the Voting Rights Acts. Right now, our nation is embroiled in debate about whether or not we will let citizens cast their votes by mail even though it may be the safest way to do so because we are in the midst of a deadly viral pandemic. There is a lot of push back against mail in voting even though our military has been voting by mail as far back as the Civil War and millions of other citizens vote by mail because of travel, disability, and more. People at the top work so hard to silence voters because they don’t truly want the people to be heard. Make them listen anyway.

The issues at hand are vast and complex. Institutional racism, sexism, and poverty are just some of the issues. Growing threats of authoritarianism. The Teen was horrified to learn the other day that there is a small movement to dismantle the 19th Amendment, which gives women the right to vote (specifically, it initially gave white women the right to vote. Rights for other groups of women would not come until much later.) There are roadblocks and hurdles and pushback. Fight to be heard and valued and respected.

There will be a lot of intentionally placed hurdles designed to prevent a large number of our graduating seniors from succeeding. And many of them are starting out with so many disadvantages right from the get go. The world is, sadly and infuriatingly, designed like that.

If you come from a position of privilege, fight for those who are intentionally being pushed out of the conversation. Use your power to bring other voices to the table. Learn when to speak, and when to listen. Don’t talk over or for others, but demand that they be heard. Understand that for any community to truly work, everyone has to have a voice.

Use your voice. And listen to other voices.

This is it. This is your moment. Make it as political af because you have a voice and a right to be seen, heard, respected and valued. You are turning the page into the next chapter of your book, so help write it. We need you. And I’m sorry that we have failed you.

Friday Finds: May 15, 2020

This Week at TLT

On Being Old and New, a guest post by Amanda Sellet

That’s the Thing with the Shots, Right? a guest post by Eve Yohalem

Take 5: Things to Keep in Mind While Doing Virtual Programming

Book Review: The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar

Write What You Know, a guest post by Loriel Ryon

Tween and Teen Programming Ideas: Did you clean out your closet? Here are some ways to upcycle those t-shirts!

Around the Web

With School Buildings Closed, Children’s Mental Health Is Suffering

DeVos Funnels Coronavirus Relief Funds to Favored Private and Religious Schools

Rick Riordan announces new Percy Jackson TV series coming to Disney+

K-Pop Points to the Future of Live Music With Immersive Online Concerts

The Senate Could’ve Blocked the FBI From Accessing Your Web History Without a Warrant, But Didn’t

On Being Old and New, a guest post by Amanda Sellet

In the game of Chutes and Ladders that is publishing, some squares are hard to avoid. “Oops, Your Plot Has a Soggy Middle” for one, or “Womp Womp, Another Form Rejection.”

Other hazards are more personal, lining the unique path each of us takes toward the endgame of A Published Book. For me, one of those was the author photo. 

Plot twist: I’ll be 49 when my debut novel releases this May. Although I long since bade adieu to the fantasy of making a 40 Under 40 list, as a YA author I am conscious of writing for young people when I am … less than young myself.

This is not just a surface-level issue, regrets about skin elasticity aside. The whole idea of being a “debut” implies dewy newness, an awkward fit when your lived experience as a Gen X teen qualifies as historical fiction. My pop culture references are from a different century. Far from being a digital native, I grew up blissfully free from the panopticon of social media. In my day (gather round, kids!), colleges sent acceptance letters by mail, on actual paper – and once enrolled, you were almost certainly indoctrinated into the wrong wave of feminism.

Yet surely something has been gained along with the crow’s feet? For perspective, I surveyed several fellow debuts about stepping onto the kidlit stage as a non-ingenue.  

Home and Away

Although our own childhoods are disappearing in the rearview mirror, many of us live and/or work with kids every day. As parents and teachers, we have a front-row seat for the fears, fandoms, and (in the case of MG readers) fart jokes that drive today’s youth.

“My 12-year-old son is my biggest writing influence. I craft all my stories for him,” said Adrianna Cuevas. The author of THE TOTAL ECLIPSE OF NESTOR LOPEZ, out July 31, also taught Spanish and ESOL to her target audience for sixteen years.

“It’s much easier to have an authentic MG voice when you’re constantly communicating with your intended readers,” agreed Tanya Guerrero, a writer and parent whose first book, HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE SEA, released March 31. Guerrero’s prior career developing K-12 educational materials also underscored the importance of representation and diversity in writing for kids.

Work Experience

In some cases, an author’s non-writing career doubled as research for their book.

“I spend a lot of time with young women who are recovering from terrible experiences in school mathematics,” said Amy Noelle Parks, a professor of Mathematics Education at Michigan State University. Her debut, THE QUANTUM WEIRDNESS OF THE ALMOST KISS (out January 5, 2021), offers a different vision: a boarding school full of young women who love math and science.

Betty Culley’s work as a pediatric hospice nurse directly informed her debut novel-in-verse THREE THINGS I KNOW ARE TRUE, which Culley described as, “a book I couldn’t have written before then.”  

For Alex Richards, author of the July release ACCIDENTAL, her previous job in TV production “helped bring me out of my shell, talking to strangers, digging deep to find the heart of a story, etc.”

Life Lessons

Off-the-job training can also have a profound influence on writing practice.

“I have two kids, a precocious nine-year-old and a severely autistic non-verbal eleven-year-old who needs 24/7 care, which my husband and I share,” explained Jamie Pacton, author of the May release THE LIFE AND (MEDIEVAL) TIMES OF KIT SWEETLY. “Being these particular children’s mother has taught me a lot about long games in life and writing; how to find joy in small things; it’s grown my patience and helped me think about the struggles other people face, even with small things like communicating basic needs.”

Age can also bring a new sense of determination. After years of working in practical (read: more likely to pay) fields like teaching and journalism, Cathleen Barnhart, author of the recent MG release THAT’S WHAT FRIENDS DO, made a now-or-never decision. “I had a bit of an emotional freak-out and decided that I needed to walk the writer walk, even if I never published anything. I had to own being a writer.”

For many members of the over 40 club, the passing of time also means greater freedom from expectations. Why write literary short stories when you love middle grade, or try to follow the market if your heart isn’t in dystopian YA?

“The writing I did in my 20s and 30s was largely professional,” said Cuevas, “completely devoid of fart and poop jokes. The horror! I was also writing to satisfy my audience, which often led to inauthenticity. Now, I feel secure enough to write stories I enjoy. I don’t think ‘younger me’ would’ve had the courage to do that.”

On Roads Not Taken

The writing landscape has changed dramatically in the last decade. Pacton pointed out how much easier it is to find information about the industry now, not to mention the online access points of pitch contests and social media.

On the other hand, there are only so many hours in a day. Parks was getting a Ph.D. while raising a family; Culley wrote her first novel at 18 then went back to school to finish her degree, followed by years spent homeschooling her children while working nights as a labor and delivery nurse.

“Sometimes I regret that I didn’t ‘honor the gift’ during those years,” Culley said, “but the work I did and the life I lived made me the writer I am now.”

Fortunately for all of us, writing isn’t as physically demanding as gymnastics or even opera. Plenty of writers keep working many, many decades past their teen years.

“One thing publishing at this point in my life has done is help me realize that you have lots of time,” said Parks. “Just because you can’t do everything all at once, doesn’t mean you can’t do it all eventually.”

However old you are, fellow writers, take heart. Age has its compensations.

As for the author photo, I hear they have these things called filters nowadays.

Buy BY THE BOOK and other fine titles by authors of all ages from Amanda’s local indie The Raven Book Store: https://www.ravenbookstore.com/

Meet Amanda Sellet

Amanda Sellet had a previous career in journalism, during which she wrote book reviews for The Washington Post, personal essays for NPR, and music and movie coverage for VH1. She has an M.A. in Cinema Studies from NYU. After a mostly coastal childhood, she now lives in Kansas with her husband, daughter, and cats.

Find her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/amandajsellet

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/amandajsellet/

Web site: https://www.amandasellet.com/

About BY THE BOOK

In this clever YA rom-com debut perfect for fans of Kasie West and Ashley Poston, a teen obsessed with nineteenth-century literature tries to cull advice on life and love from her favorite classic heroines to disastrous results—especially when she falls for the school’s resident Lothario.

Mary Porter-Malcolm has prepared for high school in the one way she knows how: an extensive review of classic literature to help navigate the friendships, romantic liaisons, and overall drama she has come to expect from such an “esteemed” institution. When some new friends seem in danger of falling for the same tricks employed since the days of Austen and Tolstoy, Mary swoops in to create the Scoundrel Survival Guide, using archetypes of literature’s debonair bad boys to signal red flags. But despite her best efforts, she soon finds herself unable to listen to her own good advice and falling for a supposed cad—the same one she warned her friends away from. Without a convenient rain-swept moor to flee to, Mary is forced to admit that real life doesn’t follow the same rules as fiction and that if she wants a happy ending, she’s going to have to write it herself. 

ISBN-13: 9780358156611
Publisher: HMH Books
Publication date: 05/12/2020
Age Range: 12 – 18 Years

That’s the Thing with the Shots, Right? a guest post by Eve Yohalem

Eve and Jen

I don’t remember a time when diabetes wasn’t part of my life. I was eight and my sister, Jennifer, was thirteen when she developed type 1—what used to be called “juvenile diabetes” because it occurred most often in children. A couple of months after she was diagnosed, Jen read an article in PEOPLE magazine that said diabetes cut life expectancy in half, which meant she could expect to die by the time she was forty. From that moment on, Jen told me, she felt like she was living on borrowed time, scared she wouldn’t live to get married or have children, terrified she wouldn’t get to grow up.

Forty-five years later, Jen is still alive and married with a son and two dogs. Nowadays, thanks to huge improvements in treatments, plenty of people with diabetes live well into old age. But there’s still no cure. And another thing that hasn’t changed? Diabetes is still invisible.

I gave Blue, the main character in The Truth According to Blue, diabetes because I wanted to show what it’s like to have a life-threatening condition you need to think about all day every day that no one else can see. Best friends, teachers, and even sisters often don’t know how dangerous and all-consuming diabetes can be. I thought I knew a lot about the disease when I started writing. After all, I’d lived with my sister my whole childhood, and on top of that, I have borderline type 2. What could I possibly not know?

Turns out, a lot. I was amazed by how much I learned from my sister and other people with diabetes while I was researching. When you have diabetes, you’re never not thinking about it. Everything—and I mean everything—you eat, drink, do, and don’t do affects your blood sugar. And no matter how careful you are, sometimes your body just won’t listen. Or the technology breaks. Or both.

Last Thanksgiving, I sat next to Jen. Just before we started eating, she nudged me. I looked down at her glucose monitor. Her blood sugar was over 300, which is really high. I knew what that meant. You can’t eat with high blood sugar because food makes your sugar go even higher. Which meant Jen had to take insulin, wait fifteen minutes for it to kick in, check her blood sugar again, and repeat the process until her sugar went down to normal. Did I mention Thanksgiving dinner is Jen’s favorite meal?

“What’s up with that?” I whispered. Jen shrugged. “No clue. It’s been like that for two days. I can’t get it down.”

I tried not to show my panic. What if her blood sugar won’t go down? How often does this happen? Her diabetes is getting worse. Meanwhile, no one else at the table had any idea what was going on. Jen must have felt sick, but she looked fine, and nobody except me noticed her pushing some food around her plate and not eating.

That’s what it’s like to have diabetes.

Blue is spending the summer hunting for sunken treasure in a bay off Sag Harbor and dealing with a movie star’s spoiled daughter who insists on tagging along with her. At the same time, she’s monitoring her blood sugar, and feeling dizzy or tired or nauseated or worse when it gets too high or too low. Lucky for Blue, she has Otis, her beloved diabetic alert dog who’s specially trained to smell changes in blood sugar. The picture on the book jacket tells the story: two girls and a dog on a dock, scanning the water, a sunken ship beneath them. Summer fun! Adventure! Mystery! Well, yes, that’s all in the book (or at least I hope it is!). But if you look closely, you’ll see Otis is bowing down, which is how he alerts Blue that her blood sugar is low. He isn’t playing; he’s telling her she needs to stop whatever she’s doing and deal with it. As Blue says, Otis saves her life every day.

Diabetes doesn’t cut your life expectancy in half anymore, but it’s still life-threatening, and it’s still a heavy, lonely burden to carry, especially when you’re a kid. I wish there had been an Otis for Jen when she was growing up. And a book with a girl like her who has diabetes but still makes new friends and goes on big adventures. I wrote The Truth According to Blue because I wanted kids today with diabetes—and their friends, classmates, siblings, and cousins—to have the book my sister didn’t have.

Meet Eve Yohalem

Photo credit: Nicholas Polsky

Eve Yohalem is the author of middle grade novels The Truth According to Blue, Cast Off: The Strange Adventures of Petra De Winter and Bram Broen, and Escape Under the Forever Sky. She is also the co-creator and co-host of “Book Dreams,” a podcast for everyone who loves books and has ever wondered about them. Eve lives in New York City with her family and their two cats.

LINKS

Eve’s website: https://www.eveyohalem.com/

Eve talking about THE TRUTH ACCORDING TO BLUE: https://vimeo.com/394969283

Book Dreams podcast: https://www.bookdreamspodcast.com/

About The Truth According to Blue

A heartfelt middle grade adventure about one girl’s search for sunken treasure, friendship, and her place in the world.

Thirteen-year-old Blue Broen is on the hunt for a legendary ship of gold, lost centuries ago when her ancestors sailed to New York. Blue knows her overprotective parents won’t approve of her mission to find their family’s long-lost fortune, so she keeps it a secret from everyone except her constant companion, Otis, an 80-pound diabetic alert dog. But it’s hard to keep things quiet with rival treasure hunters on the loose, and with Blue’s reputation as the local poster child for a type 1 diabetes fundraiser.

Blue’s quest gets even harder when she’s forced to befriend Jules, the brainy but bratty daughter of a vacationing movie star who arrives on the scene and won’t leave Blue alone. While Blue initially resents getting stuck with this spoiled seventh grade stranger, Jules soon proves Blue’s not the only one who knows about secrets — and adventure.

Will Blue unravel a three hundred year-old family mystery, learn to stand up for herself, and find the missing treasure? Or is she destined to be nothing more than “diabetes girl” forever?

ISBN-13: 9780316424370
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date: 05/12/2020
Age Range: 8 – 12 Years

Take 5: Things to Keep in Mind While Doing Virtual Programming

Because of the pandemic, most libraries have taken their programming online and I’m in a lot of online groups where we are talking about the who, what, where, and how of virtual programming. Necessity is, as they say, the mother of invention and a lot of library staff are finding themselves trying to figure out how to reach their library patrons with their buildings closed. We live in a world where being together is suddenly quite dangerous which makes programming hard. Online seems like a natural – and safe – answer to this new world. Here are 5 thoughts I’ve had about virtual programming.

Consider Resources in the Home and Your Audience

The problem with pivoting to exclusive virtual programming is that although we know that right now it is the safest way to do programming, we also know that it leaves out a lot of our most vulnerable patrons. Access is and always will be an issue that libraries wrestle with, it’s one of our founding principles, and it should be one we consider when doing virtual programming as well. So when you are doing DIY and craft program tutorials online, please consider who you are reaching and what kind of impact it may have. Use as few resources as possible and keep in mind how readily they are available in most homes. For example, I saw a library that had taken their Lego Club online and this will be challenging because Legos are expensive and a lot of kids won’t have Legos at home, which is part of the reason that they come to a Lego Club in the first place.

Programs that use inexpensive objects that can be found in the most number of homes is the ideal. And you’ll want to avoid using resources that are scarce right now like toilet paper rolls, flour for baking, etc. Simple paper crafts like cootie catchers and origami are ideal because they are cheap and a lot of homes have some kind of paper, even if it’s scrap paper waiting to be tossed.

Use the Right Tools

There are things I really like about virtual programming and I think now, libraries were missing a trick by not doing more virtual programming and doing it more often. Yes, I know that there have been libraries making and sharing video content online for a while, but I think one thing we are learning is that this is a way for us to increase our library profile and engage with different library users. I think more libraries will keep some type of virtual programming in place and it is here to stay, which is good.

However, one thing I have learned is that you must use the right tools. This is hard, because a lot of us were thrown without knowledge or warning into this nightmare scenario, I get that. But moving forward, libraries should work to make sure their staff have the right tools. This includes things like good lighting, backdrops, a tripod to hold your recording device, etc.

And speaking of tools, librarians should not be using their personal tools to be doing their jobs. They should especially not be using their personal cell phones because it is my understanding that using your personal device for work can make it open to public records requests. You’ll want to check into that before you use your personal device for work.

Respect Your Staff

I have seen some discussion on various forums about whether or not we should or can force staff to be online for virtual programming. Some staff members have a variety of personal reasons why they may not feel comfortable presenting themselves online. Body image issues, safety issues, privacy issues – there are a lot of reasons why staff may not feel comfortable recording themselves and posting those videos online. And I think they are valid and should be considered with great care. Remember, online is far reaching and forever and it is not the same as local and in person.

In these discussions I saw at least one manager reply that this is what programming librarians signed up for and that is not exactly true. Unless it was specifically discussed in the job description or interview or offer, most programming librarians sign up to do in person programming and stortyimes, which is quite different from what you are seeing happen now. I would argue that a lot of librarians need more coaching and training to pivot to effective virtual programming because it is not the same as in person programming. It requires different knowledge and skill sets including knowing how to plan for virtual, how to engage with a virtual audience, and the technical capability to put together and edit a good virtual program.

Again, there are libraries and librarians that have been doing amazing virtual programming and engagement for some time, but if this is new to your library or staff, it’s not fair to just assume that everyone is on board or that they have the skillset necessary to be good at this. If it’s new to your library, there are a lot of things to keep in mind including your staff’s personal boundaries regarding being online. There are ways that you can create virtual programming that can be effective and engaging without asking your staff violate their personal online boundaries. Tasty, for example, has been making amazing cooking tutorials in which we never see a person’s face. There are ways to balance staff talents and concerns and still make engaging virtual content. Help your staff work through and develop the type of virtual programming that works best with their skillset, keeps their concerns and boundaries in mind, yet helps the library reach all of its goals.

Think Long and Hard About Doing Live Virtual Programming

I have seen a lot of discussion about doing live virtual programming versus creating and sharing prerecorded videos. At the same time, I’ve seen my fellow librarians post about doing live programs that were invaded by racists, where adult males used it as an opportunity to chat up females in the group, etc. We’ve always had to worry about keeping our patrons safe in programs, but now that we’re online we have to worry about keeping our patrons safe in a platform in which things can be recorded or screenshot and shared forever.

I would recommend not going live as often as possible for several reasons. One, it helps you protect your patrons from the various scenarios you read about happening online. Two, it gives the library more control over the quality, content and messaging. If you take the time to put together and edit a quality video, you have more control over those things. Also, if you have staff that are just dipping their toes into online programming, having the ability to edit can help give assurances that they won’t look or sound bad online; it can help ease them into this new world.

But most importantly, it gives libraries more control over their public image and pr. I spent a lot of time on Twitter and I know that things get quickly screen shot and shared. One misstep can last forever so you’ll want to try to minimize the chances for those missteps to occur. And if you feel you need to go live for whatever reason, you’ll want to wait to do so until your staff become more comfortable and arguably better at virtual programming.

If or when you do choose to go live, put as many safeguards as you possibly can in place. Train staff how to handle various scenarios. Let them know it’s okay to end a program or kick a patron out if necessary. Use passwords, disable chats, etc. Come up with the best protocols that you can and make sure your staff are trained and empowered to react in the moment. And then back them up if they ever have to.

Yes, Copyright Still Matters

When libraries closed their doors and pivoted to virtual storytimes and programming, the issue of copyright immediately came to the forefront. I’ve seen arguments that copyright no long matters because we are in crisis, and that argument makes me uncomfortable. Especially now that you have publishers changing and giving us all specific copyright permissions to follow. As a profession that has been tasked with being models and instructors for things like information literacy, accessibility and yes, copyright, I think it’s vitally important that we continue to be that example and follow and uphold the law. Even when it’s wildly inconvenient to do so.

The pandemic won’t last forever. And though it will last longer than many people realize and the world will probably be more different when we get to the end of this, I think it’s important that we still follow copyright law and permissions. We would still want our patrons and our vendors and our legislators to respect and honor us, and we owe it to our partners to do the same. Publishers have given us written instructions about what they would like us to do in this time and I think it’s important to honor and respect that.

We all rushed into virtual programming because we had to. Now we can take a moment to pause, take a breathe, and look at how we can develop best practices. Have meetings with staff (virtually, of course), look at what other libraries are doing, and develop the practices that work best for your systems and staff. We don’t all have the same resources and we don’t all have the same staff, so it’s good to develop reasonable and meaningful expectations that work for our system. Figure out what the goals and best practices are for your system, get the tools you need to help make that happen, and then go. Be creative. Engage with your patrons. And find meaningful ways to keep doing the work and keep your staff and patrons safe through this pandemic.

You’re doing great. I promise.

Book Review: The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar

Publisher’s description

Nishat doesn’t want to lose her family, but she also doesn’t want to hide who she is, and it only gets harder once a childhood friend walks back into her life. Flávia is beautiful and charismatic, and Nishat falls for her instantly. But when a school competition invites students to create their own businesses, both Flávia and Nishat decide to showcase their talent as henna artists. In a fight to prove who is the best, their lives become more tangled—but Nishat can’t quite get rid of her crush, especially since Flávia seems to like her back.

As the competition heats up, Nishat has a decision to make: stay in the closet for her family, or put aside her differences with Flávia and give their relationship a chance.

Amanda’s thoughts

(The content warning from the book, FYI: The Henna Wars contains instances of racism, homophobia, bullying, and a character being outed. All of these are challenged and dealt with on the page.)

Bangladeshi Irish Nishat, 16, has decided to come out to her parents. After all, they have a “love marriage” (versus an arranged marriage), so maybe they can accept this other form of love. Her parents acknowledge her telling them she’s a lesbian, then dismiss her. She later overhears them saying she’s confused, she will work it out, she will change her mind. Their intent is to carry on as though nothing is different.

But for Nishat, everything is different. She doesn’t want to be closeted anymore, or be anyone other than who she is. And her crush on her new classmate Flávia, who is Brazilian and white Irish, makes it even harder for her to ignore or dismiss who she is and how she feels. But that crush quickly grows more complicated when both Nishat and Flávia decide to create henna businesses for a class project. Nishat is outraged that Flávia thinks it’s okay to do henna; doesn’t she understand that’s cultural appropriation? Flávia says it’s just art, and no one can make boundaries about art. It doesn’t help that Flávia’s cousin in Chyna, the nastiest girl in their class, who is racist and started rumors about Nishat’s family years ago.

This story is equal parts about having a crush on someone who should probably be your enemy and coming out/being outed. The only people Nishat tells are in her family. Her younger sister has known for a while and is totally loving and supportive. Her parents tell a family friend and have her try to reason with Nishat—she’s young, she’s confused, she has a problem, “Muslims aren’t gay” (pg 123), she has a “sickness.” Meanwhile, her parents continue to act as though she never told them anything and this whole “problem” will just eventually resolve itself. After all, according to her parents’ logic, can’t she understand that she’s making a “choice” that is bringing shame to the family? This coming from parents who have made it clear to her that she can be anything she wants… except herself, apparently.

Both pieces of the story, the henna competition and the crush, have many believable and dramatic ups and downs. There are lots of conversations about racism, bullying, homophobia, cultural issues and appropriations, family, and more. The most challenging aspect of the book may be the part about Nishat being outed, which is traumatic and, of course, unacceptable. I do want to say that this has a happy ending, that characters in her life do learn and grow and ultimately support her and show love. The relationship between Nishat and her sister, Priti, is one of the shining points of the book. They are absolutely best friends and the support Priti provides Nishat while so many others turn their back on her is priceless. Though at times painful to read, this is exploration of identity, family, and self is well-written, honest, and, ultimately, empowering.

Review copy (ARC) courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781624149689
Publisher: Page Street Publishing
Publication date: 05/12/2020
Age Range: 14 – 17 Years

Write What You Know, a guest post by Loriel Ryon

I almost didn’t write this post.

As I’ve grown and changed, my thoughts and understandings of my identity and what that means have evolved a lot over the years. Being a writer means looking into yourself, pulling apart the pieces of what made you, and writing that. So when I started writing, my heritage and cultural upbringing kept coming up. How could it not? When I think back to my childhood years, my family and my traditions were so important to that time. But identity is complicated. Especially when you come from a blended family. And when that family breaks apart, identity gets even more complicated. My understanding of myself and my identity will probably change again. And again. But for now, this is where I am.

Because as the old saying goes: write what you know.

And this is what I know.

I grew up on bluegrass music and pumpkin empanadas. Pig pickins’ and the best southern fried chicken. Jackie Horner pies for birthdays, luminarias and tamales at Christmas, and cascarones at Easter. My childhood was a blend of my parents’ upbringings and traditions: my father, an Irish-English American Catholic southern boy, born and raised in North Carolina; and my mother, a Mexican American Catholic born and raised in south Texas. Their traditions were different from each other, but somehow, they found a way to raise me, my brother, and my sister with a blend of the two.

Sure, my mom loved to tell the story where she asked my dad right after they got married to get tortillas from the grocery store and he brought back corn tortillas in a can. (I’m not kidding. It was a family joke for a LOOONG time.) My grandad would tell us stories about how he wasn’t allowed at the school dance because he was Mexican and had to wait outside. I’m pretty sure my mom had never even heard of bluegrass music until she met my dad.

Spanish was spoken in our house (and it was basic Spanish at best), but not because my mom grew up speaking it. My grandparents didn’t teach their children Spanish. They wanted them to blend in and not rock the boat. Both my parents learned in school and college, and once us kids had learned how to spell, they’d switch to Spanish to keep us from knowing what they were talking about.

The other important thing to know is my parents didn’t stay married. And while that was a very tough thing to go through as a kid, it also really shifted my adult understanding of identity and heritage. Without my blended family intact, which traditions would stay? Would some fall away? How would we raise our own kids when the time came?

The other thing is while my siblings and I have our mother’s dark hair and eyes, our light skin coupled with our English last name affords a lot of privileges that other members in our family don’t have. By looking at us, you can’t really “tell” our heritage and with that comes the doubts.

If I look white and I don’t speak Spanish, can I be Mexican American? If I have a white last name, can I be Mexican American? If every time I tell someone that I’m part Mexican American and they say, “Well, you don’t look it…”, then maybe I’m not.

Questions about my identity carried with me all the way to my debut, INTO THE TALL, TALL GRASS. It’s a story about a girl and her sister, both of mixed heritage, as they go on a journey through the desert to save their grandmother’s life. I’d never read a story about a girl of mixed heritage like me. I stubbornly plowed forward, following the advice: write what you know. But even so, I was riddled with doubts. Because when you are straddling the in-between you never quite feel like you are enough. It is a constant battle between hoping you aren’t a fraud to trying to get things perfectly right. Would kids want to read about a girl like me? Would I do the story justice? Was it okay for me to write a story like this? But my Spanish isn’t very good…

I remember when Aida Salazar reached out and asked if I’d like to be part of the Las Musas group, a collective of Latinx authors who support one another. I almost told her no. I stressed over it. How was I going to tell Aida Salazar (who’s book I absolutely admired and adored) that she’d made a mistake? It wasn’t because I didn’t want to be a part of the group. I really did. It was because I felt like I didn’t belong. I felt like I wasn’t Latinx enough to be in the group, and I finally found the courage and told her so.

And Aida, the always wise, said to me, “There’s no one way to be Latinx.”

And with those simple words, my view of my identity shifted again. When the doubts come rolling in, I repeat those words to myself. And while I may not get everything perfectly right and I’m sure to make mistakes along the way, I realize my unique viewpoint does matter. Just because it’s not quite like everyone else’s doesn’t mean it’s wrong or not enough. It’s just…mine.

And that is what I know.

For now.

Meet Loriel Ryon

Loriel Ryon is an author of middle grade fiction. She spent her childhood with her nose in a book, reading in restaurants, on the school bus, and during every family vacation. Her upbringing in a mixed-heritage military family inspires much of her writing about that wonderfully complicated time between childhood and adulthood. Also a nurse, she lives in the magical New Mexico desert with her husband and two daughters. Her debut middle grade novel, INTO THE TALL, TALL GRASS is out now.

Social Media

Twitter/Instagram/Facebook: @Lorielryon

Website: Lorielryon.com

About Into the Tall, Tall Grass

A girl journeys across her family’s land to save her grandmother’s life in this captivating and magical debut that’s perfect for fans of The Thing About Jellyfish.

Yolanda Rodríguez-O’Connell has a secret. All the members of her family have a magical gift—all, that is, except for Yolanda. Still, it’s something she can never talk about, or the townsfolk will call her family brujas—witches. When her grandmother, Wela, falls into an unexplained sleep, Yolanda is scared. Her father is off fighting in a faraway war, her mother died long ago, and Yolanda has isolated herself from her best friend and twin sister. If she loses her grandmother, who will she have left?

When a strange grass emerges in the desert behind their house, Wela miraculously wakes, begging Yolanda to take her to the lone pecan tree left on their land. Determined not to lose her, Yolanda sets out on this journey with her sister, her ex-best friend, and a boy who has a crush on her. But what is the mysterious box that her grandmother needs to find? And how will going to the pecan tree make everything all right? Along the way, Yolanda discovers long-buried secrets that have made their family gift a family curse. But she also finds the healing power of the magic all around her, which just might promise a new beginning.

ISBN-13: 9781534449671
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication date: 04/07/2020
Age Range: 10 – 18 Years

Tween and Teen Programming Ideas: Did you clean out your closet? Here are some ways to upcycle those t-shirts!

We have finally gotten to the point in the pandemic where both of my kids are so bored they have cleaned their rooms. More than once actually. Thing 2 actually even got out the vacuum and vacuumed her room, without being asked. My garage is now full of clothes that no longer fit, toys that need a new home, and various other odds and ends that we don’t want to put into the trash but thrift stores aren’t taking donations – for good reason.

5 Way to Transform a T-Shirt into Something New

In my work life, everyone’s looking for virtual programming ideas. Virtual programs need to be accessible which means craft projects need to be made with items you are likely to have in your home because no one is just running out to the store. Here’s where 26 years of teen programming and knowing 101 things to do with a t-shirt comes in handy.

All those too small t-shirts that you have waiting for thrift stores to open? They can be re-purposed! As someone who loves a good tote bag, I want you to know that you can turn those t-shirts into a tote with nothing more than 1 pair of scissors. It’s something you can do for yourself or make a quick DIY video to share with your patrons.

Supplies:

  • 1 old t-shirt
  • A pair of scissors

Thing 2 loves all things NASA so she was heartbroken to throw this t-shirt onto the throw away pile. So I took 15 minutes out of my day to turn it into an awesome tote bag for her.

To start, you’re going to lay out your t-shirt flat. Use your scissors to cut out the neck and cut off the two sleeves. This will make your tote straps so you’ll want to fit them to your size.

You are then going to cut a fringe around the bottom of edge of your t-shirt. It needs to be long enough for you to double knot it, but you can make shorter or longer fringe depending on what you like and the size of your graphic on the front of your t-shirt. This is the exact technique they use to make those no sew fleece blankets that used to be so popular.

After you cut all of your fringe, you are going to double knot the corresponding back and front fringe. This closes off the bottom of your t-shirt and makes it into a bag that you can carry things in. If you have a sewing machine at home you can turn your t-shirt inside out and sew it closed at the bottom, but it’s not necessary.

Instructables: No Sew T-Shirt Tote Bag: https://www.instructables.com/id/No-Sew-T-Shirt-Tote-Bag-1/

After you have completely knotted off and closed the bottom of your t-shirt, you have a pretty cool tote bag made out of one of your favorite t-shirts.

If your t-shirt is big enough, you can cut the t-shirt all around and knot all the sides, stuffing it with plastic bags or pillow form to make a pillow out of a favorite t-shirt. Again, you can sew all or some of the edged if you want to do this for a pillow.

If you want to embellish a shirt, you can use Sharplies and rubbing alcohol to do less mess tie dying. You can also make some decorative cuts to turn t-shirts into something that better fits your style.