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Writing Outside Your Own Life (and Not Chickening Out), a guest post by Jacqueline West

collectorsAs an author, I make a lot of school visits. And at a lot of school visits, a student will hurry up to me before my talk starts, hand me a lanyard microphone—the kind that links with hearing aids— and disappear again. I’ll wear the microphone as I speak, remembering, every time I bump it with an overdramatic gesture (which happens not infrequently), that one person in the crowd is experiencing the moment just a bit differently than everyone else.


I’ve always been drawn to stories about people who see things that others don’t see, who notice things that others don’t notice. I didn’t realize it until just recently, but all the main characters in my novels—at least so far—have this in common. Olive in The Books of Elsewhere finds magic spectacles that bring paintings to life. Jaye in Dreamers Often Lie has brain trauma that brings on Shakespearean hallucinations. When I started writing The Collectors, I knew eleven-year-old Van would be one of those people too. I knew he would be an isolated kid, shuttled around the globe by his opera-singing mother, often lost in his own miniature, collectible world. I knew he would perceive things differently from the people around him. But it wasn’t until I was halfway through the book that I realized something huge: Van was hard of hearing. Suddenly, with that discovery, both the logic and the magic of the story fell into place.


My first instinct was to chicken straight out.


A story about deafness was not mine to tell. Deafness and hearing loss are not my personal experiences. There are no deaf or hard-of-hearing people in my immediate family. There are authors, like Cece Bell of El Deafo, who do have this background, and who have used it as material for recent, brilliant work. Of course, I write about characters whose lives are different from my own all the time—but this difference felt so foundational to my character’s experience, hoping that I could understand it well enough to use it in my own story seemed arrogant. Maybe even stupid.


My second instinct was to leave that element out of the story and just go on without it. But when I tried, I couldn’t get through a single scene. It felt like I had just met someone named Timothy and told him that I was going to call him Reginald instead. My characters wouldn’t go backward with me. They wouldn’t let me rip this vital thread out of the story. Van was hard of hearing. He just was. This was an important part of his life, and it had stemmed from the very heart of the story, and there was no way I could cut it out now without killing the whole thing.


So my third instinct was to give up on it completely. I would say goodbye to Van, a character I utterly loved, and goodbye to the magical world I had nearly finished building, and leave them on the shelf in my office that’s stuffed with other out-of-steam manuscripts. But days went by, and then weeks and months, and Van’s story refused to leave me alone. That’s when I started to hope that a fantasy about wishes and underground worlds and distractible talking squirrels—all experienced through the perspective of a boy with hearing aids—might be a story I was meant to tell. So I got help.


I read like crazy (I highly recommend What’s that Pig Outdoors? by Henry Kisor and Gerald Shea’s Song Without Words). I reached out to local DHH teachers, who let me visit with their students, interviewing them, shadowing them during their school day, peppering them with questions. (One of those teachers even read the whole manuscript for inaccuracies. Thanks again, Angela!) I met with a book club from a school for the Deaf, and with parents of deaf and hard-of-hearing kids. The generosity and insight of all these people were incredible. The things they shared with me combined with the Van who already existed in my imagination, giving him his own unique view of the world—a view that leads him into danger, wonder, and unexpected magic.


I was reminded of something important as I wrote this book: we all want to find ourselves in a story. When you ask people to share a tiny bit of themselves, so that you can weave it into a story that will resonate with others, they don’t usually say no. They say sure! And then they tell stories of their own. It’s such a gift—and it’s one that I hope I can pass along to every reader who opens a copy of The Collectors. That, and some dangerous wishes, and an underground collection, and a distractible talking squirrel. Hope you enjoy.



Meet Jacqueline West

JacquelineWest2.2017Jacqueline West is the author of the middle grade fantasy The Collectors, the YA novel Dreamers Often Lie, and the NYT-bestselling series The Books of Elsewhere. Her debut, The Shadows (The Books of Elsewhere, Volume One), garnered multiple starred reviews and state award nominations, was named a Publishers Weekly Flying Start, and received the 2010 CYBILS award for fantasy/science fiction. Jacqueline lives amid the bluffs of Red Wing, Minnesota, surrounded by large piles of books and small piles of dog hair. Find Jacqueline online: www.jacquelinewest.com, Instagram: jacqueline.west.writes, and Facebook.


Even the smallest wish can be dangerous. That’s why the Collectors are always keeping watch.

The Collectors sweeps readers into a hidden world where wishes are stolen and dreams have a price. Fast-paced, witty, and riveting, this contemporary fantasy adventure has magic woven through every page.

It’s the first book in a two-book series from Jacqueline West, the New York Times–bestselling author of The Books of Elsewhere series. For fans of Serafina and the Black Cloak, The Isle of the Lost, and The Secret Keepers.

Van has always been an outsider. Most people don’t notice him. But he notices them. And he notices the small trinkets they drop, or lose, or throw away—that’s why his collection is full of treasures. Then one day, Van notices a girl stealing pennies from a fountain, and everything changes. He follows the girl, Pebble, and uncovers an underground world full of wishes and the people who collect them. Apparently not all wishes are good and even good wishes often have unintended consequences—and the Collectors have made it their duty to protect us. But they aren’t the only ones who have their eyes on the world’s wishes—and they may not be the good guys, after all.

Jacqueline West, author of the New York Times–bestselling Books of Elsewhere series, draws readers into a story about friendship, magic, and the gray area between good and evil. The Collectors is for fans of Cassie Beasley’s Circus Mirandus and Jonathan Auxier’s The Night Gardener.

Wrestling with some truths in the movie “The Hate U Give”

I went with one of my best friend’s on Thursday to see a special screening of The Hate U Give, the movie based upon the novel of the same name written by Angie Thomas. This is a book that we both read as part of an adult book club that we are in (she’s our leader). I’ve read the book as a teen librarian, I’ve read the book as a parent of very white children, and my very white children have read it as well. The Teen and I have also been to book events where we have heard Angie Thomas speak about this book. So to say that I was excited to see this movie is an understatement. Also, The Teen wants you to know that she is mad that I went without her.


The movie, like the book, is excellent. The quality of the acting is remarkable. I was especially moved by the performance of Russell Hornsby who played the father, Maverick Carter. I believe he delivered an Oscar worthy performance. And Amandla Sternberg was equally excellent as Starr. There were many powerful performances delivered and I’m not going to lie, I was moved, I was uncomfortable, I was ashamed, I laughed, I wept, and I went on a full spectrum ride of emotional reactions.

10 Books To Read After “The Hate U Give” – School Library Journal

I am not a movie reviewer or a theater expert, but I was amazed at the production value of the movie because I happen to be aware that several scenes had to be re-shot after K J Apa was added to the cast after a previous casting controversy. I don’t know how they managed to go back and re-shoot entire scenes or add him in or whatever it is they did, but if I didn’t know about the casting situation and wasn’t looking, I would never have known. It was flawless. I watch Riverdale – I am the mother of preteens and teens after all – but I’m not particularly a K J Apa fan, but I didn’t hate him in the role of Chris. Trust me when I say that is high praise coming from me.

There were a lot of scenes that I was not prepared to see brought to life so vividly on the big screen and they gutted me. I can’t imagine what it must be like for black teens who live these lives and have these conversations with their families and each other to see their truth depicted on the big screen. I am certainly not in a position to really evaluate this movie or talk about what it can or does mean in terms of representation. I many ways, this is not my movie to review and what I say has no merit whatsoever.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – Reading Guide and discussion

What I do want to talk about is a very sad truth that I realized as I walked out of the theater. You see, as I have mentioned here often, I am an older white women who comes from a conservative background. Through my years working with teens I have had my mind opened and have had the privilege to work with a wide variety of teens from a wide variety of backgrounds and I like to think that slowly but surely, I am changing for the good. But I also realized as I walked out of this movie that there are a lot of people, people that I am friends with, who would see this movie and still walk away thing that Khalil deserved what happened to him. I think about this truth a lot.

As I wrestle with my privilege I have come to understand that it is not a black person’s responsibility to educate me about racism. That no one owes me their time, attention or story to help me see them as human. And yet, Angie Thomas has written this remarkable book which can do that very thing we need, to help us to talk honestly about current events and the frequent killing of unarmed black boys and men at the hands of white police officers. This book and books like it force us to see the very headlines we read about through a different lens. I was devastated to realize that this book and this movie, which challenged, devastated and helped me grow, would not necessarily do that for everyone. I want to make sure you hear me loud and clear here: this is not a failing on any part of anyone involved in the writing of this book or the making of this movie, but speaks to the failing of my fellow white people to sit with and acknowledge the full humanity of people of color. That I walked away thinking there are so many people whose minds would not be swayed in any way by this movie is a testimony to how deeply entrenched racist views are in our world. I know black people have known this for a long time, I have not and I am truly sorry.

I walked away from this movie having a better understanding of a truth that I have often heard about issues of racism but haven’t fully grasped: we can’t move away from racism because many people don’t want to because they want to continue in the power that comes from oppressing others. Cycles of poverty, gang violence, “the projects”, selling drugs, gentrification, prison as an extension of slavery, white privilege – these are all fairly new concepts to me that I have been trying to grapple with as an older white woman coming from a place of privilege and a fairly conservative background. There was a lot of good discussion in the movie that brought these truth to more light for me. But the thing is, I can honestly tell you that I know far too many people who won’t be moved at all.

I am thankful to Angie Thomas for writing this book. I know that she did not write it for me, and yet I have benefited from it because I have listened and grown. That was a gift she did not owe me, but I am thankful to receive it. I am also thankful for all of the work and emotion that went into making this movie. It is hands down a stellar movie and I will wrestle with it for a very long time. I’m sure I still don’t get it, but I’m going to keep trying.

Friday Finds: October 5, 2018

tltbutton3This Week at TLT

Operation BB Blasts Off!

Book Review: Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith

YA A to Z: R is for Classic Retellings, a list curated by Natalie Korsavidis

What to know about writing twins: a guest post by Ashley and Leslie Saunders

1100 words, a guest post by Claire Rudolf Murphy

Book Review: Lost Soul, Be at Peace by Maggie Thrash

Things I Never Learned in Library School: Can You Copyright a Dance Move? A discussion of Fortnite

#SVYALit: Laurie Halse Anderson and Eric Devine talk about teaching Speak on NPR

Sunday Reflections: On Male Rage

Around the Web

Yay for Kelly Link!

Carnegie medal promises immediate action over lack of diversity

American Girl: A Story of Immigration, Fear and Fortitude

The Teens Who Rack Up Thousands of Followers by Posting the Same Photo Every Day

Poetry and Graphic Novels to Read After The Hate U Give

15 New YA Books To Know In October 2018




Operation BB Blasts Off!

operation bb

It’s been a rough week for me personally as a sexual violence survivor and I believe for our country as a whole. I was going to come here today and talk about it, but I am emotionally spent and drained so I thought I would share something good with you. Because in the midst of all my personal pain and anxiety during this week, I was also blessed by the heart of a child. Not just any child, my child, so I have been blessed a lot this week. Believe me when I say I needed it and am thankful for it.

On Monday, Thing 2 (age 9) and I were at J C Penney when we saw that they had a massive amount of backpacks on clearance for some prices between $2.50 and $3.00 each. It was an amazing price and I was feeling myself pulled to them. I wanted to walk away, but I couldn’t. “I wonder if there is a place that needs donations of backpacks,” I said to Thing 2. And that sentence sparked her imagination.

“What if we put books in each backpack and gave them a backpack full of books?,” she wondered. And then she got excited. And I mean, really excited. She explained her vision to me and it was pretty awesome.

So we talked a bit because I wanted to see how serious she was, and she was both serious and passionate. As she explained what she thought she wanted to do, I realized that she saw an opportunity to do something good and that I needed to help her. This was one of those make or break parenting moments. What I said next really mattered.


So then I called her Dad on the phone and said, “Hey, it would be totally cool if I spent a bunch of money on backpacks, right?” I told him why, what Thing 2 wanted to do, and he said yes. We had just gotten paid, so that helped. He really likes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, so that also helped. Not every parent would have the opportunity to say yes, and I knew we couldn’t fully fund what she wanted to do, but I knew we could buy the backpacks and I knew how I could help her achieve her goals. And I still have enough faith in humanity to know that there are indeed some people out there who would help me help her help others. I was not wrong and I thank you for that.


On the way home, I asked her what she wanted to name her project. She’s going through a space phase and everything with her is space related, so she said what about Books in Backpacks. Then she said, what about Operation Books in Backpacks. Over time it became Operation BB: Books in Backpacks. Having an operation is very space sounding. The books in backpacks part is just pragmatic. There were even a lot of space themed backpacks there! She also loves dinosaurs and sharks. Sadly there were no dinosaur or shark backpacks. A full 10% of the backpacks she selected were space themed, go figure!

So then we went home and I helped her make an Amazon Wishlist and she told me what some of her favorite books were and we got started. I had a couple of requirements. One, I wanted to help her make sure it was a diverse list. She’s met me so she got that part. Two, I told her I thought the books should be paperbacks because they are both less expensive for donors and often easier to carry. So a list was made.

At the TLA conference earlier this year, I met a real life astronaut and got her a book about astronauts signed by an astronaut. The space phase is not new and it is real!

At the TLA conference earlier this year, I met a real life astronaut and got her a book about astronauts signed by an astronaut. The space phase is not new and it is real!


Look, a real life astronaut!!

We talked about where we could donate the backpacks. I talked to her about children’s homes and foster care. We donate to the local food bank regularly and a few years ago The Teen and one of her besties did a project where they collected books to donate to the local food pantry’s backpack program, which I am sure inspired Thing 2’s idea. We posted online and we found a DFW person who hosts a foster kid closet. When kids are put into foster care, they often are moved from place to place with very few belongings and stuff their belongings into trash bags. This is one of the organizations we will be donating to. We have several places lined up that we can donate backpacks to and make sure they get into the hands of kids who need them.

We went to the dollar store and bought some coloring books. She wanted each backpack to have 2 books, a coloring book and colored pencils. A bulk order of colored pencils is on the Amazon Wishlist and she did received a box of them. She’s 9, she still likes to color. Also, coloring is very popular right now.


Thanks to some generous donors, we have already put a few backpacks together. Thing 2 was very excited to put the backpacks together. I mean, REALLY EXCITED. Two of the books on her list have fish on the covers and one of the coloring books had a fish on the cover, so she made sure those books go together. She did find some space themed backpacks and has some space themed books on her list. We bought Star Wars coloring books for those bags. Some of the backpacks are loosely themed, another thing that I found interesting about her thinking.

Then on Wednesday night, a tragic school bus accident happened near us. The local high school announced that they were collecting 40 backpacks and school supplies to replace those lost in the accident. The kids effected attended a nearby middle school. I took the remaining 27 backpacks that I had and dropped them off then stopped at the store to buy some more. Thankfully, as of right now, there are still a lot of the backpacks left and at such a good price.

She asked about continuing the project when there are no more backpacks and it looks like we can buy bulk orders of backpacks online for around $3.50 to $4.00 each in the future. They aren’t the fun designs we currently have, but they’re cool colors and such. She was happy with that.


As I mentioned, she is going through a space phase so the same day we bought the backpacks her astronaut Halloween costume arrived. She hasn’t taken it off much at home. I helped her put together a flyer to promote her operation (done on Canva, I know some of you will ask) and she is, of course, in the costume. As a mom, my heart has been touched by how excited she is to do this, how compassionate she has been in thinking of others, and how creative she is in going full space themed here. I’ve got to admire her branding ability, without her even knowing really what branding is.

I also want to say, as a mom and a librarian, I have been excited to see her excited about books. You see, Thing 2 was diagnosed with dyslexia in the 2nd grade and reading has been and is a challenge for her. This is the first year she has really been excited about books. The struggles she has trying to read have left her often feeling “stupid” (her words, not mine). She’s behind her friends at school and she knows it. So I was stunned when she said she wanted to fill the backpacks with books and not say candy or stuffed animals or Legos, all things she also has a lot of passion for. This is the first time she is showing real interest in reading and seems to understand that giving another kid a book would mean something to them. My heart has grown ten sizes this week for a lot of reasons.

I don’t know if we will try and fill the 100 backpacks we have and be done or if we will continue. I just know that as her mom, I want to try and support her in this because I love how compassionate she is being. I love how excited she is. I love how she is thinking creatively and problem solving. And I love that we get to spend time together as we do this. I hope that not only is she learning and growing, but that she is building positive skills and memories that she will keep with her for a lifetime.

Thank you to everyone who has shared the information, sent us books, and sent her encouraging words. It means a lot to me as her mom and she has thought it was pretty cool herself. Maybe the younger generation will save us after all.

Book Review: Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Publisher’s description

hearts unNew York Times best-selling author Cynthia Leitich Smith turns to realistic fiction with the thoughtful story of a Native teen navigating the complicated, confusing waters of high school — and first love.

When Louise Wolfe’s first real boyfriend mocks and disrespects Native people in front of her, she breaks things off and dumps him over e-mail. It’s her senior year, anyway, and she’d rather spend her time with her family and friends and working on the school newspaper. The editors pair her up with Joey Kairouz, the ambitious new photojournalist, and in no time the paper’s staff find themselves with a major story to cover: the school musical director’s inclusive approach to casting The Wizard of Oz has been provoking backlash in their mostly white, middle-class Kansas town. From the newly formed Parents Against Revisionist Theater to anonymous threats, long-held prejudices are being laid bare and hostilities are spreading against teachers, parents, and students — especially the cast members at the center of the controversy, including Lou’s little brother, who’s playing the Tin Man. As tensions mount at school, so does a romance between Lou and Joey — but as she’s learned, “dating while Native” can be difficult. In trying to protect her own heart, will Lou break Joey’s?



Amanda’s thoughts

Go ahead and place your order for this book before you even read the review. The tl;dr version of this review is that the book is pretty great and when is the last time you read a book with a female main character who is Native? 


Louise is a complicated character. Having recently moved from Texas to Kansas, Muscogee (Creek) Louise describes her family as middle middle class. They have a lot of family in Indian Country, Oklahoma, but in her new town in Kansas, she and her brother, Hughie, are definitely in the minority. Louise splits with her boyfriend, Cam, after his disparaging remarks about Native people, and tests out potential crushes on new boys, only to find that the Choctaw boy she thinks is cute only dates white girls and her seemingly-nice classmate Pete conflates Native people with alcoholics. It’s while working on the school newspaper as a features reporter that Louise meets Joey, an Arab American boy she bonds with over their shared interest in journalism. Things at school become increasingly tense when Hughie and two other students of color are cast in the school play, with some white parents forming a group to protest these roles going to non-white kids (for the first time ever). Hughie and the two other students receive threatening notes telling them to go back to where they came from. The newspaper covers the controversy, and Hughie grows conflicted over taking a role in a play by L. Frank Baum after he learns of Baum’s racism and his calls for genocide of Native people. Louise deals with racist remarks, ignorance, and microaggressions, trying to educate others and do her job as a reporter in the midst of cries of “reverse racism” and political correctness gone too far.


While Louise never wavers in her quest to educate others, she has a lot of room to grow as a friend. Her alleged best friend, Shelby, is largely absent in the book, usually busy working and not really understood well by Louise, who has trouble seeing beyond herself sometimes. She has a lot to learn about friendships, dating, and understanding others. But these flaws make her real, and interesting. Readers see her grow and change as she makes more connections with people in her new town and stands up for what she believes in and what she knows is right. Mvskoke words are sprinkled throughout the next, with a glossary appended as well as an important author’s note. This book also accomplished the near-impossible: it made me miss high school for two seconds, reminding me of my love for writing for the school newspaper and the frustrations and community that can come with that. This is a nice mix of romance, routine high school drama, and more serious topics like racism, bullying, and becoming more socially aware. Sure to inspire interesting classroom discussions, this is a must-have for all collections. 


Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9780763681142
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication date: 10/09/2018

YA A to Z: R is for Classic Retellings, a list curated by Natalie Korsavidis

Today for YA A to Z, YA Librarian Natalie Korsavidis is curating a list of classic stories retold. 

That’s R for Retellings


Anderson, Jodi Lynn. Tiger Lily. HarperTeen, 2012

Fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily receives special protections from the spiritual forces of Neverland, but then she meets her tribe’s most dangerous enemy–Peter Pan–and falls in love with him. (Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie) Editor’s Note: Because this book contains portrayals of Native Americans, I recommend that you read Debbie Reese’s thoughts on this novel at American Indians in Children’s Literature.


Brownlee, Tiffany. Wrong in all the Right Ways. MacMillan, 2018

Emma’s life has always gone according to her very careful plans. But things take a turn toward the unexpected when she falls in love for the first time with the one person in the world who’s off-limits: her new foster brother, the gorgeous and tormented Dylan McAndrews. (Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte)

Connolly, Kara. No Good Deed. Delacorte Press, 2017

Ellie is USA’s best shot at Olympic gold in archery, but one wrong turn in Nottingham on her day off from the trials and she’s somehow been transported back to the Middle Ages. Amidst an evil sheriff who wants to lock her up, a knight who might not be who he says he is, and an assassination plot, she must not only find her way back to the present, but fight to survive and not change history. (Robin Hood by Howard Pyle)

Donne, Alexa. Brightly Burning. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018

Stella Ainsley leaves poverty behind when she quits her engineering job aboard the Stalwart to become a governess on a private ship. On the Rochester, there’s no water ration, more books than one person could devour in a lifetime, and an AI who seems more friend than robot. But no one warned Stella that the ship seems to be haunted, nor that it may be involved in a conspiracy that could topple the entire interstellar fleet. (Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte)

An Epic Chart of 162 Young Adult Retellings – Epic Reads

Eulberg, Elizabeth. Prom & Prejudice. Point, 2011

For Lizzie Bennett, a music scholarship student at Connecticut’s exclusive, girls-only Longbourn Academy, the furor over prom is senseless, but even more puzzling is her attraction to the pompous Will Darcy, best friend of her roommate’s boyfriend.

Fletcher, Susan E. A Little in Love. Scholastic, 2015

Eponine, the street girl from Les Misérables, tells the story of her life and her unrequited love for Marius, which ultimately leads to her death on the barricades during the short-lived rebellion of June 1832.


George, McKelle. Speak Easy, Speak Love. HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2017

After she gets kicked out of boarding school, Beatrice goes to her uncle’s estate on Long Island. Beatrice’s cousin, Hero, runs a struggling speakeasy out of the basement. Along with Prince, a poor young man determined to prove his worth; his brother, John, a dark and dangerous agent of the local mob; Benedick, a handsome trust-fund kid trying to become a writer; and Maggie, a beautiful and talented singer; Beatrice and Hero throw all their efforts into planning a massive party to save the speakeasy. (Much Ado about Nothing by William Shakespeare)

Howard. A. G.  Roseblood. Harry N. Abrams, 2017

Shortly after arriving at RoseBlood conservatory, Rune starts to believe something otherworldly is indeed afoot. The mystery boy she’s seen frequenting the graveyard beside the opera house doesn’t have any classes at the school, and vanishes almost as quickly as he appears. When Rune begins to develop a secret friendship with the elusive Thorn, who dresses in clothing straight out of the 19th century, she realizes that in his presence she feels cured. (The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux)

Howard, A. G.  Splintered. Amulet Books, 2013

A descendant of the inspiration for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, sixteen-year-old Alyssa Gardner fears she is mentally ill like her mother until she finds that Wonderland is real and, if she passes a series of tests to fix Alice’s mistakes, she may save her family from their curse. (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll)

Howe, Catherine. Conversion. G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2014

When girls start experiencing strange tics and other mysterious symptoms at Colleen’s high school, her small town of Danvers, Massachusetts, falls victim to rumors that lead to full-blown panic. Only Colleen connects their fate to the ill-fated Salem Village, where another group of girls suffered from a similarly bizarre epidemic three centuries ago. (The Crucible by Arthur Miller)

Levithan, David. Marly’s Ghost. Dial Books, 2006

The spirit of Ben’s girlfriend Marly returns with three other ghosts to haunt him with a painful journey though Valentine’s Days past, present, and future. (A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens)

Korman, Gordon. Jake, Reinvented. Hyperion, 2003

Rick becomes friends with the popular new boy, Jake Garrett, football player and host of superlative parties, and in the process discovers the true nature of his schoolmates and uncovers the mystery of Jake’s past. (The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald)

olivia twist

Langdon, Lorie. Olivia Twist. Bloomsbury, 2018

Born in a workhouse and raised as a boy among thieving London street gangs, Olivia is as tough and cunning as they come. When she is taken in by her uncle after a caper gone wrong, her life goes from stealing on the streets to lavish dinners as a debutante in high society. (Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens)

Madsen, Cindi. All the Broken Pieces. Entangled, 2012

Following a car accident, Liv comes out of a coma with no memory of her past and two distinct, warring voices inside her head. As she stumbles through her junior year, the voices get louder until Liv meets Spencer, whose own mysterious past also has him on the fringe. As the voices invade her dreams, and her dreams start feeling like memories, she and Spencer seek out answers. Yet the deeper they dig, the less things make sense. (Frankenstein by Mary Shelley)

Mallory, Alex. Wild. HarperTeen, 2014

When Cade, a boy who has lived in the forest his whole life, saves a regular teen from a bear attack, he is brought into modern civilization for the first time. (Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs)


Monir, Alexandra. Suspicion. Random House, 2014

Seventeen-year-old Imogene Rockford turned away from her family and their English country manor after her parents’ death, but assumes her duty as the new Duchess of Wickersham despite threats and strange occurrences. (Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier)

Nelson, Katie A. Duke of Bannerman Prep. Sky Pony Press, 2017

Follows Tanner McKay, a star on his public high school’s debating team as he ambitiously pursues and wins a scholarship at the elite Bannerman Prep. Debate is Tanner’s ticket out of a life of poverty and family drama and into a new and better future. But when he’s paired with the prep school playboy everyone calls the Duke, Tanner’s plans seem doomed to fail. (The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald)

Oppel, Kenneth. This Dark Endeavor. Simon & Schuster BFYR, 2011

When his twin brother falls ill in the family’s chateau in the independent republic of Geneva in the eighteenth century, sixteen-year-old Victor Frankenstein embarks on a dangerous and uncertain quest to create the forbidden Elixir of Life described in an ancient text in the family’s secret Biblioteka Obscura. (Frankenstein by Mary Shelley)

Peterfreund, Diana. Across a Star-Swept Sea. Balzar + Bray, 2013

Sixteen-year-old Persis Blake struggles to balance her life as a socialite and a secret spy in a future where Regs, or regular people, have power over the Reduced–those genetically engineered or drugged into physical and mental impairments. (The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy)

Shepherd, Megan. The Madman’s Daughter. Balzar + Bray, 2013

Dr. Moreau’s daughter, Juliet, travels to her estranged father’s island, only to encounter murder, medical horrors, and a love triangle. (The Island of Dr. Moreau by H. G. Wells)

Watson, Kate. Seeking Mansfield. Flux, 2017

Finley Price has perfected two things: how to direct a world-class production, and how to fly way, way under the radar. The only person who ever seems to notice Finley is her best friend, Oliver Bertram. If Finley could just take Oliver’s constant encouragement to heart and step out of the shadows, she’d finally chase her dream of joining the prestigious Mansfield Theater. (Mansfield Park by Jane Austen)

Watson, Kate. Shoot the Moon. Flux, 2018

Tate Bertram, a nineteen-year-old gambling addict who, despite almost losing his life over his vice, is not ready to admit he has a problem. (Great Expectations by Charles Dickens)

Zarins, Kim. Sometimes We Tell the Truth. First Pulse, 2016

A group of teens on a bus ride to Washington, DC, each tell a story–some fantastical, some realistic, some downright scandalous–in pursuit of the ultimate prize: an automatic A in civics class. (Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer)


natalieNatalie Korsavidis is the Head of Young Adult at the Farmingdale Public Library. She received her MLS at CW Post University. She is currently President of the Young Adult Services Division of the Nassau County Library Association. She has spoken at New York Comic Con and the Long Island Pop Culture Convention.

What to know about writing twins: a guest post by Ashley and Leslie Saunders

Growing up as twins, we always received an overabundance of attention. Being constantly compared, analyzed, pointed at and talked about turned us into extremely shy kids. We didn’t know how to handle classmates or strangers on the streets coming up to us like they knew us, asking personal intimate questions about our relationship and our appearance. We hated how it made us feel like a sideshow or a gimmick. Our sisterhood was extremely close- yes, we were identical and shared our wardrobe. Yes, we had the exact same interests such as sports and reading- but we didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. In our eyes, we were just best friends who happened to look like one another.There were definitely periods in our lives when people sought to separate us or would make us feel like our bond was “odd” or “too close”. When we felt isolated or misunderstood we looked to stories to help us feel normal. Our shining lights were all things Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, and Tia and Tamera from the television show Sister, Sister. Looking back, the portrayal of both sets of twins was very “kitchy” and played to stereotype, but hey, we took what we could get. Distinct memories fill our minds with being asked on the regular to sing the Doublemint gum song as the Doublemint Twins (we still know all the lyrics to this day, of course). But our most dreaded gibe was being compared to the twins from The Shining. This wildly famous depiction of twins followed us through to our adolescence and beyond, leaving the door open for questions like “which one of you is the evil twin?” “Which is the nice one?” “Stand side-by-side so I can compare you both.” “Are you identical everywhere?” “Oh, she’s the dominant one.”We totally get it. Identical twins are question-provoking, especially for twins as close as we are. Even science still has questions: why does a fertilized egg split in the first place? It’s a biological mystery.

But as we grew older, we began to learn how to cope with people’s curiosities and how to turn the narrative around. We started writing about being twins.

It was a game changer for us. We thought, why not take established twin stereotypes and make them our own? Let’s take ownership of being twins. Weaving our authentic bond into a story, giving readers an insider’s look at our unique bond using our own words, somehow lessened the sting of the constant unsolicited questions and stares.

We’re even used the assumption that most twins are tricksters who like to trade places (hello Parent Trap) and made it the log line of our story.

Our novel The Rule of One is about twin sisters born into a world where they don’t belong. Families are only allowed by law to have one child- the stakes are high. But the foundation of their relationship comes from our own. The story is told from dual perspectives; Ashley wrote all of the eldest twin Ava, and Leslie wrote Mira, the second born. It was very cathartic to write in first person about all the little details of daily twin life, adding some of our own personality traits to Ava and Mira. In our novel we tried to go deeper, beyond the initial head-turning surface that attracts people’s attention to identicals, exploring themes of identity and sisterhood being tested under extraordinary circumstances.

We hope other authors and filmmakers who decide to write about the unique dynamic of twins will approach such characters as real, three-dimensional individuals rather than regurgitations of caricatures seen in so many past media portrayals.

Screen Shot 2018-10-01 at 3.38.49 PM–Author Bio:
Hailing from the suburbs of Dallas, Texas, Ashley Saunders and Leslie Saunders are award-winning filmmakers and twin sisters who honed their love of storytelling at The University of Texas at Austin. While researching The Rule of One, they fell in love with America’s national parks, traveling the path of Ava and Mira. The sisters can currently be found with their Boston terriers in sunny Los Angeles, exploring hiking trails and drinking entirely too much yerba mate. Visit them at www.thesaunderssisters.com or follow them on Instagram @saunderssisters.
Steely-vented hummingbird (Amazilia saucerrottei), perched on verbena plant, Costa Rica, July

Steely-vented hummingbird (Amazilia saucerrottei), perched on verbena plant, Costa Rica, July


In their world, telling the truth has become the most dangerous crime of all. In the near-future United States, a one-child policy is ruthlessly enforced. Everyone follows the Rule of One. But Ava Goodwin, daughter of the head of the Texas Family Planning Division, has a secret—one her mother died to keep and her father has helped to hide for her entire life. She has an identical twin sister, Mira. For eighteen years Ava and Mira have lived as one, trading places day after day, maintaining an interchangeable existence down to the most telling detail. But when their charade is exposed, their worst nightmare begins. Now they must leave behind the father they love and fight for their lives. Branded as traitors, hunted as fugitives, and pushed to discover just how far they’ll go in order to stay alive, Ava and Mira rush headlong into a terrifying unknown.

Find it here:

1100 words, a guest post by Claire Rudolf Murphy

bobby on truck bed April 4thOn the evening of April 4, 1968 Senator Robert Kennedy stood on the back of a truck, in a black neighborhood in Indianapolis, Indiana. But instead of telling people why they should vote for him for president, he had to announce that Martin Luther King, Jr. had been killed in Memphis, Tennessee.


Riots had already begun to erupt in cities across the country, but the crowd in Indianapolis stood silent in grief. Bobby told them that he didn’t blame them for feeling angry. Instead he said that they had a choice about “what kind of a nation we want to be . . . and what direction we want to move in.”


martin and bobby newBobby’s profound speech that night and one that prompted me to research and write my 18th book – Martin and Bobby: A Journey Towards Justice. Today is its publication birthday. Even though I was seventeen in 1968 and had a front-row seat to one of the most divisive and important decades in America’s history, I didn’t learn about Bobby’s April 4th speech until years later.


This book is the most personal of all my nonfiction titles because I knew about many of the events and people featured in the book. My parents were Kennedy Democrats and we often discussed politics around the dinner table in Spokane, Washington. We supported JFK for president and grieved with the nation when he was killed.


When Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, a nun at my high school, Holy Names Academy, posted this message on the classroom bulletin board: Christ the King, King the Christ. Some of the students said it was sacrilegious to compare King to Jesus. But I thought it was brave and was grateful that Sister Margaret helped me think about Dr. King in such a radical way. Martin Luther King cared about the poor and disenfranchised, just like Jesus did in the gospel stories I’d grown up with.


My family closely followed the 1968 presidential election too. My brother John supported Eugene McCarthy because he spoke out first against the Vietnam War. I remember that my parents were shocked when Johnson withdrew from the race. Right after midnight on June 5, 1968, my mother shook me awake. “Get up, Claire. History is being made.” Together we watched the chaos at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles; the sobbing supporters had just learned that their candidate Bobby Kennedy had been gunned down in the hotel kitchen with Ethel by his side.


That fall my friends and I listened over and over to the poignant song “Abraham, Martin and John,” with its last stanza featuring Bobby. It gave me solace and still does today.


During the following decades I majored in history in college, got married, had two children, taught writing and drama, and then began writing books for kids and teens, most often about different aspects of American history. In 2012 my husband, mother and I watched the documentary A Ripple of Hope about Robert Kennedy. We sat mesmerized during his speech on the night of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. None us had ever heard it before. Awed by the beauty of his words that touched the crowd so deeply, I had to learn more. I had to understand how Kennedy had such courage on a night when he took could have been killed. Why he was able to give such a powerful, healing speech on one of the worst days in America’s history.


Thousands of books, articles, blog posts, and documentaries feature King and Bobby Kennedy. Even though I’d grown up with King and Kennedy, there was so much to learn and people to interview. In 2016 I attended the 48th commemoration of Dr. King’s death and Bobby’s speech at the Landmark for Peace memorial in Indianapolis. I am grateful to the many people who shared their vivid memories from that April night in 1968. Many of them appear in the book, especially those who were teenagers that night.


During the 1960s civil rights protests, young people led the way and refused to give up. Teen protestors offer me hope now, fifty years later, as they lead us in Black Lives Matter, the Me Too movement, and school safety.


“A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on,” President John F. Kennedy said in a 1963 speech before his assassination. Martin’s and Bobby’s ideas—to end poverty, stop an unjust war, show compassion to all Americans— are still important today. And their words continue to offer inspiration and insight on how our country can heal and face the historic challenges of economic and racial inequality with compassion and activism.


john lewis and Claire 2014Like King and Kennedy, young leaders now demand that we take action, not stand on the sidelines. Because of that, during my book presentations this fall, a panel of middle school, high school and college leaders will discuss leadership today and what lessons from 1968 resonate with them.


Civil rights activist John Lewis had just joined Bobby Kennedy’s presidential campaign the night Dr. King was killed. He stood in the crowd as Bobby spoke. His mentor’s Dr. King meant everything to him. In November 2014 I had the honor of speaking with him in his Washington, DC office. We spent an hour together talking about that profound time and what both men still meant to him.


Congressman Lewis has often said, “Whenever I have very tough decisions to make, I always think, ‘What would Dr. King do? . . . What would Bobby Kennedy do?’”


He is heartened that students and people of all ages are protesting more than at any time since the 1960s.


I am grateful that my work on this project offered me the opportunity to deeply study that important time and what it meant to the nation. It allowed me to reflect on what it can teach us today about the need for compassion in our political dialogue and personal interactions.


Meet Claire Rudolf Murphy

Photo credit: Paul Gildea

Photo credit:
Paul Gildea


Claire is the author of award-winning fiction and nonfiction books for children and young adults, including Marching With Aunt Susan: Susan B. Anthony and the Fight for Women’s Rights, My Country Tis of Thee: How One Song Reveals the History of Civil Rights, illustrated by Bryan Collier. Martin and Bobby: A Journey to Justice is her 18th book. She began her writing career in Alaska, where she lived for twenty-four years. Today she lives and writes in her hometown of Spokane, Washington. Since 2008 she has taught in Hamline University‘s low residency Writing for Children and Young Adults (MFAC) graduate program. Recent events have renewed her deep-seated passion for political activism. She enjoys music and outdoor activities with her husband, two grown children and their spouses, and grandson in Seattle.



About Martin and Bobby: A Journey to Justice

martin and bobby newMartin and Bobby follows the lives, words, and final days of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy. Initially wary of one another, their relationship evolved from challenging and testing each other to finally “arriving in the same place” as allies fighting poverty and racism. The stories of King and Kennedy reveal how life experiences affect a leader’s ability to show empathy for all people and how great political figures don’t work in a vacuum but are influenced by events and people around them.


Martin’s courage showed Bobby how to act on one’s moral principles, and Bobby’s growing awareness of the country’s racial and economic divide gave Martin hope that the nation’s leaders could truly support justice. Fifty years later, their lives and words still stir people young and old and offer inspiration and insight on how our country can face the historic challenges of economic and racial inequality.


(ISBN-13: 9781641600101 Publisher: Chicago Review Press, Incorporated Publication date: 10/02/2018)

Book Review: Lost Soul, Be at Peace by Maggie Thrash

Publisher’s description

lost soulFollowing her acclaimed Honor Girl, Maggie Thrash revisits a period of teenage depression in a graphic memoir that is at once thoughtful, honest, and marked by hope.

A year and a half after the summer that changed her life, Maggie Thrash wishes she could change it all back. She’s trapped in a dark depression and flunking eleventh grade, befuddling her patrician mother while going unnoticed by her father, a workaholic federal judge. The only thing Maggie cares about is her cat, Tommi . . . who then disappears somewhere in the walls of her cavernous house. So her search begins — but Maggie’s not even really sure what she’s lost, and she has no idea what she’ll find. Lost Soul, Be at Peace is the continuation of Maggie’s story from her critically acclaimed memoir Honor Girl, one that brings her devastating honesty and humor to the before and after of depression.


Amanda’s thoughts

11th grade Maggie is depressed—not that her parents have taken notice. Her grades are terrible, her only real friend is her cat (who either runs away or just weirdly disappears somewhere in their mansion, never to be seen again), and when she searches “depression” on the internet, she comes across the ever-so-helpful suggestion to just drink more water. You’re not depressed—you’re just dehydrated! She’s out to a few friends, but not to her parents. Her federal judge dad always has his head in a book or is at work, and Maggie is always surprised when her dad uses her name and doesn’t just refer to her as “Ms. Thrash” or “tenant.” When her mother isn’t criticizing her, she’s ignoring her. But when Maggie comes across a hallway in her home that she swears she’s never seen, she meets an important new friend who just happens to be a ghost (though he doesn’t think he’s dead). At first, Maggie thinks it’s only a dream, but quickly the line between dreams and reality blurs, and Tommy, the not-dead ghost, is always around. Maggie isn’t sure what to make of all this. She’s a former sleepwalker who now has night terrors. Is Tommy real? And why are there so many weird details about his life that really make his appearance feel like it’s a mystery meant to be solved? It’s only much later, after her dad’s mother dies, that Maggie begins to understand who Tommy is and why he’s here.


Though this is a companion to Thrash’s first graphic memoir, Honor Girl, it’s not necessarily to have read it to understand or enjoy this memoir. With simple yet engaging artwork (that will be in full color in the finished version, which I suspect will add a lot to the readability of the story—my ARC was only in black and white), Thrash tells a compelling and surprisingly deep story about the things we lose, the things we find, empathy, connection, and family. Honest, vulnerable, and ultimately hopeful, this memoir will resonate with a wide variety of readers. 


Review copy (ARC) courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9780763694197
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication date: 10/09/2018

Things I Never Learned in Library School: Can You Copyright a Dance Move? A discussion of Fortnite

thingsineverlearnedinlibraryschoolAs someone who works with teens, Fortnite has been on my radar for a while. Last week, Thing 2, who is almost 10, started trying to teach me all of the Fortnite dances so we looked up some YouTube videos for the first time to really look at them. The YouTube video I found showed each Fortnite dance and where in popular culture the dance came from. Epic Games has created a game that includes dance moves that you can trace back to particular people, TV shows, or moments in popular culture. One of the most popular parts of this game was not created by them, but is really just an archive of fun and popular dance moves. Which begs the question: what type of responsibility do the creators of Fortnite have to give proper credit and monetary compensation to the creators of those dances?

fortniteEvery Fortnite Dance and Where it Comes from

It was interesting to me that just a few days later, an article appeared on Forbes asking whether or not you can copyright a dance and if Fortnite should credit the creators of the dances. As a librarian, it was a question I had asked myself while watching the YouTube video. It is a question that a lot of people are asking, and as a librarian, I think it’s an important question for us to pay attention to.

Fortnite Profiting Off Dance Moves: Is It Legal? – Forbes

Fortnite’s use of viral hip-hop dance moves has some artists grumbling

And yet I know that we frequently do dances or the names of dances appear in songs with no such attribution. You can do the mashed potato, you can do the twist . . . but do you know where those dances came from? Who started them? What about twerking? I am a librarian, but I am not a copyright librarian or lawyer, and the discussion of copyrighting dance moves is a new and interesting concept to me.

Who Owns a Dance? The Complexities of Copyrighting Choreography

The world of dance is a world that has always fascinated me personally. I took dance lessons up until the time I graduated high school and I continue to love and support dance. I have seen every season of So You Think You Can Dance (Darius was robbed this past season) and I am also really enjoying the new World of Dance (have you seen Michael Dameski?). And yet, I have never thought about or seen the idea of copyrighting dance moves or choreography discussed. But it does make sense. Every year So You Think You Can Dance talks about their Emmy winning dance routines from previous seasons. And yet every dance contains a variety of moves that are just the basic moves of dance, whether it be a pirouette or the robot. New choreography always contains some of the very basics of dance combines with some new ideas. It’s how you put those traditional moves together in new and exciting ways that matter.

To make the Fortnite situation even more complicated, the discussion is also a discussion about cultural appropriation. You see, most of the dances that appear in Fortnite can be traced back to a variety of black artists or characters, like rappers Snoop Dogg and 2 Milly and characters from shows like Scrubs and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Chance the Rapper in particular has spoken out about Fortnite and the issue of cultural appropriation.

Is ‘Fortnite’ Appropriating Black Culture? – LADbible

‘Fortnite’s’ continued appropriation of culture and lack of diversity

A huge part of teen librarianship is simply talking to teens about the things that they like, and Fortnite is definitely one of those current things. I’m glad that I have this information so I can help prompt my teens to think about the issues of copyright and cultural appropriation. I don’t have answers, but I can help lead my teens into think about the things they love in new and complex ways.