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Sunday Reflections: Teachers, Please Stop Giving Kids Homework Over School Breaks

It’s Thanksgiving week and The Teen is doing . . . homework, homework and more homework. She’s done projects. She’s done reports. And today, the last Sunday of her week long holiday break, she’s studying for a test that will be on the Monday after break.

She is not alone. I’ve spoken to many teens who have done a ton of homework this week on holiday break. Families have had to alter plans. My daughter has studied in the car while travelling to Thanksgiving dinner with family. She stayed home while other went and participated in family holiday traditions like looking at lights.

In short, The Teen hasn’t gotten a break at all.

And as her parent, I’m kind of resentful of it, to be honest.

One of the excuses we often hear about homework is that we’re preparing our kids for the world of work. But here’s the thing, a vast majority of the people I know don’t do work they aren’t paid for. I know there are exceptions. My husband is in management and he has left family gathering because an alarm went off or some other issue occurred. But on the whole, when adults aren’t working their time is exactly that, their time.

But that’s not the case for teens around the globe. Their time outside of school is spent doing more school work.

I’ve dropped my daughter off at 5:30 in the morning at the school only to pick her up at 7:00 PM after a variety of after school activities and then watched her stay up well past midnight to complete homework. Most nights in the last month I’ve maybe seen my daughter for about 5 minutes before she sat herself down at the kitchen table and eaten while she’s done hours worth of homework.

I’ve watched her breakdown and cry as she told me how much homework she had and how she had no idea how she was going to get it all done.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the amount of homework our teens have. My daughter is a junior in high school and she has 8 teachers who don’t talk to one another as they schedule homework and tests and that’s a lot of work to pile up one on top of another. That’s like having 8 different bosses who don’t communicate with each other at all piling on projects that all have the same due date despite the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day.

Add to this issue the fact that science tells us that teens need far more sleep and need to sleep in later and you have a real recipe for disaster.

The Teen has up until this past year been a prolific reader. The only book she has been able to read this year is 1984 by George Orwell, and she only made the time to read it because it was assigned, as were several projects and tests surrounding it.

I have seen a real push back against giving younger kids homework and allow them more time to engage in play and downtime, but I have not seen that same push back for our teens. At the same time, I see a lot of articles out there talking about the rising rates of stress, anxiety, addiction and suicide among our teens. And in our profession we talk a lot about the declining rates of teens attending library programs and reading for fun. I posit that there is a correlation between the amount of homework our teens are facing and this intense academic pressure and the mental health of our teens.

What I would like to suggest is this: If you are a teacher, please don’t assign any projects or homework over school breaks. Let kids genuinely have a break. Don’t assign tests on the Mondays after break either.

Keep in mind that your homework assignments don’t just affect the kids in your class, they impact families. I have many a friend who posted this past week on Facebook about how they had to modify or cancel plans because of the amount of homework their kids had.

Most importantly, remember that teens need down time too. They need a real break. Everyone needs a time and a space to decompress and enjoy family and friends, even our teens. Keeping teens motivated and helping them learn, grown and develop good work ethics doesn’t have to mean they have to work 24/7. One of the greatest things we can teach our kids is how to develop healthy lifestyles that include a work/life balance that allows them to thrive.

Winter break is coming up and I’m counting on you: please don’t assign homework over the break. Everyone deserve a break.

Friday Finds: November 29, 2019

This Week at TLT

RevolTeens: The Lies We Tell and the Teens We Hurt

New books alert: An alternative history fairytale, a romance, middle school friendship, and more!

If You Like The Good Place, Read This

Crash Course: Recent poetry books for younger readers

Cindy Crushes Programming: DIY Lip Scrubs

Around the Web

Active Shooter Drills May Not Stop A School Shooting — But This Method Could

Pennsylvania Overhauls Its Child Sex Abuse Laws

Report: High Schoolers’ Lack of Digital Literacy Skills Is “Troubling”

Many Native Americans Can’t Get Clean Water, Report Finds

Addressing dyslexia is key to reducing criminal recidivism

RevolTeens: The Lies We Tell and the Teens We Hurt

This week’s RevolTeens will be a little shorter in deference to the holiday weekend and will have a different focus. While I have used this space to highlight the mighty teens who are challenging the systems that confine them and demanding that their voices be heard, I’ve been thinking a lot about what helps or shuts down teens who see injustice and prejudice, and what makes the difference between the teens who revolt and the teens who remain silenced. I don’t claim to be any expert, but I’ve noticed some things that we adults can do to help.

First, we have to stop lying to kids.

Lies like, “You have to go to college.” or “I can’t make any exceptions” or all the other things we say just to force compliance and make our jobs easier have got to stop. When we dismiss a teen’s concerns or questions with these lies and platitudes, we are telling them that their concerns, problems, and passions are not important or valid. Teens always see through our lies and they are smart enough to know which adults can be trusted or not. When we tell them that adults are the authorities and that change or challenge of the status quo is impossible, we are lying to them. If we don’t know the answer or we’re not sure, there’s nothing wrong with saying so honestly and figuring it out with them. Teens respect honesty, not dishonest authority. Pretending that there is only one way to do things or one way to be successful is a lie. If we expect and hope that the young people of today will change the world at some point after they become “adults,” we have to be honest with them. Yes, there are challenges and traditions and other obstacles, but these things can and should be discussed and confronted. We can model that with them by engaging in difficult conversations about who holds the power and who makes the decisions. We can give them agency by telling them what actions they could take and what the repercussions are and then let them decide. We can advise and listen. The moment we lie to them, we lose all our credibility and our ability to help them. Lying to teens is just saying to them, “You cannot trust me.”

Next, we have to stop acting as if bad things don’t happen to them.

Yes, this is a form of lying, I know. Bad things happen to everyone without exception. We suffer losses and setbacks and we receive devastating news. It’s a universal indiscriminate human experience. Many well meaning adults work hard to protect kids’ innocence, but as Chris Crutcher told the ALAN Conference audience, “Innocence leads to ignorance.” When we shelter or protect kids from loss and pain, we invalidate the inevitable loss and pain that they are feeling. When we talk about and acknowledge their pain and help them find ways to work through those awful and overwhelming feelings, we help them build empathy for themselves and others. Telling a teen that they shouldn’t talk or read about the pain of losing someone they love, or of becoming critically or chronically ill, or of any of the ways that life causes pain, only teaches shame and robs their peers of the chance to help their friends. It doesn’t make the pain stop, it just makes them feel alone and ashamed. We don’t have to know what to say, we just have to listen and care. Truly, that is the greatest and most powerful way to help a kid know that they are loved and that their pain and eventual healing is important and universal. We need to stop telling them that their pain isn’t “appropriate” for discussion or for reading about. Instead, we have to make space for that pain and help them see examples of other people who have suffered pain and survived. We have to help them see their pain as survivable by talking about it and showing them how to help each other and themselves.

Finally, we need to expand what success is.

We all see the stories of teens who are accepted into every Ivy League school, or who get perfect scores on their SAT or who start multimillion dollar businesses. Those kids are lauded. Those kids are inarguably successful. Kids earn superlatives throughout school, and that’s wonderful – for those kids. But I know that there are other successes for other kids. Getting up in the morning and just showing up for school is a victory for many students. Raising their hand and contributing to a class discussion is a win for many students. I’m not talking about “participation trophies” because those are too generalized and maligned. Those of us who work with teens everyday know that so many of them have given up on themselves as early as upper elementary school when they start failing state tests. It’s devastating to see happen. Those kids need to be acknowledged for what they do well. We just have to take the time to help them find their successes. They may not realize that they’re the first ones to help another student or that they ask the questions that others need answered. They may be taking risks and challenging themselves in some areas. Those triumphs are just as important as a different student who gets straight As. They’re all important. They should all be acknowledged. Success is relative, ever changing and elusive. We can help kids find theirs so they’ll believe in their own possibilities and potential for more success.

I take for granted that we all want the teens of today to be the happy, productive, world changers of tomorrow. We can help them see what’s possible or we can snuff out their faith in themselves and their belief that the world can be more fair and just. If we are honest with them, acknowledge their pain, and celebrate their successes, we can embolden them to change their world and upend the status quo.

RevolTeens is a monthly column by librarian Christine Lively. Christine Lively a school librarian in Virginia. I read voraciously, exchange ideas with students, and am a perpetual student. I raise monarch butterflies, cook, clean infrequently and enjoy an extensive hippo collection. Christine blogs at https://hippodillycircus.com/ and you can follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/XineLively

New books alert: An alternative history fairytale, a romance, middle school friendship, and more!

I am very lucky to get so! many! books!

All of the books I get end up going back out the door in some fashion—to teen readers I know, to classroom libraries of friends, to my own school, or in giveaways. 

I can’t read/review every book I get, but it’s fun to be able to sift through boxes and see what grabs my attention, and to see what books will find loving new homes with the right reader. The following are the books that have arrived here in the past few weeks. I will be reviewing many of them in the upcoming months on TLT. See something you’ve already read and need to make sure I don’t skip? Or something you’re super excited to read when it comes out? Let me know with a comment here or on Twitter, where I’m @CiteSomething.

All descriptions from the publishers.

Belle Revolte by Linsey Miller (ISBN-13: 9781492679226 Publisher: Sourcebooks Publication date: 02/01/2020 Ages 14 up)

From the author of the Mask of Shadows duology comes a standalone fantasy where two young women must trade lives, work together to stay alive, and end a war caused by magic and greed before it kills thousands.

Emilie de Marais is more at home holding scalpels than embroidery needles and is desperate to escape her noble roots to serve her country as a physician. But society dictates a noble lady cannot perform such gruesome work.

Annette Boucher, overlooked and overworked by her family, wants more from life than her humble beginnings and is desperate to be trained in magic. So when a strange noble girl offers Annette the chance of a lifetime, she accepts.

Emilie and Annette swap lives—Annette attends finishing school as a noble lady to be trained in the ways of divination, while Emilie enrolls to be a physician’s assistant, using her natural magical talent to save lives.

But when their nation instigates a terrible war, Emilie and Annette come together to help the rebellion unearth the truth before it’s too late.

The Queen Bee and Me by Gillian McDunn (ISBN-13: 9781681197517 Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Publication date: 03/03/2020 Ages 8-12)

From the highly acclaimed author of Caterpillar Summer comes a heartfelt story about the sweetness and stings of middle-school friendship.

Meg has always found comfort in her best friend Beatrix’s shadow. Self-assured Beatrix is the one who makes decisions, and the girls have been a pair since kindergarten. But middle school has brought some changes in Beatrix, especially when Meg tries to step outside her role as sidekick.

A special science elective is Meg’s first step away, but when she’s paired with quirky new girl Hazel, Beatrix steps in to stake her claim on Meg. Meg is taken aback at how mean Beatrix can be—and how difficult it is to stand up to her friend. But as Meg gets to know Hazel while working on their backyard beehive project, she starts to wonder: Is being Beatrix’s friend worth turning down the possibility of finding her own voice?

This pitch-perfect exploration of middle-school friendship dynamics brims with heart and hope, and will resonate with readers of all ages.

Wicked As You Wish by Rin Chupeco (ISBN-13: 9781492672661 Publisher: Sourcebooks Publication date: 03/03/2020 Ages 14 up)

An unforgettable alternative history fairytale series from the author of The Bone Witch trilogy about found family, modern day magic, and finding the place you belong.

Many years ago, the magical Kingdom of Avalon was left desolate and encased in ice when the evil Snow Queen waged war on the powerful country. Its former citizens are now refugees in a world mostly devoid of magic. Which is why the crown prince and his protectors are stuck in…Arizona.

Prince Alexei, the sole survivor of the Avalon royal family, is in hiding in a town so boring, magic doesn’t even work there. Few know his secret identity, but his friend Tala is one of them. Tala doesn’t mind—she has secrets of her own. Namely, that she’s a spellbreaker, someone who negates magic.

Then hope for their abandoned homeland reignites when a famous creature of legend, and Avalon’s most powerful weapon, the Firebird, appears for the first time in decades. Alex and Tala unite with a ragtag group of new friends to journey back to Avalon for a showdown that will change the world as they know it.

Time of Our Lives by Emily Wibberley, Austin Siegemund-Broka (ISBN-13: 9781984835833 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 04/21/2020 Ages 14 up)

A reflective, romantic coming-of-age novel that explores life after high school—perfect for fans of Fangirl and Emergency Contact

A boy desperate to hold on, a girl ready to let go.

Fitz Holton waits in fear for the day his single mother’s early-onset Alzheimer’s starts stealing her memory. He’s vowed to stay close to home to care for her in the years to come—never mind the ridiculous college tour she’s forcing him on to visit schools where he knows he’ll never go. Juniper Ramirez is counting down the days until she can leave home, a home crowded with five younger siblings and zero privacy. Against the wishes of her tight-knit family, Juniper plans her own college tour of the East Coast with one goal: get out.

When Fitz and Juniper cross paths on their first college tour in Boston, they’re at odds from the moment they meet— while Juniper’s dying to start a new life apart from her family, Fitz faces the sacrifices he must make for his. Their relationship sparks a deep connection—in each other’s eyes, they glimpse alternate possibilities regarding the first big decision of their adult lives.

Time of Our Lives is a story of home and away, of the wonder and weight of memory, of outgrowing fears and growing into the future.

We Are Not Free by Traci Chee (ISBN-13: 9780358330004 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 06/09/2020 Ages 12 up)

“All around me, my friends are talking, joking, laughing. Outside is the camp, the barbed wire, the guard towers, the city, the country that hates us.

We are not free.

But we are not alone.”

From New York Times best-selling and acclaimed author Traci Chee comes We Are Not Free, the collective account of a tight-knit group of young Nisei, second-generation Japanese American citizens, whose lives are irrevocably changed by the mass U.S. incarcerations of World War II.

Fourteen teens who have grown up together in Japantown, San Francisco.

Fourteen teens who form a community and a family, as interconnected as they are conflicted.

Fourteen teens whose lives are turned upside down when over 100,000 people of Japanese ancestry are removed from their homes and forced into desolate incarceration camps.

In a world that seems determined to hate them, these young Nisei must rally together as racism and injustice threaten to pull them apart.

Forest of Souls by Lori M. Lee (ISBN-13: 9781624149245 Publisher: Page Street Publishing Publication date: 06/23/2020 Ages 14 up)

Danger lurks within the roots of Forest of Souls, an epic, unrelenting tale of destiny and sisterhood, perfect for fans of Naomi Novik and Susan Dennard.

Sirscha Ashwyn comes from nothing, but she’s intent on becoming something. After years of training to become the queen’s next royal spy, her plans are derailed when shamans attack and kill her best friend Saengo.

And then Sirscha, somehow, restores Saengo to life.

Unveiled as the first lightwender in living memory, Sirscha is summoned to the domain of the Spider King. For centuries, he has used his influence over the Dead Wood—an ancient forest possessed by souls—to enforce peace between the kingdoms. Now, with the trees growing wild and untamed, only a lightwender can restrain them. As war looms, Sirscha must master her newly awakened abilities before the trees shatter the brittle peace, or worse, claim Saengo, the friend she would die for.

If You Like The Good Place, Read This

Today YA Librarian Cindy Shutts has put together a fabulous list of recommended reads for fans of The Good Place. If you have titles to add, please leave us a comment. We’re huge fans of the show in my house and I want to hear all your reading recommendations.

Warning Spoilers!

The Good Place is the popular sitcom on NBC starring Kristen Bell and Ted Denson. The basic premise is that a group of four people are placed in the afterlife and they think they are in the good place but are actually in the bad place and part of an experiment to change how torture is done. This is the fourth and final season.  This season is about finding out if you can be a good person in a world connected to bad consequences. For example, if you drink a Coke-a-Cola, do you lose points because they are the worst plastic polluter in the world, even though you personally recycle the bottle? Is it possible to become a better person in the afterlife? What do we owe each other?

Just for fun, check out Hypable’s list of 34 of the best The Good Place quotes


Elsewhere: A Novel by Gabrielle Zevin

Fifteen- year -old Liz has just died and moved on to Elsewhere, where people who have died age backward and get jobs. She has to learn to move on from life to the afterlife, while falling in love with a man who is also learning to age backward and whose wife is still alive.

More Than This by Patrick Ness

A boy about to die wakes up and does not know if he is in the afterlife. He will have to figure out where he is to go on with his life.

Croak by Gina Damico

Lex is sent away to spend time with her Uncle Mort, but when she is with him she finds out he is a grim reaper.  Uncle Mort is now going to teach Lex the family business, but Lex develops a taste for justice.

It’s a Wonderful Death by Sarah J. Schmitt

RJ’s soul is accidently reaped by a grim reaper and she wants to talk to a manager because she should not be dead.

I Woke Up Dead at the Mall by Judy Sheehan

Sarah is murdered and wakes up at the Mall of America. She is given a death coach and told she will have to be able to move on after her death or be forced to walk the mall forever.

Demon Chick by Marilyn Kaye

Jessica always had a rough relationship with her politician mother, but she never expected her mother to sell her soul to the devil. Jessica finds herself living in one of the better neighborhoods of hell with a demon named Brad who seems to be a nice guy.

The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand

The Christmas Spirits gave Holly Chase a second chance at life. She did not listen to their advice and now she is one of the ghosts of Christmas Past, who is in charge of warning people about their possible fates.

The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand by Gregory Galloway

Adam is depressed and tries to commit suicide thirty-nine times, but every time he wakes up and feels fine. He will have to find out why this keeps happening.

Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall by Wendy Mass

Tessa wakes up after a gym accident in the mall. She is very confused and she starts to relive her life and the moment that led up to her death. She has to figure out who she is and what she wants now.

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Everyone used to die after a period of time, but now in a world where death has been eliminated people have taken on the role of the scythe. The people of the scythe have the responsibility of quelling the population. Two teens have been chosen to be the scythe and they must succeed, because if they do not they will be killed.

Open Mic Night at Westminster Cemetery by Mary Amato

Lacy wakes up and finds out she is dead in Westminster Cemetery. She must try to adjust to her afterlife, but it is hard not knowing how she died and what happened to the people she cared about.

Moral Complex

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing by M.T. Anderson

Octavian has grown up learning philosophy and science, but as he becomes a teenager he realizes something is wrong. He learns that he and his mother are part of a science experiment testing the mental capability of Africans and that he is enslaved.

Feed by M.T. Anderson

In the near future everyone gets their entertainment from feeds in their head telling them what is cool and what is not. However, on a spring break trip to the moon Titus and his friends fall victim to a hacker who turns off everyone’s feed. Titus has to learn to live without someone always telling him what to value.

Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers

Regina was one of the mean girls at her school, but when she is falsely accused of cheating with her best friend’s boyfriend she is expelled. She slowly learns to deal with the consequences of her actions.

The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

Matt is not like everyone else. He is the clone of a narcissistic drug dealer. Everyday he is in danger from people who wish him harm and the only way out is to escape.

Firecracker by David Iserson

Astrid loves her life going to a posh boarding school and her grandfather happens to be a nuclear arms dealer.  Astrid gets kicked out of her boarding school and vows revenge on everyone who betrayed her, but she starts to learn things about herself. She realizes she is a trashy person and she had to decide if she is going to change.

Eleanor Shellstrop

Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina (Parent Issues)

Nora knows something is wrong with her brother, but her mother is not listening to her. She wonders if he is connected to a string of murders in her city.

Dicey’s Song by Cynthia Voigt (Parent Issues)

Dicey’s mother abandons her and her three younger siblings. Dicey is trying to keep her young siblings together and takes them to their grandmothers home, but she does not know how to relate with having someone who wants to help her.

Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang (Unlikeable Narrator)

Liz Emerson decides to drive her Mercedes into a tree because she thinks the world would be better off without her. What does her life mean and how can people impact each other?

Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy (Unlikeable Narrator)

Alice had cancer and thought she was going to die, so she created a bucket list and completed most of it. Now suddenly she is in remission and has to deal with the consequences of her actions.

Chidi Anagonye

Finding Felicity by Stacey Kade (Indecisive)

Caroline is not good at making decisions and after her parents’ divorce instead of living in the real world she finds comfort in an old television show she found online.  Her mother decides to push her out into real world and Caroline must makes real life decisions.

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor (Nigeria)

Sunny lives in Nigeria but she was born in America. Sunny is an albino so she has to avoid direct sunlight but suddenly she discovers she has magical powers.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green (Anxiety)

 Aza decides to hunt down a missing billionaire and reconnects with her old friend Davis. She has to deal with her anxiety from her OCD while solving this mystery.

Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos  (Anxiety)

James is experiencing anxiety and depression and he decides to make his own therapist, Dr. Bird. This way he can deal with his vanished sister and his abusive parents.

Tahani Al-Jamil

People Like Us by Dana Mele (Boarding School)

Kay has decided reinvent herself at her new school to cover up her past. But unexpectedly, a dead body is found near the lake of her school and her new world starts to collapse.

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake (Sibling Rivalry)

Three siblings who are princesses and have been raised apart are now forced to compete in a battle to the death to decide who will be the new queen.

All You Never Wanted by Adele Griffin (Sibling Rivalry)

Thea wants everything her sister has such as beauty, brains, popularity, and a good-looking boyfriend. Thea decides to spin the truth to get what she wants.

Epic Fail by Claire LaZebnik (Wealth and Name Dropping)

Elise’s sister has caught the attention of Hollywood royalty and now Elise must spend time with the rich and famous. Is your importance based on who you know?

Jason Mendoza

Gym Candy by Carl Deuker (Football)

Mick wants to be the best running back for himself and his team, but he knows he needs an edge to make him bigger and faster.

DJ Rising by Love Maia (DJ)

Marley lives for music, but has to struggle with the fact his mother is an addict. Marley’s dream is to be professional DJ. When he gets a job things start to go well, but disasters at home cause everything to fall apart.

Past Perfect by Leila Sales (Pranks)

Chelsea wants to hang out with her friends and eat ice cream, but she has to get a summer job at the Essex Historical Colonial Village. She learns about friendship while being involved in an epic prank war.

Paper Towns by John Green (Florida)

Quentin lives in Florida and has lived next door Margo his entire life. When she is missing, he has to find her and goes on the adventure of a lifetime. 


Mila 2.0 by Debra Driza (Robot But Not a Robot)

Mila finds out that she is an experiment in artificial intelligence. Her mother is actually one of the scientists who created her.  It has been decided that Mila should be scrapped and now she will have to fight for her life.

Your Robot Dog Will Die by Arin Greenwood (Robots)

Nano lives on Dog Island where a company has decided to make robotic dogs and this island is the home of the last of the living dogs. After a genetic experiment, dogs have stopped wagging their tails and are being recalled.

Delirium by Lauren Oliver (Falling in Love)

Lena lives in a world where love is considered a disease and you are supposed to receive the cure when you turn eighteen. Lena meets Alex just before she is to receive her cure and her feelings change.

LIFEL1K3 by Jay Kristoff (Artificial Intelligence)

Eve lives on a junkyard island filled with radiation. She learns she is gifted with the power to destroy robots with her mind and now she has to escape a gangster who has her on his most wanted list.


The Good Demon by Jimmy Cajoleas (Demons)

Claire was possessed by a demon, but when her demon is exorcised away from her she is left all alone. Her demon was like a friendly sister who helped her. Claire is ready to do anything to get her demon back.

The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles (Underworld)

Zoe is dealing with her father’s death in a caving accident and she and her brother are attacked and then saved by a bounty hunter called X. X is from a hell called the Lowlands and he is sent to take the soul of Zoe’s attacker. X makes a mistake and wants to capture Zoe.

The Hearts We Sold by Emily Lloyd-Jones (Demon Deals)

Dee’s life is not going well. Her home life is terrible and she is about to be kicked out of school, but she decides to make a deal with a demon. He asks for her heart.

Serpentine and Sacrifice by Cindy Pon (Underworld)

Skybright has always wondered who she really is but has focused her time training to be a lady’s maid for her friend Zhen Liu. One night, she realizes she is not quite human and has to find her destiny.

Crash Course: Recent poetry books for younger readers

This post wraps up my crash course series in books for younger readers. Hop back to Tuesday/Thursday posts from this month to see my previous posts in this series.

Summaries of these books are from WorldCat/the publisher. All titles are from the past couple of years.

Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets by Kwame Alexander, Ekua Holmes (Illustrator), Chris Colderley, Marjory Wentworth (2017)

A Newbery Medalist and a Caldecott Honoree’s New York Times best-selling ode to poets who have sparked a sense of wonder.

Out of gratitude for the poet’s art form, Newbery Award–winning author and poet Kwame Alexander, along with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth, present original poems that pay homage to twenty famed poets who have made the authors’ hearts sing and their minds wonder. Stunning mixed-media images by Ekua Holmes, winner of a Caldecott Honor and a John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award, complete the celebration and invite the reader to listen, wonder, and perhaps even pick up a pen.

Hypnotize a Tiger: Poems About Just About Everything by Calef Brown (2015)

This is the first longer-format, middle-grade collection from #1 New York Times–bestselling author-illustrator Calef Brown. Moving away from the picture book format offers Calef the opportunity to tackle a variety of themes and poetry styles as well as reach a slightly older audience. Hypnotize a Tiger is chock-full of Calef’s zany black-and-white artwork and features his wonderfully inventive characters and worlds—from the “completely nonviolent and silent” Lou Gnome to Percival, the impetuous (and none-too-sensible) lad who believes he is invincible, to Hugh Jarm (who has a huge arm, natch!). It’s a whimsical world: creative, fun, and inspiring!

Underneath My Bed: List Poems by Brian P. Cleary (2016)

When is a list also a poem? When it’s a list poem! List poems can be funny or serious, rhymed or unrhymed. Award-winning author Brian P. Cleary explains how these types of poems work—and shows some of the many ways they can be written.

Underneath My Bed is packed with goofy poems on subjects ranging from summer camp to dinosaurs to messy bedrooms. And when you’ve finished reading, you can try writing your very own list poem!

National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry: More than 200 Poems With Photographs That Float, Zoom, and Bloom! by J. Patrick Lewis (2015)

When words in verse are paired with the awesomeness of nature, something magical happens! Beloved former U.S. Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis curates an exuberant poetic celebration of the natural world in this stellar collection of nature poems. From trickling streams to deafening thunderstorms to soaring mountains, discover majestic photography perfectly paired with contemporary (such as Billy Collins), classics (such as Robert Frost), and never-before-published work.

When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons by Julie Fogliano, Julie Morstad (Illustrator) (2016)

Flowers blooming in sheets of snow make way for happy frogs dancing in the rain. Summer swims move over for autumn sweaters until the snow comes back again. In Julie Fogliano’s skilled hand and illustrated by Julie Morstad’s charming pictures, the seasons come to life in this gorgeous and comprehensive book of poetry.

Wake Up! by Helen Frost, Rick Lieder (Illustrator) (2017)

The world is wide awake — are you? Stunning photos and poetic text usher readers into the early moments of life all around them.

Wake up! Come out and explore all the new creatures being born — just-hatched birds in the trees, tadpoles in the pond, a baby fawn in the woods. In their latest collaboration, poet Helen Frost and photographer Rick Lieder, the creators of Step Gently Out, Sweep Up the Sun, and Among a Thousand Fireflies, invite readers to wake up, open their eyes, and see the awe-inspiring array of new life just outside their door.

One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance by Nikki Grimes (2017)

Inspired by the writers of the Harlem Renaissance, bestselling author Nikki Grimes uses “The Golden Shovel” poetic method to create wholly original poems based on the works of master poets like Langston Hughes, Georgia Douglas Johnson, Jean Toomer, and others who enriched history during this era.

Each poem is paired with one-of-a-kind art from today’s most exciting African American illustrators—including Pat Cummings, Brian Pinkney, Sean Qualls, James Ransome, Javaka Steptoe, and many more—to create an emotional and thought-provoking book with timely themes for today’s readers.

A foreword, an introduction to the history of the Harlem Renaissance, author’s note, poet biographies, and index makes this not only a book to cherish, but a wonderful resource and reference as well.

Can I Touch Your Hair?: Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship by Irene Latham, Charles Waters, Sean Qualls (Illustrator), Selina Alko (Illustrator) (2018)

How can Irene and Charles work together on their fifth grade poetry project? They don’t know each other… and they’re not sure they want to. Irene Latham, who is white, and Charles Waters, who is black, use this fictional setup to delve into different experiences of race in a relatable way, exploring such topics as hair, hobbies, and family dinners.

Keep a Pocket in Your Poem: Classic Poems and Playful Parodies by J. Patrick Lewis, Johanna Wright (Illustrator) (2017)

Thirteen classic poems by poets such as Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Emily Dickinson, and David McCord are paired with parodies written by J. Patrick Lewis that honor and play off of the original poems in a range of ways. For example, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” is paired with “Stopping by Fridge on a Hungry Evening” to hilarious effect, whereas the combination of Emily Dickinson’s “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers” with Lewis’s “‘Grief’ is the thing with tissues” is profound, and both David McCord’s “This Is My Rock” and Lewis’s “This Is My Tree” hum with a sense of wonder. This playful introduction to classics will inspire imagination and wonder even as it tickles funny bones.

Wet Cement: A Mix of Concrete Poems by Bob Raczka (2016)

Who says words need to be concrete? This collection shapes poems in surprising and delightful ways.

Concrete poetry is a perennially popular poetic form because they are fun to look at. But by using the arrangement of the words on the page to convey the meaning of the poem, concrete or shape poems are also easy to write! From the author of the incredibly inventive Lemonade: And Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word comes another clever collection that shows kids how to look at words and poetry in a whole new way.

Echo Echo: Reverso Poems About Greek Myths by Marilyn Singer, Josee Masse (Illustrator) (2016)

What happens when you hold up a mirror to poems about Greek myths? You get a brand-new perspective on the classics! And that is just what happens in Echo Echo, the newest collection of reverso poems from Marilyn Singer. Read one way, each poem tells the story of a familiar myth; but when read in reverse, the poems reveal a new point of view! Readers will delight in uncovering the dual points of view in well-known legends, including the stories of Pandora’s box, King Midas and his golden touch, Perseus and Medusa, Pygmalion, Icarus and Daedalus, Demeter and Persephone, and Echo and Narcissus.

These cunning verses combine with beautiful illustrations to create a collection of fourteen reverso poems to treasure.

My Daddy Rules the World: Poems about Dads by Hope Anita Smith (2017)

Who is your hero? Who’s your best friend?

Who says he loves you again and again?


Told through the voice of a child, Anita Hope Smith’s My Daddy Rules the World collection of poems celebrates everyday displays of fatherly love, from guitar lessons and wrestling matches to bedtime stories, haircuts in the kitchen, and cuddling in bed. These heartwarming poems, together with bold folk-art-inspired images, capture the strength and beauty of the relationship between father and child.

Cindy Crushes Programming: DIY Lip Scrubs

In today’s episode of Cindy Crushes Programming, YA Librarian Cindy Shutts walks us through making your own lip scrubs. This would be a great addition to an overall DIY Spa Day program and there are a lot of great Spa day nonfiction books out there to pair with this program.

This is a craft I have done twice before. It is always fun. I like to change out recipes for the lip scrub to keep it fresh!  I used recipes I found on Pinterest. These are the articles I used this time: https://www.stylecraze.com/articles/diy-lip-scrub/#gref and https://www.collegefashion.net/beauty-and-hair/diy-beauty-brown-sugar-and-vanilla-lip-scrub/ .  


Mint Lip Scrub

 Step One: Mix one tablespoon of olive oil and two tablespoons of white sugar together. I like to do this in the container instead of a mixing bowl. That way we do not waste any supplies moving it to a container.  I use popsicle sticks to stir it. They are easy to obtain and to use. 

Step Two: Add 8-10 drops of peppermint. I always add less to begin with because the peppermint has very strong scent.

Step Three: Add ½ teaspoon of grapeseed oil.

Step Four. Stir and apply to lips. You use your fingers to scrub so make sure your hands are washed before using.

Cinnamon Lip Scrub

Step One: Mix ½ tablespoon honey and ½ tablespoon olive oil. I honestly just give the honey a small squeeze and that usually works since it is so sticky.

Step two: add ½ teaspoon cinnamon powder.

Step Three: Mix all the ingredients together.

Step Four. Stir and apply to lips. You use your fingers to scrub so make sure your hands are washed before using.

Brown Sugar and Vanilla Lip Scrub

Step One: Add one small squeeze of honey to one tablespoon of brown sugar.

Step Two: Slowly add one more tablespoon of brown sugar. Be sure to mix after each spoonful is added. 

Step Three: Add ¼ tablespoon of vanilla. Mix with other ingredients.

Step Four. Stir and apply to lips. You use your fingers to scrub so make sure your hands are washed before using.

Final Thoughts: I should have bought two packages of brown sugar and white sugar because it would have allowed the patrons to make the scrub faster. I modified the recipes because in the first one I had too much liquid. So I took out one tablespoon of olive oil. The best part of lip scrub is that if the recipe does not work, you can always add more sugar or cinnamon powder to make sure it does work.

Crash Course: Series books for elementary students

Post four in my crash course series of posts about books for younger readers. Hope back to previous Tuesdays/Thursdays this month to see the others.

Our series section is a popular place for students to be. They’re going to find favorites like Dork Diaries, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and Big Nate (none of which need any boosting help from me here—I’m guessing you’re all familiar with these titles) . There are older series that are still popular, such as Horrible Harry, Animal Ark, 39 Clues, Geronimo Stilton/Thea Stilton, A-Z Mysteries, and Hank Zipzer.

I’m going to run down a dozen series here that see a lot of interest and may be newer and/or less well known.

As with all of these posts, a huge shout-out to my coworker Heather for curating and maintaining such high-interest titles with lots of diverse characters. I’m lucky to have landed in a library where diversity is valued and promoted.

Onto the series!

Museum Mysteries series by Steve Brezenoff

Book one: The Case of the Haunted History Museum

Wilson, Amal, Clementine, and Raining Sam solve mysteries in various museums. Fast-paced plots, diverse characters, and appealing art.

Squishy Taylor by by Ailsa Wild, Ben Wood (Illustrator)

Book one: Squishy Taylor and the Bonus Sisters

Funny mysteries starring the charismatic Sita, aka Squishy, and her blended family.

Classroom 13 Series by Honest Lee, Matthew J. Gilbert, Joelle Dreidemy (Illustrator)

Book one: The Unlucky Lottery Winners of Classroom 13

I love this wacky little series. Throughout the books, each student in the class wins over a billion dollars, gets to use a genie to grant wishes, becomes famous, gains superpowers and more, only to find each seemingly amazing thing has big negative and unlucky consequences.

Girls Who Code Series by Stacia Deutsch

Book one: The Friendship Code

Middle school girls learn about coding and friendship in this STEM-focused series. Smart, diverse characters and eye-catching art. This one covers a wide age range for appeal.

Kicks Series by Alex Morgan

Book one: Saving the Team

Another series featuring middle school-aged main characters. New girl Devin quickly gets settled in her new town thanks to the friends she makes on the soccer team. Focus on teamwork and sportsmanship.

Amulet Series #1 by Kazu Kibuishi

Book one: The Stonekeeper

These are THE series to read at my school. Graphic novels about siblings (and a mechanical rabbit) who traverse nightmarish fantasy worlds in various quests.

Conspiracy 365 by Gabrielle Lord

Book one: January

ANOTHER series featuring slightly older characters. In the wake of his father’s death, 15-year-old Callum (yep!) is drawn into a tense world full of plots, crimes, and villains while he tries to avoid his own death. Age-appropriate thriller series for those who like lots of action.

Clubhouse Mysteries Series by Sharon M. Draper, Jesse Joshua Watson (Illustrator)

Book one: The Buried Bones Mystery

Reissued/repackaged series. Mysteries, diversity, and a clubhouse—what’s not to like?!

The Bad Guys Series by Aaron Blabey

Book one: Bad Guys

WILDLY popular at my school. Mr. Wolf, Mr. Piranha, Mr. Snake, and Mr. Shark aren’t really bad guys—they just look like they are. Truly funny with a format that will keep readers turning pages.

Magic Kitten Series by Sue Bentley

Book one: A Summer Spell

The series is actually more than just Magic Kitten. There’s also Magic Puppy, Magic Ponies, Magic Bunny, and so on. This is exactly what it sounds like—cute animals and magic.

Star Wars: Jedi Academy Series by Jeffrey Brown and Jarrett J. Krosoczka

Book one: Jedi Academy

Star Wars except cuter mixes with real-life kiddo problems and comics for a winning series.

Ghost Detectors series by Dotti Enderle, Howard McWilliam

Book one: It Creeps!

Science-minded Malcolm obtains a tool that allows him to detect ghosts and hilarity ensues. Tamely “creepy” for fans of potentially scary-seeming books.

DIY Gnome Trophy for a Game of Gnomes

To make the Game of Gnomes work, we needed to create a fun trophy for not a lot of cash. It needed to be fun and engaging, just enough to be desirable and funny but not anything that would devastate our soul if it got lost, broken or stolen. So here’s what we did.


  • A gnome
  • A plastic flowerpot
  • Spray paint
  • Hot glue gun

Total Cost of Gnome Trophy: $20.00

Total Time to Make Gnome Trophy: A couple of hours if you include time for the paint to dry

Finding a Gnome

To begin making our trophy, we started by purchasing a gnome. I knew we needed a smaller gnome that was plastic but not a garden gnome because I didn’t want it to be easy to break. The first gnome I bought turned out to be really, really small.

So you’ll definitely want to pay attention to the size description, which I did not. It’s okay though, The Teen loves the gnome and it now sits on her desk in her bedroom.

The gnome we ended up using we stumbled across at a random store. It is solar powered and waves, which makes it incredibly fun. It also has a base on the bottom which made it easier to turn into a trophy. You’ll just want to find a gnome that you find amusing. A word of caution, some gnomes are really expensive – even the small or mini ones – and this will be the most expensive part of your trophy. The gnome we purchased is listed on Amazon for around $16.00, but we bought it at a store for around $10.00.

Painting Your Gnome

We chose to spray paint our gnome silver or chrome colored to make it look more like a trophy. Some people might choose gold. Our original thinking was that we were going to make a play on words with Chrome Gnome, but that kind of fizzled out. You can keep your gnome in its original state if you would like, but we definitely liked painting it and giving it a trophy look.

Turning Your Plant Pot into a Trophy Base

We selected a black plant pot, again using plastic to avoid breaking. We purchased ours at Lowe’s for about $4.00. We debated whether or not to spray paint it chrome as well, but decided to keep it black. The Mr. did, however, paint chrome flames on it to give it a little bit of flair.

Putting It all Together

After everything was completely dry, I just hot glued the chrome gnome (I really wanted to say it just once!) on the upside down plant pot. It’s an epic trophy. And highly coveted!!!

Game of Gnomes, a fun way to get teens involved in tabletop games at the library

I do a lot of test driving games and program ideas at my home using my pre-teen and teenage daughter and their friends as test subjects. I’ve come to think of my time with them as sort of a Programming Test Kitchen. We’ve done dry runs of a lot of programming ideas to determine if they would work and what we would need to turn a craft of DIY project into a library program. We’ve also tried out a lot of games like Exploding Kittens and Ultimate Werewolf, which I have blogged about here.

We recently, on a whim, took our game testing to a whole new level and developed what we have called the Game of Gnomes. Each week we get together and plays games and the winner for the week gets to take home this custom made Game of Gnomes trophy that you see above. They bring it back the next week and have to defend their title. They either win and get to take it home again or a new winner gets to take the trophy home for the week.

I can not even begin to tell you how much everyone loves this! We’ve been doing this for a little over a month and every week there is a fierce but fun battle for the Gnome Trophy. We also take a picture of the winner with the trophy and post it in our secret Facebook group. Bragging rights for the win!

I’ve been doing programming for a long time and I’m here to tell you that this is a great way to get teens coming back for gaming. One caveat I will say is that I have worked with enough librarians to know that some of you are already thinking, “what if they don’t bring the trophy back?”. Well the answer to that fear is to create a Game of Gnomes wall or online gallery and post a picture of that weeks winner with the trophy so that the trophy never leaves the building.

Some of the games we include in our rotation are:

  • Spoons (very popular)
  • Exploding Kittens
  • Uno
  • Avocado Smash
  • Banagrams
  • Qwixt

We don’t always play the same game but we do vote on what game we play for the event. Game receiving the majority vote wins. And then we play.

I haven’t gotten to keep the trophy myself yet, but my time is coming. I can feel it.