Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Join us for a Parent & Teen Virtual Book Club to Discuss THE BURNING with Laura Bates

Earlier this year The Teen and I both read a profoundly moving feminist novel titled The Burning that touched on a wide variety of issues that we are both very passionate about. So we are excited to get to host this online Virtual Book Club with the author, Laura Bates. It’s a free virtual event, but please follow this link to make reservations: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-burning-parentteen-book-club-with-author-laura-bates-tickets-105979304954

Please leave us a comment if you have some specific questions you would like us to ask.

About this Event

An important book for readers of all ages in the #metoo era

Read The Burning together with your teen and then join Laura Bates, internationally renowned feminist and founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, for a book club discussion.

The discussion will be moderated by YA librarian Karen Jensen of School Library Journal‘s Teen Librarian Toolbox, and her teenage daughter.

The Burning is a powerful call to action, reminding all readers of the implications of sexism and the role we can each play in ending it.

Praise for The Burning:

“A smart, explosive examination of gender discrimination and its ramifications.” – Publishers Weekly

“A haunting rallying cry against sexism and bullying.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Will take readers on an emotional roller coaster.” – School Library Journal

Book Review: Pocket Change Collective books

Publisher’s descriptions

Beyond the Gender Binary by Alok Vaid-Menon, Ashley Lukashevsky (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9780593094655 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 06/02/2020)

Pocket Change Collective was born out of a need for space. Space to think. Space to connect. Space to be yourself. And this is your invitation to join us.

In Beyond the Gender Binary, poet, artist, and LGBTQIA+ rights advocate Alok Vaid-Menon deconstructs, demystifies, and reimagines the gender binary.

Pocket Change Collective is a series of small books with big ideas from today’s leading activists and artists. In this installment, Beyond the Gender Binary, Alok Vaid-Menon challenges the world to see gender not in black and white, but in full color. Taking from their own experiences as a gender-nonconforming artist, they show us that gender is a malleable and creative form of expression. The only limit is your imagination.

This Is What I Know About Art by Kimberly Drew, Ashley Lukashevsky (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9780593095188 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 06/02/2020)

In this powerful and hopeful account, arts writer, curator, and activist Kimberly Drew reminds us that the art world has space not just for the elite, but for everyon
e.

Pocket Change Collective is a series of small books with big ideas from today’s leading activists and artists. In this installment, arts writer and co-editor of Black Futures Kimberly Drew shows us that art and protest are inextricably linked. Drawing on her personal experience through art toward activism, Drew challenges us to create space for the change that we want to see in the world. Because there really is so much more space than we think.

The New Queer Conscience by Adam Eli, Ashley Lukashevsky (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9780593093689 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 06/02/2020)

In The New Queer Conscience, LGBTQIA+ activist Adam Eli argues the urgent need for queer responsibility — that queers anywhere are responsible for queers everywhere

Pocket Change Collective is a series of small books with big ideas from today’s leading activists and artists. In this installment, The New Queer Conscience, Voices4 Founder and LGBTQIA+ activist Adam Eli offers a candid and compassionate introduction to queer responsibility. Eli calls on his Jewish faith to underline how kindness and support within the queer community can lead to a stronger global consciousness. More importantly, he reassures us that we’re not alone. In fact, we never were. Because if you mess with one queer, you mess with us all.

Imaginary Borders by Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, Ashley Lukashevsky (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9780593094136 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 06/02/2020)


In this personal, moving essay, environmental activist and hip-hop artist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez uses his art and his activism to show that climate change is a human issue that can’t be ignored.

Pocket Change Collective is a series of small books with big ideas from today’s leading activists and artists. In this installment, Earth Guardians Youth Director and hip-hop artist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez shows us how his music feeds his environmental activism and vice versa. Martinez visualizes a future that allows us to direct our anger, fear, and passion toward creating change. Because, at the end of the day, we all have a part to play.

Amanda’s thoughts

I’ve said it before, but: Almost always, I read books in order of publication date. It’s really the only way I can keep track of everything I want to review and juggle the rest of life. These little books have sat on my shelf for months and I’ve been so looking forward to getting to them. They did not disappoint.

You know who these would be great for? All the great kids you know who are graduating right now. I love giving books as gifts (she preached to the choir) and these are perfect to hand to young readers. And old readers! These books read like really impassioned TED talks, interspersing personal histories and details with factual information and calls to action.

In Beyond the Gender Binary, Vaid-Menon explores the many ways the false idea of a binary hurts everyone and how harmful the disconnect between what people see (and comment on) and who you are can be. They discuss how an emphasis on a binary involves power, control, shame, repression, harassment, discrimination, and more. They look at the laws against people who don’t conform to the gender binary, the access denied, the targeted legislation, and point out how so much of this is all about gender non-conforming people but rarely actually engages with them.

Vaid-Menon shares their own story from growing up, full of shame, fear, and bullying. They also detail common arguments against gender non-conforming people and refutes them. They emphasize the importance for the narrative around nonbinary people to be one of reclamation, acceptance, peace, and celebration in this powerful look at the toxic notion of a binary and the harmony and creativity of embracing a spectrum of gender identities.

In The New Queer Conscience, Eli focuses on providing a hopeful, uplifting message of support and solidarity as he calls for a unified queer community. Drawing parallels to the support and collective sympathy, outrage, and action he finds within his Jewish community, he urges queer people anywhere to feel responsible for queer people everywhere. He writes about being young and feeling confused and uncomfortable and desperately needing the validation, assurance, and support of a community. He addresses the common feeling of being alone that so many queer kids may feel, a feeling that could be alleviated by a stronger and more active community. Eli explores the changes necessary for this kind of community and transformation, including policies of kindness and understanding, acknowledging uneven playing fields and issues of privilege, and the need for there to be solidarity with all oppressed people. A great reminder that there’s a huge, welcoming community that values you and that together it can be stronger and more effective.

In Imaginary Borders, Martinez examines the climate change movement. His message is that we build the world together, especially when we understand that we are part of a larger system, that we need to claim space in the movements, and explores the need for a cultural shift. He details the ways climate change reaches across real and imagined borders and looks as the cascading effects of climate change, environmental racism, and social justice. Martinez focuses on the fact that there are many paths to activism, and that to inspire connection and action, we need to bring our imagination and creativity to the movement as well as diverse tactics.

In This Is What I Know About Art, Drew looks at art, activism, protest, and inclusion through the lens of her own path to a life in the art world. Emphasizing curiosity, engagement, and learning, she pushes for a collective voice and a shared community. Detailing her exploration of art in college and in internships and jobs, she encourages us to ask who is not in the room and how can we get them there.

Illuminating and inspiring, all four books encourage more thoughtful conversations around these topics. Really well done.

Review copies (ARC) courtesy of the publisher.

What Makes Writing Teen Fiction as a Teen Special a guest post by Lauren Trickey

Writing teen fiction as a teen is different than as an adult. Even at twenty, barely an adult, I can see the difference in my writing from when I was fourteen, and not just skill wise. There’s quite a few scenes in Jack of All Trades that make me cringe now, that make me think ‘oh god! Why would you ever do that?’ But I wrote it when I was the same age as the characters, and apparently the decisions they make seemed perfectly reasonable at the time. If a real-life teenager thinks it makes sense, then surely a fictional one must, too.

I started writing simply because I was daydreaming. All the time. It’s not that I didn’t like school, in fact I love learning, I just couldn’t help myself. I zone out of conversations all the time, not because whoever I’m speaking to is boring, usually they say something that somehow sparks inspiration and suddenly I’m thinking about what I could be writing, instead of focusing on the conversation I’m currently having. 

A lot of what I daydreamed about stemmed from being bullied. I was bullied through all thirteen years of school, sometimes by girls I called my best friends, and sometimes by girls I had no choice but to be around because they were friends with my friends. So, I started thinking, what if could be like Valkyrie Cain in Skulduggery Pleasant, or Clary Fray in the Mortal Instruments? What if there was something about me that made me special, something that I could remember whenever these girls were trying to make me feel worthless? And I daydreamed about it, and then because of the support of friends I made online, I started writing it. 

A big part of my novel ended up focusing on the fantastical being close to home because of this. Most children and teen fiction has characters either going to a magic school, or someone being able to get out of going to school with no repercussions. They go on these epic adventures and leave their normal lives behind, but that meant the magic was somewhere I couldn’t be. I wanted it where I was. In school. Throughout Jack of All Trades, the main characters are still attending school. Their trainer, Shadow, takes them out of class and teaches them inside the school grounds. The magic happens where they are, right under the noses of their classmates, something I endlessly wished for. 

Part of what made writing teen characters as a teen was that some of the problems they face weren’t imagined, but based on my real experiences, however trivial they seem to me now. 

Their struggles were my struggles. Aelana wishes for something to make her unique, special. Growing up, my parents instilled in me the value of being an individual and not following a trend just because it’s a trend. However, growing up with social anxiety, it was hard to be who I wanted when that also meant having other peoples’ attention on me. Aelana’s anxiety centres around her friends; she doesn’t care so much about being the centre of attention, but she knows that by branching out she risks alienating herself from her friends. She is stuck between wanting to be unique, and wanting the acceptance of her friends. 

Skylar and Phoenix, on the other hand, have that thing that makes them unique already. And are continually bullied for it. Though what they experience is dramatized for the purposes of the story, the intent behind it is the same: jealousy. Or at least, I like to tell myself that’s what it was. it’s nicer than thinking that I was just an easy target. Out of the two, Skylar is the easy target. She doesn’t want to fight back, prefers to pretend its not happening or its not a big deal, while Phoenix stands up for the both of them. 

Ash deals with the breakdown of friendships, the awkwardness and arguments that come with it. Something I’ve, unfortunately, had to deal with more than once. Though for myself, it was never clear who started it, Ash is definitely at fault in her situation. And she has to live with that; live with the fact that delving into the world of magic made has made her a different person.

Jade is no longer the perfect student she has been. While I was never a perfect student, I did well enough in school. Until the last couple of years. Ironically, when I tried to focus in class and stopped daydreaming about the adventures my characters could be going on, was when my grades were the worst they had ever been. In Jade’s case, she loses focus, stops keeping track of her school work and lets it fall by the way side.

With these struggles, Mercury, then, is what they aspire to. She has the confidence Skylar lacks, the self-assurance Phoenix tries to hide that she lacks. She is still attending school even when going on adventures, she isn’t afraid of being judged, and has a solid group of friends supporting her. Each of them can find something in her that they wish to emulate. She has all these qualities as a result of what I wanted to be, the kind of person I wanted to grow up to be. 

First and foremost, I write for myself, not just the stories I want to read, but the stories I want to be a part of. Its what made me start writing, and its what continues to fuel my writing. The most important thing for me to achieve through my writing is not to make grand statements about the world or my ideals, but simply to provide teenagers with the escape that I craved at that age. If nothing else, I hope my writing can help them to figure who they are and what kind of person they want to be, just as my favourite stories did for me. 

About Lauren Trickey

Lauren Trickey is an author living in Sydney, Australia. She was inspired to write her first novel, Jack of all Trades, at the age of 13 and published it at age 20. When she is not writing, she loves to dance and listen to music.

Cindy Crushes Programming: 5 Virtual Programming Ideas You Can Do Right Now, Part 2

With a lot of library teen programming pivoting to virtual for the forseeable future, teen librarian Cindy Shutts has been working on putting together virtual programming ideas that can be implemented quickly. She’s talked about running a virtual Dungeons and Dragons game. And she’s shared ideas like virtual escape rooms and digital art shows in part 1 of this series. Today she’s talking online puzzles and games, including pandemic favorite Animal crossing.

Online Puzzles

Evan Mather at Arlington Heights Public Library worked on doing a virtual puzzle with library teens via jigsawpuzzles.io and it was a blast. The amount of time depends on the difficulty of the puzzle.

Jackbox Games

https://www.jackboxgames.com/games/?fbclid=IwAR0J3X8uSlMxe3lXJmKZ8nr4Hbr-4q_llQk8PD-SUiUQR4nXqc42hvmHQJQ

Tracey Todd Vittorio at The Plainfield Public Library had ten teens come to her first Jackbox program and had the teens asking for more. I would recommend checking the ages on any games you use since some of them can have more adult content than others. Here is a list of their games that come with a filter.

https://jackboxgames.happyfox.com/kb/article/3-are-your-games-family-friendly-what-are-they-rated/

Animal Crossing

A lot of libraries are having their staff develop library islands so that they can do virtual programming through Animal Crossing similar to using discord. This is fun since Animal Crossing is super popular. The downside is the staff would need to have a switch and the game, but if they do it could be a very easy way to program. The staff would issue a one time dodocode so that teen patrons can come visit the island. http://www.ilovelibraries.org/article/visit-library’s-virtual-branch-animal-crossing-new-horizons

Animal Crossing Cindy in her library room

Mario Cart Tournaments

Mario Cart is always a winner for teens and on the switch you can run a virtual tournament. This was a program the Brooklyn Public Library had and it is easy for teens to find because they can search under tournaments for your library’s tournament.

Virtual Volunteer Service

Since my teens get service hours via summer reading and it is looking like many libraries will have limited or cancelled summer reading programs this year finding virtual service opportunities is more important. I have seen a few libraries who have started a pen pal program for teens to write to seniors who are in nursing homes since many of them are not able to see their families. This is a great way to connect and partner with an outside group.

More Virtual Programming at TLT:

Cindy Shutts, MLIS

cindy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I stayed till the building closed.

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

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

I liked worlds I could control.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things just get worse.

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

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

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

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

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

Meet J. Anderson Coats

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

Social:

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

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jandersoncoats

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

Buy Links

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

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

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

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

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

About Spindle and Dagger

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

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

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

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

Tween and Teen Programming Ideas: Nostalgia with an Online Twist

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

Mecabricks

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

Lite Brite

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

Etch a Sketch

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

Jigsaw Explorer

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

Fuse Beads Picture Converter

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

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

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

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

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

Everything is a political act.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Use your voice. And listen to other voices.

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

Friday Finds: May 15, 2020

This Week at TLT

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

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

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

Book Review: The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar

Write What You Know, a guest post by Loriel Ryon

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

Around the Web

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

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

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

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

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

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

Home and Away

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

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

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

Work Experience

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

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

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

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

Life Lessons

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

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

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

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

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

On Roads Not Taken

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meet Amanda Sellet

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

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

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

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

About BY THE BOOK

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

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

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

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

Eve and Jen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meet Eve Yohalem

Photo credit: Nicholas Polsky

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

LINKS

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

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

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

About The Truth According to Blue

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

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

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

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

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