Teen Librarian Toolbox
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Booktalk This! The “Would You Rather?” Edition (by Kearsten)


I love a good, on-the-spot booktalk while wandering the stacks with a teen, but when asked for formal booktalks, I always worry about keeping the attention of teens sitting for 30 minutes or more.  My new favorite way to keep those teens involved while introducing them to awesome teen fiction? A booktalk version of “Would You Rather.”

I use PowerPoint to put together my presentation, requiring access to a computer and projector (or a Smartboard) on my visit, but you could do this with the books themselves.  You will also need a way for the teens to participate.  I used colored cardstock scraps – yellow and green – and stapled them together. If you have more time and supplies, attaching your colored ‘flags’ to a wooden stick could be fun, though possibly dangerous (teens do love to hit each other with hand-held objects…). Next, come up with a theme and a pile of books. Finally, you’ll need to pair your books, which is the most fun/challenging part of the whole booktalk!  Here’s a sample of some of the titles I’ll be using for an upcoming middle-school booktalk. Enjoy!

v:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);} o:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);} w:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);} .shape {behavior:url(#default#VML);} Would You Rather: the School Edition! 

 Getting more than a little tired of school? Wish you could transport yourself to a different one? A boarding school perhaps?  One that could teach you skills more exciting than math, science and language arts?  With the end of the school year in sight, yet still maddeningly out of reach, why not take a vacation from this school in book form? But first, some questions . . .

Would you rather: Fight Evil OR BE Evil?

 If you wish your teachers would focus on teaching you to fight evil, try Trenton Lee Stewart’s The Mysterious Benedict Society.  The first of three (so far, not including a puzzle book and a prequel).  The Mysterious Benedict Society introduces four truly exceptional kids who take a series of increasingly perplexing texts, meant to weed out the ordinary, the kind of smart, and the average.  Think you could pass the tests?  Would YOU be up to going undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened? (Hint: spell that acronym backwards . . .)

And for those of you who’d prefer taking classes on manipulation, disguises, and computer hacking, why not try Catherine Jinx’s Evil Genius? I mean, if your dad is considered on of THE most important villains of all time, OF COURSE you’re fast-tracked into the Axis Institute of World Domination.  Cadel’s dad is in prison for life, but this computer genius isn’t letting that impact his future in villainy . . . or will he? 

Would you rather: celebrate art? Or steal it?

After surviving a terrorist attack, Jane and her parents move to the suburbs, where Jane must start over in a new school. Luckily for her, she finds her ‘tribe’, and with a bit of convincing, gets them to join her in guerrilla art projects, anonymously creating sculptures around their town with the logo, “Art Saves”. But what happens when adults get fed up with this bizarre ‘graffitt’? Can Jane count on her new friends? Find out in The Plain Janes, a graphic novel by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg.

K., the teen-aged main character in Richard Sala’s graphic novel, Cat Burglar Black, has had a rough life: raised in an orphanage by a woman who forced the children to either steal or go hungry, she’s developed some interesting skills. When K. is invited to enroll in the Bellsong Academy for Girls, she expects to leave that life behind. Unfortunately, the school administrators have a different plan for K. and her three equally gifted classmates…

And this last group (which I will not be including for the middle schoolers, as the content is aimed at older teens), is a bonus:

Are you cross-dressing: for research? Or for stalking purposes?

In Babe in Boyland, by Jody Gehrman, Natalie needs to up the ante for her love column, as her advice STINKS. What better way to find out how a guy thinks than to disguise oneself as a guy and enroll in an all-male boarding school? What could possibly go wrong when your new roommate is the cutest guy you’ve ever seen? And whose sister develops a huge crush on your male alter-ego?!

Have a crush on a superstar athlete? No problem! Japanese-American Mizuki, a pretty amazing athlete herself, manages to get a transfer to a high school in Japan to get closer to HER crush. Her parents are totally cool with her moving to Japan for school, but they might not actually have the whole truth about the genetic makeup of Mizuki’s future classmates. Break out the scissors and boy uniforms…and the laughs, as hijinks ensue in Hana Kimi: For You in Full-Blossom, Vol. 1, by Hisaya Nakajo, the first in a manga series for older teens.


  1. SO much fun! I'm going to share this w/ our YA librarian … plus, I may adapt this for our younger groups!
    Thanks for sharing!

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