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On the Power of Rereading

I’ve always been what I like to refer to as a ‘chronic rereader.’ It started, of course, when I was a young child and demanded Make Way for Ducklings every night for what probably seemed an eternity to my poor mother. It continued once I learned to read for myself. I had a shelf full of books and would reread them constantly. I vividly remember reading Laura Ingalls Wilder and Louisa May Alcott books over and over again. In fact, I stopped counting the number of times I’d reread Little Women when I hit 50.

This had certain advantages when I was a child. It built and reinforced a really spectacular vocabulary. I learned a great deal about narrative structure, and am even able to readily predict certain tropes before they are made evident.

In my current position as a children’s librarian, it helps me to defend the reading habits of many of the young people I serve. A parent who complains that all their child wants to read is Diary of a Wimpy Kid books on repeat will find no ally in me. What they will get is an earful about vocabulary development and reading comprehension, as well as fostering a love of reading. Followed, of course, by a list of read-alike titles to suggest but not force on their child.

But what does rereading mean to me now, as an adult? In our current circumstances it provides a great deal of comfort to revisit beloved characters and settings. It also offers an opportunity to reevaluate the books you like to recommend to readers. Do they hold up after a few years? Are they really as great as you remember?

I recently reread some of my favorite books to recommend to reluctant teen readers, Hold Me Closer Necromancer and Necromancing the Stone by Lish McBride. I’m pleased to report that they more than hold up. Her world building skills are in great evidence in these books, as is her gift for characterization. If you haven’t had a chance to read these, I strongly recommend them.

So go forth and be a champion of rereading!

Friday Finds: August 28, 2020

This Week at TLT

Humor in YA, a guest post by Hope Bolinger

Book Review: Not Your #Lovestory by Sonia Hartl

Finding the Drama: How I used Musical Theatre to inspire my first novel, Sing Like No One’s Listening, a guest post by Vanessa Jones

RevolTeens: Helping Teens Tell Their Story in the Time of Covid, by Christine Lively

Morgan’s Mumbles: Preparing for Online Classes, by teen contributor Morgan Randall

Book Review: The Whitsun Daughters by Carrie Mesrobian

Book Review: Throwaway Girls by Andrea Contos

Creating RA Reading Maps and Flow Charts

Reflections on Raising a Teen while Being a Teen Librarian as She Becomes an Adult

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2020 Latinx Releases

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Hot Off The Press: September 2020 (YA Only)

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Friday Finds: August 21, 2020

This Week at TLT

Post-It Note Reviews: Toxic masculinity, Somali refugees, surprise siblings, and more!

Cindy Crushes Programming: Make and Take Kits for Pandemic Programming, by Teen Librarian Cindy Shutts

Take 5: Afrofuturism for Teens

Judge a Book By Its Cover — Sometimes, a guest post by Pintip Dunn

Take 5: MG and YA Lit that Talks About Periods and Puberty

Why Does Nobody Ever Call the Police? by Teen Contributor Riley Jensen

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13-year-old Brayden Harrington shares advice Biden gave to help him with stutter

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Georgia Teachers’ Back-To-School Rap About Virtual Learning Goes Viral

Friday Finds: August 7, 2020

This Week at TLT

Book Review: Queerfully and Wonderfully Made: A Guide for LGBTQ+ Christian Teens edited by Leigh Finke

Morgan’s Mumbles: 15 Journals to Keep by teen contributor Morgan Randall

Cindy Crushes Programming: Animal Crossing and the Virtual Library, by Cindy Shutts

New Books Alert: Book set in Nigeria, a prep school, a prison, a performing arts school, the world of K-pop, and more!

Have Some Doodles, by Teen Contributor Riley Jensen

Book Review: The Insomniacs by Marit Weisenberg

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Closer than Sisters: a guest post by author Sasha Laurens

A WICKED MAGIC is about Dan and Liss, closer-than-sisters best friends who’ve transformed themselves into witches. As the book begins, we learn three things about them: one, just after Dan had her first kiss with a boy named Johnny, Liss began dating him; two, Johnny’s missing; and three; Dan and Liss aren’t speaking. If that has you expecting a story about heartbreak, you’re dead-on. But if you’re expecting that heartbreak to be about Johnny, you’ve got something else coming.

In writing A WICKED MAGIC, I wanted to show how friendships can be a lot messier, more complicated and harder to navigate than romantic relationships. That was certainly my experience in high school and college. In fact, the conflict between Dan and Liss over Johnny is based on something that happened to me: my best friend really did start dating the boy I’d had my first kiss with a few weeks earlier. At the time, I was more confused than angry. After all, my friend had invested a lot of energy in trying to make sure the boy and I ended up together. But she’d wanted a boyfriend a lot more than I had, so I reconciled myself to their relationship because she deserved it more than me. I didn’t realize at the time that was the first crack in our friendship. When it finally collapsed months later, I felt used and disrespected by the person I’d been closest to. That heartbreak hurt a lot more than the fact that I hadn’t held the boy’s interest.

But when I looked at young adult fiction, I rarely saw stories about these confusing, formative and painful kinds of friendships. Often, the central relationship in YA is a romantic one—which can be great! But often this means that in these stories, relationships with friends are set up so they’re not a source of tension. Instead, the best friend plays a supporting role, cheering on the main character role as she pursues her crush (and saves the kingdom, wins prom queen, etc.).

In the real world, not all friendships are so perfect. Our best friends have the power to delight us or destroy us, to lift us up or to make us small, to make us feel like we belong or like no one will ever understand us. And all of that unfolds between two people who will probably never communicate about what they want from the relationship the way romantic partners do, because friendship is supposed to be easy, right?

The relationship at the core of A WICKED MAGIC is not a romance: it’s the broken bond between Dan and Liss. Both girls have struggled with trauma and guilt over Johnny’s disappearance, and that strain proved too great for their friendship to bear. Dan is left feeling that Liss took advantage of her, because she couldn’t stand up to Liss’s take-no-prisoners personality. When Dan stops speaking to her, Liss faces the dangerous task of rescuing Johnny alone. The girls have to confront the role they each played in their toxic friendship if they want to have any hope of saving Johnny—or of finding their way to happiness.

I admit that when I started writing, there was more than a little pathos in play. Poor innocent Dan was the stand-in for me, and Liss was the charismatic mean girl who embodied all the friends who had hurt me. In that first draft, I wanted there to be a palpable feeling that Dan was probably better off without Liss, who needed Dan more than she’d realized. I had no idea how—or even if—they were going to end up friends again by the final chapter.

The more I wrote, however, the more it seemed that Dan saw herself as a helpless victim, who was unaware of the pain she’d caused to others. That sense of victimization wasn’t just stopping her from getting over her break-up with Liss, it was also stopping her from doing all she could to rescue Johnny and from facing her own problems, including her depression. While teenage-me had never let a boy get kidnapped by a demon, it hit close to home. 

But A WICKED MAGIC isn’t just told from Dan’s perspective. The story includes Liss’s point of view too (and that of Dan’s new best friend, Alexa). That meant I had to spend a lot of time in Liss’s head. At first, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to connect with her; after all, she was based on my frenemies. But as I wrote from Liss’s perspective, I found myself sympathizing—and even identifying—with her. She had definitely wronged Dan, but it wasn’t intentional. She was working through her own problems, like anxiety, an emotionally abusive mother, and an absent father. Those problems weren’t so different from those my friends had faced—or from problems I had faced, for that matter. Suddenly, it didn’t seem fair that on top of all that, Dan expected Liss to take care of her, when Dan could barely admit her what she needed to herself, let alone confess it aloud to Liss.

Ultimately, I realized that both girls bore responsibility for the failure of their friendship. More than that, they hurt each other for the same reason: they’re both desperately unhappy, for reasons that feel beyond their control. That pain leads them to treat other people, as well as themselves, poorly. Recognizing that was the key that would allow them to forgive each other and move on—or even become friends again.

I still think about that high school best friend, the one who dated the boy who gave me my first kiss. I haven’t been in touch with her for years. I wonder what she would think of Dan and Liss, and if she’d see us in their story. I wish I had understood back then that none of us are born knowing how to be perfect friends. It’s something we learn from each person who comes into our lives. But learning always entails mistakes. If we want to move forward, we have to face those mistakes with compassion for ourselves and others.

SASHA LAURENS grew up in Northern California, where she learned to drive on Highway 1’s switchback turns and got accustomed to the best weather in the world. After studying creative writing and literature at Columbia University, she lived in New York for years and, at various times, in Russia. She currently resides in Michigan, where she is pursuing a PhD in political science. A Wicked Magic is her first novel (Razorbill, July 2020).

Links:

www.sashalaurens.com 

https://www.instagram.com/sashalwrites/

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48675479-a-wicked-magic?ac=1&from_search=true

https://bookshop.org/books/a-wicked-magic/9780593117255

Pre-orders can request free AWM stickers here: https://www.sashalaurens.com/pre-order-campaign

Friday Finds: July 24, 2020

This Week at TLT

Book Review: Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Morgan’s Mumbles: Game Recommendations, by teen contributor Morgan Randall

‘You wrote an action-thriller?’ a guest post by Tiffany Rosenhan

A Banjo as a Bridge, a guest post by Erica Waters

Murder Books, by teen contributor Riley Jensen

A Great Big List of MG and YA Collection Development Resources

Celebrating 9 Years of TLT! (in a global pandemic)

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Friday Finds: July 17, 2020

This Week at TLT

How Writing Jennifer Strange (Quite Literally) Saved my Life, a guest post by Cat Scully

Cindy Crushes Programming: Virtual Programming Failures, Tech Issues and Tips, by Cindy Shutts

Book Reviews, Thrillers Edition: Little Creeping Things and Nobody Knows But You

Morgan’s Mumbles: Sustainable and Ethical Switches by teen contributor Morgan Randall

Book Review: He Must Like You by Danielle Younge-Ullman

Tween and Teen Crafts: No-Cook Playdough with Robin Willis and Scout Jensen

Here! Have Some Anime, by teen contributor Riley Jensen

Sunday Reflections: They’re Sacrificing Our Poorest Children, Same as it Ever Was

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Tween and Teen Crafts: No-Cook Playdough with Robin Willis and Scout Jensen

Slime is still incredibly popular with tweens. And I’m amazed every day about how interested tweens are in arts and crafts that many would feel are “too young” or “retro.” So why not try DIY playdough? This is a fun STEAM activity that requires few ingredients and can provide a lot of fun in different ways. And if you are doing grab and go kits with tweens and teens the ingredients are few, cheap, and easy to measure out and put in pick up craft bags.

No cook playdough made by Scout Jensen

Robin Willis says . . .

During our current situation, we all need a little something to play with, something to make and enjoy. Why not a little playdough? I’ve had great success with the following recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Cups all purpose flour
  • 2 Tablespoons baby oil
  • 1/2 Cup salt
  • 2 Tablespoons cream of tartar
  • 1 to 1.5 Cups of boiling water
  • Food coloring

Process:

Mix flour, salt, and cream of tartar well in a large mixing bowl. Add baby oil and mix thoroughly (it will look crumbly.) Pour 1.5 Cups of boiling water into a large measuring cup and add food coloring. Regular food coloring will produce pastel colors, so use gel food coloring if you’re looking for vibrant colors. Pour about 1 Cup of the boiling water mixture into the flour mixture and stir well. If you still have flour at the bottom of the bowl after stirring well, gradually add small amounts of the water until it comes together.

Allow the playdough to cool!

Get it out and enjoy. You can make several different colors by adding the food coloring after you make it, rather than in the water, but this will leave colors on your hands as you mix it in.

Scout Jensen says . . .

Scout is 11, almost 12, and she’s going into the 6th grade. She is big into arts and crafts and has spent a lot of the pandemic doing arts and crafts that she has found on Tik Tok. One of those have involved making her own playdough. She found a recipe on Tik Tok by this channel and there is a longer YouTube tutorial:

This is a simple recipe that uses 1 cup of flour, 1/2 cup salt, and 1/2 cup of warm water. Just add a few drops of food coloring to color your playdough. We used food coloring paste, which could be put into grab and go bags. We also experimented and used both water color paint and acrylic paint, which worked. Robin Willis also recommended using tempera paint powder.

She did this weeks ago and she stores her playdough in a plastic baggy and still takes it out occasionally and squishes it.

Both recipes work well and the ingredients can easily be put it plastic bags or small, plastic food storage containers to share in grab and go kits.

Friday Finds: July 10, 2020

This Week at TLT

For Teens Making a Difference: A Twist on Gun Violence By Alex Richards

Book Review: Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron

Morgan’s Mumbles: YA is Great, but it Isn’t the Only Game in Town

Writing Your (Hidden) Self, a guest post by Jessica Pennington

Riley’s Post It Note Reviews: Bent Heavens, Harrow Lake and Five Total Strangers

A Tween’s Eye View on Graphic Novels: Click, Camp, The Breakaways, Snapdragon and Be Prepared

Helping to Normalize Wearing Masks with Tweens and Teens During a Global Pandemic, with fun programming ideas!

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W.H.O. to Review Evidence of Airborne Transmission of Coronavirus

Dawn Wacek: How Can Libraries Be A Path Toward Inclusivity And Forgiveness?

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Friday Finds: June 26, 2020

This Week at TLT

Book Review: I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick

RevolTeens: Being the Change and Leading the Way by Christine Lively

Three YA Titles That Talk About Black Lives Matters and Protests

Book Review: My Eyes Are Up Here by Laura Zimmermann

So I Guess Now I’m Someone Who Talks About Boobs, a guest post by Laura Zimmermann

Riley’s Post It Note Reviews: A Wicked Magic, Goddess in the Machine and Havenfall

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