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Tale as Old as Time: Fairy Tales, Mythology and Folktales Retold – a booklist for the 2020 SRP reading theme

In preparation for the upcoming summer reading program theme Imagine Your Story, I recently spent some time working on a comprehensive booklist of fairy tale, folktale and mythology retellings. I used as my starting point this great post from Epic Reads, the source of the graphic below. I had help from my friends and fellow librarians Rachel Strolle, who blogs at Rec it Rachel ,and Mary Hinson, who blogs at Mary Had a Little Book Blog. The original Epic Reads post appeared in 2014, so together the three of us worked to add new MG and YA titles posted since that date.

Image Source: Epic Reads

For the purposes of this post I looked at MG (Middle Grade) and YA (Young Adult) titles. This is probably not a complete list so if you have titles to add, please leave a comment and let us know what age group and category the title you are mentioning would fall under. Thank you!

Various Popular Series that Cover Multiple Fairy Tales

Disney’s Twisted Fairy Tales by Liz Braswell

  • Part of Your World (The Little Mermaid)
  • As Old as Time (Beauty and the Beast)
  • Once Upon a Dream (Sleeping Beauty)
  • A Whole New World (Aladdin)
  • Straight on ‘Til Morning (Peter Pan)

Disney Villain series by Serena Valentino

  • Fairest of All (Snow White)
  • The Beast Within (Beauty and the Beast)
  • Poor Unfortunate Soul (The Little Mermaid)
  • Mistress of Evil (Sleeping Beauty)
  • Mother Knows Best (Rapunzel)
  • The Odd Sisters

Whatever After series by Sarah Mlynowski (Middle Grade)

  • Fairest of All (Snow White)
  • If the Shoe Fits (Cinderella)
  • Sink or Swim
  • Dream On
  • Bad Hair Day
  • Cold as Ice
  • Beauty Queen
  • Once Upon a Frog
  • Genie in a Bottle
  • Sugar and Spice
  • Two Peas in a Pod
  • Seeing Red
  • Spill the Beans

The Grimm Series by Adam Gidwitz (Middle Grade)

  • A Tale Dark and Grimm
  • In a Glass Grimmly
  • The Grimm Conclusion

Descendants by Melissa De La Cruz* (Middle Grade)

  • The Islde of the Lost
  • Return to the Isle of the Lost
  • Rise of the Isle of the Lost
  • Escape from the Isle of the Lost

The Kingdom Keepers by Ridley Pearson (Middle Grade)

  • Disney After Dark
  • Disney at Dawn
  • Disney in Shadow
  • Power Play
  • Shell Game
  • Dark Passage
  • The Insider

Various Fairytale Retellings and Series by Fairy Tale

Aladdin

  • The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury – Aladdin

Beauty & the Beast

  • East by Edith Pattou
  • Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George
  • Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley
  • Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
  • Spirited by Nancy Holder
  • Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier
  • The Princess and the Hound by Mette Ivie Harrison
  • Stung by Bethany Wiggins
  • The Hollow Kingdom by Clare B. Dunkle
  • Beastly by Alex Flinn
  • Beauty by Robin McKinley
  • Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
  • Beast by Brie Spangler
  • A Cruse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer
  • Of Curses and Kisses by Sandhya Menon (this book comes out in 2020)
  • Everlost (The Skinjacker series) by Neal Shusterman
  • Beastkeeper by Cat Hellison
  • Dark Triumph (His Fair Assassin) by Robin LaFevers
  • Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones
  • Bookish and the Beast by Ashley Poston
  • Among the Beasts and Briars by Ashley Poston
  • The Queen’s Council by Emma Theriault

Cinderella

The Frog Prince (The Princess and the Frog)

Goose Girl

  • Bloodleaf by Crystal Smith
  • Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
  • Thorn by Intisar Khanani

Hansel and Gretel

The Little Mermaid

Little Red Riding Hood

Rapunzel

Rumpelstiltskin

  • A Curse As Dark As Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce
  • Spinners by Donna Jo Napoli
  • Rump by Leisl Shurtliff (MG)
  • The Crimson Thread by Suzanne Weyn
  • The Wishgranter (Ravenspire #2) by C. J. Redwine

Sleeping Beauty

The Snow Queen

  • Cold Spell by Jackson Pearce
  • Winter’s Child by Cameron Dokey
  • Stork by Wendy Delsol
  • The Shadow Queen by CJ Redwine
  • Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu (MG)
  • The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman
  • The Snow Queen series by K. M. Shea
  • Stealing Snow by Daniella Page

Snow White

Snow White and Rose Red

  • Blanca y Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore
  • Circuse Rose by Betsy Cornwell

 Twelve Dancing Princesses

Other Series related to Fairy Tales or Fairy Tale Like

  • Once Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris (MG)
  • Princess Academy by Shannon Hale (MG)
  • Hamster Princess by Ursula Vernon (MG)
  • Septimus Heap by Angie Sage (MG)
  • Twice Upon a Time by Wendy Mass (MG)
  • Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke (MG)
  • The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer (MG)
  • The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani (MG, not recommended by several people for the way it discusses body image and racism)
  • The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdeah – 1,001 Nights
  • Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh – Shahrazad story
  • The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale – Grimm’s Fairy Tale (MG)
  • The Princess and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang (graphic novel)
  • The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert – General fairy tale themes
  • The Girl who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill (MG)
  • The Ever Afters series by Shelby Bach (MG)
  • Ever Cursed by Corey Ann Haydu (this book comes out in 2020)

Books about Fairies in General

  • The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
  • The Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa
  • Wicked Lovely series by Melissa Marr
  • Need series by Carrie Jones
  • Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer
  • The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare
  • Hex Hall series by Rachel Hawkins
  • The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff
  • The Folk of the Air series by Holly Black
  • Mirrorworld series by Cornelia Funke
  • The Spiderwick Chronicles by Ton DiTerlizzi (MG)
  • Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull
  • Betwixt by Tara Bray Smith
  • The Faerie Path series by Allan Frewin Jones
  • Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paoini
  • The Falconer series by Elizabeth May

Books about Dragons

  • Eragon (The Inheritance Cycle) by Christopher Paolini
  • Seraphina by Rachel Harman
  • Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
  • Firelight by Sophie Jordan
  • Talon by Julie Kagawa
  • The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede
  • Scorched by Mari Mancusi
  • The Last Dragon Chronicles by Chris d’Lacey
  • Fallen Isle series by Jodi Meadows
  • Fire & Heist by Sarah Beth Durst
  • The Aurelian Cycle (Fireborne is book #1) by Rosaria Munda
  • Spark by Sarah Beth Durst (MG)
  • The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill (MG, GN)
  • Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin (MG)
  • Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells
  • Inkmistress by Audrey Coulthurst

Books about Mermaids in General

  • The Syrena Legacy (Of Poisedon is book #1) by Anna Banks
  • Forgive My Fins by Tera Lynn Childs
  • Tempest by Tracy Deebs
  • Waterson by Amanda Hocking
  • The Siren by Kiera Cass
  • Sirena by Donna Jo Napoli
  • Waterfire Saga (Deep Blue is book #1) by Jennifer Donnelly
  • The Tail of Emily Windsnap by Liz Kessler (MG)
  • Aquamarine by Alice Hoffman
  • The Vicious Deep by Zoraida Cordova
  • Undertow series by Michael Buckley
  • A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow
  • Songs from the Deep by Kelly Powell

Books about Unicorns in General

  • The Unicorn Rescue Society by Adam Gidwitz
  • Beasts of Olympus: The Unicorn Emergency by Lucy Coats
  • The Unicorn Quest by Kamilla Benko
  • Here There Be Unicorns by Jane Yolen
  • Drink, Slay, Love by Sarah Beth Durst
  • Rampant (Killer Unicorns) by Diana Peterfreund
  • Unicorn Chronicles by Bruce Coville (MG)
  • Mirrorworld series by Cornelia Funke
  • The Dark Lord Clementine by Sarah Jean Horowitz (MG)
  • Zombies vs. Unicorns

Classic Literature and Folktale Retellings

Alice in Wonderland

East of the Sun, West of the Moon

  • East by Edith Pattou
  • Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer

Mulan

  • Reflection by Elizabeth Lim – Mulan
  • Spin the Dawn (The Blood of Stars #1)  by Elizabeth Lim (Mulan)
  • The Magnolia Sword by Sherry Thomas

Peter Pan

The Prince and the Pauper

  • Princess and the Fangirl by Ashley Poston

Robin Hood

  • Hood by Jenny Elder Moke (this book comes out in 2020)
  • Sherwood by Meagan Spooner

Other Classic Lit Retellings

  • Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige –– Retelling of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum
  • The Great Hunt by Wendy Higgins –– Retelling of The Singing Bone by the Brothers Grimm

Folktale Retellings

  • Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste – Haitian folktale “the Magic Orange Tree” (MG)
  • Paola Santiago and the River of Tears by Tehlor Kay Mejia (Mexican folklore, 2020 publication date)

MG and YA Retellings: MYTHOLOGY

African Mythology Retellings

  • Zorah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu
  • Children of Blood and Boneod and Bone (Legacy of Orisha) by Tomi Adeyemi
  • Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia (African gods) (MG)

Asian Mythology Retellings

  • Eon by Alison Goodman
  • Prophecy by Ellen Oh
  • Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon
  • The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F. C. Yee (The Monkey King)
  • The Magnolia Sword: A Ballad of Mulan by Sherry Thomas
  • A Thousand Beginning and Endings short story collection edited by Ellen Oh
  • The Dragon Warrior by Katie Zhao
  • Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee
  • Wicked Fox by Kat Cho

Egyptian Mythology Retellings

Norse Mythology Retellings

Greek / Roman Mythology Retellings

Hades and Persephone Retellings

Cupid / Psyche Myth Retellings

  • Psyche in a Dress by Francesca Lia Block
  • Destined by Jessie Harrell
  • Lovestruck by Kate Watson
  • Only Everything (True Love #1) by Kerian Scott
  • Cupidity by Caroline Goode
  • Thwonk by Joan Bauer

Helen of Troy Retellings

Rick Riordan Books

Percy Jackson & the Olympians

  1. The Lightning Thief (2005)
  2. The Sea of Monsters (2006)
  3. The Titan’s Curse (2007)
  4. The Battle of the Labyrinth (2008)
  5. The Last Olympian (2009)

The Heroes of Olympus

  1. The Lost Hero (2010)
  2. The Son of Neptune (2011)
  3. The Mark of Athena (2012)
  4. The House of Hades (2013)
  5. The Blood of Olympus (2014)

Rick Riordan Presents

  • Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi
  • The Storm Runner by J. C. Cervantes (Mayan gods)
  • Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee (Fox spirit)
  • Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez (Cuban science fiction)
  • Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia (African gods)
  • Race to the Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse (Navajo gods, not recommended by Dr. Debbie Reese)

As I mentioned above, although we put a lot of time and effort into researching this list, I’m sure we are missing titles and if you would like to add to the list please feel free to do so in the comments. Also, if you find any books that may be in the wrong category or that should not be on this list for one reason or the other, please let me know in the comments. You’ll note that there are a few titles on the list that have a note that they are not recommended, I chose to include this note rather then just leave the titles off of the list so that those who may not be aware of the concerns may investigate those concerns.

Sunday Reflections: The Curious Case of the Death of Nancy Drew

Trigger Warning: Sexual abuse and the abuse and killing of women are mentioned in this post

Nancy Drew has been on my mind a lot lately. Recently, Thing 2 found and started watching the new Nancy Drew series on the CW. So when we went to an amazing used book store on Monday, she was excited to find row upon row of Nancy Drew books. “Can I buy one?”, she asked. She walked out with two.

Anytime my child with dyslexia who hates to read asks for a book, I feel like saying no is the wrong answer. So we bought them. They sit on the top of her TBR pile, waiting to be devoured by this kid who was excited to find a female sleuth to inspire her. Ninety years later and Nancy Drew is still inspiring little girls everywhere. This matters.

Which brings us to Friday, where I stumbled across the news that for the 90th anniversary of Nancy Drew comic book writers decided to . . . kill her? And have the Hardy Boys investigate her death? So for the 90th year celebration of Nancy Drew, we are going to learn more about Nancy Drew by killing her off and letting two male characters investigate her death? I’m going to give this a no. And yes, I understand how comic books work.

Don’t get me wrong, although both of my kids love mysteries and thrillers, I live in the world of science fiction and fantasy where no one stays dead. So I get that this is just a device to sell books and tell a story. It’s just not an approach that I personally like and I would like to explain why.

Several weekends ago the girls and I sat down and tried to find a new mystery thriller to binge watch. We started three and only watched about the first 15 minutes because they all started the same. Scene: a woman is running nude and barefoot (through a forest, on a beach, down a dark street, the setting doesn’t matter) and she is bleeding and in peril. The police – more often than not a man – begin investigating her death. As a woman raising daughters, I can’t help but notice that most crimes in our media revolve around the sexual assault and murder of women. Women see a lot of female peril in the media and we live our real lives in a lot of fear of being stalked, assaulted, raped and attacked. We are most likely to be killed by a man we know, love and trust. We get it, we know that we are in peril. We don’t need the constant reminders from the media. It’s exhausting.

It feels like no one knows how to write a mystery or a story about women without involving their abuse and murder. We kill women so much in fiction – and yes, I know this is a sad reflection of real life – that I doubt anyone thought twice about killing Nancy Drew. But they should have.

Nancy Drew debuted as a fictional character in 1930. Women had only had the right to vote for 10 years at this point. And here when I say women I mean white women, women of color still wouldn’t have the right to vote until decades later. Submission and traditional feminine roles were still considered the law of the land. The core cannon of literature was (and one can argue still is) dominated by old, white men. And yet here was a teenage girl going around and investigating mysteries. It was, is and will always be revolutionary. The character of Nancy Drew matters.

Nancy Drew is an important part of the feminist movement. The fact that her stories exist is profoundly important to generations of women. And she continues to be important to all the little girls who are still finding her.

It’s also interesting to note that this newest book in which Nancy Drew dies so that the Hardy Boys can investigate her death is written by . . . men. I learned this the same week that I learned that for the past several decades the V C Andrews books were written by a man as is the completion of the most recent Jane Austen novel. There are a lot of men writing these properties that were started by and revolutionary for women.

When I talked about how upset I was about this recent development on Twitter, I got some DMS and replies that said things like, “Now you know how the Star Wars fans feel.” They were pointing out the fact that Rey dominates the recent Star Wars films and takes over the role of savior originally given to Luke Skywalker. Except if you look closely at the new Star Wars films, Rey is one character in a main cast that also involves Kylo Ren, Poe and Finn. So out of the 4 main characters of this franchise, there is one woman. Rose Tico, a woman of color, was completely sidelined in the later films. There is no lack of men in the new Star Wars universe.

What about Doctor Who being rebooted as a woman? Well, I’m a Doctor Who fan and I’m not going to lie, my girls and I love the new Doctor. We also loved all the other Doctors. There are 50 years of episodes of Doctor Who starring a male lead as a supposedly male character. Though for the record, the Doctor is in fact an alien so traditional gender conventions probably don’t apply. However, the current main cast consists of the Doctor and her 3 companions, 2 of whom are male. So when you’re looking at the male to female ratio, you have a pretty even split. But the new Doctor was introduced by killing off a black woman and the first series of Whittaker’s arc focuses more on the two men grieving their loss then it does on any of the two female leads. So in many ways, last season of Doctor Who was still prominently male focused and it started by killing off a woman to give the two male leads a story.

A lot of women have to die to give male leads backstory or motivation in our media. This is called fridging. ” A male hero’s grief in the aftermath of shocking violence against a woman is a tried-and-true element of storytelling.” (Source: https://www.vox.com/2018/5/24/17384064/deadpool-vanessa-fridging-women-refrigerators-comics-trope ) Killing Nancy Drew in her 90th anniversary issue so that the Hardy Boys can investigate her death has the potential to become an issue of fridging. And I’m tired of being in the refrigerator. And I certainly want something different for one of the most important and iconic female teens from literature.

Twenty 18th and 19th Century Female Writers to Know

But those comparisons talk about movies. So what about books? In comparison, Agatha Christie wrote her first novel in 1920. She is arguably one of the best and most prolific writers of mystery novels. But even if you look at her oeuvre, you’ll note that she often wrote about a male lead. You will recall one Hercule Poirot. She also wrote the iconic Miss Marple, though Poirot appears in more novels because it was the early 1900s and sexism was (and still is) a thing. So when you start looking at Nancy Drew contemporaries in the early 1900s, you get a better perspective on just how important Nancy Drew is.

A quick look at Wikipedia tells us that there are more than 500 Nancy Drew books. Mildred A. Wirt wrote 23 of the first 30 Nancy Drew novels under the pen name Carolyn Keene. The mere act that this girl would go out, investigate and solve mysteries, and often save the men in her life, was revolutionary. She was the female answer to and counterpoint to the Hardy Boys. So handing her anniversary story over to the Hardy Boys feels like a giant step backwards and a weird way to celebrate the Nancy Drew brand. I don’t celebrate my children and their significance to me or the culture by killing them and the idea of it would horrify you. It’s an extreme comparison, I know.

So my girls and I are going to celebrate the 90th anniversary of Nancy Drew the best way we know how. We’re going to read these inspiring books where a female teen fiercely goes out and solves mysteries. We’re going to binge watch the show on the CW. We’re going to watch the movies that have already been made. We’re going to be inspired by and celebrate a living, breathing Nancy Drew that centers her in her own narrative. And we’re going to reject more media that insists the only way to tell a good story is to kill a woman.

Book Review: Bent Heavens by Daniel Kraus

forest with reflection in lake and man silhouette; Shutterstock ID 418079275; Title: –

Publisher’s Book Description:

Liv Fleming’s father went missing more than two years ago, not long after he claimed to have been abducted by aliens. Liv has long accepted that he’s dead, though that doesn’t mean she has given up their traditions. Every Sunday, she and her lifelong friend Doug Monk trudge through the woods to check the traps Lee left behind, traps he set to catch the aliens he so desperately believed were after him.

But Liv is done with childhood fantasies. Done pretending she believes her father’s absurd theories. Done going through the motions for Doug’s sake. However, on the very day she chooses to destroy the traps, she discovers in one of them a creature so inhuman it can only be one thing. In that moment, she’s faced with a painful realization: her dad was telling the truth. And no one believed him.

Now, she and Doug have a choice to make. They can turn the alien over to the authorities…or they can take matters into their own hands.

Karen’s Thoughts:

Every once in a while, you read a book that leaves you stunned. This was one of those books for me. It is not an exaggeration when I tell you that there were a couple of moments while I was reading this book that I sat the book down and ran out to the garage where The Mr. was working and said, “Holy crud, you won’t believe what just happened.” It was mind-blowing, jaw dropping and stunningly fascinating, in truly dark and twisted ways. I’m still thinking about this book days later.

If you’re not familiar with Daniel Kraus, he writes super dark YA that is like Stephen King on steroids. Rotters is about a young boy who goes to live with his dad who is a grave robber. Scowler is about the very true terror of domestic violence. Kraus is also the man behind the middle grade Trollhunters series, which you can see on Netflix (Thing 2 has watched the entire series). So he’s not all dark all the time, but his YA is very dark. And glorious.

Liv is dealing with the loss of a father who has the distinguished honor of being the town laughingstock, having claimed to have been abducted by aliens. He’s now missing, but no one believes he has been abducted by aliens and Liv is learning to live with the truth that he is probably dead. Then she discovers a creature that may just prove her dad wasn’t crazy after all. Now in possession of this creature, Liv and her childhood friend Doug takes matters into their own hands to try and clear her father’s name and what happens next is truly stunning. And disturbing.

In Bent Heavens, Kraus explores the nature of violence and asks one of the age old questions that come up frequently in horror and science fiction: just who, exactly, are the monsters? The answer to that question involves some very truly unsettling scenes. And although the answer to that question will surprise no one, the path Kraus weaves to get us there is unlike anything I’ve read in YA for quite some time.

Like truly great literature, Kraus challenges his readers to step into the darkness and confront the bitter truths of human nature. Along the way, he weaves a visceral tale that pulls back the current on small town politics, mental health stigmas, violence, grief, and anger. It’s a wild, uncomfortable and challenging ride through the darkest parts of human nature, and it will punch you in the gut. It touches on some other important and timely topics that I can’t mention here because I don’t want to give too much away. But everything that happens does so for a reason and readers will not be disappointed. It’s some great craftsmanship and storytelling.

I need you to read it so we can talk about it. Highly recommended.

This book comes out February, 25, 2020. I read a digital arc for this review.

The Billie Eilish Readalike Playlist

Billie Eilish has been popular in my house for a while now, probably since first hearing the song Lovely back in 2018. My favorite Billie Eilish song is “You Should See Me in a Crown”, while Thing 2 seems particularly fond of “Bad Guy”. So the other day, as I watched a group of pre-teen and teen girls choreograph a dance to a Billie Eilish song, I had a moment of inspiration: I wonder if I could create a reading RA list based on Billie Eilish songs. So I sat down and started researching her various songs and what they meant. It turns out, there are websites that help you do this.

I then started getting serious about this project. I even turned it into an RA sheet for my work. So what follows is a list of a variety of YA books based on theme and song that teens may enjoy reading if they like the music of Billie Eilish. This was a fun list to create, and it is by no means complete. It only touches on a few of her songs and even on those songs there are a lot more books we could add. So if you have some titles you would like to add, please feel free to do so.

Books About Toxic Relationships

“Bad Guy”, “When the Party’s Over” and several other Billie Eilish songs are about toxic relationships, both romantic and friendships. So here are a few YA books about toxic relationships that your teens may be interested in reading.

You Should See Me in a Crown

“You Should See Me in a Crown” is inspired by the BBC series Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch. In it Andrew Scott, also known as the Hot Priest from Fleabag, plays Moriarty, Sherlock’s arch-nemesis. At one point he proclaims, “you should see me in a crown.” The rest is history. The series is a lot of fun and was extremely popular, I even had a very successful Sherlock party at the time. So here are a bunch of Sherlock retellings or books that are Sherlock Holmes like that teen readers will find interesting.

Books About Mental Health and Depression

One of Billie Eilish’s early hits was a song called “lovely” that she sings with Khalid. It’s a very melancholy song about mental health and depression and it appears on the soundtrack for the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. The title began kind of as a kind of sarcastic nod to how depressing the song is. While listening to it someone said, “oh how lovely” and the rest, as they say, is history. Here a few YA books about mental health and depression that your teens may like.

Dark Books about Dark People doing Dark Things

“Belly Ache” and “Bad Guy” are told from the point of view of monsters, whether that means psychopaths or literal monsters depends on the song. Billie Eilish has stated in many interviews that she likes to write songs that tell the story from the point of view from the monster under your bed. Here are several YA books that are about psychopaths and monsters.

Climate Change

Billie Eilish is an advocate for knowing and working to fix climate change. The topic of climate change appears in her most recent video “All the Good Girls Go to Hell”. Here are a few YA fiction titles on climate change that teens may be interested in reading. If you are Googling for additional titles, you may want to also search under the term “cli-fi”, which is a shortened version of climate change.

Basically Dark, Twisted and Kind of Awesome

If you had to describe Billie Eilish’s aesthetic, you might say she is basically dark, twisted and a lot of fun. So here are a bunch of YA books that are basically dark, twisted and a lot of fun. I like to think that Billie Eilish would like these books and recommend them to her fans.

Cindy Crushes Programming: March Madness Bracketology

Background: Basketball is my favorite sport. I was lucky enough to live in Joliet, IL which is just an hour away from Chicago. I grew up watching the Chicago Bulls during their prime. It was a magical time.

I also am a Kansas Jayhawk. I went to the University of Kansas for a short while and both my parents and sister went there. The University of Kansas is one of the premier basketball schools in the country. The first Kansas coach was Dr James Naismith who actually invented the game of basketball and KU houses the Original Rules of Basketball.

What is March Madness?

March Madness is the NCAA basketball tournament (Men’s and Women’s) of which the winner is the national champion. Currently the tournament includes the top 68 teams in the country. 32 of the teams are the winners of the conference tournaments held in March which get automatic bids. The rest are picked by rankings and their strength of schedule. It is always hard to figure who is in and who is out. The champion is crowned in April.

Here is the link to the NCAA page about the bracket. It has a nice video that gives more information about how the tournament runs. I also have last year’s bracket so you can get a better idea of how the bracket will look.

https://www.ncaa.com/news/basketball-men/ncaa-bracket-march-madness

How to create a program:

This is hard to program time wise. You have to wait until selection Sunday to do the Men’s Bracket. The Women’s Bracket is released the following Monday. Games for the Men’s Tournament actually start that Tuesday night. I like to have the program start on that Tuesday so I can have the participants both brackets that night.  The Women’s Bracket is not as challenging. The University of Connecticut women have won six times in the last decade. It takes away a lot of upsets. This year should be more interesting as UCONN already is projected to be a second seed instead of a number one seed. Baylor beat UCONN at home which snapped their home winning streak of 98 games. Brackets come out for the men on March 15 and Women March 16.

Steps

  1. Print out brackets.  I like to use CBS Sports Brackets because I think they usually have the best bracket or Yahoo Sports Brackets.
  2. Bring a lot of pencils. You need to make sure the teens will be able to erase.
  3. I like to talk about the history of college basketball and explain what the brackets mean. Each of the four brackets has a number one seed. These are the best teams in the country. The 16th seeds are the worst. The Number 16 team plays the Number 1 team in the first game up. Until 2018 a Number One Seed had never lost to a Number 16. In the Men’s Bracket in 2018 University of Maryland Baltimore County (16) beat Virginia(1).
  4. Explain how to fill out their brackets. Please look over the bracket before you hand them out so you know how to fill them out. For the play in the games I have them circle who they believe will win. For the rest of the games I have them write in t their winners. This part takes the most time. A lot of the teens have no idea how to fill it out. I tell them they can pick different ways. I always like the cutest mascot. It really can work well. I make sure to tell them to not always pick the higher team in the bracket because they are always upsets. I check handwriting on this part because it is really important that you can read them.
  5. I always like to end the program playing a One Shining Moment video which is the song they play at the end of the tournament.

After the program: I like to have a prize for the teen who had the best bracket. This means waiting until after the Championship Game. I do a simple scoring which I give each right answer one point but you can do it a lot of ways such as one point for round 1 and 2 and then up the points for the later rounds. This is subjective. I make them write a score for the final game to be a tie breaker but have never had to use it.  I call the winner and give them a random prize.

Final Thoughts: This was an easy program for me since I know a lot about basketball. If you are doing it for the first time, I do recommend learning more about the tournament to be prepared to help the teens. There are often questions. The teens who like sports love to do this program and try to out basketball trivia on me which is fun.

Editor’s Note: You can also use the March Madness bracket format to do a book themed program. Here’s an older post about this.

The Soundtrack of Our Lives: The Teen and I Discuss what Musical Theater Means to Theater Teens and Why Librarians Should, and Can, Care

There are a lot of different ways to tell a story and books are just one of them. No one was more surprised then me when The Teen signed up for musical theater in the 7th grade. I have no talent to pass on and this child of mine is introverted and shy so it never occurred to me that in theater, she would find herself and her people. She is now a junior and I have seen her perform in 6 musicals, 6 plays, and win 2 awards. More than that, it has been my greatest parental joy to see her happy, fulfilled, working hard, succeeding and just finding herself.

The Teen in Sweeney Todd

She is one of many teens who find themselves in theater. Theater kids are her friends and her family. And like many teens around our world, they speak a lot in musicals. Today she has put together this list of her and her friends favorite songs from the musicals that speak to them and shares what they mean to her. Want to know about teens and what they’re thinking about? Don’t forget about the theater kids.

The Teen’s Musical Playlist

A list of songs from various musicals and why they matter.

Dead Mom from Beetlejuice

This musical is very easy to relate to. A lot of people have lost someone who they loved and relied on. It can be hard for people to talk about that but this song really captures how it feels to experience a lose.

She Used to Be Mine from Waitress

This musical is truly beautiful. It talks about wishing you could go back and change the things that you did in the past because you aren’t living a happy life. As the musical progresses the main character begins to accept that she made mistakes and realize that who she has become is enough.

In My Dreams from Anastasia

This song is just so extraordinary. It sounds so amazing and the singer has a stunning voice.

Lifeboat from Heather

This song gives us insight into the life of one of the Heathers. Se talks about how she wishes she didn’t have to be the way she was but she feels like she has no choice.

I Don’t Need Your Love from Six

This musical is so fun and it actually talks about something important. This musical is about the six wives of Henry the VIII. This song is about his last wife and she sings about how she shouldn’t be known for who her husband was because she was so much more than that.

In the Air Tonight from American Psycho

This musical sounds super cool and the Eleventh Doctor is in it. It is a very violent show but if you look past that it has some really awesome music.

I Like It from A Bronx Tale

This musical is very underrated. It has some amazing music and it talks about how greed can lead to so many problems.

Mama Who Bore Me from Spring Awakening

This song has so much depth. It sounds so meaningful and it has so much heart.

Wait for Me from Hadestown

Amazing voices, amazing choreography, and amazing set. Just an all around amazing performance and show.

Rockin’ Jerusalem from Choir Boy

This may not technically be a musical but the songs are beautiful. Every voice is meant to be heard.

Turn it Off from The Book of Mormon

This song is hilarious. It is absolutely ridiculous and so fun. You can’t help but sing along.

High Adventure from Aladdin

This musical is fun and this song is even more fun. It makes you want to go on a high adventure.

Requiem from Dear Evan Hansen

This is my favorite song from the whole musical. It talks about how the sister of the boy who committed suicide can’t feel sad about losing him because he really wasn’t that good to them. It sounds so enchanting and it makes me cry every time.

One Normal Night from The Addams Family

If you love the movie then there is a good chance that you will love this musical. It really adds a fun little extra bit to the family.

City on Fire from Sweeney Todd

The Teen and cast sing City on Fire from Sweeney Todd

After doing this show I always find myself thinking about this song. It was awful to learn how to sing because it’s all over the place but it was so fun.

Tradition from Fiddler on the Roof

This musical made me mad when it ended but the opening really sets up for a spectacular show.

Think of Me from The Phantom of the Opera

All of the songs in the show are amazing and this musical will always be a classic.

Tango: Maureen from Rent

Everyone knows the opening song for this musical but this song is also amazing.

No Me Diga from In the Heights

This is one of the most funny songs from the show. It is just so fun to sing along to.

Cell Block Tango from Chicago

This song is known by everyone in theatre. It makes you want to be in jail just so you could do something like this.

A Few More Thoughts from a Teen Librarian on Public Libraries and Musical Theater

You’ll notice that she left Hamilton off of this list. Make no mistake, we went through our Hamilton phase and wore that soundtrack out. Hamilton singalongs were and are a ton of fun. I’ve even done a few High School Musical singalongs when the movie was popular. These are just a few ways you can incorporate musical theater into your teen services.

Want to know how you can incorporate musical theater into your programming and support local teens and your local schools? Start networking with your local drama teacher and ask them to do a special sneak peek of upcoming musicals at your library. They can sing a couple of songs in costume, do a meet and greet, and generate PR while you get some fun, arts based, and community networked programming. You don’t need scenes or props, just local teens in costume singing a couple of songs to generate interest and community support. On the occasions when I have worked in libraries that did this, they were tremendously successful. You have a somewhat built in audience because every kid that comes and performs will bring some parents and friends with them.

Drama by Raina Telgemeier is a fun book about teens and theater

You can also find out far enough in advance what those upcoming high school musicals are to make read-alike book lists, put up displays, and help promote community events. YA Librarian Cindy Shutts and coworkers have started a great series of Broadway Booklists to help get your started: Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, Hadestown, and Prom: The Musical. You can bundle the books on the lists with the soundtracks and the movie if they’re available and make binge kits and circulating bundles.

There are also a lot of book lists out there for tweens and teens who love musical theater. You’ll definitely want to check out the classic No More Dead Dogs by Gordon Korman about a young boy who turns a book report into a musical theater rock opera . . . on roller skates. Goodreads has a book list of 63 YA titles that deal with theater, not just musical theater.

You can do workshops, viewings, singalongs and more. Teach teens how to use technology to create their own playlists. Set up a music writing station as suggested by Mary Amato in this post. Circulate ukuleles. Make-up, costuming, graphic design and more are all ways that you can incorporate musical theater and theater in general into your library programming. Network with your local schools, community theaters, and your very own teens.

And Scene . . .

The Teen writing her musical playlist list for you

Before writing this post, The Teen, Thing 2 and I just finished watching High School Musical, The Musical, The Show on Disney+. The Teen cried through the last two episodes because it captured perfectly everything that musical theater means to her. It’s about the grit that is required when life throws you every curve ball, because as you know, the show must go on. It’s also about finding your family, which I am so glad happens for these kids.

Teens crave ways to express themselves creatively, they crave finding a place that they can belong and feel comfortably accepted as self, and they thrive when they are supported by the adults in their lives and their communities. Supporting the arts and bringing them into our libraries in creative ways can make all of this happen.

Book Review: Jane Anonymous by Laurie Faria Stolarz, a teen review

Publisher’s Book Description:

Bestselling author Laurie Faria Stolarz returns with Jane Anonymous, a gripping tale of a seventeen-year-old girl’s kidnapping and her struggle to fit back into her life after she escapes.

Then, “Jane” was just your typical 17-year-old in a typical New England suburb getting ready to start her senior year. She had a part-time job she enjoyed, an awesome best friend, overbearing but loving parents, and a crush on a boy who was taking her to see her favorite band. She never would’ve imagined that in her town where nothing ever happens, a series of small coincidences would lead to a devastating turn of events that would forever change her life.

Now, it’s been three months since “Jane” escaped captivity and returned home. Three months of being that girl who was kidnapped, the girl who was held by a “monster.” Three months of writing down everything she remembered from those seven months locked up in that stark white room. But, what if everything you thought you knew―everything you thought you experienced―turned out to be a lie? 

The Teen’s Thoughts:

I always love it when my teenage daughter talks with me about a book she’s read. She reads a lot, but she doesn’t always talk about the books she reads. When she does come and talk to me about it a book, it either means it’s really good or really bad. We’re very passionate people, us Jensens. The Teen talked to me at length about this book, using words like “intense”, “engaging”, and “enthralling”. She told me that she has “never read a book like this before.” And when you’ve read as many YA books as she has, that is high praise indeed.

She spent a good half hour telling me every detail about this book and it prompted a lot of good conversation for us both. We’ve talked a lot about psychology, mental health, ptsd, and more. I love it when a book becomes the basis for important and meaningful conversations. As a family that struggles with various mental health issues, this prompted a lot of important and meaningful conversation for us about mental health.

I also always note the speed at which she reads a book. A slow read means it’s not as engaging. This book she picked up and couldn’t put down. She read it in the car as we were driving to the store, stayed up late reading it, and finished it within two days. This was a can’t put it down book for her.

Highly recommended.

DIY Stop Motion Book Trailers Using Giffer

My library recently put out a call asking for staff to help promote our most circulated titles for 2019 in several categories. Seeing as how I have a deep love and devotion to YA literature, I quickly put together stop motion mini-book trailers for our top 5 circulating titles for 2019. As my library shared them I retweeted them and a lot of people contacted me to ask me how I made them and the answer is: Giffer.

The Giffer app allows you to make quick and easy Gifs which you can share on social media. You can get the Giffer Pro version for $2.99 in the App store, which is the version that I have. It does most of the work for you and it’s pretty quick and easy to learn and use. I have used it several times to make short promo pieces, Lego mini-movies, and more. I’ve tried several different options and this is my go-to app because of how quick and easy it is to use.

To make my little movies I used three things: a pad of Post It notes, a Sharpie, and my cell phone.

I looked up some of my favorite quotes from each title and wrote them on their own Post It. I then took a photo of each quote and saved it. I also took a photo of the book, which I pulled from our collection. There were a couple of titles that were checked out so I printed off a copy of the cover and used that photo.

Then I found a picture I wanted to draw for each title. For Turtles All the Way Down by John Green, I drew a turtle. I looked up how to draw a simple turtle and went through each step, taking a new photo each step of the process. It looked something like this.

For The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas I wanted to draw a rose growing up out of the concrete, as quoted in the book. It looked something like this.

After taking my photos, I uploaded them into Giffer. Giffer allows you to rearrange the order, slow down or speed up the timing, etc. You then just publish your Gif and it gives you a sharing link.

Here’s my Turtles All the Way Down by John Green stop motion promo thingy: https://giffer.co/g/xoDDzlfc.gif

And here it is tiled and filling the entire screen: https://giffer.co/g/xoDDzlfc/tiled

And here’s my The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas stop motion promo thingy: https://giffer.co/g/ZgAssZer

The sharing link gives you an option to download the Gif when you select the three dots on the right hand side of the screen. Downloading the Gif allows you to share it on social media or in a post like this so that it’s right there and your viewers don’t have to click to a separate page.

I’m obviously no artist but I like to think that it’s part of the charm. I made 5 Gifs in around 10 minutes. It cost me absolutely nothing because I already owned the app and I had fun posts to share with our readers on social media withing a half hour of being asked to help with this promotion.

If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to promote books, I’m a fan.

Sunday Reflections: Everything I Learned about Team Building I Learned from a Teen Theater Production

The Teen was recently involved in an all student led local theater UIL production. What this means is that at her high school 5 students put together UIL type One Act plays and competed against their peers. The production was entirely student led from start to finish, although adults were the judges. The students had to submit a vision board to have their play selected for the competition. They then cast, blocked, and directed the entire play, including doing their stage sets, music and lighting, and more. It was an amazing event to witness, especially when you consider that this was being done entirely by 15, 16, 17 and 18 year-olds.

My daughter was cast as Catherine, the lead in a play called Proof. Proof is about a young woman struggling with grief, depression and a family history of mental illness. It is also about the ways we view women in STEM fields. You see, Catherine’s father was a mathematical genius and after his death a world changing mathematical proof is found. Everyone assumes her father did the proof, but Catherine is the author, except no one believes she is capable of the work. It’s a moving and thoughtful play with a small cast, only 4 people ever take the stage.

To make this play happen, these teens rehearsed almost every day for about 6 weeks. And along the way the student director did a lot of intentional activities to help build a tight, cohesive team. These kids did PowerPoint presentations breaking down their characters. They explored costuming together. They rehearsed and then they rehearsed some more. They worked hard to make sure they understood the play itself, the characters, and every moment that was happening on the stage.

Forbes: Why Team Building is the Most Important Investment You’ll Make

But their team building went beyond just analyzing the play and included things to build up, encourage and uplift one another as people and actors. At the beginning of the play production, each team member – and the team involved tech crew as well as the actors – wrapped a piece of string around each other’s ankles while giving them a compliment. This is called a compliment web. The teens all wore these strings around their ankles for the entire 6 weeks that they were working on the project. The strings served as a reminder that they were part of something meaningful and that the people they were working with believed in them. The Teen now has the string in a memory box as it means a lot to her.

The Definitive Guide to Team Building

They also did things like compliment walks, where before rehearsals they would each compliment members of their teams. They did fun runs, where they would practice the play but in a fun way. Like everyone had to do the their dialogue with a twangy accent or with a funny walk. They’re still practicing their lines and blocking, but it’s fun and breaks up the monotony of a straight run through.

The morning of the actual competition that cast and crew met together at a local restaurant for breakfast. They didn’t go over last minute notes or rehearse their lines, they just talked to one another as human beings who were bonded over this shared project that meant a lot to them.

As a mom and a librarian who has been both an employee and a manager, I was really impressed to see how these teens seem to understand the necessity for and importance of team building. I’ve working in libraries who failed miserably at this concept and could have learned a lot from these teens. And it made a difference, I feel like these kids will have this shared, positive experience for a lifetime. It’s also interesting to note that all 4 of the cast members got awards for their performance, including The Teen who won best actress, and the play as a whole took the first place prize for this event. I can’t help but think that the team building that went on behind the scenes is just as important to their success as the rehearsals that went into this production.

And I’m not here to suggest that these are the only ways to do team building. For one, in a paid employee environment, it is wrong and in many states illegal to ask staff to do any unpaid work for their job. So team building in a professional work environment should be done on the clock, which doesn’t mean it has to be in the building or sterile. But as we go into 2020, I think we should all be thinking more about how to build our teams, how to improve morale, and how to make our work places a place where our staff feel cared for, motivated, and successful.

Here’s what I learned about Team Building from these teens:

  1. It is intentional
  2. It balances constructive feedback with compliments and affirmations
  3. It allows for fun and positive experiences
  4. It encourages a deeper understanding of not just the how but the why; the meaning and significance of a project is explored
  5. It promotes positive feelings among the team for each other and the project they are working on

Sometimes, adults can learn a lot from teens.

Cindy Crushes Programming: Hosting a Starfinder RPG, an interview with Nicholas Vidmar

We’re kicking off the new year with a fresh installment of Cindy Crushes Programming. Today YA librarian Cindy Shutts interviews adult librarian Nicholas Vidmar. Together, the two of them host a successful Starfinder program at White Oak Library. Starfinder is a role playing game (rpg) similar to Dungeons and Dragons, but with a more science fiction setting.

Background: At the White Oak Library in Romeoville we have been running an RPG (Role-Playing Game) called Starfinder. I help run this program with Nicholas Vidmar who is an adult services librarian. He takes the role of GM (Game Master) and runs the game. I help out by making the connections with our teens and bringing them to the table and I also play during the game to help make sure we can finish a scenario. Nicolas plays a variety of RPG games. He paints his own figures. We are lucky to have him because he brings a lot of his own materials to make the game run smoothly. Starfinder is a great RPG game, if you have played Dungeons and Dragons and are looking for something new.  Nicholas calls it Guardians of the Galaxy D and D.  I interviewed Nicholas about Starfinder and how librarians can add it to their programming. 

Starfinder Interview:

How long have you been playing role playing games and what are some of your favorites?

Nicholas: I was introduced to TTRPGS (Tabletop Role Playing Game Systems) about 5 years ago. There was a struggle getting into it as I played my first game in (Dungeons &  Dragon v3.5) for two very rough sessions then did not touch the genre for 6 months before I got invited to a 5th edition game that died after 3 sessions. Then I started GMing to keep games alive and have been running weekly games since. I have the most time put into 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons, but since Starfinder’s release two years ago it has rapidly become my favorite. Aside from these two I also play/run Pathfinder, Shadowrun, Dark Heresy, Zweihander, and the occasional game of Kobolds Ate My Baby.

What supplies do you need for a Starfinder program at your library? About how much does the program cost?

Nicholas: This can vary greatly. If you run absolute basics, you can have everything for up to 10 players for about $20 plus some printing costs. The basics consist of a set of 7 dice per player (d20, d12,d10,d10,d8,d6,d4), a character sheet (free online), writing implement, and the rule book. Pathfinder and Starfinder stand apart from many TTRPGS because the whole ruleset, not just basic rules, is available free online because of an open game license. If you were to buy the books, still something I would recommend, they each run between $40-$60. Though a one-time investment, this cost does make TTRPGS more cost prohibitive. To move up from basics, the next recommended items are a GM screen and a battle mat. The screen gives the GM quick reference and hides his/her notes and rolls from the players. A battle mat is a one inch grid set on the table to help players visualize combat. Starfinder is unusual in that it requires both a square and hex grid. The cheapest mat is a roll of wrapping paper, many have a grid printed on the back. Once you have a mat, then you can get into minis, the most expensive and superfluous part of the game. Most of these resources are good for many games, so there are no ongoing costs except new character sheets.

How long is set up and what does it entail?

Nicholas: So TTRPGS have two layers of set up: pre game, and at the table. Before the game: characters need to be made, the rules learned, and an adventure planned. How long these take depend on the division of labor and type of GM. Players can make their own characters, or leave it to the GM if they find the rules confusing. It takes about an hour to make a fully fleshed out and kitted supplied character. Pregenerated characters are also available for certain levels. For Starfinder there are about 50 pages of tactical rules and supplements on other aspects of the game. Having a general knowledge of this content is important to keep the game running, but you can also reference the rules midgame. Lastly there is the process of planning the adventure. This can be extremely meticulous if you need to know every possible outcome of potential player actions, or a non-existent step if the GM is comfortable winging it. Generally it is agreed that a middle ground of an adventure framework with flexibility to accommodate crazy player choices is the best option. At the table the GM needs to set up the battle mat and the resources they need to run the planned game. Printed out stat blocks, minis, dice, GM screen, etc. Players just show up and get out their character sheet, dice, and a mini if they have one. Usually this takes 15-20 minutes.

What types of storylines are in Starfinder?

Nicholas: Starfinder is a Science Fantasy setting so you have aliens, spaceships and laser weapons alongside Elves and magic. This allows for a huge variety of adventures. You can go from starship combat to raiding an ancient temple on a forgotten world, to navigating the servers of a corrupt corporation to bring them to light. I personally fancy the derelict space drift where something went wrong; a little mystery, and little horror, sometimes an ethical dilemma, and often some really abominable creatures. It can also be as light hearted as playing a bunch of friendly furballs trying to make sure their boss is safe, if that sounds fun go play Skittershot, a fantastic introductory adventure published by Paizo.

What is the difference between Starfinder and Dungeons and Dragons?

Nicholas: The setting is different. It is a different world in a different time. D&D is high/epic fantasy while Starfinder is science fantasy. Overlap does exist, 5th edition has aliens, looking at you Froghemoth, and Starfinder has fantasy races. Still the focus on technology is a significant difference. Classes and mechanics are even further apart. There are minor parallels like Envoy to Bard and Solider to Fighter, but otherwise classes are entirely apart. It is a preference of flavor here. Starfinder is more mechanically complex than 5th edition, more actions have rules supporting them. They are both still d20 systems and so have inescapable parallels, but how the numbers get modified varies. 5th edition uses rerolls while Starfinder uses numeric modifiers, yes that means more math.

How did they teens like Starfinder?

Nicholas: Many loved the setting and possible character concepts, like a psionic psychedelic space walrus named Phoomph Debloomp. There was a great deal of excitement over getting to fly a starship. The teens were split on the increased complexity. Some thought it was awesome to see so many factors making them powerful, but others felt limited because they could not roll to win. Not every system is for every player, but there is an RPG for everyone.

What is your favorite part of Starfinder?

Nicholas: The setting has me hooked, and starship combat is a treat.

What would you like librarians who are trying new RPG systems to know?

Nicholas: It is a front loaded endeavor; the prep work to start is heavy. This means that one off programs are a poor choice if you are running in house. If the program is recurring it is fantastic because the cost and effort drop to very minimal levels. Eventually, players can take up the reigns and the program can become self-sustaining. It can also buff circs as the rule books are easy recommendations coming off the game. I will also caution others of the Chaotic Stupid archetype that is rampant among new players. TTRPGS are cooperative, but often new players want to be evil for the sake of evil. This is very bad for the health of the table and can quickly kill the interest of other good players and then kill the program.

What are your final thoughts on Starfinder as a whole?

Nicholas: Starfinder is great for its fun guardians of the galaxy style, colorful setting, and mid-range mechanical depth. It may not be the best system to introduce players to TTRPGS due to this depth, but the crunch will appeal to some players. There are plenty of unique aspects to get hooked on while playing.

TTRPGS have an immense breadth and while Starfinder is my personal favorite, I will always say to look beyond and see what else is out there. There are so many iterations that it may take a bit to find one that resonates with you and your patrons.

See Also: So You Want to Play Dungeons and Dragons in Your Library