Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Cindy Crushes Programming: DIY Lip Scrubs

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

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


Mint Lip Scrub

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

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

Step Three: Add ½ teaspoon of grapeseed oil.

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

Cinnamon Lip Scrub

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

Step two: add ½ teaspoon cinnamon powder.

Step Three: Mix all the ingredients together.

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

Brown Sugar and Vanilla Lip Scrub

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

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

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

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

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

DIY Gnome Trophy for a Game of Gnomes

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


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

Total Cost of Gnome Trophy: $20.00

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

Finding a Gnome

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

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

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

Painting Your Gnome

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

Turning Your Plant Pot into a Trophy Base

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

Putting It all Together

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some of the games we include in our rotation are:

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

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

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

Sunday Reflections: What I’ve Been Learning about Childhood Trauma and Librarianship

After the lights go out on the stage and the audience has long left the theater, the actors on the stage remain. They have to reset the scenery and put props in the beginning places and hang up costumes so the performance can be repeated again the next day. Even if a performance ends at 9:30 at night the kids on the stage often won’t be ready to go home for hours. And for those teens that don’t yet drive, their parents wait in the parking lot or at home by the phone until they get the message that they are finally ready to go home, exhausted and hungry yet sometimes still with hours of homework to complete and tests to study for.

As my teenage daughter walked out to the car where her father waited a week ago, it was dark and cold and she was one of the last teens to leave. As she approached the car she saw the door standing open and her father laying on the ground. She wasn’t sure yet what was wrong but he did manage to tell her to call her mom. Which she did. And as soon as I heard her crying and telling me, “Mommy, there’s something wrong with Daddy.”, I jumped into the car and raced back to the school. That night would change us all.

Thankfully, as she waited, a car full of people stopped and asked her if she needed help. Which she desperately did. They called 911 and I arrived just minutes before the ambulance did. What I saw will haunt me for a really long time. I see my husband sitting there slumped over, fighting to breathe, and holding his left arm in unnatural ways every time I close my eyes. I can’t imagine what she sees at night when the darkness seems to want to haunt you with your worst fears and memories.

I was barely equipped to handle the events of last Saturday night at the age of 46. I can’t imagine what it was like for a 17-year-old.

The Teen and her Dad. He’s a really great Dad.

It’s been a really rough week to be a Jensen. There have been medical tests and a lot of uncertainty and trying to unpack the emotional fall out of knowing that everything in your universe has just shifted. The ground seems less stable now, less assure of itself. This beloved husband and father seems so much more precious now because we just don’t know what this means for him, for us, for our family. The silence in the uncertainty is deafening.

My Dad was visiting to see the play when all of this happened. For the last year and a half now my Dad has been fighting some serious health battles of his own. My kids went and saw him in ICU a little over a year ago and we thought for sure that would be the last time we saw him. Every time we see him, and he lives in another state so it isn’t that often, we know that this time is most likely going to be the last time. So the weekend was already heavy with emotion and medical trauma.

American Library Association: Toward a Trauma-Informed Model

I’ve been reading a lot lately about trauma informed librarianship. School Library Journal recently ran an article about the topic. I’ve seen it mentioned in some other places. I even joined a Facebook group that discusses trauma informed librarianship. I was already thinking a lot about childhood trauma and trauma informed librarianship when my family, my kids, faced their own medical trauma this past week.

Where Healing Happens: Librarians Adopt Trauma-Informed Practices To Help Kids

Trauma informed librarianship asks us all to recognize the fact that at any time any of our patrons may be experiencing their own trauma and that knowledge should inform how we approach librarianship and our patrons. Studies have shown that trauma can literally rewire the brain. It has long lasting effects. Focus For Health shares the following infographic about Childhood Trauma:

My daughter is doing okay. We talk about what’s happening and are trying to help her process the shock of walking out and seeing her father in desperate need of medical care. She has a strong family unit that loves and supports her. Because she has some anxiety issues, she already has a counselor in place so she too can help process recent events.

But I’ve worked with so many kids, so many teens, who don’t have any of those resources in place. Teens living in abusive homes. Teens living in a constant state of hunger and uncertainty. Teens living on the street. Teens who have no one to tell them that they are loved and safe and to help them process moments. Teens whose brains are being rewired and who will feel the long term effects of their childhood trauma long after they are no longer children. They will become adults who have a hard time forming long-term meaningful relationships, who live with a heightened sense of fear and anxiety even when they are living successful lives. They will become adults who are addicts because they chose to self medicate in a world where our medical care is woefully inadequate, especially when it comes to mental health care. It haunts me knowing that some of the kids I see coming into my library today will become the homeless adult who sits outside my library in the darkest hours of the night.

I have noticed in my professional discussions recently that a lot of libraries are backing away some from dedicated teen services and I fear this. I fear it for a lot of reasons, because I know that the key to building lifelong learners and library users is to provided dedicated teen services. But I also fear it because it’s just another way that our society sends teens the message that they are too hard, too difficult, and too challenging. I fear it because we will become another institution telling teens that there is no place for them here. I fear it because at the exact moment in their lives where teens need someone to say that we understand your unique needs and we care about meeting them successfully, we are saying the exact opposite.

Teens need communities that care about them. They need to know that they are valued and understood and supported. They need community organizations to do the work of helping them successfully navigate adolescence. Libraries used to be one of those places and more and more, I see libraries backing away from this and I fear what the long term effects will be.

Teens need adults and spaces that care about them. I hope that libraries will continue to be one of those spaces. For some of the teens in our communities, it will literally be the difference between life and death.

PS. The Mr. is doing pretty okay. We have had a lot of tests and are talking with doctors to figure out what happened and what it means in the long term, but he’s doing pretty okay.

Cindy Crushes Programming: Fairy Tale Hairbows

Hair bows are popular with the tween sensation JoJo Siwa leading the way. A lot of my teens love fairy tales and with Frozen II about to be released I decided to combine the two.


I used a smaller ribbon like a 2.5cm. Then I tried bigger ribbons, but because I made them by hand it was easier with small ones. I used gold ribbon for Beauty and the Beast, mermaid scales ribbon for The Little Mermaid, and light blue for Cinderella.

Flat Alligator Hair Clips with Teeth

Accent buttons

Hot glue gun and sticks.

This video helped me a lot. Watch the video.

Step One: Cut the ribbon. I used about 2 feet of ribbon in each bow. It really depends on the type of ribbon. I used mermaid scales ribbon and it was thicker so it needed to be longer than a thinner ribbon.

Step Two: Wrap the ribbon around your forefinger and middle finger two times so you have two loops, but you have to keep your fingers spread apart. The hanging part of the ribbon will be the one length of one side of the ribbon. You have to make sure it is not too short. I will say this hurt my fingers a little. I have tiny fingers and I think people with longer fingers would have an easier go.

Step Three: Once you wrap it around your fingers two times the part of ribbon you are wrapping should be at the button. You will wrap it behind the two loops and thread it through the part nearest the hand. This will make a temporary third loop.

Step  Four: You then bring the ribbon around and thread it through the new third loop. You will need the part of the ribbon you are threading through on the side of the fingers that are facing you.

Step Five: Tighten the ribbon with the side you have been wrapping through. Do not use the dangling part from the beginning because that will unravel the whole ribbon.

Step Six: Slowly and carefully push the ribbon up your fingers to take it off. This is a difficult because if you take it off too fast it might unravel. I lost a few example bows when doing this too quickly.

Step Seven: Pull the bows apart and fluff them up.

Step Eight: Trim the ribbon with scissors. Fold the end of the ribbon in half and cut it diagonally. Watch to make sure you keep it even on both ends of the ribbon.

Step Nine: Attach the Flat Alligator Hair Clips with Teeth to the back of the bow. I used a hot glue gun, but this is a slow step and be careful not to use too much glue to make your bow to look cute.

Step Ten: Accent button: I used a rose button for Beauty and the Beast, but I cut off the back of the button before I hot glued it. For The Little Mermaid I used a seashell button.

Final Thoughts: This craft is for a smaller group. I had to help a lot of my teens with their first one. I showed the video to the group to help them visualize how to make the bows. I really liked it and had a large group. The perfect group size would have been 15 instead of 20.

Sick Kids in Love: A Look at Chronic Illness in the Life of Teens

Approximately 20 million kids and teens are living with a chronic illness. Roughly 40% of the population is living with a chronic illness. A chronic illness can last anywhere from 3 months to a lifetime and includes things like mental illness, diabetes, cerebral palsy, asthma, epilepsy and rheumatoid arthritis, just to name a few. They can be mildly uncomfortable and inconveniencing to incredibly painful and radically life changing. They can be both seen or unseen, meaning that many kids and teens are suffering and we may not ever know it because they don’t talk to us about it.

Adolescence and Chronic Illness

Sick Kids in Love is the story of two teens living with chronic illness and falling in love. Unlike the popular cancer stories of the early 2000s – I’m looking at you John Green – these kids don’t die. But they are living their lives with chronic illness, one is visible and the other is invisible. Isabel has Rheumatoid Arthritis and Sasha has Gaucher Disease. This sets up some interesting dynamics because although both teens clearly suffer from chronic illness, how they are treated and talked to and about are very different.

As the two fall in love, they are met with the every day challenges of normal adolescence compounded by the reality of living with chronic illness. They don’t just meet and fall in love, they have to learn how to be in a relationship together, something that a lot of YA lit doesn’t actually dive into that fully.

This book is moving, touching, and although the main characters may not die in the end, they will often still manage to make you ugly cry. It’s a huge step forward in disability representation in YA lit and highly recommended.

Publisher’s Book Description:

Isabel has one rule: no dating.
It’s easier–
It’s safer–
It’s better–
–for the other person.
She’s got issues. She’s got secrets. She’s got rheumatoid arthritis.
But then she meets another sick kid.
He’s got a chronic illness Isabel’s never heard of, something she can’t even pronounce. He understands what it means to be sick. He understands her more than her healthy friends. He understands her more than her own father who’s a doctor.
He’s gorgeous, fun, and foul-mouthed. And totally into her.
Isabel has one rule: no dating.
It’s complicated–
It’s dangerous–
It’s never felt better–
–to consider breaking that rule for him. 

Library Events That Bring Stories to Life, a guest post by L M Preston

When I was young, I would spend hours in the library. Although, I loved reading, story time, interactive events and recreations of stories were some of my best memories. As an author, I’ve created those events at various libraries. Kids love hands on, and becoming one with stories. To bring stories to life within the library doesn’t take a lot of effort. It takes imagination. Kids are open and eager to make believe, and the libraries are the best places for them to experience new stories, new places and many adventures.

Some events I’ve run that were great successes as an author can be used at libraries, done on websites, with parents, or created as a challenge.

Dungeons And Dragons Adventure Based On Author’s Book

As an author, I’ve created D&D like experience for readers at libraries that model my stories. These have been fun events that can take on a life of their own. Kids hate leaving these events early and have tons of enjoyment by getting into their characters and experiencing adventures within a story. We start with a video book trailer of the book. Then each participant is given a character with different characteristics. The author or ‘dungeon master (reader)’ creates the scene, acts as narrator to the story and leads characters into key points of their ‘quest’. It can go on for hours and even be a theme for the month.

Living Stories

To create a living stories event in a library, creating a theme based around a popular story can gain participation even from the teenage readers. Have readers vote on a book, or base it off the book club selection of a book. Once the book of choice is chosen invite kids to do art projects to create a scene from the book and even have a prop building contest. Create areas through the library that mimic a scene in the book, encourage the child to read in the area, dress up as a character, then lead to an art or interactive activity.

Story Scavenger Hunts

Everyone loves a good scavenger hunt. Creating an adventure with clues to books from different authors is an amazing way to introduce young visitors to the library to new books. Having a monthly scavenger hunt to find and reveal new books, coming titles, or newly acquired books to the library is a way to get readers excited early. Having a consistent monthly event builds readers anticipation. It can even be part of the building up to a book club.

Library Camp Out

Camping, smores, ghost stories are ways to kick off a library day camp out. Kids can come with their blankets, camp snacks and check out their favorite book. A room in the library can be decorated like an enchanted forest, a space station, a desert camp grounds or more. Readers can be invited to pick a book with the camp location them and read away in their own camp spot. Smores, treats, and prizes can be given to the camper that retells the best stories based on what they’ve read.

Story Reenactment

Story reenactments can allow kids to further immerse and enjoy stories. Having a reenactment doesn’t mean the kids have to had read the stories. Small and short scenes can be replayed by the kids or the librarian. There can even be areas in the library that scenes from books in that section can be acted out. For the savvy library, having videos strategical placed can lead the reader on a library adventure where they can participate in the fun.

As an author, and a kid at heart, finding enjoyable ways to tell stories captures kids and adult interest alike. Taking events, activities that people love, and bringing that to the library continues to make the library the most adventurous place a reader can go.

By: LM Preston, fiction and non-fiction author, www.lmpreston.com and www.empoweredsteps.com, Twitter: LM_Preston, Blog: www.lmpreston.blogspot.com and http://homeschoolandwork.blogspot.com

L.M. Preston, a native of Washington, DC. An avid reader, she loved to create poetry and short-stories as a young girl. She is an author, an engineer, a professor, a mother and a wife. She writes Young Adult fiction and inspirational non-fiction books. Her passion for writing and helping others to see their potential through her stories and encouragement has been her life’s greatest adventures.She loves to write while on the porch watching her kids play or when she is traveling, which is another passion that encouraged her writing.

Dyslexia Awareness Month Wrap-Up: Spoiler Alert, there is no wrap up because there is no magical cure

Today is officially the last day of October – Happy Halloween! – and I thought I would write a wrap-up for our series on Dyslexia for Dyslexia Awareness Month. But here’s the thing, there is no wrap up. Tomorrow, on November 1st, when everyone who has dyslexia today wakes up, they will still have dyslexia.

Ten years from now, my child who has dyslexia will still have dyslexia.

And because dyslexia is genetic, there is a very real possibility that my grandchildren will also have dyslexia, should she choose to have children of her own.

You don’t outgrow dyslexia.

There is no cure.

Yes, people with dyslexia learn strategies that work for them, if they receive early and good intervention, but they don’t stop being dyslexic. And that’s a really important thing for libraries to understand.

If 20% of our youth – 1 in 5 – have dyslexia, then 20% of our adults do as well.

Our regular readers and library users have dyslexia. They just don’t talk to us about it and that’s okay. But we need to be aware of this. We need to know and understand that 20% of the populations that we serve, 1 in 5 members of our community, have dyslexia. And we need to be serving them better. We need to serve them with more intentionality. We need to learn more and train more and talk more and promote more when it comes to helping the 1 in 5 patrons in our community that have dyslexia.

We need to make sure that we have multiple formats in all age ranges. We need the book and the audio. We need large print.

We need to design for dyslexia in our signage and on our webpages.

Not my infographic, source: https://accessibility.blog.gov.uk/2016/09/02/dos-and-donts-on-designing-for-accessibility/

We need to curate services and then promote those services. Let parents know the benefits of using audio with print. Consider shelving audio right there with the print book so that they are easy to find. Let users know that Overdrive allows you to change the font and make other modifications to increase reading accessibility.

We need to coordinate with the people in our communities who have dedicated their professional expertise to knowing and serving people with dyslexia. Ask them to come into our libraries and talk with us about what we can do, and what we can do better. And ask them to help us train our staff.

We can’t just be aware of dyslexia in the month of October, because trust me, people with dyslexia are aware of dyslexia every day of the year. Dyslexia isn’t just an October thing. So even though October is coming to an end, don’t let your efforts to know about and serve patrons with dyslexia come to an end. Our patrons need us to do better, even on November 1st. Maybe especially on November 1st.

RevolTeens: Teens Speaking Out and Raising Awareness for Mental Health, by Christine Lively

Trigger Warning: This post talks about mental health issues including teens and suicide

Adolescence is a time of life when we expect kids to become more moody, more unpredictable, and to experience physical, emotional, and mental turmoil. It’s also a time of life when parents, teachers, and communities begin an onslaught of advice with an ominous message that goes something like this: The decisions you make over these years will determine your success or failure for the rest of your life. This combination is a recipe for mental anguish and we all seem to accept this pressure cooker period as a necessary phase of life – we’ve all been through it, and it was awful, but it ends. We know what this does to teens. Many of us look back on that time of our lives as something we escaped from or endured rather than something we learned from, yet we haven’t changed or improved the experience for teens today.  They’re stressed out, and they need help, just like we did. I have lived with debilitating clinical depression for as long as I can remember, and I didn’t have anywhere to turn when I experienced mental health crises. My own children have experienced mental health issues, and I know how harrowing and all but impossible it is to find mental health services for children. The obstacles to finding help and support are inexcusably difficult.

Thankfully, there are a growing number of RevolTeens who aren’t waiting for adults to make the changes they need. These RevolTeens are creating programs and services to help themselves and each other. They’re just like we were and they keep proving David Bowie right, “They’re quite aware of what they’re goin’ through.” They’re not waiting for help, they’re helping each other.

8 inspiring, young mental health activists you need to know about published on Mashable profiles extraordinary teens who are not waiting for us adults to do something.  “These young advocates are developing apps, founding nonprofit organizations, coordinating fundraising drives, and building campus-wide support networks. They’re taking advantage of the work activists have previously done to decrease the stigma of talking about mental health, and they’re creating their own legacy by fundamentally changing the way young people discuss and seek help for mental illness.”

Ose Arhegham, Miana Bryant, Gabby Frost, Samuel Orley, Katie Regittko, Max Rothman, Satvik Sethi, and Amanda Southwort are RevolTeens who have taken on changing the way teens talk about and find help for mental illnesses. They’re changing stigmas and building support communities to help teens acknowledge and treat their own mental illnesses in heroic and selfless ways. Reading the stories of these young people makes me realize how important it is for these messages to come from young people themselves. Unfortunately, many of these advocates have risen to action because they were unable to get the help they needed themselves, or because they’ve lost friends and loved ones who’ve died by suicide. These tragedies were not prevented by the adults around them, and their revolt began. They’re not waiting for someone else to make change.

Cloe Sorensen is a RevolTeen who has taken on the critical challenge of suicide prevention. She, like nearly all teens in America has experienced the overwhelming loss of friends to suicide. She was moved to advocacy and started within her own community, “Initially, that meant leaning on existing relationships with family and friends to grieve, and coming up with ways to advocate for mental health at Gunn. Sorensen started the Student Wellness Committee to encourage students to be more aware of their mental health, including a referral system where her peers could refer friends anonymously for in-school counseling. Another successful initiative: Youth Empowerment Seminars, where students learn stress-relief techniques such as mindfulness and breathing exercises.” 

After those initial efforts, Chloe confronted the obstacle that so many young people face: They can’t seek out and receive mental health care without parental consent before the age of eighteen. This prevents so many teens from finding help or from even admitting that they need help and removes their agency. It stops them from even looking for the help they need and can lead to tragic results. “Now a student at Stanford, Sorensen spends much of her time working with the Stanford Center for Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing on the launch of Allcove, a network of youth mental health centers in Santa Clara County geared toward youth 12 to 25 years of age. In addition to onsite mental health services, basic primary care, wellness services and the educational/career support offered at each center, young people can access a variety of support services without parental consent, including treatment for early psychosis and substance abuse counseling. Sorensen also founded Youth United for Responsible Media Representation, a group of students working to reduce suicide contagion by training the media not to sensationalize coverage in the aftermath of tragedy.”

Chloe’s efforts have no doubt changed and likely saved lives. She has changed the way teens seek help and brought services to those who had no way to get help before. She’s revolutionized mental health care for teens all without waiting for us adults to take action.

Those of us who work with teens see this firsthand that teens have too much to do, feel too much pressure, and feel there is no one to help them. We know that so many things should change to give teens the time, space, and support that they need to be more in control of their lives and to even enjoy their time. Mental health services are life saving and should be easily accessible to teens, but we know that they are not.

Seeing these teen advocates is inspiring at first read, but reflection brought me the realization that these kids have to revolt at least in part because they couldn’t depend on the adults around them to help and in so many cases, the adults around them were another obstacle to overcome.  I think about the kids I work with every day in the high school library. I help them with their school projects, help them find books to read, and talk with them about what’s going on in their lives. Yet, I don’t know if any of them would consider coming to me to get help with a problem, or if they believe I could help them if they asked. Who do they turn to when they know they need help? How hard is it for them to find the services they need? I know that there are dire and life altering consequences when they don’t get the help they need. While I am in awe of these teen mental health advocates, their revolt should also be a call to action for all of us who work with and love teens. They need help. We need to give them that help, or get out of their way so they can find a way to get it for themselves.  

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Call 1-800-273-8255

On Your Radar: Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis

Publisher’s Book Description:

Hatchet meets Wild in this harrowing survival story from Edgar Award-winning author Mindy McGinnis.

The world is not tame.

Ashley knows this truth deep in her bones, more at home with trees overhead than a roof. So when she goes hiking in the Smokies with her friends for a night of partying, the falling dark and creaking trees are second nature to her. But people are not tame either. And when Ashley catches her boyfriend with another girl, drunken rage sends her running into the night, stopped only by a nasty fall into a ravine. Morning brings the realization that she’s alone – and far off trail. Lost in undisturbed forest and with nothing but the clothes on her back, Ashley must figure out how to survive despite the red streak of infection creeping up her leg.

Karen’s Thoughts: This is an outstanding adventure/survival story with some fierce feminism and deep, thoughtful looks at poverty and small town life. Authentic, real, raw and engaging, teens will devour this book.

And for those keeping track (like me), McGinnis plunges her female character into the wilderness while on her period and it’s talked about openly and without stigma and shame. Yes, we do need more of this in YA. Some people have periods.

I’ve read every Mindy McGinnis book and one of the things she does very well is authentically represent both poverty and rural small town life. BNFFM is no different. She takes that one step further in this story by plunging us into the actual wilderness where survival in the present and of the past becomes an imperative. And as dehydration, hunger and sepsis start creeping in, moments of flashback help the reader tie who Ashley is and where she has been into how she just might survive in a situation that seems truly un-survivable. Everything matters and it all comes together in satisfying ways.

Definitely recommended. Unfortunately it doesn’t come out until March of 2020 and I read it super early because I’m a fan. So go back and read the other works of Mindy McGinnis and put this one on your TBR list for 2020.