Teen Librarian Toolbox
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Cindy Crushes Programming: Fandom Passports, by Teen Librarian Cindy Shutts

Since the Pandemic has limited travel in a lot of ways, I have found myself exploring the world with Fandoms. I have been reading and visiting multiple and new worlds this way. I decided to make a fun twist on the travel passport by creating a fandom passport where the teens could talk about all the worlds they have visited for their favorite fandoms. It’s a great way to be creative and celebrate the things you love while creating a momento to look back on some day and remember who you were and what you loved at this stage of your life.

Cost: $ 40 but it could be cheaper if you already had some of the supplies.


1. Notebook

2. Paper with images from different fandoms

I had some pre-printed (Pride and Prejudice, Grishaverse, Demon Slayer, Attack on Titan, Among Us,  Percy Jackon, Lord of the Rings, She-ra, Various disney and Marvel, Animal Crossing, Star Wars, My Hero Academia, Sailor Moon and more) I tried to add as many maps and travel posters as I could find for my printouts

3. Some Washi Tape

4. Pen(s)

5. Glue sticks

If available: I also had extra fandom stickers that I put out

Instructions for patrons

1. Cut out the images from the paper.

2. Write out the word Fandom Passport in front. You can also use letters cut out from a magazine.

3. Place images where you want them. I like to have pages devoted to different fandoms.

4.  Place washi tape where you want it. This passport is yours so decorate and create however you envision it.

Thoughts: I really enjoyed doing this craft so I got into the spirit and got more washi tape for myself. It was super fun. One tip is to use a glue stick and not a lot of glue because you do not want your page of the passport to get super damp. The teens really liked it and were still working on it after the end time so I let them stay. I had this be an hour craft but it could be 1 ½ hours. You can also make it a Take and Make. I just put the washi tape in stripes on the paper and that worked. I did 30 craft kits as well as the in person craft.

Cindy Shutts, MLIS

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

Take 5: Great Reads for Younger YA, or Upper Middle Grade – whatever it is we are calling 12-14 year olds these days

There has been a lot of talk here at TLT and on Book Twitter about the age ranges for YA. I’ve been doing this job long enough to remember when YA was classified as 12 and up; Now most YA you will see designated as 14+. So I tweeted, part tongue in cheek, the other day: if Middle Grade is grades 8-12 and Young Adult is ages 14 and up, does that mean 13 year olds don’t really exist. It was part snark, but there is also some truth here: 13-year olds are vastly under represented in today’s youth literature.

I have seen some discussion, again primarily on Twitter, of making a new classification called Upper Middle Grade or Younger YA. And I have noticed that middle grade seems to be the new YA, with tons of longstanding YA authors making their middle grade debuts, including Ellen Hopkins, Gayle Forman and even Jensen favorite A.S. King has written a few MG novels, under the name Amy Sarig King. You will notice that we started covering Middle Grade here at TLT several years ago in part because it helps us better serve our teens on the younger end of the teen age spectrum.

So while it’s clear that the age categories are in flux and the market is once again trying to figure out what it means to write for teens and how to market them, I thought I would take a moment to highlight 5 books here for the younger YA crowd, or the upper middle grade crowd if you prefer.

Perfectly Parvin by Olivia Abtahi

Publisher’s Book Description: Fourteen-year-old Iranian-American Parvin Mohammadi sets out to win the ultimate date to homecoming in this heartfelt and outright hilarious debut.

Parvin has just had her heart broken when she meets the cutest boy at her new high school, Matty Fumero–with an emphasis on fumero, because he might be the smoking hot cure to all of her boy troubles. If Parvin can get Matty to ask her to homecoming, she’s positive it will erase all the awful and embarrassing feelings He Who Will Not Be Named left her with after the summer. The only problem is Matty is definitely too cool for bassoon-playing, frizzy-haired, Cheeto-eating Parvin. Since being herself has not worked for her in the past (see aforementioned relationship), she decides that to be the girl who finally gets the guy, she should start acting like the women in her favorite rom-coms. Those girls aren’t loud, they certainly don’t cackle when they laugh, and they smile much more than they talk. Easy enough, right?

But as Parvin struggles through her parent-mandated Farsi lessons on the weekends, a budding friendship with a boy she can’t help but be her unfiltered self with, and dealing with the ramifications of the Muslim Ban on her family in Iran, she realizes that being herself might just be the perfect thing after all.

Keeping it Real by Paula Chase

Publisher’s Book Description: Marigold Johnson is looking forward to a future full of family, friends, and fashion–but what will she do when it all explodes in her face? When she discovers that her entire life is a lie?

Paula Chase, the author of So Done, Dough Boys, and Turning Point, explores betrayal, conformity, and forgiveness–and what it means to be family–in this stand-alone novel perfect for fans of Jason Reynolds, Rebecca Stead, and Ren�e Watson.

Marigold Johnson can’t wait to attend a special program at her family’s business, Flexx Unlimited, for teens who love fashion. But Mari quickly realizes that she’s out of place compared to the three other trainees–and one girl, Kara, seems to hate her on sight.

As tension builds and the stakes at the program get higher, Mari uncovers exactly why Kara’s been so spiteful. She also discovers some hard truths about herself and her family.

Paula Chase explores complex themes centering on friendships, family, and what it means to conform to fit in. Keeping It Real is also a powerful exploration of what happens when parents pick and choose what they shield their children from. Timely and memorable, Paula Chase’s character-driven story touches on creativity, art, fashion, and music. A great choice for the upper middle grade audience.

You’ll want to check out other titles by Paula Chase for this age group as well.

Violets are Blue by Barbara Dee

Publisher’s Book Description: From the author of the acclaimed My Life in the Fish Tank and Maybe He Just Likes You comes a moving and relatable middle grade novel about secrets, family, and the power of forgiveness.

Twelve-year-old Wren loves makeup—special effect makeup, to be exact. When she is experimenting with new looks, Wren can create a different version of herself. A girl who isn’t in a sort-of-best friendship with someone who seems like she hates her. A girl whose parents aren’t divorced and doesn’t have to learn to like her new stepmom.

So, when Wren and her mom move to a new town for a fresh start, she is cautiously optimistic. And things seem to fall into place when Wren meets potential friends and gets selected as the makeup artist for her school’s upcoming production of Wicked.

Only, Wren’s mom isn’t doing so well. She’s taking a lot of naps, starts snapping at Wren for no reason, and always seems to be sick. And what’s worse, Wren keeps getting hints that things aren’t going well at her new job at the hospital, where her mom is a nurse. And after an opening night disaster leads to a heartbreaking discovery, Wren realizes that her mother has a serious problem—a problem that can’t be wiped away or covered up.

After all the progress she’s made, can Wren start over again with her devastating new normal? And will she ever be able to heal the broken trust with her mom?

You’ll also want to check out Maybe He Just Likes You by Barbara Dee for this age group as well.

The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert

Publisher’s Book Description:

Award-winning YA author Brandy Colbert’s debut middle-grade novel about the only two black girls in town who discover a collection of hidden journals revealing shocking secrets of the past.

Beach-loving surfer Alberta has been the only black girl in town for years. Alberta’s best friend, Laramie, is the closest thing she has to a sister, but there are some things even Laramie can’t understand. When the bed and breakfast across the street finds new owners, Alberta is ecstatic to learn the family is black-and they have a 12-year-old daughter just like her.

Alberta is positive she and the new girl, Edie, will be fast friends. But while Alberta loves being a California girl, Edie misses her native Brooklyn and finds it hard to adapt to small-town living.

When the girls discover a box of old journals in Edie’s attic, they team up to figure out exactly who’s behind them and why they got left behind. Soon they discover shocking and painful secrets of the past and learn that nothing is quite what it seems. 

Some of Brandy Colbert’s books are most assuredly upper YA – brilliant, but not necessarily middle grade friendly. But this title is solidly in the upper Middle Grade category and it’s a great read.

Most Titles from Rick Riordan Presents

Rick Riordan wrote the Percy Jackson series, which was right in the sweet spot for that transition from middle grade to YA, appealing to readers of all ages. And now he has his own publishing imprint where he publishes mythology from around the world and gives a platform to authors of color and each and every one of the titles is just as appealing to all ages as his own work.

Some other great resources for you:

55 Best Upper Middle Grade Reads

50 Middle Grade Books for Ages 11-15

You can also check out the hashtag #UpperMiddleGrade on Twitter

RevolTeens: So Thankful for RevolTeens, by Teen Librarian Christine Lively

This school year has already felt like twenty school years in one. Every single thing that educators, parents, and students do is different and so much harder to accomplish. Students, staff, and parents are exhausted by the new rules and logistics of school, the up and down news cycle of cases rising and falling along with staffing shortages surging. It has been a LOT. It’s COVID and social-emotional learning and supply chain problems and staff shortages that are so much worse than the public knows or appreciates. For me, as a high school librarian in a school which is currently fighting to hold hundreds more students and staff than our building was designed for, the library space has been taken over with space for in school suspension, for a Japanese class to be held on one side for over a week, and other classes as needed. Getting our book orders delivered from vendors has been fraught – books aren’t available, they take forever to be delivered, or our orders are being questioned and examined to try to head off any challenges from angry parents or politicians.

So, what is there to be thankful for?

Of course, the answer is the RevolTeens.

At our school, I have been amazed at what the students we serve are doing to keep themselves going. Yes, there are teens who are acting out and working on getting back in the groove of school, but there are so many who are happy to be back at school and back in the library.

First, I am so thankful for students who are obsessed with BookTok. BookTok is the part of TikTok where people talk about books. They don’t just talk about books, they talk about books that they are obsessed with, that made them sob, that are the greatest books ever to exist. It’s the perfect fan space for teens. Passionate fans gushing about the books that changed their lives. These videos are being passed back and forth among teens and they are making a huge impact. We had many requests for Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller and It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover. We cannot keep them on the shelves. It’s a phenomenon I have never experienced before. It is thrilling. More than once, a pair of students will come to the library together so that one can return a book and the other can immediately check it out. Teens are reading at a crazy fast pace, and they are enjoying their reading. After years of helping kids find books that they’d trudge through or abandon, seeing teens find their love of reading again is a thrill.

This year we’ve found ways for our teens to disconnect from academic pursuits and enjoy other fun activities. We put an ancient manual and a newer (but still ancient) electric typewriters out on the floor. They’ve been more popular than expected. Students cannot get over how hard it is to push the keys, or how difficult it is to figure out how to use the shift keys. Initially, love notes to friend or romantic loves were popular. Now, some students type song lyrics, poems – original or not, and of course, comments about butts or bootys. The typewriters get used all day long.

We have had chess boards in the library for years. Our library assistant has been playing chess for years. He has taught hundreds, if not thousands, of students to play chess. We have many chess sets in the library. There are anywhere between four and twelve chess games happening at any time during lunch or after school. Chess players at Wakefield High School are from every background, gender, and grade level. We have a handful of staff members who come to play too. Chess is a game that transcends barriers of language, personality, and even experience. I’ve been shocked at the level and volume of trash talk that happens over a chess board at school. Chess is a great break from homework, and a great way to spend time with people they don’t usually spend time with.

We’ve also found legos, coloring pages, and Uno cards to be extremely popular with our teens. 

Yes, taking care of themselves through reading what they want, socializing, writing, and playing games is revolutionary. The teens at our school are revolting against boredom and are finding ways to cope that are fun and engaging.

Then, there are the revolutionaries. A few weeks ago, there were incidents at the Yorktown High School Homecoming Football game where “Students reported that during the halftime performance and thereafter, several students harassed fellow Yorktown students using inappropriate and unacceptable language of a sexual nature and inappropriately touched a student,” Clark wrote. “This created an unsafe environment and does not reflect the values of our students and staff at Yorktown.” UPDATED: Yorktown Principal Decries ‘Unacceptable Behavior’ at Homecoming Game

In response to this incident and what students feel has been an unacceptable response to reported sexual harassment and assault at the high schools in Arlington, a walkout of hundreds of students took place. Scotney Young, a social worker and sexual assault prevention specialist  explained “It was really powerful to see so many students using their voices and actions to speak out against sexual violence and to demand more action from school administrators,” Young tells ARLnow. “Sexual violence thrives when there is a culture and system that allows and accepts it, and these students were saying they want to change that.”

Young said she conducts educational programming focused on giving young people the tools they need to have “respectful, safe and supportive relationships and interactions free from violence.” NEW: Hundreds of APS high school students stage walkout over sexual harassment and assault

The revolting hasn’t stopped there. Student members of Generation Ratify at Wakefield then wrote messages in the courtyard to express their outrage and demand an end to sexual assault and harassment on our campus.

The spirit of revolt against harassment, assault, and unresponsive adults did not wane during the lockdown and virtual learning. Instead, RevolTeens at my school and at many other schools have returned to let their voices be heard, to band together and fight for respect and equal treatment.

There are so many ways that RevolTeens advocate for themselves and others. They build relationships through games and socializing, they express themselves in colors and words, they read and build empathy, and they shout, walkout, and raise awareness when they’re hurt or disrespected. They amaze me every day. I am so grateful that the spirit of RevolTeens has not been diminished, and I hope it never will be.

About Christine Lively

Christine Lively a school librarian in Virginia. I read voraciously, exchange ideas with students, and am a perpetual student. I raise monarch butterflies, cook, clean infrequently and enjoy an extensive hippo collection. I am a Certified Life Coach for Kids 14-24 and my website is christinelively.com. Christine blogs at https://hippodillycircus.com/ and you can follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/XineLively.

Cindy Crushes Programming: Among Us in Real Life, by Teen Librarian Cindy Shutts

Today I have Faith Healy with me again talking about our in person live Among us Program.

Among Us in Real Life

With the game Among us springing into popularity especially with teens, we have tried several approaches to incorporating the game into our teen  programming. During the summer when we just had virtual programming we tried multiple game nights of Among Us to varying success getting 5-10 teens at some, and just one teen at others.

When we finally were able to start planning in-person programming we talked about having a special after hours program that we used to do for teens pre-covid. We decided to take a chance since Among Us was going a little out of style to play Among Us in real life.

So Among Us for those who don’t know is like a mafia style video game (The party game Mafia or some might know it as werewolf). TLTer Karen Jensen and her Tween take you through a walk through of Among Us in this past post.

You have a group of crewmates who are aboard a spaceship, but unbeknownst to them so are two imposters. The imposters try to kill the crewmates while crewmates try to either figure out who the imposter is or finish all their tasks before the impostors kill everyone.

It is simple enough to take the concept and apply it to the real world. You just need a system to apply roles, tasks for crewmates to complete, and a method for killing without actually killing anyone.

Creating Tasks

So in order to create tasks, I first found a blueprint map of my library. I erased, by using the paint program, all the unnecessary items like where bookshelves are located and other information to make it look super basic. I also got rid of areas I knew we would not allow teens to be and put red Xs in areas that I couldn’t erase without making the map look strange. I then label each section. You want to do this first, because knowing the layout will help you come up with tasks. I’m lucky that my library is just one floor. Depending how big your library is I would limit it to one floor unless you have enough staff to man each section. I used labels from the Among Us game for each section. I did not use all the labels in the Among Us game as we only have so much space. I also set one section aside to be an airlock. In the Among Us game, dead crewmates, and crewmates who are voted out are sent to the airlock. I used the airlock so those players could hangout somewhere while the game went on. (We realized halfway through the event we needed to place games of other materials to keep dead players from being bored as some rounds went on for a very long time)

After labeling my locations it was time to decide on tasks.

I did find this website that had a free downloadable PDF with tasks available on it, but I only used a few as I couldn’t figure out how to make some of the suggestions work. (see link below)

You want the tasks to be easy but tedious and requiring some focus so impostors can kill crewmates who are too focused on tasks. You can also do multiple tasks to make more depending on how many people you have signed up.

Check it out here: https://theholdernessfamily.com/among-us-in-real-life-free-download/#:~:text=Starting%20the%20Game,no%20talking%20during%20the%20game.


So in the game, your character MedBay scans by hopping on a machine. My library happens to have a scan station so I decided to incorporate that as a Medbay scan. We also have a button machine, so I made among us figure buttons for all teens. I did two of each color to prevent any arguments over colors. I had teens scan the buttons in the scanner to be medbay scan. It taught them how to use a library device and had fun during the game. Plus they loved that they got to keep the buttons. If you don’t have a scanner you can always take a hula hoop and make the teens spin around in it to be similar to the game.


So this one I took from the PDF. I cut out and laminated pieces of a memory game for teens to do to activate the reactor. Teens absolutely hated this task. But it leads to the game being more fun. It is very similar to the Simon Says Task in the game which makes it perfect.


So in the Among Us game, people connect wires in each location so I applied the same to my game. To make wires, I again went to the Among Us in Real Life PDF. It has a section called fix wires. I laminated it and instead of cutting all the holes, I cut fun patterns and used yarn to be my wires. Some teens like wires, some teens hated them, but it was an easy and inexpensive task I could have at each location.


So in the Among Us Game, you go to different locations to download info and other locations to upload. I wanted something like that, but to make it book related. So what I did was make every location that had a service desk, have a list of books that just so happen to be on my weeding list. Whenever teens had that task they had to go to the desk to get a book title and retrieve the book and upload it to the meeting room. This gave the task multiple steps and me some help with weeding. It also forced teens to go into teen room to find books.

Connect Shields:

So the PDF mentioned above had a shield puzzle which was good, but instead of cutting something out, I had a cool YA book puzzle. So I decided to make them connect four puzzle pieces to activate shields, another one that teens were not so fond of, but they did it.


This was the most popular with teens. I only made two of this task, but if I do this again, I would make more. I printed out asteroids in the free PDF, laminated them, cut them out, and taped them on plastic cups that I then arranged in a tower. We had nerf guns that teens used to shoot the asteroids. I made it part of the task that teens had to pick up nerf bullets and restack tower. Teens were really great at clean up.


So in the game, you had to pick up garbage so we did the same here. You can do it in multiple locations, we just crumbled up a few pieces of scrap paper on tables in certain locations and laid  plastic bag nearby. Teens had to pick up the papers  and carry it to a box that we labeled the trash compactor in the meeting room.

Fill Up Gas:

So in the game, you are on a ship that needs to be gassed up. So I labeled two bowls upper and lower engine thus placed them in the engine room. I placed a box of beads in another location with a cup. So teens had to go to fill up the cup with beads, place it in “engines.” I was going to use water, but worried about spilling so I used beads since I had so many of them. You can use anything as your fuel, you just want different locations to force teens to go somewhere else


So in the game there is a fun little simple maze game where you chart your course. I was looking for one of those little mini maze games to use for that, but I couldn’t find any. So I built my own simple maze out of cardboard, duct tape, and hot glue and had teens use a ball and roll it through the maze. This was another popular activity.


In the game, there is a fun task, or at least fun to me, where you have to get leaves out a filter. I replicated this task using a clear plastic bag, green beads and duct tape. I taped a section of the bag to be the area the teens needed to get the green “leaves” to. I sealed the bag with as little air as possible with duct tape so teen had to press hard to move the leaves to that section. 

Calibrate Electrical

So this is a task I designed all my own. I just printed out 12 copies color wheel, labeled different sections of each wheel with 1-6, cut out cardstock circles to fit over color wheel, while cutting a slice from each circle. I then connected the circles with a pin back so when you move the cardstock portion it showed a different part of the color wheel. I made 12 of these and taped them to bookshelves. Teen had to move the circle to locate numbers 1-6, but had to do it in order. This took parts of the electrical calibrator task from the game along with the switch task, to make a fun, but semi annoying task that teens like. They liked moving the circles. 

Clean Vent

So We have a room in my library that is sort like a tunnel that I assigned to be label as a vent, in which only imposters can vent. It does have windows so crewmates can catch an imposter venting. I wanted to add to the chaos thus have a task where crewmates go into the vent. To clean the vent, crewmates just walk through, but if spotted others might think they are the imposter. 

Realign Ship

So in the game, you have to realign the ship or engines. I couldn’t find a good way to replicate it, but as I mention we have a button machine that looks like a cool lever so I decided to realign the ship all the teens had to do was switch the lever. Yes, I could have made another lever, or used something else, but I was short on time and teens liked it. Plus no harm came to the machine.

Assigning Roles

So I printed out and laminated sheets of paper that had crewmate and imposter on them. I stuffed them into envelopes that we cut in half. To view, teens peeked inside, saw their role and placed the envelope bag. 

The Rules: 

 These are rules I designed to make the came work smoothly. 

  • No running! Non-negotiable. If you are told more than once, sorry you died and will wait it out in the airlock.
    • No access to forbidden areas. On the map areas with Red X’s are forbidden. Non-negotiable
    •  Playing Among Us
      • Players with take roles. Look at role card and place back. No one is to reveal their role.
      • When prompted by the captain, players will shut eyes and imposter will reveal self to the captain to receive first kill card.
        •   When you are an imposter you kill players by handing them a card. First one will be given when revealed once roll assigned.
        •   Imposter may pick up additional kill cards from the desks allowing for a kill cool down. Use word Library Card to indicate need for kill card.
        •   Imposter is unable to kill without a kill card.
        •   Imposter may complete tasks except imposters are unable to do Medbay Scan.
        •   Imposter may sabotage the reactor forcing crewmates to go to reactor to disengage it. Simply approach a desk and say: Sabotage.  Two crewmates must disengage reactor.
      • Crewmate
        •  Finish all the tasks or figure out who the imposter is
        •   Once discovering a dead body, crewmate may report by going to any desk area and asking staff to report a dead body
        • Staff will announce over intercom: Dead body found in location please report to meeting room.
        •   All players have one emergency button. They may report to any desk and ask a staff member to request an emergency meeting.
        •   If you are killed you must sit down. if you wish you may lie down, but you have to indicate you are dead without any noise. You may not reveal to anyone who killed you.
        • Once a body is reported Crewmate will report to airlock where they will remain for the rest of the game.
        • Once Body is reported discussion and vote will happen. If taking too long, Captain will impose a time limit.
        •  Voted Crewmate will go into the airlock (Meeting Room C) to wait for the rest of the game 
        •  Game continues until only imposter and one player is left.
  •   Captain and crew will reset games pieces and we will play another game
  • Captain can include the mod of Sheriff. Sheriff gets one kill to try and kill the imposter. 

Impostor Role

For the impostor, there were multiple ways I found that people used to kill. I decided to use a method of a kill card. I printed and laminated a pile of dead among us bodies to use as kill cards. I made it so the impostor had to pick up the cards from the staff to mimic the effect of having a kill count down like in the game to give crewmates a chance.  Once given a kill card, crewmates could lie down or sit down, but they had to raise the card above their head and they could not make any noise. 

Kill Card

I also allowed the sabotage of reactor. I printed out two images of the hand scanners and laminated them, attaching them to the wall with tape. Imposters could go to the staff at desk and say sabotage to activate the reactor. Two crewmates were needed to place hands on scanners to deactivate. We did not want to allow lights just in case, but that is an added element you might want to consider. 


So I spent 2 hours setting up and had 6 staff agree to help with this after hours event. I placed the tasks, labeled the rooms, and printed enough maps for all the teens. Some teens used the maps and realy liked them, others abandoned the map right away.  We had tasks taped to a white board with a side that said need to complete and another side to put when finished. Teens would take their tasks from the board and once complete put it on the finished side. 

Since in real life, imposters can’t really fake tasks, I had it so imposters can do all tasks except for Medbay. Each staff member manned a desk so they could use our intercom system to report dead bodies, emergency meetings, and sabotages. If you don’t have an intercom system, I recommend walkie talkies, or someone with a loud voice.  I had one staff member stay in airlock to supervise the eventual dead bodies, and had another one walking around, and I stayed in the meeting room with tasks so I can manage meetings and answer questions.

Once teens arrived, I took them on a ship tour to explain where all locations were, which task were where, how to complete the tasks, and ask any questions.

We then assigned roles and played our first game.

Things I Would Change:

We had 11 teens signed up and 15 teens attended. That is better attendance than we have seen at any of our programs. I started out with two imposters, and crewmates won with a task win really fast. I had 44 tasks and they completed them fast. I upped the impostorS to 4 and it was much more fun, but crewmates still won by voting out impostors.  I would have started with 3-4 if you have a big group to make it fun. 

Also to add more fun, I added a mod called sheriff. I really love to watch streamers play games, and some talented gamers modified Among Us to add fun roles  like Sheriff, Medic, Joker. I decided to add a Sheriff Role. The Sheriff Role got one shot and would try to kill an impostor, but if selected a crewmate to kill they also die. I ended adding 2 sheriffs and it was really fun. Next time I would add more mods like the medic who can bring people back to life, joker tries to get voted out and they win. You could probably come up with some and add some more roles. This is helpful as we ended up only playing 4 games and some teens were disappointed to be crewmate everytime. So adding new roles will only enhance playing. 

Other than that it worked out really well and I would recommend it. It was a lot of work though. I was running around for two weeks trying to get everything ready, but luckily I got to rope a few coworkers into helping me finish stuff. 

If you have any questions about Among Us in Real Life feel free to email me at fhealy@whiteoaklib.org.


Among Us seems to be having a bit of a resurgence right now, so it’s definitely a good time to give this a try.

Cindy Shutts, MLIS

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

Sunday Reflections: Teen Librarians are not Pornographers and Other Things You Should Know About the People Who Have Dedicated Their Lives to Serving Youth in Your Community

Trigger Warnings: Homophobia, Transphobia, Sexual Violence and Suicide are discussed in this post

Today as I write this post there are tons of calls for book banning and, yes, even book burning happening in our country. There have been calls to ban books, burn books, to jail and imprison librarians, and some librarians have now even had people from their community show up at their house and threaten them. These are indeed scary times. And it’s important to note, these are my personal thoughts on my personal blog about a lifetime in librarianship.

I’m not here necessarily to talk about the book bannings themselves, there are plenty of articles out there about that (I will link some at the end of the post). Here in the state of Texas, there is a list of around 850 books going around and the things that those books have in common is this: they are all written by marginalized people who have always had to fight hard to have a voice. They are written by Black people, Latinx people, LGBTQ people and women. They are written to share personal stories about what it means to have to fight hard to justify your existence, to navigate this world safely and to be seen and heard in a world that wants to oppress, control and sometimes outright wipe you out of existence. They are books about sex education, gender and gender identity, racism, and there are even a few books about teen rights thrown in there. There are lots of posts about the books on the lists going around there as well.

But today, I want to talk to you about being a librarian and working with youth and how this is the scariest time to do both. Please note, I am a public librarian, not a school librarian. So while I have some fears, it is nothing compared to what my many friends who are school librarians have. And also, this is a personal post drawing on my 29 years of experience working with youth, mainly teenagers, in a public library.

I buy books for kids and teens. I have for 29 years now. Sometimes, those books talk about sex. For those of you who don’t know, the average age of a person’s first sexual encounter is 16 years old. Do I think teens should be having sex? Not personally, no. But they do, and since they do, I want them to have responsible, informed knowledge about what healthy consensual sex is, how to protect themselves physically and emotionally, and I also think it’s just a good idea for everyone to know how their bodies work. The reproductive system is one of many systems in the body and understanding how your body works is actually good. Teens have questions and they go looking for answers, whether we want them to or not, so it is imperative that they have resources that give them solid, factual answers. They have ready access to pornography on their phones and computers, so they aren’t reading nonfiction books and YA romances for porn, they are reading to learn the science behind how their bodies work and to help navigate the very real and complex emotions involved in human interaction, including what it means to fall in love and have your heart broken, and how to heal. That’s the power of literature, and the importance of it.

Do I buy books with LGBTQ content? Yes, yes I do. Because LGBTQ people are people and they deserve representation. They deserve to exist in this world without fearing for their safety. They deserve to read stories about kids who are just like them, because all people do. They also deserve to read books about people like their parents, because some parents are LGBTQ and they too have a right to parent their children and share stories with their children that have characters that are like them. The presence of LGBTQ content alone does not make a book pornographic any more than watching a Hallmark love story where two characters date, fall in love, and kiss does not make it pornographic. Because there are people who are very anti-LGBTQ in this world they try to make the mere existence of an LGBTQ character a sexual obscenity, and this is just not the case.

Do I buy books that talk about racism? Yes, yes I do. Because racism is real and it’s bad and it’s ugly and it’s ingrained and intertwined in our history. To not buy books that talk about racism would be a lie. I believe that knowledge is a powerful thing, and that even when the truth is dark and hard, we must know it. Even in the whitest of white communities that I have worked in, there were always Black and Latinx and Asian American kids and they too deserve to have their truths told, their stories heard, and their feelings centered just as much as the white majority in those neighborhoods. And as the white mother of white children, I want my kids to have access to stories about kids that don’t look like them, even the ones that tell hard truths about white privilege and the history and still present day effects of racism, because I want to raise compassionate people. As a Christian, it is one of my main parenting goals, I want my children to wrestle with hard truths and come out on the other side as compassionate people who live as close to the teachings of Jesus Christ as possible. And I want my children to help build a world where the Black and other children of color are nurtured and valued and respected and safe. And I want to stop hearing the children of color that I work with day in and day out share their heartbreaking stories of the amount of hate they receive on a daily basis and the stories of how it began when they were 4 or 5. I want to stop hearing them talk about how they fear dying at a young age. If you care about children, you have to care about all of them, even the ones that don’t look like you or yours.

Around our country right now there are tons of people calling for school librarians to be imprisoned and books to be banned because they don’t like the books in school libraries. The things that these books have in common is that they are book that talk about sex, or books that talk about the LGBTQ community, or books that talk about racism, or books that talk about being a survivor of sexual violence. They are even going so far as to call people who buy these books for libraries pornographers. I am a public librarian who has worked with school librarians for years. Some of my best friends are school librarians. Like all teachers, and school librarians are almost always teachers, these are people who have dedicated their lives to serving our youth. They work long, hard hours and spend lots of their personal money to help our kids become the best versions of themselves. And now they are doing so in the midst of a pandemic while certain members of the public call them pornographers and ask that they be jailed and sometimes are even showing up at their houses and calling them horrific things in front of their own kids.

Are there books in the library that you might find offensive? Yes, yes there are. And you know what, you don’t have to read them! But you don’t get to make that decision for other people. You just don’t. That is and has always been one of the most fundamental tenets of a democratic society. It was so important that they made it a part of the 1st Amendment to our Constitution. I support a person’s right to read a book, and I support their right not to. That’s part of why we work really hard to buy a really diverse library full of books, we want you to find the book of your heart. We really do.

One of the books on the big Texas banned list – which has like 849 titles – is a book called Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson. It is a memoir written in poetry by the bestselling author sharing her experiences of surviving sexual violence in her life. It is her real life story written by a real person about their real personal journey. I read it out loud to Tim, Riley and Scout when it came out. I read it out loud with tears streaming down my face and we talked about what it meant to me, also a person who experienced sexual violence. We talked about how the words moved me, made me feel seen, and helped me heal. It helped them to understand what had happened to me and how it informed who I was today. It was one of the most powerful book moments of my life.

Another book on the list is Ask the Passengers by A. S. King. This was also a profound book moment for me where I came to understand that gay people were just people and their lives were hard because society had chosen to hate them and that by making different choices we, as a society, could make their life easier. And I have vowed to live my life differently because I think that all people deserve to live a life with health, love, and basic human rights. King became both Riley and I’s favorite authors and we have read all of her books – Riley often more than once – and they have spoken to Riley.

While these books may not be right personally for others, they were life changing and life affirming for me. They made me a newer, better person. And some of the books on this list may not be the right books for me, but they will be the right books for someone else. And that’s the power of literature and the free choice to read.

Book banning is one of the precursors to authoritarianism. The Nazis burned books, most often from members of the LGBTQ community or from the Jewish community. But the Nazis did then and they continue to think they have the right to decide for everyone what is right, what is best, what is noble, what is holy, what is legal, and what is good. And make no mistake, though we may not be calling them Nazis today, they are once again rising. They go by the names of Proud Boys and 3 Percenters and whatever, but they are most often white Christian nationalists who want power and control and they hate anyone who isn’t a white, straight, cisgender Christian. They hate anyone who isn’t like them and stands in the way of their power. But they also weaponize hate and fear to make people stand with them, people who normally wouldn’t. It’s not a new tactic, we saw it in the satanic panic of the 80s, the attempt to ban Dungeons and Dragons and rock music. Now I play Dungeons and Dragons with a group and my Sunday school teacher is my DM. We have done this before, I wish we would have learned not to do it again.

Did you know that last year was one of the deadliest years on record for transgender people? The push against trans rights and the demonization of trans people isn’t about girls safety in bathrooms? No, if they cared about girls safety they would pass anti-domestic violence bills and push harder sentences for actual sexual violence (which is most often perpetrated by straight men). We still can’t even get the Equal Rights Amendment passed. And the near total ban on abortion in Texas puts girls and women’s literal lives in danger and forces them to carry the baby of their rapists, thus giving rapists even more power and influence on their lives. Trust me, they don’t care about the safety of girls and women. They just hate trans people and the LGBTQ community and they want you to hate them too because if they can convince you that you share a common enemy, then you will overlook all the real harm that they are doing. Meanwhile, they are whipping up hate against the trans community to get your vote and members of the trans community are being beaten and killed in record numbers.

And I’m not going to lie, as a librarian, I worry that we too are being added to their agenda of hate. Already, I have seen stories of librarians being arrested and board members showing up at friend’s houses. In the press they are calling us pornographers and groomers and vilifying us. But it’s not just because of the books, it’s because they fear education. They fear knowledge. They know that true democracy depends on an informed, educated and empowered public exercising their rights. So they try to limit the education. They try to limit the rights. And they try to limit the exercise of those rights (see all the anti-voting laws being passed).

And I’m not here to say that no person who works with youth is a danger to those youth. We know that, unfortunately, sometimes they are. Sometimes a teacher or a coach or your best friend takes advantage of your children. That is evil and vicious and the most ultimate betrayal of all. But this is not about the books on a library shelf, this is something vile and insidious. It’s something different.

But reading books isn’t making your kids trans or gay anymore than reading a murder mystery has made us all crack detective or serial killers. But if they are struggling with being trans or gay, those books might help them find an inner peace that will help them not become one of the 40% of LGBTQ youth who attempt suicide. As someone who has worked with youth for 29 years I am here to tell you that there is nothing harder than seeing an LGBTQ kid lose the sparkle in their eye as they realize that this world well and truly hates them. I can’t change the hate in some people’s heart, but my greatest wish for these kids is that they find the will to survive and even thrive.

I want kids to survive adolescence and thrive. Every last one of them. I want them to learn and grow and be the best version of themselves and to help make the world a better place for us all. That is why I have dedicated my life to building expansive, diverse, factual, and inclusive book collections in library after library after library. It’s why I do what I do. It’s why I have always done what I do.

I get that we all don’t agree on everything. I have been a Christian long enough to think we even all agree on what it means to be a Christian. But what’s happening right now – It is terrifying. It has strong echoes of what happened in the past. And whatever our political, philosophical or religious differences are, I hope that we can all agree that Nazis are still bad and democracy is still the goal.

And please, look at the people in your schools. These are your friends, your neighbors, your aunts and your uncles. These are the kids that you babysat as kids and the people that babysat your kids. Look at them staying up late at night and grading papers. Look at them spending their own money to buy tissues and pencils for your kids. Look at them standing in the rain as a crossing guard to make sure your kids gets to and from school safely. Think about all that they have invested in your kids, in your community. And don’t let these liars and deceivers who want to weaponize your fear convince you to hate the very people who have spent their lives serving you. Think of who the real servants are in your communities, and protect them. Stand with them. Don’t let strangers with a microphone and anonymous people on message boards convince you to hate the very people that have spent their lives living beside you and helping you raise your children to be the very best versions of themselves.

To give you an idea about how misinformation and outright lies and conspiracy theories spread, I highly recommend reading True or False: A CIA Analyst’s Guide to Spotting Fake News by Cindy L. Otis. Did you know that most anti-vaccine lies began with just 12 people? That’s how this works. Just a few people decide that they are going to weaponize a thing – anti-CRT theory, transphobia, anti-mask, anti-vaxx – and then they put the information out there on social media and it gets whipped into a frenzy and then we are all being socially programmed and controlled by just a handful of people we don’t even personally know, nor do we know their credentials or motives. We turn on our neighbors. We turn on our friends. We turn on our families. We turn on each other. And they reap the rewards, and here the rewards are almost always money and power. Meanwhile, our lives our torn apart, our loved ones die, and we grower poorer and lose our political will and political power. Even if you think you are voting for the winning side, you are not personally reaping the benefits, very few of us are.

As a librarian, I buy books. I buy books because I believe in the power of the right story to change someone’s life. I never know what book or story that might be, but it’s an amazing thing to see it happen. I have spent my entire adult life dedicated to helping kids. I have done it because I was a kid who needed an adult to do it for me, and sometimes was lucky enough to find that adult. I do it because I believe that we can make the world a better place for every one of us. I do it because I believe, like the Jesus that I follow, that it is a sacred duty to nurture and protect and educate children and I understand, as did Jesus, that sometimes education means facing uncomfortable truths about who we are and making the choice to be different, to be better. I do it because I want every kid – every single last one of them – to feel seen, to feel heard, to feel valued, to feel respected, to feel hope, to feel empowered, to feel as if they have a right to exist in this world safely because they do.

As a parent, I can honestly tell you that I have told my kids that they can’t read a book or that they can’t read a book just yet. I think that is valid. You get to decide what you and your kids read. I get to decide what I and my kids read. But don’t let strangers make those decisions for you. Book banning is never the answer. Choice is. And for all of us to have the freedom to make those choices, that means we have to accept that others might make different choices than our own but the books have to remain on the shelves to make those choices available to all.

You get to decide for you. You don’t get to decide for me.

Some stories to pay attention to:

Virginia School Board Members call for book burning https://www.businessinsider.com/virginia-school-board-members-call-for-books-to-be-burned-2021-11?fbclid=IwAR0PI-tu3dbybODHT577tpu3WRhQhD4Q9aABpvFR1Q03Np3DKEhi3mfQ918

Missouri Could Jail Librarians https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/jan/16/missouri-could-jail-librarians-for-lending-age-inappropriate-books-parental-oversight-of-public-libraries-bill?fbclid=IwAR2E37C0HpM5JLTYOEc3gY8TYkf-YBPrMm2Wv7rE8vp0so4AR4vDLgh-sb

Texas https://www.texastribune.org/2021/11/10/abbott-pornography-texas-school-books/?fbclid=IwAR19hOYV4PYM4BgZTzKniQ4hB2bTZhUhrnnU8cAeAFCgXfq0POB1tQp4wcc

Calls to Ban Books by Black Authors Increasing https://www.edweek.org/teaching-learning/calls-to-ban-books-by-black-authors-are-increasing-amid-critical-race-theory-debates/2021/09?fbclid=IwAR30P4D0iEBJ7unzXhCUYhjgF8tiya_qDTyd9NcfugcZQHY5QeF8DnZJAVo

School Board Books Bans are Hurting not Helping Kids https://www.msnbc.com/opinion/school-board-book-bans-lgbtq-issues-race-are-hurting-not-n1283691?fbclid=IwAR2OWZA5oFlC7NkwDm4v1a4htezt6TyArp6uoqiMjGufiBavMPjpfAKszIg

And in depth look into the books on the Texas ban list https://bookriot.com/texas-book-ban-list/

Take 5: 2022 Sourcebooks Fire Showcase

It’s that time of year when everyone starts thinking about books coming out in 2022 that they can’t wait to read. I, personally, am super done with 2021 and hope that 2022 starts a big turnaround for this broken little world we are living in. And looking forward to 2022 with hope (please let it be better), I am thinking about some of the books I am looking forward to reading. My TBR list is growing and today I am going to talk about Sourcebooks Fire books. Sourcebooks Fire are one of my go to publishers for all things YA lit horror, mysteries and thrillers. If they aren’t on your radar, you should add them. So here is a look at 5 upcoming Sourcebooks Fire YA lit titles you should add to your TBR list.

At the End of Everything by Marieke Nijkamp

Publisher’s Book Description: From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of This Is Where It Ends comes another heartbreaking, emotional and timely page-turner that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

The Hope Juvenile Treatment Center is ironically named. No one has hope for the delinquent teenagers who have been exiled there; the world barely acknowledges that they exist.

Then the guards at Hope start acting strange. And one day…they don’t show up. But when the teens band together to make a break from the facility, they encounter soldiers outside the gates. There’s a rapidly spreading infectious disease outside, and no one can leave their houses or travel without a permit. Which means that they’re stuck at Hope. And this time, no one is watching out for them at all.

As supplies quickly dwindle and a deadly plague tears through their ranks, the group has to decide whom among them they can trust and figure out how they can survive in a world that has never wanted them in the first place.

Karen’s Thoughts: Marieke Nikjamp is a NYT bestselling author and she has written some amazing books. I once held a fantastic teen book discussion group centered around her book This is Where it Ends, and I think that this title has the same potential. Some might be thinking, oh no it’s too soon for a plague novel given our current situation, but I believe that it is the perfect vehicle to help those of us who wish to and need to process the events of the past two years while still giving ourselves the grace of a fictional narrative to do so. It’s like bibliotherapy, we can process our pandemic trauma by talking about a fictional plague. This book is slated for a January release.

The New Girl by Jesse Q. Sutanto

This is the ebook cover that I found online. I think it may be released with a different cover.

Publisher’s Book Description: Lia Setiawan has never really fit in. And when she wins a full ride to the prestigious Draycott Academy on a track scholarship, she’s determined to make it work even though she’s never felt more out of place.

But on her first day there she witnesses a girl being forcefully carried away by campus security. Her new schoolmates and teachers seem unphased, but it leaves her unsure of what she’s gotten herself into.

And as she uncovers the secrets of Draycott, complete with a corrupt teacher, a golden boy who isn’t what he seems, and a blackmailer determined to get her thrown out, she’s not sure if she can trust anyone…especially when the threats against her take a deadly turn.

Karen’s Thoughts: First, I just want to take a moment to note that it was amusing to me to see a book titles New Girl with an author named Jesse because, well, the TV show. I love the show. This book, obviously, has nothing to do with the show but who doesn’t love a deadly game of cat and mouse? This book is scheduled to come out on February 1st.

Lock the Doors by Vincent Ralph

Publisher’s Book Description: A brand new addictive, twisty thriller from the New York Times bestselling author of 14 WAYS TO DIE – for fans of Karen McManus, Holly Jackson and Lisa Jewell.


Tom’s family have moved into their dream home. But pretty soon he starts to notice that something is very wrong – there are strange messages written on the wall and locks on the bedroom doors. On the OUTSIDE.

The previous owners have moved just across the road and they seem like the perfect family. Their daughter Amy is beautiful and enigmatic but Tom is sure she’s got something to hide. And he isn’t going to stop until he finds the truth behind those locked doors. . .

Will their dream home become a nightmare?

Karen’s Thoughts: Vincent Ralph is the author of the recent thriller 14 Ways to Die, which you can currently find on Riley’s dorm bed as she is reading it as we speak. A dream home turned into a deadly home is a pretty reliable trope so sign me up. This book is scheduled to publish in March 2022.

Survive the Dome by Kosoko Jackson

Publisher’s Book Description: Black Lives Matter meets Attack the Block with a dash of Under the Dome in this stunning story of teens using their talents to liberate a city from unjust police occupation

Jamal Lawson just wanted to be a part of something. As an aspiring journalist, he packs up his camera and heads to Baltimore to document a rally protesting police brutality after another Black man is murdered.

But before it even really begins, the city implements a new safety protocol…the Dome. The Dome surrounds the city, forcing those within to subscribe to a total militarized shutdown. No one can get in, and no one can get out.

Alone in a strange place, Jamal doesn’t know where to turn…until he meets hacker Marco, who knows more than he lets on, and Catherine, an AWOL basic-training-graduate, whose parents helped build the initial plans for the Dome.

As unrest inside of Baltimore grows throughout the days-long lockdown, Marco, Catherine, and Jamal take the fight directly to the chief of police. But the city is corrupt from the inside out, and it’s going to take everything they have to survive.

Karen’s Thoughts: First, I want to take a moment to say that Attack the Block is a great British sci fi movie starring none other than John Boyega and the current Doctor, Jodie Whittaker. So I was in the moment that it was used as a comp title. More importantly, the title is relevant and necessary as we as a nation and the world at large continues to wrestle with what policing can, should and does look like and the impact that it has on Black lives. Scheduled to be published in March 2022.

Burn Down, Rise Up by Vincent Tirado

**please note, there has not yet been a cover released for this title**

Publisher’s Book Description: Mysterious disappearances. An urban legend rumored to be responsible. And one group of friends determined to save their city at any cost. Stranger Things meets Jordan Peele in this utterly original debut from an incredible new voice.

For over a year, the Bronx has been plagued by sudden disappearances that no one can explain. Sixteen-year-old Raquel does her best to ignore it. After all, the police only look for the white kids. But when her crush Charlize’s cousin goes missing, Raquel starts to pay attention—especially when her own mom comes down with a mysterious illness that seems linked to the disappearances.

Raquel and Charlize team up to investigate, but they soon discover that everything is tied to a terrifying urban legend called the Echo Game. The game is rumored to trap people in a sinister world underneath the city, and the rules are based on a particularly dark chapter in New York’s past. And if the friends want to save their home and everyone they love, they will have to play the game and destroy the evil at its heart—or die trying.

Karen’t Thoughts: Urban legends and deadly games? Yes please. This should be a great read for your Stranger Things fans. Vincent Tirado is a debut author and they should have a promising literary career. Scheduled for a May 2022 release.

Every single one of these book sounds like they have high appeal for teen readers. I know that the murder teen, also known as Riley, and I can’t wait to read them.

Historical Fiction: Getting the Details Right, a guest post by author Kip Wilson

Even though historical fiction isn’t nonfiction by any stretch, it’s still based on history and set in a historical time period, so the facts behind the story still very much matter when it comes to the details. Like most other historical fiction authors, I absolutely agonize over these details. Getting something wrong is definitely near the top of my (long) list of worries.

The Most Dazzling Girl in Berlin (coming March 29, 2022) is about orphaned 18-year-old Hilde who finds family, love, and her voice when she stumbles into a queer club, Café Lila, in Berlin in 1932. It’s historical fiction like my debut, White Rose, but unlike that novel, the main characters in this one are fictional. Still, I wanted the historical backdrop and the plot, as well as the imagined characters themselves, to be as authentic as possible for the story to come across as an accurate representation of what people like Hilde would have experienced in this time and place.

As part of my process, I like to focus on facts that can contribute to authenticity in four areas: setting, character, plot, and voice.


Investigating the details that will bring a historical setting to life is one of my favorite pieces of the research process. This is of course harder the farther back in history a story is set, but there’s definitely a wealth of information available for many 20th century settings.

Research into a historical setting typically includes lots of reading, including general nonfiction about the time and place, fiction and poetry from the era, historical maps and guidebooks, and newspapers and magazines. Beyond reading, photographs and films from the era are often even more effective in showing what a particular setting looked like at the time, and not only the streets, buildings, and modes of transportation, but the people, the fashions, and their habits at work and at play.

Finally, actually visiting the setting in the present day can be a great way to get a sense of the place, even if—as is the case in Berlin—so much of the city has changed. For me, walking the streets in the Schöneberg neighborhood where The Most Dazzling Girl in Berlin is set really brought the setting to life for me.


With White Rose, I had a wealth of information available because my protagonist, Sophie Scholl, was a real person. She left behind letters and diaries and plenty of eyewitnesses who knew her and granted interviews over the years.

My main characters in The Most Dazzling Girl in Berlin are fictional, so I found studying memoirs and essays by queer people who lived in Berlin at the time a very helpful way to understand the challenges—and joys—that people like my own queer characters would experience.


The plot of a historical novel is very much informed by the events of its time period, so having a firm grasp on those events is crucial. 1932 was the last full year of the Weimar Republic era before the Nazis came to power—well before the beginning of World War II. Still it wasn’t a quiet time at all. Many important historical events are scattered through the eight months when the story takes place.

Again, general nonfiction books and trusted history websites were helpful in helping me pinpoint important events, including multiple national elections held in Germany during 1932. But probably the most helpful sources of all for nailing down the story’s plot were periodicals. Some of these sources are heavy on the photograph side, like the Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung, which were a great way for me to “see” certain events. Others presented the more left-wing, liberal take on the events my main characters agree with, like the Vossische Zeitung.

But there were certainly other opinions at the time, and even if my protagonist doesn’t agree with them, she notices them in campaign posters and headlines from right-wing, nationalist sources like the Nazi party newspaper, Völkischer Beobachter. Even in 1932 before the Nazis came to power, their rhetoric was already frightening and ominous. But because my characters of course don’t have the hindsight that we do today, their matter-of-fact observations of happenings hopefully provide some insight about why no one was able to stop the Nazi rise to power at the time.


Another important way to capture a historical era is through my protagonist’s voice. Because I write in verse, every word matters, so this process is particularly enjoyable to me. From the first draft, I try to use words and a way of speaking that correspond to my protagonist’s background and her time— and perhaps even more, her heart. But even after my own revisions, good questions still come up in edits and copyedits. The last thing a historical author wants is to include anachronisms or to make characters seem too modern for their times.

In the end, facts really do matter when it comes to historical fiction, so it’s important to make an effort to get the details right. The areas I outline above can certainly add up to help give the story a sense of authenticity, so I try to layer in as much as I can. And while mistakes can always still make their way into a work of historical fiction (as hard as I try to avoid them!), I consider attending to the details and respecting the facts of the past the least I can do.


Kip Wilson is the author of White Rose (2019, Versify), a critically-acclaimed YA novel-in-verse about anti-Nazi political activist Sophie Scholl. Kip holds a Ph.D. in German Literature and was the Poetry Editor at Young Adult Review Network (YARN) for five years before joining Voyage as an Associate Editor in 2020. Her next YA novel-in-verse, The Most Dazzling Girl in Berlin, is forthcoming from Versify in March 2022.

Website: http://www.kipwilsonwrites.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kiperoo Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kipwilsonwrites/

The Most Dazzling Girl in Berlin

After her eighteenth birthday, Hilde, a former orphan in 1930s Berlin, goes out into the world to discover her place in it. But finding a job is hard, at least until she stumbles into Café Lila, a vibrant cabaret full of expressive customers—and Rosa, the club’s waitress and performer. As the café and all who work there embrace Hilde, and she embraces them in turn, she discovers her voice and her own blossoming feelings for Rosa.

But Berlin is in turmoil. Between the elections, protests in the streets, and the beginning seeds of unrest in Café Lila itself, Hilde will have to decide what’s best for her future . . . and what it means to love a place on the cusp of war.

Cindy Crushes Programming: Fandom News You Can Use for Upcoming Programs, by Teen Librarian Cindy Shutts

I love fandom programming. I find fandoms to be a great source of programming inspiration and it is always so much fun to have a theme. It can make marketing easier as well! Here are three popular fandoms with upcoming releases that would make great springboards for upcoming tween or teen programs. A word of caution regarding fandom programming: you always want to be mindful of copyright issues. Having said that, creating things inspired by and in the spirit of your favorite fandoms is a great way to enjoy that fandom while engaging in self expression, problem solving, and creative thinking. Fandoms are fun!

Animal Crossing

This fandom has slowed down but a huge expansion pack is being released this week and this is sure to bring back fans. This is perfect to create, take and make. I did two take and make last year around Animal Crossing. Faith Healy did one as well where she gave felt and different patterns to make their own villagers (templates at the end of this post). This was a super popular take and make. We are working on a new one right now.  Clay fossil charms would be super cute or DIY Villager Figures.

Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift’s version of Red is coming out this month. We are planning to write an escape room based on her albums released on her birthday, December 13. There are plenty of activities to do such as a listening party to the new album or a sing a long, Taylor Trivia or even a book display based on any of her many albums.

You can also create Taylor Swift inspired book reading lists, like these examples:


Disney World will be celebrating it’s 50 year anniversary throughout the year. My co-worker Emily Lif gave a great presentation on Dis-tory: Celebrating 50 Years of Magic Kingdom History. My other co-worker Jessi Wakefield made DIY mouse ears. I did a Disney World escape room to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the park and a Cinderella’s Castle necklace craft. There is so much lore about Walt Disney World. You can check your streaming license to see if you have any films you can show. We use Swank and all the big Disney films are on it. Please be mindful of copyright as Disney is very strict about copyright protections.


What Fandoms are you doing for your upcoming programs?

And here are the templates for the DIY Animal Crossing inspired felties we promised

What Fandoms are you doing for your upcoming programs?

Cindy Shutts, MLIS

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

Turning Voice Recordings into Sound Wave Art and QR Codes

As many of you know, this past year I lost my father and my kids lost their grandfather. It has been an ongoing struggle for us, especially as the holidays and birthdays approach. So I have been trying to figure out ways to help us all through this year of firsts, which is why I learned about soundwave art.

There are programs out there that can take voice messages and show you what they look like in soundwave form and many people are turning those into works of art. You can even turn it into a tattoo and there are scanners that will scan the tattoo and you can hear the message!

You can also turn a voice mail or recording into a QR code and when you scan the QR code, you can hear the message. Many online artists are turning these into works of art. The canvas will show the soundwave and also have a QR code on the art so you can scan it and hear what the message says. So with Thing 2’s birthday coming up, I decided to see if I could do this and I made a postcard (I blocked out parts of it for privacy and to keep it special for her):

Though I looked for how to do this as a way to help us remember someone we have loved and lost, it does not have to be about that. You can do this for any one and for any occasion. The creative possibilities are limitless. So let me tell you how you can turn a voice mail or voice recording into art.

Step 1: Turn Your Recording into a Soundwave

I did a lot of searching to try and figure out a good way to turn my voicemail into a recording. There are a lot of options out there and good instructions and walk throughs. I used a program called Audacity on my laptop. I recorded on my laptop and played the voicemail on my phone. I then took a screen shot of the soundwave and pasted it into Microsoft Publisher, where I could clean it up and save it as either a .PNG or a .JPG. This was actually a pretty quick process.

Here’s a walk through that helped get me started: https://midnightmusic.com.au/2018/12/how-to-make-your-own-soundwave-art/

Step 2: Turn Your Recording into a QR Code

Again, there are a lot of options out there for this. I ended up purchasing an app called Cloud QR for $3.99 and I don’t know if this was the best choice, but it was the one that I saw talked about the most and worked in the way I needed it to. To do this part, I played the voicemail on my computer while recording it on the Cloud QR generator on my phone. Once the QR code was generated I then screenshot it and emailed it to myself. I could then put it in Microsoft Publisher to clean it up and save it as either a .PNG or a .JPG.

Here’s a walk through that helped me get started: https://brownbagteacher.com/making-audio-qr-codes-step-by-step/

Step 3: Turning Your Soundwave and QR Code into Art

Because I knew I wanted to send Thing 2 a card in the mail, I decided to make a postcard. I did this in Canva because they have really good – and easy to use – postcard templates. I quickly and easily loaded up both the soundwave and QR code art and made my postcard. I then printed it out and verified that the QR code worked the way that I wanted it to and it did!

There are no limits to the types of art being produced out there using soundwave art. I can’t help but the way it could be used to decorate tween and teen rooms, send mail to loved ones, create unique canvases and more. And I was able to teach myself how to do it and create my postcard in 2 hours! And it only cost me $4.00 for the app.

I highly recommend using this in your programming, classroom and makerspaces. The possibilities are limitless.

Take 5: Something Old, Something New, Part II

Last week, I shared with you 5 books (most of them from 2021) that put bold new spins on tired old classics in way or another. Today I am sharing with you another 5 because 2021 is a great year for retelling old tales and put fresh new spins on old classics. I’m here for it because most of the classics we are asked to read in high school and college were written by white men, though occasionally you get a title from a white woman, and there are great ways we can update our teaching. I love getting fresh spins, new twists, and different cultural points of view on the stories that I was told I should know. Pairing texts is a great framework for innovation and discussion and growth.

Fairytale retellings are pretty popular, always. Some of the best fairytales – like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty – get retold in multiple ways, and I’m here for it. But what if there was a book that didn’t just retell one fairytale, but all of them? Into the Boodred Woods kind of just mixed them all together in a magic hat of storytelling and you get an epic Brothers Grimm inspired fairytale world with werecreatures, queer love and so much more.

Publisher’s Book Description: This is Martha Brockenbrough’s feminist twisting of the Brother Grimms’ stories, Game of Thrones-style.

Once upon a time there was a kingdom and a forest that liked to eat men and a girl who would change everything, but not alone . . .


There’s no such thing as once upon a time.

In a far away land, populated by were beasts and surrounded by a powerful forest, lies a kingdom about to be sent into chaos. On his deathbed, King Tyran divides his land, leaving half to each of his two children-so they’ll rule together. However, his son, Albrecht, is not satisfied with half a kingdom. And even though his sister, Ursula, is the first born, he decides that as a girl and were bear, she is unfit to rule. So he invades her land, slaughtering her people and most of the were beasts, and claims it for himself. As King Albrecht builds his iron rule and an army of beasts to defend his reign, Ursula is gathering the survivors and making plans to take back the kingdom. Not just her half-the whole thing. Because Albrecht should have never been allowed to sit on the throne, and Ursula is going to take his crown. And if he’s not careful, he might not get to keep his head either.

Emma considered herself a master matchmaker but was honestly not that great at love. This is true of Elliot, who has entered her freshman year of college and soon things go wildly out of control. This is truly a touching coming of age story about a college freshman trying to figure out who she is and deal with the consequences of the decisions she makes along the way. Spoiler alert: she makes a lot of bad decisions. It was months after I finished reading an ARC of this book that I realized that Fresh was a wink and a nod to the fact that the main character is a Freshman in college and starting her life fresh. I just felt that I should come clean about that. This book is humorous and touching and puts a queer spin on an old tale that has been told multiple times before, but this version is delightful. For those who like to know, there is a lot of frank discussion about sex here.

Publisher’s Book Description: A hilarious and vulnerable coming-of-age story about the thrilling new experiences––and missteps––of a girl’s freshman year of college

Some students enter their freshman year of college knowing exactly what they want to do with their lives. Elliot McHugh is not one of those people. But picking a major is the last thing on Elliot’s mind when she’s too busy experiencing all that college has to offer—from dancing all night at off-campus parties, to testing her RA Rose’s patience, to making new friends, to having the best sex one can have on a twin-sized dorm room bed. But she may not be ready for the fallout when reality hits. When the sex she’s having isn’t that great. When finals creep up and smack her right in the face. Or when her roommate’s boyfriend turns out to be the biggest a-hole. Elliot may make epic mistakes, but if she’s honest with herself (and with you, dear reader), she may just find the person she wants to be. And maybe even fall in love in the process . . . Well, maybe.

Because apparently I’m making a lot of true confessions in this post, I have never read Little Women. I did, once, get to watch Riley act in a magnificent version of this novel in a play, so there’s that. Bethany C. Morrow took this perennial favorite and remixed it with four Black sisters. Bethany C. Morrow is a fabulous author and I wanted you all to know about this update of the classic.

Publisher’s Book Description: Four young Black sisters come of age during the American Civil War in So Many Beginnings, a warm and powerful YA remix of the classic novel Little Women by national bestselling author Bethany C. Morrow.

North Carolina, 1863. As the American Civil War rages on, the Freedmen’s Colony of Roanoke Island is blossoming, a haven for the recently emancipated. Black people have begun building a community of their own, a refuge from the shadow of the old life. It is where the March family has finally been able to safely put down roots with four young daughters:

Meg, a teacher who longs to find love and start a family of her own.

Jo, a writer whose words are too powerful to be contained.

Beth, a talented seamstress searching for a higher purpose.

Amy, a dancer eager to explore life outside her family’s home.

As the four March sisters come into their own as independent young women, they will face first love, health struggles, heartbreak, and new horizons. But they will face it all together.

Dorian Gray introduced us to the idea of artwork that is evil and dangerous. She’s Too Pretty To Burn also explores the intersection of art and danger. Though some of our tales are retellings, this is more of an inspired by tale.

Publisher’s Book Description: An electric romance set against a rebel art scene sparks lethal danger for two girls in this expertly plotted YA thriller. For fans of E. Lockhart, Lauren Oliver and Kara Thomas.

The summer is winding down in San Diego. Veronica is bored, caustically charismatic, and uninspired in her photography. Nico is insatiable, subversive, and obsessed with chaotic performance art. They’re artists first, best friends second. But that was before Mick. Delicate, lonely, magnetic Mick: the perfect subject, and Veronica’s dream girl. The days are long and hot―full of adventure―and soon they are falling in love. Falling so hard, they never imagine what comes next. One fire. Two murders. Three drowning bodies. One suspect . . . one stalker. This is a summer they won’t survive.

Inspired by The Picture of Dorian Gray, this sexy psychological thriller explores the intersections of love, art, danger, and power.

Peter Plan is one of those classic stories that gets told again and again and again and for the longest time, most of us didn’t realize how truly harmful it was to Indigenous people because it perpetuates harmful stereotypes of Native American and Indigenous people. Indigenous author Cynthia Leitich Smith has updated the classic from an Indigenous point of view for the middle grade crowd and up in this moving fantasy.

Publisher’s Book Description: In this modern take of the popular classic Peter Pan, award-winning author Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee Creek) brilliantly shifts the focus from the boy who won’t grow up to Native American Lily and English Wendy—stepsisters who must face both dangers and wonders to find their way back to the family they love.

Stepsisters Lily and Wendy embark on a high-flying journey of magic, adventure, and courage—to a fairy-tale island known as Neverland.

Lily and Wendy have been best friends since they became stepsisters. But with their feuding parents planning to spend the summer apart, what will become of their family—and their friendship?

Little do they know that a mysterious boy has been watching them from the oak tree outside their window. A boy who intends to take them away from home for good, to an island of wild animals, Merfolk, Fairies, and kidnapped children.