Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Cindy Crushes Programming: 3 RPG Games I Want to Try on Roll20, by Teen Librarian Cindy Shutts

I recently started to run the virtual Dungeons and Dragons for my library on Roll20. I was so grateful to learn about Roll20 from friends and YouTube videos. I do know there are so many more RPG games that can be played with teens on Roll20.  Here are three cool games other libraries have played.

Learn More: Roll20 101 Crash Course

  1. Masks!: This is a superhero RPG.  Players take the role of the new crop of superheroes and must work together to fight forces of evil. This game looks perfect for teens since the characters are teens.  Normal Library in Illinois ran this on Roll20 as a one-shot.  I think using games as a one shot is super helpful because if the teens enjoy it you can always make it a series.  Here is a link to learn more about Masks! https://www.magpiegames.com/masks/
  2. Call of Cthulhu: This is one of the more popular RPG games. I have had a few of my former coworkers play this with the teens before the pandemic. This RPG is about being an everyday investigator of the unknown. You can be one of many different characters trying to dive into the mysteries that live in the Cthulieverse. Cthulhu, for those who do not know who Cthulhu is, is a monster created by Lovecraft which is often a sea creature that looks like a squid or octopus and has a cult surrounding it. It is one of the more popular monsters. Reed Memorial in Ravenna, OH has been running this RPG using Roll20 doing two hour sessions.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CmTFHSrV5TE&feature=emb_title
  3. Goblin Quest: This is a fun slapstick type RPG game filled with Goblins. It seems very similar in humor and vibes to the popular card game Munchkin. There are missions like saving Dwayne Johnson aka the Rock. The goblins make many mistakes along the way and often die. If you are looking for a non-serious game this looks great. It was started with a Kickstarter.  Normal Library also ran a session of this RPG on Roll20. https://www.amazon.com/Goblin-Quest-Softcover-fatal-incompetence/dp/0996376518

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: Middle Grade Book Lists for 2021 New Releases

Looking for some great middle grade reads for 2021? Here is a roundup of some great book lists out there. These all highlight new middle grade releases for 2021, with a focus on the first half of 2021.

91 Middle-Grade Books to Read in 2021

Helping RevolTeens Fight the Mental Health Crisis, by Christine Lively

The COVID crisis has revealed as much as it has changed. Yes, our lives have been upended and drastically changed because our main priority has shifted to trying to survive this pandemic. We’ve all made as many changes as we are able to make: limiting in-person interaction, working and schooling from home, wearing masks, and the list goes on. We’re all aware and resentful of some of these changes, but we’re making them to stay alive.

Another equally important result of the COVID crisis has been what it has revealed. So many inequities, problems, and struggles that existed before March of 2020 have come into sharp focus. For teens and young adults, the COVID crisis has revealed the huge and acute mental health crisis. Anyone who works with teens could tell you (and probably has) that young people have been struggling and suffering from mental health issues more and more for years. In my house, all three of my children have struggled with mental health issues. As a parent, I can tell you that finding help for them has been frighteningly difficult.

I am a high school librarian and at school, I see teens every day who need help. At our school, we have 2300 students and only a handful of qualified mental health professionals. Schools may be able to identify those who need help but are not equipped to provide that help. Teachers work with students who desperately need resources, evaluation, and time to work through their illness. Many teachers go far above and beyond their duties to support and help their students in whatever way they can.  I have personally reached out to try to get services for students who need them and know that it is often impossible to find those services.

All of this existed well before the COVID crisis.

The crisis has made it sharper and more dangerous. Because of the intensity, teens’ mental health has become newsworthy and awareness has been raised.

The New York Times today reports the stories of several teens who are in crisis.  These teens are all different ages and from different parts of the country, but they are all in crisis, and we are not equipped to help them.

‘“What parents and children are consistently reporting is an increase in all symptoms — a child who was a little anxious before the pandemic became very anxious over this past year,” said Dr. Adiaha I. A. Spinks-Franklin, an associate professor of pediatrics at the Baylor College of Medicine. It is this prolonged stress, Dr. Spinks-Franklin said, that in time blunts the brain’s ability to manage emotions.’

All across the country, hospitals are struggling to keep up with the need.

‘Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, has an emergency department that is a decent size for a pediatric hospital, with capacity for 62 children or adolescents. But well before the arrival of the coronavirus, the department was straining to handle increasing numbers of patients with behavior problems.

“This was huge problem pre-pandemic,” said Dr. David Axelson, chief of psychiatry and behavioral health at the hospital. “We were seeing a rise in emergency department visits for mental health problems in kids, specifically for suicidal thinking and self-harm. Our emergency department was overwhelmed with it, having to board kids on the medical unit while waiting for psych beds.”’

Many of you reading this probably have your own stories to tell. When my son was in an acute struggle with depression that was life threatening I was told by a mental health professional that I should not tell his school or other people about it. I was shocked. Instead, I would tell anyone who would listen about his life and death struggle with depression. If he had been a child fighting cancer, we would have had community fundraising dinners and printed t-shirts with his face on it to raise awareness and to give him support. Mental illness is just as dangerous and life threatening as any physical disease, so why should we keep it a secret? Feeling alone only makes it worse for many teens. Talking about it helps.

The good news is that teen mental health has gained more attention. Now we have to decide what we are going to do to help teens in crisis and those who will face a lifelong struggle with mental health issues.

How can we help RevolTeens to find a way through their mental health struggles?

The National Association on Mental Illness has some resources for teens on their webpage and is a good place to start. Talking about mental health with the teens in your life makes a huge difference. Normalizing discussions of feelings and struggle makes a helps teens feel comfortable sharing their own difficulties. Asking for more mental health resources at schools and in your community will help our elected officials recognize the needs of their communities.

Most of all, keep supporting and reaching out to the teens in your life. So many of them struggle in silence and believe that they are alone. We can all share stories of struggle with them to show them that mental illness is as common as physical illness and is usually treatable. Stories in books, in song, in social media, and stories from our own lives all help teens feel less alone. Helping them to find help is the greatest action we can take.

So yes, we have a long standing teen mental health crisis. We can help revolt against that for our teens by standing with them, demanding that services are available to them, and continuing to fight the stigma of mental illness to ensure that more teens can ask for help.

The COVID crisis has revealed the crisis. Now, we have to take action.

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. Christine blogs at https://hippodillycircus.com/ and you can follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/XineLively

Introducing HEARTDRUM, a new publishing imprint that centers Native storytellers by Cynthia Leitich Smith

As someone who has spent 27+ years buying books for public libraries, I have always been astounded by how hard it is particularly to find titles about and by Native voices. And when you ask people about Native representation that typically refer to Westerns, Little House on the Prairie, or The Indian in the Cupboard, all of which rely on harmful stereotypes and most of which are not in any way, shape or form written by someone who is tribally enrolled in a Native tribe. None of these titles are good representation and many of them are, in fact, harmful representation.

So I was very excited to hear that author Cynthia Leitich Smith would be starting her own publishing imprint called Heartdrum. Smith is herself a Muscogee Creek author and has been long active in the publishing business, so she is the perfect person to head up an initiative like this. I recently got a press release package from Heartdrum and it says that, “the Heartdrum imprint will fully center intertribal voices and visions but also welcome all young readers.” It goes on to say that “the imprint will offer a wide range of heartfelt, innovative, groundbreaking and unexpected stories by Native creators, informed and inspired by lived experience, with an emphasis on the present and future of Indian Country and on the strength of young Native heroes.”

Today I am excited to share some of their newest and upcoming titles with you.

Ancestor Approved, edited by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Publisher’s Book Description:

A collection of intersecting stories set at a powwow that bursts with hope, joy, resilience, the strength of community, and Native pride.

In a high school gym full of color and song, Native families from Nations within the borders of the U.S. and Canada dance, sell beadwork and books, and celebrate friendship and heritage. They are the heroes of their own stories.

Featured contributors: Joseph Bruchac, Art Coulson, Christine Day, Eric Gansworth, Dawn Quigley, Carole Lindstrom, Rebecca Roanhorse, David A. Robertson, Andrea L. Rogers, Kim Rogers, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Monique Gray Smith, Traci Sorell, Tim Tingle, Erika T. Wurth, and Brian Young. 

Sisters of the Neversea by Cynthia Leitich Smith

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.

A boy who calls himself Peter Pan.

This book comes out in June of 2021

The Sea in Winter by Christine Day

Publisher’s Book Description:

The story of a Native American girl struggling to find her joy again.

It’s been a hard year for Maisie Cannon, ever since she hurt her leg and could not keep up with her ballet training and auditions.

Her blended family is loving and supportive, but Maisie knows that they just can’t understand how hopeless she feels. With everything she’s dealing with, Maisie is not excited for their family midwinter road trip along the coast, near the Makah community where her mother grew up.

But soon, Maisie’s anxieties and dark moods start to hurt as much as the pain in her knee. How can she keep pretending to be strong when on the inside she feels as roiling and cold as the ocean? 

This book is out now

Healer of the Water Monster by Brian Young

Publisher’s Book Description:

Brian Young’s debut novel, inspired by Navajo beliefs, features a seemingly ordinary boy who must save the life of a Water Monster—and help his uncle suffering from addiction—by discovering his own bravery and boundless love. An outstanding debut from a promising young Navajo author.

When Nathan goes to visit his grandma, Nali, at her mobile summer home on the Navajo reservation, he knows he’s in for a pretty uneventful summer. Still, he loves spending time with Nali, and with his uncle Jet—though it’s clear when Jet arrives that he brings his problems with him.

One night, while lost in the nearby desert, Nathan finds something extraordinary. A Holy Being from the Navajo Creation Story—a Water Monster—in need of help.

Now Nathan must summon all his courage to save his new friend. With the help of other Navajo Holy Beings, Nathan is determined to save the Water Monster, and to help Uncle Jet heal from his own pain.

This book comes out in May of 2021

Native voices are featured in less than 1% of the kid lit titles published in previous years and are sorely lacking on our library shelves. I have long respected and admired the writing of Smith and she is the perfect person to be leading this initiative. I’m looking forward to reading all of the books!

Dispatches from the Texas Storm

I would normally share a post like this with you on Sunday as a Sunday Reflections, but I wanted to let everyone know what’s happening here in Texas.

During the night Sunday night, early Monday morning, our electricity started to go on and off. It would go off for a few hours and then come back on for a bit. Finally, maybe around 8:00 AM, our electricity went out for good. It was out for a solid 24 hours and off and on for hours before and a couple of days after it came back on.

This was all happening during a stretch of unprecedented cold in the state of Texas. The temperature went down into the single digits. We laid in bed with no electricity wearing layers of clothing and blankets.

The day was already cold, and it started getting colder. There were several times where we went and sat in our car (in our driveway, not a garage) to charge our phones and get warmed up. Thing 2 played in the snow, joyful and not aware that we were growing scared about what the night would bring.

As darkness came up, I could not get ahold of my mother, who lives an hour away. And I grew anxious. And it grew colder.

The weather forecast said it would be 1 degree over night and it was already so cold. And I grew afraid.

That evening, as I tried to get ahold of my mom, we sat in a hotel lobby trying to get a room for the girls and I. We sat in that lobby for 2 and a half hours but nobody cared, because it was warm and it was so very cold in our house. We would have sat in that lobby all night long if we had to just for the warmth. We saw so many people, desperate like us, coming in and trying to get a room. There were no rooms to be had. The clerk was very nice and set us up for a few hours in a room that they were not allowed to rent out because it had broken furniture, but we did not mind. We would take the few hours of warmth.

That night I had visions of going to see my mom the next day and finding her frozen in her home. Eventually, she called me. She had been turning her phone off to save the battery life. Because of the roads, she could not get to me and we could not get to her. It was late at night and already growing cold.

I told her all the things I had read online about staying warm. I begged her to go in her car – not in the garage please please please – and keep warm. We cried together, in fear and desperation about what these early morning hours would mean. That night we hung up the phone and I feared it would be the last time that I would speak to my mother.

I have talked a lot about my mom, but my stepdad is a part of this story as well. He is a man, in his early 70s, who only has one kidney. That one kidney only works at 47%. That detail will become important in a bit.


Sinks Won’t Drain, No Hot Food, But Safe At Last?

On Monday, during the day, everyone was hopeful that the electricity would come back on sometime during the day. As the night grew, people began packing up and going to hotels, which soon reached capacity. I called several that night for my mom. But there was no room in the inn.

So on Tuesday, my mom and stepdad made their way to my house. It had gotten to 40 degrees inside their home and it scared her (and me). If the heat didn’t come back on it would just get colder still the next night with no heat to warm it up during the day. We could be cold together, but at least I would know that she was there and I could keep safe.

On Tuesday, my mom and stepdad were safely at our house and the electricity started cycling on and off again. During one of those on cycles I was able to cook and serve my mom and stepdad their first warm meal since Sunday, more than 48 hours before.

When we went to go do our dishes to clean up, we learned that the outgoing pipes in our kitchen sink were frozen. The sink wouldn’t drain. It would take more than a day with heat in the house for it to thaw out enough to drain. So we stacked up dirty dishes, we huddled around a fire, and we knew that we were luckier than so many others.

On Wednesday, my stepdad started to feel pretty sick. My mom became anxious. She worried that the prolonged time with no electricity and food had taken a toll on him. She worried about him having to go to our hospital, and not the hospital hear her where his kidney specialist was. So for another night, my mom and I went to bed crying and worrying about how we would survive what was happening in Texas.

The next morning, they decided to drive home even though the roads weren’t great because they wanted to be near his doctor. I told her to contact me when she got home safely and worried.


“There’s water everywhere . . . “

When she got home her house was flooded. I’m talking every single surface of her floors in every single room covered in water. There is a spot on her ceiling where you can tell water leaked in. Two walls destroyed by water. A window that looks like a waterfall. And every floor, ruined. Her hope chest, destroyed. And the hope it contained, well . . . I hope she can find it again. But today is not that day.

Today we called around trying to find a service to help them remove the water from their home, and they are all so busy they said they could maybe help her next Wednesday. Plumbers, insurance adjusters, hotels . . . they are all so full that you get put on a waiting list. One water restoration place told her that they had received 940 calls in the last two days. And that is only one place.

I cried on the phone today with my mom or my husband almost hourly. Everyone is scared. Many people lost something. Some people lost everything.

There is no gas in our town. There hasn’t been since at least Wednesday.

We’ve gone to the grocery store 4 times. Twice it was closed because they had no food. Once it had a line wrapping around the building. Last night I was able to get some weird odds and ends for the girls and I at Aldi’s. There was no bread on the shelves. No meat. It was far worse than what we saw in the early days of the pandemic.

One of my best friends is living in an apartment that hasn’t had water for 2 days. It’s not expected to have water in the next couple of days either. People like her have buckets of snow that they are using to flush their toilets.

Because of my parent’s ages and risk factors, I haven’t seen them in a year. We went on Mother’s Day and said Happy Mother’s Day from the sidewalk. She came on Christmas Eve and said Merry Christmas from the sidewalk. Masked, of course. We weren’t together for her first grandchild’s 18th birthday. We weren’t together for Easter. We weren’t together for Thanksgiving. We weren’t together for Christmas. But in the life and death situation that was this week, we made hard choices and I hoped that we wouldn’t be putting my parents at risk of Covid while trying to save them from freezing.

My parents will now spend the next week or more in a hotel. After a year of working so hard to keep themselves safe from a deadly virus, they have to make all kinds of decisions that put them at risk. I am praying that saving them from the winter storm and its damage won’t kill them from the virus they have worked so hard to avoid.


The Kindness of Friends and Strangers

Friends and strangers helped us. A friend gave us firewood to help us through Tuesday and Wednesday night as our electricity continued to cycle on and off. We huddled in the living room around a fire, someone staying away to make sure we didn’t burn the house down.

A neighbor gave us salt as we cleared out the driveway so my parents could walk safely into our home when they arrived.

Last night, a Twitter follower who has been working with Beto O’Rourke and Powered by People contacted me and asked me how they could help me help my mother. They have spent the day answering my questions and trying to get us connected with resources.

My mother found a hotel she can stay in starting tomorrow near her house and near my stepdad’s doctor. Given the amount of damage to her home, she will probably have to find a long term place to stay while her home is repaired. We have no idea what all the damage is, what the insurance will cover, what she will need to do to be safe and how much it will cost her. And we won’t know until, if we’re lucky, sometime next week because everyone she needs to help her is so very busy helping all of Texas.

Texas is not okay y’all.


The Real Cost of the Failure of Leadership in Texas

The electricity is back on at my house. We slept comfortably last night, though many other Texans did not.

We were able to find a bit of food and The Teen made homemade fried rice, kind of.

Our sink is now draining.

And then I close my eyes and I see my mother, crying, as she surveys the damage to her home.

I want to share this small snapshot because we are not okay here in Texas. I am from Ohio and experienced weather related flooding 10 years ago this month. Texas was in no way prepared to handle this. And it will cost the residents of Texas everything while people like Jerry Jones gloat about the profits they are making.

A drilling company that operates in Texas and Louisiana told investors that the surge in natural gas prices — amid powerful winter storms — was giving it a major financial boost. “Obviously, this week is like hitting the jackpot,” CFO Roland Burns said. Source: NPR

Governor Greg Abbot, Senator Ted Cruz, Senator John Cornyn and more . . . they failed Texas. They didn’t heed the advice of experts given more than 10 years ago and winterize the electricity grid. And then when this happened, Governor Abbot took the time to jump onto television spread lies about how this was a failure of green energy rather than rolling up his sleeves and helping the people of Texas. And Ted Cruz, well, he hopped on a plane to Mexico and then when he got caught, he flew home with his tail between his legs and threw his children under the bus. And then he went onto television in a PR press to rehab his image instead of rolling up his sleeves and helping the people of Texas. Perhaps of all the systemic failures around this event, I am most full of rage for Cruz’s callous indifference to the suffering of the people he was elected to serve during a literal state emergency. He fled while people died and that should be his albatross around his neck for the entire rest of his life. Let it never be just a footnote in his history.

There are people helping the people of Texas. People like Beto O’Rourke, who is coordinating volunteers to make welfare check ups. People like Mattress Mack and HEB and Texas foodbanks. People handing out free water and getting cold people into hotel rooms. People handing out free food. Every day people like my friends and neighbors who gave us firewood and salt.

But make no mistake, in the past and in the present, the leadership of Texas failed its people and the people have lost a lot. Many Texans have lost yet another week’s worth of wages. Cars are damaged. Homes are damaged. Fridges full of food – spoiled. People have had medical conditions worsened. Their homes are unlivable.

And so very sadly, some of our fellow Texans are dead.

We can not let any of this be in vain. We must work to improve the infrastructure here in Texas to protect its citizens from future crisis. And make no mistake, Climate Change is real and there will be more crisis. We must invest in our state and each other to keep us all safe, healthy and thriving. We can not let a failure of leadership like this happen to us again, because it’s far more costly than just investing in what we need upfront.

I don’t know what’s going to happen to my mom’s house. To my state.

But I know that I want things to change.

No, we need them to.

Last night I went in and kissed The Teen as she laid down to go to bed. She cried, telling me she couldn’t take it anymore. None of us can.


Here is information on how to apply for FEMA aid in Texas if you need it

Cindy Crushes Programming: 10 Tips for Make and Take Crafts During a Pandemic

  1. Use Fandoms: I always try to include fandoms with my crafts. It makes teens be able to recognize that the craft is. Teens will always have their fandoms.
  2. Pick something useful: I have done a lot of light crafts and also this month we are doing handwarmers. It is certainly cold enough for them. We have been in a polar vortex for awhile
  3. Keep costs low: This really depends on your budget. I know a lot of libraries are going through budget cuts including mine. I have been using a lot of the craft supplies I already had. I also have been using sales. I was so excited when Joann’s had a felt sale a couple weeks ago. I also use coupons.
  1. Put a picture on the craft showing what it is: This is so important. Teens will not know what they are taking if you do not display what the craft is.
  2. Make an Example Craft: This is super helpful so teens can see the craft in person and are able to know that it is possible to make
  3. Make the instructions have pictures if the craft is hard: Many teens are visual learners and need to see the steps in the craft. I go through my coworkers craft and look at the instructions and will let them know if I am confused. I figure if I am confused, the teens will be confused.
  4. Make a video for the hard crafts: If you are choosing to do a hard craft, having a video will allow the teens to see your process.
  5. Do not pick very hard crafts: Give teens crafts they can complete and feel good about. Some things are too hard and you do not want to put too much pressure on them.
  6. Do not worry if the craft does not go right away: Sometimes during the pandemic you will not see many teens or their parents. This is okay. Do not stress.
  7. Do not overcraft: I am guilty of this one sometimes. I get so excited about a Take and Make that I want to shove it in a month we are pretty full in. Resist the urge if you can you do not want to bog yourself down with crafts.
  8. Don’t choose super messy crafts: I did this recently when I had a craft with cornstarch. I was covered in it all day. Plus super messy crafts will not make parents happy with their teens doing the craft at home.

Stay Safe during this weather! Here is a picture my dog Harry Winston in winter PJs.

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: The Things We Won’t Buy, a Reflection on Generation Z, Conscious Capitalism, and “Cancel Culture”

I haven’t eaten at a Chick-Fil-A in over six years.

You see, CFA donates money to causes that actively fight against LGBTQIA+ rights. People I love are LGBTQIA+. And I believe in human rights. So I don’t buy their food because I understand that they will use the money they make on the food I buy to hurt people I love. If I were to suggest going to CFA, my teenage daughter would disown me.

Last year I also cancelled Hulu, Amazon Prime and Disney+. I stopped shopping at certain stores, I changed my cell phone plan and I’m looking at changing my bank. I made these changes because I believe in human rights for all and support democracy. I have actively sought out the names of businesses that have donated to elected representatives that have supported the insurrection and will be avoiding them.

I closed my Facebook and Instagram account.

I just can’t give my money to businesses or people who are going to use that money against me, the people I love, or the things that I believe in. I love my daughters and I want to spend my money in ways that will make the world a better, a safe, place for them.

I believe that racism, hatred, and bigotry is evil, immoral and unethical. I believe that hatred harms us all. As does poverty.

I believe that love is love.

I believe that every human being has the same inalienable rights as I do.

I believe that every vote matters. As do facts. And truth. And justice.

And I spend my money in ways that help shape the world in ways that I feel support those beliefs. And I was taught all of this by my teenage and pre-teen daughters. They practice what they call ethical consumerism and the industry calls Conscious Capitalism. Before my daughter buys a face wash, puts a tint on her lip, or walks through the door of a fast food place, she researches the very clear ethical impact of making that purchase. She is not alone in her generation.

“Conscious capitalism is even more important to younger consumers.” https://hbr.org/2020/12/could-gen-z-consumer-behavior-make-capitalism-more-ethical

Which brings me to the discussion about “Cancel Culture”

Over the years, but especially recently, there has been a lot of discussion about Cancel Culture, this idea that people are being cancelled because they express a belief we don’t like. Typically people who identify as conservative accuse those who identify as liberal or left leaning as being guilty of this, though that is a false claim. Arguably the biggest example we would have in the last few years of so called “Cancel Culture” is Colin Kaepernick. You may remember him, he’s a Black man who wanted to protest police violence against the Black community by taking a knee during the national anthem and hasn’t worked in the NFL since.

Or let’s go even further back to the presidential years of one George W. Bush and a country group then known as The Dixie Chick, though they now go by The Chicks. They made a statement that they were ashamed that Bush was from Texas and were no longer played on country radio. They got death threats. Their hit song Not Ready to Make Nice (which my girls love, by the way) talks about how they got death threats from perfect strangers.

Recently, Senator Josh Hawley, who refused to vote to accept the state certified election results and arguably contributed to the recent violent insurrection at the Captiol, had his book contract cancelled. He is claiming that he is a victim of cancel culture, though I assure you there was a morality clause in his contract that explicitly states he could be dropped for any myriad of reasons.

This past week actress Gina Carano was fired from the popular Disney+ show The Mandolorian after sharing anti-trans and anti-semitic posts on social media. Disney released a statement saying her posts were abhorrent. Hawley and Carano join the chorus of conservative leaning individuals who claim that “Cancel Culture” is a thing. What they are seeing, however, is both consequences for their actions and the natural effects of free market capitalism. This is what at will employment and the free market looks like.

People like me choose every day where they will and won’t spend their money. That affects the bottom line of businesses everywhere. And they then choose whether to continue on that same path or to change course. That’s how this system is designed to work. It’s the same system at work when conservatives call for a boycott of Starbucks or Target or Nike. We vote every day with our dollars. And millennials and Gen Z are very much into conscious capitalism.

“Ultimately, millennials don’t see their buying habits and investments as passive decisions. They see them as an active expression of the ideals and ethics that they value most.” – https://www.theguardian.com/bank-australia-coming-clean/2019/sep/27/how-millennials-are-driving-the-rise-of-conscious-capitalism

It’s important to remember, here, what’s at stake. For Black people, they are literally asking not to be killed by systemic racism; to be valued and respected and to be afforded the same human and legal rights as white people. For the LGBTQIA+ community, they just want the right to marry the people they love so they can be afforded the same benefits, including the ability to sit with their loved one as they die in the hospital and to have the health insurance to pay for that care. For transgendered individuals, they just want to live and love and literally not be killed. For women, they want the right to have full bodily autonomy including the right to live and work without harassment, the right to make their own medical decisions, and the right to, again, not die. Jewish people, Muslim people and people with no or a non-Christian faith just want the right to practice their faith and not be governed by a religion that isn’t theirs. They also don’t want to die.

People from marginalized groups want to not die. For many people, these are literally life and death decisions. It’s fighting against systemic oppression that often results in the death of those that are being oppressed.

“A study conducted by Harvard Business Review found that young consumers prefer to shop from brands and companies that are socially conscious. Dubbed “conscious capitalism,” this shift in consumerism is being tipped by Gen Z, who are aging to be the largest group of consumers in the U.S. Their passion for activism and social justice issues has led to companies like Netflix to publicly shift their funds to meet those needs. ” – https://bleumag.com/2020/12/15/gen-z-consumerism/

So it makes sense that they and the people who love them aren’t willing to invest their money in people, places or things that might, in fact, lead them to death. That means not supporting people or businesses who you know will take that money and invest it in ways that might harm them. You don’t want to pay your oppressors to oppress you, to pay your killers to kill you.

I wish that I could say that businesses fire people because they understand it is the moral and ethical thing to do, that they care about human rights and democracy. But more often than not, it’s just a financial business decision. It’s not good business practice to invest in people who are going to make you lose business. That is how this thing called free market capitalism works.

I cancelled my Disney+ subscription in part because of Gina Carcano and her hateful rhetoric towards transgender individuals and in part because I learned that they had donated large sums of money to the Twice Impeached Former President who incited an insurrection at the Capitol that sought to assassinate the Vice President, Speaker of the House and members of Congress. Both of those things are unacceptable to me and I didn’t want them to use my money to destroy the very democracy that I had promised my children made our country so great. I didn’t want to give Disney money that they would then use to hurt my children.

That is a choice I get to make.

And Disney fired her because she was making them lose business.

That is a choice they get to make.

That’s how this works.

The flip side to this is that even though I care not a single iota about sportsball or Nike, when Nike hired Kaepernick as a spokeperson, I took my girls out and had them buy a lot of Nike stuff. For the record, that stuff is expensive. But I wanted to support a cause I believe in and I voted with my dollars.

Again, that’s how this works.

“As a recent Forrester Research report points out, Gen-Z is increasingly scrutinizing both institutions like governments and police as well as brands. Gen-Z leads its own charge for social justice, and wants more transparency about the brands it supports with its buying power. And there does not appear to be any going back to old ways.” – https://www.forbes.com/sites/jefffromm/2020/09/30/on-ben-and-jerrys-gen-z-and-social-justice-how-2020-has-changed-branding-forever/?sh=4550ec046a66

I can’t control the hate in people’s hearts, but I can choose not to spend my money in ways that allow those people to hurt me and the people I love. So I do. Teens today are very social justice oriented and they understand that they have economic power, which they are leveraging. That’s how the system is designed to work and they are using that power to help create the world they want to live in, and to protect their rights.

I’m trying to vote every day for human rights and democracy in the ways that I spend my money. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go run to Starbucks and stop and buy some Ben & Jerry’s, because my oldest teen just came in and told me she learned that they both support women’s rights and Planned Parenthood so we should go for a Starbucks run. I’m not mad about it.

Note: The terms ethical consumerism, conscious capitalism and sustainable retail are all important to Gen Z. Read more:




Take 5: Book List Roundups for February

It’s February, and it’s time to round up some of the MG and YA book lists out there to help us all buy books. Because it’s February, this month’s lists focus on love/romance and Black History Month, but remember we should be buying, reading, and promoting books by Black authors and romance 365 days a year. The goal is always to develop the most comprehensive, inclusive, and accessible collections – in our homes and in our libraries – as possible. Do not let this be the only month you care about books by Black authors. Or romance.

The blog Black Children’s Books and Authors has this roundup of February releases: https://bcbooksandauthors.com/february-2021-childrens-ya-book-releases/

Love is a Revolution by Renee Watson is on this list and it’s so very good, you should read it. I’ve also been hearing a lot about Muted by Tami Charles and have added it to my TBR list.

The very amazing Dahlia Adler has put together a list of YA romances for Buzzfeed: https://www.buzzfeed.com/dahliaadler/young-adult-romance-books-2021. Love is a Revolution appears on this list as well. As does A Pho Love Story which Amanda MacGregor is reviewing here at TLT sometime in the next few days I believe.

Popsugar has a more general list of YA books coming out in February: https://www.popsugar.com/entertainment/best-new-ya-books-february-2021-48127020?utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=post&utm_campaign=frontdoor. It’s a slide show, for those who hate those I thought I would give you a heads up.

YA Pride has a great list of LGBTQIA+ titles by Black authors for Black History Month. Not all of these books are new releases, but it’s a pretty comprehensive list and you’ll find it helpful:

And United by Pop has a pretty good list of 30+ YA books releasing in February:

Cindy Crushes Programming: Programming by Themes, by Teen Librarian Cindy Shutts

Want a hot tip about planning, organizing and promoting programming for teens? I like to take a themed approach, which was my approach even before the pandemic. I would find a theme that appealed to my teens and program around it. In the past, I have done themes such as My Little Pony, Divergent, Hunger Games, Superheroes, Anime, Mythology and so many more. Having a place to start when talking about programming is so helpful, and themes work really well.

When we first started doing pandemic programs, we were honestly just trying to see what worked. If we could find anything that encouraged our teens to use our services virtually or for take and makes we would do it. We learned a lot about the teens we worked with during this just trying anything. We could not do the educational programs that we used to sprinkle in. They did not want it. School was too much. We had to remember that right now a lot of what everyone is trying to do is survive. So we decided to focus all of our programs on fun things. We started to go back to what had worked in the past: themes.

We knew Animal Crossing was popular, so we did multiple Animals Crossing crafts. This was the beginning of the themes coming back for us.

Last month our theme was Dungeons and Dragons. We had the craft, the dice bags created by Linden Galloway. I ran my first campaign on roll20 for the 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons. I also created a Dungeon and Dragons themed escape room. Here is a link to my escape room. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfKSs-dVCAGiCHR8zBu3y9ubiQiGC3VGt2o8rLbbKQ-cNTVPA/viewform?usp=sf_link

We are now planning our themes out. February is space. We are doing two Among Us sessions, One Among Us escape room using google forms, and an Among Us handwarmer craft we are borrowing from another library, Star Wars trivia, and origami.

Yes, some things do not fit in our themes, like My Woodchuck Revolution escape room that is coming out at the end of February. But I think doing themes makes life easier for us. We always do a craft, a trivia session and an escape room using the theme. These programs are the ones we know work well for our patrons.

As someone who does regular programming, themes make my life easier. I can find out what teens like and plan around them. I am curious what other libraries are doing during the pandemic. Are you using themes or are you just doing a similar schedule of programs that you did in the before times? What themes are popular at your library?

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.

Book Review: Sing Me Forgotten by Jessica S. Olson, by Teen Contributor Riley Jensen

Publisher’s Book Description:

Isda does not exist. At least not beyond the opulent walls of the opera house.

Cast into a well at birth for being one of the magical few who can manipulate memories when people sing, she was saved by Cyril, the opera house’s owner. Since that day, he has given her sanctuary from the murderous world outside. All he asks in return is that she use her power to keep ticket sales high—and that she stay out of sight. For if anyone discovers she survived, Isda and Cyril would pay with their lives.

But Isda breaks Cyril’s cardinal rule when she meets Emeric Rodin, a charming boy who throws her quiet, solitary life out of balance. His voice is unlike any she’s ever heard, but the real shock comes when she finds in his memories hints of a way to finally break free of her gilded prison.

Haunted by this possibility, Isda spends more and more time with Emeric, searching for answers in his music and his past. But the price of freedom is steeper than Isda could ever know. For even as she struggles with her growing feelings for Emeric, she learns that in order to take charge of her own destiny, she must become the monster the world tried to drown in the first place. (March 2021, Inkyard Press)

Riley’s Thoughts:

Sing Me Forgotten is a young adult fantasy by Jessica S. Olson. She is a debut author, and she is starting with a great book. This book is full of twists and fascinating magic.

In the beginning, the book starts with the main character doing what she is supposed to do. In the opera house she makes sure that everyone enjoys the performance with her magic ability, but she can’t be seen. She is not even supposed to be alive. This introduction immediately grabs the reader’s attention.

Soon after the main character is introduced, a new character arrives. Someone she has never seen before, but immediately grabs her attention. Nobody is supposed to know of her existence except for her employer, but she finds herself drawn to this newcomer. He wishes to perform in the operas, and there’s something about him that makes her want to help.

As the two grow closer, the reader may see that this girl with magic isn’t exactly good. She tries to fight against everything that pushes her away from the boy, but the ending isn’t what the reader will hope for.

This book perfectly sets up for a sequel. Everything about this book from the world to the magic to the romance will leave the reader wanting more. Hopefully, there is more to come.

Riley, Teen Reviewer

I am a senior in high school and an avid reader. I have been reviewing books on this blog since 2012. I love musical theatre and listen to show tunes a lot. I also love murder books (both fiction and nonfiction), and want to go to college to be a forensic scientist after high school. Reading is one of my favorite things to do, so I just put that hobby to good use for my mom.