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Sunday Reflections: When the Discussion of College Rape is More Reality Than Statistics


When I sent my daughter off to college this fall as a freshman, I was very well aware of the statistical truth of college rape in the abstract. I sent her with a black belt in self defense, pepper spray, Plan B, and more prayers than it seems like a person can pray in a normal 24 hour day. But I was not prepared for the reality of college campus rape to hit so close to home. Please note before continuing, my daughter is okay. But someone’s daughter is not.

On Tuesday morning of last week I woke up with a string of texts from Riley that said things like, “if you see the news it’s not me, I am okay.” Which I imagine was met to be reassuring but really just caused a panic. After a bit I was able to touch base with Riley and learned that someone on campus – specifically in my daughter’s college freshman dorm – had been raped in their room. And since I follow news about my kid’s college she knew I would see it and freak out. Which I did.

First, I want to say that my heart breaks for the young person who was the victim of this horrific crime. Their life is forever changed and I hope that the person that did this to them is held responsible to the full extend of the law. Unfortunately, we know from history that this will likely not happen. I know nothing about this case and don’t want to speak on it because it’s not my story to tell. However, I do want to talk about what it is like to be a student and the parent of a student on a college campus where something like this has happened.

As I mentioned, I was not unaware of the reality of rape on college campuses – in the abstract. I was also not prepared for this reality to come so close to home for my child and so soon after she has left the nest and started her journey as both a college student and an adult. This is a new level of fear.

I wish I could tell you that we were new to the idea of sexual violence but we are not. I myself am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, something I have talked frequently about here and I am very open with my two daughters about it because I want them to know what it is before it starts with them. Also, as a survivor, I am very aware that it has shaped parts of my personality and parenting decisions and I feel like it is helpful for them to know who I am and where I am coming from.

Sadly, Riley is also familiar with various forms of sexual harassment and abuse. The first time she was harassed was in middle school. The same is true for her younger sister, who started middle school this year. And most unfortunately, Riley has friends that have been abused in some truly horrific ways. It is unimaginably hard if not impossible to get daughters to college without knowledge or personal experience of sexual harassment and abuse.

I’m not going to lie, this is the aspect of college I was most afraid of. And now, here we are, there is an actual rapist on my daughter’s college campus and I don’t know if she’s safe. It is my understanding that this person has not been caught. But the thing is, this person is probably not the only one. It is interesting to note that although I can rattle off the statistic that 1 in 4 girls/women will be the victims of sexual violence, I can not tell you a statistic about how many men will be the perpetrators of sexual violence. And when I went looking for a statistic, it was much harder to find. We talk a lot about the victims and what they can do to stay safe or get help, but we talk very little about who the criminals are. We talk about sexual violence using a passive voice, a woman was raped on campus. But what about the person who did the raping?

When you look for information about sexual violence, it looks like this:

  • One of the most shocking facts about sexual assault is that approximately only 5% of sexual assault reports filed have been proven false.
  • 82% of all juvenile sexual assault victims are female.
  • 90% of adult rape victims are female.
  • 41% of sexual assaults against Native Indians are committed by a stranger.
  • Adolescents aged 14‐17 were by far the most likely to be sexually victimized; nearly one in six (16.3%) was sexually victimized in the past year. (source: https://legaljobs.io/blog/sexual-assault-statistics/)

Or this:

  • 82% of all juvenile victims are female. 90% of adult rape victims are female.6
  • Females ages 16-19 are 4 times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault.3
  • Women ages 18-24 who are college students are 3 times more likely than women in general to experience sexual violence. Females of the same age who are not enrolled in college are 4 times more likely.7 (source: https://www.rainn.org/statistics/victims-sexual-violence)

But very seldom do you hear us talk about who is committing acts of rape and how they are being held accountable. I found this statement, which floored me: Most perpetrators of sexual violence are men, so why do we talk about it as a women’s issue and not a man’s issue. (source: https://www.dividedstatesofwomen.com/2017/11/2/16597768/sexual-assault-men-himthough)

Even I, a person who has long advocated for changes in the ways we talk about sexual violence, found myself on the phone with my daughter telling her all the things she should do to keep her safe. Before she left for college her grandmother even looked at her and said, don’t take drinks from strangers and don’t go to places alone. The focus is always on what the victims are doing, wearing, going, etc. And the statistics are always about who the victims are. Everything about the way we talk about rape is wrong.

Someone is committing all of these rapes. We need to be talking about that. And honestly, a lot of women do. There are things called whisper networks for a reason. And I have spent both of my children’s lifetimes telling them to trust their guts and not give people the benefit of the doubt if their alarm bells were going off. We talk about things like watching how a boy/man jokes, how he responds to failure or boundaries or simply to the word no, and the signs of an unhealthy relationship.

It’s horrifying to know that it’s the year 2021 and we’re still sending our daughters to college with fear in our hearts that they will be raped. It’s only our first semester in college and already, the reality is so much realer than I could have ever imagined. My heart aches for our daughters.

Cindy Crushes Programming: Scrape Painting, by Teen Librarian Cindy Shutts

Last night I tried a new method of painting I discovered on TikTok. I was excited to show it off to teens. Unfortunately I did not have any teens at the event, we’re still feeling effects of the pandemic, but it was still a fun way to paint and I recommend it for a programming idea. It was cheap because most of the supplies I already had on hand at the library, which is always a bonus.


  • Paint different colors
  • Cardboard cut up
  • Paint pad or a canvas
  • Table clothes (It can get messy)


  1. Put out table clothes
  2. Put out your paper or canvas
  3. Put small dots of paint on the canvas
  4. Use the edge of the cardboard to scrape the paint (This step can be repeated)

Final Thoughts

This is one craft I know that the teens would have made it look better than my examples. I would love to try this again and hope we can get teens to come. I do think it would work. I just think attendance is hard to get at the moment. 

More on Scrape Painting


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: Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Inspired – New Twists on Old Tales in YA Lit

Last week, middle grade and YA author Martha Brockenbrough tweeted that her kid was reading the same books that she herself read in high school. This is also true in my house. Riley, who just graduated in May of 2021, read almost book for the book the same books that I read in high school . . . which was now 31 years ago. And most of those books were already old and outdated at that time. And they certainly didn’t represent the plurality of the world or any of the new innovations in science, justice, or even basic humanity that we have evolved to embrace over the scope of time. And yet there are no shortage of new, innovative takes on classic stories. So today I am going to share with you 5 new takes on some beloved classics that would make for some great comparisons. If you’re going to assign an old tale, why not ask readers to read a new take on those tales and make comparisons. There are so many ways we can invite readers to dig deeper and have a richer exploration of literature.

Bad Girls Never Say Die by Jennifer Mathieu is a take on the classic The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton. Where The Outsiders is the tale of bad boys from the wrong side of tracks in a strong friendship, Bad Girls Never Say Die is the gender bent version of this tale. Here we see bad girls being given the liberty to be, well, bad girls, and there friendship makes the cornerstone of this novel.

Publisher’s Book Description: 1964. Houston, Texas.

Evie Barnes is a bad girl. So are all her friends. They’re the sort who wear bold makeup, laugh too loud, and run around with boys. Most of all, they protect their own against the world. So when Evie is saved from the unimaginable by a good girl from the “right” side of the tracks, every rule she’s always lived by is called into question. Now she must redefine what it means to be a bad girl and rethink everything she knew about loyalty.

In this riveting story of murder, secrets, and tragedy, Jennifer Mathieu re-imagines S. E. Hinton’s The Outsiders from a female perspective. Bad Girls Never Say Die has all the drama and heartache of that teen classic, but with a feminist take just right for our times.

I read Lord of the Flies way, way back in the late 90s and Riley read it just a couple of years ago. Although she hated it with a fierce, fiery rage of a 1,000 suns, she LOVES Beauty Queens by Libba Bray. In case you don’t know, Lord of the Flies are about a group of boys who are flying to a thing (I forget what thing) and their plane crashes onto an island and they quickly devolve into horrible, horrible humans. In Beauty Queens by Libba Bray, a group of girls on their way to a beauty pageant crash onto an island and things are not always what they seem. If you are going to read this book – and I highly recommend that you do – try listening to the audio read by Libba Bray herself. It is hilarious and inspiring.

Publisher’s Book Description: Teen beauty queens. A lost island. Mysteries and dangers. No access to email. And the spirit of fierce, feral competition that lives deep in the heart of every girl, a savage brutality that can only be revealed by a journey into the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Oh, the horror, the horror!

When a plane crash strands thirteen teen beauty contestants on a mysterious island, they struggle to survive, to get along with one another, to combat the island’s other diabolical occupants, and to learn their dance numbers in case they are rescued in time for the competition.

In Rebecca, a new wife goes to live a lush life with her new husband and learns that he is hiding a lot of secrets. In I Killed Zoe Spanos, a missing teen in the Hamptons village sets up a series of twists and turns that make for a great read. Inspired in part by Rebecca, Kit Frick writes a psychological suspense novel with its own gothic twists.

Publisher’s Book Description: This gripping thriller follows two teens whose lives become inextricably linked when one confesses to murder and the other becomes determined to uncover the real truth no matter the cost.

What happened to Zoe won’t stay buried…

When Anna Cicconi arrives to the small Hamptons village of Herron Mills for a summer nanny gig, she has high hopes for a fresh start. What she finds instead is a community on edge after the disappearance of Zoe Spanos, a local girl who has been missing since New Year’s Eve. Anna bears an eerie resemblance to Zoe, and her mere presence in town stirs up still-raw feelings about the unsolved case. As Anna delves deeper into the mystery, stepping further and further into Zoe’s life, she becomes increasingly convinced that she and Zoe are connected–and that she knows what happened to her.

Two months later, Zoe’s body is found in a nearby lake, and Anna is charged with manslaughter. But Anna’s confession is riddled with holes, and Martina Green, teen host of the Missing Zoe podcast, isn’t satisfied. Did Anna really kill Zoe? And if not, can Martina’s podcast uncover the truth?

In Orpheus and Eurdyce, Orpheus is a young lover who must travel to the depths of Hades to rescue his true love. In Never Look Back, Eury (catch the name there) is haunted by Hurricane Maria – and an evil spirit. Pheus falls in love with her and wants to help save her from all that haunts her, but does love always conquer all? You’ll want to read this moving retelling of Orpheus and Eurydice.

Publisher’s Book Description:

Eury comes to the Bronx as a girl haunted. Haunted by losing everything in Hurricane Maria–and by an evil spirit, Ato. She fully expects the tragedy that befell her and her family in Puerto Rico to catch up with her in New York. Yet, for a time, she can almost set this fear aside, because there’s this boy . . .

Pheus is a golden-voiced, bachata-singing charmer, ready to spend the summer on the beach with his friends, serenading his on-again, off-again flame. That changes when he meets Eury. All he wants is to put a smile on her face and fight off her demons. But some dangers are too powerful for even the strongest love, and as the world threatens to tear them apart, Eury and Pheus must fight for each other and their lives.

This is an #OwnVoices retelling of the Greek myth Orpheus and Eurydice.

We all know the story of star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet. The Violent Delights takes the tale of star-crossed lovers and sets it in Shanghai in the year 1926. Rival gangs control the streets. Rumors of a madness start to take hold when gang members appear to claw out their own throats and rivals Juliette and Roma must join forces to discover what’s happening before their empires fall apart. This is book 1, there is more story to come.

Publisher’s Book Description: The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.

Perfect for fans of The Last Magician and Descendant of the Crane, this heart-stopping debut is an imaginative Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai, with rival gangs and a monster in the depths of the Huangpu River.

What are your favorite updated takes on some of the classics? Share with us in the comments. Happy reading!

Sunday Reflections: There Are No Other Sides to Some Issues

TW: Holocaust, Genocide and Other Forms of Racial Violence are Discussed

A very old lady stood before us all in a crowded high school gymnasium and showed us her tattoo. It was a series of numbers given to her by the Nazis that held her captive in the concentration camp. She told us stories of being captured, riding on a train, standing in lines to receive very little food. She told us of people she loved disappearing in the night. She told us of the family that never got to see her grow up because they did not survive the camps.

That was more than 30 years ago for me and I can still remember her face. Her arm outstretched. The numbers that they used to try and make her seem less than human.

This past week, audio was shared online of a teacher telling other teachers in the Southlake school district in Texas to make sure they had an alternate point of view available if they were teaching about the Holocaust. What, exactly, is an alternate point of view to the Holocaust.

That it didn’t happen? We have tons of primary sources in the form of movie reels, photographs, diaries, legislation and the concentration camps themselves that prove the Holocaust was real. There is no denying the Holocaust, though I know that many have been trying for years.

That it was acceptable? More than 6 millions Jews were killed as well as many others with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ community. Genocide can not be acceptable. Ever.

That the Nazi methods may have been bad, but their goals were desirable? I am the child of a man who dedicated his life to serving this country and fighting for Democracy. Though our Democracy is imperfect, I will never accept the idea that authoritarianism or fascism is a desirable goal. I will not spit on the grave of my father and dishonor his memory in that way. Nor will I dishonor my fellow human beings who deserve to have their basic human rights honored. I feel the people who are governed should have a voice, a vote, in how they are governed.

We must teach every generation about the Holocaust so that it doesn’t happen again. We need to acknowledge the darkness in our past and the potential for darkness in each and every one of us to help keep us moving towards the light.

There is this growing sentiment that teaching our children about the darkness in our past will cause them to hate this country, or themselves. But what if, instead, being honest about the past and showing how we can learn and grow and change was teaching them to love themselves, and the people around them. When I look back at my life and the things that I have suffered, the harm that was done to me and sometimes by me, I don’t feel shame or self hatred, I feel proud of myself for overcoming it, for learning from it, for healing, and for growing. I feel proud of myself for allowing myself to become the person that I am instead of allowing myself to stay trapped in the past. Sometimes it has meant that I have had to had hard conversations with myself and other people. It has meant that I have had to admit wrongs, ask for forgiveness, and even just learn how to deal with difficult losses. But allowing yourself to learn and grow is a powerful, empowering feeling. Reaching towards the light is so much more profound than staying rooted in darkness.

When Riley was in the 6th grade, her class to a school trip to the Holocaust museum. It disturbed her greatly and she cried for days. We talked about it a lot. And just last year Thing 2 read Number the Stars by Lois Lowry in her 6th grade class. I’m glad that both of my daughters learned about this horrific part of human history because we must be honest with ourselves and each other about what we are capable of. Psychologist Carl Jung talked about the idea of the shadow self; it’s this notion that we all have the capacity for great darkness inside of us and that we must be honest with ourselves about it in order to control it. Denial doesn’t make the truth go away, it just makes it more likely for it to sneak up and hurt us.

I am a person of great and tremendous faith. I am a Christian. But the truth is, many great atrocities have been committed in the name of the very faith I have devoted my life to. We burned witches, led Crusades, stole Indigenous children from their families and buried them in unmarked graves and we bought and sold Black people pretending that we were somehow better than them despite the clear evil we were inflicting on the world. Being a Christian and proclaiming the Gospel doesn’t make me perfect and it does not exempt me from the laws of this land nor does it exempt me from honest self reflection. In fact, I would argue, the very nature of the Gospel demands that I must constantly be engaging in self reflection and growth in a way that betters not only myself, but those around me. The Christian faith is a communal faith based on loving one another.

I am an American and I love my country. But the truth is, many great atrocities have been committed in the name of “democracy” and “America first”. Treaties have been broken, Japanese Americans were put in our own enslavement camps, and we still treat people of color, LGBTQ people, and women as second class citizens with disposable rights. Many of these great atrocities are still, as I write this, being committed. Our history isn’t even history, not really. But Democracy is an active process in which we must engage repeatedly and it, too, must be working towards betterment of each other and the whole because democracy is about living in community with others. Democracy does not work if everyone has a me first and me only mentality.

By the way, we have factual primary sources that document all of the above. Your librarian can help you get your hands on it.

Denying the truths of who we are, where we’ve been, and the work we need to do to be better doesn’t help anyone. It doesn’t even, not really, help the people who don’t want things to change because they think they will lose their status, their power or their money. The truth is, our country thrives, when as many individuals who live within it thrive. When we raise people up out of poverty we have less crime, lower health care costs, healthier workers with more company loyalty, and higher educational achievement which leads to innovation and growth.

One of the reasons I am a librarian is because I believe that knowing about the past can help us to make a better future for ourselves and each other. We preserve centuries of first person accounts, called primary sources, so that the whole of human history can be studied, shared, and learned from. But as a human being, as a Christian, as an American, and as a mother, there are just personally some things that I can not fathom and this idea that there can or should be some alternative view to the Holocaust is one of them. I can still, these 30 years later, close my eyes and see the face of that women standing before me. Her truth deserves to be told. And in telling them, we can learn to be better for ourselves, and for one other. The truth can set us free, even the hard ones.

Escape (Room) the Teen Book Club!; a guest post by Teen Librarians Rachel Spivack and Austin Ferraro

Are you looking for a fun and innovative way to get teens involved in a book club? Today’s guest bloggers have a great idea for you!

Our to-do list for our Teen Book Club in September went something like this:

– Borrow wire cutters to trim the tomato cage and hot glue gun Mardi Gras beads on it to make a chandelier
– Make 6 origami flowers (Note – find instructions for origami flowers)
 – 3D print something with a hidden compartment
– Cut six capital letter As out of blue vinyl (Note – measure plastic ants first)
Don’t forget to finish the book.

An unusual list for an unusual book club, but we think that the amount of fun our teen regulars have every month means it’s working…even if reading the book is more what you’d call a guideline than an actual rule.

Let us explain.

In late 2020 when our library system was soft-launching virtual book clubs, we spent a closing shift on a dreary, wintery Friday evening frustrated. With specialties in Makerspace and Teen Services respectively, we didn’t see how book clubs were going to let us reconnect with the patrons we were used to seeing in the comfortable chaos of our library spaces. As we were talking through the challenges, it occurred to us that even without a pandemic, there’s a lot about a standard book club that makes it inaccessible to teens, especially teens with learning disabilities (including ADHD). One thing led to another and soon we had permission to run a virtual teen book club, which has since transitioned to a successful monthly in-person meeting. The thing that makes it work? The book club is an escape room.

Escape Room? Book Club? How Does It Work?

The book club is advertised like more a typical library program than a typical book club in that promotional materials emphasize the escape room activity over the monthly book selection. Additionally, we make a point to list all of the formats that the novel is available in through our catalog (e.g., graphic novel, audiobook, ebook, etc) so readers are aware of their options. Our preparation for the program includes planning 4-5 puzzles for the teens to solve (which add up to the final puzzle), and staging an interactive station for #ambiance, all of which are themed around the book choice that month. The station includes props that we have made ourselves. Bringing creativity and a “maker mindset” to this really makes a difference!

We start the program by chatting about any major thoughts and/or feelings the teens want to share about the characters, plot, writing style, etc. Once they are done sharing, we invite them to dive into the puzzles. The teens interact with the items on display (and each other) like a typical escape room, looking for clues to open various locks and combinations. As needed, we may offer hints to help the teens along if they seem stuck, but we try to walk the line of encouraging some productive struggle with the challenges. The clues all add up to the final combination lock of a BreakOutEDU box that contains small prizes – snacks, donated books, little items made in the Makerspace. As we wrap up the program, we take turns talking about other books we have been reading and making recommendations to each other (staff included). There are months where they spend almost as much time chatting about book recommendations as working on the escape room! The conversation may meander, but the fact that it has gone on that long between teens who did not know each other prior to the program demonstrates the advantage of letting them guide the discussion.

This is a novel book club in many ways, but here’s part of it: teens are not required to read the book to participate. The escape rooms are structured to provide a slight advantage to the teens who read the book, but they’re perfectly doable without it. And that seems insane because is it a book club if they don’t have to read the book? Yes. For us, a library book club is a success if it makes teens feel welcome in the library and encourages them to want to read – and this does.

In our escape rooms, teens have positive interactions with literacy on their own terms. By not requiring the teens to have read the book before attending the book club, we’re distancing reading from the academic assignments that they’re inundated with while still creating informal learning opportunities. We’re also not creating additional stress for teens who may, for whatever reason, struggle with reading speed and/or comprehension. They know that we love it when they read the book, but also know it’s okay if they don’t have time. When we didn’t finish a book, we’re honest about it too! We focus on encouraging them to think, problem-solve, move around, and try different solutions rather than asking them to spend more of their day seated and quietly answering questions about something they read. Even when it comes to discussing the book, we ask them about their impressions, feelings, and reactions rather than pushing them to answer questions about themes or character decisions. The result? After every single meeting of this book club, the teens who didn’t read or finish the book walk away really wanting to read it.

But Why?

The pandemic changed how we do everything out of necessity, but we saw an opportunity in that necessity to create space in the library for teens who might not necessarily see themselves as readers who would participate in a book club. In practice, this means that the structure of our book club is adaptable to the interests, needs, and dynamics of the teens who attend. We also wanted the book format to be flexible for our teens. More available formats means more accessibility, and we only choose titles that come in at least two formats – sometimes this is full-text and audio, although sometimes it’s full-text and graphic novel, and on two occasions we have picked books with strong movie adaptations as well.

By making multiple formats explicitly advertised and available and creating an environment that focuses on activity over analysis, we’re directly addressing aspects of standard format book clubs that neurodivergent teens find stressful and off-putting. A dyslexic reader might prefer audiobook or graphic novel format, whereas a reader with ADHD might switch between formats while reading or find that they have an easier time focusing on one format over another. We both personally find different formats easier to read ourselves, in fact.

Flexibility has been the key for this book club since the beginning – and that’s what makes it work. We started out online, but were explicit at the beginning of each meeting that while we would like to see their faces on camera and we’d like to hear them talk, that there were other ways to participate. One of our escape rooms actually happened with no verbal communication between the teens at all; they used the chat, reaction buttons, and raised hand features instead. When we moved to in-person, we didn’t know what it was going to look like so we kept our goals simple: have some discussion of the book, and do an escape room. Now that we have done several in-person programs, our teens have developed a structure that really works for them, but that’s the key: aside from our basic goals, our structure is entirely driven by the teens. This is especially important with neurodivergent teens because their needs are much more specific and individualized; the exact structure that works for us now might not work for us later, and it might look entirely different at a different library.

Curious? Give it a shot!

Rachel Spivack Rachel Spivack, M.A.T., is an educator-turned-library staff at Loudoun County Public Library in northern Virginia. For three years she has helped run the library’s makerspaces, teaching patrons and staff how to use various creative STEAM technologies, such as 3D print & design, carving & lasering, and robots (definitely robots). Prior to the library world, Rachel taught students with disabilities and credits them with a lot of her current inspirations and ideas.

Austin Ferraro Austin Ferraro is a teen librarian with a background in academic libraries, a brain full of ADHD-fueled ridiculous ideas, and too many books to read. He started at Loudoun County Public Library in Virginia shortly before COVID-19, so his move from academic to public libraries has been both interesting and eventful. 

Book Gallery: YA for Fans of Squid Game

I’m not going to lie, I only made it through 1 episode of Squid Game because the violence was too much for me personally. But Riley has watched it and talks to me about it – a lot. And she is just one of the many, many teens I know that are watching this show. So I thought I would put together for us a book gallery that highlights Teen/Young Adult fiction about deadly games, contests, etc. that teens who like the show may like to read. The titles here focus on teens being in peril and trying to survive, much like one of the elements of Squid Game. It is important to note, however, the survival aspect is not the overall theme of Squid Game, and it’s important that we take a moment to talk about that.

Part of the underlying commentary of Squid Game is about the brutality and exploitation of trying to survive capitalism. The contestants in Squid Game are there because they are in some way not surviving in a world that thrives on capitalism, sometimes because of decisions of their own and sometimes because of those around them. It also has a lot to do more specifically with Korean culture, which I want to acknowledge although I do not have a right to talk about those cultural contexts of Squid Game. In the world of YA, it seems thematically similar to a lot of early 2000s Dystopian, especially The Hunger Games, which of course was thematically and plot wise similar to earlier predecessors like Battle Royale. These are important literary and media conversations that have been happening that talk about the brutality of capitalism, exploitation, and more. If you have not watched the series, and even if you have, I recommend taking a deep dive into analysis of this series and why it is so widely popular, especially in this current moment. I have been reading a lot about it and it’s informative and fascinating.

So before we dive into the book gallery, I want to use this opportunity to talk with you about an old YA favorite of mine: HIT by Delilah Dawson. This title specifically has very good corollaries to the economic exploitation and brutality discussed in Squid Game.

In Hit, people who have debt must become assassins for the bank owning the debt in order to pay off – or, em, kill off – their debt. So here we meet Patsy, who becomes a teenage assassin to keep her mother alive because her mom can’t do it herself. So she’s given a list of 10 people she has to kill to pay off her debt and it turns out, they aren’t all strangers to her. It’s complicated. And it’s a wild ride that takes on capitalism, debt and more. So you can see how it’s a great companion read for Squid Game fans. There’s also a second book called Strike. I liked the series and think it’s a great read -a-like for Squid Game fans. It, too, is a searing commentary on capitalism, economic exploitation, and how hard it is to get out of debt once you get into it, and how very few people can avoid getting into it to survive this life.

There are a few other books that really tackle economic injustice and the brutality of capitalism well that may be of interest to Squid Game fans and they include Hungry by H. A. Swain and, of course, The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins. Readers may also want to check out S.T.A.G.S. by M. A. Bennett.

Although the following books don’t all focus on the capitalism and debt aspect of Squid Game, they definitely have the I hope you survive this event, day, or night aspect. Some of the titles, like Panic by Lauren Oliver, do tap into economic anxieties which fuel the deadly small town competition. For some of the other titles on the lists its tradition, secrets or revenge that put their lives in peril. If you have readers who are looking for books that have that people in peril aspect, these reads might satisfy their reading interests.

Book covers pictured include: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Steifvater, This Lie Will Kill You by Chelsea Pitcher, Welcome to the Dark House by Laurie Faria Stolarz, Shade’s Children by Garth Nix, Surviving Antartica by Andrea White, Fire and Flood by Victoria Scott, Titans by Victoria Scott, A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi, Panic by Lauren Oliver, #murdertrending by Gretchen McNeil, Ten by Gretchen McNeil, the Gone series by Michael Grant, Caraval by Stephanie Garber and Survive the Night by Danielle Vega

You may also find some other books of interest in these lists, which again don’t always touch on some of the social themes but still have the people in peril aspect.

YA Slasher Fiction: https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/ya-slasher

YA Survival Stories: https://www.readbrightly.com/young-adult-survival-stories/

I am sure that there are a lot of other great titles that could be added to this list. And for those of us that have teens asking for books to read similar to Squid Game, there are several directions you can go. So if you have some recommendations to add, please leave a comment and tell us what you recommend and why.

More information about HIT by Delilah S. Dawson


The good news is that the USA is finally out of debt. The bad news is that we were bought out by Valor National Bank, and debtors are the new big game, thanks to a tricky little clause hidden deep in the fine print of a credit card application. Now, after a swift and silent takeover that leaves 9-1-1 calls going through to Valor voicemail, they’re unleashing a wave of anarchy across the country.

Patsy didn’t have much of a choice. When the suits showed up at her house threatening to kill her mother then and there for outstanding debt unless Patsy agreed to be an indentured assassin, what was she supposed to do? Let her own mother die?

Patsy is forced to take on a five-day mission to complete a hit list of ten names. Each name on Patsy’s list has only three choices: pay the debt on the spot, agree to work as a bounty hunter, or die. And Patsy has to kill them personally, or else her mom takes a bullet of her own.

Since yarn bombing is the only rebellion in Patsy’s past, she’s horrified and overwhelmed, especially as she realizes that most of the ten people on her list aren’t strangers. Things get even more complicated when a moment of mercy lands her with a sidekick: a hot rich kid named Wyatt whose brother is the last name on Patsy’s list. The two share an intense chemistry even as every tick of the clock draws them closer to an impossible choice.

Delilah S. Dawson offers an absorbing, frightening glimpse at a reality just steps away from ours—a taut, suspenseful thriller that absolutely mesmerizes from start to finish.

Cindy Crushes Programming: DIY Evee Evolution Pins, by Teen Librarian Cindy Shutts

We are joined again by my fabolous Coworker Faith Healy who is here to talk about her super cute craft Eevee Evolution Pins! So if your teens love Pokemon give this a try. 

So I am particularly proud of this craft as I created the template from scratch and it came out so cute. This is not the first time I made a template from scratch, but sometimes you get an idea in your head and it does not work out the way you want. This one worked out great!

Designing the Template

So I was looking for program ideas on my go to site Pinterest when I came across a cute template for sewing Eevee evolution plush heads here is the link for anyone interested: https://cholyknight.com/2018/01/12/eeveelution-blob-plush/ . For My teens,  the amount of sewing it called for might be a little tough, but I hoped I could do something with the template. Unfortunately the template was very complicated, but it did have a reference photo. I looked at the photo and knew I could make a template that was simple just using the photo. It was harder than anticipated, but I did it. I used the Silhouette studio to trace the image to create an outline. It did not work great on all the images. Some I had to trace myself, but all that matters is that I created a usable design that I am happy to share!

Deciding the Materials

I went with foam, but you can use any material with this template. I just happened to have foam around to make some samples when testing my DIY template. I chose to do pins since I did have a bunch available from a past craft and I have done Pokemon badges before in foam and my teens loved them. You could do this using foam, felt, paper even. You could make them pins, pendants, earrings. I would just test out materials before making any decisions.

Making the Craft Kits

So I made the terrible decision to put all nine templates in one kit. I was just unsure which Eevee evolutions would be more popular with teens so I decided to all nine. I do not recommend this. It was a lot of work. I did make 36 kits, 12 for each of my library’s three branches. The cost was around $50 for the foam, pins, and bags.  If attempting this craft kit, I would break it down by Eevee Evolutions, just make sure to include Eevee in all the kits. If you are unaware, Jolteon, Flareon, and Vaporean are the og Eevee Evolutions. Umbreon and Espeon were the next generation. Then Leafon, Glaceon, and Slyveon came out, though Slyveon I believe came out a generation after Leafon and Glaceon.  Enough of pokemon lore, that would be how I would break it down in the future and what I would recommend to anyone attempting this craft kit. It is possible to do all nine, but be prepared for a lot of work.

One thing I had to do when making the kit is figuring out how much of each color I needed in each kit.  So I made the following charts below. I figured out the color breakdown of each eevee evolution, than I broke it down by color. The colors that are used more, I made sure to buy more of them in foam.  This method might not work for everybody, I am just more of a visual person.

Once I figured out what I needed I bought the foam. I cut up the foam so I would have 36 of each color that are big enough for what is required to be cut. From there I did the lengthy process of stuffing them with each color, 9 pins, 9 templates, and instructions.

Making the Instructions

I feel like it is pretty clear on how to construct, but I know instructions are always helpful. I made sure to include a color guide on the instructions so they know what colors to use with what piece. The instructions are not as pretty as I like, but I got sick with bronchitis and had to take a week off work and the release date was looming near, so I might have done them in a rush.

This is a simple and fun craft. It works great as a Take and Make. We literally have people come in to just pick up this craft kit.

I will also say this craft could be a fun program where you watch Pokemon and make your favorite eevee evolution pin.

Please feel free to share and use any of the documents I have provided.

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.

Dyslexia Awareness Month: Let’s Talk Fidgets, including DIY Fidget Toys, with the help of My Tween Scout

Check out the Dyslexia Dashboard for all of our Dyslexia posts

October is Dyslexia Awareness Month and Scout and I like to use this blog to raise awareness. Scout is an amazing 12 year old who has Dyslexia. And like a lot of kids who have Dyslexia, she also has ADHD. According to Everyday Health:

As many as one in four children with ADHD also have dyslexia, while between 15 and 40 percent of children with dyslexia have ADHD.


My amazing kid is one of the many, many kids out there who have both. Scout says ADHD is like this: I have trouble focusing and I like to move my body a lot. She can also become hyper-fixted on things, which I why when she learns how to make a new kind of fidget she doesn’t just make one, but she makes a basket full of them. In fact, just as much as Scout will do 1,000 cartwheels while trying to watch a movie, she can also spend hours alone in her room making a ton of fidgets or playing with Legos. Like Dyslexia, it isn’t just one thing and it can affect people different; it can even affect them differently at different times.

And as a kid with ADHD, she is a big fan of fidget toys. Like all things ADHD and Dyslexia related, it took me a while to realize the how and why of all of this. But basically, having something to do in her hand can help her focus and be better at managing tasks like reading and doing homework. Having her attention divided in this way can help her to hone in her focus, keep her body more still, and just pay better attention to the details. So where she has a tendency to want to get up and move her muscles every few minutes, having a fidget in one hand can help make the moments in between that need to move last longer so she has longer periods of focus.

How Fidgets Can Help Kids with ADHD


Scout is a huge lover of fidgets. She will bring out her basket of fidgets and tell me what they all are called and show me how to use them. I’ve heard her talk about them a lot and today she has chosen to talk to you about the various kinds of fidgets out there and share with you how she has even made her own, which would be a great program idea. All of the fidgets you see here are hers, including the homemade ones. I am transcribing for her.

Scout and her basket of fidgets

Fidgets 101

There are a wide variety of fidget toys out there. It’s unfortunate that they are called fidget toys, because they are actually quite helpful accessibility devices. As I mentioned, doing something in her hand can help her focus and concentrate. The fact that they are called toys and sold in the toy sections of stores can negate that they are actually a meaningful accessibility tool. So if you are someone who has bias against or doesn’t understand fidgets, please know that they are quite helpful to a lot of kids out there. You should also know that they are also new; it turns out that pretty much all of us have owned a fidget at one time or another, but older people like us grown ups didn’t always call them that. Just as long as there have been human roaming the Earth, there have been self soothing devices and kids/adults have found a way to self-manage their ADHD before we even knew to call it ADHD.

The Fidget Spinner

The idea of fidgets really broke out on the scene a few years back with the popularity of the fidget spinner. For a while, they were everywhere. You hold them in one hand and let them spin and it’s a fun distraction. As a parent, I like the fidget spinner because it is quieter. Not all fidgets are quiet. Interestingly, sometimes, the noise is part of the appeal.

Scout’s love of fidgets began with fidget spinners, but these are her least favorite at this point in part because they actually require the least amount of action. Once you get them spinning, there isn’t a lot for you to do.

We have written about DIY fidget spinners before and all the spinners you see in the picture above were made by teens. Scout has made some out of 3D pens, paper, and more. You need to purchase bearings for the center, but what you do with that center is open to a wide. The bearings can be purchased in bulk at a variety of online retailers.

Fidget Cubes

Fidget Cubes are cubes with a variety of activities on each side. The appeal here is that you can move it around and do a variety of activities, so you aren’t stuck with any one thing in your hand. There is a lot of clicking, feelings, and movement involved.

You can make your own using cardboard and whatever is left over in your craft cabinet. Scout has made a couple using what we have laying around the house including hot glue, it turns out that dried hot glue is tactiley pleasing for many people. Googly eyes, clothes pins, pony beads and more work well for this activity. If you have some laying around and it can be hot glued to a surface, it will probably work.

The Popper or Poppit

One of the more popular fidgets today is the popper. They come in different shapes and sizes and they have these little silicone bubbles that you can pop. Yes, it’s very much like popping packaging bubbles except for better for the environment. And yes, it’s very noisy like popping packaging bubbles. She is 100% not allowed to take these ones to school because I respect her teachers. In addition to the tactile pleasure here, she likes the rhythm of it. She’s also a big fan of the collectibility of it; who doesn’t like to have a variety of fun shapes and sizes?

Here’s a fun hack for you, you can buy silicone candy molds for a lot less money at your local discount grocery store and they are a very good substitute.

You can also make a Lego type Popper, which Thing 2 has done and really liked. This is a great activity if you have a Lego Club.

The Dimpl and the Simple Dimpl

The Dimpl and the Simple Dimpl come in very fun shapes and have a few larger popping circles. Like the poppers, they are fun to collect because of all the shapes and sizes that they come in. They also usually have carabiners on them so they can clip onto a lanyard or backpack. These are less noisy than the poppers, but not totally silent. But a lot of ADHD kids have issues with misplacing things, so being able to hook them onto a backpack or lanyard is really nice.

We made a version of a Simple Dimple using Lego:

There is also a variety of tutorials out there about how to DIY your own using other materials.

Squishies and Stressballs

Have you ever been given a stress ball at a trade show? You had a form of fidget, they just called it something else. Now they make them in all kinds of shapes and sizes and they are cute and collectible. They are also quiet!

You can make your own by filling a balloon with playdough, kinetic sand (and there are online recipes to make your own), or Orbeez. You can also make your own by making a duct tape pouch and filling it with plastic grocery bags as you see above. There are a lot of tutorials online and we’ve tried several. The kinetic sand in a balloon and the plastic bags in duct tape are quick, easy and not that expensive.

Tangles, Infinity Cubes and Wacky Tracks

There are several fidget toys that involve infinity like tangles that you manipulate. When I was a kid, we called these the Snake and didn’t know they were fidget toys. You can make your own very easily by making paper chains and gluing the ends together. In fact, there are a lot of fidget related things you can do with origami.

So there you have it, 6 fun ways that you can DIY your own fidget toys. Having a program where tweens and teens were invited to come in and make their own fidgets is not only fun – it promotes accessibility!! In my house, we definitely have some rules about what fidget tools can be used where (noisy fidgets don’t go to school), but I also have evolved to understand that they are helpful for a large number of kids. I hope that if you don’t understand the appeal of fidgets, that you will spend some time researching and talking to your kids about them. And if you find that your kids like them, I highly recommend DIY programs – They are a lot of fun!

Sunday Reflections: Once Again, I March

**Content Warning: Pregnancy Loss is Discussed**

Yesterday I marched. Again.

The girls and I at the Women’s March in 2017

I am a white Christian woman who has been married 26 years to my white Christian husband and I have had an abortion. I am only alive today because I had an abortion. My second child only exists in this world because I had an abortion.

When I was pregnant with Riley, I threw up a lot. More than I realized a person could. It was an unpleasant experience. What I didn’t know then is that it could be a deadly experience. Four years later, I would find that out.

I fought to live to see this kid grow up

When Riley was four, I became pregnant again. On purpose this time. Riley was a surprise, but a much loved one. I experienced everything I experienced in that first pregnancy but to much more of an extreme. Soon the vomiting came. And then the visits to the hospital.

But this time was different, and so very worse. I could keep nothing down. Nothing. Even with me taking the anti-nauseous medicine they gave to cancer patients receiving chemo, I could not stop vomiting. I threw up 24/7. My body started to break down in a process called metabolic acidosis. My resting heart rate was well over a 100 while my blood pressure was so low they marveled that I was even alive at one point. And I kept having to take costly trips to the ER where I was admitted, made stable, and then sent home with a set of instructions of what to look for and when to come back. And we all knew I was coming back.

At about 6 1/2 they did an ultrasound and the heartbeat was . . . slow and intermittent. The tech nervously turned off the sound and said it didn’t necessarily mean anything. But I think we all knew it meant everything. I was barely surviving this pregnancy, how could my baby?

One day Tim and I started discussing terminating the pregnancy to save my life. It came after another trip to the ER. It came after a night where I had to lock Riley and I up in my upstairs bedroom in case I died during the night because Tim worked nights and I was home alone with a 4 year old and I kept passing out. I tried teaching her how to dial 911 and took the locks off of my cell phone. I gathered together a bunch of 4 year old safe snacks, water, and locked us both up in my bedroom so she wouldn’t fall down the stairs or open the front door. I remember staring at her and wondering who she would become if she had to grow up without a mother. So Tim and I started the process of saving my life and we made an appointment for an abortion .

We met with our pastor. We went again to the ER. And this trip to the ER, they did an ultrasound. It’s surprising how often they don’t do one on a pregnant woman in the ER. And the ultrasound tech looked and looked and looked. She told me I measured around 6 weeks but there was no heartbeat yet. I told her that I had measured 6 1/2 weeks and had heard the heartbeat . . . a whole 3 weeks before this visit. She said she couldn’t tell me that my baby had died, but she could tell me that I only measured 6 weeks and that there was no heartbeat. She told me if I had measured 6 weeks 3 weeks ago and had heard a heartbeat that my the baby I was carrying had most likely died but she couldn’t tell me that because it was her first time seeing me

The next day, I went and saw a new ob/gyn, this one who performs abortions should I need to take that route. We once again had the same discussion about the measurements and the heartbeat. He told me that it was the law that I had to wait 24 hours to perform the abortion and that he hoped that I would survive the next day, waiting. He told me, once again, what to look for and when to go to the ER: if I got too dehydrated, heart symptoms to watch for, passing out, etc.

When the time came I was loaded up into the car and taken back to have the abortion. I drove down with a picture of the baby we were 99% dead in my hand. I didn’t feel guilt or shame about having the abortion, I felt relief in knowing that I was going to live and get to watch Riley grow up.

That night, I laid on my bedroom floor and cried. And I don’t know how to say this, but I had . . . a vision? I don’t know. But I saw myself lying on the bedroom floor just as I was, crying. And before me knelt Jesus with his hands cupped and he caught my tears before they hit the floor. And I felt that somehow, my God was telling me that he grieved for me and with me and he was comforting me. I don’t know exactly what happened or how to describe it, but that moment has stayed with me throughout the remainder of my days. It brings me peace. And in the moments when doubt about my faith creeps in, I recall this moment.

Thankful every day that this kid exists

A couple of years later I would get pregnant again. I was kept alive this time with at home IV therapy and a drug cocktail that didn’t make me throw up any less. I threw up so much and so fiercely that my placenta began to separate at around 20 weeks. I remember going to the ER and they told me that my baby wouldn’t make it through the weekend and to come back if I started hemorrhaging. A nurse came to my house every 3 days to change my IV location. Thankfully, my baby and I survived that pregnancy and regular readers know her as Thing 2.

The ABCs of HG: an unconventional picture book (Karen’s story)

The pregnancy disease that I have is called Hyperemesis Gravidarum. I have talked about it a lot here. And it’s genetic, which means as the mother of two daughters that either one or both of them could have it. The don’t get pregnant before you’re ready talk has an extra layer added when you realize that you may be genetically pre-disposed to a life threatening pregnancy condition.

So yesterday, Tim and I went to our local Women’s March for Reproductive Freedom because we love our children. We know that pregnancy can be complicated and even life threatening. And we want our daughters, these glorious children of ours that we love and adore, to be recognized as fully human and to have the right to make their own bodily and health care choices.

Abortion in healthcare. I am only alive today because I could choose to end a pregnancy that was literally killing me. My second child is only alive today because I could choose to end a pregnancy that was literally killing me. Pregnancy is messy and complicated and life threatening for many people. They deserve the right to make their own healthcare decisions. I want my daughters to have the right to make their own healthcare decisions, because I love them with every ounce of my being.

RevolTeens: The Play and Joy Revolution, by Christine Lively

We are back to school, and the only thing that has changed, it seems is that we’re all wearing masks. At least, that’s the only thing that appears to have changed. In the first few weeks of school we have been overwhelmed in our high school library by the sheer numbers of teens who are checking out books and talking about them. It has been stunning. We have many more students spending time in the library. Yes, they are coming in to check out books – so many more check outs than we usually have and among every kind of student imaginable. Many of our students rediscovered their love of reading and found inspiration in the BookTok videos on TikTok. It’s been great to see so many teens reading for enjoyment and I love talking with them about the books they’ve read, there’s another revolution happening. The teens have started playing again.

I think about how American “society” views and treats teenagers a lot. When kids are young, parents and teachers encourage them to play for the sake of playing to learn social skills, problem solving, and for pure joy. As children get older, adults are constantly on the lookout for what each child has a talent for: Are they good at a sport/music/performing or do they have other talents? Most of the time, well meaning adults will encourage children to work hard in the areas where they have talent and encouraging them to spend more and more time doing it – soccer tournaments, academic clubs, community theater classes and on and on until kids are over-scheduled and stressed. During the pandemic, activities, sports, and other activities were cancelled, and an expanse of free and unscheduled time was available. Many families and kids seem to have rediscovered play as a valuable and joyful way to spend time.

We have seen it in the library. We’ve unearthed an ancient manual typewriter from a storage area and placed it out on our library floor. We gave no lessons nor did we offer advice. Students immediately approached it and have begun writing short thoughtful “typewriter poetry” which we’ve posted on the walls to inspire other students. Still other teens have used the typewriter to write love notes to each other which they exchange. There’s no grade or glory attached – it’s simply for fun.

Still other students have found ways to play by coloring giant coloring pages. We put them out with some markers, and they soon are colored and are beautiful. We have puzzles that are completed by students who huddle together in their masks and fit pieces together. We have at least five chess games happening all day long between students who are friends, and students who are from different countries. They all come to play.

Playing is revolutionary because teens are constantly bombarded with the same messages we adults do – work, work, work – rest and play are wasting time. Playing is a direct revolution against the grind culture we all hear so much about. The culture that says that our value lies only in the work we can produce and the money we make. Yes, teens do work, and study, and practice the skills that they believe may be valuable one day – all things that cause stress and anxiety. Time to play and enjoy themselves balances out their time and gives them a necessary break from stress that they need to keep going.

The mental health crisis we all have read about and experienced first hand with our own families, kids has been sobering. Death has surrounded all of us so immediately for over eighteen months. Filling every day with working, stress about grades, and getting into college doesn’t work for so many teens. It’s just too much. Playing is hitting a pause in their day and allowing them to find reasons to enjoy their lives while they continue to navigate their way through a continuing pandemic.

Teens need a play revolution.

They need time for joy for its own sake. Time with other teens that is not spent trudging through a group project, a job, or another practice. Time that’s not graded, or judged. Time that’s spent enjoying what they’re doing.

Only when they get a break for joy can they keep the hope in their hearts to make the change in the world that we wish to see. Only when they get a break for joy and play can they get back to the serious and necessary business of revolting and changing the world. m

A message on our coloring page from an anonymous RevolTeen.

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.