Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Everyone’s Worst is Their Worst: A guest post by S.A. Bodeen

A close friend of mine grew up under deplorable conditions for modern times: no running water, intermittent electricity, less than plentiful food. I once asked her how she reacts when her children—who have seemingly everything compared to her at their age— complain about something. She smiled and told me, “Everyone’s worst is their worst.”


Growing up in a small town, from second through sixth grade, I was with the same twenty-five kids. I was an introvert with a speech impediment, which made me the perfect target. I once saw a quote “We read to know we are not alone.” Books saved me. Let me say that again: books saved me. For all those years that I never had a friend, I always had a book.


Bullying is all over the web now, and because of my experiences, I have to restrain myself from judging when parents are horrified that their child was left out of a birthday party or something similar. They seem like such minor travesties compared to the things I went through. But everyone’s worst is their worst.


In YA novels, some main characters endure tragic situations, and other characters seem to not have to deal with much at all. But everyone’s worst is their worst.


I’ve read reviews that bash a character for being whiney as they have to deal with their problems, some of which come across as meager compared to what other characters have encountered. And I find myself perplexed at the judgement.  Characters—and humans in general— rarely react the same way to a difficult situation. And no two difficult situations are the same. Because everyone’s worst is their worst.


Readers of YA reflect this. All of their worsts are completely different. But they may need to read to know they are not alone. And while one reader may need to see a character survive worse things than they did, perhaps to commiserate or feel lucky they didn’t have it quite that bad, another reader may not. That reader may need to see someone who did have it easier than they did. Maybe so that they can stand tall and roll their eyes at the ease in which that character goes through life. Maybe to wipe their tears as they wish their road had been that simple. But perhaps, also, to discover and potentially embrace the concept that everyone’s worst is their worst. And the recognition of that goes beyond the page, because it applies to life. Everyone’s worst is their worst. No judgement needed.


S A  Bodeen by V Imagery and DesignS.A. Bodeen is the author of the YA novels The Compound, The Gardener, The Raft, and The Fallout, a Fierce Reads title. She is also the author of the Shipwreck Island series for middle-grade readers. She travels the country making school visits, and lives with her husband outside of Minneapolis. Visit her online at writersabodeen.com or on Twitter at @sabodeen. 

Making the Match: Why finding the right book is important by Teri Lesesne (guest post)

One of my teens making a match!

A few weeks ago, I read about the YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) summer course entitled Making the Match.  I decided to email the instructor for this course, Teri Lesesne, to see if she would be interested in writing a guest post for us.  Teri is @professornana via Twitter and is a professor of library science at Sam Houston State University in Texas.  See what she has to say about why finding the right book is important and if you are able, I encourage you to take her course offered through YALSA!

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning bug and lightning, to paraphrase Robert Frost. The same is true when it comes to matching a reader and a book.  Coming close is not enough particularly for teens who might be less than enthusiastic readers. Finding the right book requires knowledge, skill, and sometimes a bit of luck.  What elements are important in this process? 

A first and often overlooked step is to have a thorough working knowledge of the readers we wish to assist.  In the case of tweens and teens, we need to know how they develop intellectually, morally, and developmentally.  We need to understand aspects of their culture.  I confess that I did not always consider some of the theorists I studied in college.  How did Maslow and Piaget and Havighurst and Kohlberg factor into helping readers find good books, books that would speak to them  leaving them to demand more?  Where readers are in terms of their development can often affect responses to reading.

The second step in matching readers and books relies on a knowledge of the books themselves.  How could we ever hope to find the right books unless we are reading dozens if not hundreds of books for tweens and teens?  Have we read selections from the YALSA lists?  Have we scanned the bestseller lists for titles we do not know? Have we read the movies made from books? Are there other places we can turn for suggestions of the books we should read?

Finally, matching readers and books requires we have an arsenal of strategies for getting books into the hands of the readers.  Booktalking is certainly key here, but how else can we let readers know about the really good books even when we are not available for booktalks? Shelf talkers, blogs, bibliographies, displays, and more are key strategies, too.
Seems simple on the surface.  However, we all know it is a complex and demanding task: finding that just right book. This summer I will offer a course through YALSA called Making the Match.  We will spend 6 weeks talking and sharing and learning together.  I hope some of you will join me.  Information about the course is on the YALSA site (http://www.ala.org/yalsa/onlinelearning/onlinecourses/making_the_match).  In the meantime, grab a book and read!

Thanks so much to Teri for appearing on our blog and I hope that this post inspires you to work even harder in making the match with our teens and the book!  — Stephanie

Guest Blogger of the Day: Val, a slowly developing heart for reading

Val came into my life 6 years ago.  She was a teen member of my church, and an excellent baby sitter.  Val graduated high school in May, and I couldn’t have been prouder.  She was active in 4-H member and at one time marching band.  She has worked for the Boys and Girls Club as a mentor to younger children.  Despite how amazing she is, she has not always been an avid reader.  One time I finally convinced her to read If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson.  I think this is one of the most beautifully written books that captures the heart of a tragic love store while interweaving some beautiful poetry into the tale.  Val was shocked at home much she loved this book.  Sometimes you match the right book with the right reader and magic happens.  This is Val’s tale in her own words . . .

Val has even starred in one of my RA posters
Going through high school there was always that book assignment to read or that paper to write that no one really wanted to have anything to do with. Being a typical teen I struggled; Do I actually read or do I simply Sparknote the material? As good as a reference as Sparknote’s can truly be, I’ve learned reading the material is truly better.
Learning this lesson has came from knowing not only a good friend of mine but a local librarian. From the very beginning of high school the phrase “why don’t you just read?” came across in multiple conversations. It wasn’t until my junior and senior year in high school I finally started to listen to her. From when I first went to her  and said “find me a book for this project,” her help was key to finding my love for reading.
Once, I realized that reading wasn’t that bad and that all I just needed was the right book my English classes were no longer a problem anymore. Just simply reading one chapter during spare time made it so I soon stopped failing quizzes, made writing papers much easier and less time consuming, and the struggle to answer a simple question about the material much more easy. Not only did the work acquainted with my material become more simple but my grammar and writing skills increased tremendously. Suddenly my “C” in English became an “A” all because I listened to my librarian, decided to actually read and use the services my local library offers.

If you come softly
as the wind within the trees.
You may hear what I hear.
See what sorrow sees.
If you come slightly
as threading dew,
I will take you gladly,
nor ask more of you.
      Audre Lorde (1934-1992)

Val sent me this text right after she finished reading If You Come Softly:  “Kar thank you for making me read the book if you come softly it was a great book and made me cry.”  The right book made all the difference.

Please note: this is a new feature and if you or one of your teens would like to make a guest blog post, please e-mail me at kjensenmls@yahoo.com.  Just e-mail me a copy of your story, some basic bio information, a head shot and any artwork if you so desire.