Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Little Fish: A different kind of memoir for a different kind of teen (and a different kind of TPiB)

I don’t know about you, but graphic novels and graphic novelish type books are hot at my library.  Heck, they are hot at my house.  And with the school year just starting, it’s great for Juniors and Seniors to start thinking about WHAT COMES NEXT.  So, tada: Little Fish, a memoir from a different kind of year by Ramsey Beyer. (Zest Books, 2013 ISBN: 978-1-936976-18-8)

Ramsey Beyer was a teenager from a small town in Michigan.  My family is from a small town in Michigan.  They have one blinking stop light and thought they were a big deal when they got a McDonalds.  Trust me, I know all about small towns in Michigan.  And most people growing up in a small town anywhere just want to escape.  To find a way out to something bigger.  Beyer did that when she went to college.  She became an apartment dwelling, city living art student.  And she created this artistic book to chronicle her experiences.

Little Fish is told in a series of comics, illustrated poems, and illustrated lists.  So you know where you see all those journals that are “destroy this book” and “make it yours”?  Beyer did that.  And it is pretty cool.  In fact, it is a built in program (TPiB).  You can buy blank books from Oriental Trading and invite your teens to come in and create their own journal.  Duct tape, markers, torn pages from magazines and glue . . . anything goes.  You can take anyone of the different lists from the books and asks teens to do the same.  Or just let them freestyle it.

In Little Fish, Beyer captures all the hopes and fears of moving away and embarking on a journey like starting college and moving away from home.  I remember packing up what I could fit in my little car and setting out from California to drive cross country and go to college in Ohio.  Why Ohio?  My then fiance’s family (now my husband) was from Ohio and after his dad died from Cancer, he needed to move back there because living in California without a good job is super expensive.  So he moved back to Ohio to help his mom and go to college and a semester later, I followed.  The first winter there I remembered all about winter snow and the need for gloves – the hard way (and almost lost a couple of fingers to frostbite.)

I have always journalled.  I write poetry (not necessarily good poetry, but poetry).  I collect my favorite quotes from the books that I read.  And when my first daughter was born I wrote in a journal to her every day.  And now I blog, which is kind of a journal.  It’s great to have this little book of your life that you can look back through and remember who you were and how far you have come.

Little Fish by Ramsey Beyer is a must have.  It is definitely in a popular format that has huge teen appeal.  And it is great insight for all of our high school students who are about to venture out into the big unknown of what’s next.

More Memoirs for Teens

Carnegie Library List

More Memoirs from Zest Books

Have more memoirs to add to our list? Add them in the comments.

Book Review: Holy Spokes: a biking bible for everyone by Rob Coppolillo (with a TPiB)

It’s January, which means your TV is being flooded with weight loss ads and 1 out of every 1 person it seems is making a resolution to lose weight and get in shape.  Cycling is a great way to do that.

When The Mr. and I were dating, we spent a lot of time – at times almost daily – cycling through the canyons in California.  This was the first I had ever done it, and yes, I did it for a guy, but it turned out to be a lot of fun and living in the suburbs now, I miss those adventures.  I started out knowing exactly nothing about buying my first bike, what the various gears meant, and how to be safe.  Oh how I could have used this book!

Holy Spokes is divided into several informational chapters that include a brief history of the bike, finding your book type, and more.  There is some discussion about the environmental impact (or lack there of) in using a bike as opposed to a car and a look at using your bike for work.  Think Premium Rush starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt (or if you are older, Quicksilver starring Kevin Bacon).  Also – movie tie-in!

Some interesting facts learned from Holy Spokes:

  • Many cyclists shave their bodies while racing, not for aerodynamics, but to aid in first aid and recovery in the event of a crash.
  • Crumpling your race number before pinning it on your jersey will help prevent it from keeping air and becoming a drag, literally.
  • There are bikes that fold to make commuting easier.

The one draw back to Holy Spokes: Lance Armstrong.  Holy Spokes was published just a few days ago,
right as the proverbial doodoo was hitting the fan for Armstrong.  He is, of course, mentioned in the book.  There is a brief mention of his wins with a disclaimer regarding “Lance Armstrong’s Dark Cloud”, which as we all know finally burst.  However, this is by no means the focus of the book and does not negate the depth and coverage of the information presented on the topic of biking.

Holy Spokes looks at all types of bikes, and all types of biking, from those who just want a leisure ride to those who want to cycle competitively.  What type of book you need depends on what you want to do with it.  Picture from Zestbooks.net

Holy Spokes is published by Zest Books (I am a fan), which means that it is presented in a way that is quick and easy to read while being engaging and informative.  There are information inserts, some short stories and interviews, and a few line illustrations that help you define and label various parts of a bike.  High recommended.


True story: I once had a bike festival at a library I worked at. It took a ton of work by a great committee, but we put it together.  A team of BMX stunt riders came and did a show in the section of the parking lot that we had closed.  The local police can come out and talk bike safety.  Do a giveaway for some bike helmets and, if you can get a generous donation or a grant, a bike.

You can do bike related crafts from the very simple to the more sophisticated, like using fabric markers to design your own bandanas.  For the simple, make a huge bicycle mural out of butcher paper on the wall and have tweens and teens decorate the bike.  Thinks stinkers!  For younger kids, it could even become a fun bike version of Pin the Tail on the Donkey: Put the Sticker on the Bike.  You can even use discarded magazines (Eco Craft Alert!) to make your own stickers as part of your event.  Information here.

If you have a big enough space you can set up a fun tricycle obstacle course and have teens race to see who can complete the course first without banging their knees completely off.

We have a local pizza vendor set up in the parking lot and they were selling slices and cans of pop.  It really was a fun little parking lot festival with a few indoor activities designed to move people into the library to browse so they didn’t just watch the BMX team in the parking lot and leave without thinking about using the library.

If you want to make a health festival out of it you can have a martial arts demonstration, someone talking nutrition, etc.

Holy Spokes, a Biking Bible for Everyone by Rob Coppolillo.  Published January 22, 2013 by Zest Books. ISBN: ISBN-13: 978-1-936976-23-2.

P.S. I looked, but I didn’t have any pictures of The Mr. and I during our biking phase.  It’s hard to ride and snap pics.  Plus, it was long enough ago that we didn’t have smart phones.  Yes, I realize I just aged myself.

Book Review: October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard by Leslea Newman

I first heard about October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard from Terri Lessene at the 2012 YALSA YA Literature Symposium, who described it by saying:

“it introduces Matthew Shepard to a generation too young to remember him.”  

My heart sank when I heard that. Matthew Shepard’s story was pivotal for me and many of my contemporaries.  I was two years younger, three inches taller, and twenty pounds heavier than him when this slight, bright, trusting young gay man was beaten to death in a hate crime that would later play a part in national hate crime legislation. A number of of my friends and classmates were in the midst of coming out, and Matthew Shepard’s murder was a shattering event.

With the passage of time, most names and lives and stories will be forgotten,  but this is one name, life, story, that needs to remain in the public memory, and this slim volume is a beautiful, powerful way to aid in this.

For those too young to remember Matthew Shepard’s story, too young to get chills and feel an ache at the bottom of your heart when you see it, the fence pictured above may just look like a fence.  It is the fence outside of Laramie, Wyoming where Matthew Shepard was tied for eighteen hours, beginning October 7th, 1998, after being lured into a truck by two men, beaten savagely with fists and a gun, and left barefoot, alone, for eighteen hours, before he was discovered, hospitalized, and later died from his devastating injuries.  He was twenty one.  He was a college student. He was gay.
October Mourning doesn’t tell Matthew’s story as a straight narrative, it invokes everything involved in the incident, giving each element a distinct voice thorough poetry:  the man who didn’t invite Matthew to stay for an extra drink, the bartender who offered him his last kindness, the truck, the killers, the  fence, the moon that saw it all, the biker who discovered this beautiful blonde boy, who was so crumpled and beaten he was first mistaken for a scarecrow, the parents who heard the news, the nurse, the tree that became the urn that held his ashes, the friends who wore angel wings to shield mourners from the protesters that picketed his funeral, Matthew’s own heart:

This is just to say
I’m sorry
I kept beating
and beating
your shattered chest

Forgive me
for keeping you
so long
I knew it would kill me
to let you go

I am no great fan of novels in verse.  They can seem affected, using the form as a gimmick more than a deliberate and correct choice to tell the story.  But when they work, they really, really, really work. This one really works.  You may note that the poem above is written in the style of William Carlos William’s famous piece.  Newman uses this device a number of times, turning the wry apology of the original into genuinely grief filled moments of regret here.  She also employs classic forms to great effect a number of times, notably in her use of the rhythmically echoing pantoum as the fence speaks in THE FENCE (that night) (excerpted from page 16 below)

His own heart wouldn’t stop beating
The cold wind wouldn’t stop blowing
His face streaked with moonlight and blood
I tightened my grip and held on

The cold wind wouldn’t stop blowing
We were out on the prairie alone
I tightened my grip and held on
I saw what was done to this child

The rallying repetition of a villanelle is employed in a pair of poems, one from the perspective of anti-gay protesters who spewed hate filled epithets at the mourners, and another, on the opposite page, from the silent counter protesters from the Angel Action group, formed for this event and still active today to provide a silent, peaceful barrier between mourners and protesters.
But this is not a book filled with strict poetic forms.  Free verse, found poems, and notably a concrete poem from the perspective of the stars overhead, scattered across the page like stars in the sky keep the reader connected to the voice of the various speakers.  A note at the end explains the forms and construction of the poems.  Many teen readers will be unfamiliar with the references to famous works and use of forms, so I wish this note had been a part of the front material.
Because the crime was so far beyond words, so senseless, so divisive (will today’s teens even understand why it was divisive?), the impact so far reaching, spawning plays and movies and crime tv shows and counter protest measures and federal legislation, it is not just a crime story, not just a hate story, not just a story of gay bashing.  And while the facts of Matthew Shepard’s murder are startling enough and certainly could and have been told in narrative form, Newman’s “song” gives voice to the players in such a way that the reader moves through the event with a different kind of understanding.  It forces the reader to think of the event not as a story – it is not a fiction – rather a life and an experience that has a power all its own and needs to be remembered.

TPIB: My first love (and break up): Crush, Dumped, Kiss and The DateBook (with two bonus creative display ideas)

Ah, teenage love.  The agony. The ecstasy.  That first kiss. That first heartbreak.  This is one of the glorious hallmarks of the teenage years. 


Zest books has 4 great titles that cover this topic for you:
Crush: a girl’s guide to being crazy in love
Dumped: a girl’s guide to happiness after heartbreak
Kiss: a girl’s guide to puckering up by Erin Elisabeth Conley
The Date Book: a girl’s guide to going out with someone new by Erika Stalder

Debbie Thomas fails to win the ice skating gold at the same time that Karen fails to win the girlfriend gold
The night that Debbie Thomas was trying to win a gold medal in Olympic figure skating, my ex-boyfriend stood outside my door with a dozen red roses begging me to take him back.  Here’s the thing: I really, really wanted to – but I was too filled with pride to let him know that and I regreted it every day for years afterwards.  Let’s rewind.  I was “dating” a guy named Mike.  We had met my Sophomore year at a theater production after party when I bumped into him, literally.  We started talking and then we started dating.  The thing is, I was what they call a “late bloomer” and this was my first boyfriend and I was petrified.  And not so good at the smooching.  So one day Mike called and broke up with me.  The actual conversation went like this:
Mike: I want to break up with you
Me: Okay
Mike: Aren’t you going to like cry or something?
Me: No, why, is that what you want me to do?
Mike: Yes, because then I would know that you like me
Me: That’s so immature. How come my telling you I like you doesn’t answer that question?
Mike: (silence as he realizes his stupid ways)
So later that evening, Debbie Thomas laces up her skates, Karen pulled up a chair in front of the TV, and Mike showed up with flowers.  The truth is, breaking up with me to see how I would react was a real insert expletive here move.  As was my not just saying okay, I forgive you let’s not do this again.  The moral of my first romance story: pride can be a real heartbreaker. – Karen

That’s right ladies and gentleman, I was dumped.  I think most of us are at one point or another.  And sometimes, we have the horrible task of having to be the dumper (arguably better than being the dumpee).  Sadly, this was not the last time I was dumped, read on . . .

Me and The Mr. – love at first sight?

Was it Love at First Sight?
I dated the same boy for 18 months in High School and thought he was THE ONE. Until he broke up with me.  So I flew to visit my dad in Cali for a week knowing that when I returned, he would realize the error of his ways.  While visiting I went out with my BFF and this guy named Tim, we played pool.  I sat in the parking lot and showed Tim my prom pictures while I cried.  Yes, Tim is in fact The Mr.  But I left that night, returned home and waited for Kenny to take me back.  Kenny had a new girlfriend.  A couple of months later I moved back to Cali and eventually began dating Tim.  We have now been married for 17 years.  My favorite thing to do is ask Tim if it was love at first sight for him.  He assures me it was not because, you know, I sat in the parking lot crying and showing him my prom pictures.  Sometimes being dumped is the best thing that can ever happen to you, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time. Karen

A word about the books:
All 4 of these titles are short but fun looks at the topics.  They cover pretty much what girls want them to cover but in fun ways; there are lists, anecdotes and more.  Crush and Dumped both contain real life quotes from teens.  Three of the titles, Crush, Kiss, and Dumped, are slightly smallish for library shelves but I still ordered them and they didn’t pose a problem so don’t let that hold you back.  I love the pre-date flow chart in The Date Book, which also has a brief discussion about setting your personal physical boundaries.  The bottom lines: these books will circulate and meet the need well and often playfully, which is a good approach to these sometimes delicate topics.  The caveat: Crushed, Dumpes and Kiss are all those smaller sizes books that can easily pushed back and lost on the library shelves.  Don’t let that deter you, just be aware of it.  BONUS CREATIVE DISPLAY IDEA ALERT: I had seating tables in my teen area and I would pull out mini collections of books on a certain topic and put four or five books on the table top using 2 book shelf ends.  These books would certainly work well for that. 

My very favorite thing about these books is that they all have lists and items inside which can help spur some creative ideas for displays, contests and yes – programs!!!  You’re talking playlists of break-up songs, a theasurus of other words you can use instead of dumped, how to say I Love You in various languages, and more.  And in the midst of it all is useful information like things to look out for, what it all means, and keeping yourself safe and healthy.  The Date Book in particular is a useful resource for young teens just thinking about dipping their toes into the romance pool or looking for some dating ideas.

Using the books in your programming:

Host an anti-Valentines day party in February
Have your teens decorate broken heart cookies, do a contest where you match popular dumpers  with their dumpees, make Valentines for your BFF or your puppy, create a sling arrows at cupid game (think pin the tail on the donkey), and as the ultimate catharsis write your heartbreak letters and then shred them.  Have teens create their own heartbreak playlists and dance the night away, or may I suggest Karoake.

Dating Violence Awareness
Check around locally to see if there is someone who can come in and do a teen dating violence awareness program. They should be able to discuss signs of dating violence, what constitutes a healthy relationship and more.  The local hospital may have an education person who does this, mine did.  You can use these books as door prizes.

Movie Festival
Host either a romance or break-up movie festival.  Might I suggest looking to the 80s for some great ones. Think John Hughes. Kiss has a list of movies that contain a first kiss (p. 44).

I Heart Crafts
Don’t forget the very large variety of “love” or “heart” related crafts that you can put together.  This is a case where Pinterest is your friend.

Make a Dumped Survival Kit
Decorate Chinese food take-out boxes (you can order them through Oriental Trading or buy that at most craft suppliers) and throw in a small packet of tissues, include some chocolate of course, and make your own fortune cookies (recipe here) with your own affirming messages.  Actually, making your own fortune cookies is a great at home activity, so include the recipe and write your fortunes if you are doing it at the library.  Bonus Fun: act out your favorite dumping scenes as a little reader’s theater/role play.  Don’t forget the ultimate break-up song: Kiss Him Goodbye (the Na Na Na song).

This Kiss (Lip Crafts!)
Think of all the fun lip activities you can do: make big lips to put on your straws (straw lips!), make lip shaped Valentine’s, make your own lip balm and these Lip Balm Purses, etc.  Be sure to have Faith Hill’s This Kiss and Prince’s Kiss playing in the background.  BONUS CREATIVE DISPLAY IDEA ALERT: You can even have your teens make lip shaped shelf talkers where they “kiss” their favorite books to give them the seal of approval; Simply cut out lip shapes and ask your teens to write out their recommendations and put them on the shelves (or on display) with the books.  Think “This Book is Lip Smacking Good!”

Your Kiss Party Playlist:
This Kiss by Faith Hill
This Kiss by Carly Rae Jepsen
Kiss by Prince
Kiss Me by Sixpence None the Richer
True Love’s Kiss from the movie Enchanted
Just a Kiss by Lady Antebellum
Kiss the Girl from The Little Mermaid

Some Awesome YA About Falling in Love:
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
(I didn’t say they were all happy stories, but they are true love stories)

And for the broken hearted . . .
The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour
Why We Broke Up by Handler and Kalman
Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg
Getting Over Garret Delaney by Abby McDonals
Back When You Were Easier to Love by Emily Wing Smith
And the ultimate I’ve been dumped and can’t deal book: Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas (as described by Christie G)

Are you bold enough to share your high school romance stories with us in the comments?  What are your favorite falling in love of being dumped ya books?

Girls Against Girls {Book Review, Discussion & Giveaway}

My heart speeds up.  I see a single bead of sweat start to fall down my cheek.  Soon that bead of sweat will be a tear, but not quite yet.  She is coming.  I stand at the bus stop waiting to go to school and she is coming.  I am in the 5th grade, alternately known as hell – thanks entirely to her.  Today we are in for a special treat.  Her mother is a nurse and she has stolen a needle from her. As she plunges it into the skin of my arm over and over and over again, I know I can’t do this anymore.  So the next morning I force my little brother to walk to school with me, even though I have been told that I can not.  It is not safe where we live. We walk under the freeway overpass where in the future weeks a drunken man will grab me by the ankle.  We walk and we walk and we walk, morning after morning, because whatever dangers are out there, even the rapist they keep talking about on the radio, they don’t compare to the dangers that wait for me every morning at the bus stop.   Nothing is more dangerous than her festering hatred, and I don’t even know how I earned it.  Thank God that because of my parent’s divorce, I get to go to a different school next year.  I hope I can make it that long.

5th grade sucked for me. Truly and to its core.  There would be some other bad years, but nothing that compared to that one.  I remember when I was pregnant with my first child and The Mr. and I went to find out the sex of our baby, I wanted desperately for it to be a boy because I knew first hand how hard this world is for girls, and sadly it is often other girls making it that way. We have two little girls.  Last night the tween cried because the girl assigned to sit by her on the bus every day refuses to do so because she thinks the tween is “weird”.  Ahhhh, the glory of Girls Against Girls.  Sometimes I wonder, is there anything worse than being a teenage girl?

Girls Against Girls by Bonnie Burton is a nonfiction title from Zest Books that really challenges girls to think about why they do the things they do to one another and ways to end the cycle of girl against girl violence, which is primarily emotional and psychological but can get physical.  We all know what they say about “cat fights”.

“Hey, how long till the music drowns you out?
Don’t put words up in my mouth,
I didn’t steal your boyfriend”
Lyrics by Ashlee Simpson, Boyfriend

So why are girls so mean to one another?  Conventional wisdom has always said we are in competition.  I do feel like the world likes to put us in competition with one another.  Are we fighting for scarce resources, in this case men?  Jobs? Self respect?  Are we just born this way?  The truth is there is some truth to all of it.  We are taught to be competitive, we pass it down from generation to generation.  When you snipe at the neighbor or judge the woman on television, the children around you hear that and it becomes a model to them.  You can tell your children not to bully and judge but when they see you doing it – well, you know what they say: Actions speak louder than words.
“She’s my best friend. God I hate her.” – from the movie Heathers
Girls Against Girls is divided into 6 sections . . .
Section1: Why we hurt each other
Section 2: Methods of our meannness (Gossiping, the silent treatment, boyfriend stealing)
Section 3: Bearing the brunt of it (ways to deal)
Section 4: Calling in reinforcements (asking for help)
Section 5: Stopping the cycle (awesome section on dealing with emotions and taking responisibility for your actions)
Section 6: Teaming up instead of tearing each other down
Cyberbullying is discussed as well, a very relevant topic.  And there is a definite emphasis on dealing with the issues in positive ways and trying to stop the cycle.  The truth is, mean girls are not going to pick up this book (though they definitely should). No, it is the girls being bullied and tormented by their peers that will read this book, and it is a great resource for them.  It will help them understand that they are not really the issue.  But I would love to see every adult that works with or loves a teen read this books too.  Pair it with Queen Bees and Wannabees and look closely at what girl culture is like.  Then, put together some Girl Power programming and help girls have positive social interactions.
Some things you can do:
Have a girl power book discussion group.  Include titles like Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver and 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher.
Have a “Mean Girls Movie Festival” where you show movies like Mean Girls and Heathers.
Share resources with your teens like Girls Incorporated (www.girlsinc.org), The Ophelia Project (www.opheliaproject.org), Girls for a Change (www.girlsforachange.org) and some of the youth empowerment organizations listed here.
Provide positive opportunities for social interaction with craft events and other programming opportunities.  I have two rules at my teen programs: The BIC Rule (keep your butt in a chair, one butt to chair) and the Safe Haven Rule (all my teens know that my programs are safe places and no smack talk will be tolerated at all).  I don’t care if that is your sister who got you grounded by telling your mom about your boyfriend last night, you will not talk badly to her or about her at my programs.  You will be asked to leave after one warning.  This is non-negotiable.
“Being yourself is the best revenge.” Lynn Peril, author of Think Pink
To teenage girls everywhere: Be yourself and be kind to others
This is a good and, unfortunately, necessary addition to all teen collections.  There are no supplemental reading lists included, which is probably a good thing because they would always need to be updated.  But you can run with this theme and put together current reading and movie lists. There are also no shortage of songs you can put together for a Girl Power/Mean Girls playlist.  In fact, I would love for you to help me BUILD A RESOURCE GUIDE IN THE COMMENTS.  Leave your recommendations of teen book titles, movies and songs in the comments.

Final thoughts: As my tween saw me reading this book she asked me, “We’re all the same, why would we be mean to each other?” Why indeed? (Man I love that girl!)

Girls Against Girls: Why we are mean to each other and how we can change by Bonnie Burton is highly recommended for all school and public libraries, and to everyone who loves and works with teen girls.  It is well organized, thoughtfull, relevant and has some cool graphic elements and inspiring quotes.  You know I love me some inspiring quotes.  Published by Zest Books. ISBN: 978-0-9790173-6-0.

Bonnie Burton is part of the Vaginal Fantasy Book Club which I discussed earlier.  Fun stuff.

Other relevant posts:
Youth Empowerment Resources

Girl Power/Mean Girls Booklist
13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Pretty Amy by Lisa Burstein
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
PBS has an empowering booklist for Middle School Girls
Macmillan’s list of Girl Power books

Leave a comment and be entered for your chance to win Girl in a Fix, Girl in a Funk, Girls Against Girls and Regine’s Book from Zest Books.  Open to US Residents.  Please don’t forget to leave an e-mail or @ for Twitter so I can contact you. Contest runs through Friday, November 23rd.

Book Review: Regine’s Book, a teen girl’s last words by Regine Stokke

“Waiting for death is dehumanizing.  To feel your body just getting worse and worse. To have to wait for answers. For the only answer that matters: Will you live or will you die? Most teenagers spend their time worrying about how they’ve done on a test, but others – like me – wait to find out if they’ll survive long enough to have another birthday. The world is unfair. For those of you who go on to live a long and happy life, I want you to try and give something back to the world. Think of all those other people whose lives are spent in suffering. Give. It is unbelievably important.” (p. 111)

In Autumn of 2008 Regine Stokke became incredibly ill and was eventually diagnosed with cancer, more specifically a form of Leukemia.  She started a blog to share her story and it garnered a huge following with its heartbreaking and sincere look at life with cancer.  Her goal was to share what it is like to live with an illness, but as too often happens with cancer, it became a record of her last days.

“The fear of not existing never goes away.” (p. 205)

Although at times Regine sat in a hospital vomiting from the cancer treatments, trembling in fear of yet another biopsy, and losing far too many of her new friends that shared this bizarre new life with her, she also developed a great appreciation of art, music and life.  Scenes from the hospital are followed by triumphant moments like seeing Slash and Friends at the Quart Musical festival in June of 2009:
“Arrived home from Quart on Friday.  As I said, it was totally incredible! so great that I got to go! I was also in pretty good shape too. I managed to do most of the things I wanted. Went to concerts, went shopping, ate outdoors, etc. I don’t think I’ve been this active since last summer.” (p. 202-203)
And in the midst of the good moments, there are absolute moments of gut wrenching despair: But waiting is a horrible experience with something like this: It’s a time filled with uncertainty and terror. No one knows what will happen. I have one foot in the grave, and while I’m hoping to get out, doubt holds me back. (p. 205).

But like most blogs, Regine’s was interactive and she had some amazing guest posts and comments, which are also sometimes included.  In addition to the various blog entries, there are some diary entries from Regine’s mom and a basic overview of Leukemia.  Throughout the text there are a variety of photos, poems, pictures of art work that inspired Regine and some responses from online readers of her blog. Regine’s Book is a haunting and inspiring and moving look at Regine’s life, at the life of a young girl trying to be a teen when faced with the every day possibility that this day may be your last good day.  And it is an intimate look at some of her very worst days. You will cry.  Highly recommended for all collections.
As a side note, at a staff training event I did a little over a year ago, a staff member commented that teens no longer read.  That is patently false and as I explained, many teens are just reading differently – and blogs are one of the ways in which teens are using tech to read.  Blogs are immensely personal and immediate and real, which has tremendous appeal for teens trying to avoid the fakeness they perceive in the world around them.  Reading Regine’s Book is like reading a blog, but you get it all at once and don’t have to wait each day for new updates.  And even though you know the end, it is a beautiful journey and such a privilege to be invited to take it with Regine.  Regine is the real deal and teens will relate to what she thinks and feels.  Every reader who comes in asking for a book to make them cry or looking for real stories (why does A Child Called It continue to be so popular?) will treasure this book.

“The best flowers get plucked first.”
Regine’s Book: a teen girl’s last words by Regine Stokke
Published by Zest Books 2012. ISBN: 978-1-936976-20-1

Tales from the Crib: Babysitting 411 with Don’t Sit on the Baby by Halley Bondy (TPIB)

Raise your hand if your first job was babysitting. (Karen raises hand.) Raise your hand if you had any clue what you were doing. (Karen puts hand down.)  In this post we talk about this great babysitting guide and I will share with you a step-by-step program to help give your teens the information they need to be great babyistters.  Read on.

Beginning sometime around the 6th or 7th grade, I began my illustrious career of babysitting.  I remember the first time I babysat for this one family, their “daughter” (I put daughter in quotes because she may have been a demon, I’m not really sure) locked the TV remote control in the bathroom.  When he parents came home the dad had to take the door off of the hinges if they ever wanted to change the channel again – or, you know, pee.  Surprisingly, it was the beginning of a beautiful babysitting relationship and every Thursday night the parents would go bowling and I would sit in their kitchen, talk on the phone and watch Twin Peaks and eat all of their food while their children slept.  Don’t worry, before they slept I would do real babysitting stuff.

Speaking of real babysitting stuff, what exactly is that?  Don’t Sit on the Baby: The Ultimate guide to Sane, Skilled and Safe Babysitting by Halley Bondy can help you with that part.  This is basically, and quite literally, the ABCs of babysitting.  Part A is the “babysitting breakdown”, Part B covers essential skills, and Part C covers the business side of babysitting.  I love that this book has a  part c and includes things like making a resume and deciding how much to charge.  Having been on the other side of babysitting now, I hate when you ask how much they charge and they are all, “whatevs”.  Not helpful.

When you do babysitting right, you become a part of the family.  Although we started out by hiring our teen babysitter Val, we ended up adopting her.  I feel that Val, our babysitter, is not only a blessing because I get to watch an adult movie occasionally, but because she loves my girls and is no longer freaked out by the fact that the 3-yr-old with GI issues is prone to exploding.  She deals.  She nurtures. She loves.  And although this book is a handy guide, you are really lucky when you go from the business of babysitting to the art of loving and mentoring.  It doesn’t always happen, but when it does – magic happens.  Don’t Sit on the Baby can help make that magic happen.

But back to the business of babysitting . . . I have in the past done several babysitting workshops and this book is a great basis for doing the same in your library with your teens.

To begin with, if you can, get a grant (ask your friends group or a local organization).  Why?  Because if at all possible you really need to make sure every teen who attends your program walks out of this program with this book in your Mary Poppins “Bag of Tricks” (we’re getting to that part).  If you can’t afford to give this book to your teens in attendance, be sure to have copies available in the library and include it on a bibliography to keep in their MPBOT (which is what we shall call the Mary Poppins “Bag of Tricks” from this point forward).  Please note: I do recommend setting a size limit of around 20 teens for these hands on workshops.

The Mary Poppins “Bag of Tricks”

Okay, so remember when Mary Poppins comes flying in on the wind and opens her bag and inside it is every thing she needs to be Nanny of the Year?  This is the objective of our babysitting workshop.  If you can, contact your local American Red Cross and work in conjunction with them because they will cover the CPR certification and other practical aspects of your babysitting workshop (this is also another way in which a grant would come in handy).

After the  American Red Cross does their practical bits, should you include that, we want to really help teens put together their MPBOT with some of these items:

Making the bag: First, you can purchase plain canvas tote bags from Oriental Trading (or at local craft stores) and allow teens to decorate them with fabric markers.  The alternative is that you can purchase canvas totes (or drawstring bags) with your library’s logo on them (many libraries use these and will have them on hand).  This will be the basis for the MPBOT.

1) Age appropriate booklists (say 5 must reads per age category), because we want to make sure we talk about reading aloud to children (we are librarians after all).  Get your children’s librarian to help you with this part and do a demonstration on doing a short storytime with kids.

2) A handy 2-sided sheet of some finger plays and nursery songs to share (again, ask your children’s librarian for help with this if you would like.)

3) A puppet – Teens can use a puppet to help approach shy kids, gets kids to share their feelings, or even just to act out the stories and songs in numbers 1 and 2 above.  This is a hands on craft to do as part of your program (outlined below).  While teens are making the puppet you can talk a little bit about choosing books for kids and show them how to use their puppets in storytimes with their kids.

4) Bean bags and a list of 3 to 5 always handy bean bag games that teens can bust out while babysitting.  You can do something simple like get out colored construction paper and set up a grid and ask kids to throw the bean bag on the color square that you name.  You can also use hula hoops, bowls from the kitchen, or make a target outside using sidewalk chalk.  Bean bags can be hand sewn using fat squares purchases at a local craft store and filled with either uncooked beans or rice.

5) A safety tube – A really important part of working with smaller children is understanding the importance of choking hazards.  Smaller objects can present dangers to children.  They make and sell tubes that can you help babysitters (and parents) make sure that kids aren’t around small objects, but you can also make one using a used toilet paper roll.  Teens can decorate the tubes and then you do a “game” where you determine whether or not various toys or safe or not safe.

6) The Clipboard – Making sure that you have essential contact information and any special instructions – such as food allergies – is a very important part of being an informed babysitter.  Make a basic template for your teens of an emergency contact/information sheet and provide them with about 10 copies each.  Write “MASTER” in yellow sharpie on one copy for each teen so that they have a master to make copies from.  You can purchases plain clipboards for about $1.00 each from local craft stores (and probably Oriental Trading) and allow teens to decorate them.  This is a very important part of the MPBOT.

If you can, have a follow up workshop with your teens where you help them make resumes and promotional materials for their babysitting business; this will highlight some career and technology skills.

Back to the Book

Confession time: When I became a mom I brought this little bundle of cuteness (and sometimes filth) home and I had NO IDEA WHAT TO DO.  None.  How do you play with a baby?  How do you change a diaper?  They probably need to eat something, right? I actually checked books out from the library about all of this.  Don’t Sit on the Baby is an easy, light, transportable book to keep with you when you find yourself at some one’s house and their before you is your first every 5-year-old.  I mean, what do 5-year-olds do?  Don’t Sit on the Baby has a brief checklist for ages 0 to 10 of normal behaviors).  They also cover essential skills and have some basic safety information.

Don’t Sit on the Baby is a great overview of babysitting basics to put in your teen areas, and this is a great way to let teens know about ways to use some other books in your collection that may provide an in depth look at things like First Aid, baby games and even some basic baby/toddler cookbooks.  In fact, if you can, put together a little mini-bib and paste it into the back of your library book so teens that check out this book will also know other places they can look.  Or you could, of course, put together a babysitting bibliography (and display).

Outside of the very great information in this book, there are also some fun, anecdotal stories under the heading “Tales from the Crib”.  When you have your babysitting workshop, be sure to read some of these out loud and to ask teens to share their own Tales from the Crib.  I know I have plenty to share.

As a wrap up to your workshop, if you have the movie performance rights, you should show the movie Adventures in Babysitting.  Still a classic.  You can pick and choose elements from above for to make a shorter workshop, or do a multi-part workshop (especially if you are including the American Red Cross certification portions).  I have done this workshop with and without the American Red Cross.  And because of budget issues, I have at times had the teens pay in advance to attend the workshop to pay for the American Red Cross portion (they choose a per person fee).  The big issue that came up was when a teen who had pre-paid wanted their money back and even though all of our publicity said you must prepay and the money was absolutely nonrefundable, it was still sometimes an issue.  This is the reason that I recommend a grant if at all possible.  Or maybe you are just lucky and have a great programming budget.

Craft Instructions

How to Make a Wooden Spoon Puppet
Sock Puppets
Six Simple Puppets
Hand Puppets (We used this pattern.  We pre-sewed the puppets and provided items for teens to make their own creative puppets.

Bean Bags
How to Make a Bean Bag (pre-sewing can help cut down on the time)
Make a Bean Bag out of Jean Pockets

Decorate Clipboards
How to Alter a Clipboard
How to Make Decorated Clipboards

Babysitter Information Template
A Ton of Babysitter Emergency Contact Forms
Every Child Ready to Read Booklists
Preschool Fingerplays, Action Rhymes, Songs and More
Storytimes in a Box (a great resource of fingerplays and songs)

If doing a multi-session workshop I recommend the following:
Session 1: Babysitting Certification with the American Red Cross
Session 2: Doing Storytimes, Fingerplays and Games while Babysitting
Session 3: Get Organized (where you make your MPBOT)
Session 4: The Business of Babysitting (making resumes and flyers)

For a fun twist, have a one day Babysitting in the Zombie Apocalypse training class.  You never know, we may need the information.

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