Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Morgan’s Mumbles: A Poetry Perspective, by teen contributor Morgan Randall

Some time ago, I decided to give teens a voice here in this space. I wanted to not just advocate for teens, but to give them space to share the truth of who they are with us and hoped that in doing so, we would see how rich and complex and full teens are. Though I imagine if you’re here, you already know that. But I love getting glimpses into the inner lives of teens to help us better serve them. Today Morgan is talking with us about poetry.

Recently, I have been getting back into poetry, and I would love to recommend some pieces that I have been really absorbed in.

  1. Tickled Pink by Kevin Kling

This poem is the one that got me back into poetry, we recently read it for my Power Of Story class. I love the way that this poem tackles the topic of terrible things that can happen in a blink of an eye, but then also discusses the beauty of growing after that. My two favorite quotes from this poem include: “Knowledge is not cheap” and “Every scar is a monument to a battle you survived.”

  1. A Poison Tree by William Blake

This poem discusses what happens to our souls, and those around us when we harbor anger within us. It talks about how it manifests and grows from a seed of anger to a poisonous tree. I love the imagery used by Blake to create a piece of poetry that can easily be related to anyone, as anger is something that everyone experiences. My favorite quote from this poem is: “And I waterd it with fear” because it shows what really causes anger grows.

  1. O Captain My Captain by Walt Whitman

As I tried to decide between which of my favorite Walt Whitman poems to include I ultimately decided on this one, in all honesty (partially), due to the fact I adore the movie The Dead Poets Society. But, that isn’t the only reason. I also love how he was able to create such a vivid scene without many words. I genuinely appreciate the fact that the poem is more than it appears at face value, and has a deeper historical meaning as the captains’ death represents the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the emotional state of the United States as the news was announced. My favorite quote from the poem is: “The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, it’s voyage closed and done.”


  1. Fairytales by Nikita Gill

I love Nikita Gill’s work and how she is unafraid to discuss sides of stories that are overlooked or forgotten. This poem is no exception, she talks about sides of Fairytales that were never taught to those of us who watched the Disney versions. She also is unafraid to make social claims in this poem, as she demands that girls are shown woman role models who are realistic and flawed. My favorite quote from this poem is: “Let’s raise girls who don’t just wait to be rescued, but take destiny into their own hands.”

“We have all taken turns / being Red Riding Hood / and we have all been the wolf,”

  1. Who Would Remember by Erin Hanson

In this poem Erin Hanson tackles something that I think is often to deep for a lot of people to think about, she discusses the fear of death and goes on to talk about how maybe death isn’t what we fear. We fear being forgotten, she does so by talking about the small things that we do every day to make sure our name is placed on things. My favorite quote from this poem is:

“The hope they’ll stumble on the stories

We have love, worn down with age,

That there they’ll find what we have left,

Our name on the cover page,

And for just that fleeting moment

It’s as though we’ve beaten death,”

  1. “Hope” is the thing with feathers by Emily Dickinson

During my freshman year of high school, my English teacher had us read this poem because it was one of her favorites. And, honestly, it resonated with me because I loved this idea of hope being something that exists and never ceases no matter where we are or what is happening. It is something that exists separately from us and doesn’t ask anything of us but rather just is constantly providing a joyful noise. My favorite quote from this poem is:

“Yet – never – in Extremity,

It asked a crumb of me.”

  1. Daffodils by William Wordsworth

This poem was one of the main ones we focused on my senior year of high school, it was one of my favorite poems to read because I loved the idea of floating away from everything here and then being able to be only in the company of nature. I loved the possibility of imagining what it would be like to travel the world from that perspective and all the stories you would be able to hear. While I love the poem as a whole, my favorite quote would have to be:

“Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.”

  1. Caged Bird by Maya Angelou

This poem is probably one of Maya Angelou’s most famous works, and it is absolutely amazing. The poem is written in a manner that allows it to be interpreted and applied to any situation that the reader may currently be in, or could have been in in the past. It shows the feeling of being caged, and isolated from the rest of the world but promises that there is hope and more outside of the cage.

My favorite quote, while hard to decide, is ultimately:

“for the caged bird  

sings of freedom.”

Morgan RandallTeen Contributor

Morgan recently graduated high school and is currently enrolled to attend college in the fall getting her BA in Theatre and Dance with an emphasis on Design and Technology. She loves theatre, writing, reading, and learning. But something that has always been important to her is being a voice for those who feel like they don’t have one, and being a catalyst for change in any way possible.FacebookTwitterShare

Novels in Verse for Teens by author Lisa Krok

Librarian Lisa Krok sometimes writes posts for us here at TLT. Today, she is here to talk with us about her new professional book that is now available.

I wrote this book for teachers and librarians as a professional guide to aide them in reaching marginalized teens and reluctant readers through verse novels. During my two years serving on YALSA’s Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers committee, I found that one of the biggest reasons that teens may be reluctant or striving readers is because they have not yet found books that reflect their life experiences. I used Rudine Sims Bishop’s Windows, Mirrors, and Sliding Glass Doors (1990) as my personal guideline. I searched throughout the year to find books for this list that teens from all different types of backgrounds could identify with.  Teens in marginalized demographics across varying races and religions, identifying as LGBTQ+, sexual assault survivors, facing mental illness, disabilities, foster care, and more deserve to see themselves reflected in books, too. Another big reason novels in verse work well for reluctant readers has to do with the physicality of the book. With more white space, fewer words per page and font that varies in size, style, or format, they can be more appealing to teens who may be intimidated by too many words on the page. Teens who previously wouldn’t even think of reading an inch-thick book discover they can read bigger books. This in turn can help build confidence and increase their motivation to read even more.

Another important feature of novels is verse is voice. Generally, verse novels present a first- person narrative, which invites the reader into the life of the protagonist. The short lines of verse can be rhythmic, almost asking the reader to “hear” the speaker. This lends itself to addressing topics that can be deep or emotionally intense. The white space on the pages of novels in verse can be thought of as a silence to be filled in by the reader’s imagination. A favorite quote of mine, which I included in my book is from former Poet Laureate Rita Dove.  “Verse novels offer the weight of each word, the weight of the sentence, the weight of the line, the weight of white space, heightened attention to sound, and deep allegiance to silence.” Deep allegiance to silence…just take that in for a moment.

Novels in verse also provide counter-stories to singular narratives that are often told by books considered to be classics or canon. Scholars Sandra Hughes-Hassell, Dr. Kim Parker, and Tricia Ebarvia are all cited in my book for their work on the value of avoiding the single narrative through counter-stories. Counter-stories can help fight bias and hate by seeing and valuing teens who may otherwise feel erased by the dominant culture. I also recommend viewing Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story”.  Adichie’s “The Danger of a Single Story” TED Talk . Counter-stories can also help build empathy by seeing another side of the story.

 So, what is in the book? I have created the layout in a way that I think is most useful for teachers and librarians. The first section is research-based information about why and how novels in verse can be used to reach all teens, especially those in marginalized communities or those who are reluctant/striving readers. Part two is a large readers advisory section hosting 53 verse novels. Each book listed includes the following: a cover image (when permissions were available), bibliographic information, grade level advisories, content tags, a brief summary, and poetry activities for teens to further engage them with the literature. Each activity is accompanied by curriculum connections (CCSS and AASL standards) to make lesson planning easier for teachers and librarians. A wide variety of poetry activities are presented throughout the book, with each exercise correlating somehow to the featured novel in verse. A glossary of poetic devices and a standard author/title index are provided. The really special part is the content tag index, which corresponds to the tags listed in the reader’s advisory section. This enables librarians and teachers to quickly find books to pair with the experiences and interests of specific students.

Available now from ABC-CLIO/Libraries Unlimited

Verse novel authors Nikki Grimes, Padma Venkatraman, and Margarita Engle have given the book rave reviews, as has professor/poetry guru/author Sylvia Vardell. I hope you will explore their incredible work, which is included in my book along with many other amazing novels in verse.

Buy from Barnes & Noble

Buy from Amazon

Add it on Goodreads

Request it at your Indies.

Meet the Author

Lisa Krok, MLIS, MEd, is the adult and teen services manager at Morley Library and a former teacher in the Cleveland, Ohio, area. She is the author of Novels in Verse for Teens: A Guidebook with Activities for Teachers and Librarians, available now from ABC-CLIO. Lisa’s passion is reaching marginalized teens and reluctant readers through young adult literature. She was appointed to the 2019-2020 YALSA Presidential Advisory Task Force, served two years on the Quick Picks for Reluctant Reader’s team, and is serving on the Best Fiction for Young Adults (BFYA 2021) committee. Lisa can be found being bookish and political on Twitter @readonthebeach.

Crash Course: Recent poetry books for younger readers

This post wraps up my crash course series in books for younger readers. Hop back to Tuesday/Thursday posts from this month to see my previous posts in this series.

Summaries of these books are from WorldCat/the publisher. All titles are from the past couple of years.

Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets by Kwame Alexander, Ekua Holmes (Illustrator), Chris Colderley, Marjory Wentworth (2017)

A Newbery Medalist and a Caldecott Honoree’s New York Times best-selling ode to poets who have sparked a sense of wonder.

Out of gratitude for the poet’s art form, Newbery Award–winning author and poet Kwame Alexander, along with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth, present original poems that pay homage to twenty famed poets who have made the authors’ hearts sing and their minds wonder. Stunning mixed-media images by Ekua Holmes, winner of a Caldecott Honor and a John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award, complete the celebration and invite the reader to listen, wonder, and perhaps even pick up a pen.

Hypnotize a Tiger: Poems About Just About Everything by Calef Brown (2015)

This is the first longer-format, middle-grade collection from #1 New York Times–bestselling author-illustrator Calef Brown. Moving away from the picture book format offers Calef the opportunity to tackle a variety of themes and poetry styles as well as reach a slightly older audience. Hypnotize a Tiger is chock-full of Calef’s zany black-and-white artwork and features his wonderfully inventive characters and worlds—from the “completely nonviolent and silent” Lou Gnome to Percival, the impetuous (and none-too-sensible) lad who believes he is invincible, to Hugh Jarm (who has a huge arm, natch!). It’s a whimsical world: creative, fun, and inspiring!

Underneath My Bed: List Poems by Brian P. Cleary (2016)

When is a list also a poem? When it’s a list poem! List poems can be funny or serious, rhymed or unrhymed. Award-winning author Brian P. Cleary explains how these types of poems work—and shows some of the many ways they can be written.

Underneath My Bed is packed with goofy poems on subjects ranging from summer camp to dinosaurs to messy bedrooms. And when you’ve finished reading, you can try writing your very own list poem!

National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry: More than 200 Poems With Photographs That Float, Zoom, and Bloom! by J. Patrick Lewis (2015)

When words in verse are paired with the awesomeness of nature, something magical happens! Beloved former U.S. Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis curates an exuberant poetic celebration of the natural world in this stellar collection of nature poems. From trickling streams to deafening thunderstorms to soaring mountains, discover majestic photography perfectly paired with contemporary (such as Billy Collins), classics (such as Robert Frost), and never-before-published work.

When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons by Julie Fogliano, Julie Morstad (Illustrator) (2016)

Flowers blooming in sheets of snow make way for happy frogs dancing in the rain. Summer swims move over for autumn sweaters until the snow comes back again. In Julie Fogliano’s skilled hand and illustrated by Julie Morstad’s charming pictures, the seasons come to life in this gorgeous and comprehensive book of poetry.

Wake Up! by Helen Frost, Rick Lieder (Illustrator) (2017)

The world is wide awake — are you? Stunning photos and poetic text usher readers into the early moments of life all around them.

Wake up! Come out and explore all the new creatures being born — just-hatched birds in the trees, tadpoles in the pond, a baby fawn in the woods. In their latest collaboration, poet Helen Frost and photographer Rick Lieder, the creators of Step Gently Out, Sweep Up the Sun, and Among a Thousand Fireflies, invite readers to wake up, open their eyes, and see the awe-inspiring array of new life just outside their door.

One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance by Nikki Grimes (2017)

Inspired by the writers of the Harlem Renaissance, bestselling author Nikki Grimes uses “The Golden Shovel” poetic method to create wholly original poems based on the works of master poets like Langston Hughes, Georgia Douglas Johnson, Jean Toomer, and others who enriched history during this era.

Each poem is paired with one-of-a-kind art from today’s most exciting African American illustrators—including Pat Cummings, Brian Pinkney, Sean Qualls, James Ransome, Javaka Steptoe, and many more—to create an emotional and thought-provoking book with timely themes for today’s readers.

A foreword, an introduction to the history of the Harlem Renaissance, author’s note, poet biographies, and index makes this not only a book to cherish, but a wonderful resource and reference as well.

Can I Touch Your Hair?: Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship by Irene Latham, Charles Waters, Sean Qualls (Illustrator), Selina Alko (Illustrator) (2018)

How can Irene and Charles work together on their fifth grade poetry project? They don’t know each other… and they’re not sure they want to. Irene Latham, who is white, and Charles Waters, who is black, use this fictional setup to delve into different experiences of race in a relatable way, exploring such topics as hair, hobbies, and family dinners.

Keep a Pocket in Your Poem: Classic Poems and Playful Parodies by J. Patrick Lewis, Johanna Wright (Illustrator) (2017)

Thirteen classic poems by poets such as Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Emily Dickinson, and David McCord are paired with parodies written by J. Patrick Lewis that honor and play off of the original poems in a range of ways. For example, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” is paired with “Stopping by Fridge on a Hungry Evening” to hilarious effect, whereas the combination of Emily Dickinson’s “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers” with Lewis’s “‘Grief’ is the thing with tissues” is profound, and both David McCord’s “This Is My Rock” and Lewis’s “This Is My Tree” hum with a sense of wonder. This playful introduction to classics will inspire imagination and wonder even as it tickles funny bones.

Wet Cement: A Mix of Concrete Poems by Bob Raczka (2016)

Who says words need to be concrete? This collection shapes poems in surprising and delightful ways.

Concrete poetry is a perennially popular poetic form because they are fun to look at. But by using the arrangement of the words on the page to convey the meaning of the poem, concrete or shape poems are also easy to write! From the author of the incredibly inventive Lemonade: And Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word comes another clever collection that shows kids how to look at words and poetry in a whole new way.

Echo Echo: Reverso Poems About Greek Myths by Marilyn Singer, Josee Masse (Illustrator) (2016)

What happens when you hold up a mirror to poems about Greek myths? You get a brand-new perspective on the classics! And that is just what happens in Echo Echo, the newest collection of reverso poems from Marilyn Singer. Read one way, each poem tells the story of a familiar myth; but when read in reverse, the poems reveal a new point of view! Readers will delight in uncovering the dual points of view in well-known legends, including the stories of Pandora’s box, King Midas and his golden touch, Perseus and Medusa, Pygmalion, Icarus and Daedalus, Demeter and Persephone, and Echo and Narcissus.

These cunning verses combine with beautiful illustrations to create a collection of fourteen reverso poems to treasure.

My Daddy Rules the World: Poems about Dads by Hope Anita Smith (2017)

Who is your hero? Who’s your best friend?

Who says he loves you again and again?


Told through the voice of a child, Anita Hope Smith’s My Daddy Rules the World collection of poems celebrates everyday displays of fatherly love, from guitar lessons and wrestling matches to bedtime stories, haircuts in the kitchen, and cuddling in bed. These heartwarming poems, together with bold folk-art-inspired images, capture the strength and beauty of the relationship between father and child.

MakerSpace: April National Poetry Month Activities

In the Teen MakerSpace at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County (OH), we’re getting ready for National Poetry Month (April). We have a variety of activities that we will be hosting all month long in our makerspace using our materials to get teens thinking about and creating poetry. Some of our ideas include making our own chalkboards for teens to write poetry on, turning poetry into digital art and turning them into buttons, and creating visual poetry using methods like Black Out Poetry or Post It note art.

This will be our second year doing poetry in our Teen MakerSpace, so we tried to build on what worked for us successfully last year and provide even more options with more material choices.

Poetry Activities 2017  Poetry Activities 2017 part 2

If you have some other creative suggestions, we would love to hear from you. It’s never too late to add some fun, new ideas.

TPiB: MakerSpace Poetry

makerspacelogoI love poetry. In fact, I still have all my old high school notebooks full of my very bad angst filled poetry. Occasionally, I still even add a new poem. And since April is National Poetry Month, I wanted to find a way to combine some poetry activities with the new MakerSpace at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County (Ohio). So I took some of my favorite poetry month activities and makerized them (yes, that’s probably not really a word).

Personalized Magnetic Poetry Kits


Create your own magnetic poetry kits using recycled materials. By storing your magnets inside your old Altoid (or other recycled) tin, you can also use the inside cover as a place to create your own mini-poems.

For Magnets:

  • Magnets sheets or strips (I find that using the big rolls of magnet strips is difficult because they don’t want to lay flat)
  • Old magazines/comic books
  • Scissors
  • Glue

Cut out your favorite words and glue them onto the magnet sheets. Cut the magnets to size. Tada – you have your own magnetic poetry kit. The tin works really well to hold them and you can use the tin as canvas to make your own poems on the go.

For Magnet Carrying Case:

  • Old tins (Altoid tins or old lunch boxes work great)
  • Your favorite picture printed on regular printer paper
  • Scissors
  • Mod Podge
  • A sponge brush

Create or print an image of your choice. Creating an original image using a variety of photo apps at the iPad bar really ups the MakerSpace factor here. Make sure it fits onto the front of your tin. Cut to size. Glue. Cover with Mod Podge. Allow it to dry completely.

Black Out Poetry

Tear out a page in a discarded book or magazine.

Have teens use a Sharpie pen to black out words. A majority of the page will be blacked out.

The remaining words make up your poem.

Supplies needed: discarded books/magazines, Sharpies

Chalkboard Poetry


Chalkboard made out of an old frame and chalkboard paint

Give teens a chalkboard (or a sidewalk) and chalk to write a poem. They can add flourishes and doodles if they would like. (Please note: the clean lid to a discarded pizza box also works well for chalk.) You can also make your own chalkboards using old picture frames or blank canvases, chalkboard paint and embellishments.

Supplies needed: chalk, small chalkboards

Original Poetry Buttons

Now, to Makerize these. Take a photo of the poem on a chalkboard/sidewalk or of the page of black out poetry. You can use your photo apps to add filters, effects and more. Size and print them. Then, we are using our button makers to make the personalized poems into buttons.


A sidewalk poem by The Teen made into a button

Poem in Your Pocket

Make a “pocket” – aka a cell phone carrier – out of Duct Tape. This then becomes a pocket that you can carry your cell phone and a poem in.


Duct Tape Cell Phone Case Instructions can be found here: http://www.instructables.com/id/Duct-Tape-Cell-Phone-Cover-1/. There are also good YouTube tutorials

Those are just a few of my ideas. What will you be doing this month to celebrate poetry?

Take 5: 5 Books Coming Soon That YOU MUST READ

So I read, a lot. Sometimes 3 to 5 books a week. These are some books that I have read recently that I think are so spectacularly good that everyone should read them. Yes, that means you. Some of these you have heard me mention frequently on Twitter. Others, I have been holding my bubbling excitement in with tremendous amount of effort. But I can hold it in no longer, because you definitely want to add these to your TBR piles.

Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn

Publisher’s Description: Two years ago, sixteen-year-old Jamie Henry breathed a sigh of relief when a judge sentenced his older sister to juvenile detention for burning down their neighbor’s fancy horse barn. The whole town did. Because Crazy Cate Henry used to be a nice girl. Until she did a lot of bad things. Like drinking. And stealing. And lying. Like playing weird mind games in the woods with other children. Like making sure she always got her way. Or else.

But today Cate got out. And now she’s coming back for Jamie.

Because more than anything, Cate Henry needs her little brother to know the truth about their past. A truth she’s kept hidden for years. A truth she’s not supposed to tell.

Trust nothing and no one as you race toward the explosive conclusion of this gripping psychological thriller from the William C. Morris Award-winning author of Charm & Strange.

Karen’s Thoughts:
This is a masterful psychological thriller. The ending floored me, in fact after I finally picked my jaw up off the floor I stood and applauded Kuehn for making some very bold storytelling choices. I can not stress enough what an engaging read this is. You know from the description that things are not what they seem, and to be honest I thought some very different things were happening then what was happening. There are some epic twists and turn here, and the tension is superb.  Kuehn won the 2014 Morris Award for Charm & Stranger for a reason, girl can write and Complicit does not let the reader down. Pair this with Scowler by Daniel Kraus for some great psychological thriller action.

Publishes June 2014 from St. Martin’s. ISBN: 9781250044594

Servants of the Storm by Delilah S. Dawson


Publisher’s Description: A year ago Hurricane Josephine swept through Savannah, Georgia, leaving behind nothing but death and destruction — and taking the life of Dovey’s best friend, Carly. Since that night, Dovey has been in a medicated haze, numb to everything around her.

But recently she’s started to believe she’s seeing things that can’t be real … including Carly at their favorite cafe. Determined to learn the truth, Dovey stops taking her pills. And the world that opens up to her is unlike anything she could have imagined.

As Dovey slips deeper into the shadowy corners of Savannah — where the dark and horrifying secrets lurk — she learns that the storm that destroyed her city and stole her friend was much more than a force of nature. And now the sinister beings truly responsible are out to finish what they started.

Dovey’s running out of time and torn between two paths. Will she trust her childhood friend Baker, who can’t see the threatening darkness but promises to never give up on Dovey and Carly? Or will she plot with the sexy stranger, Isaac, who offers all the answers — for a price? Soon Dovey realizes that the danger closing in has little to do with Carly … and everything to do with Dovey herself.
Karen’s Thoughts:
I actually read this book sometime last year for no other reason than it had the most amazing cover ever. Yep, I too judge a book by it’s cover. This is some seriously creepy – and I mean that in the most amazing way – southern Gothic horror. The beginning part, where we learn about the poverty of the area, meet our main characters, and experience the storm: that is some amazing writing. And then you start learning about the way that demons kind of undulate under every part of this town – wicked cool. So descriptive, so haunting, so mesmerizing. The way that the author uses the lore of demons to undergird this entire world, an epically cool twist. And the way that the humans interact with the demons, which involves seriously gross things, will blow readers minds. There is an entire scene at a “amusement park” which will keep you awake at night and make you seriously reconsider your summer plans to visit your local carnivals.
Publishes in August 2014 from Simon Pulse. ISBN: 9781442483781
Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty by Christine Heppermann

Publisher’s Description: Every little girl goes through her princess phase, whether she wants to be Snow White or Cinderella, Belle or Ariel. But then we grow up. And life is not a fairy tale.

Christine Heppermann’s collection of fifty poems puts the ideals of fairy tales right beside the life of the modern teenage girl. With piercing truths reminiscent of Laurie Halse Anderson and Ellen Hopkins, this is a powerful and provocative book for every young woman. E. Lockhart, author of We Were Liars, calls it “a bloody poetic attack on the beauty myth that’s caustic, funny, and heartbreaking.”

Cruelties come not just from wicked stepmothers, but also from ourselves. There are expectations, pressures, judgment, and criticism. Self-doubt and self-confidence. But there are also friends, and sisters, and a whole hell of a lot of power there for the taking. In fifty poems, Christine Heppermann confronts society head on. Using fairy tale characters and tropes, Poisoned Apples explores how girls are taught to think about themselves, their bodies, and their friends. The poems range from contemporary retellings to first-person accounts set within the original tales, and from deadly funny to deadly serious. Complemented throughout with black-and-white photographs from up-and-coming artists, this is a stunning and sophisticated book to be treasured, shared, and paged through again and again.
Karen’s Thoughts:
I read this book for one simple reason: A. S. King said this book was so good she blurbed it. That speaks volumes to me. These poems are so amazing and the perfectly capture a lot of what teens think and feel about things like body image, cultural messaging, and more. They kind of take the tone and conceit of fairy tales, make them into poems, and use these poems to discuss things like periods and anorexia . . . The poems are haunting with their incisive look at what it means to be a girl in today’s world. For example, a poem entitled “Sweet Nothings” ends with the line:
How stupid that all I have to do
is grow two squishy lumps and
I’m man’s best friend
All I can say is, these poems are amazing. Read them.
Publishes in September 2014 from Greenwillow Books. ISBN: 9780062289599

Bleed Like Me by Christa Desir

Publisher’s Description: From the author of Fault Line comes an edgy and heartbreaking novel about two self-destructive teens in a Sid and Nancy-like romance full of passion, chaos, and dyed hair.

Seventeen-year-old Amelia Gannon (just “Gannon” to her friends) is invisible to almost everyone in her life. To her parents, to her teachers-even her best friend, who is more interested in bumming cigarettes than bonding. Some days the only way Gannon knows she is real is by carving bloody lines into the flesh of her stomach.

Then she meets Michael Brooks, and for the first time, she feels like she is being seen to the core of her being. Obnoxious, controlling, damaged, and addictive, he inserts himself into her life until all her scars are exposed. Each moment together is a passionate, painful relief.

But as the relationship deepens, Gannon starts to feel as if she’s standing at the foot of a dam about to burst. She’s given up everything and everyone in her life for him, but somehow nothing is enough for Brooks-until he poses the ultimate test.

Bleed Like Me is a piercing, intimate portrayal of the danger of a love so obsessive it becomes its own biggest threat.

Karen’s Thoughts:
I know you are thinking to yourself, but Karen, you are biased because you are working with Christa on the #SVYALit Project. I have a personal rule that is very easy to follow: Because I want my site to be a reputable site, I have to be honest about my reviews. Here’s the deal, after finishing Bleed Like Me I emailed Christa and basically said, please don’t take this the wrong way but this book is soooo much better than Fault Line. And it is. Christa has created a well developed character study into the life of one girl and the very unhealthy relationship she gets involved in. This is a must read for Ellen Hopkins fans; all the gritty reality but in prose. It is very edgy and mature, make no mistake about that, but it is hands down a perfect look into the complexities of how and why people get into the most dysfunctional relationships. It is also a profound look at what are sometimes considered the murkier areas of sexual consent; namely, if a boy uses guilt and manipulation to get a girl to consent, how consensual is it really? This is also a very compelling look at family and identity and how changing family dynamics can impact how we see ourselves fitting into the universe.

Publishes in October 2014 from Simon Pulse. ISBN: 9781442498907

Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A. S. King

Publisher’s Description:

Graduating from high school is a time of limitless possibilities—but not for Glory, who has no plan for what’s next. Her mother committed suicide when Glory was only four years old, and she’s never stopped wondering if she will eventually go the same way…until a transformative night when she begins to experience an astonishing new power to see a person’s infinite past and future. From ancient ancestors to many generations forward, Glory is bombarded with visions—and what she sees ahead of her is terrifying.

A tyrannical new leader raises an army. Women’s rights disappear. A violent second civil war breaks out. And young girls vanish daily, sold off or interned in camps. Glory makes it her mission to record everything she sees, hoping her notes will somehow make a difference. She may not see a future for herself, but she’ll do everything in her power to make sure this one doesn’t come to pass.

In this masterpiece about freedom, feminism, and destiny, Printz Honor author A.S. King tells the epic story of a girl coping with devastating loss at long last—a girl who has no idea that the future needs her, and that the present needs her even more.

Karen’s Thoughts:
My love for A. S. King is so deep and profound at this point that I go into each new book with a mixture of both anticipation and anxiety. My fear is that one day I won’t like one of her books and then I won’t know how to order my universe. But today is not that day! I freaking loved this book. In many ways, Glory O’Brien is reminiscent to me of Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith. How you ask? It has an interesting “friendship” – in this case a female one – and it juxtaposes alternating contemporary fiction (King truly captures the teenage voice) with some very cool speculative fiction elements. Glory O’Brien is a fascinating character and she perfectly captures that moment of transition when teens are about to graduate high school and they think, holy crap what now? Her journey of self discovery is authentic, sincere, and resonates. This book was full of quotes that teens will latch onto as personal mantras. And I sincerely love that it is unabashedly feminist in the things O’Brien says to both herself and to the universe around her. This is a journey of self discovery and it was an enlightening joy to take it with this character. This may be my favorite King title yet.

Publishes in October 2014 from Little, Brown. ISBN: 9780316222723

I downloaded eArcs of all of these books on Edelweiss.

MG Book Review: Outside the Box: A Book of Poems by Karma Wilson

When you think outside the box . . .

Poems about Pigasus appear!
Not to mention
and all sorts of
monkey business.

You can snack on Greekwiches,
build a pet robot, then
dance with the Boogie Man.

Fly the largest kite,
sleight down the
steepest hill, and find
all those aliens
under your bed!

Anything can happen
outside the box.

Now won’t you join
us for a read?
– from the inside jacket copy

April is National Poetry Month and this book of poetry magically appeared at my door. I quickly read through it and gave it to the Tween to read and we both give it a thumbs up.  These are fun poems, much in the vein of Shel Silverstein. In fact, the cover and drawings inside are very reminiscent of Shel Silverstein.

There is a fun poem inside called My Pet Robot (page 18) which you could use to introduce a Robot Makerspace craft for either this year’s science themed summer reading program or even Earth Day. Simply gather together a wide variety of recyclables and have tweens create a robot. Or have a tech day where they take apart old, discarded technology and use the innards and pieces to make a robot. Not functional robots, just robot looking crafts.

There are some fun poems about songs and music, including Stuck in My Head (page 24), Garage Band (page 26), and Shower Songs (page 28) that would be fun to include in a music themed program.

There is a section of “scary” themed poems that would be great for Halloween time.

There is a great poem called A Lump of Clay that is all about how you can take this lump of clay and make it in to something. It would be a fun way to just have a Makerspace/Craft day using clay. You can buy air dry clay which eliminates the need for baking.

The poems are quick reads, fast and fun. The Tween laughed a lot while reading the book. She has a copy of Where the Sidewalk Ends which she keeps by her bed and I think this book is joining it. Definitely recommended.

Outside the Box: A Book of Poems. Poems by Karma Wilson. Drawings by Diane Goode.  Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2014.  Ages 7-10. ISBN: 978-1-4169-8005-6.

Instagram Book Spine Poetry Mini Contest with The Library as Incubator Project

April is epically awesome for many things, but one of my favorites is the fact that it is National Poetry Month. I have journals full of my probably horrific and definitely embarrassing poems that I began writing in the early teen years but continue to write today. But there is a quick, easy and – most importantly – fun way you can do poetry using books! Grab a stack of books and use the titles on the spine to write some Book Spine Poetry.

In collaboration with The Library as Incubator Project, we’ll be running a contest on Instagram and Twitter for 10 days starting April 21.  We want to see your best Book Spine Poems!  But you have to use #bkspinepoem to be in the running for the fabulous book prize(s)!

What: Book Spine Poem Mini Contest
When: April 21 to the end of the month
Where: Instagram & Twitter
Why: Because ART
How: #bkspinepoem

For librarians: This is an easy program that you can throw together.  Just get your teens to gather in the library, explain the idea, and let them loose!  Get them to collaborate with one another in making their poems.  It’s easy to get stuck on how you think your poem should go, rather than working with the titles you have.  Talk about the parts of a sentence you might need (books that act as verbs are crucial!).  Have them Instagram or tweet their poems, then tell them to mix and match their poems!  What’s the longest poem they can create?  The most complete sentence?  The most haunting/beautiful/lyrical/etc?  Let them go wild!  And of course, you can always make it a drop-in passive program with just a simple sign for explanation.

Have fun and create some awesome poetry!

More Poetry Resources for National Poetry Month:
Take 5 Entries into Poetry
Poetically Speaking
National Poetry Month Crafts
Freeing Your Life with Words

This contest announcement was written by the awesome people at The Library as Incubator Project, which I highly recommend you check out. Also, if you are interested, I did post some of my poems here in a mini-collection called Life’s Bilest Moments; this is a collection of poems I wrote about my experience with a pregnancy disease called Hyperemesis Gravidarum.

Take 5: Entries into Poetry

Poetry is weird and hard. It’s confusing and vague and boring. Unless it’s not.  Here are five easy entries to poetry for teens, in honor of National Poetry Month.

1. After The Kiss by Terra Elan McVoy

It looks like realistic romantic teen fiction, it moves like realistic romantic teen fiction, it IS realistic romantic teen fiction, but GOTCHA! It’s a novel in verse.  The reason I picked this over the many many other novels in verse out there is that this one really works. The characters write poetry, poetry plays into the plotline, and each voice (and his or her poetic style) is distinctive and fits the character perfectly. Also, like some readers, the characters sometimes struggle with form, meter, and style, working hard to make their words work in a poetic structure.

2. Magnetic Poetry

It doesn’t even have to be magnetic – it could be single words printed on card stock with sticky tack on the back. Make a poetry wall in your teen area and encourage kids to combine words in awkward and funny and wonderful ways.

3. United States of Poetry

This miniseries and companion book reveal poetry in images and sound, bringing modern poetry to a whole new audience. Johnny Depp reads Kerouac, a drag queen performs Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and performances by the now late Alan Ginsberg, Czelaw Milosz, Amiri Baraka, Lou Reed, and Maggie Estep (among many other still living poets) can work to bring to life what is sometimes awkward, difficult and hard to access.

4. Record-A-Poem or other poetry on Soundcloud

The Poetry Foundation has an interactive project going on, inviting people to record their favorite poems. It began last year and there are well over two thousand pieces recorded for folks to browse or be inspired by. But don’t stop there, search Soundcloud for poetry and you’ll find all kinds of projects and new ways to connect with poems, like this version of a well known Emily Dickinson poem set to music.

5. Where I’m From poems

This is a simple, personal poetic structure that leads to some truly lovely results, and the best part is that it all comes from the writer’s own personal experience. If you’re looking to incorporate poetry writing into a teen program, consider working with a Where I’m From poem. Your teens will surprise themselves!

Take 5 Gift-Making Programs (TPiB)

Whether it’s in conjunction with the winter holidays, Mother’s Day, or just for something fun, these simple activities are inexpensive, easy to put together, and provide each teen with a nice giftable item to take home.


1. Snack-in-a-Jar

Photo credit:
There are innumerable variations on the in-a-jar theme, but the very simplest is a snack mix.  Provide jars or ask teens to bring their own – a clean spaghetti sauce jar is a good option.  Having plastic gloves and a warning about food allergies and sensitivities is a must.  The set up is simple: a table with bowls of the various snack options and scoops.  Teens mix and match and layer their preferred snack – sweet, savory, or a mix!  

Suggested items:
cheese crackers, pretzels, or other small crackers
breakfast cereals like Os, Life, Chex
sweets like M&Ms, chocolate or butterscotch chips
raisins or other dried fruits
nuts or sunflower seeds

2. Decorated Soaps

Photo credit:
I just did this craft the hard way – with persnickety adults – but doing it with teens would be lots of fun too.  Ten bars of Ivory soap were $5 at Target this week, and you probably have the other supplies already: stickers, fabric scraps, scrapbook paper, and Mod Podge.  
Shape your soap with a table knife if you want – Ivory is very soft and easy to carve.  Then cover one side of your soap with a layer of Mod Podge, arrange your decoration, and then another layer of Mod Podge.  You can get fancy and use dried flowers or herbs, or dip the decorated side in melted paraffin, or you could make fancy paper wraps for the soap, or you could skip that and just have fun.  
Broaden the appeal by including decorations like local favorite sports teams, trendy motifs (mustaches, foxes, chevrons), or seasonal items (snowmen in the winter, hearts around Valentine’s, beachy stuff in the summer).

3. “Where I’m From” Poetry

Mitten shout-out. Photo credit:
This is an approachable poetry technique that encourages the writer to pull small but significant images, senses, emotions, and events from their past, weaving them into a poem with a simple structure.  This is a technique that enables even those who have never written a poem before to create a lovely piece, and it very regularly leads to beautiful, tear-jerking results, making it an ideal gift for family, close friends, and loved ones.  First, read the George Ella Lyon poem that originated the exercise, and share several teen examples as well.  Scholastic has a nice lesson plan.  For the super creative, encourage teens to illustrate their poems.  You could also adapt this into a word cloud, to different effect. 

4. Custom Hot Cocoa Mixes

Photo credit: http://www.vanillajoy.com/
Great for an easy winter program, I’ve done this as a part of my Valentine’s Day chocolate extravaganza.  Use this recipe to make your own cocoa mix, or buy pre-made Swiss Miss.  The fun is in customizing the cocoa with add-ins like:
Chocolate or white chocolate shavings
Crushed peppermints
Cayenne pepper
Mini marshmallows
Mini chocolate chips

5. Tub Teas

Photo credit: www.marthastweart.com
This could be a spa-night activity too, but it makes a great mom/auntie/grandma item, especially for younger teens who lack resources but want something sweet and nice to give as a gift.  Martha’s tutorial uses heat sealable tea bags and fancy herbs, which can add up fast, but there are some easy ways to make this more economical:
1. Instead of the heat sealable tea bags, buy the fold-over style, or layer a few squares of cheese cloth and tie with a pretty ribbon.
2. Include a healthy scoop of epsom salt.
3. Shop your local bulk store for the herbs. 
4. Purchase a few bottles of essential oil to scent the salt.  I little goes a looong way.