Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

TPiB: 5 Things To Do With Post-Its In Your Library

With only a few minutes and a couple dollars, you can do some really creative and engaging things.  Check out these ideas, take a look around your space, grab some sticky notes and see what you can do!

Encourage teens to write poems to share on a wall or window, or encourage them to copy favorite lines and share them like the Durham County Library did.

Stick secret notes into favorite books for teens to discover, or add to.  Reading is social, even if it’s secretly social as this Post Secret submission reminds us.

Get some heart shaped notes and stick them on book covers for a Books We Love display, and add a line or two about why you love the book.  This could also work for star shaped notes to highlight Award Winners.
Nyan Cat!  Stacey at the Naperville Public Library explains how she did it, but you could use the technique for any other pixel art project you can think of.
Use them to write crib notes to yourself when you do booktalks.  It’s easier than note cards because it’s less to hold and allows you to pick up any book and instantly have your notes attached.  I can’t be the only one who can never remember how old characters are, or needs a few key words to jog my memory of the fabulous hook I want to leave for teens, right?
Got some more good ideas?  Share ’em in the comments!

TPiB: Poetry Crafts!

Like a lot of Middle and High School students, I started writing angsty teenage poetry with the best of them.  And I love doing National Poetry Month (April) activities with my tweens and teens.  Actually, you can read some of my poetry as I wrote a few poems as part of the awareness campaign for Hyperemesis Gravidarum, a pregnancy disease I suffered 3 times.  As someone who loves poetry, I love doing poetry related activities with my tweens and teens at the library.

 For my tweens and teens, all it takes is a canvas of open sidewalk and some sidewalk chalk to make some amazing poetry.  But I like to step it up a notch and give them something they can take home, as well. You can do simple things with the sidewalk chalk poetry, like take Instagram pics and do any number of Instagram crafts to create poetry keepsakes. (Links to the Instagram crafts appear at the end of this post.)

However, one of my favorite craft activities is to make your own Magnetic Poetry Kits.  Magnetic poetry kits were all the rage at one time, but I like to invite teens to create personalizes ones.  It’s an easy craft, great for sitting around and talking while you are working on it in a group setting.


  • An old tin of some sort.  Used Altoid and other types of mint tins work well for this.
  • Discarded magazines, especially teen ones (look, a great Earth Day craft as well!)
  • Blank magnets of various sizes.  These are quickly and easily purchased at any craft store.  I do, however, recommend that you don’t buy the rolls as they seem not to have quite as much sticking power and they are harder to flatten.
  • Scissors
  • Glue or, my favorite, one of those scrapbooking tools that you can feed things through that turns things into stickers. (Xyron, for example, makes a line of these in various sizes)
  • If you want to decorate your tin, you can use acrylic paints or scrapbooking paper to give it a unique look.

Have teens go through the magazines to find a variety – and I mean a lot – of words that mean something to them.  They can be short, long, creative, embellished, whatever.  As they find the words, have them cut them out and put them aside.

Once they have the words they want, you can begin putting them onto the magnets.  For a cleaner look, they will want to cut the magnets down to size.  You can use glue, which is messier, or the sticker machine to adhere the words to the magnets.

It really is that simple! You can decorate your tin if you would like.  But the best part about using a tin is that when you open it, the lid can become your portable poetry canvas. Tutorial: Altered Altoid Tin

Bookspine Poetry

Set up a Bookspine Poetry table in your room.  All you need is a wide variety of titles on a table and teens can go and create some bookspine poems at their leisure.  I recommend taking pictures as the poems are created so you can share them on your social media sites and, again, you could also do a variety of Instagram crafts of the poems or create these Instagram bookmarks. 

Blackout Poetry Canvas

A canvas (new or used)
Discarded newspaper
Black markers
Mod Podge
Black paint

Step 1: Prep your canvas

I think the picture looks better with a black edge, but this is debatable.  If you pre-purchase canvases, there are some black ones available.  If you don’t, you can easily spray paint your canvas before beginning.  Or, you can use a sponge brush and black paint to paint the exposed edges after you put your final project together.

Step 2: Write your poem

 Blackout Poetry is the practice of blacking out most of the words on a newspaper page while the remaining words that are visible become your poem.  Check out the Newspaper Blackout website and book for more information.  Cut a piece of newspaper the size of your canvas, and begin creating your poem using your black marker and newspaper page.

Here’s a fun alternative: You can use pages from discarded teen magazines.  So a fan of One Direction can use a page with a One Directon picture and use this technique and the words on the page to write their own orginal poem about 1D and create some awesome 1D fan art. Also, book pages work well too.

Step 3: Mod Podge away

Glue your page to the canvas and give t a little time to set and dry.  Then, use Mod Podge over the top of the entire page to seal it all in.  Now you have some awesome wall art for any teenage room, totally unique and original.

Some YA titles inspired by poetry

Variations on a “Poem in My Pocket”

The Cootie Catcher Poem
Cootie Catchers, or Fortune Tellers, are back in style thanks in no small part to our friend Origami Yoda.  This is also a fun way to have teens create poems with their friends.  Fold your cootie catcher, then have teens write words or lines of poetry into each fold.  As teens go through the motions of the game with their friends, they will be writing short, fun poems together.  This is a fun variation on the Poem in My Pocket activity.  Also, this is a fun variation on the Exquisite Corpse project, which you can learn more about at Poets.orghttp://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/5619.

The Duct Tape Pocket
You can use this cell phone duct tape case pattern to create a duct tape “pocket” for teens to carry their poems in.

More Poetry on TLT:
TPiB: Poetically Speaking
Freeing Your Life with Words

Instagram Crafts
Instagram Bookmarks

The One Word to Terrify Them All (a guest post by K. A. Holt)

On Sunday, March 10th, author K. A. Holt will be visiting my library as part of our Texas Sweethearts and Scoundrels visit.  If you live in or around the Grand Prairie area, please consider stopping by and supporting libraries and authors. Today, author K. A. Holt shares a guest post with us to talk about the one thing that seems to terrify tweens and teens.
Sometimes I’m afraid that among pre-teen and teen readers there is One Word To Terrify Them All. Or maybe worse: One Word No One Thinks About Until They See It And Then They’re All OH MAN I Don’t Want To Read THAT.

The word?


Wait, wait – don’t run away.

I’m here to convince you that poetry is not boring. It’s not difficult to read. It’s not snobby or foofy or lame or whatever. I mean, it can be… but it doesn’t have to be.

I should probably come clean and tell you that I write books in verse. Not all of my books, but some of them. One of my books is about zombies and chupocabras and humans all trying to go to middle school together without eating each other. The whole book is written in haiku. Five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables. Three-lined poems tell the whole story – brain-eating, fights, crushes (both of the romantic kind and the bone-crunching kid) and more. It’s poetry, but it might not be the first thing that pops to mind when you have that “aaargh, a book in poetry, what?!” reaction.
A zombie novel written in Haiku? Yes please!

Another book I’ve written (that is tentatively scheduled for release in 2014) is about a bully who rips pages out of library books so he can scratch out words and make messages. You don’t usually think of defacing school property as poetry, and yet… That’s the cool thing about poems. They can be anything you want. It’s just a way to focus words on the most important details of a story.

You know those bouillon cubes you drop in hot water to make chicken broth? The cube dissolves in the water, leaving trails of salty silt that you stir to make a warm, filling soup. A poem is like a bouillon cube – all the salty goodness of a story is compacted into a tiny space. The hot water is like your brain. Those compacted words seep out of the poem, filling your brain and spreading out into worlds and characters that the author trusts you to help create. Weird analogy? Sure. But kind of true.

Reading a novel that’s written in verse gives you all the punch and excitement of a prose book (sometimes even more), but with fewer words, fewer pages, and arguably more imagination. You become an important part of the telling of the story because you take those few words and give them life.

Here are some ya titles written in verse, with a fun poetry activity to do w/teens

So please, for the sake of zombies and chupocabras and sonnets and free verse, and torn out pages everywhere, don’t freeze up when you see the word “poetry.” Don’t feel harrumphy when you see “novel in verse” on the cover of a book.

Poetry is beautiful. It’s ugly. It’s exhausting. It’s freeing. It’s simple. It’s complex. It can hold the whole world in just a handful of words.

Book Inspired by a Poem or Poetry . . .
Golden by Jessi Kirby comes out in 2013, based on Robert Frost, so very good
Coming in 2013, and so very brilliant. Great voice.

Yes, I’m biased, but I want you to be biased, too. Poetry can be anything you want it to be. Not everything can say that. Not everything can live up to that. So give it a whirl and see what you think.

Sharon Creech, Ron Koertge, Ellen Hopkins, Lisa Schroeder, Sarah Tregay, Sonya Sones, Virginia Euwer Wolff, Linda Oatman High, Caroline Rose, Walter Dean Myers and more, more, more. All of these authors write novels in verse. And so do I.

Why not pick up a book and give it a try?

[I totally did not rhyme that last part on purpose. I swear.]

And more poetry:
TPiB: Poetically speaking, poetry activities to do with tweens and teens 
TPiB: Freeing your life with words . . . more poetry activities

K. A. Holt  is the author of Brains for Lunch and Mike Stellar: Nerves of Steel? You can find out more about her, and her books, by visiting her webpage. It is set up like a comic book and epically cool.

Sunday Reflecitons: Oh the places you’ll read, inspired by Dr. Seuss obviously

Oh the places you’ll read . . .

You can read books on a bench
You can read books in a trench
You can read books in a wagon
When behind me you are draggin’
You can read books in a line
You can read books feeling fine
You can read books when you’re sick
You can read books long or quick
You can read books at the park
But you can not read them in the dark
(unless you have a flashlight or an e-reader)
You can read books where the sidewalk ends
And then a new one you begin
You can read books in your house
You can read them to a mouse (I guess)
You can read books to your dog
or your cat or your pet log (what? It rhymes with dog)

You can read books laying down
You can read books wearing a crown

You can read books here or there
So take one with you everywhere
March 2, 2013 is Read Across America Day in honor of Dr. Seuss’s Birthday

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.

A few of Karen’s favorite things . . .

Christmas is over so I won’t bore you with my witty intro that makes the song get stuck in your brain (mmmm . . . brains!)  No, I’ll just dive right into it.  These are my favorite things.

Collection Development Tools: Netgalley/Edelweiss

I work at a smaller library now, and run a blog, so I really use a lot of Advance Reader’s Copies (ARCs, or galleys if you prefer).  You can find them here (if the publishers approve you, and sometimes they don’t, which sometimes takes me back to the feeling in middle school I had when everyone picked me last to be on their kickball team.  To be fair, I did really stink at kickball.)  Anyhow, you request and ARC, if you get approved it sends it to your e-reader, and viola – books.  To date, I have bought every book I have read and loved via an ARC.  With a smaller budget, I like knowing that my teens are going to read it when I spend that money.  And as a bonus, I am better prepared when the new books come in to make recommendations, put together displays, and market, market, market because I have read the book.


Emergency Craft Supply Must Have: Duct Tape

It comes in so many glorious colors and patterns. You can do so much fun stuff with it.  They have written whole books about it.  Whether you are doing ductagami or simply decorating notebooks and folders with it, I gotta have some on hand.

Proof That I Can’t Get Rid of Anything: Discarded Magazines

It should come as no surprise to you that I love words. Truly.  And you can do so many fun things with discarded magazines including decoupage, make your own magnetic poetry, marble magnets, guitar pick jewelry.  Sometimes, I will even just be talking to a teen who is a huge Twilight fan and I will go back in my office and get a discarded Seventeen out of my stash and give it to them – I am a hero!! I love being a hero.

Make Your Own Magnetic Poetry Kits

Social Media Addiction: Twitter

Twitter has a seriously rich book community – authors, publishers, librarians, book bloggers.  I am there every day and every day I learn about new books, share book/library love with my peers, and learn about new tech and teen trends.

Don’t Underestimate the Value of Twitter

It’s Absence Makes Me Ragey: ISBN Numbers

It brings me great joy when publisher ads and book reviews include ISBN numbers.  Yes, I am perfectly capable of going and looking them up.  But you know, it’s super nice when I don’t have to and I can just enter the ISBN number into my jobber and a title to my cart.  If I am using an online source, I can simply cut and paste it.  I will love you all hardcore if we can make it a point to add ISBN numbers with our book info.  And I will wholeheartedly admit that we do not always do that here at TLT.  Let’s make it our New Year’s Resolution to embrace the ISBN number.  Pinky swear.

An ode to the ISBN number:
You make my life so easy
When I don’t see you I get queasy
It’s true that I can go hunt you down
But seeing you turns smile from frown

Great books, now let me go look up the ISBN number
Yay- great books AND I don’t have to go look up the ISBN number
Best. Ad. Ever.

Most Benefit for Your Buck: Teen Volunteers

They rock! It seems like I shouldn’t have to say more than that.  But I guess I will.  I get to serve teens by helping them serve their community: win-win.  Plus, I get to spend time with them one-on-one and talk about things, if I am lucky that thing=books.

Can’t Live Without: VOYA and SLJ

I am not going to lie, I don’t really use these for the book reviews because the jobber we use has all the journal reviews in one place for me.  Okay, so I am still using their book reviews, just not in the traditional way.  I do, however, love these resources because of the following: Booklists, Programming Articles, Author Interviews, etc.  I also love to read the letters to the editor (I am a huge online comment junkie as well.)  Don’t forget to visit their online sites as well, lots of additional content.


What Do I Do Next? Post It Notes

Not only can you make art with them, but you can leave yourself little notes and stick them on your computer.  You will not be surprised to know that I find them all over with ISBN numbers written on them.  I leave myself one every day on my computer letting me know what I need to do tomorrow.  Sometimes I leave notes saying, “return Stephanie’s e-mail”, or “remind Christie to write that review,” or “bring back your really overdue library books.”  Librarians make the worst library patrons, just saying.

Post It Note Art

My Brain: My iPhone

Yes, it keeps me connected to Twitter.  But our tech at work is old and slow and I send my e-mail to it, use it to do quick searches on the Reference desk when our Internet decides it is trying to lose a race against a snail, and I take pictures. Tons and tons and tons of pictures.  Pictures at programs, pictures of books, random pictures when living my daily life.  You never know when you can turn one of them into an awesome RA poster, which I do often.  I have almost nothing but photography apps and photos on my cell phone. I have been known to pet my phone and call it “pretty”.  Also, The Mr. has banned it from the dinner table.

Last But Not Least: You – My Fellow Librarians

I steal some of my best ideas from you guys.  I mean borrow, I borrow some of my best ideas from you guys.  Best program I have ever done? Live Angry Birds courtesy of Heather Booth.  Most fun I had this year? I #mustacheyoutoread which was started by Kearsten at Glendale Public Library.  And who else is going to understand when I say, “when will we be done with the instalovetriangle business?”

So here we are, at the end of the year and these things have made my year rock! And I promise, as my New Year’s Resolution, I will never complain about the lack of ISBN numbers on ads again. Pinky swear.  Here’s looking forward to a great 2013.  I hope you all will continue to join us next year.  We’re all in this together 🙂

Freeing your life with words . . . (TPIB: poetry and writing crafts)

I never wrote a poem,
At least one that I’d share
But if I wrote a poem
Does that mean I won the dare?

It seems like there is not enough poetry in the world today, if you ask me.  I have been doing poetry contests with teens in libraries for almost 20 years and each year, there are less entries than the year before.  It’s almost like you have to dare them to write a poem.  Last year I got creative and ditched the poetry all together and did some sidewalk chalk poetry with my tweens.  In fact, you can look at my April National Poetry Month posts to get some great poetry idea to work with tweens and teens.  Start planning now for April.  But since Christie reviewed Tilt today, and since Tilt is written in poetry, I thought I would share one of my favorite nonfiction books to use with teens.  Next month we are going to be doing a lot with teens, nonfiction and your library, so be sure and check back.  In fact, the week of November 11-17th we are doing a whole week of Zest Books nonfiction reviews, programming and more.

Ellen Hopkins writes her YA novels almost exclusively in poems (see today’s review of Tilt), while others wonder: How do you write a poem?

The Book That Turns Those That Don’t Know it into a Poet

Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life in Words by Susan G. Wooldridge is hands down one of my favorite books about writing poetry.  Inside the pages of this book are a lot of hands on ideas that you can do at home, at school or in a library program to help inspire teens and get them thinking about their life in terms of poetry.

What’s the number one thing you need to write a poem? Words of course.  So get out your poetry journal, take a walk through your neighborhood and collect words.  See that empty bench at the park?  Describe it.  Tell us what you see. Tell us what you feel. Tell us what the bench feels.  Who sat on the bench just 5 minutes ago and why did they leave?

Get some index cards and start labelling the things in your house (or library or classroom).  Sure, I can tell you I am sitting at the table typing on my computer.  Or, I could tell you that I am sitting with both hope and despair filling my lungs as my fingers click click click on the keyboard keys in a melancholy rhythm that looks back into the past to find a hope for tomorrow.  You don’t have to sit down and write a poem every time you think about poetry, sometimes you need to just practice looking at and labelling things.

The truth is, most teens have written some bad break up poetry in their day.  Many of us have written with longing about the dreamy eyed boy that doesn’t know we exist.  Or the cheerleader at the top of the pyramid, either way.  Just become a poem doesn’t work it doesn’t mean you failed; no, you’re failure comes in not writing at all.

And this is the beauty of Poemcrazy, it is a collection of exercises that helps you put building blocks into place and to see the world through a different set of lenses.

Put (Awesome) Pen to (Canvas) Paper

Want some more fun poetry/writing inspired ideas to do with teens? Get some blank notebooks/journals and allow teens to decorate them (markers, decoupage) to be their poetry notebooks.  There are also a lot of fun ways that you can turn ordinary pens into poetic writing utensils: wrap them in friendship bracelet thread and put the occasional bead along the way, use floral tape to wrap the pen and add some flowers to the end of your pen.  In fact, a simple but awesome roll of duct tape can turn an every day pen into an inspiring work of art.

More Poetry: TPIB Poetically Speaking
Karen’s Poetry
Goodreads list of books similar to Poemcrazy

April is . . .

“We shall sit here, softly
Beneath two different years
and the rich earth between us
shall drink our tears” – Audre Lorde

April is Autism Awareness Month

Last week new statistics were released from the CDC that indicates that 1 out of every 88 children are now being diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum (ASD).  April is Autism Awareness Month.  Please take some time to read previous posts here at TLT about Autism and think about ways you can better serve teens in your library on the spectrum.

Teen Issues: Autism and Libraries

Teens, Autism and Future Horizons

On the Spectrum and At Your Library (guest post)

Autism and Libraries: a q & a with J. D. Kraus

April is National Poetry Month

April is also National Poetry Month.  I love poetry.  Don’t worry, I am not going to share any of my really bad personal poetry here with you (unless you ask nicely that is).  But I do have an outline of some great poetry activities you can do with tweens and teens and some posters to highlight titles that were inspired by or written in poetry.

TPIB: Poetically Speaking!

Since sharing that blog post somebody shared another poetry activity with me called Newspaper Black Out Poems by Austin Kleon.  The premise is simple: newspaper + marker = poems.  Take your discarded newspapers and have teens black out all the stuff they don’t want in their poem.  What is left, the exposed words, become a poem.  This was shared on the TLT FB wall and once again I am awed by what others now and how when librarians share we better serve our teens.

You can download this file at http://www.box.com/s/493c1c30c7ccc21db28f

You can download this poster at http://www.box.com/s/ffbf8300742cacd8f968

So let’s talk poetry for a moment, shall we?  Ellen Hopkins writes gritty, compelling fiction in verse.  In addition to writing novels in verse, which you should be reading, she also shares poetry on her website

One of my favorite books that I felt didn’t get the love it deserved that also involved some poetry is Bruiser by Neal Shusterman.  Bruiser is the story of a young man who literally takes the pain of others on to himself.  Because of this, he must keep his distance, both physically and emotionally, from others.  But what happens when he starts to fall in love?  If you have not read Bruiser, I recommend that you go check it out.  It is told in alternating voices and one of those voices uses poetry.  It is also an interesting metaphor for addiction.  And it addresses the topic of bullying.  And it is just a really good book.

My favorite nonfiction work about poetry is Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life with Words.  This title talks about the art and craft of poetry and gives lots of fun exercises to do personally, or in a program, to live in the world of poetry.  I highly recommend it.

And finally, there are a ton of amazing poetry collections out there for people of all ages.  You can never go wrong with Shel Silverstein.  But one of my favorite poetry collections is What Have You Lost by Naomi Shihab Nye.  Perhaps it is because at some point in life we have all lost something that this collection is able to snake its way into your soul.  Whatever the reason, this is not the only poetry collection out there by Nye and I recommend that you take a look at them.

Okay, so I lied and I will share a poem with you in the spirit of What Have You Lost?  This is a poem I wrote in high school – my Junior year – after my best friend Teri died in a car accident.

My poetry journals

The Music Fades

She taught me to listen to the music all around
The wind rushing through the trees
The waves crashing against the shore
The water bubbling over the rocks in a brook
The hum of tiny insects
The chatter of life passing through unclinched lips
But alas, the song that was her no longer plays
The tune that she was weaving into this tapestry of life
is being played out in another time and place
And yet her song continues through the lives of those
that she touched along the way
And like those before her,
the song will never be the same.
 – Karen Jensen

So there you have it people, my cheesey teen angst poetry.  Although I must say, I still miss Teri all the time.  Please share in the comments what you are doing with teens in your library on the spectrum.  Or how you are using poetry with your teens.  You can even share your own poetry with me.  Don’t worry.  We’ll all be nice about it as our drawers are full of our own. 🙂

Today’s Tidbits: TTW, the Spark Award, Hunger Games, and National Poetry Month

Today kicks of Teen Tech Week, so get your tech on!  Looking for some last minute ideas?

Try the previous TLT post Teen Tech 12 or check out what Teen Librarian Stacey in Chicago (@BookSavvy on Twitter) did Friday with her teens.

That’s right ladies and gentleman, this ultra cool pixalated cat is made from Post It notes.  865 of them to be exact.  And it took around 3 hours to complete.  I love it.  I put my super librarian skills to use and there are whole art galleries online of post it note art.  Here is one at Huffington Post, check it out.
Also in TLT news, be sure and check out my letter to Lauren Oliver and see how it led me to create the Spark Awards
Still planning your Hunger Games release party ideas?  There are tons online and you can find some good compilations right here at TLT: Feed Their Need for the Hunger Games part 1 and part 2 
Sure TTW is this week, but National Poetry Month is coming and there is still plenty of time to plan.  Check out TPIB: Poetically Speaking for some great programming ideas.  Also, here is a great poster I put together for you that features teen fiction that is inspired by and references poetry in one way or another:
When planning your NPM activities, be sure and check out Poemcrazy: Freeing your life with words by Susan G. Wooldridge. It has some fun activities and is one of my favorite books about tapping into your poetic self.
Have a great Teen Tech Week everyone, I look forward to the pics.  Be sure to leave a comment sharing what you are doing for Teen Tech Week, HG release parties, or National Poetry Month.  And don’t forget to nominate titles for the Spark Award throughout the year.

TPIB: Poetically Speaking!

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?” – John Keating, Dead Poet’s Society

April is National Poetry Month and a great time to get teens thinking about and writing poetry so that they can add their verse. So that they may sound their “barbaric yawp” and “suck the marrow out of life.” You can find some ways to celebrate National Poetry Month at the 30 Ways to Celebrate page at Poets.org. You can also keep reading and find some of the ways that I like to share poetry with teens.

One of my favorites is Poem in My Pocket day which is April 26th this year. The idea is simple, carry a poem in your pocket and when you have a chance to interact with others take it out and read it to them.  Set up a challenge where on this day any teen who comes into your library with a poem in their pockets gets a simple reward with the caveat that they must read it out loud to you.  It could be something as simple as a cookie or their name on the wall of fame, the point is to encourage poetry.

In the past I have had a yearly poetry month contest, which has always been quite successful (and also incredibly angsty).  The trick, I have found, is to work with your local English teachers and ask them to collect and submit the poems.  I always had teachers coming in with manilla envelopes full of poems written by a variety of their students.  Some of the teachers even provided extra credit for submitting which increased participation.  I have also found it works better to have a middle school/junior high and high school category because their skill levels are so different. And I recommend having a wicked cool prize, preferably a substantial cash prize (which you can deliver in the form of a prepaid gift card since most libraries can’t give cash and need a receipt to turn in).  I always have teens fill out a submission form and ask them not to put their names anywhere on the poem itself for judging purposes. And I ask that all submissions are typed in order to make sure I can read everything.  You can then either have teens vote on their favorite poem or put together a panel of judges to help you select a winner in each age category.  Making sure teen names do not show to the public can help eliminate any bias in judging.  You can invite the teens to a poetry slam and announce the winning poems there. You can also make sure and display the poems on your various web sites, in your teen area, and in your library newsletter if you have one.  As part of my submission form I always had teens sign a statement saying it was an original work and giving permission to reprint the poem.  I am impressed every year by the various poems that my teens write.

There are also lots of fun poetry themed activities that you can do to inspire poetry writing.

Make Your Own Magnetic Poetry Kit
Supplies: Magnet tape strips, Discarded magazines, Scissors and glue (bonus if you have tins such as used mint tins)

Simply have teens cut out words from various discarded magazines and glue them on to magnet strip tape cut to the appropriate side. Here teens will collect for themselves a wide variety of words that they can use to create their own magnetic poetry kit.  You can store the words in old magnetic tins and larger tins can be double as storage and a canvas to create their own poems. Oriental Trading has a design your own lunch box tin that would also be a good idea for storage and an additional craft.

The Exquisite Corpse

I have mentioned the exquisite corpse a lot in my various activities, but it is also a great way to get teens working together to make fun poems.  Simply fold a piece of paper multiple times and pass it around having each teen write one line of a poem.  The rule is that they can’t read any of the other lines so they don’t know what others have written.  In the end you unfold the paper and read the poem and it is often quite amusing.  You can also do this as an online activity (although they will see the previous lines) and use your social media sites, like Twitter and Facebook, to write a group poem.  You could also do this by having teens tear headlines out of those discarded magazines.

Book Spine Poetry

Take a cart of just returned books, a full one, into your program room and let teens use the books to create book spine poetry. This is also a fun way to create displays on the end of your shelves. The idea is simple, you place the books spine out on top of one another to create a poem using the various book titles. I love this activity and you can see a fun gallery of book spine poems at 100 Scope Notes.
Sidewalk Chalk Poetry

Teens still love sidewalk chalk and this is a great way to create some fun art around your library on your sidewalks; they become a blank canvas that teens can share poems they love or write their own to share with the world.  Bonus, supply are low but creativity is high.


There are a variety of things that you can purchase or re-purpose and decoupage with poems, again by using words and sentences torn from discarded magazines. You can do spiral bound notebooks to create poetry journals, boxes to store your magnetic poetry tiles in, etc.  You can also have teens creates poems to frame and hang on their walls, or decorate your teen space with them.

Poetry Wall

Create a space in your teen area where teens can create or leave poetry.  You can get magnetic chalk board paint and create a space (either directly on the wall or by using plywood and affixing it to the wall. Or you could just buy a magnetic dry erase board).  Be sure to have a variety of magnetic words available for teens to use the space.  Or you can use cork board tiles and teens can simply pin up the poems that they write (you’ll want to check in periodically to make sure you are not having anything put up like advertisements or content inappropriate a public display.)

Special Delivery

Have teens decorate pizza boxes (ask a local pizza place to donate) and write poems on the inside. This is a great way for a teen to deliver a poem to someone they love. Or if you are in a school, deliver poems to your classrooms.  You can also do this activity using Chinese food style take out boxes that you can find at most craft stores.

Have a Poetry Exchange

Many people have a favorite poem. Have your teens bring in a copy of their favorite poem and have an exchange party. You can switch out poems and have teens read them and then try and guess whose favorite poem it is.  Or have teens put them together in unique presentations (wrap them as a present, do a video, etc) and share them with each other.  This takes the concept of the open mic reading and allows teens to get creative with their presentations and include tech or art if they so choose. Plus, every teen will walk out of the room with a new poem.  You could even swap poems in a way similar to the traditional white elephant gift exchange.

Mad Dash Poetry Scramble

Think relay race and puzzles, kind of Survivor style. Print out the words to a poem and cut the paper up into single lines.  Have teens assemble in teams at one end of the room and have the poem set up at the other.  One by one each teen dashes to the end of the room to grab a line, comes back and tags the next teen, and then in the end they try to unscramble the lines and put the poem together.

Other simple things you can do include:

  • Random Readings: during the day (if at a school) or during your library program, stop all activity and have a random poem reading. Everything just stops and everyone must freeze while you read the poem.
  • Or play a game of poetry freeze tag and you set up a signal where you tag a teen at the program and they must bust out a poem and everyone freezes during the reading.
  • Show the movie Dead Poet’s Society
  • Have a make your own fortune cookie craft where your fortunes are lines from your favorite poems.
  • Have a poetry contest
  • Have a poetry slam
  • Have a poetry scavenger hunt and provide teens with snippets of poems and have them find the title, author or next line.

Don’t forget that Teen Ink, Figment and VOYA are all places that encourage teens to write and create so be sure to share them with your teens.  VOYA has a yearly teen poetry contest and the winners appear in the April edition, it is also a good place to find additional poetry activities to do with your teens.

Whatever you do, be sure to take some time to get teens thinking about poetry during the month of April. If you have some fun poetry activities you have done in the past or are thinking about doing this year, please share them in the comments.