Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Talking Teen Fiction with Victoria Scott

This week many libraries across the nation will be celebrating Teen Read Week, a YALSA initiative designed to remind teens to read for the fun of it – even in the middle of the school year.  Yesterday we announced that this week we were doing a fun contest sponsored by YA author Victoria Scott.  Don’t know what I am talking about, check it out here!  Since Victoria is our host for the week, let’s ask her what she thinks about the state of teen fiction today and its future.

Why do you think having teen fiction is important?
I think it’s important because it eliminates reading gaps during formative years. I read a lot when I was younger, but when I reached my teenage years, I strayed from books. Adult books seemed too distant from what I was going through, and middle grade books were too childish. Teen fiction gives teens a category so their literature can grow along with them.
Do you have any lines you won’t cross while writing for teens?

Yes, only one. If I include sex scenes, I always have them fade to black. There’s no need to be graphic. Everything else: cursing, drugs, alcohol, light sexual content—I’m not afraid to include those things. I don’t believe in sugar-coating the choices teens face.
Do you read YA? It seems a lot of adults buy books packaged for teens.
Yes, I read YA almost exclusively. I think adults enjoy them because many times the pacing is faster, and some of the more mundane subjects—mortgages, children, keeping a marriage healthy—aren’t visible. It’s just about reliving raw emotions at a critical time in your life.
Why would you say to adults who think YA has gotten too “heavy.”
I’d say if it’s gotten heavy, it’s because that’s what’s selling, which means that is what teens want to read. Sometimes it’s difficult for teens to speak with parents or teachers about what they’re dealing with, and in literature they can explore these heavier subjects in a safe place. 
What do you think lies ahead for teen fiction?
I think we’ll see the cost of ebooks fall. I think you’ll see fewer divisions at bookstores (paranormal romance, teen thriller, teen science fiction), and a more generic teen fiction area. And I think we’ll see more GLBT and racial minorities as lead characters, which is great! 
About Victoria Scott:
I’m a YA writer with a die-hard affection for dark and humorous books. My work is represented by Sara Crowe of Harvey Klinger literary agency. I have a master’s degree in marketing, and currently live in Dallas with my husband, Ryan.
My first YA book, THE COLLECTOR, will be published by Entangled Teen, April 2013. It is the first book in a trilogy. My second YA series will begin with FIRE & FLOOD and is being published by Scholastic in spring 2014.

Victoria is deathly afraid of monkeys.  Find out more at her webpage.  

From a Librarian in the Trenches: Thoughts on Themes (a guest post by Jennifer Wills)

I came into this Teen Librarian position all “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose” about pretty much everything.  I was revved up by library school classes that stressed the importance of Programming For Teens and introduced me to the high holy days:  Teen Read Week, Teen Tech Week, and the Summer Reading Program.  Teen Read Week?  Awesome!  “Books with Beat?”  Um . . . Sure!  Let’s do this!  I will take a poster in every size and as many bookmarks as you can spare, thanks.  I threw myself into displays and contests and school visits and everything short of a stage show.  

But as that first year progressed through Teen Tech Week (Learn Create Share @ Your Library) to the summer reading program (Make Waves @ Your Library) I began to notice that any time I invoked one of the provided themes for these special weeks, there was a definite shift in the conversation I was having with the teens.  They would be right with me as we talked about summer reading and prizes and such, but the second I mentioned the theme there was a subtle (or sometimes not-so-subtle) cringe, or smirk, or glaze of the eyes as if to say, “I see you are trying to market to me, Adult Person.  And you are doing it wrong.”  The focus of the conversation immediately changed from the library and how we are relevant to their lives to an explanation of how the theme was relevant to the event.  
Flash forward three years.  I’m a bit more settled in my job and I’ve discovered the secret that many of you know but no one mentioned in any of my grad school classes on programming for teens or advocating for teens or teen literature, and it is this:  getting to know and genuinely connecting with teens is the BEST PART OF THE JOB and absolutely essential for getting teens excited about libraries.  Knowing that means now I’m the one who cringes as each new theme is announced.  For instance, take this recent exchange:
Awesome Teen: {picks up Summer Reading Program entry form} What’s this?
Me:  That’s the entry form for our Teen Summer Reading Program.
AT:  Why does it say “Beneath the Surface?”
Me:  That’s just the theme this year.  But see, it says “Teen Summer Reading Program” there at the top.  {Proceed to tell him all about the program.}
AT:  But . . .
Me:  Yeah?
AT:  If the theme is Beneath the Surface, why does it have a Pegasus on it?
I feel like I’ve had this conversation at least ten times a day since summer reading outreach began in May.  There’s about five seconds of connection about how great summer reading is and five minutes of “What does this mean?”
I promise that I’m not here to bash YALSA or CSLP for their choice of themes.  I know there are exceptional librarians out there who take the themes and run with them in amazing ways every year (I’m looking at you, Karen!) I also know that for those libraries that don’t have a Teen Services department or dedicated teen librarian, the special interest weeks and themes offer a chance to focus on and connect with teens.  And I absolutely know that none of us are legally obligated to use these themes and that many of you have developed amazing stand-alone programs without them.   That said, I really think that by diving in to themes we lose a lot of what’s most important about our jobs.
I’ve been lucky enough to assemble a robust and opinionated Teen Advisory Board over the past few years and each special interest week or SRP leads to a lengthy discussion of the theme.  They tolerated “You are Here” for an SRP theme a couple of years ago and “Geek Out @ Your Library” for Teen Tech Week was met with stoic skepticism, but things came to a head last summer when I thought “Own the Night” might just be the end of them (“That’s a prom, not a reading program,” was probably my favorite reaction.)  And then “Beneath the Surface” arrived.  There was literally a two-hour meeting where the poster was deconstructed in a way that I’m pretty sure could be counted as their thesis project for grad school:  “Jen, there’s a creepy face in the shrub.  What is the purpose of this?” (It’s true, by the way, take a look.) “Jen, there is absolutely no correlation between this theme and reading books to win prizes.”   
About an hour into the meeting, as my teens talked about taking to the streets to ask random people what they thought the “Beneath the Surface” poster was advertising, I found myself looking around the table and thinking that this will definitely be the last year I use stock themes for anything.  From now on I’ll celebrate Reading for the Fun of It for Teen Read Week and Connecting @ Your Library for Teen Tech Week.   Those are the kind of general themes that say exactly what we’re trying to accomplish.  And I’ll use my TAB’s awesome passion for coming up with a better slogan for our SRP that we can use for several years.

My eyes are still clear, my heart is still full, and I know I can’t lose if I continue to just be my goofy self in a genuine way with these guys, learning what they love and telling them about the awesome ways our library can fit into their lives.

Jen Scott Wills, MLS
I’ve served as the Teen Services Librarian for Boise Public Library’s Main Library for the past three years, though I’ve been addicted to libraries since I lived across the street from one as a kid. My teens always ask me if I actually get paid to do what I do (usually when we’re in the middle of some water balloon war or heated Mario Kart race) and I tell them yes and that I can’t believe it either. I’m obsessed with YA lit and read a little bit of everything, though David Levithan and Rainbow Rowell are definitely my spirit animals. You can find me at jen1nsw.tumblr.com or as jen1n on Twitter or in my office that the teens call my TARDIS. Because it’s bigger on the inside.

TRW: Bram Stoker’s Dracula vs YA Vampires

First published in 1897, Dracula by Bram Stoker is the godfather of everything vampire in today’s culture.  As history tells it, Stoker was a business manager for the Lyceum Theater in London during a time when Sherlock Holmes, The Time Machine, and The Jungle Book were all the rage.  Stoker’s Dracula would not gain cult and then critical acclaim until well into the 20th century, when his novel made it’s way onto the silver screen.

There was the 1931 Dracula starring Bela Lugosi, which is what a lot of people think when they think of Count Dracula.  In 1992, Gary Oldman took on the titular role.  1987’s The Lost Boys starring Jason Patric and Corey Haim.  This year we saw Johnny Depp reclaim Barnabas Collins and Dark Shadows, while in the past few years, Dracula has been fuzzy-wuzzied for the youth set:  Draculara of Monster High is the daughter of Dracula, while the recently released Hotel Transylvania has Dracula running a hotel for the paranormal, while trying to get his daughter to not date the human who has blundered into their mist.

You are about to enter the no-sparkling vampires zone . . .
Sink your teeth into these reads!

As well as movies and television, we’ve been hit with wonderful and infamous reincarnations of the vampire legend.  Bunnicula,  by James Howe, is a vampire rabbit that drains the juices from vegetables on the farm, and loved by juvenile readers since 1979.  R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike have numerous stories featuring vampires among their horror stories that, while not quite reaching critical acclaim, are devoured by readers all over.  Then Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire series and Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot.  And Stephanie Meyer revived the vampire series for teen books with her Twilight series.  What are your favorite vampire books for teens?  Share in the comments!

The Blue Bloods series by Melissa De La Cruz.  Enter the world of the Blue Bloods, not only the high society of New York, but a secret world of Vampires as well.

Peeps by Scott Westerfeld.  After a chance encounter, Cal creates vampires and must hunt them down before they can cause more damage than he can control.

The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod by Heather Brewer.  Vlad, half vampire and half human, is dealing with not only the challenges of junior high and high school, but the legacy his vampire father has gifted him.

Tantalize series by Cynthia Leitich Smith.  Left to run her parent’s bankrupt restaurant after their death, 17 year old Quincie finds her self in deep into the supernatural.

The House of Night series by PC and Kirsten Cast.  Vampires are chosen by the goddess to serve in this series, but not all vampires are serving the goddess’s true intentions.  

Rosario + Vampire series written and illustrated by Akihisa Ikeda.  When Tsukune gets enrolled into a high school for otherworlders, he quickly gets befriended by Moka, a vampire who gets addicted to his blood.

The Vampire Knight series by Matsuri Hino.  At Cross Academy  there are two different sets of classes:  Day Class, for the norms, and Night Class, for the vampires.

Sucks To Be Me by Kimberly Pauley.  Mina’s parents want her to turn:  not to religion, but to be a vampire like them.  Problem is, Mina’s not sure she wants to be.

The Vampire Kisses series by Ellen Schreiber.  When Alexander and his family move into the mansion at the top of the hill, Raven is determined to get to know him.  But will that lead to her undoing?

The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause.  Zoe, coming to terms with her mother’s illness, finds comfort in Simon, who seeks to avenge his own mother’s death 300 years earlier.
Be sure to check out
by Joni Richards Bodart for more paranormal awesomeness and a comprehensive look at the various vampire series out there.  This is a very informative professional development book.

Thursday Throw Down: Teen Read Week Genres

So, this week on TLT we’re talking about Teen Read Week and different genres…  and we want to know WHICH genre is your favorite and why?

Is it….

PARANORMAL ROMANCE that gets your heart aflutter?


VAMPIRES that you can sink your teeth into?


ALIENS that send you into orbit?


BIOENGINEERING that tweaks your genes?

Share your favorite genre (and if you want your favorite title) in the comments below!

TRW: It Came From Outer Space

Ever wonder where all the aliens are?  Back in the 1940’s and 50’s, during the Golden Age of science fiction, aliens were everywhere.  There were spaceman suits, and alien bazaars, and television shows.  People where rushing to see when we would meet our neighbors, and whether they would be peaceful or not.  Everyone was claiming to see UFOs or be abducted by them.  And that frenzy was reflected in our literature:  HG Wells and the War of the Worlds, Robert A. Heinlein’s pulp fiction classics, Arthur C. Clark, and Isaac Asimov.  They were told by their publisher at Astounding Science Fiction to “write me a creature that thinks as well as a man, or better than a man, but not like a man.”  

Now, in 2012, our space program is the victim of the economy, and young adult fiction is flooded with vampires and dystopias- another reflection of the culture around us.  Yet, if you look hard enough, there are aliens among us for those wanting to explore the darkness of space.  I’ve put together a list of what’s popular with my teens, including movie based books and book based movies, as well as some classics and a couple you may not have heard before.

What are your favorite alien books?  Share in the comments below!

Across the Universe by Beth Revis.  Amy was supposed to spend the next 300 years asleep; instead, she’s awakened 50 years too early and must race to find the cause of the plague, and figure out the mystery before it’s too late.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy (in 5 books, or is it 6?) by Douglas Adams.  Earth is being (or will be) destroyed to make way for a super-space highway- do you know where your towel is?  And if you want to see the movie, catch Alan Rickman (Professor Snape, the Sheriff of Nottingham) as the voice of Marvin in the 2005 release.



Star Trek.  First on TV, then on the silver screen, then five spin-offs, then a SPIN OFF got it’s own movie or three…  Graphic novels and science fiction books abound and continue to be written.  Including cross overs with current series like Doctor Who.  And with the reboot of the franchise, and Star Trek:  Into Darkness slated for May 2013 release, the number of books will only grow.


The Tower and the Hive series by Anne McCaffrey.  The Rowan was found buried in a mudslide, projecting a distress call heard planets away.  And so we start a series of books in which we go through her life and the life of her children, all of which have extraordinary abilities as telepaths and telekinetics  vital to the survival of not only the human race, but others as well.  If really interested in the beginnings, check out The Talent series by McCaffrey, which details the beginnings of space travel and telekinetic abilities in the human race.
Men In Black.  Yes we all wish that the second movie didn’t exist, but did you know that all of the movies are based off the graphic novels?  And they are quirky and fun and as irreverent as the first movie?

Human.4 by Mike A. Lancaster
Human.4 is an eerie look at a small town that slowly, chillingly reveals secrets about the human race with some Matrix-like twists.  This is a fantastic book that reminded me of some of the best episodes of The Twilight Zone.  Safe for all ages and highly recommended.  The sequel, The Future We Left Behind, comes out in November.

Star Wars.  From science fiction to juvenile books of Han and Leia’s children, to beginning readers and non-fiction about the ships and costuming, there is no shortage of books in the Star Wars legacy.

Shade’s Children by Garth Nix.  Running to escape their chilling future of certain destruction, four teens willingly join the Shade in his plans to dethrone the Overlords.  But when one of them is captured, they begin to realize that Shade isn’t the hero they think he is.

The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells.  Yes, THE war of the worlds.  The book that, when read over the radio to the audience caused massive panic that there was an alien invasion, the book that was the basis of the 1953 classic, and the not so memorable 2005 remake with Tom Cruise.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer.  See More Here

Alien.  In space, no one can hear you scream.  With four movies and a prequel (although they don’t call Prometheus a prequel, even though it is) the Alien franchise embraces what really creeps everyone out about aliens.  That they will crawl inside and eat us whole.  And graphic novels and books abound, along with cross overs in books and movies.  And rumors of an Alien reboot are circulating….
It’s been years since anyone has set foot on the moon, and there are good reasons for that.  When several teens are chosen as the winners of a contest and get to spend 172 hours on the moon, they will be lucky if they make it back alive.  There is some good old fashioned Science Fiction in this sci fi book, with a twist of Japanese horror movie (think The Ring or The Grudge).  This is a great read for this time of the year.
If you knew the aliens were coming, what would you do?  Ender Wiggin has been sent to a special school where they are training to fight “The Buggers”.  This is a classic and always popular title.  Make a note, it is currently being filmed and is slated for release sometime next year.
I am actually surprised that we haven’t seen a bigger influx of aliens – a bigger alien invasion if you will – given the popularity of this series.  My teens come in asking for it ALL. THE. TIME. And they rave about it. And the movie wasn’t horrible either.

TRW: Frankenstein in 2012: Bio-Engineering

So, if Mary Shelly were writing Frankenstein today, what path would she wander down?  I think that, instead of zombies or vampires, she’s wander down the road of BIOENGINEERING.  According to the history, Mary Shelly was having a storytelling contest with her future husband Percy, Lord Byron of She Walks in Beauty fame, and John William Polidori, who wrote one of the first vampire stories in English. She evidently won, because she came up with a mad scientist who scavenged body parts and created a monster from death, then became horrified at what he had created.

In today’s horror realm, zombies and vampires are creatures of the undead, and would well fit within the realm of Shelly’s Frankenstein, but Shelly was a pioneer- during her time, everyone was afraid of the new science of embalming the dead, and she played on those fears in her story, and the fear of the unknown and the possibilities of science.  This is why I think that bio-engineering would be more Mary Shelly’s thing if she were alive today.  Manipulating the essence of DNA and genes, creating new and different beings and life where there were none, discovering new abilities and their horrendous possibilities…  Definitely a 2012 version of Frankenstein…

So what bio-engineering YA books would be in your top ten list?  Here are my favorites in random order; share yours in the comments below…

Double Helix by Nancy Werlin.  When Eli is offered a job as a lab assistant at Wyatt Transgenics, it sounds too good to be true.  But as he gets deeper into the lab, he learns things that puts not only his life, but the secrets of his family and others, into danger.

The Uglies Series by Scott Westerfeld.  On their 16th birthday, teens get surgery to become pretty…  but do you want to be pretty and fogged forever?  And what will become of friendships?

The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer.  Matteo wasn’t born, he was harvested, a clone for a patron who wants to use him for spare parts when needed.  When he decides to take his future into his own hands, will it be more than he bargained for?

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson.  Jenna wakes from a year long coma, only to not remember the life before the accident.  But will trying to remember answer her questions or create new issues?

Feed by M.T. Anderson.  Enter a world where everything is dominated by the Feed- directly implanted into your mind so that everything is accessible in an instant.  When an attack in a club goes wrong, what happens when the Feed goes bad?

The Skinned Trilogy/ The Cold Awakening Trilogy by Robing Wasserman.  (Why they changed the names and covers I don’t know, but if you’re looking for these in the bookstores try the first titles and images; if you’re looking for them at the library, try the second set of images first).  Downloading was supposed to change the world, but when Lia’s goes wrong, she must do everything in her power to save what, and who, she can.

TRW: Romancing the Paranormal

As a teen librarian who knows their trends, you know that books like Twilight and The House of Night series are as popular with teens as chocolate and pizza.  What you may not realize is that they have a long and distinguished history within literature dating back to 1764.  Paranormal romance, a subset of romance that has beings of the supernatural (ghosts, demons, angels, werebeings, vampires, etc.) falling in love/lust with us mere humans, actually comes from Gothic fiction.  The first Gothic stories were written by Horace Walpole, Ann Radcliffe, and Clara Barton.  The Romantics took over, with Lord Byron giving us the archtype of the hero in our current paranormal romances:  a man of loneliness and mystery, a villain that detests himself for what he is, yet seems unable to change until the heroine makes her appearance.
The Victorians added their twist on it, with The Penny Dreadful serial fictions leading the way.  Enter then Edgar Allan Poe, who brought back more of the macabre, madness, and mystery into the mix.  The Bronte sisters as well can fall into paranormal ancestors, with ghosts in various stories as well as The Madwoman in the Attic.  Most current teen paranormal fiction falls into the genre of urban fantasy, where things blend the magical and mysterious in with the supernatural.  And when you think about it, most superhero comics and graphic novels, all time travel books, and those featuring psychic abilities would also fit in paranormal romances- not just things that go bump in the night or howl at the moon.  I’ve listed below some of my favorite books and series; share yours in the comments!

The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare.  Werebeings, demons, vampires, and Shadowhunters descended from angels, plus secret siblings, crossed lovers, and secret crushes, including an all ages GLBT romance.  Oh, yes!

Caster Chronicles series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.  When Ethan starts waking up from dreams that connect him to the new girl Lena, things start to take a turn, but are they for better or for worse?

The Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa.  In the first part, Meagan is half faery, half human, and needs to claim her magical bloodright.  In the second, we follow Ethan, her brother, who must battle the vengeful Forgotten.

The Wicked Lovely series by Melissa Marr.  Aislynn, who is mortal,  has always seen the fairies, even when she wasn’t supposed to.  Her gift leads her on more and more adventures through the different courts as the series grows.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor.  Karou has a chance encounter with the angel Akiva, and her world starts unraveling around her- black handprints on portals, and memories coming back to life.  Will it be for good or for bad?

Tithe series by Holly Black.  16 year old Kaye learns her lineage- she’s a changeling pixie- and a move to New Jersey brings her into a plot to free her people but puts her life on the line.

Fallen series by Lauren Kate.  Luce, sent to boarding school, finds that Sword and Cross holds more for her than schooling; rather, fallen angels and her long lost love.

The Immortals series by Alyson Noel.  Ever and Damen, separated through different lifetimes, struggle to be together as they are intended.  

Madison Avery series by Kim Harrison.  Meet Madison, dead from a car accident after going to her prom. Oh, and she’s also a reaper.  Makes things a bit complicated to explain to her dad, especially with a light reaper, a dark reaper, and a guardian angel following her every move.  Oh, and school.

Prom Nights from Hell.  Think your prom was bad?  Try these stories on for size- but be warned, it’s not always a happy ending.

TPIB: Bring Out Your Dead! Zombie Programming Redux

Teen Read Week (a Yalsa event) and Halloween is coming, and the creepy crawlies are coming, and oh, what fun we get to have.  Personally, the best way to celebrate is with ZOMBIES!  Vampires?  Been there, done that.  Monsters?  Baby things.  But ZOMBIES- oh, mysterious appeal, grown-up creepiness that will fascinate your teens.

THINGS TO THINK OF:  What type of program do you want to have?  Do you have the staff to have an all-out Zombie Day of programming, or do you need to tone it down to movies and a craft?  What resources do you have available?  I’ve put together what I’ve done at various libraries for a variety of different programs that can be thrown together for different styles and different ages.
Zombie Attack Prep Drill
·         Pregame prep:  gather a variety of sizes of sweatpants, sweatshirts and t-shirts from your house and other staff members, and then separate them according to type.  Place each type (pants, t-shirts, sweatshirts) into pile in a separate corner of the room.

·         Game time:  Ask for two volunteers to be zombies, then separate your teens randomly into even teams- two large groups, four groups, etc. – completely depends on your attendance.  As the zombies speed around the middle of the area, the teens must go in order around the room getting dressed in relay team style:  first to go grabs and puts on a shirt, then runs and puts on sweatpants, then runs and puts on a sweatshirt, then runs home.  The second to go then must run the clothes back in the opposite order:  sweatshirt, then pants, then shirt, then home.  If runners are tagged by the zombies, then they must return to their team start and go to the step they were on.  First team to finish the course wins.

·         Pregame Prep:  Clear a large area around your programming room, and mark the play area with masking tape if needed.  You’ll also need 1-2 bandannas.
·         Game time:  Ask for two volunteers to be zombies, then scatter your teens around the room.  The two zombies get blindfolded, and will then try and infect the other players by contact.  When ready, yell go, and the non-zombies walk around the room as quietly as possible.  The zombies moan BRAINS! And the non-zombies scream, so that the game is a twisted version of Marco Polo.  Once a teen is caught by a zombie, they become infected- they can’t turn others into zombies, but they can help catch others for the zombies to turn.  Game ends when there is one teen left standing.

Zombie Fluxx
A fun card game with ever-changing rules, Zombie Fluxx is made by Looney Labs.  You start with the basic rules:  you’re dealt three cards, then on your turn, you draw one card, then play one card.  However, as you play, the rules can change, and the way you win the game changes as well.  And watch out for Larry!  2-6 players, ages 8 and up.

Zombie Dice
Made by Steve Jackson Games, Zombie Dice won the Origins Award for Best Family,Party or Children’s Game in 2010.  You are the zombie, you want brains, you don’t want to get shot.  Roll the dice, and see what you get.  First to 13 brains wins.  2 or more players, 10 and up.
Munchkin Zombies
Munchkin Zombies
Also by Steve Jackson Games, Munchkin Zombies runs just like Munchkins.  You’re zombies, you’re attacking people, your armor is whatever you can find, and you level up by eating braaaaaaaaaains- good luck!  3-6 people, ages 10 and up.

Zombie Cuponk
Play a fun “undead” version of Cuponk, the game where you try and get ping pong balls in a cup.  Yes, it’s based on a drinking game, but this a non drinking version. ($14.99)
MOVIES (all covered under Movie Licensing USA)I love movie programs because we can darken the room, throw together a craft and it’s a relatively low-energy program on my end.  With older or hokey movies, we often turn it into our version of Mystery Science Theater with everyone mocking the screen.

Beetlejuice: A couple of recently deceased ghosts contact the services of a “bio-exorcist” to rid their house of the hideous new owners.  Rated PG.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978):  In San Francisco, a group of people discover that humans are being replaced by those who are devoid of emotion.  A really good one if you can tie in the fact that Donald Sutherland is Matthew here and President Snow in The Hunger Games.  Rated PG.

Tim Burton’s The Corpse Bride:  When a bashful groom gets cold feet, he gets more than he bargains for in the woods outside his home….  Rated PG. 

I Am Legend:  Years after most of humanity is killed off, the sole survivor works to find a cure.  Bonus points for being book based.  Rated PG-13.

Resident Evil Series:  Starting with a lab experiment gone bad, this is the series that may never end.  Based loosely on the video games of the same name- the CGI versions are more faithful to the video play.  Rated R.

Shaun of the Dead:  Unable to get anything in his life together, when he finds his whole town has turned into zombies, Shaun is determined to save everyone, or die trying.  Rated R.

Not every program has to be done by you- if you don’t have the staff, see if you can bring someone in to tie into the theme!

FEMA and the Red Cross:  tie in your zombie theme with disaster preparedness and see if the local branch of the Federal Emergency Management Agency can bring someone in to talk about emergency preparedness.  This could be anything from building an emergency kit to what to do if something actually happens.

Cosmetology and Stage Make-up:  See if your area has a local stage make-up artist or theater personnel who could do a workshop on zombie and stage make-up for your teens.  They could go over what it takes to make the make-up look real, how to make fake blood, and perform actual applications.  As an added bonus, you get to send real zombies home to their parents!

Zombie Hunters:  see if you have a local chapter of the Zombie Hunters in your area, and if they’re willing to come talk to your teens.  http://zombiehunters.org/chapters/
If you have a way to display things, you can easily have a passive program with little staff involvement.

POP UP TRIVIA:  Use a book like The Zombie Survival Guide, and make your own multiple choice questions.  Post them on a bulletin board, and make up an answer sheet for teens to fill out.  Have them turn them in, and out of the correct answers, give away small prizes like extra computer time, or fines waived, or extra summer reading prizes.

ZOMBIE SURVIVAL KIT:  Based off of the FEMA survival kits or books like Rot & Ruin series by Jonathan Maberry series or The Zombie Survival Guide, gather together a collection of things that might be useful in a Zombie invasion, and things that might not be so useful.  Assign a number value for each item, and keep the master list in your desk.  Place them in a display case with letters next to them, and ask teens to choose their own personal Top 10. Once the contest is over, display the point value and the reasoning, and give the winners their prize.

More Zombie Posts on TLT:
TPIB: It’s a Dead Man’s Party
TPIB: Monster Fest
Top 10 Apocalypse Survival Tips I Learned from YA
Reading the Zombie Apocalypse
“What’s the Deal with Zombies Anyway?”

Put the “Read” in Teen Read Week

Every year teen librarians put together amazing programs at their library in celebration of Teen Read Week.  There are craft programs.  Zombie proms.  Sometimes there are even author events.  But how do you put the read in Teen Read Week?

Read Around the Clock
Me, I encourage my teens to read by offering incentives.  I know that there are a lot of mixed emotions (and even some research) surrounding the idea of offering rewards for reading.  I get that there is something to be said for doing something because of its intrinsic value.  We do it for Summer Reading Clubs, so why not for Teen Read Week?
In the interest of simplicity sake, I ask my teens to read 15 minutes a day.  For every 15 minutes that they read they get to fill out an entry form which goes into a Grand Prize Drawing.  If I have the money, I will give a small prize when they complete 4 entry forms, or have read 1 hour – or when they have read around the clock (clever, right).  These prizes have included the multi-lingual read and read on bracelets from Janway.  Sometimes I have gotten small food prizes donated from local eateries.The theory is, the more teens read during TRW, the greater their chances of winning the grand prize.  Don’t forget that books make great prizes!
You can modify this by having “Read Ins” or “Read-a-Thons” and have specific times and locations for the teens to come and read.  Their attendance then becomes their entry into the prize drawing.  These are great things to do during Saturday or Sunday hours or as part of a lock-in event should you be so inclined to have them.  The benefit of having teens read at the library is that it cuts down on bogus entries and drawing box stuffing. (And I say this because every year staff will point out that by doing drawings like these, we know that some teens are lying.  The truth is that it happens all the time in all age groups and we just have to accept that there is a percentage of false entries and move on.)

Kick-Off Teen Read Week

My favorite Teen Read Week activity involved a sports theme.  I don’t normally do sports, at all, but I will do sports for my teens.  I love them that much.
TRW Kicked-Off on Monday with a Meet the Team night.  The local high school coach was kind enough to bring the football team in and have a meet and greet.  If you can coordinate it, I recommend getting the cheerleading team to come, too.  The coach talked briefly about the importance of reading and then each player introduced themselves and talked about their favorite book.  There are a ton of people on a football team.  Then we just had an informal mingle meet and greet with some snacks and drinks.  Pretty laid back, but really helped in community building and tapped into the things that teens are interested in.  Plus, by involving the football team we had teens providing programming for teens and I love it when that happens.
Everyone who came to the meet and greet was entered into a drawing to win a free limo ride that was donated by a local provider.  Since this all tied in with Homecoming which was just around the corner – genius.

Then, for my grand prize, we provided more limo rides, make-overs and nail treatments from a local salon, and dinner gift certificates.  A lot of teen programming tends to meet the younger end of the teen audience needs, but this program really drew in the older end of the teen spectrum.  And the younger teens enjoyed meeting the older football players.

If you do a homecoming tie-in type of event and are looking for some additional programming during the week you can also do a Project Runway or Project Accessory type of craft program.  You can also do a variety of sports related crafts, such as making photo themed frames or booster posters for teens to take to the upcoming game.

Read for the Fun of It
The bottom line is that our goal during TRW is to remind teens that reading isn’t all about reading Ivanhoe because your English teacher is going to test you on it on Monday morning.  Our goal is to remind teens that reading is FUN!  So our question is: How do we make reading fun?

This is a great time to bust out scary stories, especially since TRW takes place in October.  Sit around a “camp fire” with a flashlight and share some spooky tales.  Get out your joke books and have a stand up comedy night.  Have a poetry slam (or better yet, save that for April which is National Poetry Month).  Have a book discussion group and compare a movie to its book.  Make your own “Get Caught Reading” posters using your teens.  And make sure that they see YOU reading.

Put up a variety of fun displays.  Don’t forget to include some of your more offbeat and fun nonfiction titles.  Reading for fun doesn’t have to mean reading fiction!

Have a great Teen Read Week . . . and read for the fun of it!


Note: Some organizations, such as Pizza Hut (Book It!) and Target, already do reading related marketing as a part of their community mission.  Contact them to see if they will offer prizes for your Teen Read Week programming.