Teen Librarian Toolbox
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Robin’s Top 10 Books for 2013

So yes, to be honest, this is a somewhat odd list. These are the top 10 books I enjoyed in 2013. A couple of them are children’s books, a couple of them were published before 2013, a couple haven’t come out yet (and one I haven’t finished.) What can I say? Being a librarian is weird.

Let’s start with the children’s books. I have friends with a 4 month old who will go completely still if you read to him (a kindred soul.) My first encounter with Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle and Jill McElmurry was at his house, but I have yet to find a toddler who doesn’t sit still for it. It is the perfect combination of engaging text and illustrations, regularly punctuated by the truck saying “Beep! Beep!” which all toddlers seem to love. This book is a wonder – you should by it for all of your expectant friends. The other children’s book is Neil Gaiman’s Fortunately the Milk. I was just excited to find one of his I can read without getting completely freaked out. My twin 5 year old friends loved it, too.

Two of my favorite books from this year haven’t come out yet – Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins and The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson. I have to be honest, I would read a washing machine manual written by either of these authors, so when I get my hands on an advanced copy of one of their titles, I can’t resist. I reviewed Rebel Belle for TLT here. I can say with the utmost confidence that IKoM is going to be a very important book for a very long time. Add both to your list for next year.

Sarah Rees Brennan continued last year’s brilliantly funny, gender-swapped gothic fantasy Unspoken with this year’s Untold. Most readers I’ve seen comment on it are overwhelmed by the feels. I’m just along for the ride (it’s a good one.) Also, team Angela.

You can read my review of Meg Rosoff’s Picture Me Gone, which I was unsurprised to find on the National Book Awards shortlist for Young People’s Literature. (I was a bit surprised to find it in the Young Adult category of the NYT Notable Children’s Books of 2013. It belongs in the Middle Grade section. Feel free to argue with me in the comments.)

Jasper Fforde (my favorite author) finally had his sequel to The Last Dragonslayer published in the US this year. You can read my review of Song of the Quarkbeast here.

Holly Black is a certifiable genius. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is just excess evidence in this case. I gush over it here.

What can I say about Eleanor and Park that hasn’t already been said? It has one of the world’s most adorable authors (you should follow her on Twitter.)  It’s beautiful and sweet and charming and completely draws you in to its world. And it’s devastating. I confess that this is the one I haven’t finished. It just hurt too much. I could see where certain things were going and I couldn’t cope. It’s waiting for me, though, right there on my bookshelf for when I am ready. That says a lot, doesn’t it, that it’s on my top 10 list and I haven’t finished it?

And finally, there is Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone. I realize that this was published in 2012, but I finally got around to reading it a couple of months ago. I remember there being a rather significant buzz about it when it came out. I also remember there being several books published in that time frame with very similar titles, and getting them all confused. The buzz was sufficient for it to make it onto my (extremely limited) library purchase list, though, and I finally picked it up when I was stuck supervising something extremely boring at work. It is amazing! I was immediately drawn in to the story, and delighted to find that the author had so completely realized her fantasy world. If you missed it as well, I highly recommend it.

Top 10 for 2013 – Middle School favorites (Robin)

What you see above are the top 10 books in my school library for 2013. These books circulated more than any other books in the library during the 2013 calendar year. Lets look at some reasons why:

  1. Yes, they are all fairly popular, well known titles and authors. The Roland Smith book may be a bit of an outlier, but it was actually our #1 circulator in 2013.
  2. We have multiple copies of each of them (up to 14 of some.)
  3. Most importantly, all of them are either a Book for All Readers winner, or authored by someone who has another book that is a Book for All Readers winner. Click here for more information on my school library’s Book for All Readers program.

In fact,  I, Q.: Independence Hall by Roland Smith was last year’s Book for All Readers winner. This year’s winner was Legend by Marie Lu. Hunger Games, Lightning Thief, and Angel Experiment are all three prior winners. You’ll see some of their sequels and related titles above as well. The first Diary of a Wimpy Kid title, Greg Heffley’s Journal was our first ever Book for All Readers winner. We originally had 14 copies of it…now we have 2, or I’m sure it would be on the list as well. The only other BfAR winner not represented on our Top 10 list is Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. It ranked at #11.

Sometimes programs work in ways you never expected. Originally designed to engage the students and give them agency in the materials selected for the school library, the BfAR program has now become a way to maximize the funds we have to reach as many students as possible.

Top 10: ‘Cause You Gotta Have Faith (a flashback post)

Happy Easter! For many people, today is an important religious holiday. So today I thought I would share this flashback post on the spiritual lives of teens with you.  Have a great holiday, however you choose to celebrate it.

Faith is a tricky business. As a child and teen, your parents want you to adopt their faith, which makes sense because it is what they believe in their heart of hearts to be true.  And yet, teens are on the pathway to individuality and adulthood and forming their own identity, which includes determining what they think about their faith.
Faith, or spirituality, is a journey.  It’s not even a straight line journey but a journey full of peaks and valleys and forks in the road.  To help guide them on their journey, many people choose to read Inspirational (sometimes called Christian) fiction.  As I mentioned in yesterday’s review of Waiting by Carol Lynch Williams, I have always found it personally difficult to read Christian fiction.  With the emphasis being on the Christian message – and being “appropriate’ – it often fails to develop accurate, complex characters.  The message can over take the story and the plot in heavy handed ways.  As a reader, I prefer nuance over anvils. (Caveat: this is not always true, just a generalization.)

One of the most profound spiritual experiences I have had this year as a reader has actually been while reading the GLBTQ book Ask the Passengers by A. S. King.  You can read about it here.  But what you don’t know is that I e-mailed A. S. King after reading this book and told her personally about how it spoke to me about my faith and the nature of God and how it reminded me how much God loves every person.  Every. Single. One. Of. Us. I was so thankful to read this book and be enriched not only as a human being, but as a person of faith.

That is also part of the beauty of Waiting.  Here are people that have supposedly done everything right and out of a deep abiding faith, but their lives spiral out of control and in the end they have to decide how this unravelling fits in with their spiritual beliefs.  They must also decide whether or not they can come back to that belief, even if it is in different ways.

Here is where it behooves us to remember that some of the greatest books about faith and the spiritual life were not written and published as “Christian fiction” or “Inspirational fiction”, but as science fiction, fantasy and more.  Think of writers like C. S. Lewis, Madeleine L’Engle and Chaim Potok (My Name is Asher Lev).  The truth is that although our faith and spirituality may be the underpinning of who we are and how we live our lives, we still must live our lives in the context of a very real world.  (One of the best nonfiction titles I have ever read is Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art by Madeleine L’Engle, I highly recommend that you read it.)

And of course we must remember that when we discuss faith and spirituality, we are talking about more than just the Christian faith.  And sometimes, in the end, our main characters decide that they have no faith at all – just as some of our teens do.  And that is where authors take us on a real spiritual journey, when they are honest about the reality in which our teens live and understand the nuance of daily living.

So today, I bring you a Top 10 list of books that talk about faith and spirituality but are not necessarily labeled as “Inspirational fiction”.  This list was compiled with help from teen librarians on the Yalsa-bk listserv.

“‘Dear Jesus, dear Jesus.’ This is a sincere prayer. ‘Please let my brother hear me.’ I tell Zach everything.  It’s a repeat, these words, a cry of loneliness.” – Carol Lynch Williams

“Same thing with water towers and God. I don’t have to be a believer to be serious about my religion.”  – Pete Hautman

“To look at the world as it is, study it with the mind God’s given you, and believe: that’s faith. But to hide from hard facts, or hide them from others, because you’re afraid of where they might lead you . . . that’s just ignorance.” – R. J. Anderson
Book 2 in the Faery Rebels series by R. J. Anderson

“Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord, but sometimes it’s hard not to get a jump on it yourself.”  – Robin Brande

“I know a place called New Beginnings, but I don’t think it works quite like that. You can’t just erase everything that came before.” – Sara Zarr

“Belief means nothing without actions” – Rande Abdel-Fattah

“I don’t care if you care, I retorted. But in my religion, we’re taught to admit our mistakes and to apologize for them…Oh, and there’s one other thing I’m sorry about, I added. I should’ve spit in your eye and called you a szhlob weeks ago.” – Amy Fellner Dominy

God’s will. How many times have I heard someone declare their understanding of this thing I find so indefinable?”  – Rae Carson

“What matters more: the high school social order or getting to know someone extraordinary?” – from Goodreads summary

“Could the boy who terrorizes her at school be behind it all? And how can she save the family she is actually growing to love when her fear always leaves her quaking?” – from the Goodreads summary

Some other contenders include:
Armageddon Summer by Jane Yolen
My Name is Not Esther by Fleur Beale
The Island by Gary Paulsen
Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Patterson
Running Out of Time by Margaret Petterson Haddix
Small Town Sinners by Melissa Walker
Irises by Francisco X. Stork
Days of Little Texas by R. A. Nelson
Shine, Coconut Moon by Nisha Meminger
Thou Shalt Not Roadtrip by Anthony John

What are we missing? Please let us know in the comments.

Top 10: Books for the Geek in Us All

The second week in March is reserved for Teen Tech Week in teen services everywhere.  Sponsored by YALSA we take the whole week to celebrate the formats of tech in the library- databases and online help, text reference, ebooks, movies and much more!  Yet, there is no reason why we can’t celebrate Teen Tech Week with some sensational hard copies, either!  Below, find 10 (in one base, not binary) books that celebrate this year’s theme while enticing teen readers….

15 short stories from some of the most amazing and geeky authors today
4th in the Uglies series, Extras debates the questions about what happens when you’re too popular….    Optioned by Fox.

When their AOL in the 80’s shows them their Facebook future, can they change it? Or do they want to? Optioned for the big screen by Warner Brothers

Sequel to Little Brother, Marcus is back, and having to chose between  his dream job and continuing the rebellion he started.

True story of Kevin Mitnick, hacking his way through companies and keeping one step ahead of the authorities.  

Sent by his parents to summer camp in order to ‘normalize’ him from his  RPG world, Perry instead finds the creators of his game, and will need all his skills (both gaming and social) in order to save the princess in this game.

Very (Veronica) is addicted to tech- can’t live without her iPod, IM, texts, comp time….  But when she’s forced to go to tech rehab, can she figure out her life before it’s too late?

Always trusting Society to control everything, Cassia is perfectly content with her match- until a second face appears for a brief second.  Can she regain her trust with Society, or will she forge a new and dangerous path?  Trilogy optioned by Disney.

Drawing upon actual interviews with the hackers of Anonymous and LulzSec, this tells the tales of the most  organized and secretive hacker group so far. 

In 2044, Wade escapes reality by burying himself in videogames, and trying to discover the Ticket that will give one person unlimited money and power- if you can unlock the puzzle.  Optioned for the big screen by Warner Brothers.

Top 10: You Could Have Been an X-Men

“Ladies and gentlemen, the truth is that mutants are very real, and that they are among us. We must know who they are, and above all, what they can do!” – X-Men, 2000

Inspired by today’s review of Nobody by Jennifer Lynne Barnes, here is a list of 10 ya titles with characters that have supernatural or genetically altered powers, which would make them awesome X-men.  Because some people might consider this list spoilery, proceed with caution.  After you click READ MORE, the covers will appear and there is no turning back.

 You have been warned.

 Spoiler Space

“People are always going to think something about you that isn’t real. It doesn’t matter what they think.”
Malinda Lo, Adaptation

“I have a curse.
I’m a monster.
My touch Is lethal.
I am their weapon.
Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me

‘No, you don’t.’ If I hear him say the word love, I don’t know what I’ll do. I still have my gun. Maybe one day I can forgive him, but all chance of that goes out the window if he claims he did it for love. If you love someone, the idea is respect them enough to trust them. Not to take away their freedom. Their life.”
Dan Krokos, False Memory

“I’ll add it to the box under my bed labeled ‘The Secret Confession of the Immortal Pia’. Good Lord, girl, don’t look so mortified. There’s not actually a box.”
Jessica Khoury, Origin

“In the dictionary, next to the word stress, there is a picture of a midsize mutant stuck inside a dog crate, wondering if her destiny is to be killed or to save the world. Okay, not really. But there should be.”
James Patterson, The Angel Experiment

“I filled my head with thoughts of the future, of infinite possibly. There’s someone out there who will one day find me and fall in love with me and prove that all this waiting actually meant something….”
Perry Moore, Hero

“Life at H.I.V.E. may have its attractions after all, Otto thought. Friends, as they say, may come and go, but high-powered laser weapons are forever.”
Mark Walden, H.I.V.E. Higher Institute of Villainous Education

“I have perfect instincts. And my sister can see the future.  And my boss’s secretary can read minds. And my ex-roommate can feel other people’s emotion’s” – Kiersten White, Mind Games

Have any others? Share with us in the comments. 

Take 10: Myths Made Real, when the world of myth invades the real world

“If I wasn’t careful, I had no doubt this monstrous wonderland would swallow Alice whole . . .” – My Soul to Save, Rachel Vincent

With All My Soul, book 7 in the Soul Screamers series by Rachel Vincent, is scheduled for publication on April 1, 2013.  Soul Screamers is an urban fantasy about bean sidhe (banshee) Kaylee Cavanaugh.  Kaylee must balance her life as a high school student while trying to prevent the Netherworld from bleeding over into it.  There are hellions, reapers and more out to steal her soul.  Oh yeah, and we people are about to die, she starts screaming.

A Banshee is a woman from Irish mythology who begins to wail when someone is about to die.  A banshee is considered by some to be a type of fairy or a representative of the Underworld. You can find out more about the Soul Screamers series at http://rachelvincent.com/soulscreamers.htm.  Also, The Soul Screamers series has a huge following on Tumblr so check it out.  If you are not reading the Soul Screamers series, you are missing a great paranormal series that has developed a complex mythology based on characters not typically seen in today’s paranormal romance; there are plenty of vampires, werewolves and angels, so I recommend that you try Soul Screamers for something new and very interesting.

Want to dip your toe into more of the underworld? Check out these books.

The Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa
Megan Chase finally learns the reason she has never felt like she truly fit into this world, she is the daughter of the mythical faerie king.
“I licked my lips and whispered, “Is this where you say you’ll kill me?”
One corner of his lips curled. “If you like,” he murmured, a flicker of amusement finally crossing his face. “Though it’s gotten far too interesting for that.”  – The Iron King, The Iron Fey book 1
Misfit by Jon Skovron
Jael discovers that she is part-demon the same time that she discovers that there are those among the demon world that want her dead.
“The stuff you do is way more important than the stuff you believe.”
The Fury Trilogy by Elizabeth Miles
Three strange girls visit the town of Ascension, Maine during a snowy winter and life is never the same as a deadly plan for revenge is put into place.
“Sometimes sorry isn’t enough . . .”
Croak by Gina Damico
Lex gets shipped off to live with her uncle who decides he is going to teach her the family business: reaping.
“Life isn’t fair. Why should death be any different?”
The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter
Kate must pass a series of seven tests in order to make a deal with Hades and keep her dying mother alive.
“Me?” The corner of his mouth twitched. “I rule the dead. I am not one of them” 
The Wicked Lovely series by Melissa Marr
Aeslyn has always seen the faeiries, but they suddenly seem to be taking an interest in her.
“And he smiled at her, truly smiled- wicked and lovely…” 
Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama
A family curse, a haunting mystery, and the tragic love between a mermaid and a mortal weave their way into this haunting tale of love and death over the years.
“The more she loved, the more she ached.” 
The Reaper Diaries by Michelle Vail
At the age of 16, Molly is sent to an elite boarding school where she is trained to be a necromancer.
“The day I turned 16, my boyfriend-to-be died. I brought him back to life. Then things got a little weird . . .”
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Blue is drawn to the Raven Boys, who are on a quest of their own to wake a sleeping spirit.
“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve, Neeve said. ‘Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

YA Greek Mythology on Goodreads
YA Mermaids on Goodreads

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Christie’s 10 Best Words of Wisdom, To My Favorite Christmas Movies

Let’s face it, as teen specialists we are expected to be everything, even if we have that elusive position AS a teen librarian.  More often than not, being the teen specialist is included in a myriad of other duties, including youth programming  reference, tech services, and in my case, managerial duties.  Over decade or so I’ve been a degreed librarian (not to mention the years I’ve worked as a paraprofessional in libraries), I’ve had to come up with ways that keep me sane and happy, because I am of the FIRM belief that life is too short to be miserable.  So here are my Ten Best Words of Wisdom.  And, as my holiday bonus to you, it’s tied to my list of favorite Christmas movies.

10.  Do what you’re good at (Nightmare Before Christmas)
Remember when Jack finds the different holiday lands?  And he decides that he wants to be Santa Claus?  And how everything went wrong and all the kids were crying?  It was because Jack SUCKED at being Santa, but was AWESOME as the king of Halloween.  It’s the same with librarianship.  You need to find what YOU are good at, and be good at it.  If you can rock gaming nights but suck at origami, then do gaming nights and bring someone in that can do origami.  If you need to brush up on your dystopian YA, then go and start reading some.  You can’t just think that your winning personality is going to go over with teens.  They know when someone is trying, and when someone is just showing up for the job, and they respond appropriately.

9.  Don’t make things difficult.  They’ll get that way all on their own.  (Lethal Weapon)
Life can make things too complicated, whether for personal or professional reasons.  Make sure that you take the time to make things as easy as possible.  Get a year long (or school year) calendar, and sit down one day, and plan out your tentative programs, then go over it with whomever you need to check with.  Then map out what exactly you’ll need in terms of money, supplies and man-power in order to get that accomplished.  Take programming breaks between big seasons so that you and your library staff are well rested for the next onslaught; I make sure to take breaks in September (after summer reading and summer ends), January (during Midwinter Meetings when I know I’m swamped with meetings and after our holiday breaks), and mid-May (during the end-of-school/graduation season and when we’re really gearing up for summer reading).  These steps help me de-compress and let me plan the next pieces of the puzzle.

8. I will count to three.  There will not be a four.  (Die Hard)
I have always taken a hard-line approach with my teens no matter where I have worked, and I have never had any of the major problems that I’ve heard other librarians talk about (disrespect, talking back, mocking, threatening, etc.)  Everyone knows in my library that my word is THE word, and that if they misbehave, there are clear consequences for their actions.  Has that hampered their relationship with us?  I don’t think so- considering we’re the second home to most of them, we have kids lined up before we’re opened to get into the library, and I was invited to the 2013 high school graduation in October.  Make sure that your authority is known and backed up- you can be their friend as well as their authority figure.

7.  The most enduring traditions of the season are best enjoyed in the warm embrace of kith and kin. Thith tree is a thymbol of the thspirit of the Griswold family Chrithmath  (Christmas Vacation)
Family is important, and sometimes I think as librarians (no matter what flavor) we can let work get in the way of that.  We get bogged down by the politics of the system, or what happened with a co-worker or teen, or what the next book is we have to read, or something else happens. And then family gets set aside sometimes.  STOP IT.  And family doesn’t mean family in the traditional sense- it can mean close friends, your support system, people you need when things get rough.  Internet conversations, while helping make connections and keep friendships going, don’t always keep things they way they should be.  So pick up the phone, and make a movie date, or a dinner date, or a pot-luck.

6.  YUM, YUM.  (Gremlins)
Chocolate.  Do you have chocolate?  Or tea?  Do you drink tea?  Do you listen to music and sing in the car?  If not, what are your go to things for when you’re stressed?  Do you know them?  If not, find them, because everyone needs stress relief, and while shooting NERF guns at the teens works in the short term, you can’t always be assured that they will not return fire.  So it can help if you can squirrel away your favorite tea bag, or your favorite candy, or a playlist on your MP3 player, and give yourself some quiet time to destress when you need it.

5.  I am Catwoman. Hear me roar. (Batman Returns)
Take a moment, and look back over everything you’ve done in the past year.  How AWESOME has that been?  How accomplished are you for doing all of that?  Now, don’t forget that, because chances are, sometime you’ll get down on yourself about something- either no one will come to a program, or a patron will have a bad day and take it out on you, or something else will go wrong, and you will just feel awful.  Always remember that you are doing GOOD things.  Roar.  Let the freak flag fly.  Be your own applause.

4.  Boomerang fish! Guaranteed fresh! Throw the fish A-WAY… and it comes back to me! Get ’em while they’re fresh! (Muppet Christmas Carol)
I love the Muppets.  Know why?  They know how to have fun with EVERYTHING!  And that’s important- you need to have fun in order to enjoy life.  If you are not enjoying your life, or your job, then something’s wrong, because we spend so much time at work and will be spending longer as retirement seems longer and longer away.  Always have fun:  celebrate birthdays, surprise a co-worker, do something special every once in a while.  http://www.workhappynow.com/2009/03/why-fish-philosophy-works/

3. Nothing beats being really honest about who you are and what you need.  All the rest just works itself out. (Four Christmases)
No matter what demands are placed on you throughout your job or library system, you have to remember to be true to yourself.  Librarians, as a profession, tend to have a dedication that goes above and beyond, and we can drain ourselves beyond our limits, both personally and monetarily.  Make sure that you know WHAT your limits are and STICK to them.  Take the breaks that you are entitled to, make sure that if you are working extra that you get the flex time you deserve, and that if you are doing programming, you are doing what you can reasonably accomplish.  Be honest and upfront with your managers, as well.  I want to know what my staff not only CAN do, but WANT to do, because a happy staff makes for a happy library.

2.  Sometimes you have to *slap* them in the face just to get their attention!  (Scrooged)
Always take some time to evaluate and re-evaluate your programming, collection and library on a regular basis, and not with the librarian eyes but with the eyes of a new-comer.  Is it inviting?  Do you offer things that are of interest?  What can you do to fix the situation?  Sometimes it’s as simple as updating the signage using Publisher, or talking to a librarian in a similar position in your system or in the surrounding area to share program ideas.  While library systems can be slow at adapting new ways of thinking at times (social media, etc.), there is no reason why you personally can’t start taking baby steps.

1.  So, do you think we should go untie everybody?  No.  I think we should unwrap them in the morning.  It’ll be more festive.  (The Ref)
I seem to alternate between a steady diet of cheerful, snark and downright dark sense of humor.  It works for me.  I have lined up on the window of my office, 14 Funko Pop figurines, of which only 4 are heroes.  Yet, I love going to Disney World.  I love the music of Danny Elfman.  I try my best to keep my sense of humor, no matter what variety it comes in, at all times, because really, you can’t live without it in this day and age.  The times when you take life absolutely seriously all the time is the time when you need to start thinking about another line of work, because you WILL burn out on teen services, and even public services.  I have been through professional, and personal, heartbreak, and I know that there will be more.  I’ve been through budget cuts.  That Guy went through two lay-offs while I was working towards my MLS.  I’ve had one parent survive cancer, and I have another that will not.  And the only way I’m going to keep going, and keep making it through, day after day, is keeping a balance of the dark and the light, with my sense of humor somewhere in there.  So make sure that you know where yours is, and try and laugh a little every day.

Top 10: Middle Grade Fiction, Graphically Speaking

If your job description is anything close to what I’ve seen, you get to fill in the blanks for the nebulous population known as the “tweens”- that 10-12 year old scary time where they can’t quite fit in with the teenagers because they’re “little” kids but they want to DO everything the teenagers do, from HALO tournaments to lock-ins, and are tired of the “baby” things that the little kids are doing.  Welcome to the “Tween zone” – kinda like the Twilight zone, but with tweens.

To a point, they’re right.  Their development and needs are different than younger kids, but they’re also different than teens, so what works for them won’t work for other groups.  The humor and sarcasm that works with teens won’t work with a lot of tweens, and the smoothing that you do with younger kids won’t work with them either.  Their reading habits differ as well- they need to be pushed into that world of inbetween books (whether you have it as junior high or juvenile or tween or chapter books) before they jump from picture to teen books.  This is the time where a lot of kids will loose that love of reading- often times because they struggle in making the transition from picture book to “grown up”, and don’t have the encouragement.

So what do you do?  I like pulling my hybrid books- those books that still have the graphics and illustrations throughout the book to keep their interest, but have the story and characters that build depth and encourage their thought process and critical thinking.  While they’re a relatively new genre (think Captain Underpants), they’re still mostly found under juvenile fiction, and can get lost between copies of Wonder, The Giver, and Mark of Athena.

I’ve pulled together the TOP TEN books that my “tweens” are DEVOURING that have a twist- they’re books, but are illustrated or graphic novels without delving into the world of manga.  And they can easily be turned into a book program- take leftover notebooks or journals and have them create their own illustrated journals.  Have an origami program and create characters from the books. Draw yourself in the style of the books and see who has the best character!

If you know of titles that fit but didn’t make the list, share in the comments below!

Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney.  I cannot keep these on the shelves, in English or in Spanish.  They are constantly moving, and the request list is always long.  And with the movies continuing to be popular, I don’t think my list is leaving any time soon.

Zita the Spacegirl series by Ben Hatke.  Zita is a kick-butt heroine who doesn’t blink when her best friend is abducted by aliens.  So far there are two books in the series, but I’m hopeful more are on the way.

Dork Diaries series by Rachel Renee Russell.  My tween girls are IN LOVE with these books- these are Nikki’s diaries as she goes through moving to a new school  fighting for an iPhone with her mom, and other 8th grade struggles.

The Origami Yoda series by Tom Angleberger.  Tying into the popularity of the Star Wars franchise, Angleberger puts these characters into tweens mindsets and humorous situations, and gives instructions for how to create the origami versions both in the back of the books and on his website.

NERDS series by Michael Buckley.  The unpopular 5th graders aren’t what they seem- they’re actually running a secret spy ring within the school itself.  Transforming themselves into amazing super spy heroes, the outcomes are hilarious  and keep my tweens laughing.


Bone series by Jeff Smith.  First published in 2005, New York Times Bestseller, still extremely popular.  Just fair warning, however, that there may be “inappropriate subjects” (smoking and other issues do appear throughout the books)  

Artemis Fowl:  The Graphic Novel.  This one actually surprised me, because I hadn’t had anyone asking for the books, but they’ve really been asking for the graphic novel.  I think it’s great, and I’ve actually been able to turn some of the graphic novel readers into series readers while waiting for the read of the graphic novels to come out.  And it doesn’t help that I have the author’s page bookmarked where he does all eight books in eight minutes…

Babymouse series by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm.  Babymouse can skew young, but my tweens can’t get enough.  The schoolhouse drama between Babymouse and her nemesis Felicia Furrypaws goes on and on and on, and the adventures seem endless!

Lunch Lady series by Jarrell J. Krosoczka.  Taking her Breakfast Brunch through a series of ongoing adventures is the brave Lunch Lady, fighting with weapons like the spatu-copter, the spork phone, GPS gum, ziti microscopes, and carrot thumb drives.  Like Babymouse, this series does skew on the younger side.

Dragonbreath series by Ursula Vernon.  Danny is unique, the only dragon, and is constantly getting into situations eerily similar to the ones that tweens face (having to watch a younger sibling and things go wrong, being bullied, etc.)  The humor laced throughout the books, as well as the as-is-well endings, gives this series’ off beat humor a home in tweens’ hearts.
What are your tweens reading?

10 Things I am thankful for . . .

Today is a day of thanks, and I have plenty to give.

I am thankful for . . .

1) The opportunity to get up every day and do what I love both as a teen services librarian and as a blogger. I know that I am inordinately blessed to have found myself doing exactly the things I am supposed to be doing in life.

2) Stephanie, Christie, Heather – fantastic partners in crime and working hard to make a difference in the lives of teens. Plus, they are totally cool.

3) The sometimes TLTers who share booklists, book recs, book reviews, program ideas and more.  Kearsten, Maria, Karen D and Eric Devine are all honorary TLTers – to name just a few – who help cover topics that us regular TLTers don’t consider our best topics.

4) The authors who write fantastic books and make our jobs so much easier.  I love nothing more than hearing a teen come back and say, “I loved that book you told me to read.”  With your words, you make a difference.

5) The publishers who help make this blog possible by sending ARCs and making sure we know about upcoming titles.  The truth is, blogging has made me a much better teen services librarian because I have grown so much in my knowledge of collection development tools and resources like Edelweiss and Netgalley.  And I have found that ARCs make it so much easier for me to decide whether or not a book title will work in my community.  The publishers I have met are just as passionate about books and stories and the power behind the words as most librarians are.

6) Everyone who does guest blog posts.  It’s nice to get different points of views, hear different stories, and hear about new books.  Also, sometimes it is nice to take a day off of blogging (I never knew how much “work” this would be) and spend time with my kids.  A special thanks to the authors who take time out of very busy promotional schedules to write a guest blog post.  You make me feel like a rock star for a day.

7) Blog readers! You give me a forum to share my passion, get different points of view, and, let’s face it, it’s so much more fun and fulfilling when you are talking with someone.  I talk to myself sometimes, it’s much less fun than talking to you.

8) My teens, of course.  I love getting to be a part of their lives and being invited in. They are smart and witty and they our not only our future, but our here and now.  Library services to teens matter because teens themselves matter.

9) The Mr., who is incredibly supportive and sometimes a participate in all things TLT.  When he picks up a book and reads it, I get his two cents.  And he gives up a lot of time and energy to support me and my passion for TLT.  He has also opened his wallet on occasion to pay for prizes, shipping prizes, and sending me to conferences.  All in all, he is a good egg indeed.

10) My kids.  Man I love them.  And to be honest, they are incredibly patient when they wake up in the morning and come out to the kitchen and see me typing.  They know that when I say give me 5 more minutes I mean 10.  They ask me about the books I read, and sometimes they read them with me.  A special shout out to the Tween who has appeared in a lot of posts around here, giving her opinion, sharing her art work, and just generally being her awesome self.  And oh yeah – they get dragged to a lot of meet the author events.  They have met Lauren Oliver, Michael Scott and Claire Legrand to name just a few.

Top 10: Gaming in the Library

The first Saturday in November is now reserved for International Games Day, and I happen to love it.  I know it may tweak some librarians (IT’S NOT READING!!!!) but gaming is literacy if you know what to look for, and it’s an important tool in the 40 Developmental Aspects for Teens (and for younger kids as well).  I’ve had teens that wouldn’t talk to each other work together on video games and puzzles, and those that weren’t joiners crow after winning a difficult round of Monopoly.  So, for International Games Day, I’ve compiled a list of my Top Ten, both in books and games.  (and Happy Birthday to Karen!!)

For The Win by Cory Doctorow.  Struggling to make a living in the video game world, teens from across the world combine to fight the battle not only in the video game world but in real life….

Monopoly.  My tweens and teens love ANY version of Monopoly that I can get my hands on, and a game will go on for 5-6 hours.  We play by house rules:  any money from taxes goes into Free Parking, and they can make alliances, trade properties, etc.  Your house rules may be a bit different, but teens definitely get into the game.

Super Smash Bros Brawl by Nintendo.  It’s been on a variety of the Nintendo platforms, and currently is available on the Wii, and kids of all ages love playing it.  I have really good success having tournaments, and I know that for Game Day libraries across the country have set up cross-country battles.  I always think it’s funny because I’m pretty good at it, and my teens will get someone unsuspecting to play, and I’ll be the Princess, and go to town with an umbrella or an onion.

Unidentified by Rae Mariz.  When Katey’s attempt at self-thought brings her the attention of the sponsors, will it be her big break, or selling out to the corporations in control?

Zombie Fluxx by Looney Labs.  The rules and goals are ever changing, so you have to read VERY carefully and pay attention in order to win this very challenging game.  And watch out for Larry!

Little Big Planet 1 & 2.  My kids really like going through the different levels available, and those that play solo have discovered the challenges of designing their own courses, and then having their friends play through.  We’ve even had a teen night where one set will be designing their course, and then the second half will play through and they’ll vote on the best level.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.  When gamer Wade stumbles onto a clue that may take him to the end of the puzzle and the fortune, his world is turned upside down.  Can he solve the riddles before the game gets to him?

Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot by Playroom Entertainment.  The most RANDOM game in the free world, and the best because there is not a clear winner until the end.  You go through killing everyone else’s bunnies, and buying up themed carrots, then at the end, there is one SPECIFIC carrot that is the winner.  TA DA!  CHAOS (and the teenage years) personified.

Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe by Midway Games and DC Comics.  My teens love having tournaments, and I make sure I have the key fighting combinations printed out and lying around so that those who aren’t playing can study them ahead of time.  When we have after hours gaming, often times they’ll go through story mode on different difficulties, unlocking the characters for later.
Halo by Bungie and Microsoft Studios.  This actually counts for gaming and books, because teens who love the games DEVOUR the books that I have in the library, and not just the graphic novel adaptations, either.  They’ve gone through the full science fiction story lines by Greg Bear and Karen Traviss over and over, and are always asking when we’re getting more in.  And they’re always up for tournament play.  We’re lucky in that I have a computer lab next to my little library, and so I can load up the Halo Trial (which does not need permission slips as it’s not rated anything more than teen), and run a tournament in our lab without bothering other patrons.  The only cost to me is time, and a few small prizes.
You can download the poster at http://www.box.com/s/duxk17uo59eveyip5ut1
So what are your favorite gaming books or games that you’ve done in your library?  Share in the comments below!