Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Friday Finds: December 6, 2019

This Week at TLT

Escaping from Reality Shows us How to Change It, a guest post by Ryan La Sala

Cindy Crushes Programming: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Escape Room

Penguin Random House Spring 2020 Showcase

Take 5: YA Lit for Teens That Love to Bake

Sunday Reflections: Teachers, Please Stop Giving Kids Homework Over School Breaks

Around the Web

‘We Wanted Our Patrons Back’ — Public Libraries Scrap Late Fines To Alleviate Inequity

The Problem with Picture Book Monkeys

Here’s What’s Happening in the American Teenage Bedroom

How Dyslexia is a Different Brain, Not a Disease

Sunday Reflections: Teachers, Please Stop Giving Kids Homework Over School Breaks

It’s Thanksgiving week and The Teen is doing . . . homework, homework and more homework. She’s done projects. She’s done reports. And today, the last Sunday of her week long holiday break, she’s studying for a test that will be on the Monday after break.

She is not alone. I’ve spoken to many teens who have done a ton of homework this week on holiday break. Families have had to alter plans. My daughter has studied in the car while travelling to Thanksgiving dinner with family. She stayed home while other went and participated in family holiday traditions like looking at lights.

In short, The Teen hasn’t gotten a break at all.

And as her parent, I’m kind of resentful of it, to be honest.

One of the excuses we often hear about homework is that we’re preparing our kids for the world of work. But here’s the thing, a vast majority of the people I know don’t do work they aren’t paid for. I know there are exceptions. My husband is in management and he has left family gathering because an alarm went off or some other issue occurred. But on the whole, when adults aren’t working their time is exactly that, their time.

But that’s not the case for teens around the globe. Their time outside of school is spent doing more school work.

I’ve dropped my daughter off at 5:30 in the morning at the school only to pick her up at 7:00 PM after a variety of after school activities and then watched her stay up well past midnight to complete homework. Most nights in the last month I’ve maybe seen my daughter for about 5 minutes before she sat herself down at the kitchen table and eaten while she’s done hours worth of homework.

I’ve watched her breakdown and cry as she told me how much homework she had and how she had no idea how she was going to get it all done.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the amount of homework our teens have. My daughter is a junior in high school and she has 8 teachers who don’t talk to one another as they schedule homework and tests and that’s a lot of work to pile up one on top of another. That’s like having 8 different bosses who don’t communicate with each other at all piling on projects that all have the same due date despite the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day.

Add to this issue the fact that science tells us that teens need far more sleep and need to sleep in later and you have a real recipe for disaster.

The Teen has up until this past year been a prolific reader. The only book she has been able to read this year is 1984 by George Orwell, and she only made the time to read it because it was assigned, as were several projects and tests surrounding it.

I have seen a real push back against giving younger kids homework and allow them more time to engage in play and downtime, but I have not seen that same push back for our teens. At the same time, I see a lot of articles out there talking about the rising rates of stress, anxiety, addiction and suicide among our teens. And in our profession we talk a lot about the declining rates of teens attending library programs and reading for fun. I posit that there is a correlation between the amount of homework our teens are facing and this intense academic pressure and the mental health of our teens.

What I would like to suggest is this: If you are a teacher, please don’t assign any projects or homework over school breaks. Let kids genuinely have a break. Don’t assign tests on the Mondays after break either.

Keep in mind that your homework assignments don’t just affect the kids in your class, they impact families. I have many a friend who posted this past week on Facebook about how they had to modify or cancel plans because of the amount of homework their kids had.

Most importantly, remember that teens need down time too. They need a real break. Everyone needs a time and a space to decompress and enjoy family and friends, even our teens. Keeping teens motivated and helping them learn, grown and develop good work ethics doesn’t have to mean they have to work 24/7. One of the greatest things we can teach our kids is how to develop healthy lifestyles that include a work/life balance that allows them to thrive.

Winter break is coming up and I’m counting on you: please don’t assign homework over the break. Everyone deserve a break.

Friday Finds: November 29, 2019

This Week at TLT

RevolTeens: The Lies We Tell and the Teens We Hurt

New books alert: An alternative history fairytale, a romance, middle school friendship, and more!

If You Like The Good Place, Read This

Crash Course: Recent poetry books for younger readers

Cindy Crushes Programming: DIY Lip Scrubs

Around the Web

Active Shooter Drills May Not Stop A School Shooting — But This Method Could

Pennsylvania Overhauls Its Child Sex Abuse Laws

Report: High Schoolers’ Lack of Digital Literacy Skills Is “Troubling”

Many Native Americans Can’t Get Clean Water, Report Finds

Addressing dyslexia is key to reducing criminal recidivism

New books alert: An alternative history fairytale, a romance, middle school friendship, and more!

I am very lucky to get so! many! books!

All of the books I get end up going back out the door in some fashion—to teen readers I know, to classroom libraries of friends, to my own school, or in giveaways. 

I can’t read/review every book I get, but it’s fun to be able to sift through boxes and see what grabs my attention, and to see what books will find loving new homes with the right reader. The following are the books that have arrived here in the past few weeks. I will be reviewing many of them in the upcoming months on TLT. See something you’ve already read and need to make sure I don’t skip? Or something you’re super excited to read when it comes out? Let me know with a comment here or on Twitter, where I’m @CiteSomething.

All descriptions from the publishers.

Belle Revolte by Linsey Miller (ISBN-13: 9781492679226 Publisher: Sourcebooks Publication date: 02/01/2020 Ages 14 up)

From the author of the Mask of Shadows duology comes a standalone fantasy where two young women must trade lives, work together to stay alive, and end a war caused by magic and greed before it kills thousands.

Emilie de Marais is more at home holding scalpels than embroidery needles and is desperate to escape her noble roots to serve her country as a physician. But society dictates a noble lady cannot perform such gruesome work.

Annette Boucher, overlooked and overworked by her family, wants more from life than her humble beginnings and is desperate to be trained in magic. So when a strange noble girl offers Annette the chance of a lifetime, she accepts.

Emilie and Annette swap lives—Annette attends finishing school as a noble lady to be trained in the ways of divination, while Emilie enrolls to be a physician’s assistant, using her natural magical talent to save lives.

But when their nation instigates a terrible war, Emilie and Annette come together to help the rebellion unearth the truth before it’s too late.

The Queen Bee and Me by Gillian McDunn (ISBN-13: 9781681197517 Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Publication date: 03/03/2020 Ages 8-12)

From the highly acclaimed author of Caterpillar Summer comes a heartfelt story about the sweetness and stings of middle-school friendship.

Meg has always found comfort in her best friend Beatrix’s shadow. Self-assured Beatrix is the one who makes decisions, and the girls have been a pair since kindergarten. But middle school has brought some changes in Beatrix, especially when Meg tries to step outside her role as sidekick.

A special science elective is Meg’s first step away, but when she’s paired with quirky new girl Hazel, Beatrix steps in to stake her claim on Meg. Meg is taken aback at how mean Beatrix can be—and how difficult it is to stand up to her friend. But as Meg gets to know Hazel while working on their backyard beehive project, she starts to wonder: Is being Beatrix’s friend worth turning down the possibility of finding her own voice?

This pitch-perfect exploration of middle-school friendship dynamics brims with heart and hope, and will resonate with readers of all ages.

Wicked As You Wish by Rin Chupeco (ISBN-13: 9781492672661 Publisher: Sourcebooks Publication date: 03/03/2020 Ages 14 up)

An unforgettable alternative history fairytale series from the author of The Bone Witch trilogy about found family, modern day magic, and finding the place you belong.

Many years ago, the magical Kingdom of Avalon was left desolate and encased in ice when the evil Snow Queen waged war on the powerful country. Its former citizens are now refugees in a world mostly devoid of magic. Which is why the crown prince and his protectors are stuck in…Arizona.

Prince Alexei, the sole survivor of the Avalon royal family, is in hiding in a town so boring, magic doesn’t even work there. Few know his secret identity, but his friend Tala is one of them. Tala doesn’t mind—she has secrets of her own. Namely, that she’s a spellbreaker, someone who negates magic.

Then hope for their abandoned homeland reignites when a famous creature of legend, and Avalon’s most powerful weapon, the Firebird, appears for the first time in decades. Alex and Tala unite with a ragtag group of new friends to journey back to Avalon for a showdown that will change the world as they know it.

Time of Our Lives by Emily Wibberley, Austin Siegemund-Broka (ISBN-13: 9781984835833 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 04/21/2020 Ages 14 up)

A reflective, romantic coming-of-age novel that explores life after high school—perfect for fans of Fangirl and Emergency Contact

A boy desperate to hold on, a girl ready to let go.

Fitz Holton waits in fear for the day his single mother’s early-onset Alzheimer’s starts stealing her memory. He’s vowed to stay close to home to care for her in the years to come—never mind the ridiculous college tour she’s forcing him on to visit schools where he knows he’ll never go. Juniper Ramirez is counting down the days until she can leave home, a home crowded with five younger siblings and zero privacy. Against the wishes of her tight-knit family, Juniper plans her own college tour of the East Coast with one goal: get out.

When Fitz and Juniper cross paths on their first college tour in Boston, they’re at odds from the moment they meet— while Juniper’s dying to start a new life apart from her family, Fitz faces the sacrifices he must make for his. Their relationship sparks a deep connection—in each other’s eyes, they glimpse alternate possibilities regarding the first big decision of their adult lives.

Time of Our Lives is a story of home and away, of the wonder and weight of memory, of outgrowing fears and growing into the future.

We Are Not Free by Traci Chee (ISBN-13: 9780358330004 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 06/09/2020 Ages 12 up)

“All around me, my friends are talking, joking, laughing. Outside is the camp, the barbed wire, the guard towers, the city, the country that hates us.

We are not free.

But we are not alone.”

From New York Times best-selling and acclaimed author Traci Chee comes We Are Not Free, the collective account of a tight-knit group of young Nisei, second-generation Japanese American citizens, whose lives are irrevocably changed by the mass U.S. incarcerations of World War II.

Fourteen teens who have grown up together in Japantown, San Francisco.

Fourteen teens who form a community and a family, as interconnected as they are conflicted.

Fourteen teens whose lives are turned upside down when over 100,000 people of Japanese ancestry are removed from their homes and forced into desolate incarceration camps.

In a world that seems determined to hate them, these young Nisei must rally together as racism and injustice threaten to pull them apart.

Forest of Souls by Lori M. Lee (ISBN-13: 9781624149245 Publisher: Page Street Publishing Publication date: 06/23/2020 Ages 14 up)

Danger lurks within the roots of Forest of Souls, an epic, unrelenting tale of destiny and sisterhood, perfect for fans of Naomi Novik and Susan Dennard.

Sirscha Ashwyn comes from nothing, but she’s intent on becoming something. After years of training to become the queen’s next royal spy, her plans are derailed when shamans attack and kill her best friend Saengo.

And then Sirscha, somehow, restores Saengo to life.

Unveiled as the first lightwender in living memory, Sirscha is summoned to the domain of the Spider King. For centuries, he has used his influence over the Dead Wood—an ancient forest possessed by souls—to enforce peace between the kingdoms. Now, with the trees growing wild and untamed, only a lightwender can restrain them. As war looms, Sirscha must master her newly awakened abilities before the trees shatter the brittle peace, or worse, claim Saengo, the friend she would die for.

Crash Course: Series books for beginning readers

Earlier this month I wrote about picture books and graphic novels for elementary students. Today I’m tackling popular series books for beginning readers. You may call the readers or this group of books something different—maybe books for emergent readers or maybe early readers. Whatever the terminology, these books with great stories and lots of illustrations are perfect for kids who are growing in their reading fluency and ready to sit down and read a book on their own.

As with my other posts in this series, these are books that are popular at the elementary school where I work. Have suggestions for other titles to look into? Let us know in the comments or over on Twitter!

Summaries here of book one in each series are from WorldCat.

Unicorn and Yeti series by Heather Ayris Burnell, Hazel Quintanilla

Book one: Sparkly New Friends

“Unicorn and Yeti run into each other (literally) while looking for sparkly things, and despite some differences, (for instance Unicorn is magic, Yeti is not, Yeti likes snowball fights, Unicorn can not throw snowballs)–the two become friends over a shared love of hot chocolate with rainbow sprinkles.”

This new series is VERY popular at my school. Are we in the golden age of Unicorns? I think so. Practically every day I’m complimenting some kiddo on their unicorn-themed clothing or accessories.

Tales of Sasha series by Alexa Pearl, Paco Sordo

Book one: The Big Secret

“In the Tales of Sasha series debut, Sasha discovers that she really isn’t like the other horses in her valley when wings sprout from her back and she soars through the air!”

Dragon Masters series by Tracey West, Graham Howells

Book one: Rise of the Earth Dragon

“Drake never thought dragons were real. But he soon learns that dragons are real – and that he is a Dragon Master! The magic Dragon Stone has chosen Drake and three others – Ana, Rori, and Bo – to train dragons. Will Drake be able to connect with his dragon? Does he have what it takes to become a true Dragon Master?”

This is one of our most popular series. Often when readers have moved on from this section at our school, I will see them check out a harder book aimed at older readers but also grab one of these for their second choice.


Zapato Power series by Jacqueline Jules, Miguel Benitez

Book one: Freddie Ramos Takes Off

“Freddie finds a mysterious package outside his apartment containing sneakers that allow him to run faster than a train, and inspire him to perform heroic deeds.”

Yasmin series by Saadia Faruqi, Hatem Aly

Book one: Meet Yasmin!

“In this compilation of four separately published books, Pakistani American second grader Yasmin learns to cope with the small problems of school and home, while gaining confidence in her own skills and creative abilities.”

I was thrilled when we got a bunch more of this in recently. Curious and bold Yasmin brings great energy to her every adventure. The illustrations are GREAT—I want to dress like Yasmin!

Sadiq series by Siman Nuurali, Anjan Sarkar

Book one: Sadiq and the Desert Star

“Sadiq’s father is going on a business trip, but before he goes he tells Sadiq a story of the Desert Star, which fits in perfectly with Sadiq’s third grade class field trip to the planetarium, and inspires Sadiq to build a simple telescope to study the stars when his father returns.”

This new series, featuring a Somali American Minnesota kid, was an instant hit at my school. HUGE need for this series to exist.

Critter Club series by Callie Barkley, Marsha Riti

Book one: Amy and the Missing Puppy

“During spring break, mystery-lover Amy looks for clues to the disappearance of wealthy Ms. Sullivan’s Saint Bernard puppy.”

Friendship and animals—a great draw for young readers! Super cute illustrations with the kiddos in varied situations (not all are mysteries).

King & Kayla series by Dori Hillestad Butler, Nancy Meyers

Book one: King & Kayla and the Case of the Missing Dog Treats

“King’s human, Kayla, has baked some treats for a friend’s new puppy, Thor, but some go missing and it is up to King to find the culprit.”

The books in this series are all mysteries and feature great narration from good doggo King.

Craftily Ever After series by Martha Maker, Xindi Yan

Book one: The Un-Friendship Bracelet

“Best friends Emily and Maddie have one big thing in common: they love to craft and create! Whether it’s making art with balloons, cities of cardboard and straws, or the matching friendship bracelets they wear, they’re always coming up with fresh ideas. But when a new student named Bella shows up at school, their friendship is put to the test. Maddie immediately befriends her and discovers that Bella is just as crafty as she and Emily are! As Maddie and Bella spend more time together, Emily finds herself spending more time alone. Then, when Emily’s friendship bracelet falls off, she begins to think that maybe it was an un-friendship bracelet this whole time. Will the friends find their craftily ever after?”

Sofia Martinez series by Jacqueline Jules, Kim Smith

Book one: My Family Adventure

“Follow 7-year-old Sofia Martinez as she deals with her family and daily adventures.”

I love Sofia! Like the Zapato series, this series includes lots of Spanish words that, for the most part, can be easily deciphered by non Spanish speakers, though this series does include a glossary.

Desmond Cole, Ghost Patrol series by Andres Miedoso, Victor Rivas

Book one: The Haunted House Next Door

“When supernatural things start happening in the house timid Andres and his parents just moved into, next-door-neighbor Desmond Cole, eight, comes to the rescue.”

We are forever being asked for “scary books” or “creepy books.” While these are certainly not actually scary or creepy, they seem to fit the bill for early readers.

Eerie Elementary series by Jack Chabert, Sam Ricks

Book one: The School Is Alive!

“Sam Graves discovers that his elementary school is alive and plotting against the students, and, as hall monitor, it is his job to protect them – but he will need some help from his friends.”

This series, too, is satisfyingly “scary” for younger readers.

The Notebook of Doom series by Troy Cummings

Book one: Rise of the Balloon Goons

“Alexander has just moved into Stermont, but the elementary school is being torn down, his new classroom is located in the hospital morgue, a notebook he finds is full of information about monsters and everywhere he turns there are spooky balloon men determined to attack him.”

Why yes, ANOTHER spooky series! Extremely popular at my school!

Owl Diaries series by Rebecca Elliott

Book one: Eva’s Treetop Festival

“This full-color, highly illustrated diary series is perfect for young readers who love friendship stories starring animal characters! Eva Wingdale gets in over her head when she offers to organize a spring festival at school. Will Eva have to ask Sue (a.k.a. Meanie McMeanerson) for help? Or will the festival have to be cancelled?”

Press Start series by Thomas Flintham

Book one: Game Over, Super Rabbit Boy!

“When King Viking and his evil robot army attack Animal Town, and kidnap Singing Dog, it is up to Super Rabbit Boy, with some help from Sunny and his video game console, to save the day.”

Do the children at your school or in your life suffer from video game mania? Probably. This gaming-based series flies off our shelves.

Molly Mac series by Marty Kelley

Book one: Tooth Fairy Trouble

“When Molly Mac loses her first tooth, talk of the Tooth Fairy makes her head spin! What does the Tooth Fairy do with all of those teeth anyway? Molly and her best friend, Kayley, decide to investigate. When Molly figures out what happens to her lost tooth, will she approve?”

Heidi Heckelbeck series by Wanda Coven, Priscilla Burris

Book one: Heidi Heckelbeck Has a Secret

After being homeschooled her whole life, Heidi Heckelbeck enters a real school in second grade, where she encounters a mean girl named Melanie who makes her feel like an alien.

Otherization of Sikh Women, a guest post by Jasmin Kaur

Today we are honored to host this moving guest post by author Jasmin Kaur.

Eyes wide with apprehension, lips parted with a sudden inhale, it was the same look of shock I’d grown used to. On this particular occasion, the white woman’s fingers furiously typed on her phone, perhaps to a friend. Her gaze bounced to each of my friends’ turbans and beards and finally landed on me. I had heard that Australia could often be inhospitable to immigrants and people of colour, but I didn’t think that in Melbourne, one of its most diverse cities, people would display their discomfort at the sight of Sikhs so unabashedly. Among the dozen of us waiting to be seated at the restaurant, I was the only one from out of town.

As painfully familiar as the woman’s wide-eyed glance was the feeling of otherness. Of my heart thumping with a sudden desire to be invisible. I turned to my friend, whispering that we were being watched.  Then, my friend did something that I was too emotionally exhausted to do: she asked the woman why she was staring.

“I recognized Jasmin Kaur. I think I follow her on Instagram.”

After we had a thoughtful conversation with the woman and my friends commented on how wonderful it was that this reader recognized me half away across the world from home, my mind was still spinning. I’d had many emotionally intense run-ins with strangers before, but never anything like this. Never a person staring at me in public with nothing but a kind word to say.

When I chose to tie a dastaar (Sikh turban) back in high school, I knew it would come with attention. In fact, this identity was made to draw attention. When the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, formalized our visible identity, the dastaar was an important element in rendering Sikhs unique and distinguishable from members of other faith communities. As a child, I distinctly remember sitting on the fir-green carpet of our local gurdwara (Sikh place of worship) listening to a speaker explain the story of why it was so important for us to stand out. When the tenth Guru’s father, Guru Tegh Bahadur, attained martyrdom in defence of a persecuted group of Kashmiri Hindus, Guru Gobind Singh questioned whether many Sikhs were present to witness the event. No one was sure because no one could tell who, exactly, was Sikh. It was in this moment that the guru declared that they would make Sikhs so distinct that even in a crowd of thousands, we would be unmissable.

There is beauty in being unmissable, in being so in love with your sovereignty as a kaur (Sikh woman) that you declare it with a crown. But there is also struggle. Each time I step out of the comfort of my own home, I enter a world that views my body as an artifact. By this, I mean that I am constantly on display to be studied, critiqued and openly discussed by strangers, often as though I am not even there. As though I am an object that can’t talk back. When I step into public spaces, I constantly move as though I am bracing myself for a tidal wave. The glares, the stares, the hateful comments exist within the memory of my tense muscles, my thumping heart, my lowered gaze that is too tired to observe which strangers happen to be ogling today.

I grew up in Abbotsford, a large-enough city in BC, Canada with a strong Punjabi population. White people are familiar with us. They see us every single day. And yet, I seem to exist here as a perpetual surprise. The other day, after a long stretch of writing from my bedroom, I decided to switch things up and work from a coffee shop. As soon as I swung open the door, two tables of middle-aged and elderly white people halted their conversations to stare at me. Eight people, to be exact. Their eyes followed me to my table, their necks twisting to keep up with my movements, until I sat down and they could finally let me go.

This type of staring is a common occurrence throughout my day. I’ve gotten it since I entered middle school when I began to tie a ramaal, a small headscarf that is much more subtle than a dastaar. Sometimes when people stare, I’ll smile. This will result in them either smiling back in embarrassment or looking away in surprise. As a woman of colour and a Sikh woman specifically, I don’t think I owe strangers a constantly positive, pleasant, model-minority attitude, though. Just like you, I could be having a bad day. Just like you, I could be caffeine-deprived, exhausted and just looking to quietly reach my next destination. I don’t need to be on all the time, maintaining my best “customer-service” attitude for strangers who consider me nothing more than “the other”. I don’t need to prove my humanity to white people. I don’t owe you a smile for your stares.

The stares and glares are irritating, but they are definitely not the worst. I’ve had more than my fair share of overtly racist run-ins with strangers, from local drivers shouting “terrorist!” at me as I walk down the street, to train passengers in Australia swearing at me for sitting next to them to store-clerks in Spain serving the white people standing behind me in line and simply pretending I don’t exist. These experiences add up, they pile one on top of the other and pack themselves at the back of my mind. They don’t make me want to remove my dastaar but they do remind me of the violence that comes from non-conformity in a world that seeks to synthesize everyone into a singular image.

“Usually when people stare at me in public spaces, it’s because of my Sikh identity.”

When I shared this with the white woman at the restaurant, she was flustered. Shocked to hear that I could be treated so badly by strangers. The two of clearly experienced the world through very different eyes.

I was quiet when we finally sat down to eat, trying to make sense of this strange concoction of emotions that arose from the interaction. Like many people of colour who experience microaggressions and overt racism in public spaces, my experiences have left me with a sense of guardedness. I don’t feel bad about it, though: I have more than enough reason to be anxious.   

Jasmin Kaur is the author of the YA poetry & prose release When You Ask Me Where I’m Going (October 1; HarperCollins), her debut book of poetry & prose that tells the story of 18-year old Kiran as she flees a history of trauma in Punjab and raises her daughter, Sahaara, while living undocumented in North America. Kaur’s writing is a powerful salve and formidable reclamation of self-acceptance and love in a world that often ignores, erases, or ridicules women of color and undocumented immigrants.

Crafting Community: Fire Me Up Studios by Stacey Shapiro

I’m back with another Crafting Community post. This time, we were hosted by the wonderful artisans of Fire Me Up Studios in my library’s town.  A pottery studio along the lines of Paint Your Heart Out if you’ve ever been to one, they also teach pottery classes along with painting and other art forms. Crafting Community is funded thanks to the Union County Grant, a local grant that has provided the funds for my library to be able to pay our artists. Since this particular program required equipment, it was an outreach opportunity to host the program at Fire Me Up Studios.

We worked in their mudroom, a room in the back of the studio where there are rows of potter’s wheels waiting for the students. We had six students sign up, and a friendly potter from Fire Me Up led the class. She taught us how to literally throw it on to the potter’s wheel so it would stick and be safe, and then demonstrated the several steps we needed to turn our clay into a usable bowl, cup, or pot. My hands were full of clay, so I couldn’t take process photos, but I can recreate what we were taught.

Each student threw a slab of clay we had warmed up by rolling into a ball onto our potter’s wheel. We shaped it into a cone, and then pushed it down into a hockey puck-like shape. This is where working with the clay became more difficult and the instructor had to move around to each of our potter’s wheels to help us individually. The more you work with the clay, the more fragile it becomes as well and we had to be careful not to overwork it. On my second piece, I dug down too hard to make an impression into the clay and ended up with a piece that had no bottom, which is far worse than a soggy bottom on the Great British Baking Show. The instruction, however, was great, and each participant ended up with two pieces. Fire Me Up let us choose our paint colors and we would be back to pick them up in three weeks’ time after two firings and painting.

Teens were eager to learn the new skill and  were mostly receptive during the class. Although there was a lot of confusion during the more complicated steps of pottery making, each teen made something that they will be able to pick up from the studio and take home. Offering classes like this outside of what they might be able to do in art classes provides new and exciting opportunities for our patrons, and hopefully creates a lasting relationship between the library and local businesses.

The only unfortunate thing in this class is that it isn’t easily replicable in other libraries. However, if you have a local pottery studio, make sure to reach out to them! We are, as always, grateful to Union County for the grant that has made this program possible.



Stacey Shapiro is a teen librarian in Cranford, New Jersey, a cat mom, and a BTS fan. She was a 2019 ALA Emerging Leader and is currently serving on the Printz 2020 committee. When she has any free time, she’s playing Breath of the Wild on the Switch.

Friday Finds: November 8, 2019

This Week at TLT

Crash Course: Recent picture books on community, caring, inclusivity, and connections

Cindy Crushes Programming: Fairy Tale Hairbows

Sick Kids in Love: A Look at Chronic Illness in the Life of Teens

Library Events That Bring Stories to Life, a guest post by L M Preston

Healing Is Not a Journey We Take Alone, a guest post by Bree Barton

Around the Web

There’s now an e-reader just for kids, and it misses what children love about books

Screen Use Tied to Children’s Brain Development

Most Of Nation’s Top Public Universities Aren’t Affordable For Low-Income Students

As Boycotts Mount, Macmillan CEO Defends Library E-book Embargo

Sick Kids in Love: A Look at Chronic Illness in the Life of Teens

Approximately 20 million kids and teens are living with a chronic illness. Roughly 40% of the population is living with a chronic illness. A chronic illness can last anywhere from 3 months to a lifetime and includes things like mental illness, diabetes, cerebral palsy, asthma, epilepsy and rheumatoid arthritis, just to name a few. They can be mildly uncomfortable and inconveniencing to incredibly painful and radically life changing. They can be both seen or unseen, meaning that many kids and teens are suffering and we may not ever know it because they don’t talk to us about it.

Adolescence and Chronic Illness

Sick Kids in Love is the story of two teens living with chronic illness and falling in love. Unlike the popular cancer stories of the early 2000s – I’m looking at you John Green – these kids don’t die. But they are living their lives with chronic illness, one is visible and the other is invisible. Isabel has Rheumatoid Arthritis and Sasha has Gaucher Disease. This sets up some interesting dynamics because although both teens clearly suffer from chronic illness, how they are treated and talked to and about are very different.

As the two fall in love, they are met with the every day challenges of normal adolescence compounded by the reality of living with chronic illness. They don’t just meet and fall in love, they have to learn how to be in a relationship together, something that a lot of YA lit doesn’t actually dive into that fully.

This book is moving, touching, and although the main characters may not die in the end, they will often still manage to make you ugly cry. It’s a huge step forward in disability representation in YA lit and highly recommended.

Publisher’s Book Description:

Isabel has one rule: no dating.
It’s easier–
It’s safer–
It’s better–
–for the other person.
She’s got issues. She’s got secrets. She’s got rheumatoid arthritis.
But then she meets another sick kid.
He’s got a chronic illness Isabel’s never heard of, something she can’t even pronounce. He understands what it means to be sick. He understands her more than her healthy friends. He understands her more than her own father who’s a doctor.
He’s gorgeous, fun, and foul-mouthed. And totally into her.
Isabel has one rule: no dating.
It’s complicated–
It’s dangerous–
It’s never felt better–
–to consider breaking that rule for him. 

Friday Finds: November 1, 2019

This Week at TLT

Dyslexia Awareness Month Wrap-Up: Spoiler Alert, there is no wrap up because there is no magical cure

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Spring 2020 Showcase: Rescue dogs, a family curse, the Paralympics, deadly magic, and more!

RevolTeens: Teens Speaking Out and Raising Awareness for Mental Health, by Christine Lively

On Your Radar: Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis

Book Review: The Light at the Bottom of the World by London Shah, a guest post by Sanya

Dyslexia Awareness Month: In Which I Interview My Child with Dyslexia

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