Teen Librarian Toolbox
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A Banjo as a Bridge, a guest post by Erica Waters

I first got the idea for Ghost Wood Song, my debut YA novel about a girl with a ghost-raising fiddle, from a spooky experience of my own. I was home alone, writing in my attic office, when I heard a banjo playing below. I crept down the stairs with all my senses tingling, but the music stopped. The room was empty and still, and my banjo rested innocently against a wall, perfectly silent. I chalked the phantom music up to vibrations in the banjo’s resonator and went back to work.

However, I couldn’t stop thinking about the idea of a ghost playing a musical instrument. What might he want to communicate? Could music be a bridge between the living and the dead? If so, would that bridge be safe to cross?

I was already deeply interested in bluegrass and folk music, so I knew I could write a story about ghosts set against those musical traditions. But I needed a character to bring the music to life. And out of the blue, she introduced herself to me. Her name was Shady Grove, named after my favorite Appalachian folk song. Her father had died and she was grieving and missing the music he’d taught her to love. But one day she heard his fiddle crying in the pine woods and believed he was calling to her.

Ghost Wood Song by Erica Waters

That fiddle became my bridge—an instrument that when played just right could call up ghosts and let them take a solid form, speak, even touch the ones they loved. It was temporary and dangerous, but it was a small form of resurrection. However, the real bridge wasn’t the fiddle itself but the music that Shady played.

Bluegrass tunes, murder ballads, classic country, gospel hymns.

It was music that I had grown up on in rural Florida but had forgotten until I moved to Nashville and started going to bluegrass joints and shows at the Ryman Auditorium. All these songs came back to me—ones that my grandfather had played on tape decks, that my father sang while he drove. It was intimately familiar to me and yet felt brand new. These songs connected me to a past that felt like such a part of me but also fractured, painful, irretrievable.

As I wrote, I was flooded with a longing for home and family, even though those things are deeply complicated for me. But the music that shaped Shady’s story cracked me open too, and something that felt miraculous happened: I found my writerly self. Suddenly, I knew what I wanted to write and who I wanted to be as a writer. My writing had context, atmosphere, and voice. It was compelling. It was original. Finally, I wasn’t trying to reinvent myself from scratch; rather, I was returning to myself.

Shady’s music became a bridge for me. To the dead, yes. To a home I thought I’d left behind, yes. But most of all it connected me to myself and my own voice.

So maybe there really was a ghost playing that neglected banjo in the corner. Maybe the phantom music was my own personal fiddle crying in the pines. At any rate, it brought me here. It brought me home.

You can buy a copy of Ghost Wood Song at Nashville’s beloved indie bookstore, Parnassus Books: https://www.parnassusbooks.net/ericawaters.

Meet Erica Waters

Photo Credit: Amelia J. Moore

Erica Waters writes young adult fantasy with a Southern Gothic feel. She’s originally from the pine woods of rural Florida but has made her home in Nashville, TN with her spouse and two scruffy little rescue dogs. Ghost Wood Song is her debut novel. You can visit her online at ericawaters.com and connect with her on twitter and Instagram.

Links:

Book: https://www.harpercollins.com/9780062894229/ghost-wood-song/

Website: https://ericawaters.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ELWaters

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ericawatersbooks/

Cover Design Credit:

Jacket art: Alix Northrup
Jacket design: Jenna Stempel-Lobell

About Ghost Wood Song

Ghost Wood Song

Sawkill Girls meets Beautiful Creatures in this lush and eerie debut, where the boundary between reality and nightmares is as thin as the veil between the living and the dead.

If I could have a fiddle made of Daddy’s bones, I’d play it. I’d learn all the secrets he kept.

Shady Grove inherited her father’s ability to call ghosts from the grave with his fiddle, but she also knows the fiddle’s tunes bring nothing but trouble and darkness.

But when her brother is accused of murder, she can’t let the dead keep their secrets.

In order to clear his name, she’s going to have to make those ghosts sing.

Family secrets, a gorgeously resonant LGBTQ love triangle, and just the right amount of creepiness make this young adult debut a haunting and hopeful story about facing everything that haunts us in the dark.

ISBN-13: 9780062894229
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 07/21/2020
Age Range: 13 – 17 Years

Celebrating 9 Years of TLT! (in a global pandemic)

This month, Teen Librarian Toolbox is celebrating 9 years of talking about teen librarianship, young adult literature, and the world at large. It’s been an amazing experience and I am so happy that we’re still here doing this thing that I love.

Several YA/Teen Librarians and a handful of Teens help make TLT happen

But also, what a weird time to be celebrating anything. The world is very strange right now. I’m working from home and spending a lot of time trying to help my biological kids navigate a summer overshadowed by both a global pandemic and civil rights protests. There is no handbook for this, not a parenting handbook or a librarian handbook. We’re in uncharted territory here and most days, it feels like we’re barely able to keep from slipping under water and drowning. I never imagined that I would be taking my kids to protest in support of their friends and families and yet, here were are.

Karen, Riley and Scout Jensen masking up because of the global pandemic

But through it all, there’s TLT. You have no idea how grateful I am to have this resource to work through my thoughts, share my experiences, and meet with my peers to listen, learn, grow and become a better teen and collection development librarian day by day. Who I am when I started this blog is wildly different than who I am now – and you are a huge part of what has made that happen.

And of course I can’t talk about TLT without talking about all the co-bloggers and contributors who help make TLT happen. Amanda MacGregor and Robin Willis have both been a part of TLT for 6 years or more. Ally Watkins and I began talking about Faith and Spirituality in YA lit in 2015. And this year, both of my children made the decision to become an official part of TLT, which makes my heart fill with pride and joy.

Robin Willis visiting Karen Jensen at her Teen MakerSpace at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County

Lots of other awesome people help make TLT happen at this point. Cindy Shutts shares awesome programming ideas with us. Christine Lively highlights the works of teens around the globe. Lisa Krok joins us every once in a while to talk about teen librarianship. And we have had a variety of teens on our teen advisory board.

Perhaps because it’s our anniversary, or perhaps it’s because of the world we live in now, it’s hard for me not to be reflective of TLT. One of our major failings is that we are not a very diverse group of librarians here at TLT. We are and always have been a predominantly white group of middle age women and there are a lot of gaps and holes here. We have always made our platform available to anyone who would like to guest post, from other librarians to authors, and that has helped fill in some of those gaps, but it has never been enough and it is without a doubt one of our biggest shortcomings.

We’ve made other missteps and mistakes a long the way, to be honest. And I know that I have learned a lot and changed my mind about a lot of things in the course of the last 9 years. For example, I originally pushed back against the idea of a New Adult label for literature but now more than ever feel like it is very much needed and would help a lot of the current issues I see happening in YA literature. You see, YA books keeps getting aged up and real teens are being pushed out and I think that it would have helped if New Adult would have taken off years ago when the industry was pushing for it. Now, however, I see the correction taking place in middle grade. Middle grade is the new YA in a lot of ways.

As I reflect I can’t help, of course, but thing of the teens. Working with and helping teens navigate adolescence is the primary reason I became a teen librarian. And after 26 years I can tell you, I have never been more distressed about the world we are making for our youth. I worry a lot (and talk a lot) about things like childhood and generational trauma and its long lasting impacts well into adulthood. School violence, climate change, sexual violence, the eroding of LGBTQ rights, racism, increasing poverty – these are just a few of the issues that our teens are grappling with on a daily basis. These are just a few of the areas in which we, the adults in charge, are failing our youth. They were already experiencing growing mental health challenges and then – boom – deadly global pandemic. It’s a lot for anyone, but it’s especially a lot for our youth.

Last week my daughter, Riley, baked cookies and (safely) dropped them off at a friend’s house to comfort said friend as they recover from Covid-19. This friend is only one friend in a growing list of friends who are facing this new disease with unknown long term health impacts. At the same time they are now wondering what is going to happen in just a few short weeks when the school doors re-open. If more than 10 of them can get Covid-19 by attending a short summer camp together, what chances do they have going back to school a few weeks from now?

Photo of Scout taken by a friend of hers

My youngest, Scout, is worried about school for entirely different reasons. She has dyslexia and an IEP and, if we’re being honest, virtual school was not the best educational path for her. She needs the discipline of a classroom and the intervention of teachers who have been trained to help her navigate her unique learning challenges. That doesn’t mean I want to potentially sacrifice her life to make sure she gets it.

And while my children are navigating these issues, there are other children out there navigating these same issues AND having to deal with systemic racism, systemic poverty, sick parents, abuse at home, and more. All the while the adults in the room often say things like, “the youth will save us.” It’s not their job to save us, it’s our job to save them – and I’m here to tell you, we are failing.

I realize this a bummer of a celebratory post. It’s just . . . 2020 has been a rough year. For everyone. And while I do celebrate TLT and I’m thankful for every moment, every reader, every conversation . . . it’s hard not to be honest and realistic about where we are at collectively in 2020.

So many books to get organized!

So let me take a moment to share with you all some great things about TLT. Because we review books, publishers will often send us ARCs (advanced readers copies) of books. I am friends with a high school librarian who works at a Title 1 school. A Title 1 school is a school is a school that has demonstrated need because of high levels of poverty. Because of my work with TLT, I have been able over the years to donate more than 3,000 ARCs to this local high school. My friend hosts summer reading challenges and allows the teens to pick out and take these books to create a home library, which they don’t have the money to do on their own at this point in their lives. She has worked hard and created generations of readers and I have been so honored to be able to be a part of that and contribute to that based on my work here at TLT. Teens get access to books they would never have thanks to our work here at TLT.

Amanda frequently hosts giveaways and has helped stock classrooms, put books in the hands of teens, and done her part as well to help raise generations of readers. That work happens because of TLT.

And my own child, at the tender age of 10, saw this work and started her own effort called #OperationBB to help middle grade readers in need have books of their own. With your generous donations, she has given away around 1,000 books herself. And she’s only 11!

In the past 9 years I’ve created a Teen MakerSpace, started doing and promoting the idea of doing collection diversity audits, I’ve written written a professional book with Heather Booth, and I’ve written countless articles with School Library Journal, a journal I am very proud to be networked with. And as cool as all of those things are, the things I’m most proud of are the generations of teens we’ve helped to raise as readers, the friends I’ve made through this platform who challenge me every day to be a better person and better librarian, and just getting to share all of this with my two amazing daughters.

So if you are a reader of TLT – I thank you! You are a part of this journey with us. And although right now the journey feels especially hard, I’m so glad to have the honor of taking it and am thankful for everyone who takes it with us.

I hope I get to write about another celebration of TLT at 10 years, and that the world is in a better place when that happens.

Friday Finds: July 17, 2020

This Week at TLT

How Writing Jennifer Strange (Quite Literally) Saved my Life, a guest post by Cat Scully

Cindy Crushes Programming: Virtual Programming Failures, Tech Issues and Tips, by Cindy Shutts

Book Reviews, Thrillers Edition: Little Creeping Things and Nobody Knows But You

Morgan’s Mumbles: Sustainable and Ethical Switches by teen contributor Morgan Randall

Book Review: He Must Like You by Danielle Younge-Ullman

Tween and Teen Crafts: No-Cook Playdough with Robin Willis and Scout Jensen

Here! Have Some Anime, by teen contributor Riley Jensen

Sunday Reflections: They’re Sacrificing Our Poorest Children, Same as it Ever Was

Around the Web

The Toll That Isolation Takes on Kids During the Coronavirus Era

Is School Safe? Will Districts Test For COVID-19? Answering Back-To-School Questions

‘Magic School Bus’ Author Joanna Cole Dies at Age 75

They Go to Mommy First’

How Writing Jennifer Strange (Quite Literally) Saved my Life, a guest post by Cat Scully

I did not know that I was dying.

In early summer of 2018, all of my symptoms pointed to bronchitis, or at worst, a particularly bad case of pneumonia. You see, people in their early thirties aren’t thinking about heart failure. It doesn’t even enter their possibility radar while typing their symptoms into Google one more time.

It started with a map. At the time, I had just come off designing dozens and dozens of different maps since Labor Day weekend, which bled through the fall months, barreled right on through the winter holidays, and spilled over into spring. Then, around mid-May, I received a map note from the author and publisher I couldn’t read. I tried to process it over and over, but the words melted every time I tried to read them. I had been fighting a terrible cold, coughing and sneezing and unable to breathe, so my husband carted me off to the doctor I had stubbornly refused to visit until the map was done. Gotta keep pushing, I thought. I can rest when I’m done.

The urgent care took a look at my symptoms and assessed it was bronchitis, gave me the typical prescriptions, and sent me home. Weeks went by with no relief. I finished the map but my husband had to read aloud every email that came across my inbox. I was tired, I thought. Why weren’t the pills working?

Smash-cut forward to the middle of June, and I’m face down on the floor of the shower unable to lift my head. I have to instruct my six-year-old son how to work my phone to call my husband at his office and tell him to come home. We fled to the hospital, both children in tow, and the ER nurses took one look at my CAT scan and confirmed their worst fears – I had heart failure. My heart was floating at around ten percent, and it wouldn’t be until weeks later in a genetic counseling session in Boston I would find out I had a genetic mutation prone to enlarging the heart when triggered by severe stress. I thought it had to be a joke. How could someone in their early thirties in possession of a health file so thin people had trouble finding it suddenly get heart failure?

I spent two weeks in the hospital removing sixteen pounds of fluid and wrestling with the fact I still wasn’t published. I had written a grand total of three novels over the course of five years. The first was sent to a publisher and my agent and I were waiting to hear back. I rested up, convinced I wouldn’t let my dream of publishing be pushed aside again. Three days after returning home, I got the call. The editor loved Jennifer Strange and wanted to publish it next year. I cried, maybe harder than I’ve ever cried. After five years, three agents, a slew of rejections, and almost dying, I was getting published. I couldn’t have known then what would happen when I sat down to write again. Symptoms in young women with heart failure aren’t as well documented as cases in eighty-year-old men. I didn’t know what was coming.

Jennifer Strange

After a few painful weeks of learning how to walk and a new salt-less diet focused on shrinking my heart, I sat down to the computer. It felt good to open my book with the knowledge it was finally going to print. As soon as I opened the file, the words floated into each other again, and the space between letters squashed and collapsed in lava lamp waves. I couldn’t read. It seemed back then an impossible thought, not being able to read. A writer writes. A reader reads. I was an author with a book getting published, not someone who struggled to connect sentences together. I closed my laptop. I thought all I needed was a little more time. It took months of processing and a dear friend telling me the work was basically illegible for me to finally face the truth—It wasn’t just that I couldn’t read. My mind could not connect the letters to the memories of what those words meant. 

We pushed back the book by another year, with everyone hopeful one more year of healing would help. I was the only one not convinced. I sat listening to audiobooks, wishing and hoping I could write again. It wasn’t until late 2019 that my heart improved enough to write again, and my symptoms of memory loss lessened enough to string together a sentence. Reading was a slow and painful process requiring total concentration without any interruption of sound or kids yelling for yet another packet of fruit snacks. I had to work at reading again, the same way I had to learn how to walk and then run and then jog on a treadmill.

Every revision of Jennifer Strange got easier, and by the time we got to producing the advanced reader copies, it still wasn’t perfect. I kept learning how to read as I pushed through posting on Netgalley and then sending more focused drafts each time through multiple revisions between my launch of early copies to July of my publication date. As of writing this blog post, my heart is at forty-five percent, healed enough I can sit and read a book, though interruption requires up to an hour of recovery to be able to read again.

I never thought I’d have to relearn how to read to publish a book, and I think even beyond Jennifer Strange as I move into book two in the series, my memory and ability will only improve. It seems to every week. This desire to write, to publish, and then repeat is a quest worth pursuing. Despite everything, I think having this book and my fierce desire to finally see it in print, flaws and all, healed my heart and saved my life all at once. It’s worth it to keep going, despite all the downfalls and weird left turns. I still have to read my books aloud, and audio books are easier than reading physical copies, but I found a method that works in a world post-heart failure. Ultimately, that’s all that matters.

I want to share my story not to scare, but to inspire writers who might be questioning if going forward is worth it after yet another rejection letter. The quest to publish is worth packing your bags and journeying out your front door into the great unknown. Jennifer Strange saved me, and I hope you find that your book might save you too.

Meet Cat Scully

Cat Scully is the author and illustrator of the young adult illustrated horror novel series JENNIFER STRANGE, with the first book releasing July 21, 2020, from Haverhill House Publishing. Cat is best known for her world maps featured in Brooklyn Brujas trilogy by Zoraida Cordova, Winterspell by Claire Legrand, and Give the Dark My Love by Beth Revis. She works in video game development for the Deep End Games, working hard on their next title. After five years as a mentor in Pitch Wars for middle grade and young adult fiction, she is a core editor for Cornerstones Literary, focusing on editing speculative fiction for adult, young adult, and middle-grade markets. She lives off Earl Grey tea, plays a lot of Bioshock, is a huge Evil Dead fan, and plays the drums with her musician husband. She lives outside of Boston and is represented by Miriam Kriss of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency.​

About Jennifer Strange

Jennifer Strange

Fifteen-year-old Jennifer Strange is the Sparrow, cursed with the ability to give ghosts and demonic spirits a body-a flesh and blood anchor in the mortal world-with the touch of her hand. When a ghost attacks her high school and awakens her powers, her father dumps her unceremoniously in the care of her estranged older sister Liz, leaving only his journal as an explanation.

Drawn to the power of the Sparrow, the supernatural creatures preying on Savannah, Georgia will do anything to receive Jennifer’s powerful gift. The sisters must learn to trust each other again and uncover the truth about their family history by deciphering their father’s journal…because if they can’t, Jennifer’s uncontrolled power will rip apart the veil that separates the living from the dead.

A fast-paced and splattery romp, fans of Supernatural, Buffy, and Evil Dead will enjoy JENNIFER STRANGE – the first illustrated novel in a trilogy of stylish queer young adult horror books with big scares for readers not quite ready for adult horror.

Cat Scully’s illustrations bring the ghosts and demons of her fictional world to eerie and beautiful life, harkening back to the style of SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK and Ransom Riggs’ MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN.

ISBN-13: 9781949140064
Publisher: Haverhill House Publishing LLC
Publication date: 07/20/2020
Series: Jennifer Strange #1
Age Range: 13 – 18 Years

Book Review: He Must Like You by Danielle Younge-Ullman

He Must Like You

Publisher’s description

An authentic, angry, and surprisingly funny and romantic novel about sexual harassment, from award-winning author Danielle Younge-Ullman.

Libby’s having a rough senior year. Her older brother absconded with his college money and is bartending on a Greek island. Her dad just told her she’s got to pay for college herself, and he’s evicting her when she graduates so he can Airbnb her room. A drunken hook-up with her coworker Kyle has left her upset and confused. So when Perry Ackerman, serial harasser and the most handsy customer at The Goat where she waitresses, pushes her over the edge, she can hardly be blamed for dupming a pitcher of sangria on his head. Unfortunately, Perry is a local industry hero, the restaurant’s most important customer, and Libby’s mom’s boss. Now Libby has to navigate the fallout of her outburst, find an apartment, and deal with her increasing rage at the guys who’ve screwed up her life—and her increasing crush on the one guy who truly gets her. As timely as it is timeless, He Must Like You is a story about consent, rage, and revenge, and the potential we all have to be better people.

Amanda’s thoughts

“Good god do we let girls down.” That’s what I wrote about 3/4 of the way down a page of notes on this book. It’s hardly news to anyone. The world has done a great disservice to girls in how we have been socialized, written off, and in what we have been taught to put up with. From the ways Libby is treated to the confusion she feels over asserting her own truth to the “get over it and move on” attitude that surrounds her, she has been done a disservice. We all have. Reading this book and Libby’s tales of customers harassing her, assaulting her, and making her uncomfortable made my blood boil. And it also made me think of the nearly infinite list of gross and creepy and appalling things men have done and said to me throughout the years at jobs.

Libby’s parents are really crummy. They’ve decided to boot her out after graduation so they can Airbnb her room. They figure this will fix their money problems AND correct the missteps that they made with Libby’s older brother, who obviously just felt too entitled and that’s why he dropped out of school to move to Greece. Her dad clearly needs some significant mental health help and her mom needs a backbone. They mess up over and over again. Look, I’m a parent of a teenager. It’s not an easy job. Parenting is all about hoping you’re making the right choices for and with your kid. But Libby’s parents aren’t. They suck.

Dealing with scrambling to get a job and save money (oh yeah, also? her parents spent all her college fund) while moving out would be enough, but there’s all the traumatic stuff Libby has been repressing and that keeps happening to her. Town perv Perry likes nothing more than sexually harassing Libby at work. Her recent hookup with a coworker feels confusing to her—she was into it, then she wasn’t, then she just sort of said “oh well” and didn’t or couldn’t stop it. She finally calls it rape, but tacks on “kind of.” She isn’t sure how to categorize what happened. This brings up previous incidents for her that were not things she joyfully consented to, but what should she call those times? Some really tough conversations with those boys and with a medical professional help her start to unpack what has happened to her and how she can move forward in a healthy way.

The somewhat whimsical cover makes it seem like the book may be lighter than it is. In reality, it’s a fairly nuanced and painful look at rape culture, toxic masculinity, sexual assault and harassment, and consent. Let’s be honest: the cover and summary won’t necessarily draw in boy readers. But more than anyone, it’s boys who need to read this story and really think hard, as the boys in the book have to do, about their actions and their choices. Readers don’t need to learn the lessons that Libby thinks are ones she should be learning: how to not let these things happen, how to protect yourself, how to be certain something or nothing happened to you. Readers need to learn the lessons the boys learn: that anything other than sober, enthusiastic, constant consent is unacceptable.

Intense, upsetting, and all too real, this smart book will inspire deep discussions.

Review copy (ARC) courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781984835710
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 07/14/2020
Age Range: 14 – 17 Years

Friday Finds: July 10, 2020

This Week at TLT

For Teens Making a Difference: A Twist on Gun Violence By Alex Richards

Book Review: Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron

Morgan’s Mumbles: YA is Great, but it Isn’t the Only Game in Town

Writing Your (Hidden) Self, a guest post by Jessica Pennington

Riley’s Post It Note Reviews: Bent Heavens, Harrow Lake and Five Total Strangers

A Tween’s Eye View on Graphic Novels: Click, Camp, The Breakaways, Snapdragon and Be Prepared

Helping to Normalize Wearing Masks with Tweens and Teens During a Global Pandemic, with fun programming ideas!

Around the Web

Marvel and Scholastic To Launch All-New Line Of Original Graphic Novels For Young Readers

With pressure and threats, Trump pushes to fully reopen schools. Schools say: Not so fast.

W.H.O. to Review Evidence of Airborne Transmission of Coronavirus

Dawn Wacek: How Can Libraries Be A Path Toward Inclusivity And Forgiveness?

When It Comes To Reopening Schools, ‘The Devil’s In The Details,’ Educators Say

Morgan’s Mumbles: YA is Great, but it Isn’t the Only Game in Town

Today teen contributor Morgan Randall shares a bit of wisdom with us about allowing teens to read freely.

I went through a long period where I stopped reading and it wasn’t because I didn’t like to read or enjoy books. It was purely because everytime someone recommended a book to me it was the same storyline and concept in a YA novel. Now don’t take that the wrong way, I love me a good young adult novel. It’s what I grew up on, and even the cliches (no matter how overdone) always remind me of some of the first books I enjoyed reading.. However, no matter how weird it sounds, I have always been fascinated with classic literature and philosophical novels. I am obsessed with finding deeper meanings in simple texts, or trying to decode something that someone wrote decades (and sometimes even centuries) ago and find a way that it is still applicable in modern day.

The beginning of my junior year I went to a book store and bought Dante’s Inferno, an epic poem that had always intrigued me because of its long lasting impact on the Christian faith and how a majority of people view the concept of “Hell”. I find it fascinating that a text completed in 1320, still has a major impact on the modern world seven hundred years later. Even if someone is unfamiliar with the poem, a majority of people have at least heard of it or the concept of the Nine Circles Of Hell. Having a major impact like this on the world as a whole, along with individual people’s ideas and thoughts, amazes me and is what led me to purchasing Dante’s Inferno. Now, this isn’t a review or break down of Inferno, but something I observed after purchasing it. I bought it, read the first ten pages, and I found it interesting. But the first time I went to talk to someone about it I got the most judgmental comments and looks for reading it (especially since I did it out of my own free will).

I normally don’t take things like this to heart, but somehow I felt ostracized for being interested in classics and philosophy. This led to a drought in reading because being someone who likes to read you are already limited to who you can talk to about books, but being someone who likes to read classical literature narrows down the group of people way more. Now, I don’t think my friends thought of me differently, or would have judged me for this but I like to talk to people about the things I find interesting (which often times is what I am reading) and in all honesty unless you enjoy classic literature it is not something other people want to listen to. Because of this it felt easier just to set down Dante’s Inferno, and all other books that interested me at the time, and take a break from reading.

Now, by no means do I mean to tell you that you should begin to market Dante’s Inferno to kids in your library or class, but what I do want to tell you is when kids express an interest in reading make sure they don’t feel limited by what they are expected to read. Don’t assume every teenager who likes to read wants to read young adult, and on the flip side of this, don’t expose teenagers to only classic literature within your classroom. I think it is super important to give people freedom to read and discover on their own, however I also think it is super important that while they are doing this they are able to have open conversations with adults in their life about all types of things that peak their interest.

Young Adult novels are obviously marketed towards youth and there is a large variety within YA alone, in fact when I do read Young Adult I still enjoy it a lot because I know what I enjoy reading now. The problem is, it takes a lot of trial and error to find books that are a good fit for you, if you do not naturally enjoy reading. I think oftentimes people read one book from a certain genre and assume that it is an accurate representation of the genre as a whole, which is often untrue. This is why I am challenging you, to go out and read some form of literature that might be outside your comfort zone. Something that you assumed you would never like because of false assumptions, or because of pressure other people put on you. Know that you won’t like every genre, and you definitely won’t like every book you read, but there is something amazing about stepping outside of your “normal” within books and discovering something that you never would have thought you would have enjoyed as much as you did. It might give you new insight on what things spark your interest.

I challenge you to do both this, and also when you recommend things to people don’t just assume the genre they would enjoy. Give options of multiple genres and types of literature. Find new books, and old books to recommend across all genres. And when someone, especially youth, finds a genre they enjoy and are finally exploring literature, make sure you choose your words carefully even if the genre isn’t something you suspected. Now, I am not saying don’t encourage them to read other things as well, however it is important that youth who feel like they have finally found something enjoyable to read are encouraged to continue to do so. This will allow them to enjoy reading, whereas if someone around them that they admire (or is in a position of authority) seem to judge them for their choice of literature, it can be a huge turn-off from reading as a whole even if it was enjoyable for them.

Morgan RandallTeen Contributor

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

Writing Your (Hidden) Self, a guest post by Jessica Pennington

I write romance. I write kissing books. I write love stories.

I don’t know how many times I gave those answers—at book launches and conventions, festivals, and family functions—before I realized it wasn’t the most accurate description of my work. Yes, my stories are full of sweet book boyfriends and swoony kisses. There are nights under the stars getting to know someone new, and long, painful discussions with former first-loves. And they are most definitely the type of books you see being read poolside or at the lake. But that’s not the only thing all of my books have in common.

As authors, many of us set out to write a book and have a map of where it will go. We have character sketches, plot points, beginnings and endings in mind. Some authors don’t, but for now let’s just say a lot of us do. Personally, I can’t even start a project until I have at least a general idea of where I’m headed. Of course, even for plotters, stories change along the way; characters reveal themselves to us, or a really great scene can steal the show and send us in an entirely different direction. Still, as the author, we have ultimate control of the story and the words we put on the page.

Despite that illusion of control, it took me two published books and five years to figure out what I was actually writing. My debut, Love Songs & Other Lies is about two teens who are unexpectedly trapped with their ex on a battle of the bands tour bus, but it’s also about a girl who doesn’t know how to share her feelings, even with those closest to her, except in the form of song lyrics. And it’s about caring for someone so much that you accept less than you deserve, just to preserve the relationship.

When Summer Ends is about two teens forced to work together when each of their summer plans fall apart, but it’s also about a girl who has planned her future so carefully, that she can’t see the problems—or fresh new potential—in her present.     

And by the time I wrote Meet Me At Midnight, I already knew it wasn’t just going to be about two teens forced to vacation together while torturing one another with yearly pranks, until they’re forced to call a truce and work together. It’s also about a girl who is emotionally guarded, and finds control in her life by meticulously organizing and planning things.

It may have taken me two-hundred-thousand written words to figure it out, but I finally did: I write stories about girls like me. Not thirty-seven-year-old me, of course (wow, what a disappointing YA novel that would be) or even the teen girl I saw myself as at the time, but the teen girl I didn’t realize I was until I started writing parts of myself into my stories.

As authors, we’re always hearing about how books affect readers, but one thing I’ve thought about a lot while stuck in my house for the last three months, is just how much writing my books has affected me. It’s funny how looking at your life from the outside can show you a new perspective, even fifteen years later.

I didn’t realize how dysfunctional one of my high school friendships was, until I tried putting it on the page in Love Songs & Other Lies. The friend I read in that first draft was not the one I remembered, but it was accurate. So I re-wrote that character into the friend I wish I’d had—the person that would have been what I actually needed in high school. Olivia in When Summer Ends is stripped of her carefully laid plans and shown that flipping a coin and living life by chance isn’t the great disaster she would have thought. I gave my social anxiety to Sidney in Meet Me At Midnight, and forced her not only to acknowledge it, but to find someone who held her hand and loved her through it.

Today, when I describe my books, I still say I write romance, but more importantly, I write books about girls like me: Type-A, focused, self-conscious, anxious, driven, emotionally guarded, a little too serious sometimes, and absolutely worthy of love. I write teen girls who need to make some mistakes to realize not all mistakes are bad. And I hope that readers will see my characters bruised-but-not-broken (and in love) and they’ll discover some things about themselves, too—hopefully twenty years earlier than I did.

Meet Jessica Pennington

Jessica Pennington is the author of contemporary romance novels for young adults (and the young at heart), including Meet Me At Midnight, When Summer Ends, and Love Songs & Other Lies. A self-proclaimed “professional romantic,” she has spent the last fifteen years immersed in love–first as a wedding planner and now a novelist. Jessica lives in a Michigan beach town suspiciously similar to the one in her novels, with her husband and son.

Find Jessica on IG @jessicapennington and Twitter @jessnpennington

Sign up for her monthly newsletter The EpistolarYAn here: http://itsjess.com/newsletter/

Website: www.itsjess.com

Jessica’s local indie bookstore is Forever Books.

About MEET ME AT MIDNIGHT

Meet Me at Midnight

They have a love-hate relationship with summer.

Sidney and Asher should have clicked. Two star swimmers forced to spend their summers on a lake together sounds like the perfect match. But it’s the same every year—in between cookouts and boat rides and family-imposed bonfires, Sidney and Asher spend the dog days of summer finding the ultimate ways to prank each other. And now, after their senior year, they’re determined to make it the most epic summer yet.

But their plans are thrown in sudden jeopardy when their feud causes their families to be kicked out of their beloved lake houses. Once in their new accommodations, Sidney expects the prank war to continue as usual. But then she gets a note—Meet me at midnight. And Asher has a proposition for her: join forces for one last summer of epic pranks, against a shared enemy—the woman who kicked them out.

Their truce should make things simpler, but six years of tormenting one another isn’t so easy to ignore. Kind of like the undeniable attraction growing between them.

ISBN-13: 9781250187666
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 04/07/2020
Age Range: 13 – 18 Years

Helping to Normalize Wearing Masks with Tweens and Teens During a Global Pandemic, with fun programming ideas!

The Teen, Riley Jensen, wearing a face mask

We are now months into this global pandemic and the science seems to be clear: wearing a mask can help decrease the spread of transmission of Covid-19 and we should be wearing masks out in public to help protect one another. Unfortunately, there is a lot of messaging out there that is putting people at risk by indicating that masks are a freedom issue (even though you are required by law to wear a shirt and shoes into a public building for public health reasons) or that the virus itself is a hoax. But the science is clear: wearing a face mask can help slow the community spread of Covid-19.

Masks, even cloth masks, retain the biggest droplets and those nasty medium sized droplets. Only the small droplets that aren’t very infectious can get through. When an infected person wears a mask, and remember that you are most infectious before you even start to feel sick, the total volume of virus floating around in the air that we share is dramatically reduced. Because 80% of infections come from droplets floating around in the air, the simple act of wearing a mask is enough to stop the pandemic spread. How I wish we had known that in March.

This is from one of the better arguments on this topic that discusses the nature of science and how what we know about the virus changes as we learn more. You can read Dr. Malcolm Butler’s entire piece here: https://www.wenatcheeworld.com/news/coronavirus/opinion-dr-malcolm-butler-it-s-the-air-you-share/article_998e2394-b5a1-11ea-b609-27e947f1e3fe.html

And as public libraries open for limited services, whether they should or not is an entirely different question, and schools begin to discuss with some urgency what the next school year will look like, it’s really important that we do what we can to help inform the public about the latest science regarding masks and to help normalize face masks for our tweens and teens. We all have a moral imperative to keep one another safe – and this includes staff and patrons – when faced with a virus that is spread from person to person. This isn’t a personal health matter because we are talking about a deadly virus that transmits from person to person; it’s a public health matter. These are the moments when we as a society have a responsibility to one another. One of the ways that we can help keep each other safe right now is to wear a face mask.

Teen and Collection Development Librarian Karen Jensen wears a face mask

So here are some things we can do to help promote face masks.

One, require face masks in your buildings

I won’t debate here whether or not libraries should be open to the public because each state is at different stages. But if you are opening your building to the public, please require and enforce patrons AND staff wearing face masks. There is a financial cost to this requirement so you should make them available to your staff and have some PPE on hand for patrons who try to come into the building but don’t have their own. If you’re going to be open, you have a responsibility to make face masks available to help keep everyone safe.

Librarian and TLTer Ally Watkins wears a face mask

Two, share information on where to buy or how to make your own face masks

Public libraries everywhere are struggling to find content and ways to stay engaged with patrons during this time, so this is a good way to do that. Use your social media to keep your local community in the know about current science regarding face masks, current laws or mandates regarding face masks, and the availability of face masks. Pushing out information via our webpages and social media is the bare minimum of the information services we should be providing right now as the community information resources during a deadly global pandemic.

TLTer Amanda MacGregor wears a face mask

You can go a step further and take a moment of your virtual programming to demonstrate to your patrons various ways they can make their own face masks. There are many tutorials out there you can share or you can make your own. The Fort Worth Public Library created this tutorial as a part of its virtual programming early in the lockdown phase for its patrons.

Three, provide free masks AND make it a fun program

If you can, make or purchase plain white masks and have them be a grab and go kit with your curbside service. Tweens and teens can color or tie-dye masks at home. I would recommend providing any additional tools they might need with the kits to make this happen, like fabric markers. Be sure to include good instructions as well, such as how they need to wash the face mask after coloring or tie dyeing and at what temperatures.

Amazon sells a pack of 50 reusable white cloth face masks for $30.99

If you have staff or volunteers making face masks you can buy color your own pillow cases and turn them into color your own face masks: https://www.amazon.com/eatsleepdoodle-Butterfly-Pure-Cotton-Pillowcase/dp/B07PHH4Z9M/ref=redir_mobile_desktop?ie=UTF8&aaxitk=mnircwvK5XqgbRI-VD8rvA&hsa_cr_id=8596798370401&ref_=sbx_be_s_sparkle_mcd_asin_0

Scout made these tie dye masks using fabric paint

Though I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before Oriental Trading is selling these in bulk. But you don’t need anything more than a plain face mask to make color your own face mask kits.

TLT RevolTeens contributor Christine Lively wears a mask

There are even instructions out there for no sew face masks:

https://www.tulipcolor.com/make-and-decorate-a-no-sew-face-mask

Or you can cut up and use old t-shirts or pillow cases to make a face mask and introduce the concept of upcycling:

https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-make-a-mask-out-of-fabric

There is more than 1 way to make a face mask:

https://www.creativebloq.com/news/how-to-make-a-face-mask

If you want to get more branded merchandise out into the world, you can have logo printed face masks made and pass those out as well.

TLTer Cindy Crushes Programming contributor Cindy Shutts wears a mask

You’ll also want to search the CDC for handouts that you can include with your face mask kits about how to wear them properly (your mouth AND nose should be covered) and why they can help reduce the infection rate. A simple Google search will also direct you to other examples of signage and flyers that you can adapt for your library.

As information resources for our community, this is our moment. Our communities need us now more than ever to help them get accurate scientific information to keep themselves safe and healthy and to decrease community spread. And if you’re looking for programming ideas anyway, you might as well incorporate masks and make it fun and engaging while keeping your tween and teen patrons safe and healthy.

Continuing Anti-Racist Work in Publishing in the Wake of the George Floyd Protests, a guest post by Roseanne A. Brown

Being a Black debut is weird right now.

Being Black right now is weird. And being a debut right now is weird. But being both? Being both is a whole new level of weirdness I did not know it was possible to achieve.

My debut novel A Song of Wraiths and Ruin came out on June 2nd, and like most writers with spring/summer releases this year, I spent the months before coming to terms with the reality that the launch I had dreamed of for years would not be possible in the wake of COVID-19. As disappointing as it was, the health and safety of my community mattered more.

But then June 2nd itself arrived. A Song of Wraiths and Ruin came out on a day when the world was gripped in the throes of some of the largest scale protests we’ve seen since MLK was assassinated. The unjust killing of George Floyd at the hands of the police marked a turning point in the conversation on racial injustice, and institutions around the globe are still reckoning with what it means to not only be non-racist, but anti-racist in the face of centuries of subjugation and oppression of Black people.

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown

In the publishing world, this looked like a push to highlight books by Black authors that might have otherwise gotten lost in the chaos. The people of the publishing community, lead by amazing Black women writers, came together to create a Black Tuesday to ensure that my book, A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow, You Should See Me In a Crown by Leah Johnson, and several other books by Black authors that released on June 2nd were not forgotten. Posts went up, the books went out of stock across multiple retailers, and everyone from authors to booksellers to publishers and beyond reaffirmed their commitments to amplifying Black voices in our industry.

I have zero complaints about the reception ASOWAR has gotten. Seeing readers connect with these characters I’ve loved for years has been a highlight of my career. But I am curious to see how the commitment to amplifying Black voices will continue now that Black Lives Matter is no longer trending and people’s feeds have gone back to normal.

The Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) recently released the 2019 figures for the yearly report they compile on the state of diversity in children’s literature, and the numbers are simply appalling. Out of the 3,716 books that the CCBC received, there were more books about animals than there were books about children of color. Of the measly 11.9% of books that featured Black/African protagonists, less than half were actually written by Black/African authors.

We Need Diverse Books has been a fixture in the industry since 2014, and the movement for more inclusive children’s media has brought hundreds of wonderful books into the world that are going to change young reader’s lives for the better. But the numbers make it clear that the work is far from over, and now—when the world feels like it’s ending and the future is murkier than it has ever been—now is the time to ramp up our efforts instead of pulling back.

Buying books by Black authors is a great start, but the work to elevate and amplify Black voices cannot end there. As a community, we need to be pushing Black voices front and center when there isn’t a national tragedy happening. We need to be listening to these voices even when the truths they are saying are uncomfortable to hear. We need to make sure that Black and other IPOC publishing professionals at all levels have the support and mentorship they need to continue putting out books of anti-racism and radical Black joy.

In the weeks since Black Tuesday, several organizations that committed to doing better by Black writers and employees have proved that their environments are still unsafe for the very people they claim to support. The same Black writers people were clamoring to support a few weeks ago have been silenced and harassed as they continue to speak up about racist practices in the industry.

Being anti-racist is going to take more than a few weeks of hyping certain books and creating aesthetic Instagram posts. It’s going to take a fundamental shifting in the way we all view and interact with the world. It’s going to take interrogating the way each and everyone of us has allowed the structures of this industry to function unjustly for so long.

The work does not and cannot end with buying a copy of a Black author’s book or even blacking out an entire bestseller list, though that is an excellent start. The work will end when Black and other marginalized voices are no longer working in this industry at a structural disadvantage. And it’s going to take every single one of us at every level of the publishing hierarchy to make sure this change stays for good.

We all need to keep showing up for Black voices and Black lives, even when it’s no longer on trend to do so.

Meet Roseanne A. Brown

Photo credit: Ashley Hirasuna

Rosanne A. Brown is an immigrant from the West African nation of Ghana and a graduate of the University of Maryland, where she completed the Jimenez-Porter Writers’ House program. Her work has been featured by Voice of America, among other outlets. A Song of Wraiths and Ruin is her debut novel.

You can visit her online at 

Website: roseanneabrown.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/rosiesrambles

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rosiesrambles/

Roseanne suggests getting her book from her local indie, Books With a Past.

About A Song of Wraiths and Ruin

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown

The first in a gripping fantasy duology inspired by West African folklore in which a grieving crown princess and a desperate refugee find themselves on a collision course to murder each other despite their growing attraction—from debut author Roseanne A. Brown. This New York Times bestseller is perfect for fans of Tomi Adeyemi, Renée Ahdieh, and Sabaa Tahir.

For Malik, the Solstasia festival is a chance to escape his war-stricken home and start a new life with his sisters in the prosperous desert city of Ziran. But when a vengeful spirit abducts his younger sister, Nadia, as payment to enter the city, Malik strikes a fatal deal—kill Karina, Crown Princess of Ziran, for Nadia’s freedom.

But Karina has deadly aspirations of her own. Her mother, the Sultana, has been assassinated; her court threatens mutiny; and Solstasia looms like a knife over her neck. Grief-stricken, Karina decides to resurrect her mother through ancient magic . . . requiring the beating heart of a king. And she knows just how to obtain one: by offering her hand in marriage to the victor of the Solstasia competition.

When Malik rigs his way into the contest, they are set on a heart-pounding course to destroy each other. But as attraction flares between them and ancient evils stir, will they be able to see their tasks to the death?

ISBN-13: 9780062891495
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 06/02/2020
Age Range: 13 – 17 Years