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From the Funnies to the Munchies: An Origin Story, a guest post by David Fremont

Creating the Carlton Crumple Creature Catcher graphic novel series for kids has truly been a dream come true for me. Now that three books are complete—Catch the Munchies! Tater Invaders! and the just released Reptoids from Space!—I’ve been able to experience a lot of wonderful things with them. I’ve had the opportunity to read excerpts of my books to classrooms of students, presented my books at library author visits, been able to teach children how to draw the Munchies and received kind messages from parents who have told me my books have inspired their children to read more. I recently sat down and re-read through Book 3: Reptoids from Space! The first panel in the story features a chaotic scene with Shady Plains (Carlton Crumple’s hometown) kids having outdoor, summertime fun. It got me thinking back to my own childhood and some of the things that inspired me to make this graphic novel series for children.  

When I was a kid, I loved reading comic books and comic strips. Some of my favorite comic books were Sad Sack, Archie, Donald Duck, Popeye, Batman, and the comics in Mad Magazine My favorite comic strips included Peanuts, Figments, Wizard of Id, Tumbleweeds and Nancy.  My comics-reading obsession led me into wanting to create my own comic strip. The hardest part about that for me was coming up with a funny gag each time. My brain doesn’t really work like that. I love comedy, but I’ve never really liked having jokes told to me so much. I tend to space out in the middle of the joke and rarely do I understand the punchline. So, the thought of telling a joke each day until forever was not for me. My dad would give me and my older brother Mark white pads and ballpoint pens from his Carpet Cleaning office to draw on. Mark would create these funny ongoing comics with titles like Bouncing Boy Barney and Phantom of the Titanic that inspired me to make my own ballpoint pen stories.

From Carlton Crumple Creature Catcher 3: Reptoids from Space
by David Fremont

A few years later, when I was around 11 years old, my cool, older cousin Steve showed us a comic he was working on called The Great White Shark.  It was very much a Jaws rip-off, but I didn’t care. The drawings were so good and, besides, I was a huge fan of the movie. This was the 70s, so any film with a creature on the loose, a natural disaster imperiling humans or a sci-fi theme was for me. So, I obsessively started creating comics inspired by movies I had seen. I did my own Jaws rip-off called Namu the Killer Eel. Soon after that I created a comic about people trapped in a burning ski gondola called, appropriately, Gondola. It was pretty much Towering Inferno in powder pants. My friends and I saw a weird sci-fi movie called The Lost Continent about a cruise ship that drifts into another dimension full of man-eating seaweed. That film inspired me to create a comic called Red Water about a raft full of people who encounter sea monsters— in another dimension, of course! I became completely obsessed with creating comics based on films I had seen: Fangs (House of Dark Shadows) Sky Vaders (Star Wars) Rex the Robot (Westworld) King Kong (King Kong). Yeah, I loved that last one so much I decided to just draw an outright reboot of the film! 

When I got into high school my older sister’s boyfriend gave me a copy of a sci-fi graphic novel called The Incal Light by Moebius. The fantastical space realms and unique characters within the book inspired me to try and create my own original sci-fi story. I came up with something called Philo Fixer: Weasel from Mars about a cocky, clueless weasel detective solving crimes in outer space. I really fell into the world I was creating, it’s all I thought about. All of those “movie comics” I had previously created really helped me map out the story in a sequential format. 

From Carlton Crumple Creature Catcher 3: Reptoids from Space
by David Fremont

I went on a backpacking trip with my brother and some friends but foolishly left my drawing pad behind. Being out in nature away from all my high school worries really got my imagination flowing. Ideas for my Weasel from Mars comic came flooding in, but I had nothing to sketch or write with! So, I started stacking all my ideas for the story in my head and created a sort of visual filing system. I was worried I would forget all my great ideas and concepts. I had an idea that Philo had an inch tall reptilian side kick, so I imagined a picture of a tiny lizard, and so forth. When I returned home, I opened the drawer to my visual filing cabinet and began furiously sketching out everything that was in there.  I somehow managed to remember all the ideas for Philo Fixer: Weasel from Mars.

This experience solidified my love for telling longer comic stories, and I really enjoyed having this imaginary, ongoing adventure that I could jump into whenever I wanted. My mom signed me up for a comics class at the local community center with this laid back, longhaired teacher-dude named Mike. It was basically this great space for us kids to create our own comics.  At the end of the course Mike xeroxed and stapled all our comics into one big book that we all got to take home. I can’t tell you how excited I was when I got my comics class anthology—my first foray into (almost) publishing! 

I later learned, in my early twenties, that creating comics was a very difficult way to earn a living.  After relocating to San Francisco, I created an ongoing comic story for Last Gasp and a strip for Mondo 2000, but my bread and butter came from editorial illustration and working at Colossal Pictures painting animation cels. That job eventually led to creating the Zoog characters for Disney Channel and Germtown, one of the first interactive projects for Cartoon Network. When the internet came along, I was given the opportunity to create my own internet show based on one of my comics called Glue.  A few years later DreamWorks TV greenlit a web show I pitched based on a comic from my sketchbook called Public Pool With these animated shows I was able to bring my comics to life and they were some of the best jobs I’ve ever had. I found that I’m happiest when I’m creating imaginary worlds with a continuing storyline. I’m not only able to shut off the noise inside and outside of my head when I’m drawing and creating worlds, but it also gives me inner peace, purpose, and focus. 

From Carlton Crumple Creature Catcher 3: Reptoids from Space
by David Fremont

The animation and freelance work eventually dried up in SF, so we relocated to LA. After developing a pilot at Nickelodeon that didn’t get a series greenlight, I was left burned out and with no work. So, my wife and I decided that me being a stay-at-home dad for my two young two kids was the best option at this time. Every time I took my son and daughter to the library or bookstore kid’s section, I’d see all these graphic novels for kids. My children loved Captain Underpants, Pokémon, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  It was inspiring to see all these comic book style books gaining popularity. I had a lot of animation ideas in my sketchbook and thought they would make fun books. Also, my author/illustrator friend James Proimos (Waddle! Waddle!) kept telling me “You should do books!”  

One day I was at Leo Carrillo beach with my family. I saw a kid on a towel eating french fries from a McDonald’s Happy Meal bag. I imagined the kid throwing a French fry into the ocean and sea monsters gobbling it up and swimming to the surface for more delicious fast food. The entire story rolled out into my sketchbook and within about two weeks I had the whole thing sketched out.   

I scanned it into the computer and put together a PDF dummy of the book. I suddenly got very busy with my DreamWorks TV Public Pool animated project and teaching cartooning classes, so the book sat inside my computer. A few years later, my Nickelodeon producer friend Mary Harrington (Invader Zim, Rugrats) called me and asked if I had any ideas for books. A former colleague of hers, Kyra Reppen, was looking for titles for a new publishing company called Pixel and Ink. I sent them Catch the Munchies. A few weeks later Editor-in-Chief Bethany Buck not only greenlit the book but offered me a three-book deal.  I got more excited than a Munchie with a stack of cheeseburgers!     

I haven’t stopped being excited and grateful to be able to share Carlton Crumple’s comedy adventures with the young readers of the world. As I said earlier, it’s truly been a dream come true. My biggest hope now is that my Carlton Crumple Creature Catcher books inspire children to read more books and create their own comics. And to all the creators of comics and kids’ books that inspired me so much over the years… “High fries!!!”

Meet the author

The youngest of five children, David Fremont grew up in Fremont, CA (true story), where he loved drawing while watching cartoons. He is now an animated content creator who most recently created web series for DreamWorks TV. When not pitching pilots, David teaches cartoon classes to kids. Carlton Crumple Creature Catcher is his first series with Pixel+Ink.

About Carlton Crumple Creature Catcher 3: Reptoids from Space

An out-of-this-world new adventure in a very funny graphic novel series that combines fast food, monsters, and battle! Fans of Lunch Lady and Dog Man will gobble this down.

When Carlton catches a UFO on camera, he kicks into full-on Creature Catcher mode. Sick of hearing about Carlton’s heroics, his brother Milt stages an alien invasion using a remote-controlled drone disguised as a spaceship. And Carlton falls for it. 

Iggy and Poof Poof think the ship’s cool, so they borrow it to stage a fake alien battle. But a real UFO full of Reptoids spots the showdown and, seeing it as a threat, swoops in and abducts Iggy and Poof Poof!

Panicked, Lulu calls the Creature Catcher emergency line. Her creatures have been captured! Now it’s up to Carlton to stage a rescue, and save the day!

Bold artwork and otherworldly antics combine in the third installment in the Carlton Crumple Creatuture Catcher series. Middle grade graphic novel readers, including fans of series like Lunch Lady and Dog Man, will eat this up.

ISBN-13: 9781645950080
Publisher: Holiday House
Publication date: 10/05/2021
Series: Carlton Crumple Creature Catcher #3
Age Range: 8 – 12 Years

Book Review: Why We Fly by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal

Publisher’s description

From the New York Times bestselling authors of I’m Not Dying with You Tonight comes a story about friendship, privilege, sports, and protest.

With a rocky start to senior year, cheerleaders and lifelong best friends Eleanor and Chanel have a lot on their minds. Eleanor is still in physical therapy months after a serious concussion from a failed cheer stunt. Chanel starts making questionable decisions to deal with the mounting pressure of college applications. But they have each other’s backs—just as always, until Eleanor’s new relationship with star quarterback Three starts a rift between them.

Then, the cheer squad decides to take a knee at the season’s first football game, and what seemed like a positive show of solidarity suddenly shines a national spotlight on the team—and becomes the reason for a larger fallout between the girls. As Eleanor and Chanel grapple with the weight of the consequences as well as their own problems, can the girls rely on the friendship they’ve always shared?

Amanda’s thoughts

Oooh, is there a LOT to talk about with this book! I’d love to see it used in a literature circle in a high school class and eavesdrop on every single thought!

Eleanor, or Leni, who is white and Jewish, is recovering from multiple falls and concussions from cheering on the competitive squad. She’s excited to get her medical clearance so she can cheer her senior year. Chanel, or Nelly, who is Black, has spent the summer at a prestigious cheer camp. She’s driven, organized, super competitive, and determined to attend a top business school. And then there’s Three, star football player, also Black, Leni’s new love interest, and a kid with an outrageous amount of pressure on him. His hardcore dad is determined for Three to make it in the bigtime.

Senior year in Atlanta, Georgia takes on a million twists and turns starting with Leni being chosen as cheer captain over Nelly. This strains their friendship, as does Leni’s attention to Three. When the cheer team decides to kneel during the national anthem in solidarity with an alum making waves in the news, things really pop off. The football coach says the sidelines is not the place for this kind of act, the students become heroes to some and villains to others, and the squad’s act spreads to other student groups, drawing more attention to their school and to those who started this movement. The choices these students make affect them all differently and garner different reactions. Leni’s parents are proud of her and her rabbi reminds her of the obligation to bear witness to injustice. Nelly’s parents are not happy with her choice and she’s the one who ends up taking the heat from the school. And Three? He thinks the decision to kneel is admirable and brave, but isn’t sure he can make that move because it might risk his entire future.

The authors force their characters to grapple with big questions. They examine the controversy and power of social action. They make their characters (and, by extension, their readers) think about who gets to make these decisions, what consequences may look like, and what it all means. Leni has to think about what it means to be an ally versus what it means to be an accomplice. She has to think about what centering herself does and if she’s been listening to and understanding the very people she’s trying to support. Good intentions are not enough, and both Leni and Nelly think about what social justice work they may want to do as they move forward and in what way.

I loved the entire kneeling/social justice movement storyline as much as I loved seeing competitive cheerleaders hard at work and the outrageous pressure on some student athletes. We see friendships and romantic relationships strained because of all these plot elements. I really liked the other book these authors did together, I’m Not Dying With You Tonight, and hope to see more from them, both together and individually. A thought-provoking read full of social commentary.

Review copy (ARC) courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781492678922
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication date: 10/05/2021
Age Range: 14 – 17 Years

In the Shadow of Mammothgate: Writing Historical Fiction Without Whitewashing History, a guest post by Betsy Bird

Say, do any of you happen to remember the Mammothgate controversy of 2009? I’ve been a children’s librarian for a number of years, but I remember it like it was yesterday. You see, that was the year that author Patricia Wrede published her middle grade novel The Thirteenth Child. In that story, Wrede created an alternate America. An American where the land bridge never existed. You understand the implications, of course. By removing this element, Wrede purposefully didn’t have any Native Americans to put into her text. She had, in short, effectively removed an element of her story that she didn’t want to deal with. The resulting furor was, to put it mildly, intense. Its name, “Mammothgate”, was based on the premise that without humans in the Americas, some species (like woolly mammoths) would have continued to roam the plains.

Wrede, for the most part, stayed silent on the outcry that followed. And it was Debbie Reese on her American Indians in Children’s Literature blog who discussed the potential good the author could do, were she to discuss her choices. As she wrote on June 19, 2009:

“Given her influence and standing, I wonder how much impact she’d have on the field if she reflected, publicly, on the controversy over her novel? I think there’s a lot to learn from it. Learning that could shift the field forward in the United States and elsewhere, too. ”

Wrede’s book was not an outlier, however. Though it was a rather extreme case, authors of historical works of fiction for kids have pretty much been performing their own mini  Mammothgates for years. I should know. I almost did it myself.

In writing my first middle grade novel LONG ROAD TO THE CIRCUS, I based the bulk of the book on my own family’s history. I’m white. My family’s white. And most of the characters in my book, based on real people, were also white. The story itself is simple. You see, my family always told the tale of how my grandma’s no good uncle would regularly skip out on his farm chores to walk several miles to an elderly ex-circus performer’s house. He wanted to learn how to train farm horses to do circus tricks, apparently. And when I learned that the circus performer, one Madame Marantette, was a real historical figure, I realized I had the makings of a book on my hands.

Copious research into the life of Madame Marantette revealed many fascinating details. She retains the high jump record on a horse while riding sidesaddle to this day. She is the only person ever to figure out how to train a horse and an ostrich to pull a surrey together. And in her time she was world famous. Revered even! She met the king of England and everything.

That’s the big stuff. The littler stuff was where things got interesting for me as a writer. As I mentioned, my family is white and the Madame was white. But Bud Thurskow, a man who worked for the Madame for many years, was Black. And here we have the potential for a Mammothgate. You see, for all that my family lived in Burr Oak, and for all that the historical society in the Three Rivers Area pretty much only contains information on white families, there has always been the presence of Native and Black populations in the area of Southwest Michigan. One photo of the Madame in her surrey, which I took care to include in the book, shows a racially diverse crowd looking on.

The fate of Bud in my book? It would have been so easy to just not include him. To silently erase his presence from the Madame’s life and from my own story. Surely that’s what a lot of white writers of historical fiction for children have done in the past. When history gets “complicated” they simplify it by focusing only on the white characters. But not only did this seem to be a great disservice to the memory of Bud, it also would have made my book less interesting.

Bud was staying. That led to an issue though. In what way was he staying? Because now we had to face a whole host of offensive tropes. Right off the bat I didn’t want him to be the Magical Black Friend that helps the heroine and offers folksy advice at just the right times. I didn’t want Bud to serve as some kind of foil for my heroine. I wanted him to have a life outside of this story. A history. I wanted him to exist in his own narrative. That’s how I was able to merge his story with that of Jimmy Winkfield. I’d had the pleasure of hearing an episode of Stuff You Missed in History Class (one of my favorite podcasts) called “Jimmy Winkfield: Derby Pioneer”. I learned about the history of Black jockeys, how they’d broken barriers, and made more money than a lot of their white peers. That is, until white people got mad and took the jockey jobs away from them. Jimmy Winkfield went overseas and had a variety of adventures over there, and it was through his story that I realized I could give Bud a complicated past. I could give him an entire history that mirrored the life of the Madame, but went in a different direction.

I made my choice, but it’s funny how sometimes these choices go unnoticed. The Publishers Weekly review of LONG ROAD TO THE CIRCUS is very complimentary. It says nice things like how the book is a “spirited historical adventure” and that David Small’s “expressive, humorous b&w illustrations infuse the narrative with further personality.” Excellent things to hear if you’re a first time middle grade author. Unfortunately, the review ends by saying that, “All characters cue as white.” When I read that, my heart just dropped. I didn’t erase Bud, but somehow reviewers are so primed to assume that a work of historical fiction set in a small town will contain all white characters that they’ll fail to notice when a book goes in a different direction.

Here then is a hope that in the future we’ll have a different set of expectations. Our children’s books have historically whitewashed the past. Let’s hope that going forward they have the wherewithal to open the eyes of their child readers to what it was really like in the past. That America was a hugely diverse country, and that fact should permeate our books.

In other words, let’s put those mammoths back in the ground where they belong.

Meet the author

Betsy Bird is the Collection Development Manager of Evanston Public Library and the former Youth Materials Specialist of New York Public Library. She writes for the School Library Journal blog A Fuse #8 Production and reviews for Kirkus. She is the host of the Story Seeds podcast as well as the co-host of the podcast Fuse 8 n’ Kate. Betsy is the author of nonfiction, picture books, anthologies, and the new historical middle grade novel LONG ROAD TO THE CIRCUS, illustrated by David Small and out this October. You can follow Betsy at @FuseEight on Twitter or at betsybirdbooks.com.

About Long Road to the Circus

The story of a girl who rides an ostrich straight to her dreams from theaward-winning writer and librarian Betsy Bird, illustrated by Caldecott Medalist David Small.

Twelve-year-old Suzy Bowles is tired of summers filled with chores on her family farm in Burr Oak, Michigan, and desperate to see the world. When her wayward uncle moves back home to the farm, only to skip his chores every morning for mysterious reasons, Suzy decides to find out what he’s up to once and for all. And that’s when she meets legendary former circus queen Madame Marantette and her ostriches. Before long, Suzy finds herself caught-up in the fast-paced, hilarious world of ostrich riding, a rollicking adventure that just might be her ticket out of Burr Oak.

ISBN-13: 9780593303931
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Publication date: 10/05/2021
Age Range: 10 – 12 Years

What Is YA?, a guest post by Hayley Krischer

In the beginning of September, New Yorker writer Helen Rosner added to the already agonizing conversation “What makes YA, YA?” when she posted this on Twitter: “If the protagonist is a girl between the ages of 17-25 the only difference between YA and adult fiction is marketing. I will die on this hill.”

The conversation started another intense discussion on Twitter about a topic that has been covered for at least a decade. Authors and librarians have weighed in heavily on this: YA books make the world less scary and bewildering; YA makes us safe to be who we are and YA should only be written for teens, and teens alone.

Despite what some might believe, YA is not just a marketing tool. Just because a book is about teenagers, it doesn’t mean that it is meant for teenagers. Or that it will have the teenage perspective needed to attract teenagers.

As a first time YA writer, I found myself in this situation when I was writing my second book The Falling Girls. My story had been partially based on the Skylar Neese murder. Skylar Neese was a 16-year-old from West Virginia who was killed by her two best friends; when one of the girls was asked why they did it, she responded: “We just didn’t like her.”

I was fascinated by the concept of turning on your best friend in such a horrific way. I wanted to understand these girls and their relationships before the murder took place. Who were they when they were together? What did they mean to each other?

From that place, I created Shade, my main character, who becomes completely intoxicated by Chloe Orbach, the dazzling head of the cheerleading team who has a dark side. Shade’s best friend Jadis isn’t happy about this new friendship. Neither is Chloe’s best friend. One of the girls is killed at the homecoming dance, and Shade needs to find out what happened.

Shade does a lot of self-searching—she has to not only take a lens to herself and her desires, but she has to understand how her relationship with Chloe impacted her intimate relationship with Jadis. By the end of the book (without giving away too much), Shade is able stand on her own two feet. She’s had a damaging experience, yes, but it also made her stronger. Shade found the path outside of that dark place.

And that’s the difference between YA and adult. An adult book does not need to see a path out of a dark place. An adult book doesn’t need a solution. It doesn’t need to make the main character stronger.

Look at The Girls by Emma Cline, a dark coming-of-age novel about 14-year-old Evie, who gets drawn into a cult based on the Manson family murders. Evie gets sucked into the destruction of the cult; she’s fascinated by the dank school bus, the dusty dirt road, the ragged children… but she is most captivated by Suzanne, one of the cult members. Evie never finds that stable footing—not as a teenager, or as an adult. Evie isn’t necessarily looking to grow. She’s following her instincts, she’s following Suzanne’s lead, which are all skewered and troubled.

And that’s the real difference when you’re writing for children. You must depict growth.

As Oblong Books manager Nicole Brinkley recently wrote in her newsletter, Misshelved: “YA books are supposed to offer a unique literary space where teens can engage with content created specifically for readers at their stage of neurological and psychological development, about characters who are their age, and that offer them the opportunity to read and escape and grow.”

Back to Cline for a moment because The Girls is a good example here. Cline isn’t interested in teaching her readers a lesson in growth. She depicts the story about a lost, vulnerable girl on the edge of something horrible, something she always lives with and never quite gets over.

YA encompasses so many stories about growth, but it also gives teenagers the ability to connect and understand themselves, especially the confusing sides of themselves in different ways. Which is why representation has become an enormous part of successful YA.

As Angie Thomas explained in an interview:  “I was not used to seeing books about people like me in circumstances like mine, specifically when it comes to young adult literature. As a teenager, I hated reading… but now I can look back and say it wasn’t that I hated reading, I hated the books that were being presented to me.”

And here is the crux of the YA experience. It should give young adult readers a new perspective that feels familiar to them, but also gives them a diagram about life. This doesn’t mean YA needs to shy away from difficult topics. There are a number of YA authors who write very grown up situations for their characters. There’s Tiffany D. Jackson who portrayed a 17-year-old groomed by a famous sexual predator in Grown. Or like Kathleen Glasgow who wrote about a girl who self-harms in Girl In Pieces.

The main characters in these books are harmed, they’re traumatized, but they come away with a lesson about life. We leave these books knowing that these characters will, at some point, be okay. Their souls have taken a beating, sure. But they’ve made it through.

That is the true hallmark of YA. That you can make it through tough times, because you have a whole big beautiful life ahead of you.

Meet the author

Hayley Krischer is a journalist and author of young adult fiction. Her debut novel, Something Happened to Ali Greenleaf, was on the shortlist in the New York Times, a Book Expo buzz book pick for 2020 and selected for the 2021 Rise: A Feminist Book Project List from the American Library Association. She is a regular contributor to the New York Times and has written for the New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, Marie Claire, The Rumpus, Lenny Letter and many other outlets. Hayley Krischer lives in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, with her husband, two kids, one dog, and three cats.

Website: www.hayleykrischer.net
Instagram: @hayleykrischer
Twitter: @hayleykrischer

About The Falling Girls

Perfect for fans of Kathleen Glasgow and Nina LaCour comes another searing, affecting novel that follows one girl caught between two toxic worlds from the author of Something Happened to Ali Greenleaf.

A compelling, crushing, and spot-on story about toxicity, feminism and friendship” Kathleen Glasgow

Shade and Jadis are everything to each other. They share clothes, toothbrushes, and even matching stick-and-poke tattoos. So when Shade unexpectedly joins the cheerleading team, Jadis can hardly recognize who her best friend is becoming. 

Shade loves the idea of falling into a group of girls; she loves the discipline it takes to push her body to the limits alongside these athletes . Most of all, Shade finds herself drawn to The Three Chloes—the insufferable trio that rules the squad—including the enigmatic cheer captain whose dark side is as compelling as it is alarming. 

Jadis won’t give Shade up so easily, though, and the pull between her old best friend and her new teammates takes a toll on Shade as she tries to forge her own path. So when one of the cheerleaders dies under mysterious circumstances, Shade is determined to get to the bottom of her death. Because she knows Jadis—and if her friend is responsible, doesn’t that mean she is, too? 

In this compelling, nuanced exploration of the layered, intoxicating relationships between teen girls, and all the darkness and light that exists between them, novelist Hayley Krischer weaves a story of loss and betrayal, and the deep reverberations felt at a friendship’s breaking point. 

ISBN-13: 9780593114148
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 10/05/2021
Age Range: 14 – 17 Years

Dyslexia Awareness Month: Let’s Talk Fidgets, including DIY Fidget Toys, with the help of My Tween Scout

Check out the Dyslexia Dashboard for all of our Dyslexia posts

October is Dyslexia Awareness Month and Scout and I like to use this blog to raise awareness. Scout is an amazing 12 year old who has Dyslexia. And like a lot of kids who have Dyslexia, she also has ADHD. According to Everyday Health:

As many as one in four children with ADHD also have dyslexia, while between 15 and 40 percent of children with dyslexia have ADHD.


My amazing kid is one of the many, many kids out there who have both. Scout says ADHD is like this: I have trouble focusing and I like to move my body a lot. She can also become hyper-fixted on things, which I why when she learns how to make a new kind of fidget she doesn’t just make one, but she makes a basket full of them. In fact, just as much as Scout will do 1,000 cartwheels while trying to watch a movie, she can also spend hours alone in her room making a ton of fidgets or playing with Legos. Like Dyslexia, it isn’t just one thing and it can affect people different; it can even affect them differently at different times.

And as a kid with ADHD, she is a big fan of fidget toys. Like all things ADHD and Dyslexia related, it took me a while to realize the how and why of all of this. But basically, having something to do in her hand can help her focus and be better at managing tasks like reading and doing homework. Having her attention divided in this way can help her to hone in her focus, keep her body more still, and just pay better attention to the details. So where she has a tendency to want to get up and move her muscles every few minutes, having a fidget in one hand can help make the moments in between that need to move last longer so she has longer periods of focus.

How Fidgets Can Help Kids with ADHD


Scout is a huge lover of fidgets. She will bring out her basket of fidgets and tell me what they all are called and show me how to use them. I’ve heard her talk about them a lot and today she has chosen to talk to you about the various kinds of fidgets out there and share with you how she has even made her own, which would be a great program idea. All of the fidgets you see here are hers, including the homemade ones. I am transcribing for her.

Scout and her basket of fidgets

Fidgets 101

There are a wide variety of fidget toys out there. It’s unfortunate that they are called fidget toys, because they are actually quite helpful accessibility devices. As I mentioned, doing something in her hand can help her focus and concentrate. The fact that they are called toys and sold in the toy sections of stores can negate that they are actually a meaningful accessibility tool. So if you are someone who has bias against or doesn’t understand fidgets, please know that they are quite helpful to a lot of kids out there. You should also know that they are also new; it turns out that pretty much all of us have owned a fidget at one time or another, but older people like us grown ups didn’t always call them that. Just as long as there have been human roaming the Earth, there have been self soothing devices and kids/adults have found a way to self-manage their ADHD before we even knew to call it ADHD.

The Fidget Spinner

The idea of fidgets really broke out on the scene a few years back with the popularity of the fidget spinner. For a while, they were everywhere. You hold them in one hand and let them spin and it’s a fun distraction. As a parent, I like the fidget spinner because it is quieter. Not all fidgets are quiet. Interestingly, sometimes, the noise is part of the appeal.

Scout’s love of fidgets began with fidget spinners, but these are her least favorite at this point in part because they actually require the least amount of action. Once you get them spinning, there isn’t a lot for you to do.

We have written about DIY fidget spinners before and all the spinners you see in the picture above were made by teens. Scout has made some out of 3D pens, paper, and more. You need to purchase bearings for the center, but what you do with that center is open to a wide. The bearings can be purchased in bulk at a variety of online retailers.

Fidget Cubes

Fidget Cubes are cubes with a variety of activities on each side. The appeal here is that you can move it around and do a variety of activities, so you aren’t stuck with any one thing in your hand. There is a lot of clicking, feelings, and movement involved.

You can make your own using cardboard and whatever is left over in your craft cabinet. Scout has made a couple using what we have laying around the house including hot glue, it turns out that dried hot glue is tactiley pleasing for many people. Googly eyes, clothes pins, pony beads and more work well for this activity. If you have some laying around and it can be hot glued to a surface, it will probably work.

The Popper or Poppit

One of the more popular fidgets today is the popper. They come in different shapes and sizes and they have these little silicone bubbles that you can pop. Yes, it’s very much like popping packaging bubbles except for better for the environment. And yes, it’s very noisy like popping packaging bubbles. She is 100% not allowed to take these ones to school because I respect her teachers. In addition to the tactile pleasure here, she likes the rhythm of it. She’s also a big fan of the collectibility of it; who doesn’t like to have a variety of fun shapes and sizes?

Here’s a fun hack for you, you can buy silicone candy molds for a lot less money at your local discount grocery store and they are a very good substitute.

You can also make a Lego type Popper, which Thing 2 has done and really liked. This is a great activity if you have a Lego Club.

The Dimpl and the Simple Dimpl

The Dimpl and the Simple Dimpl come in very fun shapes and have a few larger popping circles. Like the poppers, they are fun to collect because of all the shapes and sizes that they come in. They also usually have carabiners on them so they can clip onto a lanyard or backpack. These are less noisy than the poppers, but not totally silent. But a lot of ADHD kids have issues with misplacing things, so being able to hook them onto a backpack or lanyard is really nice.

We made a version of a Simple Dimple using Lego:

There is also a variety of tutorials out there about how to DIY your own using other materials.

Squishies and Stressballs

Have you ever been given a stress ball at a trade show? You had a form of fidget, they just called it something else. Now they make them in all kinds of shapes and sizes and they are cute and collectible. They are also quiet!

You can make your own by filling a balloon with playdough, kinetic sand (and there are online recipes to make your own), or Orbeez. You can also make your own by making a duct tape pouch and filling it with plastic grocery bags as you see above. There are a lot of tutorials online and we’ve tried several. The kinetic sand in a balloon and the plastic bags in duct tape are quick, easy and not that expensive.

Tangles, Infinity Cubes and Wacky Tracks

There are several fidget toys that involve infinity like tangles that you manipulate. When I was a kid, we called these the Snake and didn’t know they were fidget toys. You can make your own very easily by making paper chains and gluing the ends together. In fact, there are a lot of fidget related things you can do with origami.

So there you have it, 6 fun ways that you can DIY your own fidget toys. Having a program where tweens and teens were invited to come in and make their own fidgets is not only fun – it promotes accessibility!! In my house, we definitely have some rules about what fidget tools can be used where (noisy fidgets don’t go to school), but I also have evolved to understand that they are helpful for a large number of kids. I hope that if you don’t understand the appeal of fidgets, that you will spend some time researching and talking to your kids about them. And if you find that your kids like them, I highly recommend DIY programs – They are a lot of fun!

Bringing The City Beautiful to Life, a guest post by Aden Polydoros

When I set out writing The City Beautiful, one of the basic and most important foundations of the story was nailing down the timelines and locations. For plot-related reasons, this story is very much set in the year of 1893, and both the mystery and Alter’s own past are heavily rooted in events that occurred years prior. Probably the most intensive part of my initial drafting process was figuring out how to build a vivid world and bring 1893 Chicago to life on the page, which involved deep research into what Chicago was like during that time—where in the city certain landmarks were located, how far it was from place to place, and the kind of technology and atmosphere one would expect to find there. In this guest post, I want to talk a little about some of the locations that appear or are mentioned in The City Beautiful.

Apancu, Wikipedia.org, 2006

Piatra Neamț, Romania

Magic flowed through the winding streets of Piatra Neamț, if one were to believe the legends. I grew up on stories of holy men parting the river Bistrița, golems shaped from clay, and, of course, those possessive spirits called dybbukim. – Page 175

During my drafting process, it was important for me to not just flesh out the present-day locations, but also determine how Alter’s own upbringing in Romania would influence who he is as a person. This involved extensive research into Romanian Jewish history, and the discrimination Romania’s Jewish communities faced in the mid-to-late 1800s. The town Alter comes from, Piatra Neamț, is now a city, with a current population of about 105,000. In Alter’s time, the population numbered far less (17,384 in 1899), and had a significant Jewish population of about 20%. As of 2003, only 153 Jews remain in Piatra Neamț.

Having Alter come from Romania made sense for the time period, since most Jews who immigrated to the United States during the 1880s-1890s fled persecution and violence in Eastern European countries. During my drafting process, I realized that his country of origin would affect everything from his religious observance, to the Yiddish dialect he speaks, to the way he is treated by the long-established German-Jewish community in Chicago. This realization helped me flesh out his character and bring him to life on the page.

Colorized photo of a c1900s postcard of the Maxwell Street Market, original source unknown

Maxwell Street

Despite its dilapidation and squalor, Maxwell Street had always felt secure and familiar to me. I could read the signs on the walls and speak to everyone I passed. But everything had changed now. I didn’t think I would ever feel safe here again. – Page 125

Like most recent Jewish immigrants in Chicago at that time, Alter lives in a tenement on Maxwell Street. As one of the most densely populated neighborhoods in Chicago at the time, Maxwell street was a self-contained community, with its own mix of charity organizations, synagogues, and businesses. There was even a Sunday market and Yiddish theater. It was also a place of significant poverty and hardship, further worsened by insufficient Victorian-era sanitation and unstable, poorly built tenements. However, it was also one of the few places in Chicago where recent Jewish immigrants like Alter could feel at home, surrounded by people who spoke the same language and practiced the same faith.

“Chicago’s Levee District at Night”, Harper’s Weekly, February 1898. Chicago History Museum.

The Levee

There was only one place Frankie would be on a night like this, and that was the Levee District cradling the city’s southern edge, a labyrinth of saloons, dance halls, and brothels. It was where it had all started for me, and where I had ended things. – Page 96

Chicago’s vice and red-light district, the Levee, plays an important role in the story. It is where Alter first found himself upon his arrival in the city, and later where he reacquaints with charming but morally dubious Frankie Portnoy. Although the picture above paints a charming picture, in reality it was a considerably dangerous place, where muggings were not uncommon and violence and corruption reigned. In other words, the perfect place for someone like Frankie to make a living.

The Stockyards

Past the gate, the Yards was a labyrinth of brick walls the color of spoiled meat, and smoke-guttering flues and rickety wooden ramps crammed within two square kilometers. Pens contained thousands of pigs and cattle, and as Raizel and I headed deeper into the complex, the air grew muggy with their earthy animal odors. – Page 233

Another significant location in the story is the Union Stockyards, the slaughterhouse district that formed the economy’s backbone at the time. By 1890, nine million animals each year met their deaths in the Stockyards’ slaughterhouses. The conditions in the slaughterhouses and processing factories were appalling, as was the treatment of the workers there. As for the meat they produced, because of the lack of regulations at the time, you’d be lucky if you found a single rat dropping in your sausage, and not the entire rat itself. In The City Beautiful, Alter’s search for justice leads him to suspect that more than just the blood of livestock was spilled in the Yards’ slaughterhouses.

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1945 Tribune article, found via https://www.chicagomag.com/city-life/may-2016/whitechapel-club/

The Whitechapel Club

As Mr. Whitby led us deeper into the room, he explained that the club was decorated with relics of slaughter. A knife used for murder. Nooses from the execution yard. The lamps were not porcelain or chalkware; they had been made from the skulls of the mad, acquired from Dunning Asylum. – Page 135

Active from 1889 to 1894, the Whitechapel Club began as a club for newsmen but was later gentrified by the rich and powerful. Source materials paint a garish picture of a club decorated with human remains and weapons—seemingly, the perfect haunting ground for a killer, or so Alter and his friends suspect. However, none of them are prepared for what waits for them there.

Meet the author

Aden Polydoros grew up in Illinois and Arizona, and has a bachelor’s degree in English from Northern Arizona University. When he isn’t writing, he enjoys going to antique fairs and flea markets. His YA gothic fantasy novel, THE CITY BEAUTIFUL, received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, SLJ, and Bookpage, and is a BFYA2022 nominee. He can be found at adenpolydoros.com or on Twitter and Instagram at @AdenPolydoros. 

About The City Beautiful

Death lurks around every corner in this unforgettable Jewish historical fantasy about a city, a boy, and the shadows of the past that bind them both together. 

Chicago, 1893. For Alter Rosen, this is the land of opportunity, and he dreams of the day he’ll have enough money to bring his mother and sisters to America, freeing them from the oppression they face in his native Romania.

But when Alter’s best friend, Yakov, becomes the latest victim in a long line of murdered Jewish boys, his dream begins to slip away. While the rest of the city is busy celebrating the World’s Fair, Alter is now living a nightmare: possessed by Yakov’s dybbuk, he is plunged into a world of corruption and deceit, and thrown back into the arms of a dangerous boy from his past. A boy who means more to Alter than anyone knows.

Now, with only days to spare until the dybbuk takes over Alter’s body completely, the two boys must race to track down the killer—before the killer claims them next.

ISBN-13: 9781335402509
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Publication date: 10/05/2021
Age Range: 13 – 17 Years

Knowing and Not Knowing, a guest post by Barbara Dee

Not long before I started writing Violets Are Blue, I was talking with my husband about his experience growing up with a family member struggling with addiction.

“Did you know?” I asked.

“I knew and I didn’t,” he told me.

That answer—I knew and I didn’t—has always stayed with me. Kids are perceptive and sensitive, especially when it comes to family. But that doesn’t mean they correctly process everything they’re seeing. And sometimes they simply don’t want to see, because the truth, especially about a parent, is too disturbing.

As I was writing Violets Are Blue, I kept coming back to this sentence—I knew but I didn’t—as a way both into the character of Wren, and also into the story I wanted to tell. When you get a sentence like this stuck in your head, it’s a kind of gift from the writing gods. Having the line “Maybe he just likes you” kept me focused on the story I wanted to tell for my MG #metoo book. The expression “halfway normal” kept me on track as I wrote about a kid returning to school after two years of cancer treatment.

For Violets Are Blue, my challenge was to write a main character who was extremely observant about special effects makeup, and extremely close to her mom– and at the same time not getting the fact that her mom was struggling with an addiction to opioids. How can a character be able to detect the very subtle difference between two similar shades of purple eye shadow, and yet not be able to understand that the lock on her mom’s bedroom door is a red flag? Or that her mom’s frequent illnesses are suspicious? Or what it means that her mom is hoarding unmarked bottles of pills, or that money is missing from the house?

I had to make it plausible that Wren could see so well, and so much, and still not get what was going on with the beloved parent right in front of her. This was a difficult balance—but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was no different from the balance you always have to strike when you’re writing MG fiction from the main character’s point of view.

Middle-school-age narrators need to be perceptive and sensitive, but they’re not omniscient.  They see a lot, but they don’t see all—and even when they do see, they don’t always understand.

In My Life in the Fish Tank, Zinny witnesses her brother’s alarming behavior, but she understands it only in retrospect. In Maybe He Just Likes You, Mila senses that the boys’ behavior is out of line, but until she finds out about the scorecard, she doesn’t get why she’s being targeted. In Everything I Know About You, Tally has a close-up view of Ava’s behavior (in fact, she’s “spying” on her roommate, as a sort of game), but it takes her awhile to figure out the truth—that Ava has an eating disorder. 

I never want to write a book that condescends to the main character, or to the kid reader. So even though I’m writing about a twelve year old with imperfect information, or with the (age-approprate) inability to know what all that information means, I still need the main character to be bright, alert, sensitive, worthy of being the focus of the story. Because if the main character is merely unobservant and shallow, why would you want to be in her head for 300 pages?

I think of all my MG books as journeys, with the main character ultimately discovering that people are complex, nothing is simple, and ambiguity is okay. It’s a journey that often begins with that paradoxical state of knowing-and-not-knowing, and ends with acceptance and understanding. 

And—spoiler alert!—in Violets Are Blue, it also ends with forgiveness.

Meet the author

Barbara Dee is the author of twelve middle grade novels published by Simon & Schuster, including Violets Are BlueMy Life in the Fish Tank, Maybe He Just Likes You, Everything I Know About You, Halfway Normal, and Star-Crossed. Her books have earned several starred reviews, have been shortlisted for many state book awards, and have been named to best-of lists including the The Washington Post’s Best Children’s Books, the ALA Notable Children’s Books, the ALA Rise: A Feminist Book Project List, the NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People, and the ALA Rainbow List Top Ten. Barbara lives with her family, including a naughty cat named Luna and a sweet rescue hound named Ripley, in Westchester County, New York.




About Violets Are Blue

From the author of the acclaimed My Life in the Fish Tank and Maybe He Just Likes You comes a moving and relatable middle grade novel about secrets, family, and the power of forgiveness.

Twelve-year-old Wren loves makeup—special effect makeup, to be exact. When she is experimenting with new looks, Wren can create a different version of herself. A girl who isn’t in a sort-of-best friendship with someone who seems like she hates her. A girl whose parents aren’t divorced and doesn’t have to learn to like her new stepmom.

So, when Wren and her mom move to a new town for a fresh start, she is cautiously optimistic. And things seem to fall into place when Wren meets potential friends and gets selected as the makeup artist for her school’s upcoming production of Wicked.

Only, Wren’s mom isn’t doing so well. She’s taking a lot of naps, starts snapping at Wren for no reason, and always seems to be sick. And what’s worse, Wren keeps getting hints that things aren’t going well at her new job at the hospital, where her mom is a nurse. And after an opening night disaster leads to a heartbreaking discovery, Wren realizes that her mother has a serious problem—a problem that can’t be wiped away or covered up. 

After all the progress she’s made, can Wren start over again with her devastating new normal? And will she ever be able to heal the broken trust with her mom?

ISBN-13: 9781534469181
Publisher: Aladdin
Publication date: 10/12/2021
Age Range: 9 – 13 Years

Post-It Note Reviews: Graphic novels, a ghost story, time travel, absurd words, and more!

Post-it Note Reviews are a great way to display books in your library or classroom, a way to let kids recommend their favorite titles without having to get up in front of everyone and do a book talk, and an easy way to offer a more personal recommendation than just the flap copy offers.

Frequent blog readers may have noticed I’m doing a lot more post-it-style reviews and less longer, individual review posts. Partially this is because my way of coping with the many upsetting pieces of the past year has been to drown myself in reading, so I’m burning through so many more books and want to share them, in some form, here. It’s been so hard for authors to be able to promote their books, through things like release parties or festivals or other events, and I want to share as many books as I can particularly these days to help them get the exposure they deserve.

All descriptions from the publishers. Transcriptions of the Post-It notes are below each description.

Karen’s Worst Day (Baby-sitters Little Sister Graphic Novel #3) (Adapted edition) by Ann M. Martin, Katy Farina (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9781338356182 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 12/29/2020)

Another graphic novel in this fun series spin-off of The Baby-sitters Club, featuring Kristy’s little stepsister!

Karen is having a terrible day. Her favorite jeans are missing, there’s no prize in the Crunch-O cereal box, and Boo-Boo the cat won’t play with her. She even gets punished and sent to her room!

Karen tries everything to make her day better, but nothing is going right and her bad luck just won’t go away. Will this be the worst day ever?

Karen’s Kittycat Club (Baby-sitters Little Sister Graphic Novel #4) (Adapted edition) by Ann M. Martin, Katy Farina (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9781338356212 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 07/20/2021)

Karen wants to start her own club!

Karen’s best friend Hannie just got an adorable new kitten. Their neighbor Amanda has a cat, too, and Karen has grumpy old Boo-Boo. Now that they all have cats, Karen comes up with a great idea. She wants to start a Kittycat Club!

What will the club do? Karen can’t baby-sit like her big sister Kristy… but she can cat-sit! Will anyone want to hire Karen and her friends?

(POST-IT SAYS: These graphic novels continue to be super cute and fun. Perfect for the 6-9 set. Spirited Karen has LOTS of big feelings and lots of people to help her negotiate them.)

Partly Cloudy by Tanita S. Davis (ISBN-13: 9780062937001 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 09/07/2021, Ages 8-12)

From award-winning author Tanita S. Davis comes a nuanced exploration of the microaggressions of middle school and a young Black girl named Madalyn who learns that being a good friend means dealing with the blue skies and the rain—and having the tough conversations on days that are partly cloudy. Perfect for fans of A Good Kind of Trouble and From the Desk of Zoe Washington.

Lightning couldn’t strike twice, could it? After a terrible year, Madalyn needs clear skies desperately. Moving in with her great-uncle, Papa Lobo, and switching to a new school is just the first step.

It’s not all rainbows and sunshine, though. Madalyn discovers she’s the only Black girl in her class, and while most of her classmates are friendly, assumptions lead to some serious storms.

Papa Lobo’s long-running feud with neighbor Mrs. Baylor brings wild weather of its own, and Madalyn wonders just how far things will go. But when fire threatens the community, Madalyn discovers that truly being neighborly means more than just staying on your side of the street— it means weathering tough conversations—and finding that together a family can pull through anything.

Award-winning author Tanita S. Davis shows us that life isn’t always clear, and that partly cloudy days still contain a bit of blue worth celebrating.

(POST-IT SAYS: Madalyn tackles tough conversations, big changes, and lots of discomfort in this quiet story. Character-driven readers will appreciate Madalyn’s adjustments and realizations.)

Tia Lugo Speaks No Evil by Danette Vigilante (ISBN-13: 9781631635755 Publisher: North Star Editions Publication date: 08/17/2021, Ages 10-14)

Tia Lugo has a deadly secret.

Tia Lugo considers herself an ordinary thirteen-year-old girl. She just wants to enjoy the end of summer, which means hanging out with her best friend and neighbor, Julius, and ignoring her Puerto Rican grandmother’s embarrassing reliance on creepy candles, weird-smelling herb bundles, and eerie statues—all available for sale at the nearby botanica. But when Tia witnesses a murder late one night from her bedroom window, everything changes in an instant.

Now, Tia is terrified to tell anyone what she’s seen. What if the killer comes after her too? He knows where she lives. Even worse, Tia believes he’s sending her secret messages, reminding her to stay quiet. Desperate to keep herself and her family safe, Tia turns to the last place she ever thought she’d go: her grandmother’s favorite shopping spot, the botanica.

(POST-IT SAYS: Pretty solid suspenseful middle grade thriller. Nota lot of murder mysteries for this age—especially with the main character as the witness. Fast-paced and filled with memorable characters.)

Ham Helsing #1: Vampire Hunter by Rich Moyer (ISBN-13: 9780593308912 Publisher: Random House Children’s Books Publication date: 06/01/2021, Ages 8-12)

The monster hunt is on! A rip-roaring graphic novel adventure about the latest in a famous family of vampire-hunting pigs, inspired by legendary monster slayer Van Helsing!

Ham Helsing is the descendant of a long line of adventurers and monster hunters—who don’t often live to rest on their laurels. Ham has always been the odd pig out, preferring to paint or write poetry instead of inventing dangerous (dumb) new ways to catch dangerous creatures. 

His brother Chad was the daredevil carrying on the family legacy of leaping before looking, but after his death, it’s down to Ham. Reluctantly, he sets out on his first assignment, to hunt a vampire. But Ham soon learns that people aren’t always what they seem and that you need a good team around you to help save your bacon!

(POST-IT SAYS: Cute art, wacky characters and story, and fast-paced adventure will please especially those readers who like energetic silliness. Good fun!)

What Lives in the Woods by Lindsay Currie (ISBN-13: 9781728245720 Publisher: Sourcebooks Publication date: 09/14/2021, Ages 10-14)

For fans of Small Spaces and the Goosebumps series by R.L Stine comes a chilling ghost story about a girl living in the decrepit and creepy mansion, who discovers something in the woods is after her.

All Ginny Anderson wants from her summer is to sleep in, attend a mystery writing workshop, and spend time with her best friend. But when Ginny’s father—a respected restoration expert in Chicago—surprises the family with a month-long trip to Michigan, everything changes. They aren’t staying in a hotel like most families would. No, they’re staying in a mansion. A twenty-six room, century-old building surrounded by dense forest. Woodmoor Manor.

But unfortunately, the mansion has more problems than a little peeling wallpaper. Locals claim the surrounding woods are inhabited by mutated creatures with glowing eyes. And some say campers routinely disappear in the woods, never to be seen again.

As terrifying as it sounds, Ginny can’t shake the feeling that there’s something darker . . . another story she hasn’t been told. When the creaky floors and shadowy corners of the mansion seem to take on a life of their own, Ginny uncovers the wildest mystery of all: There’s more than one legend roaming Saugatuck, Michigan, and they definitely aren’t after campers.

It’s after her.

(POST-IT SAYS: We always need more scary/horror MG books! Paranormal creepiness, a mystery, and a truly spooky vibe. Great friendships/relationships and Ginny is an excellent and determined main character.)

The Many Meanings of Meilan by Andrea Wang (ISBN-13: 9780593111284 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 08/17/2021, Ages 9-12)

A family feud before the start of seventh grade propels Meilan from Boston’s Chinatown to rural Ohio, where she must tap into her inner strength and sense of justice to make a new place for herself in this resonant debut.

Meilan Hua’s world is made up of a few key ingredients: her family’s beloved matriarch, Nai Nai; the bakery her parents, aunts, and uncles own and run in Boston’s Chinatown; and her favorite Chinese fairy tales. 

After Nai Nai passes, the family has a falling-out that sends Meilan, her parents, and her grieving grandfather on the road in search of a new home. They take a winding path across the country before landing in Redbud, Ohio. Everything in Redbud is the opposite of Chinatown, and Meilan’s not quite sure who she is—being renamed at school only makes it worse. She decides she is many Meilans, each inspired by a different Chinese character with the same pronunciation as her name. Sometimes she is Mist, cooling and invisible; other times, she’s Basket, carrying her parents’ hopes and dreams and her guilt of not living up to them; and occasionally she is bright Blue, the way she feels around her new friend Logan. Meilan keeps her facets separate until an injustice at school shows her the power of bringing her many selves together. 

The Many Meanings of Meilan, written in stunning prose by Andrea Wang, is an exploration of all the things it’s possible to grieve, the injustices large and small that make us rage, and the peace that’s unlocked when we learn to find home within ourselves.

(POST-IT SAYS: What a fantastic read. Meilan’s journey through family history, new friends, racist administrators, and finding her own voice is moving, empowering, and exceedingly well written.)

Final Season by Tim Green (ISBN-13: 9780062485953 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 09/14/2021, Ages 8-12)

From New York Times bestselling author and former NFL player Tim Green comes a gripping, deeply personal standalone football novel about a star middle school quarterback faced with a life-changing decision after his dad is diagnosed with ALS. Perfect for fans of Mike Lupica!

With two all-star college football players for brothers and a former Atlanta Falcons defensive lineman for a father, it is only natural for sixth-grade quarterback Benjamin Redd to follow in their footsteps.

However, after his dad receives a heartbreaking ALS diagnosis—connected to all those hard hits and tackles he took on the field—Ben’s mom becomes more determined than ever to get Ben to quit football.

Ben isn’t playing just for himself though. This might be his dad’s last chance to coach. And his teammates need a quarterback that can lead them to the championships. But as Ben watches the heavy toll ALS takes on his dad’s body, he begins to question if this should be his final season after all. 

(POST-IT SAYS: A powerful and emotional read. This tight-knit family has to rethink its dedication to playing football in the face of the father’s ALS diagnosis. A moving look at choices, perseverance, and love.)

Your Life Has Been Delayed by Michelle I. Mason (ISBN-13: 9781547604081 Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Publication date: 09/07/2021, Ages 12-17)

Past and present collide in a captivating YA debut about a girl who takes off on a flight and lands . . . twenty-five years later.

When Jenny boards her flight back from New York, the biggest things on her mind are applying to Columbia and reuniting with her brand-new boyfriend. But when she and the other passengers disembark in St. Louis, they’re told that their plane disappeared-twenty-five years ago. Everyone thought they were dead.

The world has fast-forwarded. Three of her grandparents are gone, her parents are old, and her “little” brother is now an adult. There’s so much she’s missed out on, not the least iPhones, social media, and pop culture. When some surprising information comes to light, Jenny feels betrayed by her family and once-best friend. She’s also fighting her attraction to Dylan, a cute and kind classmate who has an unusual connection to her past. And then there’s the growing contingent of conspiracy theorists determined to prove that Flight 237 hides a sinister truth. Will Jenny figure out how to move forward, or will she always be stuck in the past?

Debut author Michelle I. Mason offers a smart and funny high-concept debut about the most unbelievable of life changes-and the parts of yourself that can always stay the same.

(POST-IT SAYS: A fun thought experiment, especially to this 90s teen! A good premise full of culture shock, angst, and the weird adjustment to everyone you knew being 25 years older. Biggest themes: change and relationships.)

Drawn That Way by Elissa Sussman, Arielle Jovellanos (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9781534492974 Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers Publication date: 09/28/2021, Ages 12-18)

Moxie meets the world of animation in this fresh, unputdownable novel about a teen girl determined to prove herself in the boys’ club of her dream industry no matter what it takes.

Hayley Saffitz is confident, ambitious, and intent on following in the footsteps of her hero, renowned animation director, Bryan Beckett. When she’s given a spot in his once-in-a-lifetime summer program, Hayley devises a plan: snag one of the internship’s coveted directing opportunities. Dazzle Bryan with her talent. Secure a job post-graduation. Live her dream.

Except she doesn’t land one of the director positions. All of those go to boys. And one of them is Bryan’s son, Bear.

Despite Bear’s obvious apathy for the internship, Hayley soon realizes that there’s more to him than she expected. As they work together, the animosity between them thaws into undeniable chemistry and maybe something… more.

But Hayley can’t stop thinking about the chance she was refused.

Determined to make a name for herself, Hayley recruits the five other young women in the program to develop their own short to sneak into the film festival at the end of the summer. As the internship winds down, however, one question remains: Will Hayley conform to the expectations of her idol, or will she risk her blossoming relationship with Bear—and her future—to prove that she’s exactly as talented as she thinks she is?

(POST-IT SAYS: Loved this! Cool summer internship, feminism, animation, and friendship! Hayley is smart, passionate, and ambitious. Challenges sexism and the “boys’ club” mentality.)

I Survived the Attacks of September 11, 2001 (I Survived Graphic Novel #4) by Lauren Tarshis, Corey Egbert (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9781338680485 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 08/03/2021, Ages 8-12)

A gripping graphic novel adaptation of Lauren Tarshis’s bestselling I Survived the Attacks of September 11, 2001, in time for the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

The only thing Lucas loves more than football is his Uncle Benny, his dad’s best friend at the firehouse where they both work. Benny taught Lucas everything about football. So when Lucas’s parents decide the sport is too dangerous and he needs to quit, Lucas has to talk to his biggest fan.

The next morning, Lucas takes the train to the city instead of the bus to school. It’s a bright, beautiful day in New York as he heads to the firehouse. But just as he arrives, everything changes — and nothing will ever be the same again.

Lauren Tarshis’s New York Times bestselling I Survived series comes to vivid life in bold graphic novels. Perfect for readers who prefer the graphic novel format, or for existing fans of the I Survived chapter book series, these graphic novels combine historical facts with high-action storytelling that’s sure to keep any reader turning the pages. Includes a nonfiction section at the back with facts and photos about the real-life event.

(POST-IT SAYS: The layout, art, and adaptation of the story are all great and so effectively convey the shock and horror of this awful day. The graphic novel format is so well suited to telling this specific story.)

Monarch Butterflies: Explore the Life Journey of One of the Winged Wonders of the World by Ann Hobbie, Olga Baumert (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9781635862898 Publisher: Storey Books Publication date: 04/27/2021, Ages 7-10)

Monarchs are a favorite and familiar North American butterfly, and their incredible annual migration has captured the popular imagination for generations. As populations of monarchs decline dramatically due to habitat loss and climate change, interest in and enthusiasm for protecting these beloved pollinators has skyrocketed. With easy-to-read text and colorful, engaging illustrations, Monarch Butterflies presents young readers with rich, detailed information about the monarchs’ life cycle, anatomy, and the wonders of their signature migration, as well as how to raise monarchs at home and the cultural significance of monarchs in Day of the Dead celebrations. As the book considers how human behavior has harmed monarchs, it offers substantive ways kids can help make a positive difference. Children will learn how to turn lawns into native plant gardens, become involved in citizen science efforts such as tagging migrating monarchs and participating in population counts, and support organizations that work to conserve butterflies.

(POST-IT SAYS: A stunningly beautiful and educational book. Perfect for young readers curious about the life cycle and journey of a monarch. Tips for helping, fun facts, a glossary, and additional info.)

Egg Marks the Spot (Skunk and Badger 2) by Amy Timberlake, Jon Klassen (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9781643750064 Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill Publication date: 09/14/2021, Ages 7-10)

“X Marks the Spot!”

Buried in the heart of every animal is a secret treasure. For rock scientist Badger, it’s the Spider Eye Agate he found as a cub, stolen years ago by his crafty cousin, Fisher. For Badger’s roommate, Skunk, the treasure is Sundays with the New Yak Times Book Review. When an old acquaintance, Mr. G. Hedgehog, announces his plan to come for the Book Review as soon as it thumps on the doorstep, Skunk decides an adventure will solve Badger’s problems as well as his own. Surprisingly, Badger agrees. Together
they set off on an agate-finding expedition at Badger’s favorite spot on Endless Lake.

But all is not as it seems at Campsite #5. Fisher appears unexpectedly. Then a chicken arrives who seems intent on staying. Something is up!


Secrets, betrayals, lies

. . . and a luminous, late-Jurassic prize.

In a volume that includes full-color plates and additional black-and-white illustrations by Caldecott medalist Jon Klassen, Newbery Honor author Amy Timberlake takes readers on a second adventure in the new series reviewers have called an instant classic, with comparisons to Frog and ToadWinnie-the-Pooh, and The Wind in the Willows.

(POST-IT SAYS: There is nothing else that, to me, captures the perfection of Frog and Toad like these Skunk and Badger stories. Clever, timeless, adorable animal adventures about friendship, cohabitation, and Important Rock Work. Just the best.)

Absurd Words: A kids’ fun and hilarious vocabulary builder for future word nerds by Tara Lazar (ISBN-13: 9781492697428 Publisher: Sourcebooks Publication date: 01/02/2022, Ages 8-12)

This revolutionary dictionary-thesaurus hybrid puts more than 750 high-level, wondrous, and wacky words in fun, engaging, and hilarious context.

(POST-IT SAYS: Zarf! Ultracrepidarian! Poltroon! Just some of the new words I learned thanks to this super fun, well laid out, colorful, and useful book. All words have example sentences and some have info on roots, pop culture use, and more. A wonderful resource!)

All Pets Allowed: Blackberry Farm 2 by Adele Griffin, LeUyen Pham (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9781643750736 Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill Publication date: 08/31/2021, Ages 7-11)

New dog, no tricks!

Becket Branch has one birthday wish—a dog! Dogs are outgoing and friendly, and they live life loud, just like Becket. Becket’s twin, Nicholas, wants a pet more like him—a peaceful, quiet indoor cat. When their parents take them to the shelter to choose a dog and a cat, it should be Becket’s biggest BEAUTIFUL ALERT ever. But Becket’s dream dog, Dibs, turns out to be a super-shy scaredy-pooch. Meanwhile, Nicholas’s kitty, Given, loves being the center of attention and greeting visitors to Blackberry Farm.

Can Becket and Nicholas learn how to love Dibs and Given as they are—even if they aren’t exactly the pets the twins dreamed of?

With black-and-white drawings throughout by award-winning illustrator LeUyen Pham (Real Friends), this second volume of the Blackberry Farm series offers a gentle message about embracing new friends who may not match preconceived expectations.

(POST-IT SAYS: A joyful and compassionate read. The very different twins adopt pets whose personalities best match their sibling. Together they care for their pets and each other while also spending time with friends and family. Sweet story, great art.)

Be the Dragon: 9 Keys to Unlocking Your Inner Magic by Catherine J. Manning, Melanie Demmer (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9781523511419 Publisher: Workman Publishing Company, Inc. Publication date: 09/14/2021, Ages 8-12)

There is magic inside you if you only dare to look.

Dragons are the heroes we need.

They have fires in their bellies, wisdom in their eyes, and hearts big enough to welcome one and all. And now you can be one, too!

In this ingenious book filled with hands-on activities, quests and quizzes, exciting stories, and charming illustrations every young reader will discover firsthand how to slay their fears and find their inner power.

How, in other words, to Be the Dragon, filled with courage, kindness, insight, compassion, positivity, and so much more.

And that is something to roar about!

(POST-IT SAYS: What a great idea! Fun quizzes, little stories, projects/crafts, and more all aimed at problem solving, kindness, self-esteem, and self-care. Full-color pages and cute art. A hit!)

Speaking Up for Courageous Women Who Spoke Up and Changed the World, a guest post by Nancy Churnin

When we think of women who spoke up and changed the world, the same few names come to mind, particularly the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. While Justice Ginsburg is a wonderful and worthy subject, why are there multiple books about her and none about others including Henrietta Szold, whom Justice Ginsburg credits for inspiration? 

Did you know that Henrietta Szold showed Justice Ginsburg that women could defy the expectations society had for women by founding the first night school in America to give immigrants the education they needed to succeed in their new country, creating Hadassah, the first charity created and run by women, and saving 11,000 children during the Holocaust?

In fact, Justice Ginsburg wrote of Szold: “Szold’s plea for celebration of our common heritage while tolerating, indeed appreciating, the differences among us concerning religious practice is captivating. I recall her words even to this day when a colleague’s position betrays a certain lack of understanding.”

Then there are the women that somehow slip through the cracks of history, their impact only seen through the work of others. Did you know that a Jewish woman named Eliza Davis wrote to Charles Dickens, protesting his use of harmful Jewish stereotypes in his book, Oliver Twist? She changed his heart, which changed the way he wrote about Jewish people. Her influence on him influenced England into becoming a more compassionate and inclusive.

I’ve written two new picture book biographies about these remarkable women – the first for each – because they deserve to be better known. I hope that their stories will encourage students to search for more hidden heroines.

Henrietta Szold, photo courtesy of Jewish Theological Seminary

A Queen to the Rescue, the Story of Henrietta Szold, Founder of Hadassah is the story of an incredible woman who saw suffering and devoted her life to creating organizations that would solve the problems she identified. Working with others, she addressed the need for adult education, medical care, food security, and, ultimately, rescue from dangerous situations.

Why hadn’t there been a picture book biography of Henrietta before? One reason is that Henrietta never drew attention to herself. She wasn’t motivated by fame or fortune. In fact, she never wrote an autobiography. The challenge in writing Henrietta’s story was to piece together the details of what she had done from a variety of sources and then figure out why she did what she did. This is the difficult, but also fun part research can play. In looking and looking for an accessible youth-friendly way to share her adult accomplishments, I was aided by a couple of happy discoveries. Hadassah, the charity that Henrietta founded, is the Hebrew name for Esther, the Jewish Queen that is celebrated on Purim for her courage in speaking up to save her people.

A Queen to the Rescue by Nancy Churnin, illustrated by Yevgenia Nayberg, Creston Books/Lerner Books

Not only is Hadassah the Hebrew name for Esther, but Henrietta founded Hadassah on Purim! Finally, I learned that when Henrietta traveled to Jerusalem for the first time, she returned in 1909 with an olive wood Purim scroll. She had this cherished item in her possession three years before she founded Hadassah in 1912.

Purim is usually celebrated in a playful way. Kids dress in colorful costumes, eat delicious cookies called hamentashen, and shake noisemakers called groggers. But Henrietta, a student of the Bible and Jewish history, knew that the heart of this celebration is honoring this brave queen who asked her powerful husband, the king, to save her people. To appreciate what a risk Queen Esther took in speaking up to him, this was the same king who had his previous wife killed for disobeying his request to dance for his guests.

A Queen to the Rescue by Nancy Churnin, illustrated by Yevgenia Nayberg, Creston Books/Lerner Books

I called the book A Queen to the Rescue, because I knew Henrietta was channeling that courageous queen when she boarded a ship that went to the heart of Nazi Germany, to plead with powerful men to give her visas for Jewish children so she could bring them to safety.

Dear Mr. Dickens by Nancy Churnin, illustrated by Bethany Stancliffe,  Albert Whitman & Company

In Dear Mr. Dickens, I don’t make a reference to Queen Esther, but I had her in mind when I thought of Eliza’s courage in speaking up to Charles Dickens, one of the most famous authors of their time.

Dickens may not have been a king, but he was one of the most influential people in England. Everyone read him, from the chimney sweeps to the queen. His books changed social policy, with Oliver’s struggles in Oliver Twist leading to changes in child labor laws.

Eliza needed persistence to succeed in her goal of getting Dickens to listen to her. He rebuffed her first letter. She could have been intimidated and given up. But she dug deep and thought hard of how she could word her request in a way that would make him listen.

As with A Queen to the Rescue, it took detective work to discover and bring my heroine to life. Like Henrietta, Eliza never wrote an autobiography. But I did have the benefit of the letters she exchanged with Dickens – once I was able, with the help of Dickens scholar Professor Don Vann of the University of Texas in Denton, to locate them. I also studied the period she lived in, the prejudice against the Jewish community at that time, and my own heart.

Dear Mr. Dickens by Nancy Churnin, illustrated by Bethany Stancliffe,  Albert Whitman & Company

I knew how much it hurt her to read Dickens referring to Fagin as “the Jew, the Jew, the Jew,” because it hurt me, growing up, to read those words as if being Jewish meant being selfish, dishonest, and unkind. I found myself in Eliza, wanting to let Dickens know how painful his ugly stereotype was for her and what damage it could do in stoking prejudice against a community made up of people like Eliza and Henrietta that wanted to do good and help others.

I also found myself in Henrietta. Henrietta devoted herself to helping those in need. Her tools were her skills at organization. My goals are the same as Henrietta’s – to help those in need—but my tools are words. I have tried to use my tools in writing books that show how all of us can make a positive difference in the world. I hope these books will make readers think of how we all have different talents and gifts that can be used to make the world a better place.

Henrietta and Eliza may be lesser-known figures, but there are many more like them, waiting to be discovered. They are among the many women who lit the way to roads that others walked on. They are part of a great relay that passes the baton to the next generation so we can all make our way further down the field to a better and more just world. If there had not been a Henrietta Szold, would there have been a Justice Ginsburg? If there had not been an Eliza Davis, would Jewish people still be struggling for equal rights in England and elsewhere?

When Justice Ginsburg wrote a note to congratulate a young girl on her bat mitzvah, she wrote: “I am enclosing a souvenir for you about two people I admire, Henrietta Szold, founder of Hadassah, and Anne Frank.” Then she directed the young women to further reading on both.

In the spirit of Justice Ginsburg, I am offering these two books as souvenirs of courageous women to whom we owe much. I hope these books encourage further reading and reflection on both. It is long past time to thank them and to consider how the world can change when people dare to stand up for what they believe and speak truth to power.

We can count the number of children Henrietta Szold saved from the Holocaust – 11,000 – but we will never know how many more she saved through a lifetime of work helping immigrants succeed in America and helping residents of Jerusalem survive poverty, get education, and be healed by proper medical care.

A Queen to the Rescue by Nancy Churnin, illustrated by Yevgenia Nayberg, Creston Books/Lerner Books

We may not be able to put a number on how many Eliza Davis saved through changing the heart of Charles Dickens. But his words, advocating for Jewish people in his magazines and then later in his creation of the kindly Mr. Riah in Our Mutual Friend, ushered in a very different attitude toward the Jewish community. Would the England that believed Jewish people were like Fagin have supported the Kindertransport, the effort that saved thousands of Jewish children from the Holocaust? I believe it is no coincidence that the English people who read Lizzie Hexam’s words about Jewish people in Our Mutual Friend, that “there cannot be kinder people in the world,” stepped up to save these children starting in 1938.

Dear Mr. Dickens on display at The Charles Dickens Museum in London as part of their Oliver Twist exhibit. A panel was created to honor Eliza Davis at the exhibit.

Representation matters. At a time when women’s rights are increasingly under attack, we need stories about courageous women who refused to accept the limitations that society tried to force on them. At a time when minorities are increasingly marginalized, we need to have stories about characters that give us the representation that brings pride in those who see mirrors of themselves and empathy in those who see others through mirrors that books can provide.

Just as Queen Esther inspired Henrietta and Eliza, I hope Henrietta and Eliza will inspire teens who read these books to channel their spirits to help change the world for the better. To encourage readers to become the heroines and heroes of their own lives, I’ve created a project for both books. For A Queen to the Rescue, the project is Heal the World. With parental and educator permission, I would like to post photos of ways in which teens have helped others on the dedicated Heal the World page on my website nancychurnin.com

For Dear Mr. Dickens, the project is Dear… With parental and educator permission, I would like to post photos of letters teens write to people in positions of influence, asking them to right wrongs or do better on the dedicated Dear… page on my website.

A Queen to the Rescue by Nancy Churnin, illustrated by Yevgenia Nayberg, Creston Books/Lerner Books

The best way to honor those who are no longer with us is to carry on their work and take it further down the road of justice. That’s what Justice Ginsburg did with Henrietta Szold’s example. That’s what I hope Henrietta’s and Eliza’s stories will do for a new generation.

Meet the author

Photo credit: Kim Leeson

Nancy Churnin is the award-winning author of ten picture books about people who persevered to achieve their dreams and make the world a better place. Among her awards: a Junior Library Guild selection, School Library Journal and Kirkus Starred Reviews, multiple Kids’ Choice Book Awards finalists, multiple Bank Street Books Best Children Books honorees, multiple National Council for the Social Studies Notables, multiple Silver Eureka Awards, multiple inclusions on A Mighty Girl list, Sydney Taylor Notable, Towner Award nominee, Sakura Medal finalist, Notable Book for a Global Society, Anne Izard Storytellers Choice Award and the South Asia Book Award. DEAR MR. DICKENS, illustrated by Bethany Stancliffe (Albert Whitman) and A QUEEN TO THE RESCUE, THE STORY OF Henrietta Szold, FOUNDER OF HADASSAH, illustrated by Yevgenia Nayberg (Creston Books/Lerner Books) debuted in October 2021. A native New Yorker, Nancy lives in North Texas with her family, which includes a dog named Dog and two cantankerous cats.

On Facebook: Nancy Churnin Children’s Books

On Facebook: Nancy Churnin

On Twitter: @nchurninOn

Instagram: @nchurnin

About A Queen to the Rescue: The Story of Henrietta Szold, Founder of Hadassah

Henrietta Szold took Queen Esther as a model and worked hard to save the Jewish people. In 1912, she founded the Jewish women’s social justice organization, Hadassah. Henrietta started Hadassah determined to offer emergency medical care to mothers and children in Palestine. When WWII broke out, she rescued Jewish children from the Holocaust, and broadened Hadassah’s mission to include education, youth development, and women’s rights. Hadassah offers free help to all who need it and continues its mission to this day.

ISBN-13: 9781939547958
Publisher: Creston Books
Publication date: 10/05/2021
Age Range: 10 Years +

About Dear Mr. Dickens

In Eliza Davis’s day, Charles Dickens was the most celebrated living writer in England. But some of his books reflected a prejudice that was all too common at the time: prejudice against Jewish people. Eliza was Jewish, and her heart hurt to see a Jewish character in Oliver Twist portrayed as ugly and selfish. She wanted to speak out about how unfair that was, even if it meant speaking out against the great man himself. So she wrote a letter to Charles Dickens. What happened next is history.

ISBN-13: 9780807515303
Publisher: Whitman, Albert & Company
Publication date: 10/01/2021
Age Range: 4 – 8 Years

RevolTeens: The Play and Joy Revolution, by Christine Lively

We are back to school, and the only thing that has changed, it seems is that we’re all wearing masks. At least, that’s the only thing that appears to have changed. In the first few weeks of school we have been overwhelmed in our high school library by the sheer numbers of teens who are checking out books and talking about them. It has been stunning. We have many more students spending time in the library. Yes, they are coming in to check out books – so many more check outs than we usually have and among every kind of student imaginable. Many of our students rediscovered their love of reading and found inspiration in the BookTok videos on TikTok. It’s been great to see so many teens reading for enjoyment and I love talking with them about the books they’ve read, there’s another revolution happening. The teens have started playing again.

I think about how American “society” views and treats teenagers a lot. When kids are young, parents and teachers encourage them to play for the sake of playing to learn social skills, problem solving, and for pure joy. As children get older, adults are constantly on the lookout for what each child has a talent for: Are they good at a sport/music/performing or do they have other talents? Most of the time, well meaning adults will encourage children to work hard in the areas where they have talent and encouraging them to spend more and more time doing it – soccer tournaments, academic clubs, community theater classes and on and on until kids are over-scheduled and stressed. During the pandemic, activities, sports, and other activities were cancelled, and an expanse of free and unscheduled time was available. Many families and kids seem to have rediscovered play as a valuable and joyful way to spend time.

We have seen it in the library. We’ve unearthed an ancient manual typewriter from a storage area and placed it out on our library floor. We gave no lessons nor did we offer advice. Students immediately approached it and have begun writing short thoughtful “typewriter poetry” which we’ve posted on the walls to inspire other students. Still other teens have used the typewriter to write love notes to each other which they exchange. There’s no grade or glory attached – it’s simply for fun.

Still other students have found ways to play by coloring giant coloring pages. We put them out with some markers, and they soon are colored and are beautiful. We have puzzles that are completed by students who huddle together in their masks and fit pieces together. We have at least five chess games happening all day long between students who are friends, and students who are from different countries. They all come to play.

Playing is revolutionary because teens are constantly bombarded with the same messages we adults do – work, work, work – rest and play are wasting time. Playing is a direct revolution against the grind culture we all hear so much about. The culture that says that our value lies only in the work we can produce and the money we make. Yes, teens do work, and study, and practice the skills that they believe may be valuable one day – all things that cause stress and anxiety. Time to play and enjoy themselves balances out their time and gives them a necessary break from stress that they need to keep going.

The mental health crisis we all have read about and experienced first hand with our own families, kids has been sobering. Death has surrounded all of us so immediately for over eighteen months. Filling every day with working, stress about grades, and getting into college doesn’t work for so many teens. It’s just too much. Playing is hitting a pause in their day and allowing them to find reasons to enjoy their lives while they continue to navigate their way through a continuing pandemic.

Teens need a play revolution.

They need time for joy for its own sake. Time with other teens that is not spent trudging through a group project, a job, or another practice. Time that’s not graded, or judged. Time that’s spent enjoying what they’re doing.

Only when they get a break for joy can they keep the hope in their hearts to make the change in the world that we wish to see. Only when they get a break for joy and play can they get back to the serious and necessary business of revolting and changing the world. m

A message on our coloring page from an anonymous RevolTeen.

About Christine Lively

Christine Lively a school librarian in Virginia. I read voraciously, exchange ideas with students, and am a perpetual student. I raise monarch butterflies, cook, clean infrequently and enjoy an extensive hippo collection. I am a Certified Life Coach for Kids 14-24 and my website is christinelively.com. Christine blogs at https://hippodillycircus.com/ and you can follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/XineLively.