Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

You’re graduating high school, now what?

I stayed up all night last night reading an ARC of GLORY O’BRIEN’S HISTORY OF THE FUTURE by A. S. King (dear lord people, so much glorious goodness coming this fall – make a note to read it!). This book is many amazing things, but it perfectly captures that moment when you graduate from high school and realize you have to figure out what comes next. For a lot of teens, the what next is college. For some, like Glory, it is a gap year. For others, it is straight to work.

Yesterday we talked about high school, but here are a couple of books from Zest Books that can help us all with the moments that come after high school.

77 Things You Absolutely Have to Do Before You Finish College by Halley Bondy

I’m not going to lie, my favorite item in this book was number 23: Spend quality time in the library . . . without doing homework. I was lucky enough to go to college in a town with two colleges, and the other college – Kenyon College – had the most amazing bookstore ever. We used to go all the time and hang out there; you would find wondrous things that you never knew existed. If you ever find yourself in Mount Vernon Ohio, go there. Even if you are kinda maybe a little bit close, drive in for a visit.

Some other good tips include taking a class that has nothing to do with your major, learn a language you’ve never studied, try a sport you’ve never tried (intramurals can be a good way to do this), and join an a capella group (or at least watch the movie Pitch Perfect and do this vicariously). And as an aside, many of these will apply to those who choose an alternate, non-college plan after high school. You can even find alternate ways to do some of the education related ones – like study a language or take a class outside of your major – by using your local library resources or taking a local community class.
Undecided: Navigating Life and Learning After High School by Genevieve Morgan
The truth is, most of us don’t have our lives figured out when we graduate high school. I changed majors mid-stream and have a whole extra year of credits (and debt!) to show for it. Want to know what’s even better? I have an undergraduate degree in youth ministry that I basically don’t use (although I will admit the info was very informative to being a YA librarian). And college isn’t the right choice for everyone. And sadly, for many teens, it isn’t really an option at all.Undecided is a pretty good look at the many options that one has after high school, including not only higher education but military services and internships. There is a brief section on gap years (I just like saying gap years because I only learned they were called that last year – in a YA book no less!). Undecided also acknowledges the issue of money and has a chapter dedicated to budgets and planning. I really liked that this section talked about debt and acknowledged that anything they said in the book might already be irrelevant because the conversation kept changing so quickly: “Media reports regularly address what is going on with student loan debt, and things are changing so fast that what I tell you today probably will be out of date tomorrow” (page 68).  But the reality is, “Many college students and grads (even not-so-recent grads) are shackled by debt and the inability to get a job with a high enough salary to pay off that debt” (page 69). I thought the end advice was very spot on: “Take on as little debt as possible to pay for your education – even if this means needing more time to get your degree and working. Or going to a state school instead of a private college. If you do get a loan, read your contract carefully” (page 70).

So while I thought 77 Things You Absolutely Have to Do Before You Finish College was fun and even insightful, I found Undecided to be a very important and helpful tool. Of course one is aimed more at high school students who are trying to figure out what comes after high school and the other is aimed at students who are past that point and are already in college.  They both meet their stated goals and are good resources.

77 Things You Absolutely Have to Do Before You Finish High School by Halley Bondy. Zest Books, 2014. 191 pages. ISBN: 978-1-936976-00-3.

Undecided: Navigating Life and Learning After High School by Genevieve Morgan. Zest Books, 2014. 247 pages. ISBN: 978-1-93676-32-4.

Duct Tape! Check out Sticky Fingers, plus learn from my mistakes – cool tips

I own no less than 20 rolls of Duck/Duct Tape. Okay, technically I bought them for the Tween. But you know, I get to play with them too! Plus, I have regular Duct Tape crafting days at the library. Suffice it to say at this point, I am an expert on Duct Tape crafts.

In fact, I have some important tips for you:

1. Don’t use scissors! Buy an exacto knife and a cutting mat. So much easier to use. If you do use scissors, have lots of Goo Gone on hand to keep cleaning your scissors.

2. To make strips, you can in fact use a scrapbook paper cutter thingy. They look like this. They work wonders. I find this particularly useful to make strips to make a piece of “duct tape material” as it is sometimes called, which you can use, for example, as a duct tape wallet base.

3. You can save little pieces you cut off, like corners and such, on a removable surface, like the backside of your cutting mat, and use them to make picture collages on canvas. Or folders.

4. Once a piece of duct tape gets stuck to itself there is no saving it. Just throw it away and get a new piece.

5. Always make sure you have solid color options to balance the cool print options.

I have shared several posts of some of my favorite activities and books, but here is a new book coming out in July from Zest Books called Sticky Fingers: DIY Duct Tape Projects by Sophie Maletsky (ISBN: 978-1-936976-54-6)

I love the step-by-step instructions in full color! And how the activities are not the same ole’, same ole’ activities again.

Duct Tape Crafts and Even More Duct Tape Crafts

Life Hacks with The How To Handbook (Plus, some of my favorite Life Hacks posts/resources)


noun: life hack 
1. a strategy or technique adopted in order to manage one’s time and daily activities in a more efficient way.
If you spend any time at Buzzfeed or Pinterest, you know that Life Hacks are a thing. Kitchen hacks, school hacks, craft hacks . . . you can always find fun posts that highlight fast and creative ways to solve a problem, re-use an item, etc. I am obsessed with finding fun and creative life hacks.
But here’s the truth, I don’t do very many of them because, well, I am not overly domestic. True story. So kitchen hacks? Cool, but not practical for me because I avoid the kitchen like the plague.

So then I was reading this story about how teens don’t know how to do a lot of the basic skills that we used to take for granted because no one is teaching them.  Know how to sew on a button? Most teens don’t. Know how to tie a knot or pitch a tent? Sadly, a lot of teens don’t.

Every time I see the book The How-to-Handbook I keep thinking that I want to put together a program series called Life Hacks – perfect for a series of Throw Back Thursday themed programs – where we teach teens how to do these basic types of skills. Family Circle has a really good highlight of some of the things we need to make sure teens know, including money skills and clothing skills (there’s that sewing on a button thing again).
And because of the cover of the The How-to-Handbook, I always think I want to do is as an old school badging program. Or, if you want, electronic badges. In my mind it is set up in one of two ways:

1) Do it over spring break with a different themed day every day. Set up stations where tweens and teens do different tasks.  For example, you could have a clothing themed day where at one station they sew a button, in another they sort baskets of clothes for washing, and in another they fold fitted sheets. And a lot of these activities can be turned into types of relay games to make it fun.

or . . .

2) Do a series of Thursday programs (because, you know, Throwback Thursday) for say a month. Again, each week of the month gets a theme.  You can also throw in some old school board and video games. And crafts!

Here’s a look at some of my favorite skills in the book that I think might make for good elements in the series:
Part 1: Everyday Essentials
Manage Your Money
Pack a Suitcase (this could be a fun racing type game)
Wrap a Gift
Part 2: Looking and Smelling Good
Iron a Pair of Pants
 Tie a Bowtie/Tie a Tie
Part 3: Get to Know Your Kitchen
Kitchen essentials
Set a table
Eat a balanced meal
Part 4: Clean Up Like a Pro
Clean your room in five minutes
Do the laundry
Fold a fitted sheet (again, another fun relay type activity could be done here)
Unstick chewing gum
Part 5: Do It Yourself
Fix a flat
Pitch a tent
Sew on a button
Part 6: Emergency Skills 101
Dress a cut
Extract a splinter
Help a choking victim
Take a pule
And of course you could add to this in any way you wanted to. Basic computer skills, job seeking skills, etc.

Here are some of my favorite LifeHack posts/resources:
Huffington Post: 20 DIY Lifehacks with Office Junk that will Blow Your Mind
Tumblr: Daily Life Hacks on Teenager Posts
Bored Panda: 40 Life Hacks That Will Change Your Life
Buzzfeed: 26 Clever and Inexpensive Crafting Hacks
Lifehacker.com: Tons of life hacks

Please people, feed my obsession! Share your favorite Life Hacks in the comments.

Take 5: Your High School Survival Pack

Some people are busy preparing to survive the zombie apocalypse, but the truth is there is something much harder that we all have to survive – High School!

Don’t get me wrong, there were some awesome things about high school. Friday night football games are fun. First love is fun (and terrifying). Watching scary movies with friends, also fun. But I would definitely not want to go back and do it again. Nope, not at all.

So here are some tools to help you – or someone you love – survive high school. While preppers are busy hoarding food and building underground tunnels, all you need is to throw a few good books in your survival pack. And I know just the books . . .

Real teens share their high school stories and survival tips. Been There is divided into 3 sections: Social advice, Academic advice, and Practical advice.  This is a very practical guide for not only your Freshman year, but just your middle school and high school years in general as only some of the advice would specific to your Freshman year.  The advice is real, and you can tell it is written by real teens.  What’s the number 1 thing not to do while making new friends? Fart of course.  And yet there is some real honest, raw and heartfelt advice given here: For instance, it can be really disorienting when your best friend since 3rd grade starts eating lunch somewhere else . . . But your friend’s behavior probably has very little to do with you.  Maybe he’s wanting to expand his own circle of friends. . . Friends come and go, and losing and gaining friends is all part of the experience of growing up and . . . surviving high school (page 18).

Forget the Oxford English Dictionary, THIS is the dictionary you need. From acne to varsity, this mock dictionary provides you with humor and insight into high school life. Want an example, look at this entry for GPA:

I get parents coming in a lot and asking for books to help their kids learn how to study. We talk about studying, but we don’t often really teach kids/teens HOW to do it. This is a really informative guide that helps you get organized, learn techniques, and discusses things like how to take notes and understanding your teachers expectation. At 135 pages it tackles the topic without being exhaustive and overwhelming.

Every time my Tween opens her backpack I cringe and shudder, simultaneously. Papers are shoved inside, all wrinkled and chaos. Then she cries because she can’t find the paper she needed to tell her how to do her science project. She needs this book! Where’s My Stuff is an older title, but one of my favorites because it discusses things like organizing your backpack, organizing your school work, organizing your room and even organizing your time. A little organization can help you be so much more successful in school.

I am a complete sucker for a book of lists. They’re fun and browseable, and who doesn’t like to go through them and mentally check things off? This title is not only a fun list, but it gives a brief overview of some interesting topics like connecting with a role model and ending a argument. The items are divided into various categories including things to do for in each category. The categories are highlighted here with examples in parenthesis: Things to do for your personal development (attend a theater performance, develop the art of conversations, make a public speech), with or for friends (make a gift, start a book club, take a road trip), with or for family (record an oral history, make peace with a sibling, cook a three-course meal), for you body (establish an exercise routine, determine your blood type, study food labels, learn about safe sex), get to know the world around you (create a comic strip, design a t-shirt, write a real letter), to benefit your community and environment (volunteer, go green, understand how a farm works), because you should (write a resume, learn basic car maintenance, learn CPR) and, finally, because you’re only young once (confess a crush, build a bonfire, bury a time capsule).

Guess what? You can win this high school survival pack – for you, for your library, for someone you love. Just do the Rafflecopter thingy below for a variety of ways to enter. Open through the end of this week to U.S. residents. 

Zest Books Week 2014

This week is once again Zest Books week here at TLT. Zest Books is one of my favorite nonfiction publishers for young adults. Here’s a look at the various books we’ve talked about so far on TLT, including book reviews and program/party outlines. There’s a little bit of something for everyone.

Dear Teen Me, authors write letters to their teen selves edited by E. Kristin Anderson and Miranda Kenneally
The End, a look at books containing epidemics based on The End: 50 apocalyptic Visions from Pop Culture That You Should Know About . . . before it’s too late by Laura Barcella
Uncool (Book Review)
Girls Against Girls (Book Review and Discussion)
Historical Heartthrobs (Book Review)
How Not to be a Dick (Book Review)
Little Fish, a different kind of memoir (and a different kind of TPiB)
Super Pop! (Book Review)
Prom (TPiB)
Where’s My Stuff? A look at organization (and a TPiB)
My First Love (and Break Up): Books about falling in and out of love
Scared Stiff: A Look at 50 Famous Phobias (Book Review)

Book Review: Scared Stiff, Everything you need to know about 50 famous phobias by Sara Latta

Crowds. I don’t like being in a crowded place where people are pressed together wall to wall and you look around and think, if this place catches on fire there is no way I can get out. I always want to make sure there is a solid exit strategy. Apparently, this is claustrophobia which is not just a fear of tight, confined spaces, but a fear of no escape.

Have you read Coraline by Neil Gaiman? It taps into an interesting fear called Koumpounophobia: the fear of buttons (page 96).

And today’s current zombie craze? A possible product of Kinemortophobia: a fear of zombies. Interestingly enough, people aren’t so much afraid of being eaten by zombies (not high on my list), but of being turned in to a zombie (even lower on my list). And although there seems to be no such thing as zombies, there really are zombie ants. These ants are taken over by a fungus (page 92).

I imagine a lot of people have the newer phobia Nomophobia, a fear of being out of mobile phone contact. If you feel anxiety when you have to turn off your phone or get jittery or headaches if you’re separated from your phone, you may have this (page 113). My cell phone dies all the time and I’m okay so I’m pretty sure that this one isn’t an issue for me.

My daughter refused to read Doll Bones by Holly Black because she thought the cover was too scary – she may have Pediophobia: a fear of dolls.

Scared Stiff is a look at 50 Famous Phobias, from the fear of different types of animals (including cats, dogs, mice, pigs, snakes and birds) to the fear of clowns (which Stephen King did nothing to help with his book It, also Johnny Depp has this fear). A phobia is an extreme fear and can have dramatic impact on how a person lives their life. There are literally hundreds of types of phobias out there and they are a source of interest for many readers, which will make Scared Stiff a very popular title.

Like most Zest titles, this is a quick, interesting read. It’s organized alphabetically by fear and gives some basic information, including the word origin, examples of the fear, and some quotes about the fear.

Although the topic is interesting, it can also be quite serious because phobias are very real and can have very dramatic impacts on people’s lives, which is why they include an appendix on overcoming one’s fears. It is noted that social phobias and more general anxiety disorders usually require professional help to overcome. There is a brief overview of some of the techniques that a therapist might use to help a person learn to manage their phobias. Scared Stiff manages to be informative and fun to read while giving thoughtful recognition to the impact that a phobia can have on a person’s life. Elizabeth McMahon, Ph.D. is noted as a contributor and it seems her input was used to make sure the information was both accurate and respectful.

And thankfully, there is an index. I am a geek who loves a good index.

I highly recommend this book. It’s the type of nonfiction title that is browseable and of interest not just for school reports.

Scared Stiff: Everything you Need to Know About 50 Famous Phobias by Sara Latta. Zest Books, 2013. ISBN: 978-1-936976-49-2.

Book Review: Historical Heartthrobs – 50 Timeless Crushes from Cleopatra to Camus by Kelly Murphy with Hallie Fryd

I was invited by Zest Books to be a part of the Historical Heartthrobs blog tour and I said yes because I am a huge fan of Zest Books.  I love the ways they organize their books and how graphically appealing they are.

So then the book arrived and I set it on the counter.  Not too long after the Tween picked it up and started reading it.  She doesn’t read a lot of nonfiction so I thought I would wait and see where this went.  She sat there that night and read the entire book – and kept sharing interesting facts with me.  You know, in that mom knows nothing way that preteens do, “Mom, did you know that Harriet Beecher Stowe was an abolitionist?”  Me, “Yes, she wrote a book called Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”  Her, “How did you know that?”  Me, “Hello, Librarian.”

Historical Heartthrobs takes a stroll through history and gives you a mini-introduction to a wide variety of figures.  The sections are broken up into some basic parts: Life Story, the story of their sex life, why they matter and their best features.  It then rates them on a “Heat Factor” and has an insert of some of their most famous quotes. 

Despite the title, not all of the people presented are really “heartthrob” material because they are things like dictators (Fidel Castro), cold-blooded killers (Bugsy Siegel) and presidential assassins (John Wilkes Booth).  It’s a very tongue-in-cheek way to present history.

And yes, I did mention that there is a section called “The Story of His/Her Sex Life”.  The tween was really quite scandalized at first by this.  But it really just talks about their love life.  It was kind of interesting to learn that true to form, double agent Eddie Chapman has fiance’s on both sides of his wartime allegiances.

There are 50 entries and they are split pretty evenly between male and female entries.  They cover a wide range of figures from poets, authors, military leaders, gangsters, and more.

Historical Heartthrobs is a great browsing book, fun in presentation but loaded without enough facts to give it some value.  Schools will want to be aware that the one heading discusses their “sex lives”.  But the Tween and I enjoyed reading through this and learned a few things.  And she was introduced to some people she hadn’t heard of before.

You can win a copy of the book!  Follow the Rafflecopter instructions for a variety of ways to enter.  Pick the one(s) that work best for you.  Open to U.S. Residents (cost of mailing and all that, sorry).  Giveaway ends on Sunday, February 16th.  Book provided for review and giveaway by Zest Books.

Book Review: How Not to Be a Dick by Meghan Doherty

Let’s get the obvious out of the way, shall we: The book has the word Dick right there in the title.  And yes, it says it a lot inside the book.  It’s a problem, particularly for school librarians.  I asked Robin and she said no, she would not in fact be purchasing this book for her library.  Fair enough, she is a middle school librarian and you can argue that this is not the target audience.

Here’s what you need to know: This book title and its approach actually taps into a pretty big pop culture trend.  Yes, many adults will hate it, but what are you going to do? *shrugs*  None other than Mr. Wil Wheaton himself has made it his personal campaign to help people not be a dick.  And there is even a Don’t Be a Dick Day.  And the message IS in fact a good one: be kind to others, do the right thing.  That’s why this book is an etiquette guide, and it has good information.
The objective of HNtBaD is pretty straight forward: “Remember that we’re all in it together.  Remember to take a breath and think of those around us” (p.9)  It’s a message we can all get behind.  Also, yes, please do excuse yourself from the table if you must break wind (complete with fun illustrated picture – there are fart clouds).
But let’s talk packaging.  Not gonna lie, this book is clever and cute.  It has a retro-50s vibe to it with its animations.  Think Dick and Jane (get it – Dick).  It reminds me of these old school ads (but without the retrograde sexism):

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8IwDwmTXaAE]

Will that resonate with teen readers?  That is questionable, but this is not aimed specifically at teen readers.  In fact, there are entire chapters on how not to be a dick at work.  In my 20 years working, I have worked with some people who could have read this book.  And I am sure I have worked with people who would have liked to highlight a few sentences and leave it sitting around on my desk.  There are some good nuggets of information in here.  My favorite discusses the communal refrigerator in the breakroom: “No matter how much better it is than your soggy sandwich, don’t eat other people’s lunch from the fridge” (p.98)  Word.  This is where there is a bit of disconnect for me, I think the people who would get and appreciate the fun, clever packaging context are probably older readers, while the content is often geared to younger adults, particularly the sections on school.  But then again, maybe they don’t need to understand the meta because the humor, writing style and companion art comes through loud and clear.

Side note: I asked the group of tween and teen girls sitting in my house doing their nails and they did not know who Dick and Jane were and they also didn’t understand why the illustrations would be funny.  Also, my tween has been scandalized by having this book sit around the house, she assures me and will not bring herself to say the title.  But I also know plenty of teens that would be pick this book up solely because of the title and maybe learn a little nugget here and there through their titters.

I liked this book; it was clever in its packaging and delivery while providing some solid information that a lot of teens and young adults (we’re talking people in their 20s here) could use.  There is some good discussion about bullying, interacting with others, and being online.  Really, it is useful information.

So would I buy the book for my public library? I would.  But I would put it in the adult nonfiction collection.

GIVEAWAY NEWS: I have a copy to give away.  Leave a comment by the end of the week, September 28th, and I’ll draw one winner.  Be sure to leave a follow back or return email so I can get a hold of you.  Open to U.S. residents.

Little Fish: A different kind of memoir for a different kind of teen (and a different kind of TPiB)

I don’t know about you, but graphic novels and graphic novelish type books are hot at my library.  Heck, they are hot at my house.  And with the school year just starting, it’s great for Juniors and Seniors to start thinking about WHAT COMES NEXT.  So, tada: Little Fish, a memoir from a different kind of year by Ramsey Beyer. (Zest Books, 2013 ISBN: 978-1-936976-18-8)

Ramsey Beyer was a teenager from a small town in Michigan.  My family is from a small town in Michigan.  They have one blinking stop light and thought they were a big deal when they got a McDonalds.  Trust me, I know all about small towns in Michigan.  And most people growing up in a small town anywhere just want to escape.  To find a way out to something bigger.  Beyer did that when she went to college.  She became an apartment dwelling, city living art student.  And she created this artistic book to chronicle her experiences.

Little Fish is told in a series of comics, illustrated poems, and illustrated lists.  So you know where you see all those journals that are “destroy this book” and “make it yours”?  Beyer did that.  And it is pretty cool.  In fact, it is a built in program (TPiB).  You can buy blank books from Oriental Trading and invite your teens to come in and create their own journal.  Duct tape, markers, torn pages from magazines and glue . . . anything goes.  You can take anyone of the different lists from the books and asks teens to do the same.  Or just let them freestyle it.

In Little Fish, Beyer captures all the hopes and fears of moving away and embarking on a journey like starting college and moving away from home.  I remember packing up what I could fit in my little car and setting out from California to drive cross country and go to college in Ohio.  Why Ohio?  My then fiance’s family (now my husband) was from Ohio and after his dad died from Cancer, he needed to move back there because living in California without a good job is super expensive.  So he moved back to Ohio to help his mom and go to college and a semester later, I followed.  The first winter there I remembered all about winter snow and the need for gloves – the hard way (and almost lost a couple of fingers to frostbite.)

I have always journalled.  I write poetry (not necessarily good poetry, but poetry).  I collect my favorite quotes from the books that I read.  And when my first daughter was born I wrote in a journal to her every day.  And now I blog, which is kind of a journal.  It’s great to have this little book of your life that you can look back through and remember who you were and how far you have come.

Little Fish by Ramsey Beyer is a must have.  It is definitely in a popular format that has huge teen appeal.  And it is great insight for all of our high school students who are about to venture out into the big unknown of what’s next.

More Memoirs for Teens

Carnegie Library List

More Memoirs from Zest Books

Have more memoirs to add to our list? Add them in the comments.

It Came from a Book, the second annual Teen Art Contest

YA Lit + Teen Created Art = It Came from a Book!
Teens – we want to see your book inspired artwork!
Librarians – we want to help you get your teens reading and creating, and we want to give you a great way to celebrate YA lit.

Librarians, we need your help encouraging teens to read and create art.  Please download the 11×17 poster and help us get the word out.  You can share the information on your library websites, Facebook pages and other social networking sites.  You can also print copies of the poster to put up in your libraries.  You can download official posters at www.libraryasincubatorproject.org.

To submit artwork, simply send a digital photograph, or file if your artwork is digital, to 2013artcontest@gmail.com by November 1, 2013.  Teens can submit artwork themselves or librarians can submit artwork on behalf of their teens.  Please just make sure we have the information requested below.

Your e-mail submission should include your full name, the name of your school or public library, the title and author of the book that inspired your art piece, and the statement “I affirm that this is an original piece of artwork.”  We will use your submitting e-mail address to keep in contact with you.

Beginning November 8th, tell your family and friends to visit the online It Came from a Book art gallery at The Library as Incubator Project.org and vote.  Online voting will determine our grand prize winner.

One grand prize winner will be announced on November 18th.  They will receive a $50.00 Amazon gift card, The Library as Incubator Project t-shirt, and book from our sponsors EgmontUSA and Zest Books.

A special note to librarians:
As you encourage your teens to read, create and submit, I want to encourage you to consider having a YA lit inspired art show at your library.  Your teens will still have their art pieces since we are only requesting digital submissions, so that means you can set up a great art gallery right there in your school or public library.  Have an opening night reception with food and drinks and give your teen artists the chance to talk about their artwork as the public comes in to view it.  For more information on this idea, check out how Justin the Librarian created a teen art gallery in his library.  Be sure to check out our Teen Programs in a Box (TPiBs) for some great book inspired craft ideas to do with your teens.

Also, please share with your teens the ya lit inspired photography series of Margot Wood, The Real Fauxtographer.  She has an ongoing blog where she discusses the teen fiction she reads and shares the pictures she takes inspired by the books.

Keep your eye on Library as Incubator Project for more ways to get art into your libraries and for additional blog posts throughout the next few months regarding It Came from a Book. 

Throughout the next months we will have blog posts supporting this project and more. You can visit any of the sponsoring sites – Library as Incubator Project, EgmontUSA, Zest Books and TLT- for information.

A special thank you to The Library as Incubator Project, EgmontUSA, and Zest Books for supporting this project and encouraging teen reading and art.