Teen Librarian Toolbox
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The Mysterious Road to THE IN-BETWEEN, a guest post by Rebecca Ansari

I was raised on puzzles, games and mysteries.

The earliest memories I have of my grandfather are the two of us, stooped over a so-full-it-can’t-be-used-for-dining table, scanning 2000 jigsaw pieces for the right color or shape to fit into the emerging image of a church, country bridge, or whatever was depicted on the nearby box. When we tired of that, we would move to the card table for a family match of Hearts, everyone focused on their hands, calculating how to trick the others and Shoot the Moon. My mother’s bookshelf was dominated by Agatha Christie who-done-its, my dad’s with Isaac Asimov’s Black Widowers Club and others, books they subsequently put in my hands. They would delight in watching to see if I could solve them before the last page. To this day, my mother emails my own children word and math puzzles just for fun.

My mother having finished the puzzle my 4 sons gave her for Xmas this year

This love of problem solving was part of my parents’ professional lives as well. My mother, a math major, spent her career looking at MRI’s, CT scans and ultrasounds, trying to sleuth out the source of a patient’s malady. My father took me to his lab every weekend as he did research to answer questions about why his patients were born premature, and how to best treat their tiny bodies and lungs. I followed in their footsteps, spending twelve years as an ER doctor, investigating if a given patient’s abdominal pain was appendicitis, ectopic pregnancy, a kidney stone, or another of the myriad possible causes.

Me in my doctoring days

When I jumped from ER doc to middle grade author, some of my peers were surprised. The two fields don’t appear to have much—anything?—in common. But it makes perfect sense to me. My whole life, I reveled in being the one to solve the mysteries.

Me in my writing space now

Then, as a writer, I found the thrill of creating the mysteries myself.

What if your little brother disappeared, and you’re the only one who notices? What if you discover that a new girl moving in next door is a very bad omen, but you’re the only one who sees it? These are the starting premises of my first two novels, and I didn’t know the answers to these questions when I began writing each. In trying to figure them out, I frequently wrote myself into such tight corners I was sure I could never find a way out. Story telling is its own mystery, its own puzzle—and it brings with it the thrill of success in figuring out the answers as well as the hope that I’ve created something that will give others that same sense of wonder and satisfaction.

People ask me if I miss being a doctor. I certainly miss a great case, a “good catch,” or a critical save under pressure, but I think many who have read my books find that I’m still doing those things, through the experiences of my characters. If you have a chance to read my debut, The Missing Piece of Charlie O’Reilly, or my new book, The In-Between, I hope you too find a mystery to challenge you—and the thrill of finding the answer.

Meet the author

Photo credit: Amber Rishavy with Pixel Dust Photography

After twelve years as an ER doctor, Rebecca K.S. Ansari shelved her scrubs to write magical and mysterious worlds for middle grade readers. Her debut novel, THE MISSING PIECE OF CHARLIE O’REILLY (2019, Walden Pond Press/Harper Collins) earned a starred review from School Library Journal, an ALA 2020 Notable Children’s Book nomination and was a Junior Library Guild selection. It was also a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award. Her second novel, THE IN-BETWEEN, releases January 26, 2021 and has received starred reviews Kirkus, Publisher Weekly, and School Library Journal. It is also a Junior Library Guild selection.

When Rebecca isn’t writing, you can find her joyously biking and skiing, begrudgingly running, or escaping “up north” in Minnesota with her husband, four boys, two huge dogs and a stack of good books. You can find her on Twitter at @RebeccaKSAnsari, on Instagram at @Rebeccaansariauthor, or at her website RebeccaAnsari.com.

The virtual launch party for THE IN-BETWEEN will be this Thursday, at 6:30CST. Everyone in the whole wide world is invited!

January 28 6:30 pm CST. Virtual Book Event! A Conversation with Rebecca K. S. Ansari and Anne Ursu 

About The In-Between

A dark, twisty adventure about the forgotten among us and what it means to be seen, from the acclaimed author of The Missing Piece of Charlie O’Reilly.

Cooper is lost. Ever since his father left their family three years ago, he has become distant from his friends, constantly annoyed by his little sister, Jess, and completely fed up with the pale, creepy rich girl who moved in next door and won’t stop staring at him. So when Cooper learns of an unsolved mystery his sister has discovered online, he welcomes the distraction.

It’s the tale of a deadly train crash that occurred a hundred years ago, in which one young boy among the dead was never identified. The only distinguishing mark on him was a strange insignia on his suit coat, a symbol no one had seen before or since. Jess is fascinated by the mystery of the unknown child— because she’s seen the insignia. It’s the symbol of the jacket of the girl next door.

As they uncover more information— and mounting evidence of the girl’s seemingly impossible connection to the tragedy—Cooper and Jess begin to wonder if a similar disaster could be heading to their hometown.

ISBN-13: 9780062916099
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 01/26/2021
Pages: 320
Age Range: 8 – 12 Years

Tween and Teen Programming Ideas: Nostalgia with an Online Twist

Tweens and teens are constantly participating in a balancing act of growing up but still being kids. And they like to do fun things. With everyone focusing on virtual programming right now, I thought I would share with you a few fun websites that tap into childhood nostalgia and provide some fun online programming. The best things about these websites is that you don’t need anything but a device to access them, so if your patrons are clicking through to you page or social media, then they probably have the means to access them. It’s not a perfect solution to being closed and having to practice social distancing, but it is a way to help our patrons find fun things to do during this time.


Mecabricks is an online, virtual Lego like building platform. It allows you to build fully rendered 3D Lego models virtually. You can pick the style and color of brick at each step of the way. The best thing about this site is that you don’t have to have any bricks at home. When I ran a Lego club the first thing I learned was how many kids had never really played with Legos because they are very cost prohitibitive. You could share this site with patrons just for fun or run a virtual brick building club and give participants specific challenges and ask them to share or submit their creations.

Lite Brite

This online Lite Brite is the same concept as above with the virtual Legos, except it’s a Lite Brite. You make a pattern with little colored pegs and then turn it on and they light up.

Etch a Sketch

Here’s another childhood favorite brought to you online. In this one you use the arrow keys to sketch and then shake to erase your picture and start over.

Jigsaw Explorer

This website lets you do puzzles online. You can also create a custom puzzle and share it online. So turn pictures of your library building or book displays into puzzles and share them with your patrons.

Fuse Beads Picture Converter

So this one is not entirely online, you still need some additional supplies if you want to make the final fuse bead creation. But if you want to make fuse bead (also known as perler beads) crafts, you can use this online tool to turn your favorite photos into perler bead patterns. You can then print them out, place your beads, and fuse them to make your own personal fuse bead art. But I also think you don’t need to do the perler bead part if you don’t want to. It’s fun just to see what is created.

There are a ton of free online art, craft and digital media tools. If you Google you will find tons of great lists being compiled by art teachers, homeschooling parents, and other librarians just like me. There is no limit to what you can find and share. And the creative challenges that you can come up with. Please share some of your favorite online creation tools with us here in the comments.