15 Days Without a Head by Dave Cousins (2013)

daysIn this British import, a teen goes to great lengths to keep anyone from discovering that he and his little brother have been abandoned by their alcoholic mother.

Recommended grade level: 6 and up

Pages:   302 (for ISBN 9780738736426)

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic, British

Tone/Style: humorous, distressed

Pace: moderate

Topics: alcoholism, siblings, contests, survival, cons

Themes: family, trust, responsibility

Summary: How far would you go to keep your family together?

Meet Laurence – fifteen years old and six feet tall – he’ll dress up as his mum and impersonate a dead man on the radio. Meet Jay – his six year old brother. He looks like an angel but thinks he’s a dog. He’ll sink his teeth into anyone who gets in the way.

Today is Tuesday – and the next fifteen days will change the boys’ lives for ever… (Source) Continue reading

Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan (2017)

shortThis new offering from the author of Counting by 7s is considerably lighter, funnier fare.

Recommended grade level: 4-7

Pages:   304 (for ISBN 9780399186219)

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic, some humor

Tone/Style: funny, naive

Pace: fast

Topics: theatre, height, actors, little people

Themes: new experiences, finding confidence, friendship, adulthood, body positivity, relationships

Summary: Julia is very short for her age, but by the end of the summer run of The Wizard of Oz, she’ll realize how big she is inside, where it counts. She hasn’t ever thought of herself as a performer, but when the wonderful director of Oz casts her as a Munchkin, she begins to see herself in a new way. As Julia becomes friendly with the poised and wise Olive—one of the adults with dwarfism who’ve joined the production’s motley crew of Munchkins—and with her deeply artistic neighbor, Mrs. Chang, Julia’s own sense of self as an artist grows. Soon, she doesn’t want to fade into the background—and it’s a good thing, because her director has more big plans for Julia! Continue reading

Debunk It! How to Stay Sane in a World of Misinformation by John Grant (2015)

debunkMisinformation can have serious consequences, and this irreverent book exposes rhetorical fallacies and teaches important critical thinking skills to help teens cope.

Recommended grade level: 7 and up

Pages:   288 (for ISBN 9781936976683)

Genre(s) and keywords: nonfiction

Tone/Style: informational, irreverent, scornful

Pace: leisurely to moderate

Topics: misinformation, hoaxes, fallacies, logic

Themes: critical thinking, honesty

Summary: We live in an era of misinformation, much of it spread by authority figures like broadcasters, politicians, and religious leaders. (The various pundits on blogs and websites don’t help either.) With so much bogus information from so many sources, how can anyone be expected to discover the truth? Continue reading

A Low-Stress Murder Mystery Program

lower floor (768x1024)When my middle school patrons got it in their heads that they wanted a murder mystery program, I was less than enthused. It sounded like a logistical nightmare. But they kept asking, and I couldn’t think of a good excuse besides “That sounds too hard for me.” Not a great attitude for someone who’s always saying she wants their ideas.

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I’ve seen presentations and write-ups from other libraries that have had after-hours murder mystery dinners, but I thought that was too much added complication for my first murder mystery, and the kids hadn’t asked for that. So I held a no-food mystery on a weekend afternoon. (I didn’t mention the lack of food in the marketing, naturally.)

The kids also said they wanted the type of mystery where they play roles, and one of them is the murderer. I agreed that this kind of game is the most fun, but I was concerned about attendance. My program attendance varies widely, and it’s tough to predict numbers or to get people to commit to things. Usually about 3/4 of the registered patrons show up.

This program works best with 10-15 players. It was more preparation-intensive than most of my programs, but was less work than I’d feared it would be. I ran it with no help from other staff (aside from borrowing some objects from them for props). It was two hours long, but I think one-and-a-half hours might have been a slightly better timeframe. Continue reading

Thick As Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner (2017)

thickThis long-awaited addition to The Queen’s Thief series can also be read as a standalone adventure, and is packed with politics and bromance.

Recommended grade level: 8 and up (for reading comprehension reasons; there is little mature content)

Pages:   400 (for ISBN 9780062568243)

Genre(s) and keywords: fantasy, adventure

Tone/Style: long-suffering, a bit archaic

Pace: leisurely to moderate

Topics: slaves, kings, politics, escape, journeys, Eugenides (He should count as a topic, right? He’s basically the center of the universe in this series.)

Themes: freedom, trust, betrayal, friendship

Summary: Thick as Thieves is the eagerly anticipated new stand-alone novel set in the world of the Queen’s Thief. New York Times-bestselling author Megan Whalen Turner’s entrancing and award-winning Queen’s Thief novels bring to life the world of the epics and feature one of the most charismatic and incorrigible characters of fiction, Eugenides the thief. Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief novels are rich with political machinations and intrigue, battles lost and won, dangerous journeys, divine intervention, power, passion, revenge, and deception. Perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo, Marie Lu, Patrick Rothfuss, and George R. R. Martin. Continue reading

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (2011)

monsterA moving and heartbreakingly honest modern fairy tale.

Recommended grade level: 6 and up; maybe older for sensitive readers

Pages: 216 (for ISBN 9781406311525)

Genre(s) and keywords: fantasy, (light) horror, drama, British import, Europe (England), Kylie’s Favorites

Tone/Style: mysterious, sad

Pace: moderate to fast

Topics: monsters, fables, ill parents

Themes: being honest with oneself, death, acceptance, grief and loss, denial, change, moving on, family

Summary:  The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming… The monster in his back garden, though, this monster is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth.

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Teen Tech Week

A few weeks ago I called up my two local middle school teacher-librarians to ask if they’d be interested in partnering up on an activity for Teen Tech Week. It turned out that they were having lunchtime events to celebrate Read Across America all week long. So we combined the two, and made one of the Read Across America days a tech day. I brought robots from the public library to the school libraries (each on a separate day) and stayed there for all three lunch periods. Students could eat their lunch in the library, then play with the robots.

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Image courtesy of YALSAhttp://teentechweek.ning.com

 

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