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A Teen and Tween Librarian's thoughts on books, reading and adventures in the library.
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1. Flawed by Cecelia Ahern Blog Tour PLUS Giveaway



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Visit Cecelia's website and follow her on Twitter and Instagram!

About the Book: Celestine North lives a perfect life. She's a model daughter and sister, she's well-liked by her classmates and teachers, and she's dating the impossibly charming Art Crevan. But then Celestine encounters a situation where she makes an instinctive decision. She breaks a rule. And now faces life-changing repercussions. She could be imprisoned. She could be branded. She could be found FLAWED. In her breathtaking young adult debut, bestselling author Cecelia Ahern depicts a society where obedience is paramount and rebellion is punished. And where one young woman decides to take a stand that could cost her-everything.


I am so excited to be participating in the blog tour for Flawed, Cecelia Ahern's YA debut. Cecelia is one of my favorite authors, so of course I jumped at the chance to ask her a few questions about her new book! 


You've published many novels, but this is your first for YA. What inspired you to make the jump to young adult fiction? Is writing for YA different than writing for adults?

I had no grand plan to write YA, what I did and what I always do is to write whatever story is most powerful in my head at the time. My novel THE BOOK OF TOMORROW was seen as a crossover book for YA and adult and I have had younger readers ever since I wrote PS I Love You so I didn't feel like I was taking a great leap or that I had to adjust my writing. What was different was the concept of the story, the pacy thriller like feel, the fact that it is saying a lot about the society that we are living in while maintaining the same feel as my other novels. I didn't have to adjust anything about my writing, I just got into the head of my character Celestine and saw the world from her eyes. I wrote the first draft in 6 weeks, it just flowed from me, I wrote it with passion and rage and with so much heart. This book had to be written, I had no choice in the matter! My heart was pounding the entire time, it was an overwhelming story to write from start to finish. 


Is there anything in your dystopian world that was inspired by current events? What gave you the idea to create this word?

I was inspired by the fact I believe we live in a judgemental world, one that is quick to publicly shame people, to finger point and hold people accountable for their mistakes,  or for their decisions that society deems to be a mistake. Society mocks and judges, and the opportunity for second chances  is rare.
Flawed is not set in the future, it is today, it is our modern world, contemporary society. It is everything we say and do to each other now, we already label people so I took it one step further by creating an actual morality court where The Guild and its 3 powerful judges reside.
Angelina Tinder was found Flawed because she travelled to a country where Euthanasia was legal and assisted her mother's death. The Guild branded her in her home country despite the fact she carried it out legally. This mirrors the abortion situation in Ireland where 12 women a day travel to the UK for abortions but it is illegal in Ireland. In the famous X case, the court stopped a 14 year old girl who was raped, from travelling to the UK for an abortion.

Flawed at Birth children are taken from their flawed parents at birth. This is similar to aboriginal children in Australia who were forcibly removed from their parents in order to "dilute the gene pool" and we had a similar case in Ireland where children were taken from single unmarried mothers and raised in state institutions.

A famous footballer who cheats on his wife is brought to a Flawed court but his wife becomes the media target as it's discussed why he cheated, whose fault it is, as I believe is the case in reality. 

Celestine's mother is a famous model who judges people by their appearance, as do many people. She feels she can't trust people who have any physical flaws and I fear there is a great pressure on teenagers, and all ages, to have a certain flawless appearance which is impossible & unattainable naturally.

Parents are found Flawed for removing their son who has cancer from hospital and trying to find alternative methods. This is based on a real case where parents of a boy were arrested for taking him from hospital. 

Of course the most obvious comparison is World War 2. The Flawed rules are similar to the anti - Jewish decrees and the Penal Laws in Ireland.

Everything I write about in Flawed is real. What's terrifying is reading this novel thinking how awful it would be and then realising these things have happened in our past, are happening in our present. You don't have to look far in this world to find regimes like that in Flawed.


Your first book was published when you were 21. Has your writing process changed as you've published more novels?

Flawed is my 13th novel and of course there's been a real growth in my writing, as you would hope for and expect over 13 years. I think they're deeper, darker and better. They are still emotional journeys about people going through difficult dark moments in their lives, with hope and humour.


You've written novels, short stories, plays and for TV. What do you enjoy about writing in different formats and styles? Do you think one comes more naturally than another?

Writing novels is my first love. I have such freedom in my novels to go wherever I want. I can work alone and truly create my own world. I enjoy the challenges that TV and film bring, the main difference being that they are collaborative processes and I work to a network's brief even if the network say they don't have a brief. They always do!! 

What were some of your favorite novels as a teen?

I don't remember the book choices being as ripe and plentiful as they are now but I did read a huge amount. I don't recall YA specialised sections in book stores so I just took what appealed to me from adult shelves. Early in my teens I read Sweet Valley High, the Babysitters Club, the Famous Five, then moved on to novels like Cane River by Lalita Tademy, John Grisham. The Diary of Anne Frank is my most read novel. I also loved Under the Hawthorn Tree by Marita Conlon McKenna. 

One of the things I really enjoyed most about reading Flawed was how much it made me think about our current culture. How much time do we spend judging others or worrying about what people will think of us? Our culture is full of gossip, rumors, reality TV, and social media and each of those carries with it a way to form opinions on everyone and share our thoughts in a very public forum. Celestine is thrown into the middle of a battle and she's seen as the face for both sides-is she a hero for standing up to the Flawed or is she a catalyst for change? There is a lot to discuss and I think Flawed could make a great book discussion title!

Thanks to Macmillan Children's Publishing Group, one lucky winner will receive a copy of Flawed as well as some swag from both sides of the pond!
-Contest open to ages 13+
-US/Canada address only
-Contest ends 4/12
-One entry per person

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Follow the tour for more chances to win and to find out more about Flawed!

April 5- Nite Lite Book Reviews (US)
April 5- Two Chicks on Books (US)
April 5- Green Bean Teen Queen (US)
April 5- Writing.ie (Ireland)
April 5- Overflowing Library (UK)
April 6Icey Books (US)
April 6Supernatural Snark (US)
April 6- Paper Cuts Blog (US)
April 6Serendipity Reviews (UK)
April 6Bleach House Library (Ireland)
April 6Bart's Bookshelf (UK)
April 7- Forever Young Adult (US)
April 7Bumbles and Fairytales (US)
April 7Rainy Day Ramblings (US)
April 7Swoony Boys Podcast (US)
April 7A Daydreamer's Thoughts (UK)
April 7The Bibliomaniac (UK)
April 7Kirstyes (UK)
April 7Wrath Queen's Books (UK)

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2. ALSC Blog: Library Town



Today I'm over at the ALSC Blog talking about our recent Spring Break program, Library Town. Come join me!


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3. Dear Books: Please Update Your Libraries

There is nothing worse than coming across a book you are really enjoying only to be pulled out of it because of some outdated and incorrect library reference. I know that authors and illustrators will not always get everything 100% accurate, but I when I read books that show a very dated stereotype, or something that is just so incorrect, I always wonder why. I feel like authors and illustrators should know better! And it's not just older books-it happens in new books too!

I recently read A Big Surprise for Little Card by Charise Mericle Harper and illustrated by Anna Raff. 


I absolutely loved this book! It's a creative look at libraries through the eyes of a library card. It's perfect for my outreach visits and storytimes about the library and promoting what value there is in a library card. Anna Raff gets major points for illustrating a very cool and hip librarian as well!

But the librarian tells card to shush and is a bit annoyed when he shows up. And then library card helps his new owner stamp across all his books and stamp dates to return them. There's also mostly talk about how you can check out lots of books at the library-but libraries are so much more than books! We have computers, movies, music, devices, toys, databases, downloadable content, programs, meeting spaces-so much to offer!

Sure, there are small libraries that still may use stamps-but most libraries don't. I feel like for an new book it could provide an updated view on libraries. 

And what about books that clearly violate a library policy? Most libraries I know have some sort of policy about unattended children. Libraries have an age limit to where children can be left alone. Yet in two recent picture books, the parents tell the kids "I'll be in the adult area-be back soon. Have fun!" leaving the kids alone. 



Sure, it's fiction, it's fun, and I wanted to love The Not So Quiet Library  but the librarian in me just couldn't take the Dad leaving the son (who appears to be pretty young!) alone in a multi-level library. It's a public building!!! My librarian self just couldn't get past it. I would be chasing him down explaining our unattended children policy and reminding him he needs to be with his child. Sigh...

I know, I know-let it go. But then it happened again! And this time in a book that's not a silly story but a book intended to teach readers about the library:



OK, maybe you can convince me that the boy in The Not So Quiet Library is old enough to be on his own but not true for the boy in Library Day! Especially when his Dad drops him off for storytime and leaves him there by himself! NOT OK! Not to mention how incredibly outdated this one is in its many references and illustrations of the library. This came out this year but it feels like it was written twenty years ago. I'm not the only one who has this problem-Goodreads is full of librarians who feel the same way.

And I hate when books show illustrations or photographs of a librarian reading a book at storytime, only they are holding the book the wrong way and not showing the pictures! That's not how you do it! That's not storytime! It's so frustrating!


(So this picture is really for no storytime happening, but I like it as an example of this is how you don't read your books in storytime! Show those pictures!!!)


Have any books shown libraries or librarians in a good light-or more realistic light-lately? Kwame Alexander gets the award here for the best representation of a librarian in recent literature. 



The school librarian in Booked is smart and funny, a bit nerdy and a bit cool (like many librarians I know!), is always encouraging the kids to read and try something new and is always searching for a book they will like. He cares about his students, is happy to have them in the library and encourages them to use the library and all its resources. 

Do you get frustrated with libraries in librarians in books? Any recent bad (or good) representations of libraries and librarians you've read recently? 


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4. Picture Book Review: Dig In by Cindy Jenson-Elliott, illustrated by Mary Peterson

Dig In! by Cindy Jenson-Elliott, illustrated by Mary Peterson

Release Date: 3/1/2016

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As a librarian who does toddler storytime, I am always on the lookout for great new toddler books. It feels like I repeat the same books over and over with my little ones. So I get very excited when a book like Dig In! comes across my desk.

Dig In! is a child's exploration of playing outside in the dirt. From digging in the dirt to finding worms, snails, rocks and then water to make messy mud, each page takes a new experience or discovery and presents in from a young child's view. The text is simplistic enough that young children can follow along and the overall book is engaging and exciting. It's short enough to be read aloud in toddler storytime even with antsy toddlers.

The illustrations, which according to the book were created using linoleum block prints on paper with some digital touch ups, are bright and colorful. They really pop on each page which makes them great for a crowd. The block prints help everything have it's defined space and it adds a bit of texture to the dirt, which I think young readers will find especially engaging. It's almost as if you can reach your hand out and touch the dirt on the page.

As Springtime approaches, Dig In! is a great new choice to add to storytime. It's perfect for a messy storytime where you get to play in the mud and it's a wonderful encouragement to families to get outside and play.

Full Disclosure: Reviewed from  copy sent by publisher for review

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5. Yes We Crab Reading Challenge: Final Update


It's the end of February which means the end of Yes We Crab! I wanted to read 20 books this month and post once a week. My blogging goal failed, but I did make my reading goal of 20 books-yay!

Here's what I finished the month up with:

 My Dog's a Chicken by Susan McElroy Montanari, illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf
When a young girl isn't allowed to get a dog, she decides she'll turn a chicken into a dog. A pretty cute picture book for the K-2 crowd.

 A Big Surprise for Little Card by Charise Mericle Harper, illustrated by Anna Raff

-My new favorite book to read at Library-themed outreach events and storytimes! This is a unique look at libraries through the eyes of a library card. And it's adorable!

 Swap! by Steve Light

-I just love Steve Light's pen and ink illustrations. Did you ever play that game where you started out with something small then had to go all around to try and upgrade and swap your item for something bigger? That's what this reminded me of-only with pirates.

 Whoops! by Suzi Moore, illustrated by Russell Ayto

-A new pick for storytime. Three animals who can't make any sounds seek out a lady with a spell that might help-only things keep going wrong. This is a perfect read-aloud with a hilarious ending.

 Peep and Egg I'm Not Hatching by Laura Gehl, illustrated by Joyce Wan

-A very cute tale about having courage perfect for the preschool set. Plus it's illustrated by Joyce Wan so you know Peep and Egg are adorable.

 No, No, Gnome! by Ashly Anstee

-Who can resist gnomes? I love them! This is a nice gardening tale with a gnome twist. I'm saving for when I get all the requests for Spring/garden/planting books. 

 Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book) by Julie Falatko, illustrated by Tim Miller

-Move over Mo Willems and Bob Shea! Perfect for fans of books that break the fourth wall and have a great sense of humor. I'm planning on writing more about this one-it's a great storytime option and read aloud!

 The New Guy (And Other Senior Year Distractions) by Amy Spalding

-Contemporary YA Romance. Reviewed for Booklist

 A Tiny Piece of Sky by Shwan K. Stout 

-Historical MG-a great read for middle grade to compare historical events (thoughts and actions towards German-Americans in 1940s) to now. Reviewed for AudioFile.

 Love, Lies and Spies by Cindy Anstey

-Regency YA romance-a tounge-in-cheek look at the regency era. Reviewed for Booklist.

 Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo

-Another Kate DiCamillo novel-and it's brilliant! More to come soon when I write a longer review!

How did you do on your Yes We Crab Goals? Any great reads you found this month?












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6. Yes We Crab Reading Challenge Update!


Well, we're halfway through the #YesWeCrab reading challenge that several of my friends and I decided to do for February. I'm doing OK-not reading as much as I wanted and not posting what I wanted at all, but that's fine-I can catch up!

You can see what Abby the Librarian has been reading as well-she's got a great update! And you can follow the hashtag #yeswecrab on Twitter and see what others are up to!

Here's what I've read so far this month:


-I listened to the audio version of this one and it was fantastic! A magical anthropological fantasy-such a great combination and so unique! I loved the characters and it made me think about cultural appropriation in the name of research which was fantastic. 


-Another audiobook, this time for review for AudioFile. Perfect for time travel fans-I loved the thought and detail put into the time travel elements in this one. Also be warned the cliffhanger is a doozy!


-A great contemporary YA debut from an adult author. Reviewed for Booklist. 


-New Adult-ish sequel to The Intern, reviewed for Booklist.


-A fantastic picture that is non-fiction told in a poetic verse. The illustrations are beautiful and the author's notes and endpapers add to the reading experience making this one accessible to a wide range of ages. This is a book to watch come award season. 


-A cute "field guide" for newborns. This one came across on the new cart at work and I had to look at it. It's sure to make any new parent laugh and smile. There's also a "A Baby's Guide to Surviving Mom" which I haven't seen yet, but I'm sure both can be added to the baby shower arsenal. 


-Once again, Hurley's illustration style and minimal prose create a perfect preschool storytime book, this time about the day in the life of a family of rabbits. I got nervous when the fox started to come after the rabbits, but thankfully the circle of life is just hinted at and no rabbits are harmed-phew! I could not have handled Jorey Hurley's adorable rabbits being eaten!



-A pig who wants to wear shoes? Elizabeth Rose Stanton has the perfect quirky sense of humor in both her text and illustrations to pull it off. Plus, there's a pig pooping which equals instant storytime classic.

 Worm Loves Worm by J.J. Austrian, illustrated by Mike Curato

-There's going to be a wedding, but they're worms! Who's the bride and who's the groom? Does it matter? Such a cute book that can have broad appeal-from science tie-ins to marriage equality to just plain fun. I mean, how cute are those worms?




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7. February Reading Challenge: Yes We Crab!


Caldecott is over, family birthdays are over for a few months, and life is starting to get back into a routine that doesn't include piles of picture books every evening. (Well, at least picture books to take notes with-Toddler GreenBean ensures we have piles of picture books to read every night!!)

I really want to get back to reading for fun and reading chapter books again, but I feel so overwhelmed and I don't know where to start! Enter my wonderful friends and our February Reading Challenge-Yes We Crab!

Five years ago I met these lovely ladies at ALA Midwinter: Angie, Abby, Katie, Kelly and Drea  I often tell people that our fist meeting was like going to summer camp, meeting your best friend, and then having to go back home. Luckily, we get to see each other at least once and sometimes twice a year at ALA and we keep up with each other via Twitter, Email, Facebook. We are always sharing program ideas, library talk, and what we're reading. So when the others all said they wanted to do a reading challenge, we all jumped at the chance and Yes We Crab was born.

It's easy to join in! All you have to do is set a goal for yourself and follow along. Post your progress on Twitter with the hastag #yeswecrab and we'll cheer you along! Your goal can be about reading, about keeping up with blogging-anything! 

My Yes We Crab Goal: Read 20 books (and yes, picture books totally count!!!!) and write a blog post at least once a week. 

What's your February Reading Goal? Can we do it? Yes We Crab!

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8. My 2016 Caldecott Journey

Photo Credit: Horn Book


Just over a week later and I am still reeling from my amazing Caldecott year. Now comes the fun part of celebrating and sharing our winning titles! I had a wonderful time being part of the 2016 Caldecott Committee. Everyone was so kind, thoughtful, and caring and we really listened to each other as we shared and talked about books-and that made such a huge impact on me and my committee experience.

Our committee really bonded and even though we've only met in person a handful of times, I have had some of the best discussions about books with them and they are people I will always love and respect.
Photo credit: Rachel Payne
Being on the committee is a lot of work. Some people have asked me if it was easier or harder than when I was on Printz, and it's hard to say. In some ways, I felt I was reading more and getting more done with picture books-several pages of picture books also can mean several books whereas several pages of a chapter book can sometimes barely be a dent at all. But Caldecott was a completely different thing-analyzing art and illustration over the text which was very new to me. I cherish the experience and conversations I had with my fellow committee members-it's really made me look at picture books in a new way and I feel like I'm a better librarian because of it. I also truly believe that being on a committee helps you trust the process even more! 

The things that made such an impact on me in our committee discussions are also things that I think can help make an impact on any book discussion. Listen openly and listen to everyone, read, read, and read some more and take lots of notes, and learn to let go. I wish more book discussions could follow these practices-I think we would go far if we did! Even outside of book discussions, these are things that I plan to really focus on and practice at work-listening to everyone and learning to let go. I think doing so can make me a better manager and help me to serve our patrons even more. Who knew committee work had such broad implications on our lives? :)

I am so proud of our group and the work we did. If you haven't already, head on over to The Horn Book, where our amazing chair Rachel shares about our winners. I am so excited to share our books with the world and with the kids in my library. I'm already planning storytimes and outreach using these books and I hope you do too! If you do, I would love to hear about it!

Photo Credit: Elise Katz


After lots of reading and discussing, we eagerly got up early Monday morning to make our calls. Our phone calls were so incredible! Our illustrators cried, we cried, we cheered-it was joyous. I will never forget that moment when we told Sophie Blackall she was the 2016 Medal Winner and I broke down in tears as we cheered (and she cried on the other end of the phone-a surefire way to make sure the committee cries along with you!) I can't wait to be with my Caldecrew again in June at Annual-this time with our illustrators along with us to celebrate our hard work! 

To future award committees-you can do it! It will be a journey of a lifetime and savor every moment! To my Caldecrew-you are all amazing! Thank you for a wonderful experience that I will never forget! Thank you for letting me make 14 wonderful new best friends who I can't wait to see again and share books with! And to our five fantastically talented illustrators-thank you for creating beautiful art to share with the world. You make being a librarian the best job in the world!

Enjoy this year's winners-I know you will!







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9. Where Have You Been?

My blog has really suffered this year-but for a good reason!

I have been spending my time working on the 2016 Caldecott Committee! We're getting down to the wire now with our meetings starting next week, so this past month has been incredibly hectic.


Nope, no Caldecott eligible titles in this photo-this is my son's giant to-read pile, but you can use your imagination and pretend to understand the amount of reading I've been doing this year!

So, what is it like to be on an award committee? Well, it's lots and lots of reading. And then lots and lots of note-taking. Luckily, I've had some help in that area:



Now that Midwinter is getting closer, there's even more reading, note-taking, reading again, reading what others have said in their nominations and preparing your notes for what you want to say in all of your discussions. 

That's where I've been and what I'll be up to over the next couple weeks. There most likely won't be many new blog posts until Midwinter is over. I can't wait to see what all the other committees award at the Youth Media Awards Announcements! Here's to a great year of reading!

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10. ALSC Blog: Back to Basics

Today I'm  over at the ALSC Blog talking about how we're getting Back to Basics at my library.

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11. Voyagers Giveaway


Voyagers: Project Alpha by D. J. McHale

About the Book: Earth is in danger! Without a renewable source of clean energy, our planet will be toast in less than a year. There are 6 essential elements that, when properly combined, create a new power source. But the elements are scattered throughout the galaxy. And only a spaceship piloted by children can reach it and return to Earth safely. First the ideal team of four 12-year-olds must be chosen, and then the first element must be retrieved. There is not a mistake to be made, or a moment to lose. The source is out there. Voyagers is blasting off in 3, 2, 1…


GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: I was thinking the other day about trends in middle grade lit and I realized that science fiction and stories set in space are becoming more popular. Add that to the multi-platform trend of middle grade books written by various authors (think 39 Clues, Spirit Animals) and you've got a winner. I know that I have an audience of readers ready to go crazy over Voyagers. I mean, what's more exciting than the idea that only kids can save the world and they have to go into space and have adventures in order to do so? In some ways, Voyagers could be likened to Star Trek for tweens if kids were sent on a mission. 

The books are action packed, part mystery, part science fiction, part adventure and they are lots of fun. The cast of characters is also diverse. I really love Piper, who is in a wheelchair, yet demonstrates that that won't stop her from traveling in space and being part of the team-she can do what everyone else can. (If you're a savvy reader, you'll figure out from the cover of book 1 who gets chosen for the mission, but there are still surprises along the way, so don't worry!) 

The additional elements on VoyagersHQ.com are engaging and fun. I love the videos of the possible candidates and the quiz-kids really get a chance to feel like they're part of the Voyagers mission. 

The series is fun and exciting and sure to be a hit with middle grade readers who are fascinated by space-and can also be a good intro into science fiction for young readers. 


Want to win The Voyagers Experience prize pack?




THE VOYAGERS EXPERIENCE prize pack
Get the full Voyagers experience! One (1) winner receives:
·         The first two books in the series;
·         Branded iPhone6 case and home GadgetGrip button to deck out your device while experiencing the Voyagers app.

Giveaway open to US addresses only.
Prizing and samples provided by Random House Children’s Books.

FIll out the form below to enter! One entry per person. Contest ends 11/22

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12. Flannel Friday: Buddy and the Bunnies by Bob Shea




Flannel Friday is a weekly roundup of posts about storytime and flannelboard ideas. You can visit the website here.

Librarian confession time-I am not a crafty librarian. Crafts for me mean fingerprints or play-dough. I wish I could knit cute puppets to use in storytime, but if I'm lucky, I can make an ok paper bag puppet. And my flannels just aren't pretty-so I rarely make them. (I'm more of a print it off from Kizclub and use magnets type of librarian!)

But I wanted a way to tell Buddy and the Bunnies by Bob Shea so that the kids knew who was talking. I'm reading the book, puppets weren't going to work. And since this is one of our state picture book award nominees, I'm planning on reading it a few times. In the past, the kids have had trouble knowing which character was speaking. So I made Buddy and Bunnies. While reading, I'll point to each character and move them on the flannel board to help the kids visualize who's speaking.

So here's my Buddy and Bunnies:


"I will eat you Bunnies!"


My first Buddy was a bit scary, so I had to make a happy Buddy too. 


The whole set. (Yes, I know the bunnies multiply by the end of the book, but I stuck with the original three to keep it simple) 




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13. Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

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About the Book: After an accident leaves Samantha homeless and fatherless, she's not sure what to do. It's Missouri, 1849 and her dreams of being a musician are not going to be easy-she's a girl and she's Chinese American. Without a place to go, she's invited to a local hotel run by her landlord. But he has other plans for Samantha in mind-namely working in his brothel. Samantha fights back and finds herself needing to escape and fearing for her life. She meets a slave who works at the hotel named Annamae, who is also planning to run. So together they disguise themselves as boys and set off on the Oregon Trail to find Annamae's brother and and a new life for Samantha. As Sammy and Andy, they meet up with a group of cowboys who become unexpected allies. But if they knew the truth, the group could be in trouble-Annamae and Samantha are both wanted by the law. A powerful story of friendship and family.

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: Who knew the world needed a YA Western? It's not a genre I get asked about regularly (although here in Missouri I do get asked this question once in awhile). Stacey Lee knew we needed an amazing girl powered YA Western featuring a diverse cast of characters and lots of keep you up reading adventure-and I'm so glad she did!

At first glance, Under A Painted Sky might be a hard sell to readers. Like I said, it's not every day I get asked for the western genre or even historical fiction. But there's one way to sell this book-have readers just open it up and read the first chapter-or even the first two chapters. The book starts with such a bang and within just a few pages, our main characters have met up and are off on the trail. There's not much waiting around for the adventure to start-it's there from page one. And it never stops. Each chapter brings a new setback on the trail, a new hardship, a new adventure, a new crisis to overcome. The details of trail life are hard and brutal (and eye-opening for readers who might be very familiar with this period in history) But it's not all dreary. There is lots of humor injected into the story as well. I love Annamae and her various quips and the cowboys can be a jovial bunch.

The thing I loved most about Under a Painted Sky, aside from how fast paced the plot is, is how diverse the cast is. Sammy and Andy meet up with cowboys who are from Texas and one of the cowboys, Petey, is from Mexico. Along the trail they meet up with people who have come from all over-a group from France, a gang of boys from Scotland. I listened to this book on audio and this is where I really fell in love with the audio-the narrator does an excellent job with all the various languages and accents.

I will admit that Sammy is a bit too perfect at times. She has overcome a lot of odds in a society that is against her and while that makes her a strong character, it also felt a bit too perfect. She can speak many languages so she can translate along the trail, she can play the fiddle (mostly seen as a man's instrument), she is well educated. I liked that she fought against expectations, but at times it felt a bit too much for the novel overall. Sammy could always save the day.

The friendship that develops between Andy and Sammy is the strongest relationship overall. They develop a strong and powerful bond and it's a beautiful picture of female friendship. They have been through something very hard and it's not going to get easier from here-the road ahead of them is still full of many trials and tribulations. Yet through it all they grow close to each other and find family in each other. I loved seeing two strong female characters in this book and I enjoyed reading about both of them.

The cowboys-Petey, West, and Cay-add another element to the novel both of drama and fun. Cay is the most lighthearted-always joking, flirting with various girls they might meet up with, and having fun along the way. Petey and West are more serious with West having the most difficult background and prejudices to overcome. His story is handled deftly. Sammy develops feelings for West, but as she's keeping her true identity a secret from the boys, the romance isn't very angsty. And since they have bigger things to deal with-like surviving-there's not much dwelling on the idea of a starcrossed romance. There is still romance in the book, but it's not the main plot point and I felt that it was well done and added a nice depth to the novel without feeling out of place. The focus is on Andy and Sammy, their friendship and the overall trip to California.

I absolutely loved this book. I've been suggesting to everyone and couldn't stop talking about it after I read it. I even got Mr. GreenBeanSexyMan to read it (which is huge!) and he enjoyed it. (He loved that there wasn't much angst in it as well) I would recommend it on audio, as the narrator does a wonderful job, but reading it is just as enjoyable-I couldn't wait to get through the last disc and finished the last 80 pages by reading it myself. I can't wait to see what Stacey Lee has in store for us next-I'm sure it will be wonderful! Even if you think you don't need a YA Western, give Under A Painted Sky a try-you might be surprised to discover a book in a genre you never knew you enjoyed.

Full Disclosure: Reviewed from audiobook checked out from my library and finished book received from publisher


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14. Blog Tour: The Toymaker's Apprentice-Sherri L. Smith Author Guest Post

Sherri L. Smith's newest book is based on The Nutcracker. Taking on a classic story is always interesting and I love knowing how authors research and make a well known story their own, so I wanted to know more about the research process for The Toymaker's Apprentice.  

Most people don’t realize that the Nutcracker ballet has its origins in an E.T.A. Hoffman story, Nussknacker und Mausekönig published in 1816.  Some thirty years later, Hoffman’s strange story caught the imagination of Alexandre Dumas—the man who wrote The Three Musketeers and other popular novels.  It was Dumas’ version that Tchiakovsky based his ballet upon.  Luckily for me, as a kid, I fell in love with both the Hoffman story and the ballet.  As an adult, I found myself still daydreaming about the mysterious godfather Drosselmeyer, and the story behind the story.  So it wasn’t much of a stretch to think that one day I would tackle those questions for myself.
In my office is a blue binder stuffed to the gills with indexed pages:  18th Century Clothing.  Asia.  Turkey.  Arabic Cooking.  Clockmaking.  Nuts.  You name it.  When I finally decided to tackle this book, I amassed so much information that the novel sank.  It disappeared from view under the weight of too many possibilities, which took me ten years to assimilate and resurface with a story worth telling.
            It’s a strange thing when you are a writer.  The book the world sees is only one version of a multiverse of books I’ve written or imagined, all a different variation on the same story.  The version of Toymaker that you will read took several passes of research.  From that initial binder (I even recruited my mother into researching various time periods for me) to the last round of spelunking into the history and politics of 1815 Europe, and toy and clockmaking of the period, I did as much research as I could from libraries and a laptop in California.  I read up on lifespans of the various animals in the books, and the land speed of mice versus humans.  How to crack nuts.  Christmas traditions in Nuremberg.  I could give you a long list and sound like Bubba from Forrest Gump talking about shrimp. 
The idea is, you find out as much as you can, set it in the back of your mind, and then tell the story.  I find my brain will pull out the supporting details it needs to keep the story alive and moving forward.  Because of this method, which is rather like sifting for gold, I am always researching stories whenever I read or learn about something new.  I remember in patting myself on the back one day for inventing catacombs beneath the city of Nuremberg that worked perfectly for my story.  Then I went back and looked at my notes.  There are catacombs!  And they still work as if I made them myself! 
The best news for all us struggling writers out there is, if you’re midstream in a story and can’t come up with a good idea based on what you know, it doesn’t mean the story doesn’t work.  You just need to do more research.
About the Book: (from Goodreads) Stefan Drosselmeyer is a reluctant apprentice to his toymaker father until the day his world is turned upside down. His father is kidnapped and Stefan is enlisted by his mysterious cousin, Christian Drosselmeyer, to find a mythical nut to save a princess who has been turned into a wooden doll. Embarking on a wild adventure through Germany, Stefan must save Boldavia’s princess and his own father from the fanatical Mouse Queen and her seven-headed Mouse Prince, both of whom have sworn to destroy the Drosselmeyer family.   

             

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15. First & Then Superlative Blog Tour and Author Guest Post: Books Most Likely to Make You Cry On Public Transportation

I love the idea of a superlative blog tour for First & Then by Emma Mills-such a fun blog tour! I was given the superlative of "Most Likely to Make You Cry on Public Transportation" and of course, I had to ask Emma herself which books make her cry:


I would have to say Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson is the book that makes my cry the most! My father first read this book to my sister and I when we were kids, and I remember so clearly the overwhelming sense of loss I felt right along with Jesse. A beautiful—but tough to take!—book about grief.

Runner-ups:
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – it has wrung the most book-fueled tears from me in my adulthood. Hazel’s relationship with her parents really gets to me.

Marrying Malcolm Murgatroyd by Mame Farrell—I first read this in junior high and shed more than a few tears. Very bittersweet, lovely middle grade story.

Before I share my own list, I first need to tell you something-I don't cry too often at books. Which honestly, I find a bit strange because I'm an emotional person and I cry at just about everything else, but books really have to get me to get me bawling. And these books did! So fair warning when reading on public transportation (or anywhere!):

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling-OK, I admit this one is cheating a bit, because seriously, what HP fan can read this one (or pretty much any book from 4-on) without bawling like a baby?

If I Stay by Gayle Forman-I cried so much at the end of this book and had to mourn that it was over. So I was incredibly grateful for the sequel-which yes, also make me cry.

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley-Oh my goodness, this book just gets you in every emotional way and just tears at your heartstrings and makes you laugh and cry and smile all at the same time.

P.S. I Love You by Cecelia Ahern-I actually listened to this one on audiobook while driving-bad idea. It turned me into a blubbering mess and it was hard to sob and drive at the same time!

What books make you cry?


About the Book: Devon Tennyson wouldn't change a thing. She's happy watching Friday night games from the bleachers, silently crushing on best friend Cas, and blissfully ignoring the future after high school. But the universe has other plans. It delivers Devon's cousin Foster, an unrepentant social outlier with a surprising talent for football, and the obnoxiously superior and maddeningly attractive star running back, Ezra, right where she doesn't want them first into her P.E. class and then into every other aspect of her life.

Pride and Prejudice meets Friday Night Lights in this contemporary novel about falling in love with the unexpected boy, with a new brother, and with yourself.

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16. Need to Know YA 2015-MLA/KLA Join Conference Presentation

Today I'm presenting at the Missouri Library Association/Kansas Library Association Join Conference! I'm presenting on "Need to Know YA of 2015" My session is only 45 minutes, so I sadly don't get to talk about very many books, so I made a long booklist of books I'm talking about as well as others to know. Here is my handout and booklist from the session. And if you're at the conference, I'd love to see you!


Need to Know YA 2015

MLA/KLA Joint Conference

Sarah Bean Thompson

Trends in YA

Religious Extremism and Cults, End of the World Beliefs
Devoted by Jennifer Matthieu
Eden West by Pete Hautman
No Parking at the End Times by Bryan Bliss
The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oaks
Seed by Lisa Heathfield
Vivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle
Watch the Sky by Kristin Hubbard

Mental Illness
Calvin by Martine Leavitt
Disappear Home by Laura Hurwitz
Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone
Fell of Dark by Patrick Downes
Fig by Sarah Elizabeth Schantz
Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella
Footer Davis is Probably Crazy by Susan Vaught
I Was Here by Gayle Forman
The Last Time We Said Goodbye by Cynthia Hand
The Law of Loving Others by Katie Axelrod
Made You Up by Francesca Zappia
More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga
Playlist For The Dead by Michelle Falkoff
Suicide Notes From Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten
Twisted Fate by Norah Olson
The Unlikely Hero of Room 13 B by Tessa Toten
The View From Who I Was by Heather Sappenfield
Your Voice Is All I Hear by Leah Scheier

Retellings of Arabian Tales
A Thousand Nights L.K. Johnston
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury (coming in 2016)
Rebel of the Sands Alwyn Hamilton (coming in 2016)
  
Sequels and Popular Authors
The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith
Another Day by David Levithan
Black Dove White Raven by Elizabeth Wein
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Mass
The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
Fairest and Winter by Marrisa Meyer
Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams Garcia
The Heir by Keira Cass
Hold Me Closer by David Levithan
I Crawl Through It by A.S. King
Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray
Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs
Magus Chase and the Gods of Asgard by Rick Riordan
The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall
P.S. I Love You by Jenny Han
The Rose Society by Marie Lu
Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Stand Off by Andrew Smith
Walk On Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

Websites to Know


Need to Know Middle Grade/Younger YA
Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley
Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan
George by Alex Gino
Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead
The Marvels by Brian Selznick
Monstrous by MaryKate Connolly
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
The Truth About Twinkie Pie by Kat Yeh
The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin
The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
We Are All Made of Molecules by Susan Nielsen

Older YA
Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio
The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older
Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Trouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromley
Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee
We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

Buzz Books (with Some Issues)
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Mosquitoland by David Arnold

Hugely Buzzed Books-AKA-The Next Big Thing?
An Ember in the Sabaa Tahir
Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton

Need to Know Non-Fiction
Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin
Stonewall: Breaking Out in the Fight for Gay Rights by Ann Bausum
Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M.T. Anderson

Other Books to Know
All the Rage by Courtney Summers
Ash and Bramble by Sarah Prineas
Audacity by Melanie Crowder
Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge
The Doldrums by Nicholas Gannon
Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans by Don Brown
Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary by Gail Jarrow
Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton
The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz
Ink and Ashes by Valynee E Maetani
Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell
Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai
Lock and Mori by Heather W. Petty
Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff
Lumberjanes Vol. 1 by Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis
Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley
A Nearer Moon by Melanie Crowder
The Nest by Kenneth Oppel
The Novice by Taran Matharu
Orbiting Jupiter by Gary Schmidt
A Porcupine of Truth by Bill Konigsberg
The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow
Seriously Wicked by Tina Connolly
Serpentine by Cindy Pon
Stella by Starlight by Sharon Draper
Sunny Side Up by Jennifer Holm
Terrible Typhoid Mary: A True Story of the Deadliest Cook in America by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Tommy: The Gun That Changed America by Karen Blumenthal
The Truth Commission by Susan Juby
Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones
Untwine by Edwidge Danticat
Wish Girl by Nikki Loftin
Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed

X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon

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17. Ghostlight by Sonia Gensler Blog Tour-Author Guest Post


Please welcome Sonia Gensler to GreenBeanTeenQueen
















(photo credit: Eden Wilson Photography)

Writing horror for young readers


Growing up is scary and painful, and violent, and your body is doing weird things and you might, to your great horror, become something beastly and terrible on the other side. 

—Greg Ruth, “Why Horror is Good for You (and Even Better for Your Kids)”
http://www.tor.com/2014/05/29/why-horror-is-good-for-you-and-even-better-for-your-kids/


Every day young people deal with horror landscapes, both physical and psychological. They face the gauntlet-like labyrinth of school hallways, and the confinement of overcrowded classrooms. They defend against emotional and/or physical bullying, all while feeling haunted by the “stupid” things they’ve said or done. In fact, young people often feel downright monstrous—their bodies are changing too quickly, or not quickly enough, their emotions are fraught with ups and downs, and the world just doesn’t make sense. 

I know all this from having been a teenager, and also from having taught young people for ten years. These experiences have somehow led me to write a certain kind of horror.


A lot of horror is about gore, grotesquery, and jump scares—and there’s a cathartic benefit to that experience. I try to write the horror of mystery and dread. Gothic horror is all about dealing with extreme transitions, facing the uncanny, and acknowledging repressed emotions that insist on spilling out against your will. I write this sort of horror for the apprehensive teen that still lives inside me. Mostly I just wish to entertain, but I can’t help hoping that teen and tween readers will recognize parts of their own experience, see themselves in the protagonists who overcome their fears, and somehow feel less strange and alone. 


About the BookThings that go bump in the night are just the beginning when a summer film project becomes a real-life ghost story!

Avery is looking forward to another summer at Grandma’s farm, at least until her brother says he’s too old for “Kingdom,” the imaginary world they’d spent years creating. Lucky for her, there’s a new kid staying in the cottage down the road: a city boy with a famous dad, Julian’s more than a little full of himself, but he’s also a storyteller like Avery. So when he announces his plan to film a ghost story, Avery is eager to join in.

Unfortunately, Julian wants to film at Hilliard House, a looming, empty mansion that Grandma has absolutely forbidden her to enter. As terrified as Avery is of Grandma’s wrath, the allure of filmmaking is impossible to resist.

As the kids explore the secrets of Hilliard house, eerie things begin to happen, and the “imaginary” dangers in their movie threaten to become very real. Have Avery and Julian awakened a menacing presence? Can they turn back before they go too far?


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18. Heather Petty Author Guest Post-Writing Lock and Mori


About the Book: (from Goodreads) In modern-day London, two brilliant high school students, one Sherlock Holmes and a Miss James "Mori" Moriarty, meet. A murder will bring them together. The truth very well might drive them apart.

Before they were mortal enemies, they were much more.

FACT: Someone has been murdered in London's Regent's Park. The police have no leads.

FACT: Miss James "Mori"Moriarty and Sherlock "Lock" Holmes should be hitting the books on a school night. Instead, they are out crashing a crime scene.

FACT: Lock has challenged Mori to solve the case before he does. Challenge accepted.

FACT: Despite agreeing to Lock's one rule--they must share every clue with each other--Mori is keeping secrets.

OBSERVATION: Sometimes you can't trust the people closest to you with matters of the heart. And after this case, Mori may never trust Lock again.


GreenBeanTeenQueen: “I'd love to know what inspired Ms. Petty to write about what her research process was like, how she updated Sherlock Holmes and what inspired her to write about Sherlock Holmes.”


Inspiration to Write Sherlock
I was rabbit-trailing through the internet, following links from other links into oblivion, when I came across this cool sounding article that was discussing how often heroes and villains in a nemesis relationship share character traits. And one of the observations by the writer was that it’s hard to judge that comparison for Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty, because we only get to view Moriarty as a character through Sherlock’s eyes. No one else even meets him in passing. I hadn’t noticed that when I’d read the Sherlock stories as a kid, so it opened up this giant gap in the story for me. Because what if Sherlock lied to Watson?

Those kinds of “What if?” questions almost always lead to way more and eventually become larger book ideas for me. I started to wonder what if Sherlock and Moriarty had way more of a past then Sherlock let on? What if they’d known each other high school? What if something that happened back then turned them into enemies?

I can’t really pinpoint when I decided to make Moriarty a girl. It was just part of the questions process. I had the idea in my head as Sherlock and Moriarty playing rivals, but probably best friends when it came right down to it—those kinds of friends who hurt each other over and over, but out of some twisted love place. And then I randomly thought that it might be more interesting if Moriarty were a girl. No one would ever expect a girl to be the center of a criminal ring like that. She could so easily hide among the men who serve her. All of that really opened up a whole world to me, of a female villain/anti-hero—one who uses her intelligence instead of her sexuality as a weapon, one who plays the “bad boy” in the relationship with “good girl” Sherlock, one who is vaguely sociopathic and gets away with it like her male counterparts have forever. I was so excited about the idea of that, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I knew I had to write it. 

The Research
This book was actually the first contemporary I’d ever written, which came with a lot more limitations than I thought it would. For example, London is not only a real city, but a really well-known and popular city. I was so used to being able to craft my own town that I found it intimidating to realize that I had to make sure this one was true to life. I had to get it right. But every time I started planning a research trip, some big family thing would happen making it impossible. So I dove into the research the way I would for any other detail in a story. I drew on everything I knew, read whatever I could get my hands on and watched anything I could find that was set in the city. I also was lucky enough to have friends who had lived in London offer to read the manuscript and help me fix anywhere that I’d misstepped.

Many of my friends were incredibly generous with their time and experiences for all the different elements in the book. They also listened to my whines and worries and let me talk through plot elements until I’m sure they were sick of hearing about it. Doing your book research is vital. But I think it’s equally important for a writer to be humble enough to recognize their lack of experience and to seek out help from those who have lived through it. Really, approaching all of your research with humility is the best way to make sure you’re really learning and not just twisting another person’s lived experience into your own existing parameters.

The Update
I’ve never really been interested in writing a book in a historical time period, so I knew right away that I would be modernizing the characters. Really, though, I feel like that was a much easier task than doing the historical research to get late-Victorian London right. The harder part of the book idea was crafting the characters. I needed to present these two icons as real-to-life London teenagers. I knew if I stayed true to their ages and made them more real, I’d be sacrificing the slick/unflappable/cool image that people even slightly familiar with the stories and adaptations have come to expect. But in the end, I was okay with that. I didn’t want them to be already who they become anyway. I wanted this to be their start, and for the series to track how and why they go from that to who we know them to be as adults.

The Inspiration to Write
I was always a huge reader, but I never thought about becoming a writer until my high school English teacher, Author Terri Farley (Phantom Stallion series) read an assignment I'd turned in and basically told me I needed to be writing. So, I joined the school paper. Then, in college, when I was kind of over the Journalism thing, I applied for a fiction writing class with Author and Professor Susan Palwick, who later taught me one-on-one. She really helped me find my niche as a kidlit writer.

I joined SCBWI shortly after I graduated, and my very first regional conference critique (of a really horrible middle grade book) was from Ellen Hopkins, whose debut novel CRANK was coming out later that year (2004). She was very patient with my rookie writer ways and encouraged me to keep going. But I got pregnant soon after that and floundered for a bit with my writing until Author Cynthia Cotten read one of my silly LiveJournal posts one night and told me I should be writing YA. She pointed me in the direction of authors like Melissa Marr, Charles de Lint, and Holly Black. I was especially taken by Holly Black's Tithe series, and started writing my own YA within days of reading VALIANT.





Thanks! 
H

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19. Library Programs: LibraryCon-Part 3-What Worked and What I'd Change

This is part of a three part series about the LibraryCon program we hosted at my library. Be sure to check out:


Many cool people who helped make LibraryCon awesome!
(photo credit: E.M. Ervin

So there were many, many things that went wonderfully at LibraryCon and we pulled off an amazingly fantastic event. I'm so proud of all the work that everyone did and what a fun program it turned out to be.

Here's what worked well:

-Involve the local geek community.  We reached out to so many organizations, cosplay groups, gaming groups, authors, illustrators, and other area cons to create our booths. In turn, those groups gave us names of others to include. This worked well because it helped us find people who really wanted to be part of this event.

-Provide water! And food if possible. We provided lots (over 100!) bottles of water for the people staffing tables and speaking on panels. They told us over and over again how thankful they were for this and it was such an easy thing to do! We also got a donation for lunch for our panelists and provided snacks for those staffing the booths, which was another nice treat. We also made sure we had staff available to sit at their booths while they took a break to eat.

-Have something for all ages. We had a huge mix of ages from kids to adults and lots of families attend LibraryCon because we really wanted it to be a family friendly event. Our booths all had something fun to offer for all ages and having various Cosplay groups was a huge treat for the kids. We also had a Geeky Storytime, which was a huge hit with kids and parents. We could have added even more kid events and plan to do so for next year.

-Have assigned tables clearly marked for vendors.  Also be sure to have lots of extension cords and power strips on hand. We had every table assigned and the list was left with the greeters at the front door. This made set up very easy and run smoothly.

Most of the feedback we had was positive, and the comments about what to change were actually very minor. But no event is absolutely perfect, so here's what I'd change for next year:

-More Signage-We had a whiteboard outside the panel room and had a flier with a schedule of events and room locations. Everything was kept in our main concourse of the library and the rooms are all located right off the concourse, so it was pretty well contained to the front. But people still requested more signage about what was happening where and where rooms were located.

-Bring people into the library. Since most of the event happened in the main concourse, there was very little traffic into the library. This was good (it kept noisy things up front) and bad (people didn't explore the library as much as they could have). We had a scavenger hunt happening in the stacks and not many people knew about it because they didn't make it back to the Children's Department. We also had some kids crafts there as well that got ignored after storytime. I would like to find a way to bring people into the library more and show off lots of library resources and geeky book displays next year. Also, bring over a lot of your Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror/Graphic Novel collections to highlight at your event. We created a last minute geeky kids book display and the books flew off the display!

-Have a booth for the library. This might seem like a no brainer, but we didn't think about it. We thought oh, hey, people are coming to the library so they'll find out about what we offer. But that wasn't the case. Next year, I want to have a booth for library card sign ups and have information about upcoming programs.

-Create a hashtag. Neither Valerie or I are very active on Twitter, so it didn't occur to either of us to create a hashtag for the event until the day of! This is a great way to collect pictures and feedback from attendees on social media and spread the word about your event.

-Make sure you have enough trash cans. Another silly one, but we noticed that by the end of the evening, the trash cans located in the concourse were overflowing! Something else we really hadn't thought about! But for the most part, there wasn't much trash to pick up and the event itself was very clean.

-Offer even more things to do! We only hosted three panels because this was our first LibraryCon. We spread them out throughout the afternoon because we were trying to think of when people would arrive, want to take breaks, eat, etc. As my husband pointed out to me, "people will eat when they want to eat-you just have events and let them figure it out." Next year, I think we don't have to worry about spacing things out and having breaks, but instead offer more panels, fandom meetups, and gaming demos.

Overall we had a fantastic event it was lots of fun. You don't need to have a huge budget to put on an amazing event. Our entire LibraryCon was put together on about $80, and most of that could have even been taken out and not really needed. Include your community and you will get a great response. I can't wait to do it all again-bigger and better-next year!

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20. Fandom Starts Early Storytime-LibraryCon Edition

Fandom Starts Early Storytime Number 1
Fandom Starts Early Storytime Number 2

I've hosted two Fandom Starts Early Geeky Storytimes for kids and I knew it would be the perfect fit for LibraryCon. My previous Fandom storytimes have been OK, but I held them on Friday evenings, which are always a tough time to draw a crowd. Plus, I didn't get the true geeky families I was hoping for and I knew my audience at LibraryCon would appreciate and love a storytime based on fandoms.

I took some things that I've used before and added a few new things for the LibraryCon version. I actually had to adapt and change my plan at the last minute because my crowd ended up being much younger than I anticipated. So here's what we did for Fandom Starts Early LibraryCon!

(flying like superheroes)


Opening Song: Hedwig's Theme-I opened the doors had the kids walk in to Hedwig's Theme and welcomed everyone to Fandom Starts Early Storytime. I told the parents that it's fun to introduce their favorite fandoms to their kids and we have lots of great books to help do so. Plus, being a geek is awesome!


Book: Star Wars Epic Yarns: A New Hope-The epic yarns books are simple and perfect for geeky storytimes-plus it worked well with my young crowd.



Book: Star Trek Book of Opposites-another great choice for young audiences

Song: The Freeze by Greg and Steve-I used a picture of Dr. Horrible and his freeze ray and every time he appeared, we had to freeze. You could also use Mr. Freeze for this. 



Book: Super Heroes Book of Opposites-to go along with our superhero Summer Reading theme

Rhyme: Five Supheroes (source: Storytime Katie and Jbrary

Five superheroes ready to fly
Here comes a villain. Stop that guy!
This superhero can save the day.
Off he/she flies-up, up, and away!

I used the awesome superhero kids that Hafuboti made and put magnets on them to use as a magnet board rhyme. 

Parachute: We tossed the TARDIS around in the parachute to the Doctor Who theme. (I printed off two photos of the TARDIS and glued some popsicle sticks between them to get it to bounce)




Activities:

I had lots of activities set up around the room for the kids to do. 

-Superhero mask making=with masks cut out from the diecut machine and various items to use to decorate

-Match the characters with their item (Han Solo with the Millennium Falcon, Kirk with the Enterprise, Harry with his broom, etc)

-Paint a Dalek-I printed off black and white pictures of a Dalek and let the kids use dot stampers to color the Dalek. Make sure to have wipes on hand! 

-Match the Star Trek colors-I put up pictures of the Next Generation cast and sorted them by uniform colors (Red, Yellow, and Blue) and put out blocks to sort under each picture.

-Design your own house crest. I printed off a blank house crest template and let the kids create their own. 

-Make your own Origami Yoda-I used the simple Origami Yoda pattern with green paper for the kids.

-Decorate the Death Star-my amazing teen librarian, Valerie painted over a globe with chalk paint and we now have a death star that can be drawn on with chalk. It's tons of fun and reusable!

I also had lots of comic books to give away to the kids and a big book display for various geeky books.

This was the most successful Fandom Starts Early Storytime because my crowd really appreciated the topic and thought it was lots of fun to get their kids talking about their fandoms. The kids really loved the superhero masks and the parents loved the matching game. I can't wait to do it again next year! 

And I'm always looking for geeky storytime books so if you have any ideas, I'd love to hear them!

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21. Please Look Up!


One of the most interesting parts of being a librarian is that I get to spend a lot of time observing the public. Every day is spent interacting with lots of different families and throughout the summer, I've noticed a trend that makes me very upset. It's been happening for awhile, but I've noticed it with more and more frequency. 

Parents (and grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, babysitters-whoever!) do not look up from their phones and engage with their kids. 

The library is a wonderful place to come and engage and play with your children, but so many adults use the library as a break or a babysitter. They come in, let the kids loose in the department and instead of creating a family trip, they spend their time engaged in their phone or computer. Over and over and I see these kids looking for someone to read a book to them, to play with them, to watch their puppet show. They wander around the children's department seeking out other kids to play with-sometimes with success, sometimes not. Kids come up to the desk and ask if we can be an audience for their puppet show and of course I try to say yes. Not just because I want to encourage these kids, but as a librarian, my job is to model early literacy skills and talking with kids about their puppet show is a great early literacy skill. But I can't always say yes-I have lots of patrons to help, programs to set up, questions to answer-contrary what people may think librarians do, we don't get to watch puppet shows and read books with kids all day. 

The absolute worst and the thing that bothers me the most is when I see this happen in storytime or at our large Summer Reading Program Performers. (We bring in performers like singers, magicians, comedians, jugglers, etc once a week during the Summer.) Instead of engaging with kids during storytime (especially during preschoool storytime-that's when it's the worst!) adults let the kids sit up front while they sit in the back and use storytime as a thirty minute break to socialize, check Facebook, text. I see the kids excitedly signing or dancing to a new song or correctly guessing the animal in the book we're reading and look back to see their adult's proud faces, only to have the adults not looking at them. 

During our big weekly Summer performers, I try not to put a lot of chairs out to encourage the adults to sit with their kids. But that doesn't stop grownups from finding a chair, unstacking a stack from the back and sitting in the back and using the performer as a babysitter. We recently hosted a Big Hero 6 Robot Build-Along and I was so excited to see that about half of the room took the opportunity to sit with their kids and create a robot out of boxes together. The other half sat off to the side and had social time with their phones and with friends instead of using it as a family program. I even overheard one parent say to her friend as she was walking in to the program "well, we'll see how it goes and if we can leave" to which I politely reminded her of the library's unattended children policy. 

Engage with your kids and they will model your reading behavior!


We're wasting prime opportunities with our kids when we become distracted and engaged by something else. These programs and time spent at the library is hopefully growing a lifelong love of reading and the library and helping your child engage in early literacy skills which will help them become better readers and writers. My staff and I focus on early literacy skills in all of our storytimes, we work hard to create engaging programs for families, and the reason we have toys in our department is to encourage families and share ideas about how to incorporate the Roads to Reading (our early literacy program) at home. We want to share with families how they can Talk and Read, Sing and Rhyme, Play With Letters, Tell Stories, and Love Books anywhere and everywhere! But librarians can only do so much. Our hope is that we will help create readers, but that won't happen unless kids have that behavior modeled for them. And when adults are only engaged in screens instead of taking the time to engage with their kids, this opportunity is lost. 

I try to mention this at the beginning of programs-how engaging with your kids means they will get so much more out of the program-but that only goes so far. I can only say so much and try so hard to get the message across. 

I know it's tough. I know it's exhausting. I know you want a break. But the library is such a wonderful chance to connect and engage with kids. They are becoming involved in the community and learning about things that interest them. They are realizing the library has lots of wonderful things to offer. They walk into the library and are given their choice of all the materials there and they realize the world is open to them. This is a powerful thing.

So please, look up! Engage with your kids. Talk to them. Explore with them. Play with them. Create with them. Experience the library together. I promise your visit will be much more rewarding!

Raising a reader

I'd love to know ways you encourage parents to engage with their kids at your library. Any good tips and suggestions?

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22. Trouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly

Genre: Mystery

Release Date: 8/4/2015

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About the Book: After her parents divorce and Zoe moves with her mom to upstate New York, the last thing she expected was to meet someone like Digby. No one really likes Digby when they first meet him-he's eccentric and annoying and only shows up when he wants something. Zoe just wants to survive her junior year with good grades and no problems so she can move back to NYC with her dad and attend a private school for her senior year. But Digby will change all of that. When you're with Digby, you can't help but get pulled into his madcap schemes and (sometimes illegal) hijinks. Digby's on a planet all his own and Zoe can't help but get pulled in as Digby tries to solve the mystery of a local missing girl and discover if it has any connection to the disappearance of his sister years before.

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: The book marketing this meets that for this book is perfect-imagine Veronica Mars mixed with a John Hughes movie with a touch of Sherlock. That pretty much sums up Trouble is a Friend of Mine perfectly. There's lots of razor sharp dialogue and wit, plenty of pop-culture references, an amateur teen detective who somehow continues outsmart everyone around him, and a mystery to be solved. All that wraps up into a pretty hilarious and totally fun package and you just know going in, from the very first page, that just like Zoe, you're going to end up on Planet Digby too.

Tromly is a former screenwriter and that really comes across in her writing. The plot is very fast paced and the dialogue is snappy. It also reads like it could translate to the screen very easily (which I would love to see happen-this could be a great teen movie!) Zoe isn't the most well developed character. She's actually a bit bland, but I think part of that is purposeful for the novel as it allows the reader to jump right into Zoe's character and experience Digby for themselves. The rest of the supporting characters are funny, but a bit typical of teen novels-the cute popular boy, the mean rich girl, and the nerdy outcast. Yet all together, they do make for a pretty funny group and it works.

Digby on the other hand is such an enigma that you can't help but want to know more about him and follow along on his crazy escapades to solve whatever mystery he's surrounded himself with. The main focus of the novel is mystery and friendship and while you could read it as a romance (very slightly) that's not a main focus at all, which I really liked. This is one of those books I can hand to readers looking for a mystery and I know they'll be engaged with a great mystery without having to wade through lots of additional subplots about love triangles or family drama or forensic or paranomal elements. There's also plenty of humor and with the contemporary setting, so I think even non-mystery readers would be willing to give this one a try. And with the John Hughes comparisons, I also think Trouble is a Friend of Mine has great crossover appeal!

I had a ton of fun reading it and there were several points in the book where I was disappointed my lunch break was up and I had to stop reading because I just wanted to read one more page. The story especially picks up speed once the group goes to the school formal, and the mystery solving really takes off. Sure the situations the teens get themselves into can be far fetched, but that's part of the fun. The ending is left very open, so fingers crossed we get to hear more from Digby soon!

Full Disclosure: Reviewed from book sent by publisher for review

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23. Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

Genre: Contemporary

Release Date: 8/4/2015

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About the Book: Bridge survived an accident and as she left the hospital she was told she must have survived for a reason. Emily is embracing a new found popularity with boys at school and a crush on an older boy. And Tabitha is the friend who tells people like it is. Sherm is writing letters to his grandfather-but not sending them. And an unnamed narrator wanders the neighborhood on Valentines Day wondering about what makes a true friend. This cast of characters will connect and their lives will entwine and they'll figure out middle school together. 

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: Librarian confession-sometimes I feel like I'm the only non Rebecca Stead fangirl. I mean, I liked Liar and Spy well enough and I When You Reached Me was ok, but I felt like the only person who didn't gush over it. Yet there's something about her writing-and the mad devotion from librarians all over-that keeps me reading. 

I was actually very intrigued by this book because it's older middle grade/younger YA and I had a feeling that in Miss Stead's hands, that would be something magical. Then I read this quote that my friend Angie posted and raved about and I was hooked-I had to read Goodbye Stranger.

"That's what life is. Life is where you sleep and what you see when you wake up in the morning, and who you tell about your weird dream, and what you eat for breakfast and who you eat it with. Life isn't something that happens to you. It's something you make yourself, all the time."

Told throughout the course of several months (with one character's narration taking place all in one day), the novel takes interwoven storylines from a group of friends, and those that surround them, through their struggles with middle school. Seventh grade is a rough year. It's a time when friendships can change, relationships can blossom, and life can feel like it's turning upside down. And middle school is a time when life feels as though life is in a constant state of confusion. Growing up is hard and Rebecca Stead captures the awkwardness, confusion, and growing pains perfectly. As an adult, reading this book was like stepping back in time and remembering what it was like to be 13 again. As a young teen, I think readers will relate with the characters very strongly and with such a wide cast, I think they'll find someone they can identify with. 

Bridge is struggling with trying to figure out who  she is-she's been away from school and while her best friends are there, they seem to be changing around her and she's changing too, but she's not sure what that means. She's also becoming friends with Sherm which makes her wonder how can you be friends with a boy and what does that mean? Bridge is also struggling because she's taken the words of the nurse that she survived her accident for a reason to heart and she wants to discover what that reason is. I loved Bridge's shyness and her tentativeness into finding a club to join at school and how she slowly discovers where she belongs and that she fits. 

Emily gets caught up in a texting-turned-sexting relationship and decides to send a photo to her crush which then gets sent around school. I loved how Miss Stead deftly handles this plotline. It's easy to see how Emily can get caught up and how she trusts those around her. It also discusses how society views girls and how girls are treated in situations like this and how often their treatment is unfair and their reputation is harmed while boys reputations are intact. It's a great commentary and something that is a must read and should be discussed with middle schoolers. 

There's also the unnamed narrator, who is struggling with trying to let a best friend go because the truth is there about who the friend really is, but it's hard to say goodbye. And can you stop being friends with someone and have a new best friend? And can secrets really hurt friends? 

Bridge's search for her identity and who she is, Sherm's broken relationship with his grandfather, Tabitha's struggle to grow up, and Emily's crush on an older boy. There is so much wonderful fodder here for great book discussions. And the writing is fantastic. Things are presented in a way that readers will understand, will relate to, and won't feel like an adult is talking down to them or doesn't understand. I think Goodbye Stranger could be a pick for a parent/child book discussion as well. 

Rebecca Stead has finally won me over with this one. I really loved it. I kept wanting to go back to it, wanted to keep reading, and I was interested in all the characters. Everyone was well developed and the plot wove together wonderfully. I think Goodbye Stranger is an absolute must read of 2015 and a book that older tweens and young teens-and their parents-should get their hands on and hopefully read together.

Full Disclosure: Reviwed from e-galley received from publisher for review



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24. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Genre: Contemporary

Release Date: 9/1/2015

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About the Book: Maddy has SCID, a disease which means she's allergic to everything. She never knows what could cause her to be sick, what could make her have an allergic reaction. She's been kept in her house with no one but her mom and nurse and her only access to the outside world is through the computer. Until the day Olly moves in next door, Maddy doesn't feel like she's missing out on much.  Olly and Maddy develop a friendship online and Maddy starts to wonder if there could be more to her life. But if there was, it wouldn't end well for Maddy.

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: I honestly don't know what it was about this book that made me devour it and enjoy every moment. I've thought about and tried to put my finger on it what it was exactly, but I can only guess. Nicola Yoon's writing is addictive and her characters are just so real that I cared about them from the very beginning. I loved Maddy from the start and I kept telling myself, "ok, just one more chapter and then I'll go to bed." Two nights of staying up way too late later, I had devoured this book. And after I read it, I wanted to talk about it, to tell everyone about it.

I think part of my addiction with this novel was that it hit at just the right time. I was wanting something I could just get lost in and want to gulp down in one sitting and Everything, Everything really fit that for me. I was immediately drawn into Maddy's story, her life, and just like Maddy, I wanted to befriend Olly too. The storyline was different as well which really made me want to keep reading. It's a teen sickness/romance/friendship book but it's also not and I loved that about it. I also love the fact that Maddy is biracial and that's just a fact in the story. This isn't an issue story about race and Maddy's African American/Asian American background is part of who she is and I love that.

I really feel like teens are going to go crazy over this one and absolutely love it. It will for sure appeal to fans of stories like The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor and Park, but I think even readers who don't typically read those books will enjoy this one-the hard part will be selling them on it. This is for sure one for readers who like sad books, but also for readers who like hopeful books and I hope readers won't shy away from it just because they think it will make them cry.

Sure, some of the story got a little silly, but that's also part of it's charm. Maddy and Olly are two teens who aren't always going to make the best choices and their actions fit with their characters. My heart broke and then was put back together and I loved every moment.

There's so much more I want to say about this book, but I feel like if I do, I'll ruin the experience for you and I want you to experience it like I did, so I won't say much more. Only that my warning is that if you pick this one up, you won't be putting it down until you're finished!

Full Disclosure: Reviewed from e-galley sent by publisher for review

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25. Please Look Up: Part 2

A month ago I wrote a post about how often I see parents looking at their phones instead of engaging with their kids at the library, especially in programs. The feedback I received from this post called me judgy, said there was no way I could know the whole story, and that most likely these kids were being engaged at home. It's true you can never know the whole story, but I still believe it's all about balance.

I was inspired to write my original post because it's something I see happen a lot at the library, but it's also something very personal to me. Being glued to technology is something I see happen every day in my family.

"family time" 

This photo is of a recent family get together. My son is just off to the right of this picture, playing with toys and hoping to catch the attention of his family. Instead, they're plugged in to their phones (and the ironic thing is my father-in-law captured this family moment on his phone!) It frustrates me on a regular basis when I'm with family and instead of engaging with each other, especially with my toddler, they are hooked to their phones. Alerts go off, an article must be read, a text must be sent-it happens all the time. My husband and I are trying very hard to put our phones up and leave them out of reach and ignore them until after my son goes to bed. Are we perfect? Not at all. But we're trying to make engagement a priority. 

I know I'm not the only one concerned about this. There have been so many books published recently about families needing to unplug, screen addiction, and engaging as a family. The New York Times has published articles recently: "How to Cut Children's Screen Time? Say No To Yourself First." and "Screen Addiction Taking a Toll on Children." I'm not the only one noticing it. 

Just look at this graph from Pew Internet Research about when people think it's OK to use their cellphones-it's a growing trend everywhere! (The entire article on mobile use is a fascinating read-be sure to check it out!)


When we model that behavior of being plugged into technology, no matter where we are-home or the library, it shows our kids that technology is more important. Do we have to unplug completely forever? No. It's all about balance. So let me tell you another story. 

I was at the library last week and I was roving the department, straightening books, cleaning up, and checking on patrons. We have a play area with early literacy toys and a really cool Eric Carle carpet and it's just off of the picture books, so it's perfect for families to hang out and engage. There was a young mom there with her nine-month-old son. She had actually brought a toy for him to play with (I'm not sure if she didn't know we had toys at the library, which is entirely possible, or if she just wanted to also bring something from home.) She had checked out an iPad from the library and was using it to type something up. As I was cleaning and straightening, I observed this mom. Even though she was plugged in to technology and would type on the iPad, she would pause every few minutes, look over at her son, talk to him, play with the toy with him and engage before she went back to her work. Later she and her son browsed through books together and she talked to him about what there was at the library and what books they were getting and she was fully focused on her child. She was using technology but she was also balancing it to engage with her son. That balance is so lost. Instead we end up making excuses as to why we need to be plugged in all the time.

A couple of days after that, I had a busy morning filled with lots of toddlers and their parents. And the entire morning made me smile because all morning long, I observed the parents talking to their kids, playing with toys, reading books, and talking to the other parents and making new friends. I overheard a dad singing with his daughter about putting the toys away and a mom showing her toddler and preschooler how to do the simple origami dog we had out as a passive activity. Watching the kids light up as they talked and played with the adults around them was awesome. 

Yes, we need to use computers to get school work done. Yes, we need the library to be a place for our family to come and hang out. Yes we need to use the library computers to check email, take of something for work, or just play and have fun. We never know the whole story and we never know what someone is going through. But it only takes a moment to pause, look up, and engage. Sing a song with your kids at storytime. Laugh at a book together. Watch their puppet shows. It's all about balance. I hope we can all get there together. 

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