Nerdfighter Gathering 2014

TFIOS has come & gone, and it was just fantastic, was it not? My teens are still raving about it. To celebrate the movie’s premiere, we held a Nerdfighter Gathering, and it was so, so much nerdy fun.

What’d we do?
YouTube playlist of a variety of TFIOS stuff & classic Vlogbrother videos
Hanklerfish hot potato; the kids got SO into this it was hilarious. The prize was just a fun size bag of plain M&Ms! I think we did it six times, to A Song about an Anglerfish.
– Book charms!
– TFIOS/Okay bracelets & keychains
– TFIOS cloud t-shirts
– Nerdfighter pins
– Prizes of print outs of various Nerdfighter art
– Pizza! It’s always the answer.
– NO EDGE four-square, which was especially fun because most of them had never even heard of it!
– Pin the Glasses on John Green (you might have seen it on Tumblr. John Green basically made my life by reblogging it to his own Tumblr; aaaaaah.)

To be honest, a lot of this stuff must sound like nonsense if you’re not pretty familiar with Nerdfighteria, but it was basically the highlight of my teen librarian experience. To get to be so nerdy with something I love so dearly was just so great. Here are some more pictures of the event in action!


With all the conversations going on right now about the importance of diversity, take this as your reminder to add some diversity in ALL of your displays. Add TYRELL by Coe Booth to your John Green display. Put Cindy Pon’s SILVER PHOENIX and Nnedi Okorafor’s AKATA WITCH on your fantasy display. BOY MEETS BOY by David Levithan ought to be on your romance display. Antony John’s brilliant FIVE FLAVORS OF DUMB should be on your realistic fiction display.

Take a step back & make sure you have faces of all kinds throughout your teen space, no matter the population you serve.

Because it’s important.


Update 08.2015: So here’s a display I put together to celebrate the Paper Towns movie. When I put this together, I challenged myself to find as many diverse books as possible that I would, in fact, recommend to someone who has read Paper Towns or other John Green books – books with themes about imagining others complexly and getting to know both yourself and those around you.

Here’s what’s on display: GLBT, African-American, Native American, Hispanic, Asian-American*, size acceptance, economic disparity, mixed race, disability (deafness & blindness), along with plenty of books about white kids.There are all GREAT books that ALL teens should have access to.

*I would have loved to put ‘To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before’ on this display, but it’s ALWAYS out (yay!). But why is there so little realistic fiction that show an Asian on the cover? It’s sad and frustrating.

Creating a great, diverse display shouldn’t be hard. And it isn’t. Very few of the books on the wall here are books I wouldn’t consider a part of a core teen fiction collection. What would YOU have added?

One choice can transform you…

Here’s a confession for you: I like Tris better than Katniss (That doesn’t mean that I think Divergent is better than Hunger Games, because well, it’s not). And I’m very, very happy that the actor playing Four is only two years younger than me. I really liked Four in Divergent, and I’m quite delighted that I can find him attractive without feeling like a dirty old woman. I guess that’s the price you pay for reading so much teen literature!

But anyways! Are you throwing a party for the premiere of the Divergent film? I am!

When I set about planning this party, I knew that despite the setting of the first novel (and presumably, first movie) I didn’t want this to just be a Dauntless shindig – that kind of goes against the whole point of the books. So I wanted to have something that celebrated each faction, and this is what we have planned:

DAUNTLESS: chocolate cake & tattoos
ERUDITE: book trivia
CANDOR: confession jar
ABNEGATION: canned food drive
AMITY: peace sign bookmarks (in book thong style)

We’ll also create t-shirts (I order them in bulk from Adair so we have them for various programs) using stencils of the factions & the Crayola Airbrush – have you used this yet? It is AMAZING! I don’t understand how it works, but wow. Pretty fantastic, and a definite worthwhile investment for programming. I’m always looking for items I know I’ll use for multiple programs, & this is definitely one of them. We have two now, and I know we’ll get our money’s worth in no time.

We’ll probably also make book charms, because they’re so cheap, easy, & fun for the fans. To make them: print out 1″ images, cut out, glue onto folded paper for the “cover”, then staple 4-5 pages inside. Punch a small hole & loop a jump ring through – voila! Super easy & cheap craft your teens will spend HOURS making. It’s a great “merit badge” for book clubs, too.

So, what do you have planned for your Divergent party?

The Hunger Games are coming!

2012-3 hunger games
The Hunger Games Survival Challenge


I’ve had lots of people asking what I’m planning for my Hunger Games party, & as I think I’ve pretty much got it figured out, I feel that I can finally share! In the past, all my movie premiere parties have been more hangouts with games, crafts, & food, but this is something very different. I’m planning more of a competition-style program, in keeping with the theme of the Hunger Games, & I think that the kids are not only going to have a blast, but they’re going to learn quite a lot, too.

I’ll be splitting the teens into teams of no more than 3, but they’ll have to at least partner up. To start, there will be white drawstring backpacks in the center of the room, & a la the Cornucopia, they’ll have to grab a pack & begin the Hunger Games.

Tucked inside each pack they’ll find ten challenges, as well as their food for the night. As in the book, some packs will have things like apples or trail mix, while others will have crackers or something similar – I suppose what they consider “good” will probably vary from what I think is good, but that’s part of the fun! I’ll also include water bottles & juice boxes.

The challenges are going to vary among the packs, but everyone will have to complete ten of them. I’m hoping to have about 20 challenges to pick & choose from, but here’s what I’ve come up with so far.

  1. Get picture taken as team (we’ll print these out before the end of the night)
  2. Create team logo/symbol on backpack (which is why they’re white)
  3. Leaf rubbing/tree identification
  4. Plant identification*, ie: you come across these berries! Can you eat them?
  5. Animal track ID*
  6. Reference desk question
  7. Put books in order
  8. Toilet paper unwrap
  9. Dart gun target practice
  10. Archery practice
  11. Bean bag toss (a la corn hole)
  12. Lacing challenge
  13. Knot tying
  14. Ninja stars (Wii game)
  15. Decode message using Navajo
  16. Hunger Games trivia (ten questions)
  17. First Aid

There will be some sort of narrative to go along with the challenges, in the same vein as the plant identification challenge, but I’m still working on that. Some of these will be completed by everyone, but some will just be luck of the draw. Each challenge will be worth ten points, so there will be a total of 100 points possible with a time bonus for the first three to complete the entire game. For anything they choose incorrectly, they’ll lose points, just as they’d be in a rather bad place if they chose to eat poisonous berries.

While we tally up the points, I’ll have a Mockingjay pin craft for them to complete. Should be a fun night!

*There are some cool apps out there for those of you with iPads!

What do you have planned?

Of Ship Breakers & Hunger Games: About That WSJ Article…

Ugh. I can’t imagine I’m alone when I say that I’m really tired of hearing about this. EVERYONE has talked about it, & now, so am I.

If, by some miracle, you don’t know what I’m talking about, skim through the offending article. It’s pretty terrible, but to be perfectly honest, my first thought was one of sarcasm, rather than alarm. I mean, come on, YA people. Someone is attacking teen lit? Is it a day that ends in Y? Defending teen lit comes with the territory. Why was this particular article so shocking & alarming? Frankly, I’m still reeling from James Frey’s “teen lit is easy to write” comment far more than this is bothering me.

But, I’ll throw my two cents in if I must. Here’s what I think: THIS WOMAN HAS NO IDEA WHAT SHE’S EVEN TALKING ABOUT.

Let me tell you why…

She begins with a tale of her FRIEND going to a bookstore & being frustrated that YA is filled with death & despair – which, let’s own it guys, IT IS. Teen lit right now is full of vampires, zombies, & other undead/not dead/can’t die supernatural beasties. I think Tamora Pierce said it best when she asked if the next big teen thing could please have living people in it. But the thing is, it’s so full of death because the teen years are the first time you’re confronted with your own mortality. Teens are obsessed with it because it’s first time they’ve really thought about it! Sometimes it’s just that they’re mature enough, but often, it’s because someone in their school dies. A car accident, a suicide, an illness… it’s one thing if grandpa dies when you’re young, it’s another if the girl next door who’s a year younger dies.

But here’s where the author loses her cred, at least with me – that popular stuff? Is usually NOT the hardcore stuff the author goes on to complain about. I rarely, if ever, see the hardcore stuff in any bookstore. A Great & Terrible Beauty? Sure. Going Bovine? No. Elizabeth Scott’s fluffy fun romance? It’s on display next to Sarah Dessen. Living Dead Girl? Maybe one if you’re lucky.

You know why? BECAUSE TEENS WANT THE FUN FLUFFY STUFF. I would say that probably only 10-15% of that hardcore stuff is what’s actually being published. Yeah, it’s awesome, & yeah, it’s on my shelves & I proudly put it on display, but it’s the House of Night & Hunger Games & Mortal Instruments & all the not-great knock-offs that they want. My hardcore readers, especially my TAB members, will pick up anything, especially if its on the Best Books list or if I’ve read it. But the casual reader who just wants an escape? They aren’t going to grab Cut. They’re going to grab Boys, Bears, & A Serious Pair of Hiking Boots, if for no other reason than it has a great cover.

When I go to our local bookstore, I see lots of the fluffy stuff. Vampires, teen romance, re-pubs of stuff from the 90s in shiny new covers. I don’t see the hardcore stuff. I rarely see more than one copy of John Green’s works, which one could hardly call hardcore; just more Clique, Gossip Girl, & Pretty Little Liars. Which is fine, but I’d be surprised if the author’s local bookstore even stocks what she’s concerned about.

The author also mentions the extreme violence of Hunger Games, & there’s no denying that it is so. But in the recommended blurb next to the article, Ship Breaker is the first rec. Although I LOVED LOVED LOVED it, I personally found it MUCH more in your face violent than Hunger Games, if for no other reason than it’s adults going after children. When I saw this, I didn’t even finish the article. How out of touch is she?

In my library, I have a display & corresponding book list of Books that won’t make you blush! There’s also a sign posted, welcoming parents to the teen area & gently explaining that hey, teen fiction covers the full range of the teenage years. I invite them to talk to me, because I’ll be honest, there are plenty of books in my beloved & carefully crafted collection that no, I don’t think are appropriate for a thirteen-year-old to read.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t think Will Grayson Will Grayson shouldn’t be required reading for every student in America (how much would you love a teacher who read that in his classroom?), but I do think that it’s be better once you’re older. Some books just ought to be saved for the age at which you are ready! As a high school junior who was a big reader (I did become a librarian, after all), I was extremely uncomfortable reading The Color Purple. I wasn’t ready for it, & I didn’t finish it. Why is adult fiction always considered okay for teens, but teen fiction not?

You’re a very different person as a thirteen-year-old than when you’re a sixteen-year-old. At thirteen, you still love Hannah Montana. At sixteen, you love Lady Gaga. At thirteen, you ought to be reading Princess Diaries. At sixteen, How I Live Now. Someday, maybe, people will get that. But until then, we’re going to be explaining this over & over & over. Everyone take a deep breathe, talk to the parents of your teens, & stop panicking every time someone who doesn’t get it writes an article. We’ve got more important things to worry about – summer reading is in full swing, & my manga shelves are nearly empty!

That dystopian novel…

I like what I’ve seen so far. My biggest concern with this adaptation is this: How on earth are they going to keep this from being rated R? It’s about children killing children. Being forced to do so by the government. Movies with lesser violence are rated R – even the Twilight movies are rated PG-13, & they’ve got almost nothing. As someone over the age of 17, I don’t personally care if it gets the R rating – but they’ll lose a large chunk of their teen audience. Yeah, every teen librarian in America is going to flock to it, but we don’t exactly number into the millions.

I worry that the intensity of the novel will be watered down, & that would be very, very sad. Dear screenwriters: please don’t do that!!

Cover Reboot Win

Awhile ago now, I wrote about Cover Reboot Fail, & lamented those that, upon their paperback release, were treated rather badly. I’m happy to report, though, that this isn’t always the case! Sometimes they take advantage & really nail it the second time.

Do you know, I hadn’t even realized this was a modern story until I saw the new cover on an ad somewhere – oops? I like the original art, but something about it screams 1940s & definitely that it belongs in the children’s section. But this new edition is simply stunning. I think plenty of teens will grab this off the shelf now!

How clever to put the title on the butt-cheek pocket! LOVE IT. I like the original cover too, but the paperback definitely catches your eye.

I can’t decide which edition I like better, but I think they’re both pretty great.

To be perfectly honest, I really like the original cover. But something about the paperback is really engaging, & I think it does a better job of capturing the essence of the story.

This is exactly what this series needed for those Hunger Games fans to pick it up. The original definitely screams mid-00s, but the new one definitely catches your eye.

You can see all my favorite book covers in the Well-Designed Books Make Better Lovers (& find more readers) set on Flicker!

It’s for teens, jackass!

So, while everyone is freaking out over the newest Lane Smith book, It’s a Book, I’ve discovered that the real audience of this book is teens. I took it to my last Teen Advisory Board meeting, & after I did my usual talking of the books, I pulled it out & read it to them, preschool story-time style.

They think it’s HILARIOUS. Which makes sense, because it’s really only by the time they’re 9 or so they even begin to learn the names of all the things on a computer. Not the mention the fact that a tween probably doesn’t know what a blog is, or what Wi-Fi refers to. Younger kids just get on a computer & do their thing. Teens learn what all these things are called. & the teens that attend TAB are, well, readers.

& so, I have come to the conclusion that everyone should STOP FREAKING OUT & just read this to teens. Because in my humble opinion, they’re the only ones old enough to understand the humor, anyways.

Reading this at my TAB meetings is going to become a regular thing, I think. My teens love it so much they want me to get the matching poster from ALA Graphics. Now THAT’S love.

Go books go!

I was going to do a typical “hey, I’m back, sorry I disappeared for six months” post, but you know what? This is far more exciting.

Hot Topic has Hunger Games t-shirts!

This is exciting for two reasons: 1.) MOCKINGJAY IS COMING OUT SOON OMG YAY!!, & 2.) I honestly cannot remember a time when Hot Topic stocked merchandise that was only related to books. Anime, yes. Popular tv shows? Yes. Books that have been turned into movies? Obviously. But I don’t even remember Harry Potter stuff being in the store until the movies came out.

Go Hot Topic for noticing a really popular teen thing that isn’t media!!

Cover Reboot Fail

With even the author having to step in to defend herself surrounding the hoopla of Justine Larbalestier’s latest, Liar (go read that if you’ve no idea what I’m talking about – in a nutshell, the publisher put a white girl on the cover of a book about a black girl – yeah, it’s bad, but authors get no say in this), I’d thought I’d point out some other instances where the publishers have jumped ship in favor of the fail whale.

See, publishers have these strange ideas about what will sell – & although I do agree that a well-designed book finds more readers, sometimes the designs will truly speak for themselves. If a book doesn’t sell well in hardcover, often they’ll give the paperback edition a new cover. Sometimes they really do nail it the second time (I’ll do a post of these later). Many times, they fail.

The original is on the left, followed by the new paperback edition.

Here, we lost those beautiful bright hues, & traded them in for… random Georgian costumed girls? I get that perhaps using typical Austen graphics speaks to what the book is about – but focusing on that aspect won’t make the average teen pick it up (although I will admit that the blurb from Stephenie Meyer does help).

I’ve often felt that the hardcover edition of Gingerbread is one of the absolute best-designed teen covers of all time. This book never sits on a display – it barely makes it an hour before it’s once more plucked from the shelf. To turn such a quintessential teen image into a boring white & blue cover – don’t get me wrong, it’s not a terrible design, but it’s so not the main character.

Another gorgeous, interesting cover (which also rarely sits on the shelf) gets turned into generic monotone. This story now looks to be about clones, rather than a fun story about a guy who dates a bunch of girls named Katherine.

Again, turning a fabulous design into something incredibly generic. Nothing about this cover says PICK ME UP I’M INTERESTING!!! If a book design is perfect, I shouldn’t need to booktalk it.

This one breaks my heart. Here, a book that looks like it’s about a guy who’s into comics gets turned into… a book that looks like its aimed at second graders. Why would they do this?

Again, an engaging cover gets turned into generic ghost story. & again, the hardcover never stays on a display. Doesn’t it just scream pick me up & check me out? I get that the reboot was done to cash in on the Supernatural fandom, but still. Was this really necessary?

This is truly just a sampling of good intentions gone bad. What are some the most glaring examples that I’ve missed? Am I completely out of my mind?

The importance of book design…

This week’s Newsweek arrived in my mailbox yesterday (& I LOVE the new design & layout to pieces!), & in addition to coverage of the death of Michael Jackson, this edition is all about BOOKS. One feature talks about book covers & Chip Kidd’s (an editor at Alfred Knopp) favorites through the years. Although he nailed some of the best designs of the times (books such as Everything is Illuminated, Twilight, & A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius), I also felt like a lot of his choices were, well, really obvious! Dig deeper to find some chestnuts, like Sima’s Undergarments for Women!

One of the nice things about teen lit is that selling the book relies on the story & design alone – unless it’s a name like Stephenie Meyer or JK Rowling, teens usually don’t know & frankly don’t care. Some will recognize a name like Meg Cabot or Darren Shan, simply because their books take up so much of the shelf, but teens in general are rather more interested in whether the story is interesting than which best-selling author’s name is plastered across the cover.

Here’s a sampling of some of my favorites…