Nonfiction Wednesday – Sept 14, 2016

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2016 is a weekly celebration of imaginative children’s nonfiction materials hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy.

As anyone who’s ever worked with tweens and teens can tell you, crafts are majorly popular. Being able to express their creativity through different artistic pursuits is extremely important for many tweens/teens, and there’s something immensely attractive about being able to make something special with their own hands. I used to spend a lot of time scrolling through Pinterest in search of new craft ideas for tween/teen events.

There are a couple of factors that youth librarians or group leaders usually keep in mind when selecting craft projects for their participants – the activities must be simple and straightforward enough for everyone in the group to manage, they must be fast enough to be completed in a set amount of time, and they need to be CHEAP to construct, as most of us are working on shoestring budgets.

Lazy Crafternoon is a beautiful collection of 50+ fast, fun, beautiful craft activities and projects. There’s a real emphasis on using readily available, basic crafting supplies, which is always appreciated! The book is geared towards tweens/young teens, but a lot of projects would be popular with older teens or even “new adults” as well – I mean, who wouldn’t want a beautiful personalised mug to take to college, or beautiful little cards to send to a best friend?


The photography in this book is stunning, making the book extremely appealing, and most of the projects are pretty straightforward and clearly explained. I do wish the book included step-by-step photos – each project is photographed in its completed form, but newbie crafters would benefit from photos of the project at different stages.


Still, this is a beautiful crafting book that will likely appeal to tween and teens, featuring practical, easy to complete projects that young people will be thrilled to show off to their family and friends. Definitely worth taking a look at, particularly if you work with this demographic!

Fandoms Unite! – Teen Summer Reading Club

Teen Reading Club launches June 1, and this year’s theme is right up my alley – Fandoms!


Teen RC is all about celebrating teens’ passions for reading, whether they’re obsessed with manga, dystopian fiction, historical novels, or a little bit of everything. Teen RC is a predominantly online program where teens can post and comment on book reviews, participate in discussion forums and opinion polls, chat with authors, share their creative projects, find out what’s happening at different InterLINK libraries, and enter to win prizes. It’s run by Public Library InterLINK, though teens don’t need to be library members to participate in many of the online activities. Teens can also follow along on Instagram (@teenrc), Facebook and Twitter. I spent my morning making some of these awesome buttons, perfect for handing out to the branch Teen Advisory Group.

Microsoft Word - Button template 1.75 inch.docx

I belong to a few fandoms myself, so it was hard to pick just one button to add to my lanyard, but I settled on the “Manga Fan!” button, in honour of my teenage otaku self. Teen RC is such a great program because t it allows teens to participate on their own schedule, at their own pace, and in whatever way they feel comfortable. Let’s face it, despite our best efforts, the library isn’t always the coolest (or most welcoming) place for teens to hang out. Now teens have the option of participating in great library programming without ever having to set foot in the library.


Teen Books We Like – Bookmarks!

I have been sick as a dog for the past week, and I’ve missed two story time sessions, which has just broken my heart! I miss my little ones so much!

I’m going absolutely stir crazy sitting around the house, coughing and feeling quite sorry for myself.

I though I’d share another aspect of the teen fiction display that my colleague and I have been working on. The teen section is a never-ending work in progress – the shelves are always crammed to the point of bursting, requiring almost constant weeding. To add a bit of visual interest, and maybe encourage some teens to try new reading material, my colleague printed out these “teen books we like” bookmarks, which we’ve been putting in books throughout the teen section.


My colleague and I have very different taste in reading material, which is great, because it means there’s always a great variety in the kinds of books we highlight. Some of the teen books I marked this time around were “Such Wicked Intent” by Kenneth Oppel (yay Canadian content!), “Terrier” by Tamora Pierce (girl power!) and “The Knife of Never Letting Go” by Patrick Ness. My colleague tends to prefer more realistic fiction, so between the two of us, there’s a great bunch of books on offer.

The book marks look pretty snazzy sticking out of the books, dotted throughout the stacks.

Teen staff book picks

One of my missions during my time as a temporary teen librarian has been to build relationships between library staff and teens in the community. I really want our teens to know that we have staff dedicated to working just with them, and who care about them and their needs and interests.

It’s important that our teens get to know their library staff members, by name and by face. The members of the Teen Library Council already know who we are, but other teen library users may not have had an opportunity to meet either of us (the teen team at our branch currently consists of myself and a library technician).

We have an awesome display board in the teen area that’s maintained by the library technician, and I thought it might be fun to add a “staff picks” board to the mix. Every month we could each pick a title to promote on the board, in addition to a continuously changing display of cool teen books. Our names and pictures would go on the board (a silly picture of me, of course, because I am a goof), giving teens a chance to see who their teen library staff members are (Joy’s the cool one, I’m the weird one….)

The library technician put all of my ideas together into a really cool-looking display that I’m very happy with! My first pick-of-the-month is actually a manga, since that’s an area I know a bit about, and it’s a part of the collection I’d like to highlight.

Here’s the final product so far – the display will be changing every month, giving us opportunities to highlight different titles, authors and areas of the collection.

(I’m holding a stuffed cat in my outstretched arms, if you’re curious.)


Five Finds – Spy Thrillers for Teens

“I like books that are exciting, because my life is really, really boring.” One of the teens I work with is really into thrillers, particularly spy novels and mysteries, and she summed up pretty neatly why so many of us love to read action-packed books. Here are a few twisty-turny spy novels that might appeal to the budding secret agents in your library.

All annotations are taken from the library catalog.

1. W.A.R.P. : The Reluctant Assassin / Eoin Colfer


In Victorian London, Albert Garrick, an assassin-for-hire, and his reluctant young apprentice, Riley, are transported via wormhole to modern London, where Riley teams up with a young FBI agent to stop Garrick from returning to his own time and using his newly acquired scientific knowledge and power to change the world forever.

2. The Recruit / Robert Muchamore


A terrorist doesn’t let strangers in her flat because they might be undercover police or intelligence agents, but her children bring their mates home and they run all over the place. The terrorist doesn’t know that one of these kids has bugged every room in her house, made copies of all her computer files and stolen her address book. The kid works for CHERUB. CHERUB agents are aged between ten and seventeen. They live in the real world, slipping under adult radar and getting information that sends criminals and terrorists to jail. For official purposes, these children do not exist.

3. Stormbreaker / Anthony Horowitz


After the death of the uncle who had been his guardian, fourteen-year-old Alex Rider is coerced to continue his uncle’s dangerous work for Britain’s intelligence agency, MI6.

4. The Eye of Minds / James Dasher


Michael is a skilled internet gamer in a world of advanced technology. When a cyber-terrorist begins to threaten players, Michael is called upon to seek him and his secret’s out.

5. A Girl Named Digit / Annabel Monaghan 


After identifying a terrorist plot, a brilliant seventeen-year-old girl from Santa Monica, California, gets involved with the young FBI agent who is trying to ensure her safety.

Five Finds – Dystopian Novels for Teens

The Hunger Games. Maze Runner. Divergent. You don’t have to be a teen to know that dystopian fiction is still a force to be reckoned with in YA lit. But what if you’ve already read the big names in the genre and are still hungering (sorry!) for more “the future is bleak, bleak, bleak and it’s all the adults’ fault” fiction? Here are a few read-alikes that just might fit the bill, including some less familiar titles and international entries.

1. Tomorrow, When the War Began / John Marsden


Seven Australian teenagers return from a camping trip in the bush to discover that their country has been invaded and they must hide to stay alive.

2. Gone / Michael Grant


In a small town on the coast of California, everyone over the age of fourteen suddenly disappears, setting up a battle between the remaining town residents and the students from a local private school, as well as those who have “The Power” and are able to perform supernatural feats and those who do not.

3. Shatter Me / Tahereh Mafi


Ostracized or incarcerated her whole life, seventeen-year-old Juliette is freed on the condition that she use her horrific abilities in support of The Reestablishment, a post-apocalyptic dictatorship, but Adam, the only person ever to show her affection, offers hope of a better future.

4. The Forest of Hands and Teeth / Carrie Ryan


Through twists and turns of fate, orphaned Mary seeks knowledge of life, love, and especially what lies beyond her walled village and the surrounding forest, where dwell the Unconsecrated, aggressive flesh-eating people who were once dead.

5. The Knife of Never Letting go / Patrick Ness


Pursued by power-hungry Prentiss and mad minister Aaron, young Todd and Viola set out across New World searching for answers about his colony’s true past and seeking a way to warn the ship bringing hopeful settlers from Old World.

Holiday Crafts for Teens – Paper Christmas ornaments

So, this craft went through a few changes during the planning process…originally the plan was to make felt Santa/elf hats that the teens could wear, but when my coworker and I went to Michaels to buy supplies, we realized that we just didn’t have the budget to buy the big sheets of felt we would’ve needed to make adult-sized hats. We did some quick thinking and some mad internet searching, and decided to make little hat-shaped Christmas tree ornaments out of paper. A little cone of paper could be decorated as a Christmas tree, a santa hat, and elf hat and more.

This definitely wasn’t the most popular craft station, but it did have to compete with stuffed toys and candy, so I can’t really blame it. Still, it’s cheap and cheerful Christmas craft, and one that would be great for school-aged kids, too!

Paper Christmas ornaments


Supplies: Paper, tape/glue, scissors, decorating supplies (stickers, glitter, markers…), paper plates (you’ll see!)

Step 1: Use a paper plate to trace a circle on a piece of paper. Cut out the circle, then cut it in half. Each circle will make two cones.

Step 2: Fold the half-circle into a cone and tape/staple/glue.

Step 3: Decorate and add a ribbon/thread to the top to hang!


We used a hole punch to make little while polka dots and had crafting scissors with different shaped blades available, which the crafty teens put to good use.

Holiday Crafts for Teens – Felt stuffies

I first made felt stuffed toys with the teens over the summer as part of our Teen Maker’s Camp, and it was without a doubt our most popular craft. The teens just loved making little toys and ornaments for their backpacks – I included a few fun templates like Pacman and little monsters that were a major league hit.

This time around we chose a few simple templates – a stocking, a Christmas tree, a gingerbread man and a star. We had red, green, brown and yellow felt for traditionalists, but also some purple, pink, blue and other colours for the nonconformists among us. 😉


Felt Stuffies

Supplies: Felt in assorted colours, thread, needles, scissors, stuffing material, buttons and other decorations.

Step 1: Trace the template twice onto a piece of felt and cut out.

Step 2: Sew or glue on decorations (it’s much easier to put them on before sewing the stuffie together!)

Step 3: Sew the two pieces of felt together, using either a running stitch or a blanket stitch. Don’t sew all the way around – leave a gap so you can stuff in the stuffing.

Step 4: Once you’ve stuffed your stuffie, finish sewing it closed.


We had some very skilled sewers among us, and everyone was really into the craft – boys and girls, older and younger teens – it’s a surprisingly popular craft that never seems to fail us! The sewing station was actually one of the quietest in the room, as the teens were concentrating so completely on their craft that there was barely any talking at all!

Game On!


Last night we hosted a board game afternoon for teens in honour of International Games Day @ Your Library.

From 4:00 – 6:00pm we took over the teen lounge and filled it with an array of board games and snacks (always the snacks). We tried to offer a variety of games that would appeal to all ages and levels of gamers, so we pulled out a little bit of everything, from Sorry! to Jenga to Apples to Apples to Monopoly.

We weren’t really sure what to expect – we’d had a very good turnout at last week’s writing event, but we’d promoted the heck out of that one, and the board game event hadn’t received as much buzz. The turnout definitely wasn’t as high as it had been for the writing event, but it wasn’t too shabby either – at one point we had 7 teens, though people came and went at different times.

The real star of the night wasn’t any of the fancy new games we found in the teen storage closet, but rather an old party favourite – Pictionary! We played an adapted version that got everyone playing and guessing, which increased the odds of someone correctly guessing the word. It was hilarious! No one was too competitive, and we used a flipchart as a canvas so the teens could make massive drawings.

Sometimes it’s the simplest games that are the most fun! Pictionary is great because it gets everyone involved (we just stole extra pieces from other games so we could add more players, and at one point we had 6 people playing), and the rules aren’t too complicated (we had a few teens who had never played before, but with our adapted rules they were able to jump in without hesitation).

In retrospect, it would have been nice to have had a bit more promotion for the event, so we could have spread the word to other teens (most of the participants were TLC members), but all in all it was a low-maintenance, low-key event that was lots of fun.

Working with teens – lessons learned (so far)

As a library school student, I knew pretty early on that I wanted to work with children. I love, love, love sharing my passion for books with children and their caregivers, I’m a pretty high-energy person, and I naturally sing all the time anyway, so it seemed like a natural fit. What I never really thought about as much was working with teens. This past summer I was offered an opportunity to co-facilitate a teen “maker’s camp” program, and this fall I’ll be co-facilitating the Teen Library Council and teen programming at a pretty large urban library branch. Although excited, I initially felt a little bit intimidated by the prospect of working with teens. Let’s face it, it’s been more than a few years since I was a teen (I’m not telling….), and I was such a nerd in my youth anyway that I was really more like an old lady in teen clothes than an actual teenager. And life was so different then! The internet was a shiny new thing that we had to connect to using our telephone lines, and very few of us actually had cell phones, which were really only capable of making calls anyway. We were exposed to so much less back then than the average teen is today. How could I relate to these youngsters? I found myself worrying pretty much the same worries that I had when I was actually a teenager : will the group like me? Will they think I’m cool, or will they laugh because I’m lame?

Wearing a Domo-kun t-shirt that reads "Nerdy by Nature" may or may not up my coolness factor with the young folk...

Wearing a Domo-kun t-shirt that reads “Nerdy by Nature” may or may not up my coolness factor with the young folk…

Now, I am by no means an expert at working with people between the ages of 12 and 20, but here are a few things I have picked up along the way. 1. You are not cool. Get over it.

  • Being uncool is like being stuck in quicksand. The more you struggle, the deeper in you sink. Just accept that being over the age of 20 makes you an old timer and thus inherently out of touch and worthy of pity. The more you try to act or look “cool” (i.e., like a teenager), the lamer you in fact become in the eyes of your audience.

2. You are not there to be everybody’s friend.

  • Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t be friendly, or that you shouldn’t have positive relationships with your teen group. What I am saying is that teens for the most part already have friends – they don’t need or even want you to take on that role. What they do need is for you to be a role model, a supporter, a guide and a leader. Someone who will be firm with them and honest with them when it’s appropriate, even if it means coming across as uncool or boring or lame. Someone who will be there for them even if their friends have turned on them or labelled them uncool. It’s important to be liked by your teens, but it’s even more important to be trusted and respected.

3. Laugh at yourself and the world laughs with you.

  • Don’t take yourself or your programs so seriously that you can’t laugh at your mistakes or shrug off your failures. In my first teen program, there were times when my best-laid plans just completely fell through. I’d planned activities with a certain audience in mind, which turned out to be not even close to the audience that actually showed. What can you? By laughing at life’s little hiccups, dusting yourself off and making the best of the situation, you’re not only making your own life a lot less miserable, you’re also providing a pretty positive example for your group. I want my teens to know that although you can’t always control what life throws at you, you can control how you react, and how better to illustrate this than by living it (most of the time…) myself?

So, that’s just a little bit of the totally non-earth-shattering wisdom I have gained in the past few months. Here’s hoping the next few months prove just as enlightening.

An example of how cool I look when I’m working with teens!