#TeenLibrarian Monthly January 2018

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Does this Poster Spark Joy?

Inspired by the new Netflix show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. Click on the image below to save a copy of the poster. Once you have tidied your living area you will have more space for Library books!

Black History Month Ideas: The Potato King of the World

Born into slavery on a plantation near Kentucky, Junius G. Groves was six years of age when slavery was abolished in the USA.

20 years later he joined the Exoduster movement and made his way to Kansas.

In 1902 he became known as the Potato King of the World, for growing more bushels of potatoes per acre than anyone in the world up to that point in time.

As a farmer and landowner he employed both whites and blacks on his farm and worked hard on uplifting African–Americans. His employment practices did a lot to combat racism at the time.

Celebrate Black History Month by teaching the attendees about Junius Groves and then running a potato print workshop, giving children the opportunity to carve potatoes into shapes and then printing them onto strips of paper.

Once that is done, you can introduce them to the art of Kente fabric weaving while their potato print strips dry. They can then weave the paper print strips into a paper version of Kente cloth.

Learn about Junius Groves here: https://blackpast.org/aaw/groves-junius-george-1859-1925

Or you could read them No Small Potatoes by Tonya Bolden and Don Tate

Find out more about Kente Cloth paper weaving here: https://kinderart.com/art-lessons/multic/kente-cloth-strips/

When planning the colors you wish to use for the workshop, it is worth keeping their symbolic meanings in mind:

  • black: maturation, intensified spiritual energy
  • blue: peacefulness, harmony and love
  • green: vegetation, planting, harvesting, growth, spiritual renewal
  • gold: royalty, wealth, high status, glory, spiritual purity
  • grey: healing and cleansing rituals; associated with ash
  • maroon: the color of mother earth; associated with healing
  • pink: associated with the female essence of life; a mild, gentle aspect of red
  • purple: associated with feminine aspects of life; usually worn by women
  • red: political and spiritual moods; bloodshed; sacrificial rites and death.
  • silver: serenity, purity, joy; associated with the moon
  • white: purification, sanctification rites and festive occasions
  • yellow: preciousness, royalty, wealth, fertility, beauty

The Third Degree with David Owen

David Owen’s latest book, All The Lonely People, is released on 10th January. It is a fantastic read with a fascinating premise: can you be so lonely that you actually disappear? There are two main characters, who rarely meet but their paths are entwined when Wesley’s “friends” choose Kat as a target for an online hate campaign with the intention of hounding her off the internet. Kat (like me as a teenager tbh) only feels like she can be herself online, and so as she deletes her accounts she herself begins to fade in real life. The Kat storyline resonated but Wesley’s side was the outstanding side for me – he’s trying to find a place to fit in but has chosen a toxic community that he realises he doesn’t agree with but fears he’s in too deep to get out. I was so impressed with his confused and also lonely voice, and hope it isn’t too much of a spoiler to say I was very pleased with his redemption without forgiveness. It is a brilliant examination of the damage of toxic masculinity and the ease with which lonely boys can be indoctrinated by misogynistic online groups, something I’ve not seen in YA before, as well as a touching look at the prevalence of lonliness in teens and how important it is to remember that no one has it together but some people fake it better. There is no “get off the internet and find a real friend” moral, but it does lead the reader to think about the potential pitfalls of social media use.

In fact, I loved it so much that I pinned him down to ask a few questions:

Hi David, welcome to TeenLibrarian and thank you for giving up your time to undergo the third degree!

All the Lonely People is about online culture, did you spend a lot of your teenage years online?

Waaay too much time! I was part of the first generation to grow up with online culture. I spent an inordinate amount of time in chat rooms and forums, and I had LiveJournal, MySpace, and was an early adopter of Facebook. I’ve been online since I was about ten years old. 

I spent most of my online time on an RPG video game forum that had quite a small but very active community. The opinions of these people came to really matter to me. If I said something stupid or accidentally broke a rule there, I’d feel bad about it for days. It was so stupid! That was my first taste of how an online life can have a significant impact on your wellbeing.  

Do you have any words of wisdom for teenagers, like Kat, who feel like their online presence is more important than their real world presence?

I’m not sure about words of wisdom. It’s so easy for me to encourage people to disconnect a little and not take it quite so seriously, but the reality is very different. Social media is such an integral part of the lives of young people now, much more so than when I was a teenager. There is a sense that if you’re not online, or if you don’t get enough attention there, you don’t exist. And one wrong move can be instantly seen by the entire world. 

I suppose all I can say is to encourage teenagers to seek out people, whether online or in the ‘real world’, who share similar values, who have similar interests, and who will treat them with kindness. Those are the people that matter, rather than striving to gain the approval of people who don’t care about you. Use your online presence to enhance your life – if the negatives begin to outweigh the positives, it’s time to reassess how you use the internet. 

What inspired the title?

It is shamelessly lifted from the Beatles song ‘Eleanor Rigby’. I listened to it a lot while I was writing the book, because it’s such a terrifically melancholy song, and quite succinctly sums up the isolating experience of loneliness. And, of course, it fitted in well with the Lonely People group in the story, and the idea that more people than you realise are struggling with feeling alone. 

Your day job as a journalist obviously involves a lot of writing, how easy is it to switch between researching for articles and writing fiction?

Switching between the two modes of writing isn’t something I find too difficult. They’re sufficiently different that my brain can easily differentiate them. The fact I go to an office for my day job and then write fiction at my desk at home also helps! The only real problem is time and tiredness – after a day of work, especially one that’s involved a lot of writing, the last thing I want to do is sit down at a computer and write some more, even if it is something different. So sometimes fiction has to wait. 

You’ve chaired a few panels at events in recent years, who were your favourite panellists and what would you love to chair next?

I’m going to give a cop out answer here and say I’ve loved everybody I’ve chaired – but it’s true. It was an honour to chair Melvin Burgess because he’s such a titan of YA fiction and listening to him talk is fascinating. Taran Matharu talks really eloquently about fantasy fiction, and Alice Oseman was also a delight to chair. 

I’d love to chair a panel of authors of really weird YA fiction – like Andrew Smith, Margo Lanagan, M. T. Anderson, authors that really push what YA can be. I think that would be really interesting.  

If you go into schools, do you prefer writing workshops or author talks?

I like a mix of both! A talk is a good way to introduce yourself and your books and talk about the things that really matter to you to hopefully get them thinking. But not many school kids want to be talked at for an hour straight, and doing workshops is a great way to keep them engaged and to encourage a love for reading and writing, which is ultimately what we’re trying to do. Young people are so creative, I think authors often get more out of the workshops than they do!


What are you currently reading and who would you recommend it to?

I’ve just (figuratively) cracked the new Alex Wheatle novel ‘Home Girl’, which is the next in his brilliant Crongton series. They’re such unique books, packed with the types of characters we don’t see enough in YA, and the writing is just brilliant. I’d recommend to pretty much anyone, but particularly to people who are cynical about YA and how tremendously powerful it can be. 

What are you hoping 2019 will bring?

In books? Better representation of marginalised voices, better coverage of children’s books in the national press, and for our libraries to be protected. In the world? For everything to be significantly less terrible.

I also wouldn’t mind All the Lonely People being a bestseller…

You won’t regret it!

From This American Life: The Room of Requirement

Noooo! Not the one from Harry Potter (although it is named for that) rather this is a podcast from the awesome people at This American Life about Libraries.

Libraries aren’t just for books. They’re often spaces that transform into what you need them to be: a classroom, a cyber café, a place to find answers, a quiet spot to be alone. It’s actually kind of magical. This week, we have stories of people who roam the stacks and find unexpected things that just happen to be exactly what they required. 

You can take a listen here:
https://www.thisamericanlife.org/664/the-room-of-requirement

The Night Before Christmas: Lark by Anthony McGowan

‘Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse
Out in his sett the old badger was resting
In the eves of my house a rook was still nesting.
The pike it was swimming in the depths of the lake
Just waiting for prey to make a mistake!
On my nightstand lay McGowan’s book Lark
The perfect read for bed after dark!

The final story about Kenny & Nicky,
Two brothers who have come through situations quite sticky!
The strength of the books lies in the love that they had
One for the other, their dog and their dad!
But in this dark tale the stakes are so high
Will the brothers both live, or will one of them die…
Out on the moors with the temperature dropping,
with a bitter, cold wind and snow that’s not stopping?

I read this story with my heart in my throat
My tea grew ice cold but I did not know it!
The reading was fretful, I wanted to stop!
When out in the hall there came a soft ‘pop’
My daughter was roaming so I took a break
and put her to bed, my head I did shake.

Oh! Lark I did finish and so went to bed
With thoughts of the brothers and the North, in my head

The Truth of All Things sequence is a masterpiece! I have covered Tony’s work quite a bit over the years and do not want to rehash what I have already said. You can read my opinions on the first three books here.

I will just say that I stand by my words and to my mind Lark is a fitting coda to the story and slots in very well with my theory of the books being based on the elements.

Thank you Tony! It has been an honour and a pleasure following and sharing in Nicky and Kenny’s exploits over the years!

Lark is a must-read book for 2019 – along with Brock, Pike and Rook!

All the books are written by Anthony McGowan and published by Barrington Stoke.

Lark will be released in January 2019

Jason Reynolds – event review

I wasn’t able to attend the event that Waterstones Piccadilly hosted on Friday 30th November but I told a colleague about it, having recommended his books to her, and she jumped at the chance to go, saying “I couldn’t get Michelle Obama tickets but this will do!”. I asked her if she’d write a few words about the event for us (thankyou Tracey!)

Attending this author event was very different to most I have been to because Jason Reynolds didn’t actually read from his book For Every One, but had a conversation with the audience and Mark Maciver who chaired the talk. He spoke about his journey as a writer, his mother, travelling around England and meeting a few unicorns (basically Black British people who were young and wrote poetry). It was very clear that he was soaking up cultures, conversations and experiences on his book tour and he was definitely reflecting on how important it is to be truthful. A very poignant moment was when he described how he didn’t enjoy classic literature and his mother had said who actually made that a classic? This led onto him to simply saying that if you don’t see yourself and your life reflected in literature how can you engage with something so different to your life. Rap music was so important to him as a young man and that was never part of the literary narrative of any character in a book, so to take an interest in Shakespeare was not on the agenda. Once you engage with stories that you get, then you are open to new experiences and able to appreciate what others may see. His honesty about not knowing things that authors are supposed to know, such as what are semi-colons for – which obviously made the audience laugh – was truly refreshing. For Every One is probably the best book by Jason Reynolds to read first if you are not familiar with his work, as it is beautiful, poetic, accessible, and very short.


His other title recently published in the UK, Long Way Down, is on the current nominations list for both the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Awards – Carnegie for his writing and the Kate Greenaway for the wonderfully evocative illustrations by Chris Priestly. Knights Of will be publishing his 4 book middle grade series, The Run, next year.

Black History Month Ideas: African American Spies, from the Revolution to the CIA

The CIA has an incredibly interesting article available on their site titled Black Dispatches: Black American Contributions to Union Intelligence During the Civil War

It provides details about African-American spies and the work they did to provide intelligence for the Union.

Spies ranged from Harriet Tubman, better known for her work in helping escaped slaves find their way to freedom on the Underground Railroad to William A. Jackson – a slave in the Confederacy’s presidential household who provided invaluable information to his northern contacts. You can find out about more Civil War spies here.

Still with the CIA, they have a list of operatives who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country: https://www.cia.gov/news-information/featured-story-archive/2014-featured-story-archive/remembering-cias-african-american-heroes.html

Other agents include James Armistead  a slave of William Armistead in New Kent County, Virginia, he volunteered to spy for the Continental army commander General Lafayette. James became a servant to British general Lord Cornwallis, who asked him to spy on the Americans! As a double agent, James gave unimportant information to Cornwallis, while keeping Lafayette informed about British troop strength and positions. James Armistead remained enslaved after the war. In 1784, Lafayette wrote to theVirginia General Assembly, describing his valuable service and asking that he be freed. In 1786, he was freed—and from then on, he called himself James Lafayette.

Born into extreme poverty in St Louis Missouri Josephine Baker went on to become a vaudeville star, was recruited into an all black dance troupe and went to Paris. In 1940 she became a spy for the French Resistance, while she picked up intelligence at parties, her fellow secret agent Jacques Abtey, masquerading as her assistant, recorded the information in invisible ink on her sheet music.

On her return to the USA she fought segregation across the states and ended up on an FBI watch list.

Activity Idea:

There are several methods one can use to make invisible ink:

  • Lemon juice & water – made visible by heating paper
  • Baking soda in water – made visible with dark fruit juice concentrate
  • Write with white crayon – made visible paint over with watercolors

    Once you have decided which technique to use encourage attendees to choose a spy, or more than one if they are feeling adventurous and create an invisible drawing of the agent or write a secret message to a friend hidden in another message.

    They could even create a cipher and make an invisible, encoded message.

  • Black History Month Ideas: The Tuskegee Airmen

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    Black History Month began as a way for remembering important people and events in the history of the African Diaspora. In the US Black History Month is celebrated in February, in the UK it is observed in October.

    This is the first in a series of posts about ideas of activities for BHM 2019 that I am planning on running. I am putting them on TeenLibrarian so that others can make use of them if they so choose.

    Tuskegee Airmen Activity

    The Tuskegee Airmen were African American pilots who fought in World War 2.

    I am planning on introducing them to young library patrons that may never have heard of them, via a display of books and possibly showing one of the films that have been made as well as giving them the opportunity to construct a paper model of a P51 Mustang flown by the Airmen in many of their missions.

    Thai Paperwork have made their model of a P51D Mustang free to download here  it is a fairly complicated model to construct so for younger participants the models below may be more appropriate.

    The Kid Scraps Mustang model is available here 

    Paper Model Airplane also has a simpler version of the P51 Mustang to download here

    Books about the Tuskegee Airmen

  • Who were the Tuskegee Airmen? By Sherri L. Smith
  • The Tuskegee Airmen by Sarah E. De Capua.
  • You can Fly: the Tuskegee Airmen by Carole Boston Weatherford
  • Red Tail captured, Red Tail free : memoirs of a Tuskegee airman and POW by Alexander Jefferson
  • The Red Tails : World War II’s Tuskegee Airmen by Steven L. Jones
  • Tuskegee Airman : the biography of Charles E. McGee : Air Force fighter combat record holder by Charlene E. McGee Smith 
  • Tales of Famous Heroes by Peter and Connie Roop
  • Black Wings : courageous stories of African Americans in aviation and space history by Von Hardesty
  • Black Knights: The Story of the Tuskegee Airmen by Thomas Reilly & Lynn M. Homan
  • Dreaming Eagles by Garth Ennis & Simon Coleby (graphic novel / fiction)
  • DVDs

  • The Tuskegee Airmen
  • Red Tails
  • The Tuskegee Airmen

  • Christmas Books on Television Times December 2018

    Helen Smith the Learning Resources Manager at Eckington School has produced her annual literary television guide for December

    Download (PDF, 3.91MB)