#TeenLibrarian Newsletter February 2020

The February issue of the TeenLibrarian Newsletter can be read online here:

https://mailchi.mp/c55efd919b6b/teen-librarian-newsletter-february-2020

Always Here for You by Miriam Halahmy

14-year-old Holly is lonely. Holly’s parents are never around after Gran’s Crisis and best friend Amy has moved across the Atlantic to Canada, loved-up with her new boyfriend, Gabe. Holly has no-one to hang out with at school apart from moody Ellen and misfit Tim – Madison and the bezzies barely notice her.

Home alone in Brighton with no-one to talk to, Holly is at rock bottom. That is, until she finds Jay. Caring, funny and with so much in common, Jay is the perfect guy. They chat online, but Holly knows to be careful, she s heard the horror stories. As they grow closer and closer, chatting with Jay is all that makes Holly happy. Mum and Dad s rows get more intense and Amy’s radio silence continues; the only one who understands is Jay. As Holly lets her guard down, is Jay all he seems? Is Holly in too deep? And is it too late? 

Miriam Halahmy constantly takes my breath away! One of her strengths as an author is that she creates believable characters that the reader will sympathize with and care about and then puts them in realistic, troubling situations and because we have become invested in these fictional characters we (at least me anyway) have to follow the story to its end.

Although aimed at a younger teen market, Always Here For You is a must read book for all ages. Miriam’s prose draws you in and keeps you focused on Holly’s story, and although, as the reader can see what is happening we are powerless to do anything except keep reading and hope that everything will work out.

As an adult who works with young people I have been through training about online grooming, I am aware of what to look out for in young at risk people and I also know how easy it can be to miss the telltale signs when you are distracted. Always Here For You works as both a teen thriller and a warning, showing how easy it can be for a socially isolated young person to get caught up and groomed, and for those who should be taking care of her to miss what is going on.

While reading Always Here For You I felt helpless but was unable to stop! Miriam had me completely hooked! At the close I felt like I had been holding my breath. The final chapter of diary excerpts was a fitting postscript to the tale and gave us an idea of what happened beyond the end.

Always Here for You is published by Zuntold Books and will be released on February 11thSafer Internet Day it will make a fitting centerpiece for a display with a focus on safer social media practices.

2020 Election Display Resources

With the US elections looming in the distance it is 271 days away (why yes I am counting down). I have set up a display in the teen area of my library that I want to share.

The Get in the Game and Vote poster comes from the ALA: https://www.alastore.ala.org/content/vote-poster

I put together the I Want You to register to vote poster using the image by James Montgomery Flagg from the US Army recruiting posters from the Great War. The poster can be downloaded by clicking on the image below:

The register to vote strips are Kansas specific so if you work in a library in Kansas you can download it here (you can also use it as inspiration for something similar in whichever state you are in):

Download (PDF, Unknown)

I have been writing the definitions of various political terms used in election cycles, using simple English. There are several websites that have lists of political jargon and their definitions that can be utilized. Some of the more useful ones are below:

https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/articles/teaching-content/vocabulary-political-words/

https://votesmart.org/education/vocabulary

doleinstitute.org/get-involved/civic-engagement-tools/political-glossary/

https://www.bbc.com/news/election-us-2016-37385625

I have collated a number of the books that have appeared on the display in a list that can be accessed here

Empathy Day

Society faces an empathy crisis. But research shows that 98% of us can improve our empathy skills and that in books we have a hugely practical tool. This collection can play a powerful role in helping raise a generation of empathic citizens, story by story.

Miranda McKearney, EmpathyLab’s founder

The 2020 #ReadforEmpathy Book Collections from @EmpathyLabUK are announced today and feature 50 superb books; 33 for 4-11 year olds and 17 for 12-16 year olds. 

All the books from both the primary and secondary collections

Some illuminate the experience of people from a range of cultures or life circumstances. Others help children explore emotions, so they can understand how other people feel. Several reflect stories of our time, such as the refugee experience, or coping with anxiety. All are engaging and thought provoking.

The collections are available to order from Peters via https://www.peters.co.uk/empathy2020 or can be purchased from your local independent bookshop. Click https://www.booksellers.org.uk/bookshopsearch to find your nearest shop.

Each collection has its own Read for Empathy Guide with a synopsis of all of the books, top tips for sharing stories and more information about #EmpathyDay which is on 9 June 2020. 

Teachers, librarians, parents – download your FREE guides by visiting https://www.empathylab.uk/2020-read-for-empathy-collections

Missouri’s Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act versus the Library Bill of Rights

The Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act being brought forward by Representative Ben Baker falls foul of most of the rights laid out in the American Library Association’s Bill of Rights

Particularly:

Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves.

Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.

…resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.

and

A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.

The Library Bill of Rights is laid out below:

The American Library Association affirms that all libraries are forums for information and ideas, and that the following basic policies should guide their services.

  1. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.
  2. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.
  3. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.
  4. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.
  5. A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.
  6. Libraries which make exhibit spaces and meeting rooms available to the public they serve should make such facilities available on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use.

The full Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act can be accessed here.

The personal or religious beliefs of a small group of individuals should have no place in dictating what can be accessed or done by a community as a whole. This move by Representative Baker further blurs the separation of church and state.

In a news post he is quoted as saying: The main thing is I want to be able to take my kids to a library and make sure they’re in a safe environment, and that they’re not gonna be exposed to something that is objectionable materialUnfortunately, there are some libraries in the state of Missouri that have done this. And that’s a problem.

Access to information does not make a person unsafe, limiting their access to accurate information does that!

Views on what constitutes appropriate materials may vary widely from library to library.

If parents are concerned what their children are reading (and many are) then they should be active participants in their lives and be willing to have discussions on puberty, sex & sexuality and more. If young people are unable to have those types of discussions with their parents or guardians then they will go looking to find the information on their own and their library will be one of the safer and more accurate places for them to find information.

If parents and care-givers would rather legislate that option away from children in their care then they will go looking for information in places where accurate and truthful information may not be available.

The Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act will force library staff to act in loco parentis, as gatekeepers (a role that we have been trying to get rid of for years), young readers going through puberty, questioning their sexuality, trying to find information for class assignments or those that are just curious will be unable to access the information they require if the group overseeing the library collection takes a narrow view on what is appropriate for young readers.

If this act is passed then Libraries that fall foul of it will lose access to federal funds and Library staff that provide access to proscribed materials will face a fine or jail time.

You can find out more information about this developing story and how to make your views heard at Bookriot, EveryLibrary, PEN and The Guardian.

Visit this page for a list of interpretations of the Library Bill of Rights: http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/librarybill/interpretations

Nothing Ever Happens Here

“This is Littlehaven. Nothing ever happens here. Until the spotlight hits my family.” Izzy’s family is under the spotlight when her dad comes out as Danielle, a trans woman. Izzy is terrified her family will be torn apart. Will she lose her dad? Will her parents break up? And what will people at school say? Izzy’s always been shy, but now all eyes are on her. Can she face her fears, find her voice and stand up for what’s right?

Usborne
Nothing Ever Happens Here by Sarah Hagger-Holt

Nothing Ever Happens Here is just brilliant. It tells Izzy’s story with great humour, not sugar-coating reactions from family and others, but sensitively portraying how things change and how Izzy feels about it. Perfectly pitched for a middle grade audience (but definitely also readable by teens and adults alike), it will broaden minds and inspire really positive conversations around empathy and the way the media currently often (mainly) poorly portray trans people. I highly recommend you get this book for your schools, your children, and yourselves!

I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to ask Sarah a few questions:

You’ve previously written non-fiction for adults, when you initially had the idea of writing fiction did you always intend for it to be for children or did the story evolve that way?

I’m not totally sure! I don’t think I set out to write fiction at all – I simply had an idea for a story which wouldn’t go away, so I started writing something to see what would happen next… 45,000 words later and I had the draft of a children’s novel! I love reading children’s fiction. I have enjoyed so many excellent new children’s books recently – thanks to my daughters’ recommendations – as well as discovering my old favourites to share with them. It’s a real honour and excitement for me to know that Nothing Ever Happens Here will be alongside some of my favourite titles and, I hope, will be read and enjoyed by children (and maybe a few parents too).

What prompted you to write from the perspective of a child of a trans parent?

The most recent non-fiction book I co-wrote was a parenting guide for LGBT parents, informed by interviews with around 70 families – all of whom had fascinating stories to tell and experiences to share. A couple of those stories stuck with me, stories of families where a parent had transitioned while their children were at school. I started wondering about what experience would have been really like, from the child’s perspective as well as the parent’s, and that’s how Nothing Ever Happens Here began. I’m cis (not trans), but I am part of the LGBT community, and I’m very aware how few children’s books reflect families like ours. I hope that Nothing Ever Happens Here is not a one-off and we will start to see more LGBT families appearing in all kinds of children’s books.

Was it difficult to write? Which characters came to you most easily?

Looking back, it was a joy to write (but maybe that’s just hindsight!). Finding time to write was difficult, but the actual writing came quite easily. I think this was because I let the characters and dialogue develop in my head while I was doing other things – swimming, commuting to work, hanging up the washing – so that by the time I got my laptop out to write, everything was all ready to go. The first character to come was Izzy, but I really enjoyed getting to know the other characters too and I’m fond of them all. Perhaps Megan – Izzy’s older sister – and Grace – her extrovert best friend – were the most fun to write as they both have such strong personalities.

Did you involve sensitivity readers early on in the writing process or ask for input when the book was closer to being finished?

Both. The story itself was informed and inspired by in-depth interviews with families with a trans parent, so their experiences were at the heart of the book from before I wrote a single word. This means that some scenes have direct parallels in real-life, and that their voices influenced the whole tone of Nothing Ever Happens Here. Two of those parents read a first draft of the book and gave comments before I even submitted the manuscript to agents. Then I was fortunate enough to have two incredible sensitivity readers – Christine Burns and Jay Hulme – who advised on the manuscript as it was nearer to its final stage.

Have you had feedback from young readers?

My daughter, who is 11, was one of the first readers of Nothing Ever Happens Here – she gave me her unvarnished feedback and has now become a great champion of the book among her friends. It’s early days, but I’m starting to get feedback from pre-teen readers – my favourite feedback so far is from a 12-year-old reader who said “This book was so good and you know it’s a good book when you tell your mum that you can’t wait to go to bed so I could continue reading.”

Have you done any author events? What would you most like to do to promote the book?

The book is only just out, but I’m really looking forward to getting into schools or youth groups to promote the book, to encourage young people in their writing and to talk about some of the issues raised by Nothing Ever Happens Here. I did lots of events and workshops around my non-fiction books (both of which also had LGBT themes) but only with adults – so presenting to a younger audience will be a new adventure.

What are you reading at the moment and who would you recommend it to?

I have just started ‘Amy and Isabelle’ by Elizabeth Strout, after being recommended her books by a friend who always has good reading tips. It’s the first novel I’ve read by her and I’m totally hooked already. I’d recommend it to fans of Anne Tyler or Kent Haruf, it’s a similar, character-led approach which draws you into the lives and emotions of ‘ordinary’ people in a powerful but gentle way.

Are you planning another book for children?

Yes. Well, it’s beyond the planning stage now, as my second novel is coming out with Usborne in 2021. I won’t say too much, apart from that it also involves an LGBT family, like Nothing Ever Happens Here. However I have lots more stories I want to tell that touch on the issues which I care about, so hopefully there will be many more books to come.

Sarah Hagger-Holt

Sarah Hagger-Holt lives with her partner and two daughters in Hertfordshire and is the Community Campaigns Manager for the LGBTQ+ rights charity Stonewall. She is the author of two adult non-fiction LGBTQ+ parenting books and has written for the i paper, the Huffington Post, and spoken on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour about LGBTQ+ parenting.

Huge thanks to Usborne for sending me a review copy of the book, and to Sarah for answering my questions!

Representative Ben Baker is “Thinking of the Children” with the Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act

I read a blog post last night (https://rturner229.blogspot.com/2020/01/ben-baker-files-parental-oversight-of.html)

It details the machinations of Ben Baker the GOP Representative for Newton County in the Missouri House of Representatives who is trying to get public libraries to age restrict materials that could be considered objectionable.

From the above-mentioned post:

Baker filed the Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act to keep impressionable young people from getting their hands on material that deals with sex or anything else that might be considered inappropriate by parents (or Baker).

No public library shall receive any state aid under this section if such library 53 allows minors to access age-inappropriate sexual materials in violation of section 182.821. HB 2044 3 182.821. 

As Library Workers, our job is to bring people and resources together. I can understand School Libraries being more prescriptive in their collection development; but to require Public Libraries to limit access to materials based on the age of readers is not only offensive but also dangerous. It places the decision on what is considered appropriate in the hands of a small group of people (& Representative Baker) who could, quite conceivably have a limited view on what “appropriate” is for readers of different ages.

The threat of losing funding is blatant strong-arming and needs condemnation in the strongest possible terms!

Libraries have made a concerted effort to move away from being gatekeepers and the story of Goodnight Moon at the New York Public Library is a great example of how a book can be kept out of the hands of readers: https://slate.com/culture/2020/01/goodnight-moon-nypl-10-most-checked-out-books.html

Sidelining the views of the majority of parents who will not be involved in the decision-making process sets a dangerous precedent, writing something into law that is best left up to families to decide is sheer overreach – I thought that Republicans were usually the part of small government and limited interference.

Resources for International Holocaust Memorial Day

International Holocaust Memorial Day takes place on the 27th January, this date is the anniversary of the liberation of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. This year (2020) marks 75 years since this happened. It is also the 25th anniversary of the Genocide in Bosnia.

If you want to set up a display or run events to mark this date you still have time to put something together. Below is a list of links to resources you can download and use in your library:

https://www.hmd.org.uk/resources/ – the official site of Holocaust Memorial Day UK, you are able to download packs, you can also request physical packs if you are in the UK.

https://www.wienerlibrary.co.uk/Learning The Wiener Holocaust Library is one of the world’s leading and most extensive archives on the Holocaust and Nazi era.

https://www.yadvashem.org/education.html Yad Vashem is the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, is the ultimate source for Holocaust education, documentation and research.

https://www.ushmm.org/ The US Holocaust Memorial Museum

https://www.annefrank.org/en/education/ Anne Frank House is an independent non-profit organisation that runs a museum in the house where Anne Frank went into hiding.

https://www.facinghistory.org/topics/genocide-mass-violence Facing History helps students connect choices made in the past to those they will confront in their own lives

https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/the-holocaust This Holocaust site produced under the auspices of the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise offers all the tools necessary to provoke students and teachers alike to undertake a meaningful investigation of the Holocaust.

http://auschwitz.org/en/ the website of the memorial and museum at Auschwitz-Birkenau

The Diverse Book Awards calls for entries from UK-based authors & publishers

Authors and publishers are invited to enter a new book prize, open to fiction books that are traditionally published, self-published and everything in between; from January 13th to May 31st 2020.

The Diverse Book Awards is sponsored by Hashtag BLAK (a new imprint of indie publishing house Hashtag Press focused on diversity and inclusion) and Literally PR (award-winning literary PR and marketing agency).

  • The long-list will be announced in June 2020 (books will be called in at this time for judges to review).
  • The short-list will be announced in September 2020.
  • The winner from each category (YA, Adult & Children’s Fiction) will be announced at a Hashtag BLAK party in London in October 2020.

Abiola Bello, co-director of Hashtag Press and Hashtag BLAK, says: So much more can be done to raise levels of diversity and inclusion in publishing, but The Diverse Book Awards seeks to recognise and celebrate the amazing work that was done in 2019 by authors and publishers. In turn, hopefully more diverse and inclusive books will be published in the coming years.

Authors and publishers can submit any children’s, young adult or adult fiction book published in 2019 that features BAME and/or inclusive main characters.

Each of the three category winners will be awarded a trophy, certificate and a PR campaign organised by boutique agency Literally PR.

Hashtag BLAK is currently only for submissions (www.hashtagblak.co.uk / info@hashtagblak.co.uk) seeking adult and YA fiction from Black British writers. The aim is to publish the first book by the end of 2020, the second in 2021, and then submissions will be open to all under-represented voices. Hashtag BLAK is open to unsolicited / unagented manuscripts.

For complete details on how to enter please visit: https://www.thediversebookawards.co.uk/

Teen Librarian Newsletter January 2020

The January issue of the Teen Librarian Newsletter is now available via Mailchimp:

https://us20.campaign-archive.com/?u=32ffbca7d353f6dcc0c7c0953&id=930dd230ad