Crackers and Cheez-Whiz Construction
by Bethany Dietrich
This program was an idea I totally stole from TikTok! And it turned out even better than I expected!
Y’all know that beginning-of-the-year build that middle school teachers do? With gumdrops (or mini marshmallows) and toothpicks?
Think that concept… but instead of toothpicks, you use different kinds of crackers and pretzels. And instead of gumdrops, you use cans of Cheez-Whiz!
We started off easy with the building challenges. I had small rubber-y/plastic animals, and they had to make a doghouse for whatever animal I gave them.
We progressively got harder: challenge number 2 was a lighthouse. Then, a bridge that a LEGO car can go across
The last two challenges, I had them work in teams, and I passed out famous structures that they had to recreate. These were Hard (challenge 4) and Harder (challenge 5). They actually did super well!
And for those so inclined, I included an Encyclopedia Britannica blurb about each structure, which ranged from well-known ones like the Leaning Tower of Pisa and Big Ben to ones that aren’t as well-known in general American purview like Wat Phra Si Sanphet in Thailand and Sucevița Monastery in Romania.
Have slides of the famous structures!
Have you had any programming wins from watching TikTok? Share them in the comments below!
New England Teen Summit 2022
This past week I (virtually) attended the New England Teen Summit and, as always, it was fabulous! I sometimes feel a slight pang that I don’t get to participate in person anymore but, honestly, it’s WAY more convenient virtually (and this way I don’t have to talk to other people if I don’t want to – #introvertlirbarian.) Pre-covid, this event was put on by the Massachusetts Library System, and librarians from neighboring states could attend if they were able to. Switching to virtual has made it possible for all 6 New England states to work together and everyone has the opportunity to attend – even those from outside the New England states. Librarians without the funds to attend an event like this can now attend for free and will be able to view the zoom recordings when they are posted at a later date.
I missed viewing the keynote speaker but I was able to attend 4 live zoom sessions: One Trusted Adult (presented by One Trusted Adult creator Brooklyn Raney), How to engage teen patrons using Discord, Using Discord to Build a Community for Teens at Your Library, and the MA Teen Choice Book Award Panel. I really didn’t know much about Discord, so these two presentations were excellent and gave me some much-needed knowledge about Discord itself, as well as how (and sometimes how NOT) to use it for teens at a public library.
Other presentations going on simultaneously as the sessions I attended included: Anyone can Cartoon! presented by Daryl Seitchik, Beyond the Book Bans – Creating Inclusive Spaces for LGBTQ+ Youth – Equality Maine, Youth Summer Career Bridging Workshop, and Mission Impossible: Deciphering Teen Behavior. All of these presentations will be up on the MLS site to view in the next few weeks, so take advantage! The keynote presentation with Mike Curato is already available since it was pre-recorded. Hoping to watch it sometime this week.
This isn’t maybe the most exciting “last post” but I thought it was a good reminder that we need to take advantage of these amazing – and FREE – resources and continue to help each other out. I actually feel fairly confident that my 41-year-old self can start a teen Discord community after watching those 2 presentations. Am I crazy? Probably! But I’ll give it a go. 😉
Cheers, and thanks for the support!
Being Inclusive During the Holidays
Teens around the US and around the world are being raised in houses with different ethnicities and religions. During the holidays, the main focus seems to be on Christmas, but not everyone celebrates it. Yes, there are GREAT YA Christmas books, I have read a bunch and they are cute, but I try to make sure that all holidays are included.
Being in Texas, the main holiday that is everywhere is going to be Christmas. As a Jew myself, it can feel like we are being pushed to the back burner and no one really knows what Hanukkah is about. There is also Kwanzaa that is celebrate around this time. I have done my best to not only include non-fiction titles in my library, but to take the time and find other holiday books that are set around teens and YA. Listed below are a few I have found. I make sure to make displays also every year with the other holidays included. Yes, we still have Christmas displays up, but we also have to remember to be inclusive to the other things being celebrated too.
Hanukkah: There is another post from 2018 that had Hanukkah YA books listed, but there have been a few published since then.
It’s A Whole Spiel by Katherine Locke- A short story anthology of teens celebrating Jewish holidays!
Eight Nights of Flirting by Hannah Reynolds- This one just came out and it is super cute!
The Golden Dreidel by Ellen Kushner- This one is more for middle grade, but it has a magic golden dreidel, what could be more fun than that?!
Kwanzaa: Living on Principle by Venus Jones- I learned so much from this book! It is a great look into this culture and how Kwanzaa is incorporated into her life. It also comes with activities to help promote unity. It is geared more toward adults, but I think teens can definitely learn a lot from this book.
Kwanzaa Klaus by James Henry- This is a really fun book for reading levels in elementary to adult. It is about a family where the dad messes up Christmas and decides to use Kwanzaa to try and make up for it. I liked that a family that didn’t celebrate Kwanzaa takes the time to learn about and rejoice in the holiday.
My True Love Gave to Me by Stephanie Perkins with Multiple YA Authors- This is a really great anthology of short stories, with compilations for all different holidays. And it is all teens celebrating them!
And that’s what I’ve got. Hope you have a great holiday season, whatever you celebrate!
My End-of-2022 TBR
I’m thrilled to write that 2022 is almost over! I’ve read some amazing books this year, but for my last blog post, I want to share my End-of-the-Year TBR:
I’m half-way through Foul Lady Fortune by Chloe Gong. It’s interesting to read Rosalind’s POV this time. Gong’s duology These Violent Delights and Our Violent Ends exist in the same world, just a few years prior.
For November, my co-worker’s book club is reading Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Bouley. I’m looking forward to finally getting to it!
As someone who’s loved (almost) all of Malinda Lo’s previous releases, I’m excited to start her newest book, A Scatter of Light.
And in the spirit of the holiday season, I will read How to Excavate a Heart by Jake Maia Arlow. A “sapphic Jewish twist on the classic Christmas rom-com?” Yes, please!
What is everyone else reading in November and December?
All Things Must Come to an End
I wanted to let everyone know that the blog will be going in archive/long hiatus come the end of the month. We’ve realized as a whole that our inspiration for new material is dwindling, in addition to the extra time & money it takes. It is possible that down the road, there may be a decision to come back and revive it, but for the foreseeable future it was remain in archive mode.
I’m moving everything over to WordPress, so all past posts will still be accessible. I will keep the domain name alive so it can redirect, but don’t be scared/shocked when you see it go to wordpress url.
This archival is only for the blog. The FB will remain open.
From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank everyone who has shown love and support for this site over the past 7 years. When I came up with this idea in late 2014, I had no idea that it would become what it has become. I appreciate all of you who decided TSU was a valuable resource.
I would be remiss not to extend my eternal gratefulness to all the past and current co-bloggers! I could have never done this without you & while there are too many to thank individually, know you all had a hand in making TSU what it is today.
Thank you all again!
Andrea (and the TSU Team)
My Favorite YA Audiobook Narrator
by Bethany Dietrich
Anyone else find yourself procrastinating on TikTok? Please tell me I’m not the only one still sucked into this app! When I’m not impatiently waiting for the next Fowlerville District Library One-Star Review Guess Who, I’m a voracious listener of audiobooks. And I think I reached peak reader when I started a new audiobook and instantly thought, “I love this narrator!”
“This” being the queen of audiobook narration, Natalie Naudus. Who ALSO spends too much time on the clock app!
Here are some of my favorites of Natalie’s. Check out your ebook catalog and see if your library has them. If not, Libro.fm is the best not-free alternative!
Are you an audiobook fan? Share your favorites with us in the comments!
I’m All Ears: Evaluating Audiobooks
I know a lot of us librarians are audiobook fans, and while we are experts in what makes a good story, it can be hard to say what exactly makes an audiobook good? Most of us have no problem evaluating books in print, but few have had training in critiquing an audiobook. We can often easily spot a bad one, but pinpointing what exactly the problem is harder to do! I myself was pretty clueless about this when I was first asked to serve on YALSA’s Amazing Audiobooks Blogging Team back in 2018. I really got thrown into the deep end there. Since serving on that committee, and now that I am serving my second year on ALSC’s Notable Children’s Recordings Committee, I feel like I have a much better grasp on things.
Here are some key criteria to consider when evaluating an audiobook:
- Does the narrator feel like a good fit?
- For example, if portraying a child or teen, does the narrator sound youthful?
- Is the performance dynamic? Does the reader express character emotions authentically? Do they vary their pitch, pace, or tone to match the story
- For example, speeding up a bit during tense scenes, or slowing down to add drama.
- Does the reader help differentiate characters by changing pitch, tone, and inflection? Do they avoid stereotypes or patronizing mannerisms when presenting characters?
- Do any accents and dialects sound authentic? Are they used consistently?
- Overall, does the narrator have good diction? Do you notice many audible breaths, unnecessary pauses, or sibilance?
Audio vs Print:
- Does the audiobook seem to complement the text, or even expand or elevate it?
- For example, consider the way a graphic novel adaptations often thoughtfully incorporates sound effects, music, or adapted text to make the listening experience as good as or even better than the experience of reading in print.
- Another example is when a book references a “listener” rather than a “reader.”
- If music or sound effects are used, do they feel appropriate for the context and tone of the book? Do they truly enhance the text or do they feel extraneous? Are they balanced well or do they overwhelm?
- Is back matter included, and if so, is it easy to listen to?
- For example, a timeline read aloud is difficult to perceive without a visual representation.
Overall Audio Quality
- Do you hear any noticeable pops, echo sounds, electronic interference, etc. ?
- Is the sound quality consistent throughout?
- Tip: Try listening in different ways–-in the car, on headphones, and on the computer. Sometimes inconsistencies come through that way.
Keep these things in mind next time you’re listening and you’ll soon figure out not just what makes an audiobook good, but what makes one truly great. Have you listened to anything amazing lately? Please share in the comments!
- Does the narrator feel like a good fit?
Simple display ideas for when you get stuck
If you are anything like me, you have a love-hate relationship with displays and passive programs. Thankfully, I love them more than I hate them. It’s an 80/20 split. And, to be honest, the hate has nothing to do with the projects themselves. The hate has a lot more to do with my guilt around not doing more of them.
Displays and passive programs tend to take a back seat to all the other things I have to do in the library, and I haven’t yet worked out how to add displays and passive program design into my regular workflow. This is especially sad because I actually really like creating them. I like coming up with themes and I like letting my creative energy fly free. But I often find myself struggling to actually get them done.
But in the past few weeks, I have been full steam ahead with displays and passive programs. I’m hoping this is the start of more consistent displays and passive programs.
Here are some simple displays and passive programs you can implement if you are stuck and in need of ideas.
Thrillers and Chillers
I sometimes forget how perfect mysteries are for spooky season. Instead of creating a display that was solely for horror books, I created one that also included mysteries. The darker, the better.
Food in Teen Fiction
This display features teen books that involve cooking or food/drink in some way. This display is simple because you can create a collage of food pictures.
Folks from the Washington Trails Association recently hosted a program at my branch and they left us with some really cool handouts. I pulled some hiking books and created a “Go On A Hike!” display as a way to give away some of the handouts they left us with.
This is a simple voting passive program. Teens vote with a sticker dot to select their favorite candies.
Teentober Book Display Ideas
Book displays are fun at anytime of the year. But October was always a great month for Teen book displays. I was lucky at Grapevine Public Library to have multiple locations to do teen/YA displays. During October we would do a Teentober display that had teen favorites. I would leave out a box during August and September where teens could write their favorite books and use that to fill the display.
This really gave them a sense of the library being a space for them because they were able to contribute and essentially pick what books were going on this display. I wasn’t the one who came up with Teentober, American Library Association originally created it and there is usually a nice sign that can be used from their website and sometimes cool posters too.
Another display that was always a hit during October, was mystery reads. A good murder mystery book was very popular among the teens. One year I had the teens help me “paint” a large piece of white paper with handprints and blood smears to go on the display. I wish I could find the picture of it. It was similar to the picture below.
Another favorite display that my teens loved at anytime of year was blind date with a book. Where the books were wrapped in paper and a description was written on the front, but they didn’t know what they were getting. They had a lot of fun with that. The teen volunteers always like helping wrap the books and write or color a description on the front. I wouldn’t let them do all of them, so there were ones that they didn’t know what they were and could participate in on the fun.
There are so many great displays for teens out there, I hope you involve your teens in coming up with new ideas.
LGBTQ+ Halloween Reads for October
Are you excited for Halloween? For my October book display, I want to highlight spooky and thrilling reads with LGBTQ+ characters. So without further ado, here are ten of the books I will have on display throughout the month:
Burn Down, Rise Up / Vincent Tirado: When an urban legend rumored to trap people inside subway tunnels seems to be behind mysterious disappearances in the Bronx, sixteen-year-old Raquel and her friends team up to save their city–and confront a dark episode in its history in the process.
Cemetery Boys / Aiden Thomas: Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him. When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his true gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free. However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie off some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.
Dead Flip / Sara Farizan: Growing up, Cori, Maz, and Sam were inseparable best friends, sharing their love for Halloween, arcade games, and one another. Now it’s 1992, Sam has been missing for five years, and Cori and Maz aren’t speaking anymore. How could they be, when Cori is sure Sam is dead and Maz thinks he may have been kidnapped by a supernatural pinball machine? These days, all Maz wants to do is party, buy CDs at Sam Goody, and run away from his past. Meanwhile, Cori is a homecoming queen, hiding her abiding love of horror movies and her queer self under the bubblegum veneer of a high school queen bee. But when Sam returns-still twelve years old while his best friends are now seventeen- Maz and Cori are thrown back together to solve the mystery of what really happened to Sam the night he went missing. Beneath the surface of that mystery lurk secrets the friends never told one another, then and now. And Sam’s is the darkest of all. . .
Hell Followed With Us / Andrew Joseph White: Sixteen-year-old trans boy Benji is on the run from the cult that raised him–the fundamentalist sect that unleashed Armageddon and decimated the world’s population. Desperately, he searches for a place where the cult can’t get their hands on him, or more importantly, on the bioweapon they infected him with. But when cornered by monsters born from the destruction, Benji is rescued by a group of teens from the local Acheson LGBTQ+ Center, affectionately known as the ALC. The ALC’s leader, Nick, is gorgeous, autistic, and a deadly shot, and he knows Benji’s darkest secret: the cult’s bioweapon is mutating him into a monster deadly enough to wipe humanity from the earth once and for all. Still, Nick offers Benji shelter among his ragtag group of queer teens, as long as Benji can control the monster and use its power to defend the ALC. Eager to belong, Benji accepts Nick’s terms … until he discovers the ALC’s mysterious leader has a hidden agenda, and more than a few secrets of his own.
Howl by Shaun David Hutchinson: When no one in the small town of Merritt, Florida, believes that he was attacked by a monster, fifteen-year-old Virgil Knox fears the monster will return to finish him off, or worse–that he is becoming a monster himself.
Over My Dead Body / Sweeney Boo: One day, everything was exactly as it was supposed to be. And the next, the closest thing Abby ever had to a sister, Noreen, was just… gone. Distracted by the annual preparations for the Samhain festival, Abby’s classmates are quick to put Noreen’s disappearance aside. The Coven will find her, Abby’s friends say. They have it under control. But Abby can’t let it go. Soon a search for answers leads her down a rabbit hole that uncovers more secrets than Abby can handle. As mounting evidence steers her toward the off-limits woods that surround the academy, she begins to see that Noreen’s disappearance mysteriously has a lot in common with another girl who went missing all those years ago…
The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould: The Dark has been waiting–and it won’t stay hidden any longer. Something is wrong in Snakebite, Oregon. Teenagers are disappearing, some turning up dead, the weather isn’t normal, and all fingers point to TV’s most popular ghost hunters who have just come to town. Logan Ortiz-Woodley, daughter of TV’s Para Spectors, has never been to Snakebite before. But the moment she and her dads arrive, she starts to get the feeling that there’s more than ghosts plaguing this small town. Ashley Barton’s boyfriend was the first teen to go missing, and she’s felt his ghost following her ever since. Although everyone shuns the Ortiz-Woodleys, the mysterious Logan may be the only person who can help Ashley get some answers. When Ashley and Logan team up to figure out who–or what–is haunting Snakebite, their investigation reveals truths about the town, their families, and themselves that neither of them are ready for. As the danger intensifies, they realize that their growing feelings for each other could be a light in the darkness.
The Honeys / Ryan La Sala: Mars has always been the lesser twin, the shadow to his sister Caroline’s radiance. But when Caroline dies under horrific circumstances, Mars is propelled to learn all he can about his once-inseparable sister who’d grown tragically distant. Mars’s gender fluidity means he’s often excluded from the traditions — and expectations — of his politically-connected family. This includes attendance at the prestigious Aspen Conservancy Summer Academy where his sister poured so much of her time. But with his grief still fresh, he insists on attending in her place. What Mars finds is a bucolic fairytale not meant for him. Folksy charm and sun-drenched festivities camouflage old-fashioned gender roles and a toxic preparatory rigor. Mars seeks out his sister’s old friends: a group of girls dubbed the Honeys, named for the beehives they maintain behind their cabin. They are beautiful and terrifying — and Mars is certain they’re connected to Caroline’s death. But the longer he stays at Aspen, the more the sweet mountain breezes give way to hints of decay. Mars’s memories begin to falter, bleached beneath the relentless summer sun. Something is hunting him in broad daylight, toying with his mind. If Mars can’t find it soon, it will eat him alive.
The Taking of Jake Livingston / Ryan Douglass: Sixteen-year-old Jake Livingston sees dead people everywhere. But he can’t decide what’s worse: being a medium forced to watch the dead play out their last moments on a loop or being at the mercy of racist teachers as one of the few Black students at St. Clair Prep. Both are a living nightmare he wishes he could wake up from. But things at St. Clair start looking up with the arrival of another Black student–the handsome Allister–and for the first time, romance is on the horizon for Jake. Unfortunately, life as a medium is getting worse. Though most ghosts are harmless and Jake is always happy to help them move on to the next place, Sawyer Doon wants much more from Jake. In life, Sawyer was a troubled teen who shot and killed six kids at a local high school before taking his own life. Now he’s a powerful, vengeful ghost and he has plans for Jake. Suddenly, everything Jake knows about dead world goes out the window as Sawyer begins to haunt him. High school soon becomes a different kind of survival game–one Jake is not sure he can win.
These Fleeting Shadows / Kate Alice Marshall: Helen Vaughan doesn’t know why she and her mother left their ancestral home at Harrowstone Hall, called Harrow, or why they haven’t spoken to their extended family since. So when her grandfather dies, she’s shocked to learn that he has left everything-the house, the grounds, and the money-to her . The inheritance comes with one condition: she must stay on the grounds of Harrow for one full year, or she’ll be left with nothing. There is more at stake than money. For as long as she can remember, Harrow has haunted Helen’s dreams-and now those dreams have become a waking nightmare. Helen knows that if she is going to survive the year, she needs to uncover the secrets of Harrow. Why is the house built like a labyrinth? What is digging the holes that appear in the woods each night? And why does the house itself seem to be making her sick? With each twisted revelation, Helen questions what she knows about Harrow, her family, and even herself. She no longer wonders if she wants to leave…but if she can.