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Manga Reviews (4)

I often see people asking about manga on social media. Anything from “Is this manga okay for this age group?” to “What do you recommend?” A lot of the time, especially with recommendations, I see a lot of older titles. And while we all love older titles, I thought it might be fun to highlight some newer manga and give my overall thoughts–both good and bad. Basically, my guidelines for manga I look at is it has to be released in the US in the last year (I said 2017 in general), have at least 3 volumes, and be rated Teen + or lower.

So, here are some of the ones I looked at. (If you missed my earlier rounds of reviews, catch them here.)

 

The Promised Neverland by Kaiu Shirai

The children of the Grace Field House orphanage have their happy lives upended when they find out they’re being raised to be fed to demons. Can they escape their fate before it’s too late?

Life at Grace Field House has been good for Emma and her fellow orphans. While the daily studying and exams they have to take are tough, their loving caretaker provides them with delicious foods and plenty of playtime. But perhaps not everything is as it seems…
Emma, Norman and Ray are the brightest kids at the Grace Field House orphanage. And under the care of the woman they refer to as “Mom,” all the kids have enjoyed a comfortable life. One day, though, Emma and Norman uncover the dark truth of the outside world they are forbidden from seeing. The children of the orphanage are being raised as food for monsters, and their loving caretaker is behind it all! Emma and the others plan their escape, but can they make it out before it’s too late…?

Rating: Teen Plus
Volumes Read: 3

My Thoughts: I will throw this out there from the start, this is a more slow-moving manga than most. The three older teens find out the secret of the orphanage early on and plan to escape, but so far that’s all it’s been. Plans. Now, I’m all for slow build-up and intrigue and generally enjoy the strategic mental games that are happening. I even grabbed the next volumes because I’m interested to see how it all pans out. There’s lots of room for betrayal and disaster and I want to see who comes out ahead. However, the action is definitely on the lower side.

My biggest complaint would be how the one caretaker, Sister Krone, is portrayed. While the facial expressions are ones I’ve seen before in manga, she is the only character who makes consistently evil/distorted/very caricatured faces. In fact, it was rare that she made a normal face at all. As one of the few black characters in the manga it stood out/bothered more than it might have normally. She was only in two volumes, but it still felt like something worth mentioning.

Also, while this one is rated Teen+, there hasn’t been anything bad as of yet. The subject is a bit more mature, but the violence is typical manga style and not bloody/gory at all and sexual content is at zilch. Of course, this could change, but my guess is the rating is due to the overall storyline being darker than most manga.

 

Takane & Hana by Yuki Shiwasu

A strong-willed high school girl and a hot, young scion of a business empire can’t help trying to outwit each other every chance they get… But could these opposites be conning themselves out of the perfect match?!

After her older sister refuses to go to an arranged marriage meeting with Takane Saibara, the heir to a vast business fortune, high schooler Hana Nonomura agrees to be her stand-in to save face for the family. But what happens when Hana meets Takane is an unexpected pairing of utter opposites!

The meeting between Takane and Hana ends in an explosive manner, and Hana is convinced that she’ll never have to see that awful Takane again. But Takane actually seems interested in Hana! Exasperated by Takane’s immature attitude, yet amused and intrigued despite herself, Hana embarks on a hilarious journey with Takane that just might lead to love!

Rating: Teen
Volumes Read: 3

My Thoughts: If you’ve read my other reviews you know I normally hate the older man dating a younger girl. And, to be honest, it still makes me cringe with this one, but at the same time, I didn’t mind it as much as some of the others. I think it may be because the meeting was supposed to be with Hana’s sister and not her. She was only supposed to be a temporary replacement and it only continues because Takane likes that Hana tells him off. While there is still some power play due to their social status, Hana holds her own nicely against Takane. And to be honest, while they are kind of dating (courting?), in the three volumes that I’ve read there has only been a single kiss and nothing more. Considering how grumpy I thought I’d be with this series, I actually am looking forward to the next volumes. If your teens are looking for more shojo, this would be a nice cute one to consider.

 

Your Name by Makoto Shinkai

A story of two people determined to hold on to one another.

Mitsuha, a high school girl from a town deep in the mountains, dreams of an unfamiliar life in Tokyo. Taki, a high school boy from Tokyo, dreams that he is a girl living in the mountains. As the two begin swapping lives, a miraculous story is set in motion.

Rating: Teen
Volumes Read: 3

My Thoughts: So, a lot of the teens may already know about this one, especially since it’s a movie. It’s a short manga with only 3 volumes (although, there is a companion series coming), but one I really enjoyed. The first volume is full of fun with all the body swapping, but does become serious once Mitsuha’s history is revealed. I’ll admit that volume three felt like a slight let-down compared to the other two volumes, but it was a nice wrap up to the story. I’m super interested in reading the companion manga since it’s supposed to deal with more of the body swapping, which honestly was my favorite part. I highly recommend this series for any library!

 

Here are some manga currently on my pile for future reviews (either TBR or waiting for additional volumes):

  • Delicious in a Dungeon
  • Flying Witch
  • Mermaid Boys
  • Teasing Master Takagi-san
  • Sacrificial Princess and the King of Beasts

Got a series you’d like me to check out? Leave the name in the comments and I’ll add it to my list!

Programming strategy: consider your context

I’ve always struggled with getting programming right. In the first few years in my library, even when I had decent advertising and thoughtful and thorough planning, I’d have programs that were mostly unattended. “If you build it, they will come,” was a motto that worked better for baseball.

Programming became easier for me when I realized that I’d succeed most if I focused on what teachers and students in my school really responded to best instead of hoping to shape the school culture into the ideal vision I’d seen in library publications, at conferences, on blogs, and, yes, on Pinterest. In some ways, this might be library 101 but it took me longer than I’d like to admit to really get it. I wanted to have the Pinterest-perfect library programs, so I’d try after school events and big pushes for things like Banned Book Week, Teen Read Week, and Teen Tech Week. Usually, they flopped hard, and I’d have put a ton of energy into a program for 2-3 teens.

To get the right balance of programming, I started to consider our school culture in greater detail, thinking about factors like: free time for students, school schedule, other programs competing for student attention, the style of our space, the size of our population (including the number of committed students/ teens), current stats (circulation, budget, website hit count, read reports on newsletters), and institutional factors — (admin support, teacher collaboration culture, etc), student interests.

I decided to work with these things, not against them, letting context drive my programing strategy. For example, we had a passive-program puzzle club for a little while (if you added a piece to the puzzle, you were an official club member). It was pretty fun and reasonably popular for a few months, but because our space is so open (two rooms with a hallway in the middle and at least six entrances), we would have pieces frequently disappear. We tried a few ways to keep the puzzle pieces together, but eventually realized our context was conspiring against us, so I put up the puzzles, and we started a more structured board game club on one or two Fridays a month, when school gets out a little earlier.

That’s just one example of how context shaped the way I do programming. Here’s the bigger picture at my school: I work with in a 5th grade through 12th grade city school with a relatively small high school population (350 students). Our students travel a long time for school sometimes (as long as 1.5 hours each way) and we have a slightly extended school day (until 3:45pm). Students are required to participate in after-school athletics as their PE requirement and most of their school day is structured time, though we do have two 20 minute breaks. Clubs take the place of lunch for most students, and the library is open for studying only.

For us, given the commute time for students and the athletic requirement, after school programming really doesn’t work, and any daytime programs need to fit in 20 minutes or less. So, I’ve focused on passive programs in high-traffic areas (for example, serving Macbeth-inspired witches brew in the hall for Halloween, decorate-your-own poems for Poem in Your Pocket Day) during student free-time. If I do decide to do an after school program, I am sure to have reasonable expectations. Since teacher collaboration and student leadership work so much better for our school, I  focus energy on classes/ teaching, not programming, unless a student comes to me with a program idea, at which point I always say yes and let the student lead because those are always our most effective programs.

This doesn’t mean my programming never flops — it totally does. But, when I focus my efforts on meeting students and staff where they are and having reasonable expectations about the results if I do decide to try an after school event, I tend to not only have greater participation in events but also feel happier about the results.

Reminder: Being a Teen Librarian is Awesome!

Every once in awhile I’ll get stressed out with all of the things I have to keep up with.  Whether it’s sudden requests for a class visit, or running a booth at an outreach event with two days’ notice, or multiple late nights due to programs or staff illness, there are things that happen in the day-to-day that take their toll on our emotional reserves.  For instance, my main stressor right now is someone stealing a bunch of our graphic novels! We keep finding RFID tags ripped out of books, and entire series are disappearing off of our shelves. Talk about frustrating – especially when staff don’t note which items got taken and just remove it from the catalog!  *grumble grumble*

At times like these I do my utmost to remind myself that, despite the individual stressful events and occasional upset patron that we deal with, our career is AWESOME.  A lot of the time we get to have fun and get paid (not well, typically, but still paid) to do it! Seeing teens light up with glee during a program, form friendships, escape their social anxiety shells and build bonds with others like them – these are the things that can keep us going in tougher times.  A patron just shouted at you about the lights being too bright? Take a deep breath and think about when the teens were belting out lyrics to a song or YouTube video!

Just reminding myself of these things isn’t always enough, and that’s why I try to keep physical reminders of things that can motivate me and keep my enthusiasm topped off.  Photos of previous events that took a lot of time and turned out really well, thank you cards, drawings teens have given me, and even player character sheets from our Dungeons & Dragons campaigns have been helpful reminders.  If you’re working on a big program, think about what the outcome might look like to keep yourself going – a bunch of teens all having fun doing something that wouldn’t have happened or even existed if not for YOU putting in the work.

And that’s what it always comes back to!  You are changing lives for the better every single day.  The collections you develop entertain and expand young minds, the programs you create give teens new experiences and opportunities to try things they wouldn’t have otherwise, and the interactions you have with patrons, big and small, let you influence the world around you for the better.  Some days will be tougher than others, but try to remember every day that just by doing what you do, every day, you ARE making the world a better place.

Teen Webpages/Social Media

Today, our agents are talking about their teen webpages, whether on social media or as part of their library webpage.

Casey:

We have a subsection of our website devoted to teens. I can guarantee that few if any of them actually look at that subsection (it’s now easier than before to get to but still not easy or direct). I keep as a pretty static page as a result. From surveys, I’ve never had a kid tell me they found a program due to the website. So. I’d love to have some sort of social media presence specific for teens but I don’t foresee that happening any time soon. I do occasionally post teen related stuff (pictures from programs, etc.) on our Facebook page and they get good responses.

Andrea:

We dropped our webpage-webpage with our library re-design last year. Talking with the teens, they weren’t visiting it at all and I didn’t see the point in keeping it up. Instead, I’ve been focusing on social media more. My main one is Instagram, but I’m trying to figure out how I want to use Snapchat as well (this is going a bit slow-going, but I’m hoping I can re-focus on it soon!). Mainly, I post upcoming event reminders and pictures from the library or events. I’m hoping to add on booktalks soon as well. I do have a FB page, but it’s mainly for the parents and few (if any!) teens follow it.

Pam: 

We have a teen LibGuide, but I know of zero (0) teens who actually look at it. I’m not a big fan of LibGuides in general because they can be hard to find on our homepage. We have a virtual services librarian who manages most of our social media, but I try to post pictures of all our teen events on Instagram and Facebook (to catch all the parents trying to sign their teens up for programs, ha ha). Reaching teens digitally is really difficult–I prefer word-of-mouth either in the library or on school visits.

Jessica:

Our library’s website has a separate page for teens that includes upcoming programs, potential links of interest for homework help, and volunteer info. Teens rarely look at this page though and I have very little control over the content. We use our library’s Facebook page to market programs to parents, and that seems to get a lot more patron engagement, but still, not much from teens. What I’m most proud of is the teen book review blog that I recently created. It’s completely separate from our official library page, and I essentially have complete control over the whole thing. Check out my TSU post on the topic for more details!

Amanda:

Recently I started a blog for teens at my library which teens can access through the web address or a link on the library’s website (which is currently under construction). The platform I use is Blogger as it is both free and user friendly. On the blog one can find book reviews, advertisements for programs, program highlights, book trailers found on Youtube (usually from Epic Reads and properly credited) and just life in Teen Space. I also post a weekly quote from a YA book every Wednesday.  The blog is only about a month old as of this post and I am working on getting the teens to view and submit their own reviews and more for it. My Library also has an Instagram which is run by the head of Teen Services and heavily features the teens and anything related to them.  While we do have a Facebook, that is more for the parents to know what it is going on this generation doesn’t exactly use Facebook anymore. I’d like to try and use Snapchat but since I have my own account, and they have easy access to switch back and forth like Instagram does, I am holding off for now.

Elizabeth:

We have a teen-specific website within the library’s website here: it contains links to all our upcoming programs, plus direct links to the databases that we think are most useful to teens, info about joining our TAB and links to other places within the community to volunteer. All our social media channels are library-wide: come find us on Snapchat and Instagram @librarycommerce, or our Facebook page.

Dustan:

The main thing that I do is send out a monthly e-mail with all of the events in text in the e-mail, as well as an attached flyer that’s also distributed to local schools, at our library, and on our website in our very sparse teen section.  The teens that come to programs regularly have told me that they know to check the website or their e-mail for the flyer, so something’s working here!  Many avenues of social media are non-starters for them, but they always know to check for that flyer!  You can see an example for November 2018 here – it’s a busy month for vacations and holidays so there’s fewer programs than usual.

Ari:

Our website has a subpage for teen services that is fairly stagnant, and we don’t currently have any teen-specific social media accounts, though I do have plans for that down the road. My goal is to have social media accounts (Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat) dedicated to teen services and have the content created by the teen advisory board. I also love the idea of having a bookstagram about dedicated to showcasing our library’s YA collection. One of my long teen goals is to have teens film their own book talks to go on a YouTube channel, and to start up a teen blog that would allow teens to write book reviews in exchange for community service hours.

Tegan:

My library’s website has a teen page, but it has gone through many changes over the past few years. We are currently in the process of looking at a new website, so it’s a little on hold as of right now. I’m looking at other websites to see what seems to be working for them. We do not have specific social media accounts for the teenagers, but we post on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (where I try to post regularly with teen topics). We just started our Instagram this summer and to get the teenagers following us we made it a part of our summer reading program. I would like to start a collection of teen reviews of ARCs and other books on the website, eventually.

Sereena:

In my school library, I’ve created a sub-page of the school’s main page that includes links to the catalog and other basic information about the library. It’s more of a public-facing page that doesn’t change a ton and meant for parents and other community members more than students. Students use our LibGuides far more often because they include the research tools and documents they need for projects, in addition to book recommendations. Our LibGuides are linked to the homework website our teachers use to post daily assignments. I don’t use library-specific social media accounts with students because we are asked to send all of our social media updates to the main school social media. Sometimes I’ll create posts for that or let our development team know what’s going on so they can post, though.

 

Molly: 

We have a pretty good website for our public library and we have a dedicated Teen section with multiple pages. There are pages that I don’t have to worry about, like homework help links, and a pages for links to useful information – like support for LGBTQIA teens, health issues, drugs, pregnancy, abuse, college application help, etc. that I mostly monitor every once in awhile to make sure they are all relevant. I have a dedicated page for my TAB group and also one for Teen Volunteers, which has descriptions of ways they can volunteer at the library and also has the link to the online application. There is a main/landing page that kind of describes the general idea of the teen space at the library, and there is a program page that I often forget to update! I’m not exactly sure how much it gets used, but it’s nice to have!

 

STEAM Suggestion Lists

Our school system approached us this year for summer reading and wanted us to make up a suggested list of STEAM books. In trying to figure out how to do this without buying a million copies of those books (as we all know they’d be the only ones accepted by 2/3rds of parents), I came up with the idea of using this to also teach the students and parents how to better find nonfiction in our library. Instead of suggesting books, we would offer a ‘pathfinder’ (although I didn’t call it that, knowing non-librarians really don’t know what that is) that broke down the five elements of STEAM and suggested subtopics and the Dewey number where they could be found. This also allowed us to make one that worked for our middle schoolers and high schoolers that encouraged them to use the adult nonfiction if they wanted something more in depth with the same flyer.

Although we hit some snags (mostly related to things not directly due to the flyers), overall the flyers worked great! We encouraged kids to find a couple topics they really liked and then we would help them find them in nonfiction if they needed it. The parents wanted something more concrete but the kids loved having the variety to pick what interested them, which is what we really wanted out of this. Unlike previous years, we had a lot less complaints going to this format versus trying to support the 3-4 books the schools wanted them to read. One thing I might do in the future is make my instructions clearer and as concise as possible. But the main problem we got, that we had not foreseen, was how few parents knew what STEAM stood for. So we’d definitely spell that out more clearly in the future.

I’ve attached picture files of what we did. Our decision not to use exactly Science, Technology, Art, Engineering, and Math in the titles was for our 5th graders and up (middle school and up) and to show how intertwined STEAM elements are in everything.