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Reader vs Reader: Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts)

Welcome to Reader vs. Reader.  Two librarians who have read the same book will discuss it critically.  They may agree, agree on certain points, or completely disagree.  RvR will challenge your reading comfort zone and dig deeply into the text to find potential problems or subtle brilliance.  And maybe both.  

In  September, Andrea and Elizabeth both read Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts)  by Lev A.C. Rosen

Reader vs Reader: Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts)

Jack has a lot of sex--and he's not ashamed of it. While he's sometimes ostracized, and gossip constantly rages about his sex life, Jack always believes that "it could be worse."

But then, the worse unexpectedly strikes: When Jack starts writing a teen sex advice column for an online site, he begins to receive creepy and threatening love letters that attempt to force Jack to curb his sexuality and personality. Now it's up to Jack and his best friends to uncover the stalker--before their love becomes dangerous.

The Quick Reactions:

 
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Elizabeth: I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. I think this is a story that a lot of teens need to read even if the world doesn’t want them to.
 

Andrea: This is a well-needed book that talks about gay sex (and more) openly. It won’t be for the faint of heart but it really is sex-positive.

 

Snippet of our conversation (Warning: spoilers everywhere!):

(more…)

Action Figure Terrariums: Partner with Parks and Gardens!

At my library, we are encouraged to collaborate with community partners as much as possible. Maybe that’s the case for you as well. If so, here’s a simple and super-fun program that you can do partnering with your local parks department. A local garden center or your local Master Gardener program are other options for partners here.

I wanted to host a program that would teach teens how to care for plants, and I remembered seeing a fandom themed terrarium on Pinterest. Instead of using soil and moss, I decided to use air plants instead. I was able to buy air plants in bulk online (I used www.airplantshop.com) and even specify the size that I needed. The terrariums were small glass candleholders from Oriental Trading, from whom I generally avoid ordering, but in this case, they had exactly what I needed. Drowning in daily catalogs was a price I was willing to pay for cheap terrariums.

I purchased the small figurines from Dollar Tree and Wal-Mart, but teens could also bring their own if they had one they wanted to display. Dollar Tree also had bags of colored sand and rocks that were approximately one million times less expensive than the hipster options at Home Depot.

I contacted the education outreach staff members at the major park in our county to give a brief presentation before the event. The staff member who attended gave a fun, interactive talk about biomes and adaptations, in case teens wanted to give their superhero figurine an ecologically correct terrarium home! I also explained how to care for their air plant and keep it happy and healthy.

After that, teens were free to assemble their terrrium however they liked. I provided hot glue to stabilize the figurines and create rock formations. Here are some of their creations:

 

 

 

 

 

This was a really fun STEAM program and a great way to build a relationship with the parks department. Got questions? Leave them in the comments below!

 

 

Planning an awesome thank you party for your Teen Volunteers

So given school has started and many of your volunteers have wandered away until next summer, I hope that many of you were able to say thank you in a special way.  Below is that layout of what I was able to do for my teens.  We had a party and it was roughly 2 hours of majestic mayhem.

 

I called it the RANDOM FANDOM thank you party.

I dressed up as Caesar Flickerman, equipped with a blue colonial wig and blazer and then proceeded to do doing a Harry Potter Sorting Ceremony, followed by a combination of minute to win it, team games, and of course lots of candy.

Now given this was for a large branch and I had something like 50+ kids sign up to volunteer but feel free to tailor as need be.

Step

  1. Harry Potter Sorting Ceremony…(Dressed up as Caesar Flickerman and I had another staff dress up as Effie Trinket)
    1. We divided the teens equally into four houses.
      1. Our friends of the library organization gives a gift for the teens when we staff our giant book sale on 4th of July…with that money I was able to buy Hogwarts house scarves from china I was able to give the teens these as a thank you gift.
    2. For each event I printed off slips and set them at each table.  Event Slips are provided so that house/teammates can sign up for events ahead of time as WE DEMAND TRIBUTES!!!!!!

These events were throughout the party.  I had some music set up as well as some sound effects to play in order to declare that the next event was happening.

  1. Candy Sushi
    1. -Everyone Participates
    2. This even is mostly kids making sushi roles out of candy such as Twinkies, Fruit roll ups etc….
    3. The Best Sushi Role is Sent up From Each Team and Arbitrarily judged, ranked, and consumed.
  1. Wrap Battle 1 team member
    1. 4 toilet paper rolls
    2. Teens must unroll an entire roll of toilet paper without ripping the paper and without
  2. Straw Build it Better.-2 team members
    1. Large amounts of Strawbuilders straws and connectors
    2. Each Team must build a free standing structure that a team mate can stand inside of.
  3. Sharp Shooter 2 from each team
    1. 60 seconds to shoot down 4 clothes pins holding playing cards from 8 ft away
      1. Teammate collects bullets runs to the front and fires at remaining cards
    2. 4 nerf guns- 6 bullets for each gun
    3. Safety glasses*******
  4. This Blows 1 person from each team
    1. 4 balloons and 4 Ping Pong Balls
    2. Players must blow up their balloon and then use the stored wind power to blow their ping pong ball from one side of the room to the other, it’s a race!
  5. Dicey 1 person each team
    1. 24 Dice
    2. 4 plastic spoons
    3. Players must place a spoon in their mouth and stack six dice on top of each other.  It’s a race!
  6. Team trivia ongoing throughout the event
    1. Everyone participates for their team and writes their answers
    2. We had a bell in the middle of the room and when teens had the answer they would race to hit the bell first.
    3. Fish of Knowledge will be on display ( Cascade’s Trivia Trophy (Do you have a trivia trophy?….BUILD IT!)
  7. Hanky Panky 1 Player each team
    1. 4 Tissue boxes
    2. Players can only use 1 hand to remove all the tissues
  1. Card Sorter 1 player each team
    1. 4 sets of 20 cards (5 are similar)
    2. Players must sort the cards into five different and correct piles 1 at a time
  2. Block Builder Everyone participates
    1. 100 tiny 1inch blocks
    2. Each team forms a line
    3. Goal is to have the tallest tower after 1 minute
    4. Each team member can only touch 1 block at  a time before returning to the end of their line
    5. if the tower falls the team must begin again.

For each event points are given out.

1st  place = 7 points

2nd place = 4 points

3rd place = 2 points

4th place = participation trophy worth 0 points

Add up all the points and announce the Winning House.

Have prizes, or not? Winning is the prize?

I also at the end take time to honor a few moments where kids just absolutely did awesome.  This is a wonderful thing to do and should not be skipped.

For instance one of my teens did on the spot translating in Mandarin!  There was a family where English was their second language at a story time and he was able to explain explain the craft in freaking MANDARIN!!!!!  THAT KID IS AMAZING!!!!

Beyond the Pixels: RimWorld

If you read my post on Stardew Valley you may know that I have a bit of a problem with simulation games – namely, that I love them so much that I’ll play them for twenty hours in one weekend.  RimWorld is certainly no exception with the 100 hours I’ve clocked in game, and it can be appetizing to a large number of players due to the wide variety of ways you can choose to play it.

RimWorld is a single player “sci fi colony sim driven by an intelligent AI storyteller” (https://rimworldgame.com/) and has a nearly identical art style to Prison Architect, a prison sim game.  The level of strategy and simulation of each individual colonist is extremely deep, and there are multiple AI storytellers so that you can play through however you’d like.  That’s the main thing that Tynan, the developer, focuses on when he discusses RimWorld – that the game is primarily meant to be a story generator. More on that later!

When you start a game of RimWorld you’ll be given a bit of backstory that sounds similar to the Firefly T.V. series – humanity has spread among the stars, there are planets that are more well off than others, but humanity never developed faster than light travel.  You’ll be asked to choose your scenario – crash-landed survivors on a rim world, a group of tribal survivors, one rich colonist, or naked brutality, one of the hardest modes to play. You’ll select an AI storyteller – Cassandra Classic, Phoebe Chillax, or Randy Random – as well as the difficulty level.  Each storyteller has their own way of generating random events which makes for unique playthroughs each and every time. You can choose to make it so that you can’t reload saves (a style of game called roguelike), so that every decision, and every colonist death, is permanent.

After you start your game and your colonists crash land (or whichever scenario you’ve selected), you’ll go about gathering resources, building shelter, hunting, gathering, growing crops, and building a functioning colony.  Events like heat waves, cold snaps, raiders, insect swarms, mad animals, toxic fallout, and more can befall your colony, so it’s best to prepare early and keep everyone close to each other. You’ll need to manage the temperature of your dwellings, including creating a freezer so your crops don’t rot, and your colonists will need warm clothing to survive winter weather!  They’ll get bored so you’ll need to build recreation items to keep them entertained, and they’ll get hurt so you need to have medical facilities and someone trained well enough in medicine to replace body parts. You can tame wild animals and use them for farming and hauling, and they can even help you in battle against others that try to raid your colony!

Each colonist is unique with their own history, set of skills, needs, and personality traits.  One might be lazy and psychically dull, meaning they work slower and aren’t as affected by a psychic drone event, while another may be a trigger-happy pyromaniac, meaning they shoot weapons faster and also love to start random fires.  Some colonists are better with plants, some are better with animals, and others prefer mining or researching. Colonists develop relationships with other colonists, have fights, get married, and split up over time. You can capture raiders and take them as prisoners and even convince them to join your colony after enough cajoling.

All of this put together shows that, while it is a game, the developer meant for it to be more of a story generator.  Choosing the roguelike setting means that you get more attached to each colonist and you’re more careful with them in battles and when they fall ill than if you could go back and reload a previous save.  The drama, comedy, and tragedy that occurs during the game is meant to be the interesting part, not necessarily the gameplay itself. Players often share their colony stories in forums and on the RimWorld subreddit, and some players have created comics based on what happened in their colonies.  While there is an ‘end game’ of sorts – building a spaceship to leave the planet you crashed on – there is no official end to any given colony or the game itself, and you’ll often find that you want to start a new colony after you’ve learned tips and tricks in your current playthrough. In the 100 hours I’ve played I’ve started 5 different colonies, improving and learning more each time, and I’m finally confident enough in my game knowledge to start a colony where every decision is permanent.

As briefly mentioned earlier there is violence in the game, and it can get very dark very, very fast.  Some factions are slavers and you can purchase or rescue people from these factions. Some colonists are cannibals and you can use the corpses of attacking raiders as food for your colonists.  You can also harvest their organs in order to use them for your own colonists. Messed up, I know – but this game doesn’t place restrictions on morality, and it’s entirely up to you on how to play and what kind of story you want to create.

The game is still in Early Access, meaning it’s not completely done but is available to purchase.  It’s nearly finished and will likely be officially released in the next month or so. Due to the popularity of games like Stardew Valley, Terraria, and similar games with my older teen population, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them pick up RimWorld.  With the core concept being story generation it can also serve a useful function in getting teens to create stories through gameplay and encourage them to write out a narrative of the events that have occured in their colony. After all, what story about opening an ancient cave that leads to hostile futuristic space soldiers awakening from cryosleep, simultaneously causing gigantic violent insects to burst from the cave’s walls and begin attacking these space soldiers, wouldn’t be interesting to read?

YA Diary Novel Round-Up

Did you know that Dear Diary Day is September 22nd? Though I’ve never been very successful at keeping a personal diary, I’ve always been a big fan of reading other people’s diaries, and hence, diary novels! This format has been a staple since the Victorian era, and it’s a format that’s particularly well-suited to YA literature. Many diary novels are considered YA classics—think Go Ask Alice by Beatrice Sparks; I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith; The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 ¾ by Sue Townsend; etc. The diary novel has a long, complicated, and fairly problematic history. Check out this piece from by Johannah King-Slutzky for The Hairpin for a more in-depth look.

There was a big diary novel boom when yours truly was coming of age in the late 90s and early 2000s, after the success of the adult novel Bridget Jones’ Diary in 1996. This is when titles like Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging; The Princess Diaries; The Perks of Being a Wallflower; the Dear America series, and others were released. I loved these types of books as a teen and I still have a soft spot for them now. While there aren’t quite as many diary novels on the shelves these days, here a few recent titles you may want to check out yourself or highlight at your library:

Confessions of a High School Disaster: Chloe Snow’s Diary – Emma Chastain
Chloe chronicles each day of her freshman year of high school in her diary. She’s unafraid of sharing everything that goes down, including her artsy mom’s flight to another state, her desire to lose her “kissing virginity,”and lots of angsty boy and social drama. Though there is some partying and discussion of sexual behaviors, this is a fun slice-of-life story that will appeal to young but mature teens.

The Night Diary – Veera Hiranandani
Nisha, a 12 year old living in India during the Partition of 1947, uses her diary to write letters to her mother, who passed away giving birth to Nisha’s brother. The partition separated India and Pakistan, dividing the major religious sects. Nisha does not know which side to call her home anymore, especially when her family is forced to flee their home in search of a “new India.”

From Twinkle with Love – Sandhya Menon
In this romantic comedy, Twinkle, an aspiring filmmaker, writes letters to famous female filmmakers (try saying that three times fast!) of the past and present in her diary. Twinkle’s BFF Maddie recently dumped her for the popular crowd, and Twinkle thinks if she can date the popular Neil Roy, she might get her friend back too. Things get complicated when Neil’s brother Sahil, begins working on a movie project with Twinkle and the two develop feelings for each other.

Nice Try, Jane Sinner – Lianne Oelke
When Jane is expelled from high school just a few months shy of graduation, she’s got no choice but to get her last few credits at community college. It’s there that she has the opportunity to participate in a campus-produced reality game show. If she wins, she may finally be able to move away from her religious parents and their stifling home. Jane chronicles the whole ordeal in diary entries that capture her witty voice and dry humor, while also revealing her serious psychological struggles.

Sunny – Jason Reynolds
Sunny, the third title in Jason Reynolds’ Track series follows almost-13 year old Sunny, a reluctant track star, dancer, and self-described “weird” kid with too many things going “boing boing” in his brain. On the day Sunny was born, his mom died from an amniotic embolism and neither Sunny or his dad has every really recovered. Sunny still feels tremendous guilt, so although he finds track boring, he runs because it pleases his father, and because his mother, a former runner, cannot. Sunny’s story is told in diary entries that capture his pain and grief, but also his unique sense of humor and his compassionate.

Thornhill – Pam Smy
This unique book tells two parallel stories. One is set in the present and is told completely through images. It chronicles the strange experiences of Ella, who has moved next door to the dilapidated ruins of Thornhill, a former orphanage. The other story, told through diary entries, follows Mary, an orphan being tormented by a bully at Thornhill back in 1982 before it closed for good. The two girls’ tales become entwined in chilling ways.

Words on Bathroom Walls – Julia Walton
After being diagnosed with schizophrenia, Adam refuses to talk to psychiatrist, so instead he chronicles his experiences in a diary. His entries take place during a 10 month period in which he participates in a clinical trial for a so-called “miracle” drug, as well as his time at a new Catholic school, and features an interesting cast of characters, some real, some imagined.