Goals of a Teen Librarian (Revised!)

As the semester comes to an end, it’s important to reflect back on what I’ve learned, and to see how this has changed. At the beginning of the semester, I wrote that my goals as a teen librarian were to promote a diverse collection, work with my passions, and listen to teens. I stand by these goals, but I’d also like to expand on them. So, here we go!

1. Be Prepared!

I’ve always been a supporter of intellectual freedom, but our class debate on censorship, and the accompanying challenge letter, made me see how important it is to have a plan of action. I need to be prepared for book challenges, which after enough time will become inevitable in even the most liberal of communities. I need to review what my library’s policy is, what I believe as a librarian, and how to express these points to the challenger.

2. Know Your Genres! (Even the ones you “don’t read”)

In my first post, I said that I thought it was beneficial to start with my passions, such as the fantasy genre, and work from there. I said this because I’ve found that I always do my best work when I’m doing what I love, which I’m sure I’m not alone on. However, the five media challenge and primary materials assignments in this class has reminded me of the importance of broadening my knowledge. Even if I just read a handful of materials from my lesser known genres such as mastery and thriller, then I’ll be more useful to teens who are interested in those genres.

3. Always Promote Diversity, Always Listen

In my previous post, I discussed the importance of making sure that your YA department is centered on teen input, and the needs of your community. This is still important to me, as is a diverse collection. Your library may not serve a very diverse community, but that doesn’t mean the patrons can’t read and understand the experiences of others. There are so many wonderful stories with diverse voices, and it’s important to continue to read these stories and share them with the world.


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Review Post 2

Review #3: Written for a teen audience

March by John Lewis

“We are going to stay here in Selma until every person of color can register and vote.”

– March Book 3

In this intense political climate we live in today, it’s important to learn from both the failures and victories of our past. March is a series that shows some of the uglier moments in American history, but it’s also a hopeful story of proud activists who demanded that their voices be heard.

John Lewis grew up very poor in segregated Alabama. Determined to bring about change, he allied himself with like minded people and became an activist for racial justice. These activists began by participating in peaceful sit in protests. This led Lewis to bigger, more dangerous protests, including the 1963 March on Washington. The winner of the 2016 National Book Award, March is a three book graphic novel series with beautiful black and white illustrations by Nate Powell.

Personally, I love a good underdog tale. I love stories of characters who succeed against “the man”, despite the odds being stacked against them. That’s why March was a series I went into knowing I’d enjoy it, and I wasn’t wrong! If you like compelling nonfiction stories about underdogs who triumph, check out March.

Review #4: Written for a teen audience

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, Inspired by Siobhan Dowd (Narrated by Jason Isaacs)

To refresh my memory on this book for the review, I decided to listen to the audiobook.


“The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do.” 

I dare you to read this and not use a single tissue.

A Monster Calls is an emotional fantasy-horror novel. Conor’s mother is sick with cancer. At night he receives a visit from a monster, who tells him three stories before telling Conor that he must tell his own story and reveal his “truth”. The first half of the book is a little confusing, as the stories the monster tells are pointless even to Conor. However, the way the monster ties these stories together in order to help Conor understand his truth in the end is both profound and heartbreaking. If you’ve ever lost a loved one, you will likely relate to Conor. The book is worth reading, as it contains gorgeous illustrations, but I think the audiobook is also worth giving a listen. Narrator Jason Isaacs also does an excellent job portraying the monster!

This book is a fantastical journey of love, loneliness, and acceptance. If you like like compelling, emotional stories with a character driven plot, then A Monster Calls will likely be a great fit for you.

Review Analysis 

For the professional reviews, I consulted The New York TimesPublishers Weekly, and Kirkus Reviews. I also consulted a Goodreads reviewer, as well as a Canadian blogger at Burning x Impossibly x Bright (who also reviewed the audiobook!).

– Tone it Down 

The biggest difference between the amateur and professional reviews is, unsurprisingly, the tone. The amateur reviews are less formal, especially the blogger. She frequently uses exclamatory statements, and very openly expresses her adoration of the book. The word “fangirl” would be appropriate here. She also encourages her audience to join in on the conversation (“And is anyone else a fan of going back and listening to an audiobook version of their favourite stories?”), and is the only reviewer to do so.

– All the Feels

The Goodreads reviewer, the blog, and Publishers Weekly all wrote glowing reviews. The New York Times and Kirkus Reviews weren’t as generous, but still very positive as well. The New York Times, and the Goodreads reviewer all wrote emotional reviews, where they admit to crying. The blog was also very emotional, but in a positive way. She frequently “gushes” over the book.

– Picture This

All of the reviewers comment on the book’s illustrations, except for the blogger because she reviewed the audiobook. The Goodreads reviewer says the book is worth buying a copy of for the pictures alone. Kirkus Reviews compliments the way the illustrations and the text work together.

– Listen Up

Audiobook reviews were harder to find! I’m glad I found the blogger’s review for this reason. It was also a review of her experience rereading A Monster Calls, which was interesting. She talks about how she enjoys going back to books she’s already read and listening to the audiobook version of it, as it gives her a different experience with a story she already likes.

– Cover Story

There is none! None of these reviews mention the cover anywhere. This might have to do with the fact that most of them took the time to comment on the illustrations. I did notice that the Goodreads reviewer has a shelf called “Coverly Love” on her account, which A Monster Calls was not shelved on, though this doesn’t necessarily mean she doesn’t like the cover.

Teens and the Media: Documentary Comparative Essay

The 2001 documentary Merchants of Cool shows how marketers research teen interests, and then use this information to sell products. This seemingly sounds like the power is in the hands of teens. With this system they control what gets sold to them. However, the media has become so powerful and influential that it has, and I don’t believe this is too strong a word, brainwashed society’s needs and interests. This is scary to think about, when teens are very much targeted by marketers. The question then becomes, as stated in the documentary, who’s creating whose culture?

The 2014 documentary Generation Like presents the shift in media that occurred once technology boomed. Teens today have more power than ever before. With social media and ease of content sharing, teens can easily express what they like and are interested in. This is very different than in Merchants of Cool, when marketers once needed “cool hunters” to research what teens liked. Teens have the world at their fingertips. With social media platforms, they can make their voices be heard. With enough likes, followers, and shares, they can influence their peers. However, once again it becomes a question of whether or not teens are really in control of their media. Marketers have found ways to get their audiences to sell the products for them. The question of who’s creating whose culture is once again asked. It becomes evident that in some ways so much has changed, and in other ways nothing has changed at all.

The prompt for this documentary reminds me of the article we read earlier in the semester, which also talked about how popular culture is constantly changing. The article agrees with the documentaries in that teens aren’t really in control of their media. In fact, Haddix, Garcia, and and Price-Dennis (2017) add, “Looking at the covers of YA novels, the posters of the latest Hollywood blockbusters, and the images pasted to articles (both in print and on popular online media), “popular” can be often distilled to key cultural designators: White, thin, able-bodied, heterosexual, wealthy” (p. 23). They suggest that not only do educators need to be aware of the media that teens consume, but they also need to be aware that the media is exclusive to only the most privileged groups of teens. Also, while it’s true that some celebrities like Bethany Mota, who became famous when she was a teen, can find success through YouTube, it’s worth noting that the majority of teens are not going to find nearly as much success. Teens can influence others and use their voice, but it’s difficult to find an audience when the internet is so large.

As a librarian, I agree with Haddix, Garcia, and Price-Dennis. I think it’s important to be aware of many of the problems that come about the media, and to try to solve them with the resources I have. I know I can’t fix everything. I know I can’t save the world, but if I help even just a handful of teens in my community, then I’ll have considered my job well done. For example, the media favors only the most privileged in their representations, and librarians should promote a diverse collection. As discussed in the documentaries, the media is hyper sexualized, and we all know that telling teens to avoid sex has never worked in the history of forever. So one possible solution is to offer nonfiction books on sex education to promote a healthy, safe sex life. I think it’s also important to be aware of some of the downfalls of social media that Generation Like didn’t really talk about. The internet is permanent. That means anything teens post on there can last forever. Even if teens delete their posts, a simple screenshot can come back to haunt them. They have to be careful of the things they say and the photographs they post online. Cyber bullying is also a very real, very scary thing. These issues are more complicated, and can’t simply be resolved with good collection development. Not every teen is going to open up to you about his/her problems, but for those who do want to talk, I believe it’s important that we as librarians should keep our ears open.

Lastly, the media doesn’t mean all doom and gloom for teens. There are many positive impacts that the media has on their lives. While becoming famous from a social media platform is rare, having a voice and reaching out to others isn’t hard to do. Librarians can use social media to advertise programs and connect with their teen patrons. Programming can also implement social media. Through programs teens can create videos, use apps, and share content with each other. The possibilities are endless!

It’s important not to take the problems that the media has to heart. Yes, the media is problematic, but know that those problems aren’t going away anytime soon. Know that being aware of the problems is half the battle, and focus on appreciating all of the things the media can do for teens, rather than the ways it might hurt them.


Frontline (2001). Merchants of cool. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/cool/

Frontline (2014). Generation: Like. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/generation-like/

Haddix, M., Garcia, A., and Price-Dennis, D. (2017). Youth, Popular Culture, and the Media: Examining Race, Class, Gender, Sexuality, and Social Histories. In Hinchman, K. A., Appleman, D. (eds.) Adolescent literacies: A handbook of practice-based research, pp.21-37. New York: The Guilford Press.

Extraordinary People: A Semi-Comprehensive Guide to Some of the World’s Most Fascinating Individuals


Hearst, M., & Scamihorn, A. (2015). Extraordinary people: a semi-comprehensive guide to some of the worlds most fascinating individuals. San Francisco: Chronicle Books.

5Q 3P M J S

Why is author Michael Hearst qualified to determine who is extraordinary enough for this book? Because, as he bluntly states in the author’s note, his publisher said he could. This introduction perfectly sets the tone of the book. Hearst’s wit adds so much charm as to the stories of these fascinating people. The book has people you’ve certainly heard of, from Helen Keller, to Benjamin Franklin, to Bruce Lee. There are also plenty of others you probably haven’t heard of, including extraordinary scientists, runners and explorers, and a kick butt lady pirate.

This book will definitely do well in a teen collection! The author is witty in a way that teens will really appreciate, the text is spread out neatly so that it’s easy on the eyes, and the illustrations are eye catching too. For the same reasons, I think this book will read well for older children. In fact, I found this book in the children’s collection in my library.

Read Alike


Bragg, G., & OMalley, K. (2016). How they choked: failures, flops, and flaws of the awfully famous. New York: Bloomsbury.

Like Heart’s book, How They Choked has a humorous tone (though the comedy is much blacker). Notes the deaths of famous people in a bleakly humorous way.

Shared appeal terms: Conversational writing styles, books about celebrities, collective biographies.


Brown Girl Dreaming


Woodson, J. (2014). Brown girl dreaming. New York: Penguin Group USA.

4Q 5P M J S

Once again, this a book that caught my interest because it’s an award winner. In 2014, Jacqueline Woodson won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. The book was also awarded the Coretta Scott King Award for Author, as well as a Newbery Honor. Poetry isn’t my favorite genre. I took a poetry writing class in college, and it just didn’t click with me. However, seeing as I’ve never actually read a verse novel, I decided to give it a try.

It’s hard for me to talk about this book. I’m very glad that an #OwnVoices diverse book like this is so popular. Maybe I’m just really not a poetry person, because this book just didn’t pull me in like I hoped it would. Still, I recognize the value of this book and would definitely put it in both a children’s and young adult collection. With diverse books making up most of the banned books in the U.S. but still making up only a very small percentage of the publishing market, books like these are necessary.

Read Alike


Lai, T. (2011). Inside out and back again. New York: HarperCollins.

A young girl describes her experiences leaving Vietnam and resettling in Alabama in 1975.

Shared appeal terms: Multicultural, novels in verse, nonfiction, historical fiction. Found on the NoveList database.

Dial Books for Young Readers

Image result for dial books for young readers

Dial Books for Young Readers

Social Media:

(An imprint of the Penguin Group USA, Dial Books’s social media presence is under Penguin)

Catalog availability: Picture books, children’s and young adult fiction and nonfiction books. For ages 2 – teen.

Established in 1961, Dial Books for Young Readers was an early advocate for publishing books for very young readers. It’s Very First Books line published some of the first board books in the U.S. According to their website, Dial Books is committed to publishing diverse books. Part of the Penguin Group USA, Dial Books for Young Readers is a well known name in the publishing world. According to their website, their goal is to entertain, enrich, and encourage readers.


Winner of the Printz Award, I’ll Give You the Sun details the lives of twins Noah and Jude, who start out inseparable but years later, are hardly speaking to each other. This book has won many awards in addition to the Printz Award, and is named on the Dial Books for Young Readers website.

Reviews for I’ll Give You the Sun

Publishers Weekly

“Children’s Book Review: I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson. Dial, $17.99 (384) ISBN 978-0-8037-3496-8.” PublishersWeekly.com, http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-8037-3496-8.

Kirkus Reviews

“I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN by Jandy Nelson.” Kirkus Reviews, 12 Aug. 2014, http://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/jandy-nelson/ill-give-you-the-sun/.

A Monster Calls


Ness, P. (2015). A monster calls. London: Walker Books.

4Q 5P J S

I didn’t know that much about the plot of A Monster Calls going into it. What I did know was that the original idea was by author Siobhan Dowd, but she passed away before she could write the book herself. Patrick Ness then took over the project and completed the novel. I’d also heard that the book had beautiful illustrations (which was true) and was a tearjerker (also true). These factors convinced me to give this book a try, and I’m glad I did. This was a beautiful story about love, loneliness, and acceptance.

This book belongs in a YA collection, and I would take it a step further and argue that a physical copy should definitely be available in the library. The illustrations are beautiful, and to view them in eBook format just wouldn’t do it justice. I did not listen to the audiobook so I can’t speak for the quality of the narration, but listening to the audiobook, so that the monster speaks to you as he speaks to Conor, while viewing the illustrations, could offer an enhanced experience. For that reason, it could also be valuable to have an audiobook copy in the collection.

Read Alike


Riggs, R. (2011). Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children. Philadelphia: Quirk Books.

After a family tragedy, Jacob explores an abandoned orphanage on an island off the coast of Wales, and learns disturbing truths about the children who lived there.

Shared appeal terms: Illustrated books, 7-12 grade levels, books to movies, teenage boys. Found from an article of read alikes on the NYPL website.