One of the coolest things about the library field is that people are so willing to share their great ideas for others to copy. I come out of every YASF meeting with at least three ideas I’m planning to jack from some other library. And I don’t even have to hide it from them; stealing is considered a compliment!
We decided we should use the power of the Internet to bring the thrill of sharing a successful idea outside of those meetings. If you’re an Illinois library staff member serving teens who has done something cool you want to share, let us know on our Contact Form.
The Ask / Ask Me Anything
One prime example of a contagious program idea is The Ask. It began at Addison Public Library with Teen Librarians Elizabeth Lynch and Courtney Moore. Courtney describes the program to teens like this: “It’s all the questions you don’t want to ask your parents, your friends don’t know, and Google is scary…answered by professionals who don’t judge.”
This is their newsletter description of the program:
“Get real answers to all the questions you were too afraid to ask. Honest experts from the health department and local colleges will answer your anonymous questions about relationships, dating, and growing up. You can submit questions at the event or online at: (insert Google Forms link here)”
Elizabeth shared a story about the impact of The Ask: “This month, I was handing a girl a card with info on YWCA sexual assault services and she told me she already had the card and had called, because she heard about it at The Ask. I keep all these stats and stuff, but its times like this that convince me the program is really important.”
Becky Oberhauser of Cary Area Public Library shared this write-up of her successful teen job fair for all of us to steal admire!Thanks, Becky!
The Cary Area Public Library has successfully completed three annual Teen Job Fairs. We’ve had between 98 and 118 teens in attendance every year and between 9 and 12 businesses. Each year we get a lot of positive comments from parents, teens, and the businesses, and are absolutely blown away by all of this feedback. Teens who got jobs at the first year’s fair are now representing the business at consecutive fairs – generally about 33-50% of teens land a job through this process.
We presented our model for running a successful job fair at the 2019 IYSI conference in Bloomington, IL. Our presentation and material from IYSI can be found here, but here’s a run down of some tips and tricks for planning a successful event:
Get an in with the businesses. Jeanne Pierce, our Business Liaison, was inspired to create the Job Fair by hearing from the Chamber of Commerce that local businesses needed a better way to find qualified teen candidates. Through a continued connection with the Chamber of Commerce (attending meetings and networking events) she has been able to promote the job fair months in advanced and personally invite businesses to join.
Use email as a last resort. When initiating contact with a business, it’s important to note that your emails are very easy to ignore. If you can’t meet hiring managers through an outlet like a Chamber of Commerce, make a point to go into their business and inform them of the job fair face to face. This process can be tiring but it is how we got two solid businesses (Target and Petco) on board with this year’s fair.
Educate your teens about interview etiquette. To make sure our teens are job-ready candidates, we run an educational workshop, Job Fair 101, before our event. We do one weeknight session and one weekend session and have found it successful to invite hiring managers to answer questions teens might have. During this event we talk to teens about how to present themselves (with an emphasis on appropriate dress), information they will need to fill out applications, interview questions, and what happens after the interview. We notice that teens who attend the workshop are more prepared on the day of the fair and make really good impressions with hiring managers.
Create a timeline. We find that we need 6 months to prepare. Less time puts you in a real crunch and most businesses can’t attend the event if they only find out about it a month before hand.
Promote through the schools. We find that the widest reach we get with promotion for this event is through school email blasts. These blasts not only reach the students, but also parents. Parents knowing about an event like this is a huge driver for attendance. We got an in with our local high school through the head of their work-study program. He is the Cooperative Education Division Leader and we initially contacted him to find out what kind of job seeking preparation is provided by the school. We have worked to foster this relationship and give back to the school by doing a presentation on job preparation and resumes at their Post-Secondary Day. With this kind of back and forth, we can trust that he is reliable about pushing our promotions out to students and parents.
Jude was seven when her
parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to
live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude
wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many
of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and
wickedest son of the High King.
To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.
Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions,
she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as
betrayal threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will
need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and
This is one of those books where you can hand it to a teen, tell them to read the Prologue, and walk away. That’s all you need to do. If they aren’t hooked after reading that, then you are never going to convince them to read this book. But they’ll probably be hooked. While there is a fair amount of faerie fiction in YA, what makes this book distinct is that it is told from the perspective of a mortal who is forced to grow up in a faerie land alongside faerie royalty. This isn’t just a fantasy novel, but also a Bildungsroman, as well as a slow building thriller, and more. The characters are as strong as the world. This makes it fantastic for teen appeal. Because you can hand it to a wide variety of teens and sell it to each in a different way – just focus on the appeal. Obviously you can hand it to fantasy lovers (especially those with a penchant for faerie stories). You can give it to the dark brooding outsider and tell them about Jude’s isolation and otherness. This is not a one size fits all novel. I can only assume that it shifts in the hands of whatever reader holds it.
If you told me that Holly Black is a faerie with an ability to glamor her readers, I wouldn’t doubt you. I was immediately pulled into a story that is atypical to what I generally gravitate toward. Often in a book I love, there are really strong characters, a premise unlike anything I’ve ever read before, or an amazing world that I want to know more about. Black’s writing contains magic that weaves all of these together into an ethereal story.
The thing that most amazes me about Black’s writing is her ability to create new worlds within the world we know in a way where you do not realize that she is creating a new world. A lot of it feels like a twisted familiar fairytale. Some of it takes place in the world that we occupy as mortals so we know that one. Then there are portions of the story that are new but they are so interesting and enchanting, that you can’t help but want travel further inside the High Court of Faerie. It is a place that simultaneously feels familiar and brand new.
I love a book where the characters are multifaceted. Where you are sure they are one thing and they ultimately contain multitudes. While I understand the use of tropes in writing, it often results in side characters that lack dimension. You will find none of that here. All of these characters are fully developed and full of surprises. That being said, I had trouble keeping track of who was who sometimes. That’s probably more on me than on the book, though, because I don’t do well when everyone is magic and royalty and fantasy and I can’t figure out who is the most important and who is related to who. I get it, though. She doesn’t want you to know that the cruel prince is THE cruel prince from the jump. I figured it out by the end of the book, though.
Figuring out the “if you like” business was hard for this book. I could think of other books that were similar but no movies or tv shows or fandoms or anything came directly to mind. The one thing that I did think was – If you like Once Upon A Time, then read The Cruel Prince. To me it has a similar line between the magic world and the mortal world and a fairytale darkness that you find in the book.
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
Jane McKeene was born
two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg
and Chancellorsville—derailing the War Between the States and changing
America forever. In this new nation, safety for all depends on the work
of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Reeducation Act require
certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead.
But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an
Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the
well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane.
After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman
could save her from society’s expectations.
But that’s not a
life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston’s
School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky
home and doesn’t pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities,
with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the
dead rose. But when families around Baltimore County begin to go
missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds
her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies. And
the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.
I know first-hand the appeal of this book because I have handed it to many many teens. All you have to say is “What happens if instead of the Civil War never officially ended because dead soldiers started rising up from the battlefields as zombies?” That’s usually all it takes. But if you have a teen that likes a dystopian novel or a strong female protagonist, this works for that too.
Ireland is a fantastic writer. There was no part of this book that I could not picture as I was reading. It went in a totally different direction than I thought it would when I started and I’m eager to read more. You can read deep into the metaphor and symbolism of the story if that is the kind of reader you are but you can also just enjoy an alternate history book with zombies. Or you can fall somewhere in between. That is a mark of a great book.
The brilliance of this novel takes place in its world. It is our world. Our America. Our history. But instead of the American Civil War of brothers vs. brothers ending in the North’s victory over the South, dead soldiers started rising off the battlefields and trying to eat those brothers. It makes perfect sense that in this time in America that (unlike in novels like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) that they would have sent BIPOC to fight the shamblers aka zombies. I love the small nuances like not having horse drawn carriages because (of course) they would have been one of the first victims of zombie attacks as well as mentions of scientists like Edison and Pasteur and how their work shifted because of the zombie infestation.
The characters are fantastic and layered. As you read, subtle layers begin to peel away to reveal their more complex selves. Nobody is exactly who you think they are and there are constant surprises and revelations. Even the zombies can be a bit surprising as they don’t always behave in ways that typical zombies do. Well, except for the awful racist white men. They stay true to themselves but readers wouldn’t believe or accept anything else. If you like The Walking Dead, then read Dread Nation. That feels like the thing that you are supposed to say but what I really want to say is that I just saw a preview for a new show coming out through Netflix next year called Kingdom that is a medieval Korean zombie series and I think it has a lot in common with Dread Nation. So, put that on your radar now.
The Winner: dread Nationby justina Ireland
This was such a difficult decision because despite neither of them falling into what I would normally consider “my” genre, I really enjoyed them both. Despite one being a Dark Faerie Fantasy and the other being a Zombie-based Alternate History they actually had so much in common. They are both the first book in a series. There are two heroes put in a circumstance beyond their control because of the situation of their birth where they had to face beings that were not like them and fight to survive. Not just fight but be trained in combat for the betterment of the world they live in. Both Jane and Jude have to carefully consider who to trust in a non-native land. Both novels are dark and slightly terrifying. Jeeze, even their names are similar.
How do you decide? This is one of those picking your favorite child situations. How can you compare two things that are so fantastic and simultaneously so different while being so alike? Huh? How do you do it?
For me, my decision ultimately came down to two things:
1) How likely am I to read the rest of the series?
It takes a really special book for me to read beyond the first in a series. I can count the number of series that I have read in their entirety on one hand. And one of them is Harry Potter so that basically doesn’t count. As far as these books are concerned, I am pretty likely to continue reading both series but only because I was told that The Wicked King is better than The Cruel Prince. If I hadn’t know that, I probably wouldn’t have considered reading on. I definitely planned to continue reading Dread Nation. So, there’s that.
2) Was there anything negative about the reading experience for either book?
Really, this is very nitpicky. But Cruel Prince lost me a couple of times as far as characters were concerned. I couldn’t remember who was who when it came to faeries and what their role in the kingdoms were. Eventually, I kind of sorted it out but that was mostly because ***spoiler alert*** a bunch of people die. It’s easier to keep track of people when there are fewer of them there.
So, because of these two factors, and because it is literally my job to pick one the winner is . . . Dread Nation.
Becca Boland is the Assistant Head of Popular Materials/Teen Librarian at the Ela Area Public Library. She loves reading, libraries, and talks about both of these things in her library’s podcast, Three Books. When she has a spare moment, she’s probably knitting something. You can find her as WoolPierogi on all of the things.
At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.
With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth–that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.
But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?
American Panda had a lot of qualities that most teen books don’t have, namely humor and a college setting. I loved that the author, Gloria Ghao, attended MIT (just like Mei!), became a dentist, and then switched careers and is now a writer. I’m guessing there’s a lot of herself in Mei, which makes American Panda’s main character feel very relatable and real. I do wish more of the Chinese culture in the book had been explained. I found myself turning to Google for help (and learning a lot along the way!) but I’m not sure if the average teen reader would take the time to do that. Overall, I really enjoyed Mei’s exploration of her Chinese culture and her parents’ demanding expectations and how that all plays into her own personal identity.
If you like the coming-of-age / romantic comedy Netflix movies To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and Dumplin’, read American Panda.
The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang
Paris, at the dawn of the modern age:
Sebastian is looking for a bride―or rather, his parents are looking for
one for him. Sebastian is too busy hiding his secret life from
everyone. At night he puts on daring dresses and takes Paris by storm as
the fabulous Lady Crystallia―the hottest fashion icon in the world
capital of fashion!
Sebastian’s secret weapon (and best friend)
is the brilliant dressmaker Frances―one of only two people who know the
truth: sometimes this boy wears dresses. But Frances dreams of
greatness, and being someone’s secret weapon means being a secret.
Forever. How long can Frances defer her dreams to protect a friend? Jen
Wang weaves an exuberantly romantic tale of identity, young love, art,
and family. A fairy tale for any age, The Prince and the Dressmaker will steal your heart.
The Prince and the Dressmaker is a graphic novel with stunning illustrations and fantastic characterization. I was immediately drawn into Frances and Prince Sebastian’s stories, rooting for both of them the entire time. Frances is a strong, creative, hard working dreamer who hopes to be a successful clothes designer. Prince Sebastian is confident and sure of himself (especially as Lady Crystallia), except when it comes to his parents and the role he must play in their kingdom. Prince Sebastian explains his gender fluidity to Frances so clearly: “Some days I look at myself in the mirror and think, ‘That’s me, Prince Sebastian!’ I wear boy clothes and look like my father. Other days it doesn’t feel right at all. Those days I feel like I’m actually…a princess.” I loved that simple explanation. The scene where Prince Sebastian is outed without his consent is intense and I do wonder if that part of the story could’ve been told in a different way. Overall, I loved this romantic story of self-discovery and acceptance. It has found a wide audience at my library.
Trigger warning: Prince Sebastian is outed without his consent. If you like the TV shows Once Upon a Time, Project Runway, and Queer Eye, read The Prince and the Dressmaker.
The Winner: The Prince and the Dressmakerby Jen Wang
I found a lot of similarities between these two stories. Both Sebastian in The Prince and the Dressmaker and Mei in American Panda ask themselves a similar question when it comes to their families’ expectations: “How am I supposed to live up to that?” They’ve both been born into families that hold them to high standards, whether it be Mei’s parents’ desire for her to be a successful doctor or Sebastian’s parents’ dream that he marry a beautiful princess and become king (no pressure!). They struggle to find the balance between pleasing their parents and choosing their own dreams, but ultimately find a way to follow their own unique path. While both books are very enjoyable and easy to recommend to teen readers, I have to pick The Prince and the Dressmaker as the winner! The illustrations, characterization, and unique story set it apart from the crowd.
Claire Griebler is the Teen Services Librarian at the Park Ridge Public Library. She enjoys romantic comedies, the wisdom of Mister Rogers, and petting all the dogs.
Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.
And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.
Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.
To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.
As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.
In The Cruel Prince, Holly Black creates a faerie world that is darker and more twisted than that we’ve seen before, even from her previous fae tales which were no walk in the sunshine. However in The Cruel Prince, the worldbuilding shines. From rich detail of court politics and lavish clothing to history, education, and food, no stone is left unturned until you find yourself completely enraptured with a world that is lush, enthralling, and utterly terrifying. For teens in particular, this world bounces between the utterly foreign and the frighteningly familiar. It may be high school politics on steroids and with the hovering spectre of death, but contemporary teens will find shadows of their own romances, disappointments, and fears in the cunning shades of Black’s magical world.
Meanwhile from the most minor character to Jude herself, Black draws the reader in with questions that beg to be answered and twists that you never see coming. As you invest more and more into Jude and her struggles between humanity and fae ethics, you see that she is not the only one struggling with the right choices in a morally bankrupt world that is both so similar and so different from our own. Readers who are called to complex politics and moral gray areas in their YA novels will find themselves sucked in, even if they’re not fantasy fans. There is a reason why Holly Black is a juggernaut of YA literature as that the writing quality both stuns and enraptures.
The book begs to be made into a sweeping ‘Game of Thrones’esque fantasy epic with sweeping costumes, jaw-dropping sets, lush music, and the full trappings of prestige TV.
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.
But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.
Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.
Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy.
Themes of fighting evil governments run rampant in YA novels, but in Children of Blood and Bone, Adeyemi is able to bring something new and creative to the table. Zelie and her cohorts are more than just chess pieces on a board, they are enveloped in rich culture that strengthens their actions. And so it is the social justice themes of racism, resistance, and oppression that are the star here. The novel challenges the reader to think of Zelie’s plight and quest and creates clear parallels to our own world. The history and culture of magic that bursts forth from the first few pages helps to reinforce these themes without ever becoming preachy or offering pat solutions. And the result is something that captures the reader’s attention fully.
Overall the writing quality is strong, especially considering that this is Adeyemi’s first novel. Nigerian mythology creates fertile ground for worldbuilding and the occasional trips into melodrama can be forgiven with the strength of the worldbuilding and themes. The journey is a page-turner and readers who like fast-paced fantasy will be unable to put it down. Meanwhile teen fans of social justice novels and those fans of fantasy classics will find surprising overlap here as Adeyemi updates a ‘Lord of the Rings’eque adventure quest for a modern intersectional era.
The book would also make a great graphic novel, particularly if it could bring the shadows and magics of Orisha to life with the same style that grips the reader from cover art. The woodcut feeling mixed with intricate gold design would create a truly spectacular read in the way only comics can.
The Winner: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
While both books deal with magic, royal power, and a female protagonist having to navigate a complex moral choices, the characters in The Cruel Prince feel more developed. Jude’s strength, complexity, and even hypocrisy draws the reader in for a female character who is crafty, intelligent, and as cruel as the world she inhabits. But even the side characters remain well-crafted and consistent even when being manipulated by others. The masterful plot begs to be read again and the subtlety leaves the reader wanting more.
Sarah Stumpf is a Teen Services Librarian for the Rockford Public Library who buys all the YA and children’s books for a 5 branch system. She obtained her BA from the University of Wisconsin and her MLS from Indiana University. When she’s not up to her eyeballs in diverse comics, you can find her gardening, biking, or geeking out with her two great kids.