12 to 18: Meeting the Distinct Needs of the Early and Late Teen Years

Three colleagues and I spoke at the Illinois Library Association’s annual conference this month. Our presentation, “12 to 18: Meeting the Distinct Needs of the Early and Late Teen Years,” was about why and how to differentiate services to younger teens/middle schoolers and older teens/high schoolers in the public library. I had such a great time hearing what other library professionals had to say on a subject close to my heart.

You can view our slides here: 12 to18 _ILA 2017_Slides

I also created a list of selected titles and authors with special middle school appeal, which you can view here: Middle School Favorite Titles

Please use and share!

Brief Hiatus and Summer Reading Booktalks

It’s been a month since my last post and it definitely has nothing to do with Persona 5. Nope. Definitely not.

Okay, so it IS pretty distracting when a game you’ve waited nine years for comes out, but honestly it was just in time to give me something to look forward to at the end of the day during a stressful few weeks. Last month I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo, then I had to unexpectedly find a new apartment and roommate. At the library, it’s summer reading booktalk time–I spent five full days booktalking at the middle schools! Plus there’s other summer reading prep and a newsletter deadline looming.

Aside from the newsletter deadline, things have settled down, but I’m pretty low on energy and motivation after all that. I’m going to take a week or two off before I resume regular posting.

In the meantime, here are some of my most successful booktalk books of this year’s summer reading school visits.

Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction by John Austin — all grades

I made a few of the projects in here and showed them off, which really got the kids’ attention. The teachers were good-humored about it…I think…

The Haunting of Sunshine Girl by Paige McKenzie — grades 6 and 7

I don’t know why they aren’t publishing more horror. The kids have a huge appetite for it. This one was written by a teenager and is based on her YouTube channel.

To Stay Alive: Mary Ann Graves and the Tragic Journey of the Donner Party by Skila Brown — all grades

I’ll be interested to see how many kids actually read this one, but it makes a GREAT booktalk. I suggest heavily implying the cannibalism part and then letting them figure it out themselves. The “ughhh!”s when the first few kids figure it out are very entertaining.

Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen by Jazz Jennings — grades 7 and 8

This one sparked a lot of interest and conversation. There were also several students who said they love Jazz. Unfortunately, a teacher and I had to tell off a few kids for snickering over this one, which was very disappointing. (It was actually more the teacher than me. I was trying to be subtle about it, but she WENT IN. She was a bamf.) This is a great book, and talking about it is a great way to help normalize LGBT lifestyles.

Every Falling Star: The True Story of How I Survived and Escaped North Korea by Sungju Lee — all grades

I was surprised and plIeased by the amount of interest in this one. It’s entertaining, educational, and eye-opening–a great book that has sort of flown under the radar so far.

I am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President by Josh Lieb — grades 6 and 7

The initial draw of this one was obviously the title. I started with just a booktalk, but ended up adding in an excerpt and showing one of the photos in the book, because I found I wasn’t able to adequately capture Oliver’s voice otherwise. I got mixed results when it came to audience laughter, but I’ve already had several kids at the library asking for it so it must have worked. Fair warning: this one’s surprisingly raunchy, considering the target audience.

A Night Divided by Jennifer Nielsen — grades 6 and 7

This is a super easy sell and addresses a little-covered part of history. It’s been making the rounds on the state award lists, too.

Ghost by Jason Reynolds — grades 6 and 7

This is short and about sports, so great for a lot of reluctant readers. Added bonus: it has an African-American protagonist, diverse cast, and urban setting. My community is sadly pretty homogeneous, so I’m always looking for good books to help them see the world from the points of view of Americans from different walks of life.

What books are you promoting for this summer?

New Titles for Middle Schoolers

Check out these new releases for middle schoolers!

Ashes by Laurie Halse Anderson – Finally, the lat book in the Seeds of American trilogy is here! With the Black Lives Matter movement and racial tension in the U.S., this series is more eye-opening than ever before.

The Silver Eyes by Scott Cawthon – This probably won’t be winning any awards, but a novel based on the hit Five Nights at Freddy’s games is a sure bet with its legions of middle school fans.

Projekt 1065 by Alan Gratz – The author of Prisoner B-3087 brings us another titles with a bunch of numbers nobody’s going to remember. This should be a good choice for World War II buffs and historical fiction projects.

Still a Work in Progress by Jo Knowles – A new book by the author of the heartbreaking See You at Harry’s? Yes, please!

Falling Over Sideways by Jordan Sonnenblick – Jordan Sonnenblick brings us his usual humor and drama, this time from a female point of view.

Sting by Jude Watson (Loot book 2) – Loot found lots of fans in grades 4-6 at my library.


Everything You Need to Ace … in One Big Fat Notebook series – If you live in an academically-minded community like mine, expect these to circulate well.  They are full of cute doodles and have a lighthearted attitude that will keep kids engaged.


More titles to check out:

Fashion Rebels by Carlyn Cerniglia Beccia

Truth of Dare by Barbara Dee

Riding Chance by Christine Kendall

Last Man Out by Mike Lupica

The Plot to Kill Hitler: Dietrich Bonhoeffer–Pastor, Spy, Unlikely Hero by Patricia McCormick

Write This Down by Claudia Mills

The Middle School Student’s Guide to Academic Success by Blake Nemelka

The Scourge by Jennifer A. Nielsen

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe by Ryan North

The Capybara Conspiracy by Erica S. Perl

Snow White by Matt Phelan

The Creeping Shadow by Jonathan Stroud (Lockwood & Co. book 4)

Top Prospect by Paul Volponi


You can find info on some of these books and many others at the Book Release Calendar at Nerdy Book Club.

Banned Books for Middle Schoolers

Happy Banned Books Week!

There’s a certain set of middle schoolers who are more inclined to do anything that they think they’re not supposed to. So here’s a pitch for you: let them know that somebody didn’t want them reading these books!

Here are some suggestions of banned books for middle schooler readers, plus some helpful commentary on why you shouldn’t (read: should) read them. Continue reading