Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Okay, I admit it. I am a Sarah Dessen fanatic. I am  that patron that waits around the circ desk for every new Sarah Dessen novel.  Recently, Ms. S. gave me an advanced copy of the new Dessen.  
(I have the best job & work with the best people).  

Book Talk 

Sydney has always felt invisible.

Sydney's brother, Peyton, has always been the focus of the family’s attention and, lately, a concern. Peyton is handsome and charismatic, but seems bent on self-destruction. Now, after a drunk-driving accident that crippled a boy, Peyton’s serving some serious jail time, and Sydney is on her own, questioning her place in the family and the world.

When Sydney meets the Chatham family, she is quickly drawn into their warm, chaotic circle, and Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance for the first time. There’s effervescent Layla, who constantly falls for the wrong guy, Rosie, who’s had her own fall from grace, and Mrs. Chatham, who even though ailing is the heart of the family. But it’s with older brother Mac—quiet, watchful, and protective—that Sydney finally feels seen, really seen, at last. Sydney must now try and navigate her new place and find her voice to apologize to the victim of her brother's accident. 

Book talk provided by Amazon


In a Sarah Dessen fashion, Dessen explores the feelings of grief, finding oneself, and renewal. I think this is one of Sarah Dessen's best books since Lock and Key. Although it did have some romance in it, the books focus was on Sydney finding herself and her voice. I enjoyed the depth Dessen added to this novel and I really enjoyed the Chatham family's dynamic.  I think the Chatham family's dynamic was the magic that made this book. 

Although it does have some wonderful elements to it,  it does have some darker elements to it as well. 

These elements are no stranger to Dessen. 
I feel  like  it is reminiscent of some of Dessen's previous works such as  Just Listen or Dreamland. I would not suggest this to sensitive readers  

(This is besides for the obvious reasons such as the drunk driving accident & drugs that her brother was involved with) 

There is a scene where Sydney is involved in an attempted rape. I found this portion and the scenes leading up to it to be upsetting. Sydney's best friend also faces some dating woes that hints at some verbal abuse. Even though I felt a little uncomfortable, I felt like it was a great introduction to introduce our teens and tweens to these issues. As we know, these are issues that teens deal with on a daily basis & Dessen's ability to make her books so relatable is what makes her so successful. 

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. I feel like Dessen is back! I look foward to sharing this book with my older teens. 

Look for Dessen's new novel to be released May 5.


The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanna Birdsall

Tweens Read Thursdays

Description from Amazon:

"Springtime is finally arriving on Gardam Street, and there are surprises in store for each member of the family. Some surprises are just wonderful, like neighbor Nick Geiger coming home from war. And some are ridiculous, like Batty’s new dog-walking business. Batty is saving up her dog-walking money for an extra-special surprise for her family, which she plans to present on her upcoming birthday. But when some unwelcome surprises make themselves known, the best-laid plans fall apart."

My awesome manager, Ms. S. is forever receiving Advance Reader Copies and Galleys and happily let me borrow a copy of "The Penderwicks in Spring." Ever since I discovered the Penderwicks series was receiving a fourth installment back in September, I have been impatiently waiting and trying to time things perfectly so I would be the first on the hold list. (I may or may not have occasionally counted the days until it was going to be released...)  

It was unutterably lovely to return to Gardam street to visit the family Penderwick once again! Ms. Birdsall has resurrected the charm of of books written in an older and simpler time and applied that charm to modern day situations. She weaves beautiful tales that feed the soul of the literature and word lover. The story's quirky humor brought me so much delight! You know a book is going to be good when it contains the following:
  • A character who plays with Star Trek: Next Generation action figures
  • A toddler princess who routinely asserts her will in English, Spanish, and French
  • A chapter titled "Doctor Who and Little Bunny Foo Foo"
What's not to love? This book made me feel giddy, but also made a mess of me. I plunged in with Batty and deeply felt her sorrows and despair. The issues Batty deals with are hard and remind me once again of the very real and unnecessarily weighty burdens tweens often take on themselves. Like Batty, I hope these kids can find release and give these burdens to arms that were intended to carry them.


Please, please, please go and read the Penderwicks series if you have not yet had the pleasure. You are in for a breath of fresh, spring air.


Movies Your Tweens Are Excited About

It is almost here! 

 As I prepare for summer reading, I like to get caught up on my pop culture. 

I really try to strive to stay up on the latest movies, tv shows, and pop culture, but sometimes I feel like I can't keep up. This is especially true during summer reading. 

To prepare, I put together a list of  movies that are releasing this year that your tweens may ask you for. I realize it is a long list, but it is perfect for all of your procrastination needs. ;)

Teen Beach 2 

The Descendants

These two movies are TV movies that will premier on the Disney Channel. 

Inside Out 





(This will also be a Disney Jr. cartoon)

The Peanuts

Ratchet and Clank

I have never heard of this video game before....but now they are making it into a movie?! 


This movie is releasing for the first time in the United States and it 

'Frozen' Wins Grammy

Sorry guys....Frozen is here to stay. It was just announced that a Frozen Tv show will premiere next year. Are you ready for this? 

....but don't think that Nickelodeon is sitting out. Here are a list of some new Nick Shows to be on the look out for: 


Check out these movies coming out in the future! I am already excited. 

Could it be true?...Yes, a Goonies sequel! 



Lego Batman gets his own movie!!! & in 2018 a Lego movie 2 will be released. 

Coming in 2017
Image result for captain underpants movie

The Underpants finally gets a place on the big screen. I can't wait to advertise this one! 

What are you most excited about? 


Cinderella Program

The Inspiration

The minute I heard Disney was creating a live-action Cinderella movie, I began counting down the days until its release. Naturally, I decided it would be absolutely necessary to host a tween Cinderella themed program at the Library to celebrate!

The Program

Sadly, I forgot to take any pictures before or during the program and remembered after I had already begun the process of cleaning up. This was a station-based, primarily passive program. I set up five tables with various stations in our Story Hour Room, which is the department's main programming space.


  • Cinderella and fashion related books to check out
  • Clocks made from printables and old CD's 
  • Design Your Own Dress
    • This was a pretty open ended craft. I put out scissors, glue, different colors of paper, tissue paper, glitter, ribbons, and fashion books with pictures of various kinds of dresses.
  • Cinderella M.A.S.H.
    • Remember the match making game you played as kids? I created my own Cinderellafied/Disneyfied version that allowed Cinderella to honeymoon in exotic locales such as the Pride Lands and included Olaf as an option for Groom, Bridesmaid, and Pet. (Hey, we still all love Frozen and the kids thought it was funny.)
  • Which Disney Princess Are You?
    • Multiple choice quiz
  • Drawing 


Sometimes you have to count the success of a program in lessons learned rather than in patron attendance. This was one such program. For most of the program I only had two kids: one tween and one very young elementary schooler. However, both of these patrons seemed to enjoy themselves. Reflecting on the experience now, I believe I targeted the wrong age group. Since I assumed the new Cinderella movie would be reminiscent of Maleficent, I felt the tween age range would be appropriate. Based on my attendees, I now think it would be more appropriate as K-5 or all ages program.

What about you? What did you think of the movie? Have you tried Disney or fairy tale programming for tweens? We would love to hear from you!


Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool

I am working on a training for my library over the Missouri Mark Twain Award Nominee books. My job is to read all of the Mark Twain Books and prepare to do book talks and outreach programs to promote these Missouri award books

 One thing I was really disappointed in was the lack of resources for the Mark Twain Award books.

My favorite outreach program is something my library calls "Chat and Chew." Once a month,  we pick one of the Mark Twain book awards and we do book discussion with the kids during their lunch. It is a lot of fun, but it requires a lot of work. Lately, I find myself coming up with discussion questions an hour before the outreach visit.

I am a bit of a procrastinator.....but where is a discussion kit when you need it?! 

Knowing I am not the only one who needs discussion questions and activity ideas, I wanted to try and fill this gap. If this helps you, please leave me a comment below. I will continue this series. If not, I will try and focus more on programming  & reviews instead. I want to post things that are useful for you. :)  Without further adieu, here is my discussion resource: 


Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool 

Book Talk

In 1945, twelve year old Jack is suddenly uprooted from his home in Kansas after his mother’s death. His father, who just returned from fighting in WWII, takes Jack to live in a boarding school in Maine. Suddenly, Jack finds himself in a new place with no friends and with a father he barely knows. Everyone that goes to the boarding school already has their group of friends. That is everyone except- a strange boy named Early Auden.

When everyone leaves for fall break, Jack is left alone with Early at the school. Early is determined to go on a quest in the Appalachian Mountains to find a great bear. Jack decides to go with him. This leads to an unforgettable journey where the boys must try and navigate the trail to find the bear, overcome pirates, solve a murder mystery, and try and make it home.


Book Trailer 

Discussion Questions 

In what ways is the state of Maine different from Jack’s home in Kansas? Why do you think the author chose to set the book in Maine?

Why do you think that Early did not go to class? What do you think he does while the rest of the kids are in class?

What are some things that Early & Jack have in common with the character Pi? Do you think that the author did this on purpose? Sometimes on Jack and Early’s journey, it is as if Early can predict what will happen based on his story of Pi. Why do you think that is?

What is a quest? Early’s quest was to find Pi, but did Jack have a quest? Did Gunner?  

Why do you think that Early was inspired to write a story using the numbers pi? Can you tell a story using numbers?

Gunner says, “The ones who are most consumed with their hunt- desperate, you might say- for what they think they are after, it is often a far cry from what they are really after. It is a fact, too, that sometimes, they not really looking for anything at all but are running away from something instead.” (p 169). What do think that Gunner meant by this? Are Early, Gunner, and Jack running from something?

Jack contemplates what is more meaningful. Is it the actual journey or is it finding what you are looking for?

Why didn't Fisher find Early to tell him he was alive? If Early didn't find him, do you think he ever would have came back?

Pi & Fisher believe that they have to work to earn their name. What does this mean? Do you think you have to earn your name? *Bonus question -If you could have any name, what name would you choose? *

Why does Mrs. Johansen think that Jack is her son? Jack’s mom believed that everyone is connected. How is Mrs. Johansen’s story connected to Jack’s? Do you believe that everyone’s story is connected?


When doing a book discussion, I enjoy to bring with me some activities for the kids to bring home with them or to further discuss in the book discussion. Here are some activities you may enjoy to do with this book: 

1. Stargazing

The sky is not a contest or an exam. The only question is, Can you look up? Can you you take it all in? As for the names of constellations, they are not be-all or end-all. The stars, they are not bound one to another. They are meant to be gazed upon. Admired, enjoyed.”  (page 175)

Read this quote and discuss stargazing. Pull out some pictures of the night sky. Can your group find a picture in the stars? Why do we see different things?


Star Finder Game

2. Appalachian Trail

Bring in some pictures of the Application Trail to help the kids be able to in vision the trail. Is it what they imagined? 

Appalachian Trail
Hiking Tips - Discuss hiking tips and camping. What are some things that Early and Jack could have done differently to ensure that they had a safe journey? What are some camping journeys your group has been on? Could they relate to some of the things that happened to Jack and Early's journey?
3. Grizzly Bears

Early and Jack are a on quest to find the biggest bear on the Application Trail. How big can bears get? Spend some time discussing these large bears. In the book, Early thinks this bear symbolizes a mother's love. Why does he think this?

Black Bear Activity Packet  (3rd Grade)

Books Like This One 

I hope this helps!


My Near-Death Adventures by Alison DeCamp

Release Date- February 24, 2015
Age Range- 8-12 year olds
Pages- 246

The Story

“I’m a whiz at not dying,I don't mind saying.In fact, I've survived so many perilous adventures that I'm 95.7 percent certain I'm invincible.”

Set in 1895, 12 year old Stan's life is about to change all thanks to an envelope. An envelope his evil granny is keeping from him. All Stan knows is that because of this envelope, him and his mother must move to a lumber camp. Stan can't hear much to explain why, but he hears the words 'money','fresh start', and, 'worthless Arthur Slater.'
 Hearing these words he can only gather one important piece of information- his father "Arthur Slater" is alive and Stan guesses that he has something to do with the envelope. As Stan moves to a lumber camp with his mom, he documents his life, struggles to find his dad, and proof that becoming a man is a difficult task in this hilarious scrap book.


I dare you to read this book and not laugh. I don't remember ever being in my work break room giggling so much. 

This book is filled with ads from the 1800s that Stanley uses to help document his journey. Stanley's original and hilarious voice will stick with you as you cheer him on in his quest to become a man and find his father. 

One thing I liked about this book is how it addressed gender roles. Stan believes that in order to become a man, he must do manly things. Unfortunately, these aren't always good things. His cousin, Geri, who is aspiring to be a woman doctor, tries to set him straight as they battle out to become their own person. 

I liked this part of the book becase I think a lot of my tweens (both my boys & girls) can relate to this battle of trying to fit into the idea of one's own gender role. I think this book would pair well with another really amazing new book called: Rad American Women. 

Geri mentions a lot of famous ladies in the book to prove to Stan that women can do anything, and I think having a reference like this would be a great way to show that women too can do great things. 

All in all, it is a great book that is flying under the radar. If you are ready for an original laugh, you should pick up this book at your nearest library. 

After laughing so much, I think Alison DeCamp my new author crush. In the spirit of Stan's lists from his book, I have come up with a few reasons why I am 99% that DeCamp is the best new author in middle grade.

  1. She understands tweens & writes stuff like this- Dear Middle Grade Me
  2. She was a middle school teacher
  3. She love books & works at a book store. She even offers that if you call the bookstore she works at, she will sign and personalize a copy of her book for you.
  4. She is hilarious
  5. Her website makes my heart happy ( Gorgeous, right?
  6. She was inspired to write the book from her family history and family stories about their life in lumber camps.
  7. She likes to eat
  8. She compares teenagers to toddlers. (I am glad I am not the only one who thinks this)
  9. Using her teacher experience, she provides a free teaching guide on her website. (
  10. Her book left me wanting more. Lately, middle grade stories feel like they all have the same plot. DeCamp has put a fresh spin on these middle grade themes to come up with something I feel comfortable recommending to all of my tweens that want something funny. I will be waiting impatiently for DeCamp's next book!

In case you need more convincing, here is the book trailer:

Until next time,