MakerSpace… Cheap & Easy

f5cc0689-522f-4756-92b8-9d57abfc4b7a-70b8ce6b-063a-4df6-9bd1-5d1b81f7f614-v1MakerSpace has been the the hot thing for a couple of years now. We see it EVERYWHERE! But I think everyone has the same question… “Ok, I have a space for my Makers, now what do I do with it?” MakerSpaces look different every where you go. They can be heavy on the technology with 3d printers, robotics, coding, etc. MakerSpaces can be filled with trash to treasure finds like papertowel rolls and tissue paper. Or MakerSpaces can be as simple as coloring pages and donated board games. But no matter what YOUR MakerSpace looks like the biggest issue every librarian has is… budget! Where in the world do we get the money to purchase items to build a MakerSpace and not take away from our priority of books?

When I first started the MakerSpace in my junior high library, it consisted of board games donated by staff and a whole lot of origami. To this day, the board games are still the most popular activity in MakerSpace. Some of the board games that I have in my library MakerSpace include: Checkers, Chess, Connect Four, Uno, Mancala, Jenga, and just regular playing cards. I know that games aren’t really “maker” activities, but playing board games requires collaboration. I’m amazed when I see students come to the library before school or during study hall and start playing games together, especially students who you would never see sit together at lunch or talk to eachother in the halls. I hate to sound sentimental, but I have seen friendships grow over a simple game of chess in the library.

Another cheap and easy activity that we do in MakerSpace is origami. All you need is some paper and a youtube video; and the students can make the most interesting creations. Below I have linked several popular origami activities that have been a big success in my library. I did not create these tutorials, but just happened to come across them on a Google search.

Corner Bookmarks –
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Flextangles –
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Book Page Flowers –
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Ninja Stars – 
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Cubee Craft –
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NSFW? YA Books That Have…

The beauty of being a school librarian is that you have a variety of readers in unique communities.  But along with beauty comes the part where books you may want in the library will possibly become a barrage of parental and administrative emails asking, “Why is this book in the library?”  Whether softly or loudly, this has been spoken to most of us.  Defending a book is part of our jobs as librarians and ALA supports us with their Freedom to Read Statement

Librarians also come in all types and perspectives.  There are some who don’t bat an eye at a book and will put it in the collection, while others may reconsider adding it because of content deemed too mature for particular audiences.  But still, we can’t read every book and often rely on others to help with information that may help.

So here is are list of books I’ve read that I think were ALL EXCELLENT READS.  Each of them contains a scene/scenes sexual in nature.   I am NOT here to create a booklist of challenged/censored books, so please don’t jump to that conclusion. In fact, I also added why I would recommend this book to teens/libraries.  So, for those out there who may want to know, this is for you.  And those who don’t really care if sex is a part of a YA novel, this is also for you.


34323570Furyborn by Claire Legrand

2018, Sourcebooks Fire

Genre: Fantasy

Link to publisher summary

Professional reviews for this book include School Library Journal and Booklist.  Is included on Goodreads Most Anticipated Title of Spring 2018 and Buzzfeed’s Most Anticipated Title of Spring 2018.  It was also listed on the New York Times Bestseller’s List.

From this blogger:  I absolutely loved the way the author weaved together past and present, good and evil, and love and hate in a beautifully written fantasy book.  The world Legrand creates is one that doesn’t complicate, but creates a structure where readers will look for more stories to complete the picture. Looking forward to more novels to follow.  Recommended for HS



Downtime by Barry Lyga

2018 Hatchette

Genre: Thriller

Link to publisher summary of audiobook (this is the format I used)

I couldn’t find any professional reviews for this.  It could be because it is in e-book and audiobook format only because it’s a short prequel.  I was eager to listen to it because I absolutely loved his Jasper Dent I Hunt Killers series.  This book is about his father, Billy Dent, and the beginning of his murderous killing spree as a super serial killer.

From this blogger:  One of my favorite genres, Lyga doesn’t disappoint with this prequel.  After reading his IHK series, he allows the reader a peek into the socio and psychopathic mind of Jasper’s father and creates a link for the reader depicting Jasper as an infant and the relationship that begins from the onset.




The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

2018, HarperTeen

Genre: Realistic Fiction; Novel in Verse

Link to publisher summary

Professional reviews for this book include Booklist, Hornbook and School Library Journal.  This is a National Book Award Longlist title

From this blogger:  Acevedo is able to take the reader through the list of Xiomara trying to balance her families expectations against the cultural teen norms she wants to be a part of.  Diversity plays a huge role in this eloquent novel in verse and how society and culture play a crucial role in a young girl’s/teenager life.  HIGHLY recommended for HS.



Words on Bathroom Walls by Julia Walton

2017, Random House Books for Young Readers

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Link to publisher summary

Professional reviews for this book include Booklist, Publisher’s Weekly, and School Library Journal.  This book is also on YALSA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults 2018 list and is in post producation as a movie (release date unknown).

From this blogger:  Schizophrenia is a word people know, but very few really understand.  The journey Walton takes us on through the Adam’s diary to his psychiatrist (and postscripts by the doctor as well) shows the triumphs and difficulties of this mental illness.  The reader will walk alongside Adam through his ups and downs with medicine, family, and relationships, as well as a new school experience he must find his way through. HIGHLY recommended for HS.


31145130Shattered Warrior by Sharon Shinn

2017, First Second

Genre: Science Fiction; graphic novel

link to publisher summary (parent company)

Professional reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, and School Library Journal.

From this blogger:  Earth is forever changed by the Derichets, intent on mining resources for their own gain.  Shinn does an excellent job of depicting that life and how societal structures have crumbled and the mighty have fallen.  Survival is tantamount serving the Derichets, but at what cost?  Resistance is critical, despite their past lives, where Colleen and Jann must make decisions together that could be the key to saving lives.  (sidenote:  there’s a boob shot in this one, on a single panel).  Recommended for JH/HS.

Amazing Library Ideas for K-12!

The best part of my job is being able to visit with librarians and talk with them about anything from programs to books and how I can help.  One of the benefits of visiting them is seeing the amazing things they come up with!  Library spaces should capture the heart of the reader, the creator, those who study, and those who teach.  These ideas help do that.  The best part of being a librarian is that there is always a willingness to share with not only their community, but beyond that.  Here are a few things I’ve seen this year that librarians have shared with me:

This librarian at an elementary school took a couple of noodles and put them around a table to keep puzzle pieces on the table!  This could also be great with makerspaces that have lots of components and so many other things.


Another elementary librarian added visual cues to popular chapter books to make them easier to find for kids by adding the book covers to the bins they’re housed in.



This high school librarian took book ends and got her teens to paint a representation of their favorite book on it during Teen Read Week.
Another high school librarian made shelves more interesting by putting some great folded book art at the end caps.


A beginning of the year bulletin board not only had teachers sharing their favorite books, but they also got to know the new librarian better!


I saw this at a high school, but it have universal appeal at any grade level.


Encourage reading through sharing! Take some cardboard letters, decoupage book covers, add ribbon and clips and let students and teachers share their favorite books. This was hung right by the entrance/exit doors.


This homemade art installation was made in the spring, but think about the possibilities for all seasons to liven up the library a little


This wall is dedicated to sharing books through recommendations, including a starred review. Simple clipboards and supplies included.


If you want to get kids interested in simple makerspaces, why not do what this librarian (and co-blogger) did by setting out QR codes around the library to Youtube videos to create cool origami.

PG Rated Romances

swoonWhen I was in middle school (back when JNCOS were popular) if you said you were “going out” with a boy it meant you wrote his name all over your binder with little hearts, held hands in the hallway, and maybe you even passed notes between classes; but you never actually went out anywhere. Middle school kids today are about ten years more experienced than I was at that same age. Kids today are exposed to so much more language, violence, and sex in their lives through television, the Internet, and yes… books! It’s difficult to know where the line is for students in middle school because they think they’re too mature for some age-appropriate books and not old enough for some YA books. I’m a full supporter of giving students the right to choose their own books, but I will draw a line at books with sex scenes that will make even this librarian blush. So here is my list of middle school appropriate romances, if you know of good books that I might have missed, please let me know so I can make sure to add them to my library collection. I’ve included age ratings from School Library Journal (SLJ) and Common Sense Media (CSM) and book summaries from Follett.


To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
 series by Jenny Han
“Lara Jean writes love letters to all the boys she has loved and then hides them in a hatbox until one day those letters are accidentally sent.” Netflix movie available 8/19/2018. SLJ: grades 7-10    CSM: ages 13+ 



P.S. I Like You
by Kasie West
“Every day in chemistry class, high school student and aspiring songwriter Lily Abbott is finding notes left to her by a mystery boy, love letters really, and she hopes they are from Lucas, a boy she is attracted to–so when she finds out who they are really from, she is shocked and unsure about how to respond.” I recommend all of Kasie West’s books. SLJ: grades 7-10    CSM: ages 12+

The Selection
 series by Kiera Cass
“Sixteen-year-old America Singer is living in the caste-divided nation of Illea, which formed after the war that destroyed the United States. America is chosen to compete in the Selection–a contest to see which girl can win the heart of Illea’s prince–but all she really wants is a chance for a future with her secret love, Aspen, who is a caste below her.” Also check out The Siren by Kiera Cass SLJ: grades 8+    CSM: ages 13+ 

Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight
by Jennifer E. Smith
“Hadley and Oliver fall in love on the flight from New York to London, but after a cinematic kiss they lose track of each other at the airport until fate brings them back together on a very momentous day.” SLJ: grades 8-11    CSM: N/A 


Well, that Was Awkward
by Rachel
“There are unexpected consequences when thirteen-year-old Gracie sends texts pretending to be her bashful best friend, Sienna, and their friend Emmett starts texting back pretending to be shy A.J.” SLJ: grades 5-8    CSM: 11+ 


Project (Un)popular 
series by Kristen Tracy
“Sixth-graders Perry and Venice, photographers for their middle-school yearbook, are frustrated to learn that only pictures of popular students are welcome, but when Venice gets involved with a boy Perry doesn’t like, Perry puts their friendship at risk by siding with Anya, the editor-in-chief.” SLJ: grades 5-8    CSM: N/A


The Summer I Turned Pretty (Summer, #1)
The Summer I Turned Pretty
series by Jenny Han

“Belly spends the summer she turns sixteen at the beach just like every other summer of her life, but this time things are very different as she finds herself falling for a boy she has known since childhood.” SLJ: grades 5-8    CSM: N/A

Gimme More Middle School Titles!

I have been thinking about expanding what I read.  As you may know, I absolutely LOVE young adult literature, especially targeting teens.  But then I thought, “Hey!  Wait a minute!!  Young adults aren’t just in high school!”  So middle school, here I come!  And here are two titles I read that made me REALLY enjoy reading middle school titles (and they made me laugh too!!)

24 hours24 Hours in Nowhere by Dusti Bowling.  2018, Sterling Children’s Books

The town of Nowhere is exactly located where it says it is in the state of Arizona.  It’s a town where “no” precedes a lot of things.  No one wants to visit it.  No thing really exciting ever happens.  But at the start of the day, Gus finds himself in a spectacular situation.  He is about to eat a cholla cactus.  No because he wants to, but because Bo Taylor is making him.  And it’s about to happen until Rossi saves him the only way she can.  She gives Bo her dirt bike in exchange for a life.  And the day keeps getting better.

Gus wants so badly to get that dirt bike back for Rossi.  The reason why is because he wants HER to win the next race with a huge prize involved and knows if Rossi isn’t it in, Bo will win.  In order to do that, he decides to find hidden gold currently found only in tales in the Dead Frenchmen Mine (emphasis on dead.)  Bo decides to send one of his buddies with him, and along the way Rossi decides to join.

And what happens in the mine in the rest of the 24 hours of that day….

Bowling writes a novel that contains both humor and the hard parts of life teens go through.  Readers will connect with Gus and his travails with bullying, his life situation without his parents, and his determination to make things right.  And that’s the beauty of this novel that will make you laugh out loud.  Everyone can find themselves in it.  HIGHLY recommended for junior high/middle school libraries.


sam wu

Sam Wu is Not Afraid of Ghosts by Katie and Kevin Tsang.  2018, Egmont, UK

Sam is ready to go visit the Space Center.  He has his Space Blasters suit on and can’t wait to be part of the fun.  Unbeknownst to him, the “fun” is already beginning to percolate for some of his classmates, especially with Ralph Zinkerman.  Once they get there, he dares Sam to take a ride in the Astro Blaster. And Sam, not wanting to look scared, does it.  But he comes out of the situation humiliated and with a new name – Scaredy Cat Sam.

Undaunted (well, a little), Sam decides to channel his inner space hero to prove he’s not scared.  That means getting a side-kick of the most unusual variety.  But it takes more than that, and Sam takes the big step of inviting his best friends over to help him achieve his goal (and show off his side-kick!)  He asks his family to make his favorite dishes for dinner when Zoe and Bernard show up.  And when they do, the humor is amped up!  Enter Sam’s sister Lucy, his grandmother, and the introduction of an Asian family’s culture to his friends who have never experienced it before.

And then add the ghosts!!

Katie and Kevin Tsang write such a gloriously wonderful book for middle graders by creating characters of all kinds and best of all, from all different kinds of backgrounds.  Add a great storyline with some equally great images, and you have the type of book that readers will flock to because who doesn’t like books with pictures AND humor.  This is going to be a great new series!! HIGHLY recommended for middle/junior high school libraries.


Middle School Boys… UGH!

Aren’t middle school boys the worst? I mean they are almost as bad as middle school girls! LOL! But really… you know the type: they come in to the library with their arms crossed, telling everyone how much they hate to read. When they are asked to check out a book, they wander around the library (usually in groups of 3 or 4) and by the end of the class period they have blindly chosen a book off the shelf with absolutely no intent of actually read it.


However, these students are not a lost cause! When I have a student (boy or girl) inform me that they hate to read, I see it as a challenge! I usually start by asking the student about their hobbies or favorite TV shows. I try to get an idea of what the student’s interests are before suggesting books, and I always suggest more than one! Give them three options, allow them to pick a favorite. If you hand a kid one book and tell them to check it out, what happens if the kid doesn’t want that book, or ends up not liking it; your credibility has just gone down the drain and they will never ask you for another book recommendation again. I always give them a few choices and if they don’t like the one they picked then it is back on them. I also make sure the students understands it is a “no pressure” choice. If they aren’t hooked by the first thirty pages then bring it back and I can help them find a different book. I tell my students over and over the worst mistake a reader can make is forcing themselves to finish a book. If you aren’t enjoying the book you have, then you need to abandon it, get rid of it, turn it in and find a new one. Now, there are always those situations when a student thinks they can abandon every book they check out because they just don’t want to read, and that is a whole other conversation!

Now if you have accepted the challenge to help these reluctant readers find a book then I’m here to help with a few of my favorite recommendations for those boys who hate to read. These books are popular with my junior high boys and always my first go-to when it comes to recommending a book. If you know of any other books that are popular with the middle school boys, let me know and I will make sure to add them to my library collection!

Ghost (Track, #1)

Ghost by Jason Reynolds
Ghost wants to be the fastest sprinter on his elite middle school track team, but his past is slowing him down in this first electrifying novel of a brand-new series from Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award–winning author Jason Reynolds.


Zom-B series by Darren Shan
From Darren Shan, the Master of Horror, comes the first book in the Zom-B series that will have you on the edge of your seat and questioning what it means to be a human or a monster.


I Survived series by Lauren Tarshis
History’s most exciting and terrifying events are brought to life in this fictional series. Readers will be transported by stories of amazing children and how they survived!


Vietnam and World War II series by Chris Lynch
Best friends Morris, Rudi, Ivan, and Beck, having been either drafted or enlisted in the military during the Vietnam War, pledge they will come home together, and Morris, a sailor on the USS “Boston,” relies on that promise to stay strong while his courage and resolve are tested under attack.


Shadow Squadron by Carol Bowen
Shadow Squadron hits the ground running in their first mission, operation SEA DEMON. When well-organized Somali pirates kidnap several V.I.Ps at sea, Lt. Commander Ryan Cross and his men are called upon to put these pirates down before innocent blood is shed.

Football Genius (Football Genius, #1)

Football Genius and Baseball Great series by Tim Green
Troy, a sixth-grader with an unusual gift for predicting football plays before they occur, attempts to use his ability to help his favorite team, the Atlanta Falcons, but he must first prove himself to the coach and players.


Kwame Alexander’s novels in verse (The Crossover, Rebound, Booked)
Fourteen-year-old twin basketball stars Josh and Jordan wrestle with highs and lows on and off the court as their father ignores his declining health.

Phase One: Marvel's The Avengers

Marvel’s The Avengers series by Alex Irvine
Gathered together by S.H.I.E.L.D, Captain America, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Black Widow and Hawkeye must protect the world from ultimate destruction. Join the action as these Super Heroes battle against Loki and his army for the fate of mankind as told in Marvel’s The Avengers.

Maximum Ride, Vol. 1 (Maximum Ride: The Manga, #1)

Maximum Ride: The Manga by James Patterson
Fourteen-year-old Maximum Ride, better known as Max, knows what it’s like to soar above the world. She and all the members of the “flock”—Fang, Iggy, Nudge, Gasman and Angel—are just like ordinary kids—only they have wings and can fly. It may seem like a dream come true to some, but their lives can morph into a living nightmare at any time.

One State, Two VERY Different Stories…

Coincidence is an anomaly people don’t really know what to do with, but it happens all of the time.  Sometimes, it’s a good thing, while other times it isn’t as good.  Luckily, my coincidence happened to fall on the good side of things.  I finished reading Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman when I picked up The Impossibility of Us by Katy Upperman.  Coincidentally, both books take place in California, and they are both about current issues relevant in teen’s lives today.  Everything else about these books are on two very separate spectrums.  Here are short reviews for both:


38355098Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman   2018, Simon & Schuster

Alyssa and her family, including her little brother Garrett understand the drought conditions California is having.  They also know about the restrictions the “Tap-Out” has had on their lives.  But that all changes the day she turns on the tap and nothing comes out.  Day One isn’t so bad, but then Day Two happens and panic begins to set in.  By Day Five, people are turning into water zombies….

Rumors of desalination plants along the beach prompt Alyssa’s parents to seek it out, but they never return home.  Now, Alyssa and Garrett go in search of them and their lives, and those of others they are with become deadly.

Alyssa’s neighbors, including their son Kelton, are survivalists and Kelton’s dad has been waiting for the end to happen.  While others around them are literally wasting away, Kelton and his family are doing quite well, until word gets out they have water….

The lives of these teens and her kid brother go from bad to worse, especially when they find themselves entangled with two other strangers, both with quirks in their thinking and personality, which could prove to become more dangerous than they imagined.  The only way to survive it all just have one more sip.

If they can….

Told in various voices, the reader gets to see everything that happens to these characters, including the good and the ugly, and can only wish to help them when all the reader can do is turn to the page to see who lives.  Shusterman (both Neal and son Jarrod) take us straight to the beginning of a dystopic piece of our nation (while in other news, hurricanes are devastating others at the same time).  More than that, he takes the reader into the forefront of current social issues and the possibility of what could happen.  Yes, this is a dark read.  Yes there is horror, but there is also redemption.  And yes…you will re-think your thoughts about potable water, one of the most precious commodities in the world.



35795898The Impossibility of Us by Katy Upperman    2018, Swoon Reads

Elise’s mother has just told her they are moving.  What makes it worse is that they’re moving her senior year.  Elise is devastated by this news, but at the same time, she also knows it’s for the best.  They’ll be living in the same town as her adorable niece she loves and her sister-in-law.  But there’s one person who’s missing and always will.

Elise’s brother joined the armed forces and during his time in Afghanistan, he was killed.  No one really know how or why, but that’s something Elise really doesn’t want to know.  She has enough to deal with in real life, including her distant mother and now, this trip.  No friends, an empty summer.  The only thing that is making her summer bearable is the new puppy her mom got her.

And one day on the beach, she sees a stranger step into the cold water of the Pacific and doesn’t stop.  Without thinking twice, Elise jumps in to rescue this person, whose name it Mati.  When they start talking to each other, Elise recoils when she finds out he’s from Afghanistan, the same country…the same people, who killed her brother.

Since moving to this small seaside town, he and his family haven’t been shown a lot of kindness from the community.  Stereotypes, prejudices and anger make his family’s life difficult and Mati is both confused and depressed by it.  Until he meets Elise.  Has has to make her realize that stereotypes are often wrong, and all it takes is a handful of sand.

Together, they make each other’s lives fuller and richer but they still have many  obstacles to overcome on both sides.  Mati’s family is very traditional, and Elise isn’t welcomed with open arms. Because of Mati’s heritage, Elise’s family don’t want to have anything to do with him.  Can they make a difference, even within their own personal circles?

This book is more than just a summer romance. It’s a snapshot of real life, real prejudices, and being able to see the world through two perspectives. Upperman stitches together a girl who has lost her brother t the war in Afghanistan with a young man living in the US from Afghanistan. Elise’s voice is written in prose and shows the gutsy person she is. Mati’s voice is written in narrative poetry and reflects the person he is. LOVED this book about love, prejudice, and racism of two families and how these teens transcend it.