Contests, Part Two

Happy summer, everyone! Here is the second half of my article on the contests I run with my middle schoolers.

Fortune Writing Contest. In this contest, students must write a better fortune than the ones they find in traditional fortune cookies. This contest is more of a lift for me, as I need to buy fortune cookies, steam them soft in the microwave so I can extract the original fortune and insert a student-written fortune. It’s such fun, though, to watch kids open a cookie and find a student fortune!

2022 Winner: Look forward, don’t look back, unless you’re driving, then you want to look back when merging. —Mia, 6th

Photo Finish. Before this contest, I hold a lunchtime meeting in which students cut interesting photos out of magazines and catalogs. During the contest, they must choose three photos from among all the cut-out photos, then write a story (at least three sentences!) that incorporates those photos. It’s another colorful contest, with all of those stories posted around the library!

Scenes From a [Virtual] Hat. This pandemic contest came from a game in the TV show, Whose Line Is It, Anyway? With some help from colleagues and AISL, I devised a bunch of prompts, like “Most useless spell Harry Potter could learn,” “Things you don’t expect to hear when you put your ear to a seashell,” and “Scout badges we’ve never heard of.” I loaded them all into a wheel of choice widget that students could spin, and then they had to write a response to whichever prompt they got. This is another one I only ran once, though I would love to run it again!

2020 Winner: Failed ideas for Project Week: Axe throwing. –Hannah, 5th

Six Word Memoirs. This contest was inspired by a book: I Can’t Keep My Own Secrets: Six-Word Memoirs by Teens Famous & Obscure. After some confusion about what a memoir is, though, I retitled the contest; it’s now the “Your Life in a Six Word Sentence” contest, as I was tired of getting lists of words! This contest actually inspires students’ most thoughtful writing, and on occasion, has alerted me to something I think our counselors should look into. You never know what you’re going to get!

2022 Winner: A bit messy, a bit magical.   –Virginia, 7th

Story in a Tweet/Story in Twenty-Five Words. This contest began when tweets were fairly new, with the original length of 140 characters. When that changed, I adapted the contest to keep the challenge of squeezing a whole story into a few words.

2020 Winner: She walked inside the house admiring the furniture, taste-testing the food, and tried out the mattresses. Unfortunately for Goldilocks, she was not at IKEA.  –Emily, 8th

Two-Sentence Horror Stories. An SLJ article by Rozanna Baranets inspired this contest. I challenged students to write either a funny or scary two-sentence horror story. They excelled!

2022 Scary Story Winner: Everyone always asks how many trick or treaters I get. But no one asks how many leave.  –Savannah, 7th

2022 Funny Story Winner: Through the darkness, a silhouette emerged. I screamed in horror as it said: “I’m here to talk about your car’s extended warranty.” –Andrea, 7th

Unlikely Superheroes. This contest came from a game in the TV show, Whose Line Is It, Anyway? I challenge student to create an unlikely superhero with an unlikely power, and a ridiculous crisis for them to solve. Extra points if students write a short story showing how the superhero used their power to solve the crisis. This was a pandemic contest, and though it was a lot of fun, I didn’t get a ton of entries so have only run it once.

2020 Winner: Superhero: Taco Teen, who can create extra spicy tacos out of thin air. The tacos can dissolve enemies from their spicy salsa. Crisis: Two big cutting boards come alive and are trying to poke the city with the extra sharp knives! –Jon, 5th

World Book Contest. This contest requires a full set of World Book encyclopedias in print, with “World Book” written across the combined spines. The challenge is creating new words with the letters available.

Zip Code Poetry. A teacher alerted me to this NPR article about “Zip Odes” in Miami, and it seemed like a great idea for a contest. For this one, students chose a zip code connected with them (home, school, grandparents, etc.), wrote it vertically, and then penned a poem with the same number of words in a line as the corresponding number in the zip code. For zeroes, they could draw a picture or leave it blank. Obviously, this will work better in parts of the country without a lot of zeroes in the zip codes!

2023 Winner:

–Rylie, 7th

Library Contests, Part One

During a recent professional day, when we divided into interest groups, I joined teachers who wanted to talk about SEL. I was so touched when many of them told me that I did a lot for SEL through my low-stakes, brain-break library contests! I have always enjoyed contests, and I try to run one a month during the school year. Connecting them with books, reading, or writing, I use contests to leverage students’ creativity and writing skills in a fun way.

Everyone who enters my contests, whatever their skill level, earns intramural “Green or Gold” points for their efforts. At Overlake, all students are on one “team” or the other, and earn points all year through ASB activities, Field Day, and library contests. I love that my contests help quieter, maybe non-athletic students to shine and earn points for their team. Full disclosure: in addition to points, students also earn small prizes (water bottle stickers, lollipops, key chains, etc.) or one of my homemade cookies. I consider that a significant point of SEL, as well as an encouragement to flex their creative muscles! To pull the biggest possible participant pool, I run all my contests in the cafeteria during lunch. To determine winners, I cull the top 10-12 entries, and send them to faculty for voting.

I thought I’d write a two-part blog article to cover my contests, many of which originated with other librarians. I can’t run all of these in one year, so I alternate some of the less popular contests, and I’m always up to try a new contest as well. Please contact me if you’d like more information on any of these! I’ve listed them alphabetically, so here you have Bad Writing through Food Haiku.

Bad Writing Contest. This is an iteration of San Jose University’s Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, which challenges entrants “to write an atrocious opening sentence to the worst novel never written.” I append the rule that kids’ sentences cannot gross me out, and must make sense. This is their favorite contest; they love the opportunity to write badly! As an example of how much a challenge it is, though, I’ve added a category for “accidentally great sentences,” since often I’ll encounter a sentence for a book I’d love to read!

2022 Winner: The sheep attacked my face like I was wearing a wool sweater and it wanted justice.  —Diya M., 6th

2022 Accidentally Great Sentence Winner: If I can’t dream, am I allowed to live in this lightless city? —Rylie, 7th

Book Spine Poetry. This contest came from the library zeitgeist a few years ago—it’s a great one to run in April, as part of poetry month. My colleagues and I gather books with titles clearly visible on the spine, making sure we have some verbs, adverbs, etc. Having a cart of these available, I challenge students to “write” a poem using at least three books. I photograph the poem, as well as having students write it down so I know who created what verse.

2023 Winner: Meesha, 6th

Book Stacking. I borrowed this contest from a librarian at my last school, and it’s exactly what it sounds like. I have six boxes full of discarded books, and I challenge students to see how fast they can build a tower using all the books in two boxes. Stacks consist of one book laid flat on another book (no pyramids or books on their sides), and cannot wobble. Of course, the kids’ favorite part is knocking the stack down!

Book Title Snowman. This was formerly Book Title Hangman, which someone pointed out was not a good association for a kids’ game. For Snowman, I list twenty authors and titles that I hope kids will be familiar with, and turn them into forms with blanks. Because this contest requires a lot of input from those running it, I recruit student helpers. Kids guess letters and try to identify the author or title before their snowman is built.

Bookface. This activity was in the library zeitgeist a few years ago, when a lot of book covers featured partial faces or just parts of bodies. My colleagues and I amass a cart of books with such covers, and students choose a cover to be photographed with. As the trend in cover art has moved away from this type of cover, I haven’t run this activity recently.

Captions Contest. I could not do this contest without generous people who still get the local paper in print, and save their Sunday comics for me. Gathering these pages, I hold a lunch meeting before the contest, and ask students to cut out interesting comics panels and then trim out the speech bubbles. That leaves me with a pile of cartoons without captions, so the contest challenges students to write better, funnier captions. This is a colorful contest, when I post all of the entries around the library!

2021 Winner: Sammie, 8th

Clickbait. We all know what clickbait is—it promises amazing information with a tantalizing headline, but if you click, be prepared to be completely underwhelmed (and possibly infected by a computer virus). For this contest, I challenge students to come up with a great clickbait headline, as well as the less-than-thrilling truth behind it.

2021 Winner: OMG!!! TRAIN WENT THROUGH A MOUNTAIN!!! (There was a tunnel.)  —Nidhir, 7th

Excuses, Excuses! To prepare for this contest, I take all of the entries from the prior writing contests of the year, and put them through a word frequency counter. I list and cut out the less common words, and students must draw three of these and use them to write an excuse about why they were late to school, or why their homework was late. For whatever reason, this contest inspires students to write mini-novels!

2022 Winner: Words: Mice, Moon, Foil. I’m really sorry that I’m late today, as when I woke up, I saw a bunch of giant mice surrounding me. I was obviously very terrified and tried to run away, but the mice all collectively grabbed me and put me in a spaceship that was made of foil or something, and sent me to the moon. I had to find my way off the moon but I made it, only six hours late! I brought some moon dust though, so please don’t mark me tardy. —Gloria, 8th

Food Haiku. What’s more inspiring than food? This contest challenges students to write a haiku about food. Over the years, I’ve tried alternate versions of this contest, like Book Review Haiku and Overlake Haiku, but food remains the most popular version!

2022 Winner: I love chocolate/Rich and dark and bittersweet/Like tasting a hug  —Diya M., 6th

NoodleTools Grading Rubrics

At Overlake, we have been using NoodleTools citation-building software for years. I am fortunate enough at this point to have several English, Social Studies, and (sometimes) Science teachers invite me to help with project research, including NoodleTools citations. Before the year’s first project, I refresh students’ memories on how NoodleTools works. Depending on teacher preference, I teach a traditional lesson, or kids watch a series of screencasts I put together, with me and a library colleague in the classroom to answer questions. We use MLA in the Middle School, at “starter” or “junior” level. Prior to any research, I set up a “project inbox” in NoodleTools; during the lesson, kids connect their projects to the inbox, so I can see and comment on citations.

For grading citations, I offer teachers two options. The easier option—for me and the students—is for me to look through the citations, commenting only if I spot an unreliable or otherwise questionable resource (outdated, biased, etc.), or if the citation lacks significant information, like titles or working URLs. I use database software (Microsoft Access) to track how many sources a student lists, the quality of those sources, and whether the citation needs significant fixes. Throughout the project, I check citations several times and update teachers on their students’ progress.

For the second option, I hone in on the details that make a well-executed citation, and comment on every citation. I let students know exactly what changes they need to make, and keep track of those changes. In my database, a list of changes could look like: sourcex1, cpx2, titlex1, datex3, which would tell me that a student needs to correct one source type, find two database citations to copy and paste, fix or add a title, and add or correct three dates. We allow students to copy and paste database citations rather than enter those field by field, as such citations can get complicated and the students are only 10-12 years old! A citation with three or more errors I note as “maj” rather than enter changes type by type. This saves me time, and ensures I don’t ding any citation for more than three errors.

When grading the citations, I devised a rubric based on a project requiring at least three sources. I can adjust the rubric if a teacher requires additional sources. I grade on three aspects of a project: number of sources, quality of sources, and number of changes needed. Here are my rubrics.

Number of Sources                 Grading points

00
1√-2
24
3-5√+6
6-9√++8
10+√+++10

Images other than infographics do not count as sources, and I do not give detailed comments on image citations unless I see major errors.

Quality of Sources                                           Grading Points

No sources/3+ questionable sources0
2 Questionable sources√-2
1 questionable source4
Quality sources√+6

Questionable sources: Sites deemed unreliable due to mis/disinformation, outdated information, bias, no information on author/sources used, etc.

Quality sources: Books, databases, pre-approved websites, websites from well-known companies, websites approved by a teacher or librarian

Number of Changes Needed                 Grading Points

9+0
6-8√-2
3-54
0-2√+6

I translate the students’ points into a percentage for the teacher, who can weigh it in their assignment as they choose. As 100% for a project requiring three sources translates into 18 points, I wrote out an equivalency chart so I wouldn’t have to calculate every time. Students with more than the required number of sources often earn over 100%.

Percentages out of 18

PointsPercentage
22122
20111
18100
1794
1689
1583
1478
1372
1267
1161
1056
844
633

Here is a screenshot of a fully graded project list in Access (I have deliberately cut off the students’ names):

Writing comments on every citation, multiple times throughout a project, takes a long time! I recently decided to write detailed comments for up to ten citations per student, and beyond that will just check for reliability and major errors. I made that decision after a 5th grade assignment in which many students, required to find three sources, cited upwards of 10, 20, even 30 sources! I applaud their diligence and enthusiasm, but really, enough is enough. 😊

Our current goal is for me to give detailed comments to 5th graders on one assignment each year, 6th graders on two, and 7th graders on three. I feel so fortunate to have teachers willing to work with me, and I like to think I’m taking at least part of the onerous job of grading off their shoulders!

Fiction Genrefication

I have long been in favor of genrefying fiction collections so students will be better able to find books they know they will enjoy. With our school, we took the plunge starting in the fall of 2019, and here are the steps we went through to complete the process.

1. Genre Stickers

We started with our middle school fiction, and for step one, added genre stickers to every book. Although we had stickers for fantasy, science fiction, horror, mystery, adventure, humor, historical, realistic, romance, sports, and graphic novels, we combined realistic, romance, and sports into one “realistic” section when we moved the books. We also kept graphic novels intermixed by genre, but in their own separate collection.

2. Tally Books

For step two, I went low-tech, though I’m sure there are more sophisticated options out there! I printed out a form with spots for each genre, then took a clipboard and pen and went into the collection and did a hand-count of titles in each genre. That gave me a rough count (assuming some books were checked out) of the numbers for each section.

3. Estimate Shelf Space

I estimated how many feet of shelf space each section would need, based on number of books plus extra space for growth. Then I measured our shelving, which, as you can see from the image (MS Fiction in purple), is divided into a number of different places and sizes of shelf. I noted how many feet of shelf each unit contained, front and back for double-sided units, and then figured out which section would fit where. For many of our shelving units, continuing to a second unit would create a non-intuitive flow, so we avoided that as much as possible.

4. Move Books

We moved books during winter break, when no students were around; we had the three library staffers plus one volunteer. Starting with the shelves on which our alphabetized collection started, we moved all the books from the shelf space needed for the new section up to the tops of the shelves, leaving them in order. Then, using book carts, we went through the whole collection and pulled all the books for the new genre section. As our fiction was already in alphabetical order, pulling them by genre sticker did not disrupt that order and allowed us to move them to their new shelves without much reshuffling. I believe eventually we each started moving different sections, which worked so long as the books removed from the shelves to make space for the new sections went to the top of the shelves in order. The process went reasonably quickly, and I think we moved the collection in a couple of days.

Here are some photos of our current genrefied collection.

Humor on the left, the start of Fantasy on the right

One side of the Fantasy collection

Graphic Novels and Thrills & Chills

Realistic and Adventure

5. Change Location in Catalog

The part that took the longest was changing each book’s sublocation in our Follett Destiny catalog. We all worked on different sections over a couple of months, going book by book.

6. Signage

We are still working on the ideal signage for the collection. Currently we have small labels above each rank of shelves, and larger signs on the endcaps, but students still ask where a section is (though they have no trouble finding the graphic novels!). Here is a sample of the cool signs Andrea designed, though we think the genre title needs to be a little larger, and arrows would be helpful.

7. YA Fiction

The procedure for genrefying our recently completed YA fiction section was spearheaded by my colleague, Andrea. It started with a previously-finished diversity audit that included the genres, then adding genre stickers to all the books. As I had done with our middle school fiction, Andrea mapped out the YA fiction according to genre, with some genres like humor getting lumped into realistic. With a volunteer, she moved books by pulling out genre-stickered titles to put on carts in alpha order, then consolidated the remaining books to make room for the new section.

8. Conclusions

I’m really happy with how the collection turned out, and while the pandemic has made it difficult to assess whether circulation has increased as a result, it has made it easier for students to browse their favorite genres and find some new books to try.

Battle of the Books

  1. In which book did a dragon crash-land on a row of porta potties? (Answer at the end of the post)

Nothing brings me more joy than seeing a team of middle schoolers, heads together, hotly debating books. “It must be Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire because there’s a dragon!” “No, Dragonet Prophecy is all about dragons—it has to be that!” “But there aren’t any porta-potties in Pyhrria!”

Welcome to the Battle of the Books.

I first encountered the Battle of the Books in the 1990s, during a graduate internship in North Carolina. At the time, BoB was a state-wide public school competition with a list of twenty-plus books and multiple age levels. Teams alternated answering twenty questions a round from that set list of books, the answer always being the book’s title and author. From school competitions, teams moved to regional and state competitions. I thought it sounded amazing!

  • 2. In which book do characters regularly eat canned food that’s over 200 years old?

When I wanted to Battle at my first school, since I wasn’t in a BoB state and lacked that infrastructure, I decided to stage a Battle just at my own school. Though I have happily continued that, I’ve always felt guilty for not expanding into something more like the statewide program. For the last few years I‘ve had the good fortune to compete with one or two other local schools, but trying to expand the program further brought up issues of time/scheduling, number of books kids were willing to read vs. number of questions needed, and too few/too many participants. Unfortunately, I think expanding would require more time and organization than I can currently manage, plus just looking at the thirty-two page book of rules and regulations for the current North Carolina Battle of the Books overwhelms me! So what follows is a description (probably TL;DR) of how I run a one or two school Battle.

  • 3. In which book does the main character break out of jail using a key made from hardened porridge?

At my school, 5th grade Battle is required and limited to that grade, and 6th-8th graders can sign up to compete against our partner school on a voluntary basis. As I discovered this year, it’s vital to run a “Mock Battle” at weekly announcements to ramp up excitement. Having not been able to stage one this year, my 6th-8th grade participation is unfortunately down, plus kids’ reluctance to miss more than one class block meant conducting the Battle virtually. In general, I run the Mock Battle and signups in late November/early December, and schedule the Battles for late February/early March. That allows time for reading.

  • 4. In which book does the main character accidentally call the Tanzanian president’s wife a diseased wildebeest?

After the Mock Battle, I solicit student input on the book list. Students choose half of the books and librarians choose the rest, to balance the list for genre and diversity. With the two-school Battle’s list of thirteen books, that means students at each school choose three. My partner librarian and I generally make our additional selections from the extensive list of titles for which I already have questions, to save time. We will sometimes add fabulous new books that we can’t resist, though!

  • 5. In which book did a character wear red nail polish made with snake venom?

I post the lists and the Battle rules on the Library website, and our library assistant pulls/orders books and puts them on display. I also recruit colleagues to help read books and write up questions. When I write up questions, I often try to make them intriguing enough that students will want to try the book based on the question, if they haven’t read it. I mean:

  • 6. In which book do two characters send the main character a toilet seat to cheer him up after an adventure?

Who wouldn’t want to read that?

My partner school often runs team practices, but I have never had much student interest for that; this year I’m trying some Kahoots, using questions from non-Battle books. I do assign 6th-8th graders to teams, balancing for grade level. I send several reminders to the sixth-eighth graders and the question writers during the months before the Battle, and I also remind students that they need to show good sportsmanship!

  • 7. In which book does the main character say: “It was like towels were meeting each other in the laundry room, getting married, and having babies”?

To prepare for the Battle, I recruit volunteers for timekeeper/scorekeeper and crowd control. I set up a board that includes the Battle rules, the schedule of rounds for the day, and the scoreboard, which gets updated after each round.

Organizing the questions takes the most time, and I’m sure others could find a better way! I’m old-school, so I have all my questions printed out. After I determine how many questions I need from each book, I go through all the questions for each title and select the best. To ensure each book is evenly represented in every twenty-question Battle, I use a randomizer to tell me in which order to draw questions from each book’s pile.

  • 8. In which book does a monk give oddly specific blessings, like “may wasps never sting the palms of your hands”?

During the Battles, each team on deck selects a captain, and the answer can only come from the captain, after consultation with their team. They get twenty seconds to give me the title (four points), and the author’s last name (two points). If one team can’t answer or can’t answer fully, the other team gets ten seconds to earn half points with a correct answer. I find that even if kids haven’t read all the books, they start to recognize elements in the questions and often make accurate guesses! The questioned team may challenge a question as possibly applying to more than one book, and I might replace that question.

  • 9. In which book does the main character get attacked by bronze spiders at the “Thrill Ride O’Love?”

I love staging Battle of the Books, and seeing kids get so hyped over books! It is a lot of work, but I think it’s time well-spent, and it also encourages me to read new books and see what books kids really love these days. If you are interested in running your own Battle, I am happy to share my questions (I have them for more than 100 books), or you could look into America’s Battle of the Books, a membership-based organization that offers pre-written questions and a variety of competition formats. Battle on!

~*~*~*~

Answers: 1. The Lost Hero, Rick Riordan. 2. The City of Ember, Jeanne DuPrau. 3. Eye of the Crow, Shane Peacock. 4. Spy School, Stuart Gibbs. 5. Holes, Louis Sachar. 6. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J.K. Rowling. 7. Front Desk, Kelly Yang. 8. A Wish in the Dark, Christine Soontornvat. 9. The Lightning Thief, Rick Riordan.

Book Bonanza

I have been running bookfairs, with books provided by local independent bookstores, for over twenty years. After listening to an episode of Amy Hermon’s School Librarians United podcast about inclusive libraries, I started thinking more about the equity issues of traditional bookfairs. Wanting to try something different, I explored other options, and of course posted a query on the AISL listserv. Others had been looking into alternatives as well, and after assessing various forms of book swaps and the like, I settled on Claire Hazzard’s Book Bonanza as the most equitable since it didn’t require students to bring in books for a one-to-one swap.

I started out with a request sent through our Communications Department and our Parents’ Association for donations of books in good shape that would appeal to students in grades 5, 6, 7, or 8. My plan was to divide the number of donated books by the number of students in the middle school, to determine how many books each student could choose. This being my first Bonanza, I could only guess at time frames and volunteers needed, so I used my Bookfair timeline. I reserved a large room for two and a half days (the half for set up and the two days for the Bonanza), and spread the word through my usual channels.

And pretty much nothing happened.

While several parents expressed interest in volunteering, by about two weeks before the event, I’d received fewer than fifteen donated books. So I consulted colleagues the Parents’ Association about what I was doing wrong. We finally decided that I hadn’t allowed enough time for donations (with a bookfair, that isn’t an issue), and the wording about donations was too specific. So I postponed the event from mid-October to mid-January, simplified the donation request, and brainstormed other ways to increase donations. Deciding I needed to increase awareness about the Bonanza, I took the following steps.

  1. Increased communication to the wider Overlake community, including parents, Upper School students, and faculty/staff.
  2. Turned the donation request into a competition between our two in-house teams, Green and Gold, with one point per book, and a goal of 500 books. (We have Green/Gold competitions in library activities, ASB-designed activities, Field Day, and more throughout the year, with one team coming out on top at the end.)
  3. Created a “thermometer” to show the progress of each side, and set it up in the library foyer along with boxes enthusiastically decorated by the 5th grade. I toted the thermometer to weekly MS announcements to display the totals and keep up interest.
  • Wrote a skit to film and screen at Middle School announcements. I recruited student actors, and the Communications Department did the filming and editing, with my input.
  • Created a series of six promotional flyers, changing them out every couple of weeks. I looked for phobias I could possibly connect to the event/books/etc., and used those as a basis for suggesting donations. Here is the first one:

Other phobias I used were ataxophobia (fear of untidiness), abibliophobia (fear of having nothing to read), cleithrophobia (fear of being trapped), scholeciphobia (fear of [book]worms), prasinophobia (fear of the color green), and aurophobia (fear of gold).

I stored donations in the library. With help from colleagues, I sorted them into genres and removed any that were too high-school/adult, or were in poor shape/too out of date. Despite all the promotions, books were slow to come in, and large collections from a few people (76 books, 82 books, 124 books, etc.) accounted for the majority of titles. Many other donations included novels read in class, so I had multiple copies of those. But after several weeks of announcements and a few more large donations, we hit our goal and beyond, with over 600 books!

For day one, we boxed the books up by genre and hauled them over to the large room I’d reserved in our Campus Center. With fewer books than a bookfair, I’d thought that two of us could manage this on our own, and with wheeled carts, we did. It was a slog, though! As a late-in-the-game scheduling conflict necessitated moving the books to a small library classroom for day two, we recruited  our wonderful Maintenance personnel to help out.

On day one, I set out a third of the books, sorted into genres and labeled, and held back the rest so that the first few classes wouldn’t snag all of the best ones. Working with the teachers, I had scheduled all of the English classes to visit for part of a block. (I think I should have sent more reminders to faculty, though—I did have to go to some classrooms to remind them about the event). The kids had a mixed reaction to the books; many didn’t find anything they wanted at all, but in some classes, everyone found more than enough—and the difference in enthusiasm between the 5th grade and the 8th grade will surprise no one! For students wanting only one or no books, I allowed them to “give” their choice(s) to a friend, and that worked well.

By the end of the Bonanza, I had a large number of books left over; several scheduled classes never made it in, due to teacher absences, a fire drill, etc., and many students choose no books. I planned to offer the remaining titles to anyone who wanted them after the last class. Also, I planned to set out any leftover books in the library for a week, to cut down on the number of boxes I needed to take to Goodwill. To my surprise, however, at 2:40—the end of the last class—I was swarmed by kids who wanted books. By 2:45 they had taken ALL of the books! I had not realized that kids would want to take home whole boxfuls of books, and if I do this again, I will limit them to five until everyone who wanted more books had gotten some.

In the end, the Bonanza was a success, but I don’t plan to do it again soon. It was a lot more work than a traditional bookfair, and obviously I had no control over the mix of titles; the fantasy section was about 70% Warriors and Wings of Fire! I would still like to explore more equitable ways to run a bookfair, though, and I’m glad I gave this a try. I greatly appreciate the many colleagues who helped along the way, all of the students and parents who donated books, and all the AISL members who described their creative bookfair/book swap programs to me.

Promoting eBooks

When our library first started acquiring Overdrive eBooks several years ago, I felt we had to make an effort to advertise them, to justify the cost. As creative forms of advertising have never been my strong suit, I stuck with basic flyers, but I knew I could get creative with the content. Of course, Overdrive does provide subscribers lots of publicity materials, and we have used some of theirs, but I wanted to include some with a more personal touch.

I love to write and I love injecting humor into anything I do with the students, so my first round of flyers, posted prior to a break, imagined all sorts of place you could be bored and in need of a book. Here’s a sample:

The next time around, not wanting to repeat myself, I kicked it up a notch. I started thinking up more ridiculous situations in which a book might help—and eBooks are always available! Here’s a sample:

Still, there’s only so much you can do with flyers, and there’s no guarantee that people will look at one flyer in the usual mosaic of them on doors and windows. So I decided to create short videos to share before winter and summer breaks, screening them at middle school announcements to a captive audience. In the beginning, I created the videos with PowerPoint, following a similar format to my flyers. The videos showed times when students might need a book, and ended with more information about Overdrive/Sora (Overdrive’s school app) and how to download books.

After running several of these, I wanted to try something different. Over time, I experimented with an online comic creator (sadly, I forget which one, and I cited all of my other images but not the comic creator!), used a school green-screen and the Keystone Kops, and an iPad-app stop-motion Harry Potter animation combined with our green screen. All still involved ridiculous or realistic reasons—such as Harry Potter being locked in by the Dursleys or an annoyingly perky mom—a student might need a book in a hurry. I posted these videos on a free account on Vimeo.

While those were all fun, they did take a decent amount of effort to put together, since I’m not naturally technically adept. Being always busy, I started looking for ways that took less time, and as a bonus, involved more members of my school community. I started with a fairly straightforward (but still silly!) video skit with the head of the middle school about how easy it is to use eBooks, and wouldn’t that be more fun than watching paint dry? Then came a skit with the then-current 5th grade listening to a pedantic story hour inspired by Robert Service’s “The Cremation of Sam McGee.”

I have always found Geico ads really funny, as they appealed to my deadpan sense of humor. I realized I could model my videos on some of their premises, such as their “…It’s what you do” ads. In one of my lunchtime contests, students write excuses about why their homework is late. So I wrote a skit in which students used these student-written excuses in class, and then the camera panned to two “reporters” who opined that if you’re a student, you make excuses, but if you’re a kid on vacation in desperate need of a book, you use Overdrive. “It’s what you do.” Other videos I did with this premise involved Broadway Kids in science class, and a Latin class’ celebration of Saturnalia with the sacrifice of a stuffed sheep.

Another premise I used, though I can’t remember if it came from Geico, was what you can count on during quarantine. Students I recruited shot their own videos and sent them to me, and I put them together with some help from our Communications Department. Still another Geico premise I used was “How happy are…?” With help from several homerooms, I filmed skits about Pi Day and Star Wars Day. Last month, I used the premise of Geico’s “Did you know” ads to write a skit about Roombas in the forest, filmed with the help of our green screen.

At this point, I have changed a couple of things about how I create the videos and their content. In terms of creation, I found that individual students and homerooms are eager to participate, and I love involving students and teachers as a community-building activity, and as promotion for the library and the librarians in general. I also found that if I collaborate with the Communications Department on filming and editing, the videos look a whole lot more professional than the ones I film on a library iPad! I’ve also pulled in our Drama Department for costuming sometimes, in a further collaboration.

In terms of content, I realized that many videos ran too long, partially because I get carried away when I write skits, and partially because I always appended details about how to access eBooks through Overdrive/Sora. After consulting with Kelly, our head librarian, we decided that since all of the access details are on our website, videos should include only a slide telling students to consult us or the library website for more information. While I do wish I could give students more direct information on how to use the Sora app and access our eBooks, I realize it’s fairly dry, detailed information that would only hold the attention of those actively attempting to access eBooks. So now I focus on attempting to fix in students’ brains the fact that we have a few thousand eBooks, and that the Sora app is the way to access them.

Of course, the big question is whether the videos actually increase eBook usage, but that would be hard to assess. We have about 2,300 Sora eBooks, and in the past twelve months we circulated 1,687 to 219 users, or about 30% of our total student/faculty/staff population. We’d love to see more usage, naturally, and may start thinking about even more ways to promote our collection.

I think at this point the purpose of the videos, in no particular order, is: 1. Remind students about eBooks and Sora; 2. Remind students about the library in general; 3. Build a positive representation of the library in students’ minds as a place with not just resources, but a sense of humor and a warm welcome; 4. Build community by offering students and teachers the opportunity to participate and see themselves on the big screen; 5. Build community by collaborating with other departments to improve the videos; 6. Connect with the wider school community when the Communications Department posts the videos on school social media; 7. Have fun!

How do you promote eBooks at your school? Let us know in the comments!

“And You May Contribute a Verse”: Adapted, Diversified Classics for Teens, Part Two

By Rebecca Moore, c.2020

Welcome to part two of this annotated bibliography of adapted and diversified—sometimes called “bent”—classics for teens. In this context, “classics” are works which have an established presence in the western canon, and are written by named authors. They have been bent by gender, ethnicity, sexuality, and more. Although authors’ motivations are complex and individual, they often include exploring the universality of themes in the original texts, and embodying a Walt Whitman Leaves of Grass (1891) quote: “That you are here—that life exists, and identity/That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”

Part one covered adaptations of works by Shakespeare. Part two covers adaptations of works by other authors.

Benincasa, Sara. Great. HarperTeen, 2014. 270 p. $17.99. 978-0-06222-269-5.
This modern-day adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925) follows Naomi, daughter of a Food Network star, to a summer in East Hampton. Their neighbor, Jacinta Trimalchio, is an enigmatic fashionista and over-the-top party giver. Why is she obsessed with meeting Delilah Fairweather, a casual friend of Naomi’s? Benincasa felt the themes of Gatsby “were incredibly relevant to teenagers” (Benincasa). In gender-swapping the Gatsby character and keeping the Daisy character female, Benincasa, who is bisexual (Flans), “wanted to play with elements of teen sexuality and to talk about the difference between obsession and love, and I wanted to see where those lines are blurred, particularly for teenage girls” (Benincasa).

Cameron, Sharon. Rook. Scholastic Press, 2016. 464 p. $9.99 pb. 978-1-33803-246-8.
In this gender-flipped reboot of Baroness Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel (1905), a far-future dystopic Earth has reverted to a pre-industrial, technology-banning level of society. Disguised as The Red Rook, Sophia Bellamy rescues prisoners from the Sunken City (formerly Paris). Can she accept the help of—and arranged marriage with—Rene Hasard, a Parisian who is more than he seems? The author states: “[I]t’s all about corsets, swords, decapitations and a female spy, and is a huge homage to The Scarlet Pimpernel” (Cameron, Author Interview). As to why the gender flip, Cameron is an admirer of author J.R.R. Tolkien, and appreciates and emulates his theme of: “Anyone, no matter how seemingly insignificant, can make their world worse, or they can make it better. Inner strength wins” (Cameron, Blog Tour). Or, as the book trailer asks: “Who needs a wedding ring when you can pick up a sword?” (Rook).

Hand, Cynthia. The Afterlife of Holly Chase. HarperTeen, 2018. 416 p. $9.99 pb. 978-0-06231-851-0.
Holly Chase, a wealthy Hollywood teen, was such a Scrooge that she got a visit from The Christmas Carol’s (Charles Dickens, 1843) three ghosts—and laughed it off. When she then died, she got recruited as the new Ghost of Christmas Past in Project Scrooge, which chooses one person a year to help. Five years later, the Scrooge is seventeen-year-old Ethan Winters. Author Cynthia Hand loved the original, and wanted to modernize the story to make it about younger, more diverse characters” (Hand). As to making Holly female, she felt that, unlike crotchety old men whom we believe can change for the good, “society is not accepting of teenage girls who aren’t, well, nice.” Thus she really wanted “to showcase Holly as a flawed, growing character—to try to push back against those gender biased expectations” (Hand).

Khan, Hena. More To the Story. Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2019. 272 p. $17.99. 978-1-48149-209-6.
This adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women (1868) sets the story in modern Atlanta, with a Pakistani-American family. Seventh grader Jameela reports for the school paper, and yearns to cover stories that really matter, like microaggressions. Then her sister Bismah gets sick. Khan was “obsessed” with Little Women in her youth, and wrote, “I think I understood and could even relate to some of the societal and gender norms [the characters] faced as a child of Pakistani immigrants.” She added, “I always thought the story lent itself well to a retelling from a Pakistani American perspective.” She considered her story “a love letter to my favorite book!” (Khan).

Langdon, Lorie. Olivia Twist. Blink, 2018. 336 p. $18.99. 978-0-31076-341-3.
This continuation of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist (1838) imagines that Oliver was always Olivia, and had to keep her gender hidden as an easily-exploited orphan. Now sixteen and living a high society life with her cash-strapped guardian, Olivia has reverted to her thieving ways to support a group of orphans who know her as Oliver. Then she encounters the Artful Dodger once more, and her life takes a turn. As a child, the author loved imagining that Oliver was really a girl. “This way,” she said, “I could imagine myself as the heroine of the story and the Artful Dodger as the hero. In my childhood fantasies, the two would have endless adventures and eventually fall in love and escape from poverty” (Langdon).

McKinney, L.L. A Blade So Black. Square Fish.2019. 400 p. $10.99 pb. 978-1-25021-166-8.
Inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland (1865), this story’s Alice, a Black teen, lives in modern Atlanta. As a dreamwalker, she secretly travels to Wonderland with the help of her trainer, Addison Hatta, to fight nightmares before they can escape into our world. The author wanted to write an adaptation of the classic that was “steeped in Black Girl Magic” (Author’s Note). As she tells readers in her afterword: “To those black kids searching countless shelves and between endless pages, hoping to catch a glimpse of themselves in galaxies far away, fantasies long ago, and stories here and now: This one’s for you. Shine on, and drive back the dark.”

McSmith, Tobly. Stay Gold. HarperTeen, 2020. 368 p. $18.99. 978-0-06294-317-0.
With S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders (1967) as inspiration, McSmith also sets his book in a Texas small-town high school with cheerleaders, football players, and outsiders. But here, outsider Pony is transgender, going “stealth” at a new school. On day one, he locks eyes with Georgia, a cheerleader who wants more from life than popularity. McSmith, who is transgender, sees books, and especially fiction, as “the ultimate safe space.” However, having rarely found books reflecting his own experience, he put it in the book “so that it creates a safe space for other trans people. And that so other people can read about our experiences and learn from them, and help create more safe spaces” (McSmith). The connection to The Outsiders came from reflections on the book’s toxic masculinity, which equated fighting with manhood, and the hope that “[m]anhood is no longer measured by aggression and force” (341). The original “stay gold” urged Ponyboy to stay innocent. Now, Georgia urges Pony to “Stay gold, Pony. Stay true to yourself when the world pushes against you…because you are exceptional, and everyone will catch up someday” (342).

Soontornvat, Christina. A Wish in the Dark.Candlewick, 2020. 384 p. $17.99. 978-1-53620-494-0.
In the city of Chattana, all artificial light comes from the dictatorial Governor, who reserves light for the worthy—and wealthy. Pong and Somkit, having been born in Namwon Prison, know they will never enjoy that light. Then Pong escapes, and Nok, daughter of the prison’s overseer, is determined to track him down. Having loved Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables (1862) in her youth, the author always wanted to adapt it, and found that setting it in a fantastical Thailand helped make it her own. As she said, “It is a love letter to Thailand for sure! The world in the book is based on my dad’s stories of growing up in Bangkok as a young boy. When I was a kid, those stories were so vivid and fairytale-like to me, and that mood is what I tried to bring into the story” (Soontornvat).

Teran, Andi. Ana of California. Penguin, 2015. 368 p. $16.00 Trade pb. 978-0-14312-649-2.
In this adaptation of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables (1908), Ana is a Latinx teen from Los Angeles, who has been in and out of foster homes and rough situations. At sixteen, her “last chance” is an internship on a Northern California farm run by a brother and sister. The author felt a strong kinship with the original Anne, and with Los Angeles. She chose to make Ana Latinx because, as she said, “I am Mexican American myself, so it was really important that my character reflect my heritage in that way. And I also wanted to write a story for young women with a Latina heroine, because it’s not something that you see typically in fiction” (Teran).

Terciero, Rey, and Bre Indigo, ill. Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2019. 256 p. $12.99 pb. 978-0-31652-288-5.
This graphic novel adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women (1868) sets the story in modern New York City, with a blended and multicultural family. Their military father is serving overseas, and each girl struggles with her own issues at home, including Jo coming to understand her own sexuality. The author, who is white, loved the original in his youth, finding the girls’ struggles “universal.” As to diversifying it, Terciero and the book’s illustrator, Bre Indigo, “wanted to see ourselves in the characters too, which is why we made the family diverse and one of the characters LGBTQ… Being LGBT myself, I’m just happy to be creating a book that I wish I could have read as a young reader” (Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy). Indigo, who is Black, says that “some of the character’s surface traits have been changed to allow for some readers to relate in ways they might not have been able to before” (Indigo).

Zoboi, Izzy. Pride. Balzer + Bray, 2019. 304 p. $10.99 pb. 978-0-06256-405-4.
Brooklyn native Zuri, an Afro-Latino teen, is proud of her family and her neighborhood. Wary of Brooklyn’s gentrification, as represented by her wealthy new neighbors the Darcys, Zuri is especially dismayed by the judgmental, arrogant Darius Darcy. Zoboi saw many themes in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (1813) that connected with gentrification. She also wanted to help students of color, forced to read the original, find their own connections to the story. “In the same way that wealthier newcomers to under-served neighborhoods erase the established cultures, this my very own way of reverse gentrifying the Brit-lit canon,” she said. As Austen commented on class and women’s issues, a “Haitian-Dominican teen in Brooklyn can grapple with those same issues” (Zoboi).

Other Works Cited

Benincasa, Sara. “Interview: Sara Benincasa on Young Adult Fiction, Anxiety, and Why Her Imagination Is like a Wild Animal.” Interview conducted by Alex Steed. Steed, BDN Maine Blog network, 10 Jan. 2014, steed.bangordailynews.com/2014/01/10/interview-sara-benincasa-on-young-adult-fiction-and-why-her-imagination-is-like-a-wild-animal/.

Cameron, Sharon. “Author Interview: Sharon Cameron.” Interview conducted by Kaleigh C. Maguire. Authography LLC, edited by Jacqui Lipton, 15 May 2014, kcmaguire.com/blog/author-interview-sharon-cameron.

—. “Blog Tour: Rook by Sharon Cameron – Interview and Giveaway.” Chapter by Chapter, 30 Apr. 2015, www.chapter-by-chapter.com/blog-tour-rook-by-sharon-cameron-interview-and-giveaway/.

Flans, Lauren, and Nicole Pacent, hosts. “Sara Benincasa.” Coming Out with Lauren & Nicole, episode 16, 26 Sept. 2018, comingoutpod.libsyn.com/episode-16-sara-benincasa-0.

Hand, Cynthia. “Question about Afterlife of Holly Chase.” Received by the author, 9 May 2020.

Indigo, Bre. “Rich Interviews: Bre Indigo Penciler: For Meg, Jo, Beth, & Amy: Little Women.” First Comics News, 15 Mar. 2018, www.firstcomicsnews.com/rich-interviews-bre-indigo-penciler-for-meg-jo-beth-amy-little-women/. Interview.

Khan, Hena. “Interview: Hena Khan.” Interview conducted by Bookvillageadmin. MG Book Village, 3 Sept. 2019, mgbookvillage.org/2019/09/03/interview-hena-khan/.

Langdon, Lorie. “Author Interview & Book Release: Lorie Langdon / Olivia Twist.” The Spinning Pen, 5 Apr. 2018, thespinningpen.com/2018/04/05/author-interview-book-release-lorie-langdon-olivia-twist/. Interview.

McSmith, Tobly, narrator. “How Safe Spaces Save Lives.” Harper Stacks, Harper Collins Studio, 25 May 2020. YouTube, www.youtube.com/watch?v=eeEOfih69YE.

“Meg, Jo, Beth, And Amy Celebrates The 150th Anniversary of Little Women as a Modernized Graphic Novel from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and Tapas Media.” Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, Hachette, 6 Mar. 2018, www.lbyr.com/hachette-book-group-news/meg-jo-beth-and-amy-celebrates-the-150th-anniversary-of-little-women-as-a-modernized-graphic-novel-from-little-brown-books-for-young-readers-and-tapas-media/.

“Rook by Sharon Cameron Book Trailer.” YouTube, uploaded by Sharon Cameron, 12 Apr. 2015, www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=17&v=GlSDsV8SuMs&feature=emb_logo.

Soontornvat, Christina. “Author Interview: Magic, Writing & Durians; A Conversation with Christina Soontornvat, Author of MG Thai-Inspired Fantasy, A Wish in the Dark.” Interview conducted by Skye (Shuurens). The Quiet Pond: A Book Blog, 1 Apr. 2020, thequietpond.com/2020/04/01/author-interview-magic-writing-durians-a-conversation-with-christina-soontornvat-author-of-mg-thai-inspired-fantasy-a-wish-in-the-dark/.

Teran, Andi. “Interview with Andi Teran, Author of Ana of California.” Interview conducted by Chris Caraveo. Medium, 9 Oct. 2015, medium.com/@ChrisCaraveo31/interview-with-andi-teran-author-of-ana-of-california-69567b51b741.

Whitman, Walt. “O Me! O Life!” Leaves of Grass, 2008. The Gutenberg Project, www.gutenberg.org/files/1322/1322-h/1322-h.htm#link2H_4_0121. Accessed 20 Apr. 2020.

Zoboi, Ibi. “Walk the Jagged Streets of Gentrification with Ibi Zoboi’s Pride.” Interview conducted by Marie Marquardt. Teen Librarian Toolbox, School Library Journal, 20 Sept. 2018, www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/2018/09/walk-the-jagged-streets-of-gentrification-with-ibi-zobois-pride-a-guest-post-by-marie-marquardt/.

“The Powerful Play Goes On”: Adapted, Diversified Classics for Teens

By Rebecca Moore, c.2020

Before stories were fixed in print and copyright, they belonged to everyone and no one, and were retold and adapted as the storyteller saw fit. That drive to retell has never vanished, as is evidenced by the plethora of adult and YA novels—not to mention fanfiction—adapting classic tales from Cinderella to Sherlock Holmes.

Writers adapt classics for multiple reasons. For instance, readers familiar with the original have a leg up into the adaptation, which might induce them to read it. Writers gain an advantage from whatever aspects of the characters, setting, plot, etc., they feel inspired to use, and may also find it an engaging writing exercise. The growing trend of adapting classics by making them more diverse—sometimes called “bending” or “re-storying”—brings more reasons to the table. Some writers adapt canon stories to show the universality of their themes/plots/etc. Others, especially #ownvoices writers, adapt to create and/or enhance representation. Many writers do both.

Classics hold cultural power for three main reasons. First, readers from all groups love them, and share them with friends and family. Second, familiarity with the canon often proves key in advancement within the dominant culture, such as getting diplomas, degrees, and respect, whereas familiarity with the stories of a non-dominant culture merits no such respect. Third, many generations of readers have grown up believing in the “single story” classics frequently represent. That “single story” tends to encompass only the dominant culture/gender/sexuality/etc., essentially erasing—and thus in some ways controlling—non-dominant groups.

Bending such classics can enhance representation of underrepresented groups in all readers’ minds. This can help readers from dominant cultures gain empathy, understanding, and awareness. Readers from non-dominant groups can feel a reclamation of the stories through the representation, and an assertion of their right to engage with writers from the past on their own terms. Bending is thus a form of resistance against the “single story” of the dominant-culture canon. Diversifying classics is a step toward embodying a Walt Whitman Leaves of Grass(1891) quote: “That you are here—that life exists, and identity/That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”

This is the first of two booklists of bent classics. We start with perhaps the biggest canon writer in the English language, William Shakespeare, himself a re-teller of tales. Part two, coming in August, will cover adaptations of other classics.

Fleet, Suki. This Is Not a Love Story. Dreamspinner, 2014. 270p. $16.99 Trade pb. 978-1-63216-040-9.
This re-imagined Romeo and Juliet tells the story of Romeo, a homeless, mute, teen who sells his body on the streets to survive. Julian, is the older teen protector Romeo loves. The ending, however, is not tragic. Said Fleet: “My aim was to write a story that, while it harped back to Shakespeare’s classic themes, ended in hope instead of tragedy.” As the majority of LGBTQ+ books Fleet read in their youth ended tragically, “reading became a painful experience.” For current LGBTQ+ youth, Fleet wanted to write a story “more hopeful and positive [and] diverse” (Fleet).

Jones, Patrick. Unbarred series. Lerner, 2016.
Jones’ experiences working with incarcerated youth, mostly of color, drove his writing of this hi-lo series that adapts Shakespeare’s works into modern, urban settings and language. The original impulse arose when a teacher insisted on teaching Shakespeare to incarcerated students who were mostly of color and reluctant readers (Jones, 2020). Said Jones: “I’m interested in telling stories about teens who don’t get their stories told by mainstream writers” (Jones, 2015). Many teens he saw were “struggling readers for so many reasons, but in part because they didn’t see themselves in books and/or they’d failed so many times trying to read in past that they associated any book with failure” (Jones, 2016).

Jones, Patrick. Heart or Mind. Lerner, 2016. 120 p. $7.99 pb. 978-1-51240-091-5.
This book recasts Romeo as Rodney, a Black boy recently out of a correctional institute. He falls for Jawahir, a Somali Muslim girl, but in Minneapolis, the conflict between Blacks and Somalis is violent.  

Jones, Patrick, and Marshunna Clark. Duty or Desire. Lerner, 2016. 120 p. $27.99. 978-1-51240-002-1. $7.99 pb. 978-1-51240-089-2.
The authors re-imagine Anthony as Alejandro, a Latinx teen released after serving time on a trumped-up charge. He is seeking to free himself from his gang. His Cleopatra is Chrissie, a Black teen who has suffered a similar police run-in.

Laskin, Pamela. Ronit & Jamil. Katharine Tegen Books, 2017. 192 p. $17.99. 978-0-06245-854-4.
This verse novel adaptation of Romeo and Juliet sets the story in modern Jerusalem, with the lovers being Israeli girl Ronit, and Palestinian boy Jamil. Laskin chose to bend the story to demonstrate the universality of not just young love, but “of adults whose blind intransigence serves unwittingly to destroy this love,” and of how each generation must “[find] a future in full adult awareness while rejecting the burdens of the past” (Author’s note).

McCall, Guadalupe. Shame the Stars. Tu Books, 2016. 288 p. $20.95. 978-1-62014-278-3.
In the early 1900s in Texas, the relationship between Texas Rangers and citizens of Mexican descent were violent, fraught, and unjust. Joaquin del Toro finds himself and his love, Dulceña, caught in the crossfire. McCall wanted to bring to light the injustices of that time, and was inspired by the theme “love is the most important thing of all.” Romeo and Juliet could have ended differently, she said, if people had had faith in love of family, home, community, and country. This book “is about our ability to conquer our fears and let the light of love shine through” (McCall).

Myers, Walter Dean. Street Love. HarperCollins, 2007. 160p. $8.99 pb. 978-0-06440-732-8.
This verse novel adaptation of Romeo and Juliet brings together Harlem teens Damian, bound for Brown, and Junice, trying to hold her family together after her mother is imprisoned. As a young reader, Myers never found himself or anything from his life in books. “As a consequence,” he said, “I did not love myself as a Black person or have a particular respect for much of the Black community.” He wrote about Black characters so modern teens could avoid the “subtle shame” he’d felt at his exclusion (Myers).

Shakespeare, William. The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo & Juliet. Adapt. and illus. by Gareth Hinds. Candlewick, 2013. 128 p. $21.99. 978-0-76365-948-6. $12.99 Trade pb. 978-1-76366-807-5.
This beautifully illustrated abridgement features Capulets of Indian descent and Montagues of African descent. Hinds sought to “[underscore] the universality of the drama by bringing a multiracial cast to the setting of historical Verona” (Hinds).

Talley, Robin. As I Descended. HarperCollins, 2016. 388 p.  $17.99. 978-0-06240-923-2. $10.99 pb. 978-0-06240-924-9.
Talley re-imagines Macbeth as a horror story set in a southern boarding school. Maria, a Latinx senior, needs a scholarship for college. Her roommate and lover Lily, white and disabled, will stop at nothing to help her get it. Said Talley: “I think it’s important for fiction to show the breadth of the world we live in—positive, negative and in between,” in order to offer readers the “opportunity to reflect on their place in the larger world” (Talley, 2016). She also felt that the ambition and high stakes of Macbeth fit well into the setting (Talley, 2015).

Winters, Cat. The Steep & Thorny Way. Amulet, 2016. 352 p. $17.95. 978-1-41971-915-8. $9.99 pb. 978-1-41972-350-6.
In this adaptation of Hamlet, biracial teen Hanalee Denney lives in Oregon in 1923. Her Black father’s ghost is trying to warn her about the danger she is in, as the KKK have a hold on her town. A gay character is also in grave danger. The author wanted to bring to light “Oregon’s racist past—a past that clearly affected the state’s lack of racial diversity that exists to this day” (Winters), and found the Hamlet story a perfect framework on which to hang her tale (Author’s Note).

Other Works Cited

Fleet, Suki. “This Is Not a Love Story.” Received by the author, 11 Apr. 2020.

Hinds, Gareth. “Romeo and Juliet.” Gareth Hinds, 2018, www.garethhinds.com/wp/romeo-and-juliet/.

Jones, Patrick. “Author Interview: Patrick Jones.” Interview conducted by Charlotte Kirton. Finch Blog, Finch Books, 12 Feb. 2016, www.finch-books.com/blog/author-interview-patrick-jones.

—. “An Interview with Patrick Jones.” Interview conducted by Jessi Shulte-Honstad. Teen Librarian Toolbox, School Library Journal, 30 June 2015, www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/2015/06/an-interview-with-patrick-jones-by-guest-blogger-jessi-schulte-honstad/.

—. “Unbarred Series.” Received by the author, 20 Apr. 2020.

McCall, Guadalupe Garcia. “Shame the Stars.” Received by the author, 19 Apr. 2020.

Myers, Walter Dean. “Reading Is Not Optional: An Interview with Walter Dean Myers.” Interview conducted by Amy Nathan. PEN America, 19 Mar. 2012, pen.org/reading-is-not-optional-an-interview-with-walter-dean-myers/.

Scott, David Meerman, and Reiko Scott. Fanocracy: Turning Fans into Customers and Customers into Fans. New York, Portfolio/Penguin, 2020.

Simeon, Laura. “Article Intro Notes.” Received by the author, 22 Apr. 2020.

Talley, Robin. “As I Descended: Author Robin Talley on Queer YA Retellings of Classic Stories.” Interview conducted by Dahlia Adler. BNTEENblog, Barnes & Noble, 16 Sept. 2016, www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/teen/as-i-descended-author-robin-talley-on-queer-ya-retellings-of-classic-stories/.

—. “Robin Talley: ‘It’s important for fiction to show the breadth of the world we live in.’” Interview conducted by Confessionsofabooklover. The Guardian, Guardian News & Media, 2 Nov. 2015, www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/2015/nov/02/robin-talley-interview-lies-we-tell-ourselves.

Thomas, Ebony E., and Amy Stornaiuolo. “Restorying the Self: Bending Toward Textual Justice.” Harvard Educational Review, vol. 86, no. 3, 2016, pp. 313-338, 473. ProQuest, https://search.proquest.com/.

Whitman, Walt. “O Me! O Life!” Leaves of Grass, 2008. The Gutenberg Project, www.gutenberg.org/files/1322/1322-h/1322-h.htm#link2H_4_0121. Accessed 20 Apr. 2020.

Winters, Cat. “The Time It Was about The Steep and Thorny Way.” Interview conducted by Stacee. Eleven Thirteen PM, 29 Feb. 2016, eleventhirteenpm.com/2016/02/the-time-it-was-about-the-steep-and-thorny-way.html.