Makin’ Stuff: Books to Inspire DIY and Creativity

Making stuff isn’t something that is usually associated with libraries, but it should be. The maker movement is still going strong, and it’s showing everyone that teens use libraries for all sorts of learning- including how to make all sorts of things. YALSA’s 2014 Maker Contest is going on right now, and applicants have the chance to win some neat prizes as well as share their awesome ideas with others. The deadline to apply is September 1st and you can go here to learn more and to apply. (Get some ideas on how to create a maker/ DIY program here.)

Finding themes in YA fiction that go along with the maker movement wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be until I thought bigger and stopped limiting myself to duct tape. When I did that I found a bunch that I thought might spark some interest in doing with teens. I also found some nonfiction titles, too, to get us all started on the doing!


pizza loce nd other stuff that made me famousPizza, Love, and Other Stuff That Made Me Famous by Kathryn Williams follows sixteen-year-old Sophie from the kitchen in her family’s restaurant in Washington, D.C., to the set of “Teen Test Kitchen,” a new reality show about teens cooking that her best friend has convinced her to audition for. Is Sophie ready to compete with her cooking, though? Hopefully growing up in the family restaurant will have been enough training!breakfast on the go

Although Pizza, Love, and Other Stuff That Made Me Famous includes recipes, there are lots of teen oriented cookbooks out there. A Teen Guide to… cookbook series by Dana Meachen Rau covers everything from Breakfast on the Go to Quick Healthy Snacks, and includes safety tips, conversion charts, and tons of tips throughout. Even I can cook using these, and I once tried to microwave a frozen noodle dinner for seventeen minutes instead of seven!




boyfriend appThe Boyfriend App by Katie Sise could be of equal interest to teens interested in computer programming and teens interested in romance. Audrey is trying to win $200,000 offered by global computing corporation Public in order to get herself into college and away from home. To do this she writes a matchmaking app, which pairs unlikely  couples and is sort of becoming a hit. But Audrey digs deeper and learns that her matchmaking results might be skewed, and Public is at the heart of things. Discovering the truth will lead to more than she bargained for… including love?program like a pro

Programming apps is not only something that a lot of teens are interested in, but it’s also something that can make them good money. There are tons of YouTube videos and even some apps that teach how to make apps. Computer programming in general is something that a lot of teens are into, though for many of us it seems too daunting to take on.  Programming Like a Pro for Teens by Charles R. Hardnett is an introduction to programming with C++ that actually has exercises in it to practice and doesn’t use heavy computer jargon, which makes it easier for teens (and adults!) to understand than most programming books!


so punk rockSo Punk Rock (and Other Ways to Disappoint Your Mother) by Micol Ostow deals, unsurprisingly, with music. Ari, Jonas, Yossi and Reena, four students at the Leo R. Gittleman Jewish Day School in New Jersey form a rock band. The band becomes insanely- and surprisingly-popular, though, which creates a roller coaster of emotions for its members. guide to songwriting

Music is something that has always been an outlet for teens, and there are plenty of books on the subject. From books about the music makers to books of sheet music, there’s plenty for teens to tune in to.  For those who want to try their hand at creating music, Lisa Donovan Lukas’  The Young Musician’s Guide to Songwriting:  How to Create Music  & Lyrics can help you figure out how to structure a song, figure out harmonies and melodies, and how to develop a good song idea in the first place.



leviathanLeviathan by Scott Westerfeld isn’t specifically about teens making stuff, but there is some serious tinkering with both the biological and mechanical going on in this alternate history, Darwin-meets-steampunk adventure. Deryn, a British girl-disguised-as-a-boy, and Alek, the fifteen year old Prince of Austria, are up against each other and their enemies in this first of a trilogy that has
flying whales and steam powered mechs roaming the European countryside in 1914.Cinder

Cinder by Marissa Meyer isn’t the traditional Cinderella story, and it’s also a Teens’ Top Ten winner (2012). There are no singing mice here! Earth is overcrowded and ravaged by plague. The ruthless lunar people are just waiting to make their move on it. Cinder is a cyborg and a gifted mechanic, and when Prince Kai comes into her shop to get his android fixed, everything changes for her. In order to protect the world she must work with- and yes, maybe fall for- Prince Kai and uncover secrets about her past in this first of the Lunar Chronicles.



project 17Project 17 by Laurie Faria Stolarz finds a diverse group of six high school students sneaking into an abandoned mental institution near Boston to make a film – one that aspiring film maker Derik LaPointe hopes will save him from a future of flipping burgers in his parents’ restaraunt for the rest of his life. Of course, none of them expect the inexplicably terrifying events that keep occurring, even though they probably should have, considering the building is about to be demolished and is rumored by the locals to be haunted! Their lives definitely change that night.

doctor who

Some teens just want to be in front of the camera, others are interested in the behind the scenes aspects of movie making, such as editing and special effects. There are loads of books out there about making movies, but I’ve found that some of the best aren’t guides as much as memoirs, like Sean Astin’s There and Back Again: an Actor’s Tale, which combines the on-screen and the off-screen to give you an all-around picture of what it was like to make the Lord of the Rings films and how he grew as a person throughout the experience. Likewise, Doctor Who: The Inside Story by Gary Russell chronicles everything that went into producing an episode of the popular TV series- from casting and filming to designing costumes, sets, and creatures- through the end of series two. Beware with this one though- there are spoilers if you haven’t seen the show!

Have you got other titles that would be great to build a maker space program on? List them in the comments!

-Carla Land, currently re-reading The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, which is better than she remembered it being in high school.