Marvelous Meta-Horror for Halloween Season

Horror is at its scariest when it puts you into the perspective of its terrified victims, but if you’ve read or watched widely in the genre, it can be harder to feel those vicarious thrills, especially when you’re busy yelling at the characters to stop being so stupid. Enter meta-horror: where your extra knowledge of the genre is part of the fun. In meta-horror, the characters may realize that events are happening like in a horror movie; or the story may break the fourth wall and deconstruct horror tropes to do something unfamiliar. It may be as simple as including “wink-wink” references that a horror fiend may be delighted to recognize. Either way, these meta-horror books, movies, and games can be scary, clever, or funny, or all three. You can recommend these titles to your high school teen horror buffs who are looking to put their horror knowledge to good use.


Alone, by Cyn Balog (Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers 2019 nominee)

Seda’s mother inherits a crumbling mansion that was once a murder mystery hotel. Her mother is supposed to renovate and sell it, but she seems more interested in keeping it in the family. Seda likes all of the secret passages and macabre decorations at first, but it turns oppressive when a blizzard strands a group of teenagers at the house. To keep their new guests entertained, her mother decides to host a murder mystery like in the old days.

Continue reading Marvelous Meta-Horror for Halloween Season

Choose Your Own Adventure: Living the Story through Video Games

From the moment that Zork in the 1970s opened with “You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door,” interactive fiction games have continued to evolve, and not just because of the inclusion of increasingly more sophisticated graphics. Story-driven experiences are still at the heart of many of today’s best video games, with as many different styles of gameplay as there are gamers.

The following video games are particularly suited to teens story-wise, though content ratings list most of these games as M for Mature, which are more appropriate for older teens. Consider these if you’re updating and adding to your circulating video game collection, and keep them in mind when talking with teens as “outside the box (or book, in this case)” recommendations.

Continue reading Choose Your Own Adventure: Living the Story through Video Games

All About the Books – 5 Bookish Podcasts to Keep You in the Know

Trying to stay on top of what is coming out in the world of books for teens can be a daunting task. Podcasts about books can be a great way to stay on top of things, and you can listen while multitasking. Listening to bookish podcasts not only has kept me more current with what is coming out, alerted me to movie adaptations, and grown my own TBR list, it has also improved my own booktalking game by hearing other folks’ enthusiasm and descriptions about titles.

Continue reading All About the Books – 5 Bookish Podcasts to Keep You in the Know

Pop Culture Podcasts for Teens

Teens are often their own guides into how they consume pop culture and news media, and like their adult counterparts, they love the discussion of the art as much as enjoying the art itself. This kind of discussion reinforces school curriculum that also is about evaluating and discourse, and hones those life skills of understanding the world around them, and how they can contribute. Podcasts are an accessible form where one can tune in, and can be enlightening as they dig deeper into elements of culture, while also enhancing their own narrative skills, giving them language to better discuss and understand them.

Continue reading Pop Culture Podcasts for Teens

Five Podcasts to Try for Fans of “Welcome to Night Vale”

Audio fiction podcasts are finally getting their comeuppance thanks largely to the success of the Welcome to Night Vale podcast. Serialized fiction podcasts are an engaging storytelling medium that is drawing the attention of teens and listeners of all ages. Since its start in June of 2012, this darkly funny podcast with its premise of local radio news show has been enchanting listeners. Set in the sleepy desert town of Night Vale, it has all the government conspiracies and unexplained phenomena of X Files, but are explored with a “News from Lake Wobegon” flavor ala Prairie Home Companion.

Welcome to Night Vale logo

The 2015 book Welcome to Night Vale debuted in the top ten on the New York Time’s best seller list and continues to be a teen favorite. The podcast was first produced by Commonplace Books, but is now being produced by the creators own company Night Vale Presents. Night Vale Presents also produces other podcasts “both from the Night Vale artistic team and from other artists with a similar vision for independent, original podcasting.” Be sure to check out Alice Isn’t Dead, The Orbiting Human Circus, and Within the Wires. Continue reading Five Podcasts to Try for Fans of “Welcome to Night Vale”

Books to Read Based on Your Divergent Faction

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you know that Veronica Roth’s new book, Carve the Mark, has been released and fans are super excited! For new fans, this book might bring them to Veronica’s original phenomenon, Divergent.

In honor of this I have compiled a list of what books you should read based on your Divergent faction. Don’t know your faction? Take a quiz here!

Get your pens and papers or Goodreads account ready, here are some books you’ll love (hopefully!) based on your faction. And if you’re divergent, your list will be even longer!

Erudite: The Intelligent

  • The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

11-year-old Flavia de Luce, who dreams of being a chemist and has a passion for poison, must clear her father’s name in a murder case. By gathering clues, Flavia is able to tie two deaths together and investigate new suspects. This book is perfect for an Erudite because Flavia is tenacious and smart and uses her incredible depth of knowledge to crack the case.

Six unlikely outcasts band together, with the brilliant criminal Kaz leading the way. They must break into a fortress that is known to be impenetrable, without their pasts getting in the way. Six of Crows is great for an Erudite reader as all six characters have to use their smarts and skills to pull off the heist of a lifetime.

Kestrel’s Commander father wants her to join the military or get married, but she has other plans. When she saves the life of a slave, she discovers he is much more than he seems and her new path is set in motion. Kestrel, just like an Erudite, uses her wits and strategic planning to find her way out of difficult situations. Continue reading Books to Read Based on Your Divergent Faction

Do You Know All You Should About “News” Feeds, Click Bait, and Credible Sources?

We’ve all seen it.  The article on social media that declares “OMG! You will never believe what [politician, celebrity, reality star] did?”  And the truth is we won’t believe it, because most likely it never happened.  Such over-the-top statements are teasers to make even the most responsible internet user stop reading to click on the story.  Click bait is only one method used to lure the reader.

Digital Literacy has become its own news worthy topic in the world of social media and online anonymity.  Whereas print journalism allowed the reader to have some assurance of professionalism with the review of editors, online information allows anyone to voice an opinion.   Every internet user needs to have the skills to evaluate and interpret online sources.  It is reported by the Pew Research and Media Center (2016) that 66% of adults polled reported to reading news from Facebook  so this skill to navigate online news sources is clearly needed throughout adulthood as well.

The need to educate internet users goes beyond students.  Google and Facebook declared this past November and December, respectively, that they will work with fact checkers to find fake news on their sites and change how they report news.  They will also change how they place ads among news stories, admitting that how they portray the news is important since click bait tactics earned more money for these fake news sites.


While this is a proactive step, individuals still must know how to evaluate web sources, navigate online tools, and whether or not their own searches and social media profile are limiting their news exposure.   For example, The Wall Street Journal’s article showing the Blue Feed vs Red Feed  results indicate that users of Facebook are limiting their news sources, but perhaps more troubling is that it shows that fake news is a growing problem.  Based on “likes” and “shares”, Facebook users inflict a self-censorship to the stories that show up on their feeds as well as the likelihood of being subjected to fake news if they have “liked” or “shared” a fake news story in the past.   

For anyone interested in teaching teens how to successfully evaluate the news there are already numerous tools available.  School Journalism provides News and Media Literary lesson plans for how to approach this topic.  Lesson plans are both for Middle School and for older students. Sources have been consolidated from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation Why News Matters initiative, the Journalism Education Association, The News Literacy Project, The Center for News Literacy at Stonybrook University, and Columbia Links.

But we can all help educate on digital literacy without memorizing a lesson plan.  I mention it whenever a student is working on finding sources for a research project or researching current events.

Media Literacy Tips (from me) That You Can Do In 5 Minutes:  

  • Look closely at the URL. Websites can be created or bought by anyone.  News websites will most likely be very short and clear on their URL.  For instance, is the real ABC website, whereas is not. That final “co” after the “.com” is a tell.  Similarly, look closely if there is a random number in the middle of a URL or any sign you are not directed to the main URL, but a local news site or random page.
  • Find the author. Read the About Us section or search for the organization that has posted the story.  Take the name of the group and complete a new search on the group – are they a for-profit business, nonprofit, government funded, of supported by more legitimate groups?  Do they name the staff, Board of Trustees, or Owner?
  • What is the purpose of the article? This expands from the author to truly look into what the story’s message is really saying.  If it seems extreme, it probably is.  Consider looking for a similar story from other sources, especially from the global community.  How are other news sources or organizations, not owned by businesses that have an opinion on the topic, covering the story?  Groups such as the Human Rights Campaign, the BBC, and NPR will cover an issue and its global significance.
  • Is the story supported? Does the news story refer to experts in the field (check their credentials), link to legitimate organizations, or connect you to similar stories from other sources?  If there are quotes in the article, who are they from?  Are they experts in the field, a witness to the story, or a statement listed in the “comments” section?
    • Snopes Websites like Snopes are now frequently visited to check the latest news story on credibility.  In fact, this month they joined Facebook to be a 3rd party fact checker (with no financial incentives).
  • Who created the website? Websites are cheap, even “.org” sites.  Savvy internet users must know where they are getting the information.  If I am unsure, I trace the website with the previous listed options or with where you can enter a URL and find out the creator of the website.   Many websites that appear to be political can be traced to groups which sell domains, that is a warning that the original creator may not be what it appears.  If it is credible, an author and legitimate creator/organization would be listed, such as National Public Radio, Inc. for
  • Image verification & Statistics. Snopes will sometimes work for images as well.  Besides that, inquisitive minds should reverse check the image on Google to see its original posting or if it is often used for various people or groups.  Libraries might also subscribe to Image databases.  While this is more import for school projects than evaluating the media, it teaches students that verifying images should be a constant thought in online searching. Likewise, graphs can be deceiving or distorted and teenagers need to know how to critically evaluate statistics and images illustrating statistics.  Just because something appears to have similarities, it does not imply they are linked together.   Correlation is different than causation.

    Thanks to for the image

Digital Literacy goes beyond evaluating news sources and social media, yet with the ease of sharing stories online the importance is ageless.  If the majority of readers rely on only one or two sources of information, they are both limiting themselves on the understanding of a topic and also, more importantly, they are validating their already set belief.  The danger is that readers do not realize they are inflicting self-censorship.  To truly understand a topic various sources need to be read and understood.  In the 21st century our skills of understanding and critiquing what we read must be taught, updated, and used whether beginning a Google search, clicking on that popular article on Facebook, or retweeting.  Social Media and online news outlets offer many ways to be informed.  Just remember, before you “share” it with that one touch or click, double checking its validity can often be done within a few minutes.

– Sarah Carnahan, currently reading Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer

Self-Care Resources for Teens

As part of our month of posts around the topic of social justice, today we’re rounding up some tips and resources to help teens practice good self-care. I am using the term “self-care” to mean general actions that an individual can take to maintain or improve their physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being. Engaging with issues of social justice can bring up many difficult emotions, trigger or exacerbate mental health concerns, and otherwise prompt symptoms of distress. Stories and coverage of injustice, violence, and violations of civil and human rights are inherently troubling to encounter. Learning to acknowledge and manage this distress can help teens – and adults! – to not feel entirely overwhelmed when confronting issues of social justice. Learning to recognize our individual limits and needs, and developing ways to meet them, are critical tools against feeling overwhelmed, burnt out, or consumed by anger, despair, or helplessness. I am not a health care professional, and self-care strategies and choices are highly personal; your ideas and feedback are encouraged and appreciated in the comments!

One critical level of self-care is taking care of our immediate physical needs: eating nutritious foods, staying hydrated, and, in an era of constant access to the media and the ability to binge on screen-time, taking time away from devices to shower, get dressed, and make sure we’re spending time off the internet.

Taking a few deep breaths, perhaps in sync with this viral and effective GIF, is also a first-line self-care action. These could all be considered self-care strategies to implement right-this-minute in the face of feeling overwhelmed. It’s just a little easier to face the enormity of social justice issues when you’re freshly shampooed and you’ve got going-out-in-public clothes on. Some resources to encourage good habits for these immediate needs: basic health guides (especially those directly addressing the teen years), cookbooks, etc.

The next level of self-care involves building in or learning activities and practices to help us feel centered, calm, and positive. These could include: Continue reading Self-Care Resources for Teens

App Review: Serial Reader

Every year around this time, I’m faced with the same problem: Dozens of high school students are flocking to my library in search of their required reading for AP English classes, and even though I’m lucky enough to have two sets of shelves in my teen space set aside for these books, there never seem to be enough copies. When print copies run out, I can always direct the teens to electronic collections, but what happens when those copies are also checked out?


Last month, an article presented a potential solution when it introduced me to an app called Serial Reader. I interested in the claim that Serial Reader would let me “conquer the classics in ten minutes a day.” To get started, I downloaded the free version of the app to my iPad to try. I was then prompted to subscribe to a book from their extensive list of classic and public domain titles and set a daily delivery time. I chose Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, and for the next ten days, Serial Reader sent me a section of the book that I could read in an average of ten minutes (some sections took a bit longer, but none were longer than fifteen minutes). The app synced my progress across my devices, so I could start a section during a break at work on my smartphone and finish it later on my tablet at home. By the end of ten days, I had read all of Common Sense. Continue reading App Review: Serial Reader

Racial and Social Justice Podcasts for Teens

This presidential campaign season and recent current events have brought many social issues to the forefront. Teens (and adults) are trying to navigate many of these around racial equity, Islamophobia, and immigration. Often as library staff we try to help teens delve into issues, interests, concerns or questions they are experiencing with bibliotherapy, which can serve as a great tool, but published books don’t always capture to immediacy of what is happening right now.

News media channels are often the sources where we are encountering these subjects, but little segments don’t, or can’t, take the time to fully unpack particular aspects around these issues. The following is a list of current podcasts, podcasts that have teen appeal, that we can all be listening to that explore racial and social justice in the United States, and especially during a time where politics are front and center.

Racial Justice Podcasts for Teens-1

Here are six podcast to listen to and share with teens right now:

Politically Re-Active

Politically Re-Active

Comedians and W. Kamau Bell and Hari Kondabolu come together to discuss some the most current hot-button topics that are arising during the current political campaign season. The podcast premiered at the end of June and will carry on through the election in November. Each week they have a guest on their show, and they get in deep to current issues such as private prisons, third-wave feminism, and dog-whistling politics – all issues of interest to teens. They also talk to other journalist of color and social justice leaders as they discuss the current political process and how it intersects with social justice issues.

Also check out Bell’s other podcast Denzel Washington is the Greatest Actor of All Time Period that he does with Kevin Avery and Kondabolu’s interview with NPR’s Nerdette Podcast from August 5, 2016, where he talks about the power of youth and how important it is to be reaching out to teens because this is when they are forming their opinions. Kondabolu gets teens and knows that humor and comedy is the best way to reach them.

Code Switch

Code SwitchAn NPR Podcast about race and identity that is comprised of wide-array of journalists of color discussing the “overlapping themes of race, ethnicity and culture, and how they play out in our lives and communities.” The podcast began in late May 2016 and has covered topics from the killing of Philando Castile and how LGBTQ people of color were dealing with the Orlando shootings to people of color and their relationship to the great outdoors and the stress of how people of color are being portrayed on TV and in the movies. A must listen is their debut podcast from May 31, 2016 “Can We Talk About Whiteness.”



Activist, storyteller, and politico Tanzila “Taz” Ahmed and  writer, actor and comedian Zahra Noorbakhsh started #GoodMuslimBadMuslim in January 2015 to discuss the constant flips they have to make being Muslim in American culture and the ways they choose to live and create art. As they put it, “To the Muslim community, we are ‘bad’ Muslims” and “To non-Muslims, we are ‘good.’” Through humor and satire they take hard look at what is going on politically, pop culture, and the current rise of Islamophobia. Continue reading Racial and Social Justice Podcasts for Teens