This is What Happened When I Took the Tween to ALA Annual (a Thank You to Scholastic!)
|The Tween: “I LOVE A Snicker of Magic!”
As you may know, this year I decided to take The Tween (basically 12 at this point) to the exhibit halls at ALA Annual 2014. Although I hemmed and hawed and hesitated about this decision, it turned out to be one of the greatest decisions ever.
On the whole, it really was a non-issue to be honest. She was amazed – as all book lovers surely are – to walk into the exhibit hall and just see the amazing glory of all the books. She was like a kid in a candy store, except – you know – here candy was books. I was so glad to be able to share this experience with her and will treasure it always.
As a librarian who believes in the 40 Developmental Assets, I recognize that simply showing up and giving kids the gift of attention can make all the difference in their lives. All they want is to know that they matter to adults, that we care. Which is why I was moved deeply by what happened in the Scholastic booth.
But let me back up for a moment. You see, because of the economy, we are one of the many families that have had to make dramatic life changes and these changes have dramatically impacted this child that I love so dearly. She had to leave her home, leave her friends, and start a new life in a new place. And the change has not been easy. Plus, like many in our situation, we struggle financially to make ends meet month to month. And to make matters worse, she has been on the hurtful end of some mean girl issues. The last two years have been challenging for this child that I love, and getting to witness her having this moment was a gift to me as her mother as much as it was to her. This is one of those moments that can make or break a kid, and the people at Scholastic really did everything right.
When we walked into the Scholastic booth at ALA, it was like a bright light shone on her and she became the star. One of the booth attendants, and I do wish I had thought to get her name, walked up to us both and looked directly at my Tween and started talking to her. For those of us that work with youth, this is a very important thing. Since I was the librarian and the adult present, this individual could have chosen to deal only with me, but she didn’t. She enthusiastically greeted my daughter and let her know that she mattered. This is what I always try to do with kids and teens in my library, even when their parents are present. I can not emphasize with you enough the importance of this. This moment was so validating for her.
The two of them then went on to have a conversation. The book A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd was on display and the Tween said it was her favorite book, and the attendant excitedly proclaimed that it was her favorite as well. The two of them then went on to have a very excited conversation about the book and why they loved it. She got to share her thoughts with an adult, and they mattered. She was heard.
Then this attendant just looked at my daughter and says, “We need to get you some books!” They then went through a very awesome Reader’s Advisory interview and my daughter walked out of the Scholastic booth with 3 ARCS. : The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare (which I assured her was like like having gold), Dash by Kirby Lawson (she really loves dogs), and Finding Ruby Starling by Karen Rivers. But really, she walked out with more than that, because she walked out with a positive experience in which an adult had taken the time to tell her that she mattered. And it all took less than 15 minutes.
During the course of that day The Tween also had the opportunity to meet one of her favorite authors, Raina Telgemeier. She was shy and awkward about the whole thing – The Tween, not Raina – but she also spent a lot of time the next 2 days talking about it. In fact, we went back the next day so she could buy and get a book signed for her best friend back in Ohio. I believe she is re-doing her room in Raina Telgemeier posters and book covers.
Another interesting thing happened in the Scholastic booth. I’m not going to lie, since I work with tweens and teens I am constantly paying attention to my daughter and her friends to find out what what they like and are interested in doing. It just makes me better at doing my job. So while we walked around the exhibit halls I paid close attention to what she liked and what she didn’t. In the Scholastic booth, she became obsessed with a book on display called Revenge of the Flower Girls. In fact, all day Saturday she asked me to go back and get a copy of that book for her, which led to a really interesting discussion about ARCs and published books. Since RotFG is already published, I promised her that when we returned home I would buy it for her. But still she longed for this title.
On Sunday, she wanted to go back in. And the first thing she said was that we needed to go back and get that book for her. We did walk by, but Scholastic was in the midst of a Maggie Steifvater signing which meant the booth was busy. But The Tween did not care, she really wanted me to go ask them about this book. It was interesting to see her just blink at the mention of Maggie Steifvater, a hugely popular author, and want to interrupt everyone for this book. I am a huge Maggie fan (I love The Raven Boys series), but she was moved by very different things. This too is an important reminder to us all that we all have different tastes and we need to work to reach all readers. But rest assured, next month after we recover from this trip I am going to order this book for her. She really, really, really wants it.
Before we went back into the Exhibit Hall on Sunday, the two of us attended the Scholastic Literary Brunch. Here, several authors – including the Tween’s beloved Raina Telgemeier – performed reader’s theater of 6 upcoming books: The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare, Sisters by Raina Telgemeir, If You’re Reading This by Trent Reedy, Kinda Like Brothers by Coe Booth, The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis and Love is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson . This was her first experience with Reader’s Theater and she loved it. And the book she chose to read first out of this bunch was Kinda Like Brothers by Coe Booth, which she says is “REALLY very good so far.”
A few other highlights from The Tween’s experience at ALA:
1. I want to make sure and point out the people at the Bloomsbury booth were equally awesome to The Tween on Sunday. They gave her a copy of a The Princess Academy: The Forgotten Sisters by Shannon Hale and repeated this same validating experience. Thank you!
2. She ran into author Edith Cohn just walking around and Cohn told her to go to the booth and ask for her upcoming book, Spirit’s Key. She is really looking forward to reading this one. I can not tell you enough how much I have found that meeting authors and having that personal connection to them can impact readers.
3. At the Penguin/Dial booth she reluctantly took an ARC of the book Life of Zarf: The Trouble of Weasels by Rob Harrell. However, she started reading it that day and LOVED it. She laughed out loud a lot while reading it and we had to take it away from her for a while to get her to spend time with the family. The takeaway for her: you really can’t judge a book by its cover, sometimes what you like will surprise you so try new and different things.
4. When I ask her what her favorite parts of ALA were she said, “Listening to them act out their books, meeting Raina Telgemeier and getting all kinds of books!” She liked the Reader’s Theater so much I think I am going to try and do more if at author panels. It really made her want to read the books.
5. She also met and got books signed by A. S. King (whom I adore and consider one of my personal inspirations) and Bethany Crandell (Summer on the Short Bus). She is asking if she can read the A. S. King books now and Librarian Me (Read everything! Read what you want!) is wrestling with Mom Me, who thinks she should probably wait a couple of years. But one day she is going to treasure those signed books because she will read them and know how awesome they are! I did read Summer on the Short Bus yesterday to see if she could read it and decided that 1) It is okay for her to read at this age (it’s very PG, a little kissing and 1 mention of a condom) and 2) I really liked how the main character grew in the way she saw differently abled people and I thought it was very entertaining and important at the same time.
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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