Social Media Experience

For the purpose of this assignment, I used Instagram (IG) because I know a lot of libraries have accounts on IG and also because my resident teens have said that IG is popular amongst them and their peers. I know that 14’s math teacher even uses it to post videos. This was something that I found interesting because in my last district, social media usage was encouraged by central office and school admin; however, in my current district, it is most definitely not encouraged. I asked if there were any expectations around creating and maintaining social media accounts and was strongly discouraged from doing so.

I chose this application because of all the options, this is the one I’m mostly likely to use. I am an old lady who favors Twitter for banter around sports, librarianship, and teaching; I do have an Instagram account but had not used it for work purposes, so it made sense to try and see if this was a potential resource for professional use. After looking at IG through a professional scope, I think I still prefer “teacher Twitter” for my personal use and I am still undecided on whether or not I would use IG for professional purposes.

Overall, I think that Instagram is a user-friendly app. There are a lot of public libraries that I checked out, a number of school libraries, and librarians. I think that using it as a professional resource would make more sense than using it to post actual content related to library activities in the school. I think that teens do like IG. I know that a lot of schools have unofficial groups that post information on what goes on at school; I also am under the impression that teens sometimes use it to watch TikTok videos when parents do not allow them using that app directly — it seems like a workaround in that capacity.

In terms of perception, mine really did not change of Instagram. I will note that when I talked to 16 about it, she mentioned that she does a lot of messaging through IG with friends/classmates. In this capacity, I think there is a greater use for teens because they can use it as an extension of communication tool and can maintain some privacy around texts that do not show up in the phone itself. Further, it allows them to send/share pages and information with peers which serves as an additional way to touch base/interact. From these perspectives, the app seems like a great use for teens but I am not convinced it’s one I would choose to publicize my school’s library.

Book Discussions/Groups

Last semester, we completed book discussions in groups and I really enjoyed the experience. I had to keep reminding myself that I will enjoy this experience as well but it was a lot harder this time around. Mostly, this is because it’s December and it’s busy (the day of my book discussion, I had a meeting after work, my work holiday party, and my parents were getting into town for a visit). Personal life outside of graduate school aside, there were some positive parts of the book discussion. First and foremost, the book! I LOVED this book and after reading it again, loved it more. It was a hit and I have a wait-list for the book in my library. Hoorah! Another positive element centers on the group itself; I had a classmate from last semester in my same book group — this was nice because it almost makes you feel like you’re learning about classmates as people rather than a mere name on a screen. As for the discussion… I really enjoyed being able to discuss the ins and out of The Poet X and hear classmates feedback about their feelings on Xiomara, her family, and her first boyfriend/crush. I also appreciated the Google-ing of THOT. Overall, I really enjoyed the opportunity to participate in another book group/discussion.

Interview a Librarian

How do they keep up with YA books? How do they develop their collection? What kinds of reading or other programs do they do? How do the promote reading to teens? What have been some challenges and successes had they had developing programming for teens? What do they think are important knowledge and skills librarians should have to work with teens? What advice do they have for you when working with teens? 

I had the good pleasure of interviewing a local high school librarian. The interview started with a tour of the library, which is genrefied by fiction and organized with Dewey for nonfiction. The organization of the library encourages students to make their way throughout and allows for easy browsing. I was told that roughly 150 students are in the library daily for study, additional students visit for lunch, and others are in periodically throughout the day. One thing I learned, which was surprising to me, is that this particular librarian does book talks with students. Now, as a middle school librarian, I do a lot of book talks because I have grade-level visits to the library where students are expected to check out a book. That said, I assumed that because high school schedules are so different and classes do not typically visit the library, that students do not get to attend book talks. I was wrong.

Between the collection and the book talks, students are encouraged to read. Further, there are books on display within each genre section, on top of each nonfiction bookshelf, and then throughout the library on display tables. Books are purchased a number of different ways: School Library Journal, Booklist, student recommendations, teacher recommendations, and discussions with the public library’s YA librarian.

In terms of non-book related library projects, the librarian told me that the bulk of her teaching work centers on research. She provided me with IIM resources and lent me two books to read with research writing tips. While she developed her own curriculum for research based on elements of other curricula, she noted that getting teacher buy-in has not always been easy.

Overall, my biggest takeaway from this interview is maintaining consistency across the elementary, middle, and high school programs with the IIM research methodology. I also really liked seeing the collection. I have a lot of books to add to my TBR list thanks to the visit to this school library.

Reading Log #1

Monday’s Not Coming

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Contemporary Realistic Fiction

Jackson, T. (2018). Monday’s Not Coming. Katherine Tegen Books.

Monday’s Not Coming was a gut-wrenching book that charts Claudia (the protagonist) as she searches for her best friend, Monday, who’s not been attending school. Claudia is an 8th grader living in Southeast, DC. As she searches for her best friend, she enlists the help of a friend from church, school teachers and administrators, the school social worker, and the police; she risks her safety and her own livelihood by asking Monday’s family for information about Monday’s whereabouts. The character development in this story was phenomenal and the setting of SE, DC was accurate (particularly, some of the Anacostia-specific references like Go Go Music and the use of the word, “bama”). One setback in this book is the way it’s organized — with chapters titled Before the Before to show the flashbacks Claudia is having, there can be some confusion, which should be mentioned to any student looking to read this book. Overall, this book can be suggested as an independent reading assignments to any mature student in grades 8+. One thing to note is that when this book started to make its appearance on banned book lists, the author noted that restricting access to this book also restricts knowledge of the reality of missing girls with brown or black skin — such a powerful statement and rings true because in addition to having such a strong emphasis on that throughout the text were the barriers faced when searching for a young Black girl.

The Poet X

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Verse

Acevedo, E. (2018). The Poet X. Quill Tree Books.

The Poet X is a profound book of poems that note the protagonist, Xiomara, and her experiences as a teen with an over-developed boy and an under-developed relationship with her Dominican parents, specifically her mother. Xiomara faces internal conflict over trying to be true to herself all while trying to be the daughter and twin her family wants her to be; not surprisingly, she falls short on both accounts because she is trying too hard to be who she’s not and not enough to be who she is. The Poet X is a book that examines vulnerabilities within oneself and within family dynamics; it looks like relationships and how the simple belief in oneself can truly guide life’s experiences. The Poet X can easily be recommended to any student in 8th grade (and also any English teacher or librarian or really anyone else who can read because it is such a spectacularly woven story that is full of raw experiences and emotion). This would be a great book to use during a poetry unit or during a lesson on Hispanic Heritage Month, as Poet X was a 2019 Pura Belpre award winning text.

Boxers

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Historical Fiction

Yang, G. L. (2013). Boxers. First Second.

Boxers is a graphic novel by Gene Luen Yang. This graphic novel has coming of age elements all while making note of the boxer revolution that took place in China. Four Girl (protagonist), who wasn’t given a name based on the pattern of fours that followed her: Fourth in the birth order, born on 4/4, is considered bad luck by her family because of the stronghold the number four has on her life. In Chinese culture, the number four is representative of the word ‘death’ and thus her family relationships are different from those of other family members. As a result, she sets out to find her fate and decides to take hold of Christianity. Through her life experiences, she figures out her place in the world all while living through a historical time in Chinese history. This book makes note of Chinese culture and historical elements that have contributed to the culture as whole all through following Four Girl’s journey into finding herself. Boxers can be accessible for students in 8th grade and up; understanding the historical context of the book would be helpful. Using Boxers as a companion text to history is another way this book could be used.

Bifocal

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Books that feature diverse characters

Walters, E., Ellis, D. (2007). Eleven. Alto Nido Press.

Bifocal is a book that contains two parallel stories of high schoolers, Jay and Haroon. Jay is a star football player and has white skin; whereas, Haroon is on the school trivia team and has brown skin. The chapters in this book alternate between the experiences each of these boys face when a classmate, Akeem, is accused of being part of a terror cell in their Canadian city. At first, Haroon is also accused of terrorism based solely on the color of his skin and as the story goes, police continue to harass and threaten Haroon despite setting him free for having nothing to do with the terror plot. There are other happenings like harassment and the internal conflict Jay faces on doing the right or wrong thing but overall, the impact of skin color resonates as the reader learns of how two races can experience the same events in such different ways. Overall, this book could be read by mature 7th graders, but would likely be more appreciated and understood by high school students. This could be used as a classroom read and would be great as an assigned book specifically for the purpose of perspective taking.

Speak

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Graphic Novel

Anderson, L.H. (2018). Speak. Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux.

The graphic novel version of Speak is just that, graphic. The story is heavy and dark and so are the images; so much so that they could be described as haunting. In Speak, the protagonist, Melinda, recounts her freshman year experience — how she is dealing with school, her parents, and peer relationships after being blamed for calling police to a summer party. One thing that none of these people know, aside from Melinda, is that she was sexually assaulted at that party and is having a great deal of difficulty figuring out what the right course of action is. As she works to figure out how to share her truth, she cuts, she ditches class, and she fights with peers, parents, and teachers. There is a clear heaviness illustrated in this text, which lacks color and uses primarily heavy lines and dark shading. The graphic novel version of this book could be read by a mature 8th grader but might be more appropriate for high school students, though the traditional text could be better suited for the middle grades students due to the lack of graphics. While some teachers do teach this book, independent reading would be a totally adequate assignment for a text such this.

Teen Reading Memoir

From as far back as I can remember, I’ve loved reading books. I spent much time during childhood at the local public library and looked forward to book checkout days at school. That did not change much when I got to high school. I went to a Jr-Sr High and for better or worse, I have memories in seventh grade of a classmate calling Super Fudge, “Super F***” – not everyone was as enthusiastic about reading as I. As high school progressed, I remember reading assigned texts (largely because there was no public Internet and no way to gain access to online summaries) but I also really enjoyed the assignments that allowed for creativity and written expression as a way to prove understanding and classroom readiness. I never minded standardized tests that scored reading skills and dutifully read all of the short stories in our English anthologies that were used in class.

In eighth grade English, I remember watching a clip of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Tell Tale Heart after reading the story in class. That has haunted me since in a way that etched elements of it into my brain more than a way that startled me. In ninth grade, I read Romeo & Juliet in English class and thus started my love of Shakespeare (which continued through college where I  had the opportunity to study abroad and head to Stratford – it also has continued through my adult life as I’ve seen plays at The Globe and have watched Shakespeare on the Boston Common in summers and have taken advantage of traveling theatre productions in Sidney Harman Hall in DC. In tenth grade, we read Hamlet, Tale of Two Cities, and Moby Dick; nothing more than titles were particularly memorable but those are some of the readings I recall.

Getty Images: https://www.gettyimages.com/photos/stack-of-books

Eleventh grade readings started in the summer after sophomore year – we were handed a bag of books: Catcher & the Rye was one that stands out to me. I remember not particularly enjoying the reads that year but with an AP course load, they were mandatory. Paradise Lost is the material I remember most from senior year but at this point cannot recall much in terms of detail. Many of the texts that I read in school were manageable but were not keen interests of mine. I rarely saw myself in readings and never really understood the importance of connecting to a text because connections of any kind were never really emphasized.

In order to connect with texts, I relied heavily on my interest reads. Three books that I recall diving into were Go Ask Alice by Beatrice Sparks, Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, and She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb; I also would pick up a Stephen King book here and there. It turns out, my interest in reading heavy books started in high school and rings true today. And while I rarely, if ever, will recommend a film of any kind because I largely find watching movies a form of slow torture, I used to really like the Sunday Night Movies that were broadcast on NBC and later syndicated on Lifetime like the rendition of Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery (a classic that is still a favorite of mine today).

Favorite YA Book

It’s been a minute since I’ve blogged but taking my last literature class has me back to blogging. For the first assignment, I’m to write about my favorite YA book and this is an easy, hands-down decision for me: Monster by Walter Dean Myers.

My love of Monster runs deeper than this though; it was the first book I ever taught as a 9th grade English teacher. This book reminds me of Anacostia High in SE, DC and really just takes me to place of contentment around teaching. I love this book for all of the personal growth my teaching experiences brought me and the storyline isn’t too shabby either.

Enter Steve Harmon, a 16 year old who is on trial for murder and robbery. Monster is written as partial screen play that offers a series of flash-backs and glimpses into the plot-line of all the events that went down to land Harmon in his current predicament. Opposite the screenplay is a series of journal entries where we get some solid character development and learn that Harmon is no different than any other teenage boy who thinks about school and friends; a mere child who is incarcerated and misses his parents and teachers.

I’ve book-talked this book with both 7th and 8th graders this year and sold it well to both grade levels. One thing that I like to focus on with students during my book talks are the various text features throughout this book because sometimes, it’s nice to read a novel that is not in paragraph form. To me, Monster is a classic text that I will continue to reference year in and year out.

Myers, Walter Dean. Monster. Amistad Publishing. 2001.

Reading Log #3

Title: Guinness World Records 2021

Genre: Informational Text

Citation: Guinness World Records (2020). Guinness World Records 2021. Guinness World Records.

Summary: The Guinness World Records 2021 has a lot of records held for all kinds of different things like fastest runner, largest potato, and the most expensive foods. This book is accessible to children ages 6+ because of the vast pictures within the text. (Many children ages 6-7 may not be able to read the entirety of the content but will be able to use the pictures for understanding.) This would be a great book to use for programming purposes in a town library by publishing a newsletter or posters for children who read the most books of a genre or attended the most story hours.  

Title: Who Would Win? Green Ants vs. Army Ants

Genre: eBook

Citation: Pallotta, J. (2019). Who Would Win? Green Ants vs. Army Ants. Scholastic Incorporated.

Who Would Win? Green Ants vs. Army Ants is a book available as an eBook. In this eBook, the reader is delighted by informational graphics of ants and walked through the critical thinking process of comparing and contrasting various types of ants. The graphics in the book are plentiful and there are also games at the end of the book, though the reader is unable to fill them out on the computer. The book shares a lot of information, though, and can engage the reader with the balance of pictures and words. This book could be used as an independent reader for children ages 8+.

Title: Gimkit

Genre: Educational Game

Citation: https://www.gimkit.com/

Gimkit is a considered an online learning game and is often used with middle grades students (grades 4-8). Users of Gimkit can set up questions to answer and then earn “money” for their correct answers. Gimkit can be used by youth to study and to review books or any other content materials. The site has preloaded (by other educators) quizzes and has the option to upload one’s own, so that materials can be catered toward specific content or more general material.

Title: Common Sense Media

Genre: Educational Website

Citation: Reviews for what your kids are into (before they get into it): Common sense media. Common Sense Media: Ratings, reviews, and advice. (n.d). https://www.commonsensemedia.org/

Common Sense Media is an educational website that can be used for a range of things through librarianship: It can be used to access media reviews (books and movies), used to create lessons on digital media and Internet safety, and used as a resource for apps, games, and other media forms. Common Sense Media is includes a number of educational resources, not only for teachers and students but for parents and families as well. The website is user-friendly and has sub-headers for different media types, for parents, for educators, and for advocates; there is also a link that informs users of their research. Overall, Common Sense Media offers a user-based experience and allows its users the opportunity to understand media in a more in-depth capacity.

Title: Call of the Wild

Genre: Film

Citation: Sanders, C. (Director). (2020). Call of the Wild. United States. Paramount.

Summary: The Call of the Wild was released as an original movie in the 1970s and was remade in 2020. This movie has vivid graphics that match up with the words in the Jack London classic. Watching films with children that mirror books they have read allows for discussion around critical thinking and offers readers a different vantage point to participate in. Using a film like this in a public library setting could work with library programming by hosting a panel discussion on which was better, the book or the movie; it can also serve as a piece of a whole program on comparing/contrasting books and their corresponding movie versions. This particular book and movie combo would work out nicely for children ages 9-14, but this type of program can be extended for older students by watching the movie O and reading Othello or watching Ten Things I Hate About You and reading Taming of the Shrew.

Final Learning Reflection

Children’s literature encompasses so much that it is easy to be overwhelmed by all of its components. Throughout the last seven weeks, I have spent a lot of time reading articles, reading books, researching authors, and learning about educational apps and websites. In order to appropriately use the findings from this course, I think that it makes a lot of sense to think about how I will plan to use these materials going forward.

            First and foremost, a lot of the articles and the Sylvia M. Vardell text Children’s Literature in Action, provide strategies on how best to evaluate both reading and learning materials for children. Last semester, I took a YA Literature course and learned a lot about professional review sources, so having a tool or guideline on how best to evaluate literature through a librarianship scope is another strategy I will implement regularly. In addition to being able to further vet materials, I am looking forward to doing more author spotlights.

            For the purpose of this course, I did an author spotlight on Jason Reynolds: A popular author who I knew very little about. That particular assignment forced me to learn more about an author and I would like to take that approach in the future with other authors and expand what I’ve learned in the form of bulletin boards and book displays for students and teachers to learn more about.

Author Jason Reynolds
Photo Credit: American Libraries/Cognotes.

            Areas that I would like to learn more about vary but include learning-based technologies. I read articles this term about the value of eBooks; this was something interesting to me because students at my school will take an eBook as an absolute last resort but do not seem much interested in them otherwise, despite teachers asking me to demonstrate how they are able to change fonts (which can help with dyslexia at times), use the read aloud feature (which offers an opportunity to change both voice and speed), and highlight and/or note-take. I want to figure out a way to make the eBooks mor appealing to students, which is quite the challenge for someone who does not enjoy reading on a screen at all and prefers a paper-book any day of the week.

            Another area of weakness centers on learning apps. I looked at GimKit for this class because I know it’s a learning tool a lot of teachers use and one that our students seemingly enjoy. I did not know much about it otherwise, though. I would like to figure out ways to integrate learning games into the library programming at my school because I think it can be a way to get students excited about class time in the library. It might also be a way to break up digital literacy components of learning and help lead into online safety discussions.

            Another way to discuss online safety is to address computer/technology use for children ages 10+ (the ages of children in my school). Using sites like Common Sense Media can help improve knowledge of understanding across a wide-range of elements like media literacy, online safety, and the site can even be used for book reviews, and for families to investigate whether or not certain sites or apps are appropriate for use by children of any age.

            There is such robust information out there in the world to accompany librarianship and it is really important to know how best to use it without feeling overwhelmed at every turn. I think that’s the biggest takeaway for me is learning how to integrate new knowledge without being overwhelmed and feeling like I need to share everything I know all at once. Because I have been thinking about how to integrate what I have used in this class into a library program, I can chunk the information I’ve learned to meet the needs of my library community.

            Next year, I will hopefully have full use of my library and will be able to run library programs like the reading challenge I created and use bulletin board space to highlight authors, books, and online learning tools. This is something I wholeheartedly look forward to doing. Overall, I think that there was a lot of information learned about throughout this course and I think much of it will benefit children I currently work with and those I will work with in the future. While I am a school librarian this year, it is hard to know which path I will eventually stay on in librarianship but I know I will be prepared for any area I will want to work in moving forward. 

Book Group: Guts

I had the pleasure of meeting with three classmates and my professor last week. While it was a virtual meet, it was a meet no less and it is always nice to put a face to a name, especially given that I have had more than one class with each of these particular classmates. While we did discuss some of the book, we also got into other topics surrounding librarianship, teaching, and graphic novels. It was a really great conversation and I’m thankful for that opportunity to meet with classmates.

The book we read for class was Guts but Raina Telgemeier. I, personally, did not like the book as much as my classmates for myself; however, I did see a great value in this text for children and more specifically, for students in my school. Guts is a coming-of-age graphic novel that shows the evolution of bathroom humor through puberty and throws in a healthy dose of anxiety and health issues for good measure. There are troubles that characters in the text face like the fear of being accepted, the fear of public speaking, the fear of being ridiculed over a family-favorite-packed-lunch. These fears are very true for anyone who has experienced them and my guess is that through reading the book, most children ages 8-12 will have first-hand experience with at least one of the topics covered in the book.

Overall, Guts is a great graphic novel that presents a lot of troublesome and stressful experiences children and tweens have and frames it in a non-intimidating way through graphics and storytelling. Boys and girls alike can benefit from taking the time to read Guts by Raina Telgemeier.  

Reading Log #2

Home of the Brave

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Realistic Fiction

Applegate, K. (2007). Home of the Brave. Square Fish.

Home of the Brave is a book written in verse that guides the reader through Kek’s story of immigrating from Africa to Minnesota. It documents his experiences as a child learning English, learning how to navigate school and social interactions in the state, and mourning the loss of his brother and father (and his missing mother). The story is moving and relatable and also provides the reader with context about what it might be like to move from another country with completely different culture and climate and be forced to acclimate without the help and support of one’s parents. The characters in this story are rich with words and experiences; Kek doesn’t understand American customs and idioms, so reading through his perspective gives a gleam into those experiences. The setting is also descriptive, sharing a lot of information about the Minnesota cold – what it looks like; how it feels – which really allows the reader to feel like they are there beside him. Because this book is in verse, it can end up being more or less intimidating to the reader (depending on the person). For this reason, it can be recommended to children (ages 9+) to read independently or in a school setting as a full class read aloud or independent reading book.

Inside Out and Back Again

Inside Out and Back Again
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Historical Fiction

Lai, T. (2011). Inside Out & Back Again. Harper Collins.

Inside Out and Back Again is a historical fiction book written in verse. It tells the tale of Ha and her journey of leaving South Vietnam. Through Ha’s experiences, her words are told from the perspective of a child learning and understanding all that goes into immigrating to the United States during a time of war. In one section, appropriately titled “July 4,” Ha recounts how her mother chose the USA over France or other countries where the Vietnamese fled at that time: The hope of college and even scholarships for her sons. Reading on, Ha’s experience was not what her mother was promised; there are many struggles found with classmates being unkind and teachers assuming Ha and her siblings know or understand less than they do. Overall, this book asks for perspective taking on how new immigrant families in American cities and town may feel, know, understand, and need. This book is recommended for children ages 11+ with the hopes that the older the child, the more they will get out of the book beyond just the tales and stories shared.

The Thing About Bees: A Love Letter

The Thing About Bees: A Love Letter
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Audiobook

Larkin, S. (2020). The Thing About Bees: A Love Letter. Read by: Shabazz Larkin, Legend Larkin, Royal
Larkin, Ashley Larkin. Live Oak Media. Audiobook. 11 minutes.

The Thing About Bees was both written and read by Shabazz Larkin. There was a second voice in the narration to show the onset of the book. In the background is music/tunes. Larkin uses wait time as he reads; almost like you would in a read aloud situation. Larkin showed intonation as he read and the sound effects amplified the meaning behind the words. This book is a great informational text because it teaches readers about the importance of bees and includes examples of all of the foods we eat and experiences we have with those items as a result of bee pollination. On a personal note, I love that Shabazz Larkin wrote this book because of his fear of bees and his desire to grow so that he does not pass that fear onto his children. This book could be used with toddlers through early grades children, ages 3-7 as a read aloud for a library or even as a read aloud for an elementary-level science class.

Wings of Fire

The Dragonet Prophecy (Wings of Fire #1) (1)
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Fantasy: The Dragonet Prophecy

Sutherland, T. T. (2012). Wings of Fire: The Dragonet Prophecy. Scholastic Press.

The Wings of Fire series is one that is very popular amongst children ages 10+. The Dragonet Prophecy is the first of the series (which currently has 14 books in publication). In this book, there are highs filled with excitement from battles and lows filled with fear from fallouts. Word choice fuels the imagery at play when reading and allows the reader to reenact vivid scenes in their minds. This book is recommended to anyone interested in fantasy books, specifically that lean toward dragons. The fact that this book kicks off a series allows the reader to really invest in the literature and the fate of Clay and the rest of the MudWing dragons/dragonets.

Drama

Drama: A Graphic Novel
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Graphic Novel

Telgemeier, R. (2012). Drama. Scholastic Press.

Drama is a coming-of-age graphic novel that follows the trials and tribulations of the protagonist, Callie. In the book, Callie is on the stage-crew for her school’s drama performance; she learns that there is more drama than that performed on-stage. Callie experiences a crush, frustration at school with members of the cast and crew, and everyday dealings. Brightly colored text is used to emphasize sounds in the story. The text compliments the pictures well in this graphic novel and really tells the story of Callie’s experiences. This book can be used as an independent reading book and can be enjoyed by children ages 10 and up.