GEPL Teens Blog

GEPL Teens: What I Just Read – Under a Painted Sky

Teens Blog BannerBy: Hannah Rapp, Teen Librarian

Blog Entry 165 - ImageEveryone has certain genres or stories they tend to gravitate towards or away from. It’s natural! But once again, I’ve been reminded how important it is to not let those tendencies get in the way of finding a great read. For instance, I’ve never been a big fan of Westerns or Oregon Trail type stories, but I am a huge sucker for friendship stories. And if I hadn’t given my latest What I Just Read book a try, despite the cowboy thing, I never would have discovered the amazing friendship at the core of it.

What I Just Read: Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

What’s It About (Jacket Description): Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician—not an easy thing if you’re a girl, and harder still if you’re Chinese. But a tragic accident dashes any hopes of fulfilling her dream, and instead, leaves her fearing for her life. With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha flees town for the unknown frontier. But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy, two boys headed for the California gold rush. Sammy and Andy forge a powerful bond as they each search for a link to their past, and struggle to avoid any unwanted attention. But when they cross paths with a band of cowboys, the light-hearted troupe turn out to be unexpected allies. With the law closing in on them and new setbacks coming each day, the girls quickly learn that there are not many places to hide on the open trail.

This beautifully written debut is an exciting adventure and heart-wrenching survival tale. But above all else, it’s a story about perseverance and trust that will restore your faith in the power of friendship.

Did I Like It: More like LOVED it!

Thoughts: Like I said, I’m not usually a fan of Westerns, and aside from the joy of killing 1800 pounds of buffalo (and only being able to carry 200 pounds back to the wagon,) not all that interested in the Oregon Trail. And Under a Painted Sky is a Western set on the Oregon Trail – complete with covered wagons and cowboys. But as it turns out, I can love a Western, and be fascinated by life on the Oregon Trail! Under a Painted Sky won’t disappoint fans of Westerns. There’s outlaw gangs, horses, stampedes, fiddles, quests, and more. And for Oregon Trail fans, there are covered wagons, dangerous river crossings, and cholera (yes, cholera – and it’s ugly.) I am by no means trying to say this isn’t the type of book I thought it would be, because it was.

But what was great for me to learn is that a really well-written Western, like a really well-written book in any genre, can have all kinds of other appeals as well. For me, I loved the adventure aspect of two young women trying to track down something important (in Annamae’s case, her brother, and in Samantha’s case, her father’s best friend and clues about her future) and overcoming obstacles to do it. There is danger, intrigue, and some humor. There are fights as well as fun, despite the dangers of the journey. But as is usually the case for me, it was the characters and their relationships that really brought Under a Painted Sky into the realm of the truly great.

Annamae and Samantha are both fantastic characters, and they complement each other well. Annamae is nearly fearless, always fierce, and extremely down-to-earth and pragmatic. She keeps Samantha, an artistic dreamer, centered. But both characters are strong – strong to their core. They have each endured terrible things, horrors even in Annamae’s case, but they have both decided to push through anyways, to struggle for what they want, and to keep embracing life and joy. And their friendship with each other is lovely to read about. They learn to trust each other fast, because they have to, and their friendship is forged by fire. But they also make each other laugh, and look out for each other, and talk to each other about big and little things, and even have in-jokes. It’s so real and wonderful to read about, even in these extraordinary circumstances. To be honest, for me at least, Samantha and Annamae completely overshadowed the supporting characters, even though they were all wonderfully interesting, well-developed, and likable.

So if you like adventures stories, or Westerns, or cowboys, or are obsessed with the Oregon Trail, this is a book for you. And if you like well-developed characters, dynamic and relatable relationships, and great friendships, this is also the book for you! I can’t recommend Under a Painted Sky enough, and I can’t wait to see what Stacey Lee will do next.

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Teens Write – Technology & Teenagers Take 3

Teens Blog BannerBy: Sabrina A., Teen Blogger

Blog Entry 164 - ImageYou are standing in line at a coffee shop and the person in front of you is using their smart phone. At school, iPads are being used for textbooks and homework. Technology makes most people’s life a lot simpler but is it really all that good? There are many debates on whether or not technology is helping out our society or only dumbing us down. There are many reasons why people believe that technology helps us out. One of them is that they give us more experiences.  For example you get to meet people online who you would not get to meet in person, and see pictures and videos of places you would not get to travel to. Another reason why some people believe that technology is helpful is because it helps people learn. For example, if a student has a question on their history homework, they will most likely use their iPhone or Tablet and simply google the question. Also it could help a busy parent learn a recipe for dinner, for instance. The last reason why a person might believe technology is good is because it saves people in times of an emergency. If one gets sick or doesn’t feel good, they could call someone, or if a child is in danger they can call their guardian. One phone call can save someone’s life.

Although many people believe that technology is valuable, many people believe that technology is making society stupid. One reason why technology is bad is because people depend on it to remember important things for them such as a best friend’s birthday or a test day. Another reason why technology is harmful is because it ruins society’s social skills. Everyone talks to teach other on these tiny little screens through texted words and the only way to express emotions through text is emoji’s. Society completely forgets how to read facial expressions and body language and so when a person needs to be social in real life, they get anxiety. The last reason why some people believe that technology is unhealthy is because it causes bullying. A lot of people have a hard time saying mean things to someone’s face but they do not mind saying it over social media. Over social media almost anyone can access it and the person can be humiliated in front of a lot more people than just a small group of people at school. Technology encourages cyber-bulling with apps like Yik-Yak,, and etc. These apps let people post things anonymously so everyone can be a bully on those types of apps without revealing their identity. Technology can be dangerous and harmful, however it can be really helpful – if people use it in the right way.

-Sabrina A.

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: The Watchful Protectors

Teens Blog BannerBy: Hannah Rapp, Teen Librarian

As I’m sure you all remember (and some of you are probably getting sick of hearing,) we’re doing some fun stuff for summer reading this year.  Between tug-of-war with the fire department tonight, great gift cards and grand prizes, and the opportunity to raise money for our local heroes, it’s a great program overall.  But of course, that wasn’t enough for me and Middle School Librarian Christina – we had to take it up a notch!  You can read more about the crazy stunts we’re doing this summer here, but if you’ve been reading this blog, you know you’ve already unlocked several tiers of our embarrassment.  If you attended our Nerf Wars in June, you even got to participate in one of them with us, letting us have what-for with your Nerf guns.

But for those of you who couldn’t make it (or even those who could!) we wanted to make sure you got to experience the humiliation as well.  So without further ado, I present to you: The Watchful Protectors!

Tier One you can see above.  Tier Two’s stunt was a whole week of goofy outfits at work, all of which you can see pictures of here.  And you’ve unlocked Tier Three as well, so Christina and I will be attempting to race three-legged in the library parking lot without causing serious injury to ourselves.  Stay tuned for that video soon, and keep reading – next up is a break dance competition, and if you meet your goals, we’ll have a live performance (and of course video) of the most awkward and embarrassing stunt yet!

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Teens Write – Technology & Teenagers Take 2

Teens Blog BannerBy: Alison O., Teen Blogger

Blog Entry 162 - ImageThe ongoing debate regarding society’s attachment to smartphones questions whether the heavy reliance on these devices is good or bad. I think that our attachment to our smartphones is bad because of the things that it holds us back from. Many argue that the reliance on smartphones is responsible for the lack of human interaction now a days. I agree with this thought, because many of us get swept up in technology, which sometimes prevents us from communicating face-to-face with those around us.

On the other hand, technology can be a positive tool used in schools to reinforce learning in the classroom. Many times at my school we use smartphones and iPads to play educational games like “Kahoot!” or take online quizzes and tests. We also use technology to keep updated on our teachers assignments through a program called “Schoology” which helps us stay on top of due dates. I think that technology is very helpful for education because it enhances the learning by using devices that we are more comfortable with.

Some of technology’s problems these days is that it holds society back from creating real relationships. In the past, people would be forced to meet up in person and have a conversation because they weren’t offered the luxury of smartphones to communicate with one another. Now a days, if you needed to discuss something with someone, you could easily text or call them about it. I think this holds people back from real relationships that people used to have in the past. Many technological features such as Facebook, for example, allow people to keep updated on their friends’ lives by just clicking on their profile, whereas if technology wasn’t an option, people would have to meet up and talk if they wanted to know about their friends lives. I think that technology is negatively affecting humans’ relationships with other people, and the “realness” of these relationships.

I hope that we will teach the younger generations and ourselves the importance of getting out in the real world and keeping our technology addiction to a minimum. There are so many important aspects that we are missing while hiding behind our smartphones, and it’s important that we realize this and become more self-conscious about using our smartphones.

-Alison O.

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Teens Write – Technology & Teenagers

Teens Blog BannerBy: Ashley M., Teen Blogger

Blog Entry 161 - ImageMany adults say that teens are way too involved with their phones. Rather than socializing the old fashion way, you know – talking to each other in person, instead they are staring at a screen and typing. I agree with this 100%. I think that it is very important to put your phone down and talk to the people around you sometimes.

There are many ways to avoid using your technology, and actually communicate with each other. I work at a summer camp, and there is a rule that we never have our phones around the campers. I think this is extremely smart. Camp is all about working together and focusing on having old fashioned fun. Enjoying each other’s company and living in the moment. If phones were permitted, I understand you could take pictures of the cool activities you are partaking in, but the moment would be lost. You would be focused on the perfect lighting of your picture rather than the memory and amazing opportunity you are a part of. I remember one of my volleyball coaches would always have us put our phones in a pile, and whoever grabbed their phone first had to buy us all ice cream. This forced us to talk and actually get to know each other. This event created a much closer and fun team to be a part of. I tried to have my current team try this. I knew it would bring us closer and we would have less distractions but, no one was up to the challenge. One of my teammates said, “I can’t be without my phone”. That hit me hard, I couldn’t understand how badly she needed her phone and quite frankly I realized how scared I am for future generations, and their forms of technology.

If teenagers and even young children are overcome with their technology and constantly being distracted, human beings will lose the one ability that sets us apart. That ability is our communication. Family dinners will be silent, friends will hang out but only remain on their phones, and schools will consist of distracted students. I hope that someone can find a way to communicate the importance of one on one communication. I myself will try to remember the importance of putting the phone down and living in the moment. I hope that you will do the same. :)

-Ashley M.

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Week of Goofy Outfits

Teens Blog BannerBy: Hannah Rapp, Teen Librarian

If you’ve seen me at the library this week, you may have noticed some strange sartorial choices going on.  That’s because you guys have once again hit a tier of your reading goals (you average over 2 books per person!) for summer reading, which meant that Christina and I spent all week answering awkward questions from patrons because of our goofy outfits.  Next up, we try not to fall to our knee-skinning doom in a three legged race around the parking lot – if you or the tweens read enough.

In case you missed any or all of these ensembles, here’s my week of goofy outfits!

On Monday, I went old-school nerd style, thanks to a shirt stolen from my grandfather’s wardrobe (seriously – this was his shirt!)

Hannah Monday

On Tuesday, it was a throwback to 90s grunge (and the comfiest outfit of the week – those Nirvana fans were on to something!)

Hannah Tuesday

Wednesday, Christina and I coordinated to rock some 80s style.  Unlike the flannel, a side ponytail is a trend that’s not for me, I think!

Hannah Wednesday

Yesterday we showed off what’s usually a favorite every December, our cheesy Christmas sweaters!  I managed to rep my favorite sports team as well, which was a bonus.

Hannah Thursday

And today I’m on the road for a family vacation, but I didn’t want to let you down or renege on any promises, so I’m rocking the road trip in this beauteous outfit!

Hannah Friday

So there you have it – one more round of embarrassment as a bribe to get you guys to read.  And there’s more coming, so keep reading, and enjoy your holiday weekend!

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Teens Review – Rebel Belle

Teens Blog BannerBy: Sara A., Teen Blogger

Blog Entry 159 - ImageThey say never judge a book by its cover, but looking at Rebel Belle’s, I couldn’t help but be intrigued. Automatically, it was piled on to the stack of books building up in my arm. When I began this book, however, I did have doubts that this wasn’t my type of book. The main character, Harper Price, was the type of girl who needed everything perfect, from her Homecoming makeup to her high school transcript. I, personally, preferred something more action-packed, but Hawkins’ writing kept me hooked and, I found, didn’t fail me. This book has possibly one of the strangest plot lines I’ve encountered in a while, which I found enjoyable. It involves evil history teachers, ninjas, and sparkly shoe defense, sprinkled with classical humor.

The different personalities of characters in this book highlighted different people in a typical high school environment. You have the incredible best friend, Bee, the jock boyfriend, Ryan, and the mysterious nerdy boy, David, who has more to do with Harper’s life than she could ever imagine. The character development in this story has quite an arc, as you begin to see Harper revise her priorities, and balance ninja life with high school. Towards the end of the book, she is faced with a choice as she struggles to maintain the balance she really wants to uphold. I found that characteristic relatable because it’s not fantastical, it’s real. And up until the action, Harper was looking like a typical teenager in her junior year of high school. Right until the end, this book had me absorbing the words off of its pages and eager to grab the next book, Lady Mayhem, from the shelves.

-Sara A.

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: What I Just Read – Shadowshaper

Teens Blog BannerBy: Hannah Rapp, Teen Librarian

Blog Entry 158 - ImageOnce again, I took advantage of my #LibrarianPerks and snagged a chance to read a pre-publication version of a book I was really looking forward to. This book will be out next Tuesday, June 30, and it should be hitting our shelves ASAP. But of course, if you want to be the first to get your hands on it, you can place a hold right away!

What I Just Read: Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older

What’s It About (Jacket Description): Cassandra Clare meets Caribbean legend in Shadowshaper, an action-packed urban fantasy from a bold new talent.

Sierra Santiago was looking forward to a fun summer of making art, hanging out with her friends, and skating around Brooklyn. But then a weird zombie guy crashes the first party of the season. Sierra’s near-comatose abuelo begins to say “No importa” over and over. And when the graffiti murals in Bed-Stuy start to weep…. Well, something stranger than the usual New York mayhem is going on.

Sierra soon discovers a supernatural order called the Shadowshapers, who connect with spirits via paintings, music, and stories. Her grandfather once shared the order’s secrets with an anthropologist, Dr. Jonathan Wick, who turned the Caribbean magic to his own foul ends. Now Wick wants to become the ultimate Shadowshaper by killing all the others, one by one. With the help of her friends and the hot graffiti artist Robbie, Sierra must dodge Wick’s supernatural creations, harness her own Shadowshaping abilities, and save her family’s past, present, and future.

Did I Like It: For sure!

Thoughts: Before this, it had been a long time since I had read a really good urban fantasy – especially one that was actually set in a big city, and I’d forgotten how much fun it can be! Having a real-world city settings, complete with its mass transit, graffiti, and crowded streets, and then combining it with the secret and mysterious world of the paranormal is just a great way to get readers completely immersed in a book. And Shadowshaper does just as good a job of bringing the city and Sierra’s neighborhood to life as it does at making the mysterious powers and horrifying creatures of the Shadowshapers’ world seem real. I felt like I was wandering the hot city streets along with Sierra, or visiting the dusty basements of a university library, or running from terrifying re-animated corpses and multi-mouthed, multi-spirited abominations.

This book was exciting in part because I’d never read about any sort of paranormal world or powers quite like that of the Shadowshapers. Their powers are based on spirits that can infuse art – visual, musical, or any other kind – with their energy, minds, and ability to move. The idea of using art to bring to life real, tangible powers and spirits was fascinating, and made me feel as exhilarated as Sierra by the paintings, graffiti, songs, and stories that helped give life to the shadow world.

Another standout feature of this book for me was Sierra’s relationships. Her complicated but loving relationship with her mother and her ailing grandfather, her deep closeness with her brother, and her love and friendship with her godfather, were all beautiful to read about. She also has interesting relationships with the people who made up the core of her neighborhood, like the domino players at the empty lot where she paints or her schoolmates. But the absolute highlight as far as I’m concerned was her group of friends. Sierra is part of a tight-knit circle of friends who laugh, fight, banter, love, and support each other like the best groups of friends I’ve ever seen or been part of. Although Shadowshaper was a fast read, by the end of it, I felt like I too was friends with Sierra, Bennie, Tee, Jerome, Izzy, and the rest.

While Shadowshaper certainly stands on its own and didn’t end at a cliffhanger, there were plenty of threads that could be followed up into a sequel. And with such an expansive and breathtaking world to plunge into – both in terms of the New York setting and the world of the Shadowshapers – I’m desperately hoping for a sequel!

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Teens Write – Genre Prejudice

Teens Blog BannerBy: Elizabeth W., Teen Blogger

Blog Entry 157 - ImageRecently in an interview, J. K. Rowling, a leading fantasy writer, said that she doesn’t read fantasy or sci-fi novels. Another author, Kazuo Ishiguro, wrote The Buried Giant, a novel set in a fantasy realm involving dragons and monsters. The real point of his story is to deal with topics like memory loss and old age. However, Ishiguro was afraid that readers would be scared off by the fantasy “surface elements” and think the book is a fantasy novel. Both Rowling and Ishiguro seem to have a dislike towards the fantasy genre while using it in their own books. So why are the genres of fantasy or science fiction looked down upon by some?

I think there is a misconception that fantasy books either deal with less serious topics or are hard to read. However, fantasy novels can be used as allegories to our lives and can deal with serious topics such as loss or forgiveness. Fantasy and Science Fiction books are not necessarily of lower quality of writing either. There are a lot of classics that are fantasy or science fiction, which are really hard to read. That’s why I couldn’t get all the way through the Lord of the Rings.

This issue of not respecting the fantasy genre has been with us for a while now. J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, once wrote a work entitled On Fairy Stories to defend why he wrote fantasies. In it, Tolkien said that “Fantasy is a natural human activity. It certainly does not destroy or even insult Reason; and it does not either blunt the appetite for, nor obscure the perception of, scientific verity. On the contrary. The keener and the clearer is the reason, the better fantasy will it make.” Fantasy is not a denial of reality or reason. Instead it can bring out real issues in a way that impacts us differently than realistic fiction would.

Fantasy can be a valuable genre to read even though it may appear unrealistic. The dragons and other mythical creatures may fool you, but inside a lot of fantasy there are hidden truths that can be just as valuable as those that are learned through nonfiction or realistic fiction. If you haven’t picked up a fantasy book in a while I would encourage you to read one. It can be really rewarding. If after this you realize that fantasy isn’t your thing, that’s okay too. The important thing is to not judge a book by its genre.

-Elizabeth W.

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Nerf Wars

Teens Blog BannerBy: Hannah Rapp, Teen Librarian

Blog Entry 156 - ImageWell folks, you’ve done a great job reaching your first reading goal (you already average well over one book per teen!) which means it’s time for me to face the music. Or rather, face the darts!

As you may know, we have an awesome after-hours program coming up on June 26. From 6-8:30, we’ll be open just for middle school and high school age students participating in our Marvel vs. DC Nerf Wars. There will be pizza and drinks, and a chance to carry on some great Nerf battles throughout the library. High school age teens will be on the second floor, while the middle school students and Christina will be taking over the first floor of the library. But you will all get to come together for one glorious moment, and a chance to take your best shot at Christina and me.

Wearing some impressive facial gear to represent our chosen comic universes (I called dibs on Marvel as soon as we planned the program,) Christina and I will submit ourselves to the fury of your Nerf guns, and film it all for posterity (aka, the internet.)

So not only will you have a chance to play some pretty epic games of Capture the Flag, Humans vs. Zombies, and more, in a library that’s entirely yours for the night, but you’ll get to witness the first step of our summer-long quest for extreme public embarrassment. Be sure to register so you can reserve your spot (and to make sure you get your permission slip, which is the only downside of an after-hours program). Christina and I will see you next Friday!

Posted in GEPL Teens