The Middle: GEPL Middle School Blog

GEPL Tweens: New Year’s Resolutions

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By: Christina Keasler, Tween Librarian

It’s a new year, and the time for resolutions. I’ll be honest, I didn’t make a resolution this year. Resolutions are about change, and I don’t want much to change. Anything that needs a little tweaking, doesn’t merit a resolution. In the past, I’ve made resolutions that I’ll keep enforcing this year – do a good deed each day, even if it’s complimenting a stranger, and I try to let things bother me less. Resolutions are great. Even if you don’t follow through all 12 months, it still allows for self-reflection. It makes you think about your life, how you want things to be different, and pick the roads that will get you there.

A new year can mean change. I think everyone in the library can attest to that. The new youth department in the library has opened its doors and unveiled all the changes that we have worked on in the past few months. There are new toys, new displays, new books, and new rooms. The whole department has a new-thing smell. It’s glorious. If you haven’t yet, be sure to stop by and see what we have to offer, including The Middle, a room just for 6-8th grade visitors.

Change is not unique to one person or place. All of us deal with change at some point in our lives. It can be an experience that bonds people together. My cats decided they will be friends after we moved into our house. The fear of change bonded them together. Since cats can’t read, they can’t enjoy stories about change, but that shouldn’t stop us. Stories about change, or main characters dealing with life-altering events are fun to read because it could happen to us, or it already has.

If you’d like to experience change through someone else’s eyes, pick up one (or more) of these titles.

The Reinvention of Bessica Lefter by Kristen Tracy Book Cover

The Reinvention of Bessica Lefter by Kristen Tracy

After an unfortunate incident at the hair salon, Bessica is not allowed to see her best friend, Sylvie. That means she’s going to start middle school a-l-o-n-e. Bessica feels like such a loser. She wants friends. She’s just not sure how to make them. It doesn’t help that her beloved grandma is off on some crazy road trip and has zero time to listen to Bessica. Or that Bessica has a ton of homework. Or that gorgeous Noll Beck thinks she’s just a kid. Or that there are some serious psycho-bullies in her classes. Bessica doesn’t care about being popular. She just wants to survive–and look cute. Is that too much to ask when you’re eleven?

The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano Book Cover

The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano

There are two secrets Evelyn Serrano is keeping from her Mami and Papo–her true feelings about growing up in her Spanish Harlem neighborhood, and her attitude about Abuela, her sassy grandmother who’s come from Puerto Rico to live with them. Then, like an urgent ticking clock, events erupt that change everything. The Young Lords, a Puerto Rican activist group, dump garbage in the street and set it on fire, igniting a powerful protest. When Abuela steps in to take charge, Evelyn is thrust into the action. Tempers flare, loyalties are tested. Through it all, Evelyn learns important truths about her Latino heritage and the history makers who shaped a nation. Infused with actual news accounts from the time period, Sonia Manzano has crafted a gripping work of fiction based on her own life growing up during a fiery, unforgettable time in America, when young Latinos took control of their destinies.

Drive Me Crazy by Terra Elan McVoy Book Cover

Drive Me Crazy by Terra Elan McVoy

Friendship can be a bumpy road. . . .Lana and Cassie have met only once before, at the wedding of Lana’s Grandpa Howe and Cassie’s Grandma Tess two months ago. The two girls couldn’t be more different, and they didn’t exactly hit it off–but they’re about to spend an entire week together for their grandparents’ honeymoon, road-tripping from California to Maine in the backseat of a Subaru. It’s going to be a disaster.

I Will Always Write Back by Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda with Liz Welch Book Cover

I Will Always Write Back by Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda with Liz Welch

The true story of an all-American girl and a boy from Zimbabwe and the letter that changed both of their lives forever. It started as an assignment. Everyone in Caitlin’s class wrote to an unknown student somewhere in a distant place. Martin was lucky to even receive a pen-pal letter. There were only ten letters, and fifty kids in his class. But he was the top student, so he got the first one. That letter was the beginning of a correspondence that spanned six years and changed two lives.

Body Switch by M.G. Higgins Book Cover

Body Switch by M.G. Higgins

A wish comes true in a mysterious restaurant. Two boys switch places. Brian Stark is a normal middle school kid. He is bored with his family. School is a drag. Watching his little sister is a total pain. Jamie Hawk is an international pop star sensation with a ton of money, but he has no normal life. His dad bosses him around. He has no privacy. He never sees his mom. Zap! With a crack of lightning and a selfie, it all changes.

The Summer I Saved the World in 65 Days by Michele Helen Hurwitz Book Cover

The Summer I Saved the World in 65 Days by Michele Helen Hurwitz

This summer, Nina decides to change things. She hatches a plan. There are sixty-five days of summer. Every day, she’ll anonymously do one small but remarkable good thing for someone in her neighborhood, and find out: does doing good actually make a difference? Along the way, she discovers that her neighborhood, and her family, are full of surprises and secrets.

Blackbird Fly by Erin Entrada Kelly Book Cover

Blackbird Fly by Erin Entrada Kelly

Apple has always felt a little different from her classmates. She and her mother moved to Louisiana from the Philippines when she was little, and her mother still cooks Filipino foods and chastises Apple for becoming “too American.” When Apple’s friends turn on her and everything about her life starts to seem weird and embarrassing, Apple turns to music. If she can just save enough to buy a guitar and learn to play, maybe she can change herself. It might be the music that saves her . . . or it might be her two new friends, who show her how special she really is.

Pay It Forward by Catherine Ryan Hyde Book Cover

Pay It Forward by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Trevor McKinney, a twelve-year-old boy in a small California town, accepts his teacher’s challenge to earn extra credit by coming up with a plan to change the world. His idea is simple: do a good deed for three people and instead of asking them to return the favor, ask them to ‘pay it forward’ to three others who need help.

My Year of Epic Rock by Andrea Pyros Book Cover

My Year of Epic Rock by Andrea Pyros

If Life Was Like a Song….Nina Simmons’ song would be “You Can’t Always Eat What You Want.” (Peanut allergies, ugh). But that’s okay, because as her best friend Brianna always said, “We’re All in This Together.” Until the first day of the seventh grade, when Brianna dumps her to be BFFs with the popular new girl. Left all alone, Nina is forced to socialize with “her own kind”–banished to the peanut-free table with the other allergy outcasts. As a joke, she tells her new pals they should form a rock band called EpiPens. (Get it?) Apparently, allergy sufferers don’t understand sarcasm, because the next thing Nina knows she’s the lead drummer. Now Nina has to decide: adopt a picture-perfect pop personality to fit in with Bri and her new BFF or embrace her inner rocker and the spotlight. Well…Call Me a Rock Star, Maybe.

Posted in The Middle: GEPL Middle School

GEPL Tweens: The Christina Awards

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By: Christina Keasler, Tween Librarian

Everyone, let’s applaud the coolest Middle School Librarian you know: Me. I have officially read all of this year’s Caudill nominees. All. Twenty. Titles. I know, pretty impressive. I’m also nearly finished with the Bluestems, so stay tuned.

And now, it’s time for…. THE CHRISTINA AWARDS!

Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage Book Cover

Coolest Book I Read Before the Nominations:
Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage

I love this book; and I loved listening to the audio a couple years ago. I didn’t want this to win any more Christina Awards since it’s not a new book for me.

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson Book Cover

When Harry met Steampunk:
The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

I really liked this book, even though I’m not a huge fan of Steampunk. I enjoyed reading it, and looked forward to solving the case. The ending was great, and I can’t wait to read the next one. That being said, it’s not a completely new story. Boarding school fiction is not a new idea, but again – this was still a fun read.

Golden Boy by Tara Sullivan Book Cover

Biggest Surprise:
Golden Boy by Tara Sullivan

This book hasn’t been super popular with checkouts. It always has the most copies on the shelf. They’re not all there, but still the most copies. This book seemed like heavy subject matter, and it was one of the last books I read from the list. I’m kind of sad I waited so long to try it. Don’t get me wrong, it WAS heavy subject matter, but not for the whole book. I was surprised when the book took a happy turn half way through and Habo, the main character made a friend and got a role model from the same person. I don’t want to give too much away, but I will give this book another Christina Award: Most Overlooked Caudill Nominee.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer Book Cover

Close Second in Big Surprise:
Cinder by Marissa Meyer

So this story isn’t overlooked like Golden Boy, but I was still reluctant to read it. I thought, “I already know Cinderella. I don’t need to read this.” I was wrong. The story is VERY loosely based off the tale. Cinder is a cyborg, and I knew that going in, but she’s a mechanic, which is refreshing, and the evil queen is FROM THE MOON! I have been converted to read the rest of the Lunar Chronicles – eventually.

Chomp by Carl Hiaasen Book Cover

Chomp by Carl Hiaasen

I’ve read one of Hiaasen’s adult books before, but I liked this one more. I think Wahoo’s dad is my favorite literary character at least of this year. He was the best. I would read any book with him in it. The whole book was incredibly entertaining. If you haven’t read it yet, and like funny books, pick this up NOW!

See You at Harry’s by Johanna Knowles Book Cover

See You at Harry’s by Johanna Knowles

When I told Glen Crest sixth graders that this book was super sad, copies started flying off the shelves. I don’t know what’s with you guys and sad, but if that does it for you, read this book! There were a few other sad books this year, but nothing was as sad as this book in my opinion. It also has me super paranoid about my toddler.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness Book Cover

Most Interesting Back Story:
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

“She had the characters, a premise, and a beginning. What she didn’t have, unfortunately, was time.” – Patrick Ness. A Monster Calls was an idea by Siobhan Dowd. Sadly, she had died of cancer before being able to finish her story, so Patrick Ness finished it. Make sure to get the version with the creepy illustrations.

Second Place in Most Interesting Back Story: Shadow on the Mountain by Margi Preus

The reason I chose this book as a second place in this category is because while the main character Espen wasn’t a real person, he was based off a very real child spy. The end of the book tells all about the author’s real-life inspiration.

A Monster Calls Movie Poster

Book I’m Most Excited about Seeing at the Movies:
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Dude. Check out the teaser trailer and tell me you’re not pumped, even if Liam Neeson’s voice is a little weird in it.

And that’s it for the Christina Awards! Thanks for reading!
Posted in The Middle: GEPL Middle School

GEPL Tweens: Ways to Stay Warm

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By: Christina Keasler, Tween Librarian

We’ve been really lucky this year. It hasn’t been as cold as the last few winters, but we’re getting to the point where people would rather stay inside – that is, unless it’s perfect sledding conditions.

Chicken in Orange Sweater

While animals can keep warm in natural ways, that’s not as fun as googling animals in sweaters for hours.

Christina Wearing Tiger SnuggieIt’s been really cold at the desk of our temporary Youth Department, and I know it’s only a short matter of time before we’re back in our new awesome space, I can only fantasize about being in what is best described as a tiger snuggie.

But if you’re not a lucky tiger-snuggie-clad person like me, you might need more inspiration as to how to keep warm when the days get blustery. Don’t worry, I’m here to help.

A book can help you visualize a warm, arid setting. Why not try one of these?

A Diamond in the Desert by Kathryn FitzmauriceA Diamond in the Desert by Kathryn Fitzmaurice
Infestation by Timothy J. Bradley
Infestation by Timothy J. Bradley Book Cover
The Scorpions of Zahir by Christina Brodien-JonesThe Scorpions of Zahir by Christina Brodien-Jones Book Cover
The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages
The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages Book Cover
Posted in The Middle: GEPL Middle School

GEPL Tweens: Spys

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By: Christina Keasler, Tween Librarian

Christina Holding Fingers In Gun Pose Behind A Corner

The new James Bond movie is out. Although I haven’t seen it yet, I am still planning on it, and not just because it currently holds the Guinness World Record for largest film stunt explosion.

I grew up on classics like James Bond, among other things. My dad made sure all of us kids were “educated” in these matters. I am familiar with the works of Roger Moore, and Sean Connery, and it might be weird for me to admit, but Pierce Brosnan is the Bond I know the best. That being said, my all-time favorite Bond character is Jaws.

I’ve watched all the Bond movies, and even though I don’t clamor to see them opening night, I still make a point to see them. I’m ok with the decision for Daniel Craig to be Bond, but I’m upset that they got rid of Judy Dench as Q, and I’d love to see Bond be a girl. Hey, James can be a girl name too!

If they ever pick a woman for 007, they can take lessons in stealth from me.


If you’d like to study about being a spy, check out these books!

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg Book Cover
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
by E.L. Konigsburg
Jackaby by William Ritter Book Cover
by William Ritter
(OK. He’s a detective; but still!)
Posted in The Middle: GEPL Middle School

GEPL Tweens: Sphero

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By: Christina Keasler, Tween Librarian

Have you looked at the sky lately? There’s been a lot going on. With the Northern Lights, lunar eclipses, and blood moons, we have had a lot of reasons to keep our eyes up at night. October 19, 2015 was astronomy night at the White House. President Obama invited scientists, astronauts, the two stars from Mythbusters and my personal favorite Bill Nye the Science Guy. He also invited students from all around the country that have excelled at science and astronomy. The President wanted to highlight the importance of science and its everyday use and hopes to inspire more kids to take an interest in science.

Along with the astronauts and Bill Nye, he invited the people who made the sphero. The sphero crew was inspired by a third grade class that tried to replicate the solar system’s movements with spheros and coding. They made this cool model for the event at the White House.

Spheros work with a coding app. These spheros were programmed to have the exact orbit and speed as all of the planets. Of course, they also picked different colors for each planet, and they included Pluto, yay!

In case you don’t remember or didn’t know, the library has spheros available at many middle school events. Be sure to stop by and see the spheros in action at our Youth Department Renovation Celebration January 30!

Christina with Spheros on Floor

I’m The Alpha.

Posted in The Middle: GEPL Middle School

GEPL Tweens: Halloween

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By: Christina Keasler, Tween Librarian

Two Carved Scary Faced Pumpkins Sitting On The PorchI love all things Halloween. I love ghostly tales and am an all-year ghost hunter. I make a Halloween checklist each year, but I never finish it. There’s just too much to do! I carve some creepy pumpkins, and hide motion-activated talking skulls throughout the house. People say it’s annoying, but I think they’re saying “awesome” wrong. When I’m not out looking for ghosts, carving pumpkins, or trying not to show that I’m super scared at a haunted house, you can find me reading a spooky book. I know most of our books are in storage, but you can – and should – request a hold on any of these chilling titles.

Skeleton Man by Joseph Bruchac Book CoverSkeleton Man by Joseph Bruchac

Molly wakes up one morning to find her parents have vanished. Social Services turns her over to the care of a great-uncle, a mysterious man Molly has never met nor heard of. Now Molly is having dreams about the Skeleton Man from a spooky old Mohawk tale her father told her–and these dreams are trying to tell her something.

The Ghost Prison by Joseph Delaney Book CoverThe Ghost Prison by Joseph Delaney

Night falls, the moon rises, and fifteen-year-old Billy starts his first night as a prison guard. But this is no ordinary prison. There are haunted cells that can’t be used, whispers and cries in the night… and the dreaded Witch Well. Billy is warned to stay away from the prisoner down in the Witch Well. But what prison could be so frightening? Billy is about to find out…

Coraline by Neil GaimanCoraline by Neil Gaiman

When Coraline explores her new home, she steps through a door and into another house just like her own . . . except that it’s different. It’s a marvelous adventure until Coraline discovers that there’s also another mother and another father in the house. They want Coraline to stay with them and be their little girl. They want to keep her forever! Coraline must use all of her wits and every ounce of courage in order to save herself and return home.

The Grimm Legacy by Polly ShulmanThe Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman

Elizabeth has a new job at an unusual library a lending library of objects, not books. In a secret room in the basement lies the Grimm Collection. That’s where the librarians lock away powerful items straight out of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales: seven-league boots, a table that produces a feast at the blink of an eye, Snow White s stepmother s sinister mirror that talks in riddles. When the magical objects start to disappear, Elizabeth embarks on a dangerous quest to catch the thief before she can be accused of the crime or captured by the thief.

Posted in The Middle: GEPL Middle School

GEPL Tweens: Conlangs

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By: Christina Keasler, Tween Librarian

Everyone has been busy lately, and I have been no exception to this. But instead of cross country and soccer practices, I have been promoting the 3D design competition and practicing for upcoming presentations.

While it’s great to be busy, it’s also important to leave time for your hobbies. Weirdly enough, language has long been an interest of mine. Once upon a time, I wanted to be a linguist, and even minored in linguistics in college. I really did love it, especially syntax, which is sentence structure. Looking at my career options, nothing really appealed to me. Librarianship presented itself, and *POOF!* a librarian was born.

Even though I’m a librarian now, I still have a tiny bit of a linguist inside. That part isn’t trying to break free or anything, but it is delighted when fed linguistic information. I recently encountered an article from Wired Magazine that talks about “conlangs,” which are constructed languages. I love conlangs, and even did a huge presentation on them in library school. This article inspired me to share with you my wealth of knowledge in conlangs.

Conlangs are created to give depth and authenticity to a fictional story and world. The new world must be consistent, and comparing it to the human world may help in the creation process. The creatures living in your world must be considered as well. Do they have the same speaking tools as a human? If so, pronunciation must be considered. For example, you don’t see words from the English language often combining the sounds “r” and “k” consecutively at the beginning of a word, but you can at the end. Sayings and slangs need to be thought of, too. A company used the slogan “Turn it Loose” which when translated to Spanish meant “Suffer from Diarrhea”, which isn’t really convincing when trying to get someone to buy something. Look at other popular conlangs for inspiration!

Elvish Conlang
Klingon Conlang

The television show “Futurama” made a language called “Alienese” that was so easily cracked, they had to think of a second version! (Which was also deciphered)

Alienese from Futurama Version 1
Alienese from Futurama Version 2

What would your conlang be? Who would speak it? Would it sound like a Klingon or an Elf?

More Fun Conlang Facts:

Posted in The Middle: GEPL Middle School

GEPL Tweens: Middle School Room Contest

By: Christina Keasler, Tween Librarain

What’s in a name?

There are a lot of weird names out there. Did you know that there’s a guy who legally changed his name to “Beezow Doo-Doo Zopittybop-Bop-Bop”; parents who tried (and failed) to name their child “Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116”. The record holder for longest name is over 600 characters long. Names are powerful. There are plenty of myths and beliefs that your true name holds power over you.

You mane know that in the Youth Department remodel, we are adding a special room only for middle schoolers, however, when picturing this scene, it doesn’t sound so cool.

Stick Figures Talking "What do you want to do toady? Let's Go To The Middle School Only Room! Yes! Although It Can Really Use A Better Name. Yea, I Know, If Only We Entered the Naming Contest!"

We can stop this from happening! Enter your great name ideas during the contest. The middle schooler with the winning suggestion will take part of our opening ceremony and have a blog spotlight written about them!

Posted in The Middle: GEPL Middle School

GEPL Tweens: 3D Printing

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By: Christina Keasler, Tween Librarian

We’ve had our 3D printer for a couple years now. We’ve seen some awesome prints, and some abominable clogs. Eugene (that’s our printer’s name) and I have visited Hadley and Glen Crest multiple times and Eugene was a main attraction at our first STEAM Fair. We have helped contribute to Cantigny museum displays, model airplanes, and patents.

3D Printer with 3D Orange Fish

The Glen Ellyn Public Library Foundation generously donated a MakerBot Replicator 3D Printer to the library in 2013.

Yes, we’ve done a lot. But GEPL has never been one to be in a rut. We’re shaking things up and want to see more from you! We are currently calling for 3D print designs from students like you. It’s time to practice those drafting skills. GEPL is accepting contest submissions until November 1st. We will have two winners for each age group – 3-5 grade, 6-8 grade, 9-12 grade, and adults – one for complexity and one for creativity. While the designs must be printable, the possibilities are endless!

Judges chosen from within the community will choose the winners, whose designs will be printed in a special gold filament, receive a trophy, and will be featured in a future blog post. Plus, you’ll get some serious 3D design street cred.

I look forward to seeing what you create when you combine your imagination with your skills.

Posted in The Middle: GEPL Middle School

GEPL Tweens: Top Middle School Reader

Tweens Blog Purple BannerBy: Christina Keasler, Tween Librarian

Meet our top middle school reader, Jeff Johnston! He’s an eighth grader at Hadley Junior High and finished up the summer reading program with 171 hours and 45 minutes!
Jeff Johnston Standing By Book Shelves

Wow! His secret: listening to Playaways while doing chores like mowing the lawn and walking the dog. He loves that the library has such a variety, and reads all genres. If he had to pick a favorite, it would be realistic fiction.

Somehow, beyond all that reading, Jeff, a former GEPL volunteer, has had a very eventful summer. When he’s not reading or listening to books he’s playing sports. He enjoys soccer and basketball, but soccer is his favorite. He visits the Glen Ellyn Park District Rec Center to play basketball, ultimate Frisbee, and wall ball with his friends.

He even went to Europe for three weeks in July, and made it back in time to compete against the Glen Ellyn firefighters in our tug of war.

Posted in The Middle: GEPL Middle School