Last week I got a call from a school that’s not exactly local, but it’s a bus ride and a short walk away from my current branch.  I visited them last year after they reached out to me because the library in their neighborhood didn’t have a young adult librarian who was willing or able to visit their school to talk about the public library system and promote new teen books.  To be fair, that library is one of many that doesn’t have a young adult librarian at all.

Unfortunately, librarians are no longer going through weeks and months of specialty training to make each of them a “local” expert in their field.  The wave of the future is that individual trainings on specific topics are being offered to anybody who feels like taking them, or whose branch managers THINK they should take them.  For over a year now, every time I’ve been asked to do a presentation at a staff training like “Booktalking to Teens” or “Class Visits 101,” a large portion of the audience was made up of clerks and information assistants.  Yes, I understand that it’s saving money.  Why bother paying for librarians’ salaries as well as months of training when you can offer  someone who makes a fraction of a librarian’s salary a few hours of training and hope that they’ll do the same thing?  Unfortunately, even librarians with years of experience are often unwilling to go out to local schools to do library presentations.  Visits like this take a lot of preparation and use a lot of different skills — public speaking, writing, memorization, and a strong familiarity with the literature specific to the age group.

So long story short, I ended up visiting their middle school classes last year.  Specifically, I spoke to the entire middle school at once, condensing my usual 45-minute presentation into 15 minutes to fit it into their morning assembly (their idea, not mine).  So apparently I was a hit last year, because they want me to come back.  Only this time, they want me to only visit their 6th grade classes, and therein lies the problem.  Because technically I’m only supposed to work with 7th-12th grade classes, and our children’s librarian is supposed to work with pre-K – 6th grade classes.  I made an exception last year because I was addressing the entire midddle school at once.  While I don’t mind working with 6th grade classes at all, the way that the schools divide classes is different from the way that the public library does.  If I tell them about books in the young adult collection of the library, they might not be able to check them out until next year, depending on which box their parents checked off on their application.  And I can’t give them Fresh Starts because they’re not eligible for that program yet.  So after I have exhausted all of these objections and the school STILL wants me to be the one to talk to their sixth grade classes, I have a few extra tasks: tailor my library orientation to the younger group and its different rules, and figure out some good crossover titles (in both children’s and young adult collections) that I can booktalk to them.

My usual problem is that many of the crossover books I used to booktalk the most, like The City of Ember by DuPrau and Coraline by Gaiman, have been made into movies.  And if enough of the audience already knows what happens in the story, that kind of kills the point of the booktalk.  Now my new problem is that this librarian wants me to talk about newer releases (within the last few years).  To be clear, we’re not exactly on the same page here — she wants me to talk about young adult books because she’s under the impression that the school can get all of the parents to check off the “let my child check out anything they want” box on the application.  I would feel better talking about crossover books because I don’t know if all the parents will comply with that suggestion, and I would feel mean saying, “I’m going to tell you about this fantastic book, but you can’t check it out until NEXT YEAR!”

So we’re going to compromise.  I’m going to pick mostly crossover titles, with a couple of YA books mixed in for good measure.  The problem is, my familiarity with great RECENT crossover titles is a little rusty.  In fact, I think that Amulet: Book 1 by Kazu Kibuishi and Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer are some of the only recent crossover titles that I’ve booktalked before (so it shouldn’t take too long to get those back in my head).  So I’m asking you, Dear Readers, if you have any suggestions for recent CR/YA crossover books that would make great booktalks.  Any and all help is certainly appreciated!!!

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