The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley by Shaun David Hutchinson

17 year old Andrew Brawley’s family was killed in a car crash, and after that night, Drew never left the hospital. He is not a patient; he has gone off the grid and is hiding out in an abandoned section of the hospital. He sleeps on a pile of sheets from the laundry, works in the cafeteria, hangs out in the ER and pediatrics, works on his graphic novel, and tries, tries, tries to avoid Death. Because she missed him the night she took his family, and he knows she is still after him. Still he cannot leave the hospital, because it was the last place he saw his family alive.

Rusty is brought into the ER after being horribly burned. Drew is there, horrified by Rusty’s screams of agony, but unable to leave. A horrible story is told of Rusty being set on fire intentionally at a party. Now Drew worries that Death will come for Rusty too and feels he must protect him.

The author puts all of Drew’s pain on the page and never lets you look away. Even the lighter moments are tinged with pain, death, suffering, guilt, and loss. Drew’s story is hard enough to imagine, but it was Rusty’s story that tore at me. When he tells Drew of his years of being bullied by his classmates, he says, “People always guessed I was gay… Not like I’m flaming or anything—or that it’d be bad if I were. It was just the worst-kept secret at my school. I never dated girls, Nina was always my bestie, and I sucked at sports.” Drew laughs and says, “Sucking as sports doesn’t make you gay.” “No,” replies Rusty, “but it makes you a target.” He explains that he was on a hit list. There were points for assaulting him. By the time he got to telling Drew about what happened when he was lit on fire, I had to set the book down. All I could think was, please don’t ever let that be my kid—the one brutalized for being different or the one cruelly bullying his classmates. I wanted to look away, but Hutchinson makes sure you can’t—look closer, his writing urges, as he describes in painful detail the humiliation and hatred. ~ Amber McGregor in School Library Journal


Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

Challenger Deep can be a little confusing at first, but it is worth it to keep reading, because at a certain point, you can NOT put this book down until you finish. The reader is in for a wild ride as he is immersed in story of Caden, a brilliant high school boy having a mental breakdown. Inspired by the author’s son, Brendan, the book is illustrated with drawings he made during his own battle with mental illness. In the book Caden goes back and forth between reality and an increasingly hallucinatory life on a strange ship headed for the deepest trench in the ocean to search for a treasure. As the book continues, characters from real life begin turning up on the ship and the reader is given a glimpse of what Caden is experiencing. A powerful look at a teen mind in the midst of crisis, Challenger Deep should be read widely by teens and those who care about them.

Here is an example of Brendan Shusterman’s artwork from The Art of Challenger Deep and what he has to say about it:

Stars are alright

“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.” —H.P. Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu

The artwork presented above, I think, is an extension of that moment when it is unbearable, when the fear is so intense that you become a character in an H.P. Lovecraft story, descended into madness, sanity lost, and no hope left to cling to. You cannot express it accurately in words. You can come dangerously close, but the language for this sort of pain is hard to touch. It’s a descent into a depression so deep that the depression hardens like a diamond and becomes something else entirely. It warps itself into a more powerful entity, and then it grabs hold of you and it takes you out of it, flying upward with its bat-like wings into the higher echelons of your own mind. If you make it out, which you will, you’ll be stronger for it, but the descent and the climb are both as maddening as the artwork here suggests. This particular work inspired my dad to create the figurehead of the Captain’s ship. It’s a fitting place for “The Stars Are Right.” – Brendan Shusterman

NAFO Makerspace

Makerspace: any place where students can make things. Increasingly school library media centers are incorporating them into their space and programs. Makerspaces stimulate creativity and inquiry, giving the student a chance to develop problem solving skills, all while having fun!  After reading and thinking about makerspaces for what seemed like forever, I finally took the plunge after coming across a comforting article by the inimitable Gywneth Jones, aka The Daring Librarian. My takeaway:


Students can use the makerspace before school, during lunches and flex time, and after they have finished their class work. A seldom used office space has been repurposed into our makerspace. Following the Daring Librarian’s lead, I bought spring loaded shower rods to organize our duct tape on old bookcarts. I also invested in Legos and adult coloring books. My student teacher assistants are helping organize the space and advising me on how to expand. See her post for a shopping list for a $350 makerspace starter kit, which I modified somewhat for our high school. 

So, with no further ado, I present the newly minted NaFo Makerspace, currently offering:

 Duct Tape Crafts

Coloring Corner

Lego Creations

Legos book


Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Carry On and Fangirl pic

Simon Snow is the Chosen One in the world of mages. He and his nemesis roommate, Baz, are in their last year at the elite magical school of Watford. Simon was an orphan living among the “Normals” until the Mage made him his heir and brought him to Watford. The mage world is being threatened by the Insidious Humdrum, who looks exactly like Simon did at 11. Humdrum is damaging the magical community by creating dead spots where magic won’t work. Simon, along with his best friend, Penelope, his former girlfriend, Agatha and Baz, are crazily trying to figure out how to stop the Humdrum. Sound vaguely Potteresque? It is intended to be!  Carry On is supposed to be the last book in the fan fiction series Cath, the lead character in Fangirl, writes about Simon Snow and his world. So Carry On is a real novel based on fan fiction in a book of fiction that is basically HP fan fiction. got it