Category Archives: Teens

The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos

reviewed by Elvira Sanchez Kisser, Woodburn Public Library


A story told in a form of a college personal essay about the  journey of “Harry,” Harbinger Robert Francis Jones, the kid who was almost struck by lighting, his struggles to live with his scars, his trouble finding friendship, and  eventually learning to find solace in music. Harry navigates through school being bullied because of his scars and lives a life of solitude. Until the day comes when he is befriended by Johnny, the good looking athlete, who becomes his first friend and teaches him about friendship, betrayal, and acceptance. Even though the idea of starting a band wasn’t his, Harry learns to find salvation and confidence through creating and performing music which changes him forever.
Harry’s story is told through a series of short chapters with song headings providing a theme and a great soundtrack for those who know the music. The story is set in the 1980’s so the music will probably not be familiar to most teens of this generation, given that many are fairly obscure songs to begin with. Those that are interested in music may take the time to look up the music online, but I fear for many they will ignore the references. Though the story has many musical references, the story is about Harry living with his physical and emotional scars from being burned as a child and learning how others react to him, such as his dad calling him a “toaster”. Vlahos peppers his writing with geeky references to Star Wars and Star Trek, decision making lists, and fantasy scenarios that bring a lightheartedness to some of the more serious scenes, such as getting bullied or getting over a broken heart. Overall an engaging story for teens and adults alike that will provide a glimpse of why people form bands and what music can mean for these people.

Maker idea: Glass jar collage


This summer I showed the Woodburn teens an interesting technique used by many artists to incorporate collages in their paintings or drawings and that photographers have used to mount their images on different materials like glass or wood called an image lift/transfer using acrylic medium. The image and ink are suspended in the acrylic medium enabling the removal of the paper backing and transferring of the image to other material backings.

In our maker session we created luminescent glass jars with collage images printed from the laser printer or cut out from magazines. The process took the full two hours we had planned which allowed them to spend some time on the computers printing out images they wanted to use.

 Here are the steps and materials needed for this project.


  • Preserving jars (usually easily found on sale during the summer months)
  • Acrylic gel medium (matte or glossy, I used matte for this project)
  • synthetic bristle brushes
  • Hair Dryer
  • Tray, plate, or shallow tub for soaking the paper
  • Scissors
  • Magazine pictures or printed images from laser or inkjet printer

Distribute small amount in paper cups of acrylic medium, brushes and shallow dishes of water to each teen. Begin by brushing a thin coat of acrylic medium evenly across the image in one direction, then again in the other direction. The image should be coated with two coats then blow dried on the cool setting until the image is dry. Repeat the coating and drying before moving onto soaking the paper.

 Make sure to trim the image to the exact size wanted on the glass before soaking the image.

After trimming lay photos image side down in shallow trays of warm water. The warm water will help soften the paper and removal will be easier. Soak the image between one and five minutes before rubbing the paper backing.

Once the image has soaked, leave print in the water and start gently rubbing the paper side removing the backing. This will take time and patience. The gel film that remains will be fragile and if torn can be pieced back together when placing on the glass jar.

Once all the paper backing has been removed, brush a thin coat of matte medium on the glass jar. Carefully remove film from water and blot excess water off. Then place image side up on the coated area of the glass jar. At this time you can carefully piece tears together and move until in the correct spot.

Continue to add more images to the jar until it is filled and they can also place images on top of each other in a collage form. Once completed, a thin coat of matte medium can be varnished on top of the images, this is optional. Then let the jars dry.

The completed jars can be used as a lamp with candles or with a LED light. Variations on the candle holder include punching holes in the lid to create a starlight pattern, the center can be removed for the flame, or adding a thin bendable wire wrapped around the jar lip create a handle on top for hanging.


Sample of teens finished collages.
Sample of teens finished collages.

Maker idea: Book planters

TeenBookGarden-4A creative way to use old books heading to sights unknown is to create a decorative garden planter out of them. I was inspired by garden projects found on Pintrest and found some great instructions at

Supplies you will need: books (the older the better. If the paper is already brittle and yellow, it cuts much easier than newer books), potting soil (small bag), succulent plants (about 1-2 per teen), glue, wax paper or plastic bags, x-acto knives, rulers, pencils.

The plants are the costliest part of the project, but you may be able to get a deal from a nursery or even buying them at a mainstream home improvement place will run you about $1 a plant. You can save by having each teen use only one to two succulents.

Please caution the teens to be careful working with x-acto knives for cutting the holes out. Keeping this in mind, here are some tips for creating successful book planters without the sight of blood.

  1.  First place a generous amount of glue on the spines and edges of the book. Using glue  bottles works great with a sponge or regular brush to spread the glue.
  2. Next, let them dry or use a hair dryer to speed the drying process.
  3. A good solution to keeping the limbs on your teens is to make them score a fairly small square and check them. Teens are very ambitious and like to try and cut out the largest square possible, not realizing this will make their project take longer and create a weaker container for their plants.
  4. Then have them cut the holes using a ruler as a guide while standing. You will get lots of moans from this instruction, because they feel it’s harder and they love to sit. Having them stand they can see what they are doing better, exert even pressure in cutting and the using the ruler prevents slippage of the knife while creating a barrier between said edge and their fingers.
  5. After the dangerous part is done and they have pulled all the inside sheets out of the book, have them line the hole with wax paper or a small plastic bag.
  6. Once lined, add the plants and then fill the space with extra potting soil. Trim the wax paper and spray with a little bit of water.

If you have a beautifully crafted title page, I suggest cutting the title page out and gluing to the garden facing page. Remember, smaller is better and safer. The teens will accomplish the garden in the time allotted and with all fingers in tact.BookPlantersCollage1

Reviewing Books

I have set myself a Reading Challenge for 2012 in GoodReads for 100 books. I know I can accomplish this since I read 105 books last year and I do read a lot of variety including young adult, graphic novels, fiction of all genres, some non-fiction, and listen to fair amount of audiobooks. Yes, I include audiobooks, though I have gone back many a time and read the book after listening to them in order to take a bit more time in enjoying the words. A few that I have done this with have been Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series and Shades of Grey and I already want to read Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam Trilogy. Both of these series use the page and text formatting and play on words in their stories, which are lost in the audio version.

Continue reading Reviewing Books

Voracious Teen Readers

I currently have a teen that is a voracious reader and comes to the desk asking for book recommendations. They are fairly open to reading new authors and genres, but have an affinity for vampires and paranormal stories. So the challenge for me is keeping her favorite type of genre in mind is recommending new authors outside the genre while keeping her up to date with the latest young adult vampire series. Keeping this in mind, I began to ask which “classic” literature she has read and found what I suspected, large holes needing to be filled.

Continue reading Voracious Teen Readers

Know your Patrons

Working in a public environment, one thing that seems to always amaze me is the reality of the likes and dislikes of our users. When popular culture seems fixated on one thing, your patrons may be interested in something totally different.

I am helping create programs for the Summer Reading Program for the teens this summer. A suggestion that has been making the rounds is to create a program related to the Hunger Games series. With the movie to be released this March and the books on the New York Bestseller list for weeks now and with high hold lists for these books at the library,  this seems like a good choice.

So to verify this, I surveyed a group of our teens with possible theme ideas. The results were pretty astounding. The Hunger Games came last on the list of themes with Vampire Party at the top. I wasn’t too surprised about this since most of our holds are being placed by adults, not teens. Also, this book has been out since 2008, many teens probably read it in the early days and are now onto something new. And like I said, they will always surprise you at what they are interested in, so ask them what they are into, don’t ever assume.