The Dark Matter of Mona Starr

When teenager Mona Starr finds herself spiraling into a depression, her best friend persuades her to begin seeing a therapist. Mona does more than see a therapist. She takes an active role in her own healing journey by meditating, journaling about her thoughts and feelings, and analyzing how her mind works with the help of a therapist. Young Mona’s visceral struggles are translated into images so deftly that people who have experienced mental illness will take comfort in the knowledge that they are not alone. Those who have not experienced mental illness will find this book a rare window into the inner world of people who have.

The visual language in The Dark Matter of Mona Starr avails itself of the most common school supplies found in students’ backpacks (i.e., graphite pencil, black pen, graph paper, and yellow highlighter). This palette will be recognizable to high-school-notebook-doodlers past and present. Such pedestrian materials might be overlooked by many artists, but when deployed with the level of imagination and skill possessed by Laura Lee Gulledge, they result in mind-blowing images. Beautiful graphite illustrations, lovingly blended to create soft textures, are meticulously inked in black for sharp detail.  Juxtaposed with cover-to-cover depressive grayscale, highlighter-yellow is used sparingly throughout the book to convey the magical healing powers of love, friendship, creativity, and self-compassion.

I especially love how this book is both a moving story and a practical guide! In the back of the book Gulledge’s personal Self-Care Plan is laid out in detail, and beside it, a companion note-catcher in which readers can figure out a self-care plan of their own.

The Best Lies

The love of Remy’s life has been murdered by her best friend.  Now Remy must decide what the truth is. Her best friend Elise is the only person who really understood and empowered her and so it must have been a mistake when Elise shot Jack.  Bouncing back and forth through Remy’s life; different memories help tell the story of Elise and Remy’s friendship and what really caused Elise to pull the trigger.

Libraries Must Create Space That Lets Teens Thrive

This is one in a series of occasional perspective pieces the Evanston Public Library will be publishing on the ever evolving role of the library in our community.

By Renee Neumeier, Young Adult Services Supervisor

Teens at the Library“The Loft is a great place to go when you don’t want to go home.”

That is a quote from an Evanston Township High School (ETHS) senior who is one of the regular visitors at the Evanston Public Library (EPL). We work very hard to make the space and the resources available to fit the specific needs teens have as they live their days not as children, but not yet adults. It is critical libraries provide an environment that helps teens thrive.

Our primary concern is to create a safe space for all teens. We live in a highly diverse community with diverse expectations. Ensuring every teen can be who they want to be is a key characteristic of our institution. The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) released a report in 2013 titled “The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action” (known as the Futures Report). In it, YALSA laid out guidelines highlighting the benefits of reserving a space where teens are the primary occupants and where they are buffered from negative interactions. In addition, the School Library Journal reported in 2015 that effective teen spaces are the result of a concerted effort to turn the spaces over to teens, involving them in the design and planning process, encouraging them to suggest and plan programs, hiring them to work in the space and more.

The leading libraries strive to empower teens to take learning into their own hands. The Loft – Evanston Public Library’s 2,000-square-foot teen space – is a safe and enriching environment for kids to come and meet new people. Beyond the space itself, The Loft is where every teen can engage in myriad activities for leisure, education or both. There are more than 9,000 combined books, audiobooks, and graphic novels on hand and even more in the e-materials collection – all curated by a trained staff to help find the right book for the right reader.

Recreation is a big part of learning and learning about one’s self. At The Loft teens also can play video games and participate in programs such as Lego tournaments, Anime Club, 3D Thursdays and join the Audio Challenge building electronic stereo components. In fact, all these activities played a role in Chicago Parent Magazine naming The Loft one of “five uniquely Evanston hangouts for teens” in its February 2018 issue.

But because a library should be a bridge between school and home life for students, and because we want to embed learning in an out-of-school environment, we work very closely with Districts 65 and 202 on programs, presentations and promotion. Every sixth grader gets an orientation to EPL and The Loft. Teen staff visits classrooms throughout the year collaborating with teachers and the school libraries on book talks, demonstrating online resources, or co-teaching 3D printing and design. Almost year round we either bring a STEM-based after-school program to one of the Y.O.U. middle school sites or they bring students to The Loft. We also have run a coding station at a STEM event tailored for middle school girls at MetaMedia at the McGaw YMCA.

Our Teen Advisory Board is key to teens feeling welcome and having ownership within the library. Studies suggest that teen inclusion in program planning and the development of their space ensures their evolving needs and interests are being addressed. Once teens experience a welcoming environment, they will want to branch out and connect with other library resources. This deeper engagement with the library helps teens expand their knowledge.

In “The Need for Teen Spaces in Public Libraries” (American Library Association, revised 2016), Kimberly Bolan says libraries “bridge the gap between the classroom and afterschool and provide hands-on, teen-driven activities that enable teens to learn while exploring their passions and interests.” That is what we strive to do. Teens can be themselves as they relax or continue to learn, because teens deserve a space that allows them to thrive.

Renee Neumeier has been the Young Adult Services Supervisor at the Evanston Public Library since 2013. The Library was founded in 1873 and serves a highly diverse and evolving community. More than 1,600 people use its resources and services every day.

Local Art @ EPL: The Big Read

May 11, 2016


Dozens of talented student artists from District 65 middle schools Chute and Nichols are the next to be featured in our ongoing exhibition series Local Art @ EPL.  From now until May 31st, you can find over 50 original student works on the 2nd floor of EPL’s Main Library.  Inspired by the Evanston Big Read companion book Yes! We Are Latinos by Alma Flor Ada, this impressive exhibit showcases artwork and writing focused on the students’ family roots and history.  Don’t miss it, and while you plan your visit, you can preview the show below.  Enjoy!

Continue reading “Local Art @ EPL: The Big Read”

Local Art @ EPL

March 12, 2015

D65-202 Show 2

Dozens of talented student artists from District 65 and ETHS are the next to be featured in our ongoing exhibition series Local Art @ EPL.  From now until March 31st, you can find over 100 original student works on the 2nd floor of EPL’s Main Library.  Including photography, sketches, paintings, and much more, this impressive exhibit showcases the diverse creative gifts of Evanston kindergarteners, seniors, and all ages in between.  Don’t miss it!

Local Art @ EPL

November 13, 2014

image0000Dozens of talented teens from EPL’s very own Loft are the next featured artists in our ongoing exhibition series Local Art @ EPL.  During the months of September and October, Evanston students from Chute, Haven, and Nichols Middle Schools read works by G. Neri.  To capture their impressions of his writing, the students created art in a variety of forms including poetry, graphic works, and pencil sketches.  Students will continue to explore the impact of G. Neri’s work on their lives through class discussions, and you can catch their exhibit through November 30th on the 2nd floor of EPL’s Main Library.  Don’t miss it!

Surprising Report on Teens and E-books

March 6, 2012

One would think that teens are lapping up e-books as fast as they can get them, however, a new report finds that is not the case. One obstacle noted by teens was too many restrictions in accessing the material. A trade survey conducted by R.R. Bowker is disputed by others in the industry, who claim that sales of YA digital books are flying through the roof. Read this lengthy discussion of the digital habits of teens on Publisher’s Weekly.

Shira S.

Manga Mania at Queens Public Library

May 18, 2010

My mother, a dedicated 5th grade teacher, deplored comic books and refused to allow them in her classroom. “All kids do is look at the pictures; they don’t learn to read that way”.

Dear old Mom. She was right about some things, (yellow is not my color) but dead wrong about comics…or graphic novels as we call them now. Not only do kids read them, they read them in Japanese.

Yup, American teens in places like Queens New York are so inspired by Japanese manga that they’re studying Japanese, giving themselves Japanese names and even choosing colleges based on their Asian studies programs. Read about it in this New York Times story.

Lesley W.

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