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Books in the ReaLITy program are the kind of stories that stay with you long after the last page. They can inspire understanding of a life completely different than your own or make you realize that there are others out there just like you. These are the books that you can't wait to share and discuss. Because of that, Macmillan created discussion guides for every ReaLITy title. They've talked to each author and asked them what inspired their novels - ”what makes their books "real"?

Books can make it easier to figure out your place in the world and we think the titles in the ReaLITy program will do just that.

Want more ReaLITy Reads? Visit their website for discussion guides and more information!

12/19/2014 by Melissa Jeffrey Add a Comment Share this:
Topics: Book List

In Case You Missed It—The Studio's Last Japan Day

We were all sad that this would be the last Japan Day held at the Teen Studio in the Central Library, so we decided to go out with a bang and did we ever!

On November 3rd, Culture Day (文化の日, Bunka No Hi) is a national holiday in Japan to celebrate and promote the arts, cultural activities, and academic achievements. In the spirit of Culture Day, we decided to have our own version of this celebration and held a festival where different stations were set up where teens could partake in a variety of activities including: a Yu-Gi-Oh! dueling area, a Super Smash Bros. tournament, a paper crane origami contest, an area where teens could free draw and finally, a place where they could paint kokeshi dolls (a traditional Japanese toy).

We began the program by talking a little bit about current anime news; we were all wondering if the Attack on Titan live action movie could be the best or the worst thing ever, then some of our lady otakus played and performed the Bad Apple dance for us!

At 4:00 p.m., teens let loose to go to whatever station they wanted to or sign-up to compete in one of the tournaments that were held. The table that teens ran to first was our “freebie table”, where we had Japanese snacks, anime button pins, posters, DVDs, and toys for anyone to take home with them!

At the Yu-Gi-Oh! table, we thought there would be an epic card-tossing throw down, but instead of a blood-sport, years-long Yu-Gi-Oh! fans engaged in free battles and showed beginners to the card game how to start playing. Where the Yu-Gi-Oh! table was a lot calmer, the same thing couldn’t be said for the Super Smash Bros. tournament! We had quite the crowd gathered looking at participants duke it out, but Henry Toon came out the victor, with Cass Cyprien coming in second place. For those not looking to enter a battle royale, we held an origami contest (teen Jenny Ngo won this) and free tables to draw and paint kokeshi dolls.

We were honored to have a special guest come visit Japan Otaku Day; Japanese exchange student Asahi! She and her host sister were dressed in beautiful Japanese yukatas and added just what we needed to give our Culture Day some traditional flair!

At the end of Japan Day we had a final giveaway of some great prizes and sang a song dear to many anime fans’ hearts, the English version of the Pokémon opening theme song! Our goal with Japan Day is to have a space where teens can be themselves; no one is less than, everyone is proud of their weirdness, and most importantly we can make brand new friendships that may last a lifetime. We hope coming to Japan Day throughout the time at the Studio was a lot of fun and that you learned something new!

Remember, Keep Calm and Eat More Pocky!!

P.S. I would like to give a special “Thank You to Javon Ayers, Michael Buentello, Chris Sauceda, Jay Nguyen, and all the other teens and volunteers that have helped make not only this, but past Japan Day programs a success.

Written by Amina D., YTC Intern

12/16/2014 Add a Comment Share this:

Teen Review by Katie B....Belzhar

Reading Meg Wolitzer’s Belzhar was very refreshing; the original struggles of the very real characters and the unique twists made for a very pleasing read that I’ll definitely be re-visiting.

Jam’s amazing british boyfriend, Reeve, is gone, and there’s nothing she can do about it, or the paralyzing depression that's taking control of her life. There’s also nothing she wants to do about it, but her worried family members are thinking otherwise, and ship her off to the Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school made specifically to help heal “emotionally fragile” teens. Jam doesn’t want to be there, and she certainly doesn’t want to be placed in an exclusive english class that’s studying the depressing works of Sylvia Plath. But Jam and the four other troubled teens of Special Topics English soon discover that the journals that were intended to document their problems have more to them than meets the eye. The world of Belzhar gives the kids a way to turn back the clock and re-live the lives they once had. But why have they been given this chance? And at what cost?

Stop what you’re doing. Sprint to the library. Check this book out. 

Belzhar presents a story that will keep you guessing until the end, rooting for every character, and hoping for their triumph. Relatable, entertaining, and completely unique, Belzhar is definitely a read to check out.

Other books you may enjoy:

12/12/2014 Add a Comment Share this:

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 1 Film Review



Most questionable line from the movie:

             "I never asked to be in The Games!"- Katniss


            But you did KINDA volunteer though...


You know what, never mind. On to the review! 

Mockingjay- Part 1 doesn't waste any time picking up from where the previous film, Catching Fire left off. Katniss has been recently rescued from the Hunger Games arena, where she now finds herself in an underground hideout below the old District 13; and not only does she realize that's she's been inducted into a revolution-in-progress, but she also discovers that she has been chosen to to be at the forefront of this rebellion.

Initially she declines to be their "Mockingjay," the symbol for the rebellion, because she's still a little salty about them leaving her boo, Peeta, behind in the arena. (See Kat, what had happened was...) On the bright side however, Katniss is reunited with her mother, sister, and Gale, who has finally come to terms with the fact that he is indeed stuck in the dreaded "friendzone."

The Rebellion has begun (Oh yeah)

After seeing for herself what was left of the now destroyed District 12, and watching Peeta become the "sell-out" for the Capitol by  discouraging any acts of rebellion via live broadcasting, Katniss decides to go along with the rebellion only on the conditions that Peeta and the other Hunger Games victors will be rescued and pardoned asap. Oh, and also that her younger sister Prim may be allowed to keep her cat in the animal-free quarters... (This one was especially NOT NEGOTIABLE. No Buttercup, no Mockingjay.)

The rebellion soon unfolds as District 13 begins hiting the Capitol with a series of attacks, as well as spreading their own revolutionary propaganda throughout the television broadcasts, and all was good UNTIL...

The Capitol decided to hit back

After Peeta was quickly silenced for sneaking in a live broadcasted warning to Katniss and everyone in the underground Disctrict 13 about the Capitol's plan to attack, everyone in District 13 was forced to evacuate into the safe shelt thers, whileey pretty much had to sit quietly and endure the Capitol's relentless attacks. I should also mention that during the evacuation, Prim nearly got herself killed trying to rescue her cat until Katniss ended up having to save both of them.

Okay pause, so you mean to tell me... Katniss went through all of what she's been through, like volunteering to take her sister's place in a gruesome battle royale, fight to death only for her to later get herself killed anyway for trying to save her pet cat who was somehow smart enough to survive the District 12 bombing that wiped out half of the district's population, but too slow to hightail it out of there during the District 13 evactuation? One question: Why was this conversation between Katniss and Prim never had in the film?'

Peeta's gone crazy... So does that mean the odds are now ever in Gale's favor?

Towards the end of the film, Peeta is finally "rescued" from the Capitol and reunited with his precious Katniss, and what's first in the order of business between the two lovebrids? Katniss fighting for her life as her Peeta attempts to strangle her of course. (Okay...what?) 

I know many of you Katniss haters have had the thought cross your minds before, but to actually see Peeta out of all people doing it created the most chilling scene in the entire film. In Peeta's defense however, the Captiol "hijacked" his mind (allegedly), in which he was brainwashed to now view Katniss as a life threat so in turn, he feels he is in a kill or be killed situation whenever he is now near her. The movie ends on a somber note shortly afterwards, and we start to see the stage being set for part 2.

I believe the only one who may have gained a happy ending from all of this is Gale, because after Peeta's freak out, I think it's safe he may be back in the running for the Mockingjay's heart. So with that said, May the odds ever be in [Gale's] favor...    

12/9/2014 by EJ A. Add a Comment Share this:

Teen Review by Katie... Uncaged

What do you do if you’re on the run in the sketchy part of Hollywood with only $58, some camping gear, and street smarts? If you’re Shay Remby, you kick butt, take names, and start taking down the country’s most corrupt medical business—with your awesome butt-kicking and name-taking friends.

Odin Remby is in hot water after his group of animal activists’ raid on a lab goes wrong and leaves a high-schooler in the hospital and a very, very angry corporation with a reason to track him down to catch him—he’s swiped some suspicious files that could possibly undo their entire operation. 

Running away from his home seems like the best thing to do to escape a dangerous company that isn’t afraid to break laws to save face and get what they want.When Odin disappears without a trace or an explanation, his protective sister Shay doesn’t think twice before piecing together the few clues he left behind to try and save him from whatever danger he’s in—and soon finds herself in Hollywood, with no idea what she’s up against.

What’s the best thing about John Sanford’s and Michele Cook’s Uncaged? The engaging action? The fantastic settings? The turns and twists that you won’t see coming? No, no, and no again; the thing that really makes Uncaged memorable is it’s amazing characters. As soon as Shay hits Hollywood, she meets some very interesting, and very diverse people; they’re the reason that the story is so memorable and fun.

Bored? You won't be if you check out Uncaged; the first fast paced novel in the Singular Menace saga. You’ll definitely enjoy it and be eagerly anticipating the next book in Shay’s story.

Other books you may enjoy:

12/7/2014 Add a Comment Share this:
Topics: Books, Teen Reviews


Students of the Lab were given a treat when they were invited out to tour the University of Texas at Arlington Research Institute or UTARI for short.  They were first shown the micro-robotics lab, where engineers scientists create robots using an electron microscope.  After that we moved into the 3D-printing laboratory.  This is where experimental parts are fabricated using the various printers.  One of the 3D printers was capable of printing a working adjustable wrench in one piece, without parts needing to be assembled.  The students got to see a quad-copter, a competition robot, as well as a robot that could play Connect Four on various difficulty settings (and it could taunt its opponents on the highest difficulty).  Check out some video of the UTARI robot named Baxter playing Connect Four here.

12/2/2014 by Chris Woodward 2 Comments - Add a Comment Share this:
Topics: Technology

Teen Zone Book Club is on a roll!

This year, the teen book club has read a total of 5 books starting with Mockingjay, Adoration of Jenna Fox, The Fault in Our Stars, The Maze Runner, and The Giver.

Currently we are reading After the End, a suspenseful Sci-Fi novel based on a story of one girl's journey to save the very people who have lied to her for her entire life.

Juneau grew up fearing the outside world. The elders told her that beyond the borders of their land in the Alaskan wilderness, nuclear war had destroyed everything. But when Juneau returns from a hunting trip one day and discovers her people have been abducted, she sets off to find them. And leaving the boundaries for the very first time, she learns the horrifying truth: World War III never happened. Nothing was destroyed. Everything she'd ever been taught was a lie.

As Juneau comes to terms with an unfathomable deception, she is forced to survive in a completely foreign world, using only the skills and abilities she developed in the wild. But while she's struggling to rescue her friends and family, someone else is after her. Someone who knows the extraordinary truth about her secret past.

If this is a book you would like to read, then be a part of this fantastic teen reading group for book discussions and activities. Book club begins at 4:00 p.m. and ends at 6:30 p.m. every Thursday.  See you there, and let the reading continue!

11/21/2014 by Veronica R. Add a Comment Share this:
Topics: Books

Japan Day-October Edition

Here is a recap for those who might have missed it we have missed our last Japan Day this past month.

The festivities started off with a bang, a rousing game of Japanese scary folklore along with some horror anime that would even give the bravest of heart a terror or two. One winner prevailed over the others and she earned herself a complete season of an anime series along with an authentic Japanese poster from one of her favorite anime shows.

We moved on to one of my favorite events: the cosplay costume contest. We had several incredible costumes to choose from including an Erza Scarlett costume from Fairy Tail, a Ken Kaneki costume from Tokyo Ghoul, as well as a Light Yagami costume from Death Note. In the end, the winners won some fabulous prizes which included some Japanese snacks, a Manga novel, as well as a season of a popular anime on Blu-Ray!

We ended the day with an episode of xxxHolic, a riveting anime with magic, supernatural creatures as well as friendship.

If you would like to meet teens with a similar interest in manga, anime or Japanese culture, we invite you to join us for our last Japan Otaku Day Saturday, November 22.

Check out the details here.


Writtten by: Miguel M., YTC intern

11/11/2014 Add a Comment Share this:

Awesome Halloween Photo Shoot Ideas

So Halloween just ended, the library's teen Photography Workshop has just started, so where am I getting at here? Well, I'm sure most of you still have some left over accessories from this past Halloween. Rather than let those items collect dust until next year, why not put together your own cool Halloween-themed photo shoot? And if you're in need of just a bit of some inspiration, check out the following pics that can all found on Pinterest.

"Jack Skellington Jr."



Watching scary movies while a "stranger" lurks in the shadows...

Found on


A shot of "Little Red Riding Hood" walking through the woods to visit grandma.

Found on


And here are some ideas for creating some ghostly photos

A shot of ghost family standing inside of an abandoned house.

Found on

A full shot of a ghost standing in the hallway carrying her doll.

Found on


A shot of ghosts children standing in the backyard.

Found on


      Want to learn how to do your own ghostly photo shoots? Click here!

11/7/2014 by EJ A. Add a Comment Share this:
Topics: Digital Media

Robotic Arms Move Towers

The morning robotics classes here at the Lab began working this week on building and programming robotic arms.  They are challenged to program their robot arms to solve the Tower of Hanoi problem.  Now if you’ve never heard of this challenge, it goes like this.  Three vertical rods are presented.  On the left rod there are a number of discs stacked in ascending order, so that the largest disc is on the bottom and the smallest is on top. 

The solver must move this stack of discs so that it is on the right-most rod in the same ascending order, but two rules must be followed.  First, only one disc may be moved from the top of any given rod per move.  Second, a larger disc cannot be placed on top of a smaller disc.

The robot arms will only be solving a puzzle with three discs, which can be solved in a minimum of seven moves.  The puzzle can quickly get more challenging by adding more discs to it.  An eight disc puzzle cannot be solved with anything less than 255 moves!  The point of this exercise is to demonstrate the idea of recursion which is generally used by mathematicians and computer scientists.  Recursion happens when things are repeated a finite or infinite number of times.  A good example of this is when you face two mirrors together.  The reflection repeats itself infinitely.

Give it a try here and test your problem solving skills!

10/28/2014 by Chris Woodward Add a Comment Share this:
Topics: Technology