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January 2010 Archives

Book Review: "Lips Touch: Three Times" and interview with author Laini Taylor
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When we read through the Advice questions you send in, we see certain words popping up again and again...like CRUSH and LIKES ME and KISS. Especially that last one. It's a biggie.

That's why we were excited to read "Lips Touch: Three Times" by Laini Taylor (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic). Duh! It's got LIPS and TOUCH in the title! Well, it was also a finalist for the 2009 National Book Award for young people's literature, and written by the author of the incredibly faerie-tastic "Dreamdark" books "Blackbringer" and "Silksinger." And it features gorgeous illustrations by Jim De Bartolo, who also happens to be Laini Taylor's husband. So there is all that, too.

lipstouch.jpg"Lips Touch: Three Times" is not your typical read. It's not a novel but rather, three stories that are unrelated except for sharing the theme of "a kiss with interesting consquences." In the first story, "Goblin Fruit," a lonely girl meets a boy who may or may not be a goblin out to steal her soul. "Spicy Little Curses" takes place in colonial India, where a young woman grows up believing she is cursed and that her voice can literally kill; when she falls in love, she's tempted to discover the truth. The third story, "Hatchling," tells the tale of Esme, who upon turning fourteen learns that she and her mother come from a very different, very strange, and slightly terrible world. If you enjoy fantasy books, these stories will amaze you with how beautifully written and vivid they are. And if you're not much into that "fantasy stuff," you may just fall for the romance of it all. We should mention that this material may not be right for younger tweens or anyone who is offended by stuff like the "underworld" and demons and the fate of souls. One teen character does get pregnant, although it's depicted tastefully.

IML was lucky enough to chat with author Laini Taylor about her book and about writing in general; we hope it's the first of many author interviews on this blog!

IML: Hi, Laini! Could you tell us a little bit about writing "Lips Touch" and collaborating with your husband?

Laini: The book was written sort of on a whim. I never planned it as a book, actually. I had sold my first novel, "Blackbringer," and was waiting to write the sequel, but I felt a little paralyzed until I knew what my editor wanted. I had been working on "Blackbringer" for a long time and wanted to do something different. I had also just started blogging. A friend of mine and I had the idea of starting a site called "Sunday Scribblings" which would put up a short writing prompt every week and anyone who wanted to write on the subject could, and it became a little writing community. All of the stories from "Lips Touch" came out of writing prompts on that blog. They were really just short pieces I was writing for fun. Over the course of a couple of months, I noticed that several of them had emerged around the theme of "a kiss with interesting consequences." Then we thought, maybe this could be a book. My husband and I had always wanted to do illustrated books together, ever since we met in art school, so that was how we presented it to publishers. And fortunately, they went for it!

IML: It seems like there aren't a lot of short story collections out there for young readers anymore.

Laini: I think they tend to not do very well, sales-wise, and there's a reluctance to publish them. "Lips Touch" is not really a traditional short story collection; it's more of a novella and two very long stories. I love writing novels, but I also love writing short pieces. There's so much freedom when writing a short piece to set out not really knowing where you're going and just let it happen. With a novel, I feel a little more afraid to do that because it's such a big journey...but with a short story, you can have a more playful attitude.

IML: When you have an idea and start noodling on it, at what point do you feel like it's a short story rather than a full novel?

lainitaylor.jpgLaini: The fact that I was able to write short stories at all sort of amazes me, because I have a way of making everything really complex! I was trying to write a short story recently for an anthology I was asked to contribute to. I was having lots of fun with it and then I realized, "Oh my goodness, this really wants to be a novel instead of a short story." Even with the novel I'm working on, it was going to be a short book and now...it's a trilogy! When I start writing something, it has a way of really quickly developing into something complex. Writing from those really short prompts, and trying to write something with a beginning, middle, and end in two hours was a great exercise. When I set out to write something short and really stuck to that, I was able to do it.

IML: It's harder to write something shorter, right?

Laini: Absolutely!

IML: A lot of the tweens who post their writing on IML have very long books planned out.

Laini: Yes, I do a lot of elementary school visits and many of the kids I talk to are working on things that sound really complicated!

IML: There's something about creating a whole world of your own, and you're so good at it. I mean, in "Hatchling" you even made up a whole language. As a fantasy writer, do you take time while a story is developing in your head to create the rules of the world you're writing about?

Laini: I do a lot of brainstorming in advance. Part of the reason I do that is because it's easier than writing! When I was younger, like 12 years old, and had just started writing, I never actually wrote a novel. I just did all the world building. That was the fun part for me and it's still the fun part. For each book, I fill a notebook with ideas and collage the covers. I don't write the story in them, I just write down all my research and ideas for the world. Sometimes when I go back and look at it, the ideas are totally different from what they ended up being in the book, and there's a lot of stuff I ended up not using. Along the way, I do try to figure out the rules of the world and the fantasy element. There are a million different ways an idea can go...I work that out as I go. My "Dreamdark" novels are a five-book series and I'm trying to write things down more so I can refer to them in the novels to come.

IML: You said you started writing when you were a tween. What was the first thing that you actually wrote beyond the brainstorming phase?

Laini: I wrote some short stories in high school. I always loved fantasy when I was younger and got away from it in high school. I felt like I wasn't supposed to write fantasy so I was only writing "literary" stuff, and wasn't loving my writing so much. Then I went to art school and was developing my illustrations, thinking I wanted to do picture books. Along the way, fantasy sort of became more popular with things like "Harry Potter" and "The Golden Compass" and I rediscovered the books I loved as a kid. I've always wanted to be a writer my whole life and it took me until my early 30's when I finally realized that you actually have to finish things to be a writer!

IML: What is your writing process like? Do you write every day with a schedule?

Laini: In general, I have the most creative energy in the morning and it works really well for me to wake up early, about 5am or 6am, and write until lunchtime. When I was finishing "Silksinger" I was really regimented and writing every day. Writing short stories was more like running a series of short races than running a marathon. The most important thing to me is just to get my butt in the chair and write! You have to find time and just do it.

IML: What were your favorite books when you were younger, and your favorite books now?

Laini: I think my favorites growing up were Madeleine L'Engle and the "Wrinkle In Time" books. These days, I love "The Hunger Games" books. I also love "A Drowned Maiden's Hair" by Laura Amy Schlitz, and "Flash Burnout" by L.K. Madigan -- a writer who lives in my town.

IML: Kissing is a big deal with IML'ers. What is it about kissing that is so fun to write and read and think about?

Laini: I'm not really sure! It's just one of those things, right? At one point when I finally admitted to myself that I loved fantasy, I also admitted that I loved romance too. It can make any book better! Even if it's just an innocent romantic subplot. In my "Dreamdark" books, there are characters who are early soulmates and you know someday they're going to fall in love. Having that connection is so much fun to write and to read. I love introducing a character and having a reader know they're moving in the direction of their soulmate. And then kissing is such a beautiful thing, but it can also be fraught with trouble. That moment for anybody...it can go so many ways.

IML: "Lips Touch" is unique because of the illustrations. You don't see a lot of books for tweens and teens with illustrations anymore, unless it's a graphic novel or something.

Laini: Yes, there's a real conception out there that illustrations in books are just for kids. We had a lot of discussions with the publishers about the illustrations in "Lips Touch" and not having them make the book too "young." I studied illustration and I'm married to an illustrator, so I'm a little biased, but I just think that anyone can love art. Illustrations can be so beautiful. At first we thought of making the illustrations purely for decoration, to give the book something special. But as we were working on it, eventually we had the art take over part of the storytelling. The illustrations are telling a story that's not actually told in the story. So Jim got to do real storytelling rather than just "decoration".

I remember books I loved as a kid where you could go back to illustrations and find new things in them. In "Lips Touch," you see the pictures first but don't really understand them yet, then as you get into the story, you go back and get more out of them. I'd love to see more illustrated young adult novels. There's another book called "Leviathan" by Scott Westerfeld that also has wonderful illustrations. Also, you see so many photo covers out there; a lot of times I see one that would be much better served by an illustration. Like, something will be a period piece and they're using costumes that look like they came out of a high school drama department! But an illustrator could make something really beautiful. They say young readers are more drawn to photo covers, but I'd just like to see more illustrated covers in the future.

IML: You do a lot of school visits so we're sure you're asked this question a lot: What's your advice for young writers?

Laini: First, the most important thing is just to write, write, write and develop your craft. Develop your own voice, which is a hard thing to do when you're young. When I was young, I did a lot of -- shall we say -- "paying tribute" to my favorite writers. I think young writers tend to try to write like their favorite writers and that's fine early on. But the more you write, the more you develop your own voice and your own ideas. Then, the best advice I can give writers as they get a little older and start finishing work that may be publishable is to go to writers conferences. There's a great organization called the Society for Children's Books Writers and Illustrators, and they hold a lot of those. At conferences you can meet with editors and publishers and agents, and that makes the path to becoming a writer seem like a real normal job, with actual steps you can follow. When I was young, writers were like mysterious people I never saw and didn't even seem like real people, but now with the Internet you can have so much access to real writers. For instance, I've developed a relationship with several young readers who are amazing young writers, and contacted me through my website. We've hung out and write to each other a little bit. And there are so many outlets to get your writing seen and connect with other writers. I really wish there had been blogs when I was in school!

To find out more about Laini and her work, you can visit her website at www.LainiTaylor.com.





DVD Review: "Like Stars On Earth"
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When you head to the video store to rent a DVD, where do you go first? The "New Releases" section? The section devoted to your favorite genre, like Horror, Musicals, or TV? Do you pick new DVD's to watch based on what your friends have seen or current ad campaigns? Sometimes it's fun to just browse the aisles and see what pops out at you.

likestarsonearth.jpgEven with all that, you might miss movies such as "Like Stars On Earth," which was recently released on DVD by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. Technically, it's a "foreign film," because it was produced in India and yes, much of the movie is in Hindi with English subtitles. But this is the kind of flick where that stuff doesn't really matter; the story and themes are universal. Plus, we love films that give us a glimpse of what it's like to grow up in a different culture.

In "Like Stars On Earth," 8-year-old Ishaan is not having an easy time of it. He struggles with reading and schoolwork in general, while nobody seems to see some of the wonderful, magical things he does in everyday life. His parents love him but don't understand why he can't just behave and stay out of "trouble" (and why he can't be more like his older brother, who gets excellent grades). Thinking that all Ishaan needs is some discipline, they send him off to a boarding school, where life is even harder for him...until he meets a substitute art teacher who recognizes that there's actually a reason why Ishaan sees the things he does.

That reason, we guess pretty early on, is dyslexia. If you have it or know someone who has it, then you know the problems it can cause. You might also know that dyslexia can also be considered a "gift" -- people with dyslexia are usually very visual, creative, and artistic! Watching Ishaan discover and understand this part of himself is lovely to watch.

The movie's pace is probably much slower than you're used to, and sometimes takes itself a little too seriously -- those are definite flaws. But it makes up for that with some great musical sequences (it comes from Bollywood, after all!). We especially loved the scene where the art teacher, Nikumbh, gets his students singing and dancing. We'll sign up for that class! A bonus disc features deleted scenes, a "making of" featurette, and a panel discussion on children. "Like Stars On Earth" is like taking a quick trip to a faraway place -- a great break from what you're probably used to watching -- and realizing it's not all that different from home.

IML's Rating: B


"You Are Here" Website
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So, you think you're a smart shopper. With a few hours and the right amount of spending money, you could find the most perfect, awesome outfit/pair of shoes/piece of jewelry/book/videogame/CD imaginable. You feel so at home in the mall that you've actually thought about what it would be like to sleep in one of those display beds in the department store home section.

But are you a smart consumer? Do you know how advertising affects you? Can you see through marketing messages? Do you know how to protect yourself from identity theft, violations of privacy, and fraud? Tweens and teens are a huge and important group of spenders to many industries, and you're targeted pretty hard. Not everybody has your best interests in mind.

youarehere.jpgHere's a great way to find out: the Federal Trade Commission's  new website You Are Here. It's an online "mall" with games, animated shorts, and virtual shops -- all designed to help young people get more savvy when it comes to money and business.

The FTC is all about that; its job is to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them.

We especially enjoyed the Market-Match game, which had us guessing which cell phones were marketed to which kinds of buyers.

IML has lots of advice in this area, too. Check out our Money channel!

 




The State of the Tween Union
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usa.jpgWe're hitting the one-year anniversary of President Obama being sworn into office, and you might be hearing a lot of chatter from the media and other people about what life in the U.S. is like at the moment. We know we're hearing it. "Will the economy get better?" "What will the next year be like?" "Can we be proud of our country at the moment?"

We were interested to see the results of an online survey conducted by KidsHealth.org and TIME For Kids magazine. They asked 1,000 kids aged 9-13 how they felt about things in their lives and the United States in general. Here are some of the results; do they match up with the way you feel?

  • Only 18% of tweens totally agree that the U.S. economy is strong and only 23% totally agree that people in other countries respect the United States.

  • When asked to grade how well President Obama is doing his job so far, tweens scored him this way: A (19%), B (30%), C (24%), D (10%), and F (17%). (You're doing okay, Mr. President, but it looks like you need to try harder in 2010!)

  • The economy is the #1 priority for pre-teens, with 45% telling President Obama it is the most important issue he should work on.

  • Two out of three tweens agree with the statement, "My future is going to be great."

  • 94% of tweens say that in the United States, it's possible for kids to grow up to be anything they want.

  • 51% of tweens think the world will be a better place in 10 years.

  • 90% of tweens think they will see a woman elected President of the United States in their lifetime.

  • When asked "What do you want to be when you grow up," the most popular professions for girls are teacher (17%) and vet (12%) vs. athlete (15%) and video game designer (9%) for boys.

  • 39% of tweens think math is the school subject most important to the success of their future careers, followed by reading (20%), science (13%), and technology (10%), among others.

  • Only 1 in 4 tweens think money is most important for their future careers, with 53% of kids choosing "How much I will enjoy my job" as first on their list of priorities.

  • Almost 52% of tweens spend less then an hour each day playing outside, with 16% reporting they spend no time at all. However, they spend 1 or more hours each day on the following activities: playing video games (45%), watching TV/movies (79%), or using the computer or IM-ing (51%).

  • Nearly 18% say their families eat dinner together less then 1-2 times a week, with 8% reporting eating dinner together less then 2-3 times a month.

  • 1 in 4 kids tweens their family's money situation is either "not good" or "bad" and 63% of kids say they worry about money "a lot" or "sometimes."

  • 75% of tweens chose a family member as the person they look up to most, with 2 out of 3 kids choosing a parent. 



It's fun to see what others think, but remember that your life and opinion is unique. If your answers are different from the majority of tweens who took this survey, it doesn't mean you're not normal!

For more poll fun, check out all the topic pages of IML; there's a different poll on each one! We love checking in to see how the votes are going on these questions.


YSI Etiquette
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We've been having some issues on the You Said It boards lately, and we think it's time to mention a few things. These are some general notes and guidelines for new users and reminders for the folks who are YSI regulars.

Let's keep things positive. IML encourages free expression, but we also want users to feel safe and welcome.  It's okay to disagree, but please try not to start fights, or to bicker back and forth about opinions. You may not like a particular book, or type of music, but please remember that someone else isn't "stupid" or "wrong" if he or she DOES like them.

Don't take it personally. Just as you shouldn't write stuff that offends others, you should also try not to get offended if others don't think the same way you do. If someone disagrees with you, and says so in a respectful way, try not to get sensitive about it.

Be careful with religious stuff. It's great to be proud of your religion, but IML is for people of ALL beliefs. This isn't the place to convert people to your faith.

Ease up on the scary stuff too: If you're posting poems and stories to the My Writing YSI, keep away from material about murder, blood, guts, and all that. This content may not be a big deal for you 13-year-olds, but IML is for tweens as young as 8.

Don't get upset if not everything you submit gets posted. We try to post almost everything, but yes, there are some things that don't through for one reason or another. If one of your YSI responses doesn't make it, try to think of why. Did you say something mean or inappropriate?  Did you use harsh or overly sarcastic language? Did you single someone out, or try to start/continue a fight? Did you write something totally off-topic? Did you say something that's too mature for our youngest readers?

Remember that we are here to keep an eye on things and help you if you are feeling bullied or treated unfairly in any way. Don't hesitate to email us at itsmylife@pbs.org if you have any concerns, like you feel a post should be removed or edited, or you felt we should not have posted something. We'd rather you alert us to your thoughts rather than jump on another IML'er.

In short...let's play nice, guys! IML wants you all to keep coming back to the YSI boards, so we can work together to keep things fun, safe, and bully-free!  :-)



MLK Day 2010
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martin_luther_king_jr.jpgIf you live in the U.S., right now you're enjoying a day off from school. Woo-hoo! Thank you, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.!

Actually, we have a lot to thank MLK for. Hopefully you're familiar with this man and his legacy, and why we celebrate both. In honor of Dr. King, we hope you'll spend some time today on these IML You Said It pages and share your thoughts:

Volunteering
Everyone's talking about service. Serve! Serve! Serve! But what does it mean? If you're just 8 or 9 years old, can you really do that? Take a look at how other IML'ers have found ways to reach out and give something back to their communities.

What Freedom Really Means
Freedom doesn't always have to be about the big stuff. Freedom comes in small packages, too. Like being able to choose what music to listen to, or what stores to shop in, or what to wear to school. Check out other people's definition of the word.

I've Experienced Racism
Although we've come a long way since Dr. King's day, and we are so much closer to making his "dream" a reality, racism is still very real. Get a first hand look at how tweens deal with this.

We also hope you'll visit PBS KIDS GO!'s African American World for Kids, where you can match other African American heroes with the events that made them famous, send e-cards, and read comments from other young people.


From Here To Haiti
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earthquake.jpgMore bad news in the headlines, Very, very, very bad news. As you know, on Tuesday a massive 7.0 earthquake hit Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. Tens of thousands are dead, and an estimated 3 million people have been affected by the disaster. Add those numbers into the fact that children under 18 make up 50% of Haiti's population of 10 million people. OMG!

How can we help? At the very least, we can stay aware of what's happening on websites like www.unicef.org. Share your knowledge with friends and family. Beyond that, the word from relief agencies is that they need money. Lots of it! So if you and your family haven't already, please consider making a donation; it's a tough economic time but everyone can give a little.

First, you could donate your own money. Look at what you have saved up. Can you spare $10? Then encourage family members to follow your example and collect "pledges" to create a lump donation to relief efforts (even if it's a small one, more like a glob). Websites like www.unicef.org, www.redcross.org, and www.greatergood.org all accept donations for disaster relief efforts.

You can also make it a group effort by doing something fun with friends that will raise a little money. A lemonade stand, a garage sale, things like that. Make a Saturday out of it and you'll be surprised at what a good time you'll have. Read more of IML's tips for fundraising.

Another thing to think about is this: disasters don't just strike far away. Fires, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes are common in the U.S. That can make us feel a little freaked out when we read about it happening somewhere else. It's actually a great opportunity to come up with or review a disaster plan for your family -- a "to do" list for what needs to happen in case of an emergency. Here are some tips:

  • Contact your local American Red Cross chapter and find out what disasters are most likely to happen in your community. Ask how you would be warned and find out how to prepare for different types of disasters. Start by logging on to www.redcross.org for more information.

  • Hold a family meeting to discuss the kinds of disasters that could occur. Explain how to prepare and respond. Practice what you discussed.

  • Plan how your family will stay in contact if separated by disaster. Pick two meeting places:
    1) A location a safe distance from your home in case of fire.
    2) A place outside your neighborhood in case you can't return home.

  • Choose an out-of-state friend as a "check-in contact" for everyone to call.

  • Post emergency telephone numbers (police, fire department, ambulance, etc.) by every phone.

  • Make sure your parents know how and when to shut off water, gas and electricity at main switches. If they don't, make sure they learn!

  • Install a smoke detector on each level of your home, especially near bedrooms. Test monthly and change the batteries two times each year.

  • Contact your local fire department to learn about home fire hazards.

  • Learn first aid and CPR. Contact your local American Red Cross chapter for information and training.

  • Meet with your neighbors. Plan how the neighborhood could work together after a disaster. Consider how you could help neighbors who have special needs, such as elderly or disabled persons. Adults should come up with a childcare plan in case parents can't get home.
For more tips, check out www.fema.gov/kids/dzplan.htm.





How Big Is Your Heart?
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Do you know someone affected by cancer? Or do you know someone who knows someone? Probably. Cancer is one of those things that's just there. Even if you're lucky enough not to have been touched by it, just the thought of it...the possibility...always hangs above us like a dark cloud. It can make you feel pretty helpless.

But imagine a world without cancer. That's what the Roswell Park Cancer Center in Buffalo, New York, would like us to do; it's one of the oldest and largest cancer centers in the U.S. and where many young people find the treatment and support they need to cope and hopefully, survive. Roswell Park has created a new campaign called YRoswell to encourage kids, tweens, and teens to not just envision a cure, but start working towards one through any way they can, like volunteering, fundraising, planning for a career in medicine or science, or even just being there for someone who's dealing with cancer in some way. The YRoswell campaign has been joined by Kris Allen, Sean Kingston, Jason Derulo, and members of Hey Monday and Cobra Starship -- all celebs who care passionately about this cause and want to lend a hand.

The YRoswell folks made this fun, inspiring video called "How Big Is Your Heart." It features real cancer patients and nurses performing alongside professional dancers. Check it out -- it's catchy!

Book Review: "Louder Than Words"
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Thumbnail image for marni-cover.jpgOne of our biggest hopes is that IML is a place for tweens to share their life experiences. By doing that, you're not only able to connect with people who've gone through something similar, but also learn about stuff that happened to others.

Recently we discovered a series of books that's a little like IML in that way. "Louder Than Words" (HCI Books) is a new three-book set of memoirs written by real teens. In one, called "Marni," the author tells us about having trichotillomania -- the compulsive need to pull out one's own hair and eyebrows. "Emily" is written by a young Mennonite and girl who spends her senior year of high school suffering from West Nile virus.

chelsey-cover.jpgThe most heartbreaking one (for us) is "Chelsey." Chelsey, who lost her mother to leukemia when she was 6 years old, goes through the unthinkable when her dad is murdered just before her 14th birthday. The story of Chelsey's grief, and her journey into becoming a writer as a result, is a fast, incredible read.
Maybe you'll recognize something of your own life in Marni's, Emily's, and Chelsey's stories...maybe you won't (and be a bit thankful for it). Either way, these are the kinds of books that teach us, move us, and make us all feel a little less alone.

The books were edited by Deborah Reber, author of the blog Smart Girls Know. You can read more about the series, watch interviews, and find out how to apply to be a future "Louder Than Words" author at www.LouderThanWordsBooks.com.

IML's Rating: A

And to all of you who open up to us and other IML'ers about the many things you go through in life -- thank you! Keep it coming!




DVD Review: "Glee, Volume 1: The Road To Sectionals"
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How much do we love "Glee"? Let us count the ways!

glee_group.jpgOkay, we know full well that we should have been talking about this show months ago. We were on the fence, however, because we also know that not all IML'ers are allowed to watch it. Although "Glee" is about an underdog high school show choir, occasionally its edgy humor involves teen sex, substance abuse, and homosexuality, and some of the language might feel inappropriate for younger tweens. If you aren't permitted to watch "Glee" (or choose not to), we understand. It's not for everyone.

But those of you who can watch it -- and love it -- know that the heart of "Glee" is filled with stories about being yourself, breaking stereotypes, reaching out across clique lines, and the power of music as self-expression and celebration. We especially like that the characters are not cookie-cutter high school icons, and there's more than meets the eye about each one. Because the show is aimed not just at young peope but also adult audiences, maybe this is viewing you share with a parent...and that's a great thing too. And of course, the tunes are simply awesome.

Who's your favorite character (cuteness aside)? What was your favorite song? What was the best OMG moment so far?

glee_dvd.jpg"Glee" returns to TV on April 13, 2010. Until then, you can relive the first 13 episodes on a recently released DVD set called "Glee, Volume 1: The Road To Sectionals." The best part of this set is the bonus features, which include lots of great behind-the-scenes material. A story about how the cast of "Glee" came together gives a peek at Lea Michele, Cory Monteith, and Chris Colfer auditioning. There are also "video diaries" from many of the cast members as they take a trip to New York City. Funny stuff!

So now we want to hear from you...are you in a Glee Club or show choir? What do you sing? Is it like "Glee" or totally different? Tell us on the My Afterschool Activities You Said It page!




Be The Beat!
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It's kind of an unthinkable situation: someone you're with -- a younger sibling, a babysitting charge, a grandparent, a friend -- loses consciousness and stops breathing, and it's up to you do perform CPR until help arrives. Hopefully, you've gotten CPR training at school, a Red Cross course, or some kind of youth group. If you have, do you remember what you learned? If you haven't...would you feel better if you did know some of the basics?

bethebeat.jpgThat's the idea behind Be The Beat, a Web site created by the American Heart Association. It features videos that teach different forms of CPR, a virtual tour through a 3-D animated version of the heart, video games, interactive quizzes, a downloadable playlist of 100-beat-per-minute songs (100 beats per minute is the correct rate for chest compressions during CPR), an free printable goodies.

Seems like a pretty fun way to learn how to save a life!



Opposite Sex Friendships: Part Two
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Last week we looked at how having friends of the opposite sex can be a terrific thing. So what's the problem? Here are some of the obstacles you and your opposite-sex friend might find yourself up against:

The parent trap. Many parents just don't "get" the idea that boys and girls can be friends with each other. Sometimes when kids reach a certain age, parents assume all girls are boy-crazy and vice versa. Suspicious parents might not believe you when you insist, "We're only friends!" This misinterpreting of your relationship can get to be pretty annoying.

Clueless friends. Many same-sex friends aren't any better than parents. That is, if you're spending lots of time with a friend of the opposite sex, your friends and other kids at school are bound to start thinking that something's up. While this doesn't change your relationship with your friend, it can make it a little uncomfortable for you both, especially if your peers decide to tease you and make your life miserable.

Mixed signals. One of the most challenging aspects about having a friend of the opposite sex is that things can get confusing really quickly. You might find yourself analyzing everything your friend does a little differently than you would with your same-sex friends, as in:

  • He's acting more jokey and chummy lately. Is he flirting, or just trying to become better friends?
  • If she calls you more than usual, does that mean she "likes" you?
  • If he asks you to dance at a social event, has the friendship turned into more?
  • Are same sex friends allowed to touch each other -- hugging, arms around the shoulder, cheek-kissing -- the way same sex friends do?
What are the rules? Unfortunately there are no easy answers here. It's different for everyone, so it's up to you and your friend to figure out what you're comfortable with. Even so, things can still get confusing, particularly when it comes to...

crushes4.gifUnexpected crushes. Ah...the biggest obstacle of them all. Even if you've been friends with your opposite sex friend since the day you both ran around naked in the backyard as toddlers, there's always the chance the one day, something in one of you will "click." You might suddenly look at your best opposite-sex friend and realize that he's the boy of your dreams. Or maybe your bud's annoying giggle one day seems like the cutest sound you've ever heard. In a split second, your friendship can turn into a major crush. The history you have together can make these types of crushes even more mixed-up than the regular kind.

So, where does all that leave us? Well...uh...right back where we started, it seems. Opposite sex friendships are common and doable. There are some great bonuses to having friends of the opposite sex in your inner circle. Even when you're facing some tough challenges, don't give up hope. Follow these ground rules, and you'll have a better shot at making it succeed. Hey, all friendships are work, right? Opposite sex friendships are no exception.

  • Don't make decisions about your friendship based on what other people say, do or think about it.
  • Treat your opposite sex friend with the same respect you would your other friends.
  • Appreciate your relationship for the things that make it different from your same sex friendships.
  • Be honest with your friend if your feelings towards him or her evolve from pure friendship to a crush.
  • If things start to get confusing, remember what qualities you enjoy in your friend (loyalty, trust, honesty) and focus on those.
We'd love to hear about your own experiences with this issue; you can post your comments on the Opposite Sex Friendships You Said It page!