There Are Two Main Ways to Increase Traffic As a Book Blogger

Knowing Your Blogging Goals Can Help You Pick Which One to Pursue

After 11 years of blogging here at Pages Unbound, reading tons of blogging advice, and asking other book bloggers what they recommend to boost stats, I have come to the conclusion there are two main ways book bloggers in particular can increase traffic:

  1. comment prolifically on other book blogs
  2. focus on improving SEO.

These tactics bring in traffic from different sources, however, so knowing what you most want from your blog can help decide which to focus on. (Or, of course, you can dedicate time to doing both!)

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Commenting on Other Book Blogs

If you value engagement and are hoping to get more people commenting on and interacting with your own blog posts, commenting on other book blogs is a valuable strategy.

Of course, you want to be genuine and leave comments that add to the discussion and try to make real connections with other bloggers. You don’t want to simply pop by and leave a short, “Nice post!” on something you barely even read, nor do you want to just leave a link to your own blog.

However, commenting and blog hopping is valuable because people can’t really find and read and (hopefully) comment on your blog if they are not aware it exists. Commenting frequently on a wide variety of blogs is likely to bring other bloggers back to your own site to check it out, and some will naturally become followers. This is great for engagement because other book bloggers are the readers most likely to actually leave comments on a blog, unlike more casual followers.

Improving the SEO of Your Blog Posts

If you are interested in getting a massive increase in page views, focusing on improving your SEO in your blog posts is a good bet. A lot of book bloggers report that the vast majority of their traffic comes from search engine hits (which is definitely true here at Pages Unbound; our second highest source of traffic is from the WordPress reader and app, and it doesn’t come close).

The only caveats here are:

  1. visitors from search engines generally do not leave comments, so this is a good source of traffic but not engagement
  2. sometimes when they leave comments, search engine visitors are more aggressive than book bloggers
  3. you might have to think about writing “the type of posts people would search for,” as opposed to writing and posting whatever personally interests you.

In regards to point #3, you can, of course, try to optimize SEO on nearly anything. Some bloggers put a lot of effort into utilizing SEO on their book reviews, for instance, and these can end up as a significant source of traffic. Alternatively, you might simply think of things people are likely to Google, which are often lists (think: Books Set in NYC) or informational articles (ex. How to Write an Amazing Book Review).

If you are a book blogger who has written a post on SEO for book bloggers, feel free to leave a link in the comments below!

Conclusion

Both strategies will take time, but a lot of book bloggers have found they have paid off. If you only have time to pursue one, think about which you would enjoy more (engaging with other readers/the technical puzzle of good SEO?) and about what you want in return (possibly more discussion on your own blog/views from the general public using search engines).

Happy blogging!

Briana

Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge

Cuckoo Song

Information

Goodreads: Cuckoo Song
Series: None
Age Category: Middle Grade/ Young Adult
Source: Library
Published: 2014

Official Summary

When Triss wakes up after an accident, she knows that something is very wrong. She is insatiably hungry; she keeps waking up with leaves in her hair, and her sister seems terrified of her. When it all gets too much and she starts to cry, her tears are like cobwebs…

Soon Triss discovers that what happened to her is more strange and terrible than she could ever have imagined, and that she is quite literally not herself. In a quest find the truth she must travel into the terrifying Underbelly of the city to meet a twisted architect who has dark designs on her family – before it’s too late…

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Review

Frances Hardinge once again brings a highly original fantasy world to life in Cuckoo Song, a book that is part atmospheric Gothic horror story and part fairy tale. A delicious feeling of suspense slowly builds up through the story, as the protagonist Triss wakes up from an accident, only to discover that her family seems unfamiliar and her hunger is insatiable. Once the revelations begin, however, the plot is all flash and danger; I simply could not predict the twists and turns the story would take. Hardinge is one of my favorite authors writing today, and Cuckoo Song lives up to the expectations I have for her novels–an inventive, quirky, and supremely satisfying read.

Much of what I love about Hardinge’s work is how different it feels–not only from anything else on the market, but also from whatever else Hardinge has written. Cuckoo Song takes readers to 1920s England, but one they have never before experienced. In this England, magic coexists with the mundane, and that magic is nothing expected. Even as Hardinge employs familiar elements of fairy tale and folklore, she subverts them, making the villains seem sympathetic and the usual protagonists seem cruel. But readers’ sympathies will likely shift and change over the course of the story, because these characters are complex and there are no easy answers.

More than a fairy tale, Cuckoo Song is also a family drama, one that digs deep into the fractures in the Crescent household after the death of their son Sebastian in the war. The family has tried to paper over the hole left by Sebastian’s death, and all are silently suffering as a result. Thus, even when the characters seem brutal, they are also understandable. Horrible things have been done in the name of grief, and guilt, and jealousy. Cuckoo Song does not look away from these terrors. But it also holds out hope–that courage and love can still make a difference.

Cuckoo Song will enthrall readers with its deeply atmospheric world, its dark suspense, its twists and its turns. But it will also capture them with its complex characters and beautiful prose. Frances Hardinge always delivers an exception story–Cuckoo Song is no exception.

5 stars

The Nightsilver Promise by Annaliese Avery

The Nightsilver Promise

Information

Goodreads: The Nightsilver Promise
Series: Celestial Mechanism Cycle #1
Age Category: Middle Grade
Source: Library
Published: 2021

Summary

In thirteen-year-old Paisley’s world, everyone’s lives are mapped out for them on their wrists, determined by the Celestial Mechanism. But her mother has a new theory-that people can control their own destinies. Paisley hopes this is true, because her track is running out. And when she becomes embroiled in a plot to resurrect the long-gone Great Dragons, it truly does seem like it might be the end for her.

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Review

The Nightsilver Promise by Annaliese Avery has all the trappings of a great middle grade steampunk fantasy–secret societies, lost dragons, elite warriors, a prophesied king, and a brewing war between science and magic. Despite all this, however, the book reads as stilted, the worldbuilding confused, and the characters as flat. Somehow, the ingredients do not combine to make to make a compelling read, and The Nightsilver Promise is ultimately a book I felt relieved to finish.

Exactly why the book feels so stilted is hard to define. Part of it may be the prose, but part of it may be that this book really does read a bit like a “greatest hits” list of middle-grade fantasy elements. What is a middle-grade fantasy, after all, without a clever female protagonist, a helpful apprentice, a boy destined to be king, and a street urchin who has a good heart but is currently playing for the wrong team? Then just add dragons and floating cities! Bam! Middle grade magic! The parts just do not feel integrated as whole, however–more like concepts that still need to be woven into a story.

The confusing worldbuilding does not help matters. Bits and pieces of what happened are scattered throughout. If readers are lucky (I guess), someone will sit the other characters down and give them a long speech (I mean, story) about how the world used to be in ye olden days, for background info. But there are too many shifting pieces and individuals and groups who have various loyalties. Perhaps I was the problem, and not the book, but I just could not understand how there used to be dragons and there are not anymore–except, actually there are, but only in some places (just smaller ones?). And dragons are both scoffed at and secretly loved. And the Dragon Touched are routinely dragged away to be…killed? I guess. Unless they live in the floating cities and then they can be elite warriors who guard your treasure? (Why doesn’t everyone who is Dragon Touched move? Are floating cities only for some? I do not know.) The Dark Dragon wants the Great Dragons back, and that is bad. But the Dragon Walkers are good and they also want the dragons back, except they are fighting against the Dark Dragon so maybe they want some dragons back but not the same dragons?? It’s like reading about Dante’s Italy, for goodness sake! Where people align themselves with one group that says it stands for one thing, but that thing routinely change sides because, in the end, the group is really only out for itself. Who are we rooting for and why? I have no idea.

The characters, meanwhile, add nothing to the story because they are like paper cut-outs. Feisty protagonist who is always brave and spunky and gets super powers are the end for no discernible reason. Adorable, precocious younger brother. Bumbling but sometimes useful apprentice. Elite female warrior. Street urchin who has a traumatic past and will ultimately change sides when he realizes that killing people is not really a great life choice (but for now we are supposed to feel bad he’s so conflicted about the whole murder and kidnap gig). Treacherous villain who comes out of nowhere just to keep us all on our toes. Yeah, I’ve seen this all before, and I have seen it done more effectively.

The Nightsilver Promise never really does live up to its promise. I was drawn in by the shiny cover and the promise of dragons, but the story I found is too unoriginal to captivate me. I’ll be passing on the next two books in this proposed trilogy.

2 star review

Queen of the Tiles by Hanna Alkaf

Information

Goodreads: Queen of the Tiles
Series: None
Age Category: Young Adult
Source: Library
Published: 2022

Summary

Najwa Bakri left the competitive Scrabble tournament scene one year ago, when her best friend Tina Low died at the Scrabble table. Now, she’s back, attempting work through her grief and her panic attacks at the same venue where Trina died. But then Trina’s Instagram account starts posting again. Could it be that Trina’s death was actually murder?

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Review

Queen of the Tiles lured me in–as I have no doubt it will many a word lover–with the intriguing premise of a mystery set in the world of competitive Scrabble. However, while I enjoyed learning more about Scrabble tournaments, and the people who compete in them, I admit to finding the mystery itself lackluster. The plot is slow to start, the sleuthing sort of haphazard, and the drama almost nonexistent. I never really felt that Najwa or her friends were in danger–there was simply no suspense. Read Queen of the Tiles if you really love Scrabble, but maybe pass if you have high standards for thrillers.

Queen of the Tiles is probably more accurately described as a novel about grief, and not really a thriller. The mystery surrounding Trina Low, previous reigning champion of the Scrabble tournament scene, is more or less a set up for the main character, Najwa, to explore her feelings about a friendship where she constantly took backseat to Trina’s wants and desires. The book is Najwa’s journey to accepting what everyone else already seems to know–Trina was not a nice person. As such, it is admittedly difficult to really care about the mystery, since no one (aside from Najwa) really seems to mourn Trina’s loss (shocking and horrible as that may be). Also, the mystery is simply not that mysterious.

No one really finds Trina’s death suspicious until when, one year later, at the same Scrabble tournament venue where she died, Trina’s Instagram starts posting again. The posts are all scrambled letters, clues to decipher. Only Najwa and Trina’s former boyfriend Mark seem to care about the clues, though. Everyone else is content to feel a bit of unease or brush it off as a really bad prank. Because of this, there is no ambience of mystery, no feeling of suspense that bad things could happen. The plot just slowly meanders on to its, frankly, anticlimactic finale.

Queen of the Tiles has an intriguing premise, but fails to deliver. While I was drawn in by the promise of a high-stakes Scrabble tournament and a thrilling mystery, the drama is fairly low-key. Read this only if you really love Scrabble.

3 Stars

I’ve Accepted That Publishers Aren’t That Interested in Book Bloggers

I've Accepted That Publishers Aren't that Interested in Book Bloggers

The rise of BookTube and BookTok, along with articles like the March 2021 New York Times one lauding the selling power of TikTok videos, resulted in a lot of demoralization among book bloggers. Publishers, it seemed, were no longer interested in working with bloggers and were sending ARCs (advanced reading copies) mostly to influencers on other platforms. Additionally, though publishers had declined to pay book bloggers for years, citing a lack of funds, there were suddenly reports that they were willing to pay influencers on BookTok. Book bloggers felt unappreciated, lied to, and betrayed. And people began talking once again about book blogging “dying.”

This May, Pages Unbound turns eleven years old. People have been predicting the death of book blogs during much of that time, though Briana and I do not think that is true. To me, the idea that blog are dying puts too much weight on what publishers think of bloggers and how willing they are to send bloggers ARCs. There is an assumption that lack of recognition by publishers (and authors) means book blogs are no longer worthwhile or relevant. I could not disagree more.

Book blogs are primarily a space for readers, one that builds a community among individuals who love to engage with and talk about books. They still serve that function–we have more views than ever here on the blog! But, over the years, some bloggers have begun to see the mission of book blogs as “supporting authors” instead. The trouble with this is that bloggers then spend countless hours laboring to read, review, and hype books–taking photos, posting reviews on multiple channels, sending out pre-launch Tweets, urging people to pre-order, maintaining several social media platforms to sing the praises of certain books or authors, etc.–all unasked for. The mission has become to act as unpaid members of publishers’ marketing departments. And, even though this work largely goes unrecognized, bloggers keep doing it because they hope that if they do more and more and more, they one day will be recognized–and paid–for it. But I do not see monetary compensation happening any time soon. The publishers have revealed their hands. They had the money and the ARCs all along; they chose not to use them on bloggers.

Knowing that publishers are not particularly interested in working with book bloggers is, however, freeing. Since bloggers are not in any sort of relationship with publishers, publishers cannot and should not expect anything from bloggers. There is no imperative to market books relentlessly on social media, to buy all the new releases as an act of solidarity, to urge all and sundry to pre-order a book the blogger has not even read themselves and cannot personally recommend. Bloggers are not being paid to work as publishers’ advertisers, and, frankly, I think we should stop trying. Doing all this amazing work free has only demonstrated to companies that, well, they are getting the work free! Why would they pay bloggers for it when it is already happening at no cost to them? Working even harder is not going to convince publishers to pay bloggers just because they are kind. Publishing houses are companies. The fact that they produce books, and that books are art, does not mean they are above financial concerns and calculations. Like any company, they will save money where they can.

Personally, I have never seen it as my duty to market books for publishers; they already hire people for that. Knowing this has allowed me to see my blog as completely my own. I am not obligated to write up lists of upcoming releases, or to urge people to spend money on certain titles, or to get out that social media post NOW before it is too late. I do not even have to read to a deadline if I don’t have an ARC. I can blog what I like whenever I like. I can celebrate backlist titles or talk about bookish things that do nothing directly to sell books. I can even admit when a book was not for me. Is none of that valuable because publishers do not pay me and authors forget to add book bloggers in their acknowledgements section, even when they include Bookstagram and BookTube and BookTok? I think it is valuable.

Maintaining my blog as a space for readers, and not as a marketing arm for publishers, serves an important function, even if it does little to promote this month’s hottest title. For me, the beauty of books is what is inside them, the worlds and the words and the ideas they contain. I love celebrating those things and discussing them with other people. I love finding like-minded individuals, who share my all-consuming love for certain stories or characters. I also love interacting with readers who have different opinions than my own, but who challenge me to see things in new ways. I love making new bookish friends! Not feeling obligated to advertise constantly allows me to create this space, one that is flexible and open and, well, hopefully somewhat distant from the need to constantly buy more and consume more and do more.

I think that if I tried to take the blog in a new direction and to “support authors” relentlessly in a way that meant I was not just highlighting their work and bringing some natural visibility to it through my reviews, but actively chasing new releases and doing cover reveals and urging people to pre-order and promoting books I have not read or do not actually feel really excited about, I would feel drained. I would feel like an unappreciated underling in the marketing division. But I’m not! I’m not part of the marketing division, and so I don’t blog that way. And that’s why I still feel excited about blogging 11 years later, and why I still sometimes feel a creative spark when I start to write. I’m not doing it for the publishers or even the authors, though I am happy to give exposure when I can. I’m doing it for me.

Cinder & Glass by Melissa de la Cruz

Cinder and Glass book cover

Information

Goodreads: Cinder & Glass
Series: None
Age Category: Young Adult
Source: Giveaway from Penguin
Published: March 8, 2022

Official Summary

1682. The king sends out an invitation to all the maidens in France: their presence is requested at a number of balls and events that will be held in honor of the dashing Prince Louis, who must choose a bride.

Cendrillon de Louvois has more grace, beauty, and charm than anyone else in France. While she was once the darling child of the king’s favorite adviser, her father’s death has turned her into the servant of her stepmother and cruel stepsisters–and at her own chateau, too!

Cendrillon–now called Cinder–manages to evade her stepmother and attend the ball, where she catches the eye of the handsome Prince Louis and his younger brother Auguste.

Even though Cendrillon has an immediate aversion to Louis, and a connection with Auguste, the only way to escape her stepmother is to compete with the other women at court for the Prince’s hand.

Soon, as Cendrillon glows closer to Auguste and dislikes the prince more and more, she will have to decide if she can bear losing the boy she loves in order to leave a life she hates.

Melissa de la Cruz takes a lush, romantic hand to this retold fairy tale classic.

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Review

Cinder & Glass strikes me as the type of book I would have enjoyed reading as an actual teen, a time both when the YA market wasn’t as saturated with wildly good, sweeping fantasy as it is now and when my own personal standards for being impressed weren’t so high, purely because I hadn’t read as many books as I have now that I’m older. That is, Cinder & Glass is a perfectly good, serviceable retelling of “Cinderella” that will be a fun, light read for someone who likes “Cinderella” retellings, but it just isn’t particularly memorable and doesn’t add any really original twists to the story.

This is a nice choice for readers wondering where all the “lower YA” has gone, in a market that seems dominated by really dark and mature YA books. If you want a light romance that mostly sticks to kissing and a book that has obstacles and set-backs for the protagonists but that doesn’t delve deep into cruelty, abuse, exploitation, dark magic, etc., then this is definitely a book to look into. It is, truly, simply a retelling of “Cinderella” set in 17th-century France, following the basic storyline one would expect. The main spin-off is that the second half of the book, instead of featuring simply a ball, involves a bit of a “contest” among various women the prince might pick for his wife (imagine something along the lines of The Selection).

I am on the fence about the pacing of the book, however, and whether things like the eligible maiden contest and the romances in general felt rushed. Part of me thinks they are; part of me appreciates a nice YA standalone that just gets the job done and wrapped out, rather than drawing everything out into a dramatic and lengthy trilogy. This is another reason the book reminds me of the YA published when I was a teen myself and why I think it works nicely as a lower YA recommendation.

So . . . this book is fine; my biggest problem is that I don’t have much to say about it beyond that. It fills a niche I think has been left empty in the current YA market for some time, so if you have a job where you recommend books to others, this is worth keeping in mind. If you are personally an avid reader of YA fantasy and retellings, this one is not likely to stand out to you.

Briana
3 Stars

The Marvellers by Dhonielle Clayton

The Marvellers

Introduction

Goodreads: The Marvellers
Series: The Marvellers #1
Age Category: Middle Grade
Source: Library
Published: 2022

Summary

Eleven-year-old Ella Durand dreams of attending the prestigious Arcanum Training Institute, which previously had accepted only Marveller students and not Conjurors like herself. So, when the opporunitey comes, she seizes it–only to realize that not everyone wants her there. Ella will have to avoid all the whispers and stares if she is to succeed. But things only become more complicated when a notorious criminal escapes from a Conjuror prison, and the Marvellers start pointing at Conjurors like Ella.

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Review

Dhonielle Clayton’s The Marvellers was one of my most anticipated reads of the year. I adore a good magical boarding school story, and I was eager to read a more diverse representation of that genre. However, despite strengths such as some winning characters and plenty of diversity, I found the worldbuilding lacking and the pacing slow and uneven. I think The Marvellers will appeal to many readers, especially the young readers for whom it opens a door to a new magical world they can see themselves in. It is simply not immersive enough for me to want to read the sequel.

A detailed, logical world is one of the things I value most in fantasy stories, and I was looking forward to seeing what kind of world The Marvellers would transport me to. Sadly, however, exactly how and why this world works is never really explained. Much of the “magic” of the world is given in shorthand–everything in the Marveller world, for example, seems to have “star” appended to it to indicate its enchanted nature– “star ink,” “star post,” and so forth–without any real explanations of what those things are and how they work. The most extravagant descriptions are left to the food–most of which seems to either fight or talk back–and the rest is simply there. Most unfortunately, the really big things are never explained–the politics, the history, and the different types of magic.

The whole premise of the book feels uncertain without any explanations of how Ella’s world works. The starting point is that Conjure folk (such as Ella and her family) have been shunned by the Marvellers. Conjurors, who seemingly practice growing magic and who look after the Underworld, are looked down upon by Marvellers and thus must live upon the ground with the wretched Fewels (non-magic folk, whom the book routinely dismisses as cruel, dangerous, and bad without saying why, which seems ironic in a book preaching the values of inclusion–but maybe that conversation is for the sequel?). The Marvellers live in the sky cities and have their own light magic and their own schools. Ella desperately wants to attend one of the most prestigious Marveller institutions, and she does so once a new law is passed allowing her to do so.

Why exactly do Marvellers hate Conjurors? Why does Ella want to learn to be a Marveller instead of (or…in addition to?) a Conjuror? Why does she stay all year in a school where everyone except about four people hate her and the teachers constantly try to get her expelled? It’s never explained. I don’t even understand the difference between Marveller and Conjuror magic, or even the categories of Marveller magic (which are divided into five Houses of sorts, each one with its own (not very creative) catchphrase, such as, “The ear listens well!”). Being able to understand Ella’s motivations would have made the story fall more into place for me. But, as it was, I have to wonder why Ella is so desperate to be part of a world that does not want her and that she seemingly does not need, when her own family is at the top of the Conjuror hierarchy.

The plot pacing did not really save the story for me. It feels slow, even with the lack of worldbuilding, and does not pick up until about 190 pages in. At that point, stuff finally starts to happen–but in a stop and go manner. The ending in particular feels rushed and uncertain, with Ella and her friends saving the day too quickly and too easily. Then a few chapters are appended after the climax to tidy up loose ends such as Ella’s future at the school and her sorting into a magical category. And then readers still have to read the little epilogue to set up the sequel. I would have preferred a book that jumped into the storyline more quickly, kept the pacing consistent, added more to the climatic scenes, and removed some of the housekeeping at the end.

On top of all this, I found myself truly distracted by all the authorial name dropping in the story. Kwame Mbalia, Ellen Oh, and Anne Ursu are teachers. Lamar Giles is an author of magical books. Justin A. Reynolds, Tochi Oneybuchi, Angela Thomas, and Julie Murphy are students. Other authors appear glancingly, with their last names only–Mark Oshiro as the chef Oshiro, L. L. McKinney as the presumed owner of McKinney’s Mojo Mansion, Zoraida Córdova as the presumed owner of another shop, and Bethany C. Morrow as “Ms. Morrow” the beauty shop owner. I assume Ella’s friend Jason Eugene is actually named after Jason Reynolds. I imagine all these references are supposed to fun, or a nod of acknowledge to people Clayton knows and respects. However, I found it all a bit distracting, both because it feels like an Easter egg hunt, with readers on the lookout for how many names they can spot, and because, when the full names are used, I now imagine the actual authors as teaching and working in this fictional world–and I don’t really know if I’m supposed to. I do wish that Clayton had stuck to first names only to acknowledge her friends and favorites, as this would keep me immersed in the story and not wondering which real life people were going to pop up next.

Despite all this, The Marvellers is a solid enough book. I can see it appealing particularly to tween readers who love fantasy (and who are often more agreeable than I am in their assessments of literature, in my experience). If you love magical boarding schools, it’s worth a try. You might find yourself transported in a way I was not.

You Might Also Like

3 Stars

Isla to Island by Alexis Castellanos

Isla to Island

Information

GoodreadsIsla to Island
Series: None
Age Category: Middle Grade
Source: Library
Published: 2022

Summary

When political upheaval comes to Cuba, Marisol must travel to Brooklyn–on her own–to start a new life. But the city seems bleak and harsh compared to her old home. Can Marisol make a place for herself in Brooklyn?

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Review

Isla to Island is a poignant graphic novel about feeling lost in a new place.  When political unrest occurs in Cuba, Marisol’s parents take advantage of a program that rehomes Cuban children in the United States.  Thus, a young Marisol sets out alone to live under the care of a foster couple.  Though her foster parents try hard to make her feel comfortable, Marisol naturally misses her home and her family, and struggles to find a place where she belongs.  Watching Marisol struggle to understand English, struggle to make friends, and struggle to find anything that seems familiar and beautiful is heart-wrenching.  But Alexis Castellanos gives this story a happy ending, ultimately giving the message that happiness can be found anywhere, and love will carry us through.

The graphic novel is wonderfully done, with the images carrying the narrative and the bulk of the (minimal)  text occurring in Spanish.  Thus, readers get a glimpse of what Marisol is experiencing.  Readers who do not understand Spanish have to guess at meanings through the images.  And even readers who do know Spanish have to decode most of the book through the actions and facial expressions of the people, since the book is mostly wordless.  Just as Marisol has to work to interpret what is happening around her, so do readers.   

The images are beautifully done, as well, with colors being used to convey meaning.  When Marisol feels sad, her world is gray.  But when she is happy, or glimpses an object that makes her happy, the panels or the object appear in color.  Color is also used to great effect when Marisol has her first period; the blood leaps off the page in vivid red, highlighting Marisol’s confusion and fear.  These types of color signatures guide readers through the book, making meaning more obvious when words do not appear.

Isla to Island is ultimately an emotional journey, one that will draw readers in from the start as they see Marisol’s happy family life slowly crumble under the pressures of political unrest.  Her subsequent years in the U.S. are also tinged with a bit of sadness; even as she acclimates to her new life, she remains separated from her parents.  But Castellanos does not let her readers despair.  Little bits of happiness occur along the way, ultimately leading to an emotionally satisfying ending.

3 Stars

15 Ways Students Can Benefit from Using the Public Library

15 Ways Students Can Benefit from Using the Public Library

Most people realize that the public library houses books that students can borrow for homework and assignments. But the library offers so many more resources for students–everything from tutoring to databases with information on finding scholarships and applying for college. Below are 15 ways that students can start using the public library to its full potential.

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Find Homework Help & Tutoring

Many if not most public libraries offer tutoring. You can check your library’s website for any live tutoring options, or check their list of online resources to see if you can connect with a tutor online. You may also be able to access online resources where you can submit papers, cover letters, or resumes for feedback from a real person.

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Prep for Standardized Tests

Yes, the public library has physical books that offer advice and practice tests for things like AP exams, the SAT, and the ACT. But the library may also have online resources that offer the same thing–so you won’t have to wait for that other library patron to return the book. Look for digital resources such as Learning Express Library or Peterson’s Test and Career Prep on your library’s website.

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Research Colleges, Scholarships, & Financial Aid

Public libraries often offer books that will provide college applicants with information on college admissions, scholarships, and financial aid. However, don’t forget to look on the library’s digital resources page for these tools, as well. Try finding resources such as Learning Express Library or Peterson’s Test and Career Prep on your library’s website. Or check the library’s website for any upcoming programs that focus on these topics.

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Research Careers

Digital resources that focus on homework help and standardized test prep may also include resources that allow individuals to research careers–the outlook for the job, potential earnings, needed skills, and recommended paths to being hired. Or the library may link to outside resources such as the Occupational Outlook Handbook from the U.S. Department of Labor.

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Access Credible Sources

Many classes focus on teaching students how to find and vet credible sources. The good news is, the public library has usually done this work for you! Visit the library’s digital resources page to see what databases they pay for–these databases typically include peer-reviewed paper and resources that you can cite in your research papers. You can, of course, also check out a physical book.

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Learn Computer Skills

Many people tend to assume that students have some sort of innate knowledge of computer skills, such as the ability to use MS Word and Excel, even though they have never been taught. If you need to learn computer skills for school or because you know you will later need them to apply for jobs, there is good news! Libraries often offer online databases with videos, posts, and even interactive tutorials that can help individuals learn basic computer skills for things like email, spreadsheets, and word processors. Or they might even offer appointments with a librarian who can offer personalized assistance.

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Access Popular Fiction & YA Books While at College

Many college students are unaware that they are eligible to receive a library card from the city in which their college is located.  You will likely have to demonstrate that you attend the college or have an address in the city.  Usually this means you have to provide photo ID and a piece of mail showing your address (if it differs from that on your ID).  You can show a piece of mail from your university mail box if you live in a dorm.  Some libraries also ask to see your student ID.  You can call ahead or check the library website to make sure you are prepared before you show up. But, once you provide the appropriate materials, you should be able to sign up for a card and check out books just as you would at your hometown library.

You can also visit your college library to see if they have a popular reading section. Not all do–but it’s worth looking!

And, of course, your card from your hometown library, if still active, will allow you to check out e-books and access digital resources while you are away.

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Find Quiet Study Spaces

If you need a quiet space to study, check your local library! Some may have rooms you can use as a single study room for a few hours. Some might just have tables on a floor or in a specific section that are specifically for use by people who need quiet (as opposed to people who need to collaborate and talk).

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Hang Out with Friends and De-Stress

Need a place to hang out for a few hours? The library is a great place to socialize because you don’t need to pay to be there, you get air conditioning, heat, and WiFi–and maybe other perks such as coloring pages or board games. You can just show up to chill for awhile, or you can attend a program with your friends–anything from trivia night to arcade night.

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Unleash Creativity

If you love crafting, but don’t have a lot of experience or don’t want to pay for all the materials to start, you can look for programs at your local library. They typically provide all the materials free. You may also find other opportunities to be creative–poetry contests, open mic nights, photography clubs, and more.

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Gain Volunteer Experience

If you need volunteer experience to graduate, or something to put on your resume, check to see if your local library has any volunteer opportunities currently open.

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Get a Job or Internship

Public libraries will often hire high school students to do work such as shelving, or work with college students who need an internship. Check your local library’s website to see what openings are available and what the qualifications are.

You can also use your library’s physical and digital resources to research careers, craft a resume and cover letter, and learn interviewing tips. Or you might find out that they even periodically host job fairs. Take a look at the library’s website to see what they offer.

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Learn Life Skills

Libraries have books on all types of topics, of course, but library programs are also a wonderful way to get some experience with necessary life skills. Libraries may offer programs on everything from car maintenance to financial literacy to doing laundry! Check your library’s website to see what programs are upcoming.

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Prevent Summer Slide

Research has shown that children who do not read over the summer, and children who do not participate in learning opportunities such as attending camp or going to museums, return to school in the fall having lost many of the academic gains they made during the previous year.  Children who do not read over the summer can lose an average of two months’ of reading skills–and this loss is cumulative. Children from lower income households who have less access to books and to learning activities are particularly vulnerable to summer slide. So how to prevent this? Join the library’s summer reading program to keep students reading and having fun while school is out.

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Access WiFi, Computers, Printers, Copiers, and Scanners

If you do not have internet at home, you can go to the library to access it or you can see if your library offers WiFi hotspots for checkout. Likewise, you can go to the library to use the computer, or see if they offer any laptops, tablets, Chromebooks, etc. for checkout. You can also print, copy, scan, and (probably) fax at the library. Call ahead or check the library website if you need to know if there is a charge for printing and if you will need to bring cash.

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Conclusion

Many people use the public library for school reports or during the summer, to join the Summer Reading Program, and not for much else. But there is so much more to explore! Check out your local library’s website to see what they offer–and how it could benefit you.

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Swan Lake: Quest for the Kingdoms by Rey Terciero & Megan Kearney

Swan Lake Quest for the Kingdoms Book Cover

Information

Goodreads: Swan Lake: Quest for the Kingdoms
Series: None
Age Category: Middle Grade
Source: Library
Published: 2022

Summary

Odette and Dillie are the princesses of two kingdoms that have been on the brink of war for years.  Then, the two have a chance encounter, and realize that the other nation and their people might not be so bad, after all.  Soon, Odette and Dillie are off on an adventure to lift the curse that has Odette turning into a talking swan during the day.  They will encounter many perils on their journey, but the greatest test will come at the end.  Because both princesses have a wish–but only one can come true.

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Review

Swan Lake: Quest for the Kingdoms reimagines the ballet of Swan Lake with two feuding princesses who bridge their differences and come to value each other for who they are.  Odette is the princess of Bloom, but her parents keep her alone and trapped in her tower, so no one can learn that she is cursed to be a swan during the day.  Dillie is the princess of Rotbart, upset that her mother wants her to sit in a throne room all day instead of having adventures.  Though tensions right high between their countries, the princesses bond over their parents who just do not seem to understand them.  And this is the start of a fun retold tale sure to charm audiences not only with its fast paced action and colorful illustrations, but also with its determination to overturn stereotypical gender roles.

The beauty of Swan Lake: Quest for the Kingdoms is the way in which it presents differences not as something to be tolerated, but as something to be celebrated.  The kingdom of Bloom is full of cute butterflies and plenty of color, and Princess Odette is a more feminine character who wears pink dresses and wishes she could be a ballerina.  The kingdom of Rotbart, meanwhile, is a grey and dismal place where the people dislike and even fear cute things like butterflies and kittens.  Dillie is a princess who prefers swordfights to sitting on a throne.  But the book makes it clear that no way is better than the other way.  It is okay to like cute things and to like ballet.  It is also okay not to like cute things and to like adventures and quests. Additionally, they meet a prince who eschews the toxic masculinity that says only a killer of beasts is worthy to rule the throne, and who proves that bravery goes beyond hunting wildlife. The entire book shouts the message that individuals do not need to adhere to stereotypical gender roles to be valued.

Readers will fall in love with more than the characters, however. The action is fast paced with a hint of old-fashioned fairy tale magic, as the three protagonists must pass three tests in order to complete their quest. And the images are fun and vibrant– just the thing to appeal to tween audiences. The worldbuilding relies mostly on contrasting the colors of Bloom with the greys of Rotbart, but readers still glimpse enough magic to make the world seem wonderful. Altogether, this is a book that begs for a sequel!

With so many middle grade comics flooding the market, sometimes it feels harder to find that sparkling gem among the rest. Swan Lake: Quest for the Kingdoms, however, captures that magic I love, from its colorful illustrations to its action-packed quest.

4 stars