Author Feature-Shanna Swendson

Spirit of Texas Reading Program-High School

Featured Author

Julie Murphy 

Shanna Swendson

Rebel Mechanics


Shanna Swendson is the author of the popular adult romantic fantasy series, Enchanted, Inc. Rebel Mechanics is her first novel for young adults. She lives in Irving, Texas.


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Book Quiz/Discussion Questions

Printable Copy



  1. Swendson’s characters primarily use magic to control industry and transportation.  Why do you think she limits the use of magic to these areas?
  2. What important American documents/legends/songs/icons would not exist today if the Americans had, in fact, lost the American Revolution to the British?  What famous places might have a different name?
  3. Most Americans have some form of reliable transportation.  How would your life be different today if you did not have modern transportation?  How would it affect your community or local industry?
  4. Explain why it is important to the magister class that they not “mix” with the non-magical class. 
  5. If you could learn more about one secondary character in the story, who would you select and why?  Based on the information given in the book, what is something that you could predict for this character after the novel ends?
  6. Do you agree with the Mechanics’ decision to take children on a picnic when they knew the British planned to make a show of force?  Why or why not?
  7. The Rebel Mechanics lie about the death of a child at the hands of the British soldiers.  Is this morally right or wrong?  Defend your answer.
  8. Why do you think the rioters attacked all of the mansions except the Lyndon mansion?
  9. The Rebel Mechanics deceive Verity in order to win her over to their cause.  How does she respond to this?  How would you respond to this if it happened to you?
  10. Throughout the entire book, it is very difficult for Verity to get information to the Rebel Mechanics while the magisters have messengers and “calling cards” which allows them to communicate more regularly. How do the difficulties of communication hurt their revolution? How has the spread of ideas and knowledge prospered through the advancements of communication and technology? How have they changed revolutions throughout history?






















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Academic Programs

Printable Copy of Program

Supplemental Documents

Cast of Characters

Rebel Mechanics- Academic Programing


The following activities, inspired by Rebel Mechanics, can be used by the classroom teacher or by the campus librarian.  While each activity works well alone, they are flexible and varied enough in length and rigor that they can be easily combined.  The activities explore Verity’s journalistic experiences and the nature of invention and the effect of both on society.  There is even a fun activity thrown in at the end that allows students to connect with pop culture!


Activity 1 Complicate It!



There is an old proverb that says, “Necessity is the Mother of Invention.”  Because the characters in Rebel Mechanics are denied transportation, lighting, and other important necessities, they are forced to turn to invention.  Invention can be a very serious topic, but it can be fun, too.  Rube Goldberg was an American cartoonist best known for his comics that included inventions with superfluous and silly steps to accomplish everyday tasks.  His comics appeared in more than a thousand newspapers a year for a period of almost 65 years.  Challenge your students to create Rube Goldberg drawings that make a simple task much less simple.  In the process, they will think about cause and effect and sequencing and they will even exercise their creativity.



ELA/Reading 1- 12A, 12B

ELA/Reading 2- 11B

ELA/Reading 3- 11A, 11B

Physics- 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D


Books to Display

The Invention of the Moving Assembly Line: A Revolution in Manufacturing by Dennis Abrams

The 100 Most Influential Inventors of All Time by Britannica Educational Publishing

Land and Water Transportation by Brown Bear Books

Exploring the Mysteries of Genius and Invention by Jack Challoner

Alexander Graham Bell and the Telephone: The Invention that Changed Communication by Samuel Willard Crompton

Rube Goldberg on Golf by Martin Davis

The Art of Rube Goldberg: (A) Inventive (B) Cartoon (C) Genius by Jennifer George

Rube Goldberg Vs. the Machine Age; A Retrospective Exhibition of His Work With Memoirs and Annotations by Reuben Goldberg

The Wright Brothers: Aviation Pioneers and Inventors by Wendie C. Old

African Americans in Science, Math and Invention by Ray Spangenburg

Chain Reaction: Rube Goldberg and Contemporary Art by Charles Stainback








Supply List

Samples of Rube Goldberg cartoons either projected or enlarged to poster size

Books specifically about Rube Goldberg and books about inventions and inventors

Online videos of Rube Goldberg-inspired machines

Drawing paper or white butcher paper, pencils, erasers

Mousetrap Board Game (optional)


Detailed Description of Activity

Ask students to help you brainstorm a list of the inventions that we use in our daily life.  Samples might include a pencil sharpener, a dishwasher, a toaster, etc.  Normally, these inventions only require the application of one or two steps before the invention completes the task.   For this activity, the student’s job is to complicate the simple process and create a Rube Goldberg style cartoon that requires many convoluted steps.  To help the students understand what you are looking for, show them several examples of Rube Goldberg cartoons.  Project them on a large screen or enlarge them to poster size.  Show video examples that are available on YouTube.  The search term, “Rube Goldberg machines,” will yield many results.  You can even demonstrate the concept by showing them the board game, Mousetrap.


Have the students use one of the inventions from the list that they helped you brainstorm or allow them to come up with their own.  Decide on a minimum number of steps for the activity.  Ten to fifteen steps would work well but can be adjusted to work best with the size of your paper and the time allotment for the activity.  Advise them to brainstorm the steps that they want to use prior to beginning their drawing.  Encourage them to think about how they are going to space out the parts of their drawings before they begin.  Students are going to have to think carefully about the sequence of their steps and the cause and effect of each part of their drawing.  Pre-planning will lead to a successful sketch.  Once all students have finished, ask them to explain the steps in their process to their classmates.  Recognize students whose work most represents the spirit of Rube Goldberg or have students count the steps in their cartoon and acknowledge the student who utilized the most steps.  There are several free certificate makers online if you would like to recognize these students.


If you prefer to do the assignment in small groups, substitute large sheets of butcher paper for the drawing paper, allowing for larger and more elaborate drawings.



Allow students to play the Mousetrap board game upon successful completion of their drawing assignment.


Give certificates or a prize for the student who most represents the Spirit of Rube Goldberg and the student who utilizes the most steps.


Resources for Teens, Teachers & Librarians

The official Rube Goldberg website

Rube Goldberg Machine Examples

Video of world’s largest RG machine

Humorous RG machine video


Certificate Maker




Activity 2 Back to the Future



The Magisters were the only characters that had access to transportation and early forms of technology in Rebel Mechanics.  The average citizen had to rely on horse drawn carriages and oil to fuel their lamps.  We tend to take the technology and innovation in our lives for granted.  In this activity, students are asked to think carefully about the inventions that make their lives easier and to compare those ideas with others. 



United States History Studies Since 1877- 27A, 27B, 27C, 28A, 28B, 28C

ELA/ Reading I-21A, 21B, 21C

ELA/ Reading II-21A, 21B, 21C

ELA/ Reading III-21A, 21B, 21C

ELA/ Reading IV-21A, 21B, 21C



Books to Display

The Britannica Guide to Inventions That Changed the Modern World by Britannica

Encyclopedia of Modern Everyday Inventions by David John Cole

The Book of Inventions by Ian Harrison

100 Ideas that Changed the World : History's Greatest Breakthroughs, Inventions, and Theories by Richard Lacayo

Groundbreaking Scientific Experiments, Inventions, and Discoveries of the 19th Century by Michael Windelspecht


Supply List

Books about inventions



Detailed Description of Activity

Ask students to imagine that they are suddenly whisked back in time to 1888- the time setting for Rebel Mechanics.  Anything that was invented after 1888 no longer exists even though the students still have the ‘memory’ of future inventions.  For this activity, students should think of themselves as rebels because they do not have the luxury of magic. In pairs or small groups, have your students begin brainstorming a list of things that they want to rescue from the future.  Provide them with books about invention or allow access to the Internet for research.  Their final list must consist of 10 inventions.  They should rank the items from most important to least important.  Each item must be accompanied by a statement about why the item is of vital importance to the future. Students will then put their ideas into a presentation tool such as or Google Slides.  They will include a photo of each invention and the statement as to why it made it into the students’ top ten list.  Allow students to present to their peers.


The students will likely raise a number of interesting questions about the rules for saving future inventions and the class can vote on how to handle them.  For instance, if students choose to bring cell phones back, does that also include all the accompanying technology required to make a cell phone work?  Students may decide that certain technologies are useless without the technologies that preceded them.  Because of the abstract nature of the activity, the teacher can use his/her judgment on what bringing back an invention would include.


Compile a list of the number one item from each groups’ list and conduct a class-wide vote to determine the ultimate number one invention since 1888.


If an extension activity is needed, have the class do more in-depth research on their number one invention.


 Resources for Teens, Teachers & Librarians

Top Innovations List

Google Slides


Activity 3 Verity Newton, Cub Reporter



Verity unexpectedly finds herself writing newspaper articles for The World published by the rebels.  A good reporter is observant and fair while capturing the emotions and spirit of an event.  It is also important that a good reporter know his or her audience.  For this activity, you will wear Verity Newton’s reporter shoes for a day. 



ELA/Reading 1- 13C

ELA/Reading 2- 15A

ELA/Reading 3- 12a. 12B, 12C, 12D

Journalism- 3A, 3B, 3H,


Books to Display

Career Opportunities in Journalism by Jennifer Bobrow Burns

Edward R. Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism by Bob Edwards

Journalism by Julie A. Evans
Careers in Focus. Journalism by Ferguson Press

Student's Workbook for High School Journalism by Homer L. Hall


Supply List


Books about journalism


Detailed Description of Activity

Brainstorm a list of major events in Rebel Mechanics and ask students to select one. Next, ask students to imagine that they are Verity Newton for the day and that they are going to write a newspaper article in her style and voice.  The article should have a great heading and should cover the 5 W's- Who, What, When, Where and Why. Different sources say that a good newspaper article is somewhere between 500 and 1000 words.  The teacher, a.k.a. newspaper editor, should decide what word count works best for his or her class.   There is a good description of The World newspaper in the chapter entitled “In Which I Am a Rescuer and Am Rescued.” Read it aloud with your students before they begin writing. And don’t forget a pen name!  Verity went by the name of Liberty Jones.  Ask your students to create their own pen name.


If students have access to a computer they can use one of the many websites or apps that make their story have the look of a real newspaper. Have students share their articles with their peers.


Resources for Teens, Teachers & Librarians

Newspaper Generator


 Activity 4 Read All About It!



Two points of view are represented strongly in Rebel Mechanics.  The magister class has authority, money, and power-both figuratively and literally.  The rebels are oppressed and looked down upon and fight for their rights using any means necessary. Just like today, the media of 1888 plays an important part of the story.  In this lesson, students study point of view by looking at The World (rebels’ paper) and The Herald (magisters’ paper), the two newspapers depicted in the story.  They will also identify examples of propaganda.


Activity 4 TEKS

ELA/Reading I- 12C, 13C

ELA/Reading- 16D

Journalism- 3M


Books to Display

Career Opportunities in Journalism by Jennifer Bobrow Burns

Edward R. Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism by Bob Edwards

Journalism by Julie A. Evans
Careers in Focus. Journalism by Ferguson Press

Student's Workbook for High School Journalism by Homer L. Hall


Supply List

Newspaper headlines, and if possible, the same day’s headline as published in a conservative and a liberal newspaper

Books about journalism


Detailed Description of Activity

Ask students to recall the two newspapers featured in Rebel Mechanics.  Discuss the viewpoints of the two papers, and talk about how they might be comparable in some ways to today’s liberal and conservative newspapers.  If possible, show students the same headline as presented by a conservative newspaper and a liberal newspaper-or any two newspapers reporting on the same topic with an evident difference in point of view.  Review the term propaganda and look for examples of it in newspaper samples.


Next, ask the students to help brainstorm a list of the 5 biggest events from the novel.  Ask them to write two headlines from each event-one from the magisters’ point of view and one from the rebels’ point of view.  When completed, they should have ten headlines. 


To create a great headline, students should be exposed to lots of samples.  Bring in actual newspapers, and look at the headlines and go to some of the sources listed in the Resource section below for examples.  If you do an Internet search of “great newspaper headlines” and look at the available images you will find many great examples and pictures.   Have students share their headlines with the class and discuss and point out differences and language that would be considered propaganda.


Activity 4 Resources for Teens, Teachers & Librarians

Iconic newspaper headlines

Headlines from important moments in history

Famous headlines


Activity 5 Casting Director



When reading a book, most people imagine what the characters might look like.  You may imagine the character to look like someone you know personally or perhaps a famous celebrity. In fact, once you have established in your mind what a character looks like, it is hard to think of them any other way.  For this short, fun activity, you get to be the casting director for Rebel Mechanics-The Movie!


Activity 5 TEKS

Theatre, Level I- E3, C


Activity 5 Books to Display

Selena Gomez by Valerie Bodden
Demi! : Latina Star Demi Lovato by Jeff Burlingame
Scarlett Johansson by Pete Delmar
Angelina Jolie: Celebrity with Heart by Michael Schuman
American Life and Celebrity Icons from Marilyn Monroe to Taylor Swift by Cathleen Small
Daniel Radcliffe: Film and Stage Star by Stephanie Watson
Robert Downey Jr.: Blockbuster Movie Star by Stephanie Watson


Supply List

Computers for research

Celebrity biography books

Pop Culture magazines such as People Magazine, US Weekly, Vanity Fair and TV Guide

List of characters


Detailed Description of Activity

Provide the students with a list of characters from Rebel Mechanics.  See the Activity Resources section below for a list. 


Have them cast a famous person to play the role of each book character.  They must justify their selection by providing a piece of evidence from the text. For example, when casting Nate the newsboy, students might reference this quote about him:

He wore a flat cap pulled low over his forehead. Dark hair straggled past his collar in the back, and his thin face was smeared with ink and dirt.


They must also provide a picture of the famous person they have selected to play the role.

The results can be presented in a simple document, on a poster, or with an online presentation tool.  They should remember to include the characters’ names, the actors’ names, text evidence, and photos of each actor or famous person.


Students can research famous names and faces on the internet, or the teacher/librarian can bring in celebrity biographies and pop culture magazines to give them ideas.


Activity Resources

Cast of Characters List


Activity 5 Resources for Teens, Teachers & Librarians

People Magazine





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Active Programs

Printable Copy of Program

Supplemental Documents

Jewelry Flyer

Shopping List

Jewelry Example 1

Jewelry Example 2

Stop Motion Flyer

Writing Event Flyer



Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson tells the story of Verity Newton, a seventeen-year-old governess who lands right in the middle of a feud between magisters and rebel mechanics in an alternative take of the American Revolution. Rebel Mechanics is filled with science, technology, steam engines, magical vehicles, love, and espionage.  


Activity 1 Steampunk Jewelry



Verity meets the famous rebel mechanics her first day in New York and begins to discover the wonders of science and technology. The rebel mechanics are leading the charge of a revolution against the aristocracy of the magical magisters. In order to recognize fellow rebel mechanics, the group creates an insignia: a simple gear hanging on a red ribbon. In this activity, teens will be able to make their own insignias and other steampunk creations using gears, cogs, clock hands, vintage keys, and photos.


Books to Display or Booktalk

Love, Lies and Spies by Cindy Anstey

Legacy of the Clockwork Key by Kristin Bailey

The Dark Unwinding Sharon Cameron

Steampunk Style Jewelry: Victorian, Fantasy, and Mechanical Necklaces, Bracelets, and Earrings by Jean Campbell
Etiquette & Espionage Gail Carriger
Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell
Steampunk Jewelry by Spurgeon Vaughn Ratcliffe


Supply List

Satin ribbon in a variety of colors/prints

Lobster clasps

Unisex beaded ball chain necklace (3mm works best)

Cable chain

Mixed gears

Mixed clock parts

Antique Looking Lockets

Mixed key charms

Mixed keys and locks

Mixed clock hands

Metal/jewelry glue

Jewelry pliers



Detailed Description of Activity

Creating jewelry is all about being creative. A list of supplies can be found above with suggestions on where to purchase these items but asking for donations of old or broken jewelry is also another way to go. Teens should also be able to bring in any pieces that they may already own.


A few samples should be made beforehand, for inspiration, as well as having books on display. A simple internet search can provide some great examples. This program requires little to no instruction which is why the pre-made samples and examples are so important. The only instruction the participants might need is instruction on how to use the jewelry pliers and glue safely and effectively.


You will need a few tables and chairs set out for the attendees to work on as well as for the supplies. Creating different stations for each type of supply will make it easy for everyone to go around the room and pick up what they would like to use. If possible, try to have enough jewelry pliers and metal glue for at least every two teens, as they will be using these particular supplies quite a bit and it might be difficult to share.


The host of the event should periodically walk around the room to check on supplies as well as asking if anyone may need an extra hand as they are glue their creations together. Jewelry glue dries very quickly so teens should keep this in mind.


This program should be about 1.5 to 2 hours long so as to provide ample time to plan their creations, create them and then let them dry.



Jewelry Supplies Shopping List

Examples of Steampunk Jewelry

Sample of Event Flyer


Resources for Teens, Teachers & Librarians

Hobby Lobby-

Jewelry Making Journal

Cook Love Craft

Spark Flyer Maker

Steampunk Jewelry by Spurgeon Vaughn Ratcliffe

Steampunk Style Jewelry: Victorian, Fantasy, and Mechanical Necklaces, Bracelets, and Earrings by Jean Campbell


Activity 2 Flash Fan Fiction: Creative Writing on a Time Crunch



Flash fiction does not have a clear definition, but it is fiction that is very brief and is usually shorter than 1,000 words; sometimes even as short as a few hundred words. Fan fiction is fiction written by a fan that includes characters from a specific movie, television show, or book.


Rebel Mechanics is an alternative tale historical fiction. Swendson spins a different take on the American Revolution, in which the colonies did not win the revolution and even threw in themes of steampunk and magic. While Rebel Mechanics is not a work of flash fiction or fan fiction, using current novels can sometimes be an easy and interesting way to promote creative writing with teens.


Books to Display or Book Talk

How to Write Fanfiction by Karen Burkley

Fic: Why Fanfiction Is Taking Over the World by Anne Jamison

Flash Fiction: Mix-and-Match Writing Prompts by Corrine Kenner
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Supply List


Writing paper

Books to display

Popular young adult novels in your library

Writing prompts (can be found using Flash Fiction: Mix-and-Match Writing Prompts by Corrine Kenner or taking scenes from popular television/movies/books)


Dry erase board/markers or projector screen/laptop

CD player/instrumental music or other form to stream music


Detailed Description of Activity

This program is a combination of flash fiction and fan fiction. This program can be a one-time occurrence or a periodical series. Set up tables and chairs in a meeting room or any space that has few distractions.


Provide writing paper, pens, and pencils but also try to have power outlets available for teens that may bring in their own laptops, tablets, and other electronic devices.


Brief introductions are always a nice way to start writing programs in which teens might be sharing the work later on in the program. Introductions can be as simple as having them share their first names and perhaps their favorite television show, movie, and/or book.


Start with explaining the definition of fan fiction and flash fiction. You can use the dry erase board or projector to convey the definition and differences between this two writing styles.


Both flash fiction and fan fiction should have all of the elements of a typical, longer story. The basics being a beginning, a middle, and an end with some sort of conflict and resolution for the protagonist.

The Essential Elements of Flash Fiction
Courtesy of
Length of story
Short; can be as brief as 6 words, or as long as 1,000

Character development
The character must engage the reader's emotions.

Surprise or Twist
The ending should be unexpected and not predictable.

Change or Epiphany
Either a physical change or a change of decision.

This introduction should be about 15-20 minutes. Then, to get their juices flowing pull a prompt from either Flash Fiction: Mix-and-Match Writing Prompts by Corrine Kenner or online.


Set a timer and give the teens about 20 minutes to work on this with soothing instrumental music playing quietly in the background. Some teens find complete silence uncomfortable or even distracting so instrumental music can create a sort of white noise effect. Feel free to participate in the task as well so when it is time to share you can start the ball rolling.


The next 10 minutes can be sharing what they came up with. Often times, it helps if the host/librarian shares first so the others can get comfortable.


Next, have the teens think of an episode of their favorite TV show or the ending of a movie or book. Ask them to think about what they liked and didn’t like about it, and, if given the chance, how they would change it. This is fan fiction in the most basic sense. Give them another 20 minutes to re-create their own endings/scenes.


The next 10 minutes and be spent sharing with the group. These tend to be a lot more interesting and, oftentimes, comical since these characters already exist and teens can get fairly creative.


The last 10 minutes can be used to show the participants the different resources that are available for them such as:


It is important to remind them that these are all-ages websites and some of the content may be a bit mature.



Writing Event Flyer for library example



Resources for Teens, Teachers & Librarians

750 Words

How to Write Flash Fiction

Spark Flyer Maker



Activity 3 STEAM: Stop Motion Animation



The concept of STEAM was a dominant theme in Rebel Mechanics and not just in relation to the steam engines. STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics. Stop motion animation encompasses the majority of these concepts.


Books to Display or Book Talk

The HUE Book of Animation: Create Your Own Stop Motion Movies by John Cassidy and Nicholas Berger

Brick Flicks: A Comprehensive Guide to Making Your Own Stop-Motion LEGO Movies
by Sarah Herman

The LEGO Animation Book: Make Your Own LEGO Movies! by David Pagano and David Pickett

Stop Motion Animation: How to Make & Share Creative Videos by Melvyn Ternan

Stop-Motion Animation: How to Make and Share Creative Videos
by Melvyn Ternan 


Activity 3 Supply List

A variety of Legos and mini-figures

A variety of paper in different colors

Shoeboxes or cardboard

Masking tape

Laptops and/or desktops

Digital cameras (number dependent on how many participants register)


HUE Animation Studio (includes camera and software) $70, if funds are available



Chenille sticks/pipe cleaners (optional)

Scrabble tiles or letter tiles (optional)


Detailed Description of Activity

This program should be about 1.5 to 2 hours long, and if supplies are limited, registration may be required. For instance, if you are able to obtain digital cameras or the HUE Animation Studio, there should be one for every two teens. Registration should probably be capped off at about 15-20 teens.


This program can be done using digital cameras, purchasing HUE equipment, or providing tablets with free stop motion animation apps such as Stop Motion Studio, PicPac Stopmotion + TimeLapse, Stop Motion Cafe.


One important concept that needs to be expressed is that it will take 10 individual photos to make one second of video, which means to create a one minute video, they would need to take a total of 600 photos!


Teens begin by deciding what their videos will be about and begin creating their settings and characters with the materials provided for them.


Then, teens will begin to take photos of each individual scene. Once teens are satisfied with the number of photos that they have taken, they can upload them to a computer. Windows Movie Maker can be found on PCs. If it is not currently installed on the PC, it can be downloaded for free:


Using the HUE technology is highly recommended, if funds are available. The overhead cameras automatically upload all of the photos taken and send them directly to the software that is installed on the computers. The software has everything you would need to use in order to edit videos including adding voice and/or music clips.


As mentioned before, there are also numerous free apps that can be downloaded through Android and/or iPhone devices.


In any of these cases, instructions on editing can be found within the software and/or app.


For examples:



Stop Motion Flyer for library example



Resources for Teens, Teachers & Librarians


Windows Movie Maker



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Passive Programs

Printable Copy of Program

Supplemental Documents

History Rewrite Ballot

Pivotal Event List

Signage for History Rewrite


Rebel Mechanics lends itself to an assortment of passive program opportunities.  The following passive programs explore themes such as espionage, alternate histories, and symbols in society.  Patrons will enjoy these creative programs whether your library chooses to use one or all of them.


Famous Fictional and Non-fictional Spies Throughout History display



One of the main themes of Rebel Mechanics is espionage. Espionage has been used numerous times in the history of wars and revolutions throughout the world. In Rebel Mechanics, sixteen-year-old Verity Newton is lured into the world of espionage in the name of revolutionary change just as many men and women have done throughout history.


Books to Display or Book Talk

Love, Lies and Spies by Cindy Anstey

The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World's Most Notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb

The Many Faces of Josephine Baker: Dancer, Singer, Activist, Spy by Peggy Caravantes

Women Heroes of the American Revolution: 20 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Defiance, and Rescue by Susan Casey

The CIA and Other American Spies by Michael E. Goodman

Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein


Supply List

Bulletin board, if possible

Butcher paper (any color would work)

Color printer



Table (to display books)

Tablecloth, optional

Paper (8x12 Letter Size; white)


Color pencils

Color copy machine


Detailed Description

Cover a bulletin board or a blank space on a wall or large window with a large piece of colored butcher paper. Locate and print (non-copyrighted) photos of famous spies throughout history online and/or make photocopies of the spies that are depicted in the non-fiction Books to Display titles. Google now provides an option where you may search for photos that are legally available to share and modify. To make it a little more fun, provide art supplies such as paper, pencils, pens, color pencils, and have teens recreate spies from some of their favorite fictional novels. You can make these photos as large as your butcher paper and display space allows. Using a stapler (or tape or thumbtacks) display them on the butcher paper with their names under their photos and perhaps a very brief bio of their espionage escapades.


If you are able to provide a table, this would be ideal for setting up and displaying your books. A tablecloth would be optional.


Resources for Teens, Teachers & Librarians


Examples of spy lists:

History Lists: 10 Most Famous, Daring and Dangerous Spies-

Listverse: Top 10 Famous Spies-



I Spy” @ the Library



Espionage is all about looking for clues in order to discover valuable information. Espionage requires a good eye and being able to send and receive messages in a covert manner. This activity includes creating an I Spy display and writing and decoding your own messages with a cipher wheel and lemon juice.


Books to Display

Love, Lies and Spies by Cindy Anstey

The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World's Most Notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb

The Many Faces of Josephine Baker: Dancer, Singer, Activist, Spy by Peggy Caravantes

Women Heroes of the American Revolution: 20 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Defiance, and Rescue by Susan Casey

The CIA and Other American Spies by Michael E. Goodman

Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein



Supply List


Unique items to hide around the library (i.e. office supplies, clothing items, magnets, etc.)

Printed out photos of items hidden around the library

Color printer


Paper and pencils


Cipher Wheel:


Brass brad fastener


Cipher wheel print outs


Lemon juice ink:




Knife (to cut lemon)

Bowl (to squeeze lemon into)


Detailed Description of Activity

Take photos of all of the items you decide to hide. Twenty is a good number. Print out colored photos and set them up on a table with paper and pencils. All of the items should be numbered and as they locate each item, they write the name of each item by its corresponding number. After they find all of the items, their incentive can be providing them with the materials to make a cipher wheel.


A cipher wheel can help to create and scramble messages and with the help of lemon juice as ink, messages will be extra top-secret. To create the cipher wheel, print the two wheels that can be found at the Top Spy Secrets website listed below. Next, cut out both wheels and make sure not to cut off the black triangle on the smaller wheel. With your brass brad fastener, poke a small hole in the middle of both of the wheels and attach them together. The smaller wheel goes on top of the bigger one.


Instructions on how to use the cipher wheel: Write down your message. It must be in English and must use letters only. Important, the wheel only contains 24 letters, so, you would use a Y for a J and Q for an O. Choose any letter to start your message.. Rotate the larger wheel until the black triangle points to the character you selected. That letter is referred to as the Key. It’s very important that the triangle continuously points to that Key character. Then, choose the letter on the larger wheel for each letter of your message. In order to decipher the message, the reader has to make sure the black triangle points to that Key character.


Messages can be written in lemon juice for extra fun. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze each one into a bowl. Use a toothpick to write a message on the paper provided. It disappears when it dries and reappears when exposed to heat such as the flame of a candle or a light bulb.


Activity Resources

Cipher Wheel Instructions-


Resources for Teens, Teachers & Librarians

Secret Codes for Kids-

Lemon Juice Invisible Ink-


History Rewrite



Part of the premise of Rebel Mechanics is that the British were not defeated in the American Revolution and that they stayed and maintained control of the colonists.  Think about the most important turning points in American history. Imagine that these events did not play out as they actually did.  Ask patrons to decide which pivotal event, had it not happened, would have the greatest impact on America as we know it today. They will have an opportunity to vote and an opportunity to leave comments.


Books to Display

            Alternate Histories

Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

The Inventor’s Secret by Andrea Cremer

The Turncoat’s Gambit by Andrea Cremer

Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner

Front Lines by Michael Grant

Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

Dodger by Terry Pratchett


            Pivotal Events

The Louisiana Purchase by Greg Clinton

The Emancipation Proclamation by Judy Cummings

The American Revolution: A Visual History by DK/Penguin Random House

Civil War Aftermath and Reconstruction by Susan Hamen

The Manhattan Project by Liz Sonneborn


Supply List

Signage posing the key questions

Poster/List of pivotal American historical events (list can be edited as desired)

Books about the selected events and books about alternate histories

QR Code or Web Address for online voting OR box, pencil and ballots for paper voting

Signage with specified hashtag to Tweet comments OR butcher paper and markers for patrons’ hand-written comments.

Computer to display Twitter feed (if using that option)

Posted results of vote


Detailed Description of Activity


Create a sign that contains the following questions/instructions or use the one provided in the resource section:

What one event in U.S. history has had the greatest impact on our country?

What if the event had ended differently?


Consider the following events (Available as pdf under Resource section):

Assassination of Abraham Lincoln

Emancipation Proclamation/End of slavery

Louisiana Purchase

Manhattan Project

Japanese surrender in WWII

Vietnam War

Integration of Schools

Assassination of John F. Kennedy

The American Revolution

The Civil War


Transition of power between Washington and Adams

September 11 Attacks


As part of your signage, ask patrons to vote on the event that they think mattered most.

Select from low-tech or high-tech voting options.

Low-tech option- use a paper and pencil ballot with events listed.

High-tech option- use QR code or Google form link with options listed for voting.


Also as part of your signage, ask patrons to leave comments about how this event would have changed America if it had ended differently.


Select from low-tech or high-tech commenting options.

Low-tech option- Use butcher paper backdrop or table covering with pens and markers for leaving comments.

High tech option-Provide the patrons with a hashtag and encourage them to Tweet their comments.


Set up a computer on the display that runs Twitterfall, or another Twitter feed app and display the comments/Tweet stream of patrons.


To use Twitterfall, go to, add your desired hash tag into the search box, and your related Tweets will stream down the middle of your screen.  Use a hashtag that makes sense for your library.  For example: #pivotaleventsgphslibrary  or #pivotalevents or #alternatehistory


Display books related to the pivotal event list and books about alternate histories.

From time to time, update the results of the vote on your signage.


Activity Resources

Signage for History Re-Write

Pivotal Event List

History Re-write Ballot


Resources for Teens, Teachers & Librarians



A Symbol is Worth a Thousand Words



The Rebel Mechanics gained entrance to their meetings by displaying their gear-and-ribbon insignia.  Symbols like this are all around us and “speak a thousand words” with one simple picture or emblem.  Are you logo savvy?  What would your personal logo or insignia look like?


Books to Display

Animals and Animal Symbols in World Culture by Cavendish Square

Beliefs, Rituals, and Symbols of Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Fertile Crescent by Cavendish Square

Signs & Symbols by DK

The Complete Guide to National Symbols and Emblems by James Minahan

Symbols, Signs & Visual Codes : a Practical Guide to Understanding and Decoding the Universal Icons, Signs and Symbols That Are Used in Literature, Art, Religion, Astrology, Communication, Advertising, Mythology and Science  by Mark O’Connor

Logo-art: Innovation in Logo Design by Charlotte Rivers

Best of Letterhead & Logo Design by Rockport Publishers

State Names, Seals, Flags and Symbols: A Historical Guide by Benjamin F. Shearer

Allied Special Forces Insignia, 1939-1948 by Peter Taylor


Supply List

Books about logos and symbols

Match the Logo to the Organization Handout

Match the Logo to the Organization Key

Art supplies including construction paper, glue, scissors and markers

Several logos created by staff members to serve as examples to patrons


Detailed Description of Activity

Display books about symbols, logos, and groups that have well-known icons.

Have Match the Logo to the Organization handouts available for patrons.  In this pencil-and-paper activity, patrons draw a line to match an organization’s logo to the name of the organization. Include the answer key on the display.  The key can be on cardstock that says ‘key” on one side and has the answers on the other side, or it can be under a flap on the signage of the display.  Additional matching games are available under the Resources for Teens, Teachers & Librarians section below.

Have construction paper and art supplies available so that patrons can make their own logo with a sign inviting them to do so. Encourage patrons, via signage, to Tweet a picture of their logo with a hashtag that best relates to your library.  Example hash tags might be #mylogo or #mylogosmithlibrary


Activity Resources

Match the Logo to the Organization Handout pdf

Match the Logo to the Organization Key pdf


Resources for Teens, Teachers & Librarians

Logo game by Sporcle

Logo games by The Craftables

Logo games by Ken’s Quiz Site

If you have questions or comments for the Young Adult Round Table, contact 

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Created on Mar 7, 2017 | Last updated April 17, 2017