Safe Spaces and Do-Overs: Author Guest Post by Terri Libenson

Terri Libenson is the bestselling and award-winning creator of the Emmie & Friends series. As an author who spends a lot of time visiting children in schools and libraries across the country, Terri took a moment to reflect on how her relationship with libraries has evolved over the years. Her latest book, Always Anthony, comes out on May 7!

Like many authors, whenever my schedule allows it, I do my fair share of school visits. Here’s how it usually goes: I arrive at the school, I’m met by a teacher, reading specialist, or librarian, and I’m usually led to the room where I’ll give my presentation (sometimes stopping at a classroom or office along the way to stash my coat and purse). The presentation room is almost always one of three places:

  • Gymnasium
  • Library (aka media room)
  • Auditorium

Bet you’re wondering which is my favorite. If you guessed the library…bingo. There’s always something so comforting and calming about entering a school library, even if it’s full and buzzing with activity. I know lots of authors who feel the same way; it’s no surprise since the school library is where many of them sought refuge as kids (the gym…probably not). I love presenting in libraries, mainly because they’re more intimate and it feels like I’m connecting with kids on a personal level (plus auditoriums and gyms can still be very intimidating for us introverts!).

But here’s the thing: growing up, I never frequented school libraries. I barely knew where they were. I wasn’t a huge reader (except for comics). Instead, I sought refuge in the art room. I loved drawing and doodling, so that was my happy place. Libraries weren’t even on my radar. The fact that we had to use the Dewey Decimal System to find books didn’t help (yes, kids, I am a dinosaur).

So where does my newfound connection to libraries come from?

Well, as you’ve probably guessed, part of it is simply from being a children’s book author. I’m pretty much stuck at age twelve at heart, so when writing books, it feels like I’m living a do-over in this little universe I’ve created. I’ll relive my adolescent mistakes through my characters and have them course correct, thereby (hopefully) helping readers through similar situations (and providing myself with some catharsis).

School libraries give me a similar do-over feeling. Although I avoided them as a little kid, I embrace them as an adult kid. Getting to browse the shelves, see well-worn titles, and listen to kids’ chatter gives me peace and hope, especially amid book bans and a national decline in reading. As a voracious reader now, my eyes always dart around to see what the librarian is showcasing, where my author friends’ books are, and what’s new that I haven’t seen before.

School libraries are also where I have the greatest time with kids. I present to them, ask them questions, read to them, draw with them, answer their questions, and hear their applause, laughter, and appreciation. And as a parent, well, I have an adult-POV respect for this sacred space because that’s where my older daughter – the voracious child reader – practically lived. And as I’ve since learned, librarians simply rule.

So maybe I wasn’t a library brat growing up. That’s the nice thing about do-overs and libraries…

…you’re always welcome back.

About the Author

Terri Libenson is the New York Times bestselling author of the Emmie & Friends series and the cartoonist of the (now retired) award-winning comic strip The Pajama Diaries. Terri empty-nests in Cleveland, Ohio, with her husband, Mike. She is the proud mom of two grown daughters and a poodle. You can find her online at

About Always Anthony

Friends. Bullies.


Anthony is TPFW (Too Popular for Words), loves science, hates writing.

Leah is a super-shy nerd who’s finally making friends of her own.

What could they have in common?

A lot more than they thought, as it turns out!

But then one day they witness Anthony’s teammates bullying a sixth grader. What happens next could cement their new friendship—or blow it up forever.

Praise for the Emmie & Friends series!

PRAISE FOR BECOMING BRIANNA: “Lacing the dialogue with spirited banter and laying on the life lessons with a light touch… All ends with party time . . . plus a climactic hora exuberant enough to leave everyone, readers included, smiling.”
  — ALA Booklist
“Readers will relate to Brianna’s attempts to manage her stress load as well as her insecurity and flaws as she works to form and maintain friendships.”
  — School Library Journal
PRAISE FOR JUST JAIME: “A delightful tale that navigates the precarious ebb and flow of friendship dynamics.”
  — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Libenson perfectly portrays the gaslighting and passive aggression that can be the hallmarks of middle-school relationships turned sour, and readers struggling with cracking of beloved friendships will find reassurance in the book’s ‘this too shall pass’ sentiment.”
  — Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
PRAISE FOR POSITIVELY IZZY: “Libenson captures middle-school dramas—family, friendships, crushes, stereotypes, grades, self-discovery—with candor, fast pacing, and authentic, relatable characters. Positively satisfying.”
  — The Horn Book
“Libenson nicely touches on classic middle-grade tropes, such as shifting friendships, crushes, and developing confidence. A poignant twist ending adds a heartening note to an already charming story.”
  — ALA Booklist
PRAISE FOR INVISIBLE EMMIE: “This is middle grade fiction at its best. A fantastic debut novel with plenty of laughs and tons of heart. INVISIBLE EMMIE is unforgettable!”
  — Lincoln Peirce, New York Times-bestselling creator of Big Nate
“Clever, funny work by a great cartoonist. Reading INVISIBLE EMMIE sums up middle school: You laugh, you cry, you get beaned in the head with a volleyball.”
  — Stephanie Perkins, internationally bestselling author of Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door