"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." Albert Einstein

29 July 2016

Teen Program: Minute to Win It

My current library has a teen event every third Monday; the event itself is called Monday Madness and is open to whatever the teens (or their librarian) is interested in doing, and this month we did Minute to Win It games.

These games are really simple to set up - I was amazed that out of all the things we needed for the games, the only two things I actually had to purchase were pantyhose and Oreos (no, not for the same game). Everything else was readily available in my library already.

I planned out which events we would do and had the supplies ready to go, then when it was time to start, the teens all participated in each game. If I had had a larger group, I would have eliminated teens as they lost, but the size of my group meant that everyone could play every game and we just kept track of how many times they were able to finish the challenge in under a minute.

I played a Minute to Win It look-alike timer from YouTube on my iPad to keep track of the time and made sure to take pictures as the teens played. They seemed to really enjoy themselves and didn't mind looking silly in front of each other (or me). Overall I would call this a very successful program and could see how it could easily be reused on occasion with different challenges.

The list of challenges I used can be accessed here, but you can also look up the Minute to Win It challenges online and customize for your group.

26 July 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: The Books Made Me Do It

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by the Broke and the Bookish.

In no particular order, here are ten things that books have made me want to do or learn about after reading:

  1. Plant a Garden. After reading The Martian, I really wanted to grow potatoes. On Mars. My compromise is that we have a tomato plant and a pepper plant and sometimes I grow potatoes in my cupboard by forgetting they're there. I'm sure Mark Watney would be proud.
  2. Buy School Supplies. After reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, I really wanted to visit Diagon Alley. Yes, of course, a Hogwarts visit would be amazing, but I already have a school supply-buying problem, so magical school supplies are that much more enticing.
  3. Fold Papers. The Strange Case of Origami Yoda made me want to try out my origami skills once again. I was quickly reminded, however, that those skills are mostly in my imagination.
  4. Build a Bot. I would love to build a working robot like the kids did in Ungifted. I've built two so far that were for work, but none that I was able to design and tinker and ultimately destroy in epic battle.
  5. Make a Mess. What the Dinosaurs Did Last Night is a great story of some dinosaurs that make big messes. I love the idea of posing dinosaurs and photographing them, and I was able to do just that last Dinovember!
  6. Shelve Books. Book Scavenger made me want to hide books around the city of San Francisco. Once again, I was actually able to do that - I hid copies of Book Scavenger in places mentioned in the book itself!
  7. Bake a Cake. Anytime I've read any of the Redwall series, I am overwhelmed by the inevitable feast scenes. They make me want to eat all. the. things.
  8. Go Back in the Closet. Seriously, who hasn't wanted to find a magical land a la Narnia in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe?
  9. Fly to the Moon. After reading Binky the Space Cat, I wanted to build my own cardboard rocket ship. Again, I got to do this one as part of my job. My book club kids read that book, so I made cardboard rocket ships for them to decorate.
  10. Buy Another Book. Donnalyn Miller's Book Whisperer made me want to buy truckloads of books (with my truckloads of librarian salary) and give them to kids and teachers alike so we can destroy the Accelerated Reader program forever. Okay, so maybe we got a bit off-track on that one, but I still do want kids to be surrounded by books, hoards of books, all the time on the chance that they'll find something they like to read.
Has reading a book ever made you want to do something or learn something? 

25 July 2016

The Weight of Zero

Fortunati, Karen. The Weight of Zero. Delacorte Press, 2016.

Cat is planning to die. She has bipolar disorder, and she knows that her current level of stability will eventually disappear to be replaced with overwhelming depression. The last time that happened it nearly killed her mother. Cat is planning to kill herself before that can happen. She doesn't want to live through the depression and doesn't want to be a burden on her mother. But as Cat continues with her therapy, with school, with life, she realizes that maybe, just maybe she actually wants to live.

I imagined a very different ending for this book than what I found. What I found was not a devastating, "the character I have grown to love dies" kind of ending, nor was it a Disney-esque "happily ever after" ending, either. But it was a satisfying ending. I appreciated this author's use of research to portray teens with various disorders and issues in a balanced light. I was glad for the realistic portrayal of Cat's family struggling to make ends meet as they pay for her various therapies, which would ring more true to my patrons than a teen who has an endless supply of funds for whatever types of therapy are needed. I'm especially glad for the not "happily ever after" ending: Cat doesn't find a magical cure for bipolar disorder. Her former friends don't see the light and give tear-filled apologies and become besties again. What Cat gets is a real life, complete with its ups and downs.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: discussion of suicide, Cat plans to lose her virginity (she doesn't), teen alcohol use at a party, language, members of Cat's therapy group struggle with eating disorders, OCD, and other issues which could be triggering
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

Read-Alikes: Butter, All the Bright Places, Everything, Everything

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Netgalley for the purposes of review.

22 July 2016

Librarian Toolbox: Simplify Your Craft

I do crafts each week at the conclusion of my storytimes. Because I have a fairly wide range of young children at these programs, it's important that any craft I do can be easily completed by someone as young as three. The parents are present during the story and craft, but I like for the crafts to be do-able for even my young patrons. After all, they are the ones who benefit from small muscle practice as a pre-writing and reading exercise.

I also like to use googly eyes on just about everything. They're fairly cheap and they add an extra level of cute to many projects. So this past week when we were making our spoon insects, I wanted to give the kids googly eyes to add to their spoons, but was trying to find an easy way to attach them. Older kids could use white glue and a little patience, but little ones struggle with both of those.

That's when I discovered this. I bought a package of glue dots, pulled the strip of dots out of the box, and placed a googly eye on each glue dot. [In the future I can have a teen volunteer do this.] Now I have a strip of googly eyes that already have adhesive on them and I can tear off pairs of eyes for the kids to use. If I need more, I can make them easily.

I used these googly eyes during our craft and was delighted to see even my youngest patrons making their projects completely on their own. Their caregivers didn't have to make the entire craft for them, and the kids got the bonus practice of peeling a googly eye "sticker" off of the paper and sticking it on their craft.

20 July 2016

If I Was Your Girl

Russo, Meredith. If I Was Your Girl. Flatiron Books, 2016.

Amanda is the new girl in school. She is trying to keep her head down and just survive without drawing any attention or making waves, until she meets Grant. She likes Grant a lot, and finds herself making friends and spending more time with them than she originally intended. But she isn't sure if she can reveal her biggest secret - that she is transgender - to her friends or especially to Grant.

This was an unusual take on a YA story about a trans* teen in that Amanda has already begun HRT (hormone replacement therapy) and had SRS (sex reassignment surgery) before she begins attending this school. Physically she now matches her gender identity, instead of having to go stealth and hope that no one finds out. This is extremely unusual, especially since most doctors will recommend that trans* teens wait until they are adults before having any surgical procedures performed. Other than that, this story didn't stand out from any of the other "trans* teens starting at a new school and hope that no one finds out but of course they do" kinds of stories out there.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: Amanda is outed and nearly raped; teen alcohol use; Amanda attempts suicide
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

Read-Alikes: Almost Perfect, Beast, Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity, Run, Clarissa, Run

18 July 2016


Spangler, Brie. Beast. Knopf BYR, 2016.

Dylan is a self-proclaimed beast. He's taller than anyone else in school, has enough hair on his body to make a wig for a yak, and could probably snap your neck with his bare hands. But he is tired of people seeing him for his size and ignoring his intelligence. After an accident involving a lost football, a roof, and Dylan's leg, Dylan is sent to a therapy group for those who self-harm. There he meets Jamie, who is the most amazing girl he has ever seen. She loves photography, tells it like she sees it, and has recently started attending a new school because she's trans* and she was being bullied at her old school. Dylan is head over heels in love with Jamie until he finds out that she's trans*. Will his father, dead since Dylan was young, send him a sign so he can know what to do about Jamie?

I'll admit, I started reading this book and then couldn't remember why I wanted to read it, and I almost gave up. Dylan, like many teens, is so stuck on himself and his own little universe that I wanted to scream at him. He was not the sympathetic character I was hoping for. Jamie, on the other hand, has a fully defined personality and seems closer to the average sort of teenager who is still stuck on herself but also realizes there is a world around her filled with other people. I did appreciate that this story is more about Dylan coming to terms with his father's death, with his relationship with Jamie, with the reason he was on the roof to begin with, rather than focusing on Jamie discovering that she is trans* and beginning to transition. The Beauty and the Beast parallels aren't as obvious as they have been in other retellings, so I would likely recommend this book as a read-alike for self-harm rather than a fractured fairy tale.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: Jamie and Dylan buy a lot of beer (but end up not drinking it); Jamie and Dylan also make out (but don't have sex); when Dylan first realizes that Jamie is trans*, some of the troglodytes at his school have some very transphobic comments about Jamie
Overall Rating: 3/5 stars

Read-Alikes: If I Was Your Girl, Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity, Winger, Cut

15 July 2016

Teen Programming: Amazing Race

In my new position I have inherited an already active group of teens who enjoy library programs. I love that we can have programming for teens and I don't have to worry about finding teens to come. My previous library was just starting to have teen programming, but the teens here are already involved through volunteering and participating in programs.

One of the programs we did this summer was to have an Amazing Race-style event where the teens ran through our town to various locations and completed tasks in a race against other teams.  We set up five total locations, one of which was the library itself, and each location had a library volunteer who would supervise the teens at their task before handing them the clue to the next location. The teens earned Mardi Gras bead necklaces at each location, and returned to the library only after they had received five necklaces.

This type of activity was easy for us to do in a small town, where it's safe for teens to run around and they don't have to travel far to complete tasks, but it could be adapted to be completed within a library building, provided there are staff or volunteers who are willing to assist with the program. The tasks the teens had to do involved solving riddles, eating strange food (sardines, and yes there was a non-eating alternative for those who were allergic or too grossed out), and completing puzzles.

Teens generally enjoy competing against each other and working in small groups with their friends, and everyone who completed the race received a prize of some sort, so I would say this was a very successful program overall and a great one to do on a sunny summer afternoon.

13 July 2016


Mathieu, Jennifer. Afterward. Macmillan Children's Publishing Group, 2016.

Dylan, an 11-year old boy with autism, is kidnapped, but when he is found only days later, it is discovered that the man who kidnapped Dylan had also kidnapped another boy, who has been living with the kidnapper for years less than an hour from his parents' home. Dylan's and Ethan's families are glad to get them back, especially Caroline, Dylan's older sister. Caroline has helped to care for Dylan since he was very young, and now she wants to know how to help him recover from his trauma. Should she reach out to Ethan to find out about Dylan's captivity? Does she really want to know what went on in that house?

This story is told in alternating chapters, with Ethan and Caroline narrating the first year after Dylan and Ethan's rescue. Ethan's family has the means to send him to an exclusive therapist and bring tutors to the house so he can catch up on his schooling; meanwhile, Dylan's family struggles to make ends meet, and Dylan's parents in particular are not handling his capture and return well at all. Caroline does befriend Ethan, much to Ethan's hovering mother's dismay.

As a childhood rape survivor, I can attest to the accuracy of the scenes between Ethan and his therapist, including the difficulty Ethan has with the drive to the therapist's office, the flashbacks, the counting technique, the memories that are just gone because Ethan's brain is not ready to process them yet. I can sympathize with his frustration at his Swiss cheese-like memory.

This book captures the reader's attention and keeps it; it will be very popular with my teen patrons who are always clamoring for "books about kids who deal with really hard stuff," and it would be an easy recommend to abuse survivors because Ethan's reactions are well-portrayed but there aren't many details about what exactly went on during the years he was gone. Recommended.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: both Dylan and Ethan are kidnapped; Ethan struggles with flashbacks, which may be triggering to trauma survivors
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

Read-Alikes: The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly, Reality BoyEleanor & Park

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Netgalley for the purposes of review.

11 July 2016

Summer Programming: Nature Walk

I inherited an easy summer program from my predecessor, who had planned a "Nature Walk Scavenger Hunt" to be on the schedule during my first week here at my new library. There weren't many details left behind, but this is what we ended up doing.

First, we met in the library's programming room where I gave everyone a scavenger hunt handout with a list (including pictures for pre-readers) of items that we were looking for. I also gave everyone a paper lunch bag to use for collecting things we could bring with us, and we discussed what types of things are okay to pick up (sticks, leaves, rocks) and what types of things are not (flowers from someone's garden, live animals). Then we started our walk.

There were a lot more people on this walk than I had expected, so I sent an assistant to lead the walk three blocks to the park while I played crossing guard at each intersection. Once we were at the park, we talked about what we found, then turned around and walked back, hoping to find those last few things on our list.

At the library, we used our nature items to make paintings on construction paper. We did this outside, both to prevent the mess inside and also because we had too many people to comfortably fit in our programming space. The kids made pictures, I made appreciative comments, and then most people left their pictures to dry as they went inside to check out books.

All in all, I would say that this was a very successful program and well worth doing, especially if your library is in an area where it is safe to take school-aged kids on a brief walk around town.

08 July 2016

Drag Teen

Self, Jeffery. Drag Teen. Push, 2016.

JT lives in Florida. His parents aren't really bothered by the fact that he's gay and has a boyfriend, but then again, they don't seem to be bothered with much that has to do with him at all. He feels trapped in a small town where he sees himself pumping gas for the rest of his life, unless he can get a scholarship to college to so he can get out of town and follow his dreams. His boyfriend finds a scholarship that JT an apply for, which involves going to New York and participating in a teen drag competition. Thus the two, with their faithful female companion, set off on an adventure to the big city.

This book is fairly cliche as far as the road trip part of the story is concerned as well as they "I'll go to New York and all my dreams will come true" storyline, but these Disney-esque bits aside, this was a good read and a decent representation of the LGBTQ+ community within a road trip story. I appreciated the RuPaul references and found the book overall to be interesting an inoffensive, which was a relief considering the myriad ways the topic could have been mishandled and wasn't.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: one of the teens in the competition uses drugs; another teen spends the night out and JT thinks she's having sex, but it turns out she did something completely innocent
Overall Rating: 3/5 stars mainly because there wasn't enough info about drag overall and the Disney-esque ending makes this book more like a kids' book than a teen book

Read-Alikes: Beauty Queens, Better Nate Than Ever, Freak Show

06 July 2016

Queen of Hearts

Oakes, Colleen. Queen of Hearts. Harper Teen, 2016.

This is a reboot of a previously published series. My review is based on the newer edition, for those who notice such things.

Dinah is a princess in Wonderland, and she is in line to take the throne. All of a sudden her father, the King, throws out some story of a dalliance with a commoner and now Dinah has a sister whom she absolutely hates. Dinah is warned by those around her that she needs to escape before she is trapped, so off she runs away from the castle and the only life she's known. But now what is she to do? Where can she go? Whom can she trust?

I enjoyed the world-building in this story immensely, although I agree with other reviewers that this book is very heavy on setting, possibly in anticipation of a second book that can focus more on the plot and/or characters. We meet all of the standard Wonderland characters, although not in their standard forms. I did enjoy this book overall, even if Dinah wasn't the most sympathetic character. It will be interesting to see if there is a reboot of the second installment of this series as well.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: violence, especially the torture within the black towers
Overall Rating: 3/5 stars

Read-Alikes: The Looking Glass Wars, Splintered, FairestAlice in Zombieland