Monday, April 6, 2015

April- Poetry Month display

I've been slacking in the old decorating department (never my strong suit). I think I had my Historical Reads display up for 
*hides face in shame* a few months. 
So, in honor of National Poetry Month, my BFF came up with this great idea, which I promptly "stole with permission".

The banner reads "April is National Poetry Month" and it was a pain to make. I used the Ellison to cut letters and Publisher to create patterned triangles. Unfortunately, the backs of the triangles are book pages ripped from a book that happened to feature at least one curse work per page. Not that I think anyone is going to read the back of my banner-but just in case, I sat with a pencil and scribbled out the dirty words like a boss.

The books on display are flagged with charming bookmarks I whipped up.

The Insta-Poem is a pizza pan (the only magnetic sheet we had at home), some magnetic poetry printed on magnetic paper and cut out, and the bottom of an oatmeal canister painted black and filled with glass marbles to create weight for pan support and to discourage moving the display.  I also had a pink plastic tablecloth laying around that had a few holes in it, so I cut some circles from the undamaged parts and used them to break up all of the wood on the counter.

I made a hasty bibliography featuring novels written in verse. Hopefully some patrons will check 'em out. In the meantime, I'm reading a bunch of them myself.
Here are a few I really liked, so far:
My review   
My review


Thursday, April 2, 2015

We All Looked Up- Review

We All Looked Up
By Tommy Wallach
3 out of 5 stars

This one has been on the To-read list for a long time, and it finally came into the library and I was the first to check it out. I wanted to love it. I liked it, but I didn't love it. It could be that I am just so OVER end of the world stuff, but read this anyway. I have this classification system in my mind for dystopian books: before the event, during the event, immediately after the event (up to two generations), and way after the event (three generations and more removed). Sometime a book straddles the line, like The Stand. We All Looked Up is in the "before the event" category.

The first half of the book had me really interested. I was invested in the characters, I was on board with the coming event (although I would have liked to have seen more about how the government was handling it), and I liked the set time frame. Peter and Eliza, especially, were well drawn characters. I really enjoyed the theme of being a good person-even when there is little time left for all of mankind, it is still important to be a good person. But what makes a good person? Interesting.

Then, something happens and things kind of fall apart both in the book and with the story. A whole bunch of nothing happens to the main characters after a protest, while characters we are not witnessing are out becoming more- more in the way that it will become super important to the plot more. We, the reader, are left in limbo. This happens AGAIN. The last two weeks before impact fly by in a paragraph.

I'm going to avoid spoilers here. I was not phased by the ending,it was fine. What bothered me happened just before the ending- I found it unclear and had to go back and read it again and again and still don't like the way it was handled. I also removed a star because with three (3!) author photos on the cover and in the back pages, I started to feel like this book was less about a story that a writer needed to tell and more about a vehicle for promoting a talented guy who happens to sing, but who also wrote this book. Meh. I'd rather more attention had gone into telling this story-because it was a good one, for awhile.

Shutter- Review

By: Courtney Alamdea
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Challenge: DAC 2015

YA horror is tricky. Actually, the horror genre is tricky. What is truly scary to one person is laughable to another. Shutter is different. It's actually good, but in addition to that it's exciting. Shutter reminded me of Vampire Academy (hunting in teams), Rot and Ruin (excellent world building), and Die Hard (a little bit). Here's the thing, just read it and ride the adventure out. The plot twist is visible from miles away, Micheline presses her fingernails into her palms way too many times, and there's a priest out there with a prayer that was only important in one chapter...but hey. These are little things. Overall, its a thrilling read with lots and lots of spooky imagery. It's a good read and you don't have to wait to October to read it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Seize The City

I'm about to hit you with a group game that 1. costs very little money to make 2. sounds a lot harder than it actually is. Ready? Okay!

This summer we will be playing Seize the City. It's modeled after my game Seize the Castle. The only thing changing here are the trivia questions will now be super hero themed and instead of a castle in the center, there will be a "city". Something akin to this:
Image borrowed from Etsy for visual aid purpose only. My teen volunteers will actually be making the city from scratch and it will look however they want it to :) 

Because this game already exists in castle form, you will just have to use your imagination.
And because NO Thing is really original here is what started me on the path to Seize the Castle greatness:

The Game:

You will need:

Up to 20 players
2 mats with grids taped out on them
1 cardboard/foam core castle (or city, for summer)
Three giant inflatable dice OR make dice from three tissue boxes
(in a pinch, you could use real dice, but what fun is that?)
Trivia questions in assorted levels (Easy, medium, hard) until you
get a feel for your participants' trivia knowledge, it's best to OVER PREPARE!
You don't want to ask an 8 year old to come up with Stan Lee's middle name.
A stopwatch or somebody to keep an eye on the time. 

The board is set up like zis:
Split the kids into 4 teams.
Team A defends (they can stand in the castle or sit on chairs)
Team B is on one grid
Team C is on the other; B and C are attacking the castle they are the BAD GUYS
Team D roll the dice- I know this sounds crazy but with my group of 8 to 12 year olds, they all wanted to be Team D the WHOLE time. I have giant inflatable dice, that's why.
How to Play:

Team D rolls the dice! (My Team D's worked out a complicated schedule of "who rolled the dice when", something to do with age and hair color, but everyone on Team D had tons of turns rolling, so it worked).

Whatever the two die add up to is how many spaces on the grid players on Team B and C will move forward IF they answer trivia questions correctly.
Here is a closeup of the grid:

Movement snakes upward so position A6 is the winning spot.
Players always begin on E1 and move to the right. Walk it out yourself. It works. I promise.

Both grids are identical and are dollar store tablecloths and masking tape. I cut the letters/numbers out of black construction paper and book taped them on.

If players answer correctly they move to the space they rolled. For example, if they rolled a six, they move six spots over on the grid (from E1 to E6). Let me clarify that this is one member of Team B and one member of Team C at a time and that they are both answering their own trivia questions. The goal here is to get all members of Team B and C on the grid.

After 5 moves, the attack is over and the defense begins.

Team A rolls the dice (Team D is probably exhausted by now anyway). Now they are using a normal die with numbers on it and another die with the letters A-E on five sides and "Lose a turn" on one.
Say Team A rolls a "c" and a "4", any kid standing on that place on EITHER grid is out and has to start all over again. If they roll "Lose a Turn", no one is out. If they roll a place on the grid in which no one is standing, no one is out.

After 5 rolls by Team A, attack begins again.

This goes on until someone on one grid or the other lands on the E6, in which case the castle has been lost and the attackers (both sides ) have won OR until 20 minutes is up, in which case the Defenders have outlasted the attackers and the castle is safe.

This sounds crazy complicated, but it's not. And it's fast, fast, fast. It's possible to fit three games in a one hour program. Just move the teams around each round (defenders are now rollers, attackers now defenders, etc). You can play with far fewer kids (make smaller teams or remove a grid). My only advice is to prepare three times as many trivia questions as you think you might need. Grab them from websites, board games, or ask your teen volunteers to write some.

Have fun!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Pete The Cat is Groovy Like That

This afternoon we met for our Pete the Cat Party!  I read Pete the Cat's 4 Groovy Buttons and Pete the Cat and the Bad Banana. Then we played a game. On the recording The Big Silly with Mr. Eric (Litwin), Eric reads Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes. I grabbed construction paper in white, red, blue, and brown and just threw them willy nilly on the floor. I had everyone start on a white paper. Honestly, the kids know this story by heart, so it was super fun. I told them that silly things were about to happen to Pete's shoes, and they had only a few seconds to jump to the correct color or they would have to come up front and sing the song with Miss Kristie. 
After the game we did a guided Pete the Cat drawing exercise. They enjoyed that way more than I thought they would and spent 20 minutes coloring in their pictures and/or adding items to the picture. Crafts are kind of beat lately. I'm not sure why, but I'm not going to kill myself making a craft no one wants to make. It was the first time I attempted a drawing and it went over big. 

I did this program at two libraries. At the first library we moved on to making Pete the Cat's shirt with four groovy buttons (graham crackers, yellow icing, and m&ms). Today, it was someone's birthday (hee hee) so we knocked back with some cupcakes. 

Overall, it went very well at both locations. If you are wondering why it is snowing on the children in the first picture it was because I was playing with the new features on PicMonkey and forgot to remove it. 

Did I get upset? Goodness no. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Do a Little Dance....

Our first Toddler Dance Party was this morning and it WAS AWESOME!

Everything I read before doing this program seemed as though the party should not last longer than 25 minutes. I think the kids could have danced for waaaaay longer than that. Altogether, with book and music it was 35 minutes long, but I will shoot for 45 next time.

How it went:

Set up- I created the playlist days ahead of time. Narrowing down the songs was easy, pacing them (fast, medium, slow) was MUCH harder. I didn't want to tire everyone out or make them bored. I went for balance.

 We began with rules and a book.
Now, I hate rules, but I wanted to stress that this was a party and not a class- so if Little Suzie wandered out of the rectangle, no big deal. If Little Steve refused to hand in his egg shaker-no problem.
Also, I expected the parents to help collect and distribute props (and they did!) and participate (about half did, some were too busy filming).

The book I read was Hop, Hop, Jump by Krosoczka.
I skipped a few pages because I was making the kids do the actions to "warm up" and some of the actions didn't fit the dance mood. I think it's important to always warm up to a book. It keeps the library in the program.
Then, I pushed play and away we went!

The Playlist:

Clap Your Hands- They Might Be Giants
Jumping Song- Eric Litwin (bubbles here)
Little Red Wagon- Wee Sing (Best of  Album)
I Know a Chicken- Laurie Berkner
Popcorn Song- Barenaked Ladies (off Snacktime)
Collect Shakers:
Can Can Song- Toddler Gym
Pass Out Bean bags:
Balance Game (Bean Bag & Ball Play Michael Plunkett)
Bean Bag Song- Hap Palmer
Collect Bean Bags:
Pass Out Steering Wheels:
Riding In My Car - Woody Guthrie
See You Later Alligator-which will be our ending song for EVERY Toddler Dance Party from now on.

It was really well attended (there are actually about ten kids on the right that cannot be seen in this picture). There was a little bit of hovering around Mom's lap, but they all got into it in the end. I have to find a way to work the bubbles in a way that is less...messy. I used the machine, but it leaked. Luckily, I had the usual (a bottle and stick) bubbles at the ready for backup, so I just used them. A handheld bubble gun, maybe? I don't want to get into blowing bubbles and NOT being up front to lead the action.

If anything, I know everyone left smiling AND I probably burned 500 calories! Score.
Next month will be balloons and glow sticks as props. Can't wait.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The End of Themes...

It's too soon to tell, but I can't help but wanting to do the happy dance over the idea of dropping themes for my storytimes. It occurred to me this fall, while I was writing up the winter storytime themes for our little in-system publicity newsletter thingy that I spend a great deal of time coming up with themes.
I worry:

That I do the themes too often (bears again?)
That the themes are offensive or hurtful to feelings in any way
(holidays? too gender biased?)

That, by the time the program rolls around that I  NO LONGER want to do that theme. Maybe I found an awesome new book I can't share because it doesn't fit the theme, or maybe I'm just tired of it (I have been at this quite some time).

That the kids rarely CARE what the theme is. Yes, Captain America storytime sounds awesome. Enter the pressure to make that storytime just that: awesome. I can tell you that sometimes parents (and kids) confuse "awesome" program themes with paid events. For example, I have had sad faces that Captain America did not come in to read stories or that the kids would not actually be doing anything the "real" Captain America would be doing (like hitting things with movie prop sheilds?) Who knows.

I don't need the pressure. And I sure as heck never want to take the focus away from what is really important: the storytime itself. It's not what it's called on a flyer. It's storytime, and it is hugely important in the early years. Even if you don't care about literacy (GASP, I can't believe I just said that), it is such a great preparer for preschool and kindergarten.
Rant over, I swear.

So, the new year began with the themeless storytimes, and SO FAR SO GOOD!

Here is what I love:
I can read anybook I want to.
I can make any craft I want to.
I can perform any action songs I want to.
See a pattern?

Above is a blurry photo of last night's storytime. (Sorry 'bout that. It looked great on my phone). We call night storytimes "Pajama Storytime" and encourage the kids to come in pajamas and to bring a stuffed animal. It's usually more low key than morning storytime, because it's late. I try to do something with the "friends" the kids bring along. Hap Palmer's Teddy Bear Playtime is great for that.

I chose all of these stories because I was feeling snow. Not six months ago, but this week. And I wanted to make something to use up a bag of cotton balls. Voila!
This image is from Pinterest,
And here is mine. Easy, peasy.

I figure the amount of stress saved by the lack of themes is really quite high. I wonder what I'll be feeling for next week's morning storytime?