Friday, June 16, 2017

Summer Reading and Tall Paul

Magician Tall Paul is one of our perennial favorites. While his jokes are groaners for the adults, the kids are delighted by his antics (especially when they catch him 'cheating'!)

The temp was supposed to reach 107 today, but outside is really the only place we can fit more than 70 people - and as you can see, we had a few more than that:

I counted about 150, which is fortunately the approximate number of people our big shade tree will cover!

See that tarp back there? When I arrived this morning, the first thing I saw was a huge mound of dirt smack in the middle of the lawn. This dirt is for next week's Mud Day, and I was expecting it to be delivered...this afternoon. 

Good thing I know how to operate a shovel! I started carrying it bit by bit to the base of the tree, and a patron by the name of Joseph stopped to ask about our hours. He asked if I needed any help, and I told him thanks, but I only had one shovel. He went back to his house, grabbed his shovel, and came back to help! If anyone knows a Joseph with an Akita named Sophie, tell him thanks again for me!

We got enough moved that we could just toss a tarp over the rest, and everyone could see the show.

Especially if they sat on the pile!

As usual, he had the kids laughing pretty quickly.

 Then he started bringing up volunteers to help him out.

Most of my pictures of this one turned out blurry :( She had the perfect deadpan expressions to act as his foil!

This young man did a great job, even as the magic wands grew bigger...

...and bigger...

...and then he had to hold them all at once!

He's in there somewhere!

He finally got some help.

But the next volunteer broke his favorite wand!

I literally snorted when the wand magically went limp in her hand, and she immediately hid it behind her back.

Fortunately, the show went on, and everyone seemed to survive the heat. In fact, many people grabbed their lunch inside, and brought it right back out to eat on the grass! I hope everyone had at least as much fun as I did watching the kids giggle and shriek.

Now...back to shoveling dirt.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Teen Cafe: Blind Taste Tests

I'm never sure how many teens I will get for the first program of the summer, so I try to plan something that has a good draw, but will work with 2 kids or 50. Food is generally a safe bet!

Have you ever wondered what companies are thinking when they label certain food flavors? As in, just because you make your medicine red, that does not mean it is "cherry flavored", people! (Have these guys ever eaten an actual cherry?!)

Of course, back in MY day, there were Oreos, or there were Oreos. Double Stuff and Chocolate Oreos were a huge uptick in variety. Now, you can find them in just about any flavor you can think of.

And don't even get me started on Pringles! You had your original or your cheddar cheese, buddy, that was it. Kids these days are so spoiled...

Where was I going with that? Oh, yes! How do they choose these flavors, and do they REALLY taste like they say? We decided to find out with some blind taste tests.

Set-up is pretty easy - I just raided the shelves of the local grocery store. One package of each is plenty for a decent sized group. I also bought various drinks and some fresh strawberries to 'cleanse the palate'. (There was a subsequent discussion of how bread, fruit and cheese are used in other taste tests, and the pros and cons of each one. That disintegrated into dump buckets at wine tastings, and...well, we'll just stop there.)

All you have to do is number the appropriate number of plates and dump a package of each:

Then prepare answer sheets for each teen to fill out:

As you can see, for the chips they had to match the chip to the flavor. Pretty much everyone got the bacon and cheddar, chili lime, honey mustard, pickle, and salt and vinegar. NOBODY guessed cheesy Italian, ranch, or sour cream and onion - which I thought was interesting, since those are probably some of the most popular.

Speaking of popularity, while the honey mustard chips sent one young lady scrambling for the strawberries, they were the first to disappear completely. Salt and vinegar and dill pickle were close behind.

For the Oreos, I made them come up with a name all on their own. Smell and color were a big help, so these weren't as hard as the chips. There were only three that they had trouble with:

Cinnamon Roll - several people came up with almond, and I can see that. Everyone agreed that they were really good, whatever the name!
Cookies and Cream - I believe one suggestion was "alien type substance". To me, this is just a weird flavor. If you have a cake or a milkshake that is "cookies and cream" flavored, that means it has crushed up Oreos in it, right? So these are...Oreo flavored Oreos. They crushed up their cookies to make their cookies.
Peeps - Stumped everyone! Most common answer was "birthday cake", but my favorite response mirrored some of my friends' responses to Peeps themselves: 
"That is just...ugh!!! Whoever decided to put this on the market - I should, like, slap them or something!" (back to the strawberries)

Everyone seemed to have fun, and we ended with an informal discussion of what flavors we would like to see in an Oreo. The biggest hit was a pickle-flavored Oreo, which does not seem to exist as of yet (the things I Google after Teen Cafe...). I did find this list of somewhat unusual flavors - how many have you tried?

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Story Time: Boxes

No, I didn't drop off the face of the earth - I just started summer reading! This is NOT a time of year when librarians have time for such frivolous pursuits as blogging, laundry, sleeping, or eating. I did want to share a few of our story times with you, however, so here is this week's.

Like many libraries across the US, we are using the theme of "Build a Better World". This week we were building with boxes, and getting our imaginations warmed up for the weeks ahead. I used the same theme and roughly the same books for all ages this time around:

A lift-the-flap book, which means it won't survive on the shelves for very long. Great for audience interaction, though, and the kids' responses were both perfect and varied.

A board book, yes, but Patricelli's humor spans many ages. I introduced it by asking the parents in the room, "Have you ever asked each other, 'why do we even buy presents when all the want to play with is -'" and of course they all answered, "the box!" There happens to be a puppy inside this box, but the box itself is treated as the gift, which is pure awesomeness.

One of my FAVORITES growing up - although now I'd be with Christina's mother, in raptures over the new refrigerator. Yep, I'm officially old! Not so old that I don't still feel the urge to hit up the appliance store trash bin, though...

For the older kids, I added this one, after a short discussion of the phrases "thinking outside the box" and "putting someone in a box."

A little more abstract, it delves (briefly) into boxes as places of safety or confinement, mysteries or magic.

In between books, we looked at mystery boxes I had made up with riddles about what was inside. Some were super easy ("You wear me on your head and I rhyme with cat."), to medium ("You have to break me in order to use me"), to one that stumped the super-smart older kids ("I can be stinky when I am alive, but I smell good when I am dead.")*

For our craft, of course, we needed to make something with a box. We will be doing something with big boxes later in the summer (pleasedon'trainpleasedon'train), so we used little boxes this week. My wonderful patrons and friends have been saving me their cereal and pasta boxes for weeks! Another staff member helped me wrap them all in plain paper, and I set them out with markers, glue, scissors, and scrap paper.

After stories, I pointed out how empty our stage area was, and told them I needed their help building a 'world'. We talked about what buildings might be in a town, and I let them loose from there. It was funny, one group became obsessed with hotels, while another was very animal-conscious. Some chose to keep their finished product, but there were more than enough for a multi-layer village by the end of the week:

Hindsight: If I had left the tops open, I could have reached in and stapled each one to the wall, easy peasy. Instead, this is the result of a LOT of tape, both packing and masking, some staples, and one total collapse. I think it is secure now. Except for that white one on top, which is flipped over. Sigh.

Here are some close-ups:

Vets for Pets! Catchy!

One of several libraries - and the only one with it spelled correctly ;)

Brown one on the left: "Mountain View Dental and Orthodontics. When you smile, we smile!" (Why, yes, my dentist's children were in attendance, how did you guess?)

Cute kitty...and upside down Game Stop.

Notice that the theater at the bottom is ONLY showing "Hamilton"!

After church you can run by the bank and then get a dog. Or a pizza. Your call.

I love the pets in all the windows of the Pet Hotel, sleeping or barking! I idea about the Torture Chamber. He's really a very sweet little boy. 

Is that the Lincoln Memorial at the top right? Impressive.

Fun start to our summer! They all came up with such different, detailed ideas - I can't wait to see what they do next!

* a hat, an egg, and a pig. Because - bacon!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Review: The Summer of Bad Ideas by Kiera Stewart

If your upper elementary/middle school reader is looking for the perfect summer read, I have it right here!


In this funny, big-hearted friendship story, perfect for fans of Wendy Mass and Linda Urban, twelve-year-old Edie and her impossibly cool cousin, Rae, set out to complete a mysterious list of “Good Ideas for Summertime” that their eccentric late grandmother wrote back when she was their age.
But good ideas? Most of them seem like bad ideas. Reckless. Foolish. Ridiculous. Still, by accomplishing everything on the list, rule-abiding Edie feels certain that she can become the effortlessly brave adventurer she dreams of being, just like her daring cousin and bold grandmother. For this one summer at least, bad ideas are the best shot she has at becoming who she wants to be.

We've got friendship, we've got personal growth, we've got family relationships, we've got a cute boy, mystery, adventure, fried pickles, and testudinal conversations! 

While many themes are familiar to other coming-of-age stories, the twists they take sometimes mirror Edie's attempts at completing the list, giving this a freshness that the genre needs. Grab it for your library now, and expect to see it on a few awards lists down the road!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Review: Splinter by Sasha Dawn


Sixteen-year-old Sami hasn't seen her mother in ten years—and neither has anyone else. The police suspect Sami's father had something to do with her mom's disappearance, but Sami's never believed that. Her mother chose to abandon her and start a new life. It's that simple. 

But now, evidence has emerged about another missing woman who used to be involved with Sami's dad. Coincidence—or evidence that the cops have been right all along? 

As Sami investigates, she's forced to question everything she thought she knew about the dad who's always been there for her and the mother who supposedly abandoned her. And if her dad didn't kill her mother, what did happen? 

This psychological crime thriller has plenty of second-guessing and red herrings to keep readers engrossed. I figured out a certain character's involvement WAY before the main character did - and told my dental hygienist so rather forcefully while reading it in their office (it's okay, they already think I'm crazy). It's sometimes hard to have perspective on things that are close to you, however, so that part was realistic. 

Also keeping things real were the flawed characters and multiple teen issues Sami had to deal with along with the actual mystery. Sami's continual self-doubt and coming to terms with the truth added to the plausibility. The sudden coincidental coming together of all the clues, complete with requisite cute-boy-next-door may turn off the hard-core mystery fans, but all in all an enjoyable, fast-paced read!

The one thing I did not get...where in the world did the title come from??? I was waiting for a split personality or something to emerge, but if there was a reference that makes the title word important, it was too subtle for me.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Review: Fancy Party Gowns: the Story of Fashion Designer Ann Cole Lowe, by Deborah Blumenthal and Laura Freeman


I had never heard of Ann Cole Lewis before reading this book, which was kind of the point. Despite creating such iconic dresses as Jackie Kennedy's wedding gown, she remained an unknown figure most of her life, struggling financially: because she was African American. 

I am not terribly interested in fashion myself - my idea of getting fancy is wearing black jeans instead of regular blue denim. I am, however, interested in people doing what brings them joy, and in stories of people not giving up despite huge setbacks. This story brings both of those things in spades - and pretty dresses to boot! I may not like to wear dresses often, but I don't mind looking at pretty ones, and Lewis created some masterpieces.

Check out this beautiful debutante gown:

and head over to Zena Martin's blog, while you are at it, for a great deal more information about Lowe AND a yummy brownie recipe. Because everything is made better with a brownie recipe.

Blumenthal's book is just the right amount of information for a class read-aloud, however, and Freeman's illustrations make you want to find a party you can wear one of those dresses to. Struggles and injustices are not glossed over at all, but the prevailing theme is of perseverance and enjoying what you do. An excellent addition to any library.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Review: Kids 30 Seconds series from Quarto (distributed through Lerner)

I have noticed over the years in evaluating and weeding the nonfiction section that, while kids are still very interested in nonfiction subjects, it is hard to get them to read the thicker books with a lot of text. They tend to want things broken up into chunks and presented in an entertaining style. It can be hard to find books that balance the presentation kids look for with the substance parents and teachers want, but I think Quarto has done a great job with these.


No, you aren't going to learn everything there is to know about space in 30 seconds. What you can get, however, is an introduction into The Big Bang, Types of Stars, Jupiter, or many other subtopics in a two-page spread. Each also includes a 3-second sum-up (No aliens have been found...yet.), and some include a 3 minute mission with some really great activity suggestions (Imagine you are designing an image to be beamed out into the universe to make contact with alien life forms. What information would you include? How would you show it? Aliens will not understand English. Think about symbols, signs, and images that could show them humans, the Earth, and its place in the universe.)

The series also includes:
The Human Brain in 30 Seconds
Oceans in 30 Seconds
Inventions in 30 Seconds
Earth in 30 Seconds
Science Ideas in 30 Seconds
The Human Body in 30 Seconds
Weather in 30 Seconds

The illustrations are bright and colorful, in cartoon form but accurate where needed, and the binding is ready to stand up to heavy usage. I can see these being a hit for browsing students, as well as a super fun addition to a home schooling curriculum!