Friday, October 31, 2014

Family Fright Night 2015

One of our biggest events every year is our Family Fright Night. I know some libraries shy away from Halloween in favor of general harvest themes, and of course you do whatever fits your community - but, we do Halloween big time! 

As I have been telling kids in story time, this is the start of my favorite holiday season, in large part because of all the food possibilities. For Halloween, we tried to balance out the sweet with some 


poison apples (organic, provided by a local orchard)

carrot cupcakes (made with applesauce - we have a LOT of apples this year!)

toasted skin squares,

brain chunks,

sliced hearts,

frost-bitten toes,

pumpkin poop,

moldy fingers,

ribs and earwax,

dried hair tossed with bile,

and rotten teeth,

all provided by our friend Jack, here.

Your choice of human or vampire blood to wash it down.

I have learned to spread the tables out a bit, to alleviate bottle-necking. There wasn't much left in the end, to the disappointment of the staff, who usually get leftovers the next day!

Of course, we still had candy. As each child was leaving, they got a bag of toys and a handful of candy. I wanted to give the parents the chance to steer them towards age-appropriate candy, but since some of them (parents, not kids), don't seem to get the concept of ONE HANDFUL, I will just include it with the bags next year. Sigh.

The blank spot was for items for the local food bank, and it was filled! Anyone who brought a canned good got to pick something from our special treasure chest:

a few decorations and costumes donated by a local store after Halloween last year.

I kept decorations simple this year, because there was a lot going on - including our baby program at noon the same day, and my new desk arriving, which entailed tearing everything down and getting it hooked back up again!

A simple graveyard scene, which I told stories from, and crafts:

These squish bags were a huge hit! About a half cup of hair gel (from the dollar store) in a baggie, add some eyeballs and foamie shapes, and seal with packing tape.

Blank monster faces with facial features, markers, yarn, and glue.

Candy corn people made with torn paper scraps.

There were also two games:

Mr. Cliff took charge of this one. Blindfolded kids had to put his organs in the right spots, which resulted in some pretty silly arrangements!

Clara, my volunteer teen extraordinaire, supervised kids ringing the ghosties (water bottles, which don't tip over too easily).

I didn't give prizes for games, so everyone could play as many times as they wanted, but we didn't have a group getting manic about cleaning us out of plastic spider rings. Would you believe one family actually got up and left when I said we were just doing the goodie bags/handful of candy? Since they were the same ones who were filling their bags from the snack table, I didn't try to coax them back in.

Once we got started, I didn't get nearly the number of pictures I wanted, because it was PACKED! So many cute costumes I wanted to photograph, too. 

There were three skeletons in a row, biggest to smallest, but they couldn't stand still.

These guys understood the 'handful' idea - all the kids and parents I photographed did, I'm not into public shaming:)

Zombie cop! Since I was dressed as a zombie, too, I was happy to see him.

Another adorable young lady, and you can see the pile of cans in the background.

Too cute!

Vampire with an attitude (or sore teeth).

One of three pink Batgirls.

She made this herself! I have been hearing about it all week, and was happy to see the finished product.

Cuteness overload!


Superman was definitely the costume of the year, I saw at least four.

The ruffles!!!

Pirate Clara with the ring toss.

Thank-you, Miss Laura, for helping distribute tape at the squish bag table! I had no idea it would be such a smash hit!

I would say this was from too much excitement, but this is how he...

and she...looked all the way through my story reading. I guess I won't take it TOO personally.

Meanwhile, some other little boy was more intent on squishing intestines into the carpet. Whose little monster is that, anyway?

And then there was the cutest witch ever.

I just...I can't...melting!!!

And, when Sheridan (Fancy Nancy) sighed that "It wasn't fair", because Logan could fly, and Shane could probably fly, she couldn't, Logan sweetly replied, "But you're BYOOtiful!"

And she was! 

I didn't get a picture of Christopher (Abraham Lincoln), which was a shame, because people made a point of telling me how much they liked his costume - just the fact that he was a president, rather than a superhero, tickled some.

The strangest thing, though...are you ready? Have you noticed already?





I think everyone had fun, and next year we will try to get more adult volunteers and spread out to the children's room, maybe do a couple things outside. 

I hope everyone has a great night tonight - remember, you can trick or treat at City Hall and the Library during the day, too - and don't forget, Miss Ami is working tomorrow, and will be happy to take some candy off your hands, if you get too much!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Review: Beetle Boy, by Margaret Willey

Beetle Boy

When he was seven, Charlie Porter never intended to become the world's youngest published author. He just wanted his father to stop crying. So he told him a story about a talking beetle—a dumb little story his mother made up to make him feel better. (That was before she left and feeling "better" became impossible.) But Charlie's story not only made his father stop crying. It made him start planning. The story became a book, and then it became school events and book festivals, and a beetle costume, and a catchphrase—"I was born to write!"

Because of the story, Charlie stayed seven until he was ten. And then it all ended. Or it should have. Now Charlie is eighteen, and the beetles still haunt his dreams. The childhood he never really had is about to end . . . but there's still a chance to have a story of his own. Beetle Boy is a novel of a broken family, the long shadow of neglect, and the light of small kindnesses.

Last year, I reviewed Four Secrets, Willey's earlier YA novel. That one was told in several different voices, and Willey did a fantastic job of making them distinct individuals.

This one is completely from the perspective of the main character. And, what a story! Charlie is currently laid up at his girlfriend, Clara's apartment with a torn Achilles tendon. Clara is very sweet, but her background makes it impossible for her to believe she can't mend Charlie's fractured family relationships while he is waiting for his leg to heal. As the reader, we not only get the raw story of charlie's history, shown in well-placed flashbacks, but we are privy to his very Freudian beetle dreams. It is easy to become emotionally involved with Charlie as he works to come to some sort of terms with his past and his relationships. There is no nice, neat ending, but a sense of a life finally beginning, if that doesn't sound too hokey. 

No gifting suggestions, because this just isn't that kind of book (although we joked about a gift certificate for therapy sessions). Still a great book to give someone who likes character-driven novels, or meaty stories delivered gradually. 

A list of adjectives I just pulled from other Beetle Boy reviews: "wrenching", "riveting", "potent", "painful", "demanding", "riveting (again)",  "traumatic", "emotional", "powerful" get the picture! Obviously one which has had an effect on its readers already.

Monday, October 27, 2014

58 Shopping Days Left! Review: Our Great States - What's Great About New Mexico? by Jenny Fretland VanVoorst

What's Great about New Mexico?

As a librarian, I am always looking for just the right set of state books. I'm not asking for much - just plenty of interesting, accurate information, presented in a way that is both accessible and useful to a wide variety of grade levels. Oh, and with great photographs. And not too expensive. That's all.

Accuracy is one of the most important requirements, of course, and what better way to check the series than to look at your own state first? I happened to pick this up just as we were gearing up for the local balloon invitational, so the cover grabbed my attention right away. It is nice to see a book about New mexico that doesn't automatically bring out the stereotype of cacti and cowboys, too. 

The opening pages give a basic map (hey, look, there I am at that yellow dot, waving at you!), mention of some 'star attractions', the state nickname woven in, and the ubiquitous red chilis.

Following are ten places the author felt "make New Mexico great". While I can certainly think of more, there was a wide variety, spread throughout the state. Each gets a two-page spread, with an outline map showing the approximate location. More of a travel guide than a research source, it does have a page of quick facts in the back, glossary, index, and resources for more information.

While this wouldn't be a good primary source for a report, I found it to contain accurate and interesting information. I will be adding the series to our collection as funding allows, but will still use a couple other series for the school assignments, and 'sell' these as good extra material.

Gifting suggestions: This series would be an awesome way to start exploring your own state (or one that you might be visiting/moving to soon). An obvious gift would be a promise to visit one or more of the places listed - or maybe a promise to visit all ten within the next year! 

What foods are associated with your state? Try some new recipes and have a fun day preparing a meal for the whole family together. For New Mexico that could mean biscochitos, tamales, or chile rellenos (all of which my spell check says don't exist).

How about crafts? Retablos, Ojos de Dios, pottery (Note: I was super pleased to see the Native American peoples of NM spoken of as separate peoples, not all lumped together, and to see that they are not just treated as historic peoples who no longer exist. If you decide to delve into the Native American crafts of your state, please be sensitive to the fact that, regardless of what you may see in tourist traps, some crafts are actually an expression of their religion. Treating sand painting, for example, as a fun arts and crafts project, is something like treating a rosary as a piece of costume jewelry. Just say no.)

Are there other places in your state that your child thinks should be included? Package this book with a blank, bound book and a digital camera, and go visit them - then make your own guidebook to share with visiting friends and family!

***This is a brand-spankin-new series, and it is coming out in waves. A second chunk is due in February of 2015, so don't lose heart if you can't find your state just yet - that doesn't mean they couldn't find anything great there!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Another Halloween Intermission! Review: I am a Witch's Cat by Harriet Muncaster

I Am a Witch's Cat

There are very few times when you can get away with calling your mother a witch, but as this adorable kitty says, "I know my mom is a witch because she keeps lots of strange potion bottles in the bathroom that I am not allowed to touch." Mommy can also magic away hurts, and when she and her friends get together they cackle. Must be true! And what is more fun than being a good witch's cat? 

We looooooove Halloween here, at home and at the library, and I am always happy to find a new read-aloud. This one is going to the top of the list. Kids and parents will enjoy the sweet text, and the illustrations - photographs of a mixture of "paper, fabric, and mixed media" - are fantastic. I wanted to reach though and touch Mommy Witch's fuzzy scarf. You could have a great time with a little on on your lap, picking out which parts of the pictures are 'real', and which parts are drawings.

Definitely one to add to your collection!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

63 Shopping Days Left! Review: Mr. Tweed's Good Deeds by Jim Stoten

Mr. Tweed's Good Deeds

Mr. Tweed sets out on his afternoon stroll but soon finds some friends in need. Before you know it, everyone is calling upon Mr. Tweed's kind eye and generosity. Come to his aid and help him find what they are looking for! Hidden in pages of vibrant color and detailed illustrations lie objects waiting to be discovered! 

Well...if you are at all connected with children in any way, I do not have to tell you that seek-and-find books are popular. New copies quickly become dog-eared, and even though I automatically order multiple copies, i find myself having to replace them frequently.

Most don't come with much of a story, though, which sets this one apart slightly. A few phrases betray Stoten's London roots ("over the page"), and I found myself reading it in a mental British accent, but it's perfectly understandable. The hidden pictures are a little on the easy side, but not so much so that there is no challenge. Just right for Sheridan, and even Logan can spot a few (when he isn't distracted by everything else going on in the scene). A good addition to our collection, and I look forward to seeing more from this publisher (Flying Eye Books).

Some gifting keeping with the puzzle theme, include a book of puzzles, or these cute story cards

(Sheridan has a different set of eeBoo story cards, and they are very well made, sturdy and just the right size for small hands.)

Plan a scavenger hunt throughout your house for one of those still-on-Christmas-break-and-driving-me-crazy days.

Go with the good deed angle instead, and plan a day to run around town, doing good deeds. Brainstorm a list of things you can do that won't break the bank or take all day, like paying for someone's meal at the drive-through, dropping off treats at the animal shelter, or hanging out at the Bountiful Baskets pick-up with your cart, and carrying everyone's baskets to their cars for them. What a fun way to spend the day together! (Don't forget to bring cookies to your favorite library staff!)

Monday, October 20, 2014

65 Shopping Days Left! Review: Malala Yousafzai by Matt Doeden

Malala Yousafzai: Shot by the Taliban, Still Fighting for Equal Education

Who isn't fascinated by this articulate and determined young lady? I don't review too many biographies, but I was eager to read this one.

The attack on Yousafzai and other actions by the Taliban are not a topic you can address by glossing it over, and Doeden never seeks to do so. At the same time, these events are presented simply and straightforwardly, surrounded by more positive events in Yousafzai's life, so that the overall tone is one of hope and encouragement. The support she has always received from her parents, as well as the example they have shown her, give a clear indication of how she became the person she is. There is much fodder for discussion here. 

The photographs were interesting, but the pull-out quotes - often placed right next to the same sentences in the text body - were more distracting than anything. A good introduction for someone who is not ready for her whole autobiography, and appropriate for those ubiquitous read-a-biography-and-report-on-it assignments.

Gift accompaniments: Pledge a certain amount of money to a charity - The Malala Fund, or any other charity your reader chooses.
Books about other children who have stood up to make a difference:

or about Pakistan:


Books to go with a book? What a fantastic idea!