Monday, October 31, 2016

Review: Frank and Lucky Get Schooled by Lynne Rae Perkins

From the "Meh - I'll read it but I don't know if I'll like it enough to review it" category to the "Laughing out loud and reading every other page to the person next to you" we have:


In fact, I somehow ended up with two copies of this title, and I am absolutely keeping one of them for my own library!

On a rainy day, Frank’s parents take him to the shelter to get a new dog. That’s how Frank finds Lucky, and from that moment on, they’re inseparable. As Frank and Lucky venture out into the world around them, they discover they both have a lot to learn. Exploring their neighborhood teaches them about biology: Lucky learns all about squirrels, deer, and—unfortunately for Frank—skunks. Sharing a bed teaches them about fractions—what happens when one dog takes up three-quarters of the bed, or even the whole thing? They even learn different languages: Frank makes a friend who speaks Spanish and Lucky tries to learn Duck! Who knew you could learn so much without ever setting foot inside a classroom?

I was hooked from the first lines: 

"One day when Frank could not win for losing, he got Lucky. And one day when Lucky was lost and found, he got Frank."

The first sentence is illustrated with pictures of Frank having a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day. The second is illustrated with a lost dog in the middle of traffic, saved by a kindly police officer, but then scared and alone in a cage. As a family involved with animal rescue, this immediately hit home. In fact, that second copy may have to go towards a fund raiser of some sort. Maybe.

Frank and Lucky are wonderful friends, and this book is all about the things they do and learn together (they are both, after all, young pups, with much to learn.) There is science*, reading, history, and math:

"It's shedding season. Is the amount of hair a dog sheds in one week;
a) > (more than)
b) < (less than)
c) = (equal to)
the amount of hair the dog started out with?

The answer is "a >." (More than. Much more than.)

How much hair does the dog have left? The same amount as before."

It is hiLARious all the way through, and sweet, and I can't believe how much actual information and vocabulary is imparted so seamlessly!

Did I mention I loved this book? I loved this book.

Maybe I'll just keep both copies.

*TEENSY tiny criticism: tomato juice does nothing for skunk spray. Use Woolite. Trust me.

***This book has been nominated for the Cybils Awards, and I am a first-round panelist in this category. There are many other panelists, and many MANY other great nominees, so a good or bad review here does not necessarily predict placement on the shortlist. 

Friday, October 28, 2016

Family Fright Night 2016

I know some libraries don't celebrate Halloween - or any holidays, for that matter - but to me, having something for everyone means celebrating any holiday that we can fit into the schedule*. Plus, you know - there's candy!

Fright Night is always one of my favorite events of the year, but attendance has been dwindling - just twenty-some kids and parents last year. Of course, we were competing with a trunk or treat that time, so I planned for about 40 this year.

Then I saw on Facebook that 44 people were coming, with many more interested. So I quickly upped supplies to 100.

My volunteers arrived around 5:30, and I showed them the games and crafts they would manage (spread through two rooms and the lawn outside). I took a few pictures of kids (and grown-ups) in costumes, perusing the shelves,

This is not a staged photo, I swear! These are some of my most voracious readers!

 Then started ushering people into the room to grab snacks and find seats. I waited on the decorated stage to start on our scary stories.

How to hide a TV.

and a shelf!

And waited. And waited. Just as I was thinking the line was surely coming to an end, my coworker came in and told me it was stretching through the children's room and out the door.


This is where flexibility is an important part of being a children's librarian. I made my way back out, climbed up on a chair, and announced that we would be dividing the crowd into two groups. Those already in the room would listen to scary stories while the rest started on games, then we would switch.

This was my first group:

They were awesome! It was crowded and getting warm, but they listened to three stories (I decided that was our limit, and skipped the Monster Hokey Pokey entirely because someone would have lost a limb).

We started with:

Just Say Boo!

Totally cute, nothing scary. The kids helped me yell "Boo!" throughout.

Then I pulled up some volunteers for:

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything

We had boots for one child to "clomp, clomp," pants for another to "wiggle, wiggle", etc. Here's a picture one of the moms got:

This group ended with:

Out of print

A little bit scary, and a little bit long, so they were ready to switch with the other group. I wasn't sure how the switch would work - the crafts were all in the same room as the stories, so the first group got busy at those, and would the second group even care about stories at this point?

I guess so! Also great listeners, but since the room was a bit noisy at that point, we just read two stories. They helped me with "Just Say Boo!" again, then we read:

Out of print

This title is older than any of the kids, and possibly their parents. I borrowed a black stuffed cat (thanks Amanda!) to point to, and pretend it was staring at me like Old Tom. 

Then everyone dispersed to games and crafts, and I cannot thank my volunteers enough!! Ma'ayan, an adult patron I have never even met, responded to a Facebook plea and kept the crafts from getting out of control. We had:

Magic Paintings

Pictures and messages in white crayon, on white cover stock. When you paint over them, the picture/message magically appears! Positioned next to the sink, for easy clean-up.

Pumpkin Buddies

Using leftover play clay from Toddler STEM two weeks ago (using the cream of tarter/cook on the stove method). About 20 cups of flour lasted the whole night. I colored the water first, and added gold glitter at the end.

This was popular with adults, too!

Two crafts on the opposite wall, which didn't require as much intercession, were:

Make a Treat Bag

Great for using up leftover scraps and eyeballs!

Mask Making

I found these at It's Always Autumn. And I am never making full face masks again, because with half masks I can just punch the eyes out using a circle punch like this one.

If they would only make one with a longer arm, to reach inside bigger masks! Other staff member (thanks, Lisa and Donna!) cut the masks out beforehand, and I set them out with markers, hole punches, and yarn.

I think they were a hit!

Also in that room, a simple guessing game:

The winner was Benjamin E. - he guessed 413, and the answer was 457. Mom says they may have to share the candy! Next to it I had a list of the games and crafts, so people could make sure they weren't missing anything.

Last (for this room) but not least, drinks and snacks:

Learning from past events, I had a reminder sign:

and duplicate bowls of most items stashed in the closet. That worked out perfectly when I switched groups (and thank-you Bonnie and others for helping with that - Bonnie is a coworker who voluntarily stayed two hours late once she saw the huge crowd, so she could help out!) I didn't see much waste (which you are going to have with excited kids, it just happens), but we still went through every scrap of food. Even the cauliflower bits!

I usually keep wrappers by the sink for parents with allergy concerns, but that takes up so much space. This time I got smart and just posted the pertinent information nearby:

Out in the Children's Room, we had three games. I would not have been able to do any without volunteers!

Professor Snape (known as Gabe to Muggles) ran the spider races:

This picture doesn't do him justice, he REALLY looked like Snape!

Two players on opposite ends, you use a straw to blow your spider across the opposite line before the other person. Winner gets a treat from a treat bucket.

Snape's sister, the lovely Ellie, ran the Ghostie Guess. Dum-dums wrapped in tissue to look like ghosts, poked into a pyramid like this one. In fact, I think that is the exact lollipop tree. The tip of each sucker stem was colored red, green, or purple, and kids had to guess what color it would be before they pulled it. If they were right, they got an extra treat. Either way, they got to keep the sucker! I didn't get any pictures of that, but here we have the lovely Ellie:

who actually always dresses something like this, and who puts her outfits together from thrift shop finds or makes them herself. I want to be her when I grow up. 

And this is her staff, made from an (upside down) tree:

Isn't that gorgeous?!

 Mr. Cliff wasn't quite a volunteer, but he rearranged his schedule to come in and run the Trick or Treat game:

He always has the most fabulous costumes!

Two sides of the die said "treat", and if you landed there, you automatically got a treat. If it said "trick", however...

You might find yourself proposing to a stuffed animal. Or singing a song. Or spelling your name while hopping on one foot.

Or waving your hands over your head and saying, "I am a robot monkey talking to you in my robot voice" (name that book!)

Finally, outside, run by the Safar Family, we had pumpkin golf:

The balls were light-up eyeballs, which was a good thing when it got dark. (Note to self: flood lights next year!)

Having enough volunteers enabled me to roam around with the treat bags, making sure everything was running okay all over, and taking (a very few) pictures of costumes. Here are the ones I managed to snap:

Almost a year old, her mommy grew up here at the library! (Wait...does that make me old?)

Pretty and scary. Perfect combination for a young lady.

Totally impressed by the whole thing.

Love, love, love. I almost didn't recognize either one of them, and they come into the library all the time! She is always very quiet and serious, so she had the stern cop thing down pat!


You! Shall! Not! Pass!!!

I love seeing more and more adults dress up, too.

She commented, "I like arts and crafts". I can see that!

Raising up the next generation!

Having an overtired Mickey meltdown, but still cute.

Gah! Cutest. Spidergirl. Ever.

What does the fox...make with clay?

There were so many more I didn't get shots of, but that's okay. I had fun, I think everyone else had fun, and I think we coped with the unexpected crowd (final count was around 250!) pretty well. Huge thanks again to those I already mentioned, to the moms who helped refill drinks and snacks, and to Lisa and Jason who helped clean up! Pumpkins are roasting in the oven, expect snacks in the staff lounge very soon!

*Hey, if you're local and there's a holiday you would like us to design a program around, come see me! I would LOVE to do something with Diwali or Purim, for example, but I'm a bit clueless myself.