Posted in geek, geek culture, Middle Grade, programs, Tween Reads

I had a BookPop! party and it was great!

Quirk Books is a… well, quirky, fun book publisher that has a comic book writer and former YA librarian in their ranks, spreading the good word. It’s pretty awesome, because now, my library gets to do things like have a gallery dedicated to horror paperbacks of the ’70s and ’80s (Paperbacks From Hell), and have a mini pop culture con for my kiddos and tweens.

First up, my Paperbacks From Hell gallery, in my teen section. It’s garnering some looks, some chuckles, and some conversations: “What the hell is that?” “That is a giant gila monster. And watch your mouth.” (The display is in the teen area, but you know, little pitchers, big ears). The teens are pretty baffled, the grownups get a kick out of it, and it just makes me happy.

Next up, BookPop: Quirk’s traveling pop culture fest, happening in libraries and bookstores all over the place. I held mine late, because I thought it would be the perfect program to hold when the kids were out of school; last Thursday – since most of the families in my community don’t observe Rosh Hashanah – was the day. Quirk sent me a box o’swag, including ET: The Extra-Terrestrial tattoos (not in the picture: those babies were GONE); posters of the new kids’ books, X-Files: Children are Weird, and the YA novel My Best Friend’s Exorcism; and a spiffy tote bag to put everything in. I downloaded Quirk’s Geek Guides for putting on a great day of programming, and was ready.

First program of BookPop! Day was Superhero Storytime. I had a handful of kiddos and their parents attend, and we made masks and Geek Family Crests when we were done. The kids loved the masks – I downloaded some blank templates from First Palette, handed out scissors, markers, crayons, and lanyard to tie the masks, and the kids loved it. One little one even wore her mask through the next program…

Nick and Tesla’s Science Workshop. The Nick and Tesla books are tons of fun and loaded with STEM experiments, but I wanted something that even my littler ones could do. Enter, bubbles. I told the kids that Nick and Tesla are a brother-sister team that solve mysteries and get out of trouble by creating great science projects, and that we were going to learn about surface tension, and the difference between bubbling your milk and bubbling water with a little dish soap in it. I had a gallon-sized tub filled with water, gave out droppers, straws, and cups, and we bubbled away. Then, I had one of the kids add a cup of plain old liquid dish soap, and they all took turns stirring it. I spread some water on the table and demonstrate how to blow a table bubble, and that was all the kids needed. Look at these bubbles!

The entire table, at one point, was covered in bubbles. They loved it, I loved it, and they want more fun science programming, so win, all around. Next up was…

The Miss Peregrine Photo Workshop. Originally, I planned this for my teen patrons, but they weren’t interested – I had a group of tweens, though, who were all over it. We talked about the movie, I showed them the books, and brought out the equipment: photos I printed onto card stock from a Miss Peregrine-inspired Pinterest board (search on “vintage weird” and I guarantee you won’t be sorry), lots of paper towel, a spray bottle full of coffee, and two containers of coffee and tea. The kids loved aging their photos, and I was amazed by their creativity: one girl laid a paper towel over her photo to give it more texture as the coffee seeped through, and another tore the borders of her photo to make it look even older.

When I told them I wanted to create a photo gallery of their work, they all donated the photos to the library! So today, we have “Queensboro Hill’s Library for Outstanding Children” (forgive the glare, I laminated the photos so they wouldn’t deteriorate further):

I handed swag bags out for most of the day, and everything went except for one tote, two X-Files posters, and a handful of My Best Friend’s Exorcism posters, which will all be prizes for future programs. One kid couldn’t even wait to get home: he gave himself an ET tattoo sleeve, which was pretty fabulous.

I’d call our Queensboro Hill BookPop! a success.

Advertisements
Posted in Adventure, Fiction, geek, Humor, Middle Grade, Puberty, Tween Reads

Win at Life! Insert Coin to Continue

insert-coinInsert Coin to Continue, by John David Anderson, (Sept. 2016, Aladdin), $16.99, ISBN: 9781481447041

Recommended for ages 9-13

Bryan Biggins is a middle school kid who’s obsessed with his favorite video game, Sovereign of Darkness, and obsessed with finding the secret advanced level of play once he beats the game. Time and again. His friends try to tell him to give it up, but Bryan’s not having it; sure enough, one night, he thinks he’s accessed the secret level, but the game just shuts off. When he wakes up the next morning, he’s discovered that his life is the new level! He’s got stats, and more importantly, he gains and loses HP (health points, hit points). People at school are talking to him weirdly, like the teacher that sends him on a quest to get a Twinkie from the teacher’s lounge, past a group of dieting teachers. What happens if all his hit points are used up – or worse, if he runs out of coins to continue? Is this the way the rest of his life is going to go?

This is one of those books that’s too much fun to read and booktalk. A kid wakes up living his own videogame, but the videogame is life as we know it? That’s perfect class trip or reading group discussion material! Bryan is EveryKid, and his friends are fun, along for the ride. Bryan is center stage here, and that’s just fine, because he’s a funny, upbeat narrator that readers will like going on the adventure with. Give this to your gamers, display with C.J. Farley’s Game World, and the insane amount of Minecraft fiction that’s out there.

Posted in Fiction, geek, Guide, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

Holiday Book Shopping: Science and Tech

Books make fantastic holiday gifts! Need a stocking stuffer or are stumped by a kid who has seemingly everything? Try one of these!

I am guilty of favoring books in the STEM/STEAM areas, because that’s what I love evangelizing to my own kids and the kids at my libraries. Take a look – you don’t need to be a Stephen Hawking-in-the-making to enjoy these.

scratch-playgroundScratch Programming Playground, by Al Sweigart, (Oct. 2016, No Starch Press), $24.95, ISBN: 978-1593277628

Recommended for Ages 8-12

I love working with Scratch for young coders. It’s all about teaching kids how to computer code using interconnecting blocks of code, and the Scratch program, developed at MIT, is free and available online. Scratch Programming Playground walks kids (and grownups – I used this book extensively while putting together programs for this coming winter) through the process of learning Scratch by making cool games, like Fruit Slicer (a Fruit Ninja clone), Brick Breaker (where my ’80s friends at?), and Asteroid Breaker (Asteroids! Remember that one?). There are tons of full-color visuals and step-by-step breakdowns that will have kids programming in no time. I buy No Starch books for my libraries all the time – they’re great to have on hand.

 

how-things-workHow Things Work, by T.J Resler (Oct. 2016, National Geographic Kids), $19.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-2555-7

Recommended for ages 7-12

Know a kid who’s constantly taking everything apart to see how it works? This is the book for her or him. It’s loaded with gadgets and how they work; fun facts; in-depth pieces on technology and how it works; profiles of scientists and innovators, and yes, experiments that are totally safe to try at home (with adult supervision, please). Learn how a tablet really works, how an aquarium works to keep fish healthy and happy, even how a toilet works, complete with diagram. Design a roller coaster with your kids – it’s easier than you think! Because it’s a NatGeo Kids book, you know the writing is great; it speaks to kids in easy, clear, fun language that educates and never talks over their heads or down to them. The photos are amazing, and the dog on a surfboard (page 131) is worth the cost of the book all on its own.

science-encyclopediaScience Encyclopedia: Atom Smashing, Food Chemistry, Animals, Space, and More!, by National Geographic Kids, (Oct. 2016, National Geographic Kids), $24.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-2543-4

Recommended for ages 8-13

I know, it’s a NatGeo Kids lovefest right now, but it’s well-deserved. The Science Encyclopedia is info-packed with everything kids need to know about physical and life sciences, covering matter, energy, electronics, the universe, and more. There are record breakers, key dates in atomic science, and activities to try at home. Information is presented in 2-page spreads broken out into subject-specific blocks, with stunning photos, fun facts, and hilariously bad jokes (Where does bad light go? A prism!) A glossary, index, and additional resources round this volume out. Fantastic gift for any tween who wants to know more about everything.

 

These are all available now, either in your local bookstore or online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, or IndieBound.

Posted in geek, geek culture

Summertime programs: Captain America Turns 75

Summer Reading strikes fear into the hearts of librarians everywhere. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating, but it is the time of year when everything ramps up. Keeping the kids interested AND reading is a 24/7 job, and I have the Pinterest boards to prove it. Being a children’s librarian in my community, where I regularly have up to 100 kids in my room every day, Summer Reading was going to be a challenge this year. I decided to go with weekly themes, to switch it up, give myself some more programming variety, and celebrate some pop culture birthdays in the process.

readingrainbowNot actually my library.

Since NYC schoolkids are stuck in their 90+ degree classrooms until the bitter end of June, I start my Summer Reading programming in July. This year, what better way to kick it off than with Captain America’s birthday party? Cap turns 75 this year, and Steve Rogers’ birthday falls on July 4th. Talking this up to kids for the last month, between my after-school regulars and all the class trips that packed into the library those last few weeks of school, I was psyched by the reception it received. I wasn’t disappointed!

sohelpful

I turned to the Internet for help in making Cap’s birthday a blast. Luckily, last year’s superhero themed Summer Reading program meant that I still had my superhero photo booth masks, so I printed out a fresh set, laminated them, and the kids went nuts. I even had parents and kids showing up in costume, which had to be the biggest boost. They were really excited! We colored pictures, made paper plate Cap shields, and made little Cap figures out of wine corks.

The next day, I had a viewing of Captain America: The First Avenger. The next day, we had a craft: This is My City! Every superhero needs a city to protect, right? I’ve got a bunch of empty tablet boxes in my meeting room that were dying to be turned into a city for superheroes to protect. I was blown away by the kids’ creativity! I put out materials and superhero stickers, and they went to work. We had 99 cent stores, chocolate factories, and brightly colored apartment buildings. We had a great time, got to talk about graphic novels and books, and I felt pretty darn great about the kids in my community that day.

20160708_133848

Superhero training camp was up next, and I owe a huge debt of gratitude to many pinners on Pinterest for this. We began training camp by getting our superhero names, using the Superhero Name Generator; then, it was over to the table, where kids created their masks and emblems. Taking inspiration from The Little Sewing Shop and this Superhero Academy pin, I was able to put together a task list that would work in the library. I put down a masking tape maze that took my trainees through the stacks, and led them to a table, where a bunch of beanie babies awaited, behind a “brick” wall (more tablet boxes), to be rescued. Once the trainees rescued the beanie babies, they had to lift the Rock of Power (taped together wads of newspaper), and then bench press a 500 pound barbell (two balloons taped to three toilet paper rolls). Upon finishing their tasks, they received a Superhero Training Certificate.

Friday was the big finish: a Captain America & Friends treasure hunt, which is something I’ve instituted as a weekly thing here at the library. I take about 8-10 different pictures along a theme, number them and hide them throughout the children’s room, and create a key that I hand out to the kids. They have to find the pictures, write down the numbers for each one, and color a little spot in where I’ve colored the picture, so I know they’ve done the search. I’ve got tons of little prizes for these weekly hunts; Oriental Trading is great for individually bagged little crafts that kids love. I’ve included a link to the Cap treasure hunt pictures on my Google Drive, and here’s the link to the key. It looks wonky when you open it via Google Drive, but it looks fine in Word, so if you use it, try to open it in Word and see if that helps at all.

I had about 30-50 kids take part in the Captain America week’s festivities, which I consider a pretty big success; I had a lot of repeat kids, and I had some new kids, and everyone was really enthusiastic and got into the spirit of the week.

The next week was Spy Week – I’ll share that soon, and this week, I’ve got Harry Potter’s Wizard Week (Harry’s birthday is July 31st). Stay tuned!

Posted in geek, geek culture, Humor, Realistic Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Love at ComicCon: The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love

geek's guideThe Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love, by Sarvenaz Tash (June 2016, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), $17.99, ISBN: 9781481456531

Recommended for ages 13+

Sixteen year-olds Graham and Roxana are the best of friends, sharing a love of Harry Potter, comics, and all things geek. Lately, though, Graham has started feeling more than just friendship for Roxy. He’s decided that New York Comic Con is the place to declare his undying love to her, especially since Robert Zinc – the reclusive creator of their all-time favorite comic book,The Chronicles of Althena – is going to be there! AND there’s going to be a John Hughes retrospective! It’s the perfect romantic setting, right? Unfortunately, not everything goes as planned, and Graham realizes that what looks good on paper is often very different from what works in real life. But he also may learn that surprises show up in the most unusual places: like ComicCon.

This was the sweetest, wackiest YA romance I’ve read in ages. I loved all the comic and geek world references, and I’ll be the first to admit I kinda had a moment when I realized that the beloved John Hughes movies of my adolescence are now awesome retro movies to today’s teens. (I loved it, I just can’t comprehend that Andie and Blaine shared a prom kiss 30 years ago.) Graham is one of those good guys that you really want to see get a break, and his long-suffering buddy Casey is hilarious as the semi-clueless foil to Graham’s hopeless/helpless romantic. The characters didn’t feel like caricatures; they lived and breathed and interacted in the bookspace, which I appreciated.

Display and booktalk this one with Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl and, if you’re lucky enough to have scored a copy, her book, Kindred Spirits. If you’re having a comic con event at your library this summer, this is a perfect book to evangelize to the masses. For the burgeoning fangirls, make sure to put out a copy of Sam Maggs’ awesome Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy, so they can check out references to Firefly, The Princess Bride, and Harry Potter. Show some John Hughes movies, while you’re at it!

Sarvenaz Tash writes YA and middle grade books. Her author site has links to more information about them, plus links to social media, events, and news.

 

Posted in gaming, geek, Guide, Non-Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

Minecraft teaches kids Python, empowers future programmers

minecraftLearn to Program with Minecraft, by Craig Richardson (Dec. 2015, No Starch Press), $29.95, ISBN: 9781593276706

Recommended for ages 10+

The kids in my library are obsessed with Minecraft. From 2:30 on, as the kids storm the beachhead that is my children’s room, I hear shouts of, “Don’t touch my skin!”; “GET THE CREEPER! GET THE CREEPER!”; “OMG, get away from the Enderman!”; and “DIAMONDS!” I see the potential of Minecraft, and how it can be a fantastic tool to teach kids to create online worlds. I also, as a children’s librarian and mom of three boys, know that for the most part, they want to kill creepers and each other in some kind of 8-bit battle royale more often than not.

Books like Learn to Program with Minecraft are my gateway drug to programming with these kids. First, I get the fiction in (the GameKnight999 series by Mark Cheverton is available in English and Spanish, and they fly off my shelves), then I introduce coding programs like the Hour of Code, to show them how playing their game actually teaches them the building blocks of coding programs and apps of their own. Finally, I use part of my book-buying budget to buy coding nonfiction to keep around. I love DK’s coding books; those are especially great for my younger coders. My older kids need a little more, though, to keep them interested. That’s where the No Starch Books come in.

No Starch has great programming books for kids and teens, and Learn to Program with Minecraft is a solid addition to middle school and YA collecctions. A heads-up: you have to download Python to work with this book, but it’s a free programming language. Don’t be scared! The book will guide you along your Python/Minecraft journey, with screenshots and step-by-step bullets points that make creating much less stressful.

The book will help you create mini-games within Minecraft, take you on an automated teleportation tour around your Minecraft world, and teach you to make secret passageways. You’ll learn to make lava traps and cause floods, but be a good Minecraft citizen: no griefing.

I don’t quite have the Minecraft skills for this just yet, but I’m confident in my crafters here – I’ll be investing in this for my summer crowd, especially since we’ll be running a Google CS program here in a couple of months. Get kids to love programming, and watch what they come up with. I’m pretty psyched.