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Hello, Weenies (guest post by author David Lubar)

Happy Halloween! Or should I say, “Happy Halloweenies”.  Today, we bring you this special treat – a guest post by author David Lubar. Now you can’t play any tricks on us.  Enjoy this low calorie treat.  Sure it’s not chocolate, but it won’t go straight to your hips either.  But it will nourish your BRAAAIIINNNSSS so they are big and juicy when the zombies come.

The other day, I noticed that my newest story collection had acquired a dusting of one-star ratings on a popular book site. It had an abundance of higher ratings, so I wasn’t traumatized, but I was curious about what was behind this unary starring. As I clicked my way into the depths, I discovered that there are people who feel my stories are totally unsuitable for the young readers in my target audience. (The people in question were the parents of young readers, and not the readers themselves.) They especially objected to the fact that some of my characters experienced horrifying fates.  

It would be easy and cavalier to dismiss these objections with a smirk or a profane response. (Or, given that I’m from New Jersey, a mono-digital flash of the state bird.) But I do consider myself a moral and responsible member of society. I donate to charities, I care about others, I hold doors for strangers, and I try to do my part in the never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way. I decided to give the matter a fair amount of serious thought, and eventually came to the conclusions presented below.


For those of you who might be unfamiliar with the Weenies short-story collections (currently comprising six books and containing more than 200 stories), a fair number of the tales end with a character’s death or some other unpleasant fate. To cite some examples, a boy is on a carnival ride that turns into a blender, two boys who are frying ants with a magnifying glass get crushed by falling blue ice dropped from a jet’s lavatory, and a boy who is turned into a slug after he’s gorged himself on salty pretzels gets dissolved into a puddle of slug goo by the salt. (If the slug-goo image made you smile, you can climb down from the moral high ground right now and join me in the cellar. If the image of the blender made you cringe, I should warn you that that’s not the worst part of the story.)

I would like to think, upon analysis, that my work shares the sensibilities of three familiar forms of entertainment — fairy tales, animated cartoons, and adult horror stories. It also, serendipitydubiously, connects with the very soul of Halloween, allowing me to present this essay in conjunction with that holiday, as opposed to hurling it at you at a random time. (It also gave me an actual deadline, without which I seem pathetically incapable of getting anything done.)

In the original version of Grimm’s tales, characters meet terrible fates. Eyes are pecked out by birds. Toes are amputated in an effort to fit feet into slippers. And sentences are passified in order to seem deeper. No. Wait. Ignore that last one. But you get the idea. Fairy tales, which served, among other things, to warn youngsters against doing dangerous things like moving next door to a witch or stealing from the king, presented all sort of dreadful outcomes. There is some debate as to what degree these tales were cautionary as opposed to being told solely for entertainment. But if I wanted to do research, I wouldn’t be writing fiction about vampire catfish and vengeful trees. So let’s move on.


Find out more about Itchy & Scratchy at Horrorpedia

In Saturday-morning cartoons, characters suffer hideous fates purely for entertainment, as they do in horror stories. (The Itchy and Scratchy cartoon-within-a-cartoon on The Simpsons is a perfect self parody of this concept.)  We’ve touched on the value of fairy tales. What about cartoons and horror stories? Are they devoid of any redeeming value? I don’t think so. The horror story allows us to face fears we know aren’t real. If you’ve never been scared by the Bogey Man (he was really creepy in Casablanca), are you going to be less agile in your reaction when you encounter a swarm of bees or a rabid dog? If you fear the monster under the bed, and eventually lose that fear, doesn’t that make you a stronger person? I’d like to think so. (As a side note, my next horror collection, Wipeout of the Wireless Weenies and Other Warped and Creepy Tales, coming from Tor in 2014, contains a story called “M.U.B,” written as a dialogue between a kid and the monster under his bed. I had no idea where the story would go when I started it. I just wanted to write something purely in dialogue. But it turned into a story where the monster justifies his existence on the basis of his role teaching important life skills.)

Cartoons mostly make us laugh, but they can also make us care and empathize. It’s not Bugs Bunny who is getting blown to smithereens. It’s the hunter who is trying to shoot him, or the duck that is trying to best him.  Speaking of empathy, not all of the Weenies stories involve tragic endings. One of my favorites involves a girl who refuses to be a victim. Coincidentally, it is a Halloween story. Happily, you can read it here



I’ll add one more example. Entertainment for grown-ups is filled with the amusing destruction of both the living and the inanimate. (Paging Bruce Willis…) Think about any Monty Python movie. When the Black Knight is being cut to pieces, one lopped-off limb at a time, the audience doesn’t recoil in sympathy — they howl with laughter. Remember when Indiana Jones [SPOILER ALERT!!!] shot the guy who was swinging a sword in a threatening manner? That’s hailed as a classic comic moment in the movies. One human being shot another. In the real world, this would be tragic. But we know the world of the movie – or the fantasy short story – isn’t real. We loved it when Indy pulled the trigger. It was perfect in so many ways.

Halloween, as we all know, is about facing the fears that are beyond our physical control, and even our physical world. The spirits and spooks walk among us for a night, and yet we remain unscathed. Many of the Weenies stories carry this same theme that we should face our fears. The Weenies Topical and Literary Index points to six stories about “Facing Fears.” (Yes, I really created this, when I was badly in need of an excuse to avoid doing real work.) There are also a lot of stories about bullies since, if I’m going to drop a terrible fate on a character, he might as well be a bully.


So, to those who recoil in horror at my stories, I offer two thoughts. If your children are not comfortable with my work, by all means feel free to tell the world about the contents, and your reasons for objecting to them. But also know that there are children out there who love these stories, and they are not being harmed by them. They are learning to face fears. They are meeting a variety of literary structures and styles. (Another joyful aspect of writing stories is that I can experiment without all sorts of viewpoints, narrative tricks, styles, and techniques. It’s a lot riskier to do that in a novel.) My influences include both O. Henry and Borges. I am a fan of Saki and Joyce, as well as Bradbury and King.  My readers encounter a wealth of ideas and a rich vein of imagination. There are stories about Zeno’s Paradox, pyramid schemes, and linguistics. My readers are also being entertained. I humbly submit that I make them want to read more. This is not an opinion or suspicion on my part. I’ve been told this many times, in person and in email, by teachers, parents, and librarians.

I do have standards and limits. I exercise these in two ways. If I’m at a signing and a parent wants to buy a Weenies collection for a younger child, I always say, “Some of these stories are very dark. You should preview them, first.” (Far too often, this draws the response, “He reads above his level.” To which I am so tempted to respond, “And I write below my level.”) I’ve talked people out of buying the books, or into setting them aside for a year or two.

At times, I’ll write a story that is too dark for the Weenies, or too close to something that could happen in the real world. I set these stories aside. I gathered a batch recently. They can be found in Extremities: Stories of Death, Murder, and Revenge.

So, yes, I write stories where my characters are destroyed in horrifying ways. And I don’t deny that this is not typical subject matter for most authors. I’ll even allow that it might indicate flaws in my character or issues that should be addressed by way of therapy. I’m proud, when all is said and done, that I am doing everything I can to create a larger audience for good old-fashioned short stories. And I will argue against claims that my stories are unsuitable for all children or that they break moral standards. Don’t take my word for this. Ask some kids. 

 

About David Lubar: David Lubar is an author of numerous books for teens. He is also an electronic game programmer, who programmed Super Breakout for the Nintendo Game Boy, and Frogger for both the SNES and Game Boy. 

You can find him on Twitter and online at DavidLubar.com.

TPiB: Sugar Skulls for Dia de los Muertos (not as hard as it looks)

Photo from www.MexicanSugarSkull.com – a great resource.
If you’re looking to incorporate some cultural programming with a high fun factor into your program year, I highly recommend trying this out.  Decorating calaveras, or Mexican sugar skulls in honor of Dia de los Muertos, is something I have wanted to share with my teens for several years now, but have been intimidated by how complicated it all seemed.  It appeals to several elements that my teens respond to in programs.  It’s novel, they leave with something, it’s creative, and is uses sugar.  A friend assured me that it was easier than it looked, and so I jumped in and the fifteen teens, ranging from 6th-11th grade all had a fun time.  This is not a holiday any of my teens (or I) celebrate in our own families, but if you or your teens do, all the better to share.

About the holiday:


The region I’m from has a large Mexican American population, but the community in which I work does not.  I think this is a really good reason to explore Dia de los Muertos because these teens will certainly reach beyond the borders of our sleepy suburb and encounter many different kinds of people, and it’s always good to know a little bit about other cultures, regardless of where you live.  Day of the Dead, Dia de los Muertos, is celebrated on November 2nd.  It’s not about scary skeletons and ghosts.  It’s not Halloween.  It’s a celebration of life and transition and love for those who have died.  The sugar skulls are decorated and exchanged or given as gifts similarly to how Valentines are exchanged.  If you’re not already familiar with the celebration, it’s a good idea to read up on the holiday and traditions associated with it so you can talk about it with your teens.  Here are some useful sources
http://www.celebrate-day-of-the-dead.com
http://www.mexicansugarskull.com/support/dodhistory.html
http://latino.si.edu/dayofthedead/

The plan:

My major road block in running this program before now was finding the blank sugar skulls.  I could find kits and I could find already decorated skulls, but no one sold the blanks (and shipped them for a reasonable price).  With the reassurance of a Spanish teacher friend of mine, I ordered a kit from Teacher’s Discovery (click through the Spanish link).  She was right.  It is easier than it looks.  I viewed a video on making the paste and another on making the blanks, and then easily knocked out about 30 skulls in my kitchen at home the day before the program.  You could make the blanks on site a day or so ahead of time as well and then not have to worry about dropping them all on your way to work.  Next came the royal icing, which I loathe, but sucked it up and did it for the teens.  I made three colors (pink, green, and yellow) which was plenty, and gave each table one set of each color, loaded into ziploc bags that they could use to pipe the color on.   See my post on making gingerbread houses for more on royal icing, but know that using the meringue powder included in the kit makes this way way easier.  Because the kit from Teacher’s Discovery contains all of the decorating supplies too, the only additional materials I needed were:

    skull2
  • granulated sugar (12 cups)
  • powdered sugar (2 pounds)
  • gel type food coloring (the liquid isn’t saturated enough)
  • cardboard to rest the skulls on 
  • foil
  • scissors
  • extra bottles of glue
  • snack sized zip lock bags
  • cleaning supplies
  • gloves (if you prefer)

Most of this I had on hand, so the total cost of the program is as follows:

$27 Sugar Skull kit
$1.50 powdered sugar
$3 granulated sugar
$3 baggies                  
$34.50

This produced enough skulls and royal icing for about 30 kids, which puts your cost per person right around $1 each.  Plenty of meringue powder, glitter, foil paper, and sequins remain and could be used in a subsequent program, which means I could run this again next year for only the cost of the sugars.  So if I were to do that, the price per person would be just pennies.  I’m sold.

And wow, can I tell you how amazing it was to buy that kit with all of the little bits all together after all of the programs where I’m scrounging through Michaels and the Dollar Store to get all of the random pieces?  So nice. So so so nice.

I have very good things to say about Teacher’s Discovery too.  What great customer service!  And the kit was top notch too.  The skull making supplies within the kit came from Mexican Sugar Skull, which is widely regarded as a real authority on the process and history and is where I found the useful instruction videos that I watched before making the skulls.  It’s also a good spot to find sample decorating motifs that you can show to the teens for inspiration.

skull3 skull4

Extensions:

Fortuantely, there are lots of great resources out there upon which to draw.  The Mexic-Arte Museum in Austin has a whole curriculum that includes games, activities, and lots of good background and conversation fodder.
I printed out a brief introduction to Dia de los Muertos from the Peabody Museum at Harvard for kids to take home and read.
I also printed up the Pan de Muertos recipe from a curricular resource from Denver Public Schools in case they wanted to get deeper into the traditions at home.
If your group is open to sharing personal details, you could use this as an opportunity to share memories of people in their lives who have died, and if you have display space in your library for teens, you could create a small ofrenda to display the skulls as well as information about the celebration.

Watch out for:

  • You know how it goes. There’s always someone who’s goofing off and wasting supplies.  Add sugar to the mix and it’s a sure thing.  Pre-setting each workspace can help moderate the crazy as there’s less movement around the room.  If  you have the resources, giving each teen a complete set of supplies ensures that you won’t have a frosting hog.
  • Remind the teens that though these are technically edible till you cover them with glue and sequins, they are not supposed to be eaten.  Especially if your library has policies regarding food prepared at home.  This is not food, it is a craft medium.  If the food ban is especially severe, you could replicate the skulls with a flour/salt dough (still technically food but wholly unappealing to the palate) or Crayola Model Magic clay (which would significantly increase the cost).  This would also mean you’d have to make the skulls much further in advance for drying time.
  • Make the skulls far enough in advance that they are completely dry – at least 24 hours ahead.
  • If your teens are on bikes or if they have to leave early, you may want to have a place for them to store their creations till they are fully dry, or advise them to bring something to transport their skull.  A plastic take out container or something like that.
  • I really hope this wouldn’t be a concern, but it’s possible that some community members could be offended at the skull imagery.  If this is the case, go back to the cultural reference links above.
-Heather

Haunted Readings: All Our Scary, Spooky and Otherwise Halloween Ready Book Lists in One Place

Whether you are looking for twisted fairy tales, ghosts or more, we’ve got some great reads for you!  
Read if you dare.


Alice in Wonderland retellings

Aliens: They’re Here: Science Fiction with actual aliens

Apocalypse Survival Tips from YA Lit

Assasins: Teenage Assassins in YA Lit

Beyond the Grave: dead narrators 

Bioengineering (Frankenstein 2012: YA lit with bioengineering)

Death and Dying: Sometimes it is among the dying that we remember to truly live 

Dragons

Dystopias

Egypt: Read About Your “Mummy” (and Egypt)

Epidemics list 1 and list 2 

Environment: Earth Day Dystopias

Fairy Tales (twisted, of course) and Cinderella Retellings

Graveyards: Someone Just Walked Over My Grave: YA lit with graveyards

Haunted Tales

Horror: The Stories that Haunt our Childhood: Local legends and superstitions in YA lit, Horrifying Reads for October (recommended by teens)

Poe, inspired by

Myths and Mythology 

Reapers (and Necromancers) in YA Lit

Serial Killers: I Eat Cereal, but I am NOT a Serial Killer – serial killers in YA lit

Supernatural and Psychological Creepers
 
Under the Sea: Mermaids

Vampires  and Non-emo Vampires

Witches

Zombies

Take 5: Tumblrs that Rock

I am obsessed with Tumblr.  Blame Robin.  Anyhow, as I see it, Tumblr (outside of Twitter, of course) is so easy to use and I love, love, love the way it handles graphics (which is where its bread and butter is).  So now I am all Tumblr obsessed.  Here are 5 Tumblrs to follow if you are new to the tumble.  If you are not new, share your favorites with me in the comments.  Feed my obsession.

And yes, for the record, every time I am on Tumblr I do in fact sing this song in my head . . .

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kwb9-OlQimc]

Diversity in YA

Diversity in YA was originally founded as a blog in 2011 by Cindy Pon and Malinda Lo.  They moved to Tumblr in 2013.  Here, they talk about Diversity in YA, hence the title.  It is a great resource not only highlighting titles, but giving real strong evidence that shows how little diversity there currently is.

Teenager Posts

Teenager Posts takes a standard format – a color block with a simple text statement, similar to Bookfessions – and allows teens to express themselves.  Often sad, sometimes witty, sometimes full of cusswords, this is a way for teens 

YA Book Quotes

 
Exactly what it sounds like – quotes from YA books. Great for reblogging and sharing.

Fishing Boat Proceeds, aka John Green’s Tumblr

John Green is kind of king of the Internet in Geek World, and Tumblr is no different.  It’s obviously heavy on self-promotion, especially with TFIOS movie being filmed, but he is usually the first to take to the Internet and speak up about things with heartfelt intelligence.

Looking for things to make and do?  DIY Fashion has you covered.

Maureen Johnson Books

If John Green is the King of the Internet, one could argue that Maureen Johnson is the Queen.  She speaks passionately about things.  She rants.  She answers questions.  In a word, she is kind of awesome.

Go Book Yourself

This site is your basic “If You Like . . . Try This . . .” site with some visual finesse.  Take a book – say The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – and it will recommend 4 readlikes.  In this case it recommends Ask the Passengers by A. S. King, Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz.  These are great for sharing, though not always YA.

An Oldie but a Goodie: Bookfessions

More Info: 8 Inspirational Blogs from Huffington Post Teen ; 10 Top Tech related Tumblrs

Book Review: Asylum by Madeleine Roux

Dan Crawford spends the summer at prep school – boarding in a dormitory that used to be an asylum.  We’ve all seen enough horror movies to know that this is never a good idea.  He soon befriends Abby and Jordan, and they find themsleves exploring places that are “off limits”.  Bizarre notes begin to appear.  Tension builds.  And as they explore what it all means they begin to question who they are, where they come from, and whether or not they were brought to the Asylum by chance.

“It was a house for those who could not take care of themselves, for those who heard voices, who had strange thoughts and did strange things. The house was meant to keep them in. Once they came, they never left.”

Asylum is a great read for those who want a little bit of horror but don’t want to go hardcore.  For me, I felt like Roux kept pulling back at just the last minute.  For example, in one of the scenes in an off limits area freaky stuff starts to happen, the tension is building, and then the mc passes out and wakes up later.  It was kind of a let down and a bit of a cop out.  That probably makes the book more accessible to audiences, as it became more mystery/thriller as opposed to outright horror, but for those looking for true horror they may find themselves a bit disappointed.

If you are familiar with the novel Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, you will be acclimated to the use of black and white photographs to enhace a book.  The found photos help tell the story, but they didn’t resonate with me as richly as they did in Riggs book.  Perhaps, in part, because we are already familiar with Miss Peregrine and the photos used within its pages, but also perhaps because the photos here don’t have that same haunting quality as we find in Miss Peregrine.  I would definitely recommend this to fans of Miss Peregrine.

In fact, my reading of Asylum was no doubt influenced by two important things: I had already ready Miss Peregrine and I had just finished watching the second season of American Horror Story: Asylum.  So where the TV show went all out to horrify and repulse, a book written for the YA reader simply could not and it just didn’t compare in terms of terror.  And trust me, there are quite a few teens who are, in fact, watching American Horror Story (though I would never recommend it).  So while Roux would fade to black and pull back right before she got to the terrifying bits, other authors and media are all too willing to go there – including Ransom Riggs himself I feel (or Daniel D. Kraus).  So Asylum was creepy and eerie, there were grotesque experiments and the like that you often find happened in older asylums, and at times it has strong thriller vibes, but I didn’t feel that it ever terrified me.  I wanted to want to put the book down and hide under the covers trembling in fear, and I didn’t.

A friend from work read it right after me and she had the same complaint, Roux just kept pulling back right as the eerie factor was hitting its peak.  For some readers, this is a safe bet to read some horror light (thought definitely not MG because of some of the themes and conversations between the characters).  For others, it will be a disappointment.   3 out of 5 stars.

Book Review: Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst

“Don’t contact anyone from your past.  Don’t tell anyone about your past.  Forget the rules . . . and die.”

Eve remembers nothing of her past.  She is in witness protection.  They need her to remember and testify; she has escaped a serial killer that uses magic to kill his prey.  They say she knows something, but she isn’t sure what.  What if she doesn’t want to remember?  What if she knows more than she would like?

Sometimes she dreams.  There is a carnival tent.  Buttons being sewn onto her skin.  And she can do things, but she tries to keep this hidden.  What would people think if they found out what she could do?

While she is remembering, or at least trying to, Eve shelves books in the local library.  There she meets some others that see hints of who she is and what she can do.  And just like those that guard her in the witness protection program, their motives are sometimes questionable.  Do they want to help her – or exploit her: “This shouldn’t be a tough call. They plan to kill you, Eve. We don’t. Align yourself with us.” (p 157).

Conjured is a super freaky, updated take on Pinocchio.  It is a fascinating cross between haunting paranormal and serial killer thriller. If you, like me, like those kind of books, you will be gloriously satisfied with Conjured.  If you don’t, well, we’ll agree to disagree.  The magic is fascinating, and the storytelling has the slowly picking off a scab to reveal the bloody underneath quality to it.  The truth of who Eve is, where she came from, what she has seen and what she knows, is horrifically enthralling and a clever twist.  The ending has a breathless climax full of magic and confrontation.  And at the heart of it all is one of the most basic questions of the teenage years : who am I really?

“Lie. Lie to everyone until you know the truth.” 

4 out of 5 stars. Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst was published by Walker Books, an imprint of Bloomsbury, in September of 2013.  ISBN: 9780802734587.  Pair this with The Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby and books written by Neil Gaiman.

Take 5: Supernatural & Psychological Creepers

Truth: after reading as much Lois Duncan as I could find, I spent a good part of my preadolescence convinced that I had a missing twin out there somewhere, and my telepathy was lingering in the back of my psyche, it was just taking its time in revealing itself.  I credit those books with my continued interest in psychological thrillers and those books that teeter on the line between horror and thriller.  Here are five good ones.

Wake by Lisa McMann

Sleepovers have always been dangerous, and study hall is hell for Janie, who catches dreams when people around her are sleeping.  She also catches their nightmares.  And their secrets.   A supportive romance with Cabel helps Janie survive her horrible home life, but adds another layer of complications when she starts appearing in his dreams.  This is a quickly paced page turner as Janie uncovers the real potential and risk in her power.  First in a trilogy.

Double by Jenny Valentine

Jenny Valentine remains one of my favorite underappreciated authors.  The tight plotting, the ominous tone, the twists and turns and heartbreaking characters all echo Kevin Brooks, and I keep hoping more readers find her.  Double begins with a nameless narrator.  His name isn’t a secret — he doesn’t actually remember what it is after living on the streets for so long.  When he is mistaken for the son of a loving and worried family, he plays along and steps into their lives.  But he soon discovers that he’s not the only one with a past full of secrets.

The Revenant by Sonia Gensler

Willie has assumed someone else’s name and is living in a dead girl’s bedroom in a frontier boarding school.  Are we surprised that she’s hearing things in the night?  If you like your psychological suspense tinged with the complexities and manners of time long gone, this one is for you.  The slow building of suspense has Willie – and the reader – wondering what is real, what is imagined, what is dangerous, and what is sanity.

Liar Society by Lisa and Laura Roecker

Is there email in the afterlife?  If not, who is messing with Kate by sending her eerie messages from her dead best friend?  This is another secrets-at-boarding-school read that nicely layers the supernatural potential with real life danger.  The cover is so misleading – it’s not really a fluffy, pink hair kind of book.

The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyemi

Though it’s not a YA novel, this is one you could give to those readers who have blown through all the psychological suspense in your teen collection and are hungry for more and ready for something that will hold them a bit longer.  It’s certainly held me since I read it seven years ago.  What’s eerier than creepy children?  Creepy imaginary friends perhaps?  This is a gripping and beautiful book that weaves folklore, loss, suspense, and horror into the tale of an eight year old British girl and her friend from Nigeria who may or may not exist, but certainly has a dark agenda.

-Heather

To Rainbow Loom or Not to Rainbow Loom in the Library, That is the Question

Right now, my fascination with Rainbow Bracelets is the reaction to them.” 
—  The other day over at SLJ, Liz Burns was talking about Rainbow Loom bracelets.  In her opening line she says she is fascinated by the reaction to them.  I am too, because I think this is a possible case of hype.  You see, because of the hype, a friend bought my tween a Rainbow Loom.  She tried it once.  I have actually made several bracelets on them and wonder: how come they aren’t more popular with tweens and teens?  And that’s the thing – I keep reading that they are super popular (Buzzfeed has ran this and this article about them) – but I am not hearing this from the actual tweens and teens I know and work with.  I have seen zero of them wearing the bracelets.  And yet just last week Christie had a program where they made old fashioned bracelets using strings and beads and one of her teens was wearing like 20 of them to her Friday night program; so we know bracelets still have their appeal.

Here are a few reasons that I think Rainbow Loom programs aren’t happening in libraries (yet):

1. To make the bracelets, you have to buy the loom?  Theoretically you would need 1 loom for 1 or 2 people maximum.  That’s a chunk of change for a device that has a very specific use.  Plus, you have to buy the bands. (I have seen knock-off looms for $14.99, basic Rainbow Loom starter packages are priced around $24.99).  I imagine they are less popular in economically disadvantaged areas because of cost.  Replacement band packages begin around $6.99 for small bags and upwards of $20.00 for larger bags.

A knock-off loom, $14.99 at Toys R Us

Official Rainbow Loom Starter Kit, approximately $24.99

Edited to add: As the commentor below mentioned, you do not have to have the actual loom to make the bracelets.  Here are step-by-step instructions on making the bracelets without the loom.

2. It’s actually not as easy as they make it look in the videos (but there ARE tutorial videos).  Or else I really am that lame, which is always a possibility.  There is a learning curve, and my tween gave up quickly.  And it is less social than stringing beads because there is a certain amount of paying attention you have to invest in each project.  Trust me, one miss-loop and when you take your project off the loom it falls apart.  So it doesn’t lend itself to the social aspect of some other arts and crafts programs. Especially in the beginning.

3. If other programming librarians are like me, they probably aren’t hearing their tweens and teens rave about them the way that I am not, so there isn’t a lot of incentive to investigate.  In fact, I learned about the looms when a friend asked me about buying one for my daughter – not from my own tween, not from any of her friends that come over and craft almost daily, and not from any of the tweens and teens I serve at the library.  No, a friend who read all the Internet hype.  So again, I think the Internet hype may be more promotion driven than actual market driven.

Look – I made a Rainbow Bracelet!

In writing this out I asked my Tween, what are the most popular crafts at your school?  Not surprisingly she said: Duct Tape.  Also true at my library.  I asked her about Rainbow Bracelets and she said, “yes, there a few kids that wear them, but not a lot.”  None of this surprises me because when her friends come over, they spend their time making Duct Tape crafts and when offered the Rainbow Loom they are still choosing Duct Tape.

Buying 10 Rainbow Looms would cost around $160.00.  I’m not sure that is an investment I am ready to make for library programming when I can spend the same amount of money on beads, elastic cord, and memory wire and have proven results at this point. An official starter kit averages around $24.99.  I am definitely keeping my ears open to see if a demand develops, but there isn’t any in my area at the present time. (Edited on 10/29 to reflect less expensive ways to do the program w/o buying looms, making it more accessible)

How to Make Braceletes W/O a Loom
 
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uysA5qpdV5A]

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gL-xq9aodQk]

Is it just a girl thing?

As for the it’s a boy thing argument, I think we do sometimes fall into the trap.  But I have always had boys come to my bracelet/jewerly making events.  The Loom bracelets allow for the same customization and it can have a chainmaille looking effect, so I see it as having boy appeal as well as girl appeal. It is universally appealing.  See Boys Love Rainbow Looms.

I appreciated reading the SLJ article because it made me think about this, which I hadn’t yet.

Original Article : http://blogs.slj.com/teacozy/2013/10/28/rainbow-bracelets/

Geek is the New Black: GIF 101

See also: How my teens make stop motion movies using Legos and a Giffer app

Okay, technically they are not new.  They are just now mega popular.  So I asked Christie to ask That Guy (who is tech support), how do these things work?  Because like all new tech – at least new to you – there is a learning curve.  So I have been investigating and thought I would share because that is what I do.  See: Librarian, one who shares things.

First thing you need to know, it is pronounced “jif”.  Yes, like the peanut butter. I found this out the embarrassing way.  I will save you.

Second thing you need to know, it stands for Graphics Interchange Format. They are those moving picture thingies that you see around the web.

The Internet is GIFtacular

Although GIFs can be used any time and any place, Tumblr and Buzzfeed are the haven of GIFs.  They are also both sites that I am obsessed with because they make sharing easy and fun.  If you do not have a Tumblr, you should.  I like the way that Tumblr makes it easy to choose to share a quote, a website, a video or a picture.  And I love the way it handles pictures – quick, easy and stylish.

If I had to guess, I would say that the most popular GIFs tend to spring from Doctor Who, Supernatural, Sherlock, 80s movies, superhero movies, and Disney Princesses.  They are often used to convey emotion to punctuate what someone has just said.  For example, if you were talking about a book that made you cry and feel all the feels, you would add this:

crying gif photo: crying zoey crying.gif
From Photobucket

See, GIFs are fun.  You can find some at Reaction Gifs, Gif Bin and Gif Soup.  You can also find them at Photobucket, PicGifs, and Flickr.

There is info on how to use/add them to a post here.

How to Make Them

You can find a ready supply of GIFs on the Internet, but issues of copyright can be tricky.  Many believe they basically fall under the halo of “Fair Use”.  There is a good discussion about this issue here and here.  If you are worried about the Internet police coming after you, you can make your own.  There are tools and tutorials out there.  They include:

Find out more here

Make an animated GIF in Photoshop
Gickr
Picasion
GifBoom (app!)
Cinemagram (also an app!)
Gizmodo: How to Make a GIF in 5 Easy Steps
Free Online GIFmaker
Make a GIF
Mashable: Make Reaction GIFs with These 7 Tools
Mashable: How to Make GIFs
8 Free GIF Maker Apps

GIF are so popular there are even artists out there specializing in GIFs, and they are amazing.
YPulse: 3 Rising Artists of the Digital Age.

Which brings about a new way to get teens involved in the library: Have Them Make GIFs.  Have a contest. Ask the members on your TAB to create GIFs for you to share.  You don’t have to sit back and do all the marketing yourself, you can get teens involved.

Whatever you do – happy GIFfing!

More About GIFs
Mashable: The History of GIFs
What Journalists Need to Know About GIFs
5 Ways to Find Best Animated GIFs
YPulse: Why GIFs Become the Sweethearts of the Internet

Book Review: Dead Ends by Erin Jade Lange (reviewed by Cuyler)

Dane Washington is a bully with a code: Don’t hit girls. Don’t hit special kids. And by ‘special kids,’ he means Billy D., a boy with Down Syndrome, who witnesses Dane beat down a guy for bragging about his new car. Dane develops a reputation as a force to be reckoned with in the halls of Twain High, and Billy D. takes notice of it.

 
When Dane gets his last strike that marks him for suspension, Billy D. formulates an ultimatum. Walk with him to and from school to keep the bullies away, or get suspended and face the wrath of Dane’s mother. Dane sees no way out, and reluctantly accepts the deal with the boy with Down Syndrome.
 
At first it’s just the walking. Walk with Billy D. to school. Walk with Billy D. home. But Dane soon realizes that this strange boy with Down Syndrome wants a little more than just walking. He wants to learn how to fight like Dane, to protect himself. Dane agrees, and forms a Mr. Miyagi and Karate Kid relationship. Then everything changes when Billy pulls out the heavy atlas from his backpack.
The atlas. The last gift Billy’s father gave him before his mother took him away. The atlas contains puzzles, riddles underneath bizarre towns and cities like Santa Clause, Indiana and Mexico, Missouri. It’s an atlas full of dead ends that just might lead to something big: the location of Billy D.’s father.
With the help of the white-haired neighbor girl, Seely, Dane and Billy D. embark on a scavenger hunt like none ever attempted, connecting the riddles and dead ends into a bigger picture. A big picture that contains a secret that Billy D. just may be keeping to himself…
 
TO AUTHOR ERIN JADE LANGE:


First things first. Ms. Lange, since I do not live in Arizona and am not able to give you the biggest hug known to man, I guess this will have to do. Even though after reading Dead Ends, I really, really want to on account of how awesome you are. Plus, I’ve heard I give really awesome hugs.
I have read a lot of books. I am a book hoarder. Seriously, if I die it will be because of a book avalanche falling on top of me from all the stacks of books I have in my room that have no place on a shelf with zero space left. So many, many, many stories have gone through this book-fried brain right here. But your story has left a permanent brand on my mind that will never fade.
Reason Numbah One I Love Dead Ends: The characters were phenomenally dynamic and distinct. In other words, they were flipping awesome. No two characters were the same, and each had their own voice and opinions that made the story come alive with an incredible job on dialogue. Your characters were beautiful, hilarious, and fun from page one!
Reason Numbah Two I Love Dead Ends: I cried. Like, a lot. And guess what, that’s only happened ONE other time in my life. And, also, I’m a dude and I cried like a baby, so job well done.

Reason Numbah Tres I Love Dead Ends: I read it in one sitting, which I have also done only one other time. You also kept me awake till four o’ clock in the morning, which I don’t think I’ve ever done. Look at you, racking up all these first-timers. I believe you’ve got yourself a winner here, Jade.
Reason Numbah Four I Love Dead Ends: Despite my dissimilar situation to either Dane or Billy D., I was still able to relate somewhat to the fact that Billy had Down Syndrome. Not that I have Down’s myself, but that I have an eight-year-old little brother born with DS who I love more than words can express and is my entire life. Which is why I absolutely hated Dane at the beginning. I hated how he thought of Billy. That he called him “retarded.” That he referred to him as “Special Ed.” I HATE that, and I hear it all the time in the school system. Frankly, I wanted someone to beat up Dane for a change just so I could let the steam out of my ears. Which is what made me love Dane throughout the rest of the book. I loved that Dane began to see Billy D. in another light. One that didn’t automatically brand him as a boy with Down Syndrome or a disabled person. Dane saw him as a PERSON. He believed in him, and he began to hate it when others would give him a free ride just because of his disability. He realized that when people’s faces washed over with pity, they weren’t looking at Billy D. They were looking at what he had. Down Syndrome. Not that he was human. Not that he was a person. Not that he could think for himself or want to do big things just like the rest of mankind. But Dane did, and I loved that so much. You have no idea how much that meant to me because that’s what goes through my mind every day I look at my little brother. Thank you so much, Erin Jade Lange. Thank you for this beautiful book!
There are so many more reasons why I loved Dead Ends, but I think it’d take a novel to collaborate them all. Thank you so much for writing this book. I’ve never cried, gasped, laughed, or smiled while reading a book as much as I had reading yours. Dead Ends flies to the top of my TOP 10 LIST of my favorite books, gets five out of five stars and a thousand more, and will be recommended to every book lover I know. Dead Ends is definitely worth anyone’s time, young or old.
My advice to those picking up a copy of Dead Ends? Give up sleep and buy about ten cases of Kleenexes. And to the fantastic Erin Jade Lange: Beautiful tale, amazing characters, and one memorable adventure I won’t soon forget. Keep up the incredible work!