Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Author Cecil Castelluci is Offering a Book Based Gaming Package to Libaries

Author Cecil Castelluci (Tin Star) has made a table top RPG for Tin Star, kind of like D&D, where you play aliens who dock on the space station and interact with the characters from the book on a mini adventure. You don’t have to have read the book to play the game, or play the game to read the book.

It’s a free download which you can find here:

Rules here http://www.macteenbooks.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/TinStar_QuickstartRules.pdf

Adventure here http://www.macteenbooks.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/TinStar_ASimpleFavor.pdf)

Castelluci has some other goodies to offer while supplies last, so email for more information at misscecil@gmail.com

About Tin Star:

On their way to start a new life, Tula and her family travel on the Prairie Rose, a colony ship headed to a planet in the outer reaches of the galaxy. All is going well until the ship makes a stop at a remote space station, the Yertina Feray, and the colonist’s leader, Brother Blue, beats Tula within an inch of her life. An alien, Heckleck, saves her and teaches her the ways of life on the space station.

When three humans crash land onto the station, Tula’s desire for escape becomes irresistible, and her desire for companionship becomes unavoidable. But just as Tula begins to concoct a plan to get off the space station and kill Brother Blue, everything goes awry, and suddenly romance is the farthest thing from her mind.

The sequel, Stone in the Sky, comes out February 24th, 2015 from Roaring Book Press:

In this thrilling follow-up to Tin Star, Tula will need to rely on more than just her wits to save her only home in the sky.

After escaping death a second time, Tula Bane is now even thirstier for revenge. She spends much of her time in the Tin Star Café on the Yertina Feray—the space station she calls home. But when it’s discovered that the desolate and abandoned planet near the station has high quantities of a precious resource, the once sleepy space station becomes a major player in intergalactic politics. In the spirit of the Gold Rush, aliens from all over the galaxy race to cash in—including Tula’s worst enemy.


TPiB: Minecraft, or what happened when my new gaming equipment didn’t get ordered & I had to punt

Earlier this year I put together all of my SRC programming and publicity at the same time we submitted an order for new gaming equipment. One of those programs was a Minecraft day. Except, sometimes orders get held up in processes and bureaucracies, which means that my new gaming equipment never actually got ordered. Which was only problematic because we had spent the last 3 months advertising a Minecraft day. But having done this for 20 years now, I am excellent at punting. So punt I did.

I do have an XBOX 360 and 2 controllers, and the game is available for the XBOX 360 – so let me take a moment here to make sure and say thanks to my branch manager who ran out the day before the program and purchased the game because I know she reads this blog 🙂 But I also spent the day before putting together a variety of other activities that were Minecraft related in some way that my tweens and teens could do while they waited for their turn to play Minecraft. Because with only 1 system and 2 controllers, it could get ugly. Here is my Minecraft Emergency Prep. I ended up having around 40 tweens and teens and they loved it. No blood was shed over those 2 controllers and a good time was had by all.

Paper Crafts

It turns out, there are a ton of Minecraft Papercrafts available readily online. Every single one of those teens at my program folded a Creeper face. But you can also print and fold a variety of materials and make Minecraft in the real world. For example, you can buy a set here at Amazon. You can find some free patterns here: Instructables

Post It Note Art
I have previously done some Post It Note art and it occurred to me that this would be a good way to bring Minecraft into the real world as well. My tweens and teens were challenged to make animals, faces, and swords on the wall using Post It Notes. It looks cool, but it takes a little teamwork to make it happen. Skills like math, organization and communication are subtly being taught here.

Lego Challenges
Using only the 2×2 Legos in my Makerspace, I challenged my tweens and teens to a variety of 5 to 10 minutes challenges: build a house, make an animal, make a story, make a face. This was hands down one of their two favorite activities of the day.

 Bottle Cap Crafts

For a previous event, I ordered a ton of Bottle Caps and have been using the leftovers for a while now. It was very easy to create some Minecraft themed circle inserts to make a new set of Bottle Cap Magnets. This was the other of their two favorite activities of the day – besides playing Minecraft of course. To make your inserts, you simply create a 1 inch circle in Publisher and use the picture fill feature to fill it with whatever you wish. Pictures, clip art or letters all work. Then you glue it into the bottle cap. I like to purchase epoxy bubble stickers to place over top. Other sites will tell you to buy and mix and epoxy resin, but the circles are quicker, easier, and make less of a mess. Then just slap a magnet onto the back and voila! Or, you can buy a special punch and turn them into charms, just add an “o ring”.

Minecraft Themed Duct Tape Journals
As part of my Makerspace, I have a large amount of duct tape on hand. And I had some blank journals left over from a previous event. So I challenged the teens to cut the duct tape into squares and make a Minecraft journal. The most fascinating part was that after they made the journals many of them started writing in them. One boy was writing down tips and cheats to play Minecraft. Another boy started writing and illustrating a Minecraft themed story.

Going along with the cube/grid theme, I also brought out Connect Four and Chess/Checkers for them to play while they waited. And many of them did. You could also use other cube/grid type games like Scrabble or Boggle.

I also brought two Rubik’s Cubes to do races.

As a side note, in my emergency searching I did find that lots of people make perler bead Minecraft things, but I didn’t have this on hand and didn’t want to purchase. But I also think you could use Shrinky Dinks for this type of an event as well.

For more on Minecraft, check out Heather’s post on what happened when she let her teens lead a Minecraft after hours event.

Take 5: Reasons to read your December 2013 VOYA


There is a great list of titles that depict Muslims in Young Adult Literature.  Since September 11th, the Muslim population has been the target of a tremendous amount of fear, bias and outright racial targeting.  This is a good and varied list that examines the Muslim life in a wide variety of ways and can help break down those prejudices. (by Amanda MacGregor, page 12)


Last year, Pride and Prejudice turned 200 years old.  There are tons of ya titles that somehow reference Pride and Prejudice, and I’m not just talking about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  VOYA has a list of titles for you and your teen Austen fans. (by Christina Miller, page 14)


As you know, I am a huge advocate for serving teens on the Autism spectrum in libraries.  The December issue of VOYA has a really good look at serving teens with Asperger’s or a Nonverbal Learning Disorder (NVLD).  There is also some good information on what it is and resources.  (by Madelene Rathbun Barnard, page 28)

4.  GETTING GIRLS IN THE GAME: Making Gaming Inclusive

On Tumblr, there has been a statistic going around about how girls make up 35% of the gaming community but less than 10% of the characters in games (loosely, this are not exact figures).  The truth is, I have met a lot of ya authors who are avid gamers.  And a lot of my female teens are avid gamers as well.  This article, by Hannah R. Gerber, is a good discussion about making gaming more inclusive.  I highly recommend that you do some Googling and read up on the issues that women face in the gaming community; it’s not always very pretty and can be quite serious in terms of the threats, hate and sexual and verbal threats that girls can receive. (by Hannah R. Gerber, page 44)


According to the article by Tina P. Schwartz, about 11 percent of teens have a depressive disorder.  That is a huge figure.  Girls are more likely than boys to experience depression.  This article is a good look at the signs, the various kinds of depression, triggers and some resources to help teens understand their mood disorders. (by Tina P. Schwartz, page 16)

Please note, TLT is a networked blog with VOYA Magazine.

Game For Your Life: Gamers in Teen Fiction (Kearsten)

I’ve recently lost myself in playing The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and it got me thinking about teen books about roleplaying games (video, computer, and tabletop), and the possible dangers/adventures that might come with an excessive amount of gaming.  I’m still waiting to be sucked into the world of the Elder Scrolls, but so far, my obsession has only annoyed my husband and daughter…
Erebos by Ursula Poznanski.  In this suspense story, Erebos, an apparently bootleg copy of a computer roleplaying game (RPG), takes over a London school as well as sixteen-year-old Nick’s life.  He’s thrilled when he finally gets a copy, and is even more delighted when he starts playing the realistic game.  Nick happily ignores homework and sleep in favor of playing Erebos, until all the weird little things he’s noticed (the game seems to know who Nick is, know when he’s not alone, know who his friends are) begin to add up to some serious unease.  And then the game asks Nick to perform tasks outside the game, in the real world. But it’s not until he’s asked to dose a teacher with a potentially lethal pills that Nick begins to fear for his own life.

Epic by Conor Kostick.  Imagine an Earth where violence is illegal, and you and your family can face serious consequences for even pretending to duel.  But don’t worry: you’re free to express all the violence you’d like in Epic, the government-mandated RPG fantasy game wherein your future – and that of all the inhabitants of this New Earth – is determined.  Play poorly and you may end up in the salt mines.  Play well and you’ll get a good job.  Play really well, and you may get the attention of the Committee, which is made up of New Earth’s best players, who actually are the government.  And the government does not like it if someone, like Epic’sfourteen-year-old narrator Erik, plays the game better than they do.

The Game of Triumphs by Laura Powell.  Yes!  A story about gaming with a girl as the main character!  (There are nowhere near as many as boys, sadly).  Fifteen-year-old Cat is pretty comfortable on her own.  Orphaned at three, she and her eccentric aunt Bel have recently moved to London, where her aunt has a job in a skeevy casino and Cat is left to her own devices most evenings, wandering the streets and riding the Underground out of boredom. Then one night, a Tarot card and a desperate, chased man change her world.  Soon she’s caught up in a game that spans worlds, and offers up both adventure and danger to its players…and may have played a role in Cat’s parents’ deaths.
Interstellar Pig by William Sleator.  And now, for an old title!  A summer at the beach may seem like the ideal vacation, but not when you have to spend it with your incredibly uncool parents.  Sixteen-year-old Barney is feeling that pain until he discovers that this year’s neighbors are young and fun.  When they invite Barney’s family over to play a board game called Interstellar Pig, he’s happy to join.  Unfortunately, he soon discovers that, like most things, their neighbors are too good to be true.  Interstellar Pig isn’t just a game: it’s real, Barney’s neighbors are aliens, and the fate of the universe is at stake.  No big deal, right?
The Other Normals by Ned Vizzini.  Perry just wants to be left alone to play Creatures & Caverns, an elaborate tabletop roleplaying game.  Having someone to play with would be ideal, but not necessary (or likely, if he’s being honest).  Unsurprisingly, Perry’s parents don’t feel it’s healthy for him, so they send him to a summer camp that happens to be full of the exact sort of male teenagers that love to beat Perry up.  But then something exciting finally happens to Perry: he’s led into another world, full of “other normals,” and there they tell him his destiny is saving their beloved princess.  The catch?  Perry has to somehow manage to kiss a gorgeous girl at the neighboring camp back on his Earth.  And Perry?  Well, he’s not so good with people, let alone girls

Geek is the New Black: Benefits of Electronic Gaming in the Library, a defense

Recently, I was asked about gaming in libraries.  Specifically online gaming, but much of this same information can be applied to video gaming in libraries as well. Ironically, CNN recently ran an article RE video gaming in libraries, which came across as largely pro.  In our 21st century world, I think that being pro gaming is the way to be. Yes, even for libraries.

In a previous position, I ran an after school program designed to meet the needs of the teens in that community.  It was hugely popular, averaging 50 to 70 teens every Tuesday for about the entire 10 years that I was there, and video gaming was a huge part of that.  At the same time, there would be teens reading, teens talking, and, yes, teens sitting across from each other at a table texting each other.  Because we are living in a 21st century world and our teens are PLUGGED IN.  We could certainly make the argument that they should be plugged in less, but as a library we do a disservice if we ignore this aspect of who we serve because of our personal beliefs.  We are not their parents, we are their librarians and our job is to help them gain access to the resources they need to navigate 21st century information.  Plus, you can always balance your plugged in programming with unplugged programming.  The trick is not to ignore one in favor of the other.

In a time where more and more information is moving to a technology based environment, an increasing number of kids are learning that they suffer from what is known as the “Technology Gap” or the “Digital Divide”.  Children and teens growing up in low income homes do not have the same access to technology as their more affluent peers and they suffer from this lack of access.  The topic is of such high educational importance that the PEW project often does research on the Digital Divide (see it here) and many cities discuss ways to bring broadband access to the state, as well as free wireless access.

Part of the problem we see is that many of those people in positions of power and decision making are not people who are living in the digital divide, so it is easy to become distanced from it and fail to recognize it.  However, those of us working hands on day to day in the schools and at the public service desks of public libraries are reminded on a daily basis how vast that divide can actually be.  We work with people every day who don’t have access to technology that we think of people as having.
Although the Internet can be used in many ways, a popular way among children and teens (and many adults to be honest) is through online gaming.  Although it is easy to dismiss gaming as a superfluous activity, the truth of the matter is that there are a great number of education benefits that come from engaging in gaming.  Yes, gaming has educational value.  It did when we were playing chess and checkers and Monopoly and Life.  And it does when we play online as well.

Computer Literacy 

Literacy in today’s age goes beyond just the basic ability to read and write.  There is, in fact, a new type of literacy that is termed computer or digital literacy.  The ability to navigate and adapt to current and unfolding technologies is a basic life skill for our emerging youth.  Gaming helps them adopt basic tech skills in a fun way that engages them.  In fact, if you teach a beginning Internet class one of the exercises often given to participants is to play Solitaire to get better at manipulating the mouse.  Just as young children learn a variety of basic skills through random, unstructured play, so can our youth learn a variety of computer literacy skills through online play.

Multiplatform Storytelling (Basic Literacy Skills) 

A large amount of online gaming involves basic storytelling.  Heroes go on a quest, basic tasks are given, etc.  Along the way, participants have to read prompts, engage in the story, and help determine the story’s outcome.  In many ways, video gaming is simply another form of storytelling, albeit a more active one.  In fact, it is an online “Choose Your Own Adventure” story that you, the participant, is helping to write. 

Take, for example, the concept of transmedia – Transmedia storytelling (also known as transmedia narrative or multi platform storytelling) is the technique of telling a single story or story experience across multiple platforms and formats using current digital technologies. It is not to be confused with traditional cross-platform media franchises,[1] sequels or adaptations. (Don’t hate on me, but this is the Wikipedia definition.)

Many of the items we purchase in our collection now include a transmedia approach.  This means that there are a variety of online activities, including games, that young readers are invited to jump online and do to enhance the story.  Examples of this include the BZRK series by Michael Grant and The 39 Clues by multiple authors.   The very items in our collections are instructing our readers to jump online and engage in the story in a more hands on way.  A customer would be pretty unsatisfied to go to a store and buy a printer but not be able to buy their printer paper there, so it would also be pretty annoying for our patrons to check out and read a book that directed them to go online for additional experiences and be told the very library they checked the book out from doesn’t permit that. 

21st Century Education

21st century has an emphasis on STEM skills (science, technology, engineering and math).  This means that young students need to be adept and knowledgeable at interacting with technology and be continually aware of the rapidly changing landscape of the technology world.  In addition, these new skills require a different type of learning, of information access and processing skills, and these skills can arguably only be acquired through frequent interaction with the online world. 

Coding (see Minecraft

One of the primary 21st century skills that STEM education emphasizes is coding.  It is believed that all students today need to learn some basic coding.  Minecraft is a game that was designed to help teach kids coding in a fun, game like environment.  Minecraft is just one example of this type of gaming, but it is currently the most popular.  In fact, many libraries now have Minecraft parties as a regularly occurring program because of the social and educational benefits. 

See also, Why Everyone Should Learn to Code: http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2013/03/29/codecademy_hacker_school_why_everyone_should_learn_to_code.html 
See also these References from YALSA: http://yalsa.ala.org/blog/2013/04/04/connect-create-collaboratecraft-a-teen-tech-week-post-mortem-minecraft-in-the-library/, http://www.questia.com/library/1G1-317588244/minecraft-programs-in-the-library-if-you-build-it 

Lateral Thinking, Creativity, Innovation (STEM Education) 

Video gaming puts kids and teens in a variety of scenarios where they have to think creatively, problem solve, innovate, lateral thinking and more.  These are all 12st century education goals.  They are, in fact, some of the same benefits that we get from reading, but gaming addresses this in a 21st century way and it does so while engaging in a different type of learning environment/strategy.  There is more than one way to learn, and each way is more effective for different people; by allowing access to gaming, we widen our education net to meet the needs of those with learning disabilities of various types and allowing them to engage in the educational format that works best for them, as opposed to more traditional formats. 

Lateral Thinking Definition: Lateral thinking is solving problems through an indirect and creative approach, using reasoning that is not immediately obvious and involving ideas that may not be obtainable by using only traditional step-by-step logic. (Edward de Bono) 

Physical Benefits That Impact Learning and Basic Literacy 

Video gaming increases some basic skills such as hand/eye coordination.  These are all skills that are also important to the basic ability to read.  Thus, gaming in the library reinforces many skills that help our youth become better readers and information processors.  That seems to fall under our basic mission.  For another example of the physical benefits of electronic gaming, see Video Games Promote Cognitive Flexibility.

Patron (Customer) Satisfaction and Retention 

Part of remaining vital and relevant not only today but in the future is to communicate to your patrons that you value them and that you have the resources they need to be successful in their formal and informal education.  You cannot alienate a generation of library users by denying them access to a key component of their technology needs and expect them to later come back and find the library both viable and relevant.  By eliminating gaming in the library we will communicate to today’s youth that we do not have what they need and want, that we are not a relevant community resource, and we will be hard pressed to convince them otherwise at some later date.   

Supporting General Education 

A basic part of much classroom education today is supplemented by online games.  In fact, there are entire curriculums such as Study Island that students are assigned and are asked to access outside of the classroom.  These activities involve a variety of math, language and science based games that reinforce things discussed in the classroom.  My tween daughter is instructed by her teacher to log in and participate in a group of games called Study Island, and it tracks her progress.  Her teacher sends me emails reminding me that my daughter is supposed to do this.  We are lucky, we have a basic laptop and Wifi access at home, but not all students do, which is where the public library comes in.

New Days, New Ways.  Different is Not Always Bad, It’s Just Different

Recently, when asked to speak at a staff training event, I was talking about teens and reading when a hand went up in the air: “But teens don’t really read anymore”, this staff member said.  The truth is, teens do read.  Some of them, many of them, even still read traditional books.  But as our world changes, so must our ideas of how we define reading.  You just sat here and read this blog post, you were reading.  Not a book, but still reading.  Teens read, and a lot of them are doing it in new ways provided by technology – including inside of the games that they play.  In order for libraries to remain relevant, we have to understand the patrons that we serve and be able to meet their needs.  We have to adapt.  This means that we have to acknowledge that teens may be reading in different ways, but that they are still reading.  And teens may be learning in different ways, but they are still learning.  The question is, do we want to continue to be a part of their education?  If the answer is yes, then we must find ways to incorporate electronic gaming in libraries.

Additional Thoughts and Resources RE Gaming and Education:
20 Benefits of Video Games: http://www.trendhunter.com/course/gaming-speech
The Educational Benefits of Video Games: http://sheu.org.uk/sites/sheu.org.uk/files/imagepicker/1/eh203mg.pdf
Hidden Benefits of Video Games: http://www.drcherylolson.com/hidden-benefits-of-videogames/
Video Games Help Reading in Children With Dyslexia: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-21619592
New Study Finds that Gaming Helps Children Learn Ethical Decision Making: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-21619592
Study Finds Playing Video Games Helps You Process Images Faster: http://www.geekosystem.com/visual-stimulus-gamers/
The Benefits of Video Games: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/technology/2011/12/the-benefits-of-video-games/
When Gaming is Good for You: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203458604577263273943183932.html
The Brain 101: http://www.positscience.com/brain-resources/brain-facts-myths/brain-101
Video Games Promote Cognitive Flexibility: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/24/video-games-brain-starcraft-cognitive-flexibility_n_3790610.html

Additional Thoughts and Resources RE Gaming in Libraries:
The Librarian’s Guide to Gaming: http://librarygamingtoolkit.org/
Video Games and Libraries are a Good Mix: http://venturebeat.com/2013/01/18/video-games-and-libraries-are-a-good-mix-say-librarians/
Video Gaming in Libraries 101: http://www.slideshare.net/JustinTheLibrarian/video-gaming-inlibraries101
At Libraries Across America, It’s Game On: http://www.npr.org/2013/08/11/209584333/at-libraries-across-america-its-game-on
Beck, John C and Mitchell Wade. Got Game: How the Gamer Generation is Reshaping Business Forever. Harvard Business School Press, 2004.
Gee, James Paul. Good Video Games + Good Learning : Collected Essays on Video Games, Learning, and Literacy. P. Lang, c2007.
Gee, James Paul. What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy. Palgrave McMillan, 2003.
Johnson, Steven. Everything Bad is Good For You: How Today’s Pop Culture is Making Us Smarter. Riverhead, 2005.
Nicholson, Scott. Everyone Plays at the Library: Creating Great Gaming Experiences for All Ages. Information Today, 2010.
Neiburger, Eli. Gamers … in the Library?! : The Why, What, and How of Videogame Tournaments for All Ages. American Library Association, 2007.
Prensky, Marc. Don’t Bother Me Mom–I’m Learning. Paragon House, 2006.
Salen, Katie. The Ecology of Games : Connecting Youth, Games, and Learning. MIT Press, 2008. Forthcoming
Selfe, Cynthia L. and Gail E. Hawisher. Gaming Lives in the Twenty-First Century : Literate Connections. Palgrave, 2007.
Vorderer, Peter and Jennings Bryant, eds. Playing Video Games : Motives, Responses, and Consequences. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2006.
“A Revolution in Library Service: Gaming is More Than Just a Lure into the Library” by Kelly Czarnecki. School Library Journal, May 2007, p34.
“All Thumbs Isn’t a Bad Thing: Video Game Programs @ your library” by Beth Saxton. Young Adult Library Services, Winter 2007.
“From Platforms to Books? I’m Game” by Rollie Welch. Young Adult Library Services, Winter 2008.
“Gaming and Libraries: Intersection of Services” by Jenny Levine Library Technology Reports Sep/Oct 2006, vol. 42., n. 5
“Gaming Advocacy: New Ways Librarians Can Support Learning and Literacy” by Kit Ward-Crixell. School Library Journal, September 2007.
“Why Gaming?” Library Technology Reports, September/October 2006, p10.

Additional Resources and Thoughts RE The Digital Divide:
7 Myths of the Digital Divide: http://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2013/04/26/7-myths-of-the-digital-divide/
The Digital Divide is Still Leaving Americans Behind: http://mashable.com/2013/08/18/digital-divide/?utm_cid=mash-prod-email-topstories
The Digital Divide and Its Impact on Academic Performance: http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/WRC08034.pdf
Digital Divide: Bridging the Gap: http://www.broward.k12.fl.us/digitaldivide/
Education World: Caught in the Digital Divide: http://www.educationworld.com/a_tech/tech041.shtml

Book Review: The Other Normals by Ned Vizzini

“All right,” Ada says, “I want you to listen very carefully.” She moves around the room with the confidence of an ER Doctor, opening panels on the walls, setting dials. The thakerak hums and purrs.

“Whoa!” Gamary yells as a sword jabs through the door.

“Open up!” a voice orders. The sword jerks up and down but, lodged in the wood, it can’t get far. From the size of it I know it’s Officer Tendrile’s.

“Hurry up!” Gamary pleads.

“Peregrine.” Ada takes my hand. “You have to go back to cdamp and kiss Anna Margolis, do you understand? We’ll find Mortin in Granger Prison.”

“How? You’re trapped here.”

“I have a service exit,” Gamary says, “if you two don’t get us killed by dawdling.”

“If you don’t kiss her, you won’t free the princess, and the dark shroud of violence that you see will continue to befall us.: She holds up the silver figure. I look into the princess’s eyes. The thakerak sparks, and I sear, for a second, the princess winks at me.

“Why can’t we free her here?”

“Excuse me?”

Open up!

Ophisa- he’s in the Badlands, right? We’ll get an adventuring party together and defeat him. Me, you, Gamary . . . plus we can rescue Mortin and bring him. I’ve demonstrated my worth as a warrior, right? We’ll kill the monster, free the princess, and all live happily ever after.:

“You’re saying you would rather travel to the Badlands, infiltrate Ophisa’s lair, try to avoid the poison that he spits from his unblinking eyes, run under him with a sword, and plunge it into his dark and distended heart . . . than kiss a girl in your summer camp?

“Yes! That’s exactly what I’m saying!”

“You have bowels, Peregrine, I’ll give you that, but-“

“Excuse me?”

“You’re brave. Bowels.”

“Oh. Uh . . . ” I’m embarrassed to correct her, and we are in a time-sensitive situation, but I remember what Mortin said: you should always correct a friend who mispronounces something.
“You’re thinking of a different term, Ada. It’s balls.

“Like male human testicles?

“Yes. Well. Yes.”

“That’s not fair. What do you say for a woman, then?”

Peregrine’s ideal summer of playing Creatures and Caverns disappears in smoke when he discovers that his parents are sending him to summer camp. Worried about his social skills, they’ve decided to ship him off to Camp Washiska Lake, where he’s to learn to interact with his peers and become “normal”. However, when Peregrine discovers the portal to The World of Other Normals, everything he’s learned from Creatures and Caverns and his burgeoning social skills will be needed in order to save both worlds.

Stuck in a world where his parents are divorced and dating their divorce lawyers, and only communicate through their lawyers, sixteen year old Peregrine just wants to play Creatures and Caverns. But when he’s discovered skipping class to play with a friend across town, that’s the last straw for his parents: off to Camp Washiska Lake, which is nothing like the brochures look like. With the camp confiscating his C&C materials, getting jumped in a fight within the first ten minutes, and his friend basically disowning him, Peregrine doesn’t think he’ll make the summer. But then he discovers the portal to The World of Other Normals, which is exactly like the world his C&C is based on- as it should be, as the guy he followed in is the writer of the manuals. Yet the Other Normal world has had their princess captures, and the only way to save it is for Peregrine to kiss a girl on his side of the portal- before it’s too late. Flipping back and forth between the worlds, and changing things on both sides of the lines while he does, can Peregrine save the Other Normals and his World?  Definitely a geeky and sweet coming-of-age story, with hilarious dialogue and awkward situations that make you feel for Peregrine. I’d pair it with In The Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern or even more gamer books such as Ender’s Game or Ready Player One, depending on what your reader was looking for. 3.5 out of 5 stars. As of March 22, 2013, Goodreads rates The Other Normals as 3.38 stars.

I know kids like Peregrine; heck, I think I married one. They may not be C&C players, they may be Yu-Gi-Oh or Magic players, or engrossed in Assassin’s Creed 3, but their gaming world (card, table, electronic or otherwise) may be their safe space- where they feel in control of something. This is what happens with Peregrine- out of control with his family, with his alcoholic brother, and his school, C&C is the one thing he can control. It’s his safe zone.

I really liked that The World of Other Normals paralleled Peregrine’s real world so closely; in fact, I spend a lot of time trying to figure out the one-to-one relationships of the characters from one side to the other. I knew which one was Peregrine even if he didn’t, but his brother’s was a surprise. I love surprises in the book.  The ending of the book was fun as well, and sets it up for future novels as well, which I hope will come, because I have a feeling Peregrine’s story is far from over. I definitely want to know what happens with Peregrine and Ada.

TPIB: Live Angry Birds (by Heather Booth)

When I couldn’t get that jaunty little tune out of my head and everyone around me, from my preschooler to my mom were playing Angry Birds, I knew it was a program whose time had come. Pinterest, my go-to spot for browsing and brainstorming, had led me to a few different ways of incorporating Angry Birds into a library program.  A crafty idea seemed like a good fit for the teens that have been frequenting my programs – mostly middle schoolers, mostly girls, mostly full of a fun energy and an interest in both making and doing things at the programs.  But I thought it might not be quite enough, might not pack quite a big enough punch to draw in new teens and appeal to those guys that hang out every day after school but still avoid eye contact with me.  Then I stumbled upon a very cool, very large scale live version and the wheels began to turn.  I clearly couldn’t go that big in the library in the middle of January – we’re stuck in a basement meeting room after all – but holy cow – projectiles and semi controlled chaos?  Those guys reading Thrasher in the corner would be all about that!

I requested $30 from the Friends of the Library for supplies, set a date for an afterschool time slot, and started planning.  This program would also be doable without any funds at all, but it might take a bit more scavenging.
The bricks were the easy part.  I brought cardboard blocks from home, but if you or your library don’t have any, you might solicit local preschools, or friends with young kids for a loan.  And chances are, there’s someone in your area whose kids have outgrown them and would love to Freecycle them out of their basement.  After a few experimental towers, I realized that though the cardboard blocks were handy, they didn’t quite pack the punch or have the right scale for a teenaged body. I brought in boxes in a variety of sizes and shapes, as well as some flat sheets of cardboard that could be used in the structures. As I gathered more boxes, I decided this is the perfect post-holiday program as everyone has gobs of boxes that they want out of the house, so cash in on that free source of “bricks” for your towers!
For the “birds”, I used a number of balls, all purchased at a toy store for under $12 total.  If you have balls on hand – red playground style and blue racquetballs in particular – the cost of this program drops significantly!  Green balloons would be the pigs, and the teens would decorate them with sharpies.
But the balls on their own weren’t complete until I used clear packing tape to attach faces from these printable templates.  Just reduce the blue face down to the right size.  I think I reduced mine by 50%.  Standard packing tape is enough to secure the faces onto the balls for one afternoon.
At this point, I was stuck, like an angry little red bird that can’t quite hit her mark.  How to fling the balls at the towers?  Throwing just seemed too easy.  Could I build a slingshot?  A catapult?  It seemed risky, and time consuming in those precious after work hours, and I have three year old TV to Netflix and brand new books to read!  I needed something simpler.  We experimented with a basket attached to an exercise band at home, but the results fell short – literally.  The solution came to me while browsing www.RecordSetter.com, a crazy fun site that’s been an inspiration for past programs.  There I spotted  this video which provided the answer.  The kids would work together to fling the balls using a beach towel held between two people.  Teamwork FTW!
Now the event started shaping up.  If two kids were the “flingers,” another could be a spotter/leader and a fourth could be the documenter and take photos or video of the event.  So that accounts for ¼ of the kids registered.  Huh. 
I went back to my original inspiration and took some tips from a librarian who did a similar program recently and who kindly lent her advice after I found her event online.  (Love those Evanced calendars for that handy contact link!)  I decided to add the cute little yarn pom-pom Angry Birds back in.  Thank goodness I still had a little money left for yarn and googley eyes.
Room Prep
I have found that the more structured the setup is when the kids walk into the room, the more control I later have over the event.  If I provide instructions and everything they need all measured out and right where they are sitting, they tend to stick to the plan a little more closely than when I have a central table where they can grab what they need and get creative.  My gingerbread house decorating program was a central table grab style program.  This one?  Where I’m encouraging projectiles and a wee bit of chaos?  Structure.
Half of the room is open for the building and flinging, half had tables and chairs for the crafty portion. One table had paper cups, rubber bands, and craft sticks for building mini bird flinging structures.  Each other table was set with four chairs and all of the supplies needed to make the pom-pom birds. 
Here’s what was on the tables:
Four of each: Red and green yarn cut in 1-2 yard pieces  
A cup with googley eyes
A bottle of Tacky Glue
Four pairs of scissors
Four 6” or so pieces of black yarn for eyebrows
Four small strips of orange paper for beaks
Four copies of page one of this pom-pom template
Four half sheets of cardstock
Four golf pencils
For the large scale birds, one table had balloons and markers for pig making and decorating, and the rest of the room was open, with the bricks stacked against the wall. 
Each table of teens was a team, and one team at a time was given the “field” to build and bird bomb their structures.  I had intended for them to rotate, one team building a structure and the next knocking it down, but things moved fast and they were more than happy to destroy what they had just created, so we went with the flow.
The teams that were not building hung out at their tables and made pom-pom birds.  Even the table full of guys that had asked me, upon seeing the craft setup, “Aw, so do we have to make that before we can throw the balls?” got into it to the point of swapping tips on the best sized paper template rings to use to get the right shaped bird. 
We had a great time!  A reporter from the local newspaper came and took video, I had a chance to talk up some future programs, the teens had a chance to shake off some mid-winter cabin fever, and I finally got those Thrasher readers down into the meeting room.
Next time I would…
Pre-cut the pom-pom templates.  Too much variation in sizes made it difficult for some teens to get their birds the right size and shape, and some simple mishaps forced some teens to start over completely.
Adjust the orientation of the towers.  Most teams set it up like the game is played, but it was much more fun, with more dramatic results, when the tower was perpendicular to the throwing area.
Allow myself an extra 15 minutes for cleanup.  The program ran from 3:30-5, but I really needed about 30 minutes to pick everything up and put away before heading for home.
Not stress so much!  Sheesh, youd’ve thought I was staging a Civil War Reenactment.  It was so much fun, and I should have trusted in the teens that they’d carry it through well.
Final observations
I was struck by how much the teens enjoyed playing.  They give us this oh-so-hip face as the walk past the desk, but given the right environment and the permission to let loose, the kids in these kids really shines through.  At one point, I saw those Thrasher guys crawling into and hiding in the boxes — exactly the way my 2 and 4 year old and their friends would have played!  The interest in crafting still surprises me sometimes.  That the guys liked that portion just as much as the girls has me rethinking my future crafty offerings.  I think there is something really appealing about making something tangible and a little bit frivolous that crosses gender lines.  Playing and creating are great examples of the way the Library can nurture the whole person.  We can offer resources to help them succeed in school and excel at their hobbies, but we can also give them a space to let them breathe and be around friends, fiction that takes the away to another place, and opportunities that allow them to smile and relax and get in touch with their fun sides so that they can focus better on the heady task of growing up.
Get in touch with me if you do this program, or one similar to it.  I’d love to hear how it goes for you!
Heather Booth is the (wicked cool) Teen Librarian at Thomas Ford Memorial Library. She is also the author of Serving Teens Through Reader’s Advisory (ALA Editions, 2007).  Heather also started the Teen Programming in Libraries (a collaborative board) on Pinterest. You’ll want to check there for more great teen programming ideas.

Flashback Fridays: Because We Never Really Grow Up

There is a tweener in my house collecting Smurfs.  I wonder what happened to all of mine, I had quite the collection of little blue men.  It turns out, all things old are new again.  Transformers.  Thundercats.  Smurfs.  Strawberry Shortcake.  My Little Pony.  And the other day, there were fluorescent yellow and orange and green clothes on the back to school racks.  Apparently that style is once again a go-go.

Flashback Fridays
Everywhere you look, we’re going retro.  The discussion even came up this week on the YALSA listserv – with some great program ideas.  Who knew that teens would want to get together and play with playdough?  Of course with Lego stores opening up all over those are definitely too cool, and lots of libraries are having lego clubs.  Have you seen some of those Lego sets, they are amazing?  A Lego building competition is a great teen programming idea.  So why not get teens together on a Friday afternoon, or a series of Friday afternoons, for Flashback Fridays.

Recently Marion Public Library held a retro video game night.  They played old Atari and Nintendo games.  There are classic game bundles for the Wii and other popular game systems, too.  You’ll want to brush up on your Frogger, Pac-Man and Donkey Kong skills.

You could also bust out some classic board games for a retro board game night.  Think Monopoly and Scrabble and Life.  Not Words With Friends (which is wicked fun), but an actual Scrabble board where teens sit down in the same room and play together.  Or you could go really old school and get your hands on Don’t Break the Ice, Cooties and Hungry Hungry Hippos.  Throw in some old fashioned checkers and Pick-Up Sticks. 

Actually, think of all the fun you can have playing picnic style games and relay races (if you have a large enough space) like sack races and 3 legged raced.  Throw in a good ring toss or bean bag toss.  Add a couple of hula hoops.

Invite teens to build a better Mouse Trap and create Slinky mazes.  Or see how large a domino train they can make before watching them all fall down.  The hands on fun potential is really quite limitless.  I think it would be wicked fun to have an after party and do this domino activity (think of it as a great way to read the shelves):

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pw5LlSKKG3M]

Don’t forget to show great flashback flicks!

Re-“Craft”ure Your Childhood
Think of all the fun retro crafts you could make in a program.  You can go to your shelves and find the Retro Revamp craft book for some ideas.

Or you could try some of these ideas . . .
Sock monkeys
Make some potholders on a weaving loom
Shrinky Dinks! (you can do them in a toaster oven)
Crochet flowers – they can be made into bookmarks, headbands and more.  American Girl has a craft kid to help you do this.
Cat’s Cradle games
Chinese checkers
Chinese jump rope games
Cootie catchers – come on, everybody loves them!
Make your own playdough, flubber or slime
Friendship bracelets
Decoupage is kinda old school
Paint suncatchers
Painted rocks
Paint old bottles to use as candle holders

You’re Never Too Old to Read This Book!
All this talk of teens wanting to reclaim their childhood (and who doesn’t want that?) got me thinking . . . we spend a lot of time making lists of adult books for teens, but what about children’s books that teens will still like!

Certainly you would want to include Roald Dahl and Judy Blume.  Some other titles recommended include:
The Phantom Tollbooth
Bone graphic novels
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
The Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger
The Grand Escape by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
A Dog’s Life by Ann Martin
Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardner
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
Catwings (and the rest of the series) by Ursula LeGuin
Kate Shelly and the Midnight Express by Margaret Wetterer
Keep the Lights Burning Abbie by Peter Roop
Cracker The Best Dog in Vietnam by Cynthia Kadohata
Howls Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
The Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula K LeGuin
Lizard Music by Daniel Manus Pinkwater

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
The Soup books by Robert Newton Peck
Millicent Min, Girl Genius by Lisa Yee
Anne of Green Gables books by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
The Castle in the Attic by Elizabeth Winthrop

Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright
Return to Gone-Away by Elizabeth Enright
Nancy Drew Series
Boy Who Couldn’t Die by William Sleator
Sammy Keyes by Wendolin Van Draanen
Blue Willow by Doris Gates
The Singing Tree by Kate Seredy
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
Some More Retro Craft Resources for You:
Online Fun:
Retro Games Online – share this link to help psyche teens up for your program