Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

TPiB: Superhero Lock-In by Michelle Biwer

tpibThe recent release of the amazing Wonder Woman film was the perfect excuse to host another teen lock-in for two hours on a Friday evening.

With 3 floors of library to work with, there was lots of opportunity to let the teens run around (literally) and utilize all of our meeting rooms for different activities. With 4 staff members and 4 teen volunteers, we had at least one staff member on every floor and had teen volunteers to help lead different activities.

Icebreaker Activity: As we were waiting for all of the teens to arrive, a teen volunteer led a Superhero versus Villains version of the popular party game Mafia. This is a great team building and warmup activity because teense can join in the game as they arrive and the game can be ended at any time.

After the icebreaker activity, the teens were free to go to any of the 5 stations we had set up for the next hour.

Trivia Station: At my last TAB meeting a few teens had made superhero themed Kahoot! Quizzes. Some teens didn’t have phones, in which case we played in “team mode” with library tablets.

Light-Up Captain America Shield: Nothing too techy ever succeeds at my library as a standalone teen program so I’m always looking for ways to bring STEM into my well attended “fun” programs. Instructables has a neat tutorial on how to make sewable circuit superhero badges. I adapted their instructions to use cheaper materials with a similar result. With just conductive thread, felt, and LEDs, the teens sewed a circuit into their superhero badge.

Perler Bead Craft: We printed out some example perler bead creations for teens to follow, but some opted to make their own creations! Of course a librarian was on hand to do all the ironing.
perler beads

Guardians of the Galaxy Movie Screening: A low key option for teens who might need a little rest from the excitement.

Scavenger Hunt: Legendary DC and Marvel villains kidnapped various superheroes and hidden them around the library! Teens had to find where the superheroes were hidden based on clues. All teens who completed the scavenger hunt received a prize from one of our summer reading sponsors.

Superhero Themed Escape Room: Once again I turned one of our conference rooms into an escape room. This time groups of 8 or less teens were superheroes trapped in a creepy abandoned warehouse by the Trickster (anyone else watch The Flash?). I do not think my coworkers have ever been so disturbed as they were when they saw the room. That is how I knew it was creepy enough to be a success! The teens had to locate two bomb detonators and turn them off in order to save Central City and themselves. They also had to “escape” the room. For an extra challenge, I gave groups the option to escape the room in the dark, with only blacklight flashlights to help them solve the clues.

Screen Shot 2017-08-20 at 9.47.04 AM

While this after hours program series takes a lot of work to put together, they always get great attendance and the teens always leave asking when the next lock-in will take place!

VOYA: Girl Knights & Boy Queens . . . an addition to the list of cross-dressing titles

In the October 2013 issue of VOYA Magazine, there is a great article by Rebecca Moor about cross dressing teens entitled Girl Knights and Boy Queens: Cross-Dressing in Teen- Appeal Books and Films..  Honestly, it is pretty exhaustive in its exploration of motivation and titles.  It includes a look at titles old, Bloody Jack, and new, The Boy in the Dress.  But a new title has come to my attention that I wanted to add to the list: The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas.

It all began with a ruined elixir and a bolt of lightning . . .

I recently saw Sherry at Austin Teen Book Festival and she described her book as, “Cross-dressing Harry Potter.”  You see, she wanted to create a historical fantasy story with a female main character, but in order for it to work in the historical context she had to acknowledge that women weren’t afforded the same status as men in that time.  Her resolution?  Make the girl dress up as a boy to attend school, but it is not a magical school.  In fact, the main character, Iolanthe, has to hide not only the fact that she is a girl but her magical powers as well.

Back Cover Description:

Iolanthe Seabourne is the greatest elemental mage of her generation – or so she’s been told.  The one prophesied for years to be the savior of the Realm.  It is her duty and destiny to face and defeat the Bane, the most powerful tyrant and mage the world has ever known.  This would be a suicide task for anyone, let alone a reluctant sixteen-year-old girl with no training.

As I mentioned, the VOYA article is a well-developed look at the literature and the role of cross-dressing in the lives of teens. It has a pretty inclusive list and a great look at some further information about cross-dressing.  You can check it out on pages 10 through 14 in your October 2013 issue of VOYA.

Banned Books Week 2013: Defending Harry Potter by Geri Diorio

It’s Banned Books Week! The most magical week in a librarian’s year! Every day, librarians celebrate the free and open access to information, but during this week, we really flaunt it. “Free and open access” includes being able to read whatever you wish, and that might mean the best-selling book series in history, a series that has been translated into more than sixty languages, a series that has a theme park, and whose author announcing that she’ll pen a movie based in the same universe as her book causes headlines worldwide. Yes, I am talking about the universally know Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. But being universally known doesn’t translate to being universally loved. The Harry Potter series is ranked number one for the most frequently challenged books of the last decade. 

Why was it challenged so often? What reasons did people give when attempting to have these books banned? Three reason were given most frequently: it promotes the occult, it has anti-family themes, and it has violence.

If your belief system tells you to avoid witchcraft and supernatural, mystical, or magical things, the Potter series certainly does seem to give you a conflict. But would it help to know that J. K. Rowling does not believe in magic? She has stated this, outright. For Rowling, magic is simply a plot device; it moves things forward in an interesting manner. And since she is very clear about good and evil in these books (good people do good with the plot device of magic and bad people do bad things with it, just as in real life, good people do good with tools and bad people do bad things them) she even has her child characters learn Defense Against the Dark Arts as part of their schooling.  But perhaps simply stating that the magic in these books is a fiction won’t help people who are concerned about this. Perhaps we can show that the spells in Harry Potter’s world don’t work in ours. Bill Peel did a elegant proof of this years ago.

The charge that the Potter series contains anti-family themes is confounding. The friendships in the book are so strong as to practically constitute familial love. The main trio of Harry, Ron, and Hermione love, respect, and watch out for each other from the moment they meet on the train. The Order of the Phoenix bond together to fight for their cause, even though individuals may differ widely in their viewpoints. Even the organization of Hogwarts, with students sorted into different houses, makes students bond into familial-like units. Perhaps it is the close bonds of these friendships that upset the people who challenged the books. Let us consider the actual families in the books. Certainly the Dursleys are mean to Harry, but real families are not always loving and supportive. The Weasleys are among the most loving families ever portrayed in fiction. Molly and Arthur have created a warm and open household for their children and their friends and spouses. The Weasleys even showed the great patience that comes from strong love while waiting for Percy to return to his senses after he went to work for the corrupt Ministry of Magic. Neville’s devotion to his family is enormous and heartbreaking. Luna Lovegood and her father Xenophilius share a lovely relationship. Xenophilius raised his daughter on his own after his wife died. He showed great strength and love for his little family of two.  And James and Lily Potter look out for their boy even after their deaths; you just can’t get more loving and family friendly than that.

As for violence in Harry Potter, well, yes, in these books people are hurt and killed out of jealousy and hunger for power, but sad to say that is no different than what happens in reality. (The United States’ war with Afghanistan is currently in its twelfth year; violence is a constant in the news.) The books do get darker as they go on and as Harry’s confrontation with Voldemort draws closer, but not every book is intended for every reader, and good parenting means being involved in what books your children read. There are ages for which Harry Potter is appropriate and only you as a parent can determine what those ages are for your family. Only you have the right to determine what books your children read. Conversely, that also means that you do not have the right to determine what books other people’s children read.

Overall, the Harry Potter series actually offers a rather traditional Judeo-Christian take on morality.  Good and evil are very clear cut, even as Rowling shows how hard is can be to do the right thing. (Think of Dumbledore’s oft quoted choice between doing what is right and doing what is easy.)  Characters in Potter do not seem to be affected by traditional racism, and those who are prejudiced against non-magical people are clearly the bad guys. The heroes of the story are ordinary people who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances and rise to the challenge. Those same heroes are often prepared to make enormous sacrifices for the greater good. Sure, Ms. Rowling’s story is fantastical and strange at times, but at its core, it is about love, family, and doing the right thing.

~ Geri Diorio

Geri Diorio is the Teen Services Librarian and the Head of Children’s Services at the Ridgefield Library in Connecticut. She reviews books and audio and movies and apps for School Library Journal, VOYA, and Audiofile magazines and she blogs for YALSA’s The Hub. The Ninth Doctor is her Doctor, vanilla is better than chocolate, and stand-alone novels are preferable to trilogies. If you’d like to debate any of those things, you can reach her at @geridiorio.

TPiB: Magic in Books and Movies, past, present and future (part 1)

I am a huge fan of fantasy fiction, and whenever I can do anything that ties that into a program, I am all for it. Add in the huge popularity of a HUGE movie franchise, a recent movie release, and an upcoming movie, and it’s a recipe for excitement! Not to mention, they absolutely fit within the Collaborate Summer Reading Program themes…..

First up, Neville! Oh, wait, I mean, Harry Potter!

Pass the Mandrake
Decorate a stuffed item or plushy (or more than one for added chaos) to simulate the screaming mandrake plants from the world of Hogwarts. Gather everyone in a circle. When the music starts (to the soundtrack of the movies, of course), have the participants toss the Mandrake around the circle (if you have more than one, have one passed around the circle while one is tossed). When the music stops, those who have possession of the Mandrake are OUT. The winners are the ones who last the longest. 

Feed the Norwegian Ridgeback

Prepare a piece of cardboard by drawing a dragon face on it and cutting a hole where the mouth would be – large enough for say, rolled up socks or bean bags to be thrown through. Lean the dragon face against a chair and place it 6-8 feet away (depending upon the abilities and ages of your group). Create your own “food” for the dragon by decorating beanbags or rolled up socks to be fun.  Everyone takes a turn throwing three items of “food” into the dragon’s mouth.  If you want to make it harder, draw lines with masking tape on the floor in different distances and make them step back in each round, or design a three headed dragon (or substitute a picture of Fluffy,the three headed dog) and have them have to hit all three mouths.
Azkaban picture
Create a frame out of cardboard saying “HAVE YOU SEEN THIS WIZARD?!?!?!?” and AZKABAN PRISON NUMBER with hole for kids to put their faces through. Then have someone with a digital camera take pictures with the patrons making their scariest or weirdest faces. Upload them to the library’s social media site (as your policies permit) so that they can download them to their own social pages.
Draw Your Own Marauders Map
Newsprint or construction paper

Have the participants draw their own Marauders Map (from the Weasley’s twins)- a map of Hogwarts Castle and all the classrooms. Award prizes for the most creative, and who adds in the most detail.

Book of Monsters
Book or journal
Construction Paper or Paper Bag for Book Cover
Googly eyes
Fake Fur
Other Embellishments
There is an awesome tutorial about how to create bookcovers on Family Crafts– just have your youth bring their own book or journal.
Declare Your Allegiance
Drag out the button maker, and let your tweens declare their allegiance. Are they Hufflepuffs, Sylverin, Griffendors or Ravenclaws? Print out templates of the various house crests for them to color, then cut to size and create their own crest buttons. Get wild and let them create their own buttons to fit in the books. If you need examples, the books are rife with them: Hermione’s S.P.E.W. button, Ron’s buttons for the Chuddley Cannons or Draco’s Potter Stinks button…
Next, a classic and a recent release…. 
While the original Wizard of Oz that everyone is familiar with shows the citizens of the Emerald City, the Land of Oz is actually split into four separate sections, one for each of the witches to rule over.  Start out your program by separating out your teens into North (Gillikins- Locasta) , South (Quadlings- Glinda), East (Munchkins- Evanora), and West (Winkies- Theodora) for their respective lands.  If you have stations for crafts and activities, these can be used to rotate teens around the room.
Broomstick Races
Get four or more broomsticks (ask staff to help with borrowing them for the program- no wiffers allowed), and break your group into the number of teams. When the clock starts, the first person on each team has to fly around the room (skipping, no running for safety of all concerned) at least once (twice maybe depending on the size of your room), and then tag the next person on their team. The race is won when the first team finishes. You can bother teams (place obstacles and whammies in their way) by hitting them with blue raffia (water) or Toto, or other things from the original OZ movie which would send someone back to start.
Another various would be to have certain people be designated the wicked witches, while other are Tin Men, Scarecrows, Lions and Totos, and have the witches try and catch the others.
OZ Relay
In the movie, Oz has to do some quick changes in costumes, especially near the end. Have your tweens do a relay race by having two sets of clothes for each team (make sure they’re big enough for your biggest kid). Set each outfit (including a hat, pants, shirt, shoes, and tie) at opposite ends, and the teams in the middle. When you say go, have the first person from each team run to point A and get dressed, then tag person B in the middle. While person B gets dressed, person A must get UNDRESSED. When B is fully dressed, they run to the middle and they tag C, who takes A’s clothes back to start. C then tags D who takes B’s clothes back to start. Only one person can be missing from base at a time. Everyone from the team MUST take a turn getting dressed and MUST take a turn running the clothes back in order to win.
Thinking about crafts for your teens and looking for inspiration?
What about creating hot air balloons and letting loose your own wizard to Oz?  Bkids has an awesome idea for hot air balloons using helium balloons, food product netting, and small baskets….  And if you can’t get helium use water bottles, baking soda and vinegar.
Or, create your own flying monkeys!  Take a standard, like these from Oriental Trading Company, and let the teens decorate with markers, and add in construction paper wings for your own flying monkey army!
If your teens are into jewelry, check out Spoonful’s Shrink Oz charms!  If you don’t have the means to create shrink charms at work it would mean taking your work home with you, or morphing it around to mod podging pictures onto bottle caps or other media, but I love the effect!  Or, if you don’t want to let your teens loose with mod podge, search around craft stores for iconic beads and charms that would fit the theme and let them create away.
You can make personalized snowglobes easily with pictures, empty jars and glycerin.  Instead of calling them snow globes though, call them tornado globes. Complete instructions here.

Modify crafts you already know and love to fit the theme: You can do Oz themed marble magnets, bottle cap crafts, or felties. Teens can use images from the movie or use words like heart, brain, courage.  In fact, you can ask teens: If they were going to see the Wizard, what would you ask him for?
You can set up a scavenger hunt throughout the library and have teens search for a heart, brain, courage, ruby red slippers and more.

Next Up? A new release! The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones . . .

Harry Potter + The Fault in Our Stars = A fantastic Why YA? post by Leah Miller

As part of our ongoing Why YA? series, Leah Miller, author of The Summer I Became a Nerd, shares two titles that moved her and why everyone should read them.

Harry Potter is, as we all know, a beautifully written story. It will be with me for the rest of my life (not to mention my kids’ lives, if I have anything to say about it). Sometimes, I’m not sure how I ever lived without it. I know that might sound a bit dramatic, but it’s the truth. Rowling wove a story for us that could never be equaled. All sorts of topics are touched upon in the series; prejudice, love, hate, loyalty, and relationships between friends, family, and enemies, among tons of others. The way her brain works is spelled out on the page in plots, sub-plots, and even ghost plots (all my Pottermore people say, “Holla’!”). I doubt I’ll ever be as in love with a story as I am with Harry Potter and his many adventures.

Rowling’s writing is, well, it’s what I aspire to write. Her turns of phrases to suit the situation,  her characters who rip your heart out and lay them on a silver platter, the twists and turns, the gasps you make after just one sentence.
Harry Potter is one of those series I acknowledge as the reason I started writing in the first place. In my opinion, anything that makes one aspire to be better, to follow one’s dreams, is valid. Also, the fact that she has interwoven so much of herself into the books is wonderful. Who would Hermione be without Rowling’s own know-it-all spirit? As a writer, I pull from my own experiences and ideas about the world. I can only hope that one day I’ll be able to do it as subtly and ingeniously as Rowling.

Harry Potter also holds a place in my heart due a special connection with someone very important to me that was made because of it. I talked my father into reading the Harry Potter series back in 2001. I always knew he loved me and believed I could do anything, but up until that point, I never really knew he trusted my opinion.

Of course, he loved it. Here was this almost sixty-year-old man asking me for the next book only two days after I gave him the first. We even watched the first movie together in the theater. After Dumbledore said, “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live,” Daddy leaned over to me and whispered, “Remember that, Leah.” At the time, I brushed him off, sort of. “Yeah, Dad, watch the movie.” Unfortunately, he never got to finish the series. He died in 2002 from a stupid disease called pancreatic cancer. Which leads me to another book: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.

I don’t know about other people, but that book affected me in a very personal way. It made me analyze how I handled the news about my father. It made me remember what is was like to watch him die when I had only just turned twenty, still practically a teenager. TFIOS forced me to think about a part of my life that I considered a black spot, something I very rarely want to think about. I would hazard a guess and say we all have spots like that. But TFIOS also made me think about life and death, in general. And thinking is a good thing no matter what genre is causing you to do it (noticing a trend here?). I learned a lot about myself while reading that book that I don’t think I could have learned from reading anything else.

The fact that Harry Potter and The Fault in Our Stars are forever connected in my mind might seem a little odd, but that’s the thing about YA. Sometimes it can be heart wrenching. Sometimes it can be fun and make you laugh until you cry. Sometimes it can be both. Sometimes it can be all that and then teach you something about yourself you never knew was there. That’s what Harry Potter and TFIOS were for me. And I like to think Daddy would have felt the same way despite him being an almost sixty-year-old man.
Nothing I could ever say to J.K. Rowling could ever encompass my love for her series, but to John Green I’d like to say, “Thank you, Mr. Green, for giving the world that book.” I’m not as poetic as Mr. Green, so I’ll just say that, for me, The Fault in Our Stars was “heavenly in its hurtfulness”.
P.S. I hope John Green doesn’t take offense that I was able to put my feelings into words for his book, but was unable to do so with Harry Potter, but as Hank Green says, “No matter what I read, I think, ‘This is not Harry Potter.’”

P.P.S. I know at some point in this post I was supposed to say why these books appeal to teens. To that I say, “They appeal to teens because they’re really, really good.”

Mother, wife, and YA author living on a windy hill in Natchitoches, Louisiana. I love fuzzy socks, comic books, cherry coke, and brand new office supplies. THE SUMMER I BECAME A NERD by me coming Summer 2013 from Entangled Teen.  You can visit Leah Miller’s blog, Living the Dream, or follow her on Twitter (@LeahR_Miller).

You can also read our other Why YA? posts and learn how you can write your own here.