Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Puppets! They’re Not Just for Storytime: Creative Digital Media Fun, with a Shark Puppet

I am a huge fan of teaching teens how to engage with digital media and I am also super into instant photography, which I have posted a lot about here. I’m even in a instant photography group, which is where this idea comes from. A member of that group posted a picture they had taken with a shark puppet, making it look like they were being attacked by a shark, and I thought: THIS IS GENIUS AND FUN! So I ordered a shark puppet (It was $10 off of Amazon). And then the fun began and my programming brain started spinning into full gear.

Thing 2 is shocked to see a shark nearby

So here’s what I’m thinking.

As a library we can buy a variety of hand puppets to circulate. There aren’t just sharks, there are dinosaurs and unicorns and so many more. OR, we can make grab and go/make and take kits with the materials to make your own hand puppet. Either option would work.

Make your own puppets grab and go kits would be a great way to clean out those supply cabinets and inspire creativity in our tweens and teens. You would need to include something like felt pieces to make a higher quality hand puppet. Then a bunch of random things like googly eyes, pipe cleaners, yarn, etc. Pretty much anything you can think of to make a hand puppet. This could also be a good tutorial for teaching basic handsewing (which you will need to provide the supplies for as well because I believe we should never assume that someone has what they need at home to supplement a make and take kit.) Here’s a great tutorial on DIY hand sewn puppets: http://www.oneacrevintagehome.com/felt-hand-puppets/

Then you challenge tweens and teens to take fun photos of their hand puppets and share them online. You see a lot of these types of photo challenges everywhere, especially on Instagram. All you really need is an idea and a hashtag. I know that I’ve seen some libraries doing photo challenges during the pandemic, how fun would it be to add a prop?

You could make it open ended or do a daily challenge model. Here’s an example of a daily challenge outline that I found doing a quick Google search:

I would definitely avoid any challenges that asks kids to reveal personal information or space, like the where you sleep challenge in the example above.

One of the things that I did with my shark puppet is I wanted to learn how to make it look like it was wet and in the water while it was no where near the water, and there’s an app for that.

Then I decided I wanted to try and make it look scarier and like it was in a black and white movie. At one point I even added red filters to try and make it look bloody. But it was fun to use an app to explore digital media, photo manipulation and my creativity. A lot of tweens and teens are already using Insta and Snap, so they have ready access to a variety of filters. There are also a variety of fun and free apps that they may be using. And don’t forget, a shark puppet would be so cool in a Tik Tok.

There are some problems and limitations with this idea, of course, because it means that our tweens and teens have to have access to a device to take and share their pictures. A lot of them do, but there are always exceptions which we need to keep in mind. And one day when our library doors fully reopen and our makerspaces are safe, it would be a fun MakerSpace digital media station and challenge.

Puppets, they’re not just for storytime!

Though I love and use a wide variety of photo apps, all the pictures in this post were made using PhotoShop Express on an iPhone.

Take 5: Sharks!

I’m going to continue our Shark Week theme from yesterday, by sharing a Take 5 list with shark books. Technically, two of the books are not really shark books, but they have awesome shark scenes. If you have more titles to add to the list, please do so in the comments. I would hate to miss any!

Surrounded by Sharks by Michael Northrop

Scholastic Book Description:

Dragged out to sea with nothing but a piece of trash to keep him afloat, Davey is certain things can’t get any worse…and then he spots a shark.

He couldn’t sleep. That’s how it all started.

When Davey wakes, just as the sun is rising, he can’t wait to slip out of the crammed hotel room he’s sharing with his family. Leave it to his parents and kid brother to waste an entire day of their vacation sleeping in! Davey heads for the beach, book and glasses in hand, not bothering to leave a note. As the sparkling ocean entices him, he decides he will just test the water. Never mind that “No Swimming” sign. But when the waves pull him farther and farther out to sea, Davey finds himself surrounded not only by water, but something else, something circling below the surface.

This book was brought to my attention on Twitter and I haven’t read it yet, but I can’t wait.

The Living by Matt da la Pena

I am including this book because 1) it is an awesome book and because 2) there are sharks.  Shy takes a job working on a cruise ship because it pays well. But while at sea, the big one hits and triggers powerful storms. When the cruise ship is thrown, there are few survivors, but they find themselves adrift at sea in the few rescue boats they could find. And while drifting at sea, there are, of course, sharks. The Living is a great read and I highly recommend it. I gave it a 4Q and 5P rating in my VOYA review.

Of Posiedon by Anna Banks

Emma and her best friend are swimming in the ocean when Emma sees a shark attack and kill her. But something else happens this day at the beach and Emma begins to realize that she is a not completely human. Soon Galen, the prince of Syrena, and co are watching over Emma as they try to help her realize who she is an accept her destiny.

Meg by Steve Alten

This book is not actually a YA title, but it is awesome and it goes on my list. I listened to this book on audio years ago while driving to my grandmother’s house and I purposely drove 1/2 past her house so I could finish the book, then I doubled back. It was that exciting. Basically, a previously thought extinct Megalodon surfaces and terrorizes. If you have seen any of the Mega Shark VS. whatever movies on SyFy then you know what a Meg is. There are more Meg books by Steve Alten. And if you can, definitely listen to the audio, it’s good.

Jaws by Peter Benchley

Yep, also not technically a YA title. But this is the grandaddy of all shark books and it should be on all the lists. I remember watching the movie for the first time sometime during the summer of the first and second grade. It was terrifying. And on Christmas Eve this year, the 5-year-old and I stayed up and watched it together for her first time while we waited for Santa, possibly the beginning of the weirdest family Christmas tradition ever. She asks to watch the movie all the time and the thing is, it’s still really awesome. So, if you haven’t, go read the book, but probably not at the beach because it might freak out the other beachgoers.

TPiB: Shark Week!

On Wednesday evening, the gloriousness known as Sharknado 2 will be airing on SyFy. And should that not be your cup of tea, Shark Week is coming up soon on Discovery Channel. Basically, it’s that time of the year where it’s not safe to go into the water. Personally, I am a huge fan of sharks. Yes, I really have seen almost every one of those terrifically cheesy shark movies on SyFy. The ones with Debbie – excuse me, Deborah – Gibson. The ones withe Urkel. But not the one where they make fun of Jersey Shore, I tried to watch it but it was too terrible for even me. They even have one with a giant robot shark! That’s a great program idea right there. Well, not giant size, but making robot sharks. So as a shark lover, I give to you some collected program ideas to celebrate Sharknado 2 – or Shark Week for those of you who liked to go a little more high brow. Me, I can’t wait for them both!

Shark Jawbone Paracord Bracelet

This is not actually made with shark jawbones, in case that needs to be said. But here you can make a paracord bracelet, which is cool, that has shark in the name.

Fish Prints

Gyotaku is the Japenese art of fish printing. Sharks eat fish, plus these are cool, so I think they work. The Mr. was an art major at college and I have been to an event where they did this and it was fun. They used real fish, but you can buy kits that use plastic fish which you may want to purchase if you have an aversion to leaking fish guts, which some people do. You basically need something to print on, say a blank t-shirt. You need the fish, real or not, and you need printing ink – the ink used in printmaking, though I guess you could use paint if you would like – paint rollers, pans to pour the ink into, tablecloths, etc. You ink, or paint the fish, and slap it down on your t-shirt to transfer it. Then you get a glorious fish print. Click on the Fish Prints heading above for better directions.

Under Sea Aquariums

There are a lot of ways you can create some type of an undersea aquariums. If you have a blank wall to decorate, you could have your tweens and teens create one here AND decorate your library, it’s what we call win/win. You could use simple things like butcher paper, craft paper, pipe cleaners, beads, etc. Have them do this in your children’s area, put out a display of both fish AND back to school books and put together some punny saying about going back to SCHOOL. Because, you know, fish groups are called a school of fish.

Or you do an upcycle craft using baby food jars or empty water bottles to make little aquarium. You can buy plastic sharks in bulk to make this happen. Instructions can be found here: http://blog.chickabug.com/2012/03/how-to-make-under-the-sea-snow-globe-aquariums.html.

Shark Origami

I think the title kind of says it all. Click the link for instructions.

Crayon Resist Whale Shark

 I’ve always liked crayon resist painting. And, there’s science involved! I admit this is definitely for say the Tween set more so than your teens, but if you have stations and an awesome shark movie playing in the background – may I suggest Jaws? It’s covered under Movie Licensing USA – they may enjoy it.

Clothespin Shark

Yes, again, this one seems youngish. It was very hard to find older shark themed craft ideas. BUT, it’s back to school time and smack some magnets onto these bad boys and you could make a cool Sharknado themed locker. Don’t forget to add some blood!

Shark themed party outline at SheKnows
40 plus Shark Week activities at A Day in Our Shows

This site has 40 Shark Week crafts including making a cool shark themed watermelon, papercrafts and more.

And here is a cool shark themed manicure.

And here is a YouTube tutorial on how to build a Lego Shark

Basically, my thoughts are this:

  • Do a book display
  • Have Jaws playing in the background
  • Have food – it can be something simple like gummy fish/sharks or something elaborate like the watermelon shark
  • Have a few craft stations set up
  • Get out your smart phone and make Vine video of tweens & teens trying to do the dun dun, dun dun, dun dun dun dun theme music from Jaws. Or reciting some of its most famous lines: “We’re going to need a bigger boat.”
  • If you really want to get fancy, set up a photo booth station with shark fins and other fun beach items

TPIB: The Neptune Project by Polly Holyoke (a guest post)

Come explore “beneath the surface” of the waves with The Neptune Project, my new undersea adventure story about a group of geneticallyaltered teens fighting to survive in the sea. Voya claims the book “revels in the beauty of the underwater world and the creatures that inhabit it.”

I’m thrilled with that description because I did want to share my love of the ocean with young readers. Growing up in land-locked Colorado, I was always fascinated by the sea even though I rarely got to see it. Eventually I became a scuba diver, and I finally had a chance to explore that amazing world firsthand. Now I take my dive gear along with me on school visits because students are so intrigued by it. I’m not sure most parents realize that children as young as 11 or 12 can get certified to dive and start exploring the sea themselves (with proper supervision)!

I loved doing research for The Neptune Project. Before I started to write this story, I read dozens of books on oceanography and dolphins. I also talked with marine biologists, dolphin trainers and dive masters. But my favorite research, by far, was swimming with dolphins. My family and I swam with domesticated dolphins in Florida, and I went snorkeling with wild spinner dolphins in Hawaii. I’ll never forget seeing and listening to dozens of spinners swimming beneath me, squeaking and whistling happily to each other as they flowed through the bright blue sea.

In my story, dolphins become characters in their own right as they protect my heroine and her companions on their dangerous journey north to a new undersea colony. The book is full of non-stop action because the Neptune kids have to fight sharks, giant squid and divers from a repressive government determined to catch them.

The Neptune Project is the story of Nere Hanson, a shy, unconfident girl who inadvertently becomes a leader. I had hoped the book would appeal to girls, but I’m also finding out that boys love it, too. Because the book contains so much action and excitement, it’s also a strong selection for reluctant readers.


“Almost every chapter ends with a cliff-hanger, forcing the reader to flip the page for more. In addition, the book revels in the beauty of the underwater world and the creatures that inhabit it. The relationship between the teenagers and the dolphins—who actually become characters themselves—is especially well crafted. There is even a touch of romance when Nere becomes the object of a romantic rivalry between two boys—quiet, reliable Tobin and sarcastic, daring Dai. With both romance and adventure, The Neptune Project will attract male and female readers.”—Cheryl Clark for Voya

“This suspenseful undersea dystopia should keep middle schoolers hooked.” Kirkus Reviews


Below are some discussion questions and a Scavenger Hunt put together by The Neptune Project author Polly Holyoke for a ready made program you can use.

Discussion Questions for The Neptune Project

1. What if someone said that you HAD to start living in the sea tomorrow? What aspects of living in the ocean would you enjoy? What aspects would you hate?

2. What is life on land like for Nere and her classmates before she goes into the sea? What events or factors, do you suppose, may have led to the wars and climate disasters that have clearly taken place since our time?

3. Reviewers claim that The Neptune Projectvividly depicts the world under the waves. Is there anything that surprised you about that world?

4. Some of the dolphins in the story can actually communicate with Nere in human words, but only because Mariah was smart enough to pick up human speech when she was young. Do you think some animals do communicate with each other? Do you believe some animals are capable of thinking?

5. Nere, to her surprise, becomes a leader in the course of the story. Do you think she was the right choice? What qualities do you think a good leader should possess?

6. Over 70% percent of our earth’s surface is covered by our oceans and only 95% of those have been fully explored. Would you like to explore them some day?

The Neptune Project Scavenger Hunt

I challenge you to dive in to some ocean explorations of your own. In the course of doing research for The Neptune Project, I came across all sorts of wonderful sites on the Internet where kids can find out more about the sea.

And find out:
1. What does NOAA stand for?
2. How much of the Earth’s surface is covered by oceans?

3. How much of our oceans remain unexplored?

And find out:
4. What famous movie director and ocean explorer recently made the deepest solo submarine dive in history?
5. How deep did he dive?
6. Where did he dive?

Go to: http://www.dolphins.org/marineed_anatomy.php
And find out:
7. What is the correct name for a dolphin’s head?
8. What is the correct name for its nose?

Go to: http://www.seaworld.org/animal-info/info-books/bottlenose/communication.htm
And find out:
9. What four kinds of sounds do dolphins make? Make sure you listen to all four recordings. They are super cool and very surprising!

And find out:
10. What are some of the most dangerous and deadly creatures in the sea?

Go to: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/sharks.html
And find out:
11. Why are sharks so susceptible to fishing pressure (over fishing)?

Go to: http://www.pollyholyoke.com/undersea-gallery.php
Try to:
12. Guess at least five sea creatures in the photo gallery of Nere’s undersea world and then list the

CONGRATULATIONS!  You have completed my official Scavenger Hunt!
Do you have extra time on your hands this summer?
And try making one of their cool projects or doing one of their cool experiments!
Answers to Scavenger Hunt:
  1. NOAA stands for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
  2. The seas cover approximately 70.1 percent of the earth’s surface, which means much more of our planet is covered by ocean than by land.
  3. NOAA states that 95% of the oceans still hasn’t been explored.
  4. James Cameron
  5. 35,787 ft or 10,908 meters
  6. the Mariana Trench, the deepest known place on Earth
  7. Dolphins’ heads are called “melons.”
  8. Dolphins’ noses are called “rostrums” or “beaks.”
  9. Dolphins make clicking, creaking, and squeaking sounds and buzzing clicks when they communicate and echolocate.
  10. Possible correct answers from this site: striped sturgeonfish, barracudas, yellow sea anemone, moray eel, great white shark, whitespotted sturgeonfish, oyster toadfish, Indonesian needlefish, textile cone snail, saltwater crocodile and sea anemone
  11. Shark populations are so vulnerable to over-fishing because they are long lived, take many years to mature and only have few young at a time.
  12. Possible right answers from this site include: Spanish shawl nudibranch, giant Pacific octopus, humpback whale, anemone/brittlestar, greenback sea turtle, bat ray, spiny lobster, sea otter, golden gorgonian/sea urchin, California sea lion, great white shark, red gorgonian, Pacific white-sided dolphins, angel shark, orange garibaldi, sheephead fish, wolf eel, leopard shark, elephant seal.

TPiB: Beneath the Surface Ideas for Tweens/Teens

Ah, February…  the time when every teen services specialist thinks of candy hearts, chocolate tastings, and OMG, we have HOW MANY DAYS UNTIL SUMMER?!?!??!  Do not fear!  We at Teen Librarian Toolbox have not one, not two, but EIGHT different ideas that would fit in with the 2013 Collaborate Summer Reading Program Theme (Beneath the Surface & Dig Into Reading)…

I happen to be in charge of everything (splitting the youth portion with my part time youth services librarian) and have had tremendous success with tween programs.  So for the summer I’m alternating between tween and teen nights.  However, any of these ideas can be aged up or down depending on your library, and what works for your patrons.  What works for me and mine may not work for you and yours.

Note:  All movie suggestions have been cleared through Movie Licensing USA, which is where my system gets their umbrella license.  If you do not have a public performance license, please use movies in the public domain.  Do not have the authorities pounding down your door.  Also, while the MPAA ratings are a guideline and not law, no movies suggested go above PG-13.


Superheros/secret identities 

  • Movie suggestions: DC Superheroes featuring Superman, Green Lantern, Batman– the first week of June Man of Steel is released in theaters so it would be a good tie in.  Marvel superheroes like The Avengers or Iron Man as Iron Man 3 will have been released in early May.

  • Craft suggestions:  create your own superhero emblem and place in a photo keychain, or utilize the system’s buttonmaker (start preparing the arm muscles), or get mask blanks and let them design their own costume piece

  • Game suggestions:  pin the cape on the superhero, name the secret identity, create your own superhero, get your own superhero name,  Marvel Monopoly


  • Movie Suggestions: anything zombie related, like Invasion of the Body Snatchers or I am Legend (World War Z is released June 20)

  • Craft suggestions: create your own zombie heads with blank kickballs (hacky sacks for those of us who remember), or create a little felt zombie with some scraps and a house out of leftover candy tins.  Or check out Zombie Felties for a real craft project. 


Law enforcement

  • Movie Suggestions: The Lone Ranger comes out July 3, so you could pull in the western aspect with Wild Wild West, or go full force with S.W.A.T. or uber mysterious with Total Recall (2012)

  • Craft suggestions:  rattlesnake pulls, ID badges, finger print cards, create your own wanted poster

  • Game suggestions: Live Clue, mystery scavenger hunts, assassin

Shark week

  • Movie Suggestions: Really, what else is there but Jaws or the sequels? 

  • Craft suggestions: baby food jars plus plastic sharks=shark globes, or make your own shark teeth necklaces, design a shark bite

  • Game suggestions: shark bite tag, feed the shark (bean bag toss), shark volley


  • Movie Suggestion:  Wreck-It Ralph. Yes, seriously.  Yes, they are both video games, but if you have ever seen Minecraft, they build and build and build, and then take it down and tear it apart and then build and build and build.

  • Craft suggestions:  create your own Steve masks, fold your own Minecraft printables, build your own creepers

  • Game suggestions: Live Minecraft (gather boxes to build the fort, have some tweens be builders, and some be creepers and destroyers- see who wins), Creeper Bowling, after hours Minecraft gameplay


  •  Movie Suggestions:  Jurassic Park, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, Godzilla

  • Craft Suggestions:  Create your own dinosaur fossils, dinosaur bones out of pasta, design your own dinosaur heads

  • Game suggestions: bean bag toss with dinosaur eggs, hot dinosaur egg (hot potato), Lava tug-o-war between the herbivores and the carnivores


  • Movie Suggestions: The Mummy, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Hotel Transylvania, Corpse Bride, Jumangi

  • Craft Suggestions:  create your own mummies cardboard tube mummies, potato chip tube mummies, create your own tombs (Check out the hieroglyphics section on this Art Through the Ages TPiB)

  • Game Suggestions: Musical chairs (Walk Like an Egyptian, King Tut, etc.), Mummy wrapping, hieroglyphics codes 

Spy party

  • Movie Suggestions:  Spy Kids, Inspector Gadget, James Bond movies or the Austin Powers series

  • Craft Suggestions: recyclables to make their own gadgets, finger printing, disguise printables

  • Game Suggestions: disguise relay races, spy training obstacle courses, hide and seek, assassin

    Adapt ideas from this CSI themed TPiB