Seasonal Passive Programming for YA

We do a lot of passive programming in our teen department. Most of it is themed and seasonal. Some of it follows special library events such as Banned Books Week. The most popular at our library is anything that involves art or drawing. I have a really creative group of kids that like to leave drawings around the library. We have a bulletin board in the department and I try to display as much as I can so the teens feel at home. Here are some ideas from our fall and winter displays. All of these ideas can created using die cuts.

 

Fall: Graffiti your Gourd 

The clever title was a suggestion from a post I made in Teen Services Underground. Thanks Jeretta! I think the pumpkins turned out amazing! I didn’t want to take them down for winter!

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Winter: Do you want to design a snowman? 

This one came from one of my teens. She sings this particular snowman song all year long and very loudly. I did have to toss a few snowmen due to carrots in inappropriate places. Other than that, they kept it clean! The snowman wearing the Led Zepplin shirt is my favorite!

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Passive Winter Prompt: Caption this Pet edition

This one is always entertaining. I love the this prompt. The “Caption this” idea came from Sherry at our Brentwood branch! We do this a few times a year at different branches with silly pictures or geeky movie stills.  I use post-it’s for the captions to cut down on the stuff I have to erase for being inappropriate. I also only put out pencils!

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As you can tell it’s finals week, so a few of my teens are pretty stressed out!

 

Do you do passives in your teen area? What are your most popular prompts? I would love to hear about them. As always feel free to steal these ideas! If you use the photos, please be sure to credit the source.

Holiday YA Books

Are you in the mood for a bit of Holiday Romance? Check out these titles:

festive-holiday

 

Titles:

Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares- By Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily- By Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

What Light- By Jay Asher

Ex-Mas- By Kate Brian

Let it snow- By John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle

Decked with Holly- By Marni Bates

Top Ten Clues you’re Clueless- By Liz Czukas

Books make great gifts

The holidays will soon be here and one of the best things to put on your shopping list is books! This past weekend our library had their top 2016 books you can gift to friends and family. I’m tackling the YA list and to be honest, it’s been a bit of a tough year for groundbreaking YA titles. I have seen lots of amazing sequels, prequels, and series finales. But I am still waiting on the next big trend in YA. I know I’m not alone in this feeling. I have talked with quite a few colleagues and they all feel like we are in the dreaded “what’s after Hunger Games” slump. Which is sad because there are some wonderful books getting overlooked while we wait for the next big breakout title.

My goal with this post is to highlight my top 5 picks from my presentation that would be great for Middle and Young Adult Readers. It is by no means exhaustive, since there are tons of great books that I have missed getting to read this year. My TBR pile is massive! I would also love to hear some of your recommendations. If you have a book or books that everyone should read and/or gift please let me know in the comments below.

Historical Fiction for Teens

Salt to the Sea- By Ruta Sepetys

By far this is one of my top 3 favorites for 2016. It is heart wrenching and beautifully written. Told from the perspective of 4 teens who are seeking freedom on the Wilhelm Gustloff during WWII, we learn the heavy price of perceived freedom. The sinking of this ship claimed 9000 lives and is one of the worst little-known disasters of WWII. I had never heard about this ship until I read the book. It’s tragic, raw, and the pace is very fast. This is a good one for teens that love well researched historical fiction.

 

Fantasy Fiction for Teens

 Rebel Of The Sands- By Alwyn Hamilton

This books is a mix of western and fantasy with dash of romance for good measure. It has some familiar elements from Arabic mythology but does a good job of coming up with an original story line with lots of adventure. Amani is a talented sharpshooter with one fatal flaw, she is a girl. Determined to get out of her dusty town she dresses as a boy and enters a shooting contest. When chaos ensues and she is on the verge of being discovered, she takes off into the wild desert sands with a boy who is not who he seems and has the entire army of the Sultan after him. There is lots of action and adventure with a romance that doesn’t take over the whole plot. This is a good one for teens that liked “Girl of Fire and Thorns” and other stories with a strong female lead.

Fantasy Fiction for Middle Grade

The Night Parade- By Kathryn Tanquary

Saki leaves the comforts of Tokyo and her friends for to visit her Grandmother in the Mountains. Her family gathers there to take part in the yearly Obon ceremony to honour their departed ancestors. Bored out of her mind, Saki decides to cause some mischief in the graves with some local “cool” kids. However, all that messing about at the shrine has stirred to life an ancient curse. A curse that will lead Saki on a night time journey through the most fantastical parade on earth, with special  guides who are not quite what they seem. She only has a few days to set things right before she is trapped in the land of the dead forever.

This book would be a good choice for fans of “Spirited Away” and other popular Studio Ghibli films. It has a bit of a slow start, but readers will soon be caught up in the adventure and the magical creatures they meet along the way. 

Fantasy Fiction for Middle Grade

The Inquisitor’s Tale- By Adam Gidwitz

One night in the year 1242, a man hears a story about 3 amazing children and their magical dog. The tale starts in France with a capture, follows them to a castle where they dine with a King, expands as they save a kingdom from a dastardly farting dragon, and ends at Mont Saint-Michel where they will attempt to thwart the burning of ancient texts. Can these children really perform miracles? Did their dog really come back to life?

This book is hilarious and full of adventure. Not only are you reading a story in the text but there is another story happening in the margins of each page. Which tale is really the truth? Gidwitz is a master of gross out humor and dark twists. This was one of my favorite books of the year and a ton of fun to read. Perfect for readers who like snark, blood and guts, good adventure, and lots of laughs. 

Realistic Holiday Fiction for Teens- 

What Light- By Jay Asher

Sierra’s family runs a Christmas tree farm in Oregon—and every year, they pack up and move to California to set up their Christmas tree lot for the season. Sierra has always lived two lives and this year she is missing home more than she expected. When she meets a cute local boy with dark past, will she learn about forgiveness or will with rumors end their relationship before it even gets started? 

This was a wonderful book and perfect for the holidays. I so enjoyed reading this and it totally warmed my heart. It’s sweet and has a nice message about the power of forgiveness and trust. A total fluffy romance that is perfect to read during the holiday season.

 

 

Moving and other fun news!

Dear readers-

This year has been a bit crazy and I have not kept up with blogging on a regular basis. To add to the craziness of 2016, we are moving!! My hubby has accepted a job in Colorado and will report there in January. I get the lovely task of packing and attempting to sell the house. This also means I am leaving my Library. This news makes me so very sad, because I love where I work and I adore my teens. It is going to be a big change and I am hoping to jump back into the library world as soon as possible. Being a Teen Librarian is the most rewarding and challenging job I have ever had and I hope I can get back to it as soon as the move is complete.

For now, my blog will mostly be book reviews and the occasional programming post. I want to add as many programs as I can so I can keep record of all the awesome things we did at my library this past year. This also means some of the links on my other posts might be broken once I leave my current job. I am working hard to move all my documents to a better sharing platform as soon as possible. If something looks hinky let me know and I will personally send you your request.

I’m also excited to announce I am a final round judge for the Cybils Awards!!! I’m so honored that I get to help choose the award for Middle Grade Fiction. If you are unfamiliar with the Cybils Awards check them out here.

The Cybils

I hope everyone has a Happy Turkey Day with friends and family! Be sure to read a good book after all the festivities!

~Valerie

Geekarella- By Ashley Poston

GeekerellaGeekerella by Ashley Poston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4.5 stars

Sometimes you need a book that is lots of fun, a little unbelievable, and utterly charming! Geekerella is that book.

Cinderella is re-imagined as the ultimate fangirl with a wicked stepmother and posh upscale wannabe stepsisters. Elle, is a Starfield superfan and a devoted blogger. When she is not slaving away under the critical eye of her step-monster, she is dreaming and plotting her way to freedom and her own happy ending. When she gets a chance to enter a cosplay contest dressed as her favorite character from her beloved fandom she decides to go all out. Even if it means meeting the new star of the show that is way to perfect to be real.

Darien Freeman is an up and coming teen star with a secret geeky past. When he gets the lead role in the new Starfield reboot he is both thrilled and terrified. Can he win over the mega fans and do the character justice? Or will the blogger world, his controlling father, and one creepy stalker, ruin his chance to play his all time favorite character on screen?

What I liked:

This book was fun. I really needed it to be fun, silly, a bit romantic, and to hit me in the geek girl feels. It happens to do all three. I like that this book is lighthearted and doesn’t take itself too seriously. The romance is predictable and it has it’s cheesy moments, but that is what I wanted as a reader. It’s a fun nerdy twist to the well known Cinderella story and I had fun suspending my belief and enjoying it from a fangirl’s point of view.

What came a bit short:

It is a bit predictable, which some readers might not like. It doesn’t break any new ground and it tends to be a little bit silly with the giant pumpkin food truck. But I didn’t find them to be big flaws. Just something other readers might not enjoy.

Final thoughts and recommendations:

This book is just fun. It’s silly and full of geeky references and has a cute made for the movies romance. Think “Princess Diaries” and “A Cinderella Story.” I had a lot of fun reading it and I think teens looking for a fun lighthearted book about what it means to be a fan with a light romance and some silly humor would enjoy this book! It’s going on my list of Great Geeky Reads at our library!

View all my reviews

Zombie Apocalypse – Playing the game

Hello again! I apologize for not posting this sooner. I have been out sick for a few weeks and have not kept up with blogging. If you missed the first part of my post about the Zombie Role Playing Game that we hosted this summer, check out my set-up post here. You will want to read that post to understand how to set up the game. In this post I’m going to go over game play and also let you know what worked and what didn’t.

Space- 

We are lucky to have several large rooms that are connected by doors and an outside patio. You can modify this to play throughout the library if you are brave and your branch manager is okay with wild zombie teens taking over the space after-hours. We do not have the staff to do an after-hours program so I planned it for a Saturday and utilized all of our community rooms. Our program was during summer reading and Missouri tends to be super hot and humid in the summer. I set up several water stations and neutral zones for the kids to rest and hydrate.

Once you get everything set up and decorated there are a few things I didn’t do that I would highly recommend:

  1. Give the teens that are going to play the game a quick tour of the area. We did not do this and the first round ended up being  really confusing.
  2. Have super huge signs for your medical area and any safe zones. I had smaller handmade signs. Once they got the hang of the game this wasn’t a big deal.
  3. Introduce all of your adult staff! It helped our teens know who they were and what part they played in the game.

The big talk- DON’T SKIP THIS PART!!!

Before I turned the teens loose into the game area I went over the rules and how to play the game. This gave them time to ask questions. My TAB group created a double-sided document of rules and game play. It was great for our older high school players, but the younger middle school kids just tossed it aside when the game began and did their own thing. If I did it again I would have a small half sheet with a check list of things they needed to remember when playing the game. I would also post the rules around the game play area on poster sheets.

Here is the document that our TAB group helped me write: Feel free to use and modify for your own game. It is rather lengthy which worked for our High School kids who really got into the RPG part but bombed with the Middle Schoolers.

Zombie Apocalypse Rule Sheet

Playing the game- 

** This is what we did for our game. This doesn’t mean that it will be the same for you. You might have a group of kids that work well together or you might have a very chaotic night. I am letting you know both the good and the bad of running a game this size with a mix of middle and high school teens.**

Goal:

The goal of the game is for each team to get enough food, water, and medical supplies to survive. They also needed to build a big enough shelter to house all of their team members. Teens who were zombies were tasked with infecting as many people as they could. Each round lasted for 15-20 minutes and we played for 1.5 hours. I gave them a 20 min break in the middle.

Teams:

We had 40 teens sign up for this program. I split them into groups of five. Four groups were survivors and the 5th group became zombies. At first, I had them draw colored popsicle sticks to determine teams. We had decided that the first round we would have random teams so that my TAB members wouldn’t have an advantage. This elicited a ton of whining from players who came with friends. It also led to some Lord of the Flies moments during the game. I wish I was kidding.

Turns out middle school boys will sacrifice their one high school team mate to the zombie hoard because he is too tall for their shelter.

The game:

All of the high school kids and few middle school kids (mostly my TAB members) really got into the role playing aspect of the game. If they got infected water, they would moan and groan in their shelter and act sick. If they got a card that said they broke a limb, they would bandage it and hobble around. They followed all of the cards that were on the food or water supplies that they gathered during the game. About a third of the players decided that the rules were crap and went all out crazy. They stole supplies, they destroyed other players shelters, and a few decided that they could throw supplies at other players and zombies.

So to be honest.. it was very much like a real apocalypse! Just not very fun for players who were trying to get into the game. This resulted in a few players having a time out and a warning that if they kept it up they would have to call their parent.

Zombie:

The zombies were tasked with tagging players with green stickers. The stickers meant that the player was infected and needed to go to the med tent for a cure. They could only put the stickers on a player’s upper back or arms. They could not run down a player or tackle them. Once a player was tagged they had to gather their whole team and go to the med tent for a cure. Or their team could decide that they were on their own and not save them. Holy, wow this was a bad idea… you would have thought the world was ending with this one. There were a few teams that decided not to cure players, which led to tears and arguments. The next round we scrapped this rule and went with you get tagged.. you go to the med tent on your own. This worked out way better and saved a lot of hurt feelings.

To be honest, I thought more teens would want to be zombies. I did have 5 kids that stayed zombies the whole game. It may have just been my group. We had more teens interested in the survival part than eating people for the game.

Zombies were released at different times. The first round the zombies were hiding before the rest of the teams got into the rooms. This was not a good idea. Most players were tagged before they had time to find supplies or build a shelter. The next round we released the zombies after 5 mins of game time and that worked a lot better. Teams had time to build a shelter and get supplies. The last round we released zombies in different spots at different times and that worked really well. It added an element of surprise to the game!

Shelter approval:

I know the whole “get your shelter approved thing” sounds a bit weird. The reason my TAB members decided on this rule was to keep people from destroying each other’s shelters and stealing supplies for the whole game. They wanted to help curb the chaos. For the most part, this was a really good idea. Once a team finished their shelter and everyone could fit inside they would grab an adult and get it approved. They adult had giant blue stickers that they would stick on the outside of the shelter letting other teams and zombies know that this was a safe area for that team.

If I did this again I would use 8 x 11 signs that said shelter approved. The stickers were hard to peel off once a new round got started and more that one team used that to their advantage during the next round.

The Med Station:

There were two adult volunteers that ran this station. They handed out medical supplies and cure to infected players. The players had to complete tasks to get cures. One of the tasks was to play the game of Operation. They would have to remove 3 pieces for a cure. Another task was to do the YMCA, pat their head and rub their tummy while whistling, and anything else my med guys came up with.

Once a teen got a cure (glow stick bracelet) they had to wear if for the rest of the game. At the end of the game, we gathered up all the cures for next round. This was a bit of challenge and we did have some teens hide them to use in later games.

My TAB members had a rule that if you got one cure you could not get another. This did not work and led to the zombies hunting down “cured” players and turning them almost immediately after they left the med station. We decided to skip this rule for the rest of the rounds. You could also limit where your zombies can hunt. We had a safe zone around the med station, but they still hovered nearby.

Evaluation time and issues-

The first round of our game was a mess. The combination of mixed teams, not knowing where things were located, and zombies on the playing field from the start, made for a crazy round. I had to stop this one early due to lots of confusion and outright anarchy! The other 2 rounds went a bit better once they were allowed to choose their own teams.

I am really proud of my TAB members for giving the game an honest evaluation. This is their list of what didn’t work and solutions:

Problem #1-

Mixing high school and middle school- We allowed upcoming 6th graders to come to the game. Many of them were way to immature to do this game properly. The whole RPG part was lost on them.

Solution #1-

Have a game just for Middle school and a game just for High school. This way younger players can just do the tagging and survival part and older players can role play.

Problem #2-

Where is everything?? It was really confusing not knowing where everything was before the game.

Solution #2-

Give a tour of the game area and introduce the adult helpers!

Problem #3-

Cheating!!! This was a huge issue. Many of the younger players were confused by the RPG part and ignored the supply twists.

Solution #3-

Not as many rules on the rule sheet. Posting them around the game area for everyone to see so there is no excuse not to follow the rules. Only RPG with older players and do a basic game with the younger players.

Problem #4-

Too many people!! 40 players is way too many for this type of game. It made keeping track of things really challenging.

Solution #4-

Only 20 players and dividing them by Middle and High School.

Advice from the Librarian-

I think my TAB team did a good job coming up with this game from scratch. It did have some issues but we managed them well and the last two rounds of the game were really fun. This is a fun game to do in your library and can be modified to fit a small to large group. I would honestly not do more than 25 teens for this game. Even with 5 adults, it was still hard to deal with all craziness and it WILL get crazy!

We didn’t really do as much RPG as we wanted to. I think it was confusing for players that had never heard of it before. It was one thing that we could have explained a bit better to our group. However, it was a good learning experience for my TAB team on how to create a game and explain it to new players.

If you have any questions about this game or need any tips, please feel free to message me! I hope that you try it with your teens!