BREAKING DAWN…. part one

Now, I’m not a hater – in fact, I quite honestly enjoy the series, & it’s possible I’m among only a few that absolutely loved what Catherine Hardwicke did with the first one. But I can’t imagine I’m alone when I say I’m getting rather tired of this universe. For me, the biggest obstacle is the fact that there’s really very little to play with here – no costume contests, no silly food to recreate, very few universe-specific details. At the previous three parties, we’ve made glitter gel & created jewelry, a la what’s been available at Hot Topic, but I was getting a bit tired of doing that. So, for this movie, we created more of a wedding reception atmosphere, complete with “Save the Date!” wordage on our marketing.

What we did:
» As at all our Twilight parties, we had the soundtrack playing sprinkled with various trailers & tv spots.

» I made a wedding cake, & this was actually the first time I’ve ever decorated a cake like this, so I’m fairly pleased with it. We got the pans from a staff member, & I think the mixes, frosting, & other ingredients were less than $10.

» The guestbook was rather amusing – I think they had fun pretending to be at Bella & Edward’s wedding!

» Our major craft was a dreamcatcher. Oriental Trading has a very nice kit, less than $1 each, that makes quite a nice little dreamcatcher. The reviews over there are a bit unfairly negative, because the truth is, this isn’t something you can do with younger kids, but for teens & older, I think it’s perfect.

» I printed out a bunch of t-shirt ideas I’d seen online, & as we’ve done at all the parties, they were invited to bring along a t-shirt to design for the movie line.

» We always have a Jeopardy-style trivia game with questions taken from the book, & this party was no exception.

» We’ve had the life size standees since the New Moon Party, & I think we’ve had our money’s worth from them. Throughout the week prior to the party they help with advertising, & then everyone fauns over them at the actual party.

» Prizes included a few bookmarks, a donated copy of Breaking Dawn, & some other little vampire tidbits. Bookmarks with dreamcatcher lore, Twilight & New Moon reading maps, & Vampire Kisses READ bookmarks completed the freebie table.

For our next (& with any luck, FINAL!) Twilight party, we’ll be having cupcakes & thinking more along the lines of a baby shower. Of course, it’ll be a vampire baby shower, so darkness & candlelight will still rule the party planning.

TRW 2011: Fine Amnesty


This year, I pushed for a “Fresh Start” fine amnesty for the teens, & with several meetings & lots of finagling with various policies, we made it happen!

Our idea for this was that there are lots of teens who can’t use their cards because of old fines or because of family issues, & quite frankly, that sucks! Our library is in a very high-poverty area, & as soon as they hit $25 in fines, they’re “sent” to collections. In some cases, that’s one book with some extra in overdue fines, & if you have no money, you definitely can’t pay it off. Add that to the fact that we can’t actually collect money from minors in collections, & we’re looking at a lot of money sitting that we’re never going to get. We went into meetings overflowing with positive vibes & just about everyone agreed! Some kinks needed worked out, but overall, it went swimmingly!

Here’s how it worked:
1. We offered this at every library location during Teen Read Week.
2. Because of how our library card policies are, we could only include teens ages 13-17.
3. I created a brief survey, & every teen with fines could fill it out & return it to our circulation desk to see if they were eligible.
4. We decided that we would waive up to $50 in fines.
5. Teens who did not have a card any more could have a new card free of charge, in addition to the $50 fine waiver.
6. As this is a one-time-only fresh start, the code “TRW2011” was added to their records. (I’m definitely hoping to make this an annual thing)
7. At our library, if any member of the family is in collections, we block all cards. For teens who could no longer use their cards because of this, if they completed the survey, they were unlinked & given access once more.

Over our five branches, bookmobile, & main location, we had about three dozen teens participate & waived approximately $1000 in fines. So many of my “regular” teens who are constantly here can check out books once more, & it’s just so thrilling to see happy teens checking out stacks of new stuff!

Happy Halloween… a bit late.

When I first started this job nearly five years ago, I didn’t really care about Halloween. The reasons for that are varied, but the truth is, I would have never considered doing any sort of Halloween program back then.

So back in July, when I was planning for the fall, I surprised myself when I realized I really wanted to do one! A little creepy, a little cheesy… it would be a blast. I came up with the name “Nightmare on Mahoning Ave” because our library is, well, on Mahoning Ave, & got to planning. I made most of the decorations myself (it’s amazing what you can do with cardboard, a razorblade, paint, & glitter! I made two haunted houses, a chandelier, the pumpkins & gravestones, & the welcome signs) & got the rest quite cheaply from Oriental Trading. Although the photographs were taken with the lights on, we lit up the room through battery-operated candles only – ’twas perfectly spooky.

So here’s what we did:
» First & foremost, I knew I wanted to show them the old Legend of Sleepy Hollow cartoon narrated by Bing Crosby, so I mixed that with a few fun videos: Hoobastank did a hilarious cover & video of the Ghostbusters theme, so I showed that, along with a funny Muppets short I found, This is Halloween from Nightmare before Christmas, the Night on Bald Mountain sequence – stuff like that. I had about an hour’s worth of material, & made it the main event.

» Horror movie trivia! I let them work in teams to solve these. I also did the classic “guess the body parts” game, only as a self-guided station, sans the poem.

» For crafts, I had glow-in-the-dark beads & tiny skull beads sitting out with string & keychain bits, as well a pre-painted mini gravestones waiting to be decorated with their chosen epitaph. I also got some white make-up in case anyone wanted to quickly become a zombie, & use our accu-cut machine to cut out plain white masks in the event someone needed one.

» Prizes were mostly book-related; I’ve found that the dollar spot at Target tends to have holiday-themed paperback classics for a dollar, so I grabbed some of those.

» As for food, I went with caramel apples (ice cream caramel from GFS + apples was a big, but fun, sticky mess!) with DIY sprinkles & Oreo bits, as well as dirt pudding parfaits & green lemonade.

Because I’m in a pretty impoverished area, I really want all-out for this one. As with the Love STINKS Chocolate Fest, I’ve a feeling we’ll be turning this into an annual event. As always, if you have any questions, please ask!

Further reading:
» Nightmare on Mahoning Ave board on Pinterest.
» Martha Stewart’s Halloween goodies

In Which I Go Goth


I challenged the teens to read 500 books during the summer reading program – & if they did, I’d go goth. Well, they delivered, & so I delivered! I assure you I’m usually much more smiley, but that doesn’t seem very goth-like. To Goodwill I went seeking appropriately goth attire, & I hit up Hot Topic for the temporary black hair dye, which is possibly the grossest, thickest stuff to ever touch my hair. Black eyeliner, lipstick, & eyeshadow completed the look.

I think I spent… $10? maybe $15? of my own money, & it was worth every penny. I wore this to our Summer Finale Party & the teens couldn’t have been more delighted at the change in my appearance – apparently there was even some debating going on about whether or not I was goth in high school (for the record, I was not). The teens have promised they’ll meet the even bigger goal next year so I’ll repeat. I highly recommend the experience to everyone!

Silent Library: Around the World Edition

2011-6 silent library
Silent Library Around the World

I first did a Silent Library program back in the fall for Teen Read Week, & learned two things:

1.) Teens completely fail at being quiet, let alone silent.
2.) They love doing all sorts of silly challenges.

I knew I wanted to do it again, as the kids had a blast & I thought it’d be really fun to tie it into the multicultural theme. I planned out twelve challenges, & created a Powerpoint both to create a fun atmosphere & to teach them something about what they’d be doing. Initially, I had planned for about half of them to do each challenge, but by about the fifth one, everyone wanted to try everything – & who am I to stop curiosity? It was definitely no longer Silent Library, but we all know that if I’d advertised it simply as “Come try different food & activities from around the world!” few teens would have shown. Calling it Silent Library with the tagline “Challenge yourself MTV style to try different things from around the world!” meant I had 30 rowdy teens ready for anything.

The twelve challenges:
01) Hat Dance: Mexico
Using this YouTube video of a high school project, the teens danced along.

02) Try hummus: Middle East
Plain hummus scooped onto pita chips

03) Eat a fried plantain chip: Puerto Rico
Sliced plantain fried on an electric skillet in olive oil, sprinkled with a bit of sugar & salt.

04) Be a prima ballerina: Italy/France
First, we watched this clip from Center Stage, then the teens learned to do a plie watching this video.

05) Coconut water: Tropics
I rationed out about a 2 oz of water for each teen – some of them loved it, others hated it.

06) Talking drums: Africa
Teens echoed a rhythm of my choice with sticks on the floor.

07) Don’t point the brie: France
I served brie, rind & all, on a chunk of French bread. Most teens were brave enough to try the rind, even after learning that it’s mold!

08) Embrace your inner yogi: India
I led teens through a modified Sun Salutation sequence.

09) Mmm… raw fish: Japan
Using chopsticks, teens ate true sushi made with raw fish

10) Eat your avocados!: Mexico
Teens were challenged to eat 1/4 of an avocado without the use of their hands; I also had some chips & guac on hand so they could try it.

11) Better change your lox!: Scandinavia
I served mini-bagels with a smear of cream cheese topped with lox – everyone tried it!

12) Be Lord of the Dance: Ireland
Teens did their best imitation of Irish dancing using the finale from Feet of Flames.

I portioned out the food beforehand; with the only thing that needed cooked was the fried plantains. Set-up took about an hour, & the program itself lasted about an hour & a half. Beforehand, I asked if anyone had any known allergies & told them if we’d be eating anything that contained those foods (as someone with a wheat allergy, I’m completely understanding). Luckily, I didn’t have anyone allergic to fish, so we were good to go!

I will ABSOLUTELY do this again, possibly using some of the stranger food out there. This was so fun, & such a fabulous way to kick off Summer Reading – thanks to MTV for making this show so popular!

Books with Beat!

Teen Read Week is upon us! What are you up to this year? I’m running a month-long giveaway disguised as a survey of their music tastes. Music is probably the most challenging to figure out; you can’t just judge what’s on the radio any more. A good part of my “usual” teens just keep bouncing from Japanese star to Korean teeny-bopper week to week, & we can’t get a lot of that music in our library. In return for filling out a three question survey (favorite musician, favorite book, favorite part of the library), I’ve giving away a prize pack of books & other various stuff I’ve always got lying around.

As part of our usual “Teens on Tuesday” programming, I’m doing our own version of Silent Library.

Here are my notes on what I’m planning to do:

Silent Library

I’ll hand out cards; whoever gets the skull & crossbones must complete the challenge! You can only win a prize when you complete the challenge without laughing. NO ONE is allowed to make a lot of noise (silent laughter!), if you laugh too loud, you’ll forfeit your chance to win!

Round 1: Eat an oreo without your hands
Round 2: Wrap someone in toilet paper, using the whole roll, in two minutes
Round 3: Write your full name with your feet as legibly as possible within 90 seconds
Round 4: 3 pieces of bubble gum; blow five bubbles within 60 seconds
Round 5: Rattle Race: attach a shaker to your knee; make it to the finish line without making a noise. If noise is made, start again. Everyone who finishes within 2 minutes wins!
Round 6: Eat 5 brussels sprouts, one at a time, within 2 minutes

Final Round: Lifesaver Relay!
Includes everyone, divided into two teams
Everyone sit in a row at the table, with teams on either side. Put a toothpick in between your teeth. The first person, without using their hands, picks up a lifesaver with the toothpick. Once they get it, the next person does the same thing. First team to finish wins the prize!

For every challenge they complete, they’ll win a small prize (pencil, candy, etc). Nothing too bizarre, gross, or painful, but it ought to be fun!

Bringin' the 90s back

This summer, instead of more focused programs, I decided to do once-a-week hangouts. For two hours, the teens could play the Wii, watch Avatar: The Last Airbender, & do various crafts. I picked up clay, beads, plastic thread for lanyards, duct tape, origami paper – it kept them occupied all summer long. Whilst roaming the local craft store for easy & inexpensive stuff, I happened upon bags of nylon loops – something we made over & over again as a child of the 80s & 90s. We didn’t make pot holders; rather, we made scrunchies, headbands, bracelets… honestly, I don’t know if we ever used the items, but the neon loops were always all over the place. The bags were really cheap, & in more colors than I remember being available, so I grabbed them & figured that if they didn’t like them, I was only out a few dollars.

Ha. Well, I succeeded in bringing the 90s back to my little rust belt city. The teens LOVED them – I went back & bought more halfway through the summer. The girls like them, the guys like them, & I think they appreciate how simple they are to make. Pick up a bag the next time you need an easy craft!

Teen Read Week 2009 ideas


Good grief, it’s the end of August already! & at least for me, it means my favorite time of year is just around the corner: Teen Read Week!!

I adore Teen Read Week for a multitude of reasons, number one being that I get to showcase, first & foremost, what I love most about my job: getting amazing literature into the hands of teens. Reader’s advisory (wherein I pull book after book off the shelf for a potential reader & invite them to choose from among them) is by far my favorite part of the job. I get a thrill seeing teens walking to the self-checkout (which is why they never know what fines they have, le sigh) with a huge stack of books in their arms – especially when I know they didn’t used to a reader. In my time here, I’ve been fortunate enough to watch several of my “regulars” go from just-computer users to voracious readers who will read pretty much anything I give them.

Just as an aside: I firmly believe that anyone who says they don’t like reading just haven’t found that one book that gets them going. For me, it was the Redwall series first, & then Harry Potter that rekindled my love of reading. For many teens of late, it was Twilight. For at least one of my teens, it was the Confessions of Georgia Nicholson series. I take it as a personal challenge when a mom drags their teen to me & tells me they don’t like reading – that’s when the pile begins.

But anyways, TRW 2009 is creeping ever closer! I’ve been brainstorming some ideas for potential programs of late, & I thought I’d share them with you. This year’s theme is fantasy/sf-themed, & wow! The potentials are endless!

» Anime cosplay party! Let the teens choose the best-dressed & offer a gift card to their favorite place tp purchase anime & manga – usually Borders, FYE, Best Buy, or if you have one, the local comics shop
» Movies! Let your TAB or other group choose their favorite book-to-movie feature: Eragon, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Jumper, Star Wars, any of the comics movies – so many choices!
» Host a D&D campaign; invite local DMs to come & run the games!
» Get in contact with your local SCA & invite them to give a presentation on what they do
» Find a make-up and/or costume artist & create a program discussing costuming, etc in recent sf & fantasy movies
» Host a costume party & invite teens to dress up as their favorite sf/fantasy character. Be sure to invite those anime fans as well!
» Host a craft program & offer teens the chance to make their own dolls, felt plushies, or characterized teddy bears (or rubber duckies!)
» Is there an author or writing professing in the area? Host a sf/fantasy writing workshop!
» Hold a massive Runescape game at your library – the teens at my library are still obsessed with this!
» Hold a fantasy/sf-themed book swap at your library – mass markets are great for these!
» Wish a belated happy birthday to everyone’s favorite wizard, or host a Wizards’ Ball for everyone!
» Invite teens to a fantasy/sf book discussion – they can talk about their favorites, get recommendations, & connect with fellow readers!
» Invite teens to create their own trailers for books & books they’d like to turn into movies! Turn it into a contest, & have a “short film festival” where you watch all the entries!
» Host a “Battle of the Books” where teens can vote for their favorites fantasy/sf series – Harry Potter, Twilight, Protector of the Small, Mortal Instruments, etc. Have your TAB come up with the categories!
» Host a TRW Extravaganza where they can win books & play in a huge Jeopardy-style trivia contest!

Do you have other ideas? Share them in the comments!! :)

Quick Hit Resource: ReadyMech


I’m working on our “End of Summer Celebration” today, which we hold in leiu of a summer reading finale (I invite all teens to come, rather than exclude those who usually forgot [or were too lazy to fill out] their entry forms), & I finally remembered to check out a resource I’d heard about at a lovely crafting *workshop:

Mecha are a bit like the Japanese version of Transformers, only brighter & wackier. Teens love them, & this site offers .pdfs of many varities. Although I would have prefered to use cardstock, I gave in to our color copier’s personality & used plain paper instead. It took a little finagling, but using a glue stick, I was able to get one together! You can see him on the right hand side of the picture below. It’s a little thing, but actually quite cute!


I’ll put the big stack in the middle of a table, & let them have at. We’re also going to be doing Guitar Hero & DDR, & decorating guitar pick necklaces. Mostly, they come to this for the pizza & prizes, but we always have a good time!

*presented by Mandy Simon, teen librarian @ Worthington Park Branch!