One choice can transform you…

Here’s a confession for you: I like Tris better than Katniss (That doesn’t mean that I think Divergent is better than Hunger Games, because well, it’s not). And I’m very, very happy that the actor playing Four is only two years younger than me. I really liked Four in Divergent, and I’m quite delighted that I can find him attractive without feeling like a dirty old woman. I guess that’s the price you pay for reading so much teen literature!

But anyways! Are you throwing a party for the premiere of the Divergent film? I am!

When I set about planning this party, I knew that despite the setting of the first novel (and presumably, first movie) I didn’t want this to just be a Dauntless shindig – that kind of goes against the whole point of the books. So I wanted to have something that celebrated each faction, and this is what we have planned:

DAUNTLESS: chocolate cake & tattoos
ERUDITE: book trivia
CANDOR: confession jar
ABNEGATION: canned food drive
AMITY: peace sign bookmarks (in book thong style)

We’ll also create t-shirts (I order them in bulk from Adair so we have them for various programs) using stencils of the factions & the Crayola Airbrush – have you used this yet? It is AMAZING! I don’t understand how it works, but wow. Pretty fantastic, and a definite worthwhile investment for programming. I’m always looking for items I know I’ll use for multiple programs, & this is definitely one of them. We have two now, and I know we’ll get our money’s worth in no time.

We’ll probably also make book charms, because they’re so cheap, easy, & fun for the fans. To make them: print out 1″ images, cut out, glue onto folded paper for the “cover”, then staple 4-5 pages inside. Punch a small hole & loop a jump ring through – voila! Super easy & cheap craft your teens will spend HOURS making. It’s a great “merit badge” for book clubs, too.

So, what do you have planned for your Divergent party?

City of Bones (FINALLY!)

Why finally? Because my teens have into this series for far longer than they’ve been into Hunger Games. They are so, so excited! I know a lot of you are probably working on movie premiere parties, as I am, so I thought I’d share what I’m planning now! 

In case you hadn’t heard yet, the movie was moved to a Wednesday release, so now it’s premiering on August 21st. I always have my programs before the movie to lessen the chance of spoilers, so if you have the same concerns, take action now! 

  • Inspired by these pewter steles, we’ll be making similar ones out of polymer clay. All you have to do is completely coat the plastic, remove the ink before you bake, & you’re good to go! 
  • Henna tattoos of the runes, with official designs available at Cassandra Clare’s site. I’m going to get some temporary tattoo pens as well, for those wary of the henna. 
  • Tarot card readings 
  • Book prizes
  • Soundtrack listening party, sprinkled in with the trailers, as we always do. 
  • Jeopardy-style trivia (traditional at all our programs)
  • Food… honestly, I don’t know. I usually try to tie the food into the story somehow (we had wedding cake for the first Breaking Dawn movie, trail mix & other wilderness-type food for Hunger Games, etc), but so far, I haven’t really found any particular food that’s in the series, other than Jace’s fondness for tea. Anyone have any ideas?

So that’s what we’re planning! What are you doing at your library?

An Evening of Awesome


Have Nerdfighters invaded your library? They’ve certainly invaded mine! So for our kick-off party this summer, I hosted our own Nerdfighter Gathering, “An Evening of Awesome.” 

What’d we do? So glad you asked! 

  • Pizza, because after all, the answer is always pizza.
  • Charms of John’s books & Hank’s CDs (print out 1″ images, cut out, glue onto folded paper for the “cover”, then staple 4-5 pages inside. Punch a small hole & loop a jump ring through – voila! Super easy & cheap craft your teens will spend HOURS making. It’s a great “merit badge” for book clubs, too.)
  • “Okay” bracelets with TFIOS book charms
  • DFTBA bracelets & keychains (you can get specific letters at most craft stores)
  • Stamped pennies (usually with names & DFTBA)
  • Viewing of the “official” Evening of Awesome (freely available on YouTube!)
  • General nerdiness: giant Jenga & Star Trek Monopoly





Moon phase necklaces


While attending our local medieval faire this summer, I stumbled on this fabulous craft, combining craft & astronomy with a touch of personal identity. The necklace up there on the left is what I purchased – a beautiful work of art showcasing the phase of the moon on the day I was born. It’s so simple, & yet so sweet & personal.

The necklace on the right is the modified, very inexpensive version I made with my teens this summer. To make it, all you need is a bottlecap (these are only $10/50 at Pat Catan’s), some string, a clear protector, & your birthday moon phase!

To find your moon phase, either download Moon Preview, a free app, or head to this moon phases calendar.

As for the moons? I saved the files I used. Just print these off on white cardstock, & punch them out with a one inch circle punch. Have fun!

Hoot hoot! Owl paper craft


You might have noticed that owls are very popular right now! Owls fit perfectly with the summer reading theme this year, so I knew I wanted to do some sort of owl craft. I looked around a bit, but a lot of things were just more complicated than what I really wanted. So I whipped these little guys up, & my teens had a blast putting them together!

Here’s what you need to put these adorable little guys together:

  • owl template
  • three little hearts per owl, punched out on orange construction paper
  • construction paper of various colors
  • one inch white circles
  • colored pencils, matching the construction paper
  • ink pad – we used the erasers on the pencils provided for tracing the template for the pupil stamp

Glue all the bits together, stamp the eyes, & decide which level of sleepiness you’d like the owl! The teens made these into magnets (using the self-adhesive ones) for their lockers or glued them to pre-cut bookmarks, or just glued them onto wherever they wanted them. Some of the teens even glued some together so they were looking at each other. So cute!

{Update 10-19-18}

owl infographic

The Love STINKS Chocolate Fest

I’ve been doing this program for a while now – this is actually my “fifth annual” fest, & although the teens look forward to it every year, I’ve having a bit of a struggle with the realization that this means I’ve been at this five years already! That aside, I’m definitely looking forward to the fest this year!

The idea to do a Love STINKS Chocolate Fest actually comes from… actually, I can’t find it! I do remember that I was a brand new teen librarian flipping through the existing professional collection when I came across it – but I now I can’t figure out which one it was in. Ah well – if anyone knows where it originally came from, do let me know! What I DO know, though, is that it’s an unbelievably GENIUS idea. Say you’re hosting a Valentine’s Chocolate Craft, & you’ll have few in attendance. Since I started this five years ago, I’ve never been disappointed at attendance, & they ALWAYS look forward to it. I put out the first sign in December, & everyone was already squealing about attending. Girls & guys all across the teen spectrum come in droves, & it’s always fun to torture the rest of the library with the delicious aroma of chocolate.

I will say, what with the chocolate & all, that this usually ends up being the most expensive program I put on each year – but I really think it’s worth it! If you have a local chocolate shop, you could possibly get some of it donated, which would cut down the cost of the program considerably. The program itself is about an hour, hour & a half, & the teens have fun the entire time. The only tip I can really offer you is to start melting the chocolate about 45 minutes prior to the start of the program if you’re using a crockpot. There’s nothing worse than a program starting & you’re stuck behind a table stirring (yes, this happened one year).

Here’s what goes on at our annual chocolate fests:
» Lots of chocolate, obviously. In the past we’ve drizzled chocolate (melted in a crockpot, no less!) on peanuts, pretzels, potato chips, popcorn… I try to do something new every year. Initially, I had thought they would make chocolate pops & candy for later, but it quickly became evident that they just wanted to sit & eat the chocolate right away, so I’ve since adapted! This year we’re going use a chocolate fountain, & I’m going with strawberries, bananas, marshmallows, & pretzels. Last year, I also added hot chocolate to the celebration.

» Chocolate tasting! Living in a high poverty area, I’m keenly aware that for a lot of these teens, the only kind of chocolate they’ve experience is Hershey’s. Nothing wrong with that, but I take it upon myself to broaden their horizons & let them try anything I can. We’ve done cheap to fancy, white to 99% cacao, various flavors (hot pepper, orange, raspberry, sea salt, etc), as well as various candies (truffles, Toblerone, etc). I usually pick up two-three bars of each kind at Target (they’re often on sale right around V-Day), break them up into little pieces, & pass it around. Most everyone is brave enough to try everything.

» Crafts! Each year we make what I call “Anti-Valentines” with black construction paper hearts, white ink pens, & white lacy doilies, & I make it very clear that they should be for friends, not enemies – going more for a “Valentine’s Day sucks, but I’m glad we’re friends” vibe. So far I’ve not had any problems! This year we’re also going to be making mini voodoo dolls – no spells included. Should be fun!

» This year we’re doing something new: a Black heart pinata! I’ll be purchasing a heart-shaped balloon & crafting a pinata from that. Ought to be fairly simple, but we’ll see how it goes.

» Prizes! Usually I just give away giant bars of chocolate.

» Trivia! There are plenty of cultural things about chocolate (books, music, movies), & I usually quiz them about these. The first to answer gets chocolate or a pencil (my teens can never get enough of these). I also quiz them about recent celebrity break-ups, & have the classic Name That Candy! out for them to do.

» Break-up songs! In the past I’ve done trivia using lyrics, but this year I actually created a slideshow of break-up song videos. Sadly, I can’t include that ultimate break-up song (Song for the Dumped by Ben Folds), but I do hope they discover it on their own. I tried to use mostly newer stuff they’ll know, but I did include some classics.

Break-up Song Playlist
You Give Love a Bad Name – Bon Jovi
Rolling in the Deep– Adele
Single Ladies – Beyonce
Invincible – Ok Go
Love Drunk – Boys Like Girls
Since U Been Gone – Kelly Clarkson
Newport – Cute is What We Aim For
Goodbye Earl – Dixie Chicks
Going Under – Evanesensce
Thnks fr th Memories – Fall Out Boy
One Eyed Girl – Florence + the Machine
I’m Not Cryin’ – Flight of the Conchords
Gives You Hell – All-American Rejects
Take Another Little Piece of My Heart – Janis Joplin
Cry Me A River – Justin Timberlake
Bad Romance – Lady Gaga
Believe – Cher
That’s What You Get – Paramore
Hate (I Really Don’t Like You) – Plain White T’s
Your Love is a Lie – Simple Plan
Self Esteem – The Offspring
Alice – Avril Lavigne

That’s about it! If you’ve put on your own, how has it been different? Any words of wisdom to share?

National Gaming Day 2011: Live Angry Birds



Using inspiration from this 4YA post, I set about creating our own version of Live Angry Birds for National Gaming Day (November 12). Above, you’ll see the examples I made using the instructions from the 4YA video – very easy, & the teens were able to create their own without much trouble. I let them use any color of yarn we had on hand, & I actually just used cardstock & glue sticks for the faces – a minute or two of pressing, & they stuck just fine.

As for the thieving pigs, I dug out some florescent green pom poms from the children’s closet (readily available, I’m sure, from just about any craft store), & glued on faces made from construction paper. Ta-da! Super easy & cheap program to the rescue!



Using plastic cups, Jenga pieces, & a shoebox top, I made six different towers for the teens to topple. We found that throwing the birds worked best, & they had three tries to knock down all the pigs (some challenges used 1 or 2; at least one had all five pigs). If they succeeded, they got a small prize from the ever-growing prize grab-bag*.

The teens had a TON of fun doing this, & I’ll definitely do it again, so long as Angry Birds remains relevant & fun.

*This bag contains all that silly junky stuff, like temporary tattoos, pencils, keychains, buttons, bookmarks, airheads, etc, that are leftovers from various summer reading programs & other events. I just throw them into a canvas bag & watch it grow.

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.

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!

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!