Thursday, March 29, 2012

Teen Program: Interactive Labyrinth Screening

This is a great program that can be adapted to most films available for to libraries through movie licencing.  I am doing this program for my teens this summer featuring the 80s fantasy Labyrinth starring David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly.  The supply list below is specifically for a Labyrinth Interactive Screening, but you can adapt it to most films.

Gummy Worms
Party Poppers
Peaches (or peach flavored gummies)
Whoopie Cushions

The When & Where:

Scene: Sarah meets the worm with blue hair and red scarf
Action: Everyone says "I'm just a worm" in their best British accent and eats the Gummy Worms

Scene: The Fly Gang starts tossing heads about.
Action: Teens blow up balloons and toss them around the room (while staying seated).

Scene: The Bog of Eternal Stench
Action: Whoopie Cushions.  'Nough said.

Scene: Sarah bites into the peach Hoggle gives here.
Action: Everyone eats their peach/ peach gummy.

Scene: The Goblin Masquerade
Action: Done your mask and blow bubbles.

Scene: Sarah says "You have no power over me" in a rather surprised voice
Action: Everyone repeats "You have no power over me" 3 times

Scene: Party in Sarah's room
Action: Pop the party poppers

**If you've got an older crowd you can also play "spot Jarreth's codpiece" - winner gets a container of glitter.

ANTICIPATION: Upcoming Releases I Can't Wait to Read


Black Heart by Holly Black
Black Dawn by Rachel Caine

City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare
The Selection by Kiera Cass

Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin
Enchanted by Alethea Kontis


Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Review: Pure by Julianna Baggott

This book has the impact of an atomic blast balanced with the subtle force of germ warfare.

The Detonations destroyed the world as it was; what has survived is utterly changed from the Before.  Groupies roam the streets turning their many eyes in search of victims, OSR takes anyone over the age of 16 to be either soldier or cannon-fodder, and altered strange amalgamations of animal, plant and mineral wait for the unwary.  Above the turmoil of the outside sits the Dome, a haven where the Pures where protected from the blasts and where they wait for the Earth to renew itself.  Pressia has just turned 16 and the OSR is coming for her; but she does not want to kill or be killed and, in running, puts herself on an even more dangerous path.

Baggott has crafted a gritty, dirty, painfully real world where survival is a struggle and life is anything but ordinary.  Characters are wonderfully scarred both physically and mentally with all the accompanying emotional hangups.  Somehow Baggott has created characters who are both more and less human, but who epitomise the human condition.  The plot takes a while to develop so it is the characters that truly draw the reader in and sneak themselves into brain and heart.  I found myself thinking about Pressia's world often between readings, wondering what life would be like after the bombs drop.  Would it be better to die in the blast?  Or survive as something far different than you were before?  Would your values remain?

This is a cautionary tale, Baggott does not flinch from the horrors of life after atomic/nuclear/biological armaggedon.  Recommended for older readers.  Unique, haunting and strangely beautiful, I have never read anything quite like Pure.

Recommended for Readers of:

Monday, March 26, 2012

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Teen Program: Holi Water War

The Hindi festival of Holi is one of the more joyous and colorful celebrations of springtime and incorporating this festival into your programming creates a truly multi-cultural program sure to be a hit with teens and tweens.

Traditionally Holi occurs in March, but trying to find a good time to hold an outdoor program can be difficult, so plan your Holi Water War anytime the weather is warm!  We are holding our Holi Water War during June when the weather will be blistering hot and everyone will enjoy a cool program.  Before you begin hurling colored water at each other make sure to go over the roots of Holi and what the different colors traditionally represent.

Holi pigments
Sponge Koosh Balls (much easier that water balloons and better for the environment)
Tubs or buckets for water
Permission Forms (the pigments stain so you will want to have permission forms signed by participants)

Then all you need is a space for the program and a change of clothes for afterward.  Make sure that participants know they will not be allowed back into the library in wet clothing to avoid damage to library furnishings.  For this reason, I recommend holding this program near the end of business hours.
*Mixing the pigments used in Holi with water makes the colors more vivid and messier, so you definitely want to do this program in a park or open space outside your building.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

It's Not You, Just the Nature of the Beast

Working with teens and tweens can be one of the most rewarding jobs available.  It can also be the most frustrating.  I have often found myself facing disappointment at the turnout for Teen Programs at my library and, in frustration, reached out to my fellow YA Librarians to figure out the secret to successful Teen Programming.  The results?  We ALL experienced those feelings of failure and frustration - especially when new to the job.

Here's what I've learned in my 5+ years of working with teens - It's not you, it's them.

More often than not it is not you or your program that is the problem, but the teens themselves.  Young Adults often do NOT have control over their schedules.  Commitments to school, extra curricular activities, clubs, church and other activities take up the majority of time for many Young Adults.  This is especially true for teens before they get a drivers licence when they are dependent on friends or family for transportation.  Visiting the library is not a priority for many parents once their children progress out of storytime and school age activities.  If you want a strong Young Adult program, you and your fellow staff members must train parents to keep their offspring involved in library programs beyond childhood.

How does one do this?
Your Children's Department is probably already set up and running - storytimes, after school activities etc.  Libraries tend to start loosing participation of youth in 4th or 5th grade as they age out of the Children's activities and are not presented with appealing alternatives.  Create a Tween Program to address this situation!  Build on popular Children's activities to funnel active youth into feed from Children's programs all the way to Young Adult.  I have found that the more "exclusive" you are the more popular the program will be (i.e. only Tweens are allowed in Tween Programs and only Teens in Young Adult programs).  This way children can look toward the Tween Programs with anticipation while the Tweens look toward the Young Adult Programs.  While exclusivity is essential to building a Tween/Teen program there should be some opportunity for crossover between tweens & teens.  Create some programs that allow the tweens and teens to interact and form bonds.

What kind of programming works?
This is actually a trick question.  Every library and community is different and a variety of programming should be experimented with to determine what works for your library.  Above all: DO NOT BECOME DISCOURAGED!  If you have only three teens at a program that's okay.  If you have 50, even better! 

The secret to working with youth is understanding that it isn't personal.  This is especially hard for me to remember because I AM personally invested in providing the best programming I can for the teens of my community.  If you host an activity that only has a couple teens talk to them, find out what they like/dislike about the program.  Then try the program again in a few months.  I've found that an activity might work great once and utterly flop the next time - and the opposite as well.  Don't be afraid to try new things and to reach out to teens.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Teen Program: Eyebombing Contest

Looking for an easy, affordable program sure to be a hit with your teens? 
Try an EYEBOMBING Contest!

Eyebombing is a form of street art in which googly eyes are stuck on inanimate objects in the public space.  The object is to humanize the streets and bring a splash of whimsy to the lives of people.  Click here for more information.

Peel and stick googly eyes in various sizes

Over a period of time have your teens submit pictures of eyebombing they have created.  To get teens started have sheets of peel and stick googly eyes at the library with the rules stapled to the sheet.  Each teen gets one sheet of eyes.  Encourage your teens to get creative, but not destructive.  After the contest ends have staff or the public vote on the winner.

  1. Must use googly eyes, NOT stickers, to create eyebombing.
  2. Eyebombing must be done in a public place, NOT at home.
  3. Picture must be of the teens' own creation, NOT something they find.
  4. Must use peel and stick googly eyes NOT glue.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Review: Hana Kimi by Hisaya Nakajo (Manga Series)

Mizuki is a Japanese-American track-and-field star who transfers to a high school in Japan too be close to her idol, the high jumper Izumi Sano.  To facilitate this dream, Mizuki disguises herself as a boy and gets accepted to an all-guys boarding school.  As fate would have it, Sano and Mizuki are more than classmates, they're roommates! Now, Mizuki must keep her secret in the classroom, the locker room, and her own bedroom while her classmates and teachers, including the weird school nurse, must figure out how to handle the new transfer student who is too pretty to be a boy.

Hana Kimi is a complete 23 volume series that is one of the more entertaining and well-drawn mangas I’ve read. There is plenty of humorous tension as Mizuki tries to maintain her male facade and lots of awkward situations that will have readers snickering into their manga.  This manga manages to succeed where many fail by staying true to the characters and limiting itself to the realistically ridiculous rather than going completely beyond belief.  Readers may stretch their suspension of disbelief but they won't have to completely disregard it.

Recommended for Readers of:
Fruits Basket, Stephanie Perkins, Meg Cabot, Terry Pratchet

Rating: 4 Stars
Teen Gauge: 15+

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Classics for Teens: The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orzy

Sir Percy and Lady Blakeney are highly lauded in British society. He is the most foppish dandy about Town and she admired for her rapier sharp wit. Though in public he plays the fop, Sir Percy is actually a master of disguise who rescues French nobles from the forces of the French Revolution. When his identity is compromised, Lady Blakeney must find a way to warn him without compromising his mission.

Some of the best novels out there were written long
ago.  These novels have harnessed generations of readers imaginations and are an integral foundation for many modern fiction novels.  Such a classic is The Scarlet Pimpernel.  Since the first publication in 1905 readers have been fascinated by the novel's characters, plot and daring exploits.  This is one of the first novels written about a masked hero, a standard feature of pop culture today, and the hero does not disappoint.  Although this is a classic it is highly entertaining and very readable.

Recommended for Readers of:
Anthony Horowitz, Charlie Higson, Jane Yolen, Sally Gardner

Rating: 5 Stars
Teen Gauge: 14+

Program Idea: Have a "book to movie" day featuring the 1934 'Scarlet Pimpernel' movie starring Leslie Howard and Merle Oberon.  Following the movie facilitate a discussion about the differences between the film and the novel.  What would they do differently?  What modern actors would they choose to remake the film?  Which did they enjoy more?  You could also talk the finer points of disguise and movie makeup since Percy spends so much of his time pretending to be someone else.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Review: Unwind by Neal Shusterman

“Which was worse, Risa often wondered -- to have tens of thousands of babies that no one wanted, or to silently make them go away before they were even born? On different days Risa had different answers.”

Welcome to the future. Abortion is illegal, but unwinding is an accepted and encouraged practice for stressed parents. Between the ages of 13 and 18 a parent can choose to have their child unwound a process in which a youth's body, bones and organs are harvested. Technically the kid is still alive since 99.44% of them is used in surgeries and organ transplants, so why should the Unwinds mind? It's not like they are dying - just transitioning to a different type of existence.

Connor is and Unwind and he minds very much.

This is a fabulous, disturbing and sure to be controversial novel. Shusterman deftly handles difficult questions that have no answer: What is life? Who makes the choice? What is a soul? What make a person human? The novel is told in alternating chapters mainly from the perspectives of Connor, Risa and Lev, two Unwinds and a Tithe.  (Unwinds are randomly chosen youth for the unwinding process while Tithes are raised knowing they will be unwound and taught that the process is an honor.) The characters are well-crafted, completely believable, and will have readers holding their breath, cheering and cringing in despair. This book really makes the reader ponder what they believe, what they know and what they think, all while entertaining the imagination. Unwind is an outstanding dystopia with both male and female appeal.

Recommended for Readers of:
Suzanne Collins, Veronica Roth, Lauren DeStefano, Lauren Oliver

Rating: 5 Stars
Teen Gauge: 13+

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Review: Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber

This novel has all the elements a reader could want: danger, romance and a "good vs. evil" conflict - all wrapped up in deliciously Gothic trappings.  Seventeen-year-old Natalie Stewart is unable to speak due to a childhood trauma, so has spent the last several years at the Connecticut Asylum where students are blind, mute, deaf or some combination of the three.  She has now graduated and returned home to live with her father who loves her but is at a loss as to what should be done with her due to her "illness".  Natalie has learned that "for unfortunates like me, firstly, a girl and, secondly, a mute girl, life is made up of different types of prisons...".  However, her prison is unlocked when a mysterious painting is brought into her life; a painting that seems almost alive.

This is an AMAZING novel guaranteed to have readers up far past a reasonable bedtime.  Since Natalie does not speak the story is told in a series of journal entries which gives this text an intimate peek into the main character's thoughts and emotions.  Hieber has done an solid job of creating characters of substance, even those that only walk across a few pages.  The reader is drawn into the society and city of New York in the 1880s with all it's texture and grit.  Anyone familiar with New York City will recognize landmarks such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art (just a few years old at the time of this novel) and the Angel of the Waters in Central Park.  While the homage to Wilde's Picture of Dorian Gray is evident, Darker Still is a wholly different novel that will resonate with readers.  Highly Recommended.

Recommended for Readers Of:
Oscar Wilde, Maggie Stiefvater, Kady Cross, Lia Habel

Rating: 5 Stars
Teen Gauge: 14+

Monday, March 12, 2012

Movie List: Fantasy & Science Fiction Inspiration

If you were born after 1985 there are certain film which you may have missed while growing up that you need to see in order to truly understand films of today.  Many directors, screen writers, graphic artists and more were heavily influenced by the movies of the 1980s & 1990s.  Understanding their inspiration can help you better understand why movies are animated/directed/written etc in a certain manner.  Often there are inside jokes hidden in script and screen that a viewer familiar with older movies will understand and laugh about but which completely goes over the head of an uneducated viewer.  The trend in creating fantasy/science fiction movies as a major force in cinema truly leads back to the release of Lucas's Star Wars in the late 70s.  That film jump-started a mostly unexplored genre of movie making that is still being explored today.  Below is a list of 20 groundbreaking fantasy/science fiction movies from the 1980s & 1990s that should give you a better understanding of where my generation is coming from - cinematically speaking.  Enjoy!

Star Wars 1977 (the original trilogy, not Episodes 1-3)
Mad Max 1979
Beastmaster 1982 (One of my favorite B movies)
Dark Crystal 1982
Neverending Story 1984 (Before Harry there was Bastian for the fantasy loving kid.)
Back to the Future 1985
The Goonies 1985
Flight of the Navigator 1986
Labyrinth 1986
Highlander 1986
The Princess Bride 1987
Beetlejuice 1988
Willow 1988
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids 1989
Edward Scissorhands 1990
The Witches 1990
Beauty and the Beast 1991 (One of the first major animated films to use computer animation.)
Batman Returns 1992
Jurassic Park 1993 (Cutting edge technology was used in this film.)
Nightmare Before Christmas 1993

What movies do you think have influenced current films?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Review: The Gathering Storm by Robin Bridges

Imperial Russia meets the paranormal in this enthralling debut from Robin Bridges

Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg, has a dark secret that she has kept hidden since she was a child - she can raise the dead.  As part of the inner circle of Russia's imperial court Katerina has grown up surrounded by nobles and political intrigue but nothing has prepared her for the plot she discovers which may bring down the tsar himself.  Now Katerina must uncover the players and put all the pieces together while maintaining her secret in order to protect the people and country she loves.

Bridges's familiarity with Russia and Eastern European folklore is very apparent as she uses elements of both to weave an exciting, glittering world with a dark paranormal underbelly.  Like the characters of this novel, the reader is placed on a strange tightrope balancing between elements of science and paranormal.  Katerina struggles to find an equilibrium that allows her to pursue her desire to be a doctor as well as embrace the shadow of her very unnatural gift.  Readers will relate to Katerina as she endeavors to make hard choices between what she wants and what must be done.  Duty, desire, romance and mystery come together beautifully in this novel to bring to life a character that is as flawed and real as the person sitting next to you on the train.  The Gathering Storm has everything a reader could ask for including an ending that somehow leaves the reader with both a sense closure and commencement.  I am impatiently awaiting the next book in the trilogy due out in October 2012.

Rating: 4.5 Stars
Teen Gauge: 14+

Recommended for Readers of:
Maggie Stiefvater, Melissa Marr, Jessica Spotswood, Heather Dixon

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Review: Will Super Villains Be On The Final? Vol. 1 by Naomi Novik & Yishan Li

This first volume of the Liberty Vocational manga draws readers into a world where superheros and villains are a fact of life and teens are expected to live up to the responsibility their powers require.  Enter Leah Taymore, sixteen-year-old prodigy who's power is the manipulation of atomic mass.  Though she has a LOT of power, she cannot seem to meet the standards set by the professors at Liberty Vocational.  But not everything is good and well at LV, the notorious supervillain Bane has infiltrated the school and hatched his own sinister plot to destroy the heroes of tomorrow before they graduate.

This is a decent manga, though two of the teenage male characters look enough alike that it is easy to confuse the two.  The story could have been helped by some background for Bane, who readers will not recognize without his mask, and from a bit more explanation of the world and purpose of LV.  Readers are thrown into this manga with the expectation that they are familiar with this universe and the characters with makes tracking story details somewhat difficult.

Rating: 3 Stars
Teen Gauge: 13+

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Futuristic + Cyborg + Fairytale Elements = FANTASTIC DEBUT NOVEL

Cinder is a teenage cyborg whose guardian (aka stepmother) is as self-centered and hateful as any wicked queen of yore.  While working as a mechanic in the weekly market, Cinder is visited by the Prince Kai who is in disguise and needs an android that holds sensitive information repaired.  Thus sparks a series of events that will change Cinder's very existence and rewrite everything she thought she knew about herself and her place in the world.
Marissa Meyer has written an unique, fully imagined debut novel that will have the techs and the romantics out there on pins and needles.  While Meyer's world is fully realized and rich with detail, those elements do not weigh down the tale which is essentially a reboot of the classic Cinderella tale.  As the cover art suggests, this is a novel full of futuristic technology but is balanced by both the action and romantic elements of the story.  Cinder takes off at a brisk pace before sprinting to the end leaving readers anxiously waiting for the next novel in the series Scarlet due out in 2013.  Personally, I can't wait for the next novel!


Recommended for Readers Of:
Anna Sheehan, Beth Revis, Bill Willingham, Mercedes Lackey

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Review: Soulless, The Manga Volume 1

Soulless, The Manga Volume 1
by Gail Carriger, Art by Rem

Bottom line: It was AWESOME!

As you may know from a previous post I am a avid Carriger drone, so it is no surprise that I was at her signing at Murder by the Book in Houston on March 2, 2012.  I had deliberately delayed buying the manga when it first released in order to purchase it through Murder and get it signed by the lady herself.  While I am often sceptical of graphic novels based on text novels I had high hopes for Soulless - and I was not disappointed!

The humor, imagery and supernatural elements that make Carriger's novels so enjoyable is beautifully translated into the manga format by the artist Rem.  The detail in this adaptation is amazing - partly, I'm sure, because Ms. Carriger had such involvement in the manga production.  Can't wait for the Soulless, The Manga Volume 2.*

*Note: All Parasol Protectorate manga based on the Alexia novels will be titled Soulless Volume __

Rating: 5 Stars
Teen Gauge: Older Teens (16+)

Recommended For Readers Of:
Scott Westerfeld, Jim Butcher, Jane Austen, Philip Reeve

Monday, March 5, 2012

Empowering Youth, Inspiring Bravery*: Bullying Resources

With yet another youth opening fire on his classmates, it seems like a good time to say a few words about bullying. Bullying has become one of the most insidious aspects of growing up. While not a new issue, it has transcended traditional methods taking to the Internet and cell phones in a viral manner that makes escape from taunting almost impossible - even when in the shelter of your home. But bullying has also become a more talked about issue. There are more resources than ever to help teens who are being subjected to persecution from their peers. Listed below are some national resources for both teens and those who work with them.

Band Back Together
We are none of us alone, we are all connected.

The Born This Way Foundation
*Empowering Youth, Inspiring Bravery is the motto of Born This Way a new organization spearheaded by Lady Gaga to provide to teens from all walks of life.
Where you are not alone.

Daily Strength
Offers 24/7 online support for Teens who need to talk about an issue.

It Gets Better Project
Support for LBTGQ teens.

There are also LOTS of resources in your community.  Don't know where to begin?  Go to your local library - a librarian can help you find resources and there may even be some on the library's website.

You can always reach out to a teacher, librarian or friend.  If the first person you reach out to does not help keep reaching.  If you make enough noise someone will pay attention.

Remember, no matter what, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Review: Zelah Green by Vanessa Curtis

Zelah is a "Cleanaholic".  Since the death of her mother several years ago, she lives in a constant war with germs and dirt; her life organized around compulsions that make her wash her hands thirty-one times or jump on the stairs.  When Zelah's dad disappears, her stepmother sends her to hospital to "deal with her little problem".  Suddenly Zelah is in a completely different environment, surrounded by other teens with a variety of problems and she begins to realize that she cannon let her ccompulsions control her anymore.  But it is an uphill battle when the very thing you fight is the only thing that gives you a sense of peace.

Curtis handles severe obsessive-compulsive disorder with a frank, unflinching quality that pulls readers in to Zelah's thoughts and motivations.  Though Zelah Green covers dense topics including OCD, anorexia, cutting and anger management problems in teens, this is not a dense read and should appeal to reluctant readers.  The subject matter is something that many teens confront either in their own personal lives or through dealings with family and friends.  This is a good novel for a Teen Book Club since the subject matter and characters raise interesting discussion points.

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Willow by Julie Hoban
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Review: Lost & Found by Shaun Tan

If you have never seen Tan's art
prepare to be amazed.
 Lost & Found consists of three very different short stories told through the unique art of Shaun Tan.  The first story, 'The Red Tree' is a personal story that takes the reader though a dark time in a person's life, but leaves them with the hope of things to come.  'The Lost Thing' combines compassion and civil disobedience in a heartwarming tale of finding yourself through aiding another.  Finally, 'The Rabbits' conveys the horror and despair of felt by native tribes in Australia as their land was taken by European settlers and their world changed forever.

Throughout these stories, Tan captivates the reader with his eclectic use of medium, color and light.  Bright spots of color stand out against a monocromatic, but vastly detailed, backdrop to draw the reader's eye to the important point of the image.  Tan has done another wonderful job of telling a rich story through complex images and sparce words that will have readers thinking about it long after the book is done.
Recommended for Readers Of:
Neil Gaiman, Brian Selznick, David Weisner, Art Spiegelman