Posted in gaming, geek culture, Librarianing

Free RPG Day, and what can libraries do next year?

Earlier this year, I learned that Free RPG Day is a thing! Similar to Free Comic Book Day, gaming stores can purchase kits with free modules and giveaways to promote role-playing games. I mentioned this to our gaming committee, and we were EXCITED. It’s right in line with what we want to do, and bring gaming to our library spaces. We didn’t hear about it early enough to plan events for it, so we discussed what to do, and decided we’d continue to promote gaming in our branches and mention that Free RPG was coming up, and encourage our patrons to visit their local retailers for goodies.

SO! My teen and I hit the local gaming store in our area – shout out to Gamestoria in Astoria, Queens! – and picked up some modules. The staff is fantastic, very approachable and knowledgeable. We picked up:

 

Epic Encounters: Bridge of the Duerger Cult, from Steamforged Games (compatible with D&D 5e, playable for novices through experienced players). I saw this box set at GaryCon earlier this year and wanted to give them all the money. This free module gives me a chance to play, get a feel for gameplay and ease, and with luck, I’ll be able to invest in this for my library (or home. Or both.)

Dungeon Crawl Classics: Danger in the Air!, from Goodman Games. My brother-in-law introduced me to Dungeon Crawl Classics back in March, when we were at GaryCon. They put out consistently good modules (I have a few that I picked up in March), and they are great about giving free modules away at events, to promote their games. DCCs are stand-alone and world-neutral; it’s compatible with Dungeons and Dragons 5e. This is a Level 0 adventure; great for introducing new players to a D&D-type world.

Also from Goodman Games, the Teen picked up Three Wizard Conundrum, another 5e compatible module. This one is better for 3rd or 4th level players.

I was so excited for this one! Root is a roleplaying game from Magpie Games, where players play woodland creatures in a fantasy setting. I loved the Mouse Guard comics, (also an RPG!) and I am all about anything that lets me be a cute woodland creature who’s also a little badass, so this speaks to me. This year, Magpie gave out a Quickstart module for their Talon Hill story, and I cannot wait to show this to my library kids (because my 10 year old is already on board for this one). It’s an E for Everyone game, so definitely get a good look at this one.

 

Finally, we get to A Familiar Problem, a one-page RPG from Darrington Press, the tabletop publishing arm of Critical Role, a weekly livestreamed show that’s also a roleplaying campaign. One of the folx at Gamestoria talked this one up for me, and I am so glad. In A Familiar Problem, the players are familiars – magical creatures who assist magic users (think Hedwig in Harry Potter). Players can pick from 12 different Familiars, including Bats, Lizards, Owls, or Hawks. The point of the game is to go on your own adventure with your Familiar companions when your magic users are away, and how can you NOT talk that up? My Teen devoured Adam Jay Epstein’s series The Familiars when he was a middle grader, and immediately said, “We’re playing this, Mom.” Again, this looks like a quick, easy, fun game to bring to your younger gamers as well as your more experienced gamers. Because honestly, who doesn’t want to be a smart alecky raven who can summon a horse? (Yes, that’s absolutely going to be me.)

There was much more available, but I wanted to make sure other people had a chance to get stuff. For those of you, like us, new to Free RPG Day, let me also direct you to Level 1, an anthology of indie RPGs collected and distributed for free by 9th Level Games. There’s something for everyone in these (I’ve downloaded 2020’s and 2021’s), and am hoping to use one or two of these this summer in my branch’s RPG program.

So this is great, but how can libraries get involved? I’d love to work with Free RPG Day to buy kits to distribute at my branch! I’m waiting to hear from Free RPG Day on how we can work together in the future, but until then, here are some things I’ve been thinking of:

  • Keep an eye on when Free RPG Day is happening, and plan events close to the day. Follow Free RPG Day on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram; bookmark the Free RPG Day website.
  • Schedule some roleplaying events! I’m keeping PDFs of RPGs (including Level 1 anthologies and Free RPG Day modules) in a binder at Reference, ready for anyone who wants to try something out while at the library.
  • Search DriveThruRPG for freebies. There is a search feature that includes price, language, genre, and more; navigate and find games to introduce.
  • Promote your gaming library! If your branch or system has RPG books and resources, promote them with displays, flyers, bookmarks, or anything you want to come up with.
  • Get in touch with Free RPG Day and ask how libraries can work with them! The best way to show the people behind Free RPG Day that we are interested is to let them know we’re here and willing to help.

More resources for your RPG collection:

Dungeons & Dragons were superstars during the 2020 shutdown, making a lot of their gaming modules available for free. You can download the Basic Rules at the DnD website. The Basic Rules is a 180-page document that runs from Levels 1-20 and covers major classes: cleric, fighter, rogue, and wizard, with a handful of race options (dward, elf, halfing, human). It’s a quick and affordable way to get started. Visit DnD’s downloadable’s page for free adventures and character sheets. Hit Dice Cove’s webpage for more DnD-related downloadable adventures. WhatNerd has a good article on more DnD freebies.

And if you’re ready to start planning for another upcoming RPG Day, D20 is December 20th!

Posted in geek, geek culture, Graphic Novels, Guide, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads

Find gift ideas here!

It’s another roundup: you’ll find a few more ideas here, I hope, if you’re in “just one more person… gift… book” mode, or, if you’re like me, you’re eyeballing your December book budgets and in “I’ve got a little bit more left, I can fit one more book in this cart” mode. Either way, I hope you enjoy.

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, by Clement C. Moore/Illustrated by PJ Lynch, (Nov. 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.95, ISBN: 9781536222852

Ages 3+

The latest release of Clement C. Moore’s classic 1823 Christmas poem, PJ Lynch imagines a sweeping Christmas tale, with watercolor and gouache illustrations rendered in shades of greens and blues to set the sleepy, evening mood. Saint Nick arrives on the scene, bringing warm reds and oranges. Lifelike artwork brings the team of reindeer to life, with texture and movement as they dance across the sky, carrying Santa and his sleigh full of toys. This telling of Moore’s A Visit from St. Nicholas is set in what looks like pre-Victorian England, in the time the poem was written. The artwork beautifully captures the stillness of Christmas Eve and St. Nicholas’s Christmas magic.

Every Christmas Eve, I read two stories to my own kiddos (yes, one is 22 and one is 18, but they still humor me): Chris Van Allsburg’s The Polar Express and Clement Moore’s A Visit from St. Nicholas. I’m looking forward to reading PJ Lynch’s version this year.

 

I Wish I Had a Wookiee And Other Poems for Our Galaxy, by Ian Doescher/Illustrated by Tim Budgen, (Sept. 2021, Quirk Books), $19.99, ISBN: 9781594749629

Ages 6+

Ian Doescher – Star Wars fans will recognize the name as the scribe of William Shakespeare’s Star Wars saga – is here to delight readers with his Star Wars poems created especially for kids (of all ages). He celebrates fandom with over 100 poems, complete with illustrations by Tim Budgen, whose artwork will appeal immediately to readers familiar with Jeffrey Brown’s Jedi Academy graphic novel series. He covers each of the three trilogies and embraces all the characters – and fans – of the Star Wars Universe, with poems like “Resourceful Sith”, where a child gets hold of supplies to make themselves into Darth Maul; “Snow Day on Hoth”, where kids enjoy a snow day in the greatest of ways: “My sister was a rebel leader, / And I was Luke in my snowspeeder. / The neighbor twins were Empire troops, / Approaching us in AT-AT groups”. He remembers us parents with poems like “Dad’s Luke Skywalker Figurine”, “Mom, the Medic Droid”, and “Old Mr. Jones and His Star Wars Collection”. Illustrations in black, white, and color are on almost every page. Put this right next to your Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky books, and make sure to have some fun Star Wars coloring pages available. For all of us who imagined their rooms as the Millennium Falcon’s cockpit, this book’s for you.

 

 

Jop and Blip Wanna Know #1: Can You Hear a Penguin Fart on Mars?: And Other Excellent Questions, by Jim Benton, (June 2021, HarperAlley), $12.99, ISBN: 9780062972927

Ages 6-10

Jop and Blip are two robots with an insatiable thirst for knowledge. They have the deep questions here in this first volume of Jop and Blip Wanna Know, a new series from graphic novelist Jim Benton. Here, they take the science apart to learn whether or not we could hear a penguin fart on Mars; if one could eat a dragon sandwich, and why we have two of sensory organs like nostrils, eyes, and ears. Panels are vibrant and the back-and-forth dialogue is fun to follow: kids who love the Elephant and Piggie books will jump right in here. The sillier side of science inspires these questions, sure, but the reasoning is solid and there’s so much to learn packed in here, including the origin of the sandwich, what dinosaurs really looked like, and yes – whether or not we can hear a penguin farting on Mars. This first book is organized into three chapters, each exploring a different question, with an activity at the end of each. Like Blip says, “…everything is worth knowing”! Think of this as a Science Comics series for your newly independent readers, and add it to your collections.

Fun learner-led program: If you have access to World Book Online through your library, check out the Webquests in the Educator Tools area. They’re printable activities on different topics that challenge readers to follow step-by-step directions to navigate the database and learn about the topic by watching videos, seeing images, and reading the text (which can also be read out loud via the database). While there are no “farting penguins” Webquests (yet), it’s a fun way to introduce research and navigating databases. This Dinosaurs Webquest is a good place to start.

Jop and Blip Wanna Know: Can You Hear a Penguin Fart on Mars? has a starred review from Kirkus.

Where’s Waldo? Santa Spotlight Search, by Martin Handford, (Sept. 2021, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536220131

Ages 5-9

The holiday season brings a new Waldo adventure. The Spotlight books are fun because they add a little more detective work into the mix; dark plastic “winter scenes” on each spread call for a special Spotlight Searcher to slip in and shed a white background against the searching area. There are 6 scenes (including the one on the opening spread) to search, and every challenge calls for readers to search the crowds for Santa, Waldo and friends, and a changing list of objects, from a hatless Santa Claus to solving a jumble by finding letters on building blocks. Visit a Santa Meet and Santa’s Workshop; go Christmas Shopping; enjoy some Festive Baking; join a Jolly Jamboree, and get ready for Christmas Eve. A great learner-directed book to have in a Waldo Corner in your children’s room, and a great way to keep kids busy during Christmas gatherings.

Brightly has Where’s Waldo? printables available, and Nerd Craft Librarian, whose blog I miss, had a great Where’s Waldo? Scavenger Hunt that you can still be inspired by here.

 

Do You Know? Space and Sky, by Virginie Loubier/Illustrated by Robert Barborini, Audrey Brien, Hélène Convert, Christian Guibbaud, & Cristian Turdera (Oct. 2021, Twirl Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9782408029166

Ages 5-8

I really enjoy this Do You Know? series for intermediate and middle grade readers, and Space and Sky – the latest – is another hit. Organized into four areas – The Sky, The Solar System, Studying the Universe, and Exploring Space – Space and Sky takes a lot of information and makes it readable and organized for younger learners. Space and Sky covers everything from Earth’s water cycle, weather, and seasons to the planets, space exploration, and how we use technology to study the earth. It’s a funnel type of learning, going from the small to the large, and it helps readers understand where we are in relation to our universe. Let’s Review pages at the end of every section provide learning activities, and colored boxes at the bottom of right hand pages direct readers to related topics in the book. Colorful artwork throughout provides fun images of people and nicely detailed maps and infographics. A full index helps readers locate what they’re looking for.

If you have a puzzle area in your children’s room, consider a Space Day and display Space and Sky along with books like Stacy McAnulty’s planets and space series, Nat Geo Kids’s Space Encyclopedia, and a fun puzzle, like the NASA puzzles (if you have the space) or Melissa & Doug’s Solar System puzzle (we use a lot of Melissa & Doug at my library – so sturdy!).

 

 

 

Posted in geek culture, Graphic Novels

Free Comic Book Day announces their full line-up!

Free Comic Book Day is a little different this year: it’s taking place in August, rather than May, but hey! You can go get your books in person this year! There are 50 great titles up for grabs this year, and there are more kids’ books than ever – Bailey School Kids! Who Was HQ! The Last Kids on Earth! So many favorite book series are making their way to graphic novel formats! I can’t wait to tell my library kids that graphic novel count more than ever!

While you wait for August 14th, watch the video and make sure you note which books you’re going to want. Prefer to view the list rather than watch the video? Visit the Free Comic Book Day website.

 

Posted in geek, geek culture, Realistic Fiction, Young Adult/New Adult

Fandom, friends, and the real world: Zoe Rosenthal is Not Lawful Good

Zoe Rosenthal is Not Lawful Good, by Nancy Werlin, (Apr. 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536214734

Ages 13+

High school senior Zoe Rosenthal is a planning machine, bullet journal set for stun. She and her boyfriend, Simon, are the definition of power couple: they’re researching college choices to attend together (so many color-coded spreadsheets); she’s working to save money while he volunteers for a local politician and envisions a socially just career in political science, and then they’ll marry, have their 2.5 kids, and live happily ever after. All she has to do is sneak off to Dragon Con for a season premiere of her secretly favorite show, Bleeders. It’s great science fiction, which Simon poo-poos as “ridiculous”. She should be watching Very Serious Documentaries, not wasting time on genre “garbage”. But once at DragonCon, she falls in love with fandom and meets a group of “Bloodygits” – the Bleeders fandom – that may just be the best thing that ever happened to her. A story of how fandom is always there to catch you when you fall, Zoe Rosenthal is Not Lawful Good is filled with great little pop culture and fandom winks and nudges. Zoe and her fellow supporting characters are all pretty well realized, and encompass a diverse cast. Author Nancy Werlin is a National Book award finalist, Edgar award winner, and NYT bestselling author who not only gets fandom, she enjoys it; she sees how it brings people together. Give to your fandom fic fans; the readers who loved The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love  by Sarvenaz Tash (2016), Ashley Poston’s Once Upon a Con series, and Jen Wilde’s Queens of Geek (2017).

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction, geek culture, Historical Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Reading Rundown, Reading Challenge!

There are SO many great books coming out over the next few weeks, WOW. My reading mojo came back with a vengeance, thankfully, about a month ago, and I have been working on the TBR; everything I pick up has been really good stuff. I’m also starting to come out of an overall blue period (like Picasso, but not as talented), so I’m hoping my blogging can keep up with my reading habits. Let’s give it a whirl.

Con Quest, by Sam Maggs, (June 2020, Imprint), $16.99, ISBN: 9781250307279

Ages 9-13

The first book is Sam Maggs’s middle grade novel, Con Quest. If you already know Sam Maggs, I welcome you, my geek friend. If you don’t, this is a great place to start. She’s a geek girl who’s written comics, nonfiction about fandom, and awesome women in history, but this is her first middle grade novel. And what a novel it is. It’s a love letter to fandom and con life; to Supernatural fans and quests for charity; to friendship, family, and that first blush of a new crush. If you dig fandom, are in fandom, or are fandom-adjacent, you’ll recognize the players here. At a con that’s remarkably similar to San Diego Comic Con, twin siblings Cat and Alex are competing in an intense quest, run by one of their fave celebs, to benefit a charity. The big prize is getting to meet the celeb, but first, they have a gauntlet of geeky challenges to complete, all while dodging their older sister, who is SUCH a drag. There are great, realistic characters here – con life is truly stranger than fiction, friends – and moments you’ll recognize and love. The characters are fun and diverse, with a diversity in gender identity and culture; one of the main characters, Alex, is autistic and Sam does a good job at describing how he experiences things, as opposed to his slightly intense (and sometimes frustrating) sister, Cat.

Introduce Cat and Alex to your readers, then get a (virtual) library con up and running to introduce them to the joy that is fandom. Hey, Free Comic Book Day is running for most of the summer!

 

Diana and the Island of No Return, by Aisha Saeed, (July 2020, Random House Children’s), $16.99, ISBN: 9780593174470

Ages 9-13

All hail the middle grade superhero novels! We are – hopefully – getting our long-awaited Wonder Woman 1984 movie this October, so TALK THIS UP. Our tweens and teens have Tempest Tossed, a phenomenal Wonder Woman original graphic novel; middle graders and tweens now have Diana and the Island of No Return, by Aisha Saeed. Here, Diana is a tween herself, a princess forbidden to learn to fight, despite living on an island of warrior women. She’s hoping to persuade her mother, Queen Hippolyta, this year… maybe during the festivities, when her best friend, Princess Sakina arrives, they can plan an approach? Before the festivities begin, Diana discovers a stowaway – a BOY – on Sakina’s mother’s ship, and learns that the entire island of Themyscira has been put under a sleeping spell. Diana and Sakina, the only two awake on the island, must travel with this boy to his island, where a demon lies in wait, wanting to capture Diana.

This is the first in a Wonder Woman trilogy, and Aisha Saeed wastes no time getting to the action. Diana and Sakina’s friendship is well-written and realistic; she creates larger-than-life figures and makes them very human; the girls are giggly best friends who plan to sleep in the same room so they can stay up all night, and yet also ready, at a moment’s notice, to go on a dangerous mission to fight a demon and free their mothers. It all comes together beautifully, with great world-building, pacing, and storytelling. I can’t wait for the next book.

Follow the DC Comics Kids Twitter and Instagram for DC Kids Camp activities. There are coloring sheets, videos, and crafts that everyone will love: you know you want to color, too.

 

Rise of Zombert (The Zombert Chronicles), by Kara LaReau/Illustrated by Ryan Andrews, (July 2020, Candlewick Press), $15.99, ISBN: 9781536201062

Ages 8-12

This first book in a new middle grade series is a good one for kids who want to read something creepy, but not TOO scary. In a corporate town where everything is owned and run by YummCo Foods, a black cat escapes a lab. He’s found by a girl named Mellie, who discovers the filthy, ragged cat in a dumpster and takes him home to nurse back to health. She names him Bert and decides that he’s going to be the pet she’s always wanted… but Berg wants blood. He has a taste for heads, in particular; after decapitating Mellie’s stuffed animals, he heads out for less stuffy game. As cats would do, Mellie discovers Bert’s version of sharing a meal with her, when she keeps finding headless birds and mice left for her. Mellie’s best friend, Danny, is convinced the cat is a zombie, and readers will get the feeling that there’s a lot more going on at YummCo than the oh-so-friendly representatives will let on. And Bert? Well, he can’t really understand why Mellie isn’t appreciating his gifts, he still feels something for the girl, but nothing can stop him from his mission: revenge and freeing the other animals in the lab.

I loved how this book built and built up the suspense, but it ended so abruptly, I had to check and make sure I wasn’t reading an excerpt. It’s a fast-paced read, and will definitely invest readers right away. The black and white sketches add to the moody atmosphere of the book, and the ending will leave everyone waiting for the sequel. Kara LaReau is the author of the Infamous Ratsos series, so she knows how to write for a younger audience and get things moving along quickly. Ryan Andrews illustrated another book I love, The Dollar Kids by Jennifer Richard Jacobson.

 

The Mulberry Tree, by Allison Rushby, (July 2020, Candlewick Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781536207613

Ages 9-13

I LOVE a good creepy book, and this one is amazing. If you’re a Mary Downing Hahn reader, run to your computer and request or buy The Mulberry Tree. Ten-year-old Immy (Imogene) and her parents have moved from Australia to the English countryside as her father battles depression. They decide to rent an adorable thatched English cottage, but the realtor – and the town – have their misgivings about anyone living there. You see, there’s an cursed mulberry tree in the backyard; a tree that’s rumored to have stolen two girls away on the eves of their 11th birthdays. People cross the street rather than walk by the tree, and when Immy’s father speaks out on the ridiculousness of a tree kidnapping girls, Immy finds herself even more of a pariah at school. But when she starts hearing a strange song in her head, and seeing the tree move, she begins to wonder whether the rumors may be true after all. What’s the story of the tree? Immy’s going to have to do some investigating to find out, and she’d better hurry… her 11th birthday is coming.

This book hooked me from the first page. It deals with depression and grief, and how it can drive a wedge into a family; a spooky tree with a cursed history, and mean girls. If you have readers who love a bit of the creepy, with some supernatural thrown in, give them this book. I read this one in one night, because I refused to put it down until I was done. The setting, the pacing, everything built at such a wonderful pace, and the resolution… chef’s kiss good. One of my favorite Quarantine Reads so far.

Allison Rushby wrote 2018’s The Turnkey of Highgate Cemetery; an historical fiction ghost story. It’s a good one; pick it up if you haven’t had the chance yet.

 

Last but not least, a reading challenge! What better way to keep track of all of the great books you’ve been reading with your kids (you are reading with them, aren’t you?) than by working through reading challenges together? I just received an email with seven printable challenges, all free, all downloadable, through Redbubble. There’s Book Bingo; a Cross-Genre reading list; a Habit Tracker; a Create Your Own Reading List; and my favorite, a Reading Coloring Sheet where you can color in books on a bookshelf as you read (and, if you’re like me, try to write itty bitty names on the spines). These add a little bit of color to the same old boring reading logs the kids get sent home with every summer, so try one or two out. You can view all the reading challenges here.

As always, I received eArcs of all the books I talked about in exchange for reviews. Thanks for reading, and go get some books!

Posted in Fiction, geek culture, Guide, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

Cyber Monday Gift Guide

Okay, get ready for the latest MomReadIt gift guide – if you can find great deals on Cyber Monday, go for it; if you prefer your local indie bookstore, have at it! Here are some books that the kiddos you know will be thrilled to receive, whether it’s for holiday or any day.

Paper World: Planet Earth, by Bomboland, (Sept. 2019, Big Picture Press),
$24.99, ISBN: 9781536208542
Ages 7-12

An awesome lift-the-flap book for bigger kids, Paper World: Planet Earth is a die-cut, lift-the-flap trip in and around our big blue planet. Readers explore and learn about earth’s tectonic plates; volcanoes, mountains, and glaciers; weather and storms, and more. Sturdy pages and flaps reveal facts, and die cut features add incredible texture. Hands-on science starts here! Back matter includes a glossary.

Code This Game!, by Meg Ray/Illustrated by Keith Zoo, (Aug. 2019, Odd Dot Books),
$24.99, ISBN: 978-1-250-30669-2
Ages 8-13

I’ve been working on coding with the Girls Who Code club at my library, and with my kiddo at home. We’ve been doing a lot of Scratch programming, but we want our kids to be multilingual in all areas – and that includes programming! Code This Game teaches kids how to use the Python programming language, and guides them, step-by-step, through how to make their very own computer game: Attack of the Vampire Pizzas! Brightly illustrated, with chunks of easy-to-read, easy to digest information, this is a fantastic book to get kids up and running with Python. The book is spiral bound and opens into an easel stand, so you can have the book open and standing up, making it that much easier to read while you work.

 

Code This! Puzzles, Games, Challenges, and Computer Coding Concepts
for the Problem-Solver in You!, by Jennifer Szymanski,
(Aug. 2019, National Geographic Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-3443-6
Ages 8-12

More coding fun! A robot named Cody is packed with gadgets, and needs Explorers (that’s us readers) to program him. Together, readers and Cody learn different coding concepts and solve complete missions. Have a burgeoning coder? This is the book for them. They’ll learn how to apply offline concepts to online programming, using ciphers, mazes, secret codes, and good old-fashioned logic. Solutions are there when you get stuck, and quick takes on HTML/Javascript and Python help with quick reference, along with a glossary and index.

 

The Big Book of Bling, by Rose Davidson, (Sept. 2019, National Geographic Kids),
$19.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-3531-0
Ages 8-12

What would the holidays be without a little bling? NatGeo Kids packs a bunch of bling into one volume, with incredible photos and facts about all things shiny. There are rocks and gems both dazzling and dangerous (stay away from that Hope Diamond), and some of nature’s most extra creations, like the Indian Peacock and the Jewel Caterpillar. Want to meet the richest pets in the world? They’re in here. Ever wonder what sushi wrapped in 24K gold looks like? You’ll find out, in here. Loaded with facts and stunning photos, this will definitely add some zing to the holiday gift-giving.

 

Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell/Illustrated by Christian Birmingham
(Oct. 2019, Candlewick Press), $24.99, ISBN: 9781536211245
Ages 8-12

I can’t believe Black Beauty was published over 140 years ago. It was a mainstay of my childhood library, and I still hand it to kids in my library today. This Anna Sewell classic features more than 50 new illustrations by artist Christian Birmingham, and is a gorgeous gift to anyone who grew up loving this story – or a horse-loving reader who hasn’t yet met the beautiful horse in this Victorian novel. Pair with Into the Jungle: Stories for Mowgli for a reader who loves an eternal story.

 

Treasury of Bible Stories, by Donna Jo Napoli/Illustrated by Christina Balit,
(Oct. 2019, National Geographic Kids), $24.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-3538-9
Ages 4-12

This stunning compendium of Bible stories are taken from the Hebrew Bible, also known as the Christian Old Testament. There are 28 stories in all, beginning with Creation and going through to the story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den, all gorgeously illustrated in full color. The author’s note talks about the writing process, under the guidance of Rabbi Helen Plotkin, over the course of a year and how the book presents a “human history from Creation to the building of the second temple in Jerusalem”. A note on the illustrations points out that the stunning artwork is informed by archaeology and biogenetics: in other words, the humans are depicted with different skin tones, facial characteristics and hair texture. Callouts and fact boxes throughout the stories provide nonfiction content such as the domestication of animals, beginning and diversification of human language, and one of my favorites, “Sanctioned Recklessness”, which talks about the spring festivals of Purim and Carnival. There are maps for Lands of the Bible, a timeline of early civilizations, and a section spotlighting major figures in the Bible. Includes a bibliography and index.

Posted in geek culture

Help! What do I do with these kids on Thanksgiving?

Are you facing down a day with restless kids? Dreading hearing the inevitable…

I hear you. That’s why I’m loading up on goodies to keep around the house when my 6-year-old starts up. (I can put the older two to work; they’re in high school and college.)

 

First off, Pinterest is a lifesaver. I’ve linked to a “Thanksgiving Crafts for Kids” search, so you can see a smidgen of the ideas waiting for you, most of which can be accomplished with stuff around the house. Toilet paper rolls? GODSEND. They can be turkey bodies; they can be Batman gauntlets or Wonder Woman bracelets; they can be snowmen, they can be anything! Stock up, have construction paper, scissors, glue sticks, and watercolor paints on hand (and newspaper to protect your table). The kids will love the chance to create.

Print out a bunch of pictures for coloring, and leave ’em around with crayons and colored pencils. Crayola has a bunch of Thanksgiving pictures, Hanukkah pictures, and Kwanzaa pictures, plus printables that let kids cut out and create their own turkeys, and even Thanksgiving Bingo! for a family game. Sesame Street’s got fantastic printables, including activities and different holidays; so does Disney Family.

Of course I have books! This is a book blog!

Around the World in 80 Puzzles, by Aleksandra Artymowska, (Sept. 2018, Candlewick), $19.99, ISBN: 9781536203080

Ages 7-10

Puzzles!!! Who doesn’t have love puzzles? These aren’t your regular old crossword, word search, or Hidden Picture puzzles, though. These are puzzles made into an art form. Inspired by Jules Verne’s classic, Around the World in 80 Days, these puzzles feature steam trains, sailboats, parachutes, gliders, zeppelins, and more to take readers around the world. Each puzzle takes up a two-page spread and offers visual challenges to readers: find the safe path through a canyon that will avoid scorpions; discover lizards hiding in breathtaking Islamic architecture, or wander through jungle vines, in search of snakes and parrots. All mazes are in full-color and star a young boy who starts readers off on the adventure as he sits, reading, in his treehouse and grabs onto a balloon; the adventure ends when the balloon returns him to his little hideaway. The answers are at the back of the book, but that’s no fun! Get family members working together to solve the mysteries.

Santa Claus: The Book of Secrets Christmas Coloring Book, created by Russell Ince, (2013), $11.00, ISBN: 089945589887

My friend picked this coloring book up at BookExpo this year, and I’m so glad she did. There are some beautiful Christmas pictures to color in this book; from Nutcrackers to Santa; holly mandalas and knotwork ornaments; Christmas stockings and presents. My little guy and I broke this out the other night and just went at it. There really is something soothing about coloring, and these meditative Christmas designs bring back memories of old-fashioned Christmases. If you can grab a copy for yourself, leave this one out and let the grownups and kids pair up together for some impressive artwork.

Games are great to get everyone going after the turkey coma threatens to kick in. We’re big on tabletop gaming in my family, so I’ve got a bunch handy, across age groups.

Machi Koro is a Pandasaurus/IDW Game that’s a big favorite with my older kids and me. (Me, primarily, because I love watching the two of them trash talk one another as they try to outdo one another). Think Monopoly, but faster-paced and with 100% more opportunity for smack talk. You’re the mayor of Machi Koro, an up-and-coming city, and you’ve got your work cut out for you: develop the city into the largest city in the region. It’s card and dice-based, for 2-4 players. We have the Harbor Expansion, which adds some more cards to the game and provides a few new building opportunities.

King of Tokyo is a board and dice-based game for 2-6 players. Because who doesn’t want to be a giant monster that destroys Tokyo? My littlest guy gets in there with the rest of us, no problem; one of us helps read the cards with him, but really, this game is about the dice and the hit points your monster can take. Actually getting hold of Tokyo is only part of the battle: fighting to keep it is quite another story!

Monsters in the Elevator is one of our favorites. It’s a cooperative game that brings math to the table. You’ve got a bunch of monsters, each with a different weight. You’ve got an elevator that goes up 20 floors. Monsters get on, monsters get off; monsters pass gas and clear out, monsters rush in to get to their destinations. You need to get that elevator up to the 20th floor, safely, so you need to keep your math skills sharp and maintain that weight! You can easily accommodate between 2 and 10 players, but I’d say anywhere between 3-6 is the best number. Younger kids can easily play this with help.

I couldn’t talk tabletop games without mentioning my first grader’s favorite game, Nightmarium. This one is fantastic for pre-readers all the way up to teens and adults. It’s a card-based game, and each monster comes in three parts: you have feet cards, body cards, and head cards. Monsters need to be built from the feet up, and you need to build five to win. Once you complete a monster, they have certain abilities that activate for that turn, depending on the cards making them up. We play this one a lot. It’s hilarious, and can be quite cutthroat. Enjoy.

 

Posted in geek, geek culture, Middle Grade, programs, Tween Reads

I had a BookPop! party and it was great!

Quirk Books is a… well, quirky, fun book publisher that has a comic book writer and former YA librarian in their ranks, spreading the good word. It’s pretty awesome, because now, my library gets to do things like have a gallery dedicated to horror paperbacks of the ’70s and ’80s (Paperbacks From Hell), and have a mini pop culture con for my kiddos and tweens.

First up, my Paperbacks From Hell gallery, in my teen section. It’s garnering some looks, some chuckles, and some conversations: “What the hell is that?” “That is a giant gila monster. And watch your mouth.” (The display is in the teen area, but you know, little pitchers, big ears). The teens are pretty baffled, the grownups get a kick out of it, and it just makes me happy.

Next up, BookPop: Quirk’s traveling pop culture fest, happening in libraries and bookstores all over the place. I held mine late, because I thought it would be the perfect program to hold when the kids were out of school; last Thursday – since most of the families in my community don’t observe Rosh Hashanah – was the day. Quirk sent me a box o’swag, including ET: The Extra-Terrestrial tattoos (not in the picture: those babies were GONE); posters of the new kids’ books, X-Files: Children are Weird, and the YA novel My Best Friend’s Exorcism; and a spiffy tote bag to put everything in. I downloaded Quirk’s Geek Guides for putting on a great day of programming, and was ready.

First program of BookPop! Day was Superhero Storytime. I had a handful of kiddos and their parents attend, and we made masks and Geek Family Crests when we were done. The kids loved the masks – I downloaded some blank templates from First Palette, handed out scissors, markers, crayons, and lanyard to tie the masks, and the kids loved it. One little one even wore her mask through the next program…

Nick and Tesla’s Science Workshop. The Nick and Tesla books are tons of fun and loaded with STEM experiments, but I wanted something that even my littler ones could do. Enter, bubbles. I told the kids that Nick and Tesla are a brother-sister team that solve mysteries and get out of trouble by creating great science projects, and that we were going to learn about surface tension, and the difference between bubbling your milk and bubbling water with a little dish soap in it. I had a gallon-sized tub filled with water, gave out droppers, straws, and cups, and we bubbled away. Then, I had one of the kids add a cup of plain old liquid dish soap, and they all took turns stirring it. I spread some water on the table and demonstrate how to blow a table bubble, and that was all the kids needed. Look at these bubbles!

The entire table, at one point, was covered in bubbles. They loved it, I loved it, and they want more fun science programming, so win, all around. Next up was…

The Miss Peregrine Photo Workshop. Originally, I planned this for my teen patrons, but they weren’t interested – I had a group of tweens, though, who were all over it. We talked about the movie, I showed them the books, and brought out the equipment: photos I printed onto card stock from a Miss Peregrine-inspired Pinterest board (search on “vintage weird” and I guarantee you won’t be sorry), lots of paper towel, a spray bottle full of coffee, and two containers of coffee and tea. The kids loved aging their photos, and I was amazed by their creativity: one girl laid a paper towel over her photo to give it more texture as the coffee seeped through, and another tore the borders of her photo to make it look even older.

When I told them I wanted to create a photo gallery of their work, they all donated the photos to the library! So today, we have “Queensboro Hill’s Library for Outstanding Children” (forgive the glare, I laminated the photos so they wouldn’t deteriorate further):

I handed swag bags out for most of the day, and everything went except for one tote, two X-Files posters, and a handful of My Best Friend’s Exorcism posters, which will all be prizes for future programs. One kid couldn’t even wait to get home: he gave himself an ET tattoo sleeve, which was pretty fabulous.

I’d call our Queensboro Hill BookPop! a success.

Posted in geek, geek culture

Summertime programs: Captain America Turns 75

Summer Reading strikes fear into the hearts of librarians everywhere. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating, but it is the time of year when everything ramps up. Keeping the kids interested AND reading is a 24/7 job, and I have the Pinterest boards to prove it. Being a children’s librarian in my community, where I regularly have up to 100 kids in my room every day, Summer Reading was going to be a challenge this year. I decided to go with weekly themes, to switch it up, give myself some more programming variety, and celebrate some pop culture birthdays in the process.

readingrainbowNot actually my library.

Since NYC schoolkids are stuck in their 90+ degree classrooms until the bitter end of June, I start my Summer Reading programming in July. This year, what better way to kick it off than with Captain America’s birthday party? Cap turns 75 this year, and Steve Rogers’ birthday falls on July 4th. Talking this up to kids for the last month, between my after-school regulars and all the class trips that packed into the library those last few weeks of school, I was psyched by the reception it received. I wasn’t disappointed!

sohelpful

I turned to the Internet for help in making Cap’s birthday a blast. Luckily, last year’s superhero themed Summer Reading program meant that I still had my superhero photo booth masks, so I printed out a fresh set, laminated them, and the kids went nuts. I even had parents and kids showing up in costume, which had to be the biggest boost. They were really excited! We colored pictures, made paper plate Cap shields, and made little Cap figures out of wine corks.

The next day, I had a viewing of Captain America: The First Avenger. The next day, we had a craft: This is My City! Every superhero needs a city to protect, right? I’ve got a bunch of empty tablet boxes in my meeting room that were dying to be turned into a city for superheroes to protect. I was blown away by the kids’ creativity! I put out materials and superhero stickers, and they went to work. We had 99 cent stores, chocolate factories, and brightly colored apartment buildings. We had a great time, got to talk about graphic novels and books, and I felt pretty darn great about the kids in my community that day.

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Superhero training camp was up next, and I owe a huge debt of gratitude to many pinners on Pinterest for this. We began training camp by getting our superhero names, using the Superhero Name Generator; then, it was over to the table, where kids created their masks and emblems. Taking inspiration from The Little Sewing Shop and this Superhero Academy pin, I was able to put together a task list that would work in the library. I put down a masking tape maze that took my trainees through the stacks, and led them to a table, where a bunch of beanie babies awaited, behind a “brick” wall (more tablet boxes), to be rescued. Once the trainees rescued the beanie babies, they had to lift the Rock of Power (taped together wads of newspaper), and then bench press a 500 pound barbell (two balloons taped to three toilet paper rolls). Upon finishing their tasks, they received a Superhero Training Certificate.

Friday was the big finish: a Captain America & Friends treasure hunt, which is something I’ve instituted as a weekly thing here at the library. I take about 8-10 different pictures along a theme, number them and hide them throughout the children’s room, and create a key that I hand out to the kids. They have to find the pictures, write down the numbers for each one, and color a little spot in where I’ve colored the picture, so I know they’ve done the search. I’ve got tons of little prizes for these weekly hunts; Oriental Trading is great for individually bagged little crafts that kids love. I’ve included a link to the Cap treasure hunt pictures on my Google Drive, and here’s the link to the key. It looks wonky when you open it via Google Drive, but it looks fine in Word, so if you use it, try to open it in Word and see if that helps at all.

I had about 30-50 kids take part in the Captain America week’s festivities, which I consider a pretty big success; I had a lot of repeat kids, and I had some new kids, and everyone was really enthusiastic and got into the spirit of the week.

The next week was Spy Week – I’ll share that soon, and this week, I’ve got Harry Potter’s Wizard Week (Harry’s birthday is July 31st). Stay tuned!

Posted in geek, geek culture, Humor, Realistic Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Love at ComicCon: The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love

geek's guideThe Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love, by Sarvenaz Tash (June 2016, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), $17.99, ISBN: 9781481456531

Recommended for ages 13+

Sixteen year-olds Graham and Roxana are the best of friends, sharing a love of Harry Potter, comics, and all things geek. Lately, though, Graham has started feeling more than just friendship for Roxy. He’s decided that New York Comic Con is the place to declare his undying love to her, especially since Robert Zinc – the reclusive creator of their all-time favorite comic book,The Chronicles of Althena – is going to be there! AND there’s going to be a John Hughes retrospective! It’s the perfect romantic setting, right? Unfortunately, not everything goes as planned, and Graham realizes that what looks good on paper is often very different from what works in real life. But he also may learn that surprises show up in the most unusual places: like ComicCon.

This was the sweetest, wackiest YA romance I’ve read in ages. I loved all the comic and geek world references, and I’ll be the first to admit I kinda had a moment when I realized that the beloved John Hughes movies of my adolescence are now awesome retro movies to today’s teens. (I loved it, I just can’t comprehend that Andie and Blaine shared a prom kiss 30 years ago.) Graham is one of those good guys that you really want to see get a break, and his long-suffering buddy Casey is hilarious as the semi-clueless foil to Graham’s hopeless/helpless romantic. The characters didn’t feel like caricatures; they lived and breathed and interacted in the bookspace, which I appreciated.

Display and booktalk this one with Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl and, if you’re lucky enough to have scored a copy, her book, Kindred Spirits. If you’re having a comic con event at your library this summer, this is a perfect book to evangelize to the masses. For the burgeoning fangirls, make sure to put out a copy of Sam Maggs’ awesome Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy, so they can check out references to Firefly, The Princess Bride, and Harry Potter. Show some John Hughes movies, while you’re at it!

Sarvenaz Tash writes YA and middle grade books. Her author site has links to more information about them, plus links to social media, events, and news.