Posted in Librarianing, professional development, programs, Summer Reading

Summer Scares is back!

It’s time to start planning Summer Reading already – I know, right? – and there are some great themes available: there is the Oceans of Possibilities theme, and there’s the Read Beyond the Beaten Path. For those readers that like the spookier side of life, I’m very excited that the Horror Writers Association is back with Summer Scares!

I don’t use Summer Scares as the sole Summer Reading program at my library, but I do promote it to give me that little extra, to reach all my readers at the library, because I have quite a few spooky/horror fans here (including me). This year’s Summer Scares Middle Grade offerings are fantastic:

Source: RA For All, Summer Scares FAQ and Resources, 3/1/2022


I’ve only read one of the YA offerings, Clown in a Cornfield, which I LOVED (and which is getting a sequel in August!); I’m looking forward to diving into these other selections:

Source: RA For All, Summer Scares FAQ and Resources, 3/1/2022


Info and resources are available on the RA for All: Horror blog, which is updated pretty regularly by Becky Spratford, who also writes the excellent RA for All blog. These are excellent Readers Advisory blogs that you should be subscribed to; Becky Spratford has great insights and puts up plenty of links for professional development.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Summer Reading, Tween Reads

Fun Summer Challenge with author Adam Perry!

With Summer Reading in full swing, I thought this may be a fun challenge for middle grade and tween readers!

Adam Perry, author of The Thieving Collectors of Fine Children’s Books, has a summer challenge that just sounds like too much fun. I’ve got his book coming up shortly – I’m finishing a few graphic novels and two more middle grade books at the moment – and it sounds like just the sort of lost-in-a-book-adventure that I adore. Think The Ninja Librarians, the Mr. Lemoncello’s Library series, or Book Scavenger.

The Thieving Collectors of Fine Children’s Books, by Adam Perry,
(March 2021, Little Bee Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781499811247

Ages 8-12

Hey, how about a readalong? Read The Thieving Collectors of Fine Children’s Books along with me, right here! I’ll aim to start it next week; I’ll post when I start it, and can post every few chapters, to see if we can get a discussion going!

So while you’re waiting for me to get my act together, watch this video where Adam Perry talks about his book and his fun Summer Challenge, with very cool goodiesAnd download your Adam Perry Summer Reading list here: your kids have until September 22nd to read just one of these books!


Psst… if any of my library families are reading this? Our library system has the book in 8 of our branches (all requestable!), and an ebook available.

The Thieving Collectors of Fine Children’s Books has a starred review from Shelf Awareness. Read John Schu’s interview with the author here!

Posted in programs, Summer Reading

Summer Reading: Which theme to choose?

Summer Reading’s coming! How many different themes are there, and how does your library choose?

This year, my library system is doing the Reading Takes You Everywhere theme. After a year in relative quarantine, we thought it was time to indulge some armchair wanderlust! Our Summer Reading site has links to our booklists, programs, and our Reading Challenge site, through ReadSquared, for the second year running. I mean, when you think of it, travel can be to so many places – through a book, you can visit outer space as easily as you can visit your neighborhood library.


I know so many library systems are part of the Collaborative Summer Library Program, and their theme this year, Tails and Tales, is just adorable! Also, home run – animal stories are always a win with the kiddos! The CSLP site has great resources, downloads, and ideas. If you have an access code, you can download the whole manual, which has booklists, programming ideas, and templates for early childhood, children, and teens.


For older tweens and teens who like the spookier side of life, a side theme you can run is Summer Scares, a program created by the Springfield-Greene County Library District, the Horror Writers Association, Book Riot, Booklist, and United for Libraries. I first found out about Summer Scares through the RA for All blog, and love the idea of having some extra offerings for my older readers who may be more interested in thrills and chills. The free programming guide features three suggested books for adults, for teens, and for tweens/middle graders, along with readalikes and programming ideas. A friend of mine who works in a different branch in our system is a horror/spooky books fan, too, and we’re both thinking up some ways to introduce Summer Scares programming and displays, with some QR codes to link our libraries’ (our libraries are in the same system, but about 13 miles apart) programming and Bitmoji collections.

Those are the three Summer Reading programs I know about – tell me about yours!

Posted in Early Reader, Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, programs, Storytime, Summer Reading

Storytime: Nobody Likes a Goblin, by Ben Hatke

nobody-likes-a-goblinNobody Likes a Goblin, by Ben Hatke, (Jun 2016, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626720817

Recommended for ages 5-10

If you read my stuff enough, you know there are a few authors and illustrators that I adore; Ben Hatke is one of them. From Zita the Spacegirl to Mighty Jack and Little Robot, he creates fun, exciting characters, very human stories, and beautiful art. I am eternally grateful that he has also started sharing the love with picture book readers; first, we had Julia’s House for Lost Creatures, and now, Nobody Likes a Goblin.

It’s the sweetest little book about a homebody goblin who lives in his cozy dungeon and hangs out with his best friend, Skeleton. One day, a gang of dumb old adventurers barges in, loots Goblin’s treasure, and makes off with Skeleton – RUDE. Goblin sets out to rescue his friend despite the oft-repeated cautionary advice, “Nobody likes a goblin.” But Goblin doesn’t care, because he has a friend to save!

goblinImage Source: GoodReads

How cute is this book? It’s got adorable messages about friendship and being brave, not worrying who likes you or not, and just doing what you do. I decided to read this one to some of my slightly younger kids on a preschool-aged summer camp visit a few weeks ago, and they seemed to enjoy it. They kind of “ewwww’d” my poor Goblin at first, but when I told them that he was just a nice little guy and didn’t bother anyone, they were more sympathetic. By the end of the book, they were cheering for him. I encouraged them to hiss and boo the adventurers who were mean and went into poor Goblin’s house, breaking things up and stealing his toys, and was that very nice? NO.

Posted in Fantasy, Intermediate, Middle Grade, programs, Summer Reading, Tween Reads

Summer Reading programs: Harry Potter Week

I’m sorry I’ve been away for a while, Husband and I took our yearly date vacation to Boston Comic Con, and I decided to embrace the joy of being a little less available than usual. But I’m back, and I’m here to crow about what was possibly the most successful week of programming I’ve had as a children’s librarian: Harry Potter Week. I set all programming to take place during the last week of July, culminating in both a celebration of Harry’s July 31st birthday AND a chance to rile everyone up for the upcoming Harry Potter and the Cursed Child release that week. It was a success, leaving me in the debt yet again of amazing librarians and Pinterest pinners.

I started things off on Monday by getting everyone ready to attend Hogwarts, initially handing out tickets to the Hogwarts Express, Hogwarts student IDs, and a Hogwarts origami sorting hat so they could sort themselves into houses. I decorated my bulletin board to look like Platform 9 3/4, and made sure no one actually decided to make a run for the wall. I don’t want to fill out accident reports. I helped the kids fold their origami sorters, and we were off to the next part: button making!

platform  IMG_20160725_143753

I came across the button maker when I first arrived at my library, and it’s been a successful part of my maker programs. Finding House buttons on Pinterest made things so much easier; I printed a few sets out on my home printer (I don’t have a color printer at work), brought the pages in, and got to hole punching. Once the kids selected their houses – I didn’t make them stick with a house they didn’t want – I had them come make their own House buttons. They LOVED it.

house buttons

See the Hogwarts button in the middle? I made a bunch of those and handed them out to my coworkers, explaining to the kids that any of the librarians, computer people, or helpers were like the Hogwarts faculty, so if they needed help and I wasn’t around, they could just look for the Hogwarts button. My coworkers enjoyed being part of things, and the kids were excited to see a Hogwarts atmosphere taking shape around them. I welcomed the kids to their Houses as they made their buttons, and then moved onto the next part of the opening ceremonies: their Spell Books. I told them that every student at Hogwarts needs to start out with a basic book of spells, and handed out this great PDF including just about every spell in the Harry Potter universe. The pages are 4×6, and since I didn’t have the budget to buy small photo albums as suggested, I just let the kids cut them out and staple them together. We talked about some of the more popular spells, like Expelliarmus and Wingardiuim Leviosa (I totally did the Hermoine “Levi-oh-sah”), and I reminded them NOT to use Unforgiveable Curses on one another. It’s all fun and games until someone Avada Kedavras, you know. Day One at Hogwarts was a success.

On Day Two, we made Marauder’s Maps. I LOVE this one from Harry Potter Paraphernalia, which made things easier on my Corona Kids. There’s a lot of folding, but there’s a lot of wiggle room for someone who isn’t a master folder. I helped the kids with their maps, and everyone was insanely happy with the results. There’s another great map on Instructables, but I ultimately didn’t go with it, because the cutting and folding looked like it would have gotten confusing for most of my kids. The Harry Potter Paraphernalia map was a great introduction to folding for my group, and with some more practice and increasingly complex projects, I hope we can tackle the Instructables map next year.


After we made the maps, we talked about Patronuses. There are still a bunch of kids in the library who haven’t read the books or seen the movies, so introducing them to Hogwarts was exciting, and the Patronus really got them interested. I handed out black construction paper and put out a basket of sidewalk chalk and told them to create their own Patronuses. I figured the chalk on black paper would give the Patronuses an ethereal, otherworldly quality, and I was right! Plus, the kids loved working with the chalk and paper, and let their imaginations go wild. It was great! We had all sorts of Patronuses: a turtle, a giraffe, a unicorn; I even had a kid ask me if it was okay to make Medusa her Patronus. She wasn’t sure if a Gorgon was in Harry Potter’s world, and I told her that Fluffy, the three-headed dog at Hogwarts, is a Greek mythological figure named Cerberus, so if she wanted a Gorgon to be her Patronus, that she should go for it.

20160726_154826     20160726_154226     20160726_154204     20160726_153439

On Wednesday, I showed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and put out Harry Potter/Hogwarts coloring sheets – there are TONS on the Internet! The kids love a good movie day, and since I don’t know how many have cable, this was a first for quite a few. Movie day tends to be my own little oasis in the week, because I tend to between 2 and 4 programs a day during Summer Reading.

Thursday was our Wand Workshop, and despite there being many amazing wand workshops online, I have way too many kiddos to pull out the hot glue guns, so I stuck to chopsticks – I bought a pack of 100 for $1.99 from a local Asian grocery, some glitter glue, duct tape, and stickers. It was just fine; the kids love having something to do, and they love to create. I was able to crop down some of the wand pictures – I can’t publish pictures of the kiddos here on the InterWebs – but you can see some of the imagination that went into their wandmaking here, and that would make Mr. Ollivander proud.

20160728_140401          20160728_135857          20160728_135859

Friday was the big finale: Harry’s Birthday party and a Horcrux Hunt! The Horcrux Hunt is just like my other weekly treasure hunts: I put up pictures of the Horcruxes, plus a bonus picture (the Deathly Hallows), and gave the kids sheets to find them and write down the number on each picture. Prizes were bookmarks, Oriental Trading craft kits, and temporary tattoos. For Harry’s birthday, I set up a few coloring stations and we made paper bag and book page owls, inspired by this French Harry Potter party site. It’s super easy! We used brown lunch bags for the owl’s body; pages from books destined for the garbage made up the ruffle in front. I traced circular objects of different sizes for the eyes, using the bottom of a small mug for the brown eye feathers, my 1″ hole punch for the whites of the eyes, and a bottlecap for the black of the eyes. I asked the kids to put their owls on a bookshelf when they were done, so we could take a picture of our owl post. It looked amazing!

IMG_20160729_132001 20160729_132450

Of course, no Harry Potter party would be complete without a HAVE YOU SEEN THIS WIZARD? Wanted poster, which I quickly whipped up with a poster board I had.

20160729_131735I am nothing, if not dedicated to getting kids excited about books.

All in all, I had between 30-50 kids take part in each day’s program, and everyone seemed really excited and happy. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is on several school reading lists this year, so I hope that the kids took away a little of the magic from the books. I do know that when Harry Potter and the Cursed Child hit shelves that Monday morning (we’re not open on Sundays, so the books stayed in a lockbox in my manager’s office), they were grabbed up quickly and joyously!

Thanks again to the wonderful bloggers and librarians that shared their ideas and helped me create a great program. I’ve got a Harry Potter party Pinterest board where I keep the pins I used and will add to for future parties, and you can check out my Harry Potter Week Google Drive folder for any printables that I used, all in one spot.

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, programs, Summer Reading, Tween Reads

Summer Reading Programs: Spy Week

My second big Summer Reading programming theme was Spy Week. Again, Pinterest was my co-pilot, as I created dossiers and came up with activities to keep the kids happy and thinking that week.

First, I put out any kind of books with spy/espionage themes, and booktalked them as I introduced Spy Week. Favorites were Gene Luen Yang’s Secret Coders (and they’re excited that the second one is coming out), The League of Unexceptional Children, Harriet the Spy, The Fourth Stall, Tom Angleberger’s Fake Mustache, and Varian Johnson’s The Great Greene Heist all went over really well.

Secret-Decoder-printableI made up dossier folders for the kids to keep their materials – I ended up using all 50 sets, so whoo hoo! I printed out Confidential and Top Secret-type stamps to glue on each cover. The first day, we took on secret coding. I gave the kids copies of a code wheel, a breakdown of Morse Code, and an info sheet on PinPrick Code, along with a secret message written using the Code Wheel and PinPrick Code. I used a page from an old book (destined for the trash pile) for the PinPrick Code, and I used dots with a pen rather than pinpricks. The message was the same using both the Code Wheel and the PinPrick, so the kids could use either method and get the same message: “Congratulations! See Miss Rosemary for a prize!” I gave out stickers, bookmarks, and temporary tattooos as prizes and everyone was happy.

fingerprintsDay Two was Fingerprints and Secret Messages day. I gave the kids a printout on fingerprinting, a small sheet describing the different types of fingerprint styles (arch, whorls, loops), and showed them how to take the own fingerprints by scribbling on a piece of paper with a pencil, rolling your finger around on the graphite, and then applying their prints to paper. We also talked about the fact that no two people have the same fingerprints, and that’s why taking fingerprints is helpful in finding criminals, missing people, and identifying employees like folks that work in schools. After the kids took their own fingerprints, I mixed up lemon juice with water, handed out cups of the solution, along with small paintbrushes, and let the kids write their secret messages. When they got home, I told them to hold the message over a heat source like a hair dryer or a light bulb, with an adult, so the message would be revealed.

Day Three, we showed the first Spy Kids movie, and the attendance was strong! I was pretty happy about it, and the kids loved seeing all the wacky gadgets used in the movie. My partner in crime and co-children’s librarian had a Spy Crafts table after the movie, where kids made fake mustaches and paper plate masks.

20160714_163905Day Four was Spy Training Camp, and that’s where things got fun. I created a laser maze in our meeting room using yarn, and the chairs and tables. I ended up having about 30 kids going through the maze again and again, and then they came out to try their hands at TNT Hot Potato. 20160714_163316I wrapped up toilet paper rolls in red tissue paper, taped them together with black duct tape, used a yellow pipe cleaner as a fuse, and we had TNT. We played the Mission: Impossible theme as the kids tossed them back and forth; everyone got prizes for competing.

Finally, the fifth day was the big Spy Hunt – I told the kids that secret agents for the Bad Guys were loose in the children’s room, and they had to locate them. I hid five of these guys, below, throughout the children’s room and gave them code numbers like 007, 009, and so on. I also had a bonus – a giant Classified stamp – that went on my desk (I always give them a “free zone”). The kids found the agents, wrote the numbers on their sheets, and, you guessed it, got prizes. We like prizes here. Everyone who took part received a Spy ID card and Spy School certificate to close out their week.


I was thrilled with the success of Spy Week! The kids were so into it, and it really gave me the shot in the arm I needed to keep topping myself in terms of creating exciting programming. One of the most amazing things about this profession is the openness and willingness to share information with one another; I have a huge debt to both The Show Me Librarian and Bryce Don’t Play, both librarians with amazing blogs and wonderful Spy programs that I borrowed liberally from to make my week a success. Thank you so much for sharing your work with everyone!

I’ve made my Spy Week programming folder on Google Drive shareable, if anyone would like to use some of the stuff. I’ve got just about everything I handed out here, and a few things I didn’t get to. There’s also a really good booklist from the International Spy Museum that helped when I was putting together my own booktalking list. Check it out!