Posted in picture books

If there was ever a timely book… King of Boredom

King of Boredom, by Ilaria Guarducci, (Apr. 2020, Schiffer Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 9780764359743

Ages 5-8

Pale, thin Ben is a kid who never enjoyed himself. His favorite color is light gray, he likes plain white pasta, he doesn’t really do a whole heck of a lot, and no matter what his parents do, he’s just bored. He pronounces himself the Supreme King of Boredom, locks himself in his room… and decides to make himself a throne. And if you make a throne, you should really have a castle, right? As the Supreme King of Boredom, Ben adds onto his empire, aided by a cardboard box, scissors, some buttons and thread, and the toys in his room. He even takes a lovely queen, who pledges to be bored with him forever. WAIT! Is that… a slight smile?

Who doesn’t have a King (or Queen) or Boredom at home these days? Ben is incredibly relatable to kids stuck indoors and BOOOOOOOORED, and those kids who just don’t know what to do to NOT be bored. The dramatic pronouncement of Supreme King of Boredom is all Ben needed to spark his creativity: he’s got a cardboard box, some supplies, and – whether he realizes it or not – a little bit of imagination. At once a fun book on making and a boredom buster, King of Boredom is a smart summer reading choice for kids who need a little push in the right direction. Colorful artwork, with a taciturn Ben in the center of it all, makes for a fun read. Grab some cardboard, some paper, tape, and glue, and see what you and your Boredom Royalty can create together.


Just to clarify, King of Boredom – as with most of the books I read and write about here – was provided to me for free by Schiffer in exchange for a review. I haven’t added this disclaimer in the past, but I want to make sure I’m FTC complaint, so I’ll be tacking a little boilerplate at the bottom of future reviews going forward. Thanks, all!


Posted in Middle Grade, Non-fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads, Teen, Tween Reads

The holidays are coming… What do I do with these kids?

Welcome to this year’s edition of “What the heck do I do with a house full of kids?” Thanksgiving is THIS WEEK, which means Hanukkah and Christmas are right around the corner. We’re going to have homes full of kids while you’re getting the house clean, cooking meals, wrapping gifts, decorating your home. Sure, you could turn on Klaus on Netflix, but why not have some fun things ready to keep the kids entertained while you and the grownups get some face time in? Here are a few fun books chock full of ideas.

Playing with Collage, by Jeannie Baker, (Oct. 2019, Candlewick Studio), $16, ISBN: 9781536205398

Ages 8-12

Who doesn’t love making collages? It’s one of our favorite things to do at the library. Jeannie Baker is a picture book author-illustrator who created this master class on working with collage for kids and adults alike. She provides a look at the tools and textures she uses to create wonderful collage artwork, with plenty of examples. How do you prep leaves for pressing? Did I even know you prep leaves for pressing, rather than just gluing them to a page and calling it a day? How do you use corrugated cardboard and torn tissue paper to create a visually stunning scene that you can feel by just looking at it? Jeannie Baker is here for you with easy-to-read explanations and techniques. She’s got a whole section dedicated to kitchen materials, so keep things aside as you prep for holiday cooking – your kids will find ways to work with them. She even includes a fun guessing game at the end of the book, challenging readers to identify the materials in her final collage. Provide the materials, set aside a creative space (I usually designate my dining room table), and let them go to work with this book as a fun reference guide. There are suggestions for more advanced crafters in here – make sure any kinds of superglue or cutting materials are used with an adult’s guidance.



Yikes! Santa Claus is in His Underpants!, by Mister Ed,
(Oct. 2019, Schiffer Kids), $6.99, ISBN: 9780764358296
Ages 3-8

How much fun is this? You get to dress up Santa! The inner flap of this softcover paper doll book is Santa, in all his underwear-rocking glory. The rest of the book includes pages of accessories and outfits to dress him in. All of his gear are removable stickers, so you can dress him up, mix and match, and do it all again. Dress him up in bunny pajamas, biker gear, a superhero set of tights, a sheriff, get him ready for his post-Christmas nap with a pair of fuzzy pajamas and reindeer slippers. Get creative, and have fun! At $6.99, you can definitely swing buying a couple of these for stocking stuffers or to let groups of kids have their own Dress Santa contests.


Make Your Own Beauty Masks: 38 Simple, All-Natural Recipes for Healthy Skin, Illustrated by Emma Trithart,
(Nov. 2019, Odd Dot), $19.99, ISBN: 9781250208125
Ages 10+

Come ON. This is just too much fun, especially if you have tween and teen girls in the home. Get in some pampering for the holidays with this adorable book from Odd Dot. Everything is natural; straight from your fridge or the produce section to your face. I bet you can find nearly everything in your home right now. The masks have the cutest names, and the book is beautifully illustrated. The contents tell you exactly what you need, and the step-by-step directions help you prep your face and your ingredients for absolute pampering and relaxation while you watch March of the Wooden Soldiers and wait for your turkey to cook. The book comes with ten sheet masks to get you started. Keep an eye out for any prep that requires cutting or blending; you may want to prep the ingredients with your spa participants the night before.

Don’t forget tabletop games – we’re still loving Monsters in the Elevator and Nightmarium, and are looking forward to introducing Throw Throw Burrito, which is, essentially, a combination of tabletop card game and dodgeball, with soft, adorable burritos. Dueling burritos, sneak attack burritos, team-up burrito warfare: it’s all here, and we have laughed ourselves into stomachaches playing it, so what better way to end a day of Thanksgiving eating? 

Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate!

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Science Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Women's History

Stories of Fearless Females – First Second’s got you covered!

First Second consistently puts out great graphic novels for readers, no matter what age. Fiction or non-fiction, kids, teen, or adult, if it’s coming from First Second, I read it, love it, and get it on my shelves. This spring, there’s something for everyone, with some amazing ladies taking the reins and heading up their own books – plus, a nonfiction collection profiling women who broke the rules and beat the daylights out of the mold-maker, while they were at it.

Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World, by Pénélope Bagieu,
(March 2018, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626728691
Recommended for readers 12+

First up is Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World; profiles of 29 outstanding women from across time, across the world. We know many of their names, but did you know their accomplishments? Did you know that Margaret Hamilton, who defined Wicked Witch with her portrayal of the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz, embraced her terrifying alter ego  – and used her as a bargaining chip for higher pay in Hollywood? How about Temple Grandin, whose research on farm animals led to major changes in the factory farming industry and a push toward animal well-being? Not bad, for someone whose father wanted her institutionalized when she was diagnosed with autism as a child.

I could gush on and on about Brazen. It’s a must-add to your collections; display and booktalk right next to Sam Maggs’ Wonder Women, Jason Porath’s Rejected Princesses, and National Geographic’s Book of Heroines. Bagieu creates perfect, bite-sized biographies of these phenomenal women, making readers want to know more. A list of 30 more rebel ladies who rocked the world whets appetites at the end of the book, and we even get a little bio on our author/artist, Pénélope Bagieu. I’ve enjoyed her previous graphic novels, Exquisite Corpse (for grown-ups) and California Dreamin’, the story of musician Mama Cass. Don’t pass up putting Brazen in your teen space.


Star Scouts: The League of Lasers, by Mike Lawrence,
(March 2018, First Second), $14.99, ISBN: 9781626722811
Recommended for readers 8-12

The much-anticipated sequel to 2017’s Star Scouts is here! Avani Patel is rocking the Star Scouts, so much that she’s been invited to join a secret society of elite scouts: The League of Lasers. Sounds awesome, right? But there’s a catch: she has to survive her initiation challenge. While on her way to the planet where she’s supposed to undergo her challenge, her ship throws her off course and crash lands onto a strange planet. With a methane atmosphere. And she’s stranded with Pam, her nemesis. Together, the two Scouts have to figure out how to survive – and to do that, they need to put their differences past them.

I love this series for so many reasons: there’s a child of color leading the pack; there are messages about resilience and teamwork; and most importantly, it’s just so much fun! Mike Lawrence’s dialogue between characters is never slow and never dull, and always believable. He tackles middle grade situations like disagreements and jealousy between friends, but always makes sure to bring things to a resolution through talking and mutual understanding. The humor is smart and the artwork is engaging. Give this to all your Zita the Spacegirl fans and tell them to make space in their hearts for the Star Scouts.


Scarlett Hart, Monster Hunter, by Marcus Sedgwick/Illustrated by Thomas Taylor,
(April 2018, First Second), $14.99, ISBN: 9781626720268
Recommended for readers 10-13

YA author Marcus Sedgwick (Saint Death, Ghosts of Heaven) writes for middle grade with the start of a new series about a teenage monster hunter following in her parents’ footsteps. Scarlett Hart is the orphaned daughter of legendary monster hunters, determined to carry on the family business. The only thing is, she according to the Royal Academy for the Pursuit and Eradication of Zoological Eccentricities (just call it The Academy), Scarlett’s underage, and hunting monsters is against the law. Luckily, Scarlett’s manservant, Napoleon, is there to help, driving Scarlett around London and acting as the face for her kills so they can get paid on hang onto their family estate. The sticky wicket is Count Stankovic, her parents’ – and now Scarlett’s – archrival, who always manages to show up and take credit for her work while threatening to rat her out to the Academy. Naturally, the monster situation gets out of control, and Scarlett roars into action, danger and the law be darned!

Scarlett Hart is a fun monster-catching adventure romp, with a dieselpunk feel and a spunky young heroine. Thomas Taylor is the original illustrator of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and knows fantasy art. There’s humor, adventure, and fun to be had; a nice start to a new graphic novel series. Give these to your Delilah Dirk readers, and consider re-introducing readers to Shannon, Dean, and Nathan Hale’s Rapunzel’s Revenge and Calamity Jack.


The City on the Other Side, by Mairghread Scott/Illustrated by Robin Robinson,
(April 2018, First Second), $16.99, ISBN: 9781626724570
Recommended for readers 9-13

It’s early 20th-century San Francisco, and Isabel is bored. Her high-society mother expects her to be quiet, well-behaved, and flawless – clean, pressed, clothes in perfect repair. She’s shuttled off to her artist father for the summer, but he’s too wrapped up in his work to pay much attention to her, either. Taking matters into her own hands, Isabel explores the woods by her father’s home and stumbles into a fairy world: a world where two kingdoms are at war! She receives a magical necklace to keep safe, and, with the help of some new companions, sets off to end the war before it destroys the fairy world and our own world.


The City on the Other Side is high fantasy mixed with historical fiction, making for an exciting adventure for middle grade fantasy fans. The heroine is a girl of color, of Spanish origin; she’s smart, determined, and sick and tired of being treated like she’s an object for someone’s mantelpiece. She’s a good role model for readers who enjoy Zita, Avani from Star Scouts, and Maddy from Jewell Parker Rhodes’ Bayou Magic.


Crafty Cat and the Great Butterfly Battle, by Charise Mericle Harper,
(April 2018, First Second), $13.99, ISBN: 9781626724877
Recommended for readers 8-10

The third Crafty Cat comic book has Birdie – whose alter ego is crafty superheroine Crafty Cat – ready to take the lead role in her school play about bugs. The problem is, everyone wants the role: it’s a butterfly! Anya is back, and she wants to be the butterfly, too – and Anya always seems to get her way. Looks like a job for Crafty Cat!

I really enjoy the Crafty Cat series, and so do my library kids. Birdie is a likable character who always manages to find a way to make the best of a lousy situation; she uses crafts – and by extension, her superhero identity as Crafty Cat – to help her focus and see different possibilities. Crafty Cat is an optimistic book with an upbeat character, and it’s great fun for kids to have as a go-to on the shelves. This volume comes with five butterfly-related crafts, including a butterfly with moving wings, a hair clip, and a bookmark.

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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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 Non-fiction

Add Make: Paper Inventions to your Maker Library!

paper_coverMake: Paper Inventions: Machines that Move, Drawings that Light Up, and Wearables and Structures You Can Cut, Fold, and Roll, by Kathy Ceceri (Sept. 2015, Maker Media, Inc.), $19.99, ISBN: 9781457187520

Recommended for ages 5+ (with some help!)

I love maker spaces in the library. I had a small one at my last library, and I’m psyched to set one up here in my new digs. The kids love having projects to do, and you don’t need a huge area with 3-D printers chugging along to be a maker. Duct tape, construction paper and imagination are a great start. Make Magazine has been a great resource for years, as is their Maker Camp, a virtual summer and holiday “camp” that provides cool projects and a discussion space for anyone who wants in. The Maker Media books are a huge help for anyone – parent, educator, and kid – who needs some ideas on how to stir up some creative juices.

One of the latest books in the series, Make: Paper Inventions is for anyone interested in paper crafting, paper engineering, and paper technology. Offering projects for relative newbies or whose skill level is “mostly thumbs” all the way up to creating paper-based automatons, light-up cards, even a geodesic dome!

Make: Paper Inventions, like every Maker Media book, wants to educate you as well as entertain you, so you’ll find a wealth of information on the nuts and bolts, the science and math, behind paper engineering. You’ll read about paper structures, for instance, and why folded paper can hold greater weights than a plain piece of paper. You’ll also learn why paper will tear rather than stretch if you pull it, but it will bend nicely for a pencil.

There are tons of projects in here for anyone and everyone, in any space. Kids can have a blast making their own paper – their own edible paper, even – with relative ease. Like most maker movements, the Maker Media books are big on reusing, reducing, and recycling, so projects are here for all weights of paper, from rice paper to card stock, and you can use old notebooks, newspapers, or copy paper for many of these projects.  There are comprehensive materials lists and step-by-step instructions and photos for every design, and math and science concepts that you can discuss with kids will make teachers happy, and make kids realize that yes, you will use that math outside of math class, and for cool stuff, to boot. An appendix with project templates and an index round out this resource.

I can’t wait to get the kids here at my library paper quilling – it’s one of the easier projects in here that will appeal to my library group’s need for fairly instant gratification. There’s a wealth of Pinterest resources, too, which makes me really happy, because this is likely to be a program I’ll repeat. Paper circuitry looks fantastic, and who knows? Maybe that’s a project for Valentine’s Day – once I get some practice time in.

Check out some of the photos from Make: Paper Inventions, and then add this to your reference library or your crafting library. Get those makerspaces operating!

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