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 Fiction, Humor, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

The Only Girl in School is no shrinking violet!

only girl in schoolThe Only Girl in School, by Natalie Standiford/Illustrations by Nathan Durfee (Jan. 2016, Scholastic Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9780545829960

Recommended for ages 9-12

Claire’s best friend, Bess, moves away just before the start of fifth grade, leaving her the only girl in her entire elementary school. To make matters worse, her other best friend, Henry, has just decided to stop talking to her, and replaced her with Webby (aka Webster), a colossal jerk! How is Claire going to get through this school year?

Told in letters from Claire to Bess, The Only Girl in School is a quick, fun read about growing up, friendship, and the hunt for pirate treasure. Claire is a funny and sympathetic protagonist, whether she’s lamenting the loss of the girl’s locker room, now the coach’s private office (“he probably likes having an office with his own shower in it”) or asking “Yucky” Gilbert – who has a tremendous crush on her – to crew for her for the upcoming boat race (“…the first and most important rule is: No Slobbering”). It’s a story about change: friendships change; being on the verge of leaving elementary school for middle school; and approaching the way boys and girls see one another. It’s also about how adults may treat boys versus girls, especially when there’s only one girl in an entire school: when there’s only one female voice, injustices, no matter how seemingly small, are overlooked a lot more easily, whether it’s removing a locker room where Claire can change or ignoring aggressive and chauvinistic behavior on a soccer field.

I like Claire: she’s smart, she’s athletic, and she’s spunky. She calls out unfair attitudes and behavior when she sees and experiences it, even if it’s happening in her own dining room. She isn’t going to let anyone get to her or make her feel badly for being the only girl in her school. She misses her best friends, but she doesn’t mope around school. She draws pictures on the wall in her “clubhouse” at school to journal her feelings but when her sanctum is invaded by someone who’s defacing her pictures, she takes it upon herself to act and launches an investigation. She’s a fun heroine, and the fact that she can inject snarky humor into her story should resonate with tweens.

The Only Girl in School is a fun middle-grade read and open the doors for interesting discussions about gender relations. Ask boys and girls alike to read it, and see what the different feedback sounds like. Read along with The Last Boy at St. Edith’s and compare the two main characters’ situations!

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Tristan Hunt and the Sea Guardians: Middle Grade marine adventure!

shark whispererTristan Hunt and the Sea Guardians, Book 1: The Shark Whisperer, by Ellen Prager, (May 2014, Mighty Media), $9.95, ISBN: 978-1938063442

Recommended for ages 9-13

Twelve year-old Tristan Hunt is kind of a klutz. He trips and falls a lot, which garners him a lot of teasing at school and disappointed glances from his father at home. The luckiest thing happens to him, though, when he falls into a shark tank while vacationing with his parents in the Florida Keys – not only does he emerge unharmed, but shortly after the incident, he receives an invite to a very special summer camp – a summer camp where all the campers learn that they have special talents when it comes to the ocean and the creatures that live there. Tristan can communicate with sharks – that’s a pretty handy talent to have! – and once he’s in the water, he’s not a klutz at all.

That’s not all, though. The camp staff not only teach the kids to hone their abilities, but use them to protect and rescue sea life. They’re supposed to wait until they’re older and receive more training before they qualify for missions, but when critical mission pops up and the team is short-staffed, Tristan and his friends may have to save the day.

This is the first book in a middle grade series that Mighty Media was kind enough to send me, and I am thrilled that they did. With hat tips to both Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, this summer camp for gifted kids is packed with adventure and wonder – the kids are thrilled, yet nervous, about discovering and embracing their new abilities. There’s some great information about various forms of sea life in here, making this a must-read for kids with an interest in sharks, dolphins, octopuses, or any other sea creature. Once it’s established that the kids can communicate with the animals, they each exhibit their own personalities, which adds some fun to the mix (and the sharks with Jamaican accents are hilarious).

Author Ellen Prager is a marine scientist and children’s author, so she brings a great deal of expertise and knowledge to the book. Budding conservationists are going to want to have this book in their collections, too. Ellen Prager’s author webpage offers more information about her background, beautiful photos, fun facts, and printable puzzles to share.

The series is also perfect for your more conservative students and readers. It’s clean, the kids are respectful to adults and one another (mostly), and the adults are fun to be around while exhibiting concern for the kids’ welfare. We’ve got a villain who cares nothing for life outside of his own interests, and has the resources to make enough trouble for the Sea Guardians that we know he’ll be around for at least another book.

This is a fun series for both boys and girls that may have been missed when it hit shelves last year – make sure to give it a look and consider adding it to your shelves this year. I’m always a fan of finding a little magic in my tween realism when I can find it.