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Today I am honored to have two wonderful guests from the Monster & Me series, including the recently released Monster Needs Your Vote (reviewed here). You might remember them from another interview (read it here). There is no better way to get at the story than from the view point of the characters.
Monster and Boy cut to the chase as they answer a few of my hard-hitting questions. Of course, you’d expect nothing less from an interview with a political candidate. Monster is vying for President! Yep, he doesn’t play around folks (well, not much), and aims for the top! Monster’s long-time friend goes along on the campaign trail, giving guidance and help as only Boy can. (NOTE: Kids, any Boy—or Girl—and any Monster can aspire to this relationship, as enviable as it is.)
HOLD ON, HERE WE GO!
Welcome Monster and Boy. Your new book Monster Needs Your Vote is in bookstores now. The author, Paul Czajak, chose an interesting topic for your 5th book: politics. What did you think, Monster, when you found out you would be running for president?
“First off thanks for having me, any opportunity to get the message out I am up for!”
“MONSTER 2016!! Turn your voice into a roar!”
“Monster we’re no longer campaigning, remember? You already saved the library.”
“Oh yeah, I forgot. Sometimes I forget stuff. Anyway I want to point out when I was running I was my OWN Monster and not an imaginary Monster created by Mr. Paul Czajak. I decided to run for President when I found out I wasn’t old enough to vote. Which is not fair!”
I BELIEVE IN MONSTER 2016!!
True, at first, you simply wanted to vote. Have you ever voted before that day? I know I’m not supposed to ask, but my curiosity is overpowering my good sense. Which candidate did you vote for?
“I never voted before. In fact I didn’t even know what it was until that day. Once I heard about it I thought, “How cool is that?! Being able to voice your opinion on how decisions are made! What an awesome responsibility!” Then Boy told me I wasn’t old enough to vote yet, UNFAIR! So I figured I would run for President and help change that rule.”
Boy has always helped you, like when he helped you choose a Halloween costume, find a Christmas tree, and when he helped you go to sleep. How did Boy help you on the campaign trail?
“Well, he’s very good at making posters, and he’s great at coming up with campaign slogans. He created “A chocolate cake on every plate, a pie in every pot!” I thought that was very clever.”
“Even though I really liked that slogan, Dessert For Dinner was probably not the best platform, or issue, to run on. Boy helped me figure out that I should stand behind something that isn’t about what I need but what everybody needs, like a library staying open. But honestly who wouldn’t want chocolate cake for dinner?”
“I like vanilla.”
“You’re so difficult.”
Boy, I’m curious again. You have a giant amount of confidence when guiding Monster, but he is, like, 100 times bigger than you. Aren’t you afraid Monster might, well, become a monster?
“I don’t get it? Monster is a monster, that’s why his name is Monster. He can’t become a monster since he’s already a monster. Any idea what she’s talking about?”
“Sorry I wasn’t listening, I’m still thinking about chocolate cake.”
In Monster Needs Your Vote, both of you use some odd words and combinations of words, like soapbox (a box of soap?), oratory, platform, grassroots movement (moving grassroots?), “give a voice” (you can do that?) and “all for naught” (who is naught?). What do these words mean and why are these important when running for president?
“This sounds an awful lot like a “gotcha question.” Where’s my agent?”
“Monster, you don’t have an agent. Plus, I think she just wants to know how you got such a big vocabulary.”
“Oh! Mr. Czajak teaches me lots of big words. No reason not to use them when the opportunity presents itself,
“New Hampshire, then to Iowa he caused a rousing raucous, “Speaking to the voters at the primary and caucus.”
“Monster, no one likes a show off.”
“Tell that to Trump.”
People running for president usually have a running mate, why isn’t Boy your running mate instead of your campaign manager? (Did the author veto that idea?)
“He was going to be my running mate!”
“Monster needs a running mate, “So who’s it going to be?” “Monster said, “My only choice is you for my V.P.”
“But I never got to that point since it turns out you have to be 35 to run for President. Which, again, is unfair! I know, I’ll run for President and change that rule too!”
I don’t recall from your first adventure, Monster Needs a Costume, if we found out where you came from. President Obama had to show his birth certificate to prove he was born in the U.S. Running for President is tough to do. Did anyone ask to see your birth certificate?
“It all happened during a debate with one of the other candidates, I think I still have the transcript.”
“A Monster can’t be President, he has no expertise! “Who is Monster? Where’s he from? I think he may have fleas.”
“Fleas are not the issue, this is just something that misleads “This country needs a Leader that will focus on the needs.”
“After the debate the officials asked for my birth certificate which showed I wasn’t 35, dumb rule.”
“Also, I would like to go on record that Monster does not have fleas. That man was just being mean.”
What I really like about Monster Needs Your Vote is all the other monsters Wendy Grieb brought out. There are some interesting-looking monsters. Monster, there is one that sure looks like he/she could be a relative. Do you know any of these monsters?
“A lot of them came to my Birthday Party this past April! It was such a surprise when I came home from Pirate Land and found all my friends in the house.”
I’m so sorry. I missed your birthday party. I bet it was a frightful affair! Anyway, I think Monster would be absolutely terrific at any sport or getting fit (kids need that—adults, too). Boy, what is next for Monster?
“We will focus on Monsters message of “Reading Turns Your Voice into a Roar!” for the rest of the election. Then I think Monster might go to school next fall… His sports career will have to wait a bit. Though he will definitely get involved in something.”
“Yup, like basketball, or swimming, or tennis, or yoga, or maybe surfing or cheerleading…”
Ah, Monster, you are such a dreamer . . . I mean you have great dreams . . . um, what I really mean to say is, “Yes! You go Monster!” So, is there anything either of you would like to say directly to the readers?
“Read! Read! Read! And support your local library!”
“What he said, it’s why he’s the best candidate.”
That is a fantastic message! Monster and Boy, thank you for stopping by . . . Oh, wait! I forgot to ask one BIG QUESTION. In Monster Needs Your Vote (you have my vote)—DID YOU WIN?
“Well I guess someone didn’t read the book. It’s only 350 words, it’s not like it would take that much time.”
“Monster, I think she’s just pretending to have not read the book to build up suspense. You know, a bit of suspended disbelief on the part of the interviewer.”
“Suspended Disbelief, when something doesn’t make sense, but you let it go for the sake of the story. You know, kind of like if someone wrote a story about a monster who’s too young to vote but then decides to run for President.”
“You lost me.”
Monster and Boy, thank you for stopping by Kid Lit Reviews once more. It is always a delight and a surprise!
Boy and Monster, what a pair. You got to love them and I believe you will while reading the Monster & Me series. This is one series that has never disappointed me. The stories and illustrations are full of humor, bold images, and a gentle message no one, not even a Monster, tries to blast at you.
You can start the Monster & Me series with their the latest, Monster NeedsYour Vote (reviewed here), as each book can stand on its own (and no, Monster, I do not mean that they actually stand on their own, but that you can read any story without having to read the story before it).
Soon it will be Halloween, a good time to read Monster Needs a Costume (reviewed here). And then Christmas will be upon us and Monster Needs a Christmas Tree (reviewed soon) is the perfect holiday story.
If holidays are not your thing (really, could that be true of anyone?) how about a birthday party story with Monster Needs a Party (reviewed soon), or a story to help you nod off with Monster in Monster Needs His Sleep (reviewed here)?
It sounds like Monster will be heading off to school—for the first time—next Fall and maybe joining a sports team—or the cheerleaders. I cannot wait for those stories. Until then, I hope you have enjoyed this latest interview with Monster and Boy.
And don’t forget to “Read! Read! Read!”Support your public library, and VOTE FOR MONSTER!
When Sophie's Feelings are Really, Really Hurt. Molly Bang. 2015. [September] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
First sentence: Sophie loves to paint. She also loves the woods. Now Ms. Mulry is telling the class: "After school, find a tree you like a LOT. Look at it carefully--the trunk, the branches, the leaves. Tomorrow your'e going to paint that tree from memory."
Premise/plot: Sophie's feelings get hurt during art time at school. One of the boys--Andrew--teases her about her painting, telling her that her painting is all wrong. Can the teacher intervene and reassure Sophie that there isn't a right and wrong way to paint a tree?
My thoughts: I liked the text. I did. I like Sophie as a character. And I liked how expressive the story was. Did I like the illustrations? Yes and no. I actually really liked Sophie's drawing of a tree. Her art assignment was beautiful. And I liked the brightness of the colors. But overall, I didn't "love" the illustrations.
Text: 4 out of 5 Illustrations: 3 out of 5 Total: 7 out of 10
Go Set A Watchman. Harper Lee. 2015. HarperCollins. 278 pages. [Source: Library]
Did I enjoy reading Harper Lee's Go Set A Watchman? Yes and no. Yes, I wanted to read it. Yes, I had a few doubts and some hesitations to do so. Because you can't unread a book once you've read it no matter how much you want to do so! I certainly don't regret reading Go Set A Watchman. Which is saying something at least in its favor. But I wouldn't necessarily ever call it a 'must read' for its own sake. It will appeal most to those who love To Kill A Mockingbird, and it will appeal least to those who really, really love, love, love To Kill A Mockingbird.
Go Set a Watchman is not a sequel to To Kill A Mockingbird. It just isn't. It was written first, most importantly. And the characters are the same but NOT THE SAME. It's a work in progress, a work in development, a solid draft but a draft all the same. To read Go Set A Watchman as a proper sequel, one would have to accept regressing character development not just of one or two characters but of many. Of course, there are a few characters developed more fully in Go Set A Watchman. Characters whose presence was barely felt in To Kill A Mockingbird take center stage in Go Set A Watchman. It is hard to imagine the characters we know becoming the characters we see in Go Set A Watchman. Hard to imagine is keeping it on friendly terms in some ways. One reason why is the fact that Go Set A Watchman is not built in any way upon the events and characters of To Kill A Mockingbird. Atticus Finch represents a black man for trial, it's true, but the facts of the case are so completely different, and it's a trial that he wins oh-so-easily. That's just one example. Because the past of the characters is different, it's hard for me to imagine these future-characters as being the same characters. More of an alternate or parallel universe feel--in my opinion.
Were there scenes I enjoyed in Go Set A Watchman? Yes, definitely. There were a handful of scenes, mostly flashback scenes, I admit, that really stood out to me. Scout remembering summers with her big brother and Dill. An acting out of a revival of sorts. Just to name one. But present-day Scout, well, I'm not sure I like her. I get the idea that I'm supposed to really, really like her and applaud everything she thinks and says and does. To declare Scout 100% right and incapable of being in any way wrong. But I can't. I just can't. Scout is mostly-fully-grown and definitely fully opinionated. But Scout doesn't know everything--though she thinks she does--and she isn't perfectly perfect. (For the record, I don't think any one person CAN know everything there is to know and be right 100% of the time on every single little thing. I think every person has strengths and weaknesses and blind spots.)
Go Set A Watchman is a coming-of-age-as-an-adult story where Scout battles her emotions. Does she love her father? Does she like her father? Does she respect her father? Does she hate her father? Does she really, really, really hate her father? Does she never want to see him again ever, ever? One thing is certain: she KNOWS that she is right and her father is WRONG. And her father is either stupid for not knowing right from wrong, or, full of hate and cruelty for not knowing right from wrong.
Scout's challenges are probably not unique. There is a time when children question the wisdom and intelligence of their parents--and this can happen at any age--but it's also not unusual for things to swing back around either.
Is Go Set A Watchman a book about race or race relations? Yes, I'm not sure if it is the only thing the book is about. But it's certainly one of the main things it is about--simply because it is a catalyst for how Scout sees her hometown, her family, her friends, now after several years away living in New York. Scout is shocked that almost everyone she knows is hesitant and resistant and unsure about the whole civil rights thing. Atticus' view is that no one--but especially small town Southerners--likes to be told to do something and how to do something and to have their lives managed by outsiders. Atticus sees the potential for another messy Reconstruction. And he's not sure how it will all work out, how it will be accomplished cleanly, neatly, fairly, legally. He doesn't want things to be ugly, messy, violent, hateful. He's trying to prevent a complete collapse of life as they know it. Scout wants her father to be the first to embrace civil rights and to do everything he can to bring changes quickly. Scout interprets her father's hesitancy, his doubts, his fears, his uncertainties about HOW it is to be done--the details of making all things equal and fair--as HATE and bigotry. But is that fair?
Another thing Scout is struggling with from beginning to end is SHOULD I GET MARRIED? DO I WANT TO GET MARRIED? DO I NEED TO GET MARRIED? WHY SHOULD I HAVE TO GET MARRIED? WHAT CAN I DO WITH MY FREEDOM? WHY WOULD I WANT TO GIVE MY FREEDOM UP BY GETTING MARRIED? IS MARRIAGE RIGHT FOR ME? HAVE I JUST NOT MET THE RIGHT ONE YET? OR IS THE RIGHT ONE RIGHT BESIDE ME HERE IN TOWN? (His name is Hank. He grew up with Scout and Jem.)
There were definitely things that disappointed me in Go Set A Watchman. But I certainly don't regret reading it.
4 wonderful M & M cookies. Cover Love: Yes! I love the simplicity of it.
Why I Wanted to Read This: Everyone gushes about Rainbow Rowell and I loved Eleanor and Park. I decided to finally read this and am so glad I did! Here's the synopsis from GoodReads:
Cath is a Simon Snow fan.
Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan...
But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.
Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.
Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.
Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words... And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.
For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?
Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?
Romance?: Yes. Sweet, darling romance.
My Thoughts: There are a lot of reasons to love a book. One of the big ones is that you can relate to one of the main characters. I could relate to Cath, but more as I ma now than as I was in college. I have always loved solitude, and was so, so homesick when I started college. I wasn't allowed to wallow or be alone like Cath because I happen to be on the track team at my college. It was such a blessing because it forced you to get out and be involved and you kind of had a set group of people you could hang out with. I have often wondered if I have made it if I didn't have that.
Cath's roommate helps get her out of her shell but the one person who should have been there to help, her twin sister Wren, was such a bitch! She was so intent on being an individual and partying that she couldn't see that Cath was drowning and needed help.
But, like any good coming of age story, Cath begins to find her footing and accepts herself and finds some romance and grows strong. I think it;s super easy for parents to let their child come home from college after a semester if they still haven't found anything to connect them to school, but I also believe that if they can just wait out the year they will fond a reason to stay. Cath found her reasons and became a strong person who could make the choice to be on her own or be with people and be happy with either choice.
To Sum Up: Such a relatable story for a lot of readers. Love Rainbow Rowell!
I’ve been blogging for YALSA for almost year. Crazy to think I’m starting my second year of graduate school. Those job descriptions that come into my email box seem a little more real, and a little more attainable.
What makes me so excited about heading into the professional world of librarianship is when I get the chance to interact with other librarians, librarians that have experience and insight, insight that I hope to one day have. While I know they, technically, are my colleagues, I still feel a little out of their league. However, that doesn’t stop me from soaking up as much knowledge from them as I can.
I got an opportunity to meet a handful of other librarians (and YALSA) bloggers last week. Crystle, our blog manager, had arranged some Google Hangouts as a way for us bloggers to meet each other. I logged on Monday night, not quite sure what to expect.
Our hangout also had another purpose than simply seeing each other on our screens — we were discussing The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action. It was a report that resonated with me; many of the ideas proposed are ones that are in line with the readings I had done for my community engagement class this spring, along with the work I did with elementary students last year. I have found that if you let the interests and passion of the people you’re working with guide action, then we are setting ourselves up for success.
As we walked through the first few sections of the report, I was content to just listen to the librarians, who spoke about previous experiences with teens. I felt lucky to be a part of a conversation where I heard about the reality of things in library land; while we want to always think that reports and theory are accurate, we know that at the end of the day, real life isn’t as set in stone or black and white. It felt like I was getting a peak into what my job might be like in a year and frankly, it was incredibly inspiring and exciting. I wished we were all sitting around a table at a coffeeshop, where we had more time to share experiences and talk through new ideas.
This hangout reminded me the power of networking. While I didn’t speak much, I was still a part of this conversation. I was learning and processing and thinking about the ways in which these ideas could be put into place in my own practice as a librarian. I look forward to another year of YALSA blogging and navigating my way through teen librarianship.
Listen to Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s poem, “New School New Year.” After record your own. Start out with the same word, “School.” Have everyone say it together, “SCHOOL!” Then go around the classroom and have the whole classroom share one word. Maybe it’s their favorite subject in school, maybe it’s what school smells like or maybe it’s a favorite time like recess. Go around the classroom having each student share one word then again faster and louder. End the poem with everyone saying the word “school” together.
Create a School Poetry Display with your favorite school poems and school supplies. (If you have a school poetry display already created please share in the comments below.)
Attach a long piece of butcher paper in the shape of pencil on the back of a classroom or library door. Invite students throughout the day to write what the pencil might say if it could talk. Then read the poem, “Things To Do If You are a Pencil” by Elaine Magilano.
Write a school bus concrete poem or shape poem-Draw a HUGE school bus, add school bus noises and things students might say on the way to school.
Write a separate poem on “How are you getting to school?” Read “The Very First Day of School” by Deborah Ruddell. Have the students use their imagination and create their own vehicle or way to get to school. Examples: Flying chair, jumping shoes, rainbow wings…
Find an unusual object in the classroom and write a concrete poem. Stuffed hedgehog, cuckoo clock on the wall, pink velvet chair—what unusual object do you see in the classroom? Describe it! Use butcher paper, crayons, pencils, markers and make it BIG or use colorful sticky notes and make a tiny concrete poem. Display them around the room.
Write a list poem about what the desk, chair or chalk board (smart board) are saying when children are in the room. One word after the other-Ouch! Thud! Write another poem about the same object but when the classroom is empty. What do they when everyone has gone home?
Read “On Menu for School Today” by Rebecca Kai Doltish then write a quiet and LOUD poem about a pencil sharper and create new sounds! Thud! Clank! The first word is in lower case and is quiet and then the second word is in all caps and is LOUD. Continue with one quiet word and then one loud word.
Act out “Kids Rule” by Brod Bagert. Everyone up! Tell everyone, we are going to do three things (hold up three fingers) and we are going to do those three things three times. The three things are Run, Chew and Read! (act out) Practice the three things. Run three times while saying run, run, run. Pretend to eat your lunch while saying chew, chew, chew. Hold up your hands like a book and read, read, read. At the end of the poem, have everyone shout out together, “Kids Learn!” “Kids Rule!” Ready?
Explore more school poems and poetry ideas with Laura Purdie Salas, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater and Betsy Franco.
Paige Bentley-Flannery is a Community Librarian at Deschutes Public Library. For over fifteen years–from Seattle Art Museum to the New York Public Library to the Deschutes Public Library-Paige’s passion and creative style for art, poetry and literature have been combined with instructing, planning, and providing information. Paige is currently serving on the ALSC Notable Children’s Book Committee, 2015 – 2017. She is a former Chair of the ALSC Digital Content Task Force and member of the ALSC Great Websites Committee.
Summer Reading is over! Many schools have already cranked up, and more will be getting going in the next couple of weeks. Fall, to me, means planning. I love doing long-term planning and reading materials that inspire me. I’ve compiled a list here of a few more non-traditional resources that we could all benefit from. I hope one or all of these sparks your creative ideas for the fall!
Think Outside the Stacks – This is a TinyLetter newsletter written by Beth Saxon, also known as BethReads. Beth uses this newsletter to compile information that is relevant is YS librarians from outside the usual library sources–family blogs, news sources, museums, craft sites, educators. The title is apt. We have a lot to learn from people who aren’t librarians that also have interest in serving children and family, and Beth beautifully curates current, pertinent information.
Fairy Dust Teaching Blog – Fairy Dust Teaching is a resource site for teachers that actually offers online courses. But the blog is free to browse and is chock-full of classroom fun that can easily be adapted to library programming. She also highlights what educators all over the country are doing.
Planet Esmé – You might know Esmé Raji Codell from her book, Educating Esme, and her site is a wonderful resource for books, teaching, and other fun. You could get lost in those archives.
Podcasts are having their moment in the sun and I, for one, love them! Here are some great resources for podcasts that can help you be a better librarian:
I have to be honest: I feel torn about back-to-school shopping. I love getting my kids organized, but I hate the pleading for useless knick-knacks or trendy decorations. But one thing's for sure: it's all part of getting ready for school. Alan Lawrence Sitomer, California's Teacher of the Year in 2007, celebrates this tradition with a silly, heart-warming story: Daddy's Back-to-School Shopping Adventure.
It's time for back-to-school shopping, and siblings Jenny and Jake know that the number-one rule is "We only buy what's on the list." But that doesn't mean shopping can't be a little fun. This family knows how to be goofy. The illustrations are giggle-inducing, full of exaggerated movement and lots of details for kids to enjoy.
"Look at us," Jenny called out.
When Daddy finds a lunchbox that's just like the one he had when he was a boy, he just has to have it. In a humorous role reversal, now it's the kids' turn to say, "Uh daddy... Is it on the list?" I loved how the dad then turned to a softie, trying to negotiate and wheedle his way to get his coveted lunchbox. Sitomer balances the humor with a heartwarming ending.
Want more back-to-school books? This week I'm reviewing these new favorites:
Baba Yaga's Assistant is the superlative new graphic novel written by Marika McCoola and illustrated by Emily Carroll, who brought us the eerily wonderful graphic Through the Woods. I am a HUGE fan of fairy tales (my secret dream is to get a PhD in fairy tales and write a killer dissertation...) and always excited to see a story that features one of the lesser known (to Americans) characters
For the last few weeks, the crickets in Philadelphia have begun playing at night. This is the signal for the end of Summer Reading, the time to begin planning back-to-school visits, and the time to start planning a haunted house.
Haunted houses can be easily created, relatively inexpensive, and a fantastic draw that remind community members that the library is vibrant and exciting. They can also be nightmares for staff and patrons if they’re not planned and executed properly. A “well-planned” haunted house does not have to be an “expensive” haunted house.
Floorplans are your friends
The first time I created a haunted house for my branch, I was at a location that had a very large meeting room. This was a blessing and a curse because we had room to do things… and we also had room to fill. Because the neighborhood was excited for the event, I had to plan it out properly. Thankfully, I had a fantastic security guard, Dan Ross, who loved the idea as much as I did.
Dan and I created a simple floor plan of our meeting room space to guide us while we brainstormed. The floorplan gave us a bird’s eye view of the room, which allowed us to see where volunteers would be located, how evenly the scares were spaced apart and where problematic areas might exist. Because we knew that the room would be dark, we needed to eliminate as many “blind spots” as possible. Here is the floor plan from our second year: Sitting down for 30 minutes and planning saved countless hours of moving and adjusting plans. It also allowed us to know how many volunteers and staff members we would need to operate the gags and keep an eye on the tweens and teens entering the haunted house.
Don’t reinvent the jack-o-lantern
As Dan and I planned, we knew we needed outside advice. Thankfully, Philadelphia has a very active and highly dedicated staff of Children’s Librarians who are always willing to offer advice and support. Librarians who had been running haunted houses for years offered advice. We reduced the group size patrons in the haunted house from five to three. We also had staff members guide the groups. Usually the after school leader or I would walk with the groups to create a “safe” person if things became too scary.
We also went online to various websites to ask advice from professionals and amateurs who ran their own haunted houses. Here are a few places I visited and sought advice:
In later years, I also started following Halloween-enthusiasts on Pinterest. This was also a great resource for easy DIY projects. An early suggestion from a haunted house forum became one of our favorite scares. A ghoul on a broom handle “flew out” from behind a fake wall, while the volunteer lowering her screamed. We named the ghoul Cindy, and she’s been in every haunted house since.
Choose your volunteers wisely.
I began canvasing for volunteers at the beginning of the school year and insisted on speaking with parents or guardians before event set-up began. Because the holiday is not celebrated by everyone, I wanted to ensure that parents knew exactly what the eager teens were volunteering to do.
All volunteers were told that secrecy was paramount to the success of the haunted house. They could tell as many lies about what was going to happen as they liked, but they couldn’t reveal any of the actual scares.
Scares require all six senses
Sure, there are only five senses normally – Aliki’s My Five Senses didn’t lie to you. But when it comes to haunted houses, there are really six. The thing that separates an okay haunted house from an excellent haunted house is the sense of anticipation. The feeling of “something is about to happen” needs to always be present to make your haunted house memorable. No matter what your budget, this can be obtained. A dark room and a few strobe lights will do it.
An effective scare can be created with dollar store bats spray-painted with neon colors and hung near a black light. We “upped” the scare value in later years by hiding volunteers behind fake walls. Each volunteer had a can of condensed air that they would use to move the bats. As people walk past, the back of their head would also be sprayed with air. One bat attached to a black pole provided additional movement. Another easy scare involved dollar store water guns. Volunteers dressed in all black hid behind a table full of rubber snakes. As groups of patrons walked through with a guide, they were told that they snakes did not bite, but they occasionally spit. This phrase was the cue for the volunteers to squirt patrons in the face with water.
Speed is the key to success
The first year we ran our haunted house, over 300 people from our neighborhood came. We allotted an hour and a half for the program, but thankfully volunteers stayed until everyone was able to go through once. We quickly realized that future haunted houses would require speedy walk-throughs. Some of our great scares like the Witch’s Sarcophagus had to be dropped because they took too long.
The Witch’s Sarcophagus was a staff favorite and we were sorry to see it go. Starting on the right, patrons reached inside each opening of the sarcophagus. Her hair was oily angel hair pasta, the eyes were peeled grapes, and the brains were gelatin and cottage cheese. A volunteer hid inside and grabbed patrons when they reached into the “Hands.” As sorry as we were to see this go, we knew this was better themed for a program and not a haunted house.
Our goal was to get a person through the haunted house in less than 3 minutes. We also limited the number of times a person could enter the haunted house. By a third trip, many ‘tweens knew where the scares were coming from – and tried to scare the volunteers back. Obviously, this is problematic, so everyone could enter two times only. After the first visit, everyone’s right hand was stamped. After the second visit, the left hand was stamped. Once someone had two stamps, they knew they could not enter the house again.
Inexpensive is not the same as cheap
When Dan and I first started the haunted house program, we had a budget of $100 from our friends group. Because the budget was small, we had to improvise. We created fake walls by hanging black garbage bags connected with shipping tape from the ceiling. We’ve used the wall design every year since. They are easily assembled by volunteers, can be reused, and they ripple slightly when people walked. They created the perfect ambiance for the house. The room looked chaotic during set-up, but there was a system in place. Our other big purchases the first year were strobe lights and a scary music soundtrack. If you use strobe lights or fog machines, always advertise it on all fliers and announcements so people with health concerns are aware of the effects.
Items from around the branch were frequently repurposed for the haunted house. A desk fan hidden behind a tombstone powered Tiffani, our graveyard ghost. She was made from PVC tubing, garbage bags, plastic wrap and green plastic table cloths. A neighborhood wig shop donated the Styrofoam head, and a patron donated the wig (from an old Halloween costume.)
Advertising is your friend
Fliers advertising the Haunted House were distributed to the local schools in early October. Local businesses in our neighborhood were also asked to display fliers in their windows. When Dan and I began, we had an age limit. We dropped it in later years because many parents wanted to bring younger children through the haunted house. We also used our Facebook page to advertise the ghouls moving into the library. Absurd pictures advertised the ghouls slowly moving into the library in the weeks before the haunted house was set up. Each picture featured the caption “There’s something for everyone at the Library.” As wonderful as our advertisements are, a tween with a big mouth is worth 1,000 fliers. Let your ‘tweens know that you’re planning to scare the pants off of them, and they’ll let the entire neighborhood know.
Never stop planning.
Over the years, we collected items for the haunted house. After a roof leak, roofers left a large roll of clear plastic at our branch. We used it to create a corridor of shredded hanging sheets for people to walk through inside the haunted house.
Items from dollar stores, yard sales, and staff members’ house cleanings were used to enhance the atmosphere of the Haunted House.
Taking a vacation day on November 1st and hitting local stores is a great way to find discounted Halloween Supplies.
I hope this inspires you to plan your own Haunted House. It takes some planning to run smoothly, but it was always my favorite program throughout the year.
Christopher Brown is a the Curator of the Children’s Literature Research Collection at the Free Library of Philadelphia. Chris is a former Children’s Librarian, who served many communities in Philadelphia. He received his MLIS from the University of Pittsburgh in 2005 and his MA from Memorial University of Newfoundland in 2013. For more information about the Children’s Literature Research Collection, please visit us at http://libwww.freelibrary.org/collections/collectionDetail.cfm?id=3
Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.
If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at email@example.com.
As your little ones come home from their first few days of school, do they talk much about it? Or do you have to poke and prod to find out about their school day? In either case, Susan Katz's newest picture book is a delightful way to celebrate and talk about the school day for preschoolers and kindergartners.
With delightful rhyming couplets, Katz celebrates playful school activities from a typical preschool or kindergarten day. She uses the alphabet to guide the story, starting each line with a different letter which is highlighted in bold block print. But the real delight comes from the adorable bears parading through their day.
"Books that are just right for me. Crayons for coloring, in my hand, Dump trucks, playing in the sand.”
Children will love looking at the pictures, noticing the details in each scene. Munsinger not only captures the bears' expressions but also their busy activity throughout the day. Katz moves easily from dump trucks to jumping rope, building letter block towers, playing with paper puppets and waiting in line. Her rhymes have grace and rhythm that are lovely to read aloud and never overwhelm the pictures. The best description of this book came from my 11 year old:
"It's a first-day-of-school stress reliever."
I couldn't have said it better myself. Enjoy and delight in seeing what your little one talks about or notices. Want more back-to-school books? This week I've reviewed these new favorites:
In this new BYOD world we live in, creating videos has never been easier. You don't have to lug around a laptop anymore...you can create stunning videos straight from your iPhone or iPad. Two newer apps that have come on the scene and made things a LOT easier are both from Adobe and are amazing! I'm not saying this flippantly..I love these two apps! Admittedly, book trailers take time, but with these apps and an iPad students can start easily using their camera roll or online sources. I'll break down both apps as well as give hints on making using these easier.
So here's a breakdown for both-
Adobe Voice: -search photos on your camera roll OR through a CC image search built-in - add music Adobe provides or use music from your iPad. -record your voice to narrate a book trailer -you can add titles and text between images for a more traditional trailer -manage how long an image stays on the screen (up to 5 seconds) -add icons - from 32 themes that automatically add movement to your video -save your project to work on at different times before you publish -it has an option to make it private or public -share via social media, email, or add it to your camera roll -available only on iPad
Adobe Clip: - add either clips or images from your camera roll. This app doesn't have a CC search, so shooting videos will be the best option for this app. You can search for CC images in Google and save them to your camera roll as the best option for images - has a built-in trimmer so you can customize your video clips or add slo-mo -add individual text slides between clips or images -add music from the library provided or from your stash on your ipad -selection from three transitions: fade in from black, fade out to black, crossfade between clips -has a built-in image enhancer with 30 different filters - publish and share the video on social media or through Adobe Creative Cloud (there isn't a private button on this one) -available on iPhone or iPad
Hints: -mash up these apps with different apps like Whiteboard or Paper 53 to add text or videos -think of other places to get CC images or videos like Instagram, Facebook or Vine - download Google Slides or Docs to create unique text slides - use an app called Downloads Plus lite to download and use CC friendly music from Purple Planet
And now to play with Adobe Slate, the newest app that helps make reports, newletters and other text-based documents beautiful by adding photos into them.
Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind. Suzanne Fisher Staples. 1989. 240 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]
Did I enjoy reading Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind? Not really. This Newbery Honor book doesn't fit my idea of what a Newbery or Newbery Honor book should be. I'm not sure that's fair on my part, and it could be a good thing to be a shockingly different children's book.
Shabanu is the young heroine of the novel. She's eleven or perhaps twelve. On the verge of "adulthood" in her culture, she's almost of marriageable age. Her wedding has already been arranged--a cousin--but it is about one year away still. Her sister's wedding, her sister is about thirteen, is months away when the novel opens. The arranged marriages for both of them are with their cousins. (I think one is 15, one 17. They are brothers). The novel is set in Pakistan. (I'm assuming contemporary-to-the-publication Pakistan). Shabanu and her family live in the desert, and live a more nomadic lifestyle. They travel from place to place depending on the time of year and the amount of water. Shabanu loves, loves, loves, LOVES tending the camels, and, she has definite favorites among them. She does not envy her sister being "all grown up." She enjoys the freedom she has as a child. Though it's not complete, absolute freedom ever. (I'm not saying it should be necessarily.)
The setting is interesting. Readers definitely get exposed to a whole new world, a camel-centric world. I thought there were at times a little too much information about the camels. (Warning: there's CAMEL SMUT)
If life had gone according to plan, the novel would not have taken a decidedly dark and depressing turn. But things went horribly wrong before her sister's wedding, and, Shabanu herself pays the price though she is not responsible or to blame for the souring of events. It seems most all the characters have a happier end than she herself does. That may or may not be completely realistic, but, it certainly isn't fair. It may push the extremes of what children consider NOT FAIR.
I'm not sure what response readers are to have with a novel like this. Shabanu may be the first or one of the first books readers come across that either a) stars a Muslim family, features a Muslim heroine, OR b) is set in Pakistan. I doubt the impression of either will be a good one, if that makes sense. Especially considering the ending.
I just returned from Cape Town, South Africa, where I attended the IFLA conference (for librarians worldwide) and had the opportunity to do several talks about poetry in a variety of locales (including for the newspaper and national radio). One thing that was universally popular was the whole idea of Poetry FRIDAY! The idea of pausing for poetry at the end of the week just grabbed everyone across the board. And I just love that! So here we are celebrating another Poetry Friday. Welcome, everyone! Here's a poem that I shared several times that was a always a big hit-- along with the "Take 5" activities for introducing and sharing this poem, "Welcome" by Linda Kulp Trout. It's from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations, of course! And all these images are available on Pinterest, too.
And if you'd like to share the poem in Spanish, here is "Bienvenido" too. Now you're all set for celebrating Good Neighbor Daynext month (on September 28). Meanwhile, dear poetry neighbors, please add your link to your Poetry Friday post this week below.
Naturally, April seems to be the month to introduce poetry units of study as either part of writing or reading workshop, and that is a lovely celebration to look forward to. But, why wait until April? Why not bring the power of poetry into our workshops from the very beginning of the school year?
2016 Children’s Literature Fellows Program
Now Accepting Applications from Aspiring Children’s Authors Worldwide
August, 2015. Southampton, NY. The Children’s Literature Fellows, a one-year graduate level certificate program sponsored by Stony Brook Southampton’s MFA in Creative Writing and Literature, is now accepting applications for 2016.
The year-long course of instruction—accomplished mostly in distance learning format—was developed by author and Children’s Literature Conference Director Emma Walton Hamilton, MFA in Creative Writing Director Julie Sheehan and YA author/faculty member Patricia McCormick to offer aspiring children’s and young adult authors a more affordable and flexible option than matriculation in a two- or three-year MFA program.
Because not all writers who want to complete projects have the time or the funds to complete a full degree program, the Children’s Literature Fellows do their work within a framework tailored to their needs. The program bears 16 graduate level credits, and is customized, affordable, comprehensive, and professionally useful. Twelve Fellows are accepted into the program per year. The Fellows work independently with award-winning, best-selling authors who serve as faculty mentors—such as Christopher Barton, Samantha Berger, Rachel Cohn, Donna Freitas, Cindy Kane, Megan McCafferty, Patricia McCormick, Margaret McMullan, Trica Rayburn, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Tor Seidler, Amy Sklansky, Emma Walton Hamilton, Ann Whitford Paul and Maryrose Wood—in a highly individualized curriculum that is primarily accomplished from home.
Twice a year, the Fellows come together as a cohort: once in July during the annual Southampton Arts Writers Conference and a second time in January for a special Publishing and Editing Conference, during which they study with visiting faculty such as Libba Bray, Peter Lerangis, Grace Lin and Dan Yaccarino – and meet with editors, agents and other members of the publishing industry.
During their year, each Fellow completes either one publishable YA or middle grade manuscript, or, for chapter and picture book writers, three to four separate manuscripts.
“There are very few programs like this out there for aspiring children’s literature authors,” says Walton Hamilton. “But children’s literature and YA are among the strongest and fastest growing sectors of the publishing industry right now, so this is valuable for writers on a number of levels. And thanks to the program’s distance learning format, aspiring authors from all over the world are able to take advantage of what it offers. We have participants in California, Arizona, Texas, Philadelphia, Florida—even Australia.”
She adds that the few places where graduate level programs like this are offered tend to be remote, while Stony Brook Southampton, with its satellite campus in Manhattan, is near to the heart of the publishing industry in New York City, and therefore offers more opportunities than most. In addition, the publishing industry tends to be closed to writers not represented by agents. The Editing and Publishing Conference and the access it provides are a key part of the program.
Picture book author Julie Gribble, a 2013 Children’s Lit Fellow, says, “Being a Children’s Lit Fellow is like having a guided tour of a city you’d always wanted to explore—you learn so much more than you could traveling about on your own!”
“The Children’s Literature Fellowship was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself,” says Florida-based middle grade novelist Janas Byrd. “It is a one-on-one mentorship with award winning authors who are also brilliant teachers. As a middle school teacher and mother of two, time is a hot commodity. This fellowship allowed me the flexibility to write when it was most convenient for me. I finished and polished my novel in nine months, a feat that would not have been possible to accomplish on my own.”
Admission to the Children’s Lit Fellows program is highly selective, and the application process is now open and underway. The application deadline for 2016 is December 1, 2015.
A short list of tweets from the past week of interest to teens and the library staff that work with them.
Do you have a favorite Tweet from the past week? If so add it in the comments for this post. Or, if you read a Twitter post between July 24 and July 30 that you think is a must for the next Tweets of the Week send a direct or @ message to lbraun2000 on Twitter.
People with disabilities can celebrate two legislative landmarks this year. The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) celebrated its 25th anniversary on July 26. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), signed into law in 1975, is now 40 years old.
IDEA, which guaranteed children with disabilities the right to be educated in the “least restrictive environment”, has been especially important for students in K – 12 schools. However, in many cases it seems that successful implementation of these laws is still in its infancy. One method of providing the “free appropriate public education” mandated by IDEA has been inclusion of students with disabilities in mainstream or general education classrooms. Educational support is provided by an aide in the classroom or scheduled visits to a resource room.
Several recent children’s books describe the experiences of fictional young people with disabilities in inclusive classrooms.
El Deafo by Cece Bell is the story of a girl with a hearing impairment who uses an FM amplification system in the classroom.
Books with students in mainstream classrooms (Photo by Kate Todd)
Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt describes how Ally, who has undiagnosed dyslexia, learns of her disability and develops strategies for reading successfully.
Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper is the story of Melodie, a girl with cerebral palsy who is supported by computerized text-to-speech equipment and a student teacher.
Rain Reign by Ann Martin is a narrative about Rose, diagnosed with autism, who has an aide working with her at school.
Wonder by R.J. Palacio tells the story of Augie, who has mandibulofacial dysostosis and begins attending middle school after years of home schooling.
Research has provided insights into the attitudes of adults and students toward inclusive classrooms. Although educational experts (faculty, consultants and doctoral students who published articles about inclusion) believe “inclusion students should be placed in general education settings surrounded by general education students of approximately the same age,” teachers and parents expressed reservations about practical implications such as behavioral disruptions or lack of time for collaboration. (Kimbrough, R., & Mellen, K. (2012). Perceptions of inclusion of students with disabilities in the middle school. http://www.amle.org/BrowsebyTopic/WhatsNew/WNDet.aspx?ArtMID=888&ArticleID=308 )
On the other hand, studies using middle school students, both with and without disabilities, found “Young people today consider it right and natural for students with learning and behavioral difficulties to be in their classes.” (Miller, M. (2008). What do students think about inclusion? Phi Delta Kappan,89, 391.) It is interesting that the interviewers doing this research were often surprised when some students indicated that they, themselves, received special education support. This demonstrates that students with disabilities may not always be obvious to the casual observer.
Inclusion class at the library (Creative Commons license, adapted by Kate Todd, from https://openclipart.org/detail/639/point-to-board)
Outreach to students with disabilities in inclusive classrooms is important for librarians. It is the first step to making sure that all students have a positive library experience. If inclusion is working effectively, it may be impossible to know which students have special needs. However, preparing simple accommodations or setting up assistive technology can make library visits more successful. Alerting library staff to situations that may be distressing—such as visual or communication anomalies—will avoid embarrassing responses.
Here are some suggestions for working with schools that can help assure that students with disabilities in inclusive classes feel welcome in the library:
When collecting information for class visits, ask a question such as, “Are there special needs students in your class?” or “Are there any students that need accommodations when visiting the library?”
Since students, both with or without disabilities, are easily embarrassed when singled out from their peers, remind staff to treat all students equally in the library.
Do book talks of titles that contain characters with disabilities, such as Out of My Mind, Wonder or Rain Reign. Incorporating these books into presentations sends a signal to students, parents and teachers that inclusive classrooms are typical and children with disabilities are welcome at the library.
There are a variety of organizations that serve people with disabilities. Some focus on specific diagnoses while others are more general. Identify these organizations in your community and provide a link to their resources on the library web page.
Tweet about workshops or programs that are sponsored by the organizations in your community. This not only spreads the word about important events, but lets the organizations know you consider their work important.
When possible, attend some of these events yourself so you can begin building personal relationships with others in your community that are also interested in services to people with disabilities.
Inclusive classes may mean that children with disabilities are hidden in plain sight. It might require additional inquiries and awareness to identify these children and make sure their needs are met when they visit the library.
Our guest blogger is Kate Todd, a retired librarian who worked at The New York Public Library and Manhattanville College. She especially wants to thank Jordan Boaz, who taught the RUSA online course, “Reaching every patron: Creating and presenting inclusive outreach to patrons of all abilities.” This blog began an assignment for her course.
Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.
If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your Hand in My Hand. Mark Sperring. Illustrated by Britta Teckentrup. 2015. [November] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
First sentence: Your hand in my hand is where it belongs. Your hand in my hand as we walk along. The world's full of wonders. There's so much to see. I'll find them with you if you find them with me.
Premise/plot: Your Hand in My Hand celebrates families, friendship, seasons, and nature. The illustrations feature a parent and child. (They're mice, I believe.) It's a sweet and precious book. Not every reader loves sweet and precious. Not all adults and not all children. But for the right reader, or set of readers, this one is quite lovely.
My thoughts: Did I love it? Yes and no. I didn't love Your Hand in My Hand as much as his previous book, Max and the Won't Go To Bed Show. I really loved that spirited book. Your Hand is My Hand is much quieter, not as exuberant or obnoxious. There's something personal and precious about it which I can't help liking. This one was originally published in the UK.
Text: 4 out of 5 Illustrations: 5 out of 5 Total: 9 out of 10
Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova is the first work of narrative non-fiction for Laurel Snyder, author of several picture books and middle grade novels. Illustrated by Julie Morstad, the cover of Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova drew me in instantly, even though I never made it past rudimentary ballet classes as a very young child and the most I know about this Russian
YALSA’s Cultural Competencies Task Force interviews Ady Huertas, Manager of the Pauline Foster Teen Center at San Diego Central Library. Ady has worked with teens for over a decade: from providing instruments and lessons for a library rock band, to providing free summer lunches, to organizing a thriving teen council, Ady continually strives to provide resources and services for teens. She currently leads and contributes to several projects serving Latino teens, such as the REFORMA Children in Crisis Task Force, and the California State Library/Southern California Library Cooperative STeP (Skills for Teen Parents) Project. This podcast gives an overview of how best to reach out and serve Latino teens and provides advice to librarians new to serving Latino young adults and their families.
REFORMA: The National Association to Promote Library & Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking: http://www.reforma.org/.
REFORMA Children in Crisis Project: http://refugeechildren.wix.com/refugee-children.
Webinar about the STeP Project: https://infopeople.org/civicrm/event/info?reset=1&id=485.
University of California, EAOP: http://www.eaop.org/.
National Council of La Raza: http://www.nclr.org/.
National Council of La Raza | STEM: http://www.nclr.org/index.php/issues_and_programs/education/k12_education/stem/.
Summer Fun Cafe: http://www.sandi.net/site/default.aspx?PageType=3&ModuleInstanceID=19400&ViewID=047E6BE3-6D87-4130-8424-D8E4E9ED6C2A&RenderLoc=0&FlexDataID=49011&PageID=1.
Follow us on Twitter:
Ady Huertas: @adyhuertas
Monnee Tong: @librarianmo
Intro and Closing Music: Summer’s Coming from Dexter Britain’s Creative Commons Volume 2. https://soundcloud.com/dexterbritain/sets/creative-commons-vol2
Kelpie has been on her own for most of her life. She has vague memories of her childhood, but the street life in Razorhust is her home. She's been fortunate, getting help from people in the city...whether dead or alive. Kelpie lives on the streets of Razorhurst, a part of Sydney divided between two gangsters, their henchmen, and a beautiful moll. And it's when Kelpie steals into a home she shouldn't have that her world completely changes.
Looking at the murder scene was rough enough, but now the ghost of is following her. What's more, Kelpie is being used as cover by Dymphna, who thought she was smart enough to leave gang life, or at least take over. With the law prohibiting guns in Australia in the 1930s, everyone thought gang violence would wane, but razors came out, just as deadly.
Dymphna and Kelpie are polar opposites. Called the "Angel of Death" because all of her boyfriends end up dead, Dymphna is well taken care of by Gloriana Nelson, who considers her one of her most valuable assets. Beautiful, well-coifed and dressed, Dymphna exudes glamour, although her path in life is far from glamorous. Kelpie, on the other hand, is small, looking more like a child (although she's a teenager), fiercely (or perhaps ferally) independent, and hasn't known the inside of a bath tub in a long time. And while they may be different, they share one very important thing in common-they both can hear and see ghosts...
They're now both on the lam. Mr. Davidson, one gang leader, is stalking Dymphna, where his stalking has very serious undertones. Gloriana is also searching for her, for reasons she doesn't have to explain. And friends of Kelpie's are also following her, trying to make sure both she and Dymphna stay alive. But is that possible in a cat and mouse game of the 1930s, where lawlessness abounds and innocent lives are considered a small loss in the pursuit of glory, power and control?
What makes this book such a standout is how Justine Larbelestier creates a dual-genred novel (both supernatural and historical fiction) that wraps itself around real history and biographies of Australia and Australians in this book. Readers will not only get caught up in the storyline but also begin to make connections and differences between both the U.S. and Australia and how gangsters shaped the country. Although this book is filled with male characters, both good and bad, it's the two females that create the strength in this novel. Larbelestier uses the ghostly characters as a backdrop to further strength Kelpie's and Dymphna's character flaws and attraction. I thoroughly enjoyed this one and consider it a strong historical fiction novel for YA.