Thursday, February 28, 2013

Book Review: The Death Catchers

Lizzy has a vision of her friends death Halloween morning of her 14th birthday. Her grandmother Bizzy tells her that this is normal in her family and that these are special powers that can be seen as a curse or as a blessing. Upon further research it is discovered they are the descendants of Morgan Le Fey and they are caught in a feud between her and Vivienne.

So I loved the unique take on the Arthur myth. It was creative and unexpected and I am curious as to how the other parts of the myth will come into play in future volumes. That being said I do feel that Lizzy just behaved a little bit too young most of the book and sometimes I found her a little babyish or more babyish than she needed to be.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Saturday Story Time: Robots

Saturday Story Times tend to have a slightly more complicated craft because they include children up to second grade.  For my first Saturday Story Time I went with a robot theme.  Originally I had intended to have the kids make their own robots out of paper towel tubes, paint and tin foil down in our large meeting room.  However, due to Super Storm Sandy FEMA camped out in our meeting room since November 1st and was still there at the beginning of January so I moved my program upstairs to our picture book area.  I was a little uncomfortable painting in our picture book area so I decided to work up something new.

I decided to make robot costumes.  I had my coworkers and parents bring in their brown bags from the grocery store.  I cut a slit up the back, arm holes a head hole and then very carefully turned the bags inside out so that all the logos were on the inside.  I gave the kids tinfoil, crayons, foam shapes, sequins, jewels and feathers.  They all created amazing costumes.  (Note that this is the costume I made and it is my very skinny adult sister modeling it, the costumes will fit the kids better.)

For the story time portion I had only three books planned since I wanted to give the kids plenty of time to decorate their costumes.

Boy + Bot by Amy Dyckman

Robot Zombie Frankenstein! by Annette Simon

Hello Robots by Bob Staake

I had two squirmy boys show up on time for my story time. After reading Boy + Bot I felt like they were just not feeling stories. I asked them if they wanted to try a robot song to get the wiggles out or if they wanted to start working on their costumes. The boys really wanted to get started on costumes. When my late arrivals showed up 10 minutes later, they were disappointed to have missed the stories so I did send them home with some of my robot books. As much as I was sorry to skip some of the stories a lot of the kids did spend more than 45 minutes on their costumes. Everyone's costumes came out colorful and fun.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Book Review: Fat Cat by Robin Brande

Cat is obsessed with hating Matt Mckinney. All she wants is to beat him in the science fair. Then she gets the picture and her science fair project takes on a life of it's own. She's eating the way the hominids did and kicking technology out of her life. As she changes her diet and walks everywhere, the pounds start melting off and the male population takes notice.

I really enjoyed reading this. Cat was incredibly funny and I loved the relationship she had with Amanda, Jordan and her parents. The relationship she developed with her brother was just amazing to watch and reminded me of how my relationships with my sister developed. 

I also really appreciated that the book was't preachy about the diet and technology give up. Yes Cat clearly felt this was working very well for her but it didn't feel like it was pushing it b/c it was more about Cat's internal change. I was also happy that the author stressed that even though Matt could be considered the catalyst for the change, really Cat did everything for herself.

I did have to giggle a little bit about what Cat would sometimes consider a "technology worthy emergency". They were very much teenage girl type emergencies. Also Amanda was an amazing friend and everyone should be so lucky to have a friend like that in their life

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Teen Craft: Constellation Wall Art Craft

Last summer's Summer Reading Club theme was Own the Night, so when I came across How to Build a Constellation Light for a Little Astronomy in the Bedroom on the Offbeat Home blog I immediately tried to figure out how to simplify it for a Teen program.

Pre-Cut Black Foam Board (the pieces should make a rectangle that can be sealed, w/ one side shortened to feed the cord out)
Tracing Paper
A String of Clear Christmas Lights
X-Acto Knife (for the grown ups)
Hot Glue Gun
Silver Sharpie
Blown Up Photocopies of Popular Constellations (we did the ones everyone knows and the astrological signs)
Scotch tape & Duct Tape
Extension Cord

1.  Have teens select their constellation and trace over the stars with a pencil and tracing paper.

2.  Tape the tracing paper down to the foam core and shade over each of your stars with a pencil.  Carefully remove the tracing paper.

3.  Have either the teens pop holes in the foam core at the stars using their pencils or have the librarians pop the holes in with the x-acto knife.  For some of the constellations that had fewer stars we poke a few extra holes here and there for extra stars.

4.  Using the silver sharpie and a ruler connect the lines of the constellations using the holes that were made for the stars.

5.  Then the teens threaded their lights through the holes making sure that the plug of the lights will end up coming out of the bottom of the box.  A librarian then put a little hot glue at each light for reinforcement.

6.  The teens then used duct tape to attach the sides of the box.  Then have a librarian hot glue the back cover on to the box.

We also sent each teen home with an extension cord so that they wouldn't have to have their constellation wall art right on top of an outlet.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Book Review: Troy by Adèle Geras

This book tells the story of the end of the Trojan War, focusing on two sisters, young servant girls that work for Hector's family. Xanthe and Marpessa are sisters who thanks to Aphrodite's meddling are in love with the same boy. We also follow a bunch of other minor townsfolk including three elderly serving women, Iason (in love w/ Xanthe) and Polyxena (the singers granddaughter, friends w/ the sisters, in love with Iason).

I found it very interesting to see the girls personal problems against the back drop of the larger issues of the war. The author follows the war as a whole and the reader also sees what parts don't affect the three sisters. There are many famous Greek myths interspersed in the story in a very natural way. The reader also gets to see some larger then life characters very humanized. 

I really loved the language as well. The whole story was just beautifully written.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Story Time: Letter B

My coworkers loved my A is for Alligator story time and suggested that I find a Letter B craft and keep going through the alphabet.  After spending a few days google image searching I came across a B is for Bear craft on the blog Get 'Er Done, Momma!  The craft included a template but it wasn't the ideal size for me and one of the arms was reversed so I spent some time finicking around with it.  I was pretty happy with the end result.  I pre cut the letter B and the bears limbs out of regular paper and handed out glue sticks and crayons so that the kids could draw bear faces after glueing everything down.

For story time I read 4 books and stuck with the Alphabet Song and the Hokey Pokey.  I decided that the best way to handle letter of the alphabet story times was to do two alphabet books to reinforce the alphabet as a whole and to alternate the alphabet books with two stories about objects or animals that start with B one of which would hopefully be related to the whatever the craft was going to be; a bear in this case.  The books were:

Alphabet Under Construction by Denise Fleming

Bears on Chairs by Shirley Parenteau

Augie to Zebra by Kate Endle

Small Bunny's Blue Blanket by Tatyana Feeney

Small Bunny's Blue Blanket, while an amazing story just didn't go over well. I almost felt like the story was too slow and subdued for my group. They loved Alphabet Under Construction with it's huge letters. The kids often called out the letters and then I repeated it and read the caption. Augie to Zebra was less popular because the letters were so much smaller. Bears on Chairs, while not as popular as Alphabet Under Construction was great because we managed to get a lot of interaction out of the story.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Book Review: Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy

I had always heard amazing things about the Skulduggery Pleasant audiobooks so when I was able to to get my hands on this I listened to it right away.  Stephanie Edgely's uncle passes away and leaves Stephanie his home.  This immediately embroils her in a world she never knew existed where she meets Skulduggery and with him tries to solve the mystery surrounding her Uncle's death.   

Skulduggery and Stephanie were great characters and I loved listening to Stephanie find her way in this whole new world. The magic and world building was really interesting.  Many of the characters are incredibly memorable and even months later I still remember them. The world is dark but not so dark that everyone ends up dying (i.e. just dark enough to keep me reading)

The audiobook narrator did a great job with all of the voices.  All of the characters sounded distinct and you could get a sense of their personalties from how he voiced them.  I also loved the transitional music that they would play sporadically, especially the xylophone that sounded like bones.   I especially loved the interview with Skulduggery at the end of the disk. His personality shone through in every single one of the answers.  

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Crafty Kids Styrofoam Cup Snowman

For January's Crafty Kids I decided to plan a Snowman Craft mainly because I wanted to do one before winter was over.  I did a google image search and found a ton of different versions of this craft.  I ended up creating an amalgamation by taking various components from several different images.

Styrofoam Cup Snowman

2 Styrofoam Cups
2 Googly Eyes
1 orange pipe cleaner
1 large brown pipe cleaner or 2 small brown pipe cleaners
1 other half size pipe cleaner
2 pomm pomms
6-8 black paper dots  OR black construction paper
3 or 4 sequins
1 strip of felt, long enough to wrap around cup and double knot
Glue Stick

1.  Fold 3 fingers into the end of each of your brown pipe cleaners.  Stick them into the sides of one of your styrofoam cups.  Inside the cup bend the ends and use a small piece of tape to keep them stuck in place.  This will be your snowman bottom

2.  Fold your orange pipe cleaner, leaving one side slightly longer.   Twist your pipe cleaner together.  This will be your carrot nose.  Stick it into the middle of one side of the other styrofoam cup.  This will be your carrot nose.  Bend the pipe cleaner on the inside and use a piece of tape to keep it in place.  Glue the googly eyes over the carrot nose.  

3.  Take your final pipe cleaner and bend it into a U-Shape.  Stick each end on one side of the snowman so that the U goes over what was the bottom of the cup and the carrot is more or less in the middle.  Make small bends in the pipe cleaner on the inside of the cup and use a piece of tape to hold them in place.  Glue pom poms on each side of the pipe cleaner.  These are your earmuffs.

4.  Glue sequins down the front of the bottom half for buttons.

5.  Glue black paper dots on the front for a mouth.

6.  Glue the top and bottom cups together.

7.  Tie the piece of felt around the cups gently over the seam of the cups.  Cut some fringe in to the ends to create a scarf.