Local ingredients!

Teen Iron Chef

On October 22, from 2-4 p.m., I held a teen program at the library. To my surprise, 14 wonderful teens showed up to put their culinary skills to the test. I was a little worried at first, as my judges were dropping like flies! Thankfully, my patrons really stepped it up and I had four volunteers before noon! They were troopers, tasting all of the insane combinations my teens came up with. Not only were my judges wonderful, but the community itself donated a huge chunk of the supplies. Fahrmeier Farms, located just outside of our town, donated three MASSIVE boxes of produce for the kids. The boxes contained green peppers, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and turnips! Half of the kids had never seen a turnip, let alone tasted one. It was a great experience for the teens and  The University of Missouri Extension donated some education materials for the kids to take home. Each of my teen participants went home with some fresh produce, a small cookbook, a book from my “prize cart,” and brochures about healthy snacks. The program was a spectacular success, one which I will definitely try again.

14 teens in one room, all getting along and being creative! Pics or it didn’t happen, right? Well here you go…

From the judges point of view I set the competition up a little differently than I normally do. Most of the time I have my programs scheduled down to the last second. This time, however, I decided to “go with the flow” in terms of time. I didn’t tell them how much time they would have to create each of their dishes, except for their appetizer. The “Quickfire Appetizer” round was their first challenge and I definitely made them dive into the competition. Each of the teams (anywhere from 1-3 kids) were told that they had to create an edible appetizer for the judges. They could only use 3 ingredients, it had to be able to be consumed in one bite and they had 15 min to do it! The kids really stepped it up, a lot used fruit to make their dish.

I would totally eat this!

The next round was the “Entree Trivia” round. I actually borrowed this idea from another library and it worked really well. I created a series of trivia questions geared to middle school age kids and each team was asked three questions. If they got a question right, they were allowed to choose an ingredient that no other team was allowed to use after they had picked it. This forced the kids to create dishes that were unique. The entree round was the longest at 30 min, but I made them all clean up their chef’s stations. I told the kids the judges were also counting cleanliness in their total scores! The donated ingredients were a hit, a group tasted turnip (they thought it was an onion) for the first time! I thought it was amazing that some of these kids were trying it for the first time!

The final round was the “Healthy Dessert” dish. I was trying to promote healthy, local/seasonal foods and so the rules of the dessert round were a bit tricky. Each team had 25 min to create a dessert using ANY ingredients, including the ingredients that had been off-limits before. The only stipulation was that they had to utilize one vegetable in their final dish. I figured that, since the kids had been able to taste the majority of the foods, I would have a few who sweetened tomato juice, used sweet potatoes as a paste or marinated the turnips in a sweet juice concoction. The kids really struggled with this challenge though. A few took the challenge literally, dipping vegetables in chocolate sauce. My judges were troopers though, and took a bite of EVERY dish (no matter how crazy) the kids came up with! Kudos to them!

If you have any questions about the shopping list, getting food donations or planning the program. Shoot me an email and I will be more than happy to share my resources with you. I have the trivia questions already typed up and the “itinerary” for the program saved. I even have the judges ballots I will let you have. I will post everything on Scribd when I get to work on Tuesday.

A judge looks on at the chaos before her.


Robot, Zombie, Frankenstein Story Time

I really need to update this more, we do so many fun things at the library and I should document them! I have been so busy though! We lost one of our part-time employees and have been training a second, very time consuming.

In the midst of training, however, we had a wonderful story time featuring Robot Zombie Frankenstein by Annette Simon. I paired the book with The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot by Margaret McNamara and If You’re A Monster and You Know It… by Ed Emberley. All three books were really great and the kids loved them, of course. I always know that any book about pirates, ninjas, robots, monsters (especially zombies) and aliens will do well at story time!

We started off story time by reading Robot Zombie Frankenstein. The kids really listened to this book. I think the combination of bright, vivid illustrations and easy to follow dialogue helped. We talked about what kinds of robots they would build if they had a chance and then I handed out an amazing activity pack from Annette Simon’s website.

Robot Zombie Fridge
“Mine can fly AND jump really high!” – Creator

The kids enjoyed doing the packets while I set up for the robot building craft. I had them sit at the table and read them The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot. They were a little wound up, but eventually calmed down enough to where they were listening well. I then gave them scrap paper (from past projects) and let them create a their own robot/monster/whatevers.

Robot Zombie Florist

When they had finished their craft, we rounded out the story time by dancing to If You’re a Monster and You Know It… and singing along. Fabulous story time, with fabulous books, by fabulous authors!

Robot Zombie War Machine
The book his robot is holding is titled “The Ancient War”

Attack of the Robots!

How To: Library Hunger Games

Recently, I held the “Hunger Games” at the library. I was incredibly excited to host a party for the book series that I loved and the kids were super amped as well. We decided to hold it the day before the movie was to be released, May 22. Most of the kids that showed up to compete in the games were planning on attending the midnight premiere and had read the entire series.

A few months in advance, I visited the Middle School to promote the event. I brought a tri-fold I had decorated with me and handed out lottery tickets I created.

I do one of these 2-3 times a year to promote programs (Spring, Summer, Fall).

The lottery tickets trickled in slowly over the months and I had a few kids pick up tickets they lost. All in all, I’m glad I took the board there a few months in advance. By allowing the kids to plan around the event, I ended up having more kids attend!

I held the event from 3:30-5:30 and I wish I would have had 15-30 more minutes. I had so much planned and getting a little behind caused some stress in the end. The kids still had a blast, but I felt like I was rushing through things and we still went over.

I had twelve (12) kids show up, so I divided them into groups of two by pulling their lottery tickets from a bowl. I assigned each group a District, starting with District 2 and ending with District 6. I then went over the rules for the games and told them what each of their Districts were responsible for.  They liked talking about each of their District’s and seemed to immediately have “District Pride.”

I had them sit around a large table with all kinds of craft supplies in the middle:

  • Beads

    The kids were given 20-25 minutes to create their token.

  • Feathers
  • String/Elastic string
  • Construction Paper
  • Pins
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Fabric squares
  • Markers
  • Crayons
  • Felt
  • Safety pins
  • Shiny things 🙂

The kids were then instructed to make a token to represent each of their Districts and that they would be allowed to wear it in the competition.

It was really neat to see all of the creativity of the kids. The boys from District 4 made fish inspired bracelets, the girls from District 5 made little lightning bolt pins and District 2 made rings with sequins as gemstones. Their explanation was “Well, we’re miners so we would probably find gems while we worked,” which I thought was brilliant.

After each of the kids had created their tokens, they sat in pairs around the table and we started the “Mental Challenge.” This consisted of trivia questions that were broken down into two categories:

Who Am I?” worth 4 pts

General Trivia” worth 2 pts

Each team was asked 5 questions (possible 14 pts), but they wanted to continue with all the trivia even after the fact. It was here that I spent too much time and ended up rushing. The kids were just having so much fun with the trivia that I didn’t want to blow over it.

After the “Mental Challenge,” I explained what their “Survival Challenge” would be. The object of this challenge was to protect the mockingjay eggs that had collected for food. I explained that they needed to build a structure that would hold the most mockingjay eggs, but that the tallest structure would win ten (10) bonus points.  I had a separate table of building supplies which included:

So many different designs!

  • Straws
  • Toilet paper/paper towel  tubes
  • Masking tape
  • Paper plates
  • Glue
  • Construction paper
  • Scissors
  • Styrofoam cups
  • Scrap computer paper
  • Scrap cardboard
  • Pipe cleaners
The kids came up with some really clever ways to hold their eggs. Some went for height + number of eggs, others just created holding pens:

District 2 using some engineering.

The building challenge proved to be easy for some, but others struggled with the construction of their structure. One of the Districts gave up half way through because they broke their tower (on purpose I believe). District 2 was actually made up of two girls who compete in a science/math/engineering challenge each year (Science Olympiad) and they were folding paper into triangles in order to provide more support for their overall structure! The participants all did a wonderful job and I was so proud of all their hard work. We listened to music while they worked and few of them were dancing around while building, it was a lot of fun.

District 4 trying to figure out what will work best.

After they all tried to put as many mockingjay eggs (plastic eggs)  on their structure as possible, we measured for height and totaled each one. The winning team had the shortest structure, but it held the most eggs. There was a bit of a disagreement about what the structure that won was, since a lot of them thought you HAD to build a tower. If you do something similar, I would suggest setting building parameters.

District 3 working on building the tallest structure.

After they built their structures, they needed to fend off some Tracker Jackers that were interested in their food supply. I purchased “throwing knives” (suction cup throwers) and used a Tic-Tac-Throw bean bag game we had in our basement. Instead of X’s and O’s, I taped on Tracker Jackers (X’s) and Nightlock Berries (O’s). The blank side had an image of a silver parachute. The object was to get as many parachutes as possible in 10 throws. If you had more than 4 nightlock berries turned, you died (poisoned) and received zero points. For each Tracker Jacker you turned, you lost one point. The kids had a blast trying to get all the parachutes turned! When all the Districts had gone, they got to try their hand at throwing knives. They aimed for a red plastic target and were awarded 10 points for every throw that stuck for a few seconds.

Don't ask me why the photo is all screwy, I don't know why I took it like this.

The Districts were pretty banged and bruised after foraging for eggs, fighting Tracker Jackers and competing against each other. They were sent to the triage unit, where they had to bandage up their teammates. Each team received two rolls of toilet paper, with which they had to heal their partner.

Wrapping up a hurt comrade.

The first team to heal all their partner’s injuries was awarded 15 points. Some of the kids really got into it, drawing stitches and blood stains on the toilet paper bandages.

Finally, their last challenge required a good amount of teamwork. For the “Team Challenge” they had to reassemble a picture of the mockingjay symbol.  To me, this was the most difficult challenge as I had printed the images in black and white. The kids soldiered through , however, and District 2 finished with a HUGE lead.

For the refreshments, I provided Sleep Syrup (red punch), Mellark Bakery Bread (cinnamon raisin bread), Capitol Cupcakes (chocolate cupcakes w/ orange icing), Cornucopia Feast (a cornucopia filled with candy) and Thirst Quenchers (bottled water).

Each participant was able to take home a “Silver Parachute” which was actually a gold lamp shade (I told them they were limited edition Capitol parachutes) with a goody bag attached. Inside the goody bag, they received a flare (glow stick), energy bites (Jolly Rancher),  Hob Voucher (free book coupon), a handful of misc. candy and a Hunger Games bookmark. I also had a table full of withdrawn YA books that I labeled “The Hob Book Exchange.” Each kid was able to take a free book with them as well.

The goody bags each participant was able to take home!

I thought the program went fabulously and the kids were all excited the next day at school. My mom told me that they were recounting to her the different challenges and how well they had done. I would call that a success!


Holiday Gifts for the Literary Critics in Your Life

It’s that time of year again. The time when you put on a smiling face in public, but are barely keeping sane behind closed doors. It’s time to get into the holiday spirit! This time each year, we are all making our lists and forgetting to check them twice (which means a run to the mall the night before). Thankfully, you have me. The few of your who do read this blog will be happy to know that I have done the work for you and compiled a list of gifts for all the bookworms in your life!
For the Librarian:

Book shelf necklace
Librarian Love
Librarian Action Figure
Librarians Love Buttons
Handmade Book Page Wreath
Vintage Book Handbag

For the Future Author:

Typewriter of the Future
Describers Dictionary
Oscar Wilde Action Figure
USA Literary Map
A subscription to writersmarket.com

For the YA Book Lover:

Teen Ink subscription
The Hunger Games Collectors Edition
“I’m with the banned” tote
Inheritance by Christopher Paolini
Harry Potter Poster

For the Avid Reader:

eReader Covers
Nook Simple Touch
Out of Print T-shirt
Literary Quote Tote
Jane Austen for President Travel Mug

For the Little Bookworms:

Doodle Cook by Herve Tullet
LEGO Star Wars Character Encyclopedia by DK Publishing
The Lion and The Mouse by Jerry Pinkney
Yummy: Eight Favorite Fairy Tales by Lucy Cousins
V.Reader by VTech

Literary Stocking Stuffers:

Upcycled Book Earrings
Handmade Bookmarks
Mockingjay Pin
Literary Lites
Mini Journals

All Tangled Up

On October 8, the library held a “Movie Afternoon” where we showed the movie Tangled. Though it wasn’t well attended (and made me, once again, question having programs on Saturdays) I did have two girls show up and they were very excited. I decorated the meeting room fairly simple and just covered a few tables with bright purple fabric. I served Kool-Aid from a “crystal bowl” (just a pretty plastic punch bowl) and had cookies available on a platter. The kids were most excited by the popcorn though and I went through two bags of it. The girls watched Tangled and ate their snacks and when it was over we started on the crafts. I had made a few banners based on the sun symbol from the movies:

The girls really enjoyed coloring them and made some of their own from the construction paper I had laying out on one of the tables:

They also hung some of the printable activities that I found HERE. The kit comes with several ideas for activities the kids would enjoy and even has things that you can print pre-made. After the girls hung the banners they made, we played “Pin the Frying Pan on Flynn Rider.” I forgot to take pictures of them actually doing it, but the idea is the same as this:

Finally, I let them take their pictures as “Frog Princesses”:

On the way out the door, I had a display of “Princess and Fairy tale Books” for them to check out. They also got to take home the lanterns they made (using THIS pattern) and some color sheets. All in all, it was a successful program even with few attendees. Our “How to Train Your Dragon” program was much more successful. It had almost 25 attendees and they had a blast!

All About Me! Story Time

Self-esteem is the real magic wand that can form a child’s future. A child’s self-esteem affects every area of her existence, from friends she chooses, to how well she does academically in school, to what kind of job she gets, to even the person she chooses to marry.

STEPHANIE MARTSON, The Magic of Encouragement

Story time is suppose to be fun. Kids expect fun animal crafts and exciting songs about pirates, the whole horse ‘n’ pony show (so to speak). While I agree that 99% of story time’s should be exactly like this, I also feel that I have an obligation to teach children about more important issues. Issues like body image, nutrition and self-esteem are often overlooked because they don’t appear to be as much fun to plan. These issues will plague them into adulthood and I want them to remember that the library will always have the information to help them.

A few Wednesdays ago, I decided to have an “All About Me” story time. I searched the internet and came up with an idea for the kids to create name banners. I made these out of paper plates, construction paper and glitter.

They enjoyed making these.

We read a few different books, which they enjoyed because they got to tell me stories about themselves after each one. It even helped some of the kids who aren’t so talkative and tend to be a little shy.  Each of the kids enjoyed taking the banner home and they were showing it off to their parents after story time.

Books We Read:
Incredible Me!  by Kathi Appelt
I Like Myself by Karen Beaumont
Being Me by Julie Broski
For just one day by Laura Leuck

I also made them a handout that asked them questions about themselves. The handout had things like, “My favorite color is________.”, “If I was an animal I would be ____________.”, “The toy I love the most is ________.”

After I had read the stories we talked about what we liked about ourselves, what our favorite things are and why we like them. It was nice to hear some of the kids say that they really liked who they were!

Going Nutty for Stories*

This weeks Story Time @ 10 theme was “Going Nutty for Stories” and featured books about squirrels.

I had four (4) very excited youngsters who loved all of the books that we read, but especially Those Darn Squirrels  by Adam Rubin. Each of the books was displayed when the children came into the library (except Those Darn Squirrels because I had already taken it to the story time area):

To start with, we “Shook Our Sillies Out” and then sang “The Squirrel Song.” The kids enjoy getting up and moving before we read the stories. This helps them settle down when I actually start reading and they seem to listen better!

I read the following stories:
Those Darn Squirrels by Adam Rubin (this was SUCH a big hit that they wanted me to read it again, so I read Those Darn Squirrels and the Cat Next Door as well)
Rosie to the Rescue by Bethany Roberts
Heart to Heart
 by George Shannon

I displayed Gray Squirrel at Pacific Avenue and Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach, but did not read them because the natives were getting restless. We then talked about what we learned about squirrels and my favorite was “They are the champions of the forest!” So now when that little girl has to do a report on squirrels in school, she will most definitely cite this.

After our discussion on “Why Squirrels Are So Awesome!” we made Squirrel hand puppets out of paper bags. I would have loved to do something more detailed, but I had to remember that these are preschoolers. I tried to get a picture of each of the kids with their finished puppets, but they were too busy trying to eat each with their squirrels.

In all of the years I have been doing story time, I have NEVER had kids ask for me to read the same book immediately after I finished it. This has to be a testament to how great the Rubin/Salmieri’s writing team is! The illustrations are amazing and I would point things out to the kids that they didn’t notice before (cats legs crossed in his portrait, birds faces, etc..). The kids loved the squirrels and they made sure to point out that the cat, “Looked really mean!”

All in all, it was a fantastic story time! The kids loved the crafts and I was excited by their enthusiasm for the books.  I would highly recommend reading Those Darn Squirrels for a story time, as the kids were enthralled by the book the entire time I read it. Squeals of laughter and giggles are always a good sign that a book is a hit!

*Sorry for the delay in posting, work has been a little hectic!