Monday, July 28, 2014

Batman Day at the Library-or How to Plan a Program in Three Days


Batman loves the library


Part of being a librarian means the ability to be flexible and spontaneous. When I got to work on Wednesday (which was Batman Day) I was told that we had been getting calls about a Batman Day at the Library celebration we were hosting on Saturday. Turns out we were advertised on the DC Comics Blog as a location hosting a Batman celebration on Saturday. (I think this occurred when I requested some promotional Batman items, but I'm not exactly sure) All I know is that we were given three days to plan an unexpected program. Luckily, I work with an amazing team (and a wonderfully nerdy team!) of people so we threw together an amazing program.

Planning a program in just a few days took a lot of brainstorming and Batman research. But I'm amazingly lucky to work with a great group of people who all jumped on board and helped out. Everyone took on a task, worked together, and created a pretty incredible program that was a lot of fun. We tried to keep the activities simple and fun and stuck to a lot of basics like trivia, games, and crafts.

Here's what we did:

-Screenings of Batman The Animated Series. According to my husband, who is a big Batman fan, this series is the best of the animated series and might be the best incarnation of Batman on screen, so we knew it would be a hit as part of our party. 

-Bat Trivia. I found several quizzes on Sporcle.com that I adapted for our Batman trivia. I made sure to have some that were easy (name the characters) to hard (who said it-Batman or Shakespeare?)

-Scavenger Hunt-my amazing staff pulled together to create some amazing scavenger hunts around the library (and these sneakily taught our kids all about the library!) One scavenger hunt included riddles from the Riddler that needed to be solved. The riddles were clues to the locations of the question marks around the library. The other scavenger hunt was a hunt down the villains around the library. We printed off pictures of the characters and hung them around the library for the kids to find.

-Bat Villain shooting gallery. My awesome staff put this together as well and created a shooting gallery using nerf guns, styrofoam blocks, and pictures of various bat villains. This was recycled from our Star Wars program and worked well with Batman too. It was a huge hit and the kids loved it. It was also fun for the younger kids who couldn't do the scavenger hunt or trivia.

-Batarang Toss-Using the diecut machine, we cut out dies and my staff created black and yellow boxes for the kids to toss bats into. Another good activity for the younger kids.
-Build Gotham City-I couldn't have done this without my staff who again, pulled together to cover wooden blocks in black paper to create Gotham City building blocks. This was another option for the younger kids.

-Batman Cubee crafts-printed off from the Cubee Craft website

-A Batman Fan Discussion-my husband led this discussion for teens and adults about all things Batman-the best actor to portray Batman, best Bat Villain, best movie/TV Show, thoughts on the upcoming movie and Gotham TV Show, and various Batman theories. 

-Lots of freebies and goodies! Thanks to our local comic book store and Random House, we were able to give away lots of great posters, Batman masks, buttons, tattoos, and comics. 

Why yes, I actually get paid to dress up and pose with Batman! My job is awesome!

And of course, the highlight of the program was having Batman at the library! I am very lucky that I was able to meet our local Batman. We have the most amazing guy in town that dresses up as Batman and makes appearances and I was able to book him for the morning to come take photos with the kids. It was a huge hit and the kids were in awe of him. The best was seeing the kids dressed up and being amazed that their favorite superhero was right in front of them! And I got to promote the library to Batman which was pretty awesome!

We decorated the room with diecut bats and I cut out a skyline of Gotham City from a tri-fold science board that I had painted black with yellow windows. One of my amazing co-workers created a Bat Signal using a projector and Powerpoint that we projected onto the ceiling. I also used print outs of a Bat Signal on the floor to lead patrons down the concourse and around the corner to where the event was and where Batman was located for photos. Seeing a video of a previous Batman appearance, I made sure to have a barricade up to keep a line for photos going smoothly. 

We promoted the program through our media channels, distributed fliers to local comic book stores, promoted in on library Facebook pages (and got coverage on Batman's page too!) as well as being advertised on our area visitor's bereau blog and on DC Comics blogs. For putting together a three day program, all of my staff and awesome co-workers came together wonderfully and helped spread the word. We ended up having over 100 people at the event, which was pretty impressive for doing something on such short notice! 

Overall the program was incredibly well attended and well received. We had plenty of activities, but if we did it again, I would like to book a larger room, since we were in our smaller Story Hour Room. This way everything could be more spread out. All the activities ran themselves really well so staff didn't have to do much but mingle, restock supplies and hand out prizes. 

It was a great success and I can't wait to host another Batman Day at the Library!




Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Genre: Contemporary

Release Date: 9/17/2013

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About the Book: Billy Miller is about to enter second grade-and that means a lot of new things are on the horizon. Billy is growing up and he's not quite sure what to think about it or how to navigate elementary school. He wants to be a responsible member of the family, help his younger sister and his working mom and stay at home dad. Second grade is going to be quite the year for Billy Miller.

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: Every summer it seems like the early chapter books fly off the library shelves. As young beginning readers are starting to branch out and read chapter books on their own, books like Junie B Jones and Magic Tree House can't stay on the shelf. Yet every once in awhile I get a young reader who isn't interested in reading about girls-and there are oh-so-many titles about spunky, creative, engaging girls. So when I first read The Year of Billy Miller, I knew this was going to become my go-to book suggestion for those readers.

Billy Miller deserves a spot next to Ramona, Junie B, Clementine, and Judy Moody. He navigates his second grade year with the excitement and trepidation that comes with that age. Kevin Henkes masterfully draws on Billy's emotions to make him a relateable and realistic character. Billy wants to help out at home and enjoy "kid-ish" activities, but is also wondering if maybe it's time to grow up. He's always called his dad Papa, but isn't sure if that's really okay anymore and thinks he should try calling him Dad. He has a nemesis at school that he's just not sure what to think of. He doesn't know if his teacher really likes him or not and he's nervous about it.

Billy's little sister Sal is the perfect foil for Billy and they have the type of sibling relationship you would expect. Billy alternates between finding Sal cute and annoying and getting along and fighting with each other. Their relationship reminded me of my own siblings and Billy is your usual first born-he wants to be responsible, wants Sal to listen to him, but he always realizes that Sal is a good ally and friend.

I recently gave this book to one of my avid readers who has flown through all of the other early chapter books I've given him and he was excited to pick up a book that looked like a bigger chapter book. While the text is still simple, the length of this one is longer than your typical beginning chapter book, so it's sure to please those readers who want a longer book.

I was so excited to see The Year of Billy Miller chosen as a Newbery Honor. It's a wonderfully charming, heartfelt, funny beginning chapter book that is perfect to read aloud or read on your own. It's destined to be a classic.

Book Pairings: Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary, Clementine by Sara Pennypacker

Full Disclosure: Reviewed from copy I checked out from my local library

Monday, July 21, 2014

Digitots Digital Storytime: Take Two

(My set up for digital storytime-iPad connected to a large screen TV and my storytelling stool)

This past weekend I did my second Digitots Storytime. I am so glad my library is finally incorporating digital components in storytime and so far the response from patrons has been great. They love that we're highlighting apps for them to try with their kids, giving them a chance to see them and how their child interacts with an app, and it's a great way to model a wonderful use of media and how it can be beneficial. 

For this storytime I decided to focus on more stories than game apps and modeled it much like my traditional print storytimes but using the iPad for most of my resources. I loaded my music onto the iPad so everything was all in one place. Since I didn't want the iTunes screen showing my playlist, because that's a bit boring, I used the Smoothie Feltboard app and created a screen that showed "digitots storytime" to put up when we were singing a song. (You can see it in the picture above.)

Here's my plan from this month's Digitots Storytime:

Song (played in iTunes): Doctor Knickerbocker by The Wiggles-a great movement and get ready song

Llama Llama Red Pajama-Penguin Group USA-$4.99 I used this version to read the book to the kids and used the sound effects in the story to go along with the text. The kids seemed to like it okay and I really like the slight animations on the pages without it being too distracting. It's a good one to use as an introduction to reading a picture book on the iPad. But honestly, I didn't think this app/ibook was anything special, especially for the price. The music was also too loud (I should have turned the volume on the TV down after our song) and it over powered my reading of the story at times. It's also hard to find exactly where to press on the page to get the characters to make any noise or talk, which was a bit frustrating. I also played it for my staff and we agreed that the narrator, while having a nice calming voice, wasn't that energized by the story and we all preferred the read it ourselves option. 

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems-I used the print version of this one because I wanted to give the kids a basis for the story before we moved into using the app. It was also a great way to integrate both print and digital text into the storytime.

Don't Let the Pigeon Run This App-Disney-$5.99-Yes, this one's a bit pricey, but it's totally worth it! You could easily do an entire digital storytime just using this app! There are three options for how you would like to run the pigeon story-a silly one made up for you, one where you choose options based on three choices, or one where you record your voice answering the questions. Since I had a younger group and I wasn't sure how shy they would be in recording their own answers, I chose the second option ("the chick") of giving them pictures to choose from and selecting those to fill in our story. The bus driver comes out and asks the group some questions and I let the kids pick what they would like the answers to be. Then once the pigeon arrived, we shook him up and he created the story we had just written together which ended up being titled "Don't Let The Pigeon Wear Purple Underwear" which the kids thought was hilarious! They loved that the things they picked ended up in the story. 

I then used the "Draw the Pigeon" portion of the app. I asked the kids if they would like to learn how to draw the pigeon and gave each child a paper and crayon. Using the instructions Mo Willems give we drew along with him to create our pigeons. I drew mine on the iPad so it was projected on the screen and the kids followed along on paper. Their Pigeons turned out great! I love this option because it's a great way to connect the kids to the story as they get to create the character. It's also easy to go along at your own pace, so I could watch the group and make sure everyone was doing okay before we moved to the next step. If you can draw circles, triangles, and lines, you can draw a Pigeon drawing too!

Song: Octopus by Charlotte Diamond (played on iTunes)-an oldie but a goodie and a fun action song 

Toca Kitchen Monsters-Toca Boca-Free-I wanted to end with giving the kids a chance to play one on one with the iPad instead of just watching my activities on the screen, so I ended with Toca Kitchen Monsters. We chose a monster and then each child got the chance to feed the monster. The first round the kids had fun just feeding the monster. For the second round I showed them how they could also open the kitchen and cook the food in different ways. The most popular cooking methods were the microwave and the blender and much the kids surprise the monsters ate everything they cooked! I love Toca Boca apps and they are lots of fun. If you're looking for great kids apps, be sure to check out Toca Boca. I love using them in storytime and am always looking for new ways to incorporate them. 

Overall this storytime worked well and it was fine to do it without a theme. Following the format of highlighting various apps worked great and the kids didn't care that there wasn't an overall theme to the stories. The parents also commented on how they enjoyed seeing the apps I used which was great.  


Thursday, July 17, 2014

ALSC Blog: Learning From Other Professions

Today I'm over at the ALSC Blog talking about what I learned from attending a workshop for music educators. I found learning from another profession challenging and invigorating and it gave me lots of great new ideas! Any professions that you've learned from that you think librarians should collaborate with?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Summer Reading Program Revamped-So Far So Good!

Our Fizz Boom Read Bulletin Board

Sigh....oh Summer Reading Program. I love you and yet you tire me out year after year. This year I made a goal to go easy on myself and try to read picture books this summer. And while I've read some picture books, I still have sadly not been reading much at all! My grand total for books read (or listened to) in June was four, which is incredibly low for me. The Summer Reading Program is super busy/taking care of Baby GreenBean/working a lot is making me tired and cutting into my reading (and blogging) time! But there are some good things about SRP this year.

This year we revamped the format of our Summer Reading Program and it's actually made things easier on the staff side which has been great. In past years the program was 3 levels, 12 hours of reading and 12 activities. This year we changed it to 2 levels, 10 hours of reading and eight activities. The activities are things like, read a book on the five senses or put an ice cube outside, one in the house, and one in the freezer and see which one melts first or build a reading fort. Level 1 awards the kids a coupon card with all sorts of freebie and discounted deals (we've done this prize for several years now and it's a huge draw). Level 2 gets them a Fine Waiver and a free book. That's it-no more stickers or bookmarks trying to make up a middle level that wasn't that exciting. In the past, Level 2 was a pretty wimpy level and this year, combining the fine waiver and the book make a much more interesting and fun prize.

We also changed the teen program so that instead of weekly random prize drawings, every teen gets a book. Both the teen and kids prizes are the same-same levels, same amount of reading. The only difference is the teen program is online and there's no activities the teens have to do along with the reading.

We were worried (it seems librarians are always worried about changes!) about how these changes would go. But so far, it's been great. The teens are very happy to get a book and it's great that every teen gets a bigger prize. (Before it was just the teens that won a random drawing who won a book or bigger prize).

The teens get a chance to keep adding hours for a grand prize drawing of gift cards. And the kids get a chance to complete "Eager Readers" which they can complete more reading and activities and earn entries into grand prize drawings. This is a great way to keep the kids reading and making summer reading program last all summer, even for those who finish quickly.

Add in our Tiny Tots program that has 16 activities for babies under 18 months to complete and earn two board books and an entry into a Tiny Tots gift basket and we've got successful summer reading programs for all ages.

Streamlining our SRP this year has made it so much better on the staff side. It's so much easier to explain since every program follows the same basic format and prize structure. And our patrons haven't had any complaints about having a change in the amount of hours or taking out the random prize drawings for the teens. I haven't heard anyone say anything about missing a sticker or bookmark-maybe because we have bookmarks out at the desk for them to take if they want one.

I think the key to a non-stressful summer reading program is to make sure it's simple. Simple to explain, simple to follow, and simple to complete. We have options to continue for those who read quickly but it's not so much reading to prevent those who pick up the program midway through to finish the entire game board. We're still super busy, as we are every summer, but I feel like the structure of our program makes so much more sense this year and we're all very happy about that!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Seek and Find Picture Books

Recently I've noticed some books appearing on my library shelf that have a great seek and find feel to them. Seek and Find books are always popular, but sometimes it can be hard to find something new after my kids have gone through all the Where's Waldo books for the hundredth time. These might be a bit easier than finding Waldo in a sea of people, but they're still a lot of fun!

The Bear's Song by Benajmin Chaud

What a fun book! This is an oversized picture book that is one you will want to pour over the pages with. Papa Bear goes looking for Little Bear and they wind up in the city and then at the opera house. The details in each picture are fantastic-I wanted to look at everything that was happening with all the characters. Each scene has multiple stories happening all at once and it's fun to see what the surrounding characters are up to. The book is also a seek and find as the reader is looking for Little Bear and the bee he is chasing on every page (and he's not always easy to spot!)

A delightful book that is perfect for a lapsit reading with preschoolers and up.



Otto and his dad are driving into the city and there's so much to see and do. This is more of a seek and find and look at the pictures book than a book with much plot or story. It's very reminiscent of Richard Scarry's Busytown books-(in fact there's even a nod to Richard Scarry and Huckle-see if you can spot it!) The fun part of the book is that there's so much to see each time you pour over the pages you're sure to spot something new. Then when you've reach the end, turn it around and head home with Otto. I love the suggestion on the back to follow along the path with your own toy cars-the oversized board book format makes it perfect for that and it's a great way to encourage storytelling in young readers. 


The illustrations might be a bit busy for some kids-there's a lot going on and it made me a bit dizzy looking at it all! But if you can handle a lot of motion and busyness in the pages, you're sure to have fun spotting the various characters, cars, and stores that pop up along the way. 


A young boy is looking for his pet dragon all throughout the city. This one combines a counting book with a search and find. I have to say that even though the dragon is huge and you would think he'd be easy to spot, I had to scan the pages to find him a few times! Steve Light blends the dragon into the illustrations so well that he becomes part of each picture-he's a fountain at the zoo or hiding underground. The books is done is pen and ink drawings and it's masterfully illustrated. The detail is fantastic. The book is drawn almost entirely in black and white and as the numbers go up, so does the number of illustrated items that are featured in color. I also love the illustration of the dragon breath coming up through the manhole covers as the author mentions in his bio that was what his father told him the steam was when he was a child. This is very creative book that is meticulously drawn and a great way to combine a seek and find format with counting. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Cosplay Prom

Me and my teen librarian J cosplaying as books.


So I may have been ALA Left Behind this past weekend, but at least I got to have fun at the library with our fifth annual library prom! The themes over the years have changed (Moonlight Masquerade, Geek Prom, Zombie Prom, Nerd Prom-which apparently I never posted about!) This year, my teen librarian J came up with the idea for Cosplay Prom. It was a huge hit and the most popular prom we've done so far!

Setting up the Event: 

J actually did the setting up and we brainstormed ideas of what to put out to keep the teens entertained in case they didn't want to dance (which is always a possibility). He bought food supplies to make candy sushi and we also had some animal crackers out for a snack. We didn't provide drinks because it's messy and we have a cafe in the library that many teens purchase drinks from anyway, so we decided food was enough.

For activities we had easy origami owls, paper bowtie making, pin the scar on Harry, bookmark making-(choose your fandom and design a bookmark) as well as some board games, Apples to Apples and Jenga. We also had a photo booth with props from the youth services costume stash for the teens to take photos. We didn't provide a camera since we felt the teens would have devices to take photos with.

We ran music through the speakers in the auditorium and used Pandora and Songza and YouTube to play popular songs and song requests.

How it Went: 

The teens went all out when it came to costumes! They had a blast and several commented how excited they were to have a chance to cosplay because they never had the chance to anywhere else. We had the teens sign in as they came in which helped us keep a good head count as to how many attend (around 75 teens!)

J and I made an announcement to start about what we had around the room and we kicked off the prom with some music. After a few minutes we put on The Cha-Cha Slide and that got the teens dancing-and they kept dancing all night!

About halfway through the event we held a costume contest with the help of our pages and circ staff as the judges. As the teens came in, I felt so out of touch with my teens and pop culture! I recognized some fandoms, but there were others (especially the anime) that the teens had to teach me about. The most popular fandoms were Doctor Who, Homestuck, Hetalia, and Sherlock.  Some of the teens even cosplayed as characters from books they were writing which was very cool. The costume contest winner was a Steampunk cosplayer who had created his costume the night before!

The most popular song was Let It Go, which the teens sang along to and was hilarious to watch. They also loved dancing and singing along to What Does the Fox Say, Gangam Style, Macarana, Cupid Shuffle-pretty much anything they could dance to. When we tried to play anything from a Top 40 playlist, they revolted and instead wanted theme songs and group dances. We also played themes for Sherlock, Doctor Who, Adventure Time, and a Doctor Who themed Time Warp Parody.

The rest of the night was spent dancing and singing along and playing games. The teens danced most of the night and were sad when we had to close up. They requested we repeat the cosplay theme next year as well as asked to have it more often and longer.

Things I Learned: 

Overall, the event went smoothly and was a lot of fun. The only downside was the playlist. We didn't have a set playlist and tried to take song suggestions, but J and I weren't familiar with which made it hard to choose songs from their suggestion list. When we asked the teens for feedback at the end of the event, this was a big comment-that we didn't play the songs suggested. Next time I think we'll try to pre-make a playlist. The other issue this time around was the screen had to be down and projected for the computer and sound to work, so any video we played on YouTube ended up being played on the big screen. This was good and bad-it was fun to watch the Doctor Who and Harry Potter videos, but hard to manage because they could see everything that was being typed in and searched for.

The teens enjoyed having additional activities out, which was great for those that didn't want to dance but I was surprised by how much of their time was spent just singing along to whatever songs came up on the playlist.

Our proms have become an annual tradition each summer and I can't wait until next year!

About Me

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I am a youth services librarian, which means I work with children, tweens and teens. I love being asked about great books to read! The opinions and content of this blog are my own and are not that of my library system. My blog content is my own and not that of any committee or organization I'm involved in. A Note to Authors/Publishers: I would be happy to review your book, share guest posts, author interviews or other book promotions on my blog. Please contact me at greenbeanteenqueen (at) gmail (dot) com