Friday, March 31, 2017

Library GrabBag: Journey to the Center of the Teen Room

Every spring we like to host a classic book-themed after hours program to introduce teens to older titles they might not have read.  It's also a chance for us to step away from Hunger Games and Percy Jackson for a beat and have a little fun designing activities around different stories.

Our Teen Advisory Board brainstormed a list of about twenty possibilities in January, and we settled on the works of Jules Verne - which developed into Journey to the Center of the Teen Room.

     5 - 5:15pm        Introduction | Rules | Icebreaker (Hot air balloon craft)
5:15 - 5:25pm        Around the World in 80 Days book talk
     5:25 - 6pm        "Around the World" Scavenger Hunt
     6 - 6:25pm        Snack time
6:25 - 6:35pm        Journey to the Center of the Earth book talk
     6:35 - 7pm        "The Floor is Lava" Adventure
     7 - 7:10pm        20,000 Leagues Under the Sea book talk
7:10 - 7:55pm        Underwater Globes | Submarine Paper Craft | Heart Knot
7:55 - 8:20pm        Sardines

Permission Slip

"Around the World" Scavenger Hunt

I brainstormed with Jessica (over at Book Plots & Polka Dots), our fabulous Teen Librarian, and she planned out a fun adventure that loosely followed the plot of Verne's book.  She also put together this fabulous host instruction sheet for the chaperones (including answer keys).

Attendees were divided into three groups following the book talk.

Ticket File
Destination Decorative Posters

Stop 1) Start in London - (click here for file) solve the travel poster puzzle for the Dewey location (printed on the back of the poster) where the ticket to Egypt is located.

Egypt Ticket: Hint on ticket for location of next stop ex. "Find the room of study that matches your team."

Stop 2) Egypt - (click here for file) complete the facial profile and identify the robber.  Text photo of proof to Jessica's cell phone.  Jessica will respond with a reward (location of ticket to India)

*This was our first time using texting to communicate with the teens during a scavenger hunt.  We really, really liked it.  It gave us a little more freedom to move around the building, and there was an element of mystery for the participants as well.

Stop 3) Bombay, India - (click here for file) Teens found the map with the following information printed on the back : "You discover that the train track ends in Kholby, India and does not pick up until you reach the city of Allahabad!  You must hire a guide to take you to Allahabad suing one of the following methods of transportation: elephant, hot air balloon, or carriage.  Choose the correct method to find the ticket to finish your trek to calcutta."  Call numbers were included with each method, and at the dewey location, teens would find out whether they chose correctly or needed to go back to the map and choose again.

Stop 4) Japan - (click here for file) "Join the circus and earn passage to America by completing a death-defying obstacle course.  (Teens received their ticket after completing the course)

Stop 5) San Francisco - (Click here for file) Teens found another map with the following information printed on the front : "You must take the train from San Francisco to NYC, but be prepared for a few obstacles along the way.  Flip this over for your first obstacle."

Obstacle 1: "Oh no!  There's a herd of ten thousand bison crossing the tracks delaying the train!  What do you do?" Teens chose one of three solutions.  Call numbers were included with each solution, and at the dewey location, teens would find out whether they chose correctly or needed to go back to the map and choose again.

Obstacle 2: "Oh no!  Directly ahead is a rickety suspension bridge in danger of imminent collapse.  There you must fix the bridge and message back to HQ with proof of your next location.  (Teens built bridges out of toothpicks and marshmallows then messaged a picture to Jessica)

Stop 6) London - (Click here for file)  Answer questions about time zones: 1) If it is 6pm in Japan, what time is it in San Francisco? 2) If it is 3pm here in London, what time is it in India? 3) If it is 11pm in Egypt, what time is it in NYC?

"The Floor is Lava" Adventure

This one is relatively self-explanatory.  Painters tape "x's" were boulders that the teens had to jump to and there were a few obstacles along the way that were connected to the book.

Obstacle 1) Using the supplies provided, collect the bottles of water so you don't get dehydrated.  (We gave them some rope, a plastic cone, and a book end.  They had to use the items to collect bottles of water sitting about 5 feet away.)

Obstacle 2) Using the items provided, find a way to get your team safely across the lake found in the cavern (there was a big gap between "boulders")

Obstacle 3) Quietly get your team through the yarn obstacle course (yarn strung between book shelves) without alerting the prehistoric animals moving about.

*We divided the participants into three groups again to make things a little more manageable, and we created three different adventure paths.  My group "died" five times, having to start back at the beginning each time.  It was fun watching them problem solve and encourage one another.

As for the crafts (links in the itinerary), the underwater globes were a HUGE success.  We were glad we build in the craft time because our schedule got a little behind in the scavenger hunt (always does...).  And of course, we ended the night with sardines (because, despite all of the planning, that is always the most highly anticipated activity).

Overall we had a LOT of fun at this lock in, especially having our TAB president serve as a third chaperone - SO NEAT seeing him in the leadership role.

Let me know if you have any questions!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Ever the Hunted

Ever the Hunted (Clash of Kingdoms, #1)Author: Erin Summerill
Info: HMH Books for Young Readers, copyright 2016, 392 pages

Seventeen year-old Britta Flannery is at ease only in the woods with her dagger and bow. She spends her days tracking criminals alongside her father, the legendary bounty hunter for the King of Malam—that is, until her father is murdered. Now outcast and alone and having no rights to her father’s land or inheritance, she seeks refuge where she feels most safe: the Ever Woods. When Britta is caught poaching by the royal guard, instead of facing the noose she is offered a deal: her freedom in exchange for her father’s killer.

However, it’s not so simple.

The alleged killer is none other than Cohen McKay, her father’s former apprentice. The only friend she’s ever known. The boy she once loved who broke her heart. She must go on a dangerous quest in a world of warring kingdoms, mad kings, and dark magic to find the real killer. But Britta wields more power than she knows. And soon she will learn what has always made her different will make her a daunting and dangerous force.

~Goodreads Description

Another Uppercase book that I finally decided to read...and the audiobook reader had an accent.  We all know I'm a sucker for an accent.

The description above sums things up pretty well.  Ever the Hunted is a fantastical murder mystery - a young heroine with magical powers stuck in a kingdom where magic is outlawed.  War is on the horizon, and the only thing standing between her and the noose is the man accused of killing her father.

I feel I should preface the next few statements with the declaration that, in the end, I enjoyed this book.  Seriously.  Truly.  I'm not just saying that to be nice.

But...there wasn't anything new and exciting about it.  I was convinced for the first half of the book that I had already read it.  The characters were character I had met before, and the plot was just like the plot used a hundred times over in a variety of other books.  It was formulaic and predictable.  Britta could have just as easily been Alina from Leigh Bardugo's Shadow and Bone (without the fun and violence of the Darkling).

And Britta was kind of whiny.  I'm not a huge fan of whiny.  I wanted her to be a bit more independent and fierce.  Angrier I guess.  But she became a blubbering mess as soon as a boy was around.  Sure there is backstory and legit reasons to feel heartbroken, but still.

I'll probably continue on with the story when the sequel is released.  In the end, Britta has come into her powers and things started to get interesting.  Hopefully she'll come into her own a little more in book two.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

10 Authors I Can't Believe I've Met

Top Ten Authors I Can't Believe I've Actually Met

I'll be the first to admit that I've been pretty darn fortunate when it comes to meeting authors.  I've found myself (thanks to being in a profession where authors are occasionally in my path and having a friend willing to drive cross country with me) in the path of quite a few authors.  I've even been fortunate to cross off meeting a few of my all-time favorite authors along the way.  Here are ten that I can't believe I've actually met...

1) Maggie Stiefvater...twice time at my own library...and she's been in my car

2) Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
I maybe might have scared them just a bit by shouting at them and tossing my gnome in their direction, but as you can see by the pic, they were totally cool with it in the end.

3) Sarah Dessen
I drove all the way to Charleston to finally meet her, and then she comes to Indy the next spring.  So sweet and nice and wonderful.

4) Sabaa Tahir
An unexpected meeting at Book Con and totally worth waiting in the long line.

5) Morgan Matson
I told her she broke my heart, and she kindly apologized :)

6) Stephanie Perkins
The LONGEST line with the angsty-est of teenagers, but it happened.

7) Libba Bray
I was far more composed the second time around

8) Marissa Meyer
The loveliest of ladies and the loveliest of series

9) Gail Carriger
A sweet moment between Mike and one of my favorites

10) John Green
Mike's first author visit that John strangely remembered seven years later (see post here)

What author are you dying to meet?

Happy reading!


Monday, March 27, 2017

The Sun is Also a Star

The Sun Is Also a StarAuthor: Nicola Yoon
Info: Delacorte Press, copyright 2016, 348 pages

Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

~Goodreads Description

This one had been sitting on my bookshelf for quite awhile after it came in the mail from Uppercase (have I mentioned how fun book mail is!)  And then it goes and wins the prestigious title of Printz Honor book, so I thought I'd finally get around to it.

Natasha is an undocumented immigrant from Jamaica who is fighting desperately to stay in the city she knows and loves.  Daniel is a Korean American whose family expectations do not align with his own hopes and dreams.  One day, these two teenagers meet on the streets of New York City - one filled with science and logic, the other with poetry - and the possibility of a million futures lies before them.

I had the pleasure of meeting Nicola Yoon at YallFest a few years ago.  It's always a little strange meeting an author when you haven't yet read any of their books.  But she was generous with a smile and extremely kind.  Not so strangely, that same compassion and gentility comes across in her books.

Natasha is a force to be reckoned with.  She knows her mind, and despite the battles she faces at home, she's willing to fighter for her family and her future.  While Daniel appears soft on the outside, inside he finds a strength and courage he didn't even know he was capable of feeling.  Meeting Natasha opens Daniel up to endless possibilities, and his character and thoughtfulness shine through during their day together.

This is a character driven story, and Yoon has created characters that are diverse and complicated and lovely.  There's a little something in each of the teens that you an identify with, and it is a joy and heartbreak watching them come together throughout their day.  It's not lust at first sight.  It's conversation and communication and openness with one another that solidifies their feelings in the end.

One of my favorite aspects of the book is the extra narration.  On occasion, Yoon follows individuals that cross path with Natasha and Daniel.  It's kind of like Stranger Than Fiction (one of my all-time favorite movies) meets Amelie (another one of my all-time favorite movies), that shows how the moments in other people's lives led to that day, bring those two teens together.  I also found it had the opposite effect as well - making the world feel big and open.  That the world didn't revolve around those two individuals, but that they were a part of something big and grand.

I was surprised how much I enjoyed this - not sure why - but in the list of all of the contemporary fiction I've read this year already it's very near the top.  Yoon's voice is relatable and familiar yet exciting and new.  And I absolutely adored the characters she created.

(And the cover is gorgeous :) )

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Library GrabBag: #GPLtalk Episode 12 : Good Morning, Midnight

Podcast time!  This week we discussed Lily Brooks-Dalton's, Good Morning, Midnight - considered one of the best science fiction novels of 2016.

Augustine, a brilliant, aging astronomer, is consumed by the stars.  For years he has lived in remote outposts, studying the sky for evidence of how the universe began.  At his latest posting, in a research center in the Arctic, news of a catastrophic event arrives.  The scientists are forced to evacuate, but Augustine stubbornly refuses to abandon his work.  Shortly after the others have gone, Augustine discovers a mysterious child, Iris, and realizes the airwaves have gone silent.  They are alone.

At the same time, Mission Specialist Sullivan is aboard the Aether on its return flight from Jupiter.  The astronauts are the first human beings to delve this deep into space, and Sully has made peace with the sacrifices required of her: a daughter left behind, a marriage ended.  So far the journey has been a success, but when Mission Control falls inexplicably silent, Sully and her crew mates are forced to wonder if they will ever get home.

As Augustine and Sully each face an uncertain future against forbidding yet beautiful landscapes, their stories gradually intertwine in a profound and unexpected conclusion.  In crystalline prose, Good Morning, Midnight poses the most important questions: What endures at the end of the world?  How do we make sense of our lives?

~Goodreads Description

I discussed the book a little over at the Greenwood Public Library Blog and you can also take a listen to our fun conversation about unreliable narrators and vague endings! 

Monday, March 20, 2017


Author: Barry Lyga
Info: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, copyright 2017, 304 pages
Release Date: April 18, 2017

A chunk of old memory, adrift in a pool of blood.

Sebastian Cody did something horrible, something no one--not even Sebastian himself--can forgive. At the age of four, he accidentally shot and killed his infant sister with his father's gun.

Now, ten years later, Sebastian has lived with the guilt and horror for his entire life. With his best friend away for the summer, Sebastian has only a new friend--Aneesa--to distract him from his darkest thoughts. But even this relationship cannot blunt the pain of his past. Because Sebastian knows exactly how to rectify his childhood crime and sanctify his past.

It took a gun to get him into this.

Now he needs a gun to get out.

Unflinching and honest, Bang is as true and as relevant as tomorrow's headlines, the story of one boy and one moment in time that cannot be reclaimed. 

~Goodreads Description

You're not going to believe this...but we've got another dead sibling book on our hands!  That seems to be my pattern for 2017.  (Not sure "dead sibling" warrants an exclamation mark in the above sentence, but...)

Sebastian Cody is a killer.  When he was only four years old he accidentally shot his baby sister.  To say that the incident had a lasting impression on him would be an understatement, and ten years later, the deed still haunts him.  With his sights set on the end of the summer and and his one chance to truly move on, an unexpected friendship changes his life forever.

This book had me at "Barry Lyga," and it didn't disappoint (despite a similar plotline to four other books I've read this year).  Lyga's characters are complicated, multi-faceted, and genuine, pulling you into the story and their lives.  At the beginning of the book, Sebastian is a broken boy who feels like each day is on borrowed time.  Through the relationships he build over the course of the summer, he comes to find acceptance and forgiveness, two things that had been missing in his life since the fateful day his sister was killed.  There are big discussion sprinkled throughout the book without being heavy handed or soap-boxy (there are a few authors I wish could learn that trick).

Even if this type of story isn't your favorite - trust in Lyga.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

My "Apocalyst"'s punny!

Desperate for a new show to binge, I found myself on Netflix one evening watching the first five minutes of a bunch of shows only to bail with boredom.  I didn't know what I wanted to watch, but I knew that what I was trying wasn't it.  And then I remembered a fabulous individual recommending No Tomorrow (because a) it was funny and b) there was a very pretty guy involved), so I gave it a whirl.  Then I watched another episode...and a third.  And then I realized I had a problem, and I needed to stop for the evening.  This, however, did not keep me from telling everyone I know about it (and I totally did and you should totally head over to Book Plots & Polka Dots too)

The premise - Pretty guy (shown above) is a scientist who believes that an asteroid is going to destroy the earth and all of mankind in just a matter of months, so he begins living in the moment by marking items off his apocalypse bucket list (a.k.a. apocalyst).  Evie is an incredibly awkward, yet adorable, young woman who is stuck in a bit of a rut and is very much a planner and a worrier.  When the two meet, sparks fly, and the adventure begins.

That sounds ridiculous.  But it's not.  And yes, it inspired me to put together my own apocalyst.

* A quick note on Emily and any potential apocalypses.  I give myself five minutes of life.  I have a tendency to trip and fall which makes survival in just about any scenario unlikely.  Zombies?  I'm easy lunch.  Natural disaster?  If there is something I can fall into or get knocked over by, it's going to happen.  Robots?  I'm totally getting picked up and put in a cage.  I suppose there is always the plague.  But then again, I'm not sure I could survive out in the wild away from humankind, so when it comes to the plague, we'll give it forty-five minutes.

Without further ado, here is part of my apocalyst.  I had planned to share 10 items and then I just kept going.  I spared you by stopping at 25.  You're welcome.  ((You should make one for yourself, and then, if you're that kind of person, you can take GREAT joy in marking lines through items one by one as you're out in the world being your most awesome self.)

1) Visit every continent
2) Call in to a late night talk radio show
3) Attend the UFO Festival in Roswell, New Mexico
4) Play tambourine on stage at a concert
5) Learn how to waltz
6) Submit a manuscript I've written to a publisher
7) See the Northern Lights
8) Have a bonfire on a beach
9) Take a road trip without a planned destination
10) Hold a baby goat
11) Ride an elephant
12) Swing on a trapeze
13) Kick a field goal
14) White water raft in the Grand Canyon
15) Participate in a silent disco
16) Ride a zamboni
17) Hike to Machu Pichu
18) Foster a child
19) Go up in a hot air balloon
20) Stargaze where there is little to no light pollution
21) Take a cooking class
22) Jump off a cliff
23) Milk a cow
24) Be a game show contestant
25) Pay for a stranger's meal at a restaurant

Who's up for an adventure?  (Or has a baby goat I can hold, cause, if I'm being honest, that's really #1 on my list.  LIGHTBULB! How cool would it be to hold a baby goat while riding on an elephant?  That's the stuff of dreams.)

And here's another picture of the pretty guy.  Again - you're welcome.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Top 10 Books On My Spring TBR List

Top Ten Books On My Spring TBR List

I've come to terms with the fact that chances are slim when it comes to me actually making my way through this list.  There will always be that shiny book that distracts me or a random comment made by a random person that a book is good and should be read.  My reading habits also hinge on what books I can get my hand (ear?) on as an audiobook through Overdrive, so we'll see.  It could happen that this is the list I finally finish.  The 10 books I make a priority and actually read.  Or not.  But if not, there will be 10 other books I make it through so that's something I suppose.

What's on your list?

Saga, Vol. 7
1) Saga Vol 7 by Brian K. Vaughan

The Shadow Land
2) The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova

Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer, #1)
3) Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Just One Damned Thing After Another (The Chronicles of St Mary's, #1)
4) Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor

Norse Mythology
5) Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Defy the Stars
6) Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray

The Last of August (Charlotte Holmes #2)
7) The Last of August by Brittany Cavallaro

South Pole Station: A Novel
8) South Pole Station: A Novel by Ashley Shelby

Unwind (Unwind, #1)
9) Unwind (series) by Neal Shusterman

The Valiant (The Valiant, #1)
10) The Valiant by Lesley Livingston

Monday, March 13, 2017

Anna and the Swallow Man

Anna and the Swallow ManAuthor: Gavriel Savit
Info: Knopf, copyright 2016, 240 pages

Kraków, 1939. A million marching soldiers and a thousand barking dogs. This is no place to grow up. Anna Łania is just seven years old when the Germans take her father, a linguistics professor, during their purge of intellectuals in Poland. She’s alone.

And then Anna meets the Swallow Man. He is a mystery, strange and tall, a skilled deceiver with more than a little magic up his sleeve. And when the soldiers in the streets look at him, they see what he wants them to see.

The Swallow Man is not Anna’s father—she knows that very well—but she also knows that, like her father, he’s in danger of being taken, and like her father, he has a gift for languages: Polish, Russian, German, Yiddish, even Bird. When he summons a bright, beautiful swallow down to his hand to stop her from crying, Anna is entranced. She follows him into the wilderness.

Over the course of their travels together, Anna and the Swallow Man will dodge bombs, tame soldiers, and even, despite their better judgment, make a friend. But in a world gone mad, everything can prove dangerous. Even the Swallow Man.

~Goodreads Description

It's always interesting to me when I feel the need to google a book as soon as I've finished it.  I'm never quite sure if that compulsion is coming from a place of inspiration and hunger to know more or frustration and confusion because I didn't really understand what I was reading.  Often times all of those feelings are rolled into conflicting thoughts and opinions in my head.

This time I'm pretty sure it was coming from the latter.

Preface:  I'm not a "deep" reader.  I never enjoyed conversations about symbolism in English class. This isn't to say that I can't participate in those types of discussions, but I find my comfort zone is on the surface of the book.  Tell me a story, and if you're telling it right, I'll get everything you're trying to say.  At the end of Anna and the Swallow Man, I couldn't say that.  Instead I found myself saying "Gavriel Savit, I know you're trying to tell me something - and something tells me it's something profound and thoughtful - but I'm just not getting it."

Hence the googling, where I thankfully found this very interesting article by Elizabeth Wein and the muddy got cleared up a bit in a discussion on allegory and metaphor.

Anna is a young girl living in Krakow who finds herself orphaned after her father is arrested and sent to a concentration camp.  In her wanderings around the city unsure what to do, she meets a man that she refers to as the Swallow Man.  Together they flee the city and survive in the wilderness away from the "wolves".  Isolated and lonely, Anna discovers that the world is a dangerous place but there is always hope.

Another preface - in all fairness I picked up this book without knowing much about it other than the audiobook version had been selected for the 2017 Odyssey Award.

It has been a few weeks since I've finished, but I'm still having a difficult time deciding whether or not I liked the book.  It's shelved in teens, but I can't help feeling like this would be a very hard sell, even to my readers who really enjoy historical fiction set in WWII. The truth is, there wasn't a whole lot of plot (which maybe goes hand in hand with the allegorical set up).  Sometimes that not a bad thing, but when the development lingers just on the edge of actually getting to really know any of the characters, the lack of plot leaves you wanting more.

On the other hand, I found myself drawn to Anna and her struggles.  Despite the horrors she has seen and the heartbreak she has endured, she's willing and able to open her heart to others.  As for the Swallow Man - well, I suppose he'll just have to remain mysterious to me.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Library GrabBag: #GPLtalk Episode 11 : Reading Revolution

Been in a bit of a blogging funk lately.  There just doesn't seem to be enough time to sit down and write.  I wanted to try to sneak in at least one post this week, so I'm going with our latest podcast on the Reading Revolution.

What is the Reading Revolution you ask?

Well, I shall tell you.

The Reading Revolution is my library's newest strategic initiative to make reading, books, and literacy a priority and topic of conversation throughout our whole community.  For the last several years we've been trying to tell people that we are more than just a building of books.  And while that remains true, we've decided to return to the foundation of our mission and tackle literacy in a big way.

And we're talking all about it on the podcast so I'll leave it there :) You can also read more on

Friday, March 3, 2017

Library GrabBag: May Teen Programming Inspiration

Spring is in the air!'s Indiana so spring is in the air on Mondays and Thursdays with 70 degree weather and the rest of the week is a wintery mess.  But at this very moment the sun is shining, and I'm determined to pretend that warmer weather (that wants to stick around) is just around the corner.

And in case you've got your calendar out and you're trying to prep programming for the upcoming months, it's time for another teen calendar!  Here's a link to DEMCO's Ideas and Inspiration blog stocked full of ideas :) (

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Library GrabBag: #GPLtalk Episode 10 : 100 Years, 100 Books

We sat down with Miss Katherine from the Children's Department for Episode 10 to discuss GPL's "100 Years, 100 Books" lists - curated collections of titles that come highly recommended by each department at the library.  Love having special guests on the show and her regaling us about the friendly banter and feisty discussion that occurred to get their list to JUST 100 :)

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