Valentine’s Day Is for Zombies

If you are familiar with my blog at all, you know I have a slight obsession with the undead. Zombies just totally float my boat.

Which is why I’m so EXCITED about this February! Rather than shoving ooey gooey romance down our throats, oddballs like myself and my husband get to choose something different–zombies!

The movie adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies comes out this Friday February 5th. Then, The Walking Dead returns to AMC on Sunday February 14th. Honestly, can you think of a better way to spend Valentine’s Day than to see if that idiot kid calling for his mom gets the group ripped to shreds? I certainly can’t.


This resurgence of zombie power in February has led me to pull out the YA zombie program that I did at my primary library branch this past Halloween.

Let’s start by saying it was pretty killer–HA! Couldn’t help myself.

This particular library branch has had a great problem with getting teens to it, despite the fact that one of the local high schools is just half a mile away (barely 15 minutes walking). One of the issues is that the branch doesn’t really do teen programming–this program was in October while the only other one that year was in April. Also, the branch is very popular with seniors due to several retirement homes in the area and a seniors rec center just two doors down the street. Teens tend to consider it the “old people library.”


zombie tshirtsPicking a very high-interest program (zombies) and making it as interactive and different as possible, I created Teen Zombie Night. One really different arrangement was in the promotion itself. I was able to get a promo set-up a few days before the event at the high school library and recruited one of the students to wear a “zombie-fied” t-shirt while I wore one myself.

tzn8Talking to the teens and making the program seem like a grand endeavor really helped.
The actual night of the program as had 12 living breathing teenagers (ranging from grade 9 to grade 12, including FIVE impossible-to-get teen boys). By comparison, the last program had only 4 (only one teen boy brought by his girlfriend).


zombie maskThe set-up was relatively simple. We performed a scavenger hunt of sorts, similar to the Jurassic World Scavenger Hunt, but on a much smaller scale. Rather than a dinosaur, teens had to complete the scavenger hunt while not having their flag taken by their not-so-friendly neighborhood zombie librarian. The winning team won Tim Horton’s gift cards for each team member.


There was also an obstacle course with the person who completed everything in the fastest time got a gift card for Tim Horton’s. Several of the challenges were physical (literally jumping through hoops) while others were “survival” in nature (create then fire a pom-pom launcher at a zombie target).

Our last activity was a zombie makeup tutorial where I performed two styles of zombie makeup on two volunteers. The teens could then choose to do zombie skin or the shadowed ghoul. The zombie skin was WAY more popular with only one girl doing shadowed contours on her face to look ghoulish.


We finished with zombie food (rice treat brains, blood splatter sugar cookies, and relabeled soda like “spinal fluid” for Sprite) and watching YouTube videos about The Walking Dead.

Overall, would I do it again? In a friggin heartbeat. It was an amazing night and really helped to earn the respect of the teens–showing them that the “old people library” could offer plenty of fun programs just for them.

Jurassic World Scavenger Hunt

jurassic world scavenger poster.png

Well scavenger hunt might not be the best term, but it was the coolest and most concise.

The process to get to the end first and obtain the prize (donated Tim Horton’s gift cards) involved a combination of a scavenger hunt and a treasure hunt–with an overlay of dinosaurs obviously.

In celebration of the movie release (two days before it opened actually), I held a teen library program at our combination library facility (public library within a secondary school) that was narrative based on a Jurassic Park situation:

The Jurassic World theme park has brought a dinosaur and some of their research to the school as part of an outreach program. But the dinosaur is on the loose! You have to get together with your team to survive the dino rampage through the library and be the first to get to the designated safe room.

dino3Teens then got into groups and had to progress through a variety of challenges. The first was obtaining a tote bag to carry any items they had to collect in certain sections of the library. I was very careful to keep from too much traffic in the different challenges. This added layer was a bit more work (making sure than everyone completed all the challenges but there were no more than two groups at each station at one time), but it definitely helped since we had 19 teens participating in the program that included 18 challenges both inside and outside!


The teens also had to take on “job titles” that included dino expert, tough guy/gal, tech master, survivalist, and Jurassic Park owner. Some challenges could only be completed by the person with a specific job (i.e.-only the dino expert could pick out which dino matched the dino tracks according to the guide sheet).

A few challenges had to be completed correctly to even lead the team to the next challenge (i.e.-pick out the right type of water that is safe for drinking to be lead to the next challenge). Then, some challenges involved more complicated tasks with time bonuses for completing it better than the other teams–such as creating an SOS on the front lawn out of various materials that could be found in the library or in the school and making a camouflage shield. I also made sure that there were physical challenges since I think that many teens respond positively to something a little different than a standard sit-down program. For example, the tough guy/gal had dino1to do 10 push-ups and complete and obstacle course.

Then, to make things even more interesting (since this was supposed to take place during a real-life dino rampage of the library), each teen had to have a cloth strip hanging from a belt loop–a la flag football. When I pulled down my T-Rex mask, I was no longer a friendly librarian but a dangerous dino. If I pulled the cloth strip from one of the teens, they were “injured.” This situation left the team with a choice–they could take a 10 minute time penalty by leaving the person behind OR they could “handcuff it” by another teammate volunteering their cloth strip and then the “injured” and volunteer would be tied to each other by the wrist until the end of the game. We played by old school Jurassic Park rules though–stay still so the T-Rex can’t see you.mask

The teens LOVED this aspect of the scavenger hunt. In fact one boy loved trying to outrun me since I didn’t T-Rex myself until we were outside. He definitely succeeded though. Don’t underestimate the speed and stamina of a 16 year old! The rest simply enjoyed laughing at me and at each other. I can’t tell you how amazing it was to hear so many teens laughing their butts off at something that wasn’t a dirty joke.

While this program required more work than ANY other I had done previously (and more than any I’ve done since actually), I was SO worth it. In order to have a scavenger/treasure hunt with a variety of challenges, planning ahead is key. You should also chart out where everyone will be at each step of the game.

Three times the work = Three times the reward.

I will never forget this awesomesauce program.

And Now For Something Completely Different

and now for something

Funny Monty Python reference aside…I have decided that it is time to change things up.

My calling as a librarian is starting to take up so much of my time and my passion. While I still love YA literature very very much (finally getting around to Westerfeld’s newest called Zeroes), I think that this blog could use a shift.

Even though I’m going to continue to post about YA literature, it is time to expand my posts to talk about some of the other types of YA awesomesauce in my life–like my teen library programs. I put a great deal of work into these programs and related teen services, and I feel that they are their own form of amaze-balls.

Posting about these programs and services (along with YA lit) can help me better see outside responses for them and hopefully help teen librarians and youth advocates with their own programs too.

Hope you like the new posts!


YA Fairy Tales – Cinderella

Cicinderella - disneynderelly Cinderelly night and day it’s Cinderelly!

While I wacinderella - folklores never passionate about Cinderella like many of my little girl peers (Little Mermaid FTW!), the story is one of the most popular and one of the longest running fairy tales in the world. The tale falls under the 510B category in the Aarne-Thompson Classification System (remember from last week, this system is the way academics sort through folklore of the world). The 510B category is generally summed up as the “persecuted heroine.”

Basically, you have a girl who is under someone’s thumb as the primary story’s focal point. This framwork is actually widely popular throughout YA right now though (Katniss, Tris, etc). To draw a line between this beloved story device and actual Cinderella retellings, I focused on those books which played with the other parts of the folktale–evilcinderella - egypt/ugly stepsisters and/or stepmother, fairy godmothers/benefactors, and an attraction to a handsome young man.cinderella - india

Most of the European versions of Cinderella have these three additional characteristics along with certain African (West Africa’s Chinye and Egypt’s Rhodopis) and Asian (China’s Yeh-Shen and India’s The Enchanted Anklet) Cinderella stories.

So, without further ado…here are my selections of YA Cinderella retellings:

  • Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine – One of the award-winning retellings that makes the Cinderella heroine powerful in her own right. Rather than relying on a fairy godmother to rescue her, Ella is actually “cursed” with the gift of obedience by her godmother. Just do me a favor, if you are going to watch the movie with Anne Hathaway, judge it separately from the book. While a few things from the movie and book line up, there are not enough similarities to say the movie was derived from the Levine story. cinderella5
  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer – What if Cinderella wasn’t so old fashioned? What if she was a cyborg? Futuristic storytelling meets the fairy tale in Cinder. The fact that Cinder is a cyborg makes her a second-class citizen in her world, but her skills as a gifted mechanic help to position her in the middle of an intergalactic struggle and in the heart of Prince Kai. Definitely for those who want their Cinderella with more umph and a sci-fi twist. cinderella4
  • The Selection by Kiera Cass – Being selected as one of the 35 girls who will be given the opportunity to win the Prince’s heart begins as a nightmare for America Singer. She is forced to turn her back on everything she planned for herself. If you want your Cinderella story to be more about love growing between the heroine and her prince, this book is for you. An enjoyment of reality dating shows like The Bachelor would help too. cinderella3
  • The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back by Sariah Wilson – Did you ever think that Cinderella’s stepsisters got a raw deal? This is the book for you if you feel more attached to the poor stepsisters who were only doing as their mother told them. Artistic and quirky Mattie considers herself as the ugly stepsister when pretty and popular Ella gets the attention and even the affection of Mattie’s long-time crush. It is time for the snarky stepsister to rule. cinderella1

YA Fairy Tales – Red Riding Hood Crafts!

What would Red Riding Hood be without her cape?

Bringing this fairy tale and most of the modern YA retellings is as simple as making a red riding hood of your own.

Now, I know what you’re thinking…help! I can’t sew! You don’t have to be left out just because you can’t sew though!

(rhyme not intended)

There are two options for no-sew red cloaks:

red hood cloakred hood cloak video

If you feel up to actually sewing your own cape, here are two options for the hardcore costume makers:

red hood - sew2red hood - sew1

There you have it folks! Cool cloaked fun!

YA Fairy Tales – Little Red Riding Hood

I have been wanting to do a special on YA fairy tale re-tellings for a LONG time. There are so many amazing YA re-tellings of classic fairy tales with quite a few being published in the last 5 years.

My love of fairy tales goes back a long time (traditional children’s stories, picture books, and of course Disney). Also, in addition to being a YA lit lover and librarian…I actually hold an undergraduate degree in anthropology. WEIRD, right? Well, I like to think it’s weird in a good way and led to a lot of research into fairy tales and folklore from around the world.

We will start off this theme with the classic Little Red Riding Hood!little-red-riding-hood-jessie-willcox-smith

Cool but random fact –> Red Riding Hood falls under the 333 Aarne-Thompson Classification System (really cool way to categorize folklore from around the world). The 300-series of the Aarne-Thompson System is defined as “Supernatural Opponents.”

Versions of this tale practically blanket Europe and can be found throughout East Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

Most of the European versions involve a red cloak or tunic. The Brothers Grimm version mentions a red cap. The stories in Europe, the Middle East, and some of the Asian ones feature a wolf as the primary antagonist while Africa and the other Asian versions allow for local animals instead. Another variant is called “The Wolf and the Kids” which shows a wolf antagonist attacking baby goats (kids) who were left home alone.wolf and the kids

While most folklorists believe the story to be one of the most ancient that we still hear today, the earliest written proof is from the 11th century in a poem from Belgium. The poem talks about a girl wearing a red baptism tunic who wanders into the woods and has a run-in with a wolf.

Almost all the stories focus on the idea of “stranger danger” and an innate fear of the wild woods versus the safety of town. Then, the stories seem to split between the main character using cunning to get out of a sticky situation or being rescued.

The newer YA versions of the stories try to focus on “Red” saving herself. Here are some of the best (IMO) of Little Red Riding Hood’s (LRRH) YA re-tellings:

  • Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge – When Rachelle was fifteen she was good—apprenticed to her aunt and in training to protect her village from dark magic. But she was also reckless— straying from the forest path in search of a way to free her world from the threat of eternal darkness. After an illicit meeting goes dreadfully wrong, Rachelle is forced to make a terrible choice that binds her to the very evil she had hoped to defeat.  Good+Reckless+Girl Protagonist+Deadly Meetingcrimson bound
  • Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce – Scarlett and Rosie March are both fighters of werewolves. Scarlett is physically scarred from an attack when she placed herself between a werewolf and Rosie. While Rosie feels she owes her sister for her life, Scarlett becomes a little too fanatical about her werewolf extermination mission. Bad Wolves+Cunning Girl Protagonist+Blatant Recklessnesssisters red
  • Through the Woods by Emily Carroll – This graphic novel is a compilation of fairy tales that have gone seriously wrong. If you like horror with your fairy tales, this is the book for you. The tale that links to LRRH is at the conclusion and features a wolf appearing outside of a girl’s window in the creepiest way possible. Young Girl+Trickster Wolf+Major Creep Factorthrough-the-woods-253x300


Sources for the Little Red Riding Hood folklore factoids:

What Wide Origins You Have, Little Red Riding Hood! by Rachel Hartigan Shea from National Geographic

Could Little Red Riding Hood Reveal the History of Human Migration by Sarah Griffiths

Aarne-Thompson-Uther Classification of Folk Tales from the Multilingual Folk Tale Database

HISTORY! Sort Of… Frontier Crafts

0-545-03342-XThe book Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede is an alternative history based in the American frontier.

Think of it like Little House on the Prairie meets Harry Potter. It is actually the first book in the Frontier Magic Series which follows Eff (born a thirteenth child) and her family that lives in a frontier town. The local settlers may have chosen a poor location for their town though as it is close to the magical divide which separates humans from supernatural beasts.

There are tons of frontier crafts to make this story come alive while you read it:

  • Make your own hand dipped candles!
    • hand dipped candlesAll you need is is a tall, skinny tin can, an old saucepan (one you don’t mind getting messy because wax can be very hard to clean up), a big chunk of wax, 15-inch lengths of candle wick, and small, straight sticks about 12 inches long.