A Very Special Teen Spa Party…in the Library!

Spa parties are one of the things that are almost universally loved. They are a great way to relax and socialize at the same time. With my local teens just finishing some grueling final exams and Valentine’s Day around the corner, I decided to have a unique version of a teen spa party as my February pop-up program.

Thus, Teen Spa-Tacular was born!


Instead of a general spa party where we did some basic stretching and tried out various products, I wanted my teens to take ownership of their products. We made our own sugar scrub and bath bombs! It was amazingly easy and very cheap. I even created a Pinterest board with all the recipes we used and several that we didn’t have the opportunity to try (check it out here). All my teens were encouraged to mix and match the sugar, oil, and scents for their sugar scrubs–along with trying out different scents and color combinations for a unique bath bomb. The coffee sugar scrub was the clear favorite though.



I used the sugar scrub jars as a branding opportunity so that the teens would remember where they made the scrub and that the library could be awesome! Then, to keep the bath bombs as simple and cheap as possible, I used plastic Easter eggs rather than buying bath bomb molds. Since the bombs needed to dry for 12-24 hours, the teens simply took home the egg to open when they were ready.

Once we were through making all our amazing spa products, we went through some simple stretches and my favorite guided meditation for relaxation. Having trouble sleeping since I was in middle school actually led to something good that I was able to share!


After we were relaxed and calm, it was time for the manicures. This was the perfect place for some library material placement. While I love book promotion as much as any other librarian, I definitely don’t believe in shoving it in every single program–especially for teen programs and especially when not every program needs book integration. However, manicures and a bucket of various nail polish colors (courtesy of one of my besties) meant that I could pull out all of our nail design books! ALL of the books I put out were used to at least find ideas and a select few were popular for figuring out techniques.


To make things even more cool, I encouraged the teens to make “book manicures.” These are essentially manicures made to match select books (whether in book themes, characters, or even simply matching the color and design of the cover). I got the idea from Nite Lite Book Reviews and her Manicure Mondays. Take a look at her amazing work for more ideas here!

zodiac book manicure

Overall, it was a great and fun-filled evening with 7 stunning teens. While you might expect all girls, you would be wrong! There was one boy–a regular of mine who just celebrated his 13th birthday and is obsessed with bath bombs. Keeping the raw materials to a minimum was mostly a money saving measure, but it actually helped the program itself by turning the creation of spa products and manicures into a communal activity. Everyone was sharing materials and helping paint their elusive dominant hand.

However, my favorite part of the evening was with a grade 10 girl who had never been to one of my programs before Spa-Tacular. Before leaving she came up to be and said, “I thought I would regret coming to this, but I regret NOTHING!”

Definitely a great warm and fuzzy moment, and I can’t wait to do this program again. I’ve even had many adults begging me to set one up for them too!

Undead Book Picks

Let me first say that the Midseason Premiere of The Walking Dead Season 6 was AMAZING!

All the haters for that episode need to just move along because it was the perfect mix of comic book storytelling and an uplifting turn on the well-deserved show descriptor “misery porn.”

With that being said, my zombie obsession is therefore still alive and well. Since Valentine’s Day is for zombies this year, I wanted to make a list of some of my YA zombie book picks:


The Unconventional Zombie Tale — Undead by Kirsty McKay


This story focuses on new girl Bobby and the local high school bad boy Smitty. They are the only two to stay behind on the bus while an entire class field trip is converted into ravenous undead. With a female lead who rises spectacularly to the hardcore occasion, this zombie novel is rather different than most of them which focus on a guy lead. Also, many of the traditional zombie flick tropes are actually parodied in the story. This book is definitely the choice for those who want something a little different.


The Classic — Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry

rot and ruin

Considered to now be one of the tried and true classics of the YA zombie genre. It is a zombie story with a post-apocalyptic twist. The main character is 15-year-old Benny who becomes a zombie hunter to help defend his city from the undead. The only problem is that there is a conspiracy afoot and the zombie horde might not be what they seem.


The Survival Story — Sick by Tom Leveen


This book is somewhat of a “locked room” scenario coupled with zombie survival. Almost all the students and teachers at a high school are turned into bloodthirsty attackers. Brian and his best friend manage to find a safe place to stay with a bunch of theater kids, but they must get to Brian’s sister and his ex-girlfriend before they are torn to shreds. Even though the theater kids and Brian never mixed before this day, they band together to make it through the school and get the girls.


Hope you enjoy these zombie picks as much as I did!



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!