Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Book Club - Bunnicula

Just in time for Halloween, on October 23rd, my 1st through 3rd grade book club read and discussed Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe. This was a quite popular book and many children took home the next few in the series. This was also our first book club since the furlough closed the library on three months of Saturdays so I was thrilled to see that we hadn't lost any people numberwise. (We had some new kids, some kids didn't returned, but by the numbers it all evened out.) I've done this book club two years ago, in Kansas City. Here is a conglomeration of everything we did both years. Once again the questions are a mixture of things you would know if you read the book, and things anyone could answer.

Book: Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe

Introduce Yourself
Name, age, and do you have any pets?

Discussion Questions
  1. How did they choose names for Chester? (Chesterton the author) Bunnicula (Like Dracula, the movie at which he was found)
  2. Do you know how your parents chose your name? (If not, and most of my kids did know, then this is a good question to ask your parents.)
  3. Have you ever read to your pet like Toby reads to Harold?
  4. Did you think this book was scary? Why or why not?
    What is the scariest book you've read? Movie you've seen?
  5. What is Harold's favorite people food? (Cupcakes, chocolate cake)
    Does your pet have a favorite people food?
    Are all people foods safe for pets? Is chocolate safe for dogs? How can you know what is safe?
  6. What is Harold's bad behavior? (chewing shoes)
    Do your pets have any bad behavior?
  7. Garlic scares away vampires. What is your least favorite smell?
  8. List some weird things about Bunnicula and Chester in the book. We used a big sheet of paper to do this together.
  9. What is the weirdest thing your pet has ever done? Also on a big sheet of paper.
  10. Who in your life is most likely a vampire secretly?
  11. What about some other secret creature/mythical creature? (ie fairy, bigfoot...)
  12. If you were secretly a monster or mythical creature, what would you be?
  13. What would you do if you thought one of your pets was a vampire?

Fact or Fiction Game - Vote with your feet
We're in a room with large stairs (it's a theater, they're for sitting upon) and so we stand on the middle step and jump forward to the lower step for "real" and backward to the higher step for "not real". You can also do this by having kids start in the middle and run to one wall or the other. They love this game, and emphasize that this is just what you THINK not a right or wrong choice. So vote with your feet if you think these are real/not real:

  • UFOs
  • Aliens
  • Loch Ness Monster
  • Yeti - the abominable snowman
  • Mermaids
  • Vampires
  • Fairies
  • Unicorns
  • Phoenix

The Nose Knows
Harold is quite proud of his nose. I put a number of strong scented things in brown paper bags and then we guessed which was which. You could have students write them down, but for simplicity sake we all took a turn smelling and then guessed all together verbally. The objects I used included: coffee, orange, lemon, oregano, chili powder, cinnamon sticks, chocolate chip cookies, a wet wipe (for that nice disinfectant smell), and garlic.

Pet Picture Frames
We used blank mats and ribbons, markers, and stamps to make frames for our pet photos.

Nightime scenes
Use black paper and light colored paints to make a nighttime scene from Bunnicula

Obviously veggies. Just carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, and ranch dressing work great. Or you could give everyone a glass of veggie juice. (One child had hoped they would get chocolate cupcakes with creme in the middle like Harold likes, but no going.)

And book club is most a success if they leave inspired to read more books. I recommend:
Bailey School Kids series by Debbie Dadey (mythical creatures abound!)
Hank the Cowdog series by John Erickson (a dog solves mysteries)
and of course the many other books featuring Bunnicula and his friends by Deborah and James Howe.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Pre-Marketing is Confusing

There is a certain segment of the population that finds pre-marketing confusing, and this segment is larger than you would expect. Thus when they see an advertisment for a book, they immediately come to the library and ask for a copy. Now as soon as a book is put on order by the library, we can place a request or "hold" for you on that book. So that when we get the book, you'll already be on the list. This doesn't mean we have the book yet. And thus the confusion begins.

Of course you heard that Sarah Palin's book is coming out. Naturally we're already getting requests; they started the day after the announcement. So the conversation goes something like this:

Confused Patron: I'd like Sarah Palin's book please.
Patient Librarian: That won't be out for six weeks, can I place a request for you?
CP: But they were talking about it on the news.
PL: That is because it was just announced, but it won't be available for another six weeks.
CP: But they were showing it on the news.
PL: The cover art has been released so they can show the cover, but it is not available yet. Can I place a hold for you?
CP: But I saw it in Barnes and Noble!
PL: I believe you saw a poster advertising pre-ordering the book as it won't be available until Nov X. (at this point I'm usually pointing to the bolded release date on the amazon.com screen) Can I place a hold for you on the book for when it does come out?
CP: And how long will that take before I get the book?

And on we go. I have this conversation dozens of time whenever a new hot book is released, or getting ready to be released for either kids or adults. Recently (and by recently I mean for the last four months), I've been having this conversation with children about Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days by Jeff Kinney, the fourth book in a very popular series which I promise is not going to be released until October 12th. No your friend didn't have it, they had an ad for it in the back of the last book, no you didn't see it in Barnes and Noble, you saw a poster, yes I'm sure, no I'm not trying to keep you from getting the book.

I feel sorry for these people. Do they go to the movie theater and demand to see a movie right now that won't be released for weeks? (But I saw it on TV! But they showed it on Letterman!) It seems like a tough way to go through life if you don't understand pre-marketing.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Extremely Exciting News!

I have been selected as a participant in the American Library Association Class Emerging Leaders Class of 2010. This is a great honor and a fantastic opportunity to learn about my profession, and meet some of the best young librarians out there. I'm literally walking on water. It all kicks off in January at the ALA Midwinter Conference in Boston. No complaints about Boston in January. I'm an Alaskan girl now, I'll be brining the bikini.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Picture Book Picks for October

Every month, I've been recommending new and fantastic picture books for our bookletters service. We're looking at migrating over that service to a blog format and this is a trial run. So here are some fantastic picture books for October. Some are pure Halloween fun, but others feature ghouls, ghosts, monsters, and witches dealing with life on every other day of the year. But all of them are new, shiny, and fantastic. Enjoy!

How to Potty Train Your Monster by Kelly DiPucchio; illustrated by Mike Moon
Congratulations! Your monster is growing up, and up, and UP!
Now it's time to potty train him!
Potty training is not always the easiest task to navigate-especially for growing monsters. Thankfully, with the help of this easy-to-use guide, young ones can be sure not to forget any steps in the process. With hilarious text and playful, energetic illustrations this potty training guide is a must-have for little kids and little monsters everywhere.
Check the Library Catalog for this item!

Boo to You! by Lois Ehlert
The harvest garden is bursting with delicious vegetables, the pumpkins are decorated and lit, and the mice have their costumes ready. Everyone is looking forward to the annual Halloween-night feast. Scary Cat wasn't invited to the party, but he seems to think he's coming anyway. Hmmm, time to come up with a clever mouse-style trick to outsmart him! Done in Ehlert's beautiful and signature collage style, these mice might inspire your own little artists.
Check the Library Catalog for this item!

There Was An Old Monster! by Rebecca, Adrian, and Ed Emberley
In this variation on the traditional cumulative rhyme, a monster swallows ants, a lizard, a bat, and other creatures to try to cure a stomach ache than began when he swallowed a tick. He swallows progressively bigger animals until he tries to swallow a lion... Children will laugh, dance, and sing along with this delightful book.
Check the Library Catalog for this item!

Bone Soup by Cabria Evans
Retells the classic tale about a traveller, a ghost, who tricks a town's witches, ghouls, and zombies into helping him make soup, fulfilling his voracious appetite, and beginning a Halloween festival.
Check the Library Catalog for this item!

Boo, Bunny! by Kathryn O. Galbraith
Halloween can be especially spooky for a shy bunny. But when that shy bunny bumps into another shy bunny, friendship scares away fear. Once they join forces, not even the darkest night can stop them two brave bunnies from having the best Halloween ever. Full of sounds, spookiness, and sweetness, this dynamic picture book celebrates the best part of Halloween: friends!
Check the Library Catalog for this item!

Monsters Don't Eat Broccli by Barbara Jean Hicks
What do monsters eat? In this rollicking picture book written by Barbara Jean Hicks and illustrated by Sue Hendra, monsters insist they don’t like broccoli. They’d rather snack on tractors or a rocket ship or two, or tender trailer tidbits, or a wheely, steely stew. But boy do those trees they’re munching on look an awful lot like broccoli. Maybe vegetables aren’t so bad after all! This hilarious book will have youngsters laughing out loud and craving healthy monster snacks of their own.
Check the Library Catalog for this item!

Ghosts in the House! by Kazuno Kohara
Just the right mix of sweet and scary for the youngest trick-or treaters. At the edge of town lives a clever girl with a spooky problem: Her house is haunted! Luckily, she happens to be a witch and knows a little something about taking care of ghosts. She catches them, puts them in the washing machine, airs them out to dry, and gives them new lives as sofa covers, table cloths, and, of course, bed sheets to cozy up under. Fresh and charming illustrations in dynamic orange, black and white bring this resourceful heroine and these spooky ghosts to life.
Check the Library Catalog for this item!

I Need My Monster by Amanda Noll
A unique monster-under-the-bed story with the perfect balance of giggles and shivers, this picture book relies on the power of humor over fear, appeals to a child’s love for creatures both alarming and absurd, and glorifies the scope of a child’s imagination. One night, when Ethan checks under his bed for his monster, Gabe, he finds a note from him instead: "Gone fishing. Back in a week." Ethan knows that without Gabe’s familiar nightly scares he doesn't stand a chance of getting to sleep, so Ethan interviews potential substitutes to see if they've got the right equipment for the job—pointy teeth, sharp claws, and a long tail—but none of them proves scary enough for Ethan. When Gabe returns sooner than expected from his fishing trip, Ethan is thrilled. It turns out that Gabe didn't enjoy fishing because the fish scared too easily.
Check the Library Catalog for this item!

Do Not Build a Frankenstein! by Neil Numberman
A Frankenstein is big.
He could push you really high on the swing. He'd never get tired of giving you rides on his shoulder.
A Frankenstein would be the perfect new best friend.
Maybe you could build one. . . .
Whatever you do, Do Not Build a Frankenstein!
Check the Library Catalog for this item!

Monster Baby by Dian Regan
Mrs. Oliver's dreams have come true when her husband finds a tiny baby on the doorstep of their farmhouse. He looks like any other newborn—well, except for the fur, the tail, the pointy teeth, and the horns. But to Mrs. Oliver, he is beautiful. Olly begins to grow at an alarming rate, and in just three days he's big enough for kindergarten. He makes friends with the children at school, but his size keeps getting him in trouble . . . until he realizes all the things it allows him to do. After graduating from college two weeks after coming to live with the Olivers, Olly is adopted by his new parents. Even better, someone new—and equally unusual—moves into the farm down the road.
Check the Library Catalog for this item!

BONUS PICK: Graphic Novel
Magic Trixie by Jill Thompson

For slightly more mature and adventuresome readers, try this new graphic novel series. Magic Trixie is an adorable witch who attends a magic school with her best friends (werewolves, vampires, mummies and more) all the while dealing with not-so-magical problems, such as a baby sister who seems to get far more attention than she does and finding the perfect trick for show or tell. Kids will laugh and relate to Trixie in all three volumes of this fantasitc new series.
Check the Library Catalog for this item!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Book Club - The Littles

The next installment on my series of book clubs for first through third graders features the classic book, The Littles by John Peterson. Because of book availability we read either The Littles or The Littles to the Rescue. This was the best attended book club we have had, and the most popular book. I remember loving these books as a kid, and they're still popular. After book club, every copy we had of any Littles book was checked out and I could have checked out three times as many. I actually did this back in November of last year, so that is how far behind I am on this blog. Here's what we did for our book club.

Book: The Littles; The Littles to the Rescue by John Peterson

Introduce Yourself
What is your name, age, and which Littles book did you read? (I was surprised by how many children read multiple of the books.)

Discussion Questions
  1. What was your favorite part of the book? Why?
  2. Which is your favorite character? Why?
  3. What Little family member are you the most like? How?
  4. Do you think there are tiny people living in your house? Why or why not? (at this point we stacked up the evidences on pro/con lists as part of our critical thinking skills)
  5. Why do you think the Littles only take what the Biggs are done with? Is this like recycling? Bonus How can we recycle and reuse things at home?
  6. Why do you think the Biggs have never noticed the Littles?
  7. If you were a teeny little person, what would you "borrow" from your big house?
    What would you use for a bed? Blankets? Dishes? Tables?
  8. Can you imagine how the Littles would use other things beside the telephone to communicate? (example a computer)
  9. Lucy and Tom Little don't go to school. How do you think they learn?
  10. Are the Littles brave? When were they brave?
  11. What would be harder if you were noly five inches tall? What would be easier?

Postage Stamp Art
The Littles use postage stamps as art. I went to the post office to buy post stamps that looked cool and didn't have a lot of choices. I remember there being tons of choices as a kid. Fortunately I had an envelope at home of "pretty" stamps that are all the wrong denomination. I recommend asking your staff/family/friends for donations of "old" stamps (not valuable obviously) for this. We "mounted" the stamps on colored cardstock and made "frames" by gluing on colored toothpicks. I, naturally, had cut the colored toothpicks in half the day before. I also had blank spine labels and allowed them to draw their own miniature paintings.

Little Books
We used small strips of paper folded accordian styles and stapled between cardstock to create books. I had printed book covers in teeny miniature versions. Or they could draw their own cover on blank cardstock. Very fun and popular.

Food or Snack
I used the recipes on the fantastic Hamster Tracker in their Cooking for Lucy section. I made and brought in a few examples (the little burgers and little pizza) and sent home instructions on the "take home fun and activities" sheet. I used a picture from the site, and received permission from the site's author who was quite kind about it. I encouraged the kids to make their own at home since we don't do food here at the library. But it would be a fun group activity if the cutting was done ahead of time by an adult (naturally).

Take Home
I sent home a "Take Home Fun and Activities" sheet. It included the "micro-burgers" recipe and picture, a list of The Littles books, and instructions to decorate a "Little" house.

To Decorate a "Tinies" House
Start with a shoe box and set it up as an extra room for any visiting Tinies. An old sock (especially a child's sock) can be a sleeping bag. What other furniture can you find? Old water bottle caps make wonderful bowls. Hang up the art you made in book club. Make a tinfoil mirror. Use your imagination and have fun! (Remember to ask an adult before you "borrow" anything.)

Other Books
And of course I would be no kind of librarian if I didn't do a "if you liked The Littles, you should try..." segment. Here's my recommendations:
The Littles (series) by John Peterson (there are seven or so in the series)
Andrew Lost (series) by J. C. Greenburg
The Borrowers (series) by Mary Norton (for slightly more advanced readers)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Review of Lunch Lady

I update so rarely, that I pretty much only assume people are reading this blog if they stumbled upon it on a google search. Since I often do searches on "activity/activities" and the book title before book club, someone else must be doing them too. I have a goal of updating at least once a week until I have the chance to get through my backlog of notes on book clubs. Today I will not be talking about kids' book club though.

Recently (at the beginning of this year, so 10 months ago) I became the buyer for our library for children's graphic novels (well all of 700s but mainly graphic novels). I've always enjoyed them, but now I'm trying to be educated about it. Our collection of graphic novels was almost non-existent beyond Tin-Tin and Garfield, so I've been building up from scratch. I've been buying at a large pace for 10 months and the shelves are still bare. I take that as a success. If all my graphic novels were in, they wouldn't fit on the shelves currently allotted to them. They're always all checked out. It's also usually one of the messier (more heavily browsed) sections and they end up on the reshelve cart with great frequency. So as much as I buy and add, I haven't yet hit saturation, heavens I'm not keeping up with demand. But it's a fun challenge. And so today I review one of our newest acquisitions.

Lunch Lady and the League of Librarians by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Knopf, 2009, available in a library binding

Lunch Lady Website

I of course must begin this review by saying that I am morally obligated to despise anything that portrays librarians as less than the beacons of hope and pillars of society that we are. Got that? Great, moving on.

I was thrilled to get this book because I love Jarrett Krosoczka, especially Punk Farm. Many is the time I've lost my voice after a particularly energetic storytime performance with those guys.

Starting with the cover, and to be honest that is where my library kids start, and all is good. I hate comparisons, but they're useful, so here goes. Lunch Lady is similar in size and look to Babymouse. Except where Babymouse only uses (shades of) three colors (black, white and pink), Lunch Lady only uses (shades of) three colors (black, white, and yellow).

Inside artwork: it is still only those three colors, but you won't miss the rest of the palette. The resulting artwork is deceptively simple and striking. This book has a lot of shelf appeal, especially to both genders. (I have yet to convince a single boy to check out Babymouse.) There are a mix of sizes and styles of panels, from traditional (aka newspaper style) small square panels to double page spreads. The variety keeps it entertaining and allow for more flexibility in the storytelling which Krosoczka uses admirably.

Plot and writing: I started with the second one since for reasons known only to our distributor it arrived before the first volume despite being ordered at the same time. It worked just fine to read out of order which is always a huge plus in the library world, where we often hope to convince kids to take what is available no matter which volume it is. For the plot, once again we have evil librarians. They've taken all their fundraising money, stolen fundraising money from the cheerleaders (this librarian thinks our severely underfunded, having to take mandatory furlough, closed three days a week libraries could use the extra cash and doesn't see what is so evil about that) and are plotting world domination (a world run by librarians might work better, perhaps we should give it a try, still not evil). They've used the purloined fundraising money to buy deadly weapons (okay probably evil) and are setting out to sabotage the latest video game system so kids will read. And what is super cool (and not at all evil) is that their weapons are books that release "Book Beasts" such as the lion from the Chronicles of Narnia.

I'll end the plot description at the risk of being too spoilery. Let's just say I have ambiguous feelings about the end, but I know the kids will love it. The writing doesn't feel that he stretched for too epic, or kept it too simple, but just right. There is a lot of action, massive fight scenes, and plenty of humor. While most kids will like the action, I appreciated (and I know many kids who will as well) the small, almost throwaway, bits of referential humor.

Cross Appeal/ Age Appeal: This will appeal to readers of Babymouse, Sardine in Outer Space, etc. Primarily ages 5 to 10 depending on reading level. I think it will appeal to a wide range as it is neither too hard for the younger guys nor too babyish for the older ones. I can tell you that all of the library's copies were checked out within hours of hitting the shelves.

Overall Conclusion: This book gets an A. (It only didn't get an A+ because librarians aren't really evil.) If you're a librarian with a graphic novel collection, buy the two that are already out. Go ahead and order the next two he's announced. (I have.) If you're looking for a gift for a reluctant reader, try this.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Book Club - Chalk Box Kid

Unfortunately due to budget cuts, the most recent Little Dippers Book Club is the last one until October. Learn more here I think many of my regulars were out of town and/or thought we were already on break because I had a much smaller group, and no repeats, only new kids. Here's the outline.

Book: The Chalk Box Kid by Clyde Robert Bulla

Introduce Yourself
Tell us your name, age, and favorite way to make art.
At this age everyone still likes art, and no one has yet been convinced that since they're not "good" at art they don't like it. Only as we get older are we convinced that if we have no talent at something we must not enjoy it. I'm not that talented, but I love to create, craft, etc. I should also point out that I always give my name and age.

Discussion Questions:
A note on using the questions. I start broad and give them hints and ask more leading questions if I'm getting blank stares. I also tend to break up the discussion time. A few minutes of discussion and then an activity and then more discussion or discussion during activities. Kids do well with discussion while their hands are occupied.
  1. Why do you think Uncle Max covered up Gregory's pictures? Was he trying to hurt his feelings or just didn't think about it?
  2. What did Gregory mean when he said it wasn't his room anymore, it was Max's?
  3. Why do you think Vance didn't like Gregory?
  4. Was Gregory bragging when he said his old school was bigger?
  5. Gregory erased his little pictures of things like alligators to make one big (cohesive) picture of a garden. If you had a whole building to draw on would you make many small pictures or one big picture? Why?
  6. Do you think Greogry thought his pictures were better than Ivy's? Why or why not?
  7. Why did Ivy want to give Gregory her prize?
  8. Why did Ivy bring her brother to see Gregory's garden?
  9. Why did Greogry's mom and dad wait to see what he was doing in the old building until after his teachers came?
  10. Should you play in an abandoned building by yourself? Use a ladder without asking an adult? (I'm a librarian and always have to add in the little safety message.)
I know there are more questions that we talked about, I just can't recall them. I will add if they come to me, a lot of extra questions flow naturally out of the discussion and don't get recorded in my notes.

General Discussion Subject
We talked about bullying (because of Vance) and general ways to recognize bullies, how to deal with bullying. How to stop bullying, if bullying is happening to you, if it is happening to another kid, etc. And how bullies can still be nice if they are made to understand that their behavior is unacceptable by both their peers and authority figures (and I do believe this is true in the first through third grade level).

Chalk Drawings - Individual
Of course you have to draw with chalk. I pulled tons of gardening books, the children leafed through them for inspiration and then created take home drawings on the larger size of black construction paper.

Communal Chalk Garden
We pulled a big piece of dark colored butcher paper and created a chalk garden as a group. It had the lettuce from the book and other fantastic ideas from the gardening books. I hung it up on our bulletin board along with a sign explaining about book club. Easy advertising and an easy bulletin board. Win/Win! I'll show pictures if I ever get another camera.

Raddish Seeds
We ran out of time and didn't do this, but it is so easy it hardly needs mentioning. Plant raddish seeds (hard to kill, quick growing) in a cup with some potting soil. Send home. Bonus fun: decorate the paper cup first.

Grass Head
Just like the raddish seeds, but a slight variation. Draw on a paper cup (or on a label that you stick on a plastic cup, slightly easier for younger hands) a face. Fill cup with dirt and grass seeds. The grass grows as "hair" for the face you drew.

And that was our book club for first through third graders on The Chalk Box Kid. We again played the "vote with your feet" game mentioned previously and there were more discussion questions than listed here. Overall very successful and I will miss book club for the next few months.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Book Club - Geronimo Stilton

I haven't posted since I took my new job up in Alaska. Being a librarian in Anchorage, Alaska is not too fundamentally different than being a librarian in Kansas City, Missouri. I get asked about Battle of the Book books instead of Mark Twain books, and I am learning about Alaska history instead of famous Missourians, but a lot of the same issues. I began the job in Feburary of 2008 and in September began a book club for first through third graders which was one of my favorite aspects of my job in Kansas City. Because the big dipper sign + northern star is so prominent in Alaska (appearing all over the place, most notably ont eh Alaskan state flag), I decided to name our book club Little Dippers Book Club. Hopefully in a couple of years we can grow the group to include third through fifth/sixth grade readers in a Big Dippers Book Club and perhaps even a sixth through eighth grade book club called Northern Lights Book Club. I get requests for the next age up all the time. But for now Little Dippers is a success. Our first meeting had only 4 participants and our last meeting had 17 participants (which is awfully close to my panic/full number of 20). I've made a few changes to the program. Instead of meeting twice a month on Tuesday afternoons, we meet once a month on Saturday mornings. It is 45 minutes instead of an hour (a much better and more managable amount of time). And no snack (though that more has to do with our food policy, and helps account for the change in time as well since when there was a snack it always took the last 45 minutes). I'm going to try to work backwards and talk about the various books we've used as well as other great programs held here at the Anchorage Public Library.

Book: The Lost Treasure of the Emerald Eye by Geronimo Stilton

Introduce Yourself: As always we start with introductions, including me. I also use nametags. Tell me your name, age, and what do you plan to do this summer.

Discussion Questions:
  1. Who is more adventorous: Geronimo or Thea?
  2. How are they alike? How are they different?*
  3. Why do you think they are so different even if they are siblings?
  4. How are you different from your siblings?
  5. Geronimo, Benjamin, Thea, and Trap are all different? Is it better to have people who are different or people who are similar on a team? Why?
  6. Do you think those four make a good team? Why or why not?
  7. What qualities do they each bring to the team?
  8. Why do you think they elected Thea leader?
  9. Why do you think Thea didn't vote for herself for leader?
  10. Was she a good leader? Why or why not?**
  11. What was the emerald eye treasure?
  12. Is that a good treasure? Or would you rather have treasure you could spend (like Trap)?
  13. How do we protect such treasures (nature)?

Discussion Extention Activities:
*From the list of alike and different characteristics, have the children name them while you make a Venn diagram.
**Make a list of what makes Thea a good leader, characteristics of a good leader in general, characteristics of world leaders, etc.

I made homemade playdough in yellow for cheese sculptures. I still need to post my playdough recipe, but any salt dough recipe will work.

Other Activities:
For a variety of reasons including space and time, I did not try these activities, but thought they were worth sharing.
  • Cheese Tasting: It is not possible to have food in this library setting, but in Kansas City this would have been a go. Have a variety of cheeses, everything from cheese in a can to gourmet "stinky" cheeses and let the kids try them all.
  • Newspaper Scavenger Hunt: I got this from another librarian's blog (the marvelous Children's Programming) and sadly didn't have time to do it. But a Newspaper Scavenger Hunt would have been fantastic. Read that entire entry for many other fantastic ideas.
  • Treasure Map Search: Of course you can always hide "treasure" in the children's area, provide a map, and let them go for it. However I prefer to keep my group smaller and contained and didn't want them loose. You lose the "book club" feel, but it would be perfect for a Stilton party.
  • Origami Boats: I really wanted to make origami (or newspaper) boats, but we just didn't have time.
  • Mouse Trap: I have a copy of the old classic board game of Mouse Trap (still readily availalbe), but didn't know how to let 17 children have fun with it at once. I still think it could have been cool, I am just not sure how I could have worked it in.

Vote With Your Feet:
At APL, we're in a theater with the superwide stairs for seating. For this "game" everyone stands on the middle stair and I read a statement. If that statement is true (or you agree or the answer is the first choice) you step down one step (forwards, if it is false (or you disagree or choose the second choice in the multiple choice arena), you step backwards (up) one step. I announce the correct answer, and we all compare what we think. Especially on a "what do you think" type of question, this is a good way to get the discussion ball rolling.

Sturcture / Timeline:
Here's how we're organized. As kids come in, we sit in a circle and do introductions. Then we discuss maybe one or two discussion questions. Then there is a "vote with your feet" game and that allows us to have a few more discussions (and keeps us from getting too fidgety from sitting too long). Then we start the craft. While making the craft (once we're all started), we do more discussion. As the craft wraps up, there is more discussion. Then a discussion extention (such as the Venn Diagram), and we wrap it up by passing out the take home and reading a little bit of the first part of the next book if we have time. Basically at no point do we just sit still and talk for more than 10 minutes; I try to keep discussion blocks at 5 to 7 minutes if I can.

Take Home Activities:
There are a ton of great printables on Scholastic's Stilton website and they got a word search and maze.