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Summer Scavenger Hunts

8 Aug
My avatar on  If I look ticked off, it's probably because a cartoon barista slipped cartoon me a cartoon decaf.

My avatar on If I look ticked off, it’s probably because a cartoon barista slipped cartoon me a cartoon decaf.

I am quite savvy to the fact that many of your Summer Reading programs across the U.S.A. are finished for 2014.  Here in NYC, we are just two ticks past the halfway point.  We’ll be in business until the end of August.

I have to say, however, that Summer Reading at my new branch has been downright….pleasant.  And manageable.  I actually took a little vacation time last month.  Gentle readers, in my 17-year career, I have NEVER taken a vacation during the months of July or August.  EVER.  Rather, my M.O. has always been to run myself ragged until September, and then after Labor Day I would say, ‘Sayonara, y’all.  See you in two weeks.’

Vacation in July.  A girl could get used to this…

I have been preparing a lot of children’s scavenger hunts this summer (I gave them a high-voltage name, The Extra-Awesome Williamsburgh Library Summer Scavenger Hunt Challenge!).  Every couple weeks, I issue a list of 10 items to track down.  Half of them are located inside the library, and the other half are either found at home or out in the neighborhood.  Working in partnership with parents and grown-ups is not only allowed, but encouraged.  Participants are instructed to return to the library with their completed lists to receive a prize (books and publishers swag that has been collecting around the branch).

What I especially enjoy about scavenger hunts– whether doing them or writing them– is that they get you to look more closely at your surroundings.  Your eyes are peeled trying to locate that yellow flower on your list, and along the way, you notice the pink flowers on the tree in the park or the Kleenex box with yellow daisies  on the top shelf of the corner bodega.  Scavenger hunts are also a dandy way to steer patrons towards what’s new and interesting in your library.

Here’s the scavenger hunt I released a couple of weeks ago.  As you can see, I the items on the list are a blend of the concrete and the open-ended.

Part One:  These items can be found inside the library or in library books located in the Children’s Room

1.  Find the library’s photocopy machine. (we got a snazzy new photocopier that week and I wanted to show it off).

This new machine does EVERYTHING.  The old one's cover was held in place by a paper clip.

This new machine does EVERYTHING. The old one’s cover was held in place by a paper clip.

2.  Find a portrait of a man with a beard

Our builder, Andrew Carnegie.

Our first benefactor, Andrew Carnegie.

3.  Count how many chairs are in the Children’s Room and write the number here   _______

Pick a book.  Any book.

Pick a book. Any book.

4.  Write down the name of any children’s book written in Spanish

Name of Book

5.  Find a book with the word Picnic in the title and write down the name of the book and the author.

_________________________        _________________________
Name of Book                                                     Author

Part Two:  These items are found in your home or out in the community (but please do not go scavenger hunting out in the neighborhood without your grown-ups!).

6.  A fire hydrant.  What street did you find it on?  _____________________________________

7.  A paperclip.  Tape it in the box.

8.  A bottle cap.  Tape it in the circle.

A couple of completed scavenger hunts brought in by kids.  I am thinking of having them tape ketchup packets to the next one.

A couple of completed scavenger hunts brought in by kids. I am thinking of having them tape ketchup packets to the next one.

9.   Listen to the wind or a breeze go through some trees.  Write down one word you think describes that sound.  ________________________________ (I got the idea for this  from this post about a sound scavenger hunt inspired by Dr. Seuss.  Some words kids wrote in to describe this sound were, ‘whooshy’, ‘ ‘soft’, and ‘peaceful’.) 

10.   Find something with a tail.  What is it?  ________________________

Everyone wrote down 'dog'.  I was hoping at least one child would come in with 'iguana'.

Everyone wrote down ‘dog’. I was hoping at least one child would come in with ‘iguana’.  Oh well.









I’ve done some library instruction types of scavenger hunts in previous years and someday soon I’ll pull them out and share them here.  If you’ve done library scavenger hunts, share your ideas in the comments.  I’m trying to stay easy, breezy, and fun with the summer scavenging.  I also wanted to tie together library space and neighborhood space in my lists. You might be interested in dipping your toe into self-directed programming at your library.  A scavenger hunt is a great way to start.  Type it up, print it out, and pass around copies liberally (or just leave a stack somewhere eye-catching in the library) .  You don’t have to hand out prizes.  Give kids who complete it a high-five if that works for you.  Happy hunting!



We Aren’t Going Anywhere Until We Look at Some Links

22 Jul
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Hullo!  I hope everyone is managing through their Summer Readings, if not with grace and aplomb, then at least by taking advantage of the Fizz! Boom! Read! theme and making things explode.  I for one have pledged to set off at least one Diet Coke and Mentos geyser at my library before Labor Day.  If you want to join me, maybe we can set a date and time and do it together.  Coke Geysers Across America! Who’s in?




I believe it’s time for a good old-fashioned link roundup.  I’ve come across some interesting and weird stuff over the past few days, and I’m going to write it up before it becomes last week’s news.  Pour yourself a glass of sweet tea, find a nice shady spot, and enjoy!

*  Public Libraries and Summer Meals Programs: I learned back in April that my branch was chosen to be a NYC Summer Meals lunch site this year.  I was very pleased.  Besides providing mid-day nutrition to neighborhood kids during the summer months, I figured it would also draw children into the library who were not otherwise using it.  We could work with them on their library cards, sign them up for Summer Reading, steer them towards programming and self-directed activities, and just demonstrate that the library is a lovely and welcoming place where they can have fun and get fed, no questions or strings attached.  If you are interested in hosting a Summer Meals program in your library (or putting together a proposal you can take your library administrators), SLJ is on it.  Check out their article, Libraries Needed to Host Summer Meals Programs.  Here’s How to Help.

*  Stand By Your Summer Reading Lists!: There are a few people who work at the Brooklyn Public Library I would readily say are ‘feisty’.  Rita Meade makes the list, and that’s a compliment.  Here’s the skinny.  Local rag The NY Post publishes an editorial, The New York Public Library’s Pathetic Summer Reading List for Kids in which the author (1) waxes nostalgic for the classics of her youth;  (2) harangues about titles that feature diverse characters; and (3) simultaneously takes the list to task for being politicized, but also fluffy and unchallenging.  Enter Rita, who in this piece on Book Riot, combs through the  editorial paragraph-by-paragraph and thoughtfully refutes this so-called pathetic-ness once and for all.

*  Speaking of BPL…: We’re hiring some children’s and YA librarians.  If you’re in town this Thursday or Saturday, stop by one of our job fairs with your resumes and smiling faces.

blastoff*  The 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing is this week.  Back in May of this year, Brain Pickings had a fascinating post about a visionary picture book published in 1973.  Called Blast Off!, it is the story of an African American girl named Regina who wants to be an astronaut.  She gets some pushback, but only from kids in her neighborhood who don’t know what astronauts are.  No one is saying Regina can’t be one because she’s a girl or she’s non-caucasian.  Blast Off! was written by two women writers, Linda C. Cain and Susan Rosenbaum, and was illustrated by a husband-and-wife pair you may be familiar with…



Moon Over StarYup, that’s Leo and Diane DillonBlast Off! is long out of print, but I can recommend an equally heartwarming title set in July, 1969 that also features an African-American girl inspired by the Moon Landing.  I’m talking about The Moon Over Star, published in 2008 and written by Dianna Hutts Aston and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney.  If you never read it, your homework this week is to pull it off the shelf and prepare to wipe away a tear (or two).

*  I like to joke (at least in my head) that when you open the Books category in Buzzfeed, the posts break down as follows: 40% are about Harry Potter, 40% are about The Fault in Our Stars, and the remaining 20% covers everything else.  I’m going to cherry-pick a few images from this HP post, 22 Harry Potter Puns that Are So Bad They’re Good.  Because they cracked me up.  And because I am 10 years old.

HP Keeper


I am seriously considering doing this to the front door of my apartment.

I am seriously considering doing this to the front door of my apartment.

Chamber Pun

Some people think I have more coffee coursing through my veins than red blood cells.

Some people think I have more coffee coursing through my veins than red blood cells.

*  I am a longtime lurker and very rare commenter on the ALA Think Tank Facebook group.  Over the weekend, an ALATT-er posted this image:

Bukowski  Now the only things I know about Charles Bukowski are he was a Beat poet, he hung out with William S. Burroughs, he drank a lot, and Mickey Rourke played him in the movie.  However, I am well-acquainted with the work of  Bob Staake, and when I noticed he had a whole site devoted to these Bad Children’s Books, I went straight to Google.  Behold the weirdness (If you click through to the site, heads up. A lot of entries are not exactly…er…sensitive).  Here’s a (tame) sampling.

Bad Books 1Bad Books 2Bad Books 3

eloise-690*  I’ve obviously entered the realm of the bizarre, offensive and unsettling here, so I’ll wrap up this post with one more link in the same vein.  I give you Eloise: an Update by Carolyn Parkhurst, found on the New Yorker online.   Our girl is now 46 years old.  She no longer resides at THE Plaza, but has moved downtown, to the Crowne Plaza hotel in Times Square.  Skipperdee apparently was not one of those long-lived turtles because Eloise now shares her suite with a dog named McConaughey and her valet/personal assistant Manny. She still revels in hotel life and, being Eloise, has loads of friends to act amiably haughty towards.

Sometimes I talk to Mark-on-the-sidewalk, who sells fraudulent merchandise to tourists
I ask, “How’s business, Mark?”
and he says, “Hey, you want some comedy-club tickets? I can get you into Caroline’s, cheap,”
and I say, “Not today, thank you very much”
Ooh, I love love love Times Square!

Adulthood hasn’t been kind to Ms. E. (Defense Exhibit 1: she live in Times Square).  However, her exuberance and mischievous nature seem to be totally intact after 40 years.  I’ll leave it to you to decide if (a) that is too depressing to bear or (b) is something all of us who are staring middle-age in the face should celebrate.

If she were still with us, I think Kay Thompson would get a big kick out of this piece.

Until next time!


Les 1,000 Yodas d’Origami Update

23 Aug

I count my Origami Yodas every Friday.  In case any of you– my two or three most zealous readers– have been brooding since my previous Yoda briefing, “I wonder how many Yoda’s they’re up to in Brooklyn, New York?”,  brood no further.  We have made significant progress this week, and I am praying for all it’s worth optimistic that we’ll reach our goal of 1,000 by 6:00 p.m. EST, next Friday.

So without further ado, here’s where we are, in sparklies for dramatic impact…

694 YodasAs Yoda himself might say, “Yes!  Hmmmmm.”

Which means, doing the math, we have 306 Yodas to go.  I know we can do it!  Instead of weekly tallies, I have switched to a daily countdown, which I am doing on our whiteboard.  I’ll update it every day from Saturday until next Friday:

Yoda's not messing around.  He means business.

Yoda’s not messing around anymore. He means business.

The whiteboard caught the attention of a lot of patrons on Friday, and it is certainly doing its duty in building up a feeling of desperation about whether or not we can meet our goal.  We handed out papers and instruction sheets all day long today and I walked a number of kids through folding their first Yoda’s in between answering reference questions.

As soon as we reach 1,000, I’ll put up a celebratory post, and then I’ll reward myself with a brownie sundae.  In the meantime, I’ll wrap up this post with a lovely surprise I got today in the mail.  A little background first.   Three years ago, I had a FANTASTIC intern from France.  Her name is Perrine, and she spent an entire semester with us in the Central Library Youth Wing.  She and I are friends on Facebook and she has been following our progress with the 1,000 Origami Yoda campaign with a lot of enthusiasm.  She messaged me recently and hinted that an envelope from her was on its way to Brooklyn.  It arrived early this afternoon, and it contained this handsome monsieur:

Perrine Yoda

C’est un saber laser de tricolor! Tres awesome!

Merci once again, Perrine!  And merci to all of you who have been folding and following along.


1,000 Origami Yodas Update

18 Aug

Let’s review.  I did an Origami Yoda program last month, which I wrote about here.  After the program, I embarked on a (cockamamie?) campaign to get the kids in the library to fold 1,000 of Dagobah‘s sole resident (that being Yoda, of course) by August 30th.  It’s time to check in and reveal our progress.

Well, we’re looking at a good-news, daunting-news situation here.  The good news is we have passed the half-way mark!  As of Friday afternoon, we were at…

Yoda Sign Aug 16

Can I get a WHOOP?

Which makes the daunting news that we have 487 Yodas left to fold.  In less than two weeks.

Don’t look so dumbfounded, Yoda. It’s doable.

I am determined to get to the magic number of 1,000.  De-ter-mined.  When time permits, I’ll host a couple more folding parties, where I park myself and my supplies at a table on the open floor, and give away little prizes to everyone who stops and learns how to make a Yoda.  I’ve recruited my stookiest Superfolders at these folding parties.  On Friday, I was fretting about getting the 17 Yodas we needed to reach 500 before the weekend began, when lo and behold, a brother and sister Superfolder pair from my second party walked in with 20 Yodas in a Ziploc bag.  As Yoda might put it, “Save my bacon they did”.

Another strategy I am using to recruit folders is to hold a raffle.  A colleague gave me a copy of the new Origami Yoda book, The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett, and I decided to give it away to one lucky winner.  For every 10 Yodas turned in, we give the child one ticket for the raffle.  The more Yodas, the more chances to win!  To publicize the contest, I asked to have it posted on the Brooklyn Public Library’s Family Page on Facebook, and I taped signs at every children’s computer on our Tech Loft.  I also put up this whiteboard at the desk, next to our Yoda Box:

Jabba SignA couple of colleagues and I have also been folding like there’s no tomorrow.  Maybe the strain of Summer Reading is starting to make us crack up, maybe it’s the magnitude of the Yoda project, but we’re getting a little loopy when the time comes to draw faces on our Yodas.

Miss Piggy, courtesy of my colleague Leigh.

Miss Piggy, courtesy of my colleague Leigh.

Three of the Seven Dwarfs, also the work of Leigh.

Three of the Seven Dwarfs, also the work of Leigh.

These are mine: Sad Clown, Vampira, and Yalie Yoda.

These are mine: Sad Clown, Vampira, and Yalie Yoda.

This is no longer a marathon.  Instead, it has become a mad, frenzied sprint to a finish line that is 487 miles away.  But I have no doubt we can do it, Brooklyn!  Any advice, Yoda?

Yoda Rallying Cry

Sounds good to me.

I’ll post a final tally at the end of the month.  Wish us luck!


A Mystery of the Yodic Sort

30 Jul

Me and my mystery mail.

I really don’t mean for this blog to become the 1,000 Origami Yodas blog, but I wanted to share a couple of deliveries I got yesterday at work.  The first was an envelope from Oak Forest, Illinois filled to the brim with 1,000 white Origami Yodas!  They are all numbered, and I assume they are all there, from 1 to 1,000 (I’ve put a couple of teen volunteers to work sorting them into numerical order).  I turned them all out of the envelope and onto the floor because I couldn’t find a note enclosed inside.  Here’s a closeup of the bounty:

Yodas here, and Yodas there.  Yodas, Yodas everywhere!

Yodas here, and Yodas there. Yodas, Yodas everywhere!

I also got an envelope yesterday postmarked from Greenville, North Carolina.  Again no note, but I did find this little cutie inside:

He may be only one inch tall, but he is brimming with Jedi wisdom.

He may be only one inch tall, but he is brimming with Jedi wisdom.

Here’s a view of the back.  I think it says, Super Folder He who walks the sky shall blow up the death star.  North Carolina.

NC Yoda BackFor some reason, I find that ‘North Carolina’ especially endearing.  Even as he saves the universe from the dark side of the Force, He Who Walks the Sky can take a moment to show some Tar Heel pride.

Thank you very much, mystery folders!  If you see this, please drop me a note at and let me know who you are.  I won’t share my work address here, but if you figure it out on your own and decide to mail us a Yoda or 1,000, you can be confident that my friends in the Mail Room now know who to deliver them to.


P.S.  The photos of me and the Illinois Yodas were taken by Edwin of Ask Mr. Edwin fame!  In spite of what Ingrid may write about him, I’m here to set the record straight.  He’s a GOOD GUY.  Thank you, sir.

Saturday Odds n’ Ends

27 Jul

It’s Saturday, and it seems like a good day to write up some odds and ends.  First on the block…

 The Trials and Tribulations of Melvil Dewey

Dewey PosterIn my first post earlier this month, I wrote about a game named Python, which I created to introduce kids to the ten major classes of the Dewey Decimal System.  Before diving into the game itself, I wrote a bit about the Dewey Decimal Number of the Day poster we had on display in the library.  To recap, Ingrid created the poster and is responsible for the inspired choice of using the young, debonair Melvil and giving him a glittery bowtie.

In case you’re wondering, those are M&M’s.  I have a romantic notion they were left as an offering by someone in the Cataloging Department.

M and MsBesides the poster, the plan has been to hide a smaller Dewey in the non-fiction shelves where the Number of the Day is located.  It started out straightforward enough, with no added illustration or embellishment, but then it began to get…um, creative.

Call Number 327, Spies.  Dewey is saying, "I'm wearing my spy disguise!"

Call Number 327, Spies. Dewey is saying, “I’m wearing my spy disguise!”

This was the first one.  After Agent Dewey, I couldn’t not accessorize him for the Number of the Day.  I promised in my Python post I would soon share some of the indignity I put Mr. D through.  I’ll make good on that vow today.  Take a look-see below…

Dewey Tut

Call Number J 932, Ancient Egypt. Dewey Tut.


Call Number J 332, Money. The coin says “In Dewey We Trust” and is worth 31 cents.

Dewey Origami

Call Number J 736.98, Origami. Dewey is saying, “Hey! There’s a bird on my head!”


Call Number J 636.7, Dogs. Dewey is saying, “A French Poodle? Really?”


Call Number J 595.7, Insects. Dewey is saying, “Bzzz, Bzzz, Bzzz, Bzzz, Bzzz, Bzzz” which is translated beneath, “Here I am! Nice work, superstar!”

Dewey Ballet

Call Number J 792.8, Dance. Dewey is saying, “I knew they were going to put me in a tutu and a tiara!”

There are others, but these are my favorites.  The Dewey Decimal Number of the Day has been on hiatus lately.  Maybe we’ll resume humiliating him again when the school year begins.

Summer Reading: We’re Almost (Halfway) There

I am aware that lots of libraries across the nation are wrapping up their Summers soon because the school year starts in August.  Here in New York, school starts on September 9th, so we have another six weeks to go.

You got that right, Linus.

Hang in there, Linus.

I think a lot about Summer Assignment Reading during these months, and I want to do a little more editorializing on the topic here.  I can’t claim extensive knowledge of research related to summer reading loss, but the articles I have read uniformly indicate that pretty much any reading prevents the Summer Slide from setting in, as long the child finds the reading material interesting and accessible, and spends an adequate amount of time reading it.

So I don’t get how assigning students a specific set of titles to read (titles that often test the parameters of those words interesting and accessible) is any better at warding off the Summer Slide than, say, giving those same students guidelines (for example, number of books, minimum number of pages, no more than two graphic novels, maybe a list of suggested sure-fire reads) and then setting them loose to discover books they will connect with, enjoy, and finish.

Not that I’m an expert in brain science either, but it seems to me that being thoroughly engaged in the experience of reading, whether it’s Caddie Woodlawn or an Avengers novelization, will fire off the same developmentally-appropriate synapses in the brains of kids who choose to read them.  It’s true that in being allowed to choose their own reading, many kids will miss out experiencing a level of sophistication and  ‘enrichment’ in texts for a couple of months, but is that really that big a deal?  Isn’t it more important for them to keep the foundational reading skills (comprehension, guessing from context, paraphrasing, recognizing setting and characterization, etc.) nice and sharp for September?  We’ve already established I’m not a reading expert, so if there’s something that’s really off-base about thinking this way, please let me know why!

Take a look at this article, The Problem with Summer Reading.  The author, Carolyn Ross is a high school English teacher.  She gets it, she really, really gets it:

When I take away book reports and reading quizzes, when I eliminate deadlines for finishing books and specific title requirements, my students are free to read books that they choose, and as the year progresses, they choose more and more and more.

“How are we being graded on this?” they ask, at the beginning of the year. “You get full credit just by reading,” I respond, and they stare at me confused for a second longer before shrugging and turning their eyes back to the page.

I don’t assign anything to reward or punish them for being readers. What I do, is assess their skills as the year progresses. That’s how I know that that when you read a lot of books you like, you become a better reader and writer without even trying. That’s how I know that my instruction meets the Common Core State Standards for Education without ever forcing them to read The Odyssey, or making them take a test on a book.

I couldn’t put it any better than that.

1,000 Origami Yoda Update

I’ll wrap up with a status report on the 1,000 Origami Yoda’s we’re trying to fold at my library before the end of the summer.  I counted them up on Wednesday and we were at:

Yoda Sign

51 Yoda’s! Which isn’t all that impressive, really. I folded half of them myself.

Yesterday (Friday), I had an hour free between desks, so I carried my Yoda supplies to a table on the open floor, began folding, and offered to teach anyone who looked curious about what the heck I was doing how to fold one, too.  We have a bunch of Lego Yoda posters, and I gave one to each kid who folded one Yoda.  We also have a lot of giveaway books, and I let kids choose one if they folded a second Yoda and put it in the Yoda box.   Doing this casual, on-the-spot type of program gave the 1,000 Yoda Project the momentum it needed.  I wound up with 5 or 6 kids who, once they learned how, were folding Yoda after Yoda after Yoda.  There was one boy who sat at the table for TWO HOURS  folding away.  I wanted to go over and give him a handtowel and a bottle of Gatorade.  He was totally in the zone!

So here’s a view into the Yoda box as of Friday afternoon.  I didn’t have time to count them all, but I will on Monday.  We’re definitely past the 100 mark.

Yoda Box

I hope everyone is having a great weekend!  I’m committed to posting here every five days, so see you on Thursday!


An Origami Yoda Program Post (97% Free of Yodaspeak)

22 Jul


I have two approaches to developing programs for school-aged kids.  The first is the unprogramming/low-maintenance/self-directed, model which can be set up quickly and doesn’t necessarily have to follow a set schedule.  Making board games and puzzles available for anyone to use, or hosting an impromptu ‘Crafternoon’ where you set out a bunch of supplies and let your visitors have at it are examples of Approach #1.

Approach #2 involves coming up with a concept that will be a sure-fire draw, and then committing to whatever prep-work is needed to make the program a success .  I have a name for this type of programming, at least in my head.  Cue the sparkly letters, I call it…Dest ProgA destination program is the reason why most of your program participants visit the library that day.  It is an activity that gets penciled into the family calendar and doesn’t get crossed out.  We don’t offer these programs frequently as others, but when we do, we can count on a healthy turnout, which justifies the extra planning and prep-work we do to make the experience worth the trip.  By the way, I am totally jealous of you libraries who can schedule a craft or writing program or show a movie, and get at least 15 kids to show up.  That’s not my library.

Programs built around popular book series are obvious destination programs, and I try to do one every summer.  Earlier this year, a colleague gave me two gift copies of Art2-D2’s Guide to Folding and Drawing, and I immediately decided I would do an Origami Yoda program this summer and raffle off the books as door prizes.  The program happened last Tuesday, we had an attendance of 45, and it was a ton o’ fun!  Here’s the rundown…


I made posters of the three Origami Yoda books by printing out the covers using the color printer and gluing them together.  You can do this in Microsoft Publisher using the banner-making function.


I also set up a book display of Tom Angleberger’s series (I requested extra copies from our branches), and a few Star Wars books to boot.  I had no origami books last Tuesday!  Zero!

??????????????Finally, I  put together a Star Wars music mix, which because of a tech snafu, wouldn’t play as loudly as I wanted it to.  Luckily, a couple of super-fans helped make up for it by singing Darth Vader’s Imperial March (my personal favorite from my Star Wars soundtrack 8-track from back in the day) .  If you’re on Spotify, you can stream the entire playlist here.  Samples of most of the songs are  below.  Of course we ended with The Twist!

Professional Tip!  Before adding a non-children’s song to a program playlist, first Google, “Name of Song” + Lyrics.  Then read the lyrics and make sure nothing objectionable is there.  There’s no Fett’s Vette by MC Chris on my playlist!



I had three tables set up, Origami Yodas, Darth Papers, and Fortune Wookiies.  At the Yoda and Darth Paper tables, I put out printed instructions, pre-cut pieces of paper (including small strips for light sabers), markers to decorate them, and scotch tape.  In retrospect, I should have had both Yoda and Darth at the same tables, with different colors of paper assigned to each figure to prevent kids from using the wrong size.  There were too many people in in the room to make circulating comfortable.  At the Fortune Wookiee table I had color Chewbacca printouts from Tom Angleberger’s site, scissors, and squares of white paper and colored pencils for anyone who wanted to make a non-wookiee fortune teller.


Nine Darth Papers on a Dirty Floor

Competition and Incentive to KEEP FOLDING

I mentioned at the top of this post that I had two copies of Art2-D2’s Guide to Folding and Drawing to give away as raffle prizes.  I made two types of tickets as entries to win.  Everyone got to fill out one orange ticket.  Then they could earn up to three yellow tickets as added chances to win.  They got one yellow ticket for folding a Yoda, one for a Darth Paper, and the third was for getting at least half the answers right on a quiz about the Origami Yoda series I created.  Click on the image below for a full-size PDF of the quiz:

Yoda Quiz Image

I had an hour plus scheduled for this program, and I wanted to come up with a way to keep  kids engaged for the full 60 minutes who might be, (a) fans of the series; or (b) already what Tom Angleberger refers to as Super-Folders on his website.  I found a mention on Angleberger’s site about Super Folders who were folding 1,000 Origami Yodas, à la the traditional folding of 1,000 paper cranes in Japan (Senbazuru).  I adopted (er, stole) the concept and invited everyone at my program to fold their little hearts out and get us CLOSE TO THE GOAL before they left.  I had this version of the Yoda Box available for display at the program, and I promised I would display it out at the Children’s Desk for the rest of the Summer if they kept bringing in their Yoda’s.

??????????????It’s gone a wee bit viral since then, after being posted on the Brooklyn Public Library’s Youth and Family Page on Facebook, and picked up by a neighborhood blog, The Park Slope Stoop, and finally in (please allow a brief interlude for a fangirl *SQUEEEEEE!*)  Tom Angleberger’s blog!

It has almost been a week since the onset of the 1,000 Origami Yodas Movement kicked off.  It may have its roots as a Destination Program, but it has now transformed into an Approach #1 type of program (I’ll come up with a sparkle-letter-worthy name for it someday.  Leave  your suggestions in the comments!)  We are slowly receiving Yodas.  The Yoda Box is on display at the Children’s Reference Desk.  Ingrid drew the big, eye-catching Yoda head for me.:

??????????????I made a sign to track our progress every week (please ignore the date stamp, I was using a digital camera where the date stamp was out-of-whack):

Twenty-five Yoda's is from last Wednesday.  I'll keep you all updated on your progress.

And lo-and-behold, we’re getting Yoda’s!  I didn’t work over the weekend, so imagine how tickled I was to find these beauties in the Yoda box this morning:

My Summer Reading ambassadors from now until I retire.

My Summer Reading ambassadors from now until I retire.

Check out the bling on this pair:

They have (I assume) big, gold-plated 'Y's' in the middle of their necklaces.

They have (I assume) big, gold-plated ‘Y’s’ drawn into the middle of their necklaces.

I’ll keep you updated on how we’re doing from now until the end of August.  My plan is to tape them all up on our big, gray, uninspiring wall in September (before I go on vacation), so they can smile down upon us with all their Jedi wisdom and kick-ass benevolence.


Because Your List, Your List, Is On My List

17 Jul

Rumor has it that Hall & Oates’ 1981 hit was originally about summer assignment lists.

I live and work in New York City and it is summer.  While many of my fellow-gothamites take every effort to escape the five boroughs during the months of July and August, I stay put for the most part.  Forget Autumn in New York, summer is my favorite time of the year to be in NYC, or anywhere really. I love being outside for concerts and plays and dining al fresco.  I love wearing shorts, and the balminess in the air.  I even have a little affection for the hot blasts of garbage odor that hit you in the face when you come up from the subway.

Because I’m content to postpone taking a vacation until September, you’ll find me in the library all summer long, holding down the fort.  Guys, Ingrid was not exaggerating a single iota when she reported last year on what summer is like in the library where we both work.  Once school lets out, it’s like a manifestation of Public Service calls us, its minions, over to the desk, rolls up its sleeves, and commences barking at us, “It’s time to march, soldiers!  You’ve been coddled for far too long.  Maximum programs!  Sign up anyone with a pulse for Summer Reading!  Inform at least 75 kids a day that all copies of Diary of a Wimpy Kid are out until Columbus Day.  Don’t dawdle!  Move!  The line at the desk is getting longer.  MOVE FASTER!  All shore leave is suspended until the Wednesday after Labor Day.”

Surely you don’t suspect ME of exaggerating?  I submit as proof security camera coverage of myself taken at 5:41 p.m. on August 30, 2011…


“It’s out of print. It has 66 holds. But, hallelujah, I found ONE BOOK on your list!”

Let’s chat about those summer assignment lists, shall we?  I work in my library system’s Central library, so families visit us from all ends of the borough to look for the titles they need.  We see a wide variety of lists.  Like everyone else, we are completely cleaned out of the standards: Blume, Dahl, My Side of the Mountain, Charlotte’s Web, etc., etc.  That’s hardly breaking news, though.  What I would like to do here is report on some other trends and developments I’ve noticed this year…

WonderThe Emergence of WonderR. J. Palacio’s 2012 debut about bullies, self-acceptance, and tween grittiness has entered the educational zeitgeist just months after its publication.  A charter school network here in Brooklyn has made Wonder required reading for all of its sixth graders, and I have seen it on several other lists, too.  Currently, we have 77 holds on Wonder, but I suspect many parents are giving up on the library and buying it themselves.  Random House, how about throwing us a bone and putting out a paperback soon?  Thank you kindly.

The Five-Year Rule.   Wonder is an exception, but by gum it exists!  Fuse #8 theorized a few weeks ago that titles only make their debuts on assignment lists five years after their publication dates, which coincidentally is six months after diligent public librarians weed out their copies for underperforming .  I personally gave copies of Peak by Roland Smith and Road to Paris by Nikki Grimes, (paperback eds. published in 2008) their walking papers back in February, and now, NOW they are sought after by dozens of middle schoolers.  A more scientific review of the data should immediately be undertaken to solidify the veracity of this hypothesis.

The international symbol for Facepalm

The international symbol for Facepalm 

Stay Tuned for Our Report at 11:00 p.m.  Long Island Students Required to Read The Great Gypsy I believe I am pretty easygoing and sanguine about the- um- idiosyncrasies (translation: completely avoidable errors) I see on assignment lists every summer  but then a story like this one hits the newswires and I simply can’t stop myself,  I’m belting out, “Schadenfreude/Making Me Feel Glad That I’m Not You” at the top of my lungs.

It Always Comes Back to Layout.  I could go on a rantosaurus about summer assignment lists riddled with out-of-print titles, titles not appropriate to the age or reading level of the child bearing the list, or lists that have no flexibility built in to them, but I won’t.  Instead, I quietly propose that schools throughout the universe embrace a single commandment, especially for the long, multi-page offerings:


Here’s the deal.  Many students don’t know how how the local branch is laid out, nor do their parents and caretakers.  They are likewise unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the library catalog.  I know I’m not telling you library folk anything you don’t already know, but the reality is that when the reference desk is busy and the lines are long, we cannot give every patron a soup to nuts orientation (from catalog to shelf) for lists that jump all over the place because they are are organized entirely by the author’s last names (even the non-fiction) or by Guided Reading Level.  Most families don’t want this from us either.  They just want to gather some titles and be on their way.

What I am proposing is that someone look up all of the proposed summer assignment titles in April or May in the local public library catalog.  This someone could be the educator himself or herself, or a group of student volunteers and parents, or the school district’s library administration office, or even the local public librarians and their interns or high school volunteers.  As the titles are located in the public library catalog, they are sorted following a format similar to this one:

  • Picture Books.  Alphabetical order by the author’s last name.
  • Easy Readers.  Alphabetical order by the author’s last name.
  • Chapter Books.  Alphabetical order by the author’s last name.
  • Graphic Novels.  Alphabetical order by the author’s last name.
  • Non Fiction.  Dewey order, LC order, or whatever system your library uses.

Adapt to any other special collections your library uses (although I hope it’s not too many).  Don’t forget to include a URL for the library’s catalog in a nice large font so families may place holds from the comfort of their own homes if they wish.

Simple, right?  Simple works for me every time.

I hope you are all making the most of your summer.  Get outside and play.


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