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November Fun at the Library

We had an excellent October here at the library – we celebrated Dia de los Muertos, we told scary stories, we completed some cool crafts, and best of all we played outside in the beautiful October weather!  But now the clocks have turned back, the days are getting short, and the cold is creeping in.  Instead of letting ourselves get down about the fast-approaching winter, we’ve planned some great Thanksgiving-themed events that will keep us focused on what we’re truly grateful for! Check out what we have coming up:

Thursday, November 7th @ 4pm, Tween NaNoWriMo: November is National Novel Writing Month and New Brunswick teens are invited to join us at the library to find out what National Novel Writing Month is all about!  Get writing tips and tricks, and then get started on your very own masterpiece!

Tuesday, November 12th @ 4pm, Thanksgiving Mural: We’re making a Thanksgiving mural to hang in the library!  Our mural will show words and pictures of all the things in our lives that we’re grateful for!

Tuesday, November 19th @ 4pm, Cards and Letters for Soldiers: Are you grateful for the men and women who are serving overseas as part of the US Military?  Here’s your chance to say thanks!  Kids of all ages are invited to stop by and create cards or write letters for soldiers.  Our letters will get mailed out to deployed troops!

Wednesday, November 20th @ 4PM, Tween Virus Appreciation:  Volunteers from the Rutgers School of Public Health will be here at the library to teach our tweens all about viruses.  Visit hands-on activity stations to find out what a virus really is and how you can stay healthy this winter!

Thursday, November 21st @ 4pm, Kids’ Science Experiments: Kids are invited to join us at the library for fun, hands-on science experiments! 

Saturday, November 23rd @ 4pm, Native American Sand Art: This special workshop is sponsored by the Rutgers Mason Gross School of the Arts.  Create your very own sand art to take home at this fun event!

Tuesday, November 26th @ 4pm, No-Bake Thanksgiving Dessert: Join us as we learn to make (and then eat!) a tasty Thanksgiving themed dessert.  No oven required!




Friday Book Review : The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes

It looks like Billy Miller might have a rough year.  After all, right before he’s set to begin the school year an accident causes him to bang his head.  Now, he not only has to start the year with a big bump on his head, but he’s worried that maybe his brains have been knocked around.  What if he isn’t smart enough for the second grade?  It turns out, of course, that Billy’s brain is just fine – but that doesn’t mean second grade is a breeze.  Navigating school, family, and friends is tough and Billy doesn’t always have all the right answers.  But with help from the people who love him, Billy finds that he can tackle it all.

The Year of Billy Miller

Parents, children, and educators may be most familiar with Kevin Henkes for his work on adorable picture books like Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse and Owen.  In The Year of Billy Miller, Henkes creates a main character equally endearing, though decidedly less saccharine than his famous talking mice.  Billy Miller is not a groundbreaking read – but what it lacks in originality it makes up for in authenticity.  Billy Miller’s year is full of familiar elementary school concerns.  Cancelled sleepovers, sibling rivalries, and the dreaded school diorama project will be familiar to parents and children alike; and Henkes treats them all with a lighthearted humor that still manages to acknowledge the seriousness with which youngsters take these issues.  Billy is easy to like, and his family feels real enough to be believable, but quirky enough to be entertaining.   The book is divided into four easy-to-digest sections with plentiful black-and-white art for those who are just starting to tackle chapter books, but Henkes doesn’t shy away from large vocabulary words that may daunt some hesitant readers.  Henkes has once again provided an effort that proves to be a success, and one can’t help but wonder if we’ll see Billy Miller take on the third grade some day.

School Library Journal recommends this book for students in grades 1-3.

Publication Information:  The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes.  Greenwillow Books, September 2013.  ISBN: 978-0062268129.

The above review is of an Advanced Reader’s Edition of this book sent to me by the publisher; artwork was not final and changes may have been made to the final text.  I received no compensation for this review.

Simple Stuff at NBFPL

Fall is always a hectic time when it comes to kids.  School starts up, sports begin again, homework becomes a nightly chore, and everyone is settling back into a school-year routine.  Dance classes, sports practices, club meetings, and extra tutoring all kick back into high gear, and many kids find that they have no free time left to just be kids.


Children, just like adults, can find all that craziness really stresses them out; so this fall at the library, we’ve tried to go back to basics and offer our kids simple, fun, and relaxing activities that allow them to spend an hour or so simply unwinding.  We’ve decided to disconnect this autumn – and instead of game days, robotics clubs, and elaborate crafts, we’re playing with sidewalk chalk, making paper airplanes, decorating our own journals, and building with LEGOs.  Its been wonderful to see how much fun the kids have once they get going on these simple activities (even if we did have to practically pry a few away from the computer screen to get them in the room), and its fun to see them realize that the hour is really theirs. I love that when they ask me how long the program lasts I can tell them “However long it takes you,” or when they want to know what they’re supposed to draw I can say “Whatever you want.” Check out the gallery below to see what our kids can do with an hour of free time and a little creativity!

Next week we’ll be continuing our trend when we head outside for “fall fun” – where we’ll play tag, maybe blow some bubbles, and just enjoy the gorgeous fall weather!

What are your suggestions for fun, low-key activities?

Friday Book Review: Don’t Squish the Sasquatch! by Kent Redeker and Bob Staake

Are you looking for some unabashed silliness to add to this school year’s read-aloud list?  Look no further than the fun-filled offering by Kent Redeker and Bob Staake, Don’t Squish the Sasquatch!

don't squish the sasquatch

Senor Sasquatch is looking forward to a pleasant ride on the bus, and he makes sure to tell the bus driver, “I hope it doesn’t get too crowded.  I do not  like to get squished!”  The bus driver keeps this in mind at every stop – cheerfully giving each new passenger very good advice: “Don’t squish the sasquatch!”  But as more and more enormous (and ridiculous) creatures board the bus – including Mr. Octo-Rhino and Miss Loch-Ness-Monster-Space-Alien –  the sasquatch in the back of the bus finds himself increasingly squished; and increasingly agitated.  So what happens when you aggravate a sasquatch?  And how do you calm him down?  Little readers will be more than happy to find out!

This book is out-and-out silliness, in the best possible way.  The colorful, cartoon quality of the artwork, coupled with a great 4-page fold-out spread in the middle (depicting the sasquatch’s ultimate reaction to being squished) make for a visual feast.  Background art features such varied locations as a downtown bank, a fairy-tale style castle, a friendly red barn, and a spooky haunted house – leading to fun speculation about where exactly this bus route goes.  Meanwhile, the variety of hybrid mythological creatures riding the bus are sheer fantastical fun, and the simple, repetitive text will make this a storytime hit.  And when Senor Sasquatch’s fellow bus riders decide that the best way to make up for squishing the sasquatch is to smooch him, the book ends on a pleasing note. positive note.

I can’t wait to try this one out in our preschool groups and I’d recommend it to any parent or teacher looking to add a little silly whimsy to read-aloud time!

Publication Information:  Don’t Squish the Sasquatch! by Kent Redeker and Bob Staake.  Disney/Hyperion, June 2012.  ISBN: 1423152328.

Friday Book Review : The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

Every four years in the town of Gavaldon, two children disappear.  They’re snatched by the mysterious School Master, never to be seen again.

Or, almost never.

Sometimes, the kidnapped children appear as daring knights, kind-hearted princesses, or evil villains in the illustrations of the fairy tale  books that arrive – unasked for – at the town book shop.  No one is quite sure what this means; except for town beauty, Sophie, that is.  Although Sophie’s best friend – ugly, shy Agatha – tries to convince Sophie to do as the other children are doing and hide herself away on the evening of the School Master’s arrival, Sophie believes she knows her fate.  Her beauty means she’s destined to be a fairy-tale princess, and she’s determined to be picked by the School Master and whisked away to live her destiny – even if it means hanging out the window in her best pink dress with homemade cookies as an offering.  But when Sophie and Agatha both find themselves kidnapped and deposited at the School for Good and Evil to train for their fairy-tale debut, Sophie must learn that hard way that not every fairy-tale has a happy ending.

I can’t resist a school story for the back-to-school season, and The School for Good and Evil does not disappoint when it comes to boarding school high-jinx, cool classes, and good old-fashioned school rivalry.  Where it does disappoint is in its pacing and repetition; the first half of the book is more than a little frustrating as Sophie and Agatha tackle the same challenge again, and again, and again…until they finally, every so slowly, realize what the reader has understood for chapters already; that Good and Evil are not black and white.  The secondary characters – classmates and teachers alike – appear to be equally dim-witted about the realities of what beauty and ugliness really mean, and readers may start to wonder how the School for Good and Evil has managed to stay in business.   However, readers who stick with the girls and make it through the first half are rewarded with all the excitement you’d expect a semester at magic fairy-tale school to entail; including magic competitions, back-stabbing villains, romantic entanglements, an epic final battle, and a surprise, cliff-hanger ending.  For some, Chainani’s action-packed ending may not be enough to make up for a slow and frustrating introduction, but there are plenty of readers (myself included) who are willing to forgive the disappointing beginning in favor of the unique, magical story the author finally unfolds.  Fans of fairy-tale retellings, lovers of fantasy, champions of strong female leads, and readers who wish they could return to that other magic boarding school will likely find themselves satisfied with Chainani’s offering, and cautiously optimistic about the April release of the book’s sequel, A World Without Princes.

School Library Journal recommends this book for students in grades 5-8.

Publication Information:  The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani.  HarperCollins, May 2013.  ISBN: 978-0062104892.

The above review is of an Advanced Reader’s Edition of this book sent to me by the publisher; artwork was not final and changes may have been made to the final text.  I received no compensation for this review.

Fancy Pencils to Start Our School Year Off Right

School started this week – and that means back-to-school craft time!  There are so many great school themed crafts out there that that it can be hard to choose.  Foam and duct tape pencil cases?  Make and decorate a paper bag book cover?  Hot glue gun crayon art (for the very brave librarian)?  All so cute!   But this year I decided to keep it simple with a super fun and easy Pencil Topper craft.  IMG_0139[1]

The only required materials for this craft are pipe cleaners and glue.  You can use anything else you have lying around your house, library, or classroom to serve as pencil topper decorations!  In our case, I put out an assortment of feathers, pom poms, googly eyes, sequins, craft foam and ribbon, and just let the kids pick and choose what they wanted.



One of the things I love most about a craft activity like this is that its really accessible to kids of all ages.  While our younger participants stuck to gluing a few pom poms to a pipe cleaner, our older participants created some pretty cool and creative stuff – like the pretty awesome stick figure man in the above photo!  Crafts where anything goes are always my favorite because they really encourage kids to use their imagination.



So, what are you doing at your house, school, or library to add a little fun to the start of the school year?

This Fall @NBFPL

School starts on Monday for the kids here in New Brunswick, and that means that beginning next week we’re kicking off a whole new season of fun and exciting programs and activities!  Fall is my favorite season – I love the weather, I love the clothes, I love the pumpkin-spiced-everything, and I especially love all of the great programming opportunities that fall offers.  Back to school programming?  Yes!  Gorgeous weather for outdoor fun?  Love it!  Halloween?  That’s the best thing of all!

If all this talk of fall fun is making you excited for what’s in store, read on to find out what we have planned for September and October:

Funky Pencil Toppers – September 10th @ 4pm:  With just a handful of craft supplies and a few pipe cleaners – ta-da – you’ve got cool one-of-kind pencil toppers for all those brand-new back-to-school Number 2 pencils!


Library Playdates – Sept. 12th & 26th, Oct. 10th & 24th @ 2pm; Sept 18th,  October 2nd, 16th, 30th @ 10:30am:                  Little ones ages 6 and under are invited to join us for this brand-new series of events.  Library Playdates are fun, relaxed, and open playtimes in the the library’s Storytime Room.  Babies, toddlers, and caregivers are invited to join us for the opportunity to interact with new friends and play with the library’s toys, books, puzzles, and art supplies!

LEGO League – Setpember 17th @ 4pm: Kids are invited to let their imaginations run wild as they build to their heart’s content with the library’s LEGO collection (which recently expanded thanks to Ms. Darby’s recent trip to the flea market).  All LEGO creations will go on display in our lower level display case!

LEGO House 2

Sidewalk Chalk – September 24th @ 4pm: Fall weather is perfect for outdoor fun!  Grab a sweater and head outside for a chance to express your creativity on the library’s asphalt!

Decorate a Journal or Diary – October 1st @ 4pm:  If you love Wimpy Kid or Dork Diaries you’ll love this!  Receive your very own blank journal – and tons of art supplies to decorate it with!  Then take your journal home and start recording your very own adventures, Greg Heffley style!

Paper Airplanes – October 8th @ 4pm: Ever wondered how to build awesome paper planes?  Here’s your chance!  Use the library’s paper and instructions to build a cool flying machine – then see how far it will soar!

Fall Fun – October 15th @ 4pm:  Celebrate the last of the beautiful weather with outdoor fun and games!


Halloween Crafts – October 22 @ 4pm: Just in time for Halloween!  Spend an afternoon making dreary decorations and creepy crafts to help celebrate the spooky season!

Scary Story Festival – October 29th @ 4pm: Stop by the Guest House for Scary Story Festival – if you dare.  Featuring scary stories, creepy crafts, and even a graveyard tour (for the very brave), this is one frightening night of fun!