Ghosts- By Raina Telgemeier

GhostsGhosts by Raina Telgemeier
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cat is not happy about moving to the northern shores of California and leaving her friends behind. But she will endure if it means her little sister Maya will breathe a bit easier. Maya has cystic fibrosis and the salty air will help her lungs. When the girls meet their new neighbor, he tells them a secret about their new town. It is full of ghosts! While Maya is determined to meet one, Cat is not so sure. As Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) approaches, Cat will have to face her fears and be there for her sister. A charming tale with a lovely story about tradition.

What I loved:

Out of all of Raina Telgemeier’s books, this is my favorite. I love the setting and the tone of the book. She deals with the topic of death in a wonderful and refreshing way that highlights beautiful traditions and the love of family. She also, did a great job explaining the Day of the Dead and the traditions surrounding this sacred day in a way that younger readers can understand.

The illustrations are fun with just a hint of moodiness. I really like her work and the bright colors that she uses in her books. This one is a bit more muted to fit with the chill of northern California. The Day of the Dead characters are bright and friendly. I appreciate that she choose not to scare readers with gruesome ghosts.

I also liked that she included facts about the Day of the Dead and how she came to write this book.

What was okay:

I have to confess.. I really liked this one! I know a lot of other readers like her other books because they are more realistic. I can see a few readers who aren’t fans of the paranormal maybe shy away from this at first. However, her popularity as an author will make up for any hesitation.

Final thoughts:

Again, I enjoyed this book. I think it is a fun fall read that will be very popular at the library! Fans of Telgemeier will enjoy this new tale that takes a small step away from reality to explain death and tradition in a gentle way. Grab a warm blanket and a mug of tea and enjoy!

View all my reviews

Zombie Apocalypse Live Action Game – Set up

What do you do when you have an epic discussion about the zombie apocalypse with your Teen Advisory Board,  that leads to talking about real life scenarios and a “would you survive discussion?” You create a live action role playing game!

My TAB group has been more or less zombie crazed for the better part of a year. All of them have been begging for some kind of role playing game that involves taking over a large section of the library. After much discussion and a well thought out proposal from one of the girls, the Zombie Apocalypse program was born. My only request was that they plan the entire program from start to finish and help me with clean-up. This is the first program we have planned together as a group and I am super proud of how it all turned out. It took us 6 months and they all learned something about what it takes to run a library program. Needless to say, we will be doing this again very soon!

This was a monster huge program with a ton of prep work. I am breaking down the posts into a few parts. For this round I will walk you through the set-up.

Basic game outline for 30-40 teens:

  • Collect enough supplies for your team: Food, Water, Medicine
  • Build a shelter that will fit your entire team and get it approved by the Zombie Master (librarian)
  • Avoid zombies!


We used 3 large rooms and our outdoor patio. If you are able to do this after hours you can use the entire library! This can be scaled up or down depending on the size of your group. I will explain why 40 teens was a bit much later on.


  • Instructions for players
  • Lots of empty cereal boxes, cracker boxes, etc..
  • Empty water bottles, empty gallon water jugs
  • Note cards to go inside boxes and jugs
  • Small empty boxes or old microfilm containers for med kits
  • Bandages- Torn strips of white cloth
  • Pool Noodle shooters- Pom, Poms, Pool noodles, Balloons, rubber bands
  • Socks
  • Giant Pom Poms
  • Smarties or Nerds
  • Bags to carry their loot
  • Boxes of all sizes- the bigger the better!
  • Other building supplies- Foam blocks, pool noodles, blankets
  • The Game Operation or Trouble
  • Glow stick bracelets blue- Dollar Store
  • Glow stick necklaces green-Dollar Store
  • Lots of bright green stickers- Think garage sale stickers
  • Funny signs
  • Tables for the Medical Station and General store
  • Pop-Ice and lots of water for players
  • Staff- We had 5 staff for 40 kids and could have used a few more people
  • Fans- it gets hot!

The set up: 

You will need to do lots of prep work for this game. This is a survival game that requires players to gather food, water, and medical supplies. They also have to build a shelter for their group. Start having library staff save food boxes, water bottles and jugs, and boxes of all sizes for shelters.

Food supplies:

We save boxes like cereal, Cheez-its, Mac and Cheese, Pop-Tarts, etc. Each box would feed a certain amount of people. We wrote the number on the outside of the boxes.


Water supplies: 

You will need single serving water bottles and gallon jugs. Try to avoid Milk jugs for obvious grossness. The single bottle will water one person and gallon jugs will water the whole team. We used more of the single water bottles in the game and limited the amount of gallon jugs.

The evil supply twist:

Here is where you get to have some  fun. My teens decided that this needed to be as realistic as possible and very survival based. They determined that based on movies and books, not all the supplies would be safe to use. Food could be spoiled, water could be contaminated, Med supplies could give you the zombie virus; nothing is really safe! So, inside each box and taped to the outside of each bottle and jug were instructions such as:

  • Food has been contaminated. Go to the Med Station and do a task to get well.
  • Water has been contaminated. Eat smarties to cure yourself and purify the water.
  • While scrounging for food you broke your leg. Use the bandages on one leg and limp for the rest of the game.
  • Rats ate all of your food. Discard all your boxes and go get more supplies.
  • This box of food was poisoned. The whole team must go to the Med station for a cure.
  • Your water is safe!

You can get really creative with these. My volunteer and I had a blast thinking up clever demises for each box. We also made the choice to have single water bottles be the only safe thing in the game. Gallon jugs could water the whole team, but often came with a nasty surprise! In addition, the only safe food boxes were Cheeze-its.

Instructions on outside of jug

Instructions on outside of jug

Bags to carry supplies: 

You know those bags you get at conferences? This is perfect use for them. Each team got a bag to cart around supplies while they were building their shelter. You could also use paper or plastic bags.

Why my teens are obsessed with Cheeze-its and Sam’s club:

My teens are hilarious and we have lots of food based conversations. Somehow in the midst of discussing survival, Cheeze-its became a viable food source that can partially cure the zombie virus. I blame Dan who is one of my awesome teens who has since graduated and moved on to bigger and better adventures. #dansclubforever

She suggested that Sam’s Club would be the one stop shop for surviving the zombie apocalypse. The reason: Zombies can’t get Sam’s Club cards. At this moment my TAB group invented Dan’s Club (in honor of Dan). It’s also, the only surviving store in the apocalypse.  Each team would have to get a Dan’s club card at some point during the game. There would be a Dan’s Club store in one of the rooms where teams could use their card to “buy” supplies. Once at the store, they would have to complete tasks given to them by Dan to get much needed supplies. Tasks included:

  • Saying the alphabet backwards
  • Patting their heads and rubbing their tummies while standing on one foot
  • Doing the YMCA
  • Doing the Chicken Dance
This is Dan's Club

This is Dan’s Club. Yes, she has a selfie stick…

Dan decided to walk around in a Dan’s Club box during part of the game passing out Dan’s club Membership cards. Teens would have to brave the zombies and get a card to shop at the standing store. Here is a link to the card she created: (yes the spelling is bad- because spelling is not important during the apocalypse!)


Having a “store” helped. Otherwise we were hiding supplies in the rooms and hoping that teens wouldn’t hoard things. (we were very very wrong) I will explain more in the game play post.


We happened to have a ton of leftover microfilm canisters that were perfect for Med kits. Inside we put a few cloth bandage strips (old t-shirts, sheets, etc..) and a few packages of smarties. One kit was enough for the whole team unless they got a defective kit. We did not tell them what the smarties were for (purifying contaminated water) so this messed up a few teams who ate them immediately! I decorated the outside like this:


You can also use small boxes or paper bags. Some of the kits were empty and some kits had the note that said:

  • This kit is contaminated with the Zombie virus. Your whole team now has the virus. Head to the Med Station for cures.


Each team had to build a shelter that would fit everyone on their team. Once it was built they had to get it approved by the Zombie Master (the librarian or one of the other staff). Approved shelters got a giant blue sticker. You could also use small flags or even a brightly colored sheet of paper to show that the shelter is approved.

Collect tons of boxes for this part. The bigger the better. We also used pool noodles, foam computer box inserts, and blankets. We did not give them tape. My teens decided that “there is no tape in the apocalypse.” I personally loved this idea, because otherwise it would be a tape nightmare. This also forces them to be super creative when building.



Pom Pom Shooters

My teens decided that Nerf guns are evil and would cause nightmares for this event. (I silently cheered because they were totally right). They decided that the following items would be safe for weapons:

  • Zombies could be stunned but not killed by using a “weapon”
  • To stun a zombie for 10 seconds- hit them with the following items
    • rolled up clean socks
    • Pom Pom shooters – Instructions here
    • Giant sparkly Pom Poms- Find them here (I have had these for 2 years. I found them on sale at Joanns)

This worked out really well. We had a few assembled shooters and then hid a few kits around the game area. We also hid the Giant pom poms and socks. All of the items were soft and didn’t hurt when you threw them at other players. Trust me we had a whole meeting devoted to testing this out! If you can’t afford the shooters or the giant pom poms the socks are a super cheap alternative.


Zombies wore a green glow stick necklace. Their job was to tag players using bright green stickers. Zombies had a limited number of stickers for each game. They could only tag players on their back, shoulders, or arms. When they ran out of stickers they just walked around and moaned or knocked over shelters that were still being built.

Med Station & The Cure: 

We decided that we needed a med station in the middle of the room. We used three tables and kept med kits and cures at the table. Two volunteers ran this area and I would advise more if you have a large group. When teens got notes from supplies or were tagged by Zombie they headed to the Med Station. At the station, they had to complete tasks to get Med Kits or the cure. My teens thought that the game “Operation” would be perfect as one of the tasks. You had to get 3 pieces out without setting off the buzzer for the cure.


We put the cures in a paper towel tube and covered the ends. The cure consisted of a blue glow-stick bracelet. Once they got the cure they had to activate the bracelet and wear it for the remainder of the game. My teens made a rule that if they got tagged again while wearing the bracelet they immediately became a zombie. This was a bad idea. I will tell you why in the next post. There were only two cures out in the wild for players to find during each round. One only contained a pencil- no cure!

If their supplies had made them sick they had to do other tasks to get better or sit out of the game for 2 minutes.

Water station: 

Have lots of water and cups for your teens. They will get thirsty from running around. We had a water station in a corner and they could stop and get water or take a break if needed. Zombies could not tag anyone or wait for them outside the station. This was the neutral zone!


Break out the Halloween stuff and make your rooms look zombified! My teens decided to skip this part and only made a few posters for Dan’s club. It actually worked well for us and made clean up easier.





Final thoughts: 

This is a lot of prep but totally worth it! We used a ton of recycled supplies and spent only $15! Next up, I will run through game play and include a link to the printouts I created for the game.



See you at ALA!


Are you headed to ALA Orlando? Come see our presentation “Geeky Programming on a Ramen Noodle Budget!” Sarah and I are super excited to share all about the budget friendly programs we host at our library. We will also share about LibraryCon 2015  and update you on all the new ideas we have for our now annual summer event!

Geeky Programming on a Ramen Noodle Budget

Sunday, June 26
1:00 PM – 2:30 PM
Orange County Convention Center, Room S320 G-H

Do you shop at the Dollar Store to make your resources stretch? Do you repeat the same crafts for every program you do? Do you want to provide excellent programs for teens using the budget and resources you already have at your disposal? This program will give examples of how one library used a small budget and lots of creativity to provide geektastic programs-from monthly geeky fandom events to a library-wide ComicCon.

Meeting Type: Program

Interests: Young Adult Services, Youth Services

Type of Library: Public

Sponsors: YALSA

Cost: Included with full conference registration.


  • SB

    Sarah Bean Thompson

    Youth Services Manager
    Springfield-Greene County Library
    Springfield, Missouri

  • VB

    Valerie Bogert

    Young Adult Librarian
    Springfield-Greene County Library
    Springfield, Missouri

Hobbit Day

This week I am playing catch up on what we have been programming in the library. I have several fun and low cost programs to share with my readers. Feel free to use the ideas at your own library!

My favorite program besides Star Wars Reads Day has to be Hobbit Day. We received a lovely party package from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt that made the day even more special. Alas, it was also the last movie from the world of Tolkien (cue sad face) and we wanted to go out with a bang. I partnered with the lovely Miss A who moonlights as our tween librarian, and together we rocked the Shire library style. We also quickly learned that we should never be allowed to work together on anything because I think there was more giggling than actual progress. There was also a fair amount of party Thranduil memes being sent back and forth but I digress..

Our patrons had a blast and we had a wonderful family stay the entire time and call around inviting their friends to join them. The only downside is that I didn’t get more pictures of the event. We were so busy with the quest that I left my camera in my pocket the whole time!

Hobbit party an all ages program:

We decided that this should be an all ages event and hit up Pinterest for some ideas. There are lots of people that have done some amazing birthday parties around all things LOTR. This was our favorite and the inspiration for most of our party: LOTR Party

We used the biggest room in the library and turned it into a mini quest. When the children walked in the they chose whether they wanted to be a Hobbit, an Elf, or a Dwarf. Each race was represented by a different colored leaf with a name written on it. They could tape it on their shirt or wear it as a necklace. They also received the “One ring.”  Once they had those things they started on their quest. The quest was marked by brown paper “stones” with arrows pointing in the right direction.

The Rings

We made these out of paper towel tubes and painted them gold. I used a sharpie to write some squiggles on the sides for the dark writing.

Stop #1- The Dead Marshes


Children had to walk through the treacherous marshes using the secret path. I used some blue bulletin board paper, paper stepping stones, fake and real plants, and lots of leaves. We didn’t want to make it too scary for the little guys.

Stop #2- Shoot the bad guys!

We set up a shooting gallery with the bad guy characters from both LOTR and the Hobbit. Miss A turned the extra scary looking orcs into party orcs with bow-ties and silly hats. The kids then got to either throw rocks at them (giant puff balls) or shoot them with Legolas’s bow. Most of them tried both and there were lots of cheers when they knocked them off the mountain.

Stop #3 – Shelobe’s Lair

For this stop we covered two tables with black sheets and added some spider web and fake spiders. Inside the lair were a bunch of spider eggs (Easter eggs) that either had a spider ring or a bit of web. The kids had to crawl inside and find an egg. When they came out the other side they opened it up and found out if they were safe (spider web) or if they had gotten bit by the spiders (spider ring). If they were bitten they had to be wrapped in toilet paper (web)  before they could continue their journey. This was the second most popular stop and there were lots of giggles.

Stop #4- Riddles in the Dark

I made a guessing game using old jean pockets and filled them with random items. The kids had to feel the outside of the pocket and see if they could guess what was inside.

Stop #5- Mount Doom



Once they got to this stop they had to toss their gold rings into the fires of Mount Doom to save all of Middle Earth. After they had destroyed the ring they got a poster of Gandalf and a ring bookmark to take home. We built the volcano using two huge flower pots and brown paper. We added some red and orange tissue paper and streamers for the lava. The kids really loved it. It ended up being a photo stop for the parents.

After the quest they could do more activities that were set up around the room. We had match the actors to the Dwarves, make a shield, Hobbit trivia, and lots of puzzles and games. We also had music from the movies playing the background.

We had lots of people come and go and it was a very successful party with not a lot of expense. If you are thinking about hosting one of these parties and need some of the trivia questions or puzzles you can find them here:





Ani-May Fest

This year has been a pretty awesome so far. We finally have a thriving Teen Advisory board that is excited about planning and running programs at the library. Wait… you’re letting them run the programs?! Yes, and other than a few hiccups it has been a success.

I had an end of the school year pizza party for my TAB members and we discussed what we wanted to do for the end of spring and beginning of summer. The top request was me letting them plan and run an entire program from start to finish. I let them choose which event they wanted to do and they all selected   Ani-May Fest. I have to admit I was crazy excited about their choice. To be honest, (Librarian confession time) I am not a huge fan of anime or manga. I have tried to watch the shows they recommend and read the top teen manga for many years. But, I just can’t get into it. Don’t get me wrong, I have mad respect for the genre. The art is fantastic and I get why it is popular. It’s just not something I am ever going to love.

When I first became a the Teen Librarian at our branch I had to run a few programs that the previous librarian had planned. One of them was a Manga night. It was my first fandom program and it didn’t go over very well. I had planned a ton of crafts and had lots of themed snacks for them to try. 12 kids showed up and half were horrified when I confessed that I had not watched or read much from the genre. Several ended up leaving after one girl declared that I was unfit to run anything since I wasn’t a fan. After a few awkward minutes the rest settled in to drawing their favorite characters and chatting. The only saving grace was the cart of manga that had been weeded from the department that I let them take home. Even though the program for the most part bombed I did learn a lot about the genre from the teens that stuck around and were willing to school me on their favorites.

Ani-May Fest was planned 100% by my TAB group. They chose the title and helped me write the description for the program. The only thing I was in charge of was getting the food and setting up a Crunchyroll account so they could watch some anime on the big screen. The best part? One of the teen boys who is not a fan wanted to come and help his TAB friends run the event because he wanted to support what they love. Adorable! Here is what we did:

Ani-May Fest

Celebrate all things anime and manga during this special event. Learn how to make candy sushi and gyotaku paintings, watch episodes from Crunchyroll, rated TV-14/PG-13 and under, and discuss your favorite characters. Other craft activities, games and snacks will be provided. Costumes are welcome!

Candy Sushi

IMG_6473 IMG_6474


My TAB members ended up making the sushi for the other attendees instead of letting everyone try it. It turned out okay and they had fun bringing it out on serving trays for everyone to try. I highly recommend using name brand candy and not the cheap stuff. We got the super cheap, off brand twizzlers and they all thought they tasted really bad. Twizzler makes a rainbow variety that taste a lot better! We used the following guide to make our version:

how to make candy sushi

Tip: Use Pam and Wax paper!! We forgot to spray the wax paper with Pam so everything was super stuck together!

Gyotaku Prints-


Gyotaku is a Japanese tradition where you use fish and ink to make prints. It started in the 1800’s and may have been used by fishermen to record the size of their catch. Now it’s a lovely art form! We are lucky to have a small collection of rubber fish that we use at various events. You paint one side of the fish with acrylic paint and lay a large piece of paper over the fish. Then you gently rub it to make the print. Everyone tried it but only few took their prints home. One of the teens suggested that we add googly eyes next time to make them “cooler.” The other suggestion was to us real fish.. um no!



There is a wonderful resource for Libraries called Crunchyroll. It is a streaming service that has lots of popular Anime you can watch in your library. All they require is for users to fill out a short survey at the end of their program on how they used the service. If you buy a membership, it is around $7.00 a month.

Chopstick relay- 

This was my favorite event of the night! One of my TAB members created this game for the attendees. He came up with the rules and made sure that everyone got a chance to play! I am so proud of him and I wish I had grabbed better pictures of what he created.

IMG_6478 IMG_6479

The game is pretty simple. See how many items you can pick up and put into the cup using chopsticks. Each item has a value based on how hard or easy it was to pick up with chopsticks. The first round you could use cheater chopsticks and the second round you used chopsticks the traditional way. There was an option to use cheaters the whole time but you forfeited half of your score.  We used flat glass marbles, pom poms, glass shapes, and beads. Some of the glass marbles were inside a vase so it was harder to get them out and into your cup. The teens loved this game and played it over and over. They even created new rules and set up a relay race between partners where you passed pom poms to each other using the chopsticks. There were lots of laughs and everyone got a chance to play!

Other Activities-

Most of them just wanted to draw while watching anime. I had a few games set out: Sushi Go, Takenoko, Tsuro, and King of Tokyo. I also had templates for DIY Pokemon cards and origami paper for folding. It was pretty low key and they could what they wanted or just hang out with their friends.

If you are looking for themed snacks check out Asian markets in your area. I found a bag of 25 chopstick sets for under a $1 and inexpensive candy for them to try. Survey your teens and see if they have any favorites and where they go to buy them.

Final Thoughts- 

This was a lot of fun! My TAB team did a pretty good job helping out with the program. Only one stayed and helped clean up afterwards which is something we need to work on as a group. I’m also working with them to mingle with the crowd a bit more. They tend to get a bit clannish and stick together. We’ve got the planning thing down. We just need to work on the participation part!

The other teens all had a good time and they didn’t care that their librarian was not a huge fan. They loved sharing their favorites with me and liked that other teens planned this event. They asked if this could be a yearly event every May!

Having teens plan your events can help if you are not well versed on a fandom. If you don’t have a TAB group you can still plan a meet up like this. Check with other staff and see if there are fans out there that would be willing to help you with the event. At the very least they can give you pointers so you are not totally in the dark. Finally, be willing to do a bit of research about the fandom and also give it a chance. You don’t have to like everything to plan a fun night!





April Reading Challenge- Get Graphic

For this month’s reading challenge I wanted to do something fun. I have this monster pile of Graphic Novels and comic books that I am dying to read and April is pretty booked with programming at the library. I don’t really have the time for those big thick novels, but I do know I can get through most of my comic books and graphics. Are you with me?

This is one of my favorite genres to promote. I love doing graphic novel readers advisory with kids and teens. Not only do I get to promote a good story, I get to promote the fantastic artwork. If you haven’t jumped into the graphic pool you are missing out. There is a graphic novel for nearly everyone. From traditional superhero stories, to every day life, fantasy, science fiction, and even graphics about classic books like Shakespeare. Plus, the artwork is a treat and it requires a more attention to detail than a traditional book.

The goal I am setting is to catch up on my comic book subscriptions (aka- huge Star Wars binge) and read some of the newer graphics that keep catching my eye in the teen department. I don’t have a set number for this round so it’s more of a read at your own pace challenge. But, I was encouraged by my dear husband to actually deal with all my comic book boxes that are littering the living room. Challenge accepted!

As always you can Tweet to me if you like: @MsVal313

I would love to hear about what you are reading both good and bad!


A request

Dear Readers,

I love that some of you have referenced my posts on your own blogs or in presentations. I think that is awesome and I am always willing to share. I do have a request. If you take my programming pictures or direct posts from my blog could you please credit where they came from? I recently came across a few of my posts and pictures on a training presentation  from a University. Most of the photos were credited but mine were not. It’s not really a matter of “hey that’s my stuff give it back, ” but more of a “I bet your readers might like to hear more about that program.” Librarians work really hard prepping programming that works for our patrons. Almost all of us are willing to share our ideas with each other. Please remember to be kind and add a link back or give credit to the stuff that you decide to use.

Thanks a bunch!!

Valerie B.

Teen Librarian at The Library Center
Springfield Greene County Library District
Springfield, MO