Monday, March 18, 2019

Book Review: Haphaven

     In my day I have seen lots and lots of graphic novels based on fairy tales, myths and legends of all kinds. Haphaven by Norm Harper is the first I ever remember seeing based on old superstitions.
     Alex Mills was raised by a very superstitious father. According to him, Alex is descended from the luckiest gambler who ever lived - or at least, he was lucky until his luck ran out and he rode off into the sunset to find Lady Luck herself. Family legend says not only did he find her, but married her and lived happily every after.
    When Alex's dad dies suddenly in a bad car accident Alex becomes obsessed with following all of his superstitions to the letter. until the day she has a fight with her mother and deliberately steps on a crack.
     Sure enough, stepping on the crack breaks her mother's back, so Alex decides she needs to set out to find Lady Luck to try to get her mom help. As she sets out on this adventure, Alex meets a leprechaun who takes her to the land of Haphaven, the place superstitions originate from. While there, she meets a real-life Jinx, a girl named Penny with a reputation for turning luck around, a black cat you REALLY don't want to cross, and is told she needs to find a lucky rabbit's foot in order to help her mom. Of course, everyone fails to tell Alex, the foot is still very much attached to a very much alive rabbit.
     Beautiful artwork, a but-kicking biracial heroine, and a lot of heart plus a really unique take folklore and retellings makes this one a winner in my book! Appealing to older tweens and younger teens, this book lands on shelves tomorrow, March 19th. Pick it up for a fun and different read.

4/5 bookmarks.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Book Review: Yuri Bear Storm

I am still trying to process Yuri Bear Storm by Kunihiko Ikuhara. I have to admit, this one is weird even by the special standard for weird by which I judge anything from Japan. See if you can keep up with me here ok?
There are some high school girls.
Except only one of them is actually a girl.
All the other girls are bears, because EVERYONE on Earth is a bear, except for some reason our protagonist Kureha who is a human. Kureha is kind of psychic, and very plain, until... wait for it... she takes off her pony tail and glasses and turns out to be drop dead gorgeous.
Ginko, who Kureha is kind of obsessed with, is the head bear, but no one knows she is a bear EXCEPT Kureha because of the psychic thing - BUT even though Kureha is psychic she somehow does not realize that all the women in this series are lesbians (I mean, it's called YURI Bear Storm - so duh!)
Ginko's mother, who is a weirdo recluse artist having an affair with her own sister in law wants Ginko to kill and eat Kireha because.... that's what you do when you love someone! You cannibalize them!
Despite the fact that this is one of the most bonkers manga titles I have ever read, I still give it decently high marks on account of the character design being absolutely beautiful and the fanservice not being TOO fanservicey. (Though there is quite a lot of that, and these girls are, if you will recall, all 16-year old high school students).
Volume 1 is out now, Book 2 is scheduled to drop in early March.

3/5 bookmarks on sheer adorable weirdness alone.

Monday, January 28, 2019

3D Modeling for Teens - Featuring TinkerCad

3D printing is super cool.


It can also be an expensive hobby, and is still new enough technologically that you just don't see 3D printers very often. Where I live, the library is the one place in town where you can actually see one working live and in person, and while ours are not available for public use, they are available to use for programming, so I decided to introduce my teens to ours by getting them involved in designing their own items to print.

The only requirement to participate in the program was that the teens had to have an e-mail address (which most do for school, though some used a parent's e-mail) so that they could set up their own account on TinkerCad.

TinkerCad homepage as of January of 2019

For those who are not familiar, TinkerCad is a free, online Computer Aided Drafting program that allows anyone to create STL and OBJ files of three dimensional objects. These files can then be translated or "sliced" for use in 3D printers, allowing anyone to create their own designs of anything they want, really. The homepage looks like this:

Once you have created an account, the website has convenient and easy lessons that help you learn how the system works. For our program I went over a couple of these very briefly with the teens, but since most of them were accustomed to programs like Word and MS Publisher, we found it easier to just dive right in and learn through trial by error. TinkerCad has a fairly simple drag and drop interface, so the biggest hurdle faced by most of the teens was trying to think three-dimensionaly and to think about how their items would look in the real word once they were printed.

Teens working on their TinkerCad projects.
For our first session, we had 9 teens in attendance, and since the class only ran for an hour or so, only 4 of them were able to completely finish a project to their satisfaction. I downloaded these four projects to a USB and am currently in the process of printing them out for the teens to pick up at their leisure. I also created a Thingiverse profile for our teen department where we uploaded the projects under Creative Commons licensing so that others can then download and print them as well. The teens got a kick out of thinking other people could print their creations. 

The 4 finished creations we uploaded onto Thingiverse. The one on the bottom left had a mystery "floater" shape no one noticed before it was rendered. 

Monday, January 14, 2019

Book Review: You Can't Just Kiss Anyone You Want

This little gem has been out since 2017 but I just discovered it at the beginning of this year. Originally a European graphic novel, You Can't Just Kiss Anyone You Want by Marzena Sowa is only available in an e-book format in English at this time, and you can get it on Amazon.
I know, it looks like a kids book - but this story is definitely not for kids. Set in Stalin-era soviet Russia the story contains some harsh truths as seen through the eyes of a little boy, Viktor, who ties to kiss a cute girl during a movie. While being questioned about why he would do such a thing, Viktor's friends quickly begin to turn on him, telling the adults in their world secrets that could bring down Viktor's family.
You see, Viktor's father is a writer, and he may have writings in his possession that are definitely not allowed by the government. As we peek into Viktor's family's life as well as the lives of his principal and most poignantly, his teacher, we see why in the Stalinist government, you REALLY can't just kiss anyone you want. 

Warning: while it is not graphically represented, there is a suggested rape/sexual assault in this work.

Giving it 3/5 bookmarks due to its heartbreaking story and beautiful artwork. It loses points for just plain being too short.

Monday, January 7, 2019

I'm Back... Kinda (Or, Why the Blog Has Been On Hiatus)

Well, it's been a while hasn't it? Just under 5 months, to be precise. I have good, and fairly valid reasons though - I promise.

First of all, I have been getting used to my new job in teen services, so that has taken me some time. Tied to that is the fact that one of the first tasks I had on my plate when I took the new job was to launch a teen blog for my library district. You can check it out at TeenXing, it's pretty good. We feature works by our teens as well as book reviews and program updates.

Not only has the new work stuff kept me busy, I have also been struggling with some pretty serious health issues over the past couple of months. I've been diagnosed with a couple of autoimmune disorders, I had a cancer scare, and both my fiance (Oh yeah! I GOT ENGAGED PEOPLE!) and future mother in law have been very ill as well.

To top it off one of my dearest friends passed away very suddenly just a few weeks ago, leaving behind two college age kids and a terminally ill wife, which was just really crushing to all those who knew and loved him. He loved my blog though and was one of the people who kept asking why I had stopped, so I am getting back on track in part for him.

New book reviews are coming, new programming posts are coming, and probably a few posts whining about how crappy I feel and why life is rough right now. Librarianship is still the best job ever though, and I am so glad to share this blog and all my crazy adventures with all of you.

See you in the stacks!


Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Programming Post: Oregon Trail Live

If you are of a certain age, you might remember playing the original computer game version of Oregon Trail - one of the most notoriously difficult educational video games EVER created.
Or maybe you are a little younger and have played the game in its newest incarnation: the family-friendly card game you can get from Target.
Either way the game is super fun, actually teaches you a thing or two about history and how hard it was to be a pioneer - so of course I HAD to turn it into a live action teen program! Mostly I modified the card game and made my own decks of cards so here is how you can do it at your library:

Supplies you will need:

* 21 pieces of card stock or construction paper to create the board.
     The board can be any shape you want, as long as it fits whatever room you are doing it in.
     I decided on 21 pieces because the trail was around 2,100 miles, and this way each piece of paper       equals 100 miles.
* A 6-sided die, the bigger the better. Mine was legitimately huge, as I used a box. This was great but it did only last through one program, so you might want a more durable option.

I used a recycled speaker decoration from Summer Reading 2018's music theme. It died a noble death from being tossed about. 
* Print-outs of "supplies" deck of cards, 4 of each card per deck (choose one color for this deck):
     Food   -   Clean Water   -   Wagon Parts  -   Bullets   -   Medical Supplies   -   Clothes   -  Oxen
* Print-outs of "events" deck of cards (printed on different colored paper from the supplies)
     8 "Fort" cards
     6 "River Crossing" cards
     2 each of the following "calamities:"
           Typhoid - Measles - Cholera - Dysentery - Snake Bite - Bad Water - Oxen Have Died -       
           Starvation - Thief - Broken Arm - Snow Storm - Broken Wheel.

Most of the calamities require the players to use their supply cards to avoid death.

(I am sorry but I am NOT about to type out all the wording I used on each card. If you REALLY want them, you can always message me and I can e-mail the actual cards to you. Or make up your own, don't be lazy! Haha!)
* Print-Outs of "Independence Missouri" (the start) and "Willamette, Oregon," (the finish line)

My "supplies" cards. I used stock photos, and I laminated them.

Examples of one Fort card, one Calamity and one River Crossing card. 

Ok, so how do we play this thing?

Players will form a party of 6-8 individuals who will all "leave" from Independence, MO together. 

Each player starts the game with 2 randomly chosen supply cards (3 for smaller parties). It is perfectly fine for players to show their party what supplies they have, as they will be shared anyway.

Roll the die to choose the order the players will play in - high number goes first. 

Once an order is determined, you are ready to start down the trail. One at a time, each player will roll the die and if it lands on an even number the entire party advances one playing space. If a player rolls an odd number a card from the events deck must be drawn. (Again, please MESSAGE ME if you want me to send you my cards in an e-mail. I am NOT typing out each card again here. Too much work! It is a Publisher file. And you will have to mail me cookies. I like Chips Ahoy.)

       * If a player draws a FORT card, they may take 2 additional supplies cards.
       *If a player rolls a "CALAMITY" card, they must do what the card says. These may lead to the 
         death of the player or the entire party. If the entire party dies, the game ends. 
       * If a player draws a "RIVER CROSSING" card, they must roll the die again. An odd roll      
          means the party loses a supply card and stays in their spot, an even roll means the river has 
          been crossed safely and the party advances one space.

If a player draws a calamity that results in their death they leave the game but may donate any supply cards they have to other members of the party.  

The entire party "wins" if even ONE person makes it Oregon. Trust me, it doesn't happen often. The first time we did this program we played 7 times and made it to Oregon ONCE with ONE PERSON left in the party. 

Questions, comments or concerns? Shoot me an email using the links above or comment below!

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Programming Post: Fandom Guess Who

Do you guys remember the old board game "Guess Who?" It was basically a 20-questions type of game where your opponent chose a character from a game board, then you asked them a series of yes/no questions to try and guess who they had chosen.

For those not familiar, it looked like this.

Since, as you know by now if you have ever read this blog, I happen to love turning  live-action versions of classic board and video games in to programs, I decided to update the game to be more appealing to my teens and created my own "Fandom Guess Who" game.

I created my game board on Publisher, on an 8.5" by 14" piece of paper. I chose 30 characters that I liked from a variety of different Fandoms (15 females and 15 males).

The fandoms I chose were:
Steven Universe
Anime (Studio Ghibli, Dragon Ball and Naruto, to be more specific)
Harry Potter
Game of Thrones
Stranger Things
Star Wars
Rick and Morty
Video Games (Bendy and the Ink Machine and Super Mario)
Doctor Who and
Adventure Time.

I found images of each character standing alone, and used them to make a board that was 5 characters across by 5 characters down. Then I used the same images to create a deck of cards from which I could choose the character that was to be guessed.

This was my finished play board.

The rules were:
Only Yes/No type questions are allowed.
Only one question per person per round.
The group gets 20 questions total to make a guess, but guesses can be made at any time after the first question has been asked.
If you make a guess, and guess wrong, you you lose your next turn.
You may NOT ask any questions about a character's age.
You may NOT as any questions about a character's race, gender, species or skin color.
You may not ask any questions about a character's age.
You may not ask if a character is human or a cartoon.

Play can be done with any size group, (up to 20, since there are only 20 questions) but I would not recommend playing with more than 10 at a time to give everyone the chance to potentially ask at LEAST one question.

In addition to the board, each player needs some kind of marker to "block out" the characters they think have been excluded. If the boards are laminated, dry-erase markers are great, if not: beans, buttons or any small objects you have lots of will do.

It's a really easy and fun game, doesn't take a ton of work to put together, and costs virtually nothing. The teens enjoy it because they get to challenge and try to stump the staff while having fun. Plus you can play it any time, and practically anywhere.