Author Archives: librerin

About librerin

Children and Youth Services Librarian at Lee County Library

Homeschool Hub–Iron Chef, Jr.


This month’s Homeschool Hub activity was Iron Chef, Jr.  The kids chose their own ingredients from three categories: one item from the base category, two items from the sauces category, and two items from the garnishes category, plus the secret ingredient and unlimited sprinkles (obvi).

Bases:  graham crackers, sugar wafers, pretzel sticks (I realized too late that I should have offered a gluten free option, so for the second session I had chocolate pudding cups on hand, just in case it came up again).

Sauces:  Frosting (I got the kind that comes in different colors–I got chocolate, green, and red–and has sprinkles in the top because the answer is always more sprinkles) chocolate syrup, strawberry syrup (a popular option!), and marshmallow fluff

Garnishes:  candy eyes, chocolate chips, marshmallows, Nerds

Secret ingredient: For the first session it was candy corn, for the second session it was gummy spiders

I portioned out the ingredients using Dixie cups.  Each participant had two plates and a plastic knife.  They were to make two iterations of their dish–one to eat and one to share.  I gave them score sheets so that they could evaluate each other on presentation, taste, and originality.  I loved seeing the combinations that they came up with!


Harry Potter Escape Room


Y’ALL.  We did a Harry Potter escape room at my library and it was SO.MUCH.FUN!  It all started this summer when I did an escape room with my husband and (then) 9 year old daughter.  We had a great time and I decided that I had to find a way to bring it to my library.  Understandably, there isn’t a ton of specific information about escape rooms online, which meant that I had the daunting (but ultimately really fun) task of just making it up as I went along.  (I must say that in my planning stages, I found this post by libraryladynicole to be extremely helpful.)  This post will be pretty rambly, but because there isn’t much information about library escape rooms out there, I want to be as specific as possible.

While my own escape room experience was a useful reference point, I knew I’d have to make some significant changes to the format to adapt it for my library.  First, I used a 20 minute time limit for each group (plus 5 minutes at the beginning to show a brief orientation video and 5 minutes after for resetting the room) instead of 1 hour.  I also wanted to make our event family-friendly, so we required that each group must have at least one adult but could include kids ages 6 and up.  Finally, instead of “escaping” or “not escaping”, I decided to do a horcrux hunt, sort of like this birthday party featured on Sophie’s World.  The backstory was that Harry, Ron, and Hermione found out that Voldemort hid bits of his soul in six objects (horcruxes) and they must be destroyed so that he can be defeated.  They found them and hid them in the room of hidden things, where our players were supposed to find them and put them in a trunk to be destroyed.  Each horcrux was worth a certain number of points, and the house with the most points would win the (totally imaginary) house cup.  As it turned out, all of the groups got all the way through the game (I’m not very good at keeping quiet, apparently HAHAHA).

The wall behind where I sat with the laptop had pictures of each of the horcruxes, along with the point values assigned to them.  Having participants put the horcruxes in the trunk as they found them made it easy to put them back during the brief reset time we had between sessions.







We set up the escape room in our small meeting room, which is equipped with a projector, drop-down screen, and podium.  We hooked up the library’s laptop and played the rules/story video from there.  I was able to do the whole thing (voiceover, timer, and all!) in Powerpoint, which made things a LOT easier.  We turned out the overhead lights and used 5 lamps around the room, making sure that all areas containing a puzzle were sufficiently lit.  We also hung floating candles like this from the ceiling–they looked SO good!  (They were on a remote control, so we were able to turn them on and off).

The “owl post” (pictured above) contained clues for finding each of the horcruxes.  The room was divided into stations, each of which had a locked horcrux.








The potions station held the locket.  I didn’t take a picture of it, but the whole thing was set up on top of a cabinet, which was locked with this lock.  The clue read

Double, double toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble.  The ingredient you seek is lockedt within; follow the recipe to win.

The recipe had certain ingredients marked, and those ingredients were on the counter near the cauldron with numbers on the bottom of the jar.  Those numbers were to be entered into the lock in the order that they appeared on the recipe.  I used a ball jar with water, brown paint, and plastic bugs for the pond water.  I squeezed out the inside of a cold pack into a baby food jar for bug slime.  Glitter in a baby food jar was pixie dust, and plastic spiders in a baby food jar for the spiders.  The locket was made using two large rhinestones and materials from a necklace making program we had a year or so ago.  We have an amazing artist on staff who added the details on it, as well as the ring and cup.








The quidditch station held the ring, which was protected by a small lock box.  The clue read

Quidditch is hard when the players are looking Gaunt.  Give me a ring if you can find tickets.

I found images for quidditch tickets online, and I colored in the letter H on one and N on the other.  The awesome old rotary telephone was meant to be a distraction–and boy, was it ever!  The box and key were hidden in different drawers of the card catalog, labeled G-I and L-N.  I made the ring by gluing a black rhinestone onto a ring base and painting it with gold metallic paint.  The quidditch game was on loan from a staff member.  Our staff is amazing.  I know.









In the center of the room on two columns we had a stuffed owl with four copies of the owl post and a cage containing another stuffed owl wearing the diadem.  It’s hard to see in the picture, but there is also a clock next to the cage.  The clue read

Whoo is fit to wear the crown?  It’s time to find out.

The cage was “locked” with a bicycle lock, which was originally meant to lock the potions cabinet above.  It didn’t really lock the cage, but I was in there the whole time so I just told people that yes, they had to solve the lock before opening the cage.  To make the diadem, I used a tiara we already had and put aluminum foil on it.  Then I made a color copy of the diadem and glued it onto the form and glued a rhinestone in the center.  The other two rhinestones are glued onto a bit of wire, which is attached to the crown.








The 9 3/4 station held the cup inside a suitcase with a 9 3/4 tag on it.  The clue read

Pack your bags and you’re Hogwarts-bound.  Mind your suitcase; the trip is between 9 and 10 hours.

Here, we just covered the door with brick background that we got from Oriental Trading awhile ago and made a little 9 3/4 sign.  I set up the chairs train-style and put the suitcases beside and underneath them.  On the chairs I put magazines and newspapers with Quibbler and Daily Prophet covers on them.  To make the cup, I got a clear plastic wine glass from Dollar General and glued paper handles on it, then painted over the whole thing with gold metallic paint.  The detail work was done by the aforementioned awesome artist we have on staff.







The desk area had the diary, which was inside a dictionary diversion safe.  The key was hidden in the hood of the robe hanging on the chair.  Across the room was a dictionary with the word “robe” circled and a magnifying glass over it.  The clue read:

To “write right”, T. Riddle must consult this.  P.S. Light will be ssshed on the final one. 

Once the dictionary was unlocked, they found the diary and a UV light pen.








The last horcrux was hidden behind the locked closet door, which had a realtor-type lockbox on it.  To get the combination for the lockbox, though, they had to solve the lock on the diary, which was found in a letter found on the desk.  Once the diary was opened, they used the UV light pen to find the combination to the lockbox and found Nagini!

Logistics:  we originally planned for one day where we would play the first two Harry Potter movies (they are covered by our movie license) back to back while the escape room ran in thirty minute increments.  Registration filled up so quickly that we added an identical session on Sunday, which also filled up with a waiting list.  We ended up with a total of about 200 people in all.  It was great!  We served popcorn and butterbeer punch (vanilla ice cream, cream soda, whipped topping, and butterscotch syrup) and people wore their best HP garb.  We also printed out templates for house ties that they colored in and a pen-and-paper sorting hat quiz.

Long story short (too late!) this program was a lot of work but so, so, so much fun!  My wheels are already turning about what our next escape room could be…


Build a Better World–Construction Zone!


As part of our “Build a Better World” summer reading theme, we had a Construction Zone program, featuring different building challenges for our young engineers.  The stations ran concurrently and included:

  1. Newspaper tower building challenge:  Build the tallest structure you can using newspaper, scissors, and masking tape.  I believe our winning structure was over 70 inches tall!









2.  Playdoh and craft stick challenge: Build a structure to hold one book out of (you guessed it!) playdoh and craft sticks.









3.  Ping pong ball run challenge:  Tape cardboard tubes to construct a run for ping pong balls, ending with a cup at the bottom.

4.  Giant Jenga: We made ours out of soda boxes wrapped in brown craft paper (as seen all over Pinterest)

5. I also set out Zoob and Keva planks for free play

It was a fun way to spend a rainy Tuesday morning!

Stories in the Shadows Indoor Campout Storytelling Series


stories-in-the-shadows-posterWe just finished an indoor campout storytelling series that I’m really excited about sharing with y’all.  I had been wanting to do a family fort night event ever since I started seeing posts like the one from Jbrary detailing what a fun and simple program it is.  It just never seemed to come together, but there it sat on my Pinterest board, ready for the perfect moment.  That moment came when we started talking about writing for the Georgia Council for the Arts Vibrant Communities Grant.  After much discussion, we decided to do a storytelling series after-hours with an indoor campout theme.  We had a few setbacks and changes with our storytellers, but I was so, so pleased with the end result.






stories-in-shadows-tablecloth-tents stories-in-shadows-smores-mix stories-in-shadows-campfire-craftBoth programs were an indoor campout; the only difference was the location and the storyteller.  We had both programs after hours and put up plastic tablecloths over the bookshelves for “tents.”  We made s’mores mix with Golden Grahams cereal, mini marshmallows, and chocolate chips, and each family received a craft kit to make their own campfire (I made a PDF of the instructions that I’d be happy to share if anyone is interested).






stories-in-shadows-fiddlin-dan stories-in-shadows-readingThe first storyteller was Fiddlin’ Dan the Mountain Man.  He used his musical instruments to tell stories, and the kids even got to try out some of the instruments at the end of the show.








stories-in-shadows-lsb stories-in-shadows-puppetThe second storyteller was shadow puppeteer Hobey Ford.  I am so fascinated by the art of shadow puppetry.  In fact, this is what inspired the whole program concept, and why we called it “Stories in the Shadows.”








I really loved this program series.  My favorite part was seeing the families interact with the library after hours.  Something about seeing everyone snuggled up under our makeshift tents, with play campfires and flashlights glowing, reading to each other and being entertained by talented artists–that’s why I do what I do.  I’m so appreciative of the librarians who shared the campout/family fort night idea, and of the support from the Georgia Council for the Arts Vibrant Communities grant for making it possible.

Minecraft Dance Party!


photo(10) photo(8)Masks–we found these at Oriental Trading–a really great find!








photo(6) photo(7)Minecraft Bingo–I found this amazing free printable on Life with Squeaker.  I printed out these free bookmarks on cardstock and gave them out as prizes.








photo(9)Finally, we used our trusty bluetooth speaker/party lights to play Minecraft parody songs, plus we used the screen and projector to show Minecraft parody videos.  We did the songs from iTunes so that we didn’t hear the commercials on Youtube.

Lego Ninjago Training Camp


Thanks to Angie and Sara for the inspiration for this program!

photo(3)The first station of the training camp was an obstacle course.  Our ninjas were supposed to avoid the lava (red squares) and fire-breathing dragons, walk across the bridge (masking tape), then pass through the tunnel to complete the course.  As you can see, my goofy dragons kept falling over, but it was still fun.





photo(2)For the next station, Banish the Bad Guys, I did some quick research on Ninjago bad guys, printed them out and taped them to plastic cups.  Originally, I was going to make ninja stars to throw at the targets, but I must sheepishly admit that my origami skills are not that strong.  In the end, I decided that beanbags would work just fine.  I think the kids agreed, because this was a pretty popular station.





photo(5)The Dexterity Check station consisted of my beloved Lakeshore Learning trays, some linking cubes, and “chopsticks” (easy grip tweezers).  The object was to move the cubes from one tray to the other using the tweezers as quickly as possible.  I saw some pretty heated contests on this activity.






photoYour Ninja Identity–For this station, I printed out a ninja name worksheet and printed a Ninjago head on yellow cardstock.  The ninjas were to use the code on the sheet to translate their name into a cool new ninja name.  Then, they decorated a mask, cut it out, and affixed it to construction paper strips for the headband.








photo(1) photo(4)Finally, we had to have a Lego gadget building station.  No surprise, this was the most popular station.  There’s just something about building with Legos that never gets old.

Ready, Set, Read!–All About You



Opening Song: Hands are clapping

Opening Game: Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes (3 times, faster each time)

photo(1) Book: My Nose, Your Nose, by Melanie Walsh (available through PINES)








photo(2)Book: I Love You, Nose! I Love You, Toes! by Linda Davick. (E HUMAN BODY DAVI)








Rhyme: Open them, shut them

Rhyme: Eye Winker, Tom Tinker

Song: Hokey Pokey

photo(5)Book: From Head to Toe, by Eric Carle (E CARLE).








photo(13)Closing Game: Animal Action cube








Closing rhyme: My Hands Say Thank You


photo(3) photo(4)Activity: body tracing–parents/caregivers traced their child on a large sheet of paper, then the kids colored them in.  This was a great activity!  It was fun to see the kids and their adults talking about what they needed to add to their drawings.

Puppet Show–Little Blue Riding Hood


photoAlmost every summer we take the week before the 4th of July and do a puppet show at all of our branches.  I love puppet shows, but sometimes they can be sort of stressful–managing multiple puppets and props, making the puppets I have fit the story, and sometimes even adapting the story to a puppet show script myself.  This year I was a lucky duck because we happened upon the script for “Little Blue Riding Hood” by Nancy Whetstone.   Y’all, it is SO GOOD.  Really funny stuff and so simple to stage.  We adapted it a bit so that we could use two guy puppets (we made them brothers named Ben and Jerry).  The kids enjoyed the show so much.  I highly recommend trying it out!




We also did the classic paper bag puppet craft.  When space permitted, we left the stage up so that the kids could try out their new puppets onstage.  It was a hit!  It always amazes me how creative kids can be with just simple materials and activities.  The kids had a great time creating their puppets, and I loved hearing the stories they told.

Ready, Set, Read!–1, 2, 3!


Bubble machine (sing Hello Bubbles and One Little Two Little Three Little Bubbles)

Opening song: Hands are Clapping (to the tune of Skip to My Lou) Hands are clapping, clap clap clap, hands are clapping, clap clap clap, hands are clapping, clap clap clap, clap your hands my darlings.  (feet are stomping, bodies are wiggling)–I think this one was in this year’s early literacy summer reading manual

Opening game: Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes (sing 3 times–first time slow, second time a little faster, third time “super sonic speed”)

photo(11)Book: Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by Eric Litwin and James Dean (E CATS LITW)








photo(15)Flannelboard Activity: My groovy (red) buttons.  I printed these buttons onto different colored paper, laminated them, and put a bit of velcro on the back.  I handed these out to the kids and instructed them to come up with their button when I called that color.  Then I said “My buttons, my buttons, my groovy (red) buttons.”  The kids with red buttons came up and put them on the flannelboard.  Then we counted how many red buttons we had.  We did this for each color.  Then we went back and counted the total number of buttons.







photo(6)Song: Bubble Bubble Pop.  I made these cards and we sang the song demonstrated adorably (as always) by the Jbrary girls here.








photo(12)Book: One, Two, Buckle My Shoe by Jane Cabrera (E COUNTING CABR)








photo(10)Book: Dog’s Colorful Day by Emma Dodd (E COLORS DODD)









Parachute activity: 3 little monkeys jumping on the bed

Parachute activity: Zoom! Zoom! Zoom! We’re Going to the Moon!

For both of these we put my three monkey puppets on the parachute and sang/recited the rhymes.  Three Little Monkeys got a little out of hand (they all fell off and some bumped their heads prematurely) so we had to put some of them back on.  It wasn’t perfect, but boy, did we have fun!  This is something I definitely want to incorporate more in my future storytimes.



photo(14)Closing game: animal action cube–we toss this at the end of storytime and imitate an animal.  This has really been fun!








Bubble machine and playtime

Craft and activity: bingo markers and teddy bear counter sorting

photo(9) photo(7)




Craft Carnival de Rio


Whew!  I can’t believe we are already several weeks into summer reading!  Things are going really great–lots of trackers being turned in (great job, keep it up!!!!)  This week at Leesburg and Smithville we had a taste of Rio in honor of this year’s host of the Olympic games.

We decorated masks with feathers, stick on jewels, and fruit stickers, and we also decorated wooden maracas.

photo(3) photo(2) photo(5)








I hooked up our Block Party speaker/light show and played some Brazilian music for the kids to dance to.







Finally, we offered Brigadeiros, a traditional Brazilian dessert made with sweetened condensed milk, butter, cocoa powder, and vanilla.  I followed this recipe and rolled the mixture into balls ahead of time.  Then we put sprinkles in a plate and the kids finished by rolling the ball into the sprinkles.  These were a huge hit!