Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell (2016)

frozenAtmospheric horror with a wide age-range appeal and creepy dolls.

Recommended grade level: 6 and up

Pages:   298 (for ISBN 9780545941082)

Genre(s) and keywords: horror

Tone/Style: bleak, scary

Pace: moderate to fast

Topics: curses, ghosts, dolls, possession, death

Themes: aftermath of tragedy, grief, family

Summary: Dunvegan School for Girls has been losed for many years. Converted into a family home, the teachers and the students are long gone. But they left something behind… Continue reading

Unstoppable: True Stories of Amazing Bionic Animals by Nancy Furstinger (2017)

unstoppableCute, inspiring, and photo-heavy, this feel-good title is great for browsing.

Recommended grade level: 4 and up

Pages:  128 (for ISBN 9780544879669)

Genre(s) and keywords: nonfiction, science, reluctant readers

Tone/Style: positive, encouraging

Pace: fast

Topics: medical technology, prosthetics

Themes: different abilities, innovation, helping others, overcoming challenges

Summary: In Unstoppable, animals are both benefiting from and helping out the world of prosthetic science – including all species, situations, and science backgrounds. From the high-tech science of 3D printing, to inflatables, to toy wheels, this title has it all. Unstoppable is a perfect fit for science enthusiasts and animal lovers alike. (Source) Continue reading

Program – Build to Battle

What is it?

Using office supplies and instructions from the Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction book series by John Austin, create tiny catapults, bows and arrows, and other “weapons” then compete in challenges with them.

 

Price

You may be able to find what you need among you existing office supplies, or solicit donations of materials.  In this case, you could potentially run the program without buying anything.  I had a healthy budget to work with and ended up spending about $50 on building materials.

 

Why do it?

There’s a little bit of every STEAM element—science, technology, engineering, art, and math—in this program.  Not many activities hit on all that, particularly not ones with this high appeal for pre-teens and teens.  It’s a great program for disguising educational elements behind a ton of fun elements. Continue reading

Program – Extreme Library

What is it?

After the library is closed, middle schoolers can come play active games throughout the library building.  I like to really play up the fact that they will have the library to themselves, and be allowed to do things we wouldn’t normally allow.  Hence the “extreme”…though of course, it’s all perfectly safe and legal. 😉  This is the program description I use: “Zombie tag in the Library? An extreme scavenger hunt in the stacks? That can’t be allowed…but we’re going to try it anyway! We won’t tell if you don’t.”

 

Price

Anywhere from free, to however much you want to spend.  If your budget it low, plan activities that use materials you already own.

 

Why Do It?

When you’re doing something unconventional like this, it’s a good idea to prepare for the possibility that your reasoning will be challenged.  Continue reading

Program – Laser Tag at the Library

What is it?

After the library is closed, invite middle schoolers to play laser tag in the building.

 

Price

$300-$700, depending on the equipment you use.

 

Number of participants

This can vary a lot.  If you rent equipment, most rental companies will offer 10 to 20 laser taggers at a time.  It’s often cost-effective to have the equipment for a block of time.  I like to get the equipment for three hours, and break it into three time slots; participants can sign up for one slot.  Each one-hour slot has 20 players (10 on each team), so I get 60 total in one night.  After all the instructions and suiting up, I’m usually able to give the participants 40 minutes of play during their timeslot, which seems a good amount of time to me. Continue reading

The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy (2017)

disappearancesA unique, suspenseful mystery-fantasy set in the 1940s.

Recommended grade level: 7 and up

Pages:   388 (for ISBN 9780544879362

Genre(s) and keywords: mystery, historical fiction, fantasy, romance, magical realism (yeah I know that’s like all the genres),

Tone/Style: mysterious, dark

Pace: leisurely to moderate

Topics: hidden past of a family member, curses, blame

Themes: grief and loss, alienation, romantic relationships, family

Summary: Aila Quinn’s mother, Juliet, has always been a mystery: vibrant yet guarded, she keeps her secrets beyond Aila’s reach. When Juliet dies, Aila and her younger brother Miles are sent to live in Sterling, a rural town far from home–and the place where Juliet grew up. Continue reading