Youth Services Blog

Spotlight Series: Stormbreaker: An Alex Rider Adventure

Stormbreaker cover image

Cold, rainy weather can often leave us wishing summer would re-appear! Needless to say, long nights and chilly days are less than fun. Never fear, though, because our great Spotlight Series continues to provide great books with which to curl up on the couch.

Book: Anthony Horowitz’s Stormbreaker: An Alex Rider Adventure (JP HOR) This action-packed book fairly crackles with edge-of your-seat excitement: Alex Rider, a fourteen-year-old British boy, has been raised by his uncle Ian for most of Alex’s life. When Ian dies, Alex discovers that his uncle was actually a secret agent for MI6 (sort of like the British version of the CIA), and has been training Alex to be an agent, too.

When Alex learns the truth, he is thrust head-first into a dangerous mission where his success may prevent the release of a dangerous weapon—and his failure could have catastrophic consequences. This book is reviewed for readers in grades 5 and up.


  1. Make Invisible Ink! enter image description here
  2. Survive the Laser Maze

    You will need:
    1. An adult’s permission. Also, make sure you clean up after yourselves!
    2. Masking Tape
    3. Red string or yarn
    4. Scissors
    5. A chosen area of your living room/hallway/basement

To Do:

Cut a very long piece of string or yarn, and use masking tape to attach it to walls or pieces of furniture at funky angles, until it looks like this:

Laser maze

The strings are laser beams that will set off an alarm to alert the enemy of your presence if you touch them! One by one, as shown in the picture, try navigating the maze without touching any of the strings. It’s harder than you might think! Once you’ve mastered the maze, try it using only one hand!

There you have your rainy-day mission, should you choose to accept it. Check back next time for another great installment of the Youth Services Bulletin, and have a Happy Fall!

Spotlight Series: Zita the Spacegirl

Hello, Everyone!

Now that summer is over and school is back in session, we’re back with another round of our famous (wildly so in some corners of Tuscany and Albania) Spotlight Series!

This time, we will focus on an awesome graphic novel called Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke.

Zita the Spacegirl

In Zita the Spacegirl, (J GN HAT) Zita and her friend Joseph are cast far away, across the galaxy, to another planet where a group of aliens called the Scriptorians are holding Joseph hostage. In order to get her friend back, and to have any hope of getting home, Zita will have to team up with some pretty unlikely friends, including a giant mouse who hates his name, a robot named Randy, and a wizard named Piper.

Together, they will face terrible enemies, including giant mechanized spiders, the Scriptorians, and another kind of alien called the Screed. Will Zita save Joseph and get them both home? Will they make it before a terrible asteroid destroys the planet? And what in the universe is Door Paste?

Find out in Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke, recommended for ages 8 and up. There are also two sequels, Legends of Zita the Spacegirl and The Return of Zita the Spacegirl.


Make alien balloons! (Based on this craft: http://www.parents.com/fun/birthdays/themes/alien/?page=2#page=2 )

Materials Needed:
1 Pack of Party balloons, or balloons left over from a birthday party or other activity
Glue sticks
Assorted construction paper
Safety scissors

Step 1: Blow up some fun balloons in different colors; green looks especially cool.
Step 2: Use the safety scissors to cut fun shapes out of the construction paper, to look like alien eyes.
Step 3: Using the glue sticks, attach the alien eyes to the balloons. Let dry, and enjoy your cool/creepy aliens!
Snack: Make-Your-Own-Planets or Moons! (adapted from http://www.thingstoshareandremember.com/eat-the-moon-space-snack/)

You will need:
Rice Cakes (unsalted)
Cream Cheese

Instructions: Spread cream cheese on rice cakes and top with fruit to form continents or craters to your heart’s content! You could also use different kinds of fruit cut in fun shapes, or raisins for moon rocks.

Tune in next time when we will continue our series with another fun title. Happy Autumn, everyone!

Spotlight Series: Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish

Amelia Bedelia

This week, we will continue our Spotlight Series with a great Easy Reader: Amelia Bedelia, by Peggy Parish.

Amelia Bedelia (ER PAR) is about a sweet but funny lady named Amelia Bedelia who goes to work for Mr. and Mrs. Rogers. They leave her a list of chores to do, but she has some pretty unusual ideas about how to interpret the list! Never fear, though; Amelia Bedelia’s pies can always be counted upon to be delicious.

This book is excellent for beginning readers up through second grade. NOTE: Reading this book may make you hungry for pie!


Speaking of pie, here’s one of our librarian’s favorite family recipes:

Chocolate Ice Cream Pie


  • 1/2 gallon of your favorite flavor of ice cream
  • 1 package of chocolate sandwich cookies
  • Chocolate syrup, to taste
  • Candy, cookies, etc. for decoration.

Directions: Set ice cream out on the counter to soften. Put chocolate sandwich cookies into a gallon-size freezer bag and crush. One of the most fun ways to do this is to smack the bag on the kitchen counter or table, then pound out the rest with a rolling pin.
Put the crushed cookies in the bottom of a 9”x13” pan. They should cover the bottom of the pan. Then, pour chocolate syrup over the crushed cookies, and spoon in the softened ice cream on top of that. Top, as desired, with more syrup, cookies, or other treats, and eat immediately! Any leftovers can be stored in the freezer.

Brain-Busters: Figures of Speech

Amelia Bedelia makes delicious pie, but she always seems to take things literally. This means that she takes “change the towels” to mean changing how the dirty towels look, rather than replacing them with clean towels.

Likewise, when Amelia hears a figure of speech, such as “hit the road”, she thinks it means to take a stick and smack the road with it! (To “hit the road” actually means to start traveling.) How many figures of speech do you know? Try making a list with your family, and see how many you can put down!

Here are a few to get you started:

  • Full of beans (means to not know what one is talking about.)
  • Face the music (means to take responsibility for one’s actions.)
  • Drive someone up a wall (means to irritate someone.)
  • Make someone’s day (means to do something kind that makes someone else happy.)

Have a great rest of the summer—or what’s left of it—and don’t forget to visit the library before school starts!

Spotlight Series: Jamberry

As the dog days of summer approach, we’re going to try a fun new project here at the Youth Services Bulletin: from time to time, we’ll feature one of our favorite stories, along with some fun activities to go along with the themes of the book.

Eventually, we hope to cover picture books, Easy Readers, and J fiction and non-fiction for different reading levels. Today, we will start with a great picture book: Jamberry!

Book: Jamberry, by Bruce Degen


Jamberry (E DEG), tells a fun story about a little boy and a bear who are, as the text says, "looking for berries, berries for jam." Beautiful illustrations accompany the whimsical rhyming text as Boy and Bear search for blueberries, blackberries, and more, all while having adventures along the way.

The story includes waterfalls, strawberry ponies, jam-skating elephants, and much more! It makes a good, short read-aloud for everyone from infants to Kindergarteners.

Activities: One of the best ways to enjoy a good book like Jamberry is to read it together! The more animated the reader’s voice, the more exciting the rhythmic verses become for little ones. You might also read it in a silly voice, too. WARNING: Extreme giggles and general hilarity may result from reading in silly voices. You have been warned.

Berry Parfaits
(serves 4; can easily be doubled or even tripled.)

One great recipe to go along with the story is this one for Berry Parfaits! These are super easy to make, and even the smallest hands can help make them. They are a delicious treat for snack or dessert.

2 c. of your favorite vanilla- or berry-flavored yogurt
2 pints each of the yummiest berries you can find (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries are all good choices)
1 c. of your favorite granola or crushed graham crackers
4 glasses or bowls

Directions: Take turns layering berries, yogurt, and granola or graham crackers in the glasses or bowls. Your only limit is what the container will hold! Variation: grown-ups might like to add a few mint leaves for a pretty garnish.

Jam, Jam, Berry Game (Like Duck, Duck, Goose)

To Play:
Everyone sits in a circle, and one person is declared It. It goes around the circle tapping each person on the head while saying "jam, jam, jam…" and finally picking someone to be the Berry. The Berry gets up and chases It around the circle, trying to tag him or her. It, in turn, tries to go all the way around the circle to the Berry's old spot. If It makes it, the Berry becomes the new It. If the original It is tagged before reaching the Berry's spot, he or she has to go sit in the "Jam Pot" in the middle of the circle, until someone else is tagged. The Berry then becomes the new It, and the next round starts.
There you have it: a great book and some fun, berry-themed activities for a rainy day! If you ever need more suggestions, the librarians are always happy to help! Have a great summer, and don't forget to drink plenty of water.


A Library Treasure Hunt

Treasure map

Are you not sure what to read next? Stuck reading the same books over and over? Has even Google failed to help you discover a fresh new favorite?

Never fear! Your friendly neighborhood librarians are here to help! Try some of these suggestions, and you’ll be polishing off that reading log in no time.

  1. Use the online catalog to find a nonfiction book about a subject you’ve always wanted to master (cooking, origami, sewing, etc.;) check it out, and cross one more item off your bucket list. If you’re not familiar with the catalog, that’s okay! Just ask one of our friendly librarians for help.
  2. Love the movie Holes? How about The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe? They’re both based off of books, as are many other good films. Try using this website (http://www.mymcpl.org/books-movies-music/based-book) to see which of your favorite movies are book-based, and read the stories that inspired the cinematic magic!
  3. Check out several titles that look interesting. When you get home, put their names into a hat and pick one at random to determine the order in which to read them.
  4. Read a biography about one of your heroes.
  5. Try a brand new book!
  6. Check out one of our summer staff picks, then talk about it with the librarian who recommended the book. We love talking about our favorites!
  7. Use the catalog to search for additional books by one of your favorite authors. Some, like Gail Carson Levine, Suzanne Collins, or Richard Peck, have written lots of good books. Gregor the Overlander, for example, might help with Hunger Games withdrawal.
  8. Try a book from a new genre: some examples include realistic fiction; fantasy; historical fiction; mystery; or science fiction.
  9. Read a book of poetry. How about Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends? Have you read Something BIG Has Been Here by Jack Prelutsky?
  10. Check out a book about your favorite animal, and see what cool facts you can learn!
  11. Put on your best detective hat and try to solve the mystery in Graeme Base’s The Eleventh Hour. Better yet, divide up your family into teams, and see who can crack the case first!
  12. Read a book of trivia. (They’re in nonfiction.) Stump your friends and astound your enemies!
  13. Try getting an old favorite on audio! Sometimes, a good narrator can make even the most familiar story come alive in new ways.
  14. Try a book with a dog on the cover.
  15. Come and spin the globe in the Youth Services department. (It’s on the desk next to the iPad, across from the main Youth Services desk.) Stop the globe and put your finger on a random country. Check out a book on that country, and see what fun facts you can discover!
  16. Check out a magazine.
  17. Pick a bookshelf, and choose a book from the bottom shelf.

There you have it! Of course, should this list not be enough, the librarians are always happy to make recommendations. Have a happy summer, and don’t forget to wear sunscreen!

Smiling Sun wearing sunglasses