Book to Film: Anticipating Wait Till Helen Comes

The updated cover, a sharp departure from the eighties-tastic original design!

The updated cover, a sharp departure from the eighties-tastic original design!

Originally published in 1986, Mary Downing Hahn’s classic horror story Wait Till Helen Comes has remained a favorite of children and librarians everywhere due to its deeply frightening, malevolent ghost and realistic family dynamics. The story of a troubled young girl named Heather, her concerned stepsister Molly, and an evil ghost named Helen bent on revenge, Wait Till Helen Comes‘ staying power is a testament to the primal fear it evokes in readers.

Now Hollywood has come calling, with the announcement last month that Helen is being developed for film. Maria Bello is starring as the mother, while two actress sisters (Sophie and Isabelle Nelisse) will star as Molly and Heather. Isabelle was previously in the extremely frightening Mama, so her casting seems to indicate plans for a very scary movie, but producers say they’re aiming for a target audience of 8 and up. No release date has been announced, but tweets from the sisters indicate filming has begun, so perhaps we’ll see the film just in time for Halloween 2015!

The cultural power of Wait Till Helen Comes is so vast it was recently chosen for the website Jezebel’s Halloween throwback bookclub, “a week of straight of throwbacks to the spookiest stories from your childhood.” It’s always interesting to read a non-children’s librarian perspective on children’s literature. While my teeth were grinding at the post’s continued referral to the book as a “YA” novel, I loved how surprised the bloggers were that there was no parental supervision in the book, which we know is a hallmark of any great middle grade adventure!

There are many other delightfully spooky movies based on children’s books. While we wait for Wait Till Helen Comes, why not read and watch Paranorman or Coraline or The Witches?

Posted in Blogger Elisabeth Gattullo Marrocolla, Books, Children's Literature (all forms), Evaluation of Media | Leave a comment

Science Fair Fridays

This past summer was the first time my branch had been fully staffed in years. To celebrate, my branch head, Juanita Vega DeJoseph, and I decided that we were going to offer programs 5 days a week during summer reading. It was an ambitious goal, but we knew the neighborhood would appreciate it. We also knew that our staff was up to the challenge. Friday programming has always been a bit of a coin toss for me. A lot of children are in the area, but many leave to visit the shores of New Jersey with their families. I decided to create “Science Fair Fridays;” it would be hands-on science experiments, but because the audience would be smaller, I would have the opportunity to interact for longer time periods with each child.

Learning about density, we found that LEGO blocks are denser than alcohol, almost as dense as water, and less dense than dishwashing liquid and corn syrup.

Learning about density, we found that LEGO blocks are denser than alcohol, almost as dense as water, and less dense than dishwashing liquid and corn syrup..

Once I had my programming idea, I had to find the experiments we would perform. Our summer reading normally runs for eight weeks, but due to the holiday schedule, I only had to plan 6 experiments. The challenge was that they needed to be relatively simple, inexpensive, and easily performed within 45 minutes to an hour. Because we have an open-door policy, they had to be accessible to everyone from Pre-K through 6th grade. They also had to be fun. This was no easy task. Thankfully, I had three tricks up my sleeve: Pinterest, YouTube, and amazing colleagues.

Admittedly, I came late to the Pinterest game. The information on the site varies in informative value, but if you’re willing to spend some time examining the pages, it really becomes a treasure trove of useful advice and suggestions. If you haven’t signed up for a Pinterest page, I highly suggest that you do – it’s worth it, especially for all of the, “Wait… I had an idea about this. Where did I see it?” moments.

YouTube was equally helpful and showed experiments in real-time. (The pages could also be pinned! Thank you, Pinterest!)

We learned about catalysts when we created Elephant’s toothpaste.

We learned about catalysts when we created Elephant’s toothpaste.

I sent out emails to my colleagues in the Free Library about the program. Other savvy librarians were also doing science-related programs, so their advice and council was invaluable to me. I’m very lucky to work for a collaborative system. If you can get an email group going, do it! Other great collaborative forums include Facebook pages and LinkedIn.   Besides help with brainstorming, it also gives you a good idea of what your colleagues are doing. (And imitation is the highest form of flattery, isn’t it?)

Hands on science is exciting!

Hands on science is exciting!

Our first Science Fair Friday fell on the weekend of ALA. I was on a committee, so I had to attend. My branch head was also out that day. Thankfully, I’m fortunate enough to have a head Library Assistant, Natalie Walker, who was willing to take on the challenge of running the program. We started with Oobleck because it’s relatively simple and connected both science (viscosity) and literature (Bartholomew and the Oobleck by Dr. Seuss). Here’s a table of our programs. We also developed handouts which were given to the kids each week.

Science Word Project
Viscosity Creating Oobleck.
Density Layering liquids and dropping items into the liquids to test their density.
Catalyst Creating Elephant’s Toothpaste.
Germination A guest speaker came into talk about germination and sprout seeds.
Gas Extinguishing flames with carbon dioxide.
Acid Creating invisible ink with lemon juice and heat .

The first week, in which I was expecting a group of 5-10 due to shore visits, we had over 30 kids. What?!?! I was happy that so many children came, but that changed how we were going to run the program.

During that next week, families and camp groups called the library to see if we were going to be offering Science Fair Fridays each week. While initially I planned to connect the science projects to a book or story, I realized that this would make the program too long. Instead of aiming for 30 to 45 minutes per experiment, we could reduce that to 20 to 30 minutes and offer two sessions in the time allotted.

The programs were a little hectic, but everyone had a lot of fun!

The programs were a little hectic, but everyone had a lot of fun!

I was initially annoyed at eliminating the story component; I believed that we should connect to the books in our collection as much as possible. Discussing it with colleagues, they helped remind me that the children could still connect with our collections: Book displays in the room on the topic would lead interested parties into the nonfiction section and our science experiment books. Without the book component, the programs were still a success. A grandmother told our branch head that she had as much fun as the kids. The programs were clearly a success!

Natalie Walker (our head Library Assistant) helps a child with the experiment.  While learning about gases, we let the kids play with fire.  Yeah, we’re awesome!

Natalie Walker (our head Library Assistant) helps a child with the experiment. While learning about gases, we let the kids play with fire. Yeah, we’re awesome!

In retrospect we should have assigned a photographer to each class. At the time, my Library Assistant 2 and I used our cell phones to take pictures when we thought about it. Assigning this job to a volunteer would have ensured that we would have pictures from each week. This is definitely a repeat program – I can’t wait for summer reading so we can do it again!

(All pictures courtesy of guest blogger)


ChristopherOur guest blogger today is Christopher Brown. Chris is a librarian for the Wadsworth Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia.  He received is MLIS from the University of Pittsburgh in 2005 and his MA from Memorial University of Newfoundland in 2013.  His current books obsessions are The Sittin’ Up by Shelia P. Moses, the Green Knowe series by Lucy M. Boston, and Leah Wilcox’s Waking Beauty.  He’s probably book talking at least one of these titles right now.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at

Posted in Guest Blogger, Programming Ideas, STEM/STEAM | Leave a comment

Not SCARY Scary

Halloween is this week. Isn’t that nuts?  I’ve had kids in my department for weeks, asking for Halloween books, for ghost stories, for scary stories.

And then there are the kids that want something maybe creepy, maybe suspenseful but “not SCARY scary.” I love these kids.  These kids are my kindred spirits because I hate being scared. I can’t watch a horror movie and I never read a Goosebumps book when i was younger. But I do enjoy suspense and a little gloom.  Take a look at these books for your kids who want to have some Halloween reading but want to be able to sleep at night:

Source: Goodreads

The Theodosia Throckmorton series by R.L. LaFevers: Theodosia can see curses and get rid of them. This comes in handy as her parents work in a museum and there are artifacts with curses everywhere.  This is a fantasy adventure and though there are some creepy parts, it’s mainly pure fun as Theo tries to save Britain from ancient Egyptian curses.  There are four of these.

Source: Goodreads

Constable and Toop by Gareth P. Jones.  This British import has some scary and violent parts, but for the most part it’s a…funny ghost story. A funny ghost story! I love it! Something weird is happening with London’s ghost and a paper-pusher from the Ghost Bureau is sent to investigate.

Source: Goodreads

Ah, the original hilariously macabre story.  This one is a bit gruesome (I mean, it’s Roald Dahl, right?), and features a whole lot of nasty witches, transforming into mice, and a conclusion that will make some grownups uncomfortable.  But it’s not terrifying; it’s actually pretty satisfying. I reread this one recently and it holds up splendidly. No nightmares, just cringes of disgust and laughter.

BONUS: Funnies!!

Source: Goodreads

Ok, maybe this one skews a little young, but even my older teens love these.  There’s a nostalgia aspect, plus, the ridiculous nature of all the horrible happenings to the Baudelaires is hard to resist.

Happy Halloween to you and all of your patrons of varying reading interests!

Our cross-poster from YALSA today is Ally Watkins (@aswatki1). Ally is a youth services librarian in Mississippi, and has worked with ages birth-18 for the last 5 years.

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A Book to Match Your Costume

Many schools require students to wear Halloween costumes that are book related. Some even ask children to bring along a book that matches his or her costume. This policy is a great way to promote reading and integrate Halloween into the curriculum, but it can also be a source of stress. What if a child wants to wear a Spider-man costume, but all of the Spider-man books have already been checked out to other patrons? You might try recommending a book about Marvel comics, arachnids, or even a biography about Tobey Maguire.

To be prepared for the last minute rush to find books to match costumes, we created a list of “books to match your costume.” These titles are just a starting point. If you use your imagination, you can find a book to match just about any costume.

So you want to be Minnie Mouse . . .

Assistant Children's Librarian, Jeannie Bull

Assistant Children’s Librarian, Jeannie Bull

In addition to the obvious Disney choices such as Minnie’s Costume Party, you might also recommend a book about mice or Disney World.


  • Abel’s Island by William Steig
  • Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse by Leo Lionni
  • Anatol by Eve Titus
  • Library Mouse by Daniel Kirk
  • The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary
  • A Nest for Celeste by Henry Cole


  • About Rodents: A Guide for Children by Cathryn and John Sill
  • Walt Disney: The Man Behind the Magic by Tamra Orr

So you want to be a crayon . . .

Heidi and I pose with a few of our favorite books.

Heidi and I pose with a few of our favorite books.

Drew Daywald’s bestseller The Day the Crayons Quit is a perfect match, but don’t limit yourself. There are many, many great children’s books about art and colors.


  • Amber Brown is Not a Crayon by Paula Danziger
  • Dot by Peter H. Reynolds
  • A Day with No Crayons by Elizabeth Rusch
  • Bad Day at Riverbend by Chris Van Allsburg (This book also matches cowboy costumes!)
  • Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson


  • What Happens at a Crayon Factory by Lisa M. Guidone
  • The Science Book of Color by Neil Ardley

So you want to be the Statue of Liberty . . .

There are plenty of good books about the Statue of Liberty, and there are usually at least a few available on the shelf. However, you also might recommend a book about new immigrants, sculpture, or New York City.


  • Lisa in New York by Anne Gutman and George Hallensleben
  • Naming Liberty by Jane Yolen and Jim Burke
  • A Picnic in October by Eve Bunting


  • All the Way to America: The Story of a Big Italian Family and a Little Shovel by Dan Yaccarino
  • How They Built the Statue of Liberty by Mary J. Shapiro
  • The Story of the Statue of Liberty by Besty & Giulio Maestro


Our guest blogger today is Rebecca Scotka. Rebecca is the Children’s and Young Adult Librarian at the East Lyme Public Library in Niantic, Connecticut.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at

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Bechtel Fellowship: Professional Experience of a Lifetime

The Bechtel Library

The Bechtel Library (image provided by Mary Gaither Marshall)

Little did I realize when arriving at the Gainesville Airport the evening of January 31, 2007, that the next month would be the highlight of my professional career. In 2005, as I was glancing through my most recent issue of Children and Libraries, I noticed Leslie Barban’s article, “Evolution of Children’s Literature Getting Sidetracked—Delightfully—at the Baldwin Library.” As I read the article, I thought, if only I could have that same experience. Before becoming a children’s librarian, I had worked for six years in rare book shops, so having the opportunity to research and read about children’s books would be a dream experience for me. In 2005, when both of my children were in college, I decided to apply for the 2006 Bechtel Fellowship. As part of the application, I needed to decide on a topic. The most difficult part of the process was determining which area of the collection to focus on. I decided to examine the papers of the founder of the collection, Ruth Baldwin. How did a librarian of modest means, form one of the greatest collection of children’s literature in the world? I sent my application in thinking that I would probably have to apply several times before I would receive the fellowship.

Mary Gaither Marshall in the Closed Stacks

Mary in the Closed Stacks (photo courtesy of Mary Gaither Marshall)

In January 2006, I received a phone call at work from the ALA office. My first thought was that they were calling about my membership. I was shocked when the caller congratulated me on receiving the 2006 Bechtel Fellowship. After the call, I was bursting with excitement and couldn’t wait to tell my staff and director, and really, anyone who walked in the library, that I was going to spend a month reading children’s books and examining Ruth Baldwin’s letters and diaries at the University of Florida. Yes, I’m definitely a rare book geek.

Fortunately, my director at the Addison Public Library (Illinois), Mary Medjo MeZengue, was very supportive of my taking a month off from my usual responsibilities, to complete my Fellowship. We had just begun a new building project, so we carefully planned the best time for me to go to the Baldwin Library. We decided February 2007 would be the time when I was least needed for decisions. So I made arrangements with Rita Smith, then curator of the Baldwin, to spend the month. She placed me in contact with past Bechtel Fellowship winners and helped me to make local arrangements. I spent the month in a delightful cottage at the Sweetwater Bed and Breakfast about two miles from the campus. Each morning I would walk to the library and spend the day immersed in books, letters, diaries, and other papers. On the first day, Rita gave me a tour of the library and a one time only view of the closed stacks. After that, I had to request each item which was then brought to me. I was also able to interview Rita and several other faculty members who had known Ruth Baldwin. I would work steadily until the library closed at six. During the evenings and weekends, I would review my research and make plans for what I wanted to review the next day. I also read and responded to my work email and did collection development. I was amazed at how much of my work I was able to complete without every day distractions.

Mary with the Egolf Display

Mary with the Egolf Display (photo courtesy of Mary Gaither Marshall)

During the last week of my fellowship in 2007, a new addition of 2,800 illustrated American children’s books, dating from 1807-2003, formed and donated by Dr. Robert L. Egolf, arrived at the Baldwin Library. Because of my experience working with rare books, Rita gave me the opportunity to explore the boxes of books. Those of us in the Baldwin Library the day Dr. Egolf’s collection arrived, surely felt the same excitement that the University of Florida’s Smather’s Library staff felt almost 30 years before when Ruth Baldwin brought her magnificent collection to the University of Florida. On my last day at the Baldwin Library, I assisted Rita Smith in creating a display for the reception honoring Dr. Egolf’s donation.

Perhaps in the future, I will have the opportunity to return to the Baldwin and research these new additions to the Baldwin Library.

I encourage all of you who have the opportunity, to apply for the Louise Seaman Bechtel Fellowship. You too can receive $4,000 to spend a month reading and researching children’s books. The deadline is Saturday, November 1, 2014. Apply today!


Our guest blogger today is Mary Gaither Marshall. Mary is Assistant Director/Head of Children’s Services at the Addison Public Library.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at


Posted in Awards & Scholarships, Guest Blogger, Projects & Research | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Can I borrow a Mac?

Our Youth Services department recently underwent a freshening up. After reconfiguring our floor space and thinking about how it is used we decided to purchase several MacBook PROs for afterschool use. We had been circulating e-readers and tablets so this was a natural next step for us.

We made an initial purchase of eight laptops, and the kids went wild! We rolled out this new service a year ago and it has proven to be so popular that we had to invest in six more just to keep up with the demand.

So, how does this work you wonder? First, the laptops can only be used by children in grades 6-12th in our Youth Services department, they never leave the library. All one needs is a library card in good standing, a valid student ID and they are ready to borrow one. We ask each child to read and sign an agreement form that clearly states out the laptops may be used and we take a moment to discuss the terms of the agreement.

Our staff quickly realized this was an excellent opportunity to have more interaction with the children who are borrowing them. Not only was this a great way to learn their names, we now have the chance to talk to them about school, books, movies, etc. while we are preparing their laptop for use.

Everyone who registers to use a laptop is entered into a database. If there is a behavior infraction while using a laptop it is noted in the database. With over a thousand users, we have had only a few issues. Remarkably, none of these laptops have been damaged in anyway.

Each laptop comes loaded with a variety of popular applications kids really want. iPhoto, Garage Band, iMovie and Scratch 1.4 are a few that are in frequent use. Also popular is Face Time and Photo Booth. One might think these laptops are being borrowed for social media and gaming purposes, but I mostly observe them being used as a vehicle for creativity.

Recently, we began to offer technology classes specifically geared to children in grades 4 and up. We’ve held classes featuring programs such as Garage Band and iMovie where children created their own music or movies. Other well attended sessions featured Raspberry Pi; the credit card sized computer that can connect to a television and a keyboard and has quite a bit of functionality for something so small and Ardunio; an open source electronics platform that makes building interactive objects, such as robots more accessible.

It’s interesting to see just how adept these young people are with these types of programs and how eager they are to learn even more. If you have reached out to this age group I am interested to hear what you are doing, what’s worked and what hasn’t. I am always looking for the next big thing to offer.

 Allison Santos, Princeton Public Library, Princeton, NJ
ALSC Digital Content Task Force


Posted in Blogger Digital Content Task Force, Children & Technology, Technology | 1 Comment

Do you know about the MAE Award?

Many ALSC Members are also YALSA members. At the request of the Chair of the 2015 MAE Jury Award for Best Literature for Teens, here is information about an Award in which many of you might be interested.


YALSA members who have run an exceptional reading or literature program in the 12 months leading up to Dec. 1, 2014 are eligible to apply for the 2015 MAE Award for Best Literature Program for Teens, which recognizes an outstanding reading or literature program for young adults.

Do you run a spectacular teen book club that engages underserved audiences? Did your summer reading program or literature festival connect teens with literature in an innovative way? Is your Reader’s Advisory always three steps ahead of a trend? Have you connected teens to literature or helped them gain literacy skills via some other exciting means?  Whether the program was large or small, if it was good, you could win $500 for yourself and an additional $500 for your library by applying for this award!  Individual library branches may apply.

The MAE Award is sponsored by the Margaret A. Edwards Trust. Applications and additional information about the award are available online.  Applications must be submitted online by Dec. 1, 2014. For questions about the award, please contact the jury chair, Tony Carmack (  The winner will be announced the week of Feb. 9, 2015.

Not a member of YALSA yet? It’s not too late to join so you can be eligible for this award. You can do so by contacting YALSA’s Membership Marketing Specialist, Letitia Smith, at or (800) 545-2433, ext. 4390. Recognize the great work you are doing to bring teens together with literature and apply today!


Posted in Awards & Scholarships, Blogger Mary R. Voors | Tagged | Leave a comment

Come Write In: a Family Creative Writing Program

November is nearly upon us. That means fall leaves, wooly sweaters, gluttonous behavior on the fourth Thursday of the month, and, of course, National Novel Writing Month.

Inaugurated in 1999 by the intrepid Chris Baty and a group of friends, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) has become an international movement to inspire average joes like you and me to get off our duffs and write that novel we’ve always dreamed of penning. One month. One novel. It’s as simple as that.

According to NaNoWriMo, 310,000 adults participated in the writing frenzy in 2013, and 89,500 youth participated in NaNoWriMo’s Young Writers Program. Personally, I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo for the past two years, and the experience has been so deeply fulfilling I decided that I, as a children’s librarian, needed to get on this Young Writers thing.

What’s really grand about NaNoWriMo is that this non-profit organization provides you everything you need to make hosting a Young Writers program easy as pie. Just take a gander at these lesson plans and activities. If you’re a teacher, everything aligns to the Common Core. If you’re a public librarian, you can pick and choose a variety of activities to do with your young peeps.

I have some ridiculously talented people on board, too. I’m working with poet Hannah Jane Chambers, YA author Bethany Hagen, and YA writer Jennifer Mendez to make the magic happen.

At our library, Hannah Jane, Bethany, and I had an idea of creating a series of Come Write In events for the entire family which we hope we’ll be able to implement next year. Parents and kids could come to the library on Saturdays throughout the month of October to start planning their NaNoWriMo projects. On November 1, we could celebrate our hard work with a party / write-in where participants can get cracking on their novels. Jennifer Mendez will be hosting Intergenerational Come Write In events at her branch throughout the month of November replete with paper, pens, and plenty of outlets for the BYO-Laptop types.

What better way to get kids and teens engaged in literature than to have them write it themselves? And, hey, why not model that behavior? November is just a few days away. It’s not too late to sign up and write a novel of your very own.


Our guest blogger today is Megan Bannen. Megan is an Assistant Branch Manager for Johnson County Library in Kansas (although the children’s librarian in her will never die).

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at

Posted in Guest Blogger, Programming Ideas | Leave a comment