Category Archives: Activities

19th September: International Talk Like a Pirate Day

Ahoy mateys! Hoist the colours, splice the main-brace and raise the mizzen!

Yes! International talk Like a Pirate Day is almost upon us again!

Rather than rehash the suggestions I have made in previous years I thought why not take the musical route in your libraries in 2012. Piratical types have always enjoyed a bit of a sing-song as I discovered last year when I ran an impromptu shanty session in my library – teaching a group of year 7s,8s, 9s and two 6th formers how to sing Yo-ho-ho and a Bottle of Rum was brilliant! If I manage to do it again this year I will get a video and audio recording.

If you are interested in the music and words you can see (and hear them) here:


Then there is the Disney version (made famous by the ride in Disneyland and the movie Pirates of the Caribbean)


There is also a version by amazing Steampunk band Abney Park


Staying with Abney Park (and Pirates) they also have a track called Airship Pirates


Steampunk has been growing in popularity over the past few years – I have been a fan before I knew there was Steampunk, it started when I was in my teens and started reading the works of James Blaylock and Tim Powers, then years (and years) later I came to the UK and was given a copy of Airborn by Kenneth Oppel – and it brought back my love of airships, pirates and sky-high action.

I also love the Victorian era and the whole neoVictorian world that the Steampunk genre inhabits is something wonderful!

Anyway this is supposed to be a post about International Talk like a Pirate Day – I will get back to Steampunk in another post.

So Pirates!

Did you know that there are only three real Pirate jokes?

According to Cap’n Slappy that is…

The biggest one is the one that ends with someone usin’ “Arrr” in the punchline. Oh, sure, thar be plenty o’ these, but they’re all the same damn joke.

  • “What’s the pirate movie rated? – Arrr!”
  • “What kind o’ socks does a pirate wear? – Arrrrgyle!”
  • “What’s the problem with the way a pirate speaks? – Arrrrticulation!”
  • …and so forth. Those jokes only work if people know their arrrrrs from their elbows!

  • The second joke is the one wear the pirate walks into the bar with a ships wheel attached to the front o’ his trousers. The bartender asks, “What the hell is that ships wheel for?” The pirate says, “I don’t know, but it’s drivin’ me nuts!”
  • And finally, a little boy is trick or treatin’ on Halloween by himself. He is dressed as a pirate. At one house, a friendly man asks him, “Where are your buccaneers?” The little boy responds, “On either side o’ me ‘buccan’ head!”

    Potential activities include

  • Creating a piratical joke-book;
  • Discussing movies featuring pirates;
  • Book discussions;
  • and on a serious note comparing the romanticised view of pirates versus their reality and the re-emergence of pirates of Somalia and other places.

    YA Piratical Novels:

  • Vampirates Justin Somper
  • Pirates Celia Rees
  • Blackbeard’s Pirates versus the Evil Mummies James Black
  • Treasure Island Robert Louis Stevenson
  • The Curse of Captain LaFoote Eddie Jones
  • Airborn Kenneth Oppel

    Pirate Movies:

  • Cut Throat Island
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Treasure Island
  • Master and Commander: far Side of the World (not really pirates but amazing scenes of ship-based battle)
  • For more ideas and information of this most illustrious of holidays you can look here:

    International Talk Like a Pirate Day

    Raspberry Pi

    The first question most people ask whenever I mention Raspberry Pi is:

    What’s a Raspberry Pi?

    The Raspberry Pi is a credit-sized computer that plugs into your TV and a keyboard. It’s a capable little PC which can be used for many of the things your desktop PC does, like spreadsheets, word-processing and games. It also plays high-definition video. We want to see it being used by kids all over the world to learn programming.

    The second question is is usually so what has that got to do with libraries?

    Well not much, unless you want to… I don’t know – set up a library-based technology group.

    So why the Pi? Well they are low cost, they are cool in a geeky, tech kind of way and they can help libraries (both school & public) engage with young people by giving them hands-on experience with small, shiny bits of tech.

    The Raspberry Pi will be out sometime between now and December. I fully intend to purchase several and create a tech group that will look at the different ways in which these tiny computers can be utilised. From standard TV computing to integrating them into clothes with small possibly touch-capable screens and micro-keyboards in the sleeves as well as possibly powering them with solar panels in clothing and possibly jamming them into small powered gliders to create self-guided aeroplanes.

    There are so many possibilities! To start thinking about what you can accomplish with a slice of pi take a look here: Raspberry Pi

    Under 14's Only @ My Favourite Books

    This is the second year My Favourite Books blog will be hosting Under 14’s Only Month. We were approached by some of our local librarians last year and told – confidentially – that a lot of younger readers are feeling very left out when it comes to books for the younger age group, as everyone seemed so focussed on all the teen novels coming out. Which they of course could not read as these were in some cases too mature for them.

    This really worried us and as we are always happy to fight for a cause, we established Under 14’s Only Month to review both old and brand new books that are out there for this large age-group. The publishers have been amazing and have inundated us with a variety of books for all ages within this broad spectrum we’ve chosen to showcase. Between the three of us – Mark, Sarah and myself – we are hoping to highlight some great books and authors in July. I have roped in fellow bloggers and reviewers to make their case for their favourite books for younger readers and I’ve got interviews with authors set up to talk about inspirations, monsters and other shenanigans.

    We know how hard librarians, parents and teacher work to get kids reading and to keep them reading – if we can hook readers young, we stand a great chance that they remain readers, especially the reluctant readers, be they boys or girls. We have received some great titles from Barrington Stoke, Macmillan Kids, Walker Books, Bloomsbury, Simon & Schuster, Random House Kids, Templar to name but a handful of publishers taking part in this. Their enthusiasm blew my mind and now all we ask for is an audience to share these amazing books with. Please come and visit the blog and comment and recommend us to everyone you know who may benefit from reading the reviews. And remember there is a chance to win two boxes full of books at the end of July. We are always hungry to hear about more titles and new authors we’ve overlooked. Come visit us for the month of July and enjoy our Under 14’s Only Month celebration of fiction for younger readers.

    Liz, Mark and Sarah of My Favourite Books Blog

    TED: Ideas worth Spreading




    TED or Technology Entertainment and Design to give it it’s full name, is a global set of conferences formed to disseminate “ideas worth spreading. Since June 2006, the talks have been offered for free viewing online, under a Creative Commons license, through

    There are over 900 free talks available online. If your library or resource centre has a television or bank of computers it may be worth thinking about holding a TED day and running their freely available video talks in the library or in conjunction with school lessons.

    The TED Mission statement:
    We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. So we’re building here a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world’s most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other.

    Some of the talks follow

    Brewster Kahle builds a free digital library

    Handspring Puppet Co.: The genius puppetry behind War Horse

    Sarah Kay: If I should have a daughter …

    Those were just three of the 900+ talks available free at The videos are subtitled so are accessible for the hearing impaired.  Thanks to volunteer translators taking part in TED’s Open Translation Project, subtitles in a variety of languages are available for nearly every video in the TEDTalks series.

    Simplified Dungeons & Dragons

    Over the past few years I have spoken to a number of D&D and gaming fans that work in Libraries, without exception they have stated that they would love to set up gaming sessions in Libraries, the only problem they have encountered is the timescales involved in setting up and running campaigns.

    Now thanks to BoingBoing I have found a website that has provided a ‘how to’ guide on running a D&D introductory campaign for eight year olds. The campaign can be tweaked for older players in libraries but overall the simplified rules and character creation makes it easier to start with beginners.

    2) Kids chose which color dice they want and which miniature will be their hero, both of which they got to keep as “goodie bags” from the party. We didn’t have them do any further character creation (all heroes had the same stats behind the screen) except for name. Lots of the kids who hadn’t played before had problems coming up with a name, so I asked if they wanted to roll for one. I didn’t actually have a table, I just used the time they were rolling the dice to think them up.

    3) The scenario was that the heroes set forth from their stronghold to explore the surrounding wilderness in search of magical items to claim and Pokemon to capture. We had the kids construct the wilderness using Heroscape hexes, and the stronghold using wooden Kapla blocks

    The campaign was played over two and a half hours. For full details go here:

    What Made for a Successful D&D Birthday Party

    Library Protest sign making 101

    I have been speaking to a number of library workers recently who are being affected by the upcoming cuts, I am one of them! There are a number of marches and protests planned across the UK and it will be a shame if Libraries are left out of the push for social justice, so I have put together a basic how to guide on making protest signs. This can also be used as a practical workshop for young people who feel they may want to protest.

    It is also good for Friends of Library Groups that may wish to protest branch closures on a Local Authority level.


    • Poster boards (A3)
    • Ruler
    • Marker pens / Paint
    • Stencils
    • Pencils
    • Handles
    • Stapler
    • Glue
    • Duct tape

    Select a thick board that won’t easily bend or tear in strong winds. Also, select a board that’s white – or, if choosing coloured board, make sure it is a light colour that won’t distract from the message.

    Writing the message:

    • You will need a pencil, a ruler and a thick black marker for this part, especially if you don’t have stencils.
    • Using the ruler, measure the board and letter size – you do not want to start and then run out of space.
    • Using the pencil, lightly trace out the letters of the slogan, make them as large as you can (so that the slogan is legible from a distance)
    • Once you have a design you’re satisfied with, use your marker to outline the letters.
    • If there is a particular word you want to emphasise, consider adding colour. Red will make it stand out and look dramatic, but outline the word in black so it’s readable.

    There is a how to construct a stencil guide at the bottom of the article.

    Constructing your sign

    Use glue to attach the sign to the handle and then use a staple gun for additional strength, for the paranoid you can use tape to make sure the sign will stay attached to the handle. If you use wood for the handle it may be advisable to wrap the end you hold in take so you do not get splinters.

    Hold your poster up with both hands where people can see it. It is, of course, make sure it is right side up! Alternatively you can attach a handle to your sign.


    These should be clear, concise, and readable – remember that people will only have a few seconds to read your message, by all means have some leaflets to hand out as well detailing your views.  Humorous slogans can work well, as do images.

    For example:

    We will not be shhhhhh’ed!

    Close Tax Loopholes Not Libraries!

    Making a stencil

    • Come up with a design – it is best to do this once you have measured the board as you may end up with letters that are too large or small for the size of the board.
    • It is important to remember that you cannot have ‘islands’ such as the middle of an O or R. You can use straight lines to connect the islands.
    • Transfer your designs to a piece of cardboard (cereal boxes can be used to make stencils). You can also draw out your designs on paper and then photocopy them on to thinner pieces of board.
    • Use a sharp craft knife to cut out the design. Blunt blades can rip the board wasting your work.
    • Spray-paint works best with cardboard stencils, you can also use acrylic paint and dab it through the stencil using a sponge or brush.
    • Remember to wipe excess paint off the stencil as this will help it to last longer.

    Toshokan Senso (Library Wars)

    In a slightly different timeline than ours, the explosion of information and misinformation came to be considered a direct threat to society. In a daring decision, it was decided to create a new government agency dedicated solely to information management. Some thirty years later, in 2019, the government still monitors and controls information, suppressing anything they find undesirable, but standing against their abuses of power are the libraries, with their special agents called ‘the book soldiers.’

    This all sounds really familiar! Suppressing information, cutting access to books and people think it only happens in fiction! Guess not – who knew that manga could foretell the future?

    I like the idea of being a Book Soldier, the first shots in defending Libraries and access to books are being fired as we speak. Do we as librarians that work with young people have a duty to educate our Teens on how to protest the cutting of the EMA, provision of addresses of MPs, during the reading groups and activity sessions should we be able to run letter writing workshops to Parliament to protest the cuts. I am working on a how-to create a ‘zine programme that I will post up here soon, maybe even a workshop on protest sign making.

    The youth are already rising up, I think we have a responsibility to guide them on how to do it safely (and legally)!

    You can grab Library Wars from Amazon here or ask at you rlocal comic or speciality bookshop.

    The Making Of ‘Grandville’ And The Anthropomorphic Tradition – a talk by Bryan Talbot

    Bryan Talbot is the award-winning creator of The Tale of One Bad Rat, The Adventures of Luther Arkwright, Alice in Sunderland and more recently Grandville – a graphic novel which is a Victoriana/Art Nouveau steampunk tale of murder and intrigue (with added badger). He has also illustrated many other graphic novels including Slaine, Nemesis the Warlock, Sandman, Hellblazer and Teknophage.

    Mr Talbot has a talk he can give for older audiences, called ‘The Making Of ‘Grandville’ And The Anthropomorphic Tradition’.

    Bryan can be contacted for more info via… bryantalbot at btinternet dot com

    Library Myth Busters

    This is an idea I have been working on that can be run with a Reading Group and also for breaking the ice for new users in the Library:

    This event can be run by following the Myth Busters format of having small teams investigating various Library Myths and then presenting their findings to the entire Reading Group. If permission can be obtained for filming, a short DVD could be made of the proceedings. This could tie into a larger media and film-making programme that can be run over half-term or summer holidays. It is fun and educational – teenagers learn how the library works and what the staff do all day as well as debunking misconceptions they may have on what goes on in libraries.

    Here are a a list of library myths that can either be debunked or confirmed:

    • Librarians have lots of time to read on the job
    • All librarians are fast readers
    • Public libraries are only busy during the school year
    • Public libraries are only busy during summer holidays
    • Libraries are used only by those who cannot afford to buy their own books.
    • Librarians have no stress
    • Librarians have read every book in the library.
    • Librarians know the answer to everything
    • Everyone who works in the library is a librarian
    • Libraries are just about getting books
    • Libraries aren’t necessary because everything’s available on the internet
    • Libraries have plenty of money because they get so many donated books and charge so much in fines
    • The librarian can be held responsible for everything that kids check out because they work for the government and must protect young people from bad things
    • School libraries aren’t needed because kids can get everything they want at the public library or online
    • Librarians wear their hair in buns, have wire-rimmed glasses, and say shhhhh! all the time
    • Librarians only issue books
    • Everything in the library is free
    • You have to know Dewey to use the library
    • Libraries are serious and quiet all the time
    • It is difficult to get a library card
    • Libraries are for English readers only

    The list is by no means complete and if anyone would like to add library myths in the comments you are most welcome.

    HeadSpace Efford

    Create a Comic project
    HeadSpace Efford took part in this online Manga storyboard activity in preparation for their first ever Manga RE-con at Waterstone’s in Plymouth. The theory behind the activity is that young people who are interested in Manga but unable to draw to a high standard can take part in constructing their own Manga storyboard. The site also provides similar pre-designed graphic novel templates and blank comic strips for young people who are talented artists. All this can be found on the Create a Comic Project website.

    “The Create a Comic Project (CCP) is a youth literacy activity that uses comics to promote creative writing. The CCP uses two kinds of templates for instruction: blank panels, allowing kids to draw their own, and pre-drawn comics with the original dialogue bubbles blanked out. Pre-drawn templates use art from comics all across the web, representing a broad swath of the online cartooning community. The CCP is arguably the single largest multi-comic educational collaboration of its kind.

    This website is dedicated to hosting the creations of the students who participated in the CCP. Both original and “remixed” comics are posted here for all to see. Every comic here is the work of one or more children. While I provided guidance and technical knowledge (what a dialogue bubble is, how to read expressions, etc.), I was always careful not to tell the kids what to write. So each comic posted here is the free and open creation of a young mind.”

    The group really enjoyed coming up with their own stories and reading them aloud to each other. As with most projects that involve young people they are keen to come up with something with a professional finish. We were able to print their designs in colour for them to take home.

    Meet Mangako!
    HeadSpace Efford launched their very own Manga group, hosted by Abi our resident Manga enthusiast. Abi came up with the plan for launch party, prepared the activities, made cakes, designed posters and promoted the group at the Manga RE-con event. The group is made up of four new HeadSpace members and three existing members who love all things Manga.
    HeadSpace 034
    It was a great to meet new members at the launch and everyone enjoyed learning to speak some Japanese, trying Japanese food and even listening to Disney songs in Japanese.
    HeadSpace 035
    Mangako meet on a fortnightly basis during HeadSpace time and in the next few weeks will be coming up with their own design for a Manga library card, performing a Manga sketch and sharing their favourite Anime.

    To keep up with all our activities follow us on Twitter and check out the HeadSpace blog, written by young people for young people.

    Article & photos provided by Superlibrarian Emma Sherriff of Plymouth Library Service