350 for 50

350 for 50 typewriter popWe are delighted to announce the winners of this year’s 350 for 50 contest! An author from three age categories was challenged to write a 350-word story that included the sentence, “There was a rattling noise.” Enjoy!


Sleepless, the Squirrel
By Samantha Gunton, age 10

Sleepless the Squirrel_artwork by Aliisa Lee My eyelids open. I look out the window to see what’s making the noise; three kids in a snowball fight. I get out of bed and put on my slippers. Groggily, I walk down the hallway and out my front door.

“Hey! You’re trespassing!”

The kids don’t even glance my way. I watch as a boy with bad aim throws a snowball at MY tree, which doubles as my house. Grr – how am I going to get rid of them? You know, I wouldn’t have to deal with this if it weren’t for my real estate agent, Larry…

“It’s a great deal!” Larry had exclaimed, “No human beings will bother you!” Regretfully, I had believed him.  Now, I was awake during hibernation. I needed to visit Professor LeNut, the genius, to see whether he could help. I hopped to Professor LeNut’s house and knocked on his bedroom door.

“Hello? You awake?”
There was a rattling noise. What was that?

“Ughh…is it spring yet?” the professor moaned.

“You’re awake! Good. I need your help.” Professor LeNut finished putting his retainer back in its case (that was the rattling sound) and turned to me. “You see those humans out there? I can’t get them to leave.  I need to hibernate.”

“First of all, WHY IN THE NAME OF WALNUTS DID YOU WAKE ME UP?!! Second, just pretend you have rabies. And lastly, how were you able to wake me?? It’s physically impossible to be awoken during hibernation. So either this is a dream or -”

Cutting him off, I said “Thanks!” and ran out. Once outside, I squeaked my way to the smallest kid and started foaming at the mouth.

The little humans got it, shouting, “Rabid squirrel!” They dashed away. I ran like my tail was on fire back to my tree house bedroom. I collapsed on the bed, closed my eyes and thought, “When I wake up, it better be Spring. If not…Larry, you’re going to get it!”


The Last Cabin_artwork by Aliisa LeeThe Last Cabin
By Hugo Kim, age 11

There was a rattling noise. The sound appeared to come from the front door, thought the last man on earth. Two months earlier, the man came to this remote cabin up state to shut the world out and finish his first novel. The cabin didn’t have an address for mail, TV, telephone, or any connection to the civilized world. Disconnected to civilization, he busily typed away on his manual typewriter. He was almost done. Tomorrow, he planned to drive forty miles the nearest post office to drop off his manuscript to a publisher.

What this man didn’t know was that a terrible epidemic had swept around the world. Somehow, a virulent strain of avian flu had combined with a lethal swine flu, mutating into a deadly pandemic. Scientists who discovered this flu called it N8H9 and it was spread through tiny droplets when people coughed.  The incubation period lasted a week. N8H9 was highly contagious and completely resistant to all types of antivirals. In just forty-three days, the entire world’s population had ceased to exist.

He heard the sound again. This time, he could hear someone turning the doorknob. The man got up and walked to his front door. No one knew about this place, so how could he have a visitor? He unlocked the door and opened it. Standing outside was a beautiful woman. She looked very pale and tired. The man asked if he could help the woman. She came closer as if to say something very important. The man leaned close to her face to hear what the last woman on earth had to say. He felt it was going to be something very, very important. That’s when the woman coughed.


The Dragon Princess
By Angelina Han, age 14

The Dragon Princess_artwork by Aliisa LeeThere was a rattling noise beginning somewhere deep inside the dragon’s chest, softening into a delighted clicking sounds and a low purr as the girl tickled the soft skin underneath his chin. The dragon rolled onto his back, spraying green fire from his nostrils for the girl’s amusement. The girl clapped and chortled, running around on her short legs. “Dragon!” The girl babbled, laughing. “Good dragon!” Her tightly curled hair bobbed in tandem with her small white dress. The dragon tilted his head to the side, pondering the strange little creature. He’d never seen anything like this before, and what were those noises she was making? It didn’t matter. He liked her already, and with a swoop of his great golden wings, he picked her up. She squealed with happiness as she flew for the first time, oblivious to the shouts below and the crown that had fallen off of her head into the dewy grass. The dragon carried her to his nest, and she stayed there with him.

Fourteen summers had tumbled by with laughing footsteps and constellation-filled nights when the girl and the dragon returned again to the spot where they had first met so long ago, though neither knew it. The girl had grown into lovely young lady with golden ringlets looping down her back, and she had all but forgotten her brief time with the humans. The dragon was her father now, and they communicated in sounds that dragons used. As they walked silently through the field still hung with morning dew, the girl tripped over an object that lay half sunken and long forgotten in the mud. She picked it up curiously, and it glinted in the rising sun like the dragon’s scales. A silver crown, bent and tarnished with moss crawling over it in spongy strands. A memory came to port on the foggy sea of her consciousness, and the girl slowly lifted the crown to her head.

“Dragon,” she whispered, her lips struggling to form the once-familiar words. She smiled at the dragon, who looked at her with large iridescent eyes. “Good dragon.”


Artwork by Aliisa Lee

Searching for Sasquatch

sasquatchA sasquatch is on the loose, and it will take 2 resourceful kids to find him! Our story time teams ventured into our gallery to find a hidden sasquatch. One team member had no idea where he was hiding. The other team member knew exactly where he was hiding, but could only give directions by saying “Hot” or “Cold.” The prize was a personalized “Certificate of Merit for Sasquatch Catching,” and a sasquatch ornament to take home! This activity was part of To Be Continued, our story time for kids ages 6-8.

ornament and certificateWe read The Imaginary Veterinary Book 1: The Sasquatch Escape, written by Suzanne Selfors, and illustrated by Dan Santat (Little, Brown, 2013). Ben Silverstein, age 10, has been exiled for the summer. While his parents work through some troubles, Ben is sent to stay with his Grandpa Abe in the town of Buttonville, middle of nowhere, USA. Once bustling, Buttonville is quickly sliding into disrepair after the enormous button factory shut down. But things are not what they seem. A giant bird swooping through the night sky looks a lot like a dragon. The “bat” Grandpa’s cat dragged in? It breathes fire! Eventually, Ben and his new friend, Pearl Petal, learn that the old button factory has been converted into a top secret hospital for Imaginary Creatures. And Ben accidentally lets the sasquatch out. Can Ben and Pearl catch the sasquatch before the whole town discovers the secret?

You’ll need:

First, print the big sasquatch. You can simply cut it out, or you can reinforce it with some  tagboard or poster board. Since my sasquatch was going to get a real workout, I reinforced it with tagboard and added a triangular base.

front and back of sasquatchHere’s a shot of the base from the side. I secured it with hot glue, but tape works too!

base of sasquatchTo play the game, divide the kids into teams of 2 (rather than let them team up with their buddies, I had them put their names in a box and randomly drew to create the teams). The first team member hid his/her eyes while I hid the sasquatch in the gallery. The second team member watched me hide it, so he/she knew exactly where it was. When I said “Go!” the teams started to search for the sasquatch. The first team member proceeded through the gallery, relying on the second team member to direct him/her towards the sasquatch using the words “Hot” (i.e. getting close to it) and “Cold” (i.e. moving away from it). Teams ran twice so each kid got a chance to find the sasquatch AND be the one to give directions.

When we were finished, everyone received a “Certificate of Merit” for catching the sasquatch – which is exactly what Ben and Pearl earn in the books! The frame clipart I used didn’t extend to a full-size page, so I trimmed the certificate down to 8.5″ x 9.5″.  I also fancied up my certificates with an embossed gold foil seal.

certificateKids also received a mini sasquatch ornament. Basically, it’s a smaller version of the big guy with a piece of twine taped to the back:

taped ornamentYou could, of course, give each kid a “full-size” sasquatch. Totally up to you!

I tend not to incorporate food into many of my programs because of food allergies, but another fantastic prize would be a bar of chocolate. In the book, a chocolate bar is an essential tool in the “Sasquatch Catching Kit” (along with a tranquilizer dart, blowpipe, net, fog bomb, and a sasquatch calling whistle). Just don’t ask the sasquatch any questions. It’ll make him angry.

A final word about The Sasquatch Escape. Not only did my story time kids love this book, my son and I are currently blasting through the series. They are funny, fantastical, unusual, and terrific to read-aloud. As one boy in the program said about halfway through the book, “This is the BEST book I’ve ever heard!” Absolutely worth checking out!

The BiblioFiles Presents: Lissa Evans

lissa evansJust posted! An interview with Lissa Evans, author of Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms and its sequel, Horten’s Incredible Illusions.

Stuart Horten has problems. First, he’s short. Very short. Second, he’s just moved to a new town and is bored. Very bored. Third, the triplet girls who live next door appear to have some sort of journalistic vendetta against him. They’re relentless. But everything changes when Stuart discovers a cache of old coins and a hidden message from his Great-Uncle, Tony. Great-Uncle Tony was a renowned stage magician, illusionist, and creator of fabulous contraptions. He mysteriously disappeared in 1940, leaving behind a secret workshop. If Stuart can follow the clues and solve the puzzles, he’ll find the workshop.

In the sequel, Stuart, accompanied by his friend April, once again finds himself on a mysterious adventure. This time, the clues are embedded in a series of Great-Uncle Tony’s custom-built stage illusions. But the magic is real, and in some cases, dangerous. And Stuart and April aren’t the only ones interested in getting their hands on what Great-Uncle Tony has hidden.

These books are so much fun to read, and to read aloud, to kids. They are creative, humorous, intriguing, and perfectly paced. Stuart and April are wonderful characters who squabble and reconcile so realistically, you feel like you’re joining a pair of old friends. The clever clues, puzzles, and the mysteries they unveil will keep you intrigued until the very end. Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms was short-listed for the Carnegie Medal and the Costa Book Awards.

Follow this link to the BiblioFiles webcast, podcast, and transcript

I had much success reading both books aloud at our story time for 6-8 year-olds. Check out the amazing mechanisms we built for Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms, and the mini magic shows we made for Horten’s Incredible Illusions!