Don’t Be Afraid to Ask

I pulled this post out of my drafts and gussied it up both because I think it’s important advice (especially for libraries with fewer resources) and also because I’ve been quite busy preparing for a presentation and haven’t had time to craft something new. Enjoy my words of wisdom!

The past couple of months have been a learning experience for me in several areas, but the one I’ve been working hardest at (and becoming the most improved in) is asking people for stuff.  Libraries don’t have infinite resources, but because we endeavor to use our powers for good, there are many amazing people and organizations out there that are not only willing to, but happy to lend aid or assistance to libraries for free. All you have to do is ask!

Asking for help can be hard. There’s an instinct to couch everything in apologetic terms (“I’m sorry to ask, but…” or “I hope I’m not be an inconvenience…”) that’s frankly unnecessary – I’m not saying be rude, but the fact is that A LOT of organizations provide support for libraries and educational institutions!  I have a couple of programs that I run which don’t DEPEND on the generosity of others, but donations and support are certainly going to make them better than I could on my own.  And that support means I have another cornerstone to advertise with, which means I might get more and a wider variety of attendees than I would otherwise.

It’s important to note that this doesn’t just apply to material goods – speakers and presenters don’t have to break your budget either, you just might have to explore different avenues than the most obvious ones.  Local talent is the best source for this, as they won’t have high (or any) transportation costs and are usually excited to help out and support their local library.

Some examples of things I’ve asked for:

  • Program support from Paizo, Inc. for starting up a Pathfinder roleplaying group: I was fortunate enough to be able to introduce myself in person to Paizo’s community manager, but her contact information is easily found by going to paizo.com and clicking on Contact Us. She was able to send us a Pathfinder Beginner’s Box, a core rule book, Gamemaster Guide, and Beastiary to get our group up and running. It is not crazy to imagine that other publishers might have similar support for libraries!
  • ARCs from different publishers: I’ve sent out the most requests and gotten the most negative responses, but it’s worth it for the publishers that do end up sending books. I’ve had success with Penguin Random House and Orca; cast this net wide and see what you pull up!
  • Free presenters/speakers: Local authors, cosplayers, comic artists, you name it: if they’re driving distance from me and responsive to e-mail, I’ve asked them to speak at the library. Our mini comic-con this past January was incredibly successful partially because our guest speakers were SO great; and all of them were more than happy to come for free. (I’m gonna go ahead and plug Paul Erickson, Casey Renee, Dean McQueen, C. Spike Trotman, and Brendan Detzner as being some of our amazing speakers.)
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If You Feed Them, They Will Come…AND Do the Dishes

I have a more serious thinkpiece that’s in the process of being written, but first I have to tell you all about my absolute victory that happened yesterday.

“If you feed them, they will come” is a staple truism in teen services. Having trouble getting teens into your program? Bring snacks. Teenagers are A. always hungry and B. have no money, so bribery with food is a pretty popular tactic for teen librarians. Personally, I’d rather my kids come to something because they WANT to…which is why I really, really like putting on cooking programs.

Over the summer, we did a food-based program every Monday, and they were always very well attended. My spotlight program was the faux-campfire cooking, where we baked potatoes in the “fire” of my panini press, and the raw foods smoothie program, where we got teens to eat smoothies with kale in them. Recalling that success, I decided I wanted to do a mug cooking program that, if successful, could spawn a repeating Pop-Up Kitchen series of cooking events where we learn how to make easy, healthy snacks that use super common ingredients and don’t use more than a microwave (or maybe a toaster oven).

My friends, I fed them, and they came. We made mug omelets and mug cake (yes, the cake was not all that healthy, but the omelets were, and everyone ended up wanting to make one of each).

I regret I do not have photos – I was too busy refilling ingredient bowls and moderating the line for the microwave. Kids were requesting other recipes before we’d started cleaning up. AND THEN, the absolute cherry on top, were the teens (about half the group, even) who voluntarily helped me wash out all the mugs.

If you have a microwave in your library and a handful of microwave-safe mugs (heck, even if you don’t have mugs, you can pick some up at the dollar store or a resale shop), I cannot recommend this program enough. Pinterest has TONS of mug cooking recipes with different levels of complexity; I went with two that only used three or four ingredients to keep my costs down:

Farmers microwave omelets
Gooey chocolate mug cake

I had 12 teens and the whole thing cost me $20.

Next time for Pop-Up Kitchen I think we’re going to do English muffin pizzas (the request was for biscuit dough pizzas, but I think the recipes will work better when they only need to cook for a few minutes; one of the reasons things went as smoothly as they did was because no one needed the microwave for longer than 90 seconds).

New Year, New Goals

Hey y’all. I was working on a post with my ten favorite graphic novels that I purchased for the collection this year, but it got stalled and I’m having trouble finishing it – let’s just say that Princess Ugg by Ted Naifeh; Nimona by Noelle Stevenson; Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson, et al; Buzz! by Ananth Panagariya and Tessa Stone; and Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson were some of my absolute faves, and you should absolutely get them for your collection if you haven’t already.

So! 2015 was a pretty good year for me, professionally. I started officially doing teen services stuff, I did my first school visits, planned some great big-ticket programs, and went to my first professional conference. I started more aggressively looking for ways to develop professionally, which will continue into 2016 when I give my first conference presentation (!!!!). I’d like to pay more attention to this blog, and make an effort to update at least once a week, even if it’s just to let you know how a program turned out or what excellent comics I’m reading.

(A friend and I also came up with the #52comics2016 challenge, where you pledge to read 52 unique comic/graphic novel titles this year, and you can follow my progress on my tumblr at that hashtag.)

Lessons Learned From Teen Read Week: 2015

Several months ago, my teen services manager asked if I wanted to handle Teen Read Week at our library this year.  My response was an enthusiastic YES, followed by many more anxious questions about what she’d done in the past, what she was expecting this year, so on and so forth.  Her response, across the board?

“Whatever you do will be awesome.”

This is both extraordinarily exciting and almost paralyzing to hear. I’d gotten started planning and implementing programs over the summer, but Teen Read Week is (duh) a whole week, and I wanted to do it right.  I started by coming up with a theme; the ALA theme this year was Get Away @ Your Library, which is lovely, but my library prides itself on developing its own original theme for events like this, and also my manager likes to connect TRW in some way with what we did over the summer, so as to keep the energy flowing from one big event to the next.

I settled on Teen Read Week Invades – a sci-fi/alien abduction theme, loosely based around our similarly sci-fi Terra Nova SRP.  I planned a whole week of alien literary activities, including a dramatic reading of War of the Worlds, Life-Sized Space Invaders, and specially themed book club meetings.  I made all the marketing materials and advertised the heck out of it, starting as early as the back-to-school nights in early September.  I was excited to be in charge of a whole week of programs.

No one came.

Poking around a bit on other librarian support and resource sites, you can find that this is not an uncommon problem with TRW – it’s at an awkward time, right around midterms and finals, and at least Illinois has a major annual conference that usually coincides with it.  But it was still extremely deflating to be so pumped up about something and have it fail so utterly.

(I have been told since that this isn’t a mark of failure, and further thought on my part leads me to think that my programs themselves were solid ideas; this was simply not the right time to put them on, as they could have felt too much like homework in the midst of a week already saturated with midterm exams and projects.  I’ve stashed all my prep materials to try at another time, and I’ll certainly report back if I have more success.)

I bookended the week with two programs that WERE successful, and one in particular I wanted to talk about – a Book Bingo Card with alien/sci-fi themed tropes and character types, and a book swap party to conclude the week.

Book Bingo: Fines are a huge problem with our teens.  The late fees on video games especially can be killer for them, since a dollar a day racks up really fast.  As a result, many of our teens come to the library to use our resources but never check things out; I’ve been having trouble inspiring interest in my book clubs because, in the words of a teen, “I can’t check the book out, so what’s the point?”  I’ve been looking into ways other than paying their fines off that teens could get out from under these prohibitive costs, and when I floated the idea of the prize for TRW Book Bingo being a partial fine reduction, I got a much more positive response from the business office than I anticipated.  Teens who scored a BINGO on their card and turned it in to me by the end of the week could get up to $10 in fines removed from their card, as long as they had a card from our library and the fines weren’t replacement fees.  Teens with no fines, no card, or a card from a different library could win a pass to the local movie theater.

This was really successful – I made sure every teen I saw that week got a bingo card, and of those I got back sixteen (which may not seem like a lot, but in terms of participation this is great for us).  I was a little disappointed that some teens with huge fines wanted to opt for the movie ticket instead, but I can’t say I’m surprised; if I do something like this in the future I may offer the alternate prize ONLY to teens who meet the above criteria.

I loved how this turned out as well, because I could hear the teens working on the cards, discussing answers, debating whether something fulfilled a trope or not and then presenting their finished cards as a group to me.  It’s so hard sometimes to get teens talking about what they’re reading, or interested in reading something new, that overhearing active literature discussions filled me with total librarian glee.

Abduct-A-Book Book Swap Party: If you feed them, they will come….and take your surplus books away.  We have a cabinet overflowing with extra books, many of which are duplicate graphic novels and ARCs from Penguin Random House, and just generally a great selection of books.  I brought pizza, soda, music and free books, and even though no one brought books to swap themselves (I had a couple kids look terrified by the prospect of giving away their beloved books through the week, so I’d done a lot of reassuring that they of course didn’t have to give away anything they didn’t want to), 3/4 of my pile was gone by the end of the day and I had the satisfaction of seeing the kids flipping through new books and comparing what they’d taken.

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In the future, I’ll probably lean more towards these passive-type programs for TRW; things that are more pop-up in nature, that teens can drift in and out of at will, and more things that go up on Sunday and last all week (next year I’d like to try an interactive display that grows and changes through the course of the week).  And now I have a week’s worth of programs in my back pocket, for when I have a day that needs filling (I’m still certain our podcasting group would get a kick out of the War of the Worlds script, given half a chance).

Pathfinder Adventurers Society in the Library

About a month and a half ago, I started a Pathfinder RPG group for teens (ostensibly) at the library.  We’ve met three times now, and it’s been going GREAT: I have a player group of five, which is a decent table size, and a couple more interested kids who are planning to come to my next new player intro session on Halloween.  I thought I’d do a write-up on how to start a gaming group in your library, because I think there’s a lot of value in tabletop RPGs that might not be immediately obvious to people who don’t have experience playing themselves, and because it’s been super fun for me and I think it would be for you, too.

1. Pick What Game You’ll Be Playing

There are a lot of role-playing games out there, and most of them are great.  The upside is that this means there’s lots to choose from and you can pick a system based on things you know your teens are already into – the downside is you really do have to make a choice.  Running a role-playing group is time consuming (as I’ll talk more about below), and unless you have multiple librarians running different kinds of games, I think the best way to run a quality group is to focus on one system and really, really get familiar with its ins and outs.

I’m running Pathfinder for my teens, because I play a lot of it myself so I didn’t have to get to know new rules before I started teaching them to my players.  (For those who don’t know, Pathfinder is a fantasy adventure game that shares roots with Dungeons & Dragons.  It’s published by Paizo, Inc., and their website has tons of resources – some of them are free! – for players and gamemasters).  But that’s certainly not your only option!  Here are a couple more titles and the genres they cover, if you’re interested in reading more about them:

  • Call of Cthulhu: A horror/mystery/investigation game.  This one can be tricky, since players don’t usually “win” like they would in a typical game, but the stories are twisty, fascinating mysteries that lead to horrifying, sanity-destroying monsters.
  • Mutants & Masterminds: A system totally designed for making your own superheroes.
  • Shadowrun: another sci-fi game, but this one is futuristic cyberpunk and frequently involves heist scenarios.  It has a combination of computer-based cyber stuff and nature-based magic. Players can be any of the usual fantasy races (elves, orcs, etc.), while hijacking computer security systems with their brains.
  • Star Wars: Edge of the Empire: Because who DOESN’T want to play a smuggler, rebel pilot, Jedi, or Twilek bounty hunter?
  • Vampire: The Requiem: A game for players who aren’t so focused on combat. The World of Darkness suite of games (which also includes a Werewolf-based game) can be very role-playing heavy, focusing more on political intrigue and plots than outright killing bad guys. Plus you get to be a vampire.

2. Get the Core Books

Make sure that whatever game you decide to run, you have the core rule books available either to be checked out or as reference materials.  Your players will want access to the books to learn more about the rules, develop their characters, and to read more about the world the game inhabits.  We have the Pathfinder Core book, Game Mastery Guide, and Bestiary available as both reference and circulating materials (we received a very generous donation of a set of those books which allowed us to put them in both places).  You’ll also need at LEAST the core book while you’re gamemastering, especially if this is your first time running the game!

3. Make Sure You Know at Least the Basics

You can certainly do some learning as you go (I definitely have!), but as the gamemaster you need to make sure you’re at the VERY least familiar with the rules you’ll be using in your first session.  Many tabletop games have some sort of beginner’s box-type product (like, say, the Pathfinder Beginner’s Box) that comes with a streamlined version of the rules to make them more immediately accessible.  Your players will have questions and you don’t want to be stopping play too frequently to answer them.

4. Decide What Your Target Age Is

This…this is really important, and the biggest mistake I think I made when I set my game up for the first time.  At my library, “teen” means 12-19.  I had an 11-year-old ask if he could come to the game, and because I was anxious about how many people I would be getting, I told him he could join us.  Unfortunately, the rest of my audience ended up being more on the “new adult” end of the age spectrum, and even though the 11-year-old is a good kid, it’s not a great age range for a game table.  The older guys want to be playing a different kind of game than the tween does.

I think I’ve solved it, though – our tween librarian is going to work with him to start a group specifically targeted towards him and his friends (and age group).  But it does reinforce the idea that you need to be clear on who your target audience is, and stick to it.  Different maturity levels will affect the dynamics of your players, and you want everyone to be having fun while you play.

5. Expect to Spend Time Preparing for Your Sessions

My Pathfinder group is, without a doubt, the most time-consuming program I’m currently running.  My regular campaign group meets every other Friday, and I’m hosting new player orientation and special events on the last Saturday of every month.  This will sound like A LOT to people who roleplay on the regular, but my sessions are also only about two hours long (the longest I can hold a program for during the week).  Still, I need to have stories and encounters prepared for each session, and that takes a lot of prep work.  What exactly that entails will be different depending on what your GMing preferences are (I know people who are much more comfortable improvising than I am, for example), but it will always take advance preparation.  Here’s how I’ve been doing it:

I started by gathering as many pre-written adventures from the Paizo forums as I could find.  I read through all of them, organized them into “quest chains” (because they’re typically not very long or end up not containing enough encounters for the size of my table), and pulled out the names of all the “quest givers” in them.  Then, for the first session after the Beginner’s Box that we ran, I roleplayed a big celebratory banquet where the players had a chance to meet these characters and decide what avenues they wanted to pursue.

My sessions end up being a mix of pre-written materials and the original story I’m building by stringing those adventures together – many of them are too easy for the size table I have, so I usually need to add encounters or add monsters to encounters.  I’ve also been writing my own chunks of story so that the different adventures fit together better.  I have to know what monsters show up (or what I’m planning to add) so I can have their stats and models handy.

As of yesterday, I now know I need to have some pregenerated townsfolk prepared for when my group unexpectedly decides to go investigating, instead of doing the break-in and fight that I anticipated they would do.  Which leads me to the next bit…

6. Be Ready to Improvise and Never Say No

You may think you know what your players will do, and frequently you will be right.  But you don’t want to railroad them into an adventure or task they don’t care about (“railroading” is a term that describes a GM maneuvering players into a specific story or action, regardless of what the players want), so be ready to turn on a dime and improvise when they decide to check out a shop you haven’t thought about, or question a character you didn’t have a name for until three seconds ago.

Additionally, and sometimes an even harder thing, is that it’s not good GMing to tell a player no.  It stops play and yanks everyone out of the story.  Instead, strive for saying “Yes, and…?”  If a player is dead set on doing something you really don’t want them to (assassinating the mayor of their home town and stealing all of their gold, for example), think about what that would realistically mean for their character.  Have them roll checks to see the guards standing by, or knowledge checks to remember how the town punishes murderers.  If you absolutely can’t get them to try something else, don’t be afraid of in-game consequence.  Alignment changes, the rest of the party choosing to leave them in jail, or a player decision getting their character killed are all things that can and should happen when a player is dedicated to making potentially self-destructing choices – and sometimes being the GM means letting those things happen, helping the player write up a new character, and hoping they’ve learned from the experience.

I will probably update this as we play more, but that’s what I’ve come up with so far.  If you start an RPG group at your library, tell me about it!  I’d love to hear from other people starting this kind of program for their own kids.

Patron Complaints: Firsthand Experience

So, something happened to me recently that I have heard tell in my many library school classes, but I hadn’t actually had first-hand experience with. Now that I HAVE, I feel as though I am in the position to offer advice, as (in my humble opinion), the interaction went about as ideally as it could have. I present to you:

The Patron Complaint

Yes, it’s true, I had a patron complain to me about a book I had recommended to her and her daughter. Here’s how the situation played out:

  • The patron, a mother with three young children, comes to the desk to ask for recommendations for her daughter (who is not present with her this day).  She tells me her daughter has been reading Raina Telgemeier’s books, and particularly enjoyed Drama, and is looking for a read-alike to those books.
  • I’m not told how old her daughter is, but based on that, I recommend to her three books: Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke, Meanwhile by Jason Shiga, and This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki.
  • Can you tell where this is going yet?
  • Three days later, the patron comes to the desk, This One Summer in hand, to tell me in no uncertain terms that she couldn’t believe I had suggested it, should it even be in the J Graphic Novels, maybe her daughter should just avoid the graphic novel collection all together.

She wasn’t mad, or at least she didn’t give the impression of anger. I think she was more taken aback and disturbed that I thought it was an appropriate recommendation (which I’ll get to in a second). She could have rolled in with righteous fury and demanded the book be taken off the shelf – she didn’t.  She could have asked to speak to my manager. She didn’t. In terms of handling a patron complaint, it was basically an ideal first experience for me, and this is how I handled it:

  • I apologized. Not for the book’s existence, but for the fact that she had had a bad experience of which I was partially responsible. I apologized that I had made an inappropriate recommendation.
  • I assured her that the book in question was on the high end of the maturity level for that section, and assured her that other recommendations could be made that would be more in line with what she considered appropriate (I didn’t say it like that. I was much less eloquent – my actual words were more like “I know we can find something else that you and your daughter will enjoy more.”)
  • I asked her not to write off the section as a whole, and recommended commonsensemedia.org if she was concerned about content in graphic novels her daughter might choose to read in the future.
  • I ran a plot synopsis of Zita past her to make sure it was more of what she actually wanted to be reading with her daughter.

Here’s the thing. Yes, I’m aware that This One Summer deals with more mature things than many of our other J graphic novels (I have a copy in the YA section, also).  But I also stand by my original assessment, that it’s an in-between book; we consider our tween audience to be ages 8-12, and our teen audience to be ages 12-19.  So you can see immediately that we have at least one year of overlap in actual numbers, and a couple of years of overlap in terms of reading level and interests.

Here’s the other thing. She told me that her daughter is seven, which falls well outside of that overlap I was talking about, and had I known the age of the reader in question I probably would not have recommended the book.  But based on the context I had (reading those Telgemeier books), I stand by recommendation.  I also never apologized for the book’s presence in the collection; I do the collection development for both graphic novel sections, and while I thought long and hard about the book’s placement after this encounter, I ultimately decided that it should stay on the shelf.

Patron complaints, especially in the graphic novel collections, have a lot of bad history.  Since I took over development I’ve been bracing myself for a concerned parent to question a book in the collection; I’d be lying if I said it didn’t influence my purchasing decisions somewhat (not too much, though, I’m still a librarian).  I got lucky in that the first one I dealt with was pretty lowkey and had no lasting consequences, but it did remind me that I need to carefully consider the recommendations I make and who I make them to.  It always pays to be mindful, especially when working with parents.

Games for Tweens

Let’s talk about games.

I just wrapped up an incredibly awesome weekend at GenCon, one of (if not the) largest gaming conventions in the world.  I’ve been an attendee for the last five shows, and I love it – not only do I get to play tons of new games, but I get to see what’s new and what’s coming. This is always interesting to me personally, but recently it’s also become seriously interesting on a professional level; I’m bringing in gaming on a much larger scale to my library, with the whole-hearted support of my supervising staff, so attending the show this year got me SUPER excited to introduce some new stuff to our patrons.

At the show, I was chatting with a friend of mine who mentioned he’s been enjoying my write-ups of the teen programs we’ve done for summer reading. I thanked him, and we got to talking about his niece, who’s 10 years old and just starting to discover games more complex than Candyland (she’s also started reading a bunch of new comics – I feel like this girl is going to be cooler than me when she grows up).  My friend mused about what some good choices would be for her, that would be complex enough to be interesting but not too long or crunchy.

After much thought, I’ve picked five games that I think are excellent choices for the tween gamer set.  I settled on some basic parameters, based on my understanding of this age group: generally simple but not easy, with shorter play times (average about 90 minutes), 2-5 players, and fun themes.  I’ve also tried to include a wide variety of kinds of board games.  Let me know if you think I’ve missed anything great!

1. Forbidden Island
2-4 Players, Playing time est. 30 minutes
Suggested Ages 8+

GAMEWRIGHT-317

This was the first title that popped into my mind.  It’s a fairly simple cooperative game, where you work as a team to recover artifacts and escape a landscape that becomes more treacherous by the turn: the waters rise as you hunt for artifacts and shore up barricades. Players take on different roles with different skills that help the group, and the group wins when all artifacts are recovered and everyone escapes from the helicopter pad. You lose if too much of the board sinks under the water.  The board is made of tiles with different locations on them, and artifacts are recovered by drawing cards and collecting four of a kind.  The thematic sequel, Forbidden Desert, is largely the same but with a few mechanical variations that make it worthwhile to own both versions.

2. Takenoko
2-4 Players, Playing time est. 45 minutes
Suggested Ages 8+

Takenoko

Cutest board game ever (or at least in the top five). In this game players are cultivating plots of bamboo by irrigating them, while satisfying the appetite of the Emperor’s Panda who wanders the board.  Players draw cards with different objectives on them (growing bamboo to certain heights, collecting segments of different colors, etc.) and collect points when they complete objectives.  Colorful, cute, and a good introduction to resource management.

3. Mice & Mystics
1-4 Players, but best with 3-4; Playing time est. 90-120 minutes (includes ongoing play)
Suggested Ages 9+

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Mice & Mystics is a good way to test the RPG waters with a kid – it’s a little bit board game, a little bit role play, and a lot of fun.  Unlike a lot of games of this type, there is no gamemaster; players all take the roles of mice in an adventure party (they didn’t start life as mice, but the story is a very strong element of the game so no spoilers here!).  Major party roles are represented, with cleric, warrior, wizard and rogue, as well as a few extras, being options.  Players work as a party to fight rats, bugs, and the occasional cats, collect loot, and accomplish missions. If you’ve played Wrath of Ashardalon, it’s similar in feel, but a little simpler mechanically.

4. RoboRally
2-8 Players, Playing time est. 60 minutes

Suggested Ages 10+

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Originally I had a paragraph here about the game Labyrinth, which I still think is a brilliant game that belongs in every library, but the more I thought about it the more I decided I wanted to include something that was a little more complex, a little more unusual. RoboRally is a great game that flexes your spacial reasoning by using the best device possible – frantic robots in an abandoned factory. Players navigate their robots with cards that have movement printed on them, trying to hit multiple checkpoints on the board. The tricky bit is that the board and the other players are all ALSO moving and changing, and sometimes what you think is the perfect path ends up being an explosive disaster.

5. Gloom
2-4 Players, Playing time est. 60 minutes
Suggested Ages 11+

Gloomcardgame

I sat on this one for a long time before making a decision (hence the delay on me actually publishing this post).  I wanted this list to be representative of games of all kinds, so I wanted to make sure I included a card game of some kind on here.  I got stuck because I don’t actually play that many card games!  I got some great ideas from fellow gamers, but not many I had experience with, and I wanted to be able to personally recommend something I had experience with (and I’m sorry, but while some of you might have gotten started playing Magic: The Gathering at this age, I can’t in good conscious include something with such a high monetary commitment attached to it).

I’m going with Gloom for lots of reasons – it’s a great storytelling game, which lets the players spin as detailed a story as they want to…or no story at all.  It’s very flexible in terms of how much players want to engage with the stories that they tell with their cards (each person has a family that they try to make as miserable as possible by playing different event cards; you can play happy cards on other people to sabotage them, and the person with the saddest family at the end wins).  It’s a fun, hilarious, intuitive game (the cards have transparent spots to show how many points they’re earning just by stacking them).

I struggled a little bit with this list – was I picking games that were too basic?  Too simple?  Was it a boring list?  And yes, these games are easy to play – but what it ultimately came down to was, they’re good games.  These are all games that I would and have played myself; with the exception of Labyrinth, they’re games I have in my own home library (and that’s just because my mom won’t let me take her copy).  These are all great ways to introduce a kid to games outside of what they might normally be exposed to, but they’re also great family-play games and great for kids who already know they love to game.  In short: these are good games.  I hope you get a chance to enjoy them!