To celebrate the release of my first book for young readers, I held a “Book Birthday” Party at my local library. Books have birthdays, too, and kids thought having a party for a book was a fun twist. If you’re an author brainstorming ideas for an upcoming launch, perhaps my experience will spark a few ideas. Several writing friends have asked for details, so here we go!
Pick a Place
We held the party at my local public library. It has a large, open room next to the children’s section, which was perfect. And lucky for me, our town’s Nature Center, run by the parks department, was situated in the adjoining room. Since NIGHT BECOMES DAY is all about nature, this was a major bonus.
Gather a Team
Several months in advance, before planning anything, I talked with one of the children’s librarians named Laura. She loved the idea of holding a celebration. We decided to have it on the official publication date (10/5/21) for 45 minutes. We capped registration at 30 and hoped 20-30 would come.
NIGHT BECOMES DAY appeals to a range of ages, but we focused this event on grades K-3. We planned a separate event for preschoolers on a Friday morning, plugging into the library’s regular programming for that age group.
Laura also had the fabulous idea of partnering with naturalists from the Nature Center. When they learned the book was about transformations in nature, they immediately thought of related resources in their collection. They even volunteered to showcase them as part of the event.
Here is the agenda I set up (which could easily be expanded to fill an hour or more):
Read NIGHT BECOMES DAY [12 minutes]
- I introduced myself and the book and then asked kids questions. What do they think of when they hear the word “transform” or the phrase “changes in nature”?
- I read the new book aloud, then asked for reactions. What did the language and photos make them think about?
Game: What’s Missing? [3 minutes]
Noticing what’s happening in the world around us is a key to understanding changes in nature. With that in mind, I asked kids to look at a PowerPoint slide with several objects on it. I told them to try to remember them.
Nature Stations [20 minutes]
Next, we broke into four smaller groups that could rotate through four stations. I gave kids a “passport to change”—a piece of paper with four boxes, which they could stamp after visiting each station.
- Rocks & minerals station (observe, test hardness, use black light for fluorescence)
- Amphibians station (model of frog life cycle, live toad and salamander)
- Seed and fruit station (cut open various fruits to show seeds, give a matching game where kids connect seeds to the corresponding flowers and fruit)
- Crystals (show crystal growth on glass using Epsom salts, show rock candy crystals)
Part 2 of the Game: What’s Missing? [2 minutes]
We gathered everyone back in the main room. I showed a second slide that was the same as the first but had one object missing. Then I asked who could guess what it was, and many knew!
Cloud in a Jar Demonstration [5 minutes]
This activity is from the website ScienceBuddies.org. It’s called “Cumulus Maximus: Test WEATHER you can make your own cloud!”
My book mentions cloud formation, so I thought this would be neat. Here are the basic instructions: Pour ½ cup of boiling water into a glass jar, spray in a little aerosol hairspray, put the lid on the jar, and place ice cubes on the lid. As water vapor from the boiling water cools inside the jar (because of the ice cubes), the water vapor quickly condenses on the tiny particles of hairspray, and a cloud forms inside the jar.
Farewell and Give Out Treats [3 minutes]
Add Sweets & Gifts
It wouldn’t be a birthday party without sweets and presents….
With pandemic concerns in mind, I decided to offer individually wrapped treats for kids to take home. A local bakery makes popular “cookie dough shooters,” which come in little clear cups with tiny silver spoons. So cute! I chose “beach sand” (snickerdoodle) and “mud pie” (chocolate). Each child also got stickers and a bookmark, which I made online using Canva and purchased from Vistaprint.
Prep in Advance
To play up the birthday theme, I chose items like streamers and birthday banners to decorate the room. (I had most of this on-hand, since I’ve hosted lots of birthday parties for my three kids over the years!) The rest of my advance prep work involved placing the treat order, making the passport and matching-game papers, and creating a few PowerPoint slides. I went to the library a few days prior to see their AV system and plan how to arrange the room. Definitely test out your computer and projection equipment in advance, and leave plenty of time for set-up right before the event.
We had a good-sized group, and I was delighted that our rather quick outreach worked. The two most effective methods turned out to be the library’s weekly emails, which included the graphic announcement shown above, and old-fashioned word-of-mouth. I personally invited friends and neighbors who had young children, and many of them came.
At the last minute, I also contacted our local school administration, and they included the party on an “upcoming events” list. Looking back, I could have begun outreach sooner and also reached out via elementary schools and social media.
Whatever you do, have fun! This party is a celebration of your book’s birthday—the day it appears in the world and begins to inspire and entertain young people.
You’ll probably be able to use whatever games, worksheets, crafts, or activities you come up with at future school visits. So dream big, plan away, and enjoy sharing your enthusiasm for your book.
If you’d like to share your own ideas for book launches, please add them in the comments below!