New Minecraft Mod Teaches Code While You Play

September 2, 2014 by

Do you like to play Minecraft? Do you have an interest or an introductory knowledge of coding and want to learn more? If you answered yes to either of those questions mark October 2014 on your calendar, the launch of LearntoMod to the general public!

Like many kids, Stanley Strum spends a lot of time building things in Minecraft, the immersive game that lets your create your own mini-universe. The game has many tools. But Stanley is one of many players taking the game a step further by building entirely new features into the game. And, more than that, he’s also learning how to code.

He’s doing this with a tweak to the Minecraft game, called LearnToMod. Modifications like this, called “mods,” are a big part of the game’s runaway success. But this particular mod helps kids learn to create their own mods. For example, Strum built a teleporter that whisks him to a random location within the game world. Another lesson teaches kids to write the code to create a special bow that shoots arrows that become “portals” between different locations in the game, allowing them to reach spaces that would otherwise be quite difficult to access. It’s like being able to create your own cheat codes.

Strum is one of 150 students who are now tinkering with LearnToMod, an educational add-on teaches you the basics of programming while creating tricks and tools that you can use within the Minecraft. The mod will be available to the general public in October, and its creators hope it will help turn Minecraft into a kind of gateway drug for computer programming.

“Kids are already spending ridiculous amounts of hours on Minecraft,” says Stephen Foster, the co-founder of ThoughtSTEM, the company that’s built the LearnToMod module. “So we thought this would be a good way to help them learn skills.”

Interested in learning more about LearntoMod? Click on the link here to read the original article by Klint Finley for WIRED magazine.

September Book Giveaway

September 1, 2014 by

We have a copy of Outside In by Sarah Ellis for one lucky reader of the teen blog. This title was published in May 2014.

Lynn’s life is full—choir practice, school, shopping for the perfect jeans, and dealing with her free-spirited mother. Then one day her life is saved by a mysterious girl named Blossom, who introduces Lynn to her own world and family—both more bizarre, yet somehow more sane, than Lynn’s own.

Blossom’s family is a small band of outcasts and eccentrics who live secretly in an ingenious bunker beneath a city reservoir. The Underlanders forage and trade for the things they need (“Is it useful or lovely?”), living off the things “Citizens” throw away. Lynn is enchanted and amazed. But when she inadvertently reveals their secret, she is forced to take measures of her own motives and lifestyle, as she figures out what it really means to be a family, and a friend.

Classic Sarah Ellis, this novel is smart, rich, engaging and insightful. (Taken from the cover).

To participate in the drawing for this book, send an email to with Outside In in the subject line. Include your phone number and the Plano library branch where you would like to pick up the book. We will have a drawing for the winner of the give-away on Monday, September 14, 2014. One must be a resident of Plano, Texas in order to qualify for the monthly book giveaway.

Good Luck!



Earth Girl

September 1, 2014 by

earth girlEarth Girl by Janet Edwards

2788. Only the handicapped live on Earth. While everyone else portals between worlds, 18-year-old Jarra is among the one in a thousand people born with an immune system that cannot survive on other planets. Sent to Earth at birth to save her life, she has been abandoned by her parents. She can’t travel to other worlds, but she can watch their vids, and she knows all the jokes they make. She’s an ‘ape’, a ‘throwback’, but this is one ape girl who won’t give in.

–  from

Why I picked it up: SCIENCE FICTION!  Sci-fi is the thing now – think Guardians of the Galaxy, Ender’s Game, and even Divergent - but this was a take I hadn’t heard before.  Humans spread out across the galaxy, colonizing planets, but not an alien in sight?  Hmmm…

Why I finished it: Edwards packs a lot of action and fun without the depressing darkness that so many dystopian and apocalypse novels seem to need.  Jarra faces some hardships, but she is pretty easy-going and everything turns out really well.  I’ll put it this way: no one DIES, especially not her love interest.

I’d give it to: Anyone who had a good time watching Guardians of the Galaxy and who wants to dip a toe into the sci-fi waters of the book world for an easy, fun read.

I’d give it: 4 stars

4 Stars



Reviewed by:  Cecily (Davis Library)

Young at Heart Adult Book Club

August 29, 2014 by

Did you hear? The Plano Public Library System has a new book club for those who loooooove to read YA!

You are invited to come to the first meeting where we will be discussing Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl.


Cath struggles to survive on her own in her first year of college while avoiding a surly roommate, bonding with a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words, and worrying about her fragile father.

The Details

Where: Parr Library conference room

When: Monday September 8 @ 6:30-7:30pm

Who: Those 16 years old and up


Hope to see you there!

Silver People

August 28, 2014 by

Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal by Margarita Engle

It’s a full-immersion experience into the building of the Panama Canal in this free verse novel, with the voices of young Mateo (a Cuban passing as a Spaniard); a Jamaican man; a native girl; and the flora and fauna of the rainforest describing the impact and experience of creating the Panama Canal.  Like any good historical fiction, it made me want to know more about this period. Highly recommended!

The Things You Kiss Goodbye

August 27, 2014 by

The Things You Kiss Goodbye

By Leslie Connor

 Bettina Vasilis can hardly believe it when basketball star Brady Cullen asks her out, and she just about faints when her strict father actually approves of him.  Over the course of the summer, Bettina falls in love with Brady… and with the new freedom that comes along with him.

But when school starts up again, Brady changes.  What happened to the sweet boy she fell in love with?  Then she meets a smoldering guy in his twenties, and this “cowboy” is everything Brady is not – gentle, caring, and interested in getting to know the real Bettina, or “Beta” as he nicknames her.

Bettina knows that breaking up with Brady would mean losing her freedom – and that it would be inappropriate for anything to happen between her and Cowboy.  Still, she can’t help that her breath catches she he smiles, or that she longs for the scent of his auto shop whenever she’s anywhere else.

When tragedy strikes, Bettina must tell her family the truth – and kiss goodbye the things she thought she knew about herself and the men in her life.

Why I picked it up: I liked the title, and the jacket description really intrigued me.

Why I finished it: I was really interested in Bettina’s relationships, with Brady, Cowboy and the other students.  I don’t want to give any spoilers, but Bettina had to deal with several serious issues in this book, and I thought they were handled realistically. I also really enjoyed learning about Greek culture.

I’d give it to:  Anyone who enjoys realistic fiction.

I’d give it: 3 ½ stars

The Graveyard Book (volume 1)

August 26, 2014 by

graveyard book The Graveyard Book (volume 1)

 by Neil Gaiman; graphic adaptation by P. Craig Russell

Oh guys! Here is some glorious news…The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman has been adapted as a graphic novel! The  Graveyard  Book shares Bod’s story of growing up as a living soul raised by the ghosts of a graveyard. It’s beautifully written  and a classic  Gaiman tale. You can read our review of the Gaiman’s original book here. The graphic novel is divided into two  volumes. Plano Public Libraries have volume 1, and volume 2 is on order, but you can place a  hold on it. Check our library  catalog (click the title above to follow the link) to see if we have a copy volume 1 available or place a hold.

P. Craig Russell takes Gaiman’s story and works it perfectly into the graphic novel format. A great team of illustrators (Kevin Nowlan, P. Craig Russell, Tony Harris, Scott Hampton, Galen Showman, Jill Thompson, and Stephen B. Scott) create some  wonderfully rich scenes. Even though each chapter is drawn by a different illustrator, the graphic story as a whole flows well. I  loved watching the relationship between Bod and Silas develop.

Check out this graphic novel if you’ve read The Graveyard book or if you are interested in eerie stories with a lot of heart.

Not a Drop to Drink

August 22, 2014 by

Not a Drop to Drink CoverNot a Drop to Drink

By Mindy McGinnis

Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn’t leave at all.

Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.

But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it…. (Summary from the book cover flap)

Why I picked it up:

I read that Stephanie Meyer (author of the Twilight series) had optioned Not a Drop to Drink for a movie. I hadn’t heard of the book and thought the premise sounded interesting.

 Why I finished it:

This is not your typical dystopian novel.  Yes, this is a post-apocalyptic world where survival is uppermost on everyone’s mind but this one also has the feel of a historical fiction novel set in the Old West with its focus on self-reliance, self-protection and isolation. Initially the plot moves slowly but as Lynn is forced to rely on herself for survival and comes into closer contact with others, the plot becomes more and more intense and could even qualify as a page-turner.

 I’d give it to:

Fans of dystopian novels with fierce female survivalist characters.

Recommended for grades 8 and up.

I’d give it:  4 Stars


Reviewed by: Connie (Parr Library)



Teen Anime Club!

August 21, 2014 by

Picture1Teen Anime Club!

The Teen Anime Club is back for fall and better than ever. Do you watch anime? Read manga? Cosplay at conventions? Whether you are new to the world of Japanese animation or a long-time fan, join us as we watch anime, discuss our favorite characters and series, and create crafts and other fan art together.

Our first fall meeting will be on September 16, 5-6:30pm at the Haggard Library. Don’t miss it!

Check out our fall brochure to learn about all the other teen events we have going on at all five Plano libraries. There is a lot to do!

On the Fence

August 20, 2014 by

18298225[1]On the Fence

by Kasie West

For sixteen-year-old Charlotte Reynolds, aka Charlie, being raised by a single dad and three older brothers has its perks. She can outrun, outscore, and outwit every boy she knows—including her longtime neighbor and honorary fourth brother, Braden. But when it comes to being a girl, Charlie doesn’t know the first thing about anything. So when she starts working at chichi boutique to pay off a speeding ticket, she finds herself in a strange new world of makeup, lacy skirts, and BeDazzlers. Even stranger, she’s spending time with a boy who has never seen her tear it up in a pickup game.

To cope with the stress of faking her way through this new reality, Charlie seeks late-night refuge in her backyard, talking out her problems with Braden by the fence that separates them. But their Fence Chats can’t solve Charlie’s biggest problem: she’s falling for Braden. Hard. She knows what it means to go for the win, but if spilling her secret means losing him for good, the stakes just got too high. (from Goodreads)

While contemporary romance isn’t my usual genre, I really enjoyed Kasie West’s Pivot Point series, so I was curious to see how she would handle a less sci-fi/fantasy, more realistic sort of story. The answer? Quite well! I really enjoyed the characters, and I liked that friends and family play an important role and it’s not just all about the romance. Sweet, but with a serious side, this would be perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen or Morgan Matson.

Happy reading!

Lara (Haggard Library)