It’s Gnomevember!

As we started planning what we wanted to do in November (in early October), I had planned on trying to keep it as simple as possible. I should really know better. I gave Mary the task of figuring out something to do in terms of décor for the library. The next day she commented that she really didn’t want to do anything stereotypical – and so we started brainstorming. Out of if came “Gnomevember!” We laughed and started throwing out fun ideas for what we could do with it (the laughter being the thing that tends to seal the deal when we try to figure out what we want to do at the Children’s Library).

That night, I stumbled across this idea by Reading with Red on Pinterest and was like “Oh, we should totally do our own version of that!” It wasn’t until the next morning before we opened when I thought “OMG GAME OF GNOMES!” Both Mary and Brittany laughed when I told them (so that was that). And that day I started drawing the image that I wanted to use to advertise our silliness:

Game of Gnomes: less bloody than what it’s based on (unless one of the kids gets a really nasty papercut).

My official Game of Gnomes logo. All in pencil.

I also discovered how awesome light boxes are while making this.

I quickly decided that the two ways we’d adjust our game from the original inspiration:
1. we’d use mushroom stickers to help the Gnome King build his throne, and
2. the kids would draw “mushrooms” out of some flowerpots that had been donated to us.

I do have to take a moment and acknowledge that both Gnomevember and Game of Gnomes turned out to have been thought of by others before me (but I’m glad that I didn’t realize this ’til after we’d committed). Garvey on deviant ART has a far superior Game of Gnomes than mine, and I was very relieved to see his was to scale and was a much more accurate/cool take on it.

Gnomevember turns out to be a fun tradition at Castle in the Air.

And there’s possibly some other variation of these things out there, so if you think that I should include your version of either one of these things, then please let me know!


Mary got to work on giant gnomes to fill our front windows, and Brittany got to work on these 3D gnomes made from construction paper and empty tennis ball tubes. Last month I was cleaning our craft closet when I came across the empty tubes and told my team that we had two months to use ’em or lose ’em (the tubes, not the staff). Thankfully, Brittany was able to use them to make a wonderful variety of gnomes to place throughout the library. Each one has a wonderful personality and they make me smile whenever I see them. I wish that I could show y’all every one of her almost-a-dozen gnomes (like cowboy, ninja, Broomhilde, Katniss, etc.). I got to work putting together both games (I realized that we could have both Game of Gnomes as well as a Gnome Hunt).

The Gnome Hunt is extremely basic: we’d already put up gnomes throughout the library for both décor and Game of Gnomes, so why not have the kids count them? I put out two more “stand-out” displays for the game at our circulation desk with everything that the kids need to play, and within five minutes of putting them out we had a family of 3 playing. Putting out a highly visible “do it yourself” display/game turns out to be the key at our library for patrons to initiate these sorts of games. Hooray!

With this particular game, it’s been fun to hear some kids learn to tally and then practice their counting skills. Again, it warms my heart to hear the parents interact with their children to make this experience a learning one. When the child comes up to give us the answer (currently 33 gnomes) we’ll let them know how many gnomes there are, but that the goal was to reach 15 gnomes to earn a sticker. Not one child so far has settled for not finding every single gnome. Finally, when the child is done, we give him/her a mushroom sticker to put on the Gnome King’s throne (and yeah, on the King as well). We also use the time that they take to put the sticker on the door to encourage them to try Game of Gnomes either on this visit or next time. So far about half have taken us up on the game right then and there (and have gone nuts over it – usually playing more than once).

Just in case you didn’t read the other librarians’ version of this game, here’s the basic gist: we have two flower pots (one for early readers, and one for junior readers).

The player pulls out a mushroom paper that on the back has variations of this: “Look for a gnome with a [color] hat, and a [color] shirt.” Then the child must find that gnome and pick out a book (or audio book) from that gnome’s bookcase. Before laminating the game pieces, I was sure to write down the gnome’s location on its back side in case a curious child decides to play with any of the gnomes.

One child wasn’t allowed to get audio books, so we let her pick another mushroom. Once they pick out the item, they check it out, and get a sticker for the throne. If they want to keep the sticker, then we let them, and then add a sticker to the throne once they’ve left. The stickers are what we use to keep track of how many times the games were played! This is also a really fun way to get the kids to check out items from areas that they may not usually even browse. Can I tell you how much I love this game? It’s a lot. A HUGE thank you to Reading with Red for this faboo idea!

One picture that I failed to get was the back side of the Gnome King (so it’s what people see as they come into the library – besides the awesome giant gnomes). Basically we have “It’s Gnomevember!” written across the top arc, and then large cutouts of the mushrooms along the bottom. I’ve heard many kids and parents laugh about “Gnomevember” (hooray!) as they come inside, and the mushrooms keep the back of the throne from looking like a dark cave that the children must go through in order to enter the library.

For our “Great Wall-o-Puns” it took an assist from our wonderfully creative library page to come up with the perfect idea. We were really stuck with what items we’d highlight because all we could think of were gardening puns (since gardening wouldn’t really work for this time of year), or ones that sounded too much like our previous Summer Reading Program theme. I asked her to help us think of something, and she came back with “well, I think it should be a play on either ‘no’ or ‘know.'” And that triggered my idea that I almost shouted: “The More You Gnome!” – like “The More You Know” PSAs. She in turn lit up and said, “You could put gnome hats on the books!” Which I loved, but adjusted it to have the hats on the book stands instead, since it seems that people are hesitant to check out anything that has a “prop” attached (like our cat books with tails). She then came up with the idea of putting out the Junior Non-Fiction books that have been returned – like what we do with our Picture Books (with great success), and which also saves time in shelving. Done and done! Mary made the shooting star, I made the lettering that Brittany colored, and our page made a prototype for the gnome hats which I then made. Whew!I absolutely LOVE the result.

Last, but not least, I was almost in a panic about putting together a display by our bench featuring fall and Thanksgiving books when Emily, our Practicum Student, asked if I had a project for her. BOOM! No more panic or worries. Emily had never done such a large display before, so it was fun watching her put all of the elements together, from getting the idea all the way to executing it. She did an amazing job with very little assisting from me.

The only tweak I did after she was done was that I found a bag of already-cut construction paper leaves, sprinkled them around the books, and then added some around the sign to more fully tie-in the sign to the display (plus they give it some cool perspective since the pre-cut leaves are a bit bigger than the intricate ones that Emily had made). I know she was bummed when she realized that the items on display would cover a lot of her leaves/books near the base of the window, but it’s a good lesson in thinking through all aspects of a display. That part doesn’t bother me since when someone takes a book from the display, it still looks full and intentional.

With only two partial days of Gnomevember having happened at our library (since the taking down of the spiderwebs took a lot longer than anticipated), I’m delighted to say that Gnomevember’s been a HUGE hit so far. I think that both parents and kids are starting to really get into the fun passive programs that we put together, and the whole “put a sticker on it” has taken this sort of program to another level. I’ll be sure to update if I have anything to add at the end of the month. I also know that Mary’s planning to decorate our white board, so once she does, I’ll be sure to add a picture. She did it! And here it is in all its cute glory:


Draggy, our Children’s Library’s mascot, got into Gnomevember as well. This one’s so large that many kids overlook him on the Gnome Hunt – tee-hee!

We took red construction paper for the hat, and cardstock for the beard, and edged it with a black sharpie. Then we stick tacked them onto our wall vinyl. Easy-peasy!

Gnomevember may become a tradition at our library, because everyone really got into it, and it was truly a full-team production.

If you ever end up celebrating Gnomevember, then please let me know!

A Gnome of Your Own

Here’s a basic “game piece” gnome for you to use/copy/color if you’d like! Just click on the image and download it:

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