It’s bound to be a hardboiled summer at the Whistler Public Library (WPL) for all the young gumshoes out there trying to put the finger on some stiff and send him to the big house.
Now that I’ve run through my limited knowledge of 1920s detective slang, let’s translate: the local library is hosting a range of kids’ programming this summer that follows the province-wide BC Summer Reading Club theme and is sure to scratch the itch of any young mystery lover.
“This theme has really resonated with our team. I think they’ve really run with this idea of detectives, mystery, whodunits and exploring curiosity about the world around us,” says WPL program coordinator Jeanette Bruce.
The centrepiece of this year’s reading club is a new initiative for WPL, the Crack the Case Community Scavenger Hunt, designed by youth services specialist Julie Burrows. Beginning July 12 and running for much of the summer, each week will offer a number of fun activities and missions to complete. Armed with an activity passport to fill out, kids will collect points for each task completed, with both weekly prizes and a grand prize draw at the end of the summer.
“I have to say, even as an adult with no kids, I would happily participate in this scavenger hunt,” says Bruce. “It takes you all over Whistler, it takes you to locations you might not normally visit, or it takes you to common locations but makes you find little details that you wouldn’t normally see.”
The summer-long event was modelled after the Pemberton & District Public Library’s scavenger hunt that was first launched in 2018 after the library wasn’t getting much uptake for its B.C. Summer Reading Club programming. Prior to that year, the summer club would attract a dozen or fewer kids in each age group. But in the scavenger hunt’s inaugural year, they got 118 kids signed up.
“It’s a great program but the way it was working then was not working for our community. So we came up with this idea of taking the Summer Reading Club theme but putting a Pemberton spin on it and having it be accessible for families the whole time throughout the summer, at a time that worked for them,” explains Pemberton library director Emma Gillis, who credited senior library assistant Jen Zichy for designing the hunt.
Another benefit of the hunt is that it requires kids to collect their points in person, helping library staff create a deeper connection to their youngest patrons.
“One of the bonus missions is to plant a garden this summer and come in and show a librarian a picture of your garden. So there’s lots of semi-interactive things, like write a detective story and come in and tell your story to a librarian,” notes Bruce, who adds that she is “jealous of my colleagues working the service desk, because I won’t get any of these super adorable visits.”
The scavenger hunt is but one of the mystery-themed programs happening in Whistler this summer. Also starting July 12 is the Crack the Case Virtual Escape Room, which puts young PIs to the test to prove they are Whistler’s greatest detective by solving a series of online puzzles.
Then there’s the Draw Your Own Adventure Workshop on July 15, from 4 to 5 p.m., with Vancouver illustrator and comics artist Zoe Si, who will guide kids entering grades 1 through 7 in designing and drawing their own detective characters. Space is limited.
Local author Rebecca Wood Barrett is leading two workshops this summer; the first, a mini-mystery writing workshop, runs from 3:30 to 5 p.m. on July 20, 21 and 22, where she will give tips to kids aged 10 and up on how to craft their very own whodunit. That’s followed by Digging in the Dirt: Unearthing the Grit in Your Writing, also from 3:30 to 5 p.m. on Aug. 24, 25 and 26, where kids 10 and up will get advice on how to develop characters that feel real and stories that surprise the reader.
Running all summer is the Code Your Own Adventure Sphero Challenge, which lets kids learn to code through hands-on play using a Sphero Bot, an app-enabled robot that lets users “see the coding play out in real time in how the Sphero behaves,” Bruce says. Participants will have to sign out a Sphero Bot as they would a library book, with a three-week lending period.
It’s yet another example of the kind of interactive, purpose-driven programming at the WPL that engages kids in innovative ways so their skills stay up to snuff through the summer months.
“That’s really a foundational element of Summer Reading Club: making sure kids are staying engaged in these literacy games and activities so that they go back to school in September with the full toolkit they left with in June,” adds Bruce.
Some of the events require registration, while others don’t. To learn more, and to register, visit whistlerlibrary.ca/blog/crack-the-case.