Magic-sucking blobs have overrun The St. Albert Public Library, and only the city’s most dedicated readers can help.
The St. Albert Public Library’s 41st annual summer reading game, Spellbound Academy, opens June 29. This year’s game asks kids of all ages to read books and complete challenges to save a magic school from a ravenous blob.
The summer reading game has long used mini-games, elaborate sets and storylines, and the promise of a free book to encourage youths to keep reading over the summer months.
“It’s really important for kids to continue to read throughout the summer,” said library children’s services co-ordinator Ashley King, as research suggests they can lose up to a full grade of reading skill if they stop.
King said staff are super excited about this year’s reading game, as it is the first time since the start of the pandemic they have been able to hold the game indoors with giant sets.
King said library staff started working on the sets for this year’s game immediately after the International Children’s Festival cleared out of the library’s program room. They raised the towering walls of Spellbound Academy at the library’s downtown location and excavated the sparkling Crystal Caverns at the Jensen Lakes branch.
King said staff decided to go with a “magic academy” theme this year as they haven’t done so for a long time (the last time was in around 2008).
In the backstory for Spellbound Academy, King said a giant magic-munching blob named Urga has escaped her jar and engulfed the academy’s professors and its power source (the Crystal Caverns). Urga and her tiny minions, the Goops, now infest the school and the children’s section of the library.
Players will capture Urga and her Goops by reading books and completing challenges in elaborately decorated rooms with the help of Molly the Moth and other magic mascots, explained Kaitlin James, one of the game’s designers.
Each room is stuffed with props and hidden details for players to find. The classroom-like Room of Mystery contains mysterious potion bottles and magical tomes, for example, as well as Professor Oswald the Owl, who starred in the game’s YouTube trailer. (James noted that Oswald is on the opposite side of the room from mascot Clover the Cat to prevent interspecies conflict.) Players can confront the mightier Morris the Dragon in The Headmaster’s Office — a simple task, as he’s decided to sleep all summer. (Urga’s knocked-over jar is next to Morris, which could explain how she breached containment.)
The main castle set is meant for players in Grades K to 9, King said. Older teens can crack puzzle boxes in The Restricted Room upstairs, where they will unlock the history of Urga and Spellbound Academy. Adults can win prizes by reading books in the unrelated Super Summer Reading Game.
This year’s reading game has several innovations in addition to its new sets and plot, King said.
Past years would see players line up for hours to play the reading game due to its popularity. Slow-reading players, or those who could not get to the library often, were also at a disadvantage, as they would either not finish the game on time or have few prize books left to choose from if they did.
This year, King said the library is having players register for the game online instead of in person to improve traffic flow. Players will also get their free book upon registration instead of at the game’s end to encourage them to start reading right away. Like last year, players will log reading hours on a tracker they can use to win prizes.
Instead having a different challenge in each room, every room in this year’s game will have the same challenge in any given week so more players can attempt them at once, King continued. (This also lets players play the game in the rooms they like best.) The challenges and the game’s storyline will change every week, with the final battle against Urga happening in the game’s last weeks.
King said the reading game will run until Aug. 17.
Visit srg.sapl.ca to register for the reading game.