Fleur Bradley is a Colorado based author who has a new book out

Fleur Bradley is a talented Colorado based author whose new children’s book, “Midnight at the Barclay Hotel” came out recently and is available anywhere books are sold. She tells readers all about her new book and why she became an author who likes r

Can you tell me how you came up with the idea for your book?

Midnight at the Barclay Hotel really started with my love for mysteries. When I was a kid, there was no YA section, so when I worked my way through the kid department at my library, a kind librarian suggested I try Agatha Christie. I’ve been hooked on mysteries ever since.

​I wanted to write a book for kids that has the same elements as a Christies novel, with a strong (murder) mystery, a slightly over-the-top cast of characters, and an interesting setting—but in a safe, kid-friendly way. And I wanted to introduce kids to the elements of investigation in a mystery story, how a detective might search for motive, means, and opportunity for each of the suspects. Then, I visited the Stanley Hotel, and was fascinated by the ghostly history and interesting backstory. That combination of mystery and spooky setting is how Midnight at the Barclay Hotel was born.

Why do you write books for children?

I love that middle-grade age—kids around eight to twelve years old are smart, and still love discovering new worlds and stories. I’m also a strong advocate for reaching reluctant readers, those kids who aren’t too crazy about reading. I believe there’s a book out there for everyone, and mysteries are a great way to reach a reluctant reader. 

Plus, I’m still a little bit of a kid at heart myself. With my writing, I can see the world through a twelve-year-old’s eyes, which is a fun escape.

How long did it take you to get published?

I spent more than ten years writing mostly short mystery fiction, and got a few dozen stories published before I tried my hand at novel-length fiction. I wrote about six YA manuscripts before landing an agent and ending up writing middle-grade mystery; my first book Double Vision came out in 2012. I’m glad I took the long way to get there—it helped me learn how to write, how to work with an editor, and how to take rejection gracefully…

​I still write short stories between projects. They’re so fun to write.

How long have you been writing?

About eighteen years (wow, that was longer than I realized…). It’s strange to look back on all those years now. Mostly, I had a lot of fun, and made a bunch of friends who have all taken theirown path in writing and publishing. Even though eighteen years is a long time, I feel like I’m just getting started.

Why did you want to be an author?

I wanted something that was just mine. I had two young children when I first started writing, and was staying home with them, taking care of the household… It’s easy to feel like you’re disappearing a little when you’re a stay-at-home mom. I already loved to read, and decided to try my hand at writing, so I had something that was just my own. It took a few tries, but my first short mystery was published by a tiny-press magazine called The Storyteller. 

​Writing for kids is even more motivating, because you hear from kids who tell you they loved the book. Or from kids who didn’t like to read, but now that they’ve read your book, they’re ready to keep reading. That’s so rewarding.

Can you give tips to writers about writing for kids?

Often when I talk to writers who are just starting out writing for kids, they’ll tell you how they want to teach kids this or that (like how bullying is bad, or you shouldn’t lie). That’s great, but it usually doesn’t produce a very good or enjoyable book.

​If you want to write for kids, you have to remember what it was like to be one. What fears, hopes, dreams did you have when you were eight, ten, twelve years old? Write about that. The best middle-grade writers remember what it was like to be a kid. It’s actually a lot of fun and a little magical.

What about for young readers and tips you would give them about being an author?

Keep writing! Every little bit helps and adds up to a lot of words. Find some fellow writers your age, and give each other (kind) feedback by starting a writers group. Keep at it, even if you feel discouraged sometimes. 

Are you doing any online events in December? If so, do you have links?

Most of my events in December are school visits, but I am doing a fun virtual event on New Year’s Eve with Second Star to the Right, a great children’s bookstore in Denver. You can find out more here:

(2) Second Star to the Right Books | Facebook

About Fleur Bradley:

Fleur Bradley is the author of the spooky middle-grade mystery Midnight at the Barclay Hotel (Viking/Penguin Random House) which recently made NPR’s Best of 2020 Books list. She’s passionate about two things: mysteries and getting kids to read. Fleur regularly does (virtual) school visits and speaks at librarian and educator conferences on reaching reluctant readers. Originally from the Netherlands, Fleur now lives in Colorado Springs with her family, and entirely too many cats.

For more information on Fleur and her books, visit www.ftbradley.com, and on Twitter @FTBradleyAuthor.

About Midnight at the Barclay Hotel:

Hunting ghosts and solving the case before checkout? All in a weekend’s work.

When JJ Jacobson convinced his mom to accept a surprise invitation to an all-expenses-paid weekend getaway at the illustrious Barclay Hotel, he never imagined that he’d find himself in the midst of a murder mystery. He thought he was in for a run-of-the-mill weekend ghost hunting at the most haunted spot in town, but when he arrives at the Barclay Hotel and his mother is blamed for the hotel owner’s death, he realizes his weekend is going to be anything but ordinary.

Now, with the help of his new friends, Penny and Emma, JJ has to track down a killer, clear his mother’s name, and maybe even meet a ghost or two along the way.

Cheyenne Symphony Orchestra Holiday concert cancelled but ways to continue to support them

The Cheyenne Symphony Orchestra is cancelling their holiday concert.
But you can still support the musicians and conductor.

Here is their official press release: “Out of an abundance of caution, the Cheyenne Symphony Orchestra board and staff have made the difficult decision to cancel the December 12th Holiday Magic performances, presented by HollyFrontier.  With the recent new restrictions by the Governor, as well as the rising number of COVID cases in the community and local hospital, CSO feels it is in the best interest of all involved to not proceed with this concert at this time.  The health and well-being of all CSO patrons, staff and musicians is a top priority. Those who have purchased a ticket to this concert may call  307-778-8561 beginning Mon., Nov. 30th to discuss ticket exchange or donation options.

For more info about upcoming concerts go to Http://www.cheyennesymphony.org

It’s not too late to buy tickets to Josh Groban’s Thanksgiving Day livestream concerts

Courtesy photo Josh Groban’s new album Harmony Target exclusive

Josh Groban is known for his amazing voice and holiday album Noel and so many more. His latest is Harmony, which he will be livestreaming the new tracks in concert tomorrow. Even though musicians have had limited touring ability due to the pandemic artists like Josh Groban are doing livestream concerts you can buy tickets to. I interviewed Josh when I worked at the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. And he’s a wonderful person as well as a talented artist. His singing is great in person in concert in a stadium and this is as close as fans can get for now.

So follow the directions below for his Thanksgiving Day Facebook concert!

from Josh Groban’s Facebook page…

Get your tickets here: Http://www.joshgroban.com

Spend Thanksgiving with Josh tomorrow! His Harmony album livestream concert starts at 1pm PST but you can watch and re-watch it all weekend long. We are so thrilled to donate a portion of the sales to No Kid Hungry! You can still grab your tickets at JoshGroban.com. See you then!

Also don’t forget to catch a special performance by Josh on Thanksgiving Day in a livestream concert celebrating and raising funds for Nurse Heroes everywhere. Tune in on Thanksgiving at 4 pm PST/7 pm ET for a special performance by Josh Groban and many others. Learn more about Nurse Heroes Live! here: https://live.nurseheroes.org/

Laramie County Library virtual events for the holidays

December Laramie County Library Closures

Thursday, December 24

Friday, December 25

Thursday, December 31 – Library closes at 6pm

HOURS of the Laramie County Library branches if you would like to check out books inside or curbside (curbside only when there isn’t inclement weather)

Cheyenne Library Hours: Monday through Thursday 10 a..m. To 9 p.m.

Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Sunday open 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Curbside open anytime library is open unless there is inclamate weather

Burns Library Hours: 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Mondays

Tuesdays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Wednesdays closed Thursdays 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Fridays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Saturdays 9 a.m.to noon

Closed Sundays

Pine Bluffs branch Hours: closed Mondays and Sundays

Tuesdays 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Wednesday and Thursday 10 a.m. t 5 p.m.

Fridays 1 p.m. to 5p.m.

Saturdays 9 a.m. to noon

All information courtesy of the Laramie County Library

WELCOME TO WINTER FEST VIRTUAL EVENTS from the Laramie County Library that you can do online from the comfort of your home.

From Dec. 7-19

Winter weather got you stuck inside? We have a solution for that! Join in the fun by picking up an activity kit on the 2nd floor of the library or by utilizing the library’s curbside pick-up service. We will have three projects for ages Pre-K and up starting December 7th, with a second set of projects debuting on December 14th. *While supplies last. 
(Children & Families; 2nd Floor)

*RSVP Required
Virtual Kindermusik®
Saturday, December 19 

10 – 10:30am

Join Laura Sutton from Rhythm & You for a fun time with books, music, and movement. Come to the 2nd floor of the library to pick up your free rhythm kit or pick it up utilizing the library’s curbside service to participate in all the fun! RSVP for this event at https://lclsonline.org/calendar/ to receive the Zoom link via email.
(Ages 2–5; Live via Zoom)

*RSVP Required

Virtual Denver Zoo

Tuesday, December 29


Zoom down to the Denver Zoo with a live virtual experience visiting some of our favorite animals! Stop by the Ask Here desk on the 2nd floor of the library or by curbside pickup starting December 21st to pick up an interactive craft that will go along with our one-of-a-kind visit! RSVP for this event at https://lclsonline.org/calendar/ to receive the Zoom link via email. 
(Children & Families; Live via Zoom)

*RSVP Required

Virtual Winter Jeopardy

Wednesday, December 30


Think you’ve got what it takes to be a trivia champ? Join us for Winter Jeopardy and you could win some fabulous prizes! RSVP for this event at https://lclsonline.org/calendar/ to receive the Zoom link via email. 
(Children & Families; Live via Zoom)

Virtual New Year’s at Noon

Thursday, December 31


It’s time for our annual New Year’s at Noon! This year we will be counting down to noon at home with fun crafts and projects that you can do while joining us virtually! Pick up your interactive bag at the library starting December 28th and then get ready as we say “so long” to 2020! Tune into our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/LaramieCountyLibrary to join in on the New Year’s fun!
(Children & Families; Live via Facebook)

Monthly Virtual Early Literacy Classes

Early Literacy Class Themes

Week of November 30: Art & Imagination

Week of December 7: Pigs-A-Plenty 

Week of December 14: Here Comes Winter!

Week of December 21: Storyteller’s Favorites

Week of December 28: Storyteller’s Favorites 

Virtual Pre-recorded Early Literacy Class

Monday, November 30
Mondays: December 7, 14, 21, 28

10–10:30am *can be watched at any time throughout the week

Join us for a pre-recorded interactive early literacy class. Practice new skills incorporating books, songs, rhymes, movement, and more! A new session is posted each Monday morning and will be available all week. Click here to participate: https://lclsonline.org/early-literacy-programming/

Each week, we will offer three chances to participate in an Early Literacy Class! A virtual live class on Tuesday at 10am, a virtual live class on Thursday at 10am, and a pre-recorded session posted on Monday at 10am that you can watch at your convenience any time throughout the week. All virtual live classes require advanced RSVP through our events calendar. Just choose whichever session or format suits you and your family best!

Stop by the Ask Here desk on the 2nd floor to pick up a weekly craft packet and free rhythm kit to go along with the week’s Early Literacy Classes whether you are joining us for the live version or the pre-recorded version! Some crafts will also be available at the Burns Branch Library. 
(Ages 18 Months–5 Years; Laramie County Library System Website)

*RSVP Required
Virtual Tales Together

Tuesdays: December 1, 8, 15

Thursdays: December 3, 10, 17


Join us for a live virtual Tales Together via Zoom! During this interactive Early Literacy Class we will practice new skills, incorporate books, songs, rhymes, movement, and more! RSVP for this class at https://lclsonline.org/calendar/ and receive an email with a Zoom link for the live event.

Each week, we will offer three chances to participate in an Early Literacy Class! A virtual live class on Tuesday at 10am, a virtual live class on Thursday at 10am, and a pre-recorded session posted on Monday at 10am that you can watch at your convenience any time throughout the week. All virtual live classes require advanced RSVP through our events calendar. Just choose whichever session or format suits you and your family best!

Stop by the Ask Here desk on the 2nd floor to pick up a weekly craft packet and free rhythm kit to go along with the week’s Early Literacy Classes whether you are joining us for the live version or the pre-recorded version!
(Ages 18 Months – 5 Years; Live via Zoom)

Virtual Teen Events

*RSVP Required

Virtual Anime Watch Party

Wednesdays: December 2, 16


Connect with us on Discord to watch popular anime episodes and discuss in the chat. Discover more fun activities by joining our Teens Talk Manga community. Don’t have a Discord account yet? No problem! Laramie County Library is now offering Discord Communities for teens to interact, chat, and play online. To participate, you will need a phone, tablet, or computer with internet connection and a Discord account. You will receive the Discord invite link and information needed to create an account when you RSVP for the event at https://lclsonline.org/calendar/
(Teens; Live via Discord)

*RSVP Required

Virtual Teen Dungeons & Dragons

Saturdays, December 5


Role-playing adventure is just a click away. Join our Teen D&D online community and get started on creating a character today. Don’t have a Discord account yet? No problem! Laramie County Library is now offering Discord Communities for teens to interact, chat, and play online. To participate, you will need a phone, tablet, or computer with internet connection and a Discord account. You will receive the Discord invite link and information needed to create an account when you RSVP for the event at https://lclsonline.org/calendar/
(Teens; Live via Discord)

*RSVP Required

Virtual Teen Trivia and Tee K.O. 

Wednesday, December 9


Join us for Trivia Murder Party and t-shirt battles in our Video Games online community this month! Don’t have a Discord account yet? No problem! Laramie County Library is now offering Discord Communities for teens to interact, chat, and play online. To participate, you will need a phone, tablet, or computer with internet connection and a Discord account. You will receive the Discord invite link and information needed to create an account when you RSVP for the event at https://lclsonline.org/calendar/. This month, we are featuring the Jackbox games Trivia Murder Party and Tee K.O.!
(Teens; Live via Discord)

Virtual Adult Events

*RSVP Required

Virtual Ernest Hemingway: An Exploration of Life and Stories

Wednesday, December 2


Delve into Ernest Hemingway’s life of adventure, complexity, and intrigue with a presentation by Dr. Caskey Russell. The University of Wyoming professor will lecture on the biographical history of the famous author before discussing the diverse stories presented in the One Book Wyoming selection, In Our Time. RSVP for the event at https://lclsonline.org/calendar/ to receive an email with the Zoom link.
(Adults; Live via Zoom)

*RSVP Required 

Virtual Jeopardy: 1980s
Friday, December 11

Like, totally! Like, we are feeling, like, soo nostalgic right now! Grab your Garbage Pail Kid cards, peg your pants, put on your high tops, and tease out your bangs ‘cause we are taking it back to the ‘80s. Come play the classic game of Jeopardy with us and you could win a prize for first, second, or third place as well as a prize for best ‘80s garb! RSVP for the event at https://lclsonline.org/calendar/ to receive an email with the Zoom link.
(Adults; Live via Zoom)

Virtual Burns Branch Library Events

December Giving for the Community 
December 1–21

Library Hours
We have partnered with The Shepard’s Closet this month to give to the community this holiday season! During the first three weeks of December, bring your non-perishable foods, toys, and winter clothing to our drop-off location at the library. All donations will go to help fill Christmas baskets for families in need. The Shepard’s Closet is located at the Burns Town Hall at 327 S. Main Street.     
(All Ages; Burns Branch Library)

Take It and Make It Monday 
Mondays: December 7, 14, 21, 28

Library Hours
Get crafty on Monday! Visit the library to pick up a craft packet to take home and create a beaded candy cane or wreath ornament.   
(All Ages; Burns Branch Library)

*RSVP Required

Virtual Ladies Night (Out) In: Ornament Workshop 
Thursday, December 10

Pick up your supply packet at the Burns Branch Library, get cozy with a drink, and join us live via Zoom as we create some great holiday ornaments such as a tea light snowman and a yarn mini hat. RSVP for this fun event at https://lclsonline.org/calendar/ to receive an email with the Zoom link. 
(Adults; Live via Zoom)

Unwrap the Gift of Reading 
December 14–19

Library Hours
Begin the holiday cheer early by unwrapping the gift of reading! Select a wrapped book to check out, unwrap, and read. Inside you will find a book review form to fill out and bring back with the book. All returned forms are entered in for prize drawings. 
(All Ages; Burns Branch Library)

*RSVP Required
Virtual Live Dinner and a Book Club
Tuesday, December 15

Go virtual with us! The book this month is Indigo Girl by Natasha Boyd. For more information, please call 307-547-2249 or visit with library staff. RSVP for this event at https://lclsonline.org/calendar/ to receive an email with the Zoom link.  
(Adults; Live via Zoom)

*RSVP Required

Virtual BINGO with the Grinch 

Tuesday, December 22


Don’t steal Christmas cheer, instead try your luck at BINGO with the Grinch and also participate in a special read aloud of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Our hearts will grow three sizes if you join in on this fun event with prizes to be won. A few BINGO packets will be available for pick-up at the Pine Bluffs Branch Library, most will be available at the Burns Branch library. RSVP for this event at https://lclsonline.org/calendar/ to receive the Zoom link via email. 
(Children and Families; Live via Zoom)

Virtual Pine Bluffs Library Branch Events

The Twelve Days of Christmas Crafts
December 8–23

Library Hours
Stop by to pick up a Christmas craft kit featuring everything you need to make festive handmade cards and holiday ornaments. There will be a new craft each day the library is open!      
(All Ages; Pine Bluffs Branch Library)

Trim the Tree 
December 8–23

Library Hours
Help make our Christmas merry and bright! Bring your craft kit ornaments to display or leave a holiday message on our Post-It® tree.       
(All Ages; Pine Bluffs Branch Library)

Winter Reading Celebration Kickoff 
Friday, December 18
Thursday, December 19
Join us in Pine Bluffs for the kick off of our Winter Reading Program! Add your snowflake to our winter wonderland and get started reading with a gift from Santa’s bag of books.       
(All Ages; Pine Bluffs Branch Library)

Be Kind

            I have my magazine for a reason. Media is very biased. It is either extremely left or extremely right. There is no such thing as objective journalism anymore. There also aren’t any social media sites out there that also aren’t biased. So my goal is to be objective.

            Look 2020 has been a lousy year for a lot of people in the United States. Between Sars 2 Covid-19, businesses and schools being shut down, concerts, theater, rodeos, festivals, cruises and movies being postponed until who knows when, huge wildfires in the Western part of the U.S., hurricanes and flooding in parts of the South, racial tension, protests, riots, marches, murder hornets, and the U.S. presidential election and so much more, yay us. 

This year people have been angry, anxious, fearful, hateful, and this all stems from the media. Whether it is social media, news on Internet search engine sites, media on your TV, youtube, your radio, newspapers, your smart phones, media is everywhere. 

  Do you know what is more powerful than the media? It’s knowledge, research, the ability to find the truth, to find honesty.  

      Don’t hate your family member, your friend, your coworker, or your neighbor because of who they chose to vote for. Nobody is wrong. The great thing about America is we have the freedom to choose who we vote for. And everyone can vote if you are a legal citizen, including women like me, which hasn’t always been the case for women. 

            We also have the freedom of speech in America. That is something to be very grateful for and something that is to not be taken for granted. 

            Everybody has the ability to choose use their words wisely, whether it is through social media, a text, a phone call, an email, a letter, a messenger message, or a conversation of any kind.

            I have never in my lifetime seen so many people trash politicians, their friends, their family, their neighbors, so openly and so freely without thinking about the consequences. And there are consequences.

              I think the thing that appalled me the most this year was a post on Facebook that I tried to report of an individual who wished that President Trump would be put on a ventilator when he had Covid-19. And Facebook left that comment up. It is not legal to wish ill will on the President of the United States. But A lot of people did. And did I say Facebook left that comment up, after I reported it. TWICE!

            My mom passed away last year. She had COPD, heart issues, and she had fallen. She was on blood thinner, and when she was put on a ventilator, she had caught pneumonia in the hospital,  and had surgery to remove what they thought was mucus, they found that she had blood in her lungs. My mom was on a ventilator in ICU for many days. And eventually there was nothing more that the doctors or nurses could do to try and save her so I had to take her off of the ventilator. It was the worst day of my life.

            There is nothing worse than seeing someone you love with their hands secured down, and a tube down their throat, and unable to talk to you. 

            I don’t care how much a person hates the President of the United States, but I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. 

            The job of being a president is thankless. Because no matter what you do people are going to either love you or they are going to hate you. 

            And President Trump has the right to have the ballots recounted in every state. It is part of a fair election. 

            Everyone should really just be nice to each other, too. Whether you voted for Trump, for Biden, for Kanye, for Jorgensen, for yourself, or for nobody. Everyone in America has a that right to choose. 

            Last year I lost my mom, I had a miscarriage, I lost my dog to cancer, and this year I lost my grandpa. One day I saw him in the hospital to say good bye to him and to thank him for everything he gave us,  and a few days later we were at the family gravesite over looking a mountain burying his ashes. It was very traumatic to say the least and really made me take a look at life.

            What I am trying to say is life is precious. Life is a gift. Your words can either be poison, or they can be kind.

            Everyone is fighting a battle right now. This year has been incredibly fucked up and difficult. There really isn’t any other way to put that. 

            Yes, Covid-19 is a real virus, with no cure, I have friends who are fighting it right now. But these are things the media ISN’T talking about: COVID-19  has also caused mental health issues, families to go hungry, women, men and children to be abused even more than ever during the shutdowns, children to go missing for months because schools couldn’t find them anymore once the shut downs happened. Our elderly community has been lonelier than ever before. My grandpa, we couldn’t zoom with him because he was hard of hearing and hated technology, we couldn’t talk to him through a window because he would have been confused and angry because he couldn’t hug us, so I got to see him when he had a day left to live and was unresponsive. And NO he didn’t have Covid-19 but it certainly did kill him. 

            I have seen firsthand how families went hungry, how the shutdowns led to abuse and divorces, how financial hardship can kill a person’s confidence, or business, and how some families are barely hanging onto their homes and are close to homelessness or are homeless, how deployments are incredibly difficult on spouses. How political views can rip apart families and friendships. How racism is still a huge issue in America. 

            But there is something that is out there that is more powerful than politics, more powerful than a killer virus, or racism … it is your own voice, your own actions, and your faith, whatever that is. 

            So, when you wake up tomorrow, you have the choice to be kind to people, or not. And that’s not something you can blame politicians, or a virus on. Something that has helped me deal with my own anxiety about everything that is going on in the world is unplugging from all social media outlets, all TV, all radio, shutting off the news apps on my phone. Focusing on my family, friends, my pets, fixing myself, trying to help people when I can, and being kind. 

            We have the ability to vote in our country, the ability to get in touch with the government officials when we are unhappy or want change, or to even run for office ourselves. And we also have the freedom of speech. Use it wisely. And don’t always trust one media source or the other. Research, and learn.

            I still tell Biden supporters I voted for Biden, and Trump supporters I voted for Trump, and sometimes to throw people off I tell them the opposite, or that I voted for Kanye, or even myself.The cool thing about America is you also have the right to vote in secret. But however you voted treat everyone with respect, with kindness. Be an example for the future of America, our youth. 

Positive Covid-19 employee at Laramie County Library, library closed today


November 3, 2020

Laramie County Library in Cheyenne to Close Until 10am on Wednesday, November 4 Due to Positive COVID-19 Test

Laramie County Library System will be closed until 10am on Wednesday, November 4 due to an employee testing positive for COVID-19. The library’s safety restrictions ensure that no member of the public has been in the building without a mask, nor have they been within six feet of the employee for more than fifteen minutes. 

The Laramie County Library Board of Directors and County Librarian will continue to closely monitor the situation and work in tandem with the Cheyenne-Laramie County Health Department to keep library employees and the public safe. The building will be professionally cleaned and disinfected during the closure, allowing the library to safely reopen on Wednesday, November 4.


Carey Hartmann, County Librarian, at 307-773-7222 orchartmann@lclsonline.org

A toy expert talks about buying safe toys this holiday season and the secret to finding the hot toy of the season!

The holidays will be here before you know it and that means TOYS! I was able to get an email interview with Kristin Morency, a Toy Association Spokesperson. She gave advice for everyone who is buying toys this holiday season for children of all ages. The safety guidelines to consider, where they’re made and more tips.

Q: What should toy consumers be on the lookout for regarding safety when they are purchasing toys anytime, but especially for the holidays? 

Morency: “Families should always shop at reputable retailers that they know and trust. They can rest assured that toys sold through legitimate retailers have been tested for compliance and safety with over 100 strict standards and tests. It’s possible that a “toy” sold by an unknown retailer, whether in person or online, might be a counterfeit product that has not undergone the safety testing required by federal law.”

When shopping online, always spend some time digging deeper into a lesser-known seller’s history, by searching for the company’s website and mission statement, and carefully reading reviews. If you can’t find a website for the manufacturer or seller at hand, it’s considered to be a red flag. Multiple grammatical errors in a product description or review, or poorly photoshopped pictures, are other red flags. As a rule of thumb, if a deal on a hot toy looks too good to be true, it probably is.  Additionally, parents should always pay attention to the age grading on a toy. Toys marked 3+ may have small parts that could present a choking hazard to children under the age of three.“ 

Q: “How important is it that people make sure they are buying age appropriate toys and look for the listing for specific ages on boxes?”

Morency: “It’s very important, and something parents, grandparents, and other gift givers should always pay attention to, as age grading isn’t based on a child’s intelligence, rather it’s a safety guidance based on the development skills of children at a given age. Children under the age of three or who are still mouthing toys are at a higher risk of swallowing small parts and potentially choking. If parents are still unsure about the parts and pieces of a toy, they can use a Small Parts Tester, available in the baby-proofing section of a store or website. This federally approved tool for testing can help to assess whether toys meet the size requirements outlined in the small parts regulation, which was developed using research and recommendations from pediatricians, child development experts, government officials, and industry experts and has been adopted around the world.”

Q: What are ingredients in toys that could be hazardous to kids that consumers should know about?

Morency: “Families can be sure that all toys sold on U.S. toy shelves are safe regardless of where they are made, as they must adhere to strict U.S. safety standards and regulations. There are over 100 strict toy safety regulations, tests and requirements designed to protect children at play and make it illegal to sell toys or children’s products containing substances harmful to children and to which they might be exposed.”

Q: Where do people look to find recalled toys? How often should they look?

Morency: “Recalls are rare and the toy industry has a remarkable record of producing safe products. In fact, less than a fraction of one percent of the three billion toys sold each year in the U.S. are recalled. The toy industry works hand in hand with government agencies and other groups to protect consumers from products that violate the strict safety laws. However, parents should be aware of toys that have been recalled before holiday shopping this year, especially if shopping online. Regularly consult PlaySafe.org for a list of recalled products. The website is updated as soon as any new recall information is published by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.” 

Q: What kind of advice would you give a parent, grandparent, etc. consumer about making safe choices for the gift recipient?

Morency: “Gift-givers should always follow age grading recommendations and buy only from reputable sellers. We also recommend that parents and other gift givers consult www.PlaySafe.org which has tons of safety advice, including how to select age appropriate toys, how to make sure you are making smart shopping decisions, and tips for playing safely once the gifts are unwrapped.“

Q: And what are this year’s top toys? 

Morency: “The hottest toy is whatever your child is most excited to play with! There are so many exciting new toys coming out this year and it really depends on your child’s age, and what he or she is most interested in. Parents can get shopping ideas at ToyAwards.org which features expertly selected toys across a variety of categories, for all ages and interests.”

Q: Can you talk about the toys that really have good reviews and why they are going to be a big hit this season?

Morency: ”As mentioned, the toys featured right now (as of Oct. 29) on ToyAwards.org are the best on the market. These toys are finalists for the prestigious Toy of the Year Awards (TOTY) (which will be awarded in February) and have been selected by a panel of expert judges. There, you’ll find 117 toy finalists across 16 categories, from Action Figure of the Year and Doll of the Year, to STEAM Toy of the Year and Playset of the Year. These are great gift ideas for all ages and interests.”

Q: Also is there a difference in the quality of the toy product if it is made in America or in China ? What are the statistics about this? Does it change the quality control of the toy if it isn’t made in the USA?

Morency: “Any toy sold here in the U.S. must first meet the previously mentioned 100+ strict federal safety standards and be tested for compliance by a third-party testing lab. This is true for any toy sold here, no matter where in the world it is made, including China.“  

Q: What are some tips about toys that you would give to people who have a new toddler or even a young baby (three month old on up) in their lives?

Morency: “Pay attention to age grading listed on all toy packaging. If the product notes “for ages 3+” it is not a suitable toy for babies and toddlers, likely due to small parts. Parents and gift givers can use the Safe Toy Buying Guide at PlaySafe.org to assess what toys are the best to purchase based on how old their child is.”