Friday, March 23, 2018

Preschool Storytime - Sink Your TEETH Into a Good Book!

Apparently last month was Dental Health Month, but I was unaware or I would have done this theme then. I was inspired by Jan Thomas' latest book, and it just took me a while to have a chance to decide what to use with it.

We started with our welcome song, then I used this fun little board book, Book-O-Teeth by Donald Lemke and Bob Lentz, to introduce the topic. 

They guessed teeth right away, and had fun guessing at the rest, and did surprisingly well, with someone even recognizing the beaver. I think the shark was their favorite, and most knew that to keep their teeth from being all rotten like the zombie's, they had to brush them and keep them clean. (This book is part of a series including hats, beards, and masks.)

We settled back down for our next book by singing our story song. Since we had just mentioned cleaning our teeth, I decided to read Does A Lion Brush? by Fred Ehrlich and Emily Bolam, which starts off asking if various animals brush their teeth. 

It then  explains they don't need to because they gnaw and chew on hard things like carrots, bones, and wood which keeps their teeth clean (I also added that animals don't eat/drink all the sugary treats that we do, either). Then it talks about how everyone needs to brush their teeth (and floss), as well as how many teeth we have.

We followed that with pretending to brush our teeth, and brief demonstration of flossing, then acted them out while singing "This Is The Way...":

This is the way we chew our food, chew our food, chew our food.
This is the way we chew our food, so early in the morning.

This is the way we brush our teeth, brush our teeth, brush our teeth.
This is the way we brush our teeth, so early in the morning.

This is the way we floss our teeth, floss our teeth, floss our teeth.
This is the way we floss our teeth, so early in the morning.

This is the way we rinse our teeth, rinse our teeth, rinse our teeth.
This is the way we rinse our teeth, so early in the morning. 

I followed that with the funny book that inspired this storytime, My Toothbrush Is Missing by Jan Thomas. I love most of her books for storytime, because they are funny, engaging, and have bold, simple illustrations. (However, I HATE that they are changing the format to the smaller early reader style instead of picture books.) 

Poor dog cannot find his toothbrush, but Donkey offers to help look for it. But Donkey doesn't know what a toothbrush is, so keeps finding hilariously wrong items instead. Finally, Donkey says he gives up and needs to get back to scrubbing his hooves. But, guess what he is using for that!

I led into the next activity (inspired by SLC Book Boy) by reminding them of how we talked them having baby teeth that would eventually loosen and fall out as they got older and be replaced by grown-up teeth when we read Does A Lion Brush? I asked them if they knew what you did with the baby teeth when they fell out. Some said "throw them away" while others (probably those with older siblings) said "put it under your pillow". I asked them why, and several did know that the Tooth Fairy came to get your tooth and leave money. I told them we needed to help the Tooth Fairy find which pillow the tooth was under.

Obviously you would put the tooth under one of the different colored pillows, but I left it on top so you could see it. You can make as many pillows as you have room for on your board, and could include more than one tooth if you wanted. I also had a stick puppet of the Tooth Fairy made from laminated clipart, but forgot to include it in the photo.

Each time we would say the following verse: 

"Look and see" says the Tooth Fairy,
"Can you find the tooth for me?"

Is it under the  (color)  pillow?

There are a few ways you can do this, with either letting kids take turns saying the last line and choosing the color, or letting kids take turns looking under the pillow as the present says the last line. They really liked this, and would have played it many times if time permitted, though we just did it twice.

For our final book, I read Alan's Big, Scary Teeth Jarvis. Alan is a big, scary alligator from a long line of scary alligators. He loves to show off his big, sharp teeth and scary all the other animals by snapping his teeth and growling at them. But, he has a secret. His teeth are not real! 

One day he loses them and finds everyone laughs at him instead of crying in fear, and he is very sad and embarrassed. But, in the end he finds a much better way of being scary.

After that, the kids asked to do "Five Little Monkeys Swinging in A Tree" so they could do the big alligator jaws snapping, so we did, and then ended with our closing song and passed out stickers.

How It Went
This storytime went very well, and the kids were surprisingly enthusiastic about teeth, and I was surprised at how many good books I found. There was one called What If You Had Animal Teeth? by Sandra Markle I think they would have liked, too, and there is another non-fiction book called Whose Teeth Are These? that I know they would have liked, but I did not have a copy available.

They seemed to like all the books and activities, and showing off their own pearly whites! Fortunately, their teeth all looked it great shape!

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Printz Award Winners & Honor Books

2018 Printz award winner and honor books

I finally got a chance to finish the last of this year's Printz honorees a week or so ago, but it took me at least another week to have time to sit down and reflect on all of them. 

I don't get a chance to read a ton of YA since I try to keep up with picture books and middle grade as well, so I wasn't surprised that I had only read one of the honorees, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, but I did have Long Way Down by Aaron Reynolds on my to-read list, and had started Vincent and Theo by Deborah Heiligman. I'll give a mini-review of each, and link to any full reviews I've done.

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour was the medal winner this year.
This is the story of a teenage girl dealing with shock, grief, and depression,
 prompted by the death of her grandfather and the revelation of the secret he was hiding, which causes her to completely cut herself off from her old life. We follow as her former best friend's visit helps her finally begin working trough all her feelings. Much of this story takes place in the main character's head, or in dialog with her friend, and deals with serious issues, but is hopeful, not depressing. 

This could be a good book for a teen who has experienced loss to relate to, as well as good for friends of someone who may be grieving to help them better understand, and see that everyone grieves differently, and some ways are more healthy than others.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds was one of the darlings of the YMA's this year, winning multiple honors, and rightfully so. This is one of the rare books that made me thing "wow, this is really amazing" as I read it. A young teen is grief-stricken when his older brother is killed, and feels compelled to go after the person he believes did it. He gets his brothers gun, and gets on the elevator down. But this will be the strangest ride of his life, as each person that gets on is someone Will knew, when they were alive. And each gives Will a new perspective on what he's about to do.

I was not as happy with this book as a Newbery Honor because in my opinion it is clearly for teens, not children, but I was very happy to see it as both a Printz and CSK honoree. If it were up to me, I might even have given it the Printz medal. I like a lot of books, but it is rare that a book wows me like this one did.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is another darling of the awards this year, winning the Morris Award and CSK honors in addition to being a Printz honor book. I'm sure this was one of the few surprises, as this book was talked about by everyone all year long.

Starr leads a double life, living in a poverty-stricken, gang-riddled inner city neighborhood with her family, but attending a private school in a gated community in the suburbs were the vast majority of the students are from affluent white families. When she witnesses the death of a close friend in a police-stop gone wrong which casts the community in turmoil, she feels torn between loyalty to her friend and wanting to stay safe, and questions her own identity and friendships. A very compelling with story with well-developed characters, particularly Starr and her family.

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor is a beautifully written, epic fantasy, that has the feel of a fairy tale or mythology.

Lazlo Strange is a young librarian, who has always been obsessed with the legend of the lost city of Weep, a city long forgotten by most people, whose existence is doubted by others. Then one day, he gets the unbelievable chance of a lifetime, when visitors from Weep, a city there's been no contact from in 200 years, suddenly show up, recruiting scientists, engineers, and other technological experts for a mission to Weep. Lazlo manages to impress the leader, with his knowledge of Weep and the ability to speak their language, and is invited to join them. What he finds there is beyond his wildest dreams... 

This story deals with terrible choices and the overriding guilt, vengeance, mercy, and love, and is the first of a series, so don't expect a real ending. It is also VERY long at over 500 pages, so might be best saved for a summer read when one has enough time to devote to getting lost in such a long book.

Vincent and Theo by Deborah Heiligman was the one Printz honor book I could not read. I was actually looking forward to it, since I generally like biographies and I am a HUGE fan of Van Gogh's art; plus I liked the cover art. But much to my surprise, I just could NOT get into this book, and I really tried. I read several chapters, but it just did not engage me at all.

It seemed as though the author wasn't quite sure who her audience was, because in some ways the writing was patronizing and seemed aimed at lower ages, but the content was definitely more teen/adult. It also was not told in a real narrative, but a series of many very short (3-4 page) chapters and was very choppy. It just did not flow. I finally had to give up, because I had too many other books to read, but I was very disappointed.

All in all, I'm pretty okay with this slate of honorees (though I would bump Long Way Down up to medal winner), with one exception. The first four books were all very different, but all very good and I could see appealing to teens. The last one, Vincent and Theo, I just do not get why it was chosen at all, and I do not think that it would be very appealing to teens. I do know that many people really like it, but it is so rare for my to DNF, I just don't see what they are seeing. Maybe someday I'll give it another try.

So what did you think? Are you happy with the medal winner? The honorees? Would you have picked something different? 

Leave me a comment!

Monday, March 12, 2018

2018 Caldecott Winner & Honor Books

As I've said before, I don't really spend any time speculating on what books will be recognized by the Caldecott committee because we are never on the same wavelength. Since 90% of my job is doing outreach storytimes (I did about 500 last year, and will do even more this year), I am looking for highly engaging and interactive books that will work well in storytime, so the kind of books the committee recognizes generally don't even register on my radar. So it was no surprise that I wasn't very familiar with most of these.

Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell was the medal winner.

This is a nearly wordless picture book about a girl and a wolf pup who are both lost in a snow storm. The girl helps the wolf pup back to his pack, then the pack helps the girl back to her family.

This is very cute, though it bugs me that the little girl just looks like a red triangle, and would be a good one-on-one shared read, letting the child tell the story from the pictures. Some say they've used it successfully in storytime, but I personally find these kinds of books rather awkward to use. It's okay, but as usual, I'm not blown away by it.

Crown by Derrick D. Barnes and illustrated by Gordon C. James is one Caldecott honor book that actually had caught my attention before the awards because of the eye-catching cover and the use of something as everyday as a haircut to portray cultural diversity, and encourage positive self-image. I really like this book, both the text and the illustrations, but I'm not quite sure who it's real audience is. 

I certainly wouldn't use it in my preschool storytimes because of the amount of text and I don't think it would be as meaningful at that age. I think older elementary kids would appreciate the subject matter more, but might feel a picture book is "too babyish". If you've used this book, please tell me about your audience and how it was received in the comments!

Grand Canyon by Jason Chin is a beautiful non-fiction book full of information and scenic landscapes. 

While I personally liked this book, again, I'm not sure that it will find an audience. It has way too much text and advanced information for kids that typically like picture books, and older kids would probably prefer photographs to paintings or drawings. This reminds me of Locomotive, a Caldecott winner from a few years ago, that several patrons reported their kids just had no interest in.

I'm afraid this is a very niche book that will not circulate much, after all the librarians and teachers had looked at it following the awards announcements.

A Different Pond by Bao Phi and illustrated by Thi Bui was inspired by the author's early morning fishing trips with his father. It is a simple story that alludes to so much more, and is illustrated in graphic-novel style, though there are fewer panels and many full-page illustrations. Both the author and illustrator immigrated to the U.S. from Vietnam with their families as children.

Like most Caldecott books, this one seems intended for an older audience, perhaps K-3rd grade. While I like the illustrations overall, I think the illustration chosen for the cover is too dark and the characters and title too small, to be very appealing or attention-getting. I have discovered that kids, particularly the younger ones, equate dark covers with being scary, even when they are just depicting nighttime, or early morning in this case.

Big Cat, Little Cat by Elisha Cooper is probably the one that disappointed me the most, and here's why.

As I started looking through it, I really liked it, being a cat person myself and having had a similar situation where the new kitten ended up growing up to be bigger than the older cat. It was such a simple, but cute and charming story, watching the kitten grow up, and the cats becoming best friends (though mine never really did) and doing everything together. 

I got excited at the small amount of simple text, simple illustrations, and cute story, thinking this would be the rare Caldecott book I could actually use in storytime! Until I got to this spread, that is:

(Click to enlarge)

What?!? The older cat leaves and never comes back? Now, unlike some of my co-workers, I never get emotional reading picture books. Novels always make me cry, but not picture books. But having had to euthanize my cat just over a year ago, and another one 4 years ago that was THE best cat I've ever had, this got to me and made me tear up 😭.

While I know others have said they used this in storytime, there is NO way in H-E-double-hockey-sticks I am ever using it in storytime. Though I think I could control my emotions, there is no way I'm going to attempt to answer all the questions it would prompt: "Where did the big cat go?", "Why can't he come back?", "What happens when you die?", "Why?"..... Plus I do outreach in daycares, so no parents to help answer the questions consistent with their beliefs. Nope, not touching that with a 10-foot pole!

BUT, this would be a wonderful book to help a child prepare for the loss of an aging pet, or cope afterward, as well as gently introducing death in general, along with Ida, Always, a beautiful picture book inspired by a true story that gently portrays death following a long illness.

So, my impression this year is pretty much the same as every year. Yes, I can see these have either impressive art work, or art that tells the story on it's own, but I will not be able to use any of these in storytime, and I question how much appeal most will actually have to children. On the other hand, I think Big Cat, Little Cat would appeal to kids, but I feel for the parents who might be in the uncomfortable position of answering questions they aren't prepared for if they don't know where the story goes.

What did you think of this year's slate of Caldecott honorees? Any that you think got snubbed that should have been recognized? Have you actually used any of these with children? 

Please leave a comment and tell me your opinion and experience!

Friday, March 9, 2018

Suspenseful Storytime

Today's storytime didn't really have so much of a theme as a mood. The class I visited today really needs highly engaging books to keep their attention, with lots of interaction, drama, and/or humor. I LOVE reading very dramatic books, so I decided to go with that since I really needed a fun day after the last couple of weeks!

picture book with suspense, drama, surprise endingWe started with our welcome and story songs, and then I read one of my current favorite books from one of my favorite storytime authors, The Doghouse by Jan Thomas. This books is SO much fun to read out loud to a group! Cow, Pig, Duck, and Mouse are playing kickball, when the ball rolls into...the doghouse (cue thunder and ominous music). One by one the animals go in to retrieve it, but they don't come out! 

I love building up the drama and suspense as each animal disappears, and hearing the audible gasps when Dog says Duck can't come out because he's "...having Duck for dinner!" But of course, when we peak inside the doghouse we see all is well and that Dog is just having a everyone over for a dinner party. I also take this is an opportunity to talk about how some dogs may look scary, but most of the time they are friendly (though you should always have your parent's and the owner's permission to pet them).

After that we pretended to be doggies with this cute action rhyme. I don't remember where I first saw the first verse, but I wrote the second verse myself:

Some Dogs

Some dogs bark, (bark)
Some dogs growl. (growl)
Some dogs yip, (yip)
Some dogs howl. (howl)

Some dogs beg, (beg & whimper)
Some dogs play catch. (pretend to catch frisbee)
Some dogs sit, (sit down)
And some dogs scratch (scratch behind ear)

But all dogs wag their tails! (wag tail)

After that we sang a quick verse of "B-I-N-G-O":

There was a farmer who had a dog,
And "Bingo" was his name-oh.
B - I - N - G - O,
B - I - N - G - O,
B - I - N - G - O,
And "Bingo" was his name-oh!

Alligator story, books with suspense, surprise ending, Snip Snap!
I had originally wanted to do Wolf's Coming by Joe Kulka for our second book, but, alas, our copy has been lost 😭 So I chose another book I had not gotten around to using before, Snip Snap! What's That? by Mara Bergman & Nick Maland, which is clearly inspired by the rumors of alligators living in the sewer systems from being kept as illegal pets. As the story opens, we see an open manhole cover, then the alligator slinking up the stairs of an apartment building, getting closer, and closer! This is another book that is fun to read very dramatically. Just when you think the children are doomed, they turn the tables on the wayward alligator.

Of course we had to follow that with everyone's favorite rhyme about monkeys and an alligator:

"Five Little Monkeys"

Five little monkeys, swinging in a tree.
(hold up 5 fingers, move back and forth)

Teasin' Mr. Alligator, "You can't catch me!"
(waggle hands, shake head)

Along comes Mr. Alligator, quiet as can be,
(whisper, move hands like alligator)

And SNAPPED that monkey right outta that tree!
(move arms like jaws and clap loudly)

[Repeat, counting down to zero]

They love the suspense, knowing the alligator is going to snap! After that, I introduced another rhyme about an alligator that also has a dramatic part that one of my former volunteers taught me:

"There Once Was An Alligator"

There once was an alligator, laying on a log.
(lay one arm on top of other)

Down in the water, he saw a yummy frog.
(make alligator's head look down)

DOWN dived the alligator!
(say "down" loudly and quickly dive down)

Around spun the log!
(roll arms)

SPLASH! went the water!
(fling arms out)

And away swam the frog!
(make swimming motions)

They liked that one so much, and since it was new, we did it twice. Then we sang our closing song and passed out stickers.

How It Went
I had a lot of fun with this storytime, and the kids really seemed to enjoy it, too. They liked both books, but they really LOVED The Doghouse with it's simplicity of text, bold graphics, and almost unbearable suspense. I never get tired of hearing them gasp when they think Dog is eating everyone. Jan Thomas books are great for storytime (and I'm really not happy that her publisher is changing them to the smaller early reader format that doesn't work as well for groups).

The loved the song and rhymes, with a good mix of new a familiar. They were so cute wagging their little tails like puppy dogs, and shrinking in suspense, knowing Mr. Alligator's jaws were about to SNAP!

I'm glad we had such a good day, as this class is particularly challenging. This is the 4th year I've been coming to this same classroom, and this group has definitely been the most difficult to get, and keep, engaged. They are sweet kids and are always glad to see me, but have trouble sitting reasonably still and listening, and require the most highly engaging books to keep their attention, and I'm running out of ideas!

If you've seen any really good, super engaging new books in the last year or so, let me know in the comments! They like things that are very dramatic, or very silly, and highly interactive. But, they are only 3, so not much text, and simple, bold illustrations.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Rough Week...

Rough week? Who am I kidding, it's shaping up to be a rough next few months. I had fully planned to write a post about my impressions of the Caldecott Award winners and honor books now that I've finally gotten a chance to see them all, but honestly, I just couldn't muster the creative energy.

Everything seems to be hitting at once. I've got major assignments due every week for the next 9 weeks (in addition to regular homework), and it is challenging to keep up with two classes while working and dealing with family stuff. The classes are going well, I'm actually liking Reference, which I dreaded, and while Public Libraries is a bit of a bore, it's not difficult, but it is still a lot of work to do.

Home life has been extremely stressful and unsatisfying the last couple of years, and work has always been my escape. I loved working in the children's department, and I've loved my outreach position. It was very low-stress, fun, and fulfilling, if a little isolating and repetitive, but I did have opportunities to do other things. But now that is changing. There is a major restructuring going on (that's always fun, right?), a shift in focus from quality to quantity, and I know my job description is changing. Though I don't yet know the full extent of these changes, I do know that I will no longer be working one shift a week in the children's department, and will have to do even more storytimes.

I am really trying to get on board and be a team player, but some of these changes are hard to take. Though I understand why I won't be working in the children's department anymore (they are getting additional staff), it is a huge disappointment to me personally and professionally. I really needed the variety to keep from burning out doing 12-15 storytimes a week. It gave me a chance to work with kids of all ages, families, and adults, to stay up on middle-grade and YA literature, to stay in practice with reader's advisory, customer service, and the ILS; and to interact with colleagues that I rarely see otherwise. My ultimate goal is to be a children's librarian, so it was great being able to keep a toe in the pool, so to speak.

So I've been feeling a bit demoralized, frustrated, and stressed, but trying to move on. Any advice for embracing the change, fighting the burnout from the increased monotony, and how to make my already strained voice last for even more storytimes every week??