Friday, February 17, 2017

Shapes All Around Us

While I try to incorporate shape recognition into storytime when I can (as well as colors, numbers, letters, and other concepts), I had not yet done a whole "Shape"-themed storytime yet this year, so I decided it was time for one. [Since shape recognition is often lagging behind other concepts, and some 3-year olds I see really don't know any shapes, I do like to do a whole storytime on shapes each year since they are not incorporated into books, songs, and rhymes nearly as often as counting and colors.]

We started with our welcome song, followed by our story song. For our first book I chose a little gem that I snapped up from a cart of books the children's department was discarding from their office storytime collection (I'm in outreach), Make A Change: Shapes by Margot Thompson and Geff Newland. This is such a fun book for talking about shapes, with wheels to turn, tabs to pull, flaps to fold, and pop-ups! 

Watch as a snake slithers out of the page to coil into a circle, an chick hatches out of an oval, a rainbow arc appears, a triangle roof tops a fairy cottage, and discover a pyramid (square base and triangular sides) complete with a mummy in his rectangular sarcophagus, followed by sea stars and the Man-In-The-Moon! Even the endpapers have something to offer; the front has several shapes that can be magically turned into a different shape by folding in the flaps, and the back offers a turning wheel that reveals different shapes to identify. (Unfortunately, there were very few copies of this book sold in the states, and it is now out of print).

We continued the fun with a song that is also a shape guessing game:

"Do You Know What Shape This Is?"
(to the tune of "Do You Know The Muffin Man?")

Do you know what shape this is,
What shape this is, what shape this is?
Do you know what shape this is,
I'm holding in my hand?

At the end of each verse I would hold up a different shape (cut out of craft foam). I had a circle, square, triangle, rectangle, oval, heart, star, and diamond (I'd like to add pentagon, hexagon, and octagon). I pointed out the similarities and differences between the circle and oval, square and rectangle, and that a triangle had 3 sides. We talked about how the heart was a special shape because it meant love (to tie in with Valentine's Day, which was earlier this week, and our stickers). I ended with the star and diamond, and told them I bet they knew a song that had those shapes in it. Some of them said "no", but a few quickly put it together, and then we sang it:
"Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star"

Twinkle, twinkle, little star;
How I wonder what you are.
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star;
How I wonder what you are.

Since our songs did not have a lot of movement in them, I had everyone stand up, give a good stretch and shake their wiggles out, before quieting our bodies and sitting back down for the next story.

Our second (and final) book was a really fun, silly one that I just happened to come across straightening up the stacks a couple of weeks ago, Circle, Square, Moose by Kelly Bingham and Paul Zelinski. This book starts out to be a simple, straightforward shape book, illustrating various shapes with everyday objects, until Moose decides to insert himself into the story, painting out some words and adding "Moose" in their places and running amuck. 

He eats the sandwich that was supposed to show a square, brings along a cat, gets everyone tangled in the ribbons that were supposed to show curves, and ruins the story. Even Zebra can't get him under control, and sadly laments that the story was ruined and has no ending. But, Moose manages to partially redeem himself by coming up with a rhyme for the last shape to end the book.

Then we sang our closing song and passed out stickers, which were special "I Love My Library" stickers in honor of "Love Our Libraries" month. I pointed out to them how each sticker had three shapes: the square backing, the round sticker, and the heart in the center.

How It Went
We had a very fun, slightly boisterous, storytime today! Who knew shapes could be so exciting? This group always loves calling things out, and I have noticed every time I've done the "Do You Know What Shape This Is?" song with this class (even with different kids each year), they tend to get louder and louder with each successive shape. I shut the door as a precaution, and tried to rein them in, but they just couldn't contain themselves. But, I'd rather have the problem of too much enthusiasm over a group of kids who just stare at you with blank faces while you can hear crickets chirping any day!

They really liked the first book, and I remembered just as I was about the bring the snake out that their teacher really hates snakes and won't even look at them. This is well-known among the kids and they LOVE to indulge in a little good-natured torture by making sure to show her EVERY picture of a snake they see, so they all laughed when they realized what it was. But then some of the kids decided they didn't like the snake that much, either, and thought I should unwind it back inside the page before moving on. They were amazed by everything that appeared, especially the mummy. It is such a shame this book is almost impossible to find now, even used. I'm glad I was able to get my hands on a copy.

They absolutely loved Circle, Square, Moose and really got into it; I had a lot of fun doing it as well. This is probably one that most people would need to practice a little first to really make the most of it, and would be great to do with a partner voicing the moose (especially if they were wearing antlers!). They kids laughed and giggled so much, and got a kick of being able to tell Moose to get out of our book, and I was glad to see they recognized how wrong is was to write (or paint) in a book. I only read two books this time since this one is a little on the longer side, and even though the first one is short, it always inspires a lot of discussion.

As I was leaving, one little boy ran after me, saying "Wait, you gotta give me my hug!" Have I said how much I love preschoolers? I do like to do programs for other ages as well, but it's hard to beat the innocence, enthusiasm, and adoration of preschoolers!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Out Of The Mouths of Babes

As anyone who has spent much time around kids knows, they can say the darnedest things! From brutal honesty to fanciful, detailed stories to revealing family secrets, you never know what they're going to say next! For some reason the theme over the last two weeks inspired many unexpected comments from the kids; so many that I was inspired to dedicate a whole post to share them!

For the last two weeks of the Storytime-To-Go program we have been doing a "Love" theme, which has some Valentine's Day stories, as well as several general stories about love, hugs, and kisses. I usually start out by talking about love, how we can love different people (or things) in different ways. The kids usually start by first saying they love their mommies and/ or daddies. But one day it didn't quite go the way I expected, revealing one family's dirty laundry. 

One little girl (whose parents I have gathered are recently separated from other things she has said) comes out with "I just love my daddy. I don't love my mommy because she punches my daddy." There was a slight pause as we (the teacher, my volunteer, and I) exchanged slightly panicked glances, then I just moved on as though I hadn't heard anything unusual. It made me sad to know that she had witnessed her parents having a physical altercation.

Then today we had a case of a little TMI. I was going to have them do the following rhyme:

I have a little heart,
It goes thump, thump, thump.
It beats even faster when I jump, jump, jump.
I get a special feeling when I look at you,
That makes me want to give you a hug, or two!

I lead into by asking them if they know where their heart is, and what it does. Then I explain about how the beats are the heart squeezing to pump your blood throughout your body. One little girl pipes up with, "My mommy pumps to feed my baby brother!". The adults laughed, and the male teacher looked just a wee bit uncomfortable. I told her that was a different kind of pumping and moved on!

And that was followed up by some brutal honesty in the next group. At the end of each session, our driver (who happens to be around 75) hands out stickers to the kids. I always tell them, "That's all the time we have for today, but if you would like a sticker, you need to stay seated, criss-cross with your feet our of the way so (driver) doesn't trip. We don't want (driver) to fall and get hurt!" To which one kid replied, "Cuz he's old!" and another kid piled on with "Yeah, he's *really* old." Of course they aren't meaning to be rude, simply stating a fact, and fortunately our driver has a sense of humor about such things!

Earlier this week, one child told something on himself. I was reading Froggy's First Kiss and got to the part about everyone teasing Froggy and saying, "Froggy has a girlfriend; Froggy has a girlfriend". I always stop and ask the kids if that was nice for everyone to tease Froggy, and they always respond "No!". Then one little boy volunteered that his older brother teases him and says that Sally, a girl in the same class, is his girlfriend, but she's just his friend. Fortunately the girl in question didn't seem to mind and laughed about it. 

Sometimes what they say is incredibly sweet. While reading Love Monster, we observed how the monster was sad because people only want to cuddle with soft, fluffy things like kittens, puppies, and bunnies, and no one wanted to cuddle with him. A very empathetic young lady stated adamantly that "I would cuddle with him!".

But best of all was on Monday, when we were talking about who we loved, and one precocious little boy said "I love Mr. (driver) and I love you! And you're pretty!" [Insert collective "Awwwww" here.] And that my friends is why I love my job!

Friday, February 3, 2017

No Theme, Just Lots of Fun with New Books!

I knew I wanted to use an awesome new book, Chicken Story Time, this week, and at first I toyed with doing a whole chicken theme, but then I saw a couple of other new picture books that looked like a lot of fun that I really wanted to try, so once again I went theme-less!

So after our welcome song and story song, we dove right into Chicken Story Time by Sandy Asher and Mark Fearing. So this story starts with one chicken deciding to drop in on storytime at the public library. But then, the next week more chickens come, and the following week even more chickens come! What's a librarian to do?? The story is cute, and the illustrations are wonderful, clearly conveying what it going on. I can't imagine a children's librarian or storytime attendee that wouldn't love this book! 

And I can't imagine following a chicken story with anything but Laurie Berkner's "I Know A Chicken", with shakey eggs, of course! This song is so catchy and fun, I've yet to come across a kid or adult who didn't enjoy it. I especially like that it is a call-and-response type of song, making it easier for the kids to sing along, and gives directions like shake them fast, slow, in a circle, etc. If you're not familiar with it, here's her video:

Up next was a picture book for the grammar-police among us that I found hysterical, but
was a little unsure if kids this age would get it, especially after my mentor said it didn't go over so well when she read it to a kindergarten class. This is technically not new, as it was published in 2015, but it is new to our collection so was on the "new" shelf. 

In Cece Bell's I Yam A Donkey! we find a highbrow spud of the sweet variety attempting to correct a donkey's sloppy grammar, but the donkey misconstrues everything the yam says, to the yam's increasing frustration (reminiscent of the Abbott & Costello "Who's on first?" bit). 

The yam enlists some of the other vegetables to help him demonstrate proper subject-verb agreement. In the end, the dense donkey *finally* gets it, but it does not end well for the vegetables. I made sure to give this a good set-up prior to reading to help ensure the kids would get it.

Since our last book incorporated movement, I just went straight to it, rather than do an activity first. Spunky Little Monkey by Bill Martin, Jr. (posthumously), Michael Sampson, and Brian Won is intended to encourage children to exercise. We start with a sleepy little monkey who is having hard time waking up at first, then pops out of bed. The rhythmic text (borrowing from "Five Little Monkeys" and other childhood clapping rhymes) leads us through various motions: bobbing heads, clapping hands, stomping feet, and shaking hips, all to the rhythm of the beat. I only wish it was just slightly longer and then wound down at the end for an easier transition.

I meant to do "Five Little Monkeys Jumping On A Bed" after this, but I completely forgot and went straight to our closing song, and passed out monkey stickers.

How It Went
I had another fairly big group today, with 18 kids and three adults, and I think we all had a lot of fun and really enjoyed these books. Chicken Story Time was probably the kids' favorite, as they could easily follow what was happening and relate it to our own storytime. We talked about whether we would want all those chickens in our storytime, and some of the kids said yes, and others said no, and all agreed that the teachers probably wouldn't like chickens in the classroom! And as expected, they had lots of fun with "I Know A Chicken" and the shakey eggs, and several commented on how much the liked it afterward.

After hearing that I Yam A Donkey! had not worked well for the kindergartners, I had second-thoughts about doing it with the preschoolers, but I liked it so much I had to give it a try. I made sure to give it a good set-up so they would have some context by talking about how it can be really frustrating if we are trying to tell someone something and they just don't understand and keep getting it all mixed up. Then after I read the title, I asked them "Is that how you say it? 'I yam a donkey'?" And several said "No", then i asked them how you should say it, and several did reply "I am a donkey". I'm not sure if they completely got everything about the story, but they seemed to get most of it; they definitely understood the donkey was misunderstanding everything and the yam was getting extremely frustrated, and thought that was very funny.

They always enjoy stories that break from the traditional "criss-cross applesauce, hands in your lap" and let them move around, and Spunky Little Monkey was no exception. It did seem just a little bit too short, though; I think we could've used two more spreads of action.

I liked all the books, but I think I had the most fun with I Yam A Donkey! I usually use themes just for my own convenience, to give me some direction, but not always, and the kids never notice the difference. All in all, it was a very fun, and funny, storytime! 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

And The Winner Is...

How do you feel when it's time for the Youth Media Awards? Or when you read any of the award and "Best Books" types of lists?

I know some librarians get excited about it and look forward to seeing if their picks won, but I'm always left feeling a mixture of frustration, inadequacy, and WTF?? when I see these lists. I always find that even though I read quite a bit (never as much as I'd like!), I've only read about 3-4 of all the winners and honorees, and I'm only familiar with probably another half-dozen or so. This is what makes me feel frustrated and inadequate. As an almost children's librarian, I feel like I should be more "in the know" and in sync with what others in the profession think are the best books. While I do try to read books if several people mention it, usually I just grab what interests me off the "New" shelf when we get them. Clearly, the people on these awards committees and I have very different tastes! 

So for the next couple of months, I'm playing catch up and trying to read (or at least flip through) as many of the winners and honorees as I can. Some of them I find I really like a lot and see why they were chosen, but then many others I look at and and I'm completely underwhelmed and baffled why it was chosen. I often wonder what am I missing here? Am I out of touch? Or am I just more focused on what kids would like while the committees are more interested in prioritizing diversity, promoting alternate formats (free verse, graphic novels, wordless books, etc.), and leaning more towards what appeals to adults??

This is often particularly true of the Caldecott winners and honor books. I rarely like them! I can sometimes appreciate the artwork and the story and find it appealing to adults, but usually I can't imagine them appealing to a child. I haven't even seen the winner (Radiant Child) because my system doesn't even own it because it was felt it wouldn't circulate (and I'm sure it won't after all the librarians and teachers have seen it). They All Saw A Cat was okay, but seemed like a good idea that could have been executed much better. I found the text dull and awkward, and the artwork sloppy. 

Du Is Tak? was cute at first, but went on too long, and I feel like this kind of thing has been done before. Plus the illustrations were very small. I wouldn't use either of these in storytime. Freedom In Congo Square is one I don't know would particularly appeal to kids, though something a teacher might select. I know storytime use certainly isn't the only purpose for picture books, but it does tend to be the metric I'm interested in, and I don't think I've ever been excited to use a recent Caldecott book in storytime. I am also very disappointed that Ida Always was not at least an honoree!

I tend to fare a bit better with the Newbery's, though sometimes I still think they are just ok, and nothing special. I did like all of last year's honorees, and though fantasy and magical realism aren't my thing, I did find The Girl Who Drank The Moon to be a very well-written and beautifully told story and I enjoyed it quite a bit, and think it will appeal to some kids, but not others. 

I haven't had a chance to read the honor books yet except for Freedom Over Me (also a Coretta Scott King honor book), which I thought was ok, but I'd rather know real stories of slaves, rather than fictitious ones, and I wasn't impressed with the artwork. As Brave As You (Coretta Scott King honor book & Schneider winner) was pretty good, reminded me a bit of Gone Crazy In Alabama.

I was pleased to see Girl Mans Up as a finalist for the Morris award for first-time teen lit authors, though disappointed it wasn't in the finalists for the Stonewall award for LGTBQ literature. I did think the Stonewall winner for YA LGBTQ literature, If I Was Your Girl was also a very good book. It was a very well-told story, and while it might be a little unrealistic in a couple of points (which the author addresses in the endnotes) I think it sends a needed positive and hopeful message to transgender teens, though I think it's a good story for anyone to read. I was, however, a bit surprised that the Hammer of Thor was the middle-grade winner. 

The Printz winners and honorees are almost always too bizarre or depressing for me, but I was pleasantly surprised to see The Sun Is Also A Star as a Printz honoree and King/Steptoe Newcomer Award winner, as I enjoyed that one quite a bit. I love how it tied up all the loose ends and had an ending that gave closure, yet was still open-ended. I hate loose ends and unfinished storylines! 

Well, that's it for what I've had a chance to read so far. I've included links to my reviews of any books mentioned that I've reviewed, and you can also go the the SLJ article to get the complete list, with covers and links to SLJ reviews for most of them.

So how did you fare with this year's winners? Were you left feeling vindicated and confident in your librarian skills, inspired to read some great books you had missed, or left feeling like you're a bit off the bubble and struggling to catch up like me?

Friday, January 20, 2017


I generally plan to do Snow-themed storytimes around the end of January, because that's typically the time we are most likely to see snow here. But the weather did not cooperate this year, and we've had 2 weeks of unseasonably mild temperatures and rain. Lots of rain. I think we have had at least some rain every day for the last 10+ days! But I didn't have time to change gears, and I knew the kids would still like talking about snow, so I stuck with it.

We started with our welcome song, and introduced the topic by talking about all the fun things we can do in the snow and looking at some beautiful photographs of actual snowflakes from (this site has tons of photographs, and lots of info on the science behind snowflakes). Then we sang our story song and read our first book, the classic by Ezra Jack Keats, The Snowy Day.

I love this simple story and the lovely illustrations, and the added bonus of making predictions (What will happen when Peter smacks the snow-covered tree with the stick?) and cause-and-effect (What happened to Peter's snowball? Why did it melt?) and featuring a person of color. I usually get one of the 50th Anniversary editions to use for storytime because they are bigger, but I waited too late and they were all checked out. I was feeling nostalgic, so I decided to use my original childhood copy, though the cover is certainly showing some wear after almost 50 years and five kids (myself, my 3 siblings, and my daughter).

For our next story, I used another personal book, my son's The Snowmen Pop-Up Book by Caralyn and Mark Buehner, which is a pop-up version of their popular Snowmen At Night. Do you ever wonder why your snowman looks a little different the next day? In this story, a little boy imagines why.

This version is particularly good for younger groups as it is a bit shorter than the original book, and of course has the added interest of the pop-ups to get their attention. (FYI, the spreads about drinking ice-cold cocoa, playing baseball, and ice-skating are omitted in this version.)

The kids were all too eager to point out the snowman had really just melted, which made a great segue into our next activity:

Five little snowmen standing in a row, each with a hat and a carrot nose.
Out came the sun and shone all day, and one little snowman melted away!

Four little snowmen........(down to one)

One little snowman standing all alone, with his hat and a carrot nose.
Out came the sun and shone all day, and the last little snowman melted away.

No little snowmen standing all alone, none with a hat or a carrot nose.
The sun came out and shone all day, and melted all the snowmen away.

I put the puddles on the board, then place the snowmen over them so when the snowmen "melts", the puddle is left behind. This can be said as a rhyme or sung to the tune of "Five 
Little Ducks Went Out To Play". [For more pictures, complete instructions with alternate versions, and printable files, see my previous Flannel Friday post.]

On the fly I decided to do a quick matching activity using these, too. Leaving the puddles on the board, I held up the snowmen one at a time and let the kids tell me which puddle he would leave, and identify the hatband and tie colors. They really got a kick out of my playing dumb and mismatching them on purpose.

We had talked a lot about building snowmen, making snow angels, and having snowball fights, so for the third story I chose a book that focused on an activity that many of us don't get a chance to do in this area because of insufficient snowfall, sledding. 

In Lee Harper's (not to be confused with Harper Lee, the author of To Kill A Mockingbird) Snow! Snow! Snow! our two young characters are thrilled to wake up to a landscape covered in snow. Their father takes them sledding, where a bump at the bottom of the hill sends them soaring into the air. But, what goes up must come down! Short, simple text with nice illustrations.

We ended with our usual closing song, and passed out stickers.

How It Went  
Despite Mother Nature not cooperating, we had a great time talking about playing in the snow. If this had been a library storytime rather than outreach, I would have let them have a snowball fight with our fake snowballs (like giant pom-poms) and spread something on the floor for them to make snow angels in. But, the classroom is too cramped and crowded to do either of these activities, unfortunately.

The Snowmen Pop-Up book was predictably the book they liked best. They were not quite as engaged with the other two, though they did all laugh when the snow from the tree fell on Peter's head in The Snowy Day and when the airborne sledders realized that what goes up must come down in Snow! Snow! Snow!  They really liked the "Five Little Snowmen" activity, and we discussed how it might be sad when our snowman melts, but we can always build another one the next time it snows.

I had a bigger crowd that usual today, with 19 kids instead of the usual 12-14. I saw several new faces, but the teacher said they weren't new to her class, just that they usually don't arrive early enough for storytime. With that many extra kids that weren't used to the storytime routine, it was definitely a little more challenging!