Friday, August 18, 2017

Review of "Creepy Pair of Underwear!"

Creepy Pair of Underwear!
Creepy Pair of Underwear!  
Aaron Reynolds (author) & Peter Brown (illustrator)
Released August 15, 2017
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
48 pages, ages 4 - 8 

Jasper Rabbit returns, but he is not a little bunny anymore! His mother takes him shopping for new underwear, and Jasper insists he is old enough to choose his own underwear now that he is a big rabbit. No more tidy whities for him! He chooses some cool looking underwear with a scary face on them, despite his mother's misgivings. 

That night, he decides to wear his new underwear to bed, and of course he doesn't need a nightlight or the door cracked, because he is a big rabbit now. But, when the lights go out, he makes an unexpected, and unpleasant, discovery. His new underwear glows in the dark - a horrible, ghoulish, green glow!

Spooky picture books that don't mention Halloween
(Click on any image to see it larger)

The creepy glow keeps Jasper from sleeping, no matter how hard he tries, so finally he takes them off and stuffs them down in the very bottom of his clothes hamper. Finally, he can sleep!

Scary picture books that are not about Halloween

But, the next morning when he wakes up, Jasper is suprised and frightened to discover......he is WEARING the underwear! What? How?? Now things really are creepy!

Scary, funny picture books

Then he tries throwing them in the garbage can outside, but when he comes home from school they're back in his drawer! He tries shipping them to China, but they come back.....with souvenirs! 😱😠😧

Funny, scary pictures books

No matter what he tries, they keep coming back! Will Jasper be haunted by the creepy underwear for the rest of his life?

My Thoughts 
The creative team that brough us Creepy Carrots has done it again! I predict this will be a huge hit, and I can't wait to use it! I LOVE this, and it had me laughing out loud more than once as I read it, especially when the underwear not only returned from China, but also brought souvenirs! While anything that mentions underwear is guaranteed to get laughs from the kids, this story has it all: clever humor, suspense, an age-appropriate level of creepiness, and Peter Brown's wonderful illustrations really set the mood. Another Caldecott nod, perhaps?

I particularly appreciated it because it reminded me of a somewhat similar incident that happened with my daughter when she was younger. Her grandmother had given her a black t-shirt covered with glow-in-the-dark stars that made up the face of Albert Einstein, like the one pictured here. She loved the shirt, and one night decided to wear it to bed. When she woke up in the middle of the night and saw the glow, it freaked her out for a minute, until she woke up enough to remember what it was. 😂

I think this book would appeal to all kids from the ages of 3 or 4 to maybe 8 or 9, and some adults as well. I think this could be another good selection, along with it's predecessor, for a somewhat creepy-scary story to read around Halloween without actually being about Halloween if that's something you need or prefer to avoid. Of course it would be fun any time of the year! But if you have adults who don't appreciate underwear humor, it might not go over as well with them, so know your audience.

One other thing worth mentioning is the homage to Creepy Carrots; as Jasper goes far from home to try get rid of the creepy underpants, he passes by the fenced-off carrot patch:

Creepy Carrots

And now for your entertainment, the author performing in a Kid Lit vs YA Lit lip synch battle at the Texas Library Association conference:

Friday, August 11, 2017

No Rest For The Weary - Trying to Recharge After the Bittersweet Ending to a Busy Summer

The last three months have been a whirlwind! First, I took a very intense 3-week class on multicultural youth literature in May that was very worthwhile, but also a very grueling pace. Then, as soon as that was over, it was time for summer. For those who work in schools, summer means a break, but for those of us who work in public libraries, that is the busiest time of the year! 

First, when I have breaks from my MLIS program, I try to read and review as many books as possible, then there's distributing summer reading logs to all the daycares and preschools I visit, and explaining how the program works. And of course I have my usual gig of going around to all these places and doing multiple storytimes for their preschool-aged kids 3-4 days a week, but the facilities are more disorganized and the kids are less attentive during the summer because there is less structure and often changes in staffing for the summer.

STEAM, STEM programs, DNA extraction for kidsThis year I also had the opportunity to do a number of school-aged STEAM programs, which was great! For one, I tend to get a little bored doing the same thing all the time, so I love it when I have an opportunity to do something other than preschool storytime (even though that is my favorite thing to do), and expand my repertoire. For another, my background is actually in science education and research, so I *really* love getting the chance to do science programs. 

But, as a part-time employee, it was very challenging to find the time to plan, prepare, and present these extra programs! I am allowed to go a little over my usual hours, but I had to be careful not to go over by too much. I've lost count, but I think I did 8-10 STEAM programs over the summer, with four different themes: Illusions and Effects Using Mirrors, DoodleBots, DNA Extraction, and Paper Circuits. Of course I had help prepping and conducting the programs, but I took on most of the planning and design, being the resident science nerd.

Then at the end of the summer is the part I have a love-hate relationship with: delivering summer reading program prize books to all the kids at the daycares I serve. I LOVE seeing how excited the kids are when they realize they are getting a book to keep, and watching their faces light up when the find just the right one. It's funny to see how some are so decisive, and walk right up and grab a book and others will take forever, walk away with a book, then have second thoughts and put it back and take another. 

While this part is so gratifying, it is also physically a lot of work, selecting the books, loading bins into the car, taking them in to the daycares, bringing back the leftovers, etc. Since we want them to have plenty to choose from to accomodate all reading levels and interests, we bring a lot of books. Plus it's hot and humid and miserable outside, it is inevitably raining half the time, and the scheduling is always difficult, too. So it gets to be somewhat of an ordeal, with upwards of 200-300 kids at our larger facilities, and 50 at the smallest. 

So I was glad when I finally made my last delivery this week, but it was bittersweet. There was a little boy at this daycare that was the most excited of any kid I've seen about getting a book of his own last year, and asked me several times after that in storytime if I had more books to give them that day. He has also asked to read Froggy books at storytime, so I made sure to have three different Froggy books in the selection I brought to his class, only to find out when I got there that he had moved. The teacher said he was supposed to come visit one last time to say goodbye, so I gave her a couple of them to give him if he did. I was so sad that I missed him.

That was on Monday morning, marking the end of summer reading duties, which gave me a week to to try to recoup before next week when my next MLIS class starts. It turned out to be a rough week for personal reasons, so I'm feeling more rundown rather than recharged! Also, the last two weeks marked the last time I would see the kids that were moving on to kindergarten, which is always sad after knowing them for 2-3 years. That's one of the real disadvantages to doing outreach storytimes. If you work in the library, then when the kids outgrow storytime you still get to occasionally see them when they come in to get books and for summer programs, but in outreach, once they move on I generally don't see them again.

Hopefully this weekend will prove to be a peaceful, relaxing one! Looking forward to vacation in October, though I will still have schoolwork to do.

How do you recharge after the summer if you aren't able to take vacation right away?

Oh, and I hear you're giving away eclipse glasses.... 😎 😂 😭

Friday, August 4, 2017

Storytime Goes to the Zoo, and Summer Reading Prizes

This week I've been doing Zoo-themed storytimes with our Storytime-To-Go program, and when pulling one of my favorite books to use, Wild About Books, I discovered one by the same creative team that the kids liked even better, Zoozical. I decided to use both of these, along with a book with photographs of animals today for my regular storytime.

We started with our welcome song, then I gave them clues about what our theme was for the day, and they soon guessed it. We all shared what our favorite animal at the zoo was, then we sang our story song to help us settle down and get ready for our first book, Wild About Books by Judy Sierra and Marc Brown.

This is a really cute story about a librarian who drives the bookmobile to the zoo mistake, and soon has the animals all reading books. They like reading so much that they decide to try writing their own stories. Soon they have enough books to build their own zoobrary. This is great for older kids and/or family storytime as there are several inside jokes and puns that add humor, and it is written is Seussian rhyme as an homage to Dr. Seuss.

After that, we needed to burn off some energy, so we did several verses of "If You're A Zoo Animal And You Know It", so the kids could imitate animal sounds and movements. Some of the verses we did were:

If you're a lion and you know it, give a roar...

If you're a bear and you know it, give a growl....

If you're a penguin and you know it, give a waddle....

If you're a snake and you know it, give a hiss....

If you're an alligator and you know it, snap your jaws....

If you're a monkey and you know it, say "Oooh, ooooh; eeee, eeeee"

For our second book I chose one with photographs of real animals, Z for Zoo by Roger Priddy. This book is a large board book with short, simple text and a couple of flaps to lift, so it is very good for younger kids, and I thought would give a nice break betweeen the two longer books in Suessian rhyme.

We ended up not really reading the text, but letting the kids identify each animal, and then I'd tell them one or two interesting facts.

Since our final book incorporates several typical storytime songs, I didn't stop to do an activity, but went on to the last book, Zoozical, also by Judy Sierra and Marc Brown and clearly inspired by the musical Seussical. In this fun story, the animals are all bored and grumpy because it's wintertime and no one is coming to see them, and it's too cold to be outside. A young hippo and kangaroo start hopping around dancing and soon all the other animals are drawn by the hip-hop beat. They are having so much fun, the animals decide to put on a musical show, a "Zoozical". The animals all sing familiar songs, changing some of the words slightly to fit them.

After that, we sang our closing song and passed out stickers, then I got to do one of my favorite things, give the kids books that they get to keep and take home as part of our summer reading program! At the beginning of the summer, we pass out reading logs to each class, and they check off boxes for every time they read for 20 minutes or visit the library, with a goal of 30 for the summer. Then at the end of the summer, we deliver prize books to everyone that participated as a reward. 

We have board books for babies and toddlers, picture books from preschool through kindergarten, and early readers and beginning chapter books for any school aged kids. I bring a large selection and spread them out on a table so the children can look over them and pick out one they like. Some are very decisive, some agonize over picking the perfect book, and the little ones are a bit overwhelmed and don't quite understand, so the teachers have to guide them, or choose for them most of the time, but everyone gets a book!

How It Went
When I arrived, the kid were all sitting on the floor waiting for me, so still and quiet it was almost eerie; that didn't last long, LOL! Though they were enthusiastic about the topic, Wild About Books didn't seem to hold their interest at all. I think it was just a little bit too sophisticated for them, but groups with just slightly older kids have really enjoyed it in the past. Zoozical fared a bit better, since it had snippets of a number of songs they were familiar with and they sang along with some of them. The first group I read this book to on Wednesday actually applauded at the end, cheering "Bravo, bravo!". They did really like the photographs in Z is for Zoo and getting to imitate animals with the song we did.

They were very excited about getting to pick out their very own book to keep, and the staff was very appreciative as well. It is so rewarding to see their faces light up when they find the right book. This group was so engrossed in looking at their books, I had a hard time getting them to look up at the camera and hold them up!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Paper Circuits - STEAM Program

Paper Circuits

My last school-aged STEAM program of the summer focused on electrical circuits. Unlike previous programs, this one required some specialized supplies that are not readily available locally, but are relatively low-cost and easily ordered online. All you need is copper tape, small LED lights, button batteries, cardstock, scotch tape, and markers, pencils, and/or crayons. These can be used to build a circuit on a piece of paper or cardboard, and could be applied to a number of different projects, but I decided to have the kids use the circuits to light up their own artwork. 

Recommended Ages: 8-14

Recommended Group Size: 10-20; this is definitely better with a smaller group

Time:  1 hour for main project, additional 15-30 minutes for exploring with the Touch Circuits

Budget: About $35 for consummable supplies [with plenty leftover for future programs], $25 for each Touch Circuit toy.

To demonstrate how a circuit works, I started with a demonstration using these really neat educational toys from Lakeshore called "Light and Sound Touch Circuits". It is a "stick" with a handle that acts as a terminal at each end. When the circuit is completed, the "stick" lights up and plays sounds (the sounds can be turned off if desired). The circuit can be completed by one person holding each handle, or by two or more people in a chain. I started with showing them with two of us, then three, then the whole class. They got to see how it would stop anytime someone broke the circuit, and I told them to keep that in mind later if they had to trouble-shoot their project.

circuits for kids

Next I showed them the paper circuits, first a simple circuit with one light, then series and parallel circuits with two lights. I explained to them the advantage of parallel was that you could still power two lights with one battery, while the series circuit required two batteries, and that if one light went out, the other light would still work in a parallel circuit. They got to look at them up close, and see the two different methods of making a on-off switch.

Paper Circuits with Kids

* I also made sure to warn them about safety regarding the button batteries. They are very dangerous if swallowed and must be kept away from younger siblings and pets!*

Then they were ready to get started on their own!

Materials & Supplies 

Making Paper Circuits with Kids


Template for Parallel Paper Ciruit

1. Because our group usually skews younger, I pre-printed a parallel circuit template on cardstock for them and folded the top half of the cardstock down over the circuit template. I showed them how to hold it up to the light or window so you can see through and lightly mark where the LED's will be. [For older kids, I would let them plan and draw their circuit templates themselves.]

Paper Circuits for children

Then I told them to use their imaginations and think about how they could incorporate the lights into a drawing, such as lights on a bridge or building, fireflies, stars, lights on a vehicle, space ship, etc., then make their picture. 

2. Carefully measure and cut the pieces of copper tape and apply to the template, being sure to leave the indicated gaps, and get it as smooth as possible. Be sure to get complete overlap at all corners and intersections and smooth down well for best conductivity. Begin where the battery will be, then set the battery in place (+) side UP, and end the last piece of copper tape by attaching it to the top of the battery. Use scotch tape to secure the battery in place.

(Ideally, the tape would be applied in as few pieces as possible, using a precise fold to turn the corners rather than cutting separate pieces. While this creates a more efficient circuit, it is tricky and I felt would be too difficult for the ages that I had.)

Paper Circuits Program for Kids

3. For the switch, put a small piece of copper tape on the indicated line, then cut on either side so it can fold up over the gap in the circuit and complete the circuit. Use a binder clip to hold in place if desired. (There are other types of on/off controls and some more sophisticated battery holders you can find described online that you might want to try).

Paper Circuits for kids

4. Place the LED's. Look closely at the LED; the positive leg is the one that is slightly longer. Be sure to keep up with which one it is, and bend each leg out at a 90 degree angle. Place the LEDs in the designated gaps in the circuit, pointing the longer, (+) leg in the direction of the (+) side of the battery, and tape in place.

LED Paper Circuits for kids

5. If the switch is in the "ON" position, the LED's should light up once they are in place. Depending on lighting effect desired, poke a hole for the bulb to go through if a bright light is desired, or not if a more gentle glow is desired.

Paper circuits for kids program

Here are some examples I made (unfortunately didn't get any pictures of any the kids made):

Paper Circuits for kids, lighting up artwork with LEDs


1. The most common problem are loose or inefficient connections. Be sure the battery is connected with the copper tape at both ends of the circuit, make sure there are no gaps where two pieces of tape come together, but a complete overlap, make sure the switch is fully bridging the gap and connecting at each end. Because this is on paper, the flexible nature will cause some fluctuations and flickering, especially when picked up. This is to be expected.

2. The second most common problem is the LED put in backwards, or the battery upside down.

3. Also, both LED's and branches of the circuit must have the same resistance for the current to split and light both of them. Since current will seek the path of least resistance, only one will light up if it has even a slightly lower resistance than the other. It is safest to use the same color LED for both lights, but that is not a guarantee. If this causes too much frustration, you can stick with a simple circuit with just one LED (probably best for younger kids). 

After they were finished with their paper circuits, we got out the rest of the Touch Circuit toys (we have 10) and let them experiment with them. They discovered they could test the conductivity of different materials by working with a partner and each of them holding one end of the Touch Circuit stick, then each holding an end of the material to be tested with their other hands. The kids loved them and I highly recommend them! My manager saw them being demonstrated at a local conference we were presenting at and knew we had to have them.

Here is a really quick and dirty (i.e., crappy) video I made to briefly demonstrate how these work:

How It Went

The kids that had been there the previous time we came for the DNA program were excited to see us walk in, and all of them really seemed to enjoy this program, and had less trouble building their circuits that I thought they would. Some of them caught on really quickly, and did a great job helping out the others. Only the very youngest child needed a significant amount of help, which was not suprising as he was only barely 6, and maybe slightly immature for 6. He did need one-on-one instruction, but fortunately there were 3 of us, so we each took turns helping him as well as checking on everyone else's progress and answering questions and troubleshooting. They REALLY loved playing with the touch circuits afterwards, and their teacher told their director they needed to buy some. The teacher asked the kids what they would rate the program on a scale on 1 to 10, and I was very happy to hear unanimous 10's!

So that will probably be it for school-aged programming until next Spring Break, back to focusing on early literacy and storytime!

Sharks (And Other Fish) Storytime

Shark Week starts Sunday, so it was time once again for a Shark-themed storytime. This is my third year doing one, and the kids all love it. We started with our welcome song, then I introduced the topic by bringing up how it was summer, and that in the summer a lot of people like to go to the ocean. I asked them what was one kind of fish we hoped we didn't see while we're swimming in the ocean, and it didn't take them long to say "Shark!", and I brought out my shark puppet.

Shark Storytime, shark puppet

I let them all feel the puppet and observe how soft it was. Then I explained that sharks don't really feel soft like that, nor are they smooth and slippery like other fish, but rather their skin is very rough and scratchy, like sandpaper. I wish I had thought to bring sandpaper for them to feel, since most didn't really know what it was. 

Shark StorytimeAfter our story song, we read one of my favorite books, The Three Little Fish and the Big Bad Shark! by Ken Geist and Julia Gorton. 

I love this book for several reasons: (1) it's a creative re-telling of a favorite folktalke, (2) there is lots of repetition so the kids can join in, (3) The fish having rhyming names, and (4) it teaches a lesson about how biting on hard things, or things that are not food, is bad for your teeth! It is such a fun story to read aloud, and the kids always love it.

We followed that with a really simple, but cute song that is guaranteed to get stuck in your head, "Baby Shark". There are many different versions and verses, and some get dowright gruesome, which much older kids have a lot of fun with. But for the young ones, I stick with

Baby shark (fingers make biting motion) 
Mama shark (hands make biting motion) 
Daddy shark (use whole arms to make biting motion)
Going swimming (pretend to swim)
See a shark! (look around)
Swim away! (swim faster)
Swim faster! (swim really fast)
Safe at last (wipe brow, relieved)

ocean storytime
Our next story was actually not a shark story, but I wanted to do The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen and Dan Hanna since most kids really like it, and the more they hear it, the more they seem to like it, and the author had been kind enough to send me a batch of autographed bookmarks to give to my storytime kids. The kids like the repetition, and if they are already familiar with it, they will join right in, saying "I'm a pout-pout fish, with a pout-pout face..." and "Blub...Bluuub....Bluuuuuuub." 

Too bad her latest, The Pout-Pout Fish and the Bully-Bully Shark, wasn't available yet.

Shark StorytimeThe kids were eager for another story, so I went right to another really great shark story that is also a retelling of a folktale, The Little Fish Who Cried Shark by Tricia Phillips. This is a great story made even more awesome by being a pop-up book! Little Scrat loves to play tricks on people, especially scary ones, and his favorite trick of all is to yell "Shark!" and watch everyone panic and scramble to hide. One day Scrat hears a shark warning, and ignores it, thinking someone is just playing a trick on him to get him back, but discovers sharks are no laughing matter. I am so glad I discovered this book; it's really great! I had to buy it used, but it was still in good shape.

We talked for a minute about what sharks eat, and that they don't usually eat humans and don't really like the way we taste, but sometimes they make a mistake. They normally eat other fish, turtles, and seals, and they aren't being mean; everything has to eat something else to survive. This led into a song about the food chain, "Slippery Fish" (also sometimes called "The Octopus Song"):

"Slippery Fish"

Slippery fish, slippery fish; swimming in the water.
Slippery fish, slippery fish; gulp, Gulp, GULP!
"Oh, no! He's been eaten by an octopus!"

Octopus, octopus; swimming in the water.
Octopus, octopus; gulp, Gulp, GULP!
"Oh, no! He's been eaten by a tuna fish!"

Tuna fish, tuna fish; swimming in the water.
Tuna fish, tuna fish; gulp, Gulp, GULP!
"Oh, no! He's been eaten by a great white shark!"

Great white shark, great white shark, swimming in the water.
Great white shark, great white shark; gulp, Gulp, GULP!
"Oh, no! He's been eaten by an orca whale!"

Orca whale, orca whale, swimming in the water.
Orca whale, orca whale; gulp, Gulp, GULP!
"BUURRP! Whoops, excuse me!"

Then we sang our closing song and passed out stickers and bookmarks!

How It Went

As always, the subject of sharks was a big hit. They really loved both shark stories, but didn't quite get into The Pout-Pout Fish as much. They didn't seem like they had ever heard it before, and this is one of those stories they like better after hearing it more than once, plus I guess it wasn't very fair mixing it is with the more exciting shark stories! But I did notice that I got no "Ewww"s about the kissing from this class; instead they seemed to think is was sweet and that the two fish were "in loooooooove" with each other. They enjoyed both songs, especially acting out the sharks and trying to swim away as fast as possible!

For more shark stories, try my lists from 2015 and 2016 for picture books, both fiction and non-fiction.

And remember, it's a bad week to be a seal!