Friday, April 29, 2016

Let's Have A Hoot! - Owl Preschool Storytime

I decided to spin off from my "Bird"-themed storytime last week on the Storytime Bus and focus on "Owls" for my regular storytime today.  

As usual, we started with our welcome song.  Then, instead of just telling them what the topic was during the introduction, I modified a rhyme I came across on several sites (Storytime Katie, North Mankato Library, Upper Hudson Library System) to see if they could guess:

"The Owl"

There's something in the tree,
With big, wide eyes,
And a pointed nose,
Two pointed ears,
And claws for toes.

[pause and see if they have a guess yet]

When he sits up in the tree and looks at you,
He flaps his wings, and he says "Whooo? Whooo?" 

After they correctly guessed "owl" at the end (they first guessed "tiger", which was reasonable, especially considering last time we did "Lions, Tigers & Bears"), then I talked a little bit about how owls are nocturnal, what that means, and that their big eyes help them to see well at night when it's dark.  Then I showed them a picture of me holding a large owl from our animal program last summer (see below).

We proceeded with our story song, to which I added "say whoo, whoo" and "flap your wings", then we were ready to settle down and read our first book, the classic Owl Babies by Martin Waddell and illustrated by Patrick Benson. I love this story of three little owls waiting for their mother's return.  The larger two are brave at first and confident she'll return soon with food, but begin to get worried.  Little Bill just wants his mommy!  Children can easily relate to the baby owls missing their mom and being excited when she returns, and they love saying little Bill's line, "I want my mommy!" over and over.

Next, we did a fun song where they got to pretend to be owls:

"Be Like An Owl"
(to the tune of "London Bridges")

Open your eyes up big and wide, big and wide, big and wide.
Open your eyes up big and wide, just like an owl.

Flap your wings and fly around, fly around, fly around.
Flap your wings and fly around, just like an owl.

Land on the ground and hop along, hop along, hop along.
Land on the ground and hop along, just like an owl.

Fly up in the tree and sit on a branch, sit on a branch, sit on a branch.
Fly up in the tree and sit on a branch, just like an owl.

Turn your head and say "Who, who", say "Who, who", say "who, who".
Turn your head and say "Who, who", just like an owl.

We also talked about how owls can turn their heads all the way around, unlike people, and let them try to do it to see for themselves.

For our second story I chose one of Jonathan Allen's "Little Owl" stories, finally deciding on I'm Not Scared!  In this story, Little Owl is taking his stuffed animal Owly for a stroll in the forest at night, bumping into Badger, Bear, and Bat.  Little Owl begins to get very frustrated with everyone telling him he shouldn't be out at night, even though he is an owl and owls are nocturnal, and assuming he would be scared.  "I am NOT scared!  And I SHOULD be out in the woods at night.  It's what owls DO!" he shouts.  In the end, he admits his friend Owly was just a little bit scared.  This is another opportunity to talk about owls being nocturnal, and to talk about how everyone gets scared sometimes, and that's okay.

Next, I combined two different "Five Little Owl" poems.  The first one counts up, and the second one counts down.  That way we would get practice with both addition and subtraction. I had the kids use their fingers, while I used a magnetic board and various clipart owls I had printed out, laminated, and attached magnets to (Leah at Sunflower Storytime has also generously shared printable clipart owls that she made you could use as well).

"Five Little Owls"

One little owl when the moon was new,
Along came another owl, and that made two.

Two little owls perched high in the tree,
Along came another owl, and that made three.

Three little owls flew to the barn door,
Along came another owl, and that made four.

Four little owls lined up side by side,
Along came another owl and that made five.

*Five little owls hooted "Whoo, whoo, whoo,"
Then they flapped their wings and away they flew.*

*I skip this last verse above, and the first verse below when I'm combining the two rhymes*

*Five little owls on a dark, dark night,
Five little owls are quite a sight.*

Five little owls!  Are you keeping score?
One flies away, and that leaves four.

Four little owls, as happy as can be.
One flew away, and that leaves three.

Three little owls calling, "Who, who, who."
One flies away, and that leaves two.

Two little owls, having lots of fun.
One flew away, and that leaves one.

One little owl, and we're almost done.
She flies away, and that leaves none!

I pause at the end of each verse and let the audience fill in the number.  If I hear several wrong answers, then we will stop and count them before moving on.

Our final story was Tim Hopgood's Wow! Said The Owl.  I like how this story starts off by explaining that owls are nocturnal and adapted to see at night, another opportunity to reinforce a new vocabulary word.  One curious owl decides she would like to see what things are like in the daytime, so she naps at night and wakes up before dawn. She discovers a world of beautiful, bright colors, but decides the star-filled night sky is still the most beautiful sight to see.  The audience can participate by saying the repeated "'Wow!' said the owl" line and naming all the colors.

Then, they liked the "Be Like An Owl" song so much, we did it again, followed by our closing song, then I gave everyone an owl sticker.

How It Went
The class seemed to be having a bit of a rough morning; when I got there two of the kids were in tears and the noise level overall was fairly high.  But we got everyone calmed down and ready for storytime pretty quickly.  They know the routine now, and they tell me when it's time to do the welcome song, story song, and closing song, and they know all the words.

They really seemed to like the owl theme quite a bit.  Owl Babies was the clear favorite, but I seemed to lose them towards the end of Wow! Said The Owl, but that could have been just because I did it last, rather than any fault of the book.  They really liked the "Be Like An Owl" song, so much so that I had to ask one girl to please stop singing it while I was trying to read the next book!  So of course we had to do it again at the end.  As I was leaving, I noticed most of them were still walking around, flapping their "wings" and hooting :)

Elliot the Eurasian Eagle Owl
They also liked seeing the picture of me holding Elliot the Owl from our animal program last summer.  First I just showed it to them, and they were all looking at the owl, then I started hearing several of them saying, "That's you!" when they realized I was the person holding the owl.  Most of them thought that it was really cool I got to hold a big owl like that, but one little girl seemed concerned for my safety and sweetly said she would save me from the owl. I explained that he was a very nice owl and used to meeting lots of people when he visits libraries and schools all over the place.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Mythology-Based Fantasy/Adventure Series for Tweens & Teens

Mythology-based fiction, Percy Jackson readalikes, Rick Riordan readalikes
Mythology-Based Fantasy/Adventure for Tweens & Teens

Looking for something similar to Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians series?  Give these a try:

The most obvious choice is Riordan's second series, Heroes of Olympus.  The story continues from the first series, but with a twist.  This series takes on the Roman interpretation of the gods of Olympus and introduces new demi-gods born from the gods' Roman identities who have their own camp named Camp Jupiter.  Percy and his friends are in this series as well.

If you've already read the second series and love all the characters, then good news!  The first book of a third series called The Hidden Oracle will be released on May 3, 2016!  The Trials of Apollo series will follow the life of Apollo after being kicked out of Olympus and made mortal by Zeus and will feature most of the characters from the first two series.

In addition to the Percy Jackson novels, there are also all the companion books, non-fiction mythology books, and graphic novel versions that Rick Riordan has published as well.

Riordan also has a relatively new series based on Norse mythology, with a loose connection to Percy Jackson.  The first book in the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series, The Sword Of Summerwas released last fall.  This series features young Magnus Chase, the cousin of Annabeth Chase, who discovers he is the son of the Norse god, Frey.  The second book of the series, The Hammer of Thor, is due to be released in October, 2016.

And that brings us to the remaining Riordan series, The Kane Chroniclesbased in Egyptian mythology.  This series features Sadie and Carter Kane, descendants of pharaohs, who have been raised apart but discover they must unite to battle the evil god Set and save the world.  

Now, moving on to other authors, we have Kate O'Hearn's Pegasus series. This is another fantasy/adventure in which a seemingly ordinary tween/teen finds out they have a connection to the gods, in this case the Roman gods of Olympus.  The series begins with an injured Pegasus crashing onto the roof of Emily's apartment in The Flame Of Olympus, changing her life forever and putting her in the middle of a battle to save Olympus.

Red Sun is the first book of new author Alane Adams' series, The Legends of Orkney, based on Norse mythology.  In the first book, young Sam Baron's normal life takes a strange turn as he discovers his mother is a witch, his missing father is a descendant of Odin, and he must return to the magical realm of Orkney to stop it's destruction by the curse of the red sun.  This is a little shorter and a little darker than Riordan's The Sword of Summer, and does not have the same character and plot development or humor.  The second book, Kalifus Rising, is due out in September of 2016.

The Blackwell Pages by K. L. Armstrong and M. A. Marr is another adventure series based in Norse mythology featuring young teens that are descendants of the gods; Matt Thorsen is a descendant of Thor, while Fen and Laurie Brekke are descended from Loki.  The difference in this series is that most of characters know all along that they are the descendants of the gods and that they have special powers, they just don't expect to be called up to unite and work together to save the world from destruction in Ragnarok.  I find this series to be more similar to Riordan's style than the Orkney series by Adams.  Another unique thing about this series is that there are illustrations, which might make it more appealing to reluctant readers.  The first book is titled Loki's Wolves.

Kate O'Hearn also has a series based in Norse mythology called Valkyrie, the story of young Freya, who does not look forward to turning 14 and beginning her duties as a Valkyrie, or Battle Maiden, reaper of the souls of the brave who die in battle.  On her first mission, a dying soldier who's last words send her to earth on a dangerous quest, where she learns what it is to be human.

The following are not as similar in style and plot to Percy Jackson as the series listed above, but also involve mythology, fantasy, and adventure:

The Cronus Chronicles series by Anne Ursu - Greek mythology
The Fire Thief trilogy by Terry Deary - Greek mythology
Pandora series by Carolyn Hennesy - Greek mythology
Sweet Venom by Tera Lynn Childs - Greek mythology (for teens)
Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman - Norse mythology

And remember, to read more about the original mythologies, try the non-fiction section at your public library in the 291's & 292's.

Some additional fantasy/adventure novels and series that are not classical mythology, but have to do with mysticism, legends, myths, and other worlds that fans of mythology-based fiction might also enjoy are:

Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins
The Colussus Rises by Peter Lerangis
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
The Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer
Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan
Runemarks by Joanne Harris
The Akhenaten Adventure by P. B. Kerr
Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R. L. LaFevers
The Unwanteds Lisa McMann
Gods of Manhattan by Scott Mebus
Fablehaven by Brandon Mull
The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens
Middleworld by J & P Voelkel
City of Fire by Laurence Yep

I'll be doing a follow-up list of mythology-based fiction for younger readers next, so stay tuned...

Friday, April 22, 2016

Birds Of A Feather......Preschool Storytime

Since spring is when all the birds return from flying south and start building their nests and raising babies, I thought this would be a good time of year to bring out the "Bird" kit for the Storytime-To-Go program.  We visited 9 daycares for a total of 28 groups.  I used a number of different books during the course of the two weeks, but generally 2-3 per group.  We started each with an introduction to the theme, our letter of the day "Bb", and our story song to help us settle down.

The Books
Peck, Peck, Peck by Lucy Cousins is the story of a young woodpecker learning how to peck holes, which he masters all too well.  He then pecks a hole in a door and goes inside a house, pecking holes in everything, including underwear and the toilet!  There are die-cut holes in the pages and in the cover, bright illustrations with heavy outlines, and the audience can help make the pecking sounds. 

In Seven Hungry Babies by Candace Fleming and Eugene Yelchin the poor mama bird is run ragged trying to get all her babies fed. This works on counting and subtraction, and the audience can guess what kinds of food she is going to bring back, and say the "Feed us, feed us!" line each time, pinching their fingers like beaks.  Bright, slightly nostalgic-looking illustrations.

In Ole Konnecke's You Can Do It, Bert! a little bird is about to try something for the very first time, and is a little hesitant at first.  But, it turns out to be something different than the audience might expect!  This provides an opportunity to talk about trying new things, and being a little scared at first.  Very simple illustrations, and the audience can cheer Bert on.

All the birds have laid eggs except Duck in Emily Gravett's The Odd Egg.  But then Duck finds an unusual egg and adopts it.  When Duck's egg finally hatches, everyone is in for a big surprise!  The kids can say the "Creak, Crack" line as each egg hatches, and guess what will be in Duck's egg.  A very cute story, but the very pastel illustrations are hard to see in a group setting.

In Kali Stileman's Roly-Poly Egg, Splotch has laid a beautiful egg.  But, in her excitement, she accidentally causes it to fall out of the tree.  Follow the egg's path as it rolls into danger, but eventually makes it back home safely.  Then lift the flaps as it hatches to reveal the chick.  Bright illustrations, mild suspense, and an "Awwww" at the end.

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell and Patrick Benson is the sweet story of three little owls waiting for their mama to come home, getting more worried the longer they wait.  Kids will love joining in with little Bill crying "I want my mommy!"  This is a cute story that seems to work will with both the younger preschoolers as well as the older ones.

And of course I couldn't do a bird theme without Mo Willem's Pigeon!  I brought both Don't Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus (since we were on a bus, after all) and The Pigeon Needs A Bath, since it was the most recent book and hopefully all the kids wouldn't have seen it before.  These can be very interactive, with the audience repeatedly telling Pigeon "No!" that he can't drive the bus, or "Yes" he does need a bath! Of course there will always be at least one mischievous kid who says "Yes," the Pigeon can drive the bus. 

Night Owl by Toni Yuly is a good choice for younger kids, as it is relatively short without a lot of text on each page.  The little Night Owl is looking and listening for his mother, but hears lots of other sounds in the night.  The kids will enjoying trying to turn their heads all the way around like an owl, and guessing what each sound is.  Also an opportunity to introduce the word "nocturnal".

Whose Chick Are You?  by Nancy Tafuri is another short, simple book with sweet illustrations for the younger kids.  There is an egg in a nest, and all the other birds want to know who it belongs to.  An opportunity for the audience to name all the birds, and make their sounds, and try to guess who the egg and subsequent chick belong to.  Even the chick doesn't know!

The Activities:

One of the props I had that the kids really seemed fascinated with was a robins' nest with an abandoned, unhatched egg that our driver found at his house.  There had originally been 4 eggs, but only three hatched.  He saved the nest and egg and built a plexiglass box to contain in so it would last for a long time.  As I showed it to the kids, we talked about how long it took to build the nest and what materials the birds had used.  I also showed them a picture of a robin so they would know what the birds that built the nest looked like.

 I also had a set of stuffed birds with music buttons inside them that played the bird's call when pressed.  From left to right:  cardinal, blue jay, chickadee, red-headed woodpecker, purple martin, Baltimore oriole, and the Hawaiian i'iwi.  All are native to North America except for the i'iwi.  I pointed out how they all looked differently and made different sounds, including tweets, chirps, clicks, whistles, and squawks and only some of them were songbirds.

"This Is The Way We..."

This is the way we scratch for food, scratch for food, scratch for food.
This is the way we scratch for food, so early in the morning.
[Hold arms bent at sides like wings and scratch floor with feet]

This is the way we peck for food, peck for food, peck for food.
This is the way we peck for food, so early in the morning.
[Bend forward and bob as though pecking]

This is the way we flap our wings, flap our wings, flap our wings.
This is the way we flap our wings, so early in the morning.
[Hold arms bent at sides, hands on hips, & flap]

This is the way we fly away, fly away, fly away.
This is the way we fly away, so early in the morning.
[Extend arms and 'glide' flapping slowly]

This is the way we sit on our nest, sit on our nest, sit on our nest.
This is the way we sit on our nest, so early in the morning.
[Sit back down]

I like how this ends with them sitting back down, ready for the next story.

"Ten Little Robins"

One little, two little, three little robins,
Four little, five little, six little robins,
Seven little, eight little, nine little robins,
Ten little robin birds.

They build a nest and lay some eggs,
Build a nest and lay some eggs,
Build a nest and lay some eggs,
Then they start to hatch!

Ten little, nine little, eight little robins,
Seven little, six little, five little robins,
Four little, three little, two little robins,
One little robin bird.

I also tried to get the kids dancing and moving to this old fun classic:

How It Went
The kids seemed to like most of the books I used, but Peck, Peck, Peck always got big laughs and lots of "Ewwww!" and "Nasty!" when the woodpecker pecked the underwear and toilet.  Both Pigeon books were big hits, especially with kids who were familiar with him.  All the adults who had raised babies identified with poor mama bird in Seven Hungry Babies!

The kids were really fascinated with the bird's nest and egg, and one little boy even asked his teacher to take a picture of it and send it to his mother.  They really liked the stuffed birds with all their different calls, but I think I will stick to using just five of them from now on as I seemed to lose their interest by the last one sometimes.  I really thought they would get into dancing to "Rockin' Robin", but it got a very mixed reception.  Generally, the girls would dance and the boys would just stand there (with a few exceptions).  I was really surprised; I thought almost all little kids loved to dance.

I did have one kid catch me off guard with a question I couldn't answer, which was if animals that are active at night are called "nocturnal", what are animals who are active during the day called?  I could not remember for sure, and I thought about quickly Googling it on my phone, but since we don't allow the daycare staff to use their phones on the bus, I decided against it.  It is "diurnal", by the way, which is what I was thinking, but wasn't sure enough to say.  Incidentally, "crepuscular" animals are active at dawn and dusk.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

My Little Blog Is One Year Old

It was one year ago today that I wrote my very first blog post, in response to a challenge by my self-proclaimed computer expert son.  Since that time I have written nearly 100 posts related to storytime and presented somewhere between 400-500 storytimes.  That's one thing about working in outreach; you get lots of storytime experience!

When I first started my blog, my primary purpose was to be a creative outlet and somewhat of a professional portfolio.  I found other storytime blogs very helpful in my storytime planning, so I also hoped that my blog could help others as well.  While I was certainly no expert, I felt like I still had something to contribute, and a unique perspective.  I try to not only show what books I use, but why I chose them and how they worked.  I tend to look at books a little differently, without bias towards certain authors, classics, or award-winners.  I simply look for books that work well in storytime and often come across hidden gems that no one else seems to use while shelving or shelf-reading.

A few months after I started my volunteer storytime and my blog, it paid off and I was promoted to a position in Outreach, co-coordinating our Storytime-To-Go program and presenting 15-20 storytimes a week.  I have continued my blog as I do enjoy the creative outlet, and I have found it to be a very convenient record of all of my storytimes that I can refer to from anywhere, which comes in handy, and it continues to serve as a professional portfolio.

I hope other people have found this blog helpful, but that's hard to know.  I didn't expect to get lots of hits as this is a very specific niche and there are many other storytime blogs that have been around for much longer and are well-known.  But I have gotten a small but steady stream of traffic that is slowly increasing.  My biggest disappointment is that people rarely leave comments.  I would love to know what people think, if they found something helpful, have any suggestions for specific storytimes or blog content, etc.  I'd like to think I'm not spending all this time writing just for myself.

So, if you are reading this and have ever found this blog to be helpful, interesting, or entertaining, please leave a comment :)

Friday, April 15, 2016

Lions, Tigers, and Bears, Oh My! - Preschool Storytime

I wish I could say I thought of this theme on my own, but when someone else mentioned using it on Storytime Underground I knew right away it was one I could have a lot of fun with and would be perfect for my group that it often very wiggly and talkative.  This is not a quiet storytime; rather than fighting the kids' natural inclination to move around and be loud, it embraces it!

As always, we started with our welcome song, and I introduced the topic, talking about what sounds lions, tigers, and bears make.  For the purposes of our storytime today, we agreed that lions would roar, tigers would growl, and bears would snore.  After the introduction, we sang our story song and started with our first book, Roar! - A Noisy Counting Book by Pamela Duncan Edwards, illustrated by Henry Cole. 

 In this story, a bored lion cub is looking for someone to play with, and can't understand why everyone runs away when he roars an invitation.  This story emphasizes the word "roar" throughout, and kids love roaring, so I made a little "Roar!" sign to hold up each time so the kids would know when to roar.  I also like that the story also gives the opportunity to work on counting, number recognition, and colors, besides being a lot of fun.  Eventually, the lion cub does find appropriate playmates.

Next, we sang a simple song incorporating the sounds of the three animals we were talking about today, but of course you could add as many verses and as many animals as you'd like.  I had some "animal-on-a-stick" props to hold up to show which animal we were doing each time.

"You Can Hear Lions Roaring"
(to the tune of "She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain")

You can hear the lions roaring in the jungle, "Roar, Roar"
You can hear the lions roaring in the jungle, "Roar, Roar"
You can hear the lions roaring, you can hear the lions roaring,
You can hear the lions roaring in the jungle, "Roar, Roar"

You can hear the tigers growling in the jungle, "Growl, Growl"....

You can hear the bears snoring in the jungle, "Snore, Snore"....

After that, we had an even more fun story, It's A Tiger! by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Jeremy Tankard.  This book requires a departure from the usual "criss-cross applesauce, hands in your lap" and instead should have the audience standing up so they can act out parts of the story.  In the story we are walking through the jungle, and repeatedly stumble across a hidden tiger and must run, climb, and swim to escape him.  The kids will catch on quickly and look for the clue to the hidden tiger, and love yelling out, "It's a tiger!" when the page is turned.  There is also a funny twist at the end.  I LOVE this book!

We were ready to rest after all the activity with It's A Tiger!, so I had them sit back down, criss-cross, to do the call-and-response chant, "Going On A Bear Hunt".  First I showed them how to clap in rhythm, and explained they were to repeat everything I said.

"Going On A Bear Hunt"
Going on a bear hunt.
Gonna catch a BIG one!
With round fuzzy ears,
And a little fuzzy tail.
(Repeat after each verse)

Look, there's a meadow,
Full of very tall grass.
Can't go over it,
Can't go under it.
We'll have to go through it.

Look, a huge muddy field,
Full of wet, sticky mud.
Can't go over it,
Can't go under it.
We'll have to go through it.

Look, it a river,
deep and wide.
Can't go over it,
Can't go around it.
We'll have to swim through it.

Look, there's a mountain;
A big, tall mountain.
Can't go through it,
Can't go around it.
We'll have to climb over it.

Look, there's a cave,
A deep, dark cave.
Can't go over it,
Can't go under it,
We'll have to go inside it.

I feel something, it's big and furry.
With two round ears, and a little fuzzy tail!
With a cold, wet nose, and big, sharp teeth!

It's a bear!  RUN!

Run out of the cave,
Climb up the mountain,
Climb down the moutain.
Swim across the river,
Walk through the mud.
Go through the tall grass,
Back in the house,
And shut the door!
Whew!  We made it!

They had done such a good job participating, I decided to go ahead and do the third book, Bear and Duck by Katy Hudson.  I also felt like I owed it to the teachers to end with a quieter book to calm the kids back down before I left.  In this story, Bear decides he is tired of being a bear (having to sleep all winter, having hot fur, and getting stung by bees) and wants to try being a duck, which doesn't quite work out as he'd hoped.  But in the end, he learns to accept and appreciate being a bear, and makes a new friend.

After that, we sang our closing song, and passed out paw print stickers, which I told them could be lion or tiger paw prints, and one kid piped up with, "Or 'Paw Patrol'!"  Whatever makes you happy ;)

How It Went
I have to say, this was one of the most fun storytimes I've had in a while.  Lots of participation and movement, so works great with those kids that are hard to keep engaged.  They really liked all the books, but they LOVED It's A Tiger!, and so did I.  If you have not ever done this book in storytime, you should!  I was a little surprised that their little eagle eyes started picking out the tiger's tail right away, and even at the end a couple of them saw the crocodile tail and knew what it was.  I was also pleasantly surprised at how many of them recognized the printed numbers in Roar!, and of course they loved roaring.

They didn't seem to have much interest in the first song, other than making the sounds, but they really got into "Going On A Bear Hunt".  It helped that one of the kids had the book at home and knew how it went, so he took charge and led the kids in repeating each line after me.  I think I did one verse too many for this age, as I noticed I was losing participation towards the end, but I got them all back when we ran into the bear and had to race back through all the obstacles to get back home safe and sound!

So, to sum it up, 16 kids and I had a lot of fun this morning!  Oh, and as a bonus, watch this video of a real life bonded lion, tiger, and bear trio that were rescued as cubs.  Of course their names are Leo, Shere Khan, and Baloo.

*Sadly, Leo the lion died just 4 months after I originally posted this due to liver cancer, after spending 16 years with his brothers.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Is It Spring Yet? Preschool Storytime

One of the occupational hazards of working in early literacy outreach can be boredom due to the repetition.  I have quickly found that while many themes are fine for one or two storytimes, some of them can become a bit tedious when you are doing 25-35 storytimes over two weeks as I do with the Storytime-To-Go program, even when you have a variety of books and activities.  The "Spring" theme turned out to be one of those.  I love Spring, but there just aren't that many books about Spring that are really engaging or fun for a group read-aloud.

These are the books I ended up using the most, some of which I added later.  There were many books in the [pre-existing] kit, but several I either didn't use or only used once because they were either too long, dull, or too similar to books that I liked better.  Of course we started each session with our letter-of-the-day (Ss) and our story song.

The Books
Mouse's First Spring by Lauren Thompson lets kids name all the things Little Mouse encounters as he experiences Spring for the first time.  With cute illustrations and short, simple text, this book is perfect for the younger kids.  Older kids may find it a little boring, but it will do in a pinch.

Pop-up books are always a hit with kids, and Snappy Little Springtime by Dugald Steer is no exception.  This book shows several cute baby animals, and has a rhyming verse to describe each scene.  Kids can identify the animals and say what sounds they make, and relate to how the young animals like to play chase, hide-and-seek, and peek-a-boo just like they do.

Bear Wants More by Karma Wilson is another charming story about Bear and his friends.  In this story, Bear wakes up from hibernation thin and hungry!  His friends each help him find a different food to eat, but he still wants MORE, with humorous consequences.  As always, Jane Chapman's illustrations are beautiful and charming, and the text has an engaging rhyme and rhythm.  Kids will enjoy filling in the "more" each time.

Il Sung Na's A Book of Babies shows several different animal babies, with a fact about each one, in her unique illustration style. The audience can identify each type of animal, as well as their sounds. The more observant ones will point out that the duck shows up on each spread.

Spring Is Here by Will Hillenbrand is another Bear and Mole story. This time, Mole realizes Spring has come and it's time for Bear to wake up, but no matter what he tries, Mole can't wake him!  This is a relatively short and simple story, with a bit of humor.  The kids can act out the actions Mole takes and provide the snoring sounds.

Animals In Spring by Martha E. H. Rustad is the only non-fiction book that the kids could stay engaged with.  It is short, with a small amount of text, and large photographs showing various animals in spring.

When Spring Comes is the latest book from Kevin Henkes, illustrated by Laura Dronzek.  This book shows the changes as winter fades away and spring begins.  I love the illustrations, in bright "spring-y" colors with heavy black outlines; this style seems to hold the attention of young children better.  The text is okay, but not particularly exciting.

Wake Up, It's Spring! by Lisa Campbell Ernst was not quite what I expected.  I thought it would be a funny story, but it is merely the story of the earth waking up to the warmth of spring, followed in turn by a seed, a worm, and various animals.  The illustrations are nice, but the story is just okay, not particularly engaging.

Jan Thomas' Rhyming Dust Bunnies and Here Comes The Big, Mean Dust Bunny! were "mid-season replacements" to alleviate the boredom I was feeling half-way through the rotation and inject some fun and humor, thanks to a suggestion from a colleague that if I included "spring cleaning", then I could link these two books to the theme.  As a bonus, I had been wanting to work more on rhyming words as the kids only seem to have a vague idea of what rhyming really means.

Jan Thomas' books always incorporate a lot of silliness, and they are always a huge hit in storytime.  I really love that not only are these two super fun to do, but it gives the kids lots of practice with rhyming words.  They can suggest rhyming words along with the dust bunnies, and will be quick to notice that Bob doesn't rhyme with the others.

The Activities 
I had a couple of different magnetic board rhymes, a matching activity, and a song to use with this theme, using 1 or 2 with each group.

Kite Matching

I inherited this set of 16 kites, so unfortunately I don't know the source of the patterns, but they were printed out, laminated, then cut out and cut in half.  I kept the halves with the tails, and passed out the other halves to the kids.  First we discussed how the kite shape was made up of triangles (and small circles for the centers of the bows).  Then I would hold up one half and the child with the matching half would bring theirs up, then we would discuss the colors and patterns.

"Five Little Raindrops"

(There are two rhymes to go with these; one counts up
and the other counts down.  I usually do both.)

One little raindrop in the dark, dark sky.
Two little raindrops watch the clouds roll by.
Three little raindrops go splat, splat, SPLAT.
Four little raindrops, we'll need boots for that!
Five little raindrops and still no sun.
That's too much rain for us, we'd better RUN!

Five little raindrops plopping on the floor,
One plopped away and that left four.
Four little raindrops dripping on the trees,
One dripped away and that left three.
Three little raindrops splashing on my shoe,
One splashed away and that left two.
Two little raindrops starting to run,
One ran off and that left one.
One little raindrop drying in the sun,
It dried all up and then there were none!

If there were no more than 10 kids, I would let half of them have a raindrop to put on the board during the counting up rhyme and then let the other half of the group have a turn taking a raindrop off the board during the count down rhyme.  If there were more than 10 kids, I would put the raindrops on the board and have them count up and down with their fingers.  Again, I inherited this set, but they are cut from craft foam with magnets on the back and appear to have possibly been made from a purchased kit.

"Five Spring Flowers"

Five spring flowers, all in a row.
The first one said, "We need rain to grow!"
The second one said, "Oh my, we need water!"
The third one said, "Yes, it is getting hotter!"
The fourth one said, "I see clouds in the sky."
The fifth one said, "I wonder why?"

Then BOOM [clap loudly] went the thunder,
And ZAP went the lightning!
That springtime storm was really frightening!
But the flowers weren't scared - No, no, no!
The rain helped them to grow, grow, grow!

I had the children use their fingers to count up, and we did appropriate motions along with the rhyme.  These were also cut from craft foam with magnets, and once again, I inherited them, so I don't know if they were cut from patters or made with a purchased kit, but you could easily find clip art to use for a pattern to make your own.

"I'm A Dandelion"
(to the tune of "I'm A Little Teapot")

I'm a dandelion,
Oh, so small.  (crouch down)
I'm growing bigger;  (slowly rise)
Now I'm tall.   (stand up)

Soon my yellow blossom   (round arms over head)
Will turn to fluff.  (keep arms over head)
Along will come the wind   (sway from side to side)
With a great big huff.  (blow like wind)

Then my dandy seeds
Will dance around;   (wiggle finger in air)
Traveling to places, then
Floating to the ground.   (lower fingers to ground)

Since it was early spring and the dandelions hadn't started making seed heads yet, I would first show a picture of a blossom, then the seed head to refresh their memories.  At the end, we would talk about what would happen after the seeds settled back into the ground.

How It Went
As I mentioned above, the theme started wearing thin for me after the first week with the selection of books I inherited, but after I added Bear Wants More and the Dust Bunny books it got a lot better.  The younger kids really liked Mouse's First Spring and Snappy Little Springtime, and everyone liked Bear Wants More and Spring Is Here, but everyone LOVED The Rhyming Dust Bunnies and The Big, Mean Dust Bunny!  Even if it was a bit of a stretch on the theme, they were a great addition, plus we got some needed practice with rhyming words. Thank you so much to the person who suggested them!

The kids didn't seem overly enthusiastic about the activities, except when they got to have a piece to bring up, such as with the kite matching activity or when we had a small enough group to hand out the raindrops.  In retrospect, I should have added Laurie Berkner's "Boots" song, and let them pretend to splash in puddles, or some other music/movement activity.

One funny, slightly awkward moment happened one day during the introduction, when we were talking about all the different things that happen in Spring.  I mentioned one of my favorite parts of spring was that spring is when lots of baby animals are born and I enjoy seeing all the cute babies.  Then one little girl pipes up and asks, "But HOW do baby animals get born??"   Ummm.......... "That's a story for another storytime..."  After that, I stuck to talking about baby birds hatching!

I also had one sweet girl give me my first tip since working at the library.  As she boarded the Storytime Bus, she gave me a hug and said "I'm paying you for storytime today!" and handed me a penny.  It was so cute and she was so pleased with herself, I didn't have the heart to tell her I wasn't allowed to accept tips.  I thought this was a clear case where an exception was appropriate.  I can put another penny into petty cash, but I will definitely keep this one forever!