Friday, May 27, 2016

The Downside of Working With Kids

I really do love working with kids; they are so cute and sweet (most of the time) and they say the funniest things! It is so rewarding to work with children and help instill in them what will hopefully be a lifelong love of reading. Storytime is my favorite, but I also like helping older kids find and select books to read, and I love to see when they are really excited about a particular book or subject.

The one bad thing about working with children: the germs! Germs are the one thing kids never mind sharing. I have been sick so much since I started my new position last year with one cold after another it seems. I do what I can to prevent it, lots of hand-washing and sanitizer, keeping my hands away from my face, etc., but with being around 100 kids each week, catching something from them is inevitable, especially in such close quarters.

I do most of my storytimes in a renovated RV that we use as a mobile storytime room, which has it's pro's and con's. Some of the pro's are that it is great advertising for the library and early literacy, the kids love the novelty of it, we have all kinds of materials available for storytime without having to carry it around, and it's a controlled environment. One of the big con's is that it is a a confined space, which means when a kid coughs or sneezes, everyone gets exposed. And there was a LOT of sneezing going on this week.

So, I wasn't too surprised when I woke up the other day with a slight sore throat, but by the next morning it was a full-blown, nasty head cold with lots of congestion, sinus pain, headache, and body aches. So I had to do something I've never done before, which was cancel my storytime for today. I really hated to do it, but aside from not wanting to spread germs, I knew there was no way I would be able to read or sing with all the congestion and pain. I was really looking forward to doing the books I had picked out, too, but I knew I wouldn't be able to do them justice so it was better to wait.

It is frustrating, though, because this is at least the sixth major cold I've had in the last 10 months, and it always takes me a long time to recover. My throat gets irritated and the cough will continue long after I'm no longer contagious, which makes doing my job very difficult! Thank goodness I have volunteers that help me, and I can lean a little more heavily on them during those times, but it is frustrating. I couldn't tell you how many bags of cough drops I've gone through! I am just really, really tired of getting sick.

Now, time for some hot tea with honey and lemon, then back to bed :(

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

To Theme, Or Not To Theme; That Is The Question

The topic of using themes seems to come up for discussion fairly frequently among storytimers. Do you use themes or not? Do you have to use themes? What do you do if you don't have a theme?

There are really very few have to's in storytime, other than to have fun and tell stories! Everyone has their own style, and every group has it's own dynamic, so no two storytimes are the same. So, while many use themes, many others do not. It is really what works best for you, and it never hurts to try both ways or mix it up occasionally!

I do use themes for my storytimes for the most part. Mostly to aid in planning, as I feel like I need some kind of direction. Otherwise, I sometimes become overwhelmed trying to decide what to do because I have too many ideas swirling in my head. Sometimes I'll think of a theme, and then try to find books to go with it, or I may come across a book that inspires a theme. Or I may start with a theme in mind, but it may evolve depending upon the books I find, or I might have to scrap an idea and start over. I try to keep an open mind and not get too set on anything or force a theme that just isn't coming together.

Themes can be fun, but they shouldn't be a burden. It's great to come up with something new or somewhat unique, but you shouldn't feel like you have to re-invent the wheel every time, either. There's certainly nothing wrong with using tried and true hits like dinosaurs, farm animals, zoo animals, etc. Or do a slightly different take, for example, I did "unusual pets" instead of "pets", and my "under-the-sea" theme evolved into a "shark week" theme that turned out to be one of the most fun storytimes I've done.

But themes should be a help in planning, not a hindrance! If you can't come up with a theme, don't worry about it! Are there some books you've been wanting to use but just haven't fit in for one reason or another? New books you can't wait to try out? Old favorites you haven't used in a while? Great, your "theme" can be "books I wanted to read"! There have been times I just didn't have time to think about a theme, and just pulled several books I had been wanting to use, hadn't gotten around to yet. And it works just fine. In fact, this week I'm going theme-less because I came across some books I couldn't wait to use, but didn't necessarily fit into an obvious theme.  So I guess my theme is "Fun books Miss Jennifer just discovered" :)

And if you prefer not to use themes at all, more power to you. Whatever works! As with any aspect of storytime, start with what you're most comfortable with, and branch out from there. Don't be afraid to experiment. If something doesn't work, it's not the end of the world. Every time we try something new, it helps us grow and develop as professionals. If you happen to be one who doesn't generally use themes, please share your thoughts in the comments.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Frog Storytime

I finished up my 2 weeks of Frog-themed storytimes with the Storytime-To-Go program this week. There are quite a few cute picture books featuring frogs out there, so this is a fun theme to do. I started each section by introducing the topic, discussing a few fun facts about frogs, and talking about our letter-of-the-day, "Ff". Then we sang our story song and read our first story. I used a number of books throughout the 2-weeks, reading 2 or 3 to each group.

The Books
In I Don't Want To Be A Frog by Dev Petty & Mike Boldt we meet a young frog who wants to be a cat, or a rabbit, or a pig, or an owl rather than a wet, slimy, bug-eating frog. His father tries to explain that he can't be any of those other animals, but it's the wolf who convinces him that being a frog isn't such a bad thing after all.  

In Ribbit! by Rodrigo Folgueira & Poly Bernatene a family of frogs is puzzled by a little pink pig who mysteriously shows up in their pond one morning, saying "Ribbit." They don't know what to think of this strange pig, and eventually consult the wise old beetle who suggests that maybe the little pig just wanted to make friends. But when they get back to the pond, the pig is gone.

AH HA! by Jeff Mack is a simple story told with only the pictures and two words "Ah" and "Ha". The audience will catch on and join in, particularly those who know their letters and can recognize the different combinations. 

Keith Faulkner and Jonathan Lambert's version of The Wide-Mouthed Frog is a fun pop-up book with charming illustrations. However, I find it is too short, and kids are always disappointed that it isn't longer. I also found that very few of the kids really got the part about the frog making his mouth smaller.

John Strejan's version of the same folk tale, I Love To Eat Bugs!, is also a pop-up book. This one features African animals, and I really like that it is longer than the Faulkner version. This version ends simply with the frog jumping away from the hungry crocodile, though I do wish that it had a larger and more dramatic pop-up for the ending.

Little Green Frogs by Frances Barry is a unique book with pages that fold out instead of turning, forming the whole pond. The book shows the development of frogs from egg to tadpole to frog, with short and simple text, and is great for introducing metamorphosis to younger kids.

Froggy Goes To The Library by Jonathan London and Frank Remkiewicz is the latest book in the Froggy series. I'm partial to Froggy, plus I thought this would be a great way to plug the library, and reinforce appropriate library and storytime behavior. The kids can join in saying "Froogggyyyy" and "whaaat".

Karma Wilson's A Frog In The Bog (illustrated by Joan Rankin) is a fun little story with lots of rhyming words and counting, plus the chance to say ick, ew, yuck, etc., every time the frog eats something we would find gross. In the end, we learn that half-sunk logs are not always what they seem!  

Jump! by Scott M. Fischer is another book with lots of rhyming words, repetition and sequencing. First we have a bug sleeping on a jug, until he sees a frog and he has to "Jump!" to get away from. Then, the frog has to "Jump!" to get away from the cat, and so on until at the end a shark has to "Jump!" to get away from the whale. Or did he?  The kids can join in saying "Jump!" each time.

Jump, Frog, Jump! by Robert Kalan & Bryan Barton is another simple story with the repeating line "Jump, Frog, Jump!" that the kids can join in saying each time the frog needs to escape capture, either by hungry predators or curious kids. The story also builds with each page, much like The House That Jack Built.

The Caterpillar and the Polliwog by Jack Kent is the story of two unlikely friends who are each about to undergo an amazing change. Polliwog is at first disappointed that he doesn't change into a butterfly, but in the end he decides that he is happy to be a frog.

Big Frog Can't Fit In by Mo Willems is a great pop-up and pull-tab book about a big, long-legged frog who is sad she can't fit into the book. If only she were smaller, or more bendable. But, her friends have an idea! This is a fun book, but I found that some of the pull-tabs were difficult to operate and were easily damaged.

In addition, I supplemented these with a couple of non-fiction books, one to show the life-cycle of the frog with photographs of developing tadpoles and another to show some of the brightly colored poison dart frogs. I also had a photograph I found online of someone holding a handful of teeny-tiny baby frogs.

The Activities

The two activities I used the most were the "There Once Was An Alligator" action rhyme that has lots of movement, and the "Five Green and Speckled Frogs" song that I used last week in my regular storytime, "Hop On In To Storytime - Frogs". I mostly used the foam pieces on the magnetic board, but on the two days that the storytime bus was in the shop and I had to go in the classrooms I used my homemade storytime finger-puppet glove, both pictured below:

For more ways to do this song, see my "Five Green & Speckled Frogs, Five Ways" post.

When we needed a lot of movement, we did the "Croaky Pokey", inspired by Ethan Long's book of the same name. Sometimes we did it along with the book, and sometimes just on our own.

How It Went

The kids really seemed to enjoy this theme; I think because there are so many good books to choose from. The ones they seemed to like the most were I Don't Want To Be A Frog, Ribbit!, I Love To Eat Bugs, AH HA!, A Frog In The Bog, and Froggy Goes To The Library. 

After one reading of Froggy Goes To The Library, one boy said he wished we could sing and dance in storytime like Froggy did [we do movement activities all the time, but don't do as much dancing due to the small space]. I told him we could do that right now, provided that he lead since it was his idea. So he came up front and led them all in a Froggy dance, "Giggle, giggle; gaggle, gaggle. Wiggle, wiggle; waggle waggle."  Only it wasn't so much dancing as jumping around flapping their arms and legs and singing the words, but they were so cute and had such a good time doing it!

They all really liked the "Alligator" rhyme, loving the element of suprise when the alligator suddenly dived down after the frog and all the motions for the spinning log, splashing water, and swimming frog. Most of them really liked doing the "Five Green and Speckled Frogs", but a couple of groups were very lackluster about it; I'm not sure why. One minor issue with that song is that there are so many variations, some say "five little speckled" instead of "five green and speckled", some say "sat on a speckled log" and some say "sitting", some say "hollow log" instead of "speckled log", that we not all singing the same words all the time, and that threw some people off.

But most agreed that they were glad they did not have to eat bugs like frogs do!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Some Lighter Stories With Surprise Endings

Last week I indulged my dark and twisty side with my list of "Picture Books With Surprise Endings & Dark Humor" (which I've recently updated), so now I'll balance that with some lighter reads that have surprise endings (or at least a slight twist). These are my favorite kind of books to use in storytime, and I think the kids really like them, too. Unlike the darker books, these can be safely used with the preschoolers as well, though the younger ones may not always follow the plot twist or humor.

The first of these will be ones I've actually used or previously read, but I also got some great suggestions from several other youth services professionals over at Storytime Underground that I'll add too; thanks to all of them for their awesome suggestions!

Bark, George by Jules Feiffer, 1999.

A classic!  Everytime George tries to bark, a different animal sound comes out of his mouth. His distraught mother takes him to the vet, and much to everyone's surprise, he pulls out a cat, a duck, a pig, and finally, a cow! Then George is finally able to bark. After they leave, his mother wants to show off his new bark, but when he opens his mouth, out comes "Hello." Did George swallow the vet??

Carrot Soup by John Segal, 2006.

Rabbit can't wait to harvest his carrots and make carrot soup. But, when he arrives at the field they are gone!  One by one he asks the other animals if they know what happened to his carrots. Observant children will notice the other animals in the background making off with the carrots. Are the other animals stealing Rabbit's carrots?? In the end, when Rabbit arrives home, we see that there were no nefarious activities after all.

The Odd Egg by Emily Gravett, 2009.

All of the birds have laid eggs, except for poor Duck. But then he finds the most unusual egg and decides to adopt it. One by one, the eggs hatch, except for Duck's. He waits, and waits, until finally, "Crack!", it hatches, but everyone is shocked and frightened by what comes out!

It's A Tiger! by David LaRochelle, 2012.

The story begins in the jungle, with us swinging from vine to vine. But wait, one of those "vines" is not really a vine. It's a tiger! RUN! We are surprised over and over by the ferocious tiger, who in the end just wants to be pet and take a nap. So, let's tell him a story....  "It begins in the jungle, we are swinging from vine to vine. But wait, that 'vine' looks like a ..."  I LOVE this book!  It is great for a movement storytime and keeping restless, fidgety ones engaged.

Are You A Horse? by Andy Rash, 2009.

Another recent classic. Cowboy Roy's friends give him a saddle for his birthday, with the instructions to "1. Find a horse," and "2. Enjoy the ride." There's just one problem, Roy doesn't know what a horse is!  But, he set's off to find one, and after several missteps, finally does. But, as it turns out, the instructions needed to have been just a little more specific!

This is very funny, but runs a little long, so you might want to skip one or two of the animals to shorten it.

Sometimes It's Turkey, Sometimes It's Feathers by Lorna and Lecia Balian, 2003 (originally published in 1973).

A Thanksgiving classic. Mrs. Gumm finds a turkey egg and raises the turkey to have for Thanksgiving dinner. The turkey eats, and eats, and eats; getting fatter and fatter, just in time for Thanksgiving.  

But, in the end the turkey turns out to be their guest rather than the main course! Was that Mrs. Gumm's plan all along, or could she just not bring herself to eat him after all?

Hieronymus Betts and his Unusual Pets by M. P. Robertson, 2005.

Hieronymus Betts has some very unusual pets, such as the slimy slugapotamus, the fierce grizzly hare, and the stinky bog hog. But Hieronymus knows of something even slimier, smellier, noisier, fiercer, scarier, and stranger than all of his unusual pets! What could it be?

Older siblings, especially sisters of little brothers, will really appreciate the humor of this book.

You Can Do It, Bert! by Ole Konnecke, 2013.

Today Bert is trying something for the very first time. He walks to the end of the branch to check things out. Then he walks back to take a running start....and has a snack instead. Finally after some encouragement he is ready, and takes a running start and jumps, covering his eyes.

The audience can cheer Bert on as he tries to fly for the first time. But, wait, that's not what he was trying to do after all, and he knew how to fly all along!

I'm Bad! by Kate and Jim McMullan, 2008.

Look out! The big, bad, fierce T. rex is on the hunt, looking for his dinner. However, time after time, he fails to catch his prey. He begins to get very upset and frustrated, and the audience may wonder at his lack of hunting prowess. But in the end, he is saved from his mom. As it turns out he wasn't really a big, bad T. rex, but a baby one just learning how to hunt.

Tyson the Terrible by Diane and Christyan Fox, 2006.

Stegg, Serra, and Plod are playing soccer when they hear a loud "Boom! Boom! Boom!" in the distance. The sound gets closer, and they fear it is the rumored Tyson the Terrible, the biggest, meanest dinosaur around. They quickly hide, but then hear the sounds of someone crying and find a tiny dinosaur, sad because no one will play with him. The three laugh at themselves for being scared of such a small dinosaur, and invite him to play. When he asks if his little brother can join them, they agree. But his "little" brother isn't what they expected!

The Doghouse by Jan Thomas, 2008.

Mouse, Cow, Pig, and Duck are playing a game of ball when, oh, no! The ball goes into the DOGHOUSE! Who will be brave enough to go into the doghouse and retrieve their ball? One by one the animals go into the doghouse to get the ball, and don't come back out!

Finally, Mouse is the only one left. Fearing the worst, he finally gets up his nerve and braves going inside, to find a very different scene than he expected!

Alan's Big Scary Teeth by Jarvis, 2016.

Alan is a big, scary alligator with big, scary razor-sharp teeth. Every morning he polishes his scales, brushes his teeth, and practices making scary faces. Then he spends his day frightening all the other animals. At night, he likes to sit back and relax, taking out his teeth, which turn out to be dentures!

One day Alan loses his teeth, which are found by the other animals. They refuse to give them back unless he promises to stop scaring them. But what else can he do??

The Wolf's Chicken Stew by Keiko Kasza, 1996.

The wolf wants some chicken stew, but Mrs. Chicken is a little too thin, so he decides to fatten her up first. Every day he leaves yummy goodies at her door, until she catches him. She and her many chicks are so grateful for the treats, giving him a hundred kisses, that he changes his mind. Mrs. Chicken fixes him a nice dinner, and he leaves, planning the next treat he will bring them.

Keiko Kasza has authored several other picture books, most of which have a humorous twist at the end, including The Dog Who Cried Wolf and My Lucky Day, among others.

The following were suggested by some of the great storytimers at Storytime Underground:

Wolf's Coming by Joe Kulka, 2007.

A wolf's howl is heard throughout the forest. "Wolf's coming, wolf's coming!" the other animal cry. "Wolf's coming!" mothers whisper urgently as they urge their children along. "Wolf's coming!" they say as they all rush to hide. Wolf gets closer, and closer. Wolf opens the door and walks in, and...

"SURPRISE!" the other animals all shout. It's a birthday party for wolf, with pizza and cake for everyone! This one looks perfect for my storytime kids.

Hippospotamus by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross, 2012.

Poor Hippopotamus has a red spotamus on her bottom.  What could it be? A bite? A sting? A blister? Hippopox? Jungle fever? Hippolumps? Hippoflu? All the other animals have different theories, but no one knows for sure, and poor Hippopotamus is frantic with worry. Then, a young boy comes up, and says, "That's not a spot; that's my....."

Hint: This story would be great to pair with the "Icky, Sticky Bubble Gum" song. Can't wait to use this one!

Chewy Louie by Howie Schneider, 2000.
Always In Trouble by Corinne Demas, 2009.

Both of these books are about very badly behaved dogs who get into all kinds of trouble. They both go through training and seem to mend their ways and be on their best behavior. That is, until you get to the last page!

I'd Really Like To Eat a Child, by Sylviane Donnio and Dorothee de Monfried, 2007.

One day a young crocodile decides that he really wants to eat a child, and refuses all the other food his parents offer him. Later, he spies a child down by the stream. What luck! As he moves in to attack, suddenly the tables are turned, and Achilles finds out he's not yet big enough to eat a child!

Shark's Big Surprise by A. H. Benjamin and Bill Bolton, 2013.

Shark is big and scary, so none of the other sea creatures want to hang out with him, and he is lonely. One day, he sets out and one by one, snatches up Lobster, Octopus, Starfish, Turtle, and Jellyfish, stuffing them in his collection bag. The creatures are frightened and fear the worst.

The audience will be sure he plans on eating them, but, surprise! He only wanted them to come to his party.

Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds and Peter Brown, 2012.

Jasper Rabbit loves carrots, especially the wild carrots that grow in Crackenhopper Field. He eats them all the time: on the way to school, on the way to practice, on the way home, etc. Until one day the carrots start following him! Or are they? Is it real, or is his mind playing tricks on him? 

Finally, Jasper can't take it anymore and builds an impenetrable wall around the carrot patch. Which is exactly what the carrots wanted him to do!

Falling for Rapunzel by Leah Wilcox and Lydia Monks, 2003.

The prince hears Rapunzel crying about a bad hair day and thinks she is trapped in the tower. He calls for her to let down her hair, but she thinks he says "underwear." This continues until he finally calls for her to let down her braid, but she sends down her maid. The prince and the maid fall in love and ride off together. Rapunzel is happy for them and hopes they come back to visit, but simply knock on the door next time!

This is one "fractured fairy tale" that is short enough for the younger kids!  The text is short and silly, and you know the mention of "underwear" will bring lots of giggles and cries of "ewww, nasty!"

Snip Snap! What's That? by Mara Bergman and Nick Maland, 2005.

A big alligator comes creeping up the stairs, closer and closer, opening it's jaws wide.  Were the children scared? You bet they were!  It slithers closer and closer, until it's right in front of them, and the children have had enough! They shout, "Alligator, you get out!" And was the alligator scared? You bet he was!

A great story for building suspense!

The Little Mouse Santi by David Eugene Ray and Santiago Germano, 2015.

The once was a little mouse named Santi who wanted to be a cat. He practiced acting bored and ignoring everyone, and watched the other cats. He didn't care that the other mice laughed at him, and one day decided to go out and sit with an big orange cat, practicing being a cat. He finally asked the other cat if he though Santi made a good cat, to which he replied, "How would I know?  I'm a dog."

Grandpa's Teeth by Rod Clement, 1999.

Grandpa's room looked like it had been ransacked, and his false teeth are missing and presumed stolen. There is a huge investigation, sparking so much suspicion that everyone has no choice but to smile all the time to prove their teeth are their own, which is very exhausting and weirds the tourists out! Finally, in order to get everything back to normal, the town takes up a collection to buy Grandpa some new teeth. Finally, things are back to normal. But, on the very last page, the culprit is revealed!

This one is funny, but while it's only 32 pages, there is a lot of text on each page, making it very long. I would save this for kindergartners and up.

The rest of these are titles that were suggested, but I was unable to get my hands on a copy to review, so I'll just list the titles. It's possible that some of of these may have been intended for the dark humor list or are just funny but don't necessarily have a surprise ending, so definitely pre-read before using, just in case.

Chicken Soup
Little Bee by Edward Gibbs
I'm Coming To Get You by Tony Ross
Gorillas In Our Midst
The Icky Sticky Frog
Our Tree Named Steve
Donna O'Neeshack Was Chased by Some Cows by Bill Grossman
White Dynamite and Carly Kidd by Bill Martin
Whatever by William Bee
Hello, Doctor by Michael Escoffier
Baaa by David Macaulay
The Book of Mean People by Toni and Sladd Morrison
Some Things Are Scary by Florence Parry Heide
Frog On A Log (I don't really consider this a surprise ending, but it's funny)

And I'm sure there are still some that are not on this list, so if you know of a picture book with a good twist or surprise ending, please add it in the comments on this blog post! I've definitely learned of some new ones, and been reminded of others, that I can't wait to use in storytime soon!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Hop On In To Storytime - Frogs

Spring is in full swing, with summer not far behind! The sounds of crickets chirping and frogs croaking fill the night, and the ponds are full of eggs and tadpoles, so I thought this was the perfect time for a frog-themed storytime.

We started with our welcome song, then to introduce the theme I gave them clues until someone guessed frogs: "what lives both on land and in the water", "what is both good at jumping and swimming", "what eats flies and other bugs". I didn't have to resort to the dead-giveaway clue, "what says ribbit", but they all started "ribbit-ing" once it was established that frogs were indeed the theme.  

After that we sang our story song and proceeded to our first book, The Wide-Mouthed Frog by Keith Faulkner and Jonathan Lambert. The illustrations in this book are really nice, and it's a pop-up, so that's always a bonus.  

There are several other versions, with different animals (African, Australian, South American...) and slightly different endings (some make the small mouth, some just have him hop away). I just wish this version was a little longer; the kids are always disappointed that it's so short and doesn't show more animals.

Since we just had a story with an alligator who liked to eat frogs, I followed with this fun action rhyme I learned from one of my volunteers that kids really seem to enjoy:

"There Once Was An Alligator"

There once was an alligator,
(hold up arm to be body and hand to be head & snapping jaws)
Sitting on a log.
(lay "alligator" arm on top of other arm)
Down in the water, 
(bend hand out and down from "log" slightly as though looking down)
He saw a little frog.

DOWN dived the alligator!
(quickly move hands down to floor)
AROUND spun the log!
(roll arms)
SPLASH went the water!
(throw arms out)
And AWAY swam the frog!
(make swimming motions)

For our second book, I chose a unique non-fiction picture book, Little Green Frogs by Frances Barry, that shows the development from egg to frog with very simply text and less detail, so good for young children. This book is unique, in that the pages open out, instead of turning, so that in the end the book forms the whole frog pond, complete with lily pads and water lilies. We talked about each step: eggs are laid, tadpoles hatch, tadpoles get bigger, back legs form, then front legs form, tail shrinks away, and they are finally frogs that breathe air rather than tadpoles that breathe in the water.  I also showed a picture I found online of a person holding a handful of teeny tiny froglets.

Then it was time to sing the classic, "Five Green & Speckled Frogs". I decided to use my finger-puppet glove with the song today, and have them imitate me using their fingers for their 5 frogs and opposite arm as the log (for other ways to do this song, check out my "Five Green & Speckled Frogs, Five Ways" post from last week).

"Five Green & Speckled Frogs"

Five green and speckled frogs,
Sitting on a speckled log,
Eating the most delicious bugs. YUM! YUM!

One jumped into the pool,
Where it was nice and cool.
Now there are FOUR green and speckled frogs. RIBBIT! RIBBIT!

(continue counting down to zero)

Our last book was I Don't Want To Be A Frog by Dev Petty and Mike Boldt, which I prefaced with a brief discussion of how sometimes we all might wish we could be someone or something else. In this story the little frog wishes he were a cat, or a rabbit, or a pig, or an owl; anything but a wet, slimy, bug-eating frog. As his father tries to explain that he can't be anything other than a frog, it is the fierce wolf who makes him appreciate all his frogginess in the end. This is a cute, funnny story and the kids enjoy naming the animals, and joining papa frog in reminding his son that he is, in fact, a FROG.

After that, it was time for our closing song and to pass out stickers.

How It Went

I had 14 very rambunctious kids today, who were very glad to see me but had trouble settling down. One little boy was really interested and enthusiastic about the stories, but was interrupting and repeating so much, that I had a hard time reading the story. But after calling him down a couple of times and reminding him that he could answer the questions, but then he needed to be quiet so I could go on with the story, he finally settled down a bit.  

There were a couple of kids who kept whispering to each other, and one who kept interrupting me to ask about stickers. I told her the first time we were not talking about stickers until after stories, then after the second time I told her that if she continued to be rude and interrupt the stories to ask about stickers that she would not get one. Sometimes I wish I had never started doing stickers and/or hand stamps, because some get hyper-focused on them instead of appreciating the stories, which is the most important part! I told her she was going to have to go to the end of the line and wait for her sticker because she needed to learn to be patient, and then we had a little chat about manners and patience, and what is most important at storytime.

Of the books, they seemed to like I Don't Want To Be A Frog the best.  They were okay with The Wide-Mouthed Frog, but the problem with that book was that by the time they were really getting into it, it was over. And I don't think they really got the part about why the frog puckered his mouth and tried to make it small, they just thought it was funny.  They really enjoyed the "There Once Was An Alligator" rhyme, but were a little "Meh" with the "Five Green & Speckled Frogs," which surprised me because most kids are familiar with that one and really like singing it.

Flannel Friday Round-Up for May 13th

Here is the Round-Up for this week's Flannel Friday! 

This is my first time hosting, and just happens to be my 100th blog post!  We've got several great ideas this week; thanks to everyone who contributed!

First up, Lindsey at Jbrary has two great "Under-the-Sea" themed felt sets to accompany two fun songs, "Slippery Fish" and "Baby Shark" (one of my personal favs).

Kathryn at Fun With Friends At Storytime shares three different versions of her "Fireflies" ("lightning bugs" where I'm from) made with pellon and/or felt, as well as a printable version of the rhyme she composed, and two book suggestions to go with them.

Wendy at Flannel Board Fun has not one, but two different incarnations of her "Five Pigs So Squeaky Clean", along with the song which uses the same tune as "Five Green & Speckled Frogs."

I love Bonnie from The Buckeye Librarian's take on the "Five Little Apples", making felt finger-puppets and changing the worm into a horse. Just goes to show you, if something isn't working for you, just change it!

Kate at Felt Board Magic also has a set of "Five Pigs", with adorable curly chenille tails I might add, with both the "So Squeaky Clean" song AND a "So Muddy" song.

Anna at Future Librarian Superhero has an absolutely adorable set of "Nesting Kitties" inspired by the Kevin Henkes book Waiting.  This is a very versatile set, and she has generously included a template and instructions so you can make your own!

Visit the Flannel Friday Pinterest Board for past Round-Up's and tons of inspiration. For more information about Flannel Friday and how to participate, visit the Flannel Friday site.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Picture Books With Surprise Endings & Dark Humor

I have found that the kids and I really enjoy humorous books in storytime, and especially those that have endings with a surprise twist.  I decided to put a list of such books together, and as I did, I realized that several of my favorites happened to employ dark humor.  So I decided to start with them, and then put together a list of lighter books that end with a twist in a later post.

When using these books, I would caution you to really know your audience first, especially if they are preschoolers.  Some of the younger kids might be too sensitive for the darker humor, or just might not get it.  But older kids almost always love them!  That being said, I have successfully used at least a couple of these with younger kids.

Hungry Hen by Richard Waring and Caroline Jayne Church. 2001. Harper-Collins. 32 pages. Ages 3-6.

Every day the hungry fox watches the little chicken eat, and the more she eats the bigger she gets.  He bides his time until finally she is big enough to eat, then he makes his move, with surprising results!

Kids will love the surprise ending in which predator unexpectedly becomes prey.

Tadpole's Promise by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross. 2005. Atheneum/Anne Schwarts Books. 32 pages. Ages 4-8. 

This is the story of a tadpole and caterpillar that fall in love and promise not to change. But, they find they can't stop mother nature as the tadpole gradually develops into a frog, and the caterpillar disappears.  In the end, Frog is left wondering whatever happened to his first love, as he sits on a lily pad digesting the butterfly he just ate.

If you're looking for a suprise/twist ending, this is definitely it, but the humor is a really dark, even for me!  Older kids and adults would find this funny, but some younger children might find it upsetting.  I would be hesitant to use it in a preschool storytime.  I think the difference between this and some of the other books with dark humor where character get eaten is that the two characters were friends and in love in the beginning.

Rotten and Rascal: The Two Terrible Pterosaur Twins by Paul Geraghty. 2006. Barron's Educational Series. 32 pages. Ages 4-7.

Rotten and Rascal are twin pterosaurs who argue about everything. All. The. Time. The other dinosaurs get tired of the hullabaloo, and Rex decides to settle their arguing once and for all.  He asks them which one is the tastiest, the juiciest, and the crunchiest, and they are so busy arguing that they don't realize what he is up to.  And in case you were wondering, they tasted exactly the same!

This is just the right amount of dark humor, with the victims being unsympathetic and ultimately bringing their misfortune upon themselves.  This story also has lots of fun alliteration and many new vocabulary words. It is always fun to see how long it takes the audience to figure out what happened in the end; you can almost see the little wheels turning in their heads!

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen. 2011. Candlewick Press. 40 pages. Ages 4-8.

The bear's hat is missing, and goes around politely asking the other animals if they've seen it, with no luck. He is just about to give up when the deer says something that sparks his memory.  Woe to the one who dared deceive the bear and steal his hat!

This is an award-winning story with just enough dark humor, and again, with an unsympathetic character who brings the consequences upon himself.  The ending is not clearly spelled out, so again, it is fun to see how the audience processes it and what they think happened, and it leaves room for the sensitive child to interpret the ending in a less dark way.

This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen. 2012. Candlewick. 40 pages. Ages 4-8.  Caldecott Medal winner.

In Klassen's second award-winner, a little fish is swimming along, bragging about taking the hat he is wearing and sure that he will never be caught by it's rightful owner. However, the other sea creatures subtly give him away, and in the end we see a large fish swimming back wearing the hat.

That Is NOT A Good Idea! by Mo Willems. 2013. Balzer + Bray. 48 pages. Ages 4-8.

This story starts out with the feel of a folk tale: one day a very hungry fox meets a plump goose, and one of them tricks the other one into becoming their dinner. But, the victim is not who the audience is expecting!

Again, a little dark humor at the expense of a less-than-sympathetic character, this time a villainous fox up to no good. But to be fair, the little goslings tried to warn him...

Carnivores by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Dan Santat. 2013. Chronicle Books. 40 pages. Ages 5-8.

The lion, the shark, and the timber wolf are tired of everyone hurting their feelings by talking about them and thinking the worst of them. They get together and decide to try being vegetarian, but that didn't work. Disguises didn't work, either. Finally they invite the wisest carnivore of all to speak to the group. The wise owl advised them to embrace being carnivores. They weren't bad; eating meat is just what they do. The wise old owl was brilliant......and delicious!

Little Red by Bethan Woollvin. April 1, 2016. Peachtree Publishers. 32 pages. Ages 4-8.

This is a re-telling of the classic folk tale, Little Red Riding Hood.  But in this version, Red is a very smart, capable young lady who can take care of herself and doesn't need any woodsman to save her.

This is a slight twist on the original tale, a little darker than the sanitized modern version. Kids would probably appreciate it more if they are already familiar with a previous version, but will probably enjoy it either way. The illustrations are a little too heavily stylized for my taste, and the ending is fairly subtle so give them time to process it and figure it out.

A Hungry Lion, or A Dwindling Assortment of Animals by Lucy Ruth Cummins. March 15, 2016. Atheneum Books for Young Readers. 40 pages. Ages 4-8.

The story starts off with a lion and several other animals, which keep disappearing one at a time as each page is turned, frustrating the narrator. At first, the reader suspects the lion has eaten them, but surprise, they were just sneaking off to put together a surprise party for the lion. But wait, that's not the end!

This is a truly tricky story that goes from dark to light, and dark again with one plot twist after another! This would be great for kindergarten and school-aged kids, younger kids might not be able to follow all the twists or may find it too dark.

Here are a few others suggested by some other great youth services professionals at Storytime Underground:

Wolves by Emily Gravett. 2006. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. 40 pages. Ages 4-8.

A rabbit goes to the library, and selects a book about wolves to read. As he reads, the illustrations become more menacing. He is so engrossed in his book, he does not realize he is walking up the back of a large wolf! He finally realizes his predicament when he is coincidentally on the page that describes the wolf's diet: "...large prey such as deer, bison, and moose. They also enjoy smaller mammals, like beavers, voles, and...."  Then when you turn the page, all that is left is the scratched and chewed book cover, and a torn piece of paper that completes the sentence "...rabbits."

This is a cleverly told story that might be over the heads of younger readers, but school-aged kids would enjoy.  There is also an "alternate ending for sensitive readers" in which the wolf is a vegetarian and they become fast friends, but that is all part of the humor as well.

Barnacle Is BORED by Jonathan Fenske. May 10, 2016.  Scholastic, Inc. 40 pages. Ages 3-5.

Barnacle is very bored.  He is stuck to the bottom of the pier and never goes anywhere or does anything.  The tide comes in, the tide goes out.  The sun comes up, the sun goes down. He spies a pretty rainbow spotted fish, and is envious of all the fun he images the fish has. Until he sees the price the fish pays for his free-swimming lifestyle.

This is a really cute book with bright, cartoon-y illustrations, and short, simple text told mostly in speech bubbles. It is funny, and the ending is predictable.  Funny, only slightly dark, and a good opportunity to talk about appreciating what you have and not being envious of others, because you never really know what hardships they may have to deal with.

Beware Of The Frog by William Bee. 2008. Candlewick. 48 pages. Ages 3-7.

Sweet old Mrs. Collywobbles lives on the edge of a dark, scary forest, full of goblins, trolls, and ogres! But, her guard frog protects her, gobbling up any trespassers. One day, Mrs. Collywobbles gives her frog a kiss of gratitude, which turns her into a frog as well! And she doesn't like that one bit, and quickly shows her displeasure.

I like the story of this one, but I don't particularly care for the illustration style, and I think it's too long for the lower end of the target age range.

Mr. Wolf's Pancakes by Jan Fearnley. 1999. Tiger Tales. 32 pages. Ages 4-8. (There is a later paperback edition with a different cover).

Mr. Wolf is in the mood for pancakes, and decides to make some. But, he is having a little trouble with planning, shopping, and cooking, and asks his neighbors (all familiar folk tale and nursery rhyme characters) for help, but they all rudely refuse. 

He manages to figure it all out on his own, but his unhelpful neighbors rudely demand he give them pancakes. He has no choice but to invite them into his kitchen, where they pay for their rudeness!

This story is delightfully dark, and drives home the importance of being helpful, polite, and using good manners!

Mr. Wolf and the Three Bears by Jan Fearnley. 2002. Harcourt Children's Books. 32 pages. Ages 3-7.

It is Baby Bear's birthday and Mr. Wolf and Grandma spend all day baking treats and preparing a party.  But, when the Bear family shows up, Goldilocks crashes the party, barging in without being invited. She is rude and obnoxious to everyone and ruins the party. But after a game of hide-and-seek, Grandma surprises everyone with a wonderful, freshly baked pie.  And Goldilocks is nowhere to be found.

Again, this book teaches a lesson in manners, in a wickedly dark and funny way, but it might be just a little too much for 3-4 year olds, and I would skew the recommended age range up slightly, to ages 4-8 or even 5-8.

Pardon Me! by Daniel Miyares. 2014. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. 40 pages. Ages 4-8.

A little bird finds a nice spot to rest in the middle of the marsh. Soon he is joined by a larger bird, a frog, and a turtle, and finds his perch rather crowded. A fox paddles out on a log and tries to warn them, "Pardon me, but you're sitting on a...," but the frustrated little bird interrupts, yelling at him to go away and scaring all the other animals off. He should have let the fox finish what he was saying.....

While this book is 40 pages, it has very little text, so it is not too long for younger readers, and I don't think many would find it too dark. A good lesson in sharing and not interrupting, though!

Max the Brave by Ed Vere. 2015. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.  32 pages. Ages 3-6.

Max the Brave is a fearless kitten who is on a quest to chase mice. Unfortunately, he doesn't know what a mouse is, so the mouse is able to trick him into thinking he is a monster, and the monster is a mouse. Max bravely tries to wake the "mouse" so he can chase him, and ends up getting gobbled up! But, fortunately the monster is apparently allergic to cats and sneezes him back out. Max decided he's not so brave after all.

This book barely qualifies as dark, since Max is only in the monster's belly for a moment, and survives relatively unscathed. This would be a good book to test the waters with a child or group to see how they handle darker humor.

Melissa's Octopus and Other Unsuitable Pets by Charlotte Voake. 2015. Candlewick. 32 pages. Ages 3-7.

This book shows several unusual pets, and demonstrates why they are generally unsuitable, such as an octopus, giraffe, chameleon, and ending with the most unsuitable of all, the crocodile.

I wish I'd had this book when I did my "Unusual Pets" storytime, but we had not gotten it yet. It is more silly than dark, and the ending has a couple of twists, though really, it shouldn't be that suprising that a crocodile might eat someone, should it? A fun book, and not too dark at all.

If you know of any other good picture books with dark humor and surprise endings, feel free to add them in the comments! Embrace your dark and twisty side and enjoy! I'll post a list of lighter books that end with a twist soon.