Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Superhero Picture Books

A few weeks ago I decided to work on a list of superhero picture books so I would be able to refer my youngest patrons to something more than the many 8x8's and early readers featuring the Marvel and DC characters, and hopefully find some suitable for storytime.

Now, let me preface this by saying that superheroes definitely are not my thing to begin with, but though I was initially pleasantly surprised by how many picture books I found in our collections with the subject tracing "superhero", once I pulled them and started looking at them I was a little disappointed that I didn't find many that I could see myself using in storytime.

So this list is more for reader's advisory than storytime, and limited to what is in the collection in my library system, though I have noted the ones I thought would work for storytime.

Books With A Main Character That *Is* a Superhero 

Superhero ABC by Bob McLeod, 2009.

McLeod, a renowned comic book illustrator, brings us his first children's book with a different superhero for each letter of the alphabet. Some are a little silly, but very authentic looking and likely to appeal to DC and Marvel fans as well. Very fun and cute. Each letter is shown in both upper and lower case, and alliteration is used in the descriptors of each hero to emphasize the letter.

This book might work for storytime, at least as well as any other alphabet book, as the main text on each page is fairly short.

Batman's Dark Secret by Kelley Pucket, illustrated by John J. Muth, 2016.

This book tells the origin story of Batman, in true storybook form rather than in comic strip panels with speech bubbles. The text is short and simple, and age appropriate. The illustration are very dark, helping to convey the sense of tragedy and staying true to the traditionally dark feeling of the comic.

This book is short enough for storytime, but I'm just not sure if the tone is right, and I know most of us prefer to avoid heavily commercialized characters in storytime.

Wonder Woman: The Story Of The Amazon Princess, 2011
Superman: The Story Of The Man Of Steel, 2010
Batman: The Story Of The Dark Knight, 2008

Ralph Cosentino has written three picture books about superheroes. Each tells a general story, revealing the orgin of the hero, what their powers are, some of the villains they fight, and other background information. The illustrations are a combination of full-page illustrations and panels, with a general comic book feel, but a little simpler.

I don't think these would be good for storytime, but would be good for one-on-one and independent reading.

Mighty Truck by Chris Barton, 2016.

Clarence was an ordinary truck, other than ALWAYS being dirty. It seemed everything he did for fun got him dirty, and that's what his friends were used to seeing. One day, he grudgingly goes to the carwash during a storm and gets struck by lightning. Not only does the lightning supercharge the carwash and get him extra clean, it gives him superpowers as well!

This is a cute story that would work for preschool storytime, either with a superhero theme, or with a things-that-go theme. It's probably best for the younger crowd; serious superhero fans probably would not appreciate it as much.

Max by Bob Graham, 2000.

Max comes from a whole family of superheroes. His parents are Captain Lightning and Madame Thunderbolt, his grandparents are also superheroes, and Max is expected to be a superhero, too. There is just one problem. Max can't fly. His parents are concerned, and he gets teased at school. Then one day Max discovers he can fly after all; he just needed the right motivation.

This is a cute story that is too long for a typical storytime, but would be a great one-on-one read. It might work for a group read-aloud with older kids, but it's a fine line between being old enough to listen to a longer story and being too old to be interested in a non-DC or Marvel superhero.

Superhero School by Aaron Reynolds and Andy Rash, 2009.

Leonard was not surprised when his parents told him he was going to a special school for superheroes. After all, he was the only kid in his class who could hit a baseball into orbit, had clobbered a lava monster, and welded the Bay Bridge back together with heat vision. But he was very surprised (and disappointed) to learn the even at superhero school he still had to learn math! 

I was really disappointed with this book. I have used books by both Aaron Reynolds (Creepy Carrots) and Andy Rash (Are You A Horse?) before and had high hopes for this as a storytime book, but it is just too long, with way too much text for my preschool groups. But the story is good, and it shows that everyone, even superheroes, needs math.

Atomic Ace (He's Just My Dad) by Jeff Weigel, 2004.

In this story, the son of Atomic Ace describes what it is like to have a superhero for a dad, showing that at home he is just a typical dad, doing everyday family things. The story is told in a combination of comic book form and traditional text and illustrations.  The parts describing Atomic Ace as a superhero at work are told with graphic panels and speech bubbles, but the parts showing his home life are traditional drawings and text, emphasizing that at home he is just a "normal" dad.

Too long for preschool storytime, but good for a one-on-one read, or for an older group read-aloud. There is also a sequel, Atomic Ace and the Robot Rampage, in which villains accidentally target Atomic Ace's son by mistake.

Timothy And The Strong Pajamas by Viviane Schwarz, 2008.

Timothy wants to be strong, and tries drinking fortified milk, exercising, and thinking strong thoughts. But it isn't until his mother repaired his favorite pajamas with extra-strong thread, reinforced seems, sturdy patches, and extra buttons that he suddenly gains super strength and becomes a hero. But when he rips his pajamas and loses his super strength, the animals he had helped become his heroes.

A cute story, but probably not what most kids would want if they are asking for superhero books, but it is a good book about kindness and helping others.

Noodle Man: The Pasta Superhero by April Pulley Sayre and Stephan Costanza, 2002.

Al Dente's family owns a fresh pasta market, but business is lagging since everyone wants pizza.  Al invents a portable fresh pasta machine that has unintended consequences, leading Al to perform several heroic feats around the town, and saving the family business.

This book would be great for a family storytime, with all of it's silly puns that adults are more likely to get than children. This story would also work well for a food theme, along with Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs and Strega Nona, though they are all a bit too wordy for the younger kids. Several different types of pasta are shown in the endpapers, and there is information about pasta in the notes at the end.

Books With A Main Character *Pretending* To Be A Superhero: 

Ten Rules Of Being A Superhero by Deb Pilutti, 2014.

In this book a young boy pretending to be superhero sidekick Lava Boy presents the ten rules of being a superhero, such as a superhero must always respond to help, saving the day can be messy, superheros must be brave, etc. There are a couple of exceptions, and moms in particular don't get rule #2. But the most important rule of all is that all superheros need a sidekick, "Because saving the day is more fun with a friend."

I think this one would make a good storytime book. It it not too long or too heavy with text, the illustrations are bright and engaging, and it is clever and slightly humorous.

Super Jumbo by Fred Koehler, 2016.

Little Jumbo loves pretending to be a superhero, but his parents don't seem to appreciate his super strength, his speed, his crime-fighting methods, and especially not his making his cape from the living room drapes! But he still does what he can to lend a hand and help others, because "saving the day with a friend can make the world a little more super."

This book is short enough for storytime, and children can definitely relate to being misunderstood and unappreciated, seemingly getting in trouble "for nothing". It is also nice how it ends with the message of friendship making the world a better place.

Princess Super Kitty by Antoinette Portis, 2009.

Finally, one with a female protagonist! In this imaginative story, a little girl first pretends to be a cat, which then evolves into Super Kitty, a feline superhero with super strength, x-ray vision, and the power of flight. Then she become Princess Super Kitty, who wears jewels, issues royal decrees, and leads parades. Then, finally at bath time she becomes Water Lily Hula Porpoise Princess Super Kitty of the Sea.

This book is really more about using your imagination than superheroes, but it would still work for a superhero theme, and shows that girls can be whatever they want, whether it's a superhero or a princess. It would also be good to help include and engage the more "girly-girls" in a superhero themed program.

Super Hair-O And The Barber Of Doom by John Rocco, 2013.

In a story inspired by Sampson, a young boy and his friends believe they have superpowers imbued by their hair. The longer their hair grows, the stronger their powers are. Then, one day our hero is captured and dragged to the villainous barber's lair, who cuts off all of his hair. What will become of his superpowers? What will his superfriends think?

A cute story with engaging illustrations, short and simple enough for storytime. The best part is the author's school photo at the end, showing his hair just like the hero in the story.

Mighty Max by Harriet Ziefert and Elliot Kreloff, 2008.

Max is an adventurous little boy, perhaps a little too adventurous for his dad. On a day at the beach he pretends to be superhero Mighty Max, using his super strength to help unload the car, and saving a beach ball, a sand castle, and his lunch!

This book might work for storytime, as it's not too long and has a relate-able story. The illustrations look much like a child's crayon drawings and are colorful.

The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man by Michael Chabon and Jake Parker, 2011.

In this story we meet Awesome Man. He has a red cape, black mask, and a letter "A" on his chest. He can fly, cross time barriers, shoot positronic rays from his eyes, and has his trademark Power Grip. He changes to his secret identity to hide from villains, and retreats to his Fortress of Awesome to calm his anger and recharge after a battle. In the end, we see that his secret identity might not be who we first thought.

This is a little long for preschool storytime, but would probably work well as a one-on-one read or with kindergarten-2nd graders as a group read-aloud.  The illustrations are bright and engaging, looking more like modern animation than a comic book. It has a slight twist, as in the beginning it seems as the story is about a real superhero, but in the end it turns out to be a little boy pretending. There's plenty of action, but I also like how the author snuck in the message about controlling your anger and giving yourself a time-out to calm down and re-charge when overwhelmed or overtired.

Superdog: The Heart of a Hero by Caralyn & Mark Buehner, 2004
Dex: The Heart of a Hero, 2007 (later edition with new title)

Dex is a little dachshund, and the other animals in the neighborhood always make fun of him for being so little and short, especially Cleevis the tomcat. But Dex dreams of being a hero, so first he researches (at the library, of course!), then he begins working out, building his strength and stamina. When he is ready, he gets a superhero costume and starts rescuing those in need, despite still being teased. Then one day, his arch-nemesis Cleevis is stuck in a tree and needs rescuing!

This is a cute story with bright illustrations, but too long for storytime. It might work with older kids for a group read-aloud, but is probably better as a one-on-one. I love how little Dex learns to ignore the teasing and doesn't give up on his dreams, and I particularly appreciate that it shows him going to the library to do research. I think kids will like twist at the end when he gains a surprising sidekick.

Superhero Max by Lawrence David and Tara Calahan King, 2002.

Poor Max is the new kid in school, and having a little trouble making friends. But when he shows up in an awesome superhero costume for Halloween, the other kids are impressed and invite him to play, so he continues to wear his costume to school each day, even though his classmates have moved on to other games. Max gets frustrated and begins to act out, getting in trouble, but eventually learns to make friends by being himself and playing what others want to play sometimes.

This is another book that is pretty wordy, but it is a good lesson about learning to fit in while still being yourself, and learning to compromise. This is a lesson that some kids have a hard time with, learning that sometimes it is better to play what other people want to play in order to play together and have friends.

Books About Everyday Heroes:

I  wasn't really looking for everyday hero books for this list, but I did happen to come across a couple that I thought were worth mentioning since they could help round out a "Superhero" or "Hero" themed storytime (or would be good for Mother's Day or Father's Day). Please understand that I realize this is not, nor is it intended to be, representative or inclusive of all the other everyday heroes out there.

My Dad, My Hero by Ethan Long, 2011.

In this sweet story a young boy tells how his father is still *his* hero, even though he cannot leap tall buildings in a single bound, does not have super strength or x-ray vision, and cannot shoot webs from his wrists, because he spends time with him.  His dad may not be a superhero, but he is a super dad.

This book would be great for a hero, family, or Father's Day themed program. It is short enough for younger kids and has very bright colorful illustrations in simplified comic book style, and has a slightly humorous tone.

Hero Dad by Melinda Hardin and Bryan Langdo, 2010.

This story compares and contrasts a boy's soldier father with a superhero. He doesn't have x-ray vision, he has night vision. He isn't invisible, but he has camouflage. He carries a rifle instead of a laser gun. He has to go away for a long time, but that's what heroes do.

This story could be used in a superhero, everyday hero, or Father's Day storytime, and would be especially appreciated in communities with a higher number of military families. I like that it tells just a little about what soldiers do in a simple and age-appropriate way, to help younger children understand what their father is doing when he's away, and shows that other children are in the same situation. This would be particularly good for children who do not live on or very near a base and may not know many other children with parents in the military.

Hero Mom by Melinda Hardin and Bryan Langdo, 2013.

Similar to Hero Dad, except that instead of showing just one mother and child, it portrays several different children and their mothers, doing various jobs in the military, such as construction, pilot, mechanic, transport, and medic.

I like this book even better than the first, because by showing more than one family it not only portrays strong women performing several different important jobs, it also portrays various women and children of color. I would like to see a few more books in this series representing the other branches of the military, also.

Early Readers

I also came across a few early readers related to superheros (that were not Marvel/DC characters). I don't use these for storytime, but they are good for beginning readers to read independently, so I'm just going to briefly list them here:

Buzz Boy and Fly Guy by Tedd Arnold, 2010 - pretending to be superheroes
Oliver The Mighty Pig by Jean Van Leeuwen & Ann Schweninger, 2004 - pretending to be
Wedgieman series by Cherise Mericle Harper, 2012 - really is a superhero

So there you have it. I hope someone finds this helpful, and I'd love some feedback on these, or suggestions for others, especially from those of you who *are* fans of the superhero genre!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Shark Week 2016 - 10 More Picture Books About Sharks

Last year I put together a list of "10 Picture Books About Sharks" for Shark Week 2015, and I decided to see if I could come up with a few more this year. This year's list also includes some non-fiction picture books and a poetry book. If you know of any good ones that I've overlooked, please add them in the comments!  Discovery Shark Week and National Geographic's SharkFest start June 26.

The Little Fish Who Cried Shark! by Trish Phillips. August 25, 2009. Little Tiger Press. 16 pages. Ages 3-6.

Naughty Sprat is a little fish who likes to scare everyone else by yelling "Shark!"  He thinks it is so funny to watch them all scramble to hide, when there's really no shark around.  Or is there?

This is a great pop-up book that is obviously a re-telling of the folk tale, The Boy Who Cried Wolf.  Unfortunately, it is out-of-print and hard to find, but if you can get your hands on a copy in good condition, it's a great book for younger kids.

Shark In The Dark! by Nick Sharratt. September 3, 2009.  David Fickling Books. 24 pages. Ages 4-8.

In this lesser-known "fin-tastic" sequel to Shark In The Park, young Timothy Pope is looking out into the night with his telescope.  He thinks he sees a shark, but it always turns out to be something else.

Like the first book, this one would be great for storytime as the kids can guess whether what Timmy sees is a shark or not, and if not, what might it be?  I like that he is actually looking out to sea in this book, but some of the phrasing seems a little awkward to me.

Bored! Bored Bored! by Jill Newton. July 5, 2002. Bloomsbury USA Childrens. 32 pages. Ages 4-8.

Claude the shark is bored, bored, bored! The other sea creatures invite him to help with the community garden, but he is not interested in raking, planting, pruning, or watering. After all the work is done, there is a party for all those who helped in the garden, and Claude feels left out. Then he has an idea of how he can contribute, and discovers something he enjoys doing.

Children can easily related to feeling bored and having a hard time finding something they want to do, and what parent hasn't heard the whiny refrain "I'm so bored!"? The illustrations are bright and colorful, and children can try to name the different sea creatures depicted. This is a good story for sparking a discussion about the importance of everyone pitching in and working together.

Flip & Fin: We Rule the School by Timothy Gill, illustrated by Neil Numberman. April 22, 2014. Greenwillow Books. 32 pages. Ages 4-8.

Flip and Fin are sand shark twins.  Flip loves telling jokes, and is getting ready for Joke Day at school.  He practices and practices, trying out all kinds of jokes.  But when the day comes, he begins to get nervous and freezes on stage.  But luckily Fin is there to help him out.

This is a silly book, full of corny jokes and bad puns, with cute and colorful illustrations. It's a little long and the humor a little too sophisticated for most preschoolers, but would be great for kindergarten storytime and younger school-aged kids, especially those who are going through the joke-telling phase. There is also a page at the end with a few interesting facts about sand sharks and some of the other sea creatures in the story.

Shark Detective! by Jessica Olien. September 1 2015. Balzer + Bray. 32 pages. Ages 4-8.

Shark lives in the big city and dreams of being a detective. One day he notices a missing cat poster, and decides this is his big chance.  It does not go well at first, and he almost gives up, but in the end he "finds his man", which leads to another mystery and new friends.

Fans of Rachel Bright's Love Monster will likely enjoy this story as well, as they both show an unlikely hero searching for something and finding friendship when they least expect it, and both have bright, bold illustrations with heavy black outlines. It is also a good opportunity to talk about pursuing your dreams and not giving up, and I really like that is shows Shark beginning his investigation by first going to the library and doing research. This book is cute and a little bit funny and silly, and would likely work well in storytime with older preschoolers and younger school-aged children.

Shark and Lobster's Amazing Undersea Adventure by Viviane Schwarz, colored by Joel Stewart. May 9, 2006. Candlewick. 40 pages. Ages 3-7.

Shark has become frightened after hearing of a fearsome creature called a "tiger" and convinces the other sea creatures that the need to build a fortress for protection.  But, once the fortress is finished, they decide they also need a giant sea monster to guard it and try to drag one up from the deep.  But things don't quite work out as they planned...

This is not one of my favorites, and would probably not work well as a group read-aloud, but some kids would probably love it. It is not a traditional picture book, but is instead told in graphic novel format with panels and speech bubbles. It is a good story about facing your fears and learning not to be afraid.

How To Spy On A Shark by Lori Haskins Houran, illustrated by Francisca Marquez. March 1, 2015. Albert Whitman & Company. 24 pages. Ages 4-7.

This non-fiction picture book shows some of the steps involved in studying sharks, with very brief, short explanations just right for very young kids and early readers, with fairly realistic drawings.  

This book is the perfect level and amount of information for younger kids who are curious about sharks and how they are studied, but are easily overwhelmed with too many details.  I like that the more detailed information is given at the end so that an adult can read and discuss it with the child(ren).  This would be good for a beginning reader, or could work for a storytime to introduce some factual information.

Hark! A Shark! by Bonnie Worth, illustrated by Aristedes Ruiz. January, 2013. Random House Books for Young Readers. 48 pages. Ages 4-8.

This is part of The Cat In The Hat's Learning Library, a series of non-fiction books written in Seussian style. These books are educational AND entertaining. They are full of facts and information, but written with a rhyme and rhythm inspired by Dr. Seuss that is fun to read and listen to.

I highly recommend this series! They are a little on the longer side, so better for kids with longer attention spans, but the rhyming text does help keep them engaged.

My Little Golden Book About Sharks by Bonnie Bader, illustrated by Steph Laberis. June 28, 2016. Golden Books. 24 pages. Ages 2-5.

This is another non-fiction picture book that will be released this year during Shark Week.  Children will appreciate the bright, realistic illustrations and enjoy learning factual information about sharks.  

Little Golden Books typically are too small and have too much text for storytime, but are great for one-on-one or independent reading.

Slickety Quick - Poems About Sharks by Skila Brown, illustrated by Bob Kolar. March 8, 2016. Candlewick. 32 pages. Ages 6-9.

A book of poetry all about sharks!  Fourteen different shark species are described in poems of various formats that are both fun and informational.  The illustrations are clear and colorful, and just the right balance between cartoon-y and realistic for younger kids.

I think this book would be a really fun way to introduce younger readers to poetry, providing the opportunity not only to learn about sharks, but also various types and formats of poems. 

Don't forget to check out my previous list for even more great shark stories! For more non-fiction books to learn about sharks, check your local library in the 597.3's.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Cute As A Bug - Preschool Storytime

Last week I finished up a 2-week rotation with a "Bug" theme on the Storytime Bus, which I usually plan to coincide with late spring/early summer when there are lots of bugs outside. This is one theme that is easy to find a number of good books for!

I tried to start each storytime by talking about how some bugs are helpful, since so many people still seem to think the only good bug is a dead one. I talked about how bees make honey and pollinate flowers, lady bugs kill aphids that damage our plants, dragonflies eat mosquitoes, spiders catch annoying flies, butterflies are pretty, and fireflies are just cool! Then we did our "Letter-of-the-Day", which was the letter "Bb", and sing our story song to help us settle down and be ready for our first story.

The Books
The Very Greedy Bee by Steve Smallman and Jack Tickle seems to be an overlooked gem. I came across it shelf reading a while back and knew it would be great for storytime. It has humor, suspense, vocabulary, and a good lesson about not being greedy and being kind to others. The illustrations are cute, bright, colorful, and very engaging. I highly recommend it!

Jan Thomas' books are always a big hit with their silliness, limited text, and simple, bold illustrations. In Can You Make A Scary Face? a lady bug invites us to play pretend, after first making us stand up, sit down, and stand up again. This book is very interactive and great for a movement activity, and it even has us doing the chicken dance!

The Honeybee and the Robber is a great pull-tab book from Eric Carle that I had never seen before. We follow the honeybee through her daily activities and back to the hive, when suddenly a bear shows up, trying to break into the hive and steal their honey. Unfortunately this book is out-of-print and hard to find, so it you come across a used copy in good condition at a reasonable price, snap it up!

The Very Busy Spider is another book from Eric Carle, with a spider who is so busy spinning her web, she can't even take time to answer the other animals when they invite her to play. This is a simple story, but the kids enjoy it, and most will join in saying the repeated line "She was very busy spinning her web."

In Emma Dodd's I Love Bugs a young boy shows us lots of different kinds of bugs, ending with a spider. The illustrations are cute, slightly abstract, and colorful, and the text is very descriptive and has a nice rhythm without rhyming. The audience can try to identify each bug, but will probably need a little help with some of them, so it's a good idea to be sure the adult knows what they all are.

Paul Stickland's Big Bug Little Bug is subtitled "a book of opposites", but some of the word pairs are more contrasting than true opposites, but it is still a fun book with big, bold, colorful illustrations of bugs, some real, some fantasy, that ends in a huge, wonderfully impressive pop-up. This book is great for younger kids, but does okay with older preschoolers as well.

Butterfly, Butterfly by Petr Horacek is another good book for younger kids. As Lucy searches for her butterfly friend she played with the day before, she discovers many other bugs and small creatures. The audience can identify the bugs and/or their colors, then be amazed when the large, beautiful butterfly pops up at the end.

Like the others in the series, Snappy Little Bugs by Claire Nielson is a great little pop-up book that preschoolers almost always love. Some may feel the illustrations and text are a bit juvenile for older preschoolers, but I find they still enjoy it because of the pop-ups.

Good Night, Sweet Butterflies by Melanie Garth, Dawn Betley, and Heather Calhoon is great for 2-3 year olds and gives the opportunity to work on counting, subtraction, and colors as the sparkly butterflies settle in for the night one by one. The rhyming text is simple and while the illustrations are bright and focus mainly on a single color, but are filled with lots of other bugs and creatures.

How Many Bugs in a Box? by David Carter is part of a whole series of pop-up books featuring little bugs. In this book, the bugs start off looking something like real bugs, but then they become more silly and fantastical, with fish-bugs, frog-bugs, and ending with saw-bugs. Not only is it entertaining with the cute pop-up bugs and has counting, it also works on descriptive terms, such as colors, patterns, size, shape, etc.

The Activities

"Here Is The Beehive"

Here is the beehive,
Where are the bees?
Hidden inside, where nobody sees.
Count them as they come out of the hive.
One, two, three, four, five.

I used my homemade finger-puppet glove and a picture of a beehive for this (idea and printables courtesy of Sunflower Storytime), but you can also use your fist as the beehive, and extend your fingers out one by one for the bees, which is what I have the audience do. At the end, I "buzz" all the kids with my bees, eliciting lots of squeals and giggles, and frequent requests to do it again.


"Can You Move Like Me?"
(to the tune of "Do Your Ears Hang Low")

Can you wiggle like a worm?
Can you squiggle can you squirm?
Can you flutter, can you fly,
Like a gentle butterfly?
Can you crawl upon the ground
Like a beetle that is round?
Can you move like me?

Can you flip? Can you flop?
Can you give a little hop?
Can you slither like a snake?
Can you give a little shake?
Can you dance like a bee
That is buzzing 'round the tree?
Can you move like me?

The video above shows the movements that go with it.


"Itsy Bitsy Spider"

The itsy, bitsy spider climbed up the water spout.
("walk" hands up like spider)

Down came the rain and washed the spider out.
(flutter fingers down, the sweep hands out to either side)

Out came the sun and dried up all the rain.
(make circle with hands over head)

And the itsy, bitsy spider climbed up the spout again.
("walk" hands up like spider)


"The Bugs Go...."
(to the tune of "The Wheels On The Bus")

The fireflies in the sky go Blink, blink, blink.
Blink, blink, blink; Blink, blink, blink.
The fireflies in the sky go Blink, blink, blink,
All night long.

[I let the kids suggest the bugs and action/sound, but here are some possibilities]:

The crickets in the grass go Chirp, chirp, chirp....all night long.

The bees in the hive go Buzz, buzz, buzz.....all day long.

The butterflies in the sky go Flutter, flutter, flutter....all day long.

The grasshoppers in the grass go Hop, hop, hop....all day long.

The caterpillars in the grass go Wriggle (or Munch)....all day long.

The ants on the ground go March, march, march....all day long.

How It Went 
The kids seemed to really enjoy this theme, even though there were always a few that could not be convinced that spiders were not bad. I had one little boy who had just turned 3 and was very apprehensive about getting on the bus for the first time, but once he saw the bug decorations became very excited and enthusiastic. I had another older boy that was just amazed when I showed them how the lowercase "b" could be changed into the letters "d", "p", and "q", just by turning it backwards and/or upside down.

All the books were pretty well received, but the older kids particularly liked the silly fun of Can You Make A Scary Face?, and they really seemed to like the story of The Greedy Bee, and how the bee learned a valuable lesson from his ordeal and became a changed bee. I think it really appeals to their sense of justice when a character suffers the consequences of his actions, but they also like the sense of hopefulness and redemption when a "bad" character leans his lesson and mends his ways. The younger kids loved the pop-up books and the pretty, glittery butterflies in Good Night, Sweet Butterflies.

All of the songs and rhymes worked well since the involved sounds and/or movements, and of course everyone knew the Itsy, Bitsy Spider.  As usual they all loved feigning being scared when I "buzzed" them with my finger-puppet bees.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Surprise! - Preschool Storytime Featuring Books With Unexpected Endings

Today's storytime didn't really have a theme per se, but all the books did end with an unexpected twist. This was because I recently put together a couple of lists of books with surprise endings (one light, one dark), and as I was checking out some of the books suggested by other youth services professionals I came across a couple I really liked and couldn't wait to use!

We started with our welcome song and very brief introduction, and then sang our "story song". The first book I chose to read was Wolf's Coming! by Joe Kulka (the first book he has written and illustrated, rather than just illustrated). I could see right away that this would be a great storytime book! 

The story builds suspense as the animals call "Wolf's coming!" and run inside to hide, as the wolf gets closer, and closer! The dark illustrations and Wolf's fierce appearance help set the suspenseful mood. Then, Wolf is finally there, all the animals hide, then........jump out and yell "Surprise!", because it's Wolf's birthday!

We sang "Happy Birthday" to Wolf, then followed that up with: 

"If You're A Wolf And You Know It"

If your'e a wolf and you know it, scratch your fleas!
If you're a wolf and you know it, scratch your fleas!
If you're a wolf and you know it,
Then your fleas will surely show it!
If you're a wolf and you know it, scratch your fleas!

If you're a wolf and you know it, growl at night....

If you're a wolf and you know it, howl at the moon....

If you're a wolf and you know it, do all three....

Next we read Hippospotamus by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross. This is a funny, silly rhyming story about a poor Hippopotamus who has a red spot on her bottom and is concerned about what it could be. All the other animals have different theories, such as measles, hippopox, jungle fever, potamumps, allergies, etc., and recommend different treatments, to no avail. The spot still remains. Then a young boy comes around and seems to be looking for something he might have lost. He spies the hippo and says, "That's not a spot!.......That's my bubblegum!" as he pulls the gum off the hippo's bottom and puts in back in his mouth.

The illustrations are bright and colorful, not too detailed, though the addition of "-otamus" to so many other words sometimes can get a little tedious. I knew as soon as I saw it that it would be great to pair with the "Icky Sticky Bubble Gum" song that is a hit with my co-worker's regular storytime crowd.

"Icky Sticky Bubble Gum"

Icky, sticky, sticky, sticky bubble gum, 
Bubble gum, bubble gum.
Icky, sticky, sticky, sticky bubble gum
Makes my hands stick to my _____.

And I pull, and pull, and *puuulllll* them away!

Repeat for as many verses as desired. We did knees, belly, elbows, shoulders, friend, & head. (There are various versions of this song, but I modeled mine after David Landau's.)

Our last book was Pardon Me! by Daniel Miyares. This story is told mostly with the illustrations, as the text is rather sparse. A small parrot is looking for a place to perch and rest in a swampy area, but there are no trees. Finally, he spots a small plot of land where he can stop to rest. He is soon joined by a large white heron, a frog, and a turtle, each saying "pardon me" as they crowd him more and more. 

He has finally had enough, and when the fox says "Pardon me, but you're sitting on a...", the parrot interrupts him in a loud fit of frustration, scaring the other animals away. He is glad to have his little island all to himself again, but soon realizes he should have let the fox finish his sentence as his island turns out to be a crocodile! A little dark, but a good lesson in not interrupting!

Then we concluded with our closing song, and stickers.

How It Went
I had a pretty small group today, started with 7 and ended with 9, because of some being on vacation and others sleeping late, which was kind of nice for a change. They were easier to manage and we had more fun with having more space and being able to be a little more relaxed.

They loved Wolf's Coming!, though the suspense was almost too much for them by the end. I saw lots of wide eyes and heard several gasps and whispers of "He's going to eat them!" so they were happily relieved to get to the end and discover it was just Wolf's birthday, and enjoyed singing "Happy Birthday" to him. Most liked Hippospotamus as well, and were really curious to find out just what the spot was, but I did lose the attention of a few. I think adding "-otamus" to so many other words made it confusing and hard to follow for some of the younger ones. They were all properly grossed out at then end when the boy pulled his bubble gum off the hippo's butt and put it in his mouth, with a collective "Ewwwww!".

Pardon Me! did not go over quite as well, they didn't like the sparsity of text and wanted more of a story, and only a few really got the ending, but the ones that did laughed at the dark humor. Of course the "If Your'e A Wolf And You Know It" was a hit like any activity that involves making animal sounds, especially howling or roaring, and they really liked the "Icky Sticky Bubble Gum" song, even the teachers seemed to enjoy it.

And the biggest complement of all, was as I was gathering my things, I noticed the teacher had pulled together a large plastic hippopotamus toy, another book with a hippo (might have even been non-fiction), and a CD called "Jazz Wolf" (soft jazz music with wolves howling in the background) to play at nap time. I always take it as a huge compliment when the teachers extend the themes from my storytime after I leave.