Friday, July 27, 2018

Shark Week 2018 - Even More Picture Books About Sharks

I didn't put together a list last year as I didn't think there were a significant number of new shark books to add, but this year I was really hoping to add some new material to my usual "Shark Week" repertoire, so I searched our catalog and I did find a few new picture books (links to my previous two lists are at the end):

Misunderstood Shark by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Scott Magoon; April 24, 2018. Orchard Books. 48 pages. Ages 4-8.

This book is right up my alley with it's dark humor and sprinkling of factual information. The filming of an underwater show is interrupted by a shark, who seems to be on the verge of eating a poor fish on live TV! But, when he realizes he has an audience, he swears he is misunderstood; he was only showing the fish his loose tooth. He finally convinces everyone he is just misunderstood, only to reveal his true self in the end. Funny, but definitely for older kids due to the dark humor and length.

Smiley Shark by Ruth Galloway; March 1 2017 (first released in 2003). Tiger Tales. 32 pages. Ages 3-7.

This is a cute story for the younger or more sensitive kids. Smiley Shark is trying his very best to make friends, but his well-intentioned smile just scares everyone away because of his huge teeth. But then one day, the others are caught in a fisherman's net! Can Smiley Shark's teeth save the day? The ending is a slight twist from what most people are likely to expect, so ask the audience first how they think Smiley can help, and see what they come up with.

Benny Shark Goes to Friend School by Lynn Rowe Reed, illustrated by Rhode Montijo; July 11, 2017. Two Lions. 32 pages. Ages 3-7.

Benny is not very friendly; in fact, he is rather grouchy, rude, and a bit of a bully. But he soon realizes that he is lonely without friends to play with, and tries to make friends with the other sea creatures by ordering them to play with him. Janice Jellyfish kindly explains that's not how it works, and takes him to Friend School, where he learns to share, be polite, and listen. But, when the ultimate test of friendship comes, will Benny make the right choice? 

There Was an Old Mermaid Who Swallowed a Shark! by Lucille Colandro, illustrated by Jared Lee. March 27, 2018. Cartwheel Books. 64 pages. Ages 4-8

Like all the others, this book is mostly pure silliness with a nice rhythm and rhyme, but this one also sprinkles in a few facts, with more factual information at the end. Kids who are familiar with this series will especially love it. Though I like the idea of facts being sprinkled in, they interfered with the rhythm a little bit. I liked how it ended with it all being a daydream and nobody in danger of dying.

The Pout-Pout Fish and the Bully-Bully Shark by Deborah Diesen, illustrated by Dan Hanna; September 5, 2017. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. 32 pages. Ages 3-7.

Mr. Fish and his friends are having fun, until a bully shark comes along. Can Mr. Fish find the strength to speak up for himself and his friends? This has a similar rhyme and rhythm to the original, and has a good (if a bit heavy-handed) message, but lacks the magic of the first book and doesn't have the catchy, repeated phrases. It would be better for a lap-read than a group read aloud.

Big Shark, Little Shark by Anna Membrino, illustrated by Tim Budgen; May 9, 2017. Random House Books for Young Readers. 32 pages. Ages 3-6.

I don't normally use early readers for storytime because they are so small, the text is short and choppy, and some of them are 50-60 pages long, but I would make an exception for this one. I think this would would work for storytime for a small group of toddlers and just-turned 3-year olds. It is short, and has very simple text focusing on contrasting terms as the two sharks try and fail at catching lunch, until they work together.

Shark Nate-O by Tara Luebbe & Becky Cattie, illustrated by Daniel Duncan; April 3, 2018. Little Bee Books. 40 pages. Ages 4-8.

This is probably one of my favorites of this year's finds, and I am sad I didn't get the chance to use in in storytime (but there's always next year). Nate is a little boy who loves sharks and knows quite a bit about them, but surprisingly, Nate doesn't know how to swim. The story follows Nate as he learns to swim, eventually joining the swim team!

There are references to various species of sharks throughout the story, followed up by two pages of facts at the end. But my favorite thing about this book are the references to the two most well known shark movies. The title is obviously a nod to the campy, so-awful-it's-funny Sharknado movie franchise, and there are also references to the movie that started it all, Jaws; Nate apparently lives in the town of Amity and at one point he tells his swim teacher that "We're going to need a bigger float". 

I love it when children's materials include a few jokes for the adults' benefit as well. This book is a bit longer and probably best suited for older preschooler and school-aged kids, and would be great for family storytimes with plenty of adults to appreciate the references.

For more books about sharks, check out my previous "Shark Week" bibliographies: 

For non-fiction books to learn factual information about sharks, visit your local library and look in the 597.3's.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Shark Week Storytime Plan

This is the first year since I started doing storytime 4 years ago that I won't get to do a "Shark Week" storytime, because I changed jobs and as it works out, I won't do a storytime in my new job until regular programing resumes in September. I'm a little bummed, as it's one of my very favorite themes, but it couldn't be helped.

However, I DO have the "Shark Week" storytime plan that I prepared for the interview that got me the new job. It uses components I've used in previous Shark Week storytimes, plus a couple of new additions.

Storytime always starts with our welcome song, then I have several things to include as part of the introduction. First up is the shark puppet above  to greet the kids with his toothy grin, and many kids will want him to "bite" their fingers. Then I would use a non-fiction book like this one to show some different kinds of sharks and share a couple of interesting facts.

Next, I have a couple of things for "show & tell". One is a small collection of fossilized shark teeth I found while vacationing on Manasota Key, Florida, and the other is something I made to let the kids get a sense of what a shark's skin feels like. Many assume it would be smooth, possibly slippery or even slimy because sharks are fish, but in fact it is rough and feels much like sandpaper. I searched everyone and finally found dark gray sandpaper and cut out a shark shape and glued it to a piece of cardstock and added detail and shading with a white colored pencil and a sharpie. The kids can then "pet" the shark and feel its rough "skin".

After that is my usual lead-in song, "If You're Ready For A Story".

The book that I read for
my interview is one I've done many times, and have so much fun doing, The Three Little Fish and the Big Bad Shark by Ken Geist and Julia Gorton. It's obviously a re-telling of the classic Three Little Pigs, but I think is even more fun. I love all the repetition, which makes it easy for the kids to participate and say it along with you.

Another fun book is the classic Shark In The Park! by Nick Sharratt (or the sequel, Shark In The Dark). In this story, Timothy Pope is at the park, looking through his telescope; he looks up, he looks down, he looks all around. He keeps thinking he sees the dorsal fin of a shark, but it turns out to be something else. 

This is particularly good for younger kids, as the text is short and simple, and they can can pretend to look through their telescopes as well, and predict whether Timothy Pope really sees a shark, identify what it really is, and make the appropriate animal sounds.

I was excited when I first discovered this great pop-up shark story, that is also a re-telling of a classic folk tale, The Little Fish Who Cried Shark by Trish Phillips. (It is out of print, but I was happy with the two used copies I ordered from Amazon.) 

Little Sprat loves playing tricks, and his favorite is to yell "Shark!" and watch everyone scramble to hide. But he eventually learns that sharks are nothing to joke about! This one is slightly heavier on text, but it has a good rhyme and rhythm, and kids LOVE the last page with a giant pop-up shark!

A final book I had as an option for older kids is the latest installment of the There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a.... series that is perfect for a Shark or Ocean theme, There Was An Old Mermaid Who Swallowed A Shark by Lucille Colandro and Jared Lee. 

Older kids who know the original song love all the other versions, and love the pure silliness of them. This one has a few facts about the various creatures sprinkled in, with more detailed information in the notes at the end.

I have several fun songs to with these theme that I've used before: Baby Shark, Slippery Fish, and The Creatures In The Ocean Go.... (to the tune of "Wheels On The Bus", and let the audience suggest animals and sounds/motions to go with them). Then for my interview I made two new felt sets that I've featured earlier for "Flannel Friday". I'll show the pictures, and link to the original Flannel Friday posts for all the details.

And finally, a craft. This is something new for me, as we did not do crafts in outreach storytimes since we did so many. I saw some that I liked, but did not think they were appropriate for the younger kids I would expect for this particular storytime, so I settled on this simple one that used a CD or similar circular pattern to create pieces to assemble into a shark that greatly resembles a certain literary shark.


While I haven't had the chance to put this exact plan into practice yet, evidently the hiring committee liked it, because I just finished my second week in the position! Right now I'm just working the desk, but will start regular programming in September, with one family storytime and one school-aged STEAM program each month.

Friday, July 13, 2018

A New Chapter Begins....

I'm excited to say, this week I started a new job! 

For the last three years I have worked in the Outreach Services department providing early literacy programming to preschoolers in daycares and schools all around the city, averaging about 12 sessions per week (with a 20 hour work week), plus providing early literacy training to childcare workers at 2 events each year, doing some school-aged STEAM programming in the summers, and working at the children's service desk in our main downtown library one afternoon a week.

There were a lot of things that were great about this job, I had a great manager who had a very collaborative management style and was open to others' ideas and let me try new things. As a result, I got a great deal of programming experience in a relatively short time, vastly increased my knowledge of picture books, authors, and illustrators, and gained experience presenting. It was great for the the first two years, but approaching the end of my third year I was starting to burn out. I LOVE doing preschool storytime, but found it too much of a good thing to be doing so much of that, and not much of anything else, plus it was putting serious strain on my vocal cords.

I found I really missed working in a children's department and having a wider variety of duties, being able to form deeper, more long-term relationships with the kids and families, and each day being a little different. So when a position opened up in the children's department in the branch that was closest to my home, where my previous supervisor was now the branch manager, I knew it was time for a change!

So now I am a Library Associate in the Children's Department of one of our busiest branches, and it's going to be quite a change. I will be doing far fewer storytimes, just one family storytime a month at least initially. I will also be doing a school-age STEAM program once a month, and probably some other programs as I get settled in. Right now everyone is still in summer reading survival mode, and regular programming will resume in September. Much of my job will be customer service, including RA and reference, which I have really missed.

The schedule is a little weird, as it's all over the place: 1 morning, 2 afternoons, and 1 evening; plus one weekend a month, but in the long run I think it will be a good thing, as I will see a broad cross-section of patrons and activity, and it will give opportunities for a broad range of programming for various ages. It has been super busy so far, but it's a good busy, and makes the shift go by fast! Just as I've always heard, branch life is very different from working at the main library downtown! It's a whole new world....with a shorter commute! 😉

Next week I'll share the storytime plan that helped get me the job 😊.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Sink or Float? - Buoyancy STEAM Program

My department was asked by one of our clients to provide a program that might somehow tie in with their topic of the week, which was the Titanic, and "Sink or Float?" seemed like an obvious place to start.

My first thought was to have them test various items, then to compare the same material in different forms, such as a flat piece of aluminum foil versus a crumpled piece, versus a folded piece and experiment with folding and shaping the same piece of aluminum foil to see if it could hold more weight. I also wanted to do the same thing with clay, comparing how a ball would float or sink, versus a flattened piece, verses a piece molded into a more boat-like shape and seeing if it would hold weight as described on the Playdough to Plato blog. 

These activities would let them observe how both density and water-displacement affected buoyancy. I then envisioned them using this knowledge in designing and building their own boat using provided materials and seeing whose could hold the most weight. However, we ended up going a different route because of very limited time to plan and gather supplies, and we found out the kids were going to be on the younger side this year. So, instead we made use of several Lakeshore kits we already had on hand, and supplemented with a few other items.

Time: 45 minutes to 1 hour

Age: 5-10 (most of our participants were around 8)

Budget: $20 for up to 10 participants, plus $75 for optional, reusable STEM kits.

Sink or float, float or sink, buoyancy, STEAM, STEM program


  • *Lakeshore kits are entirely optional, and used for convenience as we already owned them. They can mostly be replicated with items you may have on hand or can obtain easily, but do have some nice activity suggestions.

1. Using several of the items from the first kit and other items, let the kids each take a turn dropping things in the water to observe if they will float or sink, AFTER they first examine them, consider size and weight, and make predictions.

Coke vs Diet Coke Sink or Float2. Make predictions and then test the Coke vs. Diet Coke. We expected that the Coke would sink and the Diet Coke would float, as led to believe by internet videos, but we did not find that to be the case.

However, there is a very slight, but definite difference. The regular Coke does not sink, but floats just at the surface, while the Diet Coke floated about 1 cm above the surface (we used the 6 oz mini cans).

Key Lime vs. Lime Sink or Float, Float or Sink3. Then compare the two types of lime and the lemon side by side after encouraging participants to make predictions. This is one internet tip that did hold up in our test! 

The kids will likely expect them to be the same, or that the larger lime might sink and the smaller one float, but it's the Key lime that is actually more dense and will sink. [Fun Fact: The "regular" Persian lime is actually a cross between the Key lime and lemon.]

Sink or Float, Float or Sink, Buoyancy4. Place a flat piece of aluminum foil in the water and observe it floats (mostly due to surface tension). Ask them to predict what will happen if you crumple it up (it will still float because of trapped air, i.e. lower density). Then ask them to predict what it will do if you fold up an identical piece (several times until very small).

Float or Sink, Sink or Float, Buoyancy5. Then, fold up the sides of another identical piece and then show that it can hold more weight and remain floating than a flat piece due to water displacement; this is why ships that weigh many tons and are made of steel can float. 

(In this test, the flat piece could hold the weight of 16 pennies without sinking, while the piece folded into a boat-shape could hold 26 pennies without sinking.)

6. If you have a waterproof, oil-based clay, try different shapes: ball, flat "raft", boat-shaped.

Float or Sink, Sink or Float, Buoyancy
7. Try a couple of the suggested activities in the Lakeshore STEM Science Station kit. For example, put one of the plastic boats in the water, then let the kids take turns adding the little plastic "jewels" to see how many it could hold before it sank. The kids will likely instinctively distribute them evenly.

8. Repeat, but add jewels to just one side of the boat and observe how it holds fewer when the weight is distributed unevenly.

9. Discuss the observed results and how size, weight, density, shape, and weight distribution affect buoyancy.

We then got out the Design & Play STEAM Boat kit and let each kid put together their own boat, of their own design, then tested them in a large, shallow tub of water to see how they would sail. The kids could make adjustment to their design if desired, and then we had a sailboat race.
How It Went

It went pretty well, and even though "Sink or Float" is a basic activity that is often done with kids as young as 3, they really seemed to enjoy it, especially with some of the unexpected outcomes. I was disappointed that the Coke (more dense because of all the sugar) vs. Diet Coke did not work as dramatically as internet videos would suggest; perhaps the larger 12oz cans would work better?

I wish I had realized we had the "STEM Science Station" kit earlier, and had time to look it over more carefully. It goes beyond the simple "Sink or Float" activities, and involves more critical thinking. However, it is a little pricey, though, so I'm not sure I would buy it if we didn't already have it on hand. The activities could be replicated fairly easily, though.

The Design & Play kits were a little too simplistic I thought, and involved really very little creativity and design input from the kids. Everyone got an identical styrofoam hull, then there were tall and short masts, two sizes of sails, flags, and small styro blocks they could add and arrange however they wanted. The masts did not really fit securely into the foam, either, and kept falling over. But it did give them something to make and take home.

If I were to do it again, I would have them each experiment with shaping the foil and clay to see who could come up with a boat that would hold the most weight, and for older kids, give them an assortment of building materials and let them design and build their own boats from scratch. The engineering class at the local high school has a competition each year where teams build boats out of nothing but cardboard and duct tape, and then they take them to the local pool and race them. It's amazing how well some of them work!