Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Picture Book Review - The Very Impatient Caterpillar

I have not seen very many picture books in the last year that I really liked, and even fewer that I was excited about using in storytime. I loved Stuff of Stars and Dreamers that came out in the fall, but they aren't really storytime books. I did find Misunderstood Shark and its brand new sequel very funny and fully of the dark humor I love, plus interesting facts, but they are better for an older audience than I currently see.

But this week I was excited to finally come across a new picture book that I liked, and could see using with the kids I have now! We all know Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, but now meet another caterpillar:

Review of The Very Impatient Caterpillar by Ross Burach
The VERY Impatient Caterpillar 
Written & illustrated by Ross Burach
February 26, 2019
Scholastic Press

This book is so funny and entertaining, with a theme everyone can relate to, being impatient.

One caterpillar sees all the other caterpillars scurrying up the tree and wants to know what is going on. One responds that they are going to metamorphosize. "Meta-WHAT-now?" he exclaims. At first he can't believe he can really turn into a butterfly, but he follows and does what everyone else does.

However, he finds that waiting to become a butterfly is a slow process, and two weeks seems like forever. He keeps asking if he's a butterfly yet, tries to occupy himself, but he can't stand it.

Review of The Very Impatient Caterpillar by Ross Burach

After emerging early only to find he is most definitely not a butterfly yet, he finally settles down and uses breathing techniques to relax and go to sleep, while mother nature does her thing. He emerges as a beautiful butterfly, and has learned a valuable lesson in patience.

Review of The Very Impatient Caterpillar by Ross Burach

Or has he?

I think older kids and adults will more fully appreciate the humor, but I think it is basic enough that even the younger kids will find it funny as well. I like the short, simple text and the bold, bright illustrations that aren't too busy and are very expressive. The middle seems to go on just a teeny bit too long, so if you have a younger audience, you might want to skip a couple of pages, or some of the dialog. The text is all dialog in the form of speech bubbles, and fans of Mo Willem's Pigeon and Elephant & Piggie books are sure to like this one!

I do love that it uses the correct word, chrysalis rather than cocoon (moths come out of cocoons, not butterflies), and contains the word "metamorphosize" to get in some great vocabulary. Besides being funny, it can lead to learning more factual information about caterpillars and butterflies, other animals that undergo metamorphosis (like tadpoles to frogs), and/or talking about learning to be patient and coping techniques to help us be patient.

I really liked this one and can't wait to use it in a "Bug" or "Butterfly" themed storytime soon, and I think I'll have to give his Truck Full of Ducks another look!

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Lions, Tigers, & Bears 2019 - Family Storytime

I first did this theme about 3 years ago, after seeing someone else mention it and thinking it would be fun (and it was!). I thought it would be perfect for the younger crowd I get for this weekend family storytime as it embraces their natural inclination to be wiggly and noisy, rather than fighting it, and I was able to find a great new set of books to use for it.

We started with our welcome song and introduction. I asked if anyone knew what movie the line "lions, tigers, and bears; oh my!" came from. None of the kids really did, but a couple of them were fed the answer by their parents (The Wizard of Oz, if you didn't know). Then we talked about how to distinguish lions and tigers, and some different types of bears. 

Lions, tigers, and bears storytimer
Then we sang our story song to get settled for our first book, Don't Wake Up the Tiger! by Britta Teckentrup. This is such a great book for younger, wiggly crowds! It's fairly short and simple, with bold, bright illustrations and very interactive. 

Tiger is asleep, but the other animals need to get past her with their big bunch of balloons, without waking her up. Frog has the great idea to float over her with a balloon. But the animals need the audience to help keep Tiger asleep by rubbing her nose and belly, and singing her a lullaby. At the end, it turns out it's Tiger's birthday, and we all sing her "Happy Birthday".

lions, tigers, and bears storytimeSince we sang two songs as part of the story, I asked the kids if the wanted to do a song, or go right to another book, and they wanted a story! For the second story I read our longest one, Lion Lessons by Jon Agee, which was another interactive story with lots of movement about a boy who is taking lessons on how to be a lion, from a real lion! (I should've done it first to be true to our theme, but I was hesitant since it was longer.)

There are stretches, looking fierce, roaring, sprinting, eating, hiding, and pouncing, and the boy doesn't perform to the lion's standards. But then he excels in the last test, looking out for a friend. This was a really fun book! (For a somewhat similar one, check out You Are a Lion! by Taeeun Yoo that does lots of different animal yoga poses).

Then it was time for a song where we could pretend to be lions even more!

If You're A Lion...

If you're a lion and you know it, give a ROAR!
If you're a lion and you know it, give a ROAR!
If you're a lion and you know it, then your ROAR will surely show it.
If you're a lion and you know it, give a ROAR!

Shake your mane, show your claws, give a growl, swish your tail...

lions, tigers, and bears storytime
Then it was time for one last story, and I asked them which animal did we have left to talk about, and they quickly responded "Bears!" I chose this sweet, simple book by Nancy Tafuri that I had not seen before, Mama's Little Bears. This has sparse text and follows three little cubs as they explore their surrounds while Mama fishes a little while longer. 

This is great for positional prepositions as they look over, under, in, up, and down and discover blueberries, birds, salamanders, mice, otters, and owls (all mothers with young as well). In the end they call for Mama, and she finds them and they give each other big bear hugs, which prompts all the caregivers to give their little ones hugs as well.

We followed with a song that included all 3 animals:

You Can Hear...
(to the tune of "She'll Be Comin' 'Round the Mountain")

You can hear lions roaring at the zoo...ROAR, ROAR
You can hear lions roaring at the zoo...ROAR, ROAR
You can hear lions roaring, you can hear lions roaring,
You can hear lions roaring at the zoo...ROAR, ROAR

tigers growling.....bears snoring....

And then sang our closing song and brought out the optional craft.

Since we get such a young crowd, I try to keep the crafts as simple as possible. I saw a picture on Pinterest of a simple "mask" to resemble a bear, made from a paper plate with the center cut out for the child's face to peek through. I decided to that, but provide materials and examples for all three options.

I cut out the plates, sorted out crayons in shades of yellow, orange, brown, and black; provided scrap paper in brown, yellow, and orange for cutting out ears, and curved pieces of brown for lion manes, plus craft stick handles, scissors, and tape.

Lion, tiger, or bear cutout mask craft

How It Went
I had a decent turnout today, with about 10 kids, mostly age 2-4, with a couple just under 2 and one older sibling around 6-8, and we had a lot of fun. The kids really enjoyed the theme and getting to participate with the story in Don't Wake Up The Tiger! and acting like lions and other animals with Lion Lessons and the songs. They did a great job identifying the animals in Mama's Little Bears, but were stumped by the otters.

I think I got the most participation and answering of question by the children today, as compared to any other of these weekend family storytimes I've done. Two or three of them couldn't stay sitting and often wondered around or up close to me, and I told their parents that they were fine and we don't expect the little ones to sit still and be quiet, and they often are listening better and absorb more than we think.

As usual, several skipped the craft, but the ones that did it seemed to really get into it, adding additional details like whiskers. All in all, it was a really great storytime!

Monday, March 4, 2019

Dr. Seuss On The Loose 2019 - Outreach Storytime

I thought I had done my previous Dr. Seuss-themed storytime last year, but as it turns out it's already been 2 years! I had an outreach visit today, and since it was just two days after Dr. Seuss's birthday, I decided to go ahead with that theme.

I would be seeing ages 1 through 5 on this visit, so I had to plan a wide range to be sure I had stuff that would work for the age of each group. I took several books, but ended up only actually using two, Mr. Brown Can Moo and Because a Little Bug Went Ka-Choo! Both were written by Ted Geisel, but only the first was published under the "Dr. Seuss" name, while the second was a collaboration with another writer friend and published under the name "Rosetta Stone".

I also had two special songs prepared:

Dr. Seuss Is On the Loose
(to the tune of "BINGO")

Dr. Seuss is on the loose,
and this is how we know it.
Cats, hats, eggs, and ham,
Cats, hats, eggs and ham,
Cats, hats, eggs, and ham,
This is how we know it.

Dr. Seuss is on the loose,
and this is how we know it.
Grinch, Sneetches, Turtles, and Wockets,
Grinch, Sneetches, Turtles, and Wockets,
Grinch, Sneetches, Turtles, and Wockets,
This is how we know it.

Dr. Seuss is on the loose,
and this is how we know it.
The Lorax, Things, Fish, and Whos,
The Lorax, Things, Fish, and Whos,
The Lorax, Things, Fish, and Whos,
This is how we know it!

Dr. Seuss is on the loose,
and this is how er know it.
Cats, hats, eggs and ham;
Grinch, Sneetches, Turtles, and Wockets;
The Lorax, Things, Fish, and Whos;
This is how we know it!

And I had these little stick puppets to go with it:

Green Eggs and Ham
(to the tune of" London Bridge")

I don't like green eggs and ham,
eggs and ham, eggs and ham.
I don't like green eggs and ham,

Would you like them here or there,
here or there, here or there?
Would you like them anywhere? 
Green Eggs and Ham.

I don't like them here or there,
here or there, here or there.
I don't like them anywhere,

You should try green eggs and ham,
eggs and ham, eggs and ham.
You should try green eggs and ham,
You might like them!

I do! I like green eggs and ham,
Eggs and ham, eggs and ham,
I do! I like eggs and ham,

These were short 15-20 minute sessions each, due to time constraints, though I prefer to do 30 minutes for preschool and up. I used a very short "Hello" and "Goodbye" song, and only read 1 book and did several songs for each.

1-Year Olds 
Dr. Seuss storytime
For the 1-year olds, I started off with a couple of familiar childhood songs, "Itsy Bitsy Spider" and "Twinkle Little Star", then did one verse of our story song before reading Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? because it is very short and sweet, and I knew that the kids would like identifying the animals and making their sounds. I followed that with "Dr. Seuss Is On the Loose" and the "ABC song" before closing. 

2-Year Olds
I did the same thing with the 2-year olds, accept I did the "Green Eggs and Ham" song instead of "Twinkle Little Star".

3 & 4-Year Olds
Dr. Seuss storytimeWith this group I did the "Hello" song, and "Dr. Seuss Is On The Loose", then the story song. I read the longer Because a Little Bug Went Ka-Choo! to this group, than sang the "Green Eggs and Ham" song, followed by the "Good-bye Song".

How It Went
It went pretty well considering this was only my second visit (and only my second time doing storytime with 1 & 2 year olds), and because of time constraints we had to combine two 2-year old classes (much to the dismay of the teachers) and the 3- and 4-year old classes.

The babies were so cute, except for the 3 that were obviously sick and not feeling well and should have been at home. One little guy looked up when I came in and gave me a huge smile and very enthusiastic "Hi!". He is so friendly and happy and adorable, I just wanted to squeeze him (I didn't). Not all participated, but most still seemed to enjoy it, and I love seeing them.

Despite the teachers' predictions of disaster, the combined 2-year old classes did just fine. While there were a few that wandered around the periphery, most actually sat and participated and listened for most of the time, and had a great time. They'd had enough after 15-20 minutes, but they're TWO! I was perfectly happy with how it went.

I enjoyed getting a chance to read a longer story with the older kids, and they were much more familiar with Dr. Seuss, his books, and his characters than the others, so it was more fun and meaningful for them. One boy didn't appreciate the "Green Eggs and Ham" song and asked if we couldn't just read it instead, LOL! Several of them said they had seen me at the library before. I'm so glad I'm getting to do a little outreach! It just has a different vibe and I've really missed it. I'm just going to have to convince them to let me stretch it out just a few more minutes for the older kids...

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Germs - Elementary STEAM Program

Germs STEM Program,

February is usually the peak of flu season, so I figured what better time for a STEAM program about germs? I have a MS in microbiology, so this was right up my alley! We talked about different kinds of germs, observed which surfaces in the library had the most bacteria and fungi, did hands-on activities to explore how easily germs are spread and learn proper hand-washing, and observed bacteria growing on agar plates as well as under the microscope. We also talked about how most microbes are relatively harmless, and some are even beneficial.

Ages: 5-10

Time: 1 hour for program, plus additional prep time

Number: No more than 24

Budget: $40 (assuming microscope & prepared slides can be borrowed & UV flashlight is purchased)

  • 10 LB agar plates 
  • 10 sterile swabs (ours came in a set with the plates above)
  • sterile water (bottled water will work)
  • Sharpie
  • tape
  • glitter, preferable more than 1 color
  • Glow-Germ gel (2oz bottle was more than enough for 15 people)
  • UV flashlight
  • balloon
  • confetti/hole punches
  • thumbtack or sharp skewer
  • Microscope & prepared slides of bacteria (optional, we already had one, but you could possibly borrow from a school, or just look up photos online to show)


I started off by asking them what germs were, and most knew it was something that made you sick and some knew they were microorganisms, bacteria, or viruses. I had a short PowerPoint with a few pictures of different types of germs (bacteria, viruses, molds, yeast, protozoa), including the 3 shapes of bacteria (bacilli, cocci, spirochete), and a few different viruses. 

We talked about how "germs" are specifically the ones that make us sick, and that many microorganism are harmless or even beneficial, like the bacteria in our gut or those used to make yogurt and cheese, or yeast to make bread or adult beverages. I also showed them the very scary looking bacteriophage, and explained how it was harmless to us and actually infected bacteria, so germs can get germs, too! 

Then I showed them a photo of bacteria growing on an agar plate, explaining each colony developed from a single bacterium, and pointed out the differences in color, texture, and shape. Then we were ready to start the first activity.

Activity #1 - Environmental Testing

Four days earlier I took samples from various surfaces in the children's department by dipping sterile swabs in sterile water, rubbing them on a surface, then rubbing it across the entire surface of an agar plate, rolling it as I did to get everything. Each plate was labeled, then incubated inverted (so condensation does not drip onto plate) for 48 hours at approximately 80 F checking growth at 24 & 48 hours. [One plate was just streaked with the sterile water to serve as a negative control.]

[I rigged up an incubator with a spare aquarium I happened to have and borrowed my gecko's overhead ceramic heat lamp & thermostat. If it had been summer, I could have just put them in a box in the garage. If you have to incubate at room temp, allow for 2 extra days.]

I explained the prep to the participants, and gave them a list of the surfaces tested and asked them to think about it, and rank them from what they thought would have the most bacterial/fungal growth. The surfaces were: 
  1. negative control
  2. a picture book
  3. a chapter book
  4. the children's service desk
  5. a plastic apple from the play kitchen
  6. keyboard & mouse from one of the kid's computers
  7. middle shelf of the Early Readers
  8. bathroom door handle
  9. button on hand dryer
  10. toilet seat
2. After everyone had marked their choices, I showed a photo of the plates at 24 hours, noting how similar all the colonies looked, then 48 hours, noting that differences in size, color, textures were now apparent, and many new tiny colonies of slow-growers had shown up (#1, the negative control is not pictured). Click on any image to see full-sized.

Germs STEAM program, Library program

So, to my surprise, the shelf had the most growth, and the books had relatively little! I was very surprised by the books. The shelf was closely followed by the computer keyboard/mouse and play food, which I did expect. While it might seem counter-intuitive that the bathroom surfaces were some of the cleanest, our custodian cleans and disinfects it every morning (I sampled at the end of the day).

Now, don't let this freak you out! In reality, these are all very low numbers and in all likelihood are mostly harmless bacteria and molds that are to be expected in the environment.

Activity #2 - Simulating Germs Spreading from a Sneeze

We talked a bit about how germs are spread, and they mentioned sneezing and coughing right away, for which I did a fun simulation. First, prior to the program I had punched a bunch of holes from several brightly colored scraps of paper to make confetti. Then I put the confetti inside a balloon, blew up the balloon, and tied it off.

I explained the confetti represented germs, and popping the balloon would represent a sneeze. On the count of three, we all yelled "Ah-choo!" and I popped the balloon, sending the confetti everywhere, up to about 10 feet. I told them germs from a sneeze can travel up to twice that distance! Then we talked about how to properly cover your coughs and sneezes.

Activity #3 - Simulating Germs Spread by Touch

We all know how glitter seems to spread everywhere, so I got the idea to use it to show how germs spread by touch. I pressed my hand into a flat container with glitter, then shook hands with a few of the kids, and instructed them to shake hands with the person next to them, and so on to show how germs spread from our hands, and to our hands.

They saw it spread from person to person, and I also pointed out some of it had gotten on the table. I asked them to think about what would happen if they rubbed their eye with their glitter-contaminated hand? What if they picked up food with it? What if they put their food directly on the contaminated table?

This led to a discussion of how important it was to clean food-prep and eating surfaces and to wash hands, and we talked about when to wash hands, such as after going to the restroom, playing outside, before eating, etc., and how our skin provided great protection against germs, and that germs make us sick by getting inside through our mouth, nose, and eyes. I stressed in addition to handwashing, we should keep our hand out of and away from our mouths, noses, and eyes, and not to break any bad habits like chewing on pencils.

Activity #4 - Handwashing

Glo-Germ lotion contains a pigment that glows under UV light and is difficult to wash off, so it makes a great tool for evaluating and educating about handwashing. Each person was given a dime-sized squirt of the the lotion and told to rub it all over their hands, rubbing it in until their hands were dry. Then we examined with a UV flashlight to see how it glowed.

Then they were instructed to go wash their hands really well with soap and warm water (there was one sink in our program room and the restrooms were just outside). Then we checked their hands with the UV light again. Although most showed some reduction in the amount of "germs" remaining, only a few showed a significant reduction and all still had some remaining under and around their finger nails. 

They were given the option of washing their hands again and re-checking, or waiting until the end. I think it was an eye-opening experience for some of their parents, LOL!

Activity #5 - Stations

At the end, I had three different activities they could rotate from, so everyone would have a chance to look at the plates up close and look in the microscope.

A. Our library system already owned a high school classroom quality microscope with a collection of assorted prepared slides. I put a slide of stained bacteria so they could have a chance to actually look at germs. There were also photographs of bacteria under both an optical microscope and scanning electron microscope in the PowerPoint slides.

B. I had all the agar plates out on a table *taped closed* with an assortment of magnifying glasses so they could look at them up close and observe how varied the colonies were, with various shades of white, cream, yellow, and orange; some were round, some irregular, some filamentous; some were smooth, others were wrinkled; some were wet and shiny looking, while others looked dry. (There was also a diagram showing different morphologies in the PowerPoint.) As always, click on the image to see it larger.

C. Books - I had an assortment of both fiction and non-fiction books displayed on a table that they could either look at there or check-out and take home.

How It Went:

I thought it went very well, and I really enjoyed getting a chance to return to my roots and do a little basic microbiology. I only wish I could've justified the expense of buying the selective and differential media and stains required to identify some of our specimens.

The participants really seemed to enjoy all the activities. The simulated sneeze and the agar plates from testing surfaces in the library were probably the most exciting, though they were surprised at the results; most thought the bathroom surfaces would be the worst.

I did make sure to explain that our results actually showed very small numbers of microbes, and that most of the microbes in our environment are not going to make us sick, and that it is good to play in the dirt and be exposed to things because it boosts your immunity (and as I just read today, apparently it can possibly protect against some allergies.)

One of my participants seemed to know about as much as I did, even though he was only in 4th grade and I have a master's degree in microbiology! He kept giving such precise, detailed answers that I would not expect from a child that it threw me a little bit at first. He also asked if I had any pictures of Helicobacter pylori because it was his favorite bacterium! I'm a microbiologist, and I don't even have a favorite bacterium, LOL!

Another funny comment came from one of the girls. I showed a photo of the growth from the handprint of am 8-year old child who had been playing outside, and she wanted to know if it was a boy or girl, because according to her, boys are dirtier. (It actually was a boy, btw).

And, if you want to see something really cool, do a Google search for "petri dish art"!

Also, if you'd like to do something Germ-themed for preschoolers, check out my "Don't Share Your Germs" storytime.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Hugs & Kisses - Family Storytime

I had actually planned a Valentine's theme, but the crowd I ended up with was way too young for the only actual Valentine's Day book I had (Froggy's First Kiss), so I ended up using the shorter books I had pulled, which were all about hugs and kisses, though we still did some Valentine's songs/rhymes.

We started with our welcome song, and then I introduced the topic. We talked about how Valentine's day is about love, and the ways we can show we love someone, ending with hugs ("let's all give ourselves a big hug") and kisses "can you blow kisses?"). Then we got settled for our first book by singing our story song

valentine's storytime, love storytime, hugs and kisses storytime
For our first book I selected All Kinds of Kisses by Nancy Tafuri because it focuses on familiar farm animals and the sounds they make, which I hoped some of the younger ones would recognize and be able to do. I also like that it shows mother animals with their babies, and introduces some new vocabulary with the specific names for the young, like "calf" for a baby cow, "kid" for a baby goat, etc. 

The text is short and simple, and the illustrations are Tafuri's typical sweet, simple, and slightly understated style (though I'd actually prefer slightly bolder).

We followed that with a little movement. I introduced the following rhyme by having them feel their heartbeat, then jump up and down and see how it beats faster.

I Have a Little Heart

I have a little heart    [place hand over heart]
It goes thump, thump, thump.     [pat chest 3X]
It beats even faster when I jump, jump, jump.     [jump 3X]
I get a special feeling when I look at you.     [point to eyes, then audience]
It makes me want to give you a hug or two!     [Hug yourself]

After repeating once, we moved on to a Valentine rhyme, and repeated it as well:

Valentines, Valentines

Valentines, valentines, how many do you see?
Valentines, valentines, count them with me.
One for mother, one for father, one for grandma, too.
One for sister, one for brother, and
Here is one for you!
(make heart shape with hands)

valentine's storytime, love storytime, hugs and kisses storytimeWe went from kisses to hugs with our second book, Kitty's Cuddles by Jane Cabrera. I fell in love with this book as soon as I saw it because of Cabrera's bold, rich illustrations that have a heavy texture that makes me want to touch them.

In this book, Kitty shows us all of her friends, and we try to guess her favorite one to cuddle with. While the first book featured familiar farm animals, this one introduces some exotic animals, like the peacock, porcupine, and armadillo, and has short, simple text. 

After that, we did one more Valentine counting rhyme:

Five Little Hearts

Five little hearts, all in a row.
(Hold up five fingers, point to row)

The first one said, "I love you so."
(Hold up 1 finger, put up number 1, make sign for love)

The second one said, "Will you be my valentine?"
(Hold up 2 fingers, put up number 2)

The third one said, "I will if you'll be mine."
(Hold up 3 fingers, put up number 3)

The fourth one said, "I will always be your friend."
(Hold up 4 fingers, put up number 4, make sign for friend)

The fifth one said, "We'll be friends until the end!"
(Hold up 5 fingers, put up number 5, make sign for friend)

valentine's storytime, love storytime, hugs and kisses storytime
I debated on whether to read a 3rd book since my crowd was so young, but it seemed all the super wigglers had already bailed, and the remaining kids were having no problem listening, so I decided to indulge my dark sense of humor and end with a favorite funny book about kisses that is still short and simple, Dinosaur Kisses by David Ezra Stein.

In this story a hatchling dinosaur is exploring the world and after witnessing a kiss, decides she wants to try that next. But every time she tries to kiss someone, it goes horribly wrong as she accidentally whomps, chomps, stomps, or EATS her intended recipient! Then another dinosaur hatches out, and they have fun chomping, stomping, and whomping each other, then falling down in a fit of giggles.

We then sang a closing song, and moved on to our optional craft, which only a few of those attending were really old enough to do.

For our craft I had originally wanted to give them lots of hearts of assorted sizes and colors and have them put them together to make various animals, a la Michael Hall's My Heart Is a Zoo; however, our copy was checked out and our new ILS is so slow at processing requests that I didn't get a copy from another branch in time, plus I didn't have time to cut out all those hearts.

So I switched to something a little simpler, making a Valentine person with one large heart, accordion pleated strips of paper for arms and legs, and smaller hearts for hands and feet. I gave them red, pink, and purple small hearts to choose from, plus googly eyes (of course!) and crayons for making the face. [The example I showed had a more simple face, but I decided to embellish it a little afterward.]

Valentine storytime craft, valentine's day craft, heart craft

How It Went 
This was a perfect storytime for 2-4 year-olds. Unfortunately, I had a bunch of infants and 1-year olds! I had such a sinking feeling when I realized this, especially since at first it was all babies, until thankfully one family showed up a few minutes late with two boys around 3-4. I just froze mentally and didn't know what to do, other that power through what I had planned.

I have extensive experience with preschool storytime, but I have never done a baby storytime and only a couple toddler storytimes, and was not at all prepared for such an overwhelmingly young crowd, and did not know how to change gears that drastically at the last minute. It was a very frustrating and humbling realization. I should have incorporated a couple of baby bounces, but my mind just went blank since it's not something I've done since my own kids were babies! I always have a couple of longer books in case I get older kids, but I realize I have not been adequately prepared for an even younger than the usual young crowd.

Despite the program not really being quite developmentally appropriate for most of the audience, it went okay, though I did lose some of the audience right away. But that always seems to happen anyway as our storytime area opens into the play area, and some kids are just too distracted by the other children playing behind them. Some of the younger kids could be heard making animal sounds, or seen trying to imitate some of the motions we did, and though the two oldest got a little bored during the second book, they LOVED Dinosaur Kisses and laughed and giggled. Thankfully, most of the parents participated and helped answer for their babies, and reinforced what I was doing.

I am definitely going to have to work on my repertoire of songs and bounces to use with the little ones, and make sure I have at least 1 or 2 prepared for each storytime in the future. Just when I start thinking I've got the hang of this family storytime, it throws me curve ball... 

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Youth Media Awards 2019

Now that the ALA Youth Media Awards have been announced and we've all had time to mull it over a bit, what do you think about the books that were honored, and the ones that weren't? Did you pick any winners?

As usual, I was not familiar with many of the winners and honorees, but I really didn't expect to be this year as the demands of work, school, and family haven't allowed as much time for reading or making an effort to follow the book buzz or any mock-Newbery or -Caldecotts. I kinda gave up after I made a concerted effort last year, and even dared to make a few pics and predictions, but was wrong on most of them.

BUT, for the first time I had actually already read the Newbery winner! It was one of the ARCs I selected to read from NetGalley during my short break from school in August. I chose it because I recognized the author from reading her YA book Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass back in my multicultural literature class the previous summer. I did like Merci Suarez Changes Gears quite a bit, but I had not really thought of it for the Newbery, though I think it is better than last year's winner. I would have liked for My Year In The Middle by Lila Quintero Weaver or The Dollar Kids by Jennifer Jacobson to have at least been honor books. I just finished reading one of the two honor books selected, The Book of Boy by Catherine Gilbert Murdock, and I must say I really liked it.

I was also happy to see two of my favorite books from 2018, The Stuff of Stars by Marion Dane Bauer and illustrated by Ekua Holmes and Dreamers by Yuyi Morales, win illustrator awards (the Coretta Scott King and the Pura Bel Pre, respectively), but I was disappointed neither of them were recognized by the Caldecott committee. 

I had read one of the Morris finalists, Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Aeyemi, and though I had some issues with the book, I think it is significant enough to warrant being a finalist. I really enjoyed Educated, a memoir by Tara Westover, that was one of the Alex Award winners, but I don't really see why the committee thought it had particular appeal to young adults over any other memoir written for adults, but it will likely be on some school reading lists. 

Some winner/honorees that were on my radar or already sitting in my "to read" pile, were Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett Krosoczka, The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees by Don Brown, Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram, Drawn Together by Minh Le, and Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall, but so many more, including all of the Printz, I had not even heard of. I am very happy that the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, Sydney Taylor Book Award, and American Indian Youth Literature Award are going to be included in the YMA ceremony from now on.

Since the roots of this blog are in storytime and early literacy, and because it's the only award I've had a chance to read the winner, all the honor books, and some others than had been tossed around as potential winners, I'm going to now focus on the Caldecott Award, starting with the winner, Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall. 

I will say this is a perfectly lovely book, the illustrations are pretty, the story is sweet, and *I* really like it. But, "perfectly lovely books" appeal to adults, NOT to children, yet this is the type of book the committee chooses time and time again. I just can't see this being of much interest to a child, unless they just happen to have a thing about lighthouses. I think awards that are supposed to recognize the best in children's books should pick books that are truly written/illustrated for and appeal to, >gasp< CHILDREN! 

I did like the honor books better, and feel children are much more likely to connect with them. Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal is a super sweet story, telling about each of the ancestors Alma is named after, and what trait she has in common; I loved it. I had noticed Thank You, Omu! when it first came in, and thought it, too, had a really sweet story about food, tradition, community, and sharing, and I really liked the collage illustrations.

For the second year in a row, we have an honoree that is about the death of a pet and furry friend, but unlike Elisha Cooper's Big Cat, Little Cat, Brian Lies' The Rough Patch starts with the death of Fox's pet dog right at the beginning and gets the sad part out of the way, then shows how Fox learns that life goes on, with bright, detailed illustrations. And finally, A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin is a pourquoi story that explains and demonstrates the phases of the moon with a charming story of a little girl nibbling away at it little by little each night. I did like how the honor books covered a range of cultures and ethnicities, though I still think Stuff of Stars and Dreamers should have been among them, if not the medal winner. 

One final  book that some were disappointed was not chosen for Caldecott honors (though was selected for the Stonewall award) is Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love, which shows a dark-skinned boy of unspecified ethnicity/culture (though Spanish words like "abuelo" and "mijo" are used) who spies women dressed as mermaids on the subway and decides he really wants to be a mermaid, too. He improvises a costume using his abuela's curtains and fern fronds, and thinks he's in trouble when she sees him. However, instead of punishment, his abuela gives him a pearl necklace to wear and takes him to join the festival on the beach, which features adults and children dressed as mermaids and other sea creatures. 

This book has been the subject of much discussion and disagreement; some see it as being about a transgender child joining a drag parade, and in that light find some things problematic. I personally see it as a child simply engaging in play that goes against gender stereotypes, and the grandmother wisely being supportive, and the parade being a festival that everyone dresses up for and participates in. Others have objected that it is not written by an "own voice", as the author is neither a POC nor a member of the LGTBQ+ community. But then, some of these are the same people that criticized Sophie Blackall for only depicting white people in Hello Lighthouse, so writers/illustrators are damned if they do, damned if they don't.

I thought the illustrations were beautiful and charming, and one thing that I really liked was the depiction of many different body types, particularly at the very beginning in the swimming pool. There were women who were tall, short, skinny, curvy in various shapes and sizes. I did have to look at this book a few times before I could decide what my interpretation was, and I supposed like all art, others will see it differently based on their own biases and experiences. The author says it is intentionally ambiguous, and wanted a character that both boys who like to play dress-up and transgender children could identify with. In her interview with Kirkus Reviews, she is quoted as saying, "You'd have to ask Julián how he identifies." 

So now I will be playing catch-up like always, trying to read or at least familiarize myself with as many of the award winners and honorees as possible, and by the time I'm done it will probably be almost time for next year's YMA Awards.... 

So how did you fare? Did you pick any winners? How many had you already read? Which books do you think got snubbed?