Last Saturday afternoon, I read a quick story for a group of children who were using one of our meeting rooms. The group was all girls, so I chose a princess book, and it went over quite well.
Princess Hyacinth: The Surprising Tale of a Girl Who Floated by Florence Parry Heide, illustrated by Lane Smith
This is the story of Princess Hyacinth, who was born with a mysterious affliction that causes her to float whenever she's not weighted down. Her royal clothing is lined with diamonds, and her crown is rather heavy, so as long as she wears her princess garb, she remains safely on the ground. But one day, while outside, she meets a man selling balloons, and because she is a princess, he indulges her request to hold onto a balloon string and see what it's like to fly high into the sky. When the balloon string breaks, however, only the ingenuity of Boy, a neighbor child who has admired her from afar, can save the day.
This is a really clever and funny book, and most of the girls thought so, too. Lane Smith's illustrations (and the design of the book, done by his wife, Molly Leach) suit the story perfectly. The story itself has some markings of a typical princess fairy tale, but the Princess's troubles aren't magically erased by a hero. Rather, the story only promises she will never be bored again. I loved the message that sends to girls, which is that, through teamwork, they can find ways around their problems, and that they don't need saving, so much as the opportunity to find new solutions. An excellent girl-power book, and I think the humorous tone would also go over quite well with boys.
On Monday, attendance at Family Story Time was sparse, but covered our biggest age range so far. The youngest was just a toddler, and I think the oldest was a second- or third-grader. We read the following Valentine’s Day themed books:
Henry in Love by Peter McCarty
If You'll Be My Valentine by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Fumi Kosaka
Panda Kisses by Alyssa Satin Capucilli, illustrated by Kay Widdowson
Henry in Love is quirky and adorable. It's hard to say whether the kids were into it, as we had parents who kept pulling them in and out of the room, but I think they enjoyed it, overall. It went over better with the girls than the boys, but I'm not entirely sure why. Henry is shown standing at the toilet in the first few pages of the book, and there is a football scene, and lots of boyishness. Perhaps we lost them when we saw Henry's love interest, Chloe, sitting in a field full of flowers. I'm not sure. But I love this book, and especially the subtlety on the last page, when Henry trades his blueberry muffin for Chloe's carrot. I really would love to see the author do a sequel!
I repeated Panda Kisses again, even after its failure last Tuesday at Baby/Toddler Story Time, mostly because all of our Valentine's Day books were out, and I knew this one was checked in. The older kids liked it, surprisingly, and I think they were the only ones actually in the room when we read it. They said it was cute, and honestly, that's really all you can say about it anyway.
If You'll Be My Valentine would have been perfect for a preschool audience, but I ended up reading it with just a couple of little ones in the room, and they couldn't have been less engaged. What's nice about it, though, is that each Valentine is addressed to a particular recipient, whose identity is revealed only in the illustrations, so it sparks a lot of discussion with the audience. I would have loved to read it to a small, intimate story time group of ten or fifteen kids. Maybe next year.
All in all, I'm still not sure what to expect at Family Story Time. It hasn't caught on yet, so I mostly end up reading to whoever happens to be in the library on Mondays at 4pm. I'm hoping that things will pick up, though, now that our information is posted correctly on the library website.
I don’t usually do themes, but for this week, in an effort to work on my transitions between books and songs, I did a Loud & Soft theme for my Tuesday Baby/Toddler sessions. I stuck to the same three books for both sessions:
What's Your Sound, Hound the Hound? by Mo Willems
Noisy Nora by Rosemary Wells
Shhhhh by Kevin Henkes
This was the best week I've ever had at Baby/Toddler story time. I would like to say that's because of the theme, but I actually think it's less about that, and more about the fact that I planned ahead, and regardless of what happened, didn't change the plan. I also didn't anticipate it at the time, but I had the most kids I've ever had at any story time ever (over 100, counting both sessions), so it was good to have a definite roadmap.
These books were all favorites with the crowd, and I think that's due in part to the fact that I stood at the front of the room, and held the books up where everyone could see. That's a technique I intend to adopt permanently; it seemed like that was the key to unlocking story time success.
I began with Noisy Nora, and made sure to keep the pace slow, and point out what was happening in the illustrations. I have done this in the past, but with not much confidence, almost like I was afraid of being criticized. But there were so many people in there, I had to focus my nervous energy somewhere, so I stuck with the book. It worked. At the end of the story, I was met with thunderous applause. I don't usually get a reaction at all at the end of a book, so that was a big improvement. I also absolutely love this book, and have read it a million times, so I knew what to expect, and it gave me great joy to share my beloved refrain, "'Nora,' said her sister, 'why are you so dumb?'" with kids who had never heard it before. (And, for the record, I was sure to point out that this was not a nice thing to say.)
The second book I read in both sessions was Shhhhh, which served as a nice way of reining in the crowd after some noisy singing. I had some issues with adults talking, so we just kept making the "Shhhhh" noise every time things got out of hand. This book is also great for the element of surprise. Everything is very quiet as the speaker - a little girl - gives a catalog of everything that is asleep in her house, but she breaks that silence when she pounces into her parents' bedroom and wakes everything up. This book is also just the right length for toddlers, and like Jessica it's a Kevin Henkes book I didn't know was by Kevin Henkes!
Inspired in part by Libby who blogged about Time to Sleep, Sheep the Sheep earlier this month, I decided to try What's Your Sound, Hound the Hound? as my third book. Not only did it make the perfect lead-in to "Old MacDonald Had a Farm," but the moments where Bunny the Bunny can't seem to make a sound got huge laughs from the audience, even though the pages were wordless. Mo Willems is just a genius when it comes to what kids like, and what's funny from a child's perspective.
Next week, I'm doing a Community Helpers theme. After that, I might try to ditch the themes again, and see if I can still be as organized without one. We'll see how it goes.