Thursday, March 31, 2011

6 Baseball Books for Kids

  • About the B'nai Bagels
    (Middle Grade)
    by E.L. Konigsburg
    Thirteen-year-old Mark Setzer is torn between family loyalty and team friendship when his mother and older brother team up to coach his little league team.
  • The Batboy
    (Young Adult) 
    by Mike Lupica
    Brian faces disappointment when his job as batboy for the Detroit Tigers fails to endear him to his estranged father or his favorite player, who returns to the team after being suspended for steroid use with a major chip on his shoulder. 
  • Play Ball, Amelia Bedelia
    (Easy Reader)
    by Peggy Parish
    Decked in a soldier's uniform, Amelia Bedelia reports to the baseball field, ready to play. Unfortunately, tagging, stealing bases, taking players out, and even catching the ball from behind the plate prove confusing for the muddled maid. A classic Amelia Bedelia story.
  • The Littlest Leaguer
    (Easy Reader)
    by Syd Hoff
    Harold is very small, and fears he will spend the entire baseball season on the bench. But when the star player twists his ankle, the coach brings him in and he proves to himself - and to everyone else - that even the littlest leaguer can become a big star. 
  • The Girl Who Threw Butterflies
    (Middle Grade)
    by Mick Cochrane
    Molly, whose father died six months ago in a car accident, has a great knuckleball. She joins the boys' baseball team in an effort to feel close to her father, and to make sense of his death. 
  • The Toilet Paper Tigers (Middle Grade)
    by Gordon Korman
    A funny story about an unlikely baseball team with a clueless coach, whose 12-year-old granddaughter ends up taking over.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Baby/Toddler Story Time, 3/29

I don't do a theme every week, but the books I chose for this week all had to do with the concepts of Big and Little. Both sessions were exactly the same with the exception of one book.

Opening song: Hello song

Rhyme: This is big, big, big

This is big, big, big. (hold arms out wide)
This is small, small, small. (cup hands close together)
This is short, short, short. (hold hands close together, vertically)
This is tall, tall, tall. (spread hands apart vertically)
This is fast, fast, fast. (roll hands quickly)
This is slow, slow, slow. (roll hands slowly)
This is yes, yes, yes. (nod head yes)
This is no, no, no.  (shake head no)

Rhyme: Flowers Tall and Small

Flowers tall, (hold up three middle fingers)
flowers small, (hold up pinky and thumb)
in the springtime sun. (make a circle over your head)
Blowing gently in the breeze, (wiggle fingers)
count them one by one.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5. (point to each finger as you count)

Song: Monkeys on the Bed

Song: If You'd Like to Read a Book

Book: Go Away, Big Green Monster by Ed Emberley

A monster with yellow eyes, squiggly hair, and a blue-ish greenish nose appears, one facial feature at a time. Then, we tell the monster to go away, and his scary features disappear in reverse order, leaving him bald, earless, and eventually faceless. I debated whether I would scare the kids with this book.  I think only one child actually cried, in the first session - the others  really seemed to like it.

Flannel Board Song: Old MacDonald Had a Farm
Our version of  this song ends with an elephant. We made trunks with our arms and attempted to imitate an elephant sound. 

Flannel Board Rhyme: I Went to Visit the Farm One Day

I went to visit the farm one day. 
I saw the [cow] across  the way. (put cow on the flannel board)
And what do you think the [cow] did say?
[Moo, moo, moo.] (make a mooing sound)
(repeat with a variety of farm animals)

Rhyme with Paper Puppets: This Little Pig
I created five paper puppets using construction paper and clip art, and held them up as we said the rhyme. I expected the adults to be more familiar with the rhyme than they were. If we do it again in the future, I'll make sure to post up the words so the parents and nannies can say it along with me more easily.

Book: A Pig is Big by Douglas Florian

This book begins with a pig, and then continually questions what's bigger, until finally, we're looking at the whole universe. Some of the words are a little on the difficult side for little ones, but I emphasized the words they would know to help them figure out the overall idea of the story. They liked the early part of  the book, which was about a pig, a cow, and a car, and seemed to lose interest as things got more abstract.

Song: There's a Little Wheel A-Turnin' in my Heart

Song: I'm a Little Teapot

Book: When Stella Was Very, Very Small by Marie-Louise Gay (session 1)

This book shows us how the world looked to Stella when she was a baby, and how it looks different now that she is a big girl. I reviewed this book on my book blog, so I'd read it before, but I didn't really remember how poetic and abstract the text was until I was in the middle of the session. Some of the older kids liked it, but it wasn't as toddler-friendly as I thought.

The Little Red Hen by Byron Barton (session 2)

This brightly colored retelling of the well-known fairy tale has been a story time favorite here. The kids love hearing the animals say "Not I," and they really seem to gravitate toward the hen's three little chicks. And even though I chose it as a last-minute replacement, it still fit our theme!

Song: The Wheels on the Bus

Goodbye song: Skinnamarink

Monday, March 28, 2011

Family Story Time, 3/28

This week, the books I read all fit loosely into a Days of the Week theme.

Opening song: Shake My Sillies Out

Song: The Wheels on the Bus

Song: If You'd Like to Read a Book

Book: The Best Pet of All by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Hanako Wakiyama

A boy begs his mother for a dog. When she says no, he asks about a dragon instead. Mom agrees that if he can find one, he can keep it. When he does just that, Mom soon realizes a dog would have been the better bet. I love the fact that the dragon in this story wears a hat and shades, and that he is discovered hanging out in a drugstore. The preschoolers in the group especially liked this story.

Song: Monkeys on the Bed

Song: Old MacDonald Had a Farm

Book: Today is Monday by Eric Carle

I sang this book to the tune printed in the back of it. By the end, some of the kids were singing along. I only wished that I had taught the refrain to the group before I started.  I'm still nervous doing this story time since it varies so much from week to week, so I tend to rush from one thing to the next, and I end up forgetting basic things like that. Still, though,  I think everyone really liked it, even the babies.

Song: Where is Thumbkin?

Song: One, Two, I Love You (Numbers Are Our Friends)

Book: Silly Lilly in What Will I Be Today? by Agnes Rosenstiehl

I tried an experiment by including this book, which was to see if books in graphic format would translate to a read-aloud setting. It turned out, at least in the case of this book, that they don't really. It was too hard to see the finer details of the illustrations, and Lilly's one-sided dialogue with her stuffed animals was confusing.

Song: There's a Little Wheel a-Turning in my Heart

Song: Let Everyone Clap Hands Like Me

Goodbye song: Skinnamarink

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Weekly Story Time Wrap-Up Volume 9

This week, I performed two story times with Spring themes. Here are the books I read:

Nini Lost and Found

by Anita Lobel
Nini the cat wanders outside through an open door. She loves it out in the garden, and even in the forest, until night falls and scary creatures emerge from the shadows.

My Garden
by Kevin Henkes
While helping her mom weed, a girl imagines her own garden, complete with flowers that don't die and petals that change color on demand.
A boy tells of the things he sees and hears in a quiet garden, and imagines charming conversations between animals and insects.
Planting a Rainbow
by Lois Ehlert
From Fall to Summer, a mother and child prepare, plant, and pick colorful flowers in their garden.
Hurray for Spring!
by Patricia Hubbell
A young boy swings, sings, slides, and jumps his way into spring.
Butterfly, Butterfly
by Petr Horacek
A little girl hunts for her butterfly friend. In the end, it comes swooping down from the sky in a pop-up illustration.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Weekly Story Time Wrap-up Volume 8

I had a full story time schedule this week. In addition to my usual sessions, I also had to fill in at the Friday preschool program, giving me a total of four sessions for the week! Here's what I read to each group. I'm trying  a different format for this post this week; we'll see how it goes!

Monday's Family Story Time

by Florence Parry Heide, illustrated by Lane Smith

Summary:  Hyacinth, a princess who floats if she is not weighted down, needs to be rescued when an attempt to float outdoors goes awry and leads to danger.
What I liked: The illustrations match the ironic tone perfectly, and the story appeals equally to boys and girls. It's a very contemporary fairy tale, and the ending is happy, but still realistic.
What the kids liked: Princess Hyacinth's royal underwear. Underpants are funny no matter how old you are.
by Kevin Henkes

Summary: Ruthie's parents encourage her to get rid of her imaginary friend, Jessica, before going to kindergarten, but Ruthie can't let her go - at least not until she meets a new friend with the same name.
What I liked:  I love the detail in the illustrations, even though the kids probably couldn't see them well unless they were in the front row. I also love the ending, where Ruthie befriends a real life Jessica and the story comes full circle. (I reviewed this book recently, and my complete thoughts can be found here.)
What the kids liked: It was really hard to tell. They didn't have much of a reaction to this one, other than silence, which could signify politeness or boredom, I never know which.

by Martin Waddell, illustrated by Patrick Benson

Summary: When three owl babies wake up in the middle of the night to discover their mother is gone, they worry for her safety until she returns.
What I liked: I think it's so impressive that in very few words Waddell has given each owl a complete personality. I also think this book puts a fresh and clever spin on the universal experience of separation anxiety.
What the kids liked: Bill's refrain of "I want my mommy!" I don't know if they were laughing at the story itself, or at me trying to sound like a weepy baby owl, but either way, there were giggles all around.

Tuesday's Baby/Toddler Story Time

by Pat Hutchins

Summary: Ma bakes cookies for her two children, which they must then share with a seemingly endless barrage of guests who ring the doorbell and are invited inside. Just when the cookies run out, Grandma arrives with a fresh tray to share.
What I liked: I like the repetition in this book, and even though it wasn't appropriate for this age level, the math lesson that could come from trying to divide the cookies evenly among the members of an ever-growing group. I also love the surprise arrival of Grandma and her cookies.
What the kids liked: I don't know if they liked anything. They said they liked cookies, but only when I asked, and the rest of the book seemed to go right over their heads. Oh well. 

by Don and Audrey Wood, illustrated by Don Wood

Summary: An unseen narrator convinces a little mouse that the only way to save his freshly picked strawberry from the (also unseen) big hungry bear is to split it in half and share it with him.
What I liked: I experienced feelings of wonderful nostalgia when I read this. I loved the illustrations in this book when I was a kid - especially the ones where the mouse tries to lock up the strawberry in chains and hide it behind a disguise. This was also so much fun to read aloud. I really hammed it up, and got into the drama of the story.
What the kids liked: Their eyes were as big as saucers when I read about the bear stomping and sniffing as it looked for the strawberry, and they were just as obviously relieved when the bear didn't show up in the end. I have never seen them pay so much attention. I think they really loved it.

by Amy Schwartz

Summary: Old McDonald's farm is filled with animal sounds and many other noises in this illustrated version of the favorite children's song.
What I liked: I always appreciate a book that can be sung, because this group really likes music, and the parents and nannies pay much better attention when they can sing along. This book went on about ten pages too long, but that was easily fixed by skipping a couple of pages here and there.
What the kids liked: Their favorite part seemed to be the verse where Old McDonald's tractor goes "putt, putt." I have no idea what was so funny about it, but both sessions laughed at that specific part.

Friday 's Preschool Story Time

Little White Rabbit
by Kevin Henkes

Summary: While hopping about, a little rabbit wonders what it would be like to be green as the grass, tall as a tree, or able to fly like a butterfly. 
What I liked: Kevin Henkes's illustrations are gorgeous. I love the bold, thick outlines and the colored pencil he uses to  fill in his shapes. The pale pastels evoke the warmth and fresh air of a Spring day. The rabbit's imaginings also reminded me of Runaway Bunny, another favorite children's book. 
What the kids liked: I couldn't tell. There was a smattering of applause from the adults, but none of the kids seemed too interested. Maybe this would have been better suited to my Tuesday audience. 

Duck, Duck, Goose: A Coyote's on the Loose!
by Karen Beaumont, Jose Aruego, and Ariane Dewey

Summary: When a bunny falls into some leaves, his identity is hidden, and his animal friends run from him, thinking he is a coyote.
What I liked: I was not really a fan of this one. I was looking for a farm animal book and this one seemed to fit the bill, but I found the whole thing pretty unbelievable, and the punchline - that the rabbit just wants to play - predictable. 
What the kids liked: Some of the older kids stood right up to look at the book. I think they appreciated the suspense of running away from something scary. But it didn't seem like the ending paid off for them very much.

 Oh My Gosh, Mrs. McNosh!
by Sarah Weeks, illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott

Summary: Mrs. McNosh's out of control dog, George, takes her on a wild goose chase through a wedding, a baseball game, and more. 
What I liked: There was a great opportunity for audience participation with this book. I asked the audience to repeat the refrain "Oh my gosh!" for me every time I pointed to them. Only a handful of adults actually did it, but the potential was there.
What the kids liked: Again, I'm not sure. I think I read too quickly and focused too much on getting the call and response going, so they lost the direction of the story. I wasn't even sure what happened in the ending either - I needed to pay more attention to the illustrations.

Friday's Baby Lap Time

by Karma Wilson

Summary: A series of diverse babies are pictured showing off their toes, tummies, cheeks, and more. 
What I liked: I chose this book solely for the warm and welcoming illustrations and  the rhythmic rhyming text. I love the cozy feel of the book, and thought it would make a great one on one read for parents and babies, in addition to being a fun group read-aloud. 
What the kids liked: In this session, it tends to be more about the parents, since the babies don't react much to the books, but there were some older kids in the room, and they responded well. The parents seemed a little puzzled, and I'm not sure why, but they clapped for this book, so I'll take that as a positive sign.

by Karen Katz

Summary: This counting book defines the many different types of hugs moms and babies share throughout the day, including the first hug in the morning, and the hug when the baby comes down a slide into his mother's arms. 
What I liked: I love Karen Katz and use her books frequently for story time. I especially love  the shapes she uses to draw people, and the bright prints that appear throughout her illustrations. I was a bit puzzled by the counting, since the numbers seemed kind of arbitrary, but overall, this is a lovely little book. 
What the kids liked: Again, the adults are the ones who reacted, and I think they had the strongest reaction - amusement - to the page where "I love you" is repeated ten times in a row. I'll assume they were laughing with me and not at me.

That was my busy, book-filled week! Did you read any picture books this week? Share them in comments!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Weekly Story Time Wrap-Up Volume 7

What a week it was at story time!

The Tuesday morning Baby/Toddler sessions continue to be plagued by chatty grown-ups. In addition to that, this week, during the second session, a little girl hi-jacked my feltboard and distracted the entire room by holding up a cow and mooing loudly in the middle of Old McDonald (when it was not the cow's turn.) It was funny, and cute, in a way, but also seriously frustrating. On the bright side, though, our CD player has stopped skipping, I discovered a new counting song that became an instant hit ("Numbers are Our Friends" from 123 Favorite Kids Songs), and I picked three books that engaged almost every child in the room, even if I had to shout to be heard over their mothers and nannies. Here's what we read:

Birds by Kevin Henkes

I am on a Kevin Henkes kick lately, and I've decided to stick with it until the kids get bored, or I run out of books. I had a lot of twos and threes this week, which happens on occasion, and this book really got them interested. Henkes depicts different aspects of bird life - from singing outside  the window in the morning, to sitting on a telephone wire, to gathering in a tree, and flying away all at once. The book does a great job of using page turns to build suspense and create excitement. The entire room gasped with joy, for example, when I turned from a page where birds rested calmly on a telephone wire, to the next page, where  they have all disappeared. This happened in both sessions, and it was a really good feeling, having people so involved in that way. The kids also really liked the pages where Henkes imagines what birds would look like if they were clouds, and several of the kids flapped their arms as though they were wings as we approached the end of the story. There is something about Henkes's style that draws kids in. And I am slowly learning to let down my guard and read with exaggeration and enthusiasm, which I like to think is helping a little bit, too.

Bugs! Bugs! Bugs! by Bob Barner

This book is nothing new, really, but it is brightly colored and the text is fairly simple, which are two key things I look for when I'm choosing story time books. It wasn't the kids' favorite, but we did our best. From a librarian's point of view, I appreciated the information at the back of the book - the insects featured in the story are shown at actual size, and a chart compiling and comparing bug facts would definitely intrigue bug enthusiasts just a little bit older than the kids at this session. But the two best things about reading this book this week were that 1) the illustrator managed to draw a daddy long-legs that didn't scare me and was almost cute, and 2) in the first session, when I read, "I want to see bugs!" an enthusiastic toddler in the front row called out, "Me too!" I'll use this one again for sure, based solely on that reaction.

All of Baby, Nose to Toes by Victoria Adler

As much as I like it, this book was too long. It didn't look that long to me when I picked it up, but there are a lot of words on each page, and I read it third, so almost all attention spans were gone by then. The really good thing, though, was that the book has a refrain. The spreads alternate - first the text discusses an aspect of the baby's body - eyes, nose, toes, tummy, etc. - and then asks, "Who loves baby's eyes/nose/toes/tummy/etc.?"  On the next spread after the page turn, a grown-up relative is with the baby, and that grown-up says, "Me! I do!" I pointed to myself each time, and some of the parents and three year olds were doing it with me by the end. I would use this book again, too, but probably as the first book in a session, or maybe even the only book in a session. And I'd try to slow it down some and really involve everybody in what's going on. I didn't think of it until now, but it would have been good to sing Head Shoulder Knees and Toes as a lead-in to this book, too. Next time, hopefully.

This week was also my first experience with Baby Lap Time. I had some toddlers as well, since the second they hear the hello song, they come a-running, but it was mainly geared toward infants, and it was a nice, calm experience with lots of singing and thankfully, many parents who were willing to sing along. We only did  two books, but they were both just right for the age group.

I Love Colors by Margaret Miller

I had Margaret Miller in mind for this program from the start because she photographs real children for her books. It turns out this was a  wise decision. Babies love to look at baby faces, and I definitely got a warm-fuzzy feeling when the babies smiled at the pictures. There's not much of a story to this book - just a list of what each baby is wearing in each photo. But I remembered a song we used to sing when I worked in nursery school - Raffi's Mary Wore Her Red Dress - and used that tune to sing this book. "Baby wore her red bow, red bow, red bow. Baby wore her red bow all day long." Etc, etc. The only problem I ran into - which was minor and wound up giving all of us a good laugh - was that "Baby wore her yellow feather boa" is nearly impossible to sing three times in a row. But we persevered, and everything was fine. I'm going to look for more board books like this that can be adapted to songs and things like that.

5 Busy Ducklings by Scholastic Books

This second book was not as exciting, but again used real photography. The parents seemed pretty pleased by the choice, and they laughed when I quacked. I especially liked the page where the ducks are looking at the reader, because it almost looks like they have facial expressions. I also just think kids are fascinated by baby animals - especially when they are bright yellow. This also made a great segue into Old McDonald Had A Farm, where the second animal we sing about is always the duck.

Next week, we have a full story time schedule, including Monday Family Story Time, Baby/Toddler Story Time on Tuesday, three class visits, and Baby Story Time on Friday. Check back on Saturday to find out what we read.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Weekly Story Time Wrap-Up Volume 6

Rain and a half-day of school kept the crowds away from Family Story Time on Monday once again, so I have nothing to report on that, but Tuesday, as always, was a full house, with close to 100 babies and toddlers in attendance. There was a minor disaster in that our aging CD player started skipping during almost every song, and I was put on the spot to remember the lyrics to Raffi's "Shake My Sillies Out" with no assistance. But thank God for books, which don't require batteries, electricity, or anything but a reader and someone to turn the pages, because all three of my choices were pretty successful.

I began each session this week with Anna Grossnickle Hines's adaptation of 1,2, Buckle My Shoe. The text is simplistic, and more or less follows the traditional nursery rhyme, but the illustrations are unique in that the entire story is told in the patches of a quilt. The numbers are counted off by buttons, which appear prominently around the edges of each numeral. On alternating spreads between numbers a little girl is seen buckling her shoes, shutting the door, picking up sticks, opening the gate, and playing with a big fat hen.

For such a short read, this book provides a lot of opportunities for a story time group. The parents and some of  the more verbal kids counted along with me. I pointed out colors and shapes in the quilt squares, and when the hen makes an early appearance around number 8, we wondered aloud as to what she was doing there. I would definitely use this again, and it would make a great addition to a numbers theme, or a quilt theme. (If I was into themes, which I am really not.)

The second book I chose for this week was The Wheels on the Bus by Maryann Kovalski. This is an adaptation of a favorite story time song, and because all the adults have heard it 900 times before, they were all able to sing along. This was maybe the only time I didn't hear adults talking amongst themselves during  the entire session, and both groups gave this book a big round of applause. The story also has a minor, humorous twist at the end, which the second session found especially amusing. It's hard to find a little joke that makes a baby/toddler group laugh, but this one managed it.

Finally, we read In the Driver's Seat by Max Haynes. Though it wasn't the most loved of the week,  I still think it's great. Each page of the story shows the view from the driver's seat of a car, as though the child reading the book is the one driving. Lots of wonderful sound effects and exclamations ramp up the excitement of the story, and it's just silly enough to keep the reader laughing. Unfortunately, I'm starting to think three books is just too many. I need to get some felt board stories so I can start to vary things a little bit. I'm also considering adding another session to try and thin the crowd out a little. But we'll see what will fit into our already packed schedule.
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