Saturday, February 26, 2011

Weekly Story Time Wrap-Up Volume 5

This week's story time came on the heels of an ice storm that put the schools on a two-hour delay. So attendance was  down, because families with school-age kids were busy getting themselves off to school while story time was happening. But "down" in this case meant approximately 40 kids at one session, and 30 at the other.

Because it was a smaller group, I opted to skip the theme I had planned (community helpers) and just pulled three books at the last minute and  read  those instead. It was a tough day, with chatty parents and crying babies, and the books were not at all well-received. It was a good day for singing, so we did a lot of songs, and people enjoyed that, and said so.

But whether the audience liked them or not, here are my thoughts on the three titles I chose:

Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown,
illustrated by Felicia Bond

As I was reading this first story, I realized it was a book I used to read all the time when I worked as a nursery school classroom assistant in college. And of the three, I think it was the one the crowd liked best, if only because it gave  them the opportunity to make noise. I appreciated that, too, though I wasn't pleased when some moms started talking louder to be heard over the mooing, neighing and oinking.

The story follows a group of farm animals (the usual suspects, including a cow, a duck, a pig, a donkey, a rooster, and a hen) through one entire day in the big red barn they all share. The text rhymes, which can sometimes be a problem for me, but Margaret Wise Brown is an author who can be trusted to do such things without choosing ridiculous words just to make a rhyme work, so I wasn't bothered by it. In terms of Felicia Bond's illustrations, I really liked the contrast in colors between daytime on the farm - bright greens, blues, and reds for the grass, sky, and barn, and warm browns and grays for the various animals - and nighttime on the farm - deep blues and purples, creating the illusion of dark, and demonstrating the way everything appears  to change color in the absence of the sun. I'm always entertained and impressed by illustrators who can create that effect. And Felicia Bond's style - as in If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and others in that series - is warm, playful, and comforting, as always.

Building A House by Byron Barton 
This second book, though written by my old standby, Byron Barton, was not a wise choice for a story time. It was shelved (mistakenly) with the picture books, but was actually a non-fiction book, and as such, it was a little bit dry for toddlers. I chose it because I thought it would appeal to all the little boys who are so into things like Trucktown and the John Deere DVD's about bulldozers and such. But it wound up being pretty boring, and I can't even really say much about it. I do like Byron Barton - he has a way of simplifying complicated concepts, and his illustrations are always bold and eye-catching and toddler-friendly. But this book would have been better read independently, by a six-year-old.

It does, however, give a nice overview of the various stages of constructing a building, and it  reminded me - on a very simplified level - of The Little House, which I posted about a few weeks ago. I'll remember it for the next time a construction worker enthusiast comes in, but until then, I'll be leaving it out of story time.

 A Good Day by Kevin Henkes

I love this book. Several animals are having a bad day - a bird loses a feather, a squirrel drops his nut, a fox can't find his mom, and a dog is all tangled up in a leash. But then their luck changes and they - and a little girl living nearby - have a good day after all. I am always amazed when authors can do so much with so few words, and this book is a great pick-me-up, especially on a day when it's cloudy, gray, and cold outside. The bold brightness of the illustrations, and those thick lines that Henkes uses to outline shapes, make it stand out, and they beg me to open the book every time I see it on the library shelves.

I outdid myself with the dramatization of this story, and read with more inflection and excitement than my personality typically allows, figuring it would help. I guess it sort of did - there was some applause - but mainly it was just a  restless day, and this group was not sitting for three books, no matter what. Some days are like that.

Next week, I've got Family Story Time on Monday and the usual Baby/Toddler group on Tuesday. Check back next Saturday to see what we read!
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