Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Caldecott Challenge Post #58

The Polar Express. by Chris Van Allsburg. Published 1985. Caldecott Medal 1986. 

I love the quiet, dreamlike quality of this story and its illustrations. It captures the magical feelings kids associate with Santa Claus and manages to tug at the heartstrings of adults as well. The ending of this story never fails to leave a lump in my throat. When I was a kid, someone told the story to my class in school, and at the end, she rang a bell, telling us that only true believers could hear it. I will never forget that feeling of being able to hear it and feeling lucky to be a part of something so special. This is a book that manipulates the reader’s feelings in a wonderful way and it will always be a holiday favorite for me.

Jumanji. by Chris Van Allsburg. Published 1981. Caldecott Medal 1982. 
I haven’t read this book in a long time, and for some reason, I remembered it being much longer and more detailed. The story actually goes by quite quickly, and I didn’t have the sense this time around of the urgency of the kids’ situation, or of the danger they were in. The suspense was much more tangible for me when I was a child. The illustrations are great, but even they sort of left me wanting more. I think my imagination must have added quite a lot to the story when it was read to me in childhood, because I remember much more than the book itself actually provides.

The Garden of Abdul Gasazi. by Chris Van Allsburg. Published 1979. Caldecott Honor 1980.

 The twist at the end of this book reminded me too much of the ending of The Polar Express, and I was a little bit disappointed that Van Allsburg expected the same idea to have the same impact twice. It makes me even sadder to realize this book came first, so the gimmick he uses wasn’t even new in The Polar Express! I also wasn’t as impressed by the illustrations as I expected. I wonder if I have grown too familiar with Van Allsburg’s style over the years to feel awed anymore.

See other Caldecott Challenge participants' blogs on the challenge page at LibLaura5. Follow my challenge progress here.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Caldecott Challenge Post #57

Noah’s Ark by Peter Spier. Published 1977. Caldecott Medal 1978. 
I enjoyed this wordless interpretation of Noah’s Ark. I thought the translated Dutch poem that opened the book was a great introduction to the events of the story. Spier’s use of space on each page is the most impressive aspect of the illustrations. I love the images of the cramped interior of the ark and the lines of heavy rain as they fall. I also enjoyed the visual representations of the passage of time, both during the rainstorm, and while Noah waits for the return of the dove. I especially love the final page, where the rainbow symbolizes hope for the future, and Noah is shown planting. There is so much detail on each page that kids will literally lose themselves in this book. 

Castle by David Macaulay. Published 1977. Caldecott Honor 1978. 

I am not a non-fiction reader, so all the details of castle-building weighed a bit heavily on me, but I could appreciate why this was a great book. Kids who are obsessed with castles, or with buildings in general love books with this level of detail, and this book makes all that dry information very interesting and readable. The illustrations and diagrams add a necessary visual component that contextualizes everything and really helped me stick with the text even when it really felt like too much. My favorite thing about the book were the pages showing the layout of the castle and its surrounding town at various points as it changed and grew. I think kids are fascinated by maps that show the passage of time like that.

The Glorious Flight by Alice and Martin Provensen. Published 1983. Caldecott Medal 1984.

This book is another new favorite for me. It is a non-fiction book, but with a great sense of character and story. The reader gets to know Louis Bleriot through the eyes of his children, who grow up witnessing his various attempts at creating a successful flying machine. Bleriot comes across as an endearingly stubborn man who is so singularly focused on his dream that he thinks nothing of the bumps and bruises he receives in the process. The tone of the writing is so light and conversational, it’s easy to forget you’re actually learning something as you read. This is a great biography for very young kids who are just learning about the genre, and one of the few non-fiction titles I think would work well in story time.

Hawk I’m Your Brother by Byrd Baylor, illustrated by Peter Parnall. Published 1976. Caldecott Honor 1977.
The illustrations in this book bored me, and the story was weird. Was it about believing in your dreams? Or about protecting wildlife? Or about setting free what we love? I can imagine kids having a hard time connecting with a book like this. I really didn’t like it, and it took a lot for me to actually get through to the ending.

See other Caldecott Challenge participants' blogs on the challenge page at LibLaura5. Follow my challenge progress here.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Outreach Round-Up, 11/14/12 - 11/21/12

Public School Pre-K: Wednesday, 11/14
Books: The Grumpalump, The Day Ray Got Away, I'm Flying
Songs: If You'd Like to Read a Book, Hat Coat Pants and ShoesThese Are My Glasses
Game: Balloon Guessing Game (see here for details)
Notes: The theme was balloons. I'm Flying was an unexpected hit - not with everybody, but the kids who were into it were riveted.  I made up motions to go with The Grumpalump and it was hugely successful. The kids also had no idea it was a balloon until the end.

Public School Pre-K: Wednesday, 11/14
Books: The Grumpalump, The Day Ray Got Away 
Songs: If You'd Like to Read a Book, These Are My Glasses
Game: Balloon Guessing Game (see here for details)
Notes: This group was late coming back from PE, so we got cut short. Next time, though, I'll be  there in the morning, so it should be easier to get in a full session. 

Catholic School Pre-K: Thursday, 11/15
Books: The Grumpalump, Balloons Balloons Balloons, Molly Who Flew Away, Sally's Great Balloon Adventure
Songs: If You'd Like to Read a Book, Shake My Sillies Out,  These Are My Glasses 
Flannel Board: Five Balloons (to be featured on an upcoming Flannel Friday, hopefully!)

Catholic School 5th Grade: Thursday, 11/15 
Books: Frankenstein, Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs
Notes: These books were not that funny to this age group. The choices were too juvenile, even if it might have made a nice lesson in parody.

Catholic School Kindergarten: Friday, 11/16 
Book: Little Bear
Song: Hat. Coat, Pants and Shoes
Notes: None of these kids knew of Little Bear, but by the end, they were in love. Birthday Soup was the favorite story of the session.

Catholic School 1st Grade: Friday, 11/16 
Book: I am the Turkey

Rec. Center Cooperative Play Program: Wednesday, 11/21
Books: When Autumn Falls, Growing Vegetable Soup, Little Red Hen, Thank You Thanksgiving
Songs: I Like Soup (based on Laurie Berkner's "I Feel Crazy"), Sing a Happy Song, Bumpin’ Up and Down in My Little Red Wagon, If You're Thankful and You Know It, The Wheels on the Bus    
Rhymes: Corn Grows Tall, Two Little Turkeys
Notes: The kids loved singing about what they would put in soup. The funniest food ingredient they named was donuts. The funniest non-food ingredient was fire.  Two Little Turkeys was based on Two Little Blackbirds, but when the turkeys ran away, I said "gobble gobble gobble" and the kids just cracked up.

Drop-In Story Time, 11/20/12 (Thanksgiving Theme)

Friday's preschool story time was one of my best ever, and this Drop-In story time was one of the worst in history. I am stating right now that next year, I will not do a Thanksgiving story time for this age group. The books do not engage the kids or  the nannies, and no one wants to sing Over the River and Through the Woods. It's just not a toddler-friendly theme. In any case, here is what I presented to the large and restless Tuesday morning crowd.

Book: Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman
I was disappointed that the adults wouldn't help me say "And Bear says thanks" each time it came up.

Rhyme: We Are Thankful

Book: The Thankful Book by Todd Parr
I think the kids in my neighborhood are the only ones in the world who don't like Todd Parr, but they really do not. The books are too simple for the preschoolers and too sophisticated for the toddlers.

Song: Let's Be Thankful 
I found this song, which goes to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, here, and played it on the ukulele.

Let’s be thankful for this day,
For our friends and for our play.
Let’s be thankful; let’s be glad,
For the food and things we have.
Let’s give thanks for you and me,
And our home and family.

Song: If You're Thankful and You Know It
I was so desperate to regain control that I mentally rearranged the entire story time on the spot and stuck this song in there immediately. I did as many motions as I could think of while I decided what to do next.

Rhyme: Mr. Turkey
In the end, I decided to proceed with the turkey songs and ditch the rest of my books. Then we just sang favorites until story time was over.

Rhyme: Four Little Turkeys
I borrowed the text from Five Silly Turkeys, decreased the number of turkeys from five to four, and shared it on the flannel board. 

Flannel Board Song: We Eat Turkey

Flannel Board Song: Five Little Pumpkins Round
I was so glad I'd brought my pumpkins into the story room. They always love this one. 

Song: Here We Go Up, Up, Up

Song: Rum Sum Sum

Song: The Wheels on the Bus

Song: Chickadee

One thing I will say about this story time is that a lot of kids did the motions to every song from Rum Sum Sum to the end, many more than I've ever noticed before. I'll call the story time a success on that front, but I will stick to a family theme this time next year!

I use the same hello and goodbye songs at almost every session. Click here for the tunes and words. For descriptions of each of my story times, click here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Caldecott Challenge Post #56

The Way to Start a Day. by Byrd Baylor, illustrated by Peter Parnall. Published 1978. Caldecott Honor 1979.

In poetic text, this book reflects on the various ways people start the day in countries all over the world. I like the concept, but the strange illustrations unsettled me. They were too abstract for me, and I had a hard time making sense of them. The writing, too, seemed cryptic and weird, and I’m not sure kids really relate to the idea of going out and singing to the sun first thing in the morning.

The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher. by Molly Bang. Published 1980. Caldecott Honor 1981.
This book is supposedly an allegory, but I couldn’t figure out what it represented. There are a lot of pages where very little happens, and I didn’t understand the significance of the ending, even though it seemed like a happy one. I tend to have mixed reactions to Molly Bang’s books, and this one is no exception.

Knuffle Bunny Too. by Mo Willems. Published 2007. Caldecott Honor 2008.

I can’t believe this was my first time reading this book. I know the original fairly well, but this sequel is almost always out of the library, and I’ve just never picked it up and read it all the way through. I think, though, that I like it more than the original. Trixie has even more personality now that she’s older, and I loved the looks she gave her classmate who happens to have the same bunny. I laughed out loud at the girls’ argument over whether the bunny’s name is pronounced “nuffle” or “kuh-nuffle,” and I thought the nighttime illustrations were some of the most beautiful in the entire book. I also loved the twist at the end, where, after everything, the girls actually want to share their bunnies with each other.

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems. Published 2003. Caldecott Honor 2004.

I have heard so much about this book and seen so much praise for it, that I’ve started taking for granted how brilliant it is. Mo Willems is an expert at giving kids funny, interactive books that excite them about reading and motivate them to learn how. I think the brilliance of this particular book is that it puts kids in control and lets them be the ones to say no for a change. I think kids also get the giggles when they realize they might sometimes act like pigeon when they don’t get their way.

My Mother is the Most Beautiful Woman in the World by

I didn’t think the illustrations in this one were all that wonderful, but the message - that people are beautiful to us when we love them - is nice. The empty picture frame at the back of the book for kids to put their own mothers’ pictures in is a bit much, but I’m sure there are families who have taken advantage of it in their personal copies. This would also be a good one to use in a story time for older kids about Russia or Mother’s Day.

See other Caldecott Challenge participants' blogs on the challenge page at LibLaura5. Follow my challenge progress here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Preschool Story Time (Thanksgiving Theme), 11/16/12

This is the cozy little corner of my story time room that I set up for Preschool Story Time on Friday. (I staged this photo after the fact, but minus the turkey feathers, it looked exactly like this when the kids came in.)

Introduction: We started story time with the hello song, and then I asked the kids to help me figure out the word of the day (on the green poster board in my not-so-great handwriting.) Clearly, our local schools are doing their job, because as soon as I pointed to the word, one little four-year-old called out, "Thanks!" Normally, the preschoolers I see are not yet reading, so this was a surprise. But we still went through and named the letters and it worked out fine. 

Book: Thanks for Thanksgiving by Julie Markes, illustrated by Doris Barrette
We started with this short rhyming book because I thought it would spark a great discussion about what we're thankful for. Unfortunately, only two kids really wanted to say anything. One little girl said "kitties" several times, and another little guy (the "Thanks" reader) said he was thankful for his house. The rest were too little or too shy.

Book: Too Many Turkeys by Linda White, illustrated by Megan Lloyd
This book really resonated with some kids and was too long for others. We had some toddlers and twos kind of wander in, and they got restless during this book. It was nice, though, to read a story about turkeys that isn't expressly about Thanksgiving.

Song: Turkey Pokey
This is the Hokey Pokey, but with wings, drumsticks, and tail feathers. It was cute. 

Song: Sing a Happy Song

Activity: Turkey Match

The idea for this has been brewing in my mind for a long time, and I decided this would be a good opportunity to test it out. I found a turkey image on, then copied it 6 times in word and altered it so that each turkey had one of the letters in turkey on its chest. I used a template for a tie from Google Images to create the feathers, which I recolored in MS Paint. I added the letters to the feathers in Word as well. When it was time to play the game, I quickly counted up the number of kids in the room and divided up the feathers evenly. Then we sang the following verse, to the tune of You Are My Sunshine: 

Let’s help this turkey
This little turkey
whose feathers all have gone astray.
He needs some friends to help him find them
In time for Thanksgiving Day.

 The kids brought their feathers up when their letter was called. Even the littlest kids did it with the help of their parents. It was great! The game went on a little long, so in the future I might pick a shorter word, but otherwise, it's a really fun game, and not too hard to put together.

Book: The Day Ray Got Away by Angela Johnson, illustrated by Luke LaMarca
I took a different route with this year's Thanksgiving theme and read this quirky little book about parade balloons. There was one little boy who absolutely loved the book. The entire time, he was front and center, pointing and grunting. (He was a bit young to be talking.) The older kids had mixed reactions, but overall, it was a good choice.

Guessing Game: Name the Balloon Shape
I'm working on coming up with new ideas for preschool story time activities, and this was an experiment that went very well. I found some pictures of balloons on Google, then pixellated them using FotoFlexer. I mounted the pixellated version on one side of a piece of construction paper, then the real versions, with labels, on the reverse.  The turkey balloon pictured above was the most difficult one to guess. All the others were way too easy. Still, it was fun, and the kids laughed through the whole thing.

Song: If You're Thankful and You Know It

I looked forward to this story time for weeks, and I was thrilled with how it turned out. I am really looking forward to stepping up my preschool story time game even more in January!

I use the same hello and goodbye songs at almost every session. Click here for the tunes and words. For descriptions of each of my story times, click here.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Caldecott Challenge Post #55

Goldilocks and the Three Bears. by James Marshall. Published 1988. Caldecott Honor 1989
This book was like a breath of fresh air. There are a lot of very serious books on the list for this challenge, but it’s not often that a funny book gets recognition. There are tons of subtle jokes in the illustrations. I loved the cats sleeping peacefully on the edge of the pool, about to be woken by Goldilocks as she jumps from the swing. Other highlights were the warning signs on the entrance to the short cut, the books all over the bears’ house, even in Baby Bear’s bed, and Papa Bear huge bunny slippers. This is a great preschool-friendly version of this story, where Goldilocks is a fun caricature and the bears are highly sympathetic characters.

Hansel and Gretel. illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky. Published 1984. Caldecott Honor 1985.
I was always disturbed by this story as a kid, and therefore have not read it in years. This retelling is as good as any, but the illustrations don’t strike me as very kid-friendly. The faces of the characters are kind of creepy, and even the candy house doesn’t look that inviting. I had no memory at all of the story’s happy ending - I’m glad things do turn out okay, but I will never quite get over my childhood fear of that witch.

Rapunzel. illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky. Published 1997. Caldecott Medal 1998.

The ending of this story is totally different from what I remember reading as a kid. I think perhaps I read a watered down version, or only saw the story told on kids’ TV programs. Illustrations in this style, though beautiful, keep from feeling connected to the story, so I didn’t really have a favorite image. This is another book that I just don’t have much to say about - this is happening more now that I’m reading the books I’ve been putting off all year!

See other Caldecott Challenge participants' blogs on the challenge page at LibLaura5. Follow my challenge progress here.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Drop-In Story Time, 11/16/12 (Family Theme)

Book: My Mom and Me by Alyssa Satin Capucilli
The flaps on the pages of this book were awkward for me to handle. I'd have to memorize the text, I think, to use it again effectively.

Mommy’s Glasses / Daddy’s Glasses (based on Here Are Grandma's Glasses)

Book: Dad and Pop: An Ode to Fathers and Stepfathers by Kelly Bennett
Surprisingly, this one wasn't well-received. I'm not quite sure why. 

Where is Thumbkin? (family edition)

Book: One Special Day by Lola Schaefer
This is such a sweet picture book about new siblings. It's the only one in this bunch that was checked out at the end of story time, and the mom told me she was going to read it to her son who is a new big brother!

Flannel Board Rhyme:
Knock Knock, Who's There?
Presentation is key with this one. I haven't had great luck with it in the past, but today, there was so much applause we did it a second time!
Book: Do Like Kyla by Angela Johnson
I didn't think most people were listening by this point and wondered whether the fourth book was one too many, but then I heard a few awws from some adults and looked up to see several kids staring at the book with rapt attention. Not everyone was listening, but some people obviously enjoyed it, and I'm trying to remember that this is the important thing.

Here We Go Up Up

Letter of the Day: Letter N
Songs with ukulele: ABCs / Twinkle Twinkle Little Star / Baa Baa Black Sheep
Song with ukulele: Itsy Bitsy Spider

Song: If You're Happy and You Know It

Song: Rum Sum Sum

Song: Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed

I use the same hello and goodbye songs at almost every session. Click here for the tunes and words. For descriptions of each of my story times, click here.

Pajama Story Time, 11/14/12 (Shapes & Shadows Theme)

Book: The Foggy, Foggy Forest by Nick Sharatt

Book: What's Going on in There? by Geoffrey Grahn

Song: Clap, Stomp, Wiggle

Book: Perfect Square by Michael Hall

Flannel Board: Triangle Tricksters

Song: Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star

Moon Moon Moon

Book: It Looked Like Spilt Milk by Charles G. Shaw

Song: If You're Happy and You Know It

Song with Puppets: Goodnight by the Laurie Berkner Band

I use the same hello and goodbye songs at almost every session. Click here for the tunes and words. For descriptions of each of my story times, click here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Caldecott Challenge Post #54

Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins. by Eric Kimmel, illustrated by

This is one of my favorites from the entire challenge thus far. The goblins have outlawed Hanukkah, but Hershel is too smart to let them get away with it. Each night, he tricks a different goblin into letting him light the menorah, until finally he wins the holiday back from the evil creatures. The story is fun, not scary, and kids learn about dreidels, menorahs, and other Hanukkah traditions as part of the plot. The illustrations of the goblins are cartoonish, showing they are no real threat, and I love Hershel’s warm, friendly, and playful facial expressions. This book would pair well with How the Grinch Stole Christmas for a joint Christmas-Hanukkah program.

Saint George and the Dragon. by Margaret Hodges, illustrated by

This is a nice introduction to the Faerie Queene for preschoolers, with great pictures. My eyes tend to glaze over when dragons appear, but even I could appreciate the talent of the illustrator who portrayed all the excitement of the story so beautifully. Though I don’t think my library branch has a copy of this, it is one I often talk about with four-year-old boys. They can’t get enough!

Golem. by David Wisniewski. Published 1996. Caldecott Medal 1997.

I didn’t really understand the message of this book, but I did enjoy the style of the illustrations. My favorite page is actually the very first page with text. I was struck by the contrast between black, dark buildings and the illuminated ones, and of the small figures with torches against the black background. The content of the story itself didn’t appeal to me, but I do understand why it was recognized by the Caldecott committee.

It Could Always Be Worse. by Margot Zemach. Published 1977. Caldecott Honor 1978. 

I love this story, but had never seen this version of it. I think everybody has times where they need to be reminded of this story’s message and given a little sense of perspective. Since I’d heard the story before, this interpretation of it didn’t really do anything new for me, but I would like to try it in story time and see how preschoolers or kindergarteners like it.

See other Caldecott Challenge participants' blogs on the challenge page at LibLaura5. Follow my challenge progress here.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Drop-In Story Time, 11/13/12

I'm starting to like themes, but only ones like this where there is so much great material. We had a rainy morning, so attendance was about 50% of normal, and I got through four books and tons of songs with no interruptions at all. I might save some of this stuff for next week when I got the rec. center. 

Book: Just a Little Bit by Ann Tompert, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger
I wanted to make this into a flannel board, but couldn't get the animals big enough to be seen and also simultaneously small enough to fit onto the seesaw I made. I'm working on it, though. 

Flannel Board Song: One Elephant Went Out To Play

Book: Peanut Butter and Jelly by Nadine Bernard Westcott
 I read this as written, but in the future I think I'll sing the refrain I grew up with: "Peanut, peanut butter and jelly."

Song: If You're an Elephant... (Tune: If You're Happy and You Know It)
...flap your ears
...stomp your feet
...swish your tail
...wave your trunk
...say, Aroo!
Book: My Elephant by Petr Horacek
This was a hit with the parents and the threes, all of whom laughed when I asked who had an elephant at home. 

Rhyme with Puppet: I Asked My Mother for Fifty Cents 

Book: Sitting in my Box by Dee Lillegard, illustrated by Jon Agee
This book is just not very good. I tried it once last year and it flopped, and it was okay today, but still not a hit.

Song: Shake My Sillies Out 

Letter of the Day: Letter M
(I opted not to cut the letter out of felt. I just wrote it on the board.)
 Songs with ukulele: ABCs/Twinkle Twinkle Little Star / Baa Baa Black Sheep

Song: Clap, Stomp, Wiggle
This one was fun - I could also use with my pre-K and K groups.

Song: Rum Sum Sum 

Song: Tommy Thumb

I use the same hello and goodbye songs at almost every session. Click here for the tunes and words. For descriptions of each of my story times, click here.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Outreach Round-Up, 11/1/12 - 11/9/12

Catholic School Fifth Grade: November 1, 2012
  • Short Story: "Three-Century Woman" from Past Perfect, Present Tense by Richard Peck
  • Notes: I was supposed to do reader's theater with this group, but the hurricane took us out of work for two days, and I never got a script together. This made a nice consolation prize. One of the girls took this book out right away, and many of the other kids were interested in knowing abouy Peck's other books.
 Nursery School Class: November 2, 2012 
Catholic School Kindergarten: November 2, 2012
Catholic School First Grade: November 2, 2012

Catholic School Fifth Grade: November 8, 2012
  • Reader's Theater: A Donkey to Market
  • Notes: The kids were shockingly into this. They read with lots of expression and their teacher prompted a nice discussion about the themes of the story afterward.
Catholic School Third Grade: November 9, 2012
  • Book: Jim Henson: The Guy Who Played with Puppets by Kathleen Krull
  • Notes: A huge hit. They got a little rowdy and thought Prairie Dawn was Miss Piggy, but it was such a success I'm building a program around this book for December. 
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