Thursday, January 31, 2013

Read-Along Story Time for Beginning Readers, 1/31/13

Read-Along Story Time for Beginning Readers, 1/31/13

Yes, yes, yes! Finally, a beginning reader story time that worked for both me and the kids! After reflecting on last week's session, I made a few changes. First, I decided to stop using the bulletin board for my welcome message and other items. This meant that I could set myself up on the wooden steps at the back of the room, and the kids therefore could not come up and climb on them. It also opened up a lot more room for the kids to have their space and not be in each other's faces as much. I introduced name tags this time as well and also put out the stools in a semi-circle formation so kids would understand where they were meant to sit. Not everyone got a stool, but no one complained about that at all. Mostly the seats just gave the room some structure.

Opening Rhyme
To get everyone's attention, and get things started, I broke out one of my go-to rhymes, This is Big, Big, Big, which comes from Mel's Desk. Normally, I would not consider this an appropriate school-age rhyme, but as we were going through it, I kept pausing to let the kids fill in the words - big, small, short, tall, etc. I realized that they seemed to enjoy being able to predict what I would say, and doing the motions got everyone into a rhythm of listening and paying attention. I'm definitely going to start with an action rhyme from now on.

Welcome Message 
I used my best teacher writing to write today's message. It was a little long, but I wanted it to sort of map out what we would be doing during the story time so that transitions from one activity to the next wouldn't be surprises. I can't say for sure that this is why things ran so smoothly, but I suspect it was one of a few details that did make a difference. Since the text is a little small in the photo, I'll reproduce the text of the message here.

Hello, everyone! 

Here is what we will do at story time today. First, we will all read a story called At the Pet Store. Second, I will read you a book called Pet Show. Finally, we will play a pet show game. Let's get started! 

Your Friend, 

Miss Katie

One of the girls who has been coming every week piped up at the end of the message to say - "Miss Katie, that's you!" (And I have to say that the way the kids say my name in a chorus at the end of my messages reminds me so much of the way the models on America's Next Top Model say, "Love, Tyra." It cracks me up.)

During the past few weeks, I found that the books we were reading were too long for choral reading. The less experienced readers got lost, and the more experienced readers zipped ahead of us. So this week, I looked for a printable easy reader that would go with the theme of pets. (I wasn't necessarily married to the idea of using the same theme at this story time as at the others this week, but the picture book I wanted to read was pet-themed, and it just kind of grew from there.) When I didn't find anything I really liked, I went ahead and wrote my own! The end result looks liked this:

The text follows this pattern: "At the pet store, I see a dog. But I don't want to buy a dog." The same thing repeats for cat, fish, and bird, but then the little girl sees a dragon, which she decides to buy. The entire book (which uses clip art from and that I am free to share) can be downloaded here as a .pdf file.

The kids loved this book, and I did allow them to keep their own personal copies to take home, which was a really big deal for most of them. At the end of the story, the most vocal girl in the group (the one who recognizes my name) called out, "That was crazy!" and I could  tell from the look on her face that this was a compliment.

Briefly, between books, we talked about our pets. Hardly anyone in the group wanted to share,  but I see potential for this portion of the story time in the future. I also love Katie's idea of creating a word cloud with the kids, and I think that would also fit in well at this point in the story time.

Picture Book Read-Aloud
This was the key component missing from my previous sessions. It's not really a story time if we don't share a picture book!  We read Pet Show by Ezra Jack Keats. I tried to get them to talk a little bit about the story, but I didn't really plan any questions so the discussion didn't last long. Now that I know how well this format works, though, I'll prepare better next time.

Pet Show Game
The brown paper bag in the photo above that is labeled "Pet Show" contained six small stick puppets. Each puppet showed the name of an animal on one side, and a picture of that animal on the other side. Four of the animals - cat, dog, bird, and fish - came from At the Pet Store, and two others - turtle and rabbit - were added to make the game last a bit longer. I pulled the animals out one at a time, had the kids call out the word, then showed them the picture. Then I took volunteers to act out various "tricks" these pets might do in a show. The more I think about it, the more I like the way this activity went. All the kids could participate on some level, and most of them had at least one idea to share. It also got them thinking about how to describe animal behavior, and the physical aspect of it kept them from getting wild and out of hand.

Closing Song
Hat, Coat, Pants and Shoes has become the ending song for this story time, just by default. The kids love it, and I enjoy the challenge of coming up with new ways to surprise them at the end of each verse.

When the kids came into story time, the nametag they received was a blank "blue ribbon" with a hole punched in it and a string so they could wear it around their neck. At the end of story time, I provided crayons for them to design their ribbon, as prize for doing so well in the pet show. I didn't see that many of them actually coloring it, but some of them got really into it. I would like to see this portion of the story time get a little bit stronger, but quite a few of the parents are really concerned about getting in and out in 30 minutes. I think they might be squeezing this story time in before other after school activities. But everything else went so well, I have no complaints whatsoever! I have found a structure that works, and I'm going to try sticking to it for a few weeks in the hopes that the kids will become accustomed to the routine too.

Let's Read About Pets! Baby Lap Time, 1/31/13

  Let's Read About Pets! Baby Lap Time, 1/31/13

Today's baby lap time went wonderfully well.  All the grown-ups sang along and participated, and the babies got a big kick out of holding their own foam stars during Twinkle Twinkle. A couple of the moms  really loved the animal sounds book.  Pizza, Pickle, Pumpernickel wasn't the hit I expected, but I might need to practice my delivery.

Rhyme: Cheek Chin

Book: Oink, Moo, Meow by Sterling Publishing Company

Rhyme with Puppets: Two Little Kittens

Song: Tony Chestnut

Song: Head + Shoulders

Book: The Rabbit by John Burningham

Rhyme: Hop Your Bunnies

Rhyme: Clap Your Hands

Rhyme: Where Oh Where are Baby’s Fingers?

Song: All the Little Babies

Rhyme: Pizza, Pickle, Pumpernickel

Song with Puppet: Mr. Sun

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

Song: There's a Star Upon My Head

Song: Itsy Bitsy Spider

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.

Let's Read About Pets! Toddler Lap Time, 1/31/13

 Let's Read About Pets! Toddler Lap Time, 1/31/13

We had a hugely successful toddler time this morning! 

Book: Are You a Cow? by Sandra Boynton
The kids loved saying "Nooo" over and over again to the different questions. The parents loved the sweet ending.

Song with Puppet: I’m a Little Green Frog

Book: Oink, Moo, Meow by Sterling Publishing Company
This book is so simple and straightforward, and I love that about it. Some of the kids knew many of the common animal sounds and giggled over the lesser known ones, such as the wolf pup and sea lion.

Song with Puppets: Do You Know the Little Dog?

Book: Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell

Song: I'm a Little Teapot

Song: Hands Up High 
This was a new one, and it was just right for this age group. We'll be using it again.

Song: Here We Go Up Up Up

Songs with Shaker Eggs:
This is the first time we've used shaker eggs since the new lap time sessions have begun. The kids had a lot of fun, and I think this combination of songs is the best one I've used. I'll probably use these every other week, and work up to switching off with bubbles and the parachute.
Song: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

Song: Itsy Bitsy Spider

Song: Row, Row, Row Your Boat

Song: If You're Happy and You Know It 

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, January 30, 2013

Let's Read About Pets! Pajama Story Time, 1/30/13

 Let's Read About Pets! Pajama Story Time, 1/30/13

Book: Mr Merlin and the Turtle by Seymour Chwast
This is why I like doing themed story times - I find books I never would have known about otherwise. This is an older title, and doesn't look like much from the cover, but the kids got really excited about watching me lift the flaps and show them what Merlin turned his turtle into. It's a nice alternative to Dear Zoo, which sometimes gets old after reading it too many times.

Rhyme: There Was a Little Turtle
I've always heard this presented to kids as a song, but it works much better for me if I do it as a rhyme. So that's what we did. A little boy who normally comes to Read-Along and Preschool story time was out in the library when we started this  rhyme. By the time we finished, he was inside the door.

Book: Jack’s Rabbit by Yvonne Jagtenberg
This was the quietest of all the books, and the least engaging for a toddler, but their attention did come back to the book even they briefly got distracted.

Song: Five Little Rabbits Hopping on the Bed
I revamped Five Little Monkeys - this is the song that brought that little boy who liked the turtle rhyme all the way into the center of the room. He got a kick out of changing monkeys to rabbits.

Book: Bark, George by Jules Feiffer
This book was a little over the two youngest kids' heads, but they got into making the animal sounds anyway. The parents of one of the girls loved it. The other dad didn't think it was funny! Oops!

Song: Do you know the little dog/cat?
This one is just like The Muffin Man, but instead of Drury Lane, we sang the name of our neighborhood. Then we sang that yes, we do know this dog and this cat who live here.

Book: Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin and Dean Martin
This book never lets me down. It is the only one of the four that got checked out at the end of the session.

Song: Moon Moon Moon 

Song: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

Song: Goodnight
We sang goodnight to our dog and cat, and then, for  the heck of it, a frog. 

Song: If You’re Happy and You Know It

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.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Let's Read About Pets! Drop-In Story Time, 1/29/13

 Let's Read About Pets! Drop-In Story Time, 1/29/13
*No handout this week - no one takes them, so they result in lots of scrap paper and I haven't been able to put them on our website in a timely manner to make it worthwhile.

I'm still fighting a cold, so I could barely sing. I left the ukulele at home so that I wouldn't be tempted to overdo it, and used a lot more rhymes than usual. It worked out fine, and everyone was into the cat theme. 

Book: Mama Cat Has Three Kittens by Denise Fleming

Rhyme with Puppets: Two Little Kittens
This was a bigger hit than it has ever been. I saw lots of kids using their hands as kittens and trying to say the rhyme with me.

Book: Have You Seen My Cat? by Eric Carle
This got a lot of applause despite the fact that it didn't look like anyone was listening. One girl - she was about three - did answer me every time I asked, "Have you seen my cat?" which was very cute. I kept a post-it note with the name of each type of cat on the back flap of the jacket so I could name what we were looking at.

Song: All the Cats 
We sang about a cat, a tiger, and a lion.

Book: Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin and Dean Martin

Rhyme: This is Big, Big, Big

Letter of the Day: X
This is the trickiest letter, and I'm proud of how I tackled it!
  • One Xylophone (based on One Violin; we used "plink" instead of "zin")
  • Pirate Rex's Four Xs (coming soon to Flannel Friday!)
Song: ABCs

Song: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star 

Song: Baa Baa Black Sheep

Rhyme: Wiggle Fingers

 Song: Shake My Sillies Out 

Song: The Itsy Bitsy Spider 

Song: If You're Happy and You Know It

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, January 28, 2013

Outreach Round-Up, 1/16/13 - 1/25/13

Rec. Center Cooperative Play Program: Wednesday, 1/16/13
Books: A Little Bit of Winter, The Hat, Help!
Songs: Good morning, Mr. Hedgehog, how are you?, Five Little Hedgehogs Brown, Sing a Happy Song
Notes: I debuted my hedgehog puppet at this story time and read three hedgehog themed books, all of which were well received despite being somewhat longer than what I normally share with this group.

Catholic School Pre-K: Thursday, 1/17/13 
Books: Happy Hector, The Happy Lion, Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes
Songs: If You’re Happy and You Know It, I’ve Got Something In My Pocket, Sing a Happy Song, You Are My Sunshine
Notes: I decided to do a story time about being happy, and that worked really well. They loved all three books, but Pete the Cat was the biggest hit by far.

Catholic School 5th Grade: Thursday, 1/17/13
For this visit, I asked the kids to create an acrostic poem with their names, listing things they like. Then I gave them a quick handout about the Dewey Decimal System and had them explore the shelves looking for a book about one of the things they listed. Their teacher made things a little confusing by also requiring them to choose a book that would be appropriate for  their kindergarten reading buddies, but even with that added stress, the kids did a great job. (Credit for this activity goes to the other children's librarian at my branch who saved the day when I couldn't get inspired.)

Public School Pre-K: Wednesday, 1/23/13 (Two Classes)
Books: Possum Magic, Over in the Ocean in a Coral Reef 
Songs: Hat, Coat, Pants, and Shoes, These Are My Glasses, Taba Naba (first class only)
Notes: Both groups were so involved with these books that we barely had time for any singing. We talked about what we'd do if we were invisible, and made lots of great observations about sea creatures.

Catholic School 5th Grade: Thursday, 1/24/13
I decided I wanted this group to be a bit more invested when they come each week, so I've started reading them a novel: No Talking by Andrew Clements. They were skeptical at first, but I could see them getting more interested as they realized how good it is. The dialogue in particular got the girls all excited, and one of them even told me she thinks I should read audiobooks for a living. (I take no credit for this. Clements writes killer dialogue that makes it is easy to read aloud.) I'm hoping to get some good discussions out of them as  the weeks go on. I expect we'll finish the book by the end of March.

Catholic School Kindergarten: Friday, 1/25/13
Books: Guess Again!, Six Dinner Sid 
Song: Aikendrum
Notes: This group was a little off because they had a substitute teacher and she was not really with it. They did help me come up with a new way to sing Aikendrum, though - let the kids name the foods and body parts, and then I just sing them.

Here We Go! Preschool Story Time, 1/25/13

 Here We Go! Preschool Story Time, 1/25/13
Book: Fast Food by Saxton Freymann, illustrated by Joost Elffers

Song: Shake My Sillies Out 
We had a little argument going on in the front row between a three-year-old boy who refused to sit down and a little girl who is very aware of rules and the importance of following them. The boy's mom basically told him it was fine to stand in the little girl's way, even after I asked that we all sit on our bottoms, so I did this song to get everyone moving while I thought it over. By the end of the song, he was tired enough that he sat. 

Book: The Three Little Rigs by David Gordon
This is a wonderful retelling of the Three Little Pigs using trucks. This was my favorite of the four, and I think it was the kids' favorite too.

Song with Ukulele: Little Red Caboose
This wasn't a huge hit with this group, but they were mesmerized by the ukulele.

Book: Duck on a Bike by David Shannon
I will never stop loving the image of all those animals staring at the kids' bikes right before they get on and ride them. The little girl who loves to enforce rules also raised her hand to tell me it wasn't nice to steal bicycles from the kids without asking. She reminds me a lot of myself as a four year old.

Book: Mitchell's License by Hallie Durand, illustrated by Tony Fucile
I love Tony Fucile's artwork, and the premise of this book so much that I use it at story time even though I think the kids miss most of the humor. It works well for story times where the whole family attends, and there were some moms and grandmas this week that got a kick out of it.

This was a nice, calm story time to end the week. I'd love another session like this - soon!

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, January 27, 2013

Here We Go! Toddler Lap Time, 1/25/13

 Here We Go! Toddler Lap Time, 1/25/13 
As with last week, the two Toddler Lap Time sessions were quite different. This week, there were two reasons. One was that almost everyone who registered for the Thursday session showed up, so it was a big group, while the Friday group had less than half the expected number. The other was that I let one of the moms from the Thursday session borrow one of the books I read (Truckery Rhymes) so I had to find a replacement. I also have a hard time doing the same story time twice, so I have a feeling they will never be exactly identical. Here is what I shared with Friday's group:

Book: Little Tug by Steven Savage

Song: Row Row Row Your Boat

Book: Flying by Donald Crews

Rhyme: I’m a Little Bumblebee

Book: The Babies on the Bus by Karen Katz

Songs with Paper Plate Steering Wheels: 

Song: Shake My Sillies Out 

Song: I'm a Little Teapot

Song: The Itsy Bitsy Spider

Rhyme: This is Big, Big, Big 

Song: If You’re Happy and You Know It
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.

Here We Go! Drop-In Story Time, 1/25/13

  Here We Go! Drop-In Story Time, 1/25/13 

Book: Train Man by Andrea Zimmerman, illustrated by David Clemesha
The adults got very excited about this book, and I could see them trying to help their kids see better and pointing out different things in the illustrations. It was a new one for me, and I thought it was just okay, but I wanted to try something other than Freight Train.

Song with ukulele: Little Red Caboose
This was a surprise hit. We sang it at normal speed, then very slowly, and very quickly. Thankfully, it only requires me to know two chords and I could switch back and forth quickly enough to make it fun. 

Book: Sail Away! by Donald Crews
I always have good luck with this one, except for the ending. In the past, I have tried changing the last word, "Moored!" to "Home!"  but this time I stayed true to the original text and followed it up with, "They made it home. And that is... the end." I still hate saying "the end" but sometimes it's the only thing that triggers an audience reaction.

Song: Row, Row, Row Your Boat

Books: Cars! Cars! Cars! by Grace Maccarone, illustrated by David A. Carter
I had planned to read Mr. Gumpy's Motor Car, but this book was returned the night before story time, and I made a switch. This turned out to be a much better choice as a third book. There were a lot of babies, so the rhyming text was a plus, and the same kids who were excited about trains lost it over cars, too.

Rhyme: I'm a Windshield Wiper 

Flannel Board Rhyme: One Lonely Bus Driver
I used Auntie Madge and the bus from Seven Snazzy Aunties, and four of the kids from The Doorbell Rang to quickly put together this flannel board set. As usually happens with flannel boards, the kids were into it and the adults seemed confused. 

Letter of the Day: W
Songs with ukulele: ABCs / Twinkle Twinkle Little Star / Baa Baa Black Sheep

Song: Shake My Sillies Out  

Rhyme: This is Big, Big, Big 

Song: If You're Happy and You Know It

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.

Read-Along Story Time for Beginning Readers, 1/24/13

  Read-Along Story Time for Beginning Readers, 1/24/13

Welcome Message: 
This week's welcome message commented on our weather and the theme of our story time. 

Dear Friends, 

I am glad to see you on such a cold day. We will warm up with a story time about soup. 


Miss Katie 

The kids read right along with me, and the only words that stumped them were "friends" and "about." 

Activity: What's Cooking? 
Each child was handed a paper bowl containing an assortment of felt letters and a plastic spoon. The idea was for them to fish out a letter, then make the letter sound and name a food beginning with that sound. I expected to have about ten kids when I planned this activity, but with only four, it quickly got out of hand as they pulled out whatever letters they liked and essentially made up their own words, or refused to name any words at all. We did manage to make a list, but they were not into it, and I found myself questioning whether this is even an appropriate activity for story time - maybe it's more like something they'd do at school.

This story time has been running very long, which has annoyed the parents, so I stuck to just one story this week - the "Birthday Soup" story from Little Bear. The kids wouldn't open their books, then decided not to use them. I read the story, and asked them to look for clues in the illustrations that would tell them what each animal had brought for Little Bear's birthday. A couple of them did it, but again, it was too basic for them, and they were bored.

Activity: I Feel Silly So I Jump In My Soup
The final activity was based on the Laurie Berkner song, I Feel Crazy So I Jump In My Soup. I wrote each of the kids' names on a sentence strip, then let them tell me what they would do if they could jump in a big vat of soup. Their answers were very descriptive, and it occurs to me as I write this that they might have done better if they could have written them down themselves. They liked the silly premise, but what they really wanted to instead was write on the dry erase wall. And since I wasn't prepared for that, they sort of lost interest. I was going to read another story from Little Bear, but decided to just let them go color. I wasn't feeling great

This story time continues to puzzle and surprise me. This week's group was made up of two girls and two boys, all of whom already know how to read above grade level. They were clearly bored by the activities because they were too easy, and I didn't feel like I knew how to make them any more challenging or interesting. (I asked one of the girls as she was leaving what she might like to read in future story times, and she said Magic Tree House - I have no idea how to make that work.) In this story time, more than any other, I feel real pressure from the parents to teach their kids something. Though the parents didn't stay in the room, I still felt as though they were judging the story time, and then the kids started getting wild, I worried they would think I wasn't doing a good job. (I have already had one parent quiz me extensively on the purpose and content of this story time, and I keep waiting for that to happen again.) I think over the next few weeks I have to concentrate on a few things, namely:
  • coming up with ways to include kids who can read, even when the non-readers are present, and vice versa
  • making the story time less academic and more fun, while still focusing on learning and literacy 
  • figuring out how to keep the "read-along" component without boring the kids (the read-along part is the main draw for the parents, but so far, it doesn't really work for the kids, mostly because the stories we read are too long.)
It's a tall order, but I still think it will work once we figure out the bugs.

Here We Go! Baby Lap Time, 1/24/13

 Here We Go! Baby Lap Time, 1/24/13 
I'm still getting a handle on this story time. The regulars so far are very reserved moms who smile shyly from their seats but seem reluctant to participate. Many of them approach me individually and say they love the activities, so I know they're into it, but the vibe during the story time is so far one of awkwardness. This will probably change as their babies get a bit older (many are 2-3 months right now!) and they learn the songs I repeat each week. 

Rhyme: Cheek Chin

Book: Boats by Byron Barton

Song: Row, Row, Row Your Boat

Song: Tony Chestnut

Song: Head and Shoulders, Baby

Song: All the Little Babies

Red Truck, Yellow Bus by Scholastic Inc.

Song: The Wheels on the Bus

Rhyme: I’m a Little Bumblebee

Song: Where is Big Toe?

Rhyme: Mother and Father and Uncle John

Song: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

Rhyme: Hey Diddle Diddle 

Song: The Itsy Bitsy Spider

Song: If You’re Happy and You Know It

Edited to add: We also read Truck Duck by Michael Rex, but I'm not sure where it fell in the line-up.

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.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Here We Go! Toddler Lap Time, 1/24/13

 Here We Go! Toddler Lap Time, 1/24/13 

As with last week, this lap time and the Friday lap time were pretty different, so they're getting two separate posts.

Rhyme: When I Travel
I wrote this rhyme and used clipart printed out and mounted on construction paper to demonstrate the concepts. (Our color copier is down, so I can't make any color flannel boards right now!)

Book: Little Tug by Steven Savage

Song: Row Row Row Your Boat

Book: Flying by Donald Crews

Song: I'm a Little Teapot

Song: Shake My Sillies Out

Song: Sing a Happy Song 

Songs with Steering Wheels: I have never seen a group of children less enthusiastic about a prop than these kids were about the paper plates I handed out for them to use as steering wheels. Normally, they love props, but not this crowd, so we cut it short, did only two songs and quickly collected them. I intended to have them "drive" a bus, a car, and a truck, as shown on the popsicle stick puppets in the photo above, but we skipped that song.
Rhymes: Selections From Truckery Rhymes
This was such a big hit that one of the moms asked if she could borrow the book. Figuring I could find something else for the Friday session, I let her take it.

  • Rumble Rumble Monster Max
  • Three Loud Trucks
  • This is the Way
  • Rock-a-Bye Mixer

Song: The Wheels on the Bus

Song: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

Song: The Itsy Bitsy Spider

Song: If You’re Happy and You Know It

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.

Here We Go! Pajama Story Time, 1/23/13

It's been bitterly cold here this week, so only two kids came to this story time. One of their moms seemed annoyed with me that the group was so small, and when it was over, she actually said to me, "That's it?" That didn't make me feel great, but the kids were sweet and the story time itself went fine.

Here We Go! Pajama Story Time, 1/23/13

[No one showed up until 10 minutes after the story time was meant to start, so I didn't take a photo because I didn't think the program was happening.]

Book: Traffic by Betsy and Giulio Maestro
I had this book on hand in case babies and toddlers came, since it's kind of basic and has no real plot, but the mom of the first girl to show up told the little girl she could choose the book, and this is what she picked. *sigh*

Book: The Bus For Us by Suzanne Bloom
This was the favorite of the kids. They liked guessing and the older of the two girls kept saying, "Let's turn the page and find out!" which is something I frequently say during story times she attends, so it was nice to see her picking up on that.

Song: The Wheels on the Bus

Book: Mr. Gumpy’s Motor Car by John Burningham
I think Mr. Gumpy's Outing is a more engaging story. The girls spent this entire book sprawled on the floor giggling.

Song: Goodnight
We sang goodnight to a car, a truck, and a bus.

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, January 23, 2013

Caldecott Challenge Post #79

Houses from the Sea by Alice E. Goudey, illustrated by Adrienne Adams. Published 1959. Caldecott Honor 1960.

This is a very well-written non-fiction title about the shells one can find on the beach. The rich, poetic language might lose some kids, but others will delight in the artistic presentation of scientific information. The light colors and brushstrokes of the illustrations create a very wet atmosphere that evokes the seaside in a very visceral way. My favorite page is the one with the wentletraps, where a faint staircase appears behind the fish.

Song of Robin Hood, by Anne Malcomson, illustrated by Virginia Lee Burton. Published 1947. Caldecott Honor 1948. 

All I know about Robin Hood comes from movies, so  this book was a real treat for me. I loved the language of the songs, and appreciated that the tunes were also included. The illustrations, though tiny in many places, really helped contextualize the various episodes from Robin Hood's life. Kids with a Robin Hood obsession will eat this book up, and I think it's also a great gift for students of Early Modern English. This is one of the few books from this challenge that I don't even really consider a children's book. This book is as much for adults as for kids.

Marguerite de Angeli's Book of Nursery and Mother Goose Rhymes by Marguerite de Angeli. Published 1954. Caldecott Honor 1955. 

It is amazing to me how many nursery rhymes there are, and how many I didn't know before reading them in this book. I noticed that death is a strong theme in a lot of them, especially when it comes to animals, and most of them were not anything I'd feel comfortable sharing with my story time audiences. There were a ton of illustrations, and each added its own charm to the book, but my favorites were the images of the babies that accompany "Hush-a-bye, baby" and "Bye, baby bunting."

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

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Caldecott Challenge Post #78

Anatole and the Cat by Eve Titus, illustrated by Paul Galdone. Published 1957. Caldecott Honor 1958. 

Anatole, the mouse who works for a cheese factory without ever revealing his identity as a mouse, is such an endearing character. In this adventure, the owner of the cheese factory has a cat, who terrifies Anatole and makes it basically impossible for him to do his job. Anatole, ever crafty, finds a clever way to solve the problem, even though he comes close to losing his job. I enjoyed the story, and I'll try to keep it in mind the next time I want to do a French story time!

Dick Whittington and his Cat by Marcia Brown. Published 1950. Caldecott Honor 1951. 

I'm always impressed to know that there are people out there who can cut images like the ones in this book out of linoleum. As someone who can't cut a straight line with a pair of scissors, I am in total awe of artists whose talents require so much precision and focus. That said, aside from the interesting method of creating the pictures, this book didn't really resonate with me. I think there is something to be said for the message, that loving something and setting it free brings with it great rewards, but otherwise, I wasn't all that entertained.

The Egg Tree by Katherine Milhous. Published 1950. Caldecott Medal 1951.

My mother had an Easter tree when I was a kid, and this book brought back memories of watching her hollow out eggs so I could take them to school and decorate them, then bring them back home to hang on the tree. The dialogue in this book, and the behavior of the kids, seemed very contemporary, despite the book's age, and I think only the style of dress in the illustrations gives away that the setting is actually Pennsylvania Dutch Country. I was kind of disappointed by how dull the colors are in the images, but I did like the two-page spreads showing the kids hunting for eggs and later painting them.

Chanticleer and the Fox by Barbara Cooney. Published 1958. Caldecott Medal 1959.

I love the color scheme of the illustrations in this book, and how certain patches of color are used to draw the eye across the page in a particular way. I've never been crazy about the story itself, but I like the way the mother uses a moment of drama between animals as a way to teach her kids a lesson. I also think the cover illustration is great - the fox peeking out of the bush at Chanticleer tells us so much about the story to come.

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

Caldecott Challenge Post #77

The Wheel on the Chimney by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Tibor Gergely. Published 1954. Caldecott Honor 1955.

The text in this book, which is all about the lives and flight patterns of storks, is a bit on the dry side, but the illustrations more than make up for that. I have never seen a better visual representation of the way birds move - not just as individuals, but in flocks. Most of the illustrations are great, but my favorite is the one where the flock of white storks lands on the green field where the woman in pink sits painting them. I also love the pinkness of all the flamingos as the storks land by the side of the water in Africa.Tibor Gergeley knows how to capture nature in a visceral way that leaves the viewer breathless.

Frog Went a Courtin’ by John Langstaff, illustrated by Feodor Rojankovsky. Published 1955. Caldecott Medal 1956.

I owned a paperback version of this book as a kid, and I always liked that it looked like a coloring book the author had colored in with crayons. I didn’t care much about the romance, but loved seeing the different creatures file in for the wedding supper. Reading it now, my favorite pictures are of the raccoon carrying the silver spoon and the chick wearing his bib. (I am kind of freaked out by the chick lying down being forced to drink castor oil after he eats too much.) I like that the animals all seem very large and important until the tom cat comes along and gives us some perspective. It’s a neat way to sort of end the magic of the party before Frog and Miss Mouse run off to France!

Moon Jumpers by Janice May Udry, illustrated by Maurice Sendak. Published 1959. Caldecott Honor 1960

Maurice Sendak was already one of my favorite children’s authors and illustrators before I saw this book, but his illustrations of these children playing outside at night took me right back to my own childhood. I love the way he depicts the glow of the moon on the tree branches and on the lawn, and that one of the little boys looks just a tiny bit like Max. Janice May Udry also gets major kudos for lines like, “We climb the tree just to be in a tree at night.” Why do kids do things? Often just to do them. This book captures that feeling of being out at night just for the sake of it in a magical and timeless way.

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

Caldecott Challenge Post #76

The Thanksgiving Story by Alice Dalgliesh, illustrated by Helen Sewell. Published 1954. Caldecott Honor 1955. 

This is a romanticized retelling of the pilgrims’ journey to the New World, of their relationships with the American Indians, and of the first Thanksgiving feast. It’s told in this strangely distant tone that glosses over anything bad that happened, and toward the end, it’s slips into this conditional language, guessing at what could have taken place at the Thanksgiving feast instead of telling us what did happen. The book jacket calls it a “book to read aloud to children when they first want to know why we have Thanksgiving day.” It’s really far too long for preschoolers, and not particularly informative. I also didn’t think the illustrations supported the text that strongly. They were sort of abstract and again, focused on only mundane things, not the more exciting or emotional parts of the story.

Green Eyes by Abe Birnbaum. Published 1953. Caldecott Honor 1954.

On his first birthday, Green Eyes looks back on his year as a kitten, then looks ahead to life as a full-grown cat. This book is so contemporary-looking, it could have been published today. The illustrations have strong, bold lines and lots of color, and the text is pretty minimal - I might consider using this one when I do my pet-themed story times in a few weeks! My favorite page is the spread where the picture window looks out on the white of the snow and Green Eyes curls up in his box beside the radiator.

Ape in a Cape by Fritz Eichenberg. Published 1952. Caldecott Honor 1953.

I like the rhyme Eichenberg uses for each letter of the alphabet, and I was disappointed to lose it on the last page. My favorite rhymes were “vulture with culture” and “Irish setter with a letter.” The picture of the Irish setter was probably my favorite image in the whole book, mostly because many of the others looked creepy and unsettling to me. In terms of talent, though, the most impressive picture is of that little rabbit holding down the lid over the “fox in a box.” That is a picture that truly speaks a thousand words.

Anatole by Eve Titus, illustrated by Paul Galdone. Published 1956. Caldecott Honor 1957.

This book reminds me a lot of Library Mouse - but this classic story is better written and more fun. I love the idea of a mouse wanting to make an honest living instead of stealing from people, and I like that the people respond favorably, even giving him an important title and lots of treats for his trouble in helping find the best cheese flavors. My favorite feature in the illustrations is the shade of blue used to depict nighttime. I also love the playful little mice children.

Mice Twice by Joseph Low. Published 1980. Caldecott Honor 1981.

A cat invites a mouse to dinner in the hopes of eating her, but mouse is too smart for that. She brings her friend dog with her. In a true game of cat and mouse, the rival animals go back and forth trying to outsmart each other, until finally Cat gets what’s coming to him. This book makes clever use of well-known rivalries in the animal kingdom, with an end result that will surprise and delight preschoolers.

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

Caldecott Challenge Post #75

The Little Island by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated Leonard Weisgard. Published 1946. Caldecott Medal 1947.

I have always loved anything illustrated by Leonard Weisgard, and this book is no exception. I love the rich, deep colors he uses in his paintings, and the way he fills entire pages, with no white space leftover. The story is one of Margaret Wise Brown’s stranger stories, especially at the end, but I think it shares an important message about individuality and interconnectedness.

The Happy Day by Ruth Krauss, illustrated by Marc Simont. Published 1949. Caldecott Honor 1950.

Though my favorite Ruth Krauss books are those illustrated by Maurice Sendak, I do have a soft spot for the animals in this book. The front cover really doesn’t do justice to the cuteness - or the realism - of the animals inside. I love the chaotic movement on each page, and how it increases as excitement builds. And the ending is very sweet, just right for toddlers and preschoolers.

The Wave by Margaret Hodges, illustrated by Blair Lent. Published 1964. Caldecott Honor 1965.

I’m not too crazy about the illustrations in this book, but I like the storyline. The idea of one man sacrificing his own welfare to save his neighbors is a noble one, and I think kids really understand lessons like that when they are packaged in exciting scenarios like this one. One page I do like is the page where the wave rolls through and knocks against all the houses. I can feel the movement of the water, and sense how fortunate the people were not to be in their homes at the time of the disaster.

Baboushka and the Three Kings by Ruth Robbins, illustrated by Nicolas Sidjakov. Published 1960. Caldecott Medal 1961.

This book has such a charming look to it. It almost looks homemade, as though a child wrote and illustrated it. The story is essentially the same as the legend of Old Befana, only this one is Russian and Old Befana is Italian. I like that it has something of a religious message, that we have to be ready when Jesus comes, but that it also doesn’t vilify Baboushka, but gives her hope and a purpose while she waits for her opportunity to see Jesus once more. Oddly enough, my favorite illustration is the pattern on the endpapers. I love the blue.

Bear Party by William Pene du Bois. Published 1951. Caldecott Honor 1952. 

This book reminds me of the Teddy Bears Picnic song. I liked the illustrations of the costumes the bears wore the party, and the sound words used to evoke the music played at the party. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the fact that the bears no longer recognized each other without their costumes, but it seemed like a commentary on how people grow apart when they fight to the point that they stop really knowing each other and focus instead on their anger. In any case, I think most kids would agree that a party is a pretty good way to end fights and bad feelings.

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

Caldecott Challenge Post #74

Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey. Published 1948. Caldecott Honor 1949. 

This is one of the few books of which I have very specific childhood memories. I always thought Sal was a boy, despite the pronouns in the text, and I remember being fascinated by the endpapers, where Sal and her mother can their blueberries. Though I probably couldn’t have articulated it back then, I have also always loved the blue ink of the illustrations. Looking at now, I’m drawn to the details - Sal’s shoes, the distinct sound of the berries hitting the bottom of the empty pail, and the faces on the people and the bears. This remains one of my absolute favorite picture books.

One Morning in Maine by Robert McCloskey. Published 1952. Caldecott Honor 1953.

I never read this one as a kid, but I can imagine I would have loved seeing Sal a bit more grown up - and old enough to lose a tooth, at that! The story is lengthy, which can make it tricky for young story time audiences but perfect for elementary school class visits. I love how realistic all of the characters look, and how occasionally they look out of the page right at the reader. I also enjoyed Sal’s little sister, Jane, who moves silently in the background of many pictures, doing her own thing. There is so much happening in the illustrations that is never mentioned in the text, which, for me, is always the sign of a wonderful picture book.

If I Ran the Zoo by Dr. Seuss. Published 1950. Caldecott Honor 1951.

I don’t tend to think of Dr. Seuss as an illustrator. I focus more on his talents as the author of all those wonderful rhyming books. But the art in this one did grab my attention. My favorite picture is of the head of the blue-haired Iota. It’s so simple, and yet conveys so much personality. I also like the way that the very first page turn effectively performs a magic trick. In the blink of an eye, Gerald McGrew leaps in to trade places with the zookeeper, setting up the whole fantasy that follows. It’s such a small detail, but one of my favorite moments in the book.

Bartholomew and the Oobleck by Dr. Seuss. Published 1949. Caldecott Honor 1950.

I haven’t thought about this book in years, but reading it brought it all back to me. My third grade teacher read it to my class, and I remember making oobleck afterwards. I always thought it was neat that every page was almost exclusively black and white except for the green splotches of sticky oobleck. Something about the story reminds me of King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub. I’d like to bring the two together for a story time.

A Pocketful of Cricket by Rebecca Caudill, illustrated by Evaline Ness. Published 1964. Caldecott Honor 1965.

I haven’t been fond of many Evaline Ness books in this challenge, but this one - written by Rebecca Caudill - stole my heart. Like Mary and her lamb, Jay and his cricket go to school, only to find themselves in a bit of trouble. I love the way Caudill describes Jay’s discovery of the cricket, as well as his use of the cricket as a kind of security blanket on his first day of school. I like the earthy color scheme Ness uses, as well as her depiction of Jay as small and thin compared to objects such as his bed and the school bus. This would be a great book to share at back-to-school time that might be overlooked by those who have not read it before.

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

Caldecott Challenge Post #73

The Most Wonderful Doll in the World. by Phyllis McGinley, illustrated by Helen Stone. Published 1950. Caldecott Honor 1951.

This book reads like an early chapter book, despite its lack of chapters. I’m not crazy about the illustrations, but I really enjoyed the story. I was a kid who had a lot of dolls, and I could relate to Dulcy’s love for her own dolls, and especially for the lost Angela. Dulcy remains realistic throughout the story - both in her building up of Angela and her bragging about her, and in her transformation after she realizes there is a difference between lying and imagining. Dulcy and the reader both learn a lesson, but from a child’s point of view, not because of outside adult influences.

Stone Soup by Marcia Brown. Published 1947. Caldecott Honor 1948.

I remember this story from childhood, and it remains a favorite. It’s somewhat puzzling to me as an adult how no one in this entire town ever figures out that they’ve been had, but as a kid, I always thought the whole thing was incredibly clever, rather than dishonest. My favorite picture from this one is the scene of the sleepy townspeople leading the soldiers toward the village where they will find beds to sleep in. I like the stars coming out overhead and the faces on the sleepy kids as they lean against their parents. The following page showing the soldiers sleeping in the priest’s, baker’s, and mayor’s house is a close second favorite. I like that each of the houses is entirely blacked out except for the small squares showing where the soldiers sleep.

Roger and the Fox by Lavinia R. Davis, illustrated by Hildegard Woodward. Published 1947. Caldecott Honor 1948.

I really like this one. I like that the endpapers show fox prints. I like the way the color - or lack thereof - on some pages evokes the cool, crisp weather. I like Roger’s determination to see a fox and his willingness to continue on his search even after adults tease and scoff at him. The touches of blue throughout the book look really interesting and I like the way the blue represents snow, water, and sky, depending on what is happening. I have a lot of favorite pages, but one that especially stood out is the page on which Roger wakes up “and the ceiling in his room glistened with reflected light.” I could remember that exact feeling, of waking up on a snow day to a room glistening in much the same way.

The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship. by Arthur Ransome, illustrated by Uri Shulevitz. Published 1968. Caldecott Medal 1969. 

My enjoyment of this book was chiefly because of the writing. Arthur Ransome has become a favorite author of mine as my husband and I have read through the Swallows and Amazons series, and his style is evident even in this Russian folktale, which deviates quite a bit from the British sailing adventures he usually wrote. I like stories about underdogs, of which the Fool of the World is surely one, and even though I think it’s weird that the princess has no say in who she will marry, I like that the Fool is able to win, with the help of other unusual, marginalized characters

The Steadfast Tin Soldier by Hans Christian Anderson, illustrated by Marcia Brown. Published 1953. Caldecott Honor 1954.

I really like this fairy tale, but I had no idea the ending was so gruesome! I have always loved that the soldier falls in love with the ballerina because she is standing on one leg. I’m not sure I understand the significance of the colors in the illustrations, or the reasons they get brighter or darker at certain points. My favorite pages in the book are the ones drawn with a gentler touch and lighter palette.

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

Caldecott Challenge Post #72

The Desert is Theirs by Byrd Baylor and Peter Parnall. Published 1975. Caldecott Honor 1976.

I really don’t care for the Byrd Baylor / Peter Parnall picture books. I don’t even have anything to say about this one except that, like the others, it was a disappointment.

The Treasure by Uri Shulevitz. Published 1979. Caldecott Honor 1980.

I like this story for its message, its surprise twist ending, and the warmth of the facial expressions on both Isaac and the captain. I appreciate the fact that Isaac sends a reward to the captain for his role in his discovery of the treasure, and that he is thankful for the wealth he receives. This story is a great lesson in following one’s dreams, being charitable with one’s wealth, and in the way a journey away from home can help us see something new about a place we’ve always known.

The Contest by Nonny Hogrogian. Published 1976. Caldecott Honor 1977.

This story was perfectly fine right up until the end, and then I got really confused. The way the story was set up, I expected Ehleezah to be punished in some way for her duplicity concerning the two robbers. I have no idea how to read that final image, other than as a happy ending, and that didn’t really work for me within the context of the story. If the focus of the entire book is on the contest between the two robbers, why include Ehleezah at all? Why should we care what happens to her? It would have been much more interesting if she either wound up alone, or if she found herself another set of willing victims and conned them all over again. Perhaps we’re supposed to read it as a positive thing that she ditches the robbers, but I see nothing in the story itself to suggest that. A strange book.

Nothing at All. by Wanda Gag. Published 1941. Caldecott Honor 1942.

Are all editions of this picture book oversized? The one I borrowed from my local library is huge, and I can’t help but think all books should be available in this size for story time! In any case, though I didn’t like this book as much as Millions of Cats, it’s a pretty good pet story. Nothing at All’s quest to become visible would make a really nice flannel board, thanks to its incremental changes to the invisible dog’s appearance and its repetitive refrain: “I’m busy getting dizzy!” I also love the way the dogs’ houses correspond to their shapes.

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

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