Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Favorite Children's and YA Books of 2014

As it is the last day of the year, it is time to share my favorite books from 2014. These are my top 25 titles for kids of all ages, sorted by level. Links are to my reviews.

Board Books & Picture Books

Early Elementary (Grades Pre-K to 2)

Upper Elementary (Grades 3 to 6)

Middle & High School (Grades 7 to 12)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Little Miss Muffet's Favorites: Great Books for 0-12 Month Olds

Little Miss Muffet turned one a few weeks ago. I kept a Goodreads shelf of the books we read to her during her first year, and today I wanted to share some of her favorites, since I think many other families would enjoy them as well. Unlike my favorite books of the year, which were all published in 2014, hers are a mix of old and new titles. 

The very first book Little Miss Muffet owned was Black and White by Tana Hoban, and it is also the very first book I showed her when she came home from the hospital. Before she could do anything else, she spent a lot of time simply staring at the different images. As early as six weeks old, I could tell that the butterfly was her favorite. She would quickly lose interest in the other pictures, but would happily stare and stare at that butterfly. (This led to me singing a lot of butterfly songs such as Flutter Flutter Butterfly and Fly Like a Butterfly.)

Big Fat Hen by Keith Baker is one of the first books we borrowed from the library, and the first book at which Little Miss Muffet ever smiled. We ended up buying a copy because she liked it so much. She has since outgrown her fascination with the little chicks but from ages 4 to 6 months, she just couldn't get enough.

Ten Little Babies by Gyo Fujikawa is proof that it's not just photos of  baby faces that intrigue babies. Little Miss Muffet loves to pore over the pictures of these ten babies getting up to all kinds of fun and mischief. Though this is a board book and theoretically unlikely to be destroyed, it had to be taken out of Miss Muffet's toybox and put on a shelf because she began nibbling at the corners and choking on the pieces of cardboard that came loose.

Honey Bear is a favorite from my husband's childhood. The original book is rare and quite expensive, but we were able to purchase a reprint edition. It's kind of a long text, and the storyline, where a bear kidnaps a baby from her crib is somewhat unsettling on the first read-through, but it has a wonderful rhythm that is completely soothing to Little Miss Muffet. We also borrowed the phrase "pinky winky baby" from the story and used it describe Miss Muffet when she was very small.

The main character in Monkey See, Look at Me! just happens to look like Miss Muffet's favorite stuffed monkey, which is how we decided to pick it up at the library in the first place. The illustrations are wonderfully bright and colorful and the repetitive story and all-animal cast make it an ideal read-aloud for babies and toddlers. This is one of the only books we have ever renewed because we wanted to keep it longer and not because we just couldn't make it to the library on time.

Night Light is a book we looked at in the library that I remembered from my children's librarian days. I had no idea Miss Muffet would be so taken with it, but she was very interested in the tiny holes in the black pages and in the different vehicles to whom the various headlights belonged. For the entire time we had it out of the library, this was the book Miss Muffet consistently pulled out of the box to flip through - and somehow, though it's a picture book and therefore subject to tearing and bending, she was always very careful with it.

I am grateful to Jennifer from Jean Little Library for tipping me off to Hide and Seek Harry. When I came across Hide and Seek Harry Around the House by Kenny Harrison at the library, I remembered that she liked the books and checked it out for Miss Muffet. She loves Harry and occasionally (at 11 months) could even point him out to me on the page. I suspect it is his big eyes that draw her in, but the book overall is just really well done.

Baby Pig Pig Walks by David McPhail is  a board book spin-off of the Pig Pig books, such as one of my childhood favorites, Pig Pig Grows Up. Miss Muffet had just started walking (at about 10.5 months) when we brought this one home from the library, and that was really the only reason I chose it. She, on the other hand, became obsessed with the cat who follows Pig Pig around in the story, and would point and loudly say, "Ooooh!" every time she saw him.

DK's My First Word Board Book and Bright Baby's First 100 Animals were both gifts from family members. These are the books that inspired me to set aside a "book time" for Miss Muffet every day. She would spend time flipping through these books again and again on her own while I showered, threw in some laundry, or prepared her lunch. Sometimes they relaxed her so much that she fell asleep. Though it is obviously important to read with children every day, these books taught me how much babies can also enjoy exploring books independently.

I received a finished copy of Counting on Fall by Lizann Flatt from Owl Kids for review and kept it after the review was done because I liked the illustrations and thought it might come in handy for a math lesson if we homeschool in the future. One day, I brought it out and Little Miss Muffet went crazy pointing at the squirrel on the cover and squealing with delight. The text is way too much for a baby, but we have spent a lot of time just looking at the pictures, as I label everything she points at.

Ever since Little Miss Muffet spontaneously said "Quack" when we took her to a duck pond at 10 months old, we have been working on introducing other animal sounds. Though My Farm Friends by Wendell Minor is not an animal sounds book, it has some of the best animal illustrations so I like to use it to help her identify the animals. (The only bummer is that it does not have a page just about ducks.)

We found a copy of Titch by Pat Hutchins at a Friends of the Library bookstore. Little Miss Muffet loves to point to each character and ask, "Who's that?" Titch seems to be her favorite, possibly because his hair is so bright. The story is also really short so her attention span usually sticks with it to the end, even when there are other distractions in the room. 

Row, Row, Row, Your Boat is the only song Little Miss Muffet asks for by name so far, so we snatched up this picture book adaptation at the library just before she turned one. Interestingly, her favorite part of the book is the front cover. We could easily spend 20 minutes at a time just talking about the animals on the cover and what they are doing.

In 2015, I hope to write a monthly "Reading with Little Miss Muffet" post. Look for the first edition at the end of January! Check back tomorrow for my favorite books of 2014. 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

10 YA Novels for Fans of Serial

I was very late to get into Serial, but finally binge-listened to a bunch of episodes this past week. The appeal of it, for me, is strong, because the key players in the situation are my age, and I was in high school myself at the time of Hae Min Lee’s murder. Though I’m not sure teens are generally that aware of what’s being aired on NPR, this is something that could easily appeal to them, and which also lends itself nicely to a YA reading list. Below are some recommended YA novels for Serial fans. (Links are to my reviews, when available.)

  • Holdup by Terri Fields
    Nine different voices narrate the robbery of a Burger Heaven restaurant, telling what happened before, during, and after the incident, and shedding light on the motivations of the perpetrators, as well as the reactions of the witnesses.
  • Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
    Before Hannah Baker takes her own life, she records thirteen cassette tapes explaining the thirteen reasons for her suicide. Because he is one of the reasons, Clay Baker receives the tapes, and as he listens, he and the reader must try to piece together Hannah's motivation.
  • Paper Towns by John Green
    When his captivating neighbor, Margo Roth Spiegelman, goes missing, Quentin Jacobsen becomes obsessed with following the clues she left behind and learning what has become of her.
  • Every You, Every Me by David Levithan
    Ever since Ariel went away, Evan can't stop thinking of her - and then the photographs start to arrive. The photos include images of Ariel and seem to be taunting him. Plagued by paranoia and insomnia, Evan becomes obsessed with finding out the identity of the photographer and the reasons for his or her mysterious behavior.
  • The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline B. Cooney
    When Janie sees her own face on a milk carton, her entire life as she knows it begins to unravel. Though she finds it hard to believe that she was kidnapped, there are suddenly many things that don't add up, and many clues that suggest her whole life has been a lie.
  • The Secrets of Lily Graves by Sarah Strohmeyer
    Lily Graves, the daughter of a mortician, has never gotten along with her popular classmate, Erin Donohue, but she has a close friendship with Erin's boyfriend, Matt. When Erin is found murdered, and Matt named as a suspect, Lily works to piece together the clues in the hopes of clearing his name and uncovering the identity of the true killer.
  • Shine by Lauren Myracle
    When her one-time best friend Patrick becomes the victim of an unspeakable hate crime, Cat is frustrated by the the unwillingness of her small town's local authorities to conduct a thorough investigation. Taking matters into her own hands, Cat starts asking questions of the people she most strongly suspects in the hopes of uncovering the truth and finding justice for her friend.
  • The River by Mary Jane Beaufrand
    When Ronnie finds her young babysitting charge dead on the shore of the Santiam river, she ignores warnings about her safety and begins to investigate the case anyway, uncovering more secrets than she bargained for in the process.
  • Stuck in Neutral by Terry Trueman
    Shawn McDaniel is a smart kid, but no one in his family knows it. In fact, because Shawn is so severely disabled, no one is even sure he can understand what is happening around him. This becomes especially problematic when Shawn begins to suspect that his father may be plotting to kill him.
  • First Shot by Walter Sorrells
    High school senior David Crandall is certain that someone must know the truth about his mother's murder two years ago, which is still unsolved. With the help of the new girl at his strict military academy, he seeks to uncover the clues necessary to prove what really happened. 

I'm not the only one who had this idea. Check out Annie Cardi's post for a totally different set of recommended YA reads for Serial fans. 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

10 Picture Books About the Calendar

As we enter a new year next week, enjoy these calendar-themed picture books.

  • Snowy Flowy Blowy by Nancy Tafuri
    In this baby-friendly book, Nancy Tafuri assigns one word to each month which evokes the weather conditions at that time of year. 
  • Chicken Soup with Rice by Maurice Sendak
    In this rhyming classic, Sendak takes us through the year, sipping soup all the way. 
  • A Year of Beasts by Ashley Wolff
    Follow the animals through the calendar in this boldly illustrated book. 
  • A Child’s Calendar by John Updike, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman
    A collection of poems for children - one per month. 
  • Calendar by Myra Cohn Livingston, illustrated by Will Hillenbrand
    Simple sentences make up this poem celebrating the passing seasons. 
  • A Year with Friends by John Seven, illustrated by Jana Christy
    A boy, girl, cat, and dog do different activities in celebration of each month's special events.
  • One Lighthouse, One Moon by Anita Lobel
    In separate sections, this book teaches days of the week, months of the year, the four seasons, and the colors of the rainbow. 
  • How Do You Say It Today, Jesse Bear? by Nancy White Carlstrom, illustrated by Bruce Degen
    Jesse Bear spreads seasonally appropriate good wishes to his friends and family as he celebrates each month of the year.
  • Long Night Moon by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Mark Siegel
    This book teaches young readers the name given to the full moon in each of the twelve months. 
  • Around the Year by Tasha Tudor
    This vintage picture book highlights the special characteristics of each month in simple text and classic illustrations. 

Story time plans which complement these books can be found at the following links:

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Early Literacy in Everyday Places: The Movie Theater

Taking preschoolers and elementary schoolers to the movie theater can be a great way to keep them warm and entertained on those cold afternoons during Winter Break. While you're there, try out some of these quick and easy early literacy activities.
  • Review size words at the concession stand.Popcorn and soda come in small, medium, large, and even extra large sizes. Point out these words on the menu board, and explain the differences between them. For added fun, connect these concepts to the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
  • Point out letters and sight words in the preshow reels.Many theaters project celebrity trivia and other information onto their screens even before the previews begin. Help your child find familiar letters and words by playing "I Spy" or another guessing game. See how many words you can read together before the lights go down. 
  • Guess at the plots for upcoming releases.Take a look at the posters for forthcoming films and have your child explain to you what is happening in each picture. When you see previews for these movies, your child will find out how close he came to figuring out their storylines. This activity also encourages kids to make predictions based on context clues, which is important for reading comprehension. 
  • On the way home, ask your child to recall his favorite parts of the film.By asking your child to tell you about his favorite scenes from the movie, you support his narrative skills. As he describes for you what he remembers about the movie, he is practicing expressing his thoughts in an organized and interesting way. You can help him further by asking leading questions to prompt him to develop his thoughts and explain them clearly. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Church Mothers Group Story Time, 11/19/14 (Thanksgiving Theme)

During the week before Thanksgiving, I did a story time for my church mothers group. Here, finally, is my write-up! 

Hello Song: Hello, how are you?
I don't like this song that much anymore, but it is such a security blanket, and I get nervous doing story time for my friends, so I decided not to change it.

Book: Bears Says Thanks by Karma Wilson & Jane Chapman
This is not my favorite of the Bear books - none lives up to Bear Snores On - but it was seasonally appropriate and well-received.

Rhyme: We Are Thankful 

Book:  How do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food? by Jane Yolen & Mark Teague

Song with Ukulele: Stomp Like a Dinosaur (based on Fly Like a Butterfly)

Song with Flannel Board:  Five Little Pumpkins Round

Book: All for Pie, Pie for All by David Martin & Valeri Gorbachev

Rhyme: Alligator Pie
I had never done this one before, but I would definitely use it again. Easy motions, silly sense of humor, perfect all around.

Songs with Ukulele: Let's Be Thankful / Twinkle Twinkle Little Star / ABCs
The first part of this medley doesn't really work unless everyone has the words to follow along.

Rhyme:  My Hands Say Thank You

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Early Literacy Around the House: The Christmas Tree

I normally post about early literacy in everyday places, and I will continue to do so into the new year. Today, however, I'm sharing some early literacy ideas that stick a little bit closer to home and are perfect for families celebrating Christmas this time of year. These are literacy activities inspired by Christmas trees!

  • Talk about colors.My one-year-old is completely enthralled with the pre-strung colored lights on our artificial Christmas tree. She points at them all the time, looking for someone to label them for her. I use this as an opportunity to introduce color words. Each time she points to a light, I tell her what color it is, and name some other things that are also that color. She doesn't have many words yet, but she pays such close attention, I can tell she is filing information away for later. 
  • Sing Christmas tree songs. There are lots of Christmas tree songs, but the three that come to my mind most often are the traditional O Christmas Tree (or O Tannenbaum), Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree, and My Christmas Tree (by John Williams, from the Home Alone 2 Soundtrack). Teach your children to sing these songs as you decorate and enjoy your tree.  
  • Tell the stories behind your Christmas ornaments.As you add ornaments to your tree, or even as you admire the ones you have already hung, tell your child the history behind them. I have lots of ornaments I made as a child or received as gifts from family members, and this is a great way to pass some of that history down to the next generation.
  • Play ornament I Spy. With preschoolers and older kids, you can practice using adjectives by playing a game of I Spy. Describe an ornament on the tree and have the kids guess which one it is, then ask them to describe an ornament for you to guess. This game also works on public Christmas trees, such as the ones you might see while standing in line to meet Santa, or in places where kids get easily bored, like banks and doctor's offices. 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Third Grade CCD 2014-2015: We Believe in God (11/17/14)

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Friday, December 5, 2014

Picture Book Review: Little Green Peas by Keith Baker (2014)

 In this picture book, scenes populated by dozens of little green peas teach young readers about colors. Keith Baker's pictures are fabulously detailed, and kids could spend hours poring over each page and studying the activities of the busy little green peas. There is just so much to see, including a little green pea version of Rapunzel, peas taking ants and caterpillars for walks on leashes, and baby green peas sliding out of their pods into the arms of waiting parents. The book is formatted so that a given color appears on one two-page spread, featuring a few objects of that color as well as the word itself in big block letters. Then the reader turns the page to see the little green peas interacting in some way with the objects just introduced. 

This is definitely the most engaging of the peas books, which also include LMNO Peas and 123 Peas. My own daughter is just one, and she can't get enough of pointing at every pea on each page to ask me who it is and what it is doing. This is also one of those rare concept books that actually teaches the concept, but without becoming too boring and instructive.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

12 Literacy Activities About Cookies

One of the best things about the holiday season is baking cookies. Enjoy these fun literacy activities while you wait for the timer to go off on your next batch.

In the Kitchen

  • Write fortunes, them bake them into fortune cookies. (Nick Jr. has a recipe.)
  • Use alphabet cookie cutters to turn sugar cookies into initials, names, or other words.
  • Follow a recipe to bake your favorite cookies. 

For the Flannel Board

Picture Books

Songs & Rhymes

Wednesday, December 3, 2014 Meet Sharon Hrycewicz, Children's Reference and Technology Coordinator

Today, I'm over at The Library Adventure interviewing Sharon Hrycewicz, Children's Reference and Technology Coordinator at Downers Grove Public Library in Downers Grove, Illinois. Click on over to learn about Sharon's job and see pictures of her beautiful children's room!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Third Grade CCD 2014-2015: God Gives Us Gifts (11/10/14)

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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Early Literacy in Everyday Places: Church

Taking little kids to church can sometimes be a challenge unto itself, but for some kids finding ways to be involved in the Mass or service cuts down on the behavior problems boredom and having to sit still can sometimes create. The following are suggestions for using literacy activities to engage your child in church!
  • Let babies watch your mouth during responses and hymns. When my daughter was around five or six months old, she suddenly became very interested not just in the sounds I made but in how my mouth would move as I made them. During Mass, whenever there was a congregational response I would turn her around to face me and often she would just fixate on my mouth, watching each subtle motion. While I was mainly doing this for entertainment purposes, it turns out that lip reading is actually a key part of language development! 
  • Provide a kid-friendly copy of readings/books. When I was a kid, my parish provided a children's bulletin every week that included activities related to the readings for that day. I don't like kids to have non-religious books or toys in church because it takes away from the solemn tone of the experience, but having kid-friendly books with bright illustrations and simple vocabulary that show the child what is happening at each point in the Mass help them follow along and give them an understanding of one of the practical applications of reading skills. 
  • Sing along. Singing is a key practice for helping kids acquire early literacy skills, and church is a great place to do it! Older kids who are starting to read will especially enjoy being able to look at the music and follow along, watching as the notes break up the words into their smaller parts. Music also makes it easier to memorize certain prayers and Bible passages, so if you're looking to teach those to your kids, the hymns they hear in church will be helpful in that way as well.  
  • Take time afterwards to read plaques and other displayed pieces of print. Churches are full of little bits of print - the Stations of the Cross in my childhood church featured simple labels explaining what was happening in each wood-carved image. Some churches have lists of donors on the wall, or of past priests and ministers. Taking some quiet time when the Mass or service is over to explore these signs and plaques is a great way to reinforce print awareness and to learn a little something about your church's history.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Moms Club Story Time, 11/9/14

My November story time for my Moms Club was held in one of the local public libraries, which has a Discovery Room. This is an early literacy area for use by children up to age 8 and their caregivers. We did our story time in the first half or our allotted hour and played with the toys during the second half. (Note: It would not be my first choice to hold story time in a room with toys freely available, but there are few free public spaces available, so I make do. Interestingly, Little Miss Muffet (my daughter, then 11 months) was the only child who was distracted by toys the entire time.

Hello Song: Say Hello to Your Toes

Song: If You’d Like to Read a Book

Book: The Grumpalump by Sarah Hayes
This is still one of my favorites. Everyone - two year olds and babies alike - was into it.

Song: Row Row Row Your Boat

Song: Way Up in the Sky

Book: The Bridge is Up by Babs Bell

Song: My Hands Go Up Up Up
I rewrote Here We Go Up Up Up to make it more suitable for the babies who can't stand yet. Here are the new words:

My hands go up, up, up
My hands go down, down, down
My hands go clap, clap, clap
My hands turn round and round

Flannel Board Rhyme: Seven Snazzy Aunties
I love this poem, but I think I am the only one in the world. I might have to retire it from future use.

Song: The Wheels on the Bus

Book: Toot Toot Beep Beep by Emma Garcia
I had hoped for more audience participation on this one. I probably should have put it earlier in the lineup.

Rhyme: This is Big, Big, Big

Songs: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star / ABCs

Story Time in the Park (MOMS Club), 10/9/14

I'm a little behind in posting story time plans, but it is still technically Fall, so this one is still fairly timely! After the success of my September story time, I decided to return to the park for one more before the weather got too cold. Unfortunately, the pavilion that we used in September was unexpectedly occupied by a local group of senior citizens who were performing aerobics when we arrived, so with no other options readily available, we decided to move to the tennis court. The group was larger than in September - probably 8 moms and a dozen kids or so - and the tennis court proved to be a tricky place to keep toddlers from running all over the place, but even so, we had a nice time.

Hello Song: Say Hello to Your Toes

Song:  If You’d Like to Read a Book

Book:  Fall Leaves Fall by Zoe Hall 

Song:  Autumn Leaves
I made a few minor alterations to this song which I assumed was to be sung to the tune of Mary Wore Her Red Dress. I changed orange to red to make the syllables fit the rhythm and I changed "in the wind" to "all around" to preserve the rhyme scheme. I also left out the laying verse because I just didn't like it.

Book: The Busy Little Squirrel by Nancy Tafuri

Song: Brown Squirrel 
I have never felt so ridiculous swooshing my bushy tail. It's a lot harder to look silly in front of mom friends than it is in front of random story time moms!

Book: A Good Day by Kevin Henkes

Song: Five Little Pumpkins Round
I used a homemade handheld flannel board for this song, and changed each pumpkin to a person's face as they were purchased and carried off to bake a pie.

Rhyme: This is Big, Big, Big

Songs with Ukulele:  ABCs / Twinkle Twinkle Little Star / Baa Baa Black Sheep 

11+ Kids' Books Illustrated by LeUyen Pham

I had never heard of LeUyen Pham when I first became a librarian, but she quickly became one of my favorite illustrators. I love the unique way she draws faces and the details she puts into every character she depicts. Luckily for young readers, she does the pictures for books at a variety of levels, from board books for babies and toddlers to middle grade novels for tweens. Below is a list of just some of the wonderful books she has illustrated. 


Board Books

  • Pat-a-Cake and All Fall Down by Mary Brigid Barrett
    These two colorful board books provide new spins on well-loved nursery rhymes. Pat-a-Cake explores a little one's sense of touch, while All Fall Down celebrates the joy of play. 
  • Whose Toes are Those? and Whose Knees are These? by Jabari Asim
    These two titles help reinforce knowledge of body parts. Whose Toes Are Those? features a little girl character, and Whose Knees Are These? features a little boy.

Picture Books

  • Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio
    After learning that there are no female presidents, Grace decides to become the first! She starts off by running for class president - which gives the reader an opportunity to learn about the American electoral system.
  • Freckleface Strawberry (and sequels) by Julianne Moore
    This story is about a little girl with freckles who is desperate to make them disappear - until she realizes they are not that important after all.
  • Shoe-La-La by Karen Beaumont
    This rhyming picture book follows four young fashionistas as they search for the perfect pair of shoes. The illustrations are especially fun because parts of them are covered in glitter.
  • God’s Dream by Desmond Tutu and Douglas Carlton Abrams
    In this book, Pham portrays children from all around the world engaged in prayer and reaching out to care for one another.


  • Any Which Wall by Laurel Snyder
    This fantasy tale is an homage to the works of Edward Eager. It tells of four kids' who travel using a magical wall and have various adventures.
  • Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things (and sequels) by Lenore Look
    Alvin Ho is afraid of everything, and in this funny series the reader watches him try to conquer his fears. I especially love the way Pham draws Alvin's friend, Flea, who has both an eyepatch and one leg which is shorter than the other. 
  • Bo at Ballard Creek by Kirkpatrick Hill
    Over the course of one year at Ballard Creek, an Alaskan gold mining community, five-year-old Bo has many adventures with the two men who raise her and their Eskimo friends.
Learn more about LeUyen Pham and her work on her website.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Mommy Librarian's Story Time Secret #6: Board Books Are (Usually) Too Small For Story Time!

First I was a children’s librarian. Then I became a mom. As I attend story times with my daughter, I have started to make a list of hints that might be helpful to story time performers and/or story time attendees. Today’s hint is for librarians who perform baby story times: Your board books are too small!

Board books are an essential part of a library’s collection and of a baby’s personal library. They are durable, chewable, and easy for little fingers to grab and hold. However, most board books, unless they are oversized, are inappropriate for story time.

Here are the misconceptions I used to have about board books, and why they turned out to be false:
  • “My story time room is small enough that even the people in the back can see small books.”
    Now that I have been that mom in the back of the room, I can tell you that I can see the illustrations, but most of the time I can’t make out what they are. And if I can’t, babies, the very youngest of whom can't see more than 10 inches away from their faces, definitely can't.
  • “Babies don’t look at the pictures so it doesn’t matter how big they are.”
    My daughter has looked at pictures in books from about 6 weeks old. If the book is large enough and the baby is close enough, he or she will absolutely look at the pictures. It doesn’t happen all the time, but it can never happen if the books in use at story time are consistently too small.
  • “Board books are the only baby-friendly books, so I am stuck with them, even if they’re small.”
    When I first started doing baby story time, I had no real concrete idea of which books worked best for babies. After a lot of trial and error, I realized that some board books are just longer picture books printed on cardboard in order to make more sales, and that likewise some picture books have just the right balance of text to illustration to be a perfect choice for baby story time.
Some libraries have a story time collection which includes enough copies of certain board books that every baby/caregiver pairing can have one to look at. In that situation, the problems mentioned above are resolved, and board books can be a great addition to story time. I have never worked in a library where this model of story time was consistently possible, however, and I imagine many other libraries don’t have the budget to support such a thing for every program.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

9 Picture Books About Parades


With Thanksgiving next week, this seems like a good time to think about parades. The following books will help your preschooler get into the marching spirit!

Parade Day
by Bob Barner
This rhyming text takes the reader through the entire year by pointing out the celebrations held in each month.

Hooray Parade
by Barbara Joosse, illustrated by Hyewon Yum
When Grandma comes to visit, she brings along a parade of toy animals, which she and her granddaughter use to play a shadow guessing game. 

The Day Ray Got Away
by Angela Johnson, illustrated by Luke LaMarca
A big sunshine-shaped balloon decides to run away on parade day.

Baby Parade
by Rebecca O'Connell, illustrated by Susie Poole
Babies traveling in many different ways and wearing many different colors invite young readers to wave to them as they march by.

A Pig Parade is a Terrible Idea
by Michael Ian Black, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes
It might sound like great fun, but this book explains in hilarious detail why having a parade for pigs is a poor choice.

In the Forest
by Marie Hall Ets
An exuberant young boy walks through the forest blowing a horn, which attracts a parade of animal companions who begin to follow him.

Christmas Parade
by Sandra Boynton
An animal marching band celebrates Christmas with lots of musical noise and clever rhymes.

by Donald Crews
A beloved children's author shares his visual interpretation of the parade experience.

Knick Knack Paddy Whack
by Steve Songs, illustrated by Christiane Engel
This retelling of This Old Man features a parade of children from all different cultures playing a variety of instruments.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Friday, November 14, 2014

Flannel Friday: What’s On Your Plate?

It’s hard to believe, but I haven’t participated in Flannel Friday since June! Though I have used flannel boards a few times in story times for my mothers groups, I’ve been relying on old favorites and haven’t had much time to come up with new ideas. But with Thanksgiving coming up, I’ve been looking for fun ways to incorporate the holiday into Little Miss Muffet’s playtime, and inspiration struck!

This “flannel board” is a piece of cardboad with felt stapled to either side of it. On it is a set of clipart from which makes up a single place setting. With older kids, setting the table properly could be a flannel board activity unto itself. Preschoolers could help you figure out where each item goes and correct you if you make a mistake. With an almost-toddler, though, I’m lucky to keep the pieces on the board for more than 5 seconds!

Once the table is set, either choose a piece of food or ask a child in your audience to make the choice. Say, “2-4-6-8, tell me what is on your plate!” Call out the name of the food as you set it on the plate, and then sing this song from Sharon, Lois, and Bram. (In the Sharon, Lois, and Bram version, they repeat each meal at the end of every verse, but that seems a bit tedious, so I’d probably skip that part, even with kids who were old enough to remember them all.)

This flannel board works for Thanksgiving because of the food connection, but it could really be used any time of year to accompany food-themed books.

This week's host for Flannel Friday is Linda at Notes from the Story Room. For more about this weekly round-up of story  time ideas visit, the official website.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Learning Activities for Favorite Children's Books: Caps for Sale

Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina - a Russian woman - was published in 1938. Though she wrote other books, this is her best-known work. In the story, a peddler carries the caps he sells on his head in a particular order. One day, when he dozes off beneath a tree, a bunch of monkeys snatch the caps, and the peddler must find a way to outsmart them and get them back. Here are four games to play to enrich your child's reading experience with this book.

Sort the Caps 

Each of the caps in the printable set below has a different three-letter word printed on it.  Ask your child to sort the caps according to different criteria - same first letter, same last letter, same middle sound, rhyming words, etc. Younger children can also sort the caps by color.

Monkey See, Monkey Do Game

The nine cards in this printable document have instructions for making different monkey-like movements. Have your child select one card at a time from the stack of cards (or from a bag or basket), read the instructions, and act them out. 

Monkey, Monkey, Where's My Cap? 

In this game, your child must discover behind which monkey a cap is hidden. The printable game includes 8 monkeys, each labeled with a capital letter, and four caps, one in each of the colors mentioned in the book. The pieces can be cut out and laminated for use on a flannel board or magnet board, used as models for your own felt pieces, or used on a flat table top.

When it is time to guess, say this simple rhyme:

Monkey, monkey, where’s my cap?
I know you took it. Now give it back!

Then ask your child to call out which monkey he thinks has taken the cap. The game ends when the cap has been found. For a bigger challenge, hide multiple hats and ask your child to guess which color hat is hidden where.

Which Cap is Missing?

Using the caps from the games above, play a memory-building game. Show your child an array of caps on a tray or tabletop, then have her hide her eyes while you take one away. When she opens her eyes, ask her to tell you which cap is missing.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

14 Kids' Novels Illustrated by Beth & Joe Krush


Beth and Joe Krush are a husband-and-wife team of children's books illustrators, both born in 1918. (Beth Krush died in 2009.) They illustrated a variety of children's novels, mostly in the 1950s and 1960s. Here is a selection of some of their best-known work.

The Borrowers Series


This series by Mary Norton tells about tiny people who live in secret hiding places in a house in England, where they borrow things from humans in order to furnish their own homes. There are five titles in the series:

Books by Beverly Cleary


The Krushes illustrated five works by beloved author Beverly Cleary: her sole historical fiction novel (Emily's Runaway Imagination) and the four titles in her young adult "first love" series:

Other Novels


Miracles on Maple Hill (1956)
by Virginia Sorenson
This Newbery Medal winning novel tells of a young girl's year in Maple Hill with her family as her father deals with post-traumatic stress disorder associated with his experiences as a prisoner of war.

Gone-Away Lake (1957)
by Elizabeth Enright
In this 1958 Newbery Honor book Portia and her cousin Julian discover an abandoned lakeside community and make friends with a pair of elderly siblings who still inhabit two of the rundown houses.The Krushes also illustrated the 1961 sequel, Return to Gone-Away.

All-of-a-Kind Family Downtown (1972)
by Sydney Taylor
This series, about a charming family of five girls and one boy living in early 20th century Manhattan, has had a number of illustrators. The Krushes provided the drawings for just this one volume.
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