Friday, December 30, 2016

Review Round-Up: Books for Beginning Readers, December 2016

After 18 months, I have decided to retire this blog feature. Today's round-up will be the last. If you want to keep up-to-date with future reviews of easy readers and beginning chapter books, please browse past round-ups and subscribe to the bloggers who were regularly featured. Most of them review new easy readers and chapter books every month. Thanks, and happy reading in 2017!

Easy Readers

As the year winds down and ALA Youth Media Awards loom on the horizon, there has been lots of activity at the Guessing Geisel blog. Reviews from December include: Duck Duck Porcupine, the Elephant & Piggie Like Reading series, Snail & Worm, Mr. Putter and Tabby Hit the Slopes, the Andy and Sandy series, and What's Up, Chuck?

There were also a good number of reviews from Jean Little Library / Flying Off My Bookshelf, including Women Who Launched the Computer Age, Blip, Birdsong, Animals in Winter, and Ling and Ting Not Exactly the Same.

Great Kids Books reviewed We Are Growing, Provo Library Children's Book Reviews reviewed Juana and Lucas, and Sal's Fiction Addiction reviewed The Toad.

Chapter Books

There were three reviews this month of The Princess in Black Takes a Vacation. See them at Geo Librarian, Mom's Radius, and Becky's Book Reviews.

Other December chapter book reviews included:

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Preschool Story Time, 12/14/16 (Christmas Theme)

This was our last session until January, and it was small, but everyone in the audience was a repeat attendee. My husband also came along, so I didn't have to worry about my toddler's usual weekly meltdown, which was a nice change of pace. I liked the plan, but I think I am still planning for those big boisterous groups I used to see in DC, and I still need to make some adjustments to suit this audience's personality a little better. But I expect the story time to grow during the winter months, too, so a lot of what I plan for the future will depend on that. In any case, here is my Christmas story time set list:

Opening Song: Story Time is Starting

Book: Christmas Tree! by Wendell and Florence Minor

Flannel Board: Lights Shining Bright on the Christmas Tree
I made a Christmas tree for the flannel board with enough Velcro attached to the front to hold four lines of lights and a star. I added one string of lights per verse of the song, then changed the lyrics to accommodate the star in the last verse. I had to use my homemade hand-held flannel board in order to be able to manage all the moving of the pieces, and this made the transition from verse to verse more awkward than I was expecting.

Song: My House Has a Christmas Tree
I wrote this piggyback song based on Old MacDonald Had a Farm after seeing this video from King County Library System. I changed the words to eliminate references to Santa, since it seemed weird for him to have a tree, and to make the syllables in the lyrics match the tune.

Rhyme: Five Little Snowmen Riding on the Sled

Book: Jingle-Jingle by Nicola Smee

Song with Ukulele: Jingle Bells
This was probably the best activity of the whole story time. This group does well with familiar songs and stories - I think I need to incorporate fewer obscure items into future story times.

Book: Christmas Parade by Sandra Boynton

Song with paper props: Christmas Alphabet 
When I originally used this song at story time, I had an entire whiteboard ledge to spread the letters out on. I thought I could simply show one letter at a time and have it work the same way, but the song goes by too quickly for that to be feasible. This was the flop of the session. I wish I had found this video before the session - it's Makaton sign language, not ASL, but it would have been fun to learn, and I think the kids would have liked it much more than my lame paper prop.

Song with Ukulele: ABCs

Song with puppet: Mr. Sun

Book: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star illustrated by Julia Noonan
This seemed to be the book that held everyone's attention the best. Again, it's a familiar song. We are fans of the familiar in this group.

Song: We Wish You a Merry Christmas
This was my goodbye song. We sang the chorus and then action verses like this:

Let's all do a little clapping
Let's all do a little clapping
Let's all do a little clapping
To spread Christmas cheer! 

In the final verse, we waved.

Story time starts up again the first week in January! I'll be back then with more plans to share.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Preschool Story Time, 12/7/16 (Letter S Theme)

Today's story time attracted lots of repeat attendees, and I think these are the families who will form our core group as the year goes on. Not including me and my two girls, we had two moms and two dads, accompanied by a total of 7 kids. The theme, which existed solely to help me organize, was the letter S. 

To begin with, my own one-year-old freaked out at the thought of being held by someone else, and spent the whole first song of story time shrieking and being carried around by the children's programming coordinator from the church. She was not the only crying child, but she was the loudest and most persistent. This made for a very humbling start to the session - but I think it also made the other parents feel more comfortable about their toddlers' behavior.

In any case, here is the plan I used:

Opening Song: Story Time is Starting

Book: Spectacular Spots by Susan Stockdale
This is the second week in a row that I opened with an informational book, and I didn't feel like it was well-received. I think I need to start looking for books that people already know and love and see if that stirs up a little more enthusiasm.

Flannel Board Song: Ladybug Has One Black Spot 
Instead of making a felt ladybug with detachable spots, I printed the same ladybug six times, each with a different number of spots, then covered it with contact paper and attached Velcro. It worked fine. I also changed the word "pretty" to "lovely" in the lyrics because I thought it sounded better.

Book: Snow by Manya Stojic
I think this book was the hit of the session. I'll have to remember to use Rain by the same author in the spring when I do a spring weather theme.

Rhyme: Five Little Snowmen Riding on a Sled

Song: Shake My Sillies Out 
I did this song differently than I ever have before, with these verses: 
  • Shake my sillies out...
  • Clap my sillies out...
  • Stomp my sillies out... 

This was a last-minute addition and it was not the best. I should have used Hands Up High but didn't think of until I got home.

Book: Mice Squeak, We Speak by Tomie dePaola
I asked everyone to make the animals' sounds as I read, and though they did, I felt a bit like they were humoring me. Again, stories with plot is what this group wants, so I'll be working on finding more of those.

Flannel Board Song: We All Go Traveling By 
Based on last week's success, I repeated this one, singing it this time. Probably the favorite activity of the session.

Song: Mr. Sun

Song: Itsy Bitsy Spider

Book: Time to Sleep by Denise Fleming 
This was too long for a fourth book. I wish I had used this author's Sleepy, Oh So Sleepy, instead.

Goodbye Song: Chickadee 
I am still thinking of replacement goodbye songs. This one is working less well each week.

Preschool Story Time, 11/30/16 (Wheels Theme)

Last week's story time was very small - just two families besides my own - which was too bad, because I liked the plan I used. Hopefully in a few months, I can use it again with a bigger audience. (Note: I am not 100% certain of the order in which I actually performed these. I think I have incorporated all the changes I made on the fly, but it's possible that the windshield wiper rhyme and the traveling flannel board are in the wrong places in the line-up.)

Opening Song: Story Time is Starting

Book: What Do Wheels Do All Day? by April Jones Prince

Song: There's a Little Wheel a Turnin' in My Heart
I usually do the Laurie Berkner version of this song, but I changed it up to make a little more straightforward. These are the verses I used:

  • ...little wheel a-turning
  • ...little drum beating
  • ...two hands clapping
  • ...two feet stomping 

Book: Mr. Gumpy's Motor Car by John Burningham
I am puzzled as to why only my own children seem to love this book. This group generally seems to prefer books with plot, so I tried to give them this simple story, and they didn't really take to it.

Song: Twinkle Twinkle Traffic Light

Rhyme: I'm a Windshield Wiper 
I wish there were more to this rhyme. It feels so awkward when you come to the end of a single stanza and it's just done. I may need to write an additional verse if I want to use it again.

Song: Bumpin' Up and Down in My Little Red Wagon

I did my usual verses:

  • Bumpin' up and down
  • The wheels turn around...
  • Waving to my friends...

Flannel Board Rhyme: We All Go Traveling By
I found this song at the last minute the night before story time and decided to give it a shot. It was the hit of the session and has become a favorite of my three-year-old at home as well. I chanted it for this session because I wanted to break up the singing, but would prefer to sing it.

Book: The Bus for Us by Suzanne Bloom
The guessing game element of this book has always worked really well for me, but it didn't grab this group. Even though the audience was small enough to gather around the book, the kids didn't seem to care much whether the bus ever came. Weird.

Song: The Wheels on the Bus

Book: Duck on a Bike by David Shannon
I wasn't sure the group thought this was funny, but it may have just been the small size of the group inhibiting their reactions overall. With some of the kids who normally come, but miss this session, it would have been a huge hit.

Goodbye Song: Chickadee
This is working less well as a goodbye song as time goes on. I may need to consider a new one for the new year.

Friday, December 2, 2016

January Story Time Themes

My favorite themes for January are related to winter weather (snowmen), the new year (calendar/seasons), Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (friendship), and flu season (sickness.)


Suggested Books:

  • All You Need for a Snowman by Alice Schertle
  • Making a Friend by Alison McGhee
  • Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner
  • Pip and Squeak by Ian Schoenherr

Extension Activities:


Suggested Books:

  • Ribbit! by Rodrigo Folgueira
  • Enemy Pie by Derek Munson
  • Little Bitty Friends by Elizabeth McPike
  • How to Grow a Friend by Sara Gillingham
  • Yo! Yes? by Chris Raschka 

Extension Activities:


Suggested Books:

  • Snowy Flowy Blowy by Nancy Tafuri
  • A Year with Friends by John Seven and Jana Christy 
  • Parade Day by Bob Barner
  • Calendar by Myra Cohn Livingston
  • Chicken Soup with Rice by Maurice Sendak

Extension Activities

Get Well Soon 

Suggested Books:

  • Chu's Day by Neil Gaiman
  • A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead
  • Imogene's Antlers by David Small
  • Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

Extension Activities

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Review Round-Up: Books for Beginning Readers, November 2016

Here is this month's round-up of reviews of easy readers and beginning chapter books. Enjoy!

Easy Readers

Guessing Geisel featured detailed posts about both Can I Tell You a Secret? and The Thank You Book.

Waking Brain Cells and Sal's Fiction Addiction reviewed Benny and Penny in How to Say Goodbye. Sal's Fiction Addiction also reviewed The Great Antonio.

Jean Little Library had two "Small Readers" posts: Rabbit & Robot and Ribbit and Ape and Armadillo Take Over the World.

Other reviews were: the Pigsticks and Harold series, reviewed by Books 4 Your Kids, Pig and Pug, reviewed by Provo Library Children's Book Reviews, and Finding Providence, reviewed by Semicolon.

Chapter Books

Redeemed Reader and Orange Marmalade reviewed Sam the Man and the Chicken Plan.

In "Series Thursday" posts, Geo Librarian highlighted Sprout Street Neighbors: Five Stories and Meet the Bobs and Tweets.

Adolescent Audio Adventures reviewed four audiobooks of titles in the Princess in Black series. Books 4 Your Kids also reviewed The Princess in Black Takes a Vacation.

Mom's Radius reviewed Little Shaq, Star of the Week and Bicycling to the Moon.

Other chapter book reviews were Mrs. Moody in the Birthday Jinx, reviewed by Ms. Yingling Reads, Dory Dory Black Sheep, reviewed by Sal's Fiction Addiction, Captain Awesome Meets Super Dude, reviewed by Provo Library Children's Book Reviews, and Bad Kitty Takes the Test, reviewed by Mom Read It.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Preschool Story Time, 11/16/16

Attendance was back down this week. This was partly because my moms group was on a field trip, so none of the members could make it to story time. I'm not sure why others who have previously attended didn't come, but the most likely theory is that it was one of the last reasonably warm days we're going to have. (I hope it's not that they were scared away by how big the audience was last time!) In any case, I enjoyed the story time, and I think the kids did as well. 

Opening Song: Story Time is Starting

Book: Hello, Day! by Anita Lobel
The audience agreed with me that rabbits do not make a sound. I'm still not sure what Anita Lobel was thinking. But this was a nice way to break the ice with a new group. Even the oldest child in the room, who was around six, got into making the animal sounds.

Song: When Pigs Get Up in the Morning
I forgot to bring stick puppets so I had to just hold flannel board pieces in my hands. I only had three animals with me, and that felt like too few, so I had everyone use their hands to make a duck for the final verse. Though it was a decision I made on the fly, I liked it a lot, and I want to make better use of "props" we can all make with our hands. Because I have to travel by bus to the story time, and I rely on a friend to transport my supplies, I've become a lot more interested in limiting the number of props I use.

Book: Bear's Day Out by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Adrian Reynolds
I like this book because it has great rhythmic refrains on every page that the kids can repeat. I was a little nervous that my small audience would be shy about repeating them but that was not the case at all.

Song: Sunny Day
I realize as I'm looking at this plan that I basically only read books and sang songs. I really should have switched this song out for a fingerplay or action rhyme, especially since this group has responded well to action rhymes. The song was fine, but I don't like the hand motions as much as I used to. Blue is the Lake would have been a good alternative.

Song: Mr. Sun

Book: Thank You, Thanksgiving by David Milgrim
I threw in one Thanksgiving book since we're not having story time next week. (This is the perk of doing volunteer story times: no obligation to have story time on days when it is unlikely anyone will show.) This book never seems to read completely clearly on its own, so I did a lot of additional talking about the details in the illustrations. I would have preferred a different book, I think, but it's hard to get holiday books from the public libraries so I made do with what was available.

Song: Thanks a Lot
In the past, I have done this Raffi song as a flannel board, but I needed an action song and decided to use simple motions instead of images. It worked really well. Everyone sang along and did the motions, and it was probably my favorite part of the whole session. Here are the motions we used:

Thanks for the...
...sun in the sky (hands over head in a round shape)
...clouds so high (raise hands in the air and wiggle fingers)
...whispering wind (finger to lips, say "shh")
...birds that sing (flap arms like wings)
...moonlit night (hands over head in a round shape)
...stars so bright (hands up, wiggle fingers) 

Song: Five Little Pumpkins Round
I have never done this as a fingerplay, and probably would not choose to do so again. Still, the kids liked counting the pumpkins/fingers and it filled just enough time to make the session last as long as I wanted it to.

Songs with Ukulele: ABCs / Twinkle Twinkle Little Star / Baa Baa Black Sheep
I'm going to take a break from the ukulele for a few weeks, mostly because I was having my friend keep it for me so she could shuttle it back and forth every week, and I was missing having it at home to practice and to use with my own kids. This medley is fine, but I don't need to rely on it to refocus the group like I did when I was doing story time at the library. I'd rather learn something new and interesting and reintroduce it in a month or so.

Book: Tell Me About Your Day Today by Mem Fox, illustrated by Lauren Stringer
I'm not entirely sure the meaning of the illustrations in this book translated to everyone in the audience, but it's a sweet book, with a gentle rhythm and reading it aloud was a pleasure.

Song: Goodnight
Since we sang good morning to the animals at the start of story time, we sang them to sleep at the end. We used the same duck technique as mentioned above.

Song: Chickadee
I'm not completely sold on this as a goodbye song. For some reason, this audience just doesn't seem to love it as much as previous groups. But I'm going to stick with it for now and see if it catches on more.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Preschool Story Time, 11/9/16 (Houses Theme)

This week's story time (the second ever at this location) had triple the attendance of last week's session. (There were six families last week.) There were five moms (including me) from my own mom's group, two families who belong to the church who were repeat attendees from last week, and a bunch of other families who attended today for the first time. Since leaving the library, I haven't done a story time for an audience of this size, and it felt great to be back in my element.

When I was planning this story time, I initially borrowed a bunch of construction books from the library, but then realized that houses made a much more interesting theme, and wound up using books I owned to plan a story time around that topic instead.

Opening Song: Story Time is Starting

Book: Stanley the Builder by William Bee
I have always liked the Stanley books, but have had mixed results using them in story time. The bulldozer on the cover of this book won over most of the kids, however, and it was a nice way to introduce the theme.

Song: Builder Stanley Had a Shop
During the planning process, I considered using Old MacDonald Had a Woodshop, but then decided it would be easier to do an abbreviated version as a flannel board. Old MacDonald became "Builder Stanley" and we sang about his saw (which went "zzzt zzzt"), his screwdriver ("squeak squeak"), his hammer ("tap tap"), and his pliers ("pinch pinch.")

Flannel Board: Little Mouse, Little Mouse
I had never done this activity in story time before, and I really didn't like it. There were too many kids for them to take individual guesses, so I had kids calling out random colors, and of course, the first time through, they guessed it on the second try, so I had to surreptitiously hide the mouse again with everyone watching me. I love doing this game one-on-one with my own kid, but in story time, it just seems like a group can't really get anything out of it. I will definitely do more flannel boards for this audience, but not this one.

Book: A House is a House For Me by Mary Ann Hoberman, illustrated by Betty Fraser
Because I have to take the bus to story time with two small children, my friend picks up my books the day before and drives them to the church for me. Unfortunately, this means I didn't get a chance to read through this book before my performance, which means I didn't remember until I was in the midst of sharing it at story time that it is super-long. To their credit, the group really stuck with it, and one member of the audience (a grandmother) actually came up to discuss that specific book with me afterwards. So, it wasn't a total failure, but that was a big rookie mistake I will not be making again.

Rhyme: I Want to Build a Little House
This is a rhyme I found the day before story time and spent some time memorizing. It was worth it. The kids did a beautiful job with it, and it's so ingrained in my memory now that I'll be able to pull it out any time I need an extra rhyme.

Book: We Were Tired of Living in a House by Liesel Moak Skorpen, illustrated by Doris Burn
I love reading this book aloud. The text is so pleasing to speak and to hear, and the plot is basic enough to be followed by toddlers, but not boring for adults. This book has been reillustrated but we own the original, with the black and white illustrations, and it was a big hit. I'm disappointed in myself for allowing it to be overshadowed by the length of the previous book; we may revisit this story in a few months to give it its proper due.

Song: We're Climbing Up Our Tree
Using the Farmer in the Dell as my model, I created a piggyback song specifically to accompany this book. I wrote a verse about each of the places the children in the story go to live before returning home.

We're climbing up our tree.
We're climbing up our tree.
Heigh-ho, the derry-oh! 
We're climbing up our tree.

We're splashing in our pond...
We're stomping our cave...
We're swimming in our sea...
We're sleeping in our house...

This was really well-received. I think everyone in the room participated!

Song with Puppet: Mr. Sun
I had another book and activity planned here, but realized I was probably going to run overtime if  I didn't skip ahead, so I pulled out the sunshine and sang the song twice through.

Song: Moon Moon Moon
To gear up for the last book, which has a night-time focus, we sang this song. The "pizza pie" line at the end got a big laugh.

Book: The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson, illustrated by Beth Krommes
This book was the perfect length for a final story, and also set the tone for winding down and saying goodbye.

Song with Ukulele: ABCs / Twinkle Twinkle Little Star / Baa Baa Black Sheep
The uke was really out of tune. If I'm saving this until the end, I need to retune live in front of the audience. Which I hate. But it must be done.

Goodbye Song: Chickadee
I decided to use this as my goodbye song instead of repeating the same song from the beginning. Story time ended on a weird note mostly because there was some confusion over whether I or a representative of the church was meant to make housekeeping announcements. But we'll get that right next week. I invited the kids up to hug Mr. Sun, but only a handful did so. I'm still not sure whether the group has fully warmed up to me, but it has only been two weeks.

Friday, November 4, 2016

December Story Time Themes

My list for December includes both holiday and non-holiday story time ideas! Enjoy!


Suggested Books:
  • Fa La La by Leslie Patricelli
  • Christmas Parade by Sandra Boynton
  • Christmas Tree! by Florence Minor and Wendell Minor
  • Jingle Bells by Iza Trapani
  • I'm Not Santa! by Jonathan Allen

Extension Activities:


Suggested Books:
  • How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah? by Jane Yolen
  • On the First Night of Hanukkah by Cecily Kaiser
  • The Eight Nights of Chanukah by Leslea Newman
  • Eight Winter Nights by Laura Krauss Melmed
  • The Golem’s Latkes by Eric A. Kimmel
Extension Activities:


Suggested Books:
  • Snow Globe Family by Jane O'Connor
  • Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
  • Under My Hood I Have a Hat by Karla Kuskin 
  • The Jacket I Wear in the Snow by Shirley Neitzel
  • The First Day of Winter by Denise Fleming
Extension Activities:


Suggested Books:
  • Stars by Mary Lyn Ray
  • I Like Stars by Margaret Wise Brown
  • This Little Light of Mine by Raffi 
  • The Sun is My Favorite Star by Frank Asch

Extension Activities


Suggested Books:
  • Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson
  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr.
  • Old Bear by Kevin Henkes
  • Every Autumn Comes the Bear by Jim Arnosky  
  • Otto the Book Bear by Katie Cleminson
Extension Activities:


Suggested Books:
  • The Doorbell Rang by Pat Hutchins
  • Who Put the Cookies in the Cookie Jar? by George Shannon
  • If You Give a Mouse a Cookie Laura Numeroff
  • Who Took the Cookies from the Cookie Jar? by Bonnie Lass
  • Cookies by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Extension Activities:

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Preschool Story Time, 11/2/16

This morning, after a three-year hiatus from regular weekly story times, I made my return to the "story time stage." Every Wednesday for the rest of this school year, I will be presenting a public story time at the local Baptist church. This week's session was small - 10 children (including my own), and 6 adults (including me) - but I expect that number to rise in the weeks to come. Because it was the first session, I used the material I know best, so I would have the chance to get to know this audience without having to also learn new songs, books, etc. I am used to having large, distracted groups, so I was surprised by how attentive these kids were, and how quickly we breezed through everything. I'll be planning more carefully for next week for sure!

Opening Song: Story Time is Starting
Hello, How Are You? used to be my favorite hello song, but I got sick of it, so now I use this one, sung to the tune of If You're Happy and You Know It.

Story time is starting - clap your hands!
Story time is starting - clap your hands!
Story time's begun. 
I hope that you have fun,
Story time is starting - clap your hands!

I sang three verses: clap your hands, stomp your feet, and shout hooray.

Book: Owl Babies by Martin Waddell, illustrated by Patrick Benson

Song: Flap Little Owls
I used a bat song and changed some of the verses to make it more suitable for owls. The owls flapped, snatched, swooped, and slept. The kids loved this. (Note to myself for future reference: the transition from Owl Babies to this song was the smoothest and most natural of the session.)

Book: Monkey See, Look at Me! by Lorena Siminovich

Rhyme: Monkeys on the Bed
In the photo at the top of this post you can see a glove with monkey faces attached. I brought it with me thinking I might try it out, but then decided not to add a new prop to my repertoire during the first week. There will be time to try new things in a month or so.

Rhyme: This is Big Big Big
I could tell I was running short so I threw in this rhyme. I haven't done it in many months, and halfway through I realized I might not actually know the words. But automatic pilot kicked in and I got through it twice without issue.

Book: From Head to Toe by Eric Carle
All the kids got really into this book and did all the prescribed motions. There wasn't really anything they didn't like, but I would say this was the favorite.

Song: Head and Shoulders, Baby
I was undecided about which movement song I would do here, so I had several jotted down on my plan, but since they were so into From Head to Toe, I went with this one, which required a lot of different movements.We did the following verses:
  • Head and shoulders
  • Knees and ankles
  • Tummy and back
  • Do the twist
  • Turn around 
  • Sit right down

Book: Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin and James Dean
The kids didn't really know this character, and I didn't give my absolute best reading, but it still got applause. I actually think Pete works better in large inattentive crowds. I may not need to rely on him here.

Ukulele Medley: ABCs/Twinkle Twinkle Little Star/Baa Baa Black Sheep

Song with Puppet: Mr. Sun
I no longer have access to the Folkmanis sunshine puppet I used to use for this song because it belonged to the library, so I bought a big sunshine cushion from Ikea and held it up to sing the song. The kids loved Mr. Sun, and at the end of every story time, each child got a chance to give him a big hug.

Ukulele Song: Aikendrum
I felt like I was running short, and this is typically a crowd pleaser, so I decided to play it. I found that I was kind of sick of it, though. I think I need to seek out some new material to keep myself interested.

Goodbye Song: Story Time is Over
This is the exact same thing as the hello song, but with these lyrics:

Story time is over - clap your hands!
Story time is over - clap your hands!
Story time is done. 
I hope that you had fun,
Story time is over - clap your hands!

It's really good to be back at story time. I felt a little rusty, but I'm sure that was only obvious to me, and now that I know what an enthusiastic audience I have, I'll be eager to try some new and different things I never could have done with the huge audiences I used to have in DC. Check back next Wednesday for my write-up of session 2!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Review Round-Up: Books for Beginning Readers, October 2016

Happy Halloween! Here is the October 2016 review round-up of titles for beginning readers!

Easy Readers

Elephant and Piggie Like Reading, Mo Willem's new easy reader imprint, has been popular this month. There were reviews of We Are Growing at Sal's Fiction AddictionProvo Library Children's Book Reviews and Jean Little Library, and of The Cookie Fiasco at Sal's Fiction Addiction and Jean Little Library.

Jean Little Library also reviewed Pug, while Provo Library Children's Book Reviews reviewed Go Otto Go.

Other easy reader reviews included:

Chapter Books

A couple of popular titles from last month are still floating around out there. Kids Book a Day reviewed Juana and Lucas, and Jen Robinson's Book Page reviewed The Infamous Ratsos. Guessing Geisel is also wondering whether the latest title in the beloved Princess in Black series has the potential to win the Geisel this year.

Also receiving consistently positive feedback are the Tales from Deckawoo Drive books. This month Sal's Fiction Addiction reviewed Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon and Provo Library Children's Book Reviews reviewed Where Are You Going, Baby Lincoln? Provo Library Children's Book Reviews also posted about Belmont and the Dragon: The Forest of Doom and Gloom.

Geo Librarian highlighted three different series this month: Super Happy Party Bears, Ranger in Time, and Zapato Power. The Zapato power books were also mentioned in a post from Readerkidz which also highlights the Peter Powers and Jo Schmo series.

Jean Little Library also had a couple of chapter book reviews: Meet the Bobs and Tweets and Weekends with Max and His Dad.

Other chapter book reviews included:

Friday, October 7, 2016

November Story Time Themes

During the month of November, I like to center my story times on themes that connect in some way to the Thanksgiving holiday. Here are my favorites.


Suggested Books:
  • A Feast for Ten by Cathryn Falwell
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle 
  • Mouse Mess by Linnea Asplind Riley
  • Yummy Yucky by Leslie Patricelli 
  • Who Took the Cookies from the Cookie Jar? by Bonnie Lass & Philemon Sturges

Extension Activities:


Suggested Books:
  • Too Many Turkeys by Linda White, illustrated by Megan Lloyd
  • Five Silly Turkeys by Salina Yoon
  • Over the River: A Turkey's Tale by Derek Anderson
  • This is the Turkey by Abby Levine 

Extension Activities:


Suggested Books:

  • The Day Ray Got Away by Angela Johnson
  • Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet
  • The Grumpalump by Sarah Hayes
  • Balloons Balloons Balloons by Dee Lillegard
  • A Balloon for Isabel by Deborah Underwood 

Extension Activities:


Suggested Books:

  • Thank You, Thanksgiving by David Milgrim
  • All for Pie, Pie for All by David Martin
  • Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson
  • Giving Thanks by Chief Jake Swamp
  • This First Thanksgiving Day: A Counting Story by Laura Krauss Melmed

Extension Activities:

Friday, September 30, 2016

Review Round-Up: Books for Beginning Readers, September 2016

Easy Readers

Three of the reviews I found this month focused on titles from the Toon books imprint. Benny and Penny in How to Say Goodbye and Ape and Armadillo Take Over the World were both reviewed at and Jean Little Library reviewed Stinky. (Jean Little Library also had reviews of The Toad and Jack and the Box, plus a review of My Dog Bob at Flying Off My Bookshelf.)

Other reviewers were very excited about Elephant and Piggie Like Reading, the new series from Mo Willems. Posts appeared at Mom's Radius and No Time for Flashcards.

Finally, Becky's Book Reviews posted about Wagon Wheels and The Long Way Westward Kids Book a Day reviewed Rabbit & Robot and Ribbit, and The Children's Book Review reviewed Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret.

Chapter Books

Two bilingual chapter book heroines gained popularity this month. Sal's Fiction Addiction, Waking Brain Cells, and Librarian's Quest all had reviews of Juana and Lucas, and Jen Robinson's Book Page and Geo Librarian reviewed Sofia Martinez: My Family Adventures.

There were also two reviews of Mango & Bambang: The Not-a-Pig: one from Jean Little Library, and one from Provo City Library Children's Book Review.

Other chapter book reviews included:

Friday, September 16, 2016

25 Ways to Play With Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Bad days happen to everyone - even kids! Published in 1972, this favorite picture book based on the author's own family is a great way to come to terms with those terrible, horrible days that make us want to move to Australia - and it's also a fun book to use for learning through play. Here are 25 ways to play with the content and themes of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

  1. Create a homemade toy from a cereal box.  
  2. Draw what might be seen from the window of Alexander's carpool. 
  3. Practice singing loudly and softly. 
  4. Count to sixteen without leaving out any numbers. For an added challenge for older readers, count by sixteens! 
  5. Draw invisible pictures, like Alexander's invisible castle, using ink made of water and lemon juice.
  6. Use play food to pack a pretend lunch with all your favorite foods. 
  7. Spend some time in the kitchen making a dessert for your own lunch box - and don't forget to put it in before you leave for school! 
  8. Set up a make-believe dental practice. 
  9.  Pretend to be a shoe salesperson. 
  10. Color a pair of sneakers to suit your style. 
  11. Set up a pretend office like the one Alexander's dad works in. Act out the scene where Alexander visits the office.
  12. Find Australia on a map.
  13. Create an itinerary for traveling to Australia from your house.
  14. Sing Cuddly Koalas, about Australian animals.
  15. Plant a lima bean.
  16. Design a pair of ugly pajamas like the railroad train ones Alexander hates to wear.
  17. Write a sequel where Alexander has a good day. 
  18. Write a story about your own real or imagined bad day. 
  19. Hear Judith Viorst read the book in this video from Barnes and Noble's online story time feature. 
  20. Read Judith Viorst's other books about Alexander: Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday (1978), Alexander, Who's Not (Do You Hear Me? I Mean It!) Going to Move (1995), and Alexander, Who's Trying His Best to Be the Best Boy Ever (2014).
  21. Discover some of Judith Viorst's other books
  22. Watch the 2014 film adaptation of the book starring Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner.
  23. Watch the 1990 cartoon musical based on the book on YouTube. (Alexander is played by Danny Tamberelli!)
  24. Act out a skit based on the book using this script
  25. Retell the story using a flannel board set like this one

Friday, September 2, 2016

October Story Time Themes

To assist you in planning your story times for next month, here are some themes I like to use in October.


Suggested Books:

  • Duck and Goose Find a Pumpkin by Tad Hills
  • Pumpkin Heads! by Wendell Minor
  • It's Pumpkin Day, Mouse! by Laura Numeroff
  • Apples and Pumpkins by Anne Rockwell
  • Big Pumpkin by Erica Silverman (Audio version with song available here.)
  • This is Not a Pumpkin by Bob Staake
  • The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda D. Williams

Extension Activities: 


Suggested Books:

  • I Want to be an Astronaut by Byron Barton 
  • Moonlight by Helen V. Griffith
  • Kitten's First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes
  • The Mouse Who Ate the Moon by Petr Horacek
  • Higher! Higher! by Leslie Patricelli
  • The Moon by Robert Louis Stevenson, illustrated by Tracey Pearson Campbell
  • Owl Moon by Jane Yolen

Extension Activities:


Suggested Books:

  • The Little Yellow Leaf by Carin Berger
  • Kitten's Autumn by Eugenie Fernandes 
  • Fall Leaves Fall by Zoe Hall
  • Fall is Not Easy by Marty Kelley
  • When Autumn Falls by Kelli Nidey
  • Leaves by David Ezra Stein
  • Ol' Mama Squirrel by David Ezra Stein
  • The Very Busy Squirrel by Nancy Tafuri 

Extension Activities:


Suggested Books: 

  • The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle
  • The Eensy Weensy Spider Freaks Out Big Time by Troy Cummings
  • Be Nice to Spiders by Margaret Bloy Graham
  • The Eensy Weensy Spider by Mary Ann Hoberman
  • Anansi the Spider: A Tale from the Ashanti by Gerald McDermott
  • The Itsy Bitsy Spider by Iza Trapani 

Extension Activities: 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Announcement: Changes for Story Time Secrets and Introducing my New Website!

The past three years since leaving the library have been a period of transition for me, and this past year, especially, I have felt much more overwhelmed by obligations than I have in the past. Writing books and raising kids requires a lot of time and attention, as does blogging, and there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do it all. In order to restore some order to my increasingly chaotic life, I have decided to make some changes to how I blog. Here's what's happening:

  1. Over the next few weeks, Story Time Secrets will return to its original roots as a story time and library-focused blog. With the exception of those published in 2016, the book reviews that originally appeared on this site have been removed. (More on where they went in a moment.) By the end of 2016, the only content on this blog will be directly related to library service to children, with a specific focus on story time. Though I won’t be posting daily anymore, I do plan to update several times a month with new content (book lists, story time starters, reflections on library service, etc.) and to continue on with my monthly round-ups of reviews of books for beginning readers.
  2. I have started a new site for book reviews: Read-at-Home Mom. Posted there right now are some 350 of my favorite book reviews from Story Time Secrets (including most Old School Sunday posts, and all of the award winning titles), along with my Reading with Little Miss Muffet and Little Bo Peep posts, and a collection of various articles I have posted over the years. Read-at-Home Mom will be my new internet home, and I will be focusing primarily on older children’s books, award winners, and classics, as well as the picture books my girls are enjoying.  I also plan to post more personal articles related to parenting and homeschooling as time goes on. Unfortunately, I have decided to stop reviewing so many new releases and I will no longer be accepting review copies.
  3. Finally, the reviews which were not moved to Read-at-Home Mom are currently sitting in a private blog waiting to be posted to Goodreads. It’s going to take a while to get them all moved, but eventually any review which is not available on the new site will appear on my Goodreads account.

I have new posts scheduled here at Story Time Secrets during the next few weeks, some of which are reviews of new releases. I will allow those to publish as scheduled and keep them up on the blog until the end of December. After that, some will go to the new blog, and the others will be copied over to Goodreads, and ultimately there will no longer be any book reviews housed here.

If you’d like to continue reading my book reviews, please click over to and subscribe! My first post is coming soon. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Review Round-Up: Books for Beginning Readers, August 2016

Easy Readers

A small,  but varied, selection of easy readers this month:

Guessing Geisel's guest contributors posted about Pug and Not Me.

Jean Little Library had three "Small Readers" reviews. Two were of nonfiction titles from Penguin Young Readers: Giraffes and Slow, Slow, Sloths, and the third was Duck, Duck, Porcupine.

Kids Book a Day reviewed Living In... Brazil.

Becky's Book Reviews reviewed The Thank You Book.

Mom Read It reviewed Benny and Penny Say Goodbye to a Friend.

Chapter Books

There were definitely some popular chapter books making the rounds this month!

The most popular was The Infamous Ratsos, which was reviewed by Books 4 Your Kids, Kids Book a Day, Librarian's Quest, Jean Little Library, and Charlotte's Library.

A close second was Piper Green and the Fairy Tree: The Sea Pony, with reviews from Jen Robinson's Book Page, Books 4 Your Kids, Ms. Yingling Reads, and Waking Brain Cells.

There were also two reviews each of Inspector Flytrap (Books 4 Your Kids and Kids Book a Day) and Mango & Bambang: The Not-a-Pig (Orange Marmalade and Becky's Book Reviews.)

Other chapter book reviews included:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...