Friday, July 29, 2016

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

I have been doing these round-ups for a whole year already! Though I will no longer be the chair of the easy readers and early chapter books category of the Cybils this upcoming season, I still love beginning reader books, so for now I plan to continue rounding up reviews each month. If there is a blog you know that regularly reviews beginning reader books, please let me know! I subscribe to a whole bunch and always Google to look around for more, but I want to make sure that each round-up includes as many sites as possible so there are balanced views of each book.  Now, on to the links!

Easy Readers

Just a few easy reader reviews this month, mostly from the usual blogger suspects.

Becky's Book Reviews shared a post about Hill of Fire, a Reading Rainbow book first published in 1971.

Sal's Fiction Addiction and Mundie Kids both bade fond farewells to Elephant & Piggie with their reviews of The Thank You Book.

Sal's Fiction Addiction also reviewed a new Toon book, A Goofy Guide to Penguins. Another Toon book, Blip! was reviewed at Mom Read It.

Geo Librarian reviewed Ibn Al-Haytham: The Man Who Discovered How We See

Carstairs Considers, a blog which reviews literally everything, including Christmas ornaments, posted about Jane Yolen's Commander Toad and the Dis-asteroid.

Finally, Jean Little Library reviewed Noodlehead Nightmares.

Chapter Books

Amazingly, there are no two reviews of the same chapter book this month!

Jean Little Library reviewed Have Fun, Anna Hibiscus, Doodle Adventures: The Search for the Slimy Space Slugs, Most Valuable Players: The Gold Medal Mess, and The Great Mouse Detective: Basil of Baker Street.

Geo Librarian reviewed two series titles, Detective Gordon: The First Case and When I Am Happiest, as well as two nonfiction titles, Diving with Sharks and Together Forever: True Stories of Amazing Animal Friendships

Becky's Book Reviews reviewed two Patricia Maclachlan books, Waiting for the Magic and White Fur Flying, and two titles from The Whodunit Detective Agency series, The Diamond Mystery and The Hotel Mystery.

Sal's Fiction Addiction had two reviews: Jasper John Dooley: Public Library Enemy #1 and HiLo: Saving the Whole Wide World.

Other posts were Weekends with Max and his Dad (Waking Brain Cells), The Story of Diva and Flea (Sonder Books), Commander in Cheese: The Big Move (Kids Book a Day), The Infamous Ratsos (Librarian's Quest),  and I Survived the Attacks of September 11, 2001 (Story Time Secrets).

Have a post to add to this round-up? Comment below. You can also submit a post for next month by emailing me after it goes live.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Reading with Little Miss Muffet and Little Bo Peep, July 2016

It has really been a book-filled summer for us so far! Here are some of the highlights:
  • For the Fourth of July, we visited my mother in New York, and she had lots and lots of books waiting for us. While we were there, Little Miss Muffet enjoyed The Tub Grandfather by Pam Conrad, the Bing series by Ted Dewan, and Grandma Loves You: Stories to Share, among others, and we came home with Little Owl's Day, the final title we needed to complete our collection of Divya Srinivasan's owl books. Both Little Miss Muffet and Little Bo Peep also got to visit the children's section of the library where I used to work, and it was wonderful to see everything come full circle as they played with toys and paged through board books.
  • We signed up for the summer reading program in three different local library systems, but I quickly decided not to bother participating. One system expected me to track how many minutes it takes me to read each book, which was a nightmare from day one. Another offered lots of learning tracks, but none of them had anything to do with reading. I would have been okay with early literacy tasks, but I had a hard time seeing the value in finding my local fire station or visiting with a neighbor. The third system has a fine program, but we would have finished it in a day, and I didn't want the prizes badly enough to go through the motions. I suspect we will be coming up with our own challenge in future summers. 
  • Possibly inspired by the publication of my book, Little Miss Muffet has started her own writing career. She has written and illustrated two titles so far: The Happy Deer, about a deer we saw while we were out walking, and Dear Butterfly, Happy to Meet You, about a butterfly we found by a tree, which we initially thought was injured but turned out to be fine.  
  • Little Bo Peep is starting to appreciate books as more than just tools for teething. She enjoys turning the pages of board books and I notice her dropping everything to listen when I start to read aloud and she is in the room. She really liked Leuyen Pham's illustrations for All Fall Down, which I borrowed from the library recently, and she also likes the shiny foil accents in the My First books from Little Bee Books, which I reviewed back in May.
  • Miss Muffet has many favorites these days, but the ones I have been reading most frequently are If the Dinosaurs Came Back by Bernard Most (which has inspired an interesting in learning everything there is to know about dinosaurs), the Little Miss and Little Mister books (which also came home up with us from Grandma's), and The Fourteen Bears in Summer and Winter by Evelyn Scott, which was my husband's when he was a kid.  I have also started sharing some longer easy readers with her, and she has become fond of Poppleton by Cynthia Rylant and Dodsworth in New York by Tim Egan.  When she listens to audiobooks, she often request the Frances series or Blueberries for Sal. All in all, I'm pleased with her good taste and enjoying seeing how these books influence her play.
  • The other thing we have discovered this summer is the neighborhood pool. We used a book called Signs at the Pool to help prepare Miss Muffet for following the pool rules, and I have adapted many of our favorite songs and rhymes as pool games. We have done Old Joe, Go In and Out the Window and Ring Around the Rosie in the water, and Miss Muffet has really enjoyed it. 
  • Finally, if you haven't seen it yet, I had a guest post at Pages and Margins all about the impact of books on young children. If you enjoy reading these posts each month, I think you will like what I had to say in my piece, The Influence of Books in Early Childhood

Monday, July 25, 2016

Summer Camp Story Time, 7/1/16

I visited my parents in New York for the Fourth of July, and, as I did last year, presented a story time for my mom's summer camp while I was there. Though this isn't likely to be useful to anyone else until next year, it was a great story time and worth writing up!

Opening Song: Hello, how are you?
I had started using a new hello song for the story times I was doing for my Moms Club, but for this group, where the kids were ages 4 to 6, I went back to my original song. In this situation, the hello song was really just a means to an end rather than activity unto itself, so I wasn't that worried about it. 

Book: Wow! America! by Robert Neubecker
This book follows two sisters as they run across a map of the United States, discovering different landmarks and customs associated with each state. Because each page is so simple, with just one sentence about each state followed by an exclamation of "Wow, lobster!" or "Wow, canyon!" I knew I would have to make it super interactive if I wanted to use it. So I came up a motion for each "wow" and had the kids repeat after me on each page. It worked really well. It also helped that my mom was on hand to hold the book for me because it's a huge picture book, and I could not have held it and done the motions. 

Song: The Irrational Anthem by Jim Gill
I had never done this song before without or without the recording, and I was skeptical about whether I could pull it off. I practiced it for a week or so at home and finally decided it was doable. It functions in a story time similarly to Taba Naba, which I did for this group last year, but whereas Taba Naba proved difficult for them, the Irrational Anthem was just right. I did it a cappella so I could take it at my own pace, and I think that's the way I would always do it.  

Book: Crankee Doodle by Tom Angleberger and Cece Bell
I debated a lot about using this book because while I remembered it being hilarious, I wasn't sure the kids would find it that funny. Going against my usual story time style, I decided to assign voices to the two characters, Crankee Doodle and his horse. The kids were silent through the whole thing, so I had no idea in the moment whether this was a hit or a flop, but when my mom got home from work later in the day, she informed me that when she asked the kids their favorite part of camp at the end of the day, several named this book as a highlight. So I guess it was worth the risk. 

Song with Ukulele: Yankee Doodle
The last page of this book is told in the voice of the horse, who sings the song, so we sang it twice through just for the fun of it. (I asked my mom ahead of time if she could sing the song with them during the week before I came. I have had bad luck using this song with groups that don't know it.)

Song: Visor, T-Shirt, Shorts, and Shoes
This worked just as well as it always does. It is truly a secret weapon. 

Book: Song for A Summer Night: A Lullaby by Robert Heidbreder and Qin Leng
I checked this book out of the library on a whim and my first thought was that it would be perfect for a story time because all of the repetition. I assigned a motion to each sound that makes up the summer lullaby and had the kids repeat each one each time the sound was made. I doubt this book would have gone as well with a group in a less structured environment, especially since there are a lot of quiet moments between repeats of the refrain, but it worked really nicely in this situation. 

Goodbye Song: We Wave Goodbye Like This
I used the goodbye song to put a period at the end of the sentence, so to speak, but I and my husband and kids actually stuck around to sing Down by the Bay with the campers after the story time, which was really fun, especially for Little Miss Muffet, who has recently discovered that song. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Story Time Secrets Reader Survey 2016

It has been two years since my first Reader Survey, so I thought it would be a good time to do another one before I return to a regular posting schedule next month.  Please take a moment to fill out the form below and let me know how and why you access this blog, what you like about it, and any other feedback you might have. Your comments are greatly appreciated! (If you would prefer to open the form in a separate window, click here.) Thank you! 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Guest Post: The Influence of Books in Early Childhood

Over the weekend, I had a guest post published over at Pages and Margins all about the influence of books on Little Miss Muffet, age two-and-a-half. Click to read The Influence of Books in Early Childhood.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Now Available: Story Time Success: A Practical Guide for Librarians

It's here! My book, Story Time Success: A Practical Guide for Librarians, is now available. This is a comprehensive handbook for new and veteran story time performers that addresses planning, promoting, performing, evaluating and troubleshooting story times. Included are annotated book lists, original rhymes and piggyback songs, sample plans and set lists, an evaluation checklist, and a Q&A section focused on common story time problems.

Preview the book below:

For more information, visit the publisher's website or

Friday, July 1, 2016

Reading and Blogging Goals 2016: Mid-Year Check-In (plus, a short blogging vacation!)

Yesterday marked the halfway point in 2016: six months down, and six months to go. Since I set myself quite a few goals at the start of the year, I thought it would be a good idea to check in and see how and whether I have been progressing. 

Goal #1 Fumble Through Fantasy

I am fumbling just as much as I thought I would, and my original reading list has changed quite a bit already, but I am sticking with it, and I have every reason to believe I will have finished 25 fantasy novels by the end of the year. Here are the titles I've done so far:

Goal #2: Organize my social media content. 

When I made this goal, I had the idea that I would start keeping track of where and when I posted things, and try to schedule my Facebook and Twitter posts more regularly. For a while, I even designated Sunday night as the time when I would schedule out all my social media posts for the week. Interestingly, though, others have started sharing my content very efficiently on Twitter so I haven't felt that it was necessary for me to do more than have the links automatically posted there each time something new is published. And I post enough to Facebook to feel like I am giving people a reason to visit the page, so I haven't done anything more to formalize this process. And I have figured out Instagram, and I will keep working on improving that, but that's more because I enjoy it than because I'm trying to promote the blog. I would still like to look for ways to find new readers, but I think I have to work on figuring out my blog's true identity and focus before I do anything else major in the way of promoting it. 

Goal #3: Participate in more read-a-thons and challenges.

So far this year, I have done Bout of Books twice and joined in Armchair BEA. I'm also reading a book a month for Newbery Through the Decades, which has been a lot of fun and has helped me fill in a lot of gaps in my reading. I was disappointed to learn there wouldn't be a 48 Hour Book Challenge this year, since that's one of the few events that really involved a lot of children's book bloggers, but even when I'm one of the few kidlit readers, it's still fun to join other challenges. I also did the A to Z Blogging Challenge in April, which was a great way for me to take a break from my  regular blogging style and try something new. (I read 26 picture book biographies. You can read about them here.)

Goal #4: Write a page of fiction five days a week. 

Less than a week after I gave myself this goal, I had already crossed it off the list. Either I don't enjoy writing fiction anymore, or I just have too many other things going on to really focus on it, but the idea was to write for fun, and there was nothing fun about it. My new goal is to write some shorter children's poems and see about submitting them to magazines like Highlights Hello, Highlights High Five and Babybug, but this is more of a long-term goal and not something I plan to focus on very heavily during the rest of 2016. 

Goal #5: Relocate, rebrand and rename the blog. 

I have lots of ideas in the works for this, but this will not be the year for putting them into action. I think I know what I want to do, but it's going to require more work than I can accomplish in the remaining six months of 2016. This may be a goal that comes to fruition in 2018 instead. 

In over five years of blogging, I have never really taken a formal break, but that is about to change. Today's post is one of only a handful I will be publishing during the month of July. Old School Sunday will continue throughout the month, with a couple of Fumbling Through Fantasy reviews thrown into the mix, but otherwise, it will be mostly quiet here until August. See you then! 
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