Music in the Air: An Outdoor Musical Storytime

This week at Outdoor Musical Storytime, our theme was Making Music. Here are the books and songs that we shared:

Books:

Let’s Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy by Jan Thomas

Jan Thomas writes so many fun, interactive storytime books, and this is one of my favorites. A cowboy is singing his cows to sleep with a sweet lullaby, but EEK!!! Is that a spider? “No, Cowboy” his cows say. “It’s a just a flower.” More misconceptions follow: a stick that looks like a snake, a cow that looks like a bear, until finally the little group is confronted with an actual threat: a wolf who loves lullabies. The kids loved joining in on the “EEKs!,” which provide a great opportunity to help them make the connection between the written and spoken word. For the lullaby, I use a tune that a coworker of mine made up, but it also works to the tune of Bringing Home a Baby Bumblebee.

The Nuts: Sing and Dance in Your Polka Dot Pants by Eric Litwin; illustrated by Scott Magoon

Hazel Nut has written a song to celebrate her polka dot pants. The problem is that everyone in her family is too busy to sing and dance with her. Luckily, Grandma Nut shows up to save the day. I came up with my own tune (similar to Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star) for the “Polka Dot Pants” song that Hazel sings. There’s a YouTube video for the song featured the end of the book.

Kat Writes a Song by Greg Foley

Kat is very proud of her new song, and when she sings it, good things seem to happen. Is her song magic? This is a really sweet friendship story, and the kids loved singing the “Meow Meow Meow Meow Meow” song.

SONGS:

The Cowboy Pokey:

A cowboy-themed version of The Hokey Pokey, to go with Let’s Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy:

You put your left lasso in (move your right arm in circles in front of you)

You put your left lasso out (move your left arm behind you)

You put your left lasso in (move your right arm in circles in front of you)

And you shake it all around (shake your left arm)

You do the cowboy pokey and you turn yourself around (turn in a circle)

That’s what it’s all about! (clap as you sing each word)

You put your right lasso in…

You put your left spur in… (put your left foot in front of you)

You put your right spur out… (put your right foot in front of you)

You put your hat in… (tilt your head down)…

Giddy-Up!

This is one of my all-time favorite baby/toddler storytime songs. It’s to the tune of the William Tell Overture (Lone Ranger Theme):

Giddy-up, Giddy-up, Giddy-UP-UP-UP! (bounce baby or toddler, or have older kids “gallop” in place)

Giddy-up, Giddy-up, Giddy-UP-UP-UP!

Giddy-up, Giddy-up, Giddy-UP-UP-UP!

WHOA, Horsey! (Lean back with baby/toddler, or have older kids stop and put their hands out)

If Your Clothes Have any Red

We sang this one after Sing and Dance in Your Polka Dot Pants. It’s to the tune of If You’re Happy and You Know It. It’s fun to come up with your own verses:

If your clothes have any red, any red,

If your clothes have any red, any red,

If your clothes have any red,

Put your finger on your head!

If your clothes have any red, any red.

If your clothes have any blue…put your finger on your shoe…

If your clothes have any green…make believe you can’t be seen… (cover your eyes with your hands, and then say, “Peekaboo!”

If your clothes have any black…put your finger on your back…

Dance Like You’ve Got Ants in Your Pants by Eric Herman

This is such a fun song. I play it on the ukulele (chords below). Each time we spray our imaginary spray, I usually say, “And the ants (bees, bears) say, ‘Ewww! Ewww! Ewww!” and run away!

[C] Dance like you’ve got [G7] ants in your pants.

[F] Dance like you’ve got [G7] ants in your pants.

[C] Dance like you’ve got [G7] ants in your pants,

Now [F] STOP! And spray some ant spray!

[C] Dance like you’ve got [G7] bees on your knees.

[F] Dance like you’ve got [G7] bees on your knees.

[C] Dance like you’ve got [G7] bees on your knees,

Now [F] STOP! And spray some bee spray!

[C] Dance like you’ve got a [G7] bear in your hair.

[F] Dance like you’ve got a [G7] bear in your hair.

[C] Dance like you’ve got a [G7] bear in your hair,

Now [F] STOP! And spray some bear spray!

[G7] Bop! Bop! Bop! [F] Until you [C]drop!

[G7] Hula, Hula, Hula! [F] Until you [C] drool-a!

[C] Jump like you got [G7] bumped on your rump.

[F] Jump like you got [G7] bumped on your rump.

[C] Jump like you got [G7] bumped on your rump,

Now [F] STOP!

[G7] Dance anyway, [F] Dance any [C] how,

[G7] Dance any night and day.

[F] Keep on dancing [C] now.

[G7] Dance any way you want to.

[F] Dance any way you [C] can.

[G7] Dance like you got ants [F] in your pants a- [C] gain!

[C] Dance like you’ve got [G7] ants in your pants.

[F] Dance like you’ve got [G7] ants in your pants.

[C] Dance like you’ve got [G7] bees on your knees.

[F] Dance like you’ve got [G7] bees on your knees.

[C] Dance like you’ve got a [G7] bear in your hair.

[F] Dance like you’ve got a [G7] bear in your hair.

[C] Jump like you got [G7] bumped on your rump.

[F] Jump like you got [G7] bumped on your rump.

[G7] Bop! Bop! Bop! [F] Until you [C]drop!

[G7] Dance, Dance, Dance, [F] don’t ever [C] STOP!

STAY AND PLAY: EGG SHAKERS

While looking through our craft closet (which is always an adventure), I found a whole bag of plastic eggs, and a couple of bags of dried beans. Why? Who knows! But it made for a fantastic follow-up activity for after storytime. We put out lots of different stickers for the kids to decorate their eggs after they filled them with beans. (In retrospect, I wish I had brought tape, so that the families could tape their eggs closed, but many of them just put stickers along the seam to hold them together). Super easy, and the kids had a blast!

What are your favorite books about music? Please share them in the comments.

Right As Rain: An Outdoor Storytime About the Weather

I had a fun time at our Toddler Outdoor Storytime yesterday. Lately, the weather here in the Bay Area has been interesting, to say the least. On top of the usual fog and rain, we now have bomb cyclones and atmospheric rivers. So it seemed like the perfect time to do a Weather theme.

Here are the books and songs that I did:

BOOKS:

Are You Ready to Play Outside? by Mo Willems

This Elephant and Piggie book worked really well for my theme. Piggie is excited to play outside with Gerald, until it starts to rain. But a pair of playful worms convince the two friends that they can still have just as much fun in the rain. Some of the kids joined in on the running and jumping parts, and as a special surprise, I sprayed a tiny bit of water into the crowd with a water sprayer in the part of the book where the rain started.

Sometimes Rain by Meg Fleming; illustrated by Diana Sudyka

This simple rhyming book describes different types of weather and activities that sometimes happen as the seasons change (playing on the beach in the summer, jumping in leaves in the fall, etc.). I wish I had thought to bring some actual fall leaves to give out or scatter into the crowd. Unfortunately, my coworker who usually walks around with a second copy of the book was out sick, so it was a bit hard for the kids to see the illustrations, which are beautiful, but a little small for an outdoor setting.

It Looked Like Spilled Milk by Charles G. Shaw

I had the big book version of this wonderful book about cloud shapes. It was so much fun to read. For each page, I asked the kids what they saw, and got some really interesting answers (a boat instead of a birthday cake, a bat instead of an angel). I incorporated their ideas into the text, saying “But it wasn’t a boat OR a birthday cake,” etc.

SONGS AND RHYMES:

For this storytime, I usually open with Open and Shut Them and close with The More We Get Together (with sign language).

If All the Raindrops:

I did this one earlier this week for Musical Storytime, but I had to include it in my weather theme. Once again, I asked for the kids to tell me their favorite foods, and we sang it several times, with verses like “If all the raindrops were M&M’s and Ice Cream,” and “If all the raindrops were peanut butter and jam.”

[C] If all the raindrops were [G7] lemon drops and [C] gum drops,

Oh, what a rain it would [G7] be.

[C] I’d stand out- [G7] side with my [C] mouth open [G7] wide,

[C] “Ah, Ah, Ah, [G7] Ah, Ah, Ah, [C] Ah, Ah, Ah, [G7] Ah!”

[C] If all the raindrops were [G7] lemon drops and [C] gum drops,

Oh, what a [G7] rain it would [C] be!

Way Up High in the Apple Tree:

A simple, fun rhyme to go with the apple picking in Sometimes Rain. I asked the kids to suggest other fruits to pick from the tree, and we repeated it several times:

Way up high in the apple tree (stretch arms high in the air)

Two little apples smiled at me! (make circles with your index fingers and thumbs)

I shook that tree as hard as I could! (mime shaking the tree with your hands)

Down came the apples! Mmmm, they were good (lower arms, and rub tummy)

Five Little Snowmen:

One of my favorite storytime songs. After the first verse, I asked the kids what other things they could make out of snow, so we sang about four little snow kitties, and three little snow bunnies, two little snow giraffes, and (my favorite!) one little snow skunk:

Five little snowmen standing in a row, (hold up five fingers)
Each with a hat (touch head), and a brightly colored bow (adjust imaginary bowtie).
Five little snowmen dressed up all for show.
Now they are ready,`
Where will they go?

Wait! (hold out hands in a “Stop!” motion) Till the sun shines. (move hands in a circle)
Wait! Till the sun shines.
Then they will go
Down through the fields
With the melting, melting snow (“melt” all the way down to the floor, then pop up for the next four snowmen).

Rainbow ‘Round Me:

Another storytime favorite, composed by Ruth Pelham. I asked the kids for suggestions of things they might see outside their windows. By the end, we had purple unicorn, a white flag, and a green mountain lion.

When I [C] look outside my [G7] window,
There’s a world of color I [C] see.
Fiddle-dee-dee, [F] outside my [C] window 
There’s a [G7] world of color I [C] see.

CHORUS:
[F] Rainbow, [C] rainbow, [G7] rainbow ’round [C] me. 
[F] Rainbow, [C] rainbow, [G7] rainbow ’round [C] me. 

And the sky outside my window,
Is as blue as blue can be.
Fiddle-dee-dee, outside my window
It’s as blue as blue can be.

Chorus

And the grass outside my window,
Is as green as green can be.
Fiddle-dee-dee, outside my window
It’s as green and green can be,
And the sky is blue as blue can be.

Chorus

And the flowers outside my window,
Are as yellow as yellow can be.
Fiddle-dee-dee, outside my window
They’re as yellow as yellow can be.
And the grass is green as green can be.
And the sky is blue as blue can be.

Chorus

STAY AND PLAY: COTTON BALL CLOUDS AND CLOUD VIEWERS

Cotton Ball Clouds

For our Stay and Play activity, I put out cotton balls, blue paper, and glue sticks for the kids to make their own clouds. They could glue the cotton balls as they were, or stretch them out to make thinner clouds. The kids really enjoyed playing with the cotton balls, and sticking them to the page. I also gave them a cloud viewer to use in the park and at home.

I got the idea for the cloud viewer from The UCAR Center for Science Education, which offers a more detailed version here: https://scied.ucar.edu/activity/cloud-viewer. Basically, you cut out the center square so that kids can look through the hole and compare the clouds they see with the ones in the pictures. For my toddler storytime crowd, I wasn’t as worried about providing the names of the different types of clouds (although I included them for the caregivers). Mostly, I just wanted to offer families some ideas for ways to talk about clouds together, by describing their shapes and colors and textures, etc.

One of the programs our library system offers is LENA Start, which emphasizes the importance of talking with babies and toddlers. Each family is given a special recorder that tracks how many words the child hears throughout the day (without documenting what the actual words are), and how many times a caregiver responds to sounds and words the child says. Each week, the family receives a graph charting how many back and forth exchanges they’ve had with their child, even if it’s just naming something in the environment (a dog, a tree, etc.) and then reacting when the baby or child responds. The weekly classes provide topics for daily conversation (food, bathtime, etc.), and time to brainstorm how to talk with young children about them. This cloud viewer activity was intended to generate the same kind of inspiration by suggesting questions caregivers might ask, or things they might point out as they look at the sky together. (To learn more about LENA and the importance of early talk, you can visit the LENA website. Before the pandemic, I had the opportunity to lead a series of LENA Start classes for two different sets of families, many of whom are now regular attendees at my storytimes. It’s a fascinating program, and extremely rewarding.)

Here is the simplified cloud viewer I used:

What are your favorite books or songs about weather? Please share them in the comments below.

Dancing with Dinosaurs: An Outdoor Musical Storytime

We had a very special guest at our Outdoor Musical Storytime today–a wild turkey! It was fitting for a storytime at the beginning of November, and also because our theme was an ancient ancestor of the turkey: dinosaurs!

We almost cancelled today, because it had been raining overnight and the ground was still a bit damp. But since the skies were clearning, we decided to give it a try. I posted a picture of the picnic area on a couple of Facebook groups for local families, explaining that we were still holding storytime, but to be sure to bring a towel or blanket to sit on. I also mentioned our Dinosaur theme, so one little boy showed up with his prized dinosaur collection!

BOOKS:

Here are the books and songs that we did:

Crunch, the Shy Dinosaur by Cirocco Dunlap; illustrated by Greg Pizzoli

Crunch, the Dinosaur, is very shy, and likely to hide if you say “Hello” too loudly. This is a fun, interactive book that asks the kids to sing “Happy Birthday,” shout their names, and say “Goodnight,” as Crunch slowly warms up to them. This was a great way to get my shy group talking.

Groovy Joe: Ice Cream and Dinosaurs by Eric Litwin; illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

Groovy Joe is a lot like Pete the Cat, especially since the books are written by the author of the first few Pete books. In this one, Groovy Joe is preparing to enjoy his favorite ice cream, and singing his song “Love My Doggy Ice Cream!,” but he keeps getting interrupted by hungry dinosaurs. But that’s okay because, as Joe says, “It’s awesome to share!” The kids loved chiming in on the ROARs, and the families were singing along with the song every time.

Dinosaur Stomp by Paul Stickland

I love to throw in pop-up books whenever I can, because the kids are always mesmerized by them. In this colorful, rhyming picture book the dinosaurs pop off the page in surprising ways. It was fun to ask the kids to name some of the more recognizable dinosaurs.

SONGS:

If You’re Happy and You Know It

This one fit well with Crunch, the Shy Dinosaur, because we sang about lots of different emotions: If you’re sad and you know it, cry “Boo hoo!”; If you’re angry and you know it, say “I’m mad!”; If you’re shy and you know it, hide your face…peek-a-boo!

The chords are:

If you’re happy [C] and you know it, clap your [G7].

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your [C].

If you’re [F] happy and you know it,

And you [C] really want to show it,

If you’re [G7] happy and you know it, clap your [C] hands.

If All the Raindrops

The perfect song for our recent weather, and as a follow-up to Ice Cream and Dinosaurs. I asked for suggestions of favorite foods, so we made the rain into gummy bears and pasta, and pizza and grapes. Here’s an old video I made for the tune:

[C] If all the raindrops were [G7] lemon drops and [C] gum drops,

Oh, what a rain it would [G7] be.

[C] I’d stand out- [G7] side with my [C] mouth open [G7] wide,

[C] “Ah, Ah, Ah, [G7] Ah, Ah, Ah, [C] Ah, Ah, Ah, [G7] Ah!”

[C] If all the raindrops were [G7] lemon drops and [C] gum drops,

Oh, what a [G7] rain it would [C] be!

We Are the Dinosaurs by Laurie Berkner

The little boy who brought his dinosaurs already knew this song, and it worked perfectly for our instrument play-along. I used the chords from this site: https://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/tab/the-laurie-berkner-band/we-are-the-dinosaurs-chords-702750

STAY AND PLAY: Dinosaur Footprints

A Dinosaur Print Display made by Claire

For our Stay and Play activity, we gave the kids paper plates and small handfuls of Crayola Air Dry Clay, and showed them how to flatten their clay into a small disc on the plate. Then we gave them toy dinosaurs, so they could press the footprints into the clay, or lay them on their sides to make a full body print. We also encouraged them to decorate their clay with leaves from around the park. This turned out to be a lot of fun! Thank you to Big Happy House for this idea. You can also do this craft with Salt Dough, which is cheap and easy to make.

What are your favorite dinosaur books or songs? Please let me know in the comments.

High Spirits: Halloween Storytime at the Park

Two days ago, the whole Bay Area was drenched by an atmospheric river, so I wasn’t sure we were going to be able to hold storytime today. Luckily, the ground at the park was fairly dry, and surprisingly, we had a pretty big turnout. Not only that, the kids seem to finally be getting comfortable moving around and interacting with us, which is a big relief.

It had been such a long time since we had done in-person storytimes, that many of the kids had never attended a storytime before, or at least not since they were too young to remember. Plus, sitting apart on blankets, instead of in the cozy crowd at the library, seemed to make them feel a bit shy and uncertain. But today we had kids dancing and calling out suggestions, and it was almost like old times. Here’s what we did:

BOOKS:

Ghosts in the House by Kazuno Kohara

One of my favorite Halloween books for younger kids, this not-so-scary story is about a girl who lives in a haunted house. Luckily, the girl is a witch, who knows how to catch ghosts and put them to work being curtains and blankets and other useful things. We aren’t handing out play scarves right now, but when we were, I used to love having the kids pretend to catch their own “ghosts” in the air. Today, we took the time to count the ghosts together. Always a hit!

Aaaarrgghh, Spider! by Lydia Monks

This isn’t technically a Halloween book, but I included it because it’s about a spider. The spider (who is adorable) really wants to be a family pet, but all of her attempts to get the family’s attention end with them screaming, “Aaaarrgghh, Spider!” and putting her outside. The kids loved joining in on the screams. They also loved the page of sparkly webs.

Go Away, Big Green Monster by Ed Emberley

The perfect monster book for younger kids, and a brilliant book design that makes the different parts of the monster’s face seem to magically appear and disappear. One challenge with doing storytime in the park is making sure the kids can see the illustrations, so my coworker, Claire, usually walks around with a second copy of the book. For this one, we happened to have an adorable puppet version, with Velcro eyes, nose, ears, mouth, and hair you can easily stick to the face. I think the next time I do this, I’ll ask for volunteers to put the different parts of the monster’s face on the puppet and take them off again.

SONGS:

ON HALLOWEEN:

This is a versatile, easy song, and provides a great opportunity for kids to suggest their own verses. Today we had bats saying “Eeee!”, zombies saying “Brains!”, and skeletons saying “Boo!” I always end with “The kids at the door say ‘Trick or Treat!'”

To the tune of The Wheels on the Bus. The ukulele/guitar chords are in bold:

The [C] ghosts in the house say “Oooooooo!”

[G7] “Oooooooo! [C] Oooooooo!”

The ghosts in the house say “Oooooooo!”

[G7] On Hallo-[C]ween.

WE ARE SCARY SKELETONS

This is a fun, spooky song that also allows kids to suggest spooky (or not-so-spooky) things to be. Today we were werewolves, witches, and cats.

Here’s a video of a version I did for virtual storytime (although I used ghosts instead of skeletons), so you can hear the tune. I usually sing this one without the ukulele, so that I can use my whole body for the motions.

We are scary skeletons floating down the street,

Walking down the street,

Walking down the street.

We are scary ghosts walking down the street,

We’ll scare you…BOO! 

SPIDER ON THE FLOOR

To the tune of If You’re Happy and You Know It. This is an old Raffi song, although I usually change the lyrics a little. Claire and I both acted it out with toy spiders, and I encouraged the kids to make spiders with their hands.

There’s a spider on the floor, on the floor.

There’s a spider on the floor, on the floor.

Who could ask for any more than a spider on the floor?

There’s a spider on the floor, on the floor.

Now the spider’s on my leg, on my leg.

Now the spider’s on my leg, on my leg.

Oh, he’s really, really big, this old spider on my leg.

There’s a spider on my leg, on my leg.

Now the spider’s on my tummy, on my tummy…

Oh, I feel so very funny with this spider on my tummy!…

Now the spider’s on my neck, on my neck…

Oh, I’m gonna’ be a wreck, I’ve got a spider on my neck!…

Now the spider’s on my face, on my face…

Oh, I’m such a big disgrace. I’ve got a spider on my face!…

Now the spider’s on my head, on my head…

Oh, it fills my heart with dread to have this spider on my head!…

Spoken: But it jumps off!

Now the spider’s on the floor, on the floor…

Who could ask for any more than a spider on the floor?…

HALLOWEEN SHARKS

I was ridiculously excited to sing this spooky version of Baby Shark by PinkFong. I gave out shakers for the kids to play along, and played it on the ukulele (chords and lyrics below):

Baby [Am] Shark, Doot [Em] doo, doo [Dm] doo doo doo.

[Em] Baby [Am] Shark, Doot [Em]doo, doo [Dm] doo doo doo.

[Em] Baby [Am] Shark, Doot [Em]doo, doo [Dm] doo doo doo.

[Em] Baby [Am] Shark!

BOO!

Repeat with Mommy Shark, Daddy Shark, Grandma Shark, Grandpa Shark, and Halloween.

STAY AND PLAY:

I’ve been trying to find simple activities for the stay-and-play that allow kids to explore things around the park, so I was really excited to find this Magic Nature Wand activity from Mini Mad Things. I put out pipe cleaners, multicolored yarn, and scissors for the kids, and encouraged them to look around for sticks (not too big or too pointy) to make into wands, and leaves to attach to them. They turned out beautifully! Here is one example:

I have Toddler Storytime on Thursday (if the weather holds), and for that one, I’m hoping to have the kids make Leaf Monsters with leaves, glue sticks, Googly eyes, and markers. I got the idea from this great list of Halloween Nature Crafts from Mother Natured. Here is my example:

What are your favorite Halloween books, songs, or crafts? Please share them in the comments.

Some-Body Loves Me: Storytime About Parts of the Body

Well, my Toddler Storytime this week got rained out, but we luckily the weather held for our Musical Storytime. Our libraries are participating in a program called San Mateo County Reads, sponsored by the County Office of Education, so our featured book was Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry and Vashti Harrison. We had copies of the book to give out, along with copies of Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes for older kids.

On a side note our library system recently purchased portable PA systems for each branch, and these have made a HUGE difference for outdoor storytime. I can put the speaker on one of the picnic tables closer to the audience, and use a headset mic when I read and sing. At the first outdoor storytime, I had to use a microphone on a stand, which was really awkward for reading aloud. But now I can move around freely.

Here are the books and songs that we used:

BOOKS:

Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry; illustrated by Vashti Harrison

Our featured picture book, and this year’s picture book selection for San Mateo County Reads, this is a beautiful story about an African American father and daughter, and their struggles to recreate a special hairstyle for a very special day. The book is actually based on an Oscar Award-winning short film, which was originally funded by a Kickstarter pitched by the author. (Warning: the film will make you cry!). The book was a bit longer than the ones I usually read for my musical storytime audience, but since we had given out copies to each family, they could follow along as we read, giving the kids a really clear view of the illustrations. It was sweet to see all of the caregivers and kids sitting on their blankets and looking at the book together.

Who Has Wiggle-Waggle Toes? by Vicki Shiefman and Francesca Chessa

This is a really cute book, reminiscent of Eric Carle’s From Head to Toe, but featuring children instead of animals. It begins by asking who has different body parts (wiggle-waggle toes, hokey-pokey heads, and big, bold bottoms), and then asks the kids to move each part in different ways. I’ve noticed that the kids in the outdoor storytime tend to stay seated on their blankets, and this was a great way to encourage them to move around a bit more. Since the families were spread out, my coworker, Claire, walked a second copy of the book around to help the kids see the illustrations (she says it’s fun to hear the caregivers talking to their kids about things they see in the pictures. This has turned out to be an unexpected bonus of outdoor storytime, and a new way of promoting interactions between parents and kids.

There Is a Bird on My Head? by Mo Willems

This is one of my favorite Elephant and Piggie books, where Gerald the Elephant is unhappy to discover that a couple of birds have decided to build a nest on top of his head. Claire drew a pig nose on a face mask and read the part of Piggie, and I put on a set of elephant ears to be Gerald. We had a bird puppet, and even a nest of baby bird puppets to put on our heads, which was an extra challenge, but hilarious for the kids, since they kept falling off. Lots of fun!

SONGS:

I LOVE MY HAIR

I came up with this one to go with Hair Love. It’s to the tune of Love Somebody, Yes, I Do.

I love my hair, yes I do! (nod)

Love to wash it with shampoo (Mime washing your hair)

Rinse it, dry it (shake head vigorously), style it too.

Don’t you love my new hairdo? (fluff your hair with your hands)

AIKEN DRUM

This old Scottish song is one of my favorites to sing and play. I often have the kids suggest their own foods for the different parts of Aiken Drum’s face, but this time I printed out large pictures of meatballs, cheese, pizza, and spaghetti noodles, and taped them to the back of the large notepad I use to display song lyrics. The ukulele/guitar chords are in brackets:

[C] There was a man lived [F] in the moon
[C] In the moon, [G] in the moon.
There [C] was a man lived [F] in the moon,
And his [C] name was [G] Aiken [C] Drum.

Chorus:

And he played upon a ladle, a ladle, a ladle,
He played upon a ladle, and his name was Aiken Drum.

Verse:

His eyes were made of meatballs, meatballs, meatballs,
His eyes were made of meatballs, and his name was Aiken Drum

His nose was made of cheese….

His mouth was made of pizza…

His hair was made of spaghetti…  etc.

THE HOKEY POKEY

This one worked perfectly as a follow-up to Who Has Wiggle-Waggle Toes. Here are the chords:

[C] You put your right hand in,

You put your right hand out.

You put your right hand in,

[G] And you shake it all about!

You do the Hokey Pokey

And you turn yourself around,

That’s what it’s all [C] about!

HEAD AND SHOULDERS, KNEES AND TOES

This one needs no explanation, except that I like to sing it three it times, getting faster and faster, and I always add a “beep beep” after the word nose. I also point to each body part before we sing the song the first time, and make the inevitable joke, “Did everyone bring their heads today?,” which usually gets a laugh from the grown-ups.

NO ONE LIKE YOU by Andra Willis Muhoberac:

For years, my manager Thom Ball and I used this as an opening song for Musical Storytime, and we recorded it with two storytime volunteers (Ellen Ron and Sue Beckmeyer) on a CD we created to give away to families. It’s such a sweet and beautiful song.

I like your [C] eyes.

I like your [F] nose.

I like your [G] mouth.

Your ears, your hands, your [C] toes.

I like your face.

It’s really [F] you.

I [Dm] like the things you say and [G] do.

There’s not a [F] single [G] soul

Who [C] sees the [Am] skies

The [G] way you see them.

Through your [C] eyes.

[F] And aren’t you [G] glad.

[E]You should be [Am] glad.

There’s [C] no one, [G] no one

Exactly like [C] you.

STAY AND PLAY ACTIVITY

For our stay and play activity, I printed out these adorable Nature Collage Critters from The Ultimate Guide to Backyard Camping on TommyJohn.com (the link includes a bunny, a bear, and a raccoon). I gave out glue sticks, so the kids could gather leaves and other small objects from around the park to glue onto their picture. This was a big hit!

Any other favorite books or songs about parts of the body? Please share them in the comments.

Out of the Ordinary: Storytime in the Park

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted about storytime, and that’s because it’s been a while since I’ve done one, even virtually. Our library system opted to hold in-person camps over the summer, to help offset some of the learning loss from the pandemic, so most of our other kids programs were put on hold. But now we are moving into a new phase of holding outdoor storytimes.

Unfortunately, neither of the libraries where I work have an outdoor space suitable for a large, socially-distanced storytime, but this opened up the opportunity to partner with our County and City parks. I was excited to be able to lead a series of Outdoor Musical Storytimes in a picnic area at San Pedro Valley Park, one of my favorite places. We had our first one earlier this week.

It was so great to see all of the families in person. Several of my regular parents showed up with babies or toddlers who had been born during the shutdown. We asked that everyone bring a blanket or seating for their family, and that everyone over the age of 2 wear a mask (we had extra adult and kids masks on hand just in case, but everyone seemed to already have one).

Since sound is an issue outdoors, I brought our branch karaoke machine and a mic on a stand, but sadly the karaoke machine battery died midway through. Before that though, I was having a good time playing kids songs from my phone while families settled in, and using sound effects from Spotify (like quail sounds) to go along with my books. Once it died, I had to just be loud.

I brought two copies of each book: one for me to read from at the front of the group, and one for a coworker to walk around with, so the kids had a chance to see the pictures up close. Weirdly, even though I only read three books (instead of my usual four), the storytime ran for 40 minutes, which was longer than I had intended.

Here’s what we did:

BOOKS:

Queenie Quail Can’t Keep Up by Jane Whittingham; illustrated by Emma Pedersen

One thing I’m excited to do with this storytime series is introduce kids to the wildlife they might see in the park. And San Pedro Valley Park has LOTS of quail. This is an adorable book about a young quail who always falls behind her large family, because she often stops to look at treasures along the way. The family is constantly fussing at her to keep up, until one day her curiosity saves them from a sneaky cat. The repeated “bob, bob, bobbing” and “hurry, hurry, hurrying” throughout the book were an easy way to keep the kids moving and engaged.

I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More by Karen Beaumont and David Catrow

One of my very favorite picture books to read/sing aloud, this parody of the folk song It Ain’t Gonna Rain No More tells the story of a kid who just can’t help painting different parts of his body, even after his mother tells him not to. There is always a page break before each body part, allowing the kids to guess what it is based on the rhyme (“I see some red, so I paint my…head”), and they enjoy miming painting their own bodies. (In the “before times,” I used to hand out play scarves for the kids to use as paintbrushes). Always a hit!

It’s a Tiger by David LaRochelle; illustrated by Jeremy Tankard

Another favorite read-aloud, this book takes readers on an adventure through the jungle and over the sea, where a tiger suddenly appears in the most unlikely places. The book includes lots of opportunities for kids to run in place or pretend to climb a ladder, as well as to yell out “Tiger!” on every other page.

SONGS:

Put Your Mask on Your Face (to the tune of If You’re Happy and You Know It)

My coworker Adrienne Gass came up with this song, which is an easy reminder to throw in at the beginning of storytime:

Put your mask on your face, on your face,
Put your mask on your face, on your face,
Put your mask on your face,
Not on your toes or out in space!
Put your mask on your face, on your face.

Put Your Finger In the Air by Woody Guthrie (Here’s a link to a YouTube performance by Miss Nina, which uses different lyrics than I do, but basically the same tune)

This was my traditional opening song for musical storytime, which I inherited from my former coworker Mike Eppley. It’s fun to come up with different verses each time, and also to ask participants if they know how to count to three in different languages (we usually go through five or six different suggestions, depending on the crowd).

Put your finger in the air, in the air,
Put your finger in the air, in the air,
Put your finger in the air,
And now hide it in your hair,
Put your finger in the air, in the air.

Put your finger on your nose…
And now see how long it grows!…(mime making your nose grow long, and then short again)

Put your finger on your knee…
And now can you count to three?…1,2,3 (uno, dos, tres; un, deux, trois, etc.)

Point your finger at the ground…
And now make a spooky sound!…

Put your fingers all together, all together… (clap)
We we will all be friends forever!

Little Bird

A traditional folk song. I played it on the ukulele (chords and lyrics below), and asked the kids to suggest different birds for each verse. We sang “Owl, Owl, fly through my window,” and “Chickadee, Chickadee…”

C
Little Bird, Little Bird,
C
Fly through my window.
G7
Little Bird, Little Bird,
G7
Fly through my window.
C
Little Bird, Little Bird,
C
Fly through my window.
G7                       C
Find molasses candy.

Chorus:
G7
Fly through my window, my sugar lump!
C                            G7            C
Fly through my window, my sugar lump!
G7                        C
Find molasses candy!

Jay bird, Jay bird, fly through my window…etc…

Chorus

Repeat the verse and chorus, asking kids for the names of different birds (robin, parrot, etc.) to sing in place of “Little Bird” each time.

Two Little Blackbirds

One of my favorite songs/fingerplays. I usually sing it a cappella, so I can do the hand motions.  Click on the triangle to hear how it goes:

Two little blackbirds sitting on a hill, (Hold up both thumbs)
One named Jack, and the other named Jill.
Fly away, Jack! (Put one thumb behind your back)
Fly away, Jill! (Put the other thumb behind your back)
Come back, Jack! (Bring the first thumb out in front).
Come back, Jill! (Bring the second thumb out in the front).

Two little blackbirds sitting on a cloud,
One was quiet, and the other was loud (I make my voice as loud and obnoxious as possible each time I sing the word “Loud!”)
Fly away, Quiet!
Fly away, Loud!
Come back, Quiet!
Come back, Loud!

Two little blackbirds sitting in the snow.
One flew fast!
And the other f-l-e-w s-l-o-w!…

Two little blackbirds sitting on a gate.
One was early,
And the other was…late!…  (I like to drag the pauses out as long as possible before saying “Late!” until the kids are all yelling it out.)

Bringing Home a Baby Bumblebee

For this one, I asked the kids what animals they might find at the park, and we came up with our own verses. We had “I’m bringing home a baby raccoon,/ Won’t my Mommy fly off to the moon?” and “I’m bringing home a baby bunny,/Won’t my Mommy really think that’s funny?”


I’m [C] bringing home a [F] baby [C]bumblebee.
[G7] Won’t my mommy be so proud of me?
‘Cause I’m [C] bringing home a [F] baby [C] bumblebee.
[G7 ]Ouch! It stung me!

For the last two songs, I handed out shakers, and the kids played along to Going to the Zoo by Tom Paxton and Under a Shady Tree by Laurie Berkner (I’m planning to make that my ending song for the whole series, since it fits so well with our outdoor setting).

STAY AND PLAY: Scavenger Hunt

As a final activity for families to do on their own, I handed out small pencils and a scavenger hunt, featuring things that could be easily found near the picnic area. We also passed out stickers as a memento.

Have you performed or attended any outdoor storytimes? If you have any recommendations for things that worked well, please leave them in the comments.

The Giving Tree

I’ve written a few songs inspired by children’s books, mostly because it helps me understand my feelings about them, and why certain books have stuck with me. For years I’ve wanted to write one based on Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, but I never found a melody I liked until now.

As a kid, I was mildly obsessed with The Giving Tree, probably because on some level it disturbed me. On the surface, it’s a simple love story about a boy and a tree. Except, as with many of Silverstein’s poems and books, he takes the premise to a grotesque extreme, until the tree is left a limbless stump, and the boy a stooped and desolate old man.

I’ve heard the book described as a Christian parable, an allegory about parenthood, a metaphor about environmental devastation, and a commentary on society’s expectations of women. I can see arguments for all of these possibilities, but what did Silverstein intend for it to be? Is the tree supposed to be a role model? If so, she seems to get the bad end of the deal. Is it a cautionary tale about giving too much? Or taking too much? Or is it just a bittersweet story about unconditional love?

In any case, reflecting on the book as an adult, I wanted to give a voice to the tree. I ended up making her bitter but also empowered.

I am the Giving Tree,
I once loved a boy
Who said he loved me.

I gave him my leaves
To make him a crown.
I lifted him up,
But he just cut me down.

Is this really love,
And is this really living?
His constantly taking,
My constant forgiving.

He took the best of me,
For his wants and his needs,
And his restless misery.

And then he abandoned me
With nothing but dreams
Of what I used to be.

Is this really love
And is this really living?
His constantly taking,
My constant forgiving.

Waiting silent in the snow,
With a tiny seed
Of hope I can regrow.

And that new life will come again,
This time for me
Not for some old broken man.

I will be all I can.
I won’t twist my life
Into someone else’s plan.
Because this isn’t love
And this isn’t living,
And I can be loving
Without always giving,
And I can be faithful
While still being free
And I am forgiving me.
And I can be faithful
While still being free

And I am forgiving me.

What is your take on The Giving Tree? How would you give voice to those characters? And what books troubled you as a child? Please reply in the comments.

Mixed Feelings: a Virtual Storytime about Emotions

Today was my last virtual storytime, at least for a while. As our libraries have been reopening in different capacities, first just for walk-up at the door and curbside pick-up of holds, and now for in person browsing and computer use a few days a week, we’ve gradually scaled back our virtual storytimes to once a week. These were shared among different staff across our system, so I was only doing one a month, and we are taking a break for the summer.

It was a bittersweet feeling, preparing for this morning’s storytime. It’s been a long and interesting journey, moving storytimes online. At first, I absolutely hated it. Since we were still trying to work out the technical and legal details of doing interactive kids programs (which are complicated by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act), for a long time we were only offering pre-recorded programs on YouTube, which made me feel completely isolated and weird.

After several months of recorded storytimes, our library system decided that what kids were really missing was the chance to see other kids, so we switched to interactive storytimes over Zoom. This was SO much better, because I could see the kids again, and they could see me. I’ve always incorporated a lot of back and forth with the audience into my storytimes, asking kids for suggestions, and I could do all of that again. Still, it’s never felt completely natural, and I’ve always worried about lots of issues that would never come up in real life: my Internet crashing, the ebook not loading, sending out the wrong Zoom link by accident, or even losing track of time and forgetting to start the program.

Still, there will be some things I will miss if we drop the virtual storytimes altogether, once we go back to in-person events again. It’s nice to see kids from all over our county, or even outside of it. Also there’s something weirdly intimate about Zoom: we can all see a little slice of each other’s homes and pets and families, which is something the kids seem to enjoy. They love it when my cat unexpectedly bites my leg mid-story, because she has dragged her toy across the room and is waiting for me to play. They love to show their favorite toys, or an ukulele of their own that they might not allowed to bring to the library. And the virtual programs do provide more flexibility for families and preschools who might not be able to come to the library in person. Plus, sharing the e-books on screen makes it much easier for the kids to see the illustrations. I can even share the link to the ebook, so they can check it out after the storytime, especially if it’s on Hoopla, which has unlimited copies.

Given all these feelings, I guess it was appropriate that I did a storytime about emotions. Here’s what I did:

OPENING SONG: Do As I’m Doing

A really easy, fun song that allows the kids to suggest different actions. Today we jumped, ran in place, made funny faces, and wiggled our fingers, and waved our arms in the air.

[C] Do as I’m doing, follow, follow [G7] me.

[C] Do as I’m doing, follow, [G7] follow [C] me.

[C] Follow, [G7] follow, [F] follow [C] me.

[F] Follow, [C] follow, [G7] follow [C] me.

Follow, [G7] follow, [F] follow [C] me,

[F] Follow, [C] follow, [G7] follow [C] me.

SONG: The Handwashing Song

Our library has a grant to help share information about COVID-19 resources, so we have been asked to highlight our webpage for that and do a song for kids about handwashing. My favorite one is The Handwashing Song from JBrary (click on the link to hear the tune and see the motions). I usually ask the kids to pretend we’ve put our hands in something sticky, so now we need to wash them. Today they suggested applesauce and honey.

SONG: If You’re Happy And You Know It

I think most people know the tune to this already, but if you don’t, here’s a video from Barefoot Songs.

To introduce the topic of feelings, I printed out this page of faces, cut them out, and put them in a paper bag. Each time we sang the song, I pulled a face out the bag, held it up to the camera, and asked the kids to name the feeling. Then we sang about it.

Our verses were:

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands…

If you’re angry and you know it, say “I’m mad”… (and stomp your feet)

If you’re scared/shy and you know it, hide your face… (I had told the kids to find a cloth or tissue at the beginning of the storytime, so they could put the cloth in front of their face and then pull it away quickly and say, “Peek-a-boo!”)

If you’re sad and you know it, cry “Boo hoo!”…

If you’re silly and you know it, make a face…

If you’re happy and you know it, shout “Hooray!”…

The chords are:

[C] If you’re happy and you know it, clap your [G7] hands.

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your [C] hands.

If you’re [F] happy and you know it, and you [C] really want to show it.

If you’re [G7] happy and you know it, clap your [C] hands.

BOOK: The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld

I love this book about a little boy named Taylor whose tower is unexpectedly destroyed by a flock of birds. While he sits in the wreckage, different animals come by with suggestions. The chicken wants to talk about it, the bear wants to shout about it, the elephant wants to remember how the tower was built, the ostrich wants to hide, and the snake wants to ruin someone else’s tower. But Taylor doesn’t want to do any of those things. He is miserable until the rabbit comes along and just sits close for a while, and then listens while Taylor talks and shouts and remembers and plots revenge, and then finally decides to build a new tower. It’s such a beautiful lesson for grown-ups, as well as kids. (I’ve been plenty guilty myself of just trying to jump to the solution to my kids’ problems, instead of just listening and supporting them). I shared this book on Overdrive, and held a rabbit puppet up the camera when the rabbit appeared.

SONG: Did You Ever See a Rabbit?

To the tune of Did You Ever See a Lassie (again this is a familiar nursery song, but if you don’t know the tune, here’s a video from Rock N Learn).

I used my rabbit puppet for this, and had the kids copy the motions with the cloth or tissue they found, or with their hands. Here are the lyrics:

Did you ever see a rabbit, a rabbit, a rabbit?

Did you ever see a rabbit go this way and that?

Go this way, and that way,

Go this way, and that way,

Did you ever see a rabbit, go this way and that?

We had our cloths/rabbits move from side to side, up and down, up in the air and down, and round and round in either direction.

BOOK: Crunch the Shy Dinosaur by Cirocco Dunlap; illustrated by Greg Pizzoli

This is a fun interactive story, about a dinosaur who is frightened by the audience. The book prompts the kids to say hello in different ways, sing Happy Birthday, shout their names, and say “Good night!” Although the kids were mostly muted, a few unmuted themselves for the prompts, and it was gratifying to hear them playing along. This one was also on Overdrive.

SONG: We Are the Dinosaurs by Laurie Berkner

As usual, I ended with a playalong, asking the kids to make noise with whatever they had on hand (a paper cup, a shaker, their hands or feet, etc.). Here’s a link to the chords and lyrics (the chord charts here are for guitar, but I played it on ukulele).

ENDING SONG: You Are My Sunshine by Jimmie Davis & Charles Mitchell (or possibly by Oliver Hood)

[C] You are my sunshine,

My only sunshine [C7]

You make me [F] happy

When skies are [C] gray.

You’ll never [F] know, dear,

How much I [C] love you [Am].

Please don’t [C] take my [G7] sunshine a- [C] way.

If you’ve been performing or attending virtual storytimes or other programs, what are your thoughts about them? Is it something that libraries should continue offering even when in-person programs resume? Please share your comments below.

A Song for Calvin and Hobbes

The Hobbes I made for one of my kids years ago. It’s based on this Instructables pattern, which is pretty easy to follow.

I’ve written other posts about how grateful I am for comic books, which motivated both of my own kids to start reading on their own. Since then, graphic novels, the extended version of comic books, have really taken off. We have whole sections of the library dedicated to them, both fiction and nonfiction, and geared for every age group. My daughter’s own bookshelf is overflowing with the rebooted Babysitter’s Club series, and books by Raina Telgemeier and Svetlana Chmakova. And lately my husband has been reading the science fiction graphic novel series Aldebaran in French, as a fun way to learn new French vocabulary. (The ESL book club I co-lead is planning to read a graphic novel soon for the same reason. It’s a great way to learn common idioms and spoken language, without a lot of overwhelming descriptive text).

But in addition to graphic novels, we have an enormous collection of comic strip books, including Garfield, Fox Trot, and Baby Blues. These are books that my kids both pored over as they learned to read, and still can’t bear to part with. My tween still happily brings them along for car rides, and laughs just as hard at them as she did when she was 8 or 9. Among them are most of the Calvin and Hobbes books, which my husband and I bought for ourselves as adults, and which we love every bit as much as our kids do.

There’s something so timeless and universal about Calvin and Hobbes. It’s humbling to read the strips as an adult (and especially as a parent), because Bill Watterson shines such a painfully bright light on how dull the world of grown-ups can be, compared to the limitless and ever-questioning world of childhood, with all of its many terrors, injustices, and adventures.

So I wrote this song in honor of Calvin and Hobbes. I hope you enjoy it.

Me and the Tiger

We pack every day,

With questions and battles,

Adventures and play.





And all of of the grown-ups

They can’t understand,

That life’s so much more

Than the routines they’ve planned.



They just see a toy

And they think it’s pretend.

They don’t know the magic

You find with a friend.





But me and the Tiger

We make our own rules,

Our world’s more than homework,

And bedtime, and schools.


And when we don’t like things,

We simply defy them,

Or build new inventions

To transmogrify them.


My Mom and Dad think

That it’s all in my head,

They can’t see the monster

That’s under my bed.


But I will sleep soundly,

My best friend beside me,

To laugh with, and argue,

And comfort, and guide me


Through all the adventures

And wonders we’ll see,

When a new day arrives

For my Tiger and me.


What books do you and your family treasure? Please let me know in the comments.

Uke Can Play (Virtually)

Musician Julie Stepanek, who offers a variety of ukulele programs online

One of the many casualties of the pandemic was my drop-in ukulele class for adults, which I held on the first Monday evening of each month at the Sanchez Library. We had a small, but dedicated group of regulars, who were always welcoming of newcomers, even though it meant going back to playing the one and two chord songs they had played so many times before. I always looked forward to seeing and playing with them, and I thought about them a lot during the early days of the shut-down. Our library system was still in the process of figuring out how to offer virtual programs, with storytimes being the first priority, but I wished there were a way to offer a virtual ukulele class.

So I was thrilled to see a Facebook post from the Jones Library in Amherst, Massachusetts (the place where I had my first library job) about a virtual ukulele play-along. I tried it out, and was immediately hooked.

The instructor, Julie Stepanek, led the play-along over Zoom, with Powerpoint slides that clearly displayed the song lyrics and chord charts for each song. Since playing or singing in sync over Zoom is difficult, all of the participants were muted. The beauty of this was that you really felt like you were playing with a group, and you were, but nobody could hear any mistakes that you or anyone else were making. You could even turn off your video. It was a wonderful way to make music with people, with absolutely no pressure, and I learned so many new songs that soon became favorites. Even now, when I hear those songs, they instantly bring me back to those eerie early days of the pandemic, and how it felt to be isolated with my family in my own house, while sharing this musical experience with people on the other side of the country.

At the time, Julie was actually offering free play-alongs every day of the week, and twice on Sundays, and I started tuning in whenever I could. I emailed all of the regulars from my own ukulele group, and soon there they were on the Zoom with me. It was funny to be connected with them online via a program from Massachusetts, when we were all just miles away from each other in our houses in Pacifica, California, but it was so great to see and play with them again. As our libraries reopened for curbside pick-up and other services, I could only attend occasionally, but whenever I did, my regulars were still there, having a great time.

We recently booked Julie for a series of ukulele workshops for the San Mateo County Library system, and she has done a wonderful job of guiding our participants through all of the basics of playing: tuning, reading a chord chart, understanding tablature, basic chord progressions, and standard strumming patterns. Patrons can borrow ukuleles from our libraries so it was natural fit for our library system, and the response has been very enthusiastic. One participant wrote “Great opportunity to learn a musical instrument, and even better to be able to borrow one too! Fantastic.”

I don’t usually write plugs for performers, but I wanted to write a post about this program because I had never considered the benefits of teaching ukulele (or any other instrument) over Zoom. It really makes a lot of sense. One of the greatest hesitations many people have about taking music lessons (especially in a group setting), is having to perform or sing in front of others, but this format takes all of that stress away. Even a virtual play-along, like the ones that Julie still offers weekly out of libraries in Massachusetts and Connecticut, allows new players to learn at their own pace. They might start out only playing the C chords, and then add in others as they get more used to them, but they still get the thrill of playing and singing with a group, which is addictive!

If you’d like to check out one of Julie’s classes, either to learn ukulele yourself, attend a play-along, get an idea of how to lead music lessons online, or book her for a program, you can visit her web site at: https://calamine.com/ukulele She also has a YouTube video of Absolute Basics for ukulele, and some other tutorials.

Have you attended or hosted any virtual programs this past year that you thought were especially impactful? Please share them in the comments below.