Happy Birthday to US!

This week’s them was Birthday/Fourth of July books.

I have a secret phobia of holiday storytimes, because I hate almost all of the holiday books, except for Halloween (our holiday book section is right next to the storytime rug, and kids are always pulling Halloween books off the shelf and asking me to read them, no matter what time of year it is).  Halloween books are always fun, because they are usually just stories with creepy characters, and the kids love them.

But for the most part, I find that most holiday books are either: overly cutesy (Vixie’s Vexing Valentines–Vixie the adorable Vole is horrified to discover that her brother Vladimir has eaten all of the glitter for her class cards.  Whatever will Vixie do?);  dull (Egbert’s Eggcellent Easter–Egbert the Eel hunts for eggs, finds them all, eats a few, has dinner with his family, and goes to bed, all in badly-written rhymed text; or forced (Say Hooray for Saint Patrick’s Day!–Haley the Honey Badger asks why she has to wear green in the town parade, and learns all about the history and significance of the Irish saint in 32 excruciating pages.  Seriously, Saint Patrick’s Day books are the worst!).

Okay, I totally made up all of the examples I mentioned above, but they COULD be real.  There are Christmas books that I like personally, but many of them are too long for storytime, and religious holidays are especially tricky at a public library.  My favorite holiday picture book is actually The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming by Lemony Snicket, which somehow manages to explain the history of Hannukah and tell a compelling story, all with a lot of wry humor, a bit of social commentary, and a tremendous amount of screaming throughout (which the kids love).

Anyway, enough ranting about holiday books.  My only reason for bringing it up is that tonight I decided to do just one token honest-to-goodness Fourth of July book (of the Egbert the Eel variety, but with bubble wrap for the kids to pop, so they’d have to at least listen to know when it was time for the “fireworks.”)  The rest of the books were all about birthdays, because, I told the kids, the Fourth of July is the birthday of our country.  A bit of a stretch, but who doesn’t love birthdays?

Here were the books:


Moira’s Birthday by Robert Munsch

Moira’s parents tell her she can only invite 6 kids to her party.  Instead, she invites first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade, fifth grade, aaaaaannnndddd  Kindergarten…and doesn’t tell her parents.  The parents laughed at this one, and the kids had a great time chiming in on the “aaaaaannnnndddd Kindergartens.”


Happy Birthday, Moon by Frank Asch

I love all the Bear books by Frank Asch.  The kids always seem to enjoy knowing more than Bear, and realizing his mistake.  In this one, Bear thinks he is having a conversation with the moon, but it is really just an echo (the kids played the part of the echo).


Mouse’s Birthday by Jane Yolen; illustrated by Bruce Degen

Simple, funny rhyming story with adorable illustrations.   Lots of animals squeeze into Mouse’s very small house to bring him presents, with disastrous consequences (or not).


Henry’s Fourth of July by Holly Keller

My one token Fourth of July book.  It follows Henry the mouse(?) as he celebrates the Fourth of July with his family by competing in a sack race, having a picnic, and waiting impatiently for the fireworks.  (The kids were waiting impatiently for the fireworks too, since I handed out squares of bubble wrap for them to pop.  One tip: I used the big bubble wrap, and had them twist it).  In the middle of this book, I suddenly remembered Olivia Forms a Band by Ian Falconer, which I wish I had done instead.  It’s a funny story, with lots of great sound effects, and also has fireworks.


Ten Candles on a Birthday Cake

Ten candles on a birthday cake,
All lit up for me! (hold up 10 fingers)
I make a wish and blow them out.
Watch and you will see! (blow on fingers and close hands into fists)

This is the Way I Blow My Balloon

This is the way I blow my balloon (hold imaginary balloon)
Blow, Blow, Blow (spread arms wider as you blow)
This is way I pop my balloon
Oh, Oh No! (Clap hands together)


We did a very noisy, chaotic little parade with the instruments to This Land is Your Land from the 20 Great Kids Songs album.  It’s a wonderful, upbeat version of the song with several different singers, including a kids chorus and a verse performed by Willie Nelson.

CRAFT: Fourth of July S’Mores

I ripped this one off from my daughter’s preschool teacher (one of the perks of having a preschooler).  She called them Fruit S’Mores, and used bananas instead of blueberries.  They are surprisingly yummy (and messy!)

Basically, I cut up strawberries, and put out blueberries, graham crackers and whipped cream.  I manned the whipped cream can, spreading some on each child’s graham cracker.  Then they decorated them with strawberries and blueberries and devoured them on the spot.  I left the crackers open faced–otherwise they get very messy!  Plus, if you’re really patient, you can decorate them to look something like the American flag.

What are your favorite holiday or birthday books?


Fortunately by Remy Charlip (Recommended by Barbara B)

Another book I had completely forgotten, but I used to read it all the time (thank you for jogging my memory, Barbara!).  It tells the story of a VERY eventful journey: “Fortunately, Ned was invited to a surprise party. Unfortunately, the party was a thousand miles away.Fortunately, a friend loaned Ned an airplane. Unfortunately, the motor exploded.”  You get the picture…

Three Kind Mice by Vivian Sathre; illustrated by Rodger Wilson (suggested by Barbara B.)

I haven’t actually read this one, but if Barbara recommends it, it must be good, and I will have to order it immediately!

Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman; illustrated by Marla Frazee (suggested by Barbara B.)

Poor Mrs. Peters!  Her children (all seven of them) will each only eat one type of food, so she has to make seven separate dishes every day. Until one morning the kids decide to make all of their favorite foods for their mother’s birthday, with delicious consequences.  Funny, rhyming book for picky eaters (and their mothers).  It reminds me of another favorite of mine: Don’t Wake Up Mama! by Eileen Christelow, where five little monkeys try to surprise their mother with a cake and presents for her birthday.

The Elf on the Shelf by Carol V. Bell (suggested by Tina W.)

I’m embarrassed to admit I haven’t read this, although I definitely know about the Elf (and seriously wish I had thought of inventing it!).  Sadly I’m a lazy parent, and I’ve been intimidated by all the adorable montages my friends post at Christmas time.  But knowing that the book is actually good, I may have to break down and buy an Elf.

Any other book suggestions?  I love to get them!


Going to the Zoo!


Paper plate lion by Edward

Tonight’s storytime was about zoo animals, and was inspired by a friend who reminded me about a book that used to be one of my storytime standbys:


If Anything Ever Goes Wrong at the Zoo by Mary Jean Hendrick, illustrated by Jane Dyer

A little girl named Leslie asks the keepers at the zoo if she can take home a zebra, a monkey, an elephant, and many other animals.  When they each tell her no, she tells them that if anything ever goes wrong at the zoo, they are welcome to bring the animals to her house.  Her mother is in for a big surprise when the zoo floods, and the doorbell rings.  Both the kids and the parents enjoyed this one.


The Baby Beebee Bird by Debra Redfield Massie, illustrated by Stephen Kellogg

Probably one of my top five favorite books to read aloud.  It’s got large, colorful illustrations, LOTS of animal noises for the kids to help with, and a little bird that says, “beebeebobbibobbi” over and over and over again (preferably in a very high pitched voice).  The animals at the zoo are disturbed by the new noisy arrival who keeps them up all night, until they hatch a plan to teach her a lesson.


The Lion and the Little Red Bird by Elisa Kleven

I was introduced to this book by one of my library school professors who specialized in storytelling.  This was one of his favorite stories to tell, but I love the illustrations so much that I hate to share just the story without Kleven’s bright, beautiful paintings.  My daughter has recently discovered this book, and begs to hear it over and over.  A little bird wonders why a lion’s tail changes color every day, until one night she discovers his amazing secret.


Call Me Gorgeous by Giles and Alexandra Milton

An eye-catchingly gorgeous book about a mysterious animal who has the antlers of a reindeer, the spots of a dalmatian, the tail of a chameleon, and more!  My boss read this one at a recent storytime, and I had to try it (another coworker shared it with a first grade class, and they made her read it twice, then begged for another read).  My group loved it too, and fought over who was going to take it home.   It’s a simple but striking book that appeals to a wide range of ages.


Shake My Sillies Out by Raffi (my big comedy schtick is pretending to fall asleep when we “Yawn the Sleepies Out.”  Then the kids yell for me to “Wake Up!”  It never seems to get old.)

Two Little Blackbirds (see previous post)

No More Monkeys (I like to do the version by Asheba from the Putumayo Animal Playground album.  Here’s a Youtube video.  It’s incredibly catchy!)


Animal Fair by Laurie Berkner from her Whaddaya Know album.  Traditional song, but with lots of rhythm changes, which makes it fun for instruments.

CRAFT: Paper Plate Lions


Sorry this picture is a bit blurry, but here’s a shot of several of the lions together

I picked up some orange paper plates from Target and cut out yellow circles out of paper to fit in the middle.  The kids cut slits around the outside of the plate for the mane (luckily they were all pretty comfortable with scissors).  Then they glued the paper on for the face, added googly eyes and drew the nose, mouth and ears of the lion.  They were pretty cute.

This craft, and variations on it, appears on several web sites (including a cute one that uses twisty pasta for the mane).  The one we did was most similar to this version: http://www.preschoolcorner.com/Preschool_Art_Craft_Packages_Animals.html


Two other books I would have read tonight if I hadn’t already done them in the past few months were:

Edward the Emu by Sheena Knowles

A rhyming story about an emu who pretends to be other animals in the zoo because he thinks people find them more interesting.

Smile if You’re Human by Neal Layton

There’s only one copy of this book left in our library system, but it’s a cute story about an alien family who comes to earth hoping to find humans, but instead stumble into a zoo.

Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell (recommended by Carol F)

Wonderful lift-the-flap board book for toddlers about a kid writing to the zoo to ask for a pet.  Both my kids adored this book.

Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann (recommended by Thom M)

Wordless board book about a sleepy zookeeper and the gorilla who follows him around the zoo releasing the animals.  The illustrations are adorable, and there’s a mouse with a banana, and a red balloon on every page for kids to find.

A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Erin and Philip Stead (recommended by Clare R)

Winner of the 2011 Caldecott Medal, this is a sweet story about a man who visits the zoo every day and spends time with each of the animals, until one day he is too sick to come, so the animals come visit him.

Thank you for all of the recommendations, which I’m always thrilled to receive.  Any other favorite zoo and zoo animal books?

Father (Story)Time

My three-year old decided she wanted to draw a dog and a cat and a vacuum cleaner instead of Daddy

My three-year old decided she wanted to draw a dog and a cat and a vacuum cleaner instead of Daddy

Tonight, in honor of Father’s Day, I did books about Dads.

It was an interesting storytime for me, because there was a tremendous range of ages–from babies to grade school.  I skewed the books a bit younger, to hold the attention of the youngest ones, hopefully without losing the older guys, but I tried to throw a couple of longer books in too.


Higher! Higher!  by Leslie Patricelli

Leslie Patricelli is one of my favorite authors for babies and toddlers.  My kids own several of her board books, and they never seem to tire of Yummy, Yucky.  This book has literally only a handful of words, but engages kids of all ages because of the bright, colorful, wacky illustrations.  A girl begs her Daddy to push her “Higher! Higher!” in the swing at the park, until she is swinging above skyscrapers, mountain peaks, the planet earth, outer space, and finally meets an adorable green alien on a swing of its own, before coming back down to earth.


Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein

One of my new favorite books to read aloud, especially because I get to trot out (or unearth–I grew up in Georgia) various southern accents.  A tired rooster is reading stories to his daughter, who promises not to interrupt, but she just can’t resist helping out characters like Hansel and Gretel (“Don’t go in!  She’s a witch!”) and Chicken Little (“Don’t panic!  It was just an acorn!”)  This is a longish book, but even the littlest guys hung in there because it’s such a fun story.


Just Like Daddy by Frank Asch

A really simple, older book for toddlers.  A little bear describes all the things he does “just like Daddy”: yawning, getting dressed, eating breakfast, picking a flower for his mom.  The whole family goes fishing, and he catches a big fish, “just like Mommy.”  The Moms in the crowd enjoyed this one.


Oh, Daddy! by Bob Shea

A newer toddler book, and another one that works for multiple age groups.  A little hippo explains all the ways he has to help his Dad, who can’t seem to figure out how to do the simplest tasks like getting dressed, getting in the car, and eating dinner.  The subtext, which the older kids and parents pick up on, is that the Dad is feigning ignorance in order to get his son to do all of these things.  The kids laughed at this one.


If My Dad Were a Dog by Annabel Tellis

Silly rhyming book where a child imagines all the things she would do with her Dad if he could be a dog for a day.  The illustrations mix photos of a big black lab with brightly colored drawings, and it includes (yes) dog poo and “sprinkling the flowers.”  This author clearly knows the preschool audience.


 Two Little Blackbirds (the kids love this song, especially the quiet/loud and early/late verses)

Two little blackbirds sitting on a hill (hold up two thumbs)
One named Jack and the other named Jill.
Fly away Jack (put one thumb behind back), fly away Jill (put other thumb behind back).
Come back, Jack (bring thumb out in front), come back, Jill (bring other thumb out in front).

Two little blackbirds sitting on a cloud, One was quiet (whisper), and the other was loud (yell)…

Two little blackbirds sitting in the snow, One was fast and the other w…a…s…s…l…o…w…

Two little blackbirds sitting on a gate, One was early, and the other was… (pause)…late….

1,2,3,4,5, I Caught a Fish Alive

I caught a fish alive.
I let him go, and it bit my toe–OUCH!

The Hippopotamus 

(This is a catchy rhyme I got from my friend Barbara B.  The kids love squishing their cheeks in at the end).

The hip-the hip-the hippopotamus! (pat rhythm on your legs)
Got on, got on, got on the city bus.
And all, and all, and all the people said,
“You’re squishing us! (squish your cheeks together with your hands)

INSTRUMENT PLAY WITH A CD: Little Red Caboose by Sweet Honey in the Rock from 20 Great Kids Songs

CRAFT TIME: ALL ABOUT MY DADDY (Click on the link for printable template)

One of my favorite Mother’s Day gifts was a simple questionnaire my daughter filled out at preschool, where her teacher asked her questions like “How old is your Mommy?”  My daughter hazarded a guess, and said, “4.”  (A few weeks later she asked me, very shyly, “Are you 4?”)

I made a similar questionnaire for Father’s Day, based on some I found online, and included a box for the kids to draw pictures of their dads.  (I was prepared to make an alternative form if anyone wanted to make it about another family member or a friend).  When I brought one home for my daughter to fill out, I learned that she thinks her Daddy is the worldly age of 10!


These books were recommended by my friend Shelley, a children’s librarian in the UK:

My Daddy is a Giant by Carl Norac (I’m not familiar with this one, but it looks wonderful, and it has been printed in lots of different languages.  Our library system has bilingual copies in both Hindi and Chinese).

I Love My Daddy by Giles Andreae (author of Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs)

Daddy Hugs by Karen Katz (also known as Daddy Hugs 1 2 3; Karen Katz is another favorite author for babies and toddlers.  She writes wonderful sturdy lift-the-flap books that both my kids loved).

Daddy is a Doodlebug by Bruce Degen (author of Jamberry, and illustrator of the Magic School Bus series)

We Help Daddy by Mini Stein (A Little Golden Book, which is unfortunately out of print and not in our library system, but available used from some dealers on Amazon).

And here’s a book I didn’t get to read at storytime, but enjoyed reading with my daughter:

Giddy-up, Daddy by Troy Cummings (incredibly wacky story about a Dad who is so exceptional at giving horseback rides that he is kidnapped by horse rustlers who want to enter him in their rodeo).

Also, I could do a list of favorite Dad stories without including Knuffle Bunny: a Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems, a book which captures perfectly the drama of searching for a missing favorite toy.

The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Hungry Children


Strawberry Mice! The adorable one on the left was made by Sarah.

Tonight I continued the food theme, since our Summer Reading Program has officially started.  Plus there are so many wonderful food books!  These are some of my favorites:


The Sweet Touch by Lorna and Lecia Balian

A childhood favorite of mine that I thought had disappeared into the mists of time until I found a single copy in our library system (according to Amazon it’s back in print.  Woohoo!).  When a tiny genie grants a little girl a single wish, she asks for the ability to make everything she touches turn into something sweet.  Her bed becomes gingerbread, her rug chocolate, her pillow full of cotton candy.  The kids were mesmerized.


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

To be honest, I don’t enjoy all of the Pete the Cat books, but I LOVE this one and Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons.  This book got horrible editorial reviews when it came out, but the simple story of the cat with white shoes who keeps stepping in different things (strawberries, blueberries, and mud) has tremendous kid appeal, and is always a big hit at storytimes.


Bunny Cakes by Rosemary Wells

My favorite Max and Ruby book.  Max wants to buy Red-Hot Marshmallow Squirters for his Grandma’s birthday cake, but no matter how hard he tries, the grocer can’t read his writing on the grocery list, until he hits on a solution.


The Little Mouse, the Red, Ripe Strawberry, and the Big, Hungry Bear by Don and Audrey Wood

A classic, with the most luscious strawberry, and the most adorable mouse, ever drawn.  Also a great book for a range of ages.  Younger kids can empathize with the little mouse’s terror at hearing about the big hungry bear, while older kids can discuss whether or not there really is a hungry bear at all.


Way Up High in the Apple Tree

Way up high in the apple tree (Raise arms high)
Two little apples smiled at me (Make circles with fingers)
I shook that tree as hard as I could. (Shake imaginary tree)
Down came the apples! (Lower arms)
MMMM! They were good! (Rub tummy)
The kids suggested other kids of trees, including cupcake trees, pear trees, and ice cream trees.

Three Little Kitty Cats

Three little kitty cats
Lying in the sun.
One jumped up and said, “I’d like to run!”
Then said the other one, “I’ll run too!
Running running running and I’ll play with you!”

I asked the kids for suggestions, and we sang the song as lions, kangaroos, and then kitty cats again.  The jumping up and running in place is a great way to work off some energy in the middle of storytime.

Little Bunny FooFoo  

Yes it’s one of the many violent children’s songs. I also regularly do the Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly with a puppet that the kids “feed.”  I do kill her off at the end (Hey, you can’t eat a whole horse without consequences!), but then I revive her and pump her stomach.  The infamous Bunny FooFoo has always been one of my favorites though, and tonight there was an adorable two year-old doing all the motions.

INSTRUMENT PLAY WITH CD: Rhubarb Pie by Laurie Berkner (from Under a Shady Tree)  

CRAFT TIME: Strawberry Mice

I washed and stemmed the strawberries ahead of time, then pulled apart strips of string cheese for the tails.  The kids stuck the tail in the hole at the back of the strawberry, then broke banana chips to make ears, and stuck mini chocolate chips into the strawberry for the eyes and nose.  Yummy fun, and definitely healthier than the marshmallow monsters we made last week!

What are your favorite food books?  Also, next week is Father’s Day, so I’ll be hunting down some good Dad stories.  I always love recommendations!


My friend and wonderful children’s librarian Barbara B. recommends:

What Did You Put in Your Pocket? by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers (illustrated by Michael Grejniec), a fun rhyming book that goes through the days of the week with all kinds of messy substances kids can imagine putting in their pockets.

Chocolatina by Erik Kraft (one of my favorites as well, about a girl who loves chocolate so much that she wakes up as a chocolate girl)