Read to Me: The Read-Alouds You Will Never Forget


I was prompted to write this post by an article shared by a friend on Facebook called 50 Books Every Parent Should Read to Their Child from  The article claims that bedtime reading is a dying practice, and that a quarter of a million households in the UK don’t own a single book.

My husband and I still read at night to both of our kids, although our fourth grader sometimes prefers to read on his own if he’s in the middle of something good.  It’s my favorite time of day.  Between the obligatory brushing of teeth, and the inevitable cry of “I’m thirsty!” the instant the bedroom light goes out, I get to snuggle down under the covers with one of my kids, and share some old favorite from my own childhood, or something completely new.

With my son, I’ve enjoyed reliving The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Half Magic by Edward Eager, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume, Henry and Ribsy by Beverly Cleary, My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George, Bunnicula by James Howe, and so many more.  My daughter still prefers picture books, like Corduroy by Don Freeman (my husband and I both have of our personal copies from childhood).

When I reposted the 50 Books article on Facebook, a number of my friends wrote about books they remembered their teachers reading aloud in school.  I have vivid memories of my first grade teacher reading The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White, and my fourth grade teacher sharing the deliciously scary View from the Cherry Tree by Willo Davis Roberts, and the unforgettable James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl.  In fact, those are some of my strongest and happiest memories from school.  I’ve been happy to hear my son talk excitedly about the books his own teachers have read aloud: Jigsaw Jones mysteries by James Preller, The Witches by Roald Dahl, and the Hank Zipzer books by Lin Oliver and Henry Winkler (the Fonz!).

Before I had my own kids, I dutifully shared with parents at the library the recommendation that you should read with your children for at least 20 minutes a day.   There were studies and statistics and a multitude of different reasons to validate the importance.  In fact, this page from The Children’s Reading Foundation proclaims, “For every year you read with your child, average lifetime earnings increase by $50,000. You make a $250,000 gift to your child by reading aloud just 20 minutes a day!”

To be honest, though, I didn’t really understand exactly why reading aloud was important.  I read to my son because I loved it and he loved it, and it was the one precious peaceful, happy moment of the day we could both count on.  He was not some reading prodigy, consuming The Aeneid in Latin at age 3.  He did well in Kindergarten, but didn’t express any particular interest in reading on his own, beyond what his teacher expected.

Then, in first grade, he fell in love with Sonic the Hedgehog comics and Garfield, and off he went.  And THAT’S where all those years of reading aloud came in.  You’d be surprised how difficult the vocabulary in Garfield is.   Just flipping through a copy of Garfield’s 56th book (How DOES Jim Davis do it??), Caution Wide Load, there are words like disputes, attempt, translate, atomic (actually “atomic wedgie”), instincts, obsessive-compulsive, guaranteed, and lederhosen, just to name a few.   Because my son had listened to so many books for those first six years, he knew those words, or most of them, and was able to decode and understand them.  After that, the reading came easy. Now he reads whatever he likes, which is still a lot of Garfield, but also lengthy novels like Rick Riordan’s The Lightning Thief.

I know not every kid loves reading, even children of voracious readers who have been read to constantly, and I was ready to accept that possibility, but it is a joy to hear him laughing hysterically at the latest Wimpy Kid book, and saying, “Listen to this!”

So yes, parents and teachers, please read aloud to your kids.  Read them the stories and books you love, and the ones they love.  I can’t guarantee that they will turn into bookworms, but the reading will build their vocabularies and their understanding of language, as well as their understanding of stories, and people, and the world around them.  But most importantly, it will build memories of cozy moments sharing wild adventures with you that they will never forget.

I did a little Facebook poll, asking my friends to tell me what books they remembered hearing read aloud when they were kids.  There were lots of votes for Dr. Seuss and Bill Peet, and a wide range of other titles, both novels and picture books.  Here is the list:

Note: the titles of the books link to  If you’d like to check your local library for any of the titles, a great resource is OCLC World Cat.  Once you input your zip code, any title search you do will tell you which libraries near you own that book.  My husband and I have also been reading some novels aloud as Kindle books, which have the advantage that you can read with the bedroom light off, and you don’t have to remember your place.  Many library systems now provide free ebook collections for Kindle and other devices through Overdrive and similar ebook collections.   I’ve also included a few links to OpenLibrary, which lets you borrow some ebooks that are out of print and hard to find.  

Picture Books

The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter (submitted by Laura Hoffmann).  We have my husband’s childhood copy of this, and it’s been a favorite of both our kids.  There’s also a really nice animated series on DVD called the The World of Peter Rabbit, voiced by popular British actors, and based on the illustrations from the books.  Perfect for a rainy afternoon.

The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle by Beatrix Potter (submitted by Ashley Carter).  Ashley has fond memories of her mother reading this story, about a hedgehog who does the laundry for all the animals in the other Beatrix Potter tales.  This story is also featured in The World of Peter Rabbit.

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein (submitted by Joshua Adler).  Josh says he thinks it shaped his life, and I think it did mine as well.  I remember obsessing over it as a kid.   There are many different interpretations, both positive and negative, that have been put on it over the years, but I prefer to think of it as a story of unconditional love.

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss.  (submitted by Joshua Adler, who says he enjoys doing the voices).  I’m still amazed by Dr. Seuss’ ability to create such an unforgettable story in verse using the same 50 words.

The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton (submitted by Lindsey Tear).  Sweet story about a little house in the country, who becomes engulfed by the city as the year pass, but finally gets to return to her happy rural life.  Winner of the 1942 Caldecott Award.

And to Think that I Saw it on Mulberry Street by Dr. Seuss (submitted by Sue Beckmeyer).  Dr. Seuss’ first book for children.  A little boy sees a horse pulling a wagon on Mulberry Street, and imagines all the ways he could make the story more interesting.

Cookie Monster and the Cookie Tree by David Korr, illustrated by Joseph Mathieu (submitted by Monica Bejarano).  Some of the old Sesame Street books were amazingly good, and this was one of my childhood favorites.  A greedy witch puts a spell on her cookie tree to keep Cookie Monster from stealing her cookies.  The trouble is that the tree will only give cookies to people who share, which means the witch can’t have them either.  Large colorful picture book featuring all the Sesame Street characters.  This book is out of print, but available to read for free through Open Library.

The Monster at the End of this Book by Jon Stone and Michael Smolin (submitted by Jonathan Strickland).  Another great Sesame Street book (a Little Golden book actually), this time featuring Grover, who begs the reader not to turn the pages.  There are two great iPad apps based on this book, including Another Monster at the End of This Book, featuring Elmo and Grover.

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans (submitted by Neeru Penumella).   I still have the copy of this book that my grandmother gave me when I was four, and I remember her reading it to me.  Definitely a favorite, although as Abbey Sparrow points out, Madeline is actually kind of an entitled brat.  Poor Miss Clavel.

Goodnight Moon by Margeret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd (submitted by Ellyn Moore).  This was the first book I remember reading regularly to my son when he was a baby.  My husband and I used to recite it to him line by line in the car when he was fussy.  My daughter still loves looking for that tricky mouse on every page.  Definitely a classic.

Fox in Socks by Dr. Seuss (submitted by Abbey Sparrow).   Oh, so tricky to read aloud.  This book is full of impossible tongue twisters that get harder on every page, and of course, kids love hearing you mess them up.  (Although he insisted on reading them himself instead of listening to them, Abbey also remembers enjoying the art in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi and Ron Barrett, and the Little Monster books by Mercer Mayer).

Clifford the Big Red Dog by Norman Bridwell (submitted by Kim Day).  Who doesn’t want a giant red dog they can ride on?   I read this at a Preschool Storytime a few weeks ago, and the kids were as excited about it as I was as a kid.

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch (submitted by Peter Selkin, who says it is a current favorite of his daughter).  Great twist on traditional fairy tales.  In this story, the Princess saves the day and the Prince, as Pete says, is a bum.

The Wump World by Bill Peet (submitted by Neeru Penumella).  The poor peaceful grass-eating Wumps are happy until they are invaded by the Pollutians from planet Pollutus.  Timeless environmental story.  Bill Peet was also mentioned as a favorite author by Kim Day and Sue Beckmeyer.

Flutterby by Stephen Cosgrove and Robin James (submitted by Noelle D’Amato).  One of the Serendipity books, with their adorable big-eyed animal characters, this one’s about a baby pegasus trying to find out who she is.  This book is out of print, but available to borrow for free on Open Library.

Beginning Reader/Early Chapter Books

Morris the Moose by B. Wiseman (submitted by Tina Williams).  These books about a mixed-up moose are hilarious and so much fun to read aloud.

Frog and Toad  by Arnold Lobel (submitted by Laura Hoffmann).  Classic, both as early readers and read-alouds for younger kids.  Frog and Toad are the children’s book version of The Odd Couple.

Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish (submitted by Ashley Carter).  These books about a maid who takes everything literally are just as funny and popular today as they were when I was a kid.

Chapter Books

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren (submitted by Maria Kurland).  Oh, how I longed to be Pippi Longstocking, with her superhuman strength and her collection of gold coins.  Fantastic, whimsical adventure stories, especially for girls.

Karlsson on the Roof by Astrid Lindgren (submitted by Maria Kurland).  I have not read this book, but it looks hilarious, about a little man with a propeller on his back, who lives on the roof of a little boy’s house.

The Wonderful Adventures of Nils by Selma Lagerlof (submitted by Maria Kurland).  Another one I’m not familiar with, but it has phenomenal reviews on Amazon, where it is described as “one of Sweden’s best-loved books.”  It’s also available for free on Kindle.

Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne (submitted by Maria Kurland).  I picked up an audio version of these several years ago, read by British actor Jim Broadbent, and the whole family loved them.  I loved the stories as a kid, but I don’t think I realized back then the subtlety and humor of Milne’s writing.  They are truly hilarious.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (submitted by Maria Kurland).  My husband is currently reading this with our son.  It’s longer than I remember, with a lot more adventures,  but it’s amazing how timeless and funny the story is.  Maria also recommended  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, which of course has a heavier storyline because of its treatment of slavery, but is definitely an essential classic of American literature.

The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling (submitted by Maria Kurland).   Kipling’s writing is so much fun to read aloud.  The Elephant’s Child and Rikki Tikki Tavi were two of my favorite stories to hear as a child.  The Jungle Book is full of the same rich, rhythmic language and wonderful detail, and is very different from the Disney movie.

Bambi: A Life in the Woods by Felix Salten (submitted by Maria Kurland).  There are lots of abridgments and picture book versions of this book, and it’s hard to find the original novel, except as an ebook.   It’s a beautiful novel full of rich descriptions of the realities of life in the forest.

Mary Poppins  ( link) by P.L. Travers (submitted by Maria Kurland and Lynn Williamson).  I wish someone had read this one aloud to me, but I do have a very clear memory of hiding behind our living room sofa so I could read it in peace.   The book describes a lot more adventures than the Disney movie, which I also love.

Paulus and the Acornmen by Jean Dulieu (submitted by Abbey Sparrow).  I’m not familiar with this book, but Abbey remembers his whole family fighting over it when he was a kid.  Unfortunately, it’s out of print and hard to find now, but the copies that are out there sell for $250+, so it must be good!  According to WorldCat, there are 28 copies left in US libraries, so you may be able to get it through Interlibrary Loan.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle (submitted by Abbey Sparrow).  Another strong childhood memory is hearing my third grade teacher read this aloud to the class.  It was so mesmerizing, with the mysterious Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Whatzit, the whole idea of the tesseract, and the terrifying IT.   I agreed to let my husband read this one to our son, on the condition that I got to read him the sequel A Wind in the Door, a book I found truly mind-blowing as a child.

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (submitted by Abbey Sparrow).  What is it about animal stories that make them so timeless?  Classic, funny stories about Rat, Mole, Toad, and Badger that Kenneth Grahame used to tell to his own son, Alistair.

Brighty of the Grand Canyon by Marguerite Henry and Wesley Dennis (submitted by Teri Tosspon).  Teri remembers her teacher reading this aloud to the class.  Based on an actual burro who used to carry visitors down into the Grand Canyon, this is a great animal adventure story.  It would the perfect book to read before visiting the Grand Canyon.  Marguerite Henry also wrote Misty of Chincoteague and King of the Wind, two of my other favorite books from childhood.

Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes (submitted by Teri Tosspon).  Another one Teri remembers her teacher reading.  Newbery Award winning historical fiction novel about a boy living in Boston just before the American Revolution.  I’m embarrassed to admit I haven’t read it yet, but I think it will be one of the next books I read with my son.

Alexander and the Magic Mouse by Philippe Fix and Martha Sanders (submitted by Anne McArthur).  I’m not familiar with this book, about an old lady and the animals she lived with, but Anne says she read it until it was literally falling to pieces.   It has rave reviews on Amazon as well.  Unfortunately, it’s out of print, but you can borrow it for free through Open Library.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein (submitted by Jonathan Strickland).  Hobbits, dwarves, a magic ring, a scary dragon.  What more could you ask for from an adventure story.  My husband got to read this one to our son, so I call dibs on reading it to our daughter when she’s older.

Hamlet by William Shakespeare (submitted by Jonathan Strickland, who requested that his Dad read it immediately after The Hobbit).  Funny that I never thought of reading Shakespeare at bedtime, but he is, after all, the master storyteller, and it would be great fun to try to read all the parts.

Lad, a Dog by Albert Payson Terhune (submitted by Lynn Williamson).  Lynn remembers looking forward to her teacher reading a chapter of this every day.  It’s a dramatic series of stories about a collie named Lad.  I had a picture book version of the stories “Lost” and “A Miracle or Two” as a child, and I used to read them over and over.

Lassie Come-Home by Eric Knight (submitted by Jerry Williamson).  Jerry remembers his teacher reading this book aloud.   Nothing tugs at the heartstrings like dog stories, but at least this one has a happy ending.  The inspiration for the TV show and a wonderful movie adaptation starring Elizabeth Taylor, this book tells the story of a boy’s beloved collie, who has to be sold when the family falls on hard times.  You can figure out the rest from the title, but it’s quite an adventure.

Noddy books by Enid Blyton (submitted by Neeru Penumella).  I didn’t have access to Enid Blyton growing up, but she seems to have had a tremendous influence on a lot of my friends from overseas.   The Noddy books are about a wooden boy and his adventures in Toyland.  There have been several stage productions and a TV series based on them in the UK.   Unfortunately the books are out of print in the US, but you can borrow several of them for free through Open Library.

Asterix and Obelix books by Rene Goscinny and Albert Uberzo. (submitted by Neeru Penumella).  I didn’t grow up with these either, but they have been popular in every library where I’ve worked.   A series of graphic novels about a village of Gauls in 50 BC, whose residents have managed to fight off the Roman invaders by drinking a magic potion that gives them superhuman strength.  The books are full of word play, and a number of my friends credit them for teaching them about the history of the Roman Empire.

My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett; illustrated by Ruth Chrismas Gannett (submitted by Thomas Moore).  Whimsical adventure story about a boy who sets out for Wild Island in order to rescue a baby dragon who has been enslaved by the animals there.  The short chapters, and black-and-white illustrations on almost every page make it a good introductory chapter book for younger kids.

Ida Early Comes Over the Hill by Robert Burch (submitted by Kerri Meeks Hall).  Kerri remembers her fifth grade teacher reading this to the class, and also reading it herself when she was student teaching.   Although I haven’t read this one, I remember reading Burch’s Queenie Peavy over and over when I was a kid.  This book is about a family of four kids in Depression Era rural Georgia, whose lives are changed when a tall, ugly woman with a wonderful sense of humor comes to help them out.  Kerri says her own copy is now held together with a rubber band, and she is looking forward to reading it to her daughter when she is bit older.


The Monkey’s Paw  by W.W. Jacobs (submitted by Tina Williams).  Tina says Ms. Delman was her favorite teacher, because she read great books.  The Monkey’s Paw is a fantastically creepy classic about the dangers of getting what you wish for.  I read it in my ninth grade English (thank you, Ms. Pogue!) and it was definitely unforgettable.  The story is available for free as a Kindle book.   (As an aside, Tina remembers her teacher reading a book about a kid who travels through time by way of a spinning thing on his hat.  She would love to find out the title.  Anyone?)

Animal stories by Ernest Thompson Seton and Gerald Durrell (submitted by Maria Kurland).  I’m not familiar with Ernest Thompson Seton, who was one of the founders of the Boy Scouts and also sported a fabulous mustache, but his collection of stories about wild animals gets wonderful reviews and is available for free as a Kindle book.   I do know Gerald Durrell, and remember laughing hysterically as a child over Menagerie Manor, about his adventures running a private zoo on the Isle of Jersey.

Mai Kulkarni remembers hearing her dad tell stories from the Ramayana.  Neeru Penumella remembers hearing them from her grandmother, who also shared stories from the Mahabarata, and brought Amar Chitra Katha comics.

A hearty thank you to everyone who sent me their favorite read-alouds.  Please send me the titles of other books you remember, and I’ll be happy to add them to my list.   The books we share with kids have their own immortality.  Let’s keep them alive!

Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah! (Or Chanukah)

This week we had a special guest for storytime: Esther Goldman from Chabad, a Jewish outreach organization in Daly City.  She brought some of her favorite books to share for Chanukah, and we alternated reading them.

In the past, most of the Hanukkah books we had at the library seemed to be either too long, or too dry to hold the interest of the kids at my storytimes.  Happily now there are a lot of fun stories for different age groups, but I was still really grateful to have Esther’s recommendations. These were the ones she chose to share:


A Chanukah Story for Night Number Three by Dina Rosenfeld; illustrated by Vitaliy Romanenko (Amazon link)

A little boy whose birthday falls on the third night of Chanukah hopes to celebrate by making the biggest latke ever.  Funny, rhyming story that the kids enjoyed.  Esther brought her own copy of this book, which had a slightly different title, so there may be alternative versions.


I Have a Little Dreidel by Maxie Baum; illustrated by Julie Paschkis (Amazon link)

An extended version of the traditional song describing a family Hanukkah celebration, with nice, large illustrations.  I had the kids join in on the chorus, and I heard them singing it after the storytime too.  Esther kindly brought little plastic dreidels to hand out to each child at the end.


The Borrowed Hanukkah Latkes by Linda Glaser; illustrated by Nancy Cote (Amazon link)

A little girl hopes to persuade her neighbor, Mrs. Greenberg, to join them for a Hanukkah dinner by borrowing different things to make latkes.  Sweet, happy story that made everyone hungry for latkes.


Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah! by Olga and Aleksey Ivanov (Amazon link)

Lovely, illustrated version of the traditional song.  Several kids wanted to check this one out.  Perfect for any age group.

INSTRUMENT PLAY WITH A CD: Su-sufganiya by Yaffa Yarkoni from The Feast of Chanukah album (Amazon link)

This is a great CD with music in English and Hebrew.   One of the moms said it was the best one she had found.

CRAFT: Craft Stick Menorah

Paper and Foam Craft Stick Menorah from Jonas

Paper and Foam Craft Stick Menorah from Jonas

Initially Esther had wanted to make flame hats, which would have been fun, but we didn’t end up having enough time to coordinate, so I threw this craft together.  I had picked up some colored craft sticks from Michaels, assuming they were the usual wooden ones.  To my surprise, they were actually foam.  They were super stinky when I first opened them, but they worked out great for the candles on the menorah because I could cut them in half.

For the base of the menorah, I just cut out strips of blue paper in three different sizes.  The kids glued them onto white card stock with glue sticks, then glued on the craft stick candles.  They made the flames with yellow dot paint, then decorated with stickers.

But OOPS!  I just realized I never accounted for the Shamash candle in my craft, which was a huge oversight!!  Wow!  I apologize for that.  I should have had a longer foam stick for each child.  Here’s my daughter’s menorah with the Shamash candle in the middle.

photo (60)

There are some other really nice menorah crafts online.  If I had more time, I would have loved to have done this handprint menorah from All Kids Network.


The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming: A Christmas Story by Lemony Snicket (Amazon link)

This is still my personal favorite Hanukkah book.  Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler) does a brilliant job of incorporating the history of Hanukkah into the story of a disgruntled latke who is sick of Christmas decorations who assume he’s part of their holiday.  Plus the kids get to scream on every other page.  There’s a funny twist at the end, and, unlike all the turkey stories we read last week, the protagonist of this book does get eaten.  I’m looking forward to reading this to some second grade classes after Thanksgiving.

The Chanukkah Guest by Eric Kimmel; illustrated by Giora Carmi (Recommended by Sapphira Edgarde) Amazon link

Bubba Brayna is an old woman whose hearing and eyesight are failing, but she still makes the best latkes.  When a hairy visitor shows up at her door, she assumes it’s the rabbi.  Bubba Brayna entertains him, feeds him, and sends him on his way with a new red scarf, never realizing that her guest is actually an enormous hungry bear.  This is a funny story that I plan to share with the second graders too.  Thanks to Sapphira for the recommendations and for pointing out that the book has recently been republished with new illustrations by Mike Wohnoutka under the title, The Hanukkah Bear (Amazon link).

Sammy Spider’s First Hanukkah by Sylvia A Rouss; illustrated by Katherine Janus Kahn (Amazon link)

This is part of a series of books where Sammy Spider learns about different Jewish holidays.  In this one, Sammy envies Josh Shapiro, a little boy whose family gives him a different colored dreidel for every night of Hanukkah.  He longs for a dreidel of his own, but his mom tells him spiders spin webs not dreidels.  This is one of the shorter Hanukkah stories, and it also doubles as a book about colors and numbers.  San Mateo County Library patrons can read and listen to an animated ebook version of Sammy Spider’s First Shabbat on  Tumblebooks through the library web site (you have to search for the title.  There’s a wonderful assortment of books there, including many by Robert Munsch, who does his own narration).

What Do You See? on Hanukkah by Bracha Goetz

Esther had brought this one for babies and toddlers, but didn’t end up reading it.  It’s a board book with colorful photographs to introduce very young children to the holiday.  Unfortunately we don’t have a copy in our library system, so the link above goes to the Amazon page.

I’d love to get more recommendations.  Please send me your favorite Hanukkah book titles and I’ll add them to my list.

Wattle We Read Next? A Thanksgiving Storytime

Thanksgiving is a frustrating holiday for picture books.   Sure, there are some entertaining books, but 90% of them seem to be about a turkey trying to escape being eaten.  I don’t mind reading one or two of these, but too many gets a bit old.  Also, I can’t help but wonder if it’s just going to make kids feel bad about their Thanksgiving Dinner, aka The One That Didn’t Get Away. That being said, I did read a couple of Turkey Escape books for this week’s Family Storytime (I did the Thanksgiving theme a week early because Chabad, a local Jewish outreach organization is coming to next week’s storytime to present a Chanukah theme).   Here was my Thanksgiving line-up:


A Plump and Perky Turkey by Teresa Bateman; illustrated by Jeff Shelly

Every year, just before Thanksgiving, all the turkeys of Squawk Valley seem to vanish (actually they climb into hot air balloons and fly away to a tropical island).  But this year the town has a plan: they will post fliers asking for a turkey to model for a turkey-themed Arts and Crafts Fair, and trick a bird into becoming their dinner.  But of course, the turkey ends up being smarter than they thought.  This is a longish rhyming story, but the kids loved the illustrations of all the turkey crafts: turkeys made of potatoes, and oatmeal, and even soap.  There was a lot of clamoring to check this one out at the end.


I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie by Allison Jackson; illustrated by Judy Byron Schachner One of my Thanksgiving standards.  A clever parody of The Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, about a woman who eats WAY too much: a turkey, a pot!, a ten-layer cake.  The kids liked the twist at the end, when she becomes a big balloon float for the Thanksgiving parade.  Great read-aloud for any age group.


Sometimes It’s Turkey, Sometimes It’s Feathers by Lorna and Lecia Balian

My daughter loves this book.  Old Mrs. Gumm is excited to find a freckled egg hidden in some leaves.  She takes it home, and sure enough, it hatches into a baby turkey, who eats and eats and eats.  My daughter especially loves the lists of what the turkey eats: caterpillars, inchworms, pea gravel, and cat food, among other things.  In November, Mrs. Gumm is ready with her hatchet, but by then the turkey has become a good friend who ends up joining her for Thanksgiving dinner.   Yes, this is another book vilifying the turkey dinner, but the writing is full of warmth and wonder, especially when the egg hatches, and the illustrations are sweet.  The kids all seemed to enjoy it too, since several of them asked to check it out.


The Dumb Bunnies’ Easter by Sue Denim; illustrated by Dav Pilkey I am currently living with Dumb Bunnies.  We own the first book, and have the other three checked out, and my daughter insists on hearing at least one of them every day.  And yes, they are dumb.  But funny.   This book is a crazy mishmash of almost every holiday, which is kind of the way I feel this time of year.   The bunnies chop down an Easter tree, hang up Valentines, and carve a turkey like a jack-o-lantern.  I wasn’t originally planning to read this one, but I had to bring my daughter with me to storytime last night, and she saw it in my pile.  I was happy I did though, because the book is shelved in the Easter section, even though it covers several holidays, and we happened to have 6 copies for the kids to check out.  It felt like Christmas when I handed them out at the end.

SONGS: The Turkey Jerky (To the Tune of the Hokey Pokey)

You put your left drumstick in (left leg)
You put your left drumstick out
You put your left drumstick in
And you shake it all about.
You do the Turkey Jerky and you turn yourself around
That’s what it’s all about!

Repeat with right drumstick, left wing, right wing, waddle (chin), and tail feathers.

I Know an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly (with puppet)

We sing the song with the old lady puppet, and the kids take turns feeding her different animals.  I have a big spider puppet I pull out for repeated line “It wiggled and jiggled and tickled inside her,” and I tickle the kids with it (usually they make a big game out of backing up out of reach, and saying, “It didn’t get me!”)  At the end, our old lady dies, but we take her to the hospital and resuscitate her.  Clearly, she needs counseling.

INSTRUMENT PLAYALONG WITH A CD: Rhubarb Pie by Laurie Berkner from her Under a Shady Tree Album

CRAFT: Paper Bag Turkey

Paper Bag Turkey by Ramona

Paper Bag Turkey by Ramona

I owe this craft to my coworker Gail Benjamin, who did it for a pajama story time at our other branch a few weeks ago.  She had several turkey “kits” left, all ready to go (gotta love leftovers!), with instruction sheets and all the turkey parts in paper bags.  Gail had pre-glued the googly eyes to the plastic spoons for the heads, and also glued the wattle to the bottom of each beak (these were made out of construction paper).

I handed out sheets of newspaper for the kids to crumple.  They stuffed the paper inside their bag, then fastened the bag shut with rubber bands (the parents helped with this).  Then the kids glued the construction paper feet and bowties on.   We helped each kids poke their spoon handle head into the bottom of the paper bag.   Then they glued the beak and wattle onto the spoon. The tail feathers were thin strips of colored paper.

Gail had recommended that the kids put glue inside the “tail” end of the bag, then arrange the paper feathers inside (she even gave me small containers of Elmer’s glue, which are perfect for small hands).  That worked well, although if you want a slightly less messy approach, the mom of Ramona (whose turkey is pictured above) stuck her paper strips through the rubber band that separates the body from the tail.


The Firefighters’ Thanksgiving by Maribeth Boelts; illustrated by Terry Widener

This is actually one of my favorite Thanksgiving books, and I would have done it if I hadn’t read it to the same group for my firefighter storytime a few weeks ago (I was going to do it anyway, if my daughter hadn’t seen the Dumb Bunnies book).   Firefighters at a busy fire station try their best to make Thanksgiving dinner, but they keep getting called away to fires.  Luckily, while they are on their last call, people from the community bring dinner to the station as a thank you.   The text is rhyming, and simple enough to hold the interest of very young children.

The Thankful Book by Todd Parr

I didn’t get to read this one either, but it’s perfect for Thankgiving.   With Todd Parr’s characteristic brightly colored, whimsical illustrations, this book lists many things to be thankful for every day: music, reading, bathtime, nature, and, of course, underwear!

‘Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving by Dav Pilkey (Recommended by Heidi Locicero)

Another runaway turkey book, but a funny one.  Eight kids on a field trip to Farmer Mack Nugget’s farm are horrified to find out what he plans to do with his adorable turkeys.  Luckily for the turkeys, the kids hatch a plan of their own.   My daughter loves this one almost as much as the Dumb Bunnies.

BREAKING NEWS!  I found the best Thanksgiving book for elementary grades!  (Actually, I stole it from my boss, Thom Ball, who had been planning to read it at Musical Storytime but went with something shorter).   I read it to two second grade classes and they loved it.  They kept asking, “Is this a true story?”  And it is!  The book is Thank You Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving by Laurie Halse Anderson, illustrated by Matt Faulkner.   It’s the story of Sarah Hale, the woman who wrote thousands of letters over the course of 38 years and finally succeeded in making Thanksgiving a national holiday.  Anderson portrays Sarah Hale as a true superhero, who fought for lots of important causes like schools for girls and the abolition of slavery, and also wrote the poem “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”  She explains the context of Sarah’s cause, and her hopes that Thanksgiving would help unite a country torn apart by the Civil War.  The caricature-like illustrations are funny and eye-catching, and it’s an excellent lesson in perseverance, democracy, and the power of words to bring about change.  Highly recommended for libraries and classrooms.

What are your favorite Thanksgiving books?

What Books Are You Thankful For?

In honor of Thanksgiving, I sent an email to the Pacifica Mother’s Club, asking members to send me the titles of books they are thankful for.  I picked a few of them to read at my storytimes this week.  I have included all of the titles at the bottom of this post, with links to both the Peninsula Library System catalog and Amazon.

The books I read for my Family Storytime were:


I’m Bored by Michael Ian Black; illustrated by Debbie Ohi  (Recommended by Sarah Coffey) link

This is such a fun read-aloud.  A bored little girl gets in an argument with a potato, who claims that kids are boring.   Kids love joining in on the potato’s repeated reply, “Boring!”  This one got snatched up immediately.


Corduroy by Don Freeman (Recommended by Liz Vaisben) link

I have really fond memories of this story myself, and would definitely include it in my own list of books I am thankful for.  Not only is it a sweet, happy story about a teddy bear searching a department store for his lost button, but it was the first book I remember reading that featured an African American girl, who is beautiful, and also more or less the hero of the story.  (Interestingly, I just found this post by a woman who claims to have been the inspiration for that character).   As soon as I pulled the book out at storytime, all the kids yelled, “Oh, I love that one!”


Jingle All the Way by Tom Shay-Zapien (Shared by Lisa Ottati and Family) link

This was a fun surprise.  One of my storytime regulars brought this book, along with the plush dog who makes sounds in response to certain words in the story.  I hadn’t read the book before (I think it’s only available as part of the Hallmark dog-and-book set), but it was a cute story about a homeless dog, and I enjoyed putting the dog on my lap and having him bark and whine at the end of each page.   I may get this one as a Christmas gift for my daughter.  I could see how it might be a good reading tool too, since kids will probably learn to recognize the words that make Jingle bark.


Good Night, Good Knight by Shelley Moore Thomas; illustrated by Jennifer Plecas (Recommended by Lisa Ottati) link

This is a longish story (an early chapter book), but it has enough action, repetition, and charming illustrations to hold the interest of preschoolers.   A knight standing on watch at a castle hears a loud roar.  Rushing to investigate, he comes to a cave where three little dragons are getting ready for bed.  The first dragon asks for a drink of water, but naturally that’s not the end of the story…  This book is always a hit.  The kids love joining in on the loud roars, and they were all begging to check it out afterwards.  There are several sequels, both picture books and chapter books. My daughter has been requesting to hear Get Well, Good Knight every night this week at bedtime.

CRAFT: Crepe Paper Dragons

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Crepe Paper Dragon by Claire

I printed out this dragon head template from Sparklebox, then gave the kids crepe paper streamers, googly eyes, crayons, straws, and plastic gems.  They had fun coloring and decorating the paper head, then taping on the streamers.  We taped the straws on the back of the head to make a handle.

One creative dad stuck several straws together so his daughter could hold her dragon high above her head.

BOOKS YOU ARE THANKFUL FOR (from members of the Pacifica Mother’s Club)

These are all of the titles I received over email.  Please send me any others you would like to add:

Baby/Toddler Books

Todd Parr books (Recommended by Erika Patterson).
Todd Parr is a San Francisco author/illustrator who writes bright, colorful, funny but thoughtful little books like Underwear Dos and Don’ts and Otto Goes to School.  Click here for the Todd Parr page on  My friend Lindsey Tear, a librarian in Virginia, also recommends The Family Book, a simple book that celebrates all the different types of families.  It’s the perfect book for All About Me units or preschool and elementary school classes looking for books about families.

A Good Day by Kevin Henkes (Recommended by Angie Major) link
I read this at my toddler and preschool storytimes this week.  It’s one of my daughter’s favorites, and I love to share it because it is so simple, and has such a satisfying ending.  Bad things happen to four different animals, but they all turn out for the best.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (Recommended by Angie Major). link
Talk about a classic!  Great book for teaching about butterflies and the days of the week, with large, engaging illustrations.

Chugga Chugga Choo Choo by Kevin Lewis (Recommended by Allison Tungseth) link
Sweet, rhyming story about a  little boy’s toy train and the world of toys it travels through.

Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker; illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld  (Recommended by Allison Tungseth) link
Wonderful rhyming bedtime story for kids who love big machines and construction equipment.

Moo, Baa, La, La, La by Sandra Boynton (Recommended by Teri Tosspon) link
This was a favorite of both my kids when they were toddlers.  Funny, easy, rhyming book about animals.   Sandra Boynton has lots of great books for toddlers.  There are a number of iPhone and iPad apps based on her books as well.  My daughter loves the Blue Hat, Green Hat one, and there’s a good one for this book as well.

Llama Llama books by Anna Dewdney (Recommended by Teri Tosspon) link
Adorable rhyming stories about Llama Llama and his Mama that portray kids’ emotions in a way that parents of toddlers will identify with.  My favorite is Llama Llama Red Pajama.

Yummy Yucky by Leslie Patricelli (Recommended by Jessica Ellison) link
Another must-read for both of my kids when they were babies and toddlers.   My daughter still goes around saying, “Burgers are Yummy.  Boogers are Yucky.”  (Valuable lesson!)  Jessica also recommends Quiet Loud ( link) and No No Yes Yes ( link).

Preschool/Early Elementary Books

I’m Bored by Michael Ian Black; illustrated by Debbie Ohi  (Recommended by Sarah Coffey) link
Great book to read when your kids complain about being bored.  (See above for a longer description).

The Teeny Tiny Woman (Recommended by Sarah Coffey) link
There are several different versions of this story, but the classic is this one by Paul Galdone.  A simple ghost story about a teeny tiny woman who finds a teeny tiny bone.  Creepy without being too scary for little guys.

The Big Orange Splot (Recommended by Sarah Coffey) link
Terrific story about a peaceful neighborhood that is shaken when a seagull drops a big splot of orange paint on Mr. Plumbean’s roof.  All of the neighbor’s complain, until Mr. Plumbean helps them learn to be brave enough to be different and express themselves in their own way.

I Miss You Every Day by Simm Taback (Recommended by Liz Vaisben) link
Charming, touching poem about a little girl who misses someone so much, she wraps herself up and mails herself to them.  Great book for young kids who miss a friend or relative.

A Treasury of Curious George (Recommended by Liz Vaisben) link
Perfect for fans of Curious George, this book features eight of his stories.

Corduroy by Don Freeman (Recommended by Liz Vaisben) link
The classic, sweet story about a bear and his lost button.  (See above for a longer description).

Press Here by Herve Tullet (Recommended by Janell Jones) link
This book reads like an iPad app, asking kids to interact with the illustrations by touching colored dots, shaking the book, blowing on it, and clapping.  I’ve shared it with a wide range of ages, including two second grade classes, and the kids always love it.

Good Night, Good Knight by Shelley Moore Thomas; illustrated by Jennifer Plecas (Recommended by Lisa Ottati) link
A beginning chapter book that also works well as a read-aloud, about a knight and three very cute dragons.  (See above for a longer description).

Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things that Go by Richard Scarry (Recommended by Lisa Ottati) link.  Angie Major also recommended Richard Scarry Books, and I remember loving them as a kid too (Lowly Worm was my favorite).  So much detail for kids to pore over.  Here’s the link for all the Richard Scarry books.

The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka (Recommended by Dorit Betschart) link
You may think you know the story of the The Three Little Pigs, but wait until you hear the wolf’s side of the story!  This is an excellent book for fairy tale units, and so much fun to read.

Pigs Love Potatoes by Anika Denise; illustrated by Christopher Denise (Recommended by Dorit Betschart) link
I don’t know this one, but it looks adorable, and I can’t wait to read it.  A counting book about a bunch of pigs who have a potato party.  Dorit also recommends Bella and Stella Come Home ( link) by the same authors, about a little girl and her stuffed elephant who move to a new home.

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats (Recommended by Dorit Betschart) link
Winner of the 1963 Caldecott Award, and one I remember loving as kid.  The story of a boy’s adventures on a beautiful snowy day.   This was considered groundbreaking when it came out because of its African American main character.  It’s a wonderful book for anyone who loves snow.

Duck on a Bike by David Shannon (Recommended by Jessica Ellison) link
When a little boy leaves his bike unguarded, Duck takes it for a spin.  The other farm animals are jealous, until a large group of kids leaves their bikes outside.  I love to do this one for storytime.  The picture of all the animals on bikes is hilarious!

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin; illustrated by Betsy Lewin (Recommended by Jessica Ellison)
Hilarious story about a farm strike mediated by a duck.  The cows won’t give milk until they get electric blankets.  What is Farmer Brown to do?  I love all of Cronin’s books, especially this series and Diary of a Worm ( link).

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems (Recommended by Jessica Ellison) link
As a children’s librarian and a parent, I am SO grateful for Mo Willems.  This book puts kids in charge of a begging, wheedling, tricky pigeon.  My kids love the iPad app based on this book too, where they get to create their own pigeon stories.

Nightsong by Ari Berk; illustrated by Loren Long (Recommended by Jessica Ellison) link
Beautiful book about an adorable bat who has to venture out into the night on his own to find food, using his song and his good sense.

Elementary School Books

Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Recommended by Angie Major) link
These are definitely in my own list of books I am thankful for.  They are amazing, both for the detail they provide about life on the American frontier  as well as for their beautiful writing.  I read the first two with my son last year, and I got choke up reading about the Christmas where Laura and Mary were astounded and grateful to receive their own tin cup and a penny.  The next day, I was astonished when my son announced that he wanted to give some of his toys away to kids who didn’t have any.  (I wrote another post about it here.)

Adult Books

Mary Doria Russell books  (Recommended by Angie Major) link
I have not read these, but Angie has me intrigued.  She writes, “I really enjoy her writing style and that she writes so many different genres.  But be careful – the only thing that’s hard for me is she gets you to really really like her characters and then they get killed.  Have a box of Kleenex, especially for A Thread of Grace.

What books are you thankful for?  Write your titles in the comments below, and I’ll be happy to add them to the list.  Thank you to everyone who sent me the recommendations above!