What a Feeling! Books about Emotions

Emotion Wheel by Olivia

Emotion Wheel by Olivia

This week for Family Storytime, I read books about emotions.  I noticed that most of the books out there with that theme focus on negative emotions like anger and fear, but they are some of my favorites.  Here are the ones we read:


What are You So Grumpy About? by Tom Lichtenheld (Amazon.com link)

This book does a great job of illustrating the frustrations of being a kid: boring grown-up conversations that never end; trips to dull museums; bland grown-up cereals.  Tom Lichtenheld takes each one to an hilarious extreme, ending with the worst: somebody making you laugh when you were trying to be grumpy, and making you forget what you were grumpy about.  This one always gets laughs, from the parents as well as the kids.


My Friend is Sad by Mo Willems (Amazon.com link)

My favorite of the Elephant and Piggie books, and one of the best for very beginning readers.   When Piggie sees that Gerald is sad, she tries to cheer him up by dressing as a cowboy, a clown, and a robot, but only makes him feel worse.  I had the kids say the repeated “Ohhhhh”s along with Gerald.   A good, funny story about friendship as well as emotion.  The kids all loved it.  By now they are all so familiar with Gerald and Piggie books that they couldn’t wait to get to the end page, which always has Mo Willem’s Pigeon hidden inside of one of the illustrations.


Mouse Was Mad by Linda Urban; illustrated by Henry Cole (Amazon.com link)

This is one of the best picture books about coping with anger.   Mouse is so angry, he jumps up and down, stomps his feet, screams, and rolls on the ground.  The problem is that other animals (hare, bear, bobcat, and hedgehog), each do those things much better, and when he tries to emulate them, he always ends up falling into a mucky mud puddle and getting even angrier.  Finally, he stands still…and breathes…something he can do better than anyone else.  A great way to teach an important skill for regaining calm, but taught in the context of a lively, non-preachy read-aloud.  My daughter, who could teach bobcat a thing or two about screaming, loves this book, so I’m hoping its quiet lesson will rub off.


Crankenstein by Samantha Berger; illustrated by Dan Santat (Amazon.com link)

Another funny book about being grumpy.  Crankenstein is a monster.  When you say, “Good Morning!  How are you?” he says, “MEHRRRR!”  He also says “MEHRRR” to lots of other things: getting ready for school, standing in long lines, and going to bed.  But then he meets another Crankenstein, who makes him laugh.  The kids enjoyed joining in on the “MEHRRR’s,” and this one grabbed the attention of some of the boys who love monsters.


If You’re Happy And You Know It:  I added new verses with other emotions: If you’re sad and you know it, cry ‘Boohoo!’;  If you’re shy and you know it, hide your face…peek-a-boo!;  If you’re grumpy and you know it, stomp your feet; etc.


My Energy by Laurie Berkner from Under a Shady Tree (Amazon.com link)

CRAFT: Emotion wheel

Emotion wheel by Sarah

Emotion wheel by Sarah

This was an easy craft I found on the Allen County Public Library Youth Services web site, on a page with a list of other good books and songs about emotions.  I adapted it a little, and created a Word document with circles for the kids to draw faces in.  You can print the template here.  I also cut out arrows out of cardstock, and punched holes in them for the metal brads (I attached the arrows to the page ahead of time because that part seemed a little tricky, and the brads are a bit sharp.  I just pushed them through the middle of the paper and twisted them a bit until the arrow could spin easily, then separated the metal tabs on the back of the page to hold them in place).

The kids had fun drawing in their faces.  I liked that this made for a simple reading activity too, since they had to learn the emotion word (happy, sad, angry, or scared), in order to know what kind of face to draw.


The great thing about this theme is that you can really use just about any picture book and talk about the emotions the characters may be feeling.

Today I Feel Silly: And Other Moods that Make My Day by Jamie Lee Curtis; illustrated by Laura Cornell (Amazon.com link)

One of the few celebrity authors I actually like.  In this book Jamie Lee Curtis explores a wide range of emotions based on situations that kids can easily relate to: feeling angry at not being included in a friend’s playdate; being sad after a fight with a friend; feeling happy at learning how to do something new.  The text is simple, well-written rhymed verse, and the illustrations are whimsical and full of feeling.  The book comes with an emotion wheel at the back, although I noticed the one from the library copy we have was missing.

How Are You Peeling?  Foods with Moods by Saxton Freymann and Joost Eiffers (Amazon.com link)

The emotional vegetables and fruits in this book, all made from actual food, are hilarious: angry peppers, kissing strawberries, joyful peas.  This is a great book for a food-themed storytime as well.

Baby Happy, Baby Sad by Leslie Patricelli (Amazon.com link)

Perfect for babies, toddlers, and beginning readers, this board book goes through all the things that make baby happy (getting an ice cream!) and sad (dropping the ice cream).

Katie Loves the Kittens by John Himmelman (Amazon.com link)

I’m including this one because it does a great job of conveying a common experience that everyone, especially young kids, can relate to: being SO excited that you rush in and do something you regret later.  This story is about an adorable dog named Katie, and three little kittens.  When her owner brings home three new kittens, Katie can’t contain herself: she rushes in howling and scares the kittens.  Then she feels ashamed and sad.  The cycle repeats several times, until she finally learns to control her excitement.  The illustrations are darling (no one conveys shame better than a dog), and it’s a terrific read-aloud, with lots of opportunities for kids to howl.

Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney (Amazon.com link)

Another story all parents and kids can relate to: Llama Llama feels alone and scared in bed, while Mama Llama is on the phone downstairs.  Adorable rhyming book with wonderful illustrations.  Many of the other Llama Llama books (Llama Llama Mad at Mama; Llama Llama Misses Mama) would work for this theme as well.

When Sophie Gets Angry…Really Really Angry by Molly Bang (Amazon.com link) Recommended by Jeanine Asche and Erica Hohmann

Vivid colors and bold descriptions capture just how it feels to be really, really angry, and how Sophie calms down.   This is a simple story about a little girl’s frustration and anger that kids can easily relate to, and one that conveys both the overwhelming feeling of rage and the fact that it eventually passes.

Grumpy Gertie by Sam Lloyd (Amazon.com link) Recommended by Shelley Jacobsen

I haven’t read this one yet, but it looks like a fun, simple way to teach kids that the face they project to the world can affect others.  Gertie is determined to tell the world just how grumpy she is, until a monkey teaches her how to turn her frown upside down.

The Pout Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen; illustrated by Daniel X. Hanna (Amazon.com link) Recommended by Kim Day

Adorable rhyming story about a pouty fish, whose ocean friends all try to cheer him up, until he turns upside down and becomes a kissy fish instead.

What are your favorite books about emotions?


Reading the 2014-15 California Young Reader Medal Nominees

Twice a month, I get to read to two groups of second graders at a local school.   It’s so much fun to share books with them, especially since I get to explore longer stories, and talk about connections between books and authors that I don’t usually get to cover in my library storytimes.  They love to jump in with things they notice about the story: “This one rhymes!” or “This is a circle story!”  And they often catch things in the illustrations that I never noticed.

One of my favorite things to do with them is to read the Primary level picture books that are nominated for the California Young Reader Medal, and have them vote for the one they want to win (unfortunately, I just realized that I will have to wait until April to submit their votes to the CYRM committee).   The nominees are announced every February, and the winning books are announced on May 1.   I had already shared the 2013-2014 nominees with them earlier in the year (here’s my post from the storytime I did based on those).  This week I shared the nominees for next year.

The rules specify that in order to be eligible to vote, students have to first read or listen to all of the books nominated in a particular category.  Here are the Primary Level books for this year:


Randy Riley’s Really Big Hit by Chris Van Dusen (Amazon.com link)

Last year’s nominees included Bats at the Ballgame by Brian Lies, so it was funny to find yet another rhyming baseball book in this year’s batch.  I hadn’t run across this one before the nominees were announced, but I can see why it was chosen.  The kids loved it.  It’s the story of Randy Riley, a kid genius who is terrible at baseball, but great at astronomy.  One night he sees a massive fireball barreling towards his hometown.  No one believes him.  It is up to Randy to save the day by building a giant robot, who hits the biggest home run ever.   This is a fun read-aloud in solid rhymed verse with a lot of dramatic build-up.  A number of the kids recognized Van Dusen’s distinctive illustration style from the Mercy Watson series (several of them also said his drawings reminded them of the movie Meet the Robinsons, which is actually based on a picture book by William Joyce.)  This book got 7 votes from the first class, and 5 from the second.


Exclamation Mark by Amy Rosenthal Krouse and Tom Lichtenheld

This was one of my favorite books published in 2013.  I loved it so much that I gave it as a end-of-year-gift to my son’s third grade teacher.  I was happy to see it in the list of nominees, and many of the kids, having heard it read by their own teacher, were excited to see it as well.   It’s the story of an exclamation mark in a world full of periods.  No matter how much he tries to blend in, he always stands out.  One day he meets a question mark, who asks him so many questions that he shocks them both by shouting, “STOP!”  And he realizes he has a gift.  This is such a clever and perfectly executed metaphor about celebrating our differences, and a great punctuation lesson as well.  The illustrations are whimsical and simple, and drawn on the kind of lined paper that kids use for learning how to write.  Although the second class didn’t vote for it, this book got 6 votes from the first class.


Miss Brooks Loves Books (And I Don’t) by Barbara Bottner; illustrated by Michael Emberley (Amazon.com link)

A librarian book!  A little girl is bothered by her school librarian’s boundless (and often goofy) enthusiasm for books, especially when she is asked to share a favorite book of her own.  The girl is convinced that she will never love a book as much as Miss Brooks does, until she reads Shrek.   I had fun sharing this one (especially reading all the girl’s complaints about the librarian), and the kids enjoyed pointing out characters from books they recognized, like The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  This book got 3 votes from the first class, and 4 from the second.


Too Tall Houses by Gianna Marino (Amazon.com link)

I hadn’t seen this book before the nominee announcement either, but the kids loved it!   Before I read it, I asked them what the word “Too” in the title meant, and we talked briefly about the meanings of too, to, and two.  The title is actually a pun, because there are two too tall houses in the story.  The book is about a rabbit and an owl who live side-by-side until one day they get in a private war to build the tallest house.  Soon their two houses are towering high above the earth, making them both unhappy until the wind blows them down.  The illustrations are gorgeous and funny, and got a number of laughs from the kids.  This book got 8 votes in both classes, which made it the favorite in the first, tied for first in the second, and was the clear favorite overall.  It was my daughter’s favorite as well.


City Dog, Country Frog by Mo Willems; illustrated by Jon Muth (Amazon.com link)

Before I read this one, I asked the kids what other books they knew by Mo Willems.  Many of them recognized his name from the Gerald and Piggie series, Knuffle Bunny, and the Pigeon books.   I pointed out that this book, although written by Mo Willems, was illustrated by someone with a completely different art style.  The text is a departure from Willems’ other books too.  It’s a bittersweet story about a dog and a frog who play together during different seasons.  In Spring they play Country Frog games like splashing and croaking.  In Summer they play City Dog games like sniffing and barking.  In Fall Frog is tired, so they remember the fun times of the past.  In Winter, when City Dog rushes to the frog’s rock, he finds himself all alone.  Then in Spring, while he waits sadly for his friend, he meets a chipmunk, and makes a new friend.  This was a somber book compared to the others, but it’s subtle and sweet nonetheless.  When I asked the kids what they thought happened to the frog, most of them said that he probably died, but some thought he might be hibernating.  I appreciate that Willems leaves that ambiguous.  I wasn’t sure how this book would go over, given the more serious tone, but it got 6 votes from the first class, and 8 from the second (tying with Too Tall Houses for that class).

Overall, I was pleased with the CYRM book selection this year.  There was a nice variety to the books, and they were all fun to read aloud.   The kids seemed to genuinely enjoy all of them.   Too Tall Houses was the clear favorite, followed by City Dog, Country Frog, Randy Riley’s Really Big Hit, Miss Brooks Loves Books, and Exclamation Mark.

Which book would you vote for?  And what would you nominate for next year?  The guidelines specify that the books have to be written by a living author and published within the past four years, which is pretty broad.  At the end of this school year, I think I’ll ask the second graders which books they would like to see in next year’s nominee list.

Hail to the Chief: Books about the Presidents

Abe Lincoln Finger Puppet by Paxton

Abe Lincoln Finger Puppet by Paxton

Here’s a (very) little known fact: I once ran for President!  Although my entire campaign consisted of this one post from an old blog I shared with two of my friendsHere’s a (very) little known fact: I once ran for President!  Although my entire campaign consisted of this one post from an old blog I shared with two of my friends.

Anyway, last Monday was President’s Day, so I thought I’d give a president-themed storytime a try.  I was pleased to find that there are some pretty good picture books out there, some of which I really enjoyed.  The only problem was that my Family Storytime audience  was almost all toddlers.  Don’t get me wrong: I was thrilled to see them, especially because a few of them were new families.  But I quickly realized that, even though I had picked relatively short books, they were still too long and complex for the under-two set.   I adapted by throwing in a lot of songs in between books, excerpting some pages here and there, and then completely abandoning the theme at the end.  In spite of it all, I actually had a great time.  I would rather be a librarian than President any day!

Here’s what I ended up doing.  I’ve included the books that I had planned to read in the list at the end:


George Washington’s Teeth by Deborah Chandra and Madeleine Comara; illustrated by Brock Cole (Amazon.com link)

If your kids don’t like to brush, read them this book.  Poor George Washington.  Not only did he have that whole Revolutionary War thing to deal with, he also suffered from horrible teeth that rotten and hurt and fell out all the time!  This book tells you exactly how, and when, he lost each one, all in solid, entertaining rhymed verse, which is quite an art.  A lot of the story was lost on the toddlers, but they hung in there, especially whenever I held up my fingers each time George lost a tooth, to show just how few he had left.  The older kids were mesmerized, and one of the moms said at the end, “I never knew that!  It’s kind of disgusting.”  And it is.  But it’s a great picture book all the same.


My Teacher for President by Kay Winters; illustrated by Denise Brunkus (Amazon.com link)

I was relieved to have this book in my stack because it was short and simple, with large illustrations.  A kid explains all the reasons why his teacher would make a great president: she is a great listener; she goes to lots of meetings; she is good at finding people jobs.  Each two page spread shows the teacher demonstrating the skill (like catching a loose snake on the page about being good in an emergency), as well as showing how she might put it to use if she were President.  This would be a nice lead-in to a discussion about what kinds of challenges Presidents face, and what kind of person would make a good leader.


Abe Lincoln’s Hat by Martha Brenner; illustrated by Donald Cook (Amazon.com link)

This one was far too long to read in its’ entirety, so I ended up just sharing parts of it.  It’s actually an easy reader about Abe Lincoln, featuring some fun anecdotes about his career as a lawyer.  The part I mostly wanted to share (because of the craft I had planned) was that Lincoln carried letters and important papers inside his hat.  This would make an excellent book to share with an elementary school class for Lincoln’s birthday, since it does a good job of conveying his cleverness, integrity and good humor.


Elephants Cannot Dance by Mo Willems (Amazon.com link)

Okay, this was the point where I completely abandoned the theme.  All the other books in my stack were far too long for the toddlers.  So I grabbed this book from the shelf behind me, and it was great.  I even had the kids try to do the dance steps along with Piggie.  In this story, Piggie tries to teach Gerald to dance, even though Gerald tells her emphatically that “Elephants Cannot Dance.”  In the end, Piggie is forced to agree, but meanwhile Gerald has found a following for his “Elephant Dance.”  Totally unrelated to presidents, but the toddlers loved it (thank you, Mo Willems!), and hey, at least elephants represent a political party.


Brush Your Teeth: This Raffi song is always a hit, and it paired perfectly with George Washington’s Teeth.

Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes: This didn’t connect with any of the books, but was great for bringing the wandering toddlers back in.  I do the song several times, doing it faster and faster every time.  Sometimes, if I want to especially tricky, I’ll have the kids try to sing it backwards: Nose, and Mouth, Ears and Eyes, Ears and Eyes…etc.   I also ham it up a bit by flapping my lips with my fingers when we sing the word “Mouth” and pinching my nose when we sing “Nose.”  Yes, I am a huge goof-ball, which is yet another reason why I will never be President.

Bringing Home a Baby Bumblebee: Another song for the toddlers.  I have a big bee puppet that I brought out for the first verse.  After that I asked for animal suggestions, and we had to invent new rhymes for each one: “I’m bringing home a baby lion.  Won’t my Mommy really start a-crying?” “I’m bringing home a baby grizzly bear.  Won’t my Mommy pull out all her hair?”  etc.

INSTRUMENT PLAY WITH A CD: This Land is Your Land from 20 Great Kids Songs (Amazon.com link)

CRAFT: Abe Lincoln Finger Puppet

Abe Lincoln Finger Puppet

Abe Lincoln Finger Puppet

I thought this craft from Spoonful.com was adorable.  I gave each child a rectangle of black paper, which they rolled around a finger and taped or glued together, a tiny black strip for the hat, a white paper triangle for the shirt-front, a penny for the face, and a red paper bowtie.  They were all very cute.  I thought it was funny that even though I told them at the beginning that Lincoln’s face is on the penny, most of them glued the penny on upside down.

You can do the same craft for Washington, Roosevelt, or Jefferson, but it would be more expensive!


So You Want to Be President by Judith St. George; illustrated by David Small (Amazon.com link)

This one was too long for my family storytime, but I read it to a second grade class a while back when we were showcasing Caldecott Award winners.  It’s a nice overview of the presidents, and the ways they were alike and different.  There are a number of funny anecdotes and quotes, and the caricature-style illustrations are fun.

What Presidents Are Made Of by Hanoch Piven (Amazon.com link)

Another books with simple stories and facts about different presidents.  This one is short enough to use with Kindergartners, or even older preschoolers, especially if you just share certain stories.  Hanoch Piven has a unique collage style, where he uses objects that represent different people to create mixed-media caricatures (for example, his illustration of Ronald Reagan uses jelly beans, and George W. Bush has a hot dog nose).   The stories are simple and fun, and give a more human portrayal of each president.

Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio; illustrated by LeUyen Pham (Amazon.com link)

I was really hoping to share this one, but in the end, it was too long.  When Grace learns that there has never been a female president, she is determined to start by winning the class election.  What I find interesting about this book is that the school election mirrors the electoral college process, with different students representing different states, and some having more votes than others.  In the end, the decision comes down to one vote, and Grace’s hard campaign work pays off.  This would be a great book to share around election time.

President’s Day by Anne Rockwell; illustrated by Lizzy Rockwell (Amazon.com link)

This is a nice story about the holiday, featuring a school play about different presidents, with an election at the end.

What are your favorite books about the presidents?

Have a Heart! Books for Valentine’s Day

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Yet another holiday-themed storytime.  Fortunately, Valentine’s Day comes with much better picture book options.  (Thanksgiving is terrible, and don’t even get me started on St. Patrick’s Day).  I actually had a great day reading to different age groups: two classes of second graders, and then my family storytime, which included several of my regular Kindergartners, as well as some new toddlers.

Here were the Family Storytime books:


Froggy’s First Kiss by Jonathan London; illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz (Amazon.com link)

I love the Froggy books.  Yes, they tend to follow the same pattern: Froggy makes lots of mistakes, adults are always yelling at him, and towards the end, he always gets embarrassed and turns “more red in the face than green.”  But they are fun to read aloud, have funny illustrations, and the kids love them.  Plus, they are a wonderful opportunity for teaching print awareness, which helps young children understand the connection between the words they hear and the writing on the page (a recent study found that students whose teachers called attention to printed words while reading aloud performed much better on reading tests up to two years later).  With the Froggy books, I like to show the kids the places where someone yells out “F-R-O-G-G-Y!” (a words that’s usually written in bright bold letters across the page). I tell them to watch for that word, and then join in.  In this story, Froggy is smitten by the new girl at school, Frogilina, who always gives him a surprise at lunch.  One day, she gives him a kiss!  Blaahhh!  I love that Froggy is not interested in romance, and that he gives his special Valentine to his mom (plus he serves her breakfast in bed!).   There were several eager kids asking to check this one out.


Love, Splat by Rob Scotton (Amazon.com link)

Splat is another popular picture book series.  In this one Splat, a fluffy black cat, wants to give a Valentine to Kitten, even though every time he sees her, she “pulls his ears, and pokes his belly, ties his tail and calls him smelly.”  To make matters worse, Spike, the big bully cat at his school, likes Kitten too.  The illustrations are adorable, and the kids always giggle at the parts where Kitten calls Splat smelly.  This one got snatched up too.


The Ballad of Valentine by Alison Jackson; illustrated by Tricia Tusa (Amazon.com link)

I love this wild West parody of “My Darling, Clementine,” about a man who tries to send his true love a message, but things never go his way.  The mailman can’t find her address, the homing pigeon flies to Madagascar, the Pony Express messenger gets bucked clear to Arizona.  The parents seemed to get the humor more than the kids, but I was grateful to have this book because some of the toddlers were getting restless after the two longer books, and the singing in this one seemed to draw them back in.  Alison Jackson also wrote the wonderful I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie, which is one of my Thanksgiving mainstays.


The Day it Rained Hearts by Felicia Bond (Amazon.com link)

One day just before Valentine’s Day, it starts raining hearts.  Cornelia Augusta catches several and uses them to make special Valentine’s for each of her animal friends: a ring of hearts for the dog; a heart with a cotton ball in the middle for the rabbit; a big heart with holes cut in it for the mouse.  This one was a great lead-in for the heart craft we did at the end.  I was planning to throw some small paper hearts like confetti, but I forgot.


Skidamarink-a-Dink-a-Dink: I like to teach the kids how to say “I Love You” in sign language, and we do that each time it comes up in the song.  Here’s a very trippy animated video of the song, with the lyrics in the subtitles.

Five Green and Speckled Frogs: We did this one after the Froggy book.  I have the kids stand up and jump up and down on the line, “One jumped into the pool.”  I often do this with a frog puppet, and pretend it is catching flies on the kids’ heads.   Here’s an animated video for this song.

If All the Raindrops:  We sang this song before The Day It Rained Hearts.  As I did last week, I asked the kids for suggestions of what they’d like the rain to be and we made up our own verses.  Our rain was made up of milkshakes, pie, cookies, and lots of other goodies.

INSTRUMENT PLAY WITH A CD: Who’s My Pretty Baby? by Elizabeth Mitchell from You Are My Little Bird (Amazon.com link)

CRAFT: Fun with Hearts

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Heart bracelet by Ella

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Heart person by Ella

I cut out paper hearts in all different sizes and colors, and gave the kids glue sticks, white cardstock, and markers.  I had made an example page featuring several types of heart animals, but in the end all the kids did different things, and it was great fun to see what they came up with.  One little girl even taped several pink hearts together and made me a bracelet, which I thought was a neat idea.

Hearts by Olivia

Hearts by Olivia


Nate the Great and the Mushy Valentine by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat and Marc Simont (Amazon.com link)

I read this one to the second graders, and it worked really well.  When Nate’s dog Sludge receives a mysterious Valentine, Nate is on the job to find out who sent it.  But then his friend Annie begs him to help her find the missing Valentine she made for her brother, giving him two cases at once.  In the end, Nate is horrified to discover that someone has given him a Valentine. The book includes a section of craft ideas, jokes, and facts about Valentine’s Day, which were fun to share with the class.

Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli; illustrated by Paul Yalowitz (Amazon.com link)

This was a nice counterpoint to the Nate the Great, although I have to tell myself several pages before the end not to get choked up.  It’s a lengthy picture book about a lonely man named Mr. Hatch, who has no friends or family, and keeps to himself.  Then one day the mailman delivers a big box of chocolates with a card that says, “Somebody Loves You!” and Mr. Hatch’s whole life changes.  Wondering who could have sent the chocolates, he reaches out to help people in his community, and bakes brownies for his neighbors.  When the mailman discovers that he accidentally delivered the package to the wrong address, Mr. Hatch goes back to his lonely ways, thinking nobody loved him after all.  But by then, of course, everybody does.

Lilly’s Chocolate Heart by Kevin Henkes (Amazon.com link)

Great board book for toddlers and preschoolers.  When Lilly gets a chocolate heart for Valentine’s Day, she wants to save it.  But there seem to be no good hiding places.  In the end, she finds the perfect place: in her mouth!

Be Mine, Be Mine, Sweet Valentine by Sarah Weeks and Fumi Kosaka (Amazon.com link)

Cute, rhyming lift the flap book featuring different animals giving each other the things they like best.  Preschoolers enjoy guessing what’s under the flap based on the animal and the rhyme: a bone for the dog, cream for the cat, etc.

What are your favorite picture books about Valentine’s Day?

It’s Raining, It’s Pouring: Stories About Rain

Rain books by Jonas and Alyssa

Rain books by Jonas and Alyssa

I’ve lived in the Bay Area now for almost 15 years, and I still don’t understand the weather.  The only things I know for certain are that it’s good to bring a jacket, even when it’s seventy degrees outside, because ten minutes from now it might be twenty degrees colder.  September is often hot.  June is often cold.  And winter is always rainy.  Until now.  Now the reservoirs are so low that we’ve all been urged to cut our water usage by twenty percent, and many towns across the state are in danger of running out of water entirely.

So, in lieu of a rain dance, I did a rain storytime.  The weather report now says it’s going to rain all this weekend, so maybe it worked!  Here’s what we read:


This is the Rain by Lola M. Schaefer; illustrated by Jane Wattenberg (Amazon.com link)

There’s a new goal in our library system to incorporate more nonfiction into storytimes, so I gave it a try tonight.  This book is actually a cumulative poem about the water cycle.  It starts with “This is the ocean, big and vast/that holds the rainwater from the past.”  Each page adds a new part of the cycle: water vapor, clouds, and then a depiction of water running down streams back into the ocean.  I had to explain some of the terminology, like “vapor,” and talk a bit about what was happening.  I don’t think it was the best book I could have chosen in terms of giving a clear explanation of what makes the rain, but the kids loved the illustrations!  Jane Wattenberg has filled the book with funny visual jokes: dinosaurs in the ocean (to represent the past); starfish in place of stars; birds holding umbrellas. The kids were all clambering around me, pointing and explaining over every page, and the book was quickly snatched up at the end.


Are You Ready to Play Outside? by Mo Willems (Amazon.com link)

Mo Willems makes my job so easy.  All of his books are so much fun to read aloud, but especially the Gerald and Piggie books.  They are written ostensibly as beginning readers, with very simple text, usually with a fair amount of repetition.  But they are also hilarious.  They are especially fun to read with a partner, and they would be perfect for small groups of kids to act out.  In this one, Piggie is upset when it starts raining, ruining her plans to play outside.  Then she and Gerald discover how much fun it can be to play in the rain… just as the rain stops.  Luckily, Gerald saves the day by creating a rain shower of his own.  I got lots of laughs over this one, and a small tugging match ensued at the end over who was going to get to check it out.


Rainy Day! by Patricia Lakin and Scott Nash (Amazon.com link)

This book also reads like a beginning reader, with simple, rhyming text.  Four crocodiles named Sam, Pam, Will and Jill are all bored on a rainy day.  They decide to go outside anyway, and wind up playing mini-golf and baseball (with hailstones!), finding a dog, and going to the library.  The kids liked the rabbit librarian, cowering in terror from the crocodiles.


The Patterson Puppies and the Rainy Day by Leslie Patricelli (Amazon.com link)

I brought this one out in my stack, but I hadn’t planned to read it because it was so similar to Rainy Day, but several of the kids spotted the cover and begged to hear it.  I was glad because it was a hit!  This book is about four puppies who are bored on a rainy day, who decide to pretend they are at the beach.  In the end, they pour water all over the living room floor, and have a wonderful time playing in the “ocean,” until their parents walk in the room…


If All the Raindrops

I used this song a lot when my daughter was a toddler, to get her to open her mouth for the toothbrush.  For storytime, I sang the first verse through normally, then asked the kids what they would like the snow and sunbeams to be.  We added their suggestions into the second and third verses, so we had sunbeams made of lemonade and butter (and hair!).   These are the original lyrics (click on the arrow above to hear the tune):

If all the raindrops
Were lemondrops and gumdrops
Oh, what a rain that would be!
Standing outside, with my mouth open wide
Ah Ah Ah Ah Ah Ah Ah Ah Ah Ah!
If all the raindrops were lemondrops and gumdrops,
Oh, what a rain it would be!

If all the snowflakes
Were candy bars and milkshakes…

If all the sunbeams
Were bubblegum and ice cream…

Making a Rain Storm

This is such a simple activity, but always fun.  I ask the kids to do what I’m doing in order to make a rainstorm.  First we rub our hands together, then click our tongues (to sound like drops of rain), then clap our hands, then slap our knees, then stomp our feet.  Finally I have them all stand up, and we all jump at the same time to make a thunderclap, and then we do all of the actions in reverse to make the rain “stop.”

CRAFT: Rain on the Green Grass Book

photo (72)Rain book by May

Rain book by Olivia

Rain book by Olivia

I got the idea of making a book from my coworker, Reeba Lynn.  I was almost kicking myself for not doing one earlier.  In Kindergarten, my son was so proud of his “keep box,” a little collection of simple paper books he made throughout the year.  And my daughter has made several similar books in her preschool class that she loves to read to me.

The book Reeba showed me had a more complicated rain poem, but I decided to do the nursery rhyme Rain on the Green Grass (Rain on the green grass/Rain on the tree/Rain on the rooftops/But not on ME!).  I cut out Reeba’s umbrella picture (there are lots of other ones online), and printed out the words to go on each page (here’s a Word document for the text: Rain on the green grass).  For the rest of the illustrations I cut out basic shapes from colored construction paper: jagged green strips for the grass; lumpy round green shapes for the treetops; brown strips for the tree trunk; red squares for the house; and blue triangles for the roof.  It did take a fair amount of prep, but I was able to do a lot of the cutting with the paper cutter.

I folded two sheets of white paper to make each book, and stapled them along the side.  I had an example for the kids to follow, and for the most part, they did a good job (there were a couple of kids who accidentally made their books read from left to right, but I explained that’s how books are made in Japan, so they could either read it that way, or consider it a whole new rhyme).  If I had more time, I would have glued the text on ahead of time, so they could just add the pictures.  I had them glue the umbrella on the cover, along with the title, “RAIN! by ________.”   Then they glued the text and pictures on each page, and added rain with markers.  For the last page (“But not on ME!”), I asked them to draw a picture of themselves.  Each book turned out a little bit differently, and they all seemed engaged by the process of making them.


There were lots of other books I could have read (I had originally planned to read the new California Young Reader Medal nominees, but some of the books didn’t come in time, so I had to change topics, and work with the rain books that were available in our small local branches).  Anyway, here are a few others:

Down Comes the Rain by Franklin Branley; illustrated by James Graham Hale (Amazon.com link)

Franklin Branley writes wonderfully clear science books for early elementary school children.  This one explains every step of the water cycle with a few simple science experiments to illustrate some of the concepts.

Storm is Coming! by Heather Tekavec; illustrated by Margaret Spengler (Amazon.com link)

When the animals on a small farm hear there’s a storm coming, they all think Storm must be a scary monster.  They hide in the barn in terror, and then are happy when wind, rain, lightning and thunder apparently scare Storm away.  Cute story with colorful illustrations.

Umbrella by Taro Yashima (Amazon.com link)

Such a sweet story, I wish I had been able to get it in time to share.  A little girl can’t wait to wear her new red rain boots and carry the umbrella she receives for her birthday, but her parents insist she has to wait for a rainy day.  It’s not only a lovely story about rain, but about the small steps kids take towards growing up.

Red Truck by Kersten Hamilton; illustrated by Valeria Petrone (Amazon.com link)

Perfect for toddlers, this is about a red tow truck who pulls a school bus from a deep puddle.  There are lots of fun truck noises for the kisd to join in on.

Cloudette by Tom Lichtenfeld (Amazon.com link)

A little cloud worries that she is not big enough to make a difference, until she finds her own way to save the day.   I’ve read this one several times, and the kids always love it.  The illustrations are adorable.

Come On, Rain! by Karen Hesse; illustrated by Jon J. Muth (Amazon.com link)

This one was a little too long for my group, but it sums up how I’ve been feeling through this dry winter.  A little girl in a hot city neighborhood can’t wait for the rain.  When it finally comes, she and her friends go out dancing in their bathing suits, and so do their mothers!

Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco (Amazon.com link)

This one was also a little too long, but it’s one of my favorite picture books.  A little girl is afraid of the thunder, until her grandmother teaches her how to make thunder cake.  I’ve never tried the recipe on the last page, but it looks delicious.  The story also teaches kids how to count the seconds between the lightning and thunder to see how close the storm is.  We very rarely get thunder here (I actually miss it!), but this is a lovely story about overcoming your fears.

It’s Raining, It’s Pouring by Kin Eagle; illustrated by Rob Gilbert (Amazon.com link)

An extended version of the nursery rhyme, featuring an old man in a wide variety of weather and precarious situations.  The illustrations are colorful and funny.  I’ve used this many times for baby and toddler storytimes.

The Aunts Come Marching by Maurie J. Manning (Amazon.com link)

A clever parody of the Ants Go Marching song (which would also have been a good one to include for storytime).  This is a counting book about a little girl and her aunts who go marching through town in the rain.  Lots of great drum noises, and fun to sing.

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

Confessions of a Library Thief


When I was 12 years-old, I stole a book from the middle school library.

It wasn’t a grand heist.  I didn’t shove it under a heavy sweater and scale the electronic gates like a ninja.  I doubt the library even had electronic gates.  I simply never returned the book, and when the school librarian asked about it, I swore up and down that I had brought it back.  And maybe because I was a good student, or maybe because my mother was a teacher, or maybe because she was tired of nagging students about overdue books: whatever the reason, she chose to believe me, and took it off my record.

The book was Beauty, a first person retelling of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley.  I couldn’t bear to return it.  It was my favorite book.

Thirteen years later, as a newly-minted children’s librarian in a public library, I was anxious to add Beauty to our juvenile fiction collection.  Since I was new and the branch was small, all of my purchases were screened, and I was not allowed to purchase an older title like Beauty.  Instead I bought a copy with my own money and sneaked it surreptitiously onto the shelves.  I then proceeded to rave about it to every middle grade girl who walked in the door.  It was like introducing an old friend.  I was so happy to see it getting checked out to this whole new generation of girls.

And then one of the little stinkers stole it.

One day it simply wasn’t there.    I hope whoever took it loved it as much as I did.  Maybe she became a librarian.  Karma truly is a bitch.

In any case, I now have my own copy (another one I bought for myself many years ago).  I’m saving it to give to my daughter when she’s old enough.  Already she asks me, whenever I read her a book, “Is this from the library?”  She hates returning books.  I know she’s not going to want to let this one go either.

There are many other books I am saving for her.   When I think about them as a group, I realize they are all about girls, and each of those girls became part of the girl I was hoping to be: part Pippi Longstocking (by Astrid Lindgren), strong and unflappable (the bag full of gold would also be nice); part Sara Crewe of A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, kind and stoical with a story for every situation; part Alanna of Trebond from the Song of the Lioness series by Tamora Pierce, a girl brave enough to disguise her identity in order to pursue her dream of becoming a knight.

I am sincerely enjoying my daughter’s preschool years, and dreading some of the times ahead that I know may be hard for both of us.  But I am itching to introduce her to my favorite books.  I hope that she loves and lives in them the way that I did.   Here are just a few:

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

I loved the movie The Wizard of Oz so much that in Kindergarten I told the teacher my name was Dorothy, and for a day or so (so I’m told) I refused to answer to any other name.   I blew through this whole series a few years later, and although I’ve forgotten a lot, I’ll never forget the startling ending of The Marvelous Land of Oz, the princess with thirty interchangeable heads in Ozma of Oz,  or Polychromethe, The Rainbow’s Daughter from The Road to Oz (I insisted on dressing as her for Halloween one year.  There was definitely no commercial costume available for that, but my mom kindly made me one.)

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

Another fantasy world I spent a lot of time in as a child was Narnia.  I loved the idea that the time spent there was like no time at all in our world, making it the best kind of escape.  Although the series has been rearranged since then, and now starts with The Magician’s Nephew, to me the wardrobe will always be the best way in.

Emily of New Moon by L. M. Montgomery

I will probably read Anne of Green Gables with my daughter first, because it’s so much funnier, and was definitely one of my favorite books too.  But I loved Emily Starr, a more serious, dreamy orphan who lives in her own stories, and has a mystical attachment to the natural world around her.  I wonder if my daughter will identify with her as much as I did, but I suspect she’ll be drawn more to fiery, spirited Anne, with her hilarious mishaps and rich imagination.

The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley

Winner of the 1985 Newbery Medal.  An unforgettable fantasy novel about Aerin Firehair, a king’s daughter who battles a dragon.  I loved this one almost as much as Beauty, and I had a crush on the the character of Luthe (one of the many fictional characters I pined after).

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

The Wizard Howl was another one of my literary crushes.  Plus this book made me laugh out loud.   A fairy tale about Sophie, the eldest of three daughters, who enrages the Witch of the Waste and is turned into an old woman.  I can’t tell you how many times I read this. I know it was a lot.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

I always loved mousy, brilliant Meg, and her genius brother Charles Wallace.  I was terrified by IT, the evil pulsating brain, and fascinated by the idea of the tesseract.  I think this was probably the first science fiction novel I read as I child.  It was a wonderful gateway into the genre, and one I will never forget.

These are just a few of the books that I read and reread and dreamed about. I don’t know if my daughter will have the same tastes in books that I do, and of course, there’s a whole world of new books out there to feed her imagination. But I’m hoping as she gets older she will love at least a few of my old friends, although I hope she is never compelled to steal one.

The Results Are In! Reading the 2014 Caldecott Award Winners


This past Monday, I woke up early to catch the ALA Youth Media Awards online.  I was most curious about the Caldecott Medal because I had promised to read the medal winner and the Caldecott honor books to two classes of third graders later that morning.

I’ll confess that I was a little dismayed by the results.  Yes, they were all wonderful choices, but the winning book was extremely wordy, and all three of the honor books were wordless, or nearly wordless.  Sharing wordless books with a large group is a bit of a challenge. But a promise is a promise, so I shared all four books with both classes that day, and with two classes of second graders later that week.

I was especially nervous about reading the Medal winner, Locomotive by Brian Floca.  It’s a mini-history lesson that recreates a trip from Omaha, Nebraska to Sacramento, California by train in the 19th century.  Floca packs an enormous amount of detail into the text, including how the railroad was built, how the train was operated, and the range of landscapes it passed through.  It’s too long to share with the toddler and preschool groups I usually read to, so I had never read it aloud to a group, and wasn’t sure if it would hold the kids’ interest.  I was relieved to find that it did.

Floca knows his audience well.  Amid all the facts about the train and the railroad, he throws in little details to grab kids’ attention.  All four classes were gleefully disgusted by the idea that the toilet dumped out onto the tracks, and that you could tell if a switchman (the man responsible for hitching the engine to the train) was new to his job if he still had all his fingers.  Floca also portrays visually the rickety terror of the narrow wooden trestles, the darkness of the rough-hewn mountain tunnels, and the dangers that could befall a train with a careless engineer.

By the time I read to the second grade, I was actually looking forward to sharing the journey.  I told the kids we were going to go on a train ride.  I showed them the map on the inside cover, illustrating how the track was built in two parts that met in Promontory Summit in Utah.  And then I read the book.  Along the way, we talked about the different landscapes, and what it would have been like to travel them by wagon before the railroad was built.  We talked about the telegraph, and what it meant to be able to send messages quickly across the country.

The kids seemed truly engaged by the book, exclaiming over the details, and asking questions about the illustrations and the current state of the railroad (I just read that most of the original track is gone, but parts of it are still in use.  Here’s a wikipedia article with a lot more detail).  But I wasn’t sure how the book had gone over until yesterday, when I ran into the mother of one of the second grade boys.  She said, “My son said you read the best book to his class!  Something about a locomotive.  He never tells me anything that happens in school, so it must have really made an impression on him.”

So kudos to Brian Floca for making history so exciting that kids even want to talk about it after school!


I did “read” the Caldecott Honor books to the classes as well, and they loved them.  They exclaimed over every page of Journey by Aaron Becker, a beautiful wordless story about a girl’s adventure with a magical red crayon.  I loved that in every class, around the fourth or fifth page, the light would dawn across the group, and they’d all start saying things like: “This is like…” “This reminds me of…”  “That book!”  “The kid with the purple crayon!”  And I’d have to stop while they put the pieces together, until finally someone would shout out, “Harold and the Purple Crayon!”  It was so much fun to see them making connections, and getting excited about the story as it unfolded.

My favorite part was when the bird brings the captured girl her red crayon, and she draws a rectangle on the floor of her cage.  “What is she drawing?” I asked.  “An escape hatch!” someone would shout.  “A door!” And then I’d turn the page, and as a class they would exclaim, “A flying carpet!” and you could hear the wonder and excitement in their voices.  Sharing this book made me feel like a magician.  I loved every minute of it.


Since the kids had been sitting for a while by now, for Molly Idle’s Flora and the Flamingo I had them stand up and try to emulate the motions of the flamingo, the way the little girl in the book does.  This got lots of giggles, especially when they had to put their heads between their legs, the part that makes the little girl fall down. This is a charming book, especially for fans of ballet, and several kids (admittedly mostly girls) said it was their favorite.


All four classes loved Mr. Wuffles by David Wiesner.  I explained that David Wiesner had won the Caldecott Medal three times already (for Tuesday, The Three Pigs, and Flotsam) and a Caldecott Honor for Sector 9.  Clearly he knows what he’s doing.  Mr. Wuffles is a comic book-style story about a spaceship full of tiny green aliens who nearly fall prey to a big black-and-white cat named Mr. Wuffles.  The portrayal of the cat, who disdains all of his actual toys, but torments the poor aliens, is spot on.  The kids loved the confab between the aliens and the ants, who plot out an escape plan together.  And it’s fascinating to think about an ant civilization, complete with history that they record on the walls.  I wasn’t sure if I would be able to convey the story to such a large group, since there is so much tiny detail in the illustrations, but they loved it.

At the end of the classes, I asked them to vote on the book they liked the best.  All the books had several votes, but Mr. Wuffles was the clear winner.  Granted, I had read that one last, so it was freshest in their memories.  But I figure David Wiesner is kind of the Meryl Streep of the Caldecott Awards.  We all know everything he does is award-worthy, but they can’t give him the award every year.

Anyway, in spite of my trepidation at sharing what seemed like four challenging books, the kids loved all of them, and I ended up having a blast.  Many thanks to the members of this year’s Caldecott Award Selection Committee!