On The Dot: A Peter H. Reynolds Storytime

Dot Art by Addie

Dot Art by Addie

This storytime was inspired by local mom and teacher, Laura Hoffmann, who shared pictures of her own wonderful Dot Party over the summer.  Since I’ve been doing a series of author-themed storytimes lately, I decided to focus on the books of Peter H. Reynolds.  The kids loved all the books, and the craft was so easy and fun!

the dot

The Dot (Amazon.com link)

When Vashti draws a simple dot on a piece of paper to prove to her teacher that she can’t draw, her teacher tells her to sign it.  Later Vashti is surprised to see her dot hanging on the wall in a gold frame, and decides that she can make better dots than that.  Soon she is making dots of all different colors and sizes, until she has an entire dot exhibit.  And when a boy comes up to tell her he can’t draw, she makes him draw a line to prove it, and then tells him to sign it.  The kids were mesmerized by this book, and it quickly disappeared as soon as I set it down.

sky color

Sky Color (Amazon.com link)

Marisol is an artist. When her class is assigned to paint a mural, she announces that she will paint the sky.  The problem is that she can’t find any blue paint.  All the way home on the bus, Marisol watches the sky, which is a brilliant yellow.  That evening the sky is red and orange and purple as the sun sets, and she dreams of a sky filled with even more colors.  The next day, a gray-green rainy one, Marisol mixes her own color and paints a beautiful sky.  This is a terrific book for storytime.  The kids loved the illustrations, and enjoyed naming the colors on each page.  It was snatched up right away at the end.

so few of me

So Few of Me (Amazon.com link)

This one was a departure from the art theme.  Leo is overwhelmed by the list of things he has to do.  He wishes that there were two of him, and, to his surprise, another Leo knocks at the door.  Unfortunately, the other Leo has even more things to get done, so they need the help of even more Leos.  But even ten Leos are not enough.  The original Leo, exhausted, takes a moment to rest and dream.  He decides that he can do less, and do his best, and all the other Leos disappear.  Great book for busy Bay Area families, including my own.  It got swooped up by a boy who seemed anxious to get hold of it before anyone else did.


Ish (Amazon.com link)

Ish, Sky Color, and The Dot all comprise an art-themed series called The Creatrilogy.  In Ish, Ramon loves to draw, until his older brother laughs at his vase picture.  Ramon becomes increasingly dissatisfied with all of his drawings, crumpling them up one by one.  Just as he is about to give up drawing altogether, his little sister Marisol runs off with his crumpled drawing.  Ramon is surprised to see that Marisol has covered the walls of her room with all of his discarded artwork.  When he complains that his vase picture doesn’t look right, Marisol says it is “vase-ish.”  Realizing he can make “ish” art sets Ramon free to draw whatever he wants, even feelings.  He even writes “ish-poems.” This a wonderful book to lead off creative exercises for any age, and like all the other books, it was immediately checked out.


Rainbow ‘Round Me

I learned this song from retired children’s librarian Connie Mills.  I think it was composed by a songwriter named Ruth Pelham, although I’m not sure if the version I know is exactly the same as her original.  We sang it after reading Sky Color, even though the words contradict the book’s message that the sky isn’t always blue (but for that matter, the grass outside my window is brown right now because of the drought).  I asked the kids to suggest things they might see outside their window, and they went wild.  We had a green dinosaur, a white polar bear, a gray narwhal, and a black-and-white zebra.

Here are the words as I usually sing them, along with the ukulele chords in parentheses.  Click on the triangle to hear the song:


When I look outside my window, (D, A)
There’s a world of color I see. (A, D)
Fiddle-dee-dee, outside my window (D, G, D)
There’s a world of color I see. (A, D)

Rainbow, rainbow, rainbow ’round me. (G, D, A, D)
Rainbow, rainbow, rainbow ’round me. (G, D, A, D)

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


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


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


CRAFT: Dot Art and Drawing

Drawings by Olivia

Drawing by Olivia

This was probably the easiest craft I’ve ever done, since I just gave the kids Do a Dot Art Markers, paint, crayons, pencils, markers, and white paper and told them to make whatever they wanted.  Most of them made their own dot creations, but one girl decided to draw instead.  They were all completely absorbed, and it was so much fun to see the variety of pictures they created.

Dot Art and Drawing by Shelby

Dot Art and Drawing by Shelby

Dot Art by Paxton

Dot Art by Paxton

Dot Art by Joaquin

Dot Art by Joaquin

Dot Art by Millie

Dot Art by Millie


Avast! A Pirate Storytime for Booklubbers

In honor of Talk Like a Pirate Day on September 19, we read books about pirates this week. I opened with some pirate words from TalkLikeaPirate.com, and told my favorite pirate joke: “What is a pirate’s favorite letter?” Inevitably someone guessed “R!” to which I replied, “Ah, yeh’d think it’d be R, but it’s really the C they love!” One dad responded to my joke with one of his own, “How do you know Olivia (his daughter) is a pirate?” “Because when she got her ears pierced, it cost a buck-an-ear!”

Here are the books we read:


Pirate Pete’s Talk Like a Pirate by Kim Kennedy; illustrated by Pete Kennedy (Amazon.com link)

Pirate Pete and his parrot are interviewing scallywags for their crew. Though many of them can fire a cannon, have eyepatches and are good at stealing treasure, not one of them can talk like a pirate. This one was fun to read aloud, since I not only got to “talk pirate” but trot out a lot of very “posh” voices too. The kids liked chiming in on the repeated line: “But you can’t talk like a pirate!”


Bubble Bath Pirates by Jarrett J. Krosoczka (Amazon.com link)

This was the perfect follow-up to Pirate Pete’s Talk Like a Pirate, because it was short, and gave the kids a chance to talk like pirates themselves. Three pirate boys are ordered to take a bath by their pirate mom. “Arghh!” cry the little pirates. The bath time consists of lots of pirate phrases: “Blimey!” “Shiver Me Timbers!” and “Walk the Plank!” among others. The storytime kids also enjoyed counting down from 5 to 1 as the pirates pull the plug in the tub. And they liked the “treasure” at the end: chocolate fudge ice cream. This is one of the few pirate picture books that is short enough for toddlers, and it is always a hit.

dirty joe

Dirty Joe the Pirate by Bill Harley and Jack E. Davis (Amazon.com link)

I love this book, even though I can’t read it half as well as my former manager, Thom Ball, who does the best pirate voice. Dirty Joe is a dreadful pirate who roams the seas in search of dirty socks, until he tries to take on Stinky Annie, a pirate who steals underpants. The rhymed verse is clever and hilarious, and there’s a great twist at the end. The parents laughed at this one too.


How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long; illustrated by David Shannon

When pirates land on the beach, they invite little Jeremy Jacob to join them to help them bury their treasure. At first, Jeremy loves being a pirate: there are no vegetables, no manners, and no bedtimes. But there are also no bedtime stories and no one to comfort him when a huge storm threatens the ship. Fun, engaging story, with lots of opportunities for the kids to echo pirate phrases. It was the perfect lead-in to my treasure map activity.


When I Was One

I learned this song from my coworker Christina Olsen, and I’ve used it lots of times. I’ve even adapted it for space themes, and changed it to “When I was one, I had some fun, when I flew to outer space. I met a big green alien, with eight eyes on his face.” In any case, it’s a fun action song that gives the kids a chance to suggest rhymes. I usually sing it unaccompanied, but it’s easy to play on the ukulele with C and G7. Click on the triangle for the tune:

When I was one, I had some fun, (C)
When I travelled out to sea. (C G7)
I jumped aboard a pirate ship (G7)
And the captain said to me. (C G7)

He said, Go this way! (lean right) (C)
That way! (lean left) (C)
Forward! (lean forward) (C)
Backward! (lean backward) (C)
When you travel out to sea!” (G7 C)

I asked the kids to come up with a rhyme for “two” for the next verse. One girl suggested “Boo!” so I sang, “When I was two, a ghost said, ‘Boo!’ When I travelled out to sea!” For three we had “I climbed a tree,” for four “I slammed a door!” and for five “I took a dive!” Sometimes it takes a while for the kids to come up with rhymes, but this group was really quick.


I love this song. I learned it in Girl Scouts when I was a kid. At camp we would often make “barges” by melting birthday candles onto pieces of bark, then lighting them and sending them out into the lake while we sang the song. I suppose it might have been a fire hazard, but I always loved it. There are a lot of additional verses online, but here are the lyrics I use. Click on the triangle for the tune. On the ukulele, you can play it by cycling through C, F, and G7 all the way through the song:

Out of my window, looking through the night, (C F G7)
I can see the barges flickering light. (C F G7 C)
Softly flows the river to the sea (C F G7)
And the barges too go silently. (C F G7 C)

Barges, I would like to go with you. (C F G7)
I would like to sail the ocean blue. (C F G7 C)
Barges, have you treasures in your hold? (C F G7)
Do you fight with pirates brave and bold? (C F G7 C)

Out of my window, looking through the night,
I can see the barges flickering light.
Carrying their cargo out into the sea,
How I wish that someday they’d take me.


ACTIVITY: Treasure Map


I had done this activity once before for a Map-themed storytime at our other branch. The picture above is actually from that library. I hand drew the map and copied it onto tan paper. I crumpled up each copy before spreading it out again to give it to the kids. I made signs to mark tables with names like Ship-Shape Shelter, Parrot Paradise, Mermaid Isle, and Dragon Isle.

The map included an instruction to “Stop and Say, ‘Arrrr!'” at the circulation desk (I don’t think I warned my coworkers about that, but they’re usually very forgiving of my weekly mayhem). I hid the treasure in the 910.4 area of the nonfiction section (the Dewey Decimal number for pirates and shipwrecks). I used my daughter’s Playmobil Pirate Chest (yes, I plundered her toy closet), and filled it with toy gold coins and spyglasses (extending telescopes) from Oriental Trading Company. Each child was allowed to take one coin and one spyglass.

The Treasure!

The Treasure!

The innovation I added this week was throwing in a craft at the table near the “Storytime Cove,” for the kids to do while I hid the treasure and put the signs around the library to mark different landmarks. My coworker Angela Luis had given me an ice cream craft, with colorful pictures of different flavored ice cream for the kids to stack on paper cones (I don’t know where she got it, but it was very cute). It didn’t exactly fit the theme, although I labelled the table “Isle of Ice Cream” to tie it in. I think if I do it again, I will have the kids make hooks out of aluminum foil and plastic cups, a craft they have enjoyed in the past. (There’s an example of this, along with several other pirate crafts on the Summer Camp for Kids site).

Ice Cream Cone Craft on the Isle of Ice Cream

Ice Cream Cone Craft on the Isle of Ice Cream

isle ice

All and all, it was a fun evening, and the kids were excited about the treasure hunt. I think next year, I may add more “islands” with even more craft stations.

What are your favorite pirate books?

The Very Busy Author: In Honor of Eric Carle

Seahorse by Addie

Seahorse by Addie

I got my first library job the summer of my freshman year at Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts.  One afternoon, I just happened to stumble into the Jones Library (a lovely public library in town with a vast children’s collection), and even though I was already working as an intern for the local paper, I asked the woman at the children’s desk if they had any jobs available.

I have no idea why I did that, and even less of an idea why they hired me, but for the next three years I worked in the children’s room: checking out books, answering questions, shelving, filing cards in the card catalog (yes, I am THAT old!), and shelf-reading.  It was baffling to me that I was getting paid to be there, because I loved every minute of it.  And one day, after an arduous meeting with my thesis advisor, I was so relieved to get to my library shift, that I realized in a rush that this was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

I haven’t been back to Amherst since 2001, which means I just missed the opening of The Eric Carle Museum there. I would love to visit it, especially since it hosts so many wonderful children’s authors and exhibits.  And I would love to meet Eric Carle himself, who was always one of my childhood favorites (I especially loved The Grouchy Ladybug.  and I whacked that whale’s tale at the end so many times that it eventually ripped off).

As I kid, I don’t think I ever appreciated the genius of Eric Carle, specifically how each of his books teaches something: the days of the week, how to tell time, how a spider builds a web, etc.  The repeated words and phrases also make his books great for beginning readers.  But all that is like spinach secretly hidden in a batch of chocolate chip cookies (which apparently is a thing!).  You don’t even notice it, because the story is fun to read, and the illustrations are irresistible.

So last week’s family storytime was in honor of Eric Carle.  Here is what we read:


The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse (Amazon.com link)

Based on the art of Franz Marc, who was famous for his paintings of blue horses, this book shows a boy describing his unusual animal paintings: a red crocodile, a yellow cow, a black polar bear, a polka dotted donkey, etc.  It’s simple enough for toddlers to enjoy, but fun for all ages.  Kids love books that break the rules, and this one gives them permission to go out and paint their own wild creations.  Two first grade girls vied to check this one out in the end.


The Very Hungry Caterpillar (Amazon.com link)

I had to read this one, and not just because my daughter is raising caterpillars at home right now.  When my son was born, my former boss from Amherst sent me a board book copy of this from the Eric Carle Museum.  Both of my kids have always loved it.  They especially enjoy sticking their fingers through the holes on each page.  It’s a naturally interactive read-aloud, since you can ask kids to name the foods the caterpillar ate each day, and to chime in every time you say, “But he was still hungry.”  The kids at storytime were all excited to see it, even though (or maybe especially because) most of them had a copy at home.


Mister Seahorse (Amazon.com link)

When Mrs. Seahorse deposits her eggs in Mister Seahorse’s pouch, he proudly swims around meeting other fish fathers, who each have their own way of guarding their offspring: carrying their eggs in their mouths or on top of their heads.  But there are many other fish he doesn’t see, because of their clever ways of hiding.  The camouflaged fish are revealed behind clear plastic “peek-a-book” pages (as a kid, I was fascinated by the Human Body section of the World Book Encyclopedia, where you could flip the transparent pages to see the layers of bones, organs and muscles.  I would have loved this book for the same reason).  A great book for teaching about ocean life and camouflage.  One girl asked why the baby seahorses swim away from their father as soon as they are born, which led to an interesting discussion about instinct.


The Secret Birthday Message (Amazon.com link)

A mysterious message provides shape-themed clues leading to a birthday surprise.  Fun, simple, adventure that would be great lead-in to a scavenger hunt, or a unit on maps or shapes.


A House for Hermit Crab (Amazon.com link)

Another ocean-themed book, this one about a hermit crab who has outgrown his shell.  He finds a new one, but is dismayed that it is so plain, so as he travels, he asks other creatures to attach to his shell and make it more decorative.  Lovely way to learn about a variety of ocean animals and the names of the months.


I Bought Me a Rooster

To go along with The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse, we sang this song, and I asked the kids to supply silly animal and color combinations: purple dog, rainbow horse, etc.  Here are the words with the ukulele chords (click on the triangle for the tune):

I bought a yellow rooster and the rooster pleased me
C G7
I fed my rooster on the bayberry tree
My yellow rooster goes, “Cock-a-doodle doo!
C F G7 C
Dee Doodle, Dee Doodle, Dee Doodle, Dee Doo!”

I bought a purple dog and the purple dog pleased me
I fed my purple dog on the bayberry tree
My purple dog goes “Woof! Woof! Woof!”
My yellow rooster goes, “Cock-a-doodle doo!
Dee Doodle, Dee Doodle, Dee Doodle, Dee Doo!”

If All the Raindrops

We sang this one after The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and the kids suggested foods to be the rain, including popsicles and chocolate:

If all the raindrops
G7                           C
Were lemondrops and gumdrops
C                                                 G7
Oh, what a rain that would be!
C                G7                           C                    G7
Standing outside, with my mouth open wide
C                 G7               C                 G7
Ah Ah Ah Ah Ah Ah Ah Ah Ah Ah!
C                                           G7                           C
If all the raindrops were lemondrops and gumdrops,
C                   G7                     C
Oh, what a rain it would be!

CRAFT: Dot Paint Seahorse

Seahorse by Olivia

Seahorse by Olivia

Seahorse by Shelby

Seahorse by Shelby

I printed out a seahorse template from this web site. I was originally going to have the kids glue scraps of colored tissue paper on the seahorse, but I ended up letting them use Do A Dot Markers instead, which was far less messy.  They had a great time playing with the different colors.  I liked that one little girl said her dots were the seahorse’s eggs.  Another used the Dot Markers to color in the whole seahorse, which isn’t easy to do.  A third used regular markers to add seaweed.

What is your favorite Eric Carle book?