On the Go: A Storytime About Vehicles

At the end of last week’s storytime at the park, we were startled when two deer came running towards our picnic area, followed by a garbage truck. The kids were briefly excited by the deer, but they were absolutely enthralled by the garbage truck, and sat spellbound as it picked up a dumpster and emptied it. So this week, I decided to do a storytime about trucks.

Here’s what we did:


No Honking Allowed by Stephanie Calmenson; illustrated by AntonGionata Ferrari

I was originally planning to read Trashy Town by Andrea Zimmerman, but I couldn’t get hold of a second copy (since the families are spread out pretty far apart, we usually try to have a second copy to hold up, to make sure all the kids can see the pictures). This book was a fun alternative. Rex, the dinosaur, really wants to honk his car horn, and keeps trying to find excuses to do it, but his friend points out the sign that says “No Honking Allowed…Except for Safety.” Finally, an opportunity arises: a fire truck can’t get through the traffic. Rex eagerly honks to let the other cars know. Still, he can’t resist honking just a bit more. The kids enjoyed joining in on all of the “Honks!”

Bulldozer’s Big Day by Candace Fleming; illustrated by Eric Rohman

It’s Bulldozer’s birthday, but no one seems to remember or even be interested, until suddenly all his friends start making noise, and pull out an enormous cake. This book features lots of popular construction vehicles, and opportunities for the kids to join in on the motions: scooping, lifting, etc. Always a hit!

The Mixed-Up Truck by Stephen Savage

Short and sweet (literally!), this is a cute story about a cement mixer that keeps mixing up the wrong white powder. He mixes flour into a giant cake, and sugar into frosting before he finally gets it right.


Five Dinosaurs by Nancy Stewart

This is a really fun song I learned from another librarian years ago, and it fit perfectly with No Honking Allowed. Here’s a YouTube video with the tune:

[C] There were five dinosaurs, [F] driving in cars,
[C] Having a really good [G7] time.
They said, [C] “We’ll step on the gas, and [F] go really fast!”
And they [C] did…until one [G7] had a flat [C] tire.
Ka-thunk! Ka-thunk! Ka-thunk! Ka-thunk!
She said, “Go on without me!”

Then there were four dinosaurs…

Repeat, until the last dinosaur has a flat tire, then say,

“She said, ‘I know! I’ll fix the tire! and then I’ll pick up all my friends!”

Then there were five dinosaurs,
Riding in a car, having a really good time.
They said, “Step on the gas, and go really fast!”
And they did, and down the road they went flying.


Hurry, Hurry, Drive the Fire Truck!

This one is always a lot of fun, especially if you have time to repeat the whole song and sing it faster. I usually have the kids pretend to put on their fire fighter gear, and then we slide down the pole before climbing into the truck. There are lots of different versions, but these are the words I use. Here’s a video from Kiboomers with the tune.

Hurry, Hurry, Drive the fire truck!
Hurry, Hurry, Drive the fire truck!
Hurry, Hurry, Drive the fire truck!
Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding!

Hurry, Hurry, Spray the water…

Hurry, Hurry, Climb the ladder…

Hurry, Hurry, Save the kitty cat…

Hurry, Hurry, Back to the station…

My Garbage Truck

I wrote this one to use as an instrument play-along at the end, but you can also just sing it and come up with your own motions. You can also invent your own verses with your favorite vehicles.

[C] Don’t you want to drive my garbage truck,
My [G7] garbage truck, my [C] garbage truck?
We’ll drive around town and collect the muck,
And [G7] come back home for [C] tea.

Don’t you want to drive my concrete mixer,
Concrete mixer, concrete mixer?
If the sidewalk’s cracked, we’ll be there to fix her,
And come back home for tea.

Don’t you want to ride in a [C] big machine,
With the [G7] biggest wheels that you’ve [C] ever seen,
We’ll build new roads, and keep [C] them clean,
And [G7] come back home for [C] tea.

Don’t you want to drive my excavator,
Excavator, excavator?
Dig a hole in the ground like a great big crater,
And come back home for tea.

Don’t you want to drive my giant crane,
My giant crane, my giant crane?
We’ll lift beams high as an aeroplane,
And come back home for tea.

Don’t you want to ride in a big machine,
With the biggest wheels that you’ve ever seen?
We’ll build new walls, and keep streets clean,
And come back home for tea.

Don’t you want to drive my fire engine,
Fire engine, fire engine?
We’ll rush to fires with our loud siren
Until it’s time for tea.

Don’t you want to drive my big tow truck,
My big tow truck, My big tow truck?
We’ll help people out when their cars get stuck,
And come back home for tea?

Don’t you want to ride in a big machine,
With the biggest wheels that you’ve ever seen?
We keep you safe, and make streets clean,
And come back home for tea.

Stay and Play: Paper Plate Cars

I got this idea from Glued to My Crafts, who made theirs a Garbage Truck. Basically, you cut a paper plate in half, then cut off the top right corner to make a car or truck shape. I also cut out wheels from construction paper and hole-punched them ahead of time, then provided brass fasteners to hold them on (I provided tape to tape down the ends of the fasteners, so they wouldn’t poke the kids while they were playing with them). The kids had a great time decorating them, and love the spinning wheels.


Double-Booked: The Challenge of Modern Libraries

A display of DVDs and 3D-Printed objects created by my coworker, Steven Wong, to promote our library’s free 3D Printing Service.

Every time I tell my Dad over the phone that I have to go to work, he says, “Is this real work or play time?” It’s an irritating question, since it’s all “real work” to me (even though I enjoy it), but I can see how he might be a bit perplexed to see me stuffing Take and Make bags with pom-poms and yarn for kids to make into mobiles, or sewing a sample felt sloth stuffed animal for an After School STEAM Program for elementary school kids.

As a youth services librarian working primarily in small branches, my job has always been this way: tracking down historic documents for a local researcher one minute, kissing a live pig in front of a crowd of shrieking children the next. But over the past twenty years or so, the rise of digital resources has added even more complexity to my profession. Increasingly, public libraries have become the only remaining bridge across the ever-expanding digital divide. Now, on top of helping someone find the latest James Patterson novel, or helping a student locate books on Martin Luther King, Jr., we have patrons with no computer experience and no email address suddenly discovering that almost every job requires them to fill out an application online.

Then came the pandemic, when almost every aspect of library services had to be reevaluated and re-created in a new form. There was suddenly a massive demand for our e-book and e-audiobook collections, which required hours of troubleshooting with patrons via phone, text, email, and even Zoom (I now have a LOT more respect for people who work in call centers). But we also got calls from people needing help with more pressing problems, like the man whose driver’s license was about to expire, even though the DMV was closed. He called the DMV helpline, but just got a recording directing him to a web site he couldn’t access, since he had no computer.

Before the pandemic, we had offered laptops and WiFi hotspots for patrons to check out. But suddenly the demand for them far exceeded our limited supply, with everyone suddenly needing the Internet for almost everything. In the meantime, we were trying to fill the same role of promoting early-literacy that we always had, by providing storytimes, author events, book clubs, and other programs, but this time over Zoom. Instead of offering art and science workshops in the library, we bundled materials up in bags for families to pick up from our curbside table, and follow along with video instructions on YouTube.

Now that our buildings are open again, we are struggling to balance these new services with our old ones, while trying to navigate the ups and downs of the new COVID variants. We have been offering outdoor storytimes outside our libraries or in local parks, while still providing virtual ones for families who are concerned about the risk of illness, or unable to get to the branch. We are also back to in-person science workshops (also outdoors), but with limits on the number of attendees, so we are continuing to offer Take-and-Make kits to allow more kids to participate. In the meantime, virtual author programs (both for kids and adults) have become incredibly popular, because they allow us to bring in major authors we could never afford to host in person, and to accommodate much larger audiences.

We also struggle to balance the ever-growing digital realm with our traditional offerings. Our web site provides patrons with a dizzying variety of resources: e-books; audiobooks; movies and TV episodes; downloadable music and comedy albums; online courses; journal, magazine, and newspaper articles; language-learning software; museum and zoo passes; genealogy databases, and live homework help. In the tech-driven Bay Area, these resources do get lots of use, but we have many patrons who still depend on our books on CD, CDs, and DVDs, and physical copies of books, magazines and newspapers. And these patrons are often our most regular visitors to the library, while we may never see the ones who exclusively rely on e-media.

For years, I’ve seen posts or heard comments about how the Internet has made libraries obsolete. I’ve even heard people say there’s no need to visit libraries because you can buy all your books on Amazon. To which I would reply, sure, if you have the money you can definitely do that, but why would you? Especially if you are a parent trying to keep your kids supplied with picture books, which they might enjoy one time for ten or fifteen minutes. Libraries also provide free access to the millions of Americans who still lack high-speed Internet access at home, as well as training on how to use the Internet resources they need for work, education, healthcare and more. And we provide training and access to other types of equipment as well, including 3D-Printers, sewing machines, bicycles, ukuleles, home energy kits, and sewing machines.

A few weeks ago, I helped a patron who was looking for market research for a product she was hoping to sell. As I showed her the different databases we had available, and how to use them, she said, “Thank you so much for helping me. There’s just too much information online, and I have no idea where to look.” That, to me, summed up the one of the primary roles of libraries in the 21st century. We’ve always been in the business of curating information, but now, in a world where typing a search term into Google will give you billions of hits (millions of which are irrelevant, false, outdated, or trying to sell you something), the library provides free access to resources that have been selected for their reliability and accuracy, and people to guide you through them.

Meanwhile, the parts of my job I enjoy the most –finding answers to questions, performing weekly storytimes, and finding books for patrons– all remain basically the same. They may be more complex, with the addition of ebooks and other technologies, but at its core, the job is still about helping people, and that’s something that hopefully will never change.

Everyone Counts: A Musical Storytime about Numbers

COVID cases are rising in the Bay Area due to Omicron, so last week our library administration made the painful decision to cancel indoor programs, including our toddler storytimes. I was happy to still be able to hold our Outdoor Musical Storytime today, especially since the weather was beautiful at San Pedro Valley Park. It all felt pretty safe, with families doing a great job of social distancing and masking, and we made an effort to spread the craft supplies out across many different picnic tables for the Stay and Play. It’s such a surreal time to be working in libraries right now, or really anywhere, but it was great to see my regular families for the first time since the holidays (we had to cancel last week due to rain).

Today I did a counting theme, which was a lot of fun. Here’s what we did:


Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by Eric Litwin; illustrated by James Dean

This is my second favorite Pete the Cat book, after I Love My White Shoes. Pete loves his shirt with the four colorful, groovy buttons so much that he has to sing about it. The trouble is, the buttons keep popping off and rolling away. But not to worry, when all the buttons are gone, Pete has one button he can always count on: his belly button! I only had one copy of the book today, so I made a Pete the Cat out of paper, with big paper buttons that my coworker, Claire, could remove as she followed along with the story. The kids loved it!

One-osaurus, Two-osaurus by Kim Norman; illustrated by Pierre Collet-Derby

This is such a cute book! Nine dinosaurs are playing hide-and-seek, until Ten-osaurus Rex comes looking for them. The kids loved the ROAR! midway through, and the surprise at the end, when Ten-osaurus Rex turns out to be just a small yellow dinosaur. The book ends with the dinosaurs playing Simon Says, so I followed up the book with a quick round of Simon Says with the kids.

Sleep Train by Jonathan London; illustrated by Lauren Eldridge

This is a beautiful book about a young boy counting cars on a train to help him get to sleep. The kids especially liked the cattle car, and the “Mooooo-Mooooo! Chooooo-Choooooo!” page.



As usual, this was my opening song, but it worked especially well with the theme. I always do a verse that goes “Put your finger on your knee…Now can you count to three?” We count to three in English, and then I ask the participants what other languages they can count to three in. It’s always amazing how many different languages we get. Today we had Thai, Hindi, Cantonese, Italian, Russian, and Spanish. Here’s a link to a version performed by Miss Nina, which uses different lyrics, but the same tune. These are the lyrics I use:

[C] Put your finger in the air, in the air,
Put your finger in the air, in the [G7] air,
Put your [C] finger in the air,
And now [F] hide it in your hair,
[C] Put your finger in the [G7] air, in the [C] air.

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

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

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

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


This is a wonderful, easy song in Spanish about making hot chocolate. I usually do it two or three times, and we take time to pour the hot chocolate, add whipped cream or marshmallows, and then blow on it to cool it down (I usually make a big show about accidentally blowing whipped cream on one of the kids, which they think it hilarious). Here’s a YouTube video from Babelzone with the tune:

Uno, dos, tres, cho;
uno, dos, tres, co;
uno, dos, tres, la;
uno, dos, tres, te.
¡Chocolate! ¡Chocolate!

¡Bate! ¡Bate! ¡El chocolate!


I did this one with the Monkey Mitt, which came with five bright yellow ducks that stick to the glove with Velcro. The ducks got a big “Awww!” when I pulled them out. Most of the families already knew this song. I do the Raffi version, which you can find here.


I used this one as an instrument play-along, after reading Sleep Train. This is one of my favorite storytime songs, because I love hearing the kids’ suggestions about where they want to go. Today we went to Mexico, Disneyland, the zoo, and Granny’s house. The song (by Elizabeth Cotten) has an amazing history, although I do the more kid-friendly Elizabeth Mitchell version. Here are the lyrics and uke chords I use:

[C] Freight train, freight train, [G7] going so fast.

[G7] Freight train, freight train, [C] going so fast.

[E7]Please don’t tell what [F] train I’m on,

So they [C] won’t know [G7] where I’ve [C] gone.

Going to Mexico, going so fast!

Going to Mexico, going so fast!

Please don’t tell what train I’m on,

So they won’t know where I’ve gone.


For the Stay and Play, I printed out blank snowmen (template below) on cardstock, then put out markers, gluesticks, buttons, and googly eyes, for the kids to decorate (and hopefully count their buttons at home). This was a big hit, with parents as well as kids. Who doesn’t love buttons?

What are your favorite counting books or songs? Please share them in the comments.