The New Frontier: Interactive Virtual Storytimes

Last week, my coworker Angela and I performed our first “live” interactive virtual storytime via Zoom.

For the first time since March, we could actually see the kids and they could see us.

I was surprisingly nervous, even though prior to the shutdown, I used to regularly perform six or more live storytimes a week. But technology adds a whole new level of unpredictability. Now, on top of my recurring nightmare of being faced with a large crowd of toddlers with nothing to read but The Grapes of Wrath, I now had to worry about Zoom bombers, Internet outages, glitches with our ebook databases, and any number of other problems completely out of our control.

But thankfully the Internet gods were kind, and we had a wonderful coworker (Darren) managing all of the nitty gritty techical challenges of muting and unmuting, and monitoring the chat. We had a large and enthusiastic audience of kids, and we all had a blast.

Here’s how we did it:

In order to reduce the risk of Zoom bombers, and also to comply with COPPA (the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act), we required participants to register in advance, and verify that children under the age of 13 would be participating with an adult. Advertising went out over social media (Facebook and Instagram) a week in advance, although it was really the email newsletter that went out to our patrons that brought in the most sign-ups.

On the morning of the program, we logged on to our Zoom meeting about an hour in advance to make sure all of our ebooks were loading properly, run through songs, adjust the lighting, and gather props. We kept everyone in the Zoom waiting room until the program started, although I sent a message to them saying that they could rename themselves if they didn’t want their full name or their child’s full name on the screen.

Once we let the audience in to the meeting, we spent a few minutes explaining to the families how to mute and unmute, and how to set the Zoom meeting to Speaker view, so the kids could see me or Angela when we were talking. Mostly Darren managed muting throughout the storytime, which was a bit of a challenge, since muting everyone meant that Angela and I were temporarily muted too, but only for few seconds.

We also asked the kids to find some kind of cloth (dish towel, small blanket, wash cloth, etc.) and something to make noise with (paper cups, pots and pans, keys, etc.) to use in different parts of the storytime.

We kept the kids muted while we read the books and sang the songs, but we would unmute them in between. For many of the songs, we asked for suggestions of motions we could do, or animals to sing about. These were the books and songs we used:

Opening Song: Do As I’m Doing

This is a really simple action song, which worked well in the virtual setting. We asked the kids to suggest different motions (twirling, jumping, etc.), which they demonstrated on video. Some of the actions involved the cloth that we asked the kids to gather at the beginning (twirling the cloth, throwing it in the air, etc., basically the same kinds of things we used to do with play scarves in our regular storytimes). I played it on the ukulele, while Angela demonstrated the motions. Here are the chords and lyrics.

[C] Do as I’m doing, follow, follow [G7] me.

[C] Do as I’m doing, follow, [G7] follow [C] me.

[C] Follow, [G7] follow, [F] follow [C] me.

[F] Follow, [C] follow, [G7] follow [C] me.

Follow, [G7] follow, [F] follow [C] me,

[F] Follow, [C] follow, [G7] follow [C] me.

Song: If You’re Happy and You Know It

We added verses for different emotions: If you’re sad and you know it, cry boo-hoo!… If you’re angry and you know it, say “I’m mad!”… If you’re sleepy and you know it yawn and stretch… If you’re nervous and you know it, hide your face (we used the cloth, and then did a big “Peek-a-boo!” at the end of each line). Angela had paper plates with different faces (happy, sad, angry) on them that she held up at the beginning of each verse.

eBook: Grumpy Monkey by Suzanne Lang; illustrated by Max Lang

When Jim Panzee, the monkey, wakes up in a bad mood, all of the other animals try to cheer him up. We read this one from Overdrive, using the Share Screen, so the kids could see the illustrations up close. Angela read the narration and the voice of Jim Panzee, and I did all the other animal voices. This is such a great book for 2020, when everyone feels a little grumpy sometimes. One mom emailed me later to say that her toddler retold the story to every member of their family, so I think it was a hit!

Song: Old McDonald Had a Farm

Angela had a bunch of puppets prepared to hold up, so we could sing about the different animals, but we didn’t end up needing them. The kids (adorably) were all eager to hold up their own stuffed animals, or suggest a favorite animal and the sound it made (unicorns apparently say “neigh!”). This ended up being one of my favorite parts of the storytime.

eBook: There is a Bird on Your Head by Mo Williems

Gerald the Elephant is unhappy when two birds build a nest on his head. This book is available for 1 Hour Borrowing from Open Library. Angela and I each read a character, and I held a bird stuffed animal on my head (in retrospect, I wish I had asked the kids to pretend their cloths were birds and had them put them on their heads). The simplicity and humor of these books make them perfect for almost any age group, and sharing the ebook on screen made it really easy for the kids to enjoy the illustrations.

Song: Five Little Ducks

There are LOTS of different versions of this song, but the tune I usually sing is the Raffi one). Angela had a Monkey Mitt with the 5 Little Ducks velcroed on, so she held it up while I sang and played the song on the ukulele.

Closing Song: You Are My Sunshine by Jimmie Davis & Charles Mitchell (or possibly by Oliver Hood)

We had unmuted the kids temporarily while we talked about this being our last song, but before we could mute them again, one little boy sang the whole song through all by himself and it was adorable! We asked the kids to play along on the noisemakers (pots and pans, etc.) that they gathered at the beginning of storytime. Angela and I always used to end our regular Musical Storytimes with this song, so it felt almost like old times.


All in all, Angela and I felt that the storytime went really well. It was wonderful for us to actually see our audience, after months of performing pre-recorded storytimes in an empty room, and wonderful for the kids to see us and each other.

After the storytime, I emailed all of our participants with the registration link for the next Interactive Storytime (which was led by a different librarian). One mom emailed me back to say that in some ways she almost preferred this format to the live storytimes in the library. She said that sharing the ebooks on screen made it easier for her toddler to see the illsutrations and follow the story, and muting the kids during the story meant he wasn’t distracted by the usual noises of the audience. He also bragged to his older brother, who is doing At Home Learning, that he too got to be in a big class with lots of kids on Zoom.

This feedback made me wonder if there might be ways to incorporate some elements of virtual programming into in-person storytimes in the future. For example, I might try displaying the illustrations on a screen while I read from the physical book (so the kids still get the sense of how physical books “work”, but can still see the illustrations clearly. Or I might try to use more “big books,” although I have a hard time turning the pages. In any case, it’s definitely something I will be thinking about when I finally go back to doing in-person storytimes.

Have you performed or attended any virtual storytimes? If so, what worked well, or not so well, for you? Please share any thoughts in the comments.

My New Favorite Storytime Song

Well, it’s been ages since I’ve posted anything, but I wanted to share a song I learned a few months ago that’s been a big hit at all of my storytimes, from babies to preschoolers. It’s called We Bounce and We Bounce and We Stop. The kids love to jump up and down, and they giggle every time we stop.

The lyrics are really simple and adaptable, and it’s super easy to do with ukulele although if you’re going to bounce up and down while you do it, you will definitely want to invest in a ukulele strap (I have a Uku’Lei Sling that has been a lifesaver!). I slap the strings on the word stop to make it more dramatic.

Here are the lyrics and chords (click on the triangle to hear a recording):



We bounce and we bounce and we stop!


We bounce and we bounce and we stop!


We bounce and we bounce and we bounce and we bounce,

C                                          G7                       C

And we bounce and we bounce and we stop!


I usually repeat this at least twice, and then sing it again with different motions: We clap and we clap and we stop; we wiggle and we wiggle and we stop, etc. With babies I’ve used motions for parents (we tickle and we tickle and we stop; or we lean and we lean and we stop). With older kids I add stomping and turning, or ask them for other motions or even sounds they’d like to do. It’s a great way to give the kids a chance to move around, and re-engage any wandering toddlers. And it can be as long or as short as you like.

I learned the lyrics from a collection of nursery rhymes and songs on a set of signs at the Burlingame Library, and, not knowing how the song went, I used the tune to A Hunting We Will Go.  I’ve since found this other, slower version that sounds more like Skip to My Lou on a YouTube video from Jbrary, which looks great for baby storytime:

What are your go-to songs for storytime? Please leave them in the comments.



Adventures with Beekle and Other Imaginary Friends: A Caldecott Storytime

Imaginary Friend by Eloise

Imaginary Friend by Eloise

I apologize for the long hiatus from the blog.  Our library actually had a storytime break for the last couple of months because our schedule of open hours is changing.  I was so happy to be back doing storytime tonight, and seeing some of my regular families, plus some new faces.  And I was especially excited to share this year’s Caldecott Award-winning picture books.

I led off the storytime by describing the Caldecott Award, which is selected every year by a committee from the Association for Library Services to Children who is charged with choosing one book they all agree to be the “most distinguished American picture book for children” published in the previous year.  I explained that while they are only allowed to give the award to one book, they are allowed to select as many Caldecott Honor books as they want.  This year there were six!  I told the kids I would be reading the award-winner and four of the honor books, but they would have to try to guess which one was the winner.  Here is the order I read them in:


Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett; illustrated by Jon Klassen ( link)

I had suspected that this book would not win the Caldecott, if only because Jon Klassen already won the award two years ago for This is Not My Hat.  But I love to read it aloud.  I shared it with two second grade classes a few weeks ago, and I felt like a rock star while I was reading it.  It’s the story of two boys and a dog who set out to dig until they find something spectacular, and although they miss several spectacular somethings along the way, something quite extraordinary happens to them at the end.  Spoiler alert: you have to pay attention to the trees and the flowers on the first page to realize that Sam and Dave end up someplace slightly different from where they started.  The second-graders I read to were practically screaming with frustration whenever they saw the massive gemstones that Sam and Dave somehow always manage to dig around and never find.  The kids at family storytime weren’t quite as loud, but they were still absorbed and excited.


Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat ( link)

This was the actual winner of this year’s Caldecott Award.  I started by asking the kids if they had an imaginary friend, or knew someone who did (my mother once had an infamous imaginary friend named Jelly, who caused so much trouble that her sisters used to plot to kill him).  One girl at storytime shared that she had an imaginary sister named Serena. The book opens in the land of imaginary friends, where lots of unusual creatures wait to be claimed and named by a real child.  One of them is the creature who will eventually be named Beekle, but first he has to set off on an adventure to find the child who will be his friend.  I love Beekle’s reaction to “the real world” a place where only grown-ups are eating cake, no one stops to hear the music, and everyone needs a nap.  The kids I read this too all loved the different depictions of imaginary friends: one shaped like a puzzle piece, one like a drum, one like a snake, etc.  Great fun to read, with colorful, imaginative illustrations.


The Noisy Paint Box by Barb Rosenstock; illustrated by Mary GrandPré ( link)

This is one of my favorite picture book biographies.  It tells the story of painter Vasya Kandinsky, who was a proper Russian boy until his aunt gave him a box of paints.  To Vasya’s surprise, the colors make sounds, a music that no one else seems to hear.  And while he tries his best to be proper, in the end he is driven to try to paint the music he hears and how it makes him feel, leading to the birth of abstract art.  The author’s note at the end says that Kandinsky may have had synthesia, a condition that causes people to feel one sense in response to another.  These people may hear colors, smell numbers (imagine what math classes would be like?),  or even taste words.  The kids were entranced by that idea, and they loved the photos of Kandinsky’s art at the end.  One girl snatched this book up, and sat clutching it tightly for the whole rest of the storytime.


Nana in the City by Lauren Castillo ( link)

Sweet story about a little boy who finds the city where his Nana lives frightening and loud, until Nana shows him all the wonderful things they can do there.  This was an interesting book to read aloud, considering that our library sits in a quiet suburb of San Francisco, a city most of the kids have probably visited often.  Some of them made a point of saying that they didn’t consider cities frightening.  As a former farm girl though, I can relate to the boy’s fears, and his nana reminds me of my great-aunt Hazel, who loved living alone in her Manhattan apartment until a fractured hip forced her to leave New York shortly after her 90th birthday.  I always admired her, and I admire the Nana in this story.  This would be a lovely book for a theme about grandparents.


Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales and Tim O’Meara ( link)

Yuyi Morales also won the Pura Belpré Illustrator Award for this book.  The text is very simple, with only one or two words per page in both English and Spanish.  The kids loved the illustrations, which are magical and engaging, evoking the art of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.

After I read the books, I asked the kids to guess which one won the actual Caldecott Award.  All the books got several votes, although Sam and Dave Dig a Hole had slightly more.  When I did this with the two second grade classes earlier in the day, I threw in a couple of books that weren’t Caldecott winners at all: You Are (Not) Small by Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant, which won this year’s Theodor Seuss Geisel Award; and My Teacher is a Monster (No I Am Not) by Peter Brown.  Funnily enough, their favorite was My Teacher is a Monster.


My Imaginary Friend

I haven’t actually performed this song live yet, because I was still working on it the night of the storytime.  But here it is, if anyone would like to use it.  I may pull it out again for a future Monster Storytime.  Here are the lyrics and chords.  Click on the triangle for the tune:


I have a little monster (C)
No larger than a tear. (F, C)
He climbs up on my shoulder (C)
And whispers in my ear. (G7, C)

He’s my friend, my friend, (C)
My imaginary friend. (F, C)
Nobody else can see him. (C)
They say he’s just pretend. (G7, C)


My monster’s always hungry.
He likes to eat my peas.
He brings me little treasures,
Like shiny coins and keys.


My monster sleeps beside me
In a matchbox filled with hay.
He tells me funny stories,
And scares bad dreams away.


If you find a monster,
I hope you’ll let him stay,
To chase away your nightmares
And play throughout the day.

He’ll be your friend, your friend,
Your imaginary friend.
And though no one else can see him,
He’ll be with you till the end.

Rainbow ‘Round Me

I sang this one to go with The Noisy Paint Box, and asked the kids for suggestions of things they might see outside their window.  We had blue rain, brown dirt, and a red kite.  This is the original version, the way I first learned it:


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: Imaginary Friends with Crayon Resist and Watercolors

This project was really fun.  I gave the kids watercolors and crayons, and suggested they draw an imaginary friend of their own in white crayon, then paint over it with the watercolors to make a crayon resist.  Many of them did that, although some of them just enjoyed painting and drawing as well.  They were all completely different and whimsical.  Here are a few:

Imaginary Friend by Antonio

Imaginary Friend by Antonio

photo (10)

Imaginary Friend by Amelia



The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant; illustrated by Melissa Sweet ( link)

Although I didn’t have enough time to share this one at Family Storytime, I did read it to the second graders.  It describes the life of Peter Roget, who was obsessed with making lists.  It was a good opportunity to describe what a thesaurus is (most of them had never used one, and one student guessed it was a kind of dinosaur).  I think it’s hard for kids growing up today to conceive of a world without the Internet and Google, the electronic realization of Roget’s dream of having all knowledge in one place.

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki; illustrated by Jillian Tamaki ( link)

I didn’t share this one at all, because it’s a lengthy graphic novel intended for Young Adults, and I haven’t had a chance to read it myself, but I wish I had been able to at least show it to the kids.  Graphic novels are so popular right now.  Most of the book requests I get at work are for series like Smile, Big Nate, and Amulet.  I’m a big believer in comics and graphic novels as a way to hook kids on reading (for more on that see my post: My Love Affair with Superman), so it’s nice to see a book in this medium receive a prominent award.  It was also chosen as an Honor book for the Michael L. Printz Award for Young Adult Literature.

Which of the Caldecott Award winners do you like best?  Or would you have picked a different book entirely?

Bedtime Stories

Worry Doll by Addie

Worry Doll by Addie

Sorry for the lapse in my posts!  I have a backlog of storytimes I need to write up, but I’ll start with the one I did last Wednesday, because it featured some of my favorite picture books.  The theme was Bedtime.  Here’s what we read:


The Napping House by Audrey Wood ( link)

A fun, cumulative rhyme about a pile of sleepers that includes a granny, a child, a dog, a cat, a mouse, and a flea.  I like to read it in a hushed voice until the dramatic turn in the middle, when the flea bites the mouse.  The kids giggled as the pile of creatures grew bigger and bigger, and laughed when the bed broke.


The Squeaky Door by Margaret Read MacDonald; illustrated by Mary Newell DePalma ( link)

Margaret Read MacDonald is a master at retelling old tales.  Her picture books usually include lots of repeated words or phrases for kids to chime in on.   A few weeks back, I read Pickin’ Peas, which one family enjoyed so much that they returned to the library later in the week to check out.  This story is about a little boy who is sleeping over at his grandparents’ house.  At bedtime, his Grandma says, “Now when I turn off the light, and close the door, are you going to be scared?” “NO! NOT ME!” says the boy.  But when she closes the door, it makes an awful squeak, and the little boy cries.  So Grandma brings in the cat to keep the boy company.  But of course the door squeaks again.  So Grandma brings in the dog.  The story gets more and more absurd, as more and more animals crowd into the bed.  The kids and parents laughed at Grandma kissing the pig goodnight, and dressing the horse in pajamas, and the kids loved saying the repeated, “No! Not me!” every time.  Always a hit.


What! Cried Granny…An Almost Bedtime Story by Kate Lum; illustrated by Adrian Johnson ( link)

This is one of my all-time favorite read-alouds.  It works well for a wide range of ages.  Like The Squeaky Door, it is about a little boy (whose name is Patrick) sleeping over at his Granny’s house.  But when Granny tells Patrick to climb into bed, he informs her that he doesn’t have a bed there.  “What?” cries Granny, and rushes out to cut down some trees and build Patrick a bed.  But then she discovers he doesn’t have a pillow.  This book is great for promoting print awareness (you can point out the word “What?!” which gets bigger and bigger every time it is repeated), and prediction (the kids enjoy guessing what Granny will have to make next.  But it’s also just a funny story, with big, brightly colored illustrations.


Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late by Mo Willems ( link)

Whenever I have a Mo Willems book in my storytime stack, the kids always spot it right away, and demand that I read it.  So it was no surprise when someone shouted out, “Read the Pigeon book!”  This one, like the other books about that naughty Pigeon, encourages the kids to say “No!” to the Pigeon’s constant wheedling, this time about why he should be allowed to stay up a little longer.


Let’s Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy by Jan Thomas ( link)

Jan Thomas writes a lot of great read-alouds, full of humor and surprise.  In this one, a cowboy is singing his cows to sleep, except “EEEEEK!  Is that a huge hairy spider?”  No, it’s just a flower.  The kids love the repeated, “Eeeks!” and the dramatic irony of knowing when an actual danger appears.  I use a tune my former manager, Thom Ball, came up with for the lullaby, which goes like this: 


Five in the Bed

When I did this at storytime, I actually made it Ten in the Bed, which obviously takes about twice as long to sing.  Click on the triangle for the tune:

There were five in the bed (hold up five fingers)
And the little one said,
“I’m crowded! Roll over!” (roll hands around each other)
So they all rolled over,
And one fell out,
There were four in the bed
And the little one said…
(Repeat, counting down until one.)…

There was one in the bed,
And that little one said,
“I’ve got the whole bed to myself!
I’ve got the whole bed to myself!
I’ve got the whole bed to myself!
I’ve got the whole bed to myself!”

No More Monkeys

I sing the version by Asheba from Putumayo’s Animal Playground.  Here are the lyrics, and ukulele chords (although actually in the recording, I’m playing the new banjolele my in-laws gave me for my birthday.  Squee!  Instant tiny banjo! So easy to play.) Click on the triangle to hear the tune:

Five monkeys were playing on the bed. (C)
One fell off and bumped his head. (C G7)
Mama called the doctor, and the doctor said, (C F)
“No more monkeys jumping on the bed!” (C G7 C)

“No more monkeys jumping on the bed!  (C)
No more monkeys jumping on the bed!  (C G7)
No more monkeys jumping on the bed!”(C F)
That is what the doctor said. (C G7 C)

Four monkeys were jumping on the bed…

(Repeat, counting down to one…)

One monkey was playing on the bed,
She fell off and bumped her head.
Mama called the children, and the children said,
“YES! More monkeys jumping on the bed!”

“Yes! More monkeys jumping on the bed!
Yes! More monkeys jumping on the bed!
Yes! More monkeys jumping on the bed!”
That is what the children said.

CRAFT: Worry Dolls

Worry Doll by Sarah

Worry Doll by Sarah

I was originally going to read Silly Billy by Anthony Browne to introduce the worry doll idea, but the copy I ordered over from another branch didn’t arrive in time.  The kids loved making the worry dolls anyway.  If you aren’t familiar with worry dolls (also known as trouble dolls), they are a tradition that comes from Guatemala, where kids are given tiny dolls to tell their worries to, and keep under their pillows at night.  The book Silly Billy is about a boy who has so many worries that he makes worry dolls for his worry dolls.

For our worry doll craft, I gave the kids clothespins (the kind with the round top), markers to draw faces, pipe cleaners for the arms, and kids’ scissors and multicolored yarn to make hair and clothes.  We used gluesticks to stick the hair on, and wrapped the yarn around the clothespins for the clothes.  The kids needed some help securing the ends of the yarn (I tucked the ends under the wrapped part).  But the parents seemed to enjoy helping with the dolls, and the kids were excited to take them home.

What are your favorite books about bedtime?

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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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, 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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?


I Scream, You Scream for Stories about Ice Cream

The ice cream mixture: milk, vanilla and sugar

The ice cream mixture: milk, vanilla and sugar

This week we read books about ice cream, and made ice cream in a bag, something I learned from my very first job as a Children’s Librarian, at the North Regional Library in Raleigh, North Carolina.  I was only there for a few months before my husband got a job that required us to move to the Bay Area, but I learned a lot from my coworkers there, and I’ll always be grateful to them.

I was actually debating about making the ice cream in coffee cans instead of plastic bags, since it would be more environmental, but my kids and I tried it three times at home (yeah, they hated being guinea pigs for this one), and we just couldn’t get it to work.  The stuff in the middle would always be too slushy, and the stuff on the sides so frozen it was hard to scrape off.  So I went back to the original plan. I did collect and wash all the plastic bags at the end.  (Stores in our county no longer give out plastic bags, so I actually hoard them to dispose of my cat litter).

Here’s what we read:


Ice Cream Larry by Daniel Pinkwater; illustrated by Jill Pinkwater ( link)

I hadn’t originally planned to read this one, because it’s a longer picture book, but right when storytime started, there was only one 6 year-old and her mom, so I decided to share it with her.  It’s one of a series of books about Larry the polar bear, who lives at the Hotel Larry and serves as the lifeguard for the pool.  In this book, Larry makes the news when he asks a local ice cream shop if he can cool down in their freezer, and then eats 1/8 of a ton of their ice cream.  “I do not feel sick,” he says.  Soon, the owner of the Iceberg Ice Cream company shows up at the hotel to meet with Larry.  He ends up making him the spokesbear for his new line of ice creams, and the company’s new slogan, “I do not feel sick,” becomes a national sensation.  Very silly, but lots of fun to read, and a hit with the kids.


Little Pea by Amy Krouse Rosenthal; illustrated by Jen Corace ( link)

Other families with younger kids had come in during the first book, so I went with this one next.  It’s not actually an ice cream book, but it tied in with my “Candy Corn for Dinner” song that I sang before I read it.  It’s one of my favorite picture books, about a little pea who dreads having to eat his nightly dinner of candy.  This one always gets laughs from both kids and adults.


Should I Share My Ice Cream? by Mo Willems ( link)

I had to to do this book, which is one of my favorite Elephant and Piggies.  Gerald is just about to enjoy his ice cream cone, when he wonders if he should share it with Piggie instead.  It is a terribly difficult decision, and one that takes him so long that his ice cream melts.  Most of my regular storytime families are familiar with Gerald and Piggie, but there was one new family who had never heard of the series.  I was happy to hear them laughing at the ending.


Frog and Toad All Year by Arnold Lobel ( link)

Occasionally I like to share a chapter from an early reader book like this one, and I was reminded of the “Ice Cream” story in this book when my daughter was listening to the audiobook in the car.  To my surprise, most of the kids had never heard of the Frog and Toad books, which I know are still asked for frequently at the library.  In this story, Toad buys two ice cream cones for himself and Frog to enjoy.  But on his way back to Frog, the ice cream melts, covering his face so he cannot see.  Other animals run from him in alarm, and when he finally gets back to Frog, he looks like a scary monster with two pointy horns.  This one got laughs too.


Nighttime Ninja by Barbara DaCosta; illustrated by Ed Young ( link)

I should have asked ahead of time if the kids knew what a ninja was, because one of them raised the question.  A ninja is stealthily creeping through a house, until he is discovered and unmasked for what he really is: a boy sneaking ice cream from the freezer.  This is a short book that is fun to read aloud because you can build up the suspense in the early pages.


Candy Corn for Dinner

I wrote this song for the storytime, since I couldn’t find many that fit the ice cream theme.  It needs another verse, which I’ll try to add sometime in the future, but the kids seemed to like it.  I’m still too nervous to tell people at storytime when I perform an original song, but it’s a fun challenge to write them.  It’s also not too hard if you know a few chords on the guitar or ukulele, which is all you need for most kids songs anyway.  This one only has three chords: C G7 and F.

C                                                                     G7                   C
My mom and dad put me in charge of our dinner tonight.
C                                                                                G7
They said I could make anything as long as we ate right.
C                                                        G7                   C
I had to serve some vegetables, a salad, and a stew.
C                                                                        G7               C
I thought a while and cooked a bit, and here is my menu.

F                                                     C
We’re having candy corn for dinner
G7                             C
With a side of chocolate stew.
F                               C
A three jelly bean salad,
G7                                                C
And an ice cream sandwich too.

I don’t know why Mom and Dad say cooking’s such a chore,
‘Cause I had such a great time going to the grocery store.
My mom said we were out of milk, so I bought a big milkshake,
And since my dad likes cheese so much, I got him a cheesecake.

We’re having candy corn for dinner
With a side of chocolate stew.
A three jelly bean salad,
And an ice cream sandwich too.

If All the Raindrops

This is an old standby that I use for toddler and baby storytimes too.  (I used to sing it to my daughter at toothbrushing time, and it became kind of a game to brush her teeth while we sang the “Aaahs.”)  I asked the kids to suggest other things they would like the rain to be.  One girl suggested chocolate marshmallows, and her mom suggested margaritas.  Here are the traditional lyrics (click on the triangle for the tune):


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!

If all the snowflakes
Were candy bars and milkshakes…

If all the sunbeams
Were bubblegum and ice cream…

CRAFT: Ice Cream in a Bag

Ice cream mixture sealed in a large bag of ice and rock salt

Ice cream mixture sealed in a large bag of ice and rock salt

The finished product!

The finished product!

I printed out the directions on a half-page handout, in case anyone wanted to take it home.  You can print your own here: ICE CREAM IN A BAG

Before we started, I went over each of the ingredients.  We talked about the vanilla, and I let the kids smell the open bottle.  I showed them the rock salt, and explained that it was important, because without it the ice cream wouldn’t freeze.  (The milk and sugar freeze at a lower temperature than water, but the salt lowers the freezing temperature of water.  When you put it on ice, the ice melts, but it turns into a slushy mixture that is actually colder).

I gave each kid a quart-sized plastic zipper bag (for what it’s worth, the bags I bought from Target claimed to be BPA-free, although I’ve read that the other chemicals plastic companies use aren’t necessarily safer).  I had them hold their bags open, and I poured the 1/2 of whole milk in for them, since it was a large, heavy gallon of milk.  Then I held the bag open for each of them as they scooped in two tablespoons of sugar.  I pour in the 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract.  Then I told them to seal their bags tightly, and make sure they were closed (I once had volunteers mix up the ice cream mixture in the bags ahead of time, and they forgot to seal the bags shut.  There were a lot of disappointed kids left holding bags of salty milk).

Once they had their ice cream mixture sealed in the small bags, I gave them each a gallon-sized bag to half-fill with ice.  Then we poured the rock salt in on top of the ice (the recipe calls for 1/2 cup, but I just estimated).  They sealed their ice cream mix into the big bag, and shook the bags while I played some songs on the ukulele.  It takes about 5 minutes for the ice cream to freeze.

Once the ice cream was frozen, I gave out spoons and straws for the kids to each it straight out of the bag.  Some froze more solidly than others, but it has a pretty good flavor that they all seemed to like.


I Scream, Ice Cream! a Book of Wordles by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Serge Bloch ( link)

This book’s not actually about ice cream, but I was originally going to read it along with Little Pea, since it references that book at the end.  It’s actually a series of phrases that can mean two different things, depending on how you read them.  For example: “I scream!  Two bucks!” (with a picture of someone running away from two angry deer), sounds just like “Ice cream, two bucks!”  The phrases get increasingly complicated, and it’s fun to try and guess what the alternate meaning will be.

Ice Cream: the Full Scoop by Gail Gibbons ( link)

Nice overview of the history of ice cream, and how it is made commercially.  This one was a little long for my group, but would work well for a preschool or elementary school class.

Any other books about ice cream?  I would love some more suggestions.


For the Birds: Stories about our Fine, Feathered Friends

Goldfinch Feeder

Goldfinch Feeder

Last night at Family Storytime we read stories about birds, and made a simple bird feeder for goldfinches.

I was happy because I got to open with one of my all-time favorite read-alouds:


The Baby Beebee Bird by Diane Redfield Massie; illustrated by Stephen Kellogg ( link)

This book is perfect for storytime: it has large, colorful illustrations, lots of animal noises, and a funny, annoying repeated phrase the kids get to join in on.  A quiet evening at the zoo is interrupted by the newly arrived baby beebee bird, who insists on singing, “Beebee Bobbi Bobbi!” over and over again all night long.  The next morning, the other animals are exhausted, the zookeeper is worried, and the lion has a plan to get revenge.  I’ve also seen this book performed as a reader’s theater, where it works beautifully because there are so many different parts.

hot dog

The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog by Mo Willems ( link)

One of the kids spotted this Pigeon book in my stack and got really excited.  I had actually brought two Pigeon books along, and I asked the kids to vote for the one they wanted to hear: they all asked me to read both.  I think this one got the biggest laughs though.  In this book, the Pigeon is about to enjoy the hot dog he found, until an adorable, curious (and deviously clever) duckling asks him what hot dogs are like.


Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late by Mo Willems ( link)

This one is more like the original Pigeon book, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, where the kids get to respond to the Pigeon’s wheedling demands by yelling, “No!”  In this case, the Pigeon is angling to stay up past bedtime, by using the arguments and excuses that every parent has heard before.


Chickens to the Rescue by John Himmelman ( link)

Fun, silly farm story about the Greenstalk family, whose chickens always swoop in to save the day.  Wristwatch in the well? Chickens to the rescue! Too tired to make dinner? Chickens to the rescue!  Dog ate your book report? Chickens to the rescue.  This one is always a hit, and the kids love chiming in on the “Chickens to the Rescue!”


Edward the Emu by Sheena Knowles; illustrated by Rod Clement ( link)

Edward the emu is sick of the zoo.  When he hears someone say that the seals are his favorite animal, Edward hops the fence into the seal pool and tries being a seal instead.  But then he overhears someone else saying the lions are best, and has to try that too, until another person raves about the snakes. Finally, someone says they like the emus best, but when Edward returns to his old enclosure, he finds a new emu in his place.  The illustrations in this rhyming story, showing Edward emu-lating the other animals, are hilarious.  The kids also enjoyed making animal noises along with Edward.


Two Little Blackbirds

One of my favorite songs/fingerplays. I usually sing it a cappella, so I can do the hand motions.  Click on the triangle to hear how it goes:

Two little blackbirds sitting on a hill, (Hold up both thumbs)
One named Jack, and the other named Jill.
Fly away, Jack! (Put one thumb behind your back)
Fly away, Jill! (Put the other thumb behind your back)
Come back, Jack! (Bring the first thumb out in front).
Come back, Jill! (Bring the second thumb out in the front).

Two little blackbirds sitting on a cloud,
One was quiet, and the other was loud (I make my voice as loud and obnoxious as possible each time I sing the word “Loud!”)
Fly away, Quiet!
Fly away, Loud!
Come back, Quiet!
Come back, Loud!

Two little blackbirds sitting in the snow.
One flew fast!
And the other f-l-e-w s-l-o-w!…

Two little blackbirds sitting on a gate.
One was early,
And the other was…late!…  (I like to drag the pauses out as long as possible before saying “Late!” until the kids are all yelling it out.)

Six Little Ducks

I’ve done this song for years, and it’s a popular favorite at toddler and baby storytimes.  Last night, I had several 6 year-olds in the group, so for an extra challenge, I asked if any of them could squat down and waddle like a duck (it’s surprisingly tiring, but they had fun).  Here are the lyrics, with the accompanying ukulele or guitar chords:

C                                  G7
Six little ducks that I once knew,
Fat ones, skinny ones, fair ones too.
But the one little duck with the feather on his back.
He led the others with his “Quack! Quack! Quack!”

G7                                         C
“Quack! Quack! Quack! Quack! Quack! Quack!”
G7                                              C
He led the others with his “Quack! Quack! Quack!”

Down to the river they would go,
Wibble-wobble, wibble-wobble, to and fro.
But the one little duck with the feather on his back,
He led the others with his “Quack! Quack! Quack!”


Home from the river they would come,
Wibble-wobble, wibble-wobble, ho hum hum.
But the one little duck with the feather on his back,
He led the others with his “Quack! Quack! Quack!”


Little Bird

I actually meant to do this song, but I forgot about it completely, and sang Brush Your Teeth instead (to go along with Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late).  It’s perfect for a bird theme though, since the kids can suggest different types of birds, so I’m including it here.  I originally heard it performed by Elizabeth Mitchell on her album, You Are My Little Bird, which is one of my favorite kids’ albums.  Here’s how it goes:

Little Bird, Little Bird,
Fly through my window.
Little Bird, Little Bird,
Fly through my window.
Little Bird, Little Bird,
Fly through my window.
G7                       C
Find molasses candy.

Fly through my window, my sugar lump!
C                            G7            C
Fly through my window, my sugar lump!
G7                        C
Find molasses candy!

Jay bird, Jay bird, fly through my window…etc…


Repeat the verse and chorus, asking kids for the names of different birds (robin, parrot, etc.) to sing in place of “Little Bird” each time. You can also do this song as a dance, where a pair of kids put their hands together over their heads to make a “window” and the other kids “fly” through the window in a line.

CRAFT: Goldfinch Feeders

Goldfinch Feeder by Sarah

Goldfinch Feeder by Sarah

I found this easy goldfinch feeder on Do-It-Yourself N Save:  I was really happy, because we get a lot of goldfinches here on the coast, and they are beautiful, and fun to watch.  Also, I had originally thought of doing one of the typical kids bird feeder projects, where you put peanut butter on a pine cone and roll it in bird seed, but one of my regular storytime kids has a severe peanut allergy, so this was a much safer alternative.

It is super easy to make (although a bit messy, since the thistle seed tends to spill).  After showing the kids a picture of a goldfinch, I gave each of them a knee-high stocking or the foot of a regular pair of stockings (one of my coworkers brought me some old ones from her mom, and I had also picked some up at Goodwill).  I also had a variety of old jar lids, a chopstick, some yarn, and a bag of thistle (Nyger) seed.  The kids each stuffed a lid into the bottom of their stocking, then filled the stocking with thistle seed (I gave them little plastic cups to scoop and pour).  Then they tied them shut with the yarn, and stuck the chopstick through the stocking just above the lid.  The chopstick makes a hole for the goldfinches to reach the seed, while also giving them a place to perch.   One dad wisely waited on sticking the chopstick through the stocking until they got home, to keep the seed from spilling out all over the car (and the library!).  All in all, it was easy and fun.  I hung one on a tree in my backyard at home, and I’m eager to see if the goldfinches find it.


There are so many great books about birds, especially once you factor in all the duck, penguin, and chicken books out there.  Here are some others that I considered:

Penguin by Polly Dunbar ( link)

This one is super-quirky, and a little dark, but I love it, and it’s always been a hit at storytime.  Ben is frustrated with his new penguin, who refuses to talk.  He tries everything from tickling it, to trying to feed it to a passing lion, but the lion eats Ben instead.  Luckily, Penguin saves the day, rescuing Ben, and finally speaking, in a language of his own.

One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo; illustrated by David Small ( link)

When Eliot secretly brings a penguin home from the aquarium, his father seems oblivious to all of Eliot’s attempts to make his new pet feel at home, until the surprise at the end.  I’ve read this one to a wide range of ages, including a few second grade classes, and they loved it.

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell; illustrated by Patrick Benson ( link)

This has always been one of my favorite books for toddler time.  A sweet story about three baby owls whose mother has left them alone in their nest.  As time passes, they grow increasingly worried, and wish their mother would come back, and of course, she does.  The illustrations are beautiful.  I have a personal copy of this book that I’ve read many, many times to my own kids.  It is perfect for a snuggly bedtime story.

What are your favorite books about birds?


Abracadabra! Stories about Magic


I was nervous about this week’s storytime, because I had advertised it on our Summer Learning Program fliers as a chance to learn a simple magic trick.  I’m really no good at magic tricks.  I’m not good with puppets either, or those great big picture books that make me feel like an exceptionally clumsy Lilliputian.  I even struggle with flannel boards, because the pieces fall off, or a toddler wanders off with them just as I’m getting to the good part.  But I’m really no good at magic tricks, and I struggled to find one that was easy enough to teach to kids of a wide range of ages, and not too hard or expensive to make.

But I ended up having the best time at this storytime, mostly because it was a wonderful group of families, both old and new, and they were all so interactive and engaged.  Plus the trick went off okay too.  Here’s what we read:


Georgie and the Magician by Robert Bright ( link)

Georgie was one of my favorite books as a kid, and I was surprised to find out many years later that there are actually several books about the friendly little ghost, his friends Miss Oliver (the owl) and Herman (the cat), and Mr. and Mrs. Whittaker.  In this story, the Whittaker’s barn burns down, leaving the harmless old cow homeless, and the town decides to hold a benefit to help pay for a new one.  Mr. Whittaker offers to do magic tricks, but he doesn’t really know how (kind of like me).  So Georgie and his friends secretly help out, surprising Mr. Whittaker, and making the benefit a huge success.  This is an older book, and our copy wasn’t in great shape, but it held the kids’ interest, and they laughed when it got to the magic show.


The Magic Rabbit by Annette LeBlanc Cate ( link)

When I first brought this book home from the library, my daughter would demand to hear it over and over.  I love it too.  Ray the Magician and his rabbit assistant Bunny are best friends who do a magic act together.  But one day, just as Ray is pulling Bunny out of his hat, another performer crashes into him, and his dog chases Bunny into a busy street.  Luckily, Bunny makes it to safety, but finds himself lost and alone in the park, until he finds a trail of gold stars that lead right to his hat in the subway station.  The kids loved the part where Ray unsuspectingly puts the hat (with Bunny inside) on top of his head.  This is a sweet story, with lovely, mostly black-and-white illustrations.

milo's hat

Milo’s Hat Trick by Jon Agee ( link)

This one is always fun to read.  Milo the Magician, hoping to catch a rabbit for his hat trick, catches a bear instead.  To his surprise, the bear knows how to jump in and out of hats.  He agrees to help Milo with his act, but, when Milo grabs the wrong hat by mistake, the bear winds up popping out of the hat in the middle of a restaurant.  A wacky, funny story that got lots of laughs from both kids and parents.


Poof! by John O’Brien ( link)

This was a nice, short book to end with.  A wizard and his wife are arguing about whose turn it is to take care of their crying baby, until the wizard waves his wand and, “Poof!” turns the baby into a cat.  His wife waves her wand and, “Poof!” turns the cat into a dog.  The magical battle continues until both wizards and baby all end up as ducks living “quackily ever after.”  The kids enjoyed joining in on the repeated, “Poof!’s”



I actually wrote this song for the storytime because I was having such a hard time finding a song about magic.  I was really nervous about performing it, because, even though I didn’t tell anyone I had written it, I was still vaguely worried that people might start throwing juice boxes or Cheerios, and yelling, “That’s not a real song!”  Luckily, that didn’t happen (or maybe they were short on ammo).  Anyway, here’s the song (click on the triangle to hear how it sounds).  If I ever work up the nerve to sing it again, I’d like to ask the kids for suggestions for magic words and things they would like to do if they had a magic wand, and adapt the song accordingly.  (I did ask my storytime group that question, and many of them said they’d like to make themselves invisible).

Once I found a magic wand (C G)
Out floating in a stream. (F C)
I waved it at my dinner plate, (C G)
And my beets became ice cream! (F G C)

I said, “Abracadabra! (C G)
Alakazaam! (F G)
Abracadabra!” (C G)
And my peas turned into jam. (F G C)

So then I brought my magic wand
To school with me one day.
When Teacher said, “It’s time to work.”
I said, “I’d rather play.”

I said, “Abracadabra!
Hocus pocus!” too.
And my class was at the zoo!
Being taught by a kangaroo.

So if you find a magic wand
Out floating in a stream.
I hope that it will bring to you
Whatever you may dream.

You’ll say, “Abracadabra!
Presto chango!” too.
Many things will come to you.
Like a treehouse with a view,
And a unicorn or two,
And a chocolate mansion too.
May your every dream come true.

Little Bunny Foo Foo

Little Bunny Foo-Foo is an old standard of mine, to the point that my boss at my previous library job once gave me a Bunny Foo-Foo shirt.  The kids always love it, and it’s what I call an “uppy-downy,” meaning that it gives them a chance to move around and work off some energy.  The version I do is like the one in this YouTube video by Hannah Heller: .  (I have the kids hop on the “hopping through the forest line”).

CRAFT: “Magic” Magic Wands

The floating wand

The floating wand


The secret (a straightened paperclip handle stuck in the back of the wand) 

I got this idea from  I was worried that it might be too obvious a trick, but when I waved the wand over the audience at the end, the kids seemed genuinely impressed.  It’s basically a wand made of black and white construction paper.  You stick a straight pin or paper clip (I used a paper clip to be safer), into the middle of the wand and hold the end of it between your fingers.  If you hold your hand so the audience can’t see the pin, it looks like the wand is floating in mid-air.  Then you can quickly pull the pin out to let your audience inspect the wand.

I had the kids make their own wands by rolling up a sheet of black construction paper (I put out chopsticks to roll the paper around, although not everyone used them).  They taped or glued the rolls together, then glued small rectangles of white paper on each end for the tips.  Once the wands were made, I used a thumbtack to poke a hole in the back of each one, and showed the kids how to insert the straightened paper clip into the hole and hold it to create the illusion that the wand was floating.

I had a second magic trick, involving a dollar bill and two paper clips (if you set it up right, the clips hook together when you open the bill), but this one ended up being a bit too difficult.  This was the trick, in case you’re curious:  I had the kids make their own bills out of green paper and help them put the paper clips on, but it usually took a few tries to get the trick to work.


The Wizard, the Fairy and the Magic Chicken by Helen Lester; illustrated by Lynn Munsinger ( link)

A delightfully silly book about three magical rivals.  Each one brags that he or she is the best, and in the process they create a gang of monsters that they have to work together in order to fight.  I love Lester and Munsinger’s collaborations, which include Hooray for Wodney Wat and A Porcupine Named Fluffy.

Simple Magic Tricks: Easy to Learn Magic Tricks with Everyday Objects by Jon Allen ( link)

This is one of the most user-friendly magic books I’ve come across.  It includes 70 fairly easy tricks you can do with rubber bands, rope, cards, and other common household objects.

What are your favorite books about magic?