In the Night Kitchen: A Storytime in Honor of Maurice Sendak

Today, Friday, June 10, would have been Maurice Sendak’s 88th birthday.  So this week I did an all-Sendak storytime.

Here is what we read:


Where the Wild Things Are

Of course, I had to include the story of Max and his adventures as King of All Wild Things. I was surprised by how many of the kids hadn’t read this book yet, but they were mesmerized.  They especially enjoyed roaring and gnashing their teeth like wild things, and the silly chant I threw in for the “wild rumpus” pages (something like, “Ung-ga-da, ding-ga-da, ding-ga-da.”  I made it up as I went along).  My copy was immediately snatched up.



I remember the day my son’s teacher read this to the class in Kindergarten (unbeknownst to me), and how he came home saying, “I don’t care!” in reply to everything I said, until I could totally understand why Pierre’s parents left him alone in a neighborhood where hungry lions occasionally wander through.  For a long time this was my son’s favorite book.  The kids at storytime loved it too, eagerly chiming in on all the “I don’t cares!”  A couple of them looked shocked when Pierre (still insisting he doesn’t care) got eaten by the lion, then relieved when he emerged again intact.  But they were all clamoring to check it out in the end.


Outside Over There

This story has always reminded me of the movie Labyrinth, although I’ve never actually checked to see if there’s a connection.  It’s the story of Ida, who is left in charge of her baby sister, but fails to see the goblins sneaking in through the window to steal the baby away, and leaving a baby made of ice in her place.  Ida has to use her wits and her wonderhorn to rescue her sister from becoming a goblin bride Outside Over There.  There is something so wonderfully bizarre and otherworldly about this book.  It makes me think of the old collection of Andersen’s fairy tales I used to read over and over, feeling equally disturbed and fascinated.  My storytime group was equally entranced, and there were quite a few hands reaching for it when it was over.

night kitchen

In the Night Kitchen

This was one of my favorite books as a kid: the story of Mickey, who falls out of bed into the night kitchen, and is nearly baked in a cake by the enormous bakers who cook there.  Instead he builds a plane out of bread dough and flies into the Milky Way to find the missing ingredient: milk!  I was wondering if anyone would comment on Mickey’s nudity, but no one did (I don’t remember noticing it when I was a kid either).  A couple of kids were arguing over who would get to check this one out too.


There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly

I have an old lady puppet that the kids love to “feed.”  I do have her “die” at the end, but then we take her to the hospital and revive and pump her stomach, which always gets a laugh.

Home Again

I wrote this song a few months ago.  It’s based on several Sendak books, including Where the Wild Things Are, Outside Over There, and We are All in the Dumps with Jack and Guy.

Home Again
Darling, when you feel afraid,
For you can plainly see,
The world is full of monsters
Who look just like you and me.

Just jump aboard your tiny boat
Follow the falling star.
And sail away through night and day,
To where the wild things are.

And you will dance and then
Let the wild rumpus begin.
But I will love you best of all
When you come home again.

And darling, when the goblins come,
And no one seems to care,
Climb out your bedroom window
Into outside over there.

Bring your horn, and play a jig,
And charm them with a song.
They’ll set you free, and you will soon be
Home where you belong.

And you will dance and then,
Let the wild rumpus begin.
But I will love you best of all,
When you come home again.

When the moon is in a fit,
And you are in the dumps,
Lost in the rye with one black eye,
And diamonds are all trumps.

I will come and buy you bread,
One loaf or maybe two.
And I will bring you up
Cause happy endings can come true.

And we will dance and then,
Let the wild rumpus begin.
And I will love you best of all
Until the very end.

CRAFT: Wild Thing Feet


Wild Thing Feet by Evie

I stole this craft idea from

I precut the feet (in a variety of sizes to accommodate different kids), then gave them supplies to decorate them.

What are your favorite Maurice Sendak books?



Birds on Ice: a Storytime for Penguin Awareness Day

Today is Penguin Awareness Day, in case you were unaware.  I’m always happy to find obscure celebrations that actually lead to good storytime themes, and I was especially happy about this one, because there are LOTS of picture books about penguins.

Here’s what we read:

penguins everywhere

Penguins, Penguins Everywhere by Bob Barner

This is a cute and colorful, simple introduction to penguins.  It includes basic facts, like penguins live in hot places as well as cold ones, the penguin dads carry their eggs on their feet, etc.  It has a nice display of different types of penguins at the end.  It was an ideal length for a nonfiction opener to the storytime, and the kids seemed to enjoy it.  It was snatched up at the end.

one cool friend

One Cool Friend by Tony Buzzeo; illustrated by David Small

I’ve been getting a lot more school-aged kids at Family Storytime, and this was a fun, lengthier story for them.  When Elliot, a very proper boy, visits the aquarium with his father, he takes home a penguin in his backpack and names it Magellan.  To make Magellan feel at home, he builds an ice skating rink in his bedroom, lets him sleep in the freezer, takes him to the library to do research, and draws him a bath to swim in.  The kids loved the funny twist at the end when Elliot’s father asks him where the penguin came from, and reveals a surprise of his own.  There was a very brief, quiet skirmish after I read it between two kids who both wanted to check it out.


Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester; illustrated by Lynn Munsinger

Tacky is a very odd bird.  Unlike all of the other penguins, who march neatly, dive gracefully, and sing beautifully, Tacky has his own unique, boisterous way of doing things.  But when a band of hunters comes looking for penguins, Tacky’s odd ways save the day.  This one got big laughs from the kids, especially in the parts where Tacky marches, and his counting is all out of order.

lost and found

Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers

When a boy finds a sad-looking penguin at his door, he decides that it is lost and sets out in a row boat to return it to the North Pole.  But, once he does, he realizes that the penguin was not lost after all, but merely lonely.  A simple, sweet fantasy that worked well with the group, especially because they could relate to the huge waves portrayed in several of the illustrations (we’ve had enormous waves here on the California coast this past week, and the kids were all buzzing about it).


I didn’t know of any good kids songs about penguins, so I wrote this one.  I played it on the dulcimer, a Christmas present from my in-laws that I am enjoying. Click on the triangle for the tune:

I Am A Penguin

I am a penguin,
My wings cannot fly.
Not like the petrols
And gulls in the sky.

But put me in the water
And then you will see.
There’s no bird in the ocean,
Who flies as fast as me.

On land I may waddle,
And look quite absurd.
A flightless and clumsy,
Black-and-white bird.


My home is the ice
Where we huddle for heat.
I carry my egg
On the top of my feet.


I am a penguin,
My wings cannot fly.
But my home is the ice,
And the sea is my sky.


CRAFT: Fingerprint Penguins

20160120_194322 (1)

Fingerprint Penguins and Handprints by Paxton


Fingerprint Penguin, Butterfly and Tree by Olivia

There are lots of versions of this craft online, but I wanted to keep mine simple, and just use markers and ink pads.  I also put out Ed Emberley’s Fingerprint Drawing Book, so the kids could explore other things to make with fingerprints.  They had a great time, and all of their drawings came out completely different.


And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell; illustrated by Henry Cole

This book is controversial because of its portrayal of two male penguins who raise a chick together (based on real penguins at the Central Park Zoo).  But it’s a wonderful book with adorable illustrations, and while it does do an excellent job of portraying a nontraditional family in a very natural way, most kids will enjoy it simply as a sweet animal story, made even more compelling because it is true.

Turtle’s Penguin Day by Valeri Gorbachev

After Turtle hears a bedtime story about penguins, he decides to dress himself up as a penguin for school the next day.  His teacher embraces the idea, allowing his whole class to spend the day doing penguin activities: passing a ball with their feet, sliding on their bellies, etc.  This book does a nice job of seamlessly blending facts into a fictional story.

A Penguin Story by Antoinette Portis

Edna the penguin knows there must be something else besides the white of the snow, the black of the night, and the blue of the sea.  She sets out to find it, finally discovering the brilliant orange of a research base.  I didn’t get to share this one at storytime, but I wish I had, because I think the kids would have been intrigued by the idea of never having seen more than three colors.

What are your favorite books about penguins?


Picnic Time for Teddy Bears: Storytime about Stuffed Animals

Teddy Bear Picnic Day is July 10 (who thinks these things up, and how do I get that job?), so this week I did a Teddy Bear storytime.

Year ago, when I was working at the Woodside Library, we used to do a Teddy Bear Picnic every year.  The kids would bring a favorite stuffed animal, and we would read teddy bear stories, sing songs, and hold a contest where every stuffed animal received an award (softest bear, silliest bunny, and my favorite (for the tattered ones)…most loved).  We even had a teddy bear doctor, who would give each animal a check-up.  This was always hilarious, because the kids would present all kind of symptoms: “My bear has a fever.” “My bunny has a stomach-ache.” “My Spiderman was shot!”  My coworker would examine each animal, and write them a prescription, like “Give three hugs each day.” Then we would serve Teddy Grahams and apple juice, and send them on their way.  It was always a highlight at the end of summer.

So I was feeling a bit nostalgic when planning this storytime, and dug out some of my favorite books.  Here they are:


Where’s My Teddy? by Jez Alborough ( link)

My friend Kerri Hall shared this book with me when we were in library school at UNC, and I’ve loved Jez Alborough ever since.  It’s a rhyming story about a boy named Eddie, who has lost his teddy, Freddie.  While nervously searching through the forest, he finds his teddy bear, only to discover that he’s grown to an enormous size.  But then a giant bear appears, moaning that his teddy bear has suddenly shrunk.  The boy and the bear are equally terrified to see each other, and both grab their own teddy bears and run “all the way back to their snuggly beds, where they huddled and cuddled their own little teds.”  The rhymes are so catchy, I can almost recite this book by heart, and the illustrations are large, and adorable.  The page with the frightened bear and boy always gets a laugh.

my friend bear

My Friend Bear by Jez Alborough ( link)

I was planning to read That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown by Cressida Cowell, but the kids seemed to enjoy Where’s My Teddy? so much that I decided to read the sequel (actually it’s the third book in what is actually a picture book trilogy with It’s the Bear, but I’ve read it often as a stand-alone).  In this one, Eddie is walking in the woods with Freddy, and wishing his teddy bear could talk.  Once again, he sees the giant teddy bear, but this time he knows who its owner is.  Sure enough, along comes the bear, and frightened, Eddie hides behind the big teddy.  This leads to a misunderstanding, where the bear thinks his teddy bear can talk, and after sorting all that out, the boy and the bear end up becoming friends.  It’s funny, like the first book, but also sweet, and the ending got a few “Awws” from the parents.

dear bear

Dear Bear by Joanna Harrison ( link)

This is one of my favorite picture books, and one that would work well for a letter-writing theme.  Katie is terrified of the bear she is sure is living in the closet under the stairs.  She tells her mother, who suggests that she write the bear a letter and tell him to go away, which she does.  She is surprised to receive a letter back from the bear, thanking her for the suggestion because he needs a vacation.  When he comes back, he leaves a present for Katie outside the closet door.  The two exchange letters back and forth, until finally the bear invites Katie to a tea party under the stairs.  Nervously, she accepts, but when she arrives, she finds, not a big scary bear, but a large friendly teddy bear.  One of the kids asked how the bear could write letters, and then sagely said, “Maybe her parents wrote the letters.”  The book definitely hints at this, although it never says it outright.


Corduroy by Don Freeman ( link)

One of my all-time favorite books from my own childhood, and one I still love to read.  It’s such a simple story, about a department store teddy bear who loses the button to his overalls, and goes on a quest to find it.  The humor of Corduroy’s interpretation of the world is timeless: the escalator is “a mountain,” the mattress department is “a palace.” Of course, most mattresses nowadays don’t have the “buttons” on the top that Corduroy mistakes for his own missing button.  But it’s still one of the few picture books I know that depicts a family in an apartment instead of the typical suburban house, as well as featuring a beautiful African-American girl who saves the day by adopting Corduroy from the store.  (Incidentally, I stumbled across this blog post by Lisa Rosenberg, the real-life inspiration for Corduroy’s Lisa). There’s been a lot written recently about the lack of diversity in picture books.  I’m acutely aware of that here in the Bay Area, where most of my storytime audiences look nothing like the kids in the books I’m reading.  Corduroy does a wonderful job of creating a lovable, classic story while silently conveying the message that children come in all different shades and backgrounds, and any of them can be a hero.  Plus I always get choked up on the last page.


Going on a Bear Hunt

This was one of my favorite activities when I was a kid, and I love to throw it into a storytime.  The kids echo most of the lines (the ones in parentheses).  I like to play up wiping grass off my pants, and the mud off my feet, and shaking off the water from the lake.  It’s always a hit:

We’re going on a bear hunt!
(We’re going on a bear hunt!)
It’s a beautiful day!
(It’s a beautiful day!)
We’re not scared!
(We’re not scared!)

We’re coming to some grass.
(We’re coming to some grass).
Can’t go over it.
(Can’t go over it.)
Can’t go under it.
(Can’t go under it.)
Have to go through it.
(Have to go through it.)
Swish! Swish! Swish! Swish! (Rubbing hands together)

We’re coming to some mud.
(We’re coming to some mud.)
Can’t go over it.
(Can’t go over it.)
Can’t go under it.
(Can’t go under it.)
Have to go through it.
(Have to go through it).
Squilch! Squelch! Squilch! Squelch! (Clapping hands together).

We’re coming to a lake.
(We’re coming to a lake.)
Can’t go over it.
(Can’t go over it.)
Can’t go under it.
(Can’t go under it.)
Have to swim across it.
(Have to swim across it.)
Splish! Splash! Splish! Splash!

We’re coming to a cave.
(We’re coming to a cave.)
Can’t go over it.
(Can’t go over it.)
Can’t go under it.
(Can’t go under it.)
Have to go inside.
(Have to go inside.)
It’s dark in here…
(It’s dark in here…)
It’s cold in here…
(It’s cold in here…)
Two yellow eyes…it’s a bear!

Swim across the lake!
Run through the mud!
Run through the grass!
Into the house!
Slam the door!
Lock it!
We’re never going on a bear hunt again!

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear

We have a collection of animal puppets in our kids area at the library, so for this song I had the kids each pick a puppet to act it out with.  Then I asked the kids what else they would like the puppets to do.  One girl said, “The Hokey Pokey!” So we did the Hokey Pokey with the puppets, which was a lot of fun.  The turning around part is a bit hard with puppets, but because they were animals, we could put their noses in, and their ears and tails and tummies.  Here’s the teddy bear song (you can also just chant it):

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear,

Turn around.

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear,

Touch the ground.

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear,

Tie your shoe.

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear,

I love you!

The Teddy Bear’s Picnic

This is great song by John Walter Bratton, with lyrics by Jimmy Kennedy.  The best ukulele version I’ve found is on Doctor Uke (  It’s kind of a tricky song to sing because of the chord change.   My favorite version by far is the one by Jerry Garcia, which you can listen to here:

CRAFT: PomPom Creatures

PomPom Creature by Kiley

PomPom Creature by Kiley

PomPom Creature by Olivia

PomPom Creature by Olivia

The biggest challenge with this was finding a way to stick the pompoms together.  I gave the kids tacky glue, which worked okay, but I’d love any suggestions on the best way to attach pompoms.  It was still a fun craft, and I loved the way the creatures came out.


I Lost My Bear by Jules Feiffer ( link)

I was hoping to read this book, but unfortunately our branch’s copy was out, and the one I ordered from another library didn’t arrive in time.  It’s a great story about a little girl who is looking for her lost teddy bear.  Her mom tells her to think like a detective, and the hunt begins.  I especially love her sister’s suggestion that sometimes when you throw another stuffed animal, it will find the lost one (I actually tried that in the park once when my son lost a Lego R2D2, and it actually worked!).

Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems ( link)

I didn’t read this one because I shared it fairly recently, but of course I have to include it in my list of favorite stuffed animal stories.  When Trixie (who is too young to talk) goes with her dad to the laundromat, she loses her beloved Knuffle Bunny.  She tries everything she can to make her Daddy understand that Knuffle Bunny is missing, including going boneless, but he just doesn’t get it.  Luckily, Trixie’s mom knows exactly what’s wrong, and the whole family rushes back to the laundromat.

That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown by Cressida Cowell ( link)

I meant to read this one, although I can’t do it nearly as well as my former boss, Thom Ball.  Emily loves her stuffed rabbit, Stanley.  Unfortunately, Queen Gloriana also has her sights set on Stanley, even though Emily refuses to give him up.  Finally, the Queen kidnaps Stanley, but complains that he no longer looks happy.  So Emily teaches her the secrets of having a happy toy companion of her own.

I Must Have Bobo! by Eileen Rosenthal; illustrated by Marc Rosenthal ( link)

I like this one for toddler storytime.  Willy loves his toy monkey, Bobo, but so does Earl the cat.  A simple story with funny illustrations, as Willy has to constantly search for Earl’s latest hiding place.

What are your favorite books about stuffed animals?

Spring Fever: A Storytime about Gardening

Dot Paint Flowers by Amelia

Dot Paint Flowers by Amelia

In honor of the first day of Spring, I did a storytime about gardening.


Sophie’s Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller; illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf ( link)

Adorable story about Sophie and her friend Bernice, a butternut squash.  The two are inseparable until Bernice begins to get spotty and brown, and Sophie digs her a warm hole in the yard.  You can guess what happens next.  This was a longer picture book than I generally read, but the kids were enthralled.


Bob and Otto by Robert O. Bruel; illustrated by Nick Bruel ( link)

This is one of my favorite picture books.  Bob, a caterpillar, and Otto, an earthworm, are best friends who love spending time together.  Then one day Bob decides to climb up into the big tree, while Otto digs down into the tree’s roots.  When the two friends are reunited, Otto is surprised to see that Bob has grown wings, and sad to think that if he had followed him into the tree, he might have been able to fly too.  But Bob assures him that by digging around the tree roots, he helped the tree grow leaves for Bob to eat, so that Bob owes his new wings to Otto.  A sweet story with bright, colorful illustrations, which is perfect for themes about friendship, nature, and life cycles.  The parents seemed to like this one as much as the kids did.


My Garden by Kevin Henkes ( link)

I love this one too, and the kids always seem to enjoy it, even though it’s more of an imaginative wish than an actual story.  A little girl describes the type of garden she would like to have, where jelly beans would grow into jelly bean bushes, and the rabbits that eat their lettuce would all be made of chocolate, and she would eat THEM.  The storytime kids loved the whimsical illustrations, especially the sprouting seashell on the last page.


Flora’s Surprise by Debi Gliori ( link)

This one appeals to the little sister in me.  When Flora’s family plants a garden full of flowers and vegetables, Flora plants a brick in a flowerpot, and says she is growing a house.  All summer long, her brothers and sisters grow beautiful flowers and yummy things to eat, but Flora’s house never grows.  Her siblings all make fun of her, until spring comes, and the family is surprised to see that Flora’s brick has become a house…for a mother bird.  This is a great read-loud, which large colorful illustrations, and a story that is short enough for toddlers on up.


Five Fat Peas Fingerplay

Five fat peas in a pea pod pressed (press your fists together)

One grew, two grew, and so did all the rest (extend your index fingers, then middle fingers, then ring, etc.)

They grew and they and they grew and they did not stop (spread hands wide apart)

Until one day the pod went “POP!” (clap hands together)



I did this song (by Frank Loesser) to go along with Bob and Otto.  I first described inchworms and how they moved, and had the kids crawl their fingers like worms as they sang along.  I like to add the last line “Seems to me you’d stop and see how beautiful you are,” at the end, an addition I stole from John Lithgow’s wonderful kids’ album Singin’ in the Bathtub. I found the uke chords from Ukegnome, although I simplified them a little.  I also didn’t sing the intro verse (“2 and 2 are 4, 4 and 4 are 8,” etc.), although I like it.  Click on the triangle for the tune:

Inchworm, Inchworm, (F Eb7)

Measuring the marigolds, (F Eb7)

You and your arithmetic (F Bb)

Will probably go far. (Bb C)

Inchworm, Inchworm, (F Eb7)

Measuring the marigolds, (F Eb7)

Seems to me you’d stop and see (F Bb)

How beautiful they are. (Bb C F)

Seems to me you’d stop and see (F Bb)

How beautiful you are. (Bb C F)


Dot Paint Flowers by Addy

Dot Paint Flowers by Addy

Confession time: I was originally going to do an entirely different craft.  Lately, the children’s librarians in our library system have been encouraged to pursue more open-ended, kid-directed art activities, rather than having the kids follow a set of instructions.  My coworker described a workshop she attended about the importance of allowing kids to express themselves creatively, but she was concerned that many of the activities were too messy for our craft space.  Before storytime, I was showing her my craft idea, where I was going to have the kids dip different shape “stamps” into fingerpaint, and mix the colors to make flowers or whatever they liked.  But as soon as I dipped my big circle stamp into the red paint, it slipped out of my hand, sliding all the way down the leg of my khaki pants and landing with a splat onto the workroom carpet.  Needless to say, I had to quickly rethink that activity (and spend the next half hour with a roll of paper towels, desperately trying to make myself look less like the librarian version of Carrie).

Instead, I pulled out my favorite craft supply–the dot markers.  I also gave the kids markers, gluesticks, and rhinestones, encouraging them to make flowers however they liked.  They had a great time, and the end results were wonderfully different (also far less messy than the fingerpaint!).  Some kids opted to make flowers just with markers and rhinestones, and others just went to town with the Dot Paint, making their own creations.  It was definitely open-ended, and lots of fun!

photo (7)


Here are some other favorites about gardening and plants:

Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson ( link)

I love this interactive book where the kids get to make the tree flower and make apples by tapping different parts of the picture.

The Curious Garden by Peter Brown ( link)

Beautiful story about a boy named Liam who cares for a small, sad collection of plants, which grow and thrive, and spread, until his entire city is transformed.

The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss; illustrated by Crockett Johnson ( link)

A classic, simple story about a little boy who plants a carrot seed, and patiently waits for it to grow, and in spite of what everyone else says, it does.

What are your favorite books about gardening?

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?

Latkes and Lights: A Storytime for Hanukkah

Hanukkah Flame Hat

Hanukkah Flame Hat

This week’s Family Storytime featured guest reader, Esther Goldman from Chabad of Daly City, a local Jewish organization which offers classes in Daly City and Pacifica.  She did a wonderful job of explaining Chanukah traditions in a way that the kids could relate to, and connecting them to modern life.  Here are the books she read:


This is the Dreidel by Abby Levine; illustrated by Paige Billin-Frye ( link)

This simple rhyming story describes all the ways Max and his little sister Ruth prepare for Hanukkah: selecting the candles for the menorah, singing songs, eating latkes, etc.  Esther took time to explain the pushke, a box for collecting money for charity, and asked the kids to suggest other ways they might help people in need.


Hoppy Hanukkah by Linda Glaser; illustrated by Daniel Howarth ( link)

Cute story about a family of bunnies that captures the excitement of waiting until sunset to light the first candle on their menorah.  Esther explained that the purpose of lighting one more candle each night, rather than lighting them all at once, is to symbolize the idea that each day can be a little brighter than the one before, or that people can always do even more to make the world a better place.  I think this was the book the kids enjoyed the most.


Celebrate Hanukkah: With Lights, Latkes, and Dreidels by Deborah Heiligman ( link)

Part of the National Geographic, Holidays Around the World series, this book features photographs of people celebrating Hanukkah in different parts of the world: Uganda, Peru, Israel, etc.  The text is fairly lengthy, so Esther mostly just showed the pictures and described them to the kids, who had a lot of questions and observations.  They especially liked the photo of the giant menorahs displayed in different countries, and the children wearing flame hats that made them look like candles (this was a perfect lead-in to our craft).


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

I always end the storytime by handing out shakers and rhythm instruments, so the kids can play along to a song.  This time, Esther held up this book, and I played the song on the ukulele (easy to chord with just C and G7) an easy, encouraging the kids to sing along on the chorus.  Maxie Baum adds additional verses to the traditional version of the song, describing other parts of the Hanukkah tradition.  Several of the kids were still singing the song while they worked on their craft at the end.

CRAFT: Flame Hats

Hanukkah Flame Hat by Lily

Hanukkah Flame Hat by Lily

Esther had suggested this craft.  I based ours on this one from Pinterest.  I cut out strips of blue paper for the headbands, which we helped the kids assemble with staples.  I cut the flames out of yellow paper, with a little flame in orange to go in the middle.  We also gave the kids dot paint, glitter glue, and glitter to decorate.  They had a great time, although of course the library was glittery afterwards.

What are your favorite books about Hanukkah?

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?