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

Sophie’s Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller; illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf (Amazon.com 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

Bob and Otto by Robert O. Bruel; illustrated by Nick Bruel (Amazon.com 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.

garden

My Garden by Kevin Henkes (Amazon.com 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

Flora’s Surprise by Debi Gliori (Amazon.com 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.

SONGS AND FINGERPLAYS:

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)

 

Inchworm

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)

CRAFT: DOT PAINT FLOWERS

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!

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OTHER BOOKS ABOUT GARDENING:

Here are some other favorites about gardening and plants:

Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson (Amazon.com 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 (Amazon.com 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 (Amazon.com 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?

Earthly Delights: Books to Celebrate Earth Day

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Model Magic Earthworms by Colette and Ben

This week, in honor of Earth Day on Tuesday (April 22), I did books about nature, gardening, and recycling. An exciting thing happened though: one of my regular participants, who is now in Kindergarten, asked if she could read Biscuit Goes to School by Alyssa Capucilli aloud to the group. There were a few minutes before storytime started, so I said yes. She did an amazing job, even holding up each page so the other kids could see the pictures. Afterwards, one of my other regulars asked if she could read I Broke My Trunk by Mo Willems, so I told her she could read at the end of storytime, just before the craft. She did a wonderful job too! I was so proud of them both, for their developing reading skills, and especially for their bravery. I told them I know a lot of adults who would be too scared to read to a group like that, and it’s true.

gecko

Go to Sleep, Gecko: A Balinese Folktale by Margaret Read MacDonald; illustrated by Geraldo Valério (Amazon.com link)

One of my favorite folktales to read-aloud and perfect for Earth Day. Gecko complains to Elephant that he can’t sleep because the fireflies keep shining their lights on and off all night long. When Elephant confronts the fireflies they say they have to shine their light because Buffalo leaves poop in the road that someone might step in. But Buffalo says he is filling the holes that Rain washes out, and Rain says she is making puddles so there will be mosquitoes for Gecko to eat. The part about poop in the road always gets appreciative giggles, and the kids like joining in on the Gecko’s repeated cry of, “Geck-o! Geck-o! Geck-o!” Great story about the interconnectedness of things in nature. I love the last line, “Some things you just have to put up with.”

bob

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

Another favorite of mine, and one my daughter has asked to hear over and over. Bob, a caterpillar, and Otto, a worm, are best friends who like to play together at the base of big tree. But one day Bob decides to climb high up into the tree. Otto doesn’t want to follow. Instead he digs deep down under the tree and crawls all around the roots. When the two friends meet again, Bob has transformed into a butterfly. Otto wishes he had followed Bob, so he might have grown wings too instead of just being a “big fat worm.” But Bob tells him that all his digging is what made the tree grow leaves, so he could eat and grow wings. Sweet story about friendship, as well as the importance of earthworms. This one got snatched up at the end.

flora2

Flora’s Surprise by Debi Gliori (Amazon.com link)

When Flora’s family plants a garden, Flora plants a brick in a pot and says she is growing a house. As the seasons pass, everyone else’s plants grow and blossom, but Flora’s house never grows. But at the end of winter, they are all surprised to find that someone (a bird) has discovered Flora’s brick, and that it has become a perfect house after all. Large, colorful illustrations and simple text make this a great book for gardening themes for toddlers on up. It was quickly snatched up too.

joseph

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback (Amazon.com link)

I hadn’t thought of this as an Earth Day book until I saw it in a list somewhere, but it fits well with the “ReUse” part of the “Reduce, ReUse, Recycle” motto. When Joseph’s coat gets old and worn, he turns it into a jacket, and then a vest, a scarf, a necktie, a handkerchief, a button, and finally…a story. The charm of this book is in the cutouts that give hints to each new thing Joseph makes. The kids loved trying to guess what was coming next. This book won the Caldecott Medal in 2000.

SONGS:

Elephants Have Wrinkles

I did this one to go along with Go to Sleep, Gecko. I ask the kids where else elephants have wrinkles and we add in a new body part each time, while singing the song faster and faster. Click on the triangle for the tune:

Elephants have (pat legs on each syllable)
Wrinkles, Wrinkles, Wrinkles (clap hands on each syllable)
Elephants have (pat legs on each syllable)
Wrinkles (clap hands on each syllable)
Everywhere! (stomp feet on each syllable)

On their nose! Oh-oh! (touch your nose, and mime a trunk)

Repeat Elephants have wrinkles…

On their legs!
On their nose!
Oh-oh!

Two Little Blackbirds

I did this one after Flora’s Surprise:
Two little blackbirds sitting on a hill (hold up two thumbs)
One named Jack and the other named Jill.
Fly away Jack (put one thumb behind back), fly away Jill (put other thumb behind back).
Come back, Jack (bring thumb out in front), come back, Jill (bring other thumb out in front).

Two little blackbirds sitting on a cloud, One was quiet (whisper), and the other was loud (yell)…

Two little blackbirds sitting in the snow, One was fast and the other w…a…s…s…l…o…w…

Two little blackbirds sitting on a gate, One was early, and the other was… (pause)…late…. (I drag out the pause until the kids are all yelling “late!”)

INSTRUMENT PLAYALONG WITH A CD: I meant to play You Are My Sunshine by Elizabeth Mitchell from Sing Along with Putumayo, but that track wouldn’t play (I know from many past experiences that you should always check to make sure the song plays ahead of time, but I didn’t get a chance). Instead we did a totally random song from the same disc, although it’s a goofy one that I love: Bellybutton Song by Music for Aardvarks & Other Mammals.

CRAFT: Model Magic Earthworms

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Model Magic Earthworm by Colette

To fit with Bob and Otto, we made earthworms out of Model Magic, a nontoxic Crayola air dry clay. I mixed white and red Model Magic ahead of time to make a rosy-pink color. I gave each child a hunk of the clay and a plastic knife to add the little ridges in the earthworm’s body. I also put out other colors so they could add eyes. They ended up adding all kinds of things, and each worm was completely unique.

OTHER BOOKS:

Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin; illustrated by Harry Bliss (Amazon.com link)

Another great worm book, and one I shared with two second grade classes this week. A funny look at the joys and perils of being a worm. The kids especially loved the part where the worm gets so hungry, he eats his homework, then has to write, “I will not eat my homework” ten times, and then eats that too. The other Diary of books are great fun too.

Sparrow Girl by Sara Pennypacker (Amazon.com link)

I read this one to second grade too. It’s a heavy and fairly lengthy story, and I wasn’t sure how they would take it: they were uncharacteristically quiet at the end. But several kids, mostly girls, said it was their favorite. It’s based on the Sparrow War, a true event that took place in China in the 1950’s, when Mao Zedong decreed that all the sparrows should be killed to prevent them from eating the grain. The death of the sparrows and other birds left the insects free to ravage the crops, and a terrible famine ensued. Sara Pennypacker makes this the backdrop of a story about a little girl who bravely saves seven of the sparrows, and hides them away until the farmers in her village realize the terrible mistake they have made. The second graders seem fascinating by true stories, although I was sad to have to tell them that in this case it was the more hopeful part of the story that was fiction. It is a vivid portrayal of the importance of understanding the complex interactions between every living thing, and how even small environmental changes can be devastating. (This is the same message conveyed by Go to Sleep, Gecko in a much lighter, sillier way).

The EARTH Book by Todd Parr (Amazon.com link)

Simple book about easy environmental things kids can do, and how they help the Earth: “I use both sides of the paper and bring my own bags to market because…I love the trees and I want the owls to have a place to live.” Some of the connections may not be immediately clear to kids, for example, turning off the lights and shutting the refrigerator door to help the polar bears. But it’s nice to have a concrete list of ways kids can have an impact, and the colorful, multicultural, artwork is eye-catching and fun.

What are your favorite books for Earth Day?