Opposite Day: A Storytime About Opposites

This was a fun theme, and one I don’t think I’ve done before. Here’s what we did:


Good News, Bad News by Jeff Mack

I love Jeff Mack’s books for their humor and simplicity. In this one, a rabbit and mouse are going for a picnic on a beautiful sunny day. “Good News!” the rabbit says, holding up the basket. Oh, but “Bad News!” the mouse replies, as it begins to rain. The book continues in this vein through ever worsening “Bad News,” situations: bees in the cake, a lightning storm, an angry bear. But the rabbit always finds some “Good News” to be happy about. The families enjoyed chiming in on the “Good News” and “Bad News.”

Big Bear, Small Mouse by Karma Wilson; illustrated by Jane Chapman

Very sweet addition to Karma Wilson’s Bear series. This rhyming book follows a group of animal friends through a series of opposites: Big Bear, Small Mouse; High Owl, Low Wren; Slow Badger, Fast Hair, etc. culminating in a cozy Warm Lair on a Cold Night. This one worked beautifully for our theme, and the kids loved joining in on the “Big Bear” at the end of each refrain.

Dinosaur Roar by Paul and Henrietta Stickland

Colorful, simple rhyming book about different types of dinosaurs, with opportunities for the kids to “ROAR!” Always a hit.


A lot of standard nursery rhymes work well for this theme including:


I did this one with a mouse puppet, which I walked around the group to say hi to the kids before we sang the song:

Hickory Dickory Dock (clap hands in rhythm)
The mouse ran up the clock (run fingers up arm)
The clock struck one: BONG!
The mouse ran down (run fingers down arm)
Hickory Dickory Dock (clap hands)

…the clock struck two: BONG! BONG!
The mouse went “boo!” (cover eyes with hands, then peekaboo)

…the clock struck three: BONG! BONG! BONG!
The mouse went “whee!” (slide fingers down body)


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.)


I love this song because it works well for both toddlers/preschoolers, who can follow along on their own, and as a lapsit song for babies, whose parents can lift them up and down:

The noble Duke of York,
He had ten thousand men.
He marched them all to the top of the hill, (stretch up high)
And he marched them down again. (crouch down low)
And when you’re up, you’re up. (stretch up high)
And when you’re down, you’re down. (crouch down low)
And when you’re only halfway up,
You’re neither up, nor down. (stretch up high, then quickly crouch down)

He marched them to the left,
He marched them to the right,
He marched them all around and round,
Oh, what a silly sight!

STAY AND PLAY: Texture Collage

This was a simple activity, but both the kids and the caregivers got really into it. The idea was to explore textures that were opposites: sand (rough), paper (smooth), feathers (soft), and acorn caps, or other found objects from the park (hard). I put out gluesticks, play sand, and feathers. These were two examples where the caregivers drew out “surprises” in glue for the kids to discover when they poured the sand on their paper. Some of the older kids did elaborate patterns of their own.

What are your favorite books about opposites? Please share them in the comments.

Now I Know My ABCs: Books About the Alphabet

I’m often struggling to come up with themes for storytime each week (and would love suggestions…hint, hint…), so this week I just decided to be lazy and copy the themes from my daughter’s preschool class.  This week she was learning about the alphabet, and therefore, so was I.

Luckily, there are some fun, and funny alphabet picture books out there, many of them new.  All of the books I read this week were snatched up immediately and checked out at the end, always a good sign!

The first one I read was recommended by my friend Kerri, on her wonderful blog: What is ML Reading?  Kerri is a children’s librarian in North Carolina, who chronicles the books that she reads with her own daughter.  And that’s where I learned about:


123 versus ABC by Mike Boldt

Number 1 is pleased to introduce this book about numbers until Letter A shows up arguing that it’s really an alphabet story.  The argument is complicated by the arrival of 1 Alligator, 2 Bears in 3 Cars…you get the picture.  The illustrations are hilarious (the kids all loved the picture of the geese eating hot dogs and ice cream), and there’s a funny twist at the end that calls both their arguments into question.

z is for moose

Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham and Paul O. Zelinsky

This is probably my favorite alphabet book.  It starts out very simply, and it’s fun to have the kids chime in on the opening letters: A is for Apple, B is for Ball, C is for Cat.  But then the eager Moose butts in, begging to be featured, and interrupting all the other letters.  When Zebra (who is running the show) decides to go with Mouse for M instead, Moose throws an enormous tantrum and starts putting his name (and drawing antlers) on everything.  Hilarious!

i stink

I Stink by Kate and Jim McMullan

This is terrific read-aloud that works great as both an alphabet book, and a book for kids who love big trucks.  This truck is big and tough and eats your trash for breakfast.  Burp!!   The alphabet part comes in when we find out all the things the truck eats, a list that includes Dirty Diapers, Puppy Poo, and Ugly Underpants.  Oh, how the kids loved that part!  Ewwww City!


Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel

This was my son’s favorite book when he was three, and he has loved every Bad Kitty book since (Bruel now has a series of Bad Kitty chapter books that are hilarious.  They are wonderful for second and third graders to read on their own, but with enough illustrations to read aloud to preschoolers.  I read them with my daughter when she was three, and she begged to hear them over and over again).

This first Bad Kitty book opens with the line, “She wasn’t always a bad kitty,” and goes on to tell about the terrible day when Kitty’s owners ran out of cat food and tried to feed her vegetables.  There are four alphabetical lists: first the foods that Kitty hates (Asparagus, Beets, Cauliflower, etc.); then all the things she does when she turns bad (Ate my homework, Bit Grandma, Clawed the Curtains…); followed by the foods that make Kitty happy (An Assortment of Anchovies, Buffalo Burritos…); and finally, all the things that Kitty does when she turns good again (Apologized to Grandma, Bought me new toys, Cleaned her Cat Box, Drove me to School…).  It’s a bit long, but the kids hung in there, mostly because the illustrations and ideas are so funny (my favorite is the cat washing the car with her tongue).  This one got snatched up immediately, and other kids were sad I didn’t have extra copies.


Big A, Little a, (spread hands wide apart, then bring them close together)
Bouncing B (bounce up and down)
The cat’s in the cupboard
And he can’t see me (cover your eyes with your hands)

We also sang Old MacDonald, and I challenged the kids to name animals starting with different letters of the alphabet: Alligator, Bee, Cat, etc.

INSTRUMENT PLAY WITH A CD: Man Gave Names to All the Animals by Tim O’Brien, from Sing Along with Putumayo.  I’m sure there’s probably a fun alphabet song I could have done, but I didn’t have time to look for one.  Any suggestions?

CRAFT: Alphabet Soup

photo (33)

Alphabet Soup by Sarah

I printed the letters from Crayon Action Coloring Pages (I’m always grateful for sites with free coloring pages!), then traced out red and yellow circles out of paper, and improvised a paper spoon.  The kids glued it all together, using whatever letters they liked.  To be honest, it was crazy at the reference desk before storytime, so I didn’t have time to trim the letters as much as I liked.  It would have been nice to have plastic spoons to stick on too, and alphabet shaped pasta would have been even more fun.


One I meant to do was the classic Chicka, Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr., John Archambault and Lois Ehlert.   In fact, my daughter did an adorable craft in preschool last week, where the teacher wrote the letters of each child’s name on coconuts, and the kids got to paste them on the tree.  Several friends of mine also listed this as their favorite alphabet book, including children’s librarian Barbara Amberg, and Tina Williams, who remembers reading it to her daughter all the time.

photo (34)

Max’s ABC by Rosemary Wells

Cute story that works well as a read-aloud for toddlers and preschoolers, even if you don’t mention the alphabet.  Max’s Ants escape from the ant farm and Bite Bite Bite, until Max’s sister Ruby finds away to get rid of them.  All of the events of the story are in alphabetical order, but Wells manages to make this work without seeming forced.  Max and Ruby are always a big hit.

Crictor by Tomi Ungerer

Recommended by Kim Day, a children’s librarian in Burlingame, California.  Wonderful book for your reptile lover, about a fabulously long snake who comes in handy when two burglars come to call.   The alphabet part comes in when Crictor demonstrates the shapes of different letters.

Dr. Seuss’ ABC: An Amazing Alphabet Book by Dr. Seuss

The favorite of my friend Neely Dean’s daughter.  How can you go wrong with Dr. Seuss?  Funny illustrations, wacky ideas (a Camel on the Ceiling), and a catchy rhyme.  Plus it shows both the capital and lower case letters, as well as giving multiple sounds for the same letter.

26 Letters and 99 Cents by Tana Hoban

Recommended by Michael Lambert, Deputy Director of Library Services for San Mateo County.   This is an alphabet and counting book in one, with bright, colorful photographs of both capital and lower case letters next to an object that begins with that letter.   I’ve noticed that a lot of alphabet books try to draw the letters in clever or artistic ways that are fun, but aren’t necessarily the best way to introduce them.  This one is both appealing to kids, and very clear.  The counting side of the book shows how to represent the numbers from 1 to 99 using different groups of coins: perfect for teaching addition or money values.

The Sleepy Little Alphabet by Judy Sierra; illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Recommended by Ashley Waring, a children’s librarian in Reading, Massachusetts.  I had never seen this one before, but it is oh so cute!  It’s bedtime for the lower case letters, but of course none of them want to go to sleep.  “Uh oh!  a is wide awake.  And b still has a bath to take.”  The illustrations are goofy and fun.

LMNO Peas by Keith Baker

This one was recommended by both Ashley Waring and Kim W., who directs a preschool in Alabama, so I will have to add it to my repertoire!  Adorable alphabet peas demonstrate their amazing skills for every letter: “We’re acrobats, artists, and astronauts in space.  We’re builders, bathers, and bikers in a race.”  Definitely a more exciting take on the usual “A is for Apple” style books.

Alphabet Mystery by Audrey Wood and Bruce Wood

Another favorite of Kim W., and by one of my all-time favorite authors, so I’ll definitely be getting this one too.  Every night at bedtime, Charley’s alphabet says their names, just for fun.  But one night, little x is missing.  The letters must fly on a pencil to look for their friend, and find him in the castle of Master M.  To their surprise, they find he is happier there because Charley never used him.  But one of the letters knows a secret to bring him home.

ABCDrive! A Car Trip Alphabet by Naomi Howland

Wonderful recommendation by Barbara Bruxvoort, a children’s librarian in San Bruno, California.  This one works great for car fans and Bay Area locals.  Each letter represents something a child might see while out on a drive: an Ambulance, a Bus, a Cement Mixer.  Set in San Francisco, it might make for a fun game to take out on the road and see how many of the objects you can find in real life.

The Dangerous Alphabet by Neil Gaiman; illustrated by Gris Grimly

Recommended by Veronica Meade-Kelley, a science writer who described it as “How I Taught My Kids to Never Leave Home without a Grown Up.”  Two children and their pet gazelle run away on an adventure in the sewers in search of treasure.  Not for young children, unless they have a high tolerance for creepiness, but great for fans of darker fiction like Roald Dahl or Edward Gorey: E’s for the Evil that lures and Entices,  F is for Fear and its many devices.

What are your favorite alphabet books?

Tuning In: Books about Music and Songs

Paper Plate Maraca by Ella

Paper Plate Maraca by Ella

First off, I was thrilled to see most of my favorite kids at this week’s storytime after their very first day of Kindergarten.  So exciting!   And everyone (parents included) seemed to have weathered the experience well.  (I know I was a wreck on my son’s first day, so kudos!)

Anyway, a lot of my favorite picture books feature songs and rhythm, so tonight I decided to feature some of them.  They were:


Miss Mary Mack by Mary Ann Hoberman; illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott

This is one of the best picture book adaptations of a children’s song I know.  It extends the clapping rhyme story about Miss Mary Mack and the elephant who jumped the fence.  The song is catchy, the illustrations are hilarious, and it works for almost any age.  I had the kids pat the rhythm as I read, and afterwards a brave Mom helped me demonstrate the clapping rhyme (since I have the coordination of a drunken tree sloth, I found it a bit challenging, but it was fun).


The Gunniwolf by Wilhelmina Harper; illustrated by Barbara Upton

Wilhelmina Harper was a librarian in Redwood City, California.  I wish I knew more about her, because this is one of my all-time favorite read-alouds.  It’s essentially a less grim version of Little Red Riding Hood, where a little girl disobeys her mother by going into the jungle, and runs into the dreaded Gunniwolf.  Thankfully, nobody gets eaten or chopped up with an ax, but the language of the story is unforgettable: the Pit Pat, Pitty Pat of the little girl running, mixed with the Hunker-CHA! Hunker-CHA! of the pursuing Gunniwolf.  Plus there’s an eerie song that goes, “Kum-kwa-khi-wa, kum-kwa-khi-wa.”  I have a soft spot for the original version, with illustrations by William Wiesner, but this version is bright and colorful, and the Gunniwolf looks more like a big friendly dog, which makes it less scary.  Some of the kids sat mesmerized while a couple were frightened, and several of them wanted to check it out at the end.


Charlie Parker Played Be-Bop by Chris Raschka (which I just found out is pronounced Rosh-Ka)

I don’t know how many times I’ve read this book to my own kids, who have both loved it since toddlerhood.  It’s a sound poem about Charlie Parker, the legendary jazz saxophone player, and it’s a blast to read, with lines like “Be bop. Fisk, fisk. Bus stop. Zznnzznn” and my kids’ favorite: “Never leave your cat alone.”  It’s based on Parker’s performance of A Night in Tunisia, and I try to convey some of the melody of that song when I read it.  It’s a wonderful way to introduce the idea and spirit of jazz music.

mama don't allow

Mama Don’t Allow by Thacher Hurd

No one in town wants to hear Miles and his Swamp Band perform, except for the sharp-toothed alligators who ask them to play on their riverboat.  When the band learns that they are on the dinner menu, they have to use their wits and their music to escape.  I love the colorful illustrations and the humor of this book, and it was quickly snapped up for check out at the end.  I usually follow this one with the song “Mama Don’t Allow” and ask the kids to suggest things their Mom’s don’t let them do, which is always entertaining.


Lizard’s Song by George Shannon; illustrated by Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey

Another one of my long-time favorites, this is the story of a lizard who likes to make up songs.   He is happy singing about his home on the rock until Bear decides he wants Lizard’s song too.  The kids usually join in on the simple “zoli zoli” song.

INSTRUMENT PLAY WITH A CD: Little Liza Jane by Elizabeth Mitchell from her You Are My Little Bird album.  Rhythmic and catchy.

CRAFT: Paper Plate Maracas

I gave each child two paper plates and some rice and/or beans to put in the middle.  The parents helped staple the plates together, and the kids decorated the outsides of their new instruments with stickers, gems, and crayons.   There was some little trails of rice leading out the door of the library that night, so I think next time I’ll just go with the beans, but it’s always fun to give the kids free-rein on how to decorate something, because each instrument was so different from the others.


One that I wish I had been able to read/sing tonight was Iza Trapani’s How Much Is that Doggie in the Window?  It’s one of my favorites, although I’m embarrassed to admit I sometimes get choked up at the end (I’m a terrible sucker for a happy ending).  In this variation of the song by Bob Merrill, a little boy tries to save up to buy a puppy from a local pet shop, but ends up spending all his money to help his family instead.

I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More by Karen Beaumont; illustrated by David Catrow

Love this one!  It’s a funny version of It Ain’t Gonna Rain No More, where a kid decides to paint all the different parts of his body.  The kids like to guess which body part comes next based on the rhyme, and the ending is a gleefully naughty surprise.  I usually pair this with the song Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes, and repeat it faster and faster.  (It’s also fun to try it backwards: Toes and Knees, Shoulders and Heads)

What are your favorite books about music and songs?