Rockin’ Robin: A Storytime About Birds

It was a wet and chilly day today, and I wasn’t sure anyone would come to Outdoor Musical Storytime, but a few brave families ventured out (some of them said the kids were getting stir crazy indoors). I had just learned about the Christmas Bird Count, which the Audubon Society runs from December 14 to January 5, so I did a storytime about birds.

Most of my storytime participants are too young to take part in the Bird Count itself, but I found out that the Golden Gate Audubon Society allows people to register as Feeder Watchers (by registering for one of their Bird Count events, and putting Feeder Watcher in the comments field). I handed out information about how to participate, along with a list of the Most Common Birds of San Francisco from iNaturalist. We also demonstrated the American Sign Language sign for Bird, and how to say “Bird” in other languages (grown-ups in my group told us how to say it in Spanish, French, Russian, and Cantonese). One of my favorite things about the Bay Area is the diversity of languages and cultures, and I love to give people a chance to share words in their native language whenever I can.

Here are the books and songs that we did:


The Baby BeeBee Bird by Debbie Redfield Massie; illustrated by Stephen Kellogg

This is one of my all-time favorite books, about a little bird who arrives at the zoo, and keeps all of the other animals awake all night with her singing. I read the part of the little bird, and Claire read the narration and the other animals. The kids loved joining in on the animal noises and the “BeeBee Bobbi’s.” The large illustrations make it perfect for storytime too.

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell; illustrated by Patrick Benson

Another of my all-time favorites, this one about three baby owls who wake up to find that their mother is gone. They grow increasingly worried, but when they close their eyes and wish for their mother to come back, she comes swooping back. Such a sweet relatable story with adorable owl pictures. The kids loved the repeated “I want my Mommy!” line.

Birds by Kevin Henkes; illustrated by Laura Dronzek

This book provided a great way to talk about the different types of birds: owls, flamingos, black birds, robins, etc., and I love the whimsical ideas and illustrations. The kids especially liked the description of how when a flock of birds flies out of a tree all of a sudden, it’s like the tree yelled, “Surprise!”

Songs & Rhymes:

Baby Bumblebee

We did this as a follow-up to The Baby BeeBee Bird (mostly because they sound so similar). I asked the kids what animals they would like to bring home, and then tried to come up with rhymes. We had snake, turtle, kitty, duck, and dinosaur. Here’s a video of the Raffi version, which is the one I usually use. (Full disclosure: I once had a woman complain that she didn’t like that all of the animals in the song bit or scratched, but I was puzzled because I think it’s meant to be a cautionary tale about why you shouldn’t bring home wild animals!).

I’m [C] bringing home a [F] baby [C]bumblebee.
[G7] Won’t my mommy be so proud of me?
‘Cause I’m [C] bringing home a [F] baby [C] bumblebee.
[G7] Ouch! It stung me!

I’m a Wide-Eyed Owl

I actually have a little tune for this one that I learned from a friend, but I don’t have a recording of it. You can make up your own, or just chant it as a rhyme:

I’m a wide-eyed owl (make circles with your fingers to look like eyes)

With a pointed nose (make a V with your index fingers and hold it up to your nose),

I have pointed ears (hold your index fingers up on either side of your head),

And claws for toes (wiggle your fingers like claws).

I live in a tree,

And I’m looking at you (point your finger).

When I flap my wings (flap arms),

I say, “Whoooo! Whooo!”

Two Little Black Birds

We handed out play scarves before we sang this one, and had the kids pretend the scarves were birds. We changed the color of the bird each time:

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 high!
And the other flew low!…

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.)

Little Bird

We did this one with the play scarves as well, and “flew” them around like birds.

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

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

Black Bird, Black Bird, Fly through my window…

Rockin’ Robin by Jimmie Thomas

We did this as our instrument play-along. The original version by Bobby Day has a LOT of verses, but I just did the ones below.

Here’s a link to the original song:

Tweedily deedily [Am] dee, [D] Tweedily deedily dee.
Tweedily deedily [Am] dee, [D] Tweedily deedily dee.
Tweedily deedily [Am] dee, [D] Tweedily deedily dee.
[G] Tweet, tweet, tweet tweet.

[G7] He rocks in the [G] treetops all day long,
[G7] Hoppin’ and a-boppin’ and [G] a-singin’ his song.
[G7] All the little birds on [G] J-Bird Street,
Love to hear the robin go [G7] tweet, tweet, tweet.

Rockin’ [C] robin (tweet, tweet, tweet);
Rockin’ [G] robin (tweet, tweedle-dee);
[D] Blow rockin’ robin, cause we’re [C] really gonna [G] rock tonight. (Tweet, tweedle-dee!)

[G7] Every little swallow, [G] every chickadee,
[G7] Every little bird in the [G] tall oak tree,
The [G7] wise old owl, the [G] big black crow,
[G] Flappin’ their wings [G7] singin’ go bird, go.

Rockin’ [C] robin (tweet, tweet, tweet).
Rockin’ [G] robin (tweet, tweedle-dee);
[D] Blow rockin’ robin, cause we’re [C] really gonna [G] rock tonight. (Tweet, tweedle-dee!)

Tweedily deedily [Am] dee, [D] Tweedily deedily dee.
Tweedily deedily [Am] dee, [D] Tweedily deedily dee.
Tweedily deedily [Am] dee, [D] Tweedily deedily dee.
[G] Tweet, tweet, tweet tweet.

Stay & Play: Feather Painted Owls

I found this adorable craft on The Pinterested Parent. I precut circles out of yellow and black paper for the eyes, and little triangles for the nose. For the Stay & Play today, I put out white cardstock, colored feathers, paper plates with a squirt of three different colors of tempura paint, the precut paper shapes, and gluesticks.

To be honest, I think the feather painting itself would have been enough of a craft, and made some really cool designs. But the owls turned out to be really cute too!

What are your favorite books or songs about birds? Please share them in the comments below.


Christmastime is Here!

Paper plate angel by Sarah

Paper plate angel by Sarah

My last Family Storytime of 2013.  It was a cozy one with just two families, so I sat on the floor and shared some longer books than I usual would have, and it was wonderful.  These were the ones I read:


Little Porcupine’s Christmas by Joseph Slate; illustrated by Felicia Bond ( link)

I actually just happened to see this one on display right before storytime, and fell in love with it.  Little Porcupine wants to have a part in the Baby in a Manger play, but the other animals make fun of him, calling him a “Spiky Stick Ball.” His mother comforts him, telling him he is “the light of her life,” and, although he is sad not to be in the play, he runs the lights and manages the stage.  In the middle of the play, everyone suddenly realizes they don’t have a Christmas star, and Little Porcupine saves the day.  Such a sweet story, and it was eagerly snatched up at the end.


Dragon’s Merry Christmas by Dav Pilkey ( link)

My daughter and I love all of the Dragon books.  In four short chapters, Dragon: decorates a Christmas tree (outside his house because he can’t bear to chop it done); makes and devours a candy wreath (only eating the pieces that “fall” off); loses his mittens (and his coat); and buys some Christmas presents for himself.  In the last story, he gives away all of his presents to animals who need them more, and goes to sleep thinking he hears angels singing (they are really the grateful animals singing outside his house).  Lovely collection of stories that are both funny and sweet.  One of the girls checked this one out, and every other Dragon book we had on the shelf.  Storytime win!


Merry Un-Christmas by Mike Reiss; illustrated by David Catrow ( link).

For anyone who ever wished it could be Christmas every day, this book shows that you can really have too much of a good thing.  Noelle lives in Christmas City, where everyday is Christmas, except one: Un-Christmas Day.  Noelle loves Un-Christmas Day, when she doesn’t have to open any presents or eat five kinds of pie.  Best of all, she gets to go to school.  I’ve read this to several different age groups, and they all loved it, especially the second graders.


Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry ( link)

I learned about this one from my friend Kerri’s blog, What Is ML Reading?  Mr. Willowby has a perfect Christmas tree, except that it’s a little too tall.  His butler cuts a bit off the top and gives it to the maid, who uses it as her own Christmas tree, but it’s a bit too tall for her mantel.  So she cuts off the top…  Fun, rhyming story with a treetop that just never seems to run out.  The kids enjoyed this one too.

INSTRUMENT PLAYALONG WITH A CD: Linus and Lucy from A Charlie Brown Christmas by Vince Guaraldi ( link).  This was so much fun!  Even my coworkers were humming the tune after story time.

CRAFT: Paper Plate Angels

Paper plate angel by Sophia

Paper plate angel by Sophia

Once again, my wonderful coworker, Gail Benjamin, handed down her leftover craft supplies from a holiday program she did the previous weekend.  You can find printable instructions from Enchanted Learning.

Basically, you cut the plate along the lines, and tape or staple it together.  Then the kids draw a face, and decorate it with glitter.  (I put another paper plate underneath to catch the extra glitter). Gail says her daughter made one years ago in preschool, and they still use it to top their Christmas tree.


How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss ( link)I read this to a second grade class the other day.  I was worried that they would be bored because I know they have all seen the cartoon and the movie a million times, but they were mesmerized.  It’s so much fun to read too.

Merry Christmas, Big Hungry Bear by Audrey and Don Wood ( link)

By the creators of The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear.  In this story, the little mouse is guarding his Christmas presents from the big hungry bear, until he learns the bear has never gotten a present.  Bravely he sets out on his sled in the snow to bring the bear a gift.  The illustrations are adorable.

What are your favorite Christmas books?

Down on the Farm

photo (36)

Construction paper farm by Joaquin

This week’s storytime was lively and a lot of fun, even though I was fighting laryngitis, which always makes things a bit interesting. A coworker commented that I sounded like Peter Brady singing “Time to Change.” But the kids hung in there with me anyway.

The theme for this week was farm stories and farm animals. Here are the books we read:


Farmer Duck by Martin Waddell and Helen Oxenbury

This was an interesting read-aloud. An unfortunate duck is forced to slave away every day while the farmer lies in bed and eats chocolates, until the other animals stage a rebellion and scare the lazy farmer away. It’s basically Animal Farm without all that unpleasant allegorical aftermath, and I was amused to see that a couple of horrified reviewers on Amazon declared it was “dangerous” Communist propaganda. That interpretation would never have occurred to me (and all the other Amazon reviewers loved the book). My storytime kids enjoyed the repeated line, “How Goes the Work?” and getting to yell out, “QUACK!” each time.


Farm Flu by Teresa Bateman and Nadine Bernard Westcott

This one worked really well. It’s a rhyming book about a boy who is left in charge of his family’s farm when the cow comes down with the flu. He tucks her into bed and coddles her just like his Mom would do, but then all the other animals on the farm mysteriously come down with the flu as well. The kids love chiming in on the sneezes in different animals voices, and the pictures are colorful and hilarious.


Serious Farm by Tim Egan

I wasn’t sure how this one would go over because it was a bit lengthier than the other books, but the kids liked it a lot. Farmer Fred is always very serious, much to the dismay of his animals. They try everything they can think of to make him laugh: Edna the cow stands on the fence and tries to crow like a rooster; the pigs bark like dogs; and all the animals try on Farmer Fred’s clothes and dance around the farm yard. But nothing works, and the animals finally decide to seek out a more humorous place to live. In the course of their escape, they finally manage to make Farmer Fred lighten up, a little, but he still doesn’t think there’s anything funny about corn.


Cowlick by Christin Ditchfield; illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw

This is a funny book that works well for toddlers as well as older kids. It describes in rhymed verse how a sneaky cow invades a little boy’s bedroom and leaves him with an unexpected gift. Always a hit.


Old MacDonald: One of the kids requested that we choose animals in alphabetical order, like we did the previous week. Our farm included an alligator, a baby(!), a cat, a dog, and an Ella (one of the storytime participants).

If You’re Happy and You Know It: We did this as a follow-up to Serious Farm. We added other emotions, and I asked the kids what they do when they felt that way. We ended up with, “When you’re sad and you know it, cry ‘Boohoo!'” “When you’re angry and you know it, go ‘ERRRRRRRR!'” and “When you’re shy and you know it, hide your eyes…peekaboo!'”

Baby Bumblebee: As usual, I asked the kids to suggest other animals they might bring home, which is always a fun challenge. We came up with: “I’m bringing home a baby skunk. Won’t my Mommy fall into a funk?” and “I’m bringing home a baby killer whale. Won’t my Mommy turn so very pale?”

I Bought Me a Rooster: My CD player broke last week, so I had to play my uke and sing for our instrument play time. This is a fun cumulative song, where the kids suggest animals and the sounds they make. The trick is remembering all the animals in order, as the song gets longer and longer.

CRAFT: Construction Paper Farm

photo (35)

Construction paper farm by Jonas

I adapted this craft from the one on Lines, Dots, and Doodles. I cut out the barns and grass ahead of time, and gave the kids a choice of adding cotton ball sheep and feather chickens (see Joaquin’s example at the top of the page). It was cute to see all the different ways they each constructed their farms.


I had a stack of books to choose from, and let the kids pick the ones I actually read. Here are some of the ones we didn’t get to:

Duck on a Bike by David Shannon

You can’t go wrong with David Shannon. When a curious duck decides to test out a little boy’s bicycle, the other farm animals are intrigued. The illustration of all the animals on bikes always gets a big laugh.

Mrs. Wishy Washy’s Farm by Joy Cowley; illustrated by Elizabeth Fuller

I’ve always been impressed by Joy Cowley. She’s a New Zealand author who writes literally hundreds of books for the very beginning reader, including many of the Story Box and Sunshine Books (we have these in the library, but they are uncatalogued, so you just have to look for the collection of tiny paperbacks near the Easy Reader section). The beauty of these books is that they have basically the same sentence structure on each page, so kids can easily learn the pattern and read the book, building their confidence and sight word vocabulary at the same time. But somehow Cowley still manages to make these incredibly simple books entertaining, by throwing in a little twist at the end. Mrs. Wishy Washy’s Farm is a more typical picture book, but it’s a cute rhyming story about some farm animals who get fed up with their owner’s constant bathing, and run away to the city. The illustrations are adorable, especially the cow in the washtub. It would also work well for a bathtime theme.

Click Clack Moo! Cows that Type by Doreen Cronin; illustrated by Betsy Lewin

I couldn’t do a list of farm books without including the Click Clack Moo series about Farmer Brown and his scheming duck. I think Dooby Dooby Moo is my favorite. The humor in this one appeals to adults (who will understand the labor dispute references), as well as kids.

Two friends of mine, Neely Dean and Tanya Scoville, both pointed out a classic I forgot to mention: Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown (author of Goodnight Moon).   A joyful, soothing poem about the sights and sounds of a cheerful farm.

Kim Day, a children’s librarian at the Burlingame Library, also recommended The Cow That Laid an Egg by Andy Cutbill, illustrated by Russell Ayto, an adorable story about Marjorie, a cow who wishes she had some special talent, and then one day appears to have laid an egg.  You can watch the book being read aloud on Youtube here.

What are your favorite farm books?

Autumn Leaves: Stories about Fall

Torn Paper Tree by Olivia

Torn Paper Tree by Olivia

Last night we read books that were loosely related to Fall.

I have the same issue with seasonal books that I do with holiday ones.  The ones that are purely about the seasons are often pretty dry.  Also, I always feel a little funny reading seasonal books in the Bay Area, especially here on the coast.  We have spring, summer, autumn and winter several times a week.  This morning it was clearly autumn and I had to wear a jacket when I dropped off my son at school, but by 10 it was spring, so I took it off.  This afternoon it was definitely summer.  For all I know, tomorrow there will be a winter rainstorm.  I’ve given up trying to figure it all out.  I just try to keep a flexible wardrobe.

But we never get snow (a shame, because so many great picture books take place in snow).  And only a few embarrassed trees drop their leaves here.  The eucalyptus and cypress defiantly keep theirs all year.  So the picture book versions of the seasons don’t really apply.

What does the autumn mean here?  Mostly school, and pumpkins.  Huge pumpkins!  Also apples, pomegranates and persimmons.  And, just because I love this book, squirrels:


Ol’ Mama Squirrel by David Ezra Stein

I’ve only discovered David Ezra Stein in the past year or so, but I love his books, especially Interrupting Chicken (such a fun read-aloud!)  This one’s about a tough old Mama Squirrel who will scold anyone and anything who threatens her babies, even a great big bully of a bear.  The kids enjoyed chiming in on the “Chook! Chook! Chook!” of the Mama Squirrel, and this book was quickly snatched up at the end.


A New House for Mouse by Petr Horacek

Cute story about a mouse searching for a new home that will hold both him and his apple.  As he goes along throughout the day, snacking, and asking different animals if he can share their homes, the apple gets smaller and smaller until he winds up right back at his own hole, which is now a perfect fit.  This one has cut-out holes in the pages, which always seem to fascinate kids.  They all seemed to enjoy this one, and it got snatched up too.


Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper

I’ll confess that I had only skimmed this one before story time, and wasn’t planning to read it, but one of the kids grabbed it from the pile and asked if I could read it next.  It’s the story of a duck, a cat, and a squirrel who each have a particular job to do to make the pumpkin soup they eat every night.  They live together peacefully, until one day the duck decides he would like to try stirring the soup.  They all have a tremendous fight, and duck leaves.  The kids were all mesmerized, waiting to see if Duck would come back.  (I was too, since I wasn’t 100% sure of how it was going to end).  But of course, they all learn to be more flexible, and everything is happy again, until the Duck decides he wants to try playing Cat’s bagpipes…  This one got checked out at the end too.


Leaves by David Ezra Stein

This was the one book that was clearly related to Fall.  It’s a simple story, but sweet, about a young bear who is alarmed to see the leaves falling, and tries to put them back on the trees.  The kids were intrigued by the way the bear curls into a leaf-filled hole that is buried by snow in the winter, and how he is hidden there until spring.  This one would work well for younger kids too.


I only did a couple of songs because after I read A New House for Mouse there was a raging debate between one girl who wanted me to sing “Hickory Dickory Dock” and a boy who just wanted me to read more stories (he asked very politely.  It was sweet).  So I did do “Hickory Dickory Dock,” but I cut out some of the other songs.  Here is the version that I do:

Hickory Dickory Dock (clap hands in rhythm)
The mouse ran up the clock (run fingers up arm)
The clock struck 1 (jump up quickly, then sit down)
The mouse ran down (run fingers down arm)
Hickory Dickory Dock (clap hands)

…the clock struck two (jump up and sit down twice)
The mouse went “boo!” (cover eyes with hands, then peekaboo)

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

INSTRUMENT PLAY WITH A CD:  I’ve had several requests for Bananaphone by Rhonda Vincent from Sing Along with Putumayo, so that’s the one we did.  But a more appropriate one would have been What Falls in the Fall? by Laurie Berkner from her Whaddaya Think of That album.

CRAFT: Torn Paper Trees

I cut out the trunks freehand from brown paper, then tore bits of colored paper for the leaves.  It was fun to see the different ways the kids approached gluing on the leaves.  Some scattered them in handfuls, while others applied each leaf individually.

If I did this craft again, I might print out the template at the bottom of this post from The Crayon Box Chronicles (she also has a neat way of making tree trunks out of brown paper bags).  I just found this site, and I’m already in love with it.  LOTS of different kids art ideas and they all look like great fun!  Check it out!

Torn Paper Tree by Sarah

Torn Paper Tree by Sarah


One book I meant to do, which is one of my favorites for fall, is Leaf  Man by Lois Ehlert.   In this one Ehlert uses autumn leaves to create a wonderful assortment of animals and scenery.  I’ve actually used it several times as a craft idea too, and brought in leaves for the kids to glue together to make their own creations.

What are your favorite picture books about Autumn?

Books You Can Count On

Colorful spotted dog created by Claire

Colorful spotted dog created by Claire

Last night we read stories about numbers and counting.

I’m embarrassed to say that I originally chose this theme because of the book Five Little Monkeys Play Hide and Seek by Eileen Christelow, which my daughter absolutely loved.  It’s my favorite of the Five Little Monkeys series (with Don’t Wake Up Mama as a close second), and it features the five monkeys tricking their babysitter by hiding in the one place she would never think to look–in bed.  It also has lots of counting to different numbers, even 104 (I probably wouldn’t go that high for storytime, unless the group seemed really into it).  Anyway, in the end I went off to work and left the book beside my daughter’s bed–one of the perils of being both a children’s librarian and a mom.

Luckily, there are lots of other great counting books.  Here are the ones we read:


Doggies by Sandra Boynton

This simple board book involves counting dogs from 1 to 10, adding in a new doggie sound each time.  Even though it’s meant for toddlers, it works well for almost any age because the kids love joining in on the various barks and whines.  It made for a great opening book tonight.


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

My second favorite Pete the Cat book (after I Love My White Shoes).  In this one Pete keeps losing his groovy buttons, but does he cry?  Goodness no!  The kids liked the clever twist at the end, when Pete discovers he still has a button, even after all the ones on his shirt have rolled away.  Always a hit.


Hippos Go Berserk by Sandra Boynton

Another book by Sandra Boynton.  This one’s a counting and rhyming book about a lonely hippo who invites forty-four friends to her house for a party.  The best page is where “All the hippos go berserk!”


Zero by Kathryn Otoshi

I was glad I had this book in the mix because there were several elementary school aged kids in the group, and the other books I had were primarily for younger children.  This is the sequel to Otoshi’s One, a powerful but remarkably simple picture book about bullying, with the message that everyone counts.  In Zero, the number zero worries that she has no value, until she realizes that if she works together with her friends, they can count to much higher numbers than they ever had before.  Like One, this book works on multiple levels.


Dog’s Colorful Day by Emma Dodd

A simple, vibrant counting story about a dog who gets covered in spots of different colors (orange juice, jam, mud) etc., throughout the day.  The kids get lots of opportunities to count and name the colors.  This one works really well as a flannel board.


B-I-N-G-O: To go along with the book Doggies, we barked the missing letters instead of clapping them.  I asked the kids to suggest different types of dogs for each verse, which got interesting.  We had a poodle (“oui, oui! woof woof!”), a puppy, a big dog, and a cat dog (meowff?!).

The Hippopotamus (I learned this one years ago from my friend Barbara B.)

The hip, the hip, the hippopotamus (clap or pat rhythm)
Got on, got on, got on the city bus
And all, and all, and all the people said
You’re squishing us! (squeeze cheeks together with your hands)

INSTRUMENT PLAY WITH A CD: Down Down Baby by Laurie Berkner from her Whaddaya Think of That album.

CRAFT: Colorful dog

To go along with Dog’s Colorful Day, I printed out a dog picture from Coloring Pages for Kids (in the process, I found this wonderful storytime web site called Public Library Program Ideas, which had suggested this activity as part of a Spots and Stripes theme.  The kids colored in the dog with crayons and then glued dots of different colors on it.


A new book I just discovered and absolutely LOVE is The Boy Who Loved Math by Deborah Heiligman and LeUyen Pham.  It describes the life of Paul Erdos, a Hungarian mathematician, who from early childhood had an astounding talent for and interest in math.  Like many geniuses, he was a bit eccentric.  For instance, until he was 21, he had never buttered his own bread (his mother and his nurse had always done everything for him).  The book briefly touches on prime numbers and negative numbers, not in depth, but enough to pique the interest of young math enthusiasts.  It’s an exuberant, fun, fascinating story, and it’s clear that the author loves math as much as Erdos did.  An excellent biography, especially for elementary school kids.   I’m looking forward to using it for class visits.

Any other favorite counting and number books?

Gorilla! Gorilla!


There is a new baby gorilla at the San Francisco Zoo, born on July 17, 2013.   She’s not out in the gorilla enclosure yet.  I’m sure both she and Mom need a while to settle in (I know I wouldn’t have wanted to be on public display during my first few months as a new parent.  The horror!)  But I enjoyed showing my storytime kids the pictures from the zoo web site.  They found her both adorable and frightening, which kind of sums up a lot of the picture books about gorillas too.  And there are many!  Here are the ones I read:


Little Gorilla by Ruth Bornstein

One of my all-time favorite books for toddlers, this is a sweet story about a little gorilla, and all the animals who love him.  But then one day he begins to grow and grow and GROW, until one day he is big.  And everybody still loves him.  I have the kids sing Happy Birthday to Little Gorilla on the page with his birthday cake.  This book seems to appeal to a wide range of ages, and is perfect for storytimes about birthdays and jungle animals.  Even though the color scheme is very 1970’s, this book is timeless, and is always a hit.


Gorilla! Gorilla! by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross

I love Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross.  One of my secret evil picture book favorites is The Tadpole’s Promise, even though it horrifies my son, and I’ve only had the nerve to read at a storytime once.  (The kids loved it.)  In Gorilla! Gorilla! a mother mouse is searching for her baby when a giant gorilla begins to chase her…all over the world.  The desperate chase ends when the exhausted mouse finally stops running, and realizes the gorilla was trying to help her all along.  This book really builds the drama, exaggerating the scariness of the gorilla and the fears of the mouse.  I remember reading this to my daughter when she was two, and it terrified her (although after that first read, she loved it), so I tend to do it more for preschool-aged kids and older.   There was an 8 year-old in my group tonight who said, “That was a really good story!”


No Fits, Nilson by Zachariah OHora

This one was new to me, but it worked really well.  Amelia and Nilson the gorilla do everything together, but sometimes the smallest things make Nilson upset.  Amelia has to remind him not to have “fits,” especially when they are out running errands with Mom.  But when the ice cream vendor runs out of banana ice cream, it is Nilson who helps Amelia remember to stay calm.  This was a fun read-aloud that gave the kids the chance to join in on the angry “Gaarrrghhs!” when Nilson has his fits.  On the last page, Nilson is revealed to be a toy gorilla, a surprise that the kids enjoyed.  This book would pair well with Llama Llama Mad at Mama by Anna Dewdney, or Mouse Was Mad by Linda Urban and Henry Cole for other stories about coping with anger and life’s daily frustrations.


Little Beauty by Anthony Browne

Anthony Browne clearly likes gorillas (in fact, I almost read his book One Gorilla, a counting book about primates).   This story is about a signing gorilla, who is given an adorable pet kitten named Beauty.  The two become inseparable (the favorite page for the kids, of course, is of the gorilla on the potty, while the kitten sits next to him in her litter box).   Then one day the gorilla sees a movie (King Kong) that makes him so angry that he smashes the TV, and the keepers threaten to take Beauty away.  But Beauty surprises them all with a sign language of her own.  The ending is a bit wacky, but the large illustrations are wonderful, and it was fun to talk to the kids about Koko the Gorilla, who lives in Woodside, not too far from here.  I wish I had thought to show them one of the books about Koko and her kittens.   A lovely one is Koko-Love! Conversations with a Signing Gorilla by Francine Patterson.


Freight Train

Although I love the original version of this song by Elizabeth Cotten, I use the more kid-friendly one by Elizabeth Mitchell and ask the kids for suggestions of where to go.  Luckily one of them wanted to go to the zoo, which worked perfectly for my theme.

Ten Candles on a Birthday Cake

Ten candles on a birthday cake (hold up ten fingers)
All lit up for me (point to yourself)
I make a wish and blow them out.
Watch and you will see! (blow on fingers and quickly close hands into fists)

I asked the kids how old they were, and we did the rhyme a few times with different ages.  I even asked the parents if they wanted their ages represented, but sadly nobody volunteered.

Hickory Dickory Dock

Hickory Dickory Dock (clap along to the beat)
The mouse ran up the clock. (run fingers up arm)
The clock struck 1: BONG! (hold up one finger)
The mouse ran down. (run fingers down arm)
Hickory Dickory Dock! (clap beat)

…the clock struck 2, the mouse went “BOO!”…
…the clock struck 3, the mouse went “WHEE!”
…the clock struck 4, the mouse said, “No more.”

Boom Diddy Boom 

Boom Diddy Boom Diddy Boom Boom Boom (pound on chest)
Boom Diddy Boom Diddy Boom Boom Boom
Down in the jungle where nobody goes,
There’s a great big gorilla washing his clothes.
With a scrubba dubba here, (scrub hands back and forth)
And a scrubba dubba here.
That’s the way he washes his underwear!

INSTRUMENT PLAYALONG WITH A CD:  Gorilla Song by Sha Na Na from Blue Moo by Sandra Boynton

CRAFT: Gorilla Masks

photo (20)

Olivia holding her gorilla mask (with two adorable teeth)

I got this craft from a site called Noah’s Ark Preschool.   There wasn’t a template, but it was pretty easy to draw the faces and heads freehand on construction paper.   I cut out those and the eyes (white circles) and bows ahead of time.  The kids glued the faces and eyes on and drew in their own mouths, pupils, and eyelashes.  We used tape to hold the popsicle sticks on the back.  It was amazing to see how different each child’s gorilla was.


The book I wish I had gotten in time was Goodnight, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann, the classic nearly-wordless story about a naughty gorilla who follows the zookeeper around on his evening rounds and lets the animals out one by one.   My son and I always enjoyed looking for the mouse and the balloon on every page.

Another one I almost read was My Friend Gorilla by Atsuko Morozumi.  This is a bittersweet story about a little boy whose family takes in a gorilla.  They have a wonderful time together, until some people come to take the gorilla away to a preserve where he will be happier.  I remember reading this to my son when he was little, and he was sad that the gorilla had to go away, which made for an interesting discussion about animals in the wild versus in captivity.

I had also considered doing books about other primates, which might have included Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina (always a hit!), but also the more recent Me, Jane by Patrick McDonnell, a lovely simple story about the childhood of Jane Goodall.

Any other favorite gorilla or ape books?

Going to the Zoo!


Paper plate lion by Edward

Tonight’s storytime was about zoo animals, and was inspired by a friend who reminded me about a book that used to be one of my storytime standbys:


If Anything Ever Goes Wrong at the Zoo by Mary Jean Hendrick, illustrated by Jane Dyer

A little girl named Leslie asks the keepers at the zoo if she can take home a zebra, a monkey, an elephant, and many other animals.  When they each tell her no, she tells them that if anything ever goes wrong at the zoo, they are welcome to bring the animals to her house.  Her mother is in for a big surprise when the zoo floods, and the doorbell rings.  Both the kids and the parents enjoyed this one.


The Baby Beebee Bird by Debra Redfield Massie, illustrated by Stephen Kellogg

Probably one of my top five favorite books to read aloud.  It’s got large, colorful illustrations, LOTS of animal noises for the kids to help with, and a little bird that says, “beebeebobbibobbi” over and over and over again (preferably in a very high pitched voice).  The animals at the zoo are disturbed by the new noisy arrival who keeps them up all night, until they hatch a plan to teach her a lesson.


The Lion and the Little Red Bird by Elisa Kleven

I was introduced to this book by one of my library school professors who specialized in storytelling.  This was one of his favorite stories to tell, but I love the illustrations so much that I hate to share just the story without Kleven’s bright, beautiful paintings.  My daughter has recently discovered this book, and begs to hear it over and over.  A little bird wonders why a lion’s tail changes color every day, until one night she discovers his amazing secret.


Call Me Gorgeous by Giles and Alexandra Milton

An eye-catchingly gorgeous book about a mysterious animal who has the antlers of a reindeer, the spots of a dalmatian, the tail of a chameleon, and more!  My boss read this one at a recent storytime, and I had to try it (another coworker shared it with a first grade class, and they made her read it twice, then begged for another read).  My group loved it too, and fought over who was going to take it home.   It’s a simple but striking book that appeals to a wide range of ages.


Shake My Sillies Out by Raffi (my big comedy schtick is pretending to fall asleep when we “Yawn the Sleepies Out.”  Then the kids yell for me to “Wake Up!”  It never seems to get old.)

Two Little Blackbirds (see previous post)

No More Monkeys (I like to do the version by Asheba from the Putumayo Animal Playground album.  Here’s a Youtube video.  It’s incredibly catchy!)


Animal Fair by Laurie Berkner from her Whaddaya Know album.  Traditional song, but with lots of rhythm changes, which makes it fun for instruments.

CRAFT: Paper Plate Lions


Sorry this picture is a bit blurry, but here’s a shot of several of the lions together

I picked up some orange paper plates from Target and cut out yellow circles out of paper to fit in the middle.  The kids cut slits around the outside of the plate for the mane (luckily they were all pretty comfortable with scissors).  Then they glued the paper on for the face, added googly eyes and drew the nose, mouth and ears of the lion.  They were pretty cute.

This craft, and variations on it, appears on several web sites (including a cute one that uses twisty pasta for the mane).  The one we did was most similar to this version:


Two other books I would have read tonight if I hadn’t already done them in the past few months were:

Edward the Emu by Sheena Knowles

A rhyming story about an emu who pretends to be other animals in the zoo because he thinks people find them more interesting.

Smile if You’re Human by Neal Layton

There’s only one copy of this book left in our library system, but it’s a cute story about an alien family who comes to earth hoping to find humans, but instead stumble into a zoo.

Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell (recommended by Carol F)

Wonderful lift-the-flap board book for toddlers about a kid writing to the zoo to ask for a pet.  Both my kids adored this book.

Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann (recommended by Thom M)

Wordless board book about a sleepy zookeeper and the gorilla who follows him around the zoo releasing the animals.  The illustrations are adorable, and there’s a mouse with a banana, and a red balloon on every page for kids to find.

A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Erin and Philip Stead (recommended by Clare R)

Winner of the 2011 Caldecott Medal, this is a sweet story about a man who visits the zoo every day and spends time with each of the animals, until one day he is too sick to come, so the animals come visit him.

Thank you for all of the recommendations, which I’m always thrilled to receive.  Any other favorite zoo and zoo animal books?