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.


Chasing Rainbows: A Storytime about Colors

Since there were two holidays related to color this week (Holi and St. Patrick’s Day), I decided to combine them both into a storytime about colors. Here’s what we did:


Rainbow Stew by Cathryn Falwell

This book worked perfectly because it was cloudy and damp in the park today, just like the weather in the book. This is a sweet, rhyming book about three children gathering a rainbow of veggies for their grandfather’s famous Rainbow Stew.

Festival of Colors by Kabir & Suristha Sehgal; illustrated by Vashti Harrison

This is a beautiful book about two kids gathering different types of flowers to crush into colored powders to celebrate the Indian holiday, Holi. When we got to the part where “Poof!” the kids start throwing different colors into the air, my coworker Claire threw colorful play scarves into the crowd. It was a big hit!

Good Luck, Bear by Greg Foley

This one was admittedly a bit of a stretch for St. Patrick’s Day, but it’s challenging to find St. Patrick’s Day books that are short enough for our storytime crowds. Before I read it, I talked a little bit about St. Patrick’s Day, and held up a picture of a shamrock. I pointed out that shamrocks look similar to clover, (which coincidentally grows all over the picnic area where we hold the storytime), and that many people think that it’s lucky to find a four leaf clover. This is a short cute, story about Bear’s unsuccessful hunt for a lucky clover.


Rainbow Round Me by Ruth Pelham

We sang this one after reading Rainbow Stew. I asked the kids to suggest things they might see outside their window. We had a purple dinosaur, a pink horse, a green bear, and a green dog:

When I [C] look outside my [G7] window,
There’s a world of color I [C] see.
Fiddle-dee-dee, [F] outside my [C] window 
There’s a [G7] world of color I [C] see.

[F] Rainbow, [C] rainbow, [G7] rainbow ’round [C] me. 
[F] Rainbow, [C] rainbow, [G7] rainbow ’round [C] me. 

If Your Clothes Have Any Red

It’s to the tune of If You’re Happy and You Know It. It’s fun to come up with your own verses:

[C] If your clothes have any red, any [G7] red,

If your clothes have any red, any [C] red,

If your [F] clothes have any red,

Put your [C] finger on your head!

If your [G7] clothes have any red, any [C] red.

If your clothes have any blue…put your finger on your shoe…

If your clothes have any green…make believe you can’t be seen… (cover your eyes with your hands, and then say, “Peekaboo!”

If your clothes have any black…put your finger on your back…

The Rattlin’ Bog

The harp is the national symbol of Ireland. Unfortunately, I didn’t have access to a harp, but a coworker gave me an autoharp a few years ago. It’s a little cumbersome for storytime usually, but the kids enjoyed seeing it (I gave them a chance to come up and strum it at the end). Anyway, I used it to strum this traditional Irish song, while the kids played along with the shakers. Here’s a YouTube video of a great version by The Wiggles. The word “rattlin” means splendid, or very good.

[C] O-ro the [F] rattlin’ bog, the [C] bog down in the [G7] valley-o
[C] O-ro the [F] rattlin’ bog, the [C] bog down in the [G7] valley- [C] o

[C] And in that bog there was a hole, a rare hole, a [G7] rattlin’ hole
With the [C] hole in the bog,
And the bog down in the [G7] valley- [C] o.

Now in that hole there was a tree, a rare tree, a rattlin’ tree.
With the tree in the hole and the hole in the bog
And the bog down in the valley-o.

Now on that tree there was a branch, a rare branch, a rattlin’ branch
With the branch on the tree and the tree in the hole,
And the bog down in the valley-o.

(Repeat, adding a line each time)
Now on that branch there was a nest, a rare nest, a rattlin’ nest…..

Now in that nest there was an egg , a rare egg, a rattlin’ egg…..

Now in that egg there was a bird, a rare bird, a rattlin’ bird…..

Game: Red Light/Green Light

It’s fun to have an excuse to throw in a quick game, like Simon Says, and our color theme gave us a great opportunity to play Red Light/Green Light. I was originally going to have the kids do different actions, like jumping or running in place, but since we had just given out play scarves after reading Festival of Colors, I had the kids wave the scarves instead. I had printed out pictures of red and green traffic lights, and I told them to wave their scarves when I held up the green light, and to stop when I held up the red light. Sometimes I would trick them by saying red light twice in a row, which always got big laughs.

Stay and Play: Flower Painting

I love this activity! It’s so simple, colorful, and tactile. Basically, all I did was put out paper, and a bunch of different types of flowers from my yard: nasturtiums, oxalis, geraniums, and borage (I tried to stick to edible plants). Then the kids used the petals to “paint.” Although the petals don’t last long, they create a lot of color.

A flower drawn with flowers

Down on the Farm

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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

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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?

School Days

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Graham Cracker School Bus by Ella

For the past few years, I’ve been lucky enough to know a wonderful group of parents and kids who meet for dinner every Wednesday night, then come to the library for my Family Storytime.  Most of those kids will be starting Kindergarten next week, and to me it feels almost as bittersweet as it did when my own son started school.

The little group has become like a second family, and I’ve enjoyed seeing the kids each week as they fight like siblings over who is going to get to check out the book I just read (or am about to read), suggest wild new original verses for songs, and glue dozens of googly eyes to whatever craft project we’re doing.  It’s been so much fun to see them get taller, and more expressive, and skilled with crayons and glue sticks and scissors.  They are definitely ready for Kindergarten, and I’m excited for them.

But I know life gets much busier once kids go to Kindergarten, especially with homework and class projects and after school activities.  So I hope they’ll keep coming on Wednesday nights, but I know it may be hard.

Last night I had planned to read stories about school and Kindergarten to celebrate their big day next week.  But first, because a number of the Moms in the group crochet, I had to share:


The Surprise by Sylvia van Ommen

My coworker Gail B., who runs our library knitting group, showed me this one.  It’s an adorable wordless picture book about a sheep who measures her own wool, drives to the store on her motor scooter for some dye, dyes herself red, shears off her wool and takes it to a very French poodle to be spun into yarn.  And then she knits a surprise.   One of the Moms commented that she wished more books were about crocheting rather than knitting (there are quite a few knitting books now including The Red Wolf by Margaret and Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen).  So children’s authors and publishers, take note!


I Am Too Absolutely Small for School by Lauren Child

The kids loved this Charlie and Lola story, where Charlie explains why Lola needs to go to school to learn how to count (in case eleven elephants want a treat), write letters (so Santa Claus’ elves don’t get her Christmas wishes mixed up), and read (in case a very angry ogre demands to have his favorite bedtime story read aloud).  The kids especially enjoyed the pages that featured Soren Lorenson, Lola’s invisible friend, who appears ever-so-faintly in the pictures.  A fun read-aloud about all the worries kids might have about starting school.


Seals on the Bus by Lenny Hort and G. Brian Karas

Okay, so this one wasn’t actually a school story either, but I had a couple of toddlers in the audience, and my craft was about buses.  Hilarious version of The Wheels on the Bus, about a bus full of animals.  My favorite are the “vipers on the bus” that go “Hiss Hiss Hiss.”  Buh-dum-bum.  I actually read this one again this morning for a toddler storytime, and one little boy was so fond of it that he cried every time his caregiver put it down.


The Pirate’s Guide to First Grade by James Prellar; illustrated by Greg Ruth

This book is written entirely in “pirate,” which makes it fun to read aloud, and perfect for Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19!).    The illustrations show a boy going about all the usual routine of the first day of school, except that he is accompanied every where he goes by faint line drawings of pirates (his invisible crew), and he talks like a pirate.  Librarians will appreciate that the “treasure” he finds at the end is the book Treasure Island.


Twinkle Twinkle/ABCD:  These were by request.  After we sang Twinkle Twinkle and ABCD, one of the kids suggested that we hum the song, so we did.  Then we quacked it like a flock of noisy ducks.  Great fun.

Baby Bumblebee: I had a big bumblebee puppet, so we actually sang “I’m bringing home a giant bumblebee,” and then I “stung” all the kids with the puppet.  After that, I asked the kids for suggestions (it’s always a fun challenge to come up with a rhyme on the spot).  We brought home a baby giraffe (“won’t my Mommy really start to laugh”); a crocodile (“won’t my Mommy cry for quite a while”); a bunny (“won’t my Mommy really think that’s funny”) and, the stumper, a baby person (“won’t my Mommy think that’s worse and worsen” –best I could do).


Skip To My Lou by John McCutcheon from 20 Great Kids Songs.  Great, lively version of this traditional song, where McCutcheon presents some of his own verses like “There’s a hole in the doughnut and a fly flew through.”  This is one of my favorite albums for kids.

CRAFT: Graham Cracker School Buses

Mini bus by Sarah

Mini bus by Sarah

I added yellow food coloring to some whipped cream cheese in advance, then gave each kids a plate with a graham cracker, 2 Oreo cookie “wheels,” square cereal pieces for windows, a dollop of yellow cream cheese and a plastic knife.  It was quick to assemble, and surprisingly not terribly messy.  I think a number of the buses didn’t made it out of the station.   This craft appears on a number of websites, including Juggling With Kids, where they made it to accompany a Mo Willems book reading event (they added the pigeon from the Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus series).


There were so many books I didn’t get to, but here are a few of my favorites about going to school:

Tom Goes to Kindergarten by Margaret Wild and David Legge

Cute story about a panda who is nervous about starting Kindergarten until his parents are allowed to stay with him for the first day.  They all have a wonderful time, singing songs and painting and making things.  The next day, Tom goes off happily to school on his own, but now his Mom and Dad are sad they aren’t allowed to go to Kindergarten too.

Miss Nelson is Missing by Harry Allard and James Marshall

This is such a classic.  It has everything: drama, mystery, and a larger-than-life villain, Miss Viola Swamp.  I love that the book gives just enough clues for the kids to figure out what really happened to Miss Nelson without stating it outright.  I once read that James Marshall loved to draw as a kid, but stopped when a horrible teacher in elementary school made fun of his artwork.  He gave up drawing altogether until he was an adult, and that teacher became the basis for Miss Viola Swamp. That story makes me incredibly sad because among my favorite books as a child were Marshall’s George and Martha series, and I hate to think that the world could have lost out of those altogether because of the nasty comments of one person.   I tell Marshall’s story to my son a lot to remind him never to give up doing the things he loves, no matter what anyone else says.

The Grandma Cure by Pamela Mayer and John Nez

This one was written by a local librarian, and, while it’s not actually set in school, the heroine of the story gets to act like a teacher.  When Becky stays home sick from school, her two grandmothers come to take care of her.  The trouble is that they have very different ideas about the proper things for a sick girl to eat and drink, and they argue all the time.  Becky tells them that they are acting like they are in preschool, and teaches them the rules for taking turns and sharing she knows from Kindergarten.  It’s an adorable, funny story that would also work well for a storytime about grandparents.

What are your favorite books about going to school?


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

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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?

Saddle Up for Cowboy Storytime

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Foot print horses made by Owen and Parker.

Tonight we read cowboy stories, which have a lot of kid appeal.  There’s adventure, and horses, and outlaws, and big hats.  What’s not to like?


Moo Cow, Ka-Boom! by Thacher Hurd

Written by Thacher Hurd, son of Goodnight Moon illustrator Clement Hurd, this one is terrific fun to read aloud.  Farmer George’s Moo Cow is stolen by a space cowboy named Zork, who plans to ride her in the Inter-Galactic Rodeo.  Certain books will always remind me of other people, who read them especially well, and this one belongs to my friend Barbara B.


Giddy-up, Daddy! by Troy Cummings

My daughter’s current favorite picture book.   It features a dad who gives the world’s best horsey rides.  So good, in fact, that he is kidnapped by horse rustlers.  His two kids rush to the rescue, pursuing the horse thieves through a rodeo, a circus, a polo match, the Kentucky Derby, and all the way to Canada.  This one is a great read-aloud as well, with lots of opportunities for the kids to add sound effects like gasps and boos and galloping noises.


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

Jan Thomas writes wonderfully goofy books that are made to be read aloud to large groups.   In this one, a cowboy’s lullaby to his cows is constantly interrupted by scary things (a big hairy spider, a snake) he thinks he sees.  The kids loved joining in on the “EEKs!”


Tucker’s Spooky Halloween by Leslie McGuirk

Okay, this wasn’t in my plan for the evening.  But, as I’ve mentioned before, the holiday books are right next to the storytime area, and kids are constantly pulling out Halloween books (especially this one!) and begging me to read them.  Last night was no exception. Coincidentally though, this one is about a dog who wants to dress up as something scary for Halloween, and is disappointed when his owner wants his to dress up as…a cowboy!


Are You a Horse? by Andy Rash

A cowboy sets out to find a horse for his new saddle, but, since he doesn’t know what a horse is, he approaches everything from a wagon to a tree sloth.   The kids liked yelling out what the different “not a horse” things were, and the surprise twist at the end made everyone laugh.


Cowboy Pokey

A variation of the Hokey Pokey I learned from Karin M. at the Foster City Library (she did a wonderful cowboy storytime recently, where they also sang “Deep in the Heart of Texas” and “Every Cowboy Needs a Horse.”)   For this version of the song, instead of your feet, you put your spurs (right and left) in.  You can also put your lasso in, your hat (head) in, and finally ride your horse in.


In retrospect, I could have made Bingo a horse, as in, “There was a cowboy had a horse and Bingo was his name-o.”  Instead, I did my usual variation, where we barked the missing letters.

If I had had a younger group, I would have done one of my favorite baby/toddler songs, which a lap-bounce to the tune of the William Tell Overture (Lone Ranger theme):

Giddy-up, giddy-up, giddy-up-UP-UP! (bounce child on knees)
Giddy-up, giddy-up, giddy-up-UP-UP!
Giddy-up, giddy-up, giddy-up-UP-UP!
Whoa, Horsey! (Pull child back into a hug against your chest)

INSTRUMENT PLAYALONG WITH A CD:  Bling Blang by Arlo Guthrie from the Sing Along with Putumayo album.

CRAFT: Foot Print Horses

I got this craft from Busy Bee Crafts, one of my favorite kids craft sites.  It did require some adult help to trace out the kid’s feet.  Luckily, the kids were mostly all old enough to cut out the footprints themselves.  I supplied the one-inch pieces of black yarn, the wiggly eyes, the neck (basically a long triangle with the top point cut off), and the ears (triangles).    It worked pretty well, and each child assembled their horse slightly differently, so they each made the project their own.

What are your favorite cowboy, Wild West, or horse stories?

Happy Birthday to US!

This week’s them was Birthday/Fourth of July books.

I have a secret phobia of holiday storytimes, because I hate almost all of the holiday books, except for Halloween (our holiday book section is right next to the storytime rug, and kids are always pulling Halloween books off the shelf and asking me to read them, no matter what time of year it is).  Halloween books are always fun, because they are usually just stories with creepy characters, and the kids love them.

But for the most part, I find that most holiday books are either: overly cutesy (Vixie’s Vexing Valentines–Vixie the adorable Vole is horrified to discover that her brother Vladimir has eaten all of the glitter for her class cards.  Whatever will Vixie do?);  dull (Egbert’s Eggcellent Easter–Egbert the Eel hunts for eggs, finds them all, eats a few, has dinner with his family, and goes to bed, all in badly-written rhymed text; or forced (Say Hooray for Saint Patrick’s Day!–Haley the Honey Badger asks why she has to wear green in the town parade, and learns all about the history and significance of the Irish saint in 32 excruciating pages.  Seriously, Saint Patrick’s Day books are the worst!).

Okay, I totally made up all of the examples I mentioned above, but they COULD be real.  There are Christmas books that I like personally, but many of them are too long for storytime, and religious holidays are especially tricky at a public library.  My favorite holiday picture book is actually The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming by Lemony Snicket, which somehow manages to explain the history of Hannukah and tell a compelling story, all with a lot of wry humor, a bit of social commentary, and a tremendous amount of screaming throughout (which the kids love).

Anyway, enough ranting about holiday books.  My only reason for bringing it up is that tonight I decided to do just one token honest-to-goodness Fourth of July book (of the Egbert the Eel variety, but with bubble wrap for the kids to pop, so they’d have to at least listen to know when it was time for the “fireworks.”)  The rest of the books were all about birthdays, because, I told the kids, the Fourth of July is the birthday of our country.  A bit of a stretch, but who doesn’t love birthdays?

Here were the books:


Moira’s Birthday by Robert Munsch

Moira’s parents tell her she can only invite 6 kids to her party.  Instead, she invites first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade, fifth grade, aaaaaannnndddd  Kindergarten…and doesn’t tell her parents.  The parents laughed at this one, and the kids had a great time chiming in on the “aaaaaannnnndddd Kindergartens.”


Happy Birthday, Moon by Frank Asch

I love all the Bear books by Frank Asch.  The kids always seem to enjoy knowing more than Bear, and realizing his mistake.  In this one, Bear thinks he is having a conversation with the moon, but it is really just an echo (the kids played the part of the echo).


Mouse’s Birthday by Jane Yolen; illustrated by Bruce Degen

Simple, funny rhyming story with adorable illustrations.   Lots of animals squeeze into Mouse’s very small house to bring him presents, with disastrous consequences (or not).


Henry’s Fourth of July by Holly Keller

My one token Fourth of July book.  It follows Henry the mouse(?) as he celebrates the Fourth of July with his family by competing in a sack race, having a picnic, and waiting impatiently for the fireworks.  (The kids were waiting impatiently for the fireworks too, since I handed out squares of bubble wrap for them to pop.  One tip: I used the big bubble wrap, and had them twist it).  In the middle of this book, I suddenly remembered Olivia Forms a Band by Ian Falconer, which I wish I had done instead.  It’s a funny story, with lots of great sound effects, and also has fireworks.


Ten Candles on a Birthday Cake

Ten candles on a birthday cake,
All lit up for me! (hold up 10 fingers)
I make a wish and blow them out.
Watch and you will see! (blow on fingers and close hands into fists)

This is the Way I Blow My Balloon

This is the way I blow my balloon (hold imaginary balloon)
Blow, Blow, Blow (spread arms wider as you blow)
This is way I pop my balloon
Oh, Oh No! (Clap hands together)


We did a very noisy, chaotic little parade with the instruments to This Land is Your Land from the 20 Great Kids Songs album.  It’s a wonderful, upbeat version of the song with several different singers, including a kids chorus and a verse performed by Willie Nelson.

CRAFT: Fourth of July S’Mores

I ripped this one off from my daughter’s preschool teacher (one of the perks of having a preschooler).  She called them Fruit S’Mores, and used bananas instead of blueberries.  They are surprisingly yummy (and messy!)

Basically, I cut up strawberries, and put out blueberries, graham crackers and whipped cream.  I manned the whipped cream can, spreading some on each child’s graham cracker.  Then they decorated them with strawberries and blueberries and devoured them on the spot.  I left the crackers open faced–otherwise they get very messy!  Plus, if you’re really patient, you can decorate them to look something like the American flag.

What are your favorite holiday or birthday books?


Fortunately by Remy Charlip (Recommended by Barbara B)

Another book I had completely forgotten, but I used to read it all the time (thank you for jogging my memory, Barbara!).  It tells the story of a VERY eventful journey: “Fortunately, Ned was invited to a surprise party. Unfortunately, the party was a thousand miles away.Fortunately, a friend loaned Ned an airplane. Unfortunately, the motor exploded.”  You get the picture…

Three Kind Mice by Vivian Sathre; illustrated by Rodger Wilson (suggested by Barbara B.)

I haven’t actually read this one, but if Barbara recommends it, it must be good, and I will have to order it immediately!

Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman; illustrated by Marla Frazee (suggested by Barbara B.)

Poor Mrs. Peters!  Her children (all seven of them) will each only eat one type of food, so she has to make seven separate dishes every day. Until one morning the kids decide to make all of their favorite foods for their mother’s birthday, with delicious consequences.  Funny, rhyming book for picky eaters (and their mothers).  It reminds me of another favorite of mine: Don’t Wake Up Mama! by Eileen Christelow, where five little monkeys try to surprise their mother with a cake and presents for her birthday.

The Elf on the Shelf by Carol V. Bell (suggested by Tina W.)

I’m embarrassed to admit I haven’t read this, although I definitely know about the Elf (and seriously wish I had thought of inventing it!).  Sadly I’m a lazy parent, and I’ve been intimidated by all the adorable montages my friends post at Christmas time.  But knowing that the book is actually good, I may have to break down and buy an Elf.

Any other book suggestions?  I love to get them!