Snug as a Bug in a Book: Creepy Crawly Storytime


Bumblebee with Tissue Paper Wings

My son loves bugs and spiders and all manner of creepy crawly things.  So I was excited to trot out some insect books, especially after I was given this premade craft set by his former preschool teacher, Pauletta Cravotto, a personal hero of mine.  Here’s an article that appeared in our local paper when she retired.  My favorite quote is about why she enjoys working with young children:

“They don’t have agenda and they don’t have a plan,” Cravotto said. “If you forgot something, or your dog has eaten up part of your planned event and you have to invent on the spot, they don’t care. Nobody knows where ‘this’ day is going. Maybe it will be magic.” “I think kids need to know that they are perfect exactly the way they are,” Cravotto continued. “They don’t fit into a mold, nobody does. Give them some space and who knows what they will accomplish?”

So, with that in mind, here was my storytime.


I was surprised last night because, along with my regular kids, who are rapidly approaching Kindergarten, I had one VERY young toddler and three MUCH older kids–they looked to be 9 or 10 year olds.  I tried to incorporate a range of books to accommodate them all, but it was tricky.


Jazper by Richard Eglieski

This is one of those bizarrely original stories that stick in your head.  When Jazper (who is some kind of green insect) learns that his father has been injured in his job at the tomato plant, he offers to take a job of his own until his dad gets back on his feet.  He ends up working as a housecleaner for five moths, whose house is filled with books of magic tricks.  Jazper uses the books to create his own astounding magic act, until the angry moths come after him.  Filled with bright, quirky illustrations of Bugtown, this one had the kids mesmerized.


Itsy Bitsy Spider by Iza Trapani We sang “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” before I read this book, and one of the older kids said, “Did you know there’s more to the song?”  I asked him how the next part went, and to my surprise, he started singing the next verse from this book.  So go, Iza Trapani!  Your additional verses are catching on.  This really is a lovely book, with wonderful illustrations.


Diary of a Fly by Doreen Cronin and Harry Bliss The kids fought over who would get to take this one home.  Most of them knew the series already, but the books are always a hit, even though some of the humor goes over the heads of the younger ones.  The part about eating “regurgitated food” got a gratifyingly number of “yucks!,” once I explained what it meant, and it really does teach a lot about flies while being very silly and entertaining.


Are You a Butterfly? by Judy Allen and Tudor Humphries

My favorite nonfiction series for preschoolers, these books teach amazing facts about different creatures in an easy, accessible, story-like format with great illustrations.


Itsy Bitsy Spider 

(I usually do a second verse with the “great big hairy spider.”)

Here is the Beehive

Here is the beehive  (make a fist)
Where are the bees?
Hiding away where nobody sees.
Watch and you’ll see them come out of the hive.
1,2,3,4,5  (open fingers one at a time)
They’re alive!!!  (fly bees around and tickle kids)

I didn’t get around to it last night, but if I had had time, I would have done “Bringing Home a Baby Bumblebee” (I like to have the kids suggest other animals they would like to bring home, and we make up rhymes like, “I’m bringing home a baby li-on.  Won’t my mother really start a-cryin'”).

I had also thought about doing “Ants in Your Pants.”  If you haven’t seen the video by Eric Herman, check it out.  It’s one of my daughter’s favorites:

INSTRUMENT PLAYALONG WITH A CD:  Under a Shady Tree by Laurie Berkner, from her Under a Shady Tree album.

CRAFT: Paper Bumblebees

The craft set I had used the tissue paper wings and card stock bee bodies already cut out, so the kids just had to glue on the eyes and wings, and add the pipe cleaner antenna.  I was originally planning to do this, much simpler version, where the bodies are made out of construction paper loops:  Incidentally, this site has LOTS of great bug crafts.


I did a spider storytime not too long ago, but one of my absolute favorite books is Aarrgghh!  Spider! by Lydia Monks, about a spider who wants to be a family pet.

What are your favorite insect and spider books?


Hang On To Your Hat!

Dining hat colored by Sophie

Dining hat colored by Sophie

Okay, so I kind of cheated on this one.  My coworker, Gwen M. had ordered a bunch of dining hats from iRead, the company that provides the materials for our Summer Reading Program, and she gave me all the ones she had left over.  They featured cute little fruits and vegetables for the kids to color in.  Hello!  Easiest craft project ever.

But coincidentally, there seem to be dozens of great picture books about hats, including this year’s Caldecott Award Winner, This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen.   (Oddly, Klassen has another book called I Want My Hat Back, which is strikingly similar in its well…disappearance of hat thieves.  I guess Klassen really likes his hats).

Here are the ones I read tonight:


Milo’s Hat Trick by Jon Agee

I love the wacky originality of Jon Agee, especially this book, and My Rhinoceros.  This one features a magician who sets out to find a rabbit for his hat trick, and instead happens upon a very talented bear.


This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen

This year’s Caldecott Award winner.  I’ve read it to a wide range of age groups, from toddlers to second graders.  It’s always interesting to see how differently they interpret and react to the story, which is about a brazen little fish who brags about stealing a big fish’s hat.  Some younger kids don’t pick up on the implied ending, but a second grader in a class I read to clearly knew where the whole thing was headed from the beginning, because he spent the whole book saying, “No!  Don’t say that!  The big fish is going to eat you!”


Tornado Slim and the Magic Cowboy Hat by Brian Langdo

A longer story, but it held the kids’ interest, and was fun to read.  A coyote entrusts Tornado Slim with a letter and a magic hat that can hold the water from a broken dam and a whole tornado.


Magritte’s Marvelous Hat by D.B. Johnson

I took a chance on this one, because the artwork is full of Magritte-style surrealism and references to his paintings.  A dog painter named Magritte buys a magical hat that floats above his head and inspires him to paint better than he ever has before.  The kids seemed to enjoy this one, and the parents were intrigued by the illustrations.  I brought it home to share with my daughter because I think it would work even better as a one-on-one book.  It has those clear plastic overlays I remember being fascinated by as a kid.


Slippery Fish

My Hat It Has Three Corners

INSTRUMENT PLAY WITH A CD: This Hat by Laurie Berkner, from her Under a Shady Tree album.

CRAFT: Coloring diner hats

There are lots of wonderful hat crafts online.  If I hadn’t had the paper diner hats already, I probably would have done a paper hat like this:  Given the age range of my storytime group, I think I would have made the hats ahead of time (and maybe printed out instructions for the parents in case anyone wanted to try making their own at home), then had the kids decorate them with stickers, markers and glue-on gems.


Midway through the storytime, it hit me that I had forgotten my favorite hat book: Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slodbodkina.  One of the best read-alouds for any age group.  The kids always love joining in on the “TSZ!  TSZ!  TSZ!

Any other favorite books about hats?

Father (Story)Time

My three-year old decided she wanted to draw a dog and a cat and a vacuum cleaner instead of Daddy

My three-year old decided she wanted to draw a dog and a cat and a vacuum cleaner instead of Daddy

Tonight, in honor of Father’s Day, I did books about Dads.

It was an interesting storytime for me, because there was a tremendous range of ages–from babies to grade school.  I skewed the books a bit younger, to hold the attention of the youngest ones, hopefully without losing the older guys, but I tried to throw a couple of longer books in too.


Higher! Higher!  by Leslie Patricelli

Leslie Patricelli is one of my favorite authors for babies and toddlers.  My kids own several of her board books, and they never seem to tire of Yummy, Yucky.  This book has literally only a handful of words, but engages kids of all ages because of the bright, colorful, wacky illustrations.  A girl begs her Daddy to push her “Higher! Higher!” in the swing at the park, until she is swinging above skyscrapers, mountain peaks, the planet earth, outer space, and finally meets an adorable green alien on a swing of its own, before coming back down to earth.


Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein

One of my new favorite books to read aloud, especially because I get to trot out (or unearth–I grew up in Georgia) various southern accents.  A tired rooster is reading stories to his daughter, who promises not to interrupt, but she just can’t resist helping out characters like Hansel and Gretel (“Don’t go in!  She’s a witch!”) and Chicken Little (“Don’t panic!  It was just an acorn!”)  This is a longish book, but even the littlest guys hung in there because it’s such a fun story.


Just Like Daddy by Frank Asch

A really simple, older book for toddlers.  A little bear describes all the things he does “just like Daddy”: yawning, getting dressed, eating breakfast, picking a flower for his mom.  The whole family goes fishing, and he catches a big fish, “just like Mommy.”  The Moms in the crowd enjoyed this one.


Oh, Daddy! by Bob Shea

A newer toddler book, and another one that works for multiple age groups.  A little hippo explains all the ways he has to help his Dad, who can’t seem to figure out how to do the simplest tasks like getting dressed, getting in the car, and eating dinner.  The subtext, which the older kids and parents pick up on, is that the Dad is feigning ignorance in order to get his son to do all of these things.  The kids laughed at this one.


If My Dad Were a Dog by Annabel Tellis

Silly rhyming book where a child imagines all the things she would do with her Dad if he could be a dog for a day.  The illustrations mix photos of a big black lab with brightly colored drawings, and it includes (yes) dog poo and “sprinkling the flowers.”  This author clearly knows the preschool audience.


 Two Little Blackbirds (the kids love this song, especially the quiet/loud and early/late verses)

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

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

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

Two little blackbirds sitting on a gate, One was early, and the other was… (pause)…late….

1,2,3,4,5, I Caught a Fish Alive

I caught a fish alive.
I let him go, and it bit my toe–OUCH!

The Hippopotamus 

(This is a catchy rhyme I got from my friend Barbara B.  The kids love squishing their cheeks in at the end).

The hip-the hip-the hippopotamus! (pat rhythm on your legs)
Got on, got on, got on the city bus.
And all, and all, and all the people said,
“You’re squishing us! (squish your cheeks together with your hands)

INSTRUMENT PLAY WITH A CD: Little Red Caboose by Sweet Honey in the Rock from 20 Great Kids Songs

CRAFT TIME: ALL ABOUT MY DADDY (Click on the link for printable template)

One of my favorite Mother’s Day gifts was a simple questionnaire my daughter filled out at preschool, where her teacher asked her questions like “How old is your Mommy?”  My daughter hazarded a guess, and said, “4.”  (A few weeks later she asked me, very shyly, “Are you 4?”)

I made a similar questionnaire for Father’s Day, based on some I found online, and included a box for the kids to draw pictures of their dads.  (I was prepared to make an alternative form if anyone wanted to make it about another family member or a friend).  When I brought one home for my daughter to fill out, I learned that she thinks her Daddy is the worldly age of 10!


These books were recommended by my friend Shelley, a children’s librarian in the UK:

My Daddy is a Giant by Carl Norac (I’m not familiar with this one, but it looks wonderful, and it has been printed in lots of different languages.  Our library system has bilingual copies in both Hindi and Chinese).

I Love My Daddy by Giles Andreae (author of Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs)

Daddy Hugs by Karen Katz (also known as Daddy Hugs 1 2 3; Karen Katz is another favorite author for babies and toddlers.  She writes wonderful sturdy lift-the-flap books that both my kids loved).

Daddy is a Doodlebug by Bruce Degen (author of Jamberry, and illustrator of the Magic School Bus series)

We Help Daddy by Mini Stein (A Little Golden Book, which is unfortunately out of print and not in our library system, but available used from some dealers on Amazon).

And here’s a book I didn’t get to read at storytime, but enjoyed reading with my daughter:

Giddy-up, Daddy by Troy Cummings (incredibly wacky story about a Dad who is so exceptional at giving horseback rides that he is kidnapped by horse rustlers who want to enter him in their rodeo).

Also, I could do a list of favorite Dad stories without including Knuffle Bunny: a Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems, a book which captures perfectly the drama of searching for a missing favorite toy.

The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Hungry Children


Strawberry Mice! The adorable one on the left was made by Sarah.

Tonight I continued the food theme, since our Summer Reading Program has officially started.  Plus there are so many wonderful food books!  These are some of my favorites:


The Sweet Touch by Lorna and Lecia Balian

A childhood favorite of mine that I thought had disappeared into the mists of time until I found a single copy in our library system (according to Amazon it’s back in print.  Woohoo!).  When a tiny genie grants a little girl a single wish, she asks for the ability to make everything she touches turn into something sweet.  Her bed becomes gingerbread, her rug chocolate, her pillow full of cotton candy.  The kids were mesmerized.


Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin and James Dean

To be honest, I don’t enjoy all of the Pete the Cat books, but I LOVE this one and Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons.  This book got horrible editorial reviews when it came out, but the simple story of the cat with white shoes who keeps stepping in different things (strawberries, blueberries, and mud) has tremendous kid appeal, and is always a big hit at storytimes.


Bunny Cakes by Rosemary Wells

My favorite Max and Ruby book.  Max wants to buy Red-Hot Marshmallow Squirters for his Grandma’s birthday cake, but no matter how hard he tries, the grocer can’t read his writing on the grocery list, until he hits on a solution.


The Little Mouse, the Red, Ripe Strawberry, and the Big, Hungry Bear by Don and Audrey Wood

A classic, with the most luscious strawberry, and the most adorable mouse, ever drawn.  Also a great book for a range of ages.  Younger kids can empathize with the little mouse’s terror at hearing about the big hungry bear, while older kids can discuss whether or not there really is a hungry bear at all.


Way Up High in the Apple Tree

Way up high in the apple tree (Raise arms high)
Two little apples smiled at me (Make circles with fingers)
I shook that tree as hard as I could. (Shake imaginary tree)
Down came the apples! (Lower arms)
MMMM! They were good! (Rub tummy)
The kids suggested other kids of trees, including cupcake trees, pear trees, and ice cream trees.

Three Little Kitty Cats

Three little kitty cats
Lying in the sun.
One jumped up and said, “I’d like to run!”
Then said the other one, “I’ll run too!
Running running running and I’ll play with you!”

I asked the kids for suggestions, and we sang the song as lions, kangaroos, and then kitty cats again.  The jumping up and running in place is a great way to work off some energy in the middle of storytime.

Little Bunny FooFoo  

Yes it’s one of the many violent children’s songs. I also regularly do the Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly with a puppet that the kids “feed.”  I do kill her off at the end (Hey, you can’t eat a whole horse without consequences!), but then I revive her and pump her stomach.  The infamous Bunny FooFoo has always been one of my favorites though, and tonight there was an adorable two year-old doing all the motions.

INSTRUMENT PLAY WITH CD: Rhubarb Pie by Laurie Berkner (from Under a Shady Tree)  

CRAFT TIME: Strawberry Mice

I washed and stemmed the strawberries ahead of time, then pulled apart strips of string cheese for the tails.  The kids stuck the tail in the hole at the back of the strawberry, then broke banana chips to make ears, and stuck mini chocolate chips into the strawberry for the eyes and nose.  Yummy fun, and definitely healthier than the marshmallow monsters we made last week!

What are your favorite food books?  Also, next week is Father’s Day, so I’ll be hunting down some good Dad stories.  I always love recommendations!


My friend and wonderful children’s librarian Barbara B. recommends:

What Did You Put in Your Pocket? by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers (illustrated by Michael Grejniec), a fun rhyming book that goes through the days of the week with all kinds of messy substances kids can imagine putting in their pockets.

Chocolatina by Erik Kraft (one of my favorites as well, about a girl who loves chocolate so much that she wakes up as a chocolate girl)

When Marshmallow Snowmen Attack: A Foodie Storytime

The adorable and VERY sweet Mr. Bill, created by Jonas (and Ria)

The adorable and VERY sweet Mr. Bill, created by Jonas (and Ria)

One of my storytime moms suggested that I should compile a list of the stories I read each week for Family Storytime, so that families who can’t attend could still check out the books.  So, here is my first entry:

As a teaser for the Summer Reading Program, which has a Reading is SOOOOO Delicious Theme this year, I did books about food.  They were:


Monkey Soup by Louis Sachar

An old favorite by one of my favorite children’s authors (and a Newbery winner for Holes), this is a simple story about a little girl who wants to make soup for her Daddy, who is sick.  She puts into it all the things that make her feel better: Band-Aids, bubbles, buttons, tissues, and her toy monkey.  At least two kids wanted to check this one out when I was done.



Chicka-Chicka-1-2-3 by Bill Martin, Michael Sampson & Lois Ehlert

I wasn’t actually planning to read this one, but one of the kids requested it, and it did have an apple tree in it.  Very similar to Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, except with numbers up to 100.  The kids liked the quirky illustrations: number 5 with its big top hat, and 70’s long, sandy hair (which got some chuckles from the parents).


ice cream

Should I Share My Ice Cream? by Mo Willems

I throw a Gerald and Piggie book in whenever I can, and kids love this one where Gerald faces a major ethical dilemma.


I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato by Lauren Child

The original Charlie and Lola book, and my favorite.  Charlie convinces his picky little sister to eat orange twiglets from Jupiter (carrots), greendrops from Greenland, and cloud fluff from the pointiest peak of Mount Fuji (mashed potatoes).


Monkey See and Monkey Do

1,2,3,4,5 Once I Caught a Fish Alive

INSTRUMENT PLAY:  On the Good Ship Lollipop performed by the Persuasions, who really liven it up.  From the 20 Great Kids Songs CD, which is one of my very favorite children’s albums.  It has a wonderful version of This Land is Your Land featuring Willie Nelson, along with Tom McCutcheon’s version of Big Rock Candy Mountain, and many more.


Tonight we made marshmallow snowmen, with some Jumbo marshmallows I found at Safeway (they would work just as well with regular marshmallows).  We stuck the head and body together with pretzel sticks, which also served as arms, legs, hair, and even buttons (one of the moms came up with that one).  I had small tubes of icing for the face (I tried to find food coloring pens, which would have been easier).  They were fun, quick, and not nearly as messy as you might think, although I’m afraid most of the snowmen were devoured before they left the library.

Three unrelated books I was happy to get hold of this week were:

The Dark by Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen

I loved the idea of the dark as a living thing that hovers in closets and corners during the day and comes out at night.  I haven’t quite figured out what age group to share it with yet, but I enjoyed it for myself.

Exclamation Mark by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld

A book that works on multiple levels: as a teaching tool for punctuation and a wonderful story about finding your unique talents.  Exclamation Mark is dismayed that, no matter how hard he tries, he always stands out among the periods.  But then he meets a very curious new character who show him how to make his mark.

The Sweet Touch by Lorna and Lecia Balian

One of my favorites as a child, I was thrilled to find the single copy we have in the library system.  When a little girl named Peggy buys a real gold ring made of genuine plastic and rubs it, a tiny genie appears and grants her a single wish: everything she touches will turn into something sweet.