If You’re Happy and You Know It: A Storytime about Feelings

Emotions are a storytime theme that I do fairly regularly, because I think it’s so important for kids (and adults!) to learn how to recognize and name their feelings. And I’ve heard a number of news stories recently about how in the aftermath of the past year and a half, schools are seeing a lot more kids struggling to express their emotions in healthy ways. So for this storytime, I pulled out three of my favorite books about feelings for a fun (if chilly) storytime at San Pedro Valley Park.

Here are the books and songs that we did:


The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld

This is one of those books that I feel is just as instructive for the parent or caregiver reading the story, as it is for the child listening to it. When a flock of crows knocks down Taylor’s block tower, all of the animals rush in to offer advice. The chicken wants to talk about it, the bear wants to yell about it, the snake wants knock down someone else’s tower. But Taylor doesn’t want to do any of those things. Finally, a rabbit creeps up to just sit quietly and listen to all of Taylor’s sadness and anger, until Taylor is ready to build a new tower. This book does such a wonderful job of describing all of the impulses that strong feelings can evoke, and it’s also a great reminder to grown-ups that sometimes it’s best to just be there with your kids while they are working through those feelings (something I definitely struggle to remember as a parent). It’s also just a fun read-aloud.

Mouse Was Mad by Linda Urban and Henry Cole

When Mouse gets mad, he tries out lots of different ways to express his feeling: hopping, screaming, stomping, rolling on the ground. But the other animals always want to tell him how to do things better: Bobcat is an expert at screaming; Bear can make the ground shake with his powerful stomps; and Hedgehog can roll up into a perfect sphere. Even worse, every time Mouse tries to copy them, he ends up falling into a mud puddle. Finally, Mouse just stands still and breathes, something he can do better than any other animal, and, in the end, he feels better. For this book, my coworker Angela used a mouse puppet to act out the different motions while I read, and we encouraged the kids to stomp, scream, hop, and breathe along with Mouse.

My Friend is Sad by Mo Willems

This was one of the first Elephant and Piggie books, and I think it’s still my favorite. When Piggie sees that her friend, Gerald, is sad, she tries to cheer him up by dressing as a cowboy, a clown, and a robot. But this makes Gerald sadder than ever. Why? Because his best friend isn’t there to see these amazing things with him. Angela and I each read a different character, which is one of my favorite ways to share the books in this series.


Did You Ever See a Rabbit?

Angela used a rabbit puppet to act out the motions to this version of Did You Ever See a Lassie? while the kids and I pretended to be rabbits. For the different verses, we leaned left and right, stretched up and crouched down, and made little rabbit ears with our fingers which we moved in a circle clockwise, and then counter-clockwise. This is a really versatile action song for storytime, since you can sing it about any animal:

Did you ever see a rabbit, a rabbit, a rabbit?

Did you ever see a rabbit go this way (lean to the left) and that? (lean to the right)

Go this way (lean left) and that way, (lean right)

And this way (lean left) and that way, (lean right)

Did you ever see a rabbit go this way (lean left) and that? (lean right)

If You’re Happy and You Know It

Naturally, I had to include this song, and my favorite way to do it is to add in different emotions for each verse. This time we did: If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands; If you’re sad and you know it, cry “Boo-hoo!”; If you’re angry and you know it, say “I’m mad!” If you’re sleepy and you know it, yawn and stretch; If you’re shy and you know it, hide your face… peek-a-boo!; If you’re cold and you know it, snuggle close (hug yourself or your grown-up); and If you’re happy and you know it, shout “Hooray!” Here are the chords for guitar or ukulele:

[C] If you’re happy and you know it, clap your [G7] hands (clap, clap)

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your [C] hands (clap, clap)

If you’re [F] happy and you know it, and you [C] really want to show it,

If you’re [G7] happy and you know it, clap your [C] hands! (clap, clap)

Happy Face, Happy Face, What Do You See?

Angela led this rhyme, using paper plates with drawings depicting different emotions. You can also sing this to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.

Happy Face, Happy Face, what do you see?

I see a Sad Face, looking at me!

Sad Face, Sad Face, what do you see?

I see an Angry Face looking at me!

Angry Face, Angry Face, what do you see?

I see a Surprised Face looking at me!

Surprised Face, Surprised Face, what do you see?

I see a Sleepy Face looking at me!

Sleepy Face, Sleepy Face, what do you see?

I see a Happy Face looking at me!

Breathing Colors

We did this easy breathing exercise to go along with Mouse Was Mad. I learned it from the Library Explorer camps our library system offered this past summer, which always opened with a series of mindfulness activities. I use this one all the time as a stretching break, especially for elementary school kids.

The first time I demonstrate it, I stretch my arms out to either side and then lift them up as I take a deep breath in. Once my hands are over my head, I clap them together, and then bring them down in front of my face as I breathe out. We usually do this together at least once.

The second time, I tell the kids to picture a great big bubble full of their favorite color that stretches out to their fingertips. When they clap their hands, I tell them to picture their favorite color spilling down onto their heads. Then I have them picture their second favorite color as we stretch and breathe together again. It’s a great way to refocus your group, especially after a really active song.


If this had been an indoor storytime, I would have loved to do watercolor painting along with different types of music, and asked the kids to paint the way the music makes them feel. But since watercolor painting requires a lot of supplies and set-up, I gave them Dot Markers instead. These are always a huge hit, especially with toddlers, who can move them smoothly across the page to make colorful lines, or bang them repeatedly on the paper to make colorful dots. The grown-ups enjoyed them too. The only hard thing was gathering up the supplies when it was time to go back to the branch, because some of the toddlers had very strong feelings about putting their markers back in the box!

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

Mixed Feelings: a Virtual Storytime about Emotions

Today was my last virtual storytime, at least for a while. As our libraries have been reopening in different capacities, first just for walk-up at the door and curbside pick-up of holds, and now for in person browsing and computer use a few days a week, we’ve gradually scaled back our virtual storytimes to once a week. These were shared among different staff across our system, so I was only doing one a month, and we are taking a break for the summer.

It was a bittersweet feeling, preparing for this morning’s storytime. It’s been a long and interesting journey, moving storytimes online. At first, I absolutely hated it. Since we were still trying to work out the technical and legal details of doing interactive kids programs (which are complicated by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act), for a long time we were only offering pre-recorded programs on YouTube, which made me feel completely isolated and weird.

After several months of recorded storytimes, our library system decided that what kids were really missing was the chance to see other kids, so we switched to interactive storytimes over Zoom. This was SO much better, because I could see the kids again, and they could see me. I’ve always incorporated a lot of back and forth with the audience into my storytimes, asking kids for suggestions, and I could do all of that again. Still, it’s never felt completely natural, and I’ve always worried about lots of issues that would never come up in real life: my Internet crashing, the ebook not loading, sending out the wrong Zoom link by accident, or even losing track of time and forgetting to start the program.

Still, there will be some things I will miss if we drop the virtual storytimes altogether, once we go back to in-person events again. It’s nice to see kids from all over our county, or even outside of it. Also there’s something weirdly intimate about Zoom: we can all see a little slice of each other’s homes and pets and families, which is something the kids seem to enjoy. They love it when my cat unexpectedly bites my leg mid-story, because she has dragged her toy across the room and is waiting for me to play. They love to show their favorite toys, or an ukulele of their own that they might not allowed to bring to the library. And the virtual programs do provide more flexibility for families and preschools who might not be able to come to the library in person. Plus, sharing the e-books on screen makes it much easier for the kids to see the illustrations. I can even share the link to the ebook, so they can check it out after the storytime, especially if it’s on Hoopla, which has unlimited copies.

Given all these feelings, I guess it was appropriate that I did a storytime about emotions. Here’s what I did:


A really easy, fun song that allows the kids to suggest different actions. Today we jumped, ran in place, made funny faces, and wiggled our fingers, and waved our arms in the air.

[C] Do as I’m doing, follow, follow [G7] me.

[C] Do as I’m doing, follow, [G7] follow [C] me.

[C] Follow, [G7] follow, [F] follow [C] me.

[F] Follow, [C] follow, [G7] follow [C] me.

Follow, [G7] follow, [F] follow [C] me,

[F] Follow, [C] follow, [G7] follow [C] me.

SONG: The Handwashing Song

Our library has a grant to help share information about COVID-19 resources, so we have been asked to highlight our webpage for that and do a song for kids about handwashing. My favorite one is The Handwashing Song from JBrary (click on the link to hear the tune and see the motions). I usually ask the kids to pretend we’ve put our hands in something sticky, so now we need to wash them. Today they suggested applesauce and honey.

SONG: If You’re Happy And You Know It

I think most people know the tune to this already, but if you don’t, here’s a video from Barefoot Songs.

To introduce the topic of feelings, I printed out this page of faces, cut them out, and put them in a paper bag. Each time we sang the song, I pulled a face out the bag, held it up to the camera, and asked the kids to name the feeling. Then we sang about it.

Our verses were:

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands…

If you’re angry and you know it, say “I’m mad”… (and stomp your feet)

If you’re scared/shy and you know it, hide your face… (I had told the kids to find a cloth or tissue at the beginning of the storytime, so they could put the cloth in front of their face and then pull it away quickly and say, “Peek-a-boo!”)

If you’re sad and you know it, cry “Boo hoo!”…

If you’re silly and you know it, make a face…

If you’re happy and you know it, shout “Hooray!”…

The chords are:

[C] If you’re happy and you know it, clap your [G7] hands.

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your [C] hands.

If you’re [F] happy and you know it, and you [C] really want to show it.

If you’re [G7] happy and you know it, clap your [C] hands.

BOOK: The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld

I love this book about a little boy named Taylor whose tower is unexpectedly destroyed by a flock of birds. While he sits in the wreckage, different animals come by with suggestions. The chicken wants to talk about it, the bear wants to shout about it, the elephant wants to remember how the tower was built, the ostrich wants to hide, and the snake wants to ruin someone else’s tower. But Taylor doesn’t want to do any of those things. He is miserable until the rabbit comes along and just sits close for a while, and then listens while Taylor talks and shouts and remembers and plots revenge, and then finally decides to build a new tower. It’s such a beautiful lesson for grown-ups, as well as kids. (I’ve been plenty guilty myself of just trying to jump to the solution to my kids’ problems, instead of just listening and supporting them). I shared this book on Overdrive, and held a rabbit puppet up the camera when the rabbit appeared.

SONG: Did You Ever See a Rabbit?

To the tune of Did You Ever See a Lassie (again this is a familiar nursery song, but if you don’t know the tune, here’s a video from Rock N Learn).

I used my rabbit puppet for this, and had the kids copy the motions with the cloth or tissue they found, or with their hands. Here are the lyrics:

Did you ever see a rabbit, a rabbit, a rabbit?

Did you ever see a rabbit go this way and that?

Go this way, and that way,

Go this way, and that way,

Did you ever see a rabbit, go this way and that?

We had our cloths/rabbits move from side to side, up and down, up in the air and down, and round and round in either direction.

BOOK: Crunch the Shy Dinosaur by Cirocco Dunlap; illustrated by Greg Pizzoli

This is a fun interactive story, about a dinosaur who is frightened by the audience. The book prompts the kids to say hello in different ways, sing Happy Birthday, shout their names, and say “Good night!” Although the kids were mostly muted, a few unmuted themselves for the prompts, and it was gratifying to hear them playing along. This one was also on Overdrive.

SONG: We Are the Dinosaurs by Laurie Berkner

As usual, I ended with a playalong, asking the kids to make noise with whatever they had on hand (a paper cup, a shaker, their hands or feet, etc.). Here’s a link to the chords and lyrics (the chord charts here are for guitar, but I played it on ukulele).

ENDING SONG: You Are My Sunshine by Jimmie Davis & Charles Mitchell (or possibly by Oliver Hood)

[C] You are my sunshine,

My only sunshine [C7]

You make me [F] happy

When skies are [C] gray.

You’ll never [F] know, dear,

How much I [C] love you [Am].

Please don’t [C] take my [G7] sunshine a- [C] way.

If you’ve been performing or attending virtual storytimes or other programs, what are your thoughts about them? Is it something that libraries should continue offering even when in-person programs resume? Please share your comments below.