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?


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?