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

Right As Rain: An Outdoor Storytime About the Weather

I had a fun time at our Toddler Outdoor Storytime yesterday. Lately, the weather here in the Bay Area has been interesting, to say the least. On top of the usual fog and rain, we now have bomb cyclones and atmospheric rivers. So it seemed like the perfect time to do a Weather theme.

Here are the books and songs that I did:


Are You Ready to Play Outside? by Mo Willems

This Elephant and Piggie book worked really well for my theme. Piggie is excited to play outside with Gerald, until it starts to rain. But a pair of playful worms convince the two friends that they can still have just as much fun in the rain. Some of the kids joined in on the running and jumping parts, and as a special surprise, I sprayed a tiny bit of water into the crowd with a water sprayer in the part of the book where the rain started.

Sometimes Rain by Meg Fleming; illustrated by Diana Sudyka

This simple rhyming book describes different types of weather and activities that sometimes happen as the seasons change (playing on the beach in the summer, jumping in leaves in the fall, etc.). I wish I had thought to bring some actual fall leaves to give out or scatter into the crowd. Unfortunately, my coworker who usually walks around with a second copy of the book was out sick, so it was a bit hard for the kids to see the illustrations, which are beautiful, but a little small for an outdoor setting.

It Looked Like Spilled Milk by Charles G. Shaw

I had the big book version of this wonderful book about cloud shapes. It was so much fun to read. For each page, I asked the kids what they saw, and got some really interesting answers (a boat instead of a birthday cake, a bat instead of an angel). I incorporated their ideas into the text, saying “But it wasn’t a boat OR a birthday cake,” etc.


For this storytime, I usually open with Open and Shut Them and close with The More We Get Together (with sign language).

If All the Raindrops:

I did this one earlier this week for Musical Storytime, but I had to include it in my weather theme. Once again, I asked for the kids to tell me their favorite foods, and we sang it several times, with verses like “If all the raindrops were M&M’s and Ice Cream,” and “If all the raindrops were peanut butter and jam.”

[C] If all the raindrops were [G7] lemon drops and [C] gum drops,

Oh, what a rain it would [G7] be.

[C] I’d stand out- [G7] side with my [C] mouth open [G7] wide,

[C] “Ah, Ah, Ah, [G7] Ah, Ah, Ah, [C] Ah, Ah, Ah, [G7] Ah!”

[C] If all the raindrops were [G7] lemon drops and [C] gum drops,

Oh, what a [G7] rain it would [C] be!

Way Up High in the Apple Tree:

A simple, fun rhyme to go with the apple picking in Sometimes Rain. I asked the kids to suggest other fruits to pick from the tree, and we repeated it several times:

Way up high in the apple tree (stretch arms high in the air)

Two little apples smiled at me! (make circles with your index fingers and thumbs)

I shook that tree as hard as I could! (mime shaking the tree with your hands)

Down came the apples! Mmmm, they were good (lower arms, and rub tummy)

Five Little Snowmen:

One of my favorite storytime songs. After the first verse, I asked the kids what other things they could make out of snow, so we sang about four little snow kitties, and three little snow bunnies, two little snow giraffes, and (my favorite!) one little snow skunk:

Five little snowmen standing in a row, (hold up five fingers)
Each with a hat (touch head), and a brightly colored bow (adjust imaginary bowtie).
Five little snowmen dressed up all for show.
Now they are ready,`
Where will they go?

Wait! (hold out hands in a “Stop!” motion) Till the sun shines. (move hands in a circle)
Wait! Till the sun shines.
Then they will go
Down through the fields
With the melting, melting snow (“melt” all the way down to the floor, then pop up for the next four snowmen).

Rainbow ‘Round Me:

Another storytime favorite, composed by Ruth Pelham. I asked the kids for suggestions of things they might see outside their windows. By the end, we had purple unicorn, a white flag, and a green mountain lion.

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. 

And the sky outside my window,
Is as blue as blue can be.
Fiddle-dee-dee, outside my window
It’s as blue as blue can be.


And the grass outside my window,
Is as green as green can be.
Fiddle-dee-dee, outside my window
It’s as green and green can be,
And the sky is blue as blue can be.


And the flowers outside my window,
Are as yellow as yellow can be.
Fiddle-dee-dee, outside my window
They’re as yellow as yellow can be.
And the grass is green as green can be.
And the sky is blue as blue can be.



Cotton Ball Clouds

For our Stay and Play activity, I put out cotton balls, blue paper, and glue sticks for the kids to make their own clouds. They could glue the cotton balls as they were, or stretch them out to make thinner clouds. The kids really enjoyed playing with the cotton balls, and sticking them to the page. I also gave them a cloud viewer to use in the park and at home.

I got the idea for the cloud viewer from The UCAR Center for Science Education, which offers a more detailed version here: Basically, you cut out the center square so that kids can look through the hole and compare the clouds they see with the ones in the pictures. For my toddler storytime crowd, I wasn’t as worried about providing the names of the different types of clouds (although I included them for the caregivers). Mostly, I just wanted to offer families some ideas for ways to talk about clouds together, by describing their shapes and colors and textures, etc.

One of the programs our library system offers is LENA Start, which emphasizes the importance of talking with babies and toddlers. Each family is given a special recorder that tracks how many words the child hears throughout the day (without documenting what the actual words are), and how many times a caregiver responds to sounds and words the child says. Each week, the family receives a graph charting how many back and forth exchanges they’ve had with their child, even if it’s just naming something in the environment (a dog, a tree, etc.) and then reacting when the baby or child responds. The weekly classes provide topics for daily conversation (food, bathtime, etc.), and time to brainstorm how to talk with young children about them. This cloud viewer activity was intended to generate the same kind of inspiration by suggesting questions caregivers might ask, or things they might point out as they look at the sky together. (To learn more about LENA and the importance of early talk, you can visit the LENA website. Before the pandemic, I had the opportunity to lead a series of LENA Start classes for two different sets of families, many of whom are now regular attendees at my storytimes. It’s a fascinating program, and extremely rewarding.)

Here is the simplified cloud viewer I used:

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

Hungry for Stories: A Food Themed Storytime

It’s been a while since I’ve written up a food-themed storytime, so I thought I’d do an updated one. I’ve actually done three different storytimes this week, with the same theme but for different age groups, so these are some of the highlights:


The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

I had to include this classic, of course, especially for my toddler groups. Lately, I’ve been trying to add an interactive element into one or two of the books I read, so, since I read this one after doing a song with play scarves, I asked the kids to pretend that their scarf was a caterpillar while I read. We made munching noises and pretended the scarf caterpillars were eating the foods on each page, and when the caterpillar went into his cocoon, we stuffed the scarves into our fists, then had them emerge as “butterflies.”

food fight

Food Fight Fiesta by Tracey Kyle; illustrated by Ana Gomez

This rhyming book is so much fun, especially since it is based on an actual celebration in Buñol, Spain, where the whole town has a huge tomato fight. Once again, we used the scarves, only this time we pretended they were tomatoes, which we threw into the air whenever the story called for it. The kids loved it!


Little Pea by Amy Krouse Rosenthal; illustrated by Jen Corace

One of my all-time favorites, this hilarious story about a pea who hates to eat candy is always a hit.


How Are You Peeling by Saxton Freymann and Joost Elffers

This is another fun book to share. The kids love shouting out the names of the vegetables and fruits in each photo, as well as answering the questions posed by the text about feelings.


Sausages by Jessica Souhami

This is a wonderful, funny, simple adaptation of the classic Three Wishes folk tale, where a couple are granted three wishes, and accidentally waste them on a string of sausages, which get stuck to the man’s nose.


The Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli

Adorable and hilarious story about a crocodile who accidentally swallows a watermelon seed, and imagines that a watermelon vine is growing in his stomach. The kids loved repeating the “Chomp! Chomp! Chomp!” lines.


If You’re Happy and You Know ItI sang this one after reading How Are You Peeling? For the past few years I’ve changed it to add in different emotions, and the kids love it. Here’s what we sing (with ukulele or guitar chords):


C                                                           G
If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands, (Clap, Clap)
G                                                           C
If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands, (Clap, Clap)
F                                                           C
If you’re happy and you know it, and you really want to show it,
G                                                           C
If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands. (Clap, Clap)


If you’re sad and you know it, cry Boo Hoo! (“Boo Hoo!”)…

If you’re angry and you know it, say, “I’m mad!” (Stomp your feet while saying, “I’m Mad!”)…

If you’re sleepy and you know it, yawn and stretch (Yawn! Stretch!)…

If you’re shy and you know it, hide your face (cover your eyes, then uncover them and say “Peek-a-boo!”)…

If you’re happy and you know it, shout hooray! (Hooray!)


If All the Raindrops

I use this song all the time, with a wide range of age groups. The lyrics below are the “real” version, but usually when I sing it for storytime, I just do the first verse, then have the kids suggest other foods for the next few verses. Click on the arrow to hear the tune:

If all the raindrops
G                             C
Were lemondrops and gumdrops
C                                               G
Oh, what a rain that would be!
C                    G                            C                     G
I’d stand outside, with my mouth open wide
C               G               C                C
Ah Ah Ah Ah Ah Ah Ah Ah Ah Ah!
C                                         G                             C
If all the raindrops were lemondrops and gumdrops,
C                   G                    C
Oh, what a rain it would be!

If all the snowflakes
Were candy bars and milkshakes…

If all the sunbeams
Were bubblegum and ice cream…

Candy Corn for Dinner: I wrote this song several years ago for an Ice Cream Storytime, and it’s a fun one to have the kids play along to with maracas and egg shakers. Click on the arrow to hear a recording:

C                                                                     G7                   C
My mom and dad put me in charge of our dinner tonight.
C                                                                                G7
They said I could make anything as long as we ate right.
C                                                        G7                   C
I had to serve some vegetables, a salad, and a stew.
C                                                                        G7               C
I thought a while and cooked a bit, and here is my menu.

F                                                     C
We’re having candy corn for dinner
G7                             C
With a side of chocolate stew.
F                               C
A three jelly bean salad,
G7                                                C
And an ice cream sandwich too.

I don’t know why Mom and Dad say cooking’s such a chore,
‘Cause I had such a great time going to the grocery store.
My mom said we were out of milk, so I bought a big milkshake,
And since my dad likes cheese so much, I got him a cheesecake.

We’re having candy corn for dinner
With a side of chocolate stew.
A three jelly bean salad,
And an ice cream sandwich too.


This week, I ended up doing Playdough for craft time, but one of my all-time favorite art activities is spice painting, which I did a few months ago. Basically, you just mix different spices with water (turmeric, cinnamon, paprika, etc.) and give the kids paper and brushes to paint. The kids loved the different colors and smells.  There’s a description with pictures on Mama.Papa.Bubba:



How Martha Saved Her Parents from Green Beans by David LaRochelle; illustrated by Mark Fearing

I love this story, although it works better for older preschool and early elementary school kids. Martha has always hated eating green beans, but when they kidnap her parents, there is only one way for her to rescue them.


Rude Cakes by Rowboat Watkins

This hilariously quirky book describes how cakes who never say please or thank you get their comeuppance when they encounter a cyclops who likes to wear cakes as hats. Delightfully random and very funny.

What are your favorite picture books about food?

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

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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?

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?

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?