Step into Storytime, March 18

I’ve missed two weeks of storytime – there was a snow day on March 4 and last week I was on vacation – and it felt like ages! It was good to be back today and see some familiar faces and some new ones. Today’s books were mostly on the shorter, simpler side, so we managed seven(!), as well as lots of songs and yoga.

song cube, yoga cube, picture books

  • Hello, welcome, announcements
  • “Hello Friends” song with ASL from Jbrary (skipped the name song because we had a big group – about 15)
  • Hello Hello by Brendan Wenzel: Still one of the best lead-off books I know of – so many opportunities for getting kids engaged (“Who’s wearing stripes? Who’s wearing spots? Can you wiggle like an octopus?”)
  • Yoga flow: resting pose, mountain pose, forward fold, tree
  • Goose by Laura Wall: This went over splendidly. It has the perfect amount of text on each page for this group, and the simple illustrations on brightly-colored backgrounds work really well for a group.
  • Song cube: “If you’re happy and you know it,” “I had a little turtle”
  • Shh! We Have A Plan by Chris Haughton: I’ve done Oh No, George! several times in storytime but this was the first time I did Shh! and it was excellent! There is “shh”ing of course, which keeps things quiet, but also counting, and also pointing (“Where’s the bird? Did they catch it?”), and it’s funny.
  • Yoga flow
  • Carrot and Pea by Morag Hood
  • One Little Blueberry by Tammi Salzano, illustrated by Kat Whelan
  • Song cube: “Itsy-bitsy Spider,” “I’m a little teapot,” “Zoom zoom zoom, we’re going to the moon”
  • Oh No, George! by Chris Haughton: We were running ahead of schedule and I had a little extra time, so I used this one from my pile of backup books. Always a favorite. What WILL George do?
  • My Spring Robin by Anne and Lizzy Rockwell
  • “Goodbye friends” song with ASL from Jbrary
  • Clean up mats
  • Coloring sheet: I traced the robin from the last page of My Spring Robin, enlarged it by 20%, and made copies for kids to color with crayons. (One kid didn’t want the robin so I gave him a leftover Wonky Donkey. Leftovers never go to waste!)

It really was good to be back. And here’s one more new resource I heard about through one of my book groups: Diverse BookFinder. If you’re looking for picture books featuring people of color or indigenous people of color, this is a tremendous resource, including books from 2002 to the present. The design is clean and clear and easy to navigate, and I’m looking forward to discovering new picture books using the Diverse BookFinder.

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Middle grade graphic novels

As I think I’ve said before, I have rediscovered middle grade novels over the past year and have a new appreciation for them. Lately, I’ve read many graphic novels for this age group, and they are excellent – plus, some readers will pick up a graphic novel more eagerly than a traditional one. (Graphic novels: the gateway drug of reading.)

Raina Telgemeier, Svetlana Chmakova, Victoria Jamieson, and Shannon Hale depict the real struggles of sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders – the interpersonal conflicts and developments with friends, parents, siblings, and teachers. They address bullying and kindness; they know that middle school is a time when people are figuring out who they want to be, when what most of them want desperately is to fit in – and often, they act in ways they aren’t comfortable with in order to achieve that goal. (Hale’s Real Friends is autobiographical, as are Telgemeier’s Sisters and Smile).

New Kid by Jerry Craft covers that territory as well, but adds complexity by addressing race; Jordan Banks is one of the few Black kids at his New York private school, and while for the most part he doesn’t face overt racism, the microaggressions pile up, and it takes him some time to make friends he can talk to.

“So far, being a teenager is no fun at all.” -Smile, Raina Telgemeier

“I wasn’t sure leaving the group was the right choice. At least I’d had friends. Now sometimes I was so sad I could barely breathe.” -Shannon Hale, Real Friends

“I just…I feel like I don’t know who you are anymore.” “Well…maybe I don’t know who I am either!” -Roller Girl, Victoria Jamieson

“Kindness is the truest form of bravery.” -All’s Faire in Middle School, Victoria Jamieson

“Life is more complicated than sports. It’ll throw a lot of curveballs at you. You win some games and lose others…but in the end, it’s who’s on your team that really matters.” -Crush (Berrybrook Middle School), Svetlana Chmakova

“Oh, I see…it’s okay that this stuff happens to us…It’s just not okay for us to complain about it.” -New Kid, Jerry Craft

Cover of SpeakThe past few months have also brought us graphic novel adaptations of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak and Lois Lowry’s The Giver. The former is YA rather than middle grade, and the art is quite different from the books above; Emily Carroll did an absolutely haunting job translating Speak into a new format. Melissa’s silence, the claustrophobic atmosphere of menace, and the slow healing and emerging that takes place are rendered in a way that honors and enhances the original.

“If you’re tough enough to survive this, they’ll let you become an adult.
I hope it’s worth it.” -Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson

Cover of The GiverThe Giver is often read in late grade school, though it’s one of those books that is thought-provoking no matter when in life you encounter it. Unlike the rest of the books here, it is set in a different reality than our own, a futuristic place of Sameness. P. Craig Russell produced the graphic novel version; cool blues and grays prevail, until Jonas’ moments of “seeing beyond” introduce flashes of color, and The Giver’s memories do the same. The Giver himself looks less Kindly and more ominous than I had pictured him, and the whole community has a 1950s vibe (on purpose). It’s very hard to improve on the original, and as one of the first utopia/dystopia novels that young readers encounter, it’s not in danger of falling by the wayside, but if this version of The Giver finds a new audience, all the better.

 “We gained control of many things, but we had to let go of others.” The Giver, Lois Lowry

 

Step Into Storytime, February 25

Stack of storytime books, with storytime box and scarves in the background

It was a full house this morning, with 16+ kids and their grown-ups, and a slightly wider age spread than usual – plenty of younger kids, but also some at the top of our 2-3 age range. It’s always helpful to have some older kids there, as they usually pay close attention to the pictures and are not shy about participating, which moves things along; during Do You Know Which Ones Will Grow? I had a chorus of two boys shouting “no!” after each thing that didn’t grow. Fun!

  • Welcome and announcements
  • “Hello Friends” song with ASL, from Jbrary
  • Huff and Puff by Claudia Rueda, with scarves for huffing and puffing
  • Yoga flow: Stretching tall with hands in the air, forward fold to touch toes, stretch tall again
  • Winter Is Here by Kevin Henkes and Laura Dronzek: Luckily(?) we had a spurt of windy snow earlier this morning.
  • Song cube: “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands”
  • Solutions for Cold Feet by Carey Sookocheff: I’ve been wanting to read this Canadian author/illustrator’s book at storytime for several weeks, and it finally seemed like the right time.
  • Here I switched up my original plan to read Goose by Laura Wall and read Chu’s Day by Neil Gaiman and Adam Rex, because a book with a huge sneeze in it is always, always a winner. Next week, Goose!
  • Yoga flow: more mountain pose and touching toes, as well as chair pose and tree pose
  • I’m My Own Dog by David Ezra Stein: This is one of those flip-the-script books and it’s got that humor going for it, but I’m not sure kids this age (or anyone, anymore) are familiar with dog behavior stereotypes that seem 1950s-ish (fetching slippers, etc.) Still, it’s a book about a dog, and it’s a just-right length for storytime.
  • Song cube: “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “I Had A Little Turtle”
  • Do You Know Which Ones Will Grow? by Susan Shea: This seems like the perfect storytime book – stark, bright illustrations, fold-out flaps, rhyme – but the last time I read it there seemed to be no reaction whatsoever. This time it went great!
  • “Shake Your Sillies Out” with music and shaker eggs
  • “Goodbye Friends” song with ASL, from Jbrary
  • Stack mats, more music, bring out giant blocks, fin.

 

Step Into Storytime, February 11

Picture books on a chair with a donkey puppet

We had another large bunch today, with fewer regulars than usual and some kids on the younger and older ends of the spectrum. While I don’t usually do a theme, we did one valentine book and one book with heart shapes (as well as a valentine craft), and talked a little about colors and shapes. I also tried clustering books and songs a little more than I usually do (i.e. two books and then two songs instead of book/song/book/song). Lots of kids were in a wiggly, singalong mood today.

  • Welcome and announcements
  • “Hello Friends” song with ASL from Jbrary
  • Name song (we had about 11 kids at this point, more came throughout and some left before the end)
  • Here Comes Valentine Cat by Deborah Underwood and Claudia Rueda: This one is a little long (lots of pages, not too many words), and the illustrations aren’t big and bright, but it’s such an unusual, funny book – not the usual Valentine’s fare – that I wanted to try it.
  • Song cube: “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and “Where Is Thumbkin?”
  • Green Is A Chile Pepper by Roseanne Greenfield Thong and John Parra: This has one or two Spanish words incorporated into the text on each page, as well as a translation of the color. For each color, I asked if anyone was wearing that color or sitting on that color mat.
  • Yoga cube: Instead of doing three static poses like usual, we did three and then cycled through them: mountain pose to forward fold and back to mountain pose, then tree pose. Some of the little ones have great balance! We always try standing on each leg – sometimes one side is steadier than the other.
  • My Heart Is Like A Zoo by Michael Hall: I used the flannel board for this (I’ve made the penguin, owl, frog, crab, and clam), and said we would be making our own animals out of hearts as our craft at the end.
  • Song cube: “Shake Your Sillies Out” (with egg shakers)
  • The Steves by Morag Hood
  • Perfect Square by Michael Hall
  • Yoga (mountain pose, forward fold, tree pose, seated forward fold)
  • Hooray for Hat by Brian Won
  • The Wonky Donkey by Craig Smith and Katz Cowley
  • Craft: Colored paper hearts, crayons, googly eye stickers. For two- and three-year-olds this is simple, but it could be scaled up for older kids: add glue sticks and hearts of different sizes, and they can make animals like in the book, or invent their own.

Paper heart with googly eyes

 

We Need Diverse (Picture) Books

Recently a parent friend of mine asked me for book recommendations for her kid’s upcoming third birthday, and she specifically requested diverse books. I loved the question, and wanted to share the list I came up with. I’ve written about #WeNeedDiverseBooks before (here’s the official WNDB site), and I’m also mindful of #OwnVoices, i.e. diverse characters written/illustrated by diverse authors (as opposed to, say, a white author writing a Black character). For this list, I’m including books that feature characters that are something other than straight, white, cisgender, upper/middle-class, and non-disabled.

With one exception (And Tango Makes Three), these books have human characters. A tremendous number of picture books have animal characters; they often have wonderful, inclusive messages, but I feel that they don’t quite fit the description.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but these are books my daughter (also about three years old) and I have enjoyed repeatedly over the past year or so. Many are award winners, and I’ve included the names of the awards so that you can find other past winners and honor books.

Alma And How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal: Alma Sofia Esperanza Jose Pura Candela has a very long name, which she doesn’t like, until her father tells her where each part came from; in this way, Alma finds something in common with each of her ancestors and takes new pride in her name. (Caldecott Honor, School Library Journal Best Picture Book)

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, illustrated by Henry Cole: Here’s the animal book exception. Roy and Silo, two male penguins at the Central Park Zoo, hatch an egg and raise Tango as their own chick. (Nonfiction)

The Class by Boni Ashburn, illustrated by Kimberly Gee: Twenty different children get ready for the first day of school, when they become one class. The rhyming text and the illustrations work together to show the broad range of personalities and backgrounds coming together; it’s a light and lovely first day of school book.

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James: A joyous celebration of the confidence a new haircut gives a young Black boy. (ALA Notable Book, Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award, Kirkus Prize)

A Different Pond by Bao Phi, illustrated by Thi Bui: A young Vietnamese-American boy goes fishing with his father very early in the morning – not for fun, but to have food to eat. This whole book has the feeling of a starlit, predawn hush, as the boy enjoys the time with his father even as he learns about the family’s tragic history. (Caldecott Honor, Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, Charlotte Zolotow Award)

Dim Sum for Everyone by Grace Lin: A little girl goes to a dim sum restaurant with her parents and two older sister; each person orders their favorite dish and they all share. A simple story, but an excellent introduction into another culture via food. (See also: A Big Mooncake for Little Star by the same author.)

Don’t Touch My Hair by Sharee Miller: A young Black girl, Aria, loves her hair – but doesn’t like when other people touch it without asking permission. A strong and necessary message about consent.

Dreamers by Yuyi Morales: A mother brings her infant son to the U.S. from Mexico; a public library helps them feel welcome, and inspires the mother to create her own books. (Pura Belpre Award)

Hanukkah Hamster by Michelle Markel, illustrated by André Ceolin: Edgar, an Israeli taxi driver in a U.S. city, finds a hamster in his cab and cares for it while he tries to find the owner. (Maybe not the best choice for a March birthday, but keep it in mind for December. See also: All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky [Sydney Taylor Book Award], and The Little Red Hen and the Passover Matzah by Leslie Kimmelman, illustrated by Paul Meisel.)

Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall: A young Black boy goes to the pool with his father and little sister, ready to jump off the high diving board. His bravery wavers, and his dad gives him both encouragement and an easy out. Ultimately, Jabari jumps. (ALA Notable Children’s Book, Charlotte Zolotow Honor)

Julián Is A Mermaid by Jessica Love: Julián loves mermaids, but when he dresses up as one, how will his abuela react? She takes him to what looks like the Coney Island Mermaid Parade. (Stonewall Book Award)

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson: CJ takes a bus through the city with his grandmother to help at a soup kitchen. (Newbery Medal, Caldecott Honor, Coretta Scott King Honor, ALA Notable Book) Note: This author/illustrator team also produced Carmela Full of Wishes, and pretty much everything that Robinson illustrates could be on this list; I particularly love School’s First Day of School (with Adam Rex), When’s My Birthday? (with Julie Fogliano), and Rain.

Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed, illustrated by Stasia Burrington: Mae Jemisin was the first African-American female astronaut and the first African-American woman to go into space, and it started as a childhood dream – one that her parents encouraged, but her white teachers and classmates didn’t. (Biography)

Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts: The story of second-grader Rosie, great grand-niece of Rosie the Riveter and a passionate inventor – in secret, because she’s afraid of being laughed at. When Great Aunt Rose comes to visit, she brings an encouraging message: “Life might have its failures, but this was NOT it.
The only true failure can come if you quit.
” (See also: Izzy Gizmo by Pip Jones, illustrated by Sara Ogilvie, and Violet the Pilot by Steve Breen.)

Want to Play Trucks? by Ann Stott, illustrated by Bob Graham: Two little boys – one white, one brown – meet at a playground; one likes dolls and twirly dresses, another likes trucks. They find a way to play together easily; in the background, the moms chat. (Bob Graham also wrote and illustrated Let’s Get A Pup, Said Kate, in which Kate’s parents are casually tattooed and pierced.) Deftly pierces stereotypes about “boy” and “girl” toys and preferences.

As I said, this is just the tip of the iceberg – there are so many incredible, diverse picture books out there, with more being published every year. Check out other award winner or honor books, or the publisher Lee & Low (“About everyone, For Everyone”). The titles above are just a few I think are worth checking out of the library or adding to your personal collection. Happy reading!

Step Into Storytime, February 4

Storytime books and scarf

I’ve been thinking lately that I’d like to ask storytime attendees for feedback with a short survey, and while I mulled over what questions to ask, I wrote down all the elements I bring to storytime aside from books: early literacy tips (for the grown-ups), scarves, shaker eggs, other musical instruments, flannel board, the song cube, the yoga cube, stuffed animals and puppets, various arts and crafts activities, bubbles, and music. I don’t use all of these in every storytime, of course, because that would probably be sensory overload, and it’s good to change things up; while the overall pattern of the program is the same each week, some elements are familiar and others are new. If you have a storytime program, do you evaluate it? What questions do you ask, and how? A quick search turned up a useful blog post from storytime goldmine Jbrary.

Here’s what we did today, with a group of about ten kids, including a couple of four-year-olds (welcome, because we had a couple of books that required sharp eyes – Sophie Johnson, Unicorn Expert and Where’s Walrus? And Penguin? – and the older kiddos are great at spotting the hide-and-seek characters).

  • Hello and announcements
  • “Hello Friends” song with ASL (from Jbrary)
  • Name song (“____ is here today…”)
  • I Wish It Would Snow by Sarah Dillard: I had planned to hand out scarves for this one, but I forgot. We talked about how we haven’t had very much snow yet this year. The adults were particularly engaged during this storytime – thanks, grown-ups! I also brought out one of our rabbit puppets, which I invited kids to come pat after the story.
  • Yoga cube
  • Sophie Johnson, Unicorn Expert by Morag Hood and Ella Okstad: This has a bit of hide-and-seek to it, so I passed out scarves for this one instead. The littler kids had fun with the scarves, and the four-year-olds spotted the real unicorn right away.
  • Song cube: “Row Row Row Your Boat” and “Shake Your Sillies Out” (with scarves)
  • Spots in a Box by Helen Ward: This is a new favorite of mine. I like the rhyme scheme and the art. On the final page, the dots are textured, so I invited kids to come up and feel the book.
  • Yoga cube
  • There’s Nothing to Do! by Dev Petty and Mike Boldt: This completes our quartet of frog books…until they write some more!
  • Song cube: “Where is Thumbkin?” Everyone loved this. Even the littlest kids have the fine motor skills to do a thumbs-up! I sang the Cambridge Public Library version, which omits the traditional “sir.”
  • Pouch! by David Ezra Stein: This late in the storytime lineup, I like books with less text, and this one is perfect. To start, I asked which animals had pouches, and the kids said “kangaroo!” I told them that all animals with pouches are called marsupials. Word of the day!
  • Yoga cube
  • Where’s Walrus? And Penguin? by Stephen Savage: Again, my observant four-year-olds were quick to spot the escaped zoo animals.
  • “Goodbye Friends” song with ASL (from Jbrary)
  • Clean up mats, color with crayons

Before and after

Instead of putting down blank butcher paper, I drew a few outlines of circles of different sizes before our program. That way, kids could color inside those circles, or make their own, or draw anything else they wanted. I even saw a yellow snowman…

Step Into Storytime, January 28

Stack of six books, spines out
Hello Hello, I Don’t Want to Be Big, Where is the Green Sheep?, Bark Park!, Where’s Walrus?, Lots of Dots

Today we had a big group – at least 15 kids but I think closer to 20, including a couple of older and younger siblings, plus the grown-ups of course. I had a little bit of a cold so I explained that my voice was not going to be as loud, and on we proceeded as usual. Many helpful grown-ups who bring their kids regularly helped out with the familiar songs – thank you!

  • “Hello Friends” with ASL
  • Name song (“____ is here today, ____ is here today, let’s all clap our hands, ____ is here today”) (at this point we had 11-12 kids but more continued to trickle in throughout)
  • Hello Hello by Brendan Wenzel, one of my favorite lead-off books. It’s simple but visually interesting and there are lots of opportunities for movement (wiggling like an octopus, etc.).
  • Yoga cube (three poses)
  • I Don’t Want to Be Big by Dev Petty and Mike Boldt: We did I Don’t Want to Be A Frog three weeks ago and I Don’t Want to Go to Sleep two weeks ago (last week was a Monday holiday). These books are great, but they don’t have any textual indication of who’s speaking (e.g. “Dad frog said…”) so I sometimes add those in or at least point to which character is speaking as I read aloud.
  • Song cube: “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes”
  • Where Is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox and Judy Horacek: I made felt sheep for this story a while ago, so I put the yellow, pink, and blue sheep on the flannel board and hid the green sheep behind it. It worked out that one of my regulars spotted it, so I let her pull it out of hiding and stick it on the board at the end of the book. Perfect!
  • Yoga cube (three poses)
  • Bark Park! by Trudy Krisher and Brooke Boynton-Hughes: a newer book and a great simple one for storytimes, especially for the younger kids. I got everyone to “Bark, bark, bark!” with me at the appropriate times.
  • Song cube: “Shake Your Sillies Out” (with shaker eggs)
  • Where’s Walrus? by Stephen Savage: I wasn’t sure how well a wordless, hide-and-seek book would work at storytime, but this one definitely did! The walrus isn’t too hard to find on each page, and there isn’t a lot of visual clutter, plus I had two kids on the older end of our range, who always pointed right away.
  • Yoga cube (three poses)
  • Lots of Dots by Craig Frazier: Our library’s copy has had a page ripped out since I last used it, but other than that blip, this is always a good one – we always look around the room for polka dots and buttons on clothing, and it ties in to the dot craft.
  • “Goodbye Friends” with ASL
  • Clean up mats
  • Spread butcher paper on the floor and tape it down, put down a bowl of glue sticks, and throw a bowl of colored paper dots in the air! Commence gluing dots. Ask for grown-ups to help keep track of caps.