Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Book #31: Millie’s Marvellous Hat by Satoshi Kitamura

Image from Anderson Press USA

Walking by a hat store, Millie is quite taken with a feathered hat she sees in the window. She tries it on, only to discover that it's too expensive! Poor Millie isn’t sure what to do; she doesn’t have a penny in her purse. Luckily the man behind the counter has the perfect hat, it can be any size, shape, or color, you just have to imagine it. So Millie takes the invisible hat out of the hat box and begins her walk home. Millie’s hat takes all sorts of wonderful shapes and colors as her imagination is feed by the sights on the streets. She soon realizes she’s not the only one with a hat - everyone has a marvelous hat!

Kitamura, although not very well-known in the U.S., is very popular in Britain (hence the British spelling – Marvellous) and has more than 20 children’s books under his belt. His direct writing style saves this book from becoming overly precious and instead turns it into a remarkable adventure.

Image from guardian.co.uk
The illustrations show people of all ages, colors, shapes, and sizes. It’s fun to look at the illustrations and see how the wonderfully imaginative hats reflect the personality of the person wearing them. For instance, the girl carrying her violin case has a metronome for a hat and the boy on the skateboard has a race car hat.

Macy's wonderful selection of hats
After you read this book, see if you can be as observant as Millie as you walk down the street. It’s easy to walk past the same houses and stores each day without really seeing the details. Take a moment to notice what’s growing in gardens and parks, and the items on display in windows. Take a field trip to the hat section of a department store and try a few hats on. (My brother and I still find the hat section of stores fascinating.) What kind of hats do they inspire? Get out some paper and crayons and draw have each child draw their own marvelous hat.

This book appeals to elementary school age kids, which means you can take on more complex crafts. Here’s a video tutorial for a versatile paper bowler hat. Also check out the hat crafts, rhymes, and songs mentioned in my posts about Go, Dogs, Go! and A Three Hat Day.


Monday, January 30, 2012

Book #30: Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse by Marilyn Singer, Illustrated by Josée Masse

Image from Amazon.com

This beautifully illustrated poetry collection is unique in that each poem is a reverso, a poetic form created by the author. Each poem is meant to be read from top to bottom and then again from bottom to top. The poems focus on different fairy tales, from Cinderella to Jack and the Beanstalk. For instance, the poem about Little Red Hiding Hood, “In The Hood”, when read top to bottom is from Little Red’s perspective. Read it again from the bottom up and suddenly you get a wolf’s eye view.

If you haven’t explored poetry with your children, this is the perfect place to start. As one of those people who often struggles with poetry, I was impressed at the accessibility of these poems. It helps that the poems are about familiar stories and that each one is short. In addition, the stylized illustrations give you clues about the poems’ perspectives. For example, the illustration for Goldilocks and the three bears is split down the middle simultaneously showing both Goldilocks’ and the bears’ viewpoints.

This is a fantastic book for kids who are learning about punctuation. Many of the poems use changes in punctuation to transform the meaning of a line. The poems are great examples of the impact of a question mark versus an exclamation point.

Image from kellyrfineman.livejournal.com
If you’re reading this at home, take turns with your child reading the poems. The wordplay is clever and reading the poems out loud can make the hidden meanings easier to understand. The book ends with a description of the reverso and an invitation from the author to write your own. Reversos don’t have to be based on fairy tales. Try writing a poem in the perspective of two inanimate objects, such as a car and the road, or the peanut butter and jelly in a sandwich.

This book is a lovely addition to a fairy tale storytime. Depending on your audience you might read just one poem or zip through the whole book. Each poem stands alone, so it’s easy to give kids just a taste of poetry to whet their appetites.


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Book #29: Who Wants to be a Poodle I Don’t by Lauren Child

Image from Random House

This is the story of a poodle with a very unfortunate name: Trixie Twinkle Toes Trot-a-Lot Delight. She lives in the lap of luxury with her owner, Mademoiselle Verity Brulee, who makes sure that Trixie is always a model of poodle perfection. Trixie hates it and she repeatedly tries to get Verity to understand her plight, but instead Verity takes Trixie to vets and doctors. That is until Trixie rescues a dog from drowning in a puddle. Now when Verity looks at Trixie she doesn’t see a poodle, she sees a “dazzingly dangerous daring dog.” Suddenly, Verity is able to understand exactly what Trixie has been trying to tell her.

This book is best for a slightly older audience (6+). The story is a little long and the illustrations are complex. If you’re reading this book for storytime it’s a good idea to memorize most of the text. The words change font and curl all over the pages. The illustrations are also quite busy, with lots of patterned wallpapers, so that can make reading the words a bit difficult especially at an angle or upside down.

Image from the Puffin Blog
Kids who love fashion or design will enjoy the illustrations. The characters, both canine and human, have fabulous outfits and wonderful shoes. It’s the perfect excuse to make your own paper dolls and lots of fun clothes for them to wear. If you have the space, start keeping a box with scrap paper in fun colors and patterns, it’s always nice to have for projects like this.  You can buy ready-made ones or you can make your own paper dolls (which I think is much more fun).

This is also a nice addition to a storytime about names. Discuss the idea that just because a name sounds like a person should be a certain way, that doesn’t mean it’s true. In other words, don’t judge a book by it’s cover. 

If you like Lauren Child's unique style, check out my post on I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Book #28: Frank Was a Monster Who Wanted to Dance by Keith Graves

Image from Chronicle Books

Frank was a monster who wanted to dance. So he gets all gussied up, throws some ants in his pants, and he’s off to the theater. There he wows the audience with his spectacular moves, until his brain begins to unzip. It’s all downhill from there, with an eyeball bouncing away and arms falling out of sleeves. The audience flees in terror, but Frank just says to himself with a one-eyed glance, “I might be a monster, but man can I dance!”

Yes, this book is a little bit gruesome and it’s definitely not for the faint of heart. It never fails to elicit screams of “eeeewww” and “gross!” when Frank’s brain falls onto the floor. However, if you’ve got a room full of kindergarten or elementary age boys, this book will not fail you. The rhyming text is short and catchy, just a sentence or two per page. The illustrations are a bit ridiculous, like Frank, and are full of kooky cars, orange spotted brains, and Frank’s lopsided grin. 

I found this book while looking for boy-friendly additions to a storytime about dancing. There are lots of stories with ballerinas and tutus, but a dancing monster is quite novel. You can also reuse this story for a Halloween theme, and follow it up with some dancing  to the Monster Mash.

There are some great patterns for quick and easy monster feet, which would be a fun follow up craft. Try some Foam Monster Feet or some Tissue Box Monster Feet.

Finally, Frank has a number of body parts that fall off, so this can be a silly addition to a body parts storytime. If you have an elementary school crowd, try singing Oh, Chester. Each time you sing the verse through you replace one of the words by touching a body part. For instance, instead of singing “Chester”, you would touch your chest. 

Oh,  Chester
Oh, Chester, have you heard about Harry?
Just got back from the army.
I hear he knows how to wear his clothes.
Hip-hip-hooray for the army!


Friday, January 27, 2012

Book #27: My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss, Illustrated by Steve Johnson & Lou Fancher

Image from Better World Books
This luminous book describes and illustrates the many feelings and emotions that people can go through in a day, a week, or an hour. Each color is associated with a different emotion. The vivid paintings capture the highs of a yellow “busy, buzzy bee” day and the lows of a gray, motionless day. The narrator points out that sometimes you can have such a mixed-up day that you just don’t know who or what you are, but that in the end it’s ok, because you will always be you.

The rhyming scheme of the book makes the text roll of the tongue easily. The illustrations are painted with bold strokes and vibrant colors and feature animals and a small figure with arms and legs outstretched, something like a paper cut out.

Available as a picture book and a sturdy board book, this story is a great way for children to understand that constantly changing emotions are part of the universal human experience. Some kids have the ability to verbalize their feelings, but many children, especially those who struggle with language skills, have a harder time expressing what’s going on inside.

Once you’ve read this book, you use it as a way to figure out what’s going on emotionally with your child. Ask them to tell you what color their day is or have them point to the picture in the book. Create your own many colored days book by cutting out paper figures in different colors and making a page for each color. Have the kids draw pictures around the figure that express that emotion for them. If your child can write, you can use this printable and paste it to each page. If they can’t write yet, have them tell you how they feel on that colored day and write it on the page as well. This is something that you can continue to add to as the kids work through different emotions or you can stretch this project out by picking a different emotion to draw and talk about each day.

Talk about other ways you can express your emotions besides colors. Play music or show abstract paintings and ask the kids what color or emotion they think it communicates. There’s no right or wrong answers, the idea is to discuss the different ways to express your feelings to others in a healthy way. This is another book that lends itself well to incorporating yoga (see also my post on Blue Chameleon). Check out the suggestions on the OMazing Kids Yoga blog.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Book #26: Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, by Mem Fox, Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

Image from Copper Coyote blog

This rhyming book compares 11 babies, each with 10 little fingers and 10 little toes.  The illustrations, in Oxenbury’s signature style, feature babies of all complexions and hair colors. There are babies born in the mountains, city babies, and babies who live in tents, but all the babies, regardless of nationality or skin color, have 10 little fingers and 10 little toes.

Perfect for a lap sit storytime, the illustrations show the babies laughing and playing together with close ups on fingers and toes at appropriate times. Each time you get to the fingers and toes line, help your child wiggle their fingers and toes. If you can, take off your shoes and socks, so you can wiggle your fingers and toes too.

Follow up with some fingerplays about fingers and toes, such as 5 Little Fingers, 10 Little Fingers, and My Fingers Can. I also like Did YouEver See a Baby? It’s fun because it involves lots of bouncing, which most babies love. All of these fingerplays can be done standing up or with a baby on your lap.

Image from NYTimes.com
Read the story again, but this time talk about the different colors and patterns that the children are wearing. There are babies in pants, dresses, overalls, pajamas, etc. This type of discussion is a good way to model reading for babies. You are showing them how to look beyond the words and look for the clues in the illustrations.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Book #25: Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

Image from BetterWorldBooks.com
When Chrysanthemum was born her parents decided she was absolutely perfect and they gave her a name to match. Chrysanthemum loves her name until she starts school. Everyone laughs at her for being named after a flower and having the longest name (it barely fits on her name tag). Although her parents reassure Chrysanthemum that her name is precious, priceless, fascinating, and winsome, she has a hard time believing them when she is teased at school. One day Chrysanthemum’s class is introduced to Mrs. Twinkle, the music teacher. Mrs. Twinkle overhears the other girls teasing Chrysanthemum about her name and remarks that she has a name so long it scarcely fits on a nametag – Delphinium. Suddenly, everyone wishes they had a long, flowery name too. And Chrysanthemum knows her name is absolutely perfect.

Image from the Under The Green Willow Blog
Kevin Henkes has written and illustrated dozens of books and his style is very distinctive. The characters are mice costumed in a wonderful array of bright dresses, t-shirts, hats, and hair bows. There are also subtle details that will amuse adults, such as the Picasso-esque painting of mice hung in Chrysanthemum’s house.

The length of the story combined with the school setting make it a good book for preschool and kindergarten children. Chrysanthemum’s father uses a number of large and lovely words – envious, begrudging, winsome, precious, etc. Ask the kids if they can tell you what those words mean and help them define the ones they don’t know. What words do they use to describe their names?

This book is a must for storytime about personal names and is especially endearing to kids with unusual names. Try incorporating some of the songs and action rhymes about names in my earlier post on Matthew A.B.C.

Bring in pictures of chrysanthemums, delphiniums, and other flower commonly used as names, such as roses, daisies, or lilies. Talk about how each flower has similarities (leaves, petals) and differences (color, size), just as people have similarities and differences. Discuss how these attributes make each flower and person unique and special.

As the book mentions, Chrysanthemum has 13 letters in her name. Help the kids write out and count the letters in the name. You could also use Scrabble tiles. Ask people with 3 letter names to stand, then 4 letters, etc. until everyone is standing. If you have a white or chalk board you can have each child write their name under their number. Or have the kids write their name on a colored piece of paper and then stick that to the board. You can also do the same with consonants, vowels, or syllables. Combine the idea of flowers and names by making paper flowers with 1 letter on each petal.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Book #24: Brontorina by James Howe, Illustrated by Randy Cecil

Image from BarnesandNoble.com

Brontorina Apatosaurus is a dinosaur who dreams of becoming a ballerina. She goes to Madame Lucille’s Dance Academy. At first Madame Lucille and her students resist the idea of a dancing dinosaur; She doesn’t even have the right shoes! But Brontorina is so determined that Madame Lucille cannot refuse. Brontorina gracefully executes her arabesques and jetés, but the simple fact is that she’s too big for the dance studio. Madame Lucille is about to turn Brontorina away when one of the dancer’s mother appears with dinosaur size ballet shoes. Madame Lucille decides the problem is not that the dinosaur is too big for the studio; it’s that the studio is not big enough for Brontorina. Now Madame teaches her students in the meadow of a farm and it’s big enough for everyone, humans and dinosaurs, to dance.

This story about following your dreams has colorful and dynamic illustrations. Randy Cecil has managed to make ballet look natural for a dinosaur. There must be something about Cecil’s work that catches my eye because this isn’t the first time I’ve blogged about a book he’s illustrated (see my post on How Do You Wokka Wokka?).

Image from ChildrensBookAlmanac.com
This is one of my favorite stories about ballet for kids for two reasons. First, the ballet class includes boys, as well as girls, and children of all skin and hair colors. It depicts diversity without making a big deal about it. Second, the book emphasizes that dancing is about the desire to express yourself through movement; it’s not about your size, shape, or any other aspect of your appearance.

There’s also a subtle message about helping each other work through problems. Most of the ballet students want Brontorina to stay and it is the suggestion of one of the kids that leads to the outdoor lessons. You can discuss how the other students in the class helped Brontorina to achieve her dream.

To get everyone up and moving, try Sur La Lune’s Dino-Poky, to the tune of the Hoky Poky, and the Dinosaur Song. I particularly like the line about stomping in goo! Get your kids up and moving by teaching them the 5 ballet positions. (Please note that the link shows pictures of a dancers feet. Everyone has a different range of flexibility, so just turn your feet out comfortably. None of these positions should hurt). Best of all, play some classical music and let the dancing begin. Try the Sleeping Beauty Waltz, I bet you’ll recognize the melody from the Disney movie, or something from the Nutcracker. Give out scarves to dance with or try dancing in a circle.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Book #23: Blue Chameleon by Emily Gravett

Image from Amazon.com
Today is cause for much celebration! First, it's the Lunar New Year (Gung Hay Fat Choy!) and it's also my cousin Ethan's birthday! I’ve heard he recently got a pet chameleon, so today’s book is all about that multi-colored creature.  Happy birthday Ethan!

This book is about a very lonely chameleon. He tries to change himself to look like other animals and even objects (my favorite is the cowboy boot), until finally he finds another chameleon, decked out in all the colors of the rainbow!

Each 2 page spread features two words. A color or pattern on the left hand page and a noun on the right hand page. The illustrations, done in colored pencil on rough watercolor paper, show the chameleon’s attempts to look like his potential friends. The watercolor paper lends texture to the illustrations. Even better the page featuring the color white includes a nearly invisible chameleon embossed on the paper. You may think the page is empty, but run your fingers over the page and you’ll find him hiding. The very simple text and large pictures make it perfect for toddlers.  Although older kid will get a kick out of the way the chameleon nearly ties himself in knots trying to mimic others.

Image from the Book Besotted Librarian blog
I like that the chameleon finds a friend who will accept him as he is, however it does make me sad that the other animals aren’t able to accept him (I’ve exempted the objects, they’re inanimate after all.). That said, I think the book is less about making friends and more about exploring colors, patterns, and shapes.

I’ve recently become intrigued with incorporating yoga into storytime and I think this book presents fabulous opportunities. Try the Grasshopper, ½ Grasshopper (at least that’s what it looks like me, skip the corny animation at the beginning of the video), the Fish (this video has some nice modifications for the less flexible), or Rolling Like a Ball (ok, this one is technically a Pilates move, but still fun for kids). Then see if you can copy some of the other shapes in the book.

Craft wise, Disney has a template for a 3D paper chameleon based on Pascal from Tangled.  I also think these little pipe cleaner guys are just darn cute. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Book #22: Shadow by Suzy Lee

Image from Gathering Books blog

Shadow is a stunning nearly wordless book. The story is about a young girl who plays make-believe in her garage. On the left hand page you see the girl and her surroundings drawn in black and white with charcoal and pencil. On the right hand page are the shadows of the girl and the objects. At first the shadows are merely mirror images of their solid partners. But then the girl makes a butterfly with her hands and the butterfly glows into life on the shadow page. Soon the shadows are transformed into jungle creatures and the girl’s shadow dances among them. The conflict occurs when a shadow wolf leaps onto the left hand page, forcing the girl to escape into the land of shadows. Don’t worry, the wolf’s not evil, he’s just lonely. Soon everyone is frolicking together in a great explosion of light and shadow. That is until the girl is summoned to dinner and turns off the garage light.

Image from Chronicle Books
Because the book is almost wordless, make sure you take time to look at and talk about the illustrations on each page. Ask the kids to point out different details and then fill in the gaps with questions and comments. They’ll feel like they’re sharing the book with you when they get to point things out to you first. You may want to flip back through the book afterwards and talk about how different objects and their shadows transform as the book progresses. For instance, the girl begins the book eating an apple, but the apple later turns into a crown.

This book illustrates the idea of light versus dark very well. It would also fit nicely into a storytime about opposites. After you read this book, grab some flashlights or a desk lamp and make some shadow hand puppets on the walls. This short video shows you how to do 3 hand puppets, while Sweet Happy Life’s Ariela has posted a blog with 15 puppets.  Or try making some shadow puppets with paper and straws (my family always used chopsticks, they’re a little sturdier).

Have a random selection of objects and take turns setting items in front of the light to make shadows. Objects with holes make especially fun shadows. Just looking at the shadows can you guess what the objects are? What do the shadow shapes remind you of? Notice how the shadows change as you move the light or the object. Place a kitchen strainer on top of a flashlight to make “stars” on the walls and ceilings.

Try a few of these shadow songs and fingerplays, Shadow, What is a Shadow (scroll down a bit to find the fingerplay), and See My Shadow. To make them even more fun, sing/perform them in front of a lamp that casts shadows on a blank wall. If you’re in a big room, see if you can turn on an overhead projector. They make nice shadows with crisp, clean edges. 


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Book #21: Hop Jump by Ellen Stoll Walsh

Image from BarnesandNoble.com

Betsy is a frog who is bored of hopping and jumping. So she decides to experiment and soon she is leaping and twisting. Dancing! Unfortunately, her grassy dancing spot is interrupted by a group of frogs who insist there is no room for dancing, just hopping and jumping. Betsy walks off to find another place to dance, but soon the curious frogs follow her to watch. Their watching turns into dancing. When the frogs try to outlaw hopping in favor of dancing saying there’s no room for them, Betsy corrects them, “Oh yes, there’s room…For dancing and for hopping.”

Walsh’s cut-paper collage illustrations feature speckled frogs with large eyes and magnificent leg muscles. Although the frogs aren’t capable of facial expressions, the movements of their bodies jumping, hopping, leaping, and twirling make up for this inability. The text is concise, with just one sentence to each page.

If your little ones have a lot of energy, this is a fun story to get them up and moving. Try reading it once sitting down and then again while moving around. Each time Walsh mentions a movement in the book, get up and practice it (or just stay on your feet, it’s easier). If you’ve got a roomful of kids, line them up like the frogs in the book and have them hop/jump around the room behind you. Try the action rhyme Five Little Froggies Go Hop.

Once you’ve got some of your wiggles out, use the action rhyme Hop and Twirl to get everyone settled down, you can talk about the story. Betsy wasn’t afraid to try something new, even though her friends weren’t supportive in the beginning. This is an especially nice talk to have before starting a new class or activity that your child might be unsure about. 

You can also discuss the diversity in the story. Talk about the idea that there’s more than one way to do things, just as you can hop, jump, and dance. You don’t have to choose just one; you can try different ways to see how they work. Ask the kids for examples of this idea, such as there are lots of different ways to make a pizza or the many ways you can song a sing (fast, slow, high, low, etc.).

A few frogs I made last night
Origami hopping frogs are the perfect craft match for this story. This video shows you how to make the frog with an index card, but you can use any rectangular piece of paper or you can fold a square piece of paper in half to make a rectangle. Experiment with different weights of papers. Heavy papers will make better jumpers. I would also suggest that your rectangle be at least the size of an index card (3”x5”); the smaller the paper the harder it is to fold. You can also recycle your old Christmas and greeting cards, just cut them in half and they’re the perfect size. They also make for colorful frogs. In the picture to the left the white frog is made from an index card, the green frog is regular weight paper, and the bluish one is an old Christmas card.


Friday, January 20, 2012

Book #20: The Thingamabob by Il Sung Na

Image from Amazon.com
This intricate, yet simple book is about an elephant who finds a thingamabob. He asks all his friends, from the blue bear to the feathery ostrich, but none of them can figure it out. As it begins to rain the elephant realizes what readers will have already figured out – The thingamabob is an umbrella!

The illustrations are childlike, with lovely embellishments in unexpected places. At first glance the umbrella is simply bright red, however if you take a moment to look you’ll see that there’s a design of swirls, raindrops, and clouds on it. It’s the little touches like this that make the illustrations so fascinating.

This story models curiosity and experimentation in a wonderful way. First, the elephant tries to figure things out on his own. When he can’t find the answer, he is not shy about asking his friends. Many kids (and quite a few adults) are afraid of not knowing the answer to every question. In this story the protagonist is rewarded by his persistent curiosity and exploration.  Talk with the kids about what they do when they don’t know the answer to a question. Who do they ask? Where do they go for answers? It’s good for kids to know that they aren’t the only ones who don’t know the answers.

Image from Valentina's Room blog
Bring in objects that children may not be familiar with and pass them around. See if anyone can guess what the object does. Items like old-point-and-shoot or Polaroid cameras, kitchen gadgets (but nothing with blades or sharp edges!), even things like tape cassette players or old radios. Many kids are growing up with computers, ipods, cellphones, etc. and may not know what these items are or what they do.  

This story is fun for younger children, so here are some fingerplays about umbrellas. Try Raindrops, and Five Umbrellas, Umbrellas Go Up Umbrellas Go Down. There’s also Five Little Umbrellas, which is fun to do as a flannelboard


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Book #19: The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch, Illustrated by Michael Martchenko

Image from Amazon.com

“Ronald," said Elizabeth, "your clothes are really pretty and your hair is very neat. You look like a real prince, but you are a bum." They didn’t get married after all.

There’s nothing like a liberated and independent princess to make my day! And Princess Elizabeth, aka the Paper Bag Princess, is nothing if not liberated and independent.

This is the story of a beautiful princess who is engaged to marry the dashingly handsome Prince Ronald. Then one day a dragon smashes her castle and kidnaps Ronald. He also burns everything with his fiery breath, including all of Elizabeth’s clothes, even the ones she was wearing. The only thing left is a paper bag, which she resourcefully fashions into a paper bag dress (yes, I know, it makes absolutely no sense that of all things a paper bag would survive a fire, but then again it is a fairy tale). The now decent princess runs off to rescue her prince. Through a series of clever questions, the princess so exhausts the dragon that he falls into a deep slumber. However, when Elizabeth opens the door to set Ronald free all he can do is chastise her for her shabby appearance. So Elizabeth gives Ronald his just deserves (see above) and dances off into the sunset sans prince.

Besides being one of the pluckiest princesses in picture book history, I adore the fact that the Elizabeth does not wear pink, nor does she look like a sparkle monster threw up on her. It’s not that I hate the color pink or sparkles it’s just that they seem to have taken over picture books. It’s refreshing to see story about a princess that emphasizes her intellect rather than her beauty.

Developed by Munsch while he was a preschool teacher, this story is perfect for kids around that age. The story moves along quickly with just 2 or 3 sentences a page. The emphasis is on the action and dialogue rather than the description, which makes it a fun book to read aloud because you can use different voices for each character. The illustrations are done in pen and ink with moderate use of color. Like the text the pictures are straight forward, they aren’t complex and they don’t assault your eyes with splashy colors.

Image from the Happy or Hungry blog
The easiest craft to do after reading this book is to make your own paper bag dress. I found two great patterns: This first dress is very simple, while this second dress is much fancier. Try making a paper lunch bag princess puppet or if your child loves the dragon, a paper lunch bag dragon puppet. (This is the same one I posted for The Knight and The Dragon). And if you still have a mania for paper bag crafts, never fear, ABC Home Preschool has a list of over 50 paper bag craft ideas!

If you’re reading the story with younger kids, try the fingerplay, The Little Dragon. I like it because at the end the dragon lies down and snores, which seems appropriate for this book.

For older kids, try the call and response song, Princess Pat. Princess Pat, like Elizabeth, is very resourceful. She builds her own rig of bamboo and saves Captain Jack and his crew. Watch the video to learn the actions and make sure you leave time for the kids to sing their response. You’ll have to sing it a few times before they get all the words and motions, but it's definitely worth it.

On a side note, I have yet to figure out why Prince Ronald always carries a tennis racket. But I try not to think about it too much. He’s really not worth the effort.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Book #18: Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein

Image from Amazon.com

Papa is putting his daughter, the little red chicken, to bed when she insists on a bedtime story. Papa agrees but only if the little red chicken promises not to interrupt the story. So Papa begins the story of Hansel and Gretel. The witch is about to capture the children, but the little red chicken just can’t stand it. She cries out, “Out jumped a little red chicken, and she said, ‘Don’t go in! She’s a witch!’ So Hansel and Gretel didn’t. THE END!” Poor Papa struggles through Little Red Riding Hood – “Don’t talk to strangers!” –  and Chicken Little – “It was an acorn!” – before throwing the towel in. But the little red chicken just can’t go to bed without a story, so she reads one of her own to Papa. This time Papa is the one to interrupt the story…with his snoring!

This book is great for a fractured fairy tales storytime since it skewers 3 recognizable classics. It doesn’t spend too much time on each bedtime book that Papa reads, but the stories are easily recognizable to most kids so they’ll be able to follow. It’s a fun story for kids who always ask, “why?” What would happen if Little Red Riding Hood actually listened to her mother and didn't talk with wolves?

It’s refreshing to read a book that features chickens that doesn’t take place on a farm. There’s no clucking, mooing, baaing, or neighing. Most fingerplays about chickens include farm animal sounds; however I did find The 5 Hungry Chicks. It’s easy to perform with a flannelboard, plush chickens, or laminated pictures. Craft-wise, try a paper plate hand print chicken. If you get chicken happy, make a large Papa chicken and a small little red chicken.

Image from Amazon.com
After reading the story have the kids write and illustrate their own bedtime story just as the little red chicken did. You never find out what happens in the story the little red chicken was writing, so you could have them write their own ending. Write your own endings for fairy tales or write a completely new story. If your child can’t write yet, have them dictate the story to you and they can add pictures. After you finish the story, staple it together into a book. Now you’re all ready for a bedtime story. 


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Book #17: Same, Same but Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw

Image from Amazon.com

This is the story of two boys are the same, same, but different. Although Elliot lives in America and Kailash in India, the pen pals discover their similarities through letters and drawings. They both take the bus to school, although one is a yellow bus and the other powered by bicycle. They both live in cities, although the sights on the streets differ. The book ends with the words, “We’re best friends…even though we live in two different words. Or do we?"

The illustrations are combination of childlike drawings and paper collage. Pages are marked with an E (Elliot) or K (Kailash) to make it clear which world the pages are depicting. The pictures show the color and life of the separate locations and the simple, descriptive text draws your attention to the differences and similarities.  Although Kosstecki-Shaw points out the cultural differences, she does so in a very positive and celebratory way.

A few years ago my mother began describing objects, people, and places with the phrase, “It's the same…but different.” It became a family joke and consequently we found out that in many Southeast Asian countries “Same, same, but different” is a common phrase used to compare items or cultures. You might say that your shoes that look like Nikes (but aren’t) would be same, same, but different. Or that many cultures celebrate the New Year, but that the celebrations are same, same, but different. Naturally, when I saw this book on the library shelf I knew it was destined for my book bag.

Image from Dancing Elephant Studios
This book is great for preschool through early grade school children, especially in conjunction with geography, social studies, or a pen pal unit. Pull out a world map or globe and point out the U.S. and India. Talk about how many miles it is between the two countries. The two boys talk about what it looks like where they live. Ask the children what they see on their street and make a list of their responses. Point out that even people who live in the same geographic area will have differences in what they see out their window or on their way to school.

Elliot and Kailash also compare their alphabets (I think Kailash uses the Hindi alphabet in the book. Please let me know if I’m mistaken). Print out the alphabets of different languages and pass them around for the kids to compare and contrast. Count the letters in the different languages. How many of them have more or less than 26 letters? Practice writing different letters.

For fun, learn the handshake that Elliot uses to say hello to his friends. Try some of these handshaking games.


Monday, January 16, 2012

Book #16: Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle, Illustrated by Jill McElmurry

Image from BarnesandNoble.com

The Little Blue Truck drives along sleepy country roads. As he drives he makes friends with the animals along the road. His horn beeps at each one and they croak, cow, oink, or baaa back. Suddenly, a huge yellow dump truck zooms rudely past the Little Blue Truck. Unfortunately, rain has turned the road to mud and the dump truck is soon spinning his wheels in the muck. The Little Blue Truck tries to rescue the dump truck, but only succeeds in getting stuck too. But, unlike the self-important dump truck, the Little Blue Truck made lots of friends on his journey and they come to his rescue. The dump truck learns the value of friendship and the animals get to ride in the Little Blue Truck.

The illustrations use a palette of browns, yellows, and greens to depict the countryside, which makes the Little Blue Truck stand out. I love the smears and spatters of mud colored paint used to show the trucks stuck in the mud. The message of the book is very clear. As the dump truck says, “Now I see a lot depends on helping hands and helping friends.” This story can be used to start a discussion about the value of friendship and what it means to be a good friend.

I love reading this story out loud because of the animal and truck sounds. If you have an old-fashioned car horn, bring it to storytime and use it each time the Little Blue Truck beeps (just make sure you hide the horn so that the kids don’t drive you crazy playing with it). Each animal repeats their noise multiple times, which means the kids can help when the animals reappear to save the day. This is a great excuse to use your flannelboard. Put up each animal as they appear in the book and then when it’s time to make their sound you can point at them on the board. You could also use stuffed animals or laminated pictures taped to the wall or white board.

This book is a big hit with kids who love cars and trucks. There are road signs to find, curves to negotiate, and finally a wonderful, animal filled ride in a truck. Your kids may want to play with cars and trucks after this book. Use masking tape or painters tape to make a roadway on the floor and pull out your box of toy cars and trucks. If you don’t have cars and trucks, have the kids walk along the tape lines pretending to be cars. To avoid chaos, give them directions such as, “Turn right at the next intersection” or “Drive as slow as a turtle.” 

If you’ve got some leftover cardboard boxes, make a cardboard car for your child to play in. I love cardboard because kids can draw right on the object. If you don’t have the time to make a whole car, grab some plastic plates and some kitchen chairs and you’ve got an instant pretend car with a plastic plate steering wheel.

Try singing The New Wheels on the Bus (from the book Family Storytime: Twenty-Four Creative Programs for All Ages. By Rob Reid.). Print off pictures of each mode of transportation and pull them out when you get to their verses in the song. You can start by singing the tradition Wheels on the Bus or you can jump right into the sports car verse.  

Let’s get off the bus and into a nice, red, shiny SPORTS CAR!
            The wheels on the sports car go round and round, etc.
            The horn on the car goes meep, meep, meep, etc.
            The motor on the car goes rrrrrrrRRRRRRRRRrrrrr, etc.

Now let’s get out of the car and get into a ROCKET SHIP!
            The boosters on the rocket go whooooosh, whoooosh, whoooosh!, etc.
            The radio on the rocket goes garble squawk garble, etc.
            The people on the rocket go “Hey! I’m floating!”, etc

Let’s get off the rocket and get into something more exciting….A DONKEY CART!
            The wheels on the cart go clippety-clop, etc.
            The driver on the cart goes giddyup, etc.
            The donkey on the cart goes hee-haw, etc.
            The kids, moms, and dads go “that’s all!”


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Book #15: Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox, Illustrated by Julie Vivas

Image from Amazon.com
Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge is a small boy with a big name. He lives next door to a retirement home and he’s friends with all the residents, from Mr. Hosking who tells him crazy stories to Miss Mitchell who walks with a wooden stick. But Wilfrid’s favorite is Miss Nancy Alison Delacourt. She has a name as long as his and he tells her all his secrets. Wilfrid is confused when his parents tell him that Miss Nancy has lost her memory. He’s not quite sure what a memory is, so he asks his friends at the home. He gets many answers, “Something warm”, “Something that makes you laugh”, “Something as precious as gold.” Armed with this new information Wilfrid sets about finding memories for Miss Nancy. He finds a puppet on a string that makes people laugh, a football that’s as precious as gold to him, etc. Wilfrid brings his box of memories to Miss Nancy and each object reminds her of a tiny bit of her past. So in a way, Wilfrid was able to find her lost memory.

The illustrations are soft and some of the edges are a bit blurry, colors are sundrenched and faded. The color and texture is appropriate since it’s a book about memories. The The text is simple and to the point. It’s a sentimental story, but the prose isn’t dripping with sugary phrases.

Image from Kane/Miller Kidlit blog
I love that this book features a friendship between two people so dissimilar in age. It’s easy for children to be exposed only to friends their own age. However, I think that it’s important for children to learn how to behave and interact with people of all ages. Not only will it expand their horizons, it will also help them become more compassionate and empathetic.

This is a quiet book that’s nice to share one on one. Sit down with your child and make a list of memories, one for each of the qualities mentioned in the book. It may take a bit to get their brains going, so you might make a few suggestions. If they can’t think of a warm memory, try reminding them of the sweltering hot day this summer, what did they do on that day? If your child likes to draw, have them illustrate each memory (you may need more paper). Save this list of memories. If you read the book again in a few weeks or months, pull the list out and see what they think of their list of memories. Do they still remember them? Do they want to add more memories or change them?

This is an excellent book for children who have grandparents or relatives who are losing their memory due to Alzheimer’s or dementia. It can be difficult for kids to understand what memory loss means, especially since they only remember a few years themselves. Read this book before you visit that relative and use it as a way to talk about what to expect during the visit.

Bring out a photo album and look at photos of the relative or friend you’re going to visit. Not only does this make kids more comfortable with the people before they see them in person, it’s a good way to talk about memories and how different people have different memories of the same person or event. 


Friday, January 13, 2012

Book # 13: Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell

Image from Amazon.com

Described as a lift-the-flap book, this board book is about an unnamed narrator who writes to the zoo asking for a pet. Unfortunately, the zoo is a little confused and they keep sending pets that just won’t do. Each animal is delivered in a crate or a basket and you have to lift the flap to see what’s inside. After sending back lots of potential pets (the elephant was too big, the giraffe too tall, the frog too jumpy), the zoo finally sends the perfect pet, a dog.

The illustrations are done in bright, bold colors and after you read the book once the kids will already know what’s hidden behind the flap. But there’s just something about flaps that kids love and I bet they’ll be asking for this one over and over.

This book is perfect for babies and toddlers ages 0-3. Each page has just one illustration, so it's easy for babies to focus. When they figure out how, kids will want to be ones to open the flaps and turn the pages. The animal names aren’t in the text, so make sure to say them out loud along with the sound that animal makes (kudos if you can figure out a good sound for a giraffe). Once your child can talk, ask them to guess which animal will be inside the box and after they open the flap you can ask them what sound that animal makes.

After you read the book, try this fun action rhyme about the zoo. If your child can’t stand yet, bounce them in your lap as you sing the song. When you get to the part about elephants, swing your baby to and fro like the elephant’s trunk. If your child is almost ready to stand on their own, hold them up so they can bounce on their own while you sing.

Image from 3H Craftwork Society
Try making your own lift-the-flap postcard. If you don’t feel like drawing, cut out pictures of animals from magazines or print them offline and paste them in the square. Have your child dictate a message and send them to faraway friends or family members (I would put them in an envelope or else the flap could fall off in the mail).

If you’re looking for a good baby shower or birthday gift, this book is great. The flaps make the book interactive even if your child just pulls it off the shelf and plays with it on their own. I also found a flannelboard set for the book, which would be fun for a toddler storytime.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Book #12: A Three Hat Day by Laura Geringer, Illustrations by Arnold Lobel

Image from Amazon.com
This is the story R.R. Pottle, a man who loves hats. His father loved canes and his mother loved umbrellas. They lived together in the Pottle mansion. But then his parents pass away and he’s all alone. R. R. dreams of finding his future wife in the rain. He knows she will be wearing the perfect hat.

Every morning when he wakes up, he chooses a hat for the day. If he’s feeling blue he’ll wear 2 hats. This is a particularly bad day; he wears 3 hats. To cheer himself up, R.R. goes to the hat shop where he tries on different hats. There he meets Isabel, the hat shop assistant, who’s wearing the perfect hat! They live happily ever after and together they have a daughter, R.R. Pottle, the fourth, who loves…shoes!

Image from Harper Collins
This small book, endorsed by Reading Rainbow (skip the first 2 mins and you can hear the story), has a wonderful wistful quality to it. I like that the adults in the book are modeling good behavior. With the exception of the hat shop owner, the characters are well-mannered and polite. They treat each other with respect and expect others to do the same.

The illustrations are simple, but if you look hard you’ll find the hidden details. The tree made of butterflies, the Pottle mansion built of canes and umbrellas, the cane with a bunny head. There’s also something amusing about R.R. Pottle, a man who sports small round glasses and a bushy mustache, wearing a bonnet or a bathing cap.

Image from Google Books
The best part is the sheer number of hats mentioned in this book, from berets to bowlers, pillboxes to sombreros. Have lots of hats (or pictures of hats) when you tell this story. When R.R. puts on 3 hats go ahead and put on 3 hats too. And when Isabel takes each hat off have a different child take off each of your hats. If you don’t have hats in your dress up box, check out local thrift stores or make a few of your own. Look at the hat crafts I posted for Go, Dog, Go! 

I found the song, My Silly Hat, which is sung to the tune of This Old Man. In her blog, Awesome Storytime, Sarah H. suggests a sombrero beanbag toss. Pass out some small bean bags to your kids and place a sombrero in the center. If you have a lot of kids in your group get 2 hats and have the kids make 2 circles. Play some fun music and march around the hats. When the music stops everyone throws their bean bag into the sombrero.