Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Book #60: Dust Devil by Anne Isaacs, Illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky

Image from
This rip roaring tall tale is the continuing story of Angelica Longrider, first started in the Caldecott Honor Book, Swamp Angel. Now a resident of Montana, larger-than-life Angel befriends her neighbors and sets about taming the Wild West. She tames a dust storm that turns out to be a gigantic horse she names Dust Devil. Their tussle creates the Grand Canyon. Angel and Dust Devil go on to chase an evil band of terrorizing robbers, Backward Bart and his Flying Desperadoes, across the whole of Montana, thus creating the Sawtooth Range. Although this book is the sequel to Swamp Angel, it can be read as a stand alone book as well.

This original tall tale is full of exaggerated plot points and larger-than-life characters. Frequently the events of the story are said to create particular geographical land markers, such as the Grand Canyon and the buttes of Montana. Taming the Wild West is the theme of this good versus evil story, which leads to a rewarding resolution. Although some characters in the story question Angel’s ability to do things based on her gender, Angel is not a woman to take no for an answer. She is a strong female protagonist, cut from the same cloth as her male counterparts such as Paul Bunyan and Pecos Bill.

The story has an episodic plot; however the episodes are sequential with characters accumulating from the first to the last. Although some children may have difficulty sitting still for the book to be read all at once, the episodic nature of the story allows it to be easily broken up into smaller chunks. In addition, this story makes a wonderful reader’s theatre candidate. Have one class or group present Swamp Angel and another follow up with Dust Devil.

The text is a joy to read aloud and is filled with wordplay, such as reverse speaking Backward Bart, and humorous hyperbolic phrases, “They were pricklier than porcupines in a cactus patch.” Try talking like Backward Bart after reading the book. See if you can say the alphabet backwards. How about rhymes like Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star?

The Montana setting is very specific and wonderfully depicted through the American primitive style illustrations, although this is a tall tale, so size, distance, and time are often exaggerated. Talk about the exaggerated elements in the story, Backward Bart’s extreme ugliness, Angel’s size, and the toughness of Aunt Essie Bell’s biscuits.

Create a Tall Tales Hall of Fame by drawing pictures of Angelica Longrider and other characters from tall tales on large poster board. Have the kids pick out the highlights of each character’s adventures and post those along with information such as birth place, parents, siblings, sidekick, etc. 


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Book #59: Baby Danced the Polka by Karen Beaumont, Illustrated by Jennifer Plecas

Image from
It’s nap time on the farm and Mama and Papa put Baby down for his nap. But Baby has other ideas, he’d rather polka with the polka-dotted pig! Each time his parents put him back in bed that crazy Baby is up again dancing with another stuffed animal. Eventually, his parents give up and they make music and dance until Baby falls asleep with visions of “polka parties still a-dancing in his head.”

Named a Notable Children’s Book by the American Library Association in 2005, this little book is energetic and brightly illustrated. Mama and Papa are slightly exaggerated; Mama in her purple high heels and papa with his lopsided glasses.

The flaps make this book a guessing game for kids. Each one reveals the animal Baby has chosen for his dance partner. If you can find stuffed animals like the ones in the book hide them from the kids and reveal them as you go through the book.

After reading the story bring out a box of stuffed animals, turn on some polka music, and let the kids dance. Toddlers will love the chance to let loose and parents with babies on their laps can sway and bounce in rhythm to the music.

There are lots of wonderful fingerplays and action rhymes about dancing. A few of my favorites are Dance Your Fingers Up, perfect for a baby storytime, and with toddlers you can’t go wrong with The Hoky Poky. For more dancing rhymes see my posts on Brontorina and Hop Jump.


Monday, February 27, 2012

Book #58: Chicken Dance by Tammi Sauer, Illustrated by Dan Santat

Image from
Marge and Lola are chickens who adore Elvis Poultry, so when they see a poster for the talent show, grand prize - tickets to Elvis Poultry in concert, they know they have to win. Unfortunately, the ducks always win and they just won’t let anyone forget it. Marge and Lola assess their talents – bowling, flying, swimming, juggling – but they fail at all of them. It’s time for the talent show and Marge and Lola still don’t know what to do! The goats are eating tractors, the pigs are making pyramids, and those smug ducks are surfing! Suddenly, the chickens are up, standing frozen before the audience, until the ducks yell at the chickens making them bawk and flap and shake. The crowd goes wild for their “regular chicken stuff!” Although the chickens give it their all, they only score an 8.5. But then Elvis Poultry himself arrives! The next day there’s a new poster on the barn that announces that Elvis Poultry and the Chicken Dancers will be going on tour.  

Full of hilarious details, the illustrations create a classic barnyard full of quirky characters. I especially love the endpapers, which feature diagrams of different chicken dances, such as the Disco Chicken. Marge and Lola are little chickens with big dreams and total determination and the illustrations portray their efforts with amusing panache. The text is short and moves the plot along quickly.

Although the book is funnier if you get the Elvis Presley/Poultry joke, the antics of Marge and Lola will entertain kids of all ages. After you read the story play some classic Elvis songs and try out some of the chicken dances in the book. Check out the videos of more dances performed by Sauer and Santat.

The Elvis Poultry Official Website includes a wonderful teacher’s guide and a downloadable PDF to make your own Elvis Poultry Sunglasses. Besides having great printable activities, the guide also includes the address to send Elvis Poultry fan mail.

If your kids love the film Chicken Run, then this book will be a hit at your house. Additionally, Marge and Lola’s further adventures on tour with Elvis Poultry will be featured in the soon to be released, Bawk and Roll.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Book #57: The Pink Refrigerator by Tim Egan

Image from
Dodsworth owns thrift store and his motto is, “Try to do as little as possible.” His life is routine until one day at the junk yard he finds a pink refrigerator. Stuck to the front with a magnet is a note that says, “Make Pictures.” Inside the refrigerator are art supplies. Dodsworth takes the materials to his shop, but when someone tries to buy them, he just can’t sell them and instead paints a picture of the ocean. Each day Dodsworth returns to the refrigerator. Each time the notes changes and there a new treasure inside. “Read More.” “Learn to Cook.” “Play Music.” One morning the note on the refrigerator says, “Keep Exploring,” but there’s nothing inside! Disappointed, Dodsworth takes the magnet home, all the while thinking. He writes a note, “Went to find an ocean,” uses the magnet to put it on the shop door and rides off down the street.

Egan’s illustrations are detailed and have a sort of old world charm to them. Dodsworth, a rather reluctant protagonist, is a small, round animal (a dog maybe? A bear?) and is never seen without his hat and coat. Instead of a car, he rides a tricycle and he seems too small for his surroundings. All this succeeds in making him an endearing, rather than boring, character.

The book is great for kindergarten age kids and up, as the theme is about how Dodsworth interacts with the world, rather than how the world interacts with him. The text is concise and full of dialogue, making it a nice picture book for kids learning to read. Although we never find out if the refrigerator is magic or if there’s a benevolent junk yard guy who fills restocks the fridge, the book is really about Dodsworth’s journey as he discovers that the world is full of wonderful experiences, but he can’t just wait for them to come knocking at his door.
The closed fridge -"Have a super day!"

The super hero costume inside the fridge
After reading the book, ask the kids what else they would like to find in the refrigerator. Where do they think the treasures inside the refrigerator are coming from? To continue this line of thought, make refrigerators with flaps. Cut construction paper into the shape of a refrigerator with a door that opens (or use old blank note cards like I did in the picture). Have each child paste the fridge onto a piece of paper, write a note for the front of the fridge, and draw the surprise they would hide inside for Dodsworth. Have them write or dictate to you the reason for their choice. Put all the pages together in a binder or post them on the walls.

If you enjoy Dodsworth as much as I do, you can follow his adventures in several easy readers as he travels to New York, Paris, London, and Rome with a very mischievous duck. If you’re planning a trip to any of these cities these readers are great because they introduce major landmarks and other cultural aspects of the city. They are by no means comprehensive or fact-filled, but they are perfect for an airplane ride or as a fun way to introduce the idea of traveling to early readers.


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Book #56: We’ve All Got Bellybuttons! by David Martin, Illustrated by Randy Cecil

Image from
In this large and colorful book various animals celebrate the joys of having hands, ears, feet, and other body parts. Each body part is introduced by a different animal and is followed by an action. For instance, the zebras have feet, “We can kick them. Can you?” Finally, all the animals realize that they’ve got bellybuttons, which are oh-so-fun to tickle, tickle, tickle!

Perfect for babies and toddlers, this book has very little text per page and the illustrations are playful and dynamic. The rhythmic questions invite kids to interact directly with the book, so get everyone up and moving when you read this book. In addition, the illustrations are full of animals with bellybuttons. Ask the kids to point them out to you and count them as you go along.

This is a great addition to a storytime about the human body. Follow the book with some rhymes and fingerplays, such as the classic Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes and the catchy Head and Shoulders Baby. I’m also a sucker for variations of The Wheels on the Bus, so today we have The Feet of a Hippo. You can also try using some of the rhymes and songs from my post on The Belly Book.


Friday, February 24, 2012

Book #55: Mama, Do You Love Me? by Barbara M. Joosse, Illustrated by Barbara Lavallee

Image from

A small Inuit girl asks, “Mama, do you love me?” Her mother answers that she does. But the little girl wants to know how much? How long? What if? Through it all, mama reassures her Dear One that, “Still, I would love you.” All children will occasionally doubt if their parents love them, but this universal story will reassure them that even if they make mistakes, their parents will still love them.

The characters in the book are Inuit and the text and illustrations are filled with cultural references. These are explained in more detail in the glossary at the back of the book. Although the setting is very specific, the emotions and ideas expressed are universal, making this a wonderful introduction to Inuit culture.

Since there are some vocabulary words that may be new to kids, you may want to start off my explaining a few of them so that kids will recognize them when you read the story. Save some of the words to explain as you read through the book, stopping to pause and see if kids can guess what they mean. Afterwards, you can go back through the book and talk about the words one more time to make sure everyone has a chance to commit it to memory.

Joosse has created her own teacher’s guide for grades 2-4, which is a great resource. Although the ideas are targeted for this specific age group, many of them can be modified to be used with younger or older children. The guide also contains suggestions for connections with Joosse’s companion book, Papa, Do You Love Me?

Additionally, the Virtual Museum of Canada provides extensive information on Inuit culture, traditions, games, watercraft, etc. The webpages are meant for older children, so I suggest exploring the website on your own to cull information to share with your group.

This is a wonderful gift for Mother’s Day, a baby shower, or for an older sibling who is having a difficult time sharing mom and dad with their brothers and sisters.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Book #54: The Three Swingin’ Pigs by Vicky Rubin, Illustrated by Rhode Montijo

Image from
“Once and only once there were three pigs who kept perfect rhythm.” So begins this jazzy retelling of the classic three pigs story. The three pigs, Satch, Mo, and Ella, were the members of a jazz trio that perform to sold-out audiences. There was also a wolf, “the baddest cat to walk the land,” who is set on catching the pigs and eating them for dinner. Wolfie was badly burned by the pigs’ uncles when he tried to huff and puff their houses down and he just won’t let it go. When the wolf finally catches up with the pigs during a performance the pigs turn the tables on the wolf by asking him to sing. He realizes if he eats the pigs he won’t be able to make sweet music with the band. The band becomes known as 3 Swingin’ Pigs and Wolfie.

This fractured fairytale parodies the classic Three Pigs story while at the same time celebrating and paying tribute to the world of jazz. The swinging text is full of fun slang words, “Daddy-O,” and a phrase of scatting that is repeated throughout the story. Even the names of the pigs tip their hats to jazz greats Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald.

Although the story is based upon the Three Pigs story it does not follow the traditional plot or format; there are no houses that are huffed and puffed down nor is the wolf defeated in the customary manner. The wolf tells us that he’s a “classic fairytale villain,” but instead of defeating the wolf, these pigs decide to convert the wolf. In this version the theme focuses on the transformed wolf’s decision that music, “sweet music,” is far better than getting revenge on the pigs.

The illustrations bring to life the jazzy settings and quirky characters with neon colors and spiffy duds. The pictures help to keep up the brisk pace of the book. Time passes very quickly in this fairytale world full of references and flashbacks to other fairytale characters and stories, such as Little Red Riding Hood and the Gingerbread Man. Readers unfamiliar with these other fairytales may miss these allusions, however the main storyline can be appreciated by all. 

The music of the book is a big part of this book. Explain the idea of scatting. Play examples of vocalists scatting and try scatting to a familiar song, such as The Alphabet Song. If possible, play music performed by Louis Armstrong and/or Ella Fitzgerald:
            When The Saints Go Marching In 
            A-Tisket A-Tasket 
            You Have to Swing It (Mr. Paganini) (skip to 1 min to hear Ella scat).


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Book #53: The Moon is La Luna: Silly Rhymes in English & Spanish by Jay M. Harris, Illustrated by Matthew Cordell

Image from
This book uses short rhymes to teach simple Spanish words to kids. Also included are a Spanish pronunciation guide and a Spanish/English glossary.

The poems are silly, but they help by giving context to vocabulary words and by showing how the Spanish word may sound like an English word, but have an entirely different meaning. For instance, the difference between the pies we eat in English and the pies (or feet) we walk on in Spanish. The illustrations humorously depict the subject of the rhymes, usually with a funny twist that kids will find hilarious.

The short poems are not sequential and can be read in any order you wish, which makes this a nice book for kids to browse on their own. In addition, you can pull a single poem that fits your storytime theme to share. If you don’t hold up the book, it may be helpful to hold up pictures of the vocabulary words or use your flannelboard. In addition, write the Spanish words on a board or include then on your print outs so kids can see and hear how the words are pronounced. Read the poem once, then read it again and invite the kids to repeat the Spanish words after you.

This book can be used for a variety of ages. Read the poems to young children for a fun introduction to the Spanish language. For children who come from Spanish speaking families reading poems in both languages can not only be very engaging but also can instill a sense of pride.

For older kids who have a better grasp of language skills, read some of the poems and then work together to create rhymes that play with the meaning and pronunciation of Spanish and English words. Illustrate the rhymes and put them together to create your own book of silly rhymes in English and Spanish. 


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Book #52: One, Two, Three! By Sandra Boynton

Image from
This board book full of dancing hippos, athletic pigs, and running chickens is a humorous counting story. The rhyming text is short, but funny and gives the reader a bit more to talk about than many counting books for this age group

Boynton’s signature illustration style is in fine form here as her anthropomorphic animals cavort through the pages (see also my post on Blue Hat, Green Hat). The animals change from page to page, so you won’t be counting the same things from 1 to 10. Kids will also be familiar with her characters as they can be seen in many of her other books.

As the end of the book is a celebration, “LOUD! LOUD! LOUD!” it can be fun to follow up with some loud versus soft fingerplays, such as the ones mentioned in my post for The Little, Little Girl with the Big Voice.

There are also quite a few hippos in this book, so try using the poem, Let’s Swim, about 5 hippos. It can easily be done as flannelboard or with stuffed animals. The poem is short so if you have your audience, try repeating it a second time so they can help you more. If you prefer to count pigs (if only all choices in life were this simple) use the classic, This Little Piggy.


Monday, February 20, 2012

Book #51: Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear? By Nancy White Carlstrom, Illustrations by Bruce Degen

Image from
This book follows little Jesse Bear through his day from sun up to bedtime. As the day progresses Jesse’s mom asks him the rhyming question, “Jesse Bear, what will you wear?” Jesse’s answers range from the practical, “My shirt of red, pulled over my head,” to the whimsical, “I’ll wear the sun on my legs that run.” As the book ends, Jesse’s parents tuck him into bed and we watch him fall asleep.

Degen’s illustrations are bright and playful. Jesse’s house is quaint and rustic, full of wood furniture and flowery wallpaper. Jesse himself is a wonderfully exuberant toddler who never stops going from morning until night. His joyful expressions and lively poses bring the book to life.

The repetitive text is formatted in a patterned structure which makes it easy for adults to read aloud and for kids to follow along. The rhymes use every day words that toddlers will recognize (chair, hair, sun, run) and make it a “read it one more time!” book. Use this book to talk about phonological awareness (see my post on Is Your Mama a Llama?).

Use this book for a clothing themed storytime and wear a red shirt and blue pants when you read it.  Follow up the book with a clothing craft. Pre-cut pants and shirts from different colors of construction paper (Best Kids Book Site template) and have each child color the outfit they’re wearing that day. If you have a lot of kids that come in skirts or dresses, cut some of those out too.

Toddlers will love this book and they’re also the perfect age group for action rhymes. Try What Are You Wearing (See my post on AndTo Name Just a Few: Red Yellow Green Blue), If You’re Wearing Red Today, and the Color Rhyme by Jean Warren. All of them have the kids identify the colors of their clothes to participate in the rhyme.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Book #50: Just Being Audrey by Margaret Cardillo, Illustrated by Julia Denos

Image from

This exquisite picture book is a biography of the iconic and compassionate Audrey Hepburn. The story begins with her childhood in Europe, and follows her from her rise to fame in motion pictures and the world of fashion, to her work as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF. The book is a loving tribute to a legendary woman:

Her legacy remains; it is in the loveliness of her movies, in the kindness she showed others, and on the faces of the children she helped around the world. And if you look closely, you can still see the Audrey look around town.

This book is a wonderful introduction to Hepburn’s life and movies. The illustrations capture the spirit and style of Audrey, but instead of going for photorealism there’s a loose, whimsical quality reminiscent of drawings of the 1950’s. There’s also gorgeous two page spread that features Audrey in many of her iconic movie costumes that fans will adore.

If you haven’t read many biographies with your child, this is a great place to start. Many biographies for this age group feature lots of facts, dates, maps, etc. However this book is structured and formatted like a picture book, which can make it more accessible to children who are resistant to regular non-fiction formats. The text is short and easy to follow, although never condescending. The book finishes with a timeline of Audrey’s life, selected books/resources, and notes from both the author and illustrator.

Tie a colorful scarf around your neck, grab your black flats, and read this book to your group dressed as Audrey. If you can, give the kids scarves to tie around their necks afterwards too. 

This book focuses on the human aspects of Audrey, rather than the movie star elements. Use the book as a springboard to talk about Audrey’s workwith UNICEF. UNICEF stands for United Nations Children’s Fund and works in over 190 countries to champion for children’s rights. Ask the kids what rights they think all children of the world should receive.

Naturally, this book will make you want to watch a few Audrey Hepburn movies! Get the kids started with a few clips to show them the magic of Audrey’s onstage presence. From 1957’s Funny Face, watch Audrey and Kay Thompson (author of Eloise at the Plaza) sing and dance How to Be Lovely. From Roman Holiday (1953) watch Gregory Peck convince Audrey to put her hand in the Mouth of Truth.


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Book #49: A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead, Illustrated by Robin Stead

Image from

Winner of the 2011 Caldecott Medal, this understated picture book features the dedicated and loyal friendship between zookeeper, Amos McGee, and his friends, the zoo animals. Amos is a man of routine and although he’s a busy man, he visits his friends once a day. The time Amos spends with each of his friends is special and unique and shows Amos’ dedication and love for his friends. One day when Amos cannot work because he is sick in bed, his friends take the bus to take care of him, just as he has taken care of them.

The illustrations expand upon the text, giving the reader deeper insights into the characters. The design and are layout are simple using details to draw you into the story. Color is used sparingly, but with great impact. The palette, like Amos, is soft and gentle. The use of woodblock printing and pencil creates very delicate, detailed illustrations. The illustrations do such a wonderful job of celebrating the little things. There aren’t fireworks and parades; instead the celebration is in the details.

This book is about dedication and loyalty to your friends. Although this is not explicitly stated in the text, it is implicit in the care and attention Amos gives to the animals. Amos, long-limbed and wrinkled, is a quiet, observant protagonist who knows exactly what to do to make the time he spends with each of his friends time meaningful and special. It’s a timeless story about the little things we do to show how much we love and care for one another.

After reading this book, ask the children what they do for their friends, siblings, parents, when they are sick and need cheering up. Do they bring them soup and juice? Watch movies or read books together? Are they very, very quiet so that person can rest? Have they ever had to visit a sick friend or relative in the hospital? What was it like?

Talk about the duties of a zookeeper. The book mentions that Amos has a very busy day besides visiting his friends. What do you think he does? Some things to mention are feeding, grooming, cleaning enclosures, helping to give the animals check-ups or medical attention, as well as talking with people who come to visit the zoo. Ask the kids if they’ve been to the zoo, what animals they saw, and if they met a zookeeper.

After all that talking, get the kids up with a game of Animal Walk. Give each child a chance to be the zookeeper and lead the rest of the group in walking like a particular animal. 


Friday, February 17, 2012

Book #48: Yoko by Rosemary Wells

Image from
Yoko’s mother has packed her favorite lunch, sushi. Yoko can’t wait to eat it, but at lunch all the other kids pull out sandwiches and make fun of Yoko, “Ick! It’s green! It’s seaweed!” Yoko ends lunch crying in the coat closet. The teacher, Mrs. Jenkins is concerned and decides to hold International Food Day. She sends a note home asking the children to bring in a dish from a foreign country, “Everyone must try a bite of everything!” On Monday the enchiladas, potato knishes, and nut soup are gone in a flash, but no one tries Yoko’s sushi. As everyone rushes outside for recess, Yoko notices Timothy attempting to use the chopsticks to eat the sushi. Together they finish off the entire box of sushi. The next day, Yoko and Timothy decide to push their desks together to make a restaurant. The menu includes sushi and sandwiches.

The book is illustrated in Wells’ signature style (you might be familiar with her immensely popular Max and Ruby books) using bright colors and wide-eye animal characters. The food in the illustrations looks wonderful, and I especially love the sushi filled endpapers. The layout and text are simple, making this a nice book for reading out loud or as a learning to read book.

Lunchtime can be difficult for kids who are vegetarians, have food allergies, or other dietary restrictions. This book can be used to talk about the variety of foods that kids bring to lunch and to celebrate all types of food. After you read the book, ask the kids what their favorite lunch is and make a list on a white/chalk board. Make it a point to focus on the positives of each food mentioned, especially if other kids react negatively.

Best of all, hold your own International Food Day. Have the kids help you prepare by making flags from different countries. When you know what each child is going to bring, have the kids make their own menus that include all the food choices. This is a great craft/activity that allows them to practice their handwriting at the same time. Display the menus around the room.

If you find Yoko as endearing as I do, check out the other Yoko books by Rosemary Wells.


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Book #47: The Talking Eggs by Robert San Souci, Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

Image from
This folktale, adapted from a Creole story, tells the story of a woman with two daughters. Rose, is cross and mean, while Blanche is obedient and sweet-tempered, and does all the work. One day Blanche is punished for bringing home warm water from the well, so she runs into the forest. There in the forest is the old woman that Blanche first met at the well. The old woman says she will help Blanche, but only if she promises not to laugh, no matter what she sees. Blanche promises and manages to keep her word although the woman’s house is full of strange sights – two headed cows, multi-legged colorful chickens, magic food. The next morning before Blanche leaves, the old woman tells her to go to the chicken coop and to take all the eggs that say,“Take me,” but none of the eggs that say, “Don’t take me.” Blanche obeys and as she walks home she throws each egg over her shoulder, as the old women instructed, and beautiful clothes and other fine things suddenly appear. Her greedy mother sends Rose into the forest to find the old woman and get more riches, but unlike Blanche, Rose does everything wrong. Rose and her mother are run out of town, while Blanche moves to the city to live like a lady.

This Caldecott Honor Book features gorgeous illustrations full of magic. Pinkney’s illustrations are fascinating and encourage the viewer to imagine beyond the picture on the page. The cultural accuracy of the illustrations and text bring the rural southern setting to life. The text is perfect for reading aloud. The folktale moral of the story is that goodness will be rewarded, while the greedy and mean will be punished.

As you’re reading the story, pause to ask the kids what they would do just before Blanche makes a decision. Would they promise not to laugh? What would they do if they saw an old woman take her head off to comb her hair? Which eggs would they take?

After reading the book, compare it to other good sister/bad sister stories. Bring out a few different retellings of Cinderella and see what elements and characters are similar or different. The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh has a wonderful Cinderella Variants Book List.

Make a set of talking egg cards so you can play memory or other matching games. Have half the deck be Take Me eggs and the other half Don’t Take Me. Make the cards big for young kids and set them all over the floor (see my post on Is Your Mama a Llama?).

Have an egg hunt. You could also use plastic eggs (plain and colorful) and hide them in boxes underneath pillows. If you have some stuffed animal chickens, but those in your makeshift chicken coop as well. Tell the kids they’re looking for plain Take Me eggs, just as Blanche did in the book. If you have color-blind children in your group, be sure to embellish the Don’t Take Me eggs with sequins or ribbons so they can play too.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Book #46: King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub by Audrey Wood, Illustrated by Don Wood

Image from
Oh no! What to do? King Bidgood’s in the bathtub, and he won’t get out! A young page steps out of the bathroom to ask the court for help. The mustached knight is the first to volunteer. He tells the king to get out, it’s time for battle! Unfortunately for the knight, the king decides it will be a water battle with bath toys in the tub! As the day wears on the members of the court are defeated one by one. Finally, the page figures out the solution. He pulls the plug out of the bathtub and out runs King Bidgood!

This 1986 Caldecott Honor Book uses a predictable, repetitive structure that will hook kids into the story. Encourage them to help you each time the page repeats his cry for help. The text frequently mentions the passage of time and the illustrations back this up with great use of shadow and light. The characters are exaggerated, with dramatic facial expressions and pompous attire. Bearded and jolly King Bidgood revels in his bath water like Neptune in the ocean.

After you read the book ask the kids how long they think the king was in the bathtub. Go back through the book to find the clues in the text and illustrations. Also take the time to talk about what the page is carrying each time he leaves the bathroom to call for help. For instance, after the king goes fishing with the duke, the page is seen with a basketful of fish.

If you’re reading this at home, it’s a great excuse to do some bathtub science projects. And once you finish with that, use bath toys to retell the story together. If you don’t have a bathtub most of these activities can be done in a sink, an inflatable kid pool, or a tub of water. Make sure to have lots of towels handy!

As with yesterday’s post, 5 Minutes’ Peace, turn a refrigerator box into a bathtub and encourage the kids to retell the story. The page has a lot to say, so try having a Page Hat and give each child a chance to be the page. You’ll probably want to retell the story a few times adding more props, costumes, and embellishments.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Book #45: Five Minutes’ Peace by Jill Murphy

Image from

Mrs. Large has 3 rambunctious elephant children who are quite a handful. So she makes herself a tray of breakfast and tries to sneak out the kitchen door, but the kids want to know where she’s going. Mrs. Large says she just wants 5 minutes’ peace from them to take a bath. The kids decide their mom can’t possibly want that much time away from them and one by one they invade the bathroom, reading stories, playing music, and bringing bath toys. Before she knows it, the kids have joined her splashing about in the tub. Mrs. Large gets out of the bath and manages to get 3 minutes and 45 seconds of peace in the kitchen before the kids come trooping down the stairs to find her.

The illustrations are delightful, full of exasperated looks from Mrs. Large and messy abandon from the kids. I especially love the baby elephant, who spends quite a few pages with a cereal bowl on his head and is so excited he forgets to take his clothes off before jumping into the tub. The text is short and printed in a large font, making it easy for a child who’s learning to read to follow along.

This is a great book for Mother’s Day, whether to read during storytime or to give as a gift. Moms will appreciate the Mrs. Large’s plight and kids will love the humorous pictures and antics of her children. After you read the book ask the kids why they think Mrs. Large wanted 5 minutes’ peace from her kids. They probably won’t get that she just wants time alone, but their answers are sure to be amusing.

If you’re reading this at home, this is lovely book to read while your child is in the bath tub. After you read the book, bring out some bath toys and retell the story together with the toys. If you’re reading it to a group, find a large box to act as a bath tub (check furniture or appliance stores) and have the kids act out the story.

Use this book as an addition to an elephant themed storytime and follow it with the Five Little Elephants rhyme, which can be done using your fingers, stuffed animals, or a flannelboard.


Monday, February 13, 2012

Book #43: Song and Dance Man by Karen Ackerman, Illustrated by Stephen Gammell

Image from

A trio of siblings show up at Grandpa’s house and he tells them about the good old days, when he was a song and dance man. Up in the attic he shines his tap shoes and sets up the lamps as spotlights and the show is on. Grandpa dances. He sings. He tells jokes and pulls coins from their ears. Grandpa says he wouldn’t “trade a million good old days for the days for the days he spends with us.” But as Grandpa looks wistfully up the stairs, his grandkids wonder just how much he misses his song and dance days.

Winner of the Caldecott award in 1989, this book is a delightful journey into the bygone days of vaudeville. The illustrations are wonderfully textured with color pencil and the saturated colors bring to mind the multicolored stage lights of Grandpa’s vaudeville days. The illustrations bring the joy and laughter of Grandpa’s performance to life.

Although this story can be enjoyed without any knowledge of vaudeville, it can also be a great springboard to exploring the rich history of this American art form. Vaudeville was a hugely popular form of live entertainment in the late 19th and early 20th century. The shows didn’t have plots; instead they were made up of different acts – comedians, singers, dancers, animal performers, magicians, novelty acts. Tickets were cheap and there were vaudeville theatres in towns all across the U.S. In the 1920’s vaudeville began to recede due to the rising popularity of movies. The McCarter Theatre and PBS/American Masters have nice summaries of vaudeville information.

Talk with the kids about the format of the vaudeville show, noting the variety of acts they could see in one night. Show James Cagney (as George M. Cohen in the movie Yankee Doodle Dandy) singing Yankee Doodle Boy, the song Grandpa sings in the book. For laughs, play this clip of a roller skating novelty act, A Whirl, a Twirl and a Girl

Where do we see Vaudeville today? Many TV sitcoms use the same patterns as vaudeville skits and we use vaudeville slang every day, phrases such as “a tough act to follow,” “knock ‘em dead,” and even the word, “corny” come from the vaudeville tradition.

Not only can this story be used for a storytime about dance or performing, it shows a wonderful multi-generational relationship between Grandpa and the kids and would be a great addition to a Grandparents Day themed storytime. 


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Book #43: Will You Read to Me? by Denys Cazet

Image from

Hamlet is a pig who doesn’t fit in. Unlike his family, who enjoy wallowing in  the mud, Hamlet sports a spotless shirt and white tennis shoes. He asks his parents to read to him, but they dismiss him in favor of a trough full of swill. Dejected, Hamlet walks to the farmer’s pond. Looking into the water, he sees his reflection and decides this must be his twin, Eggs. Hamlet reads poems to the silent, but approving, Eggs until a cloud hides the moon and the reflection is lost in the dark. But the quiet of the night is interrupted by the animals of the forest and pond who ask, “Will you read to us?”

This story not only celebrates the written word, but also lets kids know that there are people out there who will appreciate their unique efforts and talents. The illustrations are full of comic touches that kids will appreciate. Hamlet is a quiet and polite character and his expressions of hope, disappointment, sadness, and surprise are wonderful.

Kids may not know some of the wonderful words used in Hamlet’s poem, such as “constellation” and “porcelain.”  Take the time to discuss these words as you read the book. After reading the book, go back to the poems and talk about the different elements in the poems. The topics of the poems – the moon, the wind, Hamlet – are universal and provide a great entry into the world of poetry.

Follow up with some fun pig-centric crafts. Grab some pink construction paper or felt and make some pig ear headbands (scroll to the bottom for directions). If you have some extra egg cartons in your recycling bin, pull them out and make pig noses to wear.

Use this book as encouragement for your older children to read to their younger siblings or even their stuffed animals. Don’t worry if they can’t really read and make up their own story, it’s the act of sharing the reading experience that’s important.


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Book #42: Apple Pie 4th of July by Janet S. Wong, Illustrated by Margaret Chodos-Irvine

Image from
It’s 4th of July and a young Chinese-American girl is annoyed with her parents for keeping their grocery store/Chinese restaurant open. She knows there are many things her immigrant parents don’t understand, but despite her repeated protests they refuse to believe that people don't want to eat Chinese food on the 4th of July; they want apple pie. As the day passes it seems the girl is correct, “One o’clock, and they buy ice cream. Two o’clock. The egg rolls are getting hard.” But at five o’clock hungry customers began pouring into the shop. After the store closes, the girl and her parents sit on the roof, watch the fireworks, and eat apple pie.

Chodos-Irvine’s illustrations, created with a variety of printmaking techniques combined with bold colors and patterns, bring to mind traditional Chinese woodblock printing. Along with a Chinese-American protagonist, the illustrations feature people of all shapes, sizes, and races. The text, written from the girl’s perspective, is conversational, but not verbose. You can easily imagine a young girl saying these words. The illustrations extend the theme of the story; you don’t have to choose between chow mein and apple pie, Chinese and American, there is room in life for both.

Bring this book out for a 4th of July or multicultural themed storytime for preschool and elementary school age children. Although this story features a Chinese-American family the themes are good for the children or grandchildren of immigrants who may find it difficult to figure out how their cultural heritage fits into their contemporary culture.  Use this book to start a discussion about the holidays different families celebrate and the foods and traditions that go along with them.

In addition, this book can be used with children who have step-parents and step-siblings. How are the traditions of two families combined? What are the differences and similarities? What new traditions have you created together? As the girl in the book learns, you don’t have to choose one way to celebrate. Indeed, life can be fuller because you have more ways to celebrate.

On a personal note, this review is dedicated to my Chinese-American grandparents who came to the United States at a very young age and owned a corner grocery store for many years. Although the store was closed by the time I was born, they made sure I knew, just as the father in the book says, that “Fireworks are Chinese.”


Friday, February 10, 2012

Book #41: The Belly Book by Fran Manushkin, Illustrated by Dan Yaccarino

Image from
“Every daughter, every son, has their own – but only one – with a button in the middle. Can you guess this little riddle?”

This lively book is an ode to bellies everywhere. The rhyming text celebrates bellies big and small, hairy and smooth. From belly flops to belly dancing, this humorous book will be a hit with kids.

Manushkin’s short, but laugh out loud rhyming text is perfectly paired with Yaccarino’s simple, colorful style. Bellies are universal and it’s wonderful to see the cultural diversity of tummies. Although there are mostly human bellies, there are a few animal bellies (and an alien belly, too!). And where there are bellies there are belly buttons, which many kids find fascinating, as well as funny.

Include this book in a storytime about body parts. Use the action rhyme, Jello in the Bowl. It can be done standing up or with a baby on your lap and involves lots of belly shaking.

This would also be a fun addition to a food themed storytime. The book mentions quite a few belly-friendly foods, “Bellies love carrots and birthday cakes, tofu, tacos, chocolate shakes!” Try singing Jelly,Jelly In My Belly! (skip to 7 minutes to see Sharon, Lois, & Bram sing the song). After you sing it using jelly, ask the kids for other food suggestions, the sillier the better!


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Book #40: Sunday with Seurat by Julie Merberg & Suzanne Bober, Featuring paintings by Georges Seurat

Image from

This board book pairs short rhyming text with paintings by the French impressionist, Georges Seurat (my artist brother always says, "Amy! You say it 'Sir-rah!'"). The brief text masterfully brings the paintings to life. As with many board books, there’s not a traditional story with a beginning, middle, and end. Instead, the text directs the reader to look at elements in the paintings. The text brings the other senses into play by mentioning the “river’s cooling breeze” and how the light "grows dim, a trombone sounds.”

Part of the Mini Masters series of board books (there are 4 in the boxed set and several additional books) featuring famous painters from Degas to Van Gogh, this book is a wonderfully accessible introduction to the world of impressionism. Although infants and toddlers won’t realize they are looking at famous paintings, they may be more inclined to appreciate them when they happen upon them later in life.

After reading this book, pull out the finger paints. The kids at this age won’t get the connection and they won’t be able to do crafts that start a discussion on impressionism like older kids could; the idea is to just enjoy the act of creating art.


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Book #39: Is Your Mama a Llama? By Deborah Guarino, Illustrated by Steven Kellogg

Image from

This classic book uses the repetitive questioning refrain, “Is your mama a llama?” as a baby llama talks with other animals. Each animal explains that its mama isn’t a llama because of where they live, what they eat, or what they look like. Finally, the little llama asks another llama, who replies, “Our mamas belong to the same herd, and you know all about llamas, ‘cause you are one, too!” The book ends as the young llama is joyfully reunited with his mama, who is indeed a llama.

The rhyming text and use of the reoccurring question make this book very attractive to children. Kids will quickly pick up on the pattern and be eager to help the little llama in his search for his mama. As you read the book aloud leave a pause for the kids to guess each animal’s mama. This will be easy for older kids who will recognize that the parent will be the same as the baby animal; however younger kids may be surprised when you turn the page to reveal the illustration of the baby and mother together. Steven Kellogg uses his signature style - the world he creates is highly realistic, yet the characters have larger than life qualities.

Talk about the different names for baby animals, such as baby cows are called calves. Look at this baby animal names chart. With toddlers and babies it’s enough to merely point to the animals in the illustrations as you name them. Older kids will appreciate spending more time talking about each animal.

Make your own matching game with pictures of mama and baby animals. I like Toddler Approved’s idea of laying the pictures face up on the floor for younger kids. Older kids will need the added memory challenge of face down cards.

The rhyming text of this book makes it a highly recommended book for working on phonological awareness. Phonological awareness is knowing that words are made up of smaller sounds (letters, syllables) and being able to recognize words that do or don't rhyme. Check out this great blog from The Grand County Library District Youth Services Every Child Ready To Read Project for more about phonological awareness. Ideal Curriculum provides several suggestions on how to increase your child’s phonological awareness in a number of fun ways.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Book #38: Imogene’s Antlers by David Small

Image from

When Imogene wakes up on Thursday she finds she has grown a set of antlers. Although Imogene has some difficulty getting dressed and down to breakfast she is more intrigued than worried. Her poor mother takes it hardest and faints. Despite their best efforts, neither the doctor nor the school principal can figure out what’s wrong with Imogene. Although this makes her mother faint again, the rest of her family and their household staff find her antlers quite useful. Imogene falls asleep that night happily thinking of her eventful day. On Friday when Imogene wakes up her antlers have disappeared; only to be replaced by a full set of peacock tail feathers.

The illustrations are meticulous and full of details. I especially love Imogene’s brother, Norman, who decides she must be turning into a rare species of elk. He has a wonderfully mischievous twinkle in his eye. Although Imogene is the title character the text is most concerned with describing the events and with the reactions of the other characters. It’s through the illustrations that we get to know Imogene, a girl who is enjoying this extraordinary day.

This book was featured on Reading Rainbow and the episode includes a great explanation of the difference between antlers and horns (skip up to about 4 minutes on the video). Skip up to 6:45 to watch/hear the story as read by the legendary comedienne, Imogene Coca.

Image from
After reading the book talk about the different advantages and disadvantages of having antlers suddenly appear or your head. What about Imogene’s peacock tail feathers? An elephant’s trunk? A cat’s tail? It’s a great way to stretch your imagination and get the kids involved. (Skip to 12 minutes in the Reading Rainbow video to see some ideas from kids.)

This discussion can easily segue into talking about the reasons animals have antlers (or trunks or tails or feathers). What is it about their habitats that require these different body parts? Is it to protect themselves from predators? For camouflage? To make it easier to catch or find food? To stay warm or keep cool? Check out the animal and pet section of the NationalGeographic Kids website for the answers to these questions and more fun facts.

This book is also a good reader’s theater candidate. There can be several narrators in addition to the characters of Imogene, her family, and the servants. Check out Reading Rockets for tips on creating your own reader’s theater script.


Monday, February 6, 2012

Book #37: All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon, Illustrated by Marla Frazee

Image from
This beautiful book explores the many ways we are connected to each other and world around us, “All the world is all of us.” The book features a culturally diverse cast of characters as they travel and interact with one another. The story does not feature a traditional beginning, middle, and end, although it is revealed that all the characters are part of one big, multi-generational, multi-cultural family.

This story is full of bit-sized philosophy presented in a way that’s simultaneously easy to understand and full of deeper meaning. The text is accompanied by detailed illustrations that depict a lot of movement and life. The rhyming text celebrates the passing of time and the cyclical aspects of life, “All the world is old and new.” The book begins in the morning and finishes with the stars coming out to shine.

This book would be a wonderful conclusion to a storytime that explores world cultures because it celebrates the acts shared by humans all around the world, from planting a garden to cooking food to sharing that dinner in the company of friends and family. Ask the kids for other examples of things that kids all over the world do.
Image from

Bring in pictures of people in other countries and cultures doing the activities mentioned in the book, such as cooking, eating, planting a garden. Talk about the differences and similarities between the pictures. This book would be a nice complement to Same, Same but Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw.