Saturday, March 31, 2012

Book #91: Red is Best by Kathy Stinson, Illustrated by Robin Baird Lewis

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Some people like green. Some people like blue. But the little girl in this book likes red the best. Her mother tries to convince her to wear her white stockings with her blue dress, but Kelly clains that she can jump higher in her red stockings. Though her mother protests, Kelly also insists on her red boots, red mittens, and her red barrettes. Red paint puts singing in her head and juice in her red cup tastes best. As Kelly says, "I like red, because red is best."

Available in picture book or board book form, this simple story celebrates the childlike love of a favorite color. The illustrations are clean and pop out from the white background. Pale blues and greens are used sparingly, setting the stage for the vibrant red to shine in the spotlight. The text is written from Kelly's perspective and includes the repetitive phrase, "I like my red ____ the best"

After you read the book, ask the kids if they have certain colors or pieces of clothing that they really like to wear. You can extend the activity by making a printable that says “My name is ______. I like my _____ best because _____.” Then have each child fill in their name, favorite color and item of clothing, and finally the reason. Naturally, kids will want to illustrate a picture of themselves in their favorite outfit.

On Kathy Stinson’s website she suggests making color boards with the words “Red is Best," “Green is Best,” etc. at the top and then having kids cut out pictures of items in different colors and adding them to the appropriate board.

Use this book as part of a color or clothing themed storytime, or even better a red day. You could even have do a whole series of storytimes, each focusing on a different color. Ask kids to wear red clothes. If your stoyrtime includes a snack, serve red foods like Jello, strawberries or apples and use red cups and plates. Check out the color and clothing themed rhymes I used in my post for Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear?


Friday, March 30, 2012

Book #90: A Splendid Friend, Indeed by Suzanne Bloom

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This short book focuses on an unlikely friendship between a large polar bear and a very talkative goose. Bear just wants to think and write and Goose wants to do those things too! But Goose never stops talking, talking, talking. Bear is about to go crazy when Goose reads his note to Bear, “I like you. Indeed I do. You are my splendid friend.”

The text of this American Library Association Notable Children’s book is written completely in dialogue, mostly Goose, making this a fun story to read aloud. With the simple storyline and only two characters, this is a great story for toddlers and babies. It’s an especially nice book for bedtime, as it ends with lots of hugs.

The pastel illustrations create a wonderful sense of texture against the indigo background. The relationship between the characters is clearly defined in the illustrations. Even without the text you can see Goose attempting to mimic the increasingly exasperated Bear.

Play Charlotte Diamond’s song Love Me For Who I Am from her album 10 Carrot Diamond as people settle in for storytime or as a follow up after the story. It’s a song about loving friends for being who they are, not who you wish they would be, which is exactly what Bear and Goose learn in the book.

After you read the book, try using the fingerplay Two Little Friends. Additionally, The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh has a great collection of rhymes, activities, and books to pair with this book.


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Book #89: Guess Again! by Mac Barnett, Illustrated by Adam Rex

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This silly guessing book will flip your perceptions upside down. Each page features a riddle next to a picture with an element missing or hidden. The riddle always asks the reader to guess what it is, but the answer is never exactly what you think! Take this riddle for example:

“Their fleece is warm and woolly white.
And when you lie awake at night,
Count them and you’ll fall asleep.
A guess? Why, yes! A flock of…”

Did you guess sheep? Don’t be silly! It’s a flock of abominable snow monsters!

The illustrations feature realistic set-ups for each of the riddles and then when the answer is revealed the hidden characters are slightly exaggerated, with big feet and ears. There are only 8 riddles in the book, just enough to so that kids figure out the game and can play along, but not so only that the riddles become tedious.

After you read each riddle, pause and encourage kids to shout out their guesses. This book is best with preschool and elementary kids who will be able to understand how Barnett and Rex are playing with expectations. After you read the book, talk about this idea, as well as the saying, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” The cover of this book is a great starting point for this discussion. The outside shows a flamingo by an egg, so the natural assumption is that a flamingo will hatch from the egg. But open the book and the endpapers show a robot popping out of the egg!

Work with kids to write their own riddles and accompanying illustrations. If you’re short on time, have children pick riddles from a book such as Spot the Plot: A Riddle Book of Book Riddles by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger, and When Riddles Come Rumbling: Poems to Ponder by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, illustrated by Karen Dugan. Next, have the kids draw two illustrations. One that goes with the riddle and one that shows the answer.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Book #88: Boats: Speeding! Sailing! Cruising! By Patricia Hubbell, Illustrated by Megan Halsey & Sean Addy

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Just as the title proclaims, this rhyming book is chock full of boats. Sail boats, trawlers, ferries, battleships, tugboats, and more navigate through the pages of this playful book.

The illustrations were created in mixed media using painterly techniques as well as vintage clip art, hand-drawn images, and old papers. The result is images that are simultaneously retro in feel and quirky in nature. Sharks rent catamarans, fish dance on showboats, and rhinos steer barges.

The main text is filled with fun, but informative, internal rhymes, “Old-time sailing fast ships – beautiful four-mast ships.” Although not strictly a non-fiction (the illustrations aren’t exactly realistic), the book does include cross sections of boats and quite a bit of labeling (fore, aft, galley, deck, foremast, mainmast, etc.) that will appeal to kids who are interested in facts. It also means you can read just the main text for a quick read aloud or talk about the labels if you have more time.

My boat made out of scrap paper
Read this book as part of a unit or storytime on boats and traveling. Fill up a wading pool or the bathtub with water and make some boats. Create-Kids-Crafts has compiled 6 different sailboat crafts; my favorite is the milk carton sailboat. For a cheaper, faster alternative try folding origami boats. My brother and I used to make these all the time when we were growing up. The pattern is easy to memorize and they can be made with any square piece of paper.

This book is also a great gift for that kid in your life who just can’t read enough about airplanes, cars, and other forms of transportation. If you like this book, check out some of the other books by this trio that focus on modes of transportation, including: Airplanes: Soaring! Diving! Turning!, Trains: Steaming! Pulling! Huffing!, Cars: Rushing! Honking! Zooming!, and Trucks: Whizz! Zoom! Rumble!


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Book #87: I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More! by Karen Beaumont, Illustrated by David Catrow

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One day a boy gets caught painting the walls, ceiling and floor. His mother drops him in the bath tub and tells him, “Ya ain’t a-gonna paint no more!” She hides the paints, but the little boy finds them and this time he paints himself! Starting with a glob of red on his head all the way to completing his feet the little boy paints with colorful abandon. Until his mother walks in the room and drops him back in the bath tub, “Y’all don’t faint… ‘cause there ain’t no paint! So I ain’t gonna paint no more!”

The rhyming text is set to the tune of It Ain’t Gonna Rain No More. The second half of the rhyming phrase falls on the page turn, which encourages kids to shout out the answer. The illustrations are a riot of colors in swirls, dabs, globs, and splatters. The characters and settings are rendered in black and white with just a hint of pastel colors. It’s the cans of paint that bring color to the pages. It’s no wonder the little boy just can’t help himself!

This is one of my favorite books to read aloud because it’s set to a tune (although it can be just as fun if you read it instead of singing), which makes it easy to memorize. I also think that singing a book is unusual for many kids and the novelty helps to keep their attention. Don’t be surprised if they learn the words to the song and sing/read it back to you. See if the kids can help you make up more rhymes for the song or start the rhyme off and see if they finish it.

Try reading this story wearing a white shirt and each time you sing a verse you can stick a paper “paint splotch” onto your shirt. Roll some masking tape to make double-sided tape and have the paint splotches upside down on a table. This makes it easy to reach over and grab one.

After you read this book have a messy paint day. Cover the floor and table surfaces and lay out large sheets of paper for painting. Ask kids to wear old clothes they don’t mind getting dirty and provide plastic shower caps to cover their hair. Use non-toxic tempera paint that easily washes off. Provide regular paint brushes, foam brushes, and small rollers to give kids some variety. 

You may find that kids paint themselves after reading this book, which is ok as long as you have plenty of wet wipes and their parents approve. Just be sure to keep it away from their mouths, eyes, nose, and ears. To avoid painting wars, make sure to tell kids from the start that they can paint themselves or the paper, but not each other.

For a less messy option, have kids lay down on a big sheet of paper and trace their outline. Then they can paint a paper version of themselves. For even less mess, use crayons and markers instead of paint.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Book #86: A Letter to Amy by Ezra Jack Keats

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Peter’s having a birthday party and he wants to invite his friend, Amy. But he wants it to be a surprise, so he writes her a special letter and runs outside to put it in the mail box. It’s stormy and as Peter walks down the street the wind tugs the letter out of his hand. He chases it this way and that way. Just as rain begins to fall Peter sees Amy on the street. She tries to help him catch the letter, but Peter doesn’t want to spoil the surprise. He manages to snatch the letter away, but not before knocking Amy onto the ground. As she runs away in tears Peter sadly mails his letter. Peter’s friends arrive at his party, all but Amy. He’s about to lose hope, when there’s a knock on the door and there’s Amy! As he blows out the candles on his cake, Peter makes a wish all his own.

The illustrations are full of stormy urban landscapes created in Keats’ unique paint and collage style. Peter stands out from the graffiti-ed buildings and stormy skies in his bright yellow rain slicker and hat. Although Peter is African-American, Keats populates this story with characters of all races. The text is thoughtfully crafted. You can tell each word has been carefully chosen and placed.

Peter never tells us what he wishes when he blows out his birthday candles. After your read the story, ask the kids what they think he wished. Scholastic has a lesson plan with additional questions to ask before and after reading.

Use this story as part of a unit or storytime on writing letters. Practice writing letters, they don’t have to be long, and addressing envelopes. If you’re at home, set up mailboxes for each member of the household and assign each one an address. If you have young kids, just have them decorate and write the name on the envelope. If you have older kids, assign each person a street, city, state, and zip. Make a small alphabetized address book. Create your own stamps using stickers or rubber stamps. You can use an old shoe box or a tissue box for mailboxes or you can get really crafty and make some like the ones on Ikat Bag’s blog.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Book #85: Maybe a Bear Ate It! by Robie H. Harris, Illustrated by Michael Emberley

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A young cat climbs into bed to read his/her favorite book. As the cat begins to nod off, the book slips off the bed and it’s gone! The cat can’t find it anywhere and begins imagining all the horrible things that could have happened to the book. Did a bear eat it? Did a dinosaur step on it? Did a shark swallow it? The cat knows sleep won’t happen without the book, so he/she searches all over the house and finally finds it under the bed. The cat snuggles into bed to read the precious book and before long he/she is snoring away.

The text in this book is brief and the cat speaks directly to the reader, making this a great book for toddlers and preschool children. The illustrations take center stage in this imaginative book and several of the pages are wordless. The protagonist, who could be male or female, is decked out in striped pajamas and expresses fear and joy with equal enthusiasm. Another great detail is that all the animals accused of taking the book are also stuffed animals on the bed.

When you read this book out loud make sure to spend enough time on the wordless pages. Ask the kids what’s happening on each page and what’s different from the previous one. If the kids figure out that the book is actually hidden below the bed they will be engaged for the rest of the story telling the cat to look under the bed.

After you read the book ask the kids to name their favorite book. You can also brainstorm other animals and what they might have done if they took the book. What would a giraffe do with a book? A crocodile? A kangaroo? The Inspired Apple blog has a fun Maybe a Bear Ate It printable that can be used to extend this discussion into an activity.

If you’re telling this at the library have a book hunt after reading storytime. This idea was brought to my attention in the book, The Storytime Sourcebook II, by Carolyn N. Cullum and originally published in the book, It’s Great to Be Three: The Encyclopedia of Activities for Three-Year-Olds, edited by Kathy Charmer and Maureen Murphy. Make sure to get the name of each child as they enter for storytime and have a helper write the names on post-it notes, attach each one to a different book, and hide the books in the library. Tell the kids there is a book with their name on it somewhere in the library. You may want to restrict the hunt to the kids section of the library so other patrons aren't disturbed.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Book #84: The Princess Knight by Cornelia Funke, Illustrated by Kerstin Meyer

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When Princess Violetta was born her mother died. Her father didn’t know what to do, so he raised Violetta just like her 3 older brothers. At first her brothers laughed at her because she was too small to lift a sword and fell off her horse. But Violetta was determined and every night she snuck out of the castle and practiced until she was better than her brothers. On her 16th birthday the king decides to hold a jousting tournament and the champion knight will win the princesses hand in marriage. When she can’t persuade her father to stop the tournament, Violetta disguises herself as Sir No-Name and wins the tournament herself. She chooses to find her own way in the world and many years later she finally decides to marry the rose gardener’s son and they lived happily ever after.

Meyer’s illustrations were inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry, which tells the story of William the Conqueror and Harold, Earl of West Essex in 1066. In addition, the illustrations and text are laid out in a variety of ways throughout the book, which helps to keep the readers attention as this story is a bit long. Despite the length, the text moves the story along quickly with lots of dialogue and action.

At the end of the story, we are told that Princess Violetta goes away for a year and a day. Ask the kids what they think she went and what she did during that time. This could also be a fun writing exercise if you have the time. Pull out a calendar and figure out how many days/weeks/months are in a year and a day. 

You can also use this story to talk about strengths and weaknesses. Violetta complains that she will never be as strong as her brothers, but her nursemaid, Emma, points out that she is smaller, quicker, and cleverer. Sometimes what we think are weaknesses are in fact our greatest strengths.

Pair this book with The Paper Bag Princess for a storytime about independent princesses.


Friday, March 23, 2012

Book #83: Grandpa Green by Lane Smith

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Grandpa Green’s life story is told by his great-grandson as he walks through Grandpa’s garden. Each stage of Grandpa’s life is represented by trees, plants, and intricate topiary. Grandpa grew up on a farm, went to war, married the love of his life, and had many grandkids, and even more great-grandkids. Now he is old and sometimes he forgets things, “but the important stuff, the garden remembers for him.”

The illustrations are the focal point in this sweet, but never sugary, life story that won a Caldecott Honor Medal in 2011. The garden is full of pesky animals, gorgeous foliage, and the amazing topiaries. As Grandpa Green’s great-grandson walks through Grandpa’s story in rain boots and overalls it is clear that he is telling this story because he loves his grandfather very much. The text is very minimal, serving to push the story along, while the illustrations provide insight and detail.

When you read this story be sure to leave enough time for everyone to examine the pictures. You may want to read the story twice, once for the story and a second time to look for details in the garden about Grandpa Green’s life.

Throughout the book the boy helps Grandpa Green by finding all the items he’s left behind in his forgetfulness. After you read the book, ask the kids what items they remember and flip back to the pictures.

Use this book for a storytime on grandparents and pair it with Raffi’s song, Down on Grandpa’s Farm. Or use it for a storytime about gardens and pair it with the fingerplay, My Garden.

The Castle Library Blog suggests having children write the life story of an older friend or family member. Use the book to create a questionnaire for that person or ask the questions during/after reading the story together. Use a trait or hobby they love to create illustrations, just as Grandpa Green’s life is illustrated through a garden.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Book #82: Diary of a Wombat by Jackie French, Illustrated by Bruce Whatley

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Wombats live in Australia, look a little like small bears, and are champion hole diggers. The wombat in this story tells us of her daily activities and discoveries. A family of humans moves in nearby and the wombat sets about training the humans to give her food. She defeats the hairy creature (otherwise known as the door mat) and eventually decides to dig a hole right under the family’s house because humans are “easily trained and make quite good pets.”

The text, written in past tense from the wombat’s perspective, is brief and funny. Many of the words are repeated throughout the story, making this a good story to take turns reading with an early reader. The illustrations, painted with acrylics, are set against a plain white background, which brings the wombats antics into the spotlight. The wombat seems blissfully unaware of the doubtful looks she receives from the wary humans, which makes for some wonderfully wry illustrations.

Use this book as part of a unit or storytime on Australia. National Geographic Kids is a great resource for information on wombats. Make sure to point out that wombats may look like small bears, but they’re actually marsupials, which means they carry their young in pouches. See if the kids can think of any other marsupials, such as kangaroos, koalas, and wallabies. The text does a good job of showing the nocturnal habits of a wombat. This can be used to start a discussion on the difference between diurnal and nocturnal animals.

HarperCollins has created a teachers guide that includes extension ideas for reading, writing, and comprehension. I especially like their idea of creating a map of the wombat’s territory and making a timeline of the wombats adventures, which utilizes the days of the week.

Check out The Diary of a Baby Wombat to see what happens when this wombat has a baby.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Book #81: Bark George, by Jules Feiffer

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“Bark, George,” says George’s mother. Unfortunately, George makes everyone sound but a proper doggy “Arf.” He meows, moos, and oinks, but he just can’t seem to bark. So his mother takes him to the vet. When George meows instead of barking, the vet reaches inside George’s mouth and pulls out a live cat! Finally, after pulling out a duck, a pig, and a cow, George is able to bark. Walking home, his mother proudly says, “Bark, George.” George says: “Hello.”

The text is concise and full of dialogue, which makes this a quick and fun read aloud book. Kids will enjoy the funny ending and the repeated refrain, “Bark, George.” And although it may seem gross that George has animals living inside his stomach, most kids will find this element hilarious rather than off-putting. The illustrations use loose line work and bright backgrounds to create exaggerated and expressive characters.

You can also tell the story with props. Hide stuffed or paper cut outs of animals behind a stuffed dog. You may need to have a table with a long tablecloth to hide the animals. Then as the vet pulls each animal out of George’s stomach you can do the same with your hidden animals.

If you’re reading this book with just a few kids, let them take turns being the vet. Make the noise of the animal inside George and have them name the right animal or pick out the right stuffed or paper animal.

If you’re reading with a larger group you can extend the book by asking them what kind of animal George would have swallowed if he said “Neigh” or “Cock-a-doodle-doo!”

Pair this book with rhymes about dogs, such as Dog Says BowWow and Teach My Puppy. The Mommy and Me Book Club Blog has a great version of the Wheels on the Bus called The Animals Inside George.

If you like Jules Feiffer, check out my post on I’m NotBobby!


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Book #80: A My Name is Alice by Jane Bayer, Illustrated by Steven Kellogg

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This book uses a well-known playground game and turns it into a hilarious romp through the alphabet. Each letter is celebrated by two animals who state their names, where they come from and what they sell. For instance, a hippo and her hamster husband shout out:

“H. My name is Hannah and my husband’s name is Henry. We come from Hawaii and we sell harps.” 

The ridiculous situations and characters that spring out of these rhymes are illustrated with Kellogg's signature style full of whimsy and wordplay. Kids will want to spend time examining the illustrations to find the humorous hidden details. The text is repetitious, using the same pattern to describe each scene. In addition, Bayer identifies each animal within the text and also includes a note about “less familiar creatures” in the back of the book. These include the Quahog, Unau, Ibex, and the made-up Xigertling. 

This book covers all 26 letters of the alphabet, so it can be a bit lengthy to share all in one sitting. If your group focuses on 1 letter at a time, use the page featuring the letter as an introduction to that letter and then talk about the sound of that letter. Repeat the words that start with that letter in the text.

Get out a map and split up the kids into small groups. Assign each group 2 or 3 letters in the book and have them place a flag on the map for each location mentioned. Is the location a city, a state, or a country? Which continent is it a part of?

Have each child write a rhyme using the first letter of their name. You might need to help kids with Q, X, Y, and Z names. This is a good excuse to pull out reference books about animals, locations, and even an encyclopedia.  Research can also be done on computers, but I think it’s helpful for kids to learn how to use the alphabet to find information in print format. Kids can also illustrate their rhyme. Collect all the pictures and rhymes and make them into a book to share.


Monday, March 19, 2012

Book #79: Along a Long Road by Frank Viva

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A man riding a bicycle makes his way along a long road in this visually stunning book. He bikes past stores and towns, over bridges and through tunnels, as he follows the golden road. Even a small bump in the road isn’t enough to keep him off the road for long. At the end of the book he makes it back to his starting point and begins his circuit again.

The text is minimal; there is no dialogue, just description of the ride, “Into / a tunnel / And / out.” The emphasis is on the smart illustrations done in Viva’s signature style. Viva is known for his illustration and graphic design work for The New Yorker and other magazines and newspapers. Although the color palate contains only blue, white, black, red, and yellow, the illustrations don’t feel limited or confined in any way. In addition, if you were to line up all the pages in order the road would connect and show the bicyclist’s entire journey!

This book will appeal to kids who love Go, Dogs, Go! Both books explore similar concepts - In and Out, Up and Down, Over and Through - although Along a Long Road has much less text and therefore doesn’t go into quite as much detail. However, that makes it easier to read to children with shorter attention spans. It's a quick read, nice if you need to occupy a child for less than 5 minutes.

Include this book in a storytime about bicycles or transportation and follow it up with some rhymes and songs. Try Ride, Ride,Ride Your Bike (to the tune of Row, Row, Row Your Boat), The Wheels on the Bike and Zoom Down the Freeway.

The publisher Little, Brown and Company provides a lovely educators guide that includes ideas for extending the book into lessons on writing, science, social studies, and other areas for children ages 3-6.


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Book #78: Jonathan and the Big Blue Boat by Philip C. Stead

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Each day Jonathan and his best friend, Frederick, a stuffed bear, walk down to the wharf and gaze up at the Big Blue Boat. But one day Jonathan’s parents decide he’s too old for stuffed animals and trade Frederick for a toaster. Heartbroken, Jonathan walks to the wharf alone. There he decides to search the world for his friend sailing on the Big Blue Boat. In his search Jonathan runs into trouble, but he makes new friends (a goat, an elephant, and a whale) that help the boat stay afloat. Finally in a small shop in Jonathan’s hometown, they find Frederick in the arms of a little girl behind the counter who refuses to let her new friend go away. But Jonathan smiles because he knows there’s lots of room for new friends on the Big Blue Boat.

The illustrations are the highlight of this charming story about friendship. Stead uses collage techniques to incorporate postage stamps, maps, postcards, tables, and other nautical and travel oriented print materials. The collage elements are layered together with washes of color and loose line work. Jonathan, a young African-American boy, is a wonderful example of a true friend. It’s also refreshing to find a story that features a non-white protagonist in a story that has nothing to do with race.

The text helps the illustrations create an atmosphere where magical events are possible. The text is subtle and often implies rather than states that events have happened. These implicit clues can be difficult for kids to decipher, so you may need to ask kids questions to make sure they make the leap with you.

As you read the book, point out objects that are made up of related items. For instance, the cash register in the shop has covered in bank slips and handwritten accounts, while the illustration of the boat sailing at night includes constellation charts and latitude tables.

Create a scavenger hunt for particular items in used in the collages. For instance, can you find a postage stamp with Abraham Lincoln? How about one with an elephant? Can you find the words “Starboard” and “Scholar”? How many postcards can you find? How many maps? Can you find the planets? You can ask the questions and flip through the book altogether or, if you have several copies of the book. you can split the kids up into smaller groups and have the scavenger hunt printed up.

After reading the story, have the kids act out the story. Use a large box as the Big Blue Boat (feel free to let the kids decorate the boat) and assign a character to each child. Tell the story a few times so everyone gets a chance to play. You can also extend the story by having Jonathan make more animal friends before he finds Frederick. For a smaller group or a single child, get out a toy boat and some animals and have them retell the story with the toys. This also works with bath toys during bathtime. 

If you like Stead's work, check out my post on his Caldecott winning book, A Sick Day for Amos McGee.


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Book #77: George Shrinks by William Joyce

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I’ve been thinking of books that feature miniature people ever since the Studio Ghibli film, The Secret World of Arrietty, was released. Based on the book, The Borrowers, by Mary Norton, the film follows the story of a tiny girl and her friendship with a human-sized boy. George Shrinks is great for younger children who aren’t yet ready to read Norton’s book or have it read to them.

One day George dreams that he’s shrunk and when he wakes up his dream has come true! His parents are gone for the morning, so they leave him a list of things to do with his younger brother. Now that he’s barely 6 inches high, George has to get creative to complete his chores. George is having a terrific game of cat and mouse with an actual cat when his parents come home. Just as his parents walk into the room, George finds he’s become his regular size again, just in time.

The brief text is made up of the letter George’s parents leave for him. In fact, there are a few pages that are completely wordless. The illustrations are detailed and tell a story of their own beyond the text. George has a rampant imagination that allows him to have adventures while completing his chores. For instance, he washes the dishes by sledding on a soapy sponge.

After you read the book ask the kids what they would do if they woke up and were 6 inches high. What would be the good parts about being that small? The bad parts? Would they be able to complete all their normal chores like George does? Another question to ponder, although we’ll never know the answer, is whether George actually shrunk or if he was imagining he was small the whole time. Ask the kids what they think and why. If you’re in a classroom setting either of these discussion questions can easily be turned into a writing exercise.

You may also be familiar with George Shrinks TV Show. Check out the George Shrinks PBS Kids Go! website for games, puzzles, and other adventures.


Friday, March 16, 2012

Book #76: Jazzy Miz Mozetta by Brenda C. Roberts, Illustrated by Frank Morrison

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It’s a beautiful night, so Miz Mozetta puts on her bright red dress, pizzazzy hat, and fancy blue shoes and heads out for a stroll. Miz Mozetta is fascinated by two youngsters dancing to their boom box across the street. She tries to dance with her friends, but they complain their dancing days are over. She tries to join the kids, but they turn her away, thinking she is too old. Sadly, Miz Mozetta goes home and listens to the radio, dreaming of her youthful days “doing the jitterbug, wild and free.” All of a sudden there’s a knock at the door and her living room is alive with jitterbugging friends, young and old.

Winner of the Coretta Scott King - John Steptoe New Talent Award, this book is full of jazzy, scat-like phrases and energetic illustrations. The text evokes the jazz area and the illustrations push that idea, as well as the story, forward. The characters are exaggerated, with long limbs and distinctive postures. The dynamic painted illustrations explore every inch of available space, making it seem as though the dancers will jump out of the book.

Have a jazz themed storytime (see also my post on The Three Swingin’ Pigs) and read this story with jazz music in the background. Make sure you pick a song without words so that you aren’t competing to be heard. You could also play music as everyone is entering the room and getting settled. It’s a great way to set the mood.

Swing dancing is trendy right now, so get the kids up and dancing. If you don’t feel comfortable teaching them some basic steps, see if you can find a dance studio in the area that has a teacher who would be willing to come in for storytime. Some kids may not want to hold hands, which is just fine. They can dance facing their partner or even on their own.

For more information on the history of jazz, check out the PBS Kids Go! Jazz website. The site is kid-friendly and interactive with a timeline, bios on jazz greats, and a fun jazz quiz.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Book #75: Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb by Al Perkins, Illustrated by Eric Gurney

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This book is full of fingers, hands, drums, and monkeys. First, just a few monkeys playing drums, then crowds of monkeys, and then millions of monkeys in a riotous drumming celebration! There are big monkeys, small monkeys, monkeys with banjos, and monkeys with fiddles.

Much like Go, Dog, Go!, this beginner reader is more concerned with repetition of words than it is with plot. Although it’s meant to be a book for early readers to read on their own, it’s fun to read to younger kids as well. Kids will love the repeated chorus, “Dum ditty / Dum ditty / Dum dum dum.” If you’re reading it with babies or toddlers, drum the Dum Ditty’s on their tummy, and point to or shake their thumbs, fingers, hands, and feet when mentioned in the text.

In addition to rollicking rhyming text, the monkeys featured in the illustrations express the sheer joy of playing the drums with friends. The monkeys pop out against squares and rectangles of color. These aren’t monkeys confined to cages in the zoo; these monkeys frolic, scamper, and be-bop through their day!

This book is also a great addition to a body parts storytime, as it talks about the various things you can do with your fingers and hands. After reading the story, ask the kids to name some of the things that the monkeys do with their hands in the book. Refer back to the pictures as the kids shout out their answers. Then ask them to give you more ideas of things you can do with your hands, such as open a door, cook and eat food, tie shoe laces, etc.

If you’re hooked on drumming monkeys, check out my post on Soon, Baboon, Soon.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Book #74: Pajama Pirates by Andrew Kramer, Illustrated by Leslie Lammle

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It’s getting close to bedtime, which means it’s time for the pajama pirates to sail off for an adventure. Three siblings imagine that a bed is their boat and head off for a treasure hunt. They defeat the enemy pirates just before their mother calls them back to bed. They row back to shore and fall into their beds to dream of buried treasure, sewing new sails, and buying new oars.

Lammle’s illustrations take center stage in beautiful two page spreads full of rolling waves, not-so-scary enemy pirates, and treasure maps. The nighttime motif of midnight blue skies and twinkling stars is present throughout the book. Kramer’s rhyming text is short, but still full of wonderful imagery, “The flag reveals not friend but foe. Pajama pirates on the go.”

Although the storyline isn’t particularly strong and the kids never actually get to hunt for treasure, the illustrations and the atmosphere of the book make up for these weaknesses.

As the title suggests, this is a great bedtime story, especially for younger kids who like to look at lots of pictures. This would also be a good story to wind down a pajama storytime about pirates.

Read this story wearing your best pirate attire and use a few fun rhymes to introduce the story. Try I’m a Little Pirate and Five Little Pirates, which can also be done as a flannelboard.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Book #73: Madam President by Lane Smith

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Katy is here to tell you that the President of the United States has many duties. She imagines what it would be like to be Madam President as she goes about her day at school and at home. She vetoes tuna casserole at lunch, gives a press conference in class, and averts a disaster by cleaning her room. And, as she settles into her bed for the night, she’s very happy there’s a vice president to meet the ambassador from Freedonia.

Smith’s illustrations are full of funny details that mesh perfectly with the conversational text. His protagonist, Katy, is intelligent and yet full of the infallible logic of a child. For instance, there is a two page spread that shows Katy’s cabinet members, which include Mr. Potato Head (Secretary of Agriculture), a lamp (Secretary of Energy), and a chef (Secretary of Pizza).

Although Katy is full of hyperbolic statements, “Why, the president is the most important person in the whole wide world! And the most humble,” this story would be great to read as an introduction to a unit government studies. Conversely, it could be read at the end of the unit and you could discuss the issues that Katy seems to be a bit confused about, such as the actual cabinet members. Check out the Scholastic Study Guide and Disney Online’s Event Kit for more ideas along this line.

If you enjoy this book, I suggest you check out Lane Smith'swebsite. If you only look at one thing there, read the FAQ.


Monday, March 12, 2012

Book #72: Dragon Dancing by Carole Lexas Schaefer, Illustrated by Pierr Morgan

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It’s Mei Lin’s birthday at school. After the teacher reads a book about dragons, the students head to the art room to make decorations for the birthday celebration. Mei Lin shouts, “Look at me! I’m Birthday Dragon!” Each child contributes an element to the dragon, “boink-boink eyes,” “a dragon-fire nose,” “a long, long, long tail.” Then the dragon comes to life as the children step inside the costume and go “stomp, bomp-tromping away” to outdoor recess. In a fantasy sequence, the dragon climbs, meanders, and swims, through mountains, forests, and oceans, until recess is over and the children run inside for Birthday Dragon’s snack!

The illustrations are colorful and feature multi-cultural children of all races. The brush strokes are broad and flowing, reminiscent of Chinese brush painting. This comparison is most apparent in pages that feature the Birthday Dragon’s imaginary adventures.

The text is full of onomatopoeias, which makes it a fun book to read out loud. Although the plot isn’t very developed and there’s really no conflict, the playful text and illustrations will appeal to younger children.

This is a great book to read for Chinese New Year or to celebrate Chinese culture (after all, this is the year of the Dragon). It’s also a nice addition to a dragon storytime if you want to include Asian-style dragons, as well as the classic Western fire-breathing dragon.

After reading the book, grab a long rope or ribbon and have the kids pretend to be a dragon. Give each child a chance to be the head or tail if they wish.

If you have time for a craft, try making one of these Chinese Dragons. Kaboose Crafts uses crepe streamers (try attaching the head to a stick to make it easier to carry), Free Kids Crafts uses plastic cups to make a puppet, and Web Holidays makes a dragon with accordion folds. Also check out the dragon paper bag puppet in my post for The Knight and the Dragon.

Mei Lin and her imaginative classmates are also featured in the books, The Squiggle and Someone Says.


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Book #71: While Mama had a Quick Little Chat by Amy Reichert, Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger

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It’s just before bedtime when the telephone rings. Mama picks up the phone and tells Rose to get ready for bed by the time she finishes her “quick chat” with Uncle Fred. Rose is about to get started when the door bell rings and in rush men to set up a party. She tries to get Mama, who says that she’s busy. She tries to shoo them out, but they just won’t go. The guests arrive next, followed by waiters, a wizard, and a band. Rose tries to get rid of each one, but instead she gets carried off to help out. Rose is playing a wild rhythm on the drums, when Mama calls that she’s about to hang up. Rose rushes the party out the door and runs upstairs, where Mama finds her fast asleep in bed.

The text is full of action and dialogue and each new event is followed by the phrase, “It’s hard to believe, but Rose did ALL that, before Mama had finished her quick little chat.” The illustrations use a sophisticated palate straight out of the 1920’s, embellished with curlicues, balloons, and circles of dancing light. Rose herself is a delight, in a white night gown, argyle socks, and pom-pommed slippers.

Make sure to take the time to examine the details in the book with your kids. See if they can spot the four muscley men throughout the book. How about the wizard?

There are a lot of glowing party lanterns used to decorate the party in the book. Follow up by making your own party lanterns. Try this Chinese Paper Lantern. If you have elementary school aged kids, try making globes with yarn and paper mache paste. Hang the lanterns on a string to display them as they do in the book.

Serve the food mentioned in the book: tiny hot dogs, cream-cheese swirls, and big pretzel logs. If you’re at home, have the kids help you prepare them.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Book #70: More Bears! by Ken Nesbitt, Illustrated by Troy Cummings

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This story starts off deceptively with “Once upon a time…” But just as it’s getting started the book is interrupted by a cry for “More bears!!” The main character, the author of the book, tries to get the story back on track, but the cries for “More bears!” continue. So, despite his better judgment, he adds one bear at a time, then three, then six, until the pages are crowded with bears of every size and shape. But then the book is simply too crowded, so the author shoos all the bears away. When all the bears are gone, he breathes a sigh of relief because he knows what this book needs…more chickens!

The whimsical illustrations are the perfect compliment to the 1st person text. These aren’t your every day bears, there’s Captain Picklehead, Uncle Sheldon (who plays the uke), surfing Excellent Steve, and more. The repetitive cry for, “More bears!” is usually placed right after a page turn. Once the kids figure out what’s going on, they will know exactly when to help out with shouts of “More bears!”

If you’re reading this at home, see if you can count all the bears on each page and then all the bears in the book.

Make a scavenger hunt and have the kids search through the book to find particular bears. Can you find the bear playing a saxophone? A bear with a bowtie? A bear baking cupcakes?

Follow up with some bear songs, such as Bears and If You’re a Bear and You Know It. Pull out your flannelboard for Five Little Bears.


Friday, March 9, 2012

Book #69: Julius the Baby of the World by Kevin Henkes

Lilly was a great big sister, until baby Julius was actually born. Now she has to share her room and be quiet. What’s more, everyone oohs and ahhs over him when he gurgles and blows bubbles, but when Lilly does the same, they tell her to mind her manners. Lilly does her best to scare Julius away, but he stays and stays and stays. Her parent’s throw a party to introduce Julius to friends and family and Lilly rolls her eyes as everyone coos over Julius. Then she hears Cousin Garland, “I think his wet pink nose is slimy. I think his small black eyes are beady.” Lilly may have had the same thoughts, but now it’s a matter of pride - this is her brother! She defends Julius and commands Cousin Garland to, “Kiss! Admire! Stroke!” From then on, Julius was the baby of the world in everyone’s opinion. Especially Lilly’s.

Henkes, a master storyteller, brings his signature illustrations and style to this story about becoming a big sister. Like many of his other books (see my post on Chrysanthemum), the book features a mouse protagonist with a big personality. The text uses a repetitive refrain to pull the together the episodes about Lilly as she struggles to accept her new brother.

Named an American Library Association Notable Book, this story is a wonderful gift for an older sibling at a baby shower or a welcome addition to a sibling storytime. Discuss how Lilly feels at the beginning, middle, and end of the book. Ask if anyone is an older sibling and how they felt before and after their brother or sister was born.

Use this book as a vocabulary builder. Henkes uses great words including, dazzled, quivered, ghastly, and glorious. Talk about the meaning of each of these words and make sure to write them on a board or have a large print out of each one so that kids can see how they are spelled and sounded out.

If your kids love Lilly with her ever present red boots, check out Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse, also by Kevin Henkes.