Thursday, May 31, 2012

Book #152: Another Brother by Matthew Cordell

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For four wonderful years it was just Davy and his mom and dad. He had lots of attention and they praised his accomplishments. Then Petey came along. Davy’s little brother got all the attention and no one was impressed by Davy's singing or knitting anymore. But it got worse, next came Stu, then Mickey, than Carl. Well, you get the idea. Soon Davy had 12 brothers and they all wanted to be just like him. If Davy ate Toot Loops, so did his brothers. If he rode his bike, there were 12 brothers riding bikes behind him. It was driving Davy crazy! But when Davy’s brothers stop mimicking him, he finds it’s not as much fun to be alone as he thought it would be. Fortunately, Davy isn’t alone long, because he gets another sibling: a sister!

The humor in this book elevates it from being just another “new baby” book to a story of a unique and quirky sheep trying to adapt to life as a big brother. The hilarious text is fun to read aloud and the page turns are placed to add dramatic pauses to the story. Cordell’s illustrations not only support the text, but add numerous sight gags (which usually involve one of Davy’s brothers falling down). The cartoon-like illustrations are often paired with speech bubbles to add sounds and words beyond the left to right text. The sheep in this story are not your run of the mill, white and fluffy variety. Davy’s father wears suspenders and Davy is never seen without his red head and wristbands.

Before you read the book, look at the cover with the kids. Count the sheep on the front. Talk about the title, ask the kids what they think it means. Have them guess how many brothers in the book.

Use this book as part of a sheep themed storytime and pair it with the book, Woolbur. Follow up by making lamb headbands with cotton balls. To make the kids look more like Davy, add a strip of red paper around the center of the headband. You can also use white and red paper to make wristbands. Play a game of Simon Says or assign one kid to be Davy and the rest to be the brothers. Then the brothers have to mimic Davy's actions. Make sure everyone gets a chance to be Davy.

If you’re reading this book to a group, I suggest memorizing the names of all of Davy’s brothers. You’ll have to repeat them several times in the book and it'll save you from trying to read the names upside down or sideways. The artwork is rather small, so this book is better for smaller groups.

If you can’t get your hands on this book immediately, check out the book trailer made by Cordell (I believe that's him on the kazoo and percussion as well). Read Erika Rohrbach’s interview with Cordell posted on the Kirkus Reviews website for more information on the inspiration and creation of this book.  


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Book #151: Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae, Illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees

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Gerald is a tall giraffe who is good at standing still and eating leaves off trees, but no matter how hard he tries, Gerald can’t dance. So Gerald is naturally very nervous when he goes to the annual Jungle Dance. The other animals dance up a storm; the warthogs waltz, the lions tango, and the baboons’ feet fly in a Scottish reel. But the other animals begin to laugh before Gerald even starts to dance. Mortified, Gerald begins to walk home, but on the way he meets a wise cricket who tells him to listen to the sounds of the natural world. Gerald listens and before he knows it he’s twirling and somersaulting. He’s dancing! As Gerald tells the other animals, “We all can dance when we find music that we love.”  

Andreae’s gently rhyming text evokes compassion and empathy for poor clumsy Gerald. There’s an emphasis on the way the events and behaviors of others effect Gerald’s emotions. The text is also full of movement, appropriate in a book about dancing. The brightly saturated illustrations have a cartoonish feel creating a world in which dancing lions and rhinos are a common happening.

Use this book as part of a giraffe themed storytime and pair it with Dot Brown’s poem, The Giraffe, or the rhyme, Five Tall Giraffes. This is also a wonderful time to teach the kids the ASL sign for giraffe. Before you read the book, ask kids what they know about Giraffes. Where do they live? What do they eat? Follow up by making giraffe paper bag puppets.

You could also incorporate this book into a storytime about dancing. Try out the rhyme, Let’s Dance and Twirl Together. And you can’t go wrong with the Hokey Pokey. After you read the book, turn on some music and invite the kids to dance. This is the perfect time to give out scarves if you happen to have them on hand.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Book #150: How Will We Get to the Beach? By Brigitte Luciani, Illustrated by Eve Tharlet, Translated by Rosemary Lanning

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It’s a beautiful summer day and Roxanne is going to the beach. She’s got everything ready to go: the turtle, the umbrella, the book of stories, the orange beach ball, and most important of al, her baby. She piles everything into the car, but it won’t start! Roxanne tries the bus, but something couldn’t go with them. What was it? The bus won’t allow animals on board, so the turtle can’t go. She can’t leave the turtle behind, so the bus just won’t do. Roxanne tries a bicycle, a skateboard, a kayak, and a hot air balloon, but each mode of transportation prohibits one of her items from traveling. Just when she’s about to give up, a farmer passes by with his horse and cart. Roxanne, her baby, and all the necessary beach items are able to get a ride to the beach, where they have a wonderful time.

Originally published in Switzerland, Luciani’s simple story uses straight forward text that helps readers progress through the story and make logical deductions along with Roxanne. The repetitive refrain, “But something couldn’t go with them. What was it?” sets up the story to be a guessing game, keeping readers engaged. The summery watercolor illustrations support the game as well, if you look closely at each illustration the item that cannot go on that mode of transportation will be missing from the picture. The featured items are brightly colored, making them easy for kids to identify from page to page.

Even though there are only five objects to remember, it can be difficult to keep track of them at the beginning of the story. The first time the objects are mentioned in the book, post them on a flannelboard (you can also use laminated pictures) so that kids have a visual representation to refer to as you progress through the story. Make sure to leave enough time for the kids to figure out the missing object each time the question is posed. 

Use this book for a beach or summer themed storytime. Follow up with the rhymes, Let’s Go to the Beach and I Walked to the Beach. I love finding different versions of the Wheels on the Bus, so you won’t be surprised when you hear the tune for Waves at the Beach. Craft-wise, try this easy pattern for making turtles out of paper bowls.

If you have play time after your storytime, bring in some beach balls. Just make sure you remove any breakable objects from the room first! If you have preschool or kindergarten aged kids, try taping some lines on the floor for them to roll the ball along.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Book #149: I Wished for a Unicorn by Robert Heidbreder, Illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton

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“I wished for a unicorn.
I wished so hard
That I found a unicorn
In my backyard.”

A little girl makes this wish and is delighted to find that it come trues! So what if the unicorn wags his tail, digs for bones, and howls instead of neighs? The unicorn leads the girl into a magical wood and their adventures begin. They cross a moat to a golden castle, zap a fierce dragon, shrink an evil wizard, and dig for buried treasure. After such a strenuous adventure, the girl and her unicorn fall fast asleep. When the girl wakes up, she finds herself in the backyard again. The unicorn is gone, leaving only her dog. But the girl is sure that tomorrow when she goes out to play, she’ll wish for and find a unicorn again.

The illustrations in this rip-roaring adventure combine pen and ink with painterly techniques. The sundrenched colors are blended together creating a great sense of depth and texture in the whimsical drawings. I will say that it’s difficult to tell if the protagonist is meant to be a girl or a boy, but in a way I like the ambiguity because it allows kids to imagine whichever gender they prefer. The rhyming text is a lot of fun to read aloud with lots of descriptive phrases that are fun to play with, “thunderous roar,” “danger lurked,” “crumpled and old.” Even though the two friends go on quite a few adventures, the text keeps the story moving along at a quick pace.

When you reach the part in the book when the girl describes the unicorn, stop and ask the kids if they think the animal is a unicorn. If they don’t, ask them what animal they think it is. After you read the book, ask the kids what type of animal they would wish to have. Turn the first few lines of the book into a chant by modifying the words to fit each child:

Sam wished for a kangaroo, a kangaroo, a kangaroo
He wished so hard
That he found a kangaroo, a kangaroo, a kangaroo
In his backyard.

Use this book for a storytime about unicorns to balance out all those glitter and princess filled unicorn books. This story may have a unicorn character, but it’s first and foremost a story of imagination and adventure.  Pair it with the song, A Lovely Unicorn, or the rhyme, Five Little Unicorns.


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Book #148: Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors by Joyce Sidman, Illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski

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Winner of the 2010 Caldecott Award, this collection of poems is organized by season, beginning with spring and ending with winter. Each poem focuses on the ways that colors interact with the world or with each other. The non-rhyming poems are filled with evocative imagery:

Green is tired,
crisp around the edges.”

The illustrations, a combination of mixed media on wood and digital techniques, sweep the reader along from season to season, following a triangular fellow sporting a crown and accompanied by his spotted dog as they explore a textured landscape of found papers, brush strokes, and patterns. The color palate is based in earth tones and subtly changes to convey each season.

Read selected poems for a storytime about colors in general. It would be nice to pair poems with books such as, My Many Colored Days or Planting a Rainbow. Pull individual poems to be read aloud at a storytime about a specific color, pairing them with books books like, Green and Red is Best. Try this writing activity suggested by Dr. Sylvia Vardell. Paint each side of a cube a different color and have children write poems to paste to each side.

Similarly, you could pull certain poems to be used with a storytime about one of the four seasons. If you have elementary school aged kids, pair poems from this book with poems from Betsy Franco’s Mathematickles. You could even turn this into a poetry reading performance. Alternate between poems from each book or interweave them together for a multilayered reading. Dr. Vardell suggests having children wear clothes the same color as the poem they read.

Sidman provides a wonderful reader’s guide on her website. I especially like the suggested writing activities. Encourage your kids to send their poems to Sidman because she publishes a page of poems by children on her website. If you’re looking for more activities, check out the Junior LibraryLeague reader’s guide, which includes quite a few printables. 


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Tap Dancing on the Roof: Sijo (Poems) by Linda Sue Park, Illustrated by Istvan Banyai

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Today, in addition to posting my usual book review, I'd like to share the reader's guide I recently created for Tap Dancing on the Roof: Sijo (Poems) for my graduate course on children's and young adult literature. 

This collection includes 28 sijo poems written by Linda Sue Park and illustrated by Istvan Banyai. A traditional Korean poetic form, in English sijo are made up of three lines. The first line introduces the topic, the second reveals more information, and the last line contains a twist using humor, irony, imagery, or wordplay. 

Park’s clean, sharp style is evident in her nimble and clever choice of words and imagery. Her poems speak directly to the reader, and focus on revealing unexpected aspects of familiar topics, such as breakfast, school, nature, sports, and chores. Banyai’s understated illustrations, in a muted, inky palate, are sketch-like riffs on the poems and serve to provide context without resorting to literal interpretations. Information about writing your own sijo, as well as the history and definition of the form, is provided in an introduction and an author’s note. 

I enjoy creating activities and discussion questions to extend books beyond the page and this project definitely gave me the opportunity to brainstorm these types of activities. In my research for this project I found that this book is unique because it's one of only two collections of sijo written especially for youth. I also highly recommend Linda Sue Park's personal website. She writes candidly about her process, finding inspiration, and writing. 

I hope this reader's guide inspires you to read and share a poem.


Book #147: Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

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How many different kinds of green can you name? Seeger begins with forest green, meanders through jungle green, zooms in on lime green, swims through sea green, and ends with an apple tree that is forever green. Seeger is not merely content to show youngsters different shades of green; she really explores and celebrates the wonderful world of green.

Each two page spread beautifully illustrates a different kind of green. Seeger’s painted illustrations are a feast for the eyes. The paint, thickly and liberally applied, creates a landscape of wonderful textures. Even though the printed images are in fact flat, I found myself compelled to run my hands over the pages time and time again. In addition, Seeger has cleverly incorporated cut-outs that give the reader a sneak peek of the next page. But the cut-outs are so integrated into the paintings that you may not even realize it was a cut-out until you turn the page. Each page stands as it's own work of art, while at the same time functioning as part of a unified whole.

Naturally, this book is perfect for a green themed storytime. Before you read the book, ask the kids to point out green objects in the room (you may want to plant some before the kids arrive). After you read the book, look again at the green objects in the room. Think about the different greens in the book. Can you describe the greens using one of Seeger’s descriptors? If not, how would you describe this particular green? If you want you can extend this activity by describing a different color. Follow up with some rhymes about the color green, such as Green Says Go!

Make your own green (or the color of your choice) book. Have each child choose a kind of green (from the book or one of their own) and then illustrate it. Or take a walk around the house, the yard, the park, the library, or the neighborhood and make a list of all the different kinds of green you find. If you have a kid-friendly camera, let them take pictures of each green and then you can create the book using those images. A third option is to use found objects, paper, yarn, etc. to create collages.


Friday, May 25, 2012

Book #146: Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty, Illustrated by David Roberts

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Iggy Peck has been an architect since the age of two when he built a leaning tower out of (dirty) diapers and glue. As he grew, so did his love for great architecture. But things changed when he got to 2nd grade. His teacher, Miss Lila Greer, once had a bad experience in a very tall building and after that day she “thought all building-lovers were nuts.” Poor Iggy was no longer allowed to create castles out of chalk in class. Then, Miss Greet took her class for a picnic on an island in the middle of a river. The class made it across the rickety old bridge, but then it collapsed, trapping Miss Greer and the children on the island. It’s a good thing Iggy Peck, architect, was there to save the day!

The illustrations have been painstakingly rendered by hand. The lines are straight and true as a ruler and Iggy’s various projects, from the pancake St. Louis Arch to the church made of apples, are whimsical and fun. Each round-headed character is unique and I especially love the variety of clothes and hairstyles. By using grey or white backgrounds, Roberts allows the color of Iggy’s creations and friends to pop to the forefront. The rhyming text of the book is witty and humorous. Throughout the book the text is manipulated to become part of the visual landscape. For instance, when the bridge falls apart, the words tumble down the page.

This book just begs to be followed up with some hands-on building activities. If you’ve got K-2 kids, check out Science Companion’s Building with Many Materials lesson plan. It was created for kindergarteners, but can easily be adapted for a slightly older crowd. If you have older elementary aged kids, try some Odyssey of the Mind challenges, such as Bridge It and Get Over It, Bridge Building Long and Tall, and the Tower of Pasta. I recommend splitting kids into groups of 4 or 5 for these activities.

If you get any packages in the mail, check to see if they were packed with biodegradable packing peanuts (Note: this activity won’t work with regular plastic peanuts). Dab a peanut in water and it’ll stick to another peanut or even a cardboard box. Spread a tarp or sheet on the floor for easy clean up. See who can build the tallest structure or try building a bridge from one table or chair to another.

Beaty provides a one-page teacher’s guide on her website that’s full of fun ideas and facts about architecture. Also check out the reader’s theatre script adapted by Toni Buzzeo. This is a wonderful script for elementary school aged kids who are new to reader’s theatre. The script is fairly short and the lines are pretty evenly divided.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Book #145: Extraordinary Pets by Barroux

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Everyone knows that cats and dogs, birds and fish are great pets, but what if you could have a “one-of-a-kind, unique as can be, fantastic superb, EXTRAORDINARY” pet? The kids in this book imagine the benefits of having a trumpeting elephant instead of a quiet cat, a snake that slithers instead of a dog that merely walks, or a chomping alligator instead of a chirping bird. Traditional pets may be cute and cuddly, but in this book extraordinary pets triumph.

The rhythmic, but not rhyming, text is minimal, yet playful. Each two page spread features a child holding the leash to an ordinary animal, but when you open the flap an extraordinary animal is revealed. The clever illustrations have a homemade, scrapbook feel to them; you can see the paint brush strokes and pencil scribbles. At the same time, there’s a polished, graphic design atmosphere to the drawings as well. It’s clear that Barroux has put a lot of thought into each illustration, most noticeable in the costumes the children wear. Each costume is a clue to the extraordinary pet under the flap.

After reading the book, ask the kids what kind of extraordinary pet they would choose. Have the kids illustrate their dream pet and write a few sentences explaining their choice.

Use this book for a pet themed storytime and try out the rhyme, Can You? You could also sing How Much is that Doggy in the Window? Change the lyrics to sing about some of the extraordinary pets in the book. For instance, you could sing about the alligator in the window, the one with the shiny white teeth.Or the octopus with the eight tentacles.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Book #144: No Bears by Meg McKinlay, Illustrated by Leila Rudge

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This is Ella’s book and she’s here to tell you that it’s a wonderful book because there are absolutely no bears in it. According to Ella, there are lots of things you need for a really good book: pretty things, scary things, funny things, castles, princesses, a monster, but no bears, not even one. As Ella creates her story, about a princess who is chased by a scary monster, it’s a good thing she doesn’t notice the benevolent bear hiding behind the pages of her book.

The fun element of this book is that the text tells Ella’s story, but the illustrations show quite a different story. The text is written from Ella’s point of view and is conversational, spoken directly to the reader, making it a great read aloud book. Rudge’s illustrations are delicate and whimsical, using a soft palate and lots of fun patterns. The clever illustrations not only tell Ella’s story, but manage to include a host of other fairy tale characters, from Red Riding Hood to Rapunzel.

If you’re looking to plan a humorous storytime, pair this book with More Bears. Both books have a central character in charge of writing the story who wants absolutely nothing to do with bears. This book also fits nicely into a fractured fairy tale storytime as well.

As you read the story, tell the kids to be on the look out for any bears that might slip into the book without Ella knowing it. If you’re reading this to a large group of kids, make sure to walk around so that everyone can see the bear. The bear doesn’t pop out of the illustrations, so kids will need a closer look at times. After you read the story, have the kids rewrite a classic bear story (like Goldilocks and the 3 Bears), but without the bears.

It’s also interesting to note that this is book was originally published in Australia. In the Australian version the girl is named Ruby, not Ella, but when the book was being prepped for release in the U.S. the publisher decided there were too many books with girls named Ruby, and asked McKinlay to come up with another name. So if you Google this book, you'll find information using Ruby and Ella interchangeably.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Book #143: Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, Illustrated by Jon Klassen

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Annabelle lives in a town that has been reduced to black soot and white snow. One day she finds a small black box filled with yarn of every color.  She knits herself a sweater and one for her dog, too, but there’s still extra yarn. So she begins to knit colorful sweaters for everyone in town. And when she finishes, she still has extra yarn. So she makes sweaters for things that don’t usually wear sweaters, like trees and houses, mailboxes and cars. The colorless little town becomes a riot of colors! Things are going great for Annabelle, until an archduke steals her box of yarn away. But when the archduke opens the box it’s empty! He flings it from his ship, cursing Annabelle and her family. But the box floats back to Annabelle and when she opens it there’s still some extra yarn.

The text of this fairy tale-ish story is equal parts description and dialogue, making it a great read aloud book. The illustrations are done in mostly neutral colors, browns, grays, and blacks, making the multicolored yarn pop out from the page. The crisp, sharp lines are broken up by tiny splatters of paint. Annabelle is a sweet protagonist, but it’s the supporting characters that steal the show with their quirky personalities and appearances. I especially love little Louis, a tiny bearded man with a hat and a cane. His one page cameo is priceless.

Pair this book with Woolbur for a storytime about yarn. Wear your most colorful sweater and invite kids to do the same. Follow up with some yarn and sweater rhymes, such as I’m Going to Take a Sweater. Create a yarn obstacle course by laying yarn on the floor in different patterns (lines, squares, circles, etc.). The kids have to get through the obstacle course without touching the yarn.

There are tons of yarn crafts out there and when in doubt you can always do yarn collage, but when I found this tutorial for scrap yarn wrapped branches it seemed the perfect craft compliment to this book. I haven’t tried this craft myself, but it seems like it would be easier for kids to wrap short branches that don’t have too many thin twigs attached. The shorter the branch, the faster the craft. My guess is that kids will want to change colors quite frequently, so feel free to bring in even your shortest yarn scraps.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Book #142: The Apple Pie that Papa Baked by Lauren Thompson, Illustrated by Jonathan Bean

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This tale uses a cumulative narrative to tell the reader about the apple pie that Papa baked for his young daughter. First, we are presented with the pie, warm and sweet, and then the apples that went in the pie, and then the tree that grew the apples that went in the pie that Papa baked. The girl and her father harvest the apples, peel and core them, and finally share the pie with their animal friends on the farm. By the end of the book, the girl has explained how the sky, sun, clouds, and rain have helped Papa to bake the pie.

The gently rhythmic text is repetitive and uses wonderful adjectives to describe each element, from the “juicy and red” apples to the clouds that are “heaped and round.” The illustrations were created using a combination of traditional and digital techniques. Bean used one sheet of vellum for each color, black, gold, and red and drew each one in black ink. Each sheet was scanned into the computer separately and then colored and layered digitally. The result are stylized illustrations with a great sense of distance and a wonderful hand drawn atmosphere.

The structure of this story makes it a wonderful candidate for a flannelboard story. The first time you introduce a new element – the sun, the tree, the apples – place that item on the flannelboard. As each element is repeated in the story, point to it on the board and have the kids fill in the blank. If you don’t have a flannelboard, you can use objects or laminated pictures. You could also tie an action to each element so that the story becomes physically interactive.

Use this as a part of a storytime about food or apples and pair it with rhymes like, Applesauce and Ten Red Apples. And I don’t know about you, but just the mention of pie makes me hungry! Check out Thompson’s apple pie recipe created to go with the book. If you don’t have time or enough apples to make pie for everyone, serve apple slices (dried or fresh) after reading the story.

This is another book I discovered in my quest for good Father’s Day books. Use it for a Father's Day storytime along with the book from yesterday’s post, My Father Knows the Names of Things.


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Book #141: My Father Knows the Names of Things by Jane Yolen, Illustrated by St├ęphane Jorisch

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The boy in this book has the best father. He knows the names of things, from dogs and planets, clouds and cats, to seven words that all mean blue and which dinosaurs are the meanest. And as father and son explore the world, “He points out everything we see / And teaches all the names to me.”

 The text in this book is short and sweet, with just a hint of rhyming to keep things rolling. Yolen has chosen her words with care, so that there’s not syllable out of place. The illustrations, done in ink and watercolor, follow the boy and his father all over the world, from snorkeling under the sea to flying through the clouds in an airplane. The imaginative illustrations show the wonder of discovering and exploring the world.

I found this book because I realized that Father’s Day is coming up and I haven’t reviewed very many books about great dads. Books about mothers are plentiful, but good books about dads are fewer and farther between. I like this book in particular because it says more than, “My dad is great.” The dad in this book is not only loving, but also very smart and eager to share his knowledge with his son.

Use this for a Father’s Day storytime. Follow up with the song, My Old Man’s a Sailor (Lyrics here). Sing it through multiple times substituting the occupations of the kids in the room. The longer the job title, the more fun it is to try to squeeze all the syllables into the song.

As you read the book, ask the kids to name things like the father in the book does. How many words for blue can you name? Name some different kinds of cheeses, clouds, and human bones.


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Book #140: All of Baby Nose to Toes by Victoria Adler, Illustrated by Hiroe Nakata

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This bright and cheerful rhyming book celebrates Baby, from her bright little eyes down to her ten teeny-tiny toes. Each 2 page spread introduces a new body part, sings the praises of Baby’s “caper and prance legs” and “round as pies eyes,” and then asks a question, “Who loves baby’s eyes?” By the end of the book, everyone agrees that this sweet baby is, “Good enough to eat baby. Sweep me off my feet baby.”

The rhythm of this joyful book will keep youngsters entertained. The pages are filled to the brim with a laughing, curious baby who is exploring her world. The watercolor illustrations are dynamic and full of the fun movements of the baby.

If you’re reading this to a lapsit group, make sure everyone takes the time to point out their baby’s eyes, ears, and so on. If you’ve got a group of movers and shakers, tie each body part to a different action. For instance, wiggle your toes when Baby’s toes are mentioned and drum on your tummy with Baby. If you’re reading this at home, try reading it in front of the bathroom mirror so that you can point out body parts together.

Use this book for a storytime about body parts and follow up with rhymes like Baby 1, 2, 3 and Face, Fingers, Feet, and Toes. Also check out the rhymes and songs from my post on We’ve All Got Bellybuttons!

Print out pictures of eyes, ears, noses, and mouths and laminate them. Let the kids mix and match to make different faces. If you have toddlers, have them help you sort them into piles of eyes, ears, etc.


Friday, May 18, 2012

Book #139: What Time Is It, Mr. Crocodile? by Judy Sierra, Illustrated by Doug Cushman

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Every night before bed, Mr. Crocodile, Esquire, sits down to plan the next day, from 9:00 (wake up) to 8:00 (sing a lullaby to me). The next day he tries to stick to his plan to catch, cook, and eat “those pesky monkeys,” but the monkeys are having too much fun playing with Mr. Crocodile to get caught. By the end of the day, Mr. Crocodile realizes he’s been “rude, with a bad attitude, I’d much rather have you as friends than as food.” That night when he sits down to plan the next day, he makes sure to set aside plenty of time to play his new monkey friends.

The rhyming text of this book makes it perfect for a read aloud and kids will enjoy shouting out, “What time is it, Mr. Crocodile?” each time you turn the page. The brightly colored illustrations are dynamic, with those pesky monkeys running riot on every page, much to the chagrin of Mr. Crocodile.

This book is great for kids who are learning to read analog clocks and tell time. Each page features a different clock, from wall clocks to sun dials, that shows the reader the time. If you’re reading this to a group, write Mr. Crocodile’s schedule on a big poster board. Then as you go through the book, have the kids read the clock and refer to Mr. Crocodile’s timetable to see if he’s staying on schedule.

After you read the story, have kids write their own schedule. You can have them use real daily events (wake up, walk the dog, eat lunch, etc.) or you can have them make up a timetable for an adventure, such as going to the zoo (at what time will you visit each exhibit?).

Make some clock templates and have the kids draw or paste on the hands. What would Mr. Crocodile be doing during the time on their clock? You can also use this printable activity sheet from Harcourt Books.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Book #138: King Jack and the Dragon by Peter Bently, Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

King Jack and his trusty men, Zack and Casper, troop outside to build a castle in the backyard out of an old cardboard box and some sheets. With their fortress in place, they battle dragons and beasts all day long, only breaking for a fabulous feast. But then a giant comes to take Sir Zack home and Caspar is carried off to bed. King Jack sits in his castle and declares that he shall fight the dragons alone. As the wind makes the trees quiver and the sky quickly darkens, the little king wraps himself tighter in his blanket, “It’s nothing.” Suddenly, King Jack hears footsteps, the footsteps of a four-footed beast, could it be a dragon? Lucky for Jack, it’s just his parents, who have come to give the brave king a bath and tuck him into bed.
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Imagination is king in this handsome picture book about the backyard adventures of three small boys. The illustrations, created in soft colors and focus, deftly capture the playful spirit of the boys, as well as the dragons and beasts of their imagination. The text is dramatic and playful as well, filled with the rambunctious dialogue of the boys and vivid sounds and imagery from King Jack’s battle cry, “Raaahhh!” to the sounds of the night, “A mouse scampered over the roof, skitter-scurry.”

If you’re using this as part of a knight and/or dragons storytime, follow it up with the rhymes, Five Knights in Shining Armor and Little Dragon. Craft-wise, make your own crown, like the one King Jack wears, out of construction paper. Also check out some of the crafts and activities in my previous dragon-themed posts

I hope you haven’t thrown out those leftover cardboard boxes! Pull them out and have the kids build their own fort, along with sheets, blankets, and pillows.


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Book #137: Stars by Mary Lynn Ray, Illustrated by Marla Frazee

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This beautiful oblong book explores the beauty and versatility of stars. There are the stars you see in the night sky. Stars you cut out of paper and keep in your pocket, because sometimes “you need to know it is there.” There’s that special day marked on the calendar with a star. Some days you’ll feel as shiny as a star, but other days you might need to reach for that paper one in your pocket. But the best way to see the stars is to find a place where the night is very dark. Look up and you’ll almost always find one. And another. And another. “Every night. Everywhere.”

Ray’s text is poetic and yet detailed enough to convey the imaginative ideas to even the youngest readers, but she never talks down to her readers. As always, Frazee’s illustrations are populated by a multicultural cast of characters (see also Everywhere Babies and All the World). Like the text, the illustrations are grounded in reality, yet magical possibilities lurk on every page:

“If you hold a wand the right way,
You might see a wish come true.
Not always.
Only sometimes.
You never know about a wish.”

Use this book as part of a storytime about shapes. After you read the book, ask the kids what else they would do with a star. Where else have they seen star shapes? Bring in photographs of signs, buildings, etc. that use star shapes in their design.

After you read the book have kids trace and cut out stars. If you have preschool and kindergarten aged kids, teach them to make a “one-cut” star. You can tape them to a string and make a star garland, tape them to sticks to make wands, use some drinking straws and yarn and make a cascade of stars, or pull out those popsicle sticks. Check out the Castle Library blog for even more activities.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Book #136: Roasted Peanuts by Tim Egan

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Sam, the horse, and Jackson, the cat, are best friends. They love baseball and their favorite thing to do is to watch a game at Grant’s Field. This year the friends are finally old enough to try out for the local team, the Grazers. Sam is a stellar athlete, clearly the best on the field. But, although he can throw a ball well, Jackson can’t run very fast or hit very accurately. Sam is happy to make the team, but it isn’t the same without Jackson. What will happen when Jackson gets a job as a peanut vendor and becomes famous for throwing peanuts to customers over 60 rows away? Will Sam strike out during the big game against the Barkers? How will the two friends team up to save the day and the game?

This slightly off-beat story of friendship, baseball, and throwing peanuts, is finely crafted by Egan. The friendship between these two unique characters is the heart of the story and it’s wonderful to see how much Sam and Jackson will do for one another. The text is limited to a few sentences per page; however there are some great vocabulary words, such as “defeated,” “legend,” and “disgrace.” The illustrations are done in Egan’s signature style, with ink and watercolor. The characters, all types of animals dressed in human clothes, are quirky and the settings are specific and detailed.

Use this book for a baseball or sports themed storytime and follow up by singing, Take Me Out to the Ball Game. After you read the story, ask the kids why they thought Jackson and Sam were such great friends. How did they show their friendship in the story?

Read this book with your child if they’re trying out for a team and there’s not enough room for everyone to get a spot. Talk about how sad Jackson felt when he didn’t make the team. Ask the kids if they think Jackson is happy at the end of the story, even though he never got to play on the team. Why do you think he was happy? Discuss the idea that some friends may or may not make the team, but that a good friend is a good friend no matter what.


Monday, May 14, 2012

Book #135: Sergio Makes a Splash by Edel Rodriguez

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Sergio is a penguin from Argentina, way down by the South Pole. He likes a lot of things, but the three things he loves the most are soccer, fishies, and water. He loves water in all forms, from puddles to rain to ice, because it makes him feel so many emotions, happy, silly, playful, relaxed, which of course, make him thirsty for a glass of water! But as much as Sergio loves water, he’s also afraid of it because he can’t swim. He’s terrified on the first day of school when his class goes for a field trip to ocean to learn to swim. His teacher reminds him that the ocean is like a bath or a puddle, just bigger, “And you know those little fishes you love so much? Where do you think they come from?” Through much coaxing by his teacher and classmates, and reassuring himself that his life preserver, snorkel, and floaties will help, Sergio is finally able to jump into the water. And what do you think? He loves it, of course!

The eye-catching illustrations were done with oil-based woodblock ink, printed on paper, and combined with digital media. Rodriguez uses only four colors (white, black, orange, and blue) to create Sergio’s watery world and the results are magnificent. The color palate frees, rather than limits, Rodriguez to give equal weight to the composition and layout of each page. The text is short and easy to read. Speech bubbles are frequently used, which adds an element of fun.

Pair it with other books about starting a new class, such as Wemberly Worried. Read this is book to your child before they start swim lessons. Ask them about their concerns about swimming and water. Talk about people you know who like to swim and the reasons they think it’s so much fun.

Pair the book with penguin rhymes, such as Five Perky Penguins. Check out the penguin craft in my post on Tacky the Penguin. Modify the design by making floaties instead of Hawaiian shirts for your penguins. 

If little Sergio steals your heart, check out the soccer-filled sequel, Sergio Saves the Game.


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Book #134: Terrific by Jon Agee

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Eugene is the lucky winner of a trip cruise to Bermuda, “Terrific, I’ll probably get a really nasty sunburn.” He doesn’t quite make it to Bermuda because his ship sinks and he’s the only person who is not rescued. He washes up on a tiny island that’s completely uninhibited, except for a talking parrot that is also stuck on the island because of a hurt wing. The parrot convinces Eugene to build a boat, “Terrific, I’m going to permanently damage my lower back.” Their adventures together continue as they are saved by a fishing trawler, Eugene discovers the parrots name, and the pair finally make it to Bermuda! Terrific!

The text of this American Library Association Notable Children’s Book is simple and kids will enjoy the perpetually pessimistic Eugene. The repeated use of the word, “Terrific,” in an ironic manner will delight kids. The silly story doesn’t have a moral; it’s really driven by the friendship between grumpy Eugene and the parrot. The illustrations are very well laid out; simple, yet visually interesting. The sun-drenched color palate is spot on for this ship-wrecked story.

Before you read the book, ask the kids what the word, “Teriffic,” means. (By the way, this is a great book for a storytime about the letter T). After reading the book, ask the kids what they think Eugene and the parrot will do now that they’ve finally made it to Bermuda. Will Eugene go back to his normal life in Dismal, North Dakota? Will he have more adventures with the parrot?

Activity-wise, I like Progress Class KidsREAD Resource Blog’s suggestion of splitting kids into small groups. Each group chooses five random objects and then they must explain how each object helped Eugene and the parrot escape the island.  

I was thrilled and amused to find that the book had been turned into a song with music by the Promise Makers (clicking the link will download the song onto your computer. I was able to play it in iTunes). You might also recognize this book because it was featured on the PBS Kids show, Reading Between the Lions.

Jon Agee is one of my favorite children’s book writers/illustrators because the plots of his books are so unexpected and often very silly. If you like this book, check out the other Agee books I’ve featured on my blog, Milo’s Hat Trick and Mr. Putney’s Quacking Dog.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Book #133: So You Want to Be an Inventor? By Judith St. George, Illustrated by David Small

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This beautifully illustrated non-fiction picture book outlines the inventions of over 40 inventors, from Gutenberg’s printing press to Igor Sikorsky’s helicopter. Each two page spread begins with a statement about inventing, such as “If you want to be an inventor, keep your eyes open!” and “If you want to be an inventor, find a need and fill it.” The text does on to outline the successes, and sometimes failures, of inventors who embody the statement.

The book is rather long, 48 pages plus biographical notes and a bibliography, so it is best read aloud to older elementary school kids (grades 2-5). If you’d like to share it with a younger audience, I suggest reading a page or two each day to spread it out over a few weeks. The illustrations were done with ink, watercolor, and pastel chalk. Small has done a wonderful job of drawing the inventors so that they are easily recognizable, yet his loose and whimsical style is always present.

Some of the inventions that the text mentions are shown in the illustrations, such as Eli Whitney’s cotton gin, but others are only mentioned in passing. Find photos of those inventions not illustrated and show them to the kids either during or after reading the book. You can even bring in some of the real items in for the day, such as Velcro or a library stepstool. It can be fun to compare the original invention to it’s current model, such as different kinds of light bulbs or telephones.

After you read the book, ask kids to draw a picture and write a description of their own invention. If this seems daunting, have them work in groups to brain storm ideas.

If you enjoy this book, check out So You Want to Be an Explorer? and So You Want to Be President?, also by St. George and Small.


Friday, May 11, 2012

Book #132: Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes

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Wemberly worried about everything. She worried about big things and little things morning, noon, and night. Her parents told her not to worry, but it never helped. When Wemberly was especially worried, she rubbed the ears on her doll, Petal. She was even worried that if she worried too much Petal’s ears would disappear. Soon Wemberly had a new worry: School. Her list of school related worries was a mile long: What if the teacher is mean? What if I can’t find the bathroom? What if they make fun of my name? On the first day of school, Wemberly was petrified, but then her teacher introduces her to Jewel, who was also wearing stripes and carrying a doll. First, the dolls became friends, and then the girls, who played together all day. Wemberly still worried, but no more than usual and sometimes even less. At the end of the day, her teacher said, “Come back to tomorrow!” “I will. Don’t worry,” said Wemberly.

Once again, Henkes has created an endearing mouse protagonist who is learning how to navigate the world (see also Chrysanthemum and Shelia Rae, the Brave). Wemberly, with her white fur and grey spots, is a wide-eyed worrier. The illustrations are colorful and fully support the conversational text. The book is linear and can be thought of in two parts. First, we learn about Wemberly’s every day worries and then the new worry, school, is introduced and we see how Wemberly deals with her worries in this new environment. 

This is a wonderful story for a preschool or kindergarten child who is a constant worrier because it’s reassuring to know they aren’t the only one who worries. Before you read the book, ask the kids what they worry about. You can extend this into a craft activity, check out Mrs. T’sFirst Grade Class blog. After you read the book, ask them why Wemberly worried a little bit less when she was playing with Jewel at school. You can also ask them what they would do to help Wemberly worry less.

Pair this book with Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears for a storytime about fears and worries. The alliteration in the title also makes this a good choice for a W themed storytime. Ask the kids to think of other things that start with the letter W that Wemberly might worry about.