Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Road Trip

I'm in a traveling mood I suppose.  I'm ready to pack up the car and head out to visit friends.  Below is a road trip inspired program and a few travel games that will help while away some miles.


Cars Galore by Peter Stein and Illustrated by Bob Staake

Get the Wiggles Out:
Variation of the nursery rhyme: "This is the way the lady rides."
Ask kids to stand up.
This is the way the tractor drives, bumpity bumpity-bump. Bending and shaking from side to side.
This is the way the race car drives, vroom vroom vroom.  Squat low and dart from side to side.
This is the way the fire engine drives. Whee-oo whee-oo whee-oo! Turn in a circle or let them run in a circle.
Make up anything that comes to mind

Follow the Line by Laura Ljungkvist Since this 2006 title, Jjungkvist has cleverly created 3 more "Follow the Line" titles.  Picture-walk for a large audience;  linger over each brilliantly rendered line drawing with a small group or one-on-one.

Flannel Board:  Our Jeep
Courtesy of Transportation Them-a-saurus by Totline Publications

First we saw a bump,
Then we saw a hill,
Then we saw a mountain
That was bigger, still.

Our jeep drove over the bump,
Our jeep drove over the hill,
Our jeep drove up the mountain
And it's up there, still.

Let's drive back down the mountain,
Let's drive back over the hill,
Let's drive back over the bump.
Then let;s just sit still!

Whose Driving? by Leo Timmers   Warning.  This book seems to be completely addictive for little kids.  Don't know why, but if you read this once, there is a good chance you will have to read it again and again and again.

If you are in a library (or any place that isn't a car/bus/etc) play a game of Red Light! Green Light!

Art Activity:
Lay out butcher paper or maps from old atlases and encyclopedias. Dip toy cars in tempura paint.  Race them across the paper or draw the way to a special place like grandma's house or where a child was born.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Festival of Lights

Our friend invited us to celebrate St. Lucia's Day yesterday.  Whether St. Lucia brought food to starving people during a famine, or to people in hiding beneath a city, it is her crown of candles--a gift of light and food-- that persists through all the legends.  Next week, we will celebrate Hanukah and the miraculous light that burned night after night after night.  Winter solstice is right around the corner--the shortest day of the year--when we look forward to the return of the sun and warmer, brighter days.   No matter what tradition you prefer, celebrate the light this season!

Winter is the Warmest Season, by Lauren Stringer salutes mittens, hot chocolate, toasted sandwiches, and candles...wonderful things that keep us warm on the very darkest, coldest days.  Stringer's book is a lovely read, and invites you and your family or friends to make a list of those things that warm up your winter season.

Make a St. Lucia Crown....our friend helped us make crowns out of strips of brown paper bag.  A few green leaves were glued to the crown, brown paper candles were glued on, and precut yellow or orange flames were glued to the candles.  A perfect 10-15 minute craft for any age.  Or you can get a little fancy with Kiddley.com :

Make a Mennorah.  Crayola has an adorable and unique handprint craft.  I love looking back at my daughter's little prints over the years!

Celebrate the setting sun (or the breaking dawn) with watercolors and pastels.  On any color paper, use white pastels to draw a snowy landscape (and a rising moon).  Using red, orange, pink, and lavendar watercolors illuminate your drawing.  A little glitter will really capture the sparkle of this special winter day.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Soup 's On!

Brrrr....It's soup weather out there!  Stone Soup is one of my favorite stories for this time of year.  Yes, it's about soup (an obvious cold weather tie-in) but it's also about sharing and generosity--two things you can't talk about enough this time of year when little minds are working overtime on what they are going to GET rather than what they are going to GIVE.

Jon J. Muth's version of Stone Soup is especially lovely.  "Stone Soup" is traditionally a European folktale, but Muth sets his story in China, and his watercolor scenes seem to fade in and out of a drifting mountain fog.

In keeping with non-western images, and running with important holiday themes, open up a copy of Bee Bim Bop by Linda Sue Park and Ho Baek Lee.  Written for preschoolers, it's nonetheless an interesting story for older children and a very accessible introduction to a Korean family and the Korean speciality Bee Bim Bop.  Yum!  You'll be inspired to throw your usual holiday meals a curve after reading this book together.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Traveling with Children? Stop by the Library (website) First

Whether by plane, train, or automobile we all know that traveling with our offspring is a whole other ballgame:  The pounds and pounds of extra clothes and toys, the bulky sippy cups and no-spill bowls, the strollers, boosters, carseats, portable high chairs, cribs, and more.  And then there is the fatigue, the boredom, the crankiness that comes from being slightly dehydrated, over dressed, cramped up, and completely out of the usual routine that you are constantly managing and trying to keep from exploding.  Sigh.

Common sense and all of your parent friends will tell you that distractions are key.  But how much more stuff can you possibly pack--especially if you're flying.  

Audiobooks are alot more travel friendly than print: no car sickness, hands free, and pre-readers can enjoy a favorite story while you catch up on some of your own reading.  Whether you download them to an mp3, or pick up a device like a PlayAway audiobooks are small and light and won't add to the tonnage that you are already humping around. 

Audios can be expensive, so be sure to check out your local public library's selection and visit the website, too.  Most large library systems are offering more and more downloadable books for all ages and interests.  Your library may offer ebooks for children, too.  If you're bringing your laptop--and you're comfortable letting your child use it--a library card may be enough to access dozens of electronic books that play like movies.  Of course, there are plenty of movies that you can bring along to play in planes, cars, and beyond...but the old-fashioned girl that I am, I refuse to tell my children that movies and TV can be watched anywhere but the living room on Friday nights.

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Flock of Shoes and other signs of winter...

Where do your favorite pink and green flip flops go in the wintertime?  To soft, white sandy beaches of course...without you.  Sorry.  But they miss you.

For anyone who has found themselves having irrational arguments with a child about why sandals/shorts/skirts without stockings/fill-in-the-blank are not appropriate when the temperature drops below 50 degrees here is a book you'll relate to.  I have had many of these inane fights and have resorted to hiding clothese and shoes and then pretending like I have no idea where they could have gone.  If only I had been as clever as Sarah Tsiang.  What 3 year old doesn't want to imagine their beloved shoes on a lovely adventure? 

Teachers and librarians: include this title in a theme about winter migration just for fun, or a unit on signs that the seasons are changing from Fall to Winter.  Three to six year olds will get a pretty good kick out of this one!

A Flock of Shoes by Sarah Tsiang and illustrated by Qin Leng (Annick Press, 2010)

Instead of the rhyme I have ten fingers, and they all belong me....  Substitute toes and see what kind of silliness ensues.

I have ten toes, and they all belong to me.
I can make them do things, do you want to see?
I can open them up wide.  I can close them up tight.
I can clap them together.  Now I make them hide.
I jump them down low.  I jump them up high.
                                Now I fold them together and hold them just so.

Print out postcard templates and invite older children to write a postcard to you from the voice of their shoe or other traveling object.  Where would they like to visit?  Draw that place on the front.

Are you going to do a whole program about things that take it upon themselves to move about? 

Runaway Mittens by Jean Rogers and illustrated by Rie Munoz is much less silly than Tsiang's book, but a lovely winter tie in.  Munoz's portrayal of an Inuit family and community is beautiful and rare.  I love Rogers' and Munoz's collaborations.  They're worth sharing if you can find them.

Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner and illustrated by Mark Buehner is a wintertime classic.  It is as fun as a Flock of Shoes, and invites the imagination to wander and wander and wander.....Dozens of snowman crafts will tie-in, or encourage children to draw their own ideas about snowmen at night or shoes on vacation. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Family Time

Thanksgiving and that long (looonnngggg) weekend of family togetherness is right around the corner.  There are alot of wonderful stories about families to fill up the holiday displays or to pull out for a program, but two new titles are especially nice.  All the Way to America: The Story of a Big Italian Family and a Little Shovel, by Dan Yaccarino and Blackout by John Rocco.

All the Way to America: The Story of a Big Italian Family and a Little Shovel, by Dan Yaccarino (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2011)

Brightly illustrated and clearly told, this may be the story of Yaccarino's family in New York, but it will ring true for a lot of Pittsburgh families, be they big or little, Italian or not.  Yaccarino’s book does a concise and neat job of illustrating the passage of time, and showing those family relationships that can puzzle very young minds: grandparents, great-grandparents, great great grandparents?!?!  Are you planning a family storytime for the holidays?  All the Way to America will make a good read aloud for multiple age groups, and will spin off nicely into a “Draw your family” art activity.  Is a patron working on a family tree this holiday season?  Definitely recommend this book.  It will be a great way to involve young family members in the project.

Blackout by John Rocco (Hyperion Book, 2011) is set in New York on a hot summer night.  The power fails and a family (a whole neighborhood actually) finds themselves enjoying some simple pleasures.  Told mostly through dramatic and provocative illustrations, you’ll have to picture walk through most of Blackout.  But your audience probably won’t mind taking in this artwork.  Blackout is a perfect tool to inspire questions about what children would do for a weekend without electricity.  What would they do if the power went out over Thanksgiving?  How could they cook?  What would they do for fun?  Children can ask grandparents and older relatives what they did during Thanksgivings of yore (What did people do before 24 hours of major league football?  I can’t imagine.)  z reminds us to not only turn off the distractions, but to tune into family time...time we often take for granted...and to get to know each other a little bit better.  You never know, this title just might make someone’s holiday a little slower, a littler quieter, a little more memorable.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cap Mittens Boots...

Inspired by last week's post about The Mitten, I created a short storytime for my daughter's preschool class.    For more ideas about games, crafts, and skill building exercises look for Pam Schiller's Bountiful Earth: 25 Songs and Over 300 Activities for Young Children (Gryphon House, Inc, 2006)


Cap, Mittens, Boots, and Scarf (Tune: Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes)
by Pam Schiller

Caps, mittens, boots, and scarf,
boots and scarf!

Caps, mittens, boots, and scarf,
boots and scarf!
Shoes and socks and coat and sun
Keep my warm for winter fun,
Winter fun!

Huggly Gets Dressed by Tedd Arnold

A Hat for Minerva Louise by Janet Morgan Stoeke

Flannel Board or Rhyme with Props:

Five Pairs of Dirty Socks

5 pairs of dirty socks on my bedroom floor
Mom washed the blue pair and then there were 4

4 pairs of dirty socks that belong to me
Mom washed the red pair and then there were 3

3 pairs of dirty socks, What’s a kid to do?
Mom washed the green pair and then there were2

2 pairs of dirty socks, I wear them when I run.
Mom washed the purple pair and then there was 1.

1 pair of dirty socks, one and only one,
Mom washed the last pair, my favorite pair of all!.

No more dirty socks, Mom washed them all today,
But wait until tomorrow, cause there’s more on the way!

A Pair of Socks, by Stuart J Murphy and illustrated by Lois Ehlert

View and print out a complete socks and shoes program from Fargo Public Library.  It's printable and it's great!  Thank you librarians at Fargo Public Library for sharing.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Pumpkin Trouble

Jan Thomas has a Halloween book out, and it is, of course, funny. Pumpkin Trouble, published by Harper Collins, is short and clever and the kids just eat up the irony and drama.  Personally, I think that The Doghouse, with its growing suspense and promise of gore and carnage (don't worry, everyone escapes alive, no gore.... much to so many preschoolers' disappointment ?!?!) is also a perfectly great Halloween book.   Check out all of Jan Thomas' books.  They are all a hoot.

The program below will keep kids of almost any age preoccupied while the jack-o-lantern is being carved or everybody is watching the clock waiting for the magical minute when city-sanctioned trick or treating begins!  Enjoy!  Later, when everyone is home and warm and full of candy, scare the begesus out of 'em with a rendition of "The Taily Po," an old Southern folk tale.  This is one of my all time favorite scary stories thanks to a colleague at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (Thanks Ian!).  Scritch-Scratch, you can even make the teenagers shiver with this one.... Check out the Galdone's version.


Harvey the Family Pet ...what is Harvey?  Who knows but everyone in the family is mysteriously disappearing and Harvey is getting larger, and larger, and larger.  This is a short story with audience chorus from Storytime Stretchers by Naomi Baltuck

Go Away, Big Green Monster by Ed Emberly

Pumpkin Trouble by Jan Thomas 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Mitten Tales

We brought the box of mittens, gloves, hats, and scarves out of hiding the other day.  I am a little sad to see these things, but my daughters are thrilled to try on old hats, look for matching gloves, and pile on the scarves.  It's time to seek out some of those winter stories.  We also discovered a new Catherine Rayner book that I like alot (although my 4-year-old thought it was too short (?!??)...) Ernest the Moose Who Doesn't Fit, isn't exactly a winter book, but it is a charmingly-told book cleverly created, and it really made me want to dust off one of our winter favorites, The Mitten.  These two books are a programing match made in heaven.

The Mitten is a Ukrainian folk tale, and there are a few versions available.  The 1990s Putnam publication of the story, written and illustrated by Jan Brett is succinctly told and richly elaborated in her illustrations.  Brett's work is luscious.  Whatever version you choose, it is a wonderful story to share over and over again, encouraging your children to explore the straightforward tale in different ways.


This is a dramatic story.  Encourage your little audience to act out the story with you, twisting and turning and squeezing until POP!

Pull out whatever mittens, socks, or hats you have on hand and then raid the Duplo box, the Playmobil, the Legos and dollhouse and Little People.  Gather as many finger puppets and little dolls and stuffed animals as you can find.  Exercise your children's memory and build their narrative skills by encouraging them to retell the story....then step back and let them develop their own tales with the props.

Cut out felt, fleece, or paper mittens, match two pieces up, and punch holes around the perimeter.  Children can work on their gross motor skills by weaving a piece of yarn in and out of the holes around  the mittens.  Gather as many real mittens or cut out mittens and encourage children to find matching pieces or group them by color or pattern or size.  Use the dolls and props and encourage children to notice and identify small, medium, and large.  Help them find a sock or mitten that is appropriately sized (early math skills at work!).

Visit www.janbrett.com for free downloadable coloring sheets from The Mitten and her other titles.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Books that keep us up all night...

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh just celebrated a 24-hour readathon to raise awareness about the library and its need for funding.  24-hours worth of volunteers read for 10 minutes each from a favorite book...all afternoon, all through the wee hours of a very chilly October night, and into the cold gray morning.

It got me thinking about those books that kept me up all night as a kid--not in a paralyzed-with-fear-way (although there certainly were a few of those...Alvin Schwartz's Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark anyone?)--but those books that I devoured hour after hour until the very last word.

Every reader has a list of these books.  Below are a few of mine...Most of them are mysteries, so spooky October is a good time to recall and revisit and some of these old titles.

I wonder what books will inspire my own daughters' first-all-nighters.  Below I included a few of the chapter books that my 4-year old listens to on CD again and again and again and again....She may not be able to stay awake all night for them, but they have certainly grabbed her little imagination!

Some of My All Night Reads:

Howliday Inn by James Howe

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg

A Tangled Web by L. M. Montgomery

The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright ...like a YA version of a V.C. Andrews this story was a little bit trashy, and so scary I had to read it all night because I was afraid to turn the light off.

Some Chapter Books My Daughter Loves:

Anything Geronimo Stilton but especially, I'm Too Fond of My Fur by Geronimo Stilton

Judy Moody and Stink in the Mad, Mad, Mad Treasure Hunt by Megan McDonald

Nate the Great mysteries by Marjorie Weinman Sharmant, illustrated by Martha Weston

Friday, October 14, 2011

Painting with Scissors

Two perfectly matched books came out this year and you will love using them any age.

British import, Snail Trail: In search of a modern masterpiece,  by Jo Saxton (a professor of art history), is a very academic book...surprisingly perfect for very little kids.  Saxton doesn't talk down to her young audience at all.  She introduces terms like "hue" and "tone" unapologetically and wraps up her story with a cameo about Matisse that is intelligent, but understandable even for 4-6 year olds.  The term, "Painting with scissors" comes from this cameo.  It is a quote from Matisse himself, and it is the kind of turn-of-phrase that you could build whole art workshops around.  Definitely use it to inspire at least one weekend art project or storytime program.

Michael Hall's book, Perfect Square, published by Greenwillow Books was a perfect surprise for me.  I was kind of expecting it to be one of those books that are created and marketed to attract adults.  You know the kind... Graphic-appeal, but short on plot and storytelling and completely disappointing for children.  Hall's book is not a publisher gimmick at all.  It is a short but pleasing story.  It has elements of mystery and surprise.  It invites questions and conversation.  The illustrations are big and bold and fantastic.  In short, it reads as good as it looks.  And Hall is a very fine painter with scissors.

Round a program for little kids out with anything by Lois Ehlert or Eric Carle.  For older audiences pick up Wabi Sabi, by Mark Reibstein, and beautifully illustrated with paper collages by Ed Young.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Tucking Them In....

This time of year, it is hard to find a more perfect book for story time than Denise Fleming's book, "Time to Sleep."  It is such a good book in so many ways.  It is simply and artfully told, attractively illustrated, and opens up dialogue about hibernation, animal homes, and signs of autumn.  Whether you are looking for a book to integrate into a hibernation theme, want something to talk about on a nature walk with your child, or need a gentle bedtime book...You'll love reading "Time to Sleep," and your children will love hearing it over and over again.

Below is a very snuggly story time for children and caregivers of all ages...a lovely evening family program at the library (invite everyone to bring a favorite blanket or pillow).  For parents and caregivers at home, it's an alternative to movie night.  Bring out all your softest quilts and blankets, a mountain of pillows and build your own winter family nest!


Opening Rhyme

The Wide Eyed Owl

There's a wide-eyed owl,
with a pointed nose,
with two pointed ears,
and claws for his toes.
He lives high in a tree.
When he looks at you
he flaps his wings,
and says, "Whoo, Whoo, Whoo."

Use actions on each line that is appropriate.


Time to Sleep, by Denise Fleming (Henry Holt, 1997)

Our Nest, by Reeve Lindbergh and illustrated by Jill McElmurry (Candlewick, 2004)

The Quilt Story, by Tony Johnston and Tomie dePaolo (Penguin Putman, 1985)

Hibernation Song
Tune: Are You Sleeping

Bear is sleeping, bear is sleeping
In the cave, in the cave.
I wonder when he'll come out,
I wonder when he'll come out
In the spring, In the spring.

Birds are flying, birds are flying
In the sky, in the sky.
I wonder when they'll come back,
I wonder when they'll come back,
In the spring, in the spring. 

Closing Song or Rhyme

Where Is Bear?
(substitute any hibernating animal)
Tune: Where Is Thumbkin?

Where is bear?
Here I am.
Here I am.
How are you this winter?
Very tired, thank you.
Go to sleep.
Go to sleep.


Friday, October 7, 2011

Done with Diapers by Rebecca O'Connell

A Special Post from children's and YA author Rebecca O'Connell, www.rebeccaoconnell.com

When my son was two years old, his babysitter taught him to aim at a goldfish cracker she had placed in the potty. Genius!
That was the second best potty training strategy I ever learned. The first was… Reading.
Not just reading on the potty—although that is great—but reading potty-themed picture books together all the time, at storytime, at bedtime, on a playdate…
Enjoying potty books together enhances potty learning in many ways.

It lets toddlers identify with other boys and girls who use the potty.

It helps toddlers understand the concepts and vocabulary of using the potty.

It makes potty learning a familiar, pleasant topic, rather than a challenging task to be mastered.

Mixing a few potty books in with the general selection of books at home, in the classroom, or in the diaper bag offers a great opportunity for toddlers and their grown-ups to read and talk and think about using the potty.

Here are a few good choices:

Danny Is Done with Diapers, by Rebecca O’Connell, illustrated by Amanda Gulliver, shows dozens of happy children, delighted to be dry. Each letter of the alphabet introduces a potty concept, as well as a child who knows all about it. Toddlers want to be just like their friends in the book, done with diapers—Hooray!

Dinosaur vs the Potty by Bob Shea. Dinosaur ought to use the potty. It’s obvious he has to go, but still he resists. Children can feel experienced and wise in the ways of potty-using. They know when it is time to use the potty!

A Glorious Day by Amy Schwartz is only a teeny tiny bit about potty training, but that is what makes this such a wonderful book to share with a potty learner. Henry is enjoying a glorious day, hanging out with his mom and his neighbors, when his mom complements neighbor Peter’s lovely underpants. (Peter is just a little bit older than Henry.) Underpants, not diapers! Something for Henry—and the young people enjoying this book—to look forward to too.

Even Fire Fighters Go to the Potty by Wendy and Naomi Wax, illustrated by Stephen Gilpin. Let’s be honest. We’ve all wondered, does everybody go to the potty? Absolutely everybody? Even firefighters? Even veterinarians? Even major league ball players?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Big Loud Storytime for Toddlers

Here are some colorful and fun new books for toddlers.  They are bright and pretty, and invite a lot of interaction from your young listeners.  We have enjoyed reading them a lot as a family...although the neighbors may not agree :)  (And I just now noticed as I am posting this blog that they are by the same author...no wonder they seemed like such a fine match.)

PROGRAM for toddlers

Opening Song:

If you're happy and you know it....

Finger Play:

Two little bluebirds sitting on a cloud.
One named soft, and one named LOUD!
Fly away soft.  Fly away LOUD!
Come back soft.  Come back LOUD!


Feelings by Kristen Balouch (Little Simon, 2011)

The Little Little Girl with the Big Big Voice by Kristen Balouch (Little Simon, 2011)

Banana! by Ed Verne (Henry Holt, 2010)  This is a great book to talk about both feelings and big voices.  Like Willem's pigeon, this monkey gets pretty loud and crazy.  You and your audience will be cracking up.


You Can Hear Animals (song to "She'll be Coming Round the Mountain)

This is from Mrs. Jones e-library of little kids songs...all with audio!  What a boon for a very bad singer like me who struggles to sing the melody of row, row, row your boat to any other lyrics.  Mrs. Jones will get you and your kids singing all kinds of new songs in no time.  Go to Mrs. Jones Room for your next program.

Closing Song:

If you're happy and you know it....

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly...Fish

Ugly Fish, by Kara LaReau and illustrated by Scott Magoon was published in 2006 by Harcourt, and has been one of my all time favorite story time books since.  It is a sure thing, no matter how old or how rambunctious your audience.  Play with the voices, build the suspense, and everyone is edge of their criss-cross-applesauce-d bottoms.

This year Sleeping Bear Press published Memoirs of a Goldfish, by Devin Scillian and illustrated by Tim Bowers.  Is there room for two books about fish in a bowl (to kind of coin a phrase from Ugly Fish)?

LaReau's story is delightfully dark and twisted.  Scillian's has a happy ending.  LaReau's little protagonist is a true villain.  Scillian's is a little hero.  Magoon's illustrations are stark and weird and silly.  Bowers' illustrations are whimsical and rich with detail.  The two books may be about fish in a bowl who learn a little something about friendship, but they are wonderfully different.  You may  prefer one over the other, but why not use them together in a story time and let your young audience choose which fish they're rooting for.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Andy Goldsworthy...Art for the Changing Seasons

There is something about autumn that turns us all into gatherers, especially children.  Buckeyes and acorns, leaves of every color, mysterious feathers.  There are treasures galore when the trees and plants begin to unburden themselves.  Unfortunately, most of these treasures are ephemeral.  Whether they crumble or mold they are not the stuff of traditional art or craft projects.

They are the wonderful stuff of "Land Art," though.  British sculptor, Andy Goldsworthy, is one of the best known artists associated with Land Art.  Working in remote, isolated spots and using only the natural materials found in the vicinity (leaves, stones, flowers, icicles, etc ) he creates ephemeral sculptures that may melt, topple over, or be blown away at any moment.  Goldsworthy captures his finished work in photographs before nature takes its course.

Visit the art section of your library or bookstore and find his book "Wood."  Goldsworthy visits the same oak tree at Capenoch and records the tree's changing seasonal aspects through many sculptures.

Then head outside to create your own Land Art.  Children can stack stones, create paths, layer and braid leaves into shapes, or build house or nest-like structures with sticks.  Instead of getting frustrated by a sudden breeze or other mishap, encourage them to see this as part of the process.  Keep your camera on hand to capture the perfect "finished" moment...and maybe some of the steps in between.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Art and Coffee for the Changing Seasons

Autumn certainly inspires many a craft or art project.  From leaf rubbings, to thumbprint trees, to apple prints.  The possibilities are cheap, accessible, relevant, and fun for fingers of many different sizes and levels. 

My own personal favorite craft at my library was creating strings of autumn-hued paper and tissue paper leaves that we hung in doorways, and later used for toddler and preschool story time (letting the children hold the strings and swish, sway, and dance them to a falling leaves rhyme).  This craft was time-consuming to say the least, and largely made possible by two very patient high school volunteers.  Try as I might to muster the energy to recreate this craft at home...It will not happen. 

Instead, we made a tree.

Certainly one thing that absolutely, positively never happens at home are any crafts requiring tissue paper.  I simply never have more than one crumpled white sheet from a shoe box or something laying around here.  It is lovely stuff, but it is too delicate to store, expensive, and troublesome for awkward little hands.

I do however, always seem to have a stash of round, white coffee filters...and they are art activity magic.  Much more durable than tissue paper, they hold up to watercolors and tempura, pastels, markers, and crayons.  But they still have that lovely flexibility that begs for crumpling, balling, folding, and bunching.  And it has some of that transparency and luminosity that we are all attracted to in tissue paper.   Grab a mega pack at the grocery store for the long cold months ahead.  You can start by making yourself a big pot of coffee, and then an autumn tree (just paint filters, allow to dry, then cut/tear/paste). 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Seasonal Magic

It's still hot, but the seasons are definitely changing here in Pittsburgh.  The groundhog is so fat, he can barely fit in his hole.  The squirrels are acting especially squirrelly.  There are even a few leaves changing color.  It's a perfect time to start reading and talking about the seasons...the seasons we've enjoyed this year, and the seasons we have to look forward to!

Below is a family program that will suit different ages and different situations. Mo Willems' book, "City Dog, Country Frog," in particular will captivate your audience regardless of age, and this is perfect read aloud for those times when you are likely to be entertaining children, siblings, parents, and caregivers of any and all ages.  Everything Mr. Willems touches seems to turn to gold.  A far cry from his crazed pigeon and much more sad and profound than his hysterical Piggie and Elephant, this 2010 title tells the story of changing seasons, a frog's life, and a frog's best friend (the dog).  This story is pure magic, as are Muth's watercolor illustrations.  I especially find myself meditating over his blue and amber winter scenes.  Read this story, and sit back and relish the appreciative silence at its conclusion.


A Kitten TaleA Kitten Tale, by Eric Rohmann

Tree For All Seasons A Tree for All Seasons, by Robin Bernard

City Dog, Country Frog City Dog, Country Frog, by Mo Willems, illustrated by John J Muth

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Loosen Up...A New School Year Storytime

For Kindergarten through 2nd Grade...maybe some preschools, too...



My Hands

Sometimes my hands are at my side; 
Then behind my back they hide. 
Sometimes I wiggle my fingers so, 
Shake them fast,
Shake them slow.
Sometimes my hands go “Clap, clap, clap!” then I rest them in my lap. 
Now they’re quiet as can be, 
Because it’s story time, you see.

Thanks Toronto Public Library!

The Secret Shortcut

The Secret Shortcut by Mark Teague (1999)

Dog Day

Dog Day by Sarah Hayes and illustrated by Hannah Broadway (2008)
When I first read this book a few years ago, I wasn't charmed by it at all.  Reading it again this week though, it really felt like a winning program book.  It is S-I-L-L-Y!  And if you are ready to get really silly and a little bit loud with your students or children definitely I think it's a guaranteed winner.

Action Rhyme/Activity

Follow up Dog Day, with a super silly game of Simon-the-substitute-dog-teacher-Says.  Get all of the wiggles, barks, and growls out and settle down for a classic everyone loves.

Miss Nelson Is Missing!

Miss Nelson is Missing by Harry Allard 

Closing Rhyme

We’ve listened
We’ve listened to stories
And sat with our friends,
But now we are finished
And it is the end.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Blue Whale Problem, Repurposed Paper, and Back to School

Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem
Starting back to school is always a little rough.  But what if you had to bring your new pet to school with you--and your new pet was a blue whale?

I wanted to follow up my preschool "back to school" story time with a program for older elementary school -age children.  A book from a few years ago came to mind.  I used it with a group of kindergarten, 1st and 2nd graders...and while not exactly a "back to school" book,  it is about school, it is very funny, and the illustrations are marvelous!

Billy Twitters and his Blue Whale Problem, by Mac Barnett will be a sure hit with your back to schoolers.

Pick up the whale theme and run with it.   Philip C. Stead's new book, Jonathan and the Big Blue Boat is a great adventure fantasy to start off the school year.   It will spark your children's imaginations and enthusiasm for reading, and get everyone's creative brain juice flowing.

Barnett's art work in Billy Twitters is beautiful and funny and I love it!  But I took a cue from Stead's collages for our art activity.  Repurposing paper into collages is perfect for young artists.  1) The materials cost nothing, 2) Children of all ages LOVE cutting and gluing, 3) the possibilities are truly endless.  Stead uses travel and shipping related paper ephemera to create his paintings.  We used a retro 60s atlas and some stationary.  Tempera, watercolors, or gouache will clean up easily and have that wonderful transparency that lets your repurposed find shine through.