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.