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 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 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,

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 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....