Picture it: a program

Do you want a program that you can do at your library that is:

  • intergenerational?
  • collaborative?
  • creative?
  • involves multiple departments, including tech services?
  • celebrates picture books and novels?

Well, here it is:

Buy a bunch of blank books from Bare Books. They have paperbacks, picture books, graphic novels, board books–all of them blank and ready to be filled with your patrons amazing stories.

Have programs throughout the month about writing picture books and board books; novels; and graphic novels. These can be as elaborate or as laid back as you desire:

  • Use the picture book month site to get program ideas about the importance of picture books. Programs can be for kids, parents or teachers. As a creative part of the workshop, have attendees write and illustrate their own picture books.
  • Make it an outreach program! Take blank picture books out to schools and talk to students about the parts of a book. Show off stellar examples of endpapers and under jacket surprises. 100 Scope Notes is a great resource for examples of picture books with hidden delights. (I’ve actually done this and it’s a joy.)
  • Have a display of “how to” books, and encourage patrons to stop by the check out desk to pick up their blank book to create.
  • Bring in speakers, including writers in all genres for all ages, either in person or via skype.
  • Have booktalks on exemplary books in each format, then allow for time for patrons to work on their own works.
  • Have children interview seniors and then have them work together to write the life story of the senior, in any format they choose: picture book bio? Memoir? Graphic memoir? Whatever! You can have anyone interview anyone–5th graders interviewing 8th graders about what middle school is like, daughters interviewing mothers, etc and so forth.
  • As a NANOWRIMO challenge, have participants try to condense their novel into a 32 page picture book format. I’m sure afterwards they’ll have new respect for the picture book format!

Have patrons return their finished books to a designated location, and send the books off to be cataloged and added to the collection! Kids, teens and adults will delight in coming to the library and finding their book on the shelf. Feel free to have a limited number of books eligible for this treatment, and for a limited amount of time.

The Bare Books site doesn’t have pictures of its books, only drawings, but I’ve used them multiple times and I can vouch that they are solidly constructed, wonderful items. They have better examples on their pinterest, and this blog post also has a great photo of the books in “finished” form.

If you end up doing this program, please drop me a line and let me know how it goes! I’ve only done the outreach version– I’ve love to see how it works out it in different permutations.


See You Later, Alligator

I’ve just started a new “stop the summer slide” session of Beginning Reader Storytime, the first time I’ve presented this program at my new library (it’s still new to me, really, even after almost two years here). For this community, I made this program drop-in, and the ages are entering K to entering 2nd grade in the fall. Here’s the plan for week one ( I am pretty sure that I am going to be able to work in alligators for all five of the sessions I am presenting, so my alligator puppet will be the consistent mascot):

Opening Routine
This is the same routine I use for all storytimes, babies through about second grade.
I’m so glad (I really need to record this)
Say Hello

Storytime Message (the storytime version of a prek class morning message):
June 19th, 2014
Dear Friends,

Today we will read some stories about alligators!
Circle the As in the message.

Book: Hooray for Amanda and her Alligator!
This book is perfect for this age group. It is divided into six and a half short chapters, which is a great stepping stone for the early chapter books many of these kids will be reading soon.

Song: “Alligator Pie”
I use Hugh Hanley’s version of this song, which includes a brief introduction for kids to “get the rhythm”. (an aside: If you don’t already own all of Hugh’s CD and book sets, why not? Do you hate being good at storytime? No? Then order them, please; ideally two sets, one for professional use and one set to circulate.)

Book: I’d Really Like to Eat a Child
(The first review there on goodreads is GOLDEN.) Yes, this book is about a little crocodile* named Achillles  who wants to eat a child. But he doesn’t. But even if he did, most kids aren’t bothered. My group joined in on the “eat a CHILD” part with great enthusiasm.

Song: “Five little monkeys swinging in a tree”
After the previous book, I said I had an animal friend who would like to meet them. They pretty quickly guessed it was an alligator. I told the kids he was hungry, and could they guess what he ate? “Children??” they asked. Oh, no, no, absolutely not–I would never be allowed to bring a child eating alligator to work. This alligator loved to eat MONKEYS. Five was the perfect number.

I used the head only alligator from folkmanis, but I still had all of the monkeys to stay in the alligator’s mouth, and I made plenty of jokes about chewing with your mouth full, etc. COMIC GOLD.

Book: There’s an alligator under my bed
This book is a classic for a reason. The rhythm is perfect and the note that the kid leaves for his dad at the end is a perfect example of emerging writing.

If I had thought of it, I should have had some nonfiction on hand to talk about what alligators REALLY eat, because I am pretty sure it’s not cookies and vegetables (or children or monkeys, for that matter). You live, you learn.

A art—younger kids can glue down the letter and add to their picture, older kids can write a story.
Ellison die As
Glue sticks
Markers or crayons
This is a super easy art activity/craft. The kids enjoyed making their As into alligators, people, etc.

While this program is very similar to the original incarnation, I did make adjustments for my new community (drop-in, parent not required), and I think for the future sessions I will tweak it further still, and work on some higher level literacy skills than I did for this first one. Overall I felt good about it, and the kids that attended had a good time and enjoyed the stories, which is really the primary goal.

*Crocodiles, alligators, I know they are different, but…whatever.


Beginning Reader Storytime, Art Adventure: The Final Countdown

So now the kids have their backgrounds and their characters.

Then they just had to glue them down and voila! Their very own Eric Carle-esque creations!

Has anyone else managed to do a long term author/illustrator based program like this one? Ours went off pretty well; for those with attendance concerns, this is a registered program and we did stress that regular attendance was important, but for kids who missed some sessions we just caught them up as best we could, and no one seemed the worse for it.

If you’re interested in my Beginning Readers Storytimes, I’ve begun collecting them under their very own category, so they should be much easier to find.

Colorlicious Tea Party Storytime Special

Want to cash in on the super-popularity of Pinkalicious but don’t want to alienate boys (or, more likely, the parents of boys)? Then throw a Colorlicious party instead! Fans will still get to enjoy the sublime Pinkalicious, but with a bit of variety to cut the cloying gender paradigm.

Here’s the program we presented at my library, to the best of my recollection:

Little Blue and Little Yellow by Leo Lionni
We just did a straight up reading of this classic, which I love, love, love. Best not dwell too long on how they hugged so much they became green; that could become an awkward conversation. Sometimes I’ll ask the kids if they’ve ever been so sad that they cried themselves to pieces. I tell them I hope they never do.

Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh, with special guest the mouse
I brought in my own personal white mouse puppet to introduce this book. As we read the story we draped him in the appropriately colored scarves. It was pretty interpretive puppet dance-tastic.

Make a Rainbow (fruit salad flannel board).
See the pictures below. Our “pot” kind of looks like a robot, so of course I made it talk in a robot voice, demanding fruit.

Make a Rainbow
(some good soul who typed out our copy made this poem all grammatical by using “have”, but the rhyme demands that you use “got.” Usually I am a grammar stickler, but poetry takes precedence, and colloquial usage is near and dear to my heart, so please, got it up here. Although the last line doesn’t rhyme with anything, but after all that vigorous stirring, you just have to hope no one notices or cares. The robot voice helps distract from the crappy lack of rhyme as well.)

Take some cherries and put them in a pot.
Stir them, stir them, stir them a lot!
Pour them out and what do you got?
The prettiest red you have ever seen!

Repeat with: oranges, lemons, limes, blueberries, and grapes. If you can’t figure out which colors go with which fruits on your own, might I suggest another line of work?

Ah, the book we’d all been waiting for. This book was a hit with everyone.

“Sunshine, lollipops and rainbows” with shakers! (dance party)
We handed out shakers to the kids, put on this song, and busted a move. If you don’t dance in your storytimes, might I ask why you hate having fun?

And that’s it!

Storytime Specials

About every other month at my library we present what we call a Storytime Special, which is a 45 minute program for 4-8 year olds that includes stories, a treat and a craft centered around a theme. I like to use these programs to stretch stories in different ways, or to give the kids and their parents a somewhat fancy and free outing, or to simply entertain myself.

Themes have included Frog and Toad Tea Party, Colorlicious (a more gender-neutral Pinkalicious program), Winter Wonderland, Shark Versus Train, Hot Dogs (there are so many encased meat picture books, you guys), and many more. I’m going to write up all the materials for the individual programs, but for now here’s a sampling from them to show you how we do:

Colorlicious Tea Party
Frog and Toad Tea Party

You can see more videos from these programs on my youtube channel as well.

Beginning Readers Storytime: Art Adventure

After having my Beginning Readers Storytime for several sessions, I began to feel a familiar feeling: boredom. I was bored. I needed something new, exciting, thrilling. I needed to challenge myself.

Yet, I am not completely insane. The program was popular and well-attended, and people looked forward to it. I didn’t want to sabotage that. So what could I do?

I decided to tweak. (Not like a meth head. As in, to fine-tune or adjust a complex system. Because, yo, storytime is a complex system if ever I saw one.) I would keep the name, the day, the time, and the basic format–but this time around, the literacy activities would be replaced by art activities. Which, when you think about it, are literacy activities. There’s a rich, fun vocabulary in the art word: brush; stroke; acrylic; watercolor; collage; paste. Using a paint brush or colored pencil to draw develops the same fine motor skills that one uses when writing. And, of course, we began each sessions by reading aloud a  picture book with beautiful art  to serve as inspiration for our own art projects, specifically the collage technique of one Eric Carle. Perhaps you’ve heard of him.

This is a five week series. Week one we talked about the project and I gave everyone time to peruse Eric Carle’s books and other picture books that use collage. The second week we painted our backgrounds onto our very own canvases (foam board from the craft store). I’ll talk about the next steps in further posts.

How about you? Do you use art in your storytimes–art, rather than just a craft? Do you ever get BORED?

meow mix

For this storytime, you need:

1 cat puppet

1 copy of There are Cats in the Book

1 copy of Cat Secrets 

Any other cat picture books that strike your fancy, especially ones that detail cat behavior.

1 copy of Hide and Seek with Grover if you want to go the meta route.

With this storytime, the through line is that the cat puppet, which you should refer to as a kitten, doesn’t know how to act like a cat. When you introduce the puppet to the group, talk about what makes it a cat–the eyes, the ears, the nose, the whiskers, the tail, etc. Then ask the kids what else cats do. (If you get a kid to say “poop on the floor!” or bed or rug, you have a great group on your hands.) Eventually someone will say meow, or actually meow. That’s when you say, “Let’s hear the library kitten meow!”

Now, here you have to pause for effect. I actually ask the kitten if it is ready to meow, and it will nod enthusiastically. Then I stretch it out and say, “MOOOOOOO!”

That should get a big laugh. If you had a poop-talker earlier, it might take you some time to get the crowd back under control. Talk to the kitten again, reminding her that she needs to Meow. Have the kids demonstrate. Have the cat fail again. (I think I went through five different animals.) That’s when I would say, “You know, this kitten just doesn’t know how to be a cat. When I don’t know how to do something, I read a book about it.” Read a cat book. Try again. Cat fails again. (In addition to the wrong animal noises, I also had the cat beep like a car. Feel free to improvise. No, more than feel free; I demand you improvise.) Read another cat book. After the second book, I had the cat finally succeed, and I finished my storytime with Hide and Seek with Loveable, Furry Old Grover,* which made my storytime half about cats and half about meta-fiction. Really, you can’t lose with this one.

*Speaking of which, please please please read the Grover books to your children, both your personal children and your storytime kids. Half the kids I read this too shouted “Cookie Monster” and the other half yelled “Elmo!” I almost had a rage stroke, I kid you not. I had to spend far too much time telling the children how Grover was better than Elmo, and different than Cookie Monster.

gifts to you from my reader feed

Textbook. Characters from literature, film, ballet, and even songs are dressed in contemporary fashion. I found this via bookshelves of doom.

If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger,There’d Be a Whole Lot of Dead Copycats. Historical ephemera. Often pictures, sometimes audio; always interesting.

Bookie Woogie: Three Kids and their Dad Talk About Books. It’s nice to hear about books from the perspective of a family.

Hot Guys Reading Books. Pretty self explanatory.

Vintage Kids’ Books My Kid Loves. B. Streetman curates an excellent collection of vintage children’s books that her kid really digs, and makes some of them available for purchase in her etsy shop. A nice complement to all the book blogs that cover new kids’ books.

pigs & pancakes

At my (awesome) library, we’ve been using letters of the alphabet to structure our preschool storytimes this spring. I borrowed the idea from Motherreader and tweaked it to my own tastes. Here’s my letter P storytime:

Pigs Aplenty, Pigs Galore by David McPhail

This Little Piggy fingerplay

If You Give a Pig a Pancake by Laura Numeroff

Blow the Balloon/Sticky Sticky Sticky Bubblegum

I’m Invited to a Party! by Mo Willems

Letter P party: name things that start with letter P.

I love Pigs Aplenty, Pigs Galore. If you’re not familiar, it is the story of an Everydude who is, one night, swarmed by hungry, messy pigs (oh, the stereotyping!) Eventually he makes peace with the pigs, and after they clean up the mess they made they all enjoy a slumber party. (While I may not be the world’s best summarizer, it is just that weird). We talk about how those words–aplenty and galore–mean a WHOLE BUNCH of pigs. Some groups really lose it during the underwear part (Pigs from England,/ Pigs from France,/ pigs in just/ Their underpants) and other kids don’t even notice. Depends on how u-word centric they are, I guess.

If You Give a Pig a Pancake is one of the entries in Numeroff’s “If you” series, which intends to educate small children everywhere about the subjunctive mood tense, second person pov, and the dangers of being TOO GIVING. The pig eats her pancakes with syrup, and becomes sticky, so of course I follow this book with “Sticky Bubblegum.”   I learned blow the balloon and sticky bubblegum  from Hugh Hanley.*

I’m Invited to a Party is an easy reader, but it works surprisingly well for preschool storytime if you have an attentive group of kids and you read it in such a way so as to help them follow the sometimes slight changes in the characters’ appearances. At my library, we actually have made a flannel board set, and allowing the kids to actually see the layers of party clothing be added helps them recognize the absurdity of it all.

Then, of course, we end by naming a bunch of words that begin with P, and I write them down on the dry-erase boards. I have a couple kids who couldn’t care less about the stories and songs–they want to tell me all of the words they know, and pronto (PRONTO STARTS WITH P MISS JULIE!).

What are some of your favorite words that begin with the letter P? I like prelapsarian and potentate.

*I hereby COMMAND you in my most authoritative librarian voice to buy all of Hugh Hanley’s books and CDs (three altogether, and if you buy all of them you get a shipping discount). With these CDs in your professional tool-kit, you will never be at a loss for songs and fingerplays. Also, you should listen to all of them in sequence a few dozen times to absorb Hanley’s masterful ability with sequencing and creating a dramatic arc out of a series of songs. Trust me. Do it now. Further, you’ll be supporting an independent musician, which is always a good thing, right?


On the radio yesterday John Wray was talking about one of his favorite novels, Riddley Walker, by Russell Hoban. I’d never heard of it before, but after listening to the description of it, I ordered it through interlibrary loan as soon as I could, and I can’t wait to have it in my hot little hands. (I’m interested to see if it might not end up being a suitable read alike to offer to Hunger Games fans.)

I’m not overly familiar with Hoban’s writings, but I do know a couple of his works rather well. I love, love, love the Frances books he wrote with Lillian. If you want to know what I was like as a child (and I know you all do), then look to Frances. Like Frances, I made up songs when I was a child; like Frances, I had a pesky younger sibling; like Frances, I sometimes had a really hard time doing the right thing; and like Frances, I usually survived my adventures fairly unscathed. 

The Mouse and His Child was one of my favorite movies as a kid. I unfortunately never read the book until I was an adult.* I came across a copy at the Printer’s Row Book Fair a couple of years ago, and recognized the movie on the cover. I enjoyed reading it, but I felt a bit of a pang of regret that I hadn’t discovered it as a child. I’d love to read it aloud for some grade-schoolers at my library, though; I think that would be tremendous fun.

Finally, I JUST NOW learned that Tana Hoban and Russell Hoban are brother and sister. Tana Hoban sadly passed away in 2006, while Russell is still with us and still writing (and on Facebook).

Tana Hoban’s photographs may look dated to some, but I find them timeless. 26 Letters and 99 cents is one of the most awesome concept books ever, and her black and white board books are still perfect first books for young babies. Also, if you’re ever feeling blue, get a copy of Hoban’s Is it Red? Is it Yellow? Is it Blue? and find the spread with box girl. If that doesn’t lift your spirits, or at least distract you from your woes, then nothing can help you.  No, I will not explain that statement any further; if you want to know the joy of box girl, you have to earn it.

*I essentially went right from The Monster at the End of this Book and No Flying in the House to my mother’s Stephen King collection.