Friday, March 16, 2018

Book Review: Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Being a five foot tall children's librarian, I was naturally drawn to this book. I also have a love for theatre, comedy, and drama so this book was right up my alley! Here is my review of the book. A shortened version of this review was also posted on the library's instagram and FB page. 

In this middle grade novel, 11 year old Julia is prepared to spend her summer sulking around the house, grieving over the loss of her beloved family dog, Ramon. Julia's closest friend's have gone away for the summer too and with her dog being gone, she is left feeling incredibly lonely. She also overhears her parents having a conversation about how short she is, a trait she wasn't too concerned about until now. Self conscious as ever, her summer takes an unexpected turn when her and her little brother Randy are made to audition for a semi-professional theatre production of The Wizard of Oz. 

Julia has never been in the limelight before and is quite reluctant and unhappy to partake in this theater production. She's also convinced her mother is only making them do it because it's basically free babysitting. However, despite her low self-esteem, Julia soon finds herself beginning to enjoy the theatre life and the quirky characters of the production team. When her lonely neighbor, Mrs. Chang, hears of her participation in the Wizard of Oz, she surprises Julia with a custom designed pair of Munchkin shoes that are exquisitely beautiful. When Julia shows up for the next day's practice in the most incredible shoes for the role, Sean Barr, the show's theatre director, praises her for showing initiative and surprisingly casts her as the lead Munchkin in the show. 

As the story continues, Julia begins to make friends with a wide array of interesting characters, including Olive, an adult with dwarfism, and Mrs. Chang, her eccentric 76-year-old neighbor, who proves to be an “insanely talented” costume designer. Throughout the story, Julia's own sense of self as an artist grows and her participation in Wizard of Oz enables her to put her own insecurities into perspective.  This story also shows us the importance of having mentors — people outside the family unit. Short is a charming read with an important message that no matter one’s stature, “the way we move tells the world who we are." Recommended for grades 4-8. 

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Superhero Training Academy

This program consists of a short storytime followed by interaction with several superhero themed stations! It is aimed at toddlers and preschoolers, ages 2-5. I've been wanting to do a superhero program ever since the 2015 CSLP summer reading theme "Every Hero Has a Story."  I finally got to do the program this year so I went all out :) We ended up having over 70 people show up! Here is what I did: 

1. Book: Even Superheroes Have Bad Days

This wonderful picture book discusses the many ways that superheroes handle their emotions during stressful events. The colorful illustrations of superheroes in many fun and action-packed scenes help depict the ways that children can channel their negative emotions into positive energy through techniques like burning off steam on a bike or a hike, to helping others.  It's on the slightly long side but the children really loved this one! They really enjoyed the quirky scenarios and illustrations and I witnessed many parents nodding along to this - seemingly to appreciate the overarching themes of the story. 

2. Action Song: Superhero, Superhero Turn Around
Superhero, superhero turn around
Superhero, superhero touch the ground
(There's lava on the ground! Ouch - hot!) 
Superhero, superhero put on your suit (Make actions like you are putting on your suit. Verbally tell children to "put it on in one swoop!")
Superhero, Superhero put on your boots (pretend to put on boots)
Superhero, superhero, jump up high
Superhero, superhero, fly, fly, fly
Superhero, superhero, turn around
Superhero, superhero, please sit down.
3. Book: Ten Rules of Being a Superhero 

This is just the best book!  Captain Magma and his trusty sidekick, Lava Boy describe all ten rules of being a good superhero like "a superhero must ALWAYS respond to a call for help" and "saving the day is messy. But everyone understands." On the  page below, I counted the number of cookies the superhero was holding and commented "wow, those are some huge cookies he is holding up! They are bigger than his whole head!" The kids got really amused by this. This was definitely a perfect book for the program. 

4. Flannel: Five Superheroes (I used the following shutterstock image for my superheroes

5 superheroes ready to fly
Here comes the villain, Stop that guy!
This superhero can save the day.
Off he/she flies - up, up, and away!
Count down from 4, 3, 2, 1 

5. Song: Laurie Berkner Superhero Song with scarves

6.  Book: Princess Super Kitty

This book is a classic and celebrates dramatic play in such a fun way! This picture book depicts the way a young girl transforms herself numerous ways from dressing up as a kitty to a princess kitty to a princess super kitty, and then the last page shows her being a very elaborate mermaid. I enjoy how it shows a nontraditional princess and the illustrations with the baby brother make it even more humorous. This book was also a nod to the girl kiddos in attendance! 


Vaporize the villains - pretty self explanatory. Silly string + foam board with pictures of villains glued on. I put pictures of villains on both sides so that once one side got too gross we could flip it over for another round of "vaporizing." :)  This would ideally be an outdoor activity but it's March and in Illinois that means it's still pretty chilly! I used cheap tablecloths to cover the carpet. Silly string is not super cheap though and this activity would be best if it could have a volunteer or staff member monitoring the activity the entire time to prevent one child from using an entire can of silly string spray. I did buy about 12 cans though and had to be a bit strict on how long kids used the string for towards the end of the program. Another tip is that some kids might have trouble pressing down on the can and it is recommended that caregivers do the spraying while these kids hold the hand over so they can feel like they are the ones doing the spraying. Once the silly string ran out, I suggested kids try to throw paper towel tubes at the villains. They surprisingly got a huge kick out of this. 

Mighty Muscles

I bought styrofoam shapes and duct taped this whole thing together. I bought these shiny fancy cardboard cake disks that were like $3 for part of the pretend weights. I know the semisphere is not exactly what weights look like but these hollow semispheres were the cheapest option. Plus they still got a kick out of it even though the dumbell wasn't the most realistic :) 

Tunnel of Fire. I duct taped orange, red, and yellow streamers from the top of the red pop up tunnel but they fell off shortly after the program started. Oh well! It was a fun idea in theory. The kids still loved crawling through the tunnel. I am not sure where this tunnel came from either - it was just in our storage closet but you can buy many of these online from Amazon and similar sites. 

Melissa & Doug magnetic dress up characters (both include superhero costumes for the girl and boy) I put the pieces on two separate cookie sheets. This way the small pieces don't get lost as easily!

Superhero villain ring toss - this was just a simple cone and ring toss game with images of villains taped to the cones. I don't have a picture of this activity, unfortunately!

Cuff decorating - cut paper towel tubes and then cut a slit down and it becomes a simple cuff bracelet for children. Children can decorate with jewels, feathers, markers, etc. Very inexpensive and easy to make. 

Mask decorating - we have several die cut shapes of masks that you just add an elastic to. I put out crayons, feathers, jewels, and die cut shapes to decorate them with. 

Shield decorating - You can buy them on Amazon or make them yourself from cardboard. You can also just duct tape the elastic down and I do recommend using thicker elastic than they did in the linked tutorial. Put out die cut shapes and markers to decorate. 

A few more pics:

Monday, August 14, 2017

Imagination Station - Under the Sea

Imagination Station : Under the Sea
(aimed at children ages 3-6)

This program consisted of a short storytime followed by exploration of ocean themed stations. 

1. Book: Way Down Deep in the Blue Blue Sea by Jan Peck, illustrated by Valeria Petrone
This is a great read-a-loud featuring tons of ocean animals. A great introduction to the program! 

2. Flannel Board Story: Five Little Fish Teasing Mr. Shark
(Sung to the tune of 5 Little Monkeys Swinging in the Tree)

Five little fish, swimming in the sea,
Teasing Mr Shark
“You Can’t Catch Me!”
You Can’t Catch Me!”
When along swam Mr. Shark, as quiet as can be…
AND (clap hands) caught that fishy right out of the sea.
(Repeat with four fish, three fish, two fish, and one fish…)
So alone swam Mr. Shark as quiet as can be
And he looked and he looked…
“no more fishies for me.”

The kids LOVED clapping along with me. I also had the kids say with me, "You Can't Catch Me." They enjoyed it a lot :) 

3. Book: Topsy Turvy Ocean

I love these Topsy Turvy books! This one is full of super wacky ocean animals doing ridiculous things. The kids laughed at all the funny scenes in the book. It's a little long but great for older preschoolers :) 

4. Song: Carole Peterson - The Little Fish

This is such a fun song!! Kids always love pretending they are a fish that is swimming, sleeping, brushing teeth, and riding a bike. The song is goofy and kids always laugh as Carole Peterson says, "Wait a minute... fish don't ride bicycles! We're fish!"

1. Ocean Puppets fun with puppet theatre -- I basically set out a basket of our Folkmanis ocean puppets for the kids to play with. We have a portable and very light puppet theatre that we got on Amazon that I absolutely love. It's cheap but I love it because it's soooo easy to pull in and out of our closet. Of course, you can never go wrong with folkmanis puppets. I don't usually let kids play with the fancy folkmanis puppets since they're so expensive but for this program, I decided to let them. :) 

2. Sensory bin – ocean animals, water beads, and coral! I can't remember the brand I used but I know I've used Magic Beadz with success in the past. Basically I just filled a huge bin with water to let the beads soak and expand for about 15 hours. Then I added plastic coral, vinyl fish, and fine motor tools.

3. Sensory bottles - I collected some of those fancy clear water bottles and added water, hair gel, oil, and soap to them. I sort of just experimented with what I added and there is no real perfect equation as to the amount of random liquids you add. I dumped a little food coloring, glitter, sand, pebbles, shells, and tiny ocean animals in and voila - cool sensory bottles that kids love staring at! 

4. Fishbowl craft and ocean visor craft - I gave children the chance to decorate a white die cut fish bowl with die cut fish. I also had cardstock visors with lots of ocean themed shapes for kids to glue to their visors. 

5. Ocean puzzles - We had an ocean scene floor puzzle out for kids to play with if they wanted!

6. Explore seashells with magnifying glasses - Children had the chance to look at my personal seashell collection with magnifying glasses! 

7. Shell x-rays exploration - Not sure where we got these from but we put these on a table for kids to explore. Wish I had a portable light table for these but we don't. Definitely something to consider purchasing for the future. 

8. Sea animal word hunt - I put pictures of ocean animals hidden around the room and then had children "hunt" for the animals around the room. :) 

9. Submarine - I made a cardboard submarine with the help of one of our summer college student employees. We bought the fish net on Amazon and threw it over the top. I added pictures of submarine controls on the inside. We also have this piece of wood that has typical control things added to it (mini tv, buttons panel, phone, keyboard, etc). Kids absolutely LOVE IT!!! I also had some telescopes I made out of cardboard paper tubes and dixie cups that I decorated with foam ocean shape stickers. I also put a ocean tablecloth taped to the floor to make it appear more ocean-like. I also clipped blue ocean-esque fabric to these metal rolling wall things we have at the library. 

10. Water vehicles - I set these around the room for kids to play with.  They're the "Green Toys" brand. Highly recommend these very durable and awesome toys! 

11. Blow up ocean animals from Oriental Trading - These are AWESOME!!!

So that's my program. :)

Monday, April 24, 2017

Spring Books for Babies and Young Toddlers

Here are some of my favorite books for babies and toddlers that I've read this April storytime session!


Ducks Quack by Rebecca Glaser

This is an adorable nonfiction board book for babies with clear, bright, darling photographs of real ducks! It also has short words and simple facts that make it perfect to read at storytime. "Waddle, Waddle. There go the ducks!" are the words on the first page, paired with a cute image of 14 ducks waddling in a row. The next page features an insanely cute photograph of two baby ducks. The third page has the word "SPLASH!" in big letters over a photograph of a duck splashing into the water. This book shows ducks in a variety of places and in a variety of poses, including a close up of their webbed feet! What's not to love? 

I Kissed the Baby! by Mary Murphy

This is another really cute board book featuring ducks. This book is also perfect to read around Valentine's Day. The high contrast board book is mostly in black and white, with the last few pages showing the yellow baby duckling. This visual stimulation is an important developmental stage which librarians and caregivers can help strengthen very easily by reading books like this!  The book features a sequence of several different animals (shark, frog, mouse, for example) asking one another if they saw, fed, sang, tickled, or kissed the baby. The animals respond excitedly, "yes!", and explain what they did to the baby. The momma duck is the last one in the sequence to respond, "Of course I kissed my own amazing baby." // "And I'm going to do it again!" The next illustration shows the momma duck kissing the adorable little yellow duckling, with the words "PPfffwah!" The final two pages of the book show the duck happily quacking! This is definitely a favorite which I will read again and again.

Spring Animals

Love by Emma Dodd

This is my new favorite book by Emma Dodd. I think I just happen to have a real soft spot for bunnies. Growing up, my mom read to me Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown & I think that's why I gravitate towards reading books with bunnies in them. This picture book has very sweet illustrations very reminiscent of Runaway Bunny, showing an adult bunny doing typical bunny things with their baby. There is really unique gold paint speckled into the background on some pages, which adds a magical element to the illustrations. The book is also nice to read during the spring and/or summer because of the nature scenes showing: yellow and white daisies against green hues of grass,  yellow-gold wheat fields, blue skies and white fluffy clouds, and a rainstorm paired with the words, "Love is when we huddle close and shelter from a shower." The last page is truly heart-warming, showing the adult and baby bunny cuddling close with the words, "I love you so, and when I try to count the reasons why . . . I find there are more reasons . . . Than there are stars up in the sky." The final illustration features the two bunnies cuddling inside a burrow with a gold moon against a navy blue sky with gold and white stars. Absolutely adorable!

I Heart You by Meg Fleming

I have been focusing a lot of my Read and Play Baby storytimes on spring animals and this beautifully illustrated picture book shows just that! As I mentioned above, I have a real soft spot for bunny books so of course I was immediately captivated with this book. The first page of the book reads, "I see you. I miss you." and shows an adult bunny looking out into the grassy field for her baby bunny who's running through the field with a carrot in its mouth. The second page shows the bunnies in a burrow, cuddling together, paired with the text "I hug you. I kiss you." A red barn and a fuzzy outline of two people are shown in the background too, leaving readers wondering about them. As the story continues, many other animals are shown with their offspring - foxes, bears, ducks, birds, and deer. The soft, dream-like pencil and gouache illustrations evoke a nostalgic feeling of being young and spending precious time with loved ones. Through many short phrases such as "I start you. I stop you." and "I sway you. I swing you." we're reminded of all the ways in which parents guide us through life and it definitely pulled on my heart strings! The story comes to an end with very sweet illustrations of a mom and daughter against a setting sun. Illustrations show the mom pulling barrels of red berries and her daughter in a little red wagon with the phrases, "I pull you. I tug you." ... "I hold you" ... "I love you." This was truly the perfect picture book to read to my babies and toddlers because it introduced a wide variety of animals, it evokes feelings of love, it was short enough that I didn't have to skip any pages, and since it's a larger picture book, the group was better able to see the illustrations. Highly recommended as a spring or summer read-a-loud and also perfect for Mother's Day. 

After reading this story we listened to the song "Little Red Wagon" from the CD Wiggleworms Loves You. 😄

Early Bird by Toni Yuly

A sweet read-a-loud for babies with an adorable bright red-orange bird as the main character. Against a navy blue sky, the bird is shown taking a deep breath of fresh air (and I even instructed the parents to all take a nice deep breath in). Then the cute little bird is shown zooming off the page with a winking sun in the background. Our bright bird is next shown walking across the green grass with three lady bugs in the background - which you can certainly count with children as an added math practice. Next, our main star is peeking through the flowerbed where he soon sees a spider web. Next, he's shown being surprised by a large blue-gray cat, which he flies away to escape from. Towards the end, the book shows our bird coming upon a lovely little garden "where she finds... the early worm!" and our bird is shown hilariously holding a wiggly brown worm between her beak. Next, she lays the early worm on top of a big, fat, juicy strawberry... "and together they share an early breakfast." The last page shows a beautiful orange sunny background, a white picket fence, the bird and worm, with music notes in the sky, indicating our sweet pals singing musically in the sunny day. 

Other Excellent Spring Books:

A Seed Needs Sun by Kate Riggs

An excellent board book with detailed illustrations and simple text that introduces young ones to the growth cycle of a seed, from its planting to flowering. 

Baby Loves Spring by Karen Katz

An adorable lift-the-flap book that makes reading about the Spring season very interactive for young toddlers! This book features all my favorite spring things: birds, worms, butterflies, rain, frogs, and flowers. I really love all the lift-the-flap books by Karen Katz!

What are your favorite books to read to babies and young toddlers? Share them in the comments!