Books I’m Enjoying: March

This has been a hugely successful month of reading for me. I have four new favorites!

Starting with a YA title…

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No Parking at the End Times, Bryan Bliss: In the face of hard times, Abigail’s parents found themselves as members of a doomsday cult. Now they’ve sold everything and move the family from North Carolina to San Francisco to wait out the end of days with Brother John, the leader of the cult. What will Abigail and her twin brother, Aaron, do when the end does not come and her parents can’t face the truth?

I loved this one. It’s a fascinating premise and it’s wonderfully written. Abigail is so torn between her parents and wanting to believe, and her brother and wanting to return home to a stable life. Bliss’s handle of religion is masterful. It could have been very heavy-handed, but it is so nuanced and just ambiguous enough to let the reader draw their own conclusions. Careful though- that ambiguity may make some conservative readers uncomfortable.

My next title could comfortably fit upper elementary and middle school readers…

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Popular, Maya Van Wagenen: Maya has never been very popular, but she’s always been happy. When her dad finds a popularity guide in a thrift store, Maya decides to give its advice a whirl. Just one catch- It was written in the 1950s! This one is a true story and its 16-year-old author would be a great writing role model for aspiring authors.

I enjoyed this book! It’s a fun premise and the fact that it’s true makes it that much more interesting. There’s not a wealth of teen memoirs about every day sort of kids, which makes it unique. This isn’t a well-informed dissection on popularity, but it is a light, breezy read with a positive outlook on life.

And finally for the elementary readers…

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Moonpenny Island, Tricia Springstubb: This realistic fiction novel takes place on the island of Moonpenny, a small island popular for vacationers, but with a very small population. When both Flor’s best friend and mother leave the island for the mainland, her life seems to be falling apart at the seams.

Moonpenny Island has gotten a lot of positive buzz from reviewers recently and for good reason. It’s the ideal middle-grade novel, with content that is heavy, but neatly resolved, and Springstubb’s writing is just lush. The imagery of the island is vivid and the setting so unique for this genre.

The Imaginary, A.F. Harrold: Amanda’s best friend, Rudger, is imaginary. This isn’t great news since there’s a new addition to the neighborhood: a treacherous man who hunts and consumes imaginary friends. With Amanda suddenly gone, Rudger is on his own. What happens to an imaginary friend with no one around to imagine him?

Oh, gosh. I love The Imaginary, but I feel slightly mislead about how creepy it was going to be! It has a number of spots that made my skin crawl, but I’m also a wimpy reader. This would be fantastic for kids looking to level up from RL Stine or looking for Coraline read-alikes. Harrold is a gentler writer than Gaiman, but the humor and gloomy atmosphere is right on. Don’t let the comparisons fool you- The Imaginary is still a wonderful book in its own right.

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Flannel Friday: Ugly Fish

I love Kara LaReau’s  Ugly Fish. It’s the perfect combination of predictable and unexpected.

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Ugly Fish is ugly. He’s mean. And he’s not interested in having friends. As new fish keep appearing in his tank, he does what he has to do.

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He eats them.

But Ugly Fish gets tired of doing all of his fishy activities alone and regrets eating potential friends. So when Shiny Fish moves into the tank, Ugly Fish is so happy to see him!

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The very picture of happiness.

Ugly Fish learns his lesson and he and Shiny Fish swim off into nautical friendship bliss!

Just kidding. Shiny Fish eats him.

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Now is a great time to sing Slippery Fish.

It’s one of those books that seems harsh, but that kids love and respond to. And they definitely get the message:

“What did we learn?”

“Don’t eat your friends!”

Close enough.

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Ugly Fish and Co. were made using more techniques than probably necessary, but I love this story and I wanted to keep my felts true to the story’s art. I used a combo of puffy paint, felt, and acrylics (Storytime Katie’s paperclip method) to do the details. I’m so pleased with how it turned out!

Great Idea: Movement Cards

I’m always on the search for more great movement activities for my many storytimes. We sing Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes, play Follow the Leader, have dance attacks, and learn sign language together. Today I found another awesome idea to add to my stockpile of wiggly fun!

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Movement activity cards are all over Pinterest, many of which are free to use, like the ones I found, and it would be so easy to make your own! I assume. I didn’t make mine because it’s even easier to just print and cut someone else’s, but to each her own, right?

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I used them this morning in toddler storytime and they were a HUGE HIT. We had a VERY active group this morning and we had so much fun acting out all of these animals. We’re also building their vocabulary with words like “bound” and “slink,” and their background knowledge as we introduce gazelles and ostriches. Like any good storytime activity, it’s a real multitasker.

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We did them as kind of a game. Each child took turns pulling out a new card, telling me what the animal was, and trying to make the animal sound- emphasis on trying. Can anyone tell me what sound an ostrich makes?

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What kinds of movement activities are you trying in your storytimes?

Books I Enjoyed: February

I’m behind a month, but I read and enjoyed a lot in February! I spent a good chunk of the month rereading Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events and some grown-up books (highly recommend Neil Gaiman’s Trigger Warning), but these two were my faaaaavorites last month.

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I’ll Give You the Sun, Jandy Nelson: I’m sure I’m not the only one who watches the YMA and then immediately requests anything that I haven’t read yet, right? This is the kind of book that makes you sad you haven’t read it sooner. It’s told in two parts, one in the past and one in the future, by a set of twins. Jude and Noah are inseparable, but they each do something that drives them away from their family and each other. Each can only tell half the story but together they can see the whole truth. BEAUTIFULLY written. MUCH love.

Ms. Marvel: No Normal, G. Willow Wilson: This is everything I’ve ever needed in a comic book. I’ve only read the first anthology (includes issues 1-5), so I don’t know the whole story yet, but I know enough to feel GREAT about this one! It’s funny and Kamala is the perfect heroine: smart, quirky, certainly not perfect, but a good person. She’s exactly what we need more of in books and media: a character of color whose story isn’t about the fact that she’s of color. It informs her story, but it’s not her whole story. Su. perb.

Flannel Friday: Cardinals

Recently my grandma asked on facebook if anyone would like “lots of colorful yarn and pieces of felt.”

Yes! Sign me up for that one!

I don’t know why I assumed it would just be a little bit of felt, but as you can see…

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I was mistaken.

I decided my first project with my new-found wealth of felt should be a project that reminds me of my grandma and late grandpa, so I chose to make a set of cardinals from Mel’s awesome pattern!

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As long as I can remember, my grandparents’ home has been filled with cardinals- even the occasional live one, thanks to their very cool window bird feeder! This seemed like an appropriate homage to the home I’ve spent so many hours in.

I’ve got lots of ideas for these little guys, including doctoring Two Little Blackbirds to Two Little Cardinals (be sure to give them both boy or gender neutral names, since the red ones are male!), and this fun rhyme from Preschool Rainbow:

There was one little bird in a little tree,
He was all alone and didn’t want to be,
So he flew far away, over the sea,
And brought back a friend to live in the tree.
(repeat with two little, three little, four little, and five little)

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Thanks for the felt, grandma!

Program: Artsy Fartsy

Last month I started a new series for my (small) school age crowd: art club! Every month, I theme the program on a different artist, style of art, or illustrator. We talk about their methods, look at lots of pictures, and then recreate their art. This month we did pointillism!

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Hung up on the whiteboard are paintings by different artists in the style of pointillism and leaning against it are some art books, one about Georges Seurat. Two of my attendees recognized A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte right away! I’ve been to the Art Institute many times, so we talked about how big it actually is for a while and how long it would take to make something like that.

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Our set up is much simpler than Georges Seurat’s would have been. For this project, you don’t need much! We used card-stock, tempera paints (for the fast dry time, but you could really use anything), pencils with erasers, and small paintbrushes (for the Vincent Van Gogh style). Additional tools included water and paper towels for cleaning our utensils, pencils for sketching, and plates for mixing paint colors (honestly, we could have a whole program with just mixing paint!).

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An important thing to note is that pointillism takes a long time and a LOT of patience. You need to reapply paint to your eraser after every four or five dots. I brought scissors so we could cut the paper smaller, which I very much recommend. The last thing we want is for kids to leave frustrated!

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Above is the sample I did myself to experiment with this craft, since I’d never done it before. I elected not to take this one with me as an example because it took about an hour and a half (seriously) and therefore wasn’t very representative of what they’d be able to do in forty-five minutes. Still! You can see what a cool effect the eraser has and you’ll likely be really impressed with what your kids are able to come up with on their own.

Upcoming programs include Eric Carle, mask-making, and Jackson Pollack!

Flannel Friday Guest Post: The Letter of the Day

I’m so pleased to have Allison as a guest on heytherelibrary this week! Without further ado, here is her Flannel Friday contribution:

Letters are all around children – in books, newspapers, magazines, on billboards, and cereal boxes.  One of the six Early Literacy Practices is letter recognition – understanding what the different letters look like, knowing that they have different sounds, and that each letter is unique.

I added the Letter of the Day feature to my preschool story times because I wanted to incorporate this literacy practice in a fun, teachable way.  After we sing our opening song, I sit down and tell the kids that we “have to get a beat on our legs” as I slap my thighs with my hands.  Once we have the beat, we sing “The letter of the day!  The letter of the day!  Let’s all sing and shout hooray for the letter of the day.” This is repeated once and then I say, “Drumroll, please!” and speed up the beat before saying, “The letter of the day is…”.

At this point I reach into my handy dandy mailbox (care of Lakeshore Learning) and take out a foam letter that represents our Special Letter.  I try to pick a standard letter that will represent our theme for the week, for example, this week’s theme was snow, so the letter was S.

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We then sing, “S sounds like sssss, S sounds like sssss!  The letter of the day is S.  S sounds like sssss.”  At this point, I prompt the children to tell me some words that start with the S sound.  I do get some funny suggestions, some that go along with the theme, and some that are way off-base (you can only imagine some S words that were suggested!).  As the children come up with their words, I pull out laminated pictures from the mailbox that match what they’ve said.  Sometimes they need a little prompting to go in the right direction.

What to do when the Letter of the Day has two sounds, such as G or C?  I briefly explain that some letters can make more than one sound, and we may talk about the different words we can make with those sounds.  I don’t dwell on this concept, though, because I know that this will be covered in greater detail in school.

The Lakeshore Learning mailbox is great to have, but I’ve also seen examples of homemade others on PInterest.  Have fun with the Letter of the Day and you’ll be incorporating one of the six important Early Literacy Skills into your story time!