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What’s in a Name?

2 Nov

When I was born, my parents named me Katie. Well, okay, technically  they named me Mary (that’s what’s on my birth certificate) but always intended to call me Katie. That was back in the days when lots of girls were named Mary Chris, Mary Pat, Mary This, Mary That… but weren’t actually called Mary. So, until I was 5, everyone called me Katie.

Then Kindergarten happened. And my 5-year-old self informed the teacher that my name was Mary and I was to be called that. I then proceeded to make everyone else I knew begin calling me Mary instead of Katie. Why did I decide to change my name? I have no idea what was going on in my young brain, but as an adult I’ve speculated that it’s because we’d recently moved to Denver and lived almost next door to a family with two twin girls – one of whom was named Katie. Strangely enough, her real name was also Mary Something.

I’ve been Mary ever since. Kudos to my family for going along with my self-inflicted name change.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because it kind of relates to why one of my katyfavorite books growing up was Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton. Oh, how I loved the story of Katy, the bulldozer/snow plow who did her work in the City of Geopolis and saved the day one particularly snowy winter. I adored the detailed illustrations with maps of the town so that I could follow Katy’s route as she made it safe for the mail carrier to continue his route and the doctor to get his patient to the hospital. But most of all, I loved that Katy and I shared the same name (albeit a slightly different spelling).

lolaFinding yourself (or even just your name) in a children’s book is a powerful thing.  Each year, I am fortunate enough to be able to gift each child whom I visit in my preschool outreach a brand new book. As the kids in one class were making their selections, one young lady saw Anna Quinn’s Lola at the Library. The book features an adorable, smiling African-American child as she makes her regular visit to the library. The young lady pointed at the book, eyes wide, and said “I want THAT one.” What made this encounter so powerful? The girl who chose the book looked EXACTLY like Lola in the story. Right down to the pigtails.

Children need to feel like they are important and have worth, and seeing yourself and your story reflected in a book provides some measure of that. Just as I was proud to share a name with hero snowplow Katy, my young book selector probably was proud to see that she, or a child that looked like her, could be the star of her own story.

What story are YOU the star of? Are there any books that made you think “hey, that’s me!”?

Flannel Friday (WHAT!? A Post? REALLY?): Watermelon Contest

14 Jun

Hey! Long time no blog! Yes, I realize it’s been 3 MONTHS since my last post. I apologize for neglecting this blog; I plead busyness. I’ve been busy with a bunch of projects, some of which I will post about here, soon, and haven’t made any new flannelboards or felt inspired to write on anything else.  I promise I’ll do better. PLEASE don’t break up with me!

This flannel is a result of reading Greg Pizzoli’s new story The Watermelon Seed and feeling inspired to create a “summer foods” storytime. You know, all those things we like to eat especially in summer? Hot dogs, popsicles, ice cream, watermelon. If you haven’t read Greg’s book, DO IT NOW. It’s delightful, and accurate. I know I worried about things growing in my belly when I was a kid.

I found this on Making Learning Fun:

(tune: London Bridge is Falling Down)

Find the largest watermelon, watermelon, watermelon

Find the largest watermelon at the fair.

Give it a blue ribbon, blue ribbon, blue ribbon

Give the largest watermelon a blue ribbon.


I made 5 watermelon and 5 ribbons, so 5 kids at a time can come up and award prizes to the largest, next largest, etc. I think I would switch it up and perhaps ask the kids to award the first place to the smallest, next smallest, etc. Maybe I’ll make strange shaped watermelon and ask them to award prizes to the squarest, silliest, etc.. Endless possibilities!


The roundup today will be hosted by Katherine.  Check out all past flannels via our pinterest page (click the icon on the right sidebar).

Happy flanneling!

Book Review: The Monsters’ Monster by Patrick McDonnell

14 Oct

It’s been QUITE A WHILE since I posted a book review. Perhaps that’s because I’ve not felt inspired to do so in a while? Maybe, maybe not. At any rate, I felt VERY inspired to write about Patrick McDonnell’s (he’s the creator of the Mutts comic and several other lovely picture books) new story, The Monsters’ Monster.

Grump, Groan and Gloom ‘n Doom are monsters. At least, they THINK so. The like to SMASH, BASH and CRASH, and they live in a gloomy castle on a hill above a monster-fearing town. However, they can’t decide which of them is the MOST monsterly. All of their debates on the subject end in a brawl (these are two of the glorious vocabulary words used in the book: debate and brawl). So, Grump, Groan and Gloom ‘n Doom decide to solve the problem by making the BIGGEST, BADDEST monster EVER. They gather supplies (like gunk, glue, and a smelly old shoe) and, in true Frankenstein fashion, raise their monster up to the heavens for a jolt of lightning. When their monster is lowered to the ground and begins to tear off his bandages, they cheer “It’s alive!”

And then the monster utters his first words: “DANK YOU.”

Wait, what? Who is this BIG, BAD monster saying thank you? Monsters don’t say  that! But Monster finally plows through a wall and heads toward the village to the bakery. Grump, Groan and Gloom ‘n Doom  cheer and follow closely behind, hoping to hear the “howls and yowls” of the bakery’s inhabitants. But when Monster emerges, having NOT smashed up the bakery, with a small white paper bag, what will they do?

This is JUST the right kind of not-so-scary story that’s right for young kids. It’s a bit long for toddlers, and introduces lots of great new words to add to a preschooler’s vocabulary. And the message of happiness at simply being alive? LOVELY. McDonnell’s illustrations are silly and filled with detail, but the muted shades of green, orange and grey are just right for the slightly-eerie tone. Add this to your Halloween or Monster storytime ASAP. You WON’T regret it – and neither will the kids who get to enjoy it!


SNOOOORRE! Bedtime Stories Make Me Sleepy.

11 Oct

There are SO MANY good bedtime stories to choose from.  I think the ones I use skew toward the lively, as otherwise I’d be putting myself to sleep. Here’s what we’re reading (more than needed for a standard storytime, but I always have extras):

  • Stein, David Ezra. Interrupting Chicken. Oh, how I love this book. Little Red Chicken is supposed to be relaxing and falling asleep while Papa reads her a story, but she can’t help…interrupting. Great way to introduce this new word!
  • Yolen, Jane. How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight/¿Cómo dan las buenas noches los dinosaurios?  A new classic. And you get to fake cry! Bonus!
  • Dewdney, Anna. Llama Llama Red Pajama/La llama Llama rojo pijama. I love it when great stories like this are translated into another language AND it still rhymes AND the story hasn’t changed much. Occasionally the English and Spanish versions of a story will be completely different! Not here. The story of little Llama’s bedtime drama is the same.
  • Fingerplay (or fingerpuppets or flannelboard): 5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed! Here’s a printable flannelboard or magnet version.
  • Root, Phyllis.  Creak! Said the Bed. Mama lets everyone into the bed on a cold, blustery night. Dad says no to letting one more family member in, but he jumps in anyway – to disastrous results.
  • Flannelboard (or action rhyme): 10 in the bed
  • Bardhan, Sudipta. Chicks Run Wild! Mama wants her chicks to go to bed. But when she leaves the room, they run WILD!

Other books I like:

  • Chaconas, Dori. Can’t Sleep Without Sheep! Ava needs the sheep to keep jumping the fence in order to fall asleep. But when they quit the job, can any other animal replace them?
  • Fore, S.J. Tiger Can’t Sleep. The boy can’t sleep because there’s a tiger in his closet…eating potato chips! Boy implores Tiger to be quiet as tiger continues to engage in all kinds of noisy activities.
  • Wood, Audrey. Napping House/La casa adormecida. A fun cumulative tale with lots of sleep-related vocabulary.
  • Wilson, Karma. Bear Snores On. On a cold night, the animals gather in bear’s cave and have a party. But bear misses it – he’s too busy snoring!
  • Martin jr., Bill. Kitty Cat, Kitty Cat, Are You Going to Bed? A rhyming story about kitty’s activities at bedtime.
  • Weeks, Sarah. Counting Ovejas. A bilingual story of a boy counting colorful sheep. A lovely concept book!

*Yawn* I think I need a nap now. Read me a bedtime story?


Trailer Tuesday! Pete the Cat Saves Christmas by Eric Litwin

25 Sep

Anyone who follows this blog (or knows me even slightly) knows how much I LOVE Pete the Cat. LOVE. So much so that I had him tattooed on my arm (yes, really!). So I’m excited to share the book trailer for the new Pete story: Pete the Cat Saves Christmas! Now, generally, I’m not a big fan of Christmas tie-in books. They always feel forced – as if the publisher said to the author one day: “we need you to write a Christmas book next. They sell big.” I haven’t seen this one yet, so I can’t comment, but based on the trailer it looks like it might be alright. I have high hopes!

New(ish) Books I (And the Preschoolers) Love: Spring 2012 Edition

31 May

May storytimes for me are always theme-less; as I am in the fortunate position to be able to give each child in my program a new book to keep (thanks, Library Foundation!) part of the time we would spend reading stories is spent on choosing our books. So I generally just grab some cool new books to share with the kids in an abbreviated storytime. Here are some of the new ones we love:

  • Litwin, Eric. Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons. It’s obvious I love Pete, as I’ve posted before about this book here and here.
  • Haughton, Chris. Oh No, George! George wants to be good. He hopes to be good. But it’s tough making good choices when there’s a WHOLE CAKE left unprotected in the kitchen! The ending is left open for us to decide what choice George makes. I adore the abstract illustrations using mostly pink, red, orange, blue and green.
  • Seeger, Laura Vaccaro. Green. So many shades of green! So many beautifully painted illustrations!
  • Willems, Mo. The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? The pigeon faces yet another injustice with his usual…ahem…grace?
  • Cleminson, Kate. Otto the Book Bear. This isn’t a rollicking silly story, but rather a quiet tale of a book character who comes to life when no one’s looking, and when his readers accidentally leave him behind, sets off to find a new home.
  • Jeffers, Oliver. Stuck. Not so new, as it came out last fall, but I hadn’t yet shared it with the kids. Oliver’s solution, when his kite becomes stuck in the tree, is to throw everything at it. Including the kitchen sink.
  • Intriago, Patricia. Dot. Also not so new, but the first time I’ve shared it. What a cool way to illustrate opposites!
  • Moore, Inga. A House in the Woods. Also a fall 2011 release. When the pigs’ homes are destroyed (accidentally) by bear and moose, the four friends decide to build a house for all to share. They enlist the beavers (as construction crew) who demand peanut butter sandwiches as payment. The illustrations are filled with charming details that make this story a delight!

What are YOUR new favorites? I know I missed lots!

Friday Fun: The Preschoolers (and teachers) and I Read Pete the Cat by Eric Litwin

18 May

For your Friday entertainment, I recorded a class of preschoolers and their teachers reading Pete the Cat with me. They help out on the singing and with lots of the refrains. These teachers LOVE Pete and have shared him often with their students. They were excited to hear Eric Litwin’s new Pete the Cat story today, too, which we read before this one.

My favorite part, though, is near the end when a little boy comments on how his shoes are white like Pete’s.

Enjoy! I hope it makes you smile like it does me!

Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin

Happy Book Birthday to Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons!

1 May

I am in possession of a copy of this book RIGHT NOW and I can’t TELL you how excited I am. It’s wonderful! A good match for the first book. And the colors are bright and glorious. Plus there’s a very catchy chant:

I do NOT apologize for getting that stuck in your head. “My buttons, my buttons…”

Cars and Trucks and Things that Lazy Horses Like: A Transportation Storytime

23 Apr

Vroooom! Transportation is always a good preschool theme. Boys of course will get into it, but girls will enjoy hearing these stories too. My lazy horse puppet, Henry, introduces the storytime (I was trying to think of a puppet to go with the theme, and lit upon Henry: he’s an unusual horse in that he prefers riding in cars to running).

  • Lord, Cynthia. Hot Rod Hamster. Hamster wants to enter a hot rod race, so he visits the junkyard where the bulldog owner helps him build a custom ride. The refrain “which would you choose?” lets kids weigh in.
  • McMullan, Kate. I’m Fast! The newest in this series features a train squaring off against a car in a race to Chicago. Who will get there first? Lots of great noises to make, like the train’s steady “chookachookachookachooka” sound.
  • Flannelboard: “There Was a Young Woman Who Rode in a Car.” 
  • Durango, Julia. Go-Go Gorillas. When Big Daddy Gorilla, the King, orders everyone to the Gorilla Villa for an announcement, each gorilla uses a different mode of transportation to get there. Includes the fun refrain “Go go gorillas gotta go gorillas go!”
  • Flannelboard: “Where Does This Go?”
  • Song: “The Wheels on the Bus.” A classic good time. And for you ukulele newbies, it only uses 2 chords! A great song to start out with – very easy to play. And the kids love it! You can mix it up by suggesting silly things on the bus, like dinosaurs. Roar! Here’s Eric Litwin/Pete the Cat’s version:

Other stories I love:

  • Docherty, Thomas. To The Beach. Short, but with illustrations that give great clues about what’s coming next!
  • Burningham, John. Mr. Gumpy’s Outing. For the longest time my brain insterted an “r” in the title and I read this as Mr. Grumpy. But no, MR. GUMPY takes two children and a bunch of animals out on his boat, with conditions: they are not to chase, kick, tease, etc. Of course, they do everything he asked them not to do, and the boat tips over.  A great story for introducing and talking about new vocabulary like squabble, trample, and bleat (not to be confused with bleed).
  • Mayo, Margaret. Choo Choo Clickety-Clack! Lots of different kinds of transportation represented.
  • Stanley, Mandy. Lettice the Flying Rabbit Lettice dreams of flying. And one day, when she finds a toy plane, she gets her chance!
  • Zane, Alexander. The Wheels on the Race Car. If we don’t sing the song, I like to sing this story.
  • Stein, Peter. Cars Galore. So. Many. Cars.!
  • Lewis, Kevin. My Truck Is Stuck! The driver needs help when his truck’s tire gets stuck in a hole. Little does he know, though, that something is happening to his load.
  • Schertle, Alice. Little Blue Truck. Little Blue Truck helps, even the big, noisy, rude truck.

What are your favorite transportation-themed stories? Ready…set….GO!

Trailer Tuesday: The Pigeon Gets a Cookie by Mo Willems

3 Apr

Not much more needs to be said other than: THERE’S A NEW PIGEON BOOK AND IT’S OUT TODAY!!! Pigeons worldwide comment:

(Thanks, Mr. Schu, for pointing out the video!)

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