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I <3 Picture Books

12 Aug

Oh, how I love them!

This morning I had the pleasure of helping my sister pick out books for a coworker who was about to become a new father. I was delighted that my sister wanted my help (I mean, I know a bit about picture books) and soon piled her up with a bunch of titles to look through. She ended up choosing two board books: Rod Campbell’s Dear Zoo (a classic favorite) and Susie Gharemani’s Stack the Cats (a new favorite now in board book format), as well as a book for the baby to grow into: Jeremy Tankard’s Grumpy Bird (close to my heart as I have a Grumpy Bird tattoo that Jeremy drew).

Woman in a chair reading a book. Next to her are piles of picture books and a child's puzzle.

When your sister is a children’s librarian you end up with piles of books to look through. 

Sitting here in one of my favorite book stores, The Tattered Cover, surrounded by books, I’m inspired to share with you some of my newest picture book favorites:

Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Lovejulian

Oh, this book is beautiful. Spare text and absolutely gorgeous illustrations tell the story of Julián, a boy who, upon seeing three women dressed as mermaids on the subway, decides he wants to be one too. He uses things he finds around his Abuela’s house to create his own tail and headdress, but when she sees what he’s done, will she approve? Without saying a word, Abuela helps Julián make his dream come true.

sadI’m Sad by Michael Ian Black and Debbie Ridpath Ohi

I adored I’m Bored by the same team and this one is equally silly, sweet and charming. A girl and her potato friend (yes, I said POTATO) try and help their buddy flamingo cheer up. But what if, sometimes, we’re just sad? For no reason at all? Normalizing feelings is important, and this story does it with wit and kindness.

The Rabbit Listened by Cory Doerrfeldrabbit listened

This is another story that respects the child and their feelings. What do you do when your block tower is knocked over and you feel sad and mad? Lots of animals have suggestions, but the rabbit – the rabbit just listens.

babyBaby Goes to Market by Atinuke and Angela Brooksbank

Early math! In colorful, vibrant illustrations and repeated text, Atinuke tells the story of baby and momma visiting an outdoor market and getting more than they planned.

Niblet and Ralph by Zacharia O’Horaniblet

It’s a case of mistaken identity! With cats. And new friends. And super-cool illustrations. What else do you need? Also, I want to name a future cat Niblet.

penguinPenguin and Tiny Shrimp Don’t Do Bedtime by Cate Berry and Charles Santoso

Bedtime is one of my fave storytime themes and so I tried this out on a group of kids the other day. BIG HIT. What kid doesn’t want to put off bedtime as long as possible? Right? That’s good, because this is DEFINITELY not a bedtime book. It’s got lions, adventuring, and NO, I REPEAT, ABSOLUTELY NO yawning.

The picture book world is filled with absolutely wonderful stories and if you haven’t spent some time with them recently, you absolutely should. What are your favorites?



3 Jun

Hopefully I’ve set you up with a nice Marvin Gaye earworm.

What’s going on with me? It’s been a while since I’ve posted much other than a ukulele update. Which is useful to a small few, I’m sure, but there’s a lot more going on in the Miss Mary Liberry world than ukulele storytime concerts.

I still work in a public library. I still plan and present the Stories and More program. I still love it: kids, books, caregivers, fun and learning.

I still read and love and share picture books, early readers, middle grade fiction, and young adult fiction. I do a lot of sharing on my twitter feed – I should share more here.

But my biggest news relating to children’s books, I suppose, is that about a year ago I finished the first draft of my first-ever picture book manuscript. Idea by me. Written by me. Wait, what? How did that happen?

The truth is, I’d had ideas in the past. But this one, strangely, emerged from my sleep-addled brain one morning almost fully formed. Premise, dialogue, everything except the resolution and conclusion. I had the presence of mind to actually open my computer and write it down and for that I am extremely grateful to past me. Go, past me!

It took me probably a couple of years to figure out how to end the story. I talked to lots of people, and they gave me lots of good ideas. Finally, after a month or so of work, I figured it out. The ending. Whoo hoo!

I sent the thing off to some friends for their opinions – my boyfriend, my family, but also a group of children’s librarians I respect and love, my fellow Storytime Underground joint-chiefs. Each provided great feedback and ideas, and from there the revising began.

Last August I decided I was ready to start the submission process. I’ve been a member of SCBWI for a couple years but this was when I really took advantage of the resources they offer (that membership money is well-spent, y’all): their “Essential Guide to Publishing for Children” offered me a crash-course in how to get my book published that I needed to get started. I read up on next steps: would I submit my manuscript directly to a publisher? Or did I need an agent?

I decided I needed an agent. After more research into the agent querying process, and many query letter drafts, I submitted my first queries on August 5, 2017.

Now, almost a year later, I’m up to 20 queries. I’ve had 4 outright rejections, and many more “no responses.”

In the grand scheme of things, this is just a drop in the bucket. I know writers who’ve sent hundreds of queries before they got signed by an agent. So I keep researching agents, and trying again.

I’ve also written a second manuscript and just today sent it out for the first time.

[ETA: And now I’m learning that I really should have at least THREE manuscripts polished and ready to go. The books don’t tell you that; and this is why personal connections are valuable. I have so much to learn. And, fortunately, a couple more ideas in the works that I will kickstart so that I have at least three viable options to share with agents.]

It’s a hard process, and I get frustrated and depressed. I read picture books at work all the time, and while many are excellent, occasionally I think “THIS got published and nobody likes mine?” I know that’s an extreme take, and I’ve only been working at this for a short time, but it’s easy to let the irrational thoughts in some time.

We just have to keep plugging along. If I believe it will happen, and I keep working to make it happen, it will happen, right? RIGHT?

At times I feel unworthy because, as I said, I’ve not been writing actively for more than a few years. But then I think it might mean something that I’ve devoted most of my professional life to sharing picture books with young children and their caregivers? So, like, I’ve been researching the hell out of picture books for almost 20 years? That counts, right?

I don’t know.

I’m grateful for many twitter friends and (unbeknownst to them) mentors like Julie Falatko, Tara Lazar and other writers who have unwittingly provided me with guidance and motivation. I have read about others’ processes and learned, in the end, there is no one way to be a writer. There is no one “path” to publishing. All are valid. Mine is valid.

So I suppose I will “keep on keepin’ on,” as they (whoever they are) say. The process will continue it’s ups and downs and I can only hope that one day in the not-to-distant future I will open my email inbox to a message from an agent saying they’re interested in my work. And on that day I will text my family, treat myself to a donut, smile internally and externally, and go to work at the library with an extra bit of oomph.

Whew. Thanks for reading my stream-of-consciousness update.

TL;DR: I’m still a librarian. I wrote a couple of picture book manuscripts. They’re not published – YET.




#PB10for10: My Favorite Everyday Diversity Books

10 Aug

Hi! It’s August 10 and apparently (this is new to me today) that means it’s 10 for 10 day – pb 10 for 10 01510 picture books on August 10! I just learned about this today but it’s been going on for several years – organized by Mandy Robeck and Cathy Mere. Wanna join in? Here are the “rules“.

I thought I’d share 10 of my favorite “everyday diversity” books. What’s everyday diversity? Well according to my friend Anna who writes the amazing Everyday Diversity blog, books that feature everyday diversity are “books that predominantly feature People of Color and Native Americans as main characters in contemporary everyday life.” These are books that don’t deal with issues such as racism, religion, “other cultures”, etc., but are simply about children being children and doing what children do. These characters could be (and are!) children anywhere.

These are some of my faves. There are certainly more, but I had to stick to 10!

#PB10FOR10Favorite Everyday Diversity Picture

Lola Loves Stories by Anna McQuinnlola

I love ALL the Lola and Leo stories. Lola is a little girl who loves to go to the library, readstories, and play with her friends. The books are toddler-friendly and great for storytime. And – I once gave one of the Lola books away to a little girl who looked EXACTLY like Lola. When the girl was choosing her book, she saw Lola on the cover, pointed at it, and said in a reverent voice, “I want THAT one.” Representation matters.max

Max Speed! by Stephen Shaksan

Max may be my new favorite daredevil! Max faces all kinds of challenges but faces them with bravery and pluck.


I Got the Rhythm by Connie Schofield-Morrison; Illustrated by Frank Morrison

A little girl hops and bops and dances all the way to the park while others join in. A great storytime selection with a beat!

Marta! Big and Small by Jen Arenas; Illustrated by Angela M. Dominguezmarta

Marta compares herself to different animals in this happy opposites books. Spanish words are introduced with their English counterparts and we learn adjectives and animal names. A great toddler or preschooler choice.

One Family by George Shannon; illustrated by Blanca Gomezfamily

Multiple configurations – including grandparents, biracial caregivers, same-sex caregivers, different religions (I’m saying caregivers rather than parents because I don’t know their relationship to the child – only that they are caring for the child) – each make up ONE family. The first picture book in which I saw a Sikh family represented.

Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel maybeCampoy; Illustrated by Rafael López

Mira, a young artist, is inspired by a local muralist to enlist the community to transform her neighborhood into “something beautiful.” The illustrations – by the muralist who inspired the story – are especially eye-catching.

We Love You, Rosie! by Cynthia Rylant; Illustrated by Linda Davickrosie

Rosie the dog is sometimes in, sometimes out. She’s sometimes bad, and sometimes good. But she’s always, always loved. This is a sweet introduction to opposites suitable for toddlers.


My Heart Fills With Happiness by Monique Grey Smith; Illustrated by Julie Flett

This is a beautiful, warm board book reminding us of the many things that makeus happy, including holding the hand of someone we love. A great title to share in baby storytime (or give as baby shower gifts!)

Maggie and Michael Get Dressed by Denise Flemingmaggie

Michael and his dog Maggie attempt to get dressed in the morning – but Maggie wants to put everything on wrong! This toddler-friendly book looks at colors and body parts in a playful way.

Bob, Not Bob! by Liz Garton Scanlon and Audrey Vernick; Illustrated by Matthew Cordellbob

The instructions at the top of this 2017 title say this is “to be read as though you have the worst cold ever.” When you read it aloud in such a way, calling for you MOM sounds exactly like you’re calling for your dog, who happens to be named BOB. This is a silly read-aloud that every child will relate to.

These are but a few of the growing (but not big enough!) body of picture books featuring diverse kids doing things that kids do. I’m glad the publishing world is taking notice, but there’s still a long way to go.

What are your favorites? Check out the twitter hashtag #PB10for10 to see more great lists and suggestions!

Stories and More: Music is for Everyone!

8 Aug

Yeah, I’m a few months behind in posting these. But here’s what we did for Stories and More in December – and BOY was it fun. Can you say MUSICAL INSTRUMENT PETTING ZOO??


Singing and music help build many early literacy skills. Singing helps a child better hear the smaller sounds that make up words – which helps with sounding out words. They also learn about rhyming and vocabulary. Plus, singing leads to dancing and moving, which, as we know, is a great way for young kids to learn. They need to use their whole bodies!

Storytime plan:

Opening song: Hello and How Are You?

Hello, hello, hello and how are you?

I’m fine, I’m fine, I hope that you are too!

Introductions and Early Literacy Reminder: Singing is a great way for children to develop lots of pre-reading skills! It breaks words up so that they can hear the smaller sounds in them. It also helps with memory and grows vocabulary! So let’s sing!

Rhyme: Wake Up Toes

Wake Up Toes, wake up toes, wake up toes and wiggle, wiggle wiggle.

Wake up toes, wake up toes, wake up and wiggle in the morning!

jazz baby

Ask for suggestions for more body parts to wake up!

Book: Jazz Baby by Lisa Wheeler – this is a great story with a beat! The kids and caregivers can help out!

Shaker Egg Song: Can you shake your egg with me?

[Tune: London Bridges]

Can you shake your egg with me? It’s as easy as can be

Shake your egg along with me. Now put it on your…TUMMY!

Continue with other body parts!

Shaker Egg Song: “I Know a Chicken” by Laurie Berkner

Settling Rhyme: 1 Little Fish

One little fish is swimming in the water (put palms together and zig zag like a fish swimming)

Swimming in the water,

Swimming in the water,

One little fish is swimming in the water,

Bubble, bubble, bubble, bubble, POP! (raise hands and clap together on POP!)



Book: Seals on the Bus by Lenny Hort


Early Literacy Reminder: This book is sung to a familiar tune – but with a twist! You can take a familiar song and change the words to be about anything you want – like a daily routine! Sing while you brush teeth, put on clothes – anytime!

Flannelboard: Brown Bear, Brown Bear (sung to the tune of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”)

Song: “If You’re Happy and You Know It”

Goodbye Rhyme: Our Hands Say Thank You

Our hands say thank you with a clap, clap, clap

And our feet say thank you with a tap, tap, tap.

Clap clap clap,

Tap, tap, tap,

Turn around and take a bow.

Early Literacy Play Activities:


As promised: MUSICAL INSTRUMENT PETTING ZOO! The kids tried out a bunch of different instruments (including my ukulele – I took a gamble and it paid off ; they were great with it!). My boyfriend had recently given me a set of bongos and we loved that. Otherwise, we used rhythm instruments (sticks, bells, sand blocks), this set of Melissa and Doug instruments, a mini accordion, a mini glockenspiel (I LOVE SAYING GLOCKENSPIEL), and a set of toddler/baby instruments so the littlest ones could join in too. We made a TON of noise which was great but in case any of the children attending had sensory challenges I had a couple pair of noise-reducing headphones on hand in case of need.

Also, we had a dance party. While the music got a bit drowned out by the instruments, if anyone was interested in dancing while playing I had this soundtrack going.


happyBooks: We took home books that had to do with music or could be sung. Babies got Toot! Toot! Guess the Instrument. Toddlers took home If You’re Happy and You Know It  (the Jane Cabrera version, which is my favorite). Preschoolers got Seals on the Bus.

Activities: Babies took home one of these Feely Fish (they don’t seem to be available anymore), which I suggested caregivers use while singing “1 Little Fish” at home. Toddlers and preschoolers got wrist ribbons to use while dancing.

Here is the handout that went in the bags and includes more information on the books and activities and how to use them, plus additional ideas for home.

I hope this is useful! Let me know if you have any questions or comments.

FREE Webinar! Growing Executive Function Skills in Storytime

10 May

Guess what! I’m presenting! A webinar! And it’s FREE! It’s not only for library staff who present storytimes but also ECE providers. It’s provided via the excellent Early Childhood Investigations, who, if you’re not familiar with them already, you should GET familiar with because not only do they provide outstanding webinars, they’re always FREE. Getcha some professional development, y’all!

What you’ll get out of it: you will learn:


My totes profesh picture. Do we still say “totes”?

  • What executive function is
  • Why executive function is important to success in learning and life
  • Specific activities and books they can share in order to help the children in their care develop executive function

Studies are showing that “soft”, or executive function, skills, are better predictors of success in life than cognitive skills – the “hard” knowledge we have. Soft skills include being able to put information together creatively, self-regulate, and take on other perspectives. We grow these skills regularly in storytime and our webinar will tell you how and give you more ideas about how to help your children develop.

I hope you’ll join us!



Stories and More: We <3 Reading!

2 May

I’m a million years behind (slight exaggeration) in posting but here’s what we did for Stories and More in November!


Children who have positive experiences with books – like being read to by someone who loves and cares for them – are motivated to become readers. So this month I tried to focus on loving books and reading! We shared stories and rhymes I love, and we made our own books!

Storytime plan:

Opening song: Hello and How Are You?

Hello, hello, hello and how are you?

I’m fine, I’m fine, I hope that you are too!

Introductions and Early Literacy ReminderChildren who love books and reading want to become readers! The best way to do that is to make reading FUN.  Today we’re going to share some of my FAVORITE stories. They don’t have to be your favorites, too, but I hope that you like them!

Rhyme: Wake Up Toes

Wake Up Toes, wake up toes, wake up toes and wiggle, wiggle wiggle.

Wake up toes, wake up toes, wake up and wiggle in the morning!

Ask for suggestions for more body parts to wake up!

Early Literacy Reminder: This is one of my favorite books and it demonstrates so well the power books can have to grow a child’s imagination. Listen to the story and considerlola what you and your child might play after reading a story.

Book: Lola Loves Stories by Anna McQuinn


Active song: Hurry, Hurry Drive the Firetruck

Hurry, hurry, drive the firetruck (pretend to steer)

Hurry, hurry, drive the firetruck

Hurry, hurry, drive the firetruck

Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! (pretend to ring bell)

Continue with: Hurry, hurry turn the corner (lean to the side), climb the ladder (pretend to climb), squirt the water (pretend to hold hose and spray water), back to the station (pretend to steer)


FingerplayHere Are My Glasses

Here are my glasses (hold up hands with index fingers and thumbs in a circle like glasses),

Here is my book (hold hands together like a book),

I put on my glasses (hold finger circles up to eyes)

And I open up my book (open hands)

I read, read, read (move hands)

And I look, look, look (move head with finger circles over eyes)

I take off my glasses (move finger circles)

And I [clap] close up my book!

Flannelboard: Hooray for Hat!

Settling Rhyme: One Little Fish

One little fish is swimming in the water (put palms together and zig zag like a fish swimming)

Swimming in the water,

Swimming in the water,

One little fish is swimming in the water,

Bubble, bubble, bubble, bubble, POP! (raise hands and clap together on POP!)moo

Book: Moo! by David LaRochelle

Song: Skinnamarink

Here’s the Sharon, Lois and Bram original. I found the ukulele chords here – although there are other versions; this one worked best for my voice. I also taught everyone the ASL signs for “I love you” before we sang.

Goodbye Rhyme: Our Hands Say Thank You

Our hands say thank you with a clap, clap, clap

And our feet say thank you with a tap, tap, tap.

Clap clap clap,

Tap, tap, tap,

Turn around and take a bow.

Early Literacy Play Activities:

One of our activities was to make our own books! What better way to love books than to make one of your own that you’re sure to love because YOU made it? I found blank board books at Bare Books for the babies and we got these paper books from Office Depot. Kids had markers, stickers, and stamps of various kinds to use to create their own stories. I encouraged parents to ask their kids about what they were creating and to write words for them if desired.

Our second activity was pretend play – and making up stories – using plastic dinosasurs, animals, and bugs. The kids loved talking about the animals and what they were doing.



grumpyBooks: Everyone took home a book I love. I hope they love them too – but it’s alright if they don’t. Babies took home a copy of Sandra Boynton’s Going to Bed Book (who DOESN’T love Sandra Boynton?). Toddlers got Lola Loves Stories and Preschoolers got a copy of Grumpy Bird, a book I love so much I have a Grumpy Bird tattoo.

Activities: Everyone took home their own handmade book. Several parents asked about where I got the blank books as they wanted to make more at home. I told them they could also simply staple several pages of paper together if they wanted.

Here is the handout that went in the bags and includes more information on the books and activities and how to use them, plus additional ideas for home.

I hope this is useful! Let me know if you have any questions or comments.

The Alphabet For Us: New Alphabet Song for Storytime!

23 Apr

Hey guys, I wrote a thing! This melody magically formed itself in my head one morning, and soon alphabet lyrics started joining it. I had the good sense to record it on a voice recorder, and later I fleshed out the lyrics. I tried to use words that don’t appear in lots of alphabet songs but might be somewhat familiar (except for the Xantus, of course. I had to google that one).

Here’s the tune and ukulele chords! The lyrics are written below. As I say in the video, the fun part is that you can substitute any words you want for each of the letters – except maybe for the last two verses, as those are the ones that rhyme. Put in silly words, vocabulary words, new words, whatever! (Thanks Julie for the suggestion!)

Alphabet For Us from Mary K on Vimeo.

A is for Airplane, and B is for Bug,

C is for Cupcake, and D is for Dog,

E is for Eggplant, and F is for Fun,

And that’s the way the alphabet’s done.

G is for Gumdrop, and H is for House,

I is for Ice Cube, and J is for Jump,

K is for Kitchen, and L is for Land,

And that’s what makes the alphabet grand.

M is for Mushroom, and N is for Nose,

O is for Octopus, and P is for Pants,

Q is for Quiet, and R is for Run,

And that’s the way the alphabet’s done.

S is for Sandbox, and T is for Toes,

U is for Underwear, and V is for Vine,

W is for Walrus, and X is for Xantus (a kind of hummingbird),

And Y and Z end the alphabet for us.

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