Tag Archives: books

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!”?

Story Stretcher: In Front of My House by Marianne Dubuc

21 Aug

Some books really lend themselves to discussion. They make storytimes REALLY conversational and fun. Marianne Dubuc’s In Front of My House might not make the best storytime story (the book is kinda small so wouldn’t work for big crowds) but reading it one-on-one could prompt some fun storytelling, or, if you’ve got a class of kindergarteners or 1st graders, lead to a great writing exercise.

The story begins with: “On a little hill, behind a brown fence, under a big oak tree, [and on the opposite page] is…” The next page follows with a noun: “my house.” Opposite that is another prepositional phrase: “In front of my house….” and we have to turn the page to see what’s in front. The book continues in this way, with noun on the left and prepositional phrase on the right, as the story gets more and more outrageous, and princesses, vampires, an orangutan, and outer space come in to play (not at all in a scary way).*

Can you see the possibilities? It would be great fun to create your own story using In Front of My House as a model. Kids could write and illustrate their own stories, or you could take turns creating the story out loud.  Mine would go something like this:

On a mountain, by a lake, there is….a cabin

In front of the cabin…a garden

In the garden….some flowers.

On the flowers….a bee.

Near the bee…a window.

In the window…a face.

On the face…a smile.

Hmmm…I’ll have to think about the rest of it.

 

*One picture is of a hunter with a gun. He’s not doing anything with it, or aiming it, just holding it. It’s not mentioned in the story. But some schools have rules about guns, so I thought I would give a heads’ up.

Pete the Cat Visits the Library!

15 Aug

A few months ago, Pete the Cat visited my library. Of course, I decided to document his visit, as he’s such a celebrity around here. I think he had fun, but you be the judge.

He started by checking out the picture book collection. of course, his story was checked out:

He did find another book about cats he thought he’d like to read, though (the lovely blue cover caught his eye): Vivianne Schwarz’s There Are No Cats In This Book.

No cats IN the book, but one cat ON it! Ba-dum-dum!

 

He went to check it out but had a little trouble with the self-check; luckily a friendly staff person was ready to help:

No, Pete, I don't think that's where the RFID tag is.

Next, he went to try out the internet. Those cordless mice are tricky!

Especially when you don't have clicking fingers

Needless to say, he went right to his favorite website:

It's PetetheCat.com!

He also checked out StoryBlocks, and learned a few new songs:

It was time for me to head off to a preschool for storytime, so Pete decided he wanted to go along and be the special guest star:

Pete ALWAYS wears his seat belt

Here he’s relaxing in the book bag, waiting for his surprise appearance!

When he got back to the library he was a bit hungry, so he checked out what was in the vending machine (sadly, no goldfish crackers, but there was a can of tuna salad):

Luckily, someone had left a bag of chocolate truffles unattended:

After renewing his strength with a snack, he ran into a few friends:

Frog and Toad:

(Pete can't remember which one's Frog and which one's Toad)

Tacky the Penguin:

Lookin' good there, Tacky!

And Splat the Cat:

And he made some new friends!:

Pete phone home?

He did a little more exploring around the work rooms of the library, and was almost shipped to another branch when he fell into a delivery tub! Better be more careful, Pete!:

What a busy day! Pete had such fun at the library, but it was time to head home. But not before one last look at the books!

Err...one last pose on the books?

Thanks for stopping by, Pete! We enjoyed having you! You were rockin’ (in your school shoes)!

Books to look forward to: Ollie the Purple Elephant by Jarrett J. Krosoczka!

13 Aug

I adore Jarrett J. Krosozcka’s books – especially Punk Farm, which allows me to release my inner Ramone – so it’s a foregone conclusion that I would be excited for the release of Ollie the Purple Elephant. And after watching this video, where Jarrett describes how Ollie was imagined, and a bit of the story, I’m even more excited to read it!

Bonus: learn how to properly pronounce “Krosoczka.” I am pleased to hear that I’ve not been mangling it all these years.

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This storytime is a little fishy…

21 Feb

Okay, that was lame. I admit.

But yes, this is a storytime about fish. Or, more broadly, sea creatures. I start with my fish puppet hidden and ask the kids what animals live in the ocean. I get lots of suggestions before the fish comes out to “bloop bloop” his hello. And, we’re off swimming!

  • Diesen, Deborah. The Pout-Pout Fish. One of the reasons I love this book is for the performance opportunity it gives me.

    Let's go for a swim!

    The Pout-Pout fish sounds a bit like Eeyore, I think, and that’s how his voice comes out of me. Plus, the story is sweet.

  • Grace, Will. The Three Little Fish and the Big Bad Shark. The kids recognize this as a variation of “The Three Little Pigs,” which is cool!
  • Flannelboard: “Five Little Sea Creatures” I substituted a crab for the lobster because that’s the pattern I had. The kids named all the sea creatures and helped with the counting.
  • Peck, Jan. Way Down Deep in the Deep Blue Sea. As early literacy skills learning goes, this book is a winner. It’s repetitive, has opportunities for the kids to participate (by naming the sea creatures and “swimming away”), and is generally just all around fun.
  • Song: “Slippery Fish” – by Charlotte Diamond. Oh, we love this song! It’s silly and gets us all up and moving as we pretend to “swim” our hands like fish, wiggle our tentacles like octopus, and use our arms as a shark’s gaping jaws.

Other books I might substitute based on group’s mood/attention span or my boredom:

  • Blackstone, Stella. Secret Seahorse.  The kids look for the seahorse on each page and tell me where it is. They are not allowed to simply point and say “there!”; they have to describe it’s location with more vocabulary.
  • Cousins, Lucy. Hooray for Fish! “Spotty fish, stripy fish. Happy fish, gripy fish.” Hello, new vocabulary word! Easily deciphered as a synonym for grumpy based on the fish’s face.
  • Heck, Ed. Big Fish, Little Fish. The kiddos help “read” this one, as I read “big fish,” and they can easily recognize the refrain “little fish.” There are also lots of opposites.

Now I gotta get out of the water. My fingers are getting pruny.

We’re Reading Dogs and Cats: A Storytime

1 Feb

Woof! Dog stories. Cat stories. Dog AND cat stories. Here are my picks for a Dog-tastic and Cat-tacular storytime!

I have a lovely chocolate lab puppy puppet, named Hershey,Daisy Kitty who introduces our theme. We talk about why he’s named after chocolate (his color) and if he can eat chocolate (NO WAY! POISON!). We’re going to read stories about dogs, but also some cats, too, because I have the lovely creature to the right living in my house and I’m a bit biased.

  • Masurel, Clare. A Cat and A Dog=Un gato y un perro. A very simple story of a cat and a dog that don’t get along, but the preschoolers love it. We try predicting what will happen when the dog’s ball gets stuck in the tree and the cat’s fish goes in the water.
  • Alborough, Jez. Some Dogs Do. Magical realism in a picture book! “Do dogs fly? Is it true? Some dogs don’t, and some dogs do.”
  • Flannelboard: BINGO. My post on this, and pictures of my flannelboard, here.
  • Dodd, Emma. I Don’t Want a Cool Cat. After reading this one, I follow it up with I Don’t Want a Posh Dog. This gives us the opportunity to compare the covers and talk about what’s the same (the girl), what’s different (one has a dog, the other a cat), and the author’s name on both books (building print awareness and learning about authors and illustrators!).

Other books I like and will trade out for some of the above:

  • Beaumont, Karen.Move Over, Rover! A great repeated line, perfect for little kids who want to help.
  • Gravett, Emily. Dogs. The way Gravett depicts the dog that barks is perfect!
  • Henkes, Kevin. Kitten’s First Full Moon=La primera luna llena de gatita. Beautiful, expressive black-and-white illustrations.
  • Himmelman, Jon. Katie Loves the Kittens. The illustrations/book size are a little small for a large group, but if you’ve got a smaller group, or are sharing with just one young person, this one is lovely. It’s so much fun to express Katie’s excitement: “AROOOOOO!!”

And, don’t forget, when you’re doing dog and cat storytime, you can always include Soft Kitty.  Although I’m kinda partial to this version, performed by a colleague of mine in Colorado.

October means MONSTER STORYTIME!

21 Oct

Last fall, I posted the plan to my monster-themed storytime, that I do around this time every year.  It’s a lot of fun for me, and, I think, the kids, too.

I wanted to add a couple of new additions for this year:

  • McCarty, Peter. Jeremy Draws a Monster. When Jeremy draws a monster, he soon realizes his mistake when the monster asks him to draw item after item: a sandwich, a comfortable chair, a television. But Jeremy’s pen also yields the solution in this non-scary monster book. I don’t THINK I really do voices, but when I read this one for the first time, the monster’s voice came out of me so clearly. It’s a sort of slightly-gruffer, more-enunciated Grover voice.
  • I like this rhyme:

If I were a happy  monster, I’d go HA! HA! HA!

If I were a sad monster, I’d go BOO HOO HOO.

If I were a mad monster, I’d go STOMP! STOMP! STOMP!

If I were a scared monster, I’d go AHH! AHH! AHH!

But I’m just me, you see, so I’ll just READ, READ, READ. (open and close hands like a book)

I hope you’re all having fun with your little monsters (and I’m not referring to the Lady Gaga kind)!

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