Search This Blog


Saturday, November 21, 2015

Storytime Anytime: Thanksgiving!

I know that tinsel and garland are already spilling out of store aisles and some of you (insane people) may have already put up your Christmas trees. However, there are still a few days before Thanksgiving so let's take a look at some great books and activities to share while it is still November.

I mentioned Cranberry Christmas in a previous post, Tis the Season, but Cranberry Thanksgiving is actually the first book in the Cranberryport series by Wende and Harry Devlin. Yes, this book was written in 1971, but give it a chance because it is still a wonderful story about family, Thanksgiving tradition, and not judging people based on their appearances.

Another oldie, but goodie is Silly Tilly's Thanksgiving Dinner by the prolific children's author and illustrator, Lillian Hoban. If your child is beginning to read on their own this is a wonderful, simple easy reader for the Thanksgiving holiday.  I cannot imagine any little one not falling in love with Hoban's adorable woodland friends rendered in watercolor. If you clicked on the Tis the Season link above you probably noticed that Hoban is also the illustrator of my favorite Christmas story, Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas. I guess that it is hard not to go back to the authors and illustrators from your own childhood and want to share them with your own kids.

I promise that I do like picture books that were published in this century. One of my current favorites is Run,Turkey, Run! by Diane Mayr. This fun and colorful picture featuring a turkey trying to hide with other animals on the farm is perfect for younger kids.

If you like the idea of the turkey escaping, nothing compares to Dav Pilkey's (of Captain Underpants fame) Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving. This hilarious adaptation of  the classic Clement C. Moore poem tells the story of an elementary class on a field trip to a local farm. After having so much fun playing with the farmer's turkeys they are horrified to learn that their feathered friends are destined to be sold for Thanksgiving dinners. The children quickly formulate a plan save the turkeys by smuggling them on to the school bus.

There are countless picture books about the first Thanksgiving Day in case you are looking for something more historical. One of my favorites for preschool children is The Very First Thanksgiving Day by Rhonda Gowler Greene. The text of this story is reminiscent of The House That Jack Built. I particularly like how it begins with the first Thanksgiving dinner, works backwards to the Mayflower leaving Europe, and then finishes at the Thanksgiving dinner again. What makes The Very First Thanksgiving Day really stand out, though, is the stunning paintings by Susan Gaber.

Speaking of beautiful paintings, older children may enjoy is N.C. Wyeth's Pilgrims with text written by Robert San Souci. N.C. Wyeth was famous for illustrating classics such as Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe and also his paintings of the American Frontier. His paintings in Pilgrims are a gorgeous way to teach children about the first Thanksgiving, as well as, introduce them to the artwork of the Wyeth family

Wyeth's son and daughter, Andrew and Carolyn, and his grandson, Jamie, have all been talented and successful artists. Most of us have probably seen copies of Andrew's painting, Master Bedroom, which as the owner of yellow lab is one of my favorites.

Of course, a book does not have to be specifically about Thanksgiving Day to be perfect for the season. Three great books about giving thanks to those who love and help us are Splat the Cat Says Thank You by Rob Scotton, Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson, and Ten Thank You Letters by Daniel Kirk.
I am huge proponent of thank you letters and I make my own kids write them any time they receive a card or gift. Daniel Kirk's latest book is the ideal way to teach children the importance of saying thank you. In my opinion, making the effort to sit down and write a thank you shows that you really care. Also, it is an excellent way to sneak in some penmanship practice. Yes, I also make my older kids write in cursive. I am that cruel.

Brightly (which is one of my favorite book and activity blogs so check it out) has some excellent book-related printable activities here. One of them is a printable placemat featuring Pig and Rabbit from Ten Thank Yous and also some thank you cards you can print out for your kids to write.

You can look online and find oodles of Thanksgiving crafts from paper Pilgrim hats to hand print turkeys. Here are two of the crafts that I did with my storytime kids this November that were cute and relatively easy.

This is my fingerprint Indian corn. I cut the corn shapes out of old manila folder dividers (someone donated a gazillion of these to the library) which were the perfect color and sturdier than construction paper. You can buy the corn husk looking ribbon at Michael's or just use yarn or hemp to tie the two ears together. I put out red, yellow, brown, white, and orange paint and let the kids either use their fingers or a Q-tip to do the kernels. Some kids do not like getting paint on their fingers. This never fails to mystify me, because my kids have always loved to get messy. As you can see from the picture, some kids did better than others at making dots, but as long as they have fun making it, who cares? ff you do not want to use paint you can always cut circles out of construction paper and glue them on or just draw the kernels on with markers or crayons.

The turkey cup is just a cut and paste project that is pretty self-explanatory. I think that they would look pretty cute decorating a Thanksgiving table. You could turn the cup the other way around and put candy in it too. I must confess that I wanted the cups to be brown, but our cups had a waxy coating that made them impossible to color and paint would never dry enough to glue anything on it before the end of storytime. Doing the project at home would, obviously, give you a bit more time to paint the cups. Or you could just buy brown cups to begin with, which would be even easier.

Hopefully, I have given you some new suggestions for Thanksgiving books and activities and you will be able to hold off on Christmas for at least another week.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Baby Boom!

So, I recently found out that I am expecting my FOURTH child in 2016.  Telling my three older children that they would be getting a new sibling made me think about all of the wonderful picture books about brothers, sisters, and bringing home a new baby.

One of my favorite books about getting a new sibling (or several new siblings) is Fine As We Are by Algy Craig Hall. When Little Frog's mother asks him if he would like to have a brother or sister his response is "No. We're just fine as we are."

This is my favorite line of the book. Probably, because I think many young children, if given their druthers, would choose to not have a sibling. I know that my oldest daughter has been less than enthusiastic all three times we have informed her that a new brother or sister was on the way. Being 14 this last time, her response was: "I am not changing diapers!".

As expected, Little Frog is not a happy camper when oodles of tiny baby frogs are leaping all over the place. Eventually he comes to see that, even though little brothers and sisters can be loud and frustrating, they can also be fun.

Interesting side note: Fine As We Are was inspired by Algy Craig Hall's own experiences of being a very content only child until the day his parents brought home QAUDRUPLETS!!! Hey, he got off easy compared to Little Frog.

Along the same lines as Fine As We Are, but with a bit more humor is Another Brother by Matthew Cordell. Davy has 12 little brothers who annoyingly  copy every move he makes.That is until they get older and have interests of there own. Suddenly, Davy is all alone again and he is not sure if he like it.

I adore Cordell's playful and cartoony (I know that is not a word, but if you read the book you will understand what I mean) illustrations. I especially like the one where it shows his Petey puking on a scarf that Davy knitted.

If you like Another Brother check out Matthew Cordell's other books and his blog.  His most recently published book, Wish, is a beautiful story for new moms and dads who may (or may not have) encountered difficulties in starting a family.  Once again, you have Cordell's adorable, whimsical illustrations, this time featuring a family of elephants. The elephant couple want to have a baby, but begin to worry that it will never happen until, finally, their wish to expand their family is granted!  Wish is just a magical little story about the joy and wonder of starting a family.

Getting back to siblings there are plenty of books about bringing home a new baby that feature some of your favorite characters from children's literature. I grew up with all of the Frances books so, of course, I have to include A Baby Sister for Frances. The Frances books were written by Russell Hoban and illustrated by his then wife, Lillian Hoban. I know that I have mentioned this amazing writer/illustrator team as creating one of my all time favorite Christmas books, Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas, which was made into a Jim Henson Christmas special that I force my children to watch with me every December.

Speaking of husband and wife writing teams Stan and Jan Berenstain have a book titled The BerenstainBears' New Baby in which Sister Bear first joins the family. the nice thing about the Berenstain Bears book is that it does not just address the new baby, but also Mama Bear's pregnancy. When I was pregnant and my children were toddlers it was always difficult for them to accept that I could not carry or hold them like I used to. I particularly like the illustration that shows Mama Bear's lap getting smaller and smaller until Brother Bear eventually falls off.

Of course, there are five Berenstain Bears now so there is also a book about the arrival of Honey Bear titled The Berenstain Bears and Baby Makes Five. You can check out both to show your child how families can continue to change and grow.

Ok, my last book featuring a classic character is The New Baby by Mercer Meyer. Come on, it is impossible to dislike Little Critter and Meyer has written a book featuring the adorable little porcupine, guinea pig, wombat, or whatever the heck he is for every occasion.

Maybe your current children are asking more pointed questions about how this baby got in your tummy and they are not buying the whole stork fairy tale. Well, children's author, Robie H. Harris, has multiple books on the subject of the birds and the bees for every age level.

The great thing about these books is you can look through them and decide not only how much information your child is ready for, but also how much you are comfortable sharing. I think books are an excellent way to answer kids' questions without being reduced to stammers and giggles when they want to know how that baby got in your tummy.

I find it so sad that Harris' books top the list of banned books every year.  Eventually, kids are going to learn how things work and I would rather them receive factual and age appropriate information than whatever gobbledegook their best friend overheard from his 16 year old brother. Trust me because this happened  to me when my son was 10 and trying to undo what he learned on the school bus was much more difficult and embarrassing for me.

Now, if only someone would write a children's book that explains to my kids why mommy is laying on the bathroom floor after puking her guts out everyday. Why didn't Mama Bear have to deal with never ending morning sickness?

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Storytime Anytime: Trick-or-Treat!

Come on, Halloween is about more than free candy, right? Ha! My youngest son who is already ping-ponging off the walls in anticipation of trick-or-treating would vehemently disagree with me. However, I have always loved the entire Halloween season just as much if not more than tummy-busting quantities of sugar. I get excited just thinking about the cooler weather, leaf piles, bonfires, trips to the apple orchard, pumpkin carving, spooky decorations, costumes, etc.

Books are a great way to get your kids into the Halloween spirit. I know that I have mentioned it before, but The Hallo-wiener by Dav Pilkey is one of my absolute favorite Halloween picture books. If you have kids reading chapter books, you may recognize Dav Pilkey as the author of the Captain Underpants and Ricky the Robot series. Just thinking about the little dachshund who is so embarrassed by the hot dog costume his mother gets him for Halloween makes me laugh. The story actually has a wonderful message about the cruelty of teasing. Also, it is incredibly sweet how Oscar decides to wear the costume without complaining, because he does not want to hurt his mother feelings.

The 13 Nights of Halloween by Guy Vasilovich is a spooky spin on The 12 Days of Christmas song. The 13 Days of Halloween by Carol Green is the same sort of story, but I prefer the illustrations in the Vasilovich version.
I love those pigtails tied with bats:)


Every popular picture book series probably has a Halloween edition. Curious George Goes to a Costume Party, Clifford's First Halloween, Fancy Nancy: Halloween...or Bust! to name just a few.  One that I really enjoy is Click, Clack, Boo! by Doreen Cronin. If you are not familiar Click, Clack, Moo Cows that Type; Giggle, Giggle, Quack; Dooby Dooby Moo; and all of the other books starring Farmer Brown's barnyard of mischievous animals you should definitely give them a try. In Click, Clack, Boo! Farmer Brown has gone to bed but everyone in the barn is busy preparing for a fantastic Halloween party! This is a great picture book for younger kids, because it has onomatopoeia (I love that word!) i.e. words that represent sounds such as "creak, creak, creaking"; "crunch, crunch, crunching"; and "tap, tap, tapping".

Of course, you do not have to read stories specifically about Halloween. There are pumpkins, monsters, bats, owls, and a hundred other themes that work for the month of October.

By far, the best picture books featuring bats are by Brian Lies. Naturarally, my personal favorite is Bats in the Library, but all of the books in this series are amazing! Kids will love the rhyming text and beautifully detailed illustrations. 
See if you can figure out all of the stories that the bats are reading.

You cannot get into the Halloween spirit without reading stories about witches and monsters. Two wonderful witch books to read aloud are A Very Brave Witch and Only a Witch Can Fly, both written by Alison McGhee.

Only a Witch Can Fly is a more subdued story, but it is elegant and beautiful. Taeeun Yoo's linoleum block illustrations are breathtaking and give the book a dreamlike quality. If you enjoy the artwork in Only a Witch Can Fly you can learn more about Taeeun Yoo and her career in this interview.
I do not want to leave out older kids, so two, more mature picture books starring witches are The Widow's Broom by the inimitable Chris Van Allsburg and Heckedy Peg by Audrey Wood. For some strange reason, Heckedy Peg was my daughters favorite book in kindergarten. I remember her giggling hysterically every time I would cackle in my best witch's voice, "I'm Heckedy Peg. I've lost my leg. Let me in."

Ok, on to monsters because, in my opinion, those are the most fun. I adore Mercer Meyer (Little Critter) and my favorite books by him are There Are Monsters Everywhere, There's Something in the Attic, There's a Nightmare in My Closet, and There's an Alligator Under My Bed. I know, Halloween is not mentioned in any of these books, but they are hilarious with adorable illustrations of monsters. Also, each book features a child conquering their fear of monsters which is a great topic when there are ghouls, goblins, witches, skeletons, etc. decorating every house.

Aaaah, there are so many different crafts you can do this time of year!!! I am just going to share a couple that I have done in recent years. The torn paper pumpkin is perfect for the wee ones, because it is so simple. Basically, you just tear up orange paper and glue it to a paper plate.  Make sure you let your little one do the tearing (you may have to show them how). This is a great pre-writing activity, because it helps strengthen the small muscles in their fingers.

Next we have paint sample bookmarks. If you are going to "borrow" a lot of green paint samples you may want to hit more than one hardware store. I used the larger rectangles that were one solid shade of green (and I took multiple shades so everyone could pick the green that they liked the best) to make witches and Frankenstein's monsters.

As you may have noticed, I love to make hats for kids to wear. I know that they are a little hard to see in the picture, but each child is wearing a cone hat with a cat head on the front and a tail glued to the back. I have also made paper bat headbands with kids. Obviously, I enjoy making kids look silly and taking their pictures.

If you are looking for a game (or just want your kids to burn off some of that sugar induced mania) put on some Monster Mash music and dance. You can play freeze dancing or my version of musical chairs, musical pumpkins, shown in the video below.
For all of you bookworms here are some amazing Halloween costumes inspired by some of our favorite children's literature characters.I have to throw in this picture of my kids a few years ago dressed as Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and a red Chinese fireball dragon.