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Monday, April 28, 2014

Storytime Anytime-Let's Get Dirty (and not the way you think)!

What was that warm, yellow orb in the sky all last week? Oh, it was the sun. I had forgotten what it looked like during what seemed to be an endless winter. As a mom of a couple of rambunctious boys winter was especially wearisome because the frigid wind chills kept my two-legged tornadoes trapped indoors. Finally, I can kick my kids outside to burn off some of that endless energy.

Of course, warm spring weather entails mud, muck, dirt, and bugs so this is usually what my kids look like when they decide to come back in my house:

Oh well. I may have to run a bath and mop the floor more often, but at least they are tired at bed time.

In honor of my own little Pig Pens I thought that I would share some of my favorite "dirty books". (I bet you never thought that a children's librarian would suggest dirty books.)

The first two books that I want to mention are for toddlers or preschool aged children and are excellent for teaching colors.

The pictures and text of Dog's Colorful Day are more simplistic than those of I Know a Wee Piggy, which is slightly longer and rhyming. Both books will have your kids giggling as Dog and Piggy get covered in a variety of colorful and messy substances from red jelly and brown mud to green grass and pink cotton candy.

There are printable templates available online for Dog's Colorful Day and a variety of pig templates too.

You can just print these and let kids paint, color, or decorate with pieces of paper, puffballs, or stickers. For reusable fun, though, you can get the pictures laminated (for $1 at the library) or cover them with contact paper. This way kids can draw on Dog or Piggy with dry erase markers (or the new dry erase crayons which are awesome). My boys loved decorating their laminated pictures with play-dough. Dog would end up with not just spots, but also mustaches, beards, rainbow afros, a variety of hilarious accessories, and even oozing guts (which was my older son's idea).

There are just way too many adorable and hilarious books about dirty, messy kids. Probably, because kids are happiest when they are the filthiest (at least mine are).  Here are just a few more that are guaranteed kid pleasers so check some of them out soon.

 And nothing beats the classic Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion read below by Betty White.

     Have fun getting dirty!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Serious about Series

It can be frustrating being a book junkie these days, because it seems like every book that comes out is part of a series. Am I the only one that feels the need to reread the previous book when a new one comes out (or at least skim through it depending on the lag time between books)? Hello, every time a new Harry Potter book was published I felt compelled to read all of the earlier ones again before I could move on to the new book.

Sometimes I think that it's better to just pass on a series until it completely published. Then you can read the entire trilogy or or series from start to finish in a week, because it is so good you cannot stop. This is what my daughter does, in fact, she refuses to read a book that is part of a series unless it is completely available.

Whether you are eagerly anticipating the latest book in a series or if you patiently wait so you can read the series all at once, there are several exceptional new books at the library.

Let's start off with two new releases that are each concluding chapters to trilogies. So, if you do not like waiting here are two trilogies that are perfectly complete and ready to read back to back to back.

Burn is the final book in the action-packed Pure
trilogy by Julianna Baggott.  You may be thinking: "Ugh, not another dystopian, post-apocalyptic  sophomoric romance." However, the bleak and calamitous future created by Baggot is definitely for the more mature and discerning reader.

The world as we know it was destroyed in massive explosions that left the land covered in ashes and its inhabitants either dead or horrendously maimed, fused to whoever or whatever was near them during the blast. Safe from the grimy and violent world of the wretches live the Pures, those who were privileged and wealthy enough to be safely ensconced in the dome prior to the blast.

I don't want to say too much because, personally, I hate book reviews that recount the entire book. I will say that Baggott's concept is gritty and unique, and the books are beautifully written with an engrossing cast of characters.

The Ascendance Trilogy by Jennifer A. Nielson is fantasy fiction at it's best. There are sword fights, poisoned kings, pirates, and vengeful plots. The hero of the story, Jaron, is mischievous, sardonic, dishonest, and I think that he is one of my favorite characters ever. Read The False Prince and you will be hooked. These books are exciting, funny, and incredibly entertaining

So I have talked about an adult series and a teen series.  The next trio of books that I want to plug are swashbuckling adventures that kids and adults are sure to love, love, love (at least I hope they do because I push them on almost every kid that comes into the library). In case you have not figured it out, I am a massive fan of The Chronicles of Egg by Geoff Rodkey. I mean there are pirates, ancient treasure maps, cannibalistic natives, nefarious villains and the main character's name is Egg and his best friend's is Guts. How could any other book series top that?

Don't just take my word for it:
The best way I can describe [The Chronicles of Egg] is Lemony Snicket meets Pirates of the Caribbean, with a sprinkling of Tom Sawyer for good measure… If you like adventure novels, I highly recommend you grab a copy.
 – Rick Riordan, author of The Lightning Thief

I agree more with the author, though, when he describes his series as :  
what you’d get if you threw The Princess Bride and Raiders of the Lost Ark in a blender with a handful of pirates: an adventure-comedy-mystery-coming-of-age story starring the brave, funny, and incredibly unlucky Egg Masterson; the sharp-tongued, occasionally overly self-confident heiress Millicent Pembroke; and a one-handed, slightly insane cabin boy named Guts.

I will just add that the Rodkey's style of writing is hysterically funny and clever. He has an amazing blog and website if you want to learn more about him and his books and writing for film and TV. So please, please, check him out here at the library or on his website,, or I will hound you mercilessly next time you come to the library.

I usually avoid all of the diary fiction like the plague. Way too many authors have jumped on the Wimpy Kid bandwagon resulting in some awful books and kids that can no longer read a full page of text without speech bubbles and doodles (that was probably a bit harsh). Dark Lord: The Early Years and the recently published sequel, Dark Lord: School's Out by Dirk Lloyd (aka Jamie Thomson) are primarily narrative with only the occasional segue into the journal of Dirk Lloyd.

Also, the hilarious black and white drawings appear sporadically throughout the book with nary a stick figure in sight.

In the first of these books the Dark Lord, the Master of the Legions of Dread and Supreme Sorcerer (think Suaron from Middle Earth) finds himself cast from the  Darklands into present day earth. Not only is he stranded on a planet where his powers are useless, but he finds himself trapped in the pudgy awkward body of a twelve year old boy. How will the Dark Lord, now called Dirk Lloyd, survive this land of "do-goodery"? School's Out picks up right where the The Early Years left off and it was the recipient of the Roald Dahl Funny Prize in 2012 (that was when it was originally published in the UK; it only came out in the US this past February).  If you read this blog you are aware of how seriously I take Roald Dahl.

Moving away from humor to bizarre and creepalicious is Hollow City: The Second Novel of Peregrine's Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. Was I the only one who did a happy dance when they learned that the sequel for Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children was finally here? There were three teaser trailers for Hollow City so I put two here and the book trailer for the first book too! How do you even describe these books in words? The inclusion of the eerie black and white photographs make them completely original. The story is macabre, mysterious, and impossible to put down. I recommend reading late at night by flashlight just to up the spine-chilling effect.

Ok, the Wizard of Oz series has been around for a long time. However, all of the Baum books were recently published in wonderful new paperbacks. Each book contains 3 or four of the Oz books and if you haven't read these before you really should give them a try. Baum was such a genius and a century later the books are still adventurous and fun. Also if you have a child that has been given a very high AR book range, the Oz books are all at least a 7.0 and most are closer to 8.0 and above.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Six Degrees of the Portland District Library

I recently went to the Public Library Association biannual conference in Indianapolis, and while I was there, I attended a session on a new reader's advisory method.  Based on the popular parlor game, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, it gets librarians (and thus patrons) to find new and different connections between library materials. Basically, you would start with a popular book or movie, and then find five other items that follow a chain of thought from the original item.  The sixth item has to connect back to the first.  I know . . . it sounds super-complicated, but it's actually quite fun!  Here's an example:
A lot of people like Suzanne Collins' book, The Hunger Games, so we'll use that as our starting point.  It makes me think of the book Pure by Julianna Baggott, because they are both set in a post-apocalyptic world and have well-defined and appealing characters.  The fact that many of the characters in Pure have items fused onto their bodies makes me think of fused glass and glassblowing, so Chihuly, edited by Diane Charbonneau will be my next book.  Artist Dale Chihuly has his studio in Seattle, which is where Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford takes place.  This book deals with Japanese internment camps in WWII, which makes me think of Captain America: The First Avenger because it also takes place during the second world war.  The new Captain America movie is subtitled "The Winter Soldier," which makes me think of the movie, Winter's Bone.  And since Winter's Bone was Jennifer Lawrence's breakthrough film role, and Jennifer Lawrence stars at Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games films, my last selection ties into my first. 
I'm thinking of having my staff do something with this "six degrees of reader's advisory," but in the meantime, feel free to post your own six selections in the comments!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Storytime Anytime-Here Comes the Easter Bunny

Before the Easter Bunny arrives here are some Eggceptional (haha) books to read with your children.

For the wee ones my favorite Easter-themed picture book is Piggy Bunny by Rachel Vail and illustrated by Jeremy Tankard. If you have a little boy who wears a superman cape wherever he goes or a girl who insists she is a princess (my own son wore a Darth Vader costume everyday for a year) they will be able to relate to Piggy Bunny.

Liam is a piglet who wants to be a bunny; and not just any bunny, the Easter Bunny. The book trailer below features Jeremy Tankard's vibrant illustrations bringing Liam to life. This story about a little piggy with big, bunny dreams is sure to be a year round favorite.

For extra fun put on bunny ears and practice hopping like Liam or have your child hide some eggs for you to find this Easter. Talk about who you emulated as a kid. My mother made me a Smurfette costume when I was five that turned grey because I wore it so often. I also went through a phase where I made my mother put my hair in pigtails with sausage curls because I wanted to be Cindy Brady.

Featuring a similar art style with bold colors and thick black lines is The Easter Bunny's Assistant by Jan Thomas.
Jan Thomas is the author of multiple picture books that are hilariously funny and great for younger kids because of larger than life illustrations and simple and interactive text. Rhyming Dust Bunnies and Can You Make a Scary Face are two other books by Thomas that I highly recommend.

As you can see from the cover, the Easter Bunny has a new assistant and the results are rather stinky. This book is sure to have the kiddos giggling and it will be great fun to read before decorating eggs together.

 The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes by Du Bose Heyward was written in 1939 and I still have the copy that my mother read to me as a child. Imagine my surprise when it was discussed as a revolutionary book about modern feminism in a women's studies course that I took in college. As a child I never saw a hidden feminist message (and I doubt any child would), I just loved the story and the illustrations are beautiful.

Ha! Wouldn't this be nice?
In Heyward's story there are actually five Easter bunnies and the little country bunny has always dreamed of being one even though they are usually the long legged jackrabbits or the fancy white rabbits. After the country bunny grows up and has 21 baby bunnies to take care of it seems like her dream of being an Easter Bunny will never come true. However, the Country Bunny is smart and practical and once her children are no longer babies she teaches them to work together and take care of the home.

 If you are a mom you will surely appreciate how the Country Bunny trains her children to sweep, cook, and even decorate. I am not saying we should make our kids do all the housework, but hey it would be nice if they would help. This book could be an excellent introduction into having chores and responsibilities around the house. There are tons of chore charts that you can print, purchase, or make and young kids are easily motivated by praise and simple things like stickers.

The Velveteen Rabbit is not exactly an Easter story, but it does have a rabbit in it and it is hands down one of the most beautiful children's books ever written. It is sort of the literary version of Toy Story, but a little more somber and with a stuffed bunny instead of a cowboy. Of course, this book is longer so you might want to read it a little bit at a time ore reserve it for older kids.
"What is REAL?" the Velveteen Rabbit asked the Skin Horse one day. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"
"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."
"Does it hurt?" asked the Velveteen Rabbit .
"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."
"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand. But once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always."

If your heart doesn't break a little reading that then you must have a heart of ice.
Personally, I prefer the original edition of The Velveteen Rabbit, but younger children may not care for the old-fashioned pictures. There are many other versions so choose one with illustrations that you and your child like. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Story Time Anytime

Don't get me wrong, bringing your children to the library is a phenomenal way to instill a love of reading. However, you, the parent will always be the most influential person in your child's life and so it is important to make books and reading an anytime activity. I understand that reading aloud, singing, practicing finger plays, and other literacy activities are not natural or easy for everyone. Especially when you are a new parent; I remember looking up lyrics of children's songs on the internet when my oldest child was an infant.

If you are looking for some new ideas I plan to share one or two exceptional picture books and some related literacy activities each Monday. I hope that you are able to use some of these ideas or that they give you inspiration for other ways to share and experience books with your children.

Since we are all itching to go outside the first book I want to share is all about watching the clouds drift by on a warm, sunny day.
Does the cloud resemble a duck or a rabbit? This is the debate two children are having in this entertaining picture book written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld. Rosenthal is the author of over 20 children's books and she is a genius at capturing a child's unique perspective of the world. The bold and simple illustration complement Rosenthal's text perfectly and our sure to appeal to even the youngest readers.

I love reading this book for story time and it is always interesting to hear which animal the kids see first. Usually, if they first see the rabbit it takes them a few minutes to see the duck and vice versa. 

This book is also available on TumbleBooks and it is one of my son's favorites to watch. TumbleBooks is a huge collection of online ebooks that children can watch and listen to or read themselves. There is a link to TumbleBooks from the Portland District Library Website, but here is a link for the homepage. From there you can you can click on story books and they are all listed alphabetically by title.

Of course, the obvious activity to enjoy with your child after reading Duck Rabbit! is to go outside when there are some fluffy white clouds and talk about what shapes you see.What does looking at clouds have to do with early literacy? 

Let me go backwards a bit and explain what early literacy is and what is have to do with reading aloud and story time activities. Early literacy is everything that goes on before a child actually learns how to read. If  we want to be authoritative and official the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) has established six early literacy skills, which their research shows are necessary to be a successful reader.
These are:
1. Print Motivation-a child's interest in and enjoyment of books
2. Phonological Awareness-the ability to hear and play with the smaller sounds in words
3. Vocabulary-knowing the names of things
4. Narrative Skills-the abilty to describe things and events and to tell stories
5. Print Awareness-noticing print, knowing how to handle a book, and understanding how to follow the written word, and understanding how to follow the written words on a page
6. Letter Knowledge-knowing that letters are different from each other, that the same letter can look different, and that each letter has a name and is related to sounds
(These descriptions are from the book Early Literacy Storytimes @ Your Library by Saroj Nadkarni Ghoting and Pamela Martin-Diaz. Ghoting has more in depth descriptions on her website here if you are brave enough to slog through them.)

Fortunately, someone decided that Academic with a capital "A" terms such as phonological awareness are too confusing and nonsensical for all of us normal people. Also, just listing the skills necessary for reading does not actually tell parents, daycare providers, educators, etc. how to attain those skills. Hence, the inception of the Five Early Literacy Practices: Talking, Reading, Writing, Playing, and Singing. Not only are the Five Practices easier to understand, but they also give us concrete ways to make our children successful and lifelong readers.

The good news is that most of you are probably already talking, reading, writing, playing, and singing with our babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. However, some of these may be unfamiliar (how do you write with a baby) or out of your comfort zone (like singing).

1. Talking-You would think that talking would be easy, but it is not. Especially, when you are home alone with a baby or toddler who cannot exactly hold up their end of the conversation. It is so easy to turn on the radio or tv just for some noise.These are not the same as you child listening to you, though. So, as difficult as it is, talk to your child throughout the day. Even you are talking about the laundry you are folding, it is important for them to hear you and watch your face while you talk. If you have any time to read for yourself (yeah, right) read your book out loud to your baby. If they are under one, they are not going to fully understand it anyways, and then they get to listen to your voice.

When they are old enough to talk back, ask tons of questions. Little kids love to hear themselves talk so ask them their opinions or get them to make up stories. 
Here are some great ways to get toddlers and preschoolers talking:
  • "What if...?" or "Would you rather...?" questions- These work on kids of all ages and the more ridiculous the better. Would you rather have a rhinoceros or a lion for a pet? Would you rather ride a giraffe or an elephant? What if dinosaurs were still alive? What would your dog say if he could talk?  What if you could only wear one color for the rest of your life? 
  • Wordless Picture Books-I actually wrote a whole post about wordless picture books which you can read here.
  • Call people on the phone-Have your toddler or preschooler talk to loved ones on the phone. As long as your relatives do not mind, that is.
  • Talk about your favorites-Ask kids what their favorite food, color, tv show, song, game, etc. is and don't forget to ask why. 
  • Bedtime Prayers-Even if you are not religious you can talk about all of the things that you are thankful for or all of the good things that happened that day right before bed.
2. Reading-This is pretty self-explanatory, but make sure you are not just reading the text. Ask questions about the story and the illustrations. Have your little predict what is going to happen next before you turn the page. If you are reading a rhyming book, see if they can guess the next word. Make up a new ending or ask your child what they think happened to the characters after the end of the book. Inflection is incredibly important when you read to a child. It isn't necessary to use different voices, but add emotion to your own voice and whisper, shout, whine, cry, when called for. 

3. Writing-This practice not only refers to actual writing, but also all of those activities that strengthen the hand and finger muscles necessary for writing. 
Some fun and easy fine motor activities are:
  • Playdough
  • Legos
  • Fingerpainting
  • Tearing Paper
  • Stringing Beads
  • Marbles-Fill a cup halfway with water and count how many marbles you can add before the cup overflows. Pick up the marbles one a time with thumb and pointer finger.
  • Lacing Cards-Use string and a colander if you do not have lacing cards
  • Buttons, Zippers, Snaps
  • Sand-Play in the dirt or sand box
  • Scissors

4. Playing-Kids naturally play to learn so this one should be pretty easy. Pretend play is all about storytelling. Whether your child is pretending to cook in a toy kitchen or running around in a batman mask and cape ask them what the story is. Who are they cooking for? If it is for a queen, what should they make and how should it be served. Will the queen throw you in the dungeon if she doesn't like it. Where is Batman going? Is he going to rescue someone? From what and how?
You do not need anything fancy or expensive to play with either. After all, the greatest toy for any child will always be the humble cardboard box.

5. Singing-This is probably the hardest practice for a lot of people, because they feel uncomfortable singing. Trust me, your child does not care whether you sing beautifully or you sound like a cat with his tale shut in a door. Leading storytime has made it necessary for me to sing a lot in front of kids (and their parents). No one has run screaming from the room with their hands over their ears, so I guess I am not too terrible. 
Why is singing so important? If you talk and read to your child shouldn't that be good? Well, there was actually a great answer to this question on which you can read here. The short answer is that singing and listening to songs helps kids acquire language skills faster and easier than just talking or reading.  Not only does singing get kids making and hearing lots of different sounds, it also activates and develops both sides of the brain. So, even if you feel uncomfortable sing to and with your child. I promise that it will get easier the more you do it.

Some of my favorite baby songs :
  • Lavender's Blue 
  • You Are My Sunshine
  • Jesus Loves Me (I would sing Jesus Loves You)
  • Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
  • Hush, Little Baby
  • Over the Rainbow
  • Amazing Grace
  • Lullaby and Goodnight
  • My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean
  • Oh, Mr. Sun

Action Songs for Toddlers and Preschoolers
  • This Old Man
  • Wheels on the Bus
  • Baby Shark
  • The Grand Ol' Duke of York-I am a total Trekkie so my kids were taught The Grand Ol' Captain Kirk:
    The Grand Old Captain Kirk
    He Had A Thousand Men,
    He Beamed 'em Up To The Enterprise
    Everyone stands up
    And Beamed 'em Down Again.
    Everyone sits down
    And When You're Up Your Up,
    Everyone stands up

    And When You're Down Your Down,
    Everyone sits down
    And When You're Only Half Way Up,
    Everyone half-way up
    You're Nowhere to Be Found.
  • Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes
  • If You're Happy and You Know It
  • Five Green and Speckled Frogs
  • Peace Like a River

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Win A Basket Give-away

Hey Everyone, we are doing a basket give-away at the library.  You can come in and answer fun trivia questions for your age group and enter for a chance to win one of four baskets.
Win a basket!