Saturday, June 30, 2012

Book #182: Let’s Do Nothing! By Tony Fucile


Image from BarnesandNoble.com
Frankie and Sal are bored. They’ve done it all. Played sports, painted pictures, baked, played board games, read all the comic books. What else can they do? How about 10 seconds of nothing! Although it starts off well, Frankie’s overactive imagination gets the better of him in each scenario of nothing that Sal dreams up. Then Sal has a BIG, a REALLY BIG realization: there is absolutely no way to do nothing! Sal and Frankie know that they’re geniuses and they know exactly what to do next, “Let’s do something!”

Fucile spent over twenty years designing and animating for cartoon feature films and you can see how his experience has influenced his artistic style. The ink, pencil, and acrylic illustrations are cinematic, alternating between wide shots that capture the boys’ environment and close ups that isolate the actions and reactions of the two characters. The text is all dialogue, with Frankie’s words in bold and Sal’s in regular font so the reader can easily distinguish one from the other.

This book is great for preschool and up and would be fun to share with a beginning reader one on one. Read the book out loud and then read it again with each of you reading Frankie or Sal’s dialogue.

Before or after you read the book ask the kids if they think it’s possible to do nothing. And if so, how do you do nothing? What if you blink like Frankie? What if you’re thinking, does that count?

Frankie and Sal pretend to be statues in the book, so follow up with a game of freeze tag or statues. Candlewick has nice “non-activity kit” with great group activities that tie in with this book.

Learn more about Fucile, his animation background, and his leap from film to books in this Q & A published by Candlewick.

-Amy

Friday, June 29, 2012

Book #181: Toot Toot Zoom! by Phyllis Root, Illustrated by Matthew Cordell


Image from BarnesandNoble.com
Pierre lived all by himself at the foot of a tall mountain and what he wanted more than anything else was a friend. So he got into his little red convertible and began driving up the mountain. At every curve he would honk his horn, “Toot toot zoom!” On his journey to find a friend on the other side of the mountain, he meets a goat, a sheep, and a bear. The animals join him in the car to help him find a friend. When they finally reach the other side there’s no one there, but Pierre realizes he has found three wonderful friends along the way.

Root’s text, full of sounds and repetition, is mostly dialogue, making this a great read aloud book about friendship. The watercolor and ink illustrations are sunny and light. The characters are whimsical; Pierre is a fox who wears a jaunty blue and white striped shirt and beret, while the bear sports a yellow scarf and earrings. The layout of the book is attractive; sometimes the little red car simply drives through the text, at other times the text is layered over a full page illustration.

My favorite part of this book is the frequent repetition of “Toot toot zoom!” I like to hit the horn with the heel of one hand and then jerk the wheel aside on the “zoom.”

This is a fun addition to a car or transportation themed storytime. Try pairing it with I’m Driving in my Car (to the tune of BINGO). Use a cardboard box or set up four chairs to create a car for children to retell the story.

The large amount of dialogue in this book would make it easy to adapt into a reader’s theatre script. It can be done with as few as five readers. It would also be a fun book for high schoolers to perform for a younger audience.

-Amy

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Book #180: Where Is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox & Judy Horacek

Image from BarnesandNoble.com

This colorful book is jam-packed full of sheep. It’s easy to find the red sheep, the clown sheep, the up sheep and the down sheep, but where’s the green sheep? Turn the pages to see the sun sheep and the rain sheep, the scared sheep and the brave sheep, but what about that green sheep? There's the green sheep. Fast asleep on the last page!

The simple rhyming text, using a vocabulary of colors and opposites, makes this a great book to read to toddlers and preschoolers. The book is structured to repeat a pattern of presenting several sheep and then asking, “But where is the green sheep?” The illustrations, with bold lines and colors, present just a sheep or two against each uncluttered background.

Each time you ask the title question, get a little more anxious and dramatic. Encourage the kids to say the question with you.

This book can easily be used for a storytime about sheep or colors, but it’s also great for a storytime about the SH sound. The word, “Sheep” is found on just about every page, so the kids will hear the sound a lot. Talk about the SH sound before the book so the kids can put on their listening ears. After you read the book, make a list of other words that start with the SH sound (shell, shoe, shirt, etc.). Have the kids illustrate a SH sheep, for instance a sheep in a shirt.

Sing the first verse of Baa Baa Black Sheep or Mary Had aLittle Lamb once or twice through with the original lyrics. Then ask the kids to suggest colors and sing it again. You have to get a little creative with May Had a Little Lamb as far as what the colors look like. You could say the green sheep had fleece as green as grass or leave and that the blue sheep had fleece as blue as sky or water. 

Break out those cotton balls or colored pom poms and make this sheep craft. There are lots of variations on this craft and I also like the hand shaped green sheep provided by Patton’s Bookcase blog.

-Amy

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Book #179: Jazz on a Saturday Night by Leo & Diane Dillon


Image from BarnesandNoble.com
It’s Saturday night and the musicians are setting up their instruments on the stage. The announcer steps into the spotlight and his voices booms out over the microphone proclaiming this “an evening of jazz immortality!” The audience hushes as each legendary musician adds his or her signature style to the jam. From Miles Davis to Max Roach, John Coltrane to Ella Fitzgerald the music dips, soars, and thrums with harmony and syncopation. As the audience leaves, they know they will remember all week this “outta sight” jazz, so cool, on a Saturday night.

This Coretta Scott King Honor book begins with an introduction that gives a brief history of jazz. The Dillons note that although the “Dream Team” depicted in this book never played all together, many of the musicians performed with one another at some time in their career. Each musician featured in the book is profiled in the back matter that includes a discography and a CD with two excellent tracks. The authors talk about jazz and introduce the instruments in the first track. Children are able to hear how each instrument sounds solo, as well as in a jazz arrangement. The second track is an original song, Jazz on a Saturday Night, inspired by the paintings in the book.

The illustrations, many of which look as though they’ve been bathed in colored stage lights, are painterly and feature an all African-American cast of characters. Blocks of color are accentuated with patterns of pinstripes, polka dots, and flowers. The monochromatic endpapers filled with musical instruments are a delight. The rhyming text, a joy to recite aloud, creates vivid musical imagery with wonderful words that thrum and pulse with syncopated rhythm. The text urges the reader to read with great feeling, sometimes loud or soft, fast or slow.

Pair this book with The Three Swingin’ Pigs by Vicky Rubin and Jazzy Miz Mozetta by Brenda C. Roberts for a jazz themed story time. Provide musical instruments for the kids to play after reading the book or provide supplies to make instruments of their own. Family Corner provides instructions for nine kid-friendly musical instruments. If possible invite a jazz musician to visit your class or storytime. If you play an instrument bring it in and play for the children. Just be prepared for them to want to try their hand at playing too!

Use this book with Rap a Tap Tap: Here’s Bojangles - Thinkof That! to celebrate the life and work of Leo Dillon who passed away this year. The Dillons were prolific authors/illustrators and although they do not have a dedicated website, you can view a list of many of their books on Amazon.


-Amy

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Book #178: Dinotrux by Chris Gall

Image from ChrisGall.com

The trucks we see today are useful, but millions of years ago prehistoric trucks roamed the earth, huge and hungry. They were called Dinotrux. They didn’t play well with each other and terrorized the cave people. The Craneosaurus used his long neck to eat the birds in the trees. The Firesaurus spit out raw lava. And the bully of the prehistoric land was the Trannosaurus Trux. After ruling for millions of years there was a huge and terrible storm. Many Dinotrux rusted, but the smarter ones went south and over millions of years they evolved into the helpful trucks we know today.

The action packed illustrations are chock full of Dinotrux digging, rolling, and chomping. There’s also a fold out page that shows the transition of the Dinotrux from prehistoric troublemakers into the helpful trucks of today. There’s humor in the word play of the names of the Dinotrux and the short text is large and easy to read. Gall uses size and color to emphasize specific words, such as names, numbers, and verbs. Check out the book trailer for a look at the artwork and tone of the book.

Initially, I was suspicious, thinking the combined use of dinosaurs and trucks a bit gimmicky. However, I found the book to be clever and fun to read aloud. The text and illustrations have a bit of potty humor (the Blacktopadon pees asphalt and the Cementosaurus leaves a trail of stinky cement), but never to the point of overpowering the story. This book will definitely appeal to boys who are getting ready or have already read Captain Underpants series.

Replace the word “truck” or “dinosaur” in a rhyme or song with “dinotrux.” You could also sing a dinotrux version of If You’re Happy and You Know It, If You’re a Dinotrux and You Know It. Change the verses to sing about chomping, honking, digging, and rolling, with actions that go along with the verses.

If you’re looking for quick and easy printables, check out the matching game, word search, and maze created by publishers LB Kids.

A sequel, Revenge of the Dinotrux, was recently released and shows what happens when the fossils of Dinotrux come alive to rule the world once more.

-Amy

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Book #177: Jamberry by Bruce Degen

Image from CarleMuseum.com

A small, barefooted boy and a bear with a purple top hat go on a berry picking adventure. The journey begins calmly but soon become a berry explosion! The two friends travel by canoeberry and trainberry as they romp their way to Berryland. A razzamatazzberry berryband greets their arrival and waves them off in a hotberry balloon while berryworks explode around them.

The rhyming text trips off the tongue easily and there’s something magical about being completely surrounded in berries. The illustrations are full of fun details, such as jelly roll flowers growing around the raspberry jam skating rink and the mice sitting in their boat, the Jelly Bean II. The story features easily differentiate blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries.

The bear and the boy also count the berries. If you have berries (strawberries and blueberries are best because they don’t squish so easily) get out some plastic containers and practice counting. Use different colored containers so you can ask questions like, “How many blueberries are in the green cup?” or “Are there more strawberries in the blue bowl or the white bowl?” If it’s not berry season, make berries out of Playdoh or try one of these edible dough recipes.

Also available as a board book, this is a great book for infants through kindergarten age children. Although kids will probably enjoy looking through the pages on their own, it’s really reading it out loud that brings the magic to the book.

After you read about berries and jam, you’re probably going to want to sing about them. Try Picked a Strawberry or Strawberry patch. And if you just can’t get enough Jelly, try the classic Peanut Butter and Jelly song or this new a cappella PBJ song I found while researching for this post.

This is a fantastic book to read before picking berries. Do a bit of Googling and you may find a U-pick farm close by. Even if you don’t pick very many berries, it’s a wonderful way to talk about how berries grow and to see the berries in different stages from flower to falling off the vine ripe.

-Amy

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Book #176: Demolition by Sally Sutton, Illustrated by Brian Lovelock


Image from BarnesandNoble.com
“Zip! Stamp! Snap!” It’s time for the demolition crew to put on their protective gear and start the day. Using their machines from the heavy steel wrecking ball to the high-reach excavator the crew smashes, bashes, and slams. An old building is pulled to the ground and the rubble is taken away. Then “Bim! Bam! Thwock!” the crew sets about building a playground to be enjoyed by all, “Hip…hip…hooray!”

Sure to appeal to the truck and bulldozer crowd, the rhyming text in this book is percussive and rhythmic. Each three line rhyme is followed by three sounds that bring the atmosphere of a demolition site to life. The realistic illustrations are full of the dynamic movements of the machines as they crush and smash the building to pieces. The illustrations clearly show the function of each machine. For instance, the page with the wood chipper shows workers putting long pieces of lumber into the machine, as well as the resulting sawdust.

The machine facts included at the end of the book are sure to thrill machine-loving youngsters. Each of the machines featured in the book is pictured with a short fact-filled sentence.

As you read the book imitate the movements of each machine as you make the sound effects. You’ll probably want to repeat movements so the kids can participate too.

Pair this book with Patricia Hubbell’s transportation books, like Boats: Speeding! Sailing! Cruising! and Schertle’s Little Blue Truck for a storytime about transportation. Also check out Roadwork, written by Sutton and illustrated by Lovelock.

Once you’ve gotten everyone excited about machines and demolition, follow up with some songs, like the Construction Song and I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.

-Amy

Friday, June 22, 2012

Book #175: Split! Splat! by Amy Gibson, Illustrated by Steve Björkman

Image from BarnesandNoble.com
The rhyming text of this book follows the simple joy of a young girl as she splashes with her friends in the rain. As they stomp in puddles and sploosh through mud, the girl sings:

“I sing a little rain song,
a simple song
a plain song
a pitter-patter-tip-tap-on-the-windowpane song.”

The story begins inside the girl’s house as the rain begins to fall, so she puts on her rain gear and heads outside to play. As the story progresses, she flings off her hat, her boots, and her raincoat in favor of experiencing as much of the rain as possible. The girl and her dog finish the book in a bubble bath after making mud pies and having playful mud fights.

The bright pinks, greens, and blues of the watercolor illustrations evoke the freshness and joy of a spring rain and Gibson’s words have a musical quality to them. It would be fun to set the text to a simple tune and to sing it during story time.

The simple plot line and liberal use of onomatopoeias make this a great candidate for a preachool story time about spring or weather. It would pair well with Patricia Lakin’s Rainy Day! If you want to explore the water cycle, pair it with All the Water in the World. Save up some glass jars with metal lids and make rain in ajar. Sing a weather version of If You’re Happy and You Know It, If It’s Windy.

Use carpet squares or tape out puddle shapes and let the kids puddle jump after story time. Whatever material you use to make your puddles, just make sure it’s not slippery.

-Amy

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Book #174: Every Friday by Dan Yaccarino

Image from BarnesandNoble.com
Friday morning is special because that’s the day that rain or shine, hot or cold, this young boy and his father have breakfast together. As they walk through the streets to the diner they see the city waking up. Shops are opening and people are rushing to work. They count the dogs and mail their letters. The waitress at the diner knows exactly what to bring them (pancakes). Father and son eat and talk and watch the people outside on the street. When breakfast is over they wave goodbye to their friends at the diner, “See you next Friday!”

This uncomplicated story is told with simple and straightforward sentences, one to a page. Kids will identify with the boy’s observations as he walks through the city with his father. The illustrations are sleek and have a retro 1950’s feel to them. Yaccarino uses bold colors and shapes to create the busy cityscape of the book. The characters, of all ethnicities, are classic Yaccarino, with round heads and noses and black dot eyes. Check out the cool and classy book trailer on Yaccarino’s website.

This is a great book to share one on one with your child and an especially nice Father’s Day gift. Each time you read the book, point to a different person, animal, or event happening on the city streets and ask your children to describe it to you. This helps them practice fluency and vocabulary.

Create your own weekly or monthly activity with your child. Maybe it’s walking to a diner for breakfast, as the boy and his father do in the book or maybe you sit at the same spot to count cars and point out the different colors. Turn off your cell phone and your laptop and take a few minutes to give your child some undivided attention.

If you have a child-friendly camera, let your kids take a picture of the same view or object every time you visit or if you walk to the location, take pictures along the way. Print the photos off so that kids can cut and paste them into a scrapbook. Help them write a sentence or two for each picture describing it and its importance. Encourage your child to read back what they’ve written to encourage print awareness. It’s ok if they paraphrase or make it up; the importance thing for them to know is that the words on the page are words they said.

-Amy

Book #173: And Then It’s Spring by Julie Fogliano, Illustrated by Erin E. Stead


Image from BarnesandNoble.com
“First you have brown
all around you have brown”

A young, bespectacled boy looks out over a brown landscape and waits. With the help of his friends, a rabbit, a dog, and a turtle, he plants seeds into the brown earth and waits. He waits through sunshine and rain. He waits and worries about his seeds. Were they eaten by birds or disturbed by bears? The weeks pass and still he waits and all is brown. Then once day he walks out of his house and suddenly the all around brown has turned into all around green and Spring has arrived.

Fogliano’s simple, poetic text is quietly complimented by Stead’s delicate and detailed illustrations. The sentences seem to run on, leaving the reader in a state of quiet anticipation just like the boy in the book. I really love the different ways Stead has created clouds and sky in her illustrations. Big, puffy clouds: yes. Generically white and fluffy: no. Some of the details are very small, so this book is best read to a small group. As you read make sure to point out important details, such as the sign that the bears can’t read and the roots of the seeds beginning to grow in the cross section of the yard.

Pair this book with Sarah Stewart’s The Gardener, The Curious Garden by Peter Brown, Grandpa Green by Lane Smith, Lois Ehlert’s classic Planting a Rainbow, or Do You Know Which Ones Will Grow? by Susan A. Shea. Pair it with rhymes such as, This is My Garden and I Dig, Dig, Dig. Great growing songs include, The Green Grass Grew All Around and Oats, Peas, Bean,Barley Grow (I grew up with the Raffi version, which I love, but could not find a video or recording to post here).

The boy in the book plants lots of vegetables in his garden, so follow up with some vegetable stamping.You can use quite a few vegetables and some fruits too. Choose sturdy vegetables and fruits like okra and carrots. Use small cookie cutters to cut stamps out of potatoes or apples. For celery and lettuce, cut off the top leaving the heart, which makes nice flower-like stamps. Save all the bits you don't use and make a healthy snack to eat after reading this book.  

-Amy

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Book #172: Red Truck by Kersten Hamilton, Illustrated by Valeria Petrone


Image from BarnesandNoble.com
It’s a snowy and slick wintery day and a school bus of children is stuck on a hill. The school bus driver calls up the mustachioed man, who starts up Red Truck and drives through the ice and snow to rescue the bus. A tow truck, Red Truck is able to up it up icy hills, zoooom!, and across muddy roads, sploooosh! The driver attaches the Red Truck to the bus and pulls, pulls, pulls until the bus is free of the ice and snow. The children make it to school and their “hero for a rainy day is Red Truck!”

The simple rhyming text of this book make it a good candidate for reading aloud to toddlers and preschoolers. Trucking-loving kids will love the shiny Red Truck and the sound effects interspersed in the text are fun to imitate. The painterly illustrations feature primary colored cars and trucks set against grey and backgrounds. The people are cartoonish, with skinny legs, round heads, and rectangle bodies.

Pair this book with Red is Best by Kathy Stinson and poems from Red Sings from the Treetops: A Year in Colors by Joyce Sidman for a red themed storytime.

Use this for a transportation or truck themed storytime. Follow up with songs and rhymes such as The Wheels on the Bus and Old MacDonald had aTruck. Have kids practice their narrative skills by retelling the story with a toy truck and a school bus. You can also use the toy cars and trucks to do some tire track painting.
 
-Amy

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Book #171: Twist: Yoga Poems by Janet S. Wong, Illustrated by Julie Paschkis

Image from BarnesandNoble.com
Each of the 16 short poems in this beautifully illustrated collection focus on a different yoga pose. Wong’s words, carefully chosen, are evocative and full of imagery. Wong has created a collection of non-rhyming poems that support internal, as well as external exploration and observation. Some poems encourage readers to focus on the relationship of body parts, “head to foot to foot,” while others create a story that allows the imagination to soar while posing. Some are quiet and calming, while other poems pulse with energy and passion.

The illustrations are saturated with color and decorated with intricate patterns and designs. Paschkis has created a multiracial set of characters that move through the poses with serenity and agility. Each poem is illustrated on a two page spread that includes a lively background filled with natural and man-made elements, as well as animals and people. The book does not contain how-to instructions on each pose, however the poses are well-known and instructions can be found in most basic yoga books or online. 

Don’t worry if you can’t twist yourself into the perfect shape of each pose. In her author’s note at the end of the book, Wong writes about the importance of stretching within your own abilities. As she simultaneously practiced the poses and wrote the poems, she says, “I became more comfortable with all the different things I am, especially my soft doughnut self.” Stretching should feel good, never painful.

Try adding a yoga pose or two to your regular storytime and see how your group reacts. You will probably want to repeat the same one to two poses for at least two sessions, so that they become familiar before adding a new pose. Not only will this get everyone up and moving, but many of these poses cultivate balance and flexibility. Read the poem twice. First, while everyone is sitting and listening. Then teach the pose and read the poem again while everyone is engaged in the pose. Check out Yoga In My School for instructions on many of the poses in the book, as well as games and tips for using yoga with children.

If you read and practiced the poses/poems in the book from start to finish, my guess is it would take approximately 20-30 minutes. Depending on your group, this maybe a lot of fun or too much of the same thing.

If you’re working with elementary school aged kids and up, this book would be a great addition, in whole or part, to a yoga program. Pair it with You are a Lion! And Other Fun Yoga Poses by Taeeun Yoo. After you practice some poses, encourage kids to write their own poems about the poses.

For more insight on the creation of this book, as well as a preview of the illustrations, check out this interview with Wong and Paschkis posted on the Blue Rose Girls blog.

-Amy

Monday, June 18, 2012

Book #170: Head, Body, Legs: A Story from Liberia retold by Won-Ldy Paye & Margaret H. Lippert, Illustrated by Julie Paschkis


Image from BarnesandNoble.com
At first it was just Head, he rolled everywhere because he had no legs, no arms, no body. One day Head rolled into a tree ripe with cherries, but he couldn’t get them because he was just a head. But then he looked up and saw two Arms, who couldn’t find the cherries because they had no eyes to see. Head and Arms attached themselves together and ate every cherry. Through similar incidents, Head meets Body and Legs. Although they initially have some trouble deciding how to combine (for a while the Head is attached to Body’s bellybutton), after some discussion and cooperation everyone slides into place.

This original creation story is part of the oral tradition of the Dan people of northeastern Liberia in Africa. According to the author’s note this story has been told by Dan mothers and grandmothers to communicate the importance of community and cooperation, “Each part of the body is necessary and helps the others, just as each person in a family or a community is necessary and helps the others.”

The text, co-authored by Paye, a trained storyteller, is at it’s best when read aloud. There’s a wonderful sense of rhythm to the descriptive words and phrases. The gouache illustrations are painterly, using a bright and bold color palate and large shapes. I particularly like that the body parts are glossy black instead of pink or brown or white. In this way the body parts become universal, rather than depicting just one culture or race. 

Try using this American Library Association notable book as part of a human body themed storytime. Kids will laugh as the body parts try to figure out the best way to fit together. You can tell this story using a flannelboard to illustrate the different configurations of body parts during the story.

Check out the photos of a shadow puppet retelling of this story posted by Victoria Beatty.  I also like the Head Body Legs people that the children made after the shadow play (scroll to the bottom of Beatty's page). I couldn’t find a tutorial for this exact craft, but it looks as though the body parts are cut out of thick paper and held together with brass fasteners. The fasteners make it so the body parts can still pivot, but stay attached.

I’m intrigued by the idea of incorporating yoga poses into storytime and I think this book presents the perfect opportunity. Pick poses that require cooperation from your body parts, such as the tree, gate, or downward facing dog poses. Each one requires you think kids to think about where their body parts are in relation to one another.  

-Amy

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Book #169: Blackout by John Rocco


Image from BarnesandNoble.com
It's a normal summer night in the city for this family. The youngest child wants to play a board game, but everyone else is busy, busy, busy. But all of a sudden, all the lights in the whole city go out. Blackout. The stifling heat of the apartment drives the family up and out onto the roof where there’s a block party going on. A block party that extends into the streets with people laughing, singing, and playing. When the lights come back on everything goes back to normal, except for one family, who decides to turn out the lights and play a board game together.

The illustrations are a mix of two page spreads and comic book like panels that move the story along cinematically. When the lights are on the city buildings look brown in the warm, golden light. After the blackout the family explores their block in grays and blues. I also love that the book, like a city, is populated by citizens of all shapes, sizes, ages, and colors. The short text moves along swiftly, with short asides in speech bubbles along the way.

The themes of this Caldecott Honor book, becoming part of a community and taking time to spend with your family, will speak to children as well as their parents. This is a wonderful book to read during a No TV Week celebration. Read the book by the light of flashlights (candles are usually against fire code because of the potential fire hazard). Use a projector or lamp to create a shadow puppet or shadow dancing wall. Create stars on the ceiling by placing a colander over a flashlight.

Provide board games for families to play after storytime. Board games are wonderful because kids have to learn to share, take turns, read directions on cards and the board, identify colors, and a host of other social skills. Lead a flashlight sing-along. You can also pair this book with Suzy Lee’s book, Shadow or  Kenn Nesbitt’s poem, I’m Not Afraid of the Dark.

Ask the kids if they have ever experienced a power outage. If so, what was it like and what did they do? Encourage parents to talk with their kids about what to do if the power goes out.

-Amy

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Book #168: Fandango Stew by David Davis, Illustrated by Ben Galbraith

Image from BarnesandNoble.com

In this Wild West retelling of the classic Stone Soup story, Slim and his grandson, Luis, gallop into the town of Skinflint so hungry they could “eat a boiled leather boot.” Too bad neither of them has any money, which means its fandango stew for supper. The sheriff tries to run them out of town, but Slim and Luis hold up a small fandango bean and tell the townspeople of the wonders of fandango stew:

“Chili’s good, so is barbecue, but nothing’s finer than FANDANGO STEW!”

Soon the banker is bringing salt and pepper, the lawyer brings potatoes, and even the sheriff brings vegetables straight from his garden. That night the people of Skinflint dance and sing their bellies full of wonderful fandango stew.

Davis’ larger-than-life text is a joy to read aloud. Along with a vocabulary of cowboy lingo, such as “shindig,” “buckaroo” and “cowpokes,” Davis adds a sprinkling of Spanish words in Slim and Luis’ dialogue. But Davis is not didactic; this book is a rollicking story, not a Spanish lesson in disguise. The mixed media illustrations are finely detailed and I particularly like the endpapers that look like the backs of playing cards. Like the text, the characters are slightly exaggerated in their cowboy hats, bowlers, and mustaches. In a group setting, this book is best used with preschoolers and older because of the length and large vocabulary.

Read another version of Stone Soup, such as the classic Caldecott winning Stone Soup by Marcia Brown, Jon Muth’s Stone Soup set in China, or Heather Forest’s Stone Soup. Have the kids compare the different versions. Fandango Stew emphasizes the way the stew brings together the townspeople, but some stories emphasize the foolishness or ungenerous nature of the townspeople. How have each of the authors taken the same story and focused on different issues? Make a list of the items in each versions soup or stew. Which ingredients are in all the recipes? There may be ingredients, such as okra, that not all kids are familiar with, so bring in pictures and be prepared to discuss how it’s made or how/where it grows.

You could also use this for a Wild West themed storytime. Try pairing it with Anne Issac’s Dust Devil.

Slim, Luis, and the townspeople frequently sing the praises of fandango stew using a repetitive refrain. Make up a little song of your own with these rhyming words and after a few pages, encourage the kids to sing along. You could even write the words on a board, which is helpful for parents and for children to learn print awareness.

This story is lots of fun to tell with props. Find a large pot or bowl or even a cardboard box to use as the big black kettle (check your Halloween supplies; you might be able to reuse that witch’s cauldron). Try to find realia for each of the ingredients (you may want to make a larger-than-life fandango bean, otherwise it’s hard to see and easy to lose). Anything you can’t find, print and laminate a picture. You can put the items in yourself as you tell the story or you can pass out the items to the kids just before you tell the story. Tell them to pay attention to find out what to do with the item.

This story can be used in several storytimes in different ways, for instance, you could read it the first time from the book, tell it with props on your own the second time, have the kids help the third time, and the fourth time have the kids retell the story with the props on their own. In addition, this makes a great reader’s theater script for a large group of children.

-Amy

Friday, June 15, 2012

Book #167: How Do You Hug a Porcupine? by Laurie Isop, Illustrated by Gwen Millward

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Most animals are easy to hug. You can hug a dog or cat in your own backyard and you might need a ladder, but hugging a giraffe is doable. Elephants like to be hugged around their trunks and baby chicks like sweet, little hugs. But how do you hug a porcupine? Why, very carefully of course!

The gently rhyming text and short sentences make this a wonderful book for a read aloud with toddlers. The bright illustrations, set against a mostly white background, feature a gang of multiracial children who just love to give hugs. The illustrations are large enough for a group storytime, but also include humorous details, such as the little boy putting marshmallows on the porcupine quills.

Pair this book with Jez Alborough’s Hug for a hug themed storytime. It also works nicely for a Valentine’s Day storytime. Read Shel Silverstein’s poem, Hug O’War, from Where the Sidewalk Ends. Try this hug version of Wheels on the Bus, A Great Big Hug (Scroll about halfway down the page.)

Follow up with this quick and easy paper plate porcupine craft. I know that porcupines have brown quills, but I think it would be fun to have a couple of different color options for quills.

If you’re family eats Cheerios you might recognize this book, as it won the 2009 Cheerios New Author Contest.

-Amy

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Book #166: Chicken Big by Keith Graves


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This hilarious spin on the classic Chicken Little story features a band of ditzy chickens who are confused by the presence of a giant chicken who just wants to be part of the gang. When this enormous chicken is born the others aren’t quite sure what to do, but they are fairly sure that it is not a chicken. It’s so big, it must be an elephant! The small and not-so-bright chickens are easily fooled into thinking the sky is falling or leaking, but luckily the large chicken manages to save the day by convincing them that it’s really just an acorn and that it’s just rain. The small chickens still don’t think he’s a chicken, until the day that the humongous chick rescues all the eggs from the hungry fox. Only a chicken could be so smart, kind, warm, and brave!

The illustrations and layout of this book are akin to a graphic novel, with lots of speech bubbles and multiple panels per page. The text is suited for preschoolers and up who are familiar with the original Chicken Little story. The vocabulary introduces several synonyms for the words big and small, such as humongous, large, itty-bitty, and small. Make sure to read the front and back of the cover, as well as the title page for more chicken-y humor.

After you read the book, ask the kids why the chickens thought the sky was falling, leaking, etc. Was it because they were jumping to conclusions? Did they jump to conclusions about the humongous chicken too? Discuss the idea of giving others a fair chance before making judgments.

I’d love to adapt this into a reader’s theatre script for a small group of children (the five chickens, the fox, and a narrator or two). This would be especially fun for a middle school or high school group to perform for elementary school children.

Use this book for a farm, chicken or fractured tales story time. Follow up with the rhyme, Chicken Fun or Five Little Chicks. The latter is a fun rhyme to use with a flannelboard or laminated pictures of each of the five chickens in the book.

-Amy

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Book #165: Rattletrap Car by Phyllis Root, Illustrated by Jill Barton


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It’s hot, hot, hot and Junie, Jakie and the baby convince Poppa to take them to the beach in their rattletrap car. They pack the car with beach toys, a thermos of razzleberry dazzleberry snazzleberry fizz and some chocolate marshmallow fudge delight. They pile in the car and Poppa starts off with a “brum brum, brum brum.” But, the rattletrap car keeps breaking down. Fortunately, the family creatively uses the items they’ve packed in the car; the beach ball to replaces the flat tire, the thermos of berry fizz to replaces the gas tank, and more. Finally, the rattletrap car makes it to the lake with a “bing bang pop!”

The rhyming text of this jaunty book just begs to be read a loud. Each time the family fixes the car and starts it back up another set of noises is added to the “brum brum, brum brum” of the rattletrap car. Barton supports Root’s whimsical world, where toy boats can replace car engines, with bright watercolor illustrations. The family lives on a farm and drives through beautiful countryside on their way to the cool and refreshing lake.

I’m a fan of singing books and the repeated “chorus” of this book is a great candidate. It also makes the words easier to remember. Elaine Magliaro suggests printing the words to the “chorus” on a large poster board of piece of paper so you can point to each line as you say it. Even if kids can’t read, it supports print awareness and helps the adults in the room keep up.

Before you read the book, examine the cover. Ask the kids if they notice anything out of the ordinary about the car. Based on the items in the car, where do you think the family is going? The first time your read this book, tell the kids to pay attention to all the items packed into the car. Then pause when the car breaks down and ask the kids for possible solutions. The second time, ask the kids to join you on the chorus.  

Make a rattletrap car snack after you read the book. Mix lemon-lime soda or ginger ale with berry juice to make razzleberry dazzleberry snazzleberry fizz and make chocolate marshmallow fudge delight by spreading Nutella on graham crackers and placing marshmallows on top. 

Many thanks to Aarene who brought this book to my attention and who pointed out that it would pair perfectly with How Will We Get to the Beach? Follow it up with the song, I’m a Little Pile of Tin, which has a rattletrap car worthy sound-filled chorus. I also love Take Me for a Ride. Watch the short video to see how to incorporate sign language into the song.

-Amy

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Book #164: Crafty Chloe by Kelly DiPucchio, Illustrated by Heather Ross


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Chloe may not be very good at sports or ballet, but she’s a natural when it comes to making things. She makes coffee filter flowers and is a glue gun pro, but what she really excels at is making clothes. Her dog, Bert, is a very good clothes model. One day, Chloe is shopping for her best friend Emma’s birthday. She finds the perfect gift, a brand new doll, but just as she’s about to buy the doll, another friend of Emma’s swoops in and takes the prize. Chloe is embarrassed, so she mumbles something about making Emma a gift, something so special you can’t buy even buy it. How will Chloe use her crafting skills to make a gift special enough for her very best friend?

Geared toward elementary school aged girls, the humorous illustrations use a trendy color palate of purples, pinks, yellows, and blues. Chloe’s outfits create a character who clearly likes to express herself through her crafts and clothes; I love her star print leggings and polka dotted cardigans. The text is conversational and full of great vocabulary stretching words, like “spectacular” and “admired.” 

This would also appeal to kids who have mastered basic reading skills, but aren’t quite ready for longer chapter books. Kids who love reading about Junie B. Jones, Katie Kazoo, Clementine, and Amber Brown will find a kindred spirit in Chloe.

Read this story before having a craft day for elementary school kids. You can try some of the crafts inspired by this book and posed on the Crafty Chloe Blog by DiPucchio and Ross. Other crafts mentioned in the book include coffee filter flowers and macaroni necklaces. There’s also an illustration of Chloe painting a paper doll, so have kids design clothes for a Chloe paper doll. The picture of Chloe on the cover would be an easy one to scan or trace. Bring in scrap paper, light weight fabrics, small buttons, and other notions to make clothes.

-Amy

Monday, June 11, 2012

Book #163: There are No Cats in This Book by Viviane Schwarz

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This is a book without a single cat in it. Well, if you don’t count the three cats who are packing their things to leave to see the world. After they leave there won’t be any cats in this book. It takes a few tries for the cats to figure out how to get out of the pages, but finally the cats are off. Don’t worry, they’ll send a postcard and when they get back, they’ll bring a surprise!

This follow up to Schwarz’s book, There are Cats in ThisBook, stands up very well alone. The loose brush and ink illustrations feature a trio of cats, each on a different primary color, set against an ivory background. Schwarz’s book design, complete with a flap and a pop up, is delightfully surprising. The text is presented in speech bubbles and speaks directly to the reader. Check out Schwarz’s website, where you can see the pages and listen to Schwarz read the book.

Reading this book aloud is fun because the book becomes more like a game. How will the cats get out of the book? Can you help them? Wish very, very hard. Wish wish wish wish wish. The postcard that the cats send back is rather small. You might want to make a larger one and let the kids pass it around.

Use this as the snappy wrap up to a cat themed storytime. It would be fun to pair this with My Cat, The Silliest Cat in the World. Use a rhyme like Sue Stainton’s I Love Cats (a cat version of Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes) or the song, I Know a Cat, to the tune of Bingo (scroll down a bit to the rhyme section).


-Amy

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Book #162: Who Wants a Cheap Rhinoceros? by Shel Silverstein


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Are you looking for something new when it comes to pets? Done with goldfish, dogs, and cats? Well, how about a rhinoceros? Not only is he cheap, but he’s so helpful around the house! He’s an excellent coat hanger and he’ll help your granny make donuts. He’ll back you up when you want extra allowance and he’s great at intimidating a shark at the beach. Best of all, he’s easy to love.

The black and white pen and ink illustrations are hilarious and imaginative. Much like a classic boy-and-his-dog story, the friendship between boy and rhinoceros is what makes this book special. The humorous illustrations alternate between supporting and juxtaposing the deadpan text. Click on the thumbnail of this book on Silverstein’s website to see an animated preview of the book.

Use this book for a rhino storytime and pair it with Jeff Newman’s Hippo! No Rhino! Follow up with rhymes like I’m a Little Rhino and Did You Ever See a Rhino?

You could also have an amazing pet storytime and pair this book with Extraordinary Pets by Barroux and Lauren Child’s That Pesky Rat.

Have a Shel Silverstein storytime and pair this book with Giraffe and a Half. Both books involve child-animal friends and are appropriate for a preschool audience.

Although Silverstein’s text doesn’t rhyme, it is poem-like in nature. Make it into a reader’s theater/poetry reading for a group of children. Have the kids decide which lines are most important and then have more children speak those lines or alternately go from everyone speaking to one child saying those lines. Either way will add emphasis to those highlighted lines, which adds a wonderful layer to the performance.

-Amy

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Book #161: Earth to Clunk by Pam Smallcomb, Illustrated by Joe Berger

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In elementary school most kids are assigned a pen pal from another city, state, or country, but the boy in this book is very unhappy to learn his pen pal is Clunk, an alien from the planet Quazar. The boy sends a series of disgusting packages, hoping that a pile of dirty socks or his big sister will stop Clunk from being his pen pal. Clunk replies with equally repulsive packages until one day when the boy receives nothing and is surprised to find that he actually misses the packages from his intergalactic pen pal.

There aren't many picture books that count as science fiction, but this one definitely fits the bill. There’s a deadpan sense of humor in the text and illustrations, with each element carrying an equal number of punch lines. Boys will love the disgusting items the little straw haired boy with the mischievous smile puts in the mail. The illustrations use bright colors, especially orange, green, and blue, to create a layout that is part scrapbook, part home movie, and part letter.

This book will appeal to elementary school kids who have had or are being assigned a pen pal. After you read the book, ask the kids if they think the boy actually wants Clunk to stop sending him mail. You can also ask them what things they would send to an alien pen pal. Have each child write a letter to Clunk, describing the items they would include.

Use this book for an alien, space, or planet themed storytime. See if children can name the planets in our solar system (hint: Quazar isn’t one of them). This is a wonderful time to bring out some non-fiction books about these topics for kids to browse. Follow up by participating in research, such as Rock Around the World. This great program is sponsored by NASA and asks kids from around the world to send in a rock so it can be tested and compared to rocks from Mars.  

-Amy


Friday, June 8, 2012

Book #160: Sunday Chutney by Aaron Blabey


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This is Sunday Chutney, a little girl with a big smile and an even bigger imagination, and she’s a bit unusual. She’s lived all over the world, which is mostly great. The only downside is that she’s always the new kid at school. But that’s ok, because Sunday doesn’t care (or does she?), because she has a vivid imagination and quite a few hobbies, from drumming to marine biology. Although it can be lonely moving around so much, Sunday has become an expert at making friends with girls, but not boys because they’re smelly and full of germs. At the end of the day Sunday wishes that she could have "the same home. Or maybe a monster truck. It depends.”

Blabey’s humorous illustrations, presented in scrapbook fashion, capture the spirit of the vivacious and eternally optimistic Sunday Chutney. With her wide smile and square plastic glasses, energetic Sunday nearly leaps off the page with enthusiasm for life. The text, written in first-person, manages to capture Sunday’s spunky spirit, but also her wistful wish to have a more permanent home.

After you read the book, ask the kids which of Sunday Chutney’s likes and dislikes are unusual. What other things do you think Sunday would enjoy or loathe? Read this book on the first day or storytime or class. Have each child introduce themselves and then name something they like, as well as something they don’t like. For instance, “Hi, my name is Amy. I like root beer, but I don’t like mosquito bites.” Have kids raise their hands if they like/dislike the same thing. Talk about the idea that Sunday Chutney probably has a lot in common with her new classmates, just like the kids in the room have more in common than they might have thought at first. 

Pair this book with Marshall Armstrong is New to Our School for a storytime that addresses the challenges of being the new kid in school. Check out the reading notes published by Penguin for a great list of discussion questions and activities.

-Amy