Tuesday, December 19, 2006

When political correctness meets a child

In my library we (by which I mean I) do a book club for lower elementary school students. The kids are ages 5-8 and we read a simple chapter book. The youngest ones, well I suspect their parents read it to them, but that is just fabulous. We meet twice a month. There is some book discussion, a game, an activity or craft, snack, etc. It's a ton of fun and I love it. For the last discussion we were talking about holiday traditions, and I was being my typical librarian politically correct self and saying "Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa". One little girl (interuptted) asked, "What is Kwanzaa?" I was focused on the child whose turn it was and so didn't answer in time. Another child answered explaining Kwanzaa thusly, "I think it is something vegetarians don't do." I was laughing too hard at first to correct her. One of the kids present does celebrate Kwanzaa so I asked him to explain it. His explanation: "we go to this place and they talk for a long time and then they light a candle; I don't like it, it's boring." I added some explanation about the candles and the symbolism of African-American heritage and then wisely steered the conversation away. Fortunately my Jewish attendee had more fond memories of Hanukkah to share, and my Muslim boy talked cheerfully about Ramadan (yes it is not in December this year, but equal time), and then we had some happy Christmas stories. It's a great group, fairly diverse, and fun. And now you know that Kwanzaa is for vegetarians, carnivores, and omnivores alike!

Cross posted various places in other blogs.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Animal Movement Storytime

I really do intend to do update this more than once a month, at least eventually. Today's storytime was a great deal of fun. I did this storytime with my Tiny Tykes/Toddlers which in my library we define as 18-36 months though we allow a lot of leeway. I had some older kids (3 year-olds) and some younger ones (15 months) and they all seemed to enjoy it. I'm not sure how it would work with five year-olds, but it was a big hit with my crowd. Part of why it works is how interactive it is. This storytime, these books, these songs flow well and beg for children to interact with them. Here's a storytime plan:

Theme: Move Like the Animals

Opening: Open like you normally do. You hopefully have a routine established with a song, a rhyme etc. In my library we sing two songs and I introduce myself (not a week goes by without new people) and the theme of the storytime. We usually also do a sign that goes with the theme. This week I used the sign for animals.

First Book: From Head to Toe by Eric Carle
This is a classic book and perfect in this setting. The words are repetitive and invite the children to try out the motions which get progressively more elaborate. MOst of the children stayed sitting during this, though there were some who stood for more expansive movement.

Song: Hokey Pokey!
Okay, I admit, there is no animal movement in this song. But it is fun. It is a whole lot of fun. I used a version from a collection of 100 Favorite Kids Songs. Use whichever version you can. Do listen to it first to make sure you have an idea of what order the parts come in. I recommend you stay away from Little Richard's version. It's a bit too crazy, too much his style, and too fast. It is actually kind of scary. Now the kids (and parents probably) are up and moving. Tell them to stay standing for the next book.

Book: Animal Fun by Zita Newcome (from the Toddlerobics series)
This book follows a toddler aerobics class as they do various movements. It directs your toddlers to do the movements too. I did them (for the most part) with the book balanced in one hand. At the end of the book, the kids are directed to lie down on the ground, wiggle like a worm, and take deep breaths. It is a great way to ground them for the next activity.

Song: Old MacDonald
I sang this to go with the animal theme. There are a lot of great animal action fingerplays and motion rhymes or other songs. But a few verses of Old MacDonald never went wrong.

Book: We've All Got Bellybuttons!
We love this book at my library! Big colorful pictures, and great inclusionary dialogue. And of course at the end, the parents tickle the children and all is well.

Song: Shake Your Sillies Out by Raffi
Okay, once again, not to do with animals. But it is fun and kids can dance and move. You can skip this song and go straight to your closing routine if you wish or substitute for another motion rhyme.

Closing: Close as you normally would. We use If you're happy and you know it.

We had so much fun with this with the dancing and moving and jumping. I was winded by the end and the kids were beaming. Even the littlest guy was bopping along.

Other books:
I found these titles better as display. I try to leave some books out on the same theme to encourage parents to go home with a book. And of course I try to have extra copies of the storytime titles so we can take those home too.
Monkey See, Monkey Do: An Animal Exercise Book for You! by Anita Holsonback and Deb Adamson
Babar's Yoga for Elephants by Laurent De Brunhoff
Wiggle Waggle by Jonathan London - this is a good one to substitute in storytime too

Craft: Not everyone does a craft, but we do. We made a simple elephant but his legs attached by brads (all cutting and brad attaching was done in advance by volunteers) so the elephant could "dance". The kids colored him and glued his head to his body. Perfect.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Eoin Colfer

I am a huge fan of Eoin Colfer, especially his Artemis Fowl series. A few years ago I played Holly Short in a brief "teaser" style adaptation of his second book in that series at the Arizona Festival of the Book. Recently I listened to Artemis Fowl: Opal Deception on CD. For years I've been pronouncing his first name (yes he's Irish) as Americans are wont to pronounce Ian, but on the CD it sounds more like Americans pronounce the name Owen. Oops. I'm trying to change it in my head. There is a fifth book in the series now (not including the companion book, The Fowl Files) entitled Artemis Fowl: The Lost Colony.

Review of Opal Deception
I believed that at the end of the previous book, Colfer had written himself into a hole, but a very interesting hole. Artemis Fowl had had his memory entirely wiped of the Faerie people. Or has he? There are the mirrored contacts. At the beginning of this book, Artemis Fowl does not remember his friendships and has reverted to his previous self. Colfer does manage to bring the Fowl that he had become back, but it is an interesting journey. And it is a dangerous thing for a writer to do, to wipe away all character growth that he spent three years building. Fans will love Opal Deception. I listened to the CD and it was captivating. However I'm not feeling the urge to rush out and get the next book. With previous books I had that urge so much I preordered books in the series. Perhaps it is that the Fowl mystique is cooling for me. However I will still read the next book, and I will keep recommending the books.

I've also booktalked Artemis Fowl with great sucess with fifth through eighth graders. I tend to recommend these books to kids who like Harry Potter. If you like Artemis Fowl and/or Harry Potter, here are some other recommendations.

Gregor the Overlander (actually the series is called the Underland Chronicles) series by Suzanne Collins... It all starts innocently enough. Gregor's father has been missing for two years. He is babysitting his baby sister and she falls into a grate in their laundry room in their apartment building in New York. Gregor follows her and they float down on mists to land in an underland world. There a race of humans fly on giant bats and fight six foot rats. The four foot cockroaches have decided his sister is a princess. And the humans are pretty sure that Gregor is the warrior prophesied to save them. This book series is also very good for Narnia fans as it is light on the magic but packed with action (thus more palatable for conservative Christian families). Oh, and just for fun, did I mention that Gregor is African American, but that it isn't the point of the story and it isn't a big deal. Readers may not even realize immediately. We need characters like that. Reading level starts around 4th grade.

Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud... Welcome to an alternative London where instead of Lords and Ladies as nobility and everyone else as commoners there are wizards as nobility. Nate is a young apprentice wizard. The secret to the power of wizards lies in their ability to summon and control powerful demons. However when Nate summons a demon named Bartimaeus everyone gets more than they bargain for. These are great books, lots of action, magic, fun. They're much smarter and well written than Harry Potter in my opinion. Reading level starts around upper 5th or 6th grade.

Charlie Bone series by Jenny Nimmo... This one is very much like Harry Potter. Charlie Bone is a half-orphan (dad disappeared, but mom's still there) with crazy black hair (no scar though). He lives with his nice (maternal) grandmother and mean (paternal) grandmother and mother and uncle. Then one day he discovers that when he looks at pictures he can hear what was being said when the photo was taken. He is a "gifted" descendant of the Red King. The Red King had a lot of children, all gifted or as they usually say endowed, and half of them tried to kill the other half. He's packed off to a boarding school for the gifted and endowed children. And the war started with the Red King rages on among his desendants. Occasionally into an evil family (like Charlie's) a good one will be born and vice versa. All of Charlie Bone's friends have different powers. And there are some magic cats and other adults who aid them along the way. Five books and the series feels complete. I can't imagine there being more, but I suppose it is possible. I didn't like this as well as Harry Potter, but it has its merits and it is a good filler. It is also an easier reading level. Starts at about 4th or maybe very high 3rd grade level.

Happy Reading!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Spiderleg and Cobweb pizza

Recently we had a children's musician, Dino O'Dell come in to the library for a Halloween program. He preforms a piece about pizza and had mentioned something about it in the program description. I didn't realize it was referring to a song and not to actual pizza. Neither did our patrons. People kept saying how excited they were to try his spiderleg and cobweb pizza. We were in a little bit of a pickle when we realized that there was no pizza. I had primarily been the one telling people who asked that yes there was pizza. The other librarians had heard the song before. (That's me, the librarian who spreads disinformation). So we got pizza. And then I had my flash of genius. I drew on cobwebs with that string/spray cheese that comes out of a can (called Easy Cheese, not cheez whiz, cheez whiz comes in a jar, this was a matter of great debate among the chidlren's staff and we did eventually have to look it up). I also put on little plastic spiders. The results looked fabulous. (That canned spray cheese is disgusting so we had some pizzas without "cobwebs" also because I only bought one can).

I took some pictures, but with my cell phone so they're not the greatest quality.

See how cool they look? (This is just the last one eaten and the only one remaining when it occurred to me to take photos.) I'm ridiculously proud of this. One patron told me she was stealing the idea for her halloween pizza party. Edible string would work too, but edible string is harder to find and harder to convince children that it is edible. I saw one little girl lean over and "whisper" conspiratorily to her brother, "the cobwebs are just cheese". If you wish to attempt this yourself, easy cheese comes in multiple flavors. I used American, and it still didn't taste good (in my opinion). Also one can of easy cheese (sold in the cracker aisle) will draw cobwebs on about four large pizzas.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Pirate Storytime: Songs and Fingerplays

I believe that I promised a piratatical themed storytime and comments on the same. No one is reading this yet, but I hope that someday when it is read, it will be useful to go through the archives. There is a ton of stuff out there on pirates including a very recent PubYac compilation. Here are some of my favorites.

Songs and Fingerplays

If you're a pirate and you know it
If you're a pirate and you know it, swab the deck (swish, swish)
If you're a pirate and you know it, swab the deck (swish, swish)
If you're a pirate and you know it, then you'll hear the sea winds blowin.
If you're a pirate and you know it, swab the deck (swish, swish)

verses two and three
If you're a pirate and you know it, walk the plank (stomp, stomp)...
If you're a pirate and you know it, say ahoyAhoy! (with arm movement)...

I wrote this one, so please use it but give credit! I'm proud of my "piggyback" song creation. Someday I'm going to publish all of them. The rest of these I did not write.

One-Eyed Jake
I’m One-Eyed Jake, the pirate chief
(cover one eye with hand as if covering eye with a patch)
A terrible, fearsome ocean thief
I have a peg upon my leg
(Stand on one leg)
I have a hook and a dirty look
(One arm in the air, curving hand into a hook shape—make exaggerated mean face)
I’m One-Eyed Jake, the pirate chief
A terrible, fearsome ocean thief.

This is a fun one to use cumilitively. Add action after action, until the child is standing balanced on one leg, an eye covered, arm in a hook. They'll giggle as they try to stay upright. It isn't easy for me to do (especially in heels).

The Day I went to Sea
When I was one (hold up one finger)
I sucked my thumb (mock sucking thumb)
The day I went to sea.
I jumped aboard a pirate ship (jump)
And the captain said to me. (point to self)
We're going this way (lean and sway while pointing right)
And that way (lean and sway while pointing left)
And forward (rock/walk forward)
And backward (rock/walk backward)
Across the deep blue sea. (spin in circle)

other verses
When I was two, I tied my shoe...
When I was three, I scraped my knee...
When I was four, I shut the door...
When I was five, I danced a jive... (or learned to dive)...

This one is easy to sing, simple tune. If you start singing, I bet you'll fall into the "right" tune. And the kids seemed to love it. I did it at storytime, big hit. I did it with 2nd and 3rd graders at a school visit and they were really getting into the rocking forward and back and to each side.

Ten Little Pirates
Ten little pirates stood in a row hold up all ten fingers
They bowed to their captain so lower and raise fingers
They marched to the left march hands to left (or opposite since kids will mirror you)
They marched to the right see above
They shouted yoo hoo! cup hands over mouth
And gave their captain a fright act scared, cover mouth with hands

Simple, but great with younger kids.

Coming up: Reviews of Pirate picture books for storytime usage!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Talk Like a Pirate Day

Today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. I also have my newly formed Family Storytime. Librarians love this type of coincidence. So I chose a pirate theme, I already had the storytime prepped. It's one of my favorite storytimes. I also emailed the official web site and had my event added to their list.

A few days later I get a call from a reporter for the Topeka Capital-Journal about my event and pirates. It was an article for their teen section and appeared today. She used my quote, even if she did promote me from a humble children's librarian to youth director. Oh well. Link below.

No Ocean? No problem on Talk Like a Pirate Day

You have to register to read the article, so here is the full text. Now who actually gets this paper in print and can get me a paper copy? I'll try to post my secrets to a pirate storytime later.

No Ocean? No problem on Talk Like A Pirate Day

by Talory Atkins
The Capital Journal, September 19, 2006

Ahoy, Mateys! Today be International Talk Like A Pirate Day. It's a day to start an adventure, take to the sea and fill up on hardtack and salty cod.

Unfortunately, for Kansas pirates, Lake Shawnee isn't exactly the Pacific Ocean, and hardtack? Enough said.

But don't walk the plank just yet. Elizabeth Moreau, youth director at the Plaza Branch of the Kansas City Public Library, said Pirate Day is more than just big boats and bad food.

"I think it's the pirate spirit of always being free or going wherever the wind blows you that's appealing," Moreau said. "There is a lot we can do to be like a pirate."

Moreau will be holding a Talk Like A Pirate Day event at 7 tonight at her library, 4801 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. For buccaneers who can't make the voyage to Kansas City, you can find ye' inner pirate close to home.

If hardtack doesn't sound appealing tonight, Red Lobster, 2011 S.W. Wanamaker, has a Shrimp Lovers Tuesday, that lets you choose from three kinds of shrimp for $11.99.
And if you are short on gold, make pirate grub in your own galley. Pirate recipes, such as Pirate Pie, Pirate Sticks and Key West Pirate's Cake, can be found at www.cooks.com.

For pirate fun, look no further than http://www.talklikeapirate.com/. The Web site is the official International Talk Like A Pirate Day port, maintained by the day's creators. The site has pirate shanties, both to sing or download, a pirate advice column by Capn' Slappy and every lonely scallywags' favorite -- pirate pick-up lines.

If you still haven't gotten your sea legs, you can sit back, relax and watch other pirates wo set sail on the silver screen far before Johnny Depp. Check out "The Princess Bride," starring Cary Elwes and Robyn Wright Penn; "Hook," starring Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman; and "Treasure Island," starring Charlton Heston and Christian Bale.

Friday, September 15, 2006

somewhere I can say what I want to say

I've been thinking about librarian issues more lately. They creep up more often in my personal blog. A place was needed where I could express all those things. Here it is. More will come later to this space. I worked for nearly 12 hours today (and I thought a librarian would get to keep normal hours, silly me).

First there was a KCMLIN Children's Koffee (it is their decision to misspell coffee not mine). That was an amazing experience, a great time to talk about how we are working with the schools. We had people from St. Louis, MO to Louisburg, KS and everywhere in between. It was at my home library, but I got to see quite a few of my former coworkers. Then of course I spent (over) a full day at work. This leaves me tired and ready for bed. So naturally I started a new project. It gives me something to tinker with instead of sleeping.