I had wanted to do a nursery rhyme theme for a long time for story time, but I was hesitant because I wanted it to be fun, memorable, and unique. Nursery rhymes are so important in early literacy, and many children are no longer introduced to them. I wanted to make sure I had a nice balance between old and new nursery rhymes so everyone felt comfortable, and I wanted to throw in a few fun touches to make it engaging.

We started, as usual, with our opening song–“If You Want to Hear a Story.”

(Sung to the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It”)
If you want to hear a story, clap your hands.
If you want to hear a story, clap your hands.
If you want to hear a story, if you want to hear a story, if you want to hear a story, clap your hands.

(Repeat with “zip your lips,” “stomp your feet,” “say hooray,” or any other verse you’d like.)

Then, I introduced our theme. I asked if anyone knew any nursery rhymes. When no one responded, I asked if anyone knew any Mother Goose stories. Still no one responded, so I said that I bet they did and led them in “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.” I said everyone knew at least a few of Mother Goose’s rhymes, and we’d learn a few more today.

I asked if anyone knew “Little Miss Muffet.” A few of my kids had heard it, and I said we’d read it for those that weren’t familiar. So, our first book was Little Miss Muffet by Iza Trapani


This is a cute version of this rhyme. It follows Miss Muffet on her crazy journey to get away from all the creepy crawly and otherwise undesirable creatures she finds after she escapes from the spider. It’s a fun and funny expansion of the original rhyme with some entertaining illustrations. It was a hit at storytime!

Then, we stood for an action rhyme. We did “One, Two, Buckle My Shoe.”

One, two, buckle my shoe.
Three, four, shut the door.
Five, six, pick up sticks.
Seven, eight, lay them straight.
Nine, ten, a big fat hen.
Eleven, twelve, dig and delve.
Thirteen, fourteen, maids a-courting.
Fifteen, sixteen, maids in the kitchen.
Seventeen, eighteen, maids are waiting.
Nineteen, twenty, my plate’s empty.

I took out the flannel board next for our version of “Baa Baa Black Sheep.”

Baa baa black sheep, have you any wool?
Yes, sir. Yes, sir, three bags full.
One for the master, one for the dame,
One for the little boy who lives down the lane.
Baa baa black sheep, have you any wool?
Yes, sir, Yes, sir. Three bags full.
(Change color of sheep to green, red, yellow, orange, etc.)

I made sure to repeat black at the beginning and end of the song so they were more familiar with the original version than our fun take on it. This became more important for our last flannel activity.

Our second reading was “Little Bo Peep” from Mother Goose Remembers by Clare Beaton

Mother Goose Remembers is an anthology of many of the classic rhymes accompanied with fun and colorful illustrations. Though it’s fairly simple and straightforward, it was a good addition for a traditional telling of the rhymes.

I wanted to use one fun and unique take on a nursery rhyme, but I wanted to make sure to get the original in there somewhere like Little Miss Muffet did. I found the perfect addition in Cindy Moo by Lori Mortensen. It was our third book.

This is such a fun book that tells the original version of “Hey, Diddle, Diddle.” and then follows a cow who, having heard the rhyme, wants to try her hand at jumping over the moon. After much trial and error and a bit of creativity, she manages to make her dream come true. It’s a very cute story that the kids got a kick from.

Then, we sang “Mary Had a Little Lamb” to return to rhymes they’d all heard and to refresh their memory a bit for our upcoming flannel activity.

I’d originally wanted to include a magic envelope activity for Little Boy Blue that I’d found at Storytime Secrets, but I didn’t end up being able to use it. It’s a very cute idea, though, that I hope to include in another storytime because it’s fun and helps with reading comprehension and literacy skills.

Next it was time for our final flannel activity! I decided to do a Mixed Up Mother Goose FLannel that I’d found at Mel’s Desk. All I did was print out pictures that related to the rhymes we’d used in this storytime, glossed them, added velcro tabs, and voila! I’d made a very simple flannel.

All I did for this flannel was place one piece at a time while retelling a rhyme to test the kids’ memory. For example, I said, “The itsy bitsy SPIDER went up the HAYSTACK.” at which point the kids stopped me and would correct me. I kept doing this until I ran out of pieces. I was able to retell “The Itsy Bitsy Spider,” “Hey, Diddle, Diddle,” “Baa Baa Black Sheep,” “Little Boy Blue,” “Little Miss Muffet,” and “Little Bo Peep” with the piece I cut out. You could easily use other rhymes.

Our last book was Hickory Dickory Dock by Sanja Rescek

This is a simple board book that’s a quick read with colorful and fun illustrations. I just wanted one more quick book to introduce another rhyme before we moved into our active part of the storytime.

To close, we played some of the active rhymes like “London Bridge Is Falling Down,” “Ring Around the Rosy,” and I invented a jumping game for “Jack Be Nimble” that just involved jumping over a paper towel tube with a battery operated candle inside it. In order to pick which child got to jump next, I managed to sneak in one more rhyme–“Eenie Meenie Minie Mo.”

After all that activity, we sat down to make our craft–a cow headband so that we could all be Cindy Moo! I found this craft on SugarBeeCrafts.

Art Story Time

For this storytime, we began with the “If You Want to Hear a Story” song. Then, we talked about our theme by discussing who liked to draw, color, play with play dough, etc. We had quite a few artists. Then, we read our first book–The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt.

Because of the popularity of this book, many of the kids had already read it. This is usually a good thing in storytime because they’re typically even more engaged in the story if they’re familiar with it. So, this went over very well. I did shorten it a bit because reading all the notes can take quite a while.

Then, we sang an action song I found on Storytime Katie–“This Is the Way:”

This is the way we stir the paint, stir the paint, stir the paint.
This is the way we stir the paint so early in the morning.
(Dip the brush, paint the paper, blow it dry, etc.)

After that, we did our flannel story for this week–Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson. I really wanted to include this book in my storytime, but it’s so small that reading it to a group is difficult. So, a flannel is the best bet. It’s also a very easy flannel that’s virtually impossible to mess up because it’s supposed to look like a toddler drew it! If you’re new to making flannel stories, I’d recommend this one (though I personally started with the equally easy It Looked Like Spilt Milk for my imagination storytime). If you’re looking for templates and instructions, I went to Storytime Katie’s Flannel Friday.

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After our flannel story, it was time for an action rhyme, so we did “Red, Red:”

Red, red is the color I see.
If you are wearing red, show it to me.
Stand up, turn around, show me your red, and sit back down.
(Repeat with other colors.)

Then, we read Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall

This is a very cute story about being different and learning to like yourself for who you are. The kids thought it was funny how red wasn’t actually red and had so much trouble. It was a hit.

Then, we read The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds

This was a cute story about how anyone can be an artist, no matter their talents. The kids enjoyed it, and I liked the message about expressing yourself without judgement.

After that, we decided to sing “Shake Your Sillies Out” because we needed to get rid of some energy. Then, we looked at a section of Carl’s Afternoon in the Park by Alexandra Day, but we didn’t go through the entire book. Only one page is really about art. We discussed how the characters looked different in the various paintings the artists had made of them and how they represented different styles of art that we might not have heard about before.

This introduced our craft for the week. I had put together a slightly different craft for them in addition to some coloring sheets. I had just drawn some lines on a piece of paper, photo copied it on white and colored paper, cut out the shapes on the colored paper, and made a bit of a modern art puzzle craft. They could put together their own piece of modern art from my templates. Here is an example:
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We began, as usual, with my opening song “If You Want to Hear a Story.” I introduced our theme for the week (which got quite a few “Ewwws” from the girls in attendance), but I promised that we’d have some fun while reading about creepy crawlies. I even started off with a rhyme they all knew–“The Itsy Bitsy Spider.”

Then, we read Some Bugs by Angela DiTerilizzi
This is a cute little story about finding bugs. It’s a quick read, and the kids liked the rhymes. It’s a nice introduction to the varied world of bugs.

Then, I brought out Miss Edna (as the kids at my first branch named her) my Old Lady puppet. I bought her on Amazon, and I’ve used her many times as an interactive addition to story time. With all the Old Lady books out there, she’s been my best investment because I can use her year-round. This was actually the first time I used her with the original There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly story. It went over very well, as Edna always does. The kids love feeding her and getting involved in the story.

After that, it was time for a fingerplay, so we did “Bumblebee, Bumblebee” from Preschool Education:

Bumblebee, bumblebee, landing on my nose.
Bumblebee, bumblebee, now he’s on my toes.
On my arms, on my legs, on my elbows.
Bumblebee, bumblebee he lands and then he goes.

Our next book was Miss Spider’s Tea Party by David Kirk.
This is a very cute book about not judging someone prematurely. It’s a great rhyming and counting book with some very nice illustrations that kept the kids engaged. They eventually felt sorry for Miss Spider, despite her “ickyness” that one child observed.

After two books, we needed to get up and move. So, we added some actions to the “Insects Song” from Mrs. Jones’ Room:

(Sung to the tune of “The Wheels on the Bus”)
The firefly at night goes blink blink blink
Blink blink blink blink blink blink
The firefly at night goes blink blink blink
All around the town

The bees in the flowers go buzz buzz buzz….
The ants in the grass go march march march…
The crickets in the leaves go chirp chirp chirp…
The caterpillar in the field goes creep creep creep….

Then, while we were moving and engaged, we read Can You Make a Scary Face by Jan Thomas

This is a very cute book that you can get active with. The kids loved making the faces and doing all the other instructions in the book. I love it when I find books that get them moving and engaged.

An action song was next, so I went with one of my favorites–“Can You Move With Me.” I used this in my dance story time, and it was very popular. Since it mentions how various bugs and other creepy crawlies move, it fit well with the theme. It’s from Music Therapy Tunes.

(To the tune of “Do Your Ears Hang Low”)
Can you wiggle like a worm?
Can you squiggle? Can you squirm? (wiggle)
Can you flutter? Can you fly like a gentle butterfly? (flap arms like wings)
Can you crawl upon the ground (crawl hands on ground)
Like a beetle that is round?
Can you move with me? (clap)

Can you flip? Can you flop?
Can you give a little hop?
Can you slither like a snake?
Can you give a little shake?
Can you dance like a bee
Who is buzzing round a tree?
Can you move with me?

Since we were standing and having fun, I added “The Ants Go Marching” as a fun action song to keep things moving.

The ants go marching one by one, hurrah! Hurrah!
The ants go marching one by one, hurrah! Hurrah!
The ants go marching one by one,
The little one stops to suck his thumb,
And they all go marching down, to the ground, to get out of the rain.
(two, tie his shoe; three, climb a tree; four, shut the door; five, take a dive)

Our last book was The Very Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle

This is a great book about bullying and catching more flies with honey than with vinegar. The kids thought it was entertaining and funny when the little ladybug challenged all the larger animals.

This week we ended with our flannel rhyme. We did “Butterflies” from Miss Meg’s Storytime:

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The first to come to the garden bed
Is a lovely butterfly of brilliant RED
Then in comes another and that makes two
Fly right in my friend of BLUE
“The garden is fine, the best I’ve seen”
Says the butterfly of softest GREEN
Our garden needs a sunny fellow
Fly in butterfly with wings of YELLOW
Little friend of PURPLE, fly in too
The garden is waiting for a color like you
ORANGE, orange you’ve waited so long
Fly right in where you belong
Butterflies, butterflies, you’re such a sight
Flying together – what a delight!

For our craft this week, we made bug “fossils” out of toy plastic bugs and air dry clay. I also had a Grouchy Ladybug craft out for that week that I’d found on Buggy and Buddy.

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Rapunzel’s Revenge

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Hale, S., Hale, D., & Hale, N. (2008). Rapunzel’s Revenge. New York, NY: Bloomsbury USA.

PLOT SUMMARY

Rapunzel spent her childhood in the beautiful villa of Mother Gothel. Unable to see the rest of the world because of high walls, she’s shocked when she finally escapes to the other side and finds the mother she’s always dreamed of in a matter of moments. Her anger leads her kidnapper, Mother Gothel, to imprison her in a tower in the woods. After much time, she finally is able to escape by using Gothel’s own growth magic against her. She then sets off on a whirlwind adventure with Jack (of Jack and the Beanstalk) complete with sea serpents, gun-toting gangsters, witches, and dwarves.

CRITICAL ANALYSIS

The art of Rapunzel’s Revenge is quite detailed from the beautiful villa of Gothel all the way to the final battle. It depicts various ethnicities throughout which is a wonderful addition, despite the Caucasian main characters. It added depth to the story and kept it moving with action scenes.

Setting this story in the Wild West was an interesting choice that gave more variety to this novel than most fairy tale reimaginings. This choice gave color to the language and tone of the story, and it was somewhat difficult to follow for those who are not as familiar with how cowboys might speak. However, the use of Rapunzel’s hair as a lasso was a brilliant choice both for the plot (as it facilitated her escape from the tower on her own rather than relying on a handsome prince) and as character development (as it was a way for her to bond with Mason before her imprisonment). It was a unique choice that paid off in action as the story unfolded.

Rapunzel’s self-reliance is a seemingly feminist choice that goes against the traditional tale. She frees herself from the tower, refuses help when it is offered by Jack, and when men do try to help, it ends in a mess (as seen when the first man she meets shoots her wild boar that she’d been riding). This is a brilliant choice for a book for children/teens today. It’s inspiring to see that not only is she able of handling things herself, but Jack comes to rely on her to save him. This is a great novel for some girl power moments.

REVIEW EXCERPTS

From School Library Journal: “The dialogue is witty, the story is an enticing departure from the original, and the illustrations are magically fun and expressive. Knowing that there are more graphic novels to come from this writing team brings readers their own happily-ever-after.”

From Booklist: “This graphic novel retelling of the fairy-tale classic, set in a swashbuckling Wild West, puts action first and features some serious girl power in its spunky and strong heroine.”

CONNECTIONS
-Have students write their own short graphic novels using fractured fairy tales
-Pair with other fractured fairy tales:
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Beastly by Alex Flynn
Wicked: Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire
A Curse Dark As Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce
The Golden Braid by Melanie Dickerson
Entwined by Heather Dixon
Towering by Alex Flinn
-Pair with other strong female heroes in graphic novels:
Princeless by Jeremy Whitley
Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Law, I. (2011). Savvy. Waterville, Me.: Thorndike Press.

PLOT SUMMARY

Mibs’s family, the Beaumonts, are an ordinary family with a bizarre and magical secret. They each possess a special magical gift unique to them. It appears on their thirteenth birthday, and Mibs’s birthday is right around the corner. Unfortunately, before she can turn thirteen, her father is in a terrible accident that lands him in a coma. Mibs sets off an adventure with her siblings and friends from church (from whom they must conceal the family secret) sure that her new savvy will save her father.

CRITICAL ANALYSIS

The entire cast of Savvy is made of realistic kids and teenagers. It’s easy to imagine them fitting in to (or rather standing out from) any school or neighborhood. There’s the rebellious but secretly sweet teenager, the shy youngster, the sincere and admitted loner (“I don’t have any friends”), the mysterious and charismatic boy with a secret, and more. They are developed and believable as well as relatable to any reader who has ever been different, talked about, bullied, or has been looking for their own sense of belonging or savvy.

Spurred by an understandable desire to save her father and a belief that she has that power, Mibs jumpstarts the story by bringing the reader along on a realistic adventure. Every part of the plot is grounded in reality (or the reality of the story). Aside from the magical elements, this could easily happen in the real world. A child longs to be with her father after a tragic accident and finds any means necessary to get to him which spurs a hunt for them and their “kidnappers.” It’s easy to understand how a child would want to believe that they could help their parents in their hour of need, whether or not they actually possessed a magical ability.

The style of the story was consistent. The language used fit the setting of Nebraska/Kansas, but it can be difficult to follow for those unaccustomed to it.

This is, through all its magical additions, a story of family and belonging. Because of their differences, the Beaumonts grew together stronger than most families. They had to be mostly isolated from the outside world because of the danger they posed to others not in possession of a savvy before they could fully control their powers. This isolation and the mystery surrounding it caused others to pull away and gossip about the odd family. While this strengthened the familial bond, it left the children feeling lost, friendless, and lonely. Mibs wants to find her place in the world in addition to helping the family she loves at a time of crisis. She finds freedom in finally revealing the Beaumont secret, making friends, and letting her guard down a bit. That freedom and a wider sense of belonging is imperative at her age, and readers of all ages can relate to her journey.

REVIEW EXCERPTS

From School Library Journal: “Law has a feel for characters and language that is matched by few. With its delightful premise and lively adventure, this book will please a wide variety of audiences, not just fantasy fans. Definitely an author to watch.”

From Booklist: “Law’s storytelling is rollicking, her language imaginative, and her entire cast of whacky, yet believable characters delightful. Readers will want more from Law; her first book is both wholly engaging and lots of fun.”

CONNECTIONS

-Pair with other teen fantasy:
Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamore Pierce
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
Once Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
-Have students brainstorm what their savvy might be and write an essay.

Happy Star Wars Day! May the Fourth be with you!

I decided to do a Star Wars craft this week for the kids (and the young at heart). I found an adorable and easy Yoda puppet here, and I decided to make a few changes. My final result is below. All you need are some brown paper bags, googly eyes, grey or green colored pencils or crayons, glue, and white and light green construction paper. I drew my templates for the ears by hand and just measured the bag to figure out how big to make the rectangles for the head and robe. This was the perfect craft for all the little Padawans that came in to the library this week!

Speak


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Anderson, L. H. (2011). Speak. New York, NY: Square Fish.

PLOT SUMMARY

A teenage girl begins high school after calling the cops at a party thrown by her classmates over the summer. She is ostracized and obviously withdrawn and depressed. As she moves through the year, we discover she called the police because she had been raped at the party. Throughout the school year, she makes and loses a friend and becomes close to her art teacher who imparts a great lesson on expression–something she hadn’t experienced most of the year because she feels unable, unwilling, or as if it is pointless to speak. She slowly gains personal strength and confidence until a sudden twist of events at the end of the year turns her life around.

CRITICAL ANALYSIS

The characters in this novel are extremely relatable and those you would likely see in any high school. Their relationships are realistic and fluid, their observances sound spot on what a teenager would say. For example, the “first ten lies they tell you in high school” and her witty observation that “It’s easier to floss with barbed wire than admit you like someone in middle school” are exactly what a teenager version of me would write in her diary. The main character’s struggle is authentic to her age; she fights against expressing her pain but fears what others will think of her while not being self-aware enough to get to the real root of her problem.

Sexual violence and harassment remain a difficult and all too common issue for teens to face, and this novel addresses those issues in a very sincere fashion. It does not sugar coat how depressed she becomes after the attack or the terror she feels at facing her attacker at school. It doesn’t spare the reader’s feelings but seeks to elicit an honest response to such a trying time in her life. The events in the story are spurred by this realism and by her reaction to what life has thrown at her. The ending, however, seems rushed as if the author wished to tie up the loose ends and leave us with a happy ending wrapped in a neat bow. While her actions, by this point in her emotional journey, are believable, the situation that she is thrown into feels forced and too contrived.

The running theme tying the story together is obvious expression. Her trauma has caused her to withdraw from others for fear of judgement, reprisal, or a fear of speaking the words out loud and forcing herself to confront what happened to her at the party. Her silence stifles her social life, family life, schoolwork, emotional growth, and her art. She doesn’t want to confront it; she wants to escape what happened rather than speak it aloud and make it more real. SO, she tries to find other means of escape when silence isn’t enough. We see this as depression takes ahold of her and saps her energy–“I just want to sleep. A coma would be nice. Or amnesia. Anything, just to get rid of this, these thoughts, whispers in my mind. Did he rape my head, too?”

It is only when her art teacher speaks the main truth of the novel (“When people don’t express themselves, they die one piece at a time.”) that we begin to realize that is what we are witnessing. She is dying. She has withdrawn so much from others and herself that she might as well be dead. Expression is what turns everything around. She finds a strength within herself that so many teenagers will relate to, that so many are searching for, at the end of the novel. Only after freeing herself is she able to overcome that horrible night and begin to move forward.

REVIEW EXCERPTS

From Publisher’s Weekly: “In a stunning first novel, Anderson uses keen observations and vivid imagery to pull readers into the head of an isolated teenager.… the book’s overall gritty realism and Melinda’s hard-won metamorphosis will leave readers touched and inspired.”

From School Library Journal: “This powerful novel deals with a difficult yet important topic-rape… Melinda’s pain is palpable, and readers will totally empathize with her. This is a compelling book, with sharp, crisp writing that draws readers in, engulfing them in the story.”

CONNECTIONS

-Pair with other books about mental health in high school:
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Looking for Alaska by John Green
Impulse by Ellen Hopkins
My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

-Pair with other teen reads about sexual assault:
Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
Some Boys by Patty Blount
All the Rage by Courtney Summers
Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens
Hopeless by Colleen Hoover
Asking For It by Louise O’Neill

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