Monthly Archives: October 2011



I recently had the opportunity to visit a library that had a wealth of beautiful, handmade puppets.  It reminded me of a book that I purchased while I was in library school, at the suggestion of my professor, called A Puppet Corner in Every Library by Nancy Renfro.  My professor said upfront that the book was old (it was published in 1978) but said that it was still an excellent resource.  I bought it used on Amazon very inexpensively and put it on my shelf, figuring I would need it for reference later.

So last night I pulled it off that shelf and started reading.  The book has some really great ideas about incorporating puppets into a library children’s department!  Not only does it have drawings and patterns for puppets, puppet storage and puppet theaters, but it also suggests ways that you can use the puppets.  One of my favorites is this one:

“SHERLOCK HOLMES is precise and calm, and in his detective-like manner could take the children through the library with his “Magnifying Glass Tour”, explaining shelf layout, reference book location, and checkout tips.  Games specifically designed for Sherlock could be fun.  How about a treasure hunt search for a missing book.  Give each child the name of a book to look up, which, in turn, has a note to look up another book, etc.  It could end up with a surprise or award.”  (p. 15).

Another idea that intrigued me is to circulate the puppets, along with a reading list for each one.  For example, a list of suggested cat books (both fiction and non-fiction) to go along with a cat puppet.  (See p. 93).  I think that this could really help support parents in reading aloud to their children.

I also thought it was a fun idea to give the puppets over to older children and allow them to make their own story.  (p. 32-33).

One idea I have been cooking up is to make a puppet show or flannelboard for Silly Sally by Audrey Wood.  I think it would be so much fun!  “A Puppet Corner in Every Library” has inspired me to give it a try!  Stay tuned…



Book review–The Splendid Spotted Snake


The Splendid Spotted Snake.  Betty Ann Schwarts and Alexander Wilensky.  Workman Publishing, 2011.

You might be wondering–“Just what is so splendid about this spotted snake?”  Well–his spots are splendid!  Each time Yellow Snake grows, his spots change color!  For me, the best part of this book is its design.  The cover states that it is “A Magic Ribbon Book” and boy, is it!  On the first page, Yellow Snake’s body is a yellow ribbon with red spots.  When you turn the page, another ribbon is added, showing us that Yellow Snake has grown and acquired new blue spots!









My four-year-old daughter and I fell in love with this book instantly at the bookstore.  The back of the book states that it is for ages 3 and up, but I think it would make a good read-aloud for younger children, too.  (I think that the age recommendation might be due to the fact that the pages can be hard to turn because of the ribbon mechanism.)  The text is large, simple, and rhyming (sometimes pseudo-rhyming), and it provides a great lesson on colors!

Book review–“This is NOT a Pumpkin”


Staake, Bob.  This is NOT a Pumpkin.  Little Simon, 2007.

What’s round like a pumpkin, orange like a pumpkin, but NOT a pumpkin?  A jack o’ lantern, of course!  I had the opportunity to read this board book to a group of kids of varying ages, and they all liked it.  However, I think babies and toddlers would enjoy it most because of its simplicity.  Each of the illustrations appears to depict a pumpkin, yet the  bold text on the opposite page insists that it is NOT a pumpkin.  With each declaration, the kids seemed to grow more convinced that it WAS a pumpkin, which made the “surprise” ending really fun.  Recommended for babies and toddlers.

Update–received my free Kodak picture book!


Not long ago I posted about a deal that Kodak was running for a free small (5×7) photo book, shipped for only $2.99.  Well, guess what?  I received mine today!  Here are some pics!

























Note how there are different ways to format your photos, and that you have the capability to add text.  You can also customize the color of the cover.  Overall, I was very pleased, and my daughter loved looking back over the milestones of her third year!

Nursery rhyme cube and ideas for baby storytime


I’ve been thinking lately about baby (ages newborn to 24 months)  storytimes and how they are different from storytimes for older children (ages 2 and up).  All you have to do is Google “baby storytimes” and you will see ideas from many experienced and creative librarians (some I will link to below).  After reading many of these posts, I have come up with a rough idea of what I think would work well for a baby storytime.

First, some things I learned:

1.  It doesn’t have to be totally book-centered.  Most of the posts and articles I read had a ton of songs, flannelboards, and fingerplays, with only one book (maybe two) somewhere in the middle.  This was a little surprising to me at first.  After all, it IS called “storytime”, right?  But it makes sense when you think about it.  Babies don’t have a very long attention span.  Songs and rhymes are fun to listen to and easy to remember, so babies develop a positive association with reading and learning.

2.  Repetition is key.  While looking at actual suggested storytime plans, I was again surprised to see how little the program can vary from week to week.  This shouldn’t be a surprise, however, because those of us with children have all experienced the torture of reading the same book over and over and OVER again.  Babies like repetition.  In Baby Read Aloud Basics, Blakemore and Ramirez emphasize the importance of reading aloud and of repetition.  They quote Jim Trelease, read-aloud expert: “If the child has never heard the word, the child will never say the word; and if you have neither heard it nor said it, it’s pretty tough to read it and to write it.”  (Baby Read Aloud Basics, 4).  Simply put, babies need to hear words–lots of them, over and over, all the time.  It’s the most important thing you can do for future literacy.  Aside from that, repetition gives very young children a sense of routine, which can be comforting in new social situations like storytime.

So, with these things in mind, here are my ideas for baby storytime.

Introductions:  I’m thinking it might be good to start out by learning everyone’s name.  This could be helped along through use of a puppet.

1.  Hello song: (click link to see YouTube video of the song being sung in what appears to be a storytime or circle time setting)

Hello, everybody!  We’re so glad to see you.  Hello, everybody!  We’re so glad to see you.  (Can be used like this, or fill in children’s names like so–Hello to Joseph!  We’re so glad to see you.  Hello to Emily!  We’re so glad to see you!)

2.  After the Hello song, an activity like Where is Little Cloud?, or maybe a fingerplay or rhyme that goes along with the theme of the selected book.

3.  Book–something large, with bold, bright pictures, and simple text.  Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is a great choice, as are nursery rhyme books.  Here are some other suggestions.

4.  Rhyme cube–Whew, I went the long way around here.  I found this idea on the Babygarten website here and thought it would be a great activity for storytime.  Basically, you take a cube shaped box, stuff it with paper or plastic bags to stabilize it.  Wrap the box in brightly colored paper and glue icons representing different nursery rhymes/songs on each side.  Then, put clear contact paper on it to protect it (I used packing tape because I had it on hand and because I have had some pretty negative experiences with clear contact paper sticking to itself!)  The rhymes I chose were: Three Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed; Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star; Little Miss Muffet; Pat-a-Cake; This Little Piggy; and Hey Diddle Diddle.  You can either draw icons, make them out of cardstock, or print off free coloring pages and cut them out.








To use the cube, toss it (or have the babies take turns tossing).  The group sings/recites whichever song/rhyme it lands on. This can be a game you play every week after the story or between stories.

5.  Another book?/free playtime

6.  Clean up–Clean Up Song (Clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere.  Clean up, clean up, everybody do your share).

7.  Goodbye Song (to the tune of London Bridge)

Goodbye, goodbye we’ll see you soon.  See you soon, see you soon.  Goodbye, goodbye we’ll see you soon.  On another day.  (Again, you can just do it like this, or insert children’s names–Goodbye, Joseph we’ll see you soon…” etc.

For those of you who have done storytimes, or been to one with your children–how does this plan compare to what you have experienced?  Do you have any suggestions?  Things you liked or things you hated?



Make your own books–free Kodak photo book deal until 10/17/11!


Baby Read Aloud Basics, Caroline Blakemore and Barbara Weston Ramirez, AMACOM (2006).

I’ve mentioned before that I love this book, and this probably won’t be the last time, either.  It’s got tons of good information in it.  Unfortunately, I read it for a class after my daughter was out of her baby years.  While I have always read to her, I wish I had read this book in time to really understand what to do and why I was doing it.  I recommend this book as a baby shower gift for moms.

Anyway, one of the recommendations in the book is to make your own books.  “The most valuable benefit of making customized books for your baby is being able to read aloud together about experiences and family members in your own personal environment.  Imagine when your baby sees family members, favorite animals, foods, or herself as the star of your very own book!”  (page 225).

This task may seem somewhat daunting at first, but when you think about it, there are many ways to make your own books.  The simplest is to find a premade book that is waterproof and baby-friendly, such as this one.  My own daughter had something like this, and we filled it with photos of family members.  Since we live a good distance from most of our family, this was so helpful in teaching her who everyone was, and reminding her that there were so many who cared about her.

For you scrapbookers out there, you can make scrapbook pages about ABCs, numbers, animals, or baby’s daily activities.  I would suggest keeping it simple and using a smaller book with covered pages so that it is harder for baby to destroy.   (I’m trying to save you the heartbreak of creating a masterpiece worthy of Martha Stewart’s envy only to have baby rip it apart the first time she sees it!)

What prompted this blog, however, is a great deal that Kodak is running until October 17, 2011.  You can get a 14-page small (5 x 7) photo book for FREE, paying only $2.99 to have it shipped.  I just did it, and it only took me about an hour.  It was so easy, and it would be perfect for a project like this.  There are many different formats (you can put multiple photos on each page) and you can also add limited narrative text.

For the topic, you can choose anything–family and friends, ABCs, familiar places, or even just baby herself doing all her normal activities.  Not only will this be good for baby now, but it’ll be a great keepsake in the future.

Paper plate bats


The Walgreen’s ad for this week has a coupon for paper plates $1.19 per package of 72 (limit 3).  I got some this morning, and I’ve been been thinking of ways to use them.  On this project I used the smaller size, which wasn’t on sale, but it was still only $1.89 for a package of 72.

What you’ll need:

2 Paper plates (I used the smaller dessert size)*

Black and purple paint (I used watercolor, but finger paint would go lots faster)


Glue (I used both white glue for assembling the body and glue stick for the facial features)

Bat template

Black cardstock (optional)

Markers, crayons, or colored pencils

*It might be cute to color a coffee filter black and cut it in half to use for wings in place of one of the paper plates.  In my head, it would have a fluttery effect, and it might adhere to the body easier, but I don’t know for sure since I haven’t tried it.

What to do:

1.  Cut one of your plates in half using scissors.

2.  Paint each half black.  On the whole plate, paint the middle purple and the edges black.  I used watercolors, which was a little bit tedious.  If I were doing the project with kids, I might try finger paints to speed the process along.

3.  While plates are drying, print out bat template.  If you wish, you can color all of the pieces with markers, crayons, or colored pencils.  I traced the head and feet onto black cardstock and cut them out, then colored the facial features with markers and cut them out.  Using cardstock makes the head a bit sturdier and easier to glue onto the body, but either works fine.

4.  Glue facial features onto head with glue stick.

5.  Glue paper plate “wings” onto body by applying white glue to one end of each half and pressing firmly onto the back of the whole paper plate (body).  Because the plates are rounded, you may have to hold each wing down for a bit to make sure it sticks.

6.  Apply white glue to the top of each foot and press it onto the back of the body.  Again, you may wish to hold them for a few seconds to make sure they adhere.

7.  Cut two slits at the top of the body for the head to rest into.  Apply white glue to the lower part of the head, arrange the head between the slits, then press the head and body together.

8.  Allow project to dry.

This project was really fun, and the template I found was perfect for it!  My four-year-old really enjoyed coloring the template and gluing the facial features on, but I did the painting, cutting out and gluing the body.  It might be a little too high-maintenance for a storytime, especially if you have a large group.   Even so, I really enjoyed this project, and I think he turned out pretty cute!  We hung ours up in our front window.


Puffy cotton ball ghosts


Today was rainy, so I was desperate for a way to entertain my four-year-old.  I had a bunch of cotton balls from a sale at the drugstore, so I had been thinking of doing some ghosts with them.  These are a super easy and cute Halloween decoration.  As you see in the picture, we hung ours from the ceiling fan for a floating effect (note that you probably don’t want to do this if you actually use your ceiling fan!)

What you’ll need:

Ghost template (draw your own, or here’s the one I used)

White cardstock

Black/colored cardstock for eyes and mouth



Glue (I think white school glue works best here)

Cotton balls

Hole punch

Ribbon or yarn (for hanging)

What to do:

1.  Using ghost template, trace ghost shape onto white cardstock with the pencil.  Cut out shape with scissors.

2.  Cut out eyes and mouths from black/colored cardstock.

3.  Starting at the top of the ghost, put down a small amount of glue.  Separate one cotton ball so that it is thin and flat.  You can tear into pieces if necessary.  Lightly press cotton onto the glue.  Continue down the shape, filling in around the edges as necessary.  (I only did the front, but since they are hanging, I would recommend repeating this on the backside to make it look nicer).  You might want to keep a damp paper towel nearby to clean off sticky fingers because the cotton WILL stick to them!)

4.  After the shape has been covered with cotton, apply glue to eyes and mouth and lightly press onto the ghost shape.

My daughter glued whole cotton balls, while I separated mine.  Hers was a little heavier than mine, but I think either way works fine.

5.  Pull ribbon through the hole and double knot until secure.  Tie other end to ceiling fan pulls, curtain rods, or anywhere else.

I think that you could easily do this for a storytime craft.  The shapes are relatively easy to cut out (so you wouldn’t mind cutting out multiples), and the materials are pretty inexpensive.  My four year old had no trouble at all with doing this with very little supervision.  Instead of hanging them, you could make a puppet by using packing tape to affix a popsicle stick (one of the wider, craft ones) to the back.

This was so fun!  It has me thinking of more Halloween decorations to make….

Another water bottle craft attempt :(


So after the success of the water bottle bling bling craft, I thought I would try my hand at some water bottle and rice maracas a la this idea on  For the Fresh Beat Band maracas, they suggest painting the exterior of the water bottle or swirling paint around inside it.  Since I wanted to use mini water bottles and aim it for a younger user (i.e., babies) I decided to put the paint on the inside because babies will likely put the bottles in their mouths.  I also decided to forgo the handles and just secure the tops on the water bottle with tape.

So I started off with empty mini (8 oz) water bottles and acrylic paint.  I poured a little bit of paint in and put the top back on.

Then I swirled.  It wasn’t enough paint, so I kept adding more.

Eventually, albeit with the assistance of a paintbrush and a Q Tip, I got the paint to more or less cover the inside of the bottle.  I was able to paint two bottles with the blue paint and two bottles with the blue.  I had a bit more in each, so I made a red and blue swirl one, too.

I’m really pleased with how they look, but there was just one teensy little problem…the crazy things STILL aren’t dry!  Keep in mind that I started this project almost a week ago!  The thing is, I had to put so much paint inside them to have enough to coat all of the interior, then the rest of it ran down to the bottom, where it refuses to dry.

I tried different approaches to get around this obstacle.  I rigged something up where I suspended them upside down in glasses, and the excess paint drained onto paper towels.  That helped, but today they still weren’t dry.  As a last ditch effort, I tried taking the hair dryer to one of them (on the coolest setting).  But alas, I put the rice in and heard NOTHING.  It stuck to the paint!

I don’t know what I’d recommend to someone who was going to attempt this craft.  Painting the outside would be the easiest, but that would be inappropriate for babies.  I guess you could just put rice inside the bottle and tape up the top.  They probably would enjoy seeing the rice move around as they shake it.  You might even be able to use food coloring on the rice, or mix in different colored beans or something to make it more visually appealing.

Has anyone ever attempted a craft like this?  How did yours work out?


Read for the Record–Llama Llama Red Pajama


For about the last month, I have been volunteering at my local library.  I’ve mostly been straightening shelves, but I’ve also had the pleasure of sitting in on a few storytimes.  Last week, the children’s librarian asked me if I’d like to go to one of our local public elementary schools and read Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney.  Eager for as much storytime experience as I can get, of course I said yes.

Later I found out that what I thought was a simple storytime was actually part of a nationwide movement by Jumpstart called Read for the Record.  Each year, the campaign seeks to break the world’s record by joining together to read the same book on the same day.  Past Read for the Record books are The Little Engine That Could (2006), The Story of Ferdinand (2007), Corduroy (2008), The Very Hungry Caterpillar (2009), and The Snowy Day (2010).  According to Jumpstart’s website, the campaign has “shone a national spotlight on America’s early education achievement gap and highlighted Jumpstart’s programs as a way to address this crisis.”  For more information about Jumpstart and Read for the Record, look here.

I read to two first grade classes and one fifth grade class.  It was an absolute blast!  Strangely enough, I had never read Llama Llama Red Pajama, although I had heard of it before.  It’s an adorable book!  It’s time for Baby Llama to go to bed, but he gets very anxious when Mama Llama leaves the room.  He tries every way he can think of to get her to come back so that he won’t feel scared.  Will Baby Llama ever settle down and get some sleep?  The rhymes in this book make it so fun to read; even the fifth graders enjoyed it.  I had some extra time at the end, so I also read Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems, which I also recommend highly, especially as a read-aloud.

All in all, it was an excellent experience, and it raised my awareness of a very good cause.  Win-win!