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We Aren’t Going Anywhere Until We Look at Some Links

22 Jul
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Hullo!  I hope everyone is managing through their Summer Readings, if not with grace and aplomb, then at least by taking advantage of the Fizz! Boom! Read! theme and making things explode.  I for one have pledged to set off at least one Diet Coke and Mentos geyser at my library before Labor Day.  If you want to join me, maybe we can set a date and time and do it together.  Coke Geysers Across America! Who’s in?




I believe it’s time for a good old-fashioned link roundup.  I’ve come across some interesting and weird stuff over the past few days, and I’m going to write it up before it becomes last week’s news.  Pour yourself a glass of sweet tea, find a nice shady spot, and enjoy!

*  Public Libraries and Summer Meals Programs: I learned back in April that my branch was chosen to be a NYC Summer Meals lunch site this year.  I was very pleased.  Besides providing mid-day nutrition to neighborhood kids during the summer months, I figured it would also draw children into the library who were not otherwise using it.  We could work with them on their library cards, sign them up for Summer Reading, steer them towards programming and self-directed activities, and just demonstrate that the library is a lovely and welcoming place where they can have fun and get fed, no questions or strings attached.  If you are interested in hosting a Summer Meals program in your library (or putting together a proposal you can take your library administrators), SLJ is on it.  Check out their article, Libraries Needed to Host Summer Meals Programs.  Here’s How to Help.

*  Stand By Your Summer Reading Lists!: There are a few people who work at the Brooklyn Public Library I would readily say are ‘feisty’.  Rita Meade makes the list, and that’s a compliment.  Here’s the skinny.  Local rag The NY Post publishes an editorial, The New York Public Library’s Pathetic Summer Reading List for Kids in which the author (1) waxes nostalgic for the classics of her youth;  (2) harangues about titles that feature diverse characters; and (3) simultaneously takes the list to task for being politicized, but also fluffy and unchallenging.  Enter Rita, who in this piece on Book Riot, combs through the  editorial paragraph-by-paragraph and thoughtfully refutes this so-called pathetic-ness once and for all.

*  Speaking of BPL…: We’re hiring some children’s and YA librarians.  If you’re in town this Thursday or Saturday, stop by one of our job fairs with your resumes and smiling faces.

blastoff*  The 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing is this week.  Back in May of this year, Brain Pickings had a fascinating post about a visionary picture book published in 1973.  Called Blast Off!, it is the story of an African American girl named Regina who wants to be an astronaut.  She gets some pushback, but only from kids in her neighborhood who don’t know what astronauts are.  No one is saying Regina can’t be one because she’s a girl or she’s non-caucasian.  Blast Off! was written by two women writers, Linda C. Cain and Susan Rosenbaum, and was illustrated by a husband-and-wife pair you may be familiar with…



Moon Over StarYup, that’s Leo and Diane DillonBlast Off! is long out of print, but I can recommend an equally heartwarming title set in July, 1969 that also features an African-American girl inspired by the Moon Landing.  I’m talking about The Moon Over Star, published in 2008 and written by Dianna Hutts Aston and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney.  If you never read it, your homework this week is to pull it off the shelf and prepare to wipe away a tear (or two).

*  I like to joke (at least in my head) that when you open the Books category in Buzzfeed, the posts break down as follows: 40% are about Harry Potter, 40% are about The Fault in Our Stars, and the remaining 20% covers everything else.  I’m going to cherry-pick a few images from this HP post, 22 Harry Potter Puns that Are So Bad They’re Good.  Because they cracked me up.  And because I am 10 years old.

HP Keeper


I am seriously considering doing this to the front door of my apartment.

I am seriously considering doing this to the front door of my apartment.

Chamber Pun

Some people think I have more coffee coursing through my veins than red blood cells.

Some people think I have more coffee coursing through my veins than red blood cells.

*  I am a longtime lurker and very rare commenter on the ALA Think Tank Facebook group.  Over the weekend, an ALATT-er posted this image:

Bukowski  Now the only things I know about Charles Bukowski are he was a Beat poet, he hung out with William S. Burroughs, he drank a lot, and Mickey Rourke played him in the movie.  However, I am well-acquainted with the work of  Bob Staake, and when I noticed he had a whole site devoted to these Bad Children’s Books, I went straight to Google.  Behold the weirdness (If you click through to the site, heads up. A lot of entries are not exactly…er…sensitive).  Here’s a (tame) sampling.

Bad Books 1Bad Books 2Bad Books 3

eloise-690*  I’ve obviously entered the realm of the bizarre, offensive and unsettling here, so I’ll wrap up this post with one more link in the same vein.  I give you Eloise: an Update by Carolyn Parkhurst, found on the New Yorker online.   Our girl is now 46 years old.  She no longer resides at THE Plaza, but has moved downtown, to the Crowne Plaza hotel in Times Square.  Skipperdee apparently was not one of those long-lived turtles because Eloise now shares her suite with a dog named McConaughey and her valet/personal assistant Manny. She still revels in hotel life and, being Eloise, has loads of friends to act amiably haughty towards.

Sometimes I talk to Mark-on-the-sidewalk, who sells fraudulent merchandise to tourists
I ask, “How’s business, Mark?”
and he says, “Hey, you want some comedy-club tickets? I can get you into Caroline’s, cheap,”
and I say, “Not today, thank you very much”
Ooh, I love love love Times Square!

Adulthood hasn’t been kind to Ms. E. (Defense Exhibit 1: she live in Times Square).  However, her exuberance and mischievous nature seem to be totally intact after 40 years.  I’ll leave it to you to decide if (a) that is too depressing to bear or (b) is something all of us who are staring middle-age in the face should celebrate.

If she were still with us, I think Kay Thompson would get a big kick out of this piece.

Until next time!



I Found It! My Favorite Middle Grade Book of 2013!

16 Jan

finally found itSince 2010, I’ve experienced an interesting phenomenon in my reading life.  I’ll be borrowing books, perusing ARCs, and acting like your friendly, neighborhood bookaholic when, BAM, BAM, BAM! it hits me.  I’ll start one middle-grade book and I’ll KNOW before I finish it that here, HERE is the book I will champion above all others published this year.  It may not show up on a lot of ‘Best of…’ roundups or Mock Newbery lists, but that doesn’t matter a whit.  I found THE book that I am fondest of above all others, and no one’s reviews or award committee rejections will make a dent in my esteem for it.

I was starting to worry about 2013.  Although I had read many titles I enjoyed, nothing had yet hit me between the eyes like this.  I wondered if the streak was going to die out after only three years.  It turns out 2013 was merely procrastinating, hiding under a rock, because I finally found my darling of 2013 in late November.  Before I reveal it to you, however, I want to tease you share my faves from earlier in the 2010’s.  Click on the cover images to get to plot summaries from publishers’ and authors’ sites.



‘Cosmic’ by Frank Cottrell Boyce

And you thought your adolescence was awkward, melodramatic, and occasionally reckless.  Liam is twelve years old and over 6 feet tall.  He already has facial hair.  Oh, and he’s also careening through outer space in a rocketship and he’s scared he will never make it home again.


'Pie' by Sarah Weeks

‘Pie’ by Sarah Weeks

I have a sweet tooth that won’t quit, but I am especially partial to pie.  It is the king, queen, and jack of all desserts as far as I am concerned.  Indeed, the memory of Aunt Polly’s pie-making brilliance wafts throughout the pages of Pie, not unlike the aroma of baking fruit and cinnamon in an oven heated to 400 degrees.  Add a mystery, thievery, grief, an overweight and cantankerous cat named Lardo, and a funny riff on the Newbery Award…well, I ate it all up and enjoyed every bite.


"The Adventures of Nanny Piggins" by R.A. Spratt (U.S. edition illustrated by Dan Santat)

“The Adventures of Nanny Piggins” by R.A. Spratt (U.S. edition illustrated by Dan Santat)

Combine the glamor and overblown vanity of a Miss Piggy with a family dynamic straight out of Mary Poppins, and what you get are the Nanny Piggins books.  Actually, author R.A. Spratt’s voice and comic timing often brought P.L. Travers to mind as I tore through The Adventures of Nanny Piggins.  I wonder if it’s an Australian thing.  However, whereas  Mary P. can occasionally open up a mythical fantasy world to the Banks children, Nanny P. does not possess similar abilities.  She just has a knack for getting in trouble and eating a lot of cake.

So there we are, three favorite books for the 2010’s.  I’m ALMOST ready to reveal the title that will join this splendid list.  Before I do, however, I’d like to continue jerking your chains engage in a little exercise where I outline some themes shared between the three titles above.  Take a look-see at the table below.  It may help you guess this year’s winner:

* No one in 'Pie' thinks Lardo the cat is especially lovable.  To the reader, however (especially this one), he is so disagreeable that it starts to be lovable.

* No one in ‘Pie’ thinks Lardo the cat is especially lovable. For the reader, however (especially this one),  disagreeableness is charming when you don’t have to deal with it in real life.

Cosmic is obviously the outlier in this list.  The 2013 mystery title (which ISN’T a mystery, by the way),  shares the funny, quirky, and parent issues traits of Cosmic.  However, like Pie and The Adventures of Nanny Piggins, it also boasts an endearing animal character and sweet treats (although the ones in this book are fried, not baked).  Any thoughtsAny guesses?

Alright, alright.  I’m done with drawing out the suspense (assuming you’ve read this far).  The book I adore above all others written in 2013 is…



(I know I’m being a jerk, but keep scrolling.)




(FANFARE!  Here it comes!)

Flora & Ulysses: An Illuminated Advventure by Kate DiCamillo; ill. by K.G. Campbell!!!

Flora and Ulysses

Before 2013, I would say my favorite novel by our newly-minted Ambassador of Children’s Literature has been The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.  That title is still very dear to me, and someday I’ll re-read it and figure out how it holds up against Flora & Ulysses.  It’s hardly a state secret that I love the funny books above all others, and Flora & Ulysses is a hoot and a half.  Successful humor books (such as, say, Cosmic, Pie, and Nanny Piggins) don’t let the humor run off the rails.  The jokes don’t overwhelm the cohesiveness of the story or the reader’s ability to connect with the characters.  Flora, observant , somewhat cautious, and a  ‘natural-born cynic’, balances Ulysses’ split-second exuberance upon discovering poetry! and superpowers! and Flora! and doughnuts!  (K.G. Campbell’s cheerful, comic-book styled illustration do a superb job of nailing down Ulysses’ lovableness).  Let’s just say that I read Flora & Ulysses with a big dopey grin plastered on my face.  I have also added, ‘Holy unintended consequences’ to my arsenal of catchphrases.

Welcome to my obscure little list, Kate DiCamillo.  I am curious to discover which book will be tapped to represent 2014.  If anyone comes across something that meets 3 out of 5 of the themes on my table (Funny, Quirky, Baked Goods, Parent Issues, Winning Animal Character), please get in touch with me as soon as possible.  Did you read anything in 2013 that you can proclaim as your Favorite-with-a-capital-F’?  Share it in the comments!


Favorite Flukey Finds: Scary Books Edition

28 Oct

Well, looky here! Just in time for Halloween, it’s the Scary Books Edition of… Fluke

First, some F3 background.  Over a year ago, I created a system to stop myself from reading nothing but middle grade fiction. I borrow and read a quota of books from all areas of the children’s collection (and one token YA title).  The system (and its rules) are outlined here in Favorite Flukey Finds #1.  I have a new pile of books sitting on my freshly-swept apartment floor, photo below.  Click on the photo to see the complete list.

Click on the photo to see a list of these titles.

Click on the photo to see a list of these titles.

What I do in Favorite Flukey Finds is choose a theme, and then shine a spotlight on three titles that fit the theme.  All titles in these F3 posts started out as random choices in one of my book-grabbing sprees.  When I actually read the books, however, I wound up going gaga over them.  These books are the epitome of happy accidents.  As always, the Fluke Factor rates my awareness of each title, on a scale of 1 to 5 flukes, before I took it home. 

The more cute, flatheaded fish, the more flukey a choice that book turned out to be.

Read ahead if you dare, because these aren’t just scary books.  They are Boo-ooo-ks!

The Smoky Corridor

1.  The Smoky Corridor by Chris Grabenstein (Middle Grade Chapter Book)

The third book in Grabenstein’s Haunted Mystery series gets down to business in the first chapter when 11-year-old Zack Jennings is told a gruesome story of two brothers and a teacher dying in a fire decades ago at Zack’s new middle school.  By the end of chapter 2, a witness is rubbed out by a heartless treasure-hunter.  Then the school janitor disappears, and while the staff and students have no idea what happened to him, the reader gets to witness his transformation into a zombie and his hunt for sustenance (what else but for BRAAA-II-NNS?).

I was happy to discover The Smoky Corridor because it goes for visceral scariness instead of atmospheric scariness.  Blood gets spilled in Grabenstein’s books, body parts go splat when they hit the ground, and that’s exactly what a lot of kids are looking for in their scary books.  Grabenstein doesn’t go full Stephen King on his tween readers, however.  He tempers the creepiness with plenty of humor, and in the case of the doomed witness in chapter 2, leaving the really distressing action off the page.  That chapter ends with the villainous treasure-hunter cocking the trigger of his pistol and looking coolly into the eyes of his terrified victim.  And, scene.

By the way, Chris Grabenstein and I share the same hometown.  Buffalo, NY.  Go, Bills!  Stop Embarrassing Us, Sabres!

Five Tiny Flukes

Fluke Factor=5 Flukes (maximum flukage!).  Nothing else in the ‘G’s’ had struck my fancy, and Grabenstein was on the bottom shelf.  I always aim for the bottom shelf when I can’t make up my mind.

Beware of the Frog

2.  Beware of the Frog by William Bee (Picture Book)

Sweet Mrs. Collywobbles wears flowered hats and lives in a genteel British cottage complete with a thatched roof.  She is protected by her little pet frog, who sits on the doorstep.  Frog is a static presence with wide yellow eyes and innocent grin on his face.  When a goblin, troll, and ogre walk out of the dark wood with the aim of eating Mrs. Collywobbles, they scoff at her ‘Beware of the Frog’ sign and walk through the gate, thinking they’ll start off with a little green appetizer.  But that’s when Frog strikes…

Photo Source: William Bee Blog

Photo Source: William Bee Blog

Those body parts and pieces of clothing sticking out of his mouth (I assume before he makes that final swallow).  That flat expression on his face (which never changes throughout the book).  It’s gruesome, and pretty funny, too, thanks to Bee’s talent for deadpan British humor.  Without giving too much away, Frog meets an lamentable ending, and Mrs. Collywobbles reveals herself to be kind of a jerk.

Two Tiny Flukes

Fluke Factor=2 Flukes. A couple of colleagues had mentioned that the book was quirky and somewhat disturbing, so I pulled it off the shelf the next time I went hunting for my five picture books.

Cold Feet

3.  Cold Feet by Cynthia DeFelice, illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker (Folktale)

As I write this post, I begin to recognize that when it comes to the scary stuff, the titles I lean towards tend to feature disembodied limbs and humor.  If anyone wishes to analyze why that is, I invite you to have at it.  Cold Feet is a Scottish folktale in which a destitute bagpiper named Willie McPhee stumbles over a dead man while wandering through a cold and miserable wood late at night.  He wants to show proper respect for the dead, but he can’t help but notice that the corpse wears a handsome pair of boots (I invite you to read this line in your best Groundskeeper Willie brogue: “Och! They were fine-looking boots, they were!”).  Willie sensibly decides the boots will do him more good than the dead man, but when he tries to remove them, they won’t come off.  Fortunately, the dead man’s feet (disembodied limbs alert!) fall off with the boots still in them, so Willie, a practical and needy man, picks up both boots and feet and and continues on his travels.  Willie eventually uses them to play a trick on a stingy farmer by ‘feeding’ them to one of the farmer’s cows, making him believe the cow ate poor Willie.  Willie doesn’t get to enjoy his joke for very long.  As he relaxes in front of the fire in the farmer’s house (he and his wife ran away in fright), a footless stranger knocks at the door and demands Willie return his feet to him.  Uh oh.

Five Tiny Flukes

Fluke Factor=5 Flukes (maximum flukage!).  I had no idea this was a ghost story.  I just thought it would be interesting to read a Scottish folktale that wasn’t about a kelpie.

Happy Halloween, everyone!  If I dress up, it will probably be as a geeky, varsity, parochial school tennis player, complete with Martina Navratilova-style headband and striped tube socks.  How about you?  Also, what elements do you look for in a scary story?


Just When You Thought It Was the End of Origami Yoda, This Happened

7 Oct

At the end of my last post, I alluded to an excellent turn of events concerning a little arts and crafts program I did over the summer.  Now that it has actually happened, I can finally fill you all of you in on the fun.  Ladies and Gents, on Wednesday, October 2, 2013, my library was paid a visit by none other than…

Angleberger Glitter

Photographic proof, 'Star Wars' shirt and all.

Photographic proof, ‘Star Wars’ shirt and all.

Yup, it’s true.  I tweeted him a handful of updates over the summer on our Origami Yoda progress, and when we reached our goal of 1,000 Yodas back in August, he sent me, via Twitter, an eloquent note of congratulations:Yoda CongratsThen, while I was on vacation in September, the head of our Youth and Family Services Department reached out to Abrams to share some pix of the Yodas and the video I made.  Their response was to inform us that Mr. Angleberger would be visiting NYC on October 2nd, and would it be okay if he dropped in to check out the exhibit?  Would it be okay?  WOULD IT BE OKAY!?!?  This was me after I heard the news…

Kermit Flail

Moving on.  We invited the stookiest 5th grade class from P.S. 9 and everyone eagerly awaited Mr. Angleberger’s trip to Brooklyn, NY.  On Wednesday morning, upon arriving in the Youth Wing, Tom’s first order of business was to view the 1,118 Yodas and take pictures, many of which he compiled into a trippy animated gif you can see here on his website (By the way, I love the comment SF_Firk made on this post, “NO SLEEP TILL 1000 YODAS.  Yep”.  Believe me, it kind of felt that way at times, SF_Firk).

Tom Takes Pix

Tom Takes Pix 2

Then the fifth graders arrived, and that’s when the morning busted open and became amazing!  Mr. Angleberger has a fantastic rapport with kids.  He jokes around with them, lets them have their say, and is an all-around-interesting dude to listen to.  He started out by drawing a picture of his home state which wound up looking like this:

Tom Draws Jabba

The Commonwealth of Virginia, aka ‘Jabba the State’.

Tom Angleberger has a schtick.  When he called on kids, he would ask for their names.  In spite of that, he wound up calling them all Larry, even the girls (this is a name-remembering trick I am totally going to steal).  He wrote out his full name on the easel and remarked that the ‘r’ in middle is vitally important to him, or else everyone would call him, ‘Tom Angle-booger’.  Then he folded a paper airplane using his favorite method, the Nakimura Lock, and had the crowd cheer, ‘For the Power of Origami!’ before sending it soaring across the room.  Basically, he had those kids eating out of his hands within 10 minutes of introducing himself.

So what else happened?  Well, he invited one of the fifth graders- named Larry of course- to draw a picture of New York State.  ‘Larry’ wasn’t having that, however.  Instead, his muse called on him to draw what he saw from the window, namely the front plaza of the library, and that’s exactly what he did.

Larry hard at work on his masterpiece.

Larry hard at work on his masterpiece.

Tom then gave ‘Larry’s’ picture the same treatment he gave to his own map of Virginia.  He turned it into Star Wars characters!  A pillar was transformed into Darth Vader, a shrub, into an Ewok, and an apartment building into Jabba the Hutt’s ferocious pet rancor.

Larry's drawing, Star Wars-ized.  Larry himself signed it 'Larry'.

‘Larry’s’ drawing, Star Wars-ized. ‘Larry’ himself is responsible for signing it ‘Larry’.

Turning over a new page on the easel pad, Mr. Angleberger then drew a picture of the hero of the Origami Yoda series, Mr. Dwight Tharp, and he invited the kids to speculate on why Dwight is so weird when Origami Yoda is so wise.  The tween Dr. Phil’s in the audience actually nailed it early on, that Dwight is probably quite insightful himself, but can only express it to others when he wears a finger puppet on his thumb.  The kids didn’t stop there, however.  Their theories on what makes Dwight tick became quite, um, inventive, and Tom obligingly drew them all onto the pad.  Without going into too much detail, Dwight somehow wound up with lobster robot arms.  I bet he would LOVE that!

The Dwight drawing in its early stages, minus robot lobster arms.

The Dwight drawing in its early stages, minus lobster robot arms.

Tom candidly shared with the group that his protagonist is the weirdest kid in the class because HE was the weirdest kid in HIS class (whereupon Ingrid and I nodded our heads in unison and mumbled, “We can relate.”).  Then he asked the kids who was the weirdest kid in their class, and the response was spontaneous and unanimous: Ronald.  Bless him, Ronald, decked out in a sport jacket and polo shirt, OWNED it, calmly avowing that yes, he was a weirdo and he was fine with it.

Ronald was invited up to participate in the interactive part of Mr. Angleberger’s presentation, teaching the class to fold Origami Yodas.  Let the record show that the group was shown by Tom Angleberger how to fold the Emergency Yodas from Darth Paper Strikes Back, whereas the 1,118 Yodas on the library wall are real deal ones, instructions found here and the final pages of The Strange Case of Origami Yoda.   Indulging in such Yoda snobbery is of no consequence, though, as Tom’s instructional approach is way cooler than mine.  After all, he possessed two ingredients I could never compete with:  (1) Ronald and (2) a gigantic sheet of green paper.

Ronald and Tom unfolding the gigantic sheet of green paper.

Ronald and Tom unfolding the gigantic sheet of green paper.

Yodas in progress.

Yodas in progress.

A roomful of 5th graders wielding their Origami Yodas!

A roomful of 5th graders wielding their Origami Yodas!

The piece de resistance: that's Ronald wearing the gigantic green piece of paper, now an Origami Yoda, doing a Yoda dance.

The piece de resistance: that’s Ronald wearing the gigantic green piece of paper, now an Origami Yoda.  He’s doing a debonair Yoda dance.

The visit was apparently going to wrap up with Tom autographing everyone’s Yodas, but the kids had other priorities. They wanted him to show them how to fold the Nakimura Lock airplane!  Within minutes,  hummingbird-sized planes were sailing throughout the room.  Then Tom signed his autographs, took photos with all of the 5th-graders, and a lot of library staff, and then it was time for him to catch a train.  Thank you so much for coming to look at our Yodas, Mr. Tom Angleberger!  Your visit has catapulted to the top of my “Coolest Stuff that Happened at Work” list, 2013 edition.  But why take my word for it?  While the class (to whom I said, “Bye, Larry.  Hope you enjoyed yourselves.”) headed out the door, Ronald the Yoda Dancer gushed at me, “This was the best day of my life!!!”  Indeed.


Tom A. and a bunch of my colleagues.  I am the second one from, who looks like she is trying to hide behind her Origami Yoda.  Ingrid is to my left.

Tom A. and a bunch of my colleagues. I am the second one on the left, who looks like she is trying to hide behind her Origami Yoda. Ingrid is to my left.

P.S.  Many, many thanks to Ms. Ingrid for taking all of the photos in this post! (minus the one above…I’m not sure who took that one).

Books for Baby Storytimes

30 Sep
sloth comic

This could be a depiction of me on vacation, except the guy in the cartoon is sitting upright (source: Toothpaste for Dinner).

My oh my, it’s been a couple of weeks since I posted, right?  Welp, I have a good excuse an excuse. I had turned myself over to slothfulness and only doing the slothful things I felt like doing while I was on vacation.  This boiled down to watching Law & Order, reading grown-up books, playing tennis, and knitting a sweater.  I enjoy working on this little blog very much, but it simply didn’t make the cut.  That’s neither here nor there, however.  I’m back, and I intend to resume my previous pace of posting at least once every five days.

Our baby storytime is called Babies & Books.  It is for ages 0 to 18 months, and it is my favorite storytime program to do.  I love to see the receptive looks on the babies’ faces as I read a rhythmic passage, show them a brightly-colored illustration, or sing one of those songs where they get lifted in the air.  They look so surprised and pleased when that happens!

Someday (soon) I will post some favorite baby songs and rhymes, and a basic outline I use for my programs.  What I want to do here– in the spirit of Abby the Librarian’s What to Read at Baby Storytime posts– is highlight a handful of books I enjoy sharing with babies and their grown-up caregivers.  These are in no particular order, but they are certainly winners with the hairless and toothless set!

Jazz BabyJazz Baby by Lisa Wheeler, ill. by R. Gregory Christie

“Mama sings high/Daddy sings low/Snazzy-jazzy Baby says “Go, Man, GO!””  A loving family takes a cue from clapping Baby and joins in with some snapping, scatting, tooting, and hip-hopping of their own. The text in Jazz Baby’s is rhythmic and bouncy and it is wonderfully appealing to baby ears.  Also, the words on the page are large enough that grown-ups in the room– infected by Jazz Baby’s lively pizzazz–will read along with you.  I should point out that I almost always skip the middle part of the book when I use it in Babies & Books.  The tempo slows down here, and the repetitiveness gets to be too much for baby attention spans.  Toddlers and Preschoolers are usually happy to stick with Jazz Baby from beginning to end, but I find that the babies lose interest.  To heap even more praise on Abby, she wrote a terrific post last week about shortening books for baby storytime programs.   In it, she wisely points out that when we skip pages, we are demonstrating to parents and caretakers that it is okay for them to do it, too.  If you haven’t read Abby’s post yet, do so!  Now!  Or as soon as you are able is okay, too.

Tuck Me InTuck Me In! by Dean Hacohen and Sherry Scharschmidt

Going through my outlines, I see I have read Tuck Me In! more than any other title in the past year.  What we have here is a collection of cutie-patootie baby animals getting tucked into bed.  Their ‘blankets’ are page flaps that cover them up to their chins.  It is a colorful book, and a cozy one, with the blankets and its repetitive, circular text (‘Who else needs to be tucked in?’  ‘I do!”  ‘Goodnight, baby [insert animal].  Who else needs to be tucked in?’, etc.).  Candlewick has kindly posted a sampling for us on YouTube.  Take a look.  Isn’t it charming?

My CarMy Car by Byron Barton

I usually preface reading My Car by saying something like, “If you’re looking for books that babies will like, you really can’t go wrong with Byron Barton.”  Newborns and small babies, who don’t see very well, will be attracted to Barton’s bold colors and unfussy layouts.  Older babies and toddlers are starting to learn the names of things, and some of them are embarking on car manias of their own (Or train manias, or boats, or planes.  Barton has done books on all of them).  Sam’s affection for his car, and the responsibility he takes as he drives it, are infectious.  And Sam’s mechanic is a lady mechanic, which I always point out when I get to the page where she’s giving Sam’s car an oil change.  According to the Harper Collins site, we are getting what looks like a sequel to My Car in Spring, 2014,  My Bus.

Finger Circus GameThe Finger Circus Game by Hervé Tullet

Most board books are too small to read to a group, but I try to include at least one recently published title when I plan my Babies & Books programs.  If it has tactile elements or shiny bits, I’ll mention how they promote curiosity and sensory development.  Lift the flaps?  Peek-a-boo is fun, and the flaps demonstrate cause-and-effect.  The Finger Circus Game is a unique, new offering by the author of Press Here.  It has dye-cut holes for adults and older children to stick their fingers through to portray members of the Earthworm Family as they perform in their circus, complete with flying trapeze and lion acts.  At the end, they all take a big bow, and I presume burrow back into the ground.  When I read The Finger Circus Game for a program, I draw little smiley faces on the tips of my pointer fingers with a Sharpie.

Birthday BoxThe Birthday Box by Leslie Patricelli

“Today is my birthday, and I got a box.”  Our diapered narrator is thrilled.  A box can be stood on or hidden behind.  Open it up and there is a new stuffed doggie pal to take on adventures with you, in a box that gets transformed into a ship, a rocket, and a robot.  Suspend your disbelief about baby’s ability to wield scissors, this is a charming story about the power of imagination and friendship.  I hear a lot of, “Aww’s” from the grown-ups whenever I reach the final page The Birthday Box.

I have other titles that didn’t make this list, but I will certainly followup this post with more Baby Storytime options.  I’ll be back later this week with what I believe will be a humdinger of a post.  Here’s a teaser: remember when I said my most recent Origami Yoda post would be my final Origami Post?  It isn’t, and the reason why is pretty exciting!


Goodbye, Summer 2013: It’s the Final 1,000 Origami Yoda Post (with Video)

8 Sep
Yoda Panorama

A panorama photo of all the Yodas, taken by my colleague Leigh.

I have to come up with a new campaign, or other ideas for blog posts, because this is the final Origami Yoda post I’ll probably write.  Our final count exceeded 1,000.  In fact, by the time we packed in the Yoda Box, we had made it up to a grand total of 1,118 Yodas!

Last week was about getting them taped up onto the wall (on top of doing our ‘real library work’, of course), and I am hugely grateful for the assistance I received from my colleagues, Leigh, Paulo, and Tatiana in this.  I don’t mind saying, the display looks spectacular.  We had a mammoth, horizontal space at our disposal, and we stretched out and made the most of it.

The week before last, I prepared by creating some artwork for the display.  I started out with making a super-sized Yoda by layering brown butcher paper on top of some green mural paper we had.  Then I drew up some banners, and printed out pictures of the covers of the four Origami Yoda books.  These went up on the big, gray, empty wall at the end of our Technology Loft, and we taped Yodas all around it.

This photo was also taken by Leigh.

This photo was also taken by Leigh. The banner on the bottom says, ‘1,000 (plus 118) Origami Yodas!’ Yoda’s speech bubble says, ‘Stooky you are, Brooklyn!’ I’ll get to the word ‘stooky’ in a moment.

I also prepared a sign to give passersby some context of what the display is about.  In it, I summarized the 1,000 Origami Yoda project, outlined the Japanese tradition of folding 1,000 paper cranes, and defined that word, ‘stooky’.  ‘Stooky’ is the catchphrase of a secondary character in the Origami Yoda series named Murky.  Basically, when you call something ‘stooky’, you are saying it is awesome.

Yoda Display SignThen we began to tape, working on two fronts before meeting up in the middle.  I did most of my taping on the wall, because, well, I am the tallest person in the department and can reach the farthest.  Leigh started hundreds of feet away by the Children’s Entrance, taping up Yodas in single file along the bottom of the Technology Loft (it spans the entire width of the Children’s Department).  Paulo and Tatiana did a lot of pre-taping for both of us, as well as putting up Yodas themselves.  In all, it was a 2 1/2 day effort.  We started on Tuesday and wrapped up early on Thursday afternoon.

Photos are inadequate to portray the scope and size of the display.  So, as they say in sportscasting, let’s go to the video!  I walked the display on Friday before the library opened with my iPhone.  I later put the footage into iMovie, did some rudimentary editing, and overlaid it with a catchy music track I found on the Free Music Archive by a Japanese band called springtide.   Take a look at the video below, they’re all there, all 1,118 Origami Yodas folded at the Brooklyn Public Library in the Summer of 2013!


Vacation Time Is a Time to Read Like a Grown-Up

2 Sep

I have four more days of work to go and then I’ll be on VAY-KAY-SHUN for two weeks!  Please indulge me in a little whinging, but I am wiped out.   Utterly wiped out.  Not untying my shoelaces when I take off my shoes at night wiped out.  Eating Chocolate Cheerios (followed by a bowl of chocolate ice cream) for dinner wiped out.  I have a lot to do before I set my ‘Out of Office’ notice on Friday, and all I wish for (heads up, colleagues and patrons) is that the week be free of thorniness while I scurry around to get it all done.

Like many youth librarians, I drop reading children’s and YA books like a hot potato when I am on vacation.  These are weeks when I glut myself on titles from the adult end of the library.  I’ve been planning and stockpiling for a few days now.  The books I have chosen for this break are listed below, and they fall into three categories.  All italicized plot summaries are copied and excerpted from the publishers’ sites.  The book’s title links to the page where I got the summary from.

Category #1.  Tennis!

Everyone who knows me in person or online is well aware that I am a tennis nut.  When the U.S. Open is in town (and I was there late on Friday night, groaning over DelPotro’s losing the 5th set on a freaking double-fault), I start to hunt down fiction and books on the history of the sport that I haven’t read yet.

Tennis CollageCat Among the Pigeons by Agatha Christie (Workman Publishing).  Another term has begun at Meadowbank, a prestigious, well-respected British girls’ school…But the school year suddenly takes a deadly turn when one of the teachers is found shot to death…It is up to Hercule Poirot to determine who is who—and, more importantly, what has drawn the killer to the school—before anyone else falls victim to the cat among the pigeons. 

I read another tennis mystery by Christie, Towards Zero, a couple of years ago.  The ending made me chortle gleefully out loud, and my friends, if you understand your basic groundstrokes, you would chortle as well.  I was delighted to discover another Agatha Christie tennis-themed title, and I am equally delighted about this one’s British girl’s school setting.

Drop Shot by Harlan Coban (Random House).  Once, Valerie Simpson’s tennis career skyrocketed; now, the headlines belong to a player from the wrong side of the tracks. But when Valerie is shot dead in cold blood and dropped outside the stadium at the U.S. Open, sports agent Myron Bolitar investigates the killing and uncovers a connection between the two players and a six-year-old murder at an exclusive mainline club.

This will be the first Harlan Coben book I have ever read, and I don’t know what to expect.  Will it be a lot of testosterone and weaponry (á la Lee Child), or witty and off-the-wall characters (eg., Carl Hiaasen)?  I’ll soon find out.

High Strung: Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, and the Untold Story of Tennis’ Fiercest Rivalry by Stephen Tignor (Harper Collins).  Viewed through the lens of the fabled 1981 U.S. Open match between Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe, High Strung brings the golden age of tennis vibrantly alive once more. A fascinating chronicle that orbits around the four greatest, most enigmatic talents in the sport at the time—McEnroe, Borg, Jimmy Connors, and Vitas Gerulaitis—High Strung is a superior sports history, a must read for anyone who truly loves the game.

My tennis lurve began in earnest in the early 1990’s, with Becker, Agassi, Graf, and of course, that U.S. Open rain delay chestnut, Connors vs. Krickstein (1991).  I was a kid during the Golden Age of the ’70’s and ’80’s chronicled in this book, and I’m afraid I wasn’t paying any attention to it.  Tignor writes for Tennis magazine (I’m a subscriber), and his Twitter feed reveals he lives here in Brooklyn, NY.  How about that?

Category #2.  Graphic Novels!

GN Collage 1Fables CollageMy Friend Dahmer by Derk Backderf (Abrams ComicArts).  To the public, Dahmer was a monster who committed unthinkable atrocities. To Derf Backderf, “Jeff” was a much more complex figure: a high school friend with whom he had shared classrooms, hallways, and car rides. In My Friend Dahmer, a haunting and original graphic novel, writer-artist Backderf creates a surprisingly sympathetic portrait of a disturbed young man…

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel (Houghton Mifflin).  Meet Alison’s father, a historic preservation expert, an obsessive restorer of the family’s Victorian house, a third-generation funeral home director, a high school English teacher, an icily distant parent, and a closeted homosexual who, she finds out, is involved with male students and a family babysitter. Through a narrative that is alternately heartbreaking and fiercely funny, we are drawn into a daughter’s complex yearning for her father.

I’ve been meaning to read both of these biographical graphic novels for a while, and now I have my chance.  By the way, have you ever heard of the Bechdel Test for Women in Movies?  A movie passes the test if it features, 1. Two Women Who Have Names; 2.  Who Talk to Each Other; 3. About Something Other Than a Man.  I’ve often thought about proposing a Skrzypek Addendum, which would state, A movie automatically fails if it has a scene where a female character hacks off her own hair, either to gain control of a traumatic situation, or to desexualize herself in order to prove herself in a ‘masculine’ environment.  I’m looking at you, Jodie Foster in “The Accused”, and Cate Blanchett in “Elizabeth”, and Sigourney Weaver in “Aliens 3”.  Those scenes make me want to throw popcorn at the screen.

Fables Volumes 9, 10, 11, and 12, written by Bill Willingham (Vertigo).  Fables chronicles the world’s most beloved fairy tale characters hiding out in a magically hidden neighborhood within Manhattan. Run out of their happily-ever-after homeworlds by a mighty conqueror known only as The Adversary, these universally recognized princes, princesses, talking animals, heroes, and villains now face a new challenge: adapting to a modern world filled with sex, violence, and lots of moral ambiguity.

This plot summary is for the entire series because if you are going to read Fables, you really should start at the beginning.  I believe they are up to 32 volumes by now, so I have a long way (and a spin-off series, Jack of Fables) to go.  I have a comics-crush on Fabletown’s chain-smoking sheriff, Bigby B. Wolf.

Category #3.  Novels By 20th Century Women Writers from Europe Who Aren’t Virginia Wolff!

Europe CollageThe Summer Book by Tove Jansson (New York Review Books).  In The Summer Book Tove Jansson distills the essence of the summer—its sunlight and storms—into twenty-two crystalline vignettes. This brief novel tells the story of Sophia, a six-year-old girl awakening to existence, and Sophia’s grandmother, nearing the end of hers, as they spend the summer on a tiny unspoiled island in the Gulf of Finland.

I believe I will read this one first.  It seems fitting to do so while there is still a taste of summer in the air.  I anticipate it will have a similar voice of wistful, summertime nostalgia as another favorite of mine, Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury.

The Blessing by Nancy Mitford (Vintage Books).   When Grace Allingham, a naïve young Englishwoman, goes to live in France with her dashingly aristocratic husband Charles-Edouard, she finds herself overwhelmed by the bewilderingly foreign cuisine and the shockingly decadent manners and mores of the French.  But it is the discovery of her husband’s French notion of marriage—which includes a permanent mistress and a string of casual affairs—that sends Grace packing back to London with their “blessing,” young Sigismond, in tow. While others urge the couple to reconcile, little Sigi—convinced that it will improve his chances of being spoiled—applies all his juvenile cunning to keeping his parents apart…

I’ve been on a Nancy Mitford kick since Christmas, when I picked up a yellowing, crumbling copy of Love in a Cold Climate in our storage fiction stacks.  Someday I’ll pick up her historical biographies, and read about her and her notorious sisters, but for now, I am satisfied with sticking with her novels.

I hope everyone has had a lovely summer, and that you have all had opportunities to walk away from your libraries and dip your toes into a cool lake or ocean (and watch, or play in, an epic tennis match).  Please share what you like to read when you are on vacation in the comments.


Origami Yoda Update: We Did It (It, We Did)!!

29 Aug

Progress was slow but steady in the early stages.  As of two weeks ago, we had only hit the halfway mark.  To get us closer to the goal of 1,000, I had kind of resigned myself to folding Yodas at home on my sofa while watching the early rounds of the  U.S. Open.  But it turns out there was no cause for worry, because last night (I wish I knew who submitted it, and at what time) we collected our 1,000th Origami Yoda at the Brooklyn Public Library!  I believe it’s time for a Happy Dance.  Don’t you agree, Yoda?

Yoda Happy Dance 2

In case you’re wondering,, here’s what 1,000 Yoda’s look like in their most unassuming form.  Over the summer, I kept them stored in plastic shopping bags, 200 Yodas per bag.

Yoda Bags

A closeup of our Yoda Bags.  And of our grungy workroom floor.

A closeup of our Yoda Bags. And of our grungy workroom floor.

Bless their hearts, the kids are still folding.  My total as of this morning was 1,022, and I estimate I got another 100 today.  I’ll let everyone fold through tomorrow, and then after the holiday weekend, we’ll get the display taped up on the wall.  Keep your eyes peeled for pictures.  And thank you for following along!


Three Storytime Double-Doubles*

28 Aug
Double chocolate doughnut and coffee double-doubled.  Everything is better when it's doubled!

Double chocolate doughnut and coffee, double-double. Everything is better when you double it up! (Photo Credit: Roland Tanglao via Flickr. Click photo for link)

I have a mini-repretoire of books which, when I read one of them aloud, I always follow it with a song, rhyme, flannelboard, etc. that I associate with that book, and pretty much only with that book.  They are a pair, the book and its extension activity, and their partnership has been so successful for me over the years that it would feel weird to sever them  (although I am, of course, open to new material if I come across it).  Below are three favorites of what I like to refer to as “Storytime Double-Doubles”*.

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch, ill. by Michael Martchenko.  Paired with the song, The Princess Pat.

Paper Bag PrincessPrincess Elizabeth is a heroine all young readers can cheer for.  She is crafty, brave, and stubborn, and she cleverly plays the Dragon’s pride against him until his might and strength are completely worn down. I learned the song I pair with this story, The Princess Pat, when I was 11 years old at Girl Scout Camp.  I had long forgotten about it, but a few years ago it came back to me out of the blue.  I even remembered all the words and movements without Googling them!  Like Elizabeth, Pat is not just a princess, but also an adventurer.

The Princess Pat is a call and response song.  You sing a line, and your audience repeats it.  The video below is the one I found that is most similar to the way I sing it, although I use a much slower tempo for younger kids.

You can find the lyrics here.  And, wow!  I just learned that the Princess Pat was real!  Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry was created during World War I and is still in action today.  The unit was named after Princess Patricia of Connaught, granddaughter of Queen Victoria.  Princess P.  wasn’t a warrior herself, but was pleased to be the Patricias’ (as they came to be called) namesake.  The Princess Pat song I use is an adaptation of a Patricias’ marching song (lyrics at the bottom of this page). The ‘rig-a-bamboo’ comes from ‘ric-a-dam-doo’ which was the name of the flag over their camp.  It is believed to come from Gaelic for, ‘cloth of thy mother.’  Hmmm…Robert Munsch lives in Canada.  Could he have been thinking of the Patricias when he created Princess Elizabeth?  That’s a research paper, or interview question, waiting to happen.

The Little Red Hen Makes a Pizza by Philemon Sturges, ill. by Amy Walrod.  Paired with the song, Ravioli.  

Little Red Hen Makes a PizzaIn this take on the classic tale, Ms. Hen goes for conflict resolution instead of completely shutting out her three shiftless neighbors.  I don’t have a go-to pizza song (yet), but the song Ravioli pairs magnificently with The Little Red Hen Makes a Pizza.  Like pizza, ravioli is also Italian in origin and a school cafeteria staple, and like the book, the song is funny and absurd and uses repetition to set up the joke.  I believe I first discovered Ravioli in this PUBYAC post back in 2007.  You’ll find it about half-way down the page.

Sometimes I hand out these raviolis to all of the kids before we sing the song.  I draw them on yellow oak tag and scribble over them with red crayon for ‘sauce’:

RavioliIf you don’t know Ravioli, the lyrics are below.  You sing it to the tune of Alouette.  By the second or third verse, the group catches on, and it becomes a ton ‘o fun to get to the end without completely losing your breath!

(Tune: Aloutte)
Ravioli, ravioli, ravioli—
Ravioli, that’s the stuff for me.
Do you have it on your pants?
Yes I have it on my pants.
On your pants?  On my pants.
Oh, oh, oh, oh.
Ravioli, ravioli, ravioli—
Ravioli, that’s the stuff for me.

Ravioli, ravioli, ravioli—
Ravioli, that’s the stuff for me.
Do you have it on your sleeve?
Yes I have it on my sleeve.
On your sleeve?  On my sleeve.
On your pants?  On my pants.
Oh, oh, oh, oh.
Ravioli, ravioli, ravioli—
Ravioli, that’s the stuff for me.

Additional Verses
Do you have it on your shoe?
Do you have it on your chin?
Do you have it in your hair?
Do you have it on your nose?
Do you have it in your mouth?

Golly, between Tim Hortons, Robert Munsch, the Patricias, and Alouette, this post has quite a few Canadian references, eh?  I swear, I didn’t know this was going to happen, and I don’t yet know if our final double-double also contains Canuckian undertones.  If I find any, I’ll tell you…

Humpty Dumpty Climbs Again by Dave Horowitz.  Paired with the Old Mother Hubbard flannelboard from Judy Sierra’s The Flannel Board Storytelling Book.

Humpty Dumpty Climbs AgainHumpty Dumpty Rides Again contains scads of appeal to the funnybones of practically any 7, 8, or 9-year-old.  Since being put together again, Humpty has been moping around in his tighty-whities, watching tv and eating potato chips.  Other nursery rhyme characters drop in to try to bolster his confidence, but Humpty is now afraid of climbing, and besides, he doesn’t see the point.  Then the King’s favorite horse, Milt, gets stuck on a cliff, and it’s Humpty to the rescue!

Old Mother Hubbard is of course another well-known nursery rhyme, but that is not the chief reason why it fits so well with Humpty Dumpty Climbs Again.  Once you get past the famous first verse, and the dog starts messing around with his mistress, it’s funny stuff.  Sierra’s flannel board figures magnify the humor of the 19th-century rhymes, and I hear a lot of giggles as I move the dog through his capers and exploits.

Flannel Board Storytelling BookI have embedded a Google Presentation of my flannelboard pieces below.  The text in the presentation is from the Old Mother Hubbard Wikipedia page, which is very close to Sierra’s wording.  By the way, after the pipe, the beer, and the white wine and red, I like to make a crack to the grown-ups in the room, “Boy, this dog has questionable personal habits!”  Kids never seem affected by their presence.  They just want to see what that scamp of a dog will do next.

Anything Canadian in the Humpty Dumpty Rides Again/Old Mother Hubbard double-double?  Nope.  I couldn’t find a single tie-in to our Northern neighbors.  Do you have storytime double-doubles that you turn to again and again and again?


* Double-doubles are coffee prepared with two sugars and two creams.  The phrase became famous through the Tim Hortons chain in Canada and the U.S., but when I am in upstate New York, I hear folks asking for double-doubles at Dunkin’ Doughnuts and all over.

Ten Favorite Bedtime Stories Books

22 Aug

I am on deck to do our monthly Ezra Jack Keats Bedtime Stories program tonight.  I am very fond of this program  While most of our storytimes are designed for distinct age groups, this one is a family affair, with young children, older siblings, moms, dads, and grandparents all turning out.  Thanks to a grant from the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, every child who attends receives a free book by Mr. Keats, who was born and bred right here in Brooklyn, NY.  Keats’ work revolves around themes of family, friendships, and city neighborhoods, and being able to take one of his books home only extends the warm, multi-generational, and Brooklynesque atmosphere of our program.

Since I have bedtime stories on the brain, I thought I would take the opportunity to share some of my favorite bedtime books.  Let the record show that I hardly ever choose titles of the, “Oh, my baby child, the moon and stars shall softly croon lullabies o’er you as you dream your way to sunrise” ilk for my programs.  It’s not that I dislike them outright (although a lot of them are way too treacly for my taste).  I just believe they are better suited for one-on-one time than for reading aloud in a roomful of 50 people.

The titles I selected are listed below, not in order of preference, but alphabetical order by author’s last name.

Happy Bday MoonHappy Birthday, Moon by Frank Asch

This is a story about a sweet and earnest little bear who loves the Moon and wants to buy it a birthday present.  Bear climbs the highest mountain he can find to get close enough to ask Moon what it would like for a gift.  He does not realize that the answers Moon gives him are his own echoes bouncing off the nearby mountains.  It turns out both Bear and Moon have the same birthday and both would like a hat.  So Bear breaks open his piggy bank and buys Moon a debonair top hat, and he is later delighted to discover that Moon got him one just like it (or maybe not).  Bear is never stripped of his wide-eyed innocence, which makes the ending even more endearing.  He still loves the Moon, and now has every reason to believe the Moon loves him back.

Optimized-HowHow Many Stars in the Sky? by Lenny Hort, ill. by James Ransome

Ideal for summer storytimes.  A boy stands in his backyard in his pajamas trying to count the stars.  His mother is away on a business trip and he can’t sleep.  He is frustrated because trees and streetlamps are getting in his way.  The boy’s father finds him and proposes driving into the city to find out if they can see the stars better there.  There are limitless neon lights on view once they reach the city, but they see only one star, which could have been an airplane.  So they get back into the truck and head to the country, where the stars blanket the sky in uncountable numbers.  By then, it is the earliest morning hours, and the boy and his father catch some sleep in the back of the truck before driving home at sunrise.  The closeness and warmth between the boy and his father are heightened by their spur-of-the-moment adventure, which takes place on a lush summer evening at a time when everyone else is asleep.  They have the city, the countryside, and the universe all to themselves.

MortimerMortimer by Robert Munsch, ill. by Michael Martchenko

I just can’t resist a book that is noisy, boisterous, and Funny-with-a-captital-F, and Mortimer delivers.  It’s that staircase, especially when Mortimer’s 17 brothers and sisters go marching up it, that gets everyone cracking up, and Mortimer’s maximum-decibal singing is too irresistible not to join in.  After all, where else but storytime is it okay to sing at the top of one’s voice in the library?  And unlike Mortimer’s parents, I won’t call the police.   The video below has Mr. Munsch himself reading his book.  I’m going to have to steal some of his sound effects the next time I read it.

Book of Sleep A Book of Sleep by Il Sung Na

I believe I have a singular attraction to these books where nighttime is a time to be alone and watchful.  We saw it in How Many Stars in the Sky? and we’ll see it again in the last title on this list.  It’s particularly evident in A Book of Sleep.  As all the other animals fall asleep, Owl’s eyes spring open and he alone bears witness to which animals sleep standing up (giraffes) and which sleep with one eye open (pigeons).  When the sun comes up, all of the animals awaken, but Owl is still on his own because he himself has fallen fast asleep.  The book has been turned into a lovely app, which you can preview here.

Hush Little BabyHush Little Baby by Brian Pinkney

There are a bazillion picture book versions of the traditional lullaby out there, but I am especially keen on this charmer by Brooklynite Brian Pinkney.  Mama has left for an errand, and Baby is crying her eyes out.  Papa (looking dapper in fedora and pinstripes) and Son (carrying a guitar and wearing a jaunty newsboy cap) leap into action and dance about trying to offer Baby the one gift that will get her to stop squalling.  Sadly, not even a dog named Pearl, or a horse and cart, or a firetruck will do the trick as well as Mama coming home to sing Baby a lullaby.

GoodnightGoodnight, Goodnight by Eve Rice

Here is a book I have chosen a number of times over Goodnight Moon.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Goodnight Moon, and I do read it in programs.  Like Goodnight Moon, Goodnight, Goodnight also features a cozy, lulling, poetic text, and the setting is an entire city instead of a single green roomGoodnight, Goodnight is about neighbors who come home and say goodnight to each other before they settle in for the night behind those warm, yellow windows (not the little cat on the roof, though, who cries out, “Won’t someone come out and play with me?”).  Alas, Goodnight, Goodnight is out of print.  Publishers, we need more Eve Rice books in circulation besides (another favorite of mine) Sam Who Never Forgets.

Dinosaur vs BedtimeDinosaur Vs. Bedtime by Bob Shea

ROAR!  I had fallen into a trap of only reading this hilarious book to toddlers and pre-k groups, but you know what?  The hyped-up little dinosaur works for all ages!  When I read it for Bedtime Stories, I bring a kazoo so I can play a little fanfare before the words, “Dinosaur wins again!”  My favorite page is dinosaur vs. talking grownups, mostly because I really enjoy making exaggerated, “Blaah, Blaah, Blaah, Blaah…” sounds when I read it.

Let's Sing a LullabyLet’s Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy by Jan Thomas

The Brave Cowboy has been in heavy storytime rotation with me since it was published last year.  I use it all the time, for daytime programs and class visits, and for Bedtime Stories.  Out on the range, the Brave Cowboy begins to sing his cows to sleep with a lullaby, but just when he is about to hit the final notes–EEEEK!–he thinks he’s caught sight of a spider, a snake, a giant bunny rabbit, etc.  Turns out our Brave Cowboy isn’t brave at all.  He’s a yellow-bellied coward.  I had come up with my own tune for the lullaby long before I found out about the one in the book trailer below.

Can't You Sleep Little BearCan’t You Sleep, Little Bear? by Martin Waddell, ill. by Barbara Firth

It’s night, the cave is warm and glows with yellow light.  Big Bear has settled into his armchair with a book, but Little Bear can’t sleep.  He’s afraid of the shadows that hide in the darkest corners of the cave, so patient Big Bear lights lanterns to show Little Bear there is nothing to fear from the dark.  It’s not quite enough to settle Little Bear’s fears, however, because he points out that the night surrounds them outside the cave as well.  So Big Bear takes him outside and it is in the light of the full moon and stars that Little Bear finally falls asleep in Big Bear’s arms.  As I work through these titles on my list, I realize Can’t You Sleep, Little Bear? is another one of those books where the night is a vast backdrop against which the parent and child characters’ relationship is gently played out.  See Also: How Many Stars in the Sky? and the final title on my list…

Optimized-OwlOwl Moon by Jane Yolen, ill. by John Schoenherr

Jane Yolen herself calls Owl Moon, “…arguably my best book” and while I haven’t read her entire body of work (she’s very productive), I do consider it a perfect picture book, one where the text and artwork are melded- well perfectly-into a heartwarming, unified whole.  A father and child go tramping through the snow late at night to look for owls.  The child understands that there are rules: you must be quiet, you must be patient, you have to endure the cold, and that sometimes you will see an owl and sometimes you won’t.  On this night they are in luck, because an owl eventually alights on a branch and the child and her father lock eyes with it, “For one minute, three minutes, maybe even a hundred minutes…” before it flies silently away.  They walk home without talking, and the girl considers herself, but a “shadow” after sharing that moment with her Pa out in the big natural world.  I have read Owl Moon three or four times for Bedtime Stories (always in the winter), and every audience of urbanites I have shared it with has been entranced.  I swear, you can hear a pin drop in the room when the owl first flies out of the shadows.

Oh, dear, now I’m in a pickle.  I only have a half hour for this program, but I now want to read all ten of the titles on my list.  How to choose, how to choose?

If you have favorite bedtime titles, share them in the comments!


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