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Summer Scavenger Hunts

8 Aug
My avatar on  If I look ticked off, it's probably because a cartoon barista slipped cartoon me a cartoon decaf.

My avatar on If I look ticked off, it’s probably because a cartoon barista slipped cartoon me a cartoon decaf.

I am quite savvy to the fact that many of your Summer Reading programs across the U.S.A. are finished for 2014.  Here in NYC, we are just two ticks past the halfway point.  We’ll be in business until the end of August.

I have to say, however, that Summer Reading at my new branch has been downright….pleasant.  And manageable.  I actually took a little vacation time last month.  Gentle readers, in my 17-year career, I have NEVER taken a vacation during the months of July or August.  EVER.  Rather, my M.O. has always been to run myself ragged until September, and then after Labor Day I would say, ‘Sayonara, y’all.  See you in two weeks.’

Vacation in July.  A girl could get used to this…

I have been preparing a lot of children’s scavenger hunts this summer (I gave them a high-voltage name, The Extra-Awesome Williamsburgh Library Summer Scavenger Hunt Challenge!).  Every couple weeks, I issue a list of 10 items to track down.  Half of them are located inside the library, and the other half are either found at home or out in the neighborhood.  Working in partnership with parents and grown-ups is not only allowed, but encouraged.  Participants are instructed to return to the library with their completed lists to receive a prize (books and publishers swag that has been collecting around the branch).

What I especially enjoy about scavenger hunts– whether doing them or writing them– is that they get you to look more closely at your surroundings.  Your eyes are peeled trying to locate that yellow flower on your list, and along the way, you notice the pink flowers on the tree in the park or the Kleenex box with yellow daisies  on the top shelf of the corner bodega.  Scavenger hunts are also a dandy way to steer patrons towards what’s new and interesting in your library.

Here’s the scavenger hunt I released a couple of weeks ago.  As you can see, I the items on the list are a blend of the concrete and the open-ended.

Part One:  These items can be found inside the library or in library books located in the Children’s Room

1.  Find the library’s photocopy machine. (we got a snazzy new photocopier that week and I wanted to show it off).

This new machine does EVERYTHING.  The old one's cover was held in place by a paper clip.

This new machine does EVERYTHING. The old one’s cover was held in place by a paper clip.

2.  Find a portrait of a man with a beard

Our builder, Andrew Carnegie.

Our first benefactor, Andrew Carnegie.

3.  Count how many chairs are in the Children’s Room and write the number here   _______

Pick a book.  Any book.

Pick a book. Any book.

4.  Write down the name of any children’s book written in Spanish

Name of Book

5.  Find a book with the word Picnic in the title and write down the name of the book and the author.

_________________________        _________________________
Name of Book                                                     Author

Part Two:  These items are found in your home or out in the community (but please do not go scavenger hunting out in the neighborhood without your grown-ups!).

6.  A fire hydrant.  What street did you find it on?  _____________________________________

7.  A paperclip.  Tape it in the box.

8.  A bottle cap.  Tape it in the circle.

A couple of completed scavenger hunts brought in by kids.  I am thinking of having them tape ketchup packets to the next one.

A couple of completed scavenger hunts brought in by kids. I am thinking of having them tape ketchup packets to the next one.

9.   Listen to the wind or a breeze go through some trees.  Write down one word you think describes that sound.  ________________________________ (I got the idea for this  from this post about a sound scavenger hunt inspired by Dr. Seuss.  Some words kids wrote in to describe this sound were, ‘whooshy’, ‘ ‘soft’, and ‘peaceful’.) 

10.   Find something with a tail.  What is it?  ________________________

Everyone wrote down 'dog'.  I was hoping at least one child would come in with 'iguana'.

Everyone wrote down ‘dog’. I was hoping at least one child would come in with ‘iguana’.  Oh well.









I’ve done some library instruction types of scavenger hunts in previous years and someday soon I’ll pull them out and share them here.  If you’ve done library scavenger hunts, share your ideas in the comments.  I’m trying to stay easy, breezy, and fun with the summer scavenging.  I also wanted to tie together library space and neighborhood space in my lists. You might be interested in dipping your toe into self-directed programming at your library.  A scavenger hunt is a great way to start.  Type it up, print it out, and pass around copies liberally (or just leave a stack somewhere eye-catching in the library) .  You don’t have to hand out prizes.  Give kids who complete it a high-five if that works for you.  Happy hunting!



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!


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.

Les 1,000 Yodas d’Origami Update

23 Aug

I count my Origami Yodas every Friday.  In case any of you– my two or three most zealous readers– have been brooding since my previous Yoda briefing, “I wonder how many Yoda’s they’re up to in Brooklyn, New York?”,  brood no further.  We have made significant progress this week, and I am praying for all it’s worth optimistic that we’ll reach our goal of 1,000 by 6:00 p.m. EST, next Friday.

So without further ado, here’s where we are, in sparklies for dramatic impact…

694 YodasAs Yoda himself might say, “Yes!  Hmmmmm.”

Which means, doing the math, we have 306 Yodas to go.  I know we can do it!  Instead of weekly tallies, I have switched to a daily countdown, which I am doing on our whiteboard.  I’ll update it every day from Saturday until next Friday:

Yoda's not messing around.  He means business.

Yoda’s not messing around anymore. He means business.

The whiteboard caught the attention of a lot of patrons on Friday, and it is certainly doing its duty in building up a feeling of desperation about whether or not we can meet our goal.  We handed out papers and instruction sheets all day long today and I walked a number of kids through folding their first Yoda’s in between answering reference questions.

As soon as we reach 1,000, I’ll put up a celebratory post, and then I’ll reward myself with a brownie sundae.  In the meantime, I’ll wrap up this post with a lovely surprise I got today in the mail.  A little background first.   Three years ago, I had a FANTASTIC intern from France.  Her name is Perrine, and she spent an entire semester with us in the Central Library Youth Wing.  She and I are friends on Facebook and she has been following our progress with the 1,000 Origami Yoda campaign with a lot of enthusiasm.  She messaged me recently and hinted that an envelope from her was on its way to Brooklyn.  It arrived early this afternoon, and it contained this handsome monsieur:

Perrine Yoda

C’est un saber laser de tricolor! Tres awesome!

Merci once again, Perrine!  And merci to all of you who have been folding and following along.


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!


1,000 Origami Yodas Update

18 Aug

Let’s review.  I did an Origami Yoda program last month, which I wrote about here.  After the program, I embarked on a (cockamamie?) campaign to get the kids in the library to fold 1,000 of Dagobah‘s sole resident (that being Yoda, of course) by August 30th.  It’s time to check in and reveal our progress.

Well, we’re looking at a good-news, daunting-news situation here.  The good news is we have passed the half-way mark!  As of Friday afternoon, we were at…

Yoda Sign Aug 16

Can I get a WHOOP?

Which makes the daunting news that we have 487 Yodas left to fold.  In less than two weeks.

Don’t look so dumbfounded, Yoda. It’s doable.

I am determined to get to the magic number of 1,000.  De-ter-mined.  When time permits, I’ll host a couple more folding parties, where I park myself and my supplies at a table on the open floor, and give away little prizes to everyone who stops and learns how to make a Yoda.  I’ve recruited my stookiest Superfolders at these folding parties.  On Friday, I was fretting about getting the 17 Yodas we needed to reach 500 before the weekend began, when lo and behold, a brother and sister Superfolder pair from my second party walked in with 20 Yodas in a Ziploc bag.  As Yoda might put it, “Save my bacon they did”.

Another strategy I am using to recruit folders is to hold a raffle.  A colleague gave me a copy of the new Origami Yoda book, The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett, and I decided to give it away to one lucky winner.  For every 10 Yodas turned in, we give the child one ticket for the raffle.  The more Yodas, the more chances to win!  To publicize the contest, I asked to have it posted on the Brooklyn Public Library’s Family Page on Facebook, and I taped signs at every children’s computer on our Tech Loft.  I also put up this whiteboard at the desk, next to our Yoda Box:

Jabba SignA couple of colleagues and I have also been folding like there’s no tomorrow.  Maybe the strain of Summer Reading is starting to make us crack up, maybe it’s the magnitude of the Yoda project, but we’re getting a little loopy when the time comes to draw faces on our Yodas.

Miss Piggy, courtesy of my colleague Leigh.

Miss Piggy, courtesy of my colleague Leigh.

Three of the Seven Dwarfs, also the work of Leigh.

Three of the Seven Dwarfs, also the work of Leigh.

These are mine: Sad Clown, Vampira, and Yalie Yoda.

These are mine: Sad Clown, Vampira, and Yalie Yoda.

This is no longer a marathon.  Instead, it has become a mad, frenzied sprint to a finish line that is 487 miles away.  But I have no doubt we can do it, Brooklyn!  Any advice, Yoda?

Yoda Rallying Cry

Sounds good to me.

I’ll post a final tally at the end of the month.  Wish us luck!


A Mystery of the Yodic Sort

30 Jul

Me and my mystery mail.

I really don’t mean for this blog to become the 1,000 Origami Yodas blog, but I wanted to share a couple of deliveries I got yesterday at work.  The first was an envelope from Oak Forest, Illinois filled to the brim with 1,000 white Origami Yodas!  They are all numbered, and I assume they are all there, from 1 to 1,000 (I’ve put a couple of teen volunteers to work sorting them into numerical order).  I turned them all out of the envelope and onto the floor because I couldn’t find a note enclosed inside.  Here’s a closeup of the bounty:

Yodas here, and Yodas there.  Yodas, Yodas everywhere!

Yodas here, and Yodas there. Yodas, Yodas everywhere!

I also got an envelope yesterday postmarked from Greenville, North Carolina.  Again no note, but I did find this little cutie inside:

He may be only one inch tall, but he is brimming with Jedi wisdom.

He may be only one inch tall, but he is brimming with Jedi wisdom.

Here’s a view of the back.  I think it says, Super Folder He who walks the sky shall blow up the death star.  North Carolina.

NC Yoda BackFor some reason, I find that ‘North Carolina’ especially endearing.  Even as he saves the universe from the dark side of the Force, He Who Walks the Sky can take a moment to show some Tar Heel pride.

Thank you very much, mystery folders!  If you see this, please drop me a note at and let me know who you are.  I won’t share my work address here, but if you figure it out on your own and decide to mail us a Yoda or 1,000, you can be confident that my friends in the Mail Room now know who to deliver them to.


P.S.  The photos of me and the Illinois Yodas were taken by Edwin of Ask Mr. Edwin fame!  In spite of what Ingrid may write about him, I’m here to set the record straight.  He’s a GOOD GUY.  Thank you, sir.

Saturday Odds n’ Ends

27 Jul

It’s Saturday, and it seems like a good day to write up some odds and ends.  First on the block…

 The Trials and Tribulations of Melvil Dewey

Dewey PosterIn my first post earlier this month, I wrote about a game named Python, which I created to introduce kids to the ten major classes of the Dewey Decimal System.  Before diving into the game itself, I wrote a bit about the Dewey Decimal Number of the Day poster we had on display in the library.  To recap, Ingrid created the poster and is responsible for the inspired choice of using the young, debonair Melvil and giving him a glittery bowtie.

In case you’re wondering, those are M&M’s.  I have a romantic notion they were left as an offering by someone in the Cataloging Department.

M and MsBesides the poster, the plan has been to hide a smaller Dewey in the non-fiction shelves where the Number of the Day is located.  It started out straightforward enough, with no added illustration or embellishment, but then it began to get…um, creative.

Call Number 327, Spies.  Dewey is saying, "I'm wearing my spy disguise!"

Call Number 327, Spies. Dewey is saying, “I’m wearing my spy disguise!”

This was the first one.  After Agent Dewey, I couldn’t not accessorize him for the Number of the Day.  I promised in my Python post I would soon share some of the indignity I put Mr. D through.  I’ll make good on that vow today.  Take a look-see below…

Dewey Tut

Call Number J 932, Ancient Egypt. Dewey Tut.


Call Number J 332, Money. The coin says “In Dewey We Trust” and is worth 31 cents.

Dewey Origami

Call Number J 736.98, Origami. Dewey is saying, “Hey! There’s a bird on my head!”


Call Number J 636.7, Dogs. Dewey is saying, “A French Poodle? Really?”


Call Number J 595.7, Insects. Dewey is saying, “Bzzz, Bzzz, Bzzz, Bzzz, Bzzz, Bzzz” which is translated beneath, “Here I am! Nice work, superstar!”

Dewey Ballet

Call Number J 792.8, Dance. Dewey is saying, “I knew they were going to put me in a tutu and a tiara!”

There are others, but these are my favorites.  The Dewey Decimal Number of the Day has been on hiatus lately.  Maybe we’ll resume humiliating him again when the school year begins.

Summer Reading: We’re Almost (Halfway) There

I am aware that lots of libraries across the nation are wrapping up their Summers soon because the school year starts in August.  Here in New York, school starts on September 9th, so we have another six weeks to go.

You got that right, Linus.

Hang in there, Linus.

I think a lot about Summer Assignment Reading during these months, and I want to do a little more editorializing on the topic here.  I can’t claim extensive knowledge of research related to summer reading loss, but the articles I have read uniformly indicate that pretty much any reading prevents the Summer Slide from setting in, as long the child finds the reading material interesting and accessible, and spends an adequate amount of time reading it.

So I don’t get how assigning students a specific set of titles to read (titles that often test the parameters of those words interesting and accessible) is any better at warding off the Summer Slide than, say, giving those same students guidelines (for example, number of books, minimum number of pages, no more than two graphic novels, maybe a list of suggested sure-fire reads) and then setting them loose to discover books they will connect with, enjoy, and finish.

Not that I’m an expert in brain science either, but it seems to me that being thoroughly engaged in the experience of reading, whether it’s Caddie Woodlawn or an Avengers novelization, will fire off the same developmentally-appropriate synapses in the brains of kids who choose to read them.  It’s true that in being allowed to choose their own reading, many kids will miss out experiencing a level of sophistication and  ‘enrichment’ in texts for a couple of months, but is that really that big a deal?  Isn’t it more important for them to keep the foundational reading skills (comprehension, guessing from context, paraphrasing, recognizing setting and characterization, etc.) nice and sharp for September?  We’ve already established I’m not a reading expert, so if there’s something that’s really off-base about thinking this way, please let me know why!

Take a look at this article, The Problem with Summer Reading.  The author, Carolyn Ross is a high school English teacher.  She gets it, she really, really gets it:

When I take away book reports and reading quizzes, when I eliminate deadlines for finishing books and specific title requirements, my students are free to read books that they choose, and as the year progresses, they choose more and more and more.

“How are we being graded on this?” they ask, at the beginning of the year. “You get full credit just by reading,” I respond, and they stare at me confused for a second longer before shrugging and turning their eyes back to the page.

I don’t assign anything to reward or punish them for being readers. What I do, is assess their skills as the year progresses. That’s how I know that that when you read a lot of books you like, you become a better reader and writer without even trying. That’s how I know that my instruction meets the Common Core State Standards for Education without ever forcing them to read The Odyssey, or making them take a test on a book.

I couldn’t put it any better than that.

1,000 Origami Yoda Update

I’ll wrap up with a status report on the 1,000 Origami Yoda’s we’re trying to fold at my library before the end of the summer.  I counted them up on Wednesday and we were at:

Yoda Sign

51 Yoda’s! Which isn’t all that impressive, really. I folded half of them myself.

Yesterday (Friday), I had an hour free between desks, so I carried my Yoda supplies to a table on the open floor, began folding, and offered to teach anyone who looked curious about what the heck I was doing how to fold one, too.  We have a bunch of Lego Yoda posters, and I gave one to each kid who folded one Yoda.  We also have a lot of giveaway books, and I let kids choose one if they folded a second Yoda and put it in the Yoda box.   Doing this casual, on-the-spot type of program gave the 1,000 Yoda Project the momentum it needed.  I wound up with 5 or 6 kids who, once they learned how, were folding Yoda after Yoda after Yoda.  There was one boy who sat at the table for TWO HOURS  folding away.  I wanted to go over and give him a handtowel and a bottle of Gatorade.  He was totally in the zone!

So here’s a view into the Yoda box as of Friday afternoon.  I didn’t have time to count them all, but I will on Monday.  We’re definitely past the 100 mark.

Yoda Box

I hope everyone is having a great weekend!  I’m committed to posting here every five days, so see you on Thursday!


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