Audio Book Review – Rose under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

Rose under FireBy Awnali Mills

At the recommendation of a co-worker, I listened to Rose under Fire by Elizabeth Wein.  Rose Justice is an American courier pilot for Britain during WWII.  She’s dealing with the grief of losing friends and the tedium and horror of war when she gets captured by the Germans.  As a political prisoner, she is sent to Ravensbrück, the Nazi camp notorious for the horrendous conditions and the medical experiments that were done to the Polish female prisoners.  Very quickly Rose is learning the politics of bowls, why prisoners fight for the top bunk, and how to prop up dead bodies to fill out the roll call.  But can she survive the war with her sanity intact?

Wow.  I was really enjoying this book until Rose got captured.  Then it became very…real.  I mean, it was real before, but it became scary.  And horrific.  Part of my mind just flinched from the horrors I was hearing about, and I had to keep reminding myself that this was, if not a true story, then a story that included true events.  It was really hard to wrap my brain around the reality of people being this deliberately cruel to one another.  I’ve studied WWII, of course, but tend to shy away from stories that involve the concentration camps because they bother me so much.  But the cry of the women in the story is “Tell the world!”  Someone must be there to listen, mustn’t they?

This is a very good story, deep and involved, but may be hard for sensitive souls to listen to.  Recommended for older teens.

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Library Storytime – 8/16/17

By Awnali Mills

The last storytime of this session was Library themed.  The books I chose were A Library Book for Bear by Bonnie Becker and Comin’ Down to Storytime by Rob Reid.

I started with my ukulele and If You’re Happy and You Know It, adding the verse “read a book.”  This was a crowd pleaser.  Then my monster puppet, Larry, came to visit.  He kept trying to eat little fingers (they’re a delicacy, you know), and he also eats books.  And letters.  But he didn’t get today’s letter – L.  After I put him down for a nap, we read A Library Book for Bear.

Library Cheer by Brad Boggart was next.  I had the kids help me with the chant “Books are good.  Books are great.  I want books; I will not wait!”  In between each chant, I put up the appropriate books for the poem.  Then we sang a song that my coworkers and I made up.  It started as a joke.  I’m just learning ukulele, and I’ve managed to play some variation on the tune Farmer in the Dell for every storytime since I started lessons.  This time, I didn’t have a song for it, so we made one up.

It’s Library Day (tune: Farmer in the Dell) By Shelby Driskill, Awnali Mills & Barbara Jones

It’s library day, it’s library day
We’re excited to get to play
It’s library day

Storytime is here, storytime is here
Friends have come from far and near
‘Cause storytime is here

We sing in storytime, we sing in storytime
We read our books and say a rhyme
We sing in storytime

We’re checking out a book, we’re checking out a book
I looked and looked and looked and now
We’re checking out a book

I’m reading with my friend, I’m reading with my friend
I wish it never had to end
I’m reading with my friend

Use it with my blessing!

Our last book was Comin’ Down to Storytime.  This book is sung to the tune of She’ll Be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountain.  Before each verse, I prepped the kids on what we were going to say at the end of each line, with a motion.  I encouraged the caregivers to sing with me, and everyone did a pretty good job.

To finish, I did the flannel Five Little Books.  What eager beavers to take down those library books!

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Science and Stories: Excellent Explosions

By Awnali Mills

Several weeks ago we had a Science and Stories: Excellent Explosions program (one that I totally ripped off from Amy Koester on the ALSC blog.)

For the Stories portion of the program I started with the song Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes. My monster puppet brought out an E and we talked about E words (like E-xcellent E-xplosions, ya’ll!)

May I just say that there’s a significant dearth of explosion books suitable for storytime?

Just sayin’.

And we needed to do an explosion storytime.  Needed it desperately.

So I went with rockets.  There are books on rockets.  Rockets explode.  Yeah.  I’m going with that. The first book was Sheep Blast Off by Nancy Shaw.

Sheep Blast Off

Then, naturally, we had to sing Zoom, Zoom, Zoom.

Then we did the flannel Four Little Rockets that I got from Storytime Katie.  Our last book was This Rocket by Paul Collicut.

This Rocket

I intended to finish with the flannel Five Little Firecrackers, but everyone was so antsy that I just had to move it along.  Basically, I had wiggle worms from the get-go.  They wanted things to start exploding, man!

So I sent them to the tables that were loaded with supplies.  The first experiment was the good old vinegar and baking soda.  I had filled film canisters, one with vinegar and one with baking soda, for each child.  Each child also got a pipette.  They could pour the ingredients onto a plate, or use the pipette.  I explained to the parents that pipettes are great for strengthening the muscles that will be used to hold pencils, and had several parents ask me where to purchase them afterwards.


Next, they got plates with an Alka-Seltzer tablet on it, and a small cup of water.  Again, they could use the pipettes to squirt the water on the tablets to make them fizz.  If I had it to do over again, I would do the Alka-Seltzer first, since it’s less of a fizz, and I like a good gradual build-up.


After everyone had fizzed to their heart’s content, we wheeled our flat-top cart loaded with supplies outside, and all the participants trouped after me.  While everyone was lining up, I donned a rain slicker.  I had the kids practice throwing their arms wide, lifting their heads to the sky and yelling “EXPLOSIONS!”  We did that before each demonstration.


I started with Diet Coke and 3 Mentos.  Cool!

Then I did another one with 5 Mentos.  Even better!


Then the final one was 7 Mentos.  Amazing!!!  The kids were totally psyched.


Next was Elephant Toothpaste.  We did this three times, with three different colors.  I used 40 volume hydrogen peroxide, but was disappointed by the results.  I think that it would have made a difference if I had had a larger bottle so that there would have been more of a reaction surface.  I thought that it would be more impressive than the Coke, but it was less.  So, if I had it to do again, I would do the Elephant Toothpaste first and the Coke last.


Regardless, the kids had a fantastic time.  We talked about chemical reactions and why things were exploding.  Everyone was happy, and I found out later that people had even been watching from the second story of our library.  Very cool.


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Summer Story Time 8-9-17

By Awnali Mills

Today’s storytime was all about summer.  The books I chose were Duck’s Vacation by Gilad Soffer and The Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli.

We started off by talking about some of the things we do when it’s hot, and I played my ukulele to accompany us as we sang Hot Summer

(Let each child name his/her favorite summertime activity to sing in the song)
Sung to: “Farmer in the Dell”
In the summer it is hot
In the summer it is hot
F                       C
Oh, when it’s hot, I _______ a lot
G7                        C
In the summer when it’s hot.

Then we read Duck’s Vacation, in which Duck just wants to be left alone, but we keep turning the pages of the book and making his life miserable.  The children didn’t hesitate to insist that we keep turning pages.

I told the kids that one of the things we need to watch out for in summer is snakes, and told them about the black snake I found in the yard over the weekend.  Then I pulled out my snake puppet and my letter S, and we talked about the different words that start with S while the snake tried to eat the sweet children.

Then we sang Summer’s Here.
Sung to: “Frere Jacques”
G7         C       G7          C
Days are longer, sunshine’s stronger.
G7        C      G7      C
Summer’s here! Summer’s here!
G7                        C
Lets jump through the sprinkler,
G7            C
Lets make lemonade,
G7        C      G7      C
Summer’s here! Summer’s here!

Then we did the flannel Five Pretty Sandcastles from Storytime Katie.  The kids helped me whoosh the tide and chose which sandcastle was going to be washed away next.  I followed this with the book The Watermelon Seed.

We sang If You’re Going to the Pool, and for each verse I put up a flannel piece of the object we were wearing to the pool.

Sung to: If You’re Happy and You Know It
C                                       G7
If you’re going to the pool, wear your suit
If you’re going to the pool, wear your suit
F                        C
If you’re going to the pool, then a suit will keep you cool
G7                     C
If you’re going to the pool, wear a suit

Additional verses: hat, flip flops, sunglasses,

Then I gave everyone a sticky note, divided my whiteboard in half and taped up a copy of the cover of each of our books, one to each side.  I asked the children to place their sticky note under the cover of the book they had liked the best.  Then we counted the numbers—Duck’s Vacation for the win! (Which actually surprised me.)  We also counted how many there were altogether.

We finished up with the song Waves in the Ocean, and did all the movements together.
(Tune: The Wheels on the Bus)
The waves in the ocean go up and down,
Up and down, up and down.
The waves in the ocean go up and down, all day long!

The fish in the ocean go swim, swim, swim…
The lobsters in the ocean go snap, snap, snap…
The clams in the ocean go open and shut…
The jellyfish in the ocean go wibble, wobble, wibble
The crabs in the ocean crawl back and forth…
The dolphins in the ocean go splish, splash, splish…

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Book Review – Stealing Our Way Home by Cecilia Galante

Stealing Our Way HomeBy Awnali Mills

Twelve year old Jack and ten year old Pippa’s mother died a few months ago, and their dad seems totally lost.  He’s spending all his time at work and leaving all the “mothering” to Jack.  But when their electricity goes out and Jack can’t buy Pippa clothes for school, things go from bad to worse.  Jack is already eaten up with anger, and Pippa refuses to speak to anyone.  Now they have no money?   Jack confronts his dad and discovers that his dad has taken drastic steps to fix the problem—illegal steps that there is no coming back from.  What’s worse is that now his father wants to involve Jack.  Is it more important to take care of his family, or be true to himself?

I really enjoyed this portrayal of two heartsick kids trying to figure out how to cope with their mother’s loss and their father going off the rails.  They have so much on their shoulders, but their dependence upon one another gets them through.  I would recommend this to anyone who loves a good family story (or just a good story in general), or anyone who is grieving or knows someone grieving.  Recommended for grades 4-6.

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Sick Storytime 7-26-17

By Awnali Mills

I’m playing storytime-blogging-catch-up here.  Bear with me, please!

For this storytime, I started with my puppy puppet.  He wasn’t feeling well—he hurt all over.  Sometimes, bandaids make us feel better, so I handed out felt bandaids (idea from Storytime Katie), and had them bring the different colors up and put them on my puppy.  Once they were all done, he shook them off and was all better.

Our first book was Llama, Lama Home with Mama by Anna Dewdney.

I’ve been learning the ukulele, and this was my first attempt at playing for anyone.  Yep!  I like to risk public humiliation.  So I played my uke for Wash Your Hands from Preschool Education:

Sung To: “Skip to my Lou”

Wash, wash, wash your hands,
Wash, wash, wash your hands,
Wash, wash, wash your hands,
Wash with soap and water.


Rinse, rinse, rinse your hands,
Rinse, rinse, rinse your hands,
Rinse, rinse, rinse your hands,
Rinse them under water.

Dry, dry, dry your hands,
Dry, dry, dry your hands,
Dry, dry, dry your hands,
Dry off all the water.


Then, we did the flannel All the Little Germs that I got from Loons and Quines.

All the little germs, dirty and mean,

Hiding on your palms, (point to where they’re hiding)

Where they cannot be seen.

Wash them, (rub hands together)

Scrub them, (rub knuckles together)

Rinse them away. (whisk hands across each other) (remove germ)

Then we’ll have clean hands, (hold hands out palm up)

Hip, hip, hooray! (jazz hands!)


… Hiding between your fingers,

… Hiding on your thumbs,

… Hiding under nails,

… Hiding on your wrists,


Our second book was How Do Dinosaurs Get Well Soon, and then I pulled out the uke and sang The Sneeze Song from Preschool Education.

Sung To: “Farmer In The Dell”

I think I’m going to sneeze ..(ha chew!)
I think I’m going to sneeze ..(ha chew)
If you sneeze, use a tissue please….
Ha Chew, Ha Chew, Ha Chew


In an ironic twist of fate, I was sick for this storytime—one I had planned last year.  I smiled and sang and thought, “Please don’t let me throw up on these kids.  Please don’t let me throw up on these kids.”  I tried to stay as far away from them as possible, but when one little boy refused to play unless I sat down and played with him, a bunch of kids came over and tried to sit on top of me as soon as I parked myself on the floor.  And I thought, “Well, at least you know what to do when you’re sick!”  My apologies to all the parents.  I hope everyone has stayed well.

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Underwear Storytime 8-2-17

By Awnali Mills

As it is in libraries around the country, things around here are crazy.  Yep, the crazy has hit full force at my library, and we’re all dog paddling as fast as we can just trying to keep our noses above the water.  So blogging my storytimes has fallen by the wayside.  I’m gonna play catch-up here starting with the Underwear storytime that I did today.  This was a two-fer that I did, first the regularly scheduled storytime and then immediately after, a daycare came in and I did it again.  The books I chose were Brief Thief by Michael Escoffier and Dinosaurs Love Underpants by Claire Freedman & Ben Cort.

My boss has a two year old, and I asked him if I could borrow a pair of his son’s underwear (which is a weird request if there ever was one.)  He had a brand new pair that he graciously let me borrow.  To start the storytime, my dinosaur puppet did his usual attempt to munch on crunchy children.  Then, we talked about how there’s something he likes even better than children—underwear!  He brought out the pair of underwear, and he and I had a tug-of-war over them (I won.)  We talked about who wears underwear (I’m sure you’ll be as astonished as I to learn that adults Do Not Wear Underwear!  I know!  But the children assured me that this was true. )  Then we talked about the letter U and what sounds it makes.

I read Brief Thief, and we laughed about the bunny wearing underwear on his head as a mask.  Then I grabbed my ukulele (I know, ya’ll!  This is a Development.  I have had 4 lessons and have started playing in storytime.)  I sang I’m Getting Dressed Myself to the tune of Farmer in the Dell.  I let the kids tell me the different articles of clothing, and they were great about singing along.

I’m getting dressed myself
I’m getting dressed myself
F              C
Hi-ho, I’m growing-o
C    G7    C
I’m getting dressed myself.

More verses:
I put on underpants…
I’m slipping on my socks…
I’m tugging on my shirt…
I’m pulling on my pants…
I’m tying up my shoes…
I’m ready for the day!…

Then I did the flannel Five Pair of Underpants.

Five Pair of Underpants
Five pairs of underpants hanging outdoors
One blew away and then there were four
Four pairs of underpants blowing in the breeze
One blew away and then there were three
Three pairs of underpants, each a different hue
One blew away and then there were two
Two pairs of underpants hanging in the sun
One blew away and then there was one
One pair of underpants, Just one pair!
Put it in your drawer so you’ll have a clean pair!

I had made the five pair of underpants in felt, and placed them on the board as if on a clothesline.  Then, I had the kids tell me which one got blown away each time.  They loved shouting instructions at me.

Next, I read Dinosaurs Love Underpants.  I adore this book.  It’s all about how underpants led to the extinction of the dinosaurs and saved mankind.

We played a game called Where, Oh, Where Are My Underwear? next.  I took a flannel where children are meant to bring up different colored underwear and changed it to a variation on Little Mouse, Little Mouse.  I didn’t want to make a huge amount of underwear (Summer Reading here, remember?) and instead made six felt laundry baskets and one pair of underwear to hide underneath.  I sang this song and then we searched:

Where Has My Underwear Gone

(Tune: Where Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone?)
Oh where, oh where has my green underwear gone?
Oh where, oh where can they be?
I’ve looked up high, and I’ve looked down low,
Did someone hide them from me?
Are they in the __________laundry basket?

To finish off the first group, I pulled out a parachute and we played parachute games.  For one of them, I tossed the underwear and my dinosaur puppet on and we bounced to see if the dinosaur could catch the underwear.  Then I threw a second dinosaur on, and it looked like they were fighting over the underwear!  Then I took away the dinosaurs and threw a chameleon beanie baby on, and after a few minutes, a rabbit.  So I extended two books for one activity!

The second, the daycare, was just too large a crowd for our small parachute, so I spread everyone into a circle and had them do The Undie Pokey:

You put your left sock in
You put your left sock out
You put your left sock in and you shake it all about
You do the hokey pokey and you turn yourself around
That’s what it’s all about!

More verses:
You put your right sock in
You put your t-shirt in (Lean your shoulders in and out)
You put your underwear in (Turn around and put your butt in and out)
You put your long johns in (Jumping forward and back)

All of the underwear songs and activities were from a PUB-YAC post several years ago, so I don’t have sources for them.

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