Ribbet! Frog story time 8-10-16

By Awnali Mills

Today’s storytime theme was frogs.  The books I chose were Beware of the Frog by William Bee, and The Wide Mouthed Frog by Keith Faulkner.

Beware of the FrogWide-Mouthed Frog

Sometimes, it takes a while for a storytime to gel for me.  There’s been a lot going on at the library, and some personal stuff, and I didn’t have a lot of time to devote to planning this storytime.  I had all the pieces pulled together, but just couldn’t think of the right introduction that would spark and grab kids’ attention.  When I was griping about it to a co-worker, she suggested that I use the large frog puppet that I had already pulled out for my magic bag, give the kids little black pompoms, tell them they were flies, and let them feed the pompoms to the frog.


Yes!  (This was much better than the idea I’d been playing with of having the kids throw ping pong balls at the frog to see if he could catch them.  I DO try to avoid encouraging children to throw things at me, but I was getting desperate.)  This worked magically.  I handed out the “flies” to the children as they entered the room, and after they had all fed their flies to the frog (shrieking with delight when the frog “accidentally” grabbed their fingers), the children were in the palm of my hand.  Bwah-Ha-Ha!

The frog next helped us to do our weather flannel, grabbing the flannels off the board that didn’t match today’s weather.  There were shrieks of laughter and happiness every time he grabbed one of the pieces.

Then we did the flannel Ten Little Froggies, which is basically 10 clipart pictures of frogs.  I put them all on the board and then said the rhyme.

10 little froggies on a lily pad
1st one said, “Let’s catch a fly”
2nd one said, “Let’s hide.”
3rd one said, “Let’s swim.”
4th one said, “Look, I’m in!”
5th one said, “Let’s dive.”
6th one said, “There went 5.”
7th one said, “Where did they go?”
8th one said, “Ho! Ho! Ho!”
9th one said, “I need a friend.”
10th one said, “This is the end.”

Each time I said a line, I asked the kids which frog had said it, and they told me which one to take down.  Very few of the frogs seemed to go with the lines (I didn’t make this flannel—it was an old one), and so I let the kids decide which one seemed to be saying what.

Next we read Beware of the Frog.  I really enjoy William Bee’s books for the most part, and especially love finding the snails that he hides on each page.  We didn’t take the time to find the snails, but I did point one of them out.  This book just lends itself to funny voices, and the kids were absolutely glued to me while I was reading it.  It seems a little long when you first read it, but the funny voices really make the book worthwhile for storytime.

One of the children helped me roll the song cube for our first song, which was Old MacDonald.  We stood up and acted like the animals when we were singing, and I would point to a child who seemed to be paying attention to have them call out the next animal.  They looked like they could continue for quite a while, but we only did about 6 verses before moving on to Five Green and Speckled Frogs.  I made a big deal about making the kids rub their tummies to say “Yum! Yum!” and “Glub, glub”  (while nodding their heads) for each verse.   They were so funny to watch rubbing their tummies, lowering their voices and growling “Yum! Yum!”  We really hammed it up.

We rolled our song cube again and then sang Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.  I threw in Zoom, Zoom, Zoom because I didn’t think the kids hade moved enough.  Then I did the flannel I Kissed a Frog.  This is another old flannel with only three pieces—a princess, a frog, and a princess turned into a frog.  The verse goes:

I kissed a frog because I’d heard
That it would turn into a prince.
That’s not exactly what occurred,
And I’ve been croaking ever since!

Our next book was The Wide-Mouthed Frog pop-up book.  This one also lends itself to good voices.  I had a sassy, Southern growly voice for the frog, and then did various other ones for the other animals.  The children loved the alligator, and after storytime, during our play time, two boys used LEGOs to build an alligator and used a frog pull toy to re-enact the story without any prompting from adults.  I was thrilled!

The last thing I did was ask children what color a frog was.  Naturally, they replied, “Green!”  I said, “Really?” and then pulled out a picture of a blue and black frog and put it on the board.  I did this over and over with different color frogs.  I even pulled out a pink one!  Finally, I pulled out a frog that is mostly green with several other colors on it.  These are all poison arrow frogs, who come in amazing different colors, and we talked about what all those crazy colors mean in the animal world.


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Yo Ho Ho! It’s a Pirate Storytime 8-3-16

By Awnali Mills

This morning was all about the pirates.  I love doing pirate storytimes.  It’s fun to be wicked and order people to walk the plank.  The books I chose were Pirates Don’t Change Diapers by Melinda Long and Bubble Bath Pirates by Jarrett Krosoczka.  Since the Long book is pretty long (ha!), I only did two books today.

Pirates Don't Change DiapersBubble Bath Pirates

We started out with a big stretch to work the kinks out, then I pulled a parrot out of my magic bag.  The parrot helped us do a good pirate vocabulary lesson.  Then, because pirates are sailors, and weather is important to sailors, we did our weather observation.

I read Pirates Don’t Change Diapers, having the children repeat the pirate choruses throughout the book.  They thought it was pretty funny when the pirates ran out of diapers!  After the book I had everyone stand up, and we sang “This is the way we swab the deck” to the tune of Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush.  After I did the first verse, I asked the kids what were some other things that pirates did.  They said: cheat at cards, walk the plank, fall off the plank, eat crackers, and salute the captain.  The eating crackers totally made me laugh, but eat crackers we did!

Next I did the flannel Pirate Wore a Red Patch.  This is a flannel of a pirate with removable, different colored eye patches.  If you have a small group, it’s nice to give everyone an eye patch and have them come up and put it on.  But I had a large group, so I put all the patches on the board and had them yell out what color we were going to put on.  Then we chanted, “Pirate wore a red patch, red patch, red patch.  Pirate wore a red patch all day long!”  This seemed to go over really well.  The chant is simple enough that kids got it right away, and they were all chanting loudly and calling out the color they wanted.

Our next book was Bubble Bath Pirates.  It’s a fairly short book, and since all kids take baths, they seemed pretty into the idea of playing pirates in the bathtub.  Then, we did a song that I’ve put into storytime three times this session, Slippery Fish.  Kids were doing really well with it this time, since they had become familiar with it.

Our last flannel was Five Pirates on a Treasure Chest.

Five pirates on a treasure chest, one jumped off and four are left.
Four pirates on a treasure chest, one slid off and three are left.
Three pirates on a treasure chest, one tumbled down and two are left.
Two pirates on a treasure chest, one blew away and one is left.
One pirate on a treasure chest, he climbed down and now there are none!
No pirates on a treasure chest!  Yo ho ho and now it’s all MINE!

Kids always look aghast when I proclaim that it’s all mine and take and put it away.  I laugh wickedly, and they always look at their mothers like, “Seriously?  You aren’t going to make her share?”  I love it!

For our last song, we rowed our boats gently, then discovered pirates were chasing us so we rowed quickly.  Once we’d outrun the pirates, we rowed slowly because we were so tired.

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Hats off for Toddler Storytime 7-28-16

By Awnali Mills

It came around again.  My boss had to be off on Thursday for a class, so I stepped in to do toddlers.  Even though I wasn’t feeling well, the storytime went off without a hitch.  Yay!  The books I chose were Hooray for Hat by Brian Won and This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen.

Hooray for HatThis Is Not My Hat

When we opened the doors for storytime, I had on a shark hat.  Remember, it’s shark month at the library, and I thought it would be a fun beginning.  I started by singing If You’re Happy and You Know It and then introduced myself as Mr. Chris.


WHAT???  How silly!  Then, I talked about the terrible headache I had.  They agreed that the shark eating my head was probably the cause, and I took it off.  We’re a silly bunch, we are!  Then we did a stretch to loosen us up.

Then, I pulled out my top hat, and talked about my friend, Mr. Bunny, who lived in the hat.  He was sleeping, so we woke him up by yelling, “Wake up, Mr. Bunny Rabbit!”  When he finally woke up, he brought us our letter of the day, H, and pulled 5 pictures of things that start with letter H out of his hat.  Different children put the pictures on the board for me.

Then, I popped the hat on my head and the bunny into a box behind me and we sang the alphabet song together.  Then, I started Raffi’s Shake Your Sillies Out, and we wiggled our waggles away.  I read Hooray for Hat, and the kids shouted the “Go away! I’m grumpy!” refrain with me each time I said it.  As a new hat is given to each character, I took off a hat, turned my back, and popped a new hat on.  Each new hat brought gasps of delight.  The children also shouted “Hooray for hat!” with me.

After the book ended, I flipped the flannel board around and displayed the Little Cat, Little Cat flannel I had set up before storytime.  As you probably know, there are several hats, and little cat is hiding under one of them.  The children chanted with me, “Little Cat, Little Cat, are you hiding under the ______ hat?”  They shouted out which one they wanted to look under, and I flipped that one over.  About half-way into the hats, they found the right one (I only had six on the board).  We just played one round of this, since it was hard for them not to grab the flannels.  They never did grab any, but I could see their little bodies just quivering with the effort of refraining.

Next, I slapped a farmer’s hat on my head and we did Old MacDonald with flannels.  About four verses were enough.


Then I did the book This Is Not My Hat with a bowler hat on my head, and used a crab that I made as a prop.  It’s a fast book, and kids were already familiar with it, so it went well.

Our last song involved a penguin hat that we have that has ear flaps that hang down to my shoulders.  We sang Do Your Ears Hang Low?  I wobbled my ear flaps all around, and it was hilarious watching the kids imitate me.  We finished up with bubbles and then my usual goodbye song.

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Firefly Storytime 7-27-16

By Awnali Mills

In Arizona, where I grew up, there are no fireflies.  I know, shocking isn’t it?  I was an adult before I saw my first firefly.  When I visited my soon-to-be-husband’s family in Georgia for the first time, he laughed at me because I thought there was someone sneaking around in the tree line with a flashlight.  “No, Babe,” he said with a snicker, “those are fireflies.”  When I wanted to promptly run out and capture them, he nixed that, pointing out that it was a long walk across the farm fields, and that I didn’t have the shoes for tramping through a cow pasture.

Such a spoilsport.

A year or so later, dear friends of ours stayed late in a park for the sole purpose of capturing fireflies for me.  I was, and still am, utterly enchanted.  So, when a co-worker, Jet, brought up the possibility of doing a firefly storytime, I was all in, and asked if I could repeat what she did for my own storytime.  The books we chose are The Very Lonely Firefly by Eric Carle, It’s a Firefly Night by Dianne Ochiltree, and Among a Thousand Fireflies by Helen Frost and Rick Lieder.

Very Lonely FireflyIt's a Firefly NightAmong a Thousand Fireflies

Firefly in a jarI opened with my magic bag, which had a firefly in a jar inside.  This belongs to my boss, but I just love it.  You can get one of your own here.  I told the kids about my firefly-less childhood, and they looked amazed.  Apparently they’ve all been hunting fireflies before, and can’t imagine a world without them.

We did a stretch to get the wiggles out and read The Very Lonely Firefly.  I enjoy this book, but what makes it for me are the twinkling lights at the end.  Today was one of those days when the lights refused to twinkle.  I had tested it yesterday, and it worked fine, but failed me in storytime.  I HATE that.

10 Little FirefliesThen, we rolled our Song Cube and sang Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.  We did a flannel next called Ten Flashing Fireflies which is a flannel based on the book by Philemon Sturges.  That’s rather a long flannel, even though I shortened it by not running through the entire rhyme for each firefly, so we rolled our cube and sang Row, Row, Row Your Boat.  If you get kids to hold the oars as they row and alternate by singing verses that go gently, quickly, and slowly, then you can get a lot of wiggles out.

Next, I read It’s a Firefly Night in which a little girl and her father hunt fireflies in the night.  It’s a gentle little book, and I like it a lot.  None of the firefly books are rollicking ones.  Instead, they reflect the quiet and mystery that accompany these magical little creatures.  You might think that this would lead to an unenthusiastic audience, but you would be wrong.  I didn’t have trouble with kids being distracted (or at least, no more than usual.)  I think it also helped that I acted out the girl capturing and letting go of the fireflies while I was reading the text.

Six Little Fireflies

Our next activity was the flannel Six Little Fireflies from Storytime ABCs.  On the verses, I had the children wave their hands from one side to another for the whoosh, cup their hands around their mouths for the wind’s whistle, and do a loud ACHOO! with me as the firefly’s light went out.  They also got to choose which color of firefly was going to lose its light.  They were very enthusiastic sneezers, and about blew me out of the room.

We rolled our cube again for The Itsy Bitsy Spider and then read our last book, Among a Thousand Fireflies.  I adore this book.  It’s a little romance of one firefly signaling to another among thousands of other fireflies.  How will they find each other?  It’s illustrated by beautiful photographs of real fireflies, lighting up grasses and flowers as they signal to each other.  I would love to sit with a child on my lap and pour over the gorgeous photographs, but that’s a little too intense for a storytime setting.  We finished up with a rousing chorus of If You’re Happy and You Know It, and then said goodbye with our goodbye song.

I do want to say that there are some firefly songs out there that I could have used, but I chose not to.  I like having songs that reflect the theme of my storytime, but I like that kids (and adults) participate more with songs they know by heart already.  I’ve been seriously thinking about only doing familiar songs, or only having one theme specific song per storytime.  Thoughts?

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Science and Stories: Ocean and Tubes 7/21/16

By Awnali Mills

For today’s Science and Stories, our theme was Ocean.  The books I chose were Nugget and Fang by Tammi Sauer, I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry, and Ten Little Fish by Audrey Wood.

Nuggest and FangI'm the biggest thingTen Little Fish

I started with a stuffed octopus in my magic bag, and I casually mentioned that octopuses live in the desert (No!  They live in the ocean!), that they make their homes in trees (No!  They live in the water!)  and that they have twenty-nine legs (No!  They have eight legs!).  That was a lot of fun, and warmed the crowd up nicely (and I had quite a crowd).

Our first book was Nugget and Fang, which is about the friendship between a minnow and a shark.  The kids gave me a big sharky smile, and we went on to sing Slippery Fish.  My colleague had made a flannel for the song, which starts out with a small slippery fish, and each successive critter gets bigger and covers the smaller one.  This was pretty cool.

Slippery fish, slippery fish, sliding through the water, (press hands together and wiggle back and forth)
Slippery fish, slippery fish, Gulp, Gulp, Gulp!
Oh, no! It’s been eaten by an …

Octopus, octopus, squiggling in the water (wave arms like octopus tentacles)
Octopus, octopus, Gulp, Gulp, Gulp!
Oh, no! It’s been eaten by a …

Tuna fish, tuna fish, flashing in the water, (Press hands together and wiggle back and forth)
Tuna fish, tuna fish, Gulp, Gulp, Gulp!
Oh, no! It’s been eaten by a …

Great white shark, great white shark, lurking in the water, (make hands into jaws with teeth and act like they’re biting)
Great white shark, great white shark, Gulp, Gulp, Gulp!
Oh, no! It’s been eaten by a …

Humongous whale, humongous whale, spouting in the water, (open arms into a wide arc out to the sides)
Humongous whale, humongous whale,
Gulp! … Gulp! … Gulp! … BURP!
(Cover your mouth.) Excuse me!

My colleague had also made a flannel called Five Pretty Sandcastles that she got from Katie at Storytime Secrets.

Five Little Sandcastles

Five pretty sandcastles standing on the shore, the tide came in (whoosh!) and then there were four.
Four pretty sandcastles standing by the sea, the tide came in (whoosh!) and then there were three.
Three pretty sandcastles standing by the ocean blue, the tide came in (whoosh!) and then there were two.
Two pretty sandcastles standing in the sun, the tide came in (whoosh!) and then there was one.
One pretty sandcastle just out of reach, the tide came in (whoosh!) but it stayed on the beach!
Each time the tide came in, we whooshed our arms from one side to another and gave a big Whoosh!

Then we read I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean, which is always a lot of fun, and always gets a good laugh at the end.

Then we all stood up and sang The Waves in the Ocean, sung to the tune of 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…


Our last flannel was Five Little Sea Stars by Ione Sautner:

One little sea star so bright and blue,
Along came another, then there were two.
Two little sea stars, all that I could see,
Along came another, then there were three.
Three little sea stars on the ocean floor,
Along came another, then there were four.
Four little sea stars, as sure as I’m alive,
Along came another, then there were five.

Five Little Sea Stars
I didn’t get to my last book, since it was Science and Story day, and we kind of needed to move into our science portion of the program.  So, I held up a picture of tube coral, and we talked about the kind of tubes that you find in the ocean.  I also held up a picture of a giant pyrosome and talked about how all the little zooids get together and make themselves into one big creature.  We also talked about different kinds of tubes that we have around us, while I demonstrated with a paper towel tube.  I explained the stations, and let the kids loose.

  1. PVC pipes and connectors: This station was a huge success. At the end, people were still playing avidly at this station, and I had to call a halt in order to clean up.  Kids had started to collaborate on their structures, experimenting together to see where marbles dropped into one end would come out, and seeing how they could change the structure to make marbles come out in different places.  It was totally cool.  I even had one child who stayed there the entire time.


  1. Straws and Bubbles: This was a last minute addition to the program, creatively thought up by my colleague. A plate of bubble solution in a large aluminum pan, and plastic straws.  It is actually harder than it looks to blow bubbles with straws, since you have to blow gently.


  1. Pipe insulation: This was the least popular station, but it’s bendable pipes. I also provided marbles for experimenting with, and kids did so, but it didn’t have the attention-holding power of other stations.
  1. Toilet paper and paper towel tubes with colored electrical tape: At this station, kids were free to create whatever they wanted out of the materials, and I provided marbles in case people wanted to create marble runs. In the process of playing, kids discovered that the air conditioning unit grate that runs the length of the room made for a marvelous marble ramp.  It wasn’t a tube, but I overheard parents talking about differences in grade, and why the marble would roll from one place to another while kids experimented, so that’s always a win!
  1. Cardboard tubes, marbles and toy cars: This station was the home for all the large cardboard tubes that I’ve been hoarding since before Christmas. Wrapping tubes, poster paper tubes, fabric tubes, mailing tubes—I stashed ‘em all.  This station kept kids engaged for quite a while, and was the second most popular.  I asked that kids NOT use the tubes as swords, and nobody did.  There was lots of excitement at this station, and lots of experimentation going on.


Does anyone else have that little voice in the back of their head?  That voice of doom that says, “Seriously?  Tubes?  Really, what were you thinking?  You think you can just set out some tubes and that’s going to be enough?  Kids and parents are going to look at you like you’ve really disappointed them this time.  They can do all this at home—why would they come to the library for something this ridiculously simple?”  Well, just smack that little voice, because this was a spectacular success.  Parents were wide eyed with wonder, saying to me, “Who knew that just a few pipes and cardboard tubes and a few marbles could be so engaging?”

I smiled sweetly and said “Thank you.”


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Book Review: The Ghostfaces by John Flanagan

The GhostfacesBy Awnali Mills

The Ghostfaces by John Flanagan is the sixth book in the Brotherband Chronicles.  In this latest installment, the band is blown severely off course by a huge storm and ends up in a new land.  From the cover, it shouldn’t be hard to deduce that this new land is much like America, and the peoples in it are like our Native Americans. The group needs to survive in this new situation, and figure out a way home.  Or, will they decide that this new land would be a good place for a new beginning?

I’ve enjoyed the growth of the individuals in this series as we’ve gone along.  The first books were my favorite, as the team coalesced and learned to work together.  The only thing very different about this new story is that they learn about grief.  I won’t spoil anything for you, but I will tell you that this is standard fare for Flanagan.  Lots of battles, bickering, and witty repartee make the series a good one to put in the hands of adventure fans.

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Book Review: Allie First at Last by Angela Cervantes

Allie First at LastBy Awnali Mills

We occasionally get AR copies, and I grabbed one a few months ago that sat at the bottom of my stack for quite a while because, well, it didn’t have a due date.  But I read Allie First at Last by Angela Cervantes recently and enjoyed it.

Allie comes from a family of high achievers, people who regularly add trophies to their trophy shelf.  This drive to succeed goes all the way back to Allie’s beloved great-grandfather, who was a Congressional Medal of Honor winner.  The only one who can’t seem to come in first is Allie herself, and predictably, this is driving her nuts.

When Allie’s science fair project is unintentionally sabotaged by a well-meaning student, Victor, Allie turns in desperation to the Trailblazer contest, hoping to be the first student from her school to win the contest.  She chooses to do a photo essay on her great-grandfather, but will her drive to succeed further drive away her friends?  Will she figure out what’s truly important before it’s too late?

In the library world, we’re desperate for books that show culturally diverse families.  This is a great book for that diversity, since the main families involved are Hispanic.  The characters discuss some of the difficulties they have had historically with prejudice, but in a way that shows that determination and hard work often overcome the disadvantages that accompany prejudice.  Several prominent Hispanics are mentioned (like Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor) as people to emulate.  Aside from that, it’s just a good read, dealing with common elementary school issues of winning, losing, and difficult friendships as well as sibling rivalry.  Put this book into the hands of competitive students who might be losing sight of what’s really important.

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