Thanksgiving Storytime 11/22/17

By Awnali Mills

Some days seemed destined to be a bad day for storytime.  I got about 2 hours of sleep last night, my allergies are acting up (*shakes fist* drat you, Fall!), and my allergy medication is making me drowsier.  My throat is sore and I just want a nap.

So, yay!  I get to do storytime!

I play the music, cue the lights, and open the door.  And… nobody… comes… in.  The library is full of people getting their kids out from under the Thanksgiving preparation dance, people are looking at me curiously as I stand welcomingly in the doorway smiling at people…aaaand they go back to looking at books.  I’m standing there thinking, “Okay, how long do I wait before closing the door, turning off the lights, and putting my head down on my desk?”

But two families come in, and I start playing my ukulele and singing.  And more people trickle in, and more, and more.  We ended up with a nice group.  People sang, the children did everything that was asked of them with enthusiasm, and after the closing song one little boy says, “But I want more stories!”

So the moral of the story is that you just never know.

My theme was Thanksgiving and the books I chose were Grandma’s Tiny House: A Counting Story by JaNay Brown-Wood and The Thankful Book by Todd Parr.

My monster puppet Gulp introduced us to the letter T and our theme, and then I read Grandma’s Tiny House, which is a wonderful diverse book.  Next, I broke out my rhythm sticks and we did Bread and Butter from Jbrary.  The kids did a fantastic job with this, and then I asked them to do something really hard—put the sticks together and put them under their legs for the next story.  Most of them did this beautifully, and the few who didn’t held them still, so it wasn’t the problem I had anticipated.

Five Nervous Turkeys

We did the flannel Five Nervous Turkeys from Adventures in Storytime, and brought out our rhythm sticks again for If You Have Some Rhythm Sticks from Jbrary.  My early literacy tip was that rhythm sticks (and things like them) help build the muscles and skills needed to hold pencils, and the rhythm helps kids with syllables so that they are ready to read later on.  Or something like that.  I’m on allergy meds here, people.

We gathered up the sticks and read The Thankful Book.  If you haven’t read it before, it’s WAY too long for storytime, so I clipped about half the pages together and read the rest, which seemed just the right length for us.

The Old Road

We finished with the flannel The Old Road.  My coworker made this last year, and I don’t know where she got it from.

The Old Road

This old road is hard and bumpy,
The five fat turkeys are wild and jumpy,
Driver, driver, not so jerky,
Or you’ll make us lose a turkey!
Driver, driver, Stop, I say!
One fat turkey got away!

Repeat the verse, counting down to one.

This old road is hard and bumpy,
The one fat turkey is wild and jumpy,
Driver, driver, not so jerky,
Or you’ll make us lose the turkey!
Driver, driver, Stop, I say!
Let’s save this turkey for Thanksgiving Day!

I had the kids “drive” the truck with me, and we were driving and bouncing all over the place until we slammed on the brakes and saved the last turkey.  Then we cheered because we were going to have a turkey to eat tomorrow.

We finished up with playtime (during which even more people came in.)

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Robot Storytime 11-8-17

By Awnali Mills

Hey everyone!  Today’s storytime was about robots.  The books I chose were Boy + Bot by Ame Dyckman and Bitty Bot by Tim McCanna.

boy + botBitty Bot

We started with the alphabet song and then talked about the letter R.  I showed pictures of R words, ending with a robot picture.  I “installed” robot buttons on all the kids and adults and we discovered what sounds our buttons made when we pressed them.  Then we used them to turn our listening ears on and read Boy + Bot.

We sang If You’re a Robot and You Know It

If you’re a robot and you know it, clank your coils (clap).
If you’re a robot and you know it, clank your coils (clap).
If you’re a robot and you know it, then your face will surely show it.
If you’re a robot and you know it, clank your coils (clap).

…clunk your gears (stomp feet)
…press your buttons (beep, beep)  (use your previously installed button for this!)

Credit:  Anne’s Library Life

Then we did the Five Noisy Robots flannel.  I had kids volunteer, and one by one they came up and took hold of the huge penny I handed them.  Then they turned the penny in and “bought” the robot they wanted.  I had no shortage of volunteers!

Five noisy robots in the toy shop,
Shiny and tall with antennae on top.
Along came a girl with a penny one day.
She bought a noisy robot and took it away.
(continue with 4, 3, 2, 1 noisy robots)
Credit:  Anne’s Library Life 

Our next book was Bitty Bot and then the draw and tell story Building a Bot by Linda Meuse from Notes from the Story Room.  We finished up with See the Robot Move that I made up:
See the robot wave, See the robot wave,
F                      C           G7                      C
High ho the derry o, see the robot wave.
What else does a robot do?
Walk, Bend, Nod, Dance (bend side to side)

Since we finished up with the robot dancing, I told the kids that I had brought a REAL robot to show them, and it was going to dance for us.  I pulled out a tablet that was loaded with OzoDance and an Ozobot.  I had already calibrated the Ozobot, so I demonstrated how the program was loaded onto the robot and then started the music.  My little Ozobot just danced her heart out, and the kids were fascinated.  One dad stayed afterwards and quizzed me about Ozobots and the programs we offer with them.  I also pointed out to the group that the robots weren’t unreasonably priced, and were available for Christmas gifts 🙂  Here’s a video of Ozobots dancing. 


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Bats in the Library

By Awnali Mills

I know it’s weeks after the fact, but in my library, October was bat month.  We had a Bats of Virginia scavenger hunt going on all month, and we had a Bats of the World program.  The program was So Cool!  Our speaker was a bat rehabilitator and educator from Bat World in Hampton Roads, VA.  She brought several bats with her.  She had a slide show and did an excellent job of discussing bats and why we should be fascinated by them, not frightened.  She had a little gadget that let us hear the bat’s echolocation that he used whenever she moved him around.

In short, it was really cool.  Here’s a slideshow of the pics:

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Fall Storytime 11-1-17

By Awnali Mills

Storytimes are back in session, and this week’s was all about the Fall.  The books I chose were Full of Fall by April Pulley Sayre, and The Busy Little Squirrel by Nancy Tafuri.

We started off talking about all the fall colors and things we were seeing around us, and the squirrels we saw gathering nuts.  I brought out my squirrel puppet, and he brought us the letter F and a bunch of things that start with the letter F.  Then he went away and we sang If You’re Happy and You Know It to get our wiggles out.

Our first book was Full of Fall.  I love all the books by April Pulley Sayre, and this is no exception.  They’re nonfiction, and just right for storytime.  This morning, though, my group wasn’t feeling it.  Some kids were super antsy and their parents pulled them out before anyone had a chance to settle in.  Others were with me, but kept getting distracted by the antsy kids.  Near the end, everyone settled down, and we went into the song Autumn Leaves.

Autumn leaves are falling down, (Flutter fingers down)
Falling down, falling down.
Autumn leaves are falling down,
Falling on the ground.

The wind will blow them round and round (Walk in a circle)
Round and round, round and round.
The wind will blow them round and round
All around the town.

Take a rake and rake them up, (Pretend to rake leaves to the middle)
Rake them up, rake them up.
Take a rake and rake them up
All around the town.

Now let’s jump into the pile, (Jump into the circle)
To the pile, to the pile
Now let’s jump into the pile,
All around the town.

Then I handed out bunches of felt leaves that had been glued together, and put a flannel tree up on the board.  I let the kids come up and put their leaves on the tree, and we talked about the leaves turning and falling down, and I pulled the whole thing off the board.

Squirrel and Nuts

Next, I reminded the kids about the squirrels gathering nuts, and handed out brown pompoms.  I pulled out the puppet again, and an oatmeal container that I had peeled the wrapper off of and decorated to look like a tree trunk.  I let the kids “feed” the nuts to the squirrel, who turned and stashed them in his tree trunk.  This was a nice segue into The Busy Little Squirrel.  The kids helped me on the refrain “He was too busy!”

Little Bird Little Bird

Our last flannel was Little Bird, Little Bird (from Mel’s Desk).  The kids got a real kick out of looking for Little Bird.  Then I handed out shakers and we did Shake Your Shaker:

(To the tune of Are You Sleeping?)
Shake your shakers, shake your shakers,
Like the leaves, like the leaves
That are falling, that are falling,
From the trees, from the trees.

Shake them high, shake them low.
Round about, to and fro.
Shake your shakers, like the leaves.
Falling down, falling down.
(I don’t know who to credit this to—I found something similar on MGOL, but to a different tune.)

Then we finished up with a nice round of bubbles, because bubbles are just like leaves.  Right?

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Book Review: The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole by Michelle Cuevas

Care of Feeding of a Pet Black HoleBy Awnali Mills

When eleven-year-old Stella visits NASA, a black hole follows her home.  Nervous at first, she quickly sees the advantages of a pet black hole that can swallow the things that bother her.  But most of the things that bother her are things that remind her of her recently deceased father.  Stella learns that when the black hole, which she names Larry (short for Singularity) eats things that make her remember, her memories start to fade.  She doesn’t want to forget, she just wants to quit hurting.  But when Larry accidentally swallows the new puppy, Stella has to take some serious action.

Written almost in diary form and addressed to Stella’s father, I found The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole…silly at first.  Really?  A black hole escapes from NASA and follows you home?  I know some science, and this was making my eyes roll.  But Stella is funny, and obviously hurting.  Gradually I began to understand the black hole as symbolic for the hole that is left in our lives when someone we love dies.  The hole that sucks everything into it.  The hole that cannot be mended and must be cared for and watched closely so that it doesn’t devour all the good things in our lives.  By the end of the book I was teary and emotional.  So, yeah, the premise is a little silly, but it becomes remarkably apt and meaningful as you stick with Stella’s learning process.

The book is short enough for 3rd graders, but I don’t know if they would understand its meaning.  I would recommend it for 4-6th grade, especially for children who have lost someone in their lives.

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Book Review – Laura Ingalls is Ruining My Life by Shelley Tougas

Laura Ingalls is Ruining My LifeBy Awnali Mills

Charlotte’s mom is…well…flakey.  Men are never “who she thought they were,” and she moves her family around whenever she feels like the universe is directing her to.  Charlotte and her twin, Freddy, have weathered the changes by being each other’s best friend.  They have Twin Superpowers and don’t need anyone else—even their little sister, Rose, who is just as light hearted and sunny as their mother, and makes friends at the drop of a hat.

But now their family has moved again, only this time it’s to Walnut Grove, MN, where Charlotte’s mom intends to connect with the spirit of Laura Ingalls Wilder who will help her write a book about a girl living on the prairie.  Charlotte would weather this change like she has all the others except that Freddy has gone and made a bunch of friends without her, and her every attempt to distance herself from her classmates is countered by her teacher, Mrs. Newman.  Now Rose wants to be her best friend, Mom is sitting and staring at the walls, and Freddy hardly speaks to her.  What’s a girl to do?

I grew up watching Little House on the Prairie, and reading all the books, too.  I wanted to be just as spunky as Melissa Gilbert, and Michael Landon is the best crier in the world, amiright? I really enjoyed Shelley Tougas’ last book, A Patron Saint for Junior Bridesmaids, so combine the author and the title of this book – how could I resist reading it?

Charlotte’s coping skills for change involve making a detailed evaluation of her classmates and the adults around her, and these skills have served her well for years.  But suddenly, nothing is what she thinks it is and she’s really struggling.  But Tougas gently shows us through Charlotte that opening your heart up just a little to the possibility of new people and new experiences can be worthwhile.

I enjoyed Charlotte, and empathized with her wounded heart.  She is a wry and clever narrator that kids will relate to.  I would recommend this book to 3-5 graders, especially to anyone who has experienced one or more moves (like military families), enjoys stories about family dynamics, or is a fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

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Book Review: Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream by Tanya Lee Stone

Almost AstronautsBy Awnali Mills

Several years ago, I learned about the “Mercury 13” – women who tested to be Mercury astronauts.  I was astonished that I had never heard of them before.  Fast forward to last week.  I’m studying up on space related subjects because of a grant our library received, and cruising the stacks for material on Mars.  Lo and behold, there’s the book Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream by Tanya Lee Stone.  It came out in 2009, but ours is a reprint that just came in.  I snatched that puppy up and read it over the weekend.

The book is very well written, and frustrated me to the point of tears.  It follows the story of Dr. Randolph Lovelace who theorized that women, because they are smaller and lighter than men, would be more cost effective for NASA to launch into space.  But he also needed to prove that they were physically and emotionally capable of being astronauts.  In order to do this, he contacted female aviators who were the top of their field, most with better qualifications than their male colleagues, and began testing them.

Stone describes the tests the women took and the trials they went through at home and in the media.  She explains the societal conditions that prevented the women from reaching space in a way that I felt was perfect for children.  She explains without justification to help children understand a basic unfairness in the system.  She also ends the book with the progress women have made in aeronautics, giving us hope that things are getting better, even if the injustice the Mercury 13 endured can never be rectified.

I would recommend this book for any 3-5th grader who is interested in space or history.  Because of the non-judgmental tone of the book (there’s no name calling for example, but she doesn’t whitewash what people said), I think it would be really valuable for classroom discussions of discrimination.  Be prepared for children to get angry—most have a deep sense of fairness, and what happened to the Mercury 13 was most definitely unfair.

Okay.  Don’t get me started.


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