Monster Storytime 10-11-17

By Awnali Mills

This week’s storytime was all about monsters.  To introduce us to the theme, my puppet monster, Gulp, showed up bringing our letter M and some “m” pictures.  The books I chose were There Was an Old Monster by Rebecca & Ed Emberley and Bedtime at the Swamp by Kristyn Crow.

I handed out egg shakers, and when I read There Was an Old Monster, we all shook our shakers every time the ants made the monster go “scritch, scratch”.  Then I played and we sang If You’re a Monster and You Know It:

If You’re A Monster
Tune: If You’re Happy and You Know It 
C                                                             G7

If you’re a monster and you know it, wave your arms

If you’re a monster and you know it, wave your arms
F                                                             C 

If you’re a monster and you know it, and you really want to show it 
G7                                                            C

If you’re a monster and you know it, wave your arms

Star Monster

picture from Storytime with Miss Tara

I handed out stars and we did a Star Monster flannel.

A hunting we will go, a hunting we will go!
We’ll find a monster and give her a (red) star
And then we’ll let her go!

Each time I called out a color, the child with that color brought it up and put it on the monster.  Then I played and we sang:

If You Ever See a Monster
Tune: Did You Ever See A Lassie 
C                                           G7              C

If you ever see a monster, a big ugly monster
G7                  C

If you ever see a monster, then here’s what you do
G7                          C                      G7                      C

Make this face… And this face… And this face… And this face…
G7                        C

If you ever see a monster… be sure to shout BOO!
The kids all made their scary faces and thought it was very funny.  Then I read Bedtime at the Swamp.  Even though I didn’t ask, everyone repeated the chorus with me and got into it.

I finished up with the flannel Five Little Monsters.

Five little monsters jumping on the bed
One fell off and bumped his head
Mama called the doctor and the doctor said,
“No more monsters jumping on the bed!”
Again, even though I didn’t ask them to, all the children sang along with me and waggled their fingers.  I ran out of time, but I was going to finish up with We Are Monsters from Eric Litwin’s Bouncy Blue album.  Instead, I put up my make-a-monster flannel and let kids play with that and the blocks.

felt monsters

Photo from Nifty Thrifty and Thriving

Posted in Story Time, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Book Review: Giant Pumpkin Suite by Melanie Heuiser Hill

Giant Pumpkin SuiteBy Awnali Mills

Twelve year old Rose Brutigan is tall and brilliant.  She is a talented cellist, and takes math at the university.  What she wants more than anything is to win a fellowship with Maestro Waldenstein.  For that, she’ll need to perfect the Bach Cello Suites so she can ace the competition.  Her twin, Thomas, is short and average, but this isn’t a problem for them.  He adores his sister; he just wishes she would spend some time with him.

After their neighbor Mr. Pickering has an accident, the twins end up helping him with a project he’d started—growing a giant pumpkin.  Rose is pulled in two directions.  The pumpkin takes a lot of time and effort, and she needs to perfect her cello performance.  Then disaster strikes in more ways than one.  Will Rose be able to pick up the pieces of her life and find the music in her soul again?

I enjoyed this tale of a brilliant young girl who learns that not everything you do has to be the best.  I identified with Rose’s hesitancy to do anything that risks failure.  Mr. Pickering’s admonition to do something badly just because it’s fun hit me where I live.

I liked that Rose and Thomas aren’t rivals.  She is self-absorbed, but Thomas supports her and recognizes her brilliance.  He also doesn’t sit around and wait for her.  He does what he wants and invites her to join him.  Rose makes sacrifices to spend time with Thomas, and won’t let anyone make fun of him.  It was a good example of twins having their own identities and interests while still supporting each other.  Rose is obsessive and insecure, but manages to be likable despite her faults.  Hill does a great job of sketching a community and bringing everyone together around a common goal—that giant pumpkin.  I enjoyed getting to learn about the process of giant pumpkin growing, and even began to picture one in my yard (for a minute or two.) Kids who enjoy music, numbers, gardening, or stories about families and friendships will enjoy this book.  Recommended for grades 4-6.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Police Storytime 10-4-17

By Awnali Mills

This week’s theme was Police, and we had a wonderful guest presenter—Officer Richard Mallory, our community police officer.  The books I chose were Police: Hurrying! Helping! Saving! by Patricia Hubbell, and Police Officers on Patrol by K. R. Hamilton.

We started by singing If You’re Happy and You Know It, and then I brought out my very naughty raccoon puppet, Bandit, who had been stealing things.  He stole the letter P, and a whole bunch of things that started with P.  I asked the children what happens if you steal things, and one boy told me solemnly that you go to jail.  I said that you might, and that you would assuredly have to deal with a surprise (yes, I know, not the most brilliant segue).  I had them practice their surprised faces, and then brought out our surprise guest.  The children were stunned, and a little nervous (I think they were a bit afraid that Officer Mallory was there to get Bandit).  But Officer Mallory very quickly put everyone at ease with his kind and gently humorous manner.

20171004 mallory14

He read our first book, Police: Hurrying! Helping! Saving!, and then we sang a version of Hurry, Hurry, Drive the Fire Truck.  I wasn’t happy with a lot of the songs I was finding online, so my co-worker Meg and I noodled around and came up with this one.  Officer Mallory sang this with us and said during the first stanza, “This is my favorite part!”

(Spoken) A call is coming in!  A robber is on the loose!
Hurry, hurry, drive the police car
(Hands on steering wheel)
Hurry, hurry, drive the police car
Hurry, hurry, drive the police car
Woo, woo, woo, woo, woo!
(circle fingers like lights)

20171004 mallory

Hurry, hurry, turn the corner
(Lean to the right)
Hurry, hurry, turn the corner
(Lean to the left)
Hurry, hurry, turn the corner
(Lean to the right and left)
Woo, woo, woo, woo, woo!
(circle fingers like lights)

Hurry, hurry, catch the robber
(Pretend to run)
Hurry, hurry, catch the robber
Hurry, hurry, catch the robber
Woo, woo, woo, woo, woo!
(circle fingers like lights)

Slowly, slowly, back to the station
(Lean slowly to the left and right)
Slowly, slowly, back to the station
Slowly, slowly, back to the station
Woo, woo, woo, woo, woo!
(circle finger like a light)

(Spoken for the second time through) Another call is coming in!  Some children are in danger!
Hurry, hurry, save the children
(Pretend to scoop children into your arms)
Hurry, hurry, save the children
Hurry, hurry, save the children
Woo, woo, woo, woo, woo!
(circle fingers like lights)

20171004 mallory4

Officer Mallory did our flannel pieces for us while I read Five Police Officers.  For my pieces, I used clipart that represented a mix of races and genders.

Five police officers standing by the store,
One directed traffic, and then there were four.
Four police officers, watching over me,
One helped a lost girl, and then there were three.
Three police officers, dressed all in blue,
One stopped a speeding car, and then there were two.
Two police officers, how fast they can run,
One caught a bank robber, and then there was one.
One police officer, whose day is all done,
Says hi to the next shift whose day has just begun.

Adapted from

Officer Mallory read our next book, Police Officers on Patrol.  I have to say, we didn’t have a whole lot of prep time together, but he did a fantastic job of reading to the kids.  He held the book for them to see, read with expression, and didn’t read too quickly—all rookie mistakes that I’ve seen people make.  Officer Mallory claims that all his experience comes from his granddaughter.  A lucky girl!

After the book, I said, “Being on patrol can be very stressful, and can make you really crazy and silly.  What do you do when you’re feeling silly, Officer Mallory?”  He said, “Why, I shake my sillies out!”  So we stood up and danced around to Raffi’s Shake My Sillies Out.  There’s nothing like seeing a policeman shake his sillies out!

After that, I brought out a large piece of paper with a cell phone on it, and we talked about how to call 911, and what constitutes an emergency, so that you know WHEN to call.  Then, I let kids practice using the large phone to call 911.  We followed that with the 911 song (tune of Three Blind Mice):

9-1-1, 9-1-1,
Help’s on the way, help’s on the way.
If I need help, I know what to do,
I can call the police and emergency crews.
It makes me feel safe to know just what to do. Dial 9-1-1.

For our grand finale, Officer Mallory led us outside to his squad car, which he’d parked at the front of the library, out of traffic.  He even turned the lights on!  The kids were over the moon (and many of the caregivers, too), and the kids even got to use the loudspeaker inside the car to say hi to their caregivers.  We got a lot of positive feedback afterwards, so it was a very successful program.  We’re already trying to think of ways we can bring Officer Mallory back for an encore.

20171004 mallory9


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bear Storytime – 9-27-17

By Awnali Mills

Last week’s storytime (actually, two storytimes) was all about bears.  The books I chose were Never Ask a Bear by Louise Bonnett-Rampersaud, and Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr.

I started with If You’re Happy and You Know It.  Unfortunately, our library doesn’t have a good bear puppet.  After grumping about this for a while, I pulled out a squirrel puppet and used him in storytime.  He brought us our letter B and all of our B pictures, but when I mentioned “bear,” he ran and hid under my arm.  We couldn’t convince him he was safe, so he hid on my cart while we read Never Ask a Bear.  This went over fairly well with my first group, but kids were pretty scattered for this the second group.

Then we sang a bear version of Thumbkin.  I used two little blue and purple bears, and the children used their fists.

Where is bear? Where is bear?
Here I am. Here I am.
How are you this winter?
Very tired, thank you.
Go to sleep. Go to sleep.
(Have kids shout “WAKE UP BEAR” to do the song again.)
Credit: Preschool Education Music & Songs: Animals > Winter

A rousing chorus of If You’re a Bear and You Know It followed.  The kids loved growling.

If you’re a panda bear and you know it, clap your paws
If you’re a polar bear and you know it, show your teeth
If you’re a grizzly bear and you know it, growl real loud


Next, I pulled out my ukulele and we sang The Bear Went over the Mountain, and I used the verses and flannels that I got from Storytime Ukulele.  The song went over really well.  Then, I pulled out Brown Bear.  I’ve avoided using this in storytimes, which is silly.  Yes, the children knew it already.  But they were just as thrilled as they could be when they saw it come out.  I read it, then on the last page, I said the color, pointed to the picture, and the kids filled in the rest.  And, when I brought out the book, I pointed out that it was part of our banned book scavenger hunt.  Yes, Brown Bear was banned in 2010 because Bill Martin Jr. shared a name with another Bill Martin who had the temerity to write a book about Ethical Marxism, and some folks were afraid that a little brown bear was going to be the death knell for capitalism *eye roll*.

Our last activity was a flannel, Ten Teddy Bears from Storytime Katie.  I’ve done this one before, and it just seems too long to me, so I did it as Six Teddy Bears.  I had the kids grab imaginary blankets and pull with me, and clap for BOOM.  They also got to tell me which colored bear fell out of bed, which they really enjoyed.  I finished up with another B word—bubbles.  I don’t do these too frequently, so they’re a real treat when they come out.

Posted in Story Time | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Book Review – Caleb and Kit by Beth Vrabel

Caleb and KitBy Awnali Mills

Twelve-year-old Caleb has cystic fibrosis, and he’s tired of having his life circumscribed by the needs of his disease.  His mom hovers constantly, and his oh-so-perfect brother, Patrick, outshines him at every turn.  His father doesn’t want to deal with his disease, and his best friend, Brad, just wants him around to provide a foil that makes him shine.  At least, that’s how Caleb feels.

When his mother decrees that Caleb will attend a neighborhood summer camp for little kids, Caleb is infuriated.  He has no interest in attending summer camp.  And when he meets a girl named Kit in the woods behind his house, he decides to take his life into his own hands and spend the summer with her.  Caleb’s lies compound, but he loves living in Kit’s make-believe world, where fairies live and knights conquer.  But things are not right in Kit’s life, and Caleb becomes increasingly aware that make-believe worlds can be very dangerous places.  Kit’s might even cost him his life.

Vrabel is a master at writing about kids who are differently abled.  I didn’t know much about cystic fibrosis, but she wove the facts into the story seamlessly.  Caleb chafes at his restrictions, just like any of us would.  He isn’t particularly admirable—he’s rude, self-centered, and angry, but Vrabel writes so masterfully that we can see things from Caleb’s perspective, and even empathize with him, even if we don’t agree with his conclusions.  Caleb wants his life to be different, so he pretends it away.  Kit doesn’t ask him questions—she’s too busy pretending that her own life is different, so Caleb finds it easy to ignore her needs, and his own.

I always enjoy Vrabel’s books, and would recommend them to anyone who enjoys realistic fiction.  Caleb and Kit would also be a great conversation starter in a classroom, not just about disabilities, but about being aware of other people’s needs, and knowing when to tell grownups things.  Recommended for grades 3-5.

Posted in Book Review, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review – Wedgie & Gizmo by Suzanne Selfors

Wedgie & GizmoBy Awnali Mills

Gizmo is a guinea pig who happens to be an evil genius.  His plan is simple.  He wants to become the king of all guinea pigs, create an uprising, and take over the world.  First, though, he has to figure out how to escape Barbie’s Dream Home.  Gizmo’s arch nemesis is Super Wedgie, the family corgi who insists on wearing a cape and has superpowers—namely, if he runs around in circles in front of the door fast enough, he activates a force field that causes his owners to open the door.  No matter what Gizmo’s plans are, somehow Wedgie always foils them.

It’s too bad Wedgie is completely unaware that the Furry Potato is actually an evil genius.  He just wants to be petted.

It was a long hard week, and I needed something to read that was quick, simple, and fun.  Wedgie and Gizmo definitely fit the bill.  I laughed out loud several times.  Even better was the fact that two stories were going on simultaneously.  There was the back and forth between Wedgie and Gizmo, but in the background was the story of a family working through a new marriage, a move, and the struggle to combine two families.

This is a great book for kids transitioning from Bad Kitty to straight text.  It has a lot of text, but doesn’t skimp on the pictures (which are delightful).  Kids will definitely love the humor.  For grades 2-4.

Posted in Book Review, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review – Half True Lies of Cricket Cohen by Catherine Lloyd Burns

Half True Lies of Cricket CohenBy Awnali Mills

Cricket Cohen adores her grandmother, Dodo.  The two are very much alike, preferring imagination and adventure to calendars and schedules.  Unfortunately, the woman that binds them together, Dodo’s daughter and Cricket’s mother, Bunny, is WAY into calendars.  This frequently sets Cricket and Dodo against Bunny, but Bunny always wins, because she’s in charge.

As Dodo ages, she’s becoming forgetful and her mind starts wandering in ways that frighten and endanger Cricket.  And since Dodo is just about Cricket’s only friend, this is very difficult for her.  And when Bunny has to be out of town and leaves Cricket in charge, things go badly wrong.  Will Cricket be able to take care of her grandmother and still do what Bunny has asked of her?

This book is another wonderful exploration of the difficulties of having a beloved grandparent who suffers from Alzheimer’s.  Cricket has an amazing imagination, and is super smart.  She has a bit of trouble telling the difference between truth and fiction, which gets her into a lot of trouble.  But she is very loving towards her grandmother, and honestly wants to make her parents happy.  Give this to kids with active imaginations or who are struggling with losing a grandparent to Alzheimer’s.   Recommended for grades 3-5.

Posted in Book Review | Tagged , , | Leave a comment