Egg-citing Storytime 1/24/18

By Awnali Mills

Today’s storytime was about….eggs!  The books I chose were Except If by Jim Averbeck, and Whose Chick Are You? by Nancy Tafuri.

We sang the Alphabet Song to start, then I pulled out my big E.  We talked about the sounds it makes (when I see a spider, I say a loud long e sound.  The kids found that amusing.)  We looked at some pictures of E things, and I finished with the picture of an egg.  And I had brought some eggs with me!  They were from the Egg Hatching Activity Kit from Lakeshore (which doesn’t seem to carry them anymore).  The kids guessed what was in each egg, and then I “cracked” it open, and we talked about what sorts of things come in eggs.  If you thought it was only birds, you’re wrong!

Then I read the story Except If, and the kids helped me say the refrain “except if.”  Then I handed out egg shakers, and we danced to Laurie Berkner’s I Know a Chicken.  That’s a great song for following directions.

I used a flannel, and we said Humpty Dumpty together, then counted the pieces.  I read Whose Chick Are You? and then we rolled the song cube.  That had us singing the Alphabet Song again, but no one seemed to mind.  I followed that with the flannel Three Eggs in a Basket, and the kids helped me unite the newly hatched critters with their mommies.

Then, for the grand finale!  I asked the children how strong eggs were.  Were they hard to break, or easy to break?  I told them that we were going to do an experiment to find out!  I spread a plastic table cloth on the floor, and then put half of an 18 count egg carton on that.  I put an egg in each of the four corners, after letting the kids touch them to see that they were real eggs.  I covered the eggs with saran wrap, and then pulled out a cart LOADED with the heaviest hardback books I could find in our donations bin (all 1 ½ to 3 inches thick).  I asked the children how many books they thought it would take to break the eggs.  Then, one by one, each child helped me place a book gently on top of our eggs.  Some children were scared to get near our tower, so I took over near the end.

How many books do you think it took?


More than that!

Steven King’s Insomnia finally broke the eggs.  It was the twelfth one.

There was a great big “Oh!” when the eggs finally broke.  It was glorious!  Huzzah for science!  The parents all told me how cool that was, and everyone guessed many books less than it actually took (I guessed more, having seen a video).

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Dinosaur Storytime 1-17-18

By Awnali Mills

Today’s storytime was all about dinosaurs, and the books I chose were Saturday Night at the Dinosaur Stomp by Carol Diggory Shields, and Dini Dinosaur by Karen Beaumont.

Today’s storytime was sad.

Pitiful, even.

It’s snowing to beat the band here, but the library hasn’t closed.  One father showed up to Toddler storytime with his 2 year old daughter, and stayed for Preschool (ages 3-5).  I let them stay.

It was just the three of us, after all.

Turns out, the little girl?  Yeah.  She doesn’t really like dinosaurs.  My T-Rex puppet scared her, and she rapidly lost interest in Saturday Night, and we stopped reading halfway through.  She enjoyed dancing to The Dinosaur Dance from Playhouse Disney’s Let’s Dance album.  She helped me put up flannel pieces for One Dinosaur Went Out to Play, but refused to call the other dinosaurs, or pat her knees to simulate them running up.

We skipped the second book, and rolled the song cube.  I played my ukulele and we—or rather, Dad and I—sang The Alphabet Song while daughter stared at me.  Once again, she helped me put up and take down the flannels for Five Enormous Dinosaurs, but she didn’t really care about the rhyme.  She was more interested in the Velcro on the back of the flannels.

Finally, I pulled out some magnetic dinosaurs, and she helped me put them on the board, but dinosaurs (just so you know) do NOT roar.  They say Ta-Da!

I’m glad we got that cleared up.

We tried sorting them by color, but there weren’t any pink ones, so she pretty much lost interest almost immediately.

I thanked them for coming.

What else could I do?

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Construction Storytime 1/10/18

By Awnali Mills

This week’s storytime was all about construction.  The books I chose were Old MacDonald Had a Truck by Steven Goetz, and Big Dig, a pop-up book by Paul Stickland.


We started with the Alphabet Song, and then I introduced my puppet Gulp.  He likes to smash things!  He brought out our letter T, and tried to hammer things with it.  We talked about T words, and then sang The Construction Worker Song.

This is the way we pound our nails, pound our nails, pound our nails
This is the way we pound our nails, so early in the morning
(saw the wood, turn the screwdriver, drill a hole, stack the bricks, stir the paint, paint the walls)

Credit: Everything Preschool

Then we read Old MacDonald Had a Truck.  I really love this book, but wasn’t sure how it would go over in storytime.  Well, it went over just fine.  As a matter of fact, one little lady with an infectious giggle thought it was hilarious every time Old MacDonald had something that wasn’t an animal, and that got everyone else to laughing.  I love when that happens!

Next, I got out my toolbox—adapted from the one at Storytime Secrets.  The kids got to choose the tools, take them out of my toolbox and put them on the flannel board.  Then we would sing the verse and do the motions.  My version adds a tape measure, and deletes the screws and nails.

Toolbox (Tune: Oh, My Darling Clementine)

Here’s my toolbox, here’s my toolbox
This is where I keep my tools
Here’s my toolbox, trusty toolbox
Take a look at all my tools.

Here’s my hammer, here’s my hammer
See the hammer pound and pound
Here’s my hammer, trusty hammer
Watch me as I pound and pound.

Here’s my screwdriver, here’s my screwdriver
See the screwdriver twist and twist
Here’s my screwdriver, trusty screwdriver
Watch me as I twist and twist

Here’re my pliers, here’re my pliers
See the pliers pinch and pinch
Here’re my pliers, trusty pliers
Watch me as I pinch and pinch

Here’s my wrench, here’s my wrench
See the wrench turn and turn
Here’s my wrench, trusty wrench
Watch me as I turn and turn.

Here’s a saw, here’s a saw
See the saw go see-saw
Here’s my saw, trusty saw
Watch me as I go see-saw.

Here’s my tape measure, here’s my tape measure
See it stretch out so long
Here’s my measure, trusty tape measure
Watch me as I stretch it out.

Then we rolled a song cube and sang Hickory Dickory Dock.  We then read Big Dig.  I adore the gasps I get when I open the book and the pages spring to life.

I next played The Hammer Song.  No, this isn’t the pop culture version, but it’s a variation of Johnny Works with One Hammer.  I wish I could tell you who sings it, but it’s on a compilation CD that I inherited.  It was great when all the parents engaged and did the motions along with the children and helped them figure out what to do.

For our grand finale, I announced that storytime was over, but the play portion was just starting, and I had a special treat.  I pulled out cardboard tubes, wooden ramps and blocks, ping pong balls, and toy cars, and let the kids go to town constructing.  Of course, the kids were immediately engaged, but what was fascinating to me was how quickly the parents engaged.  One dad was immediately on the floor helping his sons construct (he’d been kind of off to the side during storytime).  One mom was supervising her daughter, when dad wandered in, stood for a minute watching, and then got on the floor and started making suggestions.  (What was privately funny to me was that he couldn’t figure out why two of his additions to the construction wouldn’t work.  Mom fixed one, and I gently explained why the other wasn’t working—learning for everyone!)  One mom was playing right alongside her daughter and said to me with a bright smile, “This is amazing!  I could do this all day!”

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Book Review – Finding Wonders by Jeannine Atkins

Finding WondersBy Awnali Mills

Maria Merian studies insects and paints detailed pictures of them in 1660.  She makes a living selling her portraits, and teaches the world that butterflies do not form out of mud and rotting vegetables.  Mary Anning digs fossils out of English seaside cliffs in 1815, showing the world that there are still things to learn in the dirt, wonders that people have never seen before.  In 1847, Maria Mitchell studies the stars on her rooftop in Nantucket and discovers a new comet in the skies, winning a gold medal from the King of Denmark.   Three women across time and geography are linked by their defiance of conventions about women’s place and their love of the natural world.

Told in sparse and beautiful free verse, Finding Wonders is a tribute to these three women who frequently struggled to feed themselves and their families with their passionate study of the world.  Because our knowledge of these women’s lives is often sparse, Atkins embellishes a bit to fill in emotion and thoughts around known details.  In the back of the book, Atkins describes her process for writing, and offers a selected bibliography for people who would like to read more.  I wouldn’t hesitate to put this book into the hands of any girl who didn’t mind free verse.  It might just inspire them to pursue a STEM field.  For grades 2-5.

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Cowboy Storytime 1/3/18

By Awnali Mills

Today’s storytime was sparked by a new book that came in that I loved, I Wanna Be a Cowgirl by Angela DiTerlizzi.  To go with it, I chose Let’s Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy by Jan Thomas.

I started out by putting on a bandana and cowboy hat and asking the kids who I was dressed up to be.  They guessed cowboy, and I told them that I was a girl, so I was a cowgirl.  Normally, I wouldn’t have made a distinction, but my cowgirl book was coming up, and I wanted to get them ready for it.  But before we got to the book, I had dressed myself as a cowboy, so we did the flannel A Cowboy Dresses Himself with Care that I got from Library Village.

A Cowboy Dresses Himself

A Cowboy Dresses Himself with Care.
He starts with long, red ______(UNDERWEAR).
Out in the desert, you don’t want to get hurt,
So the cowboy wears a strong wool ______(SHIRT).
Deserts and prairies are the cowboy’s scenes;
To protect his legs, he wears sturdy blue______(JEANS).
The cowboy bent, and ran, and knelt.
To keep his pants up, he wore a leather ______(BELT).
The coyote howls, the old owl hoots.
On his feet, he wears leather ______(BOOTS).
It isn’t yellow, so it’s not a banana;
Around his neck, he wears a soft ______(BANDANA).
A cowboy is a cowboy, and that is that!
On top of his head, he wore a ten-gallon ______(HAT).
He’s all dressed from head to feet,
And now our cowboy can’t be beat!

The kids helped me put each piece up, so the clothes were sort of on him, but they enjoyed it.

The whole group was sleepy and quiet this morning, but they paid attention to I Wanna Be a Cowgirl.  They didn’t respond to any of my attempts to do dialogic reading with them, but stared at me wide eyed.  Ah, well.

They were quite eager to roll my song cube, though, and sang This is the Way We… with me.  Our next flannel was Five Little Ponies that I got from Perry Public Library.

Five Little Ponies

Five little ponies, tan, brown and gray.
Down to the meadow, they went to play.
The first one said, “Let’s roll in this field.”
The second one said, “Let’s kick up our heels!”
The third one said, “Let’s run, run, run!”
The fourth one said, “That sounds like fun!”
The fifth pony said, “I’d like some hay.”
So the five little ponies galloped away.

I read Let’s Sing a Lullaby next.  It’s such a cute book, and even though they didn’t interact a whole lot, they did show interest in guessing whether the snake was a snake or a stick.  We rolled our song cube again and sang Zoom, Zoom, Zoom.  We finished by singing the Western Animals Song to the tune of Wheels on the Bus that also came from the Perry Public Library.  I played my uke for a semi-western feel.

The coyotes on the prairie go.
Howl, howl, howl.
Howl, howl, howl.
Howl, howl, howl.
The coyotes on the prairie go,
Howl, howl, howl.
All day long.

The rattlesnakes on the prairie go
Rattle, rattle, rattle…. (we did hiss, hiss, hiss)
The horses on the prairie go
Neigh, neigh, neigh….
The cows on the prairie go
Moo, moo, moo….
The jackrabbits on the prairie go
Jump, jump, jump…

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Book Review – League of Archers by Eva Howard

League of ArchersBy Awnali Mills

Ellie Dray and her friends loved to play at being Robin Hood and his Merry Men, and dubbed themselves the League of Archers.  But time and tragedy have made them grow up.  Ellie’s father died in the war and her mother was hanged for poaching, so Ellie went to live at the abbey.  She leads a quiet life there, going over the wall a few times a week to hunt with her friends to provide food for their families and the nuns at the abbey.

But a chance meeting with the real Robin Hood changes things drastically for Ellie and her friends.  Robin dies in her arms, and almost everyone believes that Ellie is responsible.  The people of the village now hate her, and the baron wants her dead.  Can she and her friends figure out who really killed Robin, clear Ellie’s name, and save the imprisoned Maid Marian from the hangman’s noose?

Somehow I missed this book when it was first published, but saw the second book when it came out.  The second looked good, so I grabbed the first.  Ellie is a strong, competent heroine, but also relies on the strength and skills of her friends.  She agonizes over the choices she has to make and the dangers she inflicts on her friends.  I really appreciated that Howard doesn’t sugarcoat the fact that behaving outside of the law (even if the laws are bad) has consequences.  Most of the “bad guys” are soldiers who are trying to feed their own families, or do their jobs, and Ellie recognizes this.  Still, in the moment, she chooses the lives of her friends over the lives of the soldiers, accepting the guilt and grief over their deaths.

There’s enough action and adventure here to suit fans of that genre, and Ellie’s internal struggles by no means dominate the book.  Fans of historical fiction or Robin Hood fans will enjoy the book as well.  Recommended for grades 4-6.

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Book Review – Oddity by Sarah Cannon

OddityBy Awnali Mills

Ada Roundtree is a kickbutt fifth grader.  Leopards in the cafeteria? No sweat.  Zombie rabbits? Child’s play. Ghost in the closet?  Don’t waste her time.  But her twin sister Pearl has won the Sweepstakes and is now gone and Ada is suspicious.  Things in Oddity aren’t what the grownups are telling her, and she won’t rest until she figures out where Pearl has gone.

I really wanted to like this book.  The cover is fantastic, and the book jacket description had me hooked immediately.


Normally I won’t review a book if I didn’t finish it, but I just couldn’t power my way through this one, and I wanted to flag it for all of you.  Maybe you like three new weird things per paragraph over and over again.  I don’t.  And as Jack Gantos underscores in Writing Radar, (I really think I read it here, but I can’t swear to it) don’t highlight things in your writing if you aren’t going to do something with them.  Cannon keeps throwing one weird thing after another at us, but they just serve to obscure the story of a fantastically strong heroine.  Ada kept drawing me back, for seven chapters.  But I was sighing every time I picked up the book and I actively looked for other things to do instead of read.  Life is too short for that.  I kept hoping that Ada’s world would start making sense to me, but after seven chapters it still didn’t.  If a town is actively trying to kill you, why would you live there?  I don’t mind a weird world, but it needs to have some kind of strong internal logic to it, and Oddity’s weirdness was just too random for me.

I won’t be recommending this one.

Having said all that, the reviewers on Goodreads seemed to love the book.  Maybe it’s just me.

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