Sometimes, One Crayon is All You Need to Get Out of a Predicament

After reading the 2014 Caldecott Honor Book, Journey, about a bored girl who creates a daring and dangerous adventure for herself using a red crayon, I was reminded of a far simpler version about a footed pajama-wearing, pointy-nosed, wide-eyed, almost hairless little graffiti artist named Harold.

Harold and the Purple Crayon, by Crockett Johnson, has timeless appeal, as he wields his one and only crayon to both create and solve one problem after another, until he draws himself to bed, and the crayon slips from his sleepy hand to the floor.

I enlarged a b&w picture of Harold from the book, and copied him in various random positions all around 12 X 18″ pieces of white construction paper, and set out purple crayons.

photo 5-1

photo 3-3 photo 2-6
photo 5-2

I read the book to students, then after book checkout, they were able to sit down at the tables and create a picture of Harold drawing an adventure of their own choosing.  After seeing Harold’s imagination run wild with his purple crayon on the pages of the book, the students were excited to let their own imaginations take Harold someplace too.

But don’t forget the moon.  The moon always followed along.


photo 3-4


Tag on the back:

Today we went to the library
and Mrs. Foote read
Harold and the Purple Crayon
by Crockett Johnson



Where’s Waldo in the Library?


Waldo pictures

As part of my elementary  library orientation at the beginning of the year, I take advantage of the irresistible, universal childhood need to find Waldo, wherever he may be hiding.

I printed and laminated multiple Waldo pictures in a variety of poses, Waldo’s dog, and Waldo’s girlfriend.  I tape them with blue carpenter’s tape around the library in different sections, hidden in plain sight.

I hand out cards to random students, and ask them to stand up one at a time, and locate Waldo in the Fiction section, or locate Waldo in the Picture book section, etc.  Everyone helps out with “You’re getting warmer/colder” comments, and it gets everyone’s attention, because, of course, everyone wants to visually locate him before the student who is actually charged with pointing him out.

I have also worn a red and white striped shirt with blue jeans, to add to the fun.


Where do you think I taped Waldo’s dog?   In the 636 section, of course!

Ready for more fun with Where’s Waldo at the Library from Candlewick Press?

No Worries About Back to School!

Worry Stones

Who doesn’t get the jitters about the beginning of school?  Not just students, but parents, teachers, administrators, and support staff too!

I read back-to-school favorite, Wemberly Worried, by Kevin Henkes, with two Special Ed classes, and we read about all of Wemberly’s concerns.  Then we talked about things we might worry about; I went first to break the ice.  I confessed to worrying about whether I would remember teacher and student names (my first year at the school), and if students would like the books I read aloud.  I didn’t know if any students would want to share their own worries, but I was surprised at how candid they were, once we got started.

Worry stones are typically a smooth, hard, polished gemstone with an indentation for rubbing the thumb across, used to relieve anxiety.  They were used in ancient Greece, Tibet, Ireland, and in Native American Tribes.  (What do you suppose they worried about?  I’d love to know!)  Read more about the history of worry stones here.

This website shows excellent pictures on how to make worry stones using Fimo Clay.  Fimo Clay is inexpensive at Michael’s (you never go without your 40% off coupon, right?), and it takes very little.

I divided the clay into small segments in advance, and students selected three colors to make their unique worry stones.  Students carved their initials on the bottom using an opened paper clip.  I brought my little toaster oven from home (perhaps your staff lounge has one already), baked them for 20 minutes, and delivered them to the classrooms later.   When we made them at the hour-long public library story time, children made the worry stones first, and I baked them while I read a few back-to-school books, so they were able to take them home with them right away.

Tip:  You may want to have a few extras made, so students who are absent are able to have one, even though they weren’t able to make their own.






If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

photo 5

This engaging, popular story, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, by best-selling children’s author Laura Joffe Numeroff, practically insists readers predict what the mouse is going to ask for next–a glass of milk, a straw, a napkin, and on it goes, until it comes back to needing another cookie.  Many of the students had already heard the story, and were only too happy to pipe up with what the mouse would ask for next.  A good book is like having dessert–it’s just as enjoyable the second time!


tan construction paper or white paper plates
brown construction paper, cut into “chocolate chip” triangles
(you can decide if you pre-cut, or let kids.  I sprinkled pre-cut triangles in the center of the tables, since the transitional kindergarteners weren’t ready for scissors yet)
glue sticks

Sticker on the back of the cookie:  (see explanation at the bottom of the page here)

Today we went to the library,
and Mrs. Foote read,
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
by Laura Joffe Numeroff

Reading this book to K’s and 1’s IS a “Good Idea!”

That is Not A Good Idea!

Mo Willems.  Need I say more?  There isn’t a kid alive who doesn’t love the sense of humor of this three-time Caldecott Honor winning author and illustrator.  That is NOT a Good Idea! is my new favorite book by Willems, thanks to a wonderful kindergarten teacher who shared her copy with me last year.

In the illustrative style of an old silent film, the hungry wolf proceeds to lure the sweet, demure mother duck for, er, to dinner.   The students wanted so badly  to warn the mother duck that her choices were NOT NOT NOT a good idea!  She just kept right along making obviously bad choices, page after page, to the increasingly frantic warnings from her ducklings, and Willems shamelessly leads us all to believe she is going to meet an awful end.  Spoiler alert:  It turns out, the sneaky wolf is actually the one making all the wrong choices.  Nail-biting anticipation culminates in a thigh-slapping, surprise ending that makes one want to go back and read it again, to see how one could have missed the signs.  Feel free to give in to the urge to do this.  It’s a quick read.

The adorable ducklings are so easy and fun to draw, using a guided drawing technique.   I explained that everyone is going to stay together for the entire drawing, and that it will be very hard not to go on ahead, but please wait for me to show how to add each new part.

This drawing is so simple, I apologize for insulting you by including the steps below.  You can go in whatever order suits you.  I demonstrated on a big yellow sheet, as I walked the students through it.

I only set out the colors of crayon that I wanted used.  Personal expression is for another day, and another project.  I wanted these to all turn out looking like the ducklings in the book, no pink eyelashes or purple dresses added.  Call me a control freak.  I don’t think you can give a kid a tray full of colorful crayons and expect them not to use them all, so I often sift through the crayon bin and pull out only approved colors.  (Go see my post for Harold and the Purple Crayon, if you don’t believe me.)

Supplies:  Yellow construction paper, black crayons, orange crayons, blue crayons

1)  Draw an oval.

2)  Draw two legs.

3)  Add wings.

4)  Add two little motion lines near his wings.

5)  Draw two dots for eyes, and add some eyebrows.

6)  Give him a tail.

7)  Draw three loops on top of his head.

8)  And now, the only tricky part–the mouth:  Draw two small horizontal ovals, and connect them with two black lines.  Fill in the middle area with black crayon.  Fill in the upper and lower beak with orange crayon.

Then kids can add their own personalization, like the ducklings in the book, by adding a hat, a bow tie, or a clinging eggshell.  Many went on to add more ducklings on the front and the back.   Most students can’t draw just one.  They’re just that fun to draw!

I think every one of those students can imagine themselves illustrating a children’s picture book now.





The Magic of “Press Here”

Press Here Photo1a

“Did you see that?” she whispered to her teacher sitting next to her in the back row.  “I’m making that happen!”  That’s truly the magic of this simple book–letting kids feel a part of the magic.  Actually, not merely a part, but the source!

Press Here

Press Here Book Trailer

The charm of this book, Press Here, by Hervé Tullet, shines brightest when you read it to a group of kids, who can immerse themselves in the joy of discovery, and the delightful illusion of an interactive book.

Each page invites the reader to press, tap, rub, blow, shake or tilt.  The ensuing results of the action are revealed when the page is turned.  I held the book out to the seated students, and asked them to perform the actions directed on each page.  I moved through the rows, letting each child have a turn.

Everyone watched intently as their classmates took their turn, sometimes helping to count the number of taps out loud, or offering help with which is left or right.  Then everyone was invited to predict (buzzword) what would happen on the next page.  Of course, the number of pages didn’t coincide with the number of students in each class, so with some classes, a few had several turns, and in other classes, I let a few students redo a page we had already done, so everyone was satisfied with their participation.  Students were then able to make their own Press Here books to take home.

I planned to do this storytime with only the kindergarteners, but it was such a success, I repeated it with 1st and 2nd grades as well.  We did this in September as our very first storytime of the school year.  In January, one boy sought me out and told me excitedly that he had received this book as a Christmas present!  (Nice going, mom and dad!)

Prep:  Cut and fold white paper into square cards.  Write in blue marker “PRESS HERE” on the front cover.  Punch out way more red, yellow and blue circles than you think you’ll need, and sprinkle them in the center of the tables,  set out glue sticks.  I was punching circles til my hands ached every night before school to resupply for the next day of classes.  If you don’t have the patience for this, and want to spend the money, you can purchase round stickers at Office Depot.  Consider limiting the number of dots children are allowed to use, as some got a little carried away with the fun of sticking them on.

 Press Here

Student Instructions:  Stick one dot in the center between the words PRESS and HERE.  Add dots to the inside in any pattern or combination desired.

Press Here

Be prepared to be asked to press the dot
on everyone’s book when they finish,
and exclaim with delight when the book is opened
and the magic is revealed!

Just a few of the many awards:

American Library Association Notable Children’s Book 2012

California Young Reader Medal Winner 2014