“Everything the words say, the person reading the book has to say. No matter what.”
Need a slightly scary story to read aloud in October, but don’t want to seriously frighten your little listeners? The 2013 Caldecott Honor Book, Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds is the answer.
Jasper Rabbit had a passion for carrots, and liberally helped himself to the carrots in Crackenhopper Field…until they started following him. Dun, dun dun!
Readers are led to wonder whether Jasper is imagining the appearance of scowling carrots in various locations. He sees them in the mirror of his bathroom while he is brushing his teeth, but when he turns around, there are only three orange objects sitting on the bath tub ledge. Were three creepy carrots glowering at him? Or was it just an orange washcloth, rubber duck, and shampoo bottle? Each sighting is similarly vague, with a variety of orange objects providing just enough doubt that only at the end of the book do readers learn the delightful truth about the carrots.
After I read the book, students made their own creepy carrots, and had the option to take it home with them, or tape it up in the library anywhere they chose (except ON a book). If they had time, many made two–one to take home, and one to decorate the library with for the month of October. The library has creepy carrots peeking out of all the bookshelves, and the students are loving seeing them all around.
Student: “My sister made one yesterday and hung it up on in the dining room at home!”
Me: “Was it really a creepy carrot, or was it just an orange vase?”
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.
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.
Tag on the back:
Today we went to the library
and Mrs. Foote read
Harold and the Purple Crayon
by Crockett Johnson
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.
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.
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)
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
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.
This storytime practically does itself. The classic tale of Harry the Dirty Dog, by Gene Zion, published in 1956, is just as appealing to kids today as it was then. What child can’t relate to not wanting to take a bath, and going to great lengths to avoid it? Harry’s antics are illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham, and their simplicity lends itself perfectly to this successful project.
Supplies: Black construction paper, white construction paper, black Crayons, white crayons.
Prep: I cut out 4 shapes at a time, using a pattern made from photocopying the book cover.
Set up: Each student chose a place setting at the table with either a black or a white dog, and the opposite color crayon, and could make them as dirty or clean as they wanted.
All of the classes made a small Harry, which can be used as a bookmark, but I asked one class to also make a large Harry that I could keep and display on a bulletin board, and they were happy to oblige. It generated some conversations, as students, parents and teachers walked through the library.
“Can our class make those too?” (No, sorry, you’re in 5th grade, and I won’t be doing this with your class, but you are welcome to come back at recess and make yourself one.)
“Oh! I grew up reading Harry the Dirty Dog!”
Sometimes, it’s just nice to have a storytime with no glue to scrub off the table, and no paper cuttings on the floor to pick up.
~~ * * * ~~
Have I mentioned I always put a tag on the back of anything we make in the library? I learned this technique during an art docent training years ago. The trainer told us to always put a note on the back of any artwork done by the students, so that parents can read what they’ve done, and it can be a conversation starter. Otherwise it can just get lost in the jumble of backpack detritus. It’s also an effort at library promotion — I would like parents to have the opportunity to see that their students are doing something fun and engaging in the school library. The parents are on the PTA board, the PTA pays for part of my salary, and the PTA is the sole source of the library book and supply budget. It’s just my way of communicating, “Here’s what your children are getting for your generous contribution.”
I use an Avery label template, 30 per page, but I use regular printer paper, cut it out and glue it on the back with glue sticks, because it’s less expensive. Sometimes, I can give the job to some upper graders who are happy to help at recess.
Today we went to the library,
and Mrs. Foote read
Harry the Dirty Dog
Written by Gene Zion
Illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham
Listen to Betty White read the story at
“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!
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.
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.
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:
Did you know that a dung beetle eats dung? Ewww!
Did you know they roll it into a ball with their legs, and roll it through underground tunnels, to save for a snack later, and to lay their eggs on so the newly hatched larvae have their first meal waiting for them? Ewww!
Did you also know that if you buy 5 yards of knit t-shirt fabric, it comes on a bolt in a tube that a child can crawl through? And, did you know that if you tell a 5-year old Transitional Kindergartener that they can pretend to be a dung beetle and imagine that an inflatable beach ball is a ball of dung, and they can push it through a knit fabric tube that is like an underground tunnel, they will almost burst with delight?
This book has The Ewww Factor, without overdoing it. This is an important distinction to note, because it can mean the difference between keeping the group focused on the story and dissolving into who-can-be-grosser side conversations.
I subscribe to a wonderful monthly book review and delivery service, Junior Library Guild. Books are sent based on the criteria I set up, such as humor, sports, non-fiction, fiction, biography, etc., and also the grade level desired. Their vetting process is impressive. I can be assured that every book they send is top-notch, and I don’t have to spend hours-that-I-don’t-have researching books to order. Many of the books they choose end up being Caldecott and Newberry winners. I have the option to view the titles and descriptions of upcoming books, and make swaps if I choose. Frequently I do, depending on whether I think a book will circulate well within my school’s population, or if there is a particular book I’d prefer to have from their selection.
Somehow, this one slipped by me, and when the book, Behold the Beautiful Dung Beetle, arrived in my monthly shipment, I made a mental note to be more on top of previewing all the selections in the future.
With a heavy sigh, I reluctantly previewed it as I prepared it to be shelf-ready, and discovered it is marvelously illustrated, and goes into great detail on a topic that is near and dear to every elementary schooler’s heart: dung. Well, they didn’t actually call it “dung” until I read the book to them, but they do now!
Oh my goodness, this was The Most Fun Story Time of the Entire Year. How do I know this? The TK’s told me so! They were each able to go through the tunnel at least twice, some forward, some backward, always emerging laughing and rushing back to the line to go again.
In the 30-minute time slot, I had time to read two other books on tunnels, before we read about dung beetles tunneling, which segued nicely into the activity.
The Head Children’s Librarian at the public library has asked me to reprise this storytime there as well, repackaged slightly as The Scoop on Scat. I will be adding content when I host it, to fill the longer time period of an hour. Watch this blog for a future update on the fun activities I’m going to add. Hint: I bought a bag of tootsie rolls to experiment with.