Virtual Preschool Storytime: Week 9

Preschoolers I’m baaaacccccckkkkkkk! I think Noon Year’s Eve and Daniel Tiger Storytime (and the rest of the world) took out any of the new energy I should’ve collected during my few weeks off of weekly storytime, so no book retelling this week. I have so much fun with those, so this makes me sad, but developmentally I’m good with two books for preschool age (I’d much rather have the babies and toddlers moving or exploring books differently).And most importantly, the Elmo Slide is back!

More Preschool Storytime Content:

Find additional storytime content at the links below:

Storytime Resources (includes all storytime outlines)
Virtual Preschool Storytimes
Virtual Baby Storytimes
Virtual Toddler Storytimes
Virtual Family Storytimes (including themed special events)
All Virtual Storytime Outlines

Preschool Storytime Intro Song & Rhyme

Early Literacy Tip: Playing

Action songs build physical awareness. Try songs like “The Hokey Pokey,” which name specific body parts.

Book: Every Little Letter by Deborah Underwood

Song: Teddy Bear by Jazzy Ash

Fingerplay: I Built a Little Snowman

Discover more Fingerplays. —

I built a little snowman.
He had a carrot nose!
Along came a bunny,
And what do you suppose?

The hungry little bunny
Looking for his lunch,
Ate the carrot nose…
Nibble, nibble, crunch!

Book: There’s a Superhero In Your Book by Tom Fletcher

Action Rhyme: Galoomp Went the Little Green Frog

Galoomp (hop) went the little green frog one day
Galoomp (hop) went the little green frog
Galoomp (hop) went the little green frog one day
And his eyes went blink blink blink

Repeat with last line added on each time:
Arms went flop, flop, flop
Feet went splash, splash, splash

Flannel: Snowball and Mitten Hide and Seek

Discover more Flannel & Magnet Activities. —

Snowball, snowball
Cold and round!
Behind which mitten,
Can you be found?

Closing Song: Elmo Slide by Sesame Street

Daniel Tiger Storytime

The first themed Saturday storytime special of 2021! We started the new year with the one and only Daniel Tiger Storytime! This set a highly unrealistic attendance expectation for 2021, but I am very happy with the final product. If nothing else in 2021 works out whatsoever, maybe my storytime game will be on point?

Daniel Tiger is close to my heart because of Mr. Rogers, though I did learn in this process that I am not the biggest fan of the Daniel Tiger tv show. But, there is most definitely an audience for Daniel, and, if we ever return to in-person programs in the next five years, this is something I would like to recreate as a party-style event. The heart of the story is excellent, and in person I could use some Mr. Rogers tunes–something Facebook strictly does not allow (it WILL shut down your stream, mid-stream or immediately after–be warned). Daniel Tiger songs are fine.

I talked about Daniel Tiger during the well-attended Noon Year’s Eve Storytime, and I could tell the Facebook event had a lot of interest (over 1000 people responded to the event), so I did not make a trailer for this one. (Also, Noon Year’s Eve was barely a week prior, and I’m tired.)

The trailer was not needed because, following the Noon Year’s Eve Storytime fun, we once again broke attendance records. This is the most-well attended program I have ever done…ever. (Except for the in-person Wizards & Wands Festival, but that is a whole other thing.) Final attendance was 770 people, most of which were from central Ohio based on anecdotal info (where we are located), and even knowing that Facebook’s one-minute view count isn’t the most accurate, we had 400 people just from families self-reporting how many people were watching in the comments (so they stuck with us long enough to hear my announcements).

Moral of the story: Daniel Tiger > Dog Man.

Just like past virtual storytimes, I curated a PDF packet that we shared with event participants. Download it here.

Watch the full storytime here (starts about 5 minutes in):

The general storytime layout–in order of what I presented–is below, with videos where applicable.

Daniel Tiger Storytime Outline

Backdrop Setup: Daniel Tiger pennant banners, book covers, and images. I’m happy to share these printable files if anyone is interested–just let me know in those comments or send us an email.

Intro Song: It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Daniel Tiger Story: Meet the Neighbors!

Meet the Neighbors! (Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood): Shaw, Natalie, Style  Guide: 9781442498372: Amazon.com: Books

Neighbor Day Help: The premise for storytime was that it was time for the annual Neighbor Day Festival, and we needed to help all of our friends in the Neighborhood of Make Believe get ready.

Each time we were ready to find a new friend we took a seat and pretended to “drive” trolley.

Driving Round in My Little Red Trolley
Driving round in my little red trolley,
Driving round in my little red trolley,
Driving round in my little red trolley,
Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding!

When we got to a location, we would receive three clues to figure out where we ended up.

And then we figure out where we ended up (the bakery!) and see which friend is waiting for us there (Miss Elaina!):

Before starting that location’s activity:

Bakery with Miss Elaina to Mix a Cake

Mix the batter, stir the batter
Shake some flour in
Mix the batter, stir the batter
Pour it in a tin

Sprinkle in some chocolate chips
Put it in to bake
Then open wide the oven door
And out comes the cake!

Faster, Faster!

Music Shop with Katerina Kittycat for Head Shoulders Knees and Toes

Head, shoulders, knees, and toes, knees and toes!
Head, shoulders, knees, and toes, knees and toes!
And eyes and ears and mouth and nose!
Head, shoulders, knees, and toes, knees and toes!

Playground with Prince Wednesday for Animal Guessing Game

Grocery Store with O the Owl to Count the Balloons

Red Balloons, red balloons, how many do we see?
Red balloons, red balloons, count them now with me!

Post Office with Daniel Tiger for Letter Matching

Oh, have you seen the letter W
The letter W, the letter W
Oh, have you seen the letter W?
It makes the sound wuh-wuh-wuh

Wrapping Things Up
After helping Daniel find all of the letters for his friends, we found one more lost letter that needed a home! But this one was addressed to…us!

When we opened it, we discovered that since we were so kind to all of our new friends, we would become honorary residents of the Neighborhood of Make Believe! First, we just had to sing our song one more time:

Book Review Tuesday

Lots of great books this week! Read the book reviews below, and learn more about my favorite reads:

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Closer to Nowhere by Ellen Hopkins
Gr. 4-5. Hannah has the perfect life (on paper anyway): two loving parents at home, countless friends at school, and a possible future in professional gymnastics. But a few months back, her cousin, Cal, moved in. After Cal’s mom died, Cal’s dad went to prison, and Cal moved in with Hannah’s family. Cal is generally annoying, loves tall tales and pranks, and struggles to control the PTSD from his experiences growing up with his father.

Cal sort of likes living with Hannah’s family, though he wishes Hannah liked him a bit more. Cal tries to control his responses to some of the situations he is placed in–but he doesn’t always have those skills. But when his father is released from prison, will Cal be able to cling to this fragile happiness that he has found?

This was fine, though not something that stood out among my recent reads. The family dynamics were engaging as was the start of a conversation about privilege that revealed a lot about our society in Hannah’s simple, clueless responses: “We aren’t privileged! Dad works hard!” I much preferred Cal’s perspective to Hannah’s, though I understand the need for both. I appreciate that there is some reality behind this story–the author based this on raising a grandson suffering from PTSD due to similar childhood circumstances to Cal–but I’m still not sure this rings true for me.

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Flying High: The Story of Gymnastics Champion Simone Biles by Michelle Meadows (picture book biography)
Gr. 1-2. Follow the childhood and gymnastic success of the amazing Simone Biles, from her time in foster care to her adoption by her grandparents and her perseverance as a gymnastics champion. By the same author-illustrator duo as Brave Ballerina–I’m looking forward to more from these two!

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The Girl and the Ghost by Hanna Alkaf
Gr. 4-7. Suraya is barely a few years old when the ghost first finds her. His old master, this small child’s grandmother, died, and the ghost is bound by blood to the family line. While the girl’s mother would be the obvious choice, this child seems to sing to him–clearly they are meant to be together. But this ghost is more than just a menacing, haunting form–it is a pelesit, or an otherworldly being capable of all kinds of magic. He will do whatever this young girl commands, but he has been used for dark purposes before, and those angry emotions are always just under the surface.

Suraya doesn’t see her ghost until she is about preschool age, and she finds him to be the funniest thing. Her new grasshopper companion just wants to be her friend, and she is much more concerned about his lack of a name than his surprise presence in her life. She gives him the very best name a very young child can grant: Pink.

The all-powerful Pink trails young Suraya, making sure she doesn’t get hurt even when she is being more adventurous than she probably should be, all the while noticing that his young charge doesn’t have many friends. Not only does she not have many friends, but the kids her age tend to be cruel–and Pink has no patience for it. He wants Suraya to tell him to hurt the cruel kids, but Suraya will do no such thing–instead making Pink swear that he will only do harm when she is in absolute, life-threatening danger. Pink tries to listen, but his emotions overwhelm him, especially as Suraya grows older and finally makes a friend–leaving Pink trapped in fits of jealousy that grow horrifically dangerous for everyone.

This was good. I think I prefer more psychologically creepy stories than books with descriptions of gore or supernatural grossness (this book has both of those things). I enjoyed the connections to Malaysian culture and myth, as well as the conversations about social class. I’m not sure how I feel about how Pink’s relationship with Suraya is depicted, through to the end. I’ve seen some conversation about the author rewriting an early part of the book where the language walked much too close to the abuser-groomer line, but I think some of that still remains in the final product. It is clear that everyone, including Pink, knows that his relationship with Suraya is toxic and bad for her–but making Pink a bit of a hero at the end doesn’t make up for what he put her through nor does it help Suraya unpack her attachment to him. However, the relationship between the two is so connected to the myth and culture around pelesits as well as the final reveal…but I still wish some of the side characters had made any attempt to correct Suraya’s extremely problematic line of thinking (“he does bad things because he loves me”). I’m going to be thinking about this one for a while.

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I Want to Ride the Tap Tap by Danielle Joseph (picture book)
Gr. K-1. Claude desperately wants to ride the tap tap alongside all of the other exciting, wonderful people in his community. But every day, his Manman says no–there is too much else for them to do. But finally – finally! – after church on Dimanch morning, Claude and his whole family ride the tap tap to the beach.

The illustrations here are particularly interesting, especially the mix of colors used on each person’s skin. I wish the text had been from an own voices author.

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Katie the Catsitter by Colleen A.F. Venable (graphic novel)
Gr. 3-4. Katie isn’t going to be able to go to camp unless she can figure out how to earn the money herself. When Katie gets a job catsitting, she is sure her luck has changed…except these 217 cats are not, precisely, normal. And Katie is always called on to cat-sit at the exact same times that the supervillain Mousetress strikes. Could Ms. Lang be…a villain??! And, really, WHAT IS GOING ON WITH THESE CATS?

This book is wonderful and will absolutely be well-loved by young readers. Not quite a summer friendship story, not quite a superhero story, and not quite a mystery–but all of those things at once with so, so, so many cats thrown in. Will be recommending, will be book talking–and looking forward to more fun from Katie and company.

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Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance by Nikki Grimes (poetry)
Gr. 5+. Nikki Grimes works wonders with words again, with a series of amazing poems from and about gifted women poets of the Harlem Renaissance. Each poem is paired with a gorgeous piece of art by an African-American female illustrator. Grimes original works are paired with each Harlem Renaissance poem using the Golden Shovel method–taking a word from each line of the original poem and using those words as the last word in each line in a new poem. Beautiful.

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The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen (graphic novel)
Gr. 5-7. Oh my goodness. This book!!! I think we have a chance of getting a graphic novel Newbery winner two years in a row.

Tiế’s parents practice their English by reading fairy tales aloud with Tiế. Fairy tales don’t always have happy endings, and Tiế is pretty sure his life isn’t going to have a happy ending either. His mom is struggling with staying connected to her family back in Vietnam, and Tiế is trying to find the words to tell his family he’s gay. What is he to do when there isn’t a Vietnamese word for what he wants to tell his parents?

Wow. It took me a while to get started on this book, as, at first, it just felt like too many storylines at once. But once I gave the book my full attention, there was so much magic to be found. Gorgeous illustrations, and fairy tales that reflect and quietly comment on Tiế and Tiế’s family’s reality. And that wonderful message–that, no matter what is on the page or what the predictable ending might be–we all write our own stories. For such a small book, there is simply so much depth–this one will stay with me forever.

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Oh My Gods! by Stephanie Cooke (graphic novel)
Gr. 3-4. Karen is just your everyday girl who moves to Greece to live with her odd, mysterious father who *whoops* is actually the Greek God Zeus. Now Karen is going to high school with gods and goddesses, and it is up to her to figure out what is going on when her classmates start to turn to stone.

With so many great mythology stories being told, this felt flat to me. The story is exactly what it appears to be, feeling fairly predictable and a bit stale compared to the Rick Riordan Presents books and the like (even when compared to the original Rick Riordan books). Do we need another young Greek Gods adaptation when there are so many other cultures to explore? I’m not convinced. This will be loved by its audience, but it doesn’t make me want to read more.

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Serena Says by Tanita S. Davis
Gr. 5-6. Serena is excited to have her best friend JC back at school, but JC and Serena seem to be growing apart. JC is becoming good friends with Lani–perhaps even best friends. JC doesn’t seem to care about plans that Serena and JC made months ago, and Lani seems to be taking over every part of Serena’s life. Not only did Lani steal her best friend, but after missing school for a few days due to a cold, Serena returns to find out that Lani has replaced Serena as student ambassador too.

Serena is more than a little frustrated when she is voluntold to be on the student senate, foregoing her student ambassador position, since Serena now has even less time with her ex-best friend, instead spending more time with the annoying Harrison. Group projects, more friendship drama, and secrets make Serena feel like she is being pulled every which way, with just her secret vlogs keeping her grounded.

This was a lot of fun! Serena is filled with a lot of heart, and this is another one of those tween books that feels like it honestly depicts the age of its characters. The friendship drama and Serena’s mistakes felt real (as did the group project frustration–especially when teachers impose those horrible rules about everyone’s behavior affecting the group grade). The vlogging is a fun addition that will appeal to this audience, especially since it doesn’t define itself by a platform (which would quickly date this book). A quick, uplifting read filled with that everyday middle school drama.

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There’s a Superhero in Your Book by Tom Fletcher (picture book)
Gr. Toddler-PreS. Instead of a monster or a dragon, this time there is a superhero in your book! And that superhero needs your help to save your book from…The Scribbler!

This is another fun read-aloud, though I sort of wish it just followed the same structure as previous books, without the addition of The Scribbler. I get the effort to make each book a bit different–but the simpler format of the dragon and monster books flows a little better. There is a lot happening on these pages, with more text, that will make it harder for a toddler to follow along (and harder for a preschooler to follow virtually). I look forward to using it, but I’m hoping future additions are a bit simpler.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

We participate in the blog trend of Monday posts about what we have read during the last week (1/4/2021-1/10/2021).

Annamarie’s Reading

Picture Books & Readers:

Everything Else:

Rambling Thoughts: I don’t have much to say about what I read this week–apparently I read some good stuff back at the beginning of this week, and I honestly can’t remember much of what those books were about. I remember thinking The Magic Fish could win the Newbery, but I’m stretching my brain to remember details. This has been a long week of multi-hour meetings and trainings, program prep and virtual program presentations to 700+ people, a personal covid scare, and, oh yeah, domestic terrorists breaking into the U.S. Capitol building. None of that is surprising (except having 700 people at a virtual program), and in some small ways I have a small sense of relief that the riot we have all been waiting for has finally happened and was unsuccessful. Is the world moving in a better direction from here? Probably not. What are we going to do about it? What am I going to do about it? I’m making a list. What are you going to do?

On a work level, I’ve been thinking a lot about this Library Think Tank – ALATT Facebook post that quickly got buried among all that is Library Think Tank:

Books and programs are important, but I like the emphasis here on the need to go beyond that. A lot of us tend to stop with those things that are easy–what we read, what we recommend, what we share in programs. Those things are nice and important, but they do not make real change. I especially appreciated the original poster’s response to people who shared book and program-related plans–simply reiterating that final question, again and again.

So….who’s ready for 2022?

Make sure to stop by on Tuesdays for short reviews of some of these titles!

Reading by the Numbers:

  • 32 Books Read This Week
    • 12 Books with Diverse Main Character (38%)
    • 8 Books by Diverse Authors (25%)
    • 7 Books by Own Voices Authors (22%)

Favorites of the Week:

2020 Reading Review & 2021 Reading Goals

It is officially 2021, so I’m back to take another look at what I read in 2020 and figure out what I want to focus on in 2021. Until 2020, I hadn’t really thought that much about what I read, beyond recognizing that I read a lot and the occasional passing personal thought, such as not being very familiar with first chapter books (something I noticed in January and was able to do something about in March). In July 2020, I decided to really look at what I was reading. I was confident that my nonfiction reading would be abysmal (it was) but equally confident that the amount of diverse books I read was high (it really wasn’t).

I looked at a lot of numbers in July and created the tables below to compare data now that the year is over.

For the first few tables below, “diverse” means the main character is diverse (in race, ethnicity, religion, ability, etc.). This also includes biographies about diverse people.

Later tables break down my reading with an eye for just having a diverse main character, a diverse author, and an own voices authors.

I read 1745 books this year, 720 from January-July, 1025 from July-December.

Format/Age + Diversity

Jan.-July 2020July-Dec. 2020ChangeJan.-Dec. 2020Change
Picture Books329 (46%)706 (69%)+23%1035 (59%)+13%
– % of PB, Diverse129 (39%)415 (59%)+20%544 (53%)+14%
Beginning Readers50 (7%)45 (4%)-3%95 (5%)-2%
– % of BR, Diverse20 (40%)21 (47%)+7%41 (43%)+3%
First Chapter Books80 (11%)76 (7%)-4%156 (9%)-2%
– % of FC, Diverse45 (56%)50 (66%)+5%95 (61%)+5%
Graphic Novels191 (27%)112 (11%)-16%303 (17%)-10%
– % of GN, Diverse44 (23%)51 (45%)+22%95 (31%)+8%
Kids Chapter Books34 (5%)37 (4%)-1%71 (4%)-1%
– % of KC, Diverse13 (35%)34 (92%)+58%47 (67%)+32%
Teen Chapter Books8 (1%)15 (1%)23 (1%)0
– % of Teen, Diverse4 (50%)12 (80%)+30%16 (70%)+20%
Adult Books4 (0.5%)0-0.5%4 (0.2%)-0.3%
– % of Adult, Diverse0 (0%)00

2020 Review: Format/Intended Audience

This was a fun category to track this year, as I’ve never looked at my reading in this kind of detail before. That said, I’m probably not going to do a full stats breakdown for this every year, as I don’t think these numbers are going to drastically affect my reading habits. My format preferences vary based on a lot of outside factors, mainly how much time I have for reading and my patience for longer books at that moment.

I sometimes feel like my reading numbers are “inflated” because I include picture books and readers, and it is cool to see that I still read 615 “longer” books (first chapter, graphic novels, kids chapter, teen chapter, adult books). That number isn’t going to impact how many picture books I read–books are books after all, and a picture book can hold just as much value as a teen novel–but it is still interesting to see the breakdown.

I am reading the least diversely in beginning readers and graphic novels. I think both of these reflect those formats: overall, they are some of the least diverse areas of children’s publishing, especially when looking for own voices titles. Next year, I’ll make more of an effort to do my small part in changing that by reading and promoting every own voices beginning reader book and graphic novel I can find.

Finally, when looking at this breakdown, I want to increase my number of teen chapter books next year. This is harder simply due to length (they take me longer to read). It is also harder because I more regularly provide reader’s advisory and book talks to ages 6-11, and I want to keep up with my knowledge for those ages. I read a lot of teen graphic novels–but not many chapter books, and I am missing a lot of great titles because of that. I need to be more familiar with titles for teens, so bring on #TeenReadingGoals2021.

2021 Reading Goals:

  • Actively look for more diverse beginning readers and graphic novels (carried over from 2020).
  • Read more teen chapter books in 2021 (at least 35 books).

Fiction/Nonfiction

Jan.-July 2020July-Dec. 2020ChangeJan.-Dec. 2020Change
Fiction653 (91%)807 (79%)-12%1460 (84%)-7%
– % of Fiction, Diverse231 (35%)466 (58%)23%697 (47%)12%
Nonfiction66 (9%)218 (21%)12%284 (16%)7%
– % of Nonfiction, Diverse29 (44%)130 (60%)16%159 (56%)12%
Biographies*19 (3%)125 (12%)9%144 (8%)5%
– % of Biographies, Diverse14 (74%)92 (74%)0%106 (74%)0%

*Biographies also included in nonficiton.

2020 Review: Fiction vs. Non-Fiction

This statement still holds true from my 2020 mid-year reading review: “I don’t like non-fiction. Sorry world. I never enjoyed reading non-fiction as a child, and I very, very rarely do as an adult.”

However, I am happy to see that, with some effort, my nonfiction reading did increase, with 16% of my total reading being nonfiction books. I made an effort to read more biographies, and while the percentages didn’t change drastically, I know I read more biographies than I would have if I hadn’t set this as a goal. I know this is a hard area for me. But, I don’t think my nonfiction/fiction balance is as important as diversity in my reading, so I’m not going to set any goals for 2021 related to these numbers, though I am going to continue to collect them.

Diversity

Jan.-July 2020July-Dec. 2020ChangeJan.-Dec. 2020Change
Diverse Main Character260 (36%)595 (58%)22%855 (49%)13%
Diverse Authors153 (21%)354 (35%)14%507 (29%)8%
Own Voices Authors132 (18%)269 (26%) 8%401 (23%)5%
LGBTQIA+ Main Character28 (4%)49 (5%)1%77 (4%)0%

2020 Review: Diversity

Finally, onward toward the most important question: how diverse is my reading, really?

I set some goals for myself in July 2020:

  • Increase Own Voices reads to 25% of my total reading. = Not met. (23%, +5%)
  • Increase LGBTQIA+ main character reads to 8% of total reading = Not met. (4%, no change)

I made some growth, but I did not meet either of my goals.

I definitely read more diversely. Nearly half of the books I read in 2020 had a diverse main character. However, more than half of those diverse books were not by own voices authors. I want both of those numbers to be higher.

Between my job requirements, professional development commitments, the volume of my reading, and the need to keep reading everything I love during these stressful times, I know I won’t stay committed to a goal to read only own voices books in 2021. And I don’t want to create goals I know I won’t work toward (because then you start down the slippery slope where you wonder if you really need to work toward any of your goals).

I’m going to continue with both of these goals in 2021, with the new reminder that I need to make more of an effort to meet both of these goals. This is why I pull stats: I feel like I am reading more and looking harder, but the numbers show I am not where I would like to be.

One new addition: I want to start sorting my reading by diversity experience (Black experience, Indian American experience, Muslim experience, Autistic experience, etc.) instead of just generally categorizing these books as “diverse.” I’m going to start with a series of new Goodreads shelves to see what I tend to read (and, more importantly, what I’m missing). I pulled out LGBTQIA+ characters last year, and I set a goal for them in 2020 and 2021. What other types of experiences are missing from my reading?

2021 Reading Goals:

  • Sort my reading by diversity experience (type of diversity), and re-examine in mid-2021 what diverse experiences I read the most.
  • Increase the amount of books read by own voices authors to at least 25% (carried over from 2020).
  • Increase the amount of books featuring LGBTQIA+ characters to at least 8% (carried over from 2020).

Final Thoughts

There is a lot to unpack here, but I’m glad to write out some reading goals for 2021. This is my first time starting a new year with clear, written reading goals–will this post keep me accountable? I think a lot of that answer will depend on what 2021 brings.

Noon Year’s Eve Storytime

Noon Year’s Eve Storytime! I’m still recovering from this one.

I learned something with this program that I pose as a challenge to myself and all of you: Not everyone is “zoomed out” or “over virtual programs.” Keep trying. Figure out what works for your audience, put in all of your energy, and try and try again when nothing seems to be sticking.

I was not that excited for Noon Year’s Eve Storytime & Dance Party. Honestly, the content is not my favorite. While I loved my dance party lineup, I didn’t like the book I was reading and some of the other activities felt like they drug on too long. I didn’t expect an audience because my library doesn’t regularly have a consistent Noon Year’s Eve program (so no built-in viewers), and we typically slow down our storytimes in December because our audience shrinks (which was reflected in our virtual storytimes throughout the month too).

Our Noon Year’s Eve Storytime received a little more press than regular programs. We weren’t able to advertise it at weekly storytimes the week before, since we didn’t have any the week prior, but a local newspaper and tv station briefly mentioned the program in their lists of ways to celebrate the New Year. I made a “commercial” advertising the event too but that is a regular practice for me.

In Ohio, per our state library, we count live program stats for programs that air live, like Facebook Like Storytimes, by adding the number of 1-minute viewers and the number of additional people mentioned in the comments. We ask families to let us know how many people are watching behind the screen in the comments, to get a more accurate count.

Our regular storytimes have been averaging around 30-50 people, with some peaks up to the 60s-80s, maybe 100 at a particular popular Saturday storytime.

Virtual Noon Year’s Eve Storytime Attendance: 439 people.

I was blown away. When I started the stream, five minutes early to give people time to join, I saw the “live view” count immediately jump to 25. That felt unusual so early, but fit within our normal numbers. By the time I started, five minutes later, the “live view” count was 65. I haven’t been really, genuinely, nervous presenting a virtual storytime since April–but those numbers genuinely terrified me, and you can sort of see it during the first few minutes based on how out of breath I am.

Anyhow, after that long-winded introduction, Noon Year’s Eve Storytime & Dance Party content awaits below.

Check out my preview video! I had a lot of fun with this one, reflecting on 2020 and including some fun bloopers:

Watch the full storytime here, including the dance party (storytime starts about 5 minutes in):

The general storytime layout–in order of what I presented–is below, with videos where applicable.

Noon Year’s Eve Storytime Outline

Backdrop & Logistics: New Year’s Eve pennant banner and decor.

Since everyone’s clock is going to be a little bit different, plus there is a delay on Facebook, I used two iPads to keep track of the time until our (approximately) noon countdown. They were synced, with one displayed beside me and another behind the camera, so it was in my line of vision, and I didn’t need to keep looking away from the camera throughout the whole program to check the time.

I also attempted a balloon drop, filled with balloons and confetti. This didn’t work quite as planned, with maybe 3 out of 20 balloons falling, but that might have been better than what I expected, which was everything, tablecloths included, to fall on my head 5 minutes into the program.

Intro Song: Shake Your Sillies Out by Rainbow Songs (my go-to opening storytime song)

Book: The Night Before New Year’s by Amy Wummer
I struggled with this book. I wanted a more diverse representation of New Year’s Eve, but the only diverse options I had access to before the program were Our Favorite Day of the Year, which feels like a back-to-school book, and Shante Keys and the New Year’s Peas (and I can’t get past some of the rhyming choices in Shante Peas). I did like that this book showed one family celebrating at home by themselves (no extended family or community parties). I tried to find a middle ground by spending some time before and during the book talking about how everyone’s New Year traditions are different and how not everyone celebrates New Year’s on Dec. 31. (This issue, right here, is why I struggle with theming storytimes–decisions are made for the sake of the theme instead of the quality of the materials, their diversity, and their developmentally appropriate content.)

Amazon.com: The Night Before New Year's (9780448452128): Wing, Natasha,  Wummer, Amy: Books

Song: Dance Freeze Melt by Mr. Eric and Mr. Michael

Hilda the Dragon, Playing Hide and Seek
I wanted to include some of the familiar characters we saw at virtual storytime specials during 2020, so I decided to have us discover some characters while hunting for our library dragon, Hilda (see a photo of 30-foot, smoke-breathing Hilda here.)

Zoom Zoom Zoom, A New Year’s Coming Soon
As always, thank you jbrary.

Fabulous Fireworks

If You’re Ready for the New Year (If you’re happy and you know it)

We finished If You’re Ready for the New Year with just about a minute until our countdown, which I still almost missed because I talk too much.

And it was finally time for our 20-minute dance party! I used these songs:

And that was 2020 Virtual Noon Year’s Eve Storytime and Dance Party! I didn’t receive much specific feedback from this program, other than those attendance numbers, which makes me a little sad (I really rely on that feedback to keep my energy up), but I think it went well enough. I just hope some of those people listened to my always-rambling announcements and return for our weekly live storytimes next week and Daniel Tiger Storytime on Saturday.

Book Review Tuesday

Lots of great books this week! Read the book reviews below, and learn more about my favorite reads:

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13th Street: The Shocking Shark Showdown by David Bowles (first chapter)
Gr. 2-3. This time, Malia, Dante, and Ivan are looking for a portal to 13th Street. They need to get back to help Mickey, the trapped boy they met there, find his way home. But when they do manage to re-enter the magical, creepy world, they find themselves underneath the city–literally! The sewers are filled with magical fiends, such as sharks that can shoot off an electric charge. Can the cousins figure out how to save Mickey without getting hurt themselves?

Another fun 13th Street adventure. While Desmond Cole is a little more my style, this series is a great next-step-up for fans of those books looking for a lot of adventure and something a little bit creepy. I’m looking forward to unraveling more of the mystery in the next book!

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Amy Wu and the Patchwork Dragon by Kat Zhang (picture book)
Gr. PreS-2. Amy is excited to design her very own dragon. Her dragon is long and thin with horns like a stag and claws like an eagle. But…her friends are sure that isn’t a real dragon. Where are its wings? Its fire? Its scales? Amy tries to make her dragon look more like her classmates’ dragons, but it just doesn’t feel right. Can she make a dragon that is perfect for her?

Amy Wu is back, and I couldn’t be more thrilled! While this didn’t hold quite as much charm for me as the original, I still love all of Amy’s adventures, and I am thrilled to share this one at storytime. I’m hoping for more!

Astrid and Apollo by V.T. Bidania (first chapter)
Gr. 2-3. A fun new first chapter series featuring a Hmong family living in Minnesota. Astrid and Apollo go on everyday adventures that weave in elements of their culture (especially many yummy foods!). A glossary of Hmong words are included in the front, and backmatter contains facts about the Hmong people, popular Hmong foods featured in that book, a glossary of more challenging English words found in the story, and questions and activity ideas to continue learning.

Astrid and Apollo and the Happy New Year: Astrid and Apollo are ready for the Hmong New Year Festival–but they quickly get separated from their parents and little sister in the large crowds. Can they figure out how to get back to their family again?

Astrid and Apollo and the Soccer Celebration: Astrid and Apollo are excited for the Hmong July Fourth Soccer Festival! They get to try new foods, watch their dad’s favorite team triumph on the field….and babysit their little sister. Young Eliana just wants “yummy milk!” But regular milk and other sweet drinks aren’t stopping her cries. Can they figure out how to help her and also not miss the big match?

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Cat Kid Comic Club by Dav Pilkey (graphic novel)
Gr. 2-4. Li’l Petey, Flippy, and Molly are ready to teach their family of baby frogs how to make comics. But wait–some frogs don’t have any ideas! Others are sure they can’t draw well. What if they make a mistake?!?

While this book isn’t going to be the continuation (or even spinoff) of the Dog Man main series that fans may be looking for, it is a WONDERFUL companion read for teaching young kids how to draw their own comics, especially kids ages 6-8. The sample comics are similar to what kids would create and draw, and the chapters work well as a day-by-day schedule for a real life comics camp.

And Pilkey even has a fantastic chapter directed at those grown-ups that say that kids need to create “uplifting” stories that don’t “recklessly disregard the sanctity of life and stuff.” In Pilkey’s words: “Adults make up stories about that stuff all the time, and we call them artists and geniuses and visionaries! Look at Shakespeare: It’s all death and violence and fart jokes! If it’s normal and healthy for grown-ups then why not for kids? Are you seriously going to praise a grown-up and shame a child for the same darn thing?”

Ellie Ultra by Gina Bellisario (first chapter)
Gr. 2-3. Ellie is a cute, spunky young superhero. I prefer Mia Mayhem’s everyday adventures to this series, but, reading level wise, this is a good step up from the Mia Mayhem books. Lots of kid appeal, and I appreciate any diverse young superheroes.

Camp Hero Double Trouble: Ellie is so excited to meet some other kid superheroes during her week at Camp Hero! While her cabinmates have super cool freezing powers, twins Mona and Leona don’t seem to want to hang out with Ellie. Ellie uses her parents special hypnosis invention to reverse the girls’ feelings about Ellie–but she also reverses their love for each other. Soon the twins are fighting for Ellie’s attention, and Ellie realizes she may have made a huge mistake.

Mighty Pet Sitter: Young superhero Ellie Ultra has a more mundane task this weekend: she is watching the class hamster for her teacher. Surely watching such a small, cute animal won’t be too difficult? But when Squeak the hamster meets high-energy puppy, Super Fluffy, chaos ensues.

Superhero for President: Young superhero Ellie Ultra is excited to do her civil duty and run as class president! But she is running against future-supervillain Dex Diggs. Dex is determined to win by any means necessary, including making false promises. Ellie decides to beat Dex at his own game–making her classmate’s wishes come true with her parent’s new invention, the Ultra Genie! But when Dex gets his hands on the device and makes his own villain wishes come true, Ellie can barely recognize her old school anymore.

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I Talk Like a River by Jordan Scott (picture book)
Gr. 1-3. When asked to speak in front of his class, a boy struggles, his stutter making it hard for him to speak. His father picks him up from school, taking him to the river. His father helps him see that he talks like the river–with words sometimes flowing, bubbling, whirling, churning, and crashing.

A beautiful, poetic, hope-filled memoir reflecting on the author’s own experiences with a stutter. The words are poetic and the story is excellent, but everything comes together with the gorgeous watercolor illustrations, including that wonderful fold-out spread. Much to see here and definitely worth many a re-reading.

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Isadora Moon Gets In Trouble by Harriet Muncaster (first chapter)
Gr. 2-3. Isadora is so excited that her fairy-witch cousin is coming for a visit! But her cousin, Mirabelle, is a little bit older and a little bit more adventurous than Isadora. Mirabelle’s activities are a lot of fun, but soon Isadora realizes that maybe she shouldn’t have agreed to let her cousin magic a baby dragon into existence. Can Isadora keep the dragon a secret from her parents so no one gets in trouble?

Another great addition to the sweet Isadora Moon series. I enjoy the twist on the traditional realistic fiction first chapter book. The only difference between these titles and other everyday school adventures is that Isadora’s mom is a fairy and her dad is a vampire-but those changes are enough to make this series hold its own.

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Luna’s Yum Yum Dim Sum by Natasha Yim (picture book)
Gr. PreS-K. Luna’s family is going out to celebrate her birthday at a delicious dim sum restaurant. The three siblings are meant to share six pork buns, but when Luna accidentally drops one, suddenly there are only five left. Obviously the older brother deserves more–because he is the oldest! Though maybe the younger brother deserves more–because he is the smallest. But it IS Luna’s birthday, so surely she deserves more? Discover how the siblings figure out how to divide the remaining buns equally among themselves.

This was so cute! I like that Luna’s family is biracial, and, of course, pork buns = yum! The simple math and diversity of this new book series (story telling math) is much appreciated too.

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Pet by Akwaeke Emezi (teen)
Gr. 6-9. In Jam’s world, there are no more monsters. A series of horrible wars, before Jam was born, emptied the world of all those humans that were really monsters–those murderers, abusers, selfish billionaires, and more. Jam and her family and friends live happy lives in the city of Lucille, until Jam stumbles upon her mother’s newest painting–and accidentally brings it to life.

This new creation is the image of a monster, but Jam is confident that it isn’t one. This creature–named Pet–has come to hunt monsters. Because no matter what Jam’s parents have told her, there is a monster in Lucille, in the home of Jam’s best friend. While Jam becomes increasingly convinced that Pet is correct and something is wrong, she isn’t sure how to protect her friend or convince others to help. After all, “how do you save the world from monsters if no one will admit they exist?”

Ohhhh this book. There are so many layers to unpack here. I wish I knew more about the backstory of how Lucille came to be, though more knowledge was definitely not necessary for this book to succeed (in fact, more information would have probably weighed it down). I always have to give extra appreciation to a book where a main character is transgender and her sexuality isn’t a big part of the plot (plus even more love for this being written by an own voices black, non-binary, transgender author). This is filled with magical realism and hidden meanings, and it definitely won’t be for everyone–but it is a book that will stick with me forever.

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Super Sidekicks: No Adults Allowed by Gavin Aung Than (graphic novel)
Gr. 3-4. These young sidekicks are done with their days serving superheroes. They can do so much more than washing laundry and trying to clean up their superheroes’ messes. Junior Justice, Flygirl, Dinomite, and Goo are determined to form their own super team…but everything goes wrong when supervillain Dr. Enok realizes that Goo is missing from his laboratory! Soon Dr. Enok and all of their old superheroes are determined to track them down and put their sidekicks back to work–but the Super Sidekicks know that they have the power to save the day.

A cute, laugh-out-loud graphic novel that will appeal to all young superhero fans, especially fans of Max Meow or the Investigators. Looking forward to more!

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WolfWalkers by Tomm Moore and Samuel Sattin (graphic novel)
Gr. 3-4. Lord Protector Cromwell is determined to rid the forest in Ireland of its wolves and “civilize” the country with more farmland. But the forest is filled with more than meets the eye, including the last of the legendary wolfwalkers, people that are human when awake, wolves when asleep, and have magical healing powers. Young Robyn comes to Ireland with her father, a soldier of Lord Cromwell, ready to hunt wolves. But when Robyn sneaks into the forest for her own hunt, and instead stumbles upon another girl–wild wolfwalker Mebh–she realizes that maybe hunting wolves isn’t the mission she and her father should be on.

There is a lot happening here, but, except for a very abrupt “epilogue” spread at the end, the fast pace works well for the format. I’m not familiar with the movie this is adapted from, and I don’t think I missed much. I think this might have benefited from less backstory–the whole Saint Patrick curse felt like an afterthought most of the time, and when it did come up it was more confusing than useful. The girls’ friendship was fun, and the action regularly propelled the story forward.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

We participate in the blog trend of Monday posts about what we have read during the last week (12/28/2020-1/3//2021).

Annamarie’s Reading

Picture Books & Readers:

First Chapter Books:

Graphic Novels:

Everything Else:

Rambling Thoughts: 2021! Whatever that means. I’m planning a post reflecting on 2020 reading and setting some goals for 2021 reading. Not sure if that will make it in this week or next week. I’m itching for a break and for me that simply isn’t an option until vaccinations…which, at the current rate, I will get in about eight years. Ugggh, sorry to be a downer. I’ll be in a cheerier mood next week, I’m sure.

Make sure to stop by on Tuesdays for short reviews of some of these titles!

Reading by the Numbers:

  • 42 Books Read This Week
    • 27 Books with Diverse Main Character (64%)
    • 15 Books by Diverse Authors (36%)
    • 15 Books by Own Voices Authors (36%)

Favorites of the Week:

2021 Storytime Goals

It’s a new calendar year! 2020 has been filled with new experiences for many of us (hello work from home, virtual programs, stay at home orders, and so much more!), and I’m pessimistic enough to anticipate that 2021 will be filled with more challenges. I’m expecting to be presenting virtual storytime through May and maybe summer. (Perhaps by summer with a hybrid model–some virtual and some in person?) I’m also anticipating taking a little break when we return to full in person storytimes (pending staffing levels of course) because (1) I have some lovely coworkers who haven’t been comfortable presenting virtually but are excited to return to in-person storytimes and (2) I need a real vacation. (And staycations simply don’t work with my life. I’d spend a whole staycation sneakily working on work projects, catching up on picture books, and working on this blog. Which isn’t a vacation at all, really.)

I’ve talked about this a bit in my weekly storytime outlines, but I’ve really appreciated being able to deep dive into a variety of storytimes for all ages. Storytimes were a part of my job before, but I’ve had the opportunity to make them a focus instead of one of just many things on my plate. I’ve had a chance to examine storytime books and blogs, figure out outlines that work for me and my audience, intentionally align everything I do to early literacy, practice a storytime before presenting it (something that really helps my intentionality in what I say and even how I hold each item), and build a collection of core storytime materials that will (hopefully) allow me to continue bringing variety to my storytimes long after in-person storytimes have returned.

But my storytimes are far from perfect, and I want to keep growing as a presenter. So what do I want to focus on in 2021?

1. Diverse Music. This is something I talked about this year, but it kept getting pushed aside. I’m happy that this project is built into my personal work goals next year, so I won’t be able to let other deadline-driven projects keep pushing this down the list.

There are a lot of great resources on the internet that keep up with diverse books, but I need to put in the work to really explore diverse musicians. I rely fairly heavily on recorded music in my storytime–I’m not the most comfortable singing, and I know many of the grown-ups watching aren’t either, no matter how much their librarian assures them its fine. I want to move beyond the regular Laurie Berkner, Jim Gill, and Caspar Babypants tunes. I started this project this year, and essentially it just turned into me including Jazzy Ash’s music in all of my storytimes (GO LISTEN TO HER), but there are many additional diverse artists out there that I want to be promoting. I want to go beyond just a list of artists but also take the time to listen to all of their music and pull out songs that are ideal in a storytime setting (clear motions, great with manipulatives, etc.). I expect to be sharing a lot of that work here too, so look out for music posts!

2. Diverse Books – especially for toddlers. I keep finding wonderful, own voices books I want to share with preschoolers–but I don’t often present preschool storytime. I’m reading to babies and those squirmy toddlers and to stay developmentally appropriate for both of these ages (and to hold their attention through a screen), I like to focus on books that include actions or animal sounds. I also try to separate books that I use with babies and toddlers–babies get those books that have photos of babies and smaller motions like bouncing or peek-a-boo, while toddler books are, based on their age, a little longer. The problem with this approach? Most of those interactive toddler books that I love feature critters, creatures, or monsters. I don’t want to keep recycling the same handful of diverse titles every few weeks, and I also don’t want to reuse a book I just used at baby storytime–I want new options that are new to me and to the grown-ups watching.

Also: I want to re-examine my go-to storytime books and authors too. I used to use Upsy Daisy Baby, until I read some reviews commenting on poor word selections that would not be remotely reflective of the cultures depicted. I’ve also been much more aware of how babies are illustrated, particularly in books that aren’t by own voices authors and illustrators. Asian slant eyes in illustrations is racist (and pretty common in popular storytime titles–take another look at some of those Helen Oxenbury books).

3. Fingerplays beyond Five Littles. I’ve been reading a lot on accessibility in storytimes and making all programs accessible (not just thinking about these things during a sensory storytime). Fingerplays are a big one. Not every kid has ten little fingers (or ten little toes). It’s easy to avoid books that focus on these things, but fingerplays are important to build those muscles needed for writing later on. I’ve stopped using fingerplays featuring 10 littles, and I want to stop using fingerplays featuring five littles too, particularly if there is not a visual component or alternative motions to go with it. There are a lot of other fingerplay options out there, and there are ways to immediately be more inclusive with fingerplays (such as counting to five using two hands instead of just one), but I need to take the time to find the ones that work really work for me. I talk about this a little more here, but I want to focus on making this happen in 2021.

4. Captioning and Accessibility. Thinking more about storytimes and accessibility, I want to pay more attention to captioning next year. For every storytime I present (on Facebook Live), I create short videos for our library’s YouTube channel of any non-copyrighted content. Those have many purposes, but they are really there to help increase accessibility. Facebook is not a great resource for captions, but I can control the captions on YouTube. These videos are also always available, allowing families to more easily stop and start and skip a video entirely, as it makes sense for them (and as their technology allows). I made an effort to caption all of my YouTube videos toward the middle of 2020, but to-do lists always grow, and this project also got pushed aside even as I continue to produce more videos. I want to make sure all of our YouTube content is captioned, and I want to review it all to make breaks as clean as possible (above isn’t a great example, with sentences being cut between captions).

I also want to create a visual storytime schedule that can be displayed on the wall behind me during storytime. This is such a small thing that I could easily include in my storytimes, but I haven’t taken the time to do so, which is entirely on me.

5. Build more early literacy asides and at-home activities. This may be more of a storytime extension, but, especially as we start to shift back into in-person storytimes later in 2021, I want to think about ways to encourage families to continue early literacy activities at home. I’ve been building on this idea as I prepare the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program that will debut next year, and I talk (a lot) in storytimes about early literacy activities, but I want to figure out a way to make this succinct and easy, especially since, I expect, when we restart storytimes, the oh-so-important playtime won’t be debuting, probably for the entirety of 2021. Can I offer take home kits at the end of a storytime? Will people actually take and use handouts? Is it time to re-examine a text messaging service? I don’t know. But I want to think of more concrete ways to take these concepts home with parents.

Little Free Library Kits

The highlight of 2020 No Contact Library Programming: Take and Make Kits! I’ve written about this before in other kit-based programs, but my library didn’t initially have the option for curbside-based pickup kits, like many other libraries have adopted. We have mailed kits to patrons, and we have started to offer materials for pickup at our drive thru window, but all of our programs have required registration through our event calendar. This limits who we are reaching, as (especially now), patrons have to know to check our event calendar to sign up for a program. One of our new service offerings that has allowed us to actively reach new people are our Little Free Library Kits!

These kits look a lot like make and take kits at other libraries, containing materials to make just one craft, though Little Free Library Kits have to be physically small. Bags can’t hold anything larger than a half sheet of paper. Each month, we create 200 new bags that are distributed across over 14 Little Free Libraries around our community. Even while our building may be closed, our amazing outreach team has been restocking these boxes with books (and now kits) that are always available to our community.

Pictures from Westerville Library’s Instagram.

For December’s kits, I created simple DIY picture frame sets. Each kit contained a half sheet with instructions, a business card advertising our Dial-A-Story program, and the following materials:

  • 4 Jumbo Popsicle Sticks
  • 8 colorful foam stickers (with peel off sticky backs)
  • 8 Glue Dots
  • 1 Small Magnet Strips (with peel off sticky back)

Instructions encouraged kids to make a picture frame to give as a gift or keep for themselves. The magnet let them turn the frame into something they could hang on the fridge.

Download the instructions here, or send me an email for the editable file (bookcartqueens@gmail.com).

Are you taking books and make-and-take kits to unique places in your community? Share in the comments!

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