Author Archives for Sarah Simpson

Storytime Spotlight: Favorite Reads

I am always on the hunt for the best upcoming or recently-released storytime books. I love getting suggestions from other librarians or storytime presenters when they have discovered a  winning title. I have been presenting storytime in some form or fashion for ten years, and there is nothing worse than a book that falls flat by either not engaging the kids or being too long. That can lead to unwelcome storytime chaos and having a real Ben Stiller/Bueller moment, where I really lose the crowd.

I’ve certainly learned some lessons while presenting books in storytime. This series will regularly spotlight books that really work for storytime (at least for me). In Storytime Spotlight, I will focus on titles for Baby Storytime (ages 0-2), Toddler Storytime (ages 2-3), and Preschool Storytime (ages 3-6), as well as some titles that may work for kindergarten and first grade audiences. Feel free to comment with your recent favorites as well!

Find past storytime spotlight posts here, and feel free to comment with your outstanding storytime shares!

Baby Storytime (ages 0-2)

Close Your Eyes: A Book of Sleepiness: Houran, Lori Haskins, Hanson,  Sydney: 9780807512715: Amazon.com: Books

Close Your Eyes: A Book of Sleepiness by Lori Haskins Houran and illustrated by Sydney Hanson

This book is part of series by Houran and Hanson that features the most adorable baby animals doing extremely cute things. It is a smaller format picture book, so it would be a challenge to share with a large baby storytime audience, but when shared with a smaller group or even as a virtual storytime title, this one cannot be beat. I am a huge fan of Syndey Hanson’s illustrative style which is featured in one of my all-time favorite preschool storytime titles, Escargot by Dashka Slater. The illustrations in Close Your Eyes are truly the star of the show, but the text is simple and lends itself to great grown-up/baby interaction—cuddles, bouncing, making animal sounds.  All of this supports early literacy, an added bonus.

We Love Babies!: Esbaum, Jill: 9781426337482: Amazon.com: Books

National Geographic Kids We Love Babies! by Jill Esbaum

This National Geographic Kids title features photography of animal babies (clearly I like animals in my baby storytime books).  The size of the book and the formatting of the photography and text are ideal for sharing in baby storytime. The first segment features some animal opposites (big and little, fast and slow) followed by the second segment which features animal body parts (snouts, trunks, stripes).  The third and final segment focuses on animal movements (crawling, climbing, pouncing, swimming).  All three of these themes lend themselves well to storytime movement and the book is easily shortened, if needed.  This one would work very well for toddlers too.

Toddler Storytime (ages 2-3)

Early One Morning | Book by Mem Fox, Christine Davenier | Official  Publisher Page | Simon & Schuster

Early One Morning by Mem Fox and illustrated by Christine Davenier

No one knows about writing children’s books like the titan Australian author Mem Fox. Early One Morning is no exception from her regularly stellar work. This plot is very similar to Rod Campbell’s Oh Dear! but it does have a few key differences.  It features a little boy who is searching for eggs on the farm. He comes to various farmyard objects (trucks, tractors, haystacks) and, alas, finds no eggs anywhere. Then he encounters some farm animals (cow, pony, sheep) all the while being followed by a pesky little hen. He ends his journey at the chicken coop realizing  that his travel buddy was actually the critter he was seeking the entire time. I like this title for its repetition of phrase and vintage-inspired illustrations. It is simple and provides many opportunities for question-asking and participation in toddler storytime. 

The Rice in the Pot Goes Round and Round: Shang, Wendy Wan-Long, Shang,  Wendy Wan-Long, Tu, Lorian: 9781338621198: Amazon.com: Books

The Rice in the Pot Goes Round and Round by Wendy Wan-Long Shang and illustrated by Lorian Tu

Book text that is set to a familiar tune is absolutely ideal for storytime sharing. The Rice in the Pot Goes Round and Round is written to the tune of The Wheels on the Bus. It features a multigenerational Chinese family sitting around the table for a traditional meal. Each family member is spotlighted and, prior to sharing in storytime, I would encourage a listen to Mandarin pronunciations of typical family names if you are unfamiliar (Nai Nai, Ge Ge, Jie Jie). The author was kind enough to provide phonetic pronunciation in the back of the book but I find that it helps to listen to pronunciations as well. Toddlers and grownups will chime in with the tune immediately. When sharing, the phrases could be repeated  twice so everyone can join in with singing.

Preschool Storytime (ages 3-5)

Benny's True Colors: Paulson, Norene, Passchier, Anne: 9781250207715:  Amazon.com: Books

Benny’s True Colors by Norene Paulson and illustrated by Anne Passchier

Benny the bat doesn’t feel like a bat—he loves the sunshine, cannot imagine sleeping upside down, and craves vibrant color. Benny knows that although he is a bat on the outside, he most definitely a butterfly on the inside. He knows that in order to truly be himself, Benny must make the transition from bat to butterfly. This is a perfect Pride month storytime book as it has LGBTQ+ themes.  Benny is an endearing character who will have preschoolers rooting for him to live his best butterfly life. The illustrations are peppered with a vivid, neon pink against a less vibrant—but still rich—color palette. I have an 80s-childhood-nostalgic love for the use of neon pink in any context.

Strollercoaster: Ringler, Matt, Third, Raúl the, Bay, Elaine:  9780316493222: Amazon.com: Books

Strollercoaster by Matt Ringler and illustrated by Raύl the Third and Elaine Bay

This title feels fun, fresh, and cool. The artwork by the wife-husband team of Raύl the Third and Elaine Bay is the highlight and is characteristic of their illustrative style. The “strollercoaster” makes its way through the  big city streets and sees all the sights and sounds of a metropolitan area—the street art, the basketball courts, the playground. All the while the strollercoaster climbs and soars with lots of lively storytime movement opportunities.  And after the exciting journey, our rider Sam is tuckered out and ready for a nap.  Relatable and well-suited for preschoolers and their grownups.

Reading Buddies: PreK and School Age Take and Make Kit

The concept for this kit was a reimagining of Bluffton Public Library’s program. I absolutely loved their idea and structure, but I made some adjustments to make my program activity-focused. The assembled activities for Reading Buddies were geared towards a broad range of ages (3-11). It was my hope that this kit would entice kids to enroll in our summer reading program and read to their buddy all summer long. To support this aim, I included several pages of reading recommendations for the age ranges 3-5, 6-8, and 9-11 and supplemental information about our summer reading program and events. 

This program would pair well with any pre-K or school-age reading program in a school or library setting. 

The kit came with several items:

  • Booklet of activities
  • Summer Reading Program materials (specific to our SRP; these were created by our marketing department so I have not included templates)
  • Reading Buddy in pillow box (information on purchase is below)

Choosing activities for this kit was a challenge because the age range was so wide. I chose ones that aligned with the animal theme of our summer program, Read & Roar and the activity sources can be found on the last page of the packet.

Each kit included a small stuffed animal purchased from Oriental Trading, and I put them in 7” pillow boxes so the animal would be a surprise. The label on the box (PDF included) encouraged the child to read to their reading buddy throughout the summer.

It was a simple kit to conceptualize, design, and assemble and it was fairly cost-effective at about $1.50 per kit. Grown-ups really appreciate the pickup kits at my library, and it is likely that we will continue creating them, even when we return to full-time in-person programming. The PDF files are included and please feel free to reach out to bookcartqueens@gmail.com to request the editable files.

Download your own activity packet below:

Slideshare not working? Access with Dropbox.

Storytime Spotlight: Favorite Reads

I am always on the hunt for the best upcoming or recently-released storytime books. I love getting suggestions from other librarians or storytime presenters when they have discovered a  winning title. I have been presenting storytime in some form or fashion for ten years, and there is nothing worse than a book that falls flat by either not engaging the kids or being too long. That can lead to unwelcome storytime chaos and having a real Ben Stiller/Bueller moment, where I really lose the crowd.

I’ve certainly learned some lessons while presenting books in storytime. This series will regularly spotlight books that really work for storytime (at least for me). In Storytime Spotlight, I will focus on titles for Baby Storytime (ages 0-2), Toddler Storytime (ages 2-3), and Preschool Storytime (ages 3-6), as well as some titles that may work for kindergarten and first grade audiences. Feel free to comment with your recent favorites as well!

Baby Storytime (ages 0-2)

Step By Step - By Guido Van Genechten (board Book) : Target

Step by Step by Guido Van Genechten

This is a large-format board book (which may not work for a big storytime crowd), but I love it for it’s simplicity. As the title suggests, it focuses on the steps involved in learning to walk. The cute twist is the narrator is coaching adorable animals on the foot and body position needed for walking. The animal element is great, especially because it lends itself to adding puppets to the story. Puppets are an excellent way to extend the story and actions beyond the page.  Babies can really engage with puppets as they are easy to see. Incorporating animal sounds as well supports early literacy because they are often some of baby’s first words. On the final page, we finally meet our baby who has a non-white skin tone. My storytime book choices feature all types of skin tones, ethnicities, abilities, and gender identities.

Applesauce Is Fun To Wear – LD Shoppe

Applesauce is Fun to Wear by Nancy Raines Day and illustrated by Jane Massey

Another baby title that features a diverse cast of characters; this one is made for baby storytime. It is currently published in hardcover, but I could imagine it will be released as a board book at some point in the future. The title features babies eating, and of course, making a huge mess. The illustrations are relatively delicate and simple, but they work because both the babies and the text are large in relationship to the overall size of the book. And this book incorporates an element that is always baby storytime gold—simple and relatable actions for caregivers to do along with their babies while reading. In Applesauce is Fun to Wear these actions focus on body parts. Being able to name at least two body parts by 12 months is a milestone for neurotypical kiddos. Parents and caregivers will appreciate the extra body part-naming practice.

Toddler Storytime (ages 2-3)

The Sea Knows: McGinty, Alice B., Havis, Alan B., Laberis, Stephanie:  9781534438224: Amazon.com: Books

The Sea Knows by Alice McGinty & Alan B. Havis, illustrated by Stephanie Laberis

Finding books for toddler storytime is always a challenge for me. I feel like it is somewhat of a market deficit to find books that truly suit the 2s and 3s in a storytime setting. The Sea Knows sits comfortably in that age range for several reasons. It deals with both concrete concepts (the ocean and it’s critters) and the more abstract (opposites). I find toddlers (especially 3s) are really able to engage with both as long as the idea is simple and the illustrations are vivid and bold. This book ticks both of those boxes. When read to a large group of toddlers, I would suggest shortening it with the old librarian trick of paperclipping pages together, especially towards the end (“The sea knows crash. The sea knows trouble”). This could be a juncture at which the toddler crowd may be lost as those are difficult concepts for toddlers to grasp.

One of These Is Not Like the Others: Saltzberg, Barney: 9780823445608:  Amazon.com: Books

One of These Is Not Like the Others by Barney Saltzberg

Barney Saltzberg is a favorite author, and this title is perfect for large crowd sharing. The background is entirely white, which allows the Sandra Boynton-esque animals to be easily seen from far away.  Older toddlers will  be able to identify the outlier on each page, and if there are preschool siblings in the toddler-preschool crowd, they will likely get the relationships between the creatures (i.e. sheep and a wolf, dogs and a cat). It moves quickly through the story, and the theme repeats throughout, which adds to the predictability of the story. Being able to predict what happens next in the story is an important early literacy skill that is important to highlight during storytime.

Preschool Storytime (ages 3-5)

Mel Fell: Tabor, Corey R., Tabor, Corey R.: 9780062878014: Amazon.com: Books

Mel Fell by Corey R. Tabor 

As a snail owner, I am always seeking out snail stories like Tabor’s Snail Crossing (another terrific preschool storytime read), and I was anxious to read Tabor’s latest critter adventure. Mel Fell did not disappoint with its sense of humor and charming illustrative style. The concepts of book handling and print orientation are turned on their heads with this title. Preschoolers are just beginning to understand the significance of text and its placement in a book, so sharing Mel Fell will invite a conversation where they can “correct” your orientation of the book. What is even cooler about this idea is that it is flipped—literally—when our  protagonist Mel begins to fly instead of fall. Mel meets all kinds of critters that add potential for asides while reading (for example, Mel meeting the hive of bees gives an opportunity to encourage the kids to buzz like a bee). And of course, all preschoolers love a story of overcoming adversity and learning new skills. 

Amazon.com: Pigeon Math (9781943147625): Citro, Asia, Watson, Richard: Books

Pigeon Math by Asia Citro and illustrated by Richard Watson

Asia Citro’s first foray into the picture book world is a charmer. Unless you have a crowd of extremely precocious preschoolers, the math concepts will fly (pun intended) well above their heads. Nonetheless, the pigeons are silly and engaging enough to entertain preschool-aged kiddos.  The action of the birds can be extended easily by having the participants join in with what the pigeons do on their wire throughout the book.  And when reading to an older group of kindergarteners or early school-agers, the kids can shout out the answers to the math problems. All around, this one appealed to me for many reasons, and I’m always going to gravitate towards books about pigeons, the true underdog (underbird?) of birds.

Who Would Win: School Age Take and Make Kit

Who Would Win kits were created as a homage to the perennially-popular book series for early school-agers, Who Would Win by Jerry Pallotta. I have had this idea in my head for years but our youth programming schedule/my own personal schedule never allowed time for me to present this as an in-person program. Then, of course, the pandemic hit, so I chose to reformat this one as a take-home kit. 

The Who Would Win series is so sought after for our 1st-3rd grade readers and it has spawned some other series that you might want to check out:

Who Would Win Kit Contents

For the Who Would Win kit, I included several materials—the most time consuming of which was the document I created to emulate the Who Would Win book format. This document is inspired heavily by the original book series in format and content and this choice was intentional. This isn’t to copy what Jerry Pallotta created or to infringe on his intellectual property at all, more so to give the vibe that program participants are creating the next book in the Who Would Win series.

Download the ready-to-print Who Would Win booklet below:

Slideshare not working? Download the PDF here.

The Who Would Win kit came with several items:

  • Instruction sheet
  • Who Would Win Booklet
  • Blank sheets of paper for illustrating your animals
  • Glue dots (strips of dots affixed to wax paper for easy use)
  • Magazines (library discards—National Geographic Kids, Ranger Rick Jr., etc.)

The instructions for the kit include resources for kids to access for researching their animals. I included QR codes that would direct kids/grownups directly to our kid-friendly research databases. Of course, the kids were welcome to research the old-fashioned way and check out library books about their animals of choice.

Slideshare not working? Download the PDF here.

I like to design my kits so that they are all-inclusive. The only thing this kit does not include is a pair of scissors (that was cost-prohibitive). I don’t want to assume that any kiddo participating in my programs has access to a printer or computer at home so I don’t structure my programs so that either of those are necessary. I had 50 kids participate, and all those spots were snapped up pretty quickly after the program’s registration opened. 

This program could be easily reformatted to be an in-person program once supply-sharing is given the green light by health officials. I love an opportunity  to tie into our most popular book series. (I did another program series called Who Is/Who Was based on the “Big Head” books that circulate SO well.)

I really enjoyed making this one and the design of it was challenging but it was a lot of fun.

Want to use make a Who Would Win kit at your library? Download the PDFs at the links aboce, or write a comment or send an email (bookcartqueens@gmail.com) for editable files.

Flannel: Oh Dear!

This is an adaptation of the book Oh Dear! by Rod Campbell.

Once upon a time, a little boy named Buster went to stay on his grandmother’s farm. In the morning he heads out the door to find eggs for breakfast.  

He heads straight to the BARN where he finds the …
Hmm, what animal does he find in the BARN?  Can you guess?  Let me see …

Oh yes, the COW!…what sound does she make?
Right, Moooo, Moooo.
Does she have eggs for Buster’s breakfast? No she doesn’t.

What does Buster say? OH DEAR, NO EGGS HERE.

Next Buster goes to the STY. Who lives in a STY? Will you guess?

You’re right, the PIG!
What sound does he make? OINK OINK!
Does the pig have eggs for Buster’s breakfast?
OH DEAR, NO EGGS HERE!

Next Buster goes to the dog house. Who lives in a dog house? Do you know?

Of course, the dog!
BARK BARK!
Does the dog have eggs for Buster’s breakfast?
OH DEAR, NO EGGS HERE.

Next Buster goes to the stable. Who lives in the stable?

You guessed it! The horse!
What does the horse say? NEIGH NEIGH
Does the horse have eggs for Buster’s breakfast?
OH DEAR, NO EGGS HERE.

Next Buster goes to the HUTCH. Who lives in a HUTCH?

A bunny lives in a hutch!
Does the bunny have eggs for Buster?
OH DEAR NO EGGS HERE

Where does Buster go next?
Let’s see where he has visited so far:

First he went to the barn,
Then he went to the sty,
Next he went to the dog house,
After that he went to the stable,
And then to the hutch.

And finally he will go to the hen house.
Who lives in the hen house?

Could it be? Who do we see…a HEN!

HMMM, does she have eggs for Buster’s breakfast? YES SHE DOES! The hen has three eggs for Buster’s breakfast!

Find more Flannel Fun:

Flannel Friday Posts (like this one!)
Flannel & Magnet Activity Videos




Making Flannels

When making flannels, I use these materials:

  • Stiff Felt (highly recommended!)
  • Puffy Paint
  • Hot Glue
  • Sharp Scissors (Fiskars preferred)

Learn how to use the above photos (or any pictures) as a pattern or template at
Felt-tastic Flannelboard Funtime.

And a big shoutout to Mr. Keith’s blog, Felt-tastic Flannelbaord Funtime, for providing inspiration for my feltboard ideas. None of my flannels are direct reproductions of anyone’s work, but I am inspired most often by his style.

Flannel: Five Little Tacos

Five spicy tacos shimmied on the floor.
One salsa-ed away and then there were four.

Four crunchy tacos crispy as can be.
One crumbled apart and then there were three.

Three tasty tacos toasted through and through.
One tickled my tongue and then there were two.

Two cheesy tacos chilling in the sun
One melted away and then there was one.

One delicious taco dishing up some fun
It looked so yummy to me that now there are NONE!

Rhyme written by Beth Burris, Elementary Library Media Specialist.

Find more Flannel Fun:

Flannel Friday Posts (like this one!)
Flannel & Magnet Activity Videos




Making Flannels

When making flannels, I use these materials:

  • Stiff Felt (highly recommended!)
  • Puffy Paint
  • Hot Glue
  • Sharp Scissors (Fiskars preferred)

Learn how to use the above photos (or any pictures) as a pattern or template at
Felt-tastic Flannelboard Funtime.

And a big shoutout to Mr. Keith’s blog, Felt-tastic Flannelbaord Funtime, for providing inspiration for my feltboard ideas. None of my flannels are direct reproductions of anyone’s work, but I am inspired most often by his style.

Flannel: Five Little Unicorns

Adapted from the book That’s Not My Unicorn… by Fiona Watts

That’s not my unicorn. It’s ears are too fluffy.

That’s not my unicorn. It’s hooves are too bumpy.

That’s not my unicorn. It’s tail is too long.

That’s not my unicorn. It’s wings have too many stripes.

Oh wait, look at this unicorn!
It’s mane is so purple and sparkly!
It’s wings and horn are so shiny!
This is my unicorn!

All of the Usborne That’s Not My… books could lend themselves to flannel activities. Alternatively, you could use these unicorns with this rhyme adapted from Literacious:

I saw five little unicorns – creatures I adore.
The blue one pranced away and then there were four.

I saw four little unicorns resting by a tree.
The tan one pranced away, and then there were three.

I saw three little unicorns – they were quite a crew.
The purple one pranced away, and then there were two.

I saw two little unicorns – I watched them run and run.
The pink one pranced away, and then there was one.

I saw a white unicorn standing in the sun.
It pranced away, and then there were none.

Find more Flannel Fun:

Flannel Friday Posts (like this one!)
Flannel & Magnet Activity Videos




Making Flannels

When making flannels, I use these materials:

  • Stiff Felt (highly recommended!)
  • Puffy Paint
  • Hot Glue
  • Sharp Scissors (Fiskars preferred)

Learn how to use the above photos (or any pictures) as a pattern or template at
Felt-tastic Flannelboard Funtime.

And a big shoutout to Mr. Keith’s blog, Felt-tastic Flannelbaord Funtime, for providing inspiration for my feltboard ideas. None of my flannels are direct reproductions of anyone’s work, but I am inspired most often by his style.

Flannel: Buzz Said the Bee

This is an adaptation of the book Buzz Said the Bee
by Wendy Cheyette Lewison.

Once there was a bee who sat on a duck.
“QUACK” said the duck. “There’s a bee on me.” And the duck said, “Scat,” but the bee just sat.

So the duck quacked again and sat on a hen.
“CLUCK,” said the hen. “There’s a duck on me.” And the hen said, “Scat,” but the duck just sat.

So the hen danced a jig and sat on pig.
“OINK,” said the pig. “There’s a hen on me.” And the pig said, “Scat,” but the hen just sat.

So the pig took a bow and sat on a cow.
“MOO,” said the cow. “There’s a pig on me.” And the cow said, “Scat,” but the pig just sat.

The cow began to weep and sat on a sheep who was fast asleep.
The cow had had enough of all these animals sitting on her so she said “Moo!” (remove cow from pile)
and the pig said “Oink!” (remove pig from pile)
and the hen said “Cluck!” (remove hen from pile)
and the duck said “Quack!” (remove duck from pile)
and the bee flew down to the sheep’s ear and whispered….BUZZ!
He woke up the sheep from a very sound sleep and the sheep left to have fun…and then there were none!


Find more Flannel Fun:

Flannel Friday Posts (like this one!)
Flannel & Magnet Activity Videos



Making Flannels

When making flannels, I use these materials:

  • Stiff Felt (highly recommended!)
  • Puffy Paint
  • Hot Glue
  • Sharp Scissors (Fiskars preferred)

Learn how to use the above photos (or any pictures) as a pattern or template at
Felt-tastic Flannelboard Funtime.

And a big shoutout to Mr. Keith’s blog, Felt-tastic Flannelbaord Funtime, for providing inspiration for my feltboard ideas. None of my flannels are direct reproductions of anyone’s work, but I am inspired most often by his style.

Flannel: Five Little Snails

Five garden snails sleeping in the sun,
Along comes a bird and scares away one!

Repeat 4, 3, 2, 1

No garden snails sleeping in the sun,
The bird flew away and here they all come!
(bring snails back, whew-snails are safe)

Find more Flannel Fun:

Flannel Friday Posts (like this one!)
Flannel & Magnet Activity Videos




Making Flannels

When making flannels, I use these materials:

  • Stiff Felt (highly recommended!)
  • Puffy Paint
  • Hot Glue
  • Sharp Scissors (Fiskars preferred)

Learn how to use the above photos (or any pictures) as a pattern or template at
Felt-tastic Flannelboard Funtime.

And a big shoutout to Mr. Keith’s blog, Felt-tastic Flannelbaord Funtime, for providing inspiration for my feltboard ideas. None of my flannels are direct reproductions of anyone’s work, but I am inspired most often by his style.

Flannel: Wiggleworm, Wiggleworm

Welcome to guest blogger Youth Librarian Sarah Simpson! Sarah is the flannel queen at my library, and I am so excited to be able to share some of her incredible flannel work on Book Cart Queens. Read on for full adorableness! – Annamarie

Find more Flannel Fun:

Flannel Friday Posts (like this one!)
Flannel & Magnet Activity Videos

Wiggleworm, Wiggleworm

Wiggleworm, Wiggleworm, hiding in a book
Wiggleworm, Wiggleworm, where should we look?




Making Flannels

When making flannels, I use these materials:

  • Stiff Felt (highly recommended!)
  • Puffy Paint
  • Hot Glue
  • Sharp Scissors (Fiskars preferred)

Learn how to use the above photos (or any pictures) as a pattern or template at
Felt-tastic Flannelboard Funtime.

And a big shoutout to Mr. Keith’s blog, Felt-tastic Flannelbaord Funtime, for providing inspiration for my feltboard ideas. None of my flannels are direct reproductions of anyone’s work, but I am inspired most often by his style.