Tag Archives: storytime books

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.

2020 Favorite Storytime Books

It’s book list season! I’ve read a lot this year, and I am excited to highlight my favorite releases of 2020. I’m thrilled to start this year’s lists with 2020 favorite storytime books.

These lists are personal. The storytime books that work for me may not work for you–and that is okay! We each have our own storytime preferences. Also, I very well may have missed some great titles that were released over the last year–so make sure to check out all of the great lists all over the internet.

I had so many favorites this year that I split picture books over two lists: storytime favorites and picture book favorites. Make sure to check both places for amazing 2020 titles!

Which titles were your favorites of the year? Please share in the comments!

2020 Favorite Storytime Books

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#Baby by Michael Joosten
Adorable baby photographs paired with humorous hashtags will make this a winner for both babies (who will love the close ups of other babies) and grown ups (who will appreciate the humor). Fun choice for virtual baby storytime.


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A is for Another Rabbit by Hannah Batsel
“A is for A Rabbit. B is for Bunny. C is for Can you believe how many rabbits are on this page?” A rabbit-obsessed narrator makes an owl angrier and angrier as this alphabet book fails to follow normal expectations. Try this out at an elementary school storytime.


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Animals Brag About their Bottoms by Maki Saito
Bottoms are cool. Animal bottoms are SUPER COOL. For toddlers, focus on identifying the animal by their bottom. For preschoolers, read through the story and talk about loving our bodies in all their unique shapes and sizes. Pair with a nonfiction book about animals, Whose Poop Is That?, or any Steve Jenkins title.


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The Babies and Kitties Book
by John Schindel and Molly Woodward Redd
A companion to the adorable The Babies and Doggies Book, this book features photographs of babies…and kitties! Wonderful photographs featuring diverse babies are paired with fun actions that work well in a storytime environment (climbing, hiding, jumping).


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Bedtime Bonnet
by Nancy Amanda Redd and illustrated by Nneka Myers
“In my family, when the sun goes down, our hair goes up!” A little girl shows us her Black family’s nighttime hair routines, but when it comes time for her to go to bed, she can’t find her bonnet! Where could it be? A fantastic own voices book that centers a diverse narrative in a bedtime storytime.


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Do Sharks Bark? by Salina Yoon
These lift-the-flap books are perfect for toddler or preschool storytime. Read them as they are written–opening each animal mouth for that sound–or try retelling them with puppets.


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Don’t Feed the Coos!
by Jonathan Stutzman and illustrated by Heather Fox
Coos are so cute! And they are begging you for a snack…but don’t give in! If you feed one, they will all come! Lots of humor and giggles about what happens if you feed pigeons (or seagulls or ibis or ducks depending where you live).


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The Elephants’ Guide to Hide and Seek
by Kjersten Hayes and illustrated by Gladys Jose
Elephants love playing hide and seek–but they aren’t very good at it. Consult this handy guide for tips and tricks to improving your hide and seek game. Ask storytime attendees to think of new places or ways for an elephant to try to hide–maybe even places in your library!


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Federico and the Wolf
by Rebecca J. Gomez and illustrated by Elisa Chavarri
A clever retelling of “Little Red Riding Hood.” Frederico tries to take food to his grandfather’s store, but a hungry wolf has other ideas. A bouncy rhythm makes this fun to read aloud. Spanish words are scattered throughout, with a glossary and pronunciation guide in the back.


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Fussy Flamingo
by Shelly Vaughan James and illustrated by Matthew Rivera
Lola is one fussy bird–she doesn’t want to eat shrimp like her fellow flamingos. She is determined to try any other food, and each of those foods changes the color of her feathers. Lots of repetitive text and humor make this a fun family read aloud.


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The Ghosts Went Floating
by Kim Norman and illustrated by Jay Fleck
A spooky Halloween story sung to the tune of The Ants Went Marching. Perfect for counting practice, with a catchy tune that will soon have everyone singing. The last few pages include a Halloween tie in with the spooky friends all attending a Halloween party, though those could be skipped.


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Going Up
by Sherry J. Lee and illustrated by Charlene Chua
Sophie and her dad are excited for Olive’s birthday party! Sophie pushes the elevator button, and they start the long journey up their building–but at each floor, the elevator stops, and more neighbors crowd in. Repetitive text helps keeps readers engaged as they meet the diverse residents of this apartment building.


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Hey Baby!: A Baby’s Day in Doodles
by Andrea Pippins
Lovely photographs follow a 1-year-old through everyday activities. The black and white contrast is great for young eyes (if a little busy for a virtual storytime setting). Great actions and motions to compare the baby’s day to your family’s day.


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I Love Me!
by Laronda Gardner Middlemiss and illustrated by Beth Hughes
Celebrate diversity, identity, community, and everything that makes you special. Rhyming text, vibrant illustrations, and the repeated “I Love Me!” makes this a great fit for toddler and preschool storytimes


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I Love My Fangs! by Kelly Leigh Miller
Little Dracula loves his two, pointy, beautiful fangs! But then–oh dear–one falls out. How can Dracula be a vampire with just one tooth? Why won’t it pop back in? Lots of humor and drama surround our adorable young vampire, including a hilarious battle with the tooth fairy. Bright, colorful illustrations will keep the youngest readers engaged. 


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Jules vs. the Ocean by Jessie Sima
Jules wants to build the best sandcastle ever! But the ocean has other plans, washing away all of Jules’ attempts–and eventually it takes her bucket too. A fun summer beach story filled with dry humor in both the words and illustrations.


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Lia & Luís: Who Has More?
by Ana Crespo and illustrated by Giovana Medeiros
Lia and Luís argue over who has more of their favorite snacks. A great way to include math concepts in storytime including measuring, counting, estimating, and weighing. Perfect for STEM programs!


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Llama Unleashes the Alpacalypse
by Jonathan Stutzman and illustrated by Heather Fox
I am a fan of everything Llama! While this sequel isn’t quite as amazing as the original, Llama gets into even more hilarious shenanigans in an effort to never have to clean his house again.


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Lift by Minh Lê and illustrated by Dan Santat
Wow! This book is visually gorgeous, but also contains serious storytime potential. Iris tapes a broken elevator button to the wall of her room. When she pushes the button, a new world opens up. A great book for older readers paired with an activity where kids create their own imaginary worlds that they would like to find behind magical elevator doors.


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On Account of the Gum by Adam Rex
A poor kid wakes up with gum in their hair, and their grown up is determined to get the gum out. Instead, they make things much, much, much worse along the way. Lots of laughs.


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One of These Is Not Like the Others by Barney Saltzberg
Three cows and one elephant–one of these is not like the other! A great read-aloud for toddlers practicing similarities and differences (and celebrating both). Easy to skip spreads to shrink the length of the book.


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Our Favorite Day of the Year
by A.E. Ali and illustrated by Rahele Jomepour Bell
Musa’s kindergarten teacher, Ms. Gupta, proposes a yearlong show and tell, where each child shares with their classmates about their favorite day of the year. As a class, they celebrate Eid Mubarak, Rush Hashanah, Christmas (with some Lantinx cultural elements), and Pi Day. A great way to have a conversation about holidays without focusing on one religion (or, in the case of Pi Day, any religion at all).


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Sloth Went
by Adam Lehrhaupt and illustrated by Bensom Shum
Is there ever an audience where poop books don’t get a good laugh? Encourage young sloth to climb down a tree for his weekly poop. Pair with fascinating facts about how sloths poop in the wild, or a conversation about bathrooms and potty training.


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Smug Seagull by Maddie Frost
Smug Seagull can snatch more snacks than you! But…who is this new crab? How is crab so good at swiping? Is there enough room at the beach for two snack snatchers? A perfect read aloud to pair with Mo Willems’ Pigeon.


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Speak Up
by Miranda Paul and illustrated by Ebony Glenn
When you see something that doesn’t feel right, when you make a mistake, when you can help someone in need, use your voice and speak up! While this book’s message is simple, it approaches kindness, activism, and using your voice in a tone perfect for preschoolers, kindergarteners, and first graders. 


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Turtle Walk by Matt Phelan
“Turtle walk! Nice and slow. Here we go. Are we there yet? No.” This repetitive story is delightful. Adorable turtles make their plodding walk, exploring the wonders of the world, slowly making their way through the seasons to the cave where they will nap for the winter. Lots of fun to read aloud with a great refrain to repeat as a group.


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Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You
by Ellen Mayer and illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu
Mama changes baby’s diaper in this simple board book. While the action is straightforward, the book excels in modeling ways a caregiver can turn a small exchange, like changing a diaper, into an early literacy experience by singing a modified version of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, practicing animal sounds, identifying body parts, and more. A great board book to highlight in a virtual storytime.


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Unicorns Are the Worst! by Alex Willan
Unicorns are the worst! Goblin is not happy when unicorns move in next door with their glitter and tea parties. Why are unicorns so well loved while goblins are so underappreciated? Funny story perfect for fans of unicorns, magic, humor, and new friendships. Bright illustrations will draw in young readers and also make this a good book to share virtually.


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We Will Rock Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins
We Don’t Eat Our Classmates is one of my favorite storytime books–and I am so glad Penelope is back for more fun! She is excited to play her guitar at the school talent show until she hears a classmate say that dinosaurs can’t rock and roll. Her classmates have a lot of opinions about what dinosaurs can be…does Penelope have the courage to show off everything she is capable of? A great elementary read, especially to start a conversation about bullying and microaggressions with kindergarteners and first graders.


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Welcome to the Party
by Gabrielle Union and illustrated by Ashley Evans
This is a baby storytime win! Beautiful illustrations, wonderful rhymes, and perfect actions for a group of babies or toddlers.


What Color Is My Hijab?: Hudda Ibrahim, Meenal Patel, Meenal Patel:  9781643439204: Amazon.com: Books

What Color Is My Hijab?
by Hudda Ibrahim and illustrated by Meenal Patel
A simple book that highlights both colors and diversity as a little girl chooses what color hijab she will wear today. Great choice for toddlers or preschoolers.


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What Will Fit? by Grace Lin
Grace Lin’s new series of math board books are perfect for introducing simple math concepts for toddlers. Make sure to check out the whole series!


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When We Are Kind
by Monique Gray Smith and illustrated by Nicole Neidhardt
Celebrate kindness with this beautiful book by a Native author and illustrator. Perfect for talking to preschoolers and kindergarteners about being kind and helping others.


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Your Name Is a Song
by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow and illustrated by Luisa Uribe
A girl tells her mother how frustrated she was after her teacher and classmates couldn’t pronounce her name. Her mother teaches her that her name is a song as well as how to embrace your name and identity. A beautiful book perfect for elementary school conversations about the importance of pronouncing names correctly.

Favorite Baby Storytime Books

We all have our personal favorite storytime books. There are plenty of lists of best baby storytime books on the Internet–some of these work for me, some of them don’t. For one thing, we typically have large storytime crowds–a minimum of 40 people, often up to 80-90. With these crowds, I tend to avoid standard 6″ board books. I’ve thought about scanning in the pages and displaying them on my storytime powerpoint, but I like using a physical book for the younger kids (who often don’t have strong enough vision to see the screen).

Our large crowds are often made up mostly of ages 12-24 months, meaning our little ones often have less patience than some of their younger counterparts. I focus on selecting books that have repeated phrases we can read as a group or clear actions. I slip in more traditional stories sometimes, but those never go over as well as more action-based titles.

Finally, and most importantly, I choose books that work for me. For whatever reason, I have never been able to make Clip Clop by Nicola Smee work. I can’t seem to get the rhythm right, even though this should be a book that would be ideal for my storytime crowd and style (its available in big book format and has easy actions).

My personal go-to titles are included below. What are some of your go to baby storytime books?

The Babies on the Bus by Karen Katz

Row, Row, Row Your Boat by Jane Cabrera

For this title, I include the different verses on the PowerPoint behind me so the parents can join in. The first few times I read this book, parents, used to my style, joined in, but they repeated the traditional “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” verse for every page, overwhelming my reading voice (that happens with 40 parents reading along!). My slides look like this:

If You’re Happy and You Know It: Jungle Edition by James Warhola

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr.

Jump! by Scott M. Fischer

Ten Tiny Tickles by Karen Katz

Up!: How Families Around the World Carry Their Little Ones by Susan Hughes

The Baby Goes Beep by Rebecca O’Connell

Leo Loves Baby Time by Anna McQuinn

Baby Faces Peekaboo! by Dawn Sirett

Peek-a-Baby by Karen Katz

Do Crocs Kiss? by Salina Yoon

Splish, Splash, Ducky! by Lucy Cousins