Monday, October 22, 2012

Witches! The Absolutely True Tale of Disaster in Salem

By Rosalyn Schanzer.  Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 2011.

With Halloween around the corner, I thought I'd get into the spirit by reading a seasonal-themed book, and a non-fiction one at that!  Cue the scary music!  I know, non-fiction can seem scary, especially when a child has a choice between that or a Captain Underpants book.  But, there are some awesome non-fiction books available for kids, and they aren't boring, and they read like an awesome fiction book!  Shocking, I know.  In the past couple of weeks, I seem to be focused on our children's non-fiction collection and highlighting some great titles.  More about that later.  Let's talk about witches.

Most people have heard about the Salem Witch Trials.  But, did you know the details about how it started and what happened as a result?  This story takes place in 1692 in the small town of Salem Town, Massachusetts, which is made up of Puritan settlers.  One night, two young girls begin twitching and contorting their bodies and speaking in nonsense words.  A physician declares them "under an Evil Hand" and so begins the "witch hunt."  Very soon, accusers begin falsely blaming other members of the community of practicing witchcraft.  People were sent to jail, and officials began holding "trials" using no physical evidence, just solely taking the word of the accusers.  Soon after, many victims were sentenced to death and a mass hysteria had taken over the small town.  Eventually, the Royal Governor of Massachusetts put an end to the arrests and released people still in jail.  The trials were over.  But, would the community ever be the same?

This book reads like a thriller!  Its chronological pace allows the reader to become immediately interested in the story to its conclusion (I know I was...I read this book in a couple of hours because I was eager to find out what happened).  Even if you are aware of the Salem Witch Trials, you may not know the entire story and details, and this book provides them in a way where you don't realize you are learning vital information about this period in history.  You're just reading a great story!  I think that aspect will get kids excited and engaged in this book.

I mentioned earlier our library's non-fiction collection for kids, and thinking of ways to promote it to our patrons.  This inspiration came from some recent workshops I attended about using informational texts to support the common core state standards.  I'm not a school librarian or a teacher, so I don't have to concern myself with using the common core in a classroom or library class.  But, as a public librarian, my job is to guide parents and children to great materials that are fun to read, while providing different sources of information.  My understanding of the common core is to give kids access to non-fiction with different perspectives, so this book would be great paired with another informational book, The Salem Witch Trials: an Unsolved Mystery From History by Jane Yolen.  And, you could give them one of the books in the Dear America series, I Walk in Dread: the Diary of Deliverance Trembley, Witness to the Salem Witch Trials by Lisa Rowe Fraustino.  These books will surely provide you with some great stories and facts.  Get in the Halloween spirit, and check these out today at the library!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Preschool Storytime: Monsters!

'Tis Halloween season, and at my library that means it's time for Monster Storytime!  I adore this theme for many reasons.  The main one being there are so many picture books to choose from, and each year I get to share new ones.  Another reason is I get to be sillier than I usually am, making funny monster noises and faces.  Can you believe I get paid for that?  So here is what I did today with my 3-6 year olds.  Check out these monster books, and many more, at the library today!

Your Pal Mo Willems Presents Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems.  New York: Hyperion Books for Children, 2005.
Leonardo is a terrible monster - he can't seem to frighten anyone!  So, he comes up with a plan to find the perfect little boy and scare the tuna salad out of him!  Will he succeed?

If You're a Monster and You Know It by Rebecca Emberley; illustrated by Ed Emberley.  New York: Orchard Books, 2010.
Monsters sing their own version of this popular song that encourages everyone to express their happiness through singing and pretending you're a monster.

Monster Mash by David Catrow.  New York: Orchard Books, 2012.
In this illustrated version of the classic novelty song, a mad scientist's monster performs a new dance which becomes "the hit of the land" when the scientist throws a party for other monsters.

Bedtime for Monsters by Ed Vere.  New York: Henry Holt, 2012.
A hungry monster seeks a different type of bedtime snack.

Instead of reading the book, I showed the DVD version of Leonardo the Terrible Monster, and the kids loved it.  It's a good way to freshen up your storytime, and the kids always seem excited that we're watching a movie.  It is included on Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! and more stories by Mo Willems, produced by Scholastic Storybook Treasures (if you aren't aware of this marvelous DVD series, check them out today).

Monster, Monster
(tune: "Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear")
Monster, monster, turn around.
Monster, monster, touch the ground.
Monster, monster, reach up high.
Monster, monster, squint your eyes.
Monster, monster, show your teeth.
Monster, monster, stamp your feet.

Horns, Fangs, Knees, and Claws
(tune: "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes")
Horns and fangs, knees and claws, knees and claws.
Horns and fangs, knees and claws, knees and claws.
Eyes and ears, and tail and paws.
Horns and fangs, knees and claws, knees and claws.
(source:  Youth Literature)

Go Away, Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberley
The kids really enjoyed this!  Thankfully, I had enough pieces for everyone to "help" me tell the story.  They love putting the pieces on the felt board, and I feel like it makes it all the more interactive.  I found the template for making this at

We made Monster Masks.  This craft came from Sarah at Awesome Storytime.  The kids really enjoyed it, and I was grateful to find an easy craft that allowed kids to showcase their creativity and monster-rificness!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Itsy Mitsy Runs Away

By Elanna Allen.  New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2011.

"Have you met Itsy Mitsy?  She's the little girl who really, really, for real (I'm not even joking) doesn't like...BEDTIME!"

What kid loves it?  This is a cute story of a little girl who dislikes bedtime so much, she decides to run away.  As you can imagine, running away is a pretty big deal, and Itsy Mitsy soon discovers it isn't as easy as she thought.  With her Dad's help, she makes sure to pack her favorite pet, food for her pet, someone to guard her against the bedtime beasties, and a nightlight.  When her Dad suggests something to plug the light into, well, her entire house had to come, too.  She's all ready to go and Dad waves her off, reminder her to mow the lawn.  Mow the lawn?!  That's a grown-up job, so Itsy Mitsy packs up good old Dad, and off they go running away.  She finds a perfect spot where there is no bedtime ever and....falls asleep!

Kids will enjoy this illogical bedtime tale.  I mean, running away from bedtime?  That's an awesome concept.  I mean, that's bad (sorry, child in me is taking over the responsible adult part of me).  The illustrations are done in pencil with digital color, which gives a softness to the characters and setting.  Itsy Mitsy's facial expressions are very detailed, and you can see her determination to run away, and Dad's tactics to keep her home.  By the end of the story, Mitsy has everything she needs piled up on her wagon, and you can tell father and daughter had a fun adventure.  Check this out at the library today!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs

By Mo Willems.  New York: Balzer + Bray, 2012.

"Once upon a time, there were three Dinosaurs: Papa Dinosaur, Mama Dinosaur, and some other Dinosaur who happened to be visiting from Norway."

I know what you're thinking: wait a minute, I know this story!  But I don't remember any dinosaurs.  That's because this delightful picture book take a different approach to a classic fairy tale.  One day, these dinosaurs decide to make their beds, arrange their chairs, and cook three bowls of delicious chocolate pudding, for no particular reason.  Then, they decide to leave and go "someplace else" and while they are gone, they really hope no innocent child stops by their unlocked home while they are gone.  Wink, wink.  If you know the story, of course a little girl named Goldilocks happens upon the house of the dinosaurs.  She eats the chocolate pudding, and then tired and full, decides to take a nap.  But the chairs are too big, and so are the beds.  She exclaims "the bears that live here must be nuts!"  Then, she takes a closer look at her surroundings and realizes this isn't some bear's house, it's some dinosaur's house, and high tails it out of the back door just as the dinosaurs barge through the front door.  No yummy, chocolate filled little girl for the dinosaurs.  And the story ends with a moral: "if you ever find yourself in the wrong story, leave."  As for the dinosaurs, the moral is "lock the back door!"

I am a huge fan of Mo Willems, and enjoy sharing his books at storytime.  This is another gem.  The illustrations are fantastic.  My favorite is the Norwegian dinosaur maniacally laughing.  Have your kids take a close look and they will see one of his famous characters in the pages.  But the real winner is the storyline.  I was laughing so much, which is a true sign of an awesome picture book, in my humble opinion.  Hey, if the adults love it, it makes sharing it all the better.  And if you're looking for ideas to use with the book, check out HarperCollins website for downloadable activities.  We just got this at our library, so check it out!