Friday, January 27, 2012

Flannel Friday: Little Mouse, Little Mouse

You Guys! What do I have up here on the board? House? Yes, they're houses! Let's all count them together, okay? 1,2,3,4,5. 5 houses! And they're all different colors! Guess what you guys? Hiding in one of these house is a little bitty mouse! And we have to find him.

This is how we'll find him. We'll ask "Little Mouse, Little Mouse are you in the ..... house?" What color do you want to start with? Purple? I hear purple, let's try that. Ready? "Little Mouse, Little Mouse, are you in the purple house?"

Nope. He wasn't in the purple house. Which color should we try next? Red? You want to try red? Okay. All together now "Little Mouse, Little Mouse, are you in the red house?"

You Guys! We found the mouse! Good job. Which house was he hiding in? That's right! The red house! Now, should we check our other 3 houses, just to make sure there isn't a 2nd mouse? Okay, what's our rhyme again?


Well, we only found one mouse. Which house was he in again? The red house? Good job finding him y'all. I am so proud of you. Okay, the mouse is going to hang out up here, in the top corner, because he doesn't want to miss any of story time.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars, John Green

Oh, hey John Green. I sure have missed you since you've been gone. And now you show up with this follow-up to Paper Townsthat's about child cancer (see my thoughts on book about child cancer here) and there aren't even any Black Santas, new music for me to discover via you, or kick ass pranks to take my mind off the sick and the dying? Ugh. You jerk. Fine, I'll read it. But just because you have A LOT of good will built up.

The Deal: Hazel is dying. She's known that since she was 13 and first got her diagnosis. Augustus is not dying. He did the whole cancer thing, lost a leg and has come out the other side, thank you very much. When the two first meet at the world's most depressing cancer support group (although I guess they'd all be pretty depressing) Hazel is wary of the cute stranger who keeps staring at her, but eventually she gets over it and they become first friends and then something else. Something more complicated. And neither of them are ready to deal with the consequences of falling in love to the backdrop of terminal disease.

What Worked: I mean, it's John Green. The man knows how to write. Both Hazel and Augustus have wicked senses of humor and are the kind of people I'd like to hang out with. Hazel more so than Gus, but she's also the narrator of the book so we spend way more time with her anyway. Reluctantly falling in love is one of my favorite YA tropes and Green ramps up the tension before finally letting those two crazy kids finally get together and it is worth every single doubt and hesitation leading up to that moment.

What Didn't Work: Not a lot. I cried like I was supposed to and stayed up late reading like I was supposed to. As hinted at above, I missed the comic relief that I've come to expect from John Green, because even the funny in this book was gallows funny. Hazel got a little big on the self pity every once in a while, but sister, you're dying. It's cool, I'd yell at my parents some too. Gus sometimes strayed too far towards martyrdom for me, almost as if he was designed to compliment Hazel instead of being his own character. This world was a lot smaller than any other Green book I've read, with Hazel and Gus at the center and everyone else sort of orbiting in and out around them. That took some getting used to but I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing.

Anything Extra Special?:


Hazel and Gus bond over books. The awful ones that he likes and the literary one that has been her savior ever since the diagnosis. The extra special part is the way Green writes about Hazel's attachment to this one particular book. It's a feeling I've had for several books over my life and one I could never express so eloquently.

International Travel

Hazel wasted her Make a Wish wish when she was first diagnosed. And the section where they talk about how royally she screwed it up is probably my favorite in the book. But Gus, dear sweet Gus who got a wish when he lost his leg, uses his to take Hazel on a trip. What could be better than falling in love in a foreign city while eating the best meal of your life? Oh yeah, not having TERMINAL CANCER.

Jeez, John Green. I still don't know if I'll ever forgive you for this one.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Stir It Up! Ramin Ganeshram

I'm on kind of a review backlog right now. My to-review pile on my desk at work is drawing ugly looks from my co-workers and manager who like things to look neat, and my to-read pile is even bigger. Not to mention the requesting spree I just went on at Net Galley. Sigh, my life is just so tough.

Anyway, I'm making an effort to actually see the desk part of my desk again so get ready for a slew of reviews in the coming weeks. I'm also going to be playing around a little bit with the format of my reviews, I'm not entirely happy with how they're set up now. We're starting with Stir It Up! by Ramin Ganeshram.

The Deal: Anjali is a 13 year old girl living in Queens, New York. She goes to private school where she doesn't quite fit in and she's under a lot of pressure from her family to do well on her tests and be accepted at a prestigious public high school for the next year. With her mother also studying all the time to get her nursing certification in the United States, sometimes it feels like education is all her immigrant family cares about. All Anjali cares about however, is cooking. She loves helping out in her family's Roti shop and inventing her own recipes. She's sure she's got what it takes to become a chef someday, and someday might be closer than she ever imagined. When Anjali gets the chance to audition for a Food Network show she must decide how far she's willing to go to share her recipes and her family's Trinidadian heritage with the world.

What Worked: Don't read this book while you're hungry. Ganeshram does an amazing job of making Anjali's passion jump off the page and fill up the room with delicious and spicy smells. Although this is her first book for kids, Ganeshram is a food writer and the skill and love that she has for her craft translates both to Anjali and to the other, minor, chef characters in the story. Anjali is sympathetic and I enjoyed her relationships with both her best friend, Lincoln, and her grandmother Deema.

What Didn't Work: Man, if I ever disobeyed my parents like Anjali does in this book I would not be here writing this. A little too much depended on characters acting out of (their already established) character to move the plot along for my comfort.

Anything Extra Special?: Yes. There is a recipe for every single dish that Anjali makes throughout the book. As someone who has never been exposed to Trinidadian cooking before (a minor plot point in the novel) I am super excited to take the book home and start cooking. Even better, since this book was written for older elementary and middle school kids, the recipes are incredibly simple and straightforward. The perfect introduction to any new cuisine! First up on my list of things to make from Stir It Up! are the Shrimp Burger Pitas she makes for her first audition. Mmmmm, mmmm good.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Flannel Friday: I Had A Little Rooster

I took a Roots Music course in college. It was the best class to possibly take as a second semester senior, easy and mind opening at the same time. Someday I'll figure out how to incorporate Odetta, Clifton Chenier and Woody Guthrie into story time. Maybe some Doc Watson. But today I'm starting with Pete Seeger.

Here's a flannel for I Had A Little Rooster. I wasn't sure what a "Greenberry tree" is so I guessed but I really like how it turned out.

I had a little rooster and the rooster please me.
I fed my rooster from the Greenberry tree. The little rooster
went cock-a-doodle-doodely-doodely-doodely-do

The lion and baby seem super out of place to me in this
song. I would not feed either of them from a Greenberry tree.

I also use these animals when we
sing Old MacDonald had a Farm.
Except the lion and the baby of course.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Obligatory MLK Day Post

Of course there's going to be an MLK Day post. Just a little bit late. I wanted to have completed my program and since we wrapped up on Tuesday, I figured I'd save it for today.

So here's the deal. I am not a fan of "I Have a Dream." I mean, it's fine, the man knew how to deliver a speech, whatever. But the fact that it was seemingly tailor written for lesson plans has done a lot to diminish the impact for me over the years. And it seems like every single time MLK day rolls around another teacher in another school has their students draw pictures of their own dreams and telling them that if they work hard, just like Martin, they too can achieve their dreams and isn't the world great now that segregation doesn't exist and everyone gets equal chances and opportunities not based on the color of their skin? Bam! Activity for the day: done.

I think that's a load of bullshit. But that's a different rant for a different day. This is about why I didn't want to try and come up with a program around "I Have a Dream" regardless of how easy it would be. Angie, the other person who works in the children's room, did a trivia program for the older kids and I was left with figuring something out for the story time and early elementary set.

My favorite King piece of writing is "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" It's fiery, passionate and contains this most righteous excerpt that I really wish I could make the older kids here read every single time they drop the n-word.
...when your first name becomes "nigger," your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness"--then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.
Anyway. The letter is a bit much for the super young kids, maybe that's another reason "I Have a Dream" is so ubiquitous, it's family friendly! But as I was re-reading the letter, looking for ideas, I kept getting stuck on another one of King's most famous quotes. Here's the slightly longer version.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.
An inescapable network of mutuality. I could do something with that. A spiderweb of yarn and then remove one kid? A puzzle missing one piece? The problem with designing programs here is getting kids to come. Or to turn off their computers for long enough to participate. They have a limited time with the internet every day and asking them to cut into it for visual demonstrations of "an inescapable network of mutuality" is unfair.

I ended up going with a puzzle. A gigantic puzzle of King's face that I glued together from 16 sheets of paper and then re-cut up into puzzle pieces.

The puzzle pieces sat out on our craft table and every day last week the craft activity of the day was to help color in the pieces. The text went something like this:

Dr. King's vision was for everyone to work
together to solve problems.

Help us solve this puzzle!

For the rest of the week we'll be coloring in pieces,
any way you want and using lots of colors!

Next Tuesday we'll put it together and
use it to decorate th
e children's room.

What do you think the final picture will be?

Simplistic? Yes. Reductive? Maybe. But it works for the little kids and the final product will hang in the children's room at least through Black History Month, a visual reminder of the time we worked together to make a puzzle. I may evengo back to "I Have a Dream" and find that passage about children playingtogether regardless of their skin color since this Martin will have blue, green, purple and polka dot skin.

This could also be subtitled "Why we can't have nice things." I have no idea where the missing puzzle pieces are, thank goodness none from his actual face disappeared. And it's not just the kids we can't give scissors to anymore. That butterfly like cutout on his left cheek? Where he seems in need of a Nelly style band-aid? That was a nanny who asked me oh-so-nicely for a pair of scissors while she was making something for her charges.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Bad Ass Library Find of the Week: Marcus Garvey and My Stand for Civil Rights

This post is kind of a cheat. I've been sitting on this particular Bad Ass Library Find for about 3 months now, just waiting for a time when I would look at the calendar, see that it was a Monday, Wednesday or Friday and not have anything else in mind.

Today is just such a day.

When I first got to this branch the children's room was arranged in a way that I didn't quite agree with. The paperback and hardcover fiction was separated and so it was pretty common to look in two places for one title. Series were inter-shelved by author's last name, even when there were multiple authors (39 Clues, Choose Your Own Adventure). The worst though was that the biography section was divided into "Black" and "White."

Even beyond the icky racial implications, this was no good. The section was a pure disaster to organize. No one seemed quite sure where to shelve Mother Theresa, Geronimo, Sonia Sotomayor or the other non-white, non-black notable figures from history. Not to mention the fact that Thurgood Marshall had biographies in both sections. One of my first acts as a bonafide children's librarian was to integrate the biographies. Consider it my personal stand for civil rights.

I got to know the biographies pretty well over the course of those few hours and was pretty amazed to find this gem.

A children's book about Marcus Garvey? That's nothing short of groundbreaking, really. I never, ever, learned about him in any sort of formal setting and certainly not when I was a child. Maybe that's indicative of the schools I went to, but I don't think controversial figures like Marcus Garvey get a fair shake when the civil rights movement is taught. A cursory mention of Malcolm X to provide the yang to Martin Luther King Jr.'s yin is the most I ever heard.

I haven't read the entire book, but I was curious to see how the founder of the Back to Africa movement would be presented to children, so I have skimmed a few sections. Here's my favorite couple of sentences...

To beat the [prohibition] deadline, the Green River Distillery Company rapidly loaded 4.8 million dollars' worth of whiskey onto the Yarmouth [the ship belonging to the Black Star Line, Garvey's all black owned and operated shipping company] for its second voyage to Cuba. Once again, the old ship listed seriously as it left the dock. Two days later, about one hundred miles from the Cuban harbor the ship began to sink. The crew was drunk when the U.S. Coast Guard arrived to tow the ship back to New York, where Government agents were waiting to seize the cargo.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Shante Keys and the New Year's Peas by Gail Piernas-Davenport

It's not too late for a book about New Years, right?

After all, as pointed out in Shanté Keys and the New Year's Peas, different cultures celebrate the new year in different ways and at different times.

The Deal: Shante Keys loves New Year celebrations because it means going to her grandmother's house and eating a delicious meal of traditional foods meant to bring luck and wealth into the new year. But when Shante and her parents arrive at Grandma's place they find out that in all the other preparations, Grandma has forgotten to get black eye peas. And black eye peas are residential. So Shante heads out into the neighborhood to find someone who can give her peas for their meal. On her trip she meets neighbors who tell her how and when the new year is celebrated in their culture.

What Worked: I enjoyed learning about different New Year customs from across the world and seeing some common threads throughout. Piernas-Davenport did an excellent job of writing a simple and repetitive story that will hold the attention of preschool and younger grade school children while still being chock full of information. There's also a section at the end with extra information about all the traditions touched upon in the story. And if you couldn't tell from the title, it all rhymes.

What Didn't Work: The only thing that really bothered me about Shante Keys was the illustrations. They just aren't pretty or interesting and the generic-ness of it all occasionally took me out of the story. It's like a Nick Jr. cartoon put to paper. I would have loved to see what a R. Gregory Christie or a David Catrow could have done with the story. But I want them to illustrate my life, so it's possible that I'm a bit biased.

Anything Extra Special?: Why yes indeedy. There's a recipe for Shante's grandma's version of Hoppin' John, the meal with black eye peas that Southern families eat on January 1, to ensure wealth and luck in the new year. Black eye peas and collards is one of my favorite meals and I eat it year round, so finding books that celebrate the lowly crowder pea and other traditional food customs makes me a very happy camper. Below is my (vegetarian) version of Hoppin' John with extra collards folded in simmering on the stove this New Year's Day.

Will I Read it Again?: Not for my toddler story time, but I have a couple of school visits coming up this month and I'll definitely be including it in the books I use for kindergarten and first grade.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Flannel Friday: Alphabet Soup

This is the easiest flannel in the world. For reals. I started with one set of the alphabet die-cut from various colorful flannel pieces and glued onto contrasting background squares.

The rhyme goes like this:

Alphabet Soup A-Z
Let's take a look
What do we see?

And then I put up a one letter on the board. Repeat until you have a word spelled out. Like so:

I don't usually do themes for my story times, but this would work particularly well to introduce the day's theme. I also do it as a transition, using a word or animal sound that will appear in the next story/song/rhyme. It works well for toddler through preschool and in addition to talking about what the word spells, you can have discussions about capital v lowercase letters and the colors and size of the letters.

I started with 26 and then make additional letters, like the extra L, on the spot when I need them for whatever word I'm using. So far I have an extra P,O, and an L. Keep the words short and sweet and Alphabet Soup works every time.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Story Time Scripts

Story Time took a break towards the end of the year. We had a week and a half recess where I got to think ahead, make new flannels, find new books, and plan for 2012.

But we're back now.

Last Thursday my parents got the opportunity to see me do story time for the first time. It was really great for these two people who I love so much and who have done everything to support me as I tried to get my life figured out see me do something that I love and am pretty good at. We had a small crowd, a week and a half is a weird time chunk and a lot of families were still traveling for the holidays. But once I explained who the creepy adults hanging out at story time without children were, we settled into story time like we'd never been gone.

Thursday Morning Story Time:

Song: Good Morning Dear Earth
Flannel: Little Mouse
Rhyme: I had a Little Turtle
Book: Yes Day!, Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenfield
Song/Flannel: Five Little Ducks
Song: Wheels on the Bus
Flannel: Blue is the Lake*
Song: Grand Old Duke of York
Rhyme: Big, Big, Big*
Flannel: Go Away Big Green Monster
Book: Jazz Baby
Song: Turn Around from Getting to Know Myself

*I use the power of Google and other librarian's blogs for a lot of my story time ideas and I'm not always the best about citing where I grab things from. But it should be noted that I get a lot of action rhymes and poems, including Big, Big, Big and Blue is the Lake from Mel's Desk. This woman is awesome and so are the poems and adaptations that she comes up with. I would be in a lot of trouble without her story time blog. Plus she's one of the big wigs at Flannel Friday.

Tuesday's story time had more people. Some preschools are still out so I got to see a lot of kids that I don't normally come across. It also meant that my crowd trended older for one of the first times today, including the smart aleck who decided to be contrary and answer every question I asked with a purposeful wrong answer. You win this time Davis, you win.

Tuesday Morning Story Time:

Song: Good Morning Dear Earth
Flannel: Little Mouse
Rhyme: Big, Big, Big
Book: Once Upon Macdonalds Farm, Stephen Gammell
Song/Flannel: Old MacDonald (with the flannel animals from "I had a Little Rooster")
Song: Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
Book: There Is a Bird On Your Head!, Mo Willems
Song: Shake Your Sillies Out from A Child's Celebration Of Silliest Songs
Song: Grand Old Duke of York
Flannel: Blue is the Lake
Song/Flannel: Five Green and Speckled Frogs
Song: Turn Around from Getting to Know Myself