Monthly Archives: January 2012

Sunday Quiz

Can you name the 100 Best Children’s Books
as selected by

OK, this one was tough. The first time I got 51 and the second time I got 72. (out of 100)

How many did you get?


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YA Audio Book Review

Leviathan (Leviathan, #1)Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Such an incredible story! I’ve been meaning to read this for awhile and I finally snagged the audio book from the YA shelves at my library. The book is read by Alan Cumming, who does a great job with the voices and accents. The alternate history is really interesting, as it winds around real events and fiction. The idea of the Darwinist technology is pretty cool. Characters are very well done, well-rounded. I’m already listening to the second one, Behemoth, also read by Alan Cumming. It’s just as good as the first one! This is my first “Steampunk” experience. Loving it!

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Picturebook Friday ~ Me…Jane

Little Brown ~ 2011

This picturebook is so lovely, from it’s photo album-like jacket design, to its 19th & early 20th century engravings, and all of the wonderful illustrations by Patrick McDonnell in between. I have been hoarding this book in a pile to review for awhile, and I was so happy to see it was a Caldecott Honor book (along with another favorite, Grandpa Green.)

Me…Jane is like a scrapbook of Jane’s young life, combining actual photos of Jane with her stuffed chimp Jubilee, with the muted engravings of animals, leaves and other things from nature, as well as the gentle comic-style illustrations of the main story. The colors are soft and muted. Most of the text appears on the left page, along with the engravings, and the illustrations on the right, giving the story a slower pace and the reader time to take in the story.I particularly love the double-spread filled with Jane’s actual drawings and diagrams from when she was a child.

The story begins with Jane receiving her stuffed monkey, Jubilee, and takes the reader through her childhood of being outside and observing nature. She learns as much as she can, reading books about animals, and falling in love with Africa, through stories of Tarzan. All of this is done with a very life-like Jubilee by her side. Then she falls asleep, only to wake up in Africa, grown up and studying the chimpanzees. The final picture is not an illustration, but the famous photo of Jane Goodall with a hand outstretched and touching a baby chimp, doing the same as her. The final few pages contain information about Jane, a message from her, and some information about the illustrations and engravings.

Completely Caldecott-worthy. Love it!

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January Story Times

Week 1 ~ Elephants

I centered this story time around Elmer by David McKee. A sweet story about a patchwork elephant who thinks that it would be better to look like all of the other elephants, so he covers himself in grey mud. When he gets back to his herd, he realizes that without him, no one has any fun. When it rains and the other elephants realize the funny joke that Elmer has played, they declare this to be a special Elmer Day and every year, Elmer makes himself look like a regular elephant, while the rest paint themselves to honor Elmer. It’s a cute story about fitting in and being loved for who you are. Also, it’s mostly just about crazy elephants (to a 3 year old.)

The other book I read was I’ve Got an Elephant by Anne Ginkel. A cute rhyming story about a girl with an elephant who gets lonely and invites another elephant to play. This continues until there are quite a few elephants and it gets very silly.


I also created a felt board activity for Elmer that made it fun for the kids, especially since my copy of Elmer is small and the pictures are harder to see from the floor. (Sorry, too lazy to rotate the picture!) For the craft, I printed a black and white outline of Elmer and the kids cut squares of colored tissue paper and glued them on the patchwork Elmer squares.

Elmer Felt Board

Week 2 ~ Silly Stories

I’ll be honest, I didn’t really leave much time to prepare for this week. It crept up on me! I love the book Stuck by Oliver Jeffers, so I decided to read that and Rhyming Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas, because I don’t think any kid has ever NOT laughed hysterically at this book. I’ve read it so many times to different groups and it never fails me!

Stuck is very cute, though the group I had was on the younger side and I had to abridge it slightly because they weren’t quite getting some of the subtle humor. Most of them enjoyed it, but there were lots of little siblings running around. The craft I planned was based on the book, so I had to make the best of it! (In LOVE with Oliver Jeffers, btw.) In the story, a boy gets his kite stuck in a tree, so he throws up a shoe to knock it out, but it gets stuck. As does the other. One thing after another gets thrown and stuck in the tree – even the ladder, which you think he would use to climb up the tree – gets thrown and stuck, as do cars, houses, ships, whales, etc., until finally the kite falls and the boy is so happy, that he forgets about all the other things and beings that are stuck in the tree.

For the craft, I had pre-drawn trees that they kids colored and pictures of random objects from magazines for them to glue into the branches of the tree. They came out very cute!

"Stuck" crafts

Week 3~ Chinese New Year!


This was a tough one, but I really wanted to celebrate Chinese New Year with the kids. It was difficult to find books that were short enough to read, but I ended up with The Runaway Wok: A Chinese New Year Tale by Ying Chang Compestine and Bringing in the New Year by Grace Lin. The first one was long, and I had a younger crowd again, but I decided to give it a try, since it was a cute story. I didn’t read all of the text and stopped to ask them what they thought about a pan that could sing, which they thought was very funny. We made it through the story in both sessions. The Grace Lin book is a bit shorter and describes a New Year celebration in a way that is easier for younger children to understand.

In my session this morning, I had a mom and daughter who celebrate the lunar New Year, as the mom is half Vietnamese. I thought this was pretty cool. They told me a few of the things they did to celebrate. Though I was a little worried about trying to explain what Chinese New Year was to the younger kids, especially with people there who actually celebrate it!  They seemed OK with it 🙂


Since it is the Year of the Dragon, we made *dragon puppets, which the kids LOVED. When my Monday session finished theirs, they all gathered back on the story rug and just sort of walked around moving their puppets up and down. I never even told them to do it – it’s like the dragons just took over….lol. For a snack we had fortune cookies, which I happened to notice a few weeks ago at Walmart in the asian food section. (This may be the real reason I wanted to do the Chinese New Year theme……)

My un-colored sample

(*The instructions for the dragon puppets can be found HERE at the Enchanted Learning site, which is worth the $20.00 yearly subscription! However, I found a different head that looked more like a dragon and drew my own tail.)

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Sunday Quiz

Name all the children’s picturebook characters! Fun 🙂

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Middle-Grade Book Review

The Mysterious Howling (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place #1) The Mysterious Howling (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place #1) by Maryrose Wood

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Very cute with a younger Jane Eyre-ish quality, but not nearly so dark and dreary. The young heroine, Miss Penelope Lumley, is a perky governess fresh from the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females. She is determined to civilize three children who were found in the woods, apparently raised by wolves. She knows there is hard work ahead of her and she supposes French and Latin can wait a few weeks while human speech and eating with utensils takes precedence. This is a funny and endearing story, with several mysteries that still remain unsolved at the end: Where did the children come from? Why does Lord Ashton insist on keeping them? Who stirred up trouble at the Christmas party? Who or what is making those noises in the attic? And last, but not least, where does Miss Penelope Lumley come from?

I will have to read book two!

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Harry Potter Club: The Monster Book of Monsters

I didn’t think we could do it, but they came out awesome! Granted, I was the one doing most of the gluing, but the kids were so totally excited to have an actual “Monster Book of Monsters” that they didn’t seem to care. When I made my sample, I was so proud of myself and showed my staff and several mom’s in the Children’s Room. All of whom stared at me blankly, as they had never seen the movie that portrays the book. And none of them had even read the books! Horrified, I went upstairs to the adult floor, where I found the praise I felt I deserved 😉

A bit of history…. (via the Harry Potter Wiki)

             “The Monster Book of Monsters, by Edwardus Lima, is a particularly vicious textbook that is used in Care of Magical Creatures while Rubeus Hagrid(who thought the book’s aggressive nature was funny) was the teacher. The book will attack anyone who attempts to open it. The only way to subdue the book is to stroke its spine, upon which the book opens placidly. After incidents in which the books attacked each other, the manager of Flourish and Blotts vowed never to stock them again; he found the situation to be worse than when an entire stock of The Invisible Book of Invisibility disappeared. When students brought this book to Hogwarts for Rubeus Hagrid‘s Care of Magical Creatures class, they had to force the books shut with belts and Spello-tape because they didn’t know how to calm the books.”

Anyways, it wasn’t as difficult to make as I had originally anticipated. The craft came from my trusty Unofficial Harry Potter Party Book. As you can see, the Monster Book of Monsters is featured on the cover.

The book calls for a few things that I did not end up using. It said to use a wooden craft “book” box but I didn’t have enough money to buy these, especially as I don’t have a signup so I don’t know how many kids will be there. I decided to go into the book sale room and “borrow” a few very old books* that were about the right size and thickness. This worked out really well.

Items I bought:

– Brown craft fur

– that Crayola foamy modeling clay that air dries – can’t think of the right name for it – in white, red & black

Other items we had:

– old books

– cotton balls or cotton batting

– glue gun & plenty of glue sticks (we went through a fair few for this one)

– scissors (for cutting the craft fur to fit the book cover & and for “trimming” the monster’s hair later)

I plugged in the glue guns before the club started. I have one larger “hot” one and 2 smaller low-heat ones. Some of the older kids in the group have permission to use the low-heat ones, but most just let me do it. The kids picked out an old book from the bin and I gave them some of the white foam clay. They made the 2 long fangs first and attached them to the top cover. Then they took a small handful of cotton batting and placed it on the cover between the 2 fangs. Using the glue gun, we put glue all over the top book cover (including over the fangs and the cotton and then laid the craft fur down over it. The cotton batting adds a little bump for a “snout.” (I measured the books to the sheet of craft fur beforehand, so I knew they would all fit with a minor amount of trimming.)

Then we flipped it over and put glue on the spine and back cover, laying the rest of the fur down. Then the kids got some more white foam clay** for more smaller teeth and red for the top and bottom gums. They fashioned these and then I glued them to the top and bottom of the “mouth.” The last step was using the black foam clay to make little round balls for eyes and glue them above the snout, sort of nestled into the fur.

*A note about the old books: I didn’t realize this until right before the meeting started, but when I was choosing old books from the book sale room, I was looking for size and not content. They were older, adult novels and it didn’t occur to me that even when the craft was finished, the kids would be able to open the book (so the monster can “chomp”) and therefore be able to read the text. I tried to quickly scan the books and pulled out a few that looked sketchy. I did try to warn the parents when they picked up the kids about my oversight so they would at least be aware. They didn’t seem to mind too much. I think they were just happy that they had just had 45 minutes to themselves and their kids were happy! (A possible solution to this would be to glue the pages shut or to use an old belt to put around the book, just like Harry did in the movie.)

**FYI: The book actually calls for Sculpy and baking the teeth and gums before gluing. However, I do not have access to an oven at the library, so I like to use this foamy clay because it air-dries. You can glue a portion down even if it isn’t dry yet and then move it if you need to. My sample teeth dried and were fine the next day.

All in all, they turned out pretty cool and the kids had a blast. Things got slightly out of control when balls of foamy clay mysteriously flew at me, and when I left to get my camera, the kids had disappeared (hiding under the tables.) But we have yet another Harry Potter artifact to add to our collections.

some partiularly good teeth

so proud!

this guy has a mohawk!

this one should really floss more.....

my sample

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