Monday, October 24, 2016

Review: Busy Wheels series by Mandy Archer and Martha Lightfoot

Digger to the Rescue

Each $8.95 (PB)

Race Car is Roaring

Tractor Saves the Day

Fire Truck is Flashing

Monster Truck Mountain Rescue!

It's time to get busy with machines that roar, whizz, vroom, and zoom! The stories feature a popular vehicle as the central character, and involve a group of animal characters in a supporting role. A detailed spread on different parts of the vehicle will help children understand what makes up the machines and will help familiarize them with vehicle vocabulary.

Each of my review copies is marked "UK Edition", so there may be a few differences if purchased in the US. I noticed "driving seat" where we would say "driver's seat", and "stabiliser" vs. "stabilizer", but nothing that would really confuse a young child fascinated with vehicles - and that pretty much means all of them!

If nothing else, the differences are a great way to build vocabulary beyond that intended. You can even get into figures of speech, and how they can differ from country to country, or even region to region. I kind of prefer them with the British terminology and spelling, myself, for just that reason. 

Each vehicle goes through its normal tasks - building a playground, fighting a fire - and then some find another adventure, such as rescuing a kitten from a tree, or a climber on a mountainside. The animal characters work well for the younger audience, although it seemed odd to have a dog herding cows into the barn via tractor, rather than barking at them! The stories, fonts, illustrations, and design are all sure to please young readers who just can't get enough of anything with wheels.

The review copies I have are paperback, and I have the feeling they will literally be read to pieces if I try to put them in our collection, so they will reappear later as summer reading prizes. Hard covers are available, however, and you can order them directly from the publisher at this link. Other vehicles featured include Police Car, Ambulance, Dump(er) Truck, Plane, Train, School Bus, and Space Shuttle (not all available in the US yet).

Saturday, October 22, 2016

If You Give a Librarian a Barbie...

...she probably won't leave it alone. Because librarians can't leave anything alone. And when you add teens into the mix...

Our plan for this month's Teen Cafe was a sort of "Frankentoys" program, where we would take pieces of old toys and put them together in bizarre but creative ways. Remember the rotten neighbor kid in Toy Story? We solicited broken toys, but all we received were old Barbies, so - we switched it over to a Zombie Barbie program!

Preparation is pretty cheap and easy, once you have a collection of dolls and clothing. I mixed up some brown goop to soak the clothes in (coffee, coffee grounds, and cocoa mix. Everyone now smells like mocha lattes, yum!)

The coffee grounds added a nice, gritty texture, especially when it got smeared in the hair.

I spent $3.80 on a spray can of grey primer, and gave the dolls the opposite of a spray-on tan.

It only took a few minutes to dry out in the sun, and I gathered the other materials between sides, so I was ready to go in less than half an hour.

There were no instructions from there, just experimenting. I used wadded paper and white paint to sort of soften the plain grey, then spattered some red all over.

I had whited out the eyes, and later added a single black dot. When I was spattering blood it covered one eye, which I didn't want, but when I tried to wipe it off it made a nice garish smear, so it was all good.

Add some blood to the clothing, still drying from the goop:

And here we have our lovely ladies - one who didn't quite make it home from Prom, and one who got up in her jammies to see what that noise was outside...

I didn't have permission to photograph the teens, but they had their own techniques:

Spattered blood being the predominate theme. Clothing was deemed extraneous.

A fun and easy project - not for everyone, but perfect for your teens who want an art project they probably won't get to do at school!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Toddler STEM - Pumpkin Fun!

This month's theme was pumpkins, and we had so many ideas we couldn't get to them all! 

I always start everyone off outside the room with basic instructions: 1) let the kids explore, 2) ingredients and suggestions are listed at each station, and 3) I will be putting the gate up at the door to slow kids down so they can be dusted off before hitting the carpet.

Right inside the door I have a few flyers about preschool STEM, as well as for any upcoming events.

But most of the room is centers:

Squish Bags

Squish the pieces around to make a face!

Hair gel with yellow food coloring and felt pieces

Colored rice with poster board pieces

We had two of each type, with wide clear tape sealing them closed. They held up to two days of exuberant babies squeezing them hard, and determined toddlers tossing them like bean bags. 

Motor skills, problem solving, textures.

Cornmeal Construction

This was the one the most parents said they are going to do at home. Just two bags of corn meal, a truck, a couple shovels, a magnifying glass, and some sieves.

Buried, of course, so the first kids got to discover them!

That littlest cutie would have stayed there all morning, I think. Mommy is probably still getting it out of her shoes, but she was so cute, sticking her hands in and then smiling at everybody! Of course it ended up everywhere, but wasn't as slick as the cloud dough last month. 

Sensory exploration, cause and effect.

Pumpkin Paint

While cruising the aisles of the dollar store, I saw the orange poofs and decided we had to do something with them.

Another very popular activity!

Note wet wipes for clean-up! I also had the whole table situated next to the sink, with a stool and washcloths ready, and old t-shirts for everyone to put on over their clothes. There was an empty table to place masterpieces on to dry. 

I started off with just a squirt or red, orange, yellow and white on paper plates, and added a bit more partway through. Of course, a half hour in they were all pretty much orange. Having a finite amount of paper allowed me to declare the paint done about ten minutes before we ended the whole program, which helped a lot with clean-up!

Cause and effect, color mixing.

Play Clay

There were three big chunks, which of course were divided into smaller chunks as kids dug in. I left the cinnamon out so they could work more in, and MAN did the room smell good! At the last minute I nixed the food coloring, because I realized it would come off of hands, but perhaps not the table...

Daddies enjoyed playing, too.

Her expression needs a caption!

These two really liked the cinnamon.

Motor skills, cause and effect, sensory exploration, engineering.

Pumpkin Possibilities

I put the signs up with suggested activities, but I am happier when they come up with their own ways to explore. This quickly became a tossing game, from different angles and distances.

The tape was to give them a straight line to try to roll them on, but it was mostly ignored. That's okay!
Another young man did some sorting, which led to discussions of which ones were the same - by color? By size? By shape? So many ways to sort!

Physics, motor skills, cause and effect, math.

Pumpkin Patterns

The original idea was to poke them into regular pumpkins, but even I had a hard time with that. These styrofoam pumpkins from the dollar store were perfect.

More thinking outside the box:

As long as they aren't being destructive, I encourage that. Now, if they had been poking them into the WALLS...

Math, engineering, motor skills, cause and effect.

Last, but certainly not least,

Pumpkin Guts

I am really horrible at 'shooting' pumpkin seeds, btw. Once I managed to land one in my own hair - still not sure how I managed that. I also bounced them off several kids. One little girl tried once and told me she couldn't do it, and I told her she couldn't do it yet. Bless her heart, she kept trying until she got it! Good for her!

Sensory exploration, cause and effect, using tools, fine motor.

I counted 57 people around the midpoint Monday, and 56 on Wednesday, which is just about the right number for our little room.

And no injuries! That's a good measure of success for any program!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Review: Floodwaters and Flames, the 1913 Disaster in Dayton, Ohio, by Lois Miner Huey


March 25, 1913, began as a typical day in Dayton, Ohio. Downtown bustled with streetcars, carriages, and automobiles. By 8:10 a rush of water from the Great Miami River flooded the city. Desperate people climbed trees and telephone poles to escape the torrent. For days, people were stranded, cut off from the outside world. Experience the Great Dayton Flood through the eyes of those who lived it. Today the storm that caused the flood and devastated Dayton and communities across the country is largely forgotten. But the residents of Dayton resolved never to suffer such a disaster again. Their heroic response became a model for how we prepare for and recover from natural disasters.

I asked for a copy of this book because I grew up in Ohio, and spent time in the Dayton area through college. It is a timely book in general, however, with all the news reports of flooding throughout the country.

History is a story, and I love it best when it is presented that way. It was actually my worst subject in school, because I could never keep all those battles and dates straight on their boring old lists. When one of my college professors finally introduced me to historical fiction, however, it was like the skies cleared and everything clicked into place. 

Floodwaters and Flames starts out in fine story form: "Coal dealer Andrew Fox looked out his window on the night of Monday, March 24. He could hear the wind howl, as it had for days." From there the reader is swept along (pun intended) as the story of this disaster is told from the viewpoints of several citizens, both the famous (the Wright family) and the not-so-much. Happy-making for the visual learners, a map towards the beginning shows the location of each person at the beginning of the story. Little imagination is needed, however, to picture each scene unfolding with descriptions like this:

"Perhaps the queerest sight of all was a table we saw floating by us. It was set for dinner. Plates were laid for four, and in the center was a catsup bottle and a sugar bowl, with a menu card between."

It was really fascinating to read about the rescue efforts made, from the cash register company owner ordering his staff to bake bread and build boats instead of their regular jobs, to the librarian struggling to save the children's books. My shoulders stayed tense throughout this very fast-paced narrative, and I caught myself holding my breath many times.

Of course, not everyone was rescued. Many froze to death the first night, and those who survived to morning were faced with fire and explosions. Can you imagine being surrounded by water, and in danger of burning? More than seventy thousand people trapped in buildings or worse, up in trees or telephone poles. I can't fathom.

All things end, however, and the narrative turns to the clean-up and recovery. It is always heartening in a disaster to see people work together. We have seen it all over the country, and here in our little town this past month. 

Disasters can also mean a change in policy or procedure. Before the flooding, local communities were expected to handle their own disaster relief, but in this instance Ohio's governor reached out to the Federal government, setting in motion actions that led eventually to the formation of FEMA. Relief was also offered by a small (then) group known as The Red Cross. There was also a group called The Community known as The United Way. Flood control was rethought and re-engineered. But, of course, flooding and other disasters still happen.

I can see this book read aloud in class, or devoured by an individual child. While the title is eye-catching, I am concerned the sepia tones of the cover photo are not, so I may have to hand sell this to a few patrons. I don't think they will be dissatisfied once they sit down with it, though!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Review: Chicken in Space by Adam Lehrhaupt and Shahar Kober


Zoey isn’t like the other chickens. She has dreams. She has plans. And she has a best friend, Sam the pig, who will join her on her wild adventures . . . if he gets to eat some pie along the way. How will Zoey and Sam get from the barn to the stars? Will Zoey be the first chicken in space? Will Sam get a snack? One thing is certain: Zoey always finds a way.

These sound like my kind of friends - adventure and food? Count me in! I love Zoey's optimistic attitude - "Not a problem! An opportunity!" I also admired Sam's ability to stay focused on one main priority (Zoey: "Space is beautiful." Sam: "So is pie. See any pie?") while still being supportive of his friend. Zoey, in turn, shows that she has not taken Sam for granted, nor has she ignored his needs. A fun read for story time, with illustrations children are sure to enjoy.

And, there's pie!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Story Time: It's Absurd!

No, I don't mean that story time is absurd...well... it can be...but, in this case what I mean is that our theme for the week was things that are odd/silly/strange. Bonus, new vocabulary for most kids!

Narrowing down the story choices for this was hard! I had to start with one of everyone's favorites from last year, though:

The Book with No Pictures

Guaranteed to rile up any group of kids! I had planned to settle them back down (somewhat) with a round of "Tooty-ta", but I forgot both days! If you aren't familiar with this early literacy staple, do a quick search and you'll come up with a dozen videos. Next up:

Guess Again!

I like to pull this one out for the smarty-pants who need to yell out their answers before everyone else. Older kids enjoy it as well, so it's one of my classroom visit staples.

Two big books to round us out (ISBNs and prices below are for regular HC picture books)

Silly Sally

An oldie but goody!

Bubble Trouble board book

A definite tongue twister, you will want to practice this ahead of time! We didn't get to it on the second day, because the littles were ready to get up and move (which is when I should have broken out Tooty-ta. Librarian fail.)

For our craft, I wanted to try some pasta/pipe cleaner sculptures I saw all over Pinterest. Those used boards with holes carefully drilled in them as their bases, however, and I wasn't about to do that for 40-50 kids. Surveying the craft supplies packed through my work room, my eyes lit on the pool noodle slices we used for last month's Totally Untidy Toddlers. Perfect! 

Each child got one noodle slice and two pipe cleaners to start off with (they could branch out if they wanted to), and I put out bowls of colored pasta and cut up straws. Monday we had a very small group (most parents probably assumed we were closed), so they got to add on more noodle rings and pipe cleaners to take their sculptures a bit farther.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Deadline Approaching - and a Giveaway!

Saturday is the LAST DAY to nominate children's and YA books for the Cybils Award in any categories. As a little extra motivation, we are offering a free copy of one of the titles that has already been nominated in the Fiction Picture Book category:

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You can read our review here, and an interview with Eric Litwin here

All you have to do to be entered to win a copy of this book is 1) Go to this link and nominate at least one title in any category, then 2) Come back here and leave a comment telling us what you nominated, along with contact information in the event that you win. Already submitted your nomination? Totally counts, just let us know in the comments!

Here are some Fiction Picture Book titles that have yet to make the list, but which might be worth a look:

Dirt + Water = Mud by Katherine Hannigan 9780062345172
A Squiggly Story by Andrew Larsen 9781771380164
A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers 9780763690779
Snapsy the Alligator Did Not Ask to Be in This Book by Julie Falatko 9780451469458
This is Not a Picture Book by Sergio Ruzzier 9781452129075
Bear & Hare Share by Emily Gravett 9781481462174
Mervin the Sloth is About to Do the Best Thing in the World by Venable 9780062338471
Home at Last by Vera B. Williams 9780061349737
Can I Tell You a Secret? by Anna Kang 9780062396846
Otter Goes to School by Sam Garton 9780062352255

For Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction:

The Poet's Dog by Patricia Maclachlan 9780062292629

For Middle Grade Fiction:

Six Kids and a Stuffed Cat by Gary Paulsen 9781481452236

But, hurry! Nominations close in just a few days, and I will be picking a winner at random from the comments Sunday evening!

(U.S. addresses only, please!)