Storytime Share: Books to Sing

28 09 2018

There are so many books out there based on songs or intended to be sung rather than just read. I love to sing, so I like to use these books in storytime. Sometimes I even do a whole storytime with singable picture books. It can be a vocal workout, but it’s lots of fun.



Row, Row, Row Your Boat by Jane Cabrera; illustrated by the author

This extended version of the traditional song is accompanied by Cabrera’s signature cheery paintings. Toddler, Preschool


Sing by Joe Raposo; illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

The classic song about singing just for the joy of singing is accompanied by illustrations that show a bird that has lost its song being inspired by a young musician. Preschool


The More We Are Together by Rookie Toddler

This board book is based on the traditional song and accompanied with illustrations of friends at play. Baby, Toddler


If You’re Hoppy by April Pulley Sayre; illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic

Various animals show how they can be hoppy, sloppy, growly, flappy, and a little bit scary in this book that encourages movement and laughter. Toddler, Preschool


The Bear Went Over the Mountain by Iza Trapani; illustrated by the author

The author expands on the traditional song with additional verses all about the bear using his five senses to explore his environment. Preschool


Little White Duck by Walt Whippo and Bernard Zaritzky; illustrated by Joan Paley

One by one, animals arrive to a pond, but they are eventually scared away when a snake arrives. Toddler, Preschool


Songs: “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and “If You’re Happy and You Know It”

Flannels: “Down by the Bay” and Five Little Ducks”







Picture Book Creator Profile: Helen Dean Fish

5 09 2018

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Who was Helen Dean Fish? When the first Caldecott awards were given in 1938 she had selected the text for both the Caldecott winner, Animals of the Bible, and one of the honor books, Four and Twenty Blackbirds. Why didn’t I know her name? She was obviously important to the history of children’s publishing in this country, so I set out to learn more.

Ms. Fish was indeed important to children’s publishing – in fact, she was regarded by many to have been one of the pioneers of the industry. She was born in 1889 on Long Island and lived in the same house there in Hempstead until her death in 1953. After graduating from Wellesley in 1912 she taught briefly in Asheville, studied playwriting at Radcliffe, and led drama clubs in New York. She eventually found work in publishing at Frederick A. Stokes Company, and this led to her illustrious career. In 1922 she was appointed the first children’s book editor at Stokes (which later merged with J. B. Lippincott) and she remained there until 1953. Her time in children’s publishing was considered by many to be the “golden age” of children’s literature. One of her greatest achievements was discovering Hugh Lofting, author of the Doctor Dolittle books. She also selected text and verse for several titles that she edited over the years, such as The Boy’s Book of Verse (1923), and of course the Caldecott-winning title, Animals of the Bible. While Dorothy Lathrop was responsible for the illustrations in that book, Fish was credited with the idea for the book, the selection of the text, and the appointment of Lathrop as illustrator.

During her editing career, Ms. Fish also collaborated with many other talented authors and illustrators. She worked closely with Robert Lawson, in particular on his acclaimed edition of Pilgrim’s Progress, as well as the Caldecott honor title, Four and Twenty Blackbirds (another book for which Ms. Fish selected the text). She also mentored Lois Lenski and worked with Munro Leaf on his Can Be Fun series.

In addition to her passion for literature, Ms. Fish also possessed a great love of travel, authoring one adult book, Invitation to Travel (1937) about her European tours. Much of her journeying was done with the goal of studying children’s literature, and in fact, she even met authors such as Beatrix Potter and Eleanor Farjeon on some of her adventures. Her February 1930 Horn Book article about her first meeting with Farjeon is an especially delightful read.

Helen Dean Fish also gave back to children’s literature, serving as president of the Association of Children’s Book Editors, chairman of the Children’s Book Council, and member of the Children’s Division of the American Library Association. Her dedication inspired Lippincott to establish an award in her name after her death. Ms. Fish’s legacy can possibly best be summed up in Mary Gould Davis’ obituary editorial from the April 1953 Horn Book: “In the world of children’s books she was both an explorer and a builder.” She truly sought out and helped develop the best in children’s literature over the course of her career, and I’m glad I’ve had the chance to learn about her.

Picture Book Independent Study Bibliography

Caldecott Year in Review: 1938

19 07 2018

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Welcome to the first post in my new blog project, my Picture Book Independent Study. I’m beginning my study by doing a review of the books that won the inaugural Caldecott Medal and Honors in 1938. After reading these books, I’ve already come up with a few topics that I’d like to research more in future posts, like the history of the Caldecott Medal and, more broadly, the history of picture books for children. I’d also like to learn more about some of the early picture book creators who were honored in 1938. That’s all for future posts though. This post will focus on the 1938 Caldecott Medal winner Animals of the Bible and two honor books, Four and Twenty Blackbirds and Seven Simeons: A Russian Tale.

A brief overview of all the books:

Caldecott Honor titles

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Four and Twenty Blackbirds collected by Helen Dean Fish and illustrated by Robert Lawson

This book is a collection of individual nursery rhymes and songs accompanied by illustrations. The collection consists of some rhymes that were familiar and quite a few that were completely new to me. As might be expected of an older book, the violent content can be a bit surprising, particularly when characters kill each other. This content is not uncommon in nursery rhymes and folk tales though. The illustrations are black and white drawings accented with green. A few illustrations are full page drawings though the majority of them are smaller ones sprinkled throughout the book. Stylistically, I would say that the most noticeable aspect of the art is Lawson’s ability to capture movement in the drawings. Many of the characters can be seen running, jumping, and flying.

Image result for seven simeons artzybasheff

Seven Simeons: A Russian Tale retold and illustrated by Boris Artzybasheff

This title is one story accompanied by illustrations rather than a collection of shorter pieces like Four and Twenty Blackbirds. Compared to modern picture books, I would say that this title contains quite a bit more text. For the most part, each spread contains an illustration on the left and full-page text on the right. On a few occasions, there are decorative embellishments on the text pages. The story is a retelling of a Russian folk tale about seven brothers, all named Simeon, who help the tsar find a beautiful wife. I’m not familiar with Artzybasheff’s work, and I found his style quite lovely. The illustrations are done as fine-line ink drawings in a limited color scheme of black, red, green, and gold. The inclusion of the gold, as well as the use of lots of curves and swirls, helps to establish the regal setting of the story.

Caldecott Medalist

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Animals of the Bible text selected by Helen Dean Fish from the King James Bible and illustrated by Dorothy P. Lathrop

As with Four and Twenty Blackbirds this title also contains selections collected by Helen Dean Fish. These selections are a collection of passages from the Bible referring to animals. Most, but not all of the passages, are accompanied by full-page illustrations done by Lathrop. There are a few double-page spreads as well. The illustrations are realistic black and white drawings of animals (and sometimes humans).

Of the three illustrators featured in 1938, Lawson is the only one that was already familiar to me. I know his long list of credits includes The Story of FerdinandBen and Me, and Mr. Popper’s Penguins. I’m interested to learn more about Artzybasheff and Lathrop. I definitely want to learn more about Helen Dean Fish as well since she was responsible for the text for two of the three titles.

Taking this group of books as a whole, I would say what really strikes me is how different the formatting of them all is compared to modern picture books like those that typically win the Caldecott today. Though there are exceptions, such as Hugo Cabret and the graphic novel titles that have been honored in recent years, these books contain much more text and fewer illustrations. Of course, the separation of the text and illustrations in some cases may be due to the limitations of printing technology at the time. I’m sure that the limited color schemes has something to do with the technology, or perhaps the cost of printing multiple colors at the time.

What these books do have in common with later Caldecott winners and honors is the wide range of unique styles each illustrator possesses. Lathrop’s figures are the most realistic of the bunch, Lawson employs a bit more whimsy in depicting his human subjects, and Artzybasheff’s drawings are the most stylized.

So, that’s my review of the 1938 Caldecott. I’m looking forward to seeing where this journey takes me in the future. I definitely foresee some forays into picture book history, including learning more about the early creators.

Picture Book Independent Study Bibliography

A New Project

12 07 2018


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I am a firm believer in the idea of lifelong learning. I don’t think we should ever stop being curious, trying new things, or really digging into subjects we want to know more about. With that attitude in mind, I am starting a new project for myself. I’m calling it a “Picture Book Independent Study.”

Growing up I was an avid reader. I spent as much time as possible in my school library, and my mother made sure we made frequent visits to the public library to feed our book addiction. As an undergraduate, I took a children’s materials course intended for future teachers – just for fun. In 2000, I began working in the children’s department of a public library and knew that I had found my career path. I received my MLIS in 2003, and the majority of my courses were related to children’s services and children’s literature.

I love picture books. I know quite a bit about picture books from my years of reading, education, and eighteen years of working with children in a public library. Yet I know that there is always more to learn. So with this independent study I’m going to really dig in. I’m not completely sure where this journey will go. I have some plans in mind for certain topics I’d like to tackle, but I also want to be open to following different paths as they arise.

Of course, I will read LOTS of picture books. In particular, I’d like to do a year by year review of Caldecott Medal winners and honor books. I also want to do in-depth studies of picture book creators, both authors and illustrators. I’ll read books ABOUT picture books. I’ll learn more about illustration and art for children’s books. I’ll seek out podcasts and documentaries about picture books and picture book creators. I’ll read blogs and journal articles.

I am so excited to see where this leads!

Note: I will keep a running bibliography for the study, too.


Picture Book Independent Study Bibliography

12 07 2018

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Caldecott Titles



Fish, Helen Dean., and Dorothy Pulis Lathrop. Animals of the Bible: a Picture Book. F.A. Stokes, 1937.

Honor  Books:

Artzybasheff, Boris. Seven Simeons: A Russian Tale. New York: Viking Press, 2004.

Fish, Helen D, and Robert Lawson. Four and Twenty Blackbirds: Nursery Rhymes of Yesterday Recalled for Children of Today. New York: J.B. Lippencott Company, 1965.

Recommended Reads

Behrmann, Christine A. “Fish, Helen Dean (1889-1953).” Pioneers and Leaders in Library Services to Youth: A Biographical Dictionary. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2003. 70-71.

Davis, Mary Gould. “Helen Dean Fish, 1889-1953.” The Horn Book 29.2 (1953): 89.

Fish, Helen Dean. “The Spring-Green Lady: Eleanor Farjeon.” The Horn Book 6.1 (1930): 10-16.

Storytime Share: Music

28 06 2018

Our library participates in the Collaborative Summer Library Program. This year’s theme is “Libraries Rock”. So, I’m taking this opportunity to incorporate lots of music-themed books into my outreach storytimes this summer.


dance pookie

Let’s Dance, Little Pookie by Sandra Boynton; illustrated by the author

Dance the Pookie Shimmy with Little Pookie! Toddler

toot toot

Toot! Toot!: Guess the Instrument! by Cocoretto; illustrated by the author

In this lift-the-flap book, readers are asked to guess the instrument under the flap based on the sound it makes. Toddler


Miguel and the Grand Harmony by Matt de la Pena; illustrated by Ana Ramirez

Inspired by the Disney Pixar film Coco, La Música goes in search of someone to help create the “Grand Harmony” and finds Miguel, a boy who longs to make music of his own despite his family’s dislike of it. Early Elementary


The Bremen Town Musicians by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm; illustrated by Hans Fischer

The traditional tale of four down-on-their-luck animals who set out to join the Bremen town band and end up thwarting a band of robbers and taking over their house to live happily ever after. Early Elementary

pied piper

The Pied Piper of Hamelin by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm; illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger

In this beautifully illustrated version of the classic story, the mysterious Pied Piper rids a town of a plague of rats, but then leads away their children when the town refuses to compensate him for his work. Early Elementary

mama allow

Mama Don’t Allow by Thacher Hurd; illustrated by the author

Miles and the Swamp Band take a job performing on a riverboat for a group of music-loving alligators, they soon find out that they are not only the entertainment but dinner, too. Preschool; Early Elementary


The Punkydoos Take the Stage by Jennifer Jackson; illustrated by Dan Andreasen

Lexi-Lou loves to sing, so she sets out on a search to find the perfect musicians to round out her preschool band. Preschool

punk farm

Punk Farm by Jarrett Krosoczka; illustrated by the author

The animals on Farmer Joe’s farm lead a secret life as punk rockers when the sun goes down. Toddler; Preschool

bear piano

The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield; illustrated by the author

When a bear finds a piano in the woods and learns to play it, he travels the world sharing his talents, but discovers that his favorite audience is his bear friends back home. Preschool; Early Elementary


Squeak, Rumble, Whomp! Whomp! Whomp! by Wynton Marsalis; illustrated by Paul Rogers

A young boy explores the music created by the sounds all around him. Preschool; Early Elementary

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Quiet Loud by Leslie Patricelli; illustrated by the author

Patricelli’s adorable baby character returns in this exploration of quiet and loud sounds. Toddler


Don’t Forget Dexter! by Lindsay Ward; illustrated by the author

Toy dinosaur Dexter becomes anxious when his friend Jack leaves him in the doctor’s office waiting room and doesn’t come back even when he sings their special song. Preschool


Song: “Old MacDonald” with Punk Farm masks from Jarrett Krosoczka’s website

Flannel: “The Trumpet Went Toot, Toot, Toot” from In the Children’s Room blog


Storytime Share: Rainbows

17 05 2018



Little Pip and the Rainbow Wish by Elizabeth Baguley; illustrated by Caroline Pedler

Shy mouse Pip wants to catch a rainbow to give to Spike and Milly so they will be his friends, but his plan takes an unexpected twist. Preschool, Early Elementary


A Rainbow of My Own by Don Freeman; illustrated by the author

A young child imagines what it would be like to have a rainbow as a friend and playmate. Preschool, Early Elementary


Wow! Said the Owl by Tim Hopgood; illustrated by the author

Instead of sleeping, owl spends one special day awake exploring all the bright colors in the world around him. Toddler, Preschool


Color Surprises: A Pop-Up Book by Chuck Murphy; illustrated by the author

Flaps and pop-ups reveal a surprise on each color-themed page. Toddler, Preschool


What Makes a Rainbow? by Betty Schwartz; illustrated by Dona Turner

Little Rabbit discovers all the colors that make up a rainbow in this creative “magic ribbon” pop-up book. Toddler, Preschool


Baby Bear Sees Blue by Ashley Wolff; illustrated by the author

Baby Bear sets out to explore the meadow beyond his den, encountering a rainbow of colors along the journey. Toddler, Preschool


Rain Is Falling Down

“Itsy Bitsy Spider”

What Color Are You Wearing?” from Teaching Mama blog

Activity: “Book Bear” flannel game

This flannel story is similar to the “Little Mouse” flannel that can be found in multiple resources.  In that flannel, you hide a mouse behind houses of various colors and have the children guess where the mouse is hiding.  In this version, I hide a bear, which I call “Book Bear”, behind one of eight book-shaped flannel pieces and have the children find him.  We’re fortunate enough to have a die cut machine at my library, so I used our book shape die cut to make eight book pieces, each a different color.

Before I begin the flannel with the children I explain to them how it works, hiding the bear behind one of the books as I talk.  Then I place the books on the flannel one at a time, being careful not to let them see which one has the bear behind it.  After the books are all on the board, I go through the colors with the kids and then let them start guessing.  With each guess, I point to the particular book, and ask them, “Is Book Bear behind the (insert color) book?”  Then we chant together, “Book Bear, Book Bear, are you under there?”  Then I pull the book off to reveal either a blank space or Book Bear.  I usually try to finagle the game so that Book Bear is under the last book I remove.  This flannel story (and its many variations) is ALWAYS a hit, and kids of all ages love it. Since this was my last visit of the school year with many of my groups, Book Bear had to make one last appearance.