The best picture books for little ones are simple enough to delight the toddlers, and clever enough to make the grownups smile. Rrralph is one of those.
For starters, it is simple enough that even your dog could read it. That’s because Rrralph is the story of a dog that can talk. The narrator asks Ralph his name, and he replies, “Ralph! Ralph!” He goes for a walk past a tree covered in, “Bark! Bark! Bark!” And later he encounters a scary, “Wolf! Wolf!”
You get the idea. Children love joining along with Ralph. And Ehlert’s dog, with button eyes, an aluminum pop-top nose and mouth made out of a zipper, is wonderful to watch romp across the page.
This story is perfect with a group or one-on-one. I’ve shared it many times with babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers, and I wouldn’t hesitate to use it with kindergarteners or first-graders.
Check the WRL catalog for Rrralph.
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‘Tis the season for family car trips. If you’re looking for a story to get everybody in the mood, Rattletrap Car is full of rhyme, silliness and wonderful sounds.
Junie, Jakie and the baby beg Papa to take them to the lake, but he’s worried about their rattletrap car, because “it doesn’t go fast and it doesn’t go far.” But they load it up anyway with a surfboard, toy boat, a beach ball and a giant tub of chocolate marshmallow fudge delight and off they go. But they don’t get far when, Boom—ssssss! A tire goes flat.
But remember that beach ball? It’s the perfect spare, and they glue it on with handfuls of chocolate marshmallow fudge delight. And off they go again, until . . . another part of the car dies or falls off. Along the way the car gets noisier and noisier, with sounds like wappity bappity, lumpety bumpety, clinkety clankety, bing bang pop!
And all those toys and the chocolate marshmallow fudge delight come in very handy!
This is a great read for preschoolers through kindergarten. The large illustrations are wonderful to use with a class.
Check the WRL catalog for Rattletrap Car.
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I don’t generally use cumulative tales in story time, because they bore me. But The Napping House is one, glorious exception.
This is the story of how a wakeful flea disrupts the slumbering mouse, on the snoozing cat, on the dozing dog, on the dreaming child, on the snoring granny, on a cozy bed in a napping house where everyone is sleeping. It works so well because Audrey Wood’s text sounds so good, and her husband’s pictures are so big and funny.
Like all good illustrations, Wood’s images give observant children the chance to find more in the story. The next animal to climb on top of the bed is always waking up on the page before. And if you’re sharing the book one-on-one, you can even see the flea hopping closer to the bed page by page.
This is the perfect story to read and then share again as a flannel board. And if you go to the Woods’ web page, you’ll find printable coloring pages for the story. You’ll find that page here:
Check the WRL catalog for The Napping House.
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Sally and the Purple Socks by Lisze Bechtold was a big hit at my recent sock-themed school-age storytime. The audience, which was mostly kindergarteners, found the book’s humor very appealing. Also, several of them told me they were excited to hear the story because they love the color purple. After I read Sally and the Purple Socks, one of the kindergarten teachers in attendance jotted down the title so she can read the book to her class again soon. At the beginning of the story, Sally (a duck) opens a package containing a pair of tiny purple socks and a note indicating that the socks will “grow to the size ordered.” The socks soon expand to fit Sally’s feet, but instead of stopping there they just keep growing. Sally is very resourceful, so each time the socks get bigger she finds a new use for them. When they no longer fit her feet, she wears them as a hat and scarf. Later they serve as curtains, blankets, a carpet, and even a giant circus tent. Will Sally’s purple socks ever stop growing?
In her illustrations, Bechtold uses a limited color palette that makes the purple socks stand out on every page. Even when they are huge, the socks retain their shape, with rounded toes, turned heels, and ribbing on the cuffs. On some pages, the illustrations tell parts of the story that are left out of the text. For example, Sally turning the socks into curtains is only shown in the pictures and not described with words. Readers will want to be sure that all their audience members have a good view of the book, and may want to ask listeners to explain what’s happening on the pages where the plot occurs only in the pictures. Text is also absent on the spread where Sally and her friends are putting on a circus performance. At storytime, I asked my audience to describe the different acts that are part of the circus. Readers may also want to fill out the sparse text with their own words. For example, the purple background of the circus scenes may not be sufficient for all audience members to understand that the circus is taking place beneath a tent made from Sally’s socks. Since Sally and the Purple Socks worked so well with the kindergarteners, I’m eager to also share it with preschoolers and early elementary-aged kids this fall. Since my listeners were so excited about the purple in this story, I’m planning a color-themed storytime where I’ll read this book and others that prominently feature different colors.
Check the WRL catalog for Sally and the Purple Socks.
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Whatever by William Bee is charming and very funny. This spring, several of the librarians in my department passed this book around, taking turns sharing it at elementary schools. The book tells the story of Billy, a boy who is not easily impressed. No matter what his dad shows him (a giraffe, the world’s bounciest castle, or even the edge of outer space), Billy just responds with a bored expression and the word, “Whatever.” When I read this book aloud, I encourage my audience join in on the refrain of “Whatever,” and to say it with plenty of attitude. Near the end of the story, Billy’s dad tries to impress his son by introducing him to the world’s hungriest tiger. This fateful meeting leads to a surprise ending that makes many children and adults laugh out loud.
Though William Bee’s illustrations were created digitally, they look old-fashioned. Details in the illustrations hint that the story is set many decades ago. Billy’s dad wears a fedora, and at one point in the story he and his son ride on a steam-powered train. Some of the illustrations feature unusual patterns and designs. For example, a giraffe’s long neck is patterned with lines and numbers like a yardstick. Though the pictures are colorful and often busy, they are not overwhelming because they have plenty of white space surrounding them. I have enjoyed sharing Whatever with groups of students at elementary and middle schools. Although the book looks quite simple, its concept and humor appeal most to older children. This very short story makes for a nice break between longer books, or is a great way to end a read-aloud session with laughter.
Check the WRL catalog for Whatever.
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Exclamation Mark by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld is a clever picture book filled with punctuation-related puns. Rosenthal and Lichtenheld tell the story of an exclamation mark who is tired of not fitting in with the periods around him. His outlook changes when he meets a question mark, who of course can’t stop asking questions (“Do you like frogs?” “Who’s taller, you or me?” “What’s your favorite color?”). The question mark interrogates him so intensely that the exclamation mark finally has to yell “STOP!” When he shouts this, the exclamation mark discovers his purpose. He had no idea that he had the power to make words into exclamations. He’s so excited that he can’t stop shouting a variety of phrases (“Home run!” “Congratulations!” “Boo!”). He immediately runs to show the periods his discovery and introduce them to his inquisitive new friend.
The illustrations in Exclamation Mark are simple and clean. The mostly black-and-white drawings are set on a background of ruled handwriting paper. When color appears, it has a dramatic effect. It’s used most effectively on the pages where the exclamation mark is discovering his purpose. Each word or phrase he shouts appears in a different color. On most pages, the text and characters sit on the ruled lines as expected, but occasionally they defy these rules. For example, on a page where the exclamation mark is running and shouting, his dialogue is set diagonally, crossing over several sets of ruled lines.
Readers need to use very expressive voices when sharing Exclamation Mark with an audience. The book is filled with exclamatory and interrogative sentences that require special intonation patterns. It’s also important for readers to use effective voice pacing, especially on the page where the question mark is peppering the exclamation mark with a barrage of questions. If a reader goes through the list of questions too slowly, the desired effect will be missing, and the next page (the exclamation mark yelling “STOP!”) won’t be as dramatic. Readers should definitely practice their presentation of Exclamation Mark prior to sharing it with an audience. Though it looks simple at first glance, this book is best for older listeners who have learned about the functions of basic punctuation marks. They will be able to understand the reasons behind the characters’ behavior and catch the pun-based humor. I’ve enjoyed sharing this story with elementary and middle schoolers. I like to make the book more interactive by inviting my audience to read aloud with me from the pages where the exclamation mark is shouting. It’s fun to hear the room fill with a chorus of voices exclaiming, “Look out!” and “Yum!” and “Encore!”
Check the WRL catalog for Exclamation Mark.
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A cute little fish has a bright blue bowler hat. It’s adorable and fits the fish perfectly; however, the fish stole the hat from an even bigger fish that is determined to get its hat back. The hat theft and its aftermath form the basis for author and illustrator Jon Klassen’s Caldecott Medal-winning This Is Not My Hat.
Like Klassen’s 2011 book I Want My Hat Back, the story is simple and told with a minimal number of words. The illustrations move the story forward and give it subtlety and depth. Klassen keeps the color palette consistent throughout the book. The fish, proudly wearing its stolen hat, is swimming in a sea of blacks, browns, and blues. Although the smaller fish is the only character that speaks in the book, Klassen skillfully develops the personality of the larger fish through a variety of facial expressions. Words are not necessary to understand the larger fish and its mission.
Children who enjoyed the clever humor of Klassen’s I Want My Hat Back will enjoy This Is Not My Hat
Check the WRL catalog for This Is Not My Hat.
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A rabbit’s love of carrots gets the best of him in Aaron Reynolds’ hilarious mystery Creepy Carrots, a 2013 Caldecott Honor book.
Jasper Rabbit loves carrots, especially the ones he finds in Crackenhopper Field. Since the carrots are free, Jasper helps himself to as many carrots as he wants. He considers himself a very lucky rabbit…until the day the carrots start following him. At first, he thinks he is imagining things, but then he starts seeing the carrots everywhere. Convinced the carrots are coming for him, Jasper hatches a plan to ensure the carrots stay in Crackenhopper Field – permanently.
Reynolds, a 2010 Edgar Allan Poe Mystery Award nominee for Creepy Crawly Crime, has written a story that is suspenseful, but not too scary for young children. The humor in the story comes from the antics of the carrots, which are more playful and mischievous than sinister. Peter Brown’s creative illustrations convey Jasper’s enthusiasm for the carrots and his growing sense of unease when he believes the carrots are following him. The illustrations are in black and white, with the exception of the carrots, which are in full color. This approach is effective because the reader is just as surprised as Jasper when the carrots start to appear.
Parents and teachers looking for a fall or Halloween-themed storytime book may want to consider Creepy Carrots.
Check the WRL catalog for Creepy Carrots.
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Can a pickle out run a posse made up of various foods that include a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a fat braided pretzel, raisins and even an ice cream cone with sprinkles? You bet when it’s a pickle determined not to be eaten! This is a hilarious story of the last pickle in the pickle jar. Mr. Adolph runs a deli and when his customer Mrs. Elmira Deeds walks in and requests the last pickle, things get a little strange.
The pickle doesn’t want to be eaten and so escapes to the horror of Mrs. Elmira Deeds who lets out an, “Eeek!”
The pickle runs out the door with Mr. Adolph in pursuit shouting, “Stop that pickle!” After a bit Mr. Adolph becomes pooped out and sits down on the curb.
Near by a peanut butter sandwich hears the commotion and decides to continue the chase shouting, “Stop that pickle!”
The pickle and the peanut butter sandwich pass a bake shop where a fat braided pretzel joins the chase and also shouts out, “Stop that pickle!”
The chase continues on with more and more food items joining in and each one shouting, “Stop that pickle!”
As the pickle rounds the corner of a building, however, the chase abruptly comes to an end when he runs smack into a boy and falls flat on the sidewalk.
The other foods that had been in pursuit cry out, “You’ve caught the pickle!”
To which the boy says, “What should I do with him?”
Want to know what happened? Then you have to check this book out.
The humor is just right for children ages five to ten who will find it a hoot and hard to resist when it comes to saying, “Stop that pickle!”
Check the WRL catalog for Stop that Pickle!
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Dinosaur vs. Bedtime by Bob Shea is one of my favorite books to read aloud. I love it so much that I created this booktrailer to advertise it:
This humorous story is filled with bold illustrations in bright colors. Dinosaur is fire engine red with impressive rows of sharp white teeth. The simple language and repetitive plot make the story easy for young listeners to follow. Dinosaur’s activities are familiar (jumping in a pile of leaves, going down a slide, taking a bath, etc.), and his energy is infectious. A read-aloud session with this story is sure to include lots of enthusiastic roaring.
Fans of Dinosaur will be excited to learn that he also stars in Dinosaur vs. the Potty, Dinosaur vs. the Library, and Dinosaur vs. Santa. Bob Shea’s other bold, entertaining picture books include I’m a Shark and Race You to Bed.
Check the WRL catalog for Dinosaur vs. Bedtime.
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