The pigeon receives an unforgettable lesson in politeness in Mo Willems’ hilarious The Duckling Gets a Cookie!?
All the duckling wants is a cookie, and just by asking politely he is rewarded with a large cookie full of nuts. The duckling’s happiness comes to a sudden end, however, when the pigeon spots the cookie. The pigeon asks the duckling how he got the cookie, and is flabbergasted to learn the duckling got the cookie just by asking. An indignant pigeon then tells the duckling all the things he asks for – from driving the bus to his own personal iceberg – but never seems to get. The pigeon’s lamentations finally come to an end when the ducking surprises him with an unexpected act of kindness.
Warm and humorous, The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? is a fun book that gently reinforces the importance of being polite. Willems’ illustrations are simple but effective, consisting of little more than the pigeon, duckling, and cookie set against a plain and uncluttered background. Willems’ dry humor will also appeal to older readers who will sympathize with the duckling’s request at the end of the story.
Check the WRL catalog for The Duckling Gets a Cookie!?
Read Full Post »
“Hi, Pizza Man!” by Virginia Walter, with illustrations by Ponder Goembel, was inarguably the biggest hit of the pizza-themed toddler storytime I led last spring. My listeners loved the story’s humor and frequent opportunities for audience participation. Since then, I have read this book to a variety of groups, and it has never let me down. At the beginning of the story, young Vivian and her mother are waiting for a pizza to be delivered to their house. Every page spread in the book features a view of the same room in Vivian’s house, with her front door (sometimes closed, sometimes open) always appearing on the right-hand page. To pass the time while they wait, Vivian’s mother asks her what she’ll say when the doorbell rings and she opens the door. The girl’s answer is, “Hi, Pizza Man!” These words are accompanied by a picture of a man standing in the open doorway, holding a pizza box. On the next page, the door is closed again, and Vivian’s mother asks, “What if it’s not a pizza man? What if it’s a pizza woman? Then what will you say?” The answer, of course, is “Hi, Pizza Woman!” and is accompanied by an illustration of an elegant woman delivering a pizza. Vivian’s mother then invites her to imagine a variety of comically-dressed animals delivering the pizza. Vivian plans to greet each animal by making its sound. For example, to the cat wearing a top hat and cape, she’ll say, “Meow meow, Pizza Kitty!” This book offers listeners lots of opportunities to practice waving and making animal sounds to greet each imaginary pizza deliverer. At the end of the story, the doorbell rings. The pizza has arrived, and the reader finally gets to find out which person or animal is delivering Vivian’s dinner. This book’s silly humor appeals to young children. Animals don’t deliver pizza or wear fancy clothing, so it’s funny to see them doing these things in the story. “Hi, Pizza Man!” is a great read-aloud for toddlers and preschoolers, either in a group or one-on-one. I plan to read this sure-fire winner to many young listeners in 2014.
Check the WRL catalog for “Hi, Pizza Man!”
Read Full Post »
Boo and Baa Have Company by Lena and Olof Landström is charming picture book filled with droll humor. The story is translated from Swedish, and stars Boo and Baa, a male and female sheep whose good intentions get them into sticky situations. Other books featuring these characters include Boo and Baa in Windy Weather, Boo and Baa at Sea, and Boo and Baa on a Cleaning Spree. In Boo and Baa Have Company, the two sheep are raking leaves when they notice a cat sitting on a high tree branch. Believing that the cat is afraid to climb down, Boo and Baa try various methods to tempt it from the tree. Their attempts to help go awry, leading to slapstick humor in the illustrations paired with deadpan humor in the text. Boo and Baa eventually decide that maybe the cat prefers to be in the tree, and they go inside and go to sleep. At the end of the story, only the reader sees that the cat has climbed in through the window and fallen asleep on the rug in the sheep’s bedroom.
Boo and Baa Have Company features colorful line drawings. Boo, Baa, and the cat are the only characters, and they all have very expressive faces and bodies. On some pages, the text describes exactly what is happening in the illustrations. For example, when Baa is greasing the axle of the wheelbarrow, the text reads, “She greases the axle.” This supportive relationship between image and text could be helpful for young readers who are unfamiliar with the concept of greasing an axle. On other pages, however, the spare text provides droll commentary on the action taking place. For example, one attempt to rescue the cat leaves Boo stranded in the tree. When Baa tries to use a rope to lower Boo to the ground, both sheep fly into the air and fall into a leaf pile. Instead of describing the action on these pages, the text simply reads, “Baa is lighter than Boo. She hasn’t eaten any sandwiches. It’s lucky there is a pile of leaves.” Text like this requires the reader to pay attention to the illustrations. When I read this book aloud to kindergarteners, I had several opportunities to invite the kids to describe what was happening in the story. These listeners especially enjoyed the spread where Baa is making a variety of “disgusting” sandwiches, including a cucumber sandwich and a sardine sandwich. I shared Boo and Baa Have Company at a fall-themed storytime. It was nice to have a book in which autumn is the setting but not the focus of the story. This funny book would work well year-round as a read-aloud for preschool and up.
Check the WRL catalog for Boo and Baa Have Company.
Read Full Post »
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.
Read Full Post »
‘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.
Read Full Post »
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.
Read Full Post »
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.
Read Full Post »
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.
Read Full Post »
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.
Read Full Post »
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.
Read Full Post »