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The ABC's of being a children's Librarian

The Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen

The circus ship

The Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen

Picture Books

Ages: 3-5

Topics: Circus animals, friendship,

Find this book at your local library

This cute book is actually based on true events from 1836. A ship, The Royal Tar, was traveling from New Brunswick to Maine ran into a gale and sank, taking much of the passengers and animals with it. Although it seems like the elephant managed to swim to the nearby Brimstone Island.

This book tells the story of circus animals worked to the bone by their mean owner Mr. Paine. When the ship sank, he could only think of rescuing himself. As the animals swam all night to find a safe place to stay. They came across an island and quickly tried to blend in, although they didn’t do a very good job. Although the townspeople were bothered by their presence, they soon began to form a friendship. A friendship that helped save the animals from their owner Mr. Paine’s return.

The book is told in rhyme and really is really fun to read. It’s definitely too lengthy for the baby/toddler age range (0-3). But I think the preschoolers will really enjoy the story. Who wouldn’t?

The people in the neighborhood

had just begun to rise,

and when they saw those animals,

they had to rub their eyes.

They thought they saw an elephant -

but wait, how could that be?

And what’s that little monkey doing

in the cherry tree?

The animals cause some havoc when they first arrive at the island, but soon they make this island their home. Although the true story has a very depressing ending, this retelling puts a happier spin on the story. What is the most appealing about this book though, are the illustrations. They are beautifully detailed works of art. The jeweled tones add a richness to this book, highlighting facial expressions and making everything stand out more.

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The Tiny King by Taro Miura

The tiny king

The Tiny King by Taro Miura

Picture Books

Ages: 3-5

Topics: family, size, happiness

Find this book at your local library

This is the story of the Tiny King who lives in a world where everything is too big, and too lonely for him. He lives in a big castle, he eats at a big table, and  he has a huge bathtub.

The Tiny King ate alone at a big, big table.

A huge feast of delicious food was laid out every day.

But the Tiny King was just one tiny person.

He could never finish so much food all my himself.

One day he meets a big princess that they have a rather large family together (ten children).  Before long, everything that was too big for the Tiny King, becomes just the right size for his family. It is a cute little book, minimal story, but wonderful illustrations. The art covers many concepts, from colors to numbers and letters. What drew my eye to this title are the illustrations. Knowing that Miura is a graphic designer explains much of his work. The bright, bold cutouts, the use of collage and Japanese print are eye-catching, and wonderful to look at. There are so many small details on each page. You could spend so much time on just page to take it all in.

About the author (from the publisher):

Taro Miura is an award-winning illustrator and graphic designer. He is the author-illustrator of Ton and Tools, and his work has been shown several times at the Bologna Illustrator’s Exhibition.

About The Tiny King, he says, “its a simple story about a lonely king whose life is completely changed by having a family. If this story reminds the fathers, mothers and children who read it about the joy of having a family, it will make me very happy.” Taro Miura lives in Japan.

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Recess Mess by Grace Maccarone

Recess mess

Recess Mess by Grace Maccarone

Easy Reader

Age: 5+

Topics: Recess, reading, school

Find this book at your local library

Its recess time at school, and the kids are outside playing and having fun until Sam has to use the bathroom. But, he doesn’t know how to read the signs on the door and isn’t sure which one he is supposed to enter.

There is so much I love about this book. First, there is so much diversity. The kids are an even mix of genders and cultures, even including one child in a wheelchair. What I like is that nothing is depicted as special or unique. This class is just a bunch of kids having fun at recess. I like Sam’s trick for figuring out which bathroom is his. I especially like how he used this opportunity to learn new words, as well as to teach himself how to spell. Kids will enjoy this book for its easy rhymes, and its easy-to-relate-to storyline. The simple sentences and rhymes will help new readers figure out the words on the page.

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My Tooth is about to Fall Out by Grace Maccarone

My Tooth Is About to Fall Out.

My Tooth is About to Fall Out by Grace Maccarone

Easy Reader

Age: 5+

Topics: Teeth

Find this book at your local library

Losing your first tooth is a huge milestone for young children. This cute little book does a wonderful job of conveying the emotions children go through when they start feeling that loose tooth wiggle and jiggle. I love the rhymes in the book. They have a nice flow to them. The illustrations are a bit dated, but still relevant to children today. I’d recommend this book for K to 1st grade readers. The book is made up of short sentences made up of simple words that kids are familiar with and will be able to sound out using phonics skills.

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I Spy on the Farm by Edward Gibbs

I Spy on the Farm by Edward Gibbs
Picture Book
Age: 0-5
Topics: Farm animals,
Find this book at your local library

I Spy on the Farm by Edward Gibbs is a wonderfully illustrated book about spotting farm animals. This book is perfect for toddlers and preschoolers. I like that the book is actually the I Spy game, but using animals, their colors and sounds, as clues.

I spy with my little eye….

Something yellow that begins with a D.

There are a total of 7 animals with clues. I like that at the very end of the book, there is a hole in the last few pages and the back cover, prompting the reader with “What can you spy with your little eye?” The illustrations are mostly the primary colors, with the animals taking up the majority of the page. They are kind of Nina Laden’s Peek-A series, with a giant hole cut in the pages with the clue, providing a sneak peek of the answer. I plan on using this for my story time. Its a great one for small kids, but I think older kids will enjoy it as well.

Uses for story time

I like it for story time, because it’s a fun, interactive book for a wide span of age-ranges. I can also use the last page as an easy transition back into my songs routine, as well as use it as opportunity to include an I Spy game into the program.

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Reading to Children = Better Brain Development

Now that the American Pediatric Society is on board and campaigning for parents to start reading to their children from a very early age, there have been a slew of articles and interviews floating around the Internet on this topic. Here’s a little round-up for your interests.

Dr. Pamela High, a renowned pediatrician and spokesperson for the Academy, says:

What we’re addressing is that many parents in the United States don’t seem to have the knowledge that there’s a wonderful opportunity available to them, starting very early, an opportunity for them to begin building their child’s language development and to forge their own relationship with their child through reading to them on a regular basis.

I think one key theme that is missing in all these articles is knowing which book is appropriate for your child. Parents are told to get board books for their infants, but did you know that newborns prefer high contrast (black and white) books? Or that choosing books that are mostly illustrations with maybe one to 5 words per page is the right pace for your not-yet-one-year-old? I’ve learned these through trial and error, particularly with my 3+ years of baby storytime. The sooner you start and the more often you read, you’ll see your child attention span growing. Its one of those things where you don’t notice until you realize that there are a pile of books by your side and an eager toddler snatching them up one by one. This blog post actually has a great selection of titles for new parents. These titles can be used a guide for picking age appropriate books for your child (if they are between the ages of 0 and 2)

My tips for incorporating reading to children? These are tips I’ve used as a mother, but I’ve also developed some of these observations from my time as a children’s librarian.

  1. I left books out on the mat during tummy time, so that they were natural a part of my baby’s life.
  2. Once he started pulling books off the bookshelf, I cleared off an entire shelf and replaced my books with his. As soon as I saw him taking his books off the shelf, I would sit down and read with him.
  3. We read to him every night
  4. We sang nursery songs from birth. Once he made the connection that these songs where in one of our books, he began bringing that book to us daily. Often the book would already be open to a particular song.
  5. We follow his attention span, and stop reading when he loses interest.
  6. As it turns out, we rarely have to initiate. He’ll bring us books, or lead us to the bookshelf picking book after book. We’ve read up to 10 books in a row, start to finish (he’s 16.5 months).
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Olivia and the Fairy Princesses by Ian Falconer

Olivia and the Fairy Princesses by Ian…

Olivia and the Fairy Princesses by Ian Falconer
Age: Preschool – Kindergarten
Genre: Fiction / Identities
Find this book at your local library

Fans of Ian Falconer’s Olivia books will be quite puzzled by Olivia’s pink outfit on the cover. If that isn’t enough to draw you into the book, then I’m not sure what is.

Not one to follow the crowd, Olivia bemoans the whole “little girls as princesses” frame of thought in this book. I’m not one for the princess thing either, so this book definitely won me over. Olivia points are valid, the illustrations are humorous and lighthearted, even the topic is somewhat serious. Olivia is a girl who knows who she is and what she wants. What she doesn’t want is to follow to crowd, what she does want is to have more options available to her than things that are pink and frilly. Olivia is an exceptional role model for young girls.

There is definitely a bizarre influx of pink for girls and blue for boys in regards to everything the mainstream media can get their hands on. Toys, clothes, even bedding. Young children are given very few choices when it comes to individualizing their identies. Its almost ingrained in their head from birth to differentiate genders just by the colors of their clothing. Its frustrating. I never grew up with pink (and I am thankful for it). My parents never raised me to be their little princess. I grew up as me, with all my faults and exceptional traits. Olivia takes a stand against the pink, against the typecasting, against the bias that girls are dainty and boys aren’t (ie her awesome warthog costume for Halloween). I love the Olivia books, and I admire Ian Falconer for creating a character as unique, charasmatic and bold as Olivia for young girls to emulate.

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Read It, Don’t Eat It! by Ian Schoenherr

Read it, don't eat it!

Read It, Don’t Eat It! by Ian Schoenherr
Picture Books
Age: 0-3
Topics: Library books, library etiquette,
Find this book at your local library

This is a fun little book to share with class visits, or when going to the library with your toddler. It covers all the basic library etiquette rules: renew – don’t be overdue, don’t eat your books, borrow – don’t steal, etc. Each little rule is accompanied by a really fun illustration. An elephant sneezing on a book, cheeks bright red and puffy. A rabbit in a magician’s hat trying to magical fix rips and tears on a page. I’m kind of highlighting this book just for my own reference. The wording is so simple though, that’s mostly geared towards the preschool and younger group. Even then, I think a few 4 and 5 year olds might find it too simple, and would want something more advanced. But its a great way to introduce your baby or new toddler to the world of libraries and books and taking care of things you borrow and share with others.

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Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson

Bear snores on

Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson
Picture Books
Age: 3-6
Topics: Hibernation, forest animals, bears, winter, friendship
Find this book at your local library

While Bear snores through the winter, his forest friends come into his cave, one by one, sharing food, stories and fun by the fire until they accidentally wake bear up…

I love the Bear books by Karma Wilson. They are delightful stories about friendships, and compassion. From Bear Feels Sick to Bear Says Thanks, these books are a great way to teach young children about community and caring. Karma Wilson has a wonderful way with words, with the pages reading fluidly with her rhyme scheme.


    the bear

        WAKES UP!


and he SNARLS


and he RUMBLES


and he STOMPS



This is a great book for a winter or hibernation story time theme. Or even one to read when planning a camping session with the kids.

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Birds by Kevin Henkes


Birds by Kevin Henkes
Picture Books
Age: Birth to 5
Topics: Birds, Nature
Find this book at your local library

This delightful, yet informative, book by Kevin Henkes looks at the types of birds in our lives. It is a very simple book, great for baby story times, but is also one the older kids will enjoy. The book covers the different colors of birds, how they resemble a lone leaf on an empty tree, or how some birds are so black that you can’t see their eyes. I liked the page about all the birds sitting on the telephone wire, not moving, until the narrator looked away for just one second and they all flew away.

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