Throw a Noon Year’s Eve Party!

I’ve been thinking about a Noon Year’s Eve party for the last year or so. I’ve heard librarians talk about them, and I’ve thought, “That would be fun!” (I got some great ideas for mine from this Facebook post on Storytime Underground.) And let me tell you, IT IS! We did one this year at my library and it was fabulous. We had a great time, a GREAT turnout (125 people!), and if you are like me and have been thinking of throwing one, I think you should mark your calendar for next year and do it.

What We Did:

1. Explained New Year’s Eve. Our party was aimed at ages 2-5, and for a lot of those kiddos, this might be the first time they are really aware of the new year. So I talked about how we were in 2015, but soon it would be 2016, and that lots of people like to celebrate that. Mostly, I tried to set the tone that this was a party!

Hooray for Hat2. Read a Book. To span the age group for our party, I read Hooray for Hat by Brian Won, and it was the perfect book! All of the kids loved yelling “HOORAY FOR HAT!” with me, and it was a fun book to set the tone.

Party Hat

photo credit: new year’s hat via photopin (license)

3. Make a Craft. To go along with our book, we made party hats. A coworker and a volunteer manned this station. Our hats were really easy: we put out paper bowls (the hats), a bunch of craft supplies (tiny cut out hearts and stars, sticky jewels, pompoms, and feathers), glue, a hole punch (to punch holes in the hats), and yarn (to tie the hats onto heads, if people wanted to). The amazing creativity we saw from the kids was wonderful. There were lots of beautiful hats. Since we had such a big group, this took a lot longer than I anticipated, and meant I had to shuffle around the rest of the party plan, but it worked out just fine.

Balloon Drop

photo credit: IMG_7218 via photopin (license)

4. BALLOON DROP AT NOON! To me, this is the essential part of the party. It was so magical! I made the balloon drop using the instructions on this site. I actually had to make two of them to accommodate all of the balloons. It was amazing to see the looks on the kiddos faces when the balloons dropped. The countdown, the balloons, the joy–it was amazing to watch! One thing to be aware of: it’s super cheap to make the balloon drop using the site I did, but it is time consuming to make and to set up. Next year, I’m going to look into buying a balloon drop kit. If you want to see pictures of the event, my library has some on its Facebook page.

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Mock Caldecott Program: Wrap Up

Now that we know the winners of the ALA Youth Media Awards, I wanted to talk about what worked and what didn’t for the Caldecott book club program we tried over the month of January at my library. You can read weekly wrap ups of the program here.

caldecott-medalHere’s how it worked: We had a book club every Thursday afternoon in January (4 total) where we read 4 different contenders. The attendees voted on their favorite books. Then we put the books out on display and allowed all library patrons to vote on their favorites for the week. Before the next book club, we counted the votes and picked the finalist for the week. The last week (in theory–more on that later), we put out the finalists from the last weeks of voting and our winner was selected from those. The winners were selected by having the most votes–we didn’t have patrons rank the books from 1-4 and give different points values based on those rankings. As I talked about here, our mock Caldecott winner was the winner of the actual Caldecott: The Adventures of Beekle by Dan Santat. That was super exciting and unexpected.

What worked:

  • The passive portion of the program. This was incredibly fun to watch. Patrons loved coming in and reading the books and voting on them. It wasn’t unusual to see families reading them together, talking about them, discussing their relative merits–so cool!
  • Reading the books in the book club with the kids. This was so eye-opening for me. Most of the books we chose are too long for regular storytime, so it was really fun to be able to read longer books with older kids. Seeing how they reacted to the books was fascinating–I learned that wordless books didn’t seem to grab them in the way that more traditional picture books did (of course, it was a really small group, so an obviously limited sample size). But just seeing what they loved and what they were less interested in changed my own personal opinion about a lot of these books.
  • Picking a good combination of books every week. We tried to have at least one wordless book, a nonfiction book, and a traditional picture book every week. The mix was nice and exposed our patrons to a lot of different books over the course of the program.

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Mock Caldecott Results! (In Which I am Surprised and Excited!)

I’m so excited to announce that my library’s Mock Caldecott results and the actual Caldecott results are the SAME BOOK! I honestly did not expect this, and am BEYOND THRILLED. I’m sorry but I can’t stop typing in ALL CAPS!

And the winner is (I’m assuming everyone who reads this blog knows this already but just in case)…

The Adventures of Beekle! An awesome choice for Caldecott.

The Adventures of Beekle! An awesome choice for Caldecott.

As I mentioned in my post about the first week of our Caldecott book club, The Adventures of Beekle had an amazing amount of kid appeal. The kids loved it, and every single person in the book club that day voted for it to win. I know our patrons will be thrilled that they picked the same book as the Caldecott committee!

Mock Caldecott: Week 3 and Finalists!

I talked about our Mock Caldecott program set up here, so it’s time to talk about our week 3 books and the three finalists for our library!

Week Three Books and Book Club: Sadly, no one showed up to our week 3 book club, so I can’t talk about how these books worked with the kids. I’ll do a mock Caldecott wrap up sometime next week, but suffice it to say that while the passive part of the program was a lot of fun and worked really well, the actual book club was less successful.

gravityGravity, written and illustrated by Jason Chin. There’s something fun and lovely in the illustrations here. There’s also some humor and wit in the illustrations that I really responded to. I also love books like this that explain science concepts to kids in an easy to understand way. I feel like this is a book kids will love and parents will love sharing with their kids. It’s great for younger kids and older kids alike, and it’s a nonfiction book that would work well in storytime.

dance like starlightA Dance Like Starlight, written by Kristy Dempsey, illustrated by Floyd Cooper. I really loved both the story of dreaming and dancing, and the beautiful, soft illustrations. They melded to create a wonderful reading experience. This is a great introduction to Janet Collins, the first black prima ballerina, and will be a lovely read for aspiring dancers everywhere.

viva fridaViva Frida, written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales. The arresting images here just need to be looked at. The book feels very surreal to me. My one concern with the book is that it didn’t make a lot of sense to me until I read the author’s note at the end. Once I did that, and reread the book, it all came together, but I do wonder how many kids are going to be familiar enough with Frida’s work, or will take the time to read the author’s note at the end in order to have the context to understand the book. I think either way that they will enjoy poring over the pictures.

rogetThe Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus, written by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet. This was my favorite picture book biography that I read this year. I love words, and thesauri, and just loved Roget’s story. The illustrations are just amazing–detailed and fascinating. You could spend hours looking at this book without getting bored. Melissa Sweet is on quite a roll this year–I’ve seen her mentioned for possible Caldecott contention for both this book and Firefly July. While I loved them both, to me the illustrations, and the look into Roget’s world, make this the stronger contender.

And the winner of week 3 is (drum roll please): Gravity! I can see why this fun and educational book won. It has tons of kid appeal, and is a great read.

And our 3 finalists are:

  • Gravity, written and illustrated by Jason Chin
  • Where’s Mommy? written by Beverly Donofrio and illustrated by Barbara McClintock
  • The Adventures of Beekle, written and illustrated by Dan Santat

We will be holding voting on our finalists over the weekend and will announce our winner with the actual Caldecott winner on Monday when the library opens! I’ll be curious to see how our patrons vote in comparison to the Caldecott committee.

Mock Caldecott Program: Week 2

I talked about the setup of our Mock Caldecott Program here, so let’s get down to the books and the winner of the week!

Week Two Books and Book Club:

farmer and the clownThe Farmer and the Clown, written and illustrated by Marla Frazee. I really love this gentle story of a clown baby and the farmer who finds him. And I think it’s an excellent example of a wordless book. The illustrations are simply beautiful. The kids weren’t as into this one, though. I think adults respond better to the poignancy of the story than kids do (or at least better than the kids who came to the book club did). They enjoyed telling the story as we read it together, but they just didn’t seem to be as into it as some of the other books we read with them.

mr ferris and his wheelMr. Ferris and His Wheel, written by Katherine Gibbs Davis, illustrated by Gilbert Ford. This one was a little long for a read-aloud. Although at the end I think the kids who came to the book club enjoyed listening to the story and the facts they learned from it, there was A LOT of restlessness during the story. This is one of the issues of doing this program both as a passive program and book club where we read the books together. Some of our choices are limited by what we can feasibly read out loud, which is of course not a consideration that the actual Caldecott committee has to take into account. So, while I love the illustrations here and think it’s an interesting book, the kids definitely saw it as the least exciting of the choices this week during book club.

where's mommyWhere’s Mommy? written by Beverly Donofrio, illustrated by Barbara McClintock. The beautiful, detailed illustrations make this better suited to poring over one-on-one, but it’s still a good read-aloud. The kids liked the story, especially the twist ending. They also really liked looking at the differences between the mouse family’s house and the human family’s house. A girl who comes with her older brothers, who is more preschool aged rather than school aged, especially seemed to connect with this. I love the sweet story, and think that the illustrations are amazing.

sam and daveSam and Dave Dig a Hole, written by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen. It’s probably no surprise to any librarian who has shared this book with kids that this was the hit of the week as a read-aloud. The kids loved it. All of the near misses where the boys almost find treasure made the kids exclaim out loud (“Oh, come ON!” one boy said as they narrowly missed the second jewel). It was really a fun one to read with them, and I loved how invested in the story they all were. Again, not a big shock that this was our winner of the week from the book club.

Passive Program: This part was actually a shock for me. I assumed that the voting over the week would go as it did in the book club–that Sam and Dave Dig a Hole would be the clear winner. In fact, I had assumed that it would be the winner of the entire Mock Caldecott at our library. I was wrong!

And the winner of week 2 is (drum roll please): Where’s Mommy? It joins The Adventures of Beekle as one of our finalists. I have really loved Where’s Mommy? since I first read it when it came out–I think the incredible detail in the illustrations, and the way the images mirror each other, is amazing, and it’s just a nice story that I can see parents sharing with their children for years to come. But I did not expect it to win at all in our Mock Caldecott–I’m glad to be proven wrong! On Friday I’ll post the results of weeks 3 & 4, and then post our winner next Monday when the actual Caldecott is announced. I can’t wait to see what it is!

Mock Caldecott Program: Week 1

We are doing a mock Caldecott program at our library over the month of January. It’s a combination of a regular program and a passive program, and so far it’s going well. Every Thursday in January, we have a Caldecott book club. In that program, we read 4 books together, and the participants vote on their favorites. Then we put a display of those four books out and allow any patron to vote on them for the rest of the week. The winner of the week becomes one of the finalists. The next week, we read/display 4 different books. By the last week, we will have 4 finalists, and will vote from those to pick the mock Caldecott winner for our library.

Week One Books and Book Club: Books were chosen based on blog buzz, other people’s mock Caldecott lists, our favorites, and books we thought had strong pictures and a lot of kid appeal.

ivanIvan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla, written by Katherine Applegate, illustrated by G. Brian Karas. This was a fun one to read with the kids in the book club. It’s too long for normal storytime, so I’d never gotten a chance to read it with kids before. The kids had no idea what to expect, as they thought it was going to be a silly story about a gorilla who goes shopping. So it was a bit unexpected when I started reading it, but the kids really did like the story and couldn’t believe it was a true story. They were all very happy when Ivan was taken out of his sad situation and went to a zoo. And we got to talk about how pictures can convey meaning. There are some really beautiful pictures for illustrating sadness and loneliness here (as well as happiness at the end), and it was fun to talk about how the images could convey feelings with the kids.

flashlightFlashlight, written and illustrated by Lizi Boyd. The kids pored over the illustrations in this one. Once they realized there were cutouts in the book, they made sure they identified them on every page. They were completely engaged by the illustrations. This was interesting to read with the kids, because it lent itself to a great discussion about purely the illustrations, without the words of the book coming into the discussion. We had a small group, and it was clear that this kind of visual analysis was new to them, so that added a fun element.

hi kooHi, Koo! written and illustrated by Jon J. Muth. I loved all of the books we read this week, but Hi, Koo! is my favorite. I love the illustrations and the poems, and I’m a sucker for a good seasons book. The kids liked it too, especially the illustration where everyone’s eyes are square from too much TV. I did notice that they struggled a little more with the books that weren’t “regular” picture books–they had a harder time tracking this book and Flashlight than the other more traditional stories.

adventures of beekleThe Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, written and illustrated by Dan Santat. This was far and away the hit of the book club. As soon as the kids saw Beekle, they said, “He looks like Baymax!” and they were hooked. The lively, beautiful illustrations and lovely story kept them engaged throughout. We had a small group for the first week of the book club (a family of 4), and all of them voted for Beekle.

Passive Program: After we met on Thursday, we put the 4 books out on display on Friday and let patrons vote on them throughout the week. It was fun to watch older kids read the books on their own and vote, and to watch families read them together. The votes also evened out over the week–all of the books got some votes.

And the winner of week 1 is (drum roll please): The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend. It’s easy to see why this is our first finalist. The pictures are lively, the story is fun, and there’s a ton of kid appeal here. Come back next Monday for our week 2 finalist and breakdown!

How to Throw a Preschool Dance Party

Last Friday was one of my favorite days in the library: Preschool Dance Party day. This is a music and movement program we do twice a month at my library. It’s consistently popular (usually around 50-75 attendees), builds early literacy skills, and is FUN. I’ve seen lots of awesome posts on how people do their own music and movement programs. This is how we do ours.

Our program is 30 minutes long (although, full disclosure, we usually go over) and it consists of a movement book or story to start, 20-25 minutes of dancing, and ending with an activity with the parachute. Our music for this program is pretty much all pre-recorded music that we make into a playlist on our iPad and hook into our sound system in our meeting room. The age range for the dance party is technically 2-5, but younger siblings come, and that’s always been fine with us. Although we call it Preschool Dance Party, in a lot of ways it’s toddler dance party.

Some of the props we use.

Some of the props we use.

What kinds of music and dances do we do? All kinds! We always do one song with instruments, one song that we dance to with scarves, and quite a few classic songs like “Wheels on the Bus,” “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes,” and “The Hokey Pokey.” We also do the Limbo quite a bit, usually to a Motown song because I love them. And for the other songs, we use a lot of Laurie Berkner, Jim Gill, and other children’s songs you can follow along to and that spell out the dances and moves you can do. At last preschool dance party, we danced liked robots for one song (“Robot Friends” by Yo Gabba Gabba, another dance party favorite), played our instruments along with “Day-O” by Gregory Isaacs, pretended to surf to “Surfin’ USA” by the Beach Boys (I really love using oldies in the dance party because it gets the caregivers dancing with the kids), pretended to be dinosaurs to Laurie Berkner’s “We Are the Dinosaurs,” and shook our sillies out with Raffi.

If I’m not making it clear, I really love Preschool Dance Party. It’s one of my favorite programs that we do, and I think it has a lot of value. If you’d like to throw one of your own, here are my top tips:

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