Flannel Friday: Happy Birthday, Moon

I can’t believe that it’s been so long since I posted!  Even more, I can’t believe that it’s Flannel Friday’s fifth birthday!  I’ve been so inspired by all the posts that I’ve read, and I can’t wait to see what the next five years bring.  Happy birthday!  As it turns out, I have the perfect birthday flannel.  At my library, we’ve done both space and birthday themes this session, and this flannel works perfectly for either.  So, here’s my contribution:  a flannel version of Frank Asch’s Happy Birthday, Moon.


I used these pieces to retell the story.  Since we co-present our story times, we had one person serve as the narrator and Bear, and the second person served as the Moon.  It turned out really cute!

The pieces are all from designed from various clipart pictures I found.  There is, of course, Bear and Moon, and a top hat (I did make sure it had a purple band like the one in the book – that detail seemed important).  There is a bare tree, a river, a canoe, a series of small trees together for a forest, and a mountain range.  I also created a miniature piggy bank and a pile of coins for Bear to buy the hat.  The pieces aren’t to scale (Bear is bigger than the mountains, I think), but I needed them smaller to fit on our board and honestly, they were easier to make that way.  The kids didn’t seem to mind, either.

Hopefully it won’t be as long before I share again.  In any case, I’ll be keeping up with the round-ups and getting more great ideas.  This week, our host is Mollie at What Happens in Storytime.  For more information about Flannel Friday, visit the website here, or join the Flannel Friday Facebook group, or check out the Flannel Friday boards on Pinterest.  Happy Friday, everyone!

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Flannel Friday: Ice Cream Colors

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I’m running a little bit behind today, but I am determined to get this post up in time for Flannel Friday.  Last year for Halloween, I did a Halloween-themed story time.  Unfortunately, it didn’t go over well at all with the parents.  So this year, I decided to switch things up a bit.  In honor of Halloween candy, we did a Candy and Desserts story time this week instead.  After looking at our book selection, I decided on an ice cream cone flannel story to add variety to the types of desserts we talked about.

Here are all the ice cream cones that I created.  I took the simplest clipart template that I could find and cut out the cones and tops and then glued them together.

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Here’s the rhyme that I used with it:

We have ice cream, the best in town!

Let us begin with chocolate BROWN.

This ice cream is lime and GREEN.

It is the creamiest we’ve ever seen.

YELLOW ice cream is lemony and tart.

We like it from the very start.

ORANGE sherbet is next, oh so sweet.

Everyone thinks that it’s a great treat!

Scoops of BLUEberry make this a lucky day.

We just want to cheer, hip, hip, hooray!

RED ice cream is a cherry delight.

This ice cream cone is a heavenly sight.

Vanilla CREAM (or WHITE) is a popular flavor.

It tastes very good to an ice-cream craver.

PURPLE ice cream really gives us a kick.

Good and yummy till the very last lick.

Now let us scoop some bubble-gum PINK.

It is sweet and yummy, the best we think.

Ice cream, ice cream, what a cool sensation.

We love ice cream in any combination!

I slightly adapted this rhyme from Fun with Friends at Storytime to work with the colors that I had.  Kathryn’s rhyme originally had mint ice cream, but I didn’t think that my green was very minty looking, so I went with lime instead.

With both my toddler and preschool groups, I handed out the ice cream cones and we waited our turn to put up the right color.  I loved that this turned out to be a great time for parent interaction, since the parents this week were great about encouraging their children to wait their turn to put up their ice cream rather than swarming the board.  With my preschool group, we also talked about what flavors we might be missing and what colors they should be in between putting up more ice cream cones.

This week, our host is the wonderful Storytime Katie, one of my favorite blogs for inspiration and ideas.  For more information about Flannel Friday, visit the website here, or join the Flannel Friday Facebook group, or check out the Flannel Friday boards on Pinterest.  Happy Friday, everyone!

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Blast Off! at the Library

In October, we hosted our first STEAM program at the library.  We scheduled the program for an hour and a half, taking the place of our regularly scheduled after-school craft program for the week.  Our theme:  space.  Our mission:  make learning about space fun and hands-on for each participant.

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Program and Room Set Up

Based on our past attendance at our after school programs, we planned everything for 24 attendees.  (This also worked out well in terms of dividing up supplies based on serving sizes and other considerations).  Our program was held in our meeting room, which gave us access to enough space for several tables and chairs, as well as the projector and sound system.  We set up a total of eight tables in a rectangle on one side of the room, with chairs only on the outside edges.  The center we left open to give us (the librarians) space to move around, help the children, and demonstrate concepts as needed.  The project screen is set up to display in the center of the room, and the other half of the room was left empty for our rocket launches later in the program.

We planned for a combination of technology, discussion, and hands-on learning.  We planned three major segments to the program:  moon craters, rockets, and comets.  When we were setting up for the program, we did as much prep as possible ahead of time so that we didn’t have to do it during the program (I’ll give more specifics about each activity later in the post).  At each place at the table, we put out any supplies that would be needed that were not sensitive to exposure.  This gave the kids some visual clues about what we would be doing, and also kept us from having to run back and forth setting up materials during the program.  Since part of program involved food, we prepped everything in the kitchen adjacent to our meeting room to be brought out when we were ready for the part of the program.

Program Introduction

We invited everyone into the room at once, and once everyone was seated around the table, we provided a brief introduction to the program.  Originally, we had planned to just describe the afternoon’s activities, but my colleague had the great idea of asking the kids to guess what we might be doing with the materials that they had before them.  We used those guesses to start our discussion about what we would be doing, and provided a few more details about the anticipated activities.

Interactive Technology:  Solar System Scope

Since we were talking about space, we started out with a discussion of what we already knew about the stars and planets.  Using our laptop and projector, we pulled up the Solar System Scope.  We started out by learning some facts about the earth and the moon, and then took suggestions for other planets to explore.  Rather than just delivering the information about each planet, we asked the kids what they knew about the planet or any questions they had.  We threw out ideas about the different planets and then consulted the information on the website to learn more.  I was actually surprised by how involved this portion was – almost every child present wanted to contribute information at some point or read facts from the website.  We kept this going until we covered all the planets and interest waned.

Hands-On Activty:  Moon Craters


  • Salt map dough (pre-made at home and put into individual Ziploc baggies)
  • Rocks (large and small, purchased in bags from Dollar Tree)

After looking at some pictures of moon craters, we talked a little about what would form them.  We talked about different items that might find craters, and whether the distance or size of the object would impact the size of the crater.  Then, each child got to make their own moon craters!  We provided each child with an individual bag of salt map dough and a selection of rocks to drop and press to form the craters.  We purchased two bags of rocks (one of large rocks and one of small rocks), and divided them up into plastic cups the day of the event so that everyone had a few.  Some children made their own moons and planets by leaving the rocks in the dough, and some dropped or pressed rocks to make different shapes and craters.  One thing I would do differently in the future with this part is NOT putting the salt map dough out ahead of time.  Almost all of the children played with the dough in the bags during our introduction and discussion, so by the time they wanted to take it out, it was warmed up and very sticky.  However, we did get a lot of positive feedback from parents for using the salt map dough since it has all-natural ingredients.

Video to Share:  The Chemistry of Rockets

After moon craters, it was time to move on to our next component, rockets.  Originally, we had planned to show this short video about how rockets work.  However, since our salt map dough was a little messier than anticipated, we ended up dropping this activity in favor of a massive hand-washing expedition.  We sent everyone out to wash their hands and cleaned up some of the biggest mess from the moon craters, and transitioned right into the next activity, instead.

Hands-On Activity:  Straw Rocket Aeronautics


  • Pencil (purchased in package of 12 from Walmart)
  • Straw rocket template (printed on paper and pre-cut by teen volunteers)
  • Straws (purchased in package of 100 from Walmart)
  • Tape

Our next hands-on activity was creating our own rockets.  We found this great soda straw rocket template from NASA that we used for this portion of the activity.  The template includes all of the instructions, which was also a plus.  Since we had extra volunteers for a different program a few weeks before this one, we had them cut out the rocket pieces ahead of time to save time.  We gave each child the pieces he or she would need, and then talked about the steps to create the rocket.  We assisted with the taping as necessary, and most of the parents also helped in putting the rockets together.  After we created our rockets, we all lined up on the empty side of the room to launch our rockets and see whose would fly the farthest.  I think everyone’s favorite part from this was yelling, “3, 2, 1, Blast Off!”

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Video to Share:  How to Catch a Star Stop Motion Short Film

We planned to break up our rockets and transition to comets with this short film by Oliver Jeffers.  What we didn’t plan for was that rocket launching would be so exciting that we would have a hard time calming the kids back down for our next activity.  So, we admitted that we probably weren’t going to keep their attention with this one, and instead transitioned into our final hands-on activity.

Hands-On Activity:  Edible Comets


  • Instant pudding (1 box for every four children, we purchased store brand)
  • Milk (1 half gallon)
  • Clear plastic cups
  • Spoons
  • Add-ins like cookies, chocolate chips, and sprinkles

Originally, we had planned to do ice cream comets for the final portion of the program.  But, we decided that ice cream might be a little too involved, and we adapted to make pudding comets instead.  If you divide the pudding from one box into four cups, and add 1/3 cup milk, it makes a single serving of pudding.  Secret tip:  Put the milk in the freezer for about 30 minutes, and it will be slightly slushy.  This will let your pudding set up in 1-2 minutes instead of 5-10.  We had the milk and pudding already separated out prior to the program, so all we had to do was bring out the ingredients.

We gave each child a cup of milk and a cup of pudding mix and instructed them to mix them together.  We talked about the dust and debris that comets pick up, and then we added cookies that we crumbled, chocolate chips, and even sprinkles to represent our comets’ flight paths.  When we had all the necessary ingredients, we stirred everything together and watched it solidify into pudding.  The clear cups were great, because they let the kids see the entire transition from liquid to solid.  Then we got to enjoy eating our creations!

Program Evaluation

Overall, this program was a great success.  While we didn’t use all the elements that we planned for, the kids (and parents) had a great time and especially liked the hands-on components.  We spent some time talking about our favorite parts after the program, and the parents did some socializing before leaving.  I’m definitely glad that we did so much prep work ahead of time, because it made it so much easier to run the program.  I do wish, though, that we had taken more pictures throughout the program to document what we were doing.  Unfortunately, we were just too busy!  But, several of the parents took pictures, so at least the families have some documentation from our program.  The total cost for this ended up being about $1 per child, which was great.  We let them take home their dough, rocks, and pencils if they wanted, and of course, everyone had a comet to eat, too.  This was such a success that we are hoping to bring STEAM back again in January, with a snowman-themed program.  I can’t wait to share about it, too!

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Mountain Dog

Mountain Dog

Margarita Engle, illustrated by Olga and Aleksey Ivanov

ISBN:  9780805095166

I started out reading all of the 2015-2016 Texas Bluebonnet Award nominees with the best intentions.  Summer reading derailed part of the reading, and now, our copies of the books are almost always checked out.  Which reminds me…I need to start on the 2016-2017 list earlier (maybe right away), although I am still going to try and read all of this year’s nominees.  Anyway, my most recent read:  Mountain Dog by Margarita Engle.  Of all the books I’ve read so far, this one generated some of the most complex emotions.  I alternately loved and hated it, but it’s definitely one not to miss.

Summary:  When Tony’s mother is sent to jail for dog fighting, he goes to live with a great uncle he didn’t even know he had.  He is so used to fear and anger from his old life that he is very hesitant of this new one, made even harder because there is nothing in common between the two worlds.  With the patience of his uncle and his uncle’s search-and-rescue dog, Gabe, Tony slowly learns that there is good to be found in the world, often in unexpected places.

What I Liked:  This book has a beautiful plot.  Tony’s story is heartbreaking, and yet all too realistic.  As I read, I couldn’t help but think of how many Tony’s might be out there without a loving uncle to save them.  I also loved the use of two perspectives:  both that of Tony and of Gabe.  While Tony’s segments teach us about his struggles to embrace his new life and to find trust and love again, Gabe’s narration provides us deeper insight into the complexity of this struggle.  Gabe’s simple happiness provides the perfect foil to Tony’s emotional turmoil, and through his dedication to loving Tony and proving that happiness exists, we can easily see Tony begin to open his heart again.  What I think I loved best about this book is that the emotions are raw and real.  Yes, there is happiness and love.  But there is also anger, and fear, and resentment.  Engle does not shy away from any emotion, and has a more realistic, meaningful story because of it.

What I Didn’t Like:  At first, I wasn’t thrilled that this book was written entirely in free-verse poetry.  I’m not sure exactly what I expected, but from the book’s summary and even the cover, I guess I was anticipating action-packed chapters.  Which, to be fair, this book does provide.  While I initially thought that having the book written in such a poetic format did a disservice to its plot, in reality, I think it provided for a sense of drama and intrigue that focused on the emotions in a way that more traditional writing might not have allowed.  While it did take some getting used to, I didn’t find reading poetry to be nearly as distracting as I thought it would be.  My only other complaint would be with Gabe’s chapters.  While I love his as a foil for Tony’s emotions, at times I thought that he was included too often and without offering anything additional to the plot, as though he were merely repeating ideas from previous chapters.

Overall Feeling:  When I started reading this book, I thought that I would hate it.  By the time I finished reading it, I loved it.  It was actually one of my favorite titles that I’ve read from the list so far.  This book has it all:  emotion, character, drama, and intrigue.  It addresses hard topics fairly, but without shying away from the realities of the situations.  It forces you to think, and, more importantly, to feel Tony’s story as you read it.  I will, however, admit that this book isn’t for everyone.  The poetic writing style may be a turn-off for some readers and discourage them from fully enjoying the text.  I would recommend this book for anyone who enjoys realistic fiction or animal stories.  However, given the complexity of the emotions described and some of the situations Tony encounters, I would recommend this title to the older end of the Bluebonnet audience from a maturity standpoint.  Still, this is one you absolutely MUST read from this year’s list.

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Flannel Friday: Dotty the Dinosaur

It’s Flannel Friday time again!  I missed last week (I was on vacation), but I’m excited to share again this week.  This week in story time, we did dinosaurs.  I actually created two different flannel stories, but I only have time to share one here today.  Today I’m sharing my version of “Dotty the Dinosaur.”  I originally got this idea here.

Here’s the rainbow horde of dinosaurs that I created:

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The patterns for everything in this set are just modified clipart images that I thought were cute and tied in with the theme.  I had an idea of the colors that I wanted for the dinosaurs, and then I chose food for each to eat based on what I thought would be easy to create for the colors.  Here’s the finished food:

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To summarize this story, Dotty is a green dinosaur who has always eaten green foods.  One day, she decides to try something else, and, wouldn’t you know it, it changes her color.  Each time she eats something new, it changes her color:

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By the end of the story, Dotty can’t decide what color she wants to be, so she just eats everything and becomes a polka-dot dinosaur instead.

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I originally planned on using the rhyme to go with this one, but when I told the story with my preschool group, I just made it up as I went along.  I put up the different foods that Dotty was eating, and my helpers brought up the color dinosaur that she turned.  I used this for an outreach story time this morning and adapted the same approach, with the children shouting out what Dotty was eating and what color she turned.  But, for anyone who wants it, here’s the rhyme that goes with it:

Dotty the Dinosaur loved to eat

Things like lettuce and string beans.

That is why her dinosaur skin

Was colored a lovely GREEN.

One day she saw some cherries

And ate them all that day.

Later, Dotty the Dinosaur

Turned bright RED they say.

Dotty just loved colors,

So the next day she ate two

Bushes filled with blueberries

And turned the color BLUE.

The next day she saw some grapes

And ate them on the spot.

Then Dotty turned quite PURPLE

From her bottom to her top.

Next she ate a banana;

It made her feel quite mellow.

And wouldn’t you know it, next thing

Dotty turned bright YELLOW.

Then she ate some juicy orange,

Just a little slice.

And when Dotty turned ORANGE she thought,

“Isn’t this quite nice?”

Then she found some cotton candy,

Quite tasty, don’t you think?

And once Dotty ate it up

She turned the color PINK.

Dotty couldn’t decide now

Which color she liked best.

So Dotty just ate everything.

Was her skin an awful mess?

No, Dotty now had dots

Of color everywhere.

Dotty now was different,

But Dotty didn’t care.

Dotty loved her new skin,

She liked it quite a lot.

Now she was the only dinosaur

With a coat of polka dots!

Credit:  Adapted from Jean Warren

This week, our host is Melissa at Mel’s Desk.  For more information about Flannel Friday, visit the website here, or join the Flannel Friday Facebook group, or check out the Flannel Friday boards on Pinterest.  I can’t wait to see what everyone is sharing this week!

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Flannel Friday: Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons

It’s Friday!  And that means that it’s time for one of my favorite parts of the week…Flannel Friday!  As you may be able to tell from all the exclamation points so far, the more I participate in this wonderful group, the more excited I get about sharing my flannel creations.  And, I love that I keep getting inspiration from other people to create even more spectacular flannel boards.  If only the question of where to store them all was solved so easily…

This week in story time, we continued our back to school themes.  Last week, we did colors with an existing flannel board crayon set that my library already had on hand.  This week, we worked on numbers and counting.  Pete the Cat has been appearing each week in story time as we work on our concepts, and this week, he helped us count with the classic Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons.  The great part was actually being able to talk about what Pete has done so far in story time and remembering the different things we’ve talked about.

Since I’ve seen so many other adorable flannel versions of Pete, I wanted to make my own.  Here’s the finished product:


I used this pattern from Kiz Club to create Pete.  My biggest concern was making sure that he was accurate to the book, so I made sure before making the buttons that they are actually the four colors of the buttons that Pete has in the story.  Instead of making felt numbers, I used my previously mentioned magnetic numbers while we were counting Pete’s remaining buttons.  Each button has a tiny piece of Velcro on the back to help it stay in place and keep Pete’s shirt on.


Of course, when we get to the end of the story, we’ve removed all of Pete’s buttons, opened up his shirt, and found his belly button!


For my toddler group, I told an abbreviated version of Pete the Cat without using the book and adapted it as needed to fit their attention span.  For my preschool group, I read the story at the same time, and my helpers removed a button from Pete’s shirt each time one popped off in the story.  My favorite part was that by the end, my group was helping with the “Pop!” for each button, and singing Pete’s song, too.

This week, Mollie at What Happens in Storytime.  For more information about Flannel Friday, visit the website here, or join the Flannel Friday Facebook group, or check out the Flannel Friday boards on Pinterest.  As always, thanks to everyone for sharing their inspiration and making my story times better!

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The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life

The Scraps Book:  Notes from a Colorful Life

Lois Ehlert

ISBN:  9781442435711

I recently finished reading another Texas Bluebonnet Award nominee, this time a nonfiction title:  The Scraps Book:  Notes from a Colorful Life by Lois Ehlert.  I was actually looking forward to getting to this title on the list, mostly because I love Lois Ehlert’s books and often use them in story time.  Although it is an autobiography, the book is presented in picture book format, so it reads quickly.  However, the simple format doesn’t detract from the text; rather, it encourages a deeper understanding of Ehlert’s career as an artist.

Summary:  Lois Ehlert has considered herself an artist since a very young age.  Encouraged by her parents and inspired by all manner of things around her, she has spent many years creating beautiful works of art.  Ehlert outlines not only her development as an artist, but also her process for creating the artwork for her books.  Using examples and illustrations from many of her popular titles, this text provides a beautiful explanation of Ehlert’s life and encourages the reader to develop their own artistic talents.

What I Liked:  This book is truly a masterpiece, incorporating not only Ehlert’s personal memories, but also her beautiful artwork.  The combination of childhood photographs and book illustrations seamlessly shows the transition between her artistic beginnings and the growth of her dream.  In addition to the familiar pictures, the book also includes pictures of objects and the creative process in developing them, showing the reader how a single idea or moment can translate into a picture or even an entire story.  The inclusion of simple craft instructions also encourages the reader to attempt their own artistic creations.  I particularly enjoyed the notes accompanying the artwork and photos included.  While reading this information is not necessary for understanding the process, the added information provides extra depth to the narrative.  I also appreciated the photo credits for each of the illustrations, which helped remind me of some of my favorite works.

What I Didn’t Like:  I don’t really have any complaints with this book.  It is informative, engaging, and useful in several contexts.  While at times I wished more information was included, the simplicity of the text added to the overall beauty of the work.  Readers of all ages are sure to enjoy this work.

Overall Feeling:  This autobiography is simple and compelling.  Whether a fan of Ehlert’s work or not, at the very least, the reader can appreciate the development of the artistic process, the use of mixed media, and the inspiration from everywhere in creating art.  One of the most compelling parts of this book is the underlying message:  Anyone has the capability to succeed at their dreams.  Anyone has the capacity to create art and beauty.  At the same time, Ehlert remains realistic that sometimes developing one’s dream requires time and patience, an important reminder for many.  I would recommend this book for anyone interested in art, or anyone interested in the works of Lois Ehlert.  Teachers and students alike will appreciate this work, and the simplicity and engaging illustrations will be appealing to both older and younger readers.

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