Category Archives: picture book review

Build a city storytime

Here’s a great activity for kids (or adults) on a rainy day:  design and build your own city!  We did just this during Tuesday’s storytime.

We read Mattland by Hazel Hutchins.  This is a wonderful story about a young boy who is fed up with moving to new towns.  He decides to create his own little town in the muddy yard outside his house.  What begins as a solitary activity becomes a group effort as neighbor children pitch in and lend a hand.  This book provides a great example of channeling negative emotions (Matt is frustrated about moving, he feels lonely and out of place) into something creative and positive (his own town and new friends to play with).

I wish we could have made our own cities outside, like Matt, but the rainy weather definitely called for an indoor activity.  We used a cereal box for the base, decorated with Dot-Art dobbers (very similar to bingo dobbers) and thin, colored masking tape.  We used small boxes for buildings.  This is a great craft to reuse random items around the house.

Here are some of the finished projects from our “Build a City” storytime:

This is a very accurate model of Ellsworth, Maine.

A very colorful creation.

This city has a beautiful garden.

This project features a raccoon trap!





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Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Picture Book Review:  Cinco de Mouse-o by Judy Cox

This delightful story is a great introduction to Cinco de Mayo for children who may not be familiar with the holiday.  The reader follows Mouse as he travels from his house (where the family is getting ready for the day) down the street to the city park.  He takes in all of the sights, smells, and sounds at the local Cinco de Mayo celebration.  Mouse spies a pinata and makes a plan to get a piece of candy.  As he makes his way through the fiesta on his quest for sweets, a cat is following him.  Will Mouse be able to get his hands on a piece of candy and escape from the cat?

The descriptive writing makes this picture book come to life and the reader feels as if he/she is right beside Mouse as he smells the chorizo and tamales and takes a wild ride on the pinata.  The writer uses simile, a literary device that I don’t often see in picture books.  The book includes a few Spanish phrases, but there aren’t enough to make the book difficult for someone who doesn’t speak Spanish.  If you want to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, grab some tortilla chips and guacamole and settle in to read this wonderful story.

If you want to celebrate this holiday by making some awe-inspiring cookies, check out this site.

I see a Mexican dinner in my future, including quesadillas, chips, and salsa.  How do you plan to celebrate Cinco de Mayo?

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Picture Book Review: Circus Stories


Olivia saves the circus by Ian Falconer

Olivia the pig tells her class about how she saved the circus when all the performers got ear infections. She was a funny clown, a fierce lion tamer, a graceful tightrope walker, and a frustrated dog trainer. When her teacher asks if the story is all true, she replies “pretty all true.” Olivia is so matter of fact about her imagination that she could be called a no-nonsense daydreamer, if such a thing exists. The illustrations in this book are unique-mostly black and white with some red and pink accents for Olivia’s clothing and accessories.

The World’s Greatest Elephant by Ralph Heller; illustrated by Ted Lewin

A baby boy named Bram and a baby elephant named Modoc are born on the same day and become inseparable in this inspiring true story. The pair begins to perform when Bram is still a boy. Then, the circus is sold and it looks like they will be separated. Bram sneaks onto the ship and stays below with the elephants in an attempt to stay with his best friend. Despite shipwrecks, and heartless circus owners, the two manage to find each other at the end. This story speaks about the treatment of circus performers and the relationship between humans and animals. Due to violence, this book may not be appropriate for very young children.

The Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen

When a circus ship crashes off the coast of Maine, the animals on board swim to a nearby island. At first, the islanders are alarmed and scared of the exotic animals, but the tiger saves a little girl from a burning shed, the animals and Mainers begin to enjoy living together on the island. There’s only one problem: the mean circus director is coming back for his animals. Will the islanders be able to successfully hide their new friends from the circus boss? This fun, rhyming tale is actually based on a real story from the early 1800s, although many of the animals and people on the Royal Tar, which crashed on its way up the coast to Portland, did not survive. The outcome of The Circus Ship is much more lighthearted and kids and adults will love to pour over the dynamic, detailed illustrations.


I’m off to the circus later this afternoon.  Be sure to check in tomorrow to see some pictures 🙂


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Picture Book Review: Stories for a Rainy Day

I Love the Rain by Margaret Park Bridges

At first, Molly hates the rain and can’t think of anything good about it.  Then, her friend Sophie shows her how the shiny streets are like her “best black party shoes”, the rain on the roof sounds like tap dancers, and the sensation of raindrops falling on their faces is like “confetti in a parade.”  With this new “sunny” perspective, Molly can finally appreciate how different (and fun) the world can be on a rainy day.

Rain makes Applesauce by Julian Scheer

This delightful Caldecott Honor book will definitely appeal to the childhood belief that anything is possible.  The outlandish statements on each page, (such as “the stars are made of lemon juice” and “monkeys mumble in a jellybean jungle”) come to life in the exquisitely detailed illustrations.  This would make a fantastic one to one read-a-loud because the pictures are so fascinating and require careful study.


Raindrop, Plop! by Wendy Cheyette Lewison

This rhyming tale of a little girl who plays outside on a rainy day will make anyone go looking for their rubber boots and umbrella.  This is also a counting book, and therefore a great choice to read to preschoolers.  I read this one to my preschool outreach group this past Monday.  The kids counted along with me by holding up fingers as I read the next number in the story.  Once we got to ten, the pattern reverses and the story counts backward down to one again.  The illustrations are bright and easy to see for a large group of kids.

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Not your average picture books: Who’s Hiding?, Dot, and Press Here

Cover of "Who's Hiding?"

Cover of Who's Hiding?

 Who’s Hiding? by Satoru Onishi

I came across this book the other day in the mending bin and a young patron and I ended up reading it together as I looked for torn pages. It features rows and rows of brightly colored animals. The background of each set of pages is different, so, when the background is red, for example, all of the red animals blend in and seem to be hiding. Every other page, the book asks a different question about one animal who is acting differently from the rest. The book is great for everyone because even very young readers can point to the animal who is crying, or the one who looks angry.

Dot by Patricia Intriago

This concept book gets its message across using variations on a black dot. It deals with some of the concepts that you would expect, like here and there, many and few, but there are humorous examples as well that keep you engaged as you read (a photo of a dalmatian with the words “Got dots” made me laugh). The author does a good job of giving a variety of moods to such a simple black circle.


Press Here by Henre Tullet

This book is completely dependent upon reader participation, which makes it a great choice for a read-a-loud. Even antsy listeners will be interested in this book because they are asked to do something on each page. Even though the end of the story is determined, the reader gets the impression that he/she is controlling the outcome. The author asks us to press the yellow dot and then turn the page to see what happens (the dot has changed color!). When the reader tips the book to the left and turns the page, all of the dots have fallen to the left hand side of the page. Like Dot, the illustrations are very, very simple, but that is part of what makes this book great.


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Picture book review: a trio of library books

Homer the library cat by Reeve Lindbergh

In this rhyming tale, Homer leaves his quiet house and journeys through a noisy neighborhood on a quest to find his owner.   He ends up finding her at another quiet place-the library.  I read this last week to a group of preschoolers and they enjoyed following Homer on his adventure.  Everyone wanted to find Homer in every picture (some kids were very enthusiastic about it- jumping up and pointing every time I turned the page).

Library Lily by Gillian Shields

Lily loves to read…maybe a little too much.  She reads while she’s brushing her teeth, while she’s supposed to be eating dinner, and while the other kids are outside playing.  Then she meets Milly, a non-reader with a taste for adventure.  The two friends balance each other perfectly.  Lily introduces Milly to the joys of reading and Milly shows Lily the benefits of taking a break from reading and interacting in the real world.  This is a sweet story that addresses an issue that many hard-core readers face:  keeping a balance between “reading experience” and “real world experience.”

Dinosaur vs. the library by Bob Shea

And finally my favorite book of all time about libraries.  Dinosaur triumphs when he goes up against a cow, baby chicks, and an owl, but what will happen when he takes on the library?  Dinosaur vs. a sad owl was by far my favorite (what does a sad owl say?  boo-whoo of course!)  The illustrations in this book are simple and bright, which makes it a great choice for a read-a-loud.  When I read this book, the kids participated by roaring along with the dinosaur and making the other animal noises mentioned.


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Picture book review: Extra Yarn and Chopsticks

These two picture books don’t have anything in common…although I guess you could use chopsticks for knitting needles in a pinch.

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen.  This is the story of a little girl named Annabelle who finds a never ending skein of yarn.  By knitting everyone she knows a sweater (including dogs) she brings color to the “cold little town” she calls home.  The illustrations in this book are expressive in black in white (except for Annabelle’s multicolored creations).  There is a hint of magic to the story…where is all this yarn coming from?  Kids will identify with the warm, fuzzy feeling that comes from giving and receiving gifts.

Chopsticks by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Scott Magoon.  Chopsticks do everything together, just like best friends that are “attached at the hip.”  But, when one of them is injured they are forced to explore the world on their own.  Rosenthal’s upbeat, sunny view of the world lends itself perfectly to picture books.  Kids will enjoy watching Chopstick try new things while his friend is on the mend.  Adults will appreciate the numerous kitchen puns peppered throughout the story.  The illustrations make the kitchen utensil characters come to life (the worried expression of the cutting board is priceless).  Be sure to pick up this book at the library today!

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