let readers grow!



To my complete and utter horror, I found this flannel board in our storage room the other day, and was completely horrified. I haven’t been a storytime person for many, many years, and completely forgot about this set I made. I tossed it in utter horror and disgust during a recent flannel board purge.

Then this morning while searching for ideas for an interactive to make, I was dismayed to find this pattern all over the Flannel Friday pinterest account.

If you are considering making this flannel board: DON’T!

If you tell this story in your storytime: STOP!

Please stop.

JUST STOP! Tell a different story.

Don’t tell this story anymore. Anthropomorphized monkey characters are a racist trope in children’s literature. I am taking down this tutorial. I think every one of these flannel boards should be resigned to the dustbin of history, and they should never be presented in storytime every again. Look at this old, ugly, stupid book. It’s bad. The stain of this racist narrative device

This books is gross. Tear it apart and recycle it.

In fact, go look at Sarah’s version at Read It Again! posted her awesome flannel board version of Pig’s Picnic by Keiko Kazsa.

More importantly read Edi Campbell’s brilliant blog. Particularly this one Then read every article link to this post. Then read Was the Cat in the Hat Black by Philip Nel.

And if you’re all pissed or indignant that I am slamming your favorite racist microaggressive storytime activity I really DGAF.


Flannel Friday: Happy Cephalopod Week

I got to work a little early this morning. I was  frittering around. I checked Twitter. Then I started to plan out my work for the day. I looked at our desk schedule, and spotted my name slated to do the drop-in storytime.  Gah! Summer Reading, you did it again! I have been crazy busy for the last two weeks. I completely forgot to plan for this. 

Luckily, at this point, you could shake me out of a deep sleep, yelling, “Cate, you have storytime in 30 minutes!” And I could pull together in time…as long as there is some form of caffeine available. So I poured one of my emergency Red Bulls down my throat, and got to work. 

I was about to close Twitter when I spotted this tweet in my feed. 

“Eureka!” I shouted, “Cephalopod Storytime will be awesome!” 

*BTW, you should check out Cephalopod Week 2016 on the Science Friday website. It’s as gorgeous as it is informative.*
Recently, I’ve developed a sort-of formula for choosing books that strike a variety of emotional tones in a storytime. I find it works particularly well for a storytime serving a wide age range like the one I had today–8 months to 7 years. I find that this allows kids and their parents (esp newbies) get comfortable with me, and helps us all focus our attention on the content of the stories we read. 

I start with a sweet, simple story.

Herman the Helper (public library)

Then I move onto a silly story. 

Good Thing You’re Not an Octopus (public library)

And I end with a well-written, and somewhat challenging informative nonfiction book. 

Gentle Giant Octopus (public library)

I have had a lot of success with this game plan. Today, when I introduced my nonfiction selection, I warned them that I saved the book with the biggest words and ideas for last. I gave the littlest littles an out.  I said, “Are you guys getting antsy? If you are done listening to stories, and you want to go play we can sing our goodbye song now. But if you want to learn about how a real octopus lives and becomes a mommy, we are going are going to read this book.” I pulled out the book with a flourish. “It’s full of fancy words, and beautiful pictures.” They all started shouting, “Read it!” “We’re staying.” 

Then they all scootched up close to me. And they loved this story…even the little, little kids were totally engaged the whole time. They asked great questions. They wanted to know what every word meant.

Anyway, enough about all this noise, it’s Flannel Friday! I used felt to make an adorable plushy octopus a little more anatomically correct, and used it as a prop. 

We’ve had an adorable little octopus for years. As I was pulling out one of my favorite storytime books, Herman the Helper by Robert Kraus (public library) I realized how much this little dude looks like Herman. But as I skimmed through my nonfiction selection I realized there was something missing: his suckers. So I grabbed some self-adhesive felt. I cut little circles, and stuck them on to all of his legs, and voilà! 

“Hello! Check out my suckers”

Mollie of What Happens in Storytime is hosting the #FFRU this week! Thanks, Mollie! 
If you’re looking for storytime ideas, the Flannel Friday Pinterest archive is a bottomless pit of brilliance. And if you was to join the party the Flannel Friday blog has all the information you need to dive in! The water is fine, after all.

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Flannel Friday: Fall Is Pretty Scary, a Halloween Hack

Let’s hop into my time machine and travel back to July of 2011 when I posted my fifth Flannel Friday post: an adaptation of Fall Is Not Easy (FINE for short) by Marty Kelley. I love this book, as many of my #FFRU friends do!  In fact, FINE was the very first book I ever read in storytime. The kids and I? We all went bananas for it. I look forward to reading it in storytime every year.

Anyway, every year, I struggle to find great Halloween books. Most of the good ones fly out the door by the end of September, and all we’re left with are some holiday-themed stinkers. Last year, I decided to pick a favorite non-Halloween picture book, Clip Clop by Nicola Smee, and adapt it for Halloween.

I like traditions. And it came to me pretty suddenly over the weekend (after a conversation about Halloween programming with @RebeccaZDunn of Sturdy For Common Things) that FINE is perfect for a fangtastic remix. So here we are: another year, another Halloween Hack: Fall Is Pretty Scary!  Here is a PDF, feel free to download, & make your own.

Hannah is our intrepid hostess this week, and she is Lovin’ the Library…Thanks Hannah!

Happy Halloween!!!






Flannel Friday: Early Bird Prop Story


A Flannel Friday dropout NO MORE!! I haven’t had a #FF to post in a zillion years! I can’t promise to post #FFs as regularly as I have in the past, but I have one this week. Anyway, here’s a prop story for a brilliant little picture book: Early Bird, by Toni Yuly.

Early Bird by Toni Yuly

Early Bird by Toni Yuly

This is a perfect book for baby and toddler storytime. The illustrations are bold. The language is simple. The concepts are concrete. And yet, in spite of all this simplicity–or perhaps because of all this simplicity–the story delivers a boat-load of drama and character development. This makes it an ideal choice for a prop story.

If you haven’t read this picture book yet, YOU MUST!! Here’s a summary…SPOILER ALERT: Early Bird features a surprise ending, so if you want to experience this twist in real time, read this post after you read the book. However, the story is told in less than 100 words. If you’re reading this, you are a grownup, so I’m guessing you don’t mind the spoilers. But I digress… I am paraphrasing. Early bird wakes up. She stands up as tall as she can. Then she gets going. As she walks, she passes grass, flowers, a spider web, rounds a corner, enters the garden. In the garden she meets a worm. She picks up the worm, lays it on a big juicy strawberry, and then… She and the worm share the strawberry for breakfast. The last page shows early bird and worm singing a morning song.

We are very fortunate at my library to have a jam packed storage room. Well, sometimes we’re fortunate to have such a great storage room, and other times it turns into an unholy mess. Anyway, this is not one of those artsy fartsy #FF. This was quick and dirty, and ready to go in under 10 minutes. Here’s the whole spread:

here's the whole kit & kaboodle.

here’s the whole kit & kaboodle.

Early bird……….finger puppet

grass…………….green felt

spider web……..white die cut spider web (laminate)

flower bed………leis

worm…………….rubber band, cut so that it’s all squiggly & wormish

strawberry………strawberry plushy

corner……………milk crate

path……………..brown felt

garden…………..sheet from Ikea leftover from SRC13

Here’s a close up of the finger puppet, worm, and strawberry. They are a little hard to make out in the 1st photo.


First we read the book aloud. Then we did a few different activities. Then I pulled all this junk out, and we retold the story using the props. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Ms Kelly at the Library is hosting the #FFRU! Thanks Kelly!  Don’t forget to check out the pinterest for lots of flannely goodness.



Flannel Friday Follow-Up: Hi, Pizza Man Infographic


Here is the PDF of the Hi, Pizza Man infographic: Hi Pizza Man

Last week I tried an experiment with my toddler time group, and wrote this post: Infographic Story Stretchers.

Yesterday, I had an opportunity to follow up on last weeks experiment. Guess what? It was a big success!!

1) My toddler time parents gave me wonderful feedback, and were eager to collect this week’s infographic (Hi, Pizza Man by Virginia Walter).

I was thrilled to hear that everyone said they used them to retell the stories together later that day. And many even said used them several times throughout the week. Two parents said they used the infographics talk about their day with daddies during dinner. Three said they used it to retell the Little Miss Muffet at bedtime. One parent said her daughter has been reenacting the Little Miss Muffet story all week. She laughed and said, “Poor Little Miss Muffet can’t get home because she keeps running into hippos, elephants, dinosaurs, mummies,” and my favorite, “draculas.”

In last week’s post, I forgot to mention that I gave each parent a folder to keep their infographic, as well as a copy of the library newsletter and some flyers for upcoming events. Well, this week two parents actually remembered to bring the folders  this week so they would have a safe way to collect a new infographic. And the rest of the parents said they know exactly where their folders are because they’ve been using it all week. (YAY!)

All in all, I would say that the experiment was a success! Not only will I continue to make infographics for my storytimers this session, but I also hammered out the format to make this a clear-cut task.

Each storytimer received a folder to take home, two infographics (so far), and an envelope for wrangling the small pieces:

Each storytimer received a folder to take home, two infographics (so far), and an envelope for wrangling the small pieces.

An Infographic Story Stretcher kit

And finally, this week’s infographic is based on my all-time favorite storytime book: Hi, Pizza Man. 

photo (1)

The first page is as you see if above, and the second is a bunch of little doors. I printed the first page 20 times, and the second page once. Then I cut up all the little doors.  Each storytimer gets one infographic and one door. At the end of storytime I passed them out, and demonstrated how to use it later to retell the story later.

I just realized I forgot to send myself the PDF, so I will post it tomorrow.

The magnificent Mel Depper is hosting this week’s special Valentine’s Day Flannel Friday. And it just so happens that we are coming upon the third anniversary of this wonderful tradition. So big XOXOXO’s for Mel. Thanks for hosting!


Flannel Friday: Infographic Story Stretchers

This morning I woke up with a weird idea: replace traditional handouts with a picture book infographic.

So a little background…When I was a new librarian, I was a storytime handout maniac. I made tons of carefully researched handouts with rhymes, booklists, fingerplays, etc. I even put a coloring page on the b-side in the hopes they would end up on a few fridges. But at the end of the day, the handouts would end up scattered all over children’s department and parking lot. Eventually, I stopped making them. I dip into my files sometimes; but to tell you the truth, I’ve never had a single parent ask about them when they weren’t offered.

So what’s a picture book infographic?

Well, since this is my first attempt at such a thing, I don’t want to define it too strictly. Let’s just say, it’s a graphic representation of a picture book or story. The trick is fitting the entire story into a single image. Unlike with a flannel board, where you have several pieces that you use to build the story on a canvas, an infographic uses a single visual representation that kids (and parents) can use to recall and retell the story in their own words.

I think it’s important to note that this is not intended to replace reading the story in any way, shape, or form. I don’t think a story stretcher infographic works on it’s own. It is intended to support the development of narrative skills and memory. It is meant to build on the shared stories and experiences. So read the book. Purchase multiple copies! And build some serious love for your favorite picture books using infographics!

Infographic Show & Tell

I chose a story I knew would fit this format:

little miss

Trapani has written a bunch of books that riff on classic nursery rhymes. I love them. It’s a brilliant idea: take story so familiar that it practically loses all meaning, and ask “then what happened?” For example

Little Miss Muffet
Sat on a tuffet
Eating her curds and whey
Along came a spider
Who sat down beside her
And frightened Miss Muffet away.

In Trapani’s version, Miss Muffet tries to hide from the spider, only to run into a mouse. She flees the mouse, and runs into a frog, a crow a fish, and finally… A MOOSE! Yes, a goddamn moose. How brilliant is that? Very brilliant.

Follow Little Miss Muffet through her ordeal.

Follow Little Miss Muffet through her ordeal.

I had a very little time to slap this experiment together. I did a google image search for game board template and found something awesome: Snappy the Snapping Syllable Turtle. This game is adorable as is, makes a great activity for a passive program. It was also the perfect image for an infographic of LMM. It even had the tree and the pond in the right places; so I hacked it.

Next, I scattered clipart “scary critters” in the order they appeared in the story. Then I found an image of Little Miss Muffet, and made a little game piece out of her.

At the end of storytime I passed them out, and demonstrated how to use it later to retell the story later today or this week. Since this was an experiment, I also asked them to report: “Did you use it? And if so,  was it worthwhile? Was it fun?”

Please feel free to download this Little Miss Muffet handout Little Miss Muffet Infographic. It’s a two-page pdf. Page one is the infographic, and page two is page of 20 Little Misses. Print page one 20x, but page two only once. I printed page one on cardstock, so it would hold up the moving around a bit, but crappy paper would be fine.  I am going to try to come up with more infogenic (did I just invent a word?)

Some that come to mind:

  • Hi, Pizza Man!
  • Pete’s a Pizza
  • Fall is not Easy
  • We’re Going on a Bear Hunt
  • Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus
  • Katie Loves The Kittens
  • Tip Tip Dig Dig
  • Joseph had a Little Overcoat
  • I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More
  • Bark, George
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar

OMG! Like every good storytime book ever. I am going to start on next week’s infographic right away!

Kathryn is hosting the #FFRU at Fun with Friends at Storytime Thanks Kathryn!


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Flannel Friday: There’s a Rabbit

Hey two Flannel Fridays in a row–I’m almost on a roll!

This is an adorable piggyback+prop song for toddler times. The best part is you probably have the supplies in an odds-and-ends drawer somewhere. All you need is some sort of small basket and some sort of rabbit toy.

I found it in my new favorite book from our teacher collection, More Than Singing: Discovering Music in Preschool and Kindergarten by Sally Moomaw.


It’s a fun way to explore concepts like inside, on top, behind, etc.

There’s a Rabbit (tune: “Put Your Finger on Your Nose”)
There’s a rabbit in his hutch, in his hutch.
There’s a rabbit in his hutch, in his hutch.
Oh, I think he might be hungry and he’s looking for his lunch.
There’s a rabbit in his hutch, in his hutch.


Cheers, dears!


Flannel Friday: Clip Clop Halloween Hack

I’m a little late for this to be useful for Halloween 2013, but here’s a little story I cooked up for Boo Time (My library’s annual Halloween program for little ones).


Clip Clop by Nicola Smee is one of my all-time favorite storytime books. I know many #FFers has made flannel boards of this story. I decided to adapt the idea for Halloween. I replaced all the animals with Halloween-themed characters: horse-witch, cat-ghost, dog-mummy, pig-devil, duck-vampire.


The only change I had to make to the text is I switched the onomatopoeia from “clip-clop clippity-clop” to “swish swoosh swishily swoosh”. The bootimers ate it up like, well candy!

Happy Belated Halloween!


Flannel Friday: Crowdsourcing Experiment?

The other night my husband and I went on a late-night snack hunt. As impulse buys are the name of the game in a snack hunt, when I saw these babies I had to have them:

Story on my feet

Story on my feet

I just know there’s a storytime activity in there somewhere. I think my storytimers would crack up if took off my shoes and used my feet to tell a story. The only problem is, I don’t what that activity (song, rhyme, story, joke…?) is at the moment. So, this is an #FF crowdsourcing request:

Do you know of a story, song, rhyme, etc.? It could be an original story, or a picture book in  which 3 friends:  a critical thinker, a worrier, and a happy-go-lucky type go on a search for something important to all three of them. It can be anything! No ideas are bad ideas. It doesn’t even have to be a fully formed idea… It could just be a little germ of an idea. Perhaps together, we #FFers could write a story! Or many stories.  write storytime activity whatever else you see when you look at these beautifully beady little eyes)

Please share it in a comment. I will take one entry per comment. And in 1 month July 1st I will put all the entries a hat (really an online randomizer). The winner will receive the MATCHING PAIR! One lucky contributor will have an #FF Original to keep.

Sarah of Miss Sarah’s Storytime is our lovely hostess this week. Happy June!

Happy Flannel Friday


Flannel Friday: Clothesline Clues to Jobs People Do

Update: Here is the pdf so you can make this flannelboard: Clothesline Clues To The Jobs People Do

This week’s #FF is based on one of my favorite picture books from 2012:

Clothesline Clues to the Jobs People Do by Kathryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook

I made this magnet board last fall for our teacher workshop, and forgot to post it for flannel friday. Anyway, I love this book for a million reasons, but here’s a few: 1) it’s beautiful, 2) brilliant concept + perfect execution; 3) it’s silly; 4) it captures how kids think of grownups doing their jobs in a whimsical way. Anyway, it’s pretty simple.

Name that job!

Name that job!

I’ve only used it a couple of times, but the kids loved it. I hung yarn, and used some handy dandy magnetized mini clothespins to hold up the clothes. Then I read the story, and we discussed what the clothes on the line said about the people who hung them. The group was too big to let the kids take turns dressing the dolls peacefully during the story.

Artist & Astronaut in their gear.

Artist & Astronaut in their gear.

Instead I  I left the pieces up during playtime. They had a ball putting on the Ms Cate’s Storytime Show, and the moms and I had a ball being the audience.

Katie is hosting the #FFRU this week at her delightful blog, storytime katie… Thanks Katie! She’s using this inlinkz so adding your post is super simple!

Oh shoot! I have a pdf of these images. I had to (sort of) draw these images based on an assortment of dress up dolls I found on the internet. I thought I had it saved on dropbox, but that was a figment of my imagination. I will update this post when I #sundaylibrarian.