Bake Like a (magical) Pro

Bake Like a Pro by Falynn KochI am far from a pro as far as baking is concerned, but I do believe it is a little bit magical so a graphic novel that follows a magical intern in a kitchen couldn’t go wrong with me.

It turns out baking is both science and magic, at least according to the wizard in this enchanted kitchen. I admit, I made a lot of the mistakes Sage makes in the book myself. The big mistake that I seemed to make again and again over the years is skipping over (or not quite following certain directions) because you don’t think they’re important. When you are faced with a final product that is flat when it is supposed to be fluffy or dry when it’s supposed to be moist, you start to realize that every bit of the directions are important. Fortunately, there are books like this one that tell you why they are important—from why butter should be at different temperatures for different recipes to how the amount or type of flour you use will affect your cookies. Readers don’t have to ruin a whole batch of cookies to learn like I did! Plus, there’s a bit of fun and silliness in the mix. Win-win.

Baking just may be the closest we can get to magic here in the real world, so wanna-be wizards should consider the kitchen and fire up their stand mixers. I know I will.  As the baking wizard says: “Not magical? Baking is a tangible form of magic! It is alchemy! Transforming basic into fantastic! Inedible to delicious!”

Now I’m off to try one of the 8 recipes included in the book. :)

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A Different Kind of Fairy Tale

A few years ago an acquaintance shared a childhood favorite book on social media, and it was new to me. That doesn’t happen often, so I was curious about it. The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye was published in 1980. It was around during my childhood, but I somehow didn’t come across it. Perhaps it’s all for the best. I didn’t develop a real appreciation for fairy tales until I was an adult anyway.

In an effort to share my appreciation for fairy tales with my daughter, I chose The Ordinary Princess as a read-aloud a few years ago, and we followed Princess Amy’s adventure eagerly from the moment she was cursed with ordinariness to her friendship with Peregrine and to the happily ever after that we knew was coming. The story was fun and different and all about just being yourself, which I love, of course. Not to mention, I have a thing for the run away princess trope, as I’ve mentioned.

So when I heard that there was a new graphic novel inspired by The Ordinary Princess, I knew I had to get my hands on a copy. My daughter, who must have been 7 or 8 when we read The Ordinary Princess together, is now an eleven-year-old graphic novel enthusiast. Or perhaps “super fan” might be a better word? Either way, turning a story we loved when she was younger into a graphic novel aimed at middle graders is just about perfect for us. The story isn’t the same in this version, but the feeling is. In Extraordinary, Cassie Anderson turned M.M. Kaye’s sweet story about finding your own version of happily ever after into a something kids in 2019 can relate to even more than a story that ends with a couple of kids getting married. Here we have a princess who finally feels like she belongs. I love it.

It’s fun to compare/contrast the two stories, but you definitely don’t need to have read the novel before reading the graphic novel. Happy reading, fairy tale fans!

Just Ask

If there is one thing I want to tell people, it’s this: it’s okay to ask.

I was so happy when Gillette Children’s Hospital published a book with that title a few years ago, and I’ve since shared it at storytime a couple of times with good results. Most recently, I read it in the context of friendship stories. “Sometimes our friends are different from us,” I said before I opened the book, “and it’s okay to talk about what makes us different and the same.”  A simple message for the storytime crowd.

justaskBut for those of you who are looking for something with a bit more content with the same message, I might recommend Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You by Sonia Sotomayor. Yes, that Sonia Sotomayor. It turns out she agrees with me. The things that make us different don’t have to be hushed up or hidden. We can celebrate our differences even as we come together as friends. The book features children with various disabilities and differences talking about themselves while the illustrations by Rafael López (one of my absolute favorite illustrators, I might note) show children planting a community garden together. It’s bright, beautiful, and positive. There is so much to love here.

I want everyone to read books like these with their kids. Let’s talk about who we are—all the parts of out identities. Let’s ask questions of the people in our world to get to know their experiences.

Let’s also ask questions of this book itself. Why doesn’t Just Ask! use the word “disability”? To me, it feels like by using a euphemism like “differently abled” the book is talking around the identities of the people it features, which is seemingly the opposite of the book’s intent. I don’t believe that disabled is a bad word, and I would argue that there’s no reason to avoid using it. It’s complicated, I know. Identity can be complicated, but it’s worth asking the question here.

See this post from The Conscious Kid for their thoughts.

Ultimately, recommended with caution.

Lighthouse Life

“While the idea behind the lighthouse was a practical one there’s just something elusive about them which fascinates many people. Perhaps it’s their link with the past; perhaps, that they served a heroic purpose.”  — The Door County Pulse

When I toured the Split Rock Lighthouse on Minnesota’s north shore a couple of years ago, I found myself pulled by the window into the past—into a very specific sort of life. I tried to imagine myself living in such a remote place with only very few people to call your community, and I’m not sure I could place myself there. As a suburban-raised urban dweller, the lighthouse life might well be another plane of existence. It’s smaller than I can envision while also promising some sort of perspective that we can only seem to get from a very particular, very tall, vantage point.

Since then, I’ve fallen for lighthouse stories again and again. It feels almost cliché, frankly. My romanticized view of the past surely wasn’t what it was actually like. Nonetheless, I cheered when Hello Lighthouse won the Caldecott. There was something about the quiet, nostalgic story that spoke to me. I read Hazel Gaynor’s novelized version of Grace Darling’s life in The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter and found myself comparing fact and fiction as I read. (Yes, I actually read a book written for grown ups. It happens occasionally.) From there, I discovered “The Lighthouse Family” series by Cynthia Rylant. These early chapter books begin in The Storm with a cat named Pandora living a lonely life in a lighthouse until she rescues a dog named Seabold. The two of them along with some orphaned mice they rescue become a family. If it all sounds overly sweet to you consider that the story explores the sort of loneliness that adults, whose lives often leave them disconnected and devoted to their work, feel in a way that will keep young readers’ attention. This is a series that parents will delight in reading aloud to young listeners. Or at least I hope they will.

Perhaps between the picture books and other books that tell the stories of lighthouse life, real and imagined, the magical draw to them will sustain the imaginations of another generation of readers.

Monday Morning Music with Superorganism

My 11yo has been tagging along to shows with us since she was small. Usually, she didn’t care much about the music, even when her dad was in the band. She was there because we were there, and that was that. She would come prepared with a bag of small toys or a notebook and crayons. She would connect with whatever other kids happened to be there, or maybe a playful grown up, as she would call them. And that’s where she would spend the duration of the show. It has only been in the last couple of years that anything has changed.

It took a while, but eventually she started listening to the music we were playing. Even having favorites. Metric was one of her first favorites. Then Catbath, which became her first show where she actually cared about what was happening on stage. How’s that for a milestone?

This summer she hit another big milestone: her first show at First Avenue. Superorganism, if you haven’t heard them, is a weird, fun, poppy band that we couldn’t stop playing last summer. I love them as much as my 11yo did, and when they came to town, we were first in line for tickets, metaphorically speaking.

The show was as fun as we could have asked for. It was made even more memorable by the fact that lightning struck nearby and knocked out some of the sound equipment. The technical difficulties delayed the show by an hour or so. But once the band started playing, we forgot all about the wait. It was worth it to dance it out with my kiddo to a band we both loved.

By the kindness of an acquaintance, we happened to be given tickets to the Superorganism micro-show the day after the mainroom show. So we followed up one show with another. The stripped down set that they played for the micro-show was very different than the night before. First, we sat on the floor. Second, well, see for yourself. Watch how they made the sound effects. That’s not how they made the crunch sound on the mainroom stage.;)

 

 

My Inclusive Storytime Challenge

Libraries are for everyone. I really believe that, and I want my storytimes to be for everyone too. But in looking back at my storytime titles over the past year, I realized that my storytime families didn’t see everyone represented in the books I had chosen. That concerned me, and after a boost of inspiration from colleagues who presented on inclusive storytimes at our last department meeting, I decided to make it a priority in the form of a challenge: include at least one book by or about a person of color every week.

Maybe that seems impossible to you. Or maybe it seems like you’d end up compromising and choosing not-as-good books just to say you were inclusive. There are probably other maybes popping up in your head, but I’m here to debunk them. Sometimes it took a little more digging for find the just right books to share for a certain theme, but I always got there. I never felt like I was compromising, and I discovered some great books that I’m sure I’ll be adding to my regular storytime rotation.

For this next session, I am stepping up my challenge to attempt to feature more #OwnVoices titles and to talk about race when it is appropriate to do so. Even just pointing out the race of the characters or author models affirming differences and identity, which is very important to me as a disabled person with a very obvious physical difference.

So here’s what I did:

J is for Jump

Jump! By Scott M. Fischer

Hop Jump by Ellen Stoll Walsh

Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwell (I love this one! It is definitely a storytime favorite.)

 

L is for Library

Lola at the Library by Anna McQuinn

Read it, Don’t Eat it by Ian Schoenherr

You Can Read by Helaine Becker

 

M is for Moon

Kitten’s First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes

If You Were the Moon by Laura Purdie Salas

A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin

 

N is for Numbers

Feast for 10 by Cathryn Falwell

Grandma’s Tiny House by JaNae Brown-Wood (This is a favorite!)

Count the Monkeys by Mac Barnett (Interactive books always go over well with my storytime kids.)

 

P is for Pirate

Pirate Jack Gets Dressed by Nancy Raines Day (FYI, Pirate Jack has a hook for a hand just like me.)

Pirate Nap by Danna Smith

Pirate Princess by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen (Honestly, this was a little long for my group, but it’s a cute story.)

 

S is for Socks and Shoes

Duck Sock Hop by Jane Kohuth

Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin (Always a good choice!)

Maggie and Michael Get Dressed by Denise Fleming

 

T is for Trucks and Trains

Freight Train by Donald Crews

Tip Tip Dig Dig by Emma Garcia

Old MacDonald Had a Truck by Steve Goetz (My group loved this one.)

 

W is for Wild Animals

Old Mikamba Had a Farm by Rachel Isadora

Tiny Little Fly by Michael Rosen

Don’t Wake Up the Tiger by Britta Teckentrup (Another great interactive book.)

 

Follow me on Instagram to see what I’m doing for the spring session, and definitely check out the Talking to Kids about Race in Storytime post on Jbrary for more about inclusive storytime.

A Year of Pretend Play at the Library: Part One

Playing is learning. This probably isn’t news to the people who read this blog, but it bears repeating because it’s easy to forget. Kids play all the time at home, and it can become something that happens in the background that we don’t think about. At the library, we place a priority on play. We make it a point to invite kids and grownups to play together. If asked, I could go on and on about the ways that pretend play, in particular, helps kids develop early literacy skills, but my goal with this post is to show off some of the fun pretend play themes I’ve had at my library over the last year. So here goes! :)

 

Narrative Skills:

img_4257.jpgWe celebrated Picture Book Month with an Enchanted Forest theme. Kids could dress up as fairy tale characters or use the stuffed animals to tell their own version of familiar stories. The story cubes could spark a creative retelling that mixes up all sorts of fairy tale elements. I made these myself by covering some wooden blocks with construction paper and tape, but you can also buy story cubes or story sticks aimed at preschoolers to encourage storytelling.

 

Social Skills:

img_4985.jpgIn the grocery store, the ice cream shop, and other community based play spaces, kids can imagine themselves in various roles. They can take turns being proprietor or a customer, seeing the interactions from different roles and developing empathy for experiences outside of their own.

 

Vocabulary:

img_4905.jpgIn the Fix It Shop, we named the tools. In the Sense Lab, we encouraged the use of descriptive language as kids explored the world with their senses. Our Space Station offered various science words. Don’t underestimate kids’ willingness to learn complex vocabulary if they are interested in the topic!

 

Print Awareness:

img_5551.jpgIn the community based play spaces (World Café, Ice Cream Shop, etc), the menus and other signage are examples of the way that we interact with printed words as we life our lives. Understanding just how much we rely on printed language is an important part of learning to read.

 

Print Motivation:

img_5727.jpgKids and caregivers are always encouraged to learn more about the topics with books. Learning to read is hard work, and if kids are interested in the topics they are reading about, they be much more motivated.

 

Letter Knowledge:

img_4413.jpgExploring shapes and sorting objects based on likes and differences is a first step to letter knowledge. Our grocery store featured pictures of letters made out of food, and the Sense Lab encouraged sorting objects based on how they feel.

 

Phonological Awareness:

img_5842.jpgSinging songs and chanting rhymes help kids hear the sounds of words more clearly than in regular speech. We included the words to a rhyme in our Ice Cream Shop and our Space Station to add an opportunity to build phonological awareness while at play.

Stay tuned for an upcoming post about my library’s pretend play space relates to early science skills!