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Archive for March, 2013

March 28, 2013

April: What’s So Funny?

There is no one who loves a good laugh more than the young.  They giggle over knock-knock jokes like they were the ones who created them.  They double over laughing at silly pranks, and look for hilarious stories to share with one another.  Since April is National Humor Month, I thought it appropriate to offer program ideas to help young patrons focus on the lighter side of life. The nation has been celebrating National Humor Month since 1976 with the idea of making the public aware of the importance of laughter.  Before searching for humorous books to recommend to the young, think about how the concept of “funny” changes as children get older.  You can discover this by asking various age groups to share something funny that happened to them in the past month.  What is so funny about what they share?  Is there a difference in how boys and girls see humor?  Do you see humor in what they are sharing?  After identifying the “funny” side of the young, try these programming ideas:

  •  Display books of humorous poetry.  Divide readers into small groups and ask them to select a poem to perform as a choral reading.  Suggest that they make a hat or a prop that best characterizes the humor in the poetry.  Books from Random House include:

For Laughing Out Loud: Poems to Tickle Your Funnybone (all ages) by Jack Prelutsky

Revolting Rhymes (all ages) by Roald Dahl

  • Many readers find humor in simple nonsense.  Ask readers to share a nonsensical book that appeals to their funnybone.  Readers of all ages may gravitate to books by Dr. Seuss.
  • Introduce humorous picture books to the youngest readers.  Select a few to read aloud and ask them to tell you why they think the books are funny.  Suggestions from Random House include:

Anatole by Eve Titus & illus. by Paul Galdone

 Erroll by Hannah Shaw

Hugo and the Really, Really, Really Long String by Bob Boyle

 Frederick by Leo Lionni

 Pirates vs. Cowboys by Aaron Reynolds & illus. by David Barneda

The Wicked Big Toddlah by Kevin Hawkes

  • Display humorous books for beginning readers.  Have them select one to read and then ask them to draw a funny scene from the book.  Suggestions from Random House include:

Are You My Mother? By P. D. Eastman

Have You Seen My Dinosaur? By Jon Surgal & illus. by Joe Mathieu

Junie B. Jones series by Barbara Park

Porky and Bess by Ellen Weill and Mel Friedman & illus. by Marsha Winborn

  • Older readers respond to humor in many different ways.  Sometimes they find delight in specific scenes in novels, and other times they find humor in the characters.  Suggest that they locate several humorous books and identify the humor in each novel.  Suggestions from Random House include:

Chomp (ages 9-12) by Carl Hiaasen

Dogs Don’t Tell Jokes (ages 9-12) by Louis Sachar

The Elevator Family (ages 8-11) by  Doouglas Evans

The Fast and Furriest (ages 9-12) by Andy Behrens

Flipped (ages 9-12) by Wendelin Van Draanen

I Don’t Believe It, Archie! (ages 9-12) by Andrew Norriss & illus. by Hannah Shaw

The Willoughbys (ages 9-12) by Lois Lowry

Crash Test Love (YA) by Ted Michael

The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop (ages 8-11) by Kate Saunders

My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan (YA) by Sean Rudetsky

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (YA) by Rachel Cohen & David Levithan

Spanking Shakespeare (YA) by Jake Wizner & illus. by Richard Ewing

Teen Angst? Naaah… (YA) by Ned Vizzin

  • Sponsor a contest called “What’s So Funny?”  Allow each reader to submit one title for the contest.  Then ask all readers to read the books and vote.  Have a winner for elementary, middle and young adult readers.


  • Enlist the help of readers of all ages to create a bibliography of “funny” books to post on the library’s website as a resource for families.

March 28, 2013


★  From the reassuring title onward, this vibrant picture book describes learning to ride a bicycle—a monumental challenge for many children. A father guides his daughter through the process, which begins with choosing the perfect bike, watching others ride, and realizing that all those expert riders once learned this skill as a beginner, too. The girl begins to ride with the training wheels set low, then set high, and then removed. She takes some spills, gets back on, and tries again. When she is frustrated, her father encourages her to try again and again and again—and eventually, she can ride a bicycle. So much is heartening about the book, from the father’s consistently kind, matter-of-fact tone to the fact that the process begins with simple steps and leads up to more challenging ones. Rendered in Raschka’s signature style of fluid, kinetic brushstrokes, the ink-and-watercolor illustrations beautifully capture the action and emotion in each scene. (Safety-minded adults will also be happy to note that the girl is wearing an enormous helmet throughout the book.) Deceptively simple and perfectly paced for read-alouds, this latest from the two-time Caldecott medalist captures a child’s everyday experience with gentle, joyful sensitivity.- Booklist 

★ A little girl in a ginormous blue-striped helmet chooses a bike, practices lots and, aided by a patient, daddy-esque (perhaps granddaddy-esque) guy in a green tie, learns to ride.

The gentle text (in elegant Bodoni Old Face) offers pithy encouragement. “Let’s go! / Watch everyone ride. / They all learned how. / Come on, let’s give it a try. / Training wheels are helpful. They keep you from tipping over.” Raschka’s watercolors, in a palette of green, blue, gray, ocher and red, convey humor and movement in economical, expressive vignettes. On one spread, the girl gazes at many riders: twins on a tandem bike, a woman in a red swimsuit, a cat riding in a back-fender basket and a man in Hasidic garb, payos flying. On another, no fewer than 11 spots show the girl wobbling and zooming, sans training wheels; the green-tie guy alternately steadies her course and flies behind in pursuit as she improves. The man’s elongated head bows toward the girl in Chagall-like studies of empathy, while her bow-shaped mouth and black braids convey a cute that’s never cloying. Some compositions are encased in softly rounded rectangles; others pop against the creamy matte ground. The paper’s minute gold flecks lend a lovely, subtle sparkle to the bright, thin washes.

A wry, respectful ode to a rite of passage that’s both commonplace and marvelous. This is one fun ride! – Kirkus Reviews

★ Two-time Caldecott Medalist Raschka (A Ball for Daisy) crafts an encouraging, artful, and eminently practical approach to a childhood rite of passage: learning to ride a bike. Freewheeling watercolors feature a balding man—perhaps an older father or grandfather—and a cautious girl in a blue, watermelon-size helmet. The calm adult offers reassurance, pointing out all-ages bicycle commuters: “Watch everyone ride. They all learned how.” He adjusts the training wheels (“If we raise them up a smidge, you’ll begin to feel your balance”), and a pictorial sequence shows the girl’s wobbly progress. They then remove the training wheels, resulting in some spills (“Oops! You nearly had it”). The girl grows disappointed, and her helper responds with an understanding hug. By the finale, the girl joins other riders in a park, all shaped by light, translucent pools of color. Raschka’s breezy conclusion (“You are riding a bicycle! And now you’ll never forget how”) brings to mind a familiar saying. Adults will close the book with a lump in their throats, children with a firm sense of purpose. – Publishers Weekly

★ In his latest foray into childhood territory, Raschka explores the roles of adult and child in achieving one of the most challenging milestones of growing up–mastering a two-wheeler. The large, hand-lettered title framing the successful rider on the cover conveys the positive outcome, so the page turns are all about “how?” The story is narrated by an adult, presumably the father, but not limited to this relationship by text or image. The girl’s thoughts are all expressed visually. When the two are picking out a new bicycle and then watching other riders, the busy pages portray colorful examples, some surrounded by washes of watercolor, others set against the white background; all are connected with small strokes that animate the compositions. Clad in an enormous, blue-striped helmet, the child is watchful, then tireless, as she practices with training wheels. The narrator admits that taking them off is “a bit scary,” and the remaining scenes depict a brave girl in various stages of falling, trying, and being comforted and encouraged. In some close-ups, the heart on her shirt is askew, likely mimicking her actual pulse. Her legs, painted in thin, blue strokes, exhibit a fragile flexibility that expresses volumes. Raschka’s well-chosen words, spread over several pages, admonish: “Find the courage to try it again,/again, and again… until/by luck, grace, and determination,/you are riding/a bicycle!” The artist’s marvelous sequences, fluid style, and emotional intelligence capture all of the momentum and exhilaration of this glorious accomplishment.–Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library for School Library Journal

March 01, 2013

March: Music in Our Schools Month

Budgets cuts in schools often affect the arts programs first.  Yet, most children and teens enjoy all that the arts offer them.  March is Music in Our Schools Month and this is a good time to celebrate with readers of all ages the role of music in our nation’s history, and how it relates to all cultures.  Public libraries might also make music a part of their programming during the month.  Here are a few ideas for school and public libraries:

Ask readers to share a favorite song.  Then have them teach the song to a group. Have the group perform the song for a class. Include some research skills by asking them to find out the origin of the song.  What is the genre?  Is it a folk song, ballad, contemporary rock piece, show tune, or country song?
Invite local musicians to talk with a class or reading group about their journey as a musician. At what age did they begin taking music lessons?  Was there a music program in their school?  Is music their career, or hobby?  How can it be both?
Introduce books that celebrate music of all types.  Suggestions from Random House include:

Picture Books

Early Reader

Middle Grade

Young Adult

Have readers pick a favorite rhyming picture book and write a rap using the text of the book.  Suggestions from Random House include:

Ask those who play an instrument to demonstrate their talent to the group.

Have readers pick a zoo animal talk about the musical instrument that best describes their sound.  Which animal is a trumpet? A French horn? A flute? A Bass?

Encourage older readers to find out the role of music in our history.  Ask them to find out the kind of music that the main character in the following historical novels might know:

Play a few ballads for readers.  Then divide them into small groups and ask them to write a ballad about a favorite book character.  Suggestions from Random House include: