We had a super-fun Monster storytime this week.  After our welcome song, everyone received their Monster Name.  I wrote everyone’s monster name on the giant sticky-notepad.  Everyone’s monster name begins with MON-, followed by the first syllable of each person’s name, and ends with -STER.  So my monster name is Mon-Vic-Ster, or it could be MON-Vee-STER.  This was really fun, as everyone’s monster name sounds quite exotic and scary.  It’s also a good way to reinforce awareness of syllables.

Then I read them the marvelous book, Go Away, Big Green Monster, by Ed Emberley.

Next, we sang “One Little, Two Little, Three Creepy Monsters,” and each child got to put a monster on the flannel board.  Then I read the book, Ten Creepy Monsters, by Carey Armstrong-Ellis.  Now each child took turns removing a monster from the flannel board. 

Stuart had made a set of wonderfully colorful and creepy monsters, and the kids loved playing with them.  Two of the newer kids, who are still sometimes too shy to fully participate, were so attracted by the monsters that they didn’t even realize they were leaving their mothers’ sides to join the other kids.

For our movement and music activity, we formed two lines facing each other, and took turns promenading in pairs while doing the Monster Mash.  Our puppet show was the story of The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything, by Linda D. Williams and illustrated by Megan Lloyd.

This is really fun to do as a puppet show, but you must have a second puppeteer, so I was thrilled to have Gavin helping out again.  He chimed in on sound effects, too, without being coached.

Afterwards, the kids made fabulous monster portraits!

And several of them transformed their portraits into bodi-puppets, and became creepy little monsters themselves!


New Tween Program: D.I.Y. Zone

by Vicky on October 21, 2012

Rob, our teen librarian, and I decided to start a monthly after school program for tweens.  For our first workshop, we decided to try making altered books.

Unfortunately, Rob caught the yucky bug that I’m now recovering from, so he had to miss the fun.  But Jill, our branch manager, actually had several altered books in her personal collection, so she was glad to jump in and join in the creative deconstruction of books!

I photographed the amazing masks in the title graphic when a colleague and I visited the Santa Fe Public Library last year on a busman’s holiday, but I neglected to get the artist’s name.

For the workshop, we had two boxes of books that were being purged from the collection.  We put out an array of decorative papers, fabrics, trims, and colored markers, along with scissors and glue sticks, and then everyone just dove in!

I think we will definitely be offering this workshop again.


Halloween Hats

by Vicky on October 21, 2012

I love the month of October, because Halloween is one of my favorite holidays.  I look forward to telling scary stories all year, but I usually start with non-scary stories and work up to scarier ones as Halloween approaches.

I invited Gavin, the older brother of home schooled kids who attend my family storytime, to assist with puppeteering.  He is a natural!  I brought quite a large collection of my own hats, and borrowed two especially cool ones from the Sno-Isle Libraries’ children’s services collection.  As I sat in front of the puppet theater and read Halloween Hats, by Elizabeth Winthrop and illustrated by Sue Truesdell, Gavin wafted a panoply of hats above the theater.  Afterwards, when everyone throws their hats in the air, the hats began sailing out into the audience.

Then I taught everyone the song, “Did You Ever See a Lassie.”  When everyone had learned the words and the movements, I suggested that we could make up our own words to turn it into a Halloween song.  The kids loved seeing a little bat, a pumpkin, a mummy, a scarecrow, a skeleton, and a ghostie “go this way and that way,” with Gavin’s able assistance.

Then it was time for me to tell the story of Milo’s Hat Trick, by Jon Agee.  I had a very cool purple and black Mad Hatter’s hat to use for Milo’s top hat, and I had created a paper bag bear who could dive in and disappear inside the hat.

This is a very funny story, and I made a perfectly inept Milo.  I had stuffed a string of colored scarves inside my clothes, which I had intended to produce with a flourish to the astonishment of my audience, but they began straggling out before I was ready, which was perfectly in character.

Afterwards, everyone made their own Bear paper bag puppet, and then of course they had to test their bears’ ability to disappear into a hat!


Origami Spinning Tops

by Vicky on October 21, 2012

We started a monthly origami club that meets after school every first Tuesday.  Origami books fly off the shelves of our library, and every time we offer an origami workshop, we get a large, enthusiastic attendance, so we decided to kick off an ongoing monthly workshop.

The model we chose was not difficult, but it did require some concentration and focus to fold three different units and then fit them together to create this awesome spinning top

I’m happy to report that even the youngest kids stuck with the project, and everyone successfully folded a beautiful and functional top!

Check out the galaxy of colorful tops that were created!


Lola’s Fandango

by Vicky on September 28, 2012

I have seldom seen a more perfect melding of story and pictures than in Lola’s Fandango, by Anna Witte and illustrated by Micha Archer. To make it even more compelling, it includes a CD that includes music and narration by a family amazingly similar to the one portrayed in the book!

I had so much fun making paper doll stick puppets of the family: Mami, Papi, Clementina, and Lola.  To portray the New York City apartment building the family lives in, Stuart and I improved the house-shaped set he had made for me last spring.  He cut an opening to correspond with my puppet theater’s stage, and another opening at the top to create an attic space. 

In my dramatization of the story, Lola goes to mope in the attic when her older sister, Clementina, has her friends over and shuts Lola out of their shared room.

In the attic, she discovers a trunk, and inside the trunk are a beautiful pair of shoes!  Lola runs to ask her mother about the shoes, but it is Papi who reveals that they are her mother’s special shoes for flamenco dancing.  He takes a photo out of his wallet to show her.

Lola is smitten with the gorgeous red polka dot dress, and begs Papi to teach her.

“It isn’t easy,” he tells her.  “You’ll have to practice a lot.  It takes duende.”

“What’s duende?” Lola wonders.

“Spirit.  Attitude!” Papi explains.

“I have duende!  And I’ll practice a lot, you’ll see!

So Papi begins teaching Lola, and they agree that it will be their secret.  But before she can begin dancing, she must learn the rhythm.  Papi teaches her how to clap:

One two THREE
Four five SIX
Nine TEN
Eleven TWELVE!

Toca toca tica
Toca toca tica
Toca tica
Toca tica
Toca tica!

Lola does everything to the rhythm, brushing her teeth Toca toca tica; getting dressed Toca toca tica; making her bed Toca tica, Toca tica, Toca tica

One day, Lola wakes up and exclaims, “I know it in my sleep, I know it in my sleep!”

When she advances to learning the steps, the neighbor downstairs bangs on his ceiling for quiet.  So Lola and Papi begin practicing on the roof.
Papi and the girls plan a surprise birthday party for Mami.  The apartment fills with family and friends, and Papi asks Lola to dance.  But Lola gets cold feet, and, besides, she has no polka dot dress.  Papi reminds her that she has duende, and then hands her a present, saying, “Maybe this will help.”

Inside the box is a beautiful red polka dot dress and matching shoes with nails in the bottom!

The story ends with a marvelous dance party, and even the grumpy neighbor downstairs gets included.

I had a great playlist of flamenco music to provide atmosphere for the story.

Afterwards, the kids made paper doll stick puppets of male and female flamenco dancers, which twirl beautifully. 

Here is a video about the making of the CD that accompanies the book:

I would LOVE to study with Micha Archer. Her collage technique is so elegant and expressive!


Puss in Boots

by Vicky on September 22, 2012

Since my Puss in Boots doll had portrayed Señor Don Gato last week, I decided that he should play himself this week.  I love this story, and own two different versions.  The title illustration (and my doll) are from Puss in Boots, by Charles Perrault, translated by Malcolm Arthur and illustrated by Fred Marcellino, which is a Caldecott Honor Book.

My other edition is a 1977 pop-up book, Puss in Boots, retold by Christopher Logue and illustrated by Nicola Bayley.

Of course both versions are adapted from Charles Perrault’s original seventeenth century tale, Le Maître Chat, ou Le Chat Botté.

Before the play, I decided to try teaching the children a baroque dance.  I had them line up in two facing lines, with their partner in the line opposite.  Then everyone clapped in time to the music (Prologue to Dardanus, by Rameau) as the first couple met in the middle and marched down the aisle to take their places at the end.  Amazingly, this went very well and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.  I told them that they would be doing this dance at the end of the story to celebrate the wedding.  Next time I think I’ll get them to bow to each other!

The version of the story I told was closer to the Logue/Bayley version.  I started the story in front of the puppet stage behind a low bench, and I showed the first two pop-up illustrations.  When Puss arrives at the Ogre’s castle, I moved behind the puppet stage.

Other than my Puss doll, my puppets were very simple.  I found an Ogre face, printed it out and colored it, and mounted it on a stick.  It’s clothes were made of plastic bags.  I like to use simple home-made puppets so kids and their parents will get the idea that they don’t need fancy puppets to have fun. 

When the Ogre transforms into a Lion, I swooped a paper plate Lion mask attached to a length of gold metallic fabric above the stage.  Puss runs away and reappears on the puppet stage, while the Ogre reappears above him.  When the Ogre transforms into a Mouse, I tossed a catnip mouse over the theater and had Puss run out and pounce on it (and swallow it in one gulp!).

The miller’s son (transformed into the Marquis de Carabas) and the Princess Celeste were simple rod puppets from illustrations that I printed and painted.

…In the Logue/Bayley version, the King tells Puss that he is so impressed with him that he would like him to come and live at his court.  Puss replies that , while nothing would make him happier, he belongs to the Marquis de Carabas.  During dinner, the King looks thoughtful, Puss looks thoughtful, and the young couple look at each other.

Of course the King allows the young people to be betrothed, and he and Puss sit together at the wedding breakfast.

“Puss, I think we have done rather well,” declares the King.  Purring, Puss replies, “Sire, I think you are right.”

The Marcellino book ends with an illustration of two palace mice looking up at a grand portrait of Puss hanging in a place of honor on the castle wall.

Before the play, I explained to the kids that operas and musical plays usually begin with an overture, a piece of music that helps us get in the mood for what is to come.  I played the first minute or so of the Rigaudon from Maurice Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin.  The wedding music at the end was the Prologue- Tambourins I and II from Rameau’s Dardanus, and the Contredanse from Acte IV of Dardanus.


Señor Don Gato

by Vicky on September 22, 2012

How had I ever managed to miss this delicious ditty??  I recently stumbled upon this delightful picture book of the traditional ballad, Señor Don Gato, illustrated by John Manders, and I couldn’t wait to try staging it with my puppets.  It would be a great way to kick off my fall story times, and also a chance to slip in a message about SINGING as an important pathway to reading readiness (along with talking, playing, reading and writing).

With the kids and parents chiming in on the chorus, “Meow, meow, meow,” we romped through this ridiculous corrido.

I felt that the song ended much too abruptly, with the poor lady cat unceremoniously dumped from the story, so I added an extra verse to give it a happier ending.

Oh, Señor Don Gato was a cat,
On a high red roof Don Gato sat,
He went there to read a letter,
Meow, meow, meow,
Where the reading light was better,
Meow, meow, meow,
T’was a love note for Don Gato.

“I adore you,” wrote the lady cat,
Who was fluffy, white, and nice and fat,
There was not a sweeter kitty,
Meow, meow, meow,
In the country or the city,
Meow, meow, meow,
And she said she’d wed Don Gato.

Oh, Don Gato jumped so happily,
He fell off the roof and broke his knee,
Broke his ribs and all his whiskers,
Meow, meow, meow,
And his little solar plexus,
Meow, meow, meow,
“¡Ayyy caramba!!! ” cried Don Gato.

Then the doctors all came on the run,
Just to see if something could be done,
And they held a consultation,
Meow, meow, meow,
About how to save their patient,
Meow, meow, meow,
How to save Señor Don Gato.

But in spite of everything they tried,
Poor Señor Don Gato up and died,
And it wasn’t very merry,
Meow, meow, meow,
Going to the cemetery,
Meow, meow, meow,
For the ending of Don Gato.

As the funeral passed the market square,
Such a smell of fish was in the air,
Though his burial was slated,
Meow, meow, meow,
He became re-animated,
Meow, meow, meow,
He came back to life Don Gato.

Then  they danced a light fandango there,
After dining in the market square,
And the wedding bells were ringing,
Meow, meow, meow,
And the kitty choir was singing,
Meow, meow, meow,
For Señor—and Señora—Don Gato!

At the end, we celebrated their wedding with rhythm instruments and a rousing dance party to the music of Los Kiyos on their Barrio Flamenco album: “Baila Con Sabor.”  My playlist included flamenco music by Paco Peña, Gino D’Auri, and Bebo and Cigala, punctuated with cries of “¡Olé!” and “¡Así se baila!”

Then the kids made fabulous Don Gato paper bag puppets that had perfect mouths for singing!


Dream Big! Summer Reading 2012

by Vicky on September 14, 2012

Ahhhh, summer reading!!  I am living the dream….which is why I’m just now catching up with my blog.

Here are a few highlights from my library…

First of all, a huge shout-out to the incomparable author/illustrator  Brian Lies, whose graphics for this year’s Collaborative Summer Library Program were the best yet!!!  We were all completely smitten with his Astro-Bat.

The Stanwood Library had a contest to name two bat puppets.  There were almost 400 entries!  The library staff voted on the most creative names, and the two inventive young bat namers won the puppets.

Storyteller extraordinaire Bob Kanegis kicked off our summer reading programming, spinning tales that kept his audience of kids and adults utterly spellbound.

I became convinced that he had been granted gifts from the Little People when he produced a tiny 2-inch harmonica and proceeded to play a tiny but perfect Scottish reel.

And when I found myself wearing an alligator head and playing a villainous people-eating monster being lulled to sleep through the power of music, I knew for sure that the Force is strong in this one.

If truth be told, I was missing telling stories of my own, since my partner Mira was keeping the story fires burning while I hosted weekly programs and took a couple of my programs on the road to other branches.

So I was thrilled when she took a little vacation and I got to pull out my Robot puppet show. The kids made Robot bodi-puppets and kept on practicing their robotic dance moves. My playlist for Robot storytime is eclectic: “Back When We Were All Machines,” by Cindy Kallet and Grey Larsen; “Technologic (Radio Edit),” by Daft Punk; “Jai Ho,” by A. R. Rahman; and “La Femme d’Argent,” by Air.

We had a super-fun After Hours @ the Library party in late July. Highlights included:

Making origami bugs (cicadas, flies, and caterpillars) to add to our 50th anniversary time capsule.

Making home-made ice cream, in several steps:

First, go to Ice Cream Station ONE and get your small baggie containing sugar;

Second, go to Ice Cream Station TWO to have milk and vanilla measured into your small baggie…and seal it well;

Third, go to Ice Cream Station THREE and get your large baggie containing rock salt…and put your small baggie inside;

Fourth, go to Ice Cream Station FOUR and get ice added to your large baggie…and seal well;

Fifth, SHAKE and massage your ice cream packet until the ingredients turn into ICE CREAM.


Aaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…there is nothing like homemade ice cream on a summer evening.


Then my partner Mira and I (with the help of our boss, Jill, on lights) performed a shadow puppet play: “Maui’s Big Dream: How Maui Snared the Sun.” 

We got to use the beautiful shadow puppet theater that Stuart made for me last summer.

After the show, the kids got to design and construct their own shadow puppets.

Here is a Fox…and a Tiger…

…and here is Maui wondering how a Tiger got into the middle of his story!

And those were some of the things that can happen in the library after it is closed for the day…

In August we folded origami boats on a perfect summer day in the library’s sculpture garden.

Would our boats sink or swim?

Kids tested how much weight the boats could carry and still stay afloat.

Alas, many paper boats eventually wound up in Davy Jones’ Locker.

Wait…no….is it just me?  Do you hear that sinister martial music?

…What are those loud breathing noises??

TOM ANGLEBERGER, what have you unleashed???????



Indianola Days

by Vicky on September 14, 2012

We joined our friends Betha and Tom in Indianola for the annual Indianola Days festival.  Betha’s parents have a summer place there, and I have been wishing and dreaming for years that we would one day get to join in the summer sand sculpture making.

I haven’t had so much fun since I was a kid!  Along with various friends and relations of Betha, Stuart and I helped to build “Edge o’ D’Nile” —which included the Nile River and a number of small boats made from bark, sticks, and grass, with leaf sails; the Sphinx; two pyramids; and a number of hieroglyphic inscriptions.

Part of the fun is watching the advancing waters erase all our vainglorious works.


I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

—Percy Bysshe Shelley (1818)


Who’s in Rabbit’s House?

by Vicky on September 14, 2012

I love this story, Who’s in Rabbit’s House? —retold by Verna Aardema, with wonderfully stylish illustrations by Leo and Diane Dillon—especially since it is presented as a play.  I use my elegant Rabbit puppet and roguish Frog puppet and let Leaf the Bookworm play all the other parts with a series of masks.

One day, Rabbit comes home to find the door of her house locked.  When she tries to get in, a scary voice from inside warns: “I am The Long One.  I eat trees and trample on elephants.  Go away or I will trample on you!”

The Frog offers to help Rabbit, but she rejects him scornfully.  Frog retreats to watch the ensuing events with amusement.

All of the animals pass by Rabbit’s house on their way to the lake.  One by one they stop to ask Rabbit why she is crying.  One by one they offer to help eject the intruder.

Unfortunately, each animal’s method requires destroying Rabbit’s house.  After Leopard, Jackal, and Rhino (Elephant in my version) all fail to get rid of the monster, and Rabbit has an unfortunate mishap, Rabbit humbly accepts Frog’s offer to help.  Clever Frog comes up with a daring plan, and succeeds in routing The Long One.

The Long One turns out to be, not a scary monster, but a small caterpillar.  Here is Leaf, wearing all his masks at once!  Leaf is such a thespian.  Below is Rabbit with The Long One.

After the puppet show, the kids made their own Rabbit masks.

It’s amazing how effortlessly masks seem to draw forth different characters and promote dramatic play.