Archive for the ‘Non-Fiction’ Category

C is for Cloud

Saturday, November 2nd, 2013

Look up in the sky, and what do you see? At a recent Wonderworks (our preschool science program) we explored clouds.  Children had fun guessing what shapes were in Charles Shaw’s classic, It Looked Like Spilt Milk.

Next we talked about different kinds of clouds, reading parts of Anne Rockwell’s Clouds in the Let’s Read and Find Out Science series.

In the weeks prior to the storytime, I took photographs of the sky at different times when I saw different clouds. Soon I had enough photographs to illustrate several different types of clouds that we would discuss: cirrus, cumulus, cumulonimbus and stratus. This was a great day for vocabulary — we talked about what a funny word cumulonimbus was, with the children repeating it several times. Hard c sounds and soft c sounds . . . c really is for cloud! This was a great exercise in observation skills, and I was able to tell the children that these were clouds they could see in the sky above them, because they were all Ohio skies in the photos.

Rhyme: Rain is Falling Down
Adapted from: Jane Cobb’s I’m a Little Teapot

Rain is falling down                          Flutter fingers downward
Splash!                                                 Tap floor with hand
Rain is falling down
Pitter patter, pitter patter
Rain is falling down
(repeat: falling lightly – just touch with fingers; falling hard –slap floor with whole hand)

We also read Dragon is Coming by Valeri Gorbachev and at the end talked about what each of the dragon’s attributes actually is; for example — the dragon’s roar is thunder, his fiery breath is lightning . . .

Next, we shook our rainstick style shakes to the song, “If all the raindrops were lemon drops and gum drops . . . “

A few other outstanding picture books on clouds and the imagination are:

Sora and the Cloud=Sora to komo by Felicia Hoshino – a bilingual book in English and Japanese

Sector 7 by David Wiesner, a Caldecott honor

and The Cloud Book by Tomie dePaola, which is also available as an e-book.

Hands on activities included making and playing with cloud dough (mix 1/2 cup baby oil with 4 cups of flour and voila! You have a sensory concoction that is crumbly and soft, yet sticks together when molded, like wet sand.)

and creating different kinds of clouds with cotton balls –

stretching them into long thin strips for cirrus clouds, fluffing them up to make cumulus clouds, and adding glitter to represent those water droplets getting so heavy that they are about to rain from the cumulonimbus clouds.

All Aboard! a few favorite picture books of 2013

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Fall is that time of year when all sorts of “best of the year” lists start appearing.  For picture book fans, talk swirls around what might win the Caldecott Award, the recognition given to the “most distinguished” American picture book of the year. In looking at some of these, we noticed a trend:

Hmmmm . . .

so, it’s All Aboard! for our next picture book discusion! Come to the October Picture book discussion on Saturday, October 5, from 2-3 p.m. Bring books to share or just come and listen. Feel free to bring a friend. Children ages 10 and up are welcome.

Saving Endangered Animals: Anna, Emma and the Condors

Friday, September 27th, 2013

The California Condor, the largest land bird in North America, is critically endangered. In 1982, there were only 22 condors in existence. With help from scientists like the ones in this film, the condor population is slowly recovering and being reintroduced into the wild. Anna, Emma and the Condors tells the story of how one family has dedicated their life to helping this animal to survive. Anna and Emma Parish’s father Chris is the Condor Field Project Supervisor with the Peregrine Fund. The film has breathtaking moments as a condor is released into the wild, gliding freely for the first time on thermals in the canyons of Northern Arizona. It also includes the more mundane details of life as a scientist, taking blood samples and providing food for the condors (remember, they are in the vulture family) who are recovering from lead poisoning. The girls help with many aspects of the condor recovery. This film won the 2013 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Children’s Video.

To learn more about condors, try

Other kids have helped animals too. After the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Olivia helped birds. You can read her story:

If you are inspired and want to find ways to help animals or the environment in your own community, try these books:


Full STEAM Ahead!

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

Wonderworks is the Westerville Public Library’s STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) storytime for preschoolers. This week’s program featured tunnels, beginning with Ryan Ann Hunter’s Dig a Tunnel.


We introduced the idea of tunnels for transportation — tunnels that go through mountains or even under water. We talked about trains that go underground in big cities before watching the Tumblebook version of  Subway Ride by Heather Lynn Miller.

This colorful picture book features different underground trains from around the world: from the London Underground (the Tube!) to Stockholm’s T-bana. In the pages featuring the New York subway, the Tumblebook plays jazzy music referenced in the text.  You can play Tumblebooks at home, just visit the library website and have your library card handy.

You can also explore tunnels with your child at home. Save cardboard tubes from paper towels or wrapping paper to use as tunnels for trains and cars. Or use them to make your own marble run. We attached velcro to toilet paper rolls to create a marble run on the activity center wall (thanks to the LibraryMakers site for the idea!). Children love to crawl through tunnels, so save your cardboard boxes to make long tunnels.


Feel the Wind! STEM Storytime Fun

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

On a very blustery spring day, we explored the wind in preschool STEM storytime. We talked about using our senses to experience the wind: to feel the wind, to see the wind (even though you can’t see air, you can see wind blow flags, kites, ribbons, streamers), to hear the wind (what sound does it make? a howl, a whoosh), and even to smell the wind (salty, like an ocean breeze; sweet, like cinnamon or chocolate baking – mmmmm.) I used a wind cannon to show how they feel the wind and wind chimes to hear the wind.

Books read included The Wind Blew by Pat Hutchins and I Face the Wind by Vicki Cobb. The latter has experiments to do as you read, so we did some of these, like catching the wind in a plastic bag (simple, but it works!)

We talked a little about wind energy and windmills. Next, we danced with scarves so they could make the air move and see it moving to Fred Penner’s  song I am the Wind.

For our last group activity, we used the always popular parachute to demonstrate making wind and watching and feeling the air move. We started by sitting around the parachute, creating a gentle breeze with a slow up and down motion. Then it got windier and the breeze picked up! To end the children lay down on the floor under the parachute while parents made a swirling windstorm overhead.

There were several activity stations to explore the wind, including:

  • Cotton ball  soccer, where one used a straw to blow the “soccer balls” toward the goals.
  • Pinwheels that children could blow or put in front of a fan to make them blow. They experimented with holding the pinwheel at different angles and closer and farther from the fan.
  • A hot and cold air experiment with a balloon and a soda bottle, to demonstrate how air expands when heated to make wind (and shown by the balloon inflating!) We had two large bowls, one with hot water and one with ice water to move the soda bottle between. When the bottle  is moved to the ice, the balloon deflates rapidly.  This experiment is from Vicki Cobb’s book mentioned above. Thanks to the LibraryMakers blog for suggesting really hot water and ice to make the experiment work better.
  • Making wind socks  from construction paper and streamers.

Trees in the Library!

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

Have you noticed the new trees in the library?

A recent STEM Storytime celebrated trees.

We read A Tree is Nice by Janice May Udry — beginning by discussing the physical book itself, asking children, “What do you notice about this book? What shape is it?”

Then I showed the children different kinds of seeds (an acorn, a walnut) and we talked about trees providing food and shelter (for who? squirrels, birds, people). We talked about how even our book came from trees! I had enough maple seeds to give them each one,  which they threw in the air and watched spin like a helicopter. I also had several different pine cones to show them and introduced the word “conifer.”

Next we watched and listened to the They Might Be Giants song, “C is for Conifers” from Here Come the ABCs.

Then we read Are Trees Alive? by Debbie S. Miller.

This accessible informational picture book compares each tree part to body parts: “roots anchor a tree, like your feet help you stand.”  So the trunk is compared to legs; branches to arms; bark to skin, veins in your hand to veins in a leaf;  sap to blood, and more!

Next we learned “the tree version” of  Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes:

Leaves, branches, trunk, and roots, trunk and roots.

(waving fingers for leaves, arms for branches, touch tummy for trunk and touch toes for roots)

Leaves, branches, trunk, and roots, trunk and roots.

Trees are important to you and to me…                     

Leaves, branches, trunk, and roots, trunk and roots!

We ended by dancing to Laurie Berkner’s “Under a Shady Tree” with shakers.

The scientific skill we emphasized in this program was Observation and vocabulary for today included “conifer” and the parts of a tree: bark, trunk, roots, crown, sap.

At the end we went outside to do bark rubbings from real trees!



The foot bone’s connected to the ankle bone . . .

Monday, March 25th, 2013

A recent STEM storytime was all about bones. We began by discussing bones (Can you see them? Can you feel them?) and introduced some vocabulary, including “skeleton” and “skull.” Our first book was Skeleton Hiccups by Margery Cuyler, with fantastic realistic and funny illustrations by S.D. Schindler.

Then children pointed to different bones in their body to the song “Lazy Bones.” (Tune of “Dem Bones”, with the foot bone connected to the ankle bone, the ankle bone connected to the leg bone, the leg bone connected to the knee bone, etc.)

After moving our bones around, we looked at Jessica’s X-Ray by Pat Zonta, which includes x-rays of a child’s arm, head, and a coin-swallowing toddler’s rib cage!

Next we read parts of  Bones: Skeletons and how they work by Steve Jenkins, an author anyone interested in appealing science books for children should know. We talked about how different animals have different skeletons, and they were wowed by the fold-out pages of the snake skeleton.

We also watched and danced with Count von Count from Sesame Street to the song “Bones, bones, bones, bones, bones inside of you.”

Another fun book on this topic is You Can’t See Your Bones with Binoculars: A Guide to Your 206 Bones by Harriet Ziefert.

For this week’s activity, we supplied large pieces of butcher paper. The children lay flat and parents traced around them. Some drew in bones, while others were very creative. Some drew what they were wearing, while others made swamp monsters! A skeleton pattern gave them a visual if they did want to draw bones and others took it for a take-home activity.


STEM Storytime: Building

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

This week’s preschool STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Storytime focused on building. First I asked the children what materials they like use to build things. Blocks, legos, sticks, sand, and snow were mentioned. All of these, plus many more, can be found in Christy Hale’s Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building (Lee & Low, 2012), which pairs illustrations of a child building with different materials with a corresponding work of architecture.

Reserve It!

Wooden blocks are juxtaposed with Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater. Sand castles are paired with Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona. All the children nodded when I asked if they had a set of stacking rings when they were a baby.

After looking and talking about the book, children were given a variety of materials to construct their own edifices. And build they did!


This one’s for the birds!

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

In a recent STEM storytime we explored birds you might see in your own backyard this winter. We read Simon James’ The Birdwatchers, in which a little girl goes birdwatching with her grandfather.

We found out more about birds in Carol Lerner’s Backyard Birds of Winter and from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Birding in Ohio site.

Reserve It!

Another great book for budding scientists is Citizen Scientists: Be a Part of Scientific Discovery From Your Own Backyard by Loree Griffin Burns, which has a different project for each season of the year (and includes birdwatching for winter.)

You can be a citizen scientist this weekend by participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count, February 15-18. It’s easy enough that kids can participate too — it’s free, fun, and you’ll be sharing your sightings with others around the world. Last year 17.4 million birds were counted!



Let it Snow!

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

It’s December, the forecast is calling for snow, AND school is out! Here are some favorite story books about snow and some rather magical non-fiction books about this winter wonder. Stop by the library to get some books for cozy winter reading before the snow starts to fall!

The Story of Snow

The Story of Snow by Mark Cassino

Snowed in? If you can’t get to the library, don’t worry, it’s also available as an e-book!

Reserve It!

 This Caldecott Medal winning book has wonderfully detailed illustrations of  animals in the snow and how they adapt to winter.

Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner

A father and daughter explore the wonders of the outdoors as the take a walk on a winter day.

Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton

Machines and snow . . . what a winning combination! Also available as an ebook.

Under the Snow by Melissa Stewart

You’ll be surprised at all the activity going on under the snow!

The Secret Life of a Snowflake by Ken Libbrecht

Amazing photographs explain the science of snow — you’ll never look at a snowflake in the same way again.


Reserve It!

Henry and Mudge in the Sparkle Days by Cynthia Rylant

Henry and Mudge enjoy playing in the snow before coming in to get warm before the fire together. A perfectly comforting story of fun and friendship.