Sunday, May 21, 2017

ten books from Ellsworth story time, part II.

As you might know, I have the good fortune and honor of being the Ellsworth Elementary School’s volunteer librarian/story teller. 
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I’ve had this gig since 2014, and let me tell you, I love it more every year. I have just wrapped up year three of bi-weekly story times, and believe me when I tell you that Ellsworth story time is a total delight. Sometimes, I can’t believe that I just get to show up at a school and do something this fun: kids tell me what they’re reading, I read to them, and I tell them that books are awesome. How great is that?!

I absolutely LOVE getting to read to the Ellsworth kids – not only because they are fantastic and always make me feel super loved (one kindergartener gave me not one, but TWO Lisa Frank stickers in honor of my last day), but because it is just the best thing ever that I get to bring all these fun new books to them.

Over the three years I’ve been doing story time, I have read through literally hundreds of picture books, searching for just the right one for each and every story time. For a book to make the cut for my story time, it must, above all things, be clever. I learned pretty fast that funny books keep the kids’ attention best, and since I only have them for twenty minutes every other week, I want to read them something that they’ll like. And, to be honest, I want to read something that I like, too. Kids can tell if you’re not totally sold on the book you’re reading, and if you’re not, they won’t be either.

During my tenure as a story timer, I have discovered some truly great picture books: books that I, a grown-ass woman, find completely hilarious and brilliant. Last year, I gave you my list of my ten favorite picture books thus far.

My favorites last year were:

The Day the Crayons Quit – Drew Daywalt
Gaston – Kelly DiPucchio
Grumblebunny – Bob Hartman
I Don’t Like Koala – Sean Ferrell
Interrupting Chicken – David Ezra Stein
Meet the Dullards – Sara Pennypacker
The Princess and the Pony – Kate Beaton
Sparky! – Jenny Offill
The Story of Ferdinand – Munro Leaf
Zombie in Love – Kelly DiPucchio

If you care to read the whole run-down, click here.

And now, I wish to present ten more favorites from one more year of story time. 

Dragons Love Tacos – Adam Rubin
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This book has been pretty popular amongst the grade-school set ever since it came out in 2012. After all, who doesn’t love dragons? And the thought of dragons eating tacos is so bizarre that you HAVE to read it and find out what the deal is with dragons and tacos. The book gives you instructions on how to best host a dragon/taco party, with the caveat that, whatever you do, do NOT give the dragons spicy salsa. 
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I bet you can guess what happens next.

The Happiest Book Ever – Bob Shea
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Anything by Bob Shea is a guaranteed winner. This is one of those books that is overflowing with tiny detailed illustrations and little one-off jokes that you’ll miss if you don’t examine each and every one carefully. I love books like this for story time, because the kids all huddle right around the book and squint at the pictures and loudly announce what they find and laugh their heads off. The Happiest Book Ever begins with the happy narrator encouraging everyone in the book to make it the happiest book ever, but a frowny frog foils their plans. 
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The narrator totally loses his shit, and it’s brilliant.

How Droofus the Dragon Lost His Head – Bill Peet
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Remember how everyone loves dragons? Welcome to the second dragon entry on this list. Bill Peet, like Bob Shea, is an author with whom you cannot go wrong. His books tend to be a little on the lengthy side, so I have to save them for a week when the kids are a bit less rowdy (ie, not right before or right after a school break). This book is about a gigantic dragon named Droofus who is peaceful and kind, but the king sees how large (and seemingly dangerous) he is and wants his head. 
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Here he is, sleeping with bunnies and lambs!
Bill Peet’s stories always have gorgeous illustrations and gentle lessons: in this case, don’t judge based on preconceived notions. It’s a good lesson for kids, to be sure, but one that we as adults could do well to remember as well.

I Yam a Donkey – Cece Bell
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As an English major and a stickler for grammar, I thought this book was hilarious. It’s about a donkey who meets a yam, and all sorts of confusion ensues. The yam is a grammarian, and the donkey drives him crazy. The yam says that he is a yam, and the donkey responds with, “I yam a donkey!” and so on. 
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I think I thought this book was funnier than the kids did (because GRAMMAR JOKES), but so it goes. They really liked the goofy illustrations and the grumpy yam.

King Baby – Kate Beaton
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I love Kate Beaton’s illustration style, and her The Princess and the Pony was a favorite from last year. This is only her second children’s book, and I hope she keeps it up, as they are amazing. King Baby is about a baby (duh), and he is the only child: everyone fawns over him and does his bidding… until his sister comes along. 
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The Ellsworth kids with younger siblings or younger cousins or younger anything all found this book to be particularly truthful.

The Scrambled States of America – Laurie Keller
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Like The Happiest Book Ever, The Scrambled States of America is filled with illustrations and little jokes – it requires careful inspection to catch everything. It’s about how Kansas gets bored of his location in the country, and he and the other states decide to switch places and try out a new spot. 
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As you can imagine, it doesn’t go too well: the kids’ favorite part is when Minnesota switches places with Florida and gets sunburned. There’s an marvelous spread at the back of the book where different attributes of each state go and visit others: Mount Rushmore goes to see the Statue of Liberty, and so on. You can spend ages looking at this book.

Snappsy the Alligator Did NOT Ask to Be in This Book – Julie Falatko
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Snappsy the Alligator is an unusual book in that the story is driven by the relationship between the narrator and Snappsy. The narrator is saying all these things about Snappsy, and Snappsy is reacting and rebutting. 
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Things happen because the narrator says they should, and Snappsy does his best to stop them, but to no avail. Poor Snappsy.

Super Happy Magic Forest – Matty Long
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Super Happy Magic Forest is the third and final book in which the best part of the story lies in the teeny details. The book is bright and full of adventure and every page is bursting with illustrations. 
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It is set in – you guessed it – a Super Happy Magic Forest where the Mystical Crystals of Life keep everything utopic. But – horror of horrors – they go MISSING! Five unlikely heroes (including a mushroom named Trevor) are chosen to retrieve them and restore happiness to the land. Can they do it?? Read this book (seriously, read it) and find out!

Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great – Bob Shea
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Much like dragons, unicorns are sure-bets in the picture book world. That is, as long as they’re funny unicorns. This book is about a goat who is jealous of Unicorn – Goat thinks Unicorn is full of himself because of his horn and cupcakes and rainbows, but it turns out that being a unicorn is more complicated than one might think... and being a goat has some unexpected benefits.
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Goat gives Unicorn a chance, and an unlikely friendship is born. Another good lesson, plus lots of fun Bob Shea illustrations.

XO Ox – Adam Rex
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I read this book for Valentine’s Day, and a few of the kids noticed right away that the title is a palindrome. AWESOME. It’s about an ox who falls in love with a celebrity gazelle and starts writing her love letters. She, of course, dismisses him – even sending him the same form letter twice in a row. 
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The ox doesn’t see this, and he believes that her letters mean that she loves him, too. It’s actually kind of sad until the tables start to turn. I especially love this book because Scott Campbell is the artist – he illustrated my all-time favorite Ellsworth story time book, Zombie in Love (which I read every year for Halloween, and it has yet to get old).


There you have it: ten more favorite books from Ellsworth story time. I’ve got the whole summer ahead of me to read up on picture books for next year, so stay tuned for the greatest hits of the 2017-18 school year. I can’t wait to get started.