“Oi, Frog!” – Keeping the joy in reading

Summer is here (though you wouldn’t know it from the Junuary days we’ve been having recently) and for many librarians that means only one thing – Summer Reading Club! My days have been filled with promotional visits to local schools, where I hype up the program as much as humanly possible, and try to get kids excited about reading on their summer vacation (challenge accepted).


Books are fun, kids! Honest!

My secrets weapons in helping kids get excited about joining the Summer Reading Club are funny books – I always bring one or two humorous titles with me to share at each school visit, which I hope will help remind kids that reading over the summer is supposed to be about having fun. This isn’t a school program, so there’s no suggested reading list – kids can read whatever the heck they like, and for lots of kids, that means reading something silly.

One book that I’ve been having great success with recently is Oi, Frog! by Kes Gray and Jim Field.

A very bossy cat (of course) lays out which object each animal is supposed to sit on – frogs sit on logs, cats sit on mats, weasels sit on easels, etc. The story gets more and more ridiculous with each page – lions sit on irons, lizards sit on wizards, apes sit on grapes and more.

Kids find the whole things hilarious, and it’s fascinating to observe how long it takes different groups to catch on to the fact that this is a rhyming book – I love it when the eyes go wide and kids shout out “hey, it rhymes!”

There’s a delightful twist ending that will have kids in stitches, and the illustrations suit the text pretty much perfectly. The word bottom is also mentioned, which is an added bonus when reading with a group of school kids – laughter is pretty much guaranteed.

Books like Oi, Frog! are so important because they help kids associate reading with positive emotions, and build positive memories. How many of us can name a couple of books that were absolutely ruined for us because we had to read them in school? English or Language Arts classes can unfortunately suck the joy right out of reading, leaving a negative impression on kids that can last a life time. By reminding them just how much fun reading can be, silly, humorous books like Oi, Frog! can help rekindle a child’s love of reading, and keep it glowing throughout life’s ups and downs.

Do you have any favourite lighthearted or funny books for kids? I’d love to hear about them – I’m always looking for new titles to share and enjoy!

NOTE – HOLD THE PRESSES! As a colleague just pointed out to me, if you’re American, Oi, Frog! might look a little different at your local bookshop or library. Apparently publishers aren’t sure you guys can handle British slang and think you might be confused by the expression “Oi” (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone anyone?).


Family Child Care Story Time – June 10, 2015

Today I filled in for a Family Child Care Story Time at our central branch. This weekly story time is for home childcare providers with small groups of children. The children were mostly toddlers and preschoolers, not too dissimilar from my usual family story time crowd.

Welcome Song: Hello, Friends

Book 1: Bark, George!

bark george

Hand Rhymes

  • I wake up my hands
  • Roly poly

Book 2: The Seals on the Bus


Action Songs

  • Zoom zoom
  • London Bridge is Falling Down
  • Head and shoulders
  • If you’re happy and you know it

Book 3: Little Owl Lost


Cool-down songs:

  • Grr-grr went the little brown bear one day (with puppet)

Goodbye Song: Goodbye, Friends!

I love testing things out on new audiences. 😉 I don’t typically fit three picture books into my story times, but this crowd seemed primed to sit and listen, so I decided to give it a whirl. It worked surprisingly well – I chose very silly stories that I could play up with facial expressions and different voices, and as usual I stuck to my favourite standbys for this one-off story time.

I also used “If you’re happy and you know it” as my transition song, finishing the song with:

If you’re happy and you know it sit back down / If you’re happy and you know it sit back down / If you’re happy and you know it and you really want to show it / If you’re happy and you know it sit back down”

I wanted to finish with a puppet, but I didn’t really like any of the frog puppets I could find, so I decided to just sing “grr grr went the little black bear” with an adorable black bear puppet.One of the childcare minders had never heard that version before, and she liked it so much she came up to me afterwards for the words. I love being able to share new versions of old favourites with caregivers – like I always say, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel – if you already know a few tunes, work with what you have!

Family Story Time – May 16, 2015

Remember what I was saying about variety being the norm for a children’s librarian?

I arrived for my on-call shift at the children’s department of the central branch to discover that I was scheduled to deliver the morning’s family story time. Surprise! Thankfully I am a bit of an old hat at last minute story times by now.

One of the nicest things about doing on-call story times is that you can cheat. You can bust out your favourite songs and story books, the really popular ones that everyone loves and that you’ve already done to death with your own group. Today’s family story time was a bit of a greatest hits edition, but no Pete the Cat, as I couldn’t find a copy in the story time closet…

Welcome Song: Hello, Friends

Book 1: I went Walking / Sue Williams


Hand Rhymes

  • I wake up my hands
  • Roly poly

Book 2: Old MacDonald Had a Farm / Jane Cabrera


Action Songs

  • Bend and stretch
  • Zoom zoom zoom
  • The wheels on the bus
  • Toast in the toaster
  • The elevator song

Cool Down Songs

  • The itsy bitsy spider
  • Open shut them

Goodbye Song: Goodbye Friends!

I had some very enthusiastic caregivers in today’s small story time group who were happy to belt out all of the songs, which took some of the pressure off my voice, which was still a little strained after the program-heavy day before.

Sing it again!

I love to sing. In the shower, on the bus (quietly), while shopping (again, hopefully quietly), I am one of those people who always seems to be humming a merry little tune. So it’s no surprise that I love picture books that can be sung! Singable picture books are a secret weapon that I like to pull out towards the end of a story time, when the children are getting wiggly and just want to keep singing Zoom Zoom Zoom over and over again.

I also like to use singable picture books to show caregivers how much use they can get out of a picture book – read it, chant it, sing it, turn it into a felt story, act it out with stuffed toys – get as much bang for your buck out of that story as you can! Plus, kids thrive on repetition, and odds are the caregiver will be sick of the story long before their child is….

Here are just a few of the singable picture books I’ve used in my family story times.


I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More – Karen Beaumont

Colour, colour and more colour! A mischievous little boy is determined to use his body as a canvas for his riotously colourful abstract works. Sing this one to the tune of the boy scout campfire classic, “It Ain’t Gonna Rain No More”.


The Seals on The Bus – Lenny Hort

One of many versions of this children’s classic, Hort’s version is one of my favourites because of its wonderful illustrations and hilarious cast of noisy characters – a perfect book for encouraging audience participation.


Old Mikamba Had a Farm – Rachel Isadora

Another spin on a familiar classic, Rachel Isadora’s beautiful collage illustrations introduce children to a host of African animals, from the familiar lion to the adorable little dassie. Expand your story time horizons in a way that is still very accessible.


Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes – Eric Litwin

What more is there to say? This is a great introduction to singable picture books, as it’s really only the jazzy refrain that gets sung. While many children already know this book, most are more than happy to sing it again….and again….and again…