Overcoming Children's Fears of Thunderstorms

A library patron recently asked me about books for her child who is scared of thunderstorms. If you are in a similar situation with our stormy spring weather, we have several picture books that can help ease the fears of your little one.
My first recommendation has to be Patricia Polacco's Thunder Cake, which tells the story of a girl and her grandmother in a Michigan storm and the tasty way they overcome her fear. There is even a recipe for Thunder Cake included, so you can make your own special treat when a storm rolls in. Franklin And The Thunderstorm is another picture book that demonstrates creative ways to overcome being scared of the weather. The Monster Storm tells the story of a little monster who is afraid of a thunderstorm and goes outside to try and scare it away. Thunder-Boomer! is local author Shutta Crum's tale of a family's experience on a farm in a storm (with great sound effects for reading out loud) and an unexpected visitor. One last recommendation would be Listen To The Raindrops, which tells the story of a father comforting his scared son, and transforming a frightening thunderstorm into a fantasy of sight and sounds. Written by local author Kirk Lignell, this book includes a CD featuring "The Storm Song".
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Get out your hammocks

It may be a bit rainy this week, but last week's weather reminded me that summer is near at hand, and accordingly I started thinking about what books I want to read out in the backyard under the warm sunshine. As a kid, I loved to read books about magic during summer vacation. One of my favorite authors was Edward Eager, whose Magic series can still make me feel like magic may just be waiting for me around the next corner I turn. I was also a fan of Susan Cooper, whose book, The Dark is Rising, inspired the movie The Seeker. Cooper's books are full of British folklore as well as magic of her own imagining. I read Joan Aiken's The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase over and over in elementary school and I just recently discovered that it is the first in a wonderful series of books set in alternative history, in which wolves rule England's wilderness and the King of England is constantly threatened by revolutionary plots.

Ellie McDoodle Author Coming to Ann Arbor!

Ruth McNally Barshaw, author of Ellie McDoodle: Have Pen Will Travel and Ellie McDoodle: New Kid in School will be at the Pittsfield Branch on Tuesday, April 6, 2010 at 2:00 p.m. Ellie is an eleven-year-old girl who keeps a sketch journal about her family, her school, and her life. Reading these books is like getting into Ellie's personal diary. Her whole life is laid out in sketches and words. Come hear the author tell about how Ellie came to be and how these books are made; maybe you'll want to start telling your own life's story in words and pictures.

This program is for kids K - 5 and their adults. Books will be on sale at the program and the author will be available for signing.

Ponyo - "The Little Mermaid" Reincarnated

Ponyo, a children's animated film released in theaters in 2009, is a great, fresh take on the classic Hans Christian Andersen tale "The Little Mermaid."

In Ponyo, "a young boy named Sosuke rescues a goldfish named Ponyo, and they embark on a fantastic journey of friendship before Ponyo's father forces her to return to the sea. Ponyo's desire to be human upsets the balance of nature and only Ponyo's mother, a beautiful sea goddess, can restore nature's balance and make Ponyo's dreams come true."

With a famous English voice cast, including stars such as Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, Tina Fey, Liam Neeson, Cloris Leachman, and Lily Tomlin, Ponyo is entertaining and intriguing, though it may be a little slow or long for younger children.

There is also a bit of an environmental theme in the movie, influencing the audience to help keep the oceans clean.

Oddly enough, there are diverse other reworkings of "The Little Mermaid." These include a teen fiction novel, Midnight Pearls, in Debbie Viguié's Once Upon a Time series; an adult fantasy novel entitled The Mermaid's Madness by Jim C. Hines; and of course, the most well-known, the Disney film adaptation of the story.

Quack! Quack! Quack!

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It is duck week at the Pittsfield Branch. Ducks of all sizes and colors will be around for the Babies' Playgroup at 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday and the preschool storytimes at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday and 10:00 a.m. on Friday. Do ducks wear socks? Can ducks ride bicycles? Ever been on a duck hunt? Come and quack with us.

Directions for making a duck out of a paper plate can be found here.

Parent Magazine Update -- Good for You

Ahhhh....Ahhhh....
This month's parent magazine update focuses on things that nourish the soul and body, starting with my personal favorite -- books.

Book Links magazine starts with some interesting articles on multi-platform books -- books that include online components. The popular 39 Clues series is a great example of this innovative genre, as is the Skeleton Creek series for teens. Also featured in this issue are series books that are good for reading aloud -- The Porcupine Year, Al Capone Shines My Shoes, and The Runaway Dolls for example -- and books about young artists, along the lines of Peter Reynolds' classic The Dot.

Mothering magazine has its own list of recommended books -- "visually sophisticated" picture books. Though he isn't mentioned in the article David Wiesner would be my personal recommendation in this category. This issue also features lots of other good-for-you stuff -- foods to boost the immune system, ways to foster creative play indoors and an article about celebrating your daughter's menarche in a supportive and empowering way.

Let's Do Spring!

Folks are still saying that here in Michigan we have often had spectacular snowstorms in March. But at the Pittsfield Branch our preschool storytimes are charging into Spring with no regard of what happens outside.
We have our storytimes on Thursday evenings at 7:00 p.m. and Friday mornings at 10:00 a.m. Each storytime features live music by one of our talented musicians as well as an easy craft related to the week's theme.
This week's stories will feature some puddle stomping by a father, a son and a big dog as well as an exuberant cat that sings and dances.

If your kids love to do the crafts, check out this website. It has ideas for all occasions and links to other crafty sites.

Past Academy Awards

The Oscars air Sunday, March 7th, which makes now a great time to watch a few past Oscar winners with your kids. The Best Animated Feature Film Category was introduced in 2001, and the winners make great movies to enjoy with your family.

Films distinguished by winning Best Animated Feature Film include Shrek (It's sequel, Shrek 2 was also nominated in 2004), Spirited Away (a Japanese anime film dubbed with English actors), Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Happy Feet, Ratatouille, and WALL-E. Clearly computer generated movies by Pixar have been big winners in this category.

Treasure Planet earns an honorable mention from me as my personal favorite nominee for Best Animated Feature Film, as I've always liked Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island and I think setting the story in space only improved it.

Youth Music Notes -- Up and At 'Em

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Doctors and scientists have been telling us for years that it's better to get up and move than to zonk out in front of the TV, but we all need a little help getting motivated. Good thing that the AADL Youth Department has some CD's to get you moving, shaking, dancing and stretching.

Any of Greg Scelsa's cd's are an excellent place to start, filled with catchy, energetic tunes to get your toes tapping. Fun and Games is my personal favorite, containing such classics as "Peanut Butter and Jelly," "Mr. Knickerbocker" and "The Riddle Song."

For songs that really get you moving and thinking, try Where is Thumbkin?, a collection of songs with instructions for movements and extension activities. The author of this CD has also written a book containing over 500 activities that you can do with your family! Finally, to calm down after all this excitement, Yoga Child will lead you through some simple stretches and breath exercises to both relax and energize you.

Of course, if none of these CD's sound like your cup of tea, the Youth Department's CD collection has an entire section of "Activity" CD's that you can browse.

Valentine Fun

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Valentine's Day is coming up again, and with it, the chance to show all your friends and loved ones how much you appreciate them.

Some of you have undoubtedly purchased your boxed sets of Valentines already, but remember, nothing says "love" like that special, homemade touch. Come on down to Mallett's Creek Branch this Saturday, Feb. 13 from 2-4 to make a creative Valentine or two for those you love!

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